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 (24 page)

BOOK: A deeper sleep
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Off balance he stumbled forward, and Jim caught him before he fell. "Okay, Dan. Why don't you wait in your truck?"

 

And it was on the way back to the truck that Jim saw the impression of the tire by the side of the road, a perfect imprint in what after yesterday's warm temperature had been mud when the tire drove into it, and had frozen into a perfect tread overnight.

 

He hoped he had enough plaster of paris in his crime kit to get an impression.

 

Jim rousted George Perry out of bed and had him fly the body to the crime lab in Anchorage. He walked into the post at eight a.m. sharp, and Maggie said, "Is it true?"

 

The Bush telegraph was operating at its usual light-speed efficiency, and Maggie, he remembered now, was a second cousin of Ruthie Moonin's, which went a long way toward explaining the scene in the front office yesterday morning, when he'd let Louis Deem go. He remembered, too, that he'd had to reprimand Maggie for "forgetting" to order meals in for Louis Deem when he was a resident of the post in the past. Verbally, of course, and behind the closed door of his office. No way was he going to put a written report in her personnel file that would haunt her state employment record for the rest of her professional life. Not for letting Louis Deem go hungry he wasn't.

 

"Is it true?" she said. "Is Louis Deem dead?"

 

"Yes."

 

"Murdered?"

 

"Yes," he said, and wondered if he should ask her where she'd spent the night. No, he decided, not unless he was prepared to ask the same question of every one of the Park's eight thousand residents.

 

Maggie didn't laugh. She didn't cry. She didn't leap up into the Snoopy happy dance. She was waiting, he realized, for the other shoe to drop. "Who did it?"

 

"I don't know yet."

 

She eyed him. "Why don't you not try too hard to find out?"

 

"Maggie."

 

Her laugh was entirely without humor. "Like I'm the only Park rat you're going to hear that from."

 

And of course she was right, he thought wearily, a couple of hours later. Billy Mike had been first in the door, and upon confirmation of the news, he'd shaken Jim's hand in warm congratulations, followed by the entire board and most of the 173 shareholders of the Niniltna Native Association, individually and in groups. In the middle of all this, Auntie Balasha appeared with a plateful of three different kinds of cookies and actually kissed him on the lips. "You good boy, Jim."

 

As soon as he could do so with any civility he shut the door of his office and called Kenny Hazen. Louis Deem's place was just the other side of Lost Chance Creek. He didn't want to drive out there a third time in a week. It would be quicker to fly to Ahtna and drive from there.

 

The Ahtna police chief was waiting for him on the tarmac. The road from Ahtna to Lost Chance Creek was in the same condition as it was the rest of the way to Niniltna, bare of snow with the thinnest veneer of ice. "I heart global warming," Kenny Hazen said.

 

Jim grunted agreement.

 

"Reason it's in such good shape is because people aren't used to the road being drivable at this time of year. Otherwise it'd be pothole city."

 

Jim grunted again.

 

"You'd think once the snow machines' treads started kicking up gravel, they'd get a clue."

 

No response this time.

 

Kenny gave up on light conversation. "How do you want to play this?"

 

"Bad cop, bad cop."

 

Kenny's grin was fierce. "Works for me."

 

Louis Deem's place was almost four miles down an expensively well-maintained gravel road. It was, to the best of Jim's recollection, the only road in the Park other than the main road wide enough for two cars. "Bastard puts all the money he steals into upkeep, I'll give him that," Kenny said.

 

"Yeah," Jim said, "I'm sure Ruthie Moonin would appreciate that no end."

 

The road ended in a driveway carefully laid with the same gravel that topped the road in, a driveway that circled a full-grown spruce tree thirty feet in height. The main house was built of logs and neatly roofed with asphalt shingles in a complimentary shade of brown. The trim around the windows and doors was painted red.

 

To the right stood a shop sided with gray tin and the same red trim. The shop shingles were dark gray.

 

"Looks like something out of
Better Homes and Gardens"
Kenny said, pausing to take in the scene. "Where's the tar paper extension? The stack of fifty-five-gallon drums and Blazo tins? Where's the fucking pile of two-by-four ends?"

 

They parked at the end of the bull rail in front of the main house, each space with its own plug-in for those cold winter nights when a head bolt heater was needed to keep the engine warm. There were four parking spaces in front in all, one empty. The first hosted an orange Chevy Suburban with the left front fender missing and the right front fender next in line to go. In the second space an elder statesman of an International pickup resided with an air of matronly resignation to the depredations of time, a rusty black in color. It had probably rolled off the assembly line before Eisenhower was president.

 

It sat in direct contrast next to the Ford Expedition that looked as if it had rolled off the line in Detroit the day before.

 

Kenny killed the engine. "The International is Willard's, right?"

 

"Yeah."

 

"He's got a driver's license?"

 

"Yeah."

 

"How the hell did he pass?"

 

"He's good with mechanical things."

 

"Yeah, but how'd he pass the written? He can barely read." He climbed out, grumbling to himself.

 

Jim loosened his sidearm in its holster, just in case they got lucky and somebody tried to resist arrest. Through the windows on the shop doors he could see a wall hung with spare parts, doors, fenders, wheels, chrome fittings, and many other less identifiable parts. He had to admit it all looked very neat.

 

The closing of the doors on Kenny's pickup sounded like rifle shots. Still no one appeared. "Clear consciences?" Kenny said.

 

"The sleep of the just," Jim said. "I'll roust them, you do the thing?"

 

"Sure." Kenny took Jim's crime scene kit. Jim walked up the steps to pound on the door with his fist. "Howie! Willard! Police! Open up!"

 

He had to pound and yell a couple more times before lights came on and he heard a voice. Howie. "All right, all right, Jesus, I'm coming, I'm coming!"

 

The front door opened and Howie Katelnikof stood there, his hair ruffled and a studied expression of injured innocence on his narrow face. He probably practiced it in the mirror every morning. "What the hell's going on, Jim? We were sleeping, for crissake!"

 

Jim stepped forward. After an abortive attempt to stand his ground, Howie fell back and Jim walked past him into the house.

 

Willard paused in the act of heading down the hall that led to the back door. "I have to use the outhouse," Willard said. He wouldn't look at Jim, and his hands kneaded each other.

 

"I have personal knowledge of at least one flush toilet in this house," Jim said, "and I refuse to believe that Louis Deem would live where he might have to wait to take a crap, so I'm guessing there's more than one." He looked at Howie. "When was the last time you saw Louis, Howie?"

 

"I don't know where he is," Howie said.

 

"That wasn't the question," Jim said. "I asked you when was the last time you saw him."

 

"When I brought him clean clothes on Saturday." All of Howie's answers had the sound of being rehearsed, but then they always did.

 

"You didn't see him yesterday after he got out?"

 

"He got out?" Howie's reply was quick and Jim thought lacking in surprise.

 

"Yeah, the judge sprung him," Jim said.

 

"Is everything okay, Howie?" Willard said timidly.

 

"Shut up, Willard."

 

Kenny came clattering up the stairs. He nodded at Jim, a smile of quiet joy on his face.

 

"Where were you yesterday, Howie?" Jim said.

 

"I was right here all day and all night," Howie said. "Right, Willard?"

 

"Right. So was Louis." Willard stared steadfastly at the floor.

 

"Louis was in jail last Saturday, Willard," Jim said, at the same time Howie said, "Willard, you fucking moron, shut up."

 

Willard flinched. He was wearing red, white, and blue polka-dot pajamas, and not little polka dots, either. They were too large, the sleeves hung off his hands and the legs draped over his feet. He looked like a mummy. A red, white, and blue polka-dotted mummy, with Anakin's head peeping out of his breast pocket.

 

There was something else, something that seemed a little off. Jim couldn't put his finger on it. But then there was always something about Willard that looked a little off. Howie and his rehearsed answers, Willard and his off-kilter attitude. Jim wondered what they would do now that Louis was dead. And then he wondered if Louis Deem had left a will.

 

"We were watching movies, weren't we, Willard?" Howie said. "Saturday night is movie night. We always watch movies on Saturday night."

 

"Movies," Willard said, looking hugely relieved. "Yeah, watching movies."

 

"What movie did you watch?" Kenny said.

 

"Blade Trinity,"
Howie said.

 

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
Willard said at the same time.

 

"Both of them," Howie said immediately.

 

"A double feature," Kenny said to Jim.

 

"Gee," Jim said, "was there popcorn?"

 

"Yeah, popcorn," Willard said happily, and then his face clouded over again. "Howie made it because they won't let me use the stove after I almost burned down the house that time."

 

"I noticed you had a lot of parts for sale at the swap and shop, Howie," Jim said. "A bunch of like-new snow machine parts, right up front and priced to sell."

 

"Yeah?" Howie said. A veteran of the interrogatory process, he remained determinedly unfazed by the abrupt change of subject. "So?"

 

"So I was wondering where you got them," Jim said in deceptively mild tones.

 

"Pulled 'em off abandoned wrecks," Howie said promptly. "Where else?"

 

"Where indeed?" Kenny Hazen said.

 

"How about all those truck parts I see in your shop out there?" Jim said. "Where'd you get those?"

 

"Same place." Howie was feeling more sure of his ground every second. "People dump junkers all over the Park all the time. Trick is to find them before anyone else does, get the good parts first."

 

"Yuh-huh. You must be pretty good at breaking a vehicle down to the good parts, Howie."

 

"I do all right."

 

Jim did his best to look curious. "About how long does it take to break down a, gosh, I don't know—" He appealed to Kenny.

 

"Say a full-size pickup," Kenny said.

 

Fear of being led all unknowing into a trap warred with pride in a job well done. "A day, maybe. Depending on the tools I've got with me, and if I have any help."

 

"And probably if you've got a shop to work in," Kenny said. "Always good to work inside if you can."

 

Howie nodded. "Absolutely. Cold hands make for slow work."

 

Next to him Willard nodded enthusiastically. "Cold hands make me drop tools." He sniggered. "Don't they, Howie."

BOOK: A deeper sleep
12.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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