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Emotions run high in the mountainous grape-growing village of Goldberg when Cort Reynard’s wife is run off the road and killed in a fiery car crash. Nicholas Dumont, his neighbor is accused of the crime. His daughter, Risa, believes her father is innocent and sets out to prove it, but soon finds that something evil has taken root in their usually placid valley.
Wind whipped branches struck the window waking Risa Dumont with a start. Damn! This’ll raise heck in the vineyard. She sighed, glanced at the clock and read twelve-fifteen. Better get some sleep while I can. Sliding back under the covers, she closed her eyes.
Minutes later, an odd noise jerked her bolt upright, her sleep-clouded brain straining to hear over the heavy whump, whump of her pulse. Blasted vandals must be at it again! Flicking on the light, Risa clambered out of bed, yanked on a pair of jeans, stuffed her green cotton night shirt inside, and shoved her size ten feet into loafers. As she snatched her sweat jacket off a chair, she heard the faint, hollow-toned sound again. Good Lord! What have they done this time?
She rushed down the hall to her father’s bedroom. The door stood open. His bed hadn’t been slept in, a new development that happened much too often lately. Her mother, before she moved out, had often complained that Pop paid more attention to the vineyard and winery than he did his family.
Risa dashed through the house, grabbed a five-cell flashlight in the kitchen and stepped out onto the screened porch. Wind and pelting rain lashed the towering maples overhead. Torn branches thudded on the roof.
Nerves drawn taut, Risa stared into pitch blackness. Dirty rats! They’ve cut the power lines. Her father had been leaving the flood lights on all night ever since the vandals had started raising havoc in the vineyard. Her gaze swept the other buildings bordering the vast brick courtyard. Not a glimmer anywhere. Her spit dried up. Where was he?
Fear tightening her belly, Risa tugged up her jacket hood. Gotta go check. She splashed through puddles to a hangar-sized structure built of rough cedar and fieldstone. Her breath coming in fast, ragged gasps, she eased the heavy carved door open a few inches, felt along the wall and triggered the switch. Long banks of fluorescents suspended from the lofty ceiling flashed on, bathing the huge room in blue-white light.
The electricity’s on! Risa peeked through the crack with a puzzled frown. Doesn’t make sense! Where’s Pop? Why didn’t he turn on the winery and yard lights? A chill wriggled up her spine. Who, or what, had made the sounds she’d heard?
Risa darted inside. Had one of the fermenting tanks blown a seam and injured Pop? Sniffing the air for an overpowering odor of grape must, she examined gleaming rows of twelve-foot-tall, stainless steel storage and fermenting tanks, but detected nothing unusual.
“Pop? Are you here?” Silence. Her alarm growing, Risa charged across the room and flung open the door to his mahogany paneled office. Light from her torch swept over his desk and glinted on reading glasses that lay on the lined pages of an open ledger. He must have been working on the books. She glanced at the wall clock. Twelve thirty-five. She swallowed hard. Maybe he decided to check the Semillon. Make certain the wine would be ready for next week’s bottling. Scrubbing her hand over her face, she groaned and shook her head. Not in the dark, he wouldn’t.
Nevertheless, with a sure footedness born of practice, Risa stepped over hoses and electrical cords that lay in contorted masses like hibernating snakes, raced to the ageing room and scanned galleries of oak casks ranging along one wall. He had to be here somewhere. Where else would he have gone at this hour?
“Pop?” Risa peered into the dark recesses between massive redwood vats.
A rasping creak spun her around, her heart thudding against her ribs. Off to her right, the heavy wine cellar door swished back and forth. That can’t be. Pop never, ever leaves the cellar door open.
Louise Hendricksen worked in the medical field for a number of years prior to becoming a full-time writer. While performing the various laboratory procedures required in a primary care clinic, she became interested in forensic science and its role in solving crimes.
Three novels and a short story of her Dr. Amy Prescott Mystery series have been published by Zebra Books/Kensington Publishing Corp. and the novels have since been reissued by e-reads.com.
Louise is the mother of two grown children and lives with her husband, Gene in Renton, Washington. She is currently at work on a mystery set in the Pacific Northwest.
Book Publisher: Wings ePress
No. of Pages: 352
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