I forgot to mention on last month's (July 1) blog that "Invitation to Destiny" was one year old. I started the free serial novel on July 1, 2014. And poor Vanessa still hasn't participated in the Lavender recipe contest to save the Sevigny's chateau.
I'm back to traveling again so the next chapter in her story has been postponed to August 6. I hope if you're reading this, you will come back after that date to read the next free chapter.
Have a nice summer and good reading.
Friday, July 3, 2015
CHAPTER 13. DIAMONDS ARE A DOG'S BEST FRIENDS
[Chapter 14 will be available on August 1, 2015]
After a breakfast of flaky, buttery croissants and chateau made lavender jam, Lucy drove Vanessa in her purple car to the local police station to check out the possible dog napper. With its red tile roof, and hanging baskets of pink and peach colored flowers it looked like a charming restaurant. Not a place where criminals were held. A chic police woman with black hair pulled back in a svelte chignon introduced herself as Officer Mersault. She asked Vanessa to look through a one way mirror. “Alors. Not to worry. You can see him, but he can not see you.” Sitting at a table, tapping his fingers impatiently was the man the police had arrested for dog napping.
Vanessa gasped, “Yes, oh, yes. Mais oui. That is Mr. Lay.” She shuddered. “The horrible man who grabbed Charlie.”
The officer smiled. “Merci. Now please to come with me. I need to speak with you further about this miscreant.” She led Vanessa and Lucy to a small conference room where they settled themselves in straight backed wooden chairs. The police woman sat across from them and opened a manilla folder. She glanced at its contents as she spoke.
“When we apprehended this Monsieur Lay, we found in his possession a very gaudy dog collar. It matched the description that you had given Officer Renaud.”
Vanessa was embarrassed. She thought the woman who looked like a fashion model even though wearing a dark blue uniform would think she had bought the terrible looking collar. “It came with Charlie. I didn't choose it for him. I planned to get him a handsome plain leather collar when I had time.”
Lucy understood Vanessa's disclaimer and laughed. “I don't think Officer Mersault is interested in the collar's appearance.”
The woman frowned. “Of course not. But what we are interested in, is the value of the dog collar.”
Vanessa was confused. “But it can't be worth much. I found Charlie during a rain storm and he was soaking wet. The collar looked like cheap, flashy trash.”
Mersault went on. “I don't know about that, but we have a detective who investigates robberies. In this area live many wealthy people and sometimes they are careless with valuable jewelry. So he is quite familiar with expensive baubles and was sure the collar is trimmed with real diamonds, not pieces of glass.”
Before Vanessa could interrupt, the officer held up her hand. “We had it valued by a respected local jeweler and he estimates, roughly, you understand, that it is worth perhaps 100,000 euros.”
Vanessa's eyes blinked. “But that's almost $130,000!”
Lucy grabbed Vanessa's arm. “Vanessa, you're rich.”
Vanessa shook her head, her hair almost back to its full honey color from its ugly dyed crimson swung back and forth. “No, no. The collar belongs to Raymond Carr's heirs. I have Charlie because Mr. Carr's attorney couldn't find an heir to take him. So I was given ownership of him. But I don't think that includes a valuable collar.”
The police woman grimaced. “The dog napper claims he is the heir and therefore the collar belongs to him.”
Lucy sat up straight and argued, “That should be settled in a court of law. Although I hate to involve advocates in what should be a family issue.”
“But I'm not family. I don't have any standing as an heir.” Vanessa cried. “I just want Charlie. Mr. Lay can have the collar.”
“Don't be hasty.” Lucy put her hand on Vanessa's arm. “I will talk to my friend, Claude, about the situation.”
“Oui,” Officer Renaud inserted. “And Monsieur Lay is still accused of dog napping, even if he does turn out to own the collar. He should have gone through regular procedures to obtain it. Not steal a dog.” She snapped the manilla folder closed.
Lucy's cell phone began to chirp. She looked at the incoming message. “Ah, Vanessa, we must go. Jacques is wild. He is insisting you continue with the cooking. And I must agree with him. You have Charlie. His dog napper is in police custody. We will concern ourselves with ownership of the collar later. Now you have an important role to perform.”
Back in the huge but cozy chateau kitchen, Jack put Vanessa through another complete run through of the famous recipe. It took four hours, but it was worth it, based on the beautiful smells coming from the finished product. The family had it again for dinner. This time they all pronounced it perfect. Vanessa was thrilled. Maybe she had a chance of winning the contest and saving the estate for the Sevigny's.
After this second dinner, which proved to her that the first was not beginner's luck, she called her mother. It was early morning in Thailand but her mother was out and about already. Disappointed, she left a message.
“Mom, the local police found the terrible man who dog napped Charlie. It's that Mr. Lay who claims to be Raymond Carr's heir. He stole Charlie because he wanted that terrible gaudy collar Charlie was wearing. The police say the collar is made of real diamonds and is worth a small fortune. But I don't think I can claim the collar. Although having that money would be nice, I'm just happy I have Charlie back.
“Oh, and I made the complete lavender recipe twice for the family. They liked it so maybe I can cook after all. And maybe even win this contest.
“I know you're having fun wherever you are. You don't have to call back. I'm going to snuggle up with Charlie in this beautiful bed and sleep. I need to rest up now for the contest, which is in two days!”
The early morning sun streamed in through the leaded windows falling on the soft pastel colors of the ancient and beautiful Oriental rug. Vanessa had forgotten to shut the curtains when she went to bed, so as the sunny beams moved slowly across the room they fell on her face. Their warmth made her burrow deeper into her pillow. But loud shouts coming from downstairs brought her upright. Charlie jumped off the bed and scampered to the door. His high, sharp barks added to the noise confusion.
She threw on a robe knowing the family would be concerned if she appeared in her tattered pajamas. As she started down the grand staircase, holding onto the heavily carved stair rail, she could see Jack below arguing with Lucy and Michelle.
Michelle asked in French, “But who would do such a terrible thing?” Vanessa over the past few weeks had picked up enough of the language to understand basic conversation. Her high school French was finally paying off.
Jack blasted, “Who? I'll tell you who. That neighbor who is trying to ruin us.”
Lucy said, “He is no friend, but I can't believe he is a thief.”
“Oh, ho, so you've been taken in by his smoking hot eyes.” Jack roared at her.
Michelle noticed Vanessa staring at them. “Alors, Jacques.”
“I'm sorry. Maybe I should go back.” Vanessa turned to start up the stairs.
“No, I am sorry. But this concerns you, too.” Jack crossed his arms across his dark blue polo shirt. “Someone stole the lavender that I'd been keeping for the day of the contest.”
“But surely you have lots of lavender. This is a lavender farm and factory, right?” Vanessa was confused.
Lucy explained. “Yes, but Jack had been keeping the best of the recent harvest for the final preparation of our dish. The lavender stems which had the fattest buds. They also have the sweetest flavor. We taste tested them to ensure which plants were the best.”
Vanessa was beginning to think the Seville family was crazy concerning lavender. But if the special ingredient was missing perhaps she wouldn't have to compete after all.
This hope was crushed when Jack announced, “I am going to the neighbor's and will tear the place apart until I find our lavender.”
[To be continued on August 1, 2015.]
[To be continued on August 1, 2015.]