Authors: Alex Ames
Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Jewelry Creator - Cat Burglar - San Diego
|Alex Ames - Calendar Moonstone 01 - A Brilliant Plan|
|Calendar Moonstone |
|Alex Ames (2013)|
|Tags:||Mystery: Cozy - Jewelry Creator - Cat Burglar - San Diego|
A Brilliant Plan
A Calendar Moonstone Novel
Copyright © 2013
© Danomyte - Fotolia.com
Contact: [email protected]
For the Princess
FOR TWENTY-TWO minutes, my mother deliberately omitted the fact that the police were waiting for me in the den with some questions regarding a murder.
After a long drive from L.A. down to San Diego, in Thanksgiving traffic hell, I parked my little red Mazda Miata in front of the House of the Moon. I angled the rear mirror and gave my face a quick check. Arranging my shoulder length blonde hair to look suitably timid, I smacked my lips several times to give them more blood and applied a gentle finger massage to the overnight pouches under my sapphire blue eyes.
My parent’s house was a wooden conglomerate of assorted architectural styles with one thing in common: asymmetry. The rainbow colored street facade sported one door, that’s all, no windows. From the front door, you stepped directly into the kitchen. There were two and a half stories on the left and two on the right. A mock porch was on the left of the building and a row of marble pillars and arches was on the right. Dad had made a clear statement with this house: ‘We. Are. Different.’ The neighbors with the perpetual worries about property values and zoning called it the ‘Moon-Shed’; the bitter neighbors spoke about the ‘Moon-Dump.’ My sister Sunny and I just called it ‘home.’
Dad had bought the property twenty years ago, when our parents decided to leave their hippie commune to give Sunny and me some home and social grounding. The house started as a simple Victorian, like many other homes in the Sunset Cliffs neighborhood of San Diego. Then Dad started remodeling. A little Hacienda and Adobe influence for the western part of the building. A restyling renovation with high windows on the second floor on the northern side and raw wooden logs for part of the roof produced an obscure construction that was somewhere between comfort and sore eyes. I always wondered why the zoning laws of the neighborhood never applied to our estate. One of life’s mysteries.
Before I was able to knock, Mom opened the door and gave me a hug.
“Honey, you look terrible,” she said, pulling me in. “Let me pour you a tea, Calendar girl.”
I threw my stuff on the big bench that in a former life had been part of a jury bench in a courtroom and leaned against the big interior live oak tree that was living partly inside the kitchen, partly outside.
“You must be exhausted. Your dad is not around; he had to help out at the soup kitchen and later he has to act as referee for the match of the Wheelchair Basketball team.” My parents were do-gooders to the extreme, I always felt awkward in my considerably lesser social engagements.
Mom busied herself in the kitchen, her usual self.
“Traffic! I sat for so long I forgot what my legs are for,” I moaned.
“For walking, my dear.” One of Mom’s virtues was that she never understood jokes, any of them. According to some unfathomable logic, she picked up one of the one-hundred types of tea she had stored on the shelf and prepared it with hot water in an old China teapot. Mom was close to sixty now and still hyperactive—the living proof that a vegetarian diet, daily red wine and a regular joint was the healthiest way to live. Mom was the ‘Stone,’ Dad was the ‘Moon,’ and that’s what had given us the family name ‘Moonstone.’
“How is the store going, honey?” Mom asked, handing over the steaming mug of oriental smelling tea. Sipping it made you feel teleported to a North African bazaar. Spooning in the milk meant carefully stirring in childhood memories, good and bad. The good ones in this house, the bad ones from the last months in the commune. I sipped the tea while it was hot. And I enjoyed it, as always.
Pushing back one strand of hair, I answered. “Fine, I presented at an upscale fair in Chicago last month. Found some new fans for my low-end collection. Closed the shop over the long weekend.”
Mom stirred in her own tea. “Any current companionship, my dear?” Change of subject, how subtle.
“Not really. There was this Santa Monica art dealer. He was nice but I found out I wasn’t his only art-girl.”
Mom gave that typical ‘What-can-a-mom-do’ shrug, summarizing the two points of friction in our relationship: 1) the style of jewelry craftsmanship I was following: what I called style, my Mom called decadent and 2) the lack of a permanent male attachment. Although the missing male attachment wasn’t her main subject, I had the lingering suspicion that the delayed output of grandchildren on my part was the real issue. Sunny and her children lived too far away in their redneck-Texan city to keep in constant touch—I was the only one nearby to grab-n-hug. As I gave Mom a hug from behind, she patted my hand and delivered her masterpiece.
“By the way, honey, there are two detectives waiting for you in the den. It’s about a murder.”
THE GOAL OF an unspoken pact between my parents and me was to prevent embarrassing situations for all of us—all of the time. Mom didn’t inquire about the possibilities and I didn’t offer any explanations. Eat that, Mr. Freud.
I shook my head, a little embarrassed to bring the police into the sacred house of my parents, gave my face a wash over the kitchen sink and went into the den. On my way, I quickly checked myself in an Indonesian antique mirror, black teak wood and little Asian dragon figurines framing my face. My hair could use a cut one of these days, definitely a wash after last night’s events. On a good day, my big blue eyes dominated my face but today they looked dull and puffy. Well, it had to do for the cops. Clothes check: black slacks and figure-hugging black shirt made up my Thanksgiving wardrobe and always made a good impression. My flat Prada shoes pushed me up half an inch to five nine. No make-up. I stood straighter to appear reassured and a little larger than life.
The den was a huge reading room in the back of the house overlooking the wild garden. It had glass bay windows down to the floor and hosted about ten thousand books in all formats, colors, languages and subjects. The books climbed the walls all the way up to the eleven-foot ceilings. Comfortable sofas were arranged in a semi-circle around the bay window and a small coffee table offered two steaming mugs on little tea lights to the cops. I hoped that Mom hadn’t served them poison ivy tea.
The two plain-clothes detectives looked up, put the books they were looking at down and rose when I entered the room. We shook hands and they introduced themselves.
The male detective was a handsome guy, in his early thirties, probably near my own age. He had dark blond hair with a tendency to curl—some other adjectives that applied were big and strong, a body to rest your head on. Or whatever else. I immediately wished for a closer acquaintance. As I squinted at his left hand, wondering if he was attached, he flashed his shield, ID and professional smile, and announced, “My name is Ron Closeky, detective second grade, San Diego PD homicide.”
His partner was Hispanic. She was small, compact, with coal black penetrating eyes and short black hair. She looked as if she could handle her share of a barroom fight without a problem. “Juanita Garcia, pleased to meet you,” she recited, obviously without meaning it, “from B and E SDPD.” She threw out the acronym as if I should know it by heart.
“Excuse me, B and E?” I inquired innocently enough.
“Breaking and Entering Unit,” she explained, “San Diego Police Department. Burglary, thieving, car-jacking, you know?”
“No, I don’t,” I said.
Detective McCloseky sat down beside me and Detective Garcia stood over at the bookshelf, almost out of my line of vision, pretending to study some titles while she listened in. Good cop, bad cop, here they come. I thought.
Detective McCloseky explained the reason for their visit. “Miss Moonstone, there is an issue that we have to clarify… ”
At that instant, Mom popped her head in the door. “Can I bring you anything more? Coffee, lemonade, soda?” Good timing, Mom! I bet she had been eavesdropping the whole time.
If Detective McCloseky was annoyed, he did not show it. Instead, he gave her a charming smile that offered her all of his perfect teeth. “Thank you, Mrs. Stone, we are fine.”
“Oh, all right then,” Mom’s head disappeared but I wondered if she continued listening in.
“Miss Moonstone, do you know why we are here?” He began again. So Mom had already ousted me as not-married and had qualified him as a suitor.
“A parking ticket too much? Or did someone feel ripped off with the price they had to pay for one of my pieces?” I offered, trying the dumb Californian version first.
He gave a quick glance toward Detective Garcia. “No, Miss Moonstone, we are here because of a murder.”
I turned serious. “Then I have nothing to do with it, of course.” Sometimes people try to read irony into my words but they always fail to do so. Same here.
“Of course,” He gave me an insecure smile. “Could you tell us your whereabouts last night?”
“In bed in Redondo Beach.”
“Redondo, of course.” Another smile, more mechanical.
“Anyone to support the fact?” Detective Garcia piped from her corner.
I didn’t give her the pleasure of turning my head; I looked at Detective McCloseky instead, which was easy. “The bed thing you mean?” I noticed that it was his turn to squint at my ring fingers. No luck there, buddy, I was sitting on my hands. “Yes, there is someone to support my bedtime story. My boyfriend, Mundy.” Mom, are you listening in?
“Would Mr. Mundy… ”
“Millar—Mundy Millar.” I spelled the name for him.
McCloseky was scribbling on his pad. “So you were home, in bed, with Mr. Mundy Millar.”
“The home part is your deduction.”
“So, whose bed was it?”
“Mr. Mundy’s, he also lives in Redondo.” I gave them Mundy’s address and number.
“Would Mr. Millar mind if we called him up?”
“Do you mean whether he is my legitimate boyfriend or a married man or he has another steady?”
“Yes, you know, sometimes not all relationships are easy.”
I curled some hair around my finger. “No, Mundy is all mine.” I felt my chances with Detective McCloseky vanishing. Next time, I would arrange for a Monopoly all-nighter with an overweight gay guy.