Sgt. Windflower is back on the case in Grand Bank. This time, there’s a missing girl, trouble at the factory, and signs of danger everywhere. But, there’s always good food, good friends, and good company to make life worthwhile. All the usual characters and a few new suspects are back to help Windflower unravel the web of deceit and deception that threatens the small community.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.76(d)|
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A Tangled Web
"Life doesn't get much better than this," said Winston Windflower. The Mountie looked over at his collie, Lady, who wagged her tail at the sound of his voice. If dogs could smile, she smiled back. His world was almost perfect. He had the love of a great woman and a good job as a Sergeant in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police patrolling one of the lowest crime regions in the country. Plus, the weather had been mild so far, at least for Newfoundland in early December, and that meant no snowstorms with forced overnighters at the detachment. Life was very good indeed.
He had good friends, including Lady, who was amongst the best of them. And he had a child on the way. His wife, Sheila Hillier, was pregnant and at the clinic for her three-month checkup. He was waiting to hear how both Sheila and the baby were doing. His Auntie Marie had told him the baby was a girl, and if anyone knew about these things, it was his Auntie. She was a dream weaver, an interpreter of not just dreams but of messages from the spirit world. Windflower had recently spent a week with her and his Uncle Frank, another dream weaver, to learn more about the dream world.
Interpreting dreams was part of his family's tradition. But it was an imperfect tool that gave information, not always answers. Perhaps the most important thing he learned was that dreams do not predict the future. Instead, as his Auntie told him, "Dreams tell us about our past, what has already happened. They also point to actions we should take if we want to get the right result in the future and to the signs all around us that we need to follow."
Windflower was contemplating that piece of wisdom when he noticed a very distraught woman get out of her car outside the RCMP detachment in Grand Bank. She ran towards the front door. He walked out to meet her, but the administrative assistant, Betsy Molloy, beat him to it.
"There, there now, Molly. What's goin' on?" asked Betsy as she put her arms around the other woman and guided her to a seat in the reception area.
"It's Sarah, she's gone," said the other woman between sobs. "I told her to stay close by the house where I could see her. I went out back to put the wash on the line. When I came in, she was gone."
"Okay, Mrs. Quinlan," said Windflower as he knelt down beside the two women. "How old is Sarah?" He didn't really need to know how old the girl was. He wanted to help the mother calm down so she could give them as much information as possible.
"She's going to be six next month," said Molly Quinlan. "She's growing up so fast. But she's still such a little girl. And now I've lost her. Brent is going to kill me." She started sobbing again.
"What was she wearing so that we can help find her?" asked Windflower, trying to get information but also trying to help Molly Quinlan feel useful.
The woman stopped crying and said her daughter was wearing jeans and a favourite t-shirt. "It was pink and had sparkles. She said it made her feel like she was a princess. And she had her light blue jacket on with a hood."
Windflower smiled. "I'm sure she'll show up soon. But let's go over to where you last saw her, and we'll start looking. She can't have gone far. Leave your car here, and come with me. I'll drive you over." The woman smiled weakly at Windflower through her tears and allowed him to take her arm and guide her to his Jeep outside the door.
He returned inside to give directions to Betsy. "Get Constable Smithson in here. I'll call Frost and get him to come in from his rounds."
Betsy nodded her agreement, and Windflower went outside to drive Molly Quinlan home.
Meanwhile, it turns out, Sarah Quinlan was fine, perfectly fine. She had wandered a little way from home in the centre of town. She was going to go down to the nearby brook to feed the ducks. She knew better than to go into the water, but she couldn't see any reason why she couldn't just look. She'd done it before, and nobody seemed to mind. As long as she didn't stay away too long, everything was okay.
Sarah had that great fearless attitude of a child who grew up in a small and very safe community. She knew most of her neighbours, and they all watched out for her. She also had the natural curiosity of little children, especially when she saw something new. The truck parked on the roadway above the brook was new, so Sarah went to take a closer look. Even better, the back door of the truck was open, and there was a ramp leading inside. This was certainly worth a closer inspection.
Sarah Quinlan was having fun exploring the back of the large truck when she heard a loud, rumbling noise. She didn't know it, but the driver had started the engine. It was so loud, and Sarah was so frightened by it, she froze. The next thing she remembered was everything going almost completely black and the back door of the truck slamming shut. She cried out, but by then it was too late. Seconds later she, the truck and the unsuspecting driver were barrelling out of town and onto the highway.
Windflower drove Molly Quinlan to her house and got her to show him where Sarah had been playing. Together they walked through the house to see if the little girl had come home and hidden there. But no such luck. While they were searching the house, they were joined by two of Quinlan's neighbours who took over Molly's care and made her a cup of tea. Soon afterwards Constable Harry Frost arrived from his highway patrol.
Windflower gave him a quick update and directed him to go to one end of town to start the search. He would begin the house-to-house search through the neighbourhood when Smithson showed up.
He first checked out back and looked in the storage shed, a favourite hiding place of every little kid and probably where Windflower himself would have taken refuge. But Sarah was not there. As he went to the front of the house, Constable Rick Smithson showed up.
"Afternoon, Boss," said Smithson. "Any sign of her yet?"
Windflower shook his head. "Frost is doing the big circle search. You and I will start the door-to-door. Ask them if they saw the girl this afternoon. I'll start from here. You go down to the brook, and work your way up."
Smithson returned to his cruiser and sped off. Windflower wasn't worried. Yet. But he knew that the first few hours were crucial in finding a missing child. If they didn't, then it was almost always something more serious. Not time to panic, but no time to waste. He walked up to the first door and knocked.
Two hours later Windflower wasn't panicking, but Molly Quinlan, her husband, Brent, and all the assembled neighbours were. Frost had reported that little Sarah had been seen down near the brook, but that only seemed to make the Quinlans and everybody else even more anxious. Windflower understood. There was something about children, water and curiosity that didn't mix well. Usually it meant wet feet, but sometimes it was much more serious than that. Windflower did his best 'let me reassure you and we will do everything to find her' routine, but nobody was buying it. Plus, it was getting dark, and children and the dark, and the outdoors, especially at this time of year, did not bode well.
He left Smithson at the house and went back to the RCMP office to reorganize. As he was getting into his Jeep, Windflower's cellphone rang. He glanced at the number. It was Sheila.
"Hi Sheila. How'd it go at the doctor's?"
"It was good. Next time, I'm going to have an ultrasound."
"That's pretty exciting. But I may be awhile. Sarah Quinlan is missing."
"Oh, no. Molly must be out of her mind. What do you think happened?"
"Too early to tell, but we'll expand our search area and put out a call for volunteers."
"I'm going over to the town office. I'll get Les Warren to stay late so he can help recruit volunteers. I'll let you go, but give me an update when you get a chance. I love you, Winston."
"I love you too, Sheila."
There were times when being married to the mayor had its advantages, thought Windflower while driving quickly to the RCMP office. Sheila would get the Grand Bank municipal operations to help out with the search. They would need all the help they could get.
When he got to the RCMP office, Betsy was frantically trying to keep up with a stream of never-ending phone calls. When she saw Windflower, she took off her headset and let the rest of the blinking lines just sit there.
"We need to expand the search area and put out an Amber Alert for Sarah Quinlan," Windflower told Betsy. "We'll also need a general call for volunteers. I'll call Media Relations in Marystown to get them on the case. Can you put our emergency phone tree into operation?"
The phone tree had been Betsy's idea. She'd developed it years ago to help the volunteer fire department contact their members when there was an alarm. Now, they used it for any sort of emergency and to spread the word about dangerous situations in their community. Betsy would call five people who each had a list of a dozen or so other contacts. Within an hour they could reach almost every person in the area.
Betsy was moving to get the Amber Alert up and running and was already putting the emergency plan into action as Windflower went into his office. His first call was to Inspector Ron Quigley, his superior and long-time friend in Marystown. He explained the situation about the missing girl and outlined what had been done so far.
"I'll put Media Relations on it right away," said Quigley. "I'll also see where our chopper is and get them over there as soon as possible. If they're not around, I'll check with the Coast Guard. But you're running out of time before it gets dark."
"I know," said Windflower. "We'll get the ground search going and continue through the evening. The last sighting was down near the brook, but it would be easy for her to wander across the road and into the woods. If that's the case, the search area will be much bigger than we can do quickly on our own."
"Maybe somebody has taken her in."
"Or just taken her," said Windflower, finally acknowledging the greatest fear that a policeman could have with a missing child. "But we are going to have a look inside every house we aren't absolutely sure about. And she might turn up on her own."
"True," said Quigley, although neither man believed that likely at this point. "Let's hope you find her before dark."
"Agreed." After Windflower hung up, he said a silent prayer for little Sarah Quinlan. Please come home safely.
As the daylight waned, their hopes dimmed. Despite knocking on nearly every door in Grand Bank and over 100 people searching for her throughout the late afternoon and early evening, Sarah Quinlan was still missing when it got pitch-black dark. The Search and Rescue helicopter from the Coast Guard had been able to do a few flyovers, but now that the light had gone, it was grounded for the night. Windflower sent all the searchers home and went back to the Quinlan house where an anxious vigil continued.
"We'll start again first thing in the morning," he said to the distraught parents. "We'll have the helicopter up at the crack of dawn, and everybody who came tonight will be back in the morning."
"She's gone, isn't she?" asked Molly Quinlan.
"We don't know what's happened to her yet," said Windflower. "There's still hope."
But all he could see in the parents' eyes as he left them for the night was fear. He couldn't say he blamed them. He knew that the probabilities of finding the little girl safe at this point were greatly diminished. Those odds wouldn't increase after a night in the open, if that's where she was. If she was with somebody else, that might even be worse. In any case, it was his job to prepare for all eventualities.
He'd already had a quiet word with one of the local fishermen, Fonse Tessier. He'd asked Tessier to get a couple of his friends to start looking in the water for little Sarah. One distinct possibility was that the girl had fallen into the water near the brook and been pulled out towards the ocean by the tide. That same tide would wash her body to shore. He didn't say any of this to Tessier; he didn't have to. Tessier had pulled bodies from the cold Atlantic waters before. Fonse Tessier just nodded silently when Windflower made his request. He would do what needed to be done.
Windflower returned to the detachment. Betsy handed him a stack of messages, almost all from the media. He handed them back. "I'll talk to Media Relations and get them to put out another statement, but I don't have anything new to tell them. Why don't you go home and get some rest? We'll need you here bright and early in the morning."
"Where could Sarah have gotten to?" Betsy asked.
This time Windflower didn't try to provide any reassurances. "I don't know," he said. "We'll likely find that out tomorrow."
He left Betsy who was soon packing up for the night. She looked in at him as he made his phone calls, and he waved good night. After his calls to Marystown, he turned his office lights off and drove to the Quinlan house. Smithson was there and would stay to provide a police presence and monitor the situation. But there was little comfort in that and little else for anyone to do tonight.
"Call me if anything happens. Anything," he said to Smithson as he left. Smithson blinked a stunned yes. He had never seen his boss so upset before.
Windflower drove home with the uneasy feeling of being powerless to help even a six-year-old girl. He pulled up to his house, parked his Jeep and approached the back door.
Just before he went in, he looked up to the dark sky. He couldn't see much. Kind of like the current situation, he thought. Was it even still possible that little Sarah was safe? Windflower had no answers.
It turns out that Sarah Quinlan was cold, hungry and very tired but otherwise unharmed. And she was alive. She had long since given up trying to yell or cry out. Nobody seemed to hear her anyway. She had bounced around in the truck for a little while after they took off but soon found a pile of old rugs and curled up on them. She even drifted off to sleep from time to time. But the bumps and thumps of the truck as it navigated the rough conditions of the highway would jolt her awake again.
Then she felt the truck slow and move onto a smooth patch of pavement. What a relief! It was an even greater relief when the truck slowed again and came to a loud and complete stop. Sarah listened hard but could not hear much of anything. She decided to try yelling out again. "Help. Help, I'm in here," she screamed. But no one answered. She tried for a little longer before collapsing on her bed of rugs. While she was still whimpering, an exhausted Sarah fell fast asleep.
The driver of the truck had no idea what was unfolding in the back of his vehicle. Solomon Flynn had his own worries and was glad to have made it to Goobies safe and sound. He had this trucking job and a fake ID, but he was still in very deep trouble. He was wanted on a Canada-wide warrant in a murder investigation. The person he was accused of killing was a well-connected gentleman. Well connected to a family that lived in the Italian section of Hamilton in Ontario, with relatives in Montreal, New York, Philadelphia and Sicily. Not only was he accused of murdering this person, he actually had. Even worse, the late man's relatives knew that he had.
Solly was hiding out as Peter Robinson, from North Augusta, Ontario. Before the heat got too bad, he'd cashed in a favour from an old counterfeiting buddy of his who had graduated to identity theft as a way to make a living. Only this friend and Solly knew about his new persona. Solly was determined to maintain this pretense as if his life depended on it, which it very much did.
Luckily, his new life as Peter Robinson came with a Commercial Vehicle Operator's licence. It was easy enough to get a job driving back and forth from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland. They were always looking for drivers and had given him a vehicle and a gas card. He'd set up a secured credit card from the last of his stash, opened up a new bank account and gotten a room in North Sydney in Nova Scotia. He figured all of that would keep him safe while he came up with a long-term plan. As long as he stayed low and didn't bring any attention to himself, things would be just fine.
He walked into the restaurant in Goobies and found a booth at the back. He nodded to some of the other drivers but wasn't looking to make friends. He was booked on the midnight run from Argentia to North Sydney and had a couple of hours to kill before he went to join the lineup at the ferry terminal. Normally, the Argentia route was closed down by this time of year, but the new government in Ottawa had promised to look at a year-round service instead of making the truckers go all the way across the island. This year it would stay open until Christmas, for commercial traffic only, as long as the weather held up. Flynn was glad. He'd heard the trip across the island to get the Port-aux-Basques ferry could be brutal this time of year.
Excerpted from "A Tangled Web"
Copyright © 2017 Mike Martin.
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