Ravens Cove, An Iconoclast Thriller (Book 1)
The Spiritual Battle for a Small Alaska Town
By Mary Ann Poll
America’s Lady of Supernatural Thrillers
Kat put the final touches on the sheriff ’s report. A statement which should have taken an hour took four because of the nonstop phone calls and visits from horrified Ravens Cove residents.
To Kat’s relief, the media storm did not materialize. They believed Bart’s watered-down version of the homicide, so the related phone calls stopped. For the time being, the media believed John Doe’s death to be a tragic and all-too-familiar fate for the homeless.
Wendy’s promised cup of coffee never arrived, and Kat felt in dire need of a pickup. Coffee and maybe a nice oversize chocolate chip cookie, made fresh at Jo’s Bakery.
“The lunch,” Kat looked at her watch which read four minutes to six, “the supper of royalty. Maybe two chocolate chip cookies. I deserve them—what a stressful, crazy day.”
Kat grabbed her coat. “Leaving.”
“Lock your doors! I mean it.”
“Yes sir!” Whether she would or not depended on how she felt once she got home.
Kat shrugged into her royal-blue anorak, checked her pocket for the matching knit gloves and headed for the door.
Six o’clock in Ravens Cove in October meant dark. She’d grab the coffee and cookies to go.
“I do feel uneasy about being out tonight, and the report did nothing to soothe my concerns.” She shivered.
“Thank goodness, I didn’t find the body. I’d be in therapy for years! Which would be tough,” she mused, “as there are no therapists in Ravens Cove.”
Grandma Bricken comes close. Moose stew and sourdough bread fixed everything. Kat smiled and strolled north on Main to Jo’s.
Kat opened the glass door. The crowd and its noise almost blew her over.
From autumn to spring, most of Ravens Cove residents were home by now. Not tonight. Too much fear and excitement about the day’s happenings.
Kat braced herself and walked in.
Jo, actually, Josephina Latrell, walked briskly—for her bulk—from one customer to the next, taking orders. Coffee, sandwiches, no soup left.
Kat smiled. “A chip off the ole grandma block.”
“Who’s next?” Jo called out.
All business in a rush, the flushed Josephina made eye contact with each customer. During the off months, she would have closed this shop an hour earlier. Always one to see the opportunity, she remained open.
Life-long resident Carlton Jonas, having left his teens behind just a moment ago, stepped forward and placed his order.
Kat studied the blackboard on the wall behind the counter, which changed daily, depending on Jo’s mood.
Chocolate chip cookies were not on the menu; Snickerdoodles were. Fine, a couple of Snickerdoodles and a mocha would be her evening’s repast.
She noted the daily special—baked salmon roast. Must be older than dirt by now. I’ll see if Jo will give me some for BC.
Having been housebound all day, BC would pounce in an instant.
After a painful trial-and-error period in which Kat’s legs started to resemble a climbing post, she learned. Fish mollified BC. The trick: open the takeout box and slide it in the front door with the broom from the porch. BC couldn’t resist salmon. He forgot to attack. Problem solved.
The teenager-man, Carlton, finished his order. The man who stepped to the counter next didn’t reside in Ravens Cove.
Kat released her cell phone from the pouch on her belt and dialed the sheriff ’s office.
“Yes, Kat.” Bart knew her number by heart. He’d sure dialed it plenty of times when he needed emergency help.
“I’m at Jo’s,” she whispered.
“Speak up. I can’t hear you.”
Kat left her place in line, her stomach protesting, and walked to the door.
“I’m at Jo’s.”
“Good, bring me a sandwich, would ya? It’s going to be a late night.”
Kat sighed. “Bart, listen! There’s someone down here I’ve never seen before. About six feet, thirtyish, red and black check flannel shirt, shiny, new blue jeans. With all of today’s happenings, thought you might want to check him out.”
“You’re right. On my way. Order me a sandwich, okay?”
Heaven help me.
Kat made it to the counter in record time, placed her order, and took the opportunity, provided courtesy of the mirror hanging behind Jo’s counter, to keep an eye on the stranger.
He sat in one of the coveted window-seats, and he looked like he would be staying for a while.
Having finished his meal, he focused on a day-old Anchorage newspaper, making him stick out like a sore thumb. Almost no one in Ravens Cove wanted to read the big town’s newspaper. Which meant almost no one subscribed to it. If this guy wanted to fly under the radar, it would have been better to pick up one of the freebies outside the bakery.
The door opened; the night’s frigid air rushed in with it.
Bart Andersen entered in one, quick step.
“Man, it’s getting cold!” Bart said, rubbing his hands together. He made his way through a now thinned-out line at the counter to Kat. “What, no sandwich yet?”
Kat narrowed her eyes and said, “Just made it to the counter.”
“Kidding, Katrina, just kidding.” He poked her with his elbow. “Now where’s this person of interest?”
Kat motioned, right index finger pointing behind a cupped left hand, hidden by her body, in the direction of the man who appeared to be absorbed in his newspaper. The tightness of his body, and his jaw flexing now and again, contradicted the otherwise calm exterior.
“Order me the salmon salad sandwich and chips,” Bart said as he moved out of line, and made a beeline to the stranger’s table.
“Don’t know you,” Bart said to the back of the newspaper.
The stranger replied, “I don’t know you either.” He lowered his paper, piercing blue eyes locking into Bart’s brown ones.
Bart stood straight, feet apart, hand on his holster. His stance spoke volumes about a man who meant business and wouldn’t hesitate to take down a threat, when necessary.
The stranger rose and extended a hand. “Kenneth Melbourne. We spoke this morning.”
A storm of anger darkened Bart’s eyes until they were almost black.“I remember. I also remember telling you to stay away, yet here you stand! Care to explain, Agent Melbourne?” The way he emphasized agent made it sound like a dirty word.
Realizing his greeting would not be returned, Ken lowered his hand. This isn’t going to be easy, but the guy is going to have to accept I’m here for the investigation. Period.
“I know we got off to a bad start this morning, Sheriff, but as I said, I’m here to help.” These were the chief ’s words . . .
Instead of a three-o’clock conversation, Chief Binnings told Marcy to have Ken come along earlier.
Ken made his pitch. “I heard of a murder through one of my sources at the local paper, who received her information from who knows where. It’s a real puzzle. Decaying body, but not dead long; colorful stuff oozing from the eyes. Odd positioning of the body. No fingerprints, no shoe treads—in fact, nothing to say anyone other than the victim came to the scene. It’s possibly the work of someone who has killed before.”
At first, the chief didn’t give an inch. “Not our jurisdiction.”
Ken pitched it hard. “I think this is the work of a serial killer, Andy.”
He used the chief ’s first name when they were in private. He got to know Andy Binnings when they worked together in California, busting some high-profile bank robbers.
“And I think it could be the perpetrator crossed state lines. I mean, think about it, it’s a town of a few thousand people. There has been nothing like this in Anchorage or any of the towns surrounding Ravens Cove. Where did he, or she, come from? It’s worth looking into. We
may have a real crazy on our hands here.”
“Let’s be honest, Ken. You’re just itching to get out of here. But this one could blow up in our faces. Alaskans, as you know, aren’t thrilled to have unrequested help.
“In addition, this sheriff already sounds like he is cocked to the make-a-complaint and make waves in the FBI, position.”
Andy sat back and crossed his arms, never breaking eye contact with Ken. Coming to a decision, he sat up and thwacked his hands flat on the desk in front of him.
“Here’s what I’ll authorize. You can go to Ravens Cove. You have forty-eight hours to come up with facts, and I mean solid facts, Ken, to justify being there.”
Ken jumped up, holding back the excitement to the best of his ability and headed for the door.
“One more thing, Agent.”
Ken spun around to face the chief.
Binnings stood up, admonition in his eyes. “You will coddle this sheriff and handle him with kid gloves while you’re at it. You are on shaky ground when it comes to jurisdiction. If a complaint materializes, it will get ugly for you, my friend.”
“Understood. Thanks, you won’t regret this!” Ken opened the door and sailed through.
“I better not, or it’s your career,” the chief shouted after him.
The backside of the door stopped the warning in its tracks . . .
Ken dropped back into the chair. “I am not here in an official capacity.” Yet. “I am here to offer a helping hand.” Ken almost choked on the last part. This man secured a place on Ken’s bad side this morning with his stonewalling attitude. I would like nothing better than to take complete control of the investigation, and leave you, good sheriff, in the dust of this Godforsaken hole of a town.
“Here you go.” Bart and Ken’s attention turned to the warm, melodic voice.
A young—and gorgeous—work of God stood with one hand extended, holding a white lunch sack, toward the sheriff.
“Thanks.” Bart smiled at her—the warmth of which showed the good sheriff harbored strong feelings for this magnet of a woman.
Ken made a mental note of a possible competitor.
I know this voice. Voices, after all, being one of Ken’s specialties, gifts, as his auntie would have put it.
He could hear her now as if it were only yesterday. “A gift from the Lord Almighty, young man. He’ll put it to good use for you one day, you wait and see.”
And, whether Ken believed in the Lord Almighty or not, this talent helped to land the job in the FBI. Go figure.
“Do I know you?” Ken stood for a second time, extending his hand, to be rejected a second time. He dropped his arm. Cold as glacier ice. The chill she puts off would freeze a lesser man.
Kat raised her eyes, revealing their gold-flecked, sea green color.She shook her head.
“This is Agent Melbourne. You remember the FBI agent I spoke with this morning?”
Kat’s look changed from cautious scrutiny to downright disdain in a twinkle.
She turned her attention to Bart. “I’ll be on my way now. BC is going to make me pay for being late tonight.”
Bart laughed. A warm, contagious sound, full of mirth and joy.
“Yep, he harbors a grudge; I’ve got the scars to show it.”
“By your own stubbornness! Who found the half-dead, scarred kitten, snatched him up in spite of the hissing and scratching, shoved it in a shoe box and brought him to me?”
“Guilty. And your love and care transformed BC into the cantankerous, ego-driven feline who became more of your close friend than a pet.”
“Two peas in a pod, you two cats,” Bart mused. Both were independent, both were semi-wild, and neither of them would be tamed.
If Kat weren’t his first cousin, he’d marry her. Those qualities said ‘real woman’ to Bart Andersen.
Kat twirled on one foot and headed to the door. “I’m off to face the black tornado.”
“Hold up! I’m walking you home. Don’t even think of arguing with me tonight.” Bart held up his hand. “Not a word! You know I’m right.
“We’re finished here. Right, Mr. Melbourne?” Bart underscored Melbourne’s unwelcome presence by discarding the title of Agent. He hoped the guy would take a hint. The jibe found its mark.
Ken ignored it. “For tonight, Sheriff, for tonight. I want some time to collect my thoughts. I’ll be checking into the inn down the way.”
Bart shot a disapproving glare at Ken before he moved away, put his hand on Kat’s back and walked out the door into the bitter-cold night.
“What arrogance, coming to our town when you told him, in no uncertain terms, to stay away.” Kat turned to look through the window of Jo’s. “I don’t like him one bit!”
Bart smiled. No one messed with Kat’s family, friends, or anyone she considered her family or friends. “You are one of the most protective people I know.”
“I am. And I’m proud of it.”
“He’s just another groupie, of a different kind. Wants to get in on the action and make a name for himself.” Bart chuckled. “Boy, did he come to the wrong town. To make a name for himself, he needs information. I’ve lived here all my life and no one wants to talk to me when I’m on duty. Let him try.”
Bart’s mood lightened, and he began whistling a favorite childhood tune.
Kat joined in, dancing a jig to the melody of Mares Eat Oats and Does Eat Oats and Little Lambs Eat Ivy.
They broke into raucous laughter, turning heads as they headed south on Main to Kat’s home.