** READ PART ONE FIRST (BELOW THIS POST)
It was seven o'clock and snow had started falling by the time I got to my house. Christmas tree lights twinkled through the window, a welcoming sight if only I didn't know what waited for me inside. Looks can be deceiving. I slammed in, stomping my boots on the rug by the door.
Grandma Johnson, my 92 year old mother-in-law, had infiltrated my home months ago, disrupting my peace and quiet and playing havoc with my head. She was listening to the police scanner while making rum balls for her card group.
"Anything coming over the airwaves," I asked her.
"Nothin' but junk." She formed a rum ball by rubbing it between her palms.
"Cora Mae's missing."
Grandma humphed. She didn't appreciate Cora Mae much. "What's she missing other than upstanding morals and decent taste in clothes."
"Really. I'm serious. She took off with...." I couldn't reinforce Grandma's sour opinion of my best friend. "...she, uh, is lost someplace in the woods. I have to form a search party."
"Probably slunk off with some man." Grandma pursed her lips and watched me with her beady eyes while I located my stun gun and handcuffs. "Here we go again," she crabbed. "Making trouble for everybody."
What could I say? That I had a funny feeling? That when she didn't show in Perkins, I knew she was in trouble? How would that fly?
Not high, I imagined.
Grandma listened in while I called around, leaving a message at Cora Mae's to call me the second she heard the message, another couple of calls to taverns along the snowmobile trail.
Nothing. No one had seen hide nor hair of her.
I rushed back to Herb's bar to interrogate Ed and Red, my twin nephews who ran the bar. Since I didn't see a snowmobile trailer in the parking lot, the stranger had to be staying in the area.
"He didn't just appear out of nowhere," I said, distressed.
I'd ignored the cardinal rule of girlfriends.
Don't ever let one of them leave with a strange man.
Finally, because Stonely is such a small town and everybody knows everybodys business, someone popped with pertinent information and I had a starting point.
"If I'm not back in thirty minutes," I said to my nephews. "Send a rescue party."
I knew the first thing I had to do when I pulled into the camp and saw the trailer hooked up to a truck with Wisconsin license plates.
I let the air out of both back tires.
The bad guy wasn't going to get away.
(To be continued next Thursday)