Something is strange at Full Moon Farms—and it isn’t just Val’s Eggplant Surprise for dinner.
Jax, Tessa, and the rest of the arts and crafts retreat attendees are shocked when they find charred bones in a glass kiln. Are the remains human or animal?
The camp owners insist the bones in the coffin-sized kiln are from a deer, but Jax finds a clue that leads her to believe the owners are lying. After Tessa’s least favorite person turns up dead, there is no doubt that a killer lurks somewhere in the deep forest of the Olympic Peninsula. As clues lead Jax and Tessa down mysterious paths, they hope they live long enough to find the culprit and make it out alive.
Since breakfast was my favorite meal of the day, I looked forward to a hearty spread of bacon, eggs, and pancakes as we headed to the lodge in the morning. As we reached the top of the hill, we again spotted Val banging on the gong while wearing earmuffs. She looked even less enthusiastic wielding the mallet than at last night’s dinner.
We walked along the lake’s edge and looked across the water. I spotted something floating just off the edge of the dock in the middle of the lake.
“Do you see that thing floating in the water?” I asked.
“Looks like a log,” Tessa replied as she race-walked away.
“But doesn’t it kind of look like something round at one end—like a head?”
“Will you let that wild imagination of yours settle down for once? You’re making me crazy,” Tessa said, not slowing down.
“I’m going to go look.” I headed for the dock and marched right out to the edge. Whatever it was sank below the surface of the water. “It disappeared!”
“Maybe it was all a figment of your imagination,” Tessa said.
“You saw it, too,” I replied.
“Right, but I didn’t think it was a head.”
“There! Look right there,” I said, pointing at the dark water. “Some fizzy bubbles below the surface.”
“Some bubbles. Who knows? Maybe it’s the Loch Ness Monster!”
“The Loch Ness Monster only lives in Loch Ness,” I said. “No, seriously, I saw something.”
Wendy, who was welcoming students and staff at the door to the lodge, came running toward us.
“What happened? Did you two see our resident jumbo trout?” she asked.
“This wasn’t a trout,” I said.
“I’m sure it’s just a log. Or … I don’t know. I’ve lived in these parts for a long while, and I’ve never seen anything to be worried about in this lake—or any other lake, for that matter!” Wendy locked arms with us and guided us toward the lodge.
The gong rang again, this time faster and more insistent than the last.
“There’s always a first time,” I said, looking over my shoulder.
We filed into the dining room to find bubbling pots of oatmeal and dishes with raisins, honey, and milk waiting for us on a buffet table. While the oatmeal was okay, what helped every morning was coffee. Tessa and I poured ourselves mugs and settled at a long table with our bowls of oatmeal.
Val came out of the kitchen and slammed two jugs of orange juice on the counter.
Her grumpy countenance told me I shouldn’t ask where the bacon was because I might get a cold glass of OJ straight to the face.
More disheveled and bleary-eyed than usual, Vance came in and sat down across from us.
“What happened to you?” I asked while Tessa went in search of coffee for Vance.
“Ugh. I stayed up all night with Duke filling the furnace with glass. When we got here, the glass level was low, and he had a fit that he wouldn’t be able to teach the class with so little to work with,” Vance said, running his hands through his messy hair.
“Here, drink this,” Tessa said, handing him a cup of coffee.
“Thanks, Tessa. I’ll need about ten more before I am among the living,” Vance said with a sleepy smile.
It was typical of Duke to cause a fuss about his studio, but not having enough glass when you’re trying to teach would be nearly impossible. I wondered why Wendy hadn’t ensured the glass levels were high enough. Kudos to Vance for helping Duke charge the furnace so it would be ready for the first day of class.
Those of us who finished breakfast went with Wendy to her studio, which was housed in the other half of the building where our classroom was. She wanted to unveil some of the fused glass pieces she created. Wendy had traced her roots to the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, and the project she had been working on was a tribute to the people who
have lived in this area for millennia. The artwork she was creating consisted of two glass panels: One with forest imagery and one with re-creations of artifacts she made. Tessa told me that this was an exciting project for Wendy, who would be installing her large glass panels at the Carnegie Museum in Port Angeles, which featured cultural and
historical artifacts from the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. She was proud to have been selected as the artist whose work would be displayed at the museum and was concerned about making something worthy of being installed in such an important place.
“Okay, everyone. Gather ’round. I want to show you what’s been cookin’ in this kiln for a week.” To open the coffin-size kiln’s lid, Wendy grabbed a handle attached to a cable, which was part of a counterweight system, and pulled.
The large kiln lid rose smoothly and quickly, revealing a thick colorful glass panel about the size and shape of a king pillow. There was a collective gasp. The piece was breathtaking. Blue, orange, and green glass glimmered in the early morning light as it rested on a background of pure white kiln bricks.
“Success! It looks like the panel made it through its fusing phase. It’s still warm in the kiln, so I’ll put this lid back down.” Using the pulley system, Wendy gently closed the lid on the kiln and pressed the OFF button on the kiln’s controller. “Now, in this other kiln are the artifacts I’ve been working on. It’s been a challenge getting the non-glass pieces to work together with the fused glass slab.”
Wendy approached the second kiln and grabbed its pulley, raising the large lid to reveal its contents.
There was another collective gasp. This one was much louder than the last. Inside, lying in a puddle of cracked and melted glass, was a pile of bone shards, chalky white and crumbling. Wendy let go of the pulley handle, and the lid slammed shut with a bang that echoed through the room.
A rumble of concern passed through the crowd. Tessa and I looked at each other in a panic. Were those really bones? We couldn’t be sure if they were human or animal, but one thing I knew for sure—they made my skin crawl.
About Janice Peacock
Janice Peacock is a cozy mystery author who specializes in craft and hobby mysteries. She loves to write about artists who find new ways to live their lives and perhaps catch a criminal or two in the process. While working in a glass studio with several colorful and quirky artists, she was inspired to write the Glass Bead Mystery Series. The Ruby Shaw Mysteries, which are set in a small hillside mining town, were inspired by her trips to Jerome, Arizona, and Jacksonville, Oregon.
When Janice isn’t writing about amateur detectives, she wields a 2,500-degree torch to melt glass and create one-of-kind beads and jewelry. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, an enormous white dog, and an undisclosed number of cats. Visit Janice online at www.janicepeacock.com.