Home > Locked Doors (Andrew Z. Thomas/Luther Kite Series #2)(4)

Locked Doors (Andrew Z. Thomas/Luther Kite Series #2)(4)
Author: Blake Crouch

My novels sold like crazy.

People wanted to know how a serial murderer writes.

They said my stories were windows into an evil soul.

I became notorious.

A darkly comic figure of pop culture.

My name instilled fear.

My name was a punch line.

My name meant murder.

Having never been married, I was accustomed to living alone, but I’d not experienced this grade of utter abandonment.

I was homeless, hunted, and lonely.

It was no way to live.

In December, two nomadic years after my escape from the snowbound Wyoming desert, I took a bus to Vancouver, bought a plane ticket, and flew to Whitehorse, Yukon, a thousand miles north.

I rented a car and drove the Alaska Highway one hundred fifty kilometers west to the village of Haines Junction at the foot of the St. Elias Mountains. I’d researched the village for a book I never wrote. It seemed like a quiet isolated place to die.

I pulled off the highway outside of town, a vast coniferous forest extending in every direction, great white mountains looming in the west. The temperature held at minus thirty. The sky was gray, dusky, the subarctic sun a halfhearted presence over the distant peaks. The dashboard clock read 1:47 p.m. I would simply walk into the woods, sit down against a tree, and freeze to death. It seemed a peaceful way to go. Vaguely romantic. I thought of Jack London’s “To Build a Fire.” I looked forward to that warm euphoric stillness that would come near the end.

Wearing only a T-shirt, I opened the door and stepped out of the car into crusty snow. The cold was beyond comprehension. My eyes burned.

I walked a ways into the woods, chose a leafless aspen, and sat down with my back against the silver bark. I waited. I began to shiver. My stomach rumbled. I thought, Why die hungry? I got up, walked back to the car, and drove into the village, home to eight hundred residents though far fewer in these bleak winter months. I parked downtown in front of a diner called Bill’s, the street decorated for Christmas. I reached to open the car door but stopped.

I put my head on the steering wheel.


But those dark times rarely haunted me. I’d lived in the woods outside of Haines Junction now for five years and it was sweet and essential to be this other man.

To the community my name was Vincent Carmichael and I’d become a full-fledged resident. The townsfolk might’ve described me as quiet but friendly. I was the American with long brown hair and an untamed beard. Everyone’s acquaintance. No one’s friend. But that was okay here. People came to this remote northwest corner of Canada to escape things. Haines Junction was a lodestone for damaged people.

During the tourist season, I worked as a chef in the kitchen of The Lantern, one of two fine-dining establishments in the village. There I earned enough money to live through the winter months, October to April, when there was no work and little to do but stay indoors near a fire.

I spent half my savings on a cabin. Six miles west of town in a valley called the Shakwak Trench, it stood in a grove of spruce, lost in the endless forest. From the window above my kitchen sink, a small meadow could be seen forty yards through the firs—a distant patch of green light when the sun was strong. Lying in its grass, you could see into the Kluane Reserve and the front wall of the ice-laden St. Elias Mountains that rose from this forest just a few miles to the west. There was even a pond a quarter mile south. I swam in it during the fleeting warmth of summer.

I’d always cherished my solitude but never more than now, sitting alone in a rocking chair on my front porch this cold Friday evening.

Stars shone through the crowns of the trees.

The constellations were sharp.

There are no cities in the Yukon to muddy the sky with manmade light.

As I rocked, my hands shoved deep into the pockets of my down vest, I closed my eyes, resisting one of those twinges of surreal nostalgia that make you acutely aware of all the living you’ve done and how the choices you’ve made have led to this moment of introspection. I was forty-one years old, and I couldn’t begin to stomach the totality of my life—too checkered, too sprawling. So I tried to live safely and habitually, moment to moment.

It passed, those lethal thoughts of Walter, my mother, and the things I did in Orson’s desert now receding back into the prisons I’d built for them.

Though I had supper to make and words to write, I opted for an evening stroll. Rising, I pulled my hair into a ponytail and stepped down off the porch. I followed a deer run through the spruce grove, the air glutted with the spicy scent of sap, branches brushing against my vest, twigs snapping under my boots.

It was late October—ice rimmed the pond and autumn waned, the arc of the sun diminishing noticeably each day. Even the aspens had shed the last of their heartshaped leaves. Only the spruce held color, an ashy bluegreen, some stunted and withered from the harsh winters, others full and majestic despite existing a mere four hundred miles south of the Arctic Circle.

I reached the meadow. Above the trees on the far side, the first peaks of the St. Elias Range towered in the west, hulking and austere, their snowpack blue beneath the stars. These mountains stretched on for a hundred fifty miles through the southeast leg of Alaska, west to the Pacific. They contained Canada’s highest mountain and the largest non-polar icefield in the world, a hundred mile river of ice that crept down from the slopes of the Icefield Ranges into the sea.

But the mountains are nothing but cold boring piles of shattered rock when the sky is blazing with the aurora borealis. I gazed up into the cosmos and felt it move me. It always moved me.

As a southerner who’d only glimpsed the northern lights in photographs, I’d thought of this lucent phenomenon as a still life fixture in the sky. But tonight it was a flickering ribbon that appeared to spring from a point of origin just beyond the mountains. It rose and curved sharply, a green mane running parallel to the horizon—a shock of glowing ions forty miles above the earth. It seemed an ethereal symphony should accompany this skyfire but the night maintained its massive silence.

Breathing deeply and contentedly, I laid down in the grass, and staring into that burning sky, filled once more with the rapture of knowing I was home.


HORACE Boone left his trailer in the village of Haines Junction after dark and followed the one-lane dirt road that passed by Andrew Thomas’s mailbox en route to the trailheads of the St. Elias Range. He pulled off the road a quarter mile from Andrew’s long winding driveway and parked his old Land Cruiser out of sight in the woods.

It was a ten minute jog through evergreens to the cabin.

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