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Murder - On Salt Spring?

How can there be serious crime on this small island? Too hard to escape with only a ferry and besides, everyone knows everyone else. Gossip makes secrets common knowledge in minutes.

Yet, Carl Jenson is found in bed with a knife sticking out of his chest.

Big city detective Mattie Carlyle is sent out to help laid back Cal Lockhart investigate the murder.

Can their conflicting styles find common ground? Knocking heads one moment, strongly attracted the next, will either prevail?

And can you help them find the murderer?

Last night when I started this book, I by Golly could not put it down.    Peter Morton

I enjoyed this story about island life in British Columbia. A lifestyle more of us should adopt.     Russ Wilson

Murder - On Salt Spring?

CHAPTER ONE

Joe MacIntosh turned his pickup into Carl Jenson’s driveway and skidded to a stop. He jumped out, slammed the door and started toward the house, still mad as hell.

“Carl” he yelled at the silent house, “where are you? Said you’d get that dozer out a week ago to clear my lot.”

No answer. He slowed as he neared the door. What’s that odor he wondered. Smells like a dead animal. He looked around for the source. Couldn’t see anything. Still mad, he pounded on the door. No response. Carl’s pickup was parked in the carport.

He knocked again and called, “Carl, you in there?”

Nothing. It dawned on him that the stench was strongest near the door. He knew it wasn’t locked. Nobody on the island locked their doors. Most didn’t even have locks and probably no one could find a key for the ones that did. He opened the door a crack to yell again. The odor hit him with a blast that sent him staggering backwards in search of fresh air.

He realized Carl might be the dead animal. Something or someone in the house created the pungent stench. Obliged to find out, he took several deep breaths, pinched his nose and ran inside. No one in the living room, kitchen or hall. The bedroom door was open. Inside, he saw Carl lying on his back, fully dressed, with the handle of a hunting knife sticking out of his chest.

Joe could hold his breath no longer. He turned and fled. Thirty feet from the house he gasped fresh air for half a minute. He didn’t need to see more inside. Didn’t want to see more. He ran to his pickup, backed out of the driveway and floored it up the gravel road. Only slowed slightly when he turned onto the Fulford-Ganges road, then raced in to town.

Captain Lockhart lived in a combination house-police station halfway up the Ganges Hill. From Joe’s direction that was halfway down. He skidded to a stop in front, jumped out and ran through the door into a room that served as the police station. Cal Lockhart wasn’t there. He rang the bell on the desk, paced the floor and waited. Cal always propped up a sign board with a message when he was out and about. The board was down. A few minutes later the door opened and Cal walked in.

“Joe, how are you?”

“OK Captain, more than I can say for Carl Jenson.”

“He sick?”

“Worse. Lying in bed with a knife sticking out of his chest.”

“What?”

“Yep. Smells like he’s been dead for a week. Went looking for him since he promised to doze my lot last week and never showed.”

“I better get on over and take a look."

“Take a look—better you take a gas mask. He stinks something fierce.”

“OK Joe. Keep this under your hat. You let out a peep to anyone and the whole island knows about it in seventeen minutes. Don’t want half the island driving over there to gander…or sniff.”


CHAPTER TWO

Captain Calvin Lockhart wasn’t a real captain. He reported to one in Victoria but somewhere along the way he became unofficially anointed on the island. The only policeman on Salt Spring Island for the past eight years, no one questioned his rank. Even his real captain, James O’Hare good naturedly called him Captain Lockhart. It wasn’t easy to find a policeman to loll away on the quiet little British Columbia island in 1952.

Salt Spring Island had no serious crime because the only ferry access made it impossible to rob its one bank and get away. The vault remained ajar all day. Besides there wasn’t much worth stealing on the island. Cal faced three occasional problems, domestic disputes, beer parlour fights and illegal night hunting. The first he simply ignored until they became physical and the second he halted on arrival. A big man in uniform caused even the drunkest to pause and he passed sentence on the spot. The fighters had to buy the house a round. The revenue more or less covered the owner’s repair bill.

Night hunting, called pit lamping, was a different story. When a hunter shone a bright light on a deer, it would invariably freeze and stare back, blinded. It made for an easy shot. Venison was a meat staple for many of the poorer islanders. Cal understood this. When he caught a pit-lamper, the sentence was half the venison delivered to the station the next day. None of this prepared the big man to cope with an obvious murder. No one sticks a knife in their chest on purpose. No reason to question Joe’s statement that Carl was dead. The odor confirmed that. The stench scared Cal. His stomach was entirely too queasy to enter that house, though he knew it was required. He needed help. To put off the inevitable, he decided to call Captain O’Hare first.

“Hello Cal, haven’t heard from you for a while. Everything quiet on the island?”

“Too quiet, Captain, in fact dead quiet.”

“Thought you liked it that way.”

“Not this kind of quiet. I got a dead man lying on his bed with a knife sticking out of his chest.”

“Oh, oh. Any leads?”

“No. I just heard about it. Fellow that found him says he smells like he’s been dead for a week. I need help on this, Captain. With my queasy stomach, I’m not sure I can even enter the house, much less search for clues.”

“Better send someone over to help out. I’ll get back to you with a name. In the meantime, get out there and cordon off the crime scene. Leavin’ the body lie for another day won’t hurt.”

Two hours later, Captain O’Hare called back. “Cal, I’m sending out one of my gung ho young detectives, Mattie Carlyle. She lived on the island as a kid so she knows her way around.”

“This a job for a woman, Captain?”

“For this one it is. She’s tough. And she’s more into modern forensics than the rest.”

“OK. You’re calling the shots, Captain. When will she be over?”

“Tomorrow morning. Had to take care of some personal things but she’ll catch the first ferry over.”

“Good. I’ll keep you updated on the investigation.”

“Thanks Cal.”

***

The sun was above the trees when Cal descended Lee’s hill and swung down Fulford valley. As he turned left in front of the Fulford Inn, he could see the ferry entering the far end of the inlet. He would reach the wharf well before it docked. Even have time to gulp down a cup of coffee from the new café.

“Morning Esther, got a cup of hot coffee?”

“It is a good morning, Captain,” she responded while pouring.

“Harry give you that bruise?”

“No, I banged it.”

“Sure Esther. Guess it’s time I had another talk with him. Got to pick up someone off the ferry.”

“That detective arriving this morning?”

“How do you know about that?”

Laughing, “Captain, you know you can’t keep a secret on this island.”

“Damn Loose Lips, one of these days I’ll get her fired,” he muttered on the way out the door.

He stayed annoyed as he watched the cars coming off. That’s one of those classy old wood-trimmed station wagons, he mused. Looks like the wood needs a coat of varnish bad. Where is that woman? She should have walked off by now. Better head down the dock. Maybe she’s got a load of baggage and gear. Before he reached the gangplank it was obvious there was no foot passenger onboard.

One more annoyance this morning. They could have called and told me she was delayed, he thought. Wasted my time driving down here. To make matters worse, he noticed his left rear tire was almost flat when he returned. Disgusted he limped next door to Ron’s Garage.

“Hey Ronnie, got a minute to look at my left rear tire?”

“Sure Captain.”

Only took a minute to find the nail in it. Told the Captain he could push his other work aside and fix it if he wanted to wait. Cal did. Half an hour later he was on his way back to Ganges, still angry. When the station came in sight, there was the old wood-trimmed station wagon parked out front. Don’t tell me that’s her, he fumed.

“Carlyle?” he half shouted as he burst through the door.

“Detective Mattie Carlyle, Sergeant.” She held out her hand.

Cal was taken aback. The sergeant rank seemed foreign to him. He almost corrected her. But the bigger shock was her appearance. Taller than average, beautiful with bright blue eyes and long, wavy dark hair. Definitely not the look and physique of a hardened detective. An actress maybe, not a detective.

“Cal Lockhart. Told the captain I would meet you at the ferry. He led me to think you would be on foot.”

“Why would he do that. He knew I would drive over with the equipment I’ll need. Sure you didn’t just assume the weak little lady would need help?”

“All I know is it wasted an hour and a half between driving and getting a nail pulled out of a tire.” He didn’t like the tone in her voice. Pushy broad he thought.