View Full Version : Murder in the Vines

21-Aug-06, 07:26
My first and only attempt at writing for big people, let me know what you think? I might submit it to a womens mag.

Murder in the Vines

Someone was following her. She kept the same pace, and tried to look around inconspicuously. She heard a roaring in the distance, getting louder as it approached. She gave up trying to be casual and looked over her shoulder. A car. A car coming straight at her. It was gathering speed and heading toward her as she stood on the path that ran alongside the country road. It was going to hit her and she couldn’t move. Then another car rounded the bend from the opposite direction. The car intent on her demise swerved away at the last moment, as it did Phoebe dived into the hedge. The car sped off narrowly missing her as she launched herself upwards, and back into the neatly clipped box hedge that sheltered the eastern side of the path.
Phoebe heard a car screech to a halt then a car door opened, she couldn’t see anything as she was firmly wedged in the hedge. A well manicured hand came into her line of vision. She grasped it gratefully and with a bit of grunting and a lot of wiggling on her part she was finally freed from her uncomfortable perch among the branches.
She looked up into the handsome face of her rescuer, “Good morning,” she said. “Thanks, I may have had a bit of trouble getting out of there without you.”
“Are you OK?” he asked. He looked her up and down, his eyes searching for injuries, but obviously admiring the tanned length of her legs.
“Yes thank you,” Phoebe looked at her scratched arms and felt her pony tail slipping. “a few scratches and the odd bruise, but fine.”
“That car tried to run you down.”
“Yes, I think you’re right. Thank goodness you came along when you did, you must have scared them off.”
“Ah, would you like a lift home or something?” he suddenly seemed at a loss.
“That would be fantastic. I don’t live far from here, but I certainly don’t feel like running the rest of the way home.”
“Do you think we should call the police?”
“What’s the use? We really don’t have much to tell them. Did you get the number plate?” Phoebe asked.
“I didn’t either.”
“Well, OK. If you’re sure. But they were trying to run you down.” he said.
“Maybe they were just skylarking.” Phoebe was not the hysterical type and could see no point in making a big deal of it.
“Well come on, I’ll give you a lift home. My name is Charles Pascale.” He held out his hand to her.
“I’m Phoebe Redmond,” she said as she took his hand in her own.
Charles opened the car door for her, Phoebe got in and directed him to her home. The car stopped at the curb in front of her house.
“Thank you for the lift.” She said as she got out, then hesitated, “Would you like a cup of coffee?”
Charles turned off the car and got out, “I’d love one.”
Phoebe led Charles through a side gate and into a courtyard. She opened the french doors and was nearly knocked down as her two dogs barrelled past her and into the yard beyond. Puzzled she followed them, and Charles followed her. “They are usually all over visitors, I wonder what’s going on.”
”Oh dear!” Phoebe muttered. She approach her studio, the door was broken.
“Some one has broken into my studio.” Phoebe nudged the door open with her toe. “Ruby! Cruzer here!” They moved to her side. “Out.” said Phoebe quietly. The dogs went out obediently. Phoebe looked at Charles’ concerned face. “Maybe we should call the police.”
After the police had left, Phoebe and Charles sat at her small kitchen table drinking coffee.
“Are you sure there’s nothing missing?” he asked.
“I don’t think so, but in that mess who can be sure.” Phoebe went to the freezer, “I’m starved. Would you like something to eat?” she rummaged around. “There’s some beef and vegetable soup here, plenty for two.”
“If you’re sure?” Charles hesitated, “And if you don’t mind my staying.”
“There’s plenty and I would appreciate the company to be honest.” She began to gather some bowls, cutlery and napkins.
“Nice dogs,” he said as he watched the two reddish brown dogs lying on a mat.
“This is Ruby,” she pointed out the smaller of the two, “and that’s Cruzer.”
“What breed are they?” Charles observed the unusual line of hair running along their spines.
“Rhodesian Ridgeback. They’re an African hunting dog.”
“Good watchdogs?”
“Yes, I wish I hadn’t locked them in the house today.” she said.
“But they may’ve been hurt, they were going to run you down. I don’t think poisoning your dogs would’ve been an issue.” Charles remarked as he watched Phoebe pour them both a glass of orange juice.
“I hadn’t thought of that. So it’s just as well really.” Phoebe dished up the soup and placed some crusty rolls in a basket. Her movements were relaxed and efficient.
“Sorry about the juice, I don’t have anything else.” Phoebe placed a bowl before Charles and one at the setting opposite.
“Thanks.” Charles took a roll, “What do you use your studio for?”
“I’m a freelance photo-journalist, mostly in tourism.” she explained. Her eyes narrowed, “Pascale? Anything to do with Pascale Wines?”
“Yeah, the owner.”
“Really! this is great. I was going to call you next week, I’m going to do an article on Hunter vineyards that are owned by Barossa Wineries,” Phoebe enthused.
“Sounds good to me, give me a ring next week and we’ll organise a time.”

21-Aug-06, 07:28
“Knock knock,” called a masculine voice.
Phoebe turned to the open door of her studio with a puzzled frown, “Oh hi,” she said. “I’ve been meaning to call you.”
“You look busy,” said Charles.
“Mmm,” Phoebe turned back to the box she had been rummaging in. “I’m trying to find some shots of your place that I took the other day.”
“I just dropped in to issue an invitation,” said Charles.
“What kind of invitation?” Phoebe moved to another box and began unpacking it onto the crowded work bench.
“To my place for dinner, and we can combine that interview if you like.”
“Sounds lovely, when?”
“Oh, sorry I’m busy tonight. Dancing at the local club.” Phoebe opened a manila envelope, “Here they are!”
“Ok, well, maybe some other time.” he sounded disappointed.
“Your welcome to join us if you like,” she invited.
“No, that’s alright. I’m not much of a dancer.” Charles hesitated, “Well, I’ll leave you to it. Maybe we could have that dinner at my place some other night?”
Phoebe realised she really wanted him to come, “No really, I’d like you to meet my friends. We’re just a bunch of oldies who love to dance. Come with us, you’ll enjoy yourself.”
“I don’t want to intrude.”
“You’re not.”
“Well Ok, if you’re sure.“ Charles said.
“I’m sure.” Phoebe said.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Phoebe saw Charles sitting near the entrance of the auditorium holding a glass of beer and watching the people on the dance floor. The beat of the music thrummed through her and she couldn’t wait to join them.
“Hi,” she yelled over the music, Charles twisted his body toward her and smiled. “Grab your drink and follow me.” She continued around the edge of the floor to a table near the disc jockey’s console. She put a small bag on a table, where several people greeted Phoebe.
“Hello all,” Phoebe took his arm and drew him forward and introduced him to them.
“This is great,”
Phoebe laughed, “You probably thought I meant old time dancing.” She opened up the small bag and pulled out a pair of shiny black and white lace up shoes, removed her other shoes and put them on.
“Why are you changing your shoes?” he asked.
“These are my dancing shoes, they have a suede sole.”
“Oh,” he said, turned back to watch the energetic dancing on the dance floor.
“Would you like to have a go?” Phoebe saw that his toe was tapping and it was obvious that he liked the tempo of the almost bluesy music.
“I don’t think I could do it. It looks very intricate. What is it called?”
Phoebe pointed out a couple who were moving through a series of steps, “That’s swing, they make it look easy, they’ve been dancing for years.” She then nodded at a young couple whose energy was awesome, “ Those two are doing ‘Lindy Hop.’”
“I think I’ll just watch thanks,” said Charles with a laugh, “it all looks a bit beyond me.”
“Come on,” she said, “I’ll teach you Rockabilly, it’s easy.”
Charles allowed himself to be dragged to the dance floor and led through the simple step kick, step kick.

21-Aug-06, 07:30
Phoebe and Charles walked from the foyer of the club toward the car park.
“Where’s your car?” He asked.
“Just along here, at the end of this row.” Phoebe was enjoying Charles’
company, she wondered if she should suggest they go for a coffee. “Do you feel like going to the Café? It’s just up the road from my place and they make a wonderful decaf-mocha.”
“Sounds good, I’ll follow you.”

They placed their order at the counter and went to a table near the back of the small coffee house. They sat in a booth, the orange vinyl squeaked as Phoebe slid into the seat.
“I love it here.” Charles commented.
Phoebe was surprised, “ Me too, but I didn’t think you’d have heard of it.” He didn’t seem the type to enjoy the slightly dingy café with it’s laminex table tops and worn vinyl seats. She’d expected him to be more at home in a flash restaurant in the busy tourist district.
“Some of the ladies who work on the estate told me to come here. They said it was the best coffee for miles and I agree.”
Phoebe was curious about him, “Tell me about you, you know most of my life story,” she loved listening to people talk about themselves.
Phoebe watched Charles’ face as he told her of his passion for good Australian Wine and how his family had moved to the BarossaValley in the early 1900’s from Tuscany. His expressions and gestures transported her to Italy, she loved his Mediterranean manner, he was an interesting combination of European style and Aussie manliness.
“My daughters have been staying with their mother in France for a month and will arrive in Sydney next week.” Charles drained the last of his coffee, “I could go another, how about you?”
“That’d be nice.”
Charles went back to the busy counter. Phoebe watched him as he waited patiently. Wine making must be a patience inducing business. She liked that about him, he was a calm and patient man.
“What are your girls names?” she asked as he squeaked back into the booth.
“Bella and Christiana. Bella is nineteen and start’s at MonashUniversity in the new year, and Christiana is twenty two and works for the company. They are as different as chalk and cheese. Bella is easy going and placid. She lives up to her name, she is very beautiful. Christiana is more striking than beautiful and I guess you could say that she is highly strung. How about you, any kids?”
“One daughter, Olivia, she lives in London with her Irish husband.”
Ariadne, the wife of the Nick the proprietor approached, bustling toward them, the tray laden with more than just the two coffees they had ordered. She shuffled in her slippers and the colourful apron she wore over her black shapeless dress made for an interesting style all her own.
“What have you got there, Ariadne?” Phoebe asked, you could never refuse one of the kindly Greek woman’s deserts.
“Now never you mind, I can see you need a bit of fattening up.” She pushed the two cream laden plates onto the table and then transferred the coffees. “This one is the decaf,” she shook her head in disapproval. “No good for you, should stick with nice Greek coffee.”
“What is this delightful looking concoction?” Phoebe asked.
“Glykisma Amigthalou, Almond Torte. Is good, and not too much of the calorie.” Ariadne assured as she turned and moved back up the shop to the counter wiping the tray with her apron as she went.
“I think I’ll just forget the kilojoules tonight,” she laughed as she tucked in.

21-Aug-06, 07:33
“Cruzer! Ruby, here!” Phoebe called them as they charged off through the bush. Phoebe loved this walk in the river reserve. The trails wandered through several types of bushland, open dry clearings, scrubby forest and damp gullies with stone steps leading up and down the steep banks to the Hunter River.
The dogs didn’t come and she could hear Ruby’s plaintive whine. Phoebe saw where the dogs had left the track through the tall dry grass, the broken and bent stems leaving a clear trail that led to a small ledge. Cruzer was standing sniffing the air, the big male dog had his hackles up in the characteristic manner of the ridgeback, a small section above the ridge and a triangular patch on his rump. Ruby was pacing slightly ahead of him. Beyond the dogs she could see what looked to be a bundle of clothes, then the lump began to take shape.
“Cruzer! Ruby! Here!” Her tone got their attention and they returned to her side. “Sit, stay.” She told them. Her hands were shaking as she retrieved her mobile phone from the waist band of her shorts. She fumbled and dropped the phone.
“Damn,” she exclaimed and picked it up. Cruzer started to stand. “Drop,” she ordered firmly, “Stay.”
She finally managed to make her fingers press the correct sequence of buttons to turn off the keypad lock. She looked again at the humped shape on the ground not ten metres away.
“Hello, yes, I’m not sure who I need to talk to. But I think I have found a body.”

The police and an ambulance arrived within fifteen minutes, but it seemed like hours to Phoebe. She sat on the tail gate of her 4WD with the dogs under the vehicle. The police had taken notes, but she would still need to go to the station and give a statement.
“Do you mind if I go home first? It’s too hot to leave the dogs in the car.”
“That’s fine Mrs Redmond. You don’t need to do it today, tomorrow will be fine.” said the good looking young lady, who looked way too young and small to be a police officer.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As Phoebe drove along the bumpy track she saw a car on a side track. She didn’t give it a thought until she realised it was still behind her when she pulled up in her quite street. It drove past, she was sure that it was the car that had tried to run her down.
Curious, she thought, she opened the gates and drove into her yard. She let the dogs out of the back canopy of her crew cab ute and walked with them back to shut the gates.
She still felt a bit shaky after her morning and didn’t notice anything wrong when she first opened the front door. Then she saw the doors to all the bedrooms were open, she never left the spare rooms open. At the door of the first room she saw that someone had been in there, the contents of the wardrobes and shelves were strewn all over the floor. The destruction and mess continued throughout the rest of her home.
“I don’t believe this!” she was really angry now. She rang the police.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“What do you think they are looking for?” asked Detective Sergeant Gavin Barret. The burly detective sat opposite her, his empty coffee cup still in his huge hand. “It is a bit much to be a co-incidence, two break-ins and finding a body, all in the last week.”
“And then there’s nearly being run down, and followed home by the same car,” she added.
“What? What’s this about being run down?” he was startled by this revelation. “Why didn’t you tell me this before?”
“I didn’t really relate the incidents before, I just thought the car trying to run me down was a prank, you know some kids playing chicken. But then seeing it again today at the Reserve when I was leaving and then again in the street out the front. Well, it is a bit too much of a co-incidence isn’t it?”
He re-opened his note book, “Can you describe the car?” The questions started anew.
“Yes,” she answered. “The car was a white possibly late 90’s commodore. It had black tinted windows, I couldn’t see inside at all. I think it had Victorian
number plates, they definitely weren’t NSW plates, they had blue lettering.”
“Do you have any idea who it could be?”
“No, not really.” Phoebe paused to think about this, “I’m a photo journalist
not a tabloid gossip monger or a investigative reporter. I write about tourist destinations and tourism in the Hunter specifically. Hardly topics that would offend anyone.”

21-Aug-06, 07:35
The police interview took over an hour and by the time they had left all Phoebe could think about was sinking into a nice hot bath and soaking the stress of the day away.
The bath was full to the brim with bubbles and the soothing scent of lavender, soft music playing, a cup of peppermint tea and an ice pack on her forehead. Then the phone rang. She removed the ice pack and looked at the cordless phone on the vanity. Will I, or won’t I?
“Damn!” she sat up and reach over for the phone, “Hello?” she knew she sounded irritable.
“Hello Phoebe, this is Charles. Are you OK?” she could hear the genuine concern in his voice. “ I’ve just seen the news.”
“Hi Charles, yes I’m fine, but I feel a bit wrecked. It has been a long day.”
“Well I won’t keep you, I was just a bit worried.”
“Thanks for your concern, but your not keeping me from anything.” she didn’t want him to hang up. She found his concern and his company comforting. “Would you like to come over? I could do with the company.”
“Sure, how about I pick up a pizza?” he suggested.
“Make it Chinese and your on. The local take away is pretty good.”
“Righto, I should be about an hour. Do you want anything in particular?”
“I love it all,” she said.
“OK see you in an hour then.”
“See you.” she hung up the phone and sank back into her bath. Good she still had time for a bit of a soak and now her dinner was being delivered to her door and some good company to boot.

Phoebe was feeling refreshed after her bath, dressed in some cool linen trousers and a sleeveless matching top she decided to quickly tidy the living area before Charles arrived.
She started picking up the all the papers and photo’s that were strewn around the room. She put the cushions back on the lounge and the magazines and books back on the shelves. Nothing is missing, what on earth could they be looking for? It just didn’t make sense. It seemed as if everything had been rifled through, but it wasn’t a robbery.
Hearing a car pull into her driveway she went to the front door to greet Charles. “Hi, that was good timing.” she greeted him.
“You certainly don’t look any the worse for wear.” He followed her into the cool dimness of the hall. As they walked past the door of the first bedroom, Phoebe heard his steps hesitate as he saw the mess. “What on earth has happened here?”
“Oh, sorry. I forgot that you didn’t know about the break in.” She continued past the disorder of the bedrooms to the kitchen. “This afternoon when I came back from the Reserve I found that I had been broken into again.” She took some plates and crockery and served up the food. “I called the police of course.” She led the way to the kitchen table sat down and started eating. She was starving, drama doesn’t affect my appetite, she thought.
“What did they say?” Charles looked puzzled. “Do they think it’s related?”
“Well they didn’t really say as much to me, but they must. They wanted to know if I had any enemies, things like that. If I had any thoughts on who or why. And he wrote it all down.”
“What did you tell them?” he asked.
“That I couldn’t imagine who it could be or why, I mean I’m a tourism photo-journalist, not an investigative reporter. Who could I have possibly upset. I have lots of friends, I go to church down the road, I dance, I think I am a pretty normal citizen.”
“Mmm, doesn’t sound too risky, but there must be a reason for it. Even crime rings don’t just decide to harass someone for no reason. That is supposing that this is related to some gang or other.“ he mused. “We have to assume that this has something to do with the body.”
“You know something has just occurred to me.” she stood up leaving her half eaten meal, hurried to the sideboard where she had put all the papers and photo’s that had been all over the floor. “The photo’s that I have of your vineyard were from just above where I found the body today. Maybe these people think I saw something.”
“When did you take those photos?”
“A day or two before I met you” she thought about this a minute, “yeah, I think that makes sense. Where are they?” she continued to look through the pile. “How stupid! I left them in my car, back in a sec…” and she went out the back door grabbing her car keys on the way and into her garage. She got the manila envelope from the back seat, relocked the car and was back inside in minutes.
“Here, let’s see if there is anything out of place. I had them in the car because I had planned to drop in at your place after my walk. It got a bit confusing and I forgot that I’d taken them with me.” She handed Charles half of the photos and kept the rest to examine herself. “I was going to see which one you would like to go with the article.”
“I can’t see anything, but then I wouldn’t really know as I’m a relative new comer.”
“Doesn’t matter, I think I’ve found it.” she said flatly. She crossed the kitchen and turned on the overhead light. “Look at this, see these shadowy shapes here? I think that must be about where I found the body.”
“They must have seen you taking the photos, then they had to find and destroy the evidence,” deducted Charles.
“It’s the only thing that makes sense really,” she examined the print closely, “I can’t believe that I hadn’t even noticed them in the shot. I guess I was just looking at the vineyard and look, this is the last shot. I had already checked the foreground for rubbish and anything that shouldn’t have been there. They must have come in from the track on the left and then diverted down to where the body was. They hadn’t seen me until it was too late.”
“You’ll have to take these to the police,” advised Charles.
“Yes, but not tonight. I’ve had enough for one day, tomorrow will be fine.”

21-Aug-06, 07:37
Phoebe’s eyes snapped open, there was someone in her house, she could hear their steps creaking on the floor boards of the hall. She grabbed the phone and hit redial and shoved the phone and hand piece under her bed. The door to her room was ajar and she lay unmoving as it silently was pushed open.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she demanded. She sat up and swung her legs over the edge of the bed. There was a fumbling at the now open door and then the room was filled with glaring light.
A man with a gun moved to stand at the end of her bed, “Where are the photos?” his voice was rough. Phoebe noticed that he hadn’t bothered to cover his face in any way. He didn’t expect her to be alive to identify him.
“What photos? And what are you doing in my house?”
“The photos you took out at the River Reserve. Where are they?” he moved closer to her and pointed the gun directly at her head. Phoebe hoped he wouldn’t notice the phone cord disappearing under the bed. She also hoped that Charles was home and listening in on this conversation, his number had been the last she had dialled on this phone. The gunman seemed to be totally focused on her. Good. Just keep him talking, it was her only chance.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You took some photos out by the river the other week, and my friends want them. So let’s just make this easy and I’ll be outa here.”
Phoebe didn’t believe that he would ‘be outa here’. “Honestly, I don’t have anything.” she stated. “When was I supposed to have taken these shots?” she stalled.
He moved even closer and pushed the gun barrel into her cheek, she saw that his hand did not shake, “Shut up and tell me where the photos are.” he growled at her, his voice low and menacing. “Now.”
She found his calm more frightening than the gun, he was not an amateur.
“Let me up and I will show you the photo’s I took from the reserve, they are only of the Pascale Winery, I can’t see what they could have to do with anyone else. They’re for a tourism article.
“Just tell me where to find them, my friend will decide whether they concern him or not.” If possible his voice was even quieter, and more intimidating.
“Over there, near the door, in that big black bag,” she pointed to the large rectangular bag that leaned against the wall. He moved away from her and toward the door. The gun still levelled at her face. Through the sheer curtains at the window she could see the faint tint of red and blue. Thank You Lord, she prayed. Then she heard the sirens approaching. The man grabbed the bag and turning back to her fired a shot at her as she deftly rolled across the bed and off the other side. She didn’t feel anything, so she assumed that he’d missed, but her ears were ringing. She heard him running down the hall to the back door. A loud crash heralded the police entry. She lay with her arms over her head, her eyes tightly shut. She heard some banging and crashing then a shot rang out. Silence, and then someone yelled and there were footsteps thudding to her side.
“Mrs Redmond are you OK?” she recognised the voice.
“Yeah, Detective Sergeant Barret, I’m fine.” She opened her eyes and saw the phone. “Excuse me I’ll just finish this call,” and she reached for the handset, “Charles, are you there?”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Phoebe and Charles were sitting on the wide decking that surrounded his home on the estate, the blue water in the pool sparkled. It was late morning, the police interviewing was over and they were finally away from the scene of her night of terror. Phoebe sipped at her tall glass of lemon, lime and bitters, the ice clinking against the glass as she stirred it with her straw.
“Man, I have never been so scared in my life.” Charles was telling Phoebe what had happened from his end of the line.
“Me too,” Phoebe looked at Charles, they had become so close in such a short period of time. She shook her head, “What about those great guard dogs of mine,” she laughed. “Give them a bone and they’re anyone’s.”
The intruder had thrown a couple of large meaty bones through the dog door and they had settled down quietly with their unexpected treat.
“So, all this, over a couple of photo’s. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Charles continued to fill Phoebe in on the background to her involvement. “The bloke that you found, was apparently a drug dealer from Victoria. He did a runner with some of his boss’ money and they followed him and grabbed him in Maitland at his mate’s place. It’s opened a can of worms because the mate is also a dealer so now the police have linked a local crime ring to the Victorian big boys.”
“Who told you all this?”
“Barret. He said that the fellow that they caught last night was a hit man, known to the Victorian Police.”
“There must have been two of them, there are two figures in the picture.”
“Yeah, the people in your photo were the man from last night and the mate. He had sold his friend out. Moving up the ranks apparently.”
“Just the wrong place at the wrong time,” She mused, “but it hasn’t been all bad, I met you.” She was really glad that she had met him.


21-Aug-06, 07:39
Phew, I thought I'd never get all that on there.
Hope you enjoy it.

21-Aug-06, 08:48
Thank you. I enjoyed reading that piece. Was it written recently? In your intro, you mention "I might submit it to a womens mag." This is a priority when writing something you seek to have published - locate the market where that kind of work is used. That means reading a variety of publications, fairly regularly so you can tell if there's any changes in editorial policy. You probably already know about methods of approaching publishers. Do not though send anything to any publisher unless you have more work to follow. If a publisher feels the writer will be 'sought after' you will need to be able to supply further examples, maybe at short notice. Keep a log of everything you send, where to, and when. Prepare yourself for possible rejects - even the best writers have had them. Prior to submission, edit, edit and edit until you really believe all the 'i's are dotted and 't's crossed. Sometimes its the small details that are overlooked but cause you to stumble.
Good Luck with the work.