And just when I had given up all hope of anyone ever coming forward to write the next chapter of our novel, an email from Mary. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Now, enjoy the next chapter in the continuing saga at the Laughing Bear Lodge. If you’d like to write a chapter, send me an email.

Chapter 8

Young Detective Henderson nodded politely to Maggie as he passed her on his way into the office.

“So what d’you got?” McManus questioned as soon as the two detectives entered.

“Quite a bit.” Douglas said enthusiastically. Donovan stood directly behind him nodding and grinning from ear to ear.

Rookies! McManus thought as he reached into the side drawer of his desk and pulled out his bottle of Pepcid. He popped two into his mouth and washed them down with the cold coffee that had been sitting on his desk since early that morning.

“Well, are you going to keep it to yourselves or are you going to tell me?” McManus said irritably.

“Certainly sir,” Douglas began as he took a seat on one of the wooden chairs beside McManus’s desk while Donovan remained standing, “First of all Annie had soothed over Mr. And Mrs. Bowden and they are no longer in a rush to get their son back to Alberta.”

“How did she do that?” McManus asked.

“She just explained to them that if they would just co-operate in this matter the suspicions that were hanging over Dallan would dissipate quicker. They weren’t biting at first but then she gave them a feed of the lodge’s famous lobster rolls and offered them one of the larger, river facing cabins to stay at free of charge while this was all cleared up. And that seemed to do it.” Douglas explained.

“Good,” McManus sighed as he leaned back in his chair, “ I am not totally convinced the boy was involved but it sure makes my job a heck of a lot easier if he stays put. What else d’you got?”

Douglas took a deep breath in and glanced over at Donovan for moral support before continuing, “Second, we may have a name for our John Doe and thirdly, if our hunch is right we may need to call in the search team again to look for a second body.”

“WHAT?” McManus shouted as he stood up abruptly. “Begin explaining, Henderson, and it better be good!”

Douglas reached for his notebook that was tucked in one of his back pockets. His hands were beginning to shake a bit under the gnawing stare of McManus. “OK sir,” he started as he flipped open the small book. “ Donovan and I went again through the registration list in Annie’s office and asked her if all her guests were accounted for and she said they were. They all signed in three days ago and that nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. However, me and Donovan figured we should pull a roll call just in case. Annie wasn’t keen on this, thought it might shake them up, but agreed in the end. So she made an announcement over the loud speaker calling all guest to the main lodge and everyone showed up but two; they were Rose and Fred Demateo’s, a retired couple. At first this didn’t put off Annie. She said that Rose and Fred practically live here at the lodge every summer and often went on over night excursions into the woods. They were avid naturalists. We asked to see their cabin and Annie let us into the place. It hadn’t been used. Their suitcases sat unopened on the bed and their hiking gear was still stored in the closet. This was when it dawned on Annie that something treacherous may have happened to this couple and she broke down in front of us.”

“And where is she now?” McManus asked as he looked over at his inbox on his computer and noticed a new email from Ivy staring at him.

“Who sir?” Douglas asked looking up from his notepad.

“The Queen of England, who do you think I mean? Where’s Annie?” McManus said angrily.

“She is at Laughing Bear.” Donovan cut in.

McManus rubbed his hands slowly up and down his heavy jowls, feeling the bristle of a new days growth, as he tried to contain some sort of professionalism and not reach over and grab these new green horns by their throats.

In a very restrained voice he said, “Does Annie know what Fred Demateo looks like?”

“Of course, she knows him well.” Douglas answered.

“So, why didn’t it happen to cross your mind that she would be our best bet to identify him?” he said through gritted teeth now.

“Ohhh.” Donovan and Douglas said together as their mistake took hold.

“Yes, I guess we should have brought her back to town with us.” Douglas was beginning to sprout crimson spots on both cheeks.

“So go do that now, please,” McManus replied. “I can’t very well order another search effort until we identity this body. Put your sirens on the whole distance if need be, I want her back here within the next two hours.”

Donovan and Douglas left the office. McManus reached for another Pepcid.

Annie sat on an old weather-tormented log, which was skinned clean of all its bark, and watched her river. The sun hovered above the tree line, sprinkling the slow moving water with bits of diamond coloured light. Her eyes were still rimmed in red and she clenched her now very fragmented Kleenex in a trembling hand. It can’t be Fred, she kept thinking. It just can’t be and what about Rose? Where was she? This is my entire fault. What kind of manager doesn’t keep track of her own guests? Did they go for a walk as soon as they got here and met with an accident? The police weren’t telling her anything except that Dallan had found the body and was acting suspicious. Oh please, she thought desperately, please let Rose and Fred come out of the woods from a hike, with smiles on their faces and wanting to share with me all their findings. Her heart was now heavy with doubt though. This season was only four days old and already a nightmare.

“It’s Annie, isn’t it?” a voice directly behind her asked. She jumped a bit and turned to see Luna Spring carefully stepping down the rocky bank towards her. Luna was dressed in jean shorts and an oversized white T-shirt sporting the Green Peace logo. Her thick head of curls was now pulled back from her face in a rather untidy ponytail and with her splatter of freckles and upturn nose she looked younger, to Annie, than twenty-three.

“Yes, can I help you with anything?” Annie answered standing and smoothing the front of her knee length skirt.

“Well, actually, I couldn’t help but notice that you were upset as we passed each other near the garden and I figured I should see if there was someway I could be of help to you?” Luna said, coming over and taking a seat on the smooth white log.

“No, I’m fine, really.” Annie said quickly avoiding Luna’s gaze.

“It certainly is a breathtaking place back here,” Luna said as she scanned the river. “And believe me, I seen many breathtaking places.”

“Why are you here, if I may ask?” Annie smiled a little. “ Are we not catching and releasing quick enough?”

“It appears I have made a bit of a mistake. My assistant told me there was evidence that hunters were killing off the black bear population in northern New Brunswick and that the Premier had agreed to an open season on these animals. This however appears to be false and to tell you the truth I don’t know why my assistant booked me into a fishing camp. I think she thought this was were they brought the sports to hunt black bear?” Luna said frowning. “It is not like her. She doesn’t often stir me wrong.”

“Will you be staying the full two weeks with us?” Annie asked. She was beginning to wonder how many of her lodgers would stay once they found out what was going on.

“I’m actually having a wonderful time and have no desire to leave early. But I wouldn’t mind if someone would fill me in on what that commotion was, this morning, up the river a ways?” Luna nodded towards the bend in the river.

“I’m sorry, until I have all the details, I can’t tell you.” Annie answered guiltily.

There was a loud shattering noise near one of the cabins and Luna and Annie left the shoreline to investigate. As they approached a set of quaint cedar houses they noticed Rakel weaving unsteadily towards them. Her lipstick was smeared across her upper cheek and her piercing blue eyes were now swimming in a rim of red.

“Oh, Anne darling, fetch me another vodka, I appened to drop mine on your tacky little walkway. And could you please tell me which cabin belongs to Trey?” Rakel slurred her words and tried to gracefully fling her blonde hair over her shoulders but it came off looking like a spasm.

Luna started to laugh slightly and Annie gave her a gentle nudge in her ribs to quiet her. “Rakel, maybe you should come with me to the dining room and I will make you a nice strong coffee instead.” Annie suggested. “You don’t want Trey to see you this way? Let’s fix up your make up a bit.”

Rakel pouted, “If you don’t help me, I will just knock on every cabin door until I find him.” In her high heels and designer dress, Rakel stumbled and weaved her way around them and down the cobblestone walkway, towards the second set of cabins. Luna and Annie watched her with worry, wondering when she would trip over her heels. But she kept to the walkway like it was a catwalk in Milan.

“What do you think her agent was thinking when he sent her to a remote Maritime Fishing Lodge?” Luna questioned.

Annie shrugged. “I guess he wanted to get her far from the tabloids for a while?”

It was very quiet for a moment as Annie contemplating going after Rakel so she wouldn’t disturb the other guests. This day was becoming increasingly stressful, Annie thought. The song of a chickadee tried to soothe her a little by skipping above their heads like a pebble over water. It was, however, followed by the distant sound of police sirens.

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