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

 

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