By Hope Thompson
Detective Harry Harp and Constable Terry Becker drove out of the Golden Villa Retirement Centre’s parking lot. They had left George Maclem, the original detective on the Pines End missing person case, to his troubled accounting.
“How do we reach into the past to find out what happened to this Carlyle guy?” Becker said as he drove the car down the slope towards the village.
“If Carlyle is our guy. We’re only assuming he is,” Harp said. The detective looked out the window at the passing street lined with single family dwellings. As the car descended, newer homes with tidy front yards were replaced with original structures, some over a hundred years old and showing their age. Just then, a teenager shot past on a skateboard. At a red light, she neatly flipped the board into her gloved hand. Half-formed ideas of old houses, skateboarders and missing killers swirled through Harp’s mind until the buzz of his phone broke his concentration.
The high-pitched voice of Boyce Williams, the Spruce County Coroner, blasted from the device and made Harp jerk his head away.
“My report is complete and I have sent it to your office but I thought you might like the highlights.”
“Shoot,” Harp said.
Williams paused then said, “Your fridge man died sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s.”
“We thought so. We have a missing persons case from August, 1970 and we’re pretty sure it’s him.”
Harp could hear Williams sigh.
“Would you like some facts to add to your conjecture?” the coroner said.
Now it was Harp’s turn to sigh.
“Go ahead,” he said.
“The deceased was wearing a signet ring with the initials RAC engraved on it,” Williams said. “Sound familiar?”
Harp turned to Becker.
“What’s Carlyle’s middle name?”
“Albert,” Becker said, steering the car onto the main street.
“That’s our man,” Harp said and gave a ‘thumbs up’ to the constable.
Williams said, “would you like to know how he died?”
Harp smiled. “Yes, please.”
“He was stabbed once, with an ice pick.”
The line went silent for a second then Williams added, dramatically, “In the back.”
After Harp ended the call, he shared the coroner’s information with Becker and the young constable winced at the brutal details.
“Would Pines End have been using ice picks in 1970? It seems like a tool from the past,” Becker said. For a moment, Harp thought of going to the public library and asking the attractive librarian, Brigitte Cave, and his mind drifted.
“Where to?” Becker said.
“Huh? Oh—back to headquarters,” he said, pushing the librarian from his thoughts. “We’ve got our man, now let’s build out a picture of Pines End—ice picks and all.”
Ten minutes later, both men were back in their office in the Spruce County Police Department building. At his desk, Harp perused the original case file. Across from him, Becker peered at his computer screen.
“You know what’s odd about the propane fridge Carlyle was buried in?”
Harp looked up.
“Electric fridges were on the market before 1970. So why was the lodge using propane?”
“Good question,” Harp said.
“It’s not WAO like the Calvert place.”
Becker smiled. “Now you’re starting to sound like a local.”
The phone on Harp’s desk buzzed and he picked up the receiver, listened then said, “Put her in the meeting room.” The detective stood up. “Your news story worked. One of the Pines End guests wants to talk.”
A few minutes later, Harp and Becker sat across from a deeply tanned woman in her mid-60s. She wore the sport-casual attire of a retired person, suggesting she was ready for anything from a long hike to a drinks party.
“Catherine Wilson,” she said, holding out a toned arm. “But everyone calls me Cat.”
Harp introduced himself and Becker, and thanked her for coming in.
“I just saw the story on the internet and my god,” she said, tossing back her streaked blonde head of hair. “As soon as I read about the body, I thought, ‘I wonder if that’s Mr. Carlyle, after all these years?’”
Harp leaned forward. “What do you remember about Rand Carlyle?”
“Well, I was 16 that summer and my sister Beth and I spent all our time at the dock. I didn’t see much of him. To be totally honest, we were interested in boys our own age.” She smiled widely. “We would rush through breakfast, put on our swim suits and take our transistor radio and just hang out with the boys all day long. It was teenage girl heaven!”
Harp frowned. “What were you doing on that Saturday night? Do you remember seeing Rand Carlyle?”
Cat bit at her lip for a moment, thinking. “I remember someone had lit a fire on the outdoor hearth and a lot of people were sitting around it—a lot of the older people.”
Becker cut in. “Was Rand there? What time was that?”
“It’s hard to say.” She held her chin in the palm of her hand. “But it was dark—or getting dark. Probably around 8PM. I know Rand was there. And probably his wife and daughters, too, but I don’t recall.”
Harp nodded. “What makes the memory of Rand so clear?”
“It was his clothes.” She smiled. “He always dressed in white, like a tennis player, and he was wearing this sweater with a deep V-neck. My sister and I were very giggly girls and something about that V-neck made us go into hysterics.”
Becker said, “Can you describe the sweater?”
“I just did! It was white with a V-neck.” She shrugged dismissively. “There may have been a border around the neck, there usually is in those sorts of sweaters. In fact, I’m sure there was. A blue border.” Her face lit up. “Of course, it was his chest hair! It showed through the V-neck and we just couldn’t contain ourselves.”
Harp’s eyes narrowed. “Think carefully, Cat. Did you see anyone talk to Rand that night, or anything out of the ordinary?”
Cat frowned. “No,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
Becker scratched his chin. “Do you remember anything else about that weekend? Anything at all?”
“It’s all a haze.”
“Except the chest hair,” Becker said, drawing his shirt collar tight. Cat Wilson looked away. Harp pulled a photograph from a file folder and slid it across the table.
“Do you remember seeing this at Pines End?” he said. She looked at the photo of a rusted out and empty propane fridge then looked up at him and shook her head.
August 1, 1970 – 11:59 PM In Room 4, Cat Wilson lay in bed. The cries of her baby brother drifted in from the room next door where her parents slept. Across from her, her sister Beth snored, oblivious to the noise. Cat stared up at the beams on the ceiling thinking deeply about herself and how she was about to commence a program of self-improvement. She would start tomorrow, which was, of course, the best day to start any program of self-improvement. Cat thought to herself:Your days of being cruel are over. Then she closed her eyes and wondered if they really were.