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

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