Slippery Slope

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22-degree Halo

22-degree halo: the appearance of a ring around the sun or moon caused by ice crystals in the atmosphere. It is believed to be predictive of an impending storm.

Kristy dug into the pocket of her jacket and pulled out the card that Brent had attached to her Christmas gift. She had placed it there on Christmas Eve and had traveled with it all the way to the Bahamas, New York, and back, reading it several times along both legs of the trip. She read it again, “Kristy - Like a snowflake, you are one of the most unique things on Earth – you have fallen from Heaven (Did it hurt? – hahaha.) Merry Christmas, Brent.”

Kristy flipped the scanner on and it crackled to life. She listened for a few minutes. There were no alerts, no accidents. If something had happened to Brent on his way to Edgewood, she would have heard about it. She should have taken a look around the lodge. Perhaps the two women were mistaken. For all she knew, they could have been misinformed and he could have been out on the slopes. She considered going back but continued to sit for a few minutes and stare out the window. It was a beautiful day, clear, and not too cold. She played the conversation she had with Brent over and over in her mind and tried to make sense of it.

He had said that he had written she was unique, like the petals of a flower, but that wasn’t right. Brent had to know that wasn’t right. He claimed he didn’t remember. Kristy jumped in her seat. Suddenly she thought about how he had said it. He had blurted it out - like a signal.

Kristy caught her breath and pulled the pendant out from under her shirt, feeling the points on the snowflake, squeezing them into her fingertips until it hurt. She pulled the round pendant out, too, and slipped its chain over her head. Taking out her cell phone, she dialed the numbers on the pendant in reverse, like Tom had instructed. An automated voice mailbox answered.

“Hi. It’s Kristy. I hope I’m reaching Tom. Tom, I need your help. Remember Brent, the friend I told you about? He’s the one who kept texting me. The one you kept saying I should call. I don’t know if you remember the snowflake pendant I was wearing. You asked me about it and I told you that it was from Brent. Anyway, something very strange is happening and I think Brent is in trouble. He’s involved with this really weird woman who works at my lodge. She didn’t seem that strange at first but something is very, very wrong. She gave Asher a letter of resignation she said was from Brent. I can’t believe that if he accepted another job he wouldn’t talk to Asher about it in person. Asher’s been like a second father to him. Anyway, when I finally talked to Brent on the phone, I think he gave me a signal about the card he wrote to me at Christmas. I think he purposely said that he wrote something different. I went to where he is supposed to be working and they said that he doesn’t work there. I’m so sorry, Tom, to call you, but,” Kristy felt her voice crack, “I think there is something very, very wrong, and I thought maybe you, with the expertise you have, would know if what Brent said to me was some kind of signal.” Kristy read what Brent wrote to her and then repeated what he had said. “I don’t know if that sounds like anything to you but,” she faltered and the words on Brent’s card blurred in front of her eyes. “But I wouldn’t think that a guy would write something like that and then not remember it. Not a guy like Brent. Please try and call me if you can. Thanks, Tom.”

Kristy ended the call and put her phone in the console so she could quickly grab it if it rang. She flipped the scanner back off, took a deep breath, wiped her eyes, and pulled back out onto the road.

Kristy’s mind was in such a whirl, she couldn’t remember the house number but did remember the name of the road that she had gotten from Hilda’s file. She drove slowly down the street. The first two houses had plastic playhouses and swing sets in the front yards and old, dented pick up trucks in the driveways. As she slowly passed them she saw curtains get pushed aside, watching the truck as it went. It was very quiet here on the edge of town.

The third and last house was set back closer to the woods. Kristy could see a small, newer model Jeep parked in the driveway but she didn’t know what Hilda drove. If it was Hilda’s, that meant she was home and the two of them were going to have a nice long talk. Kristy sat in the truck for a moment to consider if this was a good idea. She still had Asher’s truck and the last time she had seen Hilda, it had almost gotten physical. The smart move might be for her to just go back to the lodge.

No, she would not waver now. Asher would have called her if he had noticed his truck was gone. And if she called him now, she knew that his reaction would be the same as if she had asked to use the truck in the first place. She would just keep her cool. Whatever was going on with Brent, she was sure that Hilda was at the bottom of it. If Brent actually wasn’t working at Edgewood, then Kristy wondered how Hilda had gotten that letter. It was in Brent’s handwriting. And if Brent really was trying to signal that he was in some kind of trouble, she couldn’t fathom what the trouble might be. A bizarre thought entered her mind, one of a flurry of thoughts she had had over the past few hours. Kristy laughed out loud. Maybe Hilda had Brent tied up in some kind of sex swing! If that were the case, Brent would be upset with her for interfering. She shook her head, knowing how this would appeal to his sick sense of humor.

Steeling herself, Kristy stepped out of the truck and slammed the door. She had no intention of sneaking around or hiding her presence. Let Hilda look out of her window and know that she was there. Kristy’s boots crunched along the stone path. Not seeing a door in front, she walked around to the side of the house where there was another path that led to the door.

As she approached it something caught her eye. It was the fender of a Camaro. She walked past the door and continued to walk toward it. Although she couldn’t yet see the rest of the car, it was already unmistakable to her. It was Brent’s forest green Camaro. She blinked several times. So Brent was here. She turned away, unable to look at the car, cold filling her gut. She slowly walked back toward the door, then past it. It hadn’t occurred to her that Brent could have lied to her about having to go to work to get her off the phone. Perhaps he had forgotten what he had written in her card. Maybe it did mean more to her than it meant to him. Kristy stopped at the corner of the house, and took a deep breath. She turned back around again and marched right up to the door. Certainly, if Brent and Hilda were both in there, they had already looked out of one of the windows. If they hadn’t seen her, they had seen Asher’s truck. She couldn’t now be a coward and run away. She put up her hand and knocked on the door. The force of her knock caused it to swing slightly open. No one appeared.

“Hello?” she called out.

“Kristy!” It was Brent.

Just then Kristy’s phone began to vibrate and ring. She checked the number: Asher was calling.

“Sorry. Not now,” she said to herself. She already had one pissed off man to deal with and would have a lot of explaining to do for taking the truck. Kristy dismissed the call and stepped over the threshold into Hilda’s house.

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