Arctic Fox Book 3: Pursuit of the Dream - Chapter 9

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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?

As is always the case, I'd like to thank Malady 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!

Chapter 9

Monday, May 10th, 2023


Marcia quietly opened the door to Allie’s room and checked in on her niece. It had become a routine that she went through every morning. She would check on Allie, then Sammy, and then go out and help Bruce with the animals.

Allie was in deep sleep, so Marcia reversed course and quietly closed the door. She moved to her nephew’s room and quietly opened the other door. Inside, Sammy was sleeping soundly as well. On his wall was a fresh drawing. Curious, Marcia tiptoed over to look at the picture of the riverbank. The moose with her calf and the diving eagle were both spectacular to see in their own ways.

Just as she’d expected, the moose and calf were in the background, across the river. The picture was drawn from a slightly different perspective from what hers had been, however. Which made sense. When Sammy had first seen them, he’d been in a different spot. This, however, was from a very strange point of view. Closer to the drop to the river.

High above, the eagle could be seen too, diving down. On the ground below the bird was a rabbit, which was interesting. She couldn’t tell exactly what the bird had picked up, but apparently Sammy had seen.

As was usual, the picture was incredibly detailed, and was basically a photograph. But unlike his previous pictures, the perspective that Sammy drew the eagle from was slightly different than what he had actually seen it from. Somehow, he’d known how to put the bird in accurately, from the position he’d drawn the moose from. His spatial awareness was incredible!

She examined his work further, and was astounded at how he’d been able to know exactly where to draw the eagle from wherever this perspective was. The mountains in the back showed the ruggedness of the peaks in great detail. The water in the river showed the reflections of the mountains and trees. The flowers and grass on the bank…

She stared. Leaning closer, she peered at the picture. This couldn’t be real! Could it? Sammy didn’t understand humor or horror enough to put something like this into his picture. She backed out of the room and carefully closed the door, then hurried downstairs to get her brother and sister-in-law.

Half-an-hour later, Fraiser and Brad had seen the picture too. “We’ve got to call French and Coleridge,” Fraiser said, shaking his head.

Why?” Mage asked. “This could be hundreds of years old! Maybe a native who died a long time ago.”

Mage,” Brad said. “We’ve likely got a body on the northeast part of your farm. Bruce has been arrested for murder. Likely, they’re not related, but if they are, we’d be risking making the case worse by going out there and looking ourselves. Contamination of the crime scene.” He paused, not wanting to say the next, but then plowed on. “We need to at least appear to give professional courtesy to the FBI.”

What?!” Mage exploded. “After what she’s been like?”

Especially after what she’s been like,” Fraiser said. “We know she’s got a chip on her shoulder. Why make it worse?”

Mage seemed to seethe for a few moments, then reluctantly said, “Alright, but I’ve got a call to make.


Sylvia Matthews listened to her husband snoring slightly beside her. In the next room, little Christopher Chatham was still asleep as well. It was only 6:15 in the morning, but she’d always been a light sleeper who woke up early. She reached for the Bible on her bedtable, intending on starting her day, when the phone rang.

Hmph,” came an inarticulate sound from beside her as Bill jumped in his sleep at the sound.

Hello?” Sylvia said into the phone. “Oh! Hi, Mage! How are things going?”

She paused a moment as she listened. “No! I don’t think so! Bruce is a nice man! I don’t think he could have killed Lisa, let alone someone else!”

A moment later, as Bill was sitting up and trying to rub sleep out of his eyes, she said, “Honey, I seriously doubt they’re related, but I can promise you. Bill, Chris, and I will be on the next plane down there.”


Before any other calls were made, the group of adults made their way, led by a little boy, out to the spot where the young couple had been the day before. Just slightly southwest of the picnic spot was where Sammy spied a human hand exiting the bank above the water. The problem at the moment, however, was that it was spring, and waters were high because of runoff. The bank had been undercut considerably, and anyone stepping too close to the water was likely to cause a collapse of the bank, and potential grave, into the water.

They just couldn’t get close enough to the water to verify Sammy’s picture.

After a quick discussion, Darryl hurried to the house, and back, carrying a drone he used for a bird’s eye view of yards in Chatham Yardworks. He maneuvered it to about twenty feet away, where he figured Sammy must have been, but when he panned the camera around, he didn’t see anything. He took it out a little more, and slowly spun the lens around again.

There!” Marcia exclaimed beside him. “Go back a bit.”

He moved the joystick back a bit, and caught sight of something white on the ground. He moved toward it, and stopped. It was a skeletonized hand sticking partway out of the ground. “I think we need to call the police now,” he commented as he started the drone circling the area and taking pictures.


Okay,” French said, looking at the pictures Darryl took. “The question is, how do we get it?”

The group had been joined by the FBI agents and both sets of parents in the farmhouse dining area.

We’ve got people in Anchorage that can do it,” Coleridge told them.

Can you get them here in time?” Fraiser said. “That bank could go at any moment.”

Coleridge gave him an icy glare, but had to admit, “I don’t think we can.”

Marcia stepped close to the table and examined the area on a photo taken from about fifty yards above. “Can I suggest something?”

Sure,” French said before Coleridge could object.

Darryl, can you send me this pic in the highest quality you took?”

Tablet okay, Foxy?”

Please,” she said, nodding. She picked up her tablet from the kitchen counter where it was sitting, and came back, pulling up the picture as she walked.

Okay, the hand is here,” she said as she zoomed in. She wasn’t able to zoom in and see the hand, but looking at the picture, it was clear she was right.

Zooming back out, she said, “Up here is a dock. To get to the site, we’ll have to go from there, right?”

No one argued.

So what if we use a couple of kayaks as pontoons and spread a platform over the top of them? We’ve got some old barn doors that would work.”

Yeah,” Mike put in. “The area should be easy to direct a platform to. The biggest problem is anchoring there. Since that spot’s pushed out into the stream a bit, it’ll be harder to hold the platform in place.”

That’s why I’m suggesting the kayaks. At least they’ll minimize the drag from the water,” Marcia told him.

Who’s got the experience to do this?” asked French.

I do,” Brad offered. “And, I know how to deal with evidence.”

No! I can’t allow this!” Coleridge said.

Colonel Johnson decided his authority was best put to use at that moment. “May I remind you, Agent, that you were the one who removed Jenkins, simply because you didn’t seem to like him?” She glared, but he held her gaze. “If you want that hand, you’d better lose some of your self-importance and let the young man retrieve it.”

And if it’s a whole body?” she asked.

Then it’s a whole body!” Bob exploded.

No, Dad,” Mage said. “If it’s a whole body, there might be evidence in the ground surrounding it. Coleridge is correct saying she needs to see that evidence in it’s location. She needs to know nothing has been lost.”

Bob sighed, but then French said simply, “Idea,” while holding up his index finger.


Brad, Coleridge, and French were on the makeshift raft, carefully keeping themselves away from the riverbank with paddles. They had several tools with them, including shovels, picks, and trowels, but what was probably the most important was the tarp and roll of plastic.

Chet was on a tractor, keeping tension with a winch, so they were able to slowly work their way down the river. Fraiser was also relaying communication between Chet and the raft, as for Chet, the tractor engine was drowning out their voices from downstream.

When they arrived at the spot, they could see the hand on top of the bank, but down below, the river was washing away the soil. Coleridge knelt down as they got closer.

The Colonel is right,” she observed. “I can see some bones, and it looks like they’re held there by roots and determination at best.”

Is there room to get the tarp underneath so we capture all the dirt?” Brad asked.

Maybe,” Coleridge said. She stood up and shook her head. “All we can do is try.”

Brad gingerly steered their boat into position. The two FBI agents spread the tarp on top of the raft, then the plastic on top of that. The raft was perhaps twelve feet square, and it would take most of that to get under the shallow grave. There would be very little left for the trio to stand on.

How effective their methods would be was decided in a matter of seconds. As Brad was moving the boat in, the ground shifted slightly, and it started spilling onto the barge. In a matter of moments, it was completely done, with none of them moving a finger.

Well, that was easy,” commented French.

Couldn’t have done any better if we’d tried,” Brad laughed. He took one of the paddles and pushed against the bank, and slowly, the now much heavier raft started to spin away.

He stopped pushing, but the flow of the water caught the edge where Coleridge was standing. She crouched low as the spin picked up speed, as did Brad. French wasn’t so lucky, however, as much of the area where he was started to disappear under the bank. He took a step backwards, but that put him against the mound of dirt, so he stumbled. His stumble was enough to raise his corner of the raft off the riverbank where it had caught from the extra weight. He struggled to regain his balance, but somehow he overcompensated with the bobbing of the craft, and lost his footing again, but this time he slipped off the raft.

Both Coleridge and Brad were watching where the raft was heading, but the splash alerted them. They spun to look at French, just in time to see him come sputtering out of the water.

Are you okay?” Coleridge called.

Yeah,” he answered. “Just cold!” He managed to grab the rope that held them anchored to the dock north of them, but it didn’t look like he could hold it very long. His grip was slipping.

Can you get back on the raft?” Brad asked. He was keeping them from grounding again, and couldn’t help.

Coleridge was on the far side of Brad, but she was able to ease past him and get to French. She was quite strong, but it still took her a couple of minutes to pull him back to, and then onto, the raft.

The water was extremely cold and he was shivering uncontrollably, which was a bad sign. Coleridge helped French get his soaking clothes off, then pulled off her own jacket and wrapped it around him. She used the jacket as a blanket and put it over both of them. In her haste to get him situated, she knocked his clothes to the side of the raft. His pants and jacket went overboard, but she managed to catch his shirt. She didn’t care, though. French was slipping in and out of consciousness, and she pulled off her blouse and bra, then wrapped her arms around him. “Get us to the dock, now!” she called out to Fraiser.

Chet was on a tractor, and had been pulling with the winch connected to the PTO as soon as Coleridge got French onto the raft. The cable running to the raft was just one line. He would have preferred to run through a pulley and back to a tree, but he just didn’t have enough line to make a double run. The tractor was anchored to a tree, however, and that helped him fight the current.

As he pulled, the drag against the water added up, and the gear case was heating up quickly. It was a tough pull. If he tried to go too fast, the edge of the raft started to dig into the water.

When the raft finally broke away from the bank, Brad didn’t need to man the raft, so he pulled off his shirt and lay down on the other side of French hugging him.

By the time they reached the dock, paramedics had arrived, as well as a couple of crime scene investigators.

The paramedics got French off the raft and into an ambulance. Both Brad and Coleridge were given blankets, and the EMTs checked them both out.

Marcia and Mage were standing a little ways away, watching the proceedings. As soon as the EMTs finished checking out Coleridge and Brad, the investigators kicked the group off the raft and eagerly began going through the soil that had fallen with the body.

I need to get to the hospital!” Coleridge exclaimed.

I’ll get you some dry clothes,” Marcia told her. She turned to her sister-in-law and said, “I don’t think anything of mine’ll fit, though.”

You expect me to give her some clothes?!”

Give her a break, Mage! She just worked her butt off trying to save Agent French!”

Mage sighed. “Okay, come on.”

Coleridge’s skirt was wet, but not soaked, and she was still wearing her boots, which were thankfully low-heeled, so she was able to walk back toward the house without difficulty.

That was some quick thinking,” Marcia remarked as they walked.

I didn’t want to lose him,” Coleridge said. “He’s…” She stopped and turned red.

Mage eyed her critically. Finally, she asked, “Does he know?”

The FBI woman sighed. “Know what?”

You’ve got the hots for him,” Marcia explained, having caught on as well.

Coleridge didn’t deny it, but she suddenly stopped and did a facepalm. “Greg’s got the keys again!”

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more drama !

get your popcorn ready!


I think saying she's stepped

Rose's picture

I think saying she's stepped in it is a fair assessment.



I did too.

Rose's picture

I'll be honest. I did too. I'm not entirely certain how long she'll be such a... Not nice person, but one hopes if she explains to French, he might give her a chance... And that she won't blow it.

At first, I thought she had a thing against men, but then I saw she was being just as mean to Mage and Marcia. Everyone has their secrets, I guess.