Castle San Pietro is asleep. It wasn’t long ago that nights and mornings ran together, blurred lines on an Italian canvas, but since Damien’s death, the party has died. Now we sit around in the evening, quarreling about movie sets and brands of vodka until Daddy goes to bed and the rest wander off. Karina says I need to clean myself up. I think she might be right.
It’s not easy being a rock star’s daughter. It’s even harder being a has-been actress holed up in the mountains thousands of miles from home. I stare longingly at the medicine bottle on my bedside table. Early mornings are my least favorite time of day. They seem to stretch on and on, and it’s then that my heart palpitates and my mind wanders to forbidden places. Oh, Damien, how things have changed. Would you even recognize me? One little pill and I could be out cold, like the rest of the castle’s inhabitants. But not today. Today I have a decision to make.
I crawl out of bed and pull on a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. A quick glance in the mirror tells me it’s good I haven’t left the castle in forty-seven days. No one Out There needs to see me like this. I fumble for shoes, reluctant to turn on the light. Starring in a few spy B-movies taught me the importance of being stealth. Lights aren’t stealth. Flip-flops aren’t stealth, either. I leave the shoes behind.
The castle’s marble floors are cold on bare skin. Ancient stone walls retain imprints of lost loves and evil deeds—I’m convinced of that. I’m also convinced that evil still lurks here. No one believes me, though. Not Daddy, although he’s too lost in a fog to notice more than whether his breakfast is cold. Not the staff. And not Daddy’s entourage. While I’m happy for the company, I wish. . .well, what do I wish? I don’t even know anymore.
Outside the sun is just peeking over the horizon, but the light has yet to reach inside these castle walls. No matter. I know this castle like I knew Damien’s body—its smooth surfaces, its hidden places—and I don’t need light to find my way through the halls and down the great staircase. Downstairs I tip-toe quietly through the dining hall and the kitchens, careful to be quiet. I let myself out through the old servants’ quarters.
I make my way across the courtyard, and down the walking path that leads to the ruins of the old stone wall. From there, I could go into the woods, follow the path through the trees, toward the crumbling old church, and see the quaint town of Bidero spread out before me. But I won’t. These cliffs have teeth, and while the Dolomite Mountains look breathtaking, they’re less sentinel than prison guard. I will stay here, by the wall, where it’s safe.
I sink down on hard stone and pull out a cigarette. I’m two puffs in, thinking of the list of image consultants our attorney emailed me the week before, when I hear a sound behind me. Shoulders tense, but I don’t turn. Lately I’ve felt things inside the castle, heard things. Things that make me feel just a little bit crazy.
I return to the list, mentally going through the candidates. One name stands out: Allison Campbell. Not because she’s a well-known author on the topic of reinvention. Not because she seems like someone I could relate to. Not because she’d be discreet. Because she’s solved several murders. And if evil does lurk within these walls, I sure could use an ally.
“A bit early for you to be out and about, don’t you think?”
I don’t jump at the sound of Mazy Coyne’s voice, and for that I’m proud. The author doesn’t wait for an invitation. She joins me by the wall, her round body encased in white terry cloth, a cigarette dangling from yellowed fingers.
“What’s on your mind, kid?” she asks. “Awfully early to see you out here.”
Mazy is staying in one of the cottages on the castle grounds. She’s written a book that’s being made into a movie, and Daddy thinks I could land a role. I look at Mazy sideways, suddenly conscious of the mascara smeared around my eyes, my rumpled clothes. I want her to leave. I want them all to leave.
“Beautiful, aye?” Mazy points to the pale peaks rising above us. Her gaze turns to the rolling pastures, sheep dotting the landscape in the distance like tiny ants. “I can see why you stay.”
“It’s a fairy tale spot, a place of fantasies.”
I watch the sheep, seemingly unaware of their own vulnerabilities. “It really is.”
Mazy lets out something like a laugh. “Of course, the original fairy tales were not sanitized. There was rarely a happy ending.” She looks at me over circles of smoke. “Something to think about.”
Oh, I’ve been thinking about it. I take another puff of my own cigarette and go back to considering the list. Allison Campbell. She’s the one we’ll call.
You can read more about Elle in Fatal Façade, the fourth book in the “Allison Campbell” mystery series.
Allison Campbell accepted a dream assignment: a visit to the Italian Dolomites to help Hollywood socialite Elle Rose reinvent herself. A guest cottage on the grounds of Elle’s historic castle promises to be a much-needed respite from Allison’s harried life on the Philadelphia Main Line, and the picturesque region, with its sharp peaks, rolling pastures, and medieval churches, is the perfect spot from which to plan her upcoming wedding.
Only this idyllic retreat is anything but peaceful. There are the other visitors—an entourage of back-biting expats and Hollywood VIPs. There’s Elle’s famous rock star father, now a shadowy recluse hovering behind the castle’s closed doors. And then there’s Elle’s erratic behavior. Nothing is as it seems. After a guest plummets to her death from a cliff on the castle grounds, Allison’s trip of a lifetime turns nightmarish—but before she can journey home, Allison must catch a killer.
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About the author
Wendy Tyson’s background in law and psychology has provided inspiration for her mysteries and thrillers. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Wendy has returned to her roots and lives there again on a micro-farm with her husband, sons, and two dogs. Wendy’s short fiction has appeared in literary journals, and she’s a contributing editor and columnist for The Big Thrill and The Thrill Begins, International Thriller Writers’ online magazines. Wendy is the author of the Allison Campbell Mystery Series and the Greenhouse Mystery Series. Find Wendy at www.WATyson.
All comments are welcomed.
Giveaway: Leave a comment by June 21, 2017 for your chance to win one of the books from Wendy’s “Allison Campbell” series (Killer Image, Deadly Asset, Dying Brand, or Fatal Façade), either Kindle/Nook (open to everyone) or paperback (U.S. residents only), winner’s choice. Good luck everyone!