(I make rectangular scones with bacon in the batter – when I make them.)
Fortunately Wood and Beatrice didn’t require any conversational contributions from me when we left the Ranger Station.
The Pink Lady is a Woman In White.
Beatrice (holding the maps against her chest): “How did you figure out Ranger Rick followed the Pink Lady?”
I’d mislead myself by focusing on the silliness of Sam’s story and the color pink while ignoring the deeds he’d attributed to her.
Wood (laughed): “He reminded me of Gertrude from Hamlet.”
Merging what I knew of Women In White with Sam’s tale and my first-hand encounter a chill snaked down my spine.
Beatrice: “The Ranger doth protests too much?”
I recalled what lead me to my initial conclusion of Stalker, her extreme focus, constant shadowing, and formulaic recitation.
Wood (smiling): “Yup, his derision seemed out of proportion for an urban legend.”
Instead of taking her claim of injuring Mr. Grindle seriously, I’d dismissed it as a sign of her descent into madness. Something which, in the end, always engulfs Stalkers.
Beatrice (nodding): “People do tend to ridicule others for things that scare the pants off them. And the leg?”
She merely stated a fact.
Wood (counting the reasons on his hand): “Speaking from experience Bee? Anyways. The leg didn’t appear to bother him until we mentioned The Pink Lady. If you noticed his boots, they showed distinctly uneven wear – so his limp’s been around for a while. However his screen saver featured pictures of him mountain climbing – so the leg hasn’t always been a problem.”
I hadn’t place enough importance on her ability to shift focus.
Wood (continuing on, never knowing I’d interrupted him): “Then there’s his face, it lacks any kind of color – even in November a summer tan should still linger. So what would keep a ranger from working or playing outside when the weathers nice? A cast. If it were his knee or ankle he’d still managed to get some sun, but a broken femur – he’d get out very little, so six months in a cast. It takes another six to lose a limp, his was noticeable but not sever – so I placed his injury occurring sometime last winter – when there’s plenty of fog around here…”
A Woman In White pursues power and vengeance above all else.
Beatrice (summing up): “Add the bit about Hamlet in and you guessed he broke his leg following The Pink Lady.”
Knowing what she was cleared up one troubling detail, why her cairn susurrated so strongly under my hand.
Wood (smiling): “I took a shot in the dark. I suppose it isn’t nice to use my doctor powers like that – but he called Morticia stupid, roundaboutly.”
It also asked and answered a question I hadn’t occurred to me earlier, ‘How was she able to wander so far from her genesis point?’.
Beatrice: “What an odious little man. But he did give me some new maps…”
She’d done exactly what Sam and his friends feared, she’d stripped the vita from all those men, to fuel her vengeance.
Wood (turning to me): “Why did you wind Ranger Rick up Morticia?”
What will happen when her revenge on Mr. Grindle is complete? The vita she’s stolen makes her too powerful to merely evanesce, it will take years for her to fade. How much havoc could she wreak in the meantime?
Me (dread settling in my bones): “Salting the cairn won’t work fast enough.”
Wood (standing stalk still studying me): “Why?”
Me (meeting his eyes): “She can probably wait out the salt until it melts away then replace the leeched vita and start the cycle all over again.”
Beatrice just stood and watched our exchange, her forehead creased in concentration.
Wood (eyes narrowing): “You know what you need to do then?”
Me (shaking myself): “Yes.”
Beatrice: “Umm…what are you guys talking about?”
Wood (shrugging): “Morticia wool gathers out loud sometimes – I help her focus.”
Me (laughing, feeling a touch better): “Other times he completely derails me.”
Wood (rolling his eyes at me): “So why did you wind up Ranger Rick?”
Me (trying to keep things light): “An idea sparked, and I needed to grab hold of it before it went away again. I’ll figure out a correct apology; Dear Abby must cover this situation somewhere.”
Beatrice: “Does etiquette really cover the situation when strangers are simultaneously rude to each other? Honestly? I think overall you canceled each other out.”
Me (walking down the trail again, channeling my fretting into something silly): “Muffins? Cookies? Scones. Maple bacon scones – simultaneously savory and sweet, while being ever so slightly disappointing.”
Wood: “Apology thru baked goods?”
Beatrice (dissecting my answer): “Why would a scone be disappointing?”
Me: “Because it’s not a maple bacon doughnut, of course.”
Beatrice: “And why would you not send those instead?”
Me: “Because he was rude too.”