THE FINAL HUNT: ALTERNATE ENDING
Tanner’s eyes searched hers as he his jaw flexed from his gum. Some people were better liars than others. And Cameron showed all the signs of telling the truth. If he didn’t know better, he would have believed her.
“I guess so.” He thanked her for answering his questions before he stood from the table.
Cameron went out the door he held open for her. He escorted her to the elevator, where the Alaskan state trooper was waiting. After the doors closed on the two of them, Tanner went back to his desk. It was after midnight, but there were two other detectives still working.
He grabbed Miles Henson’s thin case file and absently flipped through it. It was strange that the state trooper had followed Cameron home. When he questioned him, the trooper said he was concerned for her after Cameron left Tok and he couldn’t reach her by phone. He figured she’d come back to Seattle, and he decided to check on her in person.
But Mulholland suspected there was more to it than that. He had the inkling the trooper wasn’t being completely honest with him. He guessed the trooper had feelings for Cameron. Or could his interest in her be something else?
Tanner opened his Internet browser and ran a search for Dane Waska Alaskan State Trooper. He clicked on the headline that topped the search.
ALASKA STATE TROOPER’S WIFE DROWNS AT REMOTE LAKE CABIN
The article was dated August 18, 2016. He leaned forward as he scanned the article.
Kourtney Waska, 36, died yesterday afternoon at Hunt Lake, thirty miles northwest of Tok. Her cause of death is presumed to be drowning. She and her husband, Alaska State Trooper Dane Waska, 37, were staying at their lake cabin when Kourtney failed to return after a swim. Trooper Waska woke from a nap unable to find his wife. After searching the surrounding area, Trooper Waska used his satellite phone to request emergency assistance. They own one of only two cabins on the remote lake and were the only two people in the area that day. Divers recovered Kourtney’s body from the bottom of the lake this morning. There is no evidence of foul play at this time.
The detectives in the adjacent cubicle turned off their desk lights.
Tanner leaned back in his chair. Drowned? How could they be so sure?
“Hey, Mulholland. You wanna tear yourself away and join us for a beer?” one of them asked. “Might be good for you.”
Tanner closed out of his browser. “Yeah.” He opened Henson’s case file and stared at his burnt remains before he pulled on his coat. He dropped the contents of the case file into the paper shredder before following them out of the unit. “First round’s on me.”
Three Months Later
Cameron looked out the windshield of her Cessna at the rugged terrain north of Tok. The snow had thawed, and Hunt Lake glimmered a vibrant blue among the green forest that surrounded it. Dane leaned forward, staring out the windshield at the lake.
“Beautiful day for a flight,” she said into her mouthpiece.
Dane seemed not to hear her.
“It’s a beautiful day.” She spoke louder this time, seeing him mesmerized by the water below.
He turned to her. “I’ve been too busy admiring the pilot to notice.” His eyes moved to her freshly dyed red hair. “I’m glad you decided to stay a redhead. It suits you.”
A dimple appeared on the side of his cheek when he smiled at her. Her eyes fell to his bicep that protruded beneath his gray t-shirt and she forced her attention to return to the surrounding skies.
After a thorough investigation, no charges had been brought against Dane—or Cameron—in Simon’s death. And Mulholland held a press conference announcing that Simon was being posthumously charged with being an accomplice in the murders of Alicia Lopez and Olivia Rossi.
In the days following Simon’s death, she’d told Dane everything she’d planned on keeping secret for the rest of her life. Instead of turning her in, he’d listened—without judgement—astonished that she’d made the trek to Miles’s cabin in the middle of winter, on her own.
Using the money from the sale of her Laurelhurst home, she’d purchased a quaint two-story home in the woods outside of town, on a property close to Dane. She’d taken over the small dental practice in Tok after the town’s dentist retired last month.
It was still agonizing for Dane and Cameron to see Bethany and Grace’s parents around town, but at least they had the peace of knowing John was dead. Maybe, someday, they would find a way to tell them.
“Look.” Dane pointed out the window.
Cameron sat up straight and looked below. A brown bear and her cub moved slowly along an opening in the trees.
“Amazing.” Seeing Alaskan wildlife in their natural habitat was something she wasn’t sure she would ever get used to.
Her thoughts wandered to John after seeing the bears. She looked beyond the window at the Yukon-Charley Rivers area in the distance, near the horizon. Dane squeezed her hand.
She wondered if there were any of John’s remains still out there. Cameron looked one last time in the direction of Miles’s family cabin before banking and turning back for Tok.