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 (31 page)

BOOK: A deeper sleep
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Cautiously, he relaxed the death grip he had on her shoulders. She didn't hit him or kick him or otherwise retaliate, for which he was immensely grateful.

 

"Prick," she said.

 

"Absolutely," he said.

 

"Asshole."

 

"No question."

 

"You're not all that hot in bed."

 

"Wait a minute," he said. They laughed together. The tension in the room eased.

 

The hell with it. "It's good to see you." Quick, before she could jump on that and turn it to her advantage, he looked around and said, "Where's the beast?"

 

"Left her with the kid." She hooked a thumb over her shoulder. "You here all alone?"

 

He looked at the clock on the wall. Eight thirty. "Oh. I guess so. I didn't realize it was so late."

 

"Anybody in the cells?"

 

He shook his head, and sat down again. He watched her close and lock the door. She walked around his desk and smiled at him. "We wouldn't want any stray Park rats seeing the resident trooper reduced to a lump of quivering jelly."

 

He leaned back in his chair. "Am I about to be?"

 

She subsided gracefully into his lap. "We can only hope." She kissed him. He did not resist.

 

When she raised her head he examined her expression. She stared back, the corners of her mouth indented in a small smile.

 

"I'm sorry about the AWOL," he said, and then thought, Who said that?

 

What the hell. He let it stand.

 

She kissed him again.

 

"So we're okay?"

 

She kissed him a third time, and this time she put some body English into it.

 

Good enough. It had been a cold and lonely three days, and Kate's bed was infinitely more comfortable than any of Auntie Vi's rentals.

 

She nuzzled her face into his neck, her breath warm on his throat.

 

Yeah. It was all about the bed.

 

"Jim?"

 

"What?"

 

"Who invited whom for coffee that afternoon?"

 

He stiffened. "What?"

 

"And how specific was he on what time you should be there?"

 

He closed his eyes. He'd known this moment would come. He just hadn't thought it would come so soon. It was never a good idea to hook up with a smart woman.

 

Her raspy voice was even lower than usual. He had to strain to hear her. "When Louis Deem was killed, you and Bernie were having coffee at the Riverside Cafe. You're Bernie's alibi."

 

"We just ran into each other. Had a cup of coffee, shot the breeze. You know, like guys do."

 

"When was the last time you ran into Bernie at the Riverside Cafe?"

 

"You know how it is, Kate. Laurel's got the only espresso maker in town."

 

"Laurel was running the Roadhouse that day."

 

"She's got good help. That Heather's got the makings of a great little barista."

 

"So you just happened to run into Bernie on the exact day at the exact time that Louis Deem was murdered?"

 

"Give or take an hour," he said. "According to the ME."

 

"I stopped by Bobby's on my way here. He told me you questioned Bernie about it." She shifted a little. "I figure that would have been right before we bumped into each other in the Road-house parking lot."

 

"Yes."

 

"Logical," Kate said, complimentary. "Deem kills Bernie's wife and son, when Deem is murdered, Bernie's one of the first people to have to talk to."

 

"S-O-P," Jim said.

 

"At the Roadhouse," Kate said.

 

Jim shrugged. "Where Bernie works."

 

"In front of at least a hundred people."

 

Jim nodded. "At least that many."

 

"Pretty public interrogation."

 

"Pretty much."

 

"Almost like you wanted an audience."

 

"I did ask him if we could go back to his house."

 

"Almost like it was staged."

 

Jim paused almost imperceptibly. "But he refused," he said. "He insisted I talk to him right there in the bar."

 

Kate nodded, her face rubbing against his shoulder. "Yeah, I heard that, too."

 

"He wasn't under arrest, Kate. It wasn't like I could compel him or anything."

 

His hands slid around her waist, one coming to rest inside her T-shirt, warm and firm at the small of her back.

 

She sighed. "That feels good. Rub a little?"

 

He rubbed. Gradually her body relaxed, becoming a warm, solid weight. After a while he realized she'd dozed off. He looked down at the face resting on his shoulder, at the black lashes fanned across the cheekbones clad in golden skin. He shifted in his chair, pulling her more comfortably onto his lap, and she grumbled and wriggled and was still again.

 

Was that all she was going to say about it? Was it just that she wanted him to know that she knew?

 

He looked past her at the Koslowski case file spread out across his desk, at the photographs in all their stark black-and-white cruelty. Carefully, he reached past Kate with his free hand and returned them to the file folder, one by one.

 

Enid Koslowski sprawled on her back on the stairs, eyes surprised and staring. Fitz, the fourteen-year-old science whiz, facedown below her. The heavy wooden door with the stained glass panels standing wide open to the night. The broken glass of the curio cabinet, the shards scattered across the living room floor, intermingling with the litter of toys and tracked out into the hallway and onto the porch, half-built Lego spaceships, red Monopoly hotels, Clue cards and board that had been used to build a playpen for a blond and black-taped Barbie, action figures from every kids' movie made in the last thirty years, Shrek, Woody, Vader. Or rather Vader's head. The rest of him seemed to be missing in action. Or not, there was the body a couple of feet away. Willard Shugak would have been beside himself.

 

It took him a while to realize that it had been several minutes since he'd breathed. Or blinked. The photograph of the Koslowskis' front porch with the head of the Vader doll at the top of the stairs, one corner crumpled where his fist had clenched on it, blurred and then came back into sharp, almost painful focus.

 

He closed his eyes and thought back, willing the scene to come to him in its entirety. Willard at the Deem place, Willard in the red, white, and blue polka-dot pajamas that were three sizes too big for him, Willard corroborating everything that little weasel Howie Katelnikof said. Willard, a bigger, dumber version of Louis Deem, a guy just intelligent enough to grasp the storyline of a movie but not smart enough to tell fact from fiction or right from wrong, a guy—

 

The photograph he was holding swam back into focus, the head and body of the action figure of Darth Vader that Willard was never without, riding in his left front shirt pocket, an amulet, a talisman, a totem.

 

A coconspirator. "Anakin and me."

 

The last time he'd seen Willard had been at Deem's house. It was also, he realized now, the first time he'd ever seen Willard without Darth Vader riding shotgun in his left front shirt pocket.

 

It hadn't been Darth looking over the edge of Willard's pajama pocket that day. It had been Darth's alter ego, Anakin Skywalker, he of the no helmet and the brown robe instead of the black body armor.

 

He noticed that his hand had tightened on the photograph, crumpling it, and he made a conscious effort to relax.

 

Willard looked like Louis Deem. So did Howie. So did a lot of other Park rats their age, as the line of volunteers for the lineup had shown. But Willard was almost the same height, with the same coloring and the same general shape of head and shoulders. Johnny could easily have mistaken one for the other, in the dark, in fear of his life. They were all so used to regarding Willard as incapable of independent thought or action, no one had even considered him as a possible suspect. Jim least of all.

 

Kate had been right. The smash-and-grab had none of the usual Louis Deem characteristics.

 

Louis had bankrolled the Smiths' purchase of the forty acres. He'd affianced himself to the Smiths' oldest daughter to secure his interest.

 

Like everyone else in the Park, Louis knew about the gold nuggets in Bernie's case. He would also have known about the notes that accompanied them. One of the nuggets had come from Salmon Creek. He remembered the map in Dan O'Brien's office, the steady erosion of green, the steady encroachment of brown.

 

Louis would have been certain, though. And he could have deliberately speculated on the possibility of hitting Bernie's gold, in the comfort of his own home, a beer in his hand, feet in front of the fire.

 

An attentive audience at hand.

 

He could also have mentioned how important the little slips of paper that accompanied each nugget were. The papers that could give someone who knew how to read a map that little extra edge in finding where that nugget came from. Willard wouldn't have learned it from being told only once, but Louis had had months after his acquittal to tell the same story over and over again.

 

Jim had seen Willard frightened. The flight reflex was always ascendant at those times. He didn't think Willard even saw whoever was in front of him when he started to run, he just mowed them down like a bull moose running from a grizzly and kept on going.

 

Why the gun, though?

 

Again, Kate was right, Louis would never have taken a gun along with him on a simple burglary. You could walk on a burglary charge. Armed robbery guaranteed time, serious time.

 

Why would Willard take a gun with him?

 

Jim didn't have to think too long about that. Willard understood the criminal justice system only as a provider of a warm night inside, complete with Oreos, Fig Newtons, and on special occasions Nutter Butters. He lived and breathed
Star Wars.
Jim had seen the first movie a few times himself.
"Ancient weapons and hokey religions are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid."

 

"Christ." It was a moment before he realized he'd said the word out loud.

 

Willard Shugak had made a clumsy attempt to do a job that his idol, Louis Deem, had only thought about out loud. Whether Louis had meant that to happen was anyone's guess. Maybe Howie knew. Maybe not.

 

Willard had bungled the job, as everyone but himself would have had every reason to expect.

 

And in his panic-stricken flight, he had dropped Darth Vader and had killed two people. He'd stepped on it and broken it on his way out, never noticing the loss.

 

Jim stared at the photograph, his mind going in circles. What the hell did he do now? He had no proof, only a
Star Wars
action figure in a house with three kids.

 

If Willard's fingerprints were on the head of the doll. . . He thought back. Had he bagged it? No. He had not, he hadn't thought of it as evidence, he had thought of it only as part of the detritus of Bernie's kids.

 

And what would it change? Willard would be inside and Louis Deem would be exonerated.

 

And Louis Deem would still be dead.

 

He looked down at Kate and found her eyes open, looking back at him. "What?" she said.

 

"What?" he said.

 

She pushed herself upright and ran her fingers through her hair. "My chair got awfully tense." She stretched and arched her back. "What's wrong?"

BOOK: A deeper sleep
9.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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