Part Three

They fished the entire morning.  The salmon were biting, and they each had a string of them when they returned to the cabin for lunch.  They cleaned the fish and put them in the freezer, then washed up and got ready to eat.  Ansel put the scalloped potatoes and ham in the oven, then they gathered around the charcoal grill to cook a few of their catch.

Radley had brought cedar planks with him. 

“It’s a pretty day,” Thane said.  “We should eat outside at the picnic table.”

Ansel shook his head.  “I don’t want to look over at the yellow crime scene tape.  It makes me think of Cassandra.”

“I don’t want to see it either,” Jerod said.  “I’d rather eat inside.”

The salmon turned out flaky and tasty.  The potatoes added needed starch, and they downed their meal with beer.  They were feeling pretty satisfied when they returned to the river.

The salmon were still running.  When Ansel caught his fourth one in a row, he turned to Jerod.  “You fish at your mom and dad’s lake cottage every summer, too, don’t you?  How much fish do you eat?”

“Usually twice a week.  Once salmon, once some kind of lake fish—blue gill, perch, or walleye.”

“You should be healthy,” Radley said.  “Since I married Elspeth, she’s big on lean meat and lots of vegetables.”

Jerod snorted.  “And then she makes you a dessert every day?”

Radley chuckled.  He had his brother’s coloring—Ansel’s white-blond hair and sky-blue eyes.  Norwegian.  “She does love to bake.”

“How’s the bakery going with Fazal?” Walker asked.

“They’ve been busy since they opened.  Fazal bakes a lot of the breads for restaurants in town and bread sticks for pizza parlors.  He does some specialty desserts, but Elspeth makes all the cakes and pies, brownies and things like that.”

“Cookies?”  Jerod loved cookies of any kind.

Radley nodded.  “Lots of them.  They sell out fast.”

“We sure love the desserts she makes for the Sunday meals,” Thane said.

Radley gave a happy smile, proud of his wife.  “I love fish, but Elspeth’s not as sold on it.  She smears tartar sauce all over it so she can eat it.  I’m going to have to find some salmon recipes she likes.”

“Jazzi has a bunch of them.”  A fish tugged at the end of Ansel’s line, and he gave it a yank.  “I’ll ask her to copy some for you.”

They caught their limit of salmon, then left the river early and went through the ritual of cleaning and scaling, then freezing.  Ansel stared at his stash.  “We can each keep fivc salmon a day plus some for eating while we’re here.  We’re going to have enough to last a long time.”

“That’s the point,” Jerod told him.  “You won’t run out.”

“That’s great and all,” Walker said, “but I don’t want to see another salmon today.  I vote we go back to the bar for sandwiches tonight.”

“I’ll second that.”  Radley jammed his catch in the freezer and made a face.  “I’ve seen all the salmon I want today.”

They loaded into Jerod’s truck and headed to the bar.  The parking lot had more vehicles than the last time they came. 

“Saturday night,” Thane said.  “People are ready for some fun.”

They saw one open table for eight and headed for it.  A guy and his friend were doing the same thing from the other direction.  When they reached the table at the same time, they looked at each other.

Thane stared.  “You must be the other redheaded tourist.”  The man had red hair bushing around his face.  No one would call Thane handsome with his crooked nose and long chin, but the other guy was super good looking with riveting blue eyes, high cheekbones, and perfect features.  His wild hair just added to his charisma. 

The guy smiled and motioned for them to all sit.  They crowded around the table, and he said, “I’m Colin, and this is Tex.  I’m glad Mikey didn’t punch you.”

“He wanted to,” Thane said.  “Walker stopped him.”

Colin glanced at Walker.  “Do you have to be over six feet to join your group?”

Radley laughed.  “No, we’re all just family and friends.”

“I wish I’d have grown up with your drinking water.”  Colin was probably five-ten, his friend an inch shorter. 

Jerod raised an eyebrow.  “Sounds like you do all right anyway.  Mikey said you were all over his wife.”

Colin snorted.  “If that makes him feel good, I get it.  But his wife was all over me, and then when someone she knew saw her, she blamed it on me, said I wouldn’t leave her alone.”

Ansel frowned at the flip in the story.  “She came on to you?  Not the other way around?”

“I came here to fish, not to get in trouble.  I steer clear of women with rings.”  Colin turned to Tex.  “Vouch for me, bud.”

Tex grinned at his friend.  “Colin doesn’t try to find trouble.  It finds him.  I think it’s the wild hair.  We came up here to fish and drink beer.  Period.  A low-key vacation.  But that waitress took one look at my buddy and made a beeline for our table.”

Their waitress came for their orders, and they got beer and the special—brats and sauerkraut.  When she left, Colin grimaced.  “Cassandra was so flirty, I figured she was single until I noticed her ring.  Then I started to backup, but she still kept going strong.  She might be married, but I’d lay money I wasn’t the first guy she hit on.  Mikey had himself a wife who liked a little on the side.”

“She wasn’t working the night we came here,” Walker said.  “We never met her.  So, why did she come to our cabin?”

“Because I wouldn’t tell her where I was staying,” Colin said.  “Someone must have told her there was a guy with auburn hair at your place, and she came to see you.”

Jerod whacked his forehead with his hand.  “Of course!  I get it now.  Mikey’s a volunteer fireman.  He was called out for a big fire that night.  She must have thought she could go look for fun.”

Their food came, and they all quieted while they ate.  When they finished their meal and sipped a last beer, Tex said, “The way I figure it, Mikey didn’t have a clue his wife was a cheat.  So, I don’t think he killed her.  But I’d bet she was seeing someone on the side and gave him some sad story about how Mikey wasn’t good to her, how she felt so alone, and how she didn’t know what she’d do without a friend like him.  Whoever that guy was, he probably went into a tailspin when Cassandra hit on Colin.”

Ansel stared.  “What makes you think that?”

Tex shrugged.  “Because I was that guy with Bianca.  Every day, she told me how horrible her husband treated her, how he ignored her, wouldn’t sleep with her.  I was her backup guy.  She told me she didn’t know what she’d do without me.  Until she met Carlos.  Then she dropped me like a hot potato and divorced her husband.”

“Whoa!  Pretty cold,” Thane said.  “Do you hate her now?”

“No, now I know that some women will tell you anything to get what they want.  I was young.  Stupid.  I know better now.  But Cassandra’s backup probably thought she wouldn’t make it without him, until he realized he was just being used.”

Colin finished his beer and looked at the clock.  “It’s getting late.  We have some friends to meet for a card game.  It was nice running into you, lookalike.  Stay out of trouble.”

“Did Detective Cooper question you?” Thane asked.

Colin nodded.  “But just like you, I couldn’t have done it.  Tex and I were playing cards until the early hours with our friends.  They crashed at our place.  He’s digging deeper now.”

They all paid their bills, left tips, and headed to their cabins.

The first drop of rain fell when they turned into the gravel drive.  By the time they parked, they had to dash into the house to keep from being drowned.  Jerod looked at the weather prediction on his phone.  With a sigh, he said, “This isn’t going to let up until late tomorrow morning.” 

“So, no fishing until lunch?” Thane asked.

“A big no.”  Jerod scowled at the downpour.  “They didn’t predict this when we left.”

“It’s fine with me,” Radley said.  He walked into his bedroom and returned with a deck of cards.  “Grab some beer, boys, because I’m going to take all of your money.”

Jerod rubbed his hands together.  “I haven’t played cards for a long time.  Still pretty sure I remember how.”

Walker smiled.  “Boys, you’re in trouble.  When my mom moved to Kentucky, I learned brand new hobbies.  Poker was one of them.”

They each carried two beers to the table and got ready for serious fun.

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