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First pages

Prologue

Jason awoke suddenly when his phone buzzed. The ringer was off, but it was still on vibrate, so it vibrated dutifully against the bedside table with the force of a jackhammer. It occurred to his sleep addled mind that it might actually be louder on vibrate than on ringer. He reached sleepily, his hand twisting around the holstered gun hanging from the bedframe (he never slept with it under his pillow, he knew too many people who had deafened themselves, but it was never far) and grabbed at the phone, turning it towards him.

 

A text, from Alexander. Block capitals, like always. “WE’RE ON OUR WAY BACK FROM SEWARD. ONE HOUR. BE READY.” He wondered idly if Alexander texted his friends that way.

 

Jason sat up and moved to the bedroom, his eyes quickly adjusting to the dark, his brain already shaking off the sleep. Long practice and experience taught him to go from dead asleep to awake instantly. The bedroom, and the rest of the condo he lived in, were lightly furnished and look more like a show model than a place a person lived. Someplace a person could abandon in a hurry. He shoved open the bathroom door and took a look at himself in the mirror.

 

Jason was a person someone needed no introduction to in order to be frightening. He was tall, disconcertingly so at nearly 6 and a half feet, much of his height coming from his long thin legs. His arms matched his legs, long and thin, and they terminated in two long fingered hands, like grasping spiders. This combined with his pale skin, dark hair and eyes, and white sharp teeth, to give him the appearance of a tall skeleton. Only his eyes had any color, bright blue, but dead inside, never betraying a hint of emotion. His hair was short and black, he favored dark clothing and he had the odd, metallic voice of someone who had forcibly erased their accent. Many people involuntarily shivered when they first caught sight of him.

 

Right now however, he didn’t care at all about that, he was just checking to see if his split lip had healed. It had, for the most part, and he showered quickly, He knew that despite Alexander assuring him that they would be there in 2 hours, the drive from Seward to Anchorage was closer to 2 and a half hours, so he had time to run down the street to Carrs for breakfast and maybe refill his cigarette reserves.

 

Jason was probably Alexander’s favorite second, even more than Asi, but he had not been chosen to go to Seward, to speak with Russian mob who was rapidly encroaching on their territory about resolving their differences peacefully. Jason had been left at home because he had beaten one of their leader’s nephew half to death in the parking lot of the

Diamond Center mall 2 weeks ago. It hadn’t been Jason’s fault, the nephew had pulled a gun on him during a routine hand off, but everyone had decided Jason’s presence could only exacerabte tensions.

 

Not to say that Alexander trusted Jason of course. Jason was not an Alaskan by birth, which automatically marked him as an outsider, and he had a reputation as someone who drifted from place to place and job to job, like the hitman version of Shane. He had remained in Alaska for a long while, mostly because it offered no place to drift to. Leaving took time and commitment, and whie he wasn’t particularly commited to the syndicate, he wasn’t commited to leaving yet either.

 

Twenty minutes later, he was dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, a knee length black jacket draped over the whole affair and was wrapping his face in a long red scarf. It was only October, but in Alaska, that was already winter. Snow had already settled on the mountains surrounding the city, occasionally dusting the city, and the temperature that morning was well below freezing. By the time Jason left the house, he was also wearing a hat and gloves. All the cold weather clothing had the added benefit of helping conceal the pistol he had hidden inside his jacket.

 

Jason lived in a condo owned by the syndicate on the Old Seward Highway, which wasn’t really a highway until it left Anchorage (when it became the only road into Seward from Anchorage) but was still called inside the city limits that for reasons that had been explained to him, but which his mind had totally forgotten. He liked Anchorage fine, but he didn’t care enough to remember its history.

 

Carrs was the local Alaskan grocery chain and he went there for breakfast often. The line at the cashiers was short, and there was an accompanying gas station. On his way there his eyes slid over a blue car with heavily tinted windows, and he felt an odd feeling run down his spine. He dismissed it as a chill from the wind and walked on.

 

At the grocery store he glanced over a copy of the Anchorage Daily News but didn’t see any news of a massive gunfight in Seward, so he guessed the meeting didn’t go as badly as it could have. He pulled a cheese roll off the rack and bit into it on his way across the parking lot. The only words he said to anyone on the walk was “2 packs of Morleys,” and a grunt of annoyance at the price. Cigarettes in Alaska were so fucking expensive, he thought to himself.

 

On his walk back to the condo he felt the chill run down his spine again. He stopped, swallowed his bite of cheese roll and stared at the car for a long moment. Something about the car, the tint or the license plate, put him on high alert. Finally, after standing in the street for nearly a minute he moved back to his condo, lighting a cigarette on the way.

 

When he finally got back he drank cold coffee with milk in it and cleaned his pistol. An early morning text from Andrew did not often lead to a peaceful day, and he didn’t want to risk it jamming at an inopportune moment. When he was done he did a similar inspection of his telescopic baton. Over 30 inches long when extended and solid steel, he found it far more useful than the knives and brass knuckles favored by other people in his profession. By the time he had finished he still had an hour to wait. He glanced around the condo and reflected, not for the first time, that he failing to furnish the place made it easier to leave in a hurry, but made it boring to hang around.

 

After an hour of cigarettes and morning television he holstered his pistol, slipped his extendable baton inside his jacket and headed back out the door, to wait in the parking lot for Alexander to arrive. Outside, his eyes fixed on the blue car again. Were there people inside, or was he imagining it?

 

Without taking his eyes off the car, he pulled a cigarette out of his pack and lit it.

 

Asiaq awoke slowly, the entire right side of her face aching. She sat up and glanced at the large form in other bed in the hotel room. Alexander was still asleep so she rolled out of bed, already feeling annoyance rising in her throat like bile.

 

She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. She was shorter than either Jason or Alexander, dark skin covering a heavily muscled frame. Her shirt had ridden up in her sleep and she could see her own ab muscles, a point of personal pride, peeking through. Her face, with high, well defined cheekbones and sunken eyes was stubborn at the best of times, and was currently one giant bruise on the left side. Her hair was tied into a long braid down her back. Jason had told her the first time they met that her long hair put her at risk of being grabbed in a fight. She looked butch, in a way that unnerved a lot of men, and she wasn’t going to change it. She yanked her shirt down, pulled her jacket off the hanger and stalked out of the hotel room.

 

The local Carrs had a slightly different layout from the one she frequented in Anchorage, so it took her some time to find what she was looking for, which was a cinnamon roll, a cup of coffee and a bag of frozen peas to plaster to her face.

 

In line at the checkout, she caught the guy in line behind her staring at her face, or rather, the giant bruise on the side of it. She turned pointedly and stared back, her eyes narrow. After a moment of intense awkwardness, he finally said “I-I’m sorry, it’s just, it’s hard to miss.”

 

“I think you could ignore it if you wanted,” she snapped, turning back to the cashier.

 

The man leaned in closer and whispered to her “Did your boyfriend do that to you? Do you need help?”

 

She turned back to him, pushing him away one handed. “Okay, don’t have a boyfriend, wouldn’t need your help if I did and any guy who hit me and expected to fall asleep next to me the next night would be waking up without any balls. Fucking got it?”

 

The man tried to stammer out a response, either a retort or an apology, she didn’t know which. Without waiting for his answer she turned back to the cashier and slapped her 20 dollar bill on the counter. The cashier pointedly avoided her gaze, and as she stalked away, slapping the frozen peas to her face, she heard the other customer mutter “Fucking bitch.”

 

Alexander woke and spent several minutes staring at the ceiling of the hotel room. His chest ached from a punch he had taken to the chest last night and when he lifted his hand to his nose, he could smell gunpowder. He had barely slept that night and even when he was in bed, he could feel the exhaustion weighing on his eyelids.

 

His failing attempts at sleep were interrupted when his phone buzzed, the ring echoing throughout the otherwise silent room. The only person who would dare call him at this hour was his boss, so he picked it up before the first ring was done. The following conversation was short and one sided, and when it was over Alexander was more tired than when he went to sleep.

 

He sat up and spent some time staring out the window. He could see his reflection in the window. He was shorter than a lot of people expected, just shy of six feet, but squat and heavily built. His hair was short cut, practically a buzz cut and he a favored a suit and an air of professionalism when he worked. He went to the gym rarely, and had a heavy gut but he was, as he liked to inform people, as strong as a bear, and more than capable of knocking anyone in the state out. Staring out the window at the water, with a bruise on his chest, he didn’t feel like that though.

 

As he ran his hand through his short, blonde hair, the lock clicked and Asi elbowed the door open, a half eaten cinnamon roll in one hand, a bag of frozen peas pressed to the swollen side of her face. “Where the hell have you been?” he asked, without looking directly at her.

 

She stopped, kicking the door closed. “You were asleep, so I went to get breakfast. Fuck off.”

 

He stood up, rubbing his face slowly with his hands. “We’re leaving in 20 minutes. Get ready.”

 

Asi snorted and bit off another chunk of her roll. “I’m dressed and I didn’t bring anything dipshit, you’re the one who needs to get ready.” She leaned over the bed and grabbed a pack of cigarettes off the nightstand. “I’m going out for a smoke.”

 

Alexander stood and checked his phone. Fully charged, and the expected text from his boss. He knew, in his gut that this was going to be a rough week. “Get me a cup of coffee,” he yelled after her, and heard her grunt in affirmation. He unlocked his phone, double tapped the caps button to lock capitals and texted Jason. “WE’RE ON OUR WAY BACK FROM SEWARD. ONE HOUR. BE READY.”

Chapter 1

Alexander adjusted his jacket as he and Preston stalked up the driveway. Sam had been hiding out at this address for a few weeks at this point, and probably thought he was safe by now, so they weren’t taking much care to hide their approach, but he still wanted to be able to grab his gun at a moment’s notice. Sam had killed two of their manufacturers when they’d discovered he was smoking a good portion of their product and had absconded with the rest of that shipment. He had hidden here, in Cordova, across the gulf from Whittier and probably thought they’d never think to look for him here. And they wouldn’t if one of their guys hadn’t been on the ferry across the gulf with him.

 

The house looked dark and deserted, the only sign that a human lived there being the car in the driveway. Leave it to Sam to pick a house that was deserted but leave such an obvious sign that he was living there.

 

As they reached the door, Alexander pulled out his pistol, while Preston withdrew a sawed off, double barreled shotgun from his own jacket. They stood outside the doorway for a moment, silently wondering how they should handle this. Then Preston rose up and kicked the door hard, shattering the fragile wood and leaving it sitting on the floor inside the hallway. He stepped in and Alexander followed, shaking his head.

 

They walked slowly through the hallways, guns raised slightly glancing in open doors and shoving open doors that were ajar. Alexander knew that the odds that they could catch Sam by surprise were basically nil at this point since they’d kicked in the door, but Alexander was holding out hope that Sam had been asleep when they’d kicked the door in, or even had OD’d someplace in the house. That would solve a lot of problems.

 

Alexander almost never seemed to get what he wanted though, as when Preston began to open a door on Alexander’s left, a pair of shots rang out, punching through the door and Preston reeled away from the door, blood splattering on the wall and Alexander’s jacket. Instinct overcame panic and Alexander whirled at the door and fired three shots in quick succession through the door. A cry of pain sounded and something hit the floor.

 

Barely thinking, Alexander rushed through the door to see Sam lying on the ground, a bullet punched through his chest. He was gasping for breath through what was clearly a lung that had been punctured by a bullet, and when he caught sight of Alexander he raised his gun to his chin, images of his agonizing death, prolonged as a form of punishment, no doubt circulating through his head. “No!” shouted Alexander, but before the word even reached him, Sam had pulled the trigger, splattering his brains all over the deserted room.

 

Unable to do anything for Sam, Alexander turned to Preston, only to see that one of the bullets had punched through his esophogus and blood was pouring out of his throat and mouth. “Shit, shit, shit,” Alexander hissed, kneeling and trying to cover the injury in Preston’s throat with his hands, desperately failing to staunch the bleeding. “Hold on, hold on,” he hissed, trying keep the tears from welling up in his eyes.

 

Preston looked up at Alexander, trying to gurgle something out to him. It might have been something profound and meaningful, a final testament to their partnership. It might have been a desperate plea for help. It might have been nothing, a simple final noise or death rattle. But in the end, it didn’t matter, as all three of those options sounded the same, and Preston died on the floor of that deserted house in Cordova, his blood pooling on the floor around his head.

 

A few moments later Alexander had left his gun behind, deciding it was best for the police to find the gun that shot Sam near his body, and the syndicate would provide hm with a new gun. He didn’t need to worry about fingerprints. It was November, and everyone wore gloves anyway. It was only as he sat down in his car that Alexander realized that his own gloves were covered in Sam’s blood and he stripped them off before he could cover the steering wheel with them

 

Later, on the ferry back to Whitier, his car safely below, Alexander bought a large coffee, dumped it out in the bathroom sink and stuffed the bloody gloves inside before shoving it into the garbage can. It would be emptied in Whitier and no one would ever find them. He would buy new gloves when he got back to Anchorage anyway.

 

Jason was still staring at the blue car when Alexander pulled up. He barely had time to shift his gaze to Alexander’s car before the older man rolled down his window and hissed, “Get in.” Jason resisted rolling his eyes in annoyance and circled around to the passenger’s seat.

 

Inside, Alexander was hunched over the steering wheel, looking exhausted and harassed, while Asi was stretched out over the backseat, a bag of mostly melted frozen peas pressed against her face and a half smoked cigarette hanging out of her mouth. He leaned back in his seat and asked “You got a cigarette?” Asi dug into her jacket looking for one and stuck her hand between the seats, offering it to Jason. Jason took it and lit it before speaking, looking straight at Alexander. “So. Meeting went well then?”

 

Alexander just put the car into drive, but Asi, who was in the middle of a drag on her cigarette, exhaled hard and hissed “Fuck off.”

 

Jason pulled out his own cigarette and grunted. “What happened? I feel like it’s information I should have.” As they pulled out onto the road his eyes slid across the blue car one last time and he forcibly put it out of his mind.

 

Alexander glanced at him and sighed as they pulled up to the light. “It went bad okay, it went fucking terribly.”

 

“I got that from the fact that you two look like shit,” said Jason, with the air of someone talking about the fact that a painting was crooked. “I need some specifics.”

 

Alexander took too long of a moment to respond and Asi interjected. “He and I weren’t involved in the actual negotiation, but as far as we can tell, they were really into the whole ‘Running us out of the state’ idea. Things got heated, there was a fight, and it was resolved by the cops before anyone got shot. And I got punched in the face. Obviously.”

 

Jason regarded the news with detached bemusement. “Well that’s enough information I suppose. So what are we doing now?”

 

Alexander glanced at him. “What do you think we’re doing? The news got out last night and people are either going underground or trying to jump ship. Its our job to pull them back on board.”

 

Jason lit a cigarette and glanced out the window of the car. “Or tie an anchor around their legs.” Alexander rubbed his face but didn’t respond. “So where are we off to first?”

 

“Palmer. We need to bring some weapons in, to make sure we can defend our turf. We’re meeting a weapons dealer at 3.”

 

Something about that stuck out in both Jason and Asi’s mind, but Asi managed to verbalize it first. “Wait, we’re meeting the guy in Palmer at 3?” Alexander nodded. “It’s 8:30 in the fucking morning, Palmer is an hour away.”

 

“So?” Alexander was driving slowly, and drifting slightly.

 

“So we’re not going to Palmer to wait for 5 hours. Go back to this asshole’s place, I want a fucking nap.”

 

If Jason had any opinion on being called an asshole he didn’t show it. “Yeah, I don’t want you driving right now, you’re going to fall asleep and kill us all. So unless you want to let one of us drive-”

 

“Over my fucking dead fucking body.”

 

Jason chuckled. Alexander had no evidence that Jason or Asi were bad drivers, but he refused to let them drive his car. “Then we should go back and you should get some sleep. We can still leave early enough to piss Asi off.” The woman flipped him off from the backseat.

 

Alexander glanced at his rearview and turned off the Old Seward Highway. “Fine, but we’re going back to my place.”

 

Asi sat forward and thumped the back of his seat. “Nah-uh, fuck that. I’m not going to be trapped on your fucking couch for 2 hours because you live in the middle of fucking nowhere. We’re going back to his place. Or my place.” Asi lived in an apartment in the north side of town, near the Air Force Base and Jason lived down on the Old Seward Highway, but Alexander lived up on the mountains outside of town, near Goldenview Elementary. This meant he was miles away from the nearest place to eat, which would leave both Asi and Jason completely incapable of doing anything but hanging out in his living room.

 

“I’m not sleeping on Jason’s couch,” snapped Alexander, not turning from his current path to the actual highway.

 

“I have a bed asshole,” Jason said lightly. “And if you’re expecting me to drive all the way back up to your place, you can drop me off here.”

 

“Fine, fucking fine, we are going back to his place,” snarled Alexander, turning the car hard. “God, you fucking whiners.”

 

Jason shrugged and rolled down the window to flick his cigarette butt out.

 

A few hours later, when Asi woke up from her nap on Jason’s couch, but Alexander was still asleep, Jason came upstairs from the living room and nodded at her. “Come on,” he said quietly, trying to keep from waking Alexander. “We need to talk.”

 

Jason managed to resist stopping to stare at the blue car again and led Asi down the street towards the McDonalds around the corner in dead silence, the only indication the two of them weren’t complete strangers being them passing cigarettes back and forth.

 

Inside, they ordered generic food and sat down in the corner, Jason’s back to the wall. Checking to make sure they had several feet on the nearest person, he leaned in across the table. “How bad is it? Really?”

 

Asi, who had a french fry halfway to her mouth stopped and raised an eyebrow. She liked Jason’s no nonsense approach to their job and appreciated his abilities, but she didn’t trust him even a little bit. “Why do you think I know more than you?”

 

“You were with him all night, you were listening to what the boss said and what was said to him, both before and after the meeting, you speak Russian, but Alex and the rest of the group don’t know you speak Russian. Don’t bother bullshitting me,” he cut her off before she could protest. Everyone knew she spoke Inuit, but she preferred to keep her other language abilities to herself. “I’ve seen you around people speaking Russian and I don’t give a shit why you don’t want other people to know. I just need to know if I need to buy a plane ticket back to Seattle.”

 

Asi stared him down, trying to figure out what he was thinking. It was, as it always was, like trying to read a brick wall and she gave up quickly. “How did you recognize I speak Russian?”

 

“I’ll answer your question if you answer mine.”

 

She sighed and bit down on the fry. “It’s bad alright, it’s fucking bad. Alex didn’t want you to know how bad, but it’s really fucking bad. There are more Russians here than anyone expected, they’re heavily armed and they’re not backing down. Steven, you remember Steven from Seward right?” He nodded. “Steven got killed last night, and his bodyguard, Ricky, he’s got shot too. He might be dead by now, I dunno. They fucking tracked them down after the meeting and shot them. People all around the state are spooked, bad, and it’s pretty likely we’re gonna be running around trying to keep people on board all fucking week.” She tilted her head. “How did you know I speak Russian?”

 

“Why didn’t Alex want me to know how bad it is?”

 

She grinned. “Thought you’d jump ship if things got too bad.”

 

“Astute man. I should get my bug out bag ready to go.” He bit into his burger by way of punctuation.

 

“I’ve had my bug out bag ready for a week. How did you know I spoke Russian?”

 

Jason shrugged and swallowed his bite of burger. “I saw you react to that Russian kid, the one I beat the shit out of, when he said something to his buddy on the phone. It wasn’t enough to be sure, so I guess I was bluffing a little bit too.”

 

Asi glared at him for a moment before sighing hard and picking up another fry. “Has anyone ever told you you should play poker?”

 

“Often.”

 

Alexander rose from Jason’s bed a little after noon to find Jason and Asi sitting in the living room, watching something on Netflix, in dead silence. He opened his mouth to speak but stopped when his eyes hit the switchblade sitting on Jason’s coffee table. After a few seconds, Jason spoke without taking his eyes off the TV screen. “Either talk or sit down but either way, close your mouth.”

 

Alexander shook his head to get his eyes off the knife. “I’m going to shower. Get ready.”

 

“We’re ready, we’re just waiting on you,” responded Asi. Alexander grunted and turned into the bathroom.

 

As soon as he was gone, Jason slipped back into his bedroom and pulled out a small leather bag from under his bed and checked at it. Inside was 10,000 dollars in cash, another thousand in Canadian dollars and another thousand in Euros, plus an extra clip for his gun, a passport with his actual name, or what he told other people his actual name was at least, as well as several forms of fake ID. He pawed through it for several minutes before leaving it on the bed, where it could be easily grabbed in a hurry. He turned and headed for the door, but after a minute, returned and pulled his passport out of the bag. Just in case.

Chapter 2

Jason pulled his scarf up around his face as he stepped out of his car and onto the pavement. He knew very few people here in Anchorage, but he did know one who might be useful, a mob lawyer from Minnesota named Jim who owed him a few favors. He had migrated here a few years back and integrated himself with the local syndicate.

 

Jim was not happy to see him. “I thought you were going to stay in Minnesota,” he said tensely, once reintroductions were over with and Jason was sitting across the desk from him.

 

Jason shrugged. “That was the plan but it didn’t work out. Everyone wants a guy that’s scary and then get shocked when he does scary stuff.”

 

Jim raised an eyebrow. “Do I even want to know what that means?” he asked slowly.

 

Jason shook his head. “No, probably not.”

 

Jim sighed and turned out the window. “Look, there may be something I can do, some phone calls I can make, but you gotta understand something.” He turned to look back at Jason. “These people here, they’re not your average syndicate. Alaska is a weird state, and they’re a weird group. They’re used to operating on their own terms and with their own people. They’ve lost a few people recently, so they might have some openings, but they won’t trust you, no matter how long you work for them. They don’t trust anyone who isn’t from Alaska.”

 

Jason made a face. “People don’t trust me anyway. I’m not the kind of guy who inspires trust. It might be nice to have someone have a reason not to trust me.”

 

“I trust you,” said Jim, brightly and insincerely. He didn’t fool Jason for a moment, who simply gave him a look and the subject dropped to the floor with a thud. Jim cleared his throat loudly and said “Well, anyway, I’ll give them a call and see what they say. I assume you are still uh… how shall I phrase this… quite skilled?”

 

Jason nodded, staring off into space. “Wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t.”

 

 

Palmer, like many towns in Alaska, had under 10,000 residents and was more than a little economically depressed. The town was just shy of an hour north of Anchorage, making it one of the closer distinct towns to the city.

 

As Alexander explained during the drive, they were heading north to Palmer because they needed to bring in some weapons from one of their best traffickers, a man named Eli, who ironically often snuck weapons in from Russia by way of Siberia and the Aleutian Chain, because their employers felt that the rapidly escalating violence was going to spill over to Anchorage very soon, and they wanted to have their best men armed. And, not that he wanted to admit it, but he was very worried that Eli was going to go underground soon to wait out the coming storm and they were going to lose access to his stock. Most of this was information both Asi and Jason had, but neither of them were going to bother interrupting him. He enjoyed hearing himself talk.

 

As they pulled into the Fred Meyer parking lot in the middle of town, Asi sighed and kicked the back of Alexander’s seat, hard. “Why the hell are we meeting him in a fucking parking lot in broad daylight?”

 

“He wouldn’t meet us later or somewhere more private. Ever since he,” Alexander jerked his head at Jason, “had that incident with the dealer out of Valdez, a lot of people aren’t interested in meeting us in private.” The incident had been a brief one, dealers are not known for their physical prowess, but the news of the dealer attempting to hit Jason and winding up in the hospital with his arm broken in two places had spread fast. It had certainly made Jason’s name in the syndicate, but it had made a lot of people nervous about meeting him.

 

“Are they under the impression that meeting in public would have changed the outcome of that meeting?” asked Jason, chuckling. Alexander looked at him out of the corner of his eye but didn’t say anything.

 

Eli was already waiting by his car in the parking lot, his arms crossed, looking annoyed. “You’re late,” he said as Alexander climbed out of his car.

 

Alexander bristled as he walked around to the back of Eli’s car. Eli was taller than he was, but skinnier and Jason, standing behind him looking bored as always, had several inches on Eli. “We are actually 4 minutes early,” he said, checking his watch and then holding it in front of Eli’s face. “So how about you tell me what’s really bothering you?”

 

Eli smiled mirthlessly, pushing Alexander’s watch out of his face. “You usually get here 15 to 20 minutes early, so you’re late by your own standard. And anyway, I am sitting here, out in the open, like a fuckin’ sitting duck. I wanna get out of sight in case shit starts hitting the fan here.”

 

“They haven’t moved out of Seward idiot, how the fuck are they gonna get to Palmer?” snapped Asi as she moved around to his trunk. “Open your fucking car.”

 

Eli glanced at her and pulled out his keys, pressing the button to open his trunk. “Fat lotta good that did Steve,” he said under his breath as Asi began to paw through the bags in his trunk.

 

Alexander stiffened at the mention of Steven, but Jason pretended not to notice as he joined Asi, looking inside the bag. “You bring something other than AKs this time?” he asked.

 

“You got a problem with AKs?” he asked, grinning sarcastically.

 

Jason’s face remained impassive as he opened one of the bags to find, as he often did a pair of AK-47s. “I have no problems with AKs,” he said, zipping the bag closed again, “I just think we’d be better off with something we can hide right now.”

 

Eli jerked his head at the second bag. “Uzis are in there. I also got some pistols in the way back.” He crossed his arms as Jason zipped and unzipped the second bag quickly. “I got bigger shit, if you think you’re gonna need it, but not on me.”

 

“Bigger shit draws more attention,” snapped Alexander. “Can we get the bags in the car and get going? I thought you wanted to get out of sight.”

 

Eli’s grin returned. “Aw, but I feel so much safer with you guys around.” Asi ignored him and pulled the bag of AKs out of the car. “And you guys can load it all you want, my part of the job is done.”

 

Alexander glared and pulled a bag with a pair of shotguns in it and dragged it over to his car’s trunk and shoved it inside. Alexander grumbled softly the entire time, while Jason and Asi seemed to be more or less absent from the entire event. As both trunks closed, Alexander turned to speak to Eli. “Someone will be by in a few hours to give you your money, after we’ve dropped it off in Anchorage.”

 

This was a failsafe to keep Eli or another dealer like him from betraying them, and it was one which Eli was familiar with. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, just have them text me when they’re nearly to my place. I’m going back to Wasilla.”

 

On the drive back down Jason spent several minutes staring out the window before turning to look at Alexander. “Hey, what happened to Steven?”

 

Asi looked up from the back seat but Jason shook his head imperceptibly. He was interested in what information Alexander wanted him to have, and he’d already given Jason some, by stiffening in his seat at the mention of Steven’s name. “What do you mean?” he asked, failing to sound nonchalant.

 

“Eli said that being from away from Seward didn’t help Steven. What happened to Steven?” Jason had dropped the nonchalance as well and was now staring at Alexander.

 

“Nothing in particular, he just got punched during the fight in Sew-”

 

“Don’t lie to me Alexander.” Jason’s voice was soft, but ice cold and his stare didn’t shift even slightly.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

James McConnaughy was born in Alaska in 1990 and has had a passion for writing ever since. He currently lives in Connecticut where he writes for a variety of different websites, from The Mary Sue to Critical Writ and teaches part time. This is the first novel he's finished on paper and the 500th he's finished in his head.

Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
I think that the theme of the book is fairly obvious, if you pay attention to the way the three leads interact.
Q. What books are you reading now?
A.
Currently I'm reading The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, who has been a big influence on my writing. After that I want to finally get around to reading Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.
Q. Where did the idea for this book come from?
A.
I've been kicking the idea for a mob story with these themes around in my head for years, but I only recently seized on the idea of setting it in my home state. Once I did that, the characters really materialized and I knew I had to write it.

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Can sanity be found in the unlikeliest place?
Last Slow Song
All the wrongs... might just make a right.
LOVE SAVES A LONER
Internet notoriety stalks an innocent loner