He ignored the question. "You should have let someone know when you got here. Some people shoot first and ask questions afterward."
"Well then, arent I lucky that you were the one who found me?"
Sarcasm went right over his head. He just wasnt listening. I guessed he was about my age, mid-forties. He was tall, well over six feet. There was no way to judge his appearance aside from his face; there were just too many bulky, wet clothes. Suddenly he glanced down at the gun in his hand and stuffed it into a pocket.
What was he doing with a gun anyway? "Do you use that in your work or just for scaring people?"
He didn't really answer the question. "Theres been trouble at this house off and on lately. Lights inside and in the woods but nobody here when we checked. Jake asked me to keep an eye on it from my place." He made a vague gesture in the direction of the road. I guessed his house was opposite this one. "When I saw lights now, behind pulled curtains " He shrugged.
And, I grudgingly admitted, he couldnt have surprised someone if he had knocked. Even so "How did you get in here?"
"I have a key." He turned and put his hand on the doorknob. "Ill let Jake know youre here." He left before I could ask for that key.
When he had gone I locked the door again, then headed for the breakfast bar dividing kitchen from living room. I sank onto a stool, put my elbows on the counter, and supported my head in my hands. What a welcome! Pouring rain and a man with a gun. And what did he mean thered been trouble at this house lately? Jake had asked me to come because of troubleCharlie, digging up cellars, broken legbut I thought it was all at the lodge. Did the cabin have a cellar? I couldnt remember one.
I shivered, sat up, and rubbed my arms, remembering how bristly theyd felt when I first stepped into the room. Had that been a premonition of Owen Turners unpleasant arrival? I did believe in premonitions but notonight I thought Id simply been cold. I was still cold. Maybe some tea I stood up and walked around the counter into the kitchen.
It was U-shaped, galley-size, full of natural wood cupboards. A rack of pots hung above the polished, antique gas stove. The porcelain sink was ancient too, but well cared for. The refrigerator was so old that it had only one door; the small freezer was inside. I reached for the kettle and began heating water. Then, for something to do while I waited, I began storing the food I'd brought.
The contents of the bags went onto shelves and into the refrigerator. But the dry-ice-packed carton of San Francisco frozen stuffa little sanity insurance in case I couldnt handle dinner at the lodge with Ellawouldnt fit in the kitchen refrigerator. I lugged the box into the back room, dropped it on a chair near the tall freezer, and tugged at the door. It wouldnt open. With surprise, I noted that there was a padlock on it. Jake had added a hasp lock since I had been here last. Come on! Did he hide his money in there?
This seemed ridiculous. How valuable is frozen food? Maybe it had something to do with Owen Turners comment that there had been "trouble at this house off and on lately." Maybe Jake rented the place out sometimes. Who knew what hed need to protect? WhateverI needed to put this stuff away before it melted. After a moments thought I went to a corner cupboard, scrabbled under the bottom shelf, and came up with an old bunch of keys on a ring. Jake had always kept keys there. With any luck
Eureka! The fifth key worked. I pushed the chair holding the carton up to the freezer, then opened the door. And stopped breathing.
Looking at meface twisted in a terrible mask of pain and fearwas a man. His rigid icycled hands were palms out, as if hed been pushing at the door. I stared with horror at his glacial face, frosted with ice and hung with crystal tears. I wanted to help him. He needed me. I should pull him out! But my blood was turning to ice like his. I couldnt move.
From The Madd Mountain Murders by Lana Waite. Copyright 2004 Lana Waite. All rights reserved.
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