Under The Midnight Sun, page 1
Table of Contents
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
CAST OF CHARACTERS
“You’re not going without me!”
Malinche had had enough of being treated like a child. “I’ll follow you if I have to.”
Brian hesitated. If she went with him, she’d be in danger. But she wasn’t safe here, either. “All right. But don’t slow me down. It’s going to be tough. I’m not sure you can handle it.”
“Don’t worry about me. But you’d better go home and get some sleep. We can start early in the morning—”
“I’m not going home.”
Her eyes widened. “We can’t start for Barrow right now—”
“I mean I’m spending the night here. You’re not safe alone.”
“I appreciate the thought, but I’m afraid you can’t stay,” she said. “I have only one bed.”
Brian’s eyes bored into hers. “That’ll do…”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marilyn Cunningham has been writing “forever,” but it was after she ended her career with the federal government as a policy administrator that she began writing seriously. Since then she has published nearly a dozen novels in the romance genre for Silhouette Intimate Moments and Harper Paperbacks, as well as ten young adult stories for the German market. Under the Midnight Sun is her first Intrigue novel.
In 1995 Marilyn was nominated by Affaire de Coeur as one of the favorite top ten authors of romance on the basis of a reader poll.
Marilyn lives on ten acres in the mountains of Idaho along with her husband, John, and an assortment of dogs, cats and sheep. Besides her writing, she is passionate about gardening, hiking and reading.
Under the Midnight Sun
To my sons, Bryce and Bruce, who had some definite
ideas as to who the villain should be, and to my
daughter, Cherie, for her constant encouragement.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Malinche Adams—Beautiful and privileged, born of two worlds, she is searching for her roots in Alaska.
Brian Kennedy—A geologist with an oil company, he is a man who has always minded his own business—until he finds himself involved up to his heart.
Buck Adams—Malinche’s father, rich and powerful, accustomed to command, he finds he cannot control his daughter.
Carl Bettnor—CIA official, he says he’s in Alaska to protect our country’s security, but who is he really protecting?
Joe Pasco—Brian’s boss, he finds himself caught between friendship and duty.
Dimitri Stanislof—He held the key to the mystery—but someone killed him to keep him quiet…
The blizzard was worsening. Tiny particles that had, for over an hour, been slipping through his ski mask to sting Brian Kennedy’s face, escalated to needles of pain. Pushed along by a sixty-mile-an-hour wind, they stabbed through the heavy down of his parka and seeped under the guard of fox fur around his face.
Ignoring the discomfort, he willed the snowmobile to keep going. He wasn’t far from the shelter of his camp on the shore of the Bering Sea in Alaska, but from what he could see across the gray tundra, he might have been going toward Siberia.
Eskimos had a least fifteen names for snow; during his stint of exploring the Arctic as a geologist for Universal Oil Company, Brian had learned them. Now the only word for what was hitting his face was one he would never use in polite company. He muttered it under his breath.
He squinted, gunmetal gray eyes peering across the monotonous frozen plane. This storm was unusual for early May. The ice should be breaking, the tumultuous display of wildflowers about to begin. When he had started down the coast this morning toward the wildlife refuge, intent on locating possible sites for drilling exploratory holes outside the boundary of the refuge, he hadn’t expected this weather. But he should know by now that the Arctic was as unpredictable and untrustworthy as a woman.
He swerved to avoid a small hummock, glanced down at an inert object, and nearly went on. It was only a gray bundle of fur, a fox or caribou, claimed by the implacable Arctic…
Suddenly he caught his breath, and his heart did a jig. He circled around the object, reluctant to admit what he was seeing. At some hidden level of his mind, he had known instantly that it wasn’t a fox or caribou, but he had to make sure.
The body, clad in fur, was lying spread-eagled, partially covered by a heavy dusting of snow. Half an hour later and it would have vanished beneath the white blanket. A glance at the broad face, the sightless eyes, the coarse black hair stiff with ice confirmed his instinctive knowledge. An Eskimo or Indian, frozen to death.
Kneeling beside the body, Brian grasped the gloveless hand. It was frozen solid. He let the hand fall back to the ground and glanced around for some means of conveyance, something that might have brought the man to this cold fate, but there was no sled, no snowmobile. Odd that he had been wandering around on foot. Perhaps he’d had a dog sled, and the animals had run away. The blizzard had scoured the frozen ground of all tracks.
Grunting, he hoisted the man up and propped him on the back of the snowmobile. The only thing to do was to get the body to his camp, pack him in his plane, and fly him to Prudhoe Bay, the closest place that might have police or medical facilities. He would let the authorities take it from there. It wasn’t his concern.
He glanced back over his shoulder to be sure he hadn’t left anything.
It was so tiny he almost missed it. In the depression where the man had lain, his body protecting the ground from the snow, lay a small green object that must have fallen out of his clothes.
Brian picked it up and shoved it in his parka pocket. He’d turn it over to the authorities when he deposited the body.
He was soon over his initial surprise. He considered himself a logical, pragmatic man. It was too bad. He hated waste of any kind, the waste of human life most of all. But things happen, especially in the Arctic, a place unforgiving of mistakes. He had worked for an oil company many places in the world and he considered the Arctic the most unpredictable.
It was odd, though. He wouldn’t expect an Eskimo to become lost. Still, it wasn’t his problem. He would take the body to Prudhoe Bay and let the authorities handle it.
Brian had lived most of his thirty-three years quite satisfactorily by minding nobody’s business but his own. And that’s exactly what he would do about this unexpected incident. It had nothing to do with him.
Malinche Adams sat in her expensive wingback chair, long legs curled beneath her, and stared at the letter that had so recently turned her life upside down. She couldn’t take her eyes from it, even though the words were burned in her brain.
She had left her affluent life in Seattle only two weeks ago, determined to escape her controlling father—who indulged her shamelessly as long as he made all her decisions—and search for her roots in Alaska. Perhaps her father had been right in considering the move ridiculous. At 32, she was a little old to be searching for her identity. There had been years of fals
It had seemed things might work out. The job was scheduled to begin in a few days, she had a place to live, and was beginning to explore her new city.
Now she realized she had found more than she bargained for.
She thought of how her life had been before she decided to make this move. Her mother had died at her birth, and although she missed having a mother, she hadn’t lacked parental love. Buck Adams, her wealthy and influential father, had given her affection as well as privileges. It wasn’t his fault that she had always felt different, ill at ease in the private schools she attended, lost in a culture that wasn’t quite her own. Buck had always told her she got her exotic coloring, her dark silky hair, her almond eyes, from her Alaskan Native mother, so perhaps she got the feeling of being an outsider in Buck’s culture from her mother, too.
Buck. She still seethed with hurt and anger at the way he had reacted to her news.
Soon after she arrived in late April, she’d had a message on her answering machine from a man called Dimitri Stanislof, whom she’d never met, although she knew of him. He was a well-known Native artist, renowned for his carvings of dragons and arctic wildlife. He had sounded excited. He’d said he would see her soon; they had something to talk about.
She’d heard nothing further until she received a package in the mail postmarked from Barrow. It contained a letter from Dimitri. He said he was her half brother. It was so far-fetched that at first she didn’t believe it, but the documents he sent confirmed it.
She picked up the letter again and scanned it, although it was already committed to memory. Dimitri hadn’t known of the relationship until an old aunt had died and sent him the marriage certificate and birth certificate. His father was Buck Adams, his mother Marie Stanislof. There was no doubt. He said he would see Malinche soon. He had something to take care of first.
A letter from his friend came with the letter. Dimitri was dead, apparently frozen to death on the tundra. He had told his friend he was looking for someone, and he might be in danger. If he didn’t return, the friend was to forward his letter and the documents to Malinche.
In one minute she had found a brother and lost him. Dazed, she had called Buck. At first he had evaded her questions, but he finally admitted the truth. Years ago when he was a poor prospector, he had married Marie. They’d had a son. Then she’d left, taking Dimitri, and vanished among her kinsmen.
“But why didn’t you do anything?” she’d cried. “Didn’t you try to find him? He was your son. And why didn’t you tell me?”
“I thought that would hurt you less,” he had said. “And I did try to find them, after I struck it rich and had the means to look. I was told they had both died during WWII. And a few years later I married your mother.”
“What else haven’t you told me?” she demanded. “What about my mother?”
“Tara?” His voice softened. “She died at your birth.”
“But what was she like?”
“Like you. Beautiful and brave. If you’re wondering if you have any more unknown relatives, I doubt it. She told me she was an orphan. She was an Aleut, like Marie. They looked a lot like each other. Maybe that’s why…” His voice trailed away.
“She was an Aleut, but you met her in an Indian village.”
“She lived there several years after she left Ward Cove, the detention camp during the war. She wouldn’t discuss Ward Cove at all.”
He hesitated, then continued. “I know how hard this is, sweetheart, but there’s nothing to be done now. Don’t get involved.”
Still in shock, Malinche had replaced the phone. World War II. It all seemed so long ago. Buck would have been a very young man. He was nearing eighty now. She had been born when he was well into middle life. Perhaps that was why he was so protective even now that she was an adult.
Now Malinche placed the letter back on the stand, still shocked at Buck’s betrayal, at a loss as to what to do next. She had always felt so alone, and all the time she’d had a brother. How could he have kept it from her? And now it was too late—Dimitri was dead.
She certainly wasn’t going to leave it like this. She had heard on the news of the man who had been found frozen on the tundra, and now realized it had been Dimitri. She felt something was dreadfully wrong about the report. It didn’t make sense. Dimitri was at home in the arctic. He wouldn’t have wandered around and gotten lost. Besides, his friend had said, and Dimitri had hinted, that whatever he had been involved in was dangerous. He had been afraid.
The more she thought of it, the clearer it became. It wasn’t an accident. Dimitri had been killed. Murdered. She thought of everything she had missed by not knowing her brother—the long, intimate talks, the feeling of family—and her heart ached with loss.
She stood up, so blinded by tears that she almost knocked over the end table. She’d had time to think since the letter came. Buck’s admonition to let it drop only fueled her intent. She wouldn’t let whoever had killed Dimitri get away with it. She would find the truth. Her brother’s death had been written off as an accident, and no one was pursuing justice.
The first thing she would do would be to call the police. She picked up the phone. A few minutes later she put it down, shaking her head in disbelief. She’d had trouble even getting them to admit they had identified the body as Dimitri’s. And they insisted it was an accident. No further action was even being contemplated.
At this point, further talks with the police seemed unproductive, at least until she knew more. The logical place to begin was with the man who found the body. The newspaper had given his name—Brian Kennedy. And he lived right here in Anchorage. A quick look through the phone book gave her his address.
She closed her eyes and murmured softly, meaning it to the depth of her being, “I won’t forget you, Dimitri. I won’t give up. I’ll find whoever killed you, and bring them to justice.”
AT THE PEAL of the doorbell, Brian glanced up from the fishing fly he was painstakingly tying and frowned. He wasn’t expecting anyone, and he wasn’t anxious to see anyone. He had been back in his Anchorage apartment for a week; now he planned to spend a few days trout fishing in a remote lake, then go down to Cabo San Lucas to bask in the sun. An unexpected visitor wasn’t going to mess up his plans.
He unwound his legs from the chair and moved reluctantly toward the door, glancing at his watch. Ten in the evening. An odd hour for company.
He opened the door and felt a jolt to his solar plexus. Suddenly fish were the last thing on his mind. A woman he had never met was standing at the door. A gorgeous woman.
She was dramatically beautiful. Above average in height, she had only to tilt her head upward a fraction of an inch and her deep brown eyes, almond-shaped, met his. Black silky hair fell ruler straight to her shoulders. Her generous mouth, straight nose, and high cheekbones were sculpted with crisp clarity, and his breath caught as his eyes lingered on the long, graceful line of her throat.
He was overreacting; he’d been out in the bush too long.
“Brian Kennedy?” Her voice was low, with an enticing lilt.
“That’s me.” He’d gotten control of himself. Beautiful though she was, he still didn’t want her messing up his plans, and he had a hunch that was exactly what she would try to do.
“Well—may I come in?”
“Sure.” Shrugging, he stood back and motioned her inside, alarm bells ringing. Her clothing might have been meant to be casual, but there was nothing casual about the shimmering silk material of her pale yellow shirt, and her jeans fit far too lovingly to have been bought off the rack. The blue jacket slung over her shoulders was obviously expensive; her running shoes were top of the line. She walked wit
He knew the type. Plenty of money, spoiled rotten.
Inside his small living room, he watched her quick survey of his quarters and caught her small frown. So, the lady was used to something better. Too bad.
“It’s not luxurious,” he said, “but I like it.”
“The apartment. You were frowning.”
And he did like it. He kept it neat, and that meant no extraneous objects. A comfortably worn sofa, an upholstered chair, shelves of books, a rustic coffee table topped with rocks and minerals—what more could one want?
The sharpness of his tone caught her attention. “I didn’t mean to offend you. I just have something else on my mind…”
She turned and offered her hand. She had a surprisingly firm grip. “I’m Malinche Adams.”
“What can I do for you?”
“Well, you could ask me to sit down. This may take a while.”
“Oh, sorry.” It wouldn’t take too long, he hoped, motioning her to the sofa. Her carriage, her voice, her clothes, all spoke of money, which Brian had found usually meant a determination to have one’s own way. He scooped some books from a chair and sat across from her, waiting expectantly.
She seemed to have a problem as to how to begin. “I have some questions for you,” she finally said. “You found Dimitri Stanislof, didn’t you?”
“Dimitri Stanislof?” He shook his head; he didn’t recall anyone by that name. Although it did sound somewhat familiar.
“The man you found frozen to death on the slope. The police told me you found the body and brought him to Prudhoe Bay.”
“Oh, sure.” He nodded, remembering. “A couple of weeks ago. But Dimitri Stanislof? I thought the man I found was an Eskimo.”