Jodie Amsterdam was freezing her butt off. Why she had agreed to accompany an attache of civilians and government officials to the distant research facility in Alaska was beyond her. Of there was money, that never hurt. Bathrooms didn't redo themselves, after all. And the intellectual challenge of solving a murder no one else had seemed capable of solving certainly added a kind of flavor to the stew. But if she was being honest with herself, Jodie knew the real answer to her question.
The young journalist assigned to report on the case had no official connections to any legacy outfits. An attempt by the current administration to something-something encourage unbiased reporting. That she was among a handful of young freelancers who had clawed their way into the halls of almost-power struck Jodie as the type of situation that bred bias, but seeing as how little stake in the matter from an ideological standpoint, she didn't bother cementing her feet into any kind of self-righteous position.
Besides, who was she to poo-poo a young lady's thirst for adventure.
The helicopter carrying them had been forced down three times by a charging wind coming in from the arctic. A common occurrence this time of year, apparently. And one of the major reasons why this type of thing was frowned upon. Jodie made sure to make a mental note of it. Familiarity with weather patterns, boring as it is, could indicate the killer knew launching a larger investigation would be difficult and therefore unlikely. That they'd been sent at all could--assuming they made it--could force the suspect into uncharted waters.
Speaking of uncharted.
A stoic looking man raised his head. Delicate cheekbones, soft eyes, and a well-groomed face, Colonel Raff was far from the stock officer type Amsterdam expected. He must have sensed this about himself, for the middle-aged Colonel took great strides to bury his unconventional looks behind a wall of stern bravado. It only served to make him look like a fool in Jodie's estimation, but she also knew politics were full of people eager to believe in perception over reality. He'd likely make general someday.
"Yes, Ms. Amsterdam. How can I help you?"
"I was just curious. I imagine these facilities are built to serve very specific purposes. And I can't imagine those purposes ever included and infusion of an extra," she looked around the helicopter, making sure everyone was aware she was looking, "dozen personnel. How are we all going to fit. Assuming the investigation takes longer than a day?"
The colonel smiled. A tight, subdued thing that made his lips look like dead, white worms. "We've taken that all into consideration. No worries. We may have to double up a few of the living quarters, convert one or two of the supply room, but we'll fit. Why, Ms. Amsterdam, you never been camping?"
A few laughs floated up from the back of the helicopter but they were quickly beaten into submission by the hum of the propeller.
Jodie flicked a stain of hair that had fallen out from under her helmet. "I've been all over the world colonel. I only ask because if we're to be doubled or tripled up, I'd like to start screening potential bunk mates now. Nothing worse than finding out you're living with a nut until it's too late. Wouldn't you agree?"
The tight smile grew tighter, until the little worms on his face threatened to stretch themselves into ripping.
Colonel Raff had overseen the deployment of the research team in the first place.
At first the outpost looked like an outcropping of rocks. An edge of a mountain that had managed to avoid being encased in snow. But as they approached the forms and features of man's hand slowly came into focus.
A photographer who had frog walked from the back of the helicopter leaned over Jodie and began snapping pictures. It was a breathtaking view, but the outpost itself stood bland and lifeless against the stark white and flares of gray rock. A benign blemish on an otherwise pristine face.
The pilot shouted orders for everyone to prepare for landing. A hard stare from the colonel's assistant sent the photographer retreating to his seat who offered only a tepid wave as his apology.
When they finally touched down the colonel got to stand up and give his big speech. Jodie let it wash over her, she was more interested in spying on everyone else. The young journalist had her pen racing across a yellow legal pad that sat on her lap. The rest of the crew paid devout attention with the photographer being hte only exception. He continued snapping photos and playing with