What little snow had fallen that winter had melted off in a four-day
chinook that was the lump of coal in the Parks stocking the week of
Christmas. At five thirty in the afternoon, it had already been dark for an
hour and a half and with nothing to reflect what light there was, anything
beyond the reach of the Blazers headlights looked like a black hole. The
good news was that the road was drivable at all. It wasnt maintained in
winter and normally became a snow machine track from October to May, but not
Kate peered up at the sky. Lightsll be out tonight, I bet.
Yeah. He didnt bother looking at the stars; he was watching for the
next moose. Ever thought about getting a telescope?
Yeah. He was silent for a moment. In high school my junior class drove
to Tucson and visited the planetarium at the University of Arizona. They had
it pointed right at the Orion nebula. It was amazing, like this huge pink
and purple star had exploded right across the sky.
She checked the exterior temperature readout. Thirteen below. The red
digital three changed to a four as she watched. Couldnt stay out very long
to look, itd be too cold.
Thats why God invented Carhartts.
She laughed, a low husk of sound that transported him instantly back to
the moments in the clearing that afternoon, waiting without enthusiasm for
Willard to show.
Fortunately, Mutt was sitting between them. And if Mutt failed, there was
always the shotgun bolted to the dash. Although Jim wasnt entirely sure
shotguns worked on witches.
They passed a Suburban going in the opposite direction. It was easily
identified, bright orange with the left front fender missing and the right
front fender caved into the wheel well, hanging on through sheer force of
Howie Katelnikof, headed to Bernies, Jim said.
Probably thinking hes going to find Willard there, Kate said, not
without satisfaction. And probably got a customer waiting for Auntie
Balashas fuel oil.
Jim thought she was probably right about that. Howie should choose his
roommates more carefully.
They thought about Howies other roommate, which naturally led them to
think about the murder trial under way in Ahtna, now before the jury. All
of the evidence was circumstantial. She remembered the story about Jims
first trial. Again.
He turned to look at her but Mutt was in the way, and it was too dark to
see her expression anyway. Louis Deems a wrong guy, Kate.
You havent been around the Park long enough to know how wrong, Kate
said. Louis Deem was broken before he was born.
Why didnt you do something? Because as had every practicing police
officer who had ever served the cause of justice in the Park, he knew doing
something was what Kate did best.
Kate remembered the time she had tried to. You assume it was up to me.
Jim thought this over. It didnt take him long. Ekaterina?
Emaa was his godmother.
Jim snorted. Half his time on the job was spent disentangling the lies
one Park rat told to alibi another because they were second cousins twice
Yeah, I know, she said, not very apologetically, but it mostly works
Not this time.
She shifted in her seat and craned her head to peer through the window,
still looking for the northern lights. No. Not this time.
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