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Rated: E · Short Story · Mystery · #1938003
Christie and Laura’s Halloween vacation turns deadly.
I'm using this swan image for one of my stories.

Somewhere, in a cabin near one of Devil’s Kitchen trails...

Frank jerked awake, listening... There it goes again! He slipped out of bed and edged his way down a small hallway toward the front room. He peeked around the corner, an intruder was rummaging through his papers with his back towards him. Frank slid his foot forward another small step —

The floorboards protested under Frank’s weight, and cold, steely eyes swung in his direction. As recognition set in, Frank hesitated a second too long— The intruder sprung into action, barreling across the room, and hit Frank in his stomach with a tremendous force; winded, Frank fought for his life, but pain invaded his arthritic shoulder as he strained to hold the other man at bay. Adrenaline kicked in, and Frank flipped the intruder over and wrestled him into a headlock. When his so-called friend went limp, Frank loosened his iron grip; and reached for his cell phone to punch in 911.

Hearing a click, he turned and found himself looking down the barrel of a .30 Lugar. Eyes wide with shock, Frank dropped the phone, and jumped to his feet to acquire as much distance between himself; but the shiny black metal followed his every move. A loud sound reverberated throughout the cabin — P-TAFF!

Feeling pain in his chest, Frank looked down, surprised to see a red spot growing bigger. He clutched his chest as the room blurred before his eyes. He staggered towards his bed, and the last thing he saw was his wife's smiling face in an old picture frame before sliding onto the floor.

A small shadow hid in the corner of the bedroom, agitated over what happened to his friend. Watching the man breathe his last breath, he wanted to cry out in despair, but sorrow became too much. Then, an overwhelming peace settled over the small shadow, it calmed down; and waited.


It was that time of year again, the trees were showing off their beautiful array of fall colors. A gust of wind whipped Laura’s auburn hair across her tear-streaked face as she stumbled down the street in a trance. So young! Her body, a pool of blood...


Laura jumped back onto the curb as a driver in a yellow Mustang sped by, holding down his horn in a warning. Trembling, she clutched her notes tight against her chest; and looked both ways before walking across the street towards the Detroit News building. A man opened the glass door for her as a brisk wind pushed her inside. Pausing midstride, she thought -That's right, Christie texted me to meet her- Changing direction, Laura headed towards the cafeteria instead of Lou's office.

The lunch room was crowded, but Laura could spot Christie's flaming red hair anywhere. She made her way over to her table where brochures for their trip were scattered across the table, and on chairs, while some even fell to the floor. Shaking her head, she stooped to pick up the brochures, giving herself time to compose herself. She paused to watch Christie's black fingernails tap to the beat of some song before sitting down across from her.
Taking off the headphones, Christie smiled at her. When seeing Laura’s tear-streaked face, “Oh, oh, are you okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Laura sat down, closing her eyes, trying to block out the victim’s bloated face. “In a sense, I suppose I did, I can't seem to erase it from my mind. Lou sent me to cover a murder, a young woman's body was found lying in the alley behind Joe’s bar. That poor girl, it was awful!”

“Oh, honey, I can’t believe Lou sent you to a murder scene your first time out!”

Lips quivering, Laura nodded, continuing. “Well, h-he couldn’t go h-himself being tied up with other things, so I was elected to go. I tried not to look, but the bystanders who I was trying to question kept g-gravitating towards the body. I was asking which one of them summoned the police; if anyone saw anything peculiar. Before I knew it, I was standing next to the victim who was lying there... d-dead."

“I know it must have been hard, but this is your dream, to be a crime reporter, Laura. Just give it time.”

“Lou figured this would prepare me for the worst, well...” Giving a shaky sigh, she blurted out, “At the m-moment, I’m doubting I can h-handle it.”

“The only advice I can give you is to keep remembering how many hours you put in, striving to reach where you are now. It’s here, Laura, you're a crime reporter!"

“Putting it that way, I'll keep telling myself that..."

“Then, you can do this.” Christie interrupted, slapping Laura’s hand. "Chin up, okay?"

Laura nodded; dabbing at her eyes with a tissue.

"Okay, change of subject - this is what I wanted you to see." Christie fanned six brochures neatly out in front of Laura. “For our vacation, which of these do you prefer? With both of us so busy lately, I thought a short kayaking trip to Michigan’s finest lake would be perfect.”

“K-kayaking...” Laura tried to wrap her head around this idea.

“Uh huh, I've been reading about Muskegon Lake,” Christie talked fast. “First of all, it’s nearby, which is a plus. Next, it has a beach, a park, and even an old ship that we can tour. We both love ancient artifacts, and I thought touring an old warship would be interesting. Then last, but not least, there’s this intriguing place called The Devil’s Kitchen, the perfect place to explore on Halloween. How about it?”

“I don’t know... It does sound amazing!” Laura sighed.

“Good to hear you agree. Two weeks from now, Muskegon, here… we… come!” Christie sang out, happy she convinced Laura; otherwise, she was on the verge of ripping every brochure into tiny, little pieces.

“Alright, I better get these notes to Lou.” Laura got up, her high heels echoing throughout the empty cafeteria as she hurried off.

Looking around, Christie mumbled. “Oh crap, I’m late!" She hastily cleared off the table, stuffed the brochures in her large bag, and sprinted towards the conference room for an afternoon’s editorial briefing.

Heart beating fast, face aglow, Laura handed in her first crime story to Lou. When she received her paycheck, she pinched herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming.  The increased amount made up for the stress she felt researching the murder scene. With the extra money, she bought a beautiful neon green kayak.

The night before the trip, Laura tossed and turned, too excited to sleep. When she finally dozed off, a bad dream startled her awake. Her nightshirt was drenched in sweat, her sheets were all askew. She peeled her nightshirt away from her body. "I hope this isn't a bad omen for our trip."  She squinted at the neon clock, 6:30 AM! Throwing back the covers, she stripped the bed and tossed them, along with her nightshirt, into her front load washer and turned it on. She stepped into the shower and took a long, hot shower, trying to soothe her frayed nerves. Her dream seemed to her as an omen that something bad was going to happen.

In the kitchen, she made herself some coffee, a poached egg, and toast. Rinsing the dishes, Laura heard a horn. She looked out the window to see Christie's silver Suzuki pulling up to the curb. Making sure everything was turned off, she ran to toss her bedclothes into the dryer. She grabbed her bag; and ran outside where the morning sun greeted her. Shaking off the bad vibes of the dream, she helped Christie fasten her kayak to the top of the vehicle. "It's a beautiful morning! I hope it stays this way throughout our trip.”

“I heard the forecast on my way here and it sounds promising. This whole week is free of rain, so there’s nothing to worry about, just enjoy a great week of Kayaking.” With everything fastened down securely, they climbed into the car and were off, on their way to Muskegon!"

They reached their destination around noon and followed the road signs that directed them to the park where their cabin was located. When they came around a large bend, a surprise greeted them as Muskegon Lake came into view.

"Oh, oh, I forgot about this!" Christie smacked her head as she stared at the many different kinds of waterfowl congregating together on the lake.

Laura's eyes grew large as saucers. “Drats! How are we going to kayak on the lake with all of them there?”

“It's migration time! I’m so sorry Laura, I know about your phobia of waterfowl, so we can do something else?”

“No, we came here to kayak and that is what we're going to do.” Laura’s determined voice rang out. “First, let’s go to our cabin, unpack our stuff, and find a café, I’m hungry.”

"That's the spirit, I love it!" Christie shouted. They drove over to their cabin, brought their luggage inside, and unpacked. They walked outside to check out their location and spotted a café located nearby a newly built recreation center. "Well, look at that! We'll eat first, then explore."

They entered the restaurant, sat down, and soon a smiling waitress took their order. Afterward, "I feel so much better, that was a good meal!" Laura exclaimed.

They walked back to their cabin and sat down on the two wicker Adirondack chairs. "We have to plan a strategy on how to kayak through so many waterfowl!" Christie said, then jumped up, saying, "I've got it, the best way is to row towards the geese, because they'll move out of the way and let us through.”

Laura looked over at Christie. “Okay, if you're sure...”

“I know from experience that geese are friendlier than swans who are very short-tempered,” Christie interrupted, smiling.

With their plan in place, they walked over to unfasten their kayaks. Making their way down to the water’s edge, Laura hesitated halfway down, losing her bravery the closer she got to all those birds. “With my luck, I’ll likely tip over and become an easy target for the evil swans over there. I can see the headline now, ‘Death by Waterfowl’.”

Shaking her head at her friend’s nonsense, Christie put on her lifejacket, pushed her kayak into the clear, blue water, and climbed in. Picking up her oars, she began rowing. Looking back at Laura, she yelled.  “You coming or watching?” Trumpeting their warnings, the swans flapped their wings to intimidate her. “See, what did I tell you, short-tempered.”

"I’m c-coming!" Laura put on her life jacket, took a deep breath, and pushed her kayak into the water. As she rowed alongside Christie, trying to match her stroke for stroke, she was amazed at how the geese moved out of their way when they drew nearer.

“See, perfect gentlemen and ladies! Don’t show any fear and everything will be fine,” Christie said.

“That’s easier said than done,” Laura said when her nose began to tickle at the proximity to all the birds. She sneezed three times, making the swans trumpet their warnings. Goosebumps popped up along her arms as she stared at all the evil eyes staring back at her. It felt to her like they were ready to do her in at any moment. She brought her oars into the boat and closed her eyes, trying to block out all those nasty bird eyes.

“Are you okay?” Christie asked, rowing back alongside Laura.

"I wish t-they would just go away," Laura mumbled, her bravery stifled by the fear of being attacked at any given moment. She lifted her head, opening one eye. Just then a large swan launched from the water, flapping its massive wings, showing off its strength. Laura gasped, eyes wide, and her voice shook as she tried to voice a lame joke to make herself feel better. “I think it's challenging me to a duel, my oar against their wings."

Christie rolled her eyes and laughed. "They won't hurt us, Laura, I promise. He's just enjoying the lake by showing his pleasure.  All you have to do is just stay close to me and you'll be okay." She adjusted the tightness of her ponytail, checked the compass around her neck, and began paddling once more across the lake.

Christie's actions seemed so casual that Laura felt a little better. She gathered her courage, put her hair in a ponytail, and began rowing. She chuckled when she saw the many heads turning simultaneously to watch their kayaks pass by.

When they were through the masses of waterfowl, Laura relaxed. “You know, my Aunt Emma would love it here…” She dug out her camera from her satchel and turned back to snap some pictures.

Reaching the channel, they rowed out onto Lake Michigan where they hugged the shoreline as they took pictures of the trees with their kaleidoscope of colors. It was the perfect backdrop as Laura snapped shots of the deer and elk herds grazing near the tree line. Further up, in a small cove they found two bear cubs chasing each other up and down the trees. On the other side of the channel, they saw two moose locking horns over a female moose grazing nearby, unperturbed by the antics of the males. They turned back when nothing more of interest came into view.

They re-entered the channel where a cacophony of fowl talk greeted their ears, making Laura pause in mid-stroke, wondering what was up. Christie continued rowing until she was once more amongst the mass of birds.

"I’m hoping they're planning their trip to the warmer regions instead of sending messages to attack us," Laura called out as she caught up to Christie. “I’m trying hard not to show any fear here, but they are g-getting way too l-loud!"

“Don’t look, just keep rowing, they’ll move out of the way.” That’s when Christie spotted the old submarine on the far side of the channel. “Look, there's the USS Silversides! We’re touring it tomorrow.”

“Okay,” Laura agreed, “I’m ready for anything other than rowing through all these birds.”

Christie was just as happy to come ashore as Laura. They both jumped out, pulled their kayaks out of the water, and plopped down on the hot sand to rest. It felt so good that Christie began reminiscing about coming here as a child with her uncle. “We would sit right here, and Uncle Harry would tell me all about the forty lumber mills that shared this lake. They would saw the logs, float them down to Lake Michigan, and they were then shipped to wherever they were booked to go.”

“Hmmm,” Laura said absently, eyeballing one of the swans. “You know, these birds must know something we don’t, and I hope it isn’t about an early winter!” She stood and took more pictures.

“An early winter,” Christie sighed. “It could be. They have built-in instincts that never fail them on when to hightail it out of here.”

The next day, they drove over to the USS Silversides where they picked up extra pamphlets for their grandparents before following everyone else on board. A man walked past them towards the front and began speaking. “Welcome aboard USS Silversides! I’m Gary Walker, standing in for the regular tour guide, Jake Nelson, who’s not feeling well. So, if anyone is ever in need of a conservation officer,  I’m your man.” Everyone laughed. “Okay, ready to go below?”

“Yes!" Everyone yelled.

Gary led the way down to the navigation room where maps still lay open to plan a course. A periscope stood at the ready for the captain, or his first mate, to observe and decide whether or not to man the guns. Gary explained to them how everyone had a job to do. “The men were well trained, so when an enemy ship was spotted, everyone stood at the ready for their orders.

Laura and Chrissie followed the others down a short hallway that led to the mess hall, and the cook’s kitchen. It looked to Laura as if everything was just as they left it on their last mission. Cans were still on the shelves, while silverware and plates were still in their rightful places. It felt a little eerie as they went down another short hallway to the sleeping quarters. Once again everything looked untouched, even the captain’s cabin nearby.

Everything was self-explanatory, so Laura’s mind began to wander as she listened to Gary’s voice drone on. This guy is so cute, I wonder if he’s married. Hmm, I don’t see a ring.  When the tour ended, and Laura followed along with the rest of the crowd, she noticed that Christie was up ahead talking with an elderly lady.

On deck, Laura walked over to thank Gary for a wonderful tour and felt special when he held her hand a little longer than was necessary. Hoping she didn’t blush as the chemistry between them heated up, and not wanting to appear forward, she fell back to her usual tactic by flashing him a brilliant smile as she walked away.

Christie came running up to the car a little bit later. “Well, you sure made a good impression on our tour guide. He wants to buy us dinner, so I agreed. He’s meeting us at our café.”

Ten minutes later, Gary came over to them as they were waiting outside the café. He put his arm around Laura as they walked inside the café. Smiling to herself, Laura thought,  He’s not shy. He pulled out a chair for her to sit down and sat down next to her. The waitresses knew him and came over to their table. She advised, “Order the salmon, it’s really good.” Everyone took her advice and soon they were dining on the delicious salmon, a baked potato, and a salad on the side.

Christie talked about being a sports writer while Laura discussed her first crime story she wrote for the Detroit News. At that moment, Gary had a coughing spell, and she patted him on his back to clear whatever had gotten in his throat. He took a sip of his water and gasped out. “Crime writer, huh?”

“Yes, this has been my dream for a long time, and it’s finally coming true.”

“Ladies, both of your jobs sound interesting, but my job takes me out into the great outdoors. I love being a conservation officer and wouldn’t trade it for any other job. Now, what are you both going to do tomorrow?”

“We’re kayaking out to Devil’s Kitchen,” said Laura. “Can’t wait to see what's out there.”

Gary began coughing again and signaled for the waiter to bring him the check. “Do you want any dessert?" Gary asked, winking at Laura who blushed as she shook her head no.

Christie answered. “No, I’m full! Can’t eat another bite.”

They said their goodbyes and thanked Gary for a wonderful meal. Driving the short way back to their cabin, Laura gushed, “He’s cute! Did you see him wink at me?”

“Uh-huh, and I noticed he put his arm around you, too. You might be getting a call for a date.”

“Ooh, I would love that!" Laura gushed.

They decided to spend the rest of the afternoon playing ping pong at the recreation center. Two guys came up and challenged them to a match, making it more interesting. They were good, but Christie and Laura were champions at the game. Feeling tired but invigorated, They sat at the bar drinking Gatorade and passed the time talking about their different interests.

The next day was Halloween, and the morning air had a definite chill, so they dressed in warmer clothing.  After eating pancakes and eggs for breakfast, they felt ready to row out to Devil's Kitchen. Walking over to where their Kayaks were chained, they sat on the pier to rest. They noticed that the lake was free of waterfowl with just a few stragglers left. They got into their kayaks and rowed out to Devil's Kitchen where they found it was made up of many smaller channels and had hiking trails that led back into the hills. They stopped every so often and explored the paths that caught their interest. When Christie spotted a cave higher up on the cliff, she tried to coax Laura into exploring it.

“No way! Don’t you know, bears hibernate in them!”

Christie laughed deviously, “You know what, on our next trip, we'll be going to Mackinac Island where we can tour a cave that is also named Devil’s Kitchen. They claim it’s haunted by rumors of evil spirits existing there. Doesn’t that sound interesting?”

Laura snapped a picture of a squirrel that had his cheeks full of nuts. “Nope, count me out. I may be married to Gary by then, so you'll have to find someone else to go with.”

“Yeah right, career girl!” A brisk wind brought chills along Christie’s arms as she glanced at her watch, she yelled. “Laura… it’s getting late, we better head back. Aren’t you freezing?”

“Yeah! I'm ready to go.” Tucking her camera back in her satchel, she zipped up her jacket to her chin and walked back along the trail beside Christie to where they left their kayaks chained to a tree. They unlocked them, pushed the kayaks into the water, and got in. 

Further upstream, Christie noticed this swan giving her the eye. He was walking along the shore, keeping up with them. She pointed this out to Laura. “See that swan! He’s acting funny.”

Laura looked over at the swan, and it trumpeted a loud eerie sound that sent chills down her back. When it dived into the water towards them, she screamed. “Christie! It’s going to attack us!” When Laura’s panicked voice rang out, the swam stopped swimming and looked at her, then veered towards Christie.

Wondering what got its feathers in a bind, Christie turned her kayak around, ready to fight if it tried to attack. The swan did a strange thing and veered off towards the shore again. “Well, that’s peculiar. I wonder what he wants?”

“Well, thankfully it didn’t attack,” Laura said. “Hey, maybe it wants us to follow, let’s go see what it wants.”

“Not me, I’m freezing?” Christie shivered. “Let’s head back to the cabin. We’ll check it out tomorrow.”

When they got back to the cabin, they took a nice hot shower before walking over to their café to enjoy a warm meal. Feeling better, they sat outside the cabin to watch the sunset, taking more pictures,

I'm going inside, I can't keep my eyes open any longer," Laure said.

"I'll join you soon, I just want to stay out a little longer."

The women awoke to a warmer day and ate a quick breakfast before heading out. Climbing into their Kayaks, they paddled over to the same channel they were on last night, and the swan was waiting patiently for anyone to follow him. When it saw them, it perked up immediately.

“Do you think she sensed that we'd be coming back?” Laura waved at the swam. In answer, the swan's wing flapped back at her. “Wow! Did you see that?”

They followed the swan until it turned onto a narrow path that they didn’t notice the other day. They rowed to shore, pulled their kayaks out of the water, and chained them to a tree. Walking over to the swan, it took off down the narrow path. “I feel silly following a swan,” Christie said.

“I know, but I’m too curious to care,” Laura said.

Walking along the path, Laura noticed that most of the colorful leaves had fallen to the ground. Squirrels were busy running up and down the trees with their cheeks full of nuts. Blackbirds gathered in the treetops above them along with the Crows and Starlings. Their sounds echoed in excitement, anxious about their long trip south. Laura sensed something bad was about to happen, and a mile or so inland, they came across this small, rugged-looking, log cabin. It looked hastily built as if it was just a temporary shelter. The aura around this cabin didn't feel right, and Laura didn't want to go inside.

Christie pointed at the front door standing ajar. “Now the question comes to mind, do we want to see what’s waiting inside?”

The swan brushed past them as if impatient with their lollygagging. Christie decided to follow, and when she stepped inside, the first thing she noticed was an overturned table with bits of broken glass strewn everywhere, a cell phone lay smashed to smithereens nearby, and a desk chair was overturned along with a broken desk lamp. Papers littered the floor with red spots splattered on them.

“Holy cow! What happened here?” Laura said as she entered the cabin.

“It looks like a struggle happened here. I think that's blood splattered on those papers?" Christie wondered what went down here.

The swan brushed past the girl’s legs once more to walk down a hallway that led to another room. When nobody followed her, she came back out and waited.  Sighing, Laura said, “She wants us to look inside that room.” 

“Well then, let’s go find out what she wants us to see,” Christie continued down the hallway towards the room with Laura clinging to her like glue.

Glancing inside, they saw a man, wrapped in a white sheet, lying on the bed. Gagging at the sight of blood seeping through the white sheet, Laura thought seeing two bodies so close together felt too much for her. “Is that a blood stain spreading or is it my imagination?” 

“It’s not spreading anymore, Laura, and I do know this man didn’t commit suicide. Who did this is the question?”

“Whoever did this thought he was pretty safe, that nobody would find the body right away. We need to get out of here and call 911.”

Christie nodded and with Laura ahead this time, they ran out of the cabin. Laura let out a shaky breath and punched 911 on her cellphone and told what they discovered. When all the information was passed along, she hung up. “They know about this cabin, which made it easier to give directions. They asked how we found it, and I wasn't about to tell them a swan showed us the way. I just told them we were out hiking.” She looked down at their new little friend and felt compassion for it. “What horrible things did you see, Missy Swan?”

It didn’t take long before the police were crawling all over the place, looking for evidence. They grilled Laura first, then it was Christie’s turn. They each showed them how they entered the cabin and where they found the body. Both girls' stories matched, so they were free to go. They walked back down the path to their kayaks along with the swan who stayed close by Laura. A Conservation Officer was talking on the phone as they walked up, his back turned toward them.

When he completed his call and turned around, Laura squealed in delight. She immediately asked him about the swan, “Hi Gary! I was wondering, do you think it would be alright if I took this lovely swan over to my aunt’s farm? I guess she missed out on the flight going South.”

“Well, well, hello!” Gary smiled back at her. “I don’t see any problem with that, Laura.” He bent down to pet the swan on the head, but it let out a loud hiss, backing away from him."

Laura watched Gary’s facial expression as the swan backed away. Was that dislike? It couldn’t be, he’s a conservation officer, for Pete’s sake! She signaled to Christie that it was time to leave.

Getting the hint, Christie pushed both kayaks into the water and got into hers. Laura said goodbye to Gary. and turned to climb into her kayak. When she caught up to Christie, they both turned to wave goodbye. As they oared away from the murder scene, the swan swam alongside Laura’s kayak.

Reaching the park, they chained their kayaks and headed back to their cabin. Inside, Laura paced the floor, wondering if she should call Lou. She punched in his number, and Lou answered on the third ring. Laura told him about what they found.

"Stay on it, try to get the story, but don’t get in the way of the police investigation,” Lou advised. Laura agreed and hung up.

The next day Christie and Laura rowed out to the area where it all went down. When they didn’t see anybody around, they decided to take a quick peek around the cabin. The swan stayed close by Laura’s side as if she wanted to protect her. She seemed sadder and a little more reserved. They walked over to the cabin where all the police tape was.

“We can’t go any nearer, it’s against the law,” Christie warned.

Laura didn’t pay any attention and slipped underneath the tape and headed towards the back door. The swan followed close at her heels. She turned the knob, but it slipped through her fingers as someone came rushing out, knocking Laura over. He was carrying a sack and looked surprised to see her. The swan went on the attack this time. “Stop that, you stupid bird! The man kicked at it, but the swan wouldn’t give up.

“What are you doing here, Gary?” Laura asked.

Without answering, Gary pulled out his gun and pointed it at the swan. Laura screamed. Before she could do anything more, Christie came out the open doorway with a baseball bat over her head, snuck up behind Gary, and brought it down hard on his head.

“Is he unconscious?”

Laura bent down to check and nodded her head. Taking out her phone, “I’m calling the police before he wakes up.”

“Oh, how I would love to check out what’s in that sack, but it’s police evidence,” Christie sighed.

The police arrived in record time and took note of the situation. They advised the girls of their rights and told them they shouldn’t have intruded on an ongoing police investigation. The officers went over to check on Gary, and took pictures of the suspect leaving the scene of a crime; Gary was handcuffed while citing his Miranda rights. When finished, the lead investigator walked over to Laura and Christie. “You both caught Gary red-handed coming out of the cabin with the evidence. You’re free to go.”

"Thank you!" Laura asked for permission to stay, telling them she was a crime reporter. "Lou, my boss, wants me to do a story on the crime."

"That's not allowed, sorry." The officer turned, ready to go back into the cabin.

"Why? How bad it would look and maybe a cover-up if Laura put this in her story. I think it would be better if you let Laura do her story." 'Christie stared at the office while giving him her best smile. 

"Okay, you may do your story." Laura and Christie followed the officer inside the cabin. "What have we here?" He opened the sack and found that it was a stack of tapes all neatly dated. He put the first tape into the recorder, which didn't get smashed, and it showed Gary buying drugs from a known cartel in the area. On the second tape, Gary was seen selling drugs to some unknown person. Laura knew that person wouldn’t be unknown for long and wondered why Gary did this crime; he sounded as if he loved his job and now this. As the detective went through the tapes, Gary was seen on each of them, and Laura knew there was no way he was going to get out of this one.

They walked out of the cabin and watched as the officers finished identifying all the evidence that they found. She felt sorry for Gary who, at the moment, was glaring at Christie.

“I don’t think he likes me.” Christie began walking towards their kayaks.

“Well, you did hit him hard with that bat.” Laura glanced back at Gary who looked defeated. She turned and followed  Christie while the swan plodded along next to her.

The next day they found out the murdered man’s name, Frank Knapp. He was an undercover agent from Detroit who was investigating the drug crime rising in the state. Why Gary wrapped him up like a mummy was still unknown. Lou called and gave Laura an added week to gain all the information she could. He told her he knew Frank and that he wanted to be called if anything new happened. Laura agreed and hung up.

“Gary must have found out somehow that he was being investigated by Frank. I’m sure my little swan here knows something…” Laura looked down at the swan who looked sadly up at her, "How am I going to write you into this story? You need some recognition for what you did for your good buddy Frank. Huh? You know, I’m going to name you, Lulu. You look like a Lulu. Do you like that name?" The swam trumpeted her okay and from then on the girls referred to her as Lulu.

“I wonder how long Frank lived out there in that cabin?”

“Long enough to make a good friend with Lulu, which couldn’t have been easy,” Laura laughed.

A couple of days later, Gary confessed to killing Frank. He claimed it was in self-defense. “All I wanted was to steal those tapes, but Frank caught me and we fought… I didn’t mean to shoot him! We met when he asked me if he could take care of this swan he found with its wing broken. I told him, sure and we became friends after that. I felt so sorry for what I did that I wrapped Frank up in a sheet mummy-like and said a prayer over his body.”

When Lou heard about the confession, he called the police and told them about his friendship with Frank and that he would be most grateful if Laura got the information firsthand, so she could get the story out as soon as possible. The police gave copies of their reports to Laura who began studying them. When all the pieces of the story came together, Laura wrote her story. She made up her mind to include Lulu’s part on how she got Christie and her over to the cabin. Lulu did a wonderful thing for her master and she needed to be recognized for it. This was, after all, the final chapter of her master’s life.

When everyone in the community read the story, Lulu became the talk of the small town, a phenomenon. Some people even debated the phenomenon that Frank’s spirit went into the swan. Who knows, but Laura wanted to think it happened that way.

With her second crime story under her belt, Laura wanted to celebrate. The three of them walked over to the café and had a table brought outside so Lulu could join them. She had sushi while the girls ordered a lobster plate. Sitting outside, it was a most enjoyable evening with the people coming over to talk to them while they petted the swan. Lulu loved all the attention and preened for the people. 

The next day, they were ready to go home. They found a fairly large cage that they placed on the back seat. Talking gently to Lulu, Laura explained that she didn’t have to stay in there for long and placed her into the cage. “Just wait, you’ll love Aunt Emma. She’ll take good care of you.”

They reached the farm forty-five minutes later and when they stopped, Lulu trumpeted her relief. Aunt Emma greeted them and when spotting the beautiful swan, she cooed over her, “Well, look at you, aren’t you a pretty one.”

The swan flew out of the cage to greet her, trumpeting her ‘hello’. “My-O-My, you know how to greet an old lady.” Aunt Emma laughed. When Lulu spotted the pond, she half flew, half walked over to take a swim.

Aunt Emma served coffee cake and coffee out on a screened-in porch, so they could watch Lulu enjoy her swim. Sitting in the familiar willow chairs, Laura wanted to stay and watch Lulu swim forever. She reached into her satchel and brought out the waterfowl pictures. “Here Aunt Emma, keep them for your enjoyment because they’re embedded in my memory forever.”

Christie laughed and told Aunt Emma some of Laura’s comments when they kayaked through them. This made Aunt Emma remember Laura as a young girl, “She never liked my geese, ducks, or chickens either, especially that mean ole rooster that kept chasing her.”

When it was time to go, Laura hugged her aunt goodbye. “I’ll come to visit often, I promise.” She walked over to the pond to say goodbye to Lulu who flew out of the water, making them wet in her haste to meet them. They laughed, hugging the wet swan, showing their love for this brave little creature.

When they were back in the car again, Laura looked over at Christie and exclaimed, “ That was some Halloween vacation you planned!”

Christie smiled, “Are you up for another one next year?”

“Maybe, just depends on what our futures will bring. Right now, I’m dreaming of a tall, dark stranger who will come into my life.  I hope I have better luck next time. Who would have thought Gary to be a murderer?”

"Men!" Christie emphasized. "You want a tall, dark stranger, I want a tall, blond sports writer like me."

"To whoever comes our way, let it be, let it be." Laura sang the Beatles song.

6,319 words

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