Authors: Peggy A. Edelheit
Avenue du Goulet
A Samantha Jamison Mystery
Peggy A. Edelheit
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.
86 Avenue du Goulet: A Samantha Jamison Mystery Volume 3
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Copyright © 2011 Peggy A. Edelheit
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Chase your Dreams
Every Day is a Blessing
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
To my family, the best part of me
Dans la mémoire de Jean, Mercis spéciaux à Martine
IT Technical Support
A Special Thanks To Editor
Avenue du Goulet©
A Samantha Jamison Mystery
À la vie! (To Life!)
C'est bon! (It is good!)
Opening & Closing Gates & Chapter One
I leaned against my car rental, staring at those old iron gates, and then looked to the right at the plaque on the lantern-topped, stone pillar. It read, ‘Villa Palmerose.’ Another plaque on the left pillar with a speaker gave the address, ‘86 Avenue du Goulet.’
Was I making a mistake staying here?
Before I changed my mind, I walked over, pushed the button and gave a smile to the camera. In seconds, the old gates creaked open and I drove through, entering the stone courtyard. As they closed behind me, I gave a sigh of relief.
After successfully keeping at bay my concerns about Martine’s call, and exhausted from my transatlantic flight, I had finally arrived from my landing at Nice Airport forty minutes away. I checked out the views, confirming what I had expected: the Cote d’Azur and this villa were a perfect pairing. Stepping out of the car, I stretched, then turned at the sound of my name, grinning.
“Samantha! You made good time from Nice. Right after you called, I told the estate agent I would let you in.”
“Oh, Martine. What a scenic ride! The coast is just as beautiful as I remembered from my last visit.”
She laughed. “Well, of course! An unbeautiful coast would not be very French of us now, would it, Samantha?”
We kissed each cheek, as was the French custom, and then, being friends, we hugged.
I stepped back as we held hands, scrutinizing my friend. She was a striking brunette, but tell-tale dark circles under her eyes belied her cheerfulness. I held her gaze; glad I’d come, but was still mystified by her unusual request.
“I came as soon as possible. Remember, you promised you’d fill me in when I got here. I was planning on visiting you anyway, since I’m in between writing books. Still, I think it was creative and convenient to time it like that!”
Why all the secrecy surrounding her anxious call?
She laughed, making light of my comment. “Ah, the clever novelist! You know me well, Sam! There is plenty of time to explain after you are all settled and rested. A few more hours will not make such a difference. Am I right?”
“…Okay, but then I insist on hearing the whole story.”
She reached into her pocket and held out her hand. “Here is the key. Come, I will show you the villa you insisted on renting for your stay, then you can freshen up and unpack.”
When we finished a brief tour, she instructed, “You will come to me for drinks promptly at six tonight, oui?” She eyed me and smiled, but her skepticism showed.
She knew me too well; how I lost track of time, writing down my thoughts.
“Of course!” I replied quickly. “There is no excuse, anyway. After all, you live right next door!”
“C'est bon! We will talk then, mon ami.” Martine was about to turn and leave, but then paused. “…Samantha, thank you for coming earlier than you had planned, especially after your husband, Stephen’s, unexpected death in that horrible, tragic car accident. You’re resilience is remarkable for accommodating me.”
I gave her a warm smile. “Let’s reserve judgment on the remarkable part of that statement until later, okay?”
“Sam, what is more important, you are here!”
We kissed goodbye, and after squeezing my arm and smiling once more, she quickly disappeared through the extensive gardens and through the walk-in gate, taking the long way over to her property. She never took the easy route, and was always walking or swimming to stay healthy.
“Au revoir, Martine!” I called out, waving.
Years before, Martine and I met in New York through my agent, Sandra, and hit it off. Since then, I tried to visit her once a year or so, plus we Skype when we can. Both of us were too busy to do much more than that, she as a travel writer, and me, a novelist.
I looked up at the old, stone house, admiring it. I always stayed with Martine, so when she had mentioned that the elderly Curat, the owner of this villa, had passed away, and it was vacant for an affordable rent, I decided to stay here without distraction to write. I would start my next book here. But to be honest, I had doubts about the sense of it.
An unexpected chill whipped up from the cool waters of the sea. I heard rustling and peripherally caught a blur
? I turned, then shrugged.
. After not sleeping for hours, I was obviously imagining things. Jetlag for sure.
I hurried toward the door. I barely had enough time to unpack and take a short nap, then I’d be off to Martine’s to find out why she requested I come sooner than we had originally planned. Was a potential book in the air? I hoped so, but why such urgency? I paused mid-step, scanning Curat’s gardens. I couldn’t believe I was back in France.
Yes, but exactly what had I come back to?
Climbing Up The Backdrop
I exited the villa with ten minutes to spare, taking the shortcut, but promptly stopped in my tracks. A wire fence about six feet high with tall hedges behind it, running the whole length of the two properties, stood before me. Since the thick hedge was on Martine’s side, I had never noticed that fence before. Well, so much for going that way.
Was that to keep people in, or keep them out?
I assumed I could walk right over. I was facing a curved arch: a porte cochere, an open ended stone archway that connected the villa with its garage. If I walked through it, I’d go directly to Martine’s backyard patio. But because of the fence, that was out of the question. Luckily, all was quiet so far from her patio. I checked my watch, now pressed for time, trying to think of other alternatives.
I could go out the gated entrance, but that would make me walk out onto the street and down the hill, making a left turn at the next street, and then another left turn to walk up that steep street to get to Martine’s electric iron gates, tread up her long stone driveway, and then climb up two stories of steps to get to her patio. Exhausting and time consuming.
There had to be another way. I stared up at the rest of the villa’s property.
Hmm. Not too far!
It was uphill with more gardens, steps, some statues, and a level area further up, ending at the governmental forest preserve at the top.
I stared at my feet.
Flimsy sandals. Good going, Sam!
Then I looked up again. There was some kind of odd shaped structure up there, too. Intrigued, I chose that direction, because it looked as if my ten minutes would be cut to the bone. Still, I might make it. So I aimed for the upper back gate, already knowing Martine had an identical one as well.
I hustled up the stone path, but was startled when confronted by a massive several-foot-high cactus. I barely edged around it and pressed on, briefly turning now and then; noticing the views of the Mediterranean getting better the higher I climbed. A few empty pedestals with broken shards caught my eye, too.
What happened to the statues?
So many pathways crammed this unusual upper garden, but then they always seemed to turn off to a narrower connected pathway, which automatically led you right back toward the villa.
Why the strange maze of paths?
I stubbed my toe and looked down. In the dark, these paths could be hazardous. On the edges of the path, stones were angled in an upright pattern.
Whoever initially designed all this must have had a specific purpose in doing it this particular way.
Why? Was I overthinking the garden’s strange quirks?
I turned back to view the villa and spotted that the flat surface of the roof over the garage was also paved with the same earthy colored stone. At the very end of it, two old cement angel statues faced each other. That was it. Nothing else was up there.
Why were they the only things up there?
A metal, spiral staircase led up to them. Like a magnet, this property began luring me in and latching onto me.
Why was the staircase locked at the bottom with a gate?
When Martine was showing me the house, she mentioned a newly-married couple originally built the house in 1954. I looked down toward the unique white metal-grilled, glassed-in arched front door. It was a work of art, even from this distance. If you stood facing it, you could look right through the intricate pattern, the foyer, and then the house and view the expanse of the Mediterranean.
My instincts were telling me I was meant to stay here, but for what reason? I glanced all around; already knowing the writer in me craved the property’s backstory. I smiled. The writer in me would get it, too, but first, I had to get to Martine’s for hers, and so, once more, I forced myself to continue on.
I finally reached the upper level area where an abandoned swimming pool sat in disrepair, the mosaic tiles around its perimeter falling off or missing. The unusual structure I had noticed from below was a collapsed cabana, a stark contrast to the well-maintained gardens.
Why the disparity between the pool and lush gardens?
I turned again. The panoramic view at this height was spectacular, but being on a timetable, I had to keep going. I paused once more at a gated
that I was tempted check out, but staying focused, I turned away instead and hastily walked out the back gate to head for Martine’s.
However, my fascination for the villa and its property wouldn’t let me go. I stole one last look at the gardens that seemed to be calling me back for further scrutiny.
Strange. Something wasn’t right. I could feel it.