Arctic Fox Book 3: Pursuit of the Dream - Chapter 31

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Cover photo by Jonatan Pie. Downloaded from Unsplash

Marcia is seventeen, and along with Darryl, has moved south in Alaska to attend the Anchorage campus of the Alaska State University. She wants to pursue her dream, but will it pursue her instead?
I want to thank Malady, once again, for his help checking through this story for the many errors I frequently insert, as well as listening to my sometimes completely crazy ideas about the direction of the story and telling me how crazy they are!

Author's note : The Alaska Panhandle is the string of Islands that border the Coast of British Columbia, Canada

Chapter 31

Alaska Panhandle

1:37 AM, Pacific Daylight Time, Wednesday, August 9th 2023

Marcia woke with a start. She'd heard something in her sleep which didn't come from the engines or the gentle rocking of the “Blue Canoe.”

It came from the other bed in the room. She lay quietly again for a few moments until she heard another sniff. It didn't seem like the product of a cold or allergies. This sounded like someone hurting. She debated for a few minutes, wondering if she should just let Heather cry it out. When she heard the multiple exhalations of a weep, however, her compassion took over.

She quietly got up, hoping to not disturb Darryl, and moved to the girl's bed. She could see Heather in the dim glow from the deck lights outside their windows, and carefully sat down at the edge of the bed.

Leave me alone,” Heather whispered.

Are you sure?” Marcia asked.

Heather didn't answer immediately, but Marcia decided to respect her wishes. As she stood, however, Heather asked, “Why did he do it?”

Marcia sat back down and asked, “Do what?”

I need him.”

He didn't mean to leave you, Heather.”

"Yes, he did.”

Heather started weeping again and Marcia reached down and gathered the girl in an embrace.

He loved you, Sweetheart. He didn't want to leave you alone.”

It took a moment for Heather to get any words out, but finally, “H-he didn’t th-think he was a-a-a good dad.”

He was a great dad, Sweetie.”

B-but h-he didn’t th-think so.”

Marcia didn’t have any words for that. She didn’t want to speak platitudes. She knew many people doubted their own skills as a parent, and Paul could well have doubted his own. Heather’s next words gripped Marcia’s heart.

He d-drove his c-car off the c-c-cliff!”

Again, the girl was lost in sobs, and Marcia didn’t know what to say or do. A moment later, she felt Darryl’s hand around her shoulders as he lowered himself to her side. He pulled both girls into his strong embrace and softly asked, “Why do you say that, Heather?”

It took another moment for the sobs to calm down so she could respond. “I heard him. He was arguing with God.” She sniffed, then went on. “He wondered why he was the one raising me when there were so many better fathers out there.” sniff “’Why don’t you answer me!?’ he shouted.”

Marcia held the girl tight, hoping what came next wasn’t what she suspected.

A moment later I heard breaking glass and the door slam shut. I hurried out of my room, but Daddy’s car sped off down the street. There was a broken bottle on the floor and the wall was wet where it’d broken.”

That doesn’t mean he deliberately drove off the cliff,” Darryl told her, tightening his embrace.

Daddy was never drunk,” Heather responded. “I’ve seen him drink several glasses and still be able to drive carefully.”

Chugiak, Alaska

9 AM, Alaska Daylight Time, Wednesday, August 9th 2023

Mike looked at his phone, then back at the attorney general. “It’s Darryl.”

Judge Matthews nodded, and Mike answered his phone. “Hey, Darryl, what’s up?”

We had an interesting talk last night. With Heather.”


"Yeah. She thinks her dad drove off that cliff deliberately.”

Mike sat down heavily. He’d wondered about such a thing himself. “What do you think, Darryl?”

span style="font-variant: normal">I think she believes that he did.”

I know your time with him was limited, but did you see anything that makes you think he could have done such a thing?”

Not that I saw, but that doesn’t mean much. We only had the one service in his church, then had dinner with him. The only thing out of the ordinary at all was his surprise when he saw your card, and that’s explained now that we know who he was.”

I see,” said Mike. “Judge Williams is here too. Do you mind if I put this on speaker so he can hear it too?”

Sure. Want me to fill him in as well?”

Please,” Mike requested.

Darryl explained to the Judge what Heather had told the young couple while the Judge listened carefully.

I know you said she believes her dad committed suicide,” the Judge said when Darryl finished, “but what do you think?”

Darryl was quiet for a moment, then tentatively said, “I want to say I don’t think he did. But, the truth is, I don’t really know. She knew him better than anyone.”

Fair enough,” the Judge said.

Sir?” Darryl asked. “Is this going to affect the request of Dad Mike to find a place for her?”

I really doubt it, Son. If we’re careful and do everything correctly, I don’t think anyone can find fault with what he’s doing.”

So we should continue on our way?”

I’m glad to see you’re thinking about this. Yes, continue on up here. I think we’ll be able to make the case that Mike is doing what’s best for Heather.”

Once Darryl disconnected, Mike asked Judge Williams what would be the best thing to do.

I’ll let you know what to do, but after that, I’m going to have to stay out of it.” He shook his head. “It’s so frustrating. With my job, I could cut through all the red tape and say she stays where you say with just a stroke of my pen.”

That would be just what those other guys were doing.”

Yeah. We’re just going to have to make sure that we stay on the right side of the law here. I don’t want anyone to think I orchestrated any of this.”

Mike nodded. “Ironically, orchestrating things like this is your job.”

Yeah,” the judge agreed. “As long as I do it legally. The problem is, I was friends with… No, that’s not right. I don’t agree with what Ralph Thomas did, but he was, and is, my friend. Some of those guys were in it for money and power, but I know Ralph. He wanted to do what was right. That’s all I want to do too, but I’ve got to trust that the right thing will be done through the process of law.”

So what do I do?” Mike asked.

Do exactly what you’d intended to do.”

How do I know that’s not gonna cause any problems?” he wanted to know.

We don’t,” the Judge replied, “but this has to be beyond reproach. We’re going to have to trust that everything Paul wanted done was arranged in a way it can’t be contested.”

I’ve gotta ask, Judge. Who would contest it?”

The state of Oregon could,” Judge Williams replied, “But that’s not to say they would.”

This just got a thousand times more complicated.”

Yeah, it did.”

Anchorage, Alaska

10AM, Alaska Daylight Time, August 12th, 2023

Darryl guided the Mustang out of the ferry, caught in the rest of the traffic getting off in Anchorage. It was the final destination of the ship, so pretty much everybody on board was disembarking.

Once they were on the Glenn Highway, which traveled from Anchorage to Palmer, Heather commented, “The trees seem so short.”

It’s funny,” Marcia replied. “Our vegetables grow huge, but our trees don’t. The evergreens are mostly White Spruce, and the ones with white trunks are Paper Birch.”

Aren’t there any pines?”

With the long needles like down south?”

Yeah,” Heather said, nodding.

Not really. I’ve heard of some Shore Pines, but we don’t really have them here.”

Oh,” Heather looked around more. “What are those white mountains ahead?”

Those are the Talkeetnas,” Darryl answered.

They’re huge!” Heather said in awe.

The highest is almost nine thousand feet.”

Mount Hood is over eleven thousand feet, but it sure doesn’t look as tall as those.”

Its base is probably higher than the Talkeetnas,” said Marcia. “Plus, we’re seeing them across a flat valley that’s almost at sea level.”

Soon, they were at Eagle River, and cut off the Glenn Highway onto the Old Glenn, which ran through town. Quickly, they came to East Lake Ridge Drive and turned off.

Heather was nervous. She’d heard so many stories of Mike Chatham that she thought of him as if he was some kind of super-hero.

After a few miles, Darryl pulled the Mustang into a driveway on the left. Looking past the house, the lake and a dock where a boat and a small Cessna plane could be seen on floats. It was gently moving up and down as a wake from another plane, accelerating to lift off the water, moved to the shore.

This is your Dad’s house?” Heather asked.

Yeah,” Marcia said as she opened the door. She looked back at the younger girl and saw the look of fear. “Don’t worry, Heather. Daddy is going to do the best he can. In fact, I think some friends are stopping by tomorrow to meet you.”

Heather’s eyes opened wide as she contemplated meeting even more new people.

Are they going to adopt me?”

Marcia smiled. “I don’t know, Heather. Let’s go in and see what Daddy has to say.”

All of the family had a standing invitation to open each other’s doors and walk in, so when Darryl got to the door, he simply turned the knob and walked in.

I guess we’re expected,” Heather commented.

Well, yeah,” Darryl said, puzzled at her statement.

We are,” Marcia confirmed, “But with members of the family, we don’t bother knocking. On the exterior doors, anyway. Certain interior doors, we never open.”

Heather paused a moment, then it dawned on her what Marcia was saying. “Oh! I get it.”

They walked through to the patio doors and out onto the deck. Mike was seated at the round patio table and stood when the three exited the house.

He gave Marcia a hug and kiss on the forehead, then hugged his son-in-law. He turned to welcome Heather, and held out a hand to her. She grasped it, but instead of shaking it, Mike simply said, “I’m very happy to meet you, Heather. I just wish it was under different circumstances.”

Heather didn’t say anything. She was afraid to, as tears came to her eyes.

A moment later, a bundle of energy flew out of the door and threw itself into Marcia’s arms. “Hi, Amber!”

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia,” the little girl enthused. Mike smiled, but didn’t say anything about the greeting. Darryl, on the other hand, turned away, and he could be heard trying to hold back a laugh.

A moment later, Gloria stepped out of the house, holding the hand of a toddler.

Everyone was introduced to Heather, who had forestalled crying by concentrating on the names of everyone.

A couple of hours later, Mike put some burgers on the grill after making sure that Heather had no qualms about eating meat. Gloria went into the house and came back out with a large stock pot, oil, and a basket. Mike put it onto a propane burner while Gloria disappeared into the house once again. When she came out, she was carrying a couple of Zip-Lock™ bags of French Fries.

Marcia leaned close to Heather and told her in a quiet voice, “Mom loves to cook. These are her spur of the moment fries. She’s already blanched them, then froze them. They’re all home made.”

The group ate as soon as the fries were done, then Marcia and Darryl headed off. Heather was exhausted from a busy day, and Gloria showed her to her room.

Even though she was exhausted, Heather lay awake thinking about the people she was staying with. They were friendly, and she had definitely taken a liking to them. She wished she could stay with them permanently.

Meeting new people was not her strong suit.

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Nor mine!

Rose's picture

Nor mine! I used to work customer service, and I loved it, except for the customers.



I wonder if they're still considering Marcia and Darryl.

Marcia may be a little young to be a mother to Heather, but I bet she'd make an excellent elder sister. Plus, it looks like Heather is already pretty comfortable around both of them.

It is an interesting thought,

Rose's picture

It is an interesting thought, Marcia and Darryl taking Heather in, if only for the fact that when I was a kid, I knew a Marsha Johnson who had a daughter Heather. Honest, I didn't think about that when I was writing this! The big problem, that I see, however, is that Marcia is technically underage, even though she's legally married. Add to that, she's only 4 years older than Heather. If the states were to get involved, as they may very well do if they decide Paul wasn't of sound mind when he asked Mike to see to his daughter's well being, Having Darryl and Marcia take her in, even as guardians, might be problematic.

In the same way, Mike and Gloria taking her in could possibly be seen as going against Paul's wishes as he didn't want any pain if Heather were to find out about Mike's involvement. Although, she certainly knows something about him. Of course, if Paul were to be found not of sound mind, Mike being her guardian until he can find a permanent home would be overturned.

The whole situation seems hard to come out painlessly for Heather, although that is undoubtedly what people will claim they're trying to do regardless. If not to have the transition painless, then as painless as possible.