Murder Over Kodiak
Alaska Wilderness Mystery Author
Author Masterminds Charter Member
I heard the buzzing of a single-engine airplane, but that was the only thing that made sense. I was freezing and had the worst headache of my life. I opened my eyes and made out the dim outline of trees in the fading light. I was outside and it was evening. No, it must be night. It was almost dark, and in June, twilight didn’t settle in until nearly midnight. I closed my eyes and drifted away. I would worry about the time and where I was later.
“Jane!” The voice sounded familiar.
“What?” The reply was just a whisper, but that was all I had. Whoever was looking for me would have to wait until later, after my nap.
“Jane!” He was closer now, and his tone sounded urgent.
“Jane, where are you?” Another familiar voice.
“Oh no. Up here, Steve!”
“Is she okay?”
“I don’t think so. Wait, she has a pulse, but she looks terrible.”
A cool, firm hand gripped my wrist. I opened my eyes and saw the shadowy face of Agent Nick Morgan hovering a few inches above me.
He took off his coat and draped it over me. Then, he picked me up in his arms.
I heard panting. “Thank God, she’s alive,” the second man said.
“She’s in bad shape. We need to get her to town right away.”
“What happened here?”
“He’s dead. I guess she shot him.”
“This is Old Man Cycek. Why would she shoot him?”
“Because he’s the person who blew up your airplane.”
“Not now, Steve. We have to get her to town.”
“We’d better go. We’re almost out of daylight.”
I drifted in and out of consciousness, aware of Steve helping Morgan carry me down the bank, being pulled and pushed into the two-oh-six, the sound of the engine starting, my head resting in Morgan’s lap, and his hand stroking my hair. Then, I slept.
The next time I opened my eyes, I squinted into a bright light. I closed them and tried to figure out where I was and why I felt horrid. I reached my left hand to my forehead and lightly fingered the gauze bandage that covered my nose. The back of my left hand burned, and when I peered at it, I saw that an I.V. tube ran from my hand to a bag over the head of the bed. My right hand was wrapped in gauze, and something was stuck to my chest. I looked down to see what it was, but I couldn’t figure it out.
“Hello, sleepyhead. How do you feel?”
I looked into the smiling face of a young, blonde-haired man in scrubs.
“I’m Dave, your nurse,” he said. “Those are electrodes on your chest. You’re hooked to a heart monitor. You gave us a scare last night, but your rhythm is better today. How do you feel?”
Dave laughed. “I hear you. You have a visitor waiting to see you. Shall I show him in?”
I nodded, and Dave left the room. He returned a minute later with Morgan behind him.
“Don’t wear her out. I’ll call the doctor to let him know she’s awake, and he’ll want to see her as soon as he gets here.”
Morgan nodded and thanked Dave. Then he walked to the side of my bed and smiled down at me. “That was a close call,” he said.
“What happened?” My throat burned, and my voice was just a whisper.
Morgan pulled a chair up to my bed and sat. He touched my right arm. “I don’t know much. A dispatcher at one of the air charter companies heard your radio broadcast. At first, she thought you were drunk, but then she could tell something was wrong. She tracked down Steve, who had gone home for supper after flying me to town, and told him that someone in Uyak Bay was calling Kodiak Flight Services and announcing a Mayday. Steve found me, and we flew to your campsite. We found Cycek dead and you passed out. Your heartbeat was all over the place by the time we got you to the hospital. The doctor wanted to medevac you to Anchorage, but you weren’t stable enough, so he waited and watched, and finally, your heart slowed to a normal rhythm.”
“I was poisoned with monkshood,” I said.
“Monkshood.” Morgan nodded. “We knew you’d injested poisoned, but we didn’t know what the agent was.”
“Cycek planted the bomb on the Beaver.”
“I know. By the time I got back to town, the explosives experts had determined that the trigger was a one-hour timer. I knew the bomb had been placed on the plane at one of the last two stops, and most probably the last stop.” He shook his head. “If they’d given me that information over the radio, I could have gotten you out of there before this happened.”
“He poisoned his wife with clams from Uganik Bay,” I said, my memory of the previous evening returning in a flood. “He didn’t want us to test the clams from his beach, because then we would know his wife’s last meal hadn’t come from there.”
Morgan rubbed his eyes, and I saw that they were red and swollen. He had been awake all night. “He murdered six people to destroy some clams? Didn’t he know you’d take another sample?”
I shook my head. “He thought it would be too late to do a PSP analysis by the next series of low tides. He didn’t know that clams hold the toxin for several months.”
Morgan’s hand still rested on my right arm, and he gave it a squeeze. “What can I do for you?”
“My gear?” I said.
Morgan nodded. “Steve flew two troopers out this morning to recover Cycek’s body, and they packed up your gear and brought it back here with them.”
Morgan smiled. It’s 3:30 in the afternoon.”
I’d been asleep all day? Had Morgan been here with me the entire time?
“Could you send the clam samples to the DEC lab in Palmer? I’ll give you the information. I’m sure they are toxin-free, but they need to be tested. I don’t want to have to go back out there and get another sample.” Tears crept from my eyes, and I turned my head away, hoping Morgan wouldn’t see.
He gently squeezed my arm again. “This is not your fault, Jane. You can’t blame yourself because some crazy old man decided to kill his wife.”
I lifted my left hand to my face and wiped away the tears. Then, I turned back to Morgan. “He was tired of listening to her complain, so he got rid of her.” I looked into Morgan’s strong face. His eyes were full of compassion, but weary from seeing too much of the dark side of human nature. I doubted much surprised him. “Cycek didn’t have anything to do with the marine center bomb,” I said.
“In a way, he did.” Morgan withdrew his hand from my arm and sat back. “By blowing up the airplane, he set off a chain of events that culminated in the explosion at the marine center and the death of Jack Justin.”
“So now what?”
Morgan shrugged. “I didn’t find the briefcase. I think the people who were looking for it either found it or gave up, but I don’t know that. You could still be in danger.”
“I’ll be careful,” I said, “but I think they’re gone.”
Morgan sighed. “We’ll continue the investigation,” he said. “I promise I’ll let you know if we learn anything.”
“What about Maryann Myers?”
“I called her this morning, and she admitted she hadn’t told us everything. She said she didn’t want Sturman involved, and that’s why she didn’t tell us about her relationship with him. She didn’t mention taking her package to the dock and talking to Bill that day, because she didn’t want to be at the top of our suspect list.”
“I hope you yelled at her hell for withholding information.”
“I made her cry. How’s that?”
I smiled. “Tough guy.”
“I’m flying back to Washington tonight.” He leaned close to me. “Will you be okay?”
I felt my heart race, and hoped the nurse watching the cardiac monitor wouldn’t think I’d relapsed. “I’ll be fine. Will I see you again?” I usually wasn’t so forward, but what did I have to lose?
He put his hand on my arm. “I hope so,” he said.
The door to my room burst open and in strode a heavyset, middle-aged man in a white coat. “Hello, I’m Doctor Hagen, and I would like to examine Ms. Marcus now.”
Morgan stood. “Goodbye,” he said, his voice soft, and then he turned and walked out of my life.