Girdwood, Municipality of Anchorage, Alaska.
Chase had never heard of the place before today, but quickly learned that it was a small town about forty miles from Anchorage with a population of roughly the same as an average housing complex in NYC: two thousand people.
In fact, during the just over half an hour drive sitting in the backseat of the midnight black Lincoln Town Car—Floyd had insisted that Chase sit in the back, even though she felt uncomfortable with being driven around—Chase learned more than she would watching an hour of Cosmos.
The first thing that she learned was that Floyd like to talk.
Part of this, Floyd explained, was that his speech therapist had told him that getting over the psychological block of speaking would help improve his stutter.
Chase wasn’t so sure.
Floyd Montgomery was twenty-four years old and was the nephew of Girdwood’s Chief of Police. He had worked for his uncle and the local PD doing odd jobs since he was just a kid, had a sister who had moved to Montreal when she was seven with her dad, neither of whom Floyd ever saw, and he had a keen interest in trains.
A real keen interest.
Chase listened as the man spoke, mostly out of politeness rather than interest, and when Floyd finally paused to take a breath, she finally broke in.
“So, Floyd, any idea where, exactly, we’re going?” she asked, watching as the subdued metropolis of Anchorage, which was centered around the airport, began to thin into a white expanse.
Floyd’s eyes flicked up to the rearview, before quickly returning to the road.
“Yes; Girdwood, small t-t-town about forty minutes f-from Anchorage. Well, t-t-technically we’re going to Crow C-C-Creek Road. Say, this is the first time that I’ve d-d-driven an FBI agent around. I was pretty excited when Unc—” that’s what he called the Police Chief, Unc, as if he were eight and not three times that age, “—said that I’d be chaperoning not one, but, t-t-two FBI Agents. I mean, that’s p-p-pretty exciting, don’t you think?”
Again, his pale eyes flicked up.
The question seemed rhetorical to Chase, but concerned that his eyes remained locked on hers and not the road for so long, she eventually offered an answer.
“Well, I bet you’re pretty disappointed, huh?” she said with a wry smile. Despite his ramblings, after every one that she had encountered today, Floyd was a breath of fresh air.
He turned his eyes back to the road.
“W-w-well, I don’t know about t-t-that. You’re very p-p-pretty.”
For some reason, Floyd’s innocence struck a chord with her and Chase started to blush. Turning her gaze to the dark, tinted windows, she stared at her own reflection.
Seeing the dark circles under her eyes, her hair that she had been forced to pull back in a short ponytail after falling sleeping between the two giants on the plane, she thought briefly that Floyd was messing with her.
But something told her that this simple man wasn’t capable of being dishonest.
“Thank you,” she said, watching as the landscape further degenerated into a sea of white.
The next five minutes passed in silence, but then they drove over a set of train tracks, and this set Floyd off on a tangent on his favorite subject.
“In 1909, Alaska Central Railroad—th-th-that’s the company name—built the f-f-first railroad in Alaska. It was f-f-fifty-one miles long, and took food and people to T-T-T-urnagain Arm.”
Chase nodded. This seemed to fuel Floyd’s excitement, and when he spoke again, his stutter became more pronounced.
“F-f-from there, the d-d-dogs would take the p-p-people and f-food where it needs to g-g-go.”
Chase’s ears perked.
“D-d-dogsleds. I had a dog once,” Floyd continued, “His name was S-S-Steven. He w-w-was a co-co-cocker-spaniel. But he died.”
Another pause, this one extending as long as a full minute.
“We’re almost here,” Floyd announced, pulling Chase out of her head.
They had moved from a main highway artery to a feeder capillary, and the metropolis that was Anchorage had become a distant memory. They passed a sign announcing that they were entering Girdwood, then continued through the lazy resort town, before exiting on the other side. In the distance, she could make out snow-covered pines, as well as a narrowing of the road. Floyd turned onto an even smaller road, which Chase assumed, but couldn’t tell for certain given the snow, was unpaved.
In the back of her mind, she had expected to see dozens of police cars, an ambulance, maybe, and a Crime Scene Unit on scene, or in the very least, some pomp and circumstance that warranted FBI involvement. But as Floyd brought the car to a slow, she saw nothing but more snow and trees.
Eventually, the familiar shadows of two vehicles jutted from the horizon. One, a Girdwood PD cruiser, lights off, and a dark-colored, unmarked vehicle.
She instinctively knew that the latter belonged to FBI Agent Martinez, who Floyd had mentioned back at the airport, and while she was excited to meet the man who had called her up in the early morning hours, she was disappointed that her first assignment didn’t have her paired with Agent Stitts. Still, as they approached the scene, most of her mind was occupied with running scenarios of what she was about to see.
The snow, the remoteness of the location.
The number roads in, roads out. The one cop car at the scene.
Why call in the FBI? Why not get Anchorage PD out here?
Chase wouldn’t have to wait long to have at least some of her questions answered, it appeared, as Floyd parked behind the unmarked car and quickly hopped out.
She reached for the handle, but Floyd had already opened the door for her.
“I’ll get it,” he said.
The cold was biting, and it shocked the last vestiges of drowsiness from her system. It had been a long, trying day already, but now that she was on scene, Chase felt her adrenaline start to flow.
Pulling the front of her suit jacket tight, she felt ridiculous, and knew that she must look even more absurd than she felt stepping out into the snow in Jimmy Choo’s without a proper coat. Her only saving grace was the fact that the sun shone brightly overhead, offering some solace from the biting wind.
What a first impression, she thought glumly.
No sooner had she taken three steps into the snow, did two men approach. In the lead was a man in a black parka, large, aviator style sunglasses that weren’t that much unlike her own pair—which had been conveniently packed in her suitcase—and perfect posture. He was of medium height and build, and looked to be in his mid-forties, with tanned skin and dark hair parted on one side. A frown was etched on his otherwise handsome face.
Behind him was Floyd’s uncle, Girdwood’s Chief of Police. Unlike Agent Martinez, he was tall and had a thick gut that hung over the belt of his beige pants. The wind wreaked havoc on his thinning hair, but despite these difference, he had a striking resemblance to her driver.
Agent Martinez gave her a once over as he approached.
“Lost your luggage?” he said with a grin as he neared. “Not the best first impression, huh?”
Chase raised an eyebrow, unsure if the man was referring to her appearance or her impression of Anchorage.
She decided it didn’t matter and held out her hand.
“Special Agent Chris Martinez,” was the reply. Martinez shook her hand hard, then moved to one side. “And this is Frank Downs, Girdwood Chief of Police.”
The burly man strode forward, a smirk on his face.
They shook hands.
“Not this cold in New York, is it?”
“Sixty-eight and cloudy,” Chase replied.
“I’ve got an extra coat in the car,” Martinez offered. “You’re going to need it.”