|12-02-11, 06:13 AM||#1|
إدارية ومشرفة سابقة وكاتبة بمكتبة روايتي وعضوة بفريق التصميم والترجمة و الافلام والسينما ومعطاء التسالي ونجمة الحصريات الفنية ومميز بالقسم الطبى
Northern Lights - Nora Roberts
Product Description: Lunacy was Nate Burke's last chance. As a Baltimore cop, he'd watched his partner die on the street-and the guilt still haunts him. With nowhere else to go, he accepts the job as Chief of Police in this tiny, remote Alaskan town. Aside from sorting out a run-in between a couple of motor vehicles and a moose, he finds his first weeks on the job are relatively quiet. But just as he wonders whether this has been all a big mistake, an unexpected kiss on New Year's Eve under the brilliant Northern Lights of the Alaska sky lifts his spirit and convinces him to stay just a little longer.
Meg Galloway, born and raised in Lunacy, is used to being alone. She was a young girl when her father disappeared, and she has learned to be independent, flying her small plane, living on the outskirts of town with just her huskies for company. After her New Year's kiss with the Chief of Police, she allows herself to give in to passion-while remaining determined to keep things as simple as possible. But there's something about Nate's sad eyes that gets under her skin and warms her frozen heart.
And now, things in Lunacy are heating up. Years ago, on one of the majestic mountains shadowing the town, a crime occurred that is unsolved to this day-and Nate suspects that a killer still walks the snowy streets. His investigation will unearth the secrets and suspicions that lurk beneath the placid surface, as well as bring out the big-city survival instincts that made him a cop in the first place. And his discovery will threaten the new life-and the new love-that he has finally found for himself
التعديل الأخير تم بواسطة silvertulip21 ; 28-09-12 الساعة 03:48 AM
|12-02-11, 06:14 AM||#2|
إدارية ومشرفة سابقة وكاتبة بمكتبة روايتي وعضوة بفريق التصميم والترجمة و الافلام والسينما ومعطاء التسالي ونجمة الحصريات الفنية ومميز بالقسم الطبى
. February 12, 1988
Landed on Sun Glacier about noon. The flight in rattled the hangover
right out of me, and severed those strangling roots of reality that is the
world below. The sky’s clear, like blue crystal. The kind of sky they slap
on postcards to lure the tourists in, complete with a shimmering sun
dog around the cold, white sun. I’m taking it as a sign that this climb
was meant to be. The wind’s about ten knots.Temp’s a balmy ten below.
Glacier’s broad as Whoring Kate’s ass, and icy as her heart.
Even so,Kate gave us a proper send-off last night. Even gave us what
you could call a group rate.
Don’t know what the hell we’re doing here, except you gotta be
somewhere doing something. A winter climb on No Name’s as good a
something as any, and better than most.
A man needs a week’s adventuring now and then, adventuring that
excludes bad liquor and loose women. How else are you going to appreciate
the liquor and the women if you don’t get away from them for a
And bumping into a couple of fellow Lunatics turned not only my
luck at the table but my mood in general. There’s little that bums me
more than working a job for a daily wage like the rest of the mice on the
wheel, but the woman sure will push the buttons.
My windfall should satisfy my girls, so now I’m taking a few days
with pals just for me.
Going up against the elements, risking life and limb in the company
of other men just as foolish is something I’ve got to have, just to remind
me I’m alive. To do it not for pay, not for duty, not because a woman’s
nagging your balls blue, but just for pure idiocy is what keeps the spirit
It’s getting too crowded below. Roads going where they never used to
go, people living where they never used to live.When I first came, there
weren’t so many, and the damn Feds weren’t regulating everything.
A permit to climb? To walk on a mountain? Screw that, and screw
the tight-assed Feds with their rules and their paperwork. The mountains
were here long before some government bureaucrat figured out a
way to make a buck off them. And they’ll be here long after he’s winding
red tape in hell.
And I’m here now, on this land that belongs to no one. Holy ground
If there was a way to live on the mountain, I’d plant my tent and
never leave. But holy or not, she’ll kill you, quicker than a nagging wife,
and with less mercy.
So I’ll take my week, with like-minded men, climbing this peak that
has no name and rises above the town and the river and the lakes, that
skirts the boundaries the Feds throw up on land that mocks their puny
attempts to tame and preserve.
Alaska belongs to none but itself, no matter how many roads or signs
or rules are erected on her. She is the last of the wild women, and God
love her for it. I do.
We’ve established our base camp, and already the sun’s dropped below
the great peaks and plunged us into the dark of winter. Huddled in
our tent, we eat well, pass a joint around, and talk of tomorrow.
Tomorrow we climb.
|12-02-11, 06:16 AM||#3|
إدارية ومشرفة سابقة وكاتبة بمكتبة روايتي وعضوة بفريق التصميم والترجمة و الافلام والسينما ومعطاء التسالي ونجمة الحصريات الفنية ومميز بالقسم الطبى
en route to lunacy . December 28, 2004
Strapped into the quivering soup can laughingly called a plane, bouncing
his way on the pummeling air through the stingy window of light
that was winter, through the gaps and breaks in snow-sheathed mountains
toward a town called Lunacy, Ignatious Burke had an epiphany.
He wasn’t nearly as prepared to die as he’d believed.
It was a hell of a thing to realize when his fate hung precariously in
the hands of a stranger who was buried in a canary yellow parka and
whose face was nearly concealed by a battered leather bush hat perched
on top of a purple watch cap.
The stranger had seemed competent enough in Anchorage, and had
given Nate’s hand a hearty slap before wagging a thumb at the soup can
Then he’d told Nate to “just call me Jerk.” That’s when the initial unease
had set in.
What kind of an idiot got into a flying tin can piloted by a guy
But flying was the only sure way to reach Lunacy this late in the year.
Or so Mayor Hopp had informed him when he’d conferred with her
over his travel arrangements.
The plane dipped hard to the right, and as Nate’s stomach followed,
he wondered just how Mayor Hopp defined
He’d thought he hadn’t given a good damn one way or the other.
Live or die, what did it matter in the big scheme? When he’d boarded
the big jet at Baltimore-Washington, he’d resigned himself that he was
heading to the end of his life in any case.
The department shrink had warned him about making major decisions
when he was suffering from depression, but he’d applied for the
position as chief of police in Lunacy for no reason other than that
the name seemed apt.
And he’d accepted the position with a who-gives-a-shit shrug.
Even now, reeling with nausea, shivering with his epiphany, Nate
realized it wasn’t so much death that worried him, but the method. He
just didn’t want to end the whole deal by smashing into a mountain in
the fucking gloom.
At least if he’d stayed in Baltimore, had danced more affably with the
shrink and his captain, he could’ve gone down in the line of duty. That
wouldn’t have been so bad.
But no, he’d tossed in his badge, hadn’t just burned his bridges but
had incinerated them. And now he was going to end up a bloody smear
somewhere in the Alaska Range.
“Gonna get a little rough through here,” Jerk said with a drawn-out
Nate swallowed bile. “And it’s been so smooth up to now.”
Jerk grinned, winked. “This ain’t nothing. Ought to try it fighting a
“No, thanks. How much longer?”
The plane bucked and shuddered. Nate gave up and closed his eyes.
He prayed he wouldn’t add to the indignity of his death by puking on
his boots first.
He was never going up in a plane again. If he lived, he’d drive out
of Alaska. Or walk. Or crawl. But he was never going into the air
The plane gave a kind of jerking leap that had Nate’s eyes popping
open.And he saw through the windscreen the triumphant victory of the
sun, a wondrous sort of lessening of gloom that turned the sky pearly so
that the world below was defined in long ripples of white and blue, sudden
rises, shimmering swarms of icy lakes and what had to be miles of
Just east, the sky was all but blotted out by the mass the locals called
Denali, or just The Mountain. Even his sketchy research had told him
only Outsiders referred to it as McKinley.
His only coherent thought as they shuddered along was that nothing
real should be that massive. As the sun beamed God fingers through the
heavy sky around it, the shadows began to drip and spread, blue over
white, and its icy face glinted.
Something shifted inside him so that, for a moment, he forgot the
roiling of his belly, the constant buzzing roar of the engine, even the
chill that had hung in the plane like fog.
“Big bastard, ain’t he?”
“Yeah.” Nate let out a breath. “Big bastard.”
They eased west, but he never lost sight of the mountain. He could
see now that what he’d taken as an icy road was a winding, frozen river.
And near its bank, the spread of man with its houses and buildings and
cars and trucks.
It looked to him like the inside of a snow globe that had yet to be
shaken, with everything still and white and waiting.
Something clunked under the floor. “What was that?”
“Landing gear. That’s Lunacy.”
The plane roared into a descent that had Nate gripping his seat,
bracing his feet. “What? We’re landing? Where? Where?”
“On the river. Frozen solid this time of year. No worries.”
“Going in on the skis.”
“Skis?” Nate abruptly remembered he hated winter sports. “Wouldn’t
skates make more sense?”
Jerk let out a wild laugh as the plane zeroed in on the ribbon of ice.
“Wouldn’t that be some shit? Skate plane. Hot damn.”
The plane bumped, skidded, slid along with Nate’s belly. Then glided
gracefully to a stop. Jerk cut the engines, and in the sudden silence Nate
could hear his own heart tattooing in his ears.
“They can’t pay you enough,” Nate managed. “They can’t possibly
pay you enough.”
“Hell.” He slapped Nate on the arm. “Ain’t about the pay.Welcome
to Lunacy, chief.”
“You’re damn right.”
He decided against kissing the ground. Not only would he look
ridiculous, but he’d probably freeze to it. Instead, he swung his weak
legs out into the unspeakable cold and prayed they’d hold him up until
he could get somewhere warm, still and sane.
His main problem was crossing the ice without breaking his leg, or
“Don’t worry about your stuff, chief,” Jerk called out. “I’ll haul it for you.”
|12-02-11, 06:18 AM||#4|
Steadying himself,Nate spotted a figure standing in the snow. It was
wrapped in a brown, hooded parka with black fur trim.And smoking in
short, impatient puffs. Using it as a guide, Nate picked his way over the
ripply ice with as much dignity as he could muster.
The voice was raspy and female, and came to him on a puff of vapor.
He slipped, managed to right himself, and with his heart banging
against his ribs, made the snowy bank.
“Anastasia Hopp.” She stuck out a mittened hand, somehow gripped
his with it and pumped righteously. “Little green around the gills yet.
Jerk, you play with our new chief on the way from the city?”
“No, ma’am. Had a little weather though.”
“Always do. Good-looking, aren’t you? Even sickly. Here, have a pull.”
She yanked a silver flask out of her pocket, pushed it at him.
“Go ahead. You’re not on duty yet. Little brandy’ll settle you down.”
Deciding it couldn’t make things worse, he uncapped the flask, took
a slow sip and felt it punch straight to his quivering belly. “Thanks.”
“We’ll get you settled in The Lodge, give you a chance to catch
your breath.” She led the way along a tromped-down path. “Show
you around town later, when your head’s clear. Long way from Baltimore.”
“Yeah, it is.”
It looked like a movie set to him. The green and white trees, the river,
the snow, buildings made of split logs, smoke pumping out of chimneys
and pipes. It was all in a dreamy blur that made him realize he was as
exhausted as he was sick. He hadn’t been able to sleep on any of the
flights and calculated it had been nearly twenty-four hours since he’d
last been horizontal.
“Good, clear day,” she said. “Mountains put on a show. Kind of picture
brings the tourists in.”
It was postcard perfect, and just a little overwhelming. He felt like
he’d walked into that movie—or someone else’s dream.
“Glad to see you geared up good.” She measured him as she spoke.
“Lot of Lower
48ers show up in fancy overcoats and showroom boots,
and freeze their asses off.”
He’d ordered everything he was wearing, right down to the thermal
underwear, along with most of the contents of his suitcase from Eddie
Bauer online—after receiving an e-mail list of suggestions from Mayor
Hopp. “You were pretty specific about what I’d need.”
She nodded. “Specific, too, about what we need. Don’t disappoint
“Nate. I don’t intend to, Mayor Hopp.”
“Just Hopp. That’s what they call me.”
She stepped up on a long wooden porch. “This is The Lodge. Hotel,
bar, diner, social club. You got a room here, part of your salary. You decide
you want to live elsewhere, that’s on you. Place belongs to Charlene
Hidel. She serves a good meal, keeps the place clean. She’ll take care of
you. She’ll also try to get into your pants.”
“You’re a good-looking man, and Charlene’s got a weakness. She’s
too old for you, but she won’t think so.You decide you don’t either, that’s
up to you.”
Then she smiled, and he saw that under her hood she had a face
ruddy as an apple and shaped the same way. Her eyes were nut brown
and lively, her mouth long and thin and quirked at the corners.
“We got us a surplus of men, like most of Alaska. That doesn’t mean
the local female population won’t come sniffing. You’re fresh meat and a
lot of them are going to want a taste. You do what you please on your
free time, Ignatious. Just don’t go banging the girls on town time.”
“I’ll write that down.”
Her laugh was like a foghorn—two quick blasts.To punctuate it, she
slapped him on the arm. “You might do.”
She yanked open the door and led him into blessed warmth.
He smelled wood smoke and coffee, something frying with onions
and a woman’s come-get-me perfume.
It was a wide room informally sectioned into a diner with two- and
four-tops, five booths, and a bar with stools lined up with their red seats
worn in the center from years of asses settling down.
There was a wide opening to the right, and through it he could see
a pool table and what looked like foosball, and the starry lights of a
On the right, another opening showed what looked like a lobby. He
saw a section of counter, and cubbyholes filled with keys, a few envelopes
or message sheets.
A log fire burned briskly, and the front windows were angled to catch
the spectacular mountain view.
There was one enormously pregnant waitress with her hair done in a
long, glossy black braid. Her face was so arresting, so serenely beautiful,
he actually blinked. She looked to him like the Native Alaskan version
of the Madonna with her soft, dark eyes and golden skin.
She was topping off coffee for two men in a booth. A boy of about
four sat at a table coloring in a book. A man in a tweed jacket sat at the
bar, smoking, and reading a tattered copy of
At a far table a man with a brown beard that spilled onto the chest of
his faded buffalo-check flannel shirt appeared to be holding an angry
conversation with himself.
Heads turned in their direction, and greetings were called out to
Hopp as she tossed her hood back to reveal a springy mop of silver hair.
Gazes locked onto Nate that ranged from curiosity and speculation to
open hostility from the beard.
“This here’s Ignatious Burke, our new chief of police.” Hopp announced
this as she yanked down the zipper of her parka. “We got Dex
Trilby and Hans Finkle there in the booth, and that’s Bing Karlovski
over there with the scowl on what you can see of his face. Rose Itu is
waiting tables. How’s that baby today, Rose?”
“Restless.Welcome, Chief Burke.”
“This is The Professor.” Hopp tapped Tweed Jacket on the shoulder
as she crossed to the bar. “Anything different in that book since the last
time you read it?”
“Always something.” He tipped down a pair of metal-framed reading
glasses to get a better view of Nate. “Long trip.”
“It was,” Nate agreed.
“Not over yet.” Shoving his glasses back into place, The Professor
went back to his book.
“And this handsome devil is Jesse, Rose’s boy.”
The boy kept his head bent over his coloring book, but lifted his gaze
so his big, dark eyes peered out under a thick fringe of black bangs. He
reached out, tugged Hopp’s parka so that she bent down to hear his
“Don’t you worry.We’ll get him one.”
The door behind the bar swung open and a big, black truck in a big,
white apron came out. “Big Mike,” Hopp announced. “He’s the cook.
Was a Navy man until one of our local girls caught his eye when she was
down in Kodiak.”
“Snared me like a trout,” Big Mike said with a grin. “Welcome to
“We’re going to want something good and hot for our new chief of
“Fish chowder’s good today,” Big Mike told her. “Ought to do the
trick. Unless you’d rather bite into some red meat, chief.”
It took Nate a moment to identify himself as
chief. A moment
when he felt every eye in the room focused on him. “Chowder’s fine.
“We’ll have it right up for you then.” He swung back into the kitchen,
and Nate could hear his bone-deep baritone croon out on “Baby, It’s
Stage set, postcard, he thought. Or a play. Anyway you sliced it, he
felt like some sort of dusty prop.
Hopp held up a finger to hold Nate in place before marching into the
lobby. He watched her scoot around the counter and snag a key from
one of the cubbies.
As she did, the door behind the counter swung open.And the bombshell
She was blonde—as Nate thought suited bombshells best—with the
wavy mass of sunlight hair spilling down to brush very impressive
breasts that were showcased by the low scoop of her snug, blue sweater.
It took him a minute to get to the face as the sweater was tucked into
jeans so tight they must have bruised several internal organs.
Not that he was complaining.
The face boasted bright blue eyes with an innocence in direct contrast
with the plump, red lips. She was a little generous on the paint, and
put him in mind of a Barbie doll.
|12-02-11, 06:21 AM||#5|
Despite the restriction of the outfit, everything that could jiggle did
so as she strolled around the counter on skinny, backless heels, wiggled
her way into the diner. And posed languidly against the bar.
“Well, hello, handsome.”
Her voice was a throaty purr—she must’ve practiced it—designed to
drain the blood out of a man’s head and send his IQ plummeting to
that of a green turnip.
“Charlene, you behave.” Hopp rattled the key. “This boy’s tired and
half sick. He doesn’t have the reserves to deal with you right now. Chief
Burke, Charlene Hidel. This is her place. Town budget’s paying your
room and board here as part of your pay, so don’t feel obliged to offer
anything out in trade.”
“Hopp, you’re so
bad.” But Charlene smiled like a stroked kitten as
she said it. “Why don’t I just take you up, Chief Burke, get you all settled
in? Then we’ll bring you something hot to eat.”
“I’ll take him up.” Deliberately Hopp closed her fist around the key,
letting the big black room number tag dangle. “Jerk’s bringing in his
gear.Wouldn’t hurt to have Rose bring him the chowder Mike’s dishing
up for him though. Come on, Ignatious. You can socialize when you’re
not so ready to drop.”
He could’ve spoken for himself, but he didn’t see the point. He followed
Hopp through a doorway and up a flight of steps as obediently as
a puppy follows its master.
He heard someone mutter, “Cheechako,” in the tone a man uses to
spit out bad meat. He assumed it was an insult, but let it go.
“Charlene doesn’t mean any harm,” Hopp was saying. “But she does
like to tease a man to death given half a chance.”
“Don’t worry about me,Mom.”
She gave that foghorn laugh again, and slid the key into the lock on
“Man took off on her about fifteen years back, left her with a girl to
raise on her own. Did a decent enough job with Meg, though they’re at
each other like she-cats half the time. Had plenty of men since, and
they get younger every year. I said she was too old for you before.” Hopp
looked over her shoulder. “Fact is, the way she’s been going, you’re too
old for her. Thirty-two, aren’t you?”
“I was when I left Baltimore. How many years ago was that?”
Hopp shook her head, pushed open the door. “Charlene’s got better
than a dozen years on you. Got a grown daughter nearly your age.
Might want to keep that in mind.”
“I thought you women got off when one of your kind bags a younger
“Shows what you know about females. Pisses us off is what it does,
because we didn’t bag him first.Well, this is it.”
He stepped into a wood-paneled room with an iron bed, a dresser
and mirror on one side, and a small round table, two chairs and a little
desk on the other.
It was clean, it was spare and about as interesting as a bag of white rice.
“Little kitchen through here.” Hopp walked over, yanked back a blue
curtain to reveal a pint-sized refrigerator, a two-burner stove and a sink
the size of Nate’s cupped palm. “Unless cooking’s your passion or hobby,
I’d take my meals downstairs. Food’s good here.
“It’s not the Ritz, and she’s got fancier rooms, but we’re on a budget.”
She crossed to the other side, pushed open a door. “Bathroom. This one
has indoor plumbing.”
“Woo-hoo.” He poked his head in.
The sink was bigger than the kitchen’s but not by much. It didn’t rate
a tub, but the shower stall would do him well enough.
“Got your gear, chief.” Jerk hauled in two suitcases and a duffel as if
they were empty. He dumped them on the bed where their weight
sagged the mattress. “Need me for anything, I’ll be downstairs grabbing
a meal. I’ll bunk here tonight, fly back to Talkeetna in the morning.”
He tapped a finger on his forehead in salute and clomped out again.
“Shit. Hold on.” Nate started to dig into his pocket.
“I’ll take care of tipping him,” Hopp said. “Till you’re on the clock,
you’re a guest of the Lunacy town council.”
“I plan to see you work for it, so we’ll see how it goes.”
“Room service!” Charlene sang it when she carried a tray into the
room. Her hips swayed like a metronome as she walked over to set it on
the table. “Brought you up some nice fish chowder, chief, and a good
man-sized sandwich. Coffee’s hot.”
“Smells great. I appreciate it, Ms. Hidel.”
“Oh now, that’s Charlene to you.” She batted the baby blues, and
yeah, Nate thought, she practiced. “We’re just one big happy family
“That were the case, we wouldn’t need a chief of police.”
“Oh, don’t go scaring him off, Hopp. Is the room all right for you,
“Nate. Yes, thanks. It’s fine.”
“Put some food in your belly and get some rest,” Hopp advised. “You
get your second wind, just give me a call. I’ll show you around.Your first
official duty will be attending the meeting tomorrow afternoon at Town
Hall, where we’ll introduce you to everybody who cares to attend.You’ll
want to see the station house before that, meet your two deputies and
Peach. And we’ll get you that star.”
“Jesse wanted to make sure you were getting a star. Come on, Charlene.
Let’s leave the man alone.”
“You call downstairs you need any little thing.” Charlene sent him an
invitational smile. “
Any little thing.”
Behind Charlene’s back, Hopp rolled her eyes toward heaven. To
settle the matter, she clamped a hand on Charlene’s arm, yanked her
toward the door. There was a clatter of heels on wood, a feminine
squeak, then the slam of the door behind them.
Through it,Nate could hear Charlene’s hushed and insulted: “What’s
matter with you, Hopp. I was only being friendly.”
“There’s innkeeper friendly, then there’s bordello friendly. One of
these days, you’re going to figure out the difference.”
He waited until he was sure they were gone before he crossed over to
flip the locks. Then he pulled off his parka, let it fall to the floor, dragged
off his watch cap, dropped it. Unwound his scarf, dropped that. Unzipped
his insulated vest and added it to the heap.
Down to shirt, pants, thermal underwear and boots, he went to the
table, picked up the soup, a spoon, and carried both to the dark windows.
Three-thirty in the afternoon, according to the bedside clock—and
dark as midnight.There were streetlights glowing, he noted as he spooned
up soup, and he could make out the shapes of buildings. Christmas decorations
in colored lights, in rooftop Santas and cartoon reindeers.
But no people, no life, no movement.
He ate mechanically, too tired, too hungry to notice the taste
Nate yanked the drapes over the glass, stepped away from the window.
After a moment’s debate, he dragged his cases off the bed, left them
dumped, unpacked, on the floor. He stripped down, ignored the chill
of the room against his naked skin, and crawled under the mountain of
blankets the way a bear crawls into his winter cave.
He lay there, a man of thirty-two with a thick, disordered mass of
chestnut hair that waved around a long, thin face gone lax with exhaustion
and a despair that blurred eyes of smoky gray. Under a day’s worth
of stubble, his skin was pale with the drag of fatigue. Though the food
had eased the rawness in his belly, his system remained sluggish, like
that of a man who couldn’t quite shake off a debilitating flu.
He wished Barbie—Charlene—had brought up a bottle instead of
the coffee. He wasn’t much of a drinker, which he figured is what had
saved him from spiraling into alcoholism along with everything else.
Still, a couple of good belts would help turn off his brain and let him
He could hear the wind now. It hadn’t been there before, but it was
moaning at the windows.With it, he heard the building creak and the
sound of his own breathing.
Three lonely sounds only more lonely as a trio.
Tune them out, he told himself.Tune them all out.
He’d get a couple hours’ sleep, he thought. Then he’d shower off the
travel grime, pump himself full of coffee.
After that, he’d decide what the hell he was going to do.
He turned off the light so the room plunged into the dark.Within
seconds, so did he.
|12-02-11, 06:26 AM||#6|
the dark surrounded him,
sucked at him like mud when the
dream shoved him out of sleep. His breath whooshed out as he broke
the surface, floundered his way to the air. His skin was clammy with
sweat as he fought his way clear of blankets.
The scent in the air was unfamiliar—cedar, stale coffee, some underlying
tone of lemon. Then he remembered he wasn’t in his Baltimore
He’d gone crazy, and he was in Alaska.
The luminous dial of the bedside clock read five forty-eight.
So he’d gotten some sleep before the dream had chased him back to
It was always dark in the dream, too. Black night, pale, dirty rain.
The smell of cordite and blood.
Jesus, Nate, Jesus. I’m hit.
Cold rain streaming down his face, warm blood oozing through his
fingers. His blood, and Jack’s blood.
He hadn’t been able to stop the blood from oozing any more than he’d
been able to stop the rain from streaming. They were both beyond him
and, in that Baltimore alley, had washed away what had been left of him.
Should’ve been me, he thought. Not Jack. He should’ve been home
with his wife, with his kids, and it should’ve been me dying in a filthy
alley in the filthy rain.
But he’d gotten off with a bullet in the leg, and a second, in-and-out
punch in the side just above the waist, just enough to take him down,
slow him down, so Jack had gone in first.
Seconds, small mistakes, and a good man was dead.
He had to live with it. He’d considered ending his own life, but it was
a selfish solution and did nothing to honor his friend, his partner. Living
with it was harder than dying.
Living was more punishment.
He got up, walked into the bathroom. He found himself pathetically
grateful for the thin spurt of hot water out of the shower head. It was
going to take a while for the spurt to carve away what felt like layers of
grime and sweat, but that was okay.Time wasn’t a problem.
He’d get himself dressed, go downstairs, have some coffee. Maybe
he’d give Mayor Hopp a call and go down to take a look at the station
house. See if he could be a little more coherent and brush off some of
that first impression of a bleary-eyed moron.
He felt more like himself once he’d showered and shaved. Digging
out fresh clothes, he layered himself into them.
Picking up his outdoor gear, he glanced at himself in the mirror.
“Chief of Police Ignatious Burke, Lunacy, Alaska.” He shook his head,
nearly smiled. “Well, chief, let’s go get you a star.”
He headed downstairs, surprised at the relative quiet. From what
he’d read, places like The Lodge were the gathering spots for locals.
Winter nights were long and dark and lonely, and he’d expected to hear
some bar noise, maybe the clatter of pool balls, some ancient countrywestern
tune from the juke.
But when he stepped in, the beautiful Alaskan Rose was topping
off coffee, much as she’d been before. It might’ve been for the same
two men, Nate wasn’t sure. Her boy was sitting at a table, coloring industriously.
Nate checked the watch he’d set to local time. Seven-ten.
Rose turned from the table, smiled at him. “Chief.”
Her whole face lit with a smile. “It’s morning.”
“It’s seven o’clock, in the morning. Bet you could use some breakfast.”
“I . . .”
“Takes a while to get used to it.” She nodded toward the dark windows.
“It’ll lighten up for a while, in a few hours.Why don’t you have a
seat. I’ll bring you coffee to start you off.”
He’d slept around the clock, and didn’t know whether to be embarrassed
or delighted. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d gotten
more than four or five patchy hours of sleep.
He dumped his outer gear on the bench of a booth, then decided to
make an effort at community relations.Walking over to Jesse’s table, he
tapped the back of a chair. “This seat taken?”
The boy took a slow, under-the-bangs peek, and shook his head.
With his tongue caught between his teeth, he continued to color as
Nate sat down.
“Pretty cool purple cow,” Nate commented, studying the current
“Cows don’t come in purple ’less you color them that way.”
“I heard that. You take art in high school?”
Jesse’s eyes rounded. “I don’t go to school yet ’cause I’m only four.”
“You’re kidding. Four? I figured you for about sixteen.” Nate eased
back, winked at Rose as she brought him a thick, white mug and poured
coffee into it.
“I had a birthday and we had cake, and a million balloons. Right,
“That’s right, Jesse.” She laid a menu beside Nate’s elbow.
“And we’re having a baby really soon. And I’ve got two dogs, and—”
“Jesse, let Chief Burke look at his menu.”
“Actually, I was going to ask Jesse to give me a recommendation.
What’s good for breakfast, Jesse?”
“Short stack it is.” He handed the menu back to Rose. “We’re fine.”
“If that changes, you let me know.” But she was pink in the cheeks
“What kind of dogs?” Nate asked, and was entertained with the exploits
of Jesse’s pets throughout breakfast.
A plate of pancakes and a charming young boy were a much better
way to start the day than a recurring nightmare. His mood improved,
Nate was on the point of calling Hopp when she came through the door.
“Heard you were up and around,” she said, and tossed back her hood.
Snow showered from her parka. “You look some sturdier than you did
“Sorry I faded on you.”
“No problem. Got yourself a good night’s sleep, decent breakfast,
good company,” she added with a grin for Jesse. “You up for a tour?”
“Sure.” He got up to pile on his outdoor gear.
“Skinnier than I expected.”
He looked over at Hopp. He knew he looked gaunt. A man dropped
more than ten pounds from a tuned-up one-sixty on a five-ten frame,
gaunt was the usual result. “Won’t be, I keep eating short stacks.”
|12-02-11, 06:29 AM||#7|
“Lot of hair.”
He pulled on his watch cap. “It just keeps growing out of my head.”
“I like hair on a man.” She yanked open the door. “Red hair, too.”
“It’s brown,” he corrected automatically, and pulled the cap lower.
“All right. Get off your feet awhile Rose,” she called back, then
trudged out into the wind and snow.
The cold struck him like a runaway train. “Jesus Christ. It freezes
He jumped into the Ford Explorer she’d parked at the curb. “Your
blood’s thin yet.”
“It could be thick as paste, and it’d still be fucking cold. Sorry.”
“I don’t blush at frank language. Of course it’s fucking cold; it’s December.”
With her blasting laugh, she started the engine. “We’ll start
the tour on wheels. No point stumbling around in the dark.”
“How many do you lose to exposure and hypothermia in a year?”
“Lost more than one to the mountains, but those mostly tourists or
crazies. Man called Teek got himself stupid drunk one night, three years
ago this January, and froze to death in his own outhouse, reading
magazine. But he was an idiot. People who live here know how to
take care of themselves, and cheechakos who make it through a winter
“Newcomers. You don’t want to take nature casually, but you learn to
live with it, and if you’re smart, you make it work for you. Get out in
it—ski, snowshoe, skate the river, ice fish.” She shrugged. “Take precautions
and enjoy it, because it’s not going anywhere.”
She drove with steady competence on the snow-packed street.
“There’s our clinic.We got a doctor and a practical nurse.”
Nate studied the small, squat building. “And if they can’t handle it?”
“Fly to Anchorage.We’ve got a bush pilot lives outside of town. Meg
“You sexist, Ignatious?”
“No.”Maybe. “Just asking.”
“Meg’s Charlene’s daughter. Damn good pilot. A little crazy, but a
good bush pilot’s got to be, in my opinion. She’d’ve brought you in from
Anchorage, but you were a day later than we’d hoped, and she had another
booking, so we called Jerk in from Talkeetna. You’ll probably see
Meg at the town meeting later.”
And won’t that be fun, Nate thought.
“The Corner Store—got everything you need, or they’ll find a way to
get it. Oldest building in Lunacy. Trappers built it back in the early
s, and Harry and Deb have added to it since they bought the place
It was twice as big as the clinic, and two stories. Lights were already
gleaming in the windows.
“Post office runs out of the bank there for now, but we’re going to
break ground for one this summer.And the skinny place next to it’s The
Italian Place. Good pizza. No deliveries outside of town.”
“New York Italian, came up here three years back on a hunting trip.
Fell in love. Never left. Johnny Trivani. Named it Trivani’s at the start,
but everybody called it The Italian Place, so he went with it.Talks about
adding on a bakery. Says he’s going to get himself one of those Russian
mail-order brides you hear about on the Internet. Maybe he will.”
“Will there be fresh blinis?”
“We can hope. Town newspaper runs out of that storefront,” she
said, pointing. “The couple who run it are out of town.Took the kids to
San Diego for the school break right after Christmas. KLUN—local
radio—broadcasts from that one there. Mitch Dauber runs it almost
single-handed. He’s an entertaining son of a bitch most of the time.”
“I’ll tune in.”
She circled around, headed back the way they’d come. “About a half
mile west of town is the school—kindergarten through twelfth.We’ve
got seventy-eight students right now.We hold adult classes there, too.
Exercise classes, art classes, that sort of thing. Breakup to freeze-up we
hold them in the evenings. Otherwise, it’s daytime.”
“Ice breaks up on the river, spring’s coming. River freezes up, get out
the long johns.”
“What we got is five hundred and six souls within what we’d call
town limits, and another hundred and ten—give or take—living outside
and still in our district. Your district now.”
It still looked like that stage set to Nate, and far from real. Even farther
from being his.
“Fire department—all volunteer—runs out of there. And here’s the
town hall.” She eased the car to a stop in front of a wide log building.
“My husband helped build this hall thirteen years ago. He was the first
mayor of Lunacy, and held that post until he died, four years ago next
“How’d he die?”
“Heart attack. Playing hockey out on the lake. Slapped in a goal,
keeled over and died. Just like him.”
Nate waited a beat. “Who won?”
Hopp hooted with laughter. “His goal tied it up. They never did finish
that game.” She eased the car forward. “Here’s your place.”
Nate peered out through the dark and the spitting snow. It was a
trim building, wood frame, and obviously newer than its companions. It
was bungalow style, with a small, enclosed porch and two windows on
either side of the door, both of them framed with dark green shutters.
A path had been shoveled out or tromped down from the street to
the door, and a short driveway, recently plowed from the looks of it, was
already buried under a couple inches of fresh snow. A blue pickup truck
was parked on it, and another narrow walking path snaked its way to
Lights burned against both windows, and smoke puffed out, a gray
cloud, from the black chimney pipe in the roof.
“We open for business?”
“That you are.They know you’re coming in today.” She swung in behind
the pickup. “Ready to meet your team?”
“As I’ll ever be.”
He got out, found he was just as shocked by the cold this time
around. Breathing through his teeth, he walked behind Hopp down the
single-lane path to the outer door.
“This is what we call an Arctic entry up here.” She stepped inside the
enclosure, out of the wind and weather. “Helps keep down the heat loss
from the main building. Good place to stow your parka.”
She pulled hers off, hung it on a hook beside another. Nate followed
suit, then dragged off his gloves, stuck them in one of the parka’s pockets.
Then came the watch cap, the scarf. He wondered if he’d ever get
used to outfitting himself like an explorer on the North Pole every time
he had to go out a door.
Hopp pushed through the other door, and into the scent of wood
smoke and coffee.
|12-02-11, 06:31 AM||#8|
The walls were painted industrial beige, the floors were speckled
linoleum. A squat woodstove stood in the back right corner. On it a big
cast-iron kettle chugged steam from its spout.
There were two metal desks, kissing each other on the right side of
the room, and a line of plastic chairs, a low table with magazines
arranged on the other. Along the back wall ranged a counter topped
with a two-way, a computer and ceramic tabletop Christmas tree in a
green that nature never intended.
He noted the doors on either side of it, the bulletin board where
notes and notices were pinned.
And the three people who were pretending not to stare at him.
He assumed the two men were his deputies. One looked barely old
enough to vote, and the other looked old enough to have voted for
Kennedy. Both wore heavy wool pants, sturdy boots, and flannel shirts
with badges pinned to them.
The younger one was native Alaskan, with black, ruler-straight hair
falling nearly to his shoulders, deep-set almond-shaped eyes dark as
midnight, and a painfully young, innocent look to his fine-boned face.
The older was wind-burned, crew cut, sagging in the jowls, and was
squinting out of faded, blue eyes fanned by deep grooves. His thick
build contrasted with the delicacy of his counterpart. Nate thought he
might be ex-military.
The woman was round as a berry, with plump pink cheeks and a generous
bosom under a pink sweater embroidered with white snowflakes.
Her salt-and-pepper hair was braided into a top-of-the-head bun. She
had a pencil sticking out of it and a plate of sticky buns in her hands.
“Well, the gang’s all here. Chief Ignatious Burke, this is your staff.
Deputy Otto Gruber.”
Crew cut stepped forward, held out a hand. “Chief.”
“Deputy Peter Notti.”
Something in the hesitant smile rang a bell. “Deputy, are you and
“Yes, sir. She’s my sister.”
“And last but not least, your dispatcher, secretary and bearer of cinnamon
buns, Marietta Peach.”
“Happy you’re here, Chief Burke.” Her voice was as southern as a
mint julep sipped on a veranda. “Hope you’re feeling better.”
“Fine. Thank you, Ms. Peach.”
“I’m going to show the chief the rest of the station, then I’ll leave you
all to get acquainted. Ignatious, why don’t we take a look at your . . .
She led the way through the door on the right. There were two cells,
both with bunk-style cots. The walls looked freshly painted, the floor
recently scrubbed. He smelled Lysol.
There were no tenants.
“These get much use?” Nate asked her.
“Drunks and disorderlies, primarily. You have to be pretty drunk and
disorderly to warrant a night in jail in Lunacy. You’re going to see some
assaults, occasional vandalism, but that one’s mostly from bored kids. I’ll
let your staff give you the lowdown on crime in Lunacy.We don’t have
a lawyer, so if somebody wants one bad enough, they have to call down
to Anchorage or over to Fairbanks, unless they know one somewhere
else.We do have a retired judge, but he’s more likely to be off ice fishing
than answering legal questions.”
“Boy, you going to keep talking my ear off ?”
“I never could learn to keep my mouth shut.”
With a half-chuckle, she shook her head. “Let’s take a look at your
They cut back through the main area where everyone was pretending
to work. On the other side of Ms. Peach’s counter, just through the
doorway, stood the weapons cabinet. He counted six shotguns, five rifles,
eight handguns and four wicked-looking knives.
He tucked his hands in his pockets, pursed his lips. “What? No
“Pays to be prepared.”
“Yeah. For the coming invasion.”
She only smiled and walked through the door next to the cabinet.
“Here’s your office.”
It was about ten feet square with a window behind a gray metal desk.
The desk held a computer, a phone and a black gooseneck lamp. Two
file cabinets were shoved against the side wall with a short counter running
beside them. It held a coffeemaker—already full—and two brown
stoneware mugs, a basket with packaged creamer and sugar. There was
a corkboard—empty—two folding chairs for visitors and pegs for hanging
The lights mirroring against the black window glass made it seem all
the more impersonal and foreign.
“Peach loaded up your desk, but if you need anything else, supply
cabinet’s down the hall. John’s across from it.”
“Got any questions?”
“I’ve got a lot of questions.”
“Why don’t you ask them?”
“All right. I’ll ask this one, since the rest fall down from it anyway.
Why’d you hire me?”
“Fair enough. Mind?” she said as she gestured to the coffeepot.
She poured mugs for both of them, handed him one, then sat in one
of the folding chairs. “We needed a chief of police.”
“We’re small, we’re remote and we pretty much handle our own, but
that doesn’t mean we don’t need structure, Ignatious. That we don’t need
a line between the right and the wrong and somebody to stand on that
line. My man worked for that a lot of years before he sank his last puck.”
“And now you do.”
“That’s right. Now I do. Added to that, having our own police force
here means we keep on handling our own. Keep the Feds and the State
out of it.Town like this can get ignored because of what it is and where
it is. But we got a police force here now, a fire department.We’ve got a
good school, good lodge, a weekly newspaper, a radio station.Weather
comes in and cuts us off, we know how to be self-sufficient. But we need
order, and this building and the people in it are symbols of that order.”
“You hired a symbol.”
“On one hand, that’s just what I did.” Her nut-brown eyes held his.
“People feel more secure with symbols. On the other, I expect you to do
your job, and a big part of the job, besides keeping order, is community
relations—which is why I took the time to show you some of the town’s
businesses, give you names of who runs what. There’s more. Bing’s got a
garage, fix any engine you bring in, and he runs heavy equipment.
Snowplow, backhoe. Lunatic Air runs cargo and people, and brings
supplies into town, takes them into the bush.”
“That’s Meg for you,” Hopp said with a half-smile. “We’re on the
edge of the Interior here, and we’ve built ourselves up from a settlement
of boomers and hippies and badasses to a solid town. You’ll get to know
the people of that town, the relationships, the grudges and the connections.
Then you’ll know how to handle them.”
“Which brings me back.Why did you hire me? Why not somebody
who knows all that already?”
“Seems to me somebody who knew all that already might come into
this job with an agenda of his or her own. Grudges, connections of his
or her own. Bring somebody from Outside, they come in fresh. You’re
young; that weighed in your favor. You don’t have a wife and children
who might not take to the life here and pressure you to go back to the
48. You’ve got over ten years experience with the police. You had
the qualifications I was looking for—and you didn’t haggle over the
“I see your point, but there’s the other side. I don’t know what the
hell I’m doing.”
“Mmm.” She finished off her coffee. “You strike me as a bright
young man. You’ll figure it out. Now.” She pushed to her feet. “I’m going
to let you get started. Meeting’s at two, Town Hall. You’re going to
want to say a few words.”
“One more thing.” She dug in her pocket, pulled out a box. “You’ll
need this.” Opening it, she took out the silver star, then pinned it to his
shirt. “See you at two, chief.”
He stood where he was, in the center of the room, contemplating his
coffee as he heard the muted voices outside. He didn’t know what he
was doing—that was God’s truth—so the best he could think of was to
mark some sort of beginning and go from there.
|12-02-11, 06:33 AM||#9|
Hopp was right. He had no wife, no children. He had no one and
nothing pulling him back to the Lower
. To the world. If he was go-
ing to stay here, then he had to make good. If he blew this, this strange
chance at the end of the universe, there was nowhere left to go. Nothing
left to do.
His stomach jittered with the same sort of queasy nerves he’d experienced
on the plane as he carried his coffee out to the communal area.
“Ah, if I could have a couple minutes.”
He wasn’t sure where to stand, then realized he shouldn’t be standing
at all. He set down his coffee, then walked over to grab two of the plastic
chairs. After carrying them over to the desks, he retrieved his coffee,
worked up a smile for Peach.
“Ms. Peach? Would you come on over and sit down?”And though the
short stack was heavy in his belly, he boosted up the smile. “Maybe you
could bring those cinnamon buns with you. They sure smell tempting.”
Obviously pleased, she brought over the plate and a stack of napkins.
“You boys just help yourselves.”
“I gotta figure this is at least as awkward for all of you as it is for me,”
Nate began as he plopped a bun on a napkin. “You don’t know me.
Don’t know what kind of cop I am, what kind of man I am. I’m not from
around here, and I don’t know a damn thing about this part of the
world.And you’re supposed to take orders from me.You’re going to take
orders from me,” he corrected, and bit into the bun.
“This is pure sin, Ms. Peach.”
“It’s the lard that does it.”
“I bet.” He envisioned every one of his arteries slamming shut. “It’s
hard to take orders from somebody you don’t know, don’t trust. You’ve
got no reason to trust me. Yet. I’m going to make mistakes. I don’t mind
you pointing them out to me, as long as you point them out in private.
I’m also going to rely on you, all of you, to bring me up to speed. Things
I should know, people I should know. But for right now, I’m going to
ask if any of you have a problem with me. Let’s get it out in the open
now, deal with it.”
Otto took a slurp of his coffee. “I don’t know if I’ve got a problem
until I see what you’re made of.”
“Fair enough. You find you’ve got one, you tell me. Maybe I’ll see it
your way, maybe I’ll tell you to go to hell. But we’ll know where we
Nate looked over at Peter. “It’s Nate. I hope to God you people aren’t
going to take a page from Mayor Hopp and call me Ignatious all the
“Well, I was thinking that maybe at first me or Otto should go with
you on calls, and on patrol. Until you get to know your way around.”
“That’s a good idea. Ms. Peach and I’ll start working out a shift
schedule, week by week.”
“You can start calling me Peach now. I’d just like to say I expect this
place to stay clean, and that chores—which includes scrubbing the
bathroom, Otto—get put on the schedule like everything else. Mops
and buckets and brooms aren’t tools just for women.”
“I signed on as deputy, not as a maid.”
She had a soft, motherly face. And, like any mother worth her salt,
could sear a hole through steel with one firm look. “And I’m being paid
to work as dispatcher and secretary, not to scrub toilets. But what has to
be done, has to be done.”
“Why don’t we rotate those chores for the time being?” Nate interrupted
as he could see combat fire light both faces. “And I’ll talk to
Mayor Hopp about our budget. Maybe we can squeeze out enough to
hire somebody to come in and swab us out once a week.Who has the
keys to the weapon cabinet?”
“They’re locked in my drawer,” Peach told him.
“I’d like to have them. And I’d like to know what weapons each of
you deputies is qualified for.”
“If it’s a gun, I can shoot it,” Otto retorted.
“That may be true, but we’re wearing badges.” He tipped his chair
back so he could see the gun Otto wore in a belt holster. “You want to
stick with the .
38 for your service revolver?”
“It’s my own, and it suits me.”
“That’s fine. I’m going to take the
9mm SIG from the cabinet. Peter,
you comfortable with the nine you’re carrying?”
“Peach, can you handle a firearm?”
“I’ve got my father’s Colt .
45 revolver locked in my desk, too. He
taught me how to shoot when I was five. And I can handle anything in
that cabinet, the same as GI Joe here.”
“I served in the Corps,”Otto retorted, with some heat. “I’m a Marine.”
“Okay then.” Nate cleared his throat. “How many residents, would
you say, own weapons?”
The three of them stared at him until, finally, Otto’s lips quirked up.
“That’d be about all of them.”
“Great. Do we have a list of those residents who’re licensed to carry
“I can get that for you,” Peach offered.
“That’ll be good. And would there be a copy of town ordinances?”
“I’ll get it.”
“One last,” Nate said as Peach got up. “If we have occasion to arrest
anyone, who sets bail, decides on the term, the payment of fine,
and so on?”
There was a long silence before Peter spoke. “I guess you do, chief.”
Nate blew out a breath. “Won’t that be fun?”
He went back into his office, taking the paperwork Peach gave him.
It didn’t take long to read through it, but it gave him something to pin
up on his corkboard.
He was lining up pages, tacking them on when Peach came in. “Got
those keys for you, Nate. These here are for the gun cabinet. These are
for the station doors, front and back, the cells and your car. Everything’s
“My car? What’ve I got?”
“Grand Cherokee. It’s parked out on the street.” She dumped keys
into his hand. “Hopp said one of us should show you how you work the
heat block for the engine.”
He’d read about those, too. Heaters designed to keep an engine
warm when at rest in subzero temperatures. “We’ll get to it.”
“Sun’s coming up.”
“What?” He turned, looked out the window.
Then he just stood, his arms at his side, the keys weighing down
his hand, as the sun bloomed orange and rose in the sky. The mountains
came alive under it, massive and white with the gold streaks sliding
They filled his window. Left him speechless.
“Nothing like your first winter sunrise in Alaska.”
“I guess not.” Mesmerized, he stepped closer to the window.
He could see the river where he’d landed—a long, saggy dock he
hadn’t noticed before, and the sheen of ice under the lightening sky.
There were hills of snow, a huddle of houses, stands of trees—and he
noted, people. There were people, bundled up so thickly they looked
like globs of color gliding over the white.
There was smoke rising, and Jesus, was that an eagle soaring over
head? And as he watched, a group of kids went running toward the iced
ribbon of river, hockey sticks and skates over their shoulders.
And the mountains stood over it all, like gods.
Watching them, he forgot about the cold, the wind, the isolation and
his own quiet misery.
Watching them, he felt alive.
|12-02-11, 06:37 AM||#10|
maybe it was
too damn cold, maybe people were on their best behavior,
or it might have been that the holiday spirit was entrenched in
that week between Christmas and New Year’s, but it was nearly noon
before the first call came in.
“Nate?” Peach came to his door holding a couple of knitting needles
and a hank of purple wool. “Charlene called from The Lodge. Seems a
couple of the boys got into a ruckus over a game of pool. Some pushyshovey
“All right.” He got to his feet, fishing a quarter out of his pocket as
he walked out. “Call it,” he said to Otto and Peter.
“Heads.” Otto set down his Field & Stream while Nate flipped the
coin in the air.
He slapped it on the back of his hand. “Tails. Okay, Peter, you’ll
come with me. Little altercation over at The Lodge.” He snagged a
two-way, hooked it to his belt.
He stepped into the entry, began dragging on gear. “If it hasn’t broken
up by the time we get there,” he said to Peter, “I want you to tell me
the players straight off, give me the picture. Is it something that’s going
to turn nasty or can we resolve it with a few strong words?”
He shoved out the door, into the blast of cold air. “That mine?” he
asked, nodding toward the black Jeep at the curb.
“And that cord plugged into that pole there would be attached to the
heater on the engine.”
“You’ll need it if it’s going to sit for any time. There’s a Mylar blanket
in the back, and that’ll cover up the engine and keep the heat in for
up to twenty-four hours, maybe. But sometimes people forget to take
them off, and then you’re going to overheat. Jumper cables in the back,
too,” he continued as he pulled the plug. “Emergency flares and first-aid
“We’ll go over all that,” Nate interrupted, and wondered if navigating
down a road called Lunatic Street would entail the need of emergency
flares and first aid. “Let’s see if I can get us to The Lodge in one
He climbed behind the wheel, stuck the key in the ignition. “Heated
seats,” he noted. “There is a God.”
The town looked different in the daylight, no doubt about it. Smaller
somehow, Nate thought as he maneuvered on the hard-packed snow.
Exhaust had blacked the white at the curbs, and the storefront windows
weren’t exactly sparkling, and most of the Christmas decorations looked
the worse for wear in the sunlight.
It wasn’t a postcard, unless you looked beyond to the mountains, but
it was a few solid steps up from dreary.
Rugged was a better term, he decided. It was a settlement carved out
of ice and snow and rock, snugged tight to a winding river, flanked by
forests where he could easily imagine wolves roaming.
He wondered if forest meant bear, too, but decided it wasn’t worth
worrying about until spring. Unless all that hibernation talk was bullshit.
It took less than two minutes to drive from station house to lodge.
He saw a total of ten people on the street and passed a brawny pickup,
a clunky SUV, and counted three parked snowmobiles and one set of
skis propped against the side of The Italian Place.
It seemed people didn’t exactly hibernate in Lunacy, whatever the
He went to the main door of The Lodge and walked through it just
ahead of Peter.
It hadn’t broken up. He could hear that plainly enough through the
shouts of encouragement—
kick his fat ass, Mackie!—and the thud of
bodies and grunts.What Nate calculated was that a Lunacy-style crowd
had gathered, consisting of five men in flannel, one of which turned out
to be a woman on closer inspection.
Encircled by them, two men with shaggy, brown hair were rolling
around on the floor, trying to land short-arm punches on each other.
The only weapon he saw was a broken pool cue.
“Mackie brothers,” Peter told him.
“Yeah. Twins. They’ve been beating the hell out of each other since
they were in the womb. Hardly ever take a swing at anyone else.”
Nate nudged his way through the press of bodies. The sight of him
had the shouts toning down to murmurs as he waded in and hauled the
top Mackie off the bottom Mackie.
“All right, break it up. Stay down,” he ordered, but Mackie number
two was already springing up, rearing back. He landed a solid roundhouse
to his brother’s jaw.
“Red River, numbnuts!” He shouted, then did a victory dance, fists
lifted high, as his brother slumped in Nate’s arms.
“Peter, for Christ’s sake,”Nate said as his deputy remained immobile.
“Oh, sorry, chief. Jim, settle down.”
Instead, Jim Mackie continued to bounce in his Wolverines to the
cheers of the crowd.
Nate saw money being exchanged, but decided to ignore it.
“Take this one.” Nate shoved the unconscious man into Peter, then
stepped up to the self-proclaimed champ. “The deputy gave you an
“Yeah?” He grinned, showing blood on his teeth and an unholy
gleam in a pair of brown eyes. “So what? I don’t have to take orders from
“Yeah, you do. I’ll show you why.”Nate spun the man around, shoved
him against the wall, had his hands behind his back and cuffed in under
“Hey!” was the best the reigning champ could manage.
“Give me grief, and you’ll sit in a cell for resisting arrest, among other
things. Peter, bring that one over to the station when he wakes up.”
With no apparent loyalty, the crowd shifted its support to Nate with
catcalls and whistles as he muscled Jim Mackie toward the door.
Nate paused when he saw Charlene ease out of the kitchen. “You
looking to press charges?” he asked her.
She stared, finally blinked. “I . . . well, hell, I don’t know. Nobody’s
ever asked me that before.What kind of charges?”
“They broke some stuff back there.”
“Oh.Well, they always pay for it after. But they did run off a couple
of tourists who were going to order lunch.”
“Bill started it.”
“Oh now, Jim, you both start it. Every time. I’ve told you I don’t want
you coming in here fighting and causing a ruckus that runs people off. I
don’t want to press charges exactly. I just want this nonsense to stop.
And payment for damages.”
“Got it. Let’s go sort this out, Jim.”
“I don’t see why I have to—”
Nate solved the matter by pushing him out into the cold.
“Hey, Christ’s sake, I need my gear.”
“Deputy Notti will bring it. Get in the car, or stand here and get
frostbite. Up to you.” He yanked the door open, gave Jim a heave inside.
Once Nate was behind the wheel, Jim had recovered some dignity,
despite the bleeding mouth and puffy eye. “I don’t think this is the way
to treat people. It ain’t right.”
“I don’t think it’s right to coldcock your brother when somebody’s
holding his arms.”
Jim had the grace to look chagrined, and dipped his chin onto his
chest. “I was caught up. Heat of the moment. And the son of a bitch pissed
me off. You’re that Outsider’s come to be chief of police, aren’t you?”
“You’re a quick study, Jim.”
Jim sulked during the short drive to the station house. Then he
trudged along as Nate took him inside.
48 here,” he said the minute he spotted Otto and Peach, “he
doesn’t understand how things are done in Lunacy.”
“Why don’t you explain it all to him?” There was a light in Otto’s
eyes. It might’ve been glee.
“Need the first-aid kit. Step into my office, Jim.”
Nate led him in, pushed him into a chair, then, after unhooking one
of the cuffs, snapped it onto the arm of the chair.
“Aw, come on. If I was going anywhere, I could just take this little
dink of a chair with me.”
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