And now for the exciting conclusion of my murder mystery – Enjoy!
A Taste for Merlot and Murder
Kali parked out front, walked over and taking a deep breath, pulled the handle of the storefront door, only to find it wouldn’t budge. That’s strange, she thought, they keep regular office hours so what’s going on? To her horror, as she cupped her hands to look inside, she saw the owner, Matt Johnson, lying in a heap near the desk at the back of the store. The lights were off, but she could just make out the large pool of blood spilling out from beneath his still body. Gasping in shock, Kali hastily fumbled her cell phone out of her handbag and dialed 911.
An hour later, Kali was ushered into a police car and taken to the station for questioning. Bad enough she had been the one to find her winemaker dead—now she had found a second dead man in less than one month! A stern interview was carried out by two straight-faced detectives who seemed determined to leave no stone unturned. After repeatedly explaining her reason for going to the business, she was let go with a warning not to go anywhere, anytime soon. As if she had any time to leave her winery! To make matters worse, she overheard one of the paramedics whispering earlier about mysterious puncture wounds on Matt’s neck.
Exhausted and more rattled than ever, Kali rushed back to get something accomplished in the winery before operations fell further behind. In addition to fielding calls from the media, orders were piling up in the office. Too tired to think straight when she got home late that night, she sank down into a creamy lavender bubble bath with one of her winery’s tropical Rieslings, drifting into a semi-conscious sleep.
Anxious barking from Max startled Kali back to consciousness. “Who’s there?” she cried out, not knowing what else to say in her half-awake state. Suddenly the home alarm blared, jarring Kali to leap out of the bath bubbles and snatch on her robe while running down the hall from her master suite. Max had worked himself into quite a state and was bouncing up and down on the hardwood, barking louder and louder now that he had gained her full attention. “Okay Max, what? What do you see?” she asked her dog in vain.
Then the phone began ringing. It was the alarm company calling to see if everything was okay. But Kali could see from where she stood in the kitchen that one of the front patio doors was swinging open in the windy rainstorm pelting down.
“No, everything is definitely NOT okay! Please send someone right away! I don’t know what’s going on, but someone has broken into my home!” The soothing voice of the operator was lost on Kali as she slammed the phone down and ran to close the patio door.
It took the alarm company personnel around thirty minutes to reach her, and by then Kali was verging on panic. After a thorough search of the premises, nothing could be found; the lock hadn’t even been tampered with on the patio door. They promised to send a locksmith to install a new lock the following day. Kali slept fitfully and dragged herself to the winery at 5:00 a.m. after brewing a strong Oso Negro ‘Prince of Darkness’ coffee, her favorite blend from the Nelson roasters in the mountains of the BC Kootenay region. It would take a wicked amount of caffeine to get through this day.
Three work-filled days later, it had been another dreadfully long, sleepless night. Kali padded out from the bedroom to stand in her kitchen, gazing out the windows at the silvery drizzle showering down outside without seeing it. A feeling of unease enveloped her. Stefano had not bothered to return her call, and she wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad sign. And still no word from her brother…
“Kali, we meet at last,” a chilling male voice with a thick, mysterious accent spoke from the darkness of the living room. Startled, Kali cried out, dropping the steaming mug of coffee she’d held in her hands to the floor where it shattered.
“Who are you? How did you get in here?!” she demanded.
“You have something I want; something that has been in my family for over three hundred years – something that is rightfully mine.” The man stepped forward to show himself in the light of the kitchen. Kali gasped. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her dog Max curled up in his bed in the kitchen corner. He appeared to be asleep and unaware of the man standing before her. Max would never sleep through an intruder.
Dressed entirely in black, the stranger stood before her, with long black hair slicked down his back. The man’s eyes shone like eternal ebony pools in an abyss of pure emptiness—cold and soulless. In spite of this, Kali could not take her eyes away from his. They held and caressed her; they hypnotized. She barely registered his deathly pallor and impossibly crimson lips. Kali also wasn’t aware of him walking towards her, or how she came to be in his icy embrace.
The man communicated a tale so detailed and vivid, there was no way it could be made-up. Remarkably, he seemed to transmit the story without uttering a single word. As he cryptically transported Kali back to her trip to San Diego in her mind, he reached up to sensually finger the wine-coloured gem hanging by a thick silver chain around her neck. Murky images whirled in and out of Kali’s memories like storm clouds.
The rare pendant had been a treasured purchase Kali’s old boyfriend made from one of the markets they visited in San Diego. She admired the antique look of the metal spirals sculpted around the vibrant Burmese ruby, and how the gem had seemed to glow from within. Vladimir, as was the stranger’s name, revealed how his Great-Great-Great-Grandmother’s treasured piece had been in his family since the 17th Century when they still resided in Russia. It evokes potent spells and possesses magical powers useless to anyone but ‘his kind’. It was a priceless tool to his family. How it came to be for sale in the market was still a mystery, although he originally suspected a thief had stolen and sold it. Now, the time had come for his family to reclaim the rare jewel, and the power burning within. A chill ran through her, but Kali stood paralyzed in his grasp.
“But why did you kill Jake, and what about Matt, the tour operator? They had nothing to do with this,” Kali whispered breathlessly.
“Your winemaker was unfortunately, how shall I say, in the wrong place at the wrong time; although, for me, it was the right time. I meant to surprise you, but I surprised him instead! It worked out since I was very hungry at the time. As for the other gentleman, well… that was simply a coincidence. I have to, ah, feed on a regular basis to keep up my strength, and he just happened to be nearby. Deliciously nearby, although a touch bitter in my opinion. My entourage and I are staying downtown. We had quite a time finding you, let me tell you. But now, our hunt is over at long last.”
His frigid touch raised the hair on the back of her neck and goose bumps spread over her arms. His angular cheekbones came near. The ghoulish Count pulled her closer, passionately sinking his sharp fangs into Kali’s neck. He eagerly lapped every last drop of her warm blood. As the life slowly faded from Kali’s eyes, she heard the last words she would ever hear.
“Goodbye, my darling, goodbye. Such a pity we had not met under better circumstances.”
Without delay, the Count softly lay Kali’s now lifeless body down on the cold tile of the kitchen floor. He reached down, pulled and broke away the chain, pocketing the precious jewel from Kali’s beloved necklace. Still under a spell, Max continued sleeping contentedly in his warm dog bed, unaware of the terrible misfortune that had befallen his human.
Before Count Vladimir departed, he helped himself to the wine cellar, filling a large case with robust reds from Kali’s family winery. Because, undeniably, a modern vampire adores a bloody good Merlot!
Happy Halloween everyone 🙂
TARA PANRUCKER COPYRIGHT 2019
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED