Feather for Forever

NEW - Available mid June 2016

A missing feather, the strange appearance of a series of gray bandanas with orange volcano icons on one corner, a mysterious connection with the son of Doug William’s right hand man, old alliances, new alliances, broken alliances, and renewed allegiances take Mara and Doug Williams skyrocketing into the path of danger and uncertainty once again.

 

Will this last book in the “Feather series” spell the end of their troubles, or the beginning of an eternity on the run? Will Mara finally face the future of her past for the last time or will the protection of the feather remain as elusive as has been the peace and solitude she so longed for when seeking a new life in Alaska.

 

Can our collective belief in finding a happy ending guide the final storyline in the feather series to its ultimate place as a beacon of hope in our troubled times, or will the evil that has plagued one family finally and unequivocally prevail?

 

The answer lies within these pages of Feather for Forever ~ Alaska and in the hearts and minds of all those who believe in the goodness in life.

 

 

Chapter One

On The Beach

 

Mara’s feet slipped on the tangled heap of slimy kelp and boulders the sea had piled around the boardwalk supports, but she managed to stay upright. Considering the size of the waves that were pounding the nearby sandbars, this tide was coming in with more vengeance than usual.

She zipped her sweater jacket up tightly against her throat as gale-driven sand pelted her like a blast of stinging nettles, but the measure did little to stop her shivering. Why hadn’t she had the sense to bring a hat, or a headband to stop her hair from whipping across her face, and some sunglasses to protect her burning eyes? As if she had never spent time in wild Alaska before!

Waiting here, beneath the boardwalk shops that lined the Homer spit might not have been the best choice, but with all the elements working against her, she had sought the stability of anything that wasn’t at the mercy of the wind or part of the raging sea as she tried to retrieve her dog and come in off the beach.

Where was Thor, anyway?

She pushed her unruly mane back for the umpteenth time just long enough to catch a glimpse of him chasing billows of sea foam across the beach.

“Thor! Come!”

As the water swooshed around her feet and slowly rose up her ankles, she wrapped both arms around one of the pilings that had once been a massive tree in some Alaskan forest. If she had even considered that her precarious position had left her vulnerable to becoming another statistic in the 15- to 20- foot tides that the area was known for, she showed no evidence of it.

 “Thor! Let’s go! Move it!”

Darn it anyway! He seemed not to hear her as he threw himself into his game of chasing the sea foam. It was as if the storm energized him instead of driving him with her to shelter.

“Thor! You heard me! Let’s go!”

 She took a step sideways, slipped enough to fear that she could sprain an ankle—or worse—then cautiously stepped again. Just when it seemed that she had gained secure footing, her boot slipped off one of the rocks and got tangled in a loop of rope that was sticking up in the kelp.

With one arm awkwardly extended in an effort to maintain balance, she tightened her grip on the piling with the other and inched down the support to try to unloop the rope from around her boot. When it finally came loose, she tossed it away, but the water just washed it back again. How long would she be able to withstand the wind, the rain, the slippery rocks, and still fight with this rope using a hand that was numb from the cold?

“Thor! Go get Doug! Thor! THOR!”

At long last Thor ran to her, stopping abruptly to investigate something about three feet from where she stood.  Straining against the elements, she struggled to see what he was pawing at. It looked like a human hand. Was this some kind of prank or what? She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and looked again. It was definitely a hand! Not only was it a hand, but it was still connected to an arm.

“Thor! Let it go!” she yelled.

Her dog backed off just as the next wave crashed and rolled out, revealing not only a human arm and hand, but an entire body.

This time she screamed—spontaneously and loudly, and in a way that sounded distant and foreign to her own ears. Her obvious distress caught the attention of some surfers, who were also clambering in ahead of the tide. In slow motion, she watched two of them approach, check the situation out, and then drag the dead man out of the water and up onto the rocks, while a third guy scrambled up the beach with two dogs in tow.

“Call 911!” he yelled back as he pushed the dogs into a truck.

The shivering was uncontrollable now. Whether it was from the cold or from the sight of the body splayed less than a few feet away, she was shaking. It was fully clothed and that of a young man who couldn’t have been any more than eighteen or twenty. She fought back nausea. Although it looked like he hadn’t been dead for long, she knew that he was—dead.

She screamed again, the sound piercing the hypnotic cadence of the waves as she continued to cling to the piling with one hand, while grabbing her cell phone with the other.

With her fingers no more than frozen nubs and her body shaking with a renewed surge of adrenaline, somehow she pushed 911 and in stuttering chatter gave dispatch directions to the site of the grisly discovery.

 When she looked up, one of the surfers had returned and was staring at the body.

“Doesn’t look like he’s been in the water that long, but that rope around his ankles sure says that someone wanted him to be.”

Mara huddled even more tightly against the piling as the cold remnants of melting snow dripped through the boardwalk slats onto her head. Through the cracks between the planks she could see boarded-up shops silhouetted against the crisp blue sky. The sun was so bright. It was weird to see it like this in the midst of such a terrible storm. It blinded her as it moved low across the horizon, so she looked back down and clung to the piling.

“Can you help me get out of here?” she called to the surfer.

Another crescendo of shivers wracked her body as she clung to the pole, while the wailing of sirens drawing closer wracked her mind.

“Grab on,” he said, as if just noticing her distress.

 

Reaching out to him with one quivering arm, she gingerly navigated the slippery kelp until he was able to grasp her arm tightly and tug her onto the safe footing of the hard-packed sand. Once safe, she clung to him, as if letting go would send her tumbling with the torrent of rolling stones that each wave carried across the black sand back into the sea.

“Thank you.”

 “Wait there. Till the cops come. It’s got heat,” he said, pointing to a beater Subaru that was parked next to the truck that held the dogs.

She held Thor back from trying to wiggle himself between the rescuer and herself until the surfer extended his hand for the dog to sniff, and Thor settled down.

“I’m okay, bud,” she told him, as she grabbed onto his collar and walked him to the car.

 She cradled his sopping wet body, gently stroking his wet fur while she sat waiting with her feet sideways out the door. In spite of being drenched, he felt warm and comforting.

What kind of welcome back to Homer was this? She and Doug had barely finished unpacking and setting up their new home along the slough. Winter was supposed to have afforded them both privacy and time, not this. Their two seiners had just arrived from Juneau last week and they had already started readying them for fishing season.

She brushed away an unexpected flow of tears.

Cold, wet, and with her emotions all over the place, she pulled her sweater jacket more tightly around her as she and Thor waited in the warm shelter of a stranger’s car. The wolf dog, who had been with her through more trauma than she cared to remember, leaned into her protectively as she forced her thoughts to be anything but about the right here and the right now.

Leaning back against the seat and closing her eyes, she let a slideshow of all the happy summers she had known here on the Homer Spit play out in her head. Just as in years past, this quiet place would soon be bustling with tourists and these boarded-up shops open for business.

The scene played out so vividly in her mind. Throngs of both local and world travelers would soon be enjoying the natural beauty of this place dubbed The Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea. She could almost feel the sun on her back and hear the sounds of people, cars, boats, bicycles, and RVs roaming about.

Thor’s low growl jolted her back to the reality of the raging storm and the sight of the spit still entrenched in its winter’s sleep.

“Quiet,” she shushed him, as she watch a police officer, who had stopped to inspect the body.

Where was the feather that Joe Michael had given her so long ago? It was supposed to be here, in her pocket when she needed it. She checked the other pocket and the two in her jeans before remembering that he had taken it from her to take to the totem-raising ceremony in Sitka next week.

 “Needs to be refreshed,” he had said.

Instead of the feather, she found one of the shells that she had picked up earlier on the beach, hidden there with a mitten over it so that Thor couldn’t find it. Sure enough, as the mitten fell to the sand, he stood and shoved his nose into her pocket like he always did.

“Get out of there,” she said, pushing him away, but he knew and she knew that she didn’t mean it, and so he pushed his nose around inside her pocket some more before sitting in his best good-dog pose to see if she would give him one of the special treasures to play with.

“Down, bud.”

Even as he obeyed, he kept his ears perked as his eyes darted around in search of any threat despite his inclination to let his puppy self prevail.

She pulled him close again and held him, closing her eyes to shut out the reality of the scene around her. This time he didn’t try to wriggle away. Instead, he leaned his body into hers as if to hold her just as he had always done since they first met—what was it, five years or so ago now?

Another police car had driven down to the beach and she could hear snippets of conversation about the body. She guessed that she’d better go to them. It felt more empowering than waiting for them to come to her, and right now she needed to feel some sense of control.

She stuffed the mitten back into her pocket to protect the shells. Later, she would put them inside one of the clear vases that were located all over her house and that served as her own unique style of decoration. But before that she would put them in the boiler room until they were dried out enough for the vases. Do normal things in the normal way—soon, away from here.

She snapped a leash onto Thor’s collar, then walked over to the police car and to the two officers who had responded.

“I’m Mara Williams. I found it—you know, the body.”

The rest of their conversation played out as if she were watching a movie, until after about an hour they told her she could go.

She would have to call Joe and Sal in Hoonah later than planned. They would understand when she told them.

And Doug, working only a fourth of a mile or so away, was never going to believe this! Dang, how she wished he would answer his phone.