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       Moon Signs, p.15

           Helen Haught Fanick


  Andrea decided to ski that afternoon if she could get a half day lift ticket and equipment rental. I scanned the sky as we got out of the car at the Bear Paw Lodge. The crescent moon was up there, and it appeared to be about the same size as the one I noticed on the day of our arrival. We must have passed the dark of the moon, and it was now waxing. It wouldn’t have been at all surprising if the dark of the moon had occurred on the night of the lift ride and Franklin Stuart’s murder. It’s the worst of all the moon phases.

  Andrea left me sitting near the fire at the lodge with my book, and when she didn’t come back, I assumed she had worked out the half day deal. I settled down to read with a cup of hot chocolate. I hadn’t seen anyone I knew and was engrossed in my book when someone pulled out the chair across from me. I looked up. It was Sheriff Sterling. He put a cup of coffee on the table. “Do you mind if I join you?”

  “Certainly not. Are you here on official business?”

  “Just taking a quick break.”

  Somehow I didn’t see the sheriff as a man who would take breaks, at least not with two murder investigations facing him. Could it be that he saw our car and was there hoping to see Andrea? That probably wasn’t likely, either. Of course, I never had established whether he was married or not. He wore no ring.

  He took a sip of coffee. “Have you recovered from your bad experience on the lift?”

  “I think so. One thing I’m sure of, though—no one can ever talk me into getting on that thing again.”

  He smiled. “I can understand that.” Then after a slightly awkward moment of silence, “How are things at the Alpenhof? I know Asbury and Ivy are new there. Are they fitting in well?”

  I couldn’t help wondering where this was going. “They seem to be doing well. Ivy is cleaning and doing laundry all day, and sometimes working the reception desk. Since Olga’s death, keeping the desk staffed has been a problem for Stefan. I suppose they’ll hire someone to do the job soon. Asbury stays busy clearing snow from the front walkway and parking area and bringing in firewood, and he helps at the reception desk also. They’re both hard workers.”

  “I understand Asbury is from the Pine Summit area.”

  “Oh, yes, we’ve known Asbury for years. We all grew up and went to the same schools in Pine Summit. We were on our way here on Thursday and stopped at a McDonalds. We were surprised to see Asbury there, and even more surprised to hear that he was hitchhiking a ride to the Alpenhof. It was quite a coincidence. Of course, we gave him a ride. Asbury’s had a hard life, but I think he’s doing well now. I think Ivy’s been good for him.”

  “By a hard life, you mean…”

  “His family was very poor and uneducated. He didn’t go to school much. He and his father were kept busy trying to scratch out a living on their little hillside farm. In spite of that, he’s a likeable person . . . a good person.”

  “Your niece has been doing well here, too, with her work at the ski school and helping out at the hotel. I understand she’s one of the best instructors at the school. She and Stefan make quite a pair on the slopes.”

  I couldn’t ignore the feeling he was fishing for information. His last remark seemed not at all characteristic of him. I thought about what I wanted to say before I said anything more—something that’s not always characteristic of me. “Maggie loves it here. She’s been skiing for years. Our brother used to bring her up here several times a year before he died. I think she’s a natural at skiing.”

  He nodded slowly, and then downed the last of his coffee. He was back to being a man of few words, as Andrea had labeled him. “Is your sister skiing today?”

  “Yes, she is. She seems to be enjoying it a lot. I prefer to sit by the fire and read.”

  “I must be on my way. It’s been good visiting with you, Mrs. Williamson.”

  Somehow, the conversation seemed like more than just “visiting.” Was it possible that he was suspicious of Asbury? I hadn’t told anyone about Asbury’s attitude toward Olga, and I was certain Andrea hadn’t said anything, either.

  It surely wasn’t possible that he was suspicious of Maggie. Then I thought again about the conversation in the car on the way to the valley. I couldn’t remember the exact words, but Asbury had said something about being concerned that Maggie was “sweet on” Stefan. Andrea asked him if that would be such a bad thing. He said something like, “It could be with a sister like he has. She looks at Maggie as if she wants to kill her.” Now I was wondering just how much the sheriff knew about the relationship between Maggie, Stefan, and Olga. Probably a whole lot more than I did.

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