from the 19th Kate Shugak novel

On the other side of the door, the two men in the almost identical uniforms exchanged a long, expressionless stare. Finally Jim said in a voice entirely without inflection, “Liam,” and nodded at a chair. “Have a seat.”

“Thanks, Jim.” Campbell unzipped the heavy blue jacket and sat down.

There was silence. “How long you been here?” Campbell finally said.

“Going on three years,” Jim said. “Little different from Wasilla.”

“That it is,” Jim said. “Not busting near as many meth labs and marijuana grows in the Park. Thank god.”

Campbell nodded. “You looking to retire out of here?”

He was referring to the Alaska State Troopers’ seven-step duty posts. The more rural the post, the higher the pay. The higher the pay when a trooper retired, the bigger the pen- sion. “Not planning on retiring anytime soon,” Jim said, and wondered if that were true.

“You just like the village life, then.” A faint shrug. “This village, yeah.”


Campbell raised an eyebrow. “Hear tell there might be another reason.”

“There might.” Jim did not elaborate. “Never took you for a one-woman man.” Jim shrugged and returned no answer.

Another silence. Campbell started to fidget in his chair, and thought better of it. “You’re not going to make this easy, are you.”

“Any reason I should?”

Campbell looked past Jim, at the impenetrable cluster of spruce trees crowding in at the window. “It’s not like I don’t know I screwed up.”

“Five people dying because you were asleep at the switch constitutes a little more than screwing up in my book,” Jim said.

“That was six, almost seven years ago now,” Campbell said, his voice level. “Maybe time to let that go.”

“Like you have?”

Campbell met Jim’s eyes squarely. “Not an option for me.” A third silence. Jim took a long breath, held it for a few moments, and then let it out slowly. “What the hell hap-


Liam told him. He spoke simply, in words devoid of emo- tion, but the obvious determination to remain matter-of-fact told its own tale. “There’s no excuse, Jim,” he said. “I just wasn’t paying attention. I fucked up, and five people died.”

“You’re right, you did,” Jim said. A pause. He sighed. “But so did they. They drove down an unmaintained road in February, out of cell range, with no arctic gear, and didn’t tell anyone where they were going.” His mouth twisted. “A friend of mine calls it suicide by Alaska. Usually it’s Outsid- ers with no clue. But sometimes . . .”

Campbell was silent.

“I should have asked before,” Jim said. “I’m sorry.” “You tried,” Campbell said. “I wasn’t real . . . receptive.”

They were men. That was as sentimental as it was going to get.

Jim leaned back in his chair and crossed his feet on his


desk. “Newenham. Lot of big cases, all closed pretty deci- sively, and all of them on film at ten, too. Been an interesting post for you.”

Campbell’s expression lightened at the relaxation of ten- sion in the room. “You could say that.”

“And I see you’re already back up to sergeant.” “Yeah.”

“Fast tracker.” Jim smiled for the first time. “Good work on Gheen.”

Campbell shrugged. “He finally kidnapped the wrong woman. She escaped and led him right to us.” A shadow passed across his face. “And getting him didn’t come for free.”

Fun fact: Well. Liam’s back, of course. But I also ran my plot by a friend in the Anchorage FBI office. His face went white and he said, “Dana, we’re worried about that very thing.” And then he sent me down to the gun room.

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