“What we got to eat?”  Craig asked, “I’m ravenous.”

“Spaghetti night.”  Cassy replied, “But there are a few apples, gummy bears, and other snacks if you want some.  Dinner is going to be awhile.”

Max grabbed a small radio from the car, set it on the table and dialed in a Victoria station.  They listened to relaxing music while everyone pitched in to get the veggies ready for the sauce.  Before long it was bubbling and simmering away.  They played poker and Max soundly trouched everyone.  Which of course meant another round.

Cassy pronounced the sauce ready and put the noodles on to cook.  Maggy piped up, “Hey, honey, the good china or the good china?” holding up paper plates in both hands.  Cassy  laughed, “Why the GOOD china, of course.”

There were no complaints when dinner was served, and they pretty much ate in silence.  “It’s usually better the second day, but beggars can’t be choosers.”

“Trust me, Cassy, it was delicious.”

“Oh it’s good, Craig, but you should taste it after it’s been refrigerated for a day.  Man, it’s the best!  And Cassy makes the most scrumptious garlic bread I’ve ever tasted.  She’s definitely spoiled me, I don’t bother ordering anything she can cook from a restaurant because I’m always disappointed.”

“Why thank you, Maggy, that’s high praise indeed and most gracious.  You’re a darn good cook too.  You make things like biscotti, which I loathe making, because it never turns out right, and breakfast rolls that are to die for!”

Max quickly piped up, “I can’t cook to save my ass, except for maybe a grilled cheese sandwich and some canned soup.”

“I just picked up few recipes then modified them to make them my own which in some cases turned out considerably better than the original and voila!  There you have it!  How I learned to cook, 101.”

“God, my cooking consists of take out!” Craig woefully admitted.

“Well, I could teach you a few tricks, if you’d like,” Maggy suggested.

“Hey, I look forward to it.  I love cooking, I just can’t make it turn out like the pictures.”

Washing dishes was a breeze, throwing paper plates away made their day.  They pretty much finished off the sauce and noodles so other than a couple of pans and camp cutlery, they were done in no time.

Blindsided 186

“Not me!”  Maggy and Craig replied in unison.  They laughed at each other, then jostling ensued.

“Goldstream has its own mini Niagara Falls, by the way.”

“What?” Max said in surprise.

Cassy laughingly replied, “It’s similar to Multnoma Falls in Oregon but smaller.  Don’t know how it got that name, it’s nothing like the other one, but it’s a pretty little walk.  I have pics at home.”

“There are 167 campsites and pit toilets and….they have showers!” she smirked.

“Thank god!”  Maggy said.  “I smell.”

“You smell gorgeous!”  Craig said.

“You’re dreaming!” Maggy scrunched her nose and pulled her top to her nose, “Ugh!  I for one can’t wait!”

“If we need a breather from camping, although it’s pretty pricey, we could try the Aerie, it’s a B & B but extremely luxurious.”

“Tell us more,” Max said.

“Well, I’ve never stayed there, but I know plenty who have.  The view is gorgeous.  It’s about 1500 feet above the city, and overlooks Greater Victoria, the San Juan Islands, the Saanich Inlet and you can see Washington State from there.”

“This I got’ta see!” Max said.

“I vote for a couple days in Goldstream, then on to Aerie.  All in favour, raise your hands!”  He looked in the rearview mirror and then over at Cassy.  “Unanimous.  I guess it’s carried then.”

“If you really feel like pampering yourself, they have a spa too.”

“Perhaps another time,” Maggy said. “I’m not really into that stuff.  A good bubble bath does me just fine.”

Cassy chuckled.  “Yeah, I’m with you.”

They drove three hours, and stopped at the viewpoint on the Malahat.  “It is something, isn’t it?”

“Beautiful!”  Cassy agreed.

Once they reached Goldstream, they unpacked, set up camp, and hustled off to the shower in two’s since they didn’t feel comfortable leaving anyone alone and the campsite unattended.

 

Blindsided 185

“Maggy, these are good, really good!”  Craig said.  “Of course, any picture with me in it is great.” He laid an open hand on his chest.

“Smart ass.”

“Craig, this guy appears in 3 or 4 of the shots, way in the background.  Any chance the compu-techs could enhance this, give us more?”

“I bet they can.  Maggy, pop the memory card out  will you?”  He inserted it into the SD port.  Now they were all intrigued. Huddled close together, they looked closely at the rest of the photos in hopes he’d appear again. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the case.  They’d have to work with what they had.  “It could just be coincidence you know, another group trailing behind us, wandering around, same as us.”

“I don’t believe in co-incidences!”  Max retorted.

“On the other hand, this could be something!” Maggy spoke their thoughts aloud excitedly.

“Hopefully!” Max said.

They didn’t move remaining huddled together expectantly until Craig sent the pics off.  Since nothing was immediately forthcoming, they locked the lap top in the trunk, and started a fire in the fire pit.

As darkness settled, Maggy started humming and soon they were all involved in a sing-a-long around the campfire.   Perhaps they weren’t as melodic as the woman at the lake had been, but what they lacked in ability, they made up for with enthusiasm.  A few of the nearer campers came and joined in.  They drank beer and toasted marshmallows delighting in the warm evening breezes amid friendship and fun.  One by one the sojourners headed home with a nod and the party broke up.

Come morning, eager to hear if he’d received any news, Craig hustled to the car to get the lap top.  Craig read, “Nothing conclusive.”

“Damn!”  Cassy stamped her foot in frustration. The others agreed, as disappointed as she was.

Max asked, “What’s the consensus, do we stay here another couple days or head out?”

“I’m all for heading out,” Cassy replied.  “I figure if he’s the guy, he’ll show up at the next campground and if not, it’s happenstance.”

They ate leisurely packed up, waved goodbye to their neighbours, and headed to Goldstream Park just outside of Victoria.

Cassy had been before.  She knew they’d find massive trees, lovely waterfalls, and a meandering river in which Max could fish.

“Wait until you see Goldstream.  Although it’s a little cooler there at night owing to the mountains, there are numerous forested trails that criss-cross through-out and 600-year- old Douglas-fir trees as well, not to mention the western red cedar, western yew as well as the big leaf maple and western hemlock.  That reminds me, anyone got allergies?  Cause there are plenty of black cottonwood trees too.”

“Not me!”  Maggy and Craig replied in unison.  They laughed at each other, then jostling ensued.

 

Blindsided 184

“While I appreciate the thought behind your decision, I’d rather know.  Otherwise, I’ll head right back home.   At least there I know what’s happening and I don’t feel as vulnerable as I do out here.”

“I’m relying heavily on you guys cause I really can’t see much.  Everything is pretty damn blurry still.  I don’t want to risk anyone else’s life trying to catch this jerk.”

“No one is at risk, well no more risk than if we were at home.  We don’t have the security of four walls and a roof out here.  I figure we should start putting on a real good show now that we know he’s slinking about.”

“More of the same old same old,” Cassy replied.

“Is it such a hardship?” he asked tickling her in the ribs.

“Oh, oh, look at that, she’s ticklish.  I didn’t know that.”  Cassy hopped up from the table and raced around the campsite, Max in hot pursuit.  She zigged, he zagged and she was pretty quick, he had to admit, but he finally captured her and twirled her off her feet in a huge arc.  “Got you, now what you gon’na do?”

No matter how she twisted or twirled, she couldn’t get away.  He had a good hold.  When he finally set her down, she turned and yelled, “Tag, your it!” and raced away.

Maggy and Craig got in on the game and they expended a great deal of energy chasing each other around.  Finally, out of breath, they stopped.  “Hey, you guys want to go on the swinging bridge?”

Cassy breathlessly responded first, “Why not, I need to catch my breath first.”

They grabbed some snack food and water jugs and headed out for a stroll.

“About last night Max, thanks.  We know he’s here, close by probably closer here than possible at home, and even if he weren’t, his ominous presence is always possible even felt.  He’s got that power trip going for him and he’s reveling in it.  No doubt the reason he took the risk, taking those pictures was a reminder he’s got control. I see it as an advantage.  We know he hasn’t given up, but now he knows we don’t care!”  Cassy grabbed him and pulled him down so she could kiss him thoroughly.

Maggy took pictures with Cassy’s camera and although they weren’t of a professional quality, admittedly they weren’t half bad either.  Reminders of their trip together and the time they’d shared. That was what really mattered.  As soon as they arrived back in camp, she transferred them to her phone and invited everyone to check them out.  “Maggy, these are good, really good!”  Craig said.  “Of course, any picture with me in it is great.”  He smirked sideways at her awaiting a response.

 

Blindsided 140

Page 140 – impound the cars

He would have used an under-cover car but figured it might draw too much attention so he placed a call to the local cab company and while they waited, talked the situation through.

“He’s been pretty damn busy,” Craig pointed out.

“Cassy’s car wouldn’t start, and Maggy’s died a couple blocks from the house, it’s why we walked home.  It’s all connected and centers around him.  When did he have the opportunity?  We have a guy staking out the front of the house for Christ sake and they all can’t be that incompetent!”

“I’ll call everyone in individually tomorrow, find out if they were distracted for any length of time and by what!” Max promised.  “We’ll have the cars towed into impound and go over them with a fine tooth comb if necessary.” Max called the impound yard for a tow truck leaving explicit instructions.

Arriving at Maggy’s home, Craig wandered, taking in her abode.   It struck him as modern, inviting feminine but not frilly.  Mostly, it was welcoming.  The furniture although modern in design, was comfortable, easy. The light airy accents added zip but weren’t difficult on the eye he observed.

Maggy made coffee and pulled some ready-made dough from the freezer.  Cassy said, “Oh my god, my drops are in the fridge at home.”  Craig offered to get them since he didn’t have a problem with bees and left promising he’d be back before the coffee was made.

He jogged all the way to Cassy’s and the first thing he did was investigated all the doors.  The front and side doors were secure.  The glass patio door was neatly cut and the overhead light broken.  Using his shirt to unlock it, he entered carefully.  No telling how many bees there were, so he headed directly to the fridge, pulled out the drops and hurried back outside.

Blindsided 141                                                                            Blindsided 139

Blindsided 183

The campground attendant was making his rounds, collecting fees, he explained there were no current fire restrictions but all camp fires must be out before retiring.

They settled into their established routine abd by nightfall, the fresh air and hiking had worn them out and they all tucked into their tents early.

Once they were in bed, Cassy asked, “Max,” she whispered, “you awake?”

“Yeah.”

“How do you think we’re doing?”

“We’re right on schedule.”

“What do you mean?”

“He’s out here somewhere.”

“How do you know?”

“Can we leave it until tomorrow so we can fill everyone in?”

“Sure,” she snuggled close allowing the warmth of his body to enveloped her.  “This is good!” she whispered to herself.  And although it was almost indiscernible, Max caught it, gently pulling her even closer.

Craig and Maggy were taking no prisoners, making no bones about the heavy petting going on in their tent.  They too couldn’t wait for some private time.  Finally, more from exhaustion than lack of interested, Maggy lay a hand on his face, and traced the stubble on his lower cheek and jawline.  “Night loverboy,” she giggled.

“Watch it woman, or privacy or no privacy, I’ll have my way with you!” She could hear the smile in his voice.

“Any time, big fella bring it on!” she responded enticingly.

When morning crept up on them, everyone was out of sorts so when Max sat down and informed everyone about what had transpired, showing them the pics on his cell phone, the women were very annoyed.

“Why didn’t you tell us earlier?  We’ve been sitting ducks out here!  This is bullshit!”  Maggy whispered harshly in an attempt at keeping her voice down.  She knew all too well it carried far and wide in a campground.

“I’m not impressed either, Max.  I mean we knew we were setting ourselves up for this, but we had the right to know!

“Look, I didn’t find out about this until late yesterday.  We are well protected.  I have other officers stationed all around all.  We’re not exactly out here on our own.”

“It’s the not knowing that’s questionable.  You should have informed us, Max.  It was the right thing to do and you know it.”

“Alright, alright, perhaps I should have.  But I wanted you to relax for a few days, enjoy our time together, and not have to think about it.  It’s my job to think about it.”

“Specifically, I wanted the perp to see you relaxed and enjoying, not guarded.”

 

Blindsided 182

That night, his arm tucked comfortably around her, Max worried.  He’d asked Craig to do some checking earlier. The perp was uncomfortably close.

In fact he’d been following them for some time as evidenced by newly received emails on Cassy’s lap top.  The miscreant sent pictures of them romping and playing, here, and at Vernon Lake.  Out in the open like this, they were sitting ducks, considerably more vulnerable. They’d kept the secret because Cassy deserved a respite.

It begged the question how he’d found them.  The pics were distance shots, so he wasn’t daring to get too close, but definitely showed he was very brazen.  Not that he didn’t have other plainclothes cops nearby, and not that he didn’t feel confident with the number of under-cover cops situated right next to them.  They could and would keep Cassy safe but admitted, if only to himself, was feeling guilty as a result of his non-discloser.

If the villain came anywhere near, they’d bring him down in a New York minute. The rat bastard was too smart for that maintaining a discreet distance but letting them know he was in control.

Max guardedly observed every encounter watching intently for anyone remotely resembling the pics they’d formulated thus far. His training allowed him the ability to look beyond the obvious.  He hadn’t noticed anyone matching the description of the culprit. The creep was very good at disguises, his ace in the hole, created confusion and worked in his favour so far.  It was likely even probable he was a couple of campsites away.  To take the shots of them Max had seen, required a clear line of sight.  He’d have to move out in the open; there were too many trees and too much underbrush surround the campsite to do otherwise.

The other campers wouldn’t think twice if they noticed a camera carrying camper, he wouldn’t raise eyebrows, it’s what you did on holiday.  Still mulling over the possible consequences and concerns in his mind, he finally fell asleep.  Consequently, he was very tired when he woke.  He listened for a few minutes as the others chatted enjoying the allure of the rich aroma of fresh coffee.  He lay a moment or two longer before pulling himself out of bed to join the trio sitting around the camp table.

They ate bagels and cream cheese with fruit for breakfast. After cleaning up and storing their food, they took a quick dip.  Packing the perishables in the car before leaving, Max made sure Cassy’s drops were locked in the trunk in their own little ice bag to ensure nothing was tampered with in case the jerk break managed to break through their security.

By mutual consent, they headed off to Englishman River Provincial Park stopping in Nanaimo for supplies and snack food.  Situated between two waterfalls, covering 97 hectares of land, the Park included plenty of hiking trails.

Working as a team made breaking camp and setting up quick and easy and within a half hour, they were on their way for a short hike.  Although the days were long, in the forest, the evenings came quickly and Max preferred they were ensconced at a “home base” of sorts so they weren’t caught off guard as dusk settled.

Blindsided 181

 

“Followed by,” he added before getting really cozy.

“Wow, we have to stop, we’re on display and getting quite the snickers if those looks are anything to go by.”

“Let them look.”

“It isn’t just that, Max.  I want to take this to the next level, and this isn’t the time or place.  We could be interrupted at any minute and well, I’m a little uneasy with that concept.”

“Perhaps we should get a couple of rooms on the next leg of the journey,” he suggested.

“It couldn’t hurt.  We can get some laundry done and have a bit of privacy.”

When Craig and Maggy returned, arms wrapped around each other’s waists, a smile of pure delight on their faces, Max and Cassy exchanged knowing glances.  “Well, well, what were you two up to?”

“Enjoying each other’s company,” Craig responded.

They built up the fire and Craig pulled out the steaks he’d bought carving them expertly.  He sliced green, red and yellow peppers, added a few onions, a hint of salt and pepper to wrap them in tin foil to add to the feast. The decidedly unglamorous potato flakes cooked quickly and easily over the camp stove.  Within minutes they were sharing a delightful feast.

Speaking around a mouthful of delicious tender steak, Craig said, “Our pioneers may have had it rough, and undoubtedly did, but man, if cooking on an open flame came with it, that must have been the bonus!”

“Yeah, it probably was – the only bonus.  For the short term, its ok, but I like my creature comforts too much to go back in time,” Maggy laughed, “I don’t think I would be interested in washing clothes on a rock or even a washboard.  The coffee was probably good, but, I don’t know!”

As night fell, they lit a Coleman lantern, placed it on the end of the table and played poker wrapped in warm blankets and hoodies as the evening grew cooler.

With each passing day, Cassy’s feelings for Max deepened.  It wasn’t just the physical or the deliciously lustful hankerings either; and there was plenty of lusting for his body she decided.  As she got to know him, watch him work, how he thought, what he felt, she decided she really liked the man himself. And damn, wasn’t he the sexiest man alive, to boot.

Blindsided 179

“Traditionally, contestant don’t offer the judge anything but I thought we could make an exception.  To our excellent judge, who gave of his time, energy, and thoughtful consideration, a ten dollar bonus!”

“Oh, I couldn’t do that!”  Robert said quickly.

“It’s ok, Robert, he’s loaded, he can afford it!” Cassy said, winking at Max.

“It just wouldn’t be right.  I was having fun.  Besides, judges don’t get rewards.  The reward is in the judging.”

“That’s an awesome spirit!” Max said patting him on the back.

“Tell you what, you go tell your dad and see what he says.”

“Ok, I can do that.”

Robert took off down the beach at a clip and it was easy to see he was torn at the idea.  He’d obviously been raised right.

Craig pulled out some cold coke from the container he’d brought with him passing them all round.  They stood and watched a kids’ water-fight break out in hilarious laugher and were about to move further down the beach when Robert returned.

“My dad said that it was up to me, but he figured it would be ok.”

Max dutifully handed the money across and shaking Robert’s hand, said, “Thanks pal for your support and generosity.”

Robert smiled and raced back to his dad, who was watching and waved a hand.  They all waved back.

It took a while before they could all agree on what to sculpt next, and they finally settled on a puppy frolicking at the Oceanside which seemed appropriate.

They were half way through when passers-by asked if they could assist.  It soon became obvious that they really knew what they were doing, and before long, they had spectators and kibitzers alike egging them on.  The puppy was well defined with a playful look on his face, and for extra fun, they formed a hydrant off to the side. “We have four minutes left,” Max informed them.  The crowd was into it now they knew there was a time limit and when they got to the last sixty seconds, they started a countdown.  “Done!” they yelled.

The crew stood back to admire their work figuring it was a dandy fine piece of work at that.  They held hands and forming a line, bowed in unison to the crowd who all too willingly played along, then to each other.  It was a hoot!

 

Blindsided 178

“Why don’t we build a sandcastle, see if we can better our last attempt?” Maggy said.

“Individuals, or as a team?” Max asked.

Maggy looked at her watch, “We might have time for both.”

As it turned out, Craig arrived within minutes so it became a team effort.  They set a time limit to keep it fair.  Since they were amateurs, they gave themselves and hour and a half to complete their projects.

“Ok, time!”  Max called when the alarm on his wrist watch went off.

“So, who do we get to judge?” Maggy asked.

“That’s a good question.  Think we can handle it on our own?”

“Naw, cause mine’s already the winner!”  Maggy squeaked at Craig’s gentle pinch in her rib cage.

“That settles that then, doesn’t it?”

A young boy about eight wandered by and overhearing them said, “I’ll judge for you.”

“Well thanks,” Max said, introducing them.

“I’m Robert,” he said in grown up fashion, offering a hand.

“Well, Robert, what do you think?  Take your time.  Don’t rush.”

“I’d say the castle is pretty good.  Definitely deserves honourable mention.  The Pyramid isn’t bad. The Frog is awesome! and the hand is really detailed.  Hmm, let me see.”  He stood and pondered, walked back and forth, his hand on his chin, taking the whole thing quite seriously, which the group found both cute and amusing.

“Weeeeell, after careful consideration”, he paused dramatically, “The winner is,” he continued after another elongated pause, “the hand.”

“Why did you choose the hand?”

“Besides the detail, it’s in proportion, and it’s just that good.”

“I win!” Maggy cried.  “I win.  Yahoo! Thanks, Robert, you made my day.  That’ll teach you guys,” she exchanged a high five with Robert.

 

Blindsided 177

When Jessica and George didn’t show they went ahead with their meal.  Awhile later, George hustled over and hurriedly explain that one of the horses was acting up and required monitoring.

Later that night, they heard the same woman’s voice echoing across the waters and settled comfortably in their camp chairs to listen.  Tonight’s rendition included a montage of mournful, wistful or sad songs but ended with a light happy tune.

“As idyllic as this has been, I thought we could move on tomorrow.  Stan explained there’s another beautiful beach over at Black Creek.”

“Yeah, it’s gorgeous, and the water’s beautiful and warm.”

“I realize its short notice, but I figured this way, we can hit a few campsites, make the most of it,” Max suggested.

Rising early, they began breaking camp.  Maggy walked to Jessica and George to say goodbye.  “How are the horses, everything settle down?”

“Yeah, it’s the traveling.  Sometimes it does that.  They’ll be fine.”

“We’re on our way.  I just wanted to say thanks for the info. I was really interested.  I’ll watch for you on the circuit on TV,” she promised.  “It was nice meeting you.  Good luck with the rest of the year.”

“Thanks.  You take care now!” Jessica responded.

As they loaded the car Max asked, “What are the odds we can fish down island?”

“Um, the possibility of steak is good,” Cassy laughed.

“Oh, it’s like that is it?”

“Well, we should finish off the chili, maybe for lunch,” she suggested. “I hate wasting food.”

“We could do that.”

A couple of hours later they were pulling into Black Creek Campsite choosing a site nearest the back of the campground with a short walk through the forest to the beach.

Tents set up, site organized, Craig headed off to the store for some added supplies and more ice for Cassy’s drops, while the others donned their bathing suits and headed off to swim.

“Wow, this is beautiful, and as warm as you promised,” Max said.  “I hate to say it, but I haven’t taken advantage of the island’s offerings.  I’ve been working long hours.  This is pretty nice.”

“I’m glad we had the opportunity!” Cassy splashed Max, then Maggy and suddenly, an all-out splashing contest was on.

Blindsided 176

“Hey, I have to feed these guys, and settle them in, but we can join you later for another game!” she suggested hopefully.

“Sure.  We’re having left-over chili for dinner if you care to join us.”

“Awesome, thanks. We’ll try and take you up on that.”  George agreed.

They wandered back to their campsite.  “God, I’d love the chance to ride one of those babies!” Maggy’s eyes simply glowed.

“They seem pretty amiable.  You could always suggest it.”

“I would, but I feel queasy at the idea of riding something that expensive, it’s not just another horse.  They are probably insured up the wazoo, and who wants to be responsible for possibly injuring one of them?” she shivered.  “Not me.”

They played poker for a while made lunch then went for another walk.  By the time they were back, Max had returned with his limit.  “What do you think?  Pretty good hey?”  He’d already cleaned and filleted the fish, and there was plenty to go round.

“Jessica and George might join us for dinner.  I suggested we were having Chili, but hey, this is awesome,” Cassy said.

“A slight change in the menu!” he remarked.

“You can come camping with me anytime,” Cassy giggled.

“Next time, you come fishing with me, you clean your own fish.” He laughed at the disgusted look on her face.

“I don’t think so!”  Her curled lip and shiver preceded an, “I’m content to eat the fish you catch, or buy it.”

Craig got a fire going in the pit, and by the time they were ready to cook the fish, the coals were perfect.  Craig and Max wrapped the fish along with salt and pepper in foil and placed it on top of the coals while Maggy and Cassy cleaned and cut corn into one inch pieces to add to the coals. Craig had bought tins of sliced spuds, and they opened the tin and set it on a make shift rack to cook.

Blindsided 175

“Are you skittish around horses, Cassy?”

“No, not at all, but my vision isn’t so good these days, so I’m playing it safe.”  He rwords held a wistful tone she was unaware of.

“Whisper is pretty easy to get along with.  I can hold her steady for you.”

“Thanks, that’s very sweet, but I don’t think so.”

“The Morgan is compact, refined in build and has strong limbs, an expressive face, and large, well-defined withers.” As she went on to explain, Cassy’s mind wandered.

“That’s what the judges look for?” Maggy asked.

“Yes, it is.”  Jessica said.

“They come in a variety of colours, although they are most commonly bay, black, brown and chestnut.  You’ll also see some gray, palomino, cremello, perlino, smoky cream, and silver dappled, like Whispers, hence the quixotic name,” she laughed.

George added, “There are others, such as the sabino, dun, and buckskin, but we’re not involved in those categories.”

Jessica continued, “The classic type of Morgan is generally quite good at the Olympic disciplines dressage, show jumping and eventing, which makes them one of the most versatile breed of horse.”

“Competitions range from In Hand, English Pleasure, Park, Western, Carriage Driving, Fine Harness, Hunt Seat, Trail, Roadster, Parade, Reining and Dressage.”

“In qualifying class, performance is 60% of consideration in judging and conformation is 40%.“

“How long you been at this?”  Craig asked.

“About twelve years,” Jessica said.

“I started when I was twelve.  As I said, it became my passion.  I was lucky.  My parents backed me all the way.  Otherwise, it would have taken considerably longer to become a ranking member.”

“That’s spectacular!” Maggy praised.

Blindsided 175

“Hey, I’m not that bad!”  Jessica replied smacking his arm.

“Well, honestly, almost!  What can I say, it’s a passion!” she laughed.

“The CMHA or Canadian Morgan Horse Association” sets the rules.  It was formed in 1960 and incorporated under the Life Stock Pedigree Act in ’68.  Its prime function is to administer the registration of the purebred Canadian Morgan and oversee the registration of the Part Morgan.  Records are kept by the Canadian Livestock Records Corp in Ottawa.”

“What that means is, CMHA promote the breed sets the standards and awards.  It’s a versatile system with an active youth agenda, an historical committee equal to the states.  They hold annual conventions too.”

“That’s pretty awesome!”  Maggy said.  “I figured there had to be a process, but its way cool that it’s Canadian.”

“How does the awards program work?” Craig asked.

“Well it would probably be better and easier to understand if I showed you.  Want to take a break, and we’ll take a look at the horses?”

“Sure,” they agreed in unison.

Walking toward the beautiful horses, keeping a watchful eye on their progress, she continued, “The CMHA Awards Program is a competitive system promoting a standard of excellence in the showing of the Morgan Horse in a variety of divisions such as ‘In Hand, English Pleasure, Western and Driving’. The end result of the cumulative awards identifies superior horses, breeding programs and farms, trainers, riders and drivers.”

George interrupted to add, “The registration fee is $25.00 for the lifetime of the horse.  You have to be a current member for points to count.”

“The ward is based the Morgan Horse Versatility in a variety of non-traditional areas.”

“You can sign up for several divisions like the Buggy/Sleigh Rally and you’re involved in a combined driving competition.  There’s the Cattle Penning and Team Roping event with competitive Trail Rides, one of my favorite; second only by the Dressage Competitions and Endurance Rides, needless to say,” she said.

“We travel to Parades through Canada and the States as well, which costs, but ups the knowledge quotient on the Canadian horse.” She smiled.

Craig and Maggy patted Whisper’s mane while Cassy contentedly watched from a safer

Blindsided 173

“We brought our fourteen-footer.  Your welcome to join me and we’ll catch a few fish,” Stan offered.

“Thanks.  I might take you up on that.”

Stan looked expectantly at Craig, then Maggy and finally Cassy.  Craig stepped into the breach.

“Sorry, forgot my manners, Maggy and Cassy.”  Craig’s sweeping gesture covered both women.

“My wife, Missy,” he motioned toward the pretty petite blond woman, currently waving shyly, “and my two sons, the water-babies, over there are Michael and Patrick.”

“Well, let me know if you want to tag along.  I figure on heading out about two-ish.”

“Thanks.  We’ll see how it goes.”

“That was gracious,” Cassy remarked.

“Yeah, too gracious, we’ll just play it by ear.” Max remarked before disappearing into the tent.  They listened to his hushed voice and figured he was running a check on Stan MacAndrews.  It was a sad reminder that life wasn’t all it should be and placed a damper on the moment.

Upon his return, he gave the thumbs up signal and once they had cleared up, went for a walk along the beach.

When they returned to camp, it was to find another camper across the way with a horse in tow.  The woman unloaded the horse and was ready to ride while the man set up camp.

Max said he was going to wander around and see who else was about.  Ostensibly checking out camp sites, he stopped and chatted to a few loners that caught his eye.

While he was busy with that, the others donned swim gear.  The water was warm and the sun shone brightly as they romped, played tag and finally, just swam.  Maggy showed off her diving ability from the raft as the others watched.  Craig teased from the sidelines.  Max finally came to join them and after a couple of hours they headed back up the beach and laid their towels out, then slathered sun-lotion on each other and prepared to catch a few rays.

Max ever watchful noted the horseback rider’s return, Stan’s romp in the water with his kids and the comings and goings of several more campers.

When it got too hot for comfort, Cassy donned a wrap skirt and Maggy added a pair of shorts to her ensemble while the guys added shirts to their dry shorts and they sat under cover of the awning to play a few rounds of cards while drinking coffee and listening to some light jazz coming from somewhere in the campground.

Blindsided 172

“One of my favorite recipes,” Cassy admitted.

“My turn tomorrow night,” Maggy offered. “I’m borrowing one of Cassy’s recipes.  “Her spaghetti sauce is to die for.”

“I bought a few goodies at the store.”  Max’s eyes lit up.  “I know, you have a sweet tooth.  I didn’t forget.  I figured we couldn’t live on gummy bears forever.”  Cassy’s laugh was cheeky.

She pulled a bag of cookies out of her back pack.  “Sorry, nothing fancy.  Didn’t think they’d last in the heat so I settled for something that wouldn’t melt into mush.”

“I need coffee! Anyone else interested?” Maggy inquired.

Dusk fell quickly, and they were sitting around the campfire enjoying the solitude when they heard a woman singing down around the corner from their campsite. She was obviously sitting next to the lake and her voice carried.  It was melodic, soulful and quite beautiful.

“Wow, someone can sing!”  Max remarked.

They sat silently listening to the woman’s repertoire which was quite varied.  “She must be a young woman.  I figure maybe 25 or so.”

“Her voice sounds clear, but she has a throaty raspy quality as well.” Maggy hummed along with the well known song

With night falling, it cooled quickly.  Max and Craig took turns throwing wood on the fire, drinking coffee and listening as silence fell around them save for the crackling of the fire, they were wrapped in peaceful solitude.

They stopped to stare at the beautiful sunrise before preparing for the day.  As they ate packaged oatmeal a man strode over to introduce himself.

“Hi there.  Stan MacAndrews.”  He held out a hand which Craig clasped while returning the greeting.  “Thought I’d pop over and introduce myself.”

Seamlessly, without anyone becoming any the wiser, Max stood, discreetly placing himself in front of Cassy.  If Maggy hadn’t been watching so intently, she might have missed it, but since she was taking particular note, she understood the motivation immediately.

 

Blindsided 171

“Thought so.”

“Smart girl.”

“Too bad I only have one fishing rod, ‘cause there’s some great fishing there.  April to September, both Trout and Rainbow and there’s a dock as well.”

“And the water should be lovely and warm by now,” Maggy added.

“Yep, and plenty of sandy beach with 24 campsites.  If not, we can move on to another camping area.  We have plenty to choose from,” Maggy noted.

“Pack a few extras.  We may turn this into an extended camp out,” Max said.

“What do you mean?”

“I figure we take the time to visit a few campgrounds, scour the island and any other idyllic spots we come across.”

“That should keep him hopping,” Maggy smirked.

“We’ll have a great time, we’re away from communication and if he wants to know what’s going on, he’ll have to get up close and personal.  He does that, we’re one step closer to catching him, he can’t stay hidden forever.”

“I have to stop and buy a few things,” Max told them.

“Me too,” Craig added.  “I didn’t figure camping into the scenario.”

They stowed their gear in the trunk of the rental vehicle and headed out. Max drove.  Maggy gave directions, and they listened to the sat phone along the way.

Vernon Lake was just as beautiful as expected.  It was peaceful and quiet and when they arrived, only half the campsites were in use.  They picked one closest to the water.  Max and Craig immediately set up a make shift lean-to and dragged a bunch of wood under it for later use while Maggy and Cassy set up tents and prepared dinner.

While the chili cooked, one of Cassy’s favorite recipes, they played carads and watched the kids at a nearby campsite romp and play in the water.

They broke out some beer and wrapped some garlic bread in foil and laid it in the coals.

“God, this is good!”

Blindsided 170

“I was wondering if you’re up for another camping trip,” Max asked.  When they turned questioning eyes his way he continued, “I thought we might go to Vernon Lake.  I hear it’s pretty nice there.”

“Actually, it is.”

“We can swim there too, without the advent of little suckers,” Maggy laughed.

“So, why don’t we go today, stay for a few days?  Make the most of the summer.  We can’t stay cooped up in here forever.”

Craig volunteered to get the backpacks and Maggy went along to assist him.

“I have a cooler at my place, so we could stock up on fruit veggies, a few cold ones,”  Maggy offered.

“While you pack, Cassy and I will run to the store for a few things,” Max suggested.

In the car, Cassy asked, “Is this part of a plan?  Trying to draw him out?”

“Not really, but if it works, all the better.  It’s what I’m telling the powers that be anyway.  It also tests the theory.”

“What theory?”

“The only people who know we’re going, are us, the Captain, and one other person.”

“Ok.  And this helps how?”

“If there’s a leak in this very narrow avenue of possibilities, we can cut it off and voila, no more pipeline.”

“Got’cha.”

They were excited about getting out again and although packing hurriedly, packed with care.

“We’re cutting into his territory aren’t we?”  Cassy observed.

“How so?”

“Vernon Lake is 25 k southwest of Woss and we need to take the Gold River Logging Road to get there.”

“Thought we might do some reconnoitering while we’re there, interview a few people.”

 

Blindsided 161

They wandered downtown, engaged in some window shopping, picked up a few groceries then heading home.

Craig and Max were at the computer.

“Anything new, and exciting?”  Maggy quipped.

“Looks like we have a solid lead on the perp.  He screwed up in Gold River alright.  We’ve got a few eye witnesses who believe they can identify him.  He might have been there a short time, but he made an impact.  It’s a very small community and outsiders stand out and he did!”

“Did they see the photos of him?”

“Yes, I faxed them down and they say it’s the same guy, but the hair was different.  The things he couldn’t change, like his build and height, were identical to the man that visited your grandmother’s house.”

“Oh my god, that’s fantastic!”  Cassy yelped.

“There really is hope we’ll catch this son of a bitch.”

“Once we put all the pieces together in the right order, it’s over, Cassy, he’s done!  The evidence against him is piling up and he’s gonna do serious time!  And where he’s going, and because of the attempts on you and Mag’s life, you won’t have to worry about him ever again!”

“Halleluijah!”

“God that’s scary.  I honestly hadn’t looked at it like that.”

“Like what?”  Craig asked.

“That he’d actually made attempts on our life.  I guess I was looking at it from a different place.” The reality shook her to the core.

“We may not have a timeline but we’re closer!” Maggy remarked with delight, wrapping her arms around Cassy.

“That’s what it means, alright,” Craig replied.

“He’s not as untouchable as he thinks he is.  He’s using the same old same old, whether out of necessity or panic.  Either way, that’s how we’ll catch him.”

“As long as we’re getting closer, that’s all I care about!”  Cassy cried fervently.

 

Blindsided 160

Page 160 –  enjoying the hike

The active, graded gravel logging road was an hour and a half long from the edge of town to the edge of the Park. Once there, they grabbed their gear, checked to make sure their tents were in good order and began their hike   San Josef Bay was an easy forty-five-minute walk, so they detoured that direction first.

“God, it’s so beautifully here, so quiet.”

“Yeah, when I lived in Vancouver, the city rarely slept.  I think there were a couple hours when the din settled, but generally, there was always a hum of some sort.  Port Hardy was silent by comparison but even it is noisy compared to the solitude here,” Maggy said.

“I love the smell of the pine needles as they crunch under foot and the fresh salty sea air is so invigorating,” Cassy said.  “That’s my favorite part about hiking here I think; the scenery, not-with-standing.”

They nodded at other outdoor enthusiasts along the way, and the banter was endless.  Because Cassy’s vision was limited and cause for caution, even with Max’s arm wrapped around her to guide her, it took them a good hour and a half to get to San Josef Bay.  It was a well-maintained path, and pretty level.  There were a couple of spots where she’d appreciated the help over fallen stumps but otherwise it had been relatively easy.  The rest of the trail promised more of a challenge.

They stood, side by side, staring out across the Pacific Ocean, as countless hundreds of others had done before them reveling in its beauty.

“Man, I have to come back here with a canoe.  There are some beautiful lakes and streams to discover,” Craig said wistfully.  Maggy grabbed a bag of mixed seeds from her backpack and offered them around.  Everyone took a small handful, and Cassy followed up with a grab bag of gummy bears.

“There are sea stacks and sea caves around that point.”  Cassy informed them pointing ahead.  “I’d love to go, but I doubt my eye sight is up to it at the moment, it’s a little more challenging.  We have to make a pact, here and now, that we’re coming back.” They nodded in agreement.

 

Blindsided 161                                                                             Blindsided 159

 

Blindsided 169

Dinner consisted of burritos, a salad, mushroom cap appetizers,  a bottle of wine and home made pineapple turnover cake for dessert after which they settled together watching the news.

“Let’s get those photos off tomorrow for development,”  Cassy suggested, “I can’t wait to see them all.”

“Yeah, we need groceries as well, so we can drop them off at the same time.”

He was livid – caught between anger and despair, indecision and panic.   Panic had driven him until he could no longer resist.  Twice he’d sauntered past, as bold as you please and no one was any the wiser.  He’d even clambered across two adjoining yards and into hers.  Although the constant patrols around her yard were making it more difficult to get inside, he’d still managed, astounded to find she was gone.   What’s more, it looked like she’d been gone for a couple of days.  Where the hell could she have disappeared to?

He paced.  He dragged his fingers through his hair.  He paced again.  He bit his fingernails.  What the hell was he supposed to do?   He’d checked all his resources.  No one knew anything.  Jesus Christ!

Because he hadn’t wanted to arouse suspicion, he’d moved out of one Hotel and into the next.  He’d thought about a bed and breakfast, but that could be dicey, if they kept tabs on his coming and going.

God, he remembered the good old days when it was just him and Cassy.  Pulling photos out of a shoe box, he looked them over.  She was as beautiful now as she had been then.  Hers was an ageless beauty he thought, she’d look fabulous at 85 he figured.  He traced his fingers lightly down the side of the picture, and soon, very soon, she’d be all his.

Cassy was uneasy. Though she’d had protection now for weeks and a thorough ongoing investigation was well under way, they were no closer to finding the perp that had stolen her life.  Her frustration level was rising and she found it was increasingly difficult to keep a handle on it.  She understood what Max meant when he said that at some point all she’d want to do was rant and rave at the lunatic.  Well, the time was now.

Deciding her best course of action was walking it off, she asked the others if anyone wanted to join her.  Maggy agreed and they headed out.  She’d been a little surprised that Max or Craig hadn’t joined in and said as much to Maggy.

“They’re probably going over stuff, we’ve been gone a few days.  Presumably they have some catching up to do.  Anyway, I appreciate the alone time and having you all to myself for a change.”

Linking arms with Cassy, she continued, “Well, I know I said I didn’t think the day would ever come, but I think Im fallen in love.”

Blindsided 168

The following morning while wandering the 2400 meter long beach, they took hundreds of pictures of breathtaking scenery, while the rich aroma of mother earth wafted on the light breeze swirling around them.  The white sandy beach made walking easy for Cassy.

“We don’t have that much further to go before we get to the lighthouse,” Cassy piped up.

“It’s about two k from here to Experimental Bight and another two and a half k to Guise Bay with great camping then three and a half to the lighthouse.”

“I figure we could stop at Guise Bay, leave our gear and hustle on up to the light house for a quick look, then back to Guise Bay for the night.”

“Sounds good,” agreed Craig.

“Ok, then let’s do it,” they all concurred.

A quickly shared look between the others spoke to whatever ghosts had hovered around her last night had been dismissed through the night.

They met the caretakers of the lighthouse and snapped a couple of pictures before heading back to Guise Bay where they spent the night.

The return trip wasn’t as pleasant as going in as the weather had taken a turn drizzling with grey skies taking considerably longer to move as Cassy’s vision was truly impaired due to the dim light. All in all it had been a wonderful trip but it was time to head home. They were a happy if tired bunch of campers when they reached Cassy’s house.

Max got out immediately checking with the officer sitting in the look-out car to see if he had anything to report.

“Nothing, it was quiet.  We took regular walks around the perimeter and the glass was replaced earlier today.  A cleaning crew arrived, one sanctioned by us, cleaned top to bottom.  I went in and checked, its good.”

Upon entering the house, they pulled out the remainder of their food, placed it in a cabinet above the fridge and stored the rest of their gear in the garage.

“Maggy, where are the candles?”

“They should be in the cupboard above the laundry machines,” Maggy replied.  “I know that’s where we left them.”

“They aren’t here now.  I was going to use them for dinner, but they don’t seem to be anywhere.”

“That’s odd.  I know that’s where we put them after the power outage.”  Together they searched but the candles were gone.

“Oh well, another night,” Cassy said, as an uneasy feeling assailed her. He must have taken the candles when he planted the bees, how else was it possible?  And what did it mean for not only her protection, but that of her friends?

Page 169                                                                            Page 167

Blindsided 167

“You ok, Cassy?”

“Yeah, sure, just a little tired, is all.”

“Thanks.”

“Nite everyone.”

Cassy crawled into bed feeling peacefully tired, but try as she might, she couldn’t settle those concerns that wouldn’t be quieted and which continually whispered through her mind.  The other trips she’d enjoyed with romping good fun, while this time she could barely see well enough to walk the trail. Without Max’s arms wrapping around her waist, she couldn’t have managed.

Still, on the bright side, she was with her best friend and great companions, and they were making it as easy on her as they could.  She was all about making a concerted effort to get them all back here, a year from now, to do this over again, in victory.  With that, she fell asleep unaware the others huddled around the fire, worried.

“She’s not herself,” Maggy whispered.  “She’s worried.  She hasn’t said anything about what’s happening with her eyes either.  I’m beginning to wonder just how much she can actually see.”

“I was wondering the same thing.  Perhaps we should take it easy tomorrow,” Craig responded without hesitation.

“Perhaps we should turn around and head back,” Maggy murmured.

“We can do that too,” Max agreed.

“I’m concerned she’ll overdo it, as a sign of bravado. If she makes herself worse, or sick, it won’t accomplish anything!”

“Let’s keep an eye on her tomorrow, see how it goes.  If it looks like she’s slowing down at all, we’re heading back.” Max stated firmly.

“Absolutely!” Maggy and Craig agreed.

Craig and Max put the fire out before heading to bed.

Craig slid inside the tent and crawling into his sleeping bag said,  “Don’t worry, Maggy, we’ll all watch her.  If she’s overdoing it, we’ll turn right around and head back.  We’ll take care of it”

“She caught me out earlier when I tried to fake it, needing a rest etc, she definitely knew something was up.”

“She’s a smart woman, and she knows you care about her.  She’ll remember that too,” Craig assured her.

Page 168                                                                             Page 166

 

Blindsided 166

“Maybe, but that’s different.  Hiking doesn’t use the same muscles.”

“You’re a sweetheart, Maggy. Thanks,” Cassy winked at her friend.

“Just sayin’.”

They ate quickly, eager to be on their way.  They covered ground faster than expected in some areas and slower in others. The scenery was the show stopper.  About twenty minutes out, they came upon a Giant Sitka Tree. Cassy got her camera out.  “Someone please take a picture for me?”  Craig volunteered, and the rest stood arms stretched out at their sides. “I’m trying to fit you all in.”

The tree she was referring to was gigantic, seven meters in circumference.  “God, would you look at that!”  Craig said, upon seeing the picture.  “That’s dynamite.  Who says the California Redwoods have all the big ones.”

“When we get back, I want a couple of copies of this trip.  My mom won’t believe it!”  Craig remarked.

“Ditto for us!”  Max suggested, nodding at Maggy.

“You got it.”

Time past quickly.  At the fork, they headed to Nels Bight where they planned on camping for the night.

Every hiker they met along the way, encouraged them on while providing tid bits of information about how many others they’d passed along the way.  “Man!  That was worth the effort.”  They heard again and again.  They listened to several accounts of bear and cougar sightings with several reminding them to use one of the thirteen caches provided for their food.

Fearing they might insist on turning back she remained silent.  Cassy was feeling more tired than usual and sat quietly as the others gabbed.  As soon as it got dark, she could see next to nothing and said her good nights.  Heading for bed when she tripped, went sprawling and would have landed in the fire if Craig hadn’t managed to grab her.

Page 167                                                                         Page 165

Blindsided 165

“It is pretty comfy cozy.”

“God you smell good.”

“Thanks.  Treasure that thought, because after a few days out here, you won’t think so,” she said on a laugh.

Max had similar thoughts.  As he turned to face Cassy, welcoming her closeness he said, “I wondered when and how I was going to get you into bed.”

Laughing, Cassandra replied, “Smart-ass.  You’re still in your little part of the world, and I’m in mine.  So technically, we’re not.  Sharing a bed, that is.”

“Technicalities, just technicalities.”  He grinned in the dark.

“I can still do this,” he said, reaching out pulling her close.

“Mmm, that is nice.  I have to agree.”

Need and desire rose swiftly. Cassy was feeling more than warm, phew, she thought.  Who needed a fire with Max holding her close?

When she woke, she was alone.  She heard Max and Craig’s hushed voices as they started a fire.  It wasn’t long before the sweet aroma of coffee wafted her way.  Well damn, that wasn’t playing fair, she decided.  Who could resist that welcome aroma?  Maggy must have had the exact same thought, for her head poked out of her tent at precisely the same moment, and staring at each other, they laughed uproariously.

“What?”

“Inside joke,” Maggy replied.

“Well, outside, and join us,” Craig said.  “We did the hard part, now you can cook the breky.”

“Women’s work is never done!”  Maggy snorted, a quirk on her lips.

“Listen, lady, you could have started the fire.  That was a piece of work in itself!”  Craig said, making a grab for her.  Maggy  evaded him and a romp ensued.

“No, no, that’s quite alright.”

“Where’s the next juncture in the trip?”  Max asked.

“It should take us about three and a half hours to reach Fisherman’s River, at the pace we set yesterday.  It’s 6.3 k from here.”

“Then it’s 4.1 k to Nissen/Nels Bight junction.”

“So we’re talking a full days hike then,” Max said.

“Yeah, for me anyway.  It’s going to be rougher going here, and I might slow us up a bit,” she confided.

“Hey, we’re enjoying this.  Aren’t we guys?” Craig quickly responded.

“You bet, the more leisurely, the better,” Maggy agreed. “I’m surprisingly out of shape.”

“You’re dreaming!”  Cassy said.  “I’ve seen the work out you do.  Your dynamite.”