Troy Had Spent The Last two hours securing the crime scene around the dead bodies. The security team and camp authorities finally realized that at minus forty-five degrees with a wind chill, and an active polar bear, securing the dead body in place outside the camp would be impossible. They placed the body of Marc Lafontaine on a stretcher and found a place for him in the medical room.
Troy was glad they had finally decided to move the body, as he imagined the warm body freezing to the ground and someone with a blow torch having to extract him later. The thought of the arms and legs frozen into their wild contortions was not appealing either. Troy had had to remove frozen bodies in the Arctic on several occasions after accidents—never a memorable time.
He walked back to the security guard office located at the main entrance of the camp. Braddock was in his office, going over reports. The chief had been in meetings with the Arctic Oil Company, the base manager (the one who ran the show), the operations manager, and the safety manager and had placed the camp on lockdown: no one could leave, no one who wasn’t already a resident of the camp could come in.
A security guard had been placed at the front door, and oil workers milled around the main entrance, the ones who were supposed to fly home that day. Their shift of two weeks on with twelve-hour days and no breaks was over—they wanted to go home, murder or no murder.
“So how bad is it?” Troy asked as he slumped down in one of the two chairs in front of Braddock’s desk.
Braddock lifted his head, finally noticing Troy. “Well, I don’t remember having my ass chewed out this bad since I was a young beat cop in Detroit.” He smiled at Troy as he spoke. Not too much fazed Braddock. He was mid-fifties and had retired from the Detroit police force when the economy had cut the police budget. Guys like him, too young and too broke to retire, had gone looking for work. Braddock had found Arctic Oil Company in Alaska: great pay, long hours, and lots of paperwork.
Troy shifted in his chair and sipped the coffee he’d brought in. “What’s the story with the Arctic Oil brass? They think this is murder? That somehow Marc killed his sister then ran headfirst out the exit door to get eaten by a bear?”
Braddock laughed and ran his hand through his hair. “Actually you’re not far wrong. They want to call this a murder-suicide and are damned if they’ll let it be known we have an unknown killer in the camp.”
“Yep, the shit doesn’t change, it just gets deeper,” Troy said. “So, what do the closed circuit television tapes show?”
“Well, we had another fuckup.” Braddock dropped his hands to his desk. “We’ve got blank tape for about one hour last night.”
“Not possible,” Troy said. “Our CCTV has double backups. The only way that could’ve happened is if someone flipped a switch right here in the control room.”
“Yeah, I know that. Cummings and Stewart were on last night. Both deny any knowledge of the CCTV not working, and Cummings was at the console most of the evening. He said he didn’t see anything.”
“And of course the CCTV wasn’t recording, even if he didn’t see anything. Interesting . . Troy looked out of Braddock’s office window. Cummings was at the console again, making busy. Troy had never liked Jason Cummings, a twenty-something-year-old from Southern California. His dad, an ex-cop, had pulled some strings in Anchorage to get him into Arctic Oil. Somehow the young man had managed to cling to his job, in spite of his many screw-ups. Everyone knew he had some pull with the Anchorage head office—no one liked that.
Troy stood, stretched, and finished the last of his coffee. “Look, you know I don’t think much of Cummings. I think we get him in a room and sweat him a little, see if he pops. Meanwhile, I’ll get the personnel files of our deceased for the police when they get here.”
“Oh yeah, I need you to pick up a Detective Mueller and a CSI Franklin on this morning’s flight. You’ll be their escort while they’re here,” Braddock said.
Troy stopped in his tracks. “Detective Mueller? Really? Man, we go way back.”
“You two have some history?”
“Yeah.” Troy smiled. “He busted my ass big time when I was a punk on the streets of Anchorage.”
“Well, he’s all yours.”
“Thanks, Chief.” Troy threw a fake salute and walked out of Braddock’s office, staring at Cummings as he left. He thought Cummings cringed as he walked by, but he couldn’t be sure.
The personnel offices were in the administration area at the center of the camp. As Troy walked by the base camp manager’s office, he could hear a heated discussion going on as to the reports the base manager would make. The media would be calling—the camp would need to have a statement. Houston would be calling—the dreaded head- office boys—the camp would need to have answers.
Troy carried on down the hall to personnel and found Della Charles. Della knew about everything and everybody in the camp. They said if a mouse farted in a hay stack in Oklahoma, Della would know about it in her hometown of Baton Rouge.
He knocked on her door and walked in. “Hey, Della, what’s up sweetheart? You’re looking fine as ever.”
“Oh Troy, you talk such shit,” Della purred. Her voice a pure southern drawl, the word shit sounded like it had a least 5 i’s in it. She wouldn’t take any such talk from anyone but Troy. She always held out hope that he would drop by her room one night. He never had, but she hadn’t given up hope.
“I betcha want files on the latest deceased—poor things.” She reached over to the copies she had on her desk. Della was a big girl. She was a former Louisiana beauty queen, formerly petite, but that was behind her now. So was her girth. She had allowed herself to grow: no pageants, no runways, so she now allowed herself the luxury of food. Her new size could not hide her beauty—green eyes, fair, flawless skin and cascading blonde hair. She was any man’s dream in a size twenty- four.
“Sure do, Della. You’re always way ahead of me.” Troy took a seat in front of her desk and leaned forward.
Della handed him the files with a flicker of lust in her eyes that he found hard to avoid. He took the files, opened them, and began scanning the pages. “Not much here,” he finally said, looking up at Della.
“Well, that’s all I got from Arctic Oil Contract Central. They negotiate the contracts and send in the contractors once they’re cleared,” Della said, pained that she’d been unable to help Troy.
Troy noted that the two deceased siblings were Canadians who had traveled to and from Arctic Oil Camp together, and they always flew home to Vancouver, Canada, on their shift change. The files always included flight information.
“Della,” Troy said, looking softly into her eyes, “I need to get copies of the files of all the personnel who flew in here at the same time as the deceased. Could you get me that?” He threw in one of his best smiles with the eyes.
“Oh, Troy, only because it’s you, honey.” Della went back to her computer. Her silver wrist bangles clattered on the keyboard. “This search may take a while. How about I drop it by your sleeping quarters later . . .?” She dropped the last words like a sugar lump, sweet and large.
Troy smiled. “Sorry darling, I’ll be with Anchorage PD and crime scene people all day. My office will be fine.” He winked at her and headed out the door. He couldn’t help feeling that her eyes were attached to his ass like a laser. Probably because they were.
Troy headed back to the security office. The time was 0915 hours, and the Shared Services flight, carrying the detective and crime scene investigator, was to arrive at 1025 hours. He needed to get moving. The wind would be blowing snow on the roads, making the trip to the airport slow.
Troy walked past the oil workers hanging out in the cafeteria—they had nowhere to go. Instead, they drank coffee and speculated about the deaths. Troy knew that somewhere in the camp was a killer—probably looking back at him.
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