Winnie's Web [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Felicity Nisbet
eBook Category: Mystery/Crime/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Description: Book #2 in The Jenny McNair Cozy Mystery Series. Jenny McNair Campbell, reluctant assistant to her private detective father, moves into the craftsman cottage she has inherited from her beloved bohemian artist great aunt, Winnie. The day she arrives in her new home, located on beautiful Anamcara Island in the Pacific Northwest,she digs up a skeleton in her rose garden. She also discovers that her aunt had enemies. Jenny attributes her unawareness of this to her aunt's ability to see the best in everyone and to her philosophy that what others think of you is none of your business.
Unfortunately Jenny is not as steadfast in her ability to follow that mantra, especially when she is confronted with the unwelcoming committee on the island. She soon realizes that some of the current islanders are carrying on a fifty-year-old grudge which now, with Winnie gone, is directed towards her.
eBook Publisher: The Fiction Works/The Fiction Works, Published: http://www.fictionworks.com, 2011
Fictionwise Release Date: September 2011
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I stand outside on the ferry, grateful to be alone. Now that I will be living on the island, I will be riding the ferry more.
I am free. I can light the candles in the middle of a sunny day if I choose. I can wear the same hippy dress to every party. I can put wildflowers in one of my rustic clay creations. I can play my guitar or meditate any time, any place, in my own home. My own home.
Did Aunt Winnie know this was coming? That I was coming to her island? Of course, Winnie knew. She knew me. She listened to me, better than Joe ever listened to me. Better than I listen to myself.
My life changed the day I moved to the island. I suppose finding a skeleton in my rose garden had something to do with it.
I had taken an early ferry out of Anacortes. To say I was anxious to leave Seattle was an understatement. When the captain sounded the horn to signal our arrival on Gael Island, I walked down the two flights of stairs to my trusty Volvo. I waited with the anticipation of a child for the boat to pull up to the dock, for the ramp to come down, the rope to be released, the men to guide the cars up the ramp and on to land. It was a thriving island with restaurants, a movie theater, bookstores, gift shops, clothing stores. I would come here often. It was not home, but it was the closest big island to mine.
I drove the mile to the small ferry dock. Ned was standing alone, watching the sea. He must have known it well for the hours he spent waiting for cars to line up so he could take them on his miniature ferry to Anamcara Island.
"Hey, Jenny." His smile struggled against the sadness. He too missed my Great Aunt Winnie. "A sight for sore eyes, you are."
"Hello, Ned. I have to tell you, so are you." I handed him the ferry toll as I stopped at the head of the line.
He looked at the back of my Volvo which was filled with a lifetime of memories and all of the sustenance one car could hold. The movers would bring my clothes, television, music system, dishes, cookware, pottery wheel--all replaceable items. I had carried with me the photographs of my childhood and my children's childhood. My old guitar was sitting on the passenger seat. Beyond the boxes of photographs and scrapbooks, there had been room for one small suitcase of clothing, and two boxes of personal items. They were packed to the brim with my ceramic creations, gifts my children had made and given me over the years--beeswax candles, ceramic hand prints, popsicle stick dolls--and precious books that I could not be without even for a few days, and of course, the lap blanket Aunt Winnie had knitted for me of lavenders, purples, mauves, and pink.
"She said you'd be coming."
"Who said--? Winnie knew I'd be moving here?"
Ned scratched his thick head of gray hair and nodded.
"How did--? When did she say that I'd be coming?"
"The last time she rode my ferry. Back in April, I think it was. She said I shouldn't worry, that her place would be well looked after when she ... you know, departed."
"She must have meant her neighbor Sasha would look after it."
Ned shook his head. "Nope. She said you would."
"That's because she left it to me."
He was staring at me the way my children stare at me when I'm not hearing them.
"Okay, what exactly did she say, Ned?"
He looked up at the sky, leaning back so far his knees creaked. I wondered how much longer he could tolerate the cold damp air of the Strait. "She said, 'Don't you worry now, Ned. My sweet Jenny will be here to look after things, to love my island home as much as I have.' I believe that's what she said."
So did I. "Thanks, Ned."
"You're welcome, Jenny. Now you drive right onto the ferry. Keep 'er in the middle though, so she's balanced."
"But no other cars are here yet."
"I don't mind making the trip for you."
It wasn't a long trip. Twelve minutes to be exact. But I'd never seen Ned make it with one car, and I didn't expect to see him do it again.
"I head south at the first left to get to the market, right?" I asked as Ned guided me onto land.
"You going to the market on the south end?"
"Sure, it's convenient."
Ned scratched his head for a long time. "Yep. It's convenient."
"And as I recall, the one on the north end is tiny."
"Yep. It's tiny."
He shrugged and shoved his gloveless hands deep inside the pockets of his navy pea coat. When he smiled I could see two teeth missing from his mouth. I hadn't noticed before. "It's tiny but very nice."
"And if you want to stock up, the market on Gael Island is nicer than the Main Street Market on the south end of Anamcara."
"I'll keep that in mind. Thanks, Ned."
"But I go right by--"
"It's only a ferry boat ride to the other island. Well worth the trip."
"I just need a few things for breakfast. I'm planning to pick up some fish and chips for dinner."
"Which pub you planning to get 'em at?"
"There's more than one?" I didn't remember. An island this size could support two pubs? The British population must have grown.
"Try the Flower of Scotland. Better fish and chips than the Crown and Anchor," he said as I waved good-bye.
I was glad it was daylight. And I was glad it was not raining. As much as I loved the rain, today was not a day for it.
I passed only one other car before turning West. I decided I'd go to the house before going to the market. Having grown up a city girl, it would take some getting used to, living on the remote edge of an island.
I parked Winston, my Volvo, beside the stone path, grabbed my guitar and suitcase and climbed the steps to my new home. I stood for a moment on the big country porch, breathing in the jasmine which was still in bloom in July, unlike the rhodies. I set my guitar and case on the old pine table that graced the porch because Winnie had refused to part with it.
The house would not be locked. It just took me a while to find my way to the door. My heart chakra demanded that I take a moment before pressing down on the handle. It was, after all, the first time I would be opening this door without my aunt being inside.
It felt different without Winnie's presence. We were connected, my great aunt and I. She had been more of a mother to me than my mother had ever been.
One hand pressed against my heart, I opened the door to my new home. I had brought none of my own furniture. I needed no remembrances of my marriage. Besides, it was modern, selected by Joe, and did not belong in this house. Aunt Winnie had furnished this house over the years with beloved antiques. My favorites were the elegant but non-frilly armoire in the entry and the four poster bed that had been mine when I came to visit. I would keep that room. It felt like mine.
The third bedroom had a painting of a young woman with thick auburn hair that flowed well below her shoulders. Her eyes reflected her passion despite the frivolity of spirit. A friend whose portrait Winnie had painted perhaps? Or the character of a story in Winnie's imagination? Whoever she was, she seemed to belong to this bedroom and it to her. I would prepare it, and Winnie's bedroom, for visitors, especially my children. Hopefully Holly would spend Christmas with me, and Matthew, I was certain, would pop up from Seattle for weekend visits when he wasn't overloaded with studies and college activities.
And of course Bryn would visit. And Cameron would bring his family. Winnie had left me the house, but my siblings were welcome anytime. It was doubtful that Charlotte would make an appearance any more than my mother would.
And Charlie. My father would spend time here in the tranquility of the country when he could afford to take a break from one of his cases, especially once I informed him that there were two pubs on the island.
He had been sad to see me leave Seattle, but he knew it was for the best. We were good friends, Charlie and I, and I had helped him out with many investigations. The most recent had been the most difficult. It had turned from a cheating spouse investigation to a double murder. It was especially painful for me because I had known Amy Morrison, one of the victims, and I had been the last one, aside from her murderer, to see her alive.
I was glad to have a break from Charlie's work. I would have more time for my spiritual counseling, although I was not sure where I would find clients. The island's population was small, but I was hopeful. Money was not a big issue. I owned Winnie's house free and clear. And Joe and I were selling the Seattle house, and I would be receiving a portion of that. He'd kept the condo at the ski lodge and I'd kept the cottage in Carmel which we had paid off many years ago. I had decided to rent it out for a while to bring in some income, plenty to live on. That was important to me. I would not ask Joe for money.
But I felt secure in the knowledge that if desperate, I could return to Seattle for a time and help Charlie with one of his cases. He always paid me well. But I was relatively certain I would not need to work for Charlie. I could make it as a spiritual counselor, and possibly even a potter. Well, probably not, but I could have a lot of fun trying.
After unloading the car, I took a walk around the garden. The property contained twenty acres, including an old lighthouse and a pear orchard, but most of the land was wild. Winnie liked it that way. It was a little spooky to me, not knowing what lurked behind all those pine trees. Why hadn't I noticed that before? Because my aunt had always been there.
"It's not your imagination."
I nearly jumped out of my jeans at the sound of a human voice. When I turned and recognized the face, I started breathing again. "Sasha!"
"Sorry, Jenny, I didn't mean to startle you. I thought you heard me."
I shook my head. "No, but I'm certainly happy to see you." Sasha was my aunt's closest neighbor. They had been good friends as well, having their painting in common. The age difference had not mattered, at least a span of sixty years. Sasha with her flaming red hair and deep green eyes reminded me of my aunt, not in appearance, but in spirit.
She reached out and hugged me. No matter that we had met only once, on the weekend when my aunt had died.
"Ditto," she said. "I've been looking forward to your arrival."
"You have? How did you--?" Winnie no doubt with her premonitions that put my intuition to shame.
She smiled. "Winnie never did think you and Joe were well suited."
"She was right. As usual. So what did you mean it's not my imagination?"
"That the place is different with her gone."
"Of course it would be but I didn't expect--"
She nodded. I didn't need to explain. "It's almost as if the energy of this place was completely changed by Winnie's energy." I followed as she walked around the garden.
Suddenly Sasha stopped walking and turned to face me. "If I believed in ghosts, I'd say the place is haunted."
"Do you believe in ghosts?"
"Naw. Well--Maybe you should put in a koi pond. That would help dispel any negative energy."
"Good idea. Where?"
She circled the house one more time and stopped in exactly the spot where I was staring, directly beside the rose garden.
"What do you think?" she asked.
"I think this is a perfect spot for a koi pond, and If my intuition is correct, there's definitely some old negative energy leftover in this garden."
"My thought exactly."
We looked at each other. I could almost feel the chills running up and down her spine in harmony with mine.
"I'll call a friend of mine if you'd like. She's a gardener and a koi pond expert and your second closest neighbor."
"Today?" I wasn't anxious, really. But the strange energy emanating from Winnie's garden was becoming stronger by the moment. I wouldn't be surprised if the rosebushes had died by morning.
Sasha headed for the house and the telephone. Her friend would be here within the hour. Still, after a cup of green tea and a pumpkin muffin from the tin Sasha had brought with her, we found gloves and shovels in the shed and started digging ourselves.
By the time her friend, Frankie, arrived, we had dug a nice two feet deep hole. Frankie sat there in her pick up truck laughing at us. Dressed in a plaid shirt, she looked like a female lumberjack. But beneath the cowgirl hat and dirt smudges was a beautiful woman. Shiny black hair that was as straight as Sasha's was curly, brown eyes, and a smile that was sure to knock men off their feet.
"Hey, we were impressed with ourselves," Sasha said.
Frankie snickered, climbed down from the cab of her truck, grabbed a shovel from the truck bed, and within twenty minutes had increased our hole to five feet in diameter and over five feet deep. By then she agreed with us. Something was amiss. The composite material her shovel had bumped into on the edge of our hole, indicated that there had been something there.
"Any idea what?" Sasha asked.
Frankie raised her shoulders. "Unless I'm imagining things, I'd say that right beside this rose garden, a long time ago, there was a koi pond."
I was nodding my head as though I could see the koi pond in front of us. But I knew I'd never seen it, except at that moment, in my imagination.
"Do you remember one from when you were a child?" Sasha asked.
"No. It must have come and gone before I was born." I looked up at Sasha. "That means we're feeling the energy of a koi pond from over forty years ago?"
"Or the energy from something else," Frankie said. She stepped back from the hole for a moment to wipe her forehead with her bandanna. "I'm not sure what it was, but my shovel hit something that isn't dirt."
That was when I saw it. Sasha must have seen it too because I heard a gasp on the tail of my own. We were both squatting down beside the edge of the hole, staring.
"It could be nothing," I said. "A bone a dog buried."
"Un huh," Sasha said, not convincing me anymore than my own words had.
"What do you see?" Frankie asked. "Oh!" She jumped into the hole and grabbed the bone that was peeking through the dirt. Then she scraped the dirt back with her shovel to reveal several more bones, bones that if someone were to put all together would most likely make up the skeleton of a human being.