Miss Pinkerton’s call came three nights later, just after eleven. Harry could barely hear her whispers over the phone and guessed she didn’t want any possible intruder to know she was on the phone. “I’ll be there in five minutes. Make sure the front door is unlocked for me,” he told her as he shrugged into his jacket. Grabbing the keys he ran out to the truck. High winds were driving the heavy rain, and he had to keep the windshield wipers on top speed. Luckily, the streets were practically empty. When he reached the house he ran from the truck to the porch. He shrugged off his jacket and removed his boots in the foyer so he wouldn’t track too much water into the house. She met him with a towel to dry his face and head.
“I’m sorry to get you out on such a night.”
“I’m not,” he replied. “Do you still hear the sounds?”
“Yes, they’re coming from upstairs, she whispered. “Come and listen.” She led him to the bottom of a wide staircase. “It’s a mixture of sounds tonight, sometimes like claws scratching at the outside, and sometimes like something being scraped across a window.”
Harry had no trouble hearing what she was talking about, but he kept his ideas to himself at this point. As he ascended the stairs, the sounds became louder. Once at the top, he walked slowly down the hallway, pausing to listen at each door. It seemed louder at one particular door near the end of the hallway and he stopped. Miss Pinkerton was right behind him. “Is this a bedroom?” he asked.
“Sewing room,” she said, shaking her head. “The cleaning lady cleans it periodically but I haven’t used it in years.”
“And where, if I may ask, is your bedroom?”
“Directly across from it. Why?”
“You’ll see in a minute.” He opened the door and crossed the door to the window. “Come here and listen.”
She crossed the room to stand beside him. Just at that moment a strong gust of wind hit the tree just outside, causing the branches to hit the house, making a variety of sounds.
“Oh my goodness!” She laughed. “Fear of the past catching up with me has made me more paranoid than I realized.”
“It could happen to anyone,” Harry assured her, “and with you sleeping right across the hall you would definitely hear it.”
She looked at him. “You expected this when you said you wanted to hear the sounds, didn’t you?”
“I had an idea when I looked at the photos in the police file,” Harry told her. “So I checked the weather on the dates of your calls, and there were high winds each time.”
“Now that you know what it is,” Harry said as they walked down the stairs again, “you know what the next step is, don’t you?”
“Get the tree pruned or cut down,” she replied. “Pruning might spoil the look of it and it is really old so I think it would be best to have it cut down.”
Harry’s hand was on the doorknob when she stopped him. “Before you leave, Mr. Hogan, what do I owe you? Will you send the bill?”
“I’m not doing this for the money,” he told her.
“I insist,” she said. “You came out here on a terrible night to solve the mystery and set my mind at ease.”
“In that case, next time you’re out shopping just pick up a $20 gift card to cover gas. That will do it.” He cocked his head to one side, looking at her. “You weren’t born in Canada, were you?”
“In England,” she replied. “Grandfather Oscar Germain came here from Sweden when he was just sixteen. He found work with the railway and began buying adjacent land parcels until he had enough to establish a riding academy. My mother was his only child and when she married she moved to England. When Grandfather retired, the horses were sold, the stables were torn down and the riding trails became just hiking trails through the woods.”
“How did you end up owning this place?”
“It was left to my mother but since she had no desire to return to Canada, she passed it over to me. I had visited a number of times as a child and I loved the place even then.”
“I can understand it. You can walk nature trails here without ever leaving your home.”
“I find it very relaxing to walk among the trees, listen to the birds, catch glimpses of rabbits, squirrels or, on the rare occasion, a fox. Communing with nature, Mr. Hogan, is the best medicine for the soul as well as the mind.”
“Who will inherit it after you?”
“Not many know this, but I was married when I was young. My husband died in a factory explosion when the children were in high school. That’s when I moved to Canada, returned to work and got involved with helping those in need. At the same time, I went back to using my maiden name to protect them.”
“So they will be the future owners?”
She smiled. “Yes. My son and daughter have just decided to turn it into a riding academy once more as equal partners. They also plan to turn the house into two condos, but that will be up to them. At least it will still be in the family.”
“Will you live with one of your children?”
“I, Mr. Hogan, am going to build a neat little English-style cottage just behind this old place, now that I don’t have to consider selling. That is where I will live. Glory will be with me, as housekeeper and companion, and when I die, the cottage will be hers for as long as she needs it.”
Harry walked away, smiling and shaking his head. That was one spunky old lady. She’d had an interesting life, not always under ideal circumstances, and now it appeared that her remaining years would still be according to her own plan.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Two days later, Harry got a letter in the mail and stifled a curse as he read it. God save him from matchmakers, however well-meaning they might be.
Dear Mr. Hogan,
Thank you again for setting my foolish old mind at ease. Enclosed in the $20 card you requested in payment. Also an open voucher for dinner at Monk’s Eatery, one of my favourite restaurants. It’s for two and, if I may be so bold, I suggest you take that nice Miss Blackstone with you since I hear she works with you from time to time.
P.S. Enjoy the most expensive dinner on the menu. I can well afford it and it does my heart good to share my wealth in little ways now and then.