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and fussed over a tangle in Mouse s hair. She was overwhelmed. Ren loved her, and she was afraid of the
intensity in that look, and all it meant.
What if Ren could read her as easily? She was not ready for her secrets to spill out. Isabelle was jealous and
guarded of her heart and what it held. She was falling in love, too. But she was fighting it. She was fighting it
hard.
 The stories are old and the words worn, Ren began in a soft voice. Jenna settled in beside her. This seemed
to be a well-loved story.  They actually belong to the people who were here before the Nuxalk, but no one
knows who they were, or how long ago they passed through this valley.
 They tell of a Wolf-demon who came to these mountains. She found the valley beautiful, and settled here.
Soon the hunters noticed the wildlife behaving differently. The animals were skittish. They stopped having
young and began moving away. The shamans asked the bear why the forest was out of balance, and the bear
told them a Wolf-demon had come who devoured souls, and so the animals were leaving.
 On hearing this, the elders sent their best warriors to hunt the Wolf-demon, for if the animals left, the tribe
would starve. One by one the warriors set out. The bravest and best went first, and the less experienced last.
One by one they disappeared until the tribe had no hunters left.
 Then one day a bedraggled, half-dead youth stumbled out of the forest. He had been the last hunter to leave,
and he spoke wildly about an ancient tree and bad magic, but he was half mad with terror and no one could
make sense of his words. So the elders traveled to the ancient tree, Big Tree as we call it today, and found it
draped with the skins of their warriors. They had been flayed and left to hang in the wind like so many drying
hides. And late that night as the elders made their sad way home, the valley began to ring with the howl of
multitudes of wolves, and the elders knew these were the souls of their lost warriors the Wolf-demon had
trapped in wolf bodies.
 And so the elders killed as many wolves as they could find, and hung the pelts from Big Tree to release the
souls of their brothers and sisters up to the mountains. Then the tribe, like the animals, packed up and moved
away.
 What happened to the Wolf-demon? Mouse asked.
 The Wolf-demon ran out of souls to eat, so she moved on, too, Ren said.  The howls you hear at night are
supposed to be wolf souls still trapped.
A lot of things get trapped in this valley, Isabelle thought.
 They wander the valley singing for release, Jenna said.
 And that s why it s called Singing Valley, Mouse added with great aplomb.
 Well, that was creepy& and sad, too. I ll think differently when I hear the wolves crying, Isabelle said.
 Do. They might be your ancient sisters and brothers. Ren rinsed her cup in the sink.  I ve got to go to
Williams s horse ranch, would you like to come? she asked Isabelle.
 Me. Me. Can I come? Mouse bounced in her seat.
Part of Isabelle would have loved the excursion, but her secretive, cunning side knew this was the ideal
opportunity to explore Ren s cabin again while she was away for a few hours. There had to be some
information about the float plane delivery schedule somewhere. All she had to do was check out the farm
accounts in Ren s bureau.
 Thanks, but I ve got a headache. I think I should lie down for an hour or two.
 A headache? Do you want a poultice for your forehead? Ren was immediately concerned.  I have
homemade remedies for headaches.
 No, honest. I ll be all right. I just need to rest. Isabelle held her breath at her blatant lie, relieved Ren
couldn t read her well at all. Quickly she said good-bye and excused herself, and headed straight back to the
cabin.
Isabelle ignored the bureau and walked through the living room to Ren s kitchen. Straight to the bread bin
where she had cleaned up Ren s sooty fingerprints only yesterday morning. Her car lay burned out at the
bottom of a gully. Her car documents had been tossed in the fire. So why was Ren rummaging about in the
cold ashes? What had she been looking for? What else had been burned?
Isabelle was certain she had not crashed in this valley, but most likely somewhere close by. The marks in the
clearing suggested her car had been towed in, dragged to the ledge, and pushed over. When Ren said  Burn
it she had meant the car, not the car documents. Ren had not ordered that, so she hadn t lied to Isabelle
about it. For some unfathomable reason, she could not lie to Isabelle, but she could omit the truth. Isabelle
was bitter, and she worried Ren had no intentions of letting her leave the valley at all. She had covered
Isabelle s tracks so no one would know she was even here. And that left the question of why?
Isabelle opened the bread bin. It was empty. She checked the tin containers on either side. Empty. The cups on
the shelf. Empty. The spice jars. Empty. Everywhere she looked she drew a blank. There was something she
was not seeing. It was frustrating. Ren s sooty fingerprints had left clues, and all Isabelle had done was wipe
them clean.
She stepped back, drew a breath, and glared at the kitchen cabinets. What had Ren found in the ashes?
Patrick had dumped a book in the flames. What if it was not just her car documents, what if there was
something else?
Then she saw it a thumb smudge on a soup ladle. It hung from a hook with other utensils. Isabelle tipped out
a small brass key into the palm of her hand. A key! But to open what?
She ran into Ren s bedroom and went straight to the dresser. The key fit in the locked drawer and turned with
a perfect, oiled click. She opened the drawer.
 Oh God. Her fingers touched the battered cover of a Canadian passport. She knew it was hers even before [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]