Murder Over Kodiak – Chapter 5

Murder Over Kodiak

Chapter 5

 Robin Barefield

Alaska Wilderness Mystery Author

Author Masterminds Charter Member

I changed my clothes three times before I decided on black jeans and a dark green sweater. Jack Justin might wear a suit and tie to Henry’s, but there was no need for me to overdress just to match my dinner companion. Besides, I didn’t want to look too eager. I hadn’t been out to dinner with a man in a long time, but Justin didn’t need to know that. I reminded myself the guy was probably married with five kids, and he only wanted to eat dinner with me to learn the gruesome details of his parents’ deaths. So why was I putting on extra eye makeup and lipstick?

I hadn’t worn lipstick in so long that I forgot how to apply it, and when I smeared it, I had to wipe it off and start over. I hoped the lipstick and eye makeup would draw attention away from my scabbed and pitted right cheek. I dabbed liquid powder over my injuries, but it only seemed to enhance rather than diminish the damage.

Geoff’s warning rang in my ears. Easy-going Geoff was usually not judgmental, but I doubted Geoff trusted anyone in a suit and tie.

I still could smell Jack’s cologne, and I hoped the evening would be pleasant. Despite the subject of our meeting, I was looking forward to this diversion to get me out of my apartment and away from my obsessive guilt.

I arrived at Henry’s a few minutes before seven. The dimly lit sports bar and restaurant was only half full. With most of the fishing fleet away from port, Kodiak had become a sedate, small town.

In two weeks, though, when the salmon fishery closed for a few days, the bustle would return; Henry’s would be packed, and the beer would flow. I enjoyed the current peace of quiet Kodiak, and as I stepped into Henry’s, I sensed the lowered testosterone level of the establishment.

Jack Justin sat at the bar, sipping a beer. He’d caught on to the Kodiak dress code and now wore faded blue jeans and an ecru cable-knit sweater. The light sweater set off his tan, and I tried not to stare.

“Doctor Marcus.” He stood and held out his right hand.

He still smelled great. I usually didn’t mind my celibate lifestyle, but this man was a powerful reminder of what I had been missing. “Please, call me Jane.”

He nodded and motioned for me to walk ahead of him. I chose a booth next to the wall toward the rear of the restaurant. As long as we kept our voices low, no one would be able to overhear our conversation.

The waitress handed us menus, and Jack asked me what I recommended. I suggested the prawns, and he nodded in agreement. I ordered a glass of Chardonnay, and he asked for another beer.

“What do you think of Kodiak?” I asked

“It’s wet,” he said.

I laughed. The rain had been relentless all afternoon, and now a driving wind was turning the weather from unpleasant to nasty. The low ceiling cloaked the emerald mountains in a coat of grey, making mud and asphalt the most prominent features of the town.

“When did you get here?”

“This morning.”

“You haven’t seen Kodiak at its best, then. When the sun shines, there’s no place like it.”

Jack shook his head. “I’m a city boy. I would go stark-raving mad isolated like this.”

I recalled Jack’s reason for visiting the island and silently reprimanded myself for my thoughtlessness.

“Did your parents enjoy the wilderness, or was this trip strictly business?”

Jack propped his elbows on the table and steepled his index fingers in front of his nose and mouth. “A little of both, I think. I don’t believe my father planned to come until the last minute. Knowing Mom, she gave him an ultimatum, but I’m sure he would have preferred to remain in his office.” Jack paused and gazed over my left shoulder, his eyes unfocused. I said nothing but waited while his thoughts drifted. I couldn’t imagine how difficult it would be to lose both parents at once. He must still be in shock, and perhaps he had traveled to Kodiak to force himself to accept the reality that his parents were gone.

His eyes returned to my face. “Mom liked the outdoors. When I was young, we used to take camping trips. Dad and I hated sleeping outside and getting eaten by insects, so eventually, Mom gave up. She gave away our camping gear, and from then on, when we traveled, we stayed at five-star hotels.”

Poor you, and your poor mother having to give up something she enjoyed and sacrificing quality family time.

“Why did they come to Kodiak, then?” I asked.

Jack leaned back in the booth. “As I’m sure you know, my mother was a U.S. senator. She was on the Senate Finance Committee.” His voice drifted away, and I waited for him to continue.

The waitress set our drinks in front of us. “Sorry,” Jack said. “I was just thinking. I’ve been so involved in my own life, that I haven’t thought much about why my mother became a senator, but lately I’ve realized what a fanatic she is – or was – about the environment. Dad and I talked about it not long ago.” Jack laughed, as if his mother’s love of nature embarrassed him, and I thought I must have misunderstood him.

“Anyway,” he continued. “I think her sole purpose for getting on the Senate Finance Committee was to ensure that more money gets spent on environmental causes.” He laughed and shook his head.

“A politician that believes in an issue,” I said. “What a refreshing change of pace.”

He cocked his head and looked at me as if I had missed the point. Then he nodded and smiled, his eyes sparkling like gems. “I guess anyone who enjoys living here would agree with my mother.” The statement sounded like an insult.

“So, your mother was here on business?”

“More or less. The Department of the Interior has her visiting wildlife refuges all over the country. She’s gone on most of the trips by herself, but Dad said when she was invited to Kodiak, she was so excited that she insisted he come with her. Dad didn’t want to go, but…” Jack shrugged.

“I gather you were closer to your father than you were to your mother.”

“Oh yes. Dad and I lunched together at least twice a week. I hadn’t seen Mom in months.”

The waitress set our salads in front of us, and I wondered what had happened to my appetite. We ate in silence. After a couple of bites, I pushed my bowl away and tried not to stare at Jack, who was shoveling lettuce and tomatoes down his throat as if he hadn’t eaten in weeks.

“I guess I’m hungry,” he said, as he used a spoon to scrape the last of the dressing out of his bowl.

“Do you want mine?” I pointed to my salad.

He grinned. “Better save room for the prawns.”

As if on cue, the waitress deposited huge plates of fried prawns and baked potatoes in front of us. My stomach burned at the smell of the fried food, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to eat any of it. Jack fixed his eyes on his plate, picked up his knife and fork and began devouring the meal.

“Aren’t you going to eat that?” He looked at my plate after he had cleaned his own. I’d eaten two prawns in the time he’d consumed his entire meal.

“I guess I’m not hungry,” I said.

“Can I eat it?”

“Sure,” I pushed my plate toward him and laughed. “Do you always eat like this?”

He smiled. “I have a high metabolism. I used to drive Mother crazy. She could never keep the refrigerator stocked.”

I was beginning to feel sorry for his mother. In her son’s eyes, it didn’t seem as though she had done anything right.

I watched Jack eat my prawns and half my baked potato. Finally, he leaned back in the booth and exhaled. The waitress swooped in, picked up the empty plates, and inquired about dessert.

I looked expectantly at Jack, but he declined and asked instead for a cup of coffee. I nodded my head when she asked if I also would like coffee.

Jack asked about my job, and I briefly explained what I did. When the coffee arrived, we sipped for a few minutes in silence.

“The FBI thinks someone planted a bomb on the plane,” Jack said, his voice low and serious.

“I don’t think anyone has said that yet. I believe they’re looking into that possibility.”

Jack shook his head. “Their expert examined the wreckage today. The blast was caused by an explosive device.”

“How could they determine that so quickly?”

Jack leaned forward, forearms on the table. “I don’t know, but the expert seemed certain.” His eyes burned. “They think my mother was the intended target.”

“Do you agree?”

He sipped his coffee and then sat over his cup, staring into it. “I don’t know. It’s true the election was turning ugly, but I don’t think Eaton would have her killed.”

“Eaton was her opponent?”

“Yes, and I know him. He’s not a bad guy.”

I studied the dark blue eyes and bronzed face and wondered who Jack would have voted for. I suspected Jack’s political views lay miles right of his mother’s.

“Does the FBI think that Eaton flew to Kodiak and planted the bomb?” I asked.

“Of course not, but Mom claimed that Eaton had drug ties, and not long before she left on this trip, she announced that soon she would be able to prove he had connections to a certain Mexican cartel.” Jack shrugged. “The FBI thinks that’s more exposure than the Mexicans wanted.”

“But you don’t agree?”

“I think she was bluffing. Eaton was beginning to pull ahead in the polls, and Mom panicked. Dad said it was an act of desperation, and I think he was right.”

You would, I thought.

“Dad had more enemies than Mom,” Jack said, and he sounded proud of his father for this feat. “He made his living by taking companies away from people, and he considered death threats a sign of success.” Jack laughed and sat back. “I remember once when I was in high school, a guy whose company Dad had just stolen called the house and told my mother she would soon be a widow. Mom was inconsolable, but Dad thought it was funny.”

“What happened?”

“What?” He shrugged. “Oh, nothing. That’s just it, though. Dad never took threats seriously.”

“And maybe this time he should have?”


“Was he involved in a takeover at the time of his death?”

Jack cleared his throat and spoke in a low voice, as if anyone at Henry’s would care about his dad’s corporate raiding. “He was in the early stages of acquiring stock in two or three different companies, but there was one in particular he had his eye on. I don’t know much about it, but the last time we lunched, he had that predatory look in his eye, and I knew something big was about to happen.”

“When was this?”


“When did you last see him?”

“Two days before they flew up here. He was complaining that he’d be away from his office at the worst possible time, and he was worried that my mother would make him camp in the wilderness away from his fax and phone. He looked into it and said there are places here that don’t have cell-phone access.” Jack spread his hands and looked at me for confirmation.

I laughed. “Believe it or not, there’s no cellular coverage for most of the island. As you said, this is the wilderness.”

“I know.”

“But did anyone know he was coming to Kodiak?”

“Anyone who reads the paper would know. Everything my mother did was publicized.”

“Yes, but you said she usually traveled alone. Did the news articles say your father was flying to Kodiak with her?”

Jack nodded. “My parents did things together so rarely, that whenever they did, her campaign manager made sure it was publicized. I don’t think it would have taken a genius to find out her schedule here in Kodiak.”

“Have you told the FBI your suspicions?”

The waitress appeared with the coffeepot. Jack shook his head, but I accepted a refill.

“Not yet,” he said.

“Don’t you think you should let them know about the company your father was interested in acquiring?”

Jack twisted sideways in the booth and stretched his legs and then sat forward again and looked at me.

“I need to find something that belonged to my father before I can discuss his business dealings with anyone.”

We were finally approaching the reason for this meeting. I waited and watched Jack struggle with the words.

“I wonder if…Well, maybe you can’t help me, but you were the first on the scene of the crash. My father usually carried his briefcase with him, and I can’t find it.”

“I’m going to save you some pain and trouble,” I said. “If your father had his briefcase with him on the floatplane, there is nothing left of it.”

“But I thought maybe you or the pilot saw it.”

I remembered the foot in the boot, and I felt my face grow hot. “Did the troopers tell you what condition the bodies were in?” This was a cruel question, but I felt Jack needed to be slapped in the face with the facts. If he thought someone picked up an intact briefcase from the wreckage, he needed a clearer picture painted for him.

“I know, I know.” He waved his hand as if dismissing the point. “Bits and pieces. But this briefcase was made of high-gauge metal. I gave it to him as a present, and it was supposedly indestructible. Dad loved it. He said if the house burned down, at least his papers would be safe.”

“It was metal, like a camera case?”

“That’s right.” Jack nodded his head.

“I remember seeing a small piece of metal that looked like part of a camera case. Maybe you can talk the FBI into letting you look at the wreckage, and you can see if that’s it.”

Jack frowned. “Just a piece of metal?”

“I don’t think they build briefcases strong enough to withstand a bomb blast.”

“This one should have.”

I didn’t like the way Jack studied my face. I felt as if he didn’t believe me. Did he think Steve or I had walked away with his father’s briefcase? I looked at my watch. “I should be getting home.”

Jack stared at me but didn’t say anything. I motioned to the waitress for the check and didn’t argue with Jack when he withdrew a credit card from his wallet.

When we reached the glass door leading out of the restaurant, I saw large raindrops pelting the pavement. I zipped my raincoat and pulled the hood over my head and then smiled at Jack and thanked him for dinner. I put my hand on the door handle and was bracing myself for the storm when Jack’s hand closed around my right forearm.

“Just a minute,” he said.

I pushed my raincoat hood back, so I could hear him.

“I don’t want you to think I’m being callous. I’ve just lost my parents, and it has been a terrible shock to me.” He lowered his face close to mine and whispered, “I have to think about the future, though. I need that briefcase, so please, if you know where it is or you see it, let me know. There’s nothing valuable in it, but I will pay a reward.”

I jerked my arm from his grasp and pushed open the door. I forgot to pull up my hood, but I barely noticed the driving rain. This nightmare kept getting worse.

When I got home, I dried my hair with a towel and made a mug of hot chocolate. Why did I only meet men like Jack Justin? The men in my life always wanted something from me. Would I never have a normal relationship? My marriage had ended in betrayal and bitterness, and I’d help put the only guy I’d been attracted to since then in jail. I was beginning to believe that people like me were not supposed to have relationships, but my hormones refused to accept this notion. I kept banging my head against the wall, repeating the same stupid mistakes over and over.

I chuckled. Oh well, I’d only wasted two hours on Jack Justin. I’d known shortly after he began talking about his mother that I didn’t like the man. What was he after? What had been in that briefcase that was so valuable? George Justin wouldn’t have carried the only copy of a valuable document with him. I dropped into the soft cushions of the couch. Unless, he obtained the document after he left New York. Perhaps it had been faxed to him.

I put my feet on the coffee table and sipped the cocoa. But how would Jack know about some document or correspondence his father had received after he left New York? Jack told me the last time he spoke to his father was two days before the Kodiak trip. Of course, there was no reason I should believe that Jack had told me the truth. I was certain the man could lie without blinking an eye.

I pushed myself off of the couch, filled my cup with water, and set it in the sink. How could one small planeload of people have so many enemies? Poor, innocent Craig, sharing a plane with a bunch of cobras.

I thought about Jack Justin for several moments and then pulled my cell phone from my purse and checked my messages. I had three messages, and the first was from my father.

“Jane, are you there? I just saw you on CNN. What’s going on? I’m waiting to hear from you.”

I checked my watch. It was after midnight in Kansas. I would call him in the morning.

The second message was from Dana Baynes. “Hey, small-screen star, that was some crazy memorial service. Call me tomorrow. I want an autograph.”

Message number three was from Steve Duncan. “Hi Jane, I need to talk to you about something. Can you meet me at Bayside Cafe for coffee in the morning at 9:00? Call me back if that’s a bad time.”

I grabbed the remote and clicked on the television. I had forgotten about the news crews at the memorial service and the possibility that my image might be broadcast on national television. I should have remembered to call my father and warn him that he might see me on TV. Even if he’d heard about Senator Justin dying in a plane crash on Kodiak, he would have no reason to think I was connected to the accident. I hated to have him worry about me; I should have called him sooner.

Since my mother’s death three years ago, my father found it difficult to reenter the mainstream of life, and I wasn’t sure he wanted to build a new life for himself. Instead, he had become more interested in his children’s lives, and since I was the only female, the only unattached child, and the only member of my family to live three-thousand miles from him on a God-forsaken island in the North Pacific, I was his biggest concern. I tried to call him frequently, and he had been to visit me once. He found Kodiak intriguing but didn’t understand why I wanted to live here. He never said he worried, but I knew he did.

I watched CNN for twenty minutes, before the anchorwoman began talking about Senator Justin’s mysterious death.

A photo of Senator Justin with short-cropped, grey hair filled the screen as the reporter said, “An FBI source informed CNN this afternoon that preliminary forensic tests from the plane crash that took the lives of Senator Margaret Justin and her husband, financier George Justin, indicate that the crash was the result of a midair explosion.” The photo of Senator Justin disappeared, and the anchor’s huge, blue, slightly crooked eyes blazed unblinkingly. “Furthermore, FBI experts believe the explosion was caused by the detonation of an incendiary device.”

She paused, turned, and looked at a different camera. “Today, in the village of Kodiak on the island where the crash occurred, a memorial service was held for the pilot and the three local passengers of the de Havilland Beaver.” The screen cut to images of the memorial service. As I expected, the first image was of Father Ivanof in his sweeping black robe offering a Russian Orthodox prayer. This was followed by a brief shot of Steve Duncan proclaiming Bill’s faultlessness in the crash. I gritted my teeth when I saw myself on the screen, telling the world that it would be a darker place without Craig. My eyes looked swollen, as if I had been crying and was about to cry again. I had and I was, but I’d hoped no one else could see that. What must my father have thought when he watched this?

The newswoman stared from the set again. “Trouble broke out at the service when the widow of passenger Darren Myers screamed at the man eulogizing her late husband.”

The camera cut to a shot of David Sturman mumbling his eulogy, and then Maryann Myers screaming from the back of the crowd. Confusion followed as the cameras swung toward Mrs. Myers. I touched my cheek, remembering that this was when I had been knocked to the ground. I’d been too busy warding off trampling feet to catch this part of the service.

The cameras zoomed in on a small, red-haired woman, who was screaming about what a bastard her husband had been. She then turned and ran up the road to the parking lot. The next shot was a close-up, and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Mrs. Myers. Mascara smeared her pale cheeks, and her shoulder-length red hair hung in tangles. Her eyes were red and puffy, and I suspected that she was confused and frustrated by her grief at the loss of her husband.

“Mrs. Myers,” a journalist said through wheezing breaths, “tell us about your husband.”

I snorted. What a stupid question. The reporters were so desperate for news or scandal that they chased down this poor woman and then didn’t even know what to ask her.

Maryann Myers rubbed her eyes and nose with both hands. No one bothered to interrupt filming long enough to hand her a handkerchief, and her rubbing only served to further smear her mascara.

She drew in a deep breath, pursed her mouth, and stared at the camera. Her eyes looked glassy as if she either had been drinking or had taken medication. If she had taken tranquilizers, they hadn’t worked.

“My husband cheated on me, and he deserves to be dead.”

The reporters waited for her to say more, but when she stood tight-lipped, a female journalist said, “But Mrs. Myers, what about the other five people on the plane?”

If Mrs. Myers responded to that question, the reply wasn’t worthy of the national news. Instead, the blue-eyed anchor’s concerned visage returned to the screen. “In Cincinnati today, a gas leak . . .”

I turned off the set and leaned against the oak cabinet. What a day this had been, and I knew things would get worse before they got better.

Robin Barefield lives in the wilderness on Kodiak Island where she and her husband own a remote lodge. She has a master’s degree in fish and wildlife biology and is a wildlife viewing and fishing guide. Robin has published three novels, Big Game, Murder Over Kodiak, and The Fisherman’s Daughter. She draws on her love and appreciation of the Alaska wilderness as well as her scientific background when writing.