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       Moon Signs, p.16

           Helen Haught Fanick

  We picked up sandwiches before we left the Bear Paw Lodge so we wouldn’t have to go out again. Maggie was already behind the desk when we returned to the Alpenhof, and she let Andrea use the phone on the desk to call Birdie Lancaster. Just as I had feared, there was no answer. I wondered if she had gone to spend the winter with the sister in Charleston that Willard had mentioned.

  Stefan came through the front door right away with food for Maggie, said hello to us, and disappeared up the stairs. Maggie worked at the computer for a few minutes. She picked up the sack that contained her supper and came to the couch across from us. “I don’t think anything’s going to be happening this evening, so I’ll desert my post and eat with you. Anyone want a drink?”

  “I’ll take a diet Coke,” Andrea said.

  “I want an orange drink of some kind.”

  Maggie came back with the drinks and we ate in silence. I was hungry; all I’d had since breakfast was a hot chocolate, and I’m sure the others were starving after skiing. But it was more than hunger that was keeping us quiet. I sat there munching on my sub and trying to think of a diplomatic way to get some information. Maggie and Stefan had been so mysteriously poker-faced when we talked about our concern for Stefan that it had aroused these nagging suspicions in both Andrea and me. They both obviously knew more than they were talking about, and the question was, how do we get them to talk about it?

  I had taken my last bite and Andrea had finished. She looked at Maggie. “So who is threatening Stefan, and why?” Diplomacy has never been Andrea’s strong suit.

  Maggie looked as if she might choke on a bite of sandwich. When she regained her composure, she said, “I’m really not at liberty to say.”

  “Why is that?” from Andrea. I was sitting there looking from one to the other and taking it all in.

  “I promised Stefan.” Maggie’s voice quavered a little on this.

  “If you or Stefan can’t talk to us, I think it must be something serious enough that he should talk to the sheriff.”

  “He did finally talk to the sheriff. I insisted. He asked the sheriff to come by the ski school at noon today and they went outside and talked.”

  “What was the sheriff’s reaction?”

  “Stefan said he seemed to have a hard time thinking that an international thriller was taking place here in Tucker County.”

  I almost laughed, and would have if the conversation hadn’t been so serious. But an international thriller, here in Tucker County? And yet, a lot of foreigners did seem to be hanging around here. I spoke up for the first time since the conversation began. “I was having hot chocolate in the Bear Paw Lodge this afternoon, and the sheriff came and sat down at my table with a cup of coffee.”

  “Really?” Maggie said. “Did he say anything about the murders?”

  “No, he just asked me how I was doing after the ordeal on the lift. He also asked some questions about Asbury. I couldn’t help thinking he might be suspicious of Asbury.” I didn’t mention the fact that he had questions about Maggie also. No need getting her worried at this point. Or should I say more worried.

  Maggie took a sip of her drink. “He told Stefan he wanted to keep an open mind until the case was solved.”

  The man sounded more like my sister all the time. “He also asked about you, Andrea. Asked if you were skiing.”

  Andrea looked as if this were something of no importance. I wondered what was going on inside that head of hers, but as usual, there was no telling. Then she surprised us both by saying, “I saw him as he was leaving the lodge and I was skiing over to the lift. He asked me to meet him for lunch tomorrow at the Sawmill Restaurant over in Davis.”

  You could have knocked me over with a feather. I’d have thought this would be the first thing she’d mention when we got in the car to come back to the hotel. “Is this a social or a crime-solving event?”

  “Since I’ve talked to him a couple of times now about the murders, I’m sure he has some more questions for me.”

  The phone at the reception desk rang, and Maggie jumped up to answer it. “It’s Birdie Lancaster. She noticed our number on her Caller ID.” She held the receiver toward us.

  Andrea got up and went to the phone. “Hello, Miss Lancaster? My name’s Andrea Flynn…yes, that’s right, I’m related to the Flynns that used to own the Valley Hotel years ago. My sister and I are staying at the hotel this week, and we’re doing some research on the history of the place. We’d like to come and see you, if you’d be willing to talk to us.”

  Maggie sat down again, and she put her hand over her mouth and giggled. “Asking Birdie Lancaster if she’s willing to talk is like asking if the Pope’s Catholic.”

  “That would be fine,” Andrea said. “We’ll come by your house Thursday at ten. We’ll be looking forward to it.”

  I finished the last of my orange drink. “We thought she might know what happened to the Monets, since she used to work here. Ivy told us she’d heard that all the old paintings in the place were replaced by the black bear prints. No telling what happened to the old ones.”

  Andrea joined us. “I suppose it’s possible that Grandpa and Grandma Flynn took the water lily paintings when they left here, but if that’s the case, I can’t imagine what happened to them. We don’t remember seeing them when we visited, and don’t remember that they ever said anything about them.”

  That was a gloomy thought, and one that we had discussed earlier, but not with Maggie. If they had taken them, then where were they? Considering the amount of time we spent with our grandparents, why hadn’t we seen them on their walls, or at least heard something about them? No one in the family had ever mentioned the paintings until Maggie found Grandpa Flynn’s records. “Maybe Birdie Lancaster can shed some light on what happened. I wonder whether she was working here when Grandpa and Grandma left.”

  “We’ll find out Thursday. She invited us for coffee,” Andrea said. Then she turned to Maggie. “I think you should talk with Stefan. Tell him we could possibly help, if he’s in danger. For all we know, you could be in danger, too.”

  “This doesn’t involve me at all, but I’ll ask him.” Maggie went back to her sandwich.

  Andrea put a log on the fire and sat down again. “How serious is your relationship with Stefan?”

  Maggie swallowed a bite of sandwich and sipped her Coke, obviously deciding how much she should tell us. “We’re in love. We’re considering getting married, especially now that the monster woman’s out of the picture.”

  I was chilled by her words. I should have made some appropriate comment on her admission of love for Stefan, but all I could think of was shutting her up about Olga. “Don’t let anyone else hear you say something like that. It would be construed as a motive for murder.”

  “She hated me. She seemed to hate everyone except Stefan. And she was jealous. But you’re right. I wouldn’t let anyone else hear me talking like that.” She sat there for a few minutes, looking into the fire. “The two of you surely don’t think . . .”

  “Of course not!” I interrupted. I couldn’t let her finish that sentence. Then I decided to talk about something else that had been on my mind. “Do you suppose these murders could have anything to do with the Monets?”

  Andrea laughed. “It’s just the three of us and Stefan who know about them. I don’t see how they could possibly be involved, if they even exist.”

  Maggie turned to me. “You’re not thinking that Stefan . . .”

  I interrupted again. “No, of course not. After all, he was on the lift with us when Franklin Stuart was killed. And I couldn’t possibly be suspicious of someone who seems to be as wonderful as you say he is.”

  “He is wonderful. Strong, sexy, honest, compassionate . . .” Her voice trailed off, and she had a dreamy look on her face.

  I didn’t want to hear about the sexy part. After all, we didn’t discuss our boyfriends’ sexiness in my day. We tried not to even think about it. I felt the need to make some comment about the
ir relationship, though. “Have you made any wedding plans?”

  “Nothing definite yet, but you two will be the first to know. After all, you’re my only relatives. We’ll probably decide on a date after the murders get solved and the excitement dies down around here”

  An awful thought entered my mind. What if Stefan had murdered Olga so that she wouldn’t be around to object to his marriage to Maggie? Then he and Maggie would be the owners of the Monets—if Andrea and I were out of the way. Perhaps an automobile accident would be arranged and blamed on icy roads. I shivered in spite of the fire. Should I discuss this idea with Andrea? She might laugh, since we didn’t know if we’d ever find the paintings. I pushed the thought to the back of my mind, and the three of us settled down to read for the rest of the evening.
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