Moon Signs, p.27Helen Haught Fanick
As we were driving back from the Canaan Lodge, Andrea said, “I think we should use the computer in Maggie’s room, and do an Internet search for a couple of people.”
“Fine with me, as long as you’re doing it.”
“I’ll be doing it.” Andrea has little patience with the technologically challenged. She has a laptop, a digital camera, a cell phone, and a PC at home. Then there’s some kind of gadget she uses to play music when she’s taking her daily walk around Pine Summit. And she knows how to use all of these things; at least, it seems to me she does. Now and then she pulls a manual from one of the shelves in her study, goes to her recliner, and reads up on something, but that doesn’t happen often.
Maggie was looking at a magazine behind the desk when we got back to the hotel. I put my elbows on the registration desk, eager to tell her what we’d learned from Birdie Lancaster. “We talked to Birdie this morning. She said the previous owner before Stefan and Olga had bought all the black bear prints for the rooms. She thinks he put the prints over some of the pictures that were here. We’ve been checking the vacant rooms, and we checked ours and Gunter Bosch’s because Ivy was cleaning in there. We haven’t found anything yet, but in one of the empty rooms upstairs, we did find some other paintings under the black bear prints.”
Maggie stood up. “I’m impressed with all you’ve done. How about checking my room?”
Andrea spoke up. “We’d like to use your computer, too, to check on a couple of the guests here.”
Maggie looked slightly amused at her two elderly aunts playing detective. I don’t think she was taking us too seriously. She gave us the keys to her room and told us to help ourselves. When we got upstairs, Andrea turned the computer on, and I watched over her shoulder as she went through a procedure that was a complete mystery to me. I would have preferred she check the pictures first, but since she was the one doing it all, I’d let her have her way without saying anything.
I was watching what Andrea was doing, but I couldn’t help thinking about how Maggie’s room was tidy as could be. I remembered back to when we were in Stefan’s room, explaining why we thought he was in danger, and how I noticed that his room also was neat. That would be a good thing—two neat people marrying each other and keeping a neat house. I supposed they’d live here at the hotel, probably moving into Stefan’s room, since his was the biggest in the hotel and took up one entire side of the east wing. Life would be exciting for them, if only things worked out the way I hoped.
“Look here,” Andrea said. She must have realized my mind was wandering.
I peered at the screen and saw some printing on one side and a photo of two women on the other. I didn’t recognize either of them, but then it wasn’t the clearest photo I’d ever seen. “Who is it?”
“The caption says it’s Maria Borodin, the wife of a Russian diplomat, on the left. She’s with Greta Longbower, the president of the Holly Grove Women’s Club. Maria was a speaker at one of their meetings. This is from the Washington Post. Does either of those women look like Maria to you?”
I leaned down closer to the screen. “It’s a rather dark picture, but no, I don’t think either of those women is Maria. The woman on the left has blonde hair, and Maria’s is dark. I suppose she could have changed her hair color. My, isn’t it amazing what you can find on the Internet.”
“Of course, just because she doesn’t look like our Maria Borodin, doesn’t mean ours is a murderer. It’s possible the Post got the wrong caption on the picture. And even if Maria is pretending to be someone she isn’t, it doesn’t mean she’s guilty of murder.”
“When was the picture taken?”
“It’s from two weeks ago, so we know she couldn’t have been in this area more than two weeks. If the photo is actually our Maria Borodin, that is.”
She typed in the name Gunter Bosch beside a little blinking thingie, and a whole list appeared on the screen. “It appears Gunter Bosch was a tennis coach. Or is a tennis coach.” She clicked on one of the items in the list, and something appeared on the screen that looked like an article with a picture beside it. “The tennis coach is definitely not our Gunter Bosch.”
“He’s much better looking.”
“Do you remember Stefan’s last name?” Andrea asked.
“I don’t remember. I’m not sure we ever heard it. Did Maggie introduce us? We were all distraught about Olga’s murder, and I think we just gradually got to know Stefan without ever being introduced to him.”
“We’ve just heard Maggie call him Stefan when she talks to us about him. I agree with you, I don’t think she ever introduced us.”
“I’ll go down and ask her.”
“No, don’t do that. She’ll know we’re checking him out on the Internet, and I imagine she’d be upset about that. We’ll think of another way to find out.” She entered Stefan Alpenhof into the box by the blinking line, and a list came up. Andrea clicked on one of the items.
“It’s a hotel in a German-speaking country, with a manager or owner named Stefan. Here’s a picture of him and his family. It’s definitely not our Stefan.”
I leaned toward the screen. “No, that’s not him. I suppose Europe’s full of guys named Stefan and hotels named Alpenhof.”
“I’m sure you’re right. I don’t know what else to search, but I’m going to check my email.”
“How about Wes Nicholson?”
She typed his name into a box on Google. “There’s an author named Wes Nicholson, but I doubt it’s the one who was here. Let me try something else.” After a few more clicks and some waiting, “Hmm…look at this!”
I leaned down and peered at the monitor. “What the heck! That looks like some sort of criminal record.”
“It is. It appears our friend Wes has been convicted of burglary and breaking and entering. He’s on probation right now.”
The pawn shop phone number had given me doubts about Nicholson, but this was too much. “Are you sure it’s the same one? He seemed like a nice young man.”
“Look at the photo. It has to be him.”
“Maybe he killed Olga to get those diamonds. Or CZ’s, or whatever they are. He might have thought they were diamonds. Or maybe he took them when he went out into the hall to get ice and found her, already dead, behind the desk. If he has the CZ’s, that may be how he got them. I think you need to tell the sheriff about finding his criminal record.”
“Remember, though—the knife and Olga’s chain were found together. It’s obvious that whoever killed her also took the CZ’s. As for telling Ward, he probably checked out everyone who was staying in the hotel at the time of the murder. But I’ll mention it to him, in case he doesn’t know.”
“Do you suppose he checked us out?”
Andrea shrugged. “Probably.”
I sat down on Maggie’s bed. “Let’s not forget to look at the paintings in here before we go.”
“We will. I brought the Leatherman.” She said this as she clicked away on the keyboard. Then after a while she shut off the computer, and we took down first one picture and then the other. There was nothing under either of the black bear prints.
We started to leave the room when I heard a noise that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. It was footsteps in the attic above us; it could have been nothing else. “Did you hear that?”
Andrea nodded. “I heard it. Let’s go down to the drink machine and see if someone comes down from the attic.”
“That was spooky. I’m not sure I want to see. I want to go jump in my bed and cover up my head.”
“It’s okay. It’s just someone walking up there. I’m sure there’s a logical explanation.”
If there’s a logical explanation for anything, you can count on Andrea to find it. “Well, okay. Let’s go.” I wasn’t so sure about checking out eerie noises, but I always have the feeling that if you’re with Andrea, you’re going to be okay. That’s what having an older sister does for you. I followed her out of Maggie’s room an
She handed Maggie’s key back to her when we got downstairs. “Nothing but black bear prints in your room. Would you like something to drink? We’re going to have something.”
“Sure. I’ll take a Coke. Thanks.”
I found it interesting that Maggie didn’t ask what we’d found on the Internet. She obviously didn’t put much faith in her aunts’ detecting skills. We went to the drink machine, and I was trying to decide what I wanted, when Ivy came out of the laundry room where the door led to the attic. “Hi, Ivy. Is everything okay?” Andrea asked.
“I felt a cold draft in the laundry room, and I went up into the attic to see if a window was open up there. They were all closed. This old place is drafty as a corn crib. Maybe now Stefan will have time to caulk up some cracks around here.”
I simply looked at her questioningly, and she volunteered the information. “Olga always kept him so busy running errands and doing things for her, he never had time to take care of the basic repairs that are needed here at the hotel. And Asbury’s so busy shoveling snow and getting firewood, he hasn’t had time for fixing things.”
Andrea put coins in the drink machine. “Would you like a drink, Ivy?”
“I wouldn’t mind an orange soda.”
“I’ll take one of those, too,” I said. “Do you have enough quarters?”
“I’ll need a couple more.”
I dug in my purse for change as she got the orange drinks. When we had four cans, we went to the lobby and gave Maggie her Coke. “Let’s sit here by the fire and drink these so they won’t make us cold,” I said.
“Did you have any luck with the pictures?”
“Not so far,” Andrea said. “We haven’t checked them all yet. We did find a couple in one room that had other pictures under them. The ones underneath were still life prints, and we left them where they were and put the black bears back on top.”
I wondered if Ivy knew what a still life was, but she didn’t say anything, and I didn’t either. I couldn’t think of anything else to talk about, so I turned to Ivy and asked, “How’s David doing? We haven’t seen much of him since last weekend.”
“He’s doing fine. He comes home every day and does his homework while I’m getting supper. Then I come back over here to finish the laundry and he cleans up and does some other chores around the house. He does what he’s supposed to now because he wants to ski on the weekends. Stefan and Maggie got him a lift ticket for the rest of the season, and Maggie found him some skis. She had a pair of boots he can wear, so he’s all set.”
“He’s a good kid,” Andrea said. “All he needed was to get involved with something he feels passionate about. For him, it’s obviously skiing.”
“I appreciate what you’ve done for him, getting him involved in that. I didn’t realize it could make such a big difference. That, and getting Olga out of his life.”
“I suppose she was just as bossy and demanding with him as she was with everyone else,” I said.
Ivy didn’t say anything for a while. She looked as if she were deciding just how much to say. “Yes, she was that way with everyone,” she said.
It was obvious to me that there was more going on with Olga and David than Ivy was willing to talk about. I felt a little sick at my stomach, thinking about thirteen-year-old David and the beautiful and sophisticated Olga. Was it possible? If so, was it enough to drive a mother to murder? And was she really checking for an open window in the attic, or had she somehow overheard us talking about the Monets and was snooping in our trunks?
Moon Signs by Helen Haught Fanick / Mystery & Detective have rating 3.8 out of 5 / Based on34 votes