The Snow Dogs of Lost Lake
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by Dorothy Bodoin
Description: Navigating country roads in an ice storm can be hazardous, especially when deer or collies dash into the path of oncoming cars. Jennet Greenway's search for the body of the dog she thinks she hits leads to the discovery of a human body and a mystery that promises to be the most dangerous one yet.
eBook Publisher: Wings ePress, Inc., 2006 2006
eBookwise Release Date: December 2006
12 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [368 KB]
Reading time: 227-318 min.
I stepped outside into a soundless world devoid of color. The abrupt transition from Christmas cheer to bleak November caught me off guard. Dull gray clouds moved listlessly across a drab sky, and flurries danced in the air. The fog seemed close enough to touch, floating in gauzy horizontal streaks above the ground.
At this time of year, darkness arrived early in Foxglove Corners. I had an hour of daylight left, perhaps less. As I cleared the snow from my rear window, I decided to return to the lake for one last search while visibility was still good. Then I'd go home without stopping for dinner at a backwoods restaurant. I had some of Camille's chicken soup left and most of the coffeecake. Tomorrow, if I didn't learn anything new at the antique shop, I could look for another store on Deer Leap Trail.
While the heater warmed the car, I turned on my tape player. A medley of Spanish carols and the rhythmic swish of windshield wipers accompanied me back to the lake. For the first time, I wondered how Lost Lake acquired its name. It was clearly visible from the road. Maybe, in the past, the woods had been thicker, hiding the silver sheen of water that lay beyond them. But then, wouldn't Hidden Lake or Secret Lake be more appropriate?
Crane might know. Crane ... I recalled his warning about loitering on isolated roads. He frequently spoke of a variety of calamities just waiting to overtake me. Often, in the past, he'd been right. Today, I was in a chance-taking mood, and I hadn't seen another vehicle since leaving Past Perfect. I checked in my rear view mirror. I didn't see one now. Besides, I intended to search only a tiny section of the countryside and be on my way. What could happen?
When I reached Lost Lake, I parked alongside a stand of blue spruces and surveyed the area from inside the car. I recognized the broken sapling that had ended my skid last night. This was where I'd stopped, although fresh snow covered the tire tracks. A giant boulder lay at the road's edge. Could I have hit a rock and mistaken it for a dog?
Not likely. Still, I didn't remember. That was the problem. I never saw the dog go down under the wheels of my car.
Leaving the engine running and the lights on, I pulled my hood forward over my head and made my way down to the lake, looking for some sign of an animal buried under the snow. Only deer tracks and a trail of crisscrossing prints marred the smooth, pristine landscape. It appeared as if Crane and I were the only humans ever to venture this way.
Wisps of fog hung low over the lake, like earthbound clouds. Shivering in the damp and cold, I stood at the water's edge, ankle deep in slush, noticing details that had eluded me yesterday. Actually, this was a large pond, and the trees that grew around it were weeping willows dripping their long brown fronds over the icy surface.
I could see clear through to the other side where willows rose in a dark, billowing curve on the farther shore. In the summer, this would be a lovely spot for a picnic. Even now it was tranquil and picturesque--and lonely. Almost haunted.
Enough melodrama, I though. Halloween is over. If the place seems haunted, it's because of what happened here. What you think happened here.
And if this seems to be a place of tears, it's because weeping willows are earth's saddest trees.
The beginning of the last Spanish selection in the old world carol set reminded me that I intended to make this a short search. I was about to retrace my steps and check the woods across the road when two white collies emerged from the mist. Like pieces of fog transformed into graceful shapes, they chased each other silently around a fallen limb that lay half on the ground and half on the lake.
The ice couldn't be thick enough to support the weight of large animals. It was only November. Expecting to hear an ominous crack and canine yelps of fright at any moment, I moved as close to the shore as I dared. This time, I had to be certain. Definitely, the animals running on Lost Lake were white collies, but there were only two of them. Did that mean ... "
No ... Another collie appeared from around a massive willow trunk and gaited across the ice to join his companions. I hadn't killed a dog after all!
In the next instant, a wave of fog rolled over the lake, hiding the trio from my view. I took a few more steps into the slush, wishing for the images to come back.
My eyes began to burn from the cold. Absently I rubbed them. Where had the dogs gone? All I saw was the lake, still and silent, with weeping willows etched against the clouds. Only fog moved on the water. The trees looked so lost and forlorn that I felt like crying.
That must be how Lost Lake got its name--when grief overcame a solitary watcher on the shore.
No animals ran on the lake now. Were they somewhere behind the fog? Or had they never been there at all?
I knew that answer. My vision was better than average, and I was alone standing at the edge of Lost Lake imagining animal forms. I wanted so desperately to see the three white collies again that my mind had created them.
The voices of the choral seemed to be stuck on one refrain: "Il est Ne". He is born.
It was time to move on, make a last foray into the woods on the northern side, and go home. I turned away wishing I could cast off the heavy mood that had seized me.
There was another possibility. I might be alone now, but I had seen the dogs. I was almost certain of that. The thought stayed with me as I crossed the road. Just like I saw them yesterday. Three white collies in front of my car...
Then there were none.