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Authors: Kathi Daley

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BOOK: The Grudge
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“Getting sodas.” Alyson snuggled up next to Devon.

“So where do we start?” Devon put his arm around her shoulders.

“I’m not sure really. I just figure three deaths—or almost deaths, in Mario’s case—in three days. Seems beyond coincidence. If you look at each event in isolation it seems like a believable accident, but if you look at them as a whole it seems like something more. Add to that the fact that the woman was in the room alone, supposedly getting ready to take a bath, but there were two wineglasses on the coffee table, both half full. I guess it’s not unheard of for someone to leave without finishing their drink, but it almost looked like the encounter was interrupted.”

“You think one of the drinks was drugged?” Andi concluded.

“It would explain why a twenty-nine-year-old woman appears to have had a heart attack.”

“The woman was running a bath when she fell unconscious,” Mac pointed out. “Do you think there are drugs that can cause a heart attack so quickly? If she wasn’t feeling well prior to the attack she would have turned off the water in the tub.”

“I’m no expert on drugs,” Alyson said, “but I’m guessing there are.”

“Do you think we should bring our suspicions to someone else?” Trevor asked. “Like maybe Dr. Mark or the security patrol?”

“If we do we’ll have to admit we’ve been sneaking around, and without some type of actual evidence to distract them from that fact, I’ll probably just end up spending the rest of the week in my room,” Andi pointed out.

“We wouldn’t want that.” Trevor put his arm around Andi.

“If we get something really concrete I’ll go to my dad and take my chances. If we’re wrong and we’re seeing murder where there’s only bad luck, I’d just as soon stay out of the dog house.”

“I wonder if there’s any connection between Bruce Long and Stacy King,” Mac mused. “If they were both poisoned, I’m thinking we may have a serial killer on our hands.”

“Someone may just be killing randomly,” Trevor pointed out. “Maybe there’s no connection between the victims.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Mac informed him. “A killer with a specific motive is one thing; someone who kills for no apparent reason is another. With the road closed off, someone who’s killing randomly would have an unlimited number of potential victims.”

“I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe I should bring our suspicions to my dad after all,” Andi realized.

“Let’s see what we can find out tomorrow, then decide,” Mac suggested. “So far we have tons of speculation but no proof. The possibility that these really are isolated accidents still exists.”

“Okay, so what’s the plan for tomorrow?” Trevor asked.

“We can go see Carmen,” Alyson said. “Maybe she can give us some insight into Mario’s past that might make him a victim.”

“And tomorrow night we can take another pass at finding the drug tests,” Eli added.

“And I’ll check with HR to see whose employee comp was used this week,” Andi volunteered. “I’ll just need to figure out a logical reason for inquiring.”

“Has anyone heard an update on the weather?” Mac asked. “I’d love to have an hour or two on the Net. The more we know about each of the victims, the better chance we have of finding a link between them.”

“I’ll see if I can find out,” Andi promised. “My dad usually keeps pretty good track of the weather. I know the guests are getting restless. We weren’t able to run the lifts at all today.”

“It seems like it isn’t snowing as hard as it has been.” Devon walked over to the large picture window. “And the winds have died down considerably. Maybe it won’t be so bad tomorrow.”

“I hope you’re right. We can run the lifts in the snow. It’s the wind that’s the problem. Guests tend to get cranky if they miss more than one day on the slopes.”

Alyson yawned. “I guess we should plan to get together in the morning. Not too early, though. All this sleuthing is making me tired.”

“I’ll bring pastries if you can make the coffee,” Andi volunteered.

“You need a ride?” Trevor asked.

“No, I can always get a ride around here. Say we meet at nine?”

“Sounds good,” Trevor answered for them all.

“Something just occurred to me.” Devon sat down next to Alyson. “Both Bruce Long and Stacy King were here alone. Is it common for guests to come to the resort by themselves?”

“Not usually,” Andi answered. “Bruce Long was supposed to meet someone and Stacy King obviously knows an employee, so I guess it’s not really all that strange that they had single rooms.”

“I sure would like to know who Bruce Long was supposed to meet.” Alyson rested her head on Devon’s shoulder.

“You said the phones in the rooms are for intraresort use. Is there any way to find out who may have called Bruce Long’s room on the night of his death?” Alyson asked Andi.

“I’m not sure. If guests know the extension they want they can dial directly without going through the switchboard. Still, I guess there could be a computer record. I’m afraid technical stuff isn’t my area of expertise.”

“I’ll check into it,” Devon said. “Can you get me access to the main server?”

“I don’t know. What’s a main server?”

“I’ll see if I can subtly get the info I need from my dad. We often discuss jobs; he shouldn’t find it strange I’m asking about this one.”

“Okay, good. Sorry I couldn’t be more help.”

“Don’t worry, you’ve been a lot of help. There’s no way we’d be able to investigate this without you. You’re part of the team.” Trevor squeezed Andi’s shoulder.

“I really should get home. My dad starts to worry around this time.”

Trevor stood up. “I’ll take you.” He turned to Devon. “Can I borrow the Expedition?”

“Sure.” Devon threw him the keys.

“I’ll see everyone tomorrow.” Andi got up and started toward the door.

“Don’t wait up.” Trevor winked as he followed Andi out into the storm.

“I hope Andi knows what she’s getting herself into.” Mac chuckled as Trevor closed the door behind him.

“I think Andi can take care of herself.” Alyson stood up and stretched. “I’m going to bed. See you all in the morning.”

“I think I’ll head up too.” Devon followed Alyson up the stairs.

“Alone at last.” Alyson heard Eli say as he turned off the overhead lights.

Chapter 7

 

 

As promised, Andi showed up the next morning with a bag from the resort bakery. The wind had all but stopped and the snow had slowed to a gentle dusting. Although the drifts were so high you couldn’t see beyond the snowbank directly in front of you, it really was beautiful.

“The lifts are open today.” Andi set the bag of goodies on the table. “Maybe if we get done playing Nancy Drew early enough we can get a couple of runs in. With all this fresh powder the skiing should be awesome.”

“Sounds good. Is the Internet back up?” Mac asked.

“Not yet, but it should be by this afternoon. There’s actually supposed to be a partial clearing around two. My dad said that helicopters from Vancouver are coming in to retrieve the two bodies. I guess it’s a good thing you were able to get the blood sample last night.”

“Are the police going to conduct any type of investigation?” Devon asked.

“I’m not sure, but I sort of doubt it. Everyone still thinks the things that happened were accidents. Unfortunately, the killer, if there is one, has done a good job of making everything look perfectly natural.”

“Did you get hold of Carmen?” Alyson poured herself a cup of coffee and took a sugar doughnut from the bag.

“Not yet,” Andi answered. “I didn’t want to call too early. I’ll try now.”

“I talked to Dad,” Devon said while Andi made her call. “He said the phone system is run by a centralized computer. We should be able to access phone records for the dates in question if we can get inside the room that houses the server.”

“Did he say where it is?” Eli asked.

“The room that houses all the mainframes for the resort is in the admin wing of the main lodge.”

Alyson looked behind her as Andi approached from the hallway.

“Carmen’s going to catch a ride into Vancouver with the helicopter when they get here, but she said we could come by to see her this morning. I told her we’d be there in about an hour.”

“Has she heard any more about Mario’s condition?” Mac asked.

Andi shook her head. “With the phones down she’s been as isolated as the rest of us. I think that’s why she’s flying in to see him.”

“Any idea when the satellite phones will be back up?” Devon asked.

“I’m guessing this afternoon if the weather holds, as is predicted. My dad said there’s another front coming in behind this one, so the reprieve may be short-lived. If we do get Internet service we should take advantage of it.”

“I need to call my mom too,” Mac informed them. “I told her I’d call to check in. I had no idea there’d be no phone service.”

“We usually only lose service for an entire day maybe ten days out of the year. You guys just picked an extrastormy week to be here. The weather forecast is for a series of storms, one right after the other.”

“Did you mention to Carmen why we wanted to talk to her?” Mac helped herself to a second cream-filled doughnut.

“I just said we needed to ask her a few questions. She didn’t ask about what and I didn’t volunteer. We should decide how much we want to tell her.”

“As little as possible,” Alyson said. “We don’t want to worry her. Although I don’t know how we’re going to casually ask her about Mario’s past without letting her in on the idea that we suspect foul play.”

“I could go alone under the guise of dropping off a get-well gift for Mario. I could subtly work in the whole medical school thing,” Andi suggested. “It might be less intimidating than if we all showed up.”

“That’s a good idea,” Mac agreed. “Don’t you think so, guys?”

“Yeah, it makes a lot of sense.” Devon nodded. “Trevor can drive you. Meet us back here after you talk to her.”

“We should go now. I’ll need to stop off in the village to get a gift.”

“Are you feeling okay?” Mac asked Alyson after Andi left. “You look a little pale.”

“I’m fine. I guess I’m just tired.”

“I hope you’re not getting sick.”

“I doubt it. I think I’m just having a hard time getting started this morning.”

“Yesterday was a long day and we did spend half of it soaking wet,” Devon pointed out.

“I’m fine, really. I’m going to run upstairs to get dressed.”

 

Alyson and the others were sitting in front of the fire discussing the advantages of different types of skis when Trevor and Andi returned.

“What’d you find out?” Alyson poured fresh cups of coffee all around.

“We asked Carmen about the whole doctor thing,” Andi started. “I told her that Mario had mentioned to me one time that he went to medical school and I had always wondered what happened. She said he’d wanted to be a doctor ever since he was a little boy. They came from a poor family, so there was really no way he could afford medical school until he found out about a government program in which the military would pay for school in exchange for several years of service after his residency. Mario’s a real pacifist, not at all the military type, but at the time Canada was at peace and had been for some time, so he saw it as his opportunity to make his dream come true.”

“And then 9/11 happened,” Alyson guessed.

“Exactly. By the time he finished his residency and was ready to fulfill his obligation to the marines we were smack dab in the middle of the Afghan War. He was deployed overseas almost immediately. Carmen doesn’t know what happened there, but when he came home he was a different person. He heard about the maintenance position from a friend and he’s been here ever since.”

“And Carmen? How did she come to work here too?” Devon asked.

“She came up one summer to visit Mario and fell in love with the place. She applied for the position at the cantina and has been here ever since as well.”

“Mario’s employee file said he was married. Do you know if that happened before or after he got here?” Mac asked.

“During his residency Mario fell in love with one of the nurses. When he went off to war he asked her to wait for him, but when he got home from the war he pretty much turned his back on everyone. He came here and stopped communicating with anyone from his previous life. First Carmen followed him and then Jessica. Jessica applied to be a nurse at the clinic. Carmen said Jessica knew what she wanted and she wanted Mario. She refused to let him wallow in whatever self-pity had brought him here. She finally married Mario last summer.”

“Wow, talk about true love. Mario must be a pretty special guy to command such loyalty,” Alyson observed.

“Yeah, he’s a sweetie.”

“You said Mario was in the marines. Bruce Long had a ring from the marines. Maybe that’s the link,” Alyson speculated.

“Could be,” Devon agreed.

“You think someone is killing marines?” Trevor asked.

“Maybe. Or maybe just specific marines,” Alyson guessed. “Like maybe Afghan vets.”

“If the Internet ever comes back up we should be able to find out where and when Bruce Long served,” Mac said. “It might help us figure out exactly what happened to Mario. Is there anyone else Mario was close to? Anyone he might have confided in?”

“He was close to Charlie. I guess we could talk to him again,” Andi suggested.

“Do you think he’s working today?” Mac asked.

“Probably. With Mario out and so many people working on the snowslide, we’re drastically understaffed.”

“Let’s go see if he’s around.” Alyson stood up immediately.

“Be sure to bundle up,” Devon warned her.

“Don’t worry, Dad, I will.”

They once again climbed into the Expedition and headed to the maintenance yard. The sun was peeking through the clouds, making it appear as if there were millions of tiny diamonds on the fresh-fallen snow. It really was beautiful.

Charlie was just climbing into a snowplow when they arrived.

“Hey, Charlie. Plowing today?” Andi called.

“Yeah. Bret’s still AWOL, so I’m trying to cover his job and mine. When I finally catch up with that guy I’m going to kill him.”

“He’s been missing since yesterday?” Andi asked.

“Yeah, but don’t tell your dad. He’s a bit of a slacker, but we’re pretty good friends. I’d hate to see him get fired.”

“Your secret’s safe with me,” Andi assured him. “Let me know if there’s anything we can do to help.”

“Any of you know how to drive a loader?”

“Sorry.” Andi laughed. “If we run across Bret we’ll send him in your direction.”

“Thanks. I need to get going. They’re opening the runs on the front side of the mountain today and the road to the lifts is a mess.”

“Okay, see you later.” Andi waved.

“You didn’t ask him about Mario,” Alyson pointed out.

“He was in a hurry. It would have seemed odd to make casual conversation. We can ask him later.”

“Do you think it’s strange that Bret has been missing since yesterday?” Mac asked after they returned to the SUV.

“I don’t know. Charlie didn’t seem that concerned,” Andi pointed out.

“Yeah, but Charlie doesn’t know about the other things that have been happening,” Alyson reminded her.

“You think something happened to him?”

“Maybe. In light of everything else we know I wouldn’t rule it out. Maybe we should check out his residence,” Alyson suggested.

“Okay. Bret lives in one of the condos behind the main lodge that we use for employee housing. I’m not sure my passkey will work on his door, but we can try. Just take a left at the service road right before the main drive going up to the lodge,” Andi instructed Devon.

The condos were mostly deserted at this time of day, when everyone was working. Bret’s condo was the third from the left on the second floor. Andi’s key turned the lock, but the door refused to budge.

“That’s strange.” Andi wiggled the doorknob. “It feels like the door is locked from the inside with a dead bolt.”

“He must be in there,” Alyson deduced. She tried looking through the window, but the curtains were drawn except for a narrow slit.

“Bret, are you in there?” Andi pounded on the door.

They waited for a minute, but no one answered, so Andi knocked again.

“You guys looking for Bret?” The next-door neighbor poked his head out of his door.

“Yeah, have you seen him?”

“He left early this morning. Might be working.”

“Actually, he didn’t show up at work today. If you see him can you tell him Charlie is looking for him?”

“Will do.”

Alyson had a strange feeling as they turned and walked away. If Bret was out who had locked the door from the inside?

“If Bret left his apartment this morning but never showed up for work maybe he’s playing hooky after all,” Mac concluded.

“I guess,” Andi agreed. “It’s a pretty bad time to be AWOL. I’m not sure he deserves Charlie’s loyalty.”

“I had the feeling Charlie’s loyalty had more to do with his friendship with Mario than Bret,” Alyson said.

“Let’s head over to HR to check on the comps,” Andi suggested. “Then maybe we can get a couple of hours skiing in after lunch. With all this fresh powder the runs should be in excellent shape.”

“I want to check the phone records,” Devon reminded them. “Once I get into the server room it shouldn’t take too long to access the mainframe.”

“Okay, you check the phone records while Andi checks with HR; then we’ll go over to the café for lunch,” Alyson said.

“I’ll go with Devon,” Mac offered, “in case he needs some help.”

“Okay. The rest of us will wait in the lobby,” Alyson said. “We don’t want to look too obvious.”

 

Forty minutes later the gang was seated at a large booth in the café.

“Twelve employees used comps this week,” Andi started. “I guess Christmas is a popular time to have friends and family visit.”

“Did you get a list?” Alyson asked.

“Yes.” Andi handed the list to Alyson. “I think you’ll find number eight particularly interesting.”

“Bret Robbins. Charlie’s Bret?”

“One and the same.”

“Does it say who he comped?”

“No, but I figured we should ask the other employees who they comped and we’ll see if Bret sponsored Stacy King by process of elimination.”

“How hard is it going to be to track the other eleven down?” Mac asked.

“Not hard. I know where they all work. In fact, two of them work right here: the cook and the hostess.”

“Okay, let’s ask,” Alyson said.

“Order me a coffee if the waitress comes by,” Andi told them.

“If Bret’s comp wasn’t Stacy maybe he’s AWOL because he has a guest of the female persuasion visiting,” Trevor speculated.

“I guess that could fit,” Alyson agreed.

Andi returned to the table and sat down next to Trevor. “Two down, nine to go.”

“How about the phone records?” Alyson asked.

“There were quite a few calls made on the twenty-sixth. Mac and I didn’t have time to go through all of them so we made a hard copy. We’ll look them over while we eat,” Devon said.

BOOK: The Grudge
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