Dana’s Favorite Scene

A Night Too Dark

The paperback edition comes out on November 30, 2010. Click here to order your copy today.


[Trooper Jim Chopin and certified Alaska old fart Old Sam Dementieff sitting on the dock of the river.]

The sun was warm on his face as he walked down the dock. The current was running strongly downstream, where other cabins and houses and docks could be seen with their toes in the swift-running water. Old Sam moved over. Jim sat down next to him and crossed his heels on the edge of the dock. He took a sip of coffee and hid his wince. “Meant to say yesterday, aren’t you supposed to be down Alaganik way this time of year?”

“I would be if the goddamn fish hawks would call an opener.”

“Who’s minding your boat?”

“That Jeppsen boy and the Lestinkof girl Kate wished on me.”

“Who’s minding them?”

“Got her anchored up just offshore of Mary’s site. She’s keeping an eye out.”

The two men contemplated the passing river in companionable silence. A pair of eagles chittered from the top of a nearby scrag, three ravens chased each other in a madcap spiral, and a lone seagull zeroed in on the carcass of a spawned-out salmon cast up on a nearby sandbank. Almost immediately half a dozen other seagulls materialized to fight over it.

Martin Shugak went by in an ancient, paintless dory powered by a 75-horsepower Mercury outboard engine that looked brand new. He raised a hand in greeting to Old Sam, saw Jim and hunched his shoulders and looked the other way.

“Nice outboard,” Old Sam said.

“Don’t go there,” Jim said.

A little while later Edna Aguilar came up river in an olive-green inflatable boat with a two-horsepower Evinrude on the back that looked like a large mosquito. It sounded like one, too.

“Is it just me or does she always look pissed off?” Jim said.

“It ain’t just you,” Old Sam said.

The proper thing would be to thank Edna for last night’s meal but Jim was too scared to. Both men gave perfunctory waves and prayed silently that she would go on by. She did, and they breathed easier again.

Andy Martushev appeared in his canoe, paddle moving through the water at a steady beat, the sun illuminating the crystalline drops of spray over the bow when he changed sides.

“Andy,” Old Sam said when Andy was in earshot.

“Sam,” Andy said.

“Want some coffee?”

“Got some waiting on me at the café.”

“And somebody a lot prettier to wait on you,” Old Sam said.

Andy grinned and paddled on by. “He’s dreaming,” Old Sam said.

“Why?” Jim said. “Andy’s all right. Laurel could do a lot worse.”

“I hear she and Matt Grosdidier might maybe got a thing,” Old Sam said, who was always a step ahead of everybody else on Park gossip. “Besides, Laurel’s not about to throw herself away on a fuck-up like Andy. She’s too much her mother’s daughter.” Old Sam drank coffee. “Things going okay with the girl?”

Grunt.

“Looking like it’s going to last?”

“Jesus, Old Sam, I don’t even talk about this stuff with Kate.”

“Maybe you oughta.”

“Whose coffee am I drinking here, Dear Abby’s?”

“The NNA chair knows that mine’s a good thing for the Park. Industry, jobs, a tax base so they can start picking up where the state’s falling off.”

Jim looked at the old man, startled by a comment that seemed right out of left field.

Old Sam wore an uncompromising expression. He was going to say what he had to say and Jim was going to hear it. “The Park rat’s a different story. The Park rat, she hates the mine and everything to do with it. The mine’s invading the place that healed her when she was wounded body and soul after that job in Anchorage. It’s a violation of a peace and privacy she’s taken as a birthright. It’ll change the face of the land itself, scar it so that it will never be the same again.” Old Sam looked down into his mug. “This ain’t easy times for the Park rat. Just saying you should take notice, is all.”


The paperback edition comes out on November 30, 2010. Click here to order your copy today.