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Authors: Don Porter

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BOOK: Deadly Detail
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Chapter Eleven

We woke up slowly to bright sunshine outside. We lazed around, took turns in the bathroom, and sauntered down to the restaurant.

I had a hankering for potato pancakes and little pig sausages, but Angie went for the eggs Benedict again. The orange juice was fresh, and the decaffeinated coffee was good enough at the moment. It began to dawn on me that Angie was wearing jeans.

“Hey, don’t you have to go to work or something?”

“Well, Alex, it is Saturday, you know?”

“No, actually, I didn’t know. You mean people with real jobs have the day off?”

“That we do, and the vet called the station yesterday while you were out partying. We can pick up Turk today.”

“That might be a little awkward. Did you notice there’s a No Pets sign by the front desk? Maybe you could get some dark glasses and pretend he’s a seeing-eye dog?”

“We could do that, but we also could take him out to the house.”

“Won’t that be a problem, feeding him and such by remote control?”

“Not too bad. We’d need to check on him every couple of days, not a big deal.”

“Okay, let’s do it. I need to return an office key to Interior, then make a call to Bethel, and we’re good to go.”

I stayed on Cushman down to First Avenue and turned left into the Alaska Commercial Company lot. The gnome in the key booth cut me a duplicate office key in two minutes for three dollars. Naturally the key was stamped
Do Not Duplicate
, but most keys are, and it’s never stopped anyone yet. I didn’t have a good idea of why I needed it, but having my own key to the office felt like an ace in the hole. We drove out to the airport, but I parked Angie and the Buick at the Sea Airmotive hangar.

“Oh, oh, a new girlfriend at Interior and you don’t want her to see me?”

How the heck do women know things like that?

“Certainly not, but no one there has seen the Buick, and I want to keep it that way. You be a good girl, sit here and contemplate your sins, and I’ll be right back.”

“Okay, but if you take off for Valdez, I will be mildly irritated.”

“Hey, I left the keys in the ignition. If I’m not back in eight hours, you can go get Turk without me.”

I drove the company pickup down the flight line to Interior. Celeste wasn’t there, and Freddy didn’t spill out of his office. The sole occupant was the brunette who commanded the second desk, and when I came in she jumped as if she’d been shot and shoved papers under a notebook. I didn’t really see what she was hiding but it seemed to be just billing, not the slick cover of
Playgirl Magazine
.

“Hi, I’m Alex. Just stopped by to drop off the office keys and a billing from Bushmaster for the Valdez charter. We got in pretty late last night.”

She got up and came over to the counter, no smile, no expression at all, but she did have a face that belonged on a cameo and a remarkable figure that put me in mind of a tiger when she moved. I remembered my first impression when she and Celeste were both sitting at desks, and wondered why I had swayed so easily toward Celeste. I hoped I wasn’t guilty of the old
Blondes have more fun
cliché.

“Thanks.” She took the bill and the key, tossed the key on Celeste’s desk and carried the bill back to her own. I was dismissed, but I had the impression that this girl might be the cake and Celeste only the frosting. She opened a ledger exactly like Celeste’s and entered the Bushmaster billing. That seemed strange. Why two ledgers? I concluded that my knowledge of bookkeeping is no better than my judgment of women.

Thank heaven Angie was still waiting in the car and confirmed my latest impression that brunettes are to be sought after. We stopped at the strip mall. Angie bought a few things, mostly for Turk, and conned the cashier out of three dollars in quarters. I hit the booth outside and called the troopers’ office in Bethel. Tim came on the line, of course. He’s no more hip to weekends and their meaning than I am.

“Alex, I thought you were calling from Fairbanks.”

“I am, who says different?”

“The fingerprints. One glass was a bust, smudges and some horrible cheap lipstick, but the other had nice clear prints from a guy who’s known to be in Motown.”

“Motown?”

“Detroit City. He’s a soldier of fortune, alleged to be an assassin for hire.”

“What do you mean,
alleged?”

“That means the FBI knows damn well who he is and what he does, but he hasn’t been caught and convicted, so he’s innocent until a jury of his peers…if they can arrest twelve of his peers. My advice is to find a new playmate, fast.”

“You mean he’s on a most-wanted list?”

“Not yet, but you should read his ads in the magazine. He will be.”

“So, the police do officially know him?”

“Not officially, but even cops can read magazines, and he was interesting enough to be checked out. He was discharged from the Marine Reconnaissance program as being undesirable, and that’s pretty darn undesirable.”

“Reconnaissance, like intelligence gathering?”

“Theoretically, but think Navy Seals or Army Rangers, trained in every nasty skill that the services pay people for and we arrest them for.”

“Thanks, Tim. I really appreciate this.”

“My pleasure. If one of you gets shot, which seems highly likely, be sure it’s him, unless he knows how to land on sandbars.”

“I’ll do my best. The secret to landing on sandbars is my St. Christopher medallion. It’s in the jockey box of Eight-Three Fox. Out of quarters, got to run.”

I walked back to the car and met Angie.

“Any luck?”

“Yep, Jody’s underwear is the real McCoy.” I unconsciously touched the pistol in my belt and Angie caught the gesture.

“Here we go again, damn stupid macho males protecting the poor helpless little woman. What the hell is going on?”

“Okay, okay, don’t shoot. Let’s go get Turk and I’ll spill my guts.”

We headed across the Chena on a new bridge. I hadn’t known it was there, but the sign said
College
with an arrow, and it worked.

“Going to tell me that poor Jody is wasting away from incurable avarice and needs our sympathy?”

“No, I’m going to tell you that a state trooper in Bethel got an ID on one of the phony cops who came to your house.”

“And?”

“And, he’s a known assassin for hire. Now, do you feel better?”

“Damn right I do. Don’t drive past the dairy.”

I turned in. Angie and Turk had a joyous reunion, and I made the vet joyous with my credit card. Turk had a two-inch-wide white plaster stripe across his scalp, but otherwise he looked fine. Angie and Turk snuggled in the back seat while I drove us out the hot springs road. A black sedan with two male occupants was parked in the Rendezvous lot, but they had their heads down studying a map and showed no interest in us. I was wondering just how professional
professional
killers are, and what sort of resources they had. No cars were parked along the road or in the driveway.

The sun was almost warm. Fall had moved up a notch with most leaves yellow and reflecting back the sunlight. All was peace and beauty, including the special musty smell of autumn. I parked in front of the house. Angie and Turk went inside, and I leaned across the car top to keep a lookout and enjoy the warmth. I’d just been thinking how profound the silence was when I heard gravel crunch. A car had coasted to a stop on the road. In any other setting I wouldn’t have heard a thing, but in the silence of the woods there was no mistaking that sound, and my hackles went straight up.

I was thinking that Turk saved our lives the first time, but was probably the Judas if that crunch on the road meant what I was afraid it did. Someone had stopped without driving by to see if we were home. Either they had staked out the highway for a week or had just called the vet to ask about that beautiful husky. The vet wouldn’t have ratted us out intentionally, but would have had no qualms about telling an interested party that Turk was on his way home.

I popped the trunk, grabbed the shotgun and the box of shells and burst into the house.

“What’s the matter?” Angie came from the kitchen and I shoved the shotgun into her hands.

“Do you know how to use this?”

“Are you kidding? Did you reload it?”

“No.”

She grabbed the gun, dumped two shells out of the box, jacked a shell into the chamber and refilled the magazine.

“Good, close the doors and windows, and do not let Turk out of the house. Keep a watch on the woods, mostly on the downriver side, and if anyone comes out of the woods except me, blow them away.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to do the damn stupid macho male thing, what else?”

I stepped out, closed the door, got the pistol in my hand, and crept into the woods.

The car I’d heard had seemed to be about fifty yards to the left so I angled that direction but kept the driveway in sight. I found a big spruce in a spot where I could make out the house and the driveway through the trees, and crawled under the branches. That’s an old moose-hunting technique. You do not go looking for moose because when they’re grazing they cover twenty miles per day. You stay quiet, and let the moose come to you. I didn’t even breathe.

It was five minutes before I detected movement. It wasn’t noise, just a subliminal sense of something changing. They hadn’t headed directly for the house. They were apparently headed for the river, planning to come at the house from behind. I left my spruce and crawled on a course to intercept them. They were moving slowly, and I was moving slower, but the vector was in my favor.

I started getting glimpses through the trees, definitely two men, both carrying rifles. They were fifty yards away, not a difficult shot for the .357, but I did want a positive ID, and I wasn’t seeing faces. Shooting a man is a nasty business, and I hope I never get to like it, but sometimes it has to be done. Both Trooper Tim and I would be dead now if I hadn’t shot men in the past.

I also hate the thought of slaughter yards, but I love beefsteak. Someone has to kill the steers, ultimately for my enjoyment, so I can hardly claim not to be in favor. When a man with a gun is intent on killing, particularly me or mine, and assuming, as I was, that these were the guys who killed Stan, I didn’t mind very much. It was an unpleasant job that needed to be done. I just wanted to be sure. They stepped into a relatively clear spot between birch trees. I picked up a baseball-sized rock and tossed it into a bush on my left. They spun around and there was the phony cop. No more thought, and no compunction. I put a bullet in the center of his forehead.

His partner dropped instantly. For a few seconds I couldn’t see him, then something moved several yards closer to the road. I put a bullet in the movement, but too late. It was a rifle and his bullet ripped a chunk out of my cheek. I didn’t feel it for a second, but had already dropped to the ground when the next bullet slammed into a tree above me.

Bushes moved. He was crawling toward the road, and I couldn’t see him. I crawled too, paralleling him, ready to fire if I saw anything but bushes. My cheek didn’t hurt as badly as I thought it should. I hoped it was adrenalin, not shock setting in. He was getting close to the road, apparently crawling in a depression. I took a chance, tried a hunkered-down run toward the road. A bullet slammed a tree three inches from my nose. I dropped again and crawled, thank you.

He got to the road and rolled right under the car. I could see bits of him, but a shot would have been through bushes and probably deflected. The car door on the far side slammed, the car started and threw gravel. I stood up, put a bullet in each near side tire, and ran for the road.

The car swerved, skidded back and forth across the road, and slammed into the ditch on the far side. He came out, leading with his rifle, and we were both in the open. I had two bullets left, and I put the first one in his heart. His shot went wild. He dropped the rifle and crumpled. I kept him covered, and walked over. He was not going to be a problem anymore. I eased the hammer down on the final chamber and backtracked through the woods to check on his partner. I was sure, but you can never be too sure. I let the pistol lead, ready to fire, until I spotted the body and stalked up to it. Never mind, you do not want a description of his head. I stuck the gun in my belt and stumbled toward the house. Suddenly I was feeling queasy and light-headed.

“Hey, Angie, it’s me. Don’t shoot. I’m through playing damn stupid macho games for a while. Just come help me into the house.”

She came out, carrying the shotgun and holding Turk on a very short, very stout leash.

I waved her back. “Better get Turk inside.”

“Are they still out there, Alex?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes they are, and I don’t want Turk investigating right now. Will that radio of yours reach the state troopers?”

“Not directly, but through relays. Alex, what’s the matter with your face?”

“Nothing that Turk’s vet can’t fix. I think it’s what they’d call just a flesh wound.”

“Yeah, quite a lot of flesh, and you won’t be wearing an earring on that side anymore.” She ran for the first aid kit, swabbed me with something that hurt a hell of a lot worse than the shot, and slapped on a bandage. “Sit down, and keep quiet for a change. Don’t let your male ego get in an uproar. Just trust little old me to call the cops.”

I leaned back on the couch and closed my eyes for a minute. Something tickled my nose and I looked up. Angie was waving a brandy snifter. She smiled and handed it to me.

“Cops will be here in a few minutes. I thought you’d like to be awake to talk to them.”

“Thanks.” I sampled the brandy. It was Rémy Martin, delicious, satisfying fire. It burned all the way down, waking up organs as it passed. I sipped again, savored it, and I was glad to be alive.

“Did you say a few minutes?”

“Yeah, that’s what I said. You’ve been out for almost half an hour.”

“Damn, there goes my stupid macho male image, for sure. Can I beat my chest and make it up to you?”

“You can shut your stupid macho male mouth, and just try to wake up.”

I sipped the brandy again, then just cupped the snifter and breathed the fumes. If doctors don’t prescribe that, they should. Sirens came screaming down the road, and sorted themselves into two cop cars. They stopped by the wreck in the road, sirens still blaring, then one came down the drive, his siren winding down the scale and ending with a burp.

BOOK: Deadly Detail
10.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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