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Contents

Acknowledgements

PART I

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX

SEVEN

EIGHT

NINE

Part II

TEN

ELEVEN

TWELVE

THIRTEEN

FOURTEEN

FIFTEEN

SIXTEEN

SEVENTEEN

Part III

EIGHTEEN

NINETEEN

TWENTY

TWENTY ONE

TWENTY TWO

TWENTY THREE

TWENTY FOUR

TWENTY FIVE

TWENTY SIX

TWENTY SEVEN

TWENTY EIGHT

TWENTY NINE

THIRTY

THIRTY ONE

THIRTY TWO

THIRTY THREE

THIRTY FOUR

THIRTY FOUR

THIRTY SIX

THIRTY SEVEN

THIRTY EIGHT

THIRTY NINE

FORTY

FORTY ONE

FORTY TWO

FORTY THREE

FORTY FOUR

FORTY FIVE

Poetry by Tim Milnes

Acknowledgements

from Mary Lou Milnes

First of all, I need to apologize to anyone who should be recognized but did not because I can’t remember. Sadly, Tim is not here to write this acknowledgement. I have to go by the seat of my pants, so bear with me.

On behalf of Tim, I would like to thank all of you for your patience in my getting this book published. I would like to thank Book Baby for helping me do this and to Sr. Laura Swan OSB for recommending them. She also did the initial transcribing of this book.

I want to thank a dear friend of Tim’s, Mark Hart, who read and critiqued his books and poetry over the years. He also encouraged me to include Tim’s poetry at the end of this novel.

I also would like to thank The Puget Sound Writers Guild which Tim belonged to. He loved the guild and greatly appreciated the critiquing and work you contributed to his writing.

I would especially like to thank Mary Vanek for her grammatical editing of Tim’s book. (She admitted that sometimes her editing was “a little bit more than grammatical.”) Sadly, she did not live to see this published, but is rejoicing with Tim that I’m finally getting it done.

I would, most especially, like to thank Rie Montané for painstakingly retyping Tim’s manuscript with the corrections and getting it onto a flash drive because we could not find his original work saved on his computer.

A huge thank you to my kids: David, Esther, Bekah, Rachel, Joel, Remara, and James. I am especially grateful to James for all his tech support for his poor tech illiterate mother. Without your love and support, I couldn’t have done this. And to the little imps that make my life worth living: Elizabeth, Isaiah, and Kellen.

To Tim, you have a beautiful piece of work here that I know you were so proud of. Thanks for sharing the process you went through in writing this book. I was so impressed with the research you did to make everything as accurate as possible. I am proud of you!

Finally, a word to any authors out there from the wife of an author: Do your chores before you disappear into writing your book!

PART I

Go forth…

Genesis 12:1

ONE

Juneau, Alaska, July 1980

Marianne turned the key in the lock and opened the door into her future. Her new attic apartment at the top of the Highlands on the north edge of town and looked west across the silver waters of Gastineau Channel a mile or more to the line of mountains comprising the backbone of Douglas Island. It took an effort to take it all in, but Marianne smiled at the beautiful view.

Marianne glanced at her watch—she’d arrived this morning on the ferry. She had plenty of time to get her things settled and go for a walk to Basin Road this afternoon.

In the hard discipline of her suffering, she had learned orderliness. Everything had its place. She spent thirty minutes bringing boxes up the long stairway into her living room. She placed her rosary and her favorite drawing of the Virgin Mary on the end table next to a wooden rocking chair. Next came her colored pencils and painting supplies, which she set for now on two shelves of a bookcase next to a fireplace on the wall opposite the window, putting the books she’d brought there as well.

She quickly made up her bed, put her clothes in the dresser and closet, unpacked the dishes, and set out her toiletries in the bathroom just off her bedroom. Food that she’d bought on the way here from the ferry terminal went into the fridge and cabinets. By then it was past lunchtime. She turned on her radio and set about making a sandwich and small salad.

When the first notes of the Everly Brother’s “Let It Be Me” flowed from her radio, Marianne set her knife on the kitchen counter, sat herself at the dining table and cried. It had been their song in 1964, the year of the loveliest relationship of her life before it had crashed down in an act of violence and subsequent misunderstanding that she didn’t fully understand to this day. She cradled her chin and cheek in the palm of her right hand, laughing at the silliness of her tears. But she knew there was a lot more behind them than a broken relationship between two seventeen year olds.

Marianne noticed a man sitting on his deck across the narrow dead-end street looking her way—she waved down at him, and he waved back.

Wiping at her damp cheeks as the song ended, she returned to cutting tomatoes and cucumbers for a lunch salad, her thoughts lingering a moment longer in 1964. Marianne opened the Juneau Empire she’d bought. Food was expensive, apples at forty-five cents a pound, two pounds of bacon going for $1.89. An article said food prices were expected to rise over two percent this month alone. On a darker note, tensions were rising between Iran and Iraq—not that anybody she knew really seemed to care. War. Her hands shook a bit—her body reacted on its own sometimes. Marianne wondered about her plan for later in the day, to return to the raised area behind Second Bridge. She believed it was the right thing to do, but what if she couldn’t deal with it? What if she were attacked again? She took a breath, recognizing the craziness of that thought.

An hour later she put on a light sweater and headed down the narrow streets that eventually dropped onto 12th Street and the rest of the town. She cut through Evergreen Bowl and took the trail that led up its steep backside. Two large ravens wove through the trees with surprisingly loud thwaps of their wings. A third trailed, its caw-caw bringing to mind someone gargling with pebbles. Coming out on 7th Street, she was only a couple blocks from Basin Road and all at once felt an ache in her heart. Eager to see it, Marianne decided to walk two blocks down Gold Street to the Cathedral.

She walked up its stairs and into the church. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes. It smelled exactly the same, a hint of incense combined with melting candle wax, old wood, and the aging carpet. Walking along the vestibule, she turned right and passed through the open double-doors into the church proper, before the narrow stair that led up to the choir loft.

To her left several candles were burning. It’s so small she thought, remembering that it was the smallest Roman Catholic Cathedral in the world. She walked slowly up the central aisle, looking around. The same statues of Mary and Joseph filled two corner niches. The communion rail was gone, the old altar replaced with a simple table, not the more complex one from before Vatican II. She genuflected and entered a pew on the left. It was cool and quiet. A nice place to pray. She pulled out the kneeler and knelt down with her eyes closed. The first thing that came into her mind was the persecuted poor in El Salvador.

Ten minutes later Marianne emerged, blinking her eyes in the brightness of the day. A bit of anxiety troubled her stomach. Stop doubting and just go, she thought. She moved quickly up Harris Street a couple blocks to a short stairway that provided a shortcut to Basin Road. Halfway up the stairs, she had the sensation of being watched. It’s just my imagination, Marianne thought. She took a few more steps, but finally unable to help herself, she turned quickly around.

There was a large, dark haired man on the street below her, his body facing her direction, but his face turned to the right down the hill. Had he looked away as she turned? She thought maybe he had, but couldn’t be sure. He came the rest of the way up the street, glanced her direction at the corner then quickly away. In a few steps he entered the Alexander Apartments.

Marianne’s body reacted on its own for a second time that day with an adrenaline-pushed surge of her pulse hard to ignore. She walked to the top of the stairs, looking up for a few seconds toward the peak of the Knoll three hundred feet above her.

In a couple minutes she was wandering high above Gold Creek on Basin Road, which wound behind Juneau and around the back of the Knoll into a narrow valley. Michael had always said, “Let’s go Back Basin,” and this became their private name for the valley. Hard packed dirt, the road was used mainly as a trail. Few cars ever came this way.

As she walked along First Bridge, a long wooden structure that clung to the steep backside of the Knoll, her pace slowed. At the end of the bridge, she stopped. In a couple hundred meters, just before Second Bridge, she would be there, and now she felt a deepening uncertainty.

Marianne pulled the clean air deep into her lungs and slowly exhaled. She took another slow breath and released it just as slowly. She looked across the ravine through which Gold Creek flowed, up and up to the base of Mt. Juneau’s massive cliffs. Marianne could see three black bears in the large clearing at the bottom of the cliffs, probably a mama and her two cubs. It looked as if the cubs were playing with each other. She smiled.

Marianne turned back to the dark forest behind her. She had many good memories here before her unknown attacker had changed everything. In all her thoughts on her return to Juneau Marianne had not realized how much Michael would be present to her, the way a pleasant dream surfaces with a half-remembered feeling of peace.

They had come this way many times. In this moment she remembered them returning from the top of Mt. Juneau, tired and arm-in-arm, chatting the whole time of nothing and everything.

Marianne raised her left hand to her brow, and felt the small scar there. Now, she thought, really. Now is the time. She continued along the dirt road, head down, unaware of the person coming toward her until the last second, and she gasped and jerked to a stop. He was a little taller than her with darker skin—almost certainly a Tlingit. A memory flashed in less than an instant, even as the man was apologizing.

“Oh, hey, sorry about that. Didn’t mean to scare you.”

“No,” Marianne laughed shakily, “My fault, really, I was looking down, lost in thought. Should have been watching where I was going. Don’t worry about it.”

The man nodded his head, “Okay, but still, sorry for scaring you.” He looked at her strangely for a second, making her feel uncomfortable, then went on his way. She turned for a moment, noticing his long hair. Some memory had been stirred. She’d thought of Johnny Williams for an instant—was that him? But he’d been taller, hadn’t he? And his hair had been a typical crew-cut of the mid-Sixties. Although he could have grown it out. After all, her own hair was longer than she’d worn it in high school. She shook her head, letting it go.

Marianne had long ago given up searching her memory for what happened that day. Maybe it was better anyway, given how badly she’d been beaten and that there was nothing that could be done now. And then she was there.

A few steps from Second Bridge which appeared utterly unchanged. The small road down which she’d walked 16 years ago was gated, overgrown with brush. Mt. Roberts and Mt. Juneau rose steeply to either side of the narrow valley just as they had then. The creek rushed by with the same ruckus. Marianne closed her eyes, breathing in the humid feel and smell of the rainforest which she had so loved. Prompted by the familiar smell, memory flowed without her willing it.

It was a late April day, and she was excited for so many reasons—being a senior, thinking about next year at college. And Michael. She knew they were young, but she loved him so much. He was full of positive energy, was smart, funny, and she liked the way he looked at her. He was easy to be with and had such a deep faith. They were going to go to the same college, Seattle University. They talked of their life together, all their lovely dreams.

She touched her lips, remembering Michael’s first hesitant kiss last June out on the beach at the end of the Million Dollar Golf Course. Then a rainstorm had come in, and they’d run to his car and kissed a little more. They’d come a long way since then, she thought, and laughed quietly to herself. And here she was, waiting for him near Second Bridge. She looked at her watch; twenty minutes early. How embarrassing.

And then she went blank. Her next memory was of coming to consciousness, her body wracked by pain. She was in the woods, in an elevated section back a ways from the bridge, lying under the trees among devil’s club and wild blueberries, face down in a deep depression formed where a large tree had blown over in a windstorm. Her left arm was jammed up against a big jagged stone. Green moss covered everything. When she raised her head, she saw red in the moss. Her blood, she realized after a moment. She stumbled as she went to stand, jeans around her ankles. And her underwear.

Blank again. In her next memory, she was down on her knees, trembling, hiding. From him. Michael was walking away, back toward Juneau. Later she stumbled out of the forest and down to Gold Creek. She hurt everywhere. Rinsed the blood off her face and arms. The cold water woke her up. She began to cry, sobs wracking her body.

She remembered no more. Evidently a couple had come across her, shivering as she made her way toward home. She told her mom she had taken a terrible fall off some rocks and down a steep slope. It was three weeks before she told the truth.

Everything she had believed about life had cracked and come apart like a calving glacier. Shame froze her as if she were encased in ice. Her belief in Michael’s betrayal simply overwhelmed her ability to understand and function. She needed to talk to someone but could not bring herself to do so.

Sometime during the third week, there was a brief touch of memory, the only one she would ever have. Someone had come up behind her. She had not seen him. When she came to consciousness and saw Michael walking away, in her confusion she’d thought it was him who had done raped and beaten her. For three weeks she had thought that. As this new memory surfaced, she realized it could not have been Michael—the man’s ugly voice was not his at all. And he was so big, much bigger than Michael.

She hated that she’d believed that of Michael. He loved her. In a blizzard of self-recrimination, shame piled on shame, an accumulation that finally gave way in an avalanche of self-loathing that nearly buried her. It took her a few days, but finally she called Michael. She’d rushed to meet him, had blurted out something, but here again memory was blurry, telling him she’d been raped, and “I thought it was you, but now I know it wasn’t, and I am so sorry but please, please forgive me.”

A raven cry broke her reverie. Her heart fluttered like an injured bird. It was an eight to ten foot climb up a deer trail to the flattish area where the attack had occurred. Halfway up she slipped on the damp earth, getting mud on the knees of her jeans and her both hands. Taking a deep breath, Marianne grabbed a couple of small bushes and pulled herself up.

She stopped to steady herself, wiping off her hands, wandering back into the forest until she finally found where she’d been dumped. After sixteen years the fallen tree looked like an elevated trail, long, rounded, moss covered. Devil’s Club rose like arms reaching from the depression where she’d lain, their central berries still green. She reached out and touched one of the large leaves. Picked a few berries and tossed them out onto the surrounding forest floor. Everything seemed so far in the past. Then she trembled, tears forming.

Marianne sensed the presence, perhaps heard the soft fall of a foot. Fear jolted in an adrenaline surge and she cut off a cry as she turned. A man was visible out on the road—the same man from before. She slipped down into the depression where she had been dumped in sixteen years earlier, peeking through the large leaves of Devil’s Club. The man had stopped on the bridge and was looking around.

TWO

The man walked slowly away, looking around. Marianne watched until he disappeared around a far corner. She rose and, resisting the urge to run, made her way straight to the road, quickly heading back toward town. Approaching First Bridge, she looked back. The man was not in sight, and Marianne relaxed, laughing quietly at the thought that if he were to appear now, she could outrun him to town.

Her hands shook only the slightest bit from the residue of the adrenaline rush. Marianne could only shake her head. She’d been here only a few hours and already felt quite a bit of anxiety. She wished she had been able to spend more time at the place of the attack. It had been strange standing there, more like looking into someone else’s life than being at the spot that had marked such a turning for her. I’ll have to go back, she thought, but not today.

Marianne took a quick, deep breath, and looked up again at the cliffs of Mt. Juneau. A long waterfall plummeted down from the heights above the cliffs, and the Black Bears were still visible near where the falls hit the rising lower slopes. Glancing once more back toward Second Bridge, she walked to the guard rail that edged the dirt road. She had loved this place once. Except for the road, she could be a million miles from anywhere. The air was clean and the creek filled the narrow valley with a lovely noise. All around mountains shot steeply to the sky, their steep ridges reminding her of high gothic arches. Nature’s church.

Attracted by a noise, she looked back toward Second Bridge. Two girls on bikes, maybe ten years old, coasted down the slope just this side of the bridge, their laughter bringing a smile to her face. It looked as if they had decided to race as they started pumping their pedals furiously. As they came closer, one of the girls hit a bump, and her chain came off. Unbalanced, her bike swerved toward the edge of the road, near where Marianne stood. The guard rail ended just uphill from her, and the girl was headed straight for it. Without thinking, Marianne ran and positioned herself between the bike and the end of the guard rail. She put her arms out in an attempt to stop the girl who crashed into her a second later.

The handlebars hit her hard in the hips, and the girl’s forehead hit her cheek. Marianne went down hard, and lay stunned on the road. The girl was on top of her, crying as she pulled herself up. There was a cut on the girl’s arm, and her jeans were ripped at both knees. As Marianne recovered her wits, she saw that her own hand was cut, and her cheek hurt a lot. She moaned as she sat up. Blood dripped to the ground. Marianne pulled her handkerchief out of her jeans pocket and pressed it to her hand. She held back a hiss at the sharp sting.

The uninjured girl spoke out in an excited voice, “Joanie, are you all right? Look, your arm is cut.” She looked at Marianne. “Oh, your hand is cut too. You stopped Joanie.” Joanie was sitting now on the ground, still crying and holding her arm. Afraid it might be broken, Marianne stood up, wincing at the pain in her hip, and took two steps to the pair, willing herself to be calm.

“Wow,” Marianne said to Joanie, “you really plowed into me. Can I look at your arm?”

Marianne saw no obvious break. The cut on the girl’s arm didn’t look too bad.

The girl gave Marianne a small smile. Marianne said, “You are so brave, Joanie. Where do you live?”

“I live on Starr Hill, on Kennedy Street.”

“Do you think you can walk?”

The girl shook her head and started crying again. Marianne scooted over next to her, putting her arm around her.

Trying to think through her own pain, she asked the other girl her name and then asked, “Irene, do you live nearby?”

“Yeah, I live on Eighth Street. It’s real close.”

Marianne was relieved—Eighth Street was no more than three or four minutes away on a bike.

“Is your mom or dad home?”

“My mom’s home.”

“Do you think you can go get her?”

“I’ll go get her.”

As Irene went to her bike, Marianne told her, “Ride home at a normal speed.”

Marianne watched her ride off, then turned her attention back to Joanie. To distract her she asked, “What grade are you in?”

Joanie tried to answer but couldn’t for a minute through her ragged breath.

Guessing a grade higher than Marianne thought the girl was in, she asked, “Are you in fourth grade?”

Joanie looked at her with a small smile. “No, I’m in third grade. But my mom says I’m real smart, and read like a sixth grader.”

“What’s your favorite book?”

“I love Anne of Green Gables best.”

“Oh, I like her too. She’s kind of sassy.”

The girl smiled again, and the two carried on the conversation. She did not hear the man’s approach, until he spoke.

“Is everything okay? You both look hurt.”

Marianne looked up into the man’s dark eyes, her heart beating harder. The man came to them and kneeled down. Marianne positioned herself between him and Joanie.

He looked at the pair for a few moments and said. “Looks like you have it under control. Can I help the two of you back to town?”

Marianne interjected quickly. ‘No, we’re fine. This girl’s friend has gone to get her mom. She’ll be here in just a minute.”

Irene was pedaling back to them but was alone. She was panting as she rode up.

“Mom’s not home—she left me a note. She went grocery shopping. I tried Mrs. Brewer’s house, but she wasn’t home either.”

Marianne asked Joanie, “Do you think you can walk now?”

“Maybe, I hit my knee really really hard. It hurts too.”

The man walked over. “Let me carry her.”

Marianne looked at him, took a breath.

Irene spoke to the man. “I saw you yesterday with Evie Williams.”

“I’m her brother. My name’s Johnny. What’s yours?”

As the girls told him their names, Marianne relaxed. So it was Johnny Williams, Michael’s best friend in high school. This man had once done her a deep kindness. Then she realized with a start that it was her turn. She looked up at him. “Johnny, you may remember me—I’m Marianne Greene.”

He helped her up with his hand. “I know. It took me a couple minutes to place you, but then I came back to find you. Didn’t expect this, though.”

Marianne laughed, then winced. “My hip and stomach are going to be sore tomorrow.” That said, the four made their way slowly along First Bridge and back to town, Johnny carrying Joanie, Irene walking next to them, and Marianne limping along on the other side, pushing Joanie’s bike.

When they arrived at Irene’s home, her mom was there. She called Joanie’s mother right off, who immediately left work to come get her daughter.

They left before Joanie’s mom arrived. Out on the street, Johnny said, “That cut looks serious. Would you like me to run you out to the hospital?”

“Yes, I’d appreciate that.”

“We have to go to my mom’s house to get my sister’s car—do you remember Evie?”

“I remember her well. I really liked her.” She wondered if he didn’t have his own car. Was he living with his mother?

They walked down Basin Road’s shaded curves, homes to the right, trees covering the steep slope of the Knoll on the left. Turning left at Starr Hill, they walked up the steep cement anged at all.” Stepping back, she noticed Marianne’s hand and dirty pants, a look of concern coming over her.

After that things proceeded swiftly, and within a couple minutes she and Johnny were on their way to Bartlett Regional Hospital, four miles away.

As they drove through town, Johnny was quiet. Marianne looked out the window as they came to Egan Drive, thinking of the day when Johnny had come across her at the top of the Knoll.

Her hand hurt, and she felt tired all at once.

They left town and within two minutes arrived at the drive up to the hospital. As they came to the parking lot, Johnny pulled into a slot, turned to her with a huge sigh, and started to speak. “Marianne, —.”

He looked disconcerted.

“Johnny, what is it?”

“Where are you living? What I mean to say is, are you living alone?” He stopped, looked a little quizzical, and continued. “I mean, I don’t . . . .”

Marianne laughed at the personal nature of his questions, but stopped quickly at the serious look on his face.

“I live up in the Highlands. My brother David came up with me to help me get settled, he’s leaving in a couple days.”

Johnny had looked relieved, and said, “Well, let’s get you inside. Get that taken care of.”

He had been kind enough to wait for her, and less than an hour later, they were on the way back to her home, her hand stitched and bandaged.

He turned up the long, narrow road to her attic apartment. There were no other houses until the top, where one home sat across a paved parking area from where Marianne lived. Johnny looked around as they stopped in front of her apartment.

“Thanks,” she said as she opened the door and started to get out. “I’m sore all over, and really tired. I just want to take a hot bath and a nap.

“Marianne, wait,” he said quickly. She turned to him, the car door half open.

“Listen, I know you want to get inside. Can we meet tomorrow? I mean, there’s something I’d like to talk about.”

She was puzzled, and taken aback by the intensity in his eyes. “I . . .” she started to say, but he cut her off.

“I’d tell you now, but I’d like to have a little more time to talk.”

Marianne remembered that day on the Knoll, how good a friend of Michael’s he was and decided this was a man she could trust. They arranged to meet tomorrow after her meeting with Sister Kris.

THREE

Johnny jerked up unexpectedly, turning on the lamp on his bed stand. He rose and went to his dresser, picking up and holding the one item he had brought with him from the village of Angoon, his home these last 12 years. It was an old Tlingit knife, a gift from this great-uncle Walter Williams, the closest thing to a father and mentor from Johnny’s tumultuous childhood. His own father, Albert, had been distant, something caught in the fog of too much Tokay wine, and although never mean, he’d never acted as if Johnny were important to him. But he’d worked most of the time and never abandoned the family.

It was 2:33 in the morning. As he held the knife, he remembered the dream-become-nightmare which had awoken him.

He moved with the silence of his ancestors through the forest. Ahead of him was a grizzly, which he knew was aware of him. He placed his feet carefully, sliding around trees, twisting his way through a denseness of the huge Devil’s Club, scarcely more than a sigh of wind across the landscape. He heard the grizzly moving away, but was implacable in his slow pursuit, straight up toward the rim of Mt. Robert’s long ascending ridge.

Emerging above timberline from the last vestiges of the forest, Johnny saw the bear disappear over another rounded ridge above him. Johnny ran smoothly up the switchbacks which led to the upper slopes of the mountain, his breath easy and contained.

Cresting the ridge, the view was disorienting---where Gastineau Channel should have lain two thousand feet below, was a shallow green valley, rimmed by low hills a half mile away. Danger was all around, and he flattened himself to the ground, drawing his M60 machinegun around. He heard a rustling and pulled himself back into the jungle. Two Phantoms flew low overhead, their roar drowning out all else. As the sound dimmed, he heard people close by although he could not see them. His trigger finger twitched with fear. As the people drew abreast him, he leapt up, already squeezing the trigger burst even as his mind registered “children.” They fell screaming to the ground as he screamed . . . .

He’d waked himself up with his yell, sweating in his bed. He did not sleep again for hours.

At nine o’clock a knock on his door roused him. His sister Evie came slowly into the room, two cups of coffee in her hands. She set one down on his bed stand and moved to the nearby chair. Johnny sat up, reaching for the cup. He took a grateful sip, looking over at his sister.

“Thanks, I need this.”

“I heard you yell out again last night. That’s three nights in a row. Did you get back to sleep?”

“After a while,” he said flatly.

“Johnny, do you dream like this every night?”

He took another sip, sighing in pleasure. “If I’d known you could make coffee this good, I wouldn’t have stayed away all those years.”

“Johnny . . . ?”

He glanced again at her. Her hair was long and black and straight, eyes an expressive dark brown. Even some white guys had wanted to date her in high school. He’d been surprised when he returned after twelve years from the village of Angoon to find she was every bit as tall as he was at 5’9”, but slim where he was stocky. He knew this fact, but it always took him aback.

“Ah, it’s never possible to get you off track—you’re worse than a mama grizzly when you want something, you know that?” Evie joined him in a laugh.

“I used to get the dreams all the time, but it got better. What I mean to say is the war was fading. The dreams started up again three nights ago, when I got back. Christ, Evie, I’m jumpy. Those damn tourist helicopters drive me nuts. They don’t have the deep thwap, thwap of the Hueys, but still they send me right back to . . .” He left the sentence uncompleted.

“What are you? What’s your dream about?”

Johnny lowered his head a moment, quietly asking as he had a million times for forgiveness. He shook his head briefly. “No, Evie, you don’t want to know. It’s just that the war has pulled me back in.”

Evie did not respond for a few moments. Then her eyes and voice hardened somewhat. “I know why you’re here, Johnny. It’s Vince Murdoch, isn’t it?”

Smart, he thought. “I need to get dressed.”

“All right, I’ll be out in the hall. I’m not going anywhere, Johnny.”

In less than a minute she was back in the room. “You’re here because of Vince.”

Johnny sighed. “Yes, I am here because of that bastard. Fifteen years, and now he’s out.”

“You don’t even know that he’s coming back to Juneau.”

“He’s back. Rock told me on the phone about a month ago that Vince was getting out. Where else is he going to go?”

Evie thought a moment. “Okay Johnny, but what’s the plan? I mean, are you here to, well, you think he’s going to do something to us?”

Johnny approached his sister whom he’d always protected. Or tried to. But racism had been everywhere, and had hit her hard. He reached out and gently touched the scar on the right side of her forehead, remembering. It had been his senior year in high school. He’d come home from Cross Country practice to police cars, lights flashing. His father was rushed away in an ambulance, Evie being helped down the stairs by their mom and an EMT, a bandage on her forehead. Some months later, Vince was found guilty of aggravated assault on Evie and her dad, and then of second degree manslaughter of their dad who had died—his head hit a rock when he fell unconscious to the ground.

There was other stuff Vince had been guilty of. Albert Williams had been a security guard at the old freighter dock and had caught Vince stealing equipment one night. Vince had a gun. He attached Albert for revenge and attacked Evie because she was there. And how he’s out, Johnny thought as he took his fingers away from Evie’s scar.

Evie reached out and took his hand. “Johnny, please don’t do anything foolish. You were always the one who used his fists to defend me and the other Tlingit children from the meanness of the white kids. You fought for us all. I have always been so grateful to you, but,” her eyes teared up, “you can’t do anything to him. You’ll end up in jail. Or worse.”

“You can’t ask me to do nothing. He’s evil. You saw his eyes when they took him from the court to jail. Don’t you remember his threats?”

“That was fifteen years ago, Johnny. I didn’t hear him the same way you did.”

Under her steady gaze, he looked away. “Johnny,” she whispered, “look at me. The war is still inside you. Please, please, please, let it be.”

“Hey you two,” their mom yelled up from below, “if you want your food hot, better get down here.”

Evie looked frustrated as Johnny led the way downstairs.

Fifteen minutes later the three of them sat around the dining room table, their plates empty of the breakfast they’d just shared—toast with homemade raspberry jelly, an egg with small flakes of seaweed mixed in and a piece of Dryfish. Ronalda’s home on Starr Hill looked out over much of the older parts of Juneau. The view from the large dining room window was the best in the house. It was a partly cloudy day, the mountain peaks of Douglas Island three miles away appearing and disappearing as the clouds moved across and between them.

“Johnny,” said Ronalda, their mom, “I wonder if you can give Rock a ring—borrow his boat and catch some salmon? I’d like to have Rock and his mom over for dinner Saturday, and maybe a couple other people.”

“Yeah, sure Mom, I’ll go tomorrow or Friday.”

“And maybe,” her voice taking on a humorous pleading tone, “some end of summer blueberries?”

Johnny sighed. He loved to fish, but at this time of the year, as his mom well knew, any ripe blueberries would be found only high up on the northern sides of the mountains. He wondered if any of his secret berry picking places still existed above Basin—it had been twelve years since he’d been back there. With a slight edge in his voice, he joked. “Would you like me to trap a grizzly as well?”

His mom reached out and playfully slapped his shoulder. He still felt a little irritated that he had to head up Mt. Roberts, but thought the irritation was probably just fatigue.

A few minutes later, carrying several plastic bags for the berries, he was ready to go. As he stepped down the outside stairs and started up Starr Hill to the beginning of the Mt. Roberts trail, Evie came bounding down the stairs. “I’ll come with you,” she said breathlessly.

In an eruption of irritation, he turned on her. It exploded out of him so fast, before he even willed it. “Damn it, Evie, just leave it alone, will you? The only reason you’re coming is to pester me with your questions. What the hell are you going to do when Murdoch comes around, huh? What?”

She recoiled as if he’d struck her, the shock on her face hitting him like a bucket of glacier water. He turned away and took several deep breaths, turning back then to apologize. She was sitting on the bottom stair, tears.

“Christ, Evie, I’m so . . .”

“You looked.” She had to stop and take a breath between each word, and then it came out like a torrent. “Just like Vince did when he attacked me and Dad. I remember it like it was yesterday.” He reached toward her, but she pushed his hand away, turning and walking off down the hill. As he watched her with dismay, he noticed a couple neighbors observing him. He started to yell at them to mind their own business, but then heard the door to his mom’s house open.

“I heard yelling. Johnny? Where’s Evie? What did you do?”

What did you do, he thought. Always it’s me, always me. Well, who the hell else was there to beat up those effing racist morons who picked on Evie? He heard the irrationality of his thoughts, but he could no more stop them than he could stop avalanche. Wordlessly he turned from his mom, heading up to the top of the hill and Mt. Roberts trail, anger preceding him like a concussive force. He thought of Vince.

Let him come.

He hiked fast, which eventually tired him out. He found two old picking patches that were brimming with berries. He picked from long habit, reaching and feeling with his fingers as he gathered a small bunch of three or four berries, gently plucking them together from the bush. The routine calmed him down. He was shocked by his unexpected reaction, and ashamed of how he’d treated Evie. It was three and a half hours before he returned home. Evie sat on the stairs, reading a book. Waiting. As he approached, she looked up at him. The look of compassion on her face undid him.

“Johnny, you can’t do this. You need help. You need to see someone.”

He sat down next to her. “Evie, I’m so sorry. It all just came out. I know, I know. You’re right.”

They sat in quiet communion for a few moments. His every intention was directed toward undoing the twisted knot of anger, fear, and reactive forces that had led to that instant when his little sister had become someone to push away with implied violence.

She reached out and squeezed his hand. In that moment, on the stairway next to Evie, it all seemed possible.