Friday, January 2, 2009

Fiction Friday: The Red Stone Mystery Part II

I will be traveling again today, so I don't know who is hosting Fiction Friday. But please follow the links from Patty's blog and visit our host today!

The following story is the conclusion to last week. It was my first try at a real fiction short story. It started out as something totally different..... but oh, well. (And by the way- this does not have a Christian theme.- Just a mystery. ) When I grow up and have more time to write, I will re-write this story the with the Christian truth- the way I wanted it to be in the beginning. :)

Part two of
The Red Stone Mystery:

Sleep was evasive – even with the valium she took.

She lay on the bed and painfully replayed the events of the infamous night from 10 years earlier. The answers to her questions had to be locked in her memories somewhere. She was determined to be the only detective solving the troubling puzzle.

Her trip to Paris for her 20th birthday had been a dream come true. Traveling with her sister had been the icing on the cake. They both shared a love for impressionist paintings, and when they discovered the story of the woman artist, Berthe Morisot, they were intrigued beyond limit!

Dear old Dad had planned the adventure for them down to the last detail. His final surprise for his daughters had been the private tour of the Manet collection at the home of an old acquaintance.

Adrienne sorted through every memory. The surprise tour. The excitement. The breathtaking view of the chateau. The warm reception from the homeowners. The intriguing history of Mademoiselle Morisot and her brother-in-law Edward Manet. The thrill of walking in the library. The viewing of the paintings.

She made herself switch her memories to slow motion at this point.

Adrienne remembered seeing it for the first time. She was puzzled as to why such a small gem was sitting on the rim of the largest painting’s frame. The light from the chandelier reflected it perfectly to highlight the vibrant colors of the masterpiece. When she had asked her host if the stone was placed there on purpose, his face had grimaced.

Instinctively Adrienne grabbed her pillow and hugged it close as she remembered the next events.

The lights had gone out leaving a thick darkness that frightened her and Suzenne. They were in an unfamiliar house, a foreign country, and with strangers. Adrienne remembered grabbing for her sister’s arm and not finding it. She vaguely remembered the painful blow to her head.

And that was it.

No matter how many times she tried or what methods, that was all she could put before her mind. Nothing more. Nothing less.

She forced herself to keep digging in to scars and hurts that she had tried to cover up for so long.

She remembered awaking in the basement of the chateau, head throbbing, disoriented and looking for her sister.
She remembered finding her sister’s body next to hers, cold and lifeless.
She remembered the lone stream of sunlight shining through the small pieces of wood boarding up the window.
She remembered the fear and the terror.
She remembered the grief of realizing her sister was dead.
She remembered every horrific detail of the days that followed.
The investigation
The accusations
The cold, dingy jail cell
Again, the fear and terror
The loneliness
The mystery of the stone

It had taken several years after the foreign court found her innocent of the murder and theft of that awful night for her to begin putting together the pieces of the puzzle. The most significant find being the story of the stolen gem.

Before Adrienne knew it, the alarm was blaring in her ear. She must have fallen asleep while dissecting her memories of the stone.

She wasn’t surprised at the haggard reflection looking back at her. Tonight was her big date with Kent, but the circles under her eyes didn’t give any indication they would cooperate in any way.

She wanted this date to go well. She had secretly “eyed” Kent Green for the past year. The timing of the stone’s appearance and sudden disappearance couldn’t have been worse. Adrienne wondered how she would act normal with all the drama going on in her head and with the screaming question of “am I in danger?”

The day inched its way along with every mistake and blunder Adrienne made. Her employees had never seen their new manager ruffled, let alone make a mistake. Adrienne finally made the decision to head home after lunch before she botched any new accounts she was working on. This way, maybe she could do a disappearing magic trick with cucumbers for the bags under her eyes.

Obvious questions still nagged at her. Who put the gem on her painting? How did they find it in her hall closet? And the scariest question of all was would they try to kill her also?

Fear gripped her throat again. Could her sister’s murderer have found her? Was this monster playing games with her just like he did 10 years earlier? Did he finally plan to finish what he started?

The story of the little red gem was a beast to discover. Her persistence had paid off after 5 years of research and conniving detective work. She found an antique diary belonging to some Morisot family member. The unusual and sporadic journal entries were a key to the puzzle of the red stone, a puzzle that was most definitely not completed.

The first journal entry noted that the famous female impressionist artist, Morisot, and her sister had found the stone while studying art at the Louvre in Paris. They discovered the gem on the rim of a painting’s frame.

A second entry, dated a few months later, revealed that a close relative of the artist had mysteriously died a few days after the stone’s discovery. Details were sketchy, but Adrienne had decided that the journal’s author had grieved considerably over the family’s loss.

Entries three and four uncovered more of the drama and tangled stories relating to the stone and the mysterious death. Apparently, the murder resulted from a bungled robbery by a mentally deranged thief. The enormous value of the red stone, the mysterious murder, and babblings of a lunatic robber were the perfect ingredients for rumors and haunting stories for early 19th century Parisians.

Wading through all of the history while chasing after century old rumors had been exhausting to Adrienne, but she finally concluded that the Morisot murder somehow played an underlying part in her sister’s murder. She just couldn’t get all the dots connected.

No matter how many times Adrienne laid the pieces out in front of her, she still couldn’t decide why her sister had been killed. The “legend” of the red stone that was birthed from the Morisot murder held that if the stone appeared on a famous painting, someone would die from “unnatural” causes. Mysterious death was at the center of the Parisian legend. However, the author of her old diary believed consuming greed would drive the one in possession of the stone to insanity.

Adrienne shuddered and was thankful the corner of her closet was empty – even if she didn’t believe in mysterious legends.

The chime on the mantle clock startled Adrienne. Kent would be at her door in less than an hour. She threw off the cold cucumbers and surveyed the results in the bathroom mirror. The dark circles were just barely visible- a little makeup and she would be good to go.

Deciding on the ever-faithful “little black dress”, she was ready with time to spare. Rather than belaboring details from the past again, she chose to focus on happy thoughts for tonight. She tidied up her apartment with menial tasks to keep her mind off the past and her present problems.

Just as fear was about to once again come crashing in, the doorbell rang. Adrienne checked the peephole and opened the door for the handsome Kent. Butterflies turned in her stomach. She was determined to have a fun night without worries or concerns.

Kent was a nervous wreck on the inside while appearing smooth and collected on the surface. He had wanted this night to happen for so long, he wasn’t sure of what to do. How chivalrous should he be without offending her? He had done his research, for more reasons that one, on her likes and dislikes, but he could no help but wonder how this drama would end.

Kent and Adrienne enjoyed each other’s company. Their conversation drifted easily from one topic to the next, with most chatter revolving around work and their mutual love of the arts. The half-hour drive to the charming restaurant seemed like seconds to both.

Dinner was exquisite in Adrienne’s book. Her culinary taste buds were satisfied by the steak and lobster, not to mention the superb dessert. Her first, no second, date with Kent was like a dream. Only one time did her mind drift to the nightmares bombarding her private life. Kent was quickly endearing himself to her with each passing moment.

When the attendant whisked the empty plates away, Adrienne excused herself to “powder her nose”. It was then that Kent noticed the man he had seen in Adrienne’s apartment building. His adrenaline pumped profusely when he saw him follow her into the restroom.

Adrienne was admiring the d├ęcor of the women’s room when, for the third time in her life, she saw a little red stone perched on a painting’s frame. She felt her heart beat in her head and throat. The room was starting to spin when a de-ja-vous of the past haunted her, and the lights went out.

The next thing Adrienne knew, she was waking up staring into the eyes of Kent Green. He was holding her with one arm and gently stroking her face with his other hand, softly calling her name.

She started to speak when the commotion of the room caught her attention. There were several officers in the women’s room and two others were escorting two gentlemen and a lady out in handcuffs. One officer wearing gloves had a plastic baggy with the red stone in it.

Adrienne’s questioning eyes flew to Kent. He smiled a little sheepishly and told her he would explain on the way to her apartment. For the first time in over a decade, Adrienne surprisingly felt safe.

Once they were on the expressway, Kent cautiously began his story.

He started by telling Adrienne of the man in her apartment building. The man stood out to him because of his curious bow tie. He did not think anything of it until he saw him again at the restaurant. When he noticed the man following Adrienne into the restroom, Kent had gone into action.

At this point of his explanation, Kent carefully confessed his true identity. He was Kevin Grant, actually Agent Kevin Grant. He had been undercover for the past year working on the Miller murder case. It seemed Suzenne Miller’s murde, ten years before, had been at the center of an international art theft ring. The red stone had been a decoy to confuse the real motives of a fake robbery that night so long ago.

The FBI traced the moves of the international criminals and realized that sooner- or-later they would come after Adrienne as the key to the multi-million dollar art collection at her father’s estate- thus the purpose of Kevin Grant, a.k.a. Kent Green, Adrienne’s personal bodyguard for the last year.

Adrienne was dumbfounded. She had a thousand and one questions, but in typical Adrienne fashion, she sat quietly as Kent/Kevin told his story.

Kevin carefully gave professional details while weaving in his very real and very personal interest in Adrienne as a person, not only a client. He told her that when he learned the “hit man” had arrived in their city, he wanted to camp out on her doorstep. Instead, he slept in his car outside of her apartment building along with other agents posted all around the apartment complex.

Nigel Pearson and Claudia Bromavich were wanted in a string of countries for grand theft, assault and even arson. However, it was the man in the unusual bow tie that gave Kevin the creeps. Marlon Mason, a cold and calculating menace to society, had arrived from Spain last week. He undoubtedly had orders to take extreme measures to accomplish the goal of his greedy boss.

Adrienne let out a short gasp at this bit of information. A cold chill went over her spine as she realized how close she had been to the killer’s intentions. Kevin held her hand just a little more tightly.

Her new “knight in shining armor” went on to explain that Nigel and Claudia were the ones responsible for the perplexities of the red stone. They posed as her building’s new Supers to gain access to Adrienne’s apartment. The stone’s appearance and disappearance were all part of the greedy and twisted plot to uncover the secret location of her father’s multi-million dollar art collection.

Upon their arrest, Nigel and Claudia were quick to spill the truth. It seemed they didn’t want to face the attempted murder charges that the villainous Marlon Mason would soon encounter. The duo freely shared all they knew and sub sequentially divulged an enormous amount of shocking information, at least as far as Adrienne was concerned.

The mastermind behind the ten year ordeal was none other than her father’s “close friend”, Monsieur Pierre Manet – of Chateau du Manet and Manet Security Systems. He was secretly amassing a gigantic fortune of stolen masterpieces from around the world. He had hired his own little “army” of thieves and criminals to do his dirty work. Most recently, Nigel and Claudia confessed, the Monsieur Manet had, once again, contracted out the murder of a daughter of his long time “friend”, Edward Miller.

The global entrepreneur of Manet Security Systems had always coveted the mysterious art collection of Adrienne’s father. Pierre Manet was also intrigued by the “legend of the red stone” and the history of the Morisot family murder (which he learned by searching for valuable impressionist pieces). In his own twisted way, Monsieur Manet thought the red gem would confuse investigators and lead them away from his international theft ring. Sadly, he reminded Adrienne of the mentally unstable thief she read about from the century old diary.

Kevin continued unraveling the mystery for Adrienne. He told her that Monsieur Manet’s conniving plot failed ten years ago when Edward Miller did not invest in the high tech security of Manet Security Systems for his private art collection- thus informing Manet the collection’s hidden location. In his insane greed, Nigel had confessed, Manet would not give up his search for Miller’s stash – no matter what the cost.

Once again, Adrienne found herself piecing together a puzzle that just did not make sense. Why would someone take a life for the sake of owning a piece of art? Why would someone go to such lengths to for greed? Was their something to the madness of the red stone legend?

Adrienne stared out the window as Kevin parked the car in front of her apartment building. She thought about her sister. She thought about the red stone and beautiful impressionist paintings.

As a tear fell down her cheek, Kevin’s hand gently grasped hers again. Adrienne realized that finally the mystery of her sister’s death and the red stone was solved. No more night mares. No more fear filled nights. Suddenly a wave of relief and calm washed over her. The tranquility of closure engulfed her. She squeezed his warm hand as he walked her back to her apartment.

She smiled as she thought about Suzenne. How she wished she could tell her so many things. A small chuckle escaped her as she realized Suzenne and a little red stone had brought her and Kevin together.

Somehow, someway, everything was going to be okay again.


Jennifer said...

That is amazing! Great job, Dorinda. I look forward to your first published book.

Will you autograph a copy for your dear

Catrina Bradley said...

This short story would serve nicely as outline for an epic novel. So much that begs to be fleshed out and detailed. Outstanding.

Joanne Sher said...

So VERY engaging! I was with you all the way, and I love the little romance squirreled in.