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 (25 page)

BOOK: A deeper sleep
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"You visited Louis the Saturday after the potluck for Edna and Fitz Koslowski, didn't you, Howie?" Jim said.

 

"The potluck? I guess so."

 

"Why, wasn't that the very day someone tried to put a bullet into Kate Shugak?" Jim said to Kenny.

 

"I'd have to check my calendar to be sure," Kenny said, "but I believe it was."

 

"Whoever it was was a lousy shot," Jim said dispassionately. "Missed her."

 

In spite of himself, Howie reddened.

 

"Hit the dog, I hear," Kenny said.

 

"Yeah, and you know how Kate feels about that dog."

 

Willard said, "Mutt got shot?"

 

"Shut up, Willard," Howie said.

 

On a rising note Willard said, "Mutt got shot?"

 

"Anyway, Kate's attention's been a little distracted lately, but the dog's gonna make it and now Kate's asking questions."

 

"Like who shot her dog?"

 

"Mutt got shot!" Willard cried.

 

"Exactly like that," Jim said. "She saw the truck the shooter was driving, too. An old pickup. Where's the truck, Howie?"

 

"What truck?" Howie was sweating but defiant. "My drive's the Chevy Suburban parked on the bull rail out front. It's orange, not white."

 

Jim frowned. "Did I mention the color of the truck that ran Kate off the road, Kenny?"

 

"I don't believe you did, Jim," Kenny said.

 

"I didn't think so." Jim's voice dropped to a growl. "So how did you know that the truck that ran Kate off the road was white, Howie?"

 

Howie looked trapped. "I heard someone say so at the Road-house."

 

"The Roadhouse. Really."

 

"Maybe it was the Riverside Cafe," Howie said.

 

"So, back to my original question, Howie. Where were you yesterday?"

 

"Here all day watching movies. Willard was here, he'll testify to that."

 

"Testify," Willard said, nodding his head vigorously. "We'll be there, Howie, just like I said we would, like Buffy and Blade. Wesley Snipes is so cool, I wish I could walk like that, I'd—"

 

Jim got into Howie's face and Willard shut up with a whimper. "You were here yesterday all day? That's your story?"

 

"I was here watching movies with Willard," Howie said obstinately. "Weren't we, Willard."

 

Willard gave this serious thought. "Saturday night is movie night. Wesley. I just love the way he walks." He patted the breast pocket of his polka-dotted pajamas. "He's almost as cool as Anakin."

 

"Anybody ever drive your truck but you, Howie?"

 

"Nobody better," Howie replied, and then looked as if he wished he hadn't. "Of course I never take the keys out," he added quickly, wiping his forehead with his sleeve.

 

"Of course not," Kenny said to Jim.

 

"Howie, you're going to have to come in with us," Jim said.

 

"Why? I was here all last night! Watching movies, with Willard!"

 

Willard started bawling, his eyes squeezed shut and his mouth wide open.

 

"Jesus Christ," Kenny Hazen said.

 

"Aren't you worried about Louis, Howie?" Jim said. "I turned him loose yesterday morning. I figured he'd come straight here. I know how much he likes that walk-in shower upstairs. We don't have anything like that down the post," he told Kenny.

 

Kenny had his arms folded and was scowling at the ceiling. Willard was still bawling. Kenny hated it when grown men cried all over him.

 

"I figured he went over to stay with his girl," Howie said.

 

"No shower out at the Smiths' place yet, not last time I was there," Jim said. "No, he'd come home first."

 

"He'll probably be home any minute now," Howie said. "If we leave, you'll miss him."

 

"No," Jim said. "No, I won't miss him, Howie. Louis is dead."

 

"What?" Howie said, over Willard's escalating wail.

 

"Yeah. Had a hole in his chest big enough to toss a salad in. And you know the only thing I found nearby?"

 

Howie wouldn't bite. He looked a little sick, and he swallowed, and then swallowed again.

 

"A tire track." Jim smiled at Howie. "It matches one of the tires on your Suburban, Howie."

 

"The right front tire, to be exact," Kenny said happily, which was the thing he'd been doing outside.

 

Howie was beginning to look a little panicked. "I didn't drive it up there!"

 

"Up where?" Jim said.

 

"Wherever!" Howie shouted. "I told you, I leave the keys in it all the time! Anybody could have taken it and driven it anywhere in the Park!"

 

ELEVEN

 

It was past six by the time they got back to Ahtna, having spent the day searching every square inch of Louis Deem's property. There was absolutely no paper trail to be found. From experience, Louis Deem knew that while oral testimony could always be contradicted or subverted, the written word could not.

 

They didn't find a will, either. Jim made a mental note to call Frank Rickard in the morning.

 

In Ahtna, Kenny put Willard and Howie in the Ahtna jail and Jim in his spare bedroom. The next morning Jim bought Kenny breakfast at the Ahtna Lodge. He had bacon and eggs, Kenny had a pancake sandwich, and Tony served them extra everything by way of congratulations on the death of Louis Deem.

 

Tony was so full of joie de vivre that Kenny said, "Louis act up a lot in here, did he?"

 

Stan, coming out of the kitchen, put an arm around Tony's shoulders. "Nothing Louis did could be as much fun as watching Tony watch him, waiting." He gave Tony an affectionate hug. "It was like watching
Friday the Thirteenth
at the Ahtna Lodge. You keep waiting for the coat hanger to come out. It never does, but it keeps you on the edge of your seat. Fun for Louis. Made him feel powerful. Not so much fun for my man, here."

 

"Oh, you," Tony said, giving Stanislav a halfhearted shove. "I suppose you never worried over what Louis Deem might do to our place."

 

"Not while I've got my cleaver close to hand." Stan laughed, kissed Tony, and went back to the kitchen.

 

"I would have liked to have seen Stan chasing Louis Deem with a meat cleaver," Kenny Hazen said wistfully.

 

Upon reflection, Jim had to agree.

 

Back in Niniltna, he stowed Howie and Willard in the cells, Willard still bawling, Howie still protesting his innocence. Of course, everyone in the Park heard the news a nanosecond after they landed, and he finally had to tell Maggie to stop putting calls through unless they were reporting breaking crime, and to stop all visitors at the door. She did it with her usual crisp efficiency, but he knew she wasn't happy. She didn't want Deem's killer found, not even if it was a loser like Howie Katelnikof.

 

Jim was fairly certain she could rest easy. A tire track wasn't enough to warrant much more than detaining for questioning. The state could hold Howie for twenty-four hours before habeas corpus kicked in, and Jim wouldn't have been doing his job if he didn't use any advantage granted by state law to use that time to the fullest extent, after which he'd turn them loose to find their own way back to Deem's place. Which reminded him to call Rickard's office and leave a message asking if Louis had left a will.

 

Louis was Howie and Willard's meal ticket, rent check, and to all intents and purposes their employer. Howie had no motive for killing Louis, and Willard lacked the ability, but operating under the dictates of Jack Morgan's First Law, Howie and Willard had been Louis Deem's closest confederates. In the unlikely event this investigation were ever reviewed—because, hey, who gave a shit who killed Louis Deem?—he wanted to be able to say he'd run the investigation by the book.

 

It would be just like Louis Deem to cause Jim more problems dead than alive.

 

So Jim interrogated Howie and Willard in turn. Howie had his teeth sunk into his story like a terrier and refused to let go. Willard had stopped bawling, but he was looking a little off-color, and Jim made a mental note to tell Auntie Balasha that she might like to take her grandson in for a checkup. As a rule, victims of fetal alcohol syndrome didn't live to be Willard's age, and everyone was always on the lookout for signs and symptoms. Especially Jim, as any time Willard was out of the Park and out of his hair was almost like a vacation.

 

Bobby, Dinah, and Katya pulled up to the post at five p.m., just as Howie and Willard were pulling out. Bobby made no bones about why he was there. "Gimme the straight skinny," he said, maneuvering out of the truck and into his wheelchair in a smooth series of well-practiced moves and wheeling briskly up the ramp to the post's front door. "I go on the air at two o'clock this afternoon."

 

Dinah was more compassionate. "You okay, Jim?"

 

"I'm fine," he said, surprised. "Why do you ask?"

 

"I don't know." She studied him with a worried expression. "You look a little depressed."

 

He smiled at her. "Just tired. Been a long two days."

 

"Does Kate know?"

 

His face closed up. "I don't know. I was working late when the body was found. Dan came here. I haven't seen her yet."

 

"Oh." She hesitated, as if she were about to say something else. Jim forestalled her by giving Bobby the short version, and reached for his cap. "I've got to go see a man about a horse. Good to see you all."

 

"Jim!" Katya ran to him as if she'd just seen him for the first time and tried to climb up his leg.

 

He hoisted her into the air and looked into her laughing face. Here at least was one girl child he would never have to worry about being preyed upon by Louis Deem. He looked at Bobby and saw the same thought reflected in her father's fierce eyes.

 

Not that Jim would ever have had to worry about Katya. Bobby had been a LRRP with the 101st Airborne in Vietnam. If an older Katya ever attracted the attention of a Louis Deem, said Louis Deem would simply vanish from the face of the earth, and no one would ever know how, and no one would ever know where, and only one would ever know why.

 

There was a great deal to be said for murder victims whose bodies vanished into thin air. It was a lot less labor intensive on him, for one thing.

 

It was the worst part of the job, any cop would agree, ranking right up there with responding to domestic disputes, although there was less potential for ITP, or injury to person. People in the first stages of grief were more apt to dissolve than attack.

 

Abigail took it a lot better than Jim thought she would. She stood between Chloe and Hannah, clutching their hands in hers. Her face was white and her lower lip trembled, but she shed no tears.

 

"I have to ask you this, Abigail. Where were you night before last?"

 

She looked uncomprehending. Chloe answered, her voice high and thin. "Here. We've all been here."

 

Hannah nodded vigorously. "Right here."

 

And of course the whole family chimed in with a similar chorus. They'd all been right here, building their cabin, and since they were already shingling the roof, there was considerable evidence to support their testimony.

 

At Jim's request, Abigail followed him to his car, and no one bothered to ask her parents' permission. Something in the balance of power in that family seemed to have shifted. He halted out of earshot. "Abigail, did you ever hear Louis say anything about the Koslowskis?"

 

"No."

 

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