.


APPLES, ORANGES
and a touch of LEMMON

by Alan A Sandercott

Short story collection (8)

110 pages. Perfect bound. 5" X 8".
First printing December 2000
ISBN 0-9684708-7-3

[Out of Print]

  • River of Tears - An old trapper risks his life in the middle of a winter storm to rescue a deer trapped on the river ice attempting to escape a pack of hungry coyotes.
  • Just Passing Through - A passing motorist becomes embroiled with small town law enforcement resulting in strange results.
  • Marty - A lonely old farmer and a furry little martin cross paths with life changing results.
  • Across The Lake - An old prospector and his dog interact with a wild wolf pack in the Rocky Mountains.
  • Gotcha!! - The pursuit and arrest of a drunken driver has a bizarre ending in a courtroom.
  • The Lair - Two boy's mountain hike turns dangerous when they encounter a wild cougar.
  • En Guarde - A hunter risks all to protect his trophy moose.
  • Night On The Town - The exploits of two sailors spending a night out in a foreign port.


  • NOTE: This previously published work is covered by copyright.
    No printing, copying or use by any means without written permission from the author.


     
    EN GARDE    by Alan A Sandercott

           Way back in early 1970's, Haney was hunting moose with his brother-in-law, KJ. They were in a hunting territory KJ held as a professional big-game guide in north-central British Columbia.

           Following a long cold day of tramping through the bush, Haney managed to knock down his moose just before sunset. With KJ's help -- plus a fair amount of sweating, swearing, moaning, and groaning -- they dressed the animal, loaded and hauled it back to their hunting camp. Despite the darkness, and with the aid of a coal-oil lantern, they wasted no time in skinning the animal and hanging it to cool overnight.
           "One down and one to go," KJ said, cleaning the tools.
           "I'm not looking forward to going through this again," Haney replied. "This is too much like work."

           Across the logging road, and tucked back under a big tree, KJ maintained a hunting cabin for his clients. It wasn't long before the little pot-bellied stove had the cabin toasty warm and the two hunters tied into a well-deserved meal. KJ had an appointment first thing the next morning and, given the lengthy distance into town, he headed back that night. Haney, on the other hand, remained behind to spend the night in camp.

           Very early next morning the sound of a vehicle running outside jolted Haney awake. For several minutes he lay quietly listening as cobwebs drained from his sleepy head. At first he thought KJ was back, but when the vehicle's engine continued to run he became suspicious. His thoughts drifted across the road to where the carcass of his moose invitingly hung from the tree.

           Careful not to make a sound Haney stole quietly from his sleeping bag, crept cautiously across the dark cabin, and peeked out the window. Through the darkness he was able to make out the form of a pickup truck on the road silhouetted by its taillights. Exhaust fumes from under the truck rose eerily into the cold morning air. Immediately Haney's mind filled with the sound of doors opening and the rattling of block and tackle chains. He envisioned his moose being lowered from the tree....
           "No!" Haney thought. Having come so far and working way too hard, he would not stand by and let somebody steal his moose. Determined to stop them he fumbled around in the dark for his rifle and pumped a shell into its chamber.

           There was crispness to the morning air as Haney slipped through the cabin door. Once outside he stood rigidly still, listening intently, but except for his own rapid breathing, all was strangely quiet. His heart racing, he clutched his rifle close to his side, his finger posed on the cold steel trigger. With KJ's vehicle gone and the cabin in darkness, Haney guessed they didn't even know he was there. What to do next?

           While standing his quiet vigil the guardian noticed the occasional reddish light emanating from inside the truck. A cigarette. With each puff the glowing light illuminated the outline of two occupants.
           "Just road hunters waiting for sunrise," Haney thought, and fear for his moose subsided.

           A light snow had blanketed the ground over night. The sight of it made Haney realize he was shivering, and no wonder -- he wasn't wearing any clothes! In his rush to action, he had neglected to dress. There he stood, a defender of moose, rifle at the ready, bare foot and clad only in his underwear.

           Feeling rather ridiculous out there, not to mention down right cold, Haney reached behind for the doorknob. And wouldn't you know it -- the door had locked behind him. Suddenly the fate of his moose seemed insignificant compared to his immediate plight. His mind raced for a solution to his dilemma. He considered approaching the truck for help, but the embarrassment seemed the greater evil. Knowing the sound of his breaking into the cabin would only alert the truck, he decided to brave the cold for a while. Fortunately, he didn't have long to wait before the truck moved on.

           KJ had fortified the cabin well in his attempt to ward off vandals. Haney's body slam to the door resulted in little more than a bruised shoulder. Short of smashing out the glass, he made a last desperate assault on the reinforced window. With the aid of his trusty rifle barrel, he managed to pry off boards that were holding the window closed. To his great relief the window finally pulled free, allowing him to awkwardly crawl in through the opening. Safe inside at last he quickly threw a blanket around his shoulders and proceeded to light a fire. Fixing the window would come later.

           While KJ found the incident absolutely hilarious, it was many years before Haney had the nerve to relate his story to anyone. In hindsight the humor of the incident far exceeded the seriousness he had felt at the time. But, more importantly, he still had his moose. Ironically, that was Haney's last hunting trip.

    Return to Top

     
    RIVER OF TEARS    by Alan A Sandercott

           Deep in a rugged valley of the Rocky Mountains, a solitary figure stands silhouetted against a winter background. With each laboured breath, the old man's lungs suffer the assault of freezing air. Ice clings to his mustache, like icicles from a roof's edge, masking his chapped and bleeding lips. His eyes are damp and blood-shot, tired from squinting through snows driven by bitter cold winds roaring down the mountainsides. Heavy snows cling to the drab gray trees, their branches bent in submission. It's a cold December morning and all around him rages the severity of winter; a reminder of the previous night's storm.

           Known only as Old John the trapper, the man stands with his back to the wind, tugging at his parka with mitted hands to fend off the cold. Oh, how he wishes he had stayed in bed. Every joint and muscle in his rheumatism ravaged body screams at him. Years earlier a doctor advised he give up his nomadic way of life, but Old John knew he would never leave his beloved mountains. Worse than rheumatism, it was the pain of hunger that forced the old man out into winter's fury. He needed food, the meat that came from his trapline. Now far from home he pauses above the river to rest, to regain strength to continue his fight through the deep snows, aided only by snowshoes and the persistent memory of his warm cabin.

           Somewhere nearby, a coyote's mournful howl rides the wind, signaling the start of a hunt. They too, are desperate to extract a meal from winter's grip. The object of the predator's attention is soon evident on the far side of the river. A young mule deer suddenly bursts from the trees onto the wind-swept ice, followed by the yapping of coyotes left floundering in the deep snow. But the river is only partially frozen, a span of open water cutting off the deer's escape. With nowhere to go she nervously anticipates her pursuers.

           Free of the deep snow, the hungry pack quickly overtakes its terrified quarry. First one snarling coyote attacks, then a second, their gnashing teeth snapping at her flanks in an attempt to drag her down. Once down the pack will close for the kill. She fights valiantly with her back to the water, lashing out with her front legs while attempting to retain her footing. But three coyotes prove too much and they force her farther onto the ice. Then, without warning, the ice gives way, plunging her into the freezing water. Now she has no choice; she must turn and swim for the opposite shore.

           From the trail above the river, Old John watches helplessly as nature's drama unfolds before him. He has seen it all before, many times, and this one should have had a happy ending except for two other coyotes that suddenly appear on the river bank below him. They wait, hidden, as the deer approaches the narrow strip of ice lining the river's edge, to ambush, to finish the hunt.

           Overcoming the river's treacherous current, as well as drifting ice flows, the deer reaches the shore ice, the last obstacle in her bid for safety. With renewed energy she claws the ice with her front legs, straining to pull herself out of the numbing water. This is the moment the two coyotes launch their ambush, rushing from camouflage to scratch and bite at the deer's exposed legs. She has no choice but to retreat back into the freezing water. Trapped, she fights frantically to keep her head above water, her terror filled eyes searching for another escape. But the hunger-crazed killers meet each attempt with slathering jaws of teeth. Despite the man's understanding of nature's ways, he cannot help but admire the little deer's tenacious fight for survival. Reaching for his rifle he fires a shot into the air, scattering the pack in all directions.

           The deer is now exhausted. Panicked breaths blast from her nostrils into the cold air as once more she approaches the icy barrier. Each frantic kick of her legs becoming slower and slower, the freezing cold water taking its toll.

           Realizing the deer may drown, the old man suddenly reacts, dropping his heavy pack and stepping out of his snowshoes. With snow up to his knees he struggles over to the steep embankment above the river. There's no trail leading down, only the wild rose bushes, slippery willow shoots, and odd-shaped junipers that cling precariously to rocky outcroppings. Once over the edge he frantically twists and turns, reaching out for branches in a vain attempt to break his descent through waste deep snows. Broken tree branches tear at his already aching body as he loses footing and slides beneath the deep snow, becoming entangled in the thick underbrush. He desperately fights to free himself. Through the thorny rose bushes, under trees and over fallen debris and sharp rocks, it seems to take forever to reach the bottom, but finally he stumbles out onto the frozen riverbank.

           With rapid rasping breath and pounding heart the old trapper searches shoreline. Nothing, no sign of the deer. 'Had it been drawn under the ice?' he feared, 'and drowned?' All he can see is the fog rising from the water into the cold air. Suddenly there's a splash, and a leg feebly clawing at the ice. A huge sigh of relief escapes the old man's cracked lips as he watches the determined animal struggling for its life. But it hasn't the strength. Totally exhausted and no longer capable of swimming, the little deer quietly sinks from sight beneath the ice.

           Like a madman, Old John the trapper rips loose of his heavy coat and mitts, then charges onto the ice, only to have it give way beneath him. Suddenly he too is in the frigid water, piercing shock waves coursing through his body.

           He's chest deep by the time he reaches the spot where the deer disappeared. Frantically, he brushes aside the broken ice fragments until, finally, he feels the deer below the surface. With a desperate lunge he grabs a handful of hair and raises the deer's head from the waters. Pangs of sadness tear at the old man's heart as he lifts the lifeless body up onto the ice. Then, with a great deal of difficulty, he pulls himself onto the ice and crawls towards shore, dragging the limp body beside him.

           Under the cover of a large spruce tree, an apprehensive man places a trembling hand gently against the animal's side. Yes! There's a heartbeat, and within seconds the animal returns to life with a choking gasp for air.

           Literally wrenched from the jaws of death and still too exhausted to move, the young animal can only watch as the human retrieves his coat and uses it to gently rub warmth into her trembling body, restoring her circulation.

           With the wind's stinging bite and overpowering numbness spreading throughout his own body, Old John knows he must leave before he freezes to death. His wet clothing is beginning to freeze; all feeling has drained from his hands and feet. Quickly donning his partially dampened coat and warm mitts, he feels some relief but knows his survival depends on reaching his packsack and its valuable change of clothes. Then, and only then, will he be able to make the snowshoe trip back to his warm cabin.

           At the edge of the trees lining the river, he stops to look back at the resting animal. And as their eyes meet momentarily, a smile crosses that old man's face. Old John the trapper, who like the other predators of the wild, has subsisted for so many years on the wildlife around him, now feels a glowing warmth deep within himself. The water filling his eyes at this moment is not of the river. He slowly turns and begins his agonizing ascent back up the dangerous escarpment.

           Later that afternoon as darkness reclaims the skies, the wind increases, whipping the snows into a fury while the temperature drops rapidly; a promise of winter's wrath to come that night.

           On the trail above the river, a young mule deer sniffs the familiar scent on the old man's packsack and snowshoes, now partially buried by drifting snow.

           Far off in the distance, a coyote howls the start of yet another hunt.

    Return to Top

     
    MARTY    by Alan A Sandercott

           A winter sun was slowly setting as Arvid's snowmobile coasted to a stop along his trapline. He had only two more traps to check, and then it was back to the warmth of his farmhouse.

           Like his father before him, Arvid made his living as farmer. He trapped fur-bearing animals during the long winter months to supplement his income. He had grown up on the farm, and after his father passed away, Arvid had taken over both the farm and the trap line.

           He had been hoping to catch a lynx at this particular location. There was plenty of sign in the area, but each time he checked the trap, it was empty. This time, however, he could see the trap was sprung. But, instead of the wily lynx he expected, he came face to face with one very unhappy marten.

           The small animal was still alive, trying desperately to escape at the man's approach. It was not uncommon for marten to be caught in the lynx sets, as they were easily attracted by the scent lures. The beaver-meat bait proved irresistible. The marten was held firm in one of the new leg-hold traps. Its five inch steel jaws padded with rubber to protect an animal's legs from being torn up.

           Arvid pulled a .22 calibre pistol from his pocket and took careful aim. The marten suddenly stopped fighting and looked straight at the man. It had the biggest, saddest eyes, Arvid had ever seen. No matter how hard he tried, Arvid was unable to pull the trigger. He slowly lowered the pistol and sat back in the snow. For the first time in his many years of trapping, he felt a sudden and profound sorrow for the animals.

           The old man removed his warm scarf and wrapped it around the animal to restrain it. The poor thing was so tired that it put up next to no struggle as Arvid carefully released the leg-hold trap. On closer inspection he realized the leg was not broken, but would require time to heal properly. He decided to take the animal back to the farm. Carefully, he placed the frightened animal, scarf and all, into the wooden box mounted on his snowmobile.

           Once home, Arvid managed to get the martin's sore leg free of the scarf long enough to bandage it. He then placed the marten in a cardboard box, into which he also placed a small dish of food and water. The cute little tyke was so tired and hungry, that before long, and with a full tummy, it was sound asleep.

           Over the next few days, as its foot began to heal, the marten began venturing out of its box. Martens have a burning curiosity and before long it was snooping into everything.

           Arvid lived alone and the marten soon proved to be not only a good companion, but also a never-ending source of entertainment. It wasn't long before the old man's new friend was appropriately named, "Marty."

           During the days when Marty was not busy exploring the old farmhouse, he would curl up and sleep in Arvid's favorite chair. Each night as the man returned from his daily chores, Marty would be there to greet him. It may have been a wild animal, but Marty seemed very content in his new surroundings.

           Then came the inevitable day of Marty's return to the wild. The leg was healed. Arvid felt sadness as he carried his little friend out into the yard and set him down. Confused at first, as he scurried around, Marty looked off into the trees and then back at Arvid. Then, as if driven by some instinct, he turned and scampered off into the trees. The man continued watching long after his furry friend disappeared into the cover of wilderness. Wiping at his dampened eyes, Arvid tried to fight off his feeling of sadness. But deep down he felt good; giving Marty his freedom was the right thing to do.

           That night, as Arvid lay in bed unable to sleep, memories of Marty flooded his mind. He began thinking of all the other animals he'd trapped over the years. His mind drifted back to a time when he followed his father on the trapline. In those days, his father used snowshoes and pulled Arvid in a sled. A lot had changed since those days with his father. He still had his father's farm and trapline, but he now lived alone in the once lively farmhouse. A snowmobile replaced snowshoes on the trapline.

           As the memory of Marty's big bright eyes flashed before him, Arvid began to have second thoughts about his trapline. "Maybe the time has come," he thought. Laying there in the darkness he reached a decision.

           The next morning Arvid set out on his trapline for the last time. He spent the day gathering his traps. The winding trails of the trapline would once again be safe for wildlife.

           It was dark when he returned to the farm. After quickly completing his chores, he dragged his tired body back to the farmhouse. He built a fire in the rock fireplace and settled back into his favorite chair to relax. Arvid was alone in the old house once more; alone with his pipe and the crackle of the fire.

           Suddenly his eyes opened, and he listened intently, not sure of the strange noise at the door. His old heart hastened as he opened the door. Quick as a wink, a little ball of brown fur scooted right past him and into the house.

           Arvid smiled as he stood with his back to the warm fireplace. That little ball of fur was now curled up in his favorite chair, grooming itself. Marty was home.

           That winter evening was the first in forty odd years that there was no traps set on the old family trapline. A way of life was fading into memory. Turning off the light, Arvid rolled over in bed and closed his eyes. And as darkness filled the room, one lucky little fur-bearing animal by the name of Marty snuggled up on the bottom of the old man's bed.

    Return to Top

     
    GOTCHA!!    by Alan A Sandercott

           Rainbows of neon flooded city streets as daytime crowds made way for the night people. Constable Ralph Worsyck slowed his police cruiser to a crawl in front of the Eventide Tavern. A lone female had just stepped out into the evening, and for the briefest of seconds light from the open doorway silhouetted her body. That brief second was all it took for Ralph's eyes to focus on the gentle curve of her long slim legs.
          "Get a load of that one," Ralph said.
          "I see her," replied his partner, Karl Muntz.
          "She must be new. I've never seen her around here before."

          The young woman looked to be in her early twenties, very attractive with long satiny coal black hair that covered her shoulders. She was wearing a hugging cashmere sweater that hid nothing from the imagination. Red high-heeled shoes to match her tight slit skirt exposing ample thigh. An innocent blush accompanied her flirtatious smile as she watched the police car crawl past.
          "I think I'm in love," Ralph said.
          "Again?"
          "For sure this time."
          "Yeah right. What about that little blonde you pulled over last night for no tail lights, remember?"
          "That was yesterday. This is tonight. See," Ralph said, smiling back at her. "The sweet young thing wants me."
          "She wants fifty bucks, that's what she wants."

          It was a good thing Karl was keeping an eye on the street or he may never have seen the old pickup truck exiting the alley. For sure, Ralph didn't.
          "Watch this guy!" Karl warned, over the sound of squealing tires.
          Ralph swung his attention just in time to see a truck pulling right out in front of them. He instinctively hit his brakes, avoiding an accident.
          "Where the hell did he come from?" Ralph asked, surprised.
          "I don't know, but let's go get him."
          "But what about my new love?"
          "Forget the girl. Let's go. Crime's awaiting."
          'Fighting crime' was one of Karl's favorite expressions and he joked about it all the time.

          For the next ten minutes, with red and blue lights flashing and siren screaming, the police car followed the truck through crowded city streets.
          "I do believe this guy is violating the law," Ralph joked, stroking his handlebar mustache in training.
          "He's drunker than hell. That's what he is. We better get him stopped before he piles into somebody."

          Traffic lights and stop signs meant nothing to the truck's driver as he charged through intersections, barely missing several other vehicles. A second police car joined the chase with little effect.
          "You better back off a bit before he kills someone," Karl warned.
          "I just don't want to lose him," Ralph replied, paying extra special care to his driving.

          Block after block the chase continued, the officers waiting for an opportunity to force the truck to stop. It was not until a third patrol car approached from the other direction with lights flashing, that the truck veered off onto a side street. Braking hard, Ralph turned the corner in time to see the truck's tail lights off in the distance. They followed for several blocks until the truck braked and turned into a private driveway, turning off its lights in the process. It was a good try, but spotting the lingering cloud of dust Ralph pulled in right behind the truck.

          The minute the car's headlights hit the truck both officers could see a flurry of activity inside the cab.
          "I don't believe these guys," Ralph said, quickly opening his door.
          "What?" Karl asked.
          "They're actually switching places. You take the driver's door."
          "Let's get 'em," Karl said.

          The scene when Karl opened the driver's door was ... laughable. Both occupants were attempting to untangle themselves after having traded places.
          "Nice try, now come on out of there," Karl said, holding the door open.

          Meanwhile, Ralph arrived at the passenger door, his flashlight trained on the two struggling occupants.       "You," Ralph said, prodding the man with his flashlight. "Step out of the vehicle."

          It took a few seconds to get them unraveled, but eventually Ralph got his man out the door. He was drunk as a skunk, hanging onto the door to keep from falling.
          "Let's see your drivers license and registration," Ralph asked, shining his flashlight into the man's bloodshot eyes. "How much have you had to drink tonight?"
          "A couple beers," the man replied, with breath that smelled of day old beer.
          "Just a couple?"
          "Yeah," the man said, fumbling for his wallet. He no sooner got it out than he dropped it on the ground, and when he reached to pick it up he fell flat on his face.
          "Here," the man said, holding the wallet up towards Ralph while attempting to regain his equilibrium.
          "A few beers, eh? How would you like to remove your license for me?" Ralph asked, handing back the man's wallet. "What's your name?"
          "Terry."
          "Terry, what?"
          "Terry Whyte," he replied, all giddy-like.

          With the other man out from behind the steering wheel, Karl quickly checked the interior of the truck.
          "What's your name?" Karl asked.
          "Calvin."
          "Okay Calvin, how would you like to move around front here for me?"
    After frisking Calvin he left him, legs spread, leaning against the front fender.
          "Have you been drinking tonight?" Karl asked, shining his flashlight around inside the cab for a better look.
          "One beer. That's all I had. You can test me if you want."
          "Whose beer is this under the seat?" he asked, spotting an open bottle under the driver's seat. By then most of the beer had spilled out onto the floorboards.
          "I don't know. Must have been there from before."
          "Don't give me that, it's still foaming. You guys were drinking in the truck, right?"
          "No. It's not mine."
          "It's under the driver's seat, so is it yours?" Ralph told Terry, now handcuffed and leaning against the other fender.
          "Nope."
          "Sure it is. Why didn't you stop when you saw my flashing lights?"
          "I don't know. I wasn't driving," Terry replied. "I think I'm going to be sick..."
          Ralph cautiously stepped out of Terry's way.
          "I was driving," Calvin said.
          "I think you're lying, Calvin," Karl said.
          "No I'm not. I was driving."
          "Tell me the truth. Terry was driving, wasn't he?"
          "No. He's too drunk to drive."
          "You got that right. Whose truck is this?"
          "It's Terry's. I was just driving him home."
          "Is this your house, Terry?" Ralph asked.
          "Yeah."
          "Then what's your address?"
          "I ... I can't remember."

          By then another police car had pulled in behind Ralph.
          "I'll check out the house," the cop offered.
          "Thanks," Ralph said. "Okay, Terry, let's go downtown."
          "Are you arresting Terry?" Calvin asked.
          "That's right," Ralph answered.
          "What the hell for?"
          "Drunken driving," Ralph said, escorting Terry back to his police car.
          "But he wasn't driving, I was."
          "Keep it up and we'll take you in too, for lying to us," Karl warned.
          "I'm not lying," Calvin said, twisting around to look at Karl.
          "Just be quiet and stand there!"

          The information the other cop brought back from the house came as no surprise, "He doesn't live here."
          "What a surprise," Ralph said. "Okay. Let's get a tow truck out here and impound the vehicle."
          "What do you want do with Calvin, here?" Karl asked.
          "Kick him loose. The walk home will do him good."

          Back at the station house Terry blew a healthy point two-three on the Breathalyzer.
          "Just about what I figured," Karl said.
          "You'd think the guy would learn. This is his third time round," Ralph said.
          "Well at least he knows the routine by know."
          "He must. He didn't say a word when I stuck him in the tank for the night. Let him sleep it off."
          "Okay," Karl said, grabbing his hat. "Let's get back out there and do some more crime fighting."
          "Must be time for another bar check," Ralph suggested.

          When Terry's day in court rolled around -- on Ralph and Karl's day off, naturally -- they both showed up to testify. They had expected to see Terry in court, but not with Jack Dodnias. Jack was a self-proclaimed hotshot lawyer with a flare for cases like Terry's. Both Ralph and Karl chuckled to themselves as they watched Terry counting out bills into Jack's open hand.
          "That's one way of making sure you get paid, eh?" Karl remarked.
          "He's just being smart," Ralph said. "If they lose, and they will, Terry's going away for quite awhile."
          "I would have expected him to use a public defender."
          "They couldn't get him off his first two times. Now he has no choice, he has to go with someone like Jack."
          "Should be interesting."
          "He hasn't got a hope in hell," Ralph said, confidently.

          In court, Ralph testified as to the erratic driving that first got their attention. He described the chase through city streets, finally ending in a residential driveway. Then he went on to describe how he and his partner witnessed the two men changing places in the truck. Finally, he described Terry's condition when he got him out of the truck before arresting him. Next, they introduced the Breathalyzer report.

          When Karl's turn came, his testimony was pretty much the same. He added to Ralph's testimony; about how the police car's headlights illuminated the scene giving the officers a clear view of the defendant switching places.

          The defense maintained that Terry had not been the driver that night. He submitted that the two officers had misinterpreted the situation, and that it was Terry's friend Calvin who had been driving. Calvin had been simply leaning over to open Terry's window for fresh air when the officers approached the vehicle.
          "It would have been impossible for two grown men to change places in the cab of that truck, your Honor," Jack argued. "The truck has a stick shift."

          Unfortunately for Jack, and his paid up client, the Judge bought the prosecution's view and found Terry guilty, he sentenced him to sixty days and a one thousand dollar fine. Ralph could not resist the temptation. When he had Jack's eye he mouthed the word, "Gotcha."

          "Smart move, Jack," Ralph said, out in the hallway after court, "collecting your fee up front. Too bad for your client though."
          "You'll see, this isn't over yet."
          "Don't tell me you're going to appeal this?"
          "There's more than one way to skin a cat you know."
          "Yeah, but can your cat afford another go round?"

          Six months later and Terry was back in court for his appeal. As before, both Ralph and Karl were there to testify. Among the others waiting outside the courtroom was the homely faced Terry.
          "He looks like he's just lost his last friend," Karl said.
          "Maybe he has," Ralph laughed, "Jack's not here with his hand out."

          Long moments ticked by as the officers sat, watching Terry with amusement, his adam's apple nervously bobbing up and down.
          "Do you think he can hear the jail door clanging shut?" Ralph joked.

          Just before court proceedings were about to get underway, Jack suddenly appeared. Immediately the parchment color left Terry's face. He wiped his sweaty hand on his pants, stood and waited as Jack approached.
          "Isn't this where Jack extracts his pound of flesh?" Karl asked.
          "I wouldn't put it passed him."
          After a short conversation with his client, Jack walked over to the two officers, "Afternoon officers," he said, with a sly smile. "Too bad you had to come all this way for nothing. You're going to lose this, you know."
          Neither officer said anything, just smiled politely. Jack continued to smile as he patted his fancy leather briefcase, turned, and entered the courtroom.
          "What do you think?" Karl asked.
          "He's bluffing," Ralph replied, confidently. "He can't possibly have anything new. The kid's going away. Then you can get back to your crime fighting, okay?"

          The court case was not that far along when Ralph realized that Jack was not concerned with whom the driver was -- he was after the Breathalyzer evidence. The lawyer quickly confirmed Ralph's qualification on the Breathalyzer and then moved on to the results.
          "Let me show you this report," Jack said, approaching the box and showing Ralph a copy of the Breathalyzer report. "Tell me, sir, do you recognize this report?"
          "Yes sir," Ralph replied, after glancing at it.
          "You completed it?"
          "Yes, I filled it out when I conducted the tests."
          "I see, and is that your signature at the bottom of the page?"
          "Yes."
          "Now, Constable Worsyck, will you tell this court how many breath samples you took from the defendant?"
          "Two."
          "And is that proper procedure, sir?"
          "Yes, it is."
          "Why is that?"
          "The second test is to confirm the results of the first sample."
          "I see. And what time was the first sample taken?"
          "At 11:15 p.m. He blew point two-three."
          "I only asked for the time. Will you tell the court what time the second sample was taken, sir?"
          "That was at 11:30 p.m."
          "Okay, and would you explain what those 'Batch numbers' are in each section?"
          "Yes. That's the batch number off the box that the test vials are packed in."
          "I see. And should not the numbers be the same for all vials in the box?"
          "Yes."
          "Well then, sir, would you care to explain why the batch numbers are different for each test that you conducted?"

          Ralph took a moment to glance over the form. "The vial I used in the first test was probably the last one in that box. I would have opened a new box for the second test."
          "Tell me, Constable Worsyck, is it proper procedure to use test vials from two different batches to perform Breathalyzer tests?"
          "Yes."
          "You testified earlier that the second test is to confirm the results of the first, correct?"
          "Yes."
          "Are you telling this court that you used a vial from a different batch to confirm your first results from my client?"
          "Yes, but--"
          "Thank you, Constable," Jack said, cutting Ralph off before he could finish.

          "Your Honor," Jack said, turning to face the bench, "I respectfully submit that the results of the two tests conducted on my client cannot be believed. There is no guarantee that the vials from two different batches will be the same. Surely, a proper confirmation would require vials from the same batch."

          It took no longer than five minutes for the Judge to consider the evidence in the case -- case dismissed.

          After the judge had left the bench, Jack Dodnias looked over at Ralph. "Gotcha!" he said, with a smirk.

    Return to Top

     
    ACROSS THE LAKE    by Alan A Sandercott

           Signs of fall were everywhere. Across the lake the once green trees were now ablaze with fall colours, their leaves gently drifting to the ground. Overhead, a large "V" formation of geese circled the lake before landing for the night, and a brief rest before resuming their southern migration. A beaver busied itself in the lake, dragging a poplar branch to add to its winter food cache. An old man and his dog sat in mute witness to the passing of another summer.

           MacKenzie was an old prospector who, along with his dog Sheba, lived in a small cabin by Duck Lake, in a remote northern valley. Born in Scotland, he was drawn overseas as a young man by stories of gold strikes. Fifty years later he was still waiting to 'strike it rich'. For years he had been digging his mineshaft deeper and deeper as he followed a seam of quartz, its meager but tantalizing traces of gold urging him on.

           Twice a year he made the long trip to civilization to exchange gold for supplies. It was on one such trip, several years earlier, that an old Indian gave MacKenzie a puppy. At first he was reluctant to accept it but the Indian insisted the white man needed companionship. So, the next morning as he struck out along the trail for home, a little ball of fluff with a curly tail followed close behind.

           Sheba, as MacKenzie had named her, was part Siberian Husky and part wolf, but somewhat smaller than the local wolves. By the end of that summer the two had grown very attached and Sheba was seldom away from his side. She would even join him in the wooden boat when he went fishing, becoming so excited when he brought a splashing fish along side, that on several occasions she almost capsized the boat. They spent most evenings out on the small porch over looking the lake, MacKenzie in his rickety old rocking chair, and Sheba curled up on her blanket.

           On that particular evening, they listened to the cackle of geese settling down for the night, and from the far end of the lake came the haunting call of a loon. High above in the treetops a chattering squirrel busily harvested pinecones, sending them crashing to the ground. But it was the distant howl of wolves that caught Sheba's attention. Faint at first, their mournful calls increased until a chorus of howls echoed off the hills. Sheba raised her head, an instinctual recognition stirring within her.

           The prospector was accustomed to sharing the valley with wolves. In winter their tracks were everywhere, often paralleling his own path to the mine, as if stalking him. Encounters were rare, but later that fall, when alone, he came face to face with a wolf on the trail. Knowing how dangerous they could be, he slowly removed his packboard and sat it on the ground, his hand coming to rest on his rifle. As the animal stood with its tail held high, the hairs on its back bristling, it displayed no over-aggressiveness; only a nervous tension as MacKenzie stared sharply into those yellow eyes.
          "Okay, now what?" he asked, in a soft voice.

           The human voice seemed to calm the wolf. It lowered its front end to the ground, stretching out its front legs, and playfully resting its face on its paws. MacKenzie relaxed his grip on the rifle and slowly reached into his pocket, pulling out a couple strips of dried venison he carried for Sheba.
          "How about this? Is this what you want?" he asked.
          Sensing food, the wolf dropped its haunches to the ground and lay quietly until MacKenzie threw the strips towards it. Cautiously, it inched ahead to grasp the prize in its mouth, then turned and trotted down the trail.

           Shortly after Christmas, Sheba became very restless, often pacing the ice out front, barking into the distance across the lake. Then one night a large wolf appeared. It was the pack leader, a large black male with silver and white markings, much larger than Sheba.

           MacKenzie had never seen it so close. Sheba showed excitement at the wolf's presence. Her instinct took over, and before her master could reach for his rifle, she jumped up and slowly moved towards the wolf; passively, her ears flat, her tail down and wagging, demonstrating the respect due a pack leader. She remained perfectly still as the wolf walked around her, sniffing at her. Then, sensing his approval, she began to prance at his side and lick at his muzzle. The display of affection continued for several moments until the male suddenly turned and moved off into the trees. MacKenzie watched helplessly as Sheba playfully followed into the shadows.

           Long into the night, MacKenzie waited in his rocking chair, his calls for her in vain. There was no sign of Sheba or the wolf. The sky was alive with stars and the moon cast an eerie light through the cabin as he retired to his bed. He lay there regretting that he had not chased off the wolf. Other than the crackling of burning wood in the stove and a mouse busy scurrying about the darkened cabin, silence shrouded the lakeside setting. At some point during the night, MacKenzie heard the familiar sound of Sheba turning round and round on her blanket before laying down to sleep. Breathing a huge sigh of relief, he finally closed his eyes.

           Sheba's nightly ventures into the forest with the wolf lasted a week and then it was gone. Much to MacKenzie's relief, Sheba returned to her old routine, and as the weather turned cold she moved to the comfort of the indoors to sleep. They continued to see the wolves from time to time, especially out on the frozen lake in the area where the man had cut holes for fishing. Often he left a fish or two on the ice for the resident eagle, and knowing this, the wolves would often wait nearby until he left and then grab the fish before the eagle arrived.

           Towards spring, as the snow receded and the ice began to melt, it came as no surprise to MacKenzie that Sheba was going to have pups. She began staying in the cabin during the day and as her time approached he created a den for her under his own bed. During the two days before the births, Sheba remained in her new den and a concerned man stayed home from the mine.

           The morning the pups were born, MacKenzie was more excited than Sheba. The first was born about midday. Sheba quickly attended to the pup, cleaning it and helping it to start nursing. Within a few hours there were five pups; four females, and one male who wasted no time clawing his way past his sisters to nurse. The females were a pepper gray colour with some yellowish-brown on the front of their legs. The male, on the other hand, was black and bore markings similar to the pack leader. All had blue eyes and each displayed the curled tail of the husky. By late afternoon an exhausted Sheba had them all cleaned up and she curled around them keeping them warm.

           Within two weeks the pups were venturing out into the room, scurrying back under the bed at the slightest sound. When they were not nursing they would run around, playing together, and getting into mischief. When the man was around, the pups stayed closer to their den, except for the brave little male who took great pleasure in pulling at the old man's socks. MacKenzie finally gave the pup an old sock to play with.

           After about three weeks Sheba moved the pups outdoors, and none too soon for MacKenzie. A space under the porch became their new den and from its darkness all one could see was a bunch of little blue eyes. Venturing out, they found the small garden by the cabin with its flowers that attracted bees and butterflies. A little chipmunk living in a rusty old stove provided hours of entertainment. They chewed everything in sight, their favorite being the sticks of fire kindling piled on the porch, which they scattered over the yard. They soon discovered the nearby creek and spent many warm afternoons slashing around trying to catch tadpoles and small fish, always aware of their surroundings and scurrying back under the porch at the first sign of danger. They spent a great deal of time wrestling and chasing each other, establishing their social rank within the litter.

           Tired of their games, they would lie around in the sun grooming one another, except for the male with his burning curiosity. He was forever in trouble; like the day MacKenzie left the cabin door partly open and later returned to find his blankets dragged into the yard, the ends in shreds. On his approach the pups ran to the sanctuary of their den -- except the male who trotted up to MacKenzie, tail wagging, the old sock dangling from its mouth.

           The pups grew at an extraordinary rate, especially the male, who by then was larger and stronger that his sisters. The old man couldn't be sure, but from the number of dead squirrels and mice showing up around the yard, it seemed to him that the wolves were leaving food for Sheba and the pups. At first the pups didn't know what to do with the gifts and simply played with them. To help them learn, Sheba started leading the pups off into the nearby forest to expose them to their new world. Short trips at first, but they soon became more frequent and of longer duration.

           Late one evening, as the pups straggled back from one such venture, MacKenzie noticed traces of blood on the pups. On closer inspection, it was apparent the pups had been feeding with the pack -- they were slowly reverting to the wild, submitting to their natural instincts.

           By mid summer only the male pup remained. He was now half the size of Sheba, his sleek black coat beginning to show the silver guard hairs, his eyes slowly turning the yellow of adulthood. Each day the male would play around the yard until MacKenzie returned from the mine, then it would run to greet him, jumping up and pawing at his pocket, begging for the venison strips he knew the old man carried. But in time, the lure of the wild proved too much for the pup, and he too left for the last time.

           For the remainder of the summer MacKenzie and Sheba returned to their daily routines. It was not until fall that they came across the wolf pack on a high mountain meadow. Several pups, now almost full grown, were being attended by an adult while the rest of the pack was off hunting. Crouching down they anxiously studied the pups; a smile crossing the man's face when he noticed four of the pups had curled tails. However, there was no sign of the black male. A sudden sadness overtook MacKenzie; of all the pups, the male had been his favorite.

           It was later in the morning when they came across the main pack of six adults with their unmistakable black leader. After observing the wolves for several minutes, it was Sheba who first noticed the movement a short distance behind the pack. She knew right away, and so did MacKenzie ... it was the black pup, running to catch up with the pack. It was alive and well and had taken its rightful place in the wild.

           That evening as man and dog sat on the porch enjoying the peace and tranquility, a large "V" formation of geese closed on the lake, their honking signaling the passing of yet another summer. From off in the distance they heard the howling of the wolf pack. Sheba was quick to sit up, training her ears on the familiar sounds. She looked back at MacKenzie for a second and then back across the lake. The old man reached over, gently petting his dog, "I know, I miss 'em too."

    Return to Top

     
    JUST PASSING THROUGH    by Alan A Sandercott

         Harry opened his eyes just in time to see the headlights of a large truck bearing down on him, its air horn shattering the night. Instinctively, he cranked the steering wheel and slammed down on his brakes, narrowly avoiding crashing head on into the big highway rig. He held his breath as the truck, now close enough to reach out and touch, thundered past. Harry glanced up and saw the driver's angry face staring down, the big fist being waved in his direction. Although he couldn't hear, he could easily guess what the driver was yelling. Then the truck was gone.
         "Son of a bitch!" Harry exclaimed aloud. "That was too close."

         Shaking the cobwebs from his head, Harry continued slowing down as he maneuvered his pickup truck back across both right hand lanes and onto the safety apron along the edge of the freeway. With his pickup still moving slowly, he rolled down his window and leaned out, breathing in the cool night air.
         Unknown to Harry, a policeman had witnessed the whole episode. Constable Andy Svenson, of the Cedar Springs Detachment, was parked on the center meridian of the freeway, near Cedar Spring's off ramp. He had been working radar, and waiting patiently for a speeder so he could try out his brand new police cruiser. He could hardly believe his eyes when, no more than a couple hundred yards ahead, Harry's pickup drifted over the center meridian and into the oncoming traffic. He thought sure he was about to have a fatal accident on his hands until Harry finally swerved back onto his own side of the freeway. Andy wasted no time giving chase, highly impressed with the new cruiser's power of acceleration.

         It wasn't Harry's night. One minute he's dodging oncoming trucks, the next his rear view mirror is filled with flashing red and blue lights. All he could think of was, "What the hell next?"

         Harry was dead tired. He had been driving most of the night, trying to get to Vancouver in time for his daughter's wedding. He had planned to start out earlier but car trouble prevented him from leaving. Finally, at the last moment, he jumped into the pickup he used for work and hit the road. He hadn't even eaten since breakfast time.

         Unfortunately for Constable Andy Svenson, he misjudged Harry's speed. The distance between himself and Harry's pickup closed so rapidly that Andy had to work the brakes frantically to get the police cruiser stopped. Then to further complicate things, Harry, suddenly realizing the police car was behind him, slammed on his brakes.

         As motor vehicle accidents go, this one was would barely rate on a scale of one to ten. However, there was the familiar squeal of tires, followed by a slight crunch as Andy's new police car slid into Harry's back bumper. Then came an unmistakable blast of profanity from within, followed by yet another squeal of tires, as Andy backed up his car.

         It took a few moments for Andy to regain his composure before getting out. When he did, he stopped at the front of his new patrol car to inspect the damage. As luck would have it, when he had braked so sharply, his bumper had slid beneath Harry's. Fortunately there was only superficial damage to the left front corner, plus a smashed signal light lens. For a touch of insult, there was no sign of damage at all to Harry's pickup.
         "Figures," Andy said to himself. He was not the least bit impressed. First night out with the new car and this happens. The thought of all the paper work ... even worse, how was he going to explain it to his Sergeant?

         "Driver's license and registration," Andy said gruffly, to a sleepy looking Harry who sat half slouched over the steering wheel.
         Saying nothing, Harry reached for the wallet in his hip pocket, extracted the license and handed it out the window.
         "How many drinks have you had Mr. Moulder?"
         By then Harry was leaning over to get his registration from the glove box. He stopped what he was doing and sat back up in his seat. "Excuse me?" he asked.
         "How many drinks have you had tonight?" Andy asked again.
         "None," Harry replied, and reached again for his registration. Removing a plastic envelope from the glove box he handed it to the officer.
         "Would you take the registration out for me, please," Andy asked, not wanting all the other papers in the insurance folder. "Are you taking any kind of medication, Mr. Moulder?"
         "No sir," Harry replied.
         "You sure? You almost caused a serious accident back there. Do you realize if you had hit that truck you would be dead right now?"

         Harry knew it had been close, but the thought of having been killed ... That was more sobering than the cool night air.
         "Would you mind stepping out, please," Andy asked.
         "Sure," Harry replied, complying with the request.

         Harry stood quietly as Andy did a quick search of the pickup, first in the cab and then the pickup box. From there Andy retrieved an empty beer bottle and sat it on the side of the box.
         "I'll ask you once more. How many drinks have you had tonight?"
         "Only a couple beer," Harry said, and then quickly added, "but that was several hours ago."
         "Then how come your eyes are all bloodshot?" Andy asked, shining his flashlight into Harry's eyes.
         "I don't know. Just tired I guess. I've been driving steady."
         "Don't you know you're not allowed to drive when you've been drinking?"
         "I'm not drunk. I haven't had a beer for at least three hours," Harry explained.
         "We'll see. Come on around front here," Andy said, motioning Harry around to the front of the pickup where the headlights lit up the highway.

         Andy took a moment to demonstrate how he wanted Harry to hold out both arms and then touch the tip of his nose. It was a simple roadside sobriety test, which Harry promptly performed with no difficulty. Still not satisfied, Andy made Harry walk the painted white line on the edge of the safety lane. Again, Harry passed with flying colours.
         "See," Harry said, "I told you I'm not drunk."
         "No, but you have been drinking. Move back over beside your truck," Andy said.

         Once there, Andy told Harry to turn around and place his hands on the roof.
         "Why?"
         "Just do it!"
         Reluctantly, Harry complied.
         "Now place your left hand behind your back."
         For the first time in his life, Harry felt the cold steel of handcuffs on his wrists.

         Once Andy had both Harry's wrists securely cuffed, he proceeded to frisk Harry. Then, satisfied he wasn't carrying weapons of any sort, Andy marched Harry back to the police car.
         "Okay," Andy said, opening the back door of his car for Harry, "I want you to slide into the back seat."
         "What for? I didn't do anything. I'm only passing through on my way to Vancouver. I'm going down for my daughter's wedding."
         "Not anymore you're not. You're under arrest."
         "What the hell for?"
         "You're being arrested for dangerous driving."
         "Get serious," Harry said, quickly becoming very annoyed, "what about your dangerous driving? You're the one that smashed into the back my truck."
         "I barely touched your bumper, there's not even a mark on it. Now I want you to get in the back."
         "And if I don't?" Harry asked, defiantly.
         "Just get in. You're already in enough trouble. You don't want to add resisting to the list."
         "What trouble? I haven't done anything."
         "Just get in!" Andy ordered again, grasping Harry by the shoulder and forcing him towards the car.
         "No!" Harry exclaimed, fighting the attempt to push him into the police car.
         His attempts proved in vain, however, as Andy finally took the initiative and forced Harry bodily into the back seat and closed the door.

         Whether he liked it or not, Harry was on his way to jail. Even without handcuffs on, he would have been trapped in the back seat as the inside door handles had been conveniently removed. A steel and glass curtain separated him from the front, but it couldn't stop the barrage of insults that Harry hurled at Andy all the way into town.

         By the time they had reached the detachment, Harry's throat was sore from all his yelling.
         "What about my truck? You can't just leave it out there."
         "We'll take care of it," Andy said, helping Harry out of the car and directing him towards the front door of the office.
         "Don't push!" Harry said, trying to twist away.
         "Then move it," Andy said, tightened his grip on Harry's arm.
         "You've got no right to arrest me, you know," Harry said, still resisting.
         "You're going inside. So you might as well quit fighting."
         "Why don't you take the cuffs off? Then we'll see if you can still push me around."
         "Yeah, right," Andy said, strong-arming Harry up the walkway.

         Getting Harry through the door was another thing. Harry managed to get his shoulder against the door jam, and with both feet planted, he became wedged in the doorway, but not for long. Andy's patience gave out and he threw all his weight against Harry, sending him crashing through the doorway. Totally off balance, unable to use his hands for support, Harry glanced off the reception counter, spun completely around and landed with his back against the wall. His head snapped back with such force that it punched a round hole in the gyprock wallboard.

         The assault had so enraged Harry, that he practically threw himself at Andy, who, in his attempt to deflect Harry's charge, lashed out with his flashlight. The next thing Harry knew he was face down over the counter. Andy had a hold of the handcuffs and was forcing Harry's arms high up onto his back. The resulting pain was severe enough to dampen Harry's fighting spirits, and he remained motionless as Andy relieved him of his belt, shoes, and emptied the contents of his pockets onto the counter. Then, and only then, did Andy release the pressure on Harry's arms.
         "Just stand there," Andy ordered.
         "My mouth is bleeding," Harry said, noticing the blood smears on the counter.
         "Don't worry, you'll live," Andy told him, and proceeded to place Harry's personal effects into a big manila envelope.

         "Okay," Andy said, pointing to the door to the cells, "I'll show you to your accommodations."
         "Kiss my...."

        That was all Harry got out before Andy grabbed onto the handcuffs again and forced Harry across the office and into the cellblock. At the doorway to the jail cell Andy unlocked the handcuffs and gave Harry a shove into the cell.
         "There," Andy said, locking the cell door, "that should keep you out of trouble for awhile."
         Harry's answer was a swift kick at the steel bars. Too late he suddenly remembered he wasn't wearing shoes.

         For the next while Andy busied himself phoning a guard to come in and typing out the complaint report for the complaint book. He then made several notes to leave for the prosecutor in the morning so they could get Harry into court. That just left the matter of Andy's little accident.
         "It's going to take longer to do the paperwork than it will to get the car repaired," he groaned, digging out the reams of forms involved when one smashes up a police unit. He was just about to start in on the forms when Leonard Weins, the night guard, showed up for work.
         "That didn't take you long," Andy remarked.
         "I was still up watching TV," Len said, setting his lunch box down on a desk and making himself comfortable.

         Len was often called to guard prisoners. He and his wife were retired and lived only a few blocks from the police station. Either one of them would come at a moment's notice when needed.

         "Well I'm heading back out to fight crime, and all that sort of thing," Andy joked.
         "What have we got in there?" Len asked, getting back up and walking over to the cellblock door.
         "A real idiot," Andy said, "I had to drag him in here so you better stay away from him until he cools down."
         Len took Andy's word for it and simply looked in through the small glass window in the cellblock door.

         Before Andy was out the door, the phone rang. Len answered it and after listening for a moment he passed the message to Andy.
         "That was the Legion. Old man Tillman's down there, drunk as a skunk, and they think he's going to try driving home."
    "Okay," Andy said, "I'll swing by there."
         But before leaving, Andy removed one of the wanted posters from the notice board and stapled it neatly over the hole in the gyprock wall.

         Harry bolted upright on his bunk when the cellblock door opened.
         "Christ! Can't a guy get any sleep in here?"
         Len held the door open while Andy guiding a dead drunk Tillman into the cellblock area.
         "I figured you would like a bit of company," Andy said, helping Tillman onto the bunk of an adjacent cell, throwing a blanket over him, and then locking the cell door.
         What's that smell?" Harry asked, suddenly noticing the noxious odor permeating the cellblock.
         "He threw up all over himself," Andy told Harry, "but you'll get used to it. Take smaller breaths, it'll last longer."
         "Kiss my ass!" Harry growled, and rolled over on his bunk.
         "Sleep tight," Andy said, closing the door into the front office.

         At 6:30 am on Monday morning Bob Travis showed up for work. Bob was a retired real estate salesman who lived at the senior's home. He had just started working part time at the jail as a guard to make a little extra money. It gave him a little something to do; to help pass the time of day, plus he enjoyed working.
         "Good morning Len," Bob said, taking off his coat and hanging it on the rack.
         "Morning Bob," Len said, glancing over the top of his newspaper.
         "I take it there are prisoners in there this morning?"
         "Just two," Len said, "Tillman's back there again sleeping it off."
         "Tillman? Don't think I know him," Bob said.
         "Don't worry, you will. He's a regular in here. He's a grader operator on that freeway construction project north of town. I think he's the Legion's best customer. He's in there every night."
         "Every night?" Bob asked.
         "Just about."
         "Have they been fed yet?" Bob asked.
         "Not yet," Len said. "That's your job. You phone the restaurant about 7:30 and order the meals, the let Corporal Sheppard know and he'll pick them up on his way into work."

         Inside his cell, Harry was awake. There was no way he could sleep. Between the stink and Tillman's snoring, he had been awake most of the night. He lit a cigarette and lay back on his bunk listening to Len and Bob. The door from the cellblock into the office was partly open, allowing Harry to hear everything.

         Len had no sooner left for home than Andy walked into the office.
         "Good morning," he said, pushing the hat back on his head and setting his briefcase down on his desk.
         "Long night?" Bob asked, noticing how tired Andy looked.
         "Too long. I think I'm going to get out of here and get my head down. I'm going to have to be in court this morning with my friend in there," Andy said, referring to Harry.
         "I was just about to order breakfasts for them," Bob said.
         "You only need one," Andy corrected him. "We don't feed drunks."
         "Okay," Bob said, making a mental note.
         "Soon as Tillman wakes up you can kick him loose."

         At 7:30 Bob started making his fire rounds of the building. When he got to the cellblock, Harry was standing up with both hands on the bars.
         "I guess I really tied one on again last night, eh?" Harry asked.
         "Sure sounds like it. I expected you to be sleeping it off."
         "Can't sleep," Harry said, pointing over to Tillman's cell, "That guy snores too loud,"
         Tillman was lying on the bunk facing the wall, a blanket pulled over him, snoring like a hibernating bear.
         "I know. I can hear him from out front."
         "Listen. I'm sorry as hell about the puke smell in here. I cleaned it up but it still stinks."
         "It is a little rank in here alright," Bob agreed.
         "When can I get out of here?" Harry asked, "I've gotta get to work."
         "I was told to let you out soon as you woke up. Hold on a few minutes 'till I finish my rounds and then I'll get the keys."

         When Bob came back to the cellblock five minutes later, Harry was sitting on the edge of his bunk puffing on his cigarette. He said nothing as the guard unlocked his cell door, and as the door swung open, he picked up his coat and followed Bob out into the front office.      "Your shoes should be over there," Bob said, pointing to a shelf beside the door.      Again, Harry said nothing. He removed his belt that was tucked in one shoe and put the shoes on.     Bob pulled open a drawer and removed a manila envelope and a notebook.
         "Okay, I need you to sign here for your belongings, Mr. Tillman," Bob said, holding out a pen to Harry.

         After Harry had scribbled something that resembled 'Tillman', Bob slid the record book back into the drawer and pushed the envelope towards Harry. He first looked inside the envelope, and then dumped the contents onto the counter. Reaching for what appeared to be car keys, Harry asked, "Any idea where my car is? I can't remember anything."
         "I'm not sure. Wait a minute and I'll see if I can find the arrest report."

        As soon as Bob turned to look, Harry quietly opened the drawer and switched envelopes for his own which he slid into his jacket, and then closed the drawer.

        By the time Bob returned, Harry was standing at the counter, keys in hand, ready to go.
         "Says here you were driving a pickup?" Bob asked.
         "Oh, ahh ... I guess I forgot. So where is it?"
         "Probably still at the Legion."
         "Thanks," Harry said with a big grin, "I really appreciate your help. Sorry for any trouble."
         "No trouble at all Mr. Tillman."

         Twenty minutes later Corporal Sheppard showed up with the prisoner's breakfast and set the bag down on the front counter.
         "The guy's still sleeping," Bob said. "Should I wake him up?"
         "Who is it?" the Corporal asked. He walked over and read through the complaint book and then returned to his desk.
         "Yeah, I guess you better wake him up. I've got to get him ready for court this morning. Is Tillman still sleeping?"
         "No. He was awake when I made my rounds so I released him."
         "Where's Andy?"
         "He's gone home to get some sleep. He left an envelope on your desk, something to do with the prisoner and court this morning. He said to tell you he would be down here by 11:00."
         Bob then picked up the meal and headed into the cellblock.

         Meanwhile, Harry had found the Legion, and Tillman's pickup. There was only one on the street, parked right in front of the Legion doors. It was pretty much the same as Harry's, same colour, although it was hard to tell with all the mud on it. The back full of oil cans, grease guns, the usual construction stuff. He wasted no time driving out of there, although he had no idea where he was.

         On his way back to what he hoped was the freeway, something suddenly caught Harry's eye. Tucked in behind a garage was his pickup. He knew he didn't have time to spare, but if he had to make a run for it, he'd rather do it in his own pickup.

        At the next intersection Harry turned right and circled the block. When he pulled back onto the front street again, he drove slowly towards the garage. The street was quiet, no sign of life in the garage or the parking lot where his pickup had been impounded. Just past the garage he parked Tillman's pickup along the curb under a big tree. He quietly closed the door behind him and casually made his way towards the garage parking lot.

         Once he reached his pickup, Harry slid his hand along the under side of the front bumper, seconds later withdrawing a little magnetic box with his spare keys. He felt a sense of control again as his engine purred into action. No one noticed as Harry's pickup pulled out onto the street and headed out of town in direction of the freeway.

         By 8:00 a.m., Tillman had just finished his breakfast and was ready to go back to sleep. He was surprised when they had given him breakfast, but said nothing about it. As far as he was concerned, if they wanted to feed him, he wasn't about to say no. But sleep would have to wait. The Corporal entered the cellblock to get Harry out so he could get him ready for court. He took one look at Tillman, sitting on the bunk licking his fingers, and stormed back out into the office.

         "Where's the prisoner?" the Corporal asked.
         "In his cell," Bob responded.
         "No, he's not. That's Tillman. Where's the other one?"
         "I don't understand," Bob said, with a confused look on his face, "Mr. Tillman was ... oh no--"
         "Who released him?"
         "I guess I did. Constable Svenson told me to let Mr. Tillman out soon as he woke up and--"
         "Where was Svenson when you released the prisoner?" the Corporal asked.
         "He had left by then. I'm sorry, I didn't know--"
         "Phone Svenson," the Corporal said. "Tell him I want him in here, right now."

         At that moment Harry was rounding the onramp to the freeway. He grinned at himself in his rearview mirror. Not a car in sight. He had missed out on breakfast, but he had a wide-open road and, barring the unforeseen, he could still make the wedding.

         The first call Corporal Sheppard made was to Sergeant Bill Mathers, NCO of the detachment. Not a pleasant way to start off your boss's day by telling him a prisoner had been allowed to walk free.

        More calls were placed and soon Constables Cranz and Slocum, from day shift, and Constable Steve Marshall, the other Highway member, were in the office. They weren't there long though. The Corporal wanted all three cars out looking for Harry, ASAP. He alerted the two closest detachments, Crawford Junction to the south, and Charlie Lake to the north, both offered immediate assistance.

         Marshall had no sooner gone out the door than he was back again.
         "What happened to the front of the new car?" he asked.
         "What do mean?" the Corporal asked.
         "Looks like someone backed into the front driver's side."
         "Must have been Svenson. He used it last night. How bad is it?"
         "It's not that bad. But the signal lens is busted. I'll have to get it fixed before I can use it though," Marshall said.
         "We can't worry about it now. I want you out on that highway."
         "I haven't even driven the damned thing yet," Marshall muttered in disgust, and headed back out the door.

         By the time Sergeant Mathers arrived at the office, the Corporal had things pretty well under control. He followed the Sergeant into his office, all the while trying to explain what had happened.
         "... Bottom line," the Corporal said, "Svenson left an untrained guard to release a prisoner on his own. From the sounds of it, the prisoner did a good job of convincing Bob Travis that he was Tillman, a drunk who was in over night. Svenson told Bob to release Tillman when he woke up. Bob had never seen Tillman before, so not knowing any better, he figured it was Tillman and turned him loose."
         "How long's he been gone?" the Sergeant asked.
         "Bob signed him out at 7:45, so he only been out there about a half hour."
         "Well he can't get far on foot--"
         "He may not be on foot," the Corporal interrupted. "He signed for Tillman's personal effects and according to Bob, there was a set of car keys."
         "That's not what I wanted to hear."
         "It gets worse. When the prisoner asked where his car was, Bob told him that the pickup was parked at the Legion."
         "And it's gone, right," the Sergeant asked.
         "You got it."
         "Where was Tillman all this time?"
         "Sleeping in his cell."
         The Sergeant shook his head in disbelief.
         "Crawford Junction has a road block set up to the south," the Corporal went on, "Marshall's heading out that way right now. Slocum and Cranz are patrolling town, just in case."
         "Not much chance of that."
         "Charlie Lake is sending two cars to set a roadblock to the north of us. Given the time frame, I think we have a good chance for a recapture," the Corporal said.
         "Okay, keep me posted. I'll call Sub-Division and let them know what's going on."


         Part way out the door, the Corporal suddenly remembered the car.
         "Were you aware of any damage on the new highway car?" the Corporal asked.
         "No" the Sergeant replied, a surprised look on his face.
         "Well apparently there is. Must have been Svenson last night. He's the only one that's driven it, but I haven't seen an accident report yet."
         "You've got to be kidding. That's a brand new car," the Sergeant said, flipping his pencil onto the desk and shaking his head slowly side to side.
         "We'll soon see what Svenson has to say, he's on his way down here."
         "He's got one hell of a lot to explain," the Sergeant said, angrily.

         Poor old Bob was a nervous wreck. He felt terrible about what had happened.
         "Am I going to get fired over this?" he asked the Corporal.
         "I don't see why," the Corporal replied. "It wasn't your fault. It's the member's responsibility to release prisoners, not yours."
         "I know, but I sort of feel bad, I mean...."
         "Don't worry about it," the Corporal said. "How would you like to bring Tillman out here. No sense keeping him around here. You better take his boots in there with you. There's no way he can stand up to put them on."
         Suddenly, Bob remembered one small detail, the envelope!
         "What about his personal effects?" Bob asked, "The other prisoner signed for them."
         "Let me worry about that."

         Tillman was steadier than his usual stumbling self for that time of the morning. Other than leaning against the counter for support, he was quite capable of walking. The Corporal was about to explain the missing personal effects as he opened the drawer. Instead of Harry's envelope, which he had expected, he found Tillman's. A quick inspection of the envelope revealed Tillman's effects. Somewhat relieved, the Corporal spilled the contents of the envelope onto the counter. One wallet, a handful of change, and a dirty handkerchief.
         "Would you like to check this over and see if anything is missing?" he asked Tillman.
         "I don't understand," Bob remarked, now totally confused.
         "Don't ask."
         "Where's my keys?" Tillman asked, his breath strong enough to force both men to take a step backwards.
         "Anything else missing besides your car keys?" the Corporal asked.
         "Nope," Tillman said.
         "Okay then, sign here."

         Both Bob and the Corporal waited as Tillman fiddled around trying to get the loose change into his pockets. At some other time, it would have been humorous to watch.
         "There's one other thing," the Corporal said. "We're not sure where your pickup is."
         "That's okay, I'll find it," Tillman said, staggering around the end of the counter.
         Given the circumstances, the Corporal would have offered to give him a lift somewhere, except that the stench was over-powering. He decided it might be best to let him wander around outside in the fresh air for a while.

         Tillman knew the routine. He wheeled and headed for the door, his belt thrown over his shoulder, one hand holding up his pants, and the other tying to stuff his wallet into a pocket.
         "Leave the door open," the Corporal called after him, wanting to get some fresh air in the office.

         Then, finally the man of the hour, Andy Svenson, showed up at the office. Bob had previously warned Andy about what had happened so he'd had a little time to get things straight in his mind.
         "Did they catch him yet?" Andy asked.
         "You should be so lucky," the Corporal said, "You had a busy shift, didn't you? First you bang up a new car, and then you allow a prisoner to walk out of here."
         "How was I to know Bob would release the wrong guy?"
         "If you had released him before you left, none of this would have happened," the Corporal reminded him.
         "What did the Sarge say?" Andy asked.
         "I think I'll let you find out for yourself. You're on the top of his shit list for today. He's in his office waiting for you right now."
         "Does he know about the car?"
         "Oh yes."

         It had been fifteen minutes since Tillman had left the police detachment. He staggered up the sidewalk, side to side, muttering to himself. Over the summer he had come to memorize the route between the police station and the legion. God knows he had walked it often enough. His rides with the police were always one way, always at night. In the mornings he had to walk back to where ever he had left his pickup, and then drive to work from there. So on this particular morning it came as no surprise to find his truck parked along the curb a few blocks from the legion. It also came as no surprise when he found the keys still in the ignition. Except for the free breakfast and being late for work, it was turning out to be another normal day.

         The rising sun had cleared the top of the trees along the freeway, promising yet another beautiful fall day. Much to Harry's satisfaction, traffic on the freeway was already increasing, a fact that made Harry less conspicuous out there. When an approaching car flashed its headlights several times, Harry, like the rest of the vehicles around him, slowed down a little. Harry knew that anytime a car flashed its lights like that, it usually meant there was a cop working radar up ahead somewhere. The last thing he needed was to be stopped for speeding.

         Only it wasn't a radar cop around that next bend in the freeway, it was a roadblock! There had been no warning, no time to react. Suddenly there were flashing lights and red traffic cones lining the road like a funnel, forcing all traffic into a single line, and bringing it to a halt. A concrete barrier on the meridian that separated the directions of travel prevented any chance of turning around. The police couldn't have picked a better spot on the highway for their roadblock, and it was all in Harry's honor.

        Ahead of him, two police cars were parked across road leaving only one lane open between them. One officer was checking each vehicle while the second waited by his car.

         One by one, the cars in front of Harry were scrutinized by the police officers and then waved on. As each car moved through, Harry could feel his bid for freedom drawing to an end. What really worried him was the thought of being returned to Cedar Springs. His heart was pounding like crazy as the officer finally waved him ahead to the checkpoint. Visions of handcuffs clicking tightly on his wrists flashed through Harry's mind, he was being dragged from his car, a flashlight....

         Then suddenly Harry's vision was interrupted by the officer standing at his door, tapping on the glass. Reluctantly, Harry rolled his window down.
         "Good morning, sir," the officer said, bending down and looking into the pickup cab.
         "What's the problem, officer?" Harry asked, as if he didn't know.
         "Routine road check, Sir, only take a minute," the officer replied. "Are you from around this area?"
         "No sir," Harry answered. "Just passing through, officer, ... just passing through."

         Harry sat nervously as the officer stepped back and gave the pickup a good look over. Then glancing at the paper in his hand, he stared back at Harry, first through the windshield, then closer through the open door window where he stared Harry right in the eye for a long moment.
         "I'm going to have to ask you to step out," the officer said, reaching for the outside door handle.

         That should have been it, but before Harry could step out, the officer responded to a call from his partner.
         "Just wait here a minute," the officer said, and walked over to where the other officer was talking on the police radio.

         Back at the detachment it was very happy Constable Svenson who stood listening to the report coming in over the radio.
         "They got him," Andy cried out for the rest of the office to hear.
         "Lucky for you," the Sergeant said from his doorway, "but I'm not finished with you yet. There's still a small matter of an accident report."
         "Yes sir," Andy said. "I'm working on it right now."

         It took a good fifteen minutes before the Charlie Lake cars showed up at the office with their prisoner.
         "They're here," the Corporal said, seeing the two cars drive past the front of the office and into the side parking lot. "You want to get him back into cells, Andy, and please, don't let him out again."
         There was a flash of embarrassment on Andy's face as he walked up to the front counter. He knew he was going to be in for a lot of kidding from the rest of the detachment.

         "I really owe you guys," Andy told the first officer through the door. "My ass was really on the line over this one."
         "Glad to help," he said, stepping back to let their prisoner through, "but we're sending you the bill for fumigating our car."
         It was Tillman. "Can I get another breakfast?" he asked with a grin on his face.

    Return to Top


    NOTE: This previously published work is covered by copyright.
    No printing, copying or use by any means without written permission from the author.

    Please report display problems to:  

    Return to Homepage