I'll be posting a chapter from "Murder in Half Moon Bay" every day until the end of the month. Enjoy!
When I awoke, my thoughts were on Dr. Nagera. The window in my room had been opened, I assumed by the housekeeper to freshen the air. After a succulent lunch and walk on the beach, the ocean air had finished me off. The bed had taken me in its comfortable folds for an afternoon nap next to Teddy.
Despite the lightness of the afternoon, my thoughts were gloomy. Too many people had died already, first in the attacks on the twin towers, and now, these three people in Half Moon Bay. I also worried for Dr. Nagera’s safety and felt compelled to pray for him.
My memory stirred about Paul’s fiancée dying in the World Trade Center attacks. He’d said he had feelings for Regina, and yet I kept seeing him around the hotel with Celeste.
That made me uncomfortable.
Of course, it was probably her idea. Celeste seemed to need a man on her arm at all times.
I dialed Ann and asked her to check up on their relationship. With Regina out of the way, it was clear sailing for Celeste.
Ann readily agreed and asked to meet me for tea in the Fireside Room later. A cup of hot tea sounded wonderful. I looked forward to it.
“Well, Teddy.” I looked at the clock and stretched my arms. “It looks like it’s time for me to visit the Westovers.”
Teddy lifted his head, yawned, and then went back to sleep.
“They say an innocent mind makes for sound sleep.” I laughed. “Teddy, you must have the most innocent mind around.”
When we had breakfast together that last morning Regina had said Spencer held something over her. How far would she go to find out who killed her mother? From what I gathered, Regina was determined enough to go to any length.
Of course. The DNA!
That would certainly hang someone. It might be the last irrefutable evidence we could get.
I couldn’t rest another minute. Every second wasted allowed the killer to further cover his or her tracks. No, I needed to keep the heat on.
I got up and brushed through my long blond tresses, sticking my black snakeskin headband into place. A touch of plum lipstick provided the finishing touch.
I still had a few minutes before the Westovers were expecting me. It might be prudent to go a little early and do some investigative observation.
The Westovers lived in a beautiful golf community right on the ocean, not too far from the hotel. Golf greens wound through the homes creating lush green landscapes wherever one looked. The Monterey pines and twisted cypress trees looked beautiful against the romantic ocean setting. Talk about having it all.
The estate houses were nestled off the road, framed by the elegant landscaping, and represented several completely different architectural designs. Some were Colonials with the white columned porches in front, some were Mediterranean with roofs of red Spanish tile and some were contemporary, just large and cold looking to me. I drove past the address, just to see things. Everything was quiet except for an older couple driving past me in a golf cart.
I strained to see if any cars were parked in the Westover’s driveway but saw nothing. They must park their cars in the garage. I took the loop once more and hoped they wouldn’t happen to look out their window that very moment. The plantation shutters looked snugly shut, so I felt pretty sure they didn’t.
I approached the house once again and got close enough to see the garage door open. A large silver-blue BMW backed out and drove away in the opposite direction down the street. It gave me a good view of the license plate, which read, “4GRDNZ.”
The driver’s hair was cropped short and sat tall in the seat so I assumed it was a man.
Pretty intimate, parking in the garage like that.
Okay, Jillian, time’s up.
Just remember you are coming to see their gardens. Polite conversation with a little observation is what we need here. And remember, Jillian, listen.
After my personal pep talk, I pulled into the driveway hoping my car wouldn’t leave oil stains on the spotless flagstone. They must have money to burn putting in a driveway like that.
The house itself was a large Tudor. Gray flagstone covered the exterior and made a stunning foil for the lovely yard. The gardens surrounding the house bloomed spectacularly. Purple mums lined the curved beds and the leaves on the trees had turned to red, gold and flaming orange.
I rang the doorbell which sounded like Gothic chimes.
Immediately, Thomas opened the door and greeted me warmly, like a long lost relative. Maybe he was different at home.
“Do come in, Jillian. It’s an honor to have you visit our home. Evelyn and I have looked forward to showing you our gardens.” He took my arm and led me into the living room.
The room’s loveliness astounded me! Creamy sunlit yellow walls set off the Georgian silk and chintz-upholstered furniture. A large eight-armed crystal chandelier hung over the main conversation area in front of the white-columned and gray marble fireplace. A portrait of a beautiful young woman hung over the mantle.
“My, what an exquisite room.” My exclamation was an honest reaction.
“Thank you.” Thomas seemed pleased with my compliment. “It’s Evelyn’s favorite room in the house.”
Looking at the portrait I had to ask. “Is this one of your ancestors, Thomas?”
He laughed. “The clothes are outdated, but actually it’s a portrait of Evelyn when we were first married.” He smiled up at her face, so fair and pretty, and then his smile turned to a frown as a voice spoke and chilled the once sunny room.
“Good afternoon, Jillian.” Evelyn’s greeting sounded cold. Wearing an ugly, ill-fitting brown pantsuit accessorized by a black and tan scarf tied in a knot around her neck, Evelyn Westover looked very much out of place in the beautiful room.
“Hello, Evelyn.” I tried my best to ignore her obvious rudeness. “I was just admiring your exquisite living room.”
Evelyn sighed with condescension and corrected me.
“Actually, Jillian, it’s the parlor, not the living room.” With an obvious determination to keep me uncomfortable, she snarled. “Shall we visit the gardens?”
“I’d love to.”
Amazingly, I actually meant that.
Thomas motioned for me to follow Evelyn through the French doors draped on either side with heavy red damask tied up in bishop’s sleeves and trimmed with gold braid and tassels.
We walked out onto a black slate terrace overlooking the ocean. Lush ferns and hostas bordered the terrace and a flagstone walk led into the center of the expansive yard.
A marble fountain anchored the circular rose garden filled with a dozen varieties of floribunda roses. A stone bench on each side of the flagstone floor faced the gently flowing fountain.
Sitting on top of the fountain, a gray stone cherub prayed heavenward. The ocean view beyond the garden was breathtaking. I was truly awed.
Evelyn noticed my pause. For the first time her voice was soft. “We had the cherub put in after Kevin’s death.”
Softened by the tragic thought of losing a child, I told her how sorry I was.
For a moment, both Thomas and Evelyn actually looked at one another with feelings of love. They resembled the same looks several of us witnessed between them the night Regina was killed.
We moved on to the other areas of the garden all manicured to perfection.
“Did Paul Youngblood do the design?” My question was entirely innocent.
Thomas spoke before Evelyn had a chance. “As a matter of fact, he did.”
I took a chance. I became the investigator. They would deplore it. “Was that by chance the BMW I saw leaving just as I arrived?”
Evelyn walked in front of Thomas. “Why, yes. He...was just checking on a….”
Thomas interjected, “A plant wasn’t doing well and he wanted to try a soil amendment to see if it would help.”
They both cast nervous looks at each and fidgeted uncomfortably.
“Couldn’t the gardener have taken care of that?”
Evelyn ignored my question as if I didn’t have a clue about designer-client relationships and moved on to the last specialty garden.
“This is the rock garden our son Kevin was so fond of.”
The tour was nearing an end and I only had one chance left to ask, so taking that chance, out of the clear blue I asked, “Do you have any Venus flytraps? I heard they sometimes do well along the coast.”
Neither Thomas nor Evelyn batted an eye. Thomas simply smiled and said, “We haven’t tried any so far. Perhaps we could ask Paul the next time he comes.”
We walked back through the French doors and I paused to throw out a tidbit to them. “By the way, the police found out Spencer Hausman owed a large gambling debt and paid off $8,000 of it in August. You must have paid him very well, Evelyn. You might as well know I know why you dismissed Walter Montoya.”
Evelyn’s eyes grew wide with anger. Her lips drew back in a snarl. “Our business is just that, Jillian, our business.”
As I left, I saw Evelyn and Thomas standing in the doorway watching me leave.
They were not smiling.
If you like to read about lovely places and fabulous cuisine, enjoy the Jillian Bradley mystery series. Book 1 MURDER IN HALF MOON BAY for your e-reader is free!
All books are G-rated and contain no profanity.
See you in my books!
Mystery novelist Nancy Jill Thames has published Christian fiction since 2010. The author of seven books in the Jillian Bradley series, she is an award winning blogger and listed numerous times on the Author Watch Bestseller’s List. In addition, she won first place in her church's 4th of July celebration for her chocolate cream pie.
When she isn’t plotting her next book, she spends time with her six grandchildren, tags along with her husband on business trips, and plays classical piano for her personal enjoyment. She is an active member of the Leander Writers' Guild, American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), CenTex Chapter-ACFW, and supports the Central Texas SPCA with a portion of her book sales. She resides with her husband in Leander, Texas.
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