- Fabula Argentea - https://fabulaargentea.com -

CALLINGDON MOUNTAIN by Peter DiChellis

The odd Callingdon Mountain story began for me with a phone call last winter. But I still remember every detail, every twist, because what happened in the end has forever changed, in a small though vital way, how people look at me and how I look at myself.

The man who called me wailed into the phone. “This murder is killing the resort’s reputation, it’s just killing us.”

I imagine so, I recall thinking. I bet it was a tough break for the victim too.

“Nobody but you can help us,” the man pleaded. “You solved a bewildering murder case before, almost exactly like this one. Do you have any idea of the chaos we’re experiencing here?”

Yes, I did. The media was buzzing with news of the perplexing murder at the legendary Callingdon Mountain Ski Resort. Fanciful headlines trumpeted IMPOSSIBLE CALLINGDON MOUNTAIN KILLING! and INVISIBLE CALLINGDON MOUNTAIN KILLER? But whether reported by newspapers, TV, radio, online news, or the true crime blogs I followed, the strange story was always the same.

A new promotional event at Callingdon Mountain featured a celebrity skier named Donegal Cain. As part of the event, and in view of a dozen witnesses, Cain climbed into one of the resort’s enclosed gondola trams for the mile-and-a-quarter airborne ride to the top of Callingdon Mountain Peak. Though the gondola would hold up to eight people, witnesses confirmed that Cain departed alone, and very much alive, cheerfully waving to an admiring crowd through the gondola’s window. The gondola then sailed skyward, hanging from its mechanical cable, without incident and without stopping. It remained in full view the entire ten minutes it glided through the air on its ascent to the mountaintop. So nobody could have entered or exited the gondola’s enclosed compartment along its route. But when the gondola arrived at Callingdon Mountain Peak, Donegal Cain’s dead body was discovered inside, alone, stabbed in the back with a knife from one of the resort’s dining rooms.

The man who’d called me, a top administrator at the resort, wailed into the phone again. “Just think about it, Donegal Cain was alive when that gondola left for the mountain. And he was alone. And after that, nobody could have gotten in there with him. Nobody. Yet someone got inside, killed him, and then disappeared, all while the gondola was in midair. And the killer had the nerve to use one of our own steak knives.”

“Sir,” I said, “this is a matter for the police, not a private investigator.”

“Police. We’ve got more police here than you can count, and they’re all baffled. The State Police, the County Sheriff’s deputies, even a Callingdon City Police part-timer who thinks he’s a detective because he writes mystery stories.”

“Sir, the investigating officers will not welcome a private eye meddling in their case.”

“Wrong. The resort has a lot of political influence, both with the state legislature and the Governor’s office. We’ll put in the word. After all, back when you were a cop, you solved a murder just like this one, a murder nobody else could solve. We’ll tell our politician friends all about how you found a dead victim in the snow with two sets of footprints leading to the body. One set of footprints for the victim, a different set for the killer. But there were no footprints going away from the victim’s body. So how did the killer leave? You solved that one and you can solve this one—and before our snow melts, if you don’t mind. This is bad for business. Very bad for business.”

“I was a patrol officer then, not any sort of detective,” I said, though long ago I admitted to myself that I’d solved the case of the missing footprints by pure luck. I eventually failed my police department’s detective exam three times, left the force, and hung out a private eye shingle. I now make a wearisome living snapping photos of wandering spouses for suspicious wives and jealous husbands. Taking a crack at solving a real mystery was a tonic I craved at my core. Yet how could someone like me expect anything but frustration from the Callingdon Mountain case?

“If you come to Callingdon Mountain right away, I will pay double your usual fee,” the administrator said. “And I guarantee full cooperation from the local authorities. Full cooperation.”

As much as I tried, I couldn’t resist such a peculiar and challenging mystery, not to mention the money. “I’ll do it.”

* * *

That evening, at my invitation, two Detective-Sergeants from the Major Crimes Unit of the State Police joined me in the posh restaurant at The Callingdon Mountain Grand Resort Hotel. They sat across from me at the table, listening while they devoured the expensive dinners I’d bought them as a peace offering.

“Full cooperation?” Detective-Sergeant Harlan Trut bellowed. He stopped attacking his steak long enough to poke his fork at my face. “Do I look like the kind of person who’d give a low-rent gumshoe like you full cooperation?”

No, he sure didn’t. A scowling giant with a long snout nose and a mane of black hair greased back on his enormous head, Trut looked like a mutant descendant of Godzilla and the Bride of Frankenstein.

Detective-Sergeant Jennette Zoya, a tall woman who moved like a fit athlete, glanced up from her grilled salmon and joined the cooperation festivities. “Here’s the one thing we can tell you,” she confided to me with a smile. “The Chief Medical Examiner is ruling it a suicide.”

“Suicide?”

Detective-Sergeant Trut ogled his steak but set down his knife and fork, pointed his thumbs in the air, and raised his bulging eyes toward the ceiling. “That’s what the higher-ups want. Suicide. Makes things easier for everyone. Even for us.”

“Much easier for us,” Zoya emphasized.

“C’mon,” I said. “Donegal Cain committed suicide by stabbing himself in the back with a steak knife while riding a gondola to the top of a ski mountain?”

“The Chief M.E. thinks it was a lucky strike,” Zoya said.

“Or maybe unlucky,” Trut said.

“The knife entered Cain’s lower back in the one spot that would do the job,” Detective-Sergeant Zoya continued. “Exactly the right angle to rupture almost every internal organ down there. That gets him dead, pronto, sitting on his butt, slumped in the corner of the gondola. If the knife entered an inch in any other direction, he’d be home sleeping on his stomach. Lucky strike.”

“Still don’t see how it’s ruled a suicide,” I said.

Trut pointed his thumbs in the air again. “The higher-ups,” he repeated. “Maybe someone got their full cooperation.”

* * *

The next morning I phoned the resort administrator’s office from my room at a budget motel located on an access road a few miles from the pricey resort lodgings. I had plenty of unanswered questions, but mostly wanted to know whether I should continue investigating the case.

“I’m so sorry, he’s out of the office,” the administrator’s executive assistant said. “He’s meeting with his contacts in the state legislature to ask for their help in ending the terrible publicity from this horrible incident. But he instructed me to give you my full cooperation. What may I do for you?”

Help in ending the terrible publicity? Like obtaining a phony suicide ruling? My instincts screamed that Donegal Cain’s death was a well-planned murder. But how was it committed, by whom, and for what purpose? I decided I’d persist in my detective investigation.

“I’d like to talk to anyone who interacted with Donegal Cain at the resort and everyone who saw the gondola depart for the mountain peak or arrive there,” I told the executive assistant. “Do you know whether any of those people are still here?”

“I imagine most of them are. Would a complete list of all the witnesses help you?”

I was astonished. Maybe my luck had finally turned. “That would be wonderful.”

“One moment, please. I think I have exactly what you’re looking for.”

She put me on hold but returned within a few seconds.

“I found it,” she said. “I have an email here that says if you need any information at all, just contact Detective-Sergeants Harlan Trut and Jennette Zoya of the State Police. The email says they’ll give you their full cooperation.”

“Of course. Thank you.”

* * *

Okay, it was time for some old-school detective work. Exactly the kind of work I always wanted to do. As part of my preparation, I’d loaded my phone with news photos of faces in the crowds at Donegal Cain’s promotional event. All I needed now was to match the photos to people at the resort. I steered my decade-old jalopy from my motel’s parking lot to Callingdon Mountain’s base lodge, near where Cain’s gondola ride began. I checked the photos and eyed the room.

Right away, I matched photos to two people. But they couldn’t tell me much. A young woman divulged Donegal Cain was a “total horn dog” and a jilted girlfriend probably killed him “with like, voodoo or something.” An even younger guy would only say “I bet that dude can ski better dead than I can alive” before hitting the slopes to prove his point.

Undaunted, I scanned the room again. Another match. Angular nose, high cheekbones. Dark eyes, olive complexion. Long black hair flecked with strands of silver. An intense woman, thickset, perhaps forty years old.

“Excuse me, ma’am?”

“Yes?” She spoke with a conspicuous accent. Eastern European?

I explained what I was doing.

“Oh, yes,” she said. “I first saw that poor young man the night before he died. He told me he doubted he would live through the morning.”

“He said that?”

“Oh, yes. It was shortly after I fell asleep. Perhaps midnight. That is when he came to me at the resort hotel.”

“Came to you?”

She handed me a business card. “I am Madame Fortunata, the most learned psychic in all of the Callingdon Mountain region. You shall have my full cooperation. How may I help?”

“Wait. It was dream? You saw Donegal Cain in a dream?”

“No, no. Not a dream. A vision in my sleep. And I learned more as well. I heard a woman with a shrill voice arguing with a different man, not that poor young man Donegal Cain. But from the arguing, it is certain the poor young man was at the center of a lover’s quarrel. He ended a passionate affair, very passionate, with this shrill-voiced woman. The other man did not approve of Donegal Cain.”

“And the voices were part of your vision?”

“No, no. The voices kept me awake until thirteen minutes before midnight. The vision came later, while I slept.”

I recalled the news photo that led me to her. “You said the vision was when you ‘first saw’ Donegal Cain. The night before he died. What about the next day, the day he died?”

“Oh, yes. I was there when he left for the mountaintop. I saw everything. After the poor young man Donegal Cain went into the gondola car, another man followed him inside. Then two more men. I heard shouting and then laughter. Then the three men left and the gondola departed with the poor young man Donegal Cain alone inside it, smiling and waving through the window.”

“What did the three men look like?”

“Large men, very large. The first one wore a blue parka. The same shade of blue as the gondola. The same shade of blue as the sky that day. The other two men ran into the gondola after him. After the man in the blue parka.”

“Anything else?”

“Oh, yes. Tell me please, do you suspect me of this killing?”

“Why would I suspect you?”

“It is a simple matter, very simple, for me to place a curse on someone, anyone really.” She stared directly at me. “And cause their death in a most unusual way.”

“Is there something you’re trying to tell me?”

She studied me for a moment. “I predict the solution to this mystery will be utterly unexpected. To discover it, you must first uncover a diabolical plan crafted by a conspiracy of evil forces, some of them shrewdly disguised as friends or allies.”

As soon as Madame Fortunata left, a trim older couple, who must have overheard our conversation, approached me. I didn’t recognize them from my news photos, but I didn’t assume the photos captured everyone who’d attended the event.

“Are you trying to find out what happened?” the woman asked. “We were there when they found his body.” Her teeth made a slight clicking sound as she spoke.

“Barney and Betsy Blankenstoop,” the man said. “Happy to help.”

“You were on Callingdon Mountain Peak when Donegal Cain’s gondola arrived?” I asked.

“We saw everything,” Barney said.

“Everything,” Betsy agreed. Click, click. Her teeth again.

“Tell me about it.”

“When the gondola arrived, a young lady opened the door, looked inside, and screamed ‘My God, he’s dead,’” Betsy said. Click, click. “Then an older man yelled to the crowd ‘I’m a doctor,’ and pushed past the young lady to go inside.” Click, click. “When he came outside again, he shouted ‘Call 911, maybe it’s not too late.’” Click, click, click. “But the young lady screamed ‘No, no. He’s dead, I saw him. I saw him! He’s dead and it’s all my fault. All my fault.’” Click, click.

“And people were calling 911 on their cellphones,” Barney said. “They were screaming ‘Send paramedics, he’s been stabbed.’”

“How could they know he’d been stabbed?” I asked.

“The young lady said so. She yelled it,” Betsy said. Click, click.

“No, dear. It was the older man,” Barney said. “By then, the young lady was just standing there, staring at the ground and moaning, as if in shock.”

“I’m sure the young lady yelled about the stabbing,” Betsy insisted. “Her voice reminded me of our great-niece, Loretta. Quite a deep voice.” Click, click.

“Lorna is the one with the deep voice, dear. Loretta has a shrill voice.”

“No,” Betsy said. “Loretta has the deep voice, almost like a man’s.” Click, click.

I interrupted the couple to show them the news photos on my phone and see whether they recognized either of the people they’d seen at the gondola. They picked out two photos of the young lady and one of the older man. I thanked them and, as was my habit, handed each one a business card, requesting their contact information in return.

The instant they walked away, still debating the timbre of their great-nieces’ voices and Betsy’s teeth still clicking, a husky man, probably in his early sixties but built like a barrel of muscle, positioned himself in front of me. He leaned into my face. “You should have checked in with me first. Roy Lutano. Head of resort security. Let’s talk in my office. Now.”

He placed his hand, about the size and texture of a baseball mitt, atop my shoulder and guided me toward the exit.

* * *

Lutano’s office was a windowless cubbyhole at the far end of a dank underground hallway. He shut the door behind us and snapped the deadbolt.

“Privacy,” he said.

“I’m sorry about any confusion,” I told him, “I’m working for—”

“I know exactly what you’re doing.” He eased into his office chair and signaled for me to sit. “Wish you’d checked in with me about this gondola business. Maybe we can help each other.”

I stole a glance at his tiny office. A dozen framed photographs stood on his desk. A lovely woman who I supposed was his wife and a slew of pictures I guessed portrayed their adult children and young grandchildren. Lutano’s only other office decorations were paperback book covers torn from Michael Connelly mystery novels, affixed to the walls with cellophane tape.

As it turned out, Roy Lutano had been hired on at Callingdon Mountain after losing his job as a town constable after a local election swept out the mayor and the rest of the council. I gathered the resort administrator and police shunted him aside during the Donegal Cain investigation. Lutano’s curiosity and pride, along with his love of a good mystery, compelled him to learn what really happened in the gondola. I reflected on my own so-called detective career and decided I both liked him and empathized with him.

“Mind if I ask what you found out so far?” he asked.

“Wish I could tell you. But anything I find goes to my client first.”

“Fair enough. But could you mention me in your report? I’m the new guy here, stuck in a basement office, and I could use some publicity. Like I said, maybe we can help each other.”

“Delighted to,” I said. “What can you tell me?”

“Well, whatever happened up there, the snowboarder probably wasn’t part of it.”

I nodded as if I knew what he was talking about. “The snowboarder never even entered my mind. What convinced you?”

He looked at me as though I were a befuddled toddler. “For one thing, after we pulled him out of Cain’s gondola, he rode to the top in another one. So he was midair in another gondola, behind Cain’s gondola, the whole time. Unless he turned into some kind of invisible flying ninja acrobat.” Lutano shook his head. “Not likely, even for a hot-dogging freestyler used to all that screwball jumping and spinning and flipping upside down on the slopes.”

“And of course Donegal Cain was alive when you pulled the snowboarder away from him.”

Lutano leaned forward. “We didn’t really have to pull him away, not really. Soon as we told him what was going on, he apologized, took a quick selfie with Cain, and went looking for another gondola. Nice enough guy. Just wanted to get to the Peak and freestyle back down. Hard to tell which one of them was more stoned, though.”

“You mean…”

“Donegal Cain. Eyes so bloodshot they matched his parka.”

“Red parka?”

“Blood red. One of those oversized, overstuffed ones. Paramedics had to cut it off him with shears to get at the knife underneath.”

I nodded again as I recalled what Madame Fortunata had told me. “You said ‘we’ pulled him out of the gondola?”

“Myself and a temporary security guy I hired for the event. College kid. But forget about him. Art student. All he seemed to notice was the snowboarder’s parka was the same shade of blue as the gondola. Same shade of blue as the sky. That’s the only thing the damn art kid talked about. How all that blue blended together.”

Lutano shook his head again. “Some think it was murder, others say suicide, others say some kind of freakish accident. And some say we’ll never know.”

My detective radar pinged. “Haven’t heard the accident theory. What kind of accident?”

“Freakish, like I said. Maybe Cain filched the knife from the resort restaurant, Lord knows why, and hid it in his waistband. He was too stoned to stand up, fell down the wrong way, and took an unlucky poke.”

Another attempt to shield the resort’s reputation from a shocking murder, I wondered? “Accident seems unlikely.”

“Everything about this crazy mystery is unlikely,” Lutano said. “Why would the solution be any different?”

I showed him the photos of the young lady and older man the Blankenstoop couple had picked out. “Ever see either of these folks?”

“Sure. That’s Marlee Wilson. She’s an assistant in the resort’s marketing department. Set up the Donegal Cain promotion. And the man’s a top sports doctor, Dr. Armand Wilson. Never met him.”

“Both named Wilson?” I asked. “Married? Related?”

“Who knows? Common enough last name.”

“But Marlee Wilson knew Donegal Cain?”

“Sure. Maybe the doc did too.”

“Why do you think so?”

“Cain took a spill and broke a couple of bones last winter. Still in a lot of pain from the surgery, at least that’s what everyone says. A big sports doc like Wilson might get involved in something like that.”

* * *

Next stop, the resort’s marketing department to interview Marlee Wilson. She wasn’t there. She’d taken an “unexpected absence” according to the department manager, who invited me to sit in the lone visitors’ chair in his cramped work cubicle.

“I guess it makes sense, after what happened,” the manager said from behind his desk. “But it’s not like her to just leave a voicemail and take off.”

“What did her voicemail say?” I asked.

“Listen for yourself.” He punched a couple of buttons on his phone and another to put the phone on speaker. A woman’s shrill, quivering voice filled the cubicle.

“Hi. It’s Marlee. I’m so sorry for what happened. It’s my fault. I’m responsible for everything. I never should have… done it. I’m taking some time off to decide how to handle what I did. I hope you understand. I’m so, so sorry. I know I shouldn’t have done it.”

I didn’t think Marlee’s voicemail rose to the level of a confession, and I didn’t know for certain who I could trust, so I decided I’d notify Detectives Trut and Zoya after I spoke with Dr. Wilson and learned more. I figured the successful doctor would stay at The Callingdon Mountain Grand Resort Hotel, the best accommodations the resort had to offer. I confirmed his room number and found him there. Easy enough for someone with my cheating-spouse peeper experience.

“I’ve already spoken with the police,” Wilson told me as he stood blocking the half-open door to his generous suite. “I’m sure you can get whatever you need from them. Besides, a friend in the state legislature informed me Donegal Cain’s death was ruled a suicide. Everyone knows Cain’s injuries and botched surgery ended his career as a competitive skier. He must have been despondent over it. I understand he became an unstable drug abuser as well.”

“I doubt the suicide ruling will stand,” I said from the hallway. “And after what I learned a few minutes ago, the police will be too busy looking for a young lady named Marlee Wilson to talk to me. Maybe you could spare just a minute?”

“My daughter had nothing to do with this,” he said.

“Your daughter.”

“Marlee, of course.”

“You know where she is?”

“Why shouldn’t I just slam the door in your face?”

“I haven’t told the police what I learned about Marlee yet.”

He glared at me and his face flushed. But he stepped aside and let me in. Barely. We sat across from each other in a seating area immediately inside the suite’s entrance. He’d grudgingly moved his parka from one of the chairs so I could sit. An overstuffed dark maroon parka.

“Just tell me what you saw and heard,” I said. “That’s all I’m asking.”

“I’ll tell you what I told the police. Nothing more. When the gondola arrived, Marlee opened the door, looked inside, and screamed ‘Oh God, he’s dead.’ I looked inside and saw what I assumed she saw, Donegal Cain sitting in the corner, slumped over, both of his eyes closed and his face deathly pale. I went in to try to help him but realized there was nothing I could do. He was still breathing but barely had a pulse. He needed emergency hospital care, immediately. So I came back out of the gondola and shouted for someone to call 911. Then somebody in the crowd began screaming that Donegal Cain had been stabbed.”

“Was your daughter the one who screamed he’d been stabbed?”

“Leave her out of this. She’s been through enough heartache with Donegal Cain.”

“Meaning?”

“You need to leave. I told you exactly what I told the police. Now get out. And leave my daughter alone. She already spoke with the police. There’s nothing more to say.”

“Your daughter knew Donegal Cain. Did you know him too?”

“I’m not the one who botched his surgery, if that’s what you’re asking.”

It wasn’t. “Where is Marlee? The police will need to see both of you again, right away.”

“I’ve told you everything I know. Now, do I need to call Security or will you get out of my room?”

* * *

As soon as I left Dr. Wilson, my cellphone buzzed. It was the marketing department manager who supervised Marlee Wilson.

“Marlee just called,” he said. “She’s coming to the office. She said she wants to explain. I wasn’t sure who to tell.”

“When do you think she’ll be there?”

“Twenty minutes. She said she knows what she did was wrong and she won’t run away from it. Do you think Donegal Cain committed suicide because of her? Everyone is saying he killed himself. Or maybe it was an awful accident, nothing anyone did on purpose.” The manager’s voice dropped to a hoarse whisper. “I know Cain was definitely alive when he left for the peak because I went to the departure ceremony at the base lodge, and I saw him go into the gondola. Then he waved through the window as the gondola left. Should I have told you that when we spoke earlier?”

I didn’t answer his question, just thanked him and ended the call. Grateful for my habit of always exchanging contact information, I phoned resort security head Roy Lutano. Because the solution to the impossible Callingdon Mountain mystery finally hit me. I told Lutano everything. He agreed with my analysis.

“Do you have the authority to make an arrest?” I asked.

“No, but with reasonable cause I can detain anyone on the property until the police arrive.”

* * *

Two days later, with the Callingdon Mountain killer in police custody, I finished my report to my client. I covered every detail, connected every dot, laid out where every piece of the puzzle fit.

The telltale clue that finally registered with me: the red parka. With Donegal Cain “sitting on his butt, slumped in the corner of the gondola,” as Detective-Sergeant Zoya described, and the lethal knife beneath his oversized and overstuffed blood-red parka, Marlee Wilson couldn’t have seen Cain had been stabbed in the back, as a confused Betsy Blankenstoop stated Marlee had screamed. Nor could anyone in the crowd know he’d been stabbed, as an uncooperative Dr. Wilson had intimated.

Which meant, only the killer could have known.

Perhaps more obvious to someone with sharper detective skills than mine, just one person was in the gondola with Donegal Cain when it was remotely possible to commit murder: Dr. Armand Wilson.

But what exactly happened?

The prominent sports doctor, enraged at “total horn dog” Donegal Cain for mistreating his daughter, implemented a simple, but effective, plan. He introduced himself to Cain before the promotional event in order to provide the pain-stricken skier with feigned sympathy and two high-dosage prescription opioid pills.

Before the gondola departed for Callingdon Mountain Peak, Cain was, as Roy Lutano described, merely “stoned,” but by the time he reached the mountaintop he was unconscious, slumped in the corner of the gondola, apparently dead but actually still alive.

A waiting Dr. Wilson entered the gondola and lifted Cain’s thick parka to insert the knife into his lower back at the precise angle the skilled surgeon knew would prove fatal.

Only the killer could have known then that Donegal Cain was stabbed, so it was a nervous Dr. Wilson who inadvertently divulged the stabbing to the crowd, in the deep voice—“almost like a man’s”—that Betsy Blankenstoop heard.

But it was Marlee Wilson’s shrill voice that Madame Fortunata had heard arguing the night before. The hurtful end of the “passionate affair” between Marlee and Donegal Cain, prompting the argument between Marlee and her father. Then the furious Dr. Wilson crept downstairs from his suite to the hotel restaurant and pilfered a steak knife, which he easily concealed in his own parka, setting in motion his plan for the mysterious Callingdon Mountain murder.

And Marlee Wilson’s seemingly damning voicemail? She was not involved in the killing and knew nothing about her father’s involvement. She’d violated resort policy by booking Donegal Cain’s promotion for “personal, not professional” reasons, she confessed. And therefore she felt responsible for whatever had happened to him.

What of her department manager spreading the rumor Cain’s death was perhaps an accidental stabbing in the back or Madam Fortunata’s “vision” of Cain in her sleep and her “conspiracy of evil forces” prediction?

Simply the manager’s noble but absurd attempt to protect Marlee if she was involved and the ramblings of a self-proclaimed psychic.

Luckily, spotting unreliable evidence is not my weakest detective skill.

Finally, I never could verify who might have influenced or requested a suicide ruling. I didn’t want to press my client about it and couldn’t determine whether Dr. Wilson played a role.

In the end, I guessed it didn’t matter much. I also guessed the Medical Examiner ran a standard toxicology screen on Cain, but concluded opioid pain pills were part of the skier’s post-surgery prescription regimen.

* * *

My report gave former town constable Roy Lutano well-deserved praise for aiding the investigation and detaining the deadly doctor until police arrived. But as it turned out, Lutano didn’t need my help. He retired as head of resort security to collect a small municipal pension and write a debut mystery novel based on the strange Callingdon Mountain murder.

So I applied for his vacated security job and got it. Working at the resort for a steady paycheck provided a refreshing life-change from sporadic gigs skulking outside no-tell motels with a cheap camera.

As a bonus, even now, whenever I stroll the grounds of the gorgeous Callingdon Mountain resort, people smile, nod at me, and whisper conspiratorially to their companions. And why wouldn’t they? After all, I’m the famous detective who solved the impossible Callingdon Mountain murder mystery.

# # #

This story originally appeared in the anthology The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense (Superior Shores Press, June 2019).

Note: This story is an original work of creative fiction. All people and events described or depicted are entirely fictional. Any resemblance to actual individuals or events is unintended and coincidental.

==========

AUTHOR BIO:

Peter DiChellis concocts sinister tales for anthologies, ezines, and magazines. Two of his stories were Finalists in the 2019 Derringer Awards for outstanding short mysteries. Peter is an Active (published author) member of the Mystery Writers of America, Private Eye Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers, and a Full (published author) member of Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association. For more, visit his Amazon author page or his website Murder and Fries.

==========

WHY WE CHOSE TO PUBLISH “Callingdon Mountain”:

Crafting a great murder mystery is hard enough, but when you try to do one as a short story, the challenges multiply. Not only do you have to concoct a compelling mystery, but you need to introduce enough suspects so the murderer is not obvious. And it must have a logical resolution without having to pull a rabbit out of the hat at the end.

In our opinion, author Peter DiChellis succeeded admirably on all counts. He gave us a head-scratching mystery with just enough suspects and an ending that makes sense for all the clues given. When you also have an interesting main character, the result is a winning story.