CLOSING THE COTTAGE, PART 3

CLOSING THE COTTAGE

(Part 3 of a series)

© Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour

 

Caroline pushed her chair back as she noticed the time at the bottom of the computer screen––11:55. Her throat felt slightly scratchy. Another pot of tea would be in order, she thought as she stood up and headed downstairs. “Come on, Princess,” she called to her sleeping cat. Princess flicked her ears and continued her nap on the foot of the bed.

            Caroline decided on a cup of soup instead of the tea. While it was heating in the microwave, she took the binoculars to the front window and looked over at Mr. Malcolm’s cottage. All appeared quiet. Of course, he was most likely having his lunch, unless he had gotten caught up somewhere. The microwave timer beeped. Caroline smiled and set the binoculars down. It was probably safe to sit on the porch.

            As Caroline sipped her soup, her mind wandered to the young woman, Cindy Logan, who had just gone missing. She also wondered about the other girls featured in her scrapbook. All of them had disappeared without a trace, as well.

            She glanced across the lake. A thick fog was rolling in, but Caroline caught a glimpse of Mr. Malcolm on his front porch. He was staring over at her, and he waved. She just about spilled her soup in her haste to get inside her cottage. She clicked the lock into place. Caroline leaned her back against the door and slid down to the floor. Princess came pattering down the stairs, headed for her dish, and began meowing.

            “I just want this to be over,” Caroline mumbled to her cat as she rubbed Princess behind the ears. “See you upstairs; I’m going to work on my story.”

            Caroline climbed the stairs to her room and sat down at the computer. She reached over and flicked on the desk light. The room was dark, the fog having closed a curtain on the afternoon sun. “Oh, Ruth, what shall you do now?” Caroline asked as she began to type…

            Ruth prepared a TV dinner and took it down to the basement. She walked to the far end, stopped before a large steel door, took a key from her pocket and put it in the lock. The door swung open. Inside was dim; the only light filtering through was from a small, barred window. There was a stale human odour––male. A groan came from the far corner.

            “Want your supper?” Ruth asked with a sneer in her voice.

            Another groan.

            “Speak up, I can’t hear you!”

            Another groan. Ruth leaned over the figure. “This ankle looks pretty bad; is it painful?” she asked, giving it a poke.

            This time the groan was filled with agony.

            “Oh, forgive me––you can’t talk with so much tape on your mouth. Here, let me help you with that!” Ruth reached over to the face and ripped the tape off.

            The man screamed…

            Princess jumped onto the desk and walked across the keyboard. “Silly cat,” Caroline said, scooping her off the desk and putting her on the floor.

            Caroline’s throat was extremely sore now. Must have been the early morning dampness she had endured while crossing the lake and setting the traps. She knew how susceptible she was to such weather, especially since her breakdown. She reached into her desk drawer, pulled out an Echinacea spray and gave her throat a shot. She glanced at the computer time––5:00 already.

            Caroline got up, turned her TV on and lay down on the bed beside Princess. The early news was just beginning…

            “No trace, whatsoever, of Cindy Logan,” the newscaster was saying. “The search party has found no clues…”

            Caroline pulled her scrapbook out again, and ran her fingers over the pictures of each of the girls––Traci Burns, Jordan Knowles, Karen Watson, Bernadette Holmes, Tammy Munst… She snapped the book shut, tears welling up in her eyes. She flicked the TV off and headed downstairs. Princess followed.

            Once in the kitchen, Caroline grabbed a set of keys from the drawer and headed down to the basement, walking past the humane animal traps, noticing the empty spot above them. At the end of the main room, she put a key into a large steel door and stepped inside another room. There was only one, very small window with bars. Caroline flicked a light switch. All was in order––waiting…

            As Caroline was walking back to the stairs, she heard a knock on the back door. It sounded desperate…

Part 4…October 3, 2012

Closing the Cottage, Part Two of a Fall Mystery Series

CLOSING THE COTTAGE

(Part Two of a Series)

© Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour

 

Caroline opened the fridge, pulled out some left over lasagne, popped it in the oven, and then went down to the basement. Her father had purchased some steel traps a couple of summers ago because they’d had an infestation of raccoons. Her mother had protested, so he’d gone out and bought some humane cages, to appease her. Caroline knew her father had used them anyway; she’d followed him one day when he’d snuck out early in the morning. She followed him a lot––she’d seen a lot––learned a lot, too.

            Her father was quite meticulous; one would never suspect the traps had ever been used. Caroline took them off their hook, headed up the stairs, set the traps by the back door, and then pulled her supper from the oven. She glanced at the clock––only 4:30, but she needed to sleep early so that she could wake early to accomplish what she had to do. 

She took her supper out to the front veranda and sat in one of the Muskoka chairs.  The sun was already beginning to disappear behind the tall fir trees that surrounded the lake. The lake was still. Caroline picked up her binoculars from the end table by the chair and focused on Mr. Malcolm’s cottage.

He was chopping and piling firewood. Apparently he lived there year round.  There were stories about Mr. Malcolm, but Caroline’s father thought that Mr. Malcolm was a good man. Caroline didn’t get that feeling.

He paused in his work, turned and stared over toward her cottage. Caroline shivered, and then took her binoculars, went back inside her cottage, and watched him through the blinds until he resumed piling his wood. Then, she made sure the locks were fastened on the doors and windows, and went upstairs to her room. 

Princess was still sleeping on the desk. Caroline set her clothes out for the morning. She didn’t want to have to turn on any lights––he might be watching. She flicked the T.V. on just in time to catch the 6:00 news.

“A young woman has gone missing from the Lake District, the fourth one this summer. Cindy Logan was last seen, with her German Shepard, Duke, heading off on some hiking trails. The dog returned to the campground around 5:00 this afternoon, without his mistress…”

Caroline flicked the T.V. off. She reached under her bed, pulled out a scrapbook and began flipping through the pages. Every summer, since they’d owned this property, young women had been disappearing. She’d kept the newspaper articles, and made her own notes alongside each one. She also had some photos––ones she’d taken––photos that could be incriminating for someone. She put the book back and lay down. The alarm clock was set for 4:00 a.m. She had no time to waste now that there was another victim!

The alarm buzzed loudly. Caroline bolted from bed, dressed, and headed downstairs. The moon cast a path of light through the kitchen window. She gathered up the traps and headed out the door.

The early morning whooping of the loons greeted her. Caroline clutched the traps close to her chest, so they wouldn’t rattle, and then headed to where her canoe was tied by the dock. The motor boat was housed in the boathouse on the other side of the cottage.  Caroline hated using it, so her dad had finally purchased a used canoe for her this past summer.

Caroline laid the traps in the canoe’s belly and stepped in. She manoeuvred into a comfortable position and began to paddle. It took a while to cross the lake, despite its relative tranquillity. Finally, the canoe grated on the shore, just down from Mr. Malcolm’s cottage. Caroline tied the canoe to a tree, gathered the traps, and headed for the woods that skirted his property. She had noticed him go there quite often. Sometimes her father went with him.

Just inside the trees she saw a well-worn path that led to a marsh. A couple old camping chairs sat at the edge, a battered tin pail, filled with cigar butts, placed between them. Caroline surveyed her surroundings. She checked for footprints and then began placing the traps. Satisfied that at least one of them would do the job, she returned to her canoe.

Back in her cottage, Caroline made a pot of peppermint tea. Princess meandered around her legs, begging for breakfast. Caroline filled her plate and then took her tea and headed up to her room. She turned the computer on and pulled up her story…

Ruth hadn’t checked the traps for a couple of days––she’d come down with a terrible cold. She lay in bed wondering if she’d caught any prey. Her cat was curled at the foot of the bed, fast asleep. “I better check things out today,” Ruth said to her cat. “I don’t want anyone else to come upon any prey I may have caught…”

                                                                        Part 3…September 26, 2012

 

Review: Forbidden Fruit

Forbidden Fruit
Forbidden Fruit by Erica Spindler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Forbidden Fruit by Erica Spindler – 5 stars
This is the story of the Pierron women and their shadowy past, and the affect that past has on the lives of the ones who are still alive. Forbidden Fruit takes you into the world of sultry New Orleans, to the home of Lily Pierron, a legendary madam, like her mother and grandmother before her. What is different now is that Lily wants a different life for her own daughter, Hope, and she makes sure that Hope has the best education that money can buy. She even goes as far as setting up an entire new identity for her daughter. However, unbeknown to Lily, Hope cannot wait to get out of her mother’s house, and she embraces this new identity with the intention of leaving all of her past behind––including her mother.

Hope, who is beautiful, smart, and talented, fits into high society quite well, despite the darkness that torments her from time to time. She met the man of her dreams, Phillip St. Germaine III, owner of a well established hotel, The St. Charles. They married and were happy until Hope gave birth to a baby girl. She had been hoping to break the Pierron women’s curse, by having a boy. Hope refused to have anything to do with her new baby, much to the surprise of her husband, Phillip.

Hope spends a lot of time in the church, and she decides that she must ask the guidance of her priest. She tells him that the women of her family are evil and wanton––that they are cursed. She tells him that she has escaped the darkness but she fears for her baby daughter’s eternal soul, saying that she can see the darkness in the child. The priest tells Hope that she has the power to mould her daughter into a woman of high moral character; the child can be Hope’s glory, or her defeat.

So, Hope names her daughter, Glory, and sets out to do just that. Glory discovers, at an early age, that she can never please her mother, no matter what she does. Glory suffers unquestionable punishments that even her beloved father, despite his devotion to his daughter, cannot stop because he is so enamoured––controlled––by his beautiful wife. Eventually, Glory does as she pleases.

Enter Victor Santos, a young man with a troubled past, who has a chance meeting with Lily, Hope’s mother. She takes him in and he becomes like the son she never had. How do all the paths cross…Hope, becomes desperate when she finds out that the hotel is in trouble, and she turns to her mother for money. She tells her mother the transactions must be kept secret, though, and her mother sends Santos with the first instalment. As Santos is leaving the hotel, Glory spots him.

Things spiral from there. I don’t want to give away too much more…you must read Forbidden Fruit for yourself…the darkness that continues to haunt Hope, no matter what she does…the darkness that grips Glory, although in a different form than her mother’s darkness…the darkness that holds Santos to his past…the darkness that torments Lily. You will want to keep turning the pages…these characters are so alive, and despite everything, as in real life, we never know what goes on behind closed doors––no matter how pretty the door is on the outside.

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Closing the Cottage, Part One, Fall Mystery Series

CLOSING THE COTTAGE

Part One

© Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour

 

It had been a long summer. Mom and dad were heading back to the city and their mundane jobs. She would be staying for another six weeks, being of age now; she’d been waiting for this opportunity for a long time.

            “Caroline, we’re leaving now, love,” her mom called up the stairs.

            “Be down in a sec,” Caroline shouted.

            “Your father has the car running, dear; please don’t dawdle.”

            “I won’t mother.” Caroline’s eyes squinted––she hated to be pressured. She pushed her chair away from the computer; no need to turn it off today because she and Princess, her cat, would be the only ones in the cottage after they left.

            “Caro…”

            “Here mother,” Caroline shouted as she bound down the stairs.

            “Careful dear, you’ll fall.”

            “Where’s dad?” Caroline asked, ignoring her mother’s concern.

            “In the car.”

            “He couldn’t wait in here, to say goodbye to me?”

            “He wants to leave before the traffic gets too heavy; you know how he hates driving bumper to bumper.”

            “He should have thought of that before he bought this place way up here in cottage heaven!” Caroline said with a sneer in her voice.

            “He bought it for you, to help you recover after your breakdown.”

            “He did?”

            “Yes, and it did help you…”

            “Did it?” Caroline smirked, and then laughed. “Oh, Mother, give me a hug and a kiss; I won’t be seeing you for a while.”

            Mother and daughter hugged. “Are you sure you’ll be okay, dear?”

            “I’ll be fine,” Caroline sighed, pulling out of the embrace.

            “Don’t forget, Mr. Malcolm is just across the lake. He can be here in a jiffy with that boat of his. Just call him on the CB.”

            “I’ll be fine, Mother.” Caroline didn’t like Mr. Malcolm––he gave her the creeps.

            “If you take our boat into town, make sure you leave early enough so you can get back before nightfall. It gets dark early now and…”

            “Mother, we’ve gone over all this. Stop worrying, I’ll be OK. You better hurry or dad will leave you behind, and then you’ll get fired from your job for not showing up!” Caroline laughed as she headed out the door.

            Her father was in the car, impatiently tapping the steering wheel. “Good-bye Dad.”

            “Oh, finally … good-bye Caroline; is your mother coming? We’re going to miss the ferry to the mainland.”

            Caroline winced. “Of course … she was just giving me last minute instructions.”

            Caroline’s mother scurried into the car. “Sorry Gerry, I was just going over things with Caroline and…”

            “Buckle up Lucy.” Gerry put the car into drive. “See you in a few weeks, kiddo; take care of yourself.” The car sped off down the laneway.

            Caroline waved to her mother, who would keep waving until the car disappeared around the bend. Mother was always pokey, something she couldn’t help. Caroline had figured that out before she had turned ten years old.

            Caroline turned and went into the cottage. She plugged the kettle in to boil water for a pot of tea. Princess came out of hiding and began rubbing around her legs. Caroline checked the cat dish––it was empty. She filled it with kibble.

            Princess pushed Caroline’s hand away, with her nose, and began chomping on the kibble. Her tail puffed and she started purring.

            Caroline poured a cup of tea and buried her nose in the fragrant steam. Peach was her favourite. She locked the front and back doors, and then checked all the windows to ensure they were closed and locked. There was a chill in the air this morning. Then, she headed up to her room.

            The computer was on screen saver. Mystical creatures: unicorns, dragons, fairies, vampires, etc., travelled across the screen, camouflaging what was beneath them. Caroline set her tea cup down, moved the mouse and smiled as she read the words on the screen…

            “Finally, they are gone,” Ruth murmured under her breath…”

            Princess jumped on the desk, settling on a stack of papers. Caroline began to type… 

            …how she hated always playing ‘the game’ … now, they would all have to play hers––especially Mr. M. who lived across the lake.

            Ruth looked around. She had secured everything in place: the traps the notes … the plan … the room. She slipped on her jacket and stepped into the crisp morning air. She wanted to check the traps. It would be weeks before anyone ventured up this way again.

            It was not a fruitful morning. The traps were empty. Ruth was sure Mr. M. didn’t suspect anything––what was there to suspect? He figured he had everyone fooled––but not her––she read right through him––she knew what he was capable of…

            Caroline typed throughout the afternoon. The story was taking shape in her computer. Princess cracked open an eye, occasionally, to make sure her mistress hadn’t deserted her. Finally, Caroline pushed away from the keyboard. “Time to get something to eat, kitty.” She scratched Princess behind the ears.

The sun had already disappeared behind the pines.

Part Two, September 19th, 2012

GILBERT

GILBERT

© Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour

 

Dedicated to all those who have lost a love one through cancer

 

It was a long trek for Gilbert, but he couldn’t miss this event. He smiled when he saw  Becky standing guard at the back gate, making sure no one snuck in without paying, but she’d let him in––she always did.

          “Why Gilbert, you old son of a gun!” Becky laughed. “Its bin too long; where ya bin hidin’?”

          “Don’t git aroun’ much any more,” Gilbert smiled. “Got real bad arthritis in my joints.”

          Becky gave Gilbert a gigantic hug. “Git in here … need a drink?”

          “Water will do fer now.”

          Becky fetched him some water. “I got a few things to look after, so I’ll catch ya later. Some of the old gang should be along shortly.”

          Gilbert was thankful they hadn’t arrived yet. He felt weird this year, couldn’t figure why. He found an empty picnic table and sat down.  The crowd began to trickle in. A band was tuning up for their first session. 

          Becky studied her old friend. He had aged. His hair and beard were snow white, except for a red strip down the middle of his beard. Some might mistake it for red hair––she knew better––Gilbert chewed tobacco. She smiled as she noticed the length of his braid. Thirty years ago he swore he’d never cut it off. Becky wondered if he was bald under the bandana that he always wore. He was wearing glasses this year––a funny little round pair––made him look like a possum. Becky noticed the torn black jeans, greasy work boots, and the picture of a wolf on his shirt. Wolf Man was his nickname, back in the day.  

          Becky shuddered. She had a strange feeling something terrible was about to happen.

          Gilbert lit a cigarette. Smoke curled around his head. He felt the tightness in his chest and began coughing. “Damn cigarettes,” he cursed as he coughed up a whopping gob of sputum. He gazed around, making sure that no one was looking, and then spit under the table.

          The band was playing some 50’s rock and roll. They were old boys, like him. He glanced over to the entrance and noticed his buddy Roy heading toward him. “Hey old man!” Roy shouted.

          “I ain’t hard of hearing; don’t have to yell,” Gilbert laughed. “How ya doin’?”

          “Deaf,” Roy was still shouting. “And can’t afford hearin’ aids.”

          “Gettin’ old sucks, doesn’t it?” Gilbert stated. “I’ll be 70 next month, if’n I makes it.”

          “Ya don’t say,” Roy lit a cigarette.

          Gilbert got a far away look in his eyes. “Had a decent life, done what I wanted, when I wanted … faithful friends, good times…”

          The two friends began to reminisce about their biker days. Finally, the announcement Gilbert had been waiting for came over the loud speakers. “Any one with pledges for getting their head shaved for cancer, please register up here. Our barbers will begin at 4:00 sharp.”

          “That’s my cue.” Gilbert got up from the table, shuffled to the registration table, dug into his pocket, pulled out his last month’s disability cheque, and handed it to the girl. “Don’t have a pledge sheet Miss, kin ya make me up one?”

          “I’m not sure if we can take this cheque sir; I’ll have to check with Becky.”

          “Its okay, Becky knows all about this.” Gilbert didn’t want to draw unnecessary attention to what he was about to do.

          The girl filled out his registration and put the cheque into a box. “Have a seat over there, Gilbert. Next please.”

          Becky could not believe what she was seeing on the stage. Her old friend was taking off his bandana. Bald as a bald eagle he was. Everyone was gathering around to watch the main event. One of the musicians grabbed the microphone. “First up is Gilbert. Look at this pony tail folks––all the way to his waist––how many years did it take you to grow that Gilbert?”

          “Too many,” Gilbert whispered.

          “Well, folks, anyone want to sweeten the pot a little before Gilbert gets shaved?”

          People began throwing coins and bills into Gilbert’s box. He smiled as he recognized several old bikers dropping in some large bills. It would be a good day. The young hair dresser revved up her barber sheers. One cut and she waved the pony tail in the air. The crowd cheered! More money was dropped in the box!

          No one noticed the tears trickle from Gilbert’s eyes. No one noticed Becky wipe her face with an old hanky she had pulled out of her apron pocket. No one saw the embroidery in its corner: “To Becky, my true love, from your Wolf Man – 1956.”  

          Gilbert slipped quietly away before Becky could reach him. She had a feeling she’d never see him again. Later that night, as she counted the proceeds, she came across his cheque. The tally for the money in Gilbert’s box was $1, 657. 25. She turned his cheque over…

          “Well, Becky, my love, this is it … the old Harley awaits me … I’ll keep the back seat warm for you … take as long as you like. Love, your Wolf Man.”  

          Becky’s tears flowed shamelessly onto the words, smearing the message into an illegible swirl of ink.

JUST A FEW MORE VOTES BEFORE MIDNIGHT!

Today is the final day of voting! The battle is not yet over, and I have dropped into second place!!!! I need your votes, at least 20+ now, thanks to some who have voted today… I need your friends’ votes … If you haven’t already done so, please vote for my blog: Writer on the Run and if you would like to take a look at what you are voting for, here is the link: http://bit.ly/IMBXsL http://www.undergroundbookreviews.com/3/post/2012/08/battle-of-the-book-review-blogs.html and, to all those who have supported me, I give you my deepest thanks for supporting my dreams!

Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour, Writer on the Run

Review: Songbird

Songbird
Songbird by Josephine Cox
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Songbird, by Josephine Cox, a writer from the U.K., was an interesting story that had me wanting to find out what happened to young Maddy Delaney, whose angelic voice had captured the hearts of many listeners, but not the heart of the evil man she had fallen helplessly in love with. When things fall apart, Maddy finds herself on the run … old friends are gone … new ones always seem to be there to help Maddy through the darkest times of her life. But, evil has a way of finding Maddy, no matter where she goes, and this plummets her into the shadowy world of depression and becoming a recluse.
Is there a happy ending for Maddy … you must read the book to discover this. Songbird is a comfortable read, and you will not be disappointed.

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