ANCHORAGE, Alaska _ The street kids at the Downtown Transit Center in Anchorage still talk about Charlene Shugak's eyes. She had a thing for eyeliner drawn to look mysterious and cat-like. She was quiet, they said. She was beautiful, they said. She knew her way around.
If she saw you and you were part of her made-up street family, she might call you "street sister" or "big brother." She'd touch your arm by way of greeting, and play a word-game you both knew.
"Taxi," she'd say.
"Cab," you'd say back.
Maybe she'd need a cigarette or a place to stay. Maybe you'd need some company and she would know it without you saying. Maybe the two of you would share a drink. Maybe you'd get high. Maybe you'd ride the bus out to Dimond on the west side of town. Charlene was always smiling.
No one can say for sure how she died, a 17-year-old girl found face-down in the snow at a ballfield in Russian Jack Park a couple of weeks ago. Police suspect hypothermia. Some of her friends think she'd been drinking and passed out. Some of them suspect someone hurt her. Autopsy results aren't back yet. No one knows how she got there. Police say there were no signs of foul play.
Her mother told reporters she last saw her daughter through a bus window at the end of March. Charlene waved at her from the transit center as she passed. A week later, her mother reported her missing.
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