In this new series, we feature the writing of 25366 Mike Shewfelt (BA, English, 2012), whose fantasy novel “The Phaireoir Legacy” tells the story of College Cadet Jim Carmichael, and his journey on horseback from Kingston to Calgary and beyond. A publisher for the novel is currently being sought. Mike Shewfelt would like to thank Dr. Huw Osborne, RMC English Department, for his invaluable editorial assistance.
THE PHAIREOIR LEGACY: JIM CARMICHAEL’S STORY, VOLUME ONE
BOOK ONE: BEGINNINGS
I suppose everyone is always looking for home, trying to find that special place, that special someone. Everyone wants to love and to be loved, and although they may never find it, most folks will never give up the search, even if they’re not sure what exactly it is that they’re looking for. I know this better than most, for my being here is the last chapter in the journey, in the search, of a man named Jim Carmichael, who never did stop looking. This is his story.
Jim was a sailor and a soldier, but he was not very good at being either. In the summer between his first and second year at the Royal Military College of Canada, he had just barely squeaked through his basic officer training, graduating in the bottom half of his platoon. Now, in April of his second year, with exams looming and a summer of learning French on the horizon, Jim was off for the weekend. Finals started Monday, but he wasn’t worried. An English major and an avid reader, his marks were well above average in most of his classes. No, what Jim worried about most nights was his level of physical fitness. It was never quite good enough, and he had to struggle constantly to maintain it.
All of these things, however, couldn’t have been farther from his mind this Friday night, as Jim rode his bike to the stable north of Kingston, Ontario, where Rudy, his American Quarterhorse, was boarded. It was early April, and the temperature had finally warmed to the point where he could forgo the taxi rides to the stables and ride instead. As he rode leisurely, his mind wandered, drifting on the hope of better things brought about by the warmer weather.
Rebecca Lynn, he thought, as his mind drifted to thoughts of her. They had met in a first year math class, both having trouble with it and seeking extra help after class. Neither of them fit in to the party lifestyle which prevailed at the College, and they were drawn to each other from the start. It took Jim only a week to get up the nerve to ask Rebecca Lynn out, and they’d been head over heels in love ever since. They were the centre of each other’s world, two lonely people who had found, in each other, a greater whole than they had ever dreamed of. That they would be married was a given, and they had talked about it at length.
If, Jim thought, we can ever figure out how to do it. For life was complicated, or rather, would be. Jim was a navy man, and when he graduated in two years, would go to Esquimalt, British Columbia for shipboard training. Becca was an air force pilot, and would head to northern Alberta when she graduated to learn to fly fighter jets. They would be a thousand miles apart and their careers would likely mean no guarantee they would ever be any closer. They loved each other more than anything, but they both needed the education the military was providing them. Jim’s father, working a lonely life as a wilderness guide, never could afford it otherwise, and Becca’s family, with five children, was even worse off. And though Jim treasured Becca’s presence dearly, and loved her more than life itself, he refused to propose until they could do it right. They would wait, at least until life was more stable, before making any serious plans.
Jim’s thoughts drifted, then, to the future. To a time when he and Becca Lynn would be together forever. A house with a porch and a swing…where we can sit and watch the sunset over the mountains on a summer’s evening…and the kids playing in the yard…
Scott Phillips walked across the RMC campus, located across the harbor from the downtown core of Kingston. Scott was a stocky, recruiting poster perfect third year cadet, and he was heading towards the shacks after his last class of the week. He looked at his watch. Should be just enough time to get out of uniform, he thought. His friend Jim Carmichael’s dad, Glenn, was coming into town for the weekend as a surprise, and it was Scott’s job to pick him up at the train station. Such visits from Jim’s dad were rare enough, Scott knew, and he hoped the weekend would be a relaxed one. Supposed to pick him up at 5:00…he might already be here, if the train’s early. I’ll grab him, then get up to the stables to get Jim.
A military police patrol car cruised up beside him as he reached the dorm. “You have any trouble gettin those hockey tickets…?”
Scott turned to see Sergeant Matt Cout behind the wheel. The Sergeant, head of campus security, was a friendly man and popular among the cadets.
“Yeah, no problem,” Scott replied. “I just gave the guy your name, like you said. He said you’d owe him one, a big one.” Jim’s dad was an avid hockey fan, as was Jim, and Scott had arranged, with the Sergeant’s help, for club seat tickets at a game on Saturday. “You didn’t have to go to all that trouble, you know.”
“Are you kidding…? With what his dad makes riding horses out west, and what Jim makes as a cadet, they’d never be able to afford it otherwise. Hell, they’d probably just end up camping again, like they usually do when he’s in town.”
“I know he appreciates it, anyways.”
“Glad to hear it,” Cout said as he turned to listen to his radio.
Scott was just about to the dorm when a yell brought him up short.
“Hey, Scott! Hold on a minute!”
“Where’s Jim at right now…?” The tone of command in the Sergeant’s voice was unmistakable, but Scott didn’t know why it was there.
“Stables probably. Why…?” he asked, a quizzical look on his face.
“That radio call was orders to bring him in. There was a shooting at the train station. It was his dad.”
“Oh, shit.” Without thinking, Scott turned and ran to where his car was parked across campus.
“Scott! Wait!” Cout’s voice stopped him, and he turned.
“There’s more,” Cout said. “The code used described someone who’s armed and dangerous. They suspect Jim’s involvement.”
Scott gave him another quizzical look. “That’s crazy. He didn’t even know his dad was coming here today. Jim’s on his way to the stables, like I said.”
Cout got back on the radio to ask for clarification, and turned the volume up so that they could both here it. He was at the scene, Scott thought as he listened. Maybe he didn’t go to the stables…but that’s not possible. Not Jim. And a package with national security implications…? His dad’s a cowboy…
“He hasn’t gotten any mail lately that I know of,” he said to Cout, when the radio conversation finished. “I’d swear to that.”
“Yeah, this smells,” Cout said, thinking of all the times he and Jim had shared together. “Listen, get your car, right now. I’ll meet you up at the parade square.” The confusion was evident on Scott’s face. Cout was suggesting breaking the law. “Go! Now! I’ll get the package from the mail room and give it to you. You gotta find him and get him the hell out of here, OK…?” Scott nodded. “If we don’t get him safe, he’s dead, and I know he’s not going to see this coming.”
Click for more…
Jim’s daydreams were rudely interrupted when a red Pontiac Sunfire came roaring up the road behind him, horn blaring frantically. Jim pulled over to get out of the way, then stopped, surprised, as the hatchback screeched to a halt beside him.
“Leave your bike and get in here!” yelled Scott through the open passenger side door. “No time to talk,” he said when Jim just stared at him. “We gotta move!”
Stung into action by the tone of his friend’s voice, Jim dropped his bike at the side of the road, bounded into the car, and barely had time to sit down before Scott raced off down the road.
“What the hell’s going on…?” demanded Jim.
“Your dad’s dead.”
Jim suddenly felt light headed and short of breath. The dashboard of the car swam in front of his eyes.
“There’s more. I know this is a lot to take, but you gotta hear it. He was shot as he was leaving the train station.” Scott barely slowed to take a turn in the road. “You’re a suspect, and they think you received something, some book, that has national security implications…”
Jim barely heard what Scott was saying.
Without taking his eyes off the road, Scott held up a worn, leather bound volume. “This book.”
“I don’t know…but somebody wants it, and they’ve already killed for it. And every military cop on the base is out looking for you.”
“You know Sergeant Sunshine…?” Sergeant Cout’s initially rough exterior had earned him the nickname. “I was talking to him when the radio call came in: Pick you up right away. You‘re supposed to be armed and dangerous. He’s the one that got the book for us, too.”
Jim’s head swam. His dad’s brutal murder, the police after him, it was all too much to take.
“Where…where are we going…?” he asked, trying to find something, anything to focus on.
“Would you let me finish…?” Scott asked as he whipped around yet another curve. “We’re going to the stables. We have to get you out of here fast, and it’s the safest way. You’re going to saddle Rudy and get the hell out of here. Disappear into the bush.”
“What…? No, I can’t. What about Becca…she could be in danger…” Jim’s heart raced at the thought of what could be happening to her just then.
The Sunfire skidded into the gravel parking lot of the stables. Scott turned to face Jim.
“Listen to me. They want you for something, something I know you had no part in. So this is what you’re going to do. Take that book, get away, figure out what the hell is going on. There’s nothing much else you can do right now. And you won’t be able to do anything for Becca from prison…or if you’re dead. Get out of here, wait til this cools off, then come back to her.”
Something in the way Scott looked at him, coupled with the logic of his argument, got to Jim. He popped the car door. “Ok,” he said.
“What is the meaning of all this…? You kids think this is a race track?” a booming woman’s voice demanded as they got out of the car and raced to the stalls where the horses were kept. She stopped when she saw Jim and the look on his face.
“It’s ok, Marge. It’s just us,” he said her. Marge Pingle, a slightly heavyset redhead, was the owner of the stables and had taken an immediate liking to Jim when he first came to Kingston and approached her about boarding his horse. “But we’re in a hurry. I need Rudy saddled and ready to go, and I need it fast.”
“If that look on your face means anything, you’ll also need food and gear, too. Well don’t just stand there, boy. Get moving! Rudy’s in his usual spot.” Her last words came over her shoulder as she rushed to the stable house’s kitchen and Jim and Scott bolted for the horse stalls.
A little more than ten minutes later, Jim led a saddled up Rudy out of the barn. Marge met them just outside.
“There’s some trail mix and meat in there,” she said, handing him a couple of Ziploc bags. “It won’t spoil easily, and it’s hearty. And here, you might need these.” She held up a water filter and a pair of canteens. Ben, the stable boy, came trotting up with Jim’s slicker and saddle bags.
“Thanks Marge,” he said, quickly stowing the gear in the bags and then tying them on the saddle.
“You can thank me by looking after yourself, boy.” She stopped him as he started to explain. “I don’t need to know. Just look after yourself, OK?”
Jim swung into the saddle. Looking down at Scott, he said, with tears in his eyes “Promise me you’ll take care of Becca.”
“I promise.” Scott reached up to shake his friends hand. “I’ll take-”
“Oh shit,” said Marge. “I almost forgot. Wait right there!”
“I gotta go!” yelled Jim after her.
“Only be a second!” she said over her shoulder as she ran to the house.
True to her word, she was back a moment later, a Lee-Enfield .303 rifle in her hands. She handed it to Jim, and then loaded a full box of ammunition into the left saddle bag. “My daddy’s rifle. You might need it,” was all she said. “Take care of yourself, OK…?”
Jim nodded, swung Rudy’s head to the north, and was gone.
To be continued…