By Stella L. Harvey
His shoulder blades pinched as the officer slammed his weight into Rory, and made him stumble forward. The other officer yanked on Rory’s arm. “Steady, ” he said. “Thought you’d lay off that stuff, graduate to booze after you nearly killed one of those Limey rock-throwing girls.” The officer behind Rory cinched the nylon handcuffs.
The cuffs bit at his wrists. “Do we need to do this?” Rory asked. “I called you guys. Remember?” He couldn’t feel his hands. He pushed his head back to get the hair out of his eyes. He flexed his shoulders but found no relief.
“You’re a person of interest. It’s procedure.” The cop who’d steadied him stood in front of Rory and grinned as if to say, “and there’s nothing you can do about it.” Two teeth in the officer’s mouth were capped in gold. The embossed nametag pinned at his chest shimmered in the locker room’s muted overhead lights. Constable Baker. His eyes were the same unrevealing grey. He’d packed on some weight since Rory last saw him. Baker’s golden hair had diminished. An uneven, mottled scalp remained, but he was still the dickhead former captain of the Olympic snowboard team, the guy who’d turned his back on Rory after that thing with the women’s curling team. The smell of a spicy curry lingered on Baker’s uniform and on his breath. Rory had associated that smell with Baker since they were kids. Rory turned his head. Baker reached behind Rory and gave the handcuffs another tug. “Nothing personal,” he said, and bathed Rory’s face in a curry burp.
“I can’t feel my hands.”
Baker grinned and nodded at his partner. “When we get back to the station.”
In the cruiser, Rory sat on the shredded vinyl seat in the back. The stiff slivers pierced the cheap instructor’s uniform he’d been issued and nipped at his butt. He fidgeted but couldn’t get comfortable. He squeezed his hands. Still he couldn’t feel them.
“Where’s my client,” Rory asked.
“You always had a way with the girls didn’t you?”
“Where is she?”
“You’ll have your reunion soon,” Baker said. “First, we’re going for a ride.”
The cruiser dragged by the fields on either side of the Pemberton road. Rory had been out here a hundred times but on this overcast night he saw nothing he recognized. Baker and his partner talked, laughed between themselves about the detachment’s hockey pool but said nothing to Rory. An ache had settled between his shoulder blades. He wondered if these two were involved somehow in Chuck’s plans. Chuck or Minty had talked, said something to someone. They’d bragged and flaunted how they lived off of other people’s supply. Someone had had enough. Did they know Rory had a map to the place? Had they put Minty in his locker to warn him? Get rid of all three of them?
“You two were pretty close,” Baker said. “Know what he was doing out here?”
“Farming.” Rory said. He thought about his half of the map. He’d buried it one night under the second boulder to the left of the Rainbow trailhead, told no one.
“He was living high,” Baker said. “Everyone knew it. You knew it.”
“Look I’m an instructor, and a Private Investigator,” Rory said. “I’m on your side. I don’t know about any shit. Okay?”
They drove through the open gates of Chuck’s property. “Tell us something.”
They stood him out in cold for a while, while they sat in the cruiser ignoring him. They drove away and then returned fifteen minutes later. “Fresh air help your memory?”
Rory shivered, said nothing. Baker and his partner stood with the cruiser door open. “You can get back in if you tell us something.”
On the radio, Ellie Araceli’s voice came through. “Where are you guys?”
“Um, heading back now Captain.”
“The place is swarming with media. Get him back here now.”
They pushed Rory into the cruiser, sat him up when he toppled over, and patted down his instructor’s uniform. Baker spit on his fingers and wet Rory’s hair into place. Snot tinted Rory’s upper lip and Baker made him blow into a Kleenex, and then threw the tissue on the ground. “Let’s make nice now. No blabbing. Right?”
Rory gave one quick nod. Baker smiled and curry perfumed the air.
Ellie had rescued him from Baker. He hadn’t heard her voice since his Olympic fiasco. “What do you need,” she’d asked him then. “I can help,” she’d offered and he’d said, “I got myself in and I’ll get myself out.” Things may have been different if he’d allowed her to help. Now, here she was again. Maybe this time he’d take her up on it.
They’d known each other since they were twelve, lost their respective virginity to one another when they were seventeen and he’d dumped her when he made the Olympic team because he wanted “other experiences”. He remembered now the first time they met. “Araceli means altar of the sky in Spanish, you know.” When they first had sex, she reminded him that like her name she’d need an altar in the sky when they got married. Her head lay on his chest, her hair pricked his skin. He’d detested the scent of lavender, her scent, since that day. He’d continued to sleep with her anyway, until he broke it off.
When the cruiser pulled up at the Whistler RCMP detachment, the news had already spread and a crowd waited at the entrance. When Rory stepped out of the cruiser, he heard someone say, “What’s No-Go Rory done now?” Cameras flashed, someone shouted, “Give us a smile. Over here.”
The voices dissipated when Rory entered the detachment. Inside, MuMu Rumswitz sat on a chair against the wall, flicking, then patting down the white fur on her gloves. When she saw him, MuMu said, “They can’t do this to me. Tell them who I’m married to.”
Rory nodded. Someone released his handcuffs and Rory stretched out his arms, rubbed at the welts carved into his wrists. The station officer took the laces from Rory’s snowboard boots, his wallet and the five nickels and two loonies he had in his pocket and led him out of the open area. Rory heard, MuMu say, “Don’t forget.”
“Isn’t that cute,” Baker said. “Now she’s worried about her husband.”
Rory sat in a windowless room at a rectangular table, staring at the locked door in front of him. He slipped out of his snowboard boots and rubbed one foot with the other. The scent of stale sweat battered him and he put his boots back on, fanned the air around his feet when he heard the key in the lock.
He stood up but she waived to him to stay put. “You haven’t changed a bit, Ellie.”
“Except I’m the boss, now.”
“I didn’t kill her. Anyone.”
“We know about Chuck and Minty. Were you three in some kind of triangle?”
“You think I was sleeping with her, and killed them both in a jealous rage?”
“You know I don’t get that passionate about anything.”
“Doesn’t matter now. It’s out of my hands. They’re bringing in some senior detective from Vancouver’s homicide squad. He’s up here anyway, playing at semi retirement. Weasel working at the World Cup. He’ll be here as soon as he’s off the hill. Apparently he’s not too happy about that either. You can tell him your story.”
“I didn’t do it.”
Ellie opened the door. In the background, Rory heard Janna St. James. “Where’s the bastard who killed my granny?”
“He’s a person of interest,” someone else said.
“Are you involved too, MuMu?” Janna said. “I thought we were friends.”
“Ellie, please,” Rory said. The door scraped against the floor and the click of the key in the lock meant he wasn’t going anywhere.
This is the fourth year for the Whistler Collective Novel Experiment, a literary collaboration of local writers put on by the Whistler Writers’ Group, the Vicious Circle. Each week the Pique will publish the next chapter of the collective novel and all of the completed chapters will be posted online at www.piquenewsmagazine.com/collectivenovel/.
Social worker, management consultant, and an admitted obsessive compulsive now turned writer, Stella L. Harvey juggles her time between organizing the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival, writing her second novel and making valiant attempts to improve her pitiful skiing without causing injury to herself or others.