Table of Contents
Stained Glass . . .
He lay on his back, surrounded by a pool of what had to be blood. At the moment, it was no more than a tarry stain. A lone fly buzzed around him. My knees went weak, and I sank to the floor. I didn’t need to go any closer, because there was no doubt in my mind that he was dead. That gray color didn’t belong to a living person. Besides, the cause of death was obvious: a large shard of glass protruding from his chest.
This was my second . . . no, third dead body. How was it that I had made it through more than forty years without even a hint of violence in my life, and now within the space of a couple of months I had encountered three corpses? What had I done to deserve this?
Berkley Prime Crime titles by Sarah Atwell
THROUGH A GLASS, DEADLY
PANE OF DEATH
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
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PANE OF DEATH
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / November 2008
Copyright © 2008 by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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eISBN : 978-0-425-22501-1
Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
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Nobile claret opus, sed opus quod nobile claret Clarificet mentes, ut eant per lumina vera Ad verum lumen . . .
—Abbot Suger of Saint-Denis,
Writing this book was a real treat for me, because I could revisit my days as a medieval art historian and talk about stained glass. In fact, I named a character after the college professor who first introduced me to the glories of medieval glass, although I doubt he ever thought I’d use what I learned from him in this particular way.
Many thanks to my agent, Jacky Sach, who made this possible, and to my editor, Shannon Jamieson Vazquez, who always manages to ask the right questions to make the book better. All writers should be so lucky.
Once again I have to thank Elise Stone, who helped me to scout appropriate houses in Tucson, and her merry band of local assistants who answer all my dumb questions about Arizona (and if I have moved any mountains around, that’s my fault, not theirs). Thanks also to Lorraine Bartlett and my blog buddies on Writers Plot; to Carol Kersbergen, who I swear is promoting my books to all of Philadelphia; and to the ever-supportive Sisters in Crime (including the Guppies).
And I can’t forget to mention those fans who wrote and asked, what’s going to happen next?
I surveyed the glass studio with pleasure. Another good day, after a whole string of them. My pieces were all cooperating, and I had a good supply on hand to stock my shop Shards. And those were just the bread-and-butter items, the ones that sold well to the walk-in tourists who wanted an upscale souvenir of Tucson to take home and admire during their cold East Coast winters. But even better, I was happy with the more challenging individual pieces I was trying out—the ones with unknown commercial value but which gave me a great sense of personal achievement. After ten years of blowing glass, I had finally reached a peak of some sort, and I intended to enjoy every minute of it.
I took one last glance at the studio: tools clean and back in their places, glass furnaces shut, glory holes turned off, annealer turned on. I had no classes to teach for a couple of days, and I could look forward to some uninterrupted work time. Life was good. Glassblowing was my second career, and I still felt passionate about it—and lucky to be able to do it full-time. When I’d thrown over a steady (and well-paying) job as a New York stockbroker, there had been plenty of people who told me I was crazy. When I had moved as far away from them as possible, they had written me off. But I was happy with what I had created in Tucson: a successful shop and studio, with ideal living quarters close by. I still loved working with hot glass, and much to my surprise, I had found I liked teaching others to do it as well. And the beginner’s classes were fun—people came into them wide-eyed and cautious, and most often emerged proud and eager for more.
Why was it that when things go well, I start worrying? Everything was great: My glassblowing classes were consistently filled; the shop was showing a nice profit; I had a new employee, Allison McBride, helping out my long-term salesperson Nessa Spencer to cover additional hours; I was seeing a lot more of my brother Cameron, since he was courting Allison; and my formerly bleak love life was blossoming nicely, since my ex Matt and I had recently gotten back together, sort of. So what did I have to worry about?
I turned off the lights in the studio and went through the connecting door to the shop, where Nessa was ringing up purchases—quite a few, apparently—for a couple of tourists. As I walked in she caught my eye and nodded toward the front of the shop. I followed her look and saw Madelyn Sheffield holding a large plate up to the light. I suppressed a grimace and headed over to greet her.
Maddy was not one of my favorite people. In a parallel universe we could have been friends, since we had a lot in common: We both worked with glass, we both had shops in Tucson’s Warehouse District, we both taught classes. But the long and the short of it was, I couldn’t stand the woman. I considered myself a craftsperson; Maddy thought she was an Artist, with a capital A. She worked with flat glass, making pretty stained-glass window ornaments, ersatz Tiffany lamps, and that ilk. Okay, I’m a snob: I think that working with hot glass takes a lot more skill and dedication than cutting out charming little pieces of colored glass and sticking them together. Maybe I was a wee bit jealous, since she sold a lot of pieces—easier for tourists to pack?—but I thought her product was merely pretty, and far from inspired. Looking at her careful manicure, I had to wonder how she managed to make anything at all.
I waited until she had returned the piece she had been examining to the shelf before greeting her. “Hi, Maddy. What brings you to this end of the street?”
Maddy pirouetted gracefully, her filmy clothes swirling. I felt clunky beside her in my sweaty cotton tee and jeans, but swirly wouldn’t work with blazing furnaces. Besides, I outweighed her by a good twenty pounds. On me, those fabrics would look like limp rags. But the outfit worked for her, and it bolstered her artsy image. “Oh, Em, there you are! I wanted to speak with you about something important!”
Maddy seemed to speak with whispery exclamation points at all times. I had no idea what she could want. If she was trying to recruit me to work on some arts festival, or if she wanted to display her little pieces in my shop, she’d get a fast “no” from me. No way. But since she was a colleague of sorts and it was a small community, I had to be polite. “Okay,” I said cautiously, “what’s up?”
Her carefully made-up eyes darted around the shop, and she leaned toward me to say in a conspiratorial whisper, “I don’t want to talk about it here. Can we go somewhere? Private?”
This was odd, coming from her. I considered the possibilities. I live over the shop, but I didn’t want to bring her into my personal space. Although I indulged myself with a brief image of my two dogs gnawing at her ankles—not that they’d ever do that. Fred, my wirehaired dachshund, and Gloria, my English bulldog, were always polite to strangers. I checked the time—barely five o’clock, so the local eateries wouldn’t be too busy yet. I would have suggested Elena’s, the restaurant nearby that was a favorite haunt of local artisans after hours, but I’d never seen Maddy there, and I wasn’t about to be the one to introduce it to her. I had an awful vision of Maddy pitching a line of adorable stained-glass bar fixtures to Elena, and shuddered. “How about El Saguaro down the street? We should be able to get a booth this time of day.”