Read A deeper sleep Online

Authors: Dana Stabenow

Tags: #Mystery And Suspense Fiction, #General, #Mystery fiction, #Suspense, #Fiction, #Political, #Thriller, #Detective, #Mystery, #Mystery & Detective, #Fiction - Mystery, #Crime & Thriller, #Adventure, #Mystery & Detective - Women Sleuths, #Women Sleuths, #Alaska, #Shugak; Kate (Fictitious character), #Women private investigators - Alaska, #19th century fiction, #Suspense & Thriller, #Indians of North America - Alaska

A deeper sleep (13 page)

BOOK: A deeper sleep
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Jim looked for Van and didn't see her.

 

Kate whispered something in Johnny's ear, and he nodded and whispered something back. Kate nodded and squeezed his shoulder and gave him a nudge toward Annie Mike, who welcomed him with open arms. He looked around and said something inaudible to Annie, and Jim heard Annie say, "She's all right, Johnny. She's at home, minding the baby for me."

 

He said something to Kate. She was clearly startled, and asked him a question. He nodded, white but resolute. She looked over at Jim and then back at Johnny and said something else. The boy nodded again, looking suddenly, infinitely weary. His face crumpled, and he leaned his forehead into Annie's plump shoulder so no one could see him crying.

 

Kate said something to Annie. Annie looked at Jim and pointed toward the parking lot of the Roadhouse before leading Johnny away. A minute later Jim heard the sound of a truck door opening and closing again. An engine started.

 

Kate came to stand next to Jim. "They'll wait for you in my truck."

 

"Where are the rest of the kids?" he said.

 

Bernie and Enid had three total. Fitz was, or had been, the eldest. "Annie's got them at her house."

 

"Good. Johnny okay?"

 

"Yeah. But he wants to talk to you." She looked up to meet Jim's eyes. "He says he saw who did it."

 

Jim took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Shit."

 

"Not a name," she said. "A description."

 

"Shit," Jim said again, with even more feeling.

 

"First things first," Kate said. She walked steadily forward to stand behind Bernie. She let one hand settle gently on his shoulder. "Bernie."

 

His head had slumped forward, his chin on his chest. His hands were still knotted in the shirts of his wife and his son. He was still rocking, back and forth, back and forth.

 

"Bernie." Kate reached forward to loosen one of his hands. It took an effort, but at last he let go, and then his other hand was free, and Kate had him on his feet with an arm around his waist.

 

"He's half frozen," Kate said to Jim. "I'll take him to one of the cabins, get a fire going."

 

Jim nodded, avoiding looking at Bernie's face. Didn't seem right to be able to see that much on the face of someone he knew that well. Almost indecent, somehow, and intrusive, although any rookie knew that privacy was the first casualty of murder.

 

He looked at the bodies on the stairs.

 

After the victim.

 

He opened his kit to extract a camera and a ruler, and started taking pictures. When the first flash went off, there was a collective startled reaction behind him, and at last people began to speak, first in hushed tones and then with a steadily gathering volume. Jim paused and looked at Billy. Billy nodded, and Jim went back to taking photos. Behind him he heard Billy Mike's voice. "Okay, folks, let's let the man get on with the work, okay?"

 

Jim waited until the crowd had begun to disperse. "Billy?" He heard heavy footsteps come up behind him. "Make a list of everyone who is here, okay?"

 

"Okay." The footsteps receded.

 

Jim closed his mind to noises off and got on with the job.

 

Enid was sprawled head down with her legs on the deck and her back on the stairs. She had been shot at least four times and, if the powder around the bullet holes in the front of her prim, flowered blouse were any indication, at point-blank range. Her head lolled to one side, her eyes opened wide in what looked mostly like surprise.

 

One bullet had gone through the upper left shoulder, one through the sternum, one through the lower right abdomen, one was just a graze on the outside of the right thigh. From the position of the body, she'd probably caught the shoulder shot first, then the sternum, then the abdomen and thigh shots, the punch from the first spinning her around in a circle leading with her left shoulder and the shots from what had probably been an automatic stitching a line across her torso. The shooter was no marksman, which indicated an amateur who didn't know that an automatic kept firing if you parked on the trigger. Certainly he had been either frightened or determined enough to get the job done thoroughly.

 

But why had Enid been facing the house? If she'd been running away, she would have had her back to the shooter.

 

A glance at Fitz answered him. She'd been keeping herself between her son and the killer, trying to protect him.

 

He photographed Enid from every conceivable angle, taking his time, using up as much of the disk space on the digital camera as possible, consciously aware that he was delaying the inevitable.

 

Even for a seasoned law enforcement officer, murder was bad enough. Murder of a woman was harder.

 

But the murder of a child was almost too much to endure.

 

He knew without looking that Kate remained nearby, a sentinel at the extreme edge of his peripheral vision, vigilant and vengeful. He felt a corresponding kick of righteous rage, and it was enough to move him down the stairs, stepping carefully around Enid's body, to stand over Fitz.

 

Fitz had fallen facedown. The two bullet holes in his back were probably responsible for that. His hands were flung out as if he'd tried to catch himself when he fell. His cheek was pressed against the edge of the last step.

 

The way the bodies were lying, Fitz had most likely been shot in the same burst that had killed Enid, the shooter holding down the trigger of the automatic, the kick of the shots pressing back, the force of the kick pushing his hand away and causing the bullets to spray wide. It was entirely possible that, given enough caliber—nine millimeter, maybe?—one or both of the bullets that hit Fitz might have passed through Enid's body first.

 

He looked up. If the killer had spent the clip, there was a chance there would be bullets buried in tree trunks all around the front yard. He would look for them when there was enough light.

 

He photographed Fitz, also from every angle, and then took the camera back up the stairs and into the house, recording all the minutia that came with every crime scene, the debris field of toys that littered the deck, stuffed animals from Pooh Bears to Sebastian the calypso crab to gremlins, Lego dinosaurs and spaceships in various stages of construction, a nest of rubber snakes. At one end of the deck a Clue board looked as if it had been used to form part of a rebel base populated by Luke, Leia, Ghewie, R2, Obi-Wan, Lando, and Vader action figures and bits and pieces thereof, a light saber, a helmeted head separated from its body, a tauntaun minus its saddle. A Barbie doll transformed into Dominatrix Barbie by an application of black electrician's tape had joined the cast.

 

Inside the door a table was overturned. On the floor next to it lay a telephone emitting the annoying off-the-hook beep. Beyond the phone was a broken vase scattering silken lilies across the doorstep.

 

He moved from the hallway into the living room, jammed with worn but comfortably overstuffed sofas and chairs, taking a photograph before every step. On the coffee table was a Monopoly game where it looked like someone had thrown down a handful of money in disgust.

 

In one corner of the living room stood a walnut shelf unit with glass doors. From beneath the top shelf a light shone down through the glass shelves inside.

 

Jim had been an infrequent dinner guest in this house, and he had had multiple occasions to admire Bernie's collection of gold nuggets and nugget jewelry and nugget objets d'art. Over the years Bernie had formed a habit common to Alaska bartenders going back to the Klondike gold rush of taking dust and nuggets in lieu of payment of bar tabs that had been running too long. He usually sold it off to a jeweler in Anchorage, but the more interesting ones he kept, like the biggest one, the size of a baby's fist, and the oddest one, the one that looked like Pamela Sue Anderson's chest. "An experienced miner can often tell what creek any particular nugget came out of," he'd told Jim, and showed him scribbled receipts in miners' hands attesting to the provenance of the nuggets in the case, some dating back thirty, fifty, even a hundred years that Enid had inherited from her stampeder grandfather.

 

The glass doors were fastened with a simple lock at the top, more to keep the kids from playing miner and madam with the nuggets than as a security measure, according to Bernie. Tonight, the lock was still fastened but both glass doors had been smashed and the shelves swept clean.

 

Jim trod on something and lifted his foot to see one of the smaller nuggets in Bernie's collection. He stepped back and his boot hit something and a second, larger nugget skittered across the floor. He sealed them into an evidence bag along with a third he found beneath one of the sofas, one he recognized as the largest in Bernie's collection, the one as big as a baby's fist.

 

The killer must have been in a hurry.

 

He looked toward the door.

 

In a hurry and on his way out the door when he'd been surprised by Enid and Fitz coming up the steps?

 

No. In a hurry because he'd heard something that had frightened him into smashing, grabbing, and running.

 

And shooting.

 

He took a few more photos, spent a blasphemous ten minutes bagging all the larger shards of glass from the broken display cupboard doors in what he knew was a very faint hope that some portion of the killer's fingerprints might be raised from one of them, and went back outside.

 

Kate had covered the bodies with army blankets and was standing guard over them. Just behind her Mutt prowled the perimeter, hackles raised at the scent of blood, showing her teeth to anyone who came too close.

 

"Who found them?" Jim said.

 

"Bernie," Kate said. "Pat Crowley's been hitting the sauce pretty hard since Karen split, and he's got no head for it. He blew chunks all over Bernie, right around nine o'clock near as I can piece it together. Bernie went to the house to change clothes. When he didn't come back after an hour and people were three deep at the bar waiting on their drinks, Amy went looking for him. She busted back in screaming and crying, and Old Sam went to see what had scared her. He sent for Billy, and Billy sent for me."

 

"Amy?"

 

"Amy Huth. Cindy Bingley's niece, came north last month from Minneapolis. Cindy asked Bernie if he'd take her on. She just started on Monday." Kate shook her head. "Welcome to the Park."

 

"Johnny?"

 

Kate nodded, her hackles looking every bit as stiff as Mutt's. "I'll get him."

 

Johnny looked everywhere but at the bodies. In the interest of getting the kid away from the crime scene as soon as possible, Jim dispensed with any attempt to put him at ease. "You were here when they were killed?"

 

Johnny nodded. "I was in the bathroom." He swallowed. "Or I'd be—"

 

Ruthlessly Jim cut him off. "Who was it?"

 

Johnny looked down. "I didn't get a clear look at his face."

 

Kate moved as if to say something, and Jim stopped her with a hard-eyed glance. "Back up a minute," Jim said. "What were you doing here? Why weren't you and Fitz at Auntie Vi's swap and shop along with everyone else?"

 

"We're behind on our science experiment for Ms. Doogan." Johnny's eyes slid away from the mounds beneath the blankets. "Fitz and me."

 

"Huh," Jim said. "So where's Van? Isn't she your lab partner, too?"

 

Johnny was silent. Again, Kate made as if to say something, and again Jim silenced her. "No one cares, Johnny, but I need to know exactly why you and Fitz came home."

 

Johnny ducked his head. He was shivering, and Jim realized that they were standing outside in the middle of the night on the first Saturday in April. There was snow on the ground and their breath formed frost clouds in the air. "Come on," he said, "let's go inside."

 

"No!" Johnny's voice was loud and panicked.

 

"Inside the Roadhouse," Jim said.

 

En route he said to Kate, "Who's with Bernie?"

BOOK: A deeper sleep
12.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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