Mystery and Crime Fiction posted July 21, 2021 Chapters:  ...7 8 -9- 10... 

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Garth, Hank and Allie conspire....

A chapter in the book Secrets in the Wind

Secrets in the Wind - Chap 9

by Begin Again

A story of loss, deceit, murder, and crime......
Jack McKinley's recent death appears to be suspicious. The investigation of one crime leads to another and so many other secrets are in the wind.

As Garth and Hank walked through the vineyard, picking bunches of sweet red grapes, Miguel spied the two strangers and headed in their direction.

“Senor, you are on private property.” Miguel hastened toward the two men. “You cannot be here.”

Hank and Garth heard an angry voice yelling. They turned to see a brown-skinned man waving his straw hat in the air as he hurried toward them. As Miguel approached, Garth recognized his face from the courtroom.

“You must go. You cannot roam the vineyards.” Miguel pointed in the direction they had come.

“Sir, we have permission.”

“No, strangers allowed. Only the migrants that pick the grapes.”

Darryl heard the commotion and came from the winery to investigate. Allie joined him at the edge of the row, and they trotted down the pathway. 

“Miguel, it’s okay. They are Mrs. McKinley’s guests.” Darryl nodded at Garth and Hank but continued his conversation with Miguel. “Thanks for checking on the situation, but next time, a little less gusto, my friend.”

“I am just doing as Senor Jack told me. No one in the vineyard.” Miguel turned so he could address the strangers. “I am sorry.” He cocked his thumb toward Darryl. “This is the big honcho; he will take care of you.” Miguel’s expression wasn’t a pleasant one as he turned and walked.

“My apologies, gentlemen. Miguel is very protective of the grapes.”

“Hank, Jeremy, this is Darryl Pennington. He is the estate foreman in charge of the daily operations of the winery. Darryl, meet Hank Armato, a close friend of Jack, and this is Jeremy Dalton.”

The men exchanged handshakes after Allie’s introduction. 

“Liz has company, so we thought we’d take a walk and admire the property. Sorry if we offended Miguel.” Hank was not prepared to share his reason for being at the winery until he knew Darryl better.

“Yes, and I stumbled along with a friend under the assumption the property might be for sale,” Garth added.

“For sale? To my knowledge, Sweet Haven is not for sale.” Darryl's friendly attitude dissipated.

“Calm down, Darryl. Liz has set everyone straight on that fact. She does not intend on selling the property.” Allie reached out and touched Darryl’s arm. “She knows it was Jack’s dream.”

“Yes, we spent many hours discussing what he hoped to accomplish.” Darryl’s eyes surveyed the rows and rows of grapevines filled with luscious clusters of deep red and purple grapes. “I guess it became my dream too.” He hadn’t meant to say his last thought aloud. Embarrassed, he added, “My work never ends, so I must get back. Enjoy your walk. I am sure Allie will take good care of you.” 

As they watched Darryl leave, Allie expressed her surprise, “I guess I never realized how close Jack and Darryl had become.”

Allie sighed and turned towards the two men with a frown as she remembered the reason for the walk. “Okay, somebody better spill their guts and tell me why this cowboy has two names and doesn’t want anyone to know.”

“What do you think, Hank? Do we let this little spitfire in on our secret?” 

“Well, you seem to know her better than I do, but judging how she defends Liz, I’d say Allie is trustworthy.” 

“Spitfire? You, sir, will call me dragon lady if you don’t watch out.” Allie glared at Garth and Hank. “I’m as loyal as they come, especially when it’s my best friend. If you’re hiding something from her, I need to know.”

“Calm down, Allie, before you torch the grapes.” Hank chuckled at how quickly she switched gears from feeling sorry for Darryl to battle-mode for Liz. “Garth, or in the present case, Jeremy, works for the FBI. We’ve worked on several cases together. To gain needed information, he works undercover.”

“Undercover?” Allie was skeptical. “You think you’ll discover the murderer in Hayden by disguising yourself? We aren’t country bumpkins.”

“I wasn’t even aware of the murders till after I came to town. My case involves something different.” Garth didn’t enjoy exposing himself.

“And…” Allie wasn’t willing to let things lie. “So, what is your case? Since you were in court, I am guessing it has something to do with Mason Caldwell and Cassidy. Though that is murder as well.”

“I must admit I am interested in Caldwell and hoped I’d learn something from the trial.”

“I can help there. Mason’s a scumbag who probably murdered his wife and is sending an innocent woman to jail.”

“First thing we agree on. I think the woman’s innocent too. And the longer she’s in jail, her life will be in danger.”

“You’re FBI. Get her out of there.” Allie snapped. “Or are you waiting until it’s too late?”

“It’s not that easy. A jury convicted her. I need more of the story, but she wasn’t willing to talk to anyone. She’s hiding something; I don’t know what.”

“You need a woman to do the job! She’d be more apt to talk then.”

“I don’t know. Our defendant had a woman lawyer, and my agent was a woman. She wouldn’t share anything except declaring she was innocent.” Garth shrugged his shoulders. “I can’t force the information out of her.”

“Maybe she needs a friend. Remember Amanda clammed up until she found someone to trust.” Hank smiled, “Namely, yours truly, and Beth, too."

“Though I’d pay good money to see it, Hank, I don’t think you’d pass as a woman inside the prison.”

“A woman? Inside the prison?” Allie jumped up and down. She was almost giddy. “I’ll do it. I’ll go undercover.”

Both men stared at Allie as if she’d grown two heads.

“Are you crazy? It’s not a spa resort; it’s a prison.”

“I’m the number one investigative reporter. I get dirty digging for information. I can do this.” Allie pressed her point. “You need someone. I believe she’s innocent, and I want to do this.”

“Unfortunately, she’s right. The longer Cassidy sits in prison, the chances of something bad happening grows.” Hank looked at Garth and then Allie. “It’s something to think about, at least.”

“Yes, at least say you’ll consider it.” Allie’s pitiful puppy dog eyes pleaded with Garth. “I know I can do it.”

“I can’t deny I need someone, and in the short time I’ve known you, you’ve proven you aren’t afraid to battle. But it’s not up to me; I’ll have to pass it by my boss.”

“I understand. When do I go? What’s my cover?” Allie giggled and jumped up and down.

“Whoa! I’m not making any promises. I’ll see what they say.” Garth expelled a big puff of air. “Hank, have I lost my mind?”

“You need someone quick thinking and willing to put themselves in danger. Allie fits the bill.” Hank shook his head. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but we’ve put our trust in worse scenarios.” 

“You’re right.” Garth knew Hank was telling the truth, but his mind didn’t want to accept it. “I should get back to town, especially since Liz’s guests might find our lingering in the vineyard strange.”

“Great! I can fill you in on this end. I’ve just arrived here, but Jack and I talked before his death. Jack left a packet of evidence that proves someone threatened him. It shows the plane crash might not have been an accident. I haven’t had time to look through it all, but there are a lot of secrets in this small town.”

“The packet… shouldn’t we be looking at it, too?” Allie had forgotten the earlier interruption.

“It’ll wait till I get back from town. I promise I am going to study it carefully tonight.” 

“You mean, we, don’t you?” Allie grimaced at Hank.

“I suppose I do, Allie. I couldn’t imagine examining the packet without you looking over my shoulder.” Hank chuckled and shook his head. “Come on, Jeremy, let’s get you back to town.”


Theodore (Ted) and Meredith Cranston - previous owners of Sweet Haven Estates
Jack McKinley - present owner of Sweet Haven Estates - deceased
Elizabeth (Liz) McKinley - Jack's widow and owner of Sweet Haven Estates
Alyssa Shelton - Liz's best friend and an Investigative Journalist
Darryl Pennington - Estate Foreman for past and previous owners
Mary Hunter - Retired nurse and current caregiver of Faith and Annie
Faith Cranston-Newton - daughter of the Ted and Meredith Cranston
Annie Cranston-Newton - Faith's daughter
Dr. Eugene Copeland - the local physician
Sofia Sanchez - Mason Caldwell's housekeeper
Miguel Sanchez - vineyard supervisor
Jon Saladino - Priest and much more
Cassidy Rotello - assistant of Mason Caldwell
Mason Caldwell - rancher and owner of a gambling casino
Garth Woodman - (Jeremy) Undercover FBI
Hank Armato - Private Investigator
Cynthia - librarian, historian, town gossip and wanna-be detective
Michael - realtor and Cynthia's nephew
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