Fortitude

This was written for the Mix and Match Challenge on ds_flashfiction

It was coming close to a blizzard, when I found him. Or rather, he found me. That was not surprising really, this was his territory; heíd grown up in a place like this, while I was just a green Mountie, just out of Depot, barely used to wearing red. Heíd abandoned the snow-mobile, everything, just because he had some suspicion that his tail was getting lost. In a place like this getting lost could be the last mistake you ever make, I remember that from classes, but it had never really struck me before that night. He, of course, had known all his life. Was this what a place like this makes you? Makes you hard and impervious?

But then, if that was the case, why had he come looking for me, the young Mountie with illusions of glory, dreaming only of taking this bank-robber in, failing entirely in realising the enormity and potential calamity of the task? Yes, I know it sounds awkward, but I like poetry, and so does he. I like the way it sounds, the assonance and alliteration, the rise and fall of it. And I think that it saved our lives. Foolish, what saved my life was him. He knew what to do in weather like this, the need to stay awake, lest we never wake again. Everything.

But Iím falling victim to his charm, and believe it was poetry that saved us, the expression of the sublime by man in clumsy inadequate tones. Donít let them tell you that heís socially inept back in Ottawa, the truth is entirely the opposite; he has a great and beguiling charm, powerful beyond belief. He flattered me that night, made a sort of love to me with words. Told me that it was wrong that such perfectly formed hands as mine should fall prey to frostbite and the scourge of the elements. He told me that and lay down beside me in the crevice into which Iíd fallen, and he put my fingers into his mouth.

No, I donít mean something sexual, except perhaps in some strange subliminal way that we were just too plain frozen to notice. He put them there to keep them safe from the cold. And we recited poetry into that black night, at times barely able to here each other over the wind. His contributions were always muffled, the less than surprising result of having oneís mouth full of fingers. He wouldnít even let me remove them for him to speak.

Part of me thinks I fell in love right then, the other half, the Mountie half, tells me it was all about survival, that had I known that he was the felon I sought out, I would have never let him go that morning, never let him give me a ride on his snow-mobile back to civilisation. Never is such a simple word, but as my grandmother said, in practice it is one of the hardest.

See, heís not as guileless as you might think, heís convincing and carries himself well, and possessed of a genuine charm, even if his motivations are less than so. When I went out that night, I thought I was just after the getaway driver, the fall guy from the bank robbery in Inuvik. Inuvik RCMP sure thought so, a sweet local boy, returned home at last, only to be taken advantage of by the wrong crowd. It was only when they fitted together all the other malfeasantsí testimony, that they realised that the sweet kid whoíd just strayed onto the wrong side of the tracks, easy to do when the fatherís virtually never home, was actually the mastermind of it all. Heíd acted through intermediaries so that even the crew who were carrying out the raid didnít know who they were working for, and engineered himself into the least dangerous position.

Curiously, the only time that bold intellect really began to show, to stop hiding behind stage-management and props, was when that ever-absent father of his was murdered. Irony was, that this father who taught him those tricks of survival that aided him so in his escape, eluding his pursuers at every turn, was a Mountie. Shot by poachers from the states, Chicago to be precise. I suppose there isnít much hunting that far south, not round the lake they call Michigan (as my old friend Buck would have put it) at any rate. Perhaps they fish there instead.

You see, he went there, to track down his fatherís killer. Did it disguised as a Mountie, more than fooled the cops, which I suppose isnít surprising, I donít have much experience with city cops, they probably donít have much with country boy Mounties. Whatís surprising is that he even fooled the Inspector at the Consulate, had manages to dig up all the right forms and everything, even if his main uniform was a bit old, the brown one that went out years ago, he got dress order spot on. The Detective, Vecchio, was less than amused when it turned out that his partner, Benny, was actually a wanted man. Didnít want to believe it even, was willing to put his career on the line for him, until Fraser told him otherwise.

It seems that despite everything a good heart beats in his chest, not that itís going to count for much once heís bought in, itís not going to buy much with a jury, a man who robs banks, impersonates officers of the law, and keeps a wild animal loose in a city. Yet, before he disappeared, he left a watertight case with Vecchio, against the man whoíd killed his father, against a fellow Mountie whose loyalty was not to justice or the crown but to cold hard cash. That is if he can be believed.

Somewhere inside, there is an honourable man. Vecchio has sworn to hunt this man down, before he is drowned out entirely in the criminal world in which he has submerged himself.

So thatís why Iím going south, to Chicago, to that land of gangsters and bootleggers that has only been seen in glimpses from old black and white movies and my days posted in Moose Jaw. Iím going there, due south, into a strange and foreign country. To find him. Stop him. Maybe, in my heart I donít know, donít know what I want to do, save see him again.

You can call me Ishmael, but I prefer Victoria.

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