This is a work of fiction, loosely based on the character "John Biebe"
as portrayed by Russell Crowe in the film
"Mystery, Alaska"
I do not own the copyright on that character, but only
on the premise of this story.

This story is for readers over the age of 18 only, and contains explicit
sexual situations and adult language. The writer is not responsible for
any "discomfort" caused to the reader by this language and these situations.



"The Gift"



Chapter One

John Michael Biebe, aged 37, Sheriff of Mystery, Alaska and the surrounding environs, sat alone in his office on the day before Thanksgiving, wondering how in the hell he was going to get through the next few days.

His wife, Donna had taken their boys and headed out for the big wide world outside of tiny little Mystery. She’d been gone since early summer, and he still hadn’t made any progress getting on with his life. The divorce papers had arrived from New York state just the day before. Along with the packet of legal documents, had come a letter from Donna stating that she was keeping the boys with her for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and that she was suing for sole custody because of the distance involved in shipping the boys back and forth to Alaska. Also, she had said, adding insult to injury, what with John’s long work hours, he wasn’t home enough that he would miss the boys anyway.

The callousness of her timing wasn’t lost on him. He sat leaning back in his old wooden desk chair, staring out at the Christmas lights decorating the electric pole outside his office window. The bright colors blurred and ran as he looked. He passed his hand over his face, rubbing his eyes, sighed, and turned back to the folder of old accounting papers he was initialing. Year end approaching meant he had to be sure all their i’s were dotted and t’s crossed for tax and budget purposes. That entailed him checking all the payroll vouchers, purchase orders and anything else relevant before they went to Betty for her to work on all of it in the computer. “Be sure I got it right, Johnny,” she’d say. Even though it was all in her computer, she wanted the reassurance that the paperwork was correct before she’d hit the “Process” key with any confidence.

He supposed it was worth the extra work. In five years, he’d never had an error on their budget papers, their tax returns or anything else to do with the annoying business of financials. Betty was a good worker. So was her niece, Raylene, who split her time between front desk duties and the occasional help-out on traffic patrol. They mothered him shamelessly, as well. He’d had to practically fire them to get them to leave half an hour early this afternoon to take advantage of a bit of clear weather before an expected snow. “If you’re sure you don’t need us,” Betty had said as he’d shoved them both out the door and locked it, waving bye-bye to them through the window panes.

“I’ll be fine,” he said aloud. The blank walls of his office mocked him. There were lighter colored rectangles where pictures of Donna and the boys had once hung. Now he had only the boys’ pictures - small wallet sized ones which he had taken out of his billfold and put in a dime store frame for his desk. He would, he supposed, have to send them their Christmas presents soon. He wondered how one went about wrapping a sled for UPS? Or even if they still played on sleds in Rochester, New York? He supposed they must - his kids, and he knew them well, weren’t the overly sophisticated, jaded kids he imagined inhabited most of the Lower Forty-eight.

“I’ll be fine,” he repeated. “Shit, who am I kidding?” He finished checking the accounting papers and carried the folder out, laying it dead center on Betty’s desk for Monday morning. He was done now. He could go home. He wasn’t on duty again until the next morning, taking a double shift on Thanksgiving Day so the family men who would normally have had to work could be with their kids and wives for the big day. He would work seven a.m. to three p.m., and three to eleven, with a break for a hurried lunch and dinner at the Red Reindeer or Marge’s Diner. Not much to choose from between those two, he thought with a rueful rub of his stomach. He made a mental note to stick some Bromo packets in the glove box of his Expedition. At least, he thanked God and the powers that be in Juneau that he had a new patrol vehicle. It even had good snow tires on it and four wheel drive that worked. He did another mental kow-tow toward the state capitol as he gathered his stuff to leave.

He left on the lights over the front desk and locked the door behind him. Tree Lane waved to him from across the street and came loping over, face split in his usual wide grin, “Hey, Johnny!” he greeted him enthusiastically. “Wanna go eat?” Tree had taken it upon himself to be sure John didn’t have time to be depressed. This was a major annoyance, as John sometimes just wanted to be alone to think without background noise. It wasn’t brooding and it wasn’t obsessing, it was a simple need to string two thoughts together without interruption, and he sometimes had to bodily toss Tree out of his office or out of his house so he could do that. Tree, in his cheerful, open way, didn’t take offense at this. Since Tree was six feet seven inches tall and weighed a fit 255 pounds, that was a good thing. John did not want to tangle with the man.

“Sure, let me throw this stuff in the car,” he carried a box of books and assorted junk out of his file cabinet. The books were for the library, the assorted junk for the town dump. He set the box in the back of the car, locked the hatch and was shortly off down the icy sidewalk with Tree. They went into the Red Reindeer after admiring the newest Christmas decorations (a moving Santa wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts), quickly shedding coats, hats and gloves in the steamy warmth.

Red Mason, retired Los Angeles stock broker turned Alaskan restaurateur, came over to their table bearing menus, glasses of water and big mugs of draft beer. “You’re off duty now, right?” he asked John.

“Yeah,” John answered with a smile. Red always teased him about being sure not to drink on duty, as if John ever had or would. “Busted all the criminals in a 100 mile radius,” he bragged, “all one of ‘em.” He’d given Myrtle Elkbottom a ticket for parking in the no parking area in front of his office building. She did it at least twice a week, and he ticketed her every time for it. She would come into the office clutching her beaded leather fanny pack as if afraid someone was going to dart out from behind a desk and swipe her hoarded rolls of nickels before she could pay her fines. At 3 dollars a pop, Mrs. Elkbottom’s fines weren’t likely to fund a new highway or anything, but it was the principle of the thing. Besides, when she parked in front of his office, John had to hike from across the street, sliding on ice patches, sometimes dodging traffic if there were tourists or hunters in town, and he wasn’t crazy about that.

“Myrtle, again?” Tree inquired, running one large finger down the bill of fare. “I’ll have the venison steak, baked potato and two salads, ranch dressing,” he said as an aside to Red.

“Yeah, her third ticket this month. Same for me,” John said, “but just the one salad is fine.” Tree always got two salads. He said he liked to graze like the moose he was almost of a size with.

Red stumped off with their orders, yelling to his wife Darla to make the salads and quick about it, while John and Tree grinned at one another over their beers. “Red never changes,” Tree commented, wiping off a foam moustache.






John grinned, acquiring a foamy moustache of his own. He didn't drink very often. He didn't want to become one of those maudlin men, forever brooding into a glass of beer or worse, ending up drunk most of the time, sad and rejected because his woman had moved on down the line. He worked long hours, got enough rest, ate balanced meals when his schedule allowed, and was hornier than a bull elk in rut most of the time.


"I tell ya, Tree, I'd almost go for legalized prostitution if you pitched the idea to me now." They dug into their salads, crunching in unison and shoveling in the warm dinner rolls that came with them

Tree glanced up, grinning, "Johnny, you know you wouldn't - would you?"

John sighed, glanced around to see if anybody nearby was listening, and said in a low voice, "Tree, I'm getting real tired of dating my right hand, if you know what I mean. I never realized that I could be this unhappy and this horny at the same damn time."

To John's amusement, Tree blushed as red as the tomatoes in his salad, drowning his embarrassment with a big slug of beer. "I guess you would, all right." He thought for a minute, starting on his second salad while John was only half way done with his one and only. "What about a trip down to the big city? Maybe meet some girls or something."

"What big city?" John wanted to know, wiping his lips with his paper napkin. "There won't be any friendly whores anyplace in Alaska this winter - too damned cold to be outside at night in hotpants, even if they are made of fur."

Tree blushed again, but had to agree that was a major flaw in his idea. "Well, Las Vegas then - isn't it legal there?"

John laughed, pushed away his empty salad bowl and regarded the tall, rugged outdoorsman over the rim of his beer mug. "Tree, even if I liked Las Vegas - which I don't - I am not taking time off to go to Nevada now, especially not to just get laid."

Out of the corner of his eye he caught Natalie Omer evesdropping. He knew this because when he said "get laid", Mrs. Omer - a widow of some years' standing - choked and almost swallowed her dentures. "Shit," John muttered. He waggled his eyebrows meaningfully at Tree, who looked at the table where the Widow Omer sat with a couple of other similarly aged women.

"Evenin' Mrs. Omer," Tree said politely, with his wide, ingenuous smile. The Widow practically simpered at him. When Tree thought about what that might mean later, he actually got a bit nervous. He consciously avoided the bony, gray-haired Widow Omer for most of that winter.

"Don't encourage her," John hissed at him, "she'll just keep trying to over hear what we're talking about."


"What, prostitutes?" Tree asked in a normal tone of voice, earning another large gasp from the Widow's table.

John clapped a hand over his eyes for an instant and just groaned aloud. "Never mind, I can see subtlety is not in the cards tonight." Red came over with their dinners then and ended any discussion of a trip to Nevada in search of feminine companionship, much to John's relief. All he needed was Natalie Omer spreading the rumor that Sheriff Biebe was in favor of bringing in hookers, and his life, as he knew it, would turn into garbage. He smiled to himself, imagining the furor that would cause.

"Johnny, are you skating in the Saturday game this week?" Tree was wolfing down his venison steak and making deep inroads into his baked potato, which was the size of John's foot.

John nodded, swallowed, and answered, "Yeah, Skank's knee is still sore, so I'll stand in for him. I've been practicing every day to keep my legs built up." John coached the team, but he was also the first player to stand in for anyone who was forced out, so he had to keep as fit as the others because he never knew when he'd be called on to take someone's place. He still had bruises on his belly from the time two weeks before when he'd suddenly had to stand in for the goalie. He never saw that puck coming off Donnie Rhodes' stick, but he sure felt it when it hit him - somehow- right next to where his protective padding ended.

"Donnie's playing, right?" Tree had been the one who skated over to John when he was prone on the ice in front of the goal and stuck the amyl nitrate popper under his nose to bring him to. "I thought you were dead," he told John yet again.

"So did I," John answered, grinning, "death by hockey puck - not pretty." Tree had to agree with him.

They finished with apple pie, paid their bills and left. Tree waved goodbye and loped down the street, headed for his ancient Jeep and a short drive up a winding road that led to his A-frame in the thick woods. John checked to be sure his office building was still locked, then climbed into the new cream and black Expedition and started for home.

Home - the word almost didn't suit the place he lived any longer. He hated being by himself there. The boys' bedrooms, once seeming to be so cramped with their noise and their toys, now loomed empty, uncharacteristically neat in their absence. The king-sized bed in his bedroom loomed almost as empty. He made it up with plain, dark colored flannel sheets now, having given away Donna's flowered ones because they were just too much a reminder of her, but once he lay in that bed, it seemed to get larger and more empty all the time. He often found himself sleeping on the couch in the family room by the fireplace, huddled under a couple of quilts, trying not to remember what it was like to sleep wrapped around the woman he loved.

He pulled up in the driveway, hooked the car to the heater that would keep the engine block warm, and stomped what little snow there was off his big boots before going inside. The sky was clouded over now, there would be a snowfall by morning. He set out clean clothes for his morning shift - lining up two pairs of ragg socks, thermal underwear, thermal long-sleeved tee shirt and quilted flannel shirt on the bench in his bedroom, then undressed and climbed into the shower. He groaned aloud in the warm steam, soaping up and rinsing off twice. He resisted any fantasies, although he sometimes did succumb to the warm, wet caress of the running water and give himself release from the pounding arousal that usually came as soon as he got under the water.


Tonight, he simply turned the water on cold, yelped once or twice at the icy chill, and shut the shower off. He dried off, pulled on a pair of old, stretched-out sweatpants and an equally worn sweat shirt, and towel dried his hair. He raked a hand through the long, slightly wavy locks, made a face at himself in the mirror, and sighed. Was that the door? He cocked his head, listening. Yes, it was.


"God damn it," he muttered, glancing at the clock in the kitchen as he headed, barefoot, for the front door. Nine o'clock. Well, it wasn't too outrageously late, he supposed. "Coming," he called, unlocked the door and turned on the front light.

It was a pretty blonde in a pink and grey parka. He stared. She stared, smiling at him. "John? Johnny? It's me, Sarah."

"Oh," he said, feeling stupid, "Sarah Hines - when did you get back to town?" She had been gone down to Washington State to care for a relative - some aunt or somebody, he remembered. He hadn't seen her since summer. "Come on in before you freeze out there." He hoped his damp hair hadn't iced over standing in the door.

Sarah came in, took off her coat and mittens, and accepted his offer of hot tea. She followed him into the kitchen, admiring the back view of Sheriff John Biebe despite the floppy old sweats he had on - the man was just too gorgeous for loose clothing to hide it, she thought. He turned and invited her to sit down, surprising her staring with what was probably a lascivious look on her face. "Sarah?"

God, his voice just cut right through her - always had. But he was way out of her league - good looking, popular guys like Johnny Biebe didn't go out with fat girls like Sarah Hines. Although, to be fair to herself, she wasn't that fat any more, thanks to a plan of exercise and diet she'd hit on down in Seattle while taking care of her Great Aunt Louise. Four months of regular fast walking, some swimming every other day, and eating smaller portions of everything, even dessert, and she was almost twenty pounds smaller than she had been last time she saw John. She smiled at him now, wondering if he'd notice.

"You're looking rested, Sarah," he commented, pouring boiling water into two mugs, trying not to drown the teabag strings as he did so. He succeeded with one, had to fish the string tag out of the other one, searing his fingertips as he did so. "Damn!"

"I do that a lot myself," she said. Rested, huh? She sat up a little straighter and smiled at him as he handed her the warm ceramic mug. "I guess you're wondering why I stopped by without calling."


John sat down and smiled, "I was, kind of, yeah." He sipped the tea, burning the tip of his tongue slightly. "Ouch."

"Suck on some ice," Sarah said helpfully. "I came by to see if you had anything you wanted to donate to the rummage sale."

"Rummage sale?" he echoed her. "Oh, Mystery Methodist?" He'd always thought it was funny to have a church named that - made it sound like they hadn't decided what kind of Methodists to be. Were there different kinds? He wasn't totally sure, being pretty much a non- churchgoing kind of guy. He found God in nature and solitary thought, didn't feel he needed organized groups to get in touch with the divine or the heavenly.

"Yeah, we need kids' clothes and warm winter clothes for women." She realized he might take that somewhat wrong, and clarified, "If you're of a mind to part with any, that is." If Donna left you anything usable, she added, to herself.

John thought about it, then nodded. It was time he began emptying the closets of what Donna left behind - most of the boys' clothing was too small for them now anyway, or too worn for her new life in New York. "Yeah, I do, actually. I have to work all day tomorrow - two shifts," he said ruefully. They rolled their eyes at one another, grinning. Sarah, a nurse, often worked extra shifts at the school after her regular job at the county run clinic, organizing the school library, patiently checking books in and out for the children, putting up pretty decorations in the library room and soliciting book fund donations from anyone who would stop to chat with her on the street. "I can get some things together on Friday - will that do?"

Sarah nodded enthusiastically, "John, that's just great!" She hadn't been sure if he would part with anything or not - everyone knew Johnny Biebe was in deep mourning, almost as if Donna had died instead of running off with their children, breaking his kind, gentle heart. Well, they didn't say that kind, gentle part, but Sarah knew he was a sweet man. She finished her tea and got to her feet. She did not, under any circumstances, want to overstay her welcome, especially since she was an uninvited guest in the first place. "I have to run - it's getting late. I'll come by about midday on Friday - is that too early?" She smiled as he helped her on with her parka and handed her her mittens.

"No, that's just fine," he reassured her. He walked her to the door, waved as she got into her Bronco, and watched her lights as she drove off down the hill towards town and her little house. Sarah was looking particularly good, he thought. Either she had done something to herself, he mused as he turned out the lights and climbed into bed, pulling up the down comforter, or he was farther gone in his incurable horniness than he had feared.

No, he decided after replaying their brief meeting in his head, Sarah was definitely looking good. He'd always thought she was cute, in a kind of curvaceous, earth motherish sort of way, but tonight, once she took off that oversized coat, he'd been surprised to find a more toned person inside the pale blue sweater and pants she wore. Sarah had definitely "done something to herself" as the Widow Omer would no doubt say. John snorted with laughter, thinking again about startling the old woman in the restaurant that night. Prostitutes in Mystery - oh yeah. Right after they built a stadium for the professional baseball, football and soccer teams.

Sarah was definitely looking nice, he thought again, sleepily. He might have to check into that. Tomorrow. Well, Friday, actually. For now, he needed to rest up for his double shift.


Click on the bears for the next chapter!



Graphics and layout by Wildbearies
Story by Marti Koeppe ©2001
This story may not be reprinted or included in any anthologies without my written permission.