The Venetian Pool in Coral Gables, Florida is one of those gems you discover on the road to research. Marla Shore, my intrepid hairdresser sleuth, goes here in Shear Murder to interview a suspect. I’d never been here before, not even in the years when I lived and worked in the area. So imagine my delightful surprise when I found this historical site nestled in the city.
I’ll let you explore along with Marla as she hastens inside, looking for Griff Beasley. Griff is a magazine photographer who was at her friend Jill’s wedding. Marla was a bridesmaid when she discovered the matron of honor dead under the cake table. It’s possible Griff’s pictures might shed some light on the crime. He’s here to take photos at a fund-raiser event.
[Marla] breezed across a small bridge with salmon-colored grillwork toward a Venetian-style building. One short flight of stone steps led downward toward clusters of crotons and a grotto-like space beyond. Another staircase rose into a tower.
She descended to the ground level, ducking her head beneath an arch to enter a reception area with an unmanned admission desk. No doubt she’d find Griff mingling among the revelers. Not a soul lingered indoors here.
The main entrance segued into an anteroom lined with blue-colored tiles and boasting a central fountain and historic photos mounted on the walls. Formed from a limestone quarry in 1924, the pool was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It held 820,000 gallons of water from a natural spring.
Impressed, Marla thought how lucky the community was to have this facility for its residents. It reminded her of the swim clubs up north where she grew up.
Past another stone archway, she stepped into an open-air courtyard set with tables and chairs. Couples stood around laughing and sipping champagne, while waiters strolled by carrying trays of hors d’oeuvres. Marla spared a glance at the barracks-like buildings bordering the courtyard. A meager sign read café on one door, no doubt leading to a concession stand during the day.
Directing her attention toward the grotto-like pool, she followed the tile path to a covered loggia where wood beams crisscrossed overhead. It faced the water on one side and the courtyard on the other. Elbowing her way through the partygoers, she didn’t see Griff anywhere.
Across the water’s emerald expanse, an enormous waterfall gushed into the lagoon. The roar of cascading water resounded along with the chatter of guests and the clink of glasses. She spotted an empty lifeguard chair shaded by an umbrella in the middle of a cobblestone bridge. Behind it looked to be a coral cave. Could Griff be in there?
She made her way over and peered inside. A bunch of nattily dressed folks sat on wood benches while balancing plates of food. No sign of Griff. You’d think he’d be circulating and snapping pictures, unless he already finished his job here.
“Excuse me, have you seen a photographer around?” she asked a patron. “He works for Boca Style Magazine.”
The woman, surveying Marla’s simple skirt and knit top, lifted her nose. “I saw him last by the beach, dear. Tell him I’d be happy to pose for a picture, will you?”
Marla didn’t deign to answer. Instead, she strode toward a stretch of sandy beach facing the cool emerald lagoon fringed with palm trees and dotted with lampposts that looked like they came straight from Venice, painted a whimsical apricot and melon.
Some guests sat on lounge chairs, but Griff wasn’t among them. Her gaze followed the pathway as it rimmed the pool, but she didn’t spot his tall figure. She must have missed him.
Disappointed, Marla turned back while rustling her car keys from her purse. She’d have to drive to the Biltmore after all. When the keys slipped through her fingers, she crouched to retrieve them from the grass. Her gaze fell upon a partially hidden grotto through a stone archway covered by a leafy vine.
Stacked lounge chairs, pool cleaning tools, and a huge ceramic planter lay inside the gloomy interior . . . from which a man was stumbling toward her. She straightened quickly.
“Marla, is that you?”
Good God, it was Griff! He had a dazed look on his face as she rushed over.
“What happened?” She noted a nasty bruise on his temple.
“I dunno. Must have hit my head.” He touched the spot. “Ouch, that hurts.”
“Are you dizzy?”
“I’ll be okay.”
“This arch is awfully low. Did you forget to duck?”
“Nope, I heard somebody call my name from inside. That’s the last thing I remember, babe.” His face flooded with awareness. “My camera . . . do you see it?”
“Just a minute. It’s too dark in there.” Withdrawing a penlight from her purse, Marla shone it around the grotto. “Here it is.” She pounced on a case lying in the corner.
Griff grabbed it from her and rummaged through the contents. “Yo, everything seems to be intact.” He patted his pocket. “My wallet is still here. Couldn’t have been a thief.”
“Maybe the intent wasn’t to steal anything.”
Shear Murder by Nancy J. Cohen
Who knew weddings could be murder? Hairstylist Marla Shore is weeks away from becoming a bride herself when she walks down the aisle as a bridesmaid at her friend Jill’s ceremony. Things take a turn for the worse when the matron of honor ends up dead, the cake knife in her chest. Now what will they use to cut the cake?