“Is he still asleep?”
“He is. Are you sure you don’t want to bump him off now? No one’ll find the body and even if they do, who would care?”
“No! there’s still too much heat, we can’t risk drawing attention. Besides, we outnumber him eight to one.”
Light poured into the Francis’ eyes as he came to consciousness. Every bone in his body ached and every joint felt like a steel trap. Trying to sit upwards, Francis felt a sharp pain, burning like a red hot iron. He put his hand up to his head. Crusty flakes of dry blood fell to the floor, a red carpeted floor.
“That’s odd” Francis thought. The carpet was shaking, in fact the whole room was. He crawled to the far wall with a window looming above. Grabbing on to the windowsill, he pulled himself upwards with the little strength he had.
The landscape ahead of him was moving. No, wait, he was.
Almost immediately, voices came through the walls from the next room. He counted three or four at most, but the conversation was less a conversation than it was an argument. They shouted and screamed, until finally as though unforeseen, a shot rang out. One loud drawn out shot. The silence seemed to last for hours until the shouting resumed. One voice, Francis seemed to make out, it was a deep rough voice like tires on a gravel road. It seemed familiar, it seemed almost like – like it was getting closer! The door of the room swung open, and there stood a man no shorter than 6’ 4” with a long scar cutting from ear to ear across the face. Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of this monster of a man, was that in his thick hands, he held a gold tinted revolver. Instincts kicked in. Millions of years of evolution had lead to this moment, without hesitating Francis dove through the window, nearly avoiding the metal frame, and sending a heavy rain of glass everywhere. He landed with a hard thump. The cut along his head opened up again and he was beginning to black out.
“You idiots let him go!” screamed a voice aboard the train. “Stop the train! I said STOP THE BLOODY TRAIN!”
And with that, Francis was out almost instantly.
The handcuffs rattled against a metal bar. A quick glance around revealed a run down bathroom, with a 711 sign, peeking over the window.
“Finally up, eh?”
Startled, Francis swung his head around in surprise, meeting the gum-covered bathroom wall with a loud thump.
“Careful there son, we don’t want you dead. At least not yet!” A second voice laughed. “I just joking with you!”
Although he had a joking tone to his voice, Francis didn’t dismiss the idea just yet.
“Who are you?”
“The name’s Haines, from the RCMP” The first one said, “and this is Davis. As much as it may seem like otherwise, we’re here to help.”
Haines had a professional air to him. His shaven head and thick mustache almost made him look like an ‘80s cop. Davis on the other hand, was a scrawny, blonde, excuse for a man.
“If you’re here to help, why don’t you take these handcuffs off of me?” Francis spat.
The smile melted off Haines’ face. He moved in close, nearly pressing his face against Francis’.
“You’re lucky we didn’t leave you to die back there. Now don’t you dare try me. Understand?”
“Could you at least tell me what the RCMP is doing in Washington?” Francis finally said.
“Washington?” Davis asked, “We’re outside of Calgary.”
“Welcome to Canada.”
“Canada? Shit! How did I get myself back here?”
“Never expected to come back did you?” Haines sneered, “Not after a certain bank job in ‘94, did you?”
“That was never proven!”
“BULLSHIT! We all know it was you!
“I wonder if Canadian prisons are nicer than I’m used to.”
“See, Francis, you have two options, One, go back to jail, see some old “buddies” of yours and spend the rest of your days in misery. Or two, you help us bring back a certain train. Choose wisely.”
“Do I have a choice?”
“Well then, I guess I’ll go with option two,” Francis said, promptly.
“You’ll have a car and a government issued credit card, so anything you buy can and will be seen by us,” Davis said, pointing to a Honda Civic parked out front. “Oh and I nearly forgot,” He reached into a black duffel bag and produced a thick collar looking object. “An ankle bracelet. So if you trying to divert the mission, or cut it off we will cut you down within minutes, Capiche?”
“lovely. Just lovely,” Francis groaned.
“The train dumped you off 30 miles from here, on it’s way to Edmonton, but we believe it won’t stop there and instead will go to Fort McMurray.”
“Fort McMurray? Are you serious? Listen, I’m no California boy or anything, but I definitely don’t want to freeze to death,” He protested.
“You’ll stop in Edmonton, 300 kilometers from here, where our operatives will supply you with the necessary equipment. Better start moving.
The drive drive to Edmonton from Calgary should only take three, four hours tops.
The problems began to arise when it started to snow. First, it was nothing but a light showerof small white dots. But quickly, the snow built up like a thick white sheet covering everything. The storm grew until, even the sun, at three in the afternoon, could no longer be seen.
A car swerved almost right into him and landed a few yard away in a ditch. Needlessly to say, traffic had utterly stopped.
“One thing left to do.”
Francis took a hard right and left the road. Granted, driving off the road was uncomfortable to say the least, but it beat waiting in the freezing cold for who knows how long. The best hotel Francis could find was a run down shack an hour away from Edmonton.
“It’ll have to do,” Francis thought out loud, “although you could probably contract an STD from one of the beds here.”
By morning the next day, the storm had stopped and the entire landscape was glistening white. Instead of staying and having the hotel’s so-called “breakfast” Francis got going straight away. The drive to Edmonton was fairly easy, and he was there before 10:00. Haines had left instructions to pick up the necessary equipment. All it said was to go to a specific alleyway in West Edmonton. The alley didn’t look like much, in fact it looked pretty shady, but Francis stepped into the alley anyways and waited for someone to come along.
After nearly fifteen minutes, he became impatient, and began to look around. The alley was relatively empty, aside from a couple trash bins and hefty bag leaning against the wall. Out of boredom, Francis kicked the bag, and surprisingly, it gave and soft “Poof” sound.
Inside the bag, was a thick winter coat, a pair of snow pants, eight packs of ramen noodles, and a note.
North of Athabasca River, Fort McMurray
“Not shady at all” Francis said.
The drive to Fort McMurray was quite uneventful, aside from the occasional snowfall there wasn’t much to slow him down. But one thing kept nagging at Francis. He felt like he had seen Haines and Davis before, especially Haines. Were they the cops that landed him in jail back in the U.S.? It wasn’t much to go on, after all Francis’ memory was rather hazy after waking up on the train. He brushed it off quickly though. It couldn’t be that important anyways. After nearly six hours of driving, Francis was extremely glad to see Fort McMurray looming over the horizon, mostly because the heat in his car didn’t work. Instead of dealing with the whole train fiasco at the moment, Francis decided to stop at a motel and tackle it in the morning. The motel there was much better compared to the last one he had stopped at. In fact this one actually had running water! Morning came sooner than Francis would have hoped and the snow made the little town shine with a warmth that nearly made Francis forget about the below freezing temperature.
“How in hell do these people live here? Do they have antifreeze in their blood?” he shouted.
Francis had forgotten how cold it could get up there. After all, he hadn’t been in Fort McMurray for nearly fifteen years. With his mind elsewhere, reminiscing about old times, he didn’t notice the black van, hidden in the shadows, start up. Within seconds, it met Francis’ Civic on the passenger seat door and the car went flying.
Francis was knocked unconscious once more.
Duct tape pinched at his hands. It felt like a burning piece of cloth against the rusted pipes it was wrapped around. The room was very dark dark, just bright enough to barely make out shapes. As Francis’ eyes adjusted to the the somber lighting he noticed five men in front of him. Three of them he didn’t know, but two, Francis recognized on the spot.
They turned around and smiled. “Surprise, Surprise!”
“Wha-what am I doing here?”
“Oh, it didn’t come back to you?” Haines chuckled.
“What? What came back to me?”
“You got in the way of a certain breakout,” Davis sighed. “and now we need you to do a favor for us.”
“What are you talking about? I drove up here like you said!” Francis protested.
They both started chuckling. “Do you really think the government would just give you a car and tell you to drive up north?”
“Just tell me already!”
“Okay,” started Haines again, “Here’s the deal kid, we’re not cops, or part of the government, or whatever, we’re former prisoners like you. A few days ago, seven of us including you, me and Davis, were being transferred to another prison, but the rest of us in the van had planned to break out. So we had an outside contact ram the van over and bust the doors open for us, where we would take of with a stolen train.”
“But why would have me drive up here then?”
“For the same reason we got you to believe that we were cops. The money from the bank score in ‘94.”
“Remember Eddie Stillman?” Haines asked, “Well, you see, I served time with him and he told all about the score. And you know what was the most intriguing part? He said you had to hide the money before cops caught up to you.”
“Eddie was a bit looney, he must have gotten all the details wron–”
“Shut up and tell us where the money is, unless you want to meet the same fate and Eddie!”
Francis sighed. He knew someday he would have to give up. “It’s under a large oak on the second bend of the river,” He said, wincing.
Four of the five had left, leaving only an English guy Francis remembered from the train. He was muscular, but had very slow movements. Francis took the chance and began moving his hands up and down rapidly, hoping that the tape would rip on the rusted pole. After a few minutes, he could feel it thinning and threw his arms forward to break the tape. The Englishman had set himself up in front of the TV and didn’t hear Francis break free, at least not with the volume on 45. With a swift knock on the head, he was unconscious, and Francis tied him up with the remaining duct tape. He had to move quickly knowing that the other four would soon discover the black duffel bag under the oak tree, even with the frozen ground. Luckily, they had left the damaged black van, and Francis took off after them. After reaching the third bend of the river, he could see them, and unfortunately, they could see him as well. The four jumped into their car and sped after him. They kept bumping into Francis, nearly forcing him off the road, but he kept swerving around until, finally, he had gained some distance. He backed the van off the trail, right into the bushes behind him. With the quick nightfall, the van camouflaged completely against the forest. They four men drove up a few seconds later and just as they we about to pass him, Francis started the van and floored the accelerator until his van rammed them on the left side. Their car went spiraling, finally falling through the ice of the river. That was it. They were gone. Francis decided to go back to the oak tree. The hole in front of it was rather large, but Francis made out the corner of a bag in the frozen earth. Fort McMurray didn’t seem so bad after all.