Slippery Slope

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Edge Catch

Edge catch: When the leading edge of a snowboard gets caught in the snow causing the snowboarder to fall.

Sam Kosner pulled into the parking lot at the lodge. He squeezed his beat-up municipal issued truck in between two shiny new SUVs piled high with ski equipment. He didn’t get the whole skiing thing. Coming from Boston, he didn’t mind the cold, but throwing oneself off the side of a mountain for entertainment held no appeal for him. Two women walking toward him on the path to the lodge parted around him, smiling and giving him a friendly hello. He stopped and turned to watch them. The tight jeans they each wore were like second skins and left little to the imagination. Their cropped tops and tiny jackets were hardly being worn for protection from the weather. Maybe he could see the appeal. He’d have to visit sometime for pleasure, if that were ever possible.

He needed to speak with Asher to begin to sort this business out, but couldn’t decide where to start. It was likely Asher had heard of the accident. A chopper had flow in to airlift the victim out to the county trauma unit. Since he was the person notifying next of kin, he knew that Asher wouldn’t yet know who the victim was. But he hadn’t much time. It was a small town and news spread quickly. Once Asher knew, he’d be too distracted to deal with anything else for a while. Walking into the lobby, Sam decided. He would start with what he was on his way to tell Asher originally, before he had gotten called to the scene of Derrick’s accident.

Asher was behind his desk fiddling with the scanner when Sam walked in.

“Hi, Sam. What’s up?”

“A lot, actually,” Sam replied but Asher seemed to not hear him.

Asher pounded the top of the scanner in frustration.

“Damn thing,” he said. “I heard something coming through but it’s all garbled. And my tech person is off today. Figures. I’m going to have to call her in. Can’t be without my scanner.”

Asher finally looked away from the machine and up at Sam.

“Have a seat.”

Sam looked around the room. The last time he had been in Asher’s office, there were walkie-talkies, a CB radio, the scanner, a couple of computers and routers. Now there was a whole wall of flashing lights and black boxes with wires running everywhere. Sam pulled out his notepad and pencil and sat.

“That tech person you hired. That’s Hilda Pierson, correct?”

“Yes,” Asher answered, “And she’d been a god send. Has this place humming like a well-oiled machine.” The scanner sputtered out something static-filled and unintelligible. “Well, no one’s perfect,” he shrugged.

Sam nodded.

“What do you know about her?”

“Hilda? She’s great. She has an incredible resume, letters of reference. I’m lucky to have found her in this neck of the woods. Why?”

Sam flipped his notepad closed. He got up from the chair and walked over to the bank of machines.

“She wired all this stuff?”

Asher joined him.

“Yes. It was impressive to watch. Cost me a mint but I really trust her judgment. She is incredibly knowledgeable.”

“You said she was off today. When was the last time you saw her?”

Asher furrowed his brow, “This morning. She was here skiing. She came into the office while I was talking to Kristy and Derrick.”

“You don’t say. Kristy and Derrick were here, too?”

“Yes. We had a bit of a mystery going on. One of my employees – Brent, you know him – resigned today out of the blue. Actually, Hilda’s the one who gave us that news. It threw us all for a loop.”

“Hilda told you Brent was resigning?”

“Yes. She brought me a letter from him.”

“So they’re involved with each other?”

“She said they were,” Asher answered, “Why do you ask?”

“Those letters of reference you mentioned that Hilda has, did you check them out?”

“Well, to be perfectly honest, I have it on my to-do list. But anyone can see how competent and responsible she is.”

Sam nodded, still perusing the huge bank of computer equipment.

“Did Kristy and Derrick have a disagreement or an argument of any kind?”

“Argument? No. As a matter of fact they were both here out of concern about Brent. They weren’t able to reach him and didn’t know where he was. Is something wrong?”

Sam walked back over to the chair and sat down. He waited until Asher sat back down in his.

“What’s this all about, Sam?”

“Asher, Hilda Pierson is a dead woman.”

Asher bolted straight up out of his chair so quickly it banged against the wall behind him. The blood drained from his face.

“Oh my god! What’s happened?”

Sam shook his head, waving at Asher to retrieve the chair. Asher rolled it back to the desk and sat, his eyes never leaving Sam’s.

“I’m sorry, Asher. Let me put this to you another way. You know the man that died in Derrick’s house?”

Asher nodded, still visibly shaken and confused. “What about him?”

“His name was John Bosterman. He had a sister. She predeceased her brother several months ago. She died from carbon monoxide poisoning. She left her car running in the garage beneath her bedroom all night. By all accounts, she wasn’t suicidal, so it looked like she had just forgotten to shut it off. It was ruled an accidental death.”

“I’m not following you, Sam. What does that have to do with Hilda? Is she OK?”

“You know, there’s this deputy that works in our office. Fancies himself a writer and I have to say, he has a great imagination. When we were trying to figure out why this guy John would have been in Derrick’s house, he asks me – hey, why don’t we check out his next of kin? Maybe they know why he was here. I have to say, I was a little disappointed. Contacting the next of kin is standard procedure, which he would know if he paid attention to his police work. Turned out John had one relative - a sister, but she’s dead, too. So you would think, dead end - pardon my pun, not intentional. But here’s the interesting part. My deputy goes ahead and checks her out – cause of death, etcetera, does some extra digging. He comes to me again and says, Hey, Sam, guess what? John Bosterman’s dead sister has a current, active employment record right here in town, at The Lodge. Now what do you make of that, Asher?”

“John Bosterman’s sister is working here?” Asher frowned. “But she’s dead? I don’t know what to make of it, Sam.”

“What would you say if I told you someone stole the woman’s identity. Would you make anything of that?”

“I still don’t know what you’re getting at, Sam. The only person I’ve hired recently is….” Asher’s voice became a whisper and trailed off. He turned a whiter shade of pale.

“Hilda Pierson,” he finished. “You mean she’s not the real Hilda Pierson? The real Hilda Pierson is dead?”

Sam nodded. Asher’s eyes ran wildly up and down the bank of computers and then settled back on Sam.

“Who is she then?”

Sam shook his head, “I don’t know. Asher, do you happen to know where Kristy Cole is? Asher?”

Asher was shaking his head. He ran his hands through his hair. Sam actually felt bad at how baffled the man seemed, “Kristy? No, why? I thought we were talking about Hilda.”

“Asher, I’m sorry to bring you more bad news, but there has been an accident.”

“Oh no!” Asher said, “So Hilda, I mean, whoever she is, has been in an accident?”

“No. It’s Derrick, Asher. He’s been seriously injured in a hit and run. A woman fitting Kristy’s description, driving a vehicle that fits the description of her truck, was seen leaving the area near his home at a high rate of speed.”

Just then Denise bustled into the office. She hurried around the desk to Asher and gave him quick peck on the cheek.

“Hey, Babe,” she said brightly. “Sorry I’m late. I didn’t see your truck in the lot. I wasn’t sure you were here. Is it in the shop for something? Hi, Sam. How are ya?”

She stopped cold and looked back and forth at the two men, “What’s wrong?”

Asher stood up.

“It’s Derrick, Denise. And Hilda – and Kristy,” he ran his hands through his hair. “Oh my god. We have to get to the hospital. Derrick’s been in an accident.”

“Oh, no!” Denise cried and wrapped her arms around him.

“Grab my keys, would you?” Asher asked as he put on his parka.

Denise looked, and looked again. “Asher, they’re not here. Like I said, I didn’t see your truck, either.”

They both turned to look at Sam. His phone began to ring and he rummaged through his jacket pockets to find it. It was a restricted number.

“Kosner,” he answered. Now it was his turn to be stunned.

“This is who? You have to be kidding me.” Sam looked back at Denise and Asher as they continued to stare at him, overwhelmed to a state of inaction.

Asher’s brain was numb from what Sam had just told him. Derrick had been in an accident. Kristy was the suspect. It didn’t make any sense. Despite all that had gone on between those two, he had been assured by both of them it was resolved. And they had both been in his office this morning, their only concern Brent. It was Kristy and Hilda he had to pull apart. And this news about Hilda – if she wasn’t who she claimed to be then Asher had entrusted his entire business to a complete stranger. His head was swimming and he hugged Denise a little tighter. He wasn’t sure whether it was him or her who was shaking. As Sam continued with his call Asher listened and watched, frozen to the spot.

“Yes, I know her. I’m looking for her right now.” Sam threw his other hand into the air, becoming more and more animated.

“If you must know, she’s wanted as a suspect in a hit and run accident…Yes, the victim’s name was Derrick. How do you know them? What’s that? Yes, I’m looking for her now….How do you know where she is?....Really? That’s incredible. Does she know you did that? Ok, yes, of course, give me the coordinates.”

Sam took his notepad out and scribbled in it. “Yes, will do. You don’t happen to know what this location is – a residence, the middle of the woods – who did you say lives there?”

Sam’s face reddened. “Yeah, I know that name, too. Yes, I know that as well. We must talk later. Ok, I’m on my way. Thanks.”

Sam shoved his phone back into his pocket.

“Who was that?” Asher asked.

Sam shook his head, “I can’t get into it, Asher. I have to get to Kristy and I have to leave right now.”

“That person knows where she is? Is Kristy is some kind of danger?”

Sam walked to the door.

“Sam!” Asher cried out to him, “Is Derrick alright?”

“Asher, get yourself to county as quickly as possible. Please call Derrick’s wife, too. Good luck,” Sam said and he was gone.

Asher felt Denise give him a little shake.

“Asher, we should go,” she said. He looked down at her tear stained face. Automatically, he went for his truck keys even though Denise had told him more than once that they were missing, that his truck was not in the parking lot. He turned back to Denise. Where was his truck?

Asher grabbed his phone up off the desk and called Kristy’s number. If Kristy were in danger, he would warn her right now. He didn’t know what was going on but wherever she was, he couldn’t shake the feeling that Kosner would not find her in time before – what, he didn’t know. Asher looked helplessly at Denise. The phone rang and went straight to voice mail.

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