I arrived at the Episcopal Church early so I could park a reasonable distance from the facility. I noticed there was a sign directing attendees to an off-site parking spot with a van running between the church and alternate parking lot every ten minutes. Obviously, someone was expecting a huge crowd and I felt a little guilty for snaring such a prime parking spot.

            I entered the church through the basement door and ran into a flurry of activity. I had never seen so many white-haired ladies move so quickly. They were setting up a cold food table, a hot food table, a dessert table, and a punch and coffee station. For just a moment I thought I was attending a wedding as opposed to a memorial service. I did the right thing and offered my help. Within a minute there was a carving knife and disposable gloves in my hand. I carved two baked turkeys into “slices no thicker than one quarter inch” as instructed by a woman with a purple rinse on her white hair.

            After I completed my assigned duty I left the kitchen, found the stairs, and made my way to the auditorium. The seats were about a quarter of the way filled and I looked around for Guy. I made my way to the front of the sanctuary to view the photos and memorabilia of Cecil’s life. I was leaning forward to get a closer view of a photo when I felt an arm slip around my waist.

            “I am so glad you came. Aunt Cecil really liked you.” I wanted to gaze into Guy’s eyes as he spoke, but I needed a moment to compose myself after the electricity I felt when he touched me.

            Again, mixed signals from Guy. He was glad I was attending the memorial because Aunt Cecil liked me? I turned to face him and he left the arm around my waist while he explained the photos to me. I was hanging on Guy’s every word until we were interrupted by one of the ladies from the basement.

            “Brinkley, do you think you could help us with one more task? We need someone to get the tissues out of Martha’s car and spread them out in the pews.”

            I made my way to her car, retrieved the warehouse club sized case of those small packages of Kleenex, and spread them around as requested. By this time the church was half filled with mourners so I exchanged small talk as I handed out packs of tissue. With my chore completed, I looked for Guy and found he was still at the alter sharing memories of Aunt Cecil’s photos.

When I turned around, I was face to face with EJ the geologist. I offered her a tissue pack and quickly moved on. I looked over my shoulder several times to watch her interaction with Guy. She started with a hug which I guessed was reasonable for the situation. She let her hand linger on his shoulder and God bless him, he removed it, held her hand in his for a moment, and then released it. Ack! He caught me watching. I quickly turned around and headed to the ladies room to hide.

By the time I returned the officiate was asking people to take a seat. I sat on a folding chair in the entryway with a minimal view of the service but I could see Guy’s head in the front row towering above everyone else. His son was next to him and then I assume the others were visiting family members. I couldn’t find EJ but she was not with Guy and that was all that mattered to me.

The service was lovely and touching. Friends and family shared stories and humorous antidotes about Aunt Cecil. Everyone was invited to participate and many people did. There was even a mention of the Princess Diana dress. Although most of the tributes were light and funny, Guy’s words were quite moving and there wasn’t a dry eye in the church. It was obvious that he had lost more than an Aunt; he had lost a friend and surrogate mother.

When the service ended I moved to the basement with the crowd to enjoy the repast. I filled my small plate with a selection of sliced fruit, vegetables, and pepper jack cheese. I found a place to eat where I could see everyone entering the basement. Eventually my friends found me and insisted I go outside with them since the kitchen area was crowded. I didn’t tell them I wanted to keep an eye on Guy, or even more important, that Elizabeth Jane woman.

“I was really impressed by Guy’s speech” said Tuesday.

“Yeah” agreed Mary Margaret, “I had no idea he was so well spoken.”

“Hey, do either of you know the Geologist in town. Her name is Elizabeth Jane?” I must have been picking up the annoying habit of quickly changing subjects from Ginger.

Tuesday hadn’t met EJ but Mary Margaret said she hangs around the library a lot reading newspapers and magazines.

“Have you had a conversation with her?” I was anxious to hear if my friends had an opinion of this person.

“Minimal,” said Mary Margaret “why do you ask?”

“Well, I had coffee with her today. Ginger arranged it.”

“Ginger is friends with her?” Mary Margaret sounded surprised.

“That’s what I thought at first but it turns out she only knows her through Matt. You know he’s a geology buff?” I wanted to ask what she thought of EJ’s personality but knew that would not be kind and the timing was wrong. Besides, I could chat with Ginger when she returned from Anchorage. Normally I would have felt empathy for a person stuck with a repulsive persona but, her plan was to use Guy for personal profit gave me reason to forgive myself for my internal cattiness.

When we returned to the kitchen area I saw Guy making his rounds and thanking people for coming and contributing. I made myself busy consolidating the trays. I didn’t see EJ. Eventually Guy made his way over to me as I was removing a full garbage bag and replacing it a new one.

“Thanks so much for helping. This was very nice. Aunt Cecil would have been impressed” he said with a very sexy half smile.

“My pleasure.” I couldn’t believe that was all I could come up with to say.

“I am about to take the family out on the boat for a wreath laying but I wanted to say good bye to you first. It seems we really are ships passing in the night lately.”

“That’s OK. We’ll have time to hang out when the relatives are gone and life is back to somewhat normal” I said and quickly regretted my words. Why did I say hang out when I meant so much more and how in the world was his life going back to normal without Aunt Cecil?

I looked at my watch and realized that Eddie and Daisey were likely pacing around the house waiting for their dinner and a trip outside. I made one last trip into the food prep area, wrapped some turkey up in a napkin, and headed home. The ratties were excited at my arrival and even more excited to be let outside to relieve themselves. They were so focused on that job that they didn’t pick up on the turkey scent right away.

I prepared Eddie’s portion of Wellness weight management kibble and Daisey’s Orijen. Instead of mixing in dehydrated raw food as I usually do, I minced the turkey and mixed it in to spice up the kibble. I felt paws on the back of my knees as I worked. They could smell the fresh turkey and began to talk. I was sure they were saying to hurry up the process.

After they finished their dinner I noticed the dogs sniffing around the threshold of the front door. I was concerned that a small rodent was trying to make its way into the house – any vole or shrew that enters a house smelling of rat terrier, would surely win the Darwinism award. I was about to investigate when the phone rang.

“Can you pick me up at the airport? I’m coming in on the 8:45. Matt’s had a couple beers so I don’t want him to drive.”  As usual, Ginger launched into talking without saying hello or identifying herself.

“I thought you were spending a night or two in Anchorage. I arranged the condo.”

“Yes, thank you. I spent the afternoon at the condo. You did a wonderful job, by the way. Brinkley, I got a phone call today and an opportunity has presented itself that I want to pursue. I don’t want to jinx it by sharing the details yet but I need to be back for an early meeting tomorrow. Oh, and Nano Nosh was fabulous.”

After I agreed to pick up Ginger at the airport I went to check out what had the ratties so intrigued. I didn’t see any critters so I opened the front door and looking around – nothing. Then I stepped onto the deck and still saw nothing unusual. It wasn’t until I turned to go back inside that I saw it. There was a wrapped bouquet of flower that must have been up against the door before I opened it.

I brought the flowers in and as I began the process of trimming the stems and arranging them in a vase with water, I noticed a small card. It read MEET ME AT THE BOAT 9PM. That’s it? No signature? Meeting him at 9pm sounded a bit like a booty call to me but, on second thought, I rationalized that he was likely waiting for his family to settle in for the evening before leaving.

I added a frog to the vase before the final arrangement of gerber daisies, mini carnations, and mini poms. Suddenly it hit me that I was picking Ginger up from the airport at 8:45 so there was no way I could meet Guy at 9pm. I grabbed my cell phone but he didn’t answer. Of course not, he was out on the boat and probably out of range. I left a message telling him it would probably be more like 9:45 before I got to the boat and why. I asked him to call me if that wouldn’t work for him. When I ended the call I realized that I was almost out of bars so I took it into my bedroom and plugged it into the charger.

I harnessed and leashed the dogs and took them for a long walk downtown. I passed by the Ford dealership and saw my car outside. I wasn’t sure if that meant my car was fixed or if it hadn’t made its way into the repair bay yet. We stopped at the downtown park adjacent to the historical society’s museum so that I could watch the boats entering and leaving the harbor. As we were about to leave, the ratties and I heard a strange noise.

The noise sounded similar to a baby cooing and we tracked it down to underneath the old wooden structure. It was a kitten. It took a while but eventually I was able to remove the cat. She was a high spirited little feline hissing and spitting at the ratties. Surprisingly, they were not interested. This time of night there was no one to call. I decided I would take the kitten home and for now and make up flyers tomorrow.

We must have spent more time than I realized retrieving the kitten because when we returned home it was 8:30. I retrieved a dog crate from the storage shed, threw a couple towels and a water dish inside, and then put the kitten in to relax until I returned. Daisey & Eddie were at the cage sniffing and eyeballing the kitten when I left.

On the way out the road I realized that I would need a litter box for the kitten. I was going to call Tuesday to ask her to run to the store before it closed to purchase some litter when I realized that I ran out so fast I forgot my cell phone. Drat! I calmed down when I remembered there were still pay phones at the airport..

I couldn’t reach Tuesday but Mary Margaret agreed to pick up a bag of litter and leave it by the backdoor. Ginger’s plane was late and I didn’t have Guy’s phone number to let him know. My entire phone book is in my cell phone and I know very few numbers by memory. The only numbers available in the printed directory are land lines. It was as though we weren’t meant to meet tonight.

While I waited for Ginger I had a thought that puzzled me. How or when did Guy leave the flowers at my front door? Why did he choose the front door when he’s only seen me use the carport door? Finally, why didn’t he sign his name? I decided not to stress over the little nuances and just go with it as is. Finally, Ginger’s plane arrived at 9pm. Luckily, she had no checked baggage so we could leave immediately.

I had Ginger safely in her house before 9:30 and it was looking like I was going to make it to the boat dock by 9:45 as planned. I sped to town but slowed down to the speed limit as I hit the city limits. I certainly didn’t have time to get pulled over. I didn’t see Guy’s vehicle in the parking lot and I assumed I beat him to the boat until I saw a light on the boat.

“Hello. I’m here.” I said as I boarded the boat. I got no response. I saw a movement through the dirty, saltwater streaked window but the light was faint, like a candle. I wasn’t sure what to do so I knocked on the wheelhouse door. When I got no response, I sat down on the back deck next to a large crab pot. I was wondering why Guy had a crab pot on deck when it occurred to me that this was where Guy last saw his Aunt Cecil. My thoughts brought up a strong emotion but I couldn’t identify the feeling.

Why wasn’t he coming out or opening the door for me? Perhaps he had been on his way to the head and hadn’t heard me. When I heard the door unlock but not open, I reluctantly opened it and stepped inside. There was a single candle burning. It should have been romantic but it was actually spooky.

The lighting from the candle was very faint so I called out to Guy. Again, no answer. I heard a faint or muffled sound. Perhaps he was down below in the engine compartment. Next, I heard a chair scoot on a wooden floor and saw movement in the shadows. I was moving toward the dark corner when the door behind me suddenly closed. I turned and to my shock and horror I was starring John Sinclair in the eyes.

I was confused. What was he doing here and where was Guy? It took only a split second for me to put the pieces together. The flowers were unsigned and vague because it was John who left him. His plan was to ambush me on Guy’s boat.

I quickly moved backward in an attempt to keep away from him but I tripped over something large on the floor. I should have landed on the floor but instead I landed on another person. Just being in the presence of John Sinclair, and a set up, was bad enough but to have a person on the floor was even more frightening.

The muffled sound I heard earlier was now in my ear.  It was someone trying to talk through a gag. John came toward us blowing out the candle on the way. I urged the person under me to get up but I had them pinned down. I hoped I hadn’t seriously hurt someone.

John grabbed me and shone a flashlight in my face. “This is it. You and your friend are going to join that stupid wife of mine in the Gulf of Alaska” he said in the most sinister voice I had ever heard outside the movies.

“Let go of me you sicko” I screamed. He quickly put duct tape over my mouth and wound it around my wrists creating handcuffs. He then dragged me by the hair to the back deck of the boat and wrestled me into the king crab pot. Moments later he returned dragging someone else by the hair. It was Mary Margaret. I quickly surmised that when I didn’t show up he probably went to my house and ran into Mary Margaret when she delivered the cat food. I squelched the urge to vomit believing that I could choke and die on my own vomit with the duct tape over my mouth.

I got a good look at Mary Margaret and noticed that her face was bleeding and bruised. John had scratches across his face meaning Mary Margaret must have put up a good fight. Although we were squished into the mammoth crab pot together, we had a clear moment where simply through eye contact we told each other we were going to be alright. We would think of something to save our hides although it wasn’t looking very promising. Perhaps I was reading her all wrong and she was saying good bye.

I heard the boat engine start and John returned with a blanket which he threw over the crab pot.  We struggled to free ourselves but just ended up hitting each other in the head with our appendages. Our cries for help were so muffled by the thick tape that even if the harbor had been busy at this hour, no one would have heard us struggling or screaming. I felt the boat begin to move and envisioned what was going to happen to us.

I thought of my friend Libby. She must have had these same emotions as he carried her to her death. I wondered how she struggled and what she thought about. She must have been stunned that her husband was capable of murder. Eventually my thinking came around to realize that her thoughts were likely much more tortured than my own because she knew that her demise would leave two little girls without a mother and in the hands of a killer. For Libby’s sake, I had to free myself and escape. I wanted to expose the truth about Libby and John.

Suddenly there was a thud on the deck, which I assumed it was John throwing the boat’s fender on board before we left the slip.  Next, the blanket was removed and I saw Guy standing on the deck above us. I have never been so happy to see Guy Hanson in my life.  Instead of releasing us, he made a gesture with his index finger over his lips indicating that we should remain silent and still. I could only hope that Mary Margaret could see him and his advice through her swollen eyes. I felt panicky when Guy replaced the blanket but I understood why; he wanted to take our capturer by surprise.

I could hear police sirens growing stronger and stronger but dismissed them as heading to another destination. After all, how would anyone guess that John had planned on putting me in a crab pot on Guy’s boat? I heard noise down below and the door slammed open. There were more noises that appeared to be a scuffle and it was then that I realized that all three of our lives were in the hands of Guy. The police sirens ceased.

I heard fighting, and cussing, and finally an agonizing scream. The blanket was once again removed from the crab pot and I was almost afraid to look up to see who was standing there. If it was Guy, we were saved. If it John the three of us would probably die. Fortunately, it was Guy. He was covered in blood and I wanted more than anything for him to free me so I could tend to his wounds. I had no idea where John disappeared to because my view was limited. Guy disappeared again and I felt the boat changing direction. Suddenly it stopped and Guy returned to the deck. He opened the crab pot and cut our restraints before returning to the wheelhouse and steering the boat back to the slip.

Mary Margaret and I were about as shaken as a person can get without going into shock. We both had been ambushed, bound, and our lives threatened. The thought of being thrown overboard and helpless in a sinking crab pot caused our bodies to act involuntarily and we both smelled like urine. I checked over my friend before looking around the deck for John who appeared lifeless and bleeding. There was a knife about three feet away from his open hand.  I was worried that he would awaken and grab the knife so I decided I had to get to it first.

I quietly walked over the limp John Sinclair and picked up the knife just as he grabbed my ankle. Though injured, he still had the energy to pull me to the ground and attempt to choke me. Mary Margaret started screaming and Guy ran out from the wheelhouse but it was too late – I stabbed John Sinclair.

When John knocked me down I was left with very little choice in where to stab him. I was afraid if the wound did not do mortal damage then he would remove the knife and turn it on to one of us, most likely me. When I fell I landed near John’s head and I wasn’t sure that a stab to the shoulder would penetrate and disable him so, with all my strength, I jammed the weapon into his neck. John’s blood quickly covered the deck and his grip on me released.

As we entered the slip the police and an ambulance were waiting. Guy explained that when he returned to town from the wreath laying he received the message from me about being late. Initially he thought I called the wrong number and the message was meant for someone else. My comments about the flowers and the card didn’t sit well with him and he replayed the message several times throughout the evening before realizing that something was terribly wrong. He remembered the problems I’d had with John Sinclair and called the police to meet him at the boat harbor. This was about 9:45 – the time I had left in the message.

Guy had arrived at the dock before the police and found the boat engine running. He also noticed the deck was not how he had left it two hours earlier; there was a blanketed heap near the door to the wheelhouse. Desperate to do something as the boat was leaving the slip, he jumped on board. He discovered Mary Margaret and I in the pot under the blanket, so he barged into the wheelhouse to confront our captor.

They fought and stumbled out onto the deck. John had taken several swipes at Guy with a fishing knife and managed to draw blood. Eventually Guy punched John and knocked him out. He went back to the wheelhouse to guide the boat back into the slip while trying his best to keep an eye on the unconscious John.

Mary Margaret and I gave our stories to the police and, as I suspected, Mary Margaret arrived at my house about 9:15 with the cat litter. John grabbed her and covered her face with an ether soaked rag. She came to on the boat duct taped to a chair. John cursed her and slapped her face several times in a rage because she was not me. After telling her story, Mary Margaret went home with her husband.

Guy was also told that he could go home but the boat would remain a crime scene. He could not enter the boat while it was being used to gather evidence. Unfortunately, I delivered the fatal blow so I had to spend the remainder of the night at the police station in my dirty clothes answering questions over and over. At one point an officer even suggested that I set everything up to settle a dispute that I had with John. Luckily, Mary Margaret’s statement and the past arrest of John for trespassing on my property worked in my favor and the police released me with no charges filed.

On the ride home I thought about Libby and her girls. Was is better to have no parents at all or to have one that has murdered the other? If it hadn’t been for my ability perhaps it would never have come to light that John was responsible for Libby’s death. The girls would have been raised by their father and blissfully ignorant of the facts. I threw up in the back of the police car.

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