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TAPESTRY OF TEARS
A Stained Glass Mystery Book 2
BY MICHELE DRIER
History had always been a strong magnet for Rosalind Duke.
She took up the medieval craft of making stained glass and was building a solid international reputation, taking on larger and larger commissions. Her idyllic life with her husband, Winston Duke, an art historian at UCLA, was cut short when he was gunned down in a drive-by shooting.
After moving to a small town on the Oregon coast, she’s offered a commission to translate the medieval embroidery, The Bayeux Tapestry, into stained glass for a museum at a small Wisconsin university. Roz jumps at the chance. Not only to try to transfer the Tapestry into a new medium, but to spend time in Southern England and Northern France, tracing the path taken by the invading Normans under William the Conqueror.
But the 21st century drags her back when she finds a body crumpled against a wall in an ancient stone church in the small town of Lympne, on the southern coast of England. Has she walked into a contemporary murder?
She ducked her head and covered her ears. Crushing noise from the waves of horses and men storming up from the beach assaulted her where she hid behind a scrubby dune. She’d counted at least thirty ships pulling up on the shore, dislodging cargos of men in armor loaded with weapons, huge battle horses, even a siege engine. Another fleet of ships was being rowed towards land, probably sailing from the coast of France, less than thirty miles away.
The jangle of harnesses, the shouts of men, the orders from the ships’ captains, deafened her. How could anyone know what to do, where to go, in all the confusion? The horses, massive destriers newly shod with war shoes, keened in high squeals and slashed the sand, eager to join battle.
The lead host moved inward from the sand to the low-lying beach grass and began to set up camp, readying it for the rest of the army still in ships in the Channel.
This was going to be the end of her life as she knew it, these hundreds of fighting men. These warriors served a different lord and would take the land as they chose.
Roz opened her eyes and the cacophony of sound died away. Where was she?
Sheep. Faint, slow-moving blobs of lighter gray, occasionally obscured by tilting gravestones, drifted through the mist. Here on the south Kentish coast, the fog came in like fingers, sliding up from the Channel, hiding then revealing objects and movement.
She was used to fog now. When she moved from Los Angeles to the Oregon coast, she’d found the gray mist oppressing, folding over her and trapping her fears. It echoed the fuzziness in her mind, making it not-clear and closing it in.
In LA, on a clear winter afternoon, she saw for miles, awed at the massive snow-capped mountains ringing the flat valleys. She and Winston would drive up into the Angelus National Forest to watch how the flatlands, filled with millions of people, smoothed out to the blue Pacific. Or went to the desert, took the tramway up the San Jacinto Mountains and absorbed miles of sand and stones.
Now, wintering in Oregon’s mist and fog cut down the expanse and openness in her mind and built up coziness, a need for smaller vistas and closer ties, introspection.
England was different. Here the fog was a breathing thing, a force that ebbed and flowed and carried centuries of history, shifted battle outcomes, determined victors.
Enough. Roz shook her head to rid it of a thousand years of ghosts. I’m here for my future, she thought.
She picked her way carefully through the damp, tall grass, saying a silent thanks that sheep didn’t poop large patties like the cows in the pastures at home. A big patch of fog glided away, and she nearly tripped over a gravestone tipped almost flat. She squatted down and tried to read the mossy inscription, rubbing the lichen-covered stone with a woolen glove.
Almost worn away, but she thought she could read the name Henry Claye and a date of 1546. Birth or death, she couldn’t tell.
This is part of what you came for, wanting to be surrounded by hundreds of years of human history, wanting to understand and discover why such beauty of glass and stone sprang up, she told herself.
Roz stretched up and headed for the door of the church that sheltered the graveyard, taking in the shapes and arches added to the building over the centuries.
This began as a Saxon church about 640, remade in the Norman style just after the conquest. As this area of Kent became part of the medieval Cinque Ports, the hugely important center of trade with the Continent, the church upgraded.
A Gothic spire, added around 1350, testified to its long life. She wasn’t so interested in the outside as the inside, wanting to see if the stained glass changed as much over the last millennium as the façade.
The heavy wooden door creaked as she pushed it, knowing it warped during its long life in this damp climate. Inside, it was as dank as the graveyard, cold and clammy. How long had it been since there was a congregation or any warmth in here?
Fine hairs on the back of Roz’ neck rose as she looked up at the windows. A few small stained glass ones that must have been installed in a Gothic redo because the windows fitted into the pointed arches. Two rectangular ones at the back of the nave remembered local men who died in the two world wars and one window space was filled with frosted glass. A window lost during a World War II bomb and never restored?
Interesting, but unremarkable. Small, out-of-the-way churches dotted this part of Kent, most of them too poor or too plain to be looted during Henry VIII’s dissolution of church properties.
She shivered. Her walk through the grass had soaked dew into the bottom of her jeans’ legs and the wet denim clung to her, adding to her chill.
I came here to check this church out; I need to make it worth my while; she thought and flicked on her flashlight, moving toward one of what she assumed might be a Gothic window. It looked like a parable of the shepherd with his flock, typical of a window for a population who raised sheep but couldn’t read.
This one seemed odd, though. She skirted a row of chairs set out for a non-existent congregation, gazed up and peered closely. There was a smear on the bottom of the window. Looking more closely, Roz saw the smear continued down the gray stone of the wall. She flashed the light lower and saw the smear ended on the floor. At a pool of blood puddled out from a body. A man’s body.
Dead? She didn’t even want to know, spun around, ran back to the grazing sheep and dialed 999.
I was born in Santa Cruz and am a fifth generation Californian. During my career in journalism—as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers, including the San Jose Mercury-News—I won awards for producing investigative series. I’m the past president of Capitol Crimes, the Sacramento chapter of Sisters in Crime; Guppies, the on-line chapter of SinC, and co-chaired Bouchercon 2020 the world’s oldest and largest convention for mystery writers and fans.
My Amy Hobbes Newspaper Mysteries are Edited for Death, (called “Riveting and much recommended” by the Midwest Book Review), Labeled for Death and Delta for Death and a stand-alone, Ashes of Memories.
My paranormal romance series, SNAP: The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, was named the best paranormal vampire series of 2014 by PRG. The series is SNAP: The World Unfolds, SNAP: New Talent, Plague: A Love Story, Danube: A Tale of Murder, SNAP: Love for Blood, SNAP: Happily Ever After?, SNAP: White Nights, SNAP: All That Jazz, SNAP: I, Vampire and SNAP: Red Bear Rising.
The first book in the Stained Glass Mysteries, Stain on the Soul, was published in 2019 and the second one, Tapestry of Tears, in 2020.
Links to Michele’s website, blog, books, etc.: