Thursday Sampler: Tarot Terrors by Linda Pirtle

Lillian and her husband Bill have embarked on a nice, quiet vacation to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Life is as good as it has ever been. But tragedy awaits them. Lillian finds herself entangled in a web of political conspiracy and a Presidential assassination. Read an excerpt from Linda Pirtle’s newest cozy mystery, Tarot Terrors.

BECAUSE THE INDIAN market enticed tourists seeking bargains, Santa Fe’s Plaza was always filled with visitors. Lillian planned to purchase a belt buckle and one more piece of turquoise jewelry and perhaps a beaded bag or a hand-tooled shoulder bag big enough to carry all of her essentials, including her revolver. She held her purse close to her body. She had read an online article about young gangs who preyed on tourists by picking their pockets or snatching a lady’s purse. She didn’t know whether the article was true or not. Lillian scanned the crowd. She didn’t see any suspicious characters but stayed on guard just in case.

Lillian walked down the sidewalk, stopping in front of a row of leather belts lying side-by-side along the path. Some were plain brown leather. Some were made from strips of leather woven together. Her favorites were those with turquoise stones or silver medallions embedded in the fancy tooling. Many of the belts were naked. They sported no buckles. Instead, the buyer could pick out a silver buckle that a craftsman would attach to the belt, thereby adding to the uniqueness of each one. Lillian had researched white turquoise and hoped to find a jeweler who could inlay some of it in the buckle she chose. Then, she would make a decision on the type of design for the belt.

Linda Pirtle

Lillian smiled at the elderly Navajo woman who sat in a folding chair against the wall behind the row of leather. The vendor uncrossed her ankles, stood, stooped down to retrieve a woven belt, and motioned for Lillian to try it on.

“No. Gracias,” Lillian said. She felt a pang of guilt when she saw the woman’s shoulders slump in disappointment. “Muy creative,” Lillian added before she walked away.

At the end of the sidewalk, in front of the Palace of the Governors, Lillian stopped before a booth which contained a table covered with turquoise jewelry, but she didn’t see any white buffalo turquoise, a stone she would like to add to her collection.  “Muy bonita.” She glanced at the vendor who stood behind the glittering silver jewelry sporting the most perfect turquoise gems she had ever seen.

The vendor was a tall, gray-haired Native-American. He was quite distinguished in his tan leather trousers, white linen shirt with billowing sleeves. He wore an ornately beaded western vest with fringe along its hemline, “Gracias,” he said.

Lillian realized she was staring at the vest. Embarrassed, she asked, “Habla usted Inglés?”

“You like wolf design?” he asked.

“It’s beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like it. The eyes are golden, and the way they glow, I feel as though the animal is alive.”

The man chuckled. “Ancient design. Our legends speak of the wisdom of the wolf and how it protects those it loves, much like a mother protects her children.” He paused. “My people have many legends,” he said.

“In that case, I guess you’re familiar with the legend of the white buffalo?”

“I am. The white buffalo always appears unexpectedly and brings about a change, or perhaps I should say, a challenge to the one who sees it.”

For some reason, Lillian felt a kinship with the gentleman and admitted, “I understand unexpectedly quite well.” Usually discreet about her personal life when talking to strangers, Lillian surprised herself. “A white poodle came into my life in much the same way. Since I adopted him, he and I have faced one challenge after another.”

“He proved himself to be a valuable friend, did he not?” the vendor asked, his voice barely above a whisper.

“Oh yes, he helped me find the person who murdered one of my friends.”

Silence.

Feeling awkward at her confession, Lillian turned her gaze back to the sparkling silver items on his table.

“Just like the white buffalo helped bring about justice for my people.”

Not wanting to continue talking about justice and murder, Lillian picked up a pair of earrings shaped like a feather with one, small dollop of turquoise. She looked at the man. His eyes matched the gleam of those stitched onto the wolf’s face. She squelched the quiver of fear that tiptoed up her spine.

“These are exquisite,” Lillian said, holding them up. “Navajo?”

The man nodded. Like a chameleon, his eyes had switched to the color of cocoa. “It’s the best. From the Villa Grove Mine.”

Lillian liked knowing the historical facts about the turquoise pieces she owned, so she asked, “Tell me about the Villa Grove Mine’s gemstones. Are they rare?”

“Ah, I see you are a lady with a curiosity, like the mysterious gray fox.”

Lillian laughed. “My husband calls me Miss Curiosity sometimes because I do love a good mystery.”

The gentleman smiled, nodded, and continued. “Ancient natives discovered the minerals and gems. They mined the turquoise long before the Europeans discovered America. The turquoise you’re admiring came from Villa Grove, one of the better mines in the country.

“I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of that mine. Is it in New Mexico?”

“No, ma’am. Saguache, Colorado. It’s recently been opened after being closed for twenty-five years. It offers a tour of its facility on the weekends.”

“I’m not familiar with Colorado. Exactly where is Saguache?”

“It’s about a two-hour drive northeast from your campground in Pagosa Springs. You’ll be able to admire the Rio Grande National Forest on your way.”

“How did you know my husband and I planned to make Pagosa Springs our next stop?”

Lillian whipped around to look at the crowd. As a retired school administrator, she recognized sounds, especially those that signaled trouble. The quiet chatter of shoppers around the Plaza had changed.

Silence.

Then screams,

Loud screams from more than one person.

She noticed that tourists who had previously wandered aimlessly around the Plaza had turned their heads, listening.

The crescendo of the high-pitched shrill of sirens grew louder as two police cars and an ambulance roared past her.

What in the world?

She turned back to tell the elderly Native-American gentleman that she would bring her husband back to help her make a decision on which piece of jewelry to buy.

She froze.

It can’t be.

She looked up and down the side street and back down the sidewalk. All the vendors were in their places.

All except one.

The Navajo gentleman with the beautiful turquoise.

Surely, I didn’t dream about a table covered with turquoise jewelry.

Gone. All of it was gone. Only a rectangular box rested on the otherwise vacant table. Puzzled, Lillian picked it up and read the card attached to its top.

To Miss Curiosity.

Please click HERE to find Tarot Terrors on Amazon.

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