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Cat Playing Cupid
The newspaper clipping was yellowed and tearing at the folds, though it had been handled carefully over the years by the detectives who worked the case or who, during the preceding decade, had taken a fresh look at the cold file, reading the missing report on Carson Chappell, and making additional inquiries. Unable to come up with any new leads, each had committed the folder once again to limbo among the department's unresolved cases.
Bridegroom vanishes before wedding
Local resident Carson Chappell, senior partner of the accounting firm of Chappell & Gibbs, did not appear for his wedding on Sunday afternoon at Community Church and has not been heard from for nearly a week. His fiancée, Lindsey Wolf, also of Molena Point, told reporters she last saw Chappell five days earlier, when he set out alone on a camping trip into state park land east of the village . . .
The file contained a dozen such articles clipped from central California papers, as well as the detective's original interview with the would-be bride, his case notes, random notes by the various officers who had later studied the case, and several human-interest pieces published over the intervening years. The fact that a well-known accountant and financial adviser had disappeared, and that any prospective bridegroom would go off camping, alone, a week before his wedding, certainly provided reporters with ample questions around which to weave a story.
The most recent clipping in the file, however, did not mention Carson Chappell. It was dated just this previous week, ten years after Chappell's disappearance,and had been cut from the San Francisco Chronicle. This was the article that currently interested Detective Dallas Garza as he sat at his desk talking on the phone with Lindsey Wolf, the clipping lying on the desk before him:
Remains of hiker found in seaside tree house
The skeleton of a man was discovered last evening in a makeshift tree house shelter on the central Oregon coast by a group of Boy Scouts on a weekend camping trip. The victim had apparently died from gunshot wounds, and two bullets were recovered by sheriff's deputies. The heavily wooded acreage is on private land and is a new campsite for the Scouts' yearly outings. The body had been disturbed by small animals and possibly a bobcat, but enough of the bones remain for possible identification. Neither the Oregon Bureau of Investigation, Oregon sheriffs' departments, nor Oregon police have outstanding missing reports of hikers in that area. "All past missing cases have been resolved," said OBI agent Henley Mills when interviewed at the scene.
This three-pronged congruence of players and events...the sudden availability of someone to work the department's cold files, the discovery of this body though it was not likely related, and the phone call from Lindsey Wolf...held Garza's interest. He sat staring at the article as he spoke with Lindsey; she had faxed it to him just a few moments earlier, and then had followed up with the call.
He knew Lindsey casually, she had dated his brother-in-law several years back, starting some months after Chappell disappeared. That was nearly nine years ago. Now, Dallas wondered if he'd been smart to include her file among the cold cases he'd given Mike to work, wondered if it was wise to stir up that old and painful relationship.
But Mike had seemed okay with it, as if he was completely over Lindsey...and Dallas wondered, for a moment, amused at himself, if he hesitated to put Mike on the case because of his own sudden surge of interest. Lindsey Wolf was the kind of woman who too easily stirred a man's blood, a tall, lovely, creamy-skinned woman in her forties, quiet and self-assured.
He'd already seen the article she'd sent him, he had read it over breakfast a couple of hours before her fax arrived. Now, when he'd asked Lindsey on the phone if she had information on the Oregon body, she'd said, "Not information, no. But I have questions, Detective Garza. Are you familiar with the disappearance of Carson Chappell some ten years ago?"
"I know the case. I wasn't with the department then, but I've read the cold file."
"I'm on my way up to the city on business...I'm an accountant, as you may remember. I worked for Carson until just before he . . . Before our planned wedding. We're into tax season now, and I can't put that off. I'd like to call you as soon as I return, make an appointment to come in. I have no information on the dead man in Oregon. But I think . . . I have such a strong feeling that that body in Oregon could be Carson. I can't get past that idea. I know that seems far-fetched and unlikely, when he was supposed to be up on the state park land, here. That's what he told me, but . . ." She paused, her voice breaking. Then, "I need to talk with you about it, I need to talk with someone."
"Call me when you get back," Dallas said. "You can try me on the weekend if you like, but I may be hard to reach."
"Your niece is getting married this weekend?"
"She is," Dallas said, knowing there had been no announcement in the paper. "I guess you've talked with Ryan?" Ryan and Clyde, wanting a low-key wedding without a lot of village interest, had given no notice to the local paper; they meant to send in a brief mention when they returned from their honeymoon.
"It's a small village," Lindsey said easily. "I think I heard the news at Jolly's Deli. Isn't he doing the catering?"
"I believe he is," Dallas said. "Call me when you get back, I'd like to hear your thoughts on the Oregon case."
Hanging up, he sat quietly, his square face and dark eyes solemn, wondering exactly how Lindsey Wolf had felt when Chappell didn't show for the wedding. Angry. Cheated. Mad enough to . . . What? Then his thoughts turned to his niece's wedding, and he smiled. That would be a far different matter; there was no chance that Ryan or Clyde would back out.Cat Playing Cupid
. Copyright © by Shirley Murphy. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.