By Hope Thompson
After returning from their inspection of the abandoned Pines End lodge, Detective Harry Harp and Constable Terry Becker drove back to the Spruce County Police Department’s headquarters.
Arriving at his desk, Becker dropped into his chair and tapped his computer screen to life.
“I’ll check the old case files,” he said.
Harp nodded. “A missing person would have made the newspapers up here, at least. I’ll check the library. I want to find out more about that lodge, too.” The detective strode towards the door. “And can you let the media know? We need to find someone who remembers this guy.”
After waiting for a steady stream of pick-up trucks to pass, the detective crossed the street and jogged down a slope to the building that housed the Spruce County Public Library.
Inside the quiet, air-conditioned space, a few adults of various ages were hunched over selfserve computers while a couple of kids and an elderly woman sat in plush chairs reading.
At the front desk, a woman with chestnut brown hair ran a scanner across a barcode taped to the worn cover of a paperback mystery. The detective caught the scent of her perfume as she looked up at him, green eyes sparkling.
“Can I help you?” She smiled.
“I hope so. I’m looking for information on Pines End. The old lodge. Newspaper stories, anything.”
She tapped her forefinger against her chin, thinking. “Interesting. I know that the Muir family ran the place.” The nametag attached to her cream-coloured pullover read, Brigitte Cave. “What time period are you looking for? I believe it closed in the early 70s.”
How long does it take for a body to mummify? Harp thought. “Anytime up to closing. I’m looking for anything related to a missing person.”
“Say, are you a cop?” Brigitte Cave smiled some more.
“Guilty. Detective Harp. Harry Harp. Nice to meet you, Ms. Cave.”
“Call me Brigitte,” she said. “And nice to meet you, too, Harry.”
As she headed towards the Archive Room she turned back to him. “This may take me some time. Did you want to come back later?”
“I’ll wait. Thank you.”
About 20 minutes had passed when Harp’s phone buzzed.
“Harp,” he said holding the device to his ear.
“Randolph Carlyle!” It was Becker and he sounded excited.
“Slow down. What?”
“I found a missing person’s case file! This Carlyle guy went missing from Pines End on August 1, 1970. And guess what? The detective from the case is still alive and living right here in town!”
“Better come get me,” Harp instructed.
Five minutes later, Becker picked up Harp in front of the library. But before the detective left, he knocked on the Archive Room door and spoke to the librarian.
“I have to go but if you come across anything, please call me.” He handed her his card and for a moment, they were connected through the rectangular piece of cardstock.
Golden Villa Retirement Centre was located on a hill behind the village and Becker parked in the circular driveway in front of the brick building. The two men walked up the wheelchair ramp and stepped through sliding doors.
“The detective’s name is George Maclem,” Becker said on the elevator to the building’s top floor. As the doors opened onto a sitting area, Harp thought of his mother and promised himself he would visit her as soon as the case was over.
The large room was set with comfortable chairs, sofas, potted plants and a large-screen TV. Craft projects decorated a windowsill and photos of smiling seniors at a birthday party were pinned to a corkboard.
A dozen residents sat around a table and at the head of it, a woman in her forties dressed in shades of beige held up a calculator the size of a sofa cushion.
“Five times five? Irma?” She said gently.
“What’s five times five? Anyone?” Some residents looked at her, others looked away. The beige woman noticed Harp and Becker and placed the jumbo calculator on the table and crossed to them.
“You’re here to speak to George Maclem?”
“Yes, thank you,” Harp said.
“He’s usually in the hallway.” They rounded a corner. “George? You have guests!”
At the end of the hall, George Maclem turned and headed towards them pushing a walker in front of him. His shoulders were hunched and a few strands of gray hair danced across his head. Etched in his whiskered face was a permanent scowl.
“Detective Maclem?” Harp said loudly. The man was fifteen feet away and on the approach. “I’m Detective Harp and this is Constable Becker. Do you remember the Pines End case?”
Maclem pushed closer, eyes on the floor. Just then, Harp heard the old detective’s voice.
“14, 15, 16, 17….” Maclem was counting out loud. Harp and Becker jumped out of his way as he pushed past them. “21, 22, 23….”
The old man kept on counting.
“These gentlemen want to talk to you.”
The woman said as Maclem marched to the elevator, turned and started back in the opposite direction, still uttering a stream of numbers.
“He has some dementia, as you can see.” August 2, 1970 – 2:30AM.
Detective George Maclem scratched his whiskered chin.
“Before we look at who’s missing, let’s look at who’s staying here.” He gestured to the rafters. “On the second floor we have the Carlyle girls, husband and wife. Er—we did have the husband, but we’ll get to that. So four. The Wilson family in the room next door is five, which gives us ten. No, nine. And who’s staying on the first floor?”
The owner of Pines End, Edward Muir, sat on a couch next to Trudy Carlyle who was wrapped in a plush housecoat, her tanned legs crossed in front.
Muir raised his hands. “Detective Maclem, we have simply misplaced a guest. One guest. I see no reason for all this counting.”
The lodge owner patted Trudy Carlyle’s arm. “I’m sure it’s nothing serious.”
Serious enough to get me out of bed, Maclem thought.
Half an hour ago he’d been sleeping soundly and despite the call of duty, he resented the interruption. In his opinion, lodge guests were always getting themselves into trouble— falling out of boats, breaking bones, losing themselves in the woods. And invariably, the root cause was alcohol.
Trudy Carlyle looked up at Maclem, her attractive face drawn with worry. “Around 10PM, my husband, Rand, and I were outside sitting by the fire. I had a chat with Mrs. Wilson and when I turned around—Rand was gone.”
“Was your husband drinking?”
The woman’s back straightened. “He’d had a bit. We all had. We’re on holiday, for goodness sake!”
“How much is a bit?” Maclem asked wearily.
“I don’t know!” She cried. “Three drinks? Four?” Suddenly, her face brightened. “Wait, I remember he seemed keyed up. Excited. He must have been thinking about our anniversary….” She squished shut her eyes and began to cry. “It’s tomorrow.”
The weeping woman made Maclem embarrassed and he shifted his gaze to the notebook in his hand. A nest of figures was scrawled across the page.
“Mr. Muir, can we please review the numbers?” Muir rolled his eyes.