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

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