Dahlia Larsen hurried through the gate. Her breath froze in white clouds as she crunched through the snow. She lifted the heavy garbage skip lid and threw the black plastic bags of rubbish inside before heading back.
Sorrisniva, the igloo hotel in Alta, in the north of Norway, had closed the previous week as the winter season ended. Now the temperature began to rise ever so slightly and the days began to last longer than a few precious hours of sunshine. Dahlia had spent the last ten winters working there as chambermaid, waitress, receptionist and porter. Most of the staff had already left for their summer employment. Dahlia had stayed on to complete the end of season duties. This year she planned to take the summer off and escape on a holiday of her own. She hadn’t been abroad in a decade. The plane tickets to Oslo and on to New York had arrived this morning.
She returned through the gate to the small apartment that sat next to the hotel and housed the staff. Only Astrid and Christian were still staying there. It was nice to have a bit more space and less people to have to share the amenities with. Astrid was curled up on the sofa watching television. A fire crackled in the hearth.
‘Where’s Christian?’ Dahlia asked, stomping the snow from her boots in the hallway.
‘Kitchen,’ Astrid replied. Dahlia walked through the room and into the adjoining kitchen. Christian was standing at the sink, washing the dinner dishes.
‘Thanks for cleaning up,’ Dahlia said, coming up behind Christian and wrapping her arms around his waist, pressing herself into his warm body.
‘It was my turn,’ Christian replied. ‘Before you get too comfortable, you left the gate open.’
Dahlia looked where Christian pointed with his scouring brush. ‘I was sure I closed it.’
‘Better close it before a reindeer or wolf wanders in.’
‘Not likely,’ Dahlia said, but she let go of Christian and headed back to the hall. Even though it was getting warmer, it was still impossible to go out without a winter coat on at this time in the evening. Dahlia pulled her jacket on quickly and went back out the door.
She shuffled across the snow as fast as she could and reached the gate. She pushed it closed. It didn’t click as it should have. Don’t tell me the latch is broken, thought Dahlia. That was all she needed. It was unwise to leave access to the wildlife of the Arctic overnight. As much as it was unlikely, there were tales of polar bears and wolves straying into backyards.
Dahlia looked at the latch. Odd, she thought. It wasn’t broken, it had been ripped right off, as though someone or something had busted right through the gate. Why would anyone do that? She looked back to the apartment. The light in the kitchen clicked off and she saw the silhouette of Christian heading into the living room.
The feeling that she was not alone crept up on her. Her body shuddered. She sensed movement. Air being inhaled. Her senses alerted she picked out the soft crunching of snow behind her. She spun round, letting go of the gate. Before she could scream the man put his hand over her mouth. At the same moment Dahlia felt the cold steel of the blade slice through her coat, jumper and t-shirt and enter her stomach.
She felt herself being laid down on the ground. Before she lost consciousness she felt the knife cut through her abdomen, upwards towards her throat. She didn’t feel the pain, only the cold of the snow and the air around her. Light flakes of snow drifting down from the black sky where the last thing she saw. The creaking of the swinging gate was the last thing she heard.
This is part seven of my A to Z Challenge 2017. More information on the challenge, and other stories and blogs taking part in it, can be found HERE.
Thanks to everyone who has read and commented through week one. Detective Sand will be back on Monday for the next installment.
Throughout April I hope to publish a section a day, relating to a letter of the alphabet, which in the end will make up a continuous story, all based round the objects found in this children’s jigsaw:
Other entries in the challenge, and a version of the final complete, joined up story can be found here: A TO Z CHALLENGE 2017.