Fairy Pools: A Birchwood Knits Mystery (Chapter 1)

Bridget felt the sand slide between her toes as she walked down to the shore, all the while staring at the full moon as it rose over the lake. With her shawl wrapped tightly around her shoulders, she breathed in the dark, evening air and caressed the soft wool of the Fairy Pools yarn. There was always something magical about being on the beach alone, even more so at night. Her kitchen light gave her just enough guidance to find her footing, but most of the light came from the Chicago skyline, bright and still just thirty miles south on the shoreline. It was never the skyscrapers she looked to on these late nights. It was the vastness of her Lake Michigan, her back yard.

There were sometimes other night owls, mostly runners and dog owners out for one last walk before bed. Bridget often smiled or waved in the moonlight in those rare moments when she saw another soul, but usually just stared out into the midnight blue.

Her leggings clung to her legs under her loose shawl flapping in the wind. She often wore tank tops under her shawls, remembering a man’s touch as the fibers shifted against her bare shoulders. It was in these quiet moments, standing alone with just the lake and her shawl, that she remembered Phil and let the tears fall. With each memory of his touch and his kind smile, she let more tears slip away, down into the depths of the great lake.

“Five years now, Phil. I’m still here.”

Only she would ever know that she wore her wedding ring down to the shoreline. Only she would ever know of the words spoken to her deceased husband, words carried away with the wind. Only she would ever know of the tears shed that filled an entire lake.

“I made this Fairy Pools shawl. The color is inspired by the Fairy Pools in Scotland. You’d like the softness of the wool.” Bridget breathed in deeply, needing the extra air to help her go on. She recalled Phil’s stories about his trips to Scotland and the Fairy Pools of Skye. They always talked about going there together, about how the magic would enchant them. “I never thought I’d get through it, Phil. But here I am, running a yarn shop and somehow surviving each day.”

Bridget looked down at her shawl, tracing each color fading into the next. Blue. Green. Dark green. Brown.

The tiredness of her bones began telling her to go to bed. The full moon rose higher and the small waves inched closer to her toes. Time to go in.

img_2479She watched the lake a few more minutes, how it moved, breathed. Everything in it was touched and surrounded by life. She wondered if the air around her could make her feel the same.

As Bridget breathed in deeply, she took the strength of the evening air to turn around and walk back up to her house. Quiet little Fort McClellan, where commuters came home to a quiet neighborhood, where a small coffee shop and yarn shop sat across the town square from a hipster pub. The most excitement the small suburb offered was a loud muffler blowing through the circle drive after 10pm.

img_2482She shook her head as she climbed the wooden steps back up the cliff to her house which sat between her yarn shop and the lake. She never imagined she’d live here, in a quiet North Shore suburb among the affluent. The lake kept her grounded, connected to herself.

“One last look, Phil.”

Turning to take one last glance at the lake before bed, she saw an oddity out of the corner of her eye. Bridget turned to look north up the shoreline. It was a boat, a small one, and a man getting out. Cursing. He looked to be chasing someone or something away.

The man ran out of view, so Bridget shook her head and continued climbing the steep hill. “Probably some local I haven’t met yet,” she mumbled to herself. She wrapped the Fairy Pools shawl around her for comfort as she stepped onto the sidewalk and pulled out her keys to unlock her back door.

 

***

 

The sun woke Bridget up the next morning, as it did every morning, rising over the eastern horizon and lighting up the lake. She would be opening the shop by ten, which gave her four hours. A quick shower, a coffee, and a trip to the grocery store would easily fill up a lot of that. She knew she needed to organize materials for the afternoon knitting class as well.

With her window slightly open, Bridget could hear the waves and smell the sweet spring air floating in like a dream. It was the scent of a recent rain and budding plants, and it made her house smell amazing.

Bridget reached for her glasses, which she wore ever since Phil died. No reason to show off her blue eyes if he couldn’t see them. Where did I put those damn glasses, she thought to herself. They were always on her nightstand. She never left them anywhere else. Never.

Squinting and rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, Bridget grew more irritated with each moment that passed without her glasses.

“I’ll shower. I’ll shower and then they’ll come up somewhere,” she muttered as she traipsed into the bathroom. All through her shower, she wondered where she could have placed her glasses the night before. She had them when she came inside from the beach. She made a mental note to look around the back door and the table where she left her shawl.

Stepping into her slippers and robe, she tightened the towel holding up her wet, chestnut brown hair. As she glimpsed over at her nightstand, there in the light of the sunrise sat her glasses. Right where she left them the night before. Sitting down on the edge of her bed, she slipped the black frames onto her face, feeling like she had lost her mind. Hadn’t she just searched her night table and all over her bedroom for these very glasses?

The sound of police sirens broke Bridget out of her thoughts and drew her attention to the shoreline. Flashing red and blue lights as well as an approaching helicopter brought her to her feet. They were swarming in, right next to Fort McClellan. Probably a neighborhood in Hyde Bluff. She decided to let the detectives deal with it themselves as she went about her day.

After slipping on a clean pair of leggings and a beige Aran sweater, Bridget brushed out her hair and made her way to the kitchen for her coffee. She loved that her bedroom and kitchen both faced the lake. Only when visitors came over and sat in the living room did she have a view of the trees and neighborhood. She even used her back door whenever she entered the house, since it also faced the lake.

As the espresso machine streamed in front of her face, she watched the police blotting the shore line. Some stood in groups, chatting. Some kept looking up the cliff, eyeing the neighbors with waterfront properties.

She had inherited Phil’s money when he died, a bittersweet gift that reminded her of her loss daily. She bought a small Fort McClellan house and another small building on the village square that housed her yarn shop and a small space she rented out as a coffee shop. Most of her neighbors were affluent commuters, probably already getting on the train to head into the city.

One detective made his way up Bridget’s steps from the beach and knocked on her back door. Bridget found her way to the door quickly, wondering what the detective would want with her.

“Good morning, Ma’am,” the man said firmly but with kindness in his voice. A name badge said the word Sheridan and Bridget wondered if that was his last name. “I’d like to ask you a few questions.”

Bridget opened the door for him to come in.

“I was just making espresso. You want anything?” She had no idea why she was offering the detective anything. It was a compelling feeling, a connection to him that she feared instantly.

“Uh no, thanks.”

“So what is this about? Did something happen on the beach?” Bridget went to grab her coffee, but there was mug. The espresso machine was on, but her mug was nowhere to be found. Just like her glasses. Maybe she really was losing her mind.

“There was a murder on the beach. We’re asking the neighbors if they heard or saw anything. Did you notice anything out of the ordinary last night?”

Bridget was starting a new espresso as she took in the news. “A murder? Who?”

The detective described a man in his 60’s, white hair, who had fishing gear with him. “We are still unsure who he is. We’ll have his fingerprints to identify him soon and hopefully be able to notify the family before the story gets out.”

“And the boat?” Bridget felt her right hand lay over her heart, as if it had to protect her from feeling the family’s loss. She already knew all too well what the loss of a loved one felt like.

“No. No boat. Why do you ask?” The office had a small notebook out and began writing down this new detail.

“I was out there last night,” Bridget began. She wondered if she should even say anything more, but thought it would be worse if she lied. “I go down to the beach most nights, just to listen to the waves and look out over the lake. I’m almost always alone. But last night I did see a man get out of a small boat and start running after someone. I just ignored it and walked back up to my house. He was older though, and definitely white haired. I could see that much in the moonlight.”

Detective Sheridan wrote all this down and took her contact information in case they needed her for further questioning.

“Was anyone here with you last night?”

“No, I… I uh, live alone. The shop was closed. It was just me.”

“The shop?” As Detective Sheridan looked up at Bridget, he noticed the bright blue eyes behind the glasses. For a second, he forgot he was questioning someone in a murder case.

“I own Birchwood Knits, the shop on the square, just a couple blocks away.”

The detective nodded, watching Bridget’s mouth as she talked. It took a few seconds for him to remember that he should be writing all this down.

“I’ll be in touch, Ma’am.” He couldn’t bring himself to call her Bridget or even Ms. Taylor. He couldn’t let himself look into her eyes either. He walked out the back door without even a goodbye and quickly maneuvered down the steps, back to the crime scene up the shore.

Two coffee mugs sat side-by-side on the kitchen counter, next to the espresso machine. The other cup, the one she couldn’t find when Detective Sheridan came in, had not only reappeared, but had settled itself in nicely next to her current cup. It had been years since she had seen two coffee cups out at once. Strangely, it felt right. It felt right to have a man in her kitchen in the morning and two used coffee cups. A man had been murdered and she had no one to back up her alibi, but it all felt right for some reason. Bridget had no idea what had just hit her.

 


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