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It’s breakup, or spring in Alaska, that time of year when the snow melts and the bears wake up. One of those bears kills someone—or does it?—and Kate isn’t looking for the killer, or so she says. The rest of the Park rats know better.
Breakup is a frantic, fractured time in Alaska, and I don’t mean just the roads. During breakup the immortal words of Mike Doogan hold even more true than they do during the rest of the year: “Any encounter between Alaskans that doesn’t end in gunfire is counted as successful.”
This is the book that one woman said made her blow Sprite out of her nose in an airport lounge. Another woman wrote that her mother had called to say that she was six pages in and she was laughing so hard she scared the dog.
I’m so proud.
About the Dedication
for my girls
Angelique, Tanya, Marie and Monica
sunshine on a cloudy day
Kathy’s four oldest daughters and my honorary nieces.
Here’s an excerpt read by little old moi:
Or you could just read one…
ain’t love grand…
As Kate and Dinah were clearing the table a third voice interrupted Bobby’s conversation with the ruler of the sovereign state of Jordan. Bobby listened, replied, and said, “Gotta go, King, I got visitors. Been nice talking to you.”
King Hussein’s deep, precise voice gave a courteous signoff. The interrupt was KL7CC in Anchorage, with a telephone patch from Jack Morgan. “Well, hey, Jack. How are you?”
In Anchorage, Jack leaned back and propped his feet on a thick pile of case files, a broad grin spreading across his face. Bobby’s voice wouldn’t have sounded like that if Kate had been hurt. “Well, hey, Bobby, how you doing?”
“I’m fine, but Kate’s looking a little flattened around the edges.” There was a brief, startled silence and Bobby said quickly, “Just kidding, Jack. She’s fine. I assume you heard about the jet engine falling on her homestead?”
The relief in Jack’s voice was palpable. “Bill did, on the radio, five minutes ago. I’ve been stuck in the office all day, I didn’t know anything about it.” A note of humor crept into the deep, slow drawl. “They said which park and they said the homestead belonged to someone named Shaktoolik, so I figured it could only be Kate. You sure she’s okay?”
“Absolutely, but I’ll let her tell you that herself.”
“Hey, Jack,” Kate said, rising to walk over to the radio console. “I’m okay.”
“I’m awful goddam glad to hear it, Shaktoolik. Bill says they’re saying that engine weighed about eight thousand pounds.”
“It used to. It weighs about ten pounds now. Per piece.”
A chuckle. “So Chicken Little was right. Mutt okay? The homestead?”
In Niniltna, Kate, well aware of listening ears tuned in from Chickaloon to Chistochina, replied, “Mutt’s fine, the homestead’s fine, and other than being sick of hearing about Chicken Little, I am, too.”
“I’d like to see that for myself.”
“Strap on the Cessna and come ahead on up.”
“Soon’s I get the chance, I’ll take you up on that invitation.”
The sooner the better, they both thought, but didn’t say.
“What have you been up to lately?” Kate said.
“Oh, we got us a doozy this morning. Drunk stabs a buddy to death and he feels so bad about it he tries to hang himself from the Captain Cook statue at Resurrection Park, but the knot comes undone. He falls down the hill through a bunch of devil’s club and winds up in the mud flats.”
A slow smile spread across Kate’s face. “I like it so far.”
“It gets better. He decides since he can’t hang himself he might as well go to work (he’s a burger flipper at McDonald’s on Fourth), and he climbs up the bank and walks down the middle of Fourth Avenue, covered with mud and devil’s club stickers and the dead man’s blood and, get this, with the noose still hanging around his neck.” Jack paused expectantly.
Kate was willing to play straight man. “What’s the punch line?”
“You’re kidding.” Kate started to laugh.
“Nope. Seven city blocks, and nobody notices, not even a tourist. Not until he gets to the restaurant. They noticed him then, all right.”
“I’ll just bet they did,” Kate said. Behind her Bobby and Dinah were laughing.
“Yeah, well, my life as we know it. Look, we’re taking up air time here. Just wanted to know you were okay.”
Bobby said, “She’s fine. There’s a woman up here who ain’t, though.”
“I thought that engine falling didn’t hurt anybody,” Jack said, surprised.
With relish, Bobby said, “This one was taken out by a grizzly bear.
Jack was unimpressed. “Must be breakup.”
Bobby scowled. Kate knew a warm feeling around her heart. “Gotta go, Jack. You interrupted Bobby giving electronic advice to King Hussein. Be talking to you soon.”
“Be seeing you soon,” he said, with feeling.
She avoided Bobby’s eye. “Say hi to Johnny for me.”
Bobby exchanged cordial insults with KL7CC and signed off. A ham radio operator standing by in Tonsina couldn’t resist keying his mike and making kissy noises into it. Kate Shugak’s long distant relationship with Jack Morgan was a byword in the Bush.