Title: Three to Die
Author: Loretta Jackson and Vickie Britton
Shannon and her two friends, Marge and Traci, look forward to spending the summer as employees of Arapaho State Park, but their joy is soon spoiled by a tragic accident. Marge's cruel rejection of nerdy Del Evans results in a fight, and Del falls from the boat into the deep, choppy waters of Lake Arapaho. His body is never recovered. The following summer, the three friends return to the park. On the anniversary of Del's death, they are shocked to find words scrawled in red across the boathouse, Die, Die, Die-one word for each girl. Did Del somehow survive the accident? Shannon senses that disaster lies ahead for all of them. And even her innocence may not keep her from being a victim of vengeance.
Her mind still on Nick, Shannon returned to her painting. Traci, too, had noticed the way Nick had looked at her with special interest. She put aside the feeling that Nick might actually be attracted to her. Why would he be? He had Marge, the girl all the boys around dreamed of dating.
Shannon finished the side facing the lake and moved around to the back of the building. As she painted, Shannon kept glancing over her shoulder. She really didn’t like standing with her back to the dense forest.
For a long time Shannon worked steadily, refusing to let herself think about anything but completing her task. In a short period of time the paint bucket was empty. She was dabbing the green that remained on her brush against the wall when she heard a sudden creaking sound. Fear and awareness pulsed through her. The noise clearly came from the other side of the wall she was painting. Someone...or something...was in the old boathouse. Shannon’s chest felt tight. She dropped her brush and raced around the side of the building, colliding with another quickly moving force. Traci!
Traci gave a little shriek, then they both laughed nervously.
“Wouldn’t you know, I’m out of paint!” Traci gasped. “I can’t work any longer without food, anyway. I’m starving!”
“Is there more paint in the boathouse?”
“Not what we need.”
Quickly rounding the corner, Shannon cautiously pushed open the old door that creaked loudly on rusty hinges. She skimmed the contents within, a tarp-covered boat, the water-marked life-jackets that hung from nails along the wall, the stacks of gas cans and paint.
“I sorted through the paint when we first got here. There’s every color inside but green.”
Traci’s words made Shannon draw in her breath. “I heard noises in the shed a few minutes ago. Weren’t you just in here?”
“No. I’ve been around on the other side. But, Shannon, I heard something, too!”
Had someone slipped into the shed while they had been busy painting? For what purpose?
“Some small animal must have wandered in,” Traci said at last, “a squirrel or a chipmunk.”
After a long pause, Traci spoke again, “I wish we had thought to send Nick after some paint when he was here.”
“I guess we’ll have to drive up to the warehouse and find Fred.”
“I’m glad you said we,” Traci cried out. “I’m not staying out here by myself! But I’ve got a good idea. Why don’t you drop me off at the rec center on the way? While you get the paint, I’ll grab some sandwiches. You can pick me up on the way back.”
“Good idea,” Shannon agreed, wiping her hands on a rag.
Shannon stopped the truck on the road between the park office and the recreation center and Traci got out. Shannon made the winding drive up the mountain toward her own cabin. She stopped in front of the metal warehouse where the head maintenance man, Fred Willard, stored supplies for the campground.
She wandered around the building trying to catch sight of Fred’s tall form, his long, graying hair. When he was here, his truck was usually parked in front of the office. She often saw him from her cabin working outside, with the double doors to the warehouse wide open. This morning they were closed.
Shannon lingered in front for a long time in the hope that he would drive up. Finally she tested the door to the office and to her surprise found it unlocked. “Fred!” He must be close by. It wasn’t like him to be careless, to leave the building open and unattended. “Fred, are you here?”
She passed through the small, partitioned office and into a vast storage area filled with neat rows of furniture and appliances. Fred Willard ran the warehouse with the same pride a captain runs a ship, everything properly accounted for, maintained, orderly. Had Fred been here, he could have walked directly to the green paint, but she had to search through long rows of shelves to find the exact color.
She left a note on his desk. “Fred, Took two gallons of green paint. Shannon.”
Traci, arms laden with soft drinks and wrapped subs, was waiting impatiently at the head of the trail where Shannon had left her. “Took you long enough,” she said.
“Fred wasn’t around, but luckily he left the warehouse open. Did you find out why Marge isn’t helping us?”
“I haven’t seen her. I wasn’t in the office so I didn’t run across anyone to ask.”
At the boathouse the two girls sat on the cement slab in front of the doorway to eat. Shannon hadn’t realized how hungry and thirsty she had become until she dived into the sandwich and finished the Coke.
“Back to work!” Traci said, wadding up the cellophane wrapper and gathering up the trash.
Shannon, beginning to feel less anxious, promptly removed the paint from the truck, then she wandered around the side of the building facing the water to see if the paint had dried. As she turned the corner, a spattering of brightness caught her eye. Red paint, still wet, smeared and dripped into the olive green. Surrounded by thick drops of red, huge slanted words, made a crooked path across the wall. Shannon stepped closer, then with a startled gasp recoiled. The crude, angry line, blood-red, spelled out the frenzied warning: “DIE, DIE, DIE.”
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Vickie Britton writes with her sister Loretta Jackson. They are the authors of over forty novels. Their series include the Jeff McQuede High Country Mystery Series and the Ardis Cole Archaeological Mystery Series. Vickie live in Kansas, but she spent many years in Laramie, Wyoming. Their newest High County mystery novels set in Wyoming are MURDER IN BLACK AND WHITE, WHISPERS OF THE STONES,and STEALER OF HORSES.
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