That was always the question when I lived on the island of Uummannaq, 650km north of the Arctic Circle in Greenland. The question was often raised around Christmas time, when the thin ice was the domain of the professional hunters only, and the Europeans waited for thicker ice and more daylight – the sun would creep over the horizon around the 11th January.
But this Christmas, in Denmark, the question has an altogether different meaning for me. I am less interested in knowing if the ice will bear my weight, but will The Ice Star, and its story, be strong enough to bear my hopes for my first thriller set in Greenland? Time will tell, but on the 26th January, 2017, Konstabel Fenna Brongaard will be fighting for her life and reputation in a hostile environment, far from help.
Here’s an excerpt from Chapter One – the opening scene:
ITTOQQORTOORMIIT, EAST GREENLAND
The wheels of the AugustaWestland AW139 slammed onto the gravel helipad of the remote arctic settlement with a bloated squeal of rubber and ice. The rotor chop of the phoenix-red twin-engined helicopter thundered through the fog, beating the Greenlanders awake. As the side door of the aircraft slid open, two men, clad in arctic camouflage, jumped down onto the gravel. The crewman inside the aircraft fiddled with the gun holstered on his belt as he dragged a woman from the helicopter’s plush interior and out of the door. The men hauled the woman out of the aircraft and dumped her limp body into the back of a pickup truck, nodding at the crewman and waving at the pilot as he twisted the collective and pulled the aircraft up and into the fog. The walls of the wooden houses dotted about the settlement shook until the aircraft was clear of the long, broad, frozen fjord.
The woman stirred in the bed of the pickup. Thick strands of her matted chestnut hair falling across her wind-bronzed and blood-speckled face in the aircraft’s wake. There was more blood clotted between the fibres of her wool sweater, crusted in patches on her wind pants, and grooved in the frost fractures of her hands. The shorter of the two men jumped into the back of the pickup and pressed his knee into the woman’s spine, his breath misting in the cool air as she coughed beneath him. The second man yanked the passenger door open and slid his muscled frame onto the torn leather seat. He stared out of the cracked window as the driver turned the pickup in a tight circle around the helipad and accelerated along the gravel road.
The driver, wearing the dark overalls of Mittarfeqarfiit, the Greenlandic Airport Authority, jerked through the gears, braking to a stop outside a frost-beaten wooden house at the top of the hill above the fjord. The flaked timbers and paint of the house, once red, now salmon-coloured, skinned and gutted by Arctic hurricanes. The two men exited the pick-up, splashing through the meltwater streaming along the side of the road as they carried the woman up the wooden steps and into the vacant house. The short man closed the door to the house as the driver crunched the pickup into gear and drove down the hill. The last whop whop of the helicopter disappeared with the retreating vehicle. He watched the pickup drop out of sight and turned to nod at his partner.
In the dusty silence of the house, the men bound the woman’s hands with a length of puppy chain and dragged her across the bruised wooden floor to the wall opposite the door. They gripped her arms and pulled her into a sitting position, wrapped the end of the thin chain around a thick nail in the wall, ripped the boots from her feet and tossed them into the centre of the room.
“Wake her up,” said the tall man. He handed his partner a syringe of milky fluid.
The short man unscrewed the cap and pressed the needle into the woman’s neck. He injected the fluid into her body, tossed the empty syringe into the corner of the room, rocked back onto his heels, and waited.
The woman noticed the chain first as the thin rusted links bit into her pale bloody wrists. She opened one eye and blinked until the room stopped spinning. In the dim interior of the house the woman tugged at the chain. She closed her eyes. Images of dogs in harness, blood-spattered snow, the smell of burning wood and cordite fumes chattered through her mind. The memories jolted to a stop with a chain rattle as she tried to wrap her arms around her knees.
The first backhand slap across her face split her lip. The woman’s head rebounded off the wall. She licked the blood from her lips, opened her eyes and stared at the short Nepalese man leaning over her. Her hit her again. She snorted blood out of her nose and wiped it from her face with her sleeve. The Nepali took a step back; the floorboards creaked beneath his stubby polar boots.
Soft polar light persevered through the salt-grimed windows, edged with tired wood, flecked with fly shit. The woman stretched her bound legs, one eye on the Nepali man with the brutal backhand, the other on a glass of water on the floor. She jerked her head backward as the second man stepped into view and his large military boot connected with the glass, kicking it against the wooden wall where it smashed, showering her in jagged shards of crystal and splinters.
“Konstabel Fenna Brongaard, my name is Burwardsley. We met on the ice.”