Malina Erkloo had touched the door knob, turned it, gave a gentle pull, and was sent flying across the stony yard, the knob still tight in her hand. The force of the explosion had sent the door with her.
“Ikajunga!” Eric Roth yelled for help once more as he raced to the little girl. He lifted the door off her, pushed away more debris then knelt beside her lifeless body. The skin had been ripped from her face, the back of her head slammed into one of the millions of rocks that dotted the tundra landscape. “Tuavirit! The fire’s getting away from us! Hurry up!” He pointed to the burning house – his house – directing some of the staff to start fighting the flames. “Jesus!” The curse was whispered through clenched teeth. Eric pulled off his coat, using it to cover little Malina. Then he ran into the fire.
His house was still smouldering when he first heard the jet engines approaching. Eric ran a filthy hand through his hair. “Great. Just what I need right now – the big shots riding in to save the day.” He turned to Joel Onslow beside him, shaking his head. “The assholes fly around like jet fuel flows out of water taps.”
Onslow adjusted his RCMP ball cap as he watched the plane land. “They like to make an entrance, don’t they?”
Eric grunted his derision. “They’re going to save the world, and get rich doing it.”
“So why the hell do you work for them?”
“It pays the bills...” Eric looked again at what remained of his home. “Sort of. Mostly they let me do what I think I have to, and it allows me to make a difference here. There aren’t a lot of jobs like this one around.” He turned towards the office. “God damned Reilly probably called them.”
“We have to finish up here. I need to submit my report, and we need to get a handle on who the hell is doing this.”
“Two explosions in as many days, in a community of a whole eight hundred people, is cause for concern?” He made no attempt to hide his sarcasm. “Maybe to us, but no one else will give a shit. At least you don’t have a lot of suspects to consider. You didn’t do it. I didn’t do it. Now we’re at seven hundred and ninety-eight. Malina didn’t do it, and it’s a pretty safe bet her mother didn’t...”
Onslow glared at him. “You about done being a dick?”
“Sorry. I’m not used to having my home, however crappy it might be, blow up and kill a kid.”
The police officer stared at him. “However crappy it might be? Have you been in some of the homes around here?”
Eric waved him off. “Yeah, yeah, sing that song again... black mold, rot, no insulation... I hear it daily, and we’re trying to do something about it, or haven’t you noticed all the new god damned residences we’ve put up in the last few months? Oh... wait... yeah, that’s right. We got one for you and your sorry-assed partner as well. We can’t change everything overnight and make it perfect. Your government has had seventy years of fucking this up... don’t put that on my doorstep.” He started to walk away. “We’re probably supposed to be the welcoming committee. I just hope to hell they left the extra baggage at home.”
They were half way to the aircraft as the stairs were lowered. In the open doorway stood a large blond man who took a moment to survey his surroundings.
Eric groaned. “Jesus. Just what we needed.”
“That’s not Brad or Ryan. I worked with both of them before.”
“Nope, Onslow, that’s the replacement lawyer.”
“For the one who was killed in the helicopter crash? He was one hell of a nice guy, smart as a whip, with incredible perspective.”
“Yup, that was Liam... if you think of what would be a polar opposite to him, that’s Daniel.”
Onslow frowned. “Daniel?”
“Roth? Daniel Roth? As in...?”
“Yeah, as in.”
Dan Roth could see his brother approaching across the field. Behind him, juxtaposed against a backdrop of barren nothingness were the chaotic remains of a smouldering, scattered building, with streams of dirty smoke extending skyward. Roth glanced to his side, his derision almost uncontainable. “Explosions, destruction, and Eric? Why the hell am I not surprised?”
He stepped onto Arctic tundra for the first time.
Ryan Matthews could feel the tension as he pushed his way past Danny, extending his hand to the younger Roth. “Eric.” He then reached to Onslow. “Looks like you have your hands full here.” He didn’t wait for the rest of the travellers to disembark. Instead, the three men started walking toward the smoldering rubble, Danny silently following close behind. “This just happened?”
“Two hours ago.” Eric shook his head. “A six-year-old kid was killed in the explosion.” He stared at the ground as he spoke.
“It looks at this point like there was a bomb inside the house. It was tripped when Malina opened the door.”
Ryan had been taking in the scene as well as the information. He turned to stare at Constable Onslow. “Malina?”
“She goes there sometimes to play with my Playstation.” Eric’s voice was barely audible.
Ryan turned to Eric. He could see the pained lines around his eyes. “Kirima’s daughter?”
Onslow dropped his voice to almost a whisper. “Kiri’s with Doc Beecham. He needed to sedate her once she had some time with Malina. Marv is in Iqaluit. He had a court appearance there. I managed to get a message to him to get back here so he can head the investigation, and to see if he can get some Ident people down here to process the crime scene. Ollie is canvassing to see if anyone saw something.”
Ryan chewed the inside of his cheek. The acrid stench of the fire burned into his sinuses. Some of the residents of the small town mingled around the wreckage. No one approached the door that still lay on the ground. “We’ll take care of whatever Kiri needs. Is there some trauma counselling service we can tap into that can help anyone here who needs it? Their friends, family... whoever?”
Onslow shook his head. “No, not really; not one that would be available in any sort of an expeditious manner.” He nodded at Brad, Andi and Danny, were now beside them.
“The joys of being in the middle of nowhere. I’ll contact someone privately and arrange for someone to be on one of our planes in the next few hours.” Danny pulled out his phone and dialed as he walked away from the group.
“We’ll make sure your personal belongings are replaced,” Ryan said to Eric. “We’ll have to find you a place to stay until you have a new house.”
“I don’t give a damn about personal shit. I’ll manage. If nothing else, Pierre will get me into one of the residences for a while.”
Brad cleared his throat. “What the hell is going on up here?” He stared first at Eric, then Onslow, waiting for an answer.
Onslow shrugged. “Who the hell knows? There was a small explosion in the Number One dome yesterday.”
“That’s why we’re here,” Brad quietly pointed out. His eyes were scanning their surroundings. “We didn’t know there had been a second one.”
“That’s because this one just happened two hours ago. In the first one, no one was hurt, and the damage wasn’t substantial, but it was enough to cause a lot of problems for the mine. No one saw anything or has any idea how it could have happened.”
“Just the dome?”
“Yeah... until today, when they went after Eric’s home.”
Brad frowned. “No letters? No notes... nothing?”
The police officer shook his head. “Not that anyone has found.”
“This is a very small, tight community. When we’ve been up here before, you couldn’t break wind without the entire population knowing about it, so how come this can happen twice and no one knows a thing?” Brad looked at the sky. “For fuck sake, it’s not even like they are doing it under the cover of darkness. It’s seven at night but it looks like god damned noon.”
Ryan watched as Andi moved closer to where the house had been. She stopped at the charred door, looking down at it. He wanted to go to her. Instead he turned to Onslow. “You’ll keep us informed? If there is something you need, just let us know and we’ll do what we can to get it. In the meantime, we need to increase security here.”
Eric chuckled. There was no humor in the delivery. “Good luck with that. Where do you plan on getting security up here? It’s not like you can pick up the damned yellow pages and...”
A finger reached out from behind Ryan, slamming into Eric’s chest. “This is helpful? You need to pull your head out of your ass and walk this off. When you’re ready to not be an asshole, come back and talk to us.”
Eric glared at his brother. “Why don’t you...?”
“A little girl just died here. You need to...”
“You think I don’t fucking know that? Go to hell, Dan. Just fuck off and go save someone else.”
Ryan grabbed Dan’s arm, placing himself solidly between the two brothers. “You’ve had a shock, Eric. Go check on Kiri. Let us deal with this.” He waited for the inevitable protest, locking eyes with Eric as his mouth opened to start a counterattack. He instead threw one more look of disdain at his brother then walked away.
Onslow watched him go toward Dome One before turning to Ryan and Brad. “He’s shaken up by this. He was on his way to let Malina in... was about twenty paces behind her when it blew. It could have taken them both out.” He lowered his voice. “He and Kiri… they have been…” He struggled over the words once more. “He was like a father to Malina. For all intents and purposes, he was her father.”
Brad nudged Ryan. “I’ll go talk with him. You can touch base with Reilly.”
Ryan was listening, but his attention was on Andi. She was kneeling beside the door. He knew she was thinking about their own children, and about an innocent little girl who did nothing wrong other than to want to play a game. “Take her with you.” He nodded at his wife.
“Good idea. We’ll be in the domes when you need us.” Brad went to Andi, squatting beside her. Her hand rested on the door. With a gentle touch, Brad lifted it and held it in his as he spoke to her. They then stood and followed in Eric’s tracks.
“A trauma counsellor will be here by morning.” Danny spoke quietly.
“Yeah. She’ll be the first to arrive. If she needs help, we’ll arrange it once she has assessed the situation.” He looked toward the dome. “Ryan, I’m really sorry about this.”
Ryan frowned. “Why? What the hell did you do?”
He tipped his head toward Cabochon’s solution to sustaining life in the arctic. “He’s my brother. Wherever he goes, trouble is never far behind.”
“There’s no reason to think he had anything to do with this.”
Dan sighed before responding. “Eric’s dome, Eric’s home... he’s the only thing the two have in common. This is about him. I have no idea why, or how, but this isn’t about the mine at all. If it was just Dome One, I could buy that it was not personal, that someone was trying to cause problems for the mine by hitting our food sources, but how does blowing up Eric’s house have anything to do with an attack on the mine? He’s on the periphery with the staff here. He has nothing to do with mine production or policy...”
“All good arguments, although it could be that someone got the wrong house... his place is right beside Reilly’s. Evgeni is on the other side, and he’s probably the second most important person here... it could be as simple as that. Plus if someone isn’t fully aware of what Dome One does, or does know but also knows that it houses the main vent from the mine, then it could very well be about the mine. Let’s not put the cart before the horse.”
“But let’s not assume Eric doesn’t have something to do with this just because he’s my brother. I can state with absolute surety that it would be foolhardy to make that assumption.”
Ryan laughed. “Fair enough. For now, let’s pay Reilly a visit then track down the head of our security detail.”
Dan shook his head then turned once more to the wreckage. “Such as it is, apparently.”