They piled into the RCMP truck, sirens blaring and gravel spinning as they sped out of the parking lot.

A year ago, e-Veritas ran a four part series featuring the writing of 25366 Mike Shewfelt, 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. Now that Mike is back in Kingston, we’re picking up where we left off. Mike Shewfelt would like to thank Dr. Huw Osborne, RMC English Department, for his invaluable editorial assistance. A publisher for the novel is currently being sought.

Read the first six chapters of the novel here.

THE PHAIREOIR LEGACY: JIM CARMICHAEL’S STORY, VOLUME ONE

BOOK ONE: BEGINNINGS

CHAPTER 7

They rode silently through the night. Rudy’s saddle bags were heavy with freshly smoked meat. Jim had smoked as much as would possibly fit in the saddle bags, and then buried the rest, along with the parts of the deer he figured weren’t edible. It meant leaving meat behind, but he had all he could carry, and besides, it had taken a week to get that much. A week, he thought. An entire week sitting in one place. His newfound optimism had faded with the days spent tending the fire, and Jim was worried. There were too many unanswered questions.

No pursuit. Hell, not even a sign that I am being followed. Not a thing. His mind wandered, as it had many times in the last few days, going back to the events in the park. How long were those canoeists in the back country…? How long before they told the Wardens what happened…? And how long would it take the Wardens to get the information out…? How long for someone to connect it with me…? He had no answers, and while he took some comfort from the obvious lack of pursuit, still he was nervous. They have to connect the dots sooner or later.

He rode cautiously, compass around his neck. I’m somewhere south of Sudbury, but how far south…? And how far east or west…? Jim’s map, invaluable to him in the park, showed only the position of Sudbury relative to it. One of those little inset maps. No scale, and not much use to me. He glanced at the compass again, adjusted Rudy’s course a little. So northeast it is, on a wing and a prayer.

They moved on through the darkness of a mid-June night. Jim was on edge, and though he told himself there was no reason for it, he could not shake the feeling that he was riding into something. But what…? he wondered. There’s been no sign of pursuit for weeks now…why would it start here…? Because this is the gateway to the north, the last bastion of civilisation that I have to pass.

Much to Jim’s consternation, they saw no sign of the city that night, nor the next. Maybe the northeasting worked, he thought, as he climbed into the saddle once more, his third night out from his smoke camp. His spirits began to rise and the tension faded away as they pushed farther to the northeast. It was a clear night, and he could see for miles. No lights anywhere. Not even a house, or a car. “We’re alone out here, buddy.”

In his optimism he topped out on a hill ten minutes later, skylining himself, in full view of two RCMP cruisers running a roadblock on a paved highway. They were barely ten yards off, and from the sudden activity in the cars, he knew he’d been seen. He wasted no time, but kicked Rudy into a gallop, raced across the road, and dove into the bush.

“Cout! We got him!” Detective Green raced into the office, skidding as he turned the corner from the hallway. “RCMP officers manning a RIDE check twenty kilometres outside the city just radioed it in. He came over a hill right in front of them! The truck’s already running!”

Cout raced out after him. “Are they going after him…?”

Green was already out the door. “K9 unit from Sudbury will be on scene in half an hour. We’ll track him then, and we’ll get him.”

They piled into the RCMP truck, sirens blaring and gravel spinning as they sped out of the parking lot. “With any luck,” said Smith, “we’ll get there not long after they do. Sudbury’s mobilizing everybody.”

“What…? What about our authority-”

“They went over our heads. Some ambitious bastard in Sudbury went right to the Justice Department.” Green didn’t tell Cout that the ambitious bastard had been himself. “If we don’t get their quick,” he paused to change lanes, “we’re finished.”

Cout sat silently, staring out the window. Godspeed, Jim. This one’s out of my hands.

Read more here

Jim slowed Rudy for an instant, pausing to listen. Must be at least a mile from the road by now…it’s dark…maybe they’ll have a hard time finding a trail- his heart sank as a new sound reached his ears. Shit. Dogs. They brought dogs. “We’re really in it this time, Rudy.”

Praying that the water would cover his tracks, Jim kicked Rudy into a trot and raced northwards up a nearby creek.

“What have we got…?” asked Cout, walking up to the command post.

One of the officers who had been talking, hunched over a map spread out on the hood of a cruiser, looked up. “And who the hell are you…? The military has no jurisdiction here.”

Before Cout could respond, Green stepped in. “The original search task force, of which the sergeant here is the head, still has responsibility for this. And if you want the RCMP’s cooperation, you’ll respect that.”

The sergeant, a member of Sudbury’s tiny police force whose name tag read Nazil, considered that. He stared down Cout for a full minute before turning away. “Carmichael went through here 45 minutes ago. Trail’s right over there.” He jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “North side of the highway is shut down through here. Three K-9 units are in the bush right now. There’s roads running north out of Sudbury, and we’re trying to coordinate the search on that end. We’ll squeeze him in the middle, with any luck.”

“Make sure you check creeks and rivers. We think he’s using them to leave no trail. That’s probably how we lost him north of Kingston.”

Nazil turned to another officer with a radio. “Get that out to the search teams.” Turning back to Cout, he asked, “Any chance of air support…?”

“There’s choppers in North Bay, but they’ll take time to mobilize. Won’t be here til well after daylight.”

“Right.”

Jim and Rudy pushed on farther to the north, moving slower now to conserve Rudy’s strength. I’m using every trick in the book, Jim thought, creeks, walking on rocks…God, I hope it’s enough. He had no idea what was immediately north of Sudbury, but ran northwest anyways, the baying of the search dogs in his ears.

Time lost all meaning in the darkness. Jim pushed on relentlessly, oblivious to the moon making its way across the starry sky. He thought only of Rebecca, of his desire to go home, back to her; that as long as they moved, he could still somehow do just that. As the night drew on, their trail became plainer, easier to follow as their progress slowed, and Jim, realizing the mistake, drew up behind the crest of a low ridge. “I know it’s a risk, buddy,” he said, “but running aimlessly is gonna lead to trouble. Besides, I wanna know what we’re dealing with.” He paused. “I haven’t heard dogs in a while. Maybe we’ll get lucky again.”

He dismounted, tying Rudy to a tree just below the summit. He moved off, keeping low, and found what he was seeking ten yards off. A small clearing crowned the ridge, giving Jim a view of the surrounding area.

In the east, the sky grew lighter. Dawn ain’t far off…ain’t that wonderful. He was about to look away when moving lights caught his eye. What the…? Oh great, helicopters. He looked closer, trying to see more of the aircraft. If it’s military, I’m screwed. Becca told me more than enough about those birds…infrared sensors that’ll spot me a mile away. Jim continued his vigil, moving around to the south and west, and his heart sank. Shit they’re close. Quarter of a mile at most. Flashlights bobbed in the darkness along the way he had just come, and another line of lights was strung out to the west. Still, we might have a chance- Despair clutched at him. There, to the north, a lake glimmered in the dying light of the moon. Beautiful. Just beautiful. We can’t afford to hide from the searchers, we can’t go north, and that chopper will spot us moving east. Just beautiful.

“They got us, buddy, they got us real good,” he said, untying Rudy a moment later. “But I’ll be damned if it’ll be easy for ‘em,” he said, as he swung his weary body back into the saddle.

“That was quick, sir,” Cout said, saluting the pilot of the Griffon helicopter, a captain, as he got out of his aircraft.

“Caught us coming off a night training exercise. There’s four more helos on route, with a platoon of reservists onboard as well,” the captain said, coming down and returning the salute. “What’s the situation…?”

Cout lead him over to the hood of the cruiser, where the map, now weighted down, still lay. “Search teams have been deployed in the south and west,” he said, pointing to the map, now clearly visible in the early light of morning. “Those in the south have been following his trail for the last four hours. The ones in the west are moving in to try and cut him off.”

“No sightings since the first one…?”

“No, sir, but his trail is there, and plain as day, too.”

“Alright. What do you want from us…?”

“We know he’s somewhere in here,” Cout said, gesturing to the map again. “Somewhere between the southern search teams and the lake. The western teams have yet to cut him off, so now that you’re here, we’re going to try and flush him out. We’ll send in more men to the southern teams so he can’t escape, then use the western teams to force him eastwards. If it’s OK with you, sir, we’d like you to patrol to the east, where you can catch him as he tries to escape.”

“Hounds to the hunters, eh…?

“Right, sir.”

“How long will you need to get your reinforcements into position…?”

“They’re moving in now, sir. Should be ready to go in another half an hour.”

“We’ll be airborne in twenty. Don’t suppose there’s a pisser around here, Sergeant…?”

“No, sir,” said Cout, chuckling as the captain ran to the nearest tree. Go east, Jim, he prayed. Go east now, before we’re ready.

They kept to low ground and the cover of trees. The helicopter he’d seen had yet to reappear, and until it did, Jim was more concerned with the men behind him. They’ll see us in this light if we’re not careful. Chopper or no, we still gotta worry about them, especially with the high ground back there.

Sitting Rudy in a stand of pine trees, Jim gazed up the low valley, seeking their next hiding place. Right about there, he thought, moving out from the shelter of the bush. They rode as fast as he dared push Rudy. “We’ll need your strength later, my friend- Shit! I hate it when I’m right!” He kicked Rudy into a canter and raced for the trees.

They flew into the copse of trees, Jim dismounted on the fly, and, taking hold of Rudy’s halter, he pulled the horse down onto his stomach. “Easy, buddy. It hasn’t seen us yet.” But I’d know that sound anywhere. Sure enough, a moment later, the camouflaged helicopter rose above a nearby ridge and to Jim’s horror, flew right at their hiding place. “Easy, buddy. We’re still OK.”

He willed the chopper to turn, to go somewhere else, anywhere else, and breathed a sigh of relief as it turned to the east. His sigh of relief was short lived, however, as the chopper continued turning and flew right back at him.

He lay still, paralyzed. It can’t have seen us…it just can’t… Rudy broke the trance, snorting and struggling to his feet. Jim swore, and, his heart heavy, mounted again. They left the trees at a gallop, the helicopter hot on their heels.

“Positive contact. I repeat, positive contact.” The captain’s voice came over the radio, giving Carmichael’s location and direction, and Cout turned to Nazil, pointing at the map.

“That’s where we’ll land the reservists. Put them down in the west, right on top of Carmichael if the chopper jockeys can manage it.” Sorry, Jim.

The valley took a turn to the north, and Jim raced up it. Rudy was going flat out, and despite himself, Jim had to smile. The horse had spirit. They jumped a small creek, landed going flat out, and then disaster struck.

Rudy stumbled, going down hard and throwing Jim from the saddle. He got to his feet and raced to his friend. “Get up, buddy,” he cried. “You have to get up.” Rudy was on the ground, struggling to get to his feet, and favouring his right foreleg. “We gotta get moving.” Jim pleaded and swore, but it was to no avail. Rudy was down.

And then the soldiers came over the hill.

“We got him,” Green said, smiling as he heard the reports come in over the radio. “The reservists are moving in on him now.” Cout didn’t respond, and Green looked over at him. “Cout…?”

But Cout wasn’t listening. He walked away, fiddling with his cellphone. Putting it to his ear he said, “Sergeant Cout…Yes, sir, a pleasure, sir…Yes, sir, I’m listening…Excuse me, sir…? I’m not sure I understand. Yes, sir, clear as can be sir. You, too, sir,” and hung up.

“Cout…?”

“Call it off.”

“What…?”

“I said call it off. Pull the soldiers back, get the choppers out of there, and let him go.”

“Are you serious…?

“That was the Justice Minister himself. We leave him be. That order comes right from the top.” He stared at Green.

“Right.” Green turned to Nazil. “Get that out to the soldiers right now!”

Jim stood there, crestfallen, thinking only of Rebecca, that he’d never see her again, as the soldiers approached. He could run, maybe, but they’d shoot him then. Besides, he wouldn’t leave his friend. So he glared defiance at them, and waited. Then, a hundred yards off, they stopped, and one of them spoke into a radio. With a few shouted commands, they turned, and moved back to the hill. Three Griffons landed, the soldiers got in, and Jim was alone in the wilderness once more. Jim stood there, dumbfounded, for what felt like forever.

“I don’t get it, but I ain’t gonna question it.” He turned his attention to Rudy, standing painfully on three legs behind him. He took his foreleg gently, soothing the horse when he winced at the touch. “Easy, buddy, but I gotta see if it’s broken.” And if it is, he didn’t add, we’re in real trouble. He felt around gently, his mind working quickly. How the hell do I tell if it’s broken…? I’ve never seen a horse with a broken leg before. “I don’t know what I’m doing, buddy…haven’t got a clue. I don’t think it’s broken, but I ain’t sure.” Rudy looked at him dolefully. “Only way to know for sure is time, I think.” Rudy tossed his head and snorted. Jim chuckled and scratched Rudy’s chin. “I know I know…I ain’t a vet, that’s for certain. One thing I do know for sure is that we can’t stay here, though. We gotta move somewhere.” The horse whinnied softly, and Jim smiled.

They moved off to the north, stopping at the first grove of trees they came to. They had food, shelter, and water in the nearby creek, and neither one was in any shape to go any further. Jim stripped the gear from Rudy’s back, and then boiled water and bathed his friend’s injured leg. As he’d read about in his Westerns, he cut strips of leather from the dear hide he’d packed along. He boiled them until they were soft and pliable, and then wrapped them around the injured leg. “That should keep the swelling down. They’ll dry nice and tight.” Rudy, standing there three-legged, looked at him funny. “Leather shrinks when it dries, OK…?”

Letting Rudy graze, Jim stretched out on the saddle blanket and pulled his slicker over himself. He wanted to think, to find some reason for the events of the day. Maybe then I could figure out what I’m gonna do next… He was asleep within seconds.

In Ottawa, a phone rang. The man from the Justice Department, the politician running the search, picked it up.

“Yes…?” After a moment’s pause, he hung up without a word. He dialled another number from memory.

“Sir, it’s been done.”

The voice on the other end was polished and refined. The man had heard voices like it before, belonging to people used to the exercise of great power, and it filled him with fear. “Good. You have done well. Young Carmichael has knowledge that we need, and, for the moment, we wish only to follow him. His capture now would be…most regrettable.”

“Yes, sir. Sir…if I may…questions will be asked. They will want answers.”

“You will think of something, I am sure. See that he continues to be left alone and you will be well compensated for your efforts.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you-” The man on the other hand had hung up.