Glare Ice

Glare Ice

by Mary Logue


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Wisconsin winter weather plays as important a role as any individual in this nicely paced tale of domestic abuse and murder. Claire Watkins is still adjusting to life in little Fort St. Antoine when she notices the bruises and stiff gait of a local woman named Stephanie Klaus. Small town or big city, Claire knows the signs of abuse when she sees them.

Stephanie, however, won't talk, even when her new boyfriend, Buck, is tied into his car, driven out on the treacherous ice of Lake Pepin and left there to sink and drown.

When Stephanie, accompanied by Buck's delightful dog, Snooper, tries to leave town, she is once again beaten; this time, she barely survives . . .

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781440554032
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 11/15/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 200
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Mary Logue is an award-winning poet and the author of the acclaimed Claire Watkins mystery series.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

As Claire dressed for the cold November weather, shethought about the oncoming winter season. This timeof year she always felt positive about it, energized by it.But she knew that she would reach a point in the middle ofthe deep cold when she would dream of bright sun and beating-downwarmth. So far this November had been breakingrecords for low temperatures. They had already been subzeroa couple nights. The white lace of frost covered her windowand made it difficult to see out.

    She and Meg had lived in Fort St. Antoine for over a year.This would be their second winter. She intended to enjoy itmore than she had her first. Maybe she would buy them bothsnowshoes for Christmas. She still hoped to finish the quiltshe was stitching for Meg's bed. It was a simple block design,and all she had left to sew was the border.

    Thanksgiving was coming, and they would be having it intheir own house. Last year they had gone to spend it with herhusband's parents. Because of Steve's recent death, it hadbeen a very depressing affair. Claire had managed not to cry,but Steve's mother had left the dinner table weeping beforethe pumpkin pie was served.

    This year would be different. Rich was going to be withthem. Just the three of them. She planned to cook a turkeywith mashed potatoes, gravy, wild rice, and of course, pumpkinpie. They would have leftovers for a week, but they wouldhave a real Thanksgiving.

    Reaching into her closet, she pulled out her mother's oldBemidji woolen plaid jacket with fringe on the sleeves. Shetied her dark hair back and then pulled on alovely hand-knitnatural wool cap that she had bought at the local art fair.

    Meg looked up from the television cartoons and gave herthe once-over. "You look like a lumberjack, Mom."

    "Thanks, sweetie. That's just the word of encouragementI needed to go out into the day."

    "A cute lumberjack." Meg's eyes brightened, and sheasked, "Hey, Mom, can we have a fire tonight?"

    "Probably," Claire had answered as she stepped out thedoor. Promise nothing. Meg remembered everything andwould hold her to all promises. It was better to be vague buthopeful.

    Walking down the hill from her house to Main Street,Claire could see all the way across Lake Pepin to the Minnesotashore. Lake Pepin was a thirty-three-mile-long, two-mile-widebulge in the Mississippi River, which flowed byFort St. Antoine. There was a cloudy film floating on the waterlike a cataract forming in a blue eye. Along the shoreline awide band of ice filigree shone in the sun.

    The water that she could see had turned a deep steel blue.Finally, the lake was starting to freeze over. Meg would be sohappy. She could hardly wait to try out her skates again thisyear and asked every day if there was any ice on the lake yet.

    The weather was continuing to be very cold for late November,five degrees this morning when she had checked thethermometer on the porch. The radio had promised a high ofonly fifteen. No snow had fallen yet, but it was in the air.

    The trees stood stark and naked. This hill had been solush in summer. Claire liked the woods revealing themselves,though, the branches reaching bare toward the sky. The landhad moved to neutral and had a spareness to it that she foundelegant.

    She loved walking down to the post office to pick up hermail first thing in the morning on Saturdays. She wished shecould do it every day, but during the week, work got in the way.

    The shrill screech of a hawk overhead reminded her ofthe call she had gotten a couple of mornings ago. The sobbing.From the little the woman had said, Claire wondered ifit was a case of domestic abuse.

    She had not been able to go back to sleep; instead shetried to track down where the call had come from. She hadcalled the operator, but found out that she lived in one of thefew parts of the country that didn't have caller ID. Withoutthat, there seemed to be no way for the phone company totrack down a local call. All she knew was that it had been a localcall.

    The next day at work, she checked with everyone to see ifthere had been any emergency calls reporting householdstrife, anything involving a woman. Nothing. No batteredwomen had showed up at any of the local hospitals or shelters.She had tried to let it go. The slight possibility that it hadbeen a prank call occurred to her, but she doubted it. Thewoman's weeping still haunted her.

    Claire stopped into Stuart Lewis's bakery, Le Pain Perdu.The smell of fresh-baked bread made her mouth water. Stuartwas pulling loaves of crusty bread out of the oven in the back.He was wearing a white apron and Packers cap sat backwardon his head. It was common knowledge in town that Stuartwas gay although he didn't particularly flaunt it. Rich and hewere best friends, which had led to speculation in the past.Rich just laughed the suggestions off.

    "Two French doughnuts, monsieur," she ordered after hehad set down his load.

    "Oui, madame." Stuart smiled and fished them out of theshelf with metal tongs. "Would you tell Rich that there's apoker game tomorrow night at Hammy's?"

    "Sure. I'm seeing him tonight." Somehow it bothered herthat Stuart was using her to pass on messages to Rich. Hecould pick up the phone and call him. She didn't see Richevery day of the week, and they weren't living together. Oftenthey only got together a couple times during the week. Shedidn't like how much people had invested in them being acouple, but maybe she was making much out of nothing.

    Stuart crossed his arms over his chest for a moment andasked, "Did you see the ice on the lake?"

    "Yup, I suppose it'll be the big news in town today."

    "Hey, it's either that or watching the paint peel off the villagehall."

    Claire strolled down the short street. It was too early forthe other stores in town to be open. By ten o'clock cars wouldline the street, most sporting Minnesota license plates, readyto look at the antiques in the old restored buildings of thissmall river town. This early, it was mainly Fort St. Antoine citizenswalking the streets, doing their morning chores.

    Sven Slocum, a retired 3M executive who had moveddown to Fort St. Antoine ten years ago, was out front of hisplace sweeping leaves from the sidewalk. He kept his smallhouse and yard immaculate. Yellow tulips cut from sheets ofplywood lined the sidewalk; woodworking was just one of themany ways he kept busy in retirement. He had coffee with theother older men every morning at the Fort, and seemed to fitin to the small town.

    "Howdy, Mrs. Cop," he hollered.

    "Hi, there, Sven. A lovely day, don't you think?"

    He stopped his sweeping for a moment and thought aboutit. "I'll take it."

    Claire turned the corner and headed to the post office,which was tucked next to the bank. When she pushed openthe door, a blond woman wearing a too large green and goldPackers jacket was standing with her back to Claire, openingher PO box. After pulling out a few envelopes, the womanturned quickly, nearly running into Claire.

    Claire reached out to steady her and was struck by thedamage visible on the woman's face: a nasty gash over oneeye, a battered lip, and a large raw, spot high on her cheekbone.Involuntarily, Claire gasped.

    "Are you all right?" A slight hesitation—Claire saw anopening in the woman's eyes—then she ducked her head andpushed past Claire and out the door.

    Claire watched her leave, then turned to catch the eye ofthe postmaster. Sandy Polanski shook her head.

    "Who was that?" If anyone would know anything aboutthe woman, it would be Sandy.

    Sandy Polanski had been postmistress for over fifteenyears. She looked like a down-to-earth Liza Minelli, withstraight black hair cut in a bob. Her husband, Steven, whoeveryone called Poly, was a plumber who knew, the innerworkings of most of the houses in the area, so between themthey knew everything that was going on in the township.Sandy was forty years old, had lived in the county all her life,and had one of the most generous spirits Claire had ever met.

    Sandy saw most everyone in town five days a week. Sheknew who was recovering from what operation, w, ho was waitingfor a check in the mail, whose grandchildren had beendown to visit. She wasn't nosy, but she was there, consistent,every day, smiling behind the counter, pleasant, so people toldher things.

    "You don't know Stephanie Klaus? She's lived in town thelast five or six months. Kind of keeps to herself. She's fromEau Claire, I think. Got a brother down in Winona She livesin that blue house near the edge of town, toward Pepin."

    "The one right on the highway?"

    "Yeah, with the tire full of red petunias in the summer."

    "I know, which one you mean." Claire also rememberedStephanie from the art fair that was held in the park in thesummer. Stephanie had shared a booth with a couple of otherwoman—all of their work had been weaving of some kind.Claire had looked at some of the rag rugs that Stephaniemade, thinking to get one or two of them for her house.Maybe it was time to go ask Stephanie about them. "Shelooked awful. Do you know what happened to her?"

    Sandy shook her head again. "No. She came in lookinglike that one time before. As I recall, it was right after shemoved here. Looks like someone's beating her up."

    "Looks that way."

    "Can you do anything about it?"

    "Not if she won't report him. I could try talking to her."

    Sandy added, "He beat her up just bad enough so shelooks like hell, but not bad enough so she'd report it."

    "Those bruises look a few days old. Do you know when ithappened, Sandy?"

    "No." Sandy said, then thought for a moment. "Wait aminute. I did see her on Tuesday, and she was fine. But thenI haven't seen her in here the rest of the week. She didn'tcome to get her mail either. It just piled up in her box."

    Claire wondered if Stephanie had been the woman whohad called her—the timing was right. She thought to asksomething else that had been bothering her. "Do you thinkshe knows who I am?"

    Sandy laughed. "Claire, are you kidding? Everyone knowswho you are. You're the only cop in town. And a woman toboot. You're big news around here."

    Claire left the post office and looked down Highway 35.She could see the green jacket a few blocks down the road,moving slowly away. Stephanie Klaus. She was moving likeshe still hurt, like every step took a little out of her.

    Claire thought again of the new ice forming over the lake.Like skin, a thin covering over a large body. And like skin, soeasily broken.

* * *

He had found her again.

    Take another step down the sidewalk, Stephanie told herself.Get yourself home before you fall apart.

    She felt her mind scramble with fear. It was hard for herto think straight when she had so much to avoid thinkingabout. It was hard to keep walking when her body ached tothe core.

    Jack would come again. He had promised her he wouldfind her, and hurt her bad, if she told anyone. Next time itwould be worse. A lot worse. He had been very clear aboutthat. He had made her repeat it back to him. Then he hadkissed her and held her breasts in his hands like they weretwo stones that he might smack together. She had said shewould do anything that he wanted. She had meant it.

    Her house was only four blocks from the post office, butit was a long walk. Her bones felt as if they had been cracked.She hadn't been out of the house since the beating. Maybeshe should have waited another couple days. Took the dog-gonebruises so long to heal.

    She thought of killing herself. Getting it over with. Doingit before he did it. Doing it right out in public. She would godown to Shirley's Bar outside of Nelson and take a pile of barbiturateswith a few drinks, fall asleep in the dark corner ofthe bar. Wouldn't Shirley get a scare when she found herthere, thinking she was just drunk and finding out she was adead drunk?

    Stephanie felt a laugh burble up inside herself, but resisted.Laughing led to crying. She didn't know why. Maybe itwas just any emotion ripped her open and made her want tocry.

    She had called in sick for the whole end of the week, butshe would go back to work on Monday. She worked atW.A.G., the pet food factory near Red Wing. The bruiseswould be in their final stage, but she could put on plenty ofmakeup. No one much looked at her. They were so desperatefor help that they would never fire her.

    It had started out fine.

    At first, she had even been glad to see Jack.

    He seemed like he had changed. He told her she lookedgreat. He said he missed her. He even went so far as to say hecouldn't live without her. He brought flowers. He said hewould never let her go.

    Maybe it was her fault. She had tried to ask him somequestions, to pin him down. He got mad and wouldn't answer.

    Then she made the big mistake of telling him about Buck.

    That was it. He blew up. She didn't see it coming. Hiseyes changed. They turned evil, as if some deep darkness lyingin wait inside of him was released by her words. He hadasked her to tell him all about this new boyfriend.

    When she saw what a mistake she had made and stoppedtalking, he had said what he always said: "I don't want to haveto beat it out of you." And it had sounded the way it alwayssounded—the opposite of what he really meant.

    Once they reached this point, she never knew what to doto stop him.

    This time, she tried to touch him. She said, "Please, Jack.It can be so good with us."

    He grabbed her wrist before she could touch him. Hestarted bending her arm back. He said, "Until you ruin it."

    He kept bending her arm.

    She was afraid he would break it. She never knewwhether she should scream at him or try to endure it. Whimperingsounds came out of her mouth. He let go of her suddenlyand she fell to the floor.

    He laughed his cough laugh and then kicked her in thestomach.

    She lay still, hoping that was it.

    Then he told her to stand up. When she didn't move rightaway, he grabbed her arm and pulled her up. After slammingher against the wall, he moved in on her.

    His face was contorted with rage. He became someoneshe didn't know. He looked like a demon, like a devil of anger.He put his hands around her neck and began to choke her.She tried to get a wisp of air, and when it didn't come, shewent into a total panic, slapping out at him, trying to getaway.

    The choking was the worst. He had only done that oncebefore. She had thought he was going to kill her. It taught herthat he could.

    Just when she thought she would pass out, he let her go.Let her fall to the floor. She didn't move. Let him think shewas dead. Maybe he would leave her alone then.

    He walked away and looked out the window at the lake.Then he came back toward her and kicked her in the face.She screamed.

    "You know what I can do," he said, standing over her.

    When he was leaving, he said he would be back. She wonderedwhen. Now that he had come to her house, he woulddo it again. He had told her there was a bond between themthat was stronger than any other kind of love on Earth. Therewas no pattern to his anger. It made it harder not knowingwhat made it happen.

    Once she had loved him so much that she didn't mindwhen he beat her. Every time he had promised her it wouldnever happen again. Every time he had been so good to herafterward, it more than made up for it. But after he hadchoked her the first time, she had left him.

    That was over a year ago.

    She reached her house and climbed the stairs, thenpushed open the front door to her house.

    It smelled funky. Her house had turned into a pigsty thisweek. She hadn't done anything but moved from the bed tothe couch. What was the use, when her world was going to bedestroyed?

    Stephanie sat down at her kitchen table and felt hugegulps of sobs pushing up inside her, trying to break out. Sheswallowed hard. Do something, she thought, anything ratherthan start crying again.

    She stood and carried her coffee cup to the sink. Thedishes were piled up until there wasn't any room to put anotherplate down. Time to do the dishes.

    She cleared out the sink and piled the dishes on thecounter. She ran the water until it was hot, so hot it scorchedher hands. Then she poured some yellow liquid soap into it.The bubbles came. She sank her dirty dishes into the water.She washed the dishes and stood them up in the drying rack.

    Stephanie had always liked washing dishes. Submergingher hands in the warm water felt good after her cold walk totown. After a hard's work at the factory, it was about the onlyway she could get her fingernails clean. When she was finishedwith the dishes, she wiped down all the counters withher sponge. The kitchen was clean. It was a good start.

    A bath. She needed a long, hot bath. She would wash herhair. She would put clean sheets on the bed.

    Stephanie looked down at her hands. Short, stubby fingers.Plump and soft. They looked just like her mother'shands. She should never have told her mother where she was.Her mother had a soft spot for him. She always told himeverything, even when she promised not to.

Excerpted from Glare Ice by Mary Logue. Copyright © 2001 by Mary Logue. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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