They’d trudged through the snow, then they’d trudged through the snow some more, then they’d looked around at the thousands of perfectly identical pine trees and decided that the Canadians defined “nearby” in a completely new way, and quite possibly a cruel and unusual one, and that it all came from using crazy-crazy measurements. Like, feet and inches weren’t totally sensible.
Of course, totally sensible was nothing that happened with any of the Canadians they’d met before they’d very briefly met the ton of pickled herring dropped on them by a totally disgruntled fish-importer, who’d thought they were after him for back taxes, when really they’d been after the guy in the office next door for suspected smuggling of pelicans in crates full of briefs.
And yeah, they were wondering how they knew that now.
Since they hadn’t known a thing about the ton of fucking herring then.
Not that herring ever fucks, even before it gets pickled and stuck on rye by Swedes bored by the lack of icy lakes to jump into after their saunas and the current trade embargo on birch twigs.
When Kowalski had started getting metaphysical, Vecchio had ignored him. They’d had a life-changing experience, right? If Stanley coped by babbling like a brook that was his look out. Vecchio’s best friend talked to thin air for god’s sake and liked country music, but then, Vecchio’s best friend was still alive and was going to live to be umpty-ump-ump, probably surrounded by adoring Mountie grandchildren.
And when Kowalski had begun that actually they couldn’t be surrounded by trees, only the ghosts of trees, and if people kept chopping the rainforests down back in the land of the living, they wouldn’t have any space left, and they’d have to start living in trees and making like Tarzan; then, Vecchio had offered to rearrange his face.
And it wasn’t as if he hadn’t had a lot of on the job training in impromptu plastic surgery when he’d been playing with the mob, trying to avoid swimming with the fishes. As if that had done any good, the fish had come to him. He so should have got out of Kowalski’s car the moment he thought that something stunk. Kowalski maintained that the problem was that he had never been able to get eau de rutting wolf out of the upholstery.
Vecchio so knew that problem. Mounties were hell on fine automobiles. And now fucking Tony was going to get his pride and joy and Maria was going to make him fit baby seats, and there’d be peanut butter fingers all over the upholstery.
It was a fate worse than death.
The chances of finding a car in the middle of the Canadian afterlife were pretty much nil after all. And he wouldn’t know what to do with a dead dog team even if they found one.
But Stanley would. Stanley had run off to the frozen north with Fraser and had moved like he was on a ship at sea for weeks after. Or maybe that was because the crazy Canuck had stuck him on sinking ships before then, and he’d never quite recovered, he hadn’t all been that observant when he first met the guy, too put out by the guy who’d stole his face and remodelled it into some skinny-ass Pollack dream-face.
All he needed now was to replace all of Ma’s pasta with whatever the fuck skinny-ass Pollacks ate, besides pizza. Thinking about pizza, why was it that every pizza he’d ordered ever since he got back from Vegas had pineapple on it? Why would anyone put pineapple on pizza? That was desert.
Kowalski finally risked some up-close-and-personal plastic surgery, “Vecchio, you know that brown thing over there? I don’t think it’s a tree.”
And, you know, it wasn’t a tree.
It was lots of trees.
All chopped up and turned into a shack. And they could both hear Fraser, and not the old guy in the horrible dead-something hat, telling them it isn’t a shack, but a cabin.
But they both knew a cabin when they saw one, and they tended to have round windows and roll about a lot. And anyway, whoever heard of a love-cabin?
Not that this was a love-shack or anything? The old guy was out of the ice age and everything, and probably didn’t even know what he was saying; or more to the point what they thought he was saying. No way. It would be like their folks turning around and going, “You know, we think you’re totally hot for your partner and you should go and fuck him in wildly bizarre ways,” only even less likely and even more vomit-inducing.
And it wasn’t as if they wanted to fuck each other in wildly bizarre ways.
They’d be more than happy to fuck each other in perfectly normal and quite regular ways. Or at least, perfectly normal and regular ways for guys, because jerking off to a fantasy of your partner suddenly developing girl-parts and being totally hot and juicy for you so isn’t buddies.
Yeah, so they were so still buddies, because Lieutenant Welsh was so good at getting rid of those sexual fantasies they weren’t having and the ones they were having were getting hotter and more detailed by the day, hour, minute, nano-second. Good thing it was cold then, snow everywhere, like a solid cold shower…
Yes, it was good, but then they went into the damn cabin and while Kowalski got to play boy scout with the fire, Vecchio decided to play detective with all the cupboards, at least to find something to cover that damn moose head with. It was all dead and creepy and had probably ended up as pemmican pie. And unlike Benny, old man Fraser acknowledged that cupboards existed and so, there were cupboards, and drawers, and that suggests that unlike his son, the old coot might have had something to put in them. Like food, hopefully regular-people food unlike Canadian food, which might keep you regular but ain’t. Vecchio didn’t know if they needed food in the afterlife, but he sure than hoped so, unless there wasn’t any here, then he hoped they didn’t, because he had no idea how to hunt, and Stanley making Tigger the tiger look calm and sedate would probably frighten off the wildlife fast.
So yeah, looking for food, expecting, well, diaries and Mountie-kit and bad hats. And maybe Reader’s Digest junk mail, because they mailed everywhere.
What Ray wasn’t expecting was what he found in the blanket box at the foot of the bed. And Ray was pretty sure Ray wasn’t expecting it either. And so, Ray said, “What the fuck is that? And that? And I don’t even want to think about these!” as he waved the fury cuffs under the other Ray’s nose, and not for the first time cursed the fact that he would answer to Stanley like a good boy and instead insisted on giving him a terrible headache. Actually, Ray did want to think about the cuffs very much, only he didn’t want Stanley to know he was thinking about the cuffs, by using his abilities as a trained observer on his crotch, and so Vecchio was thinking very hard about Welsh naked and doing that thing with the chair.
And then Stanley-Ray said, “It’s a double-ended dildo, so you can, yeah, fuck yourself and somebody else both at the same time!” and he looked at him like this, and he added, “well, yeah, I used to work with vice, okay?”
“Is that so?” Vecchio tried to give him that look the Bookman used to give people who would soon end up swimming with the hyenas (Vegas was short on fishes, but the Mob liked to make the effort to fill everyone’s clichéd expectations. The Mob cared that you were frightened shitless before you were dragged out into the desert and shot in the back of the head, otherwise, they weren’t doing it properly and both they and the victim would feel disappointed and cheated) only it didn’t really work because it had taken the Mob to teach Vecchio to hit people round the head with golf clubs, Kowalski could already hit people about the head with his feet. And given that the man never seemed to clean those monster boots of his, it offered considerably more opportunity for cross-infection and long term pain.
So they were staring at each other and any moment one of them would be saying, “Are you feeling lucky, punk?” and how on earth did Welsh get the genius idea of pairing them up? Unless he’d got it from a dead Mountie with a cabin full of sex toys and other accoutrements suitable for the modern young gentleman, who liked other modern young gentlemen, or at least other cops with hair issues and unusual father-cuts.
There was something wrong with that sentence, but they couldn’t work out what, since suddenly, the whole mind-over-matter thing wasn’t working and most of their blood wasn’t flowing anywhere near their brains and their brains weren’t getting a look-in otherwise, whatever they might say.
Even if the good Lieutenant decided to do a fan dance with the Duck Boys as back-up, and then top that off by wrestling in a paddling pool of jello while telling everyone of the intrinsic nobility of any sport that involved walloping your fellow man one is transcended by the sheer poetry of appreciating his comely form covered in lime jello, which brings out the sheer beauty of one’s co-combatants eyes.
So the mesmerising distracting ability of their superior was finally broken and would not be restored even with the hypnotic power of a full reading of the Rules And Regualtions Of The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Abridged). However, the power of the urge to detect had not been thus attenuated, and so their ardour cooled to manageable levels, and they were still able to convince themselves that the other had not noticed, when they eyes alighted upon the paper in the box.
Vecchio read it, because it seemed that there was a pickled herring somewhere in the evidence lock-up wearing the dorkiest cola-bottle glasses known to man, “It says, that if we want something, all we have to do is think about it.”
“Like we were thinking of leopard print handcuffs and dildoes made for two.”
There wasn’t much conviction behind the voice, not that Vecchio really needed to divert the blood back to his brain long enough to pick that up, because he was picking up fine the bulge in Stanley’s almost-Canadian tight jeans and it was a fine bulge, and it was good. “Up against the bed, Stanley, and make like a suspect.”
Kowalski whined some, “but why do I have too?” but he did it, “what you got planned, doppelganger-mine?”
“There’s no way you’re my fucking doppelganger, Kowalski.”
“Yeah, that’s what I told Welsh and the fibbies, but they were in a hurry and needed Vecchio to go with extra pineapple,” and suddenly, with those words, everything became clear to Ray.
“You’re doing this because it’s your fault we ended up part of the biggest smorgasbord ever seen in Chicago. Because you’re why I cannot get a pizza that has not been smothered with pineapple. Because you fucking want me out of my fucking Armani and into your skinny Pollack ass.”
“Greatness. And what are you doing back there, Vecchio, you aren’t the sort of guy not to give a guy what he wants. You’ve got that whole Italian generosity thing going for you…”
Ray pulled Kowalski’s hands closer together, holding them against his back and watching as the thin cotton of the t-shirt rouched up in interesting ways, “I’m thinking real hard about handcuffs, real ones, not furry ones,” he hissed into his captive almost-paramour’s ear, while taking in the strange chemical scent of whatever it took to make Stanley’s hair stand up like that.
And out there, in Canada, in a cabin not dissimilar but comparatively lacking in both cupboards and the variety of aides to the open-minded gentleman who likes other gentlemen, a man called Fraser shuddered as if something had been walking over his grave, and pulled on his snowshoes and went to investigate.