Hide and Seek for Grown-ups


By Cynthia St-Pierre



We trekked across field and through forest on wildflower-bordered and leaf-strewn trails, and I asked myself is Karl ever going to ravish me? Honestly, how much more enticing can the location be? Serious — right smack in the middle of nature — nobody around...

"Approaching destination." The female voice sounded disembodied among the rocks and trees and butterflies. And no wonder. It came from the GPS in Karl's hand.

"That means we're just a few tenths of a mile away," Karl said.

"What's that in kilometers?" I asked. Honestly, I can't think in miles anymore. Karl and I were both schooled in those heady pre-metric days but since then, I've converted.

"Don't know off-hand. But not much farther. You okay? Not too tired?" he asked.

"Fine. Don't worry about me. Hope you're not tired."

Karl was carrying all the varied equipment we might need on a hike, including the most important man-tool, the GPS. And I was carrying one of those adorable picnic backpacks. Inside were two plastic plates, two forks, two knives, two spoons, two cups, two printed cloth napkins. Most importantly to my mind, besides a selection of gourmet treats, I'd also thought to tuck in a tablecloth to lay...the food...on. But if Karl and I didn't even get around to smooching en route, I had a hard time picturing our passion escalating to the point of blatant defiance of the laws of the land as far as indecent exposure and bawdy acts are concerned. I might just have to...

We didn't trudge along much further it seemed to me before the GPS sang again, "You have arrived at your destination."

Finally! Unzipping my backpack, I was tugging out the tablecloth, when Karl asked with apparent shock, "You hungry already? Aren't we looking for the cache first?"

My hands froze. "Thought we found it."

"What?"

"The cache."

"What made you think that?"

"You have arrived at your destination."

"Oh. In geocaching, the GPS takes you to the environ of the cache, but you still have to search for the actual vessel."

"Ah. Pot of gold."

"So...I'm marking this spot." He'd chosen a fallen branch from a pile of brush nearby and jabbed it into the mulchy soil at our feet where it stood upright like a javelin. Then he said, "This GPS receiver is accurate to about 30 feet. From here, we should search in a 2,800 square foot radius."

I deal perfectly well with a few common imperial measurements. Feet, inches. "About the size of a substantial house," I said.

"Thinking like a designer even out here, huh Becki?"

Secretly I was cursing him for being such a man — totally goal-focussed — and as far as he was concerned the goal was to find that cache.

What's a woman to do? Ah well...I decided to throw my hat into the ring. And search. Fact is, I'm observant by nature, as all designers are. We pay attention to detail, spot itty bitty things that are out of place in a setting. I turned 360° on the spot.

And I realized nobody designs like...well...God. Nature's harmony of light and shadow...the perspective of soaring trees...spot-on splashes of Maple Red...the textural contrast of silky moss on granite outcroppings...chirpings and cooings and rustlings all around...a tingle of pine in the nostrils... "How 'bout I go this way, and you go that way," I suggested. And we'll work backward toward each other."

"That's a plan."

I went east I determined since the sun's rays slanted down from the other direction. Earth's big old sun isn't overhead at midday anymore. Days have grown shorter. Especially way up here in what I considered the boonies in my younger days in Toronto.

I picked up a stick myself. Used it to gently fan the underbrush at my feet as I paced my territory. We were both wearing hiking boots and long pants so there was no danger of a rash from coming in contact with poison ivy. But there were always snakes to consider.

Before I'd travelled any great distance, "Argh!" The sound escaped me. It presaged my full realization of what the firm yet giving thing I encountered with my stick might be. And what could justify that stench. Then, "Karl!" I screamed.

Karl knows my voice. He came quickly, but he never should have parted the grass in my company. And I never should have looked. So much worse than that time I was seven and Father was flipping channels not quickly enough and Norman Bates' shrivelled mother revealed herself to me. Worse because this was real. I mean you could tell. And unlike Karl's rustic marker earlier, the spear jutting from the mottled body was not indigenous, and was brought in for no other purpose but to kill.

Next day, Karl said the corpse belonged to Jack Strong, Black Currant Bay citizen declared missing a couple weeks ago. "Must have been a freak hunting accident," he said, "which the killer couldn't own up to."

"Rural hit and run," I said. "What would the killer have been hunting for?"

"Black bear was in season then..."

Yum, black bear, I thought.

"...wolf, coyote, rabbit, hare, red fox, skunk, snapping turtle, bullfrog — "

"Bullfrog?" I yelped.

"Yeah, bullfrog," Karl snapped.

"I get it, Karl. You're upset. It's because hunters could have been out there shooting at anything that moves that you insisted yesterday we wear those psychedelic orange hoodies and caps, right?"

"As a precaution, yes. And the correct term is hunter orange. Jack Strong wasn't wearing any."

Apparently Karl's team found no evidence at the scene and was in the process of researching hunt clubs, and interviewing hunt club members, and...um...stuff like that.

I told you designers are observant. Another thing about designers is we have sharp memories. We take a look at a client's space, and we're able to choose wall coverings, window coverings, and furniture long after we've quit the premises. Good thing/bad thing. Believe me, you wouldn't want what I saw Saturday seared on any of your brain lobes. Here's the deal. On Monday I was having trouble carrying on as if something totally gruesome hadn't just happened. And I wondered if that something wasn't even more horrifying than a hunting accident. Doesn't it seem weird to you that by following the precise instructions of a geocaching game, using a Global Positioning System receiver no less, we found Jack Strong, deceased? Isn't that, like, stretching random?

And crossbows are used for hunting, sure, but they've also been used for murder. Remember the man charged with killing his father with a crossbow at the Main Street Branch of the Toronto Public Library? All over the news.

But it was the potential link to a game that tantalized me. Dungeons & Dragons sent players to the dark side. Remember that?

Because I was too anxious to work...I pondered. Then I researched, and I ended up galvanizing a pretty scary theory. So while we ate Tofu l'orange with Green Beans for supper, I scrambled to set the right tone before throwing down my concept.

"The coordinates for the cache we were looking for on Saturday...you got them off the Internet, right?" I said.

"Mmm-hmm." Karl swallowed. "The Black Currant Bay Geocaching Club created the cache. Heard about it from Doug."

"Kathleen's brother?"

"Mmm-hmm."

"But anyone could access the coordinates, right?"

"They're posted on geocachingcraze.com."

"Where you simply open an account, create a user name, sign in, then choose a cache."

"You've been reading up."

"Have too. I'd like to contribute an idea."

"Hit me."

"Maybe for dessert," I teased.

"I have to be off because — "

"Okay, so here's the thing. What if Jack Strong's death wasn't an accident?"

"Listen, honey, we're not stupid down at the station. We're looking into that. Work trouble, family trouble — "

I interrupted again, "What if a deranged geocacher decided to take geocaching one step further?"

"Your imagination is running wild."

"One can never think too creatively," I insisted. "Not in any field. Anyway, how much effort would it take, honey, to consider my idea, before eliminating it?"

"I have to — "

"While you're gone, check and see if there've been other deaths at geocache sites around the world — "

"The world!" He was already halfway out the door.

"Canada?" I requested.

"Ontario."

"Thanks."

"You're welcome."

That was Monday. On Thursday when he got home, Karl looked and sounded pleased and yet quite peeved at the same time. He said, "I wish you weren't so — "

"Sexy?" I interrupted.

"5 deaths. Scattered all over Ontario. Assumed hunting accidents. Not always with a crossbow. Where my tech-cop was able to match crime scenes to geocache sites."

"Hoped it wasn't true," I said.

"Looks like it's true."

"Killer picks a cache on the Internet... He's not the creator of the caches he uses," I said. "That would be too obvious. But he treks out to the cache, then waits like a spider for his next victim — any other geocacher — to wander into his web. Always in an isolated location. And of course he has the advantage of surprise."

"A real sicko. Could have been us he shot dead."

"I read that when geocachers complete the game, they leave behind a token in the cache box. A keychain, a coin, a postcard, whatever for the next guy to collect. The idea is if you take something out, you put something back in."

"We don't know if this guy takes anything, but he leaves behind —"

"A dead body. He made a mistake coming to Black Currant Bay. Where you're Chief of Police."

"Mmm-hmm. Well, you're right in one sense. Black Currant Bay is too isolated to visit anonymously. Sicko couldn't get here by train. Track's been shut down for decades. Couldn't come by plane. No airport. Could come and go by bus, I suppose, but only once a week. Risky. So he came by car. Or boat. We cross-referenced our initial data with gas purchases within a gas tank radius of each of the kill sites, including Black Currant Bay — especially Black Currant Bay — and we narrowed the possibilities. Checked hotel reservations, weapons registration, criminal records and so on and so on. Eventually we pin-pointed our man. Killer doesn't know it yet but we got him."

"Good for you. Mr. Strong will have justice."

"You're the one who sparked the connection." He came over and planted a big one right on the smackaroo.

Promising.

Which brings us to today. Friday. Late. Already dark. Karl's here, home from work, and he brought a small, battered Rubbermaid container home with him.

"What's that?" I asked.

"The cache we were looking for."

"We never did find it."

"No we didn't. Black Currant Bay's finest retrieved it earlier this week just in case it held a clue. And when we were talking to Mack Boudreau, President of the Black Currant Bay Geocaching Club, he said they'd retired it out of respect for Jack Strong."

"Did it contain any clues?"

"Too many geocachers handled it to pull prints."

We both sat on the couch. I tentatively took the container. Tainted now. That's for sure. But once it had been pretty cool. GEOCACHE was written in caps on the cover in permanent marker. Then BLACK CURRANT BAY GEOCACHING CLUB, geocachingcraze.com, and HIDDEN APRIL 22, 2008.

I lifted the lid. Inside was a log book filled with entries by people from all over the place. "Fun to read," I said, when I noticed Karl watching me. "Like a guest book in a fancy restaurant or something."

He smiled. Karl is long, lean, broad-shouldered, dark, not handsome per se, but to die for in uniform.

"Hmm. What else?" I let my fingers rifle through several logoed pens, pencils, a book of stickers, a stamp from Brazil, a temporary tattoo, a mini snow-globe of Melbourne, a wind-up toy, a tiny Christmas decoration, a keychain, an individually wrapped glow-in-the-dark condom, and the funniest letter about what to do if you found the geocache container by accident.

"I wanna put something in," I said, jumping up.

"Really?" said Karl.

I left the room and quickly found what I set out to get. Sat back down and slipped one of the delicate tape measures I give away to potential customers into the cache box. "I put something in so now I get to take something out," I said.

Karl was still watching.

I retrieved the glow-in-the-dark condom.


Cynthia St-Pierre has won an award for fiction writing and been a writing contest judge. She is a member of Crime Writers of Canada.

Her first mystery novel A PURSE TO DIE FOR (Imagin Books, 2012) was co-written with Melodie Campbell.


Copyright 2013 Cynthia St-Pierre. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!


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