Senior Security Officer Troy Mercury was in the Arctic Oil Camp gym running wind sprints and intervals on the treadmill; he was working out hard and enjoying it. His shift had finished at 0600 hours, and he had wanted to have a workout before breakfast.
The TV, turned to CNN, was blasting the latest reports of Politicians behaving badly in the lower forty-eight states. Both his pager and cell phone were vibrating in the recesses of the treadmill. He couldn’t hear them over the noise of the television.
A few minutes later, Troy slowed the machine down, seeing Junior Security Officer Chuck Lindgren come into the room. He turned the TV down with the remote on the treadmill. His cell phone and pager were still vibrating.
“We have a dead body outside of the D wing, and Security Chief Braddock has requested your presence ASAP, Sir,” Chuck said as he approached Troy, looking stressed out. Chuck was an ex-marine straight from Iraq and Afghanistan, but dead bodies anywhere still unnerved him.
Troy grabbed the towel off the machine and began to dry himself off. “What’s the situation Chuck? How’d they find him? Does anyone know how he died?
“Well, they claim he was attacked by a polar bear. Caucasian male, about twenty-seven year’s old, contractor.” Chuck rattled off the stats as if he were standing to attention in front of his former army commander. Everyone liked Chuck—he was a little too formal and military sometimes, but he meant well. Chuck was still very military in appearance, his crew cut, and pressed coveralls and shiny boots stood out.
Troy stepped down off the treadmill. They were the same height, tall, but Troy was lean, dark skinned, and dark haired. Troy was born in Alaska to a Dene Native mother, and a Caucasian father. On the reservation he’d been called a “baked potato and fake native,” by the reservation kids, in Anchorage the white street kids had called him worse names. He’d used his fists to explain to them the errors of their ways. His attitude now tempered, still showed.
“No shit, a polar bear. Well that figures, a white guy getting eaten by a polar bear. The Indians are too smart to get eaten by bears.” Troy broke into a smile and gave Chuck a pat on the shoulder. “Tell Braddock I’ll be right there.”
“Thanks for the information, Sir. I’ll try to have you with me when I meet a bear. And I’ll let Braddock know.” Chuck smiled, threw an unnecessary salute, whirled around, and hurried out of the gym.
Troy headed for his room, which was close to the gym. He pushed through the heavy fire door that separated the main quad from the sleeping quarters. A large sign said “DAY SLEEPERS. PLEASE BE QUIET.” Troy was supposed to be one of them.
He’d been flippant about the bear attack with Chuck, partly because it was his nature and to relax Chuck, but a bear attack at the Arctic Oil Camp was not a funny thing. The security team tracked polar bears from one camp to another and sent out alerts when they were near. Now, one had gotten through the entire network of camps and had somehow killed a man. This was not how his security team was supposed to roll.
In his room, he stripped off his workout gear and hit the shower, glad that the guy in the next room was not using the shared shower. After toweling off, he put on his security coveralls, attached his Glock .40 sidearm, and grabbed his gear: survival parka, bib overalls, felt pack boots, and leather mitts with woolen inner liners. The weather forecast for that day was minus forty degrees Fahrenheit. A shitty day to be outside, living or dead, he thought.
He jogged down to the security office at the front entrance of the camp, picked up his two-way radio, and ran down to the D wing. He put on his survival gear when he reached the exit door, where a security officer was putting yellow tape over a red stain. Troy was going ten feet down the stairs. Ten feet in minus forty—a cold that causes frostbite in less than a minute to exposed skin. Today, the weather would leave teeth marks.
As Troy came out the door, he could see a group of men, all encased in Arctic gear, and standing around the body. Two men were kneeling with shotguns pointed to something—something under the camp pylons. The thought only briefly entered Troy’s head, “looks like Custer’s last freaking stand.”
The group gave off clouds of steam as breath escaped out of hoods. The lights from the camp buildings gave the group an eerie glow. No clouds of air escaped from the body on the ground.
The men’s faces were covered by the hoods, and Troy could only identify them from name badges. He came up beside Security Chief Braddock. Braddock had to turn his hood towards Troy and move within inches of him so they could hear each other in the wind.
“Chief, what have we got here? Some guy out for a smoke and the bear gets him?” Troy asked.
Braddock yelled above the wind. “Troy, we got blood spatter on that door up there. I think this guy got a helping hand out the door. I’ve called in police and forensics. They’ll be here by noon.”
“Shit,” Troy said. He looked at the scene. The name Marc Lafontaine was on the parka of the body, and the company contractor name read CLEARWATER TECHNOLOGIES. He could see where the bear had been clawing—getting down to business. He had seen men killed by animals before. Never pretty.
Troy thought about how they had never had a murder in their camp before. Fights, sure, lots of those as men and women in too-close quarters and in the too-long darkness could develop short fuses. The security team would break it up and send the offending parties home, back to the lower forty-eight or Anchorage. They’d cool off, get some sun, and come back happy. But murder, no, not until this.
Troy’s thoughts were interrupted as his radio came to life at his shoulder. “Security assistance needed. We have a 10-52 reported in E wing, room 330. Over.” It was the camp dispatch operator. A 10-52 was an accident or personnel injury.
Troy yelled to Braddock that he’d take it and ran back up the stairs. Once inside, he stripped off his survival gear and saw Chuck, and told him to follow him. They had to run back down the corridor to the central building to connect to the E wing and then up three flights of stairs to get to the room.
When they got there, they saw a crowd of workers outside the room. Troy and Chuck motioned them aside and walked in. A young female oil worker was weeping beside the bed. On the bed lay a young woman. Her eyes bulged, her face was blue.
Troy calmly moved the weeping oil worker away, and Chuck guided her from the room. The woman on the bed was dead. She had headphones in her ears—as if she had been quietly listening to music just before her death.
Troy heard the worker who found her tell Chuck that the bathroom door on her side had been locked. “It had been locked for over an hour and I needed to get ready for my shift,” she explained. “I heard nothing in the bathroom, so I decided to go in her room to find out what was up.” She’d found her dead.
Troy walked to the door and looked at the doorframe. The names of all room occupants were listed on the doors. The label read, CONSTANCE LAFONTAINE—CLEARWATER TECHNOLOGIES.
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