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 (6 page)

BOOK: A deeper sleep
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Auntie Vi poked her again. "We give you time, Katya." She pointed at the scar on Kate's throat. "You almost get killed when you stop bad man from hurting baby girl. You come home to heal. Okay, we let you heal." She pointed a stern finger at Mutt. Mutt's tail gave an ingratiating wag, but Auntie Vi wasn't having any. "We even give you the puppy to help you heal. Instead you fight with your emaa. Okay, we let you fight. Ekaterina die. Okay, we let you mourn. Your man die. Okay, we let you mourn some more. Your house burn down. We build you another. The whole Park, we build you another!" She poked Kate a third time. "How much longer, Katya?"

 

"How much longer for what, Auntie?" Kate looked at the door for rescue, but the cavalry was late.

 

"How much longer we wait?" Auntie Vi said, her voice rising. "We give you life, we send you to school—"

 

"I didn't want to go to school, Auntie. Emaa made me."

 

"Ekaterina make that decision for all of us! And then instead of coming home like you should have, working for your people, you take job in Anchorage!" Auntie Vi struck her breast fiercely with one fist. "What about us! Your people!"

 

Forgetting for a moment that she was speaking to her elder, Kate raised her own voice. "What have I been doing for the past seven years but work for my people! Who's the first person Billy Mike comes running to when the Bingleys start fighting or the Jeppsens and the Kreugers start shooting? Somebody burned down my cabin, my parents' cabin, the cabin I was born in and lived in my whole life. It's gone because I was working for my people, looking for a killer!" With an effort, she brought her voice back under control. "And if the price of my new house is me taking a seat on the board of the Niniltna Native Association, I would never have let you build it for me."

 

Kate watched with mean satisfaction as a vivid flush washed up over Auntie Vi's face, but she, too, struggled for control. "You need to be on the board, Katya."

 

"Like hell I do, Auntie. I don't know the first thing about how to run a corporation."

 

"You can learn!" Abruptly, Auntie's voice gentled. "Billy not young anymore."

 

"He's not old, either, Auntie."

 

"He sixty-three, Katya, and not healthy. Annie says his heart goes funny sometime. Old Sam older than his name. Joyce, Demetri, Harvey—all old enough to be your parents." She looked, if it were possible, pleading. "Where you lead, others will follow. Since you are a child, always this has been so. All know it. You smart, you strong, you young." She added, unfortunately, "You chosen by Ekaterina."

 

"Yeah, that shows you how smart Emaa was, Auntie. Abel would still be alive if I hadn't come home."

 

Auntie Vi shook her head, refusing to be drawn, and waved at the courthouse they were standing in. "That boy kill that girl," she said, "and get away with it."

 

"Getting myself elected to the board wouldn't have changed that, Auntie."

 

Auntie Vi opened the door. "A hundred and seventy-three shareholders, Katya. When something bad like this happen, they want answer. Who here to give them one?"

 

Jim took one look at Kate when she got back to the judge's chambers and rose swiftly to his feet. "Lunch, anyone?"

 

They adjourned to the Ahtna Lodge where, Jim hoped, exchanging gossip with Tony and eating one of his partner Stanislav's famous steak sandwiches would soothe Kate's savage breast.

 

How bad an idea that was was immediately obvious when they walked into the restaurant and saw that instead of heading for the Seven Come Eleven as was his usual MO following an acquittal, Louis Deem had for reasons best known to himself decided to park an elbow on the Ahtna Lodge bar, long known to be the hangout of Kate Shugak when she was in town. He was surrounded by the usual suspects and appeared to be having a high old time of it.

 

"Let's go," Jim said.

 

"Oh, let's not," Hazen said, and thwarted Tony's attempts to seat them as far away from the bar as he could get without actually putting them at a table in the river.

 

Jim looked at the judge, who shrugged and sat down in the chair Hazen had pulled out for her.

 

Such provocation did not go unnoticed. "Oh man," someone said in a not very low voice, "that's just a nine-one-one call waiting to happen."

 

"No point," someone else said. "Everyone who would answer it is right here."

 

There was a nervous titter, quickly squelched. Kate and company gave a jittery Tony their orders, and he fled their table as if pursued by demons. Everyone was watching out of the corner of their eyes, and those eyes got sharper when after a fraught ten minutes Louis Deem strolled over to their table. "Nice to see a man pull a chair out for a woman anymore, Kenny," he said, and looked down at Robbie Singh. "Gotta love the manners on that good ol' boy, dontcha, Judge." He gave her a slow once-over. "Gotta say also that you're looking mighty good. Glad to see getting the tit cut off didn't slow you down."

 

Hazen was up and out of his chair and Jim was right behind him, only he was grabbing hold of Hazen and hanging on. Jim Chopin was not a small man, but next to Kenny Hazen in a rage Paul Bunyan would have looked frail. "Kenny. Don't. You know it's what he wants."

 

The judge said coolly, "Thank you, Mr. Deem. I appreciate your good wishes, given the antagonistic state of our professional relationship." She even smiled at him. "Which I do assure you is far from over."

 

Louis was wise enough to let this pass. He took a long pull at the draft beer he was holding and looked at Kenny, who shrugged off Jim's hands and restrained himself to a killing glare. "Man, that's good. The one thing I've missed most inside." He grinned. "Well. Maybe not the thing I've missed most."

 

Kate thought of Eve Waterbury weeping into Nick Waterbury's shoulder in the courtroom. Next to her Mutt showed her teeth, a growl rumbling out of her throat.

 

Louis looked at Mutt. "Hey, Mutt," he said softly.

 

The growl, if anything, increased in volume.

 

"Fuck off, Louis," Kate said, just as softly.

 

His gaze shifted to her for the first time, and while no one saw the "target acquired" sign flashing over his head, no one who was watching in the Ahtna Lodge Bar that day could mistake the hostility that sizzled between the two of them. "Hey, Kate," he said in what could be described as an almost caressing tone. "I hear somebody burned down your cabin."

 

"Pity you were in jail at the time," Kate said. "Arson, attempted murder. Right up your alley."

 

His smile widened. He even turned his head a little so the dead tooth faced her straight on. "I also hear you got a brand-new house. And a brand-new son."

 

There was a moment of silence.

 

"Kate," Jim said on a warning note. He felt like he needed a striped shirt and a whistle. And body armor.

 

Slowly and with a certain ceremony, Kate rose to her feet.

 

The room was absolutely silent.

 

Kate leaned forward with her hands flat on the table and met Louis's eyes. "Buzz off now, Louis," she said softly, "like the little gnat you are, before someone slaps you down." She smiled, a wide, warm smile that terrified everyone who saw it, and dropped her gaze to his teeth. "Again."

 

The hair standing up all over his head, Jim said, long after he should have, "You have no business here, Deem. Go on back to the bar."

 

Deem ignored him, raising his glass to Kate. "Be seeing you."

 

"Be careful what you wish for," Kate said. "Little boy."

 

Tony, frozen two tables away in the act of taking someone else's order, greeted Stan's call of "Order up!" with the demeanor of someone reprieved from the gas chamber thirty seconds before the balls dropped, and bustled over with their steak sandwiches, full of false good cheer.

 

"You okay?" Jim said to Kate in a low voice as they sat down again.

 

"I'm fine," she said. She even ate all of her sandwich, although he noticed she didn't appear to taste any of it. He noticed also that Mutt eschewed the plate of chopped meat Tony set before her in the manner of one setting an offering before a god, instead positioning herself between Kate and the bar, her considering yellow gaze fixed on Louis Deem's back.

 

"Stay away from Deem," Jim said after they were in the air.

 

"Tell him to stay away from me," Kate said.

 

To his surprise, she didn't sound angry, or even threatening. On the contrary, she sounded calm, almost matter-of-fact. As if, Jim thought with a sudden chill, as if the gauntlet had been thrown down, and the challenge accepted. He concentrated on getting them to cruising altitude before speaking again, more cautiously this time. "You and Deem appear to have something of a history."

 

Kate stared through the windshield with a face devoid of all expression.

 

He tried again. "It wasn't—"

 

"Personal?" She looked at him, her mouth a straight uncompromising line. "Is that what you're trying to find out, Jim? If Louis and I got it on?"

 

He was honestly appalled. "No! Jesus! No way, Kate. No way would you ever have anything to do with that lowlife." He examined the dials on the control panel and then the horizon, hoping for a loss of oil pressure or the onset of clear air turbulence as a way out of this conversation. No such luck. "Let's just drop it, okay? Sorry I said anything."

 

They flew on for a few minutes. To Jim it felt more like a few hours.

 

"I saw the results of him doing something he shouldn't have been doing," Kate said. "Which is pretty much the story of Louis's life."

 

Jim maintained a hopeful silence.

 

"I..." Kate hesitated. "I instructed him as to the error of his ways."

 

Jim thought about it for another twenty-five miles. "The cap," he said. "You knocked his tooth out."

 

Kate said nothing.

 

"But he keeps smiling at you with it."

 

Silence.

 

Jim sighed. "So he didn't stay instructed."

 

A great snowy owl was startled awake by their passing over his roost and exploded into flight, a vast sail of pure white feathers and matchless grace. Kate turned her head to watch it out of sight.

 

"He beat the rap," Jim said. "Again. Still."

 

The back of Kate's head was unresponsive. Mutt stuck her head in between them and touched her nose to Kate's neck. Kate didn't even jump.

 

"Shit," Jim said.

 

They were silent the rest of the way home.

 

It took Jim a while to figure out why the encounter between Kate and Deem bothered him so much.

 

Louis Deem might be the only Park rat Jim Chopin had ever met who wasn't afraid of Kate Shugak.

 

THREE

 

The Park

 

But January passed into February, and Louis Deem made no noticeable ripples in the peaceful winter surface of the Park. It stayed cold enough long enough for the school to build and maintain an ice-skating rink on the baseball field behind the gymnasium. Everyone pulled their skates out of the crawl space, dusted off the dead spiders, and met on the ice, where someone set up a bonfire every night, next to which Auntie Vi sold hot chocolate topped with whipped cream that froze into mustaches on everyone's upper lips. Word was at least two children were fathered just beyond the glow of the fire that winter, but word also was that many more had been attempted, so the fallout wasn't as bad as it might have been.

 

As expected and in spite of strenuous arguments by Jim, Auntie Balasha refused to file charges against Willard for stealing her fuel oil. She told Jim she was sure the poor boy was driven by hunger, as nothing would convince her that her grandson harbored a larcenous bone in his body. He'd fallen into bad company, although she did think that perhaps Howie wasn't quite so black as Park rumor had him painted. He was misunderstood, that was all, and she was sure—

BOOK: A deeper sleep
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