The party continues! For today’s short story, I give you a piece of creative nonfiction about a murder that took place in Fairbanks Alaska (or at least a patch of wilderness that would later become absorbed in the then infant town of Fairbanks). It’s quite a bit more serious than Monday’s piece (which is unfathomably stupid), but is still kind of a work in progress as I continue digging around for more information and documentation. I’ll think I have everything settled, and then find something new! Sometimes I feel like I could write a whole book about this case, but I’d need a heck of a lot more sources than I’ve currently been able to scrounge up. Nevertheless, I think it’s an interesting story that you might enjoy, fine internetfolk. Cheers!
Dead Man’s Slough
Clouds rolled over the sun in a murky eclipse, and Mark Skorlich shivered in the sudden shadow, glaring up at the sky. It was dark enough in October without this.
Skorlich huddled down tighter in his sweater and trudged on to his friend’s cabin, four low walls with a sheet of canvas for a roof. He’d known Jacob Jaconi since the two of them came to the Klondike together, and been partners off and on in the four years since, hopping back and forth between Dawson and Fairbanks, between fishing and panning and river-poling. Both immigrants, both struggling to scrape a living from the unforgiving landscape, they took care of one another. Now, with Jaconi settled on the bank of the Noyse Slough four miles between Fairbanks and Chena for the winter, Skorlich popped in for a visit every few days with news from town. And this time, an invitation to join him hunting.
The noon whistle shrilled back in Fairbanks, and Skorlich trudged along the bank of the partially frozen Chena River, his boots squeaking in the snow. Three men on dog sleds swept down the opposite shore toward town, the dogs baying happily. They disappeared around the bend, but Skorlich could still hear the dogs.
It took him a moment to realize that the sound was coming from before him. And that instead of barking, the dogs were howling.
Skorlich caught the scent of smoke in the cold air and froze.
Something was wrong.
He ran up the river, turning onto the slough, and finally saw the cabin through the trees.
Smoke bled up into the clouds, the canvas burned away. The front of the cabin was merely scorched, the damage worse toward the back, and the dogs were scattered around the remains, mourning. Skorlich ran to the cabin, clutching his rifle, and stepped inside. The back wall was nearly gone, and a burnt hide was draped across the crumbling remains of the bunk, all of it still smoldering. He fell back a disbelieving step, staring around the home he had stayed in countless days and nights.
Jaconi might not even know yet.
Skorlich leaned his rifle against the blackened wall and ran back out into the woods, calling wildly, “Jacob! Jacob!” He paused, panting.
How much of the cabin could they possibly salvage at this point?
And how long had Jaconi been out that he hadn’t noticed? Where was he?
Heart pounding, Skorlich turned back to the cabin. Jaconi’s biggest dog watched him with mournful eyes as he returned on stiff legs.
Skorlich picked up a stick and stepped back into the smoldering cabin, his eyes locked on the bunk. He started slowly toward the scorched hide, and finally realized just what he was looking at.
To read the full story (or at least what I’ve dredged up about it so far), go here!