I cracked the code!
Range Lade will not be receiving a slightly disappointing batch of apologetic maple bacon scones from me.
Instead, I will give Ranger Lade first crack at excising The Pink Lady from her mountain. Solving a twenty-year-old mystery while literally coming to terms with your own personal demon? That should cover all abominable behavior.
Making my excuses, I left my friends to their bridge game. Since I was coated with powdered sugar and raspberry jam, they didn’t protest my exit too much. Especially since a grand time was being had by all. Beatrice and Sarah decided to make up their own “better” rules to bridge – claiming theirs was a little-known variant. Laney and the kid (who did score one of Wood’s danishes) were actively working against Wood – completely disregarding the fact that he was on their team. While Wood attempted to keep the entire game from sinking into complete chaos. Leaving them to their fun, I exited the game room, my head awhirl.
Strictly speaking my experience with this sort of thing is remarkably limited. I rarely run across Errants, i.e., people inhumed outside sanctified ground. While nearly (but not quite) all possess a criminal genesis point, usually that detail doesn’t matter by the time I encounter them. Either they’ve reconciled to what happened, or they’ve burned out – the former I meet when they are transplanted to Nevermore.
I’ve never seen anyone like this particular Woman In White.
So dealing with her means I’m treading over new ground. The one universal wish of the transplanted Errants I’m acquainted with? Unsurprisingly, that the deeds of the guilty party were known to the world before they went toes-up themselves. Unhappily for them (and ambivalently for me), I never needed to fulfill this particular desire.
I’m starting to regret this lack of experience.
How on earth am I going to get her off the mountain without compromising my secret, jeopardizing my friend’s anonymity or exposing Nevermore to corrosive influences? And alert authorities to the crime?
While sipping my coffee, I’d toyed with the ideas of creating a macabre treasure map, an unfortunately placed geocache, a tactless campsite sign, distressing the trailhead marker (i.e., carving the coordinates to the cairn on it) or putting an ominously worded note on the map in the hotel lobby. But each idea featured more cons than pros.
Which is how I landed on my master plan, an old chestnut, the anonymous letter.
It would direct the attention of the authorities onto the contents of the cairn and the crime while misdirecting their attention from me. Hopefully, my grand design wouldn’t turn cliche and allow Miss Marple (or the police) to suss me out.
Not able to rest upon my laurels with a plan of action devised, I headed to the front desk (after going outside to deposit my shirt crumbs for the birds) and found Sam still at his post, “Hey! Does the hotel have a computer I can use?” My head so filled with my plans I went straight to the point of the conversation. His answer wasn’t entirely unexpected (after I thought about it for a second), “No, sorry. Hilltop’s unplugged from technology, it’s why people come here.”
“Crap. Okay. Thanks anyways.” Trying to smile I turned away from the desk, deflated, not wanting to wait to enact my Misdirection Scheme.
“What did you need to do?”
Turning back, “Honestly, all I need is a wireless printer and a quiet corner.”
Clearly torn between Hilltop’s mission statement and a generous tip he knew would come his way (or perhaps sensing a damsel in distress vibe), “Is it important?”
“Yes.” Holding my breath.
“Grab your stuff and meet me back here.” Elation and relief warred inside me while I scurried to my room.
Quicker than a rabbit can steal a carrot, I found myself following Sam through the warren of utilitarian corridors used by the staff (the cheap linoleum and beige walls were a dead giveaway). When we stopped, I figured we were somewhere in the back of the hotel, Sam used a key to open a door. He ushered me into the dark room where my nose detected the scents of old fries, dog, and Douglas fir.
“Wasn’t expecting company.” Sam started tidying up, which wasn’t really needed – it looked lived in – not sloven.
“Seriously, don’t worry about it. You are doing me a huge favor.” And he was – because just to the left of the cracked open window stood a computer with a rather lovely printer.
He turned on the printer, made sure my tablet paired off with it and headed towards the door, “Extra printer paper is under the desk. Ink is in the top left drawer. My shift ends in four hours. I’ll come and get you then. If you could wait for me to lead you out, I would appreciate it.”
“Trust me, that will be perfect.” I waited for him close and lock the door before turning towards the desk.
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