Authors: Kathi Daley
The cabin where Bruce Long had been staying was just down the road from the pub. The body had been found about halfway between the two, supporting the theory that the man was simply walking home, passed out, and froze to death. After breakfast the gang walked the short distance to the cabin through the still raging storm.
“Maybe we should have driven.” Alyson wiped the snow off her shoulder and shook out her knit cap after Andi unlocked the door and ushered them all inside.
“The SUV’s still at the restaurant. I can go back to get it,” Devon offered.
“That’s okay; with all this snow there’s nowhere to park.” Alyson stomped the snow off her feet, creating a small pile of snow on the hardwood floor of the small but cozy cabin.
“We have a crew that plows out the drives of the guest cabins, but I guess they didn’t bother with this one because its occupant won’t be needing his car,” Andi said.
“Okay, everyone look around for anything that might be a clue, but be careful not to disturb anything you don’t have to,” Mac instructed.
“What exactly are we looking for?” Trevor asked.
“I don’t know. Anything that might give us a clue as to who the victim was, what he was doing here, or who might have killed him.”
The closet and dresser drawers were full of clothes, both casual and dressy. The bathroom counter was littered with the usual personal grooming supplies and the drawer of the bedside table held round-trip tickets from Calgary. Beneath the ticket stubs was a file folder with receipts from charges made during his stay at the resort, as well as a car rental contract dated four days earlier. According to the contract, he had planned to return the car on the twenty-eighth.
“If Mr. Long lived in Calgary I wonder why he flew into Vancouver, then rented a car,” Andi mused. “That makes no sense. Calgary’s no farther away than Vancouver; he could have just driven from there.”
“That does seem odd,” Mac agreed. “Unless he had other business in Vancouver and came up here as a side trip.”
“It looks like our victim was meeting someone at the pub.” Eli held up a note he’d found on the table near the phone. “It says ‘pub eight p.m.’”
“What time was the body found?” Alyson asked.
“Around nine o’clock,” Andi answered.
“The guy was almost completely covered with snow when the couple found him. He couldn’t have been at the pub very long,” Trevor pointed out.
“It was snowing pretty hard, around eight inches an hour, but he still would have had to have been lying in the snow for at least thirty to forty minutes for it to cover him the way it did,” Andi agreed.
“So maybe someone helped Mother Nature along,” Eli concluded.
“You think someone buried him?” Mac asked.
“Either that or he never went to the pub and ended up in the snowbank prior to eight p.m.”
“We should definitely check with the bartender,” Alyson said. “Something isn’t adding up.”
“It might be a good idea to speak to the couple who found the body,” Devon added. “Maybe we could get an idea of how much snow the body was actually buried under.”
“Where does the bartender live?” Alyson asked.
“In an apartment over the pub.” Andi looked at her watch. “It’s a little early for Hank to be up and about. Maybe we should start with the couple.”
“Do we know who they are?” Mac asked.
“No, but I can find out. Let’s take a ride over to security headquarters. It’s about a mile down the road so we should drive.”
They headed back to the café to get the SUV and then drove to the security office. Even though the drive wasn’t all that far it took almost ten minutes with the treacherous road conditions.
“Hey, Sheila,” Andi greeted the young woman who sat behind the long counter that separated the lobby from the desk space when they arrived. “I’m showing a couple of guests around. This is Trevor Johnson and Alyson Prescott.”
The others were waiting in the SUV.
“Nice to meet you. I hope you’re enjoying your stay in spite of the weather.” The pretty young woman shook each of their hands over the counter.
“We are, thank you. I don’t suppose you have a bathroom?” Alyson asked. “Too much coffee at breakfast.”
“Sure.” Sheila buzzed the gate open. “Down the hall to your left.”
Alyson walked down the hall and slipped through the second door on the right. Andi had told her that was where she’d find the records for all recent cases, including Bruce Long’s. She looked around to make sure she was alone before quietly opening the file cabinet drawers. Each drawer was filled front to back with different colored folders, each folder labeled with a last name and a date.
Luckily, they were alphabetized: Langford, Littleton, Long. Alyson opened the last file and began to read. Bruce Long, found buried in a snowdrift at 8:57 p.m. by Rita and Mark Hawkins. The Hawkinses had reported seeing a human foot protruding from the snow pile as they walked back to their cabin after dinner. Resort security was called in to retrieve the body at 9:05. The victim appeared to have passed out on his way home from the pub. Official cause of death was hypothermia. Personal belongings included wallet, keys, military ring, and clothing, all being held in locker 712 until next of kin could be reached.
Alyson returned the file to the drawer and snuck back into the hall. She could hear Sheila laughing as Trevor told her a totally fictitious tale of the previous day’s activities. Alyson considered using the facilities for real but decided she’d be pushing it timewise.
“What’s so funny?” Alyson asked as she returned to the counter.
“Trevor was just filling us in on the mishap he had the last time he went skiing,” Andi explained.
“Yeah, he’s quite the storyteller.” Alyson glanced at the clock. “Listen, we need to get going. I just realized how late it’s getting. We’re supposed to meet Devon and the others.”
“Oh, right.” Andi got up from the chair she had been sitting on. “We really should go. Have a good day.” She waved to Sheila as they left.
“So did you find out anything?” Mac asked when Alyson, Trevor, and Andi returned to the vehicle.
“I got the names of the couple who found Long.” Alyson slid into the front seat next to Devon. “Rita and Mark Hawkins. It didn’t say where they were staying.”
“Head over to reservations and I’ll find out,” Andi instructed.
“The file also listed his personal belongings.” Alyson filled them in as Devon drove toward the main lodge. “Nothing out of the ordinary; still, it might not hurt to have a look. The notes said they’re in locker 712.”
“That’s one of the lockers in the security office,” Andi explained. “They’re used mostly for lost-and-found items.”
“How hard would it be to get a peek at locker 712?” Alyson asked.
“It might be tricky, but not impossible. We’d probably need a diversion.”
“Oh, great. A diversion.” Mac sighed. “I knew I wasn’t off the hook completely. What’s the plan?”
“Sheila’s already seen us once today, so going back during her shift might be pushing our luck. The next shift change is at two o’clock. I know where the keys to the lockers are kept, so if someone can keep whoever’s on duty busy, I’ll sneak in and take a peak.”
“A girl after my own heart.” Trevor put his arm around Andi’s shoulders. “Totally hot and an investigating mastermind.”
Alyson looked in the rearview mirror. She noticed Andi smile at Trevor as they slowly made their way across the resort. Maybe there was a romance in the making after all.
“Here we are.” Devon pulled up in front of the main lodge.
“Okay, you guys wait here and I’ll get the Hawkinses’ room number,” Andi directed. “If they’re staying at the lodge I’ll wave to you and you can park and join me inside. Chances are, though, if they were walking from dinner or the pub to their lodging when they discovered the body, they’re staying in one of the cabins.”
Andi opened the door of the SUV and ran through the blizzard into the lobby. Someone had shoveled the steps, but there were already several inches of new snow on the flagstone walkway.
“It’s a good thing we have four-wheel drive,” Mac commented from the third-row seat. “The roads are getting pretty bad. I wonder why the plow hasn’t been by for a while.”
“I heard someone say that most of the snow removal team is working on trying to clear the slide,” Eli filled her in. “I think there’s only a skeleton crew left to take care of things around here.”
“Well, I for one am all for getting the road cleared. It’s kind of freaking me out to know there’s no way out of here. I mean, what if there were a real emergency?”
“I wouldn’t worry, Mac.” Alyson tried to console her friend. “I’m sure the resort is prepared for whatever might come up.”
“Like a psycho serial killer?”
“I doubt that’s what we’re dealing with.” Alyson turned the heater up in an attempt to defrost the windows. “But if we are, I doubt he’d target us.”
“Oh, no. We’re just the ones snooping around, trying to uncover his plan.”
“If you’re not comfortable being part of this you can wait for us back at the house,” Alyson offered.
“No, I’m fine. I’ve just always had this fear of being trapped. Knowing there’s no way out is giving me a kind of claustrophobia. But I’m in. I’ll be okay.”
Andi slid into the seat next to Trevor. “I got the Hawkinses’ cabin number. They’re staying at the cabin two doors down from where Bruce Long was staying.”
“Okay, let’s check it out,” Alyson said.
The drive to the cabin was a short one, less than a mile. But with the drifting snow and lack of visibility, the trip took several minutes.
“Cabin’s dark,” Devon commented. “Maybe they’re out.”
“They could be anywhere.” Alyson tried to peer through the window, which had fogged up on the inside. “We’ll have to come back later.”
“So what now?” Devon asked.
“It’s too early to meet with the bartender and the shift change at the security office won’t be for several more hours. Maybe we should check out the maintenance shop,” Mac suggested. “If Mario’s burns were something other than an accident maybe we can find a clue.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Devon pulled out onto the snow-covered road. “Things are getting bad. We may have to lay low until a plow comes through. Even with four-wheel drive the drifting snow is causing some really deep sections of road.”
“Let’s see if we can get an ETA on the road crew while we’re at maintenance. In fact, that might be a good cover for why we’re even there,” Andi said.
Once they arrived at the maintenance station, Devon found a place to park and they all piled out. The roads might not all have been cleared, but it looked as if the crew had plowed the parking lot at the maintenance facility at some point.
“Hey, Andi. What’s up?” A man in a blue uniform greeted her as they made their way into the large warehouse that was used to repair equipment and store maintenance supplies.
“Hey, Charlie. I was out with my friends and noticed that the roads are getting really bad. Any idea when we can expect a plow to come through?”
“Most of the crew is helping out with the slide, but Bret Robbins stayed behind to take care of the village. I don’t know where he is, though. He’s not answering his radio. I’ve been trying to contact him for over an hour.”
“Maybe the storm’s interfering with the signal,” Andi guessed.
“Maybe, but I’ve been able to reach everyone else all right. I’m betting he’s home napping. I was thinking of heading over to his cabin to check it out. Now that Mario’s gone the boss left me in charge. I want to do a good job.”
“Speaking of Mario, I was wondering if you saw anything on the day of the accident.”
Charlie shook his head. “I went home early; case of food poisoning. It was bad, stuff coming out from both ends. Mario was covering for me. He wasn’t even supposed to be on shift that day. I can’t tell you how bad I felt when I heard about the explosion.”
“Do you happen to know how you got the food poisoning?” Andi asked.
“Must have been the roast beef sandwich I had for lunch. I was fine until I ate it.”
“Where did you get it?” Andi pressed.
“Had it delivered from the staff cafeteria. It’s been real busy the past few weeks with the resort being so crowded, so I decided to work while I ate.”
“And you started feeling sick immediately after you ate?” Andi confirmed.
“Yeah. I called Mario and he came in to cover for me. I guess if it weren’t for that sandwich I’d be the one in the hospital. I’ve really got to go check on Bret. It’s important to me to do a good job, for Mario. He’d be having a coronary if he were here and the roads weren’t plowed.”
“Sure, go ahead. I’ll talk to you later,” Andi said, excusing him.
“Is there any way we can get a look at Mario’s personnel file?” Alyson asked Andi.
“Yeah, later. After the human resources department closes. We could sneak in after dinner.”
“It might be worth taking a peek. I doubt we’ll find anything, but at this point we shouldn’t leave any stone unturned,” Alyson decided.