"Escape to Alaska"
At Lila’s nod, he shouted “Haahhh!”, and the sled lurched forward, gaining speed quickly as the dogs tore off with a frenzy of excited barking. The dogs settled at once into the steady run as a finely-tuned team while the sled glided across the frozen ground. Lila peeked back over her shoulder through her hood’s fur ruff to see Paul standing behind, legs spread for balance, feet planted on the sled’s narrow wooden rear platform. His hands, encased in huge, paw-like leather mittens, gripped the carved wood handle that ran across the back of the sled. Noticing her look, he grinned. Lila returned the smile, then twisted back to snuggle into her comfortable seat on the sled.
The next two hours were a complete wonder. The dogs obviously loved what they were doing as they made a steady and vigorous run through snowy fields and along forested paths. A bright blue winter sky capped the jagged mountains that jutted majestically in every direction, defining the distant horizon. The sharp air that bit at Lila’s nostrils invigorated her. She became aware of the absence of wind when a few flakes of snow drifted onto her lap. It was so much brighter out here in the countryside than in Whittier. There was no wind at all and no birds overhead. She felt herself slide into the beautiful and peaceful scene, almost as if in a dream.
Every once in a while, Paul tapped her shoulder to point out a landmark or animals in the distance and Lila responded with a lively wave to let him know she was doing fine. She hardly felt the occasional bumps on the trail as the sled whizzed along over them. The wolverine ruff of her parka’s hood fit snugly around her cheeks and chin, and the thick, furry cuffs on the sleeves kept cold air from sneaking up her wrists. An old pair of cable knit mittens that Georgia had let her borrow didn’t quite keep the bite of the cold air from her fingers, but Lila hardly noticed.
Before she knew it, an eerie twilight had chased away the afternoon light. Ghostly white birch trees began fading into the deepening mist that was a precursor to Alaska’s sudden, dark winter nights. Soon, the dogs began to slow in their traces, and Lila twisted around to look back at Paul, a question in her eyes. In answer, he waved her attention ahead to the horizon where, barely visible, the buildings of Anukiak swam in and out of view through the fog.
"Murder in Wasilla"
Preston’s first reaction to the news about the clothing bundle was a desperate need to tell Cindy at once. He left a message on her voice mail. “Call me. News about the case. Call as soon as you can.” He didn’t need to leave his name or number. Not to the one he loved. Next he ran to his car and raced to the Mat-Su facility in Palmer.
“LaVassar,” he practically shouted at the desk clerk. “Bring him out. I’m his attorney. I need to see him right away.” He paced the tiny meeting room until Gary was escorted in, handcuffed, shuffling through leg chains.
Jesus. Why do they have to do that to him? He shook off his disgust and motioned Gary to sit down across from him. A flash of curiosity chased the glumness from Gary’s face when he noticed the grin Preston couldn’t keep off his face.
“Good news,” Preston announced the moment the guard backed away and Gary sat down. “There’s been a break in the case. They found a bundle of the victim’s clothes tied way up in a tree right there at the scene. Found ‘em today. A trooper did. He was just wandering around out there and spotted something up the tree.” He paused to catch his breath.
“Are there fingerprints?” Gary asked, leaning forward across the table, hope shining from his eyes.
“We don’t’ know yet. We don’t have lab results yet. But I wanted to tell you. If there is, you’re off the hook, right?”
Gary’s chair clattered to the floor as he jumped up. The guard took a quick step toward him in alarm, then stopped in confusion when he noticed the excited demeanor of both men. Preston gave a reassuring wave to the guard.
Gary’s voice rose. “Yes! Oh, God! I hope there’s prints or something. I wanna go home so bad. I can’t stand it. Maybe I’ll get out!” His face shone with relief and hope.
At this reaction, Preston no longer had the slightest doubt about Gary’s innocence.
“To Find My Soldier”
Through her distress, Abby realized what she had to say. She had promised to marry Jeb. The wedding was only four weeks away. Stu didn’t belong in this world. What had she just done!
“Go!” she repeated in an agonized voice. “Get out of here. I’m promised to someone else. I’m marrying him next month, like we’ve always planned. This shouldn’t have happened. Leave. Just go. Please.”
She looked up at Stu, tears now pouring down her cheeks. He reached to pull her up, but she swatted his hand away and scrambled to her feet. Hurt and confusion chased each other across Stu’s face. His eyes sought hers, but Abby turned away.
“You have to go. Now. Just go.”
Pain tore through her heart; tears streaked her cheeks. She refused to meet Stu’s eyes, and took a step back toward the house. Suddenly, with a rustle of brush, Stu was gone. Abby walked out of the woods in a daze, reached for the clothesline, and woodenly tossed a pillowcase down into the basket.
"Good writing will bring you to places you don't even expect sometimes." James Gandofini