The Sweet Hereafter — deleted scenes

by china_shop


I don't know about you, but whenever I watch the deleted scenes on a DVD I think, "Wow, I can totally see why they cut that." Either the scene repeats information that's given elsewhere in the film, or it makes subtext too explicit... or it just doesn't work. My favorite is a very very (presumably unintentionally) gay deleted scene from the Steven Soderberg film Out of Sight.

Anyway, I think these scenes are like that — they don't belong in the story, but maybe they have a what-might-have-been road-less-travelled missing-link curiosity value. Regardless, it seemed a shame just to throw them away.

Note: These are all either unbetaed or were rejected by my betas. Errors may abound.


The Property Developer and the Night Watchman
Who Did It?
Bart Benchly's Sister
The Vision and Exposition Central
The Showdown version 1
The Showdown version 2
We Need to Talk
Epilogue Dialogue Snippets


The Property Developer and the Night Watchman

So initially there was a forgotten Native American burial ground, which the developer was going to destroy with his construction. It got complicated, it didn't make sense, Native Americans don't lose their burial grounds, and it meant that a lot of the story ended up being about Court orders and injunctions. Uh, yeah.

 

"I was just talking to Walter, here."

Fraser Senior pushed past Ray and held out his hand. "Pleased to meet you, sir. I'm Constable Fraser, RCMP."

"Yeah, it's okay, Frase. I already told him about you." Ray turned to the construction worker. "We're gonna take off. Thanks for showing me the pictures of your kid. You see or hear anything fishy, call me, okay? C'mon, Fraser. Let's make tracks." They walked off towards the car.

Fraser followed hot on their heels. "For God's sake, dad! The burial ground may well be at the heart of the case! If it's switched our essences, who knows what else—"

"I'm fully aware of that! I'm just about to—"

"What?" said Ray.

"Tell you what I found."

Ray stopped in his tracks. "I thought you didn't find anything."

"Whatever gave you that idea? There's a Native American burial ground under those trees."

"Huh. You think that's got something to do with the vandalism? Maybe people trying to protect the site?"

"It could do. If it was me, I wouldn't want someone stomping all over my final resting place with a jackhammer and a bulldozer. It'd be like trying to sleep in a buffalo stampede, I imagine."

Ray pulled his jacket tight against the rain. "Yeah."

"Perhaps the developer—What's his name?"

"Nichols," supplied Fraser.

"Exactly," said his father, causing Ray to frown in bewilderment. "Perhaps Nichols isn't aware of the graveyard. We must tell him so he can change his building plans." He veered off towards the office at a brisk pace.

Ray watched him go. "Hey, wait a minute. You're on crack, you know that?" Robert stopped a few paces away, and turned and waited with a stubborn set to his shoulders that Fraser found excruciatingly annoying. "Firstly, he's a business guy, not your Aunt Maisie. He's not gonna care about a bunch of Indian graves."

"Native American," corrected Fraser's father. "And I don't have an Aunt Maisie. Although my father's cousin was called Martha. Perhaps that's who you mean. She always wore four pairs of socks—two on her feet and two on her hands. Famous for it all over the Yukon."

Fraser sighed helplessly, and tried to get Ray's attention again. "Ray, Ray, RAY!"

Not even a flicker.

"Yeah. Native American," said Ray, ignoring Robert Fraser's genealogical digression. "I know. I was saying it from his perspective." Ray wiped the rain out of his eyes.

"Had to cut holes for her thumbs."

Ray grunted. "And b) we got no jurisdiction to protect an unregistered graveyard. If it was registered, he wouldn't have got building consent. He's got building consent, so we're just gonna piss him off."

"Nonetheless, we should at least give him the opportunity to care for his country's heritage."

"Fraser, he didn't like you. He's not going to listen."

"He didn't?" Robert Fraser looked surprised at that, which Fraser supposed he could consider a compliment. "I thought everyone—"

"Yeah, yeah. We had that conversation," said Ray. "Okay, listen. We go and talk to the security guard, and then I'll fill Nichols in on our progress, and I'll tell him about the burial ground. At least that way, maybe I can tell him something he wants to hear, like that we caught the guys who turned his bulldozer into a kid's climbing frame.

* * *

The security guard was home when they got to his place, a run-down bungalow thirty minutes from the site. He was wearing a flannel shirt over his stained wife beater, and carrying a can of Coors in one hand, and a violin in the other. The bow was clamped in his armpit. There were big rings under his eyes. "Whaddaya want?" he asked.

"Detective Ray Vecchio, Chicago PD. You Norman Norris?"

"Who's asking?" Yeah, this guy was a couple of aces short of a deck.

"I am," said Ray, playing nice. "Chicago PD. You worked out at the Nichols Secure Lotus construction site last night?"

The guy nodded blurrily, then shook his head.

Fraser stepped up. "I'm Constable Fraser, RCMP. This is official police business, son. I'll make you some coffee." And he barged into the house, not even waiting for permission. Not even mentioning a warrant.

Norris didn't seem to care, though. He trailed toward the kitchen after Fraser, and Ray followed.

"You play that?" Fraser asked, nodding at the violin, once they were all sitting around the table with steaming mugs in their hands.

"Bluegrass, mostly," said Norris. His brain seemed to be catching up with the rest of him. "Security work's good 'cause I can practice during the day, while my daughter's at school. She can't stand my playing."

"Everyone's a critic, huh?" said Ray.

"Nah, it's just I'm real bad. You wanna hear?"

"Thanks, but—" Ray shot a look at Fraser, but the Mountie was no help at all. "Listen, you were out at the Nichols site last night, right? Did you see anything?"

"Yeah, no." Norris went blurry again. He went to the fridge and got another can of beer. Fraser took it off him before he could open it. "Didn't see nothing human, no."

"So what did you see?" said Fraser, cheerily. "Come now, son. All's well that ends well. You weren't harmed—"

"Lost my job," Norris mumbled.

"Well, that's true. But other than that, it's all behind you now."

"I was standing guard at the site," said Norris, and all three of them leaned in over the table. It was like a ghost story around a campfire. "Everything was real quiet and calm. I like it like that. I started playing The Rose of Cally May on my fiddle. And then the whispering started."

"What did it say?" said Fraser.

"I couldn't make out. I don't think they was speaking American." Norris shuddered, and wrapped his hands around his coffee cup. "And then the lights were swooshing around, and it got misty. I went to the jeep to get my jacket, and while I was turned away, there was this real loud sound of wings. I thought it was Judgment Day, you know?"

Ray sat back and folded his arms. The guy was loony tunes.

Fraser, of course, nodded encouragingly. "And then?"

"High tailed it outta there. Drove home as fast as I could." Norris was shaking. "I'm a security guard, not a preacher. I can handle kids and burglars and vandals, but I ain't equipped for angels and devils, no sir. I ain't ready to meet Our Father."

"Buck up, son," said Fraser in a completely un-Fraser-like way.

Ray shivered. Heavenly visitations weren't the only strange thing going on.

* * *

Fraser waited in the car while Ray found Nichols in the site office and told him no, they had no leads on the sabotage yet, and hey, surprise, did he know he was building on the graves of dead people, here? As expected, the developer was less than impressed.

"So?" he said around his mouthful of chicken sandwich. "No sign of it on the maps and that stand of trees is in the middle of my site."

"So you maybe want to, uh, think about changing your plans so you don't disturb the—"

Nichols choked, spluttering slivers of damp lettuce all over Ray's chest. Gross. And he didn't apologize, neither. When he got his breath back, he wheezed, "Yeah, whatever, detective. You got no authority to tell me what to do."

He was right. Without a Court order, Ray had nothing but hot air. "Okay, well. We'll be in touch about the sabotage."

Nichols picked a chewed sliver of chicken off his own grubby chest and stuck it back in his mouth. "Have you found the Indians yet?"

"Next in line," said Ray, wishing he was working on just about any other case in his IN tray. For a start, this was just dumb, petty vandalism, whatever Nichols said about "sabotage". It should never have come through to Major Crimes in the first place. Secondly, Fraser was being a big freak about the whole thing. And thirdly, no leads, no sense. Plus the whole thing gave Ray the creeps. "You got any particular Indians in mind?"

Nichols looked at Ray like he was a bug. "I don't give a shit, okay. Just get the ones who're fucking with my equipment. I got work to do here. I got my life on the line."

"We'll do what we can, sir." Ray nodded as civilly as he could, and stalked back to the parking lot.

 


Who Did It?

Once upon a time, Karin was a man named Chuck.

 

"So who messed with the site?" said Ray, turning the heat up in the GTO and driving back to the station. "I agree that Chuck didn't do it, but somebody did. Maybe one of those other Potamwhatsit guys."

Fraser shook his head. "Mr. Wandahsega is a tribal elder. If someone was worried about a burial ground, they would have talked to him."

"Listen, Frase. I hate to admit it, but Nichols is right about one thing. He's got Native Americans messing with his stuff." Ray sped up to get through the lights before they turned red.

"You're probably right, but there's no evidence that the Potawatomi did it." Fraser was fiddling with that little wooden carving thing again. Ray glanced over, trying to see what it was, but then horns were blaring around him, and he slammed on the brakes just in time not to smash into the cab in front of them. "Come on, come on," he muttered, then said to Fraser, "They had motive, opportunity—" The street was jammed with cars. Stupid rush hour.

Ray blasted the horn, and Dief, who'd been drowsing on the backseat, and woke up with a hungry whine. Fraser didn't even seem to notice.

He said, "As far as we can tell, they didn't know about their motive until we told them just now."

"Says you." Ray reversed a few feet, and then rode up onto the sidewalk and took a shortcut he knew down a nearby alley. "Anyway, a retrospective motive is still a—oh, shit, Frase. Okay, who did it?"

 


The main problem with the myth I invented in this part is that it relies on alcohol. But there's also the problem of, you know, inventing a myth. And the fact that in later versions, Fraser doesn't actually meet Karin/Chuck. And the embarrassingly casual way Chuck refers to his dead father. Ooops. :-)

 

Mr. Wandahsega nodded. "It's true, we're a long time dead. What else did you want to ask me?"

Fraser Senior coughed, and produced the Coyote carving. "Have you seen anything like this before?"

The man took the figurine and peered at it closely. "She calls to the wind," he said. "This is one of the Coyote totems."

"Totems?" said Fraser, coming forward and leaning his arms on the back of the couch.

"Totems?" repeated his father.

"Yes. One time Coyote and Raven met in a bar. They got so drunk, they began a drinking game. The game was for each of them to try and kill the other. Of course, they're both immortals so they can't be killed, but they played their game anyway. After many hours, Coyote was so smashed that he lunged for Raven's throat, and tore out a mouthful of feathers. This made Raven angry, but he pretended it was still a game. He replaced his own liquor with ginger ale, and kept drinking. By the time Coyote had drunk himself into a stupor, Raven had had plenty of time to plan his revenge. He took a knife and cut off each of Coyote's claws. Coyote woke up and shouted and yelled when he saw what had happened, but then he laughed. He gathered up the claws and took them to a medicine man, who gave them to a great carver. The carver fashioned the claws into totems. They make mischief, and are said to cheat death."

Robert Fraser rubbed his hands back and forth on his knees. "And this is one of the original totems."

"Yep." Mr. Wandahsega gave it back to him. "Last time I saw one of these was the day my dad left home, fifty-five years ago. Might've been this one."

"It could well be. I found it at the burial site." Fraser Senior leaned forward and gripped the other man's arm. "Chuck, I'd like to give it to you, but I can't."

"That's okay, Ben. They only make mischief. I guess they made some trouble for you, eh. I'd help if I could." Mr. Wandahsega stood, signaling that it was time to leave. "You know, I haven't seen my father since he left. He might be buried in that graveyard."

* * *

On the way back to the Consulate, Fraser said, "So we haven't made any progress then. You know, the totem may be evidence in a criminal investigation. You should have given it to Ray."

"If I'd shown him the carving he'd have had to bag it, and even if we haven't worked out the kinks yet, it's clearly a significant component of our exchange."

"I suppose that's true," said Fraser. "All the more reason to enlighten him as to the nature of our situation. After all, as a wise man once told me, you have to live by the principles you protect or else everything caves in like an igloo during spring thaw."

"Indeed. Still, no harm waiting until we've saved the burial ground, eh." As always, his father's mind was on a single track, hurtling a hundred miles an hour around a blind bend.

"It's a slippery slope, dad."

"They often are, son. They often are."

 


Bart Benchly's Sister

The first "Nutcase" interview. It didn't add anything, so it got chopped.

 

The house was tattered and rundown, and a television was blaring behind the white painted door. Ray knocked and stood back, Robert at his side, Ben behind him. He kind of knew Ben was there without looking, and he tried not to look, because no-one else can see him, remember?

Finally, after a couple of minutes of knocking and waiting, and someone shouting out "Coming!", the door opened and a pimply-faced teenage girl stared up at them, tying a pink bathrobe tight around her waist.

"Chicago PD." Ray flashed his badge. "We're looking for Bart Benchly."

"My brother. Who's he?" The kid stared up at Robert, her open mouth revealing rows of braces.

"He's a Mountie," said Ray, interrupting before they got caught up in the whole explanation spiel, which they'd have to go through all over again for the brother. "Can we talk to Bart?"

"What's he doing here?"

"He's helping me. Listen."

The kid wasn't even looking at him. She just kept gaping at Robert in his uniform. "Cool," she breathed.

"What am I, stuffed cheese? Pay attention, here." Ray waved his hand in the kid's face. "We need to talk to your brother."

She finally spared him a glance. "He's away at college."

"Shit." Ray instinctively turned to look at Ben, who looked away.

"Perhaps the young lady could assist us," said Robert, but the young lady was too busy staring at Ray.

"You said 'shit'," she said.

"Yeah. Don't tell your mom." Ray winked at her. "Do you remember anything about your brother and the police? Something supernatural, maybe?" Man, it was so easy to say this stuff to kids. They read all the right books. They probably thought it was cool. Plus they didn't have the ability to lock you up in an institution for the mentally unhinged.

The kid shrugged. "Nope."

"Okay, thanks." Ray was half-turned before the girl stopped him.

"He used to make a lot of prank calls, though. Mom found out about it when I was seven, and he was grounded for a month." She grinned wickedly. "I got Kelly Goldsmith to call him, because he had a crush on her but he wasn't allowed to answer the phone."

"See, that's just mean," said Ray. "That'll come back to bite you."

She looked past him, right through Fraser. "What happened to your car?"

 


The Vision and Exposition Central

I needed an action scene, and I was having a hard time making the burial ground plot work, so I thought, "Hey, maybe it's not an actual burial ground. Maybe it's just some place where a couple of guys were murdered and buried." I liked this idea, but it didn't work with the final plot.

Afterwards, everyone and their dog calls Ray for fun fun exposition.

 

The landscape was familiar. Ray didn't have time to think about that. It was stinking hot—noon, gold with pollen and dry grass—and he ran as hard as he could, pushed through the thick sticky air with every step. Sweat streamed down his body, flew off in drops every time his feet jolted on the ground. He ran for his life.

His heart broke free, thumped and exploded, again and again. Blood hammered through his veins. It stripped feeling from his legs, left trails of fire.

With one hand, he pulled at the heavy hair plastered to the sweat on the back of his neck, trying to let air in. If he could cool, he'd run faster and make it to that little stand of trees ahead. But the sky burned him, the movement threw him off. He swerved and nearly fell. They weren't gonna make it.

Fraser was ahead, looking back. A stranger's face, but Ray knew. Don't wait for me, Ray telegraphed, urgently. Go, go, go!

Dark hooves thundered behind him like an earthquake. Ray's nose and throat and lungs burned like crazy, and his hands swelled and sweated. He'd been running forever. His feet torn and bloody, reaching for new ground. They weren't gonna make it.

Gimme a drink, I'll die happy. A fuckin' drink! He ran harder, stumbled, rolled on his shoulder, and then was back on his feet, still running, trailing bruises. Another minute of this and he'd die without a bullet.

His short black shadow ran below him. His last shadow. The land said goodbye.

Either Ray'd sped up or Fraser'd slowed. Fraser was close. His hand snaked and struck Ray's arm. Fuck, Fraser! Don't be a hero. Get outta here. Ray would've shoved him sideways, but then they'd both be finished. Run!

The hand again, now clamped on Ray's wrist, slippery on the sweat, strained too tight, it fucking hurt. Fraser pulled, picked up the pace again, towed Ray behind him. Faster than falling. Faster than flying.

Ray could see leaves, and he wasn't even wearing his glasses. They were that damned close to the trees. It was night in there. The dark screamed his name. Hoof beats were miles away, were left behind, were right behind them. Fraser never faltered, tugged Ray forward.

The sky blasted open. Fraser jerked.

For a split second, nothing changed. They hurtled forward, nearly there, nearly fucking there. Friction rubbed fire into Ray's bony wrist, but who gave a shit. Nearly there. Then, impossibly, Fraser fell. Head first, dived into the long grass. Flung his free hand forward to catch the land. His feet scrabbled on nothing, still running. A red hole the size of death stained his back.

Fraser's fall, his death grip on Ray's arm, sent Ray somersaulting onto his own back, wind knocked free from his lungs. Death grinning down at him with a .22 gauge rifle. He sprawled, chest heaving, sucked air desperately, oxygen to brain.

Ray was bound to Fraser's corpse with flesh'n'bone handcuffs. Ray was dead, too. Knew it. Nearly fucking there. He'd go fighting.

The hilt of his knife bruised his palm. It was a terrible angle, and his whole body was shaking, but what the fuck, he threw anyway. Heard a surprised indignant cry before the world ended.

Two men buried us. The tall one used a dead branch, and the other a flat rock, and they scooped away the soft earth beneath the trees. They dug a single shallow grave and left us there to rot forgotten. The third man, their friend, bound a red bandana around his bloody shoulder, and watched and joked.

* * *

Ray woke to the harsh sound of his phone ringing and a sinking feeling so deep he could've buried the GTO in there nose first. Dief was snoring. Ray groaned into his pillow, and then heaved himself out of bed. It was the middle of the night.

"What?" The phone was plastic and fake, and Ray felt dazed, sunlight still burning dry in his head. Guns firing. Had that been a dream?

"Ray?" It was Stella. God, what time was is?

"Stell. You okay? What time is it?"

"I'm fine. It's ten twenty-two. I'm just leaving work." She sounded amazingly brisk considering.

"Long day, huh?" He sounded like his mouth was full of wolf fur, so he took the phone over to the kitchen and got a glass of water. Something in his kitchen stunk. He should empty the garbage one of these weeks.

"Yeah, cut the chit-chat. I wanna go home."

"Hey, you called me." And there they were, like automatic, both prickly and defensive. Ray put his hand over his eyes. "Sorry."

"'Sokay." He could almost hear her shrug. "I looked into Nichols, like you wanted. Six arrests, no convictions. Funny thing is, the judge on all six of his trials was Lance Corman."

"Corman. Corman. Why does that name sound familiar?"

"Corman was indicted three months ago on two counts of conspiracy to murder and sixteen other charges. He was crooked as a paperclip."

"Oh, yeah. Hey, wasn't that mob-related?"

"Yeah, that's the guy."

"So you're saying Nichols' maybe got mob connections?" That put a whole different spin on the ballpark.

"That's pretty tenuous reasoning, Ray. He might conceivably have escaped conviction because he was innocent."

"A judge in deep with the mob lets him off six times. That's coincidence?"

"It doesn't prove anything. Get evidence, Ray, or he'll have good grounds for a harassment charge."

"Good point. Okay. Thanks, Stell."

Ray hung up and sat on the couch in the dark for a while, waiting for the dream to stop playing reruns in his mental theatre. The water helped, cool and tasteless. Yeah. He flicked on the lamp, picked up the phone, and ordered a pizza. Then he put on some clean clothes, and sat back and watched a crappy made-for-TV movie until it arrived.

"Hey, Sandor. Come in, I'll get my wallet." Ray waved him into the apartment and shut the door, then took the pizza and threw it onto the couch without looking. "Okay, talk to me. What do you know about a guy, Rex Nichols? Big time real estate developer. You heard anything?"

Sandor held out his hand and waited until Ray gave him a twenty before he answered. "Yeah, I heard of this guy. I was having a quiet drink the other day, heard this guy talking to his friends, real big mouth, real wiseguy. He's with Herndorff see? Talking about this 'insurance policy' they got going, this new line of business."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah, only things are going wrong for this guy, he's had to make a claim on his insurance. Herndorff's not happy."

Ray nodded. "Herndorff's not happy. Okay. What's he gonna do?"

"This guy says maybe Herndorff's gonna get into the construction business himself. Says maybe the premiums are about to go up."

"Okay, thanks. Uh, take care out there, okay?" Ray had just shut the door behind Sandor when his cellphone rang. What was this, rush hour at the Kowalski household? Ray made a grab for it. "Vecchio."

"Hi," yelled a breathless voice. "It's Walter Raleigh. From the building site." It sounded like he was standing next to a jackhammer. Ray winced and held the phone away from his ear.

"Walter, Walter. Oh, yeah. With the cute kid photos. Hi, Walter. What can I do for you?"

"You said to call if I saw anything weird?"

"Yeah." Ray could hardly hear him. "What the hell is that noise?"

"Power hammers. We're pulling a nightshift. So, yeah, it's the middle of the night, right? But all these big black birds keep flying around attacking people."

"That's pretty weird," agreed Ray.

"Yeah. It's freaking me out. And every time I—"

"Wait a minute. You said nightshift?"

"Yeah, we got a rush job on. And every time I pull—"

"Tell me something, Walter. You know those trees in the middle of the site?"

"Trees?"

"Yeah, the trees up the hill in the middle of the site. You know the ones?"

"Uh, yeah?" Walter sounded confused.

"They still standing?"

"Yeah, Jeff hasn't got to 'em yet. He's on a break, then he's gonna dig out the foundations for section three, and then he's doing the trees. Gotta flatten that whole hill."

"Shit. Okay. Thanks." Ray hung up. He checked his badge, gun, and glasses, and woke Dief with a prod of his foot. They hurried down to the car, where Ray winced again at the dent in its door.

 


The Showdown version 1

My first attempt at the showdown.

 

They pulled into the parking lot, and Robert took one look at the other cars there and leaped out of the Goat. "That's Nichols' Limousine," he said, and started running towards the site office. Ray looked over at the hill where bulldozers were already at work, eating into the near side of the slope.

"Shit!" said Ray. "Where did you do the swap? Which side of the hill?"

"This side, Ray, on the edge of the stand of trees, but you know I don't plan to—"

Ray put his hand on the back of Ben's neck and said, quickly, "Yeah, I know you already decided, but if I don't ask, I'm gonna regret it my whole life."

Ben flinched and shook his grizzled head. "I'm sorry. I can't do that to him."

"Yeah, well, I had to try." Ray stood there, just a second, then spun round, back to business, and sprinted after Robert. "Does he know he's got no jurisdiction?" he called to Ben, who was a couple of steps behind him.

"Oh, he knows," said Ben, "but I don't think it's quite sunk in."

They passed a security guard. "Chicago PD," Ray called, flashing his badge. "Go stop those bulldozers." Ben ran on ahead.

"Mr. Nichols said they don't stop for nothing." The guy was huge and busting out of his uniform.

"Change of plans. They stop digging at that hill right this minute, or I'll have the lot of you up on charges of obstruction, damage to ancient native property, anything I can get my hands on."

"Ray." Ben was back. "Nichols is armed."

"I'm coming." Ray took off, calling for back-up as he ran.

"You're coming?" said the security guard, looking confused. Oh yeah, right. He couldn't see Ben.

"Just stop those bulldozers," he shouted back over his shoulder, and then turned the corner smack into a hold-up. A fat cat in a suit—presumably Nichols himself—had a .22 Colt pressed into Robert's throat. Fraser's body.

Ray stopped breathing.

"Ray Vecchio, Chicago PD," he said, waving his badge around, trying to calm the fuck down so he could hear his instincts. "Drop your guns."

There were three so-called security guards—looked like bad-ass mercenaries to Ray—and Nichols, who had a ruthless set to his shoulders, and, oh let's not forget, a gun digging into the Mountie's neck. "Drop your weapons," yelled Ray, again, bracing his arms and pointing his S&W at Nichols' head.

"Men," said Nichols, not giving an inch.

The security guys pulled out their pieces and pointed them at Ray. Fuck. Ray glared at them and refused to budge.

"No use, son," said Robert, calmly. "The man's a desperate criminal."

Nichols shoved the barrel harder into his neck. "Quiet now," he growled.

"Should you survive this, Ray," said Ben, who was wandering around, unseen. "You may want to consider requesting a different partner."

"No kidding," said Ray. Sure, Frase got himself into all manner of trouble, but most of the time he had some fucking tact. "What do you want, Nichols?"

Nichols' mouth twisted into an evil little grin. "Wealth, power, and an impeccable reputation, detective. How can you help me?"

"Arrest this man," Robert said to Ben. "On charges of fraud, conspiracy to—"

"You're forgetting," said Ben calmly, "That not only do I have no jurisdiction in this country, but also I'm a ghost."

"Dead or not, I never let that stop me. Why, only last year I was hard on the trail of—"

"Who's he talking to?" said one of the security guards nervously.

"Yeah," said another. "Make him shut up. He's freaking me out."

"Are you trying to get yourself killed?" Ben asked his father.

"Not until after the arrest," said Robert. "This is my last case. I always meant to retire at sixty."

Ray inched towards Nichols, trying to figure whether the guy was maniac enough to pull the trigger if Ray jumped him. Couldn't take that risk.

"There isn't going to be any arrest. You shut up, now," said Nichols.

There was a crash in the distance. Ben stuck his head out the door. "Oh dear."

"What is it?" said Ray, getting a sinking feeling.

"Trees, Ray. The bulldozers are making progress."

"What is what?" said Nichols. "Drop your gun or I'll shoot this guy. What is he, anyway? A doorman from the Hilton?"

"Now, dad!" shouted Ben, and Robert did some Fraser-like maneuver so quick and sudden that Ray blinked and missed it. Dief bounded in the door at exactly that second and took out the closest security guard, and Ray leaped forward and knocked down the other two, shoving their arms aside so that when one fired, it discharged into the coffee machine, sending thick black goo splattering all over the office.

Ray looked around. Nichols, Dief, and both the Mounties were gone. He cuffed the guards as quickly as he could, and followed the others outside.

 


The Showdown version 2

A couple of snippets from a later version. They arrive by car.

 

They could see the construction site from way off. It was lit with huge blazing floodlights, and the glare was bouncing off the machinery and the hard hats as people lugged stuff around and drove diggers into the land. It looked like they were in full swing, like there was hardly anything left.

Ray called for backup, then put the pedal to the metal, zooming the Goat into the parking lot at 100mph. It was dark there, by contrast to the blinding day of the floodlights. Ray skidded ninety degrees into a park. He'd just got a boot on the ground when two goons popped out of the shadows, wielding semis. "Hey, guys." Ray reached for his badge, and something exploded over his head. Fuck, they were shooting already?

"Cool it! Chicago PD, okay? Cut it out!"

"Secure site," said one of them, who looked like he could bench press a grand piano. "We got orders. No visitors."

"I'm not a visitor, I'm a cop," yelled Ray. "Who the hell are you?"

"Insurance company representatives," said the goon.

"Night security," corrected his friend.

Ray caught a glimpse of red slipping through the shadows and looked around. Ben was right beside him, frowning, so that must've been Robert. "Where's he going?" Ray muttered out of the corner of his mouth.

"To stop the bulldozers, I expect." Ben strode towards the talkative goon, which made Ray want to scream at him to get out of the way, even though he knew they couldn't see Ben and Ben probably couldn't be hurt.

A deafening graunch came from the stand of trees where bulldozers were already at work, toppling the trees and eating into the near side of the slope. "Shit!" yelled Ray. "Where did you do the swap? Which side of the hill?"

"This side, Ray, on the edge of the stand of trees, but you know I don't plan to—" Ben came back to Ray's side. "There's a third man in the shadows."

"What're you on about?" said the goon. "What swap?"

* * *

"You gonna make us?" said the second good, who'd been quiet until now. And then he opened fire. Shit! Ray dived behind a nearby pickup and hitched his glasses over his ears. Come on, Fraser! Ray peeked around the corner, and started firing, but the two goons had taken cover too, so he shrugged off his jacket and threw it into the air. The night exploded with a volley of bullets. Yeah. Thought so.

Ray traced the source of the fire, and started shooting that a-way, knowing it was only a matter of time before he ran out of bullets and they filled his carcass full of lead. Like in the dream, but at night and no horses.

Just then, a truck started up across the lot, its engine gunning loudly. Headlights came on, blinding in the dark, and it swung wildly toward the security guards, spurting dirt and gravel in its wake. The guards turned and ran, and the truck skidded crazily 180 degrees and started toward Ray, so he did likewise in the other direction. It was possessed. It was the Carrie of trucks. Jesus!

The engine quietened down as the vehicle drew alongside Ray, and Fraser stuck his head out the window. "Get in."

Ray hurled himself into the cab, taking the wheel as Fraser slid across the bench seat, so that the truck didn't even falter in its path, just flew into daylight—as surreal as the transition from black and white into color in The Wizard of Oz—and kept ramming away over foundations and through skeleton structures.

"Wow, Ben," said Ray, once he'd gotten his bearings. "You can drive!"

Ben smiled weakly. "Not really, Ray. That is, not safely."

"Hey, it's okay. We're off-road. Traffic laws don't apply." Ray grinned at him.

 


We Need to Talk

Um, this was my initial ending. I'd been flying through the first draft having a blast and I knew I needed this to happen, but once I'd written it, I crashed in flames. So depressing. I cut it straight away, and threw in the epilogue instead.

 

Fraser poked his head into the break room at the station. "Ah, Francesca."

"Fraser!" The woman came over and all but draped herself on him.

Dear God, this was going to be difficult. Fraser struggled to keep his demeanor serious. It simply wouldn't do to radiate happiness while he said this.

"Anything I can do for you, Fraser? Cup of coffee? Grocery shopping? White picket fence?"

"No, thank you, Francesca. In fact, I need to talk to you."

"What is it? We're still on for tomorrow night, aren't we? You're not cancelling our date?" Her eyes were wide with concern.

"Oh no, of course not. Not exactly. That is, well—" Fraser took a deep breath, and said it. "Francesca, I'm very sorry. I can't take you out on a date tomorrow."

Her smile slipped and froze, and she breathed out as though she'd been hit. "Is it—"

Fraser continued hurriedly. "However, I would be more than happy to accompany you as a friend. We could perhaps invite one or two other people to join us."

"As a friend." She blinked rapidly and looked away. "Fraser—"

"It's entirely up to you, of course, and I am deeply sorry for any distress—"

"I bought a dress, Fraser."

Fraser hung his head. "I'm sorry." He stood there, uncertain whether to console her or leave her to find other comfort. She took the matter into her own hands, and ran from the room.

* * *

Fraser found Ray shuffling files at his desk. "You did it?"

"Yes, Ray." Fraser felt subdued. The excitement that had buoyed him up until now had subsided. "And now I must return to the Consulate. Constable Turnbull is ordering a consignment of live salmon, and I suspect that the US Customs will need a translator to understand his requirements."

Ray scraped back his chair and stood up. "I'll walk you out."

"No, you're working." Fraser took a couple of steps back and hesitated. "I'll see you this evening?"

Ray ignored that and walked right up to him, his face serious. "You did a good thing, Fraser." His leaned forward so their heads were almost touching. "She can't move on if she's still hoping it'll work out. It was the right thing to do."

"Yes, Ray." He knew this to be true, but still, it was not an action that called for self-congratulation. "Thank you."

"And you know what else?" Ray dropped his voice even further. "That bagpipe band sounded terrible, Fraser. Worst idea ever. I mean, can you imagine?"

 


Epilogue Dialogue Snippets

 

"Actually, Ray, the Tuktoyaktuk community centre has a piano. Unfortunately, all the wires rusted out, but we managed to make do with replacements fashioned from the springs in old car seats."

"You cannibalised cars? That's sick."

"Only ones that were already dead, Ray."

* * *

"That wasn't music, Fraser," said Ray. "That was pain. Music has beat and words and you can dance to it."

Fraser inclined his head. "I'm sure some kind of interpretive modern ballet would be possible. It was Tchaikovsky, after all."