Come home, p.4
Come home, p.4Sheila Jecks
He had to go over it again and again all week long, it was a nightmare.
Finally, Jack accepted he couldn’t just forget what happened, he had to go back and figure out what it all meant.
“Really, Rikki,” Jack said from a pay phone at the Drug Store in the town of Lacy, just off Hwy 99. “I need to check out that weird cabin Bill and I found. I have to figure out why the boat flipped over, and BG drowned,” he said, anxious to get away. “I’ll be back in a day or two, if you need me, leave a message with Freddy at the Grocery store in Merriweather.”
“Are you going to be alright? Do you have enough money for gas and food? Oh, Jack, what are you going to do, we haven’t bought another boat yet, how will you get to that other cabin? Are you sure you want to do this? Maybe you should come home and we’ll all go up next week. I think that’s the best idea. You could take a whole week’s holiday, Jamison’s won’t mind, they said so. We could buy a boat and open the cabin; don’t you think that would be better?”
“No, sweetheart, this is something I have to do by myself. I’ll buy some groceries from Freddy and I know a fellow who will rent me his boat. I have to go now. Remember, I love you and no matter what happens, I’ll always come home.”
“No, no, don’t go. Oh Jack, I love you so much, Harry loves you, don’t leave us!”
“I have to go now. Don’t worry. I’ll come home.”
Jack hung up the phone; somehow, even though he knew he should be concerned about his wife and son, he felt a palatable peace. It was as though he was finally free.
He left the Drug store and, even in his fog, remembered to gas up the van. It seemed to know where to go; Jack just sat and stared at the road.
He made good time and pulled into Mt. Currie at 11:00 am. The Old Hwy was only a two-lane road, not much travelled, and it was still early in the year. Rain and sudden snowstorms were an everyday occurrence.
But not today.
The weather forecast on the van’s radio said it was going to be cold and crisp. Sometimes that meant late spring snow, he had to hurry or he’d be caught in weather when he turned off onto old Portage Road.
The road wound along, sometimes right next to the old railway tracks built by the Pacific Great Eastern a long time ago. He looked at them and knew they were important, but couldn’t remember why.
As he drove, cold shivered down his back in his nice warm van.
“Sergeant Majors, why isn’t this case closed?” said his irritated Chief from behind his desk at the Carling Department lock-up. “It seems to me a fairly ordinary accident on Andover Lake. Owner and dog on boat, storm blew up turned boat over, it sank, the dog died, he survived. What’s the problem with this? It’s all very straightforward. Why do we have this letter from his Insurance Company?”
“Well, sir, it’s not quite as simple as it looks, the boat was unsinkable. Now there’s a question of maybe it was stolen not sunk,” said Sergeant Majors standing at attention in front of his Chief’s desk. “Also, I’ve been trying to get in touch with Chief George of the Xaali’pp band, about the ownership of the cabin by Scuff Peak. That’s the cabin Jack McKinnon thought he slept in that night. I need to know who owns it for the accident report. The Chief is avoiding talking to me. Every time I phone his home, his mother says he’s out. I went over to the reserve last week, but he saw me coming and went out the back door.”
“Sergeant, you realize how that sounds?”
“Well, what are you going to do about it? We can’t have an open case hanging around just because Chief George doesn’t want to talk to you. Go over there and insist!” said his Detachment Chief not too kindly.
Sergeant Majors snapped a smart salute and turned in a tight circle according to the strict procedure taught at the RCMP Academy, Depot Division, headquartered in Regina, Saskatchewan. His boss always smiled at the perfect precision. Sometimes he even forgot why he was upset.
It always got the Sergeant out the door.
* * * *
The Xaali’pp Indian Band’s land spread out along the west side of the Fraser River, the town of Carling was on the east side.
The passenger ferry, run by the Xaali’pp Band, was close by at Lyon, and served towns on both sides of the river. Some said it should be scrapped, what they needed was a bridge. But everybody knew, it was a dream for tomorrow.
Two Mounties left early next morning, just after 6:30 am as the radio said it was going to be hot, possibly 91 degrees Fahrenheit. The area around Carling was usually the hottest spot in BC, and this year was no exception. Temperatures could fluctuate wildly in late spring, and early summer. Last minute snow flurries were not unheard of nor were temperatures over 80 or 90 degrees that didn’t last long.
The Sergeant and his partner tried and failed yesterday to track the Chief down, but today they had a plan. The Sergeant was going to the front door of his home on the reserve; the Constable was to go to the back door. Either way, they’d have their man.
After parking the police car behind a big dump truck, the Sergeant went to the front door and knocked, his partner went to the back.
“Hello,” said Sergeant Majors, “I’m looking for Chief George, is he in?”
“I don’t know, I’ll go look,” said the teenager who answered the door, and tried to close it in his face.
“What’s going on here?” said the Mountie putting his heavily booted foot in the doorway.
Since he couldn’t shut the front door, the boy turned to run out the back. When he yanked the door open, there stood the other Mountie, (darn, out smarted by the fuzz).
Hearing the commotion, an old woman walked out of her bedroom at the front of the house and saw what was happening.
“That’s enough!” she said in a firm voice, “I won’t have people terrorizing my grand children! Rudy, go and sit at the kitchen table until I straighten this out. Then I’ll talk to you!”
“Excuse me, ma’am; remember me, I’m Sergeant Majors of the RCMP Carling Detachment. I’ve come to speak to Chief George.”
“Good for you,” said the Chief’s mother inching the door shut, “if you find him tell him I’d like to speak to him too.”
“Ma’am, I haven’t come to arrest him, or cause any trouble, I just need to speak to someone who can tell me about the cabin on Andover Lake that’s right in front of Scuff Peak. I need to know who owns it.”
“I don’t know nothin’ about no cabin at Scuff Peak, we don’t have anything to do with that place, it don’t belong to us. You should go away now.”
“I’m not leaving until someone gives me some answers. I only need this bit of information. A fellow with a cabin on Andover Lake lost his boat and dog in the lake, and almost drowned himself. He got out of the water in front of the Scuff Peak cabin; I just need to know the name of the owner for my report.”
The old woman’s eyes got bigger and bigger as he talked. She grabbed the front door firmly and surprized him by slamming the door shut. She and the young man turned to run out the back door; but they met the other Mountie who still stood guard.
He herded them back inside. The house was getting warmer now that the sun was higher in the sky, but the air in the house was heavy with angst.
“Ma’am,” Bill Majors said, “I don’t want a problem, I just need to know who owns the cabin, it’s for our records. It’s just in case the owner files a report with his insurance company. I know the door and frame are pushed in, but there’s no water damage from the rain yet. It should be looked into right away to make sure no little animals decide to make it their home. It’s in everyone’s best interest to have this matter settled sooner rather than later. No one’s in trouble, surely you know who owns it!”
“I don’t know nothin’, I’ve never been to there, I’m never going to go there. I don’t want to talk about it.”
It didn’t faze the old woman or the young man. Seems they’d rather go to jail than talk about the cabin.
“I don’t know what this is all about,” said the Sergeant to his partner on the drive back to the office with their prisoners, “but I’m sure going to find out.”
The man that used to be Jack McKinnon stood on the sidewalk and saw himself pull up to the gas pump at the marina in Merriweather. He was in a fog; reality was slipping away. Memory hadn’t left altogether yet.
He saw Freddy say, “I said, how much gas, Mr. McKinnon?”
“Fill it up Freddy; put it on my tab?”
He remembered saying that, as he looked at himself get out of the van.
Time was going in and out of focus. But he couldn’t look away, suddenly he was getting out of his van, getting gas at the marina.
“You goin’ up to the cabin tonight?” said Freddy, the grocery store owners’ son as he hooked the gas pumps back up. “How you going t’ get there? It’ll be dark soon maybe you should stay over. I could let you sleep in the back of the store, my dad won’t mind, you’re a good customer,” rattled Freddy.
“I’m going over to the Seed & Feed to see if Pete Farmer will rent me his boat for a couple of days,” said Jack, weary and drawn. “I’m tired, and I appreciate the offer of the bed. I’ll take you up on it. I’ll be back as soon as I make arrangements for the morning.”
With the gas tank filled, he felt more in control and drove over to the Feed store. It was almost 6:00 o’clock; he got there just as the owner was pulling down the shade on the door, getting ready to close.
“You’re coming in a little late, Jack, what can I do for you?”
“Won’t take long, just wanted to know if I could rent your boat for a day or two, there’s some repairs I have to do on the cabin before Rikki and Harry come up,” he lied, pulling the names out of his memory. “I haven’t had time to buy another boat yet, but I should be able to do that in a week or two before we come up for the summer.”
“No problem, no one else has asked for it, so it’s all yours. You know where the key is, it’s all gassed up and ready to go. I changed its’ mooring since last year, it’s in slot #43 now. Have fun.”
Jack left the store and made his way down the street to ‘Betty’s Hilltop Cafe’; his rumbling stomach told him he should eat something. He opened the door and looked around, ‘Betty’ was now a 300 lb. overweight ex biker that ‘found his calling’ when he bought the cafe and became the towns best fast food cook.
“Hi, ‘Betty’, any chance of a hamburger and coffee?” said Jack McKinnon.
“Hi, yourself, always a hamburger on the grill for you, do you want fries with that? Just sit anywhere, the place isn’t that big that I can’t find you.”
Jack sat down in the closest booth.
‘Betty’ came over with his order and sat down to talk, but Jack kept on eating, with only a grunt or two in answer. He couldn’t keep track of the conversation and nodded in odd places.
Finally, his supper finished, he got up, paid the bill, and drove back to the grocery store’s parking lot.
“Hi, Mr. McKinnon,” said Freddy who was waiting for him so he could lock up. “I called my dad and he said you could bunk in the back; no problem. If you get up before we open the store, just pull the door shut behind you. It’ll lock until we open it with the key.”
Freddy came around the counter and lead the way to the back of the store, and showed him where to sleep. It was not much of a bed, more of a cot. But it didn’t matter, Jack was out on his feet and couldn’t wait to lie down.
* * * *
“Jack McKinnon, come home,” said the voice.
“Go away, I’m tired.”
“Get up, you have to come home, get up now!”
“I can’t get up, I’m too tired, leave me alone Rikki, let me sleep,” said the dreaming man that just crawled out of the lake.
“Get up, you have to come home,” said the woman’s voice more urgently now.
The dog paced in front of him, and barked frantically.
“Shut up, BG, I have to sleep now, go away.”
But the pacing dog kept barking. He went over to the man and began licking his face and whining.
Slowly the man sat up, almost as though an outside force was lifting him. He slumped down again, turned on his stomach and began to crawl. No brush or small tree was in the way. The path to the cabin was clear.
It was waiting for him.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” he said and lay back down.
“Jack McKinnon, you wake up now,” Rikki’s voice said, “don’t sleep. Get up, come home right now!”
“Okay, Okay, I’ll try, but can’t come right now...” he whispered to the sand and rocks as he finally stood and walked towards the dark cabin.
The dog hesitated, but followed his master.
* * * *
“Holy shit!” yelled Jack as he bolted up out of his nightmare, still in the cot, still in the back of the Merriweather grocery store, still in the middle of the night.
Trembling, and in a cold sweat he sat on the side of the makeshift bed. Was that a dream, or was it real? He looked around, under the bed, behind the door.
He staggered into the store’s washroom and splashed cold water on his face. Looking into the mirror over the sink he wondered who that haggard person was with the red-rimmed eyes?
“My god,” he said to his reflection, “it’s me!”
This day was never going to end!
Sergeant Bill Majors sat and waited at his desk in Carling. He had plenty of time to go over what happened earlier in the day, plenty of time to regret the reason for his angst.
He shook his head. What to do...? What to do...?
He tapped the page of the report he was trying to read with his pen, still no answer. What was he supposed to do, now?
Yesterday he went to the reserve to see Chief George, but he was avoiding the RCMP.
So, this morning, he went back to the house and tried to pressure the Chief’s mother into telling where he went. She wasn’t having any and he wound up calling the mother of Chief George of the Xaali’pp band’s bluff, and detained not only her, but the Chief’s youngest son as well.
What a mess!
Wait until his Chief finds out, his ears could feel the chewing out he was going to get for unintentionally adding to the strained relationship between the Xaali’pp Band and the local RCMP.
But, what else could he have done?
He got caught!
The old woman knew what she was doing. Her son was going to come storming in and there would be big trouble. Bill knew he’d have to apologize and let them go. And he still wouldn’t be any wiser about who owned that damn cabin.
The Sergeant looked out the window and watched as the warm spring sun began to fall into the far mountain range; dusk settled in early, before the end of the working day. Not quite the long days of summer yet.
He knew he had to wait, it was one thing to bring an Indian in for questioning, but quite another to keep one over night without Due Cause.
The Chief’s mother was a completely different question.
He began to wonder why he was spending so much time on the problem of the ‘unknown’ cabin; didn’t he have bigger, more important crimes to solve?
Of course he did!
But he knew in his heart, he couldn’t leave it alone, not until he knew what happened in that abandoned cabin below Scuff Peak.
A battered old truck with rust in the wheel wells pulled up to the entrance of the RCMP Detachment office in a flourish. A large man in well-worn jeans, and scuffed up cowboy boots tumbled out, the back of the truck held a number of men, all scowling an
“Oh, shit, shit, shit!” said the Mountie, “Here comes trouble!”
Nothing had changed in Langley Township, Jack was still at the cabin, the boat was still at the bottom of the lake, the money was still in the garbage truck, but time was helping, it didn’t seem so overwhelming anymore.
“Have some more coffee before you pick up Harry,” Carol said, holding the coffee pot. “Sorry about laughing the other day, I couldn’t help it, it just hit my funny bone, and the more you said, the funnier it got. I couldn’t help picturing you and Jack and Harry running down the lane, in your PJ’s with your house-coats flapping and yelling for the garbage truck to stop. I’m sorry, but it just cracked me up. I know what’s happening to you and Jack is serious. I shouldn’t have laughed, again, I’m sorry.”
“Nothing to be sorry about,” said Rikki, “I feel better right now than I’ve felt in quite a while. There has to be some emotional release when things get so tense. A good laugh was the best medicine ever, it’s nice to have a caring friend,” she said, a bit embarrassed by the emotions that bubbled up.
Carol looked at her and smiled. Maybe there’d be some better news tomorrow.
“Mom,” said her oldest daughter, Karen, “why’s an RCMP car sitting in front of Mrs. McKinnon’s house?”
“What? The police are at my place?” said Rikki jumping up and looking out the kitchen window.
Yep, there it was in all its’ Centennial Blue and White splendor. Thank heavens the red cherry light on top wasn’t blazing, or the hazard lights blinking.
Rikki ran for the back door.
The Adler’s, mother and daughter, stood and watched through the window, they saw the big RCMP officer going up the back steps. Rikki made it to their fence before he had a chance to knock.
“Can I help you?” she gasped, as he turned and looked at her.
“I’m looking for the lady that lives in this house.”
“I’m the lady that lives in this house. How can I help you?”
“We better go inside where you can sit down.”
Rikki dropped where she stood, fainting in a crumpled heap.
The Mountie ran down the steps and put her in the ‘rescue position’, and she began to breathe again.
Come home by Sheila Jecks / Mystery & Detective have rating 2.5 out of 5 / Based on15 votes