Wrong Alibi (Murder in Alaska #1) by Christina Dodd

PART ONE


            PETIE





1


            ALASKA

Midnight Sun Fishing Camp

Katchabiggie Lodge

Eight years ago


            JANUARY.

            Five and a half hours a day when the sun rose above the horizon.

            Storm clouds so thick, daylight never penetrated, and night reigned eternal.

            Thirty below zero Fahrenheit.

            The hurricane-force wind wrapped frigid temperatures around the lodge, driving through the log cabin construction and the steel roof, ignoring the insulation, creeping inch by inch into the Great Room where twenty-year-old Petie huddled on a love seat, dressed in a former guest’s flannel pajamas and bundled in a Pendleton Northern Lights wool blanket. A wind like this pushed snow through the roof vents, and she knew as soon as the storm stopped, she’d be up in the attic shoveling it out.

            Or not. Maybe first the ceiling would fall in on top of her.

            Who would know? Who would care?

            The storm of the century, online news called it, before the internet disappeared in a blast that blew out the cable like a candle.

            For a second long, dark winter, she was the only living being tending the Midnight Sun cabins and the lodge, making sure the dark, relentless Alaska winter didn’t do too much damage and in the spring the camp could open to enthusiastic fishermen, corporate team builders and rugged individualists.

            Alone for eight months of the year. No Christmas. No New Year’s. No Valentine’s Day. No any day, nothing interesting, just dark dark dark isolation and fear that she would die out here.

            With the internet gone, she waited for the next inevitable event.

            The lights went out.

            On each of the four walls, a small, battery-charged night-light came on to battle feebly against the darkness. Outside, the storm roared. Inside, cold swallowed the heat with greedy appetite.

            Petie sat and stared into a dark so black it hurt her eyes. And remembered...

            There, against the far back wall of the basement, in the darkest corner, white plastic covered...something. Slowly, Petie approached, driven by a terrible fear. She stopped about three feet away, leaned forward and reached out, far out, to grasp the corner of the plastic, pull it back, and see—

            With a gasp, Petie leaped to her feet.

            No. Just no. She couldn’t—wouldn’t—replay those memories again.

            She tossed the blanket onto the floor and groped for the flashlights on the table beside her: the big metal one with a hefty weight and the smaller plastic headlamp she could strap to her forehead. She clicked on the big one and shone it around the lodge, reassuring herself no one and nothing was here. No ghosts, no zombies, no cruel people making ruthless judgments about the gullible young woman she had been.

            Armed with both lights, she moved purposefully out of the Great Room, through the massive kitchen and toward the utility room.

            The door between the kitchen and the utility room was insulated, the first barrier between the lodge and the bitter, rattling winds. She opened that door, took a breath of the even chillier air, stepped into the utility room and shut herself in. There she donned socks, boots, ski pants, an insulated shirt, a cold-weather blanket cut with arm holes, a knit hat and an ancient, full-length, seal-skin, Aleut-made coat with a hood. She checked the outside temperature.

            Colder now—forty below and with the wind howling, the wind chill would be sixty below, seventy below...who knew? Who cared? Exposed skin froze in extreme cold and add the wind chill... She wrapped a scarf around her face and the back of her neck. Then unwrapped it to secure the headlamp low on her forehead. Then wrapped herself up again, trying to cover as much skin as she could before she faced the punishing weather.