Authors: Cynthia Riggs
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths, #Mystery, #Martha's Vineyard, #DEA, #drugs
THOMAS DUNNE BOOKS
An imprint of St. Martin's Press.
DEADLY NIGHTSHADE. Copyright
© 2001 by Cynthia Riggs. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission
except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N. Y. 10010.
First Edition: May 2001
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CYNTHIA RIGGS, a thirteenth-generation Islander, lives on Martha's Vineyard in her family homestead, which she runs as a bed-and-breakfast catering to poets and writers. She has a degree in geology from Antioch College and an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College, and holds a U.S. Coast Guard Masters License (100-ton). This is her first published mystery.
Jacket design by Monica Benalcazar Jacket illustration by Ken Joudrey
Thank you, Arlene Silva, for urging me to go back to school. And thank you, Jonathan Revere, for suggesting, once Vermont College accepted me, that, since all the other students would be writing the great American novel, I should write mysteries instead. Thank you, Dan Sharkovitz, for drumming into me the importance of character in fiction.
Thank you, Vermont College, for accepting a student who was not writing the great American novel, and for insisting I write five hours a day. Bret Lott, my first advisor, said it was okay to use real settings and real people fictionally. The real people will be flattered, he said. Advisor Mary Grimm assured me mysteries can be good literature. Thank you, Francois Camoin, for working with me through two semesters and two books. And for writing “Texture! More texture!” in the margins of my typescripts. Thank you, Phyllis Barber and Sena Jeter Naslund, two of many outstanding faculty members in the Vermont College MFA program.
My writers' group saw me through the throes of school and beyond. “Not clear!” they told me. “Too many 'saids.' “ “More body language!” Thank you, Lois Remmer, our leader; Wendy Hathaway, who has thought of just the right word to make a sentence sound right; Brenda Horrigan, who knows the right phrase to make things clear (and who brings me chicken soup when I feel discouraged); and Vicki Kennedy, who spent a summer being writer-in-residence at my house.
Thanks to loyal friends, still with me even though every time they see me I proffer them a manuscript to critique. Among them are Fred Simons, who fixes my words as well as
my furniture; William Stewart, who has an impeccable sense of taste and grammar; Pat Suarez, a mystery lover, who pleased me when she said, “Shit, I like it!”; Ruth Grupper, a B and B guest who read my books instead of going to the beach; and Janet Atherton and Don Ziegler, B and B guests, who read my books in bed instead of... (never mind).
Don't ever show your books-in-progress to your family, I was told, but I did anyway. Cousin Carlin Smith was my very first reader. When she told me she didn't fall asleep over my book, I knew it was safe to move on to my big sister and brother-in-law, Alvida and Ralph Jones, who said, “That last chapter is awful. Cut it out,” which I did. Then on to sister and brother-in-law Ann and Bill Fielder, who said, “The first chapter might be okay in a great American novel, but...” So I cut that out, too. Daughters Mary Wilder Stoertz and Ann Ricchiazzi and daughter-in-law Fiona Harris Stoertz spotted inconsistencies, repetitions, and faulty logic. To make it easy for me, they wrote notes on Post-its, four to a page in places.
For technical advice, thanks to geophysicist son-in-law Douglas Green, astrophysicist son-in-law Paul Ricchiazzi, Brendan O'Neill of the Vineyard Conservation Society, computer consultant Douglas Jones, and Ramon Suarez, retired New York City police detective.
Thank you, Nancy Love, my agent, who seems to know what every publishing house in New York is—and is not— looking for. Thank you, Ruth Cavin, my editor at St. Martin's Press, Julie Sullivan, assistant editor, and Carol Edwards, my copy editor.
The West Tisbury Public Library must be one of the best libraries in the Commonwealth. Librarian Mary Jo Joiner located a research volume that the Boston Public Library couldn't find, let me take it home, and didn't hassle me when it was overdue.
I hope Police Chief Beth Toomey, West Tisbury's real police chief, will forgive me for the liberties I have taken with our
town's police procedures. My fictional Casey, like Chief Toomey, is an off-Islander working in a traditionally male job on a fairly small island. That's as far as the resemblance is meant to go.
To wind up everything, thank you again, Jonathan Revere, who, after getting me into murder in the first place, has stuck with me through it all as my plot doctor. When my characters get themselves into implausible situations, which happens frequently, Jonathan thinks up wickedly ingenious solutions. And gives me psychological chicken soup when I hit a writers' block wall.
Thanks not only to all of you, but those others—you know who you are—who've taken my writing seriously.
Dionis Coffin Riggs, poet, 1898-1997
When she heard the scream, Victoria Trumbull had been waiting for her granddaughter Elizabeth to return from the outer harbor, where she and the harbormaster had gone to check the boats. The scream sent prickles along the back of her neck. She had never heard anything like it before.
She had waited almost an hour after a friend dropped her off at the harbor. She didn't mind waiting. As long as she had paper and a pen, she could always work on her poetry.
She watched sunset colors dance in the tidal ripples of the channel leading into the harbor basin, bold splashes of orange and red and purple. The incoming tide created a stained-glass mosaic of fractured color that washed against the boats tied up in the harbor.
The incoming tide rocked sailboats on their moorings, set shrouds to slapping against aluminum masts with a mournful bell-like clang, a sound that repeated itself from boat to boat, until the whole was a cacaphony of bells tolling
Across the narrow channel, an osprey returned to its untidy nest of sticks on top of a telephone pole. Victoria watched it circle, wings spread wide. She could see its markings, gray and black and white. Colors flickered off the scales of a large struggling fish that the bird held in its talons. The osprey's chicks set up a greedy clamor, and Victoria could see their heads over the rin of the nest, beaks open wide. The osprey landed on the edge of the nest, feet extended, wings out to the sides. The fish flipped violently, its tail flickering sunset sparks, and the chicks' shrill peeping stopped abruptly.
She rummaged in her old leather pocketbook for something to write on. An envelope would be fine, the ComElectric bill she had forgotten to give Elizabeth to mail last week. She turned it over to its blank back. She found a purple-and-green pen with stars, gold glitter, and the words Victoria Trumbull has just won $25,000!!!, and started to write in her loopy backhand scrawl.
The osprey lifted up from its nest, its wings spread wide. The darkening sky, now drained of fluorescent orange, silhouetted the bird. It cried, a mournful peeping cry, too feeble-sounding for the strong wings, talons, and beak.
The wind was picking up, a brisk breeze from the northwest. She was vaguely aware of the sound of men's voices across the harbor on the East Chop side, could almost make out words.
The scream jolted her out of her reverie. It echoed across the inner harbor and reverberated against the moored yachts, ricocheted off the shingled side of the harbormaster's shack. Suddenly, it cut off. She stood up, and the pen fell out of her lap, rolled toward the edge of the deck, and plopped into the water six feet below. She heard grunts, a scuffle, a splash, then nothing. The commotion came from across the harbor, near the yacht club's dock, where she thought she had heard men's voices earlier. But the light was fading quickly and Victoria couldn't be sure. An engine whirred, coughed, and caught. Was it a boat or a car? She thought she saw a plume of exhaust in the darkness on the other side of the dock. Tires skidded on sand, bit into a hard surface, and squealed as a vehicle turned. A sound came off the water. Was it an echo? Had the vehicle turned left or right? She couldn't tell.
Stillness settled again. It was as if no scream had ever spoiled the peace of the evening, no splash.
No one moved on the boats. No curious heads poked out of cuddies; no one stood up in cockpits. None of the strollers along the bulkhead paused to point and shout. Was she the only one who had heard the scream and splash, the sound of a motor, the squeal of tires?
Victoria looked at her watch. Not quite 7:30. What the devil could she do?
She hadn't the foggiest notion of how to use the radio in the shack to call the harbormaster and Elizabeth, tell them about the commotion, the scream and the splash.
She picked up the envelope on which she'd written the first line of her poem and put it back in her pocketbook. She paced the deck in front of the shack, no more than eight feet. She paced down the side of the shack, no more than twelve feet. She turned and paced back again.
Night was settling on the harbor. The bright sunset colors had faded and now dark purple wind clouds scudded across the darkening sky.
Finally, she heard, dimly, an outboard motor heading into the channel. The entry lights had come on, triggered by darkness, a flashing red on the right of the harbor entrance, green on the left. Victoria eased herself down the ramp that led to the floating dock where Elizabeth would tie up the harbormaster's launch. She held the railing tightly with both hands. She was not going to act like an old lady, slipping and falling and breaking something. She had to tell the harbormaster what she had heard, what she might or might not have seen, and she had to tell him immediately.
The launch turned into the channel and slowed, its bow settled down, leveled, and its wake dropped behind it in a long, curling vee that broke in small combers against the rock sides of the channel. Elizabeth, lanky as a boy in the fading light, was in the stern, holding the tiller. Domingo sat in the bow seat, facing her, his arms folded over his broad chest, his dark baseball cap squared over his brow. Victoria knew that cap, the navy blue one that read NYPD in faded gold letters.
“Hey, Gram!” Elizabeth idled the engine and let the boat drift into the floating dock. “What's up?” Victoria could see her granddaughter's bright eyes in the dusk, her short gold-streaked hair tousled in damp curls.
Domingo turned, careful not to upset the boat's balance, and doffed his cap. “Sweetheart,” he said to Victoria. “Be careful. Watch yourself.” He remained seated.
“Grab the line, Grammy.” Elizabeth reached for a cleat with slender fingers, held the boat against the floating dock, and passed the stern line to Victoria. Domingo still remained seated. Victoria, who'd been reared around boats, flung the line around a cleat and secured it. Elizabeth got out carefully and stood up straight, a tall young woman (thirty was young to Victoria) in tan shorts and white uniform shirt. The bow of the boat dipped lower in the water with the weight of the harbormaster. Domingo uncrossed his arms long enough to hand her the bow line.