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       Moon Signs, p.33

           Helen Haught Fanick

  We left the ski area at five. I suggested on the way home that we take Ivy to dinner at the lodge before going to the torchlight event. Since Andrea had mentioned to me earlier in the week that the sheriff might want to ski with her on Sunday, this might be our best chance for a nice dinner in the Hickory Room. And Ivy had done a lot for us, what with the coffee and rolls in the morning and the soup and sandwiches on the night we were marooned on the lift, and also on the night we were snowed in.

  Andrea agreed with me. “I think that’s a good idea, if Asbury’s available to work at the reception desk. I’ve learned to like Ivy a lot since she got over the antagonism she felt toward us at first.”

  “Me, too. It was really kind of touching, the way she was so upset because we might think Asbury had murdered Olga.” I couldn’t help laughing. “She’s obviously mad about Asbury. Must be a match made in heaven.”

  Andrea laughed, too. “There’s no accounting for taste, as somebody-or-other once said. Actually, Asbury is looking pretty spiffy lately, now that he has a wife to look after him. She must have seen him as a diamond in the rough. He’s wearing those nice flannel shirts, great-looking jeans, and new work boots. He’s never had it so good.”

  “I hope everything works out for them. It’s great that you got David involved in skiing. It’s made a big change in his life, and I’m sure that makes life easier for Ivy and Asbury.” In spite of our growing feelings toward the little family, I couldn’t keep some doubt from creeping into my mind. As we parked at the Alpenhof, I said a little prayer that no one in the family was guilty of murder.

  Asbury was behind the desk. When we asked about Ivy, he told us she was upstairs cleaning Stefan’s room. This news jolted me back to thinking about the Monets. Murder or Monets, I couldn’t seem to keep both in mind at the same time. I almost dreaded checking out our last chance for finding the paintings.

  Andrea looked at me. “Shall we go upstairs and talk to Ivy? We can check out the paintings in Stefan’s room at the same time.”

  “Let’s go,” I said, revving up my courage to tackle this one last room.

  Ivy was just finishing up when we went into Stefan’s room. “Could you get away for the evening?” Andrea asked. “We’d like to take you to supper, and then you could go see the torchlight skiing with us.”

  Ivy looked for just a moment as if she might cry. Then she found her voice. “I’d be honored to go with you. But I want to pay my own way. I can’t let you pay for me.”

  “We absolutely insist,” I said. “You’ve done so much for us here, and we want to show our appreciation.”

  “It’s nothing, really, but if you insist. I’ll ask Asbury to watch the desk. I’d really like to see David ski down that mountain. No one in my family has ever done anything like that.”

  The sheriff had insisted that David be as far from Stefan as possible, in case of trouble. Actually, Stefan and Maggie had already planned to put him near the front of the procession. “Maggie will be the first one down, and David will be right behind her.”

  “Be sure to wear your warmest clothes, and especially your warmest socks and boots. It’s going to be cold out there. We’re going to eat at the Hickory Room, and I’m not sure what the dress code is there on a Saturday night, but I imagine they’re used to a lot of heavy winter gear this time of year. It’s been pretty casual when we’ve been there during the week, and I doubt tonight will be any different.”

  Andrea looked at the two paintings on the wall opposite the windows. “While we’re here we’re going to check out the paintings. This will be our last opportunity to find the pictures our grandparents bought in Europe. We’ve checked all the other rooms.”

  Ivy had quite a smile on her face. “Help yourselves. I’m going downstairs and give Asbury his orders, and then I’ll get ready. Just lock the room when you’re through. What time do you want to leave?”

  “Why don’t we plan on six-thirty?” I said. “That’ll give us plenty of time for a leisurely dinner. We don’t want to be standing around at the ski area too long, or our feet will start getting cold.”

  “That’s fine,” Andrea said. She already had her Leatherman out and was taking the cardboard off the back of a painting. Ivy said she’d meet us in the lobby at six-thirty and went on downstairs.

  I couldn’t remember exactly what the frames in the other rooms looked like, but I was almost sure these were different. I realized I was holding my breath, and I wondered how many times this had happened since we arrived at the Alpenhof. As many as there are rooms here, I thought. I crossed my fingers. “Is there . . .”

  “Yes, there is something here under the black bear picture.” Andrea pulled it out.

  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. “My God! It is a water lily painting.” I felt as if I were suffocating.

  “Let me hold it under the light.”

  “Is there a signature?” I was barely able to whisper the words.

  Andrea sighed. “Yes, there’s a signature. It looks like Kurt Schreckendorf.”

  “Oh!” I couldn’t say anything more. I was fighting down an urge to laugh and cry at the same time, fighting it down because Andrea would never be able to put up with hysterics.

  Andrea was putting the picture back together, minus the water lily painting. She went right on to the second one. I can always count on Andrea to get on with business, no matter what pitfalls we encounter. The second picture turned out to be a slightly different water lily painting, also signed by Kurt Schreckendorf. The paintings were watercolors with old, discolored and stained mats around them.

  Andrea gave a helpless little laugh. “Well, at least we found them, and the mystery’s solved. Stefan said he wanted us to have them if we found them. You take one and I’ll take the other. We’ll get them cleaned up with new mats and have them framed. They’ll be a memento from our grandparents, and also a significant souvenir of our trip.”

  I finally managed a laugh, too. Not a hysterical one, but the helpless kind that tells the world you’ve done all you can, and it’s better to laugh than to cry. Then I said, “You’ll have to check out Kurt Schreckendorf on the Internet and see what kind of fortune they’re worth. They really are lovely paintings.”

  Andrea was putting the second black bear picture back together. “I’ll check him out. Something tells me he’s an unknown, but there’s a date by his name—1903. They probably have some antique value, but of course this is the kind of thing that needs to stay in the family. We’ll pass them on to Maggie some day.”

  “Of course.”

  Oh well, I wondered, what would I have done with all that money if the paintings had been Monets? My life was complete as it was; I had everything I needed, plus a little left over for travel, which I didn’t want to do often. I’d have to ask myself when I had a little time to contemplate the situation just why I’d been so excited at the thought of finding paintings worth millions. We went carefully down the stairs, both gripping a painting in one hand and the handrail in the other.
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