Then one catastrophe follows another: the mysterious disappearance of the Pine Slopes' master chef, a malicious prank at the sports center, a break-in at the Fairchild condo, the sabotage of a chairlift. And when a fatal "accident" with the snow-making machines stains the slopes blood red, Faith realizes she'll have to work fast to solve a murderous puzzle because suddenly not only are the reunion and the beloved resort's future in jeopardy . . . but Faith's life is as well.
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The Body in the SnowdriftA Faith Fairchild Mystery
By Katherine Page
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Katherine Page
All right reserved.
The curtains at the window didn't quite meet in the middle, and a sliver of gray winter dawn cut across the bedclothes like a dull kitchen knife. Boyd crept out of bed, groping for his slippers as his feet touched the cold floor. At the door, he stopped and fondly looked back at the motionless figure under the bedclothes, aware that he was alone in his belief that the early hours of each day were the most precious. He closed the door to the adjoining bath noiselessly, turned on the ceiling heat lamps to take the chill off, and dressed quickly. He'd laid his clothes out the night before, even his parka. Holding his boots in one hand, he went back into the bedroom and then out into the hallway. The bedclothes hadn't stirred, but the shaft piercing them was brighter. It was time to go.
In the kitchen, he put on his boots, fed the cats, and stuffed some Clif Bars, an apple, and a bottle of water into his fanny pack. He'd eat breakfast on the trail. His skis and poles were in the mudroom, where he'd left them the previous day. Reaching for the rest of his gear from one of the shelves, he noticed a pair of boots that had been kicked off and left sprawled next to a heap of outerwear. The untidymess was crowned by one of those Polartec court-jester hats in Day-Glo orange and blue. So, the guest room was occupied. He was tempted to pitch the stuff into the snow.
Instead, he grabbed his things, pulled the door open, and stepped outside. The cold air almost took his breath away. His annoyance vanished into the clouds of vapor from his breath. Hastily, he pulled his neck gaiter up, knowing that as soon as he got moving, he'd be peeling it off.
It was quiet. Too cold for birds. No sound except the steady schuss of his skis as he made his way through the woods, heading toward the resort. He moved effortlessly, rhythmically poling, side to side, a graceful Nordic dance. He passed the base lodge. The lifts didn't open until 9:00 a.m., and not even the ski patrol was up at this hour. He glanced toward the employee parking lot. Pete, the head of maintenance, was pulling in. It was a toss-up as to whether his truck outdated him or the other way around. He'd managed to keep the ski resort going since the1960s with, as he put it, "mostly baling wire and duct tape, plus the odd piece of chewing gum." Boyd was tempted to stop for a chat, but the mountain beckoned, so he continued on his way, climbing high up into the backcountry.
They'd had about ten inches of much-needed new snow overnight, and he soon paused for some water, stripping off his gaiter. He'd reach the groomed Nordic trails soon. This shortcut was his secret, and even though it meant striking a trail through the powder, he wouldn't skip it for the world. The sun was rising higher in the sky. Soon it would be one of those picture-perfect Vermont snow-scene days -- the sky so blue that it looked dyed like an Easter egg and, beneath it, Christmas trees dusted with frosting. No holiday could compete with the everyday sights on the mountain as far as Boyd was concerned. He'd been skiing here all his life, even before it was a resort. He and his father would ski up the mountain, pushing themselves to the limit; then there would be that long, mad, glorious run down. In some museum in Norway, he'd heard, there was a pair of skis over four thousand years old. What he and Dad had used seemed just as ancient, Boyd realized, looking down at the new Fischers he'd treated himself to in December. But what held true for those early Norsemen, and their descendants everywhere, was their addiction to the sport. Speed, endurance. It was a kick. Endorphins, adrenaline, call it what you will.
Boyd liked to ski fast, straight up or straight down. It didn't matter. That was the beauty of it. All you needed was snow. No chairlifts. No technology, unless you counted the skis, Salomon boots, carbon-fiber poles, Swix waxes, even clothing. He laughed to himself. He was wearing Craft underwear -- the self-proclaimed "Apple computer of underwear" -- made of some kind of miracle fiber.
Global warming was shrinking winter, and these last few years, he'd hungered for skiing to the point of taking summer vacations in New Zealand and Australia, trying to sustain the feeling, sustain the pace.
Last March, he'd gone to Norway to ski in the Birkebeiner, a fiftyeight- kilometer race from Rena to Lillehammer. He'd wanted to do it for years, attracted as much by the story behind it as the event itself. During a period of civil unrest in Norway in the thirteenth century, the Birkebeiners, the "birch leggers," were the underdogs and so poorly equipped that they used the bark from birch trees for boots. To keep Haakon Haakonsson, the tiny heir of the dying king, safe from the rival faction, the Baglers, two Birkebeiners took him far across the mountains to safety. It was a perilous journey to make in the winter, freezing cold, but the skiers, with the boy strapped to one of their backs, made it. He grew up to become King Haakon and defeated the Baglers, bringing the country to new heights of glory. During the annual race to commemorate the event, each skier carryied an eight-pound pack to simulate the little prince. Boyd had thought he would be the oldest, but he found many far older -- and in better shape -- among the nine thousand entrants. It had been one of the happiest days of his life. The route was lined with cheering crowds; the skiers constituted a community unlike any other he had experienced. In Norway, skiing was as natural as breathing -- and started almost at the same time. He'd go back next year.
Excerpted from The Body in the Snowdrift by Katherine Page Copyright © 2006 by Katherine Page. Excerpted by permission.
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