Where Goes the Snow Beneath the Lights of the Boreal
So it’s been some time, hasn’t it? The astute amongst us will have noticed that it is December now. Which means we’ve just come through November. As such, I have finished the NaNoWriMo Challenge. For those unfamiliar with NaNo (short for National Novel Writing Month), it is an online self challenge to try and write a whole novel in a month. I participate in two of their events: the official NaNo challenge in November and Camp NaNo which is a practice month to work on just about anything.
It’s a great little experience and the official version is pretty serene. You have a set target of 50,000 words in one month which works out to 1,666 words a day. It’s reasonable even for those with busy schedules but still a feat so you feel accomplished at the end. Over my time doing the challenge, I’ve found that I’ve become quite adept at it and that the original 50,000 target isn’t particularly onerous to meet. This year I did a bonus 11,000 words or so. But more than that, I choose to make the April Camp NaNo more challenging by setting a word target of 90,000 which is still quite a sprint for me.
At any rate, as a celebration of my return to regular posting behaviour, I thought I would share a random snippet from my story: raw and unedited. I just plucked this from my word document without rhyme or reason since I’m still a little confounded by the work. Usually my feelings about a project immediately after completion is a dizzy mixture of relief, disappointment and confusion. I’m never quite certain how I ended up where I did or even whether I like what I’ve just done. That’s why I put a couple of months between drafts and editing so that I can let the project simmer on the back-burner and all my failed ideas that didn’t make it or work like I planned can fade from my thoughts so I can see the results for what they are.
And since my NaNo stories are typically more experimental since it’s only a modest 50,000 target, I rarely have much planning going into the venture so the results are usually very unexpected.
For this story, I wanted to write some general fiction about a woman going missing in the far Canadian north. The story doesn’t really focus on the woman herself but the three people affected the most about it. Their reactions to her disappearance are quite varied but they each have their own convoluted story to tell about her life. I wanted to give that sense of how it’s impossible to predict the impact we have on each other’s lives and, in the case of these three individuals, the impact a person can have even without meeting them.
So we’re going to take an early peek into the troubles the investigating officer faces when the story of the missing tourist Yuki Ogasawara first starts to break.
Charlie had never seen a press conference. Well, he’d never seen one in person. He’d seen a lot on tv. He’d even given a mock one at police academy. Course, the expectation was that the media correspondent would take care of them. Whiteriver wasn’t large enough to warrant a media correspondent. Janice seemed quite happy to take the position however.
One person who wasn’t happy with it, though, was Sergeant Sheppard.
“Didn’t I tell you that I thought there was no warrant for raising alarm!” Sheppard growled from his desk.
“But you went ahead and called for one anyway? This was supposed to be a simple case, Charlie. Now you’ve bunged it all up!”
“I’m sorry, sir. But I felt, given the information presented to me, that it needed escalating.”
“But you didn’t want to share that information with me?”
“I… tried!” Charlie gulped. He knew he was in hot water. He felt like he was in hot water. He wasn’t even certain why. Though he had more sympathy for the frog in the pot. He pulled on his collar aware that no amount of airflow would cool his neck.
“This will instill paranoia, Charlie. And for what? We don’t even know that the woman is missing. There’s been no contact with a relative. No confirmation that she isn’t home safe and sound. We don’t even know where her home is!”
“She’s from Japan, sir.”
“Japan! Not even a resident. You’re going to get people all worked up about a kidnapping over someone that probably just went back to her country!”
“I… never thought it was a kidnapping,” Charlie muttered.
“I don’t think the evidence points to a kidnapping.”
“Why is that?”
“Well there was no ransom…”
“And why would there be if she was a tourist?” Sergeant Sheppard asked. “Certainly if they were posting it to her address it would be all the way over in Japan, now wouldn’t it? And who would go so far to kidnap someone half a world away? And in Whiteriver no less? You know how many people live here-”
“Twenty-five thousand, sir.”
“-twenty-five thous- yes, that’s correct. There are deer herds out there larger than our community.”
“Is that true, sir?”
“That there are larger deer herds?”
“I don’t know. I assume so. Probably out in the Maritimes. The point is, Charlie, we’re a quiet and civic little community. We like our tranquillity. It’s what draws people to come visit us. They want escape from the chaos of city living. And you’re disturbing their much deserved peace with these fanciful big city crime theories.”
“Well, it is a fact that Ms. Yuki has gone missing from her room where all her belongings were left,” Charlie said.
Sergeant Sheppard dismissed his point. “All we know is some foreigner skimped out on the bill. Could have forgotten to pay it. Maybe she swiped her phone at the door on the way out. Who knows with tourists sometimes. It’s possibly she thought she could pay online. How old did you say she was?”
“Forty? Hm…” Sergeant Sheppard chewed his graduation certificate on the wall with his eyes. “Regardless, the fact still remains that I’m chief officer here and I didn’t give you permission to assign Janice to-”
“Janice thought it was necessary too-”
“Janice isn’t lead on the investigation!” Sergeant Sheppard said. “And you trotting that poor girl before the press when she hasn’t had proper time to prepare-”
“I gave her all night to get ready.”
“One night? We haven’t set up a task force to deal with a missing person and you’re already assigning specific roles to people in the office?!”
Sheppard shook his head. He stopped Charlie short with a raised hand.
“More than anything I’m disappointed, Charlie. I had such high regard for you. You were such a promising officer with a lot of talent and much to offer-”
The soul burning moment was ended by a merciful knock at the door.
“Sir, it’s about the Coast Fraser case.”
“Yes, we’re currently discussing that,” Sergeant Sheppard said, looking at Charlie. But Bradford didn’t leave.
“I think you might want to see this.”
He held up a paper. Charlie turned in his seat. In bold typeface was the name The Whiteriver Rapids. The leading story was quite an eye-grabber though the accompany picture of the Coast Fraser Hotel was hardly glamorous.
“What’s that?” Sergeant Sheppard asked.
“Today’s paper. The front story is about our investigation, I think. Titled Woman Missing from Whiteriver Hotel. I think it’s a little redundant. Why would the Whiteriver Rapids write about a woman missing from another town? Plus, you’ve got the Coast Fraser on the front but don’t mention it in the lead-in for the story. Seems like sloppy journalism.”
“How is this possible!” Sergeant Sheppard bellowed. “We haven’t even run our press conference!”
“Oh, they mention that,” Bradford says, pointing at font far too small for Charlie and Sheppard to read. “Said they reached out for comment from RCMP. Janice told them she would be making an announcement to the community shortly. The Rapids do really seem on top of things, don’t they?”
“Ok, ok,” Sergeant Sheppard waved Bradford from his office. He leaned back in his chair and let out a protracted sigh until the door closed. He looked at Charlie long and hard. Then he shook his head. “Well, guess it’s good that you went forward with this. Makes us look on top of things. So… good work, officer!”
“Thanks, staff sergeant.”
Sergeant Sheppard leaned forward in his chair. “But if we’re upgrading this to a missing persons, it’ll take high priority. I’m going to have to oversee your investigation, you understand. Run everything by me and I mean everything, understood? We can’t have wasted resources on fruitless searches. I need to sign off on it all.”
Charlie tried to keep his teeth from grinding.
Sergeant Sheppard thrummed his fingers on his desktop. “You’ve got a report of all developments so far?”
“It’s been one day.”
‘I’d like to see one by this afternoon.”
Sergeant Sheppard nodded to himself. “Alright. This can work.” He smiled. “I’m sure you’ll do great with this expanded responsibility.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Well, what are you waiting here for? You have work to do, don’t you?”
Charlie stood. “I’ll get to it right away.”
Sergeant Sheppard led Charlie to the door then closed it behind him.