PART TWO

The next day was much the same, except that Ray had remembered to buy milk, so they ate breakfast at home, avoiding the cameras. Only Dief seemed annoyed by this, and kept wuffling grumpily, until Fraser was forced to reprimand him about his apparent desire for his fifteen minutes of fame.

Ray felt grouchy and hadn't slept well. Fraser had cleaned him out at cards, and ok, they weren't betting for anything other than air, but damn if it wasn't infuriating to lose all the time. Then Fraser had gone to bed and Ray sat up drinking beer and thinking about… stuff.

Like that maybe he should go back to Chicago. What the hell was he doing here, anyway? He must be nuts, hanging onto the Mountie's lanyard like it was mommy's apron strings. Was Fraser embarrassed by him? You could never tell with Frase. Was he being polite, mortified that Ray hung around him all the time? Fuck - yesterday Ray'd even made him lunch. He seriously needed to get a grip.

On the other hand, Fraser had never even noticed that all the girls in the town were harbouring crushes on him, so hopefully he hadn't noticed similar behaviour from Ray. Not that he was the same as those girls. No, he was way cooler about the whole thing.

All this had gone round and round in his head, making his stomach roil until he'd eventually fallen asleep on the couch. He'd woken that morning with a neck ache, a vague sickly hangover - mostly from lack of sleep - and Fraser being as perky as usual. Ray grumpily decided that it was because Fraser was constantly winning, whether it was cards or pretty much anything else. It was him who was the loser.

So Ray was moody and uncommunicative at breakfast, until Fraser apparently decided that it wasn't worth attempting conversation, and they drove into town together in stiff silence, Fraser dropping Ray off at Mikey's and continuing on to his office without another word. Ray instantly felt guilty about being such a kid, but refused to go see him. He needed to recoup some dignity first. Yeah, dignity.

The first thing that happened at work was, however, not the most dignified. Carla was there, with her little camera, and insisted that today he needed to be wearing a radio mic.

"A what?" he asked in disbelief.

"Just a little microphone pack. What with the high winds and stuff we're not getting a lot of dialogue, so to be on the safe side we've decided to wire you."

"What wind?" Ray asked in disbelief. "Mikey, are you wearing one of these things?"

"'Fraid not, bro," Mikey called from underneath a 1969 Chevy.

"Then why do I have to?"

"Give me a break, Ray, please," Carla said, looking forlorn. "I'm just doing what the big boss tells me to. And if I don't get you miked up, I'm in for it, big time."

So that was how Ray found himself with Carla's hand down the back of his jeans, tucking in the little pack, and up his shirt, securing the little clip-on mic.

"Say something, let me test this thing," she muttered, pulling on her headphones. "What did you have for breakfast?"

"Uh, pancakes. With syrup. And Frase had a bowl of cereal."

"Ok, that's great." She pulled the headphones off. "So I'm going to be with you most of the day. Steve, who operates the maincam - the big camera? And the soundman Pete are gonna be with Fraser. Susan'll be with them too, directing. Just so you know."

Ray nodded in bemusement. "Uh… ok? What do you guys thinks gonna happen over there anyway? You do know most of his Mountie-ing involves littering, right? Not the most exciting."

"I don't know, the big boss doesn't let me in on her plans. Uh… were you guys planning on meeting up for lunch or anything?" she looked hopeful.

"Not really, we had kind of a… well, I was in kind of a bad mood this morning. Doubt he'll be bothered."

There was a pause while Carla checked that the mic pack was hidden underneath his t-shirt.

"Listen," she said over his shoulder, "Susan wants to get interviews with all the people we're focussing on. Do you guys have any free time over the weekend for us to do you both? It'll be like an hour, maybe two, but no more. We can do it at the cabin… what do you think?"

***

"What exactly is the Great Yukon, Douglas Fir, Double Telescoping Bag Shot, Constable Fraser?" Fraser was standing by an old black and white photograph of his father and Buck, both cradling a rifle in their hands and looking noble. It was hung on the wall beside his desk.

"Well, the story goes that my father won my mother's heart in a competition with his parter, Constable Frobisher - on the right in this picture. She was being held hostage by a nefarious criminal, and they had two bullets to make the shot that would save her life - it was, of course, my father who made the shot. They referred to it ever after that as The Great Yukon Douglas Fir Double Telescoping Bag Shot. I can find the diary entries that refer to it, if you wish?"

"No, that won't be necessary. But… tell us how that makes you feel. Do you find it romantic?"

"Well, I suppose, yes, there is an essence of romance there. I'm not usually of a whimsical nature, but it is rather a nice story."

"Fraser doesn't have a romantic bone in his body," Ray said quietly, moving further into the office.

"Ray!" Fraser exclaimed. "Were we meeting for lunch? I hadn't realised."

"No, we didn't have plans, I just thought it would be, you know, nice." Ray held up a paper bag and shook it temptingly. Carla held the camera steady, as the cameraman - Steve ? - focussed on Fraser.

"That would be lovely." He had clearly forgiven Ray for his petulant behaviour that morning. They sat at Fraser's desk and unwrapped their sandwiches in silence.

"What was that story you were telling?" Ray asked in a desperate attempt to ignore the cameras.

"Ah, well, I was recounting the story of the time my father and Buck Frobisher competed to win the heart of my mother. I'm sure I've told you about it, Ray."

"Oh right, that was why the whole romance thing."

Susan interrupted, "Have you ever done anything as romantic in the name of love, Constable Fraser?"

Ray snorted. "Fraser, yeah right."

Fraser coughed little and turned red. "Ah, well, I don't think… I mean, it wouldn't be prudent or kind to discuss something so-"

Ray scowled at him, noticing the blush. "No, c'mon Fraser," Ray interrupted sharply. "Tell us about your great romantic adventures."

"Well, there was the time that Inspec- an acquaintance and myself were aboard a runaway train that was on a collision course with another vehicle loaded with radioactive Uranium."

"The Bolt Brothers thing, yeah?" Ray asked, remembering Vecchio's notes.

"That's correct, Ray," Fraser tugged at his collar, looking suddenly uncomfortable. "We were on the roof of the train attempting to get to the engine room and shared a… moment of intimacy. Brought about largely by the adrenaline of the moment, I'm sure but… well… it was rather romantic." Fraser coughed and took a big bite of his sandwich.

"What? You- on the roof of a train? With- what exactly happened?" Ray glared, leaning forward.

Fraser frowned and lowered his voice. "Nothing happened, Ray, honestly. It was merely a brief… moment," he repeated, scratching his eyebrow nervously.

Ray was beyond lowering his voice. "What sort of moment?"

At this, Fraser straightened up in his chair. "Well, I really don't think that's any of your business, Ray."

"Of course it's my business!" Ray protested. "I…! You…!" He was interrupted by a knock on the door. And thank God, 'cause when he looked up he remembered the two cameras and the four other people in the room and came to his senses. Jeez, he'd almost just…

The door opened and a breathless man fell through, followed by a zealously watchful Thompson. Ray recognised him as Gene Tandy, a local who lived even farther out of town than they did, and was renowned for rarely approaching civilisation.

"Constable Fraser, there's something I think you should see," he panted.

"Sorry, Sir, he wouldn't wait outside!" yelped Thompson, once again avoiding the cameras at all costs. Geez, the guy was more high-strung than a Derby winner.

"Don't worry, constable," soothed Fraser, standing up and putting on his hat. "Gene, is everything ok?"

"I'm not sure. You should see this for yourself."

***

The cave was pitch black and damp, smelling musty and cold. The bright beam of Fraser's flashlight illuminated the walls, the dirt floor, and a small pile of what looked like rubbish. Dief and Gene's dog Lucy nosed through it, sniffing, as Fraser went down on one knee and pulled apart the pile.

"I was out walking Lucy this morning - she led me straight here." Gene said. "Thought I should let you know."

Fraser sifted through old clothes, dirty and discarded, a blanket pressed into the floor, still imprinted with the shape of a human body, apple cores and food wrappers.

"It's a nest," muttered Fraser.

"Someone's been living here?" Ray asked, steadying himself with a hand on the low rock above.

"It certainly looks that way," agreed Fraser. He shifted the pile of clothes to one side, revealing a gun.

"Jeez, whatever happened to your local Holiday Inn?" grumbled Ray, rubbing his arms against the cold.

"Hmm," Fraser lifted the gun gingerly and placing it in a plastic bag.

"So," said Ray, "Tommy Donen?"

"It's a possibility," Fraser agreed. "Although I wouldn't want to cause panic unnecessarily." He inspected the rest of the clothes and then stood up, walking over to the mouth of the cave and looking out at the valley below.

The crew were there, filming up the hill from the roadside. Ray rolled his eyes. "Do you think he'll come back?"

Fraser knelt to look at the tracks in the snow. "It's unlikely. These tracks are fresh today. You. Me," he pointed to the tracks as he identified them. "Gene, Dief and Lucy. No one else. And, despite the high winds last night, there hasn't been enough heavy snowfall to provide fresh cover for at least two days."

"Three," pointed out Ray. "Sunday night, remember?"

"Of course." Fraser stood up and clapped his gloved hands together. "So it looks as though our Mr. Donen - or whoever it might be - vacated the cave some time before or early on in Sunday night's storm."

Ray rubbed the back of his neck. "Going towards town?"

"Or away from it." Fraser confirmed.

"Is this something I should be worried about, Constable?" asked Gene.

"No, no, Gene. Leave the worrying to me," reassured Fraser. He clapped Gene on the back and lead him away from the cave. "But you might like to warn Marjorie not to go out alone at night, at least until I've had the prints on this gun run…"

***

Ray and Fraser drove back to town on their own, the camera crew following behind in their people-carrier.

"Keep up!" hissed Susan, frantically trying to see what was going on in the car ahead. It was already getting dark, and the sky was streaked with red and grey.

"They're still miked up," pointed out Pete, and he donned his headphones.

"Rolling for audio," said Steve.

"What do you think's gonna happen?" asked Carla, pulling on her own headphones.

Through the radio mics crackled Ray and Fraser's voices.

"So how much do you really not think that's Tommy's hide-out?" Ray asked, low-voiced. He sounded subdued.

"I'm afraid it doesn't look good, Ray. The clothes on the floor of the cave, soiled as they are, match the description I received both from Inspector Carlisle and the sighting in Carcross - red joggers of the "Nike" label," he pronounced it to rhyme with 'pike'. "Blue jacket, old training shoes. However, I can't think where he could be now."

"Well, wherever he is, he's naked."

"Well, yes, as you say, presumably he is either without clothes or had with him a change of clothing. Or perhaps in disguise," he murmured as an afterthought.

"Maybe he wandered out into the forest and got eaten by a bear."

"Unlikely, Ray. Bears generally stay well away from populated areas-"

"Ok then, got eaten by a beaver or a wolf."

Dief wuffled grumpily.

"Ok then, maybe he got himself involved with Inspector Thatcher and they mated and then she ate him."

"Oh, really, Ray."

"Don't 'oh really' me, Fraser. You-- --we -- -n --plan-n."

"Shit, he's cutting out," muttered Pete, pressing the phones to his ear.

"Get closer," barked Susan to the nervous-looking runner driving the car, who accelerated.

"Ray, I don't know what you're getting so w-k-- up a---t," Fraser was saying patiently. "it was just a kiss."

"Ther-- -- --ch thing wi-- you, Frase, you think I don't --ow that? Who have you ever kissed since I've known you. I'm gonna go with nobody. Am I right?"

"Well, there was that time-"

"Look, this isn't about that. This is about… this is about…"

"What?" Fraser was raising his voice now, and Pete raised his eyebrows. That Mountie cool sure didn't last long. "What is this about?"

"It's about- fuck!"

The car swerved to the side of the road, and at first it looked like they had lost control of the vehicle, until they pulled safely into a lay-by. It all happened so fast that the crew vehicle nearly over-took them.

"Shit shit shit!" swore Susan, and the runner pressed hard on the brake pedal.

"This -- what it's abo--," crackled Ray.

"They've gone silent," said Pete, looking up.

They quickly pulled in a few car lengths in front of Ray's car.

"What's going on?!" asked Susan, opening the door. "Get out there."

Steve and Pete fell out of the vehicle together onto the bank at the side of the road and began to run over to the other car, wading through deep drifts of snow. Susan jumped out too, desperately trying to see past the headlights and through the windscreen. But as they reached the driver's door, it opened and Ray stumbled out.

"Give me a lift back to town?" he asked them. He looked pale.

"Ray-," Fraser got out of the passenger door and Ray pushed past Pete and Steve, who was frantically hiking the camera up onto his shoulder. The door slammed hard behind Ray as he got into the crew vehicle.

Nobody moved. The world seemed so silent all of a sudden, a light snow starting to fall, the sky darkening rapidly. Fraser stood in between the two cars, trapped in the headlights, looking lost.

Ray turned to the runner. "Start this car now, kid, and I'll give you a hundred bucks. American."

The wheels span in the snow.

 

Part Three