A Christmas Mystery

For Tiffany and Brandon, my kind of mystery fans.

   Having solved the mystery of the venomous
    India snake lurking in the family Christmas tree
    and the invisible thief no one could identify 
    owing to his clever disguise as Santa Claus,
    I went on holiday, exchanging the snowless Delta
    for the High Sierra and arriving just in time
    to be greeted by a blizzard that canceled skiing
    and held me snowbound in a rustic lodge
    where the women talked of nothing but ski fashions 
    and the men babbled bitcoins and cryptocurrencies,
watching the snowfall powder the slopes, sampling
the high life and cheese melts from the roving raclette cart.
All of us found comfort round the circular fireside,
    refreshments in hand, forming friendships,
    indulging holiday revelry and growing closer, 
    our convivial mingling punctuated by explosions
    from the labor of snow technicians
    explained by detonation supervisor Marcus 
    as the clearing of slopes and trails
    with precise blasts designed to send snow packs
    cascading and dispersing, induced avalanches
    that prevented the real thing from descending
    without warning and burying skiers alive in snow tombs.
    Our only problem was a certain eager skier
    who chose to pursue his sport despite the risk.    
    “Has anyone seen Godfrey?” one of the women asked
    when that playboy went missing. None of us worried,
    knowing the notorious drifter’s insatiable taste
    for adventure, laughing at danger and dismissing
    warnings about his perilous conduct, hoping to excite
     the envy of timid males and the attention of women
     charmed by a rogue male whose idea of success
     in skiing and life was to stop at nothing to get 
     what he wanted, true to the motto emblazoned
     on his ski wear:  Fortune Favors the Bold. 
    The rest of us waited for Marcus and crew to signal
    the all clear, restoring the slopes to perfect safety,
    something that mattered not at all to Godfrey, 
    whose forbidden schussing often led Marcus
    to go chasing the disobedient scalawag,
    and ended with him seeking the lost man’s trail
     wherever it led or ended, suspecting  
     (as he told me) to find a body in the snow
    due to an accident of his own making.
   “Maybe he went too far with a trailblazing woman,”
    Ashley laughed, “who led him down the wrong trail.”  
    “And got the fate he richly deserved,” added Evette,  
    with more than a hint of malice that turned heads
    in wonder at her words, remembering as we did 
    how she and Godfrey played sweet little games
    until he left her for another gamester and turned   
    the best of friends into the best of enemies.
    When we were cleared for action, a few of us  
    took to hunting the rugged landscape and asking
    those we met, “Anybody seen Godfrey?” 
     None had. The consensus was he’d misjudged
     a cliff or trusted his luck to jump a deep ravine 
     or else gone cross-country and kept on going
     to escape a possessive woman or irate husband.
     The mystery of his disappearance was one that
     even logical Sherlock or shrewd Miss Marple
     would have consigned to the cold case file.
     “He got away with what he could when he could,
     and then he couldn’t,” Evette summed up
     when the two of us met by chance decades later.
     I questioned how a skier as seasoned as Godfrey 
     could have succumbed to simple carelessness
     and gave her my theory that the daredevil
     was lost owing to the accident of an avalanche  
     that took the life of that self-proclaimed champion. 
     Luck is not always on the side of those who take chances. 
      “It was no accident,” Evette said quietly
       and left me without another word.
       Not that another word was needed
       after her four words brought to my mind
       the incident when Marcus unexpectedly arrived
       at the lodge to find his wife and Godfrey   
       a little too cozy, a little too compatible,
       whereupon he turned abruptly and departed
without a flicker of emotion or hint of revenge.
       And only now did I sense what resource lay at hand 
       for murder by a master of perfectly-placed detonations.

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