[from “Nooses Give,” a Kate Shugak short story]
The wolf’s eyes were yellow, the woman’s hazel, both wary and hostile. The woman said, “What?”
“What ‘what?’” Bernie said. “What am I doing here? What do I want? Whatever happened to this thing called love?” He gave a hopeful smile. There was no response. “Come on, Kate. How about a chance to get in out of the cold?”
For a minute he thought she was going to shut the door in his face. Instead she stepped to one side. “In.” The dog curled a lip at him, and he took this as tacit permission to enter.
The cabin was a twenty-five-foot square with a sleeping loft. Built-in bookshelves, built-in couch, table and chairs and two stoves, one oil, one wood, took up the first floor. Gas lamps hissed gently from brackets in all four corners.
She took his parka and hung it next to hers on the caribou rack mounted next to the door. “Sit.” He sat. She poured out two mugs of coffee and gave him one. He gulped gratefully and felt the hot liquid creep all the way down his legs and out into his fingertips, and as if she had only been waiting for that, she said, “Talk.”
Her voice was a hoarse, croaking whisper, and irresistibly his eyes were drawn to the red, angry scar bisecting the smooth brown skin of her throat, literally from ear to ear. None of the Park rats knew the whole story, and none of them had had the guts to ask for it, but the scar marked her throat the way it had marked the end of her career seven months before as an investigator on the staff of the Anchorage district attorney’s office.
She had returned to her father’s homestead sometime last summer. The first anyone knew about it was when her mail started being delivered to the Niniltna post office. Old Abel Int-Hout picked it up and presumably brought it out to her homestead, and the only time anyone else saw her was when she came into Niniltna for supplies in October, the big silver wolf husky hybrid walking close by her side, warning off any and all advances with a hard yellow stare.
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