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 (2 page)

BOOK: A deeper sleep
9.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

"Ain't got no thing," Jim said, and he might have closed the door to the cells a little more firmly than absolutely necessary.

 

Kate was pacing his office, fuming. Mutt had wedged herself into a corner, her tail tucked safely behind her and her front paws as far back as she could get them.

 

Kate rounded on Jim as he came in. "You're going to throw the book at him this time, Chopin."

 

Jim sat behind his desk, shoulders very square and correct. He turned on his computer and clicked on the icon that brought up the right form. "I'm going to charge him with theft in the third degree—"

 

He waited out the expected eruption and continued unhurriedly. "Theft in the third degree if the value of property is between fifty and five hundred dollars. Even at third degree I'm pushing the envelope here. I know Mac Devlin's charging three seventy-five a gallon for fuel oil, but I doubt if Willard was able to pump fifty gallons before you mugged him."

 

Kate called Willard's legitimacy into serious question and then started in on his friends.

 

Again, Jim waited her out. He was prepared to be patient, for two reasons. One, there was no Alaska statute for Crimes Against
v
Auntie, which was what Kate really wanted Willard charged with.

 

Two, it had never done anyone a bit of good to try to match Kate Shugak in either volume or vituperation. The wisest course—he winced when she kicked one of the visitors' chairs across the room—was to wait her out.

 

The arm of the chair thudded into the wall. Kate glared at the resulting chip in the brand-new Sheetrock as if it were to blame. Into the gift of silence Jim said, "You know she won't press charges."

 

"She can decide that for herself when she gets back," Kate said with a snap.

 

Mutt decided that a mediating influence was called for and, albeit with some trepidation, positioned herself between the two combatants. She followed the conversation with her head, her tail wagging vigorously, as if this display of goodwill would put out the fire blazing up between her personal human and Mutt's favorite man.

 

"You know she won't, Kate," Jim said. "She'll shake her head and look like her heart is broken, and I'll feel like six different kinds of slime for delivering the bad news. Then she'll make me a cup of tea, and she won't forget I like honey in it, and then she'll sit down across from me and reminisce about how she babysat Willard's dad when he was little, and got a great set of pink-and-purple towels at Willard's paternal grandmother's potlatch, pink and purple, her favorite colors, and she's still using them, they're such good-quality towels, and what a lousy boat Willard crewed on last summer and how Alvin Kvasnikof never does pay off his crews at anything like what they're worth, and then she'll remember that bad girl Priscilla Ollestad, who broke Willard's heart when she married Cliff Moonin, and then—"

 

He could hear the rising exasperation in his voice and broke off. "She won't press charges."

 

Kate fetched the chair she had kicked across the room and sat down in it. She folded her arms and scowled. "And it's only a class A misdemeanor."

 

"That's all it is," he said. "And if all of that doesn't work, she'll say it was all her fault anyway because she couldn't get her daughter to stop drinking while she was carrying Willard."

 

Gloom settled in heavily over the room. Mutt's tail slowed. Comfort was needed. Jim was the love of her life, in spite of that human male thing he had going on, but Kate had time served. She laid her chin on Kate's knee and blinked up at her with a sympathetic expression, or as much sympathy as predatory yellow eyes could exude.

 

The phone rang, and it was a toss-up as to which of the three was more relieved. "Yeah?" Jim said into the receiver. His face hardened. "Thanks."

 

"What?"

 

He put the phone down. "Jury's come back, but it's so late, Singh is delaying hearing the verdict until the morning." He hesitated, but she'd been helpful to the investigation, with an eidetic memory of Deem's past offenses. Plus she was related to the victim somehow. She usually was. "I'll fly to Ahtna tomorrow morning. Wanna come?"

 

"Are you kidding?"

 

"Hey?" Willard's mournful howl was muffled by the intervening walls but perfectly understandable. "Urn, I hate to bother you guys, but Anakin and me, we're kinda hungry?" A pause. "Maybe we could have a coupla those cookies I saw next to the coffeepot on the way in? And maybe we could have some coffee with them? Maybe with cream? And a couple three sugars? Anakin really likes his coffee sweet."

 

Jim closed his eyes and shook his head. "Willard Shugak could smell the filling on an Oreo cookie at a hundred yards." He got up, and Kate followed him to the outer office.

 

"Maggie, I'm outta here, and I won't be in tomorrow until late. Get Laurel to bring Willard some dinner, would you, please? He'll be staying with us for a few days."

 

Kate growled, mostly for show, and because she knew Willard was listening.

 

"Protective custody," Jim said.

 

Maggie gave Kate a wary look. "Got it, boss."

 

As Jim turned the Blazer around to head back to Kate's homestead, she said, "What's your prediction? On the verdict?"

 

The road was mostly bare, frozen gravel. "I heart global warming," Jim said, and eased up the Blazer to a steady forty miles an hour. "I stopped guessing jury verdicts after my first case, Kate."

 

"What happened on your first case?"

 

"First case that came to trial, I should have said." A bull moose sauntered out from the undergrowth and paused in the middle of the road, looking around with a distracted air, as if he were trying to remember where he had mislaid his rack. Jim tapped the brakes and flicked the headlights on bright and back again. The moose blinked at them bemusedly and then galumphed back into the undergrowth, embarrassed by his naked head.

 

Jim stepped cautiously on the gas, goosing her back up to speed. The Blazer rattled over the gravel base, and he had to raise his voice to be heard. "Perp and his best buddy pick up the victim on the road, try to get him to perform oral sex on them. When he won't, they shoot him nine times with a twenty-two. And then cut his throat just to be sure. Tossed the body in the city dump and hot-wired the dozer to run it over him a few times to mash him into the garbage.

 

"Vic was missing for four days before anyone noticed it, but amazingly enough, we had a witness who saw him get into the perp's truck, and at lineup could ID the driver and the passenger." He shrugged. "Eyewitnesses, you know . . ."

 

"Yeah. I know." In five and a half years as an investigator for the Anchorage district attorney's office, Kate knew that you could have five witnesses to a crime and come up with five different descriptions of the perp.

 

"But we found blood and hair matching the vie in the truck's cab."

 

"Excellent. And the gun?"

 

"No such luck, and of course the perp and his best bud denied everything. And then we caught a break, a bear rooting around in the dump uncovered what was left of the body when some guy was pitching out his old dishwasher. Plus, the best bud's girlfriend was mightily pissed off that we were suspecting her bright angel of anything as heinous as murder. It was all the perp's fault, she said, why were we even looking at his best bud, as the best bud got out of the car after the perp picked up the vie."

 

Kate silence was eloquent.

 

"Yeah, I know," Jim said, "nobody ever said jails are filled with smart people, and why should anybody they hang out with be any smarter? I—persuaded—the best bud to turn state's evidence."

 

"Excellent," Kate said again.

 

"Yeah."

 

"But."

 

"But." Jim sighed. "He wasn't real convincing, and he had a rap sheet it took a whole ream of paper to print out. Jury didn't believe a word he said. Hell, I didn't believe a word he said, and I knew it was all true. Well. Mostly true."

 

"And the perp?"

 

"The perp says he was out of town at the time. Real sincere on the stand, as I recall, young and clean-cut and all his family in the courtroom, including his Miss Alaska fiancee."

 

"Please tell me you're kidding."

 

"I would if I could. She spent the whole trial trying to hold hands with him over the divider."

 

"What happened?"

 

"The third time the judge told her to stop holding hands with the defendant, he raised his voice, and she burst into tears. You should have seen the jury, you'd have thought he'd just shot their pet cat."

 

"Not guilty?"

 

"Not guilty." He sighed again. "The case was mostly circumstantial anyway. As I recall it, Brendan—"

 

"Brendan McCord was prosecuting?"

 

"Yeah. One of his first cases. He was good, even fresh out of law school. Brendan said a member of the jury came up to him after the verdict and scolded him for harassing that nice young man and putting his fiancee through such a terrible ordeal."

 

Kate had also seen the inside of her share of courtrooms, and she had very few illusions left about the wheels of justice. "What happened to the perp?"

 

Jim brightened a little. "Six months later, he accompanied his fiancee to the Miss America pageant in Dallas and shot a cabdriver during a robbery. He is currently enjoying the hospitality of the state of Texas at Huntsville. One of four hundred and ten on death row, last time I checked."

 

Kate wondered what had happened to the fiancee, and the perp's family. She always wondered what happened to the rest of the victims. It was one of the reasons she'd left the DA's office.

 

"So," Jim said, "I don't predict verdicts. The game is rigged, all right, but in this case the house doesn't win often enough. It's discouraging enough without letting your hopes ride on it, too."

 

What little snow had fallen that winter had melted off in a four-day chinook that was the lump of coal in the Park's stocking the week of Christmas. At five thirty in the afternoon, it had already been dark for an hour and a half and with nothing to reflect what light there was, anything beyond the reach of the Blazer's headlights looked like a black hole. The good news was that the road was drivable at all. It wasn't maintained in winter and normally became a snow machine track from October to May, but not this year.

 

Kate peered up at the sky. "Lights'll be out tonight, I bet."

 

"Yeah." He didn't bother looking at the stars; he was watching for the next moose. "Ever thought about getting a telescope?"

 

"Binoculars work."

 

"Yeah." He was silent for a moment. "In high school my junior class drove to Tucson and visited the planetarium at the University of Arizona. They had it pointed right at the Orion nebula. It was amazing, like this huge pink and purple star had exploded right across the sky."

 

She checked the exterior temperature readout. Thirteen below. The red digital three changed to a four as she watched. "Couldn't stay out very long to look, it'd be too cold."

 

"That's why God invented Carhartts."

 

She laughed, a low husk of sound that transported him instantly back to the moments in the clearing that afternoon, waiting without enthusiasm for Willard to show.

 

Fortunately, Mutt was sitting between them. And if Mutt failed, there was always the shotgun bolted to the dash. Although Jim wasn't entirely sure shotguns worked on witches.

 

They passed a Suburban going in the opposite direction. It was easily identified, bright orange with the left front fender missing and the right front fender caved into the wheel well, hanging on through sheer force of will.

 

"Howie Katelnikof, headed to Bernie's," Jim said.

 

"Probably thinking he's going to find Willard there," Kate said, not without satisfaction. "And probably got a customer waiting for Auntie Balasha's fuel oil."

BOOK: A deeper sleep
9.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Lovers Never Lie by Morrison, Gael
Complications by Emilia Winters
The LadyShip by Elisabeth Kidd
Alien-Under-Cover by Maree Dry
Game Seven by Paul Volponi
Everything to Nothing by Mark Henthorne
On A Cold Christmas Eve by Bethany M. Sefchick
Skinned by Wasserman, Robin