Meet Kedric introduces a new character to the narrative, law enforcement officer Scott Kedric. In Alaska, law enforcement aren’t always the good guys– and Officer Kedric is no exception.
Warning: this episode contains imagery that may be disturbing for veterans and those who have experienced violence at the hands of law enforcement.
Village Public Safety Officer Scott Kedric hated the rain, which made it especially ironic that he was perpetually posted where the weather did little else.
The sedate drizzles of summer had given way to August and September’s storms, and the trailing edge of some big tropical number was hammering the Alaskan coast for all it was worth. Icy rain pelted his face with the ferocity of thrown gravel and trickled in cold rivulets down his collar. Kedric gritted his teeth as he eased the state-issued watercraft around the docks, hunting for a tell-tale flash of bright blue.
A delegation of Resource Management officials had arrived on a private flight that morning, and already one of the city slickers was missing. He’d wandered away from the group’s minder as the delegation toured the waterfront tourist shops.
A former banker from Oregon, Randall Johnson brought investment savvy and a hint of greenie tree-hugger sensibilities to the State’s Board of Resource Management. It was common knowledge that he wasn’t well-liked by the pro-Conlin crowd, and there were plenty of off-duty miners out despite the rain. Resource Management wasn’t particularly well liked by the Alaska Native population, either, so it was anybody’s guess who’d nabbed the guy.
Unfortunately it fell to VPSO Kedric to find the man, or whatever was left of him. Kedric swore under his breath and fervently wished that someone could have offed the greenie in decent weather. Preferably in a village that wasn’t in his jurisdiction.
Tangles of kelp and trash bobbed under the docks, but there was no sign of Johnson or the bright blue parka he’d been wearing when he disappeared. Above the warped wood and rocky embankment, the structures grew steadily more decrepit. Brightly painted siding gave way to grey wood and corroded metal. Broken windows abounded, haphazardly boarded up with whatever scraps had been at hand.
Kedric was just about to turn the boat around and make another pass of the tourist-friendly waterfront when a battered skiff caught his eye. It was occupied by three ratty-looking Native youths, all of whom seemed to be keeping their heads down. The tallest of the three guided the skiff into a berth in the dilapidated Old Village docks.
He radioed in the boat’s registration number and waited just off the end of the pier. It came back as belonging to Josephine Oogaireluk, one of the tribal elders referred to as the Grandmas. Kedric wondered idly if it was stolen. The extra scrutiny of the hunt for a missing person almost always netted additional busts, from stolen goods to illegal contraband.
When he caught up to the trio, they’d docked and were unloading their cargo of trash and broken crab pots. Kedric secured his vessel across the back of their berth to ensure that they couldn’t make a run for it, and then stepped across onto their skiff.
“Officer Kedric, Public Safety.” As he paused and waited for the trio to identify themselves, the smaller two youths backed away from him.
One was a female, stick thin and dressed in tattered hand-me-downs. The other, a scrawny male in raggedy rain gear, was a familiar face. He’d picked Cameron Charlie up for theft a few years back. The kid had done a fifteen months in juvie before making his way back out to the village where he’d grown up.
“How can I help you?” the largest of the trio said, straightening up from the crab pot he’d been repairing. The coldness in his dark brown eyes belied any friendliness the statement might have held.
“You can start by telling me your name and showing me your permit.”
The boy pulled a weathered wallet out of his back pocket, produced a universal fishing permit and one of the cheap plastic ID cards issued to residents too poor to afford a standard implanted ID chip, and handed them over without saying a word.
Kedric examined both credentials carefully for defects, then keyed the mic attached to his earpiece.
“Dispatch, I need you to run an ID for me. Daniel Matthew Oogaireluk, ID number 5523728.” The male flashed a look of annoyance at Kedric’s mispronunciation of his name, but remained silent. The two younger teens resumed unloading the skiff.
The female stepped behind him, her hand dipping into the pocket of her stained grey hoodie. Kedric reacted on instinct, backing out of reach as he drew his service weapon and spun to keep the teen in his field of vision. His uniform included a thick layer of Kevlar, but there were weak spots and you could never be certain–
The girl yelped in surprise and stumbled backward over one of the skiff’s benches as Kedric trained his weapon on her, a cheap meal bar falling from her fingers. Her brown eyes were so wide he could see white all the way around the irises. He suppressed the urge to pull the trigger.
In his mind’s eye, he saw another brown woman who’d surprised him. One half of her head was running down the wall behind her as a child clutched her dress and screamed. There’d been a couple more who’d lost their lives that way while he was Over There. He’d wanted to see the front lines in the never-ending Middle Eastern Unrest, but there was far more demand for peacekeepers in the occupied countries than there was for front-liners. He always seemed to draw the short straw when it came to duty positions.
Kedric took a deep breath and reminded himself that self-defense investigations, while mostly a formality, were a pain in the ass. The girl’s life wasn’t worth much, but he had better things to do than spend a week filling out paperwork. He swept the occupants of the boat with a warning look as he holstered his weapon. The thief shot him an angry glare as he helped the female to her feet.
“Go home,” the older male said softly, gesturing toward the dock with his chin. “I’ll take care of the offload.”
“No one’s going anywhere until I run all of your IDs and someone tells me where they got this boat,” Kedric snapped before anyone could move. The girl was shaking so hard she could barely extract her plastic card from her pocket, and the larcenous young male muttered something ugly under his breath as he handed over his card.
The older boy’s identity came back clean. He was fishing under his maternal grandmother’s subsistence permit, but he was her legal designee and state law allowed that, much to the detriment of sport and commercial fishermen alike.
“Josephine Oogaireluk is your grandmother?” Kedric demanded, disliking the male’s silence. Lying by omission was still lying. “Does she know you have her watercraft?”
“Yes.” The male’s tone implied it was a singularly stupid question. “I run the family’s crab pots. I have permission to use the boat. You’re welcome to ask her.”
“I’m asking you,” Kedric retorted. “Ava White?” he added, eying the female’s identification. Her last name was a very familiar one. She nodded once, refusing to meet his eyes.
A background check revealed nothing interesting except a troubled family history. He’d picked the mother up on alcohol and domestic violence related charges a dozen times in the last two years. Her father was doing life for murder somewhere down south.
“How’d you like juvie, Cameron?”
Much to his disappointment, the boy refused to rise to the bait. Maybe his time inside had taught him something after all, because he had no outstanding warrants or open investigations to his name.
“Why’d you come down here?” the older male demanded. “Run out of drunks to shake down and tourists to impress?”
“I’m looking for a missing person,” Kedric said, infusing his tone with the gravity the situation deserved. “Have any of you seen anything or anyone out of the ordinary today?”
“We haven’t. We’ve been out crabbing all day,” Cameron retorted, perhaps a little too quickly.
“Who’s missing?” the older male asked.
“Randall Johnson, the Resource Management guy.” He saw a flicker of recognition in the boy’s eyes. “He was last seen wearing a bright blue coat and tan khakis. Hard to miss.” He speared the trio with an assessing look.
“We haven’t seen anyone like that,” Ava whispered, still refusing to meet his gaze.
“We’ll keep an eye out for him,” the older male promised, although his eyes said that was unlikely.
Kedric relinquished the group’s IDs and climbed back into his patrol craft. Glancing back after he exited the row of berths, he noted that the girl and the older teen had returned to unloading their boat. Cameron was nowhere to be seen.
He let up on the throttle and squinted through the pouring rain, letting his eyes wander the network of Native-only berths, the sagging boardwalk, and the shanty-like waterfront. Only a few desperate souls were out and about, and none of them looked like the thief.
A rickety staircase scaled the storm wall between the docks and the Old Village, connecting a haphazard tangle of fish shacks, smoke sheds, and stands of scrub brush. It was there that he finally spotted Cameron. The male was running for all he was worth. As the thief crested the wall and disappeared over the other side, Kedric raised an eyebrow. Maybe he’d stumbled across a lead after all.
For those not familiar with Village Public Safety Officers, the program is a means of providing rural Alaska with search and rescue service, fire protection, emergency medical assistance, and law enforcement. In reality, this means one officer providing the services of an entire department, hours from backup, with little or no oversight. Inspiration for Officer Kedric came from my own experience with rural Alaskan law enforcement and the “war stories” told by a former VPSO.
Between A Rock & A Storm is a serialized murder mystery set in the same dystopian near future as Hel’s Fury, the preview of which you can read here. Hel’s Fury is featured in the charity collection Trumpland: An Alternative History of the Future, along with dystopian, horror, and science fiction stories from a number of other talented authors.
Looking for something a little less Alaskan and a lot more cyberpunk? Check out Necrotic City, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, and other fine booksellers in paperback and ebook.