Detective Harry Harp and Constable Terry Becker sat in front of a computer looking at a bearded, ruddy-faced man named Brett Penzler. Penzler had contacted the Spruce County Police Hotline and stated that he had been at Pines End on the weekend of Rand Carlyle’s disappearance. He lived on a farm near Airdrie, Alberta and was speaking to the detectives through a video link.
“Mr. Penzler—,” Harp said.
“Call me, Brett.” The man interrupted. “Even the cows do.”
Harp forced a smile. “Brett, what do you remember about the night of August 1, 1970?”
“I remember getting wasted.” Penzler grinned widely. “These twin brothers were staying at the lodge and they’d scored some booze and well, we were all partying hard.”
Becker cut in, “Who’s we?”
“Let’s see, the twins—I think their last name was Moort—me and my brother, Cat and her sister. Actually Cat Wilson and I had a little fling that summer.” Penzler smirked. “Some sweet memories there!”
Becker said, “What about Carlyle’s daughters? Were they with you?”
The man shook his head. “Don’t think so.”
“What about Rand Carlyle? Do you remember him from that night, or at any time?” Harp said.
After stretching each of his elbows behind his head and producing two clearly audible cracking sounds, Penzler said, “I remember him being taken out fishing. It was funny because he wore a lot of white. He always looked clean, you know? Not like he’d be interested in fishing.”
After discussing Penzler’s memories of Pines End for a few more minutes, Becker severed the video link and the two detectives sat in silence.
Finally, Harp stood up.
“Let’s go back to Pines End,” he said with more enthusiasm than he felt. “That’s where the murder happened. Hopefully, that’s where the answers are, too.”
Half an hour later, the two men walked across the terrace and stepped inside the abandoned lodge. Sunlight slanted across the empty great room and Harp could see dust hanging in the air. Climbing the stairs, they inspected the five guest rooms on the south side of the building and on the north side they found moldy bathrooms and closets filled with mice droppings—but no clues to Rand Carlyle’s murder.
Maybe the answers aren’t here, Harp thought as he felt the case slipping from his grasp. He looked around for Becker and found him in an alcove off the great room.
“Right there …” The constable said wistfully, pointing at the floor.
“What’s right there?” Harp said, confused.
“Me and Jeanine Kluggen. Right there.” He turned to Harp. “My first time—and sorry if that’s too personal.”
“You’re starting to sound like Penzler,” Harp said.
“Hey?” The constable pressed his hand against his heart. “For Kluggs and I, it was love!”
Harp smiled. “So where’s Kluggs now?”
“Working at Food World in town. I see her all the time. She’s married and has a couple of kids.”
“What is it about this place?” Harp said shaking his head.
“Before it got so wrecked we used to have a lot of fun here. Drinking and whatnot.”
Harp looked around the damaged interior and the lines in his forehead deepened. “There’s something more. There’s something about people’s desires or maybe—holiday desires …”
The detective let the half-formed thought hang in the air then he turned and walked outside. Becker stared after him, puzzled.
A few minutes later, the two men pushed their way through the undergrowth to a small building with boarded-up windows. Its double doors were padlocked.
“Shall I?” Becker asked, his face lighting up. Harp nodded then watched the young constable pick up a rock and smash it against the lock. On impact, the ancient security device broke in two and fell to the ground. Becker swung open the doors and the two men looked inside. Like the lodge, the building had been stripped of most of its contents except for a heavy wood workbench, some rusted bed frames and a couple of tires.
“According to the old case files, this was the caretaker’s workshop,” Becker said.
Harp was silent for a moment then he said, “Kluggs works in town, eh?” Becker turned to the detective, eyebrows raised. “Like I said, she’s married.”
Harp disregarded the comment. “You grew up in Spruce County and you stayed in Spruce County. She grew up here and stayed here …” Harp spoke slowly teasing out a thread.
But Becker was already rolling it into a ball. “Lots of people born here stay if they can find work. It’s beautiful here! Why wouldn’t you stay? But work’s the problem. Lack of it drives people away.”
Harp raised a finger in the air. “We’ve only been hearing from the guests. What about the staff?”
Becker’s eyes brightened. “I see what you mean. If they’re alive, they could be right here under our noses. And they were probably all locals!”
Harp’s phone played the distinctive sound that indicated a text had arrived. This time, the missive was from Brigitte Cave, the librarian. It read: I have something for you, Harry.
Reading the sentence, the hammers in the detective’s heart could not help but knock together and he told Becker they had to get to the library—immediately.
Half an hour later, Brigitte Cave greeted them at the front desk and handed Harp a 9×13 envelope.
“All the local newspaper articles I could find on the Rand Carlyle case,” she said. “So, I guess he didn’t drown after all.”
“No,” Harp said. “This was definitely murder.” He thanked her then hovered for a moment.
“Er—Brigitte?” He said and felt some heat in his face. “What do you look for in a vacation? R and R? Rest and relaxation?”
Brigitte Cave’s mouth curved into an inviting smile. “Add another R, Harry.”
“Huh?” Harp resisted the desire to pull at his collar.
“Rest, relaxation—and romance,” she said. “A change of scene can be, well, stimulating, don’t you think?”
August 1, 1970 – 11PM
On the lodge’s sprawling lawn, Cat Wilson lay curled up beside Brett Penzler. Across from them sat Brett’s brother Brock, Beth Wilson and the Moort twins. The twins were surreptitiously pouring out shots of rye and a couple of empty bottles lay nearby.
Cat said, “I need more ginger ale. I will barf if I drink this straight.” She looked around for someone to solve her problem. Through the lodge windows, she saw people with drinks in their hands. But she decided against walking inside and requesting ginger ale at the bar. For Cat, being a guest and demanding service was an exquisite thrill—especially from the local boy called ‘Dogsbody’.
Where is that hick? She thought, her head filling with malice like a glass under a tape.
“Dogsbody! I want ginger ale!” She screamed and her eyes sparkled with hate. “Let’s all whistle for him—like a dog!”
The drunken teens whistled crazily—then stopped suddenly when they noticed a woman standing on the terrace wrapped in an orange silk dressing gown. It was Trudy Carlyle and tears glistened in her eyes.
“Have you seen my husband?” She said. “I—I can’t seem to find him.”