Lost and Found

Submitted into Contest #129 in response to: Write about a skier who accidentally strays off-piste.... view prompt

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Mystery Suspense

The snow squalls and strong winds had given way to a cold yet absolutely perfect mid January afternoon. Rebecca thought she'd get in one more run before she collapsed into the bar in the lodge at the base of Snowshoe Ridge.

It had been a furiously busy winter with the kids,Covid,her new job, and her pending divorce. This was the first opportunity to get away with friends, some of whom were going through all the same things, but all of them were going through some of them. What was real was that she felt every bit of her forty two years and then some.

Gliding off the lift, she decided that, aches aside, her skiing skills had slid back into that slot of comfortable second nature that made this her zen time. Instead of turning left off the lift to the main trail, she instinctively gave a big push off her poles towards the double black diamond expert trail.

Adrenaline starting to rush through her, Rebecca at first didn't notice herself veering off onto an old logging road that seemed to head in the general direction of the trail she'd been on . "Why not?" she thought.

She was just starting to wonder why the resort hadn't groomed this and made it a trail all its own when, as she made a turn to avoid a monstrous stump, she was suddenly tumbling downward head over equipment over heels.

Coming to rest at the base of a giant hemlock, Rebecca immediately checked for all the requisite body parts, determining that nothing was missing or felt to be broken. "What the Hell," she yelled out loud to no one. Retrieving her right ski from 50 yards down the mountain, it readily became clear what the culprit of her sudden horizontal-ness was. The nose of the binding had sheared almost completely off, leaving nothing but the broken bits of a rusty screw.

"Fucking Lenny!" Rebecca cried (also out loud) "Too cheap to use stainless steel screws!"

As she sat contemplating her nephew's slow death back home at the Ski Barn, a flash of color that was out of place caught her eye off to her right. Clumsily walking over to it, she bent down to see what appeared to be a wallet with a rubber band around it.

She picked it up and, brushing the snow off, saw what appeared to be a red man's wallet with what looked like a passport secured to it by the rubber band. For a second Rebecca forgot about Lenny and the rusty binding screws.For some reason the passport reminded her of her husband Bob, and the trips they used to take to the Caribbean. Oh well. New Year, new start.

Rebecca undid the rubber band and first opened the wallet. It was one of those sailor surfer jobs that kind of folded up with velcro. In the money section, once she took off her ski gloves, she found 1,100 dollars in crisp 100s and two singles.

She blew on her fingers to warm them up and dug out the cards from the various slots on either side. Two credit cards, one Visa, one Master and a Vermont driver's license, all with the same name. Hugh Masterson.

Now for the passport. It looked well used and she opened it, leafing through the pages to find the one with the actual information. "There we are," she thought. The picture looked just like the one on the license, a little more recent maybe. Thing is, the name on the passport was not Hugh Masterson but Harold J. Gershman. "Hmmmn?!"

The first thing Rebecca thought was how did these things come to be lying in the snow on the edge of the Green Mountain National Forest? The second was that she could really use 1,100 dollars. The third one was, why two different names but the same picture? And lastly she said out loud "I want to get back to my room at the Chalet and have a good soak".

She first looked up the logging road towards the resort ski trails and thought "I am NOT tramping all the freaking way up there in my ski boots". But, squinting down the road, she saw what looked like a rooftop down the abandoned road . That seemed like a much better proposition than clomping uphill for ages, only to be embarrassed on an expert trail and rescued by the ski patrol.

It was difficult to gauge the distance because the sun was blazing in her eyes, but it was definitely a roof. And downhill at that. A roof meant a house and a house meant a person with a car which meant a ride, or at least a phone to call an uber. "Miss nature girl didn't want to be disturbed communing with her inner free self, so she left her phone in the Chalet. Idiot".

It seemed a lot closer when she first saw it, but after what seemed like an hour, but probably only took half that, she stood in front of a fairly run-down raised ranch. It sat on what seemed to be the end of some sort of backwoods cul de sac. No smoke from the chimney or wood stove pipe, but hey, you never know.

On the third knock, an ageless woman came to the door wearing what appeared to be a housecoat or glorified apron. She could have been 50 or she could have been 80.

"Good Lord, what do you think of this? Sweetie, I think you took a wrong turn!", the woman squeaked.

"Good afternoon, ma'am. My ski equipment broke and I was wondering if I could impose on you for a ride, maybe to my rented Chalet at the base of Snowshoe Ridge", Rebecca said in her best neighborly voice.

"My, how polite! Well sweetie, my old Chrysler has been broken for a long while now. My daughter does my marketing but she's over in Burlington so no joy there. But what I will do is give old Chet a call and see if he could get you over there", she replied "And in the meantime, you get on in here and get warm"

Rebecca gratefully stepped in, introducing herself, and removed her boots, sitting on a bench just inside the door.

"My name's Sarah" the old woman said "You must be frozen, so let's get Chet up the way on the blower and get a cup of tea into you"

Chet was phoned and said that he'd be down in a bit to 'fetch the little lady', immediately identifying himself in Rebecca's mind as an old yankee in a flannel plaid shirt. As if just the name Chet wasn't enough on its own!

In the passing time, Rebecca told Sarah what had happened, including finding the wallet and passport in the snow. She showed Sarah the wallet, yet for some reason she felt uncomfortable showing her the passport with the different name. She almost felt like it was her secret that should perhaps be told to a policeman. "That is where I should go first," she decided. "Where else could I leave a wallet with 1,100 dollars in it with any hope that Hugh Masterson or Gershman or whomever would actually get it back?"

Also, what if there was more to this than just a random wallet full of cash and a fake passport found by a soon to be divorced 42 year old woman in the middle of the woods? Jesus, she could spin some tales. Sell it to Netflix, or better yet, add a sexy lumberjack and make it a Lifetime original.

Sarah broke her daydreaming spell. "You know, Rebecca. This name sounds familiar. I'm trying to remember. He looks like he could be about my boy's age, but his address is in Greenville, and that's 40 miles from here. Not a real common name. Mebbe he went to school with my Ben and moved away "

There was rap on the door and Sarah shuffled off in her slippers to first get a bathrobe and then to let in Chet, who was as advertised, right down to the beat up Ford pickup truck with the gun rack. He tipped his beat-up Stihl baseball cap to them both and followed them into the kitchen. This was not going to be a fast undertaking.

After retelling her story and half her autobiography, it was decided by these new found friends that the best course of action was to drive over to the local State Trooper office, leave the wallet (and the secreted passport) with them. Then either the cops or Chet would drive over and drop her at the Chalet and her no doubt worried friends.

Rebecca had thought about calling Melissa or Jessica to let them know that she was all right, but like the rest of the world she didn't know their actual phone numbers, so used to just pressing the contact button.

So, all three of them squeezed into the cab of Chet's Ford, Sarah determined not to miss out on any of the adventures.

Many of the small towns in rural Vermont do not have their own police departments. So the State Police have 'barracks' or offices scattered around the State. It was to the one halfway to Greenville that these unlikely three musketeers headed. About halfway there, a news bulletin came on the old a.m. radio in the truck talking about a large fire in Greenville.

Apparently there had been a robbery in a jewelry store a few weeks before and the robbers had returned and shot the owner because he had publicly said that he would testify against them if they were caught. They then torched the shopping plaza just to emphasize their point.

Which, of course, explained the sign on the door of the barracks saying that they were at the scene, but that any emergency would be dealt with immediately if you called 911.

A little frustrating, but by this time, all Rebecca wanted was to get to her friends, a hot drink, and a good soak in the tub. Not in any particular order.

The conversation quieted as Rebecca's soured mood became contagious and it seemed the adventure had somewhat fizzled out of the early evening.

Finally, the old pickup arrived at her rented Chalet and, after offering to reimburse them for their time and effort and being turned down repeatedly, Rebecca went inside.

She guessed it was still early enough in the evening that her friends were still down at the base lodge, probably getting a little buzz on over dinner and flirting with the wannabe ski instructors and married/divorced men. Best to get herself a cup of tea, commandeer the only tub and leave them to enjoy themselves. She'd had enough excitement for today. Now she just needed a few candles!

The sandalwood candles, chai tea and a good hot tub restored her will to live. Putting on her robe, she called her own phone to try and locate it, but it must be dead or on silent. "They'll be home when they get home. I'll find the phone when I find it," she thought.

Then, snapping her out of her semi consciousness, there was a knock on the front door. Suddenly wide awake, Rebecca asked who it was.

"Ma'am, I'm Detective John Hughes from the Vermont State Police? We received a message from a Mr Ben Sullivan of Tall Trees Road that you had found a wallet that may be part of an ongoing investigation we are pursuing in Greenville. He didn't know your last name, just where you are staying and that your name is Rebecca? If I might have a word with you and ask a couple of questions? "

Rebecca cinched the belt on her terry cloth robe and opened the door just as it was slammed into her, launching her several feet backwards and causing her breath to be sucked out of her like a vacuum.

Suddenly there materialized a man standing over her.

"I understand from my Ma that you have a couple of things that belong to me"


January 20, 2022 21:18

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1 comment

Michelle Colpo
20:45 Jan 27, 2022

Oh wow! So suspenseful! I love how this story is unfolding. Great descriptors. I look forward to reading more!


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