Someone had laid in a load of food, provision against a storm and Jen couldn’t have been more relieved or thankful.

Someone had laid in a load of food, provision against a storm and Jen couldn’t have been more relieved or thankful.  Following a map acquired in town early that morning, she’d set out to cross the vast expanse of backcountry she’d longed to witness firsthand, ever since her father had originally described its beauty to her in her youth.   Noticing a cabin that wasn’t on the map, she’d headed for it, welcoming its presence since bad weather was quickly moving in.     

After dropping her gear on the porch, she knocked and when no one answered, tried the door handle which opened to her touch and she sighed her relief. Although there was an array of jackets hanging beside the front door, there were no other personal belongings to indicate who the owner might be. 

No matter, she was relieved at finding refuge for the night and after hauling her gear inside, she swept the snow off the porch and closing the door, set about starting a fire.  Once it was roaring, she headed outside to the far end of the porch where a stack of firewood stood and dragged several armloads inside for the night.

Her ongoing investigation showed a makeshift kitchen containing a propane stove and lantern, cooking and eating utensils and dried goods containing coffee, sugar, powdered milk, dehydrated fruit in foil packaging and tea bags.  There was no running water, so she grabbed a pot and filled it with snow and set it to boil then went back out to gather a massive plastic bowl of water to use for washing or cleaning. 

Opening the French coffee press, she added the coffee then wandered to the front window and stared out at the magnificent view.  Mountains jugged high in the sky and the deepening colours were magnificent.  Heavy snow adorned the limbs of all the trees and taking a moment, she pulled out her camera and snapped several pictures.  It was incredible here and she understood why her father had spoken of it so many times and with such passion. 

There were two open bedrooms upstairs, divided by a set of log stairs.  Thought had gone into the building of the cabin and there were two queen-sized foam mattresses on the floor and a bevy of blankets on a shelf.  The place had been built with loving care and great attention to detail and it was quite beautiful.  It was rustic but didn’t feel rustic at all since the logs were so uniform and natural in colour.  It was solid, sturdy and would stand the test of time. 

She drank her coffee seated on one of two solid Adirondack chairs sitting behind a long slender table made of two colours of wood, one she could identify as oak, the other, she wasn’t sure of, but together they were beautiful.

Jen wasn’t planning on leaving early the following morning, so after eating dinner, cleaning up, making sure the fire was good for the night, she crawled into bed.  At first, she wasn’t sure what woke her up, but as sleep fled, she realized it wasn’t something, but someone.  Startled, she hauled herself out of bed and peered over the edge to find what appeared to be a  large burly man entering the front door. 

She heard a mumbled ‘what the hell’ as he stared at the glowing fire.  Unsure how to proceed she called out, “Hi, up here.”

He twirled around, startled at first, then shone a massive beam of light on her that nearly blinded her.  “Mind pointing that somewhere else?”

He growled.  “You make yourself at home anywhere?”

“Not usually no, but the storm was moving in.  With no one around to ask, I settled in for the night to wait it out.  Do you have dibs on the cabin then?”

“You might say,” he dropped his gear off, hung his coat and touque on one of the hooks by the front door and continued, “since I built it.”

“I see, well thank you for a safe haven in the storm then, I appreciate it.”  Pausing, she continued, “I’ll get back to sleeping since I plan on leaving early in the morning.”

“Good luck with that.”

“With what?”

“Leaving.”

“Why?”

“The storm you mentioned, arrived early, dumped a hell of a lot of snow.  You won’t be leaving tomorrow or probably the next day either. “

Jumping from her bed and climbing down the stairs she stared outside but it was still too dark to see.  “Well damn!”

“My thoughts exactly.”

He strode to the fireplace and fueled it with more wood then did as she had done, gathered water for coffee.  “You can join me if you like.”

“Thanks.”  Jen wandered toward the powerfully built man and held out a hand, “Jen, Jen Waters.”

“Aaron Barker.”

Neither was seemed interested in chatting until the coffee was made poured and they were settled in the matching chairs.

He asked, “What brings you to the back of beyond?”

“My father.”  At his quizzical look she said, “He’d talked of this place throughout my childhood and he was so passionate about it, I had to come take a look for myself.  It’s everything he said it was and more.”

“It is solitary, rugged, but beautiful.”

“Do you live anywhere near here?  Or did you build this as your getaway?”

“No, I don’t live nearby and yes, it is my get-away.  I don’t mind if strangers drop in when the need arrives, but I was startled.  I didn’t see any sign anyone had entered the place.”

“I for one am glad you built this cabin.  It was a lifesaver for me and I’m sure others in the past.”

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Sat Feb 29 , 2020
It was never wise to leap to conclusions during an investigation and could spell professional and personal suicide. Usually, your initial reactions and thoughts were correct, but it was also essential to keep an open mind as in this case, since her gut told her the scene had been purposefully orchestrated and staged to mislead them. As her father, a seasoned detective on the police force with over twenty-eight years of experience had often said, ‘it’s love, or money, follow both and you’ll find your perp’. He’d been right, all too often, someone had something to gain by the victim’s death. Often the victim was dead because the partner was afraid of losing out financially through the departure of the spouse. Surprisingly, mistakenly it seemed many believed that as the beneficiary of the other’s insurance policy, they’d collect and live on happily. However, when murder was suspected, insurance never paid out. As a result, the first and usual suspect was the person that found the victim or last saw the victim. She’d run down each possibility as quickly as possible to eliminate any that weren’t viable in order to focus on who they figured might be the perpetrator. In this case, the perp had been very sloppy even he thought he’d covered all his bases. A total wipe down of the crime scene as a cover up to exclude the possibility of him being the murderer only raised more questions and pointed them more determinedly in his direction. There should have been fingerprints, DNA and more of him all over the area since he’d lived there until recently. It stunk of cover up. Through discussions with family and friends, the victim had come to realize her husband of 12 years had begun a fling with the office secretary and was planning on leaving her. Since the company was hers, had been in the family for generations he stood to lose big time. He’d worked his way up the food chain to a position of management and had at some point begun wooing her and after a year, they’d married. She for love, him not so much. Everyone else saw him for what he was, a gold digger, the payoff – prestige and financial gain that marrying the boss’s daughter would bring. There were two heirs to the multi-million- dollar business, but he still stood to gain several million through his wife. She hadn’t asked him to sign a pre-nuptial so he figured he was sitting pretty, could have his cake and eat it too, the money and the woman. She, or so he’d thought, had been putty in his hands and he’d been able to maneuver his way through the situation quite well, affording a beautiful car plenty of clothes and lots of fast friends. However, the gravy train was about to end since his wife had found out about the affair and had thrown him to the curb. He stayed with the ‘other woman’ promising her they’d be together once everything was settled and had gone about preparing his wife’s death. Too bad he’d drawn a hard line determined cop who saw right through the strategy, who stood for the victim, and fully intended seeing him behind bars for the rest of his life.
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