Chapter Forty Seven

Ginger arrived at my house with Coke, crackers, and a selection of teas and cookies. She was dressed in comfortable clothes and carried a duffle bag as if she was prepared to spend the night on my couch.

“Start from the beginning” she said after she forced room temperature soda and saltine crackers on me. She just didn’t understand that my earlier episode of vomiting was due to emotion and not an upset stomach.

I did start from the beginning. I went all the way back to the Saturday before Ginger’s soiree when I last saw Libby. I told her everything including my time spent with and worrying about Guy Hanson, and about helping Herbie Carmichael with the Hope Wilson case. I had moments of Déjà vu where it seemed that I had already told Ginger parts of my story and had received the same response from her. Ginger was a good friend not to mention that I was repeating myself.

Two hours went by while we talked, drank tea, and ate cookies. Finally, I had met my fill of all the awful things that had happened lately and wanted a reprieve from the conversation. I thought a bathroom break would not only do my bladder good but would also be a good opportunity to reboot our conversation. This was one of those times in my life where I agreed with Katie Scarlett O’Hara when she uttered those profound words “I can’t think about that right now. If I do I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

I had just closed the door and was undressing when I heard a blood curdling scream come from the living room. “Brinkley!” Ginger screamed with fear in her voice. “Help, help!”

In my mind I saw Eddie and Daisey injured, or worse, and Ginger screaming at the sight of their bloodied bodies. I came flying out of the bathroom while at the same time trying to pull up my pants. It was all I could do to stay upright much less get to the living room any faster. What I saw made me shriek too, only not in fear.  I busted out in uncontrollable laughter and was forced to run back into the bathroom to avoid an embarrassing situation right after rescuing Ginger from the grips of the missing feline.

I was still laughing uncontrollably, with tears running down my face, when I came back into the living room. Ginger was now settled down but still breathing heavily from the scare. I couldn’t rid my mind of the image of the kitten sprawled out on Ginger’s head. Its claws were dug in to avoid a fall as Ginger spun around screaming and twisting her head trying to dislodge the tiny feline.

I wanted to stop laughing but I just couldn’t. Eventually Ginger joined in and we giggled like school girls until she needed to use the bathroom to avoid an embarrassing moment too. She retold the story several times of sitting on the sofa and having an unknown, fuzzy, purring alien land on her head. She had forgotten about the cat and initially thought it was something creepy, like a rat.

When Ginger returned, still grinning, I decided to take the opportunity to redirect our previous conversation. “So, tell me about your trip to Anchorage. Wasn’t Nano Nosh just the coolest thing you’d ever seen?” I asked as I stroked the frightened cat.

“Brinkley, I think we need to talk about the cupcake store. And, keep that cat away from me” she said with a wink of the eye.

“OK” I answered feeling as though what she was about to say certainly was not going to be OK.

“When I was in Anchorage I did some snooping, ah make that research, and I’m no longer sure that Kodiak Kupcake would be sustainable in the long run. You know how it goes in this town

I was actually surprised that Ginger turned on the idea. I thought we had it all worked out on paper and that it was a viable business plan; however, Ginger did have a good point. I had seen exactly what she described where a new business can’t keep up with demand at first but, within a few months, they are left wondering what happened to that momentum as people return to their old patterns.

“Ah, sugar, don’t look so sad. I did think it was a good idea; it’s just that I am not sure that Kodiak can support a single product store. We have the same seven thousand people in town everyday and while I do believe it’s possible to sell a couple hundred of them a day, I believe there is another way to sell cupcakes and more.”

She had my complete attention. “Tell me more.”

“Well, you know the liquor store in the square, the one with the drive-up window? It’s for sale.” She shook her head and ran her fingers through her hair as a chill fell over her entire body. The memory of the cat replayed in her head.

My confusion must have shown on my face because Ginger asked me to hold on while she explained further. Ginger’s idea was to buy the business and liquor license. The space was large and after talking to the owner, she had learned that his business was very basic and he just didn’t need the space. Her plan was to lease back a quarter of the building to him and let him continue to sell beer and liquor as a drive-through store. The other two third of the space could be an upscale wine and cheese shop. She also wanted to offer imported beers, savory bites like we’d seen at Nano Nosh, fresh pastas, breads, ready to cook prepared entrees, and possibly a dessert bar. She said we could carve out a little area for a separate cupcake corner or we could incorporate the idea into the business model. She made it clear that she was not trying to usurp the cupcake business but thought we would have a better chance with a broader offering.

I agreed to consider it. “Won’t this take a much bigger investment?” I asked because I was concerned about sinking so much of my modest savings into a new business.

“Yes, if we want to do it right we will need to invest in chic fixtures and decor.  Add the cost of the building and the liquor license and we will have a real financial investment. Renting a space to the drive-up package store will help but it is still an expensive endeavor. But, lucky for us we already have an interested investor.”

“We do?” I was curious about our mystery investor but I was even more curious how Ginger had come up with this plan and the details so quickly.

“Yup we do. And he is willing to give us whatever we need.”

“Who is this guy?” I asked hoping that Ginger was going to say he was some anonymous silent partner. “And what will he want in return for his investment? Will he want to call the shots? I don’t want to just end up working for someone else’s business.”

“Don’t worry Brinkley, we will have free reign.” Normally I don’t test my friends honesty, but I let myself read that she was telling me the truth. Even with that validation, it was only her belief.

“How can you be so sure? Maybe he is talking that way now but….”

Ginger interrupted me with “I know because I am sleeping with him.”

Her statement stunned me. No, stunned was too weak of a word. I was bewildered. “You’re having an affair?”

Ginger raised her eyebrows and winked. “No, silly, Matt has offered to back us.”

As much as I love and respect Ginger, working with a married couple sounded scary to me. Before I could verbalize my fears Ginger explained that Matt was not interested in being involved in the business but willing to finance it. We continued to talk about the details until Ginger’s phone rang. It was the man himself, Matt.

“Brinkley, Matt received a sizeable inheritance and has done very well with his investments over the years. We don’t have kids so why not spend a little to do something interesting? Especially if has the possibilities of increasing that investment. We already have a house that is paid off and healthy retirement accounts from the state. If we fall on our face it won’t be the end of the world. Plus, he was impressed by the enthusiasm shown by the strawberry delivery.” I told myself to stop the truth checking.

“Are you sure?” I didn’t want to take advantage of my friend.

“You don’t have to take my word, you can ask him yourself. He is on his way over to take us to supper at The Beefeater.”

“You’re going out dressed like that? It’s just not like you.”

“No, silly girl. That’s why I brought this” she said as she unzipped the duffle bag exposing clothing and shoes. I should have known better.

I threw Eddie & Daisey in the backyard while we changed for dinner. I walked out of my room at the same time Ginger came out of my extra bedroom where she changed clothes. Ginger is a large-framed woman who wears fashion as well as any plus size model. She knows no fear and even though she is solidly middle aged, will wear one or two pieces that are cutting edge. Tonight, she was wearing a wide-belted taffeta shirtdress reminiscent of the fifties. The top half had a tailored fit, a wide collar, and wide buttons. The bottom was a flounce skirt, just above the knee, that helped elongate and slim her legs. True to Ginger’s style, the piece de resistance was a fabulous pair of shoes.

“Wow, those are some shoes” I said as I bent down for a better look. I’d never seen anything like them. They were five-inch-high heeled booties but they were not made of solid material; instead, they were an open grid of braided leather.

” They’re Christian’s” she replied with a smile.

“Why are you wearing Christian’s shoes and does she know?” I asked to annoy her.

“No, Christian Louboutin is the designer silly. You know, the ones with the red soles.” We were interrupted by a car pulling into the driveway.

“Quickly, before Matt gets to the door I just want to thank you for coming to my rescue. I really needed to be reminded that I am not a murderer and that things will eventually calm down with Mary Margaret, one way or the other. And you are right; helping Herbie with the Hope Wilson case will be a good diversion for me.”

As I went to the door I noticed there were two cars in the driveway and neither was Matt’s. One was Tuesday’s but the other was a mystery. I watched closely as both Tuesday and a woman that I did not recognize removed foil containers from their vehicles. It looked like food deliveries.

“What’s up girl?” I asked Tuesday and tried to get a better look at the woman behind her. The woman turned out to be Agnes, Mary Margaret’s mother. “Why, hello Agnes. What a pleasant surprise. Can I help with anything?”

“I think we’ve got it if you can just hold the door open” she replied.

Tuesday and Agnes made their way to the kitchen with each hand holding one of those disposable foil baking dishes. They deposited the containers on the kitchen counter then Tuesday went back to the car and brought in a grocery bag of paper products and plastic utensils.

“Are we having a picnic?” Ginger asked.

Tuesday spoke first. “My mother heard what happened and wanted to send over some food. She thought you might have visitors or family and wouldn’t feel like cooking.” She uncovered the first dish and simply said “adobo”. The second dish had two sections; one containing lumpia and the other pancit. “The lumpia is why I am so late. Making them is a real process but my mom insisted. And I know how you love her pancit.” She was right; pancit was my favorite Filipino food.

“She didn’t have to go to all this trouble” I said. I could hear the disappointment in the way Ginger plopped down on the sofa. She was all set for a night out on the town.

“Actually, yes she did. She is an old-fashioned Pilipino woman and that is what she does. Brinkley for her it was no bother. She lives for this” she said and winked.

“Well I am the same way only I’m an old-fashioned Native woman” Agnes chirped in. “I brought a piroq and halibut salad.

As I expressed my gratitude for their generosity and helped set up my kitchen counters as a buffet, Matt appeared in the door also carrying a trifle dish of southern-style banana pudding. I thanked and hugged him and put the pudding in the refrigerator. Ginger removed her fabulous Christian Louboutin shoes.

There was so much food that we made a few phone calls and before long my house was buzzing with friends and neighbors. I was reminded of how fortunate I was to live and be accepted in a small town where so many people treat you like family. This is especially important for someone like me with no family to speak of.

I sensed that everyone wanted to hear the details of what had happened with me and John Sinclair, although they were all too polite to ask outright, so I asked them if they would like to hear my side of the story.  It was a unanimous yes. Ginger, who had already discussed the events at length with me earlier, used it as an excuse to go home but urged Matt to stay and get the first-hand version.

In retelling the events of last night, I tried to be as careful as I could and I watched Agnes’s body language for clues. After all, her daughter was also injured in the incident. After my brief recount of the dark dining, the attempted break-in, the flowers and the ambush on the boat, my little audience had plenty of questions for me. When people started to disperse I asked Agnes to stay so that we could talk in private. She agreed.

I started to apologize to Agnes for what had happened to Mary Margaret but she put her finger over her lips and instructed me to “shush”.

“But all is not well if she is not seeing me” I explained.

“Brinkley, I don’t believe that’s Mary Margaret. I believe it is her husband. Joe isn’t letting me see her either.”  I was stunned by her remark. One of the first things I learned in advocacy training as a volunteer for the women’ shelter was how a controlling or abusive partner might try to separate his victim from friends and family. I always knew that something wasn’t quite right in their relationship, although Mary Margaret never shared any details, and I was hoping Joe wasn’t an abusive husband.

My disapproval must have shown on my face because she replied that Joe was simply trying to protect her the only way he knew how. For the second time in one night I used my gift on a friend. Agnes believed her words but I wasn’t as sure. I didn’t want to cause her any more grief so I smiled and nodded in agreement.

When everyone was gone, and my house was back in order, I called Herbie Carmichael and told him that I was back on the case and committed to helping him catch whoever let young Hope die. I was about to turn out the lights and go to bed when headlights appeared in my driveway and the ratties sounded the alert. I peeked through the window and saw Ginger.

“You didn’t think I was going to let you be alone tonight after everything that’s happened, did you?” she said as she entered the door with duffle bag in hand. “Plus, someone needs to act as a buffer between you and that killer cat. Oh, by the way, I went by the library on my way home and let your genealogy group know you would not be there tonight.”

“Thank you for doing that. It completely slipped my mind. I appreciate you coming back. I really didn’t want to be alone tonight. I wouldn’t have slept a wink. Plus, I just called Herbie and told him I am willing to help with the Hope Wilson case. Perhaps we could brainstorm on how I can get that so-called best friend of hers to talk to me. Oh, and Agnes told me Joe is also running interference and she’s not able to see or talk to Mary Margaret either.”             Ginger nodded and asked, “does that cat have a name?”

“No” I said as I realized the cat was going to need a name and better soon than later.

“How about Cujo? Or, is that reserved for crazed canines only?” she asked.

“She’s not crazed. She is just young.” I started to share with her that I was thinking of naming the kitten Libby but decided to think on the idea a little longer.

“Got popcorn?” she asked.




Chapter Forty Six


I took the longest, hottest, shower of my life. I washed my hair and scrubbed every inch of my body three times. I felt safe and warm in my steamy cocoon and I didn’t want to leave the comfort of my shower for the cold world outside until I remembered that I had a kitten to attend to.  I toweled off, threw on a robe, and quickly dried my hair. On my way to the kitchen I looked out the window and saw that there were still police lights flashing at the harbor. It was almost 6am so it wouldn’t be long before Kodiak residents would be talking about the events of the previous night.

I used a dish pan, a kitchen garbage bag, and the cat litter purchased by Mary Margaret to create a toilet for the kitten. A makeshift barrier blocked the doorway between the kitchen and laundry room to create a private kitten suite while I searched for a real home. I placed the kitten in the dishpan and used her paws to scratch in the litter and it wasn’t long before she scratched the litter and did her business. Potty training a kitten is so much easier than training a puppy.

After she relieved herself I grabbed an unused dog bed, the dog beds in my house go unused because I allow the dogs on my furniture and bed, and placed the bed and her water dish behind the baby gate. The only thing left to do was feed her. I opened a can of tuna, place a couple tablespoons on a saucer, and flaked it with a fork. I presented this feast to the kitten with little response. She sniffed it, backed away, looked up at me and let out a single mew. I tried picking up small pieces to hand feed her but that was unsuccessful as well. I had to get something in her so I poured some milk in another saucer, gave it ten seconds in the microwave, tested it to make sure it wasn’t hot, and then presented my second offering to the feline stranger. She quickly lapped it up while the rat terriers enjoyed the tuna.

I curbed my hunger with a glass of milk and couple oatmeal raisin cookies secured from the repast. With everyone fed and happy, I laid down for some much-needed sleep. I was settling into a comfortable spot when I spied my cell phone. Picking it up, the display lit up and indicated unread messages. They were all from Guy. In the first one he stated that he received a confusing message from me. The next message he he wanted to talk to me about the first message and was adamant I call him back as soon as I get his message. The lass message was Guy telling me that he leaving to find going to look for me. His voice sounded so urgent I considered calling both Guy and Mary Margaret to see how they were doing after last night. It was so early, and I knew they both had late nights, so I resisted the urge.

I slept hard and had vivid dreams although I was unable to recall them. The ratties, having been let out at five in the morning and given their tuna treat, didn’t wake me up at their normal time. They were tired and sleeping in too. If it hadn’t been for something soft and feather-like tickling my face, and a comforting but strange purr in my ear, I believe I could have slept all day. The strange sensations were slowing bringing me to full consciousness. I opened my eyes to find a kitten sleeping on my pillow amd wrapped around my head – so much for the kitty suite.

I checked the clock to learn that it was almost noon. I grabbed my cell phone to call Mary Margaret. I felt a strong desire to talk to her and apologize for getting her involved in all of this. After all, she was almost killed because of me. The message bar was showing again but this time it was a text message. I seldom exchange text messages so I was surprised and quickly unlocked my phone to read it. The message was from Guy. He was on airport run number two seeing off family members and didn’t want to wake me. I was relieved that he was still concerned about me after all the trouble I had caused him.

I hit the speed dial number for Mary Margaret. The phone rang only once before Joe answered.

“Hey Joe, it’s Brinkley. How is Mary Margaret doing this morning?”

“She’s sleeping” he answered in a monotone. I wasn’t sure if I woke him up, if he couldn’t be bothered with such a trivial question, or if this was his attempt at an unfriendly, icy tone.

“Oh OK. I just wanted to check on her after the events of last night” There was silence on the other end of the phone. “Listen, if there is anything I can do, please let me know. Perhaps I can bring over some Chinese food tonight …” I was interrupted by Joe’s response.

“Brinkley, I think it would be best for Mary Margaret if you two did not see each other for a while. She’s already dealing with her infertility issues, as you know, and now this thing…well, it is just too much. If you really care for Mary, please stay away.” He hung up the phone.

His words shocked me into reality. How stupid of me to think that I could make everything right with a simple offer of Chinese takeout. What was wrong with me? I had already had several encounters with John Sinclair so I knew what he was capable of. Plus, with my ability, I had become desensitized to things that other people found disturbing. Of course Mary Margaret was traumatized – she had been drugged, abducted, beat, restrained, and faced a horrible death. To make matters even worse, it was all my fault. If I hadn’t stuck my nose in police business and agitated John, then Mary Margaret would have simply left the cat litter at the back door with no problem. If I had been smart enough to figure out that the flowers and note weren’t from Guy, then I wouldn’t have even called Mary Margaret for help. The flowers, I forgot about the flowers.

I went into the living room and faced the flowers. I wanted to rip them to shreds. Yet, the flowers were beautiful innocent bystanders in this whole mess. I thought of Libby and all the flowers she had raised and not just for herself, but for the people of Kodiak.  She not only worked at the green houses turning tiny seeds into marvelous hanging flower baskets, she also volunteered through the Gardening Club to maintain several public spaces. The work she and other volunteers did on the hospital grounds earned them a volunteer of the year award last year.

I thought about what Libby might do. I believe she would have seen the beauty in the flowers and would not have destroyed them. It was best to give them to someone else who could appreciate them simply for their beauty and have no other attachment. Since I was going to the Ford dealership today, perhaps I could give them to Sandy.

The phone rangeand I dreaded answering. What if it was an angry Mary Margaret and she wanted to terminate our friendship? I just couldn’t bear that on top of everything else that had happened. It might be the police wanting to ask even more questions and go over everything yet again. There was that one new officer that didn’t want to believe the facts. He seemed to want to create some sort of conspiracy between me, Guy, and Mary Margaret where we set up John, killed him, and made it look like self defense. With an overpowering sense of dread, I looked at the display on my cell to see the words GUY HANSON.

He was on his way back from the airport and wanted to know if I was available for lunch or coffee and to talk. His last relatives were leaving on the 4:14 flight so he had a couple hours of free time. He sounded genuinely concerned for my well being and his concern touched my heart. Previously I was just attracted to Guy Hanson; now I was falling for him. I told him I didn’t want to go out since the details of last night were probably making their rounds around Kodiak so he said he would pick up something and bring it to my house shortly. I rushed to my closet and then the bathroom mirror before I had a reality check; Guy had seen me at my absolute worst last night. Anything would be an improvement over urine soaked pants, mascara running down my face, and blood spatter.

It was a beautiful day so I decided not to light a fire. That decision left the house a little chilly so I threw on a pair of flannel lounging pants and a light sweater. I opened the front door, barricaded off the deck entryway, and placed the big puffy dog bed out on the deck where I could easily see it from the living room. It only took seconds for Daisey to find her way to a good lounging spot in the sunshine. Eddie preferred to hang around me. The kitten was MIA. I saw Guy’s vehicle coming up the hill and hit the start button on the coffee maker. I checked to make sure that Daisey didn’t try to jump through the rails and off the deck when she saw we had a visitor approaching. I noticed the flowers on the table,  grabbed them, and stuck them in the closet just as Guy pulled into my drive way.

I opened the door and was stunned by what I saw. If I hadn’t been expecting Guy, and saw his vehicle under my carport, I might not have recognized him. I had no idea that his face had taken such a beating the night before. His nose was swollen, his eye were blackened, and he had a butterfly bandages on his top lip. His tee-shirt exposed a large bruise and several small cuts on one arm and a large bandage covering his forearm on the other. He looked like a warrior.

I grabbed Guy to hug him and he reminded me to be gentle because he was sore and bruised. Even I, the queen of second guessing motives, couldn’t read anything into that after having heard the fight between Guy and John last night. I grabbed the McDonald’s bags and beverage tray from his hands and led him into the living room while I went into the kitchen to plate the food. Eddie and Daisy did a great job of keeping him company while I was in the kitchen. Still no sign of the feline guest.

“Why are there three milkshakes? Is someone else joining us?” I was thinking that his son might be on the way.

“I wasn’t sure if you preferred chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry so I bought one of each.” I grinned at his statement. “So, which is it? Chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry?”

I didn’t want to disappoint Guy by telling him that I’m not fond of milkshakes so I came up with an alteration of the truth. “There’s nothing like a good milkshake to help cure a chocolate craving.” That was true; when it was that time of the month I did sometimes use a chocolate shake to cure my craving for chocolate.

“I kinda figured you for a chocolate girl” he said as I returned to the living room with our food artfully arranged on a plate. “Me, myself, give me plain ole vanilla.”

“And I correctly figured you for a vanilla guy” I said in response. “I only see one burger. Did you figure me for a chicken nugget girl too?”

“No, it’s just too hard to eat right now with this thing on my lip so I thought the chicken might be easier than trying to chimp down on a large hamburger.”

“Apparently you can eat French fries because there are three large orders of them” and with those words I popped one of the fries into Guy’s mouth. There was something sexy about feeding another person and, despite all the recent trauma, I could still feel it.

“Yup, I figured fries might be all I can handle right now so I bought extra.”

We ate slowly and quietly. I watched Guy as he struggled to chew the nuggets with a torn lip. I felt overwhelming guilt for his injuries and lost my appetite.

“You aren’t going to finish that?” Guy pointed to my half-eaten burger.

“No, I’m finished” I replied without telling him the whole truth.

“No wonder you stay so trim. You eat like a bird.”

“Oh, I get plenty of calories” and with that I picked up the strawberry shake and began to suck the sweetened milk and ice cream mixture into the straw before it finally hit the taste buds on my tongue. Not bad.

“Do you think I could trouble you for a spoon? You are making that milkshake look awfully appetizing and I’m not sure I can purse my lips to use a straw.”

“I guess smooching is out” I said before I realized my thoughts had actually escaped through my lips.

Guy blushed and he shook his head in agreement. “Yes, unfortunately, I believe that kissing is going to have to wait for a few days. Can I get a rain check though?”

“Absolutely” I replied.

Guy asked about Mary Margaret and I relayed the conversation word by word that I had with Joe. We fed the ratties small bits of cold leftovers to get them to do tricks.  Guy shared stories about the relatives visit. Turns out some of the visitors were his ex-wife’s family. He told me the story about how the two families had been close friends in his small Minnesota hometown and that they attended the same Lutheran church for several generations. It was always assumed that Guy and his ex-wife would grow up and marry. We seemed to be talking freely about everything except last night.

“Oh geez, look at the time. I’ve gotta go” Guy said as he rose from the sofa disrupting me and Eddie’s in our comfortable positions on either side of him. I was so relaxed nestled up against Guy that I found myself fighting to stay awake. His sudden movement brought me back to reality. I walked him to the door, gave him a soft peck on the edge of his mouth, and then he was gone.

I thought about his comments regarding Mary Margaret. He was right; she was traumatized and probably needed a little time to process everything that had happened. We had also discussed the possibility that Joe was speaking on her behalf and that my friend may not even be aware that I was reaching out for her. That was a particularly haunting thought for me. Luckily the phone rang and stopped my mind from going too far in that direction.

“What the hell happened last night? Why didn’t you call me? Are you OK?” It was Ginger. “Did you kill that man?”

Wow, I never expected anyone would ever ask me, in my entire lifetime, a question like that. The words were shocking. Did you kill that man? How do you answer that question truthfully yet tell the entire story as to why and how?

“In self defense” I answered. I was proud of myself for conjuring up the perfect answer on such short notice.

“So, you did kill that man?” Ginger continued, “well congratulations, somebody needed to.” I wanted to scold Ginger for suggesting that someone deserved to be killed but during that scuffle last night when I knew it was me or him, he was the one that deserved to die.

“Oh my God, it just hit me that I am a killer” I suddenly felt queasy with that realization. “I think I better go. I am going to throw up.”

“I will be right over” she said as she hung up the phone. She gave me no opportunity to object. That move was likely a deliberate one.             I used the time before Ginger arrived to hunt down the little feline. My house is not that big so how difficult could it be to find a baby cat? Apparently, it’s impossible because I checked every logical place and then a few hidden spots with no luck. For a moment I felt a flash of fear as I considered that perhaps the little kitten got away through the open door. No, the ratties would have responded if the cat made her way to their deck. I decided to wait and ask Ginger for help when she arrived. The kitten had other plans.

Chapter Forty Five

            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.

Chapter Forty Four

            Herbie was right. Just the intrigue alone took my mind off the troll’s announcement that Guy was her recent prey. As I drove to The Diner I wasn’t even thinking about the horrible nightmare. I was too curious about Herbie’s remarks to lend any brain cells to secondary issues. Just as I reached the restaurant my phone rang. It was Ginger. I would have let it go to voice mail but, because I had just dialed and hung up on her, I thought it best to answer and let her know nothing was wrong.

            After clearing up the call and hang up, I told her that after meeting EJ I was surprised they were friends.

            “Oh honey. We are not friends. My husband finds her interesting due to his interest in Geology. I’ve only been around her a couple times and she seemed to be a little too friendly with Matt if you know what I mean” Ginger said with a strong Georgia drawl.

            “Do I hear jealousy?” I loved to take a jab at Ginger now and then.

            “I though you said you had met her?” We both laughed at her quick sarcasm.

            I saw Herbie at the front door and ended the conversation with Ginger. We found a booth in the back, Herbie ordered a BLT, and I ordered a Coke Zero. When Herbie’s sandwich arrived it came with a huge mound of French fries so we shared them as we talked. There was something earnest and comfortable about Herbie and I was glad that Kathleen had found him.

            “Herbie Carmichael, do not keep me in suspense any longer. Spill it” I insisted.

            “OK, here is the deal. Let me explain the whole thing before you comment.” With those words, his cell phone rang. He explained to Kathleen that he was meeting with me and then he put me on the phone to say hi to my old friend. I really like that – he didn’t try to hide from his wife that he was having lunch with one of her friends. After hanging up with Kathleen, he proceeded to tell me the reason for our meeting.

            “Herbie, I am shocked. I don’t know what to say. You know I do not have magical powers, right?”

            He cocked his head and lifted one eyebrow. He was right; I guess my ability is in some way a magical power.

            “I meant I can’t conjure up Hope, or get a story from her belongings or anything like that. I can tell truth from lies but I don’t see or speak to dead people.”

            “Well, the Wilson’s think you do. They saw how you were drawn to her things in a trance-like state. Whether you like it or not, you left us for a few minutes and that made a big impression on them. They want you to come back to the house because they believe you might be able to figure out who left their daughter for dead in the woods.”

            “Left her for dead?” That was news to me. I assumed she was left there after she died. “You mean she was alive?”

            “Yes, there was enough evidence at the scene and preliminary autopsy reports would indicate that she was left out there prior to death.”  I was stunned to hear his words.

            “Could she have been saved if she was found earlier?” Herbie shook his head yes.

            “But the more important question is, why did someone leave her there instead of taking her to the hospital?” I pondered his question.

            “I can think of a few but the most logical seems to be that he or she did not want to be associated with her.”

            “Right on” was Herbie’s only response and he finished his sandwich. “I’m thinking it was a married guy.”

            “I’m thinking prominent?” I added tentatively.

            “You are thinking like a detective. If you are on board with this, let’s head over the Wilson’s and let you snoop around in her things for a while. It will appease the parents and, who knows, perhaps we will find some more evidence.”

            “OK, as long as the family isn’t led to believe I am something I am not.”

            “Brinkley, they have come up with this all on their own. They believe in all kinds of things that you and I dismiss. Maybe they aren’t as far off as they seem. Perhaps they can sense something different about you and assume you are clairvoyant or something,”

            When we left the restaurant my car was a little cranky starting. I made sure to park across the street, in front of the park, in case it wouldn’t start when we left the Wilson’s. I didn’t want to leave a dead car in their driveway.

            Both Mr. and Mrs. Wilson met us at the doorway and without a single word, escorted us up the stairs to Hope’s room. Another teenaged girl followed us up the stairs and we were informed that this person was Hope’s best friend Jennifer.

            Everything in the room looked as it did the day of the funeral. I wondered if the door had remained closed the entire time. I wanted to explain to the parents that I did not have the ability to communicate with their daughter but before I could explain, I was drawn into her again. I touched her belongings, and looked through her drawers and closet. Before I knew it, a half hour had passed in silence.

            “I am sorry Mr. and Mrs. Wilson but I do not have any news for you. I cannot communicate with the departed; however, I do believe that she was with someone she knew prior to her death.” Herbie gave me a quick glance that I knew meant tread lightly and cautiously.

            “The police think it was us but we could not kill our daughter. We loved Hope” said Mr. Wilson.

            “I know you didn’t kill her but someone else close to her may have.” I looked at Jennifer and bluntly asked “Do you know anything about this? Who might be responsible?”

            “I’ve already given my statement to the police” she replied and avoided my question,

            I asked her a series of questions, such as who Hope was dating, and for the finale I flat out asked Jennifer if she knew or suspected who killed Hope. She said no and it was a lie.

            “I don’t believe you” I said. Hope’s parents gasped and all eyes turned to the young girl now squirming in an old chair. “I believe that you either have more information than you realize or you are choosing to hold back.”

            “What are you, some kind of witch or something?” She got up and left the room.

            I followed after her and confronted her in the living room. “Who are you protecting? Why are you letting your best friend’s murderer go unprosecuted? Are you involved in some way?” I was asking too many questions and too rapidly to get a read or an answer.

            “Ok, ok” she said. “I have my suspicions but I do not know for sure (lie). I don’t want to go stirring up trouble for someone if I am wrong (another lie). And, I do not want to talk to the police (true).” With those words she left the house and there was nothing I could do to stop her.

            I wasn’t surprised when my car wouldn’t start. It wasn’t a premonition; it was experience. Once again, my friend at the Ford dealership was the consummate professional by delivering a loaner and towing away my vehicle. I was home within fifteen minutes of calling for help. The afternoon had slipped away and now I was rushing around to get ready for Aunt Cecil’s memorial. I felt a tinge of guilt when I realized the reason I was taking so long was because I was actually dressing to impress Guy.

Eventually I settled on a pair of snug fitting black slacks and a black, white, and turquoise wrap around top that accentuated my curves in a positive way. I really wanted to wear my flattering black wrap around dress but it looked much too funerary and not memorial service. Pointy black mules, an up do, and dangling turquoise earrings finished off the outfit. Satisfied, I herded the ratties back into the house and headed to the service expecting a quiet, somber night.

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.