Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Writing Wednesday- Rubato Chapter 5

                                              Chapter 5

“Although Liszt was clearly a musical genius, he insisted on projecting a tonal, romantic “beauty” in his music, confining his music to a narrow range of moral values and ideals.”
Letters of Franz Liszt: Volume 1

Judith closed the lid of the Steinway piano. The light coming through the window was off-center. Her practice was suffering due to the disturbance of harmony in her room. She readjusted the vase of roses. She would wait a few minutes until the light shifted.

    Reggie parked his car outside the bungalow the next morning. He did not honk but opened the car door and started walking to the front. He stopped when he saw Stevie come out of the garage. She wore a dark, fitted pantsuit and bright yellow shirt. A thin red patterned scarf surrounded her neckline. Her long umber hair, which was often tucked into a hat, flowed like chocolate sauce. Reggie liked the contrast of the yellow shirt against her hair. A backpack was loosely hanging from her shoulders. When they were both settled into the car, Reggie turned to Stevie and asked,“Need some coffee?”
    “You know I don’t drink caffeine. Are you really forgetting or are you wanting to get my attention?” Stevie teased.
   “Nah, I didn’t forget. Reach behind you. There is a chamomile tea and milk concoction for you and some black juice for me.”
    “Thank you. Where do we start today?”
    “What other contact information have  you pulled off Judith Whitesides’ phone?’
     “I have her recent calls, her business calendars, texts from students and a text from her husband when he arrived in Seattle. There are e-mails from a contact in Prague having to do with music manuscripts.”
   “How did you figure out her password on the phone?” Stevie often surprised him with her technical prowess.
   “I guessed she might use an Italian musical reference. After a few tries it opened with the password ‘rubato'.”
    “So what does that mean?” 
     “Rubato is a musical term which means temporarily leaving a strict tempo to allow an expressive quickening or slowing, usually without altering the overall pace. Yes, that is a direct quote.” She laughed when Reggie raised his eyebrows. “Romantic composers like Chopin and Liszt used rubato to heighten the feeling of the music. I can guess she played their music because they used rubato often in their compositions.”
   “So, tell me again why you know so much about music.”
   “I majored in music performance once upon a time.” She said. “I thought that one day I would be a concert pianist like my mother, but I stalled and found the constant comparisons to my peers left me empty and lacking direction. I shifted to criminal law to distance myself from the arts.”
    “So, do you play much these days?
    “Every time I’m home. I need it like I need air to breathe.” Stevie raised her voice with meaning and then giggled. “That sounded dramatic but I do love to play, very much. Are you surprised?”
    “I guess I am. You don’t talk much about music.”
    “It is a personal haven. What is your personal haven from  solving crimes? Do you run, swim, work out at a club?”
   It was odd to Reggie that they didn’t talk about personal things. Would she laugh when he confessed that he liked putting together model airplanes? He liked it as much now as when he was a boy. Often when his mind was cluttered with facts about a case, he would mentally go inside a recent project and turn the plane around in his head to see how it would fit together. 
   “I construct model airplanes.”
  “Really?” She paused. “Why are you drawn to that?”
  “I like that hundreds of small pieces come together perfectly to create the whole model. Not unlike solving a case, but with less drama and deception.”
   The ferry was coming into the dock and Reggie readied his police badge to show at the the booth.
   “Where shall we go first?” Reggie was expecting that they would go back to the victim’s house to do a second search. Stevie recommended a closer stop. “According to Judith’s contacts, Mrs. Taylor and her son live right off the main highway in town. Let’s do another interview before we go back to Judith’s house.”

  Reggie slowed the car looking for the address. The street was lined with large trees and over hanging branches. It seemed quiet. A mailbox with black and white music notes gave away the correct destination. 
   “There is is.” Stevie pointed to the house just off the road which seemed small and older but neat and tidy. They parked in a turn-around driveway. As they approached the front door to knock Stevie noticed three metal musical notes attached to the front of the house.
    “Hello?” Mrs.Taylor opened the door with surprise.
    “Mrs.Taylor? Detectives Dangerfield and Watts. Could we come in and ask you some more questions about Judith Whitesides?”
   “Okay,…. please come in.” She opened the door wider and motioned them to sit. A black lacquered baby grand filled almost half the space of the living room. 
    “What a beautiful piano.” Stevie touched the cool surface of the open lid. 
    “Thank you, I’m lucky to have it.”
     Stacks of music books and sheet music surrounded the music stand. On the side of the piano Stevie saw a jar of pencils, post-it notes, and a small dish of black licorice. The candy surprised her because most people preferred red licorice and because she remembered seeing the same candy at Judith’s. From the piano, Stevie’s eyes went to the walls. She couldn’t help noticing the paintings. Most of them were sunrises over water. The colors were varied, some soft pastel but one was a bright ruby red. 
   Stevie sat down in a brown over-stuffed chair on the other side of the room and started the conversation. “Mrs. Taylor, I noticed that you had a lesson scheduled with Judith on Wednesdays right after your son.”
   “Please, call me Linda. Yes, I’ve been taking lessons for the last year. Judith had much to offer as a teacher of classical music. I’m a piano teacher, too. She really opened my understanding of Bach and Liszt.”
   “So you were competitors?” Reggie asked.
   “Not really.” Linda laughed. “Judith attracted more advanced students and some adults  which is why I started my son with her. Judith had a master’s degree in piano pedagogy and supported my desire to continue my own education.” Sudden tears glistened in Linda’s eyes. “I will miss her tutoring very much. She was inspiring and maddening at the same time. Sometimes she seemed pretentious when she talked about her teaching lineage but I enjoyed her vast knowledge and love of music.”
      Stevie remembered the idea of a teacher pedigree. So many nuances in music could not be written in the score. Each music era had a style that was passed from teacher to student in a ‘hands on' fashion. Sound over notation transmitted more than could ever be read on the musical page.
   "Her teacher’s, teacher’s, teacher’s, teacher was taught by Franz Liszt, who in turn was taught by Carl Czerny, and Czerny was taught by Beethoven. I’m dropping a lot of big names here aren’t I?” Linda stopped talking suddenly.
    “I’m following.” Stevie encouraged her to go on. 
     “She was not a cozy teacher. Not every child or even adult could warm up to her. She was exacting, somewhat tactless, and over the top obsessed with the beauty of classical music. Everything around her had to be beautiful, her home, her furniture, even her clothes. That aside, for me she offered information about places in Europe where she studied and taught and where the world of classical music began, which I only knew through books.”
     “Did she talk about teachers or colleagues in Europe?”
     “She talked to me about research she was did there on the music of Franz Liszt. She was allowed to search the basement of the Liszt Museum in Budapest to sort through old copies of music.”
      “What kinds of things was she hoping to find?”
      “I believe she was writing a book. She told me once that there were many lost items from the past just sitting in attics and basements. These items lost value from one generation to the next as people lost track of their existence. Someday, someone with knowledge and curiosity would recognize them and bring them back to the light of day." 
     Reggie interrupted somewhat impatiently. “Do you know of anyone who wanted to do her harm?”
    “Why?” Linda looked alarmed and suddenly frightened. “Wasn’t her death an accident?”
    Stevie spoke reassuringly. “We are unsure of the cause of death. These inquiries are standard. Could you tell us again what you observed Wednesday at your lesson time? We especially need to know anything you noticed when you went into her bedroom.”
    Linda shifted on her chair and looked out the large window. She placed her hand over her heart. “As I entered her bedroom I was immediately drawn to her sleeping body. She looked peaceful. The shades were drawn but sunlight was escaping in between the blinds.” She turned to Stevie with frightened eyes. “Who would want to hurt her?”
   “That is what we need to find out. Did you see anything on her nightstand?”
   “What?” She pondered with her hand still on her heart holding her memory steady. “Ah….there was a lamp, a music score, and maybe a glass of water. I—I can’t remember for sure.”
    Reggie abruptly ended the conversation.“Thank you for being so helpful. If you have any ideas or thoughts, here is our card.” 
   Stevie ignored Reggie and asked about her son.“Was the death of his piano teacher  traumatic for him?”
   “He has been quiet. I noticed that he has played the pieces which she assigned him many times in the last day. Judith occasionally made him mad but he made good progress once he started with her. She will be hard to replace.” 
    As Stevie prepared to leave she looked around at the paintings on the wall. “You seem to have a strong sensitivity to beauty yourself. I can see why you appreciated Judith’s aesthetics. May I ask you a personal question related to teaching? Do you think ten-thousand  dollars a month is average for a piano teacher’s income?”
   Linda’s mouth dropped open. “What? Well, I don’t make that much. Judith was charging us seventy-five dollars an hour and I could barely come up with that fee every month. I suppose if she worked everyday for at least six hours that could be right. But, I got the impression she had, at the most, five students on Wednesdays. Her lessons were mostly forty-five minutes to an hour long. My son and I shared an hour lesson.”
   “Thank you, Linda. You have been most helpful.” She glanced at Reggie who was pacing at the front door, ready to leave.

   As they pulled out of the driveway Stevie asked why Reggie was so eager to leave. His green eyes opened wide in surprise. Wasn’t he aware that he ended the conversation with Mrs. Taylor tactlessly?
   “I didn’t think she had anything new to offer the investigation. I talked to her yesterday. We need to get back to the crime scene. You look irritated. Was I wrong?”
     Stevie answered carefully, “I was gathering more information from someone who genuinely cared for our victim. Linda Taylor understood Judith’s life and I feel she might yet have some insights for us. She certainly knows more of what is going on with Judith than her husband.” 
    Reggie nodded and then looked over at Stevie. “I’m sorry if I cut you off. Once we understand how she died we can target our investigation. The coroner’s report is the next essential piece of information.”
                                          Chapter 6

Monday, November 27, 2017

Nurturing Monday- The Gift That Lies Beneath The Surface

"If you have a good inner life, you don't get lonely. I've got a good imagination. I don't miss romance." 

Diana Rigg

This Nurturing Monday brings me to a new gratitude for the life within that is available to all who seek it. On the surface, the winds may be howling, creating turbulent movement that leaves us unsteady, but underneath our inner life can glow, beckoning us to return.

My life inside is made up of practices. I repeat them daily. There is prayer and meditation, in fact I came up with six habits that bring me happiness. Three of them fill my inner life. 

Pray, Study, and Create all furnish my cozy, inside nook. So how does my one little word fit in? Choosing one little word each year provides a focus and intention to use that word to move my inner life forward. When it is active and glowing that private life can grow up into my outward, public life. Turning outward toward others and serving is easier. Choosing self care of exercise and nutrition is easier. There are lulls, of, course. Some days I want to play hooky. All in all, my word nurture gently reminds me to return to practices that heal and rejuvenate. 

To go to the overview of My Year of Nurturing click  here.

Friday, November 24, 2017


People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar. 
Thich Nhat Hanh

I walked by a tree recently and looked up to see the barren branches. A familiar lonely feeling weaseled into my chest. 
Feeling lonely in the winter comes as if scheduled on my to do list. This is what rises in winter. 

But, these two leaves caught my eye and I saw the message clearly.
Holding on is sometimes a sacred battle. Holding on to hope and joy, and love can seem naive as familiar despair creeps in. Just because it's familiar doesn't mean it is real.


I have been writing with the Five Minute Friday group for more than three years and I really enjoy the talented writers who share themselves each week.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Writing Wednesday- Rubato Chapter 4


 Chapter 4 

“It's a matter of record that Liszt could sight read anything, and it's said that musicians who watched him do so would leave his residence talking not among themselves but actually to themselves.”

    Judith thought back to that day in the basement of the conservatory. She still remembered sitting on the floor, dust covering her black slacks. She loved looking through old music manuscripts. The Prague Conservatory had a library where she could explore at her leisure and that day she was allowed access to the storage areas in the basement. She opened a crumbled book of sheet music. It looked like an old edition of  the Chopin Preludes. She noticed something sticky on the back. Her eyes widened. She looked again. Could it be?  

   The sun was setting as Stevie parked in front of her house. She was born in this home, a beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright style bungalow. When her father died ten years earlier she decided to stay to give her mother comfort and stability. She could afford to live on her own in Seattle but it would be nothing equal to the comfort and style of her family home. 
   She unlocked the door and tossed her coat on the table by the door. With shoes off she looked for a bagel and cream cheese. Her head was half in the fridge when she found the red pepper jelly. 
   With bottled water in one hand and the other full of bagel she lowered herself into the easy chair in the music room. The brown Bösendorfer grand piano sent a soft reflection of the sun back towards the beveled glass window. Later I’ll play Liszt, she thought. With her mother in London at a conference, she had time to play in a quiet house. Stevie took the last piece of black licorice in the candy dish on top of the piano and popped it into her mouth. She refilled the dish for her next practice session from an unopened bag in the cupboard and dropped the rest into her backpack. Licorice was best when it was hard. 
   She heard the cell phone buzz from her coat in the hall. It was time to head to the big city.

       Reggie was propped up against the dirty wall of the police precinct, one leg wrapped around the other, anchoring him to the floor in a straight line. 
      “Took you long enough.” He said with a smile. “Horak is in there and he looks agitated. Do you want to take the lead and tell him about his wife?”
     Stevie looked refreshed in a new outfit. There was pink lipstick on her lips which he was sure had not been there earlier. Reggie was unsure if she had delivered this kind of news before. He hoped she could be bold but still kind. She turned the doorknob firmly and walked in without hesitation.
     Dominik Horak sat awkwardly upright in a black plastic chair. Reggie noticed that his charcoal gray suit still looked pressed at the end of the day. His round face seemed even more rounded by the bowl shaped haircut. Strands of hair fell across his forehead, matted with perspiration. 
    “Mr. Horak?” Stevie held out her hand. “I’m Detective Dangerfield and this is my partner Detective Watts. We need to ask you a few questions about your wife, Judith Whitesides.”
   “What about Judith? Has something happened to her?”
   “When did you last see her?”
    “Yesterday around noon.” His body tensed as he told them about his arrival from Prague. “I rented a vehicle at the airport and came first to the island. She was teaching all afternoon and evening so I told her I would stay in the city until Saturday. What has happened? “ Dominik pressed his hands into his lap and searched the faces of the detectives. 
   “We are so very sorry to tell you that your wife is dead.” Reggie watched the reaction of Mr. Horak while Stevie delivered the information. “She was found dead by the mother of a piano student. The cause of death is still unknown. We won’t know what happened until we receive a full report from the medical examiner.”
   Dominik froze. His eyes stayed on Stevie’s and seemed to not comprehend what she said.
   “We are uncertain how she died.”
    Reggie saw Dominik look at Stevie with resentment and then quite suddenly he stood bolt upright and leaned forward with both hands on the table.“If you think I had anything to do with this, you are wrong. I only spent a few minutes with her after I arrived. She was fine and very busy with her students.”
   “Sit down, Mr. Horak.” Reggie said. “We are not accusing you of anything. We need information to figure out what happened. Please, make yourself comfortable.” Reggie nodded to have Stevie continue her questions.
  “We are so very sorry for your loss.” Stevie said. “We realize you need time to process what we just told you.”
   “What do you know about my wife? What do you know about me? Nothing.” Dominik seated himself sideways, away from the detectives, crossing the right leg over the left and folded his arms tightly across his chest. “How can you say you’re sorry? You don’t know us.”
   “So please, tell us about Judith. Does she have family we should contact? How can we help you?” Reggie caught the compassion in Stevie’s brown eyes. Now was not the time to be warm and fuzzy. She needed to get as much information out of him as she could.
   “Judith has a sister in Milwaukee. They don’t talk. Her parents are gone.” He stopped and Reggie thought he seemed to be thinking what else he should add. “You should know that I met my wife in Prague when she taught at the Prague Conservatory of Music. We lived there some years.”
   “When did you come to Washington?” Stevie asked.
   “At the beginning of the year. We fought over coming here. I was against leaving my business.” Dominik looked down. Very quietly he asked again. “When did she die?”
   “We believe it was very early this morning.” 
    Reggie hoped that Stevie would continue pressing Dominik. When she didn’t he interrupted. “Have you been living apart?”
    “Yes, it has been several months since I have been here.”
     “Why did Judith want to leave Prague?”
     “She fought with a colleague in Budapest. She told me, without explanation, that she needed to leave and one day showed me a job offer from the University of Washington. It was half of what she was making in the Czech Republic. It was stupid. I stayed here with her for three months until I was done with it all. I needed to get back to my work.”
    “So you are separated?” Stevie asked.
     “We made an agreement. We would see each other every three months. Right now I don’t know what is going on in her life. I don’t know how this…..happened.”
     Reggie watched Stevie move closer and gently put her hand on Dominik’s arm.
    “Did she seem depressed?”
    “What? No! Judith would not take her life. She had much she wanted to do. She had research and students she cared about. No!“
     Bringing his chair around, Reggie sat on the other side of Dominik Horak. “Did she have a drug problem? Medications she needed for an injury?”
     Dominik stood again, moving his chair away from the detectives. He faced the wall and looked down at the floor. “No!” He said. “She did not kill herself.” He turned back. “I want to know how my wife died!”
      “The coroner will give us his report soon.” Reggie said. “Did you have any particular plans here with Judith?”
     “What do you mean?” Dominik looked cautious. 
     “I mean since you don’t see each other very often did you have any specials plans on this trip?”
     “I had business here in Seattle and we planned to talk to one another about our future.”
    “So she knew you were coming?” Stevie asked.
    “Of course she did. Look, I have many things to arrange. Are we done here?”
     Stevie looked to Reggie to answer. He nodded his head and stood up to leave, but turned back abruptly. “Could you go with us to identify her body?”
     “Right now?”
      Stevie came to Mr. Horak’s side. “It is the next step in the investigation. We can drive you over and bring you back here to your car.”

    The county morgue was a bleak place dressed up like a comfortable hospital. Unfortunately the residents in the morgue did not need any further long term care. Stevie had many occasions to visit and each visit left her chest tight and her breathing shallow. Today the assistant to the medical examiner issued them into a stainless steel room. Large drawers, holding the remains of individuals, lined three walls. A body, clothed in white, lay on a table. Looking at Dominik Horak steadily, the assistant gently unveiled Judith’s face. Dominik turned white and looked away. When he looked back again tears shimmered in his eyes.
  “Yes, that is my wife.” He turned to leave but Stevie put her hand on his shoulder. 
  “You can stay awhile if you like.” Stevie said. 
   His face contorted in pain. “I can’t. Take me back to my car please.” 
   They retraced their steps to the parking garage and got into the car. Reggie leaned back to look at Dominik before he turned on the ignition.
    “We appreciate your willingness to talk to us. This is very difficult, I know. But I have one more question. Could you tell us where you were from midnight to 6:00 am this morning?”
    Dominik looked up slowly. Stevie saw red color streaming into his face. “I was in my rented apartment right here in Seattle.”
    “Can anyone verify that? Did anyone see you Tuesday evening?”
    “I resent this insinuation of guilt.” Stevie heard the suppressed anger in his voice.“I was at a bar down the street from my apartment until 11:00 pm. Many people saw me.” 
   “Write down your phone number, your apartment address and the address of the bar you visited last night?” 
    When Reggie handed him his notebook Stevie saw Dominik’s hand move away before accepting it. Finally a long sigh exhaled from his lips and he wrote several items with large scrawling letters.
    They arrived minutes later back at the precinct parking garage and Dominik got out quickly. Stevie heard Reggie speak out the driver’s side window.
   “Thank you. Just to remind you, your home on the island is a current crime scene. We will let you know when you can re-enter. Please don’t leave the area unless you give us notice.” 
    Dominik grunted and walked off towards his car, his shoulders hunched and head down.

    On the way back into the precinct Reggie stopped to talk to an officer he recognized. 
   “Does your beat cover an apartment at this address?”
    The officer looked at the notepad Reggie held out for him.
   “Yes, I know this apartment. It’s a nice place.”
   “Would you keep your eyes open and let me know if you see new people coming and going?”
    “Do you suspect drugs are being sold there?”
     “I’m not anticipating that kind of activity, but there is a person of interest living there. Thank you.” Reggie patted the officer on the back.

   There were a few things to wrap up at the precinct. Reggie looked across the desk at Stevie in the dusky evening light. She had handled herself well questioning Horak. At times he would choose to be more direct. Stevie was not direct. 
   He noticed the shadows under her soft, caramel colored eyes. Her dark hair, caught back in a rubber band, was escaping it’s hold. Loose spiral strands of hair pirouetted around her face. He rubbed his hands across his face. He needed to sleep and start fresh in the morning. 
  “Shall I pick you up tomorrow? We can head back to the island to talk to more of Judith’s piano students.”
  Stevie seemed not to hear him. “Do you believe her husband? Could he know so little about what was happening in his wife’s life?”

   Reggie thought about the many relationships he had witnessed in his decade of homicide investigations. “The man has been out of the country and granted, there are all kinds of marriages. Some partners exist solely for themselves and others are better together than they are alone. In time we’ll find out what happened. We always do.”

Monday, November 20, 2017

Nurturing Monday- Thankful For My Imagination

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere. 
Albert Einstein

This morning I moved my writing corner from the couch to the kitchen table. I moved a lamp and flower pot within view so a could create a certain coziness. You see, the couch was giving me lower back pain. This is day 20 of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, and I am still firmly committed to writing everyday. 
When I opened my e-mails today I found a pep talk by a NaNoWriMo author. "In the middle of the month you might hit quicksand," he wrote. "You will be tempted to quit because your plot line is stuck. But if you quit, your story will call to you and it will plead for you to finish. Keep going."

My characters do call to me to finish their story. I am so thankful that I have a tiny bit more imagination to keep them moving forward. Today they will meet a professor of music performance form Budapest who might turn out to be the killer or might give them the information to direct their investigation elsewhere. Who writes a murder mystery? Can't say I have any first hand knowledge but I do love Deborah Crombie and Jacqueline Winspear. Their detectives are my inspiration. If I can find as much excitement in my own novel as I do in theirs, I will be over the moon.
As the end of the year approaches I am thinking of the word 'enough' as my 2018 word but lately I'm inclined to embrace the word 'more'.

To go to the overview of My Year of Nurturing click  here.

Friday, November 17, 2017


Pride invites you to excuse yourself from doing the right thing.

While reading the scriptures this morning I came upon some passages explaining why a truly blessed people fell into contention and strife. Their lack of unity split them into factions and classes.

Pride invites you to set yourself apart. It allows you to excuse your actions. The story that pride promotes is that you are entitled to feel better than your neighbor. Pride creates false intimacy with others as it invites them into your story. I know about pride. It blinds. A clue that pride is rising up comes when I can't truly see others, when my story is running in my head  24/7. 
   I need to excuse myself from writing so passionately. The scriptures pricked my conscience.


 I have been writing with the Five Minute Friday group for more than three years and I really enjoy the talented writers who share themselves each week. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Writing Wednesday- Rubato Chapter 3

                                             Chapter 3

"In life one must decide whether to conjugate the verb to have or the verb to be."
                                                Franz Liszt

Judith's neighbor was curious and a little bit nosy. He complained about the volume of her piano playing. She felt that on a warm day the windows must be open to allow the sound to escape over the water. 

  Stevie was delighted that she could hack Judith’s phone password. The letters of the word “rubato” opened the phone to a portrait of Franz Liszt. Obviously he was her favorite composer. She scrolled through the recent calls. There were several calls from her student Tony Chavez and one from her husband Dominik; no saved phone messages. A blue app on the main screen contained her business information. On her teaching roster the space just before Jon Taylor on Wednesday had a large red canceled line through the ten o’clock time slot. As Stevie scrolled through the previous weeks, Tony Chavez was scheduled for a regular piano lesson on that day. Why was his lesson canceled this morning? Jon Taylor, the young boy in the kitchen, was listed at 11 o’clock and Linda Taylor, which was likely his mother, had the time slot from 11:30 o’clock to 12:15. So his mother was also taking piano lessons? 
    Commotion from upstairs indicated that the coroner was moving the body out to the ambulance. Stevie waited quietly in the entry hall, showing respect for the deceased. Sunlight from a large upper window monetarily rested on the body bag changing the color from dark blue to a sparkling aquamarine. She stood at the front door watching the men place Judith securely into the ambulance. Reggie was motioning to her to come outside. He was all business in his demeanor and looked like he had just walked back from the neighbor house on the left.
    “The husband was last seen by the neighbor yesterday afternoon so he is, or was, on the island.  According to the neighbor, the car he was driving was a dark blue Toyota Camry.”
    “He certainly could be off the island by now. Did you speak to both neighbors?”
    “No, only that one on the left,” he motioned to the large mostly glass home sitting out above the water. It seemed to be floating on stilts.
   “Let’s visit the neighbor on the right, shall we?” Stevie said.
    When Reggie nodded his head they started across the yard stepping over low bushes. His tall lanky body was full of energy. Tufts of seedlings clung to his black blazer, deposited there by going too close to the Laurel bushes. He stepped over them easily; she walked around them. Being his partner demanded that she be willing to be tenacious. Reggie never quit until he was satisfied but when he was done he was ready to go. 
    Everything was well landscaped and groomed around the three water front homes. Stevie made a mental note to check if they hired a gardener. As they approached the house Reggie stepped up onto the lawn. He gave Stevie his hand to help her up.
     The oak front had two large imposing doors and no windows. It made the house seemed shuttered. Where the piano teacher’s home was open and light-filled, the neighbor signaled privacy, at all costs. They rang the doorbell.
     “Who is it?” a gruff, low voice asked from inside.
     “Detectives Watts and Dangerfield. May we have a word with you?”
      The door opened a crack and an older man, unshaven, looked at them.
     “What do you want?”
      “We would like to ask some questions about your neighbor, Judith Whitesides. Can we come in?”
       He opened the door wider. “Is she in trouble? Is…it.. drugs? Are those supposed piano students really her buyers?” 
       “Can we talk inside?” Reggie cleared his throat with impatience.
        He stepped aside and moved his arm across his body to show them in. A receding hairline left bushy gray hair at the crown and around the back of his head. His long blue velour robe covered black sweatpants and a yellowed white t-shirt. 
       The entry opened to a high ceiling where a fan slowly moved the air around. The living room was busy but not dirty. Books were stacked on end tables and next to chairs. Newspapers and magazines in tall piles on the floor teetered next to the wall. A collection of shoes, boots, and slippers were piled this way and that along the inside of the door. Stevie slipped off her loafers and moved them to the side with her feet. She looked at Reggie. He was not going to budge to remove his shoes. He kept his eyes on the man and proceeded with his questions.  
    “May I ask your name and how long you have lived here?”
    “My name is Alexander Patchett and I’ve lived here fifteen years.”
   “Do you know your neighbor Judith Whitesides very well?”
    “Well, she moved here a year ago and paid an ungodly price for that house. She is a bit prissy with her six foot grand piano and fancy paintings. Her constant playing drives me bonkers. All day long students come and go. I hate the coming and going of cars. We have limited parking as you can tell.” Mr. Patchett sat on the edge of  a bright red chair. “You know, she might actually be a drug dealer!”
   “Are you saying that she has students coming everyday?” Stevie asked unbelievingly. It would be unusual to have that many private piano students. 
    “Well, she really only teaches Wednesdays through Saturdays. The other days she is at the university.” He reached for a cup of tea sitting on an oval end table next to the chair.
   “You seem to know a good deal about her affairs.” Stevie said snidely. She took a seat next to him on a floral couch. It had large red and pink flowers with entwined greenery.
   “I’m a good neighbor. We talk about things.” He sipped his tea slowly. “I know she has some kind of master’s degree in music. Why are you asking me so many questions?”
   “I am sorry to say that your neighbor was found dead at home this morning.” Stevie watched Mr. Patchett’s face to see how he would react. His eyes opened wide in genuine concern. True surprise was hard to manufacture.
    “What?…..” He moved back in his seat slowly putting the cup of tea down and placed his hands on his knees. “You’re kidding me? Is that why the ambulance is there?” 
   “Yes.” Stevie couldn’t believe he hadn’t known what was going on outside. “Have you seen any visitors that seemed new in the last few days? Has her husband been at home lately?”

   “That foreigner? He is a piece of work. He comes and stays a few weeks and acts like he is master of the household.” Mr. Patchett lowered his voice. “I think he is here illegally.”

   Stevie ignored his provocative comments. “Has he been here this week?”
  “I did see him yesterday and I wrote down the license plate number of his fancy car. Just a minute, I will get the slip of paper.” Alexander walked over to a desk and moved some books until he found a pad of paper. “Here it is.” He handed the note to Reggie who was still standing near the door. “Excuse my bad manners but would either of you like a cup of tea?”
      “No, thank you.” Reggie replied.
      “Why did you write down his license plate number?” Stevie wondered what the neighbor thought was going on next door.
     “I have a basic distrust of people. Most people are up to no good. He was driving a new, dark blue, Toyota Camry. When he arrived he unloaded a bunch of boxes. I didn’t see him later in the afternoon or evening.” Alexander went back to the chair and repositioned himself with his cup of tea. “Did someone murder her? Is her husband a suspect?” He began to look more excited than alarmed. Perhaps a death next door was an interesting distraction. 
      Reggie answered with irritation in his voice.“The cause of death is still unknown, sir.” 
     Stevie wondered if Reggie was itching to track down Judith’s husband. They asked more questions about the neighborhood, finding that all three neighbors did use the same gardener. He was a recent employee, according to Mr. Patchett and he knew nothing more about him. He said Judith recommended him when he started doing the landscaping for her. 
    Stevie saw Reggie pull out his business card and she knew he was ready to go.“Please call us if you think of anything that might shed light on our investigation.”   
      As they left Patchett’s home Reggie pulled out his phone but Stevie turned away and walked over to the east side of Judith’s house to admire the view over the Puget Sound. She thought about what had gone on here in the last twenty-four hours? Was this an accident or was it a suspicious death? The November evening was mild. A breeze gently moved the trees on the hillside. Waves lapped in and out below the house. There were walkways around the yard and one slowly meandered down to the beach. Stevie started down the hill until she realized the steepness of the grade. She decided against the hike and sat on the lawn. The air was cooling down and the lawn grew damp. Questions swirled around Stevie’s mind. How had a woman’s life of comfort and beauty ended here so abruptly? How could Judith Whitesides earn ten thousand dollars a month? They would need to trace her income and outflow. Who did she see during the days before her death? What did she teach at the university? How many students did she have there? She mentally sorted the questions into categories.
    She heard Reggie calling her from the house, interrupting her thoughts. “Detective Jeppson has a hit on the license of the car. It belongs to a rental agency in Seattle. It was rented yesterday by Dominik Horak. Interestingly they spotted it downtown. Dominik Horak is on his way into the station for questioning. They want us back in the squad room tonight.”
   “Really? I thought I’d spend the night here and start some interviews tomorrow morning.”
    “It can wait. Let’s head to the ferry and see what boat we can catch.”
    “Okay. You go ahead and I’ll stop off in West Seattle for a change of clothes and meet you at the precinct.”

    Reggie gave Stevie a long look then turned towards his car. She thought he was going to say something about her proposed stop over at home. He was parked in front of the house and when he backed up he waved. She watched him drive up towards the main road. She faced the long climb up the driveway to the main road where she had left her car.