Story Excerpt Sunday: from A Fatal Twist of Lemon by Patrice Greenwood

A Fatal Twist of LemonA Fatal Twist of Lemon

Wisteria Tearoom Mysteries Book 1

by Patrice Greenwood

“Vince Margolan and Donna Carruthers are over in La Plazuela having lunch right this minute.”

“Wow, really?” Gina looked up from her soup, grinning. “Let’s go spy on them!”

“Gina!” I lowered my voice to a whisper. “No!”

“Why not? We might figure out what they’re up to!”

“They’re up to having lunch with some friends. Speaking of which…”

I took a bite of my Napoleon. Gina pushed aside her empty soup bowl and picked up her fork, attacking her pastry.

“If we hurry we could catch them. Maybe Donna put Vince up to it!”

“Shhh!”

She switched to a whisper. “Donna’s got a lot of money, right? And Vince is probably spending a lot on his gallery. Maybe she paid him.”

I frowned. “That sounds kind of convoluted. I need to think about this.”

I glanced at the door to the lobby, puzzling over Vince and Donna and the property sale. I felt like I was trying to push my way through fog.

“Oh, by the way, I have another little tidbit from Ted,” Gina said.

“Hm?”

“Our friend, Detective Arrogant?”

I took a sip of coffee. “What about him?”

“He’s famous for hating real estate people.”

“How odd. Any idea why?”

“No clue. Ted said he won’t talk to them. If he’s working a case and a real estate agent is involved, he always sends some other cop to interview them.”

“Oh.”

Maybe it was because he didn’t have the bucks to shop for fancy real estate. That didn’t seem enough to cause such an extreme response, but I’d had a taste of Aragón’s capacity for irrational reaction. I wouldn’t put it past him to be touchy about anyone who dealt with large amounts of money.

I didn’t mention this to Gina. After the detective’s apology, it didn’t seem fair to rip him up. He must have had his reasons for feeling as he did.

Gina dropped her fork onto her empty plate and raised her hands in the air. “Done! Let’s go.”

She snatched up both our tickets and hurried to the cash register. Resigned, I ate the last couple of bites of my pastry. By the time I finished she was back, standing by my chair and practically vibrating with excitement.

I got up, slung my purse over my shoulder, and tucked the envelope of clippings under my arm. Gina was already heading for the door into the hotel. I followed, wondering what Miss Manners would recommend as the perfect response if one was caught spying on acquaintances.

Gina crossed the lobby to the restaurant’s entrance, standing just off to one side as she peered in. She hadn’t spotted Vince and Donna yet, but I could see that they were getting up and saying goodbye to their friends.

Adrenaline surging, I caught up to Gina, slid my hand through her elbow, and pulled her on past the open doorway.

“They’re coming,” I whispered.

I dragged her around the corner where we could peer through the painted panes of glass. Farewells took a couple of minutes.

“Who are the others?” Gina asked.

“I don’t know. I saw the redhead at Donna’s after the funeral. We weren’t introduced.”

The party broke up, Donna leading the way out of the restaurant with Vince on her heels. I ducked further back behind the glass wall, pulling Gina with me and hoping Donna wasn’t planning on visiting the shops behind us.

Fortunately, she and her friends all headed for the parking garage. Gina tugged at my arm. I resisted until the last of the party was across the lobby and heading out of sight into the hallway, then let Gina drag me after them.

“This is a bad idea,” I said, sotto voce.

“We might learn something important!”

Gina’s heels clacked on the tile floor, making me wince. As we entered the hall I could see Donna’s friends strolling along ahead of us.

“Slow down, Gina!”

She slowed to a brisk walk, but we were still catching up to them. I stopped in front of a display window and pretended to admire its contents while I counted to ten. At five, Gina took off without me.

At eight, I caved and followed her. Donna’s party had gone through the door to the garage, and Gina was blasting through after them. I hurried to catch up and found myself outside, next to Gina, with the noise of traffic from San Francisco street surrounding me.

The redhead and a man I didn’t recognize were nearby, waiting for the elevator to upper levels. I glanced away and saw Donna and Vince walking up the aisle between rows of parked cars together. Gina took off after them, and I hurried to catch up.

Could Donna and Vince be an item? I had assumed they hadn’t met before my tea, but maybe that was wrong. Both art people. Maybe they’d met at some gallery.

Donna and Vince stopped beside a silver Mercedes. Gina stopped short in front of me and I nearly crashed into her. She caught my hand and pulled me behind an SUV, peering through its smoked windows at our quarry.

They stood talking by the car while I shifted from foot to foot, wishing I was somewhere else. “This is stupid,” I whispered to Gina. “Let’s go.”

“Wait.”

Smiling, Donna got into the Mercedes. Vince closed the door, waving as he stepped back. I ducked, hoping he wouldn’t notice us behind the SUV, and that it wasn’t his car. He walked on up the aisle while the Mercedes pulled out and drove away.

“Huh,” Gina said, clearly disappointed. “No kiss.”

Vince got into a black BMW. The brake lights came on and the engine started. The car sat thrumming for a couple of seconds, then backed out and headed for the exit.

“Can we go now?” I asked.

***********

Patrice Greenwood was born and raised in New Mexico, and remembers when dusty dogs rolled in the Santa Fe plaza. She has been writing fiction for over twenty years.

She loves afternoon tea, old buildings, gourmet tailgating at the opera, and solving puzzles. Her popular Wisteria Tearoom Mysteries are informed by many of these interests. She is presently collapsed on her chaise longue, planning the next book in the series.

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