Sunday, November 6, 2011


She checked her watch, wondered where the hell the pilot was. On cue, a dark shadow fell across her shoulder. But the guy wasn’t looking at her. His indigo eyes were fixed on Vikki with a gleam Cam had seen a thousand times. She resisted rolling her eyes and instead used the time to study his face, the slightly bent nose, the deep cleft in his chin, the short dark hair. Good-looking for sure, but no pretty boy.
Handsome with attitude.
Vikki stared at the stranger like a cat about to lick cream from all over his naked body.
Cam caught her friend’s eye. “Stripper’s here,” she whispered, trying to summon a smile.
“About damn time,” Vikki agreed, looking back at the guy and flicking her hair across her shoulder.
“You must be the ladies I’ve been looking for.”
The accent was British and Cam didn’t like the way it stroked her James Bond fantasies. Even so, a huge bubble of relief swelled inside her. He must be their pilot and she couldn’t wait to get out of here.
“Your whole life?” Cam quipped, twisting to look over her shoulder.
“Just the last ten minutes.” His brow rose in amusement.
“I’m wounded.” She plastered a hand to her heart.
“I bet you are.” A dimple flashed, camouflaged by stubble. “Dr. Cameran Young and her able assistant, I presume?”
“You’re the helicopter pilot?”
He nodded.
Thank God. She might have hugged him if he hadn’t been so overtly male. But he got marks for maintaining eye contact when most men would have shoved her out of the way so they could hit on Vikki.
With the scrape of a chair across the floorboards, Dwight Wineberg rose to his feet, swinging the neck of his beer bottle loosely from his fingers. “You ladies watch yourselves out here. World’s a dangerous place.” And he turned and walked away, back to his cronies.
Cam didn’t know if that was a threat or a warning.
“I’m the able assistant,” Vikki held out her hand, “Vikki.”
“Daniel Fox.” He bent to kiss her hand. “Nice to meet you, Vikki.”
This time Cam did roll her eyes. She kicked back her chair and stood, knocking her shoulder into Daniel Fox’s steel-plate chest.
“Sorry.” Cam flashed her own dimples and tried to maneuver around him, but he took a half step to block her path. The bill of her cap obscured her view so she had to tilt her head way back to meet sharp, intelligent eyes. For a split second they flashed with some indefinable emotion before studiously going flat. She backed up, bumped into the table.
“Two minutes—” he glanced at the bartender, “—and we’ll be on our way.”
“I’m just going to the restroom.” Cam tried to circle around him, but he stopped her with a firm grip on her shoulder and leaned close to her ear.
“Don’t wander off.” His voice was low and hypnotic, his eyes fixed on hers. She didn’t like the heat his touch spread to parts of her body that should have been stone cold. Some of the other patrons watched them speculatively. The warm, smoke-filled bar felt suddenly claustrophobic, and Cam’s cheeks burned.
“I’m not a kid.”
But he wasn’t looking at her anymore, he was smiling at Vikki. Cam pulled out of his grasp and walked away, irritated that her friend was already laughing at something he said in that rich, smooth accent of his.
It was belittling to recognize the green-eyed monster jumping up and down like a big fat frog in her head. She headed out of the main bar and down the narrow corridor toward the washroom. Men fell for Vikki like dominoes in an earthquake, but jealous was not the sort of person Cam wanted to be. Unfortunately she wasn’t the sort of woman to settle for second best either, which left her a little short on dates lately.
A single naked bulb lit the corridor, highlighting the rough timber floor stained various shades of brown. Every time she raised her foot, the soles of her boots stuck slightly and made a noise like sticky-tape being stretched off a roll. Yuck. She didn’t want to think about the origin of those brown stains.
A corkboard on the wall covered in flyers and notices advertised everything from snowmobile and guide services to local Inuit and Innu handicrafts. Cam passed the gents’, heard the flush of a cistern and hurried because she didn’t want to meet whoever was in there when she was alone. Farther along the hallway, she pushed open the heavy door into the ladies’ room and stopped dead.
Although it was still daylight outside, it was impenetrably dark inside. She tried to hold her breath as she groped for the light switch, her hands scrambling over the cheap paneling in short frantic swipes. The floor was tacky, water hissed through pipes in the background, and the smell… Dear God. She found the switch, and the fluorescent tube flickered and spat until it finally settled on a sullen half glow. She hurried into the second cubicle, noticing the first door was shut.
When she was done, she came out of the stall, pumped soap into her hands and held them under the tap. The fine hairs on her nape vibrated with apprehension. Why is that first stall closed? There was no movement within, and chills crept over her skin. The place stank badly enough that she didn’t want to spend any longer than necessary here, but still she hesitated.
A bag was propped against the bottom of the door, suggesting someone might actually be in there. Was someone sleeping off a drinking binge? Alcohol was a huge problem in some of these remote communities.
“Hey, do you need any help?” she called, trying to make her voice bright and cheery. She ended up sounding weird.
There was no reply. What if they were sick? Alcohol poisoning? Influenza? Diabetic coma? Approaching the door, Cam rapped her knuckles on the chipboard. No response, but the door creaked slightly.
“Hello?” She raised her voice. “Do you need any help?” Still no answer. No sound at all except the hiss of pipes and wasp-like buzz of the light. Maybe there wasn’t anyone there, just a bag of stuff on the floor.
She hesitated. She should just walk away.
Unlike most public restrooms, there were no gaps between the door and the walls. Chewing her bottom lip, Cam decided to risk a swift peek beneath the door. If the person was drunk they might be a little annoyed to be spied on. If they were ill, they’d be grateful. She crouched down and peered awkwardly under the door, past the bag.
A young woman sat on the toilet, fully clothed, her head resting against the bare wooden wall, long raven hair spilling in a tangled heap around her shoulders. Mouth stretched wide, throat slit, exposing the blue-white gleam of cartilage, cuprous blood drenching the front of her sweatshirt.
Dead. Definitely dead.
Cam’s stomach coiled into a thousand snakes. She stumbled away, wanting to yell for help even though the woman was long past saving. Blindly she ran, yanking open the door then slamming into a chest that brought her up short and hard.

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Debby said...

Intriguing excerpt. I want to read the rest. Thanks

Toni Anderson said...

Thanks, Debby. :) I hope you enjoy it.

June M. said...

Thank you so much for the excerpt. It sounds good.
manning_j2004 at yahoo dot com