Authors: Cheryl Bradshaw
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective
“Kate’s good,” he said. “I don’t get up there to see her much, but I try to give her a jingle now and then.”
“You’re still my favorite client, you know.”
“And why’s that, my rugged good looks?”
“You were my first,” I said.
“Indeed, and for that I am forever grateful.”
Marty was adopted at birth. When he aspired to and later became mayor he experienced a sudden urge to dig up his roots and find his birth mother. That’s when he contacted me. It took me almost six months to find Kathryn which was the equivalent of two years in detective time.
“How goes the PI business these days?”
“I haven’t found a case I can sink my teeth into at the moment,” I said. “But I can’t complain.”
He shot me a wink.
“No one threaten your life this week, eh? How boring.”
“The week’s not over yet,” I said.
“Can’t convince you to go back to basics even if I wanted you to, right?”
“And risk the thrill of the chase, never.”
DD glanced at her watch and rapped her manicured nails in sequence on the table. A waiter approached her and paused a moment to say something. She shook her head and he walked away.
Marty polished off the last of his coffee and rose from his chair.
“Ready for the grand tour?” he said.
I intertwined my arm in his.
We walked out of the cafe but didn’t make it far before the rapid succession of footsteps approached us from behind. A tall male with a resort name badge tapped Marty on the shoulder.
“Excuse me, I’m sorry to interrupt. Mr. Langston, there’s an urgent phone call for you,” he said.
“I’m sure it can wait,” Marty said.
“You should take it sir.”
“Why?” he said.
The man glanced at me and then back at Marty.
“I’d rather not say.”
“You can speak in front of Miss Monroe,” he said. “She’s like family to me.”
The man grimaced but realized he had no options.
“We just got a call from snow patrol. Something’s happened on one of the ski runs and it sounds serious.”
Marty shifted his gaze from the man to me.
“I better see what’s going on,” he said. “Can you wait here for a minute—I’m sure it’s nothing.”
I nodded and Marty followed the man down the hall.
With nothing left to do, I turned my attention to DD. She twisted her already curly blond hair into perfect spirals around her finger and then looked at her watch and frowned and let out a deep sigh of frustration. She then stood up and slung her Louis Vuitton bag over her shoulder and walked out of the room.
Marty returned a few minutes later with a stern look on his face.
“Forgive me my dear, duty calls. Rain check?” he said.
“Is everything alright?”
His jaw tightened and he shook his head.
“There’s been an accident.”
I lingered around for a few minutes before leaving Wildwood. Marty left without the slightest hint about the accident and I wanted to know more. I finished my tea and took one last look-see out the window, but there was no sign of him anywhere. Time for me to go.
I pushed through the entrance door and was met with a forceful tug that launched me forward and brought me up close and personal to a familiar face on the opposite end.
“Well, well, if it isn’t little miss nosy,” he said. “Let me guess, you just happened to be in the neighborhood at the right time. Sound about right?”
“Give it a rest Coop.”
Detective Drake Cooper stood 6‘5 and used every inch of his stalwartly physique to browbeat anyone who stood in his way, and that included everyone. He had an oval-shaped head and a jacked up nose that he owed to the various altercations he endured in the line of duty, most a result of his less than agreeable nature. For a man with senior citizen status his body retained a great shape. Even through his sports jacket anyone could see he packed two tickets to the gun show.
“Look,” I said, “I know about the accident.”
I figured I was already there, why not do some fishing.
“And you came by this information how?” he said.
“Marty told me.”
He grabbed the door and swung it all the way open.
“Why don’t you run along now and let the big boys do their job,” he said.
It looked like the fish weren’t biting today.
Coop squinched his eyes and waited for me to make my move.
“Anytime sweetheart,” he said. Only it sounded a lot more like
To say Coop walked around with a chip on his shoulder was a gross understatement. He had been the thorn in my otherwise lovely side for the past several years. He had an old school mind and practiced old school ways. Change wasn’t part of his vocabulary, and he had zero tolerance for my kind. In his eyes I didn’t deserve the role of detective. I was just some menial PI who nosed around and stood in the way of the real police work. Except this PI had earned the right, and on more than one occasion. I expect this fact made him resent me all the more.
Three years earlier Coop lost his dream of Park City’s next chief of police to Wade Sheppard, a detective with half the experience. Life dealt him an unfair hand and everyone else had to pay the price. And they did, in spades.
I went to my office, returned some calls, and drove home. Lord Berkeley, A.K.A. Boo, spun around when I walked through the door and did his usual welcome dance. Then he stood on his two hind legs with his paws up in an attempt to greet me as civilized people do. I scooped him up and carried him with me to the kitchen.
“And how’s your day going Boo, hmmm? Miss me?”
His deep black eyes stared up at me and he tilted his head to the side and wagged his tail.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” I said.
I stroked him a few more times and then set him down. He trotted off to the sofa and then jumped up on it and waited.
I fished through the dishwasher for my favorite mug. It was white with brown letters on the front that said
Man cannot live on chocolate alone, but a woman sure can
. I reached for my kettle, filled it with water, and turned on the stove. I couldn’t get the look on Marty’s face out of my mind so I picked up the phone and gave him a call. He didn’t answer. I left a message.
A few minutes later the teapot let out a familiar whistle. I poured the water and joined Lord Berkeley on the sofa and the two of us sat back and took in the stillness of the lake through the window. In the summer month’s water skiers, boaters, and fisherman filled the lake, but in winter it turned solid white and was ensconced with snow.
My phone rang to Louis Armstrong’s
A kiss to build a dream on
“Well good evening Detective Calhoun,” I said.
“I wanted to say thanks for last night.”
“It’s me who should thank you,” I said, “for the lovely evening, and the lovelier ending.”
“While we are on the subject, do you want to talk about it?”
“I thought we just did,” I said.
“You know what I mean.”
I sensed the disappointment in his voice and wished I could avoid the subject all together.
“Come on Sloane, you know how I feel.”
“And you know how I feel,” I said.
As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I realized I said the wrong thing.
“Are you serious? Every time I try to have the
talk, you shut down. To be honest, I have no idea what to think.”
“I don’t know what to say or what you want from me.”
“I’m ready and I thought you were too.”
In truth, Nick convinced himself that I was ready because that’s what he wanted. It wasn’t that he didn’t care about my feelings; he just thought he knew what was best for the both of us.
“You still there?”
“I’m here,” I said.
“Try something for me, okay. Quiet all the chaos in your head, stop finding a reason to poke holes in everything, and give me an honest answer.”
In a world full of men who would rather shoot themselves with a nail gun than converse about the current state of affairs in their relationship, Nick was the one exception.
“I suppose you’re right,” I said. “We should talk it out.”
“I need some time,” I said.
“I’d like to at least sleep on it.”
“How about we meet tomorrow night for dinner and you can tell me where you’re at with everything.”
“Sounds good,” I said.
If only I meant those words. We set up a time and said our goodbyes.
The next step in the relationship consisted of cohabitation. The pooling together of two separate universes combined into one solid entity. Mi casa es su casa. Nick only saw things one way, point A to point B. In his mind, point B should have happened a long time ago. He made it clear that he wasn’t going to wait for me forever. It was crunch time, the bottom of the ninth, and I had exhausted all of my reasons about why we shouldn’t, and he had exhausted all his reasons about why we should. Nick always said he considered himself a
person and that I was just the opposite, I always asked
—why did we need to take the next step in our relationship and why couldn’t things stay the same way they always had. He was right; I did poke holes in things.
Lord Berkeley woke suddenly and barked at a rather large shadow out the window. The night had blanketed the sky, but it was too dark for me to see what ailed him. I tiptoed over to the window and peered out. In the soft glow of the street lamp I saw a mother moose and its baby cross the yard. She took a few steps and then turned to make sure the little one was still in tow. I watched them continue on their way until I couldn’t see them anymore and then turned to Lord Berkeley.
“It’s okay Boo,” I said, and I patted him on the head.
We sat back down together and I grabbed the remote and flipped on the TV. My phone rang again, but this time it was Marty.
“I’ve had you on my mind all day today,” I said. “Is everything okay?”
He paused for a time before he uttered a response.
“Actually my dear, it isn’t. It’s been a long day, and a tragic one at that.”
“Oh no, I’m sorry to hear that,” I said. “What happened?”
“It’s one of the skiers, she’s dead.”
The morning sun shone its rays through the trees and melted away pieces of fallen snow that had rested on its branches. It was a mere eight degrees outside, and I was en route to my office. Nina Simone belted out a familiar tune, but my thoughts centered on my conversation with Marty the night before. The skier he spoke of died instantly, running chest first into a tree. To make matters worse, Marty knew her. Not in an intimate way, but enough to regard her as a friend. She was a local and an experienced skier, which didn’t make much sense. A tree should have been easy for her to avoid. Marty said she loved to go out alone first thing in the morning to take advantage of the fresh powder. A married couple found her motionless body beneath the tree and called Ski Patrol. When they reached her, she wasn’t breathing. The husband administered CPR until the paramedics got there, but it was too late, she was already dead and there was nothing anyone could do.
I switched gears and thought about Nick. My iPod changed songs and Nina sang just for me now,
Don’t let me be misunderstood
. Nick wanted an all access pass into my life. I knew what that meant and how it would change things. First move in together, followed by marriage, and then what, babies? Of course he wanted babies, but how many—and what if I couldn’t provide them?
My office sat on the North end of Park City’s Historic Main Street. I parked in my usual spot and noted the temperature on the console of my dash which had risen by a single digit. Nine whole degrees, yippee. I fumbled with my keys until I found the one to my office and eyeballed Lord Berkeley.
“Come on then,” I said.
I reached out for him, but he didn’t move. He looked out the window and then back at me and then out the window again.
“Oh, it’s not so bad,” I said. “Come on, we’ll hurry. Promise.”
That did the trick. I snatched him up and made a mad dash for the door. Once inside I stripped off my scarf, gloves, and coat. I kicked my flip-flops over to the corner and tried to decide what I wanted to drink. Hot chocolate sounded good. With no appointments for the day walking around the office in my bare feet seemed like a wise choice. I squished my toes into the thick shag rug in the center of the room and breathed in the warmth of my office, all seventy-six degrees of it and then walked over to the thermostat and cranked it up a couple notches. Lord Berkeley made a beeline for his dog bed and settled in.
I sat at my desk and pressed play on the message machine. The first two were solicitations. A male caller reminded me I needed to take some time to consider advertising in the local phone book again. He listed the various sizes they offered along with their corresponding prices. I deleted it. The second caller was a female. She gave me a spiel about a great opportunity she had for me. I deleted it and then pressed play on the last message.
“Hi,” the caller said, “my name is Audrey Halliwell. I’m trying to reach Sloane Monroe. If you could please return my call, I would appreciate it.”
I jotted down her name and number and then picked up the phone and dialed.
“Hello?” the voice on the other end said.
“This is Sloane Monroe. Is this Audrey?”
“Thanks for getting back to me so fast,” she said.
“No problem, what can I do for you?”
“I got your number from Mr. Langston,” she said.
“I’d like to hire you,” she said.
“What can I do for you?”
“I don’t want to get into it over the phone if you don’t mind.”
“Why don’t you stop by my office and we can talk?”
“That would be…that would be great,” she said.
“When would you like to come in?”
“Would today work?” she said.
“I can do that. Is two o’clock alright?”
“Perfect, see you then.”