Three Miles from Tomorrow

Three Miles from Tomorrow

by Keith M. Perkins

ISBN: 9781493109562

Publisher XLIBRIS

Published in Mystery & Thrillers/Mystery, Literature & Fiction/Contemporary, Mystery & Thrillers, Literature & Fiction

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Book Description

During WWII, America supplied the Soviet Union with aircraft and weapons via airlift from Alaska to Siberia. U.S. cargo planes ferried the supplies to Siberia and then headed empty back to Alaska - except for one flight that was loaded with an extremely valuable cargo and crashed somewhere between the two continents. Years later, that flight became the focal point of a murder in Anchorage,a dangerous standoff in the Bering Strait and a trial in Fairbanks. Three Miles from Tomorrow tells that story.

Sample Chapter

At the western end of Fourth Avenue, Anchorage, Alaska’s main street, a drifter parted the curtains of a third floor flophouse window and peered down on the lighted, snow-covered parking lot below. He wiped his nose on the sleeve of his army jacket again and stared at the black Volvo station wagon parked in the circle of light beneath the lamp post. The stillness disturbed him. He had had the feeling before -- something wasn’t right. At this hour in the morning there should be more traffic, more people, and more noise. There was an ominous hush over the city. It was Saturday though. That was the answer. It was Saturday and the city was slow to get started.

The Chugach Mountains rising five thousand feet just east of the city blocked the morning sun. It was still dark and yet to the west, across the mud flats of Cook Inlet, Mount Susitna -- The Sleeping Lady as it was called in Indian legends blanketed in a coat of newly fallen snow called termination dust because most outdoor construction work stopped for the winter -- was bathed in the pink of a crisp new day. He looked at his watch and then at the Volvo. Across the street a drunken Indian weaved precariously along the sidewalk. Goddam Klootches don’t know how to hold their booze. The drifter needed a drink. Badly. But he promised he wouldn’t touch the stuff until after it was over. He’d get good and drunk then. Maybe stay that way for a few days. He’d have enough money to stay drunk for a year and to do it someplace where it wasn’t so cold. He parted the curtains again and then smiled slightly. A dark-haired woman was brushing the snow off the windshield of the station wagon. She finished, flicked the snow off of her fur coat, looked around carefully, and opened the door. The drifter reached down to the floor and picked up a dark grey metal case about the size of a small radio. The woman started the engine and let it warm up for a few minutes. She put the car into reverse and slowly backed out of the parking space, out of the arc of the light.

The explosion rocked a two-block area and pulverized the Volvo. The street lamp toppled over and every window in every building facing the lot shattered including the window he was looking through. The blast catapulted the drunken Indian through the front window of the hardware store and shards of glass severed the arteries in his neck, killing him instantly.

The drifter was stunned. He looked down on the lot and saw nothing recognizable but the smoldering remnants of an axle and two wheels. There was nothing left of the car or the beautiful young woman in the fur coat. He looked, dumfounded, at the trigger mechanism in his hand and turned the toggle switch to the off position. He was disoriented and confused. He knew there would be an explosion but nothing as powerful as that. He wiped his bloody face with a dirty handkerchief and tossed it on the floor. A police siren wailed in the distance, then another and another. He threw the detonator across the room and looked out the window for the last time. A Catholic priest, who had witnessed the explosion, was kneeling in the middle of the parking lot, now black where the intense heat had melted the snow, giving the last rites to what was once a human being. The drifter scurried out of the room, down the back stairs and fled from the dilapidated building through a back alley. He walked rapidly along Third Avenue, parallel to the main street, and headed east toward Elmendorf, the big, military air base outside of town. The bars on Post Road, on the way to the base, were open twenty-four hours a day, ready to squeeze the last dollar from the airmen before they reached the haven of the government reservation. Although he moved swiftly past the railroad station, past the Alaska Native Medical Center and beyond Brother Francis Shelter - he’d never have to beg Jesus for food again - it took him over thirty minutes to reach the first bar, inaccurately named the Last Chance Saloon -- there were six more clip joints like it before the road ended at the main gate of the base. He slid onto the bar stool in the dimly lit room which reeked of stale beer and ordered a double whiskey -- four fingers -- with a beer chaser. Above the bar, high out of reach, faded Christmas decorations, green and red twisted crepe paper and cardboard Santa Clauses were covered with dust. The decorations were not in anticipation of the coming holiday season; they were left over from last year or the year before, or the year before that. Too high for the cleaning people to reach, too much trouble for the employees to bother with. The bartender hesitated, wondering whether he was going to be stiffed by the unkempt, dirty-looking vagrant. The drifter pulled a sheaf of bills out of his coat pocket, peeled off several and threw them on the bar.

He got immediate service from the bartender and benign notice from the three girls still working the place that early in the morning. He gulped down the drink, winced, and ordered a refill. He thought about what he had done. About what had just happened. He didn’t know the woman in the fur coat. He was just told to detonate the explosive after the driver started the car. No one said the victim was to be a young woman. What difference did it make, anyway? He got part of the money already and he would get the rest when he met the man with the money. The bartender eyed him -- apprehensively -- maybe he should throw the weirdo out -- but the only others in the place were a bunch of hard hats playing poker, so who cares?

The drifter smiled, smirked, really. He ordered another double and thought about what he was going to do.

Three stools away, a black woman, dressed in the uniform of her trade – tight-fitted jumpsuit unzipped to her navel, spike heels, and an auburn wig -- turned to him and said, “Hey, old man, ya look kinda worried an’ beat up. How ‘bout a date? I’ll cheer ya up a whole bunch.”

The drifter became vaguely aware that someone was talking to him. Old man, she said -- I’m not so old. A shave ‘n a shower, some new clothes. Shoes. Maybe a haircut. He swiveled toward her.

“Whaddya say?”

“I said, how ‘bout you ‘n me gettin’ it on, honey.”

He turned away in disgust.

“C’mon, honey, bet you ain’t made it in years. Make you feel like a young stud again.”

He put his drink down, slowly stood up and faced her. The bartender, sensing trouble, eased toward the black woman.

The drifter spat at her. “Whaddya sellin’, the African clap? Get lost.”

The woman threw her drink at him. Hard. The glass missed, but the vodka and grapefruit juice splattered all over him mixing with the crusted blood on his face. She was just a few feet away from him, coming fast and screaming, “you fuckin’ honkey” when the bartender reached across and shoved a .45 automatic in her face. She stopped abruptly and stared at the gun.

“Drop the razor, baby. Sit down.”

She hesitated for a moment, put the straight-edge on the bar, slowly turned on her heel and sashayed away.

The bartender pointed the gun at him. “Get out, bum. I knew you were trouble the minute you walked in.”

“I didn’t do nothin’, she did.”

“Out, pops, now.”

The drifter stared at the bartender and decided he was on the losing end of the .45. He got up, slowly collected his money, deliberately counting it bill by bill, brushed imaginary dust off his jacket and finished his drink. Then he palmed the razor, shuffled to the door and left.

The pick-up truck was parked exactly where he had been told it would be, on the perimeter road around Merrill Field, Anchorage’s general aviation airport a few miles from Elmendorf. He approached the truck from the rear, from the blind side just to be sure. There was only one person in the cab. So far, so good. Just like it was supposed to be. No surprises. He startled the man behind the wheel as he suddenly appeared next to the driver’s open window.

“Goddamit. Why ya’ spookin’ me, man? You’re late. Where the hell you’ve been? Whew…never mind, I knows where ya been. You stink of booze.” The driver turned his attention back to the car radio.

“Listen. It’s on the news already.”

“...police have not yet identified the woman.. To repeat, a bomb demolished an automobile in a Fourth Avenue parking lot early this morning killing the sole occupant, an unidentified woman. Stay tuned for further developments…”

“Man, you did it! Worked like a charm. A goddam charm.”

The drifter eyed the man warily. He wondered if he was carrying a gun.

“You didn’t tell me the blast would be so big. Lucky I wasn’t killed.”

The driver didn’t share that sentiment but said nothing. Instead, he fiddled with the radio dial, hoping to get more news.

“Who was the woman?”

The driver looked annoyed. “What’s the difference? It’s just another job. Whaddya care anyway?”

“I’m curious.”

“Were you curious in the army?”

“That was different.”

“No, it wasn’t. Same thing. Did you care who you shot through the head?

“I was a sniper and I didn’t shoot them through the head. Ya don’t want to kill’em. Wound’em and it takes three others to help him - keeps them out of action.”

“Whaddya do, kneecap them?”

“Nah. You kneecap a guy and he’s back shooting at you in a few months. A side shot is better.”

“What’s that?”

“You wait until the gook turns his head sideways. And you take out both eyes and the bridge of his nose. He’s got the rest of his life to think about why he was fighting on the wrong side.” The drifter smiled directly at the driver and slowly started to laugh, a wild crazy laugh.

The driver squirmed. Little beads of moisture formed above his lip and on his brow. An intense fear gripped him. He was confronted by a maniac and the hard part was yet to come. He turned toward the drifter, trying to stay calm.

“That’s kinda wild, man. You didn’t really do that, did you?”

“Yeah, maybe I did and maybe I didn’t. Anyway, I was just a kid then.” He paused and watched a small airplane outfitted with oversized tundra tires take off in the pre-dawn grayness. “So like I said, I’m curious. Who was she?”

The driver frowned.

“We interrupt this program again for an update on the bombing story. The victim has been identified as Meredith Patton, long-time Anchorage resident and member of the prominent Patton family which owns the Matanuska Flying Service, Alaska’s largest air freight carrier. Patton was the President of Matanuska. Police say they have no suspects and no motive so far. Stay tuned for further developments. And now, back to our regular programming…..”

“Alaska’s largest air freight carrier. Maybe I should get more money.”

“We made a deal.”

“Yeah, but things change, ya know? Where’s my money? You don’t have the money do you? This is a set-up, isn’t it?”

The radio announcer recapped the bomb story.

The drifter marveled that no one had mentioned the dead drunken Indian. “Some people just don’t count” he muttered.

“Here’s your money, you fuckin’ creep.”

The blast from the sawed-off shotgun decapitated the drifter.

To the east, the sun finally rose over the towering snow-covered Chugach Mountains. A new day had begun in Anchorage.


Alaska Airlines flight number 623 was cruising north at 24,000 feet en route from Seattle to Anchorage with stops at Ketchican and Sitka. The captain of the flight was Timothy Patton, one of the veteran pilots of the airline.

As he approached Anchorage International he throttled back and slowed the plane, partially lowered the flaps and started his descent to the final approach. Suddenly he slammed the throttles forward, gained speed and retracted the landing gear. Patton grabbed the intercom. “Ladies and gentlemen, the tower just advised us that there are moose on the runway. We’re going to do a wide, slow 360 to give them time to chase our four-legged friends away and then land normally. You can relax your stranglehold on the armrests now. Welcome to the Last Frontier.”

The Ground Control supervisor radioed the plane: Alaska 623 - Captain Patton, stay in the cockpit after the passengers and crew have deplaned. There is someone here who urgently needs to talk to you. Alone.”

“Roger.” Patton replied. He wondered who wanted to talk to him and why it was so urgent.

A tall red-bearded heavy-set man, dressed in a blue sport jacket and gray slacks carrying a trench coat over his arm entered the cockpit.

“Captain Patton?” I’m Don Ruger with the Anchorage Police Department. He shook his hand. “I’m a detective, a lieutenant. I’m sorry to say that I have some bad news for you.”

“Just call me Tim. What’s the bad news?”

Ruger told the captain about the murder of his sister leaving out some of the gory details.

Patton slumped into his seat not believing what he just heard.

“Murdered? Who would want to do that?”

“We don’t know yet. I’ve been assigned to the case to find out,” Ruger replied. “I’m going to need to talk to you at length but not now, not here. Meanwhile, you have my deepest condolences.”

“Why did you want to talk to me in the cockpit?” Patton asked.

“You’re going to find out in a few minutes. There’s an unruly gang of press people, TV, radio, and newspaper reporters waiting for you to enter the terminal. I suggest you be careful what you say to them. I also suggest you get a lawyer.”

Tim walked apprehensively into the terminal and the gang immediately started shouting questions at him.

“Did she have any enemies?”

“Was she married?”

“How old was she?”

“Who do you think did it?”

“What are you going to do?”

“What’s going to happen to Matanuska?”

Patton thought about that last question for a moment. He didn’t know what he was going to do, didn’t know what would happen to Matanuska and he didn’t know why Ruger suggested he get a lawyer.

He didn’t answer any of the questions.


Excerpted from "Three Miles from Tomorrow" by Keith M. Perkins. Copyright © 2013 by Keith M. Perkins. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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