I had wanted a cabin by water since I can remember. As a child, my parents took us to a cabin in the summer for two weeks. We would fish off the wharf and if lucky have the catch for dinner. My brother always seemed to get a couple, my Dad too. Sister Jen and I hardly ever caught any but if we did, a big fuss was made of our catch.
I had just signed the papers to a small place at Copper Cove delighted as I had not taken a holiday for five years and saved every penny I could. The first to phone was my brother Mike, he promised to visit and if the place needed any repairs, I could count on him to help. Jen was happy for me but having two small babies she had no plans this summer to come see it.
Up before the sun I headed out, my car loaded, driving for two hours. I turned down the dirt road that led to the cabin. Finally arrived, jumping out of my car hollering, “It’s all mine.” It had wiped all my savings. I did not care, I owned it full out. Unpacking the trunk and backseat setting all of it on the porch, rifled my bag for the keys. Performing a little dance of triumph before unlocking my door.
The owner, a woman who had lost her husband last summer to a boating accident had left the place spotless, even a vase filled with flowers and herbs with a note of welcome, hoping I would have as many good times here as her family had done.
Finally settled, with all put away I took to the porch with a glass of wine, crackers and cheese. My stomach let me know the hurried coffee and toast had disappeared quite sometime ago.
I could see a boat coming towards the wharf, a man waved and slowed as he passed. Looking at the thermometer attached to the porch. I was surprised to see it was over 75 degrees. It was getting close to four in the afternoon.
I headed down to my wharf with a chair. The water calm a dark azure, with a slight breeze as I immersed my feet in the water. Looking out across the lake, I could see three cabins nestled in between trees to give them all privacy. I was the only place for a quarter of a mile on this side, glad not to have people right beside me. Tall trees clustered behind and on each side of the cabin for a cooling effect, but none in front to shade the cabin. A fusion of wild flowers covered the ground. The previous owner had said they would come here in the fall and not have to use the fireplace until late October.
Being up so early plus the fresh air, I must have dozed off in my chair. I awoke to a male’s voice saying, “Hello.” I bolted from my chair just about landing in the lake as two strong hands caught me pulling me down on the wooden planks. His dark eyes pierced
through me, his smile showed a broken tooth, a slim build hovered over me, until I scrambled to my feet feeling foolish.
He introduced himself as Jake who was new to the area, and was looking for a place to park his camper in the area for a few days fishing. He just wanted to know if it were possible to park at the side of my property, he would be no problem and I would not even know he was here, as he would back into the trees. He had a small boat, was a good fisherman and would share his catch and was willing to pay for the space.
Hesitating, I was not sure if I wanted anyone close to my property but knew I did not own the space beside me. “I understand if you do not want a stranger around.” His smile looked so sincere I relented telling him I like my privacy if he kept to himself it would be fine for a few days. “Thank you I won’t bother you.”
Heading up to the cabin, I could hear his truck start up coming slowly down he nestled the camper into the trees. Then I heard another engine and saw Jake had taken his boat out on the lake, slowly doing a circle looking at all the cabins. Arriving back, he had a camera with a large lens around his neck. Thinking to myself, maybe he is a photographer.
Puttering around changing some furniture around it was dark when I looked out, no lights just the full moon shining on the water. I could see a figure coming out of the water drying off on the wharf, guess that was his way of a shower. I stood in the darkness of the cabin watching as he sat, now drinking from a bottle in his hand.
Locked the doors, I headed off to bed, leaving the cabin in darkness. The stillness with only a swaying of the trees lulled me into a deep sleep. When I first woke I was somewhat disoriented hearing birds singing I lay back and smiled, my first night in my own place. Jumping up I wanted the day to start quickly as I only had three weeks to enjoy my new found freedom.
Coffee made I sat on the porch to enjoy the songbirds, the lake was serene, not a ripple this morning. A green tinge mixed with the azure tone, the sun already shining, it was warm already. Munching a peach, I pondered the thought if I sold my condominium in the city. I think I could live here all year, if I could find something to supplement my income.
Looking out on the water, I could see a small boat headed towards the wharf, a wave from Jake's fishing pole. He only had shorts on, his muscled body showed he was in good shape as he tied the boat bringing up what looked like a successful catch. “Good morning, here is your share of the bounty.” Laughing he kept on going towards his camper. No, idle conversation just a wave as he disappeared into the bushes. He was keeping his word of not bothering me.
Taking the fish to the frig I notice he had cleaned them.
I wanted to check the area so headed out with my sketchpad, following the path from the lake. I had gone about a mile when I came on a barking dog a woman’s voice “Oh be quiet, Blackie.” The brightest dyed red hair I had ever seen appeared from behind an azalea bush, dressed in baggy jeans a bright orange shirt with gardening gloves that she was removing as I came closer. “You must be the new owner from down the lake.” Her name was Greta and she lived here all year round.“What a shame about Harold last summer he was a strong swimmer too.” Asking, if she meant the previous owner of my place? She then went into all the details of Harold’s demise. He had been out fishing early one morning, his boat had been found, him dead in the water a mile away with a large gash on his head. The coroner ruled he had fallen knocking himself out. The investigation was still open. Asked if I would like a cup of tea, I told her I was exploring the area to do some sketching. She called after me to come any time.
The warmth of the sun on my face reminded me to remember to put on sunscreen before heading out again. I wandered for a time, finally came across a grassy area with a view of a cliff with birds perched up high with babies squawking to be fed. Sitting down I sketched until my stomach told me to put some nourishment in it
After lunch, I decided it was time to try out my new bathing suit, plunging into the cool water, cold but refreshing and swam out half way to the other side. Music came from one of the places across the way someone was into opera. Noise travels over water I was reminded.
Swimming back Jake was standing on the wharf, he asked if I would like to join him for dinner as he was cooking the fish on an open fire tonight. Accepting I told him, I would bring a bottle of wine. “Seven would be perfect.” as he walked away.
The same boat arrived at my wharf, a man appeared on the porch as I was sipping a glass of wine. He was Allen from across the lake, he wanted to welcome me to the area. Asking him if he would like a glass of wine, he accepted sitting down. He had been coming here for twenty years, knew the area and all the people. He asked about the man in the camper beside my property, “Is he a friend or relative,” he asked.
I explained what had happened the day I arrived and only expected him to stay for a few days. Jake was watching us from the tree line hidden behind a tree. When he saw me looking his way he backed up behind his camper, he did not want to be noticed. My first thought was he was just being nosy or he might just want to make sure this man was not bothering me.
Allen stayed for a second glass of wine. Bringing Jake back into the conversation “Did I know where he was from or what he did for a living?”
“I think he is just passing through and wanted to fish for a few days.” Allen then invited me over to meet the other neighbors tomorrow afternoon for happy hour. He saw Jake's boat saying he was welcome also or he would come over and pick me up. “Maybe it would be better if you came and got me.”
“How about three then?” and he was off.
I wandered over to the camper at seven, the smell of garlic and lemon permeated the small barbecue that was set up with a couple of chairs with a fold out table between them. He opened the wine he had a beer already started, asking right off who was the fellow, did I know him from across the lake. Jake had watched him come and leave, my privacy gone was the first thought that came to mind.
During dinner, I asked when he was planning to move on, his tone changed, “Am I bothering you.”“No but you said you had plans for only a few days.” His demeanour altered, clearing the plates away, I asked if he wanted help, his reply a short “No.” I thanked him for dinner “It’s been a long day so I am going to have an early night.” leaving with a weird feeling, he was not happy.
Sitting outside in my pajamas, in the darkness, I heard his camper door close if it had not been a still night I would have missed it. Listening I heard his footsteps on the wooden planks of the wharf. Then the oars cutting into the water, he did not start his engine. The shadow of the boat from the moon as it headed across the lake, where was he going this late?
About half an hour later he arrived back, I sat back in the shadow, not moving as he passed going quietly to his camper. Locking the doors, I looked out later to see flames across the water a cabin was on fire. I could hear yelling the fire lit up silhouettes of people running around with fire extinguishers and a hose, then only lights from the other cabins.
Waking to another gorgeous morning, I heard Blackie before Greta arrived on my porch, inviting her for coffee she told me the cabin that burned belonged to Allen, luckily only the front of the place had damage and he was fine. They did not know how the fire started.
Allen was at a loss, as he had no fire going. He brought me a fish this morning and we chatted over tea. That was his second fire, one a few years back. He was fortunate that the insurance covered the rebuild.
Greta asked who belonged to the camper. Then her voice became a whisper, “Why is a man watching us from the trees?” Looking over, Jake saw me turn and came over. Smiling he introduced himself to Greta. Blackie gave a loud bark “Be quiet dog.” Was all Greta had to say? Blackie sat at her feet?
Greta asked if I had seen a boat last night, she had seen one passing her place before the fire, “It was strange as no motor, just the oars through the water. I will certainly mention it to the sheriff this afternoon when we all meet for drinks at Mandy and Jim’s place instead of Allen's for drinks this afternoon.“
“I went to bed fairly early last night.” replying looking over to Jake asking if he had heard or seen anything strange last night. My stomach had tensed, turned back and smiled to Greta to cover my anxiety. Jake replied, “I had an early night too.”
I never mentioned to Jake he had been invited for drinks across the lake, and was thankful that I had not. Had he set fire to Allen’s place? What reason could he have to do such a thing?
Allen picked me up from my wharf, then headed down to get Greta, she was nowhere around, I jumped on to her wharf to go find her and Blackie did not greet me, which I found strange. Calling, her name there was no response. Her door was wide open and there lay Blackie he looked asleep until I got closer. He was not sleeping. Greta lay on her kitchen floor blood all over, screaming for Allen. It took him a couple of minutes to secure his boat he stood looking, shocked, bent to feel for a pulse shaking his head.
The sheriff arrived with the coroner, she had only been dead a few hours after leaving my place. Why anyone would hurt this lovely woman was all Allen could manage to say.
My thoughts went back to when she had asked Jake and me if we had seen anyone, I was still alive because I had said no. My god, had Jake killed her and started the fire at Allen’s? My body started to shake uncontrollably, as I relayed what had happened last night and today. A call went in to get three men over to the camper right away, “He could be armed and dangerous,” was the only conversation I heard.
Jake, his camper and boat were gone when they arrived. Sheriff John asked for a description of Jake, the color of his camper and boat. He was sure they would find him quickly. Allen insisted I would feel better if I came over to his place for the night. I just wanted to curl up and try to sleep, but thanked him.
My little cabin did not seem like paradise as I poured my self a stiff drink of scotch. I had locked up early even bolted the windows, surely he was miles away by now. Looked to make sure my cell was charged, I sat in the dark thinking of Greta who just wanted to work in her garden and enjoy the last years of her time here.
A wind had swept through an hour earlier, the trees whistled, the shutters banged against the windows something I should put on my list of to do things. A summer storm was in the forecast, the rain started to pelt against the windows. Dark clouds loomed over the lake. Maybe I would keep my condominium, as the winter may be long and dreary here alone. John had told me he would send a car passed to check up on me.
Curling up under my comforter, I started a book that I had wanted to read for sometime, the lights flickered a few times, then blackness through the cabin. My flashlight was in my car in the glove compartment, never even thought to bring candles. Too dark to read, I poured another drink, the wind getting stronger sitting looking out on the lake I barely could make out the wharf. Movement, I could see a silhouette of a man, he was not in uniform.
Looking for my phone, I hit my knee on the table, dialing the sheriff’s office, a knock then a banging on the door. It rang then to voice mail. A voice yelling, “I know you are in there! Open the door before I break it down.” My God he came back to kill me so no witnesses to connect him with Greta.
As quiet as possible I slipped on a jacket and shoes. Get your keys went through my head, I was out the back door and running in the dark, I could only see a few feet in front of me as I hid beside a tree. Jake stood beside the front of the cabin door, he stepped down from the porch looking for something. He picked up a piece of firewood and started to bang at the door. As his head was turned away from me, I crouched and ran to my car. Jumping inside locked the doors I started the engine before he realized where I was.
His camper blocked the road, I swerved into the bush my tires stuck in the dirt, I gunned it slipped then traction as the wheels caught and I hit the road fish-tailing then righted myself The headlights flashing from the camper lit up my mirror blinding me. I put my foot right to the floor heading to the other side of the lake towards Allen’s place.
Jake had slowed as I got to Allen’s place, running to his door screaming to call the sheriff, Allen stood with a look of panic. I could hear Jake's camper coming to a stop, the sheriff’s car with his light flashing gun pointing at Allen. That is when Allen grabbed me pulled me in front of him as Jake walked steadily towards us both. Talking calmly, “It is all over, Allen we know it was you who killed Harold and Greta and burnt your cabin twice for the insurance. Greta had no idea what you had done, she was just a nice lady. Harold caught onto you though and that is why you killed him on the lake. I have been investigating you since Harold came to me with his suspicions. I finally saw you start the fire the other night then call for help from your neighbors.”
Allen had me by my neck, Jake's body went limp, telegraphing what to do, I slumped hard against Allen slipping to the ground and Jake and the sheriff were on top of him.
When Jake came to my cabin, he thought I was in danger from Allen not knowing what Greta had told me that morning.
Jake worked undercover for the Washington police force, he decided to take his holidays and spend the next couple of weeks fishing and getting to know me better.
As long as he caught the fish, I would cook it.