Abby looked hard at the image on her sketch pad. Glancing up from the pad, she was relieved to see Evelyn marching past the bar where Gus was already making her drink.
Before Evelyn was ten feet from their table, Abby said, “Thanks for coming. You’re the only person who won’t think I’m nuts.”
“Don’t bet on it. At least until after some suitable lubrication.”
Gus delivered Evelyn’s drink.
“Thank you, darling. You are a gentleman and a scholar. Not to mention an adorable barkeep!”
Settling into the booth, Evelyn took a slug of her drink. “Now, you were saying something about…”
“I can’t get anywhere with Winifred,” Abby said, “But… she’s talking to Murphy.”
Evelyn’s look said she wasn’t quite up to speed. Abby was about to continue when Evelyn raised a hand, took another drink, let it irrigate down to the roots, then nodded to continue.
“It’s coming through Murphy,” Abby said. “I’m getting information that could only be from Winnie.”
Abby turned her drawing pad to face Evelyn, a bit stunned by the sketch: the dirty sole of a heavy boot, three slash marks across it and overhead a curving stem with spiny sprigs.
“Certainly, one of your more arresting images. What do you think it means?”
“I don’t know.”
“But you are going to find out.” Evelyn was sure of that. And one other thing: “Eliminate the impossible and whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth!”
Abby considered the wisdom.
“Sherlock Holmes,” Evelyn grinned. “Or… as any good bloodhound knows, go back to the beginning and follow your nose!”
Burnt orange flooded the sky out to sea as Winifred and Abby stared into the canyon separating the southern boundary of the Pebble Beach golf course from Walter Knox’s estate.
The memory of her escape from the coyotes still in her bones, Winifred whimpered and pulled away on her leash. Which made Abby wonder if there was another horror to be revisited a few hundred yards to the North.
Hard to say who was more uncomfortable walking the cart path along the ninth hole. Every few yards Winifred would stop and look up at Abby, eyes pleading to turn around and go back. At the rate they were going, it would be night by the time they got to their destination – too late to satisfy Abby’s curiosity. Whispering assurances, Abby picked Winifred up and marched double-time behind the ninth tee, past the eighth hole green and up the hill where the fairway dog-legged left back toward the tee.
Twenty feet from where Knox went over the edge, Winifred began shaking and trying to escape Abby’s arms. Comforting the little girl, Abby took the final steps to the edge of the cliff and looked over.
Winifred also looked over, shuddered.
“It’s okay, girl. You’re safe.” Abby stroked her head and back, “You were with him, weren’t you?”
Winifred’s head turned away from the rocks and surf below, her attention focused on the side of the cliff.
Following Winifred’s gaze, Abby saw a woody scrub bush clinging to rocky outcropping fifteen feet below them. Seeing nothing of interest, Abby turned away… and then it registered.
Jerking her head back down the cliff, Abby’s eyes zeroed in on a torn dog collar and tags tangled in the bush.
Winifred HOWLED, jumped out of Abby’s arms and headed the other way. Hanging onto the leash, Abby went after her.
“It’s okay, girl. I promise. No one’s going to touch you.”
Abby picked up Winifred, returned to the edge and looked down at the bush. Winifred had seen enough and buried her head into Abby’s chest.
With daylight fading, Abby had to know. What if her eyes deceived her? What if she waited till morning and the tags were gone? No. No way was she leaving without the evidence in hand.
Abby tied the end of Winifred’s leash to a tough old root near the edge of the precipice, carefully surveyed the cliff face charting a route down to the bush.
Winifred crouched at the end of her leash, watched and whimpered as Abby’s head and hands disappeared over the side. Gingerly working her way down the slope, Abby clung to rocks and roots until she got close enough to jab her hand into the thorny branches of the bush.
Back on top, Winifred’s attention was glued to the spot where Abby went over the side, never sensing the heavy walking boots moving up, planting themselves three feet behind her.
Abby pulled her scratched and bleeding hand from the bush, collar and tags in her grasp, when she heard Winifred SCREAM.
Clamoring up the slope, Abby was almost to the top when her foot slipped. Fingers and feet clawed shale… but nothing there to break her slide. Down, down… slipping… sliding toward the edge of the outcropping.
Abby grasped for a miracle… bloody hands finding Winifred’s bush, the tough root holding strong on the cliff face. Abby looked down, saw her leg dangling in the mist over rocks and surf.
“Jesus!” came from above.
Abby looked up and saw the faces of Winifred and Jerry peering over the edge.
“You okay?” The moment Jerry said it, he felt like an idiot.
Abby’s look confirmed the assessment.
“Don’t move. Hang on!”
Another idiot suggestion. Not like she had a lot of options.
Jerry turned to Winifred, “Want to give me a hand, Sweets?”
Jerry unsnapped the leash from her collar and checked the strength of the tether, one end still attached to the old root near the edge. Trusty Sam Snead 9-iron in one hand, leash in the other, Jerry lowered himself over the side. Reaching the end of the leash, Jerry extended the club the rest of the way to Abby who grabbed Mr. Snead by the hosel and was hauled from the brink.
The threesome was silent as Abby and Jerry, Winifred curled in his arms, walked back along the ninth fairway towards the lights of Carmel. Taking stock of her torn shirt, Abby used a shirttail to wipe her cut face and blood-caked hands.
“What are you doing out here?” she asked.
Jerry thought about that. “Last dance with an old flame.” As close to the truth as he was going to get. Jerry looked back towards the cliff at the eighth hole, all but lost in the night.
“Nicklaus called it the greatest second shot in golf. The cliffs of doom! One slip—kill your whole day.”
“Or your life,” Abby said.
~ ~ ~