Closing the Cottage
Part 5 of 6
© Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour
“Hello Caroline,” the voice was vaguely familiar.
“Mr. Malcolm?” Caroline held up the knife.
“There’s no need for the knife Caroline,” he said, standing and stepping out of the shadows. “I noticed someone skulking around your cottage earlier, so I came over to make sure you were okay.”
“You lie!” Caroline spit out. “My doors and windows are all locked––how did you get in?”
Mr. Malcolm pointed: “That window was open.”
Caroline looked. Impossible! She had secured everything! She pointed the knife menacingly. “Don’t come any closer,” she threatened.
“Caroline, please; I am just looking out for you as your father asked me to. Put the knife down; we don’t want anybody to get hurt here.” He stepped forward.
“Not another step!” Caroline was trying to think––what would Ruth do? This hadn’t been part of the story. Something inside her snapped, and she lunged forward, planting the knife into Mr. Malcolm’s abdomen. The look of shock on his face brought a smile to hers. Down he slumped, grasping at his belly. Caroline stared at him. The last thing he saw, before closing his eyes, was her smile.
Caroline sat down in her father’s chair. Things had happened too fast, and she needed time to think. Her fingers tapped on the wooden arms. Well, Ruth already had the victim in the room––so, all she needed to do was get Mr. Malcolm down there. She’d have to drag him. Caroline noticed the old blanket––the one her mother loved––on the couch. Retrieving it, she laid it down and then rolled Mr. Malcolm onto it and began to pull. “Better to clean the blood from one blanket than have to clean an entire floor, hallway, and stairs,” she mumbled.
Mr. Malcolm was not as heavy as Caroline thought he would be, but it still took some manoeuvring for her to get him down the basement stairs and into the room. She leaned over and checked for a pulse––there was a faint one. She shrugged, turned and left; some things needed to be tended to.
Caroline headed down to the dock where her canoe was tied. She noticed Mr. Malcolm’s boat on the other side. Quickly, she guided it around and tied it onto the stern of her canoe. When she got to the other side of the lake, she’d tie his boat to his dock, in its usual spot, retrieve her traps and then head back to the cottage and deal with him. There were a lot of questions he would need to answer––if he regained consciousness.
Mr. Malcolm opened his eyes. His whole body ached. He gazed around at his surroundings. A smidgen of early morning light was filtering through the small window opposite to where he was laying. He tried to sit up, but his head was too woozy, and he was hit with a sharp pain in his gut. It was then he remembered!
Caroline had stabbed him. Gerry had mentioned he thought his daughter was still not quite right from the breakdown, and he hadn’t been too sure about leaving her alone up here. But to go to this extent? She had no idea what danger she could be in. He’d been staking out a house on the other side of the swamp and was getting ready to make a move now that there was some concrete proof. When the most recent girl, Cindy, had disappeared, there had been a clue left behind––something they’d never had previously–– something they had not released to the media.
Another pain shot through his abdomen. “Help!” he moaned before slipping into unconsciousness again, but not before he thought he heard a cat meowing outside the door.
After securing Mr. Malcolm’s boat to his dock, Caroline made her way to the pathway that led to the swamp. She had a visual picture of where she’d laid all the traps and hoped some innocent creature hadn’t happened by. That was one thing that she and Ruth hadn’t thought of.
She picked her way carefully to the first trap, leaned over and pulled it from its hiding place. Then she moved on to the next one. With three of the traps gathered, she looked around trying to remember where the fourth one was. She knew it was closer to the chairs than the others had been. As she cautiously stepped forward, Caroline was startled by the snapping of a twig. She turned, quickly, lost her balance and fell. The traps scattered. She heard another twig snap, and as she looked up someone was walking steadily toward her––someone who did not look human.
Caroline pushed herself to her feet and began backing away. Snap!
“Well, well, what do I have here,” Caroline heard before blacking out. “Not blond, but I can fix that!”
CONCLUSION, October 21, 2016
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