A Hunting We Shall Go
another Mike Claymore Mystery: Wendel
BookRix GmbH & Co. KG
Thursday Before the Hunt
Mike spends part of the day on paperwork associated with two insurance fraud cases he has completed investigations for. He has proven them both to be fraudulent claims and has brought his friend, Ken Drydon, in on them. Ken is with the Matsqui Police Department for the town of Abbotsford and the district of Matsqui and Clearbrook. Pending the hearings, Mike will notify the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) to not make any payment on the claims. When the case against them has been proven, he will receive ten percent of the money he saved the Corporation.
He finishes off the paperwork and joins Marlene in the kitchen for coffee. She is just putting lunch on the table for them so they eat and then he drinks his coffee.
Marlene says, "I've been thinking. Surely over the next two weeks I'll get pregnant. I might be already. That means I'll be carrying all summer and the baby will be born in July or August. What do you want this time? A boy or a girl?"
"A healthy child. Beyond that, I guess another boy would be nice. It would balance things up but it doesn't matter, as long as it's another healthy Claymore." He grins lopsidedly at her and says, "You could try for triplets."
"No way! You do that to me and I'll never speak to you again. I won't have time!" They banter and laugh together over coffee.
Later they start loading things into the trailer again. When the kids come in from school they help. Richard says, "I guess while your away I'll be the man of the house, eh Dad?"
"Same as when I'm on the road, Rick. But you'll have to do what Trudy says and work with her, same as with Mom. You have any problems with that?"
"What's she like?"
"Short. Blond. She has a girl just a little younger than Jan named Crystal."
Shelly pipes up, "I remember a girl named Crystal from the Flinstone Park out at the falls. I wonder if she will be like her? Maybe it's the same girl. Do you think so, Dad?"
"I doubt it. Who know?"
Richard goes on, "Is she bossy like Mom?"
"Well, if she's raised a daughter, I guess she knows how to lay down the law, if that's what you mean?"
"You'll tell her I'm the man of the house, won't you?"
"If you’re the man of the house, I guess that's up to you. Just remember she has the final say."
"Wow! Just like Mom."
Mike makes a wry grin and says, "Yeah, just like your mother."
Marlene comes into the trailer and asks, "Are you guys on strike? How come I'm doing all the hauling here? Let's move it. Honey, where are you going to put your rifle and fishing gear?"
"In the 'Jimmy'. I can keep an eye on it there."
"You want coffee?"
"You made some out here?"
"Yep. We might as well get used to it. It's going to be home for a few weeks."
"Sure. Pour me a cup, please."
They relax and enjoy their coffee at the table by the window in the center of the trailer. Across the back is the bedroom and across the front is the living room. Kitchen and dining setup are opposite each other and the door is by the table. A short hall leads to the bedroom with a second exit door on one side and the bathroom on the other. The table makes down into a three quarters bed and so does the couch across the front so they could sleep six. It will be comfortable for two.
"What do you still have to do?"
"I was going to make up the bed and stow away the linens. I'm still trying to fit in all our clothes. I've only put in our heavy stuff but they still take a lot of room. You want to do the bathroom?"
"Okay, just as soon as I finish this coffee. When are you doing the kitchen?"
"Tomorrow night after supper. Don't worry we'll be ready by Friday night. Have you decided to pull out tomorrow night?"
"I’ve been debating on it. If we leave late it shouldn't be too bad on the roads. I suppose the rest who are leaving then are going around suppertime. They'll be right in the rush. That's crazy. I guess we'll wait for Frank and them on Saturday morning."
"Yeah, I think it's best."
They finish up in the trailer and go for supper. After supper they all relax in the living room and play kid games with the kids. It's Parcheesi, checkers and Snakes and Ladders time until Jan starts yawning, then it's showers time and getting the kids off to bed. After they're in bed Marlene and Mike sit on the couch together to watch the news.
Friday morning it's raining. After breakfast and Marlene leaves with the kids for school, Mike calls Trudy.
"Hi kid, anything new in the mail?"
"Got an inquiry re a Workman's Compensation claim they feel might be bogus. Came by fax. I faxed them back that we'd take it. It's in Rosedale. I also got another list of skippers from a new client. Sears! Can you imagine that? Oh yes, and I've put together a new flyer. I'm faxing it to you now. That's about it."
"Good, all I have in my mail is bills. I haven't called ABC Security yet. They might have something. Are you ready to take over here early Saturday?"
"I figured if I got there just before eight I wouldn't have to play the drudge too long for Marlene. You'll probably be leaving by nine, I guess."
"Sounds good. Chuck will be here and I'll introduce you guys. Marlene says she hopes you two get it on while we're away. That's her way of saying she suspects we're messing around. She is always suspicious of any female I work with. Maybe we should encourage her to think you two did hit it off. What do you think?"
"Well, I'll have to look him over first."
"I'm not suggesting you do! I'm just suggesting we lead Marlene to believe that. What does it matter how he looks?"
"If he ain’t a catch, she'll never believe it. Gee, you’re so touchy. Maybe he's got a better disposition than you." She giggles.
"That isn't funny. I think I hear the station wagon. I'll see you in the morning. You take care because I love you, kid."
"Me too, see ya."
When Marlene comes in he's talking to ABC Security. They have a fire investigation for him. He tells them he'll be by before lunch to look it over. Police and Fire Marshall have stated the cause of the blaze is unknown. The Fire Marshall's office usually does a pretty meticulous investigation of their own. In this case they were backlogged and did a cursory job on this one. The insurance company is asking for a check. It was a new home in the Clayburn area. He figures he'll let Charlie take a look at it. He might come up with something, especially if he consults with Trudy. She's really good at digging out unknown facts on claimants.
"Did I hear you talking with ABC? Have they got anything?"
"A fire investigation. I'll let Chuck and Trudy play with it. They may come up with something. I'll go over and pick up the file this morning."
"Did you get the mail? Was there anything from Nina and Jeff?"
"Just bills. You expecting a letter?"
"I thought she might write."
"Guess I'll go over to ABC now. I'm taking the station wagon. O.K.?" She nods.
Mike spends an hour at ABC Security, much of it chatting with the boss. They start in talking hunting and end up talking trucks and pickups. When Mike gets home it's nearly noon. He picks up the phone and calls Ken Drydon.
"Mike. You just caught me as I was trying to sneak out of here for an early lunch. If I wait until twelve there'll be six people outside waiting to see me. What's up?"
"I just picked up a fire investigation claim that has your signature on it as the investigating police officer. Like to give me the low down over lunch?"
"Great. I was going to the Davy Crocket. O.K. with you?"
"Just a minute." He covers the phone and asks Marlene, "What's for lunch? Can I ask Ken over to join us?"
"I can put together something. Go ahead."
Mike speaks into the phone again, "Care to take your chances at our kitchen. Marlene says she's going to throw something together."
"Don't want to put you people out there."
"No bother. We have to eat, too, you know. Come on over."
"All right, I'll be about twenty minutes."
"See you, then."
He gets off the phone and says, "Twenty minutes. What you got in mind?"
"Scat out of my kitchen. I'm busy."
Mike goes to read the paper and about fifteen minutes later he peeks out to the kitchen and sees the table set for three. He smiles and looks mystified but happy. It's close to another ten minutes before Ken pulls into the drive. Mike meets him at the front door.
Ken says, "When did you get the trailer and where's your convert?"
"Going hunting and the trailer is Marlene's brother's. He's using the Mustang while I'm using his four by. Come on in. I'll see how lunch is coming."
Just then Marlene steps into the living room from the kitchen, "I though you said twenty minutes. Come on or the asparagus is going to be overcooked. Hi Ken." She blows him a kiss as she returns to the kitchen.
Ken grins and says, "She never changes, does she?"
"Not that I've noticed."
Marlene and Ken had dated prior to her meeting Mike so they are old school friends. They gather around the table and she serves tuna casserole over a crisp leaf of lettuce, asparagus spears with a cheese sauce and potato pancakes. For desert she has vanilla ice cream with cherry sherbet topped by cherry syrup with a dash of Kirsch and a cherry on top. As they enjoy coffee Ken says, "Marlene, your a wonder. How did you whip such a fantastic meal up so quickly? It was superb."
"Easy. We were going to have the potato pancakes anyway; leftovers from last night. I had the tuna casserole all ready for lunch to go with it. All I had to do was come up with another quick cooking veggie."
"That Mike is one lucky guy. If I suggested bringing someone home for lunch without at least three hours notice my wife would kill me."
Mike speaks up, "I tell her she's the best cook in Abbotsford with leftovers. Anyway, I'll get the file for this arson case and we can look at it over coffee."
Mike brings in his briefcase and they go over the file. Ken remembers the case and admits the guy is a friend of his. He recalls that he went easy on him for this reason. He agrees that if Mike finds anything suspicious he will have to detail one of his officers to the case. He won't be able to handle it. He relates the details as he recalls them. Mike makes notes for Chuck and Trudy. Mike thanks Ken for taking the time to go over it with him and Ken has to get back to the office. He leaves and Marlene says, "So even cops ease up on their friends, eh? How come he gave me a ticket last month? I should have asked him."
"He gave you the ticket for your own good. It was his way of trying to get you to slow down in the school zone. Remember?"
"Well, I was in a hurry."
"You sure were."
Mike goes to put the files away in his office in the basement. He takes the new flyer out of the fax machine and studies it. He makes a few changes, mainly in emphasis, putting a little more punch in the ad and faxes it back to Trudy. He opens bills and sorts them, one pile for Trudy and the Chilliwack business, another for trucking, some to be reimbursed by CPX, some for tax purposes and some to just be paid. He also has a pile for household expenses. When he is nearly finished the fax starts clicking and out comes the new flyer.
He looks it over and smiles. Perfect! He writes this on a sticky note, plasters it on the flyer and faxes it back to Trudy. Then he pulls the sticky note off and takes the new flyer upstairs to show Marlene. She's out in the trailer so he joins her there and she pours him coffee as she looks it over. She nods.
"Trudy put this together, did she?"
"I made a few changes to it but essentially it's her work."
"When did you two work on this?"
"Just now. She faxed me her ideas, I made some changes and faxed it back. Just now she faxed me the finished product."
"If you're done faxing Trudy, maybe you have time to give me a hand out here. I thought you were doing bookwork."
"I was. It came in originally when I was doing the bills."
"What does that mean? Did you call the Butterworth's to get a time for departure tomorrow? The last I heard it was set for around ten from the Cottonwood Mall in front of Zellers."
"I spoke with Sheila on the phone Wednesday and that was what she said. Maybe you better call Frank and see if there has been any changes."
Mike finishes his coffee and goes to call Frank at the store. It takes a few minutes to locate him but he picks up on a phone on the floor and says, "Frank Butterworth here."
"Frank, it's Mike Claymore. I'm just touching base with you here re departure time tomorrow. Still set for ten AM?"
"Ten on the button. We want to get in before dark if we can. After all, it's just a forest camp and I'm not even sure if they have lights this year. They relied on a generator last year but they were supposed to be getting in a line."
"That's good. We'll be there. See you in the morning." He goes back out to tell Marlene he's called and it was set for ten. They relax in the trailer and try to feel at home until the kids come in from school. Then Marlene goes to put supper on. Mike decides to try out the bed and lies across it. It's not bad and he dozes off to sleep. Shelly comes out to get him for supper.