Author: Tara Keezer
Rating: PG-13 for language
Warnings: Canonical, historical, geographical, geological and socio-political inaccuracies abound. If you’re looking for a serious exploration about what it means for a child to be raised by wolves, this isn’t it.
Pairing: Ray K/Fraser
Notes: I’ve never seen George of the Jungle, either the movie or the television show. I just know part of the song and vaguely recall the introduction, which is why this is not a crossover. It’s a due South
Thanks: Just so you know, this story was triggered by one of the prompts at ds_harlequin, though it is not a response to that prompt. capella_fic and mickeymvt were the most recent to encourage me on this, so they’re the ones who could have stopped me. I’m just sayin’, is all.
Many years ago, as legend has it, a boy was lost in the Arctic wilderness of northernmost Canada...
“Ben, Ben, Ben of the Tundra — watch out for that ice!”
Ray twisted his shoulders a little to get some relief and gave into a brief, violent fantasy about what he would do to Vecchio the minute he got back to Chicago. If Vecchio hadn’t been so worried about picking his suit up at the dry cleaner last Friday, he would have been the one to draw the Muldoon case, and Ray never would have gotten into a pissing contest with the FBI, one that ended up with Ray flying off the handle and jumping on Muldoon’s plane as it taxied for take-off.
Yeah. It was all Vecchio’s fault.
“We’re gonna drop you like a sack of rotten potatoes, Kowalski, just as soon as we get over the ice fields.” Muldoon’s breath wafted toward Ray like a miniature toxic cloud, and Ray nearly passed out from the stench. Hadn’t the guy ever heard of Scope? “We’re low enough that you won’t reach terminal velocity, so when you hit, you’ll feel every last one of your bones break. I’ll be thinking of you as I fly off to Franklin Bay. And when I sell that nuclear sub to Bolt in two days’ time, I’ll be laughing all the way to the bank, since there’s a chance you’ll still be alive but wishing you were dead.”
Muldoon let loose with what Ray thought was a pretty weak evil laugh and led his henchmen back to the front of the plane. Ray’s mood improved, because maybe things weren’t as bad as they seemed to be. A complete James Bond junkie, Ray knew perfectly well that once the bad guy spilled his guts about the plan, the good guy always got loose soon enough to put a monkey wrench into said plans. All he had to do now was get his hands free, jump without a parachute and beat Muldoon to Franklin Bay.
“Do we hafta?”
Welsh glared at Ray Vecchio. “Yes. We hafta. Kowalski’s expecting back-up, and we’re going to be there. I’ve already been in touch with the RCMP. They’re arranging to fly us up, so go home, pack your long underwear, and meet me back here in two hours. Got it?”
Ray was surprised when he managed to slip his hands free of the rope, but not half as surprised as he was when the door of the plane popped open during a particularly steep bank, dropping him like a sack of rotten potatoes into snow so deep, he was pretty sure he would pop out into China or some other place on the opposite side of the world. Instead, he went down maybe twenty feet or so, and then he waited. He figured it might be a little while before all his body parts checked in with a status report, and he didn’t want to do anything stupid — more stupid — before he knew if anything was broken. Eventually, he got bored and moved his right arm up, shook it all around and decided that’s what it was all about.
“Do the hokey-pokey,” he muttered as he sat up cautiously.
Above him, the sky was all he could see, and it was a bright, beautiful blue. It was the kind of blue he’d never seen in Chicago, and if he, Ray Kowalski, never, ever saw a sky look that blue and pretty again, he would be fine with it, because that would mean he was safe and secure on the mean streets of Chicago instead of at the bottom of twenty feet of fluffy, ball-numbing snow.
As bad as his day already was, Ray downgraded it further, to the level of sucking puny, rancid Vecchio cock, and started hauling his ass and the rest of himself up and out.
Some twenty miles away, Delmar frowned at the sight of an airplane dropping something — someone, if he was any judge of flailing limbs (and he was) — into the Valley of Bottomless Snow. It was too far north for skiing, and most people who liked to jump from airplanes generally preferred to use a parachute.
He harrumphed to himself and decided to pay Quinn a visit. Quinn would know what to do, and with any luck, Delmar would reach the village in time to catch the semi-finals of the Inuvik International Invitational Curling Championships.
By the time Ray reached the top of the snow, he was cold and hungry, yes, but what he wanted more than anything else in the world was to have a smoke, because every man who was about to die deserved a cigarette, right? Right. He also deserved a last pizza, one with pineapple, goddamnit, and while he was at it, he would finish his dinner with a cold beer.
As he knelt in the snow beside the Ray-shaped hole, too tired even to fall over onto his side, Ray figured he was done for and soon, because he was starting to hallucinate. That’s what it had to be, a hallucination, since there was no way he was hearing some guy yelling, “Wheeeeee!”
Inspector Thatcher sighed. “Would you take those idiotic rubber gloves off? Thank you. Now, I want you to pack. We’re escorting Lieutenant Welsh and Detective Vecchio to a small Inuit village near Franklin Bay, and our flight leaves in three hours.”
“And while you’re at it, get in touch with Sergeant Fraser. Let him know the RCMP may need his idiot son’s help in tracking down Muldoon.”
Turnbull hesitated. “Sir? Sergeant Fraser?”
“You heard me,” she said grimly.
“But sir, the last time you and he —”
“I’m well aware of my history with the sergeant,” she bit out. “Now get cracking.”
“Yes, sir!” Turnbull snapped to attention so fast that even Thatcher heard his spine crack. She winced in sympathy as he hobbled out of her office.
After a few minutes of plugging and then unplugging his ears with his fingers, Ray came to the inescapable conclusion he wasn’t hallucinating after all, so he really was seeing a pack of dogs rushing at him. That the pack also seemed to be pulling some guy along the top of the snow sort of made sense, though Ray could have sworn dog sleds were bigger than a snowboard.
Ray heaved himself up to his feet and staggered a little as the wind caught him. He stayed upright and raised his hand as the guy with the dogs raced closer. And faster. And closer. And faster and closer and Ray didn’t think he could jump out of the way, which, why the hell should he, because —
The fuck? One minute, he was standing, the next, he was draped over the guy’s shoulder like a sack of rotten potatoes. Ray shook his head and vowed to inflict all kinds of pain on Muldoon for sticking that phrase in his mind.
“Hey!” The guy didn’t answer, so Ray swatted at the man’s ass. “Hey! What the hell are you doing?” Still no answer, and Ray was being bounced around like a sack of — like a floppy bag of po — like a floppy bag of apples. Yeah. Apples.
Ray grabbed the man’s hips to steady himself, because between the falling, the digging, the upside down and the bouncing, he was ready to empty his stomach of every meal he’d eaten in the last three years. It helped a little, and even though they had to be going eighty (who knew dogs could run that fast?), Ray felt better about things. Not a lot better, but some. He squirmed around a little — the guy held on even tighter — and was able to see past the guy’s hips and look where they were going. Yeah, it was upside down, but —
“Hey! Watch out for that ice!”
With a haze of smoke drifting slowly around his head, Quinn was lost in contemplation of the cards. The future lay before him, if only he could read the signs right. He desperately wanted the help of the spirit realm, but they’d made it all too clear that in matters such as this, he was on his own.
Endless moments later, he took a drag of his cigarette and said, “Call.”
As crashes went, it was pretty spectacular. One minute, Ray was holding on for dear life. The next, he was sailing through the air for the second goddamn time that day.
“Sir? Are you all right? Sir?”
Ray opened his eyes and saw blue again. But this time, it wasn’t the too cheerful blue of a sky untouched by pollution. Instead, it was the blue of Lake Michigan, the dark blue of the middle of the lake, and Ray suddenly got why those romance writers talked about drowning in someone’s gaze, because he felt like he was about to go under for the third time.
“Thank goodness you’re awake. I was getting a bit worried about you.” The guy broke off and glared at what Ray sincerely hoped was a dog, saying, “Yes, I know you told me he was fine, but I prefer to hear it from him, if you don’t mind.”
The guy’s sudden pissiness shocked Ray out of his dime-store-novel fantasies, and he said, “Yeah. I think so. How about you?”
“I’m good. I can never quite corner around that inukshuk. There’s something wrong with the angle, I think. When Diefenbaker suggested I add extra weight, I agreed, but honestly, where would I find it?” The guy hauled Ray into an upright position and kept talking. “Then we saw you standing there, and Diefenbaker said you might be just the ticket. The rest of the team agreed, only we had to keep our speed up, because otherwise we’d have to start over again. I do apologize for not saying anything when I picked you up.”
“After all, it only takes a minute to be polite.”
The guy brushed the snow off Ray the whole time he talked, and man did he talk. It wasn’t until he drew breath that Ray was able to ask, “Who the hell are you?”
He rolled his eyes. “How unforgivably rude of me! I do apologize. I’m Ben — Ben of the Tundra. And you are?”
“I’m Ray Kowalski. Uh, Ray of Chicago.” Ray blinked, because Ben pushed his hood back, and Jesus, he was beautiful.
At the detachment in Inuvik, Bob Fraser read Thatcher’s message and groaned. It wasn’t that he didn’t like seeing Ben, it was just that — well, all right. He didn’t like seeing Ben. His only son should have followed him into the RCMP — well, followed him as soon as he’d been found. Who knew that living with a wolf pack for two years could influence a ten-year-old boy to that extent? His only consolation was that the pack had a good reputation and was highly thought of by other predators as well as prey.
Bob picked up the phone and placed a call. “I’d like to speak with Constable McKenzie, please.”
“God, you’re beautiful.” Ray groaned, because he hadn’t meant to say that out loud.
“Thank you kindly,” Ben said with a smile. “You are, too.”
No way did Ben just say that to him, except that he did, and oh fuck. Ray figured he was a goner, because even though he hadn’t swung that direction in a while, he was ready to get down on his knees and propose marriage to Ben, go the whole nine yards, even, and ask for kids and a white picket fence and when the hell did he start babbling like this in his head?
Ben’s smile brightened enough to put the sun to shame. “You are.”
“Ngrk,” Ray said. It was about as eloquent as he could get with Ben looking at him like he was the greatest thing since sliced bread. The Stella had never looked at him like that, not even when they were at their closest. Jesus.
“In fact, I can’t recall ever seeing anyone as beautiful as you.” Ben smoldered at him, and Ray’s knees weakened a little.
“When I was ten, Old Bitch told me I would meet someone someday. She said I would just know he was the right person, and I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am that she was right!”
A little overwhelmed by pretty much the whole damn day (Did Ben just call his mother Old Bitch? he wondered), Ray’s knees sagged further, and before he fell, Ben ducked down and caught him into a fireman’s carry. Again. But at least with Ben not looking at him anymore, he found his words.
“I’m gonna hurl.” Sure, it wasn’t the most romantic thing he could have said, and yeah, it was rude to puke on someone you just met, but Ray had been upside down too many times in the last hour, and he honestly didn’t think his stomach gave a rat’s ass about etiquette at this point.
“You’ll be fine as soon as I get some tea into you,” Ben said as he climbed back onto the sled — snowboard? Ray couldn’t figure it out and wasn’t sure he cared. And anyway, passing out sounded a hell of a lot better than puking.
“Flailing, you say?” Quinn didn’t look up from his hand — he didn’t need to. Delmar was an uncomplicated man and didn’t require much in the way of conversation.
“Yeah. Over the Valley of Bottomless Snow.”
“Hm. I’ll take two.” Quinn looked at his new cards then said, “I’m in for twenty.”
“He didn’t look too happy about going down.”
“Most people don’t, if they don’t have a parachute.”
“Think I should take a look?”
“No. Ben’s been out that way practicing his cornering,” Quinn said. He put his cards face down and reached for his pack of cigarettes. “I’m sure he’ll find whoever it is.”
When Ray came to again, he was in a cave. A big, white, fluffy cave. He blinked as he watched an icicle form over his head and decided maybe fluffy wasn’t the right description, especially not if it was threatening him with ice.
He rolled away from future doom and stood up as quickly as he could, which ended up taking a good five minutes, most of which was punctuated by grunting, groaning, cursing and pleading for death, and even then, he was still hunched over. One last crack of his spine got him standing straight, and he winced when he thought about what his chiropractor would say at his next appointment.
Ray was ready to call the cave hell on earth, but before he could wind up the part of his brain that bitched about shit, he got a good look around him. The snow wasn’t white, it was blue, and damn if Ray could figure out how it sparkled and where the light was coming from. He wandered a little closer to the middle and looked up to find a skylight. It was another minute before he figured out it was made of ice, and that made him smile.
Ray nearly jumped out of his skin. He turned and saw a woman standing on some kind of shelf — and she was behind bars. Bars of ice. Ice bars.
She tried to give him a sultry smile, but seeing as how she was draped in maybe twenty pounds of fur and her face hinted that she might be as round as she was tall, it didn’t work too well. Still, Ray was impressed that she at least tried.
“He’s nuts,” she said. “He’s been holding me prisoner here for the last five years. You’ve got to help me out.”
“Who’s been —”
“Good evening, Ray! I’m glad to see you’ve recovered from our earlier mishap,” Ben said as he appeared from another part of the cave. Now that all his outerwear was gone, Ray could see Ben’s shape a little better, and despite the ratty sweater the guy wore, Ray liked what he saw. The woman grumbled, and Ben looked up at her. “Did you finish your dinner, Victoria?”
She threw a tin plate at Ben’s head — winging his left ear — then stomped to the back of her cell.
“Uh, Ben? Why you got a woman locked up here?”
“Victoria Metcalfe isn’t a woman, she’s my prisoner.” Ben picked up the plate and took it to a sink. “Are you hungry?”
“Yeah, kinda. What do you mean, she’s your prisoner?”
“She should have been transferred out of here a few years ago, but ever since I captured her, First Nation and the RCMP have been fighting over how to extradite her to the United States. Do you like caribou stew?”
Ray shrugged and scratched his ribs, trying, once again, to get his bearings in a world that was cartoon crazy. “You a cop or something?
“I’m the Sheriff of First Nation,” Ben said, stiffening up enough to make Ray think a big long rod had just been shoved up his ass. It was kind of sexy. “I’m duly sworn to keep the peace, defend my nation’s sovereignty and maintain the right.”
“Huh.” Ray had to hand it to Ben and give him points for enthusiasm, something that had been in short supply for Ray the last few years. Ever since The Stella left him for Vecchio, really, which was pretty damn stupid, now that he thought about it. He shrugged it off, because there were more important things to worry about. “We gotta talk about this guy, name of Muldoon.”
Constable Maggie McKenzie hung up the phone and sighed before working her way down the pole. She’d been meaning to visit Ben anyway, if only to check on his prisoner. At the rate justice was moving, Metcalfe would probably be eligible for release about two years before she got to trial. On the other hand, given how much weight the woman had gained over the last five years, there was no guarantee they’d be able to get her to the courthouse even if the RCMP did come to agreement with First Nation.
When she reached the ground, she went back into her office, which also served as her home and the local jail. She clanked on the bars and said, “Time to go home, Eric.”
“Do I have to?”
“I’m off to visit Ben,” she said as she unlocked the cage. “I can’t leave you behind.”
“I could watch the place while you’re gone. Maybe slap on a fresh coat of paint.”
The offer was tempting. “Eric —”
“Please, Maggie. Don’t send me home. They’ll just make me eat pemmican and try to make me to get in touch with my inner Inuit.”
“Fine. But don’t mess around with the computer,” she told him as she grabbed her backpack out of the closet. “And if you paint, use a nice eggshell white. I don’t want to come back to a psychedelic theme like I did the last time.”
The next morning came far too soon for Ray and his aching body (he made a solemn vow that he would never, under any circumstances, ever leave a plane again unless it was sitting on the ground), and it was only the hope of getting to break Muldoon’s nose that got him up and moving. He wandered to the back of the cave, where Ben had rigged up a toilet, and took care of business. When he returned to the main section, Victoria was out of her cell and standing at the camp stove.
“Shouldn’t you be locked up?”
She shrugged. “Where would I go?”
“You were locked up yesterday,” he said.
“Yesterday, I thought maybe I could talk you into getting me out of here.”
“How do you like your eggs?”
“Ray! Victoria!” Ben came in from outside looking larger than life and even prettier than the day before. Ray got lost in a fantasy of him and Ben on a warm beach, then came back to reality with a thud when he heard, “... who’s here — Maggie!”
“Maggie?” Ray watched as Ben shot out of the cave, taking with him the last of Ray’s dream. “Who the fuck’s Maggie?”
Vecchio was willing to swear on a stack of bibles that the temperature, already too fucking cold, dropped another twenty degrees when the two Mounties said hello.
“I trust this isn’t a wild goose chase.”
Thatcher’s jaw clenched up tighter than Annie Moscowitz’s knees back in high school, and she said, “The Chicago Police Department is not in the habit of issuing false alarms, Sergeant. I’ll thank you to bear that in mind.”
At that point, Vecchio tugged on Welsh’s arm, and the two of them backed away slowly. Under his breath, he said, “You sure Kowalski needs us, Lieu?”
For a minute — for one beautiful minute — Vecchio thought he had Welsh right where he wanted him, which was on the next flight headed south, but then Fraser made some crack about Americans losing the War of 1812, and it was all over. No way Welsh would back down from that kind of insult without proving something, even if it meant losing body parts.
Vecchio sighed and caught sight of Turnbull. “Which plane is ours?”
“Right this way, Detective!”
Ray’s mind, body and soul slumped when Maggie walked into the cave. The woman was at least as pretty as Ben, and there was no way Ray could compete. He wondered glumly when he’d turned into a teenage girl, then stood up to introduce himself.
“Hi, I’m —”
“Ray Kowalski,” she said. She was brisk and abrupt, and she kind of reminded Ray of Thatcher. “Maggie McKenzie. Ben told me why you’re here.”
“Victoria, your ThighMaster and workout clothes came in. Do you want these things up in your cell?” Maggie took the items to the back of the cave when Victoria shrugged, then continued, “As soon as I finish talking to Victoria, we can take off. Our father is going to meet us at Rat Rock. He’s supposed to bring reinforcements, but his mind is slipping these days, so god only knows how much firepower we’ll actually have when we catch up to Muldoon.”
Ray blinked. “Wait. What do you mean by ‘our’ father?”
“Ben’s my brother,” she said. “Now put your coat on and go outside. I need to talk to Victoria alone, and Ben could probably use your help with the sled.”
Quinn looked out over the slowly brightening horizon and said, “There’s a storm coming.”
Delmar looked out over the same horizon, sniffed, and said, “You sure? Smells to me more like Albert’s home brew.”
“That, too.” Quinn nodded. “That, too.”
Vecchio, never all that happy in a plane to begin with, looked out on their final approach and saw bupkis by way of a landing field. Instead, he saw a whole expanse of white filled with nothing. Nothing except a couple of dog sleds racing the plane, and was that a windsock they just passed? He thought about it for a minute, then shook his head. It looked more like a dead otter than a windsock, and who the hell would use something like that on an airfield?
The landing was as bumpy as he thought it might be, and Vecchio only just avoided embarrassing himself and the United States of America by managing to keep his breakfast in his stomach, right where it belonged. Turnbull, the freak, looked as excited as he would have if he’d just landed in Paris, and was spouting off facts and figures about this section of the Northwest Territories which, it turned out, had seceded from Canada five years earlier in a dispute over some prisoner.
There was only so much Vecchio could take, so he pushed past everyone and in his eagerness to get the hell away from Turnbull and the others, he shoved the door open and fell flat on his face. When he lifted his head, he saw a pair of boots, and deep in his head, he ran a few calculations and came to the conclusion that those were women’s boots. Vecchio raised up a little more and let out a whimper.
“I’m gonna marry you,” he said, just before something jumped on his back and started attacking his ears.
“This is embarrassing. I thought Vecchio’s balls were a little bigger than that.” At the moment, Ray was watching Vecchio curl up in an effort to avoid Diefenbaker’s tongue. “It’s pathetic.”
“I must admit that wet skin can be painful at low temperatures,” Ben said. “I was reminded of that rather forcefully last winter, when Victoria dumped a pot of water over my head.”
“Why’d she do that?”
“I wouldn’t let her get a subscription to a magazine geared for ladies. Shameful, really, how women fall prey to the dictates of the fashion industry. With her recent weight gain, Victoria is particularly susceptible. She’s very sensitive about her body these days, and she gets depressed whenever she looks through Cosmopolitan or Vogue.”
“Huh.” Ray thought Victoria probably got depressed because Ben was prettier than her. He knew that if he was a woman, that’s how he would feel. And no way was he feeling that now, because he, Ray, was a guy, and guys didn’t get depressed over shit like that.
“However,” Ben continued, “I must say that you handled yourself much better last night when Diefenbaker wanted to play with you.”
Ben smiled at Ray, and Ray forgot about everything else, including the bit where he’d gone perfectly still when Diefenbaker pulled that same trick on him, because he’d been trying to play dead. As long as Ben approved, nothing else mattered.
Maggie was the one who finally convinced Diefenbaker to leave Vecchio alone, and when he stood up, he gave her that stupid look that shouldn’t work on women but somehow always did. Much to Ray’s disgust, Maggie was no more immune to Vecchio sap than Stella had been, so while Maggie and Vecchio made googly eyes at each other, Ray joined Welsh.
“Glad to see you here.”
“Wish I could say the same, Detective. If I’d known how cold it is, I think I would have left this one up to the Canadians.”
“Same here. So where’s the cavalry?”
“Presumably in Rat Rock.” Ray was about to object, but Welsh beat him to the punch. “This particular area isn’t, it turns out, part of Canada at the moment. It calls itself First Nation, and unfortunately for all concerned, this is where we think Muldoon is headed. We were told the locals would help.”
“Locals?” Locals sucked. They never did what they were told, and if, by some stupid chance, they actually listened to directions, they always ended up siding with the bad guys, because they were Dale’s second cousin three times removed or some shit like that. It was depressing, when it came right down to it.
“Be of good cheer, Detective. At least one of the locals is supposed to be what passes for a cop around here. He’s also a tracker of some renown.”
“Yeah. That’s probably Ben.” Ray looked around and saw Ben approach the old guy.
Ben shot off a salute that was snappy as anything, and the old guy returned it with something less than enthusiasm. Ray was ready to kick him in the head for disappointing Ben like that, but Welsh must have seen the signs, because he grabbed Ray’s arm and held him back.
The old guy sighed. “You can call me Dad, you know.”
Rat Rock was about as promising as its name, which wasn’t saying much, but Vecchio didn’t care. He was too busy making plans for the rest of his and Maggie’s life. She didn’t want to open up a bowling alley in Florida? No problem. He was open to suggestions. So what if living in the ass-end of the North wasn’t exactly what he had in mind for early retirement; if it meant being with Maggie, he’d deal.
“Call me Ray.” God, she was beautiful.
“Ray,” Maggie said quietly. “Do you understand what we’re going to do when we catch up with Muldoon?”
As far as Vecchio was concerned, Muldoon was already a done deal, and he and Maggie were working on their second kid, so he was a little confused by her question.
Ray whacked Vecchio on the back of the head. “Get your mind out of your pants for once and listen already.”
Welsh, long used to — god help him — his two best detectives going at it like cats and dogs, grabbed both men by the nape of the neck and knocked their heads together. Quinn nodded slowly and gave Welsh a thumbs-up. Welsh basked a little in the approval then said, “Both of you listen up. We’ve got one shot at capturing Muldoon and that yo-yo, Bolt, and I don’t want to have to go home and explain to the State Department how the two of you blew it. Got it?”
The “yes, sirs” were sincere, if mumbled, and Welsh sat them both down again. “Inspector Thatcher, please continue.”
Thatcher did so, and by the time she was done, everyone knew the plan. Almost everyone, that is. Toward the end, Ray got distracted when he noticed that Ben’s eyetooth was a little crooked, and Vecchio got distracted when he thought about Maggie’s long hair and how it would look against a pillow.
Turnbull was too busy composing an ode to a piece of fossilized caribou scat to pay much attention to anything.
“Hmph?” It was morning, but Ray had no idea what the time was. He only knew that no one should try and talk to him before he had his first three cups of coffee.
“Are you awake?”
The uncertainty in Ben’s voice was enough to make Ray at least pretend. “Yeah. What’s up?”
Ben stretched out next to Ray and asked, “What will happen when we capture Muldoon?”
“Well, you know. He’ll go to jail, we’ll testify. The usual.” Ray gave in to an urge to run his fingers through Ben’s hair. Christ, it was soft.
“And after that?”
“What do you mean?” Ray loved the way Ben leaned into his hand. He once had a cat that used to do the same thing. Of course, the cat also used to leave hairballs in his slippers, but he figured that was a sign of affliction or something.
“Will you go home?”
Fuck. Of all the things Ben had to ask, did it have to be that? And why couldn’t he have waited until after a little victory nookie? Ray tried to say what Ben wanted to hear, but in the end, all he could get out was, “Yeah. I think I’ll have to.”
The small group huddled behind a stand of rocks while Ben studied the motion of the ocean and the clouds scudding across the sky. After a few minutes, he nodded once and said, “The ice floe and submarine will be in Canadian waters in another ten minutes.”
Quinn nodded. “Good. Didn’t much like the idea of having to confiscate the sub.”
“Hah!” Inspector Thatcher turned away when everyone looked at her.
“No, really. We’re having enough trouble putting together a halfway decent bonspiel for the Northern Winter Games. No way we’d be able to get a nuclear regulatory agency in place by the time the United States caught wind of it.” Quinn pulled out a cigarette.
Maggie said, “I think it’s time for the RCMP contingent to move back across the border into Canada.” The four Mounties took two steps to the west and settled back down to watch.
Twenty minutes later, after a brief scuffle that included such commands as, “I’ll thank you kindly to drop that semi-automatic assault rifle,” and “On the ground, sir, if you please, and mind the gap in the ice,” a flotilla of Mountie kayakers floated guard around the ice floe, their weapons at the ready as everyone else continued the disarmament and arrests.
Having landed face down on the ice after Delmar tripped him with a well-thrown bolo, Muldoon remained where he lay, with Diefenbaker sitting on his back. He wasn’t happy to see his plans fall apart and demanded to know, “Where the hell did all those Mounties come from?”
“Tuktoyaktuk,” Fraser said, a self-satisfied smile on his face. “Turns out they were up here on maneuvers, so it was no trouble for my countrymen to lend me an — oar — as it were.”
“That’s illegal! We’re in First Nation. You have no authority here.”
“You drifted into Canada a while ago,” Ben said. “You really need to watch out for currents and drift at this time of year. Otherwise, you end up where you didn’t expect to be.”
Muldoon growled then subsided when Diefenbaker demonstrated — complete with a slavering snarl — what a proper growl should be.
“Can’t I kick him in the head just once?” Ray stood over Muldoon and lifted his foot, but Ben pulled him away.
“No. The Mounties have rules about that sort of thing.” Ben added, “If we were still in First Nation —”
“You’d let me kick him?”
“No. I would, however, let you speak firmly with him.” Ben’s mouth drooped a little. “You’re really going back to Chicago?”
“I —” Ray gave Ben a helpless look. What the hell was he supposed to say to the guy? Chicago was where his job was. His apartment and his turtle. His ex. His ex’s family. His ex’s friends. His ex’s second ex. Ray glared at Vecchio for a minute, then said, “Fuck it. I ain’t going back. Hey, Welsh!”
“Far be it for me to say you and Kowalski are nuts, but you are,” Welsh said a couple of days later. He and Ray and Vecchio stood in a tiny structure that claimed to be an airport terminal. As far as Welsh was concerned, the building was a tin can with delusions of grandeur.
“Yeah, maybe.” Vecchio caught sight of Maggie and made moony eyes at her, which wasn’t nearly as disturbing to Welsh as the fact that Ray was making moony eyes at Maggie’s brother.
“Kowalski?” Ray stood there, vacant and goofy. Welsh tried again. “Kowalski!”
“Yeah. What? I’m here. Welsh?”
“I’m so glad to know you still recognize me. Are you sure about this?”
“Okay, because once I process you and Vecchio, there’s no coming back to the Chicago PD for either one of you. Got it?”
The two men shooed him off, and Welsh shook his head. He didn’t know why he bothered. Neither Ray was interested in a damn thing he had to say, and on top of that, they were finally letting him board the plane. He didn’t bother waving goodbye. None of them had a clue anyone else was around, and so he headed back to a desk that would have a little more paperwork, thanks to those two numbskulls.
Vecchio, lost in a haze of lust and infatuation, didn’t notice the amount of time it took to get to Maggie’s outpost. He barely paid attention to the fact that they took a dog sled out, so it wasn’t until he arrived that he got his first hint of what his new life was going to be like.
“Yeah, Ray?” She didn’t pause as she unharnessed the dogs.
“Where is everything?”
“What do you mean?”
“You know — houses. And a street. A street lamp would be good.”
“The closest streets are about thirty miles north,” she said.
Delmar leaned forward and studied his hand with all the concentration a man who had failed grade four three times could muster. “Three of a kind is better than two of a kind, right?”
“That’s right,” Quinn said.
“So, if I have a three of a kind and a two of a kind in my hand, I want to get rid of the two of a kind, right?”
Quinn put down his cards and pulled out a cigarette. “You’re still having trouble understanding what a full house is, aren’t you?”
Twenty miles away, Victoria shooed Ray and Ben out of the cave. Neither of them needed to see her using her ThighMaster. They would just tease her, though maybe not Ben. But definitely Ray. He’d been eyeing her lately, looking at what she was eating, and she just knew he was going to try to put her on a diet.
God, she hated skinny men.
A few minutes later, as she struggled into her new workout clothes, she heard a distant, “Wheeee!” followed by an even more distant, “Ben! Watch out for that ice!”