Chapter Forty Three

So far, coffee with EJ reminded me of an awful blind date. I didn’t know her, she talked too much about herself and her accomplishments, and she expressed no interest in hearing anything I had to say. I couldn’t help looking at her facial features. My mother would have said “I hope she has a nice personality” meaning she’s not going to get anywhere on her looks. Both of my parents were prolific with little sayings like that; some funny, some truthful, and some unkind. They often played in my head alongside my own thoughts like crossed radio signals. Normally I find a gift in all of God’s creatures but with this person, it was a stretch to see anything pleasing once she opened her mouth and began to talk.

Her thin lips, hollow cheeks, and boney chest would indicate that she was slim but she was not. She was the epitome of the female pear shape with hips that must have been three times as wide as her waist. Her mismatched eyes caused me to soften on her a bit as I wondered how she was treated as a youngster. Being a weird child myself, I should have felt a strong kinship. Instead, I thought it was lucky that she was smart and educated because her social skills were completely lacking.

I came back from scrutinizing EJ to find her ranting about her college experience. It was one of those “too much information” conversations and, to top things off, she was lying to me about her academic and social successes in college. I looked at the wall clock and we were only fifteen minutes into our planned hour. I thought of all the stimulating and interesting conversations I had with a variety of female friends at Mill Bay Espresso and wished this was one of those moments. I wondered why Ginger had not warned me about this women’s narcissistic personality.

“Well, enough about me. I understand you have some questions” she said. I think she caught my glazed over expression and eyes darting to the wall clock.

In the briefest terms possible, I explained my nightmare and my concern that it could come to fruition. I expected this person would reassure me that the town was safe and then would ask me a few questions about the house and the pets I described in my dream. Instead, she told me she would do some further research and get back with me. I wasn’t sure if she was ultra professional or just looking for an excuse to meet again. 

“So, are you dating anybody?” 

Her directness stunned me but I was happy she finally included me in the conversation. I replied “lately I’ve spent a little time with an old friend. Not sure where it is leading exactly. I’m not even sure I could deal with a fisherman’s schedule to tell you the truth.” I shocked myself with that disclosure.

“Oh, I love dating fishermen because it allows you so much freedom, if you know what I mean” she said with a wink.

“No, I am not sure what you mean.”

“Of course you do, sweetie. You are too old to be that naïve.” After that comment I began looking for a plausible reason to cut this meeting short by forty two minutes. “When the cats away……….” I cut her off.

            “Not me. I only date one person at a time. It is too, too, uh I just can’t think of the right word, too much work perhaps, to try to date two people at once.” What I didn’t say was that it also seemed deceitful. I wasn’t going to share that with my gift, dating one person was exhausting and sometimes disappointing enough.

            “Well, you are missing out. Of course we both know there is another advantage to dating a fisherman just back from an opener.” Again, she spoke as though we had so much in common that I would understand.

            “I’m afraid you’ve got me again” I conceded.

            “Oh, come on” she demanded. “You know how they come back with a big wad of money. What half-attractive woman here hasn’t used her assets to get him to spend a little of that dough? A little wining and dining, a gift here or there, but you have to get them right off the boat before they meet with their accountants who will have them save every penny for a bad season.” With that last statement, she tapped on her tourmaline ring. I wasn’t sure which was more shocking – that she would use a fisherman this way or that she considered herself a half-attractive woman.

            “Where did you say you were from?” It was the only thing I could think of to change the subject. Narcissus answered that she was from upstate New York. I should have left the subject changed but I felt the need to defend my fishermen friends.

            “Must be different where you are from because around here, most of the fishermen act as professionals. They live on a percentage of their income, pay expenses with some, and then reinvest into their business and boat as well. Or at least that is my experience.”

            Despite our difference of opinion on this subject, she began sharing names and her experiences with me causing me to squirm in my seat. I don’t know if she knew or cared, but a couple of the men on her list were married, family men.

            “Well, I have to give you that one” I said as she mentioned Hope Wilson’s older brother. “He still lives with his parents so I guess most of his crew share could be disposable income.”

            She winked. “Yes, but he has not been as fun since they found his sister dead. I don’t know what’s with my luck lately but he is the second guy I was cozying up to who had a tragedy and ruined our relationship at the get-go. I was really into that tall, blonde Guy Hanson but it’s like he has gone into hiding since his Aunt disappeared. I am hoping to lend him a shoulder to cry on tonight after the memorial.”

            Her statement was such a punch to the stomach that I almost doubled over. Could she possibly be the reason Guy was taking things so slow with me? I felt like I was going to scream or vomit so I thought it best to leave. It’s like my brain went on auto pilot and in conjunction with my mouth, gave me the perfect out. “That just reminded me. I have to go. I have to help with the memorial. Oh my, I forgot all about it. I am late” I said as I threw down an ample tip and left this vile woman stunned and with her mouth gapping open.

            “I’m so stupid, so stupid, so stupid!” I screamed as I pounded the steering wheel on the way home. Tears streamed down my eyes as I realized just how much affection I felt for Guy. It was more than attraction; it had been a budding romance, at least for me.

            When the tears dried up enough to talk without sniffing, I opened my cell phone and dialed Ginger. I needed to know more about this woman. The ring was very strange; it was more like a siren. I looked in the rearview mirror to see if my mascara had run from the tears and saw a car with flashing lights behind me. I was being pulled over by the police.

            “Great” I said out loud and wondered if this day could possibly get any worse. I had no idea if I was speeding because I was thinking of my own personal situation and not the speed limits. I wondered if that cell phone ban had passed and I was being pulled over for dialing behind the wheel. I made a note to pay more attention to the news.

            I grabbed the registration from the glove box, pulled out my driver’s license, and turned off the Explorer just in time to see Herbie Carmichael bend down into my window.

            “Brinkley, how are you?” he asked.

            “Fine. Have I done something wrong?”

            “Not really although I have been behind you for a couple minutes and your speed has been erratic. I pulled you over because I need to talk to you. I didn’t want to follow you all the way home.”

            “Talk to me? What about?” I inquired.

            “Well, this is going to sound awfully strange” he warned “so I wanted to talk to you in person to make sure you were cool with the idea. How about you follow me to the diner?”

            “OK, but I have to warn you, I had a terrible night’s sleep and my day has been equally awful so far. I don’t believe that I am fit company.”

            “No problem. When you hear what I have to say, your mind will be a million miles away from whatever is bothering you today.” He emphasized the million miles with a smirk.

Chapter Forty Two


I was stuck somewhere between the conscious and unconscious world. Trying to wake yet I was gripped by sleep. I couldn’t open my eyes and I heard nothing – complete silence. I wondered what would cause me to hear nothing. Was I deaf? Was I buried in mud where all worldly sounds were muffled? If I was buried then how could I breathe? Panic hit as I realized that if I was not breathing, I might be dead. Or, was I buried alive?

I tried unsuccessfully to move. Whatever was happening was keeping me from moving, seeing or hearing. Panic took over and I tried desperately to move and to open my eyes or speak. I could feel my lips part and in my mind, I was screaming but no noise actually escaped my lips. I concentrated on my eyes next – trying to open them, trying to see.

Finally, after much struggle, I could move a little. That movement seemed to liberate my eyes and I could see a sliver of light although the light was painful and causing them not to cooperate with my desire to see. I could hear a grunt from my chest as well. I tried hard to move an arm and felt a sudden jerk when all my strength finally took hold of the uncooperative limb all at once. Once again, I concentrated on my eyes and they flickered open a little more.

The light seemed so bright that I wondered if I was under some type of examination light. The thought scared me and I wanted whoever might be examining me to know that I was alive, or at least I thought I must be alive and this would prove it. I continued with significant effort to move my legs and shield my eyes with my arm as I continued to edge them open. Finally, I opened my eyes and was completely startled by my surroundings.

I was in my bedroom as it was before the mudslide. How could this be? Was heaven a recreation of your favorite spot on earth? I sat up in shock trying to figure out what was happening to me when, in the light of the bed-side lamp, I could clearly see that Eddie & Daisey were sleeping on either side of me. What?

The last thing I remember before the horrible ordeal with the mudslide was being awakened by a text message alert and then getting up to walk the dogs. This was all very confusing to me and I jumped out of bed to investigate. My legs were not completely awoken, frankly neither was my brain, and I hit the floor with a thud. The dogs were on me and licking me in no time.

The realization of my experience began to form but I had to look out the window to be sure. While it was as dark as it gets during an Alaska summer, everything appeared normal. No tilted house, no debris on the deck, and all the houses I could see were untouched. It was a dream: a very bad, vivid dream where I was left alone to die without my dogs. I had experienced a colossal nightmare. I realized the worst of it was just a dream and now I wondered what parts were real. Was there a text message from Guy on my phone or was that part of my dream? Were my memories of the dark dining assault real?

I didn’t want to face the truth right now. I was too shaken by the night terror to add additional emotion to my feelings by checking my cell phone for the message or to try to reconstruct my newly found dark dining memories. Instead, I let the dogs into the backyard and checked the clock to learn that it was four o’clock in the morning. There was no way I was going back to bed but I wasn’t sure if that was because I was wide awake or afraid of another bad dream.

I made coffee and started to pack my bag for Anchorage but the trip now seemed like a bad idea. What if this wasn’t a dream at all but a premonition? Someone, something could be trying to tell me something. It was too early to call Ginger and cancel my trip to Anchorage. I unpacked my freshly packed bags when I realized there was no way that Ginger, as persuasive as she is, was going to talk me into leaving now. And to cement my decision, I also unpacked the dog’s bag that was still packed from my last trip.

I signed onto the internet and for an hour and a half researched both mudslides and premonitions. I kept my eye on the cell phone on my night stand and resisted the urges to check it for a text message. I focused on the probability of my house being swept away during a landslide instead. I started to wonder what was wrong with my life when I chose the morbid fixation of being killed in a landslide over checking to see if the man of my unknown-status relationship did or did not send a text message. Maybe I should go to Anchorage with Ginger. As I pictured myself packing my bag for a second time in two hours, I made the decisions to stay home and to check the phone.

It wasn’t like the phone was going to suddenly move like in a childhood game of keep away but I found myself slowly sneaking up on it anyway. Part of me wanted to know, part wanted to get it over with, and part of me wanted to stick my head in the sand. I held the smooth, cool, plastic devise in my hand. It was amazing that a devise so small held so much information. Not only did it house my entire phone and address book, along with call records & old text messages, but in a sense, it also held my history and my future. The records would tell me if I received a text message from Guy before the night mare or if the text message was part of the nightmare. I held my breath as I opened the devise.

A visible smile grew across my face as I read the simple message, “I miss you.” He did contact me. I must have fallen asleep after reading it. My recollection of getting up to walk the dogs was all part of a horrible dream. I felt elation at the realization but the relief also let my fatigue come forward. I was fighting sleep by staying busy and focusing on the text issue. Now that everything was resolved, my body was insisting on sleep. The ratties agreed with my body so we all went back to bed and slept with no memorable dream this time.

Eddie was the first to awake and would not let me sleep any longer. It was eight o’clock which was an hour past his normal breakfast time. I quickly fed the dogs and then practiced my call to Ginger as I watched them romping in the backyard. When I finally worked up the courage I made the call.

“Morning sunshine.” Ginger is definitely a morning person.

“It’s morning all right” I responded in a groggy voice.

“What’s the matter? You sick?” she asked with little sympathy.

I decided to get it over with by getting straight to the point. “Ginger, I can’t go to Anchorage today.” There, I said it.

There was a slight pause before she asked why, inquired if I was OK, and expressed her disappointment. I suggested that she go ahead and she suggested that I might come a day later.

Eventually I told about my nightmare, my lack of sleep, and the computer research I had done. I explained that I needed to find a new place to live right away. As I was explaining it I realized how crazy I must sound.

Ginger must have been stunned into silence because she normally has an opinion for everything. But, being the good friend and opened-minded person that she is, she suggested that I meet with a local geologist to learn more about the probability of losing my house on the hillside to a slide. Since I don’t know Elizabeth Jane, who was our only USGS employees on the island and who goes by the simple moniker “EJ”, she volunteered to arrange the meeting. I thanked Ginger and talked her into not aborting the trip because of me. I used a convincing argument that it was business and as a partner she should attend to it so she was off to Anchorage. A couple hours later I was off to a coffee date that would leave me in a tail spin.

Chapter Forty One

It wasn’t until I got home and was unpacking the bag of things I took to Ginger’s that I realized I had forgotten all about the squishy envelope of fabric samples. The nice dinner and wine had me so relaxed that I could have gone straight to bed.  But, I was curious to see the fabric samples and to avoid having a fabric designer angry with me over tardiness.

I opened the envelope and pulled out five twelve-inch square of fabric with a hand drawn floral design and four paper copies of each design. The fabrics were a modern twist on traditional design. Three of the prints included an ample amount of negative space, giving them a somewhat modern look. I sized up the collection for how each print might be used. Overall the patterns read home accessories such as linens, pillow, and curtains. Two of the prints would also make nice handbags, aprons, and table runners. My job was to take her five designs and create several distinct color schemes.

When I worked on my first project with the designer years ago, I learned that in the fabric business these color schemes are called colors-ways. Each fabric line typically had four to six patterns and three to four color ways of each pattern. Color choice has a tremendous impact on the success of a fabric collections. Not only does it need to be visibly appealing to the consumer, but picking the right color way can help make the patterns adaptable for multiple uses.  From quilting and clothing, to hand towels and stationary, pattern design is serious business.

Her designs were busy so I decided to create a calming version, a monochromatic color-way, something feminine, and finally a crisp modern version. Hopefully my choices would work for a wide variety of taste and products. I became transfixed on the fabric pattern, color wheel, and colored pencils for several hours. My only thoughts were hue, value, and contrast.

I marveled at the thought that someone paid me well to do something I found so enjoyable. I reminded myself that I did spend time testing colors together and often reworked them again and again. I also had to keep record of the standardized color numbers used for each color-way and consider how much deviation the background fabric could cause. It really was work, but it was pleasant work.

My efforts resulted in one version with light green, a medium green, brown, aqua, charcoal, olive, chartreuse, and rust – using neighbors on the color wheel helped to create the calm palette. I also created a feminine edition in three shades of pink, a muted gold, and a minty green. Next, I chose five shades of blue to create a monochromatic palette and traditional look. My final color-way was a modern take on black and white by adding a limited amount of pale yellow and a color somewhere between salmon and red. I toyed with a hint of green, because three of the patterns were floral prints, but decided that using mostly black with minimal yellow and a red, kept it crisp, clean, and helped declutter the busy pattern.

I was happy with the finished work and scanned the colored sheets before folding them into a new squishy envelope for the trip back to St Petersburg. I e-mailed my work to the designer and saved a copy for my own files. If she liked them I could expect a check in about a week to ten days after she received the samples. If the fabric manufacturer liked her finished designs, I could expect to receive additional compensation based on the amount of fabric sold. This was like the royalties my parents earned; however, on a much smaller scale. My name would never appear on any labels or descriptions – I was a “ghost” colorist leaving all accolades and success for the designer.

It was late, very late. I resisted the urge to go to bed and bathed the dogs and packed for the trip instead. Luckily, I hadn’t unpacked the dog’s bag from the previous trip so that was an easy chore.

I finally snuggled in to bed, and began to let myself drift into sleep all the while thinking about the fun Ginger and I would have in Anchorage, when my phone alerted me of a text message. If I didn’t read the message it would beep all night. If I turned off the phone then I might miss an important call. I had no choice but to check it if I wanted decent sleep. The text was from Guy and it was a simple, “I miss you.” I was confused. I hadn’t spoken to him since the blond-in-the-airport incident and now he sends a text saying that he misses me. I don’t even know if he was back home or in Anchorage.

I got up, put on my slippers and threw a heavy cardigan over my pajamas intending to walk the dogs around the front yard since they were also awake. I could contemplate my response while they relieved themselves. I had no sooner got them into their Puppia harnesses and attached their leashes, when I heard a bang so loud that the house shook.  Most of my books, pictures, and artwork fell to the floor. Boom! There was another one. What the heck was going on?

I grabbed a dog in each arm and started to go outside to see what was happening. I considered that it could be an earthquake and going outside can be dangerous due to falling objects. Suddenly, I heard what appeared to be a loud swishing noise, almost like water running, on one side of the house. The electricity flickered and I began to panic. The ratties were crying and started to fight me to get down. There was no way I was going to let go of them without knowing what was going on. I was headed to the window when images of the dark dining experience hit me. Somehow the fear I was feeling now triggered the fear I felt that night and the memories came flooding back.

Suddenly, while gripped in fear of my realization that John Sinclair had assaulted and threatened me that night, my house made an eerie sound and felt as though it lunged. I tried to open the front door and saw that the jam was no longer square. This event had nothing to do with John Sinclair. This was much bigger than him. Whatever was going on was a force of nature. I kicked and pushed the door until I had it open far enough to get one leg through. I managed to get my torso and the ratties out but the door opening twisted again and closed in on my other leg causing me to fall. I was trapped.

As the house appeared to turn, so did my leg into an unnatural position. I tried to reposition my body to relieve the pain. I used all my energy to hang onto the dogs that were now scratching and clawing to get loose. I tried to scream for help but it seemed that there were too many other noises that easily drowned out my cries. I was shaking and no longer had the strength or position to be able to overpower Daisey and Eddie. They slipped from my arms and I let out a primordial scream as I watched them run away from me toward the busy road below.

I could now hear the sirens of emergency vehicles but I couldn’t see much. I was on the deck but with my face on the ground, my view was obstructed by piles of dirt. It hurt too much to move. I no longer had the energy or pain tolerance to try to dislodge myself. I heard the scream and cries of others but couldn’t see or hear my rat terriers. I began to cry in pain and for the loss of my dogs as I realized what happened – a mudslide.

Another wave of booms occurred, my house screeched, and more debris went rushing by the house. It made it way onto the deck and was trying to cover me. I shook my head and used my arms to keep my face above the mud, rocks and vegetation that was oozing across the deck. I felt the shifting of my house and a loud snap. With that sound, I felt the most excruciating pain in my life. It felt as though my foot had been severed from my leg but I couldn’t see anything. I tried screaming for help again but nothing came out. I felt myself weakening and wondered if it was blood loss.

The rain on my face woke me up. I was cold, wet, and stuck in an awkward position. Not only was my left leg twisted and stuck in the door but the pile of dirt and debris had grown and was pushing my head and shoulders up and away from the door. This caused more pressure on my leg and I had to work to keep mud from covering my face and blocking my breathing.

Where was everyone? I could hear emergency sirens and voices that seemed far away. Perhaps they didn’t know I was trapped up here. I wanted to somehow signal for help but couldn’t. Where were Eddie and Daisey? Had they made it to safety or where they drowned in debris? I cried and sobbed out loud from the grief of loosing my dogs.

In addition to shivering uncontrollably, my teeth had now begun to chatter making it impossible for me to control myself and yell for help. The house screeched again and I worried that if it shifted again, it might be the end for me. I said my prayers and tried to focus on the happy things and loved ones in my life. As the world around me began to fade away I shut my eyes and gave up the fight.

Chapter Forty

            Ginger and I practically ran to the car and once inside I told her everything – how I had seen Libby meeting Alan that morning, that I had seen him in Anchorage with the young women, and that now his wife was in a women’s shelter. I told her about John Sinclair, my coming out to Herbie Carmichael, and the visit to Hope Wilson’s wake. I didn’t realize the weight of the burden of knowledge until I released it to my friend Ginger.

            By the time I finished talking we had been sitting in my driveway for a few minutes. “What are we doing here? I thought we were going to an early dinner?” I asked.

            “Go change your clothes and get the dogs. It is time for a good walk on the beach. I’ll fix us dinner later.” Ginger and I had spent many hours walking and talking on Monoshka Beach. We had solved all our problems there plus a few of our friend’s and family’s. Occasionally we solved the world’s problems but no one was listening. It was a stretch of sand that somehow helped me focus and discuss thoughts that would otherwise have festered in my brain.

            Ginger waited in the car as I rushed around to change my clothes and get the dogs ready for a ride and a walk. By waiting in the car for me, instead of dropping me off to drive on my own, Ginger was insuring that I would hurry. Plus, it would be less convenient for me to have a change of heart and say I wanted to stay home. My friend knows me well. She also did a little telephone business of her own that I wouldn’t know about until dinner time.

            I was just about to leave the house when I realized I had a telephone message. I wavered on playing it or not playing it before deciding it might hamper my ability to think clearly tonight if that waiting call was in the back of my mind. I pushed the play button with some hesitance and heard the voice of a fabric designer, a college friend who now lives in Florida, who contracted me to help her with color ways for her new fabric line. She is a pen and ink artist who claims to be color blind. Her designs are so detailed that I wondered if colorizing them properly was just too much work and outside her comfort zone of black and white.

With all the excitement of the last week I had ignored the project waiting on me in one of those squishy envelopes on my desk. Usually I jump right on these projects because I get so little work where I use my art degree training. I grabbed the envelope and my color wheel and brought them along to Ginger’s house.

            The ratties were enjoying their off-leash walk down the long and secluded beach. Daisey ran toward a large Black Oystercatcher who was foraging an outcropping of slate rocks on the beach. When he flew off she returned to chasing the Turnstones working the marshy area behind us. Luckily, her prey drive was low for a terrier so she didn’t bark or try to catch the shorebird. She simply ran toward them and then stood and watched them as they flew over her head. It was as though she simply wanted to watch them fly.

Eddie was busy chasing the waves and foam in the surf. Sometimes he would bite at the movement and then shake his head in disgust at the taste of the saltwater. He checked out every beached starfish and piece of driftwood on the beach. While he did maintain a high prey drive, I felt lucky that he was not interested in birds. He liked his prey to stay on or under the ground. Both rat terriers were wet and covered in sand but tonight’s bath would be well worth the fun of exploring the beach and running off-leash.

Ginger and I talked over and over about the events since my trip to Mill Bay Espresso that Saturday. I owned up to my attraction to Guy, my obsession with John Sinclair, and now my doubts about John and new suspicions toward Alan Johnson. We both came to the same conclusion that I needed to find a way to talk to Mr. Wilson about his suspicions. I could do things the police couldn’t and it was ok to use my gift to help this family heal.

We decided it was time to let all this information and our decisions simmer as we headed back to the house to prepare dinner. Matt was waiting for us on the deck with the news of a freshly caught crab in the sink and a bottle of wine. The crab was so large that I initially thought it was a king crab taking up the entire farm sink.

            “Ooh, my favorite! Tanner crab” I exclaimed as I examined the crustacean.

            “I’ll whip up a chopped salad if you will melt some butter, turn on the oven, and the large burner on the cooktop. Honey, can you get the big pot of out the garage and fill it half full with salted water please?” Ginger was the Chef de Cuisine in her kitchen and I filled the roll of Sous-chef. Matt was a simple assistant assigned to the grunt work. After doing my assigned duties I placed the best-looking lettuce leaves in 3 small bowls covering the edges to where they looked like bowl made from lettuce leaves. Ginger would soon fill these bowls with her salad of chopped tomatoes, scallions, cucumbers, bell pepper, cilantro, radish, and carrots. The salad would also have included celery if I had not been tipped off by its offensive odor when she began the chopping process.

            As I watched the bread brown in the oven and the crab heat on the stovetop, Ginger finalized the salad with a dressing made of herbs, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and grated cheese. It smelled delicious. The ratties were so tired they slept on the family room rug and didn’t respond to the wonderful aromas wafting though the house. We ate, drank, and laughed for almost an hour around the kitchen island. The view of Monoshka Bay and the low sun was so spectacular from kitchen that we never made it to the actual dining room.

After dinner Matt surprised us with a box of beautiful chocolate covered strawberries. There was dark chocolate with milk chocolate swirls, milk chocolate with white chocolate swirls, white chocolate covered rolled in coconut flakes, and milk chocolate rolled in chopped nuts. These large berries were a work of art and I questioned where Matt had secured them.

            “It seems” he explained, “that word has leaked out that you two are up to something and other people are interested in that something” he said with a grin and one raised eyebrow. “Spill it.”

            We explained the cupcake store idea and afterward Matt explained that the realtor’s wife was making chocolate dipped strawberries for showers, parties, and weddings but was interested in another venue for her product. She dropped off a box of samples hoping to get our attention. There was also a menu detailing all the designs available including a list of all the liqueurs she used to spike the berries on request. Ginger’s reaction to the beautiful berries told me we needed to find a way to include them in our store. This was a huge deviation from my original business plan and it had me thinking about the Nano Nash store in Anchorage again.

            “Ginger, how is your schedule this week? Could you fit in an overnighter to Anchorage?” I asked.

            “Hell yeah, girl.” I loved Ginger’s feisty spirit. “But you have to promise me we can eat dinner at Club Paris. I just love their filet mignon.”

            “How’s tomorrow sound? I can call Maria tonight to get the access code.”

            “What time do you want to go? I will take care of the tickets” she responded.

Matt spoke up with “Brinkley you shouldn’t twist my wife’s arm, it just might break.” With that we laughed away the seriousness of the day.

Chapter Thirty Nine


I should have slept well in my own bed with my furbabies but I didn’t. All night thoughts of Libby and John Sinclair played in my mind like a bad movie. I tossed, turned, and threw the covers off then on so often that when I woke up, I found the rat terriers had abandoned me and were sleeping in their dog beds. Normally they would have objected to me sleeping so late but this morning they were too exhausted to complain.

For breakfast, I found just enough ingredients in the refrigerator to make a frittata big enough for me and two hungry rat terriers. I cleaned up the kitchen, played a game of fetch with Eddie, and was just stepping into the shower when I heard the phone ring. Normally I would have retrieved a message after my shower but my talk with Kelvin had me wondering if there was news waiting on the other end of the phone. Only my feet were wet so I stuck them in my fluffy slippers and went for the phone.

“Heard anything new?” The phone identified the caller as Ginger.

“Kelvin stopped by. He corroborated Herbie’s account of the body being dismembered so obviously there was a murder.” I felt quite proud of my ability to share my conversation with Kelvin without telling Ginger anything she didn’t already know.

“I hope that it is not Libby. When I think about how the person died I just feel so sorry for those little girls if it is Libby. I would rather go on wondering what happened than to know she met a gruesome death.”

To me, Ginger needed to pull her head out of the sand. “At least there is closure if they find the body is Libby.”

Ginger, famous for changing the subject in mid conversation, asked “Do you still want to look for a store front today?”

“Absolutely. I just need to shower and dress. I had a tough night last night. Got very little sleep.”

“Are you fretting over Guy Hanson?”

“Wow, where did that come from?” My voice may have sounded irritated and another sudden change in conversation.

“You just haven’t mentioned him lately and I was wondering.”

“He’s busy with plans for Aunt Cecil. And, I don’t think his son is crazy about him having a female friend.”

“Wear something business like. I will pick you up in an hour. Wanna do lunch first?”

“No, I just had breakfast. Perhaps we’ll get lucky and need to have a business dinner meeting though.”

“Deal!” and she hung up.

There was no business suit in my closet. No shirt dress or any coordinated separates. There was no time to shop so I had to be creative and turn something casual into something businesslike. I decided on my simple black knit dress but dressed it up with a wide belt and a hand-woven scarf in blue, green, turquoise, and teal. Black tights, pumps, and a clutch rounded out the ensemble. I looked in the mirror and immediately realized that I needed some sparkle to take my look from artsy to uptown. I added a wide silver cuff bracelet and a pair of simple silver hoops.

Untrusting of my vehicle, Ginger picked me up for our meeting downtown. She looked like she could be the CEO of any Fortune 500 company in her smartly tailor tan suit and silk tee. The leopard broach on her lapel said professional and creative. It wasn’t until I noticed her feet that I got it – she was wearing leopard print mules with fuchsia trim and bow. The skinny heel looked both dainty and dangerous.

We were in the realtor’s office about an hour before I kicked Ginger under the table to let her know I thought we were wasting our time. The agent had nothing that fit our needs but was insistent on showing us his various commercial listing. On my cue, Ginger thanked him for his time and asked him to call us if something smaller and more finished came up. That comment was a criticism of his attempt to show us an unused net loft that could be partitioned into smaller spaces.

We joked and giggled about using the net loft and making salmon cupcakes with king crab icing. “I don’t think he understood our vision” I said as we descended the stairs down to the main floor of the square.

“No, he’s new to the island was just doing his job in trying to fit our need into one of his existing listings. We have got to be in a high traffic area. We need impulse buyers. We need a window space that will stop shoppers in their tracks.” Ginger certainly understood our vision.

We walked around the square admiring spaces and talking about space requirements when we saw a for rent sign. The space was small and although it was not on the front of the square, it was located on the large walkway which connected the shopping center to the shops on the alley behind the square. It was a corner unit with windows on two sides. One could hang a sign that would be visible to folks walking along the main thoroughfare and to those shopping the alley shops.  I recalled that it had been used as a tax preparer’s office and before that a yarn shop.

We peered through the window and saw a rectangular space that was newly painted stark white. There was a very small bar area in the back corner that looked like a typical office coffee area. The far wall had a door that I knew led to a hallway shared by several of the adjoining businesses. The hallway contained two public restrooms and storage closets for each tenant. The first Christmas after moving to Kodiak I took a temporary job with Emerald Isle Jewelers who shared this space so I was familiar with the layout. When I worked at the jewelry store, the empty storefront was used as the stockroom for a now-defunct retail business.

“I believe it’s perfect!” Ginger exclaimed.

“I agree” and we hugged in excitement. “Now cross your fingers the rent is affordable.”

“Don’t worry about that. I know the owner and I am a great negotiator.”

“OK then. We are way ahead of schedule. I believe I’ll wait until we secure the spot to talk to the bakery. I can drop off our logo sketches to the graphic artist in the mean time” I said feeling as though I needed to do something in the interim. Although I was technically a graphic artist myself, I did not have access to commercial computers and printers. I was OK with someone else picking up my design concept and making it even better.

We were on our way back to the car when Ginger’s cell phone rang. It was Island Harbor, the local women’s shelter. After ending the conversation, she turned to me and asked “Brinkley darling, do you mind if we swing by the women’s shelter. Seems I’m the only board member around to sign checks today. I guess everyone else cut out after Crab festival.” Her grin told me she was happy to have been called into service.

“Are you kidding? I’ve been meaning to get over there anyway. I still haven’t signed my membership renewal and updated confidentiality agreement. They were calling me to remind me but seem to have given up. This is perfect.”

When we parked at Island Harbor the sun was behind us and shown on the sixties-era building. The sun was harsh and illuminated the flaws and deferred maintenance on the building. The paint job was failing, the gutters were broken or missing in spots and several windows looked as though the seal have broken trapping condensation between the layers of glass. It was the beginning of our summer yet the building’s browned plants looked trapped in an eternal winter. I really did not need another project, because I had one waiting on my desk at home, yet there was one forming in my mind. Get a few volunteers together to paint, do minor repairs, and replace the dead plant material – easily done over a weekend.

“Where are you? Ginger asked as I sat staring out the window.

“Oh, sorry. I was just looking at the building and property. Looks like it is time for some volunteers to get together and do some outside work.”

Ginger looked at the property with new eyes and began to share her head in agreement. “I will see to it that it is done,” The wonderful thing about Ginger is that when she makes a statement like that, it really will happen.

The inside of the building wasn’t much better than the outside. While nothing was obviously in need of repair, it was old, worn, and drab. I had been to the building many times but some reason today was the day I would see it warts instead of the warmth and good works going on inside these walls. I turn to Ginger and simply said “the inside too.” She winked and I knew it was a done deal.

Ginger went into the Administrator’s office and I waited in the meeting area until I heard a voice call my name. I followed the sound to the security door that open into the residential area for women and their children.

“Brinkley Monroe. I see your name as a volunteer on the newsletter but I never run into you here. It’s been a long time. How are you?”

It took a moment to register who was talking to me like an old friend. Missy and I had taken our advocacy training together at Kodiak College. We were study and project partners and had a close relationship through both the beginning and intermediate classes. After two semesters of studying, coffee meetings, late night papers and research together, our friendship had abruptly ended with the conclusion of the winter semester.

“What are you doing here?” As the words came out of my mouth I realized that Missy would know I wasn’t reading the newsletter.

“Working as an advocate, can you believe it? All that hard work we did actually paid off? I’ve been here for over a year now.”  With that she buzzed me in to the secure area.

I sat down in the office ready to catch up on her life over the last few years when a client appeared in the office door way. “Excuse me, do you have any, ah, feminine products here?” asked the woman.

“Which do you prefer, tampons or pads?” Missy inquired with the professionalism of a concierge in a five-star hotel.

“Tampons would be great.” I thought I saw a sigh of relief on her face. That face looked familiar but I couldn’t quite place her. I thought about it while Missy opened the supply cabinet half full of other personal items like tooth paste, deodorant, and shampoo. The bottom half of the cabinet was filled with disposable diapers in assorted colors and sizes of packaging.

After the familiar face returned to the living area, I asked Missy about the woman. “Her husband is an attorney. She’s proof Brinkley that you just never know. You can’t judge a book by its cover or a man by his occupation.”

I was stunned by her words and the realization of her identity. I had seen her in the paper and out with her husband Alan Johnson. Seeing him in Anchorage with those young women was one thing but seeing his wife in the women’s shelter was quite another. It suddenly hit me that he was reportedly the last person who saw Libby on the day of her disappearance. Could I have been wrong about John Sinclair?

“There you are” Ginger’s voice interrupted my thoughts and I jumped up and quickly exited through the security door with only a quick goodbye to Missy.

“I just realized I am late. We gotta go, now!” I raised my voice at Ginger and the shock of the moment showed on her face. Luckily my friend knew we well enough to follow my lead.


Chapter Thirty Eight

            We opened a bottle of white zinfandel and positioned ourselves around the computer monitor. We looked at every Google hit for “gourmet cupcake” and “cupcake shop.” Ginger could see my vision.

            “You really think this would work in Kodiak?” she asked. “I mean, how many cupcakes do you need to sell a day? Do we have enough people to support this niche business?”

            I presented her with a copy of my business plan. We discussed her concern, the break even point, as well as all other aspect of the business. She had some good suggestions in terms of the logo, décor, and even catchy names for product. I knew her creative side would draw her into supporting the business.

            “How many people will it take to do this?” she asked in a tone that had me thinking she wanted to be a hands-on partner.

            “It could be done with one but I believe two would be more fun.”

            “Count me in then. I will help you get it started and that way you won’t have to pay anyone. If it is successful and can support hiring someone, then I will be a silent partner as long as you need.” Either Ginger recognized a promising idea when she saw one, or she was in a generous spirit tonight. Either way, the business was on its way.

            I showed the timeline to Ginger and we both focused on step number one – find a store location.  We tried looking through the real estate listings online but came up with nothing. We agreed that tomorrow we would begin the search in earnest.

            After Ginger left I took the ratties for a late-night walk. The sunny Alaska nights are perfect for walking. From my perch on the hillside I could still see the blue and red flash of a lone police vehicle at the boat dock. My curiosity was peaked by the grizzly discovery of human remains. I wondered how long it would be before we learned the identity of the victim.  As I neared my house I saw a vehicle pull into my driveway. It was a Kodiak Police car which made me wonder “what now?”

            Kelvin Bishop stepped out of the car. “Brinkley, can I talk to you?”

            “Sure. How about some tea?”

            “Sounds good” he said as waited by the door while I unleashed and settled the terriers.

            While I was boiling water and plating cookies, Kelvin looked around at the room dividers I used as bookshelves. They were perfect for display and storage of both books and artifacts because they are a series of cubes and not long shelves.

            ‘You have quite the collection of Native dolls and baskets” he said as he examined my favorite piece made by an Inupiat woman, Ruth, in Kotzebue.

            “Thanks, I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to travel around the state so I have a variety of styles and makers. I never set out to have a collection, but when I meet the women that make them I just can’t resist.”

            I set the tray on the coffee table and perched myself on the edge of the sofa as I poured from the pottery pot into matching mugs. I was seated on the opposite end of the sofa from Kelvin and turned to sit sideway so that I was facing him. I suspected this visit was related to Libby, he was the lead investigator on the case, and I didn’t want to miss a word.

            “Brinkley, can you tell me again about all your encounters and conversations with John Sinclair?” he asked.

            My mind said, “good grief, again” but my mouth said “of course.” I went over everything, again, and I added my own editorial opinion of Libby’s husband.

            “Thank you for being so cooperative. I’m going to tell you something that you need to keep close.”

            “OK” I said in anticipation of sad news based on his tone.

            “It appears that the remains found today are Libby’s. There is testing going on right now to confirm that suspicion but it’s looking pretty good that we have found Libby.”

            “Oh my God” is all I could think to say.

            “Brinkley, assuming that it is Libby, we have a murder on our hands. The remains had been, ah dismembered, so she was dead before her body was put in the water.” It was obvious to me that the words were difficult even for an experienced officer.

            I sat my mug of fragrant cinnamon tea on the table to accentuate my disgust and to avert my eyes. I did not want to let Kelvin know that I already knew this information courtesy of Herbie Carmichael. “What kind of monster would do this? It’s bad enough to kill someone but to chop them up?”

            “Actually, that is why I am here. Someone has come forward stating they saw someone take out the Irish Princess on the night that Libby disappeared. Apparently, he had been living on an adjacent boat and was awakened by the start of the engine. He thought it was strange for the boat to leave the dock at 1am without the crew having prepared it for an opener. A few hours later he was up early in anticipation for his crew and the impending opener, when he saw the Princess back in the slip and a strange man go ashore. Since the boats were docked next to each other for months, he knew the entire crew of the Princess and this guy wasn’t one of them. He didn’t have a chance to mention the odd occurrence to anyone before he left to go fishing. His boat returned yesterday and, when he heard the news of human remains found, he thought he should come forward. His description fits John Sinclair to a tee.

            I shuttered at the news although I wasn’t sure if it was due to the excitement of nailing John Sinclair or because I was right. “Does the owner know who took his boat out?”

            “No. He’s in Costa Rica and the rest of the crew is on break as well. He says there are a lot of keys out there – crew members, past crew members, mechanics, etc.”


            “Yes, Brinkley, it turns out that John was doing some under the table work without his employer’s knowledge. John Sinclair was given keys to the Irish Princess about a month ago when he did some work for the owner.”

            “Wow. Isn’t that like a smoking gun?”

            “Not yet. We need to search the boat. The owner has given us permission but since he is out of town we are going to go ahead and get a search warrant so that we don’t loose any evidence as inadmissible in court.”

            “Hum, sounds smart but doesn’t that give John, I mean the guilty party, to go back and clean things up?”

            “Yes, it would, except we have a car stationed at the boat ramp. The warrant should be ready first thing in the morning. I don’t believe that anyone will have a chance to get back on the boat to remove evidence.”

            “Wow. What a break in the case.” I said before stifling a yawn.

            “I should let you get some sleep” Kelvin said. “You aren’t planning on leaving town any time soon are you?”

            I agreed to remain in Kodiak, although nothing could have drug me away in the midst of all this excitement, and Kelvin left feeling like he was about to make an important arrest.

Chapter Thirty Seven

It was great to be home. The ratties must have felt the comfort of home as well because they didn’t wake up until I opened the door. We were all tired and deserving a late afternoon nap. I put on some flannel pajama bottoms, a tank top, sandal socks, and a loose cotton cardigan. It wasn’t high fashion but it was comfortable for curling up on the couch with my book, the dogs, and an afghan. I put my blunder at the Wilsons out of my mind and concentrated on Ann Rice. I was determined to turn a few pages before drifting off with my pack.

The phone woke me. Actually, it woke all three of us. I glanced at the time as I answered the phone. Drat! Only a fifteen-minute nap. It was Ginger. Now that Crab Festival was over she would have more time to chat on the phone and socialize.

“I was just going to drop by to see if you were home” she said. “I want to have dinner at the new Cannery. You want to give it a try?”

“Are you crazy? I’m not stepping back in that place for a long time.” I knew Ginger could be insensitive but this was too much.

“Oh, I thought maybe you should get back up on the horse. You know, hair of the dog and all those other clichés” she said believing she was right.

“How about Mexican food? I always find it comforting.” My suggestion was a bit of revenge because I knew it wasn’t Ginger’s favorite cuisine.

“Sure. That will be fine. I’ll pick you up in an hour. There’s no sense parking two cars downtown” and she hung up without a good bye. Ginger was like that when she was focused.

I quickly unpacked and readied myself for dinner out with my friend. I considered dressing super casual but thought better of it since Ginger never dresses casual. She is one of those women that can make jeans look dressy. Her shirts are always starched and she knows how to accessorize and, in my book, has earned a black belt in shoe shopping. I decided to wear my new jeans and top that I bought for my date with Guy. I realized that I hadn’t thought about Guy since returning to Kodiak. I stopped myself from starting now.

Ginger pulled into the drive and called me to tell me to come out because she didn’t want to get dog hair on her clothes. That was reason number one why she looked nicer in jeans than me. Now I just have to figure out the other ninety-nine. I gave my jeans a quick brush to remove the most obvious hairs and left the house promising two sad-looking canines some tasty leftovers.

“So, how was anchor town (Ginger’s nickname for Anchorage)?”

“It was good. I went out to Girdwood one day.”

“Really? That sounds nice. And, how was grandma’s house?”

“Oh! Thank you for the gift certificate. You really shouldn’t of.”

“Of course, I should have. You’ve let me stay there many times and I do find it much more comfortable than a hotel with strangers wandering up and down the halls.” The truth is that Ginger had a bad experience in a hotel once and was fearful of staying alone in a hotel room.

“I think you will be surprised next time you visit grandma” I said with the most mischievous grin I could muster.

“Oh, yeah? It might be worth taking a trip over just to figure out what you are talking about.” Ginger would use any excuse for a shopping trip to Anchorage but I was doubtful that her curiosity was that strong.

“Let’s just say Grandma met a new man and he’s forty years her junior” and with that we arrived at the restaurant.

We walked into the long, narrow portion of the dining room where normally there would be a row of tables against each wall and a walkway in the middle. Tonight, the tables were away from the wall and pushed together forming one very long table. There was the beginning of a party going on and I recognized all the people at the table. They were friends and acquaintances from different organizations around town and they all turned to look and smile at me. I was feeling as though I was the only one in my circle not invited to this get-together when it hit me that they were gathering for me – it was my birthday. With all the events of the last week I forgot my own birthday.

The evening went by quickly. We talked, sang, told stories, and had a wonderful time. There was no mention of Guy or John Sinclair or even of the murder or disappearances. For a two-hour period it was only me, my friends, and homemade salsa and tortillas. Ginger explained how she put together a phone tree to get the word out when she learned I was back and then again when we decided on the place. I sat there looking at my friends, watching them laugh. They were an eclectic mix of ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, experiences, education, vocations, and life paths. I loved every one of them. My greatest gift tonight was watching these women connect.

As our group started to dwindle I noticed a buzz in the restaurant staff. The owner, Maria, came over and relayed the latest gossip. Apparently, some fishing boat had brought up human remains.  She it was verified on the police scanner. I had a sick feeling in my stomach but quickly dismissed my thoughts in favor of a huge dose of denial.

The staff began to reposition our unused tables. Everyone in our group had paid their check but some were standing around in small groups talking. Ginger, who had been visiting another group around the corner, was making a bee line back to me with excitement in her eyes. She maneuvered the moving chairs and tables with the skill of an Olympic hurdler. Something was up to get the Queen of Kodiak sprinting.

“Brinkley, they found a body, in the water.”

“I heard” I said and hoped she wouldn’t say what I was thinking.

“Do you think it could be Libby?” She said what I was trying to deny.

“Is there any more information? Is it male, female, age, race? Anything?” I asked hoping to eliminate Libby as a contender.

“I was just saying hi to Mark Black and he says that a half dozen emergency vehicles and police whizzed by the restaurant with lights and sirens flashing. I didn’t hear or see a thing.”

“Me either” I said. “But then again, we weren’t near the windows and everyone was talking and laughing. I don’t believe we would have heard a C130 land in the Alaska Commercial parking lot.”

“Let’s go. We are taking the long way home.” That was Ginger’s way of saying we were going to drive by the scene of the excitement. If the police drove past the restaurant then they had to be going to one of the two in-town boat docks and not over to Near Island.

“You are morbid” I said to Ginger without revealing my curiosity was peaked too and I was happy she made the decision to drive by.

As we neared the channel we could see flashing lights. The police had the end of Center Street blocked off so we turned left and ended up on the bridge looking down at the activity. The dock with all the action was right in front of The Cannery restaurant. I was both wishing we had gone there after all and wondering if that placed was jinxed.

“Let’s go for a walk” Ginger suggested. “I sure wish we had those two mutts of yours with us. It might look more discreet.”

I knew better. “We are going to look like ambulance chasers with or without the dogs so we may as well do it.” I jumped out of the vehicle and waved Ginger to follow. I knew she was hesitant to walk in her new Yellow Box shoes. She may have lost her girlish figure but my friend could wear shoes. In fact, Ginger was hesitant to use the internet until she discovered you could shop for shoes online. Her lovely square toed, sling back, patent leather pumps were not going to look new for much longer.

We planted ourselves on the lawn of the Baranof Museum where our spot on the hill gave us a decent view of the emergency vehicles that were blocking the real activity.  We watched in somber silence as the first responders came and went. I noticed Herbie Carmichael and hoped he didn’t see me. It was getting late, and we were chilly, so I suggested we go back to the car and get a drive-thru latte. Herbie looked up the hill just as we stood up to leave. He waved and started walking toward us.

“Brinkley, can I talk to you for a minute? Do you mind?” The second question was directed at Ginger.

He took my arm and we turned away from Ginger. “I want to thank you for your help today. We never talked about how comfortable you are or aren’t in revealing your talent.”

“I’m not at all comfortable Herbie. I want to help wherever I can but I am not comfortable having my secret shared, especially with strangers or many people. I’m willing to help you but I would prefer you keep my identity and ability secret.”

“Fair enough. I’m sure the bad guys would like to get their hands on you if they knew your secret. I figure fair is fair so I’m going to tell you what was found today.” He continued with “we found human remains, not a body mind you, just remains of a human that appears to be female. The state medical examiner is flying in now and the remains will likely go to the lab in Anchorage.”

“A woman, eh?” My stomach was in my throat. “Any idea who it is?”

“Not yet but you can bet we are going to try to eliminate or prove Libby right away. There’s a weird part Brinkley” he said with a serious tone. “It looks as though this person may have been dismembered and not with precise tools. More like some sort of chopping machine.”

“That’s ghoulish.” I shivered at the thought. “Someone must have really hated that person to do that.”

“Or, just didn’t want her ever to be found. Well, I’ve got to get back. We’ve got lots of interviews” he said as we walked toward Ginger. She was shivering in her fancy shoes. My feet were toasty in my Uggs.

“I may have an opportunity for a ride-along if you are still interested.” His attempt at code was wasted on Ginger. She could find meaning in the way her Honey Nut Cheerios landed in a cereal bowl.

Surprisingly, Ginger did not begin an immediate interrogation. She let her questions mellow as we ordered coffee then drove to the Near Island float plane harbor to enjoy our drinks and watch the occasional plane land. I thought how difficult it would be to live in the lower forty-eight again and miss the summer’s midnight sun.

“I bet you are wondering what Herbie had to say.” I decided that I may as well address the elephant in the car.

“Yes I am. For a minute there I thought you were going to go all tight lipped on me. You know how I hate suspense.”

I told her what Herbie had relayed to me. She was both horrified and intrigued. This inside information was the Holy Grail to someone like Ginger who was borderline obsessed with local news. I explained that she couldn’t share this information with anyone and she seemed pleased to have an inside secret. As much as Ginger enjoyed hearing gossip, she could be depended on to keep a secret when asked. I know, she kept several of mine.

We spent our remaining time in the car sipping coffee and speculating about the human remains. Whatever happened or whoever it was, one thing was for certain – someone placed little value on their life. It hit me that must have been the case for someone to leave young Hope Wilson in the woods.

On the way back home I worked up my courage and asked my friend “if I find just the right location, are you interested in partnering or backing me in a very small business venture? I swear it will be unique and fun.”

“Hum. Sounds intriguing. Tell me more.” I do believe this bit of news was even more interesting to my friend than the discovery of human remains.

“I have an idea for a very small, very specialized store front bakery. No kitchen or anything like that. I would develop cupcake recipes and contract the local commercial baker to make them and each morning we would pick them up along with tubes of frosting. The final assembly would be in the store so that we could have quality control on the aesthetics of the cupcakes.”

“You wanna sell cupcakes?” Ginger didn’t hide her disappointment with the news. “You can already buy them at Alaska Commercial six for $3.99.”

“These aren’t just any old grocery store bakery cupcakes. These will be made from the best ingredient and the recipes will be gourmet. Our cupcakes will sell more like $4.99 each.”

“You got a business plan darlin?”

We were just pulling into my driveway. “Yes, come in and I will give you a copy of the plan and show you some online photos of other cupcake shops.”


Chapter Thirty Six

            “Ah, home sweet home” I said to Herbie as he helped me with my luggage.

            “Isn’t it the truth, always good to be home even when you are on vacation? Hopefully things will be a little quieter around town. Don’t want too many weeks like last week” he said and my truth-o-meter, as I sometimes liked to call it, dinged true.

            We grabbed the dog crates and headed to the parking lot. I was relieved to see Kathleen’s mini van and not his police cruiser. I took in the familiar sights and smells of home.  One end of the airport runway ends at the water, and the other at the base of Barometer Mountain, so I enjoyed the salt air while my eyes traveled up the mountains noticing that they were now green almost all the way to the top. Only a month ago they were still brown from winter temperatures. 

            As we settled ourselves in the vehicle I began to dread the conversation we were about to have. While Herbie is a nice guy, he didn’t drive six miles to the airport just to pick me up just to be helpful.

            “The suspense has been making me anxious. Do you think we could just jump right into whatever it is that has brought you here to meet me?”  I surprised myself with my bluntness.

            “Fair enough. Plus, it’s only ten minutes to town so we don’t have a lot of time before I get you home and you’ll probably want me to leave so you can settle back in.” He flashed a brilliant smile and winked before his tone turned serious. “I need your help Brinkley.”

            I know I should have spoken, should have offered up “of course” or “what can I do” after his help with freeing Guy but the dread in my stomach was so strong that I couldn’t open my mouth.

            “You know about the girl who was found dead at Ft. Abercrombie. There are folks who have it in their head that she was killed by a family member.”

            “Isn’t that what usually happens? A relative, boyfriend, or someone close like that?”

            “Yes, but a good investigator needs to keep an open mind and continue collecting evidence until you have no doubt the evidence will support a conviction. I believe that we need to expand the investigation and when the department leaders aren’t open to the idea then the overall feeling at the department isn’t conducive to an open investigation.”

            I was confused. How could I help? “Are you saying that people in your department have already tried and convicted the family?”

            “Pretty much sums it up. Her parents aren’t exactly pillars of the community. Both parents have been arrested throughout the years for selling marijuana. They are what I consider left-over hippies. They and probably selling a little weed on the side to pay for their own use. Whatever, it certainly does not make them guilty of murdering their daughter.”

            My role was becoming clearer with each word. “So, you want me to help you determine if they are involved so you can either focus on the family or move on?”

            “Exactly!” Herbie seemed relieved he didn’t have to spell it out for me.

            “How am I going to do that?” I asked. “I can’t just walk up to them and ask them if they had any part of their daughter’s murder.”

            “That’s true. Have you heard of citizen ride alongs?” he asked.

            “I remember when the issue was a controversy but no one I know has done it so I’m really not familiar with exactly what happens.”

            Herbie handed me a form and said, “it starts with you filling this out.” He then proceeded to explain that every citizen has a right to see how their tax dollars are spent and citizens can sign up to ride along with law enforcement officers for four-hour shifts.

            “Do many people do this?”

            “No, mostly just people who are considering law enforcement or military careers. My only ride alongs have been nineteen year olds. Occasionally we get someone upset with the department and it usually helps them understand what we do and why. Even with low participation, the program is considered a success.” I felt relief as Herbie pulled into my driveway. 

            Luckily everything looked normal at home. I was concerned that my unwelcomed visitor may have returned but everything looked exactly as I left it. I let the dogs into the back yard and watched them from the kitchen window as I read and signed the ride-along form. My few minutes of happiness were interrupted by a sign from Herbie that it was time to go. My stomach turned with dread as we headed up Rezanof Drive toward the primary residential area of town with sidewalks, school, parks, and street lights.

            Herbie pulled into a solidly middle-class neighborhood across from a city park and jogging track. In a town like Kodiak you tend to know where a lot of people live, even if you don’t know the person well, but I had no idea where this family resided.  I was a little surprised that these folks, who were described as unlucky pot dealers, lived in a traditional neighborhood and on the upper side of middle class. But then again, I, too, lived in a house that would appear to be way above my means.

            As we passed the park and entered the neighborhood proper, I immediately knew which house was the Wilsons. The black ribbon on the door, a florist delivery van, lights on in every window which illuminated a mass of people in the home, and cars doubled parked in the driveway and lawn.

            “Herbie, it looks to me like they are having her wake” I said but my meaning was that we should keep driving.

            “Yes, the timing is awful but I need to do this now. I can’t waste any more time on a bad lead.” His words made me feel guilty because my trip to Anchorage likely delayed his plan but, then again, it was his idea that I leave town for a few days.

            As we entered the house I was impressed by the amount of people who were there to pay their respects. Hope may have lived for only nineteen years but apparently her short life had impacted many people. Herbie skillfully made his way through the crowd to her parents and, with equal skill, convinced them to leave their guests for a few minutes. They escorted us to Hope’s room. It seemed like an odd, yet appropriate, choice.

            He introduced me to the Wilsons as his ride-along before he began the subtle interrogation process. They seemed eager to help with the investigation even with a house full of mourners. He deftly and proficiently put the couple at ease by asking a benign question unrelated to the death of their daughter. I later learned that starting with a question where there was no likelihood of a lie, would establish a base-line response from which to judge the next answers. After all, it would have been easy to misinterpret nervousness for guiltiness,

            Next Herbie asked the couple to recount the events of the day leading up to the girl’s disappearance. They did so in detail and everything they said was the truth. Next, the police officer asked pointed questions. That is when I detected the first untruth and I gave our predetermined sign to Herbie to let him know this question elicited a degree of concealment of the truth – a small yawn for neutral lie, cracking of knuckles for an outright lie.

            Mr. Wilson’s response was not an outright lie; however, he told Herbie that he had no idea who could have done this to his daughter but his brain told me that was not the complete truth. The lie was weak so it was likely that had suspicions as opposed to actual knowledge of the crime. For some reason, he did not want to share his suspicions.

            Herbie concluded the interview by asking the couple to retell the events but this time by starting at the end and working forward. The account was long and detailed and my eyes and attention wandered in the comfort of truth. Hope’s room was neat, warm, and an eclectic mix of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. An old, dulled small floral wallpaper appeared to be leftover from childhood and with it a single shelf of old but enduring dolls. Two music posters hung neatly and symmetrically on the wall. A corkboard was covered with photos, ticket stubs, invitations, cards, and the remnants of a corsage and reminded me that Hope had once been a vibrant teenager.

            The girl’s transition to adulthood was apparent at her computer work station. It was orderly with computer paraphernalia, a cup of writing utensils, and a stapler. An Ansel Adams calendar hung above the desk next to a small fur-cube storage unit. The bins were filled with colored boxes each labeled with its contents. On the desk, and under a Plexiglas protector was a handwritten timeline of dates and drawings along a line that ended with the simple word “Seattle”.

I was mesmerized by the girl’s objects and her life in the room. The closet door stared at me and I could no longer resist. I walked across the room and opened the door to the most organized closet I had ever seen outside of a magazine or home maker over television show. This neat and orderly girl had been trapped in what appeared to be a chaotic house. I closed the door and turned when my trance was broken by the silence and stares of Herbie and the Wilsons. Herbie asked me to sit down and I did so with a red face after having realized I was snooping in plain sight.

“What the heck were you doing?” Herbie asked as he turned the key of the mini van.

“I’m so sorry and embarrassed. It was like I was pulled to her possessions and the order in that room. Her essence was there, if you know what I mean.”

“Of course, I do. I am a police officer. We are trained to use a person’s possession and residence to learn all we can about them. But you were supposed to be a ride-along Brinkley.”

“I know, I know. I’m sorry.  Please just get me home.”

On the drive to my house I told him that the Wilsons didn’t kill Hope nor did they know who did; however, I explained that I believed her father had a suspicion although it was likely a weak one. He committed to further research on that point. I left Herbie with the zinger “I believe she was looking for someone or someway to leave Kodiak. Look for someone who could help her with that plan” and I shut the car door.

Chapter Thirty Five

It was like a scene from a movie; our eyes met, locked on, and then we were drawn toward each other like magnets. He enveloped me with his long arms and a short kiss.

“I was hoping to see you here. I wasn’t sure which flight you were on” he said as he rocked me in his arms. “Am I a lucky guy or what? “

I grinned with delight before asking “what are you doing here?”

“Aunt Cecil business. She left Joel a sizeable inheritance. I’m meeting tomorrow with an advisor and there’s a group meeting tonight of other parents who are managing their children’s funds. It’s a big responsibility and I want to make sure I do what is best for Joel.” There was no doubt in my mind he was telling the truth and here for the benefit of his son.

“That’s great” I said, but I was disappointed that he left Kodiak just as I was returning.

“Brinkley sometimes I feel like we are ships passing in the night.”

I was stunned and groped for a reply but couldn’t think of anything to say. His comment sounded like a prelude to a breakup, and, it came after a warm greeting.

“Oh God, I hope you don’t think I meant….”

“No, no, Guy. I wasn’t thinking anything” I lied.

“It’s just that our timing seems to be off more than on. If only you were staying another night in Anchorage we could have enjoyed the big city together.” I believed that was a hint but I wasn’t budging. I wanted to go home. Plus, if he had been in better communication we could have arranged a rendezvous. Not now, not after a random meeting at the airport.

“We should do that sometime. It would be fun.” I was going to say more but was interrupted when a very attractive blonde woman approached us.

She gave him a hug, a kiss on the cheek, and slid one arm around his waist before turning to me, extending a hand to shake and said “Hi, I’m Lucinda.” Her eyes darted back and forth between us; apparently hoping for a proper introduction.

“I’m Brinkley, from Kodiak. It’s Nice to meet you Lucinda.”  My eyes were glued to this mystery person. I could see was wearing an Alaska Airlines lanyard with an airport identification tag attached.

Lucinda turned to face Guy. “We really should get out of here before we get caught in the after-work traffic” She turned her face toward me, eyeballed me from head to toe, and returned her gaze to Guy.

Guy finally broke his silence with a quick explanation that Lucinda saw Aunt Cecil’s obituary in the Anchorage paper called him to offer her condolences. She also offered him a buddy pass and a place to stay when he said he had business in Anchorage.” I’ll call you later” was all he said to me as they left.

The entire Lucinda interaction was awkward. I could have overanalyzed the situation, speculated on their relationship and ours, but instead I decided not to waste my energy and to accept it as stated, an airline pass and a place to crash for the night. Guy’s interest in me after his return to Kodiak would be much more interesting to analyze and fret over. Plus, until everything related to Aunt Cecil was resolved, he wasn’t going to be his normal self and capable of a relationship.

Feelings of pride rose over me as I realized just how mature and stable my thoughts had become. But, then again, it could be denial.

Chapter Thirty Four

            She knew everyone should be at the viewing so this was the perfect time. She parked a block away and walked down the alley to Hope’s house and looked around for potential witnesses before trying the back door. As usual, it was unlocked.

            Her movements were as quiet as humanly possible and she listened for any evidence that someone remained in the house. Quietly, she crept up the stairs and into Hope’s room. Although she had been in Hope’s room hundreds of times and, as Hope’s best friend, had slept over dozens of times, the room suddenly looked different. Instead of funky and cool, the room looked juvenile. Perhaps it was finding out that your best friend was found dead in the woods, or perhaps it was breaking into her house, but suddenly she felt like her childhood had melted away like the snow in April.

            Obviously, the police have searched Hope’s bedroom but she doubted they had discovered the treasurer she was after. If they had found it, there would likely have been an arrest. She opened the closet door, turned on the light, and then shut the door just in case. To pull the carpet back far enough to access the secret stash, she had to move shoes, boxes, and an organizer rack. She lost her balance and landed on the floor with a thud. Looking up at Hope’s cloths, hanging like skeletons, gave her the creeps. She made quick work of removing a floor board, fishing out a well worn manila envelope, and then reassembling everything back into place.

            The sound of a car pulling into the gravel driveway set her into action. She was on her feet, out the bedroom door, down the hall, and on the back porch in a quarter of the time it took her to get into the house. She saw a car turning into the alley and, panicked, realized there was nowhere to go except back inside. She walked in a bent over position toward the front of the house to avoid being seen through the windows. She was just about to the front when she remembered the package in her hand. A quick shove into the nearest shrub seemed her only option. She straightened and, with no one in the front yard, went to the front door as if she planned on attending the wake.