This excerpt from my upcoming novel, The Fisherman’s Daughter is told from the viewpoint of Sergeant Dan Patterson with the Alaska State Troopers.
Alaska State Trooper Sergeant Patterson knew his night was about to take a turn for the worse. He had just finished his shift and walked into his house when his phone chirped. His wife was dishing up a plate of spaghetti for him, but when the phone rang, she stopped, knowing she would be reheating his meal in several hours.
“I’m on my way.” He said into the phone. He looked at his wife. “Sorry hon, this sounds like a bad one. Don’t wait up for me; I have to drive to Chiniak.”
He hurried to his car in the driving rain, fastened his seat belt and began the 42-mile drive down the Chiniak Highway. On a sunny day in July, this drive rivaled any in the world for its scenic beauty, but this was not a sunny day in July; it was a rainy night in October. The road was dark and curvy, and Patterson gripped the steering wheel as he concentrated on the pavement in front of him. Staying on the road was not his only concern. He had to watch for deer and possibly even bears running across the highway. The trooper who had called him said to park at the post office in Chiniak, and they would cover the final mile of their trek on four wheelers. All Patterson had been told was that a body had been discovered in the woods. He didn’t know whether the victim was male or female or whether it had been there a day or a year. If he’d understood Trooper Ben Johnstone correctly, the trooper himself had found the body while deer hunting on his day off. The usually calm and organized Johnstone, however, had sounded rattled, so Patterson may have misunderstood him. He’d get the details soon enough.
Patterson had only been stationed on Kodiak for six months, and he had only been to Chiniak once before, but it was a town with a population of 50 people, so finding the post office was not difficult. By the time he parked the car, sheets of blinding rain pelted the windshield. Patterson pulled on his raincoat, stepped out of his vehicle, and shook hands with Trooper Ben Johnstone.
“I see the weather isn’t going to be our friend tonight,” Patterson said.
“No, sir. If there were tracks near the body, they won’t be there now.”
“So the body is fresh?”
“Yes, sir. No more than a day or two old. She was murdered.”
Patterson felt a headache coming on. This would be a very long night. “You’re sure it wasn’t a hunting accident.”
“This was no hunting accident, sir. I’m certain of that. It’s pretty hard to cut someone’s throat by accident.”
The headache spread into Patterson’s neck. “You are the one who found the body?”
“Yes sir, I was walking through the woods. I’d been hunting about two hours and was heading back to my cabin because it was starting to rain hard. I caught a glimpse of something strange on the ground, and after a few more steps, I realized it was a body. I took some photos and checked around the area for footprints or four-wheeler tracks, but I didn’t see anything. She must have been murdered before the rain started.”
“How are you doing?” Patterson asked. “This must have been quite a shock.”
“Yes sir, it was. I’m fine, though. It’s just that you don’t expect to find a dead girl in the woods when you’re deer hunting.”
“A girl?” Now his stomach was beginning to hurt.
“A teenager, sir.”
“Okay, let’s go take a closer look.”
Patterson followed Johnstone through the woods, each man riding a four wheeler that Johnstone had somehow managed to procure. They had to travel slowly through the Sitka spruce rainforest to avoid smashing into a tree, but at least the large trees shielded them from some of the rain.
Fifteen minutes later, Patterson spotted the red beam of the light Johnstone had left to mark the location of the body. They parked their four wheelers several yards away and approached the body on foot.
The naked body sprawled on the ground, arms out to the side and legs spread wide. It had been posed for maximum effect. Her throat had been slashed so deeply she nearly had been decapitated. Her brown eyes stared sightlessly up at the trees. Patterson noted what looked like bite marks on her breasts, but otherwise, her slim, pale body appeared unmarred.
“We need to get a tarp over the scene right away,” Patterson said.
“Yes, sir. I brought one with me. I’ll get on that. Are the crime scene people on their way?”
“I’ll send them tomorrow when it’s light, but I don’t think they’ll find much. If there ever was any evidence here, it has been washed away by now. I don’t see much blood, so I think this is only where the body was dumped, not where she was killed. Once you get the tarp set up, go back to town and see if you can borrow a trailer or a sled or something we can use to transport the body back to my vehicle. After I take photos, I think we should get her packaged and transported back to Kodiak. The only hope we have of preserving any evidence on her body will be to get her out of this weather.”
It was 3:00 am by the time Patterson finally returned home and ate his spaghetti dinner. He and Johnstone had packaged the body, and it was ready to ship to Anchorage to the state medical examiner’s office on the morning Ravn flight. This was the second female on the island in the past six months who had been found with her throat slashed. Patterson had a bad feeling about these crimes. On an island where few murders occurred, two women killed in the same manner in the span of six months suggested to him they were killed by the same perpetrator or perpetrators. Was a serial killer hunting women on the island?
I will have another excerpt for you next week. If you haven’t already signed up for my free mystery newsletter, you will want to do it before my May newsletter about a shocking murder in Craig, Alaska.
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