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 (33 page)

BOOK: A deeper sleep
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Her two daughters weren't.

 

When Kate went to Ahtna to talk to Evelyn, she walked in on Louis Deem and one of the girls, the older one, barely fourteen. He wasn't molesting her, not yet. But he had her backed into a corner. Her face was full of dread.

 

Kate, who had earned her scar confronting another baby raper in another city not eight weeks before, could never remember with any clarity the next few moments. It had helped that she had taken Louis totally by surprise. She'd dropped to one hand and swept his legs out from beneath him with one foot, and the next thing she knew, Evelyn was pulling her away before she kicked him in the face again.

 

The daughter had for a miracle told her story to everyone who would sit still for it. While Louis hadn't done enough to get arrested, he was banished from the house and from Evelyn's life. Kate had returned to the Park, where her grandmother had— naturally—already heard the story. "Enough, Katya," she had said.

 

"It's not enough, Emaa," Kate had told her, "I've been working these cases for over five years. This kid won't have been his first victim. They never are. And he won't stop, because they never do."

 

And he hadn't.

 

Her heart ached for Ghloe and Hannah. She wanted to tell Jim about them. She wanted him to understand why she didn't care what he had done or had not done in the case of Louis Deem.

 

Instead she kept silent, filling her mouth, chewing mechanically and swallowing without tasting anything.

 

If she wasn't lying outright, she was lying by omission. Jim was right.

 

Everybody lied.

 

Even her.

 

The
Roadhouse
parking
lot
was
full
when
they
got
there,
full
of caribou roast and garlic mashed potatoes and both of them feeling a little more relaxed, at least outwardly.

 

It would not be fair to say that there was a moment of silence when Kate walked in the door, but she hadn't gone three steps into the room before she realized she'd made a mistake in coming here instead of going straight home, mostly because the horror waiting to pounce there was of a more manageable size. The burden of expectancy gathered weight every time someone caught her eye and smiled, or reached out to pat her arm, or made a point of saying hello. Mac Devlin inclined his head as she passed, which only enhanced her feeling of unreality. And when Old Sam, sitting between Ruth Bauman and Mary Kvasnikof, in from Alaganik Bay, raised his glass and the two women followed suit, there might actually have been a momentary lull in the din.

 

Mutt made a beeline for Bernie, who tossed her the requisite package of beef jerky. Jim grabbed a stool. He wasn't in uniform, so Bernie brought him a draft and looked across the bar at Kate and said, "So? What're you having?"

 

He looked calm but somehow hollowed out. He was missing Enid. Maybe he hadn't loved her, but they'd been partners in life for over two decades and they'd had three children together. Life would be changing big-time for Bernie, and it was obvious he was already feeling it.

 

Kate felt Jim looking at her, and turned to meet his gaze. "What?"

 

"Now you know how it feels."

 

She stared at him, uncomprehending.

 

He gestured at the room with his glass. "To stop a room dead in its tracks when you walk in."

 

Protest rose instinctively to her lips, and died there. He was right. Probably alone in this room Jim would know what it was like to make an entrance, to know beyond question that people saw the job, not the person. To be feared. To be respected. To be sucked up to.

 

To be hated.

 

Bernie brought her a glass of soda water poured over ice and garnished with a twist of lime. Kate clutched it without looking, her eyes locked with Jim's.

 

"It's okay," he said. His hand slid down her arm to clasp her own. "You'll get used to it."

 

The worst of it was, she believed him.

 

He turned back to the bar, to find Bernie facing him across it. The bartender's face was untroubled, and he met Jim's eyes without a hint of doubt or guilt.

 

"What is it you want me to do, Bernie?"

 

"Your job.”

 

That was all Bernie had asked him to do, for Jim to meet Bernie for coffee at the Riverside Cafe when Bernie called, and for Jim to do his job.

 

But Jim had known what it meant when he agreed to Bernie's requests. And when the time came he had done his job. He had dotted every
i,
crossed every
t
. There was no avenue of the investigation of the murder of Louis Deem he had not traveled to its logical end. The forensic evidence, such as it was, had been tested and documented and filed safely away. The interviews with all the witnesses had been documented and saved. He had even compiled a list of people who had grievances against Louis Deem that amounted to two single-spaced typed pages, and had ascertained their whereabouts at the time of the murder.

 

No, Jim had left no loose ends, nothing that would ever make anyone suspicious, nothing that future investigators would see as something that required further examination, further interviews, nothing that might bring them stumbling to the real truth.

 

And Bernie would never know that they had conspired to kill the wrong man.

 

It was a fitting price for him to pay, Jim thought now. The decision to step outside of the law he had spent a lifetime upholding should cost him a great deal.

 

There was a heavy feeling in his gut that he was only just beginning to know how much.

 

He drained his glass.

 

"Refill?" Bernie said.

 

"Sure," Jim said.

 

"Coming right up."

 

In one corner of the room at the big round table sat the four aunties—Auntie Vi, Auntie Edna, Auntie Joy, and Auntie Balasha. They were working on one of their quilts.

 

Bernie waved off Amy Huth, who was working the tables for him that evening, and came out from behind the bar his own self, balancing a tray of mugs on his fingertips. He moved with a smoothness acquired from years of practice through the crowd, a nod here and a smile there, making everyone feel as if the bartender of this establishment was paying personal attention to each of them, and arrived at the aunties' table to lower the tray with a wide sweep of his arm. Presentation is all.

 

"Ladies," he said, placing a mug before each of them. "Four Irish coffees, blisteringly hot, with half an inch of real cream floating on top. Just like you like them."

 

Casually, he let one hand settle on Auntie Vi's shoulder. She left her needle in the fabric to reach up and touch it, just as casually. "Thank you, Bernie."

 

His hand tightened on her shoulder, almost painfully. "No, Auntie," he said. "Thank you." He looked around the circle. "Thank you all."

 

Tears welled in Auntie Balasha's eyes. Auntie Edna was her usual taciturn self. Auntie Joy gave her customarily radiant smile. Auntie Vi cleared her throat and patted his hand.
"Aycheewah,
you interrupt our work," she said crossly. "We never finish. Away you go."

 

His answering grin was a reasonable facsimile of the real thing. "And awaa-aay I go. Give me a wave when you want a refill."

 

Auntie Joy waited until he was safely away before she clasped Auntie Balasha's hand in sympathy. Auntie Vi spoke, not unkindly. "You know it the right thing to do, Balasha."

 

Auntie Balasha made a valiant effort to stem the flood. "I know, Vi. He was such a nice little boy, though. So good."

 

Auntie Edna was made of sterner stuff. "He was never a good boy, Balasha, little or otherwise. It is good that he is gone. He will hurt no more of the people now." And then she added the clincher. "And you know Ekaterina would say we do right."

 

"I know." Auntie Balasha blew her nose. Auntie Joy took up her needle again.

 

"Auntie?"

 

Auntie Balasha looked around and her face lit. "Willard!"

 

He looked over her shoulder and his own face brightened. "Is that my quilt?"

 

"Yes," Auntie Vi said, a little testily. "We promise we make. We make."

 

A forefinger counted the nine squares and the illustrations that had been lasered onto fabric rectangles. "Luke, Leia, Han, R2, Threepio, Chewie, Obi-Wan, Jabba." His brow creased. "Where's Anakin? Where's—?"

 

Before his voice could rise any further, Auntie Vi interrupted him. "He go in the middle, Willard. We not put him in yet."

 

"Oh. Okay."

 

She patted his arm. "Go tell Bernie Auntie Vi buys you a beer. Then you come back and you watch us make your quilt."

 

He grinned hugely and lumbered off.

 

Four round dumplings perched on four straight-backed chairs, four mugs of Irish coffee on the table in front of them. The nine squares of the quilt assembled as if by magic beneath four needles flashing in and out. In the center square of the quilt, Anakin's face had broadened, his hair lightened, his eyes moved farther apart and the outer corners tilted up.

 

Howie Katelnikof came in, talked Willard into believing that Auntie Vi had meant to buy him two beers, took one for himself, and carried it back to the aunties' corner, carefully making a wide detour around that section of the bar where Kate and Jim were sitting. He leaned against the wall, one hand in his pocket, the other holding the bottle, from which he took the occasional sip. "Nice quilt," he said.

 

Auntie Vi looked at him, her mouth a straight line. He took that as an invitation and came to squat next to her chair.

 

"What you want, Howie?" she said in a low voice.

 

He sipped his beer. "I could use some money," he said, his voice equally low.

 

"We give you money already. You say you leave the Park with it but you still here."

 

"Yeah, well, Auntie, I like it here." He saluted her with the bottle. "I've got family and friends here. It's hard to leave home."

 

She scowled down at her stitches. The other aunties remained silent, but they were listening to every word.

 

"No more money, Howie."

 

He gave her a lazy smile. "You wouldn't want me to tell anybody what you paid me to do, now, would you, Auntie?"

 

"You not tell," Auntie Vi said with iron certainty. Clint Black and the Pointer Sisters were belting out "Chain of Fools" on the jukebox, in competition with an NCAA tournament game on the giant television. The dance floor resembled something between a forced march and a fertility rite, and Mac Devlin had been persuaded to mount a chair and give forth with a bellowed rendition of "The Shooting of Dan McGrew." There was a continuous cry for more beer, and the Grosdidier Gang were singing sea chanties, with "Barnacle Bill the Sailor" a frequent request. Nevertheless Auntie Vi had no difficulty making herself heard. "You kill a man. If you tell, you go to jail."

 

"So do you, Auntie," Howie said, and saluted the entire circle of women this time, a circle of heads bent over their work. "So do you all."

 

Willard came back with his beer and sat next to his grandmother, watching closely as the needles flashed in and out of the fabric, building his quilt.

 

"Hey," he said, squinting. A joyous smile spread slowly and delightedly across his face.

 

"Hey, Howie, do you see? Anakin looks just like me!"

 

Sec. 11.41.115. Defenses to Murder

 

(c) A person may not be convicted of murder in the second degree . . . if the only underlying crime is burglary . . .

 

—Alaska statutes

 

 

BOOK: A deeper sleep
9.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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