Sheriff Pete Terkinberry is determined to find out what happened to Sylvia Meisner. She disappeared several months ago. Her car was found under Three Tower Bridge, completely destroyed by fire. No evidence of any use was found in, on, or near the car.
In December, while a crew of volunteers was hanging Christmas lights on the bridge, three letters were found scratched into the timbers. D-S-L. The group didn’t think much of it, one suggested the letters might be someone’s initials. A few days later, one of the volunteers talked to the sheriff and told him about the letters.
Sheriff Terkinberry went out to the bridge and climbed the timber. Sure enough, the letters, D-S-L were found, carved into the wood. He could tell the wood had been cut recently.
Then, just before Christmas, a plate of cookies was left on the front porch of five homes in town, including the sheriff and Mayor Alvin Thrashborn. A card was attached to the wrapping on each plate. On the cards were written the letters, D-S-L.
After Christmas, Sheriff Terkinberry made a big mistake. He asked the good folks of Maple Valley to help him with a “small project.” Without telling them the significance, he asked them to suggest what the letters D-S-L might mean to them. Big mistake.
Denver sends letters.
Dummies spend large.
Drilling silver linings.
Ducks scratch limes.
Dorothy Sieversen Langworthy
Dirty stinky laundry.
Donkeys swallow liquor.
Durrette sang louder.
Derwood’s slippery loops.
Drastic slime lives.
Doodle sleuth lovers.
Dogs sit longer.
Dabner slaps liver.
Dingy stinking leaves.
Deliberate sickening lies.
Drooping sliding lips.
Delbert Swingly Limberton
Reading the suggestions reminded the sheriff of watching a game show called “Are You Crazy?” where the clue is “Opens a door” and the contestant says, “Pudding!”
Pete Terkinberry was standing at the kitchen sink in his boxer shorts when someone ran in the back door.
“Don’t stop looking!!” Vee Burthrap yelled at the top of her lungs.
“Vee, what are you doing?! Pete yelled, scrambling for his pants.
“Don’t stop looking!” Vee yelled again. “Don’t stop looking!”
“What in the world are you talking about, Vee?!”
“The letters on the bridge! Don’t stop looking! D, S, L! Don’t stop looking!”
Sheriff Terkinberry sat down at the table and rubbed his face with his hands, trying to wake himself from a bad dream.
“Vee, thanks for your help, I really appreciate it. But, don’t stop looking is not what the letters mean. I’m sorry.”
“How do you know?” Vee asked.
“Sylvia has been missing for seven months. No one, not one person has heard anything from her. I’m sorry, but I think we have to assume, at this point, something terrible has happened to Sylvia,” the sheriff said.
“But what about the plates of cookies?” Vee Burthrap asked.
“What cookies? What are you talking about?” trying to dissuade Vee from asking any more questions.
“Quintin told me he got a plate of cookies before Christmas, and so did you and Alvin, and a note with the letters D-S-L written on it,” Vee answered.
“Quintin wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about that,” Pete said softly.
“Why not!” Vee hollered.
“Vee, listen, someone is playing games. Cruel games. I didn’t want anyone to know about the cookies and the message because I need to find out who did it. And when I do, I’m going to find a reason to charge them with disturbing the peace,” the sheriff said.
Vee sat down at the table, suddenly realizing perhaps the sheriff was right.
“Can I offer you some coffee?” Pete asked.
“No, thanks,” Vee said quietly.
“Vee, we’re going to get to the bottom of this. One way or another we’re going to find out what happened to Sylvia. I would like nothing more than to believe she is going to come back to us, but with every day that passes, I think it’s less likely.”
Vee Burthrap stood, and without saying another word, left Pete Terkinberry’s kitchen.