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.”

 

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