by Connie di Marco
The stars predict a wedding-day disaster, but San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti never expected murder
Julia Bonatti is alarmed by the astrological signs looming over Geneva Leary’s wedding day, but nobody asked Julia’s opinion and being a bridesmaid means supporting the bride no matter what. Even with the foreboding Moon-Mars-Pluto lineup in the heavens, no one’s prepared for the catastrophes that strike: a no-show sister, a passed-out wedding planner, and a lethal shooting in the dead of night.
With anger and grief threatening to tear the Leary family part, Julia is determined to understand how such a terrible tragedy could occur. As she digs deeper into the family’s secrets, her astrological insights will lead her to the truth about a criminal enterprise that stretches far beyond the California coast.
Celia’s house was set back from the wide boulevard on a street that never seemed to be busy with traffic. I pulled up in front and climbed the stairs. After her husband died, Celia was fortunate. She could still afford to live in her home. The front lawn was perfect, a postage stamp of lush brilliant green bordered with hydrangeas. No leaf would dare be out of place in Celia’s garden.
I lugged the shopping bag up the stairs, forcing myself not to think about the remnants of Michael’s life that I had packed away. After all, the very least she could do would be to open the door and say thank you. When I reached the top of the stairway, I rang the bell and waited. I waited a few minutes more and then rang the doorbell again. She was home. I was sure of it. She simply refused to have anything to do with me. That old familiar ache rose in my chest. The orphan with her nose pressed against the window looking in on a life she couldn’t hope to have. Angry at my automatic reaction, I rang the bell a third time. Finally, I gave up. Okay, Celia, you win. I placed the bag at the front door and returned down the steps. As I was opening my car door, someone called my name. I turned back. It was Maggie, Michael’s sister.
“Julia. Wait.” She rushed down the stairs, out of breath when she reached me. “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear the bell. I was upstairs.” She gave me a warm hug.
“Hi Maggie.” I smiled. “It’s great to see you.” I had always liked Michael’s younger sister. I had never known their father, but they both must have taken after him. There certainly was no spiritual resemblance between them and their mother.
“How are you?” I responded.
“I’m fine. I was just visiting at Mom’s.” Her smiled faded. “Julia, I’m sorry she’s treating you this way. She’s home. She just won’t answer the door.”
“Maggie, I gave up a year ago, wondering what she held against me.”
“It’s not just you I’m afraid. She won’t talk to anybody in the family. Doesn’t see her old friends. She rattles around that big old house day and night. She’s made a shrine of my brother’s room. I think she spends most of her time there.” Maggie shrugged. “I’m really worried about her but I just don’t know what to do. That’s why I try to stop by whenever I can.”
“I wish I could help, but I’m likely the last person she wants to see. You don’t have to apologize for her.”
“I know that. I just don’t think you need to be treated like that. We all hurt. It doesn’t help to be cruel to you. Michael really loved you. I just hope you always remember that. Don’t let my mother’s behavior color your feelings about him and what you had together.”
Tears sprang to my eyes. I hadn’t expected this greeting and hadn’t thought it would strike such a chord. “Thanks, Maggie. I do appreciate that.” Her eyes were Michael’s eyes, the same green flecks in the brown that gave them a hazel tinge.
“You can call me anytime.”
I glanced up at the front door. Maggie had left it wide open. I spotted Harry, Michael’s dog. When Michael and I first started seeing each other, we went bicycling in the park whenever we could. One day, I spotted something moving under a bush and halted. We investigated and found a beautiful white poodle, half starved, smelling very badly, and suffering from infections. He had obviously been abandoned and someone had beaten him severely. Michael left me to watch over him, and hurried back to retrieve his car. We loaded the bikes on the back and I held Harry on my lap all the way to the emergency vet. Michael paid for all his treatments and then adopted him. His budget as a student was tight, but he didn’t hesitate to help a wounded creature. I think that was when I fell in love with him.
“Harry’s with you?”
Maggie followed my gaze. “Harry! What are you doing?” Harry had knocked over the shopping bag and was sniffing it. When he heard his name called, he raised his head, one of Michael’s gloves in his mouth. He whimpered and looked at us.
“Oh, God.” Maggie said. “He knows that’s Michael’s glove. Poor guy. Come here, Harry,” she called. Harry dropped the glove and bounded down the stairs. He came straight at me and leaped towards my face. “He remembers you.” Maggie said.
“Of course, he does.” I bent down and hugged him as Harry left slippery kisses on my face. I looked up at Maggie. “I’m so glad you’ve kept him.”
“Of course, I’d never let him go. I just love Harry to death. It’s like having a part of my brother to hold on to.”
Seeing Harry had brought a rush of memories. I had to get out of there before I turned into a blubbering idiot. I hugged Maggie and thanked her. As I started the engine, Maggie leaned in the window. “Just remember, Julia – it’s not you. It’s nothing you’ve done.”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries from Midnight Ink, featuring San Francisco astrologer, Julia Bonatti, who never thought murder would be part of her practice. Book 2 in the Zodiac Mysteries is All Signs Point to Murder, to be released on August 8, 2017.
Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the national bestselling author of the Soup Lover’s Mysteries from Penguin Random House (Berkley Prime Crime), set in the village of Snowflake, Vermont. Her recently released A Clue in the Stew is the fifth in this series. Some of her favorite recipes can also be found in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook.
Connie is a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.
Book 2: All Signs Point to Murder
Book 1: The Madness of Mercury
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The tour dates can be found here