January 25, 2008 Features & Images » Feature Story

Murder in the Great Big Playground 

A tale of real estate, murder, politics, and really great powder: Chapter One

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Minerva “Minty” St. James was AWOL. Her usual seat at The Girls’ table in the Mallard Room was empty for the first time in nearly five years. Not that the other “girls”— a group of women who were pushing 60 — really minded. No one really remembered how Minty, the self-styled “realtors’ realtor”, had ended up joining their group of fundraising all-stars, but all agreed she tended to be a pain in the ass.

“I haven’t heard from her in days,” said Jean Jones, who admittedly had done nothing to chase her down.

Jean, who had the most imitated highlight/lowlight bob of any local, also had the distinction of being the ex-wife of a Whistler council member, an SLRD representative and an MLA. She figured she was more than ready to throw her hat into the November mayoral race, and had been counting on Minty to exert her substantial influence. Not to mention, to host a few glad-handing receptions.

“I thought I would have seen Minty at the ‘Keeping Young, Keeping Fun’ Sunny Seniors’ seminar at Meadow Park,” noted Patti Peterson, sipping her third Blueberry Tea of the afternoon, figuring the green tea base would keep her personal trainer mollified about the amount of booze she’d quaffed before 3 o’clock.

“Maybe she was with her mystery man this weekend,” suggested Jean. “Has she told anyone who he is?”

“Some kid in his thirties. He’s a builder or a planner or something… I fired off a bunch of names, but she wasn’t biting,” said Carly Hughes, toying with her empty espresso cup. “All she wanted to talk about was her plan to build a staff housing compound in Pemberton. Kind of like a warehouse for Aussies with a shuttle to Whistler every two hours.”

“She never told me about that,” sniffed Patti. Patti’s husband, Ralph, had made it big covering Vancouver and Sun Peaks with cheaply made condos, supported by ironclad contracts that always left the owners holding the bag.

Carly sighed. Patti’s constant jockeying to find a way to add more money to the Peterson millions was tiring. It was so un-Whistler. And Carly knew Whistler. As only a one-time clerk of the municipality, co-founder of the Garden Club, and on-call Critical Incident Stress Debriefer could.

Love her or hate her — and mostly people loved her — everyone agreed that Carly Hughes was as consistent in Whistler as an American Thanksgiving mountain opening and locals who only dine out during the shoulder season’s cheap specials. She was a legend.

As she contemplated ordering another espresso machiatto (she loved the way the baristas made the froth resemble a relief of Whistler and Blackcomb) she considered the fact that nobody had heard from Minty in four days — a record — and it crossed Carly’s mind that perhaps Minty might be missing. Maybe it was worth calling Hiroshi at Search and Rescue. She quickly dismissed the thought as a side effect of watching too much Without A Trace and not having properly processed the last on-mountain tree-well death, and got down to the delicate business at hand.

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