A PROFESSIONAL DIVER IS FOUND DEAD.
DISCOVERING THE TRUTH MEANS ENDANGERING HER OWN LIFE.
Dr. Julia Fairchild’s plans for a relaxing stress-free vacation on the island of St. Maarten turn dangerous when she challenges the ruling that the death was accidental.
Will she discover the truth without ending up dead herself?
BLIND FISH DON’T TALK, the first novel in the Julia Fairchild series by cozy mystery author PJ Peterson.
Blind Fish Don’t Talk by PJ Peterson SERIES Julia Fairchild | GENRE Adult Cozy Mystery PUBLISHER Independent | PUBLICATION DATE October 26, 2018
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November 4-7, 2022
BLIND FISH DON’T TALK
A Julia Fairchild Novel
© 2018 PJ Peterson
Julia was a bit apprehensive as she stepped outside the baggage claim area to the line of cabs. All the men were friendly, and helpful, but she was traveling alone and was a bit nervous for her safety. Five minutes earlier she had been worried that one of her suitcases had missed the flight. She thought of every possible mishap before she finally spotted it, sitting all by itself on the floor next to the tired carousel.
Relieved, she moved outside to the curb and scanned the area looking for a blonde woman. There was supposed to have been a friend of Tony’s at the airport to meet her, but no one identified herself and no one seemed to be left over when all the people on the flight were claimed, so Julia set out for the next task, which is what caused her to have to hail a cab.
Her driver was explaining the island people and asking her questions about where she was from, and if she was alone. Everyone seemed surprised that she traveled alone. How long had it been since she started traveling solo? Seven years? It was easy now, but it had only come with experience–some good, some bad. She hoped this would be one of those good ones.
Finally, the driver stopped in front of a tired old building. He announced that this was the Caribbean Hotel.
She didn’t see any hotel signs and asked the driver, “Where?” He pointed in the direction of some stairs. This certainly did not look like the “luxury hotel in downtown Phillipsburg” advertised in the brochures. What next?
Once she found her way up the stairs, she discovered that there was no one at the desk. Two other people (a couple) were waiting in the small dark lobby. There was evidence of construction going on with sawhorses, electric saws, and hammers and nail scattered about. Someone had located the owner of the disco downstairs. He related that the hotel manager was out for the night on the French side of the island. It was Friday night, after all. Julia had a momentary feeling of panic, but the other couple seemed pretty calm, so she decided not to worry. She was tired, however, and longed for a bed, as it was now well after midnight.
Finally, a young black girl in curlers came padding downstairs from an upper floor. She jumped over the registration desk and seemed to know what she was doing. Julia paid for the room and was directed down the hall. All she cared about was a bed, but she wasn’t really prepared for what she saw upon opening the door. The room was all of six feet square with one big sagging bed, one small bathroom, and a door without a lock. Julia’s dream of a wonderful Caribbean vacation was quickly dissolving. She told herself that everything would work out in the morning, crawled into the bed, and promptly fell asleep.
The next morning she was startled from deep sleep when she heard the door being opened. The young man, who turned out to be the proprietor, apologized as Julia stared at him. Her first morning on her trip and she couldn’t even sleep in–what a welcome to the Caribbean!
After quickly showering and dressing, she hopped outside and marveled at the hundreds (at least it seemed like hundreds) of shops along the main street. Traffic went one way down the narrow cobblestone lane. The shops were crowded next to each other and even behind one another in some alleys. Everyone was trying to sell cameras, watches, stereos, radios, linens, gold jewelry, t-shirts, and souvenirs.
Then she saw the turquoise water with a cruise ship at anchor in the bay and Julia felt all her apprehension slip away. It would be wonderful, surely, after all.
Julia Fairchild, M.D., lived and worked in a small town in Washington state. She had her own medical clinic and had worked hard all her life to be able to afford nice things, to travel, and hoped, eventually, to have a big, beautiful house with a handsome husband, three children, and maybe a maid. She smiled as she thought about that.
An earlier marriage hadn’t worked out, although she remained optimistic that someday in the future she would meet “the one,” Realistically, the opportunities for meeting eligible men in her own community were practically non-existent for young professionals. For now, Julia was here to have fun and to take advantage of an earlier chance meeting with Tony.
Something had attracted her to him at the hotel in Monterey, California, where she had been attending a conference. Maybe it was the nice body with quality clothes and a friendly posture. Maybe it was the brown wavy hair and gorgeous blue eyes. Or maybe it had been the way he smiled at her when he caught her staring at him. He appeared to be in his early thirty’s with a nice tan complementing the eyes.
“Can I help you, Miss?” He was talking to her!
“Oh, I’m sorry. I was daydreaming and didn’t realize you were standing there. I was just trying to figure out this silly schedule.”
“What kind of a schedule?”
“It’s a schedule of my meetings.”
“Oh. So, you’re here on business also.”
“Yes, I’m here for a seminar. You know, one of those continuing-education sessions.”
“Well, welcome to Monterey. If you need any information, I’ll be glad to help. My name is Tony Romero. I have business that brings me here frequently and know the area quite well.” He glanced over Julia’s shoulder and said, “Oh, there’s my associate now. I have an appointment in a few minutes, but perhaps we could meet for a drink later?”
Julia was pinching herself. This couldn’t be real. “I’d love to.” Who wouldn’t?
“Alright. Let’s make it 7 o’clock at the bar upstairs. And your name?”
“Julia. Julia Fairchild.”
“Julia. Lovely. Seven o’clock then. Ciao.” He smiled and waved as he walked off with the new arrival.
That had been three months ago. Life hadn’t been the same since. Tony seemed to be made of money. She had flown to Chicago, San Francisco, and Dallas to meet him. He would call and ask if she were free, arrange for her tickets, and wine and dine her wherever they happened to be. She had been disappointed that he couldn’t meet her in St. Maarten. It had been planned to be a holiday trip for the two of them, but he had been unable to get away at the last minute. He had insisted, however, that she go anyway to deliver some papers on his behalf and had given her names of some friends of his for company while she was there.
So here she was. Her first night hadn’t been that wonderful, but she was expected at one of the island’s nicest hotels for the next 10 days. And the sun was shining. She wouldn’t even think about anything but working on a suntan for the next few days, once she delivered Tony’s manila envelope.
Later that morning, she collected her belongings and took a taxi to the Mullet Bay Hotel.
“Excuse me, sir,” she said at the hotel registration desk.
“Yes, Mademoiselle,” replied a young man.
“I’d like to register for my room. I have a reservation in the name of Julia Fairchild.”
He ascertained that everything was in order and gave here the room key, with arrangements made to bring her luggage up later.
Julia was delighted with the room. She had a wonderful view of the Caribbean to the west. Everything was done in very good taste in soft blue and beige colors. There were thick towels in the bathroom and a big fluffy robe as well.
Her first order of business was to contact Tony’s friend, Linda. She found the number, courtesy of Tony, and dialed. No answer. She was a little perturbed because Linda was supposed to have met her at the airport, and now wasn’t available at home either. Julia really wanted to get the papers to her as soon as possible to fulfill her obligation.
Julia decided to rent a car and deliver the envelope personally. Tony had given her Linda’s work address as well as home address in case Julia might need them. Once that was out of the way, she could enjoy the rest of the week.
The map of the island was not nearly as exact as a typical United States map so Julia had a little difficulty finding the address. She parked, and then knocked on the door of the small green house. There was mail addressed to Linda Townsend in the box on the porch, but no answer to her knocking, so Julia left a note with the mail and went to the work address. Linda worked at a dive shop, and chances were that she could still be at work being that it was a Saturday, which is typically a busy day for diving.
Fifteen minutes later, she pulled up in front of Underwater Sports. She entered the small shop, which seemed even smaller because of all the clutter. Windsurf boards, scuba tanks, BC (buoyancy compensator) vests, masks, fins, snorkels, and boxes were piled all over. Two customers were checking on some tanks, and another gentleman was examining an underwater camera set-up. Julia planned to do some diving while here, so she decided to kill two birds with one visit as long as she was here anyway. She walked over to a clerk who didn’t appear to be busy with customers.
“Is Linda Townsend working here today?” she asked the young blond male at the main register.
“She’s supposed to be here today, but we haven’t seen her. It’s funny, too, because she had a lesson this morning and she never misses a lesson, so someone else had to do it instead.”
“You mean she just didn’t show up? Didn’t she call or anything?”
“Well, our landline has been out of order since yesterday, so it’s possible she got tied up at St. Barthelemy yesterday and couldn’t get word to us. Could I help you?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I should explain. Linda and I have a mutual friend and he asked me to deliver a package to her. And now I’m trying to locate her.”
“Did you try her house?”
“I was there a little while ago. There was no one home. I saw mail in her box, but I couldn’t tell if it was yesterday’s or today’s.”
“We don’t get mail delivered on Saturday, so it must be Friday’s mail. She probably just got tied up at St. Bart’s with the dive job she was doing yesterday. Do you want to leave that package here for her? I’ll gladly take care of it.” He reached out over the counter.
“Thanks, but I’d rather take care of it personally. You can give her a message, though, to contact me at my hotel. If you’ve got a piece of paper, I’ll leave my name and a number,” Julia wrote a short note and handed it to him. “By the way, I’m going to be doing some diving while I’m here. How hard is it to arrange for a private guide?”
“We have a lot of them. I just need a day’s notice to line you up. When did you want to dive?”
“Probably not until Tuesday at the earliest. I hope to do some sailing on Monday.”
“Fine. Just check with us on Monday and we can take care of details then.”
“Super! Thanks a lot.”
“You’re welcome, uh, Julia,” he said, as he glanced at the message she’d left. “My name is Scott. I hope you enjoy your stay on the Friendly Island.”
“Thanks, I’m sure I will.” Especially with handsome men like him around, she thought to herself.
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P.J. PETERSON‘s first dream at the age of seven was to grow up to be a doctor and “help” people. After 37 years of practicing internal medicine, she published a mystery that had lain dormant on a floppy disc for almost 40 years. She discovered the thrill of pressing that “publish” button and found a whole new world.
Writing mysteries is her way of using her diagnostic skills in a different way–burying puzzles to solve inside a story with snippets of real life. And it keeps her out of trouble, more or less.
PJ’s passions, when she’s not writing, are health care and education. She donates time to the local free medical clinic and shares a portion of her royalties with St. Rose Catholic School and Seton High College Prep, both of which are close to her heart.