“Yeah, the phone was ringing when I walked in the door. Some guy, name of Montgomery, looking for–”
“Lyle Montgomery, looking for his daughter,” Liam said with a sigh, and glanced at the calendar. First of September, first of the month. Montgomery was right on schedule.
“You know him?”
“He’s got a daughter missing. Name of Cheryl.” Liam opened one of the desk drawers and rummaged through it, producing a file. “She was canoeing alone through the Wood-Tikchik State Park. Finn Grant dropped her off at the Four Lakes Ranger Station. She had a full load of supplies, plus the canoe. The rangers gave her a map and the standard warnings. She left around noon of that day, with the stated intention of camping her way up to Outuchiwenet Mountain Lodge. She had scheduled a fly out from there with Grant at noon two weeks from the day he put her down.”
“And she didn’t show?”
“When was that?”
“Just last month?”
“No, that’s the problem. August 1997.”
“Oh.” Prince was silent for a moment. “And her father’s been calling ever since?”
“He’s called the first of the month every month since I got here. I assume he had been doing so before. Corcoran didn’t stick around long enough after I showed up to fill me in.”
“Doesn’t it say in the file?”
He took a last look at the photograph stapled inside the folder. She was a looker, Cheryl Montgomery, a long fall of straight fair hair, large blue eyes with ridiculously long lashes, a dimple in her right cheek. Born in Juneau, a graduate of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, she had been a wildlife biologist working for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Anchorage. Twenty-six years old. A daughter who at the very least deserved a phone call once a month.
Just another overconfident backpacker swallowed up by the Alaskan wilderness. He closed the file and tossed it to Prince. “Corcoran wasn’t into keeping up with the paperwork. I talked to John Barton about it, and he said the family was all over the Wood-Tikchik for four months. They fought us suspending the search. And they fought the presumptive death hearing.”
“And now her father calls us the first of every month, checking to see if we’ve found her.”
Prince closed the file and tossed it back. “Okay, you can be boss.”
The fifth Liam Campbell novel, Spoils of the Dead, publishes on February 6, 2021.
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.