It was six-thirty when Sherilyn Crabbe and Ginny Krause walked into the Bamboo Room—Haines, Alaska’s one and only tiki bar, around the corner from the Hammer Museum—so there were still plenty of seats at the bar.
“Where’s this husband of yours?” Ginny asked. “Isn’t he supposed to meet us here?”
“He’ll be along,” Sherilyn said. They slid onto chromium and red plastic stools and hung their purses on hooks screwed beneath the bar.
Christy, who had taken over the establishment when her parents retired, materialized in front of them. “What’ll it be, ladies?”
“Sign says the halibut and chips is famous,” Ginny smiled. “I guess I’ll—”
“Let’s hold off on food till Barney gets here,” Sherilyn cut in. “We’ll just have a drink for now, Chris.”
“You know it.”
“And you, Sherilyn’s friend? What can I do you for?”
Ginny studied the list taped to the mirror behind the bar. “What’s the Black Fang like?”
Christy pushed out her lower lip and shook her head. “I’d work my way up to that one, if I was you. It’s pretty heavy, eight-point-two percent ABV. The Spruce Tip Ale is awesome, but it won’t be on tap for another two weeks.”
“Have you got an amber?”
“Try the Eldred Rock. Caramel malt, Cascade hops, five percent, goes down smooth as silk.”
“Is it local?”
“Yes, ma’am, made right here in town, about a three-minute walk from where you’re sitting.”
“All right,” Ginny decided. “I’ll go with that.”
Christy pulled their pints and spun two coasters onto the bar.
Ginny cautiously tasted her beer, her blonde curls haloing her expertly made-up face. She patted her mouth with a paper napkin. “That’s nice,” she sighed.
Sherilyn threw an arm around her friend’s shoulder and hugged her. “God, it’s good to see you, Gin! Now, spill it: what are you doing up here in the ass end of nowhere?”
“Well,” Ginny said, “you remember Roger?”
“Roger? I thought you got rid of that creep five years ago.”
“Four. Then I married Jerry on the rebound, like fifteen minutes after the divorce was final. I wish you hadn’t moved up here to the Last Frontier, Sher—you would have talked me out of it.”
Sherilyn nodded knowingly. She was a brunette, her hair short and layered, her big brown eyes attractive without mascara or shadow. “Another loser?”
“Major. Be glad you never had the pleasure. I can’t wait to meet your hubby.”
Sherilyn glanced at her watch. “He must’ve got held up at work. He’ll be here.” She took another small sip. “So, are you avoiding my question, girlfriend? Why did you drag yourself all the way up to the Land of the Midnight Sun?”
“I’m lonely, Sher,” Ginny said plaintively, “and every man I meet in Wisconsin is either a workaholic or unemployed. You keep writing me the odds are good up here—”
“Fifty-two percent male,” Sherilyn beamed proudly, “highest male-to-female ratio in the US of A.”
“—so I thought why not play the odds? I quit my job and sold my car, and here I am. I figure somebody in the Frozen North must need a good bookkeeper. I’ve got some savings, so I’ll rent myself a little apartment and—”
“Not right away, you won’t. We have a finished basement we don’t use, you can park yourself there for a while, check Haines out and see if you like it. If you do, well, then you can think about an apart—”
A burly man in a lumberjack shirt and a bushy black beard beneath a sparse head of hair beginning to go gray slid onto the stool next to Ginny and pressed his shoulder up against hers. “Hey, there, missy,” he rumbled, “I heard you say you’re looking for a man.”
Ginny recoiled from the unwelcome contact. “A man,” she said, “not a reject from a Monty Python sketch.”
Sherilyn put a hand on her friend’s arm. “Gin,” she said, “you don’t—”