It’s another light week over here at the Miller’s Tales Blogatorium and Bistro. But that in no way excuses you from reading this shoddily written and virtually unedited free segment in my current work in progress “Is it Not Midnight?”
If you like stories with spooky cults and ritual killing that ultimately turn out OK, this serial is a ham-handed attempt to satisfy your preferences.
If you haven’t been reading along so far. You can catch up here:
As they sped along the highway, Winslow tapped and scrolled through articles on his phone.
“There’s not much on Glinden,” he said.
“New to the area?” asked Frankel.
“More like new to the planet.” said Winslow. “She started appearing at high society charity events about two years ago. I can’t find a thing on her before that.”
“I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for slurping her soup though.” One of Frankel’s eyes wandered from the road to linger on Winslow’s screen. Winslow’s thoughtful, serious mask slipped for a moment and revealed a momentary grin. Frankel changed lanes and left the highway.
The road to the New Church’s temple led them to a rehabilitated mansion on the outskirts of the city. A massive relic of some forgotten captain of industry’s glory. It sat in a well-mannered lawn and a noble attempt at an English garden. Where the lawn ended, there was a wooded tangle of oak trees surrounding it.
As Frankel piloted the Crown Vic down the exquisitely gravelled drive, the detectives saw human figures, men and women, young and old seated in circle on the lawn. The congregants eyes were shut in silent meditation. They appeared unaffected by the afternoon chill of Autumn.
Frankel brought the Crown Vic to a halt near the main entrance alongside an unmarked white panel van. The gravel driveway crackled under the wheels. Stepping out of the car, Winslow observed a new black Mercedes parked further along the curve of the circular drive. As they turned toward the massive front door. They were intercepted by a small man with a round face. He was completely bald and wore wireframe glasses.
“Detectives Winslow and Frankel? My name is Jeffries. Please follow me this way.” His voice was clear and pleasant. “If you don’t mind, we’ll take the west entrance instead of the front. We are still in the midst of renovations in the foyer.” The two men followed obediently as he led them past the great columns at the front and through the carefully tended gardens of the estate. Once again they were greeted by the aroma of lavender and other subtler flora.
Bringing up the rear of the tiny procession, Winslow turned to look back at the driveway and saw an attractive, dark-haired woman in her forties walk toward the Mercedes parked there. Curious he thought and quickened his pace to keep up with the little man. Jeffries led them through a small, but stately gothic arch to the mansion’s interior.
“How long have you folks been here?” Frankel asked as they came through a richly tapestried room to a wood panelled hallway.
“The New Church has been here a little more than a year. Since this temple was purchased, we have been in a constant state of renovation.” he said. “We have not only restored the original architecture but added many new features as well.”
Winslow could not help but wonder what was new about the place. The furnishings were varied, very old, and in some cases bordering on ancient. The tapestries had medieval hunting scenes and a battle or two. In a large wood paneled gallery, there were several busts and a few, statues done in the classical style. The floor resembled a huge chess board with black and white flagstones.
“We certainly appreciate your help,” Frankel eyed one marble bust with unease. It stared back at him with lifelike intensity. A woman, it had snakes where hair should be. Jefferies turned and observed Frankel’s fascination with a smile.
“Ah Detective, you have exquisite taste,” said Jeffries. “Medusa, the Gorgon, was once a beauty to rival the gods. And in their jealousy they cursed her. The legend has it that anyone who meets her stare turns to stone.” Frankel dropped his eyes reflexively.
“This piece is particularly striking, I think.” Jeffries continued. “See the defiance in her eyes? Despite her fate she is unbowed, beautiful even.”
“Are we there yet?” said Frankel.
“Almost.” The voice came from the end of the gallery; all three men turned to see its source. A woman of imperial beauty stood opposite them. Deep brown hair with honeyed accents fell to her shoulders. Her eyes were an intense shade of green. Though she couldn’t have been more than forty, she appeared perfectly at home with the ancient inhabitants of the gallery. Her face was flush with life and her lips were an almost unnatural shade of red. She wore an ivory dress with bell sleeves that brushed the floor as she walked toward the men. As she processed down the red carpet that ran through the center of the room, Winslow observed she wore leather sandals. She welcomed them with a brief display of dazzling white teeth. Frankel was heard to remark later that she reminded him of a queen in a fairy tale.
“Ah, Ms. Glinden,” said Jefferies. “I present to you Detectives Frankel and Winslow.” With introductions made, the curious little man retreated among the antiquities to leave the gallery.
“Welcome gentlemen,” the words glided from her lips. “I apologize for the inconvenience. Our Temple is still under construction. Please join me in the sitting area and we’ll have tea.” She gestured to a cluster of leather upholstery next to a mighty fireplace. The two men walked across the black and white flagstones to join her. Frankel led the way with an easy smile. Winslow followed and scanned the ancient statuary. Some had to be reproductions of course. If they were all genuine, the collection would be priceless. Frankel settled into a large armchair opposite their host. Winslow joined him and pulled his note pad and pen from a jacket pocket.
“So tell us about last Sunday night at the shelter,” Frankel began. “Was Richard Wilson there? How long did he stay that night?”
“Yes poor Richard,” Glinden’s red lips formed a frown. “We were all fond of him. He had his troubles of course. Alcohol was such a trap for him. Yes he was there. He came in about five o’clock while we were still preparing dinner.”
I hope you like it. But if you don’t, please an insulting (but creative) comment. If you’re successful enough in provoking my ire, I may make you a character in my next story. Ideally, this character will be horribly burned in a Hot Pocket explosion.