Snowbound

Having worked one case too many at the Delta Detective Agency and carried my work into my nighttime dreams by solving the mystery of the venomous India snake lurking in the family Christmas tree and the invisible thief no one (except myself) could identify owing to his clever disguise as Santa Claus, I went on holiday, exchanging the snowless Delta for the abundant powder of 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, hairstyles, anxiety (“I looked in the mirror this morning and asked myself who is that?”), and relationships beyond repair (“He was my dream man. I was over the moon. Then he dumped me. Why does every relationship have to end like a train wreck?”).

For their part, the men were content to prattle about sports, bitcoins, cryptocurrencies and stock market tips that could or should have made them a fortune, but left them with holes in their pockets, looking for the next get-rich-quick scheme to compensate their losses (“My financial adviser told me I was now just like Donald J. because I, too, could kiss my assets goodbye.”). 

 All of us kept close watch on the snowfall that heaped and steeped the slopes, and tried to content ourselves with a taste or two of the high life, sampling robust coffee, steamy chocolate, Sierra margaritas and cheese melts from the roving raclette cart. 

We found comfort and made new friends round the circular fireside, growing closer to one another in our confinement. As the storm slackened and ended with a light drizzle of flakes, our convivial mingling was punctuated by the sound of explosions triggered by technicians attempting to level and smooth the snow to an acceptable standard of safety for skiers. Detonation supervisor Marcus explained this was done with precise blasts aimed at clearing slopes and trails. These blasts induced avalanches to prevent 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. It was clear to me that he hoped to excite the envy or jealousy of males and beguile susceptible females charmed by a rogue whose idea of success in skiing and life was to stop at nothing to get what he wanted, true to the motto emblazoned with red lettering on his skiwear: 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, seeking the lost man’s trail wherever it led or wherever it 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 a malicious chuckle 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 at last we were cleared for action, a few of us took to hunting the snow-blanked 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 again the following ski season, one which, as luck would have it, suffered from a paucity of snow rather than a surplus. 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 whispered with a warning look 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. His swift exit seemed to end the matter and one might suppose that he paid little or no attention to his wife’s carefree social life.

But only now, given Evette’s whispered clue, did I guess the truth, sensing what convenient resource lay at hand for murder by a master of perfectly placed and perfectly timed detonations.

“I wonder what we’ll see when the snow melts,” a woman in the ski lift asked me as we rode to the top of a long steep slope that would test our courage and skill. 

“I can’t imagine,” I said. 

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