Moon signs, p.6
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       Moon Signs, p.6

           Helen Haught Fanick

  My feet had begun to feel like chunks of ice while we stood around talking; now the circulation began to return as we walked along the trail and admired the formidable rock mass before us and the pretty little creek we crossed on a wooden bridge. The stream was nearly frozen over, but we could hear it gurgling under the ice. The sound is the most peaceful in the world, guaranteed to take your mind off murder and even the mercenary attempt to find lost masterpieces.

  “Who do you suppose the truck belongs to?” I asked. “We haven’t seen anyone else around.”

  “Maybe there are some climbers up there. Or maybe it’s someone who works here in the park. Can you see anyone on the rocks?”

  “I don’t see anyone up there. Do you suppose people climb in this kind of weather?”

  “If they climb Mount Everest, I suppose some hardy souls would climb Seneca Rocks at seventeen degrees.” She took her small binoculars out of one of the pockets in her parka and focused on the rocks ahead. “There’s something on the cliff up there. On the left side. It looks like a banner.”

  “Does it say something?” Then, thinking that if it’s a banner it must say something, I didn’t wait for her answer, “Can you tell what it says?”

  “Not from here. Maybe when we get closer.” After scanning the rocks for a couple of minutes, she put the binoculars back in her pocket. “There’s no one up there.”

  We reached the part of the trail that went up steeply into the rocks, and Andrea took out her binoculars again. “FOREIGNERS GO HOME. Sounds like the work of Eli Lynch, doesn’t it?”

  “You’re kidding! That banner says ‘FOREIGNERS GO HOME?’ I wonder why he’d put it up there. I can’t even read it, so what good is it doing?”

  “I can barely read it with the binoculars. Either he’s a rather inept activist, or it’s aimed strictly at climbers.”

  My feet were beginning to get colder, standing still. “I’m surprised the man we saw in the restaurant would be capable of climbing up there. He was as skinny as a rail. Let’s walk back. I’m getting cold again.”

  Andrea put the binoculars away, and we started back to the car. “He may have had help putting the sign up there. Maybe he’s recruited some followers around here. He looked like a bona fide fanatic, and I imagine he’d be capable of most anything he set his mind to.”

  “Even murder?”

  “That remains to be seen.”

  The Visitor Center was closed in winter, according to a nearby sign. This was something we hadn’t anticipated; we’d hoped to warm up and check out the displays and literature. Andrea snapped a few pictures as we stood by the car.

  “I see by your license plates that you’re West Virginians.”

  I nearly jumped out of my skin at hearing a voice close behind us. I turned and saw Eli Lynch not five feet away. I wondered where he had materialized from.

  “I see by your license plate that you’re natives of our state,” he said.

  “Yes, we’re from West Virginia,” Andrea said.

  He was holding a stack of papers in his hands. “I don’t know if you’re aware of the flood of foreigners coming into our area now. I have a petition here that I intend to present to the county commission asking that they reserve the entire Canaan Valley for West Virginians only. Would you care to sign?”

  Andrea had a look on her face like a thunderstorm brewing, which wasn’t a good thing since we were here alone with a potential murderer. “Mr. Lynch, we live in the United States of America. Citizens and visitors are allowed to go anywhere they want. The county commission can’t close an area like this to visitors.”

  The man was not only a fanatic, but “teched” as well, as our grandmother used to call the mentally unbalanced. He now had a belligerent look on his face. “Where does it say in the Constitution that this area can’t be reserved for the natives?”

  “It doesn’t have to say it in the Constitution. It just can’t be done.” And that was Andrea’s final word on the matter.

  “Mr. Lynch,” I said, “have you ever had to show papers to cross a state line, or been refused entry somewhere because you weren’t a native?”

  He drew himself up and looked down his nose at me. “I’ve never crossed a state line, and I never intend to.” He turned and stomped toward his truck.

  I was relieved that he hadn’t pulled a knife on us and that he was now getting into his truck and driving away. “He’s a real nut case, isn’t he?”

  Andrea nodded. “He seems to be.”

  We got into the car, and it was a few degrees warmer there than it had been outside, due to the sun hitting the windshield. Andrea shifted into reverse, then backed and turned. ‘Let’s stop at the ski area on the way back. It’s right on the way. We can get something hot to drink and some food, if you’re hungry by then.”

  Something hot to drink definitely appealed to me. I didn’t think I’d be hungry after a big breakfast topped off with a biscuit. “Some hot chocolate would be wonderful.”

  The car had warmed up nicely by the time we reached the ski area and the Bear Paw Lodge, a large building with a green roof partially covered by snow and countless windows facing the parking lot. We walked over packed snow and went in to what turned out to be a food court. The place was brimming with athletic-looking types clomping around in ski boots and carrying trays of food. I spotted an empty table in a secluded corner and hurried over to grab it while Andrea searched for hot chocolate.

  She came struggling back through the crowd with a tray and two cups. I stood up to help her get the chocolate onto our small table, but instead of helping, I stood there staring. “Isn’t that Maria Borodin over there?”

  Andrea didn’t turn to look. “I believe it is.” She had already seen the elegant lady.

  The reason I was staring wasn’t Maria Borodin, but the man who sat across the table from her. Even sitting, he looked as if he’d be tall. He had steel-gray hair and a ruggedly handsome face that drew my eyes toward him and kept them anchored there. The two leaned toward each other across the table, talking. No doubt in a foreign language, I thought.

  “Who do you suppose the man is?” I asked. “He’s rather attractive.”

  Andrea leaned back and sipped her hot chocolate. “It might be her husband.”

  “She didn’t mention that he was coming. I assumed she’d come alone for a weekend of skiing.”

  “Maybe we’ll see this evening. If he shows up at the hotel with her, we’ll assume it’s her husband.”

  I smiled. “Maybe she’s having an affair.” Nothing like a little intrigue to keep the pulse racing.

  Andrea nodded solemnly. She had already thought of more possibilities than I could ever conceive.

  I felt a nasty thrill of pleasure as the two of them got up and started for the door, because they were moving along just as slowly and awkwardly as the rest of the crowd in their heavy boots. Now I didn’t feel so bad about my polyester and acrylic outfit. “I guess he’s a skier, too. Miss Borodin doesn’t look so graceful and elegant in those boots, does she?”

  Andrea smiled, indulging my moment of nastiness. “She probably makes up for it on the slopes.” My sister doesn’t have a nasty bone in her body. And she’s always confident in any situation. She’d be perfectly comfortable and not the least envious with the Queen of England herself.

  It was so warm and comfortable in the lodge that I hated the thought of going back outside, but Andrea finished her hot chocolate and started to put on her parka, so I did the same. It would be a short drive to the Alpenhof, and then we’d be warm again. Then I thought of my main reason for making this trip, and I was determined to talk to Maggie this evening about those long lost Monets.
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