from the second Kate Shugak novel


The killer woke and rose at once, whistling. He washed his face and brushed his teeth, slowly methodically, a deliberate ceremony to his movements. Shaving was almost a ritual, and he was very careful not to nick himself with the blade. The new clothes—Levis, a Pendleton shirt, socks, T-shirt, shorts, bought the day before in Niniltna—had been painstakingly laid out on his bed in the order that he would put them on. The clerk at Niniltna General Store hadn’t recognized him yesterday, in spite of his shopping there all winter long. He wiped the last of the shaving cream from his face and smiled at himself in the mirror.


Twenty-five miles to the west, Kate ate the last of last week’s bread as toast dunked in her morning coffee. She mixed up a batch of dough and turned it into a buttered bowl. Covering it with a damp kitchen towel she sat it next to the wood stove to rise. Puttering around the cabin, she changed the sheets on the bed in the loft and the towels next to the sink, scoured out the sink, cleaned the top of the stove, took the rag rugs outside to shake, and swept the hardwood floor. Pumping up enough water to fill the washtub, she added soap and clothes and left it on the wood stove to heat through. She cleaned the chimneys and trimmed the wicks of all the propane lamps. It was her usual Monday morning routine and she performed it on automatic. It was good to have a routine.

Fun fact: The early Kates are all around two hundred manuscript pages long because I was writing them on my first multi-book contract with deadlines tied to an inflexible publishing calendar. If I didn’t turn in the books on time I didn’t get paid and the books didn’t get published. To figure out how to fulfill my contract terms, which after all were written in English and I had signed it, I went down to the local book store, selected a dozen current crime fiction novels at random, added up their page counts, and divided by twelve. It came out to an average 200 pages.


Chatter Kate Shugak

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