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       Moon Signs, p.8

           Helen Haught Fanick


  We took our time over dinner and then wandered into the gift shop. Andrea looked at books, and I looked at West Virginia glass and other gift items. I should buy something for a few friends, I thought. Eleanor was especially fond of West Virginia glass, and Nellie would love some of the local maple syrup. So would I, for that matter, and I decided that I’d get some for myself also. Then there was my neighbor Frank, who was picking up my mail and paper. He loved maple syrup, too. I carried a small cranberry glass vase and three tins of syrup to the cash register. Andrea came along with a couple of books.

  By the time we left the lodge, it had started snowing again. We put up our hoods and went carefully, checking for slippery spots, on the way to the car. Andrea turned on the wipers to clear away the fine, powdery flakes. “This will make for good skiing tomorrow if it keeps up,” she said.

  “I hope you’ll be careful. I don’t know if I could handle the driving if you break a leg. The roads might be slippery, and you know how I feel about slippery roads.”

  “I’ll be careful. Probably stay on the bunny slope the whole day.”

  Yeah, right, I thought, but I didn’t say anything. Showing my skepticism would only encourage her to go to the top of the mountain. I decided to change the subject. “What do you think of Ivy?”

  “She seems to be a rather stern person. Maybe grim would be a better word.”

  “Do you think something’s bothering her? Do you think she could have killed Olga?”

  “Not if our friend the deputy was right, and this was a professional job. If she’s a professional killer, she has a good disguise. Of course, an amateur could have struck a lucky blow and killed her with that knife between her ribs and directly into her heart.”

  I thought for a minute. “Maybe she knows something. After all, Asbury did show a lot of animosity toward Olga. And then there’s David. I still think he might have criminal tendencies, skipping school and trying to light a cigarette in your car.”

  We pulled into the parking lot at the Alpenhof now, and Andrea shut off the engine. “My guess would be that no one in that family is capable of murder except under the most extreme conditions. I can’t see that any such conditions have occurred in their lives. On the other hand, do we ever know what someone else is capable of?”

  We hurried inside to stand by the fireplace for a few minutes to warm up. Maggie was on the phone behind the desk, so we went to our room to relax till she got off duty at ten. And by the time we came back to the lobby, she had left the reception area. We climbed the stairs, went to her room, and heard voices that were obviously coming from inside. I would have hesitated, wondering if we were intruding, but Andrea gave a sound rap on the door.

  Maggie appeared in a wedge of light. We could see Stefan behind her, looking good in a blue turtleneck sweater and jeans. “Come in,” our niece said. “Have you met Stefan?”

  “Not really,” I said.

  He came forward and took my hand without waiting for Maggie to say anything more. “You’re the lady who knocked on my door last night and informed me about Olga. I appreciate your prompt action.”

  The man had an accent to die for. “I’m just sorry the result wasn’t better. I’m Kathleen Williamson and this is my sister, Andrea Flynn.”

  “You’re Maggie’s aunts,” he said as he shook Andrea’s hand. “She told me you were coming for a long weekend.”

  “We’ll be here till Sunday or maybe a little longer,” Andrea said.

  Was she thinking of staying longer because of the murder? But then we were here to talk about two long lost Monet paintings. I wished we could forget about the murder.

  “We’re happy to have you here, for as long as you wish to stay,” Stefan said. “And now I must go to my room so I can hear in case a guest arrives and rings the bell. Till tomorrow.” Maggie shut the door behind him.

  Andrea spoke first, before I had a chance to start talking about the paintings. “He’s a nice-looking young man. Very well mannered, too.”

  “I agree,” Maggie said.

  “When we gave Asbury a ride yesterday, he mentioned that you and Stefan appear to be interested in each other, and that Olga didn’t seem to approve.”

  I’d been wondering since yesterday about how to bring up this subject with Maggie. I should have known Andrea would use the most direct approach possible and would do it before I ever figured out what I wanted to say.

  Maggie looked for a moment as if she didn’t know how to respond. Then, “Olga didn’t like me from the start. I never understood why, and I tried to be pleasant to her since she and Stefan were related, but it didn’t seem to help.”

  “According to Asbury, she was cold to everyone. He said she was ‘mean as a snake,’” I said

  Maggie laughed. “That’s a pretty good description.”

  “Do you think she could have been killed for those diamonds she was wearing?” Andrea asked.

  Maggie looked as if the thought hadn’t occurred to her. “According to Stefan, those were CZ’s, not diamonds.”

  “What’s a CZ?” I asked.

  “It’s a cubic zirconia. They’re man-made stones that look like diamonds. I don’t think anyone would have killed her for those. They probably cost thirty dollars apiece, at most.”

  Andrea looked thoughtful. “Unless they didn’t realize they weren’t diamonds. We certainly didn’t.”

  We were here to talk about paintings that would make us rich, and Andrea was determined to talk about murder. “Excuse me, but we came up here to discuss the Monets, remember?”

  Maggie had been sitting on the bed, and she got up. “To answer your original question, I suppose she could have been killed by someone who thought she was wearing diamonds. I have no idea why Olga was killed or who killed her. I suppose it could have been a simple robbery, although the only thing missing was her CZ’s. Nothing was taken from the cash register. Stefan doesn’t have any ideas either. We’re both baffled. In the meantime, let me tell you about what I found in the attic here. When I told Stefan that my great-grandfather used to own this hotel, he mentioned that there were a couple of old trunks up there. He told me to go up and look through them and see if anything in there belonged to Grandpa Flynn. He’d like to get rid of them and wants to put in more windows and partition off some extra rooms up there this summer so they’ll be ready for the next ski season.”

  I was hanging on every word now. “And so you went through the trunks?”

  “Not entirely. What with teaching at the ski school all day and working the desk in the evenings, I haven’t had a chance. I’m supposed to have Monday and Tuesday off from teaching, but when someone else doesn’t show up, which happens frequently, they call on me. Anyway, I did find a few minutes to go up there one afternoon when they closed the lifts because of wind, and I had a couple of hours off. There are two trunks. One of them has a padlock on it. I looked in the other one, and it was piled full of old clothes, and in the bottom were some ancient papers pertaining to this property. Tax statements, receipts, things like that. But the one item that caught my interest was a list of purchases Grandpa and Grandma Flynn had made on the trip they made to Paris.”

  Maggie went to her chest of drawers and opened the top drawer. She brought out a folded, yellowed paper and opened it. Andrea and I moved to either side of her. She pointed to the fourth item on the list. “Two water lily paintings” was written in neat script. Out to the side the writer, probably Grandma Flynn, had entered the amount of $30 each.

  Our grandparents weren’t known for their frugality. They had invested most of their savings in the hotel; then they went off to Paris to buy some new outfits for Grandma and a few things for the hotel. The other items on the list were clothing, shoes, six mirrors, a vase, and two light fixtures. They could have bought such things locally, but as I said, they weren’t frugal. The hotel didn’t make a go of it, and they were bankrupt within a few years.

  “The list isn’t dated, but from old photos in one
of our family albums, I think they made that trip in 1905,” Andrea said. I could tell she was about to make a discouraging pronouncement, and I was right. “I don’t want to dash your hopes, but I think Monet was well-known by then. His paintings would have sold for much more than that. I haven’t researched this on the Internet, but I will.”

  I had no doubt she would. “Possibly they bought the paintings from someone who didn’t realize their value. Whatever, I think we need to find them so we can know for sure.”

  Maggie nodded. “I’ve been thinking they might be in the locked trunk, but I didn’t have any way of opening it.”

  Andrea, always practical, said, “We’ll have Asbury cut off the lock. Unless we can find a key up there somewhere. How do we get to the attic?”

  “There’s a door across from the ice machine,” Maggie said. “It leads into the laundry room, and there you’ll find another door that opens up to some stairs that lead up to the attic. I doubt anyone had been up there in years until Stefan went up the other day and found the trunks. There’s a heavy coat of dust on everything. And there’s no light up there, although there are some windows that let in light during the day—not a lot, though, as they’re covered with dust also.”

  “Have you looked in the rooms?” I asked. “The paintings might be hanging on a wall in one of the rooms.”

  Maggie shook her head. “I’ve checked them all. They’re not here.”

  I was ready to rouse Asbury, grab flashlights, and head for the attic immediately, but I knew Andrea wouldn’t be. She changed the subject abruptly as if to discourage me from even considering a late-night trip to the attic. “I’m skiing tomorrow,” she said. “I asked David to go with me, and Ivy and Asbury agreed that it might be a good thing for him. Do you think I should buy some ski pants, or will jeans work as well?”

  Maggie didn’t hesitate. “Get some ski pants. You’ll stay a lot drier and be more comfortable. Downstairs in the lodge, you’ll find what you need. I have some old ones David could wear. They’d be too short for you.” She went to her closet and brought out a pair of black nylon pants with suspender-like straps that crossed in the back and hooked in the front. “Give these to David in the morning. Tell him he can keep them. I’ve been thinking of putting them in an equipment sale, but he might as well have them.”

  “I told David I’d pay for a half a day lesson for him and a whole day lift ticket and rental. I’ll be doing the same for myself.”

  “The ski school will be packed tomorrow. It always is on weekends. I’ll arrange for the two of you to be in my class. You aren’t going to try it, Kathleen?”

  “No, thanks! I’m going to take one of my fun mysteries—Janet Evanovich, Ben Rehder, or Kinky Friedman, I brought all three with me—and find a nice quiet corner near the fireplace. While the rest of you are freezing and spraining ankles, I’ll be warm and cozy.”

  “Maybe we can arrange a ride up in the chair lift for you at the end of the day. Then at least you could see the view from the top. Be sure and bring a scarf. The wind can be ferocious, especially coming down, and it helps to be able to cover the lower half of your face. Just leave your eyes exposed so you can see the valley below. It’s neat at night, with the lights twinkling all over the area. You can see the outline of the mountains in the distance against the starry sky.”

  I wasn’t so sure about a chair lift ride, but I didn’t want to be perceived as a complete wimp. “I’d enjoy that. Would someone be going with me?”

  “Sure. We’ll all go. Stefan could ride with you. He’ll help you on and off the lift. He’s in the Ski Patrol, and believe me, he’s very capable on the slopes.”

  I couldn’t help noticing how her face lit up when she talked about Stefan’s capability, but I didn’t mention it. Instead I said, “So when are we going to check out the attic?”

  “We’ll go up there tomorrow night, after the lift ride. I have a flashlight in the car and one in the room, so we can use those. We’ll look for the key first, and if we can’t find it, we’ll ask Asbury to cut off the lock Sunday evening.”

  It was obvious we wouldn’t be going home Sunday, which was fine with me. Neither of us had anyone waiting for us back in Pine Summit, neighbors were picking up the mail and papers, and I was enjoying the stay. And I certainly didn’t want to leave before opening that second trunk and going through its contents. I went to bed feeling as if we were at last making progress in our search for the Monets.

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