A Taste of Death (Maggie Olenski Series) (6 page)

"Paul, of course, does too," Dyna went on. "He wants to continue his grandfather's work, to build on it. Unfortunately, he's only one stockholder. Some cousins own parts of it too, and from what Annette says they live far away and care only about profits and losses."

"You know that gives Paul a strong motive to murder Jack Warwick," Maggie said. "Killing him, I assume, stops the negotiations, and Paul keeps his ski resort."

"I know," Dyna said reluctantly, her face wrinkling with concern. "But I know Paul just couldn't do something like that. He just couldn't."

"Maybe you're right. But that motive will keep him high on the suspect list, I'm afraid, unless they find someone to replace him."

Maggie suddenly realized their chair was nearly at the top of the slope. She focused her attention to positioning her skis and poles properly to disembark, and, unlike her first attempt, skied off and away from the chair smoothly.

As she and Dyna adjusted gloves and poles, preparing to push off once more from the top, Maggie said, "I saw the way Paul was looking at Elizabeth last night. That, and his asking about her with such concern today, tells me he has strong feelings for her."

Dyna looked at Maggie, her face clearly showing this was a new idea to her. "You might be right. I wonder if Elizabeth is aware of it, though. She seems kinda down, maybe because of her mother and all. I don't think she's been in much of a mood for seeing anyone."

"What about that comment Annette made this morning? She seemed to be hinting that Elizabeth would be upset about Jack Warwick's death."

"Yeah, that was pretty weird. I don't know what she meant, but Annette's a big gossip, as you probably noticed. Half the time I think she's just trying to stir something up."

Maggie nodded, but she still wondered. She and Dyna pushed off together, Maggie keeping up with Dyna easily now. She skied on auto-pilot, though, her mind flashing over Paul, Alexander, Karin and Elizabeth. Suddenly she realized what she was doing and braked in the middle of a turn.

Stop this Maggie! You told Dyna you weren't going to go looking for things, and there you were, at the drop of a hat, eavesdropping on those ski patrollers back at the lodge. Now you're trying to come up with suspects. Remember what you're here for. To write a math book. Nothing else!

"Anything wrong?" Dyna called to her from the base of the slope.

"No," Maggie called back, annoyed with herself. She dug her poles in and aimed her skis downward again. Yes. Too much was wrong, but it wasn't up to her to make it right.

"On your right," a voice behind her called, and a skier swooshed by, passing a few feet to her right side. Maggie watched as he made it speedily to the bottom, then followed at her own, slower pace. She came to a stop a few feet from Dyna and pointed one pole in the direction of the intermediate slopes.

"Let's move on over. I'm ready for something that will make me work harder and think less."

"Great!" Dyna turned and led the way to the next chair lift some distance away. Maggie followed, pushing with her poles, skating on the flat terrain. It took much more effort than skiing downhill, but she was grateful for it, hopeful that it would help clear her head of things she didn't want there.

However, as they passed in line with one of the lodge windows, she glanced over and caught sight of Karin Dekens inside, lit up by the sharply angled beams of the winter sun. Karin still wore her green and white jacket, but her hat and goggles had been removed. She faced a man whose back was to the window. It might have been her husband, Alexander, Maggie couldn't tell, but he was obviously upset about something, his hands chopping at the air as he spoke.

What's going on, Maggie immediately wondered, then quickly forced herself to look away, up the slope. She clamped her jaw and silently repeated
a mantra as she kept moving. The words sounded in her head in
time to each forward push of a s
ki
: "I won't get into it. I won't get into it. I won't get into it!"

 

<><><>

 

They skied the rest of the afternoon, trying out one slope after another, Maggie pushing herself hard. During resting time, if her thoughts strayed back to Jack Warwick and the problems he had generated she quickly moved her mathematician's mind to calculating the angles of slopes and rate of speed and distance covered by the skiers. There weren't too many other skiers, though, which surprised her on this perfe
ct ski day, and she mentioned that
to Dyna.

"Big Bear's been getting battered by competition from some of the newer, bigger resorts," Dyna said. "Th
ey have more money to advertise
and to offer special deals. It's a shame, because a lot of people don't know what they're missing. This might be a small place, but it's still got a lot to offer. I love it here."

At the bottom of one of the harder runs, after four hours of skiing, Maggie looked at Dyna's red cheeks and nose and grinned, sure that hers were the same.

"Had enough?" she asked.

Dyna nodded. "Uh-huh."

They headed back to the lodge and wearily racked up their skis. There was no sign of Paul Dekens, or of Karin and Ethan as they walked into the dining area, shaking snow out of their hair and rubbing their cold hands. Dyna suggested they stop and get mugs of hot, mulled cider and relax a while by the crackling fire, a suggestion that didn't take much coaxing with Maggie.

Deep shadows now covered the mountain, and a wind had picked up, sending puffs of powdery snow into the trees. Maggie shivered as she watched it through the large windows, and leaned a little closer to the fire, happy now to be comfortably indoors. Most other skiers had left or were leaving, although she noticed a few adventurous ones arriving, getting set for a few hours of night skiing.

She sipped her warm, spicy drink and stretched her legs out lazily onto the low hearth. She felt she could stay right there forever.

Eventually, though, her stomach growled
,
and she looked over at Dyna. Dyna looked as enervated as she felt.

"I guess we should go home and fix dinner"

"Uh-huh."

"We bought all that food this morning."

"Uh-uh."

"Did we get anything that says `add water and heat'?"

"I sure hope so."

Neither moved, and they stayed where they were until all the light had disappeared outside except for the slope lights now dotting the view. Finally Maggie stirred, thinking of the trek back to the car they still had to take
,
loaded up again with all their equipment. Better do it while they still had an ounce of energy left. She pulled a reluctant Dyna to her feet and aimed her towards the lodge door. There they paused to zip, re
-
glove and brace themselves for the icy blast sure to be waiting on the other side.

 

<><><>

 

After a dinner that filled them up with calories with the least amount of effort, Maggie felt her energy slowly revive. She lingered for a while on the counter stool, sipping coffee, letting the caffeine do its work. When she found her thoughts toying with ways to present math puzzles she knew she was ready. She helped Dyna clean up, then went to the oak table to turn on her computer, eager to finally begin the work she had come all the way up here to d
o. She sorted through her notes
and began spreading papers around her.

"
I can practice my yoga upstairs
and let you work in peace," Dyna said, folding up a dish towel and hanging it over the oven door handle. "I've been working on Sirshasan - you know, the headstand - and hav
en't quite got it yet. But I'm okay
on Padmasan." At Maggie's questioning look she explained that was the lotus position. "I've got that down pat, no problem there. But I'm still having some trouble with Soorya Namaskas. That's where you bend over, touch your knees with your head and put your hands flat on the floor. I can get fingertips there, but not the rest yet."

"Well, good luck," was all Maggie could think of to say. Dyna had many interests, and for as long as they lasted, she threw herself into them wholeheartedly. Maggie wondered how long the yoga would last. She watched Dyna trip up the winding wrought iron stairs and disappear into her room. She turned her attention to her laptop and stared at the blank screen for several moments, trying to organize her thoughts.

Thoughts of murder and motives tried to creep in, and  she pushed them away firmly to focus on math pu
zzles. Still, nothing was popp
ing on
to
her monitor. Well, might as well type in the title page. Perhaps that would get her juices flowing. She typed in "Fun with Math", looked at it and erased it, replacing it with "Math Games and Puzzles". Better? Maybe "Math Can Be Fun"? No, she went back to "Math Games and Puzzles", t
yped her own name underneath it
and decided to print it out to see how it looked. She could hang it on the wall beside her for inspiration.

A tiny light at the base of her key pad blinked.
Oops, battery's running low. Should have hooked up the power adapter. Where is it?
Maggie looked around, then realized she didn't remember unpacking the thing. She must have brought it, though. Didn't she?

She stood up and went through a couple of boxes on the floor. No power adapter. Her suitcase? No, she had unpacked that thoroughly and knew it hadn't been there. Shoot! She hadn't brought it!

Maggie looked back at the screen. A warning sign had popped up. Her laptop would be useless in about two minutes, and remain so until she could get hold of a power adapter. She sank into her chair and ran her hands through her hair in frustration.

Her evening was now shot, and instead of spending the whole day tomorrow as she had intended, inside, working hard, she'd have to go out shopping. Who knew if there was even a store in Cedar Hill that carried computer stuff? She might have to go searching from town to town for one. And with her luck she'd probably stumble over another dead body on the way!

"Aaarrrggghhhh." Dyna's groan floated from her room as her body stretched for some yoga move.

"My feelings exactly!" Maggie called back. "Double!"

CHAPTER 5

 

M
aggie pulled on her boots and looked around the small foyer of the cabin for her hat.

"You're sure you don't mind if I go out to Big Bear without you?" Dyna asked, for probably the fourth time that morning. They had risen early and fixed a sumptuous breakfast of poached eggs with hollandaise sauce over English muffins. While washing up, Dyna noticed that a gentle snow had begun to fall and declared how it was her most favorite of all conditions in which to ski.

"No, honestly, Dyna. I want you to go," Maggie said. Besides, she knew sending Dyna off to the slopes would leave her with that much more quiet time at the cabin. Maggie saw the hat hiding on the floor behind Dyna's boots, grabbed it and pulled it on.

"At least I could drive you there, couldn't I?" Dyna said, looking torn. "I don't want you to get lost."

"Don't worry, I had a sashful of badges in Girl Scouts. And these are my most favorite of all conditions for taking a walk through the woods. See you later."

Maggie pulled open the side door and trotted down the steps before Dyna could say anything more.

At the end of the driveway Maggie turned left to hike the few yards down the road to the footpath that wound through the woods. Dyna had pointed it out as they drove past it yesterday afternoon, explaining that it was a short cut to Main Street. She could have taken her own car, but Maggie felt a need to work off some
of the
frustrated energy still with her from last night after her laptop went dead.

When she stepped into the woods Maggie was immediately enveloped in the perfect silence of tall trees and softly falling snow, and she felt her tension lessen. Thanks to snowmobilers packing down the snow
.
the path was walkable, but, ha
ppily, there was no sign of the noisy vehicles at the moment
. It was so quiet she could almost hear the flakes land, and she was transported to another world.

After walking a while, since she was all alone, she tilted up her head and stuck out her tongue to catch a few flakes. They were cold and delicious, just as they had been when she was ten years old. Although she had said it lightly, Maggie realized what she said was true. These conditions were her favorite for taking walks.

She noticed no signs of any wildlife as she went along - no squirrels, chipmunks, or birds twittering around, which caused her to picture small creatures peeking out from their cozy nooks, shaking their heads in amazement at this foolish, two-legged creature, outside in the cold and damp instead of sensibly tucked away like them. She grinned. A little snowfall certainly seemed to bring out the child in her. Before long she'd find herself plopped on her back making snow angels as she had loved to do in kindergarten.

Maggie grabbed a long stick lying in her way and carried it with her as she walked. She tried swinging it as a tennis racquet, remembering the lesson Rob had given her last summer on her backhand, but decided the slim branch made a better golf club or hockey stick, and batted at a pine cone or two. She walked on in this manner, enjoying her isolated world until the path took her over a small rise and back
in
to civilization.

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