Raven’s Wordzzle Challenge: Week 58
Wordzzles are little Word Puzzles gifted to us weekly by Raven at Views From Raven’s Nest. Raven presents these puzzles in the form of lists, which we must unravel and expand into a story. This week I supplied the words for Raven’s Wordzzle. Every word was common and ordinary, so why was it so danged hard to fashion my story around them?!
I present to you another installment of my ongoing series, and an apology, because in order to post this on Saturday (which it still will be here in Hawaii for another few minutes) I have to stop short of using all the words, so a part two (of part 4) will be coming — though probably not tomorrow because we have an Easter party to attend, and probably not Monday because I have Handbell Choir practice, but definitely before Thursday when I have more words! Copper better solve this mystery, it’s wearing me out!
The first parts of this story can be found here: The Daze of Wine & Murder
Copper eyed the tenebrous chartreuse liquid and his stomach flipped like an acrobat. “No thanks, I’ll pass,” he drawled.
Credence nodded his head. “Wise choice. This is what we pumped out of Janice Wheeler’s stomach. Apparently she had chicken noodle soup and a green salad for dinner, and a Prozac for dessert. Then a couple of hours later, she ingested yet another Prozac, followed shortly thereafter by a lethal dose of benzodiazepine.”
“Benzodiazepine?” Copper queried. “The victims of the Reisling and Merlot County murders died of benzodiazepine overdoses.”
Credence nodded. “The M.O. is the same all the way down to the brand of of wine.”
“Except Janice Wheeler. She was roughed up. She ingested two poisons. And she’s still alive.” Copper ticked the points off on his fingers. “Why?”
Credence turned to his computer and tapped the keyboard, bringing the screen to life. “Prozac is a serotonin inhibitor. An overdose of Prozac causes abnormal brain activity.” The computer screen showed an electroencephalogram. “The thought process is severely inhibited. Speech and motor skills are also adversely effected.” Credence pointed his finger at different parts of the image on the screen as he spoke. “Best case scenario, the victim of an SSRI over dose suffers some mental confusion, lack of coordination and trembling. Worst case scenario — coma, convulsions and death.”
“So Janice Wheeler only suffered a mild case of Prozac overdose.” Copper surmised. “But what of the benzodiazepine? You said she was given a lethal dose?”
Credence grinned at Copper and said, “Janice Wheeler is incredibly lucky. The primary treatment for an SSRI overdose is the administration of benzodiazepine.”
Copper demanded incredulously, “Are you telling me she was poisoned and given the antidote at the same time?”
“Yep,” Credence nodded. “The dosage on both was a little sloppy and the wine complicated things, but I just spoke to her medical doctor and he anticipates she’ll pull through with no lasting ill effects.
“Could she have planned this?” Credence asked. “What if she’s the murderer? Could this be a red herring she concocted to keep herself from suspicion?”
“Damn risky,” Credence answered. “But,” he shook his head and shrugged, “that theory might explain the bottle mystery.” He waved his hand and motioned for Copper to follow him a bit further into the lab. Copper glanced over his shoulder at the door before following reluctantly.
Credence noted Copper’s hesitance and laughed. “How is it that a big time murder investigator can still be squeamish about dead bodies?”
“They haunt me,” Copper said. “Every night when I try to sleep, every body from every unsolved murder parades behind my eyes and I usually see them in whatever form was the goriest.”
Credence clapped Copper on the back in sympathy and said, “We’re not headed for autopsy this time. Just right over here.” Credence pointed at a station just a few feet away that was littered with fingerprinting lifting paraphernalia and manned by a pony-tailed tech in a pink lab coat. “Copper, this is Janelle Poplin. Janelle –,” The tech was surrounded by wine bottles and was busy brushing one with titanium dioxide while singing a horribly off-key rendition of the Coasters’ 1959 hit, Poison Ivy and didn’t respond.
Credence raised his hand and tugged the iPod wire trailing across her shoulder, popping the ear-bud from her ear. “Hey!” The girl complained, then snapped to attention when she recognized Credence and saw Copper beside him.
“Oh, sorry,” she said and smiled nervously. “I plug into this because I can’t stand listening to the ceiling fan. It buzzes like a bumble bee.”
Copper thought her coworkers might find the ceiling fan less bothersome than her singing,
“Janelle, this is Vin Copper from homicide. Tell him what you’ve found.” Credence ordered.
“Uhm, okay, uh –” the girl stammered. “Where do I begin?”
Credence waved his hand at the array of bottles and glasses on her workbench and prompted, “How does what you found here differ from the other two Bacchant murder scene evidence?”
The girl grinned, “Oh, hey. That’s easy,” she said happily. “At the first two crime scenes there were 18 bottles of poisoned wine. All of that wine was of the same vintage and purchased in bulk directly from Lightening Bird Vineyard. It was a so-so wine and had a moderate price tag. The wine was ordered over the phone and shipped to two different addresses, both empty homes.”
Copper nodded. He knew this. He’d visited both the homes. which were up for sale and signed on to the multiple listing service. Literally hundreds of people had access to the homes on a daily basis. Two officers were following that trail.
“The Wheeler woman is a Realtor,” Credence said.
Again Copper nodded. “That piece of news was relayed to my team last month,” he said, then motioned at Janelle, “Go on.”
“Okay,” she said. “From this crime scene we have the 18 bottles of Lightingbird Wine, and 12 bottles of this lovely Cabernet Sauvignon from Black Cat Cellars, and one bottle of Vidussi Schioppettino 2004. The Lightening Bird wine was laced with a generic benzodiazepine. The Cabernet Sauvignon was laced with prescription Xanax — tied to a theft from Mercy Hospital –”
“Still under investigation,” Copper muttered. He pulled out a leather bound pocket notebook and scribbled several rapid notes. “More,” he ordered.
Janelle complied. “And this one bottle of wine,” she pointed at the bottle in question, ” is a Vidussi Schioppettino 2004. Not your average grocery store wine. It was laced with Prozac.”
Copper repeated, “Three wines, two poisons –”
“Actually”, Janelle interrupted. “There were dozens of wines. Everything from homemade dandelion to hundred dollar bottles of champagne. That was pretty much standard in all three cases. Everybody brought their favorites, but the rituals were observed with the common — poisoned — wines.”
“So these victims had twice as much poison in them than the previous victims?” Copper asked.
“That hasn’t been verified yet,” Credence said. “When we’re through here, I’ll check with autopsy –”
“Right,” Copper said. He turned to Janelle, “Anything else?”
“Fingerprints,” she said. “In the first two crime scenes the only fingerprints found were those of the victims, and not one person left their prints on more than two or three bottles. Here Janice Wheeler’s fingerprints are on every bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.”
“Perhaps she is a copy cat killer,” Copper mused. He jotted a few more notes on his pad.
“And we have one set of fingerprints currently unaccounted for.” Janelle tapped the side of the Vidussi Schioppettino bottle with her pencil. “The only set of fingerprints that haven’t been tied to a victim.”
Copper fastened his gaze on Janelle. “Have we matched them?” he demanded. Janelle looked at Credence. Credence shook his head. “Manny is running them now. So far he’s not in our local or state data base.”
“He?” Copper demanded.
“Well, we can’t be certain, but judging from the size and shape, the hand belongs to a male of average stature.” Janelle supplied. “I found the same fingerprints on the Bacchante’s alabaster goblet, which is how we think she got her second dose of Prozac.”
Copper said, “Okay, let’s see if I follow. Janice Wheeler had two Prozacs, a Xanax, and a dose of generic benzodiazepine –”
“No,” Credence corrected. “Janice Wheeler had no Xanax in her system.”
“Then she didn’t drink the ritual wine,” Copper mused, “And if she didn’t lead the ritual, then there had to be another Bacchante present. Was she among the dead?”
“Janice Wheeler was the only tattooed Bacchante at the festival,” Credence answered. “If there was another ordained Bacchante priestess there, she left or her body was removed before we arrived.”
“So,” Copper tapped his pen against the tablet in his hand, “There’s a good chance we’re looking for two people, and we don’t know if they’re acting together or separately. That makes things easier, now doesn’t it?”