The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 42

And more coming together.

The Alibi – Chapter 42

Morelli and Vox drove back to the orchard to the murmur of the AC and the twinkle of a clear nightful of stars. Vox remained quiet the entire drive and Morelli, keeping his eyes on the road, grew increasingly uncomfortable with the silence. Gio Fortuna aka John Chance went quiet and you never knew if he was sitting beside you, a thousand miles away, listening to a conversation only he could hear, seeing how things would play out, and Morelli, wanting to coax Vox out of his silence, offered the obvious. “Long day, huh?”

Vox swallowed hard a few times and wiped a tear from his cheek.

Morelli spoke just above the whisper of the AC. “Tissues in the glove box.”

Vox nodded at an approaching exit. “Turn. Here.”

Morelli looked at the exit. “Is this a different way to your orchard?”

“Okay if we. Go to. The horse. Rescue?”

“You know how to get there?”

Vox grunted and ran his hand over the top of the dashboard. “Clean. Machine.”

Morelli quietly sang, “Penny Lane is in my ears and in my –

Vox turned to him. “Penny Lane?”

“Oh, come on, you don’t know Penny Lane by the Beatles? Magical Mystery Tour? Really?”

“We need to find. Penny Lane. How do we find. Penny Lane?”

“The Penny Lane the Beatles sang about? It’s in Liverpool, England. What’s – ”

“Penny Lane is a person?”

Morelli slowed at the bottom of the ramp. He had his answer. Despite Vox’s protestations, he was Gio’s student. “Which way? And who you talking to now?”

Vox pointed. “Penny Lane is a person. Who’s important. How?”

“You talking to the dead guy again. I get all skeevy when you do that, you know? And what’s at the horse place we need? Or you need?”

Vox indicated another turn. “Horses don’t hit me. When I tell them. Things they need to. Know.”

Morelli sighed. “Yeah, that could’ve gone better. You really pissed her off. I didn’t know you spoke Italian.”

“I spoke. Italian?”

Morelli slowed for an approaching stop sign. “Keep this up and I’ll believe you when you say you don’t know what you’re doing. Do you know what you said?”

“Not a. Clue. Hey!” Vox enunciated each syllable. “More RELL ee. You must speak. Italian. What did I. Say?”

“Hey I’m second generation Italian-American. I can do family names and cussing. Beyond that it’s a crapshoot. Something about her daughter, her daughter’s marriage, and her granddaughter. That’s all I could make out. I’m good with family nouns and cussing. not with verbs, adverbs, adjectives. I can ask about bathrooms. That’s about it.”

Two pickups towing horsetrailers passed them going the opposite direction. “We close?”

They rounded a curve and Vox pointed.

“Yeah, guess we are.” Morelli pulled into a parking space and turned off the ignition. “Are we here just to say hi to the horses or is something else going on?”

Vox exited the car without acknowledgement of any kind and entered the main barn. Horses in the field nickered and pranced to the fence. Those in the paddock stretched their necks over the rail so Vox to touch them as he passed. Bright flood lights threw long angular shadows of Vox and the horses.

Morelli leaned back against his Impala and watched the shadows move and merge like alien dancers on some sacred landscape. He whispered, “They’re greeting a freind.” He ran a hand through his thick hair. “Probably say hi to friends and something else.”

He pushed off and followed as Vox entered the barn and remained outside, a witness to the mystery, not a disciple.

Horses stuck their heads out of their stalls and nickered as Vox approached. He stopped roughly mid-barn, arms outstretched, hands open and forward. Some horses shook their heads, others whinnied, some stomped their hooves, one or two snorted. They nickered, they nodded. Some lifted their tails and shit. One or two peed. Quaterhorses, Morgans, Thoroughbreds. Breeds Morelli couldn’t identify except from beer commercials. All wounded, scarred. One missing an eye. One hopping on three legs. Morelli shuddered.

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