Authors: Gigi Pandian
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Amateur Sleuths, #Literature & Fiction, #Women's Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths, #International Mystery & Crime, #mystery and suspense, #mystery books, #new adult romance, #mystery novels, #traditional mystery, #humorous mystery, #Mystery and Thrillers, #Humor, #british mysteries, #Amateur Sleuth, #english mysteries, #cozy mystery, #chick lit, #Mystery, #Cozy, #treasure hunt, #murder mystery, #mystery series, #international mystery, #murder mysteries, #Historical mystery, #female sleuth, #New Adult, #action and adventure
Praise for Gigi Pandian’s Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mysteries
“Pandian’s new series may well captivate a generation of readers, combining the suspenseful, mysterious and romantic.”
— 4 stars from
“If Indiana Jones had a sister, it would definitely be historian Jaya Jones.”
“How wonderful to see a young, new writer who harks back to the Golden Age of mystery fiction.
is witty, clever, and twisty… Do you like Agatha Christie? Elizabeth Peters? Then you’re going to love Gigi Pandian.”
— Aaron Elkins,
Edgar Award-Winning Author of the
Gideon Oliver “Skeleton Detective” Mysteries
“Fans of Elizabeth Peters will adore following along with Jaya Jones and a cast of quirky characters as they pursue a fabled treasure.”
New York Times
Bestselling Author Juliet Blackwell,
Author of the Art Lover’s Mystery Series (written as Hailey Lind)
“In her fast-paced and entertaining debut novel, Gigi Pandian brings readers into a world full of mystery and history…As with classics in the genre, this first book in the Jaya Jones series will appeal to readers who enjoy delving into a complex puzzle.”
— ForeWord Reviews
“Elizabeth Peters’ Vicky Bliss mysteries were fun romantic capers with unexpected twists. Gigi Pandian offers that same exotic world of treasure hunts, foreign lands, and a touch of romance. I miss Vicky Bliss. But, now we’re all lucky to have Jaya Jones’ treasure hunts. I hope
is just the first of Gigi Pandian’s skillfully written capers.”
— Lesa’s Book Critiques
— Midwest Book Review
is a jewel of an adventure, and Jaya Jones is a plucky heroine to treasure.”
Nationally Bestselling Author of A Cheese Shop Mystery Series
“Pandian is an adept storyteller.
has it all—castles in the mist and caves at midnight; archeologists and fairies; hidden treasures and a bit of magic as well. Taking us on a journey from San Francisco to London to Scotland, Pandian weaves a mystery with all the elements of a good puzzle.”
— Camille Minichino,
Author of the Periodic Table Mysteries
is a treasure…a page-turning, suspenseful story.”
— Penny Warner, Author of
How to Host a Killer Party
Books in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series
by Gigi Pandian
PIRATE VISHNU (#2)
coming February 2014
FOOL’S GOLD (prequel to ARTIFACT)
(in OTHER PEOPLE’S BAGGAGE)
Praise for Gigi Pandian’s Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mysteries
Books in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series
A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery
Part of the Henery Press Mystery Collection
Digital Kindle edition | August 2013
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, including internet usage, without written permission from Henery Press, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
2012 by Gigi Pandian
Cover art by Fayette Terlouw
This is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Printed in the United States of America
So many thanks are in order. I’m especially grateful to the following people who helped make this book possible:
The Pens Fatales, the best writers group a gal could have—especially Julie and Sophie, who I’m fortunate to count as both mentors and friends, and Martha, who never fails to show me how to get things done. My early readers, Emberly Nesbitt, Brian Selfon, Carol Fairweather, and Janet Bolin, for their encouragement as I learned to craft a mystery. The Sisters in Crime Guppies, who taught me so much about this crazy business, including what great people mystery writers can be. Members of the Northern California Chapter of Sisters in Crime, for their ongoing support and friendship.
The Malice Domestic Grants Committee, for seeing the potential in this book and giving me the push I needed to take my writing seriously. My agent, Jill Marsal, for taking a chance on me and believing in this book. My editor, Ramona DeFelice Long, for helping me execute my ideas and turn this book into what I knew it could be, and copyeditor extraordinaire Nancy Adams. Historians Taymiya Zaman of the University of San Francisco and Joanna Williams of UC Berkeley, who helped me bring history alive. And Henery Press, especially Kendel Flaum, for believing in me and Jaya.
The doctors and nurses at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, for saving my life so I could live to see this book come to fruition. My partner in crime, Diane Vallere, without whom I never would have gotten this far. My parents, for being the most supportive parents on the planet and for never doubting I would succeed—even though they knew firsthand how difficult it is to write a good book. And James, for always believing in me.
The door of the house swung open before I had a chance to knock. It was almost midnight. The woman in front of me was fully dressed and held a cup of coffee in her hand, which I hoped for her sake was decaffeinated. Her face was in shadow as she stood in the door frame of the San Francisco Victorian, but the dim porch light must have illuminated all of me down to my toes, for I heard her breath catch.
“Is that blood on your shoe?” Nadia asked.
I glanced down at my shoes. I admit they were stilettos tonight. I always wear heels of some sort for the added height.
“Your note said a package had been delivered for me?”
“You are bloodied,” she said in her thick Russian accent. “Yet you speak of mail.” She turned her back to me and gestured with her free arm, ushering me inside the house along with the large tabla drum case slung over my shoulder.
I didn’t resist my inquisitive landlady as much as I normally would have. I like my independence. The news I had received earlier that day had thrown me off balance. Without meaning to, I found myself following her inside, setting my tabla case in the corner, and sitting down on the stiff sofa.
“It was one of those helpful men, no?” she asked, handing me a box of tissues. “I knew it! One of those nice fellows this city is full of, who offer to help you carry your drum case when you are out at a ‘gig.’ One of them was too insistent, eh?”
“You could not resist putting him in his place. Stomping on his innocent foot with your treacherous heel as he valiantly offered to help ease your burden.” She swept her arm through the air in front of her. “You drew blood, and it splashed up from the tip of your heel onto the cuff of his Dockers and the top of your high-heeled shoe.”
My eyes widened as I imagined the vivid scene. Just because there had been one teeny-tiny, well-justified incident ages ago....And where had Nadia learned her English? All I was certain of was that the cup of coffee that hadn’t left her hand was definitely not decaffeinated.
“Yes, yes,” she said, tucking a loose lock of her gray-blonde hair behind her ear as she found her stride. “I understand, Jaya. You are not helpless. Not at all. But you must see that your drum case is almost as big as you are! It is only natural that a man would want to exert his alpha side when he sees you.”
Nadia’s fanciful story would have amused me if it hadn’t been for the shock from which I was still reeling. Nadia opened her mouth to continue, but I cut in more forcefully this time.
“It’s chicken tikka masala,” I said.
“The Indian curry.”
“Yes, I know what tikka masala is.”
on my shoe.”
I lifted up my shoe to prove my point, then wiped off the sauce with the tissue. It wasn’t even blood red. A dark orange burnt sienna was more like it.
Nadia frowned, deepening the wrinkles on her face.
“Sauce,” she repeated. “Then I cannot give you a lecture about how someone might press charges one of these days.”
“If I did defend myself as you suggested, I’d hardly get arrested.”
“You would not make as much of a sympathetic defendant as you think. You can bat those thick eyelashes as much as you like, but your innocent Indian girl act does not go far once you open your mouth....” She trailed off, giving me an odd look. “Your mouth. You have not used it as usual tonight. You are far too quiet, letting me talk on and on. Something is wrong.”
I sighed. Nadia knows me better than most people. I reached inside my messenger bag to show her the source of my dismay. I’d read the article at least a dozen times that day. I had even brought it with me when I left my apartment to play a set of tabla music at the Tandoori Palace restaurant earlier that evening, so I knew the article had to be in my bag somewhere.
It was a small story. Only one short paragraph. Rupert Chadwick, age twenty-nine, was killed when his car lost control on a winding coastal road in Scotland. Rupert’s family was important enough that the news was reported in the papers and spotted by an acquaintance who alerted me. A simple enough story. It would have been of little consequence to the reporter who had written the blurb. Not to me, though. Rupert and I had once been lovers.
I felt Nadia’s intense gaze as I searched for the piece of paper in my bag. If I hadn’t known better, I could have sworn that she perceived the depth of my uncharacteristically sentimental weakness. That she knew how I wondered, perhaps for the first time, if I loved Rupert.
I found the printout at the bottom of my bag. As I handed the paper to Nadia, she placed a small package in my hand.
It was a padded envelope with a bulging center. The stamps were foreign. British. Nothing unusual there. I’m a historian, so my work often involves corresponding with people and institutions in foreign countries. I didn’t normally receive work-related packages at home, but I was glad to turn my attention to something other than Rupert.
The return address caught my eye. There was no name listed. No university or institute either. Instead, the address of an inn in Scotland had been written by hand. I stared at the address. The address itself wasn’t familiar. Yet there was something....
“Jaya?” Nadia said.
I realized it wasn’t the first time she had said it.
“You knew him well?” she asked.
I gave a slight shrug. “It was over a year ago.”
Nadia nodded, then disappeared through the kitchen door.
As I waited, I turned over the curious package.
. It had to be a coincidence.
I tugged at the edge. It didn’t budge. Strong tape reinforced all the sides. The person who sent the parcel had taken no chances. At least I didn’t have any fingernails to break. I pulled at a puckered section of tape until it gave way. A folded handkerchief of bright white cloth fell onto my lap. I shook the package to make sure there was nothing else inside, then opened the bundle.
A band of thick gold appeared beneath the folds of cotton. The piece of jewelry had been damaged and was missing several pieces of whatever had once been inlaid in the gold. That wasn’t surprising. The piece was old. Old enough to evoke a feeling of centuries past. Jewelry isn’t my expertise, but when you study history, you get a sense of how things change over time. I knew I wasn’t holding something created during my lifetime.
As I turned over the piece, I saw more than gold. A solitary stone of the deepest red sparkled in my hand. The rough-cut gemstone dwarfed the thick gold frame. Even in the dim living room light of a midnight conversation, the huge ruby absorbed the light, seeming to breathe it in and out before my eyes. At that moment I understood the preciousness of jewels. I would have sworn this was no piece of costume jewelry.
This was real.
I ran my fingertips over the ruby stone, and along the rest of the piece. Based on its size, I guessed it was an anklet. A few granules of dirt stuck to my skin. I raised my fingers to my nose and sniffed. The dirt was what it looked like. Soil. Not dust.
Before I had a chance to think about what to do next, I heard the door to the kitchen creak open. I wiped the dirt from my fingers onto the handkerchief, then quickly covered up the anklet and eased it back into the package.
As the cloth slipped out of my fingers, I saw something that nearly made me drop the bundle. Initials were embroidered on the handkerchief: RCC. Rupert Cedric Chadwick.
My heart was beating far too quickly as Nadia placed a tray on the coffee table.
“I found some gin,” she said. She poured generous shots from a Gordon’s bottle into two ice-filled tumblers that were on the tray next to some sticky Russian pastries.
“Drink,” she said. “It is...restorative.”
Nadia’s English is perfect, if formal, yet sometimes I could tell she felt there was no proper translation for a Russian word she wanted to use, and it would give her momentary pause before she spoke. She lifted one of the glasses, still frowning as if she hadn’t expressed what she meant to.
I took the other glass, hoping my hands weren’t shaking too obviously. Nadia didn’t seem to notice. Her lips puckered as the gin touched her mouth.
“Wouldn’t you rather be drinking vodka?” I asked. Damn. My voice sounded shaky as well.
“Jaya,” she said, shaking her head. “You of all people should know not to stereotype a person based on where they are from.”
“But you do like vodka.”
“It is true. I think I will have some.”
She disappeared into the kitchen again. I was tempted to look at the anklet and Rupert’s handkerchief again, but I instead opted for steadying my nerves. I took a large gulp of gin. It was the right choice. Nadia returned almost immediately with a bottle of some sort of vodka I had never seen before, and a small glass with no ice. After pouring herself a straight shot and refreshing my gin, she raised her glass and made a toast, offering her sympathy.
I appreciated the thought, though honestly I can’t remember a single thing she said. My mind was spinning elsewhere.
An old lover was dead before his thirtieth birthday. A ruby anklet rested in my lap inside his handkerchief. The package had been sent to me from Scotland, where said old lover was recently killed in a car wreck.
A feeling of helpless confusion spread through me. In spite of what Hollywood movies suggest, it’s not commonplace for historians to receive mysterious packages containing jewel-encrusted artifacts previously in the possession of recently deceased archaeologists.
“Upsetting news,” I said, then downed the last of my drink. Nadia could invent a wild story out of my hastily eaten dinner. There was no way I was going to tell her I was holding a ruby from a dead man. Without meeting her gaze, I opened my bag and put the package inside.
“Now that I’ve shared the news about Rupert’s tragic death with someone,” I said, “I think I’d like to be alone.”
I got up and pulled my drum case over my shoulder. I’ll grant Nadia that the instrument case does look rather sizable next to my not quite five-foot frame. It’s not light, but I’m used to handling it.
“One last thing,” Nadia said as I headed toward the door. “He was here again.”
I stopped walking. The only he I could conjure up in my mind at the moment was Rupert.
“The lurking fellow,” Nadia continued, taking the opportunity to press one of her homemade Russian pastries into my hand. “I should have called the police.”
“You mean Miles?” I asked. The last person I needed to see that night was the neighborhood poet who had developed a crush on me. “He’s harmless,” I added, then stepped through the front door into the night.
I polished off the pastry as I reached the top of the stairs at the side of the house that led to my attic apartment. I have a good appetite to start with, and it grows even larger when I need to keep a clear head, such as when I happen to have a ruby in the bag bouncing against my hip.
I kicked off my shoes and set down the tabla case, then closed the door behind me with the ball of my bare foot. Before sitting down to examine the package, I turned around and locked the door. I didn’t believe Miles was anything to worry about, but it couldn’t hurt.
I removed the anklet from its package and set it down on top of a relatively stable stack of journals on my coffee table. My hands were still shaking as I found a flashlight to inspect the piece more carefully. It looked every bit as real under the brighter light. The dirt was also more prevalent than I had previously noticed. The style was more obvious, too. As the exquisite gold design and the jagged ruby shone in the light, I thought of India. I was relatively certain my impression wasn’t merely because it was the country of my birth. I left India when I was a child, so my gut reactions are more American and Western than anything else.
The anklet hadn’t been sent from India, though. I looked more closely at the packaging itself. I ran my index finger across my name and down to my address. My body froze. I knew why the package had triggered a feeling of familiarity. I recognized the handwriting. My address had been written by Rupert himself.
The writing had been scrawled sloppily with a thick pen, as if it had been addressed in a hurry. The funny swirl of the “S” in San Francisco stirred a memory. Rupert could never resist adding small flourishes to the various aspects of his life.
My head spun, and it wasn’t from the gin. Rupert would never simply hand over something so valuable. I knew him well enough to know that with certainty.
Rupert had a classy enough upbringing that he had monogrammed handkerchiefs in the twenty-first century. Along with his breeding went a sense of entitlement. He wouldn’t give something like this anklet to someone else. Not under any circumstances. Not even to me.
I scrambled to my desk and grabbed a pair of scissors. I cut along the edges of the padded envelope, snipping away at the package until it lay flat. With the excessive taping of the package, a small sheet of lined notebook paper had stuck to an inside corner. The edge tore in my haste to remove it. There it was. My explanation lay on the coffee table in front of me.
I smoothed out the wrinkled paper and read the handwritten note.
Jaya, love. I’m sending this artifact to you for safekeeping. And for your help. I’m onto something. But somebody knows it. It’s not safe for me to hang onto this at the moment. You’ll know what to do. Ring me on my mobile and I’ll explain everything. You’re the only one I can trust. xox Rupert
I turned over the mangled package. The postmark confirmed my creeping suspicion. The day Rupert had mailed me the package that wasn’t safe for him to keep was the same day as his accident.
It no longer seemed believable that Rupert had accidentally lost control of his car as the press reported. And I was the only one who knew it.
Me, and whoever killed him.