Read Lone Wolf Online

Authors: Linwood Barclay

Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Suspense

Lone Wolf (6 page)

BOOK: Lone Wolf
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“But when they do,” Betty went on, paying little attention to me, “they maul their victims, swat them about, and they’ve got these huge paws, with claws. Person gets swiped with one of those, they’ve got scratches a couple inches apart. And bears got big jaws. They take a bite out of you, you notice something’s missing.”

“Okay,” I said, getting interested.

“I took a long look at that body, of Morton Dewart. And you know, I could be wrong, but he didn’t look to me like someone who’d been killed by a bear.”

Dad said, “It could have been a wolf, you know. Maybe a cougar. They’ve got cougars up here, I’m pretty sure of that.”

“Dad,” I said. “Let her tell it.”

“And when I’ve worked in ERs in the city, I’ve seen things there, too, that reminded me of how this Dewart guy looked. He was torn apart, in a frenzy, by an animal, or animals, with jaws a lot smaller than a bear’s.”

A tiny shiver went down my spine. “Let me guess,” I said. “Dogs.”

Betty nodded. “Like I say, it’s not like I did an autopsy out there in the woods or anything, but based on what I’ve seen over the years, and believe me, I’ve seen a lot, I’d say so.”

Suddenly, we were interrupted.

Leonard Colebert stepped into the cabin, threw his arms proudly into the air, like he’d scored a touchdown. “I’ll bet you can’t tell, to look at me, what I’ve just done.”

8

I
TURNED IN SOON AFTER THAT,
but didn’t sleep very well in my bed in cabin 3. The mattress sagged a bit in the middle, but that wasn’t the problem. I couldn’t stop thinking about what Betty had to say, that the death of Morton Dewart might not be as straightforward as it looked, plus there was something else that was gnawing at me in the middle of the night. I kept wanting the sun to come up so I could go outside and look for something I thought should be there, but which no one had found.

So when it got to be six, the time I’d hoped to wake up to join Bob to go fishing, I was already awake. I sat up in bed, tired and logy-headed.

The sun was streaming into my bedroom window from a low angle as I threw back the covers and touched my feet to the cold plank floors. I padded into the bathroom, where I had a quick shower. I’d grabbed a couple of towels, in addition to bedding, from Dad before heading over to my own, private accommodation. Other than my new socks and underwear, I had nothing that you could call a travel kit. I wished I had thought, when I’d bought my clothes, to pick up a toothbrush, razor, shaving cream, and a few other items.

My teeth felt furry.

Some stuff I could probably borrow from Dad, but the rest I’d need to get next time I was in Braynor. Once I was dressed and had combed my hair with my fingers and run my index finger over my teeth, I went outside. Rather than head down to the lake, or over to Dad’s cabin for some breakfast, I went straight into the woods.

It wasn’t hard to find where Morton Dewart’s body had been. The grass was tramped down in the area around where the tarp had been draped over him. I’m no tracker, but I looked off into the forest, as if the location of the body were the center of a wheel, and imagined spokes leading off from it. All the possible routes Dewart might have taken to reach the point where he’d met his end. I was looking for disturbances in the pine needle–covered forest floor, or broken branches, anything to indicate what path he, or a bear, might have taken here.

I didn’t see a damn thing.

So I began walking in ever growing circles, starting at the point where the body had been found, searching the ground, scanning back and forth ahead of me. I ducked under branches, stepped over rocks, hopped over small dips in the terrain.

I did not find what I was looking for.

I walked back down to the lake, which was still and shimmering from the early morning sun. Down by the dock, Bob was sitting in his boat, examining lures in his tackle box, getting ready.

“Morning!” he called. Very cheerful for so early in the day.

“Be over in a minute,” I said, heading for Dad’s cabin. If I could get a dab of toothpaste, I’d take another run at my teeth with my finger.

Dad’s cabin was unlocked and I opened the door quietly, figuring he’d still be asleep. There was no radio going, no sounds of bacon frying in a pan. But there was snoring. As I passed by Dad’s open bedroom door, I caught a peek of him in there, on his back on the far side of his double bed, making noises like a Union Pacific freight. Dad had done me a favor, putting me in cabin 3, instead of letting me crash on the couch and try to get to sleep with that racket going on.

I crept past his door to the bathroom. The door was barely ajar, and I eased it open with my hand, hoping it wouldn’t squeak too much on its hinges.

“Hey, sweetie,” came a voice from inside the bathroom. A voice that sounded very female. “I didn’t wake you up, did—”

And then, when she saw who was coming in to see her, this woman with brown hair who looked, at a glance, to be about my father’s age, standing there in a white bra and black slacks that she was in the process of zipping up, screamed.

Not a blood-curdling, oh-my-God-you’ve-come-here-to-kill-me scream, just a short one, of pure surprise. More a whoop, really, than a scream.

I didn’t scream myself, although I might easily have done so. Instead, I was blabbering, “Sorry! Sorry! Didn’t know anyone was in here! Sorry!” I grabbed hold of the doorknob and yanked so hard on it that I slammed the door into my head, knocking myself back into the main room, almost stumbling over the couch before I caught myself.

Dad was hopping out his bedroom door now, shouting, “Lana! What’s wrong?” And then he saw me, then clutched at the wall for support, and even in his barely awake state, started putting it all together. “Oh shit,” he said, looking at me. “What are you doing up this early?”

“I’m going fishing,” I said. “I just wanted to rub some toothpaste on my teeth and jeez I didn’t know you had someone here why didn’t you tell me you were having company and I wouldn’t have walked in?”

“Didn’t you bring a toothbrush?”

“No, I did not bring a toothbrush. When I heard you were dead, for some reason, my first stop was not for a toothbrush and floss.”

“You don’t have any floss either?”

“Dad.”

“What about when we were in town yesterday? Couldn’t you have picked up what you needed then? Honestly, can’t a person have even a little privacy around—”

The bathroom door swung open and Lana stepped out, a pink button-up-the-front blouse pulled on, her fingers doing up the top button. “Arlen, stop, please, it was just an accident.”

Again, I said, “Listen, I’m sorry, I had no idea anyone was in there. I just wanted to brush my teeth was all and—”

“Yeah, well, the bathroom’s free now, so why don’t you do what you have to do,” Dad suggested.

“I’m Lana,” she said, extending a hand. “You must be Zachary.”

“Yeah, Zack, yes,” I said, shaking her hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lana.”

“Lana Gantry,” she said. “I’m a friend of your father’s.” She smiled. “Although you probably figured that out by now.”

The implications of what I’d stumbled into were now starting to sink in. This woman was a friend of my father’s. She was in his cabin at 6:20 in the morning. No one came to visit at 6:20 in the morning. Which meant that she must have arrived late last night, after the party broke up. Which meant that she must have spent the night with my father and oh God there are just some things you don’t want to think about why did I have to walk in here and how do I get out of this gracefully?

“I know all about you.” Lana smiled. “You’re a writer for
The Metropolitan
now, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” I said, looking at her closely for the first time now. She was probably in her early sixties, trim, a pretty impressive figure, which I was able to discern even now that she had her top on. A beautiful face with full, already red, lips, high cheekbones, brown hair with subtle streaks of silver in it that would probably have fallen just to her shoulders if she didn’t have it pulled back and clipped.

“It’s a real treat to see you again,” Lana said. “Needless to say, you’ve sure grown up.”

A puzzled looked must have crossed my face. “I’m sorry, I’m having just a bit of trouble placing you…Wait a minute.”

Dad shook his head, annoyed, and was about to say something when Lana turned to him, putting a finger to her lips. “Let’s see if he remembers.”

Dad said, “Lana, it’s really not necessary that—”

“Shhh,” Lana said to him.

There was something about her that was familiar. “What did you say your last name was?” I asked.

“Gantry.”

“Mrs. Gantry?”

“I think he’s getting warm.” Lana smiled at Dad.

“You used to live down the street from us? And moved away, when I was, like, thirteen?”

She smiled, stepped forward and gave me a hug, followed by a peck on the cheek. “Good memory.”

“Lana’s husband, Walter, died a few years back,” Dad said. “We both ended moving up this way, ran into each other in Braynor. It was, uh, sort of a coincidence.” Dad reached around behind the bedroom door and came out with his crutches, which he tucked under each arm so he could come out into the room.

“Have you had any breakfast?” Lana asked me.

“Uh, no, but listen…I have to get going anyway. Bob’s taking me out fishing this morning, and I don’t want to intrude.”

“Nonsense. Let me make you up something. You can take it out with you, if you want.” She was already heading over to the kitchen counter. “How about peanut butter and toast? Or a fried egg sandwich? That would only take a moment.”

Dad said, “Do you really have time, Lana?” To me, he said, “Lana runs the café in town.”

“This’ll only take a sec,” she said. “I’ve got the girls trained to open up, I don’t have to be there first thing. So how about a fried egg sandwich?”

“A fried egg sandwich would be great,” I said. She had a small frying pan out before I could finish the sentence, and now was in the fridge getting out a carton of eggs.

“That’s something, the two of you running into each other, years after you left the neighborhood,” I said.

“Yes, it is,” Lana Gantry said, putting two slices of bread into the toaster. “By the way, I think you’ve met my nephew, Orville?”

I blinked. “The chief? Of police?”

“I know he was out here, what with that horrible business of the man who was killed by the bear. What a terrible, terrible thing that was.”

“Yes, we met,” I said.
And he pulled a gun on me
, I could have added.
And he seems like a bit of a twit
, I might have mentioned.

“I’m so proud of him. He’s turned into quite a young man himself,” she said. I nodded, not sure what I could possibly add to that. My toast popped and Lana buttered the slices, then slid a fried egg onto one of them. “Salt and pepper?” she asked.

“Sure,” I said, still processing so much information being delivered in such a short time.

“I didn’t cut it so the yolk wouldn’t run all over the place,” she said, handing me my breakfast in a sandwich bag.

Lana gave Dad a light kiss on the lips, which embarrassed him. “Gotta run,” she said. “Come in for a piece of pie if you get a chance.” She smiled at me, grabbed a set of keys on the kitchen counter, and was out the door.

“She seems nice,” I said. “I hope you kids are using protection.”

Dad scowled. “I think Lana gave you that sandwich to go.”

I smiled. “Okay, I’m off. When I get back, you can start showing me what needs to be done around here.” He was still scowling as I slipped out the door and ran over to the dock, where Bob Spooner was sitting patiently in his boat.

“Ready?” he said.

I stepped carefully into the boat, putting my foot toward the center so as not to tip it.

“Meet Lana?” Bob asked, grinning. “I just saw her car take off for town.”

I nodded. “I kind of walked in on her in the bathroom. I could have used a heads-up on that one.” I was thinking as Bob unhooked the boat from the dock and, with an oar, pushed us a boat length out, where it was deep enough for him to lower the outboard motor. “Is that where Dad was night before last, when we thought he was under that tarp?”

“Think so,” Bob said. “I figured Orville would have thought of that, or called, or something, but I guess he didn’t.”

“Would Orville know a clue if it bit him in the ass?”

Bob shook his head, said nothing, and dropped the motor into the water. He primed the squeeze bulb on the gas tank, then yanked the cord—just once—to bring the motor to life.

We didn’t do much talking as we headed out into the lake. We were the only noisy thing out there, and I didn’t want to make it worse by shouting over the motor. It had been a few years since I’d been out here, and I’d forgotten how beautiful it was. It wasn’t a huge lake; about two miles across and six or seven miles long, surrounded by forest. There were cottages here and there, a trailer park at the south end, but it wasn’t an overdeveloped lake. You could still come up here and feel you were getting away from it all.

Bob turned back on the throttle as we approached the shore a mile or so north of Denny’s Cabins. We were maybe fifty yards away from an awe-inspiring stand of pine trees. He pointed, raising his voice slightly over the outboard. “Must be over here somewhere.”

“What?” I said, leaning toward him from my perch on the middle seat.

“Leonard’s resort,” he said, shaking his head.

“That guy’s something else,” I said. “Do you think he was actually taking a piss while he sat there and told us about it?”

Bob shrugged. “Won’t be long before I’m wearing those goddamn diapers myself. Just got to make sure I don’t buy his brand.”

He killed the motor and released two fishing poles from brackets built into the side of the boat, handed one to me. “This is one of the best places to fish in the whole lake. There’s weed beds run through here, great feeding area. Every time I come out, I usually troll through here once, or drift and cast.”

“I can’t believe any local government would okay a guy’s plan to build a resort that huge on a lake that has so little development on it already. They must have to go through some sort of environmental study to build something like that. Surely the local council wouldn’t let it go ahead.”

“You really think that? That it would never be approved?”

I thought about that. “No. Sometimes, the worse something is, the more likely it’ll happen.”

“That’s kind of how I feel, too. If the money’s right, if Leonard can convince them this will bring new jobs to the area, people will go along with anything.”

“But then again, I could be wrong. I mean, look around. Because there is so little development on this lake, and a huge resort would have such an impact on it, maybe the people in charge will show some sort of common sense, some concern for the environment.”

Bob hooked a lure to the end of his line, what looked like a four-inch fish with froglike coloring and three sets of hooks dangling off it. “How about something like this?” he said, lifting out of the tackle box a similar lure, but it had more yellow in it.

“Looks good,” I said, and he handed it over. I struggled, taking a couple of minutes to open the clip at the end of my line and attach it to the lure. I nearly jabbed myself twice, but did my best to keep Bob from noticing. Bob whipped his pole back over his shoulder, then cast out, the plug landing in the water thirty to forty feet away.

“We’ll drift this way”—he pointed—“so cast out the other side.”

BOOK: Lone Wolf
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