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.