The killing still haunted Mason. That fatal evening on the lake, caught in the storm. He was lucky to be alive. Everyone said it was an accident, but Mason knew better.
Pausing outside, he eyed the large, gray house set on the shore of Lake Washington. It was a dreary, wet evening. His instructions were to enter the house from the side entrance which would be open. This was Mara’s house, the Winsted Lake House. Delores, Mara’s step-mother, had sent a note that there was news, a development in Mara’s death that might help them find resolution.
Mason went up the side steps and into the kitchen. He called out, but there was no response. Delores said she had turned her ankle and that she would be in the living room. Mason paused, feeling uneasy in the silent, old house which creaked in the wind.
He recalled the sailing accident, the sudden storm, the unexpected leak with the small Comet filling rapidly, and then tipping as the storm hit the lake. He and Mara struggled in the icy water, his wife slipping out of her life jacket. Mason tried to hold her, but Mara slipped away in the choppy water. Her face was pale, her dark eyes fearful, accusing, and then glazed. She sank like a stone.
Mason’s eyes watered, as he thought about his dead wife and their sailing. She had been his faithful sailing partner, his “jib-mate” Mara used to laugh. Mason ached when he thought of her. Such a loss.
Hearing a noise in the house, Mason shook off the haunting memories. He went through the dining room to the spacious living room. Delores’s chair by the fireplace was empty. Feeling annoyed, he hesitated. His intuition told him to leave, but Delores’s hint that someone had sabotaged the sailboat tugged. What did Delores know, or suspect?
A hiker with a dog had spotted him struggling in the water and alerted authorities. Delores was supposed to keep an eye on them, but she had unexpected guests and lost track of the small boat, or so Delores said.
Mason went into the hall and looked up the wide staircase. Mara’s father Ralph had tumbled down these stairs and broken his neck five years previously, leaving Delores the doyenne of the wealthy family. Outside,the distant rumble of thunder. Cocking his head, Mason listened, hearing muffled voices upstairs. He called again and then slowly started up. Delores should be in the house along with her two step-children, Ron and Avery. The servants were gone for the day.
Perhaps they were all upstairs in the game room, which overlooked the water. Mason reached the top of the stairs and listened. But all was quiet. He turned right and padded down the hall, stopping at the game-room door and knocking. He opened the door and peeked in. There on the couch he saw Ron and Avery with their heads back, their mouths open, blood trickling down the front of their faces, a bullet hole in their foreheads.
Mason felt the hairs at the nape of his neck stand up. He stiffened as the wind blew and a branch scraped the side of the house. He reached for his phone, but remembered it was in the car. He went out into the hall and again heard a low murmuring. He paused at the master bedroom, where Delores slept. He listened at the door and heard an indistinct voice. Perhaps it was Delores. His thought was to retreat, but instead he slowly turned the knob and pushed open the door.
Delores was lying on the bed, propped up with pillows and she smiled as Mason entered the room. His eyes went hard as she tugged a sawed-off shotgun from under the sheet and pointed it at him.
“I want it all.” Delores said tartly.
Mason gaped, and then felt a shove that threw him to his right. Then a blast and stinging in his left shoulder. A rapid pop, pop of an automatic.
When Mason awoke he was lying on the downstairs couch with a paramedic bandaging his left shoulder. A man hovered behind dressed in a sports coat with a police badge hanging around his neck. He introduced himself as Detective Haynes, saying how lucky Mason was the police team got there in time.
The detective had shoved Mason out of the line of fire and shot Delores who had fired at them. Apparently, Delores had killed her two step-children and had planned to shoot Mason, and then she would put a revolver in Mason’s hand. It would appear as if Mason had broken in and killed the step-children then gone to kill her. Delores would plead she had killed Mason in self defense.
“Now you are all that is left of this star-crossed family.” Haynes concluded.
“But why did you come? How did you know?” Mason asked.
The detective explained he got a call from a young woman who said there were killings underway at the old house. He and a team had arrived as Mason went into the bedroom.
“But who called you?” Mason asked Haynes.
“The caller said she was a friend of yours. That you and she used to sail together, that she was your jib mate.”
At that moment the paramedics brought down a body bag. The detective told Manson it was Delores Winsted and he nodded solemnly toward the procession. Mason slowly rose and noticed that Haynes came to attention, tilting his head in respect.
Haynes was right, he was the only one left in the wealthy family. Mason bowed his head…and smiled.
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