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 (28 page)

BOOK: A deeper sleep
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But Jim was already gone.

 

The next morning Jim's phone was ringing as he walked into the post. "ME on line one, Jim," Maggie said.

 

"Thanks." Jim went into his office and picked up the receiver. "Hey, Susan."

 

The voice in his ear was a low contralto and sexy as hell. In appearance, Dr. Susan Terry more than lived up to the advertising, a plump redhead with creamy skin and navy blue eyes. "You don't write, you don't call. . . ." She let her voice trail away suggestively.

 

His laugh was halfhearted and unconvincing. "How are you, Susan?"

 

"All the better for talking to you," she said, and waited some more.

 

"Yeah," he said, and for the life of him couldn't summon up any more enthusiasm than that.

 

Her voice changed. "You sound like hell. How are things in the Park?"

 

"I'm hoping they're about to get a little better," he said. "What have you got for me on Louis Deem?"

 

She and Jim had had a thing back when he was stationed in the Mat-Su Valley busting meth labs and pot grows and she was a newbie at the state crime lab. They had parted amicably, and Jim had never had any problems getting results early and often out of the lab, reason enough for him to keep up the phone flirtation. Besides, he enjoyed it, dammit.

 

"Death was caused by massive exsanguination and total cardiac failure caused by a single shotgun blast to the chest at point-blank range."

 

"Yeah, I kinda figured that when I saw the great big hole in his chest," Jim said. "What else?"

 

The sexy voice acquired a distinct frost around the edges. "There is no sign he was restrained. No rope burns, no duct tape residue. No evidence of drugs of any kind, not so much as an aspirin."

 

"Time of death?"

 

"Between four p.m. and six p.m. the afternoon before he was found."

 

"Can't narrow it down any more than that?"

 

"Temps were below freezing that night. This is as good as it gets. Jim?"

 

"What?"

 

"From what I've heard about Louis Deem, he wasn't the kind of a guy to let just anyone come up at him with a shotgun."

 

"No. He knew his killer. I've known that from the moment I saw the body. Any way we can tell what kind of shotgun?"

 

He could almost hear her shrug. "Kind, sure, twelve-gauge. No way of knowing if it was a single or a double, since the killer only used one shot. And unless you bring me the weapon with the blood still on it, no way of identifying the weapon from the wound."

 

"Great," Jim said with a sigh.

 

"You sound almost relieved."

 

"If I've got nowhere to go, I can't go anywhere," Jim said. "And I've got other cases. Anything new on Enid and Fitz Koslowski?"

 

"The boy and his mother from a couple weeks back? Did you find me a weapon?"

 

He and Kenny had done everything but rip up floorboards at Deem's place. There had been a locked gun cabinet in the living room with three rifles and two shotguns in it. No pistols, though. "No."

 

"Well, when you do, I've got a couple of nine-millimeter bullets we've got a better than even chance of matching to it."

 

"Okay. Thanks, Susan."

 

Her voice changed back into its customary purr. "Any time, Jim. Any time."

 

Meanwhile, back at the homestead, Kate was at the bread board again. Olive and rosemary bread, with garlic and onions. Garlic and bread dough. It was a partnership as natural and inevitable as peanut butter and jelly. Meat and potatoes. Kirk and Spock.

 

She set the timer for fifteen minutes and began kneading in earnest, balancing her weight between slightly spread feet and letting her shoulders and the heels of her hands do all the work.

 

Jack Morgan would have laid out the Deem murder in a precise chronology and would have asked, no, demanded her opinion. But Jim Chopin wasn't Jack Morgan. She was still getting used to that.

 

The dough felt good, smooth, resilient, giving up a sigh of escaping air often enough to ensure that its presence was felt.

 

Jim's workload was such that he was glad to put her on the payroll when he needed an extra pair of eyes, her investigative skills a welcome addition to the ongoing work of the Niniltna trooper post. Particularly in those cases that were specific to the Park, where Kate's relationships, by blood to half the Park rats and by history to the other half, had proved invaluable.

 

But Jim hadn't asked her to look into the death of Louis Deem.

 

She wondered what partnerships theirs could be compared to.

 

Holmes and Watson. Spade and Archer.

 

Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner.

 

After her remarks in the Roadhouse parking lot, Jim would think she didn't care who killed Louis Deem so long as Louis Deem was well and truly dead.

 

Well, that was true enough. Louis Deem deserved killing if anyone ever did, although she was uneasily aware this was specious reasoning in the extreme.

 

Kate had never felt what Matthew Arnold called that spark of faith. She didn't believe in God, or heaven, or hell, and what she'd seen of organized religion she didn't like. She had a rooted objection in being told what to think or how to act by anyone.

 

She did believe in the earth, in its generous, regenerative spirit, in its (so far) seemingly eternal capacity to take beating after beating and come back for more. She believed in life as something to be cherished, something made all the more precious by its brevity. She often thought that this belief was what had led her into law enforcement. There could be no more heinous crime than to deprive someone of their brief moment of walking with the sun on their face.

 

True, most people didn't seem to know how to walk, let alone turn up their faces to that sun. Some even seemed determined to squander it—every one of Louis Deem's wives, for example—but that was their call. Her job, as she saw it, was to make sure no one deprived them of that choice, to commit the grandest theft of all.

 

The timer pinged.

 

As someone had stolen Louis Deem's life.

 

She oiled a bowl, put the dough inside, and covered it with Saran Wrap.

 

As Louis Deem had stolen the lives of Enid and Fitz Koslowski.

 

On the face of it, it wasn't even close to a fair trade.

 

She set the bowl to one side, grabbed her parka, and went out to sit on the rock.

 

The rock in question sat on the edge of the bluff that fell to the creek below. Over the trees on the other side she could see dirty-white mountains hulking bad-temperedly beneath a sky going rapidly grayer. There was a front coming in out of the gulf, and the soft touch of the breeze on her cheek promised rain. Mutt sat at her feet, the solid, reassuring warmth both companionship and comfort. She put her hand on Mutt's head and Mutt looked up at her with inquiring eyes. Her coat had grown out to where Kate wouldn't have noticed the patch Jennie had shaved off. The stitches had been completely absorbed, and the scar was almost invisible. The mischief was back in Mutt's eye, the bounce back in her step, and she was hunting again.

 

Kate wondered if perhaps it might be time for the both of them to hunt up Howie Katelnikof and acquaint him with the error of his ways.

 

Just what punishment short of death was adequate for someone who had come so close to taking Mutt's life?

 

She did not dare go. She most especially did not dare go with a weapon. She looked down at Mutt's massive gray form, the dog's jaw open and panting slightly. It was hard to remember the tiny, emaciated, mistreated puppy, so unaccustomed to having a hand raised to her in anything but violence, painstakingly building trust until she would allow Kate to tip milk into her mouth from a spoon. For a while Kate was sure Mutt would lose her injured eye, and that her left hind leg would never heal.

 

Taking care of Mutt had taken all her waking hours and some of her sleeping ones, a welcome occurrence back then, when her nights were filled with dreams of children fleeing monsters but never quite escaping and her days with the reminder in the mirror of the last monster and his last victim.

 

She reached up and touched the scar on her neck, a ridge of thin white skin not so noticeable as it had once been.

 

The aunties had given her Mutt when she came home from Anchorage. For the first time, Kate wondered if it hadn't been Emaa's idea. Kate had been so angry back then, she'd lashed out at everyone. Ekaterina would have known that any gift from her would be unwelcome.

 

She decided not to ask Auntie Vi.

 

She took a deep breath and let it out.

 

Now that Louis Deem was dead, Howie would be a free agent. There was no chance he would take the opportunity to go straight, and he wasn't smart enough to stay out of trouble for long. Eventually he would slip, and she'd be there to catch him. One thing she had on her side was time.

 

Her hand tightened in Mutt's ruff. Glorious time. "We're immortal again, girl."

 

Mutt grinned up at her, yellow eyes glinting, tongue lolling out of the side of her mouth.

 

They sat there for some minutes, watching the dark clouds creep nearer, pregnant with moisture, rain or snow, probably both.

 

Kate was expecting it, hoping for it, but when it came, it still surprised her, still sent that not quite thrill, not quite chill down her spine and up again to raise the hair on the back of her neck. Three notes, each sustained, each descending, each equal in length and purity of tone. The call of the golden-crowned sparrow, the advance man of spring.

 

Her grandmother had died having made it clear that she wanted Kate to follow in her footsteps as leader of their tribe, the village, the entire Park, to step into her grandmother's shoes as the head of the Niniltna Native Association and one of the most influential leaders of the state of Alaska. She hadn't gone that far, but no matter what Auntie Vi said, in her own way Kate knew she had fulfilled Emaa's expectations. For whatever misguided reason, people seemed to follow where Kate led them, even if it was only by example in living a life where the definition of a good citizen was someone who minded their own business when times were good and was there to help when the times went bad.

 

She wondered suddenly if this, if the lingering weight of her grandmother's expectations, was what was stopping her from taking her rifle out to Deem's place and removing Howie Katelnikof from the Park once and for all. There was a time when she could have done that. There was a time when only Jack Morgan could have stopped her.

 

But murder, the taking of human life, willfully, with malice, no matter the provocation, was not minding one's own business.

 

What would Emaa have thought of Louis Deem's murder? Kate remembered, with an inward shiver, some of the draconian methods her grandmother had employed to skew events in the Park, like bringing the killer of Park ranger Mark Miller to justice with an almost Machiavellian calculation of what would be best for her tribe. Emaa would have thought the Park well rid of Louis Deem, and her people made safer by his absence.

 

Emaa, in fact, would have regarded the killing of Louis Deem as taking out the trash.

 

"But I'm not Emaa," Kate said out loud.

 

Mutt looked up at her.

 

The song came again, the three notes and no more, and then the forest was silent but for the rustle of the wind in the trees, the forerunner of the storm.

 

"I'm not," she said again.

 

A third time came the song, the same three clear piercing notes.

 

Though they sat there for another half an hour, it came no more that day.

 

Johnny still wasn't home when Kate went back to the house, but with Louis Deem dead, she was no longer worried. Mutt vanished into the underbrush in search of dinner, and Kate went into the house to start hers. She minced some garlic and sauteed it in olive oil over low heat until it turned gold. She chopped tomatoes, canned and fresh, and added them to the garlic with salt and pepper and fresh grated nutmeg and covered the pan to let it simmer. She sliced a baking sheet full of onions, tossed them in olive oil, and put them under the broiler. She started water for pasta.

BOOK: A deeper sleep
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