Thursday, April 4, 2013
(After playing the Tabloid! scenario “Faux Pas” Friday (March 22) with Josh Smith, Buddy Rosso, Jeff Laforest, Adam Frager, and Steven Walkup from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. at CaesarCon 2013)
“Editorial meeting! In my office, everybody – now!” bellowed the editor as he strode through the reporter’s bullpen. He didn’t wait to see if anyone followed, but barged right through and planted himself at his desk. He was sweaty and his tie was pulled down, but he wore a nice suit. He always put people in mind of J. Jonah Jameson from the Spider Man comic books, at least for his temper and his tendency to hit people.
The editorial offices of the World Tattler-Tribune were in one of the squat skyscrapers in the greatest city in the world: Akron, Ohio.
Howard Combine was an ace tabloid reporter. He had an athletic build, blue eyes, a soul patch, and a nice tan. He was a bush pilot and was into voodoo. He was also a smug liberal and could talk down a conservative Republican like no one else. From Quahog, R.I., and graduated from James Woods High. His fellow reporters didn’t know much about him.
Mark Farcas was a good-looking though thin and pasty man with thinning brown hair. He was nervous-looking and always watchful. He covered Bigfoot and dead rock stars (like Elvis Presley). He had graduated from Tudbull High School in Scranton, Penn. After that he went to the beach where things went well. In an effort to better himself, he enrolled in Columbia School of Journalism but unfortunately that story on poodle-barbecuing cultists was good, but there was no witness protection program for reporters. He got a job at an amusement park but was framed for beating up a kid so he turned to tabloid reporting. He was also being hunted by the.
Horace Shrugg had long, greasy hair and squinty eyes. He was shifty-looking with a gold tooth prominent in the front of his mouth. He usually wore jeans and a t-shirt. He was a photographer who’d graduated from Eunice Harper Higgins High School in San Antonio, Texas. He went to college at the Conservatory of Secrets Humanity Was Not meant to Know. He had a hacker fix his grades but then headed to the CIA University of the Air and there was an “incident.” He decided that exposing the truth was the best idea ever. That’s when he started tabloid reporting.
George Schmidlap was a tall, thin Dwight-Shrute-ish looking man who wore his hair parted down the center. He wore thick-framed bifocals and had a thick, black beard and mustache. He didn’t have a penny to his name and lived in basement somewhere. He was shifty and always watchful. He told his fellow reporters that he was wanted by the law for a crime he didn’t commit. He’d had trouble getting into college so found a job at Captain Jeffery Spaulding Junior High, but quit it when he got blamed for allegedly flunking the star of the rugby team. Things went bad at his next job as a nuclear weapons technician and he travelled the country with 5,000 neo-hippies for a while before getting back into the Academy of Data-Entry, where he’d failed to get enrolled before. He blew his academic probation there, however, and decided to be a tabloid reporter.
Ralph Fisher had dark hair and was handsome but his face was scarred and slightly burned. He wore a fine suit that fit his tall frame perfectly. He also wore thick glasses which his fellow reporters knew were fake (ala Clark Kent). After graduating from Benedict Arnold Senior High School in Muncie, Ind., he went to college for a while. He was arrested for, as he put it, “unknown reasons.” Then he went to the beach and won the lottery, finally going back to school – which didn’t work out either. It wasn’t his fault that time, it was an accident, honest. He became a highway surveyor and then had to marry a woman he’d gotten pregnant. He was transferred to Russia and the last words he remembered hearing at that place of employment had been “Oh my god! Don’t mix those–!” before the explosion. The company paid him quite a bit of dough to keep quiet but his good looks were ruined. He tried to go back to college but late-night research at Lawson’s Absolute Center of the Universe School led him to secrets better left undiscovered. He knew people were hunting him, however, because he knew too much. So, he became a tabloid reporter.
All of them started to get up and head for the office except for Fisher,
“Where are you guys going?” he asked. “He can wait. He pays us.”
“You remember the last time we made him wait more than five minutes?” Schmidlap asked the man. “Wasn’t pretty.”
As they all squeezed into the cramped office – there was no place to stand, let alone sit – they saw a short, skinny, bald, bespectacled man with a bow tie standing alongside the editor’s desk. He acted nervous to be the center of attention, though his pinched little face still radiated that “I’m-better-than-all-you-weasels” sense of smug superiority that only comes with excessive pride in one’s undergrad education.
“So, you a CPA?” Combine asked the little man.
The man simply shrugged and rolled his eyes.
“Two things, staff,” the editor said. “First, I want you to meet Lester Windooth III. He’s our new head of Research and Fact Checking. Unlike you bums, Lester’s done something with his life. He was a History professor–”
“With an English composition minor, sir,” the newcomer had the temerity to add.
“Like I was saying, he’s educated, and he’s here to oversee our fact checking. There’s been complains that we ain’t always getting our history right, and I want that to stop!”
With that, he slammed his fist on the desk and glared at each of them, even though they hadn’t done anything wrong lately.
“Second thing – the public wants real news. They’re getting tired of these Hollywood Heights, who’s-sleeping-with-who stories you’ve been filing! Sales are slipping. I want ground-breaking material here, stuff that’s gonna make people sit up and take notice.”
He picked up a sheaf of papers from his desk and thrust them into the reporters’ hands.
“This is a good one I’m thinking of running. Lester’s already checked it. What do you think?”
The article read:
What’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb?
By SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT LESTER WINDOOTH III
In a startling announcement exclusive to the World Tattler-Tribune, Canadian historian
Anton Sacka-Weejie has proven that US Vice-President and Civil War general Ulysses
S. Grant was really a space alien!
“The evidence is all there,” explains Anton, professor at the Great Slave Lake Academy
of Arts and Sciences. “There are links to this ‘war hero’ and all sorts of strange events
like the Wendigo up there and the Men in Black of the American Southwest. Your
government’s got documents proving it all, but they’ve locked those all away. Think about
it. Why do you suppose they started asking ‘Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?’”
Ulysses S. Grant was a top general for the Confederate army during the Civil War (or
War Between the States for our southern readers). After the war, General Grant went on
to become Vice-President of the United States.
With information from Civil War Secret Service files, Professor Sacka-Weejie proves
Grant was not of this world. “No human could ever drink the quantities of whisky he did
and live. Why, President Lincoln had to keep him supplied with barrels of the stuff. What
did he do with it? Well, no one ever saw him bathing.”
Professor Sacka-Weejie explains why it has taken so long for the news to be revealed by
pointing to the powers of alien beings. “They don’t want us to know just how Grant won the
war. In fact, there are still secrets they are trying to suppress.”
They read over the story, Fisher muttering in Russian. The editor sat down behind the desk, took out a cigar and started smoking at his desk. It was 1998 and smoking wasn’t being persecuted in the U.S. yet. It’s time was coming though. The air in the room started turning blue with the stench.
“You know, I just heard that the stories about Grant were false, because he was such a small-statured man that one drink would get him hammered,” Schmidlap said without even reading the story. “He wasn’t really an alcoholic. That’s just what I heard.”
“What do you think of the ...?” the editor bellowed. “Just ... just don’t talk anymore!”
He turned to Fisher.
“What do you think of that story?” he said.
Fisher replied in Russian at first.
“Yeah, English there, Smirnoff!”
“I really think that, first of all, your fact-checker’s wrong because wasn’t he president, not vice-president?” Fisher said. “He was the president, he wasn’t the vice-president.”
“He was in the Union,” Farcas said.
“He was Union?” the editor asked.
“This is the new fact-checker and he wrote ... who wrote this?” Fisher asked.
The editor turned on Windooth and glared at him. The little man squirmed for a long time.
“Well, I may have been in error, but it was in keeping with modern educational standards,” Windooth said.
With that, the editor turned and snarled at his reporters.
“Well, we can’t go printing this story ‘til we’ve checked the facts,” he said.
“Well, he’s the fact-checker, right?” Fisher asked.
“Well you are now because he obviously sucks!”
“You should fire him,” Combine said.
“You don’t tell me who to fire,” the editor said. “I tell you that you’re fired.”
“Oh, okay. Well, I am replaceable.”
“Exactly. Anyway, I want you to go find this Professor Sacka-whatja and check out just what the real story is. Get your tickets from accounting and have a nice trip. Enjoy Canada. Get out!”
“Dasvidaniya, boss,” Fisher said.
They all left the office, followed by Windooth. The door slammed behind him.
“So, your little scene’s made you look good at my expense,” Windooth hissed. “Well, I’ll make you sorry you ever heard of Dr. Windooth.”
With that, he slunk away.
“Doctor?” Fisher said. “What are you, a pharmacologist or something?”
The reporters returned to the bullpen and looked over the story more carefully. Then they headed down to accounting to get their plane tickets.
“Where to?” the rat-like little accountant at the desk asked. “Where are they supposed to be for?”
“Canada,” Schmidlap said.
“You know how big Canada is?”
“I thought he told you?”
“Canada’s really big,” Shrugg said.
“Yeah,” the rat replied. “Find out where you’re supposed to go and then I’ll give you the money for the tickets.”
Fisher looked over the newspaper article again.
“Great Slave Lake Academy of Arts and Sciences,” he read.
“Yeah, where’s that?” the accountant asked.
“Uh ...” Schmidlap said.
“We have to find out where that is,” Fisher said. “Somewhere in Canada.”
They headed off to try to find out where the place was. The office had a 1983 Encyclopedia Britannica set that was missing the U and X books. Fisher started looking through the atlas at the office. He found Great Slave Lake in Canada near the city of Yellowknife. Combine and Shrugg headed down to the public library while Farcas headed off to Akron University to see what he could learn.
The public library had a surprisingly large “Canada” section consisting of a bookshelf full of books about the country. Most of them were written in crayon, but they were fairly comprehensive. They could not find anything by Professor Sacka-Weejie. However, Shrugg located an entry for the Great Slave Lake Academy of Arts and Sciences in Grommp’s Guide to Government Grants. It stated that the Professor A. Sacka-Weejie received a grant of $10,000 from the US Department of Defense, Psi-Lab division. No phone number for the academy was given and the address listed was Post Office Box 647A-/* in Yellowknife.
Farcas talked to some co-eds at Akron University. They seemed quite enamored of the handsome man until they noticed that he was wearing a wedding ring. He’d been married ever since the Christmas Party when he had been interning at a newspaper a year before. He’d woken up in Mexico with a hangover and a spouse.
They all met back in the bullpen after lunch. They agreed that Yellowknife was the place to go. They headed down to accounting where they were received plane tickets.
“Coach?” Fisher asked as he looked at the ticket. “You expect me to fly coach?”
“At least you’re not flying with the baggage,” the accountant said.
“Can’t I get an upgrade?”
“Fisher, we go through this any time you go anywhere! You always want an upgrade.”
“Well, you dress for success and I’m not dressed for coach.”
“Then I guess you’ll have to dress down.”
“I agree with him,” Combine said. “We should be flying first class.”
“It’s nice that you two are in agreement,” the accountant said. “It’s very nice. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
“At least one of us wants to attempt to get into the mile-high club.”
“Well, work together then. Ew. But that’s fine.”
“Don’t ask, don’t tell,” Farcas said.
Fisher tried to fast talk the man into giving him an upgrade, as he did every time he had to fly somewhere.
“Get outta here!” the accountant yelled.
“But–” Fisher said.
“Don’t any of the rest of you try it either!”
The accountant reached up to the window over his desk, slamming it down. For some reason, the accounting department had a big window that could be closed at the whim of the accountant on duty. No one was sure why, except that it allowed accounting more easily not to deal with people asking them for money. There was a door right next to the window, so it wasn’t as effective as it could have been.
“Do you want the receipts?” Fisher mumbled.
“Of course I want the receipts!” he heard the accountant shout from behind the glazed window.
They flew out of Akron in an hour, going to Calgary, where they had a five-minute layover. Unfortunately, their flight was taking off in four, so they had to run the length of the airport. They made it to the plane and it took them to Yellowknife. It was snowing when they arrived that evening. Combine asked Fisher if it was as bad as Russia. Fisher sent Farcas to get a car.
“I don’t think we’re going to get a limo in Yellowknife,” Combine said.
“Hey, you need a taxi, eh?” a voice called from a nearby yellow cab.
“Yeah, we need a taxi,” Fisher said to the man who was leaning out the cab window.
“Well, my taxi’s right here, and I’ve got doughnuts,” the cab driver called.
“Doughnuts?” Fisher said.
“Doughnuts. Free doughnut for every ride.”
“I don’t want a doughnut.”
“You don’t have to eat it. I’ll eat it for you if you want.”
The driver was pretty fat and filled the front seat. They weren’t sure how long it might have been since he got out of his cab. The car had a funky smell but the back seat looked clean.
“Take us to the finest hotel,” Fisher said as they got into the car.
“Oh, you’re going to have a hard time finding a hotel, eh,” the driver said. “They’re all booked up.”
“Something big going on in town?” Farcas asked.
“Yeah. There’s a political convention of the Indigenous People’s Party, eh.”
“Don’t they live in igloos?”
“Well, yeah, but they’re a political movement and they’re having some kind of convention, so it’s all booked up.”
“The what?” Schmidlap asked.
“We’ll try a hotel,” the cab driver said. “Maybe you’ll get lucky. C’mon, let’s go.”
They tried five hotels, but they found all of them were booked up. They’d never seen so many indigenous Canadian people, all of them wearing fine suits.
The driver was giving them each another doughnut every time they went to anther hotel.
“I’ve got a jelly,” he said at one point. “You want a jelly?”
At one of the last hotels, Shrugg tried to bribe the concierge to get rooms with a whole American dollar. He was gently rebuffed by the unimpressed concierge.
“However, seeing as you are Americans, our lower brothers, so it is, eh,” the concierge said.
“Lower brothers?” Shrugg muttered.
“Let me make a few phone calls and see if I can help you out.”
“Here, have a brewski while you wait.”
The concierge handed cans of beer to all of them. Then he made a few phone calls. Their cab was waiting but the driver said he was not going to leave the meter running. Everyone in Canada seemed so nice and polite.
The concierge returned and told them that the only place available was the Snowblind Chalet out on the edge of the city.
“So, tell ‘em to take you there,” the concierge said. “I think they’ve still got some room left. But you’d better hurry, cause I hear those indigenous people are just snatching them up.”
The cab was still waiting out front and the cabbie had fresh boxes of doughnuts in the front seat. They could also smell bacon and guessed he’d gone for a sandwich while waiting for them to get back.
With all this sugar, I could probably run there, Shrugg thought.
The cabbie was just popping open a beer when they returned.
“Oh, hey. Oh, hey,” he said. “Oh, you’re back, eh? Where we going?”
“Snowblind Chalet,” Schmidlap said.
They got into the cab and he drove them to the edge of town.
“You know anything about the college here?” Fisher asked en route.
“I didn’t know there was a college here, eh,” the cabbie replied.
Shrugg was getting bored. He told Schmidlap to look at him and then fired the flashbulb off in the other man’s face.
“You know anything about the Great Slave Lake Academy of Arts and Science?” Fisher asked.
“I know Great Slave Lake is out this way,” the cabbie admitted. “I never heard of no academy of science or art.”
“Do you know of anybody that might?” Combine asked.
“No, not really,” the cabbie said.
“You ever heard of Anton Sacka-Weejie?” Schmidlap asked.
“No,” the cabbie said. “Nope. But I’m not very well educated, eh.”
“I thought you had a master’s degree,” Fisher joshed.
“No, I have a Ph.D.,” the cabbie said. “But, you know, it’s in brewing.”
“A post-hole digger?” Schmidlap said.
The cabbie didn’t get it.
Farcas asked about the Canucks, which got the cabbie talking about hockey, which he did until they pulled up outside of the Snowblind Chalet.
The chalet was right on the edge of the city. In fact, the forest started right across the street next to the dog teams’ kennels. There were two rooms remaining but the owner said he could roll a bed in for one of them. The cost was $40 Canadian per night. The front of the hotel was part office, part living room with a television blaring with a hockey game behind the front desk. Only a single lamp was lit, leaving many suggestive shadows. The owner was a round, sweaty fellow with a smooth, shiny face.
“You’re Americans, right?” the owner said. “Oh, it’s so great to see Americans. Now I got to carry stuff, God damn. So glad you’re here, eh!”
He seemed to go back and forth between fawning affection and grumpiness. He reminded Combine of Tinfoil Ray, a man he’d met during his time living on the beach. Shrugg guessed to himself that the man had been subjected to too many mind wipes.
The two adjoining rooms were on the second floor and had a lovely view of the dog kennel. Fisher checked his own room for microphones and cameras but found nothing out of the ordinary. When he started screaming in Russian, someone knocked on his door and asked him to keep it down.
Combine walked down to talk to the owner, who was sitting in the back and watching hockey. Combine banged the door and called for service. The owner came out in a rush.
“What do you want, eh!?!” he bellowed. Then lowered his voice. “Can I help you?”
“I’m looking for the university,” Combine said.
“Yellowknife doesn’t have a university. It’s a crappy town.”
“Cabbie that dropped us off said there was supposed to be one on that side of town.”
“What was his name, eh?”
“I don’t remember. I don’t remember him giving us his name.”
“Was it Bob?”
“I don’t think so.”
“He’s a liar! How about – was it Dan?”
“Didn’t see the–”
“Dan’s crazy! He’s crazy! He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. How about Phil? Was it Phil?”
“Definitely wasn’t Phil?”
“Definitely wasn’t Phil. He gave us a bunch of doughnuts though.”
“Did you pay him, eh?”
“Yeah, one of us did. So, pretty much everybody you’re rattling off here is kind of crazy?”
“No. There’s Sally. She’s stupid. I like her so much. But damn, she’s so stupid. What were we talking about?”
“No, I don’t know about no university.”
“It’s supposed to be on Slave Lake.”
“Well, there might be something up in Snowdrift, eh.”
“Snowdrift? How far is Snowdrift?’
“About 30 miles. Down the road.”
Combine returned to the others and told them what he’d learned. Shrugg mentioned that there was a post office box in Yellowknife for the college. Schmidlap was too busy to talk: he was stealing everything that wasn’t nailed down out of his hotel room. Fisher suggested he wait until they left the next day.
“Oh yeah,” Schmidlap said.
Fisher and Schmidlap shared a room while Combine, Farcas, and Shrugg shared the other, Shrugg getting stuck with the roll-out bed.
* * *
They were all awakened in the early morning hours by the howling the sled dogs across the street. It went on for a minute or so before the howling changed to that kind of screaming the dogs did when James Arness, the alien, tore them up in The Thing. Fisher leapt out of bed and threw the curtains open. He heard movement in the room next door.
* * *
“Don’t turn on the lights!” Farcas said as he crossed the room to the window and threw back the curtains.
“What do you see?” Combine said from the warmth of his covers.
Shrugg stumbled out of bed, buck naked, and ran to the window.
Across the road, they could see a tall, manlike figure, flailing about. There might have been dogs around it if that was what those dark specks were.
* * *
“I got my headline!” Fisher said loudly. “‘Canadian Dogs Attack Bigfoot!’ Let’s hope Horace gets pictures!”
“Wait, does he have his camera!?!” Schmidlap said.
He ran to the adjoining door and burst through it into the other room.
“It’s bigfoot!” Fisher yelled. “It’s bigfoot out there! The dogs are attacking bigfoot!”
Shrugg flung open the sash and a cold wind blew into the room. Schmidlap saw that his camera was sitting on the nearby desk.
“Take the camera!” Schmidlap yelled, grabbing up the device.
He shoved the camera into Shrugg’s hands and then gave him a shove out the window.
“Grab him!” Combine yelled.
There was a flash from the camera and Farcas tried to grab the man until he realized that he was naked. Then he let him fall out of the second story window.
“Don’t break the camera!” Schmidlap called as he fell backwards, blinded by the flashbulb again.
Combine, still lying in the bed, saw Schmidlap’s ass, exposed through the open back door of the ratty long johns that he wore, coming at his face. He quickly rolled over and slid out of the bed as Schmidlap landed. Combine was very cold in just his boxers in the increasingly colder room but he ran to the window to see what was going on outside.
* * *
Next door, Fisher leaned against the window and saw the naked Shrugg disappear into a snow drift under the window. Only the camera didn’t disappear into the drift as Shrugg held it over his head.
“It’s cold!” a muffled voice came from the snowdrift.
He quickly scrambled out of the snow. Another window was flung open over his head.
“Take a picture!” Fisher yelled, leaning out the window. “Do your job!”
Shrugg struggled out of the snowdrift and ran towards the road, taking photographs the entire time.
* * *
“Did he die?” Schmidlap said, struggling to the window. “What’s going on?”
“Get the picture!” Fisher shouted from the next window.
Shrugg ran across the road, flashbulb still going off erratically as he took pictures. He stopped in the middle of the highway.
The huge thing spotted him. Suddenly, a sickly green light lanced down out of the sky, just like in the science fiction shows. The snow swirled up golden flakes and a gust of freezing cold wind slammed into Shrugg. Frost coated his cheeks, icicles hung from his eyebrows (and other places), and his skin was transformed into a trendy, pale blue-white – kind of like a northwoods nosferatu.
Back at the hotel, the blast of cold stopped just short of the windows as the others all ducked back inside. When they looked again, they saw Shrugg slowly walking back, shivering and shaking.
Fisher ran down to the lobby. He found a bar on the door and the owner standing in the middle of the room with a shotgun in his hand.
“No, eh!” the man said nervously. “It’s just a bear, eh. But stay inside. It’s just a bear but stay inside.”
He looked scared to death.
“It’s just a bear!” he said again. “I said it’s just a bear.”
“I believe you!” Fisher said. “I have friend out there. He fell out the window and I have to go get him. He’s going to freeze to death.”
“Oh ... he’ll be fine, eh,” the other man said. “It’s just a bear, eh.”
“He’ll be fine,” Fisher said. “Can I take him this coat?”
“But it’s a bear! You don’t want to give a bear a coat, eh.”
The conversation continued to go around in circles as Combine entered the lobby.
* * *
Meanwhile, Farcas leapt out of the window with a blanket. He landed in another snow drift. Then he headed for Shrugg.
Schmidlap looked up into the sky but could see no sign of where the green light had come from. However, he saw what looked like an extra star in Orion’s belt that just might have been suspicious. He watched it for some time.
* * *
“You ain’t never heard a bear before?” the owner said. “It’s just a bear.”
“This bear show up often, in town?” Fisher asked.
“It’s just a bear,” the other man said. “I don’t know what’s so exciting about a bear, eh.”
“But does he show up often?”
“No, I don’t think so, eh.”
He called for Combine to go back to bed as well.
* * *
Farcas wrapped the blanket from Shrugg’s roll-away bed around him. It was rough, like it was made of a mixture of burlap and wool, but at least it was warm. The two of them stumbled back to the hotel. Just as they reached the door and tried to open it, there was a shout from within and someone fired a shotgun.
* * *
The owner was alternating between begging the others to go back to bed and screaming at them that there was nothing out there. Then there was a rattle from the door.
“The bear!” he shrieked.
He fired both barrels at the door. Fortunately, he was a lousy shot. One blast blew a hole in the wall on one side of the door and the other blast tore through the wall on the other side of the door. Fisher leapt at the man, who turned back towards him. The hot barrel of the shotgun slammed into his face.
“Oh, I’m sorry, eh!” the owner said. “Sorry about that!”
A rattle came from the door and the bar fell to the floor. The shotgun had blasted through both sides of it.
“We need to get a cold beer on that,” the owner said, ushering Fisher towards his living area.
The door slowly creaked open to reveal Farcas and Shrugg peeking in. The owner was alternatingly soothing or berating Fisher and pressing a cold beer on his face where the shotgun had slightly burned the man.
“I’m really sorry,” the man said. “Why’d you do that!?! You shouldn’t have done that! Oh, I’m hoping you’re going to be okay. Don’t ever do that again! Are you sure? Let’s get a beer on you, let’s get something cold. Man, you’re so stupid! But you’re great guests.”
He told Fisher to hold the beer to his face. Then he opened a second beer.
“And put that in your mouth,” he said.
“Thanks man,” Fisher said.
“Have a doughnut too,” the man said. “You want some smokes? Smoking’s bad! You shouldn’t smoke! Here, give me one.”
Farcas helped Shrugg upstairs where the man took a hot shower. Combine returned to bed and Fisher arrived at the rooms a short time later. They all discussed briefly what they’d seen.
“Yeah, a star was moving up there,” Schmidlap said. “I think there was a UFO. Green light.”
“You think there was extra-terrestrial involvement?” Combine asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t know what the one thing was. It was huge!”
“Did we all see it?”
Everyone agreed that they had seen it.
“Did it look like it was pissed?” Combine asked.
“Ripping dogs up,” Farcas said.
* * *
The rest of the night was quiet. Shrugg made sure he wore pants to bed.
The next morning a mountie was talking to the owner when they came down from their room.
“It was a bear,” the owner was telling the man.
“Yeah, those bears are awful,” the mountie said.
“I don’t like those bears.”
“Hello, good day, eh,” the man said to the reporters.
They muttered about green lights and UFOs.
“They grow ‘em big up in Canada, I guess,” Schmidlap said.
He and Fisher headed off for breakfast at the diner next to the hotel.
* * *
Combine, Shrugg, and Farcas went out to the scene of the attack. They found some dead dogs and some tracks while the mountie examined the scene as well. Shrugg took some pictures of the tracks that might have been bear tracks but didn’t look terribly much like bear tracks. He also took pictures of the dogs.
Combine realized that the wounds on the dead dogs looked a great deal like cattle mutilations. He wondered if the animals were actually cows that had been turned into dogs and then mutilated.
“It’s probably the voodoo people from Zimbabwe came here, brought some cow carcasses and used to voodoo magic to turn them into dogs,” he said.
Farcas examined the tracks. Though the wind had blown them and they looked somewhat like bear tracks, he didn’t think they looked like the traditional bigfoot tracks.
Shrugg also took some pictures of Ed, the Mountie.
“This is a big story, huh?” Farcas said to him. “Lots of ripped up dogs.”
“Oh no,” Ed said. “It looks like it was just a bear, eh.”
“Like I said, a bear came and ripped up all these dogs.”
“It was just a bear, eh.”
“It’s a terrible thing but when you live on the edge of town, these kinds of things happen, eh. Oh, you’re not from around here, are you? Are you liking Canadia?”
“It’s a great country. It’s a great country.”
He looked into the distance, his eyes sparkling in the sun and the wind blowing his hair just enough, his jacket bright red against the cold, white snow. Shrugg took a photo.
“Do you get bear attacks like this often,” Farcas asked.
“Oh, not often but every once in awhile,” Ed said.
“Every once in a while?”
“Because it is Canada.”
“Yeah. Does this happen on a regular basis?”
“Well, I just said not often.”
“Which would mean not a regular basis, eh.”
“Well, not often, but like the same time every month?”
“No. No, I think the last bear attack was a while back.”
“That’s what it seems like. Every once in a while you have a bear.”
“What kind of bear does this sort of thing?”
“A big one. Ed McTaggert,” he motioned towards the hotel, “yeah, he said it was a bear. Sounds like it was a bear, eh. Said he tried to shoot it through the door.”
“No, that was ... us.”
“You shot it through the door?”
“He shot us through the door.”
“You look pretty good for somebody who’s been shot through a door.”
“Luckily he missed.”
“Oh, that’s good, eh.”
Shrugg said if they had any more reports of bear attack, they’d help them look for the bear.
“Are you bear hunters?” Ed asked.
“No,” Shrugg said.
“Why are you hunting bear?”
“It might help out the region.”
“Well, that’s my job, eh. We’re looking into it. Don’t worry about it, eh.”
“Well, we’re more than happy to help,” Combine said.
“Why do you want to help us?” Ed said. “You’re just civilians; you might get hurt. We don’t want you getting hurt, eh. You should leave this up to the professionals. You know we’re Royal ... and Canadian ... and Mounted. We are the police, eh.”
“Think of us as Scooby-Doo without the dog,” Combine said.
“Yeah, do they ever get hurt?” Farcas asked.
“It’s just a bear, eh!” Ed said. “God. What is wrong with you guys? You’re all obsessed about this bear?”
“We don’t want to see anyone get hurt,” Farcas said.
“Well, they’re not my dogs, eh,” Ed said.
“How about a dollar?” Shrugg said, holding out an American dollar bill.
Combine asked the mountie about a university or science academy on Slave Lake in Snowdrift, but the man didn’t know anything about it. When they asked how many people were in Snowdrift, he guessed at a couple hundred.
Then Ed the Mountie mounted up on his horse and headed out majestically. When Farcas called to him and he came back.
“What would be a good place to locate ... someone,” Farcas asked. “We’ve got a friend up here we’re trying to locate, but we don’t know where he is up here.”
“Do you know his address?” Ed asked.
“No, unfortunately, we don’t.”
“Do you know his name, eh?”
“Yeah, his name is Anton Sacka-Weejie.”
“I never heard of him. Is he a missing person?”
“No, he’s just a contact we have up here that we’re trying to get hold of.”
“Well, you could try a telephone book.”
“We do have a P.O. Box for him.”
“Well, then you’ll have to go to the post office, eh. You go to the post office, if he’s got a P.O. Box, they might be able to tell you what his address is.”
“Oh, okay, thank you.”
Then he headed off.
* * *
Fisher and Schmidlap, meanwhile, had a nice breakfast with plenty of back bacon, eggs, gravy, and toast. The waitress brought them beers too.
“With breakfast?” Schmidlap said.
“Oh, sorry, eh,” the girl said. “That should be light beer.”
They also asked if there was a place to rent a car and they learned that the car rental places were all booked up. When Fisher told them they were trying to find a way to get to other parts of Great Slave Lake, the waitress told them that they might be able to rent a plane. She wrote down the information on a card.
“It’s Captain Sturgeon,” she said.
“He’s great. He’s an American.”
* * *