Stone Cross (Arliss Cutter #2) - Marc Cameron Page 0,1

minutes of light each day. Winter was still a couple of months away according to the calendar, but the ice on the river said it would blow in any day.

Sarah looked—and some would say acted—older than she was. She was attractive enough, but she habitually slouched broad shoulders to mitigate the fact that at six feet she was two inches taller than her husband. Biggish ears peeked out from beneath a head of mousy hair. Her sophomore year at the University of Alaska in Anchorage, she’d overheard three guys in her sociology class describe her as the most desirable of her female classmates to take to a desert island. She was, they said, not exactly ugly, and would probably be a “solid six” after a few weeks on the island if there was no one else to look at. Her best quality, according to the boys, was her “big bones.” She’d prove handy, they said, for chores like chopping wood.

The observation had been asinine and sexist; however, it had been honest, and if Sarah’s mother—also a big-boned woman—had taught her anything, it was the value of honesty. And here she was, ready to spend four months alone with her new husband—the only man who’d ever gotten serious with her—but instead of a sunny desert island, she got a winter smack in the middle of the Alaska bush.

And she was chopping wood.

She preferred the axe over the heavier splitting maul, but even swinging the axe raised a sweat, and Sarah had hung her ratty green fleece jacket on a sawhorse while she worked. She’d bought the fleece new from Sportsman’s Warehouse off Old Seward Highway in Anchorage just six weeks before. A month of constant contact with fish guts, spruce resin, and river silt made it look like something she’d found in a dumpster. She wore it like a badge of honor.

The moan in the treeline started up again, louder now. That was enough. Sarah sank the blade of her axe into the stump and shrugged on the fleece while she kept one eye across the river.

A load of split wood in her arms, she turned toward the log lodge, almost, but not quite, running up the hill. David was inside, hopefully putting the finishing touches on some caribou stew.

Sarah had made it clear as soon as they signed on as winter caretakers, that there would be no “pink and blue” division of labor. David still mildly bitched about it, even after a month, but tonight was his turn to cook—and anyway, she was better with the axe.

Her arms full, Sarah kicked at the varnished pine door with the toe of her Muck boot, rattling the wooden sign bearing the image of birch—and the name of the lodge, Chaga, after the medicinal fungus that grew on the nearby trees.

The door swung open to reveal her husband of seven months wearing a pair of running shorts and a T-shirt. A blast of warm air rolled out around him, hitting her in the face. All the lights were off and he was silhouetted against the fire in the open woodstove, a flashlight shining up under his chin like a schoolboy telling a ghost story.


She glared at him. “David, please move. I’m about to drop this on your feet.”

“Bwahahahah,” he said again, flashlight casting a ghoulish shadow over his red beard. “The Hairy Man comes from across the river!”

The Hairy Man was a local bigfoot creature Yup’ik Natives in western Alaska apparently saw all over the place. Even the pilot who flew gear and mail out to the lodge—an otherwise rational human being—claimed to have observed the creature from the air many times.

David craned an ear toward the river. “Arulataq! He Who Makes a Bellowing Sound!”

“You need to shut up.”

“I heard some hunters from Stone Cross spotted one three miles upriver just last week.” Firelight gave more depth to his beard, making it seem longer and fuller than it was. His green eyes sparkled, full of mischief—and a hint of cruelty. Sarah’s mother had warned her about that look, but she’d never noticed until after they were married.

“I’m telling you, David.” Sarah let the armload of wood clatter to the tile floor beside the stove. “If you ever want to see me naked again . . .”

David flipped on the living room lights immediately at that and lowered the flashlight. He gave a nonchalant shrug. “It was probably just the wind.”

“Probably,” she said, hands to the fire, soaking up the heat. “It sounds just