Title: The Last Saskatchewan Pirates
Category: AU, Humor.
Feedback: Yes, please.
Notes: This is for Beth, who asked me to write a story in response to one of her challenges. I also have to give credit the 'Arrogant Worms', Canada's premiere satirists, for their wonderful song 'The Last Saskatchewan Pirate' which inspired--and guided--my story. Salty Bob is theirs. Finally, I have to thank my best friend Sylvie for introducing me to the Arrogant Worms and for looking over this story and for just being there. The characters belong to Alliance, the idea belongs to The Arrogant Worms, the story's mine, and there's no point in suing.
There were four people in the canoe.
It floated low in the water, laden with the weight of too many persons and supplies. The passengers were oblivious to their precarious situation as they eyed their destination: a silo rising starkly from an eerily flat landscape.
Later, when the silo was in flames, a year's crop ruined, they flew their standard. The skull looked more like Ralph Klein than it did anything menacing (Wetnose Kowalski had been run out of Alberta and was the only one with artistic talent).
But, the message was clear. 'Salty Bob' Fraser, ex-Mountie, and his last Saskatchewan pirates had struck again.
Constable Benton Fraser, RCMP, wrinkled his nose, trying to rid it of what he imagined was Calgary's unique scent. Whatever the smell was, it didn't compare to the breezes coming off Lake Athabasca, near his home outside Beaver Lodge, Saskatchewan. It made his head ache. Then again, cities, in general, made his head ache.
He gave a final glace at the piece of paper in his hand, matching the number to that fixed to the building in front of him. His long journey was over. He took a deep breath and entered the seventh district's office.
Inside, the smell was more of a stench and he gagged. The desk sergeant gave him an appraising look, taking in the uniform.
"Better be good," she said.
"Calgary ain't under RCMP control yet. The pirates ain't come this way yet."
"I'm perfectly aware of that, sergeant. I do need your cooperation in locating one of your detectives. He's associated with this case number." Fraser held out a piece of paper, but the desk sergeant waved it away. "I know who you want. He's in the lunch room. Just look for Smarties."
"Um, all right. And the lunchroom would be...?"
"That way," the sergeant said vaguely, handing him an authorized visitor's tag.
With the assistance of marginally more helpful officers, Fraser found the lunchroom--and a tall, lithe detective with a shock of blond hair kicking a vending machine.
The detective either didn't hear him or chose to ignore him.
Fraser tried again. "Ahem."
The detective finally turned around, his face flushed. "Yeah?"
"I'm looking for a detective, erm, Smarties?"
The detective flashed a grin as he appraised the man before him. "Now, that's a first. I'm Ray Kowalski. You must be Ben Fraser. I got your message."
"My dad's a pirate, too. What are the odds? C'mon, let's go to interview two, more private there."
The door to interview room two closed behind them, Fraser got down to business. "I'm wondering why an Albertan is so interested in the Saskatchewan Pirates."
"My Dad's Wetnose Kowalski. THE Wetnose Kowalski who started the Albertan Buccaneers. But roaming down the Athabasca wasn't much fun. It's kind of hard to steal cows. So the Buccaneers and the Pirates struck a deal. It helped that, by that point, there was only one pirate left--your dad."
Fraser blushed, as though it embarrassed him to be associated with a pirate. Which it did, but that was neither here nor there. "Ah. And why did your father--"
"Become a pirate? Dad had a huge cattle ranch. One cow, hundreds of miles away, got mad cow and that was that. Dad's cattle might as well have been crap." Kowalski shrugged. "What about your dad? What made him flip?"
Fraser gave a dry laugh. "My father was a loyal Mountie for thirty years. He tracked Tractor Jack, the founder of the Pirates, for a full year. He tirelessly rode the shoreline of the River Saskatchewan, as he didn't have a boat, and came very near to making an arrest. Just as he was about to break the case, he got laid off, with cause being given as cutbacks. I guess he joined the Pirates out of pure spite. I guess, because my father and I haven't spoken since he joined the pirates."
Ray seemed to understand that. "Haven't spoken to my dad in years. He was less than happy that I didn't go to college and become a lawyer or something. Funny. Ida thunk he'd want me to go into cattle ranching with him, but that was my dad--made his living with cows and didn't want me to touch ‘em. Worst day of his life was the day I graduated from the Academy."
"My father always wanted me to be a Mountie. Best day of his life was when I graduated from the Academy. Ironic how we both wound up in the same place and so did our fathers."
"So, how'd you get the case?" Kowalski said quickly as they were moving into sentimentality and there was nothing more unnerving to men than talking about feelings.
"What is it now, Damian?"
"I'm out of duct tape and there's still two holes to patch!"
"Let me look."
"How will you looking help things?!"
"Just let me look!"
"What's the point?!"
Bob shoved Damian aside and took a look at the holes. He sighed. "I told you to steal an aluminum boat. But nooooo, you had to find a canvas one. Aluminum wasn't good enough for the buccaneer!"
"Aluminum's butt ugly!"
"Yeah, and we wouldn't have a hole if we'd gone with that. Now how the hell are we going to get to Moosejaw in a leaky canoe?!"
"The same bloody way we got to Regina! Gertie and Sam can bail!
"I didn't," Fraser admitted. My superiors told me to drop it. But it's my father..."
"I could really use your help. I mean, your father's in this, too..."
"I'm not sure I want to put my old man behind bars, Fraser. For one thing, it would kill my mother!"
"I don't want to arrest my father, either, but get him to desist. From what I know, we're the only two people who know the identities of any of the pirates."
"You mean, we'd just let them...go?!"
"Yeah. At least, that's the plan."
"You call that a plan? Let me get this straight: we look for the pirates, we find the pirates, they try to kill us, and then we just let them go?!"
"Provided, of course, that they promise to disband their pirate gang," Fraser clarified.
"What do you think, Ray?"
"Are you out of your mind???!!!"
The canoe approached Moosejaw under the cloak of darkness. Why it was a 'cloak' of darkness rather than, say, a cape or a shawl escaped Salty Bob, but he didn't have time to ponder semantics as he eyed the bridge just outside the city limits.
"Won't be long now," he muttered.
"Won't be long till what?" Wetnose didn't seem to be too concerned with getting an answer as he scratched his ass and scouted out promising bushes along the shoreline.
"Till dawn! At dawn, the farmers cross the bridge. They'll never know we're here! We'll hit them for all their hay!"
"Yeah, and then?"
"And then what? We'll have the hay!"
"What are we going to do with the hay?" Wetnose wasn't really concerned with the hay, but he was concerned that he might have to do with that if he didn't find a bush soon.
"Who cares what we do with the hay! We'll have it! We'll still be the terror of the seas!"
Gertie's shrill voice broke through Salty's enthusiasm. He didn't turn around to look at her. Her teeth gave him nightmares. "Well, at least the terror of the River Saskatchewan," she corrected.
Some days, Gertie was too pedantic for her own good. This was one of those days. Salty gritted his teeth, ready to throw her into the murky waters. But she was twice as big as he was. The potential payoff wasn't worth the risk.
"I assure you, Ray, I am in full possession of my faculties."
Ray shook his head. "I just got one more question for you."
"You didn't know that I'm Wetnose's son, and I'm not even involved with the pirate case. Why'd I spark your interest?"
"The Vermillion Pass case."
"What about it?"
"You said one question."
"Well, it's two now! What about the Vermillion Pass case?!" The Mountie was starting to really irritate him.
"Well, you were the one who solved it. You-"
"What caught your attention?!" It was a good thing they were in interview two. If they'd been in one, that shriek would have shattered the mirror.
"Now, we're at three....Erm, your tenacity really struck me, detective. As well as your...delicate handling of the gypsies. I felt that you would be of use in another situation featuring...marginal outlaws. Now, I imagine I know why."
"If you're saying that I was nice to those freaks because my dad's one, well you're wrong."
"Yes, I'm aware of that. So?"
"Are you going to help me?"
"Are you out of your mind???!!!"
The element of surprise wasn't nearly as helpful as the cool mist rising from the river, hiding the two pirates as they clung to the side of the bridge.
'Blackteeth' and 'Plowman' held their breath as cars rumbled past them overhead. They waited for a signal from Wetnose and Salty. Both thought it was a good thing that the two of them made Wetnose and Salty a band of pirates, instead of two old men needing to get their heads shrunk. Because Blackteeth and Plowman made them a band, they didn't have to worry about Salty and Wetnose making off with the (holey) canoe. Plus, Wetnose and Salty needed them. It wasn't like a bunch of middle-aged freaks could hang on to the side of a bridge for long!
At least, that's what Blackteeth and Plowman hoped and prayed for.
Finally, the signal came. Salty swore it was the sound of an Arctic tern, but it sounded like a constipated crow to Blackteeth.
Ray stormed out of the interview room with Fraser hot on his heels (hot probably because all the movement generates heat and Ray... Oh, never mind, it's not relevant). He ignored Fraser as the Mountie called out to him. Ignored him as long as he could, then he spun around, grinding to a halt, and causing nearly two hundred pounds of Mountie to slam into him and knock him on his ass.
Ray had had better ideas.
"What was that all about?!" Fraser exclaimed as he tried to help Ray up. Ray just ignored him and stumbled to his feet on his own, cursing under his breath.
Fraser heard something like "Gypsies, Mounties, pirates, why is this happening to me?!"
"Because you have a generous heart? Fraser answered helpfully.
"Oh, shut up!"
"Does that mean you'll help me?"
"It means I'll kick you in the head if you don't stop following me! I. Have. Real. Cases."
Fraser gave him what his sister Maggie called the "Big-Eyed Mountie Look." He even batted his eyelashes to help things along.
Ray just rolled his eyes. "Do I even know you?"
"No, but our fathers know each other, which means that we sort of know each other..."
"You are unhinged." Ray shook his head. "Come on, let's go to my place and talk." Fraser grabbed his pack from where he'd dropped it at the entrance and did as he was told.
There was no flying of the standard this misty morning. Blackteeth and Plowman were needed to bail as Salty and Wetnose paddled like the devil was after them. Not that they were able to go too fast, not with all the water pouring in. Even the hay they'd snatched and grabbed was doing little to staunch the flow of water.
Salty Bob cursed under his breath when he heard the roar of a motorboat. He immediately j-stroked, leading the canoe into some very conveniently situated bulrushes.
The four pirates said nothing, but glared amply at each other, as first one, then a second, police motorboat roared past their hiding spot. As soon as the coast (coast, get it?) was clear, they heaved a huge sigh of relief.
"Let their horses eat straw!" Wetnose Kowalski cheered, rising to punch the air with his fist.
The canoe, having had enough, rocked once, then twice, then simply threw its cargo and passengers into the marshy waters.
It turned out that Detective Ray Kowalski drove a strange-looking car. Fraser didn't dare ask what type it was, but he knew it was old. Maybe as old as his father. But it moved a lot more assuredly. So fast, in fact, that he practically had to peel himself from the seat when Kowalski roared to a stop outside a non-descript apartment building.
He wordlessly followed Ray into the lobby of the building, up three flights of stairs, and down a long, dark hallway. It was pure torture to stand still quietly, but he did so as Kowalski tried key after key, looking for one that would open his front door.
Finally, Fraser couldn't hold it in anymore. "What are all those keys?"
"Old apartment, old locker, gym locker, work locker, car, old car, older car… ah ha!" The door swung open and Fraser followed Ray inside.
Where he simply had to say it. "Ray, you should try to be a little neater." The place looked like a tornado had hit it, with clothes and the clutter of life spread out over every surface (including the floor) and dust so thick it should have made Fraser sneeze. Well, the dust didn't, but the thought did. He sneezed three times. Ray just gave him a dirty look (pun intended).
"Have a seat. Want a beer?"
"Erm, no. May I use the facilities?"
"Is that Saskatchewanese for 'I gotta use your can'?"
"All right, Ray, sure."
"Knock yourself out, it's through there." Ray pointed.
As Fraser expected, the bathroom was almost alive.
When he came out, Ray had to scrape his jaw from the floor before he could speak. That took a moment because he'd spilled some coffee and the floor was impossibly sticky. But, he finally recovered and babbled something that Fraser translated as "What the (expletive deleted) are you wearing Fraser?!"
"I'm dressed as a pirate, Ray. I thought I might try to infiltrate them."
"Number one, Fraser, you're Salty Bob's son, so infiltration won't work. Number two, you're dressed like something out of 'Pirates of the Caribbean'! Have you actually seen the pirates?"
"Well, the truth of the matter is...."
"You haven't! They wouldn't be caught dead in swashbuckling clothes!"
Fraser made a moue. "See, this is why I need your help!"
Ray shook his head. "Go get changed into real clothes. Not Mountie clothes." A thought hit him. "You do have real clothes, don't you?"
Fraser gave a long suffering sigh. "Yes."
"Good. Go. Get. Changed. I'll make coffee."
Blackteeth and Plowman volunteered to find a new boat. They figured they'd better volunteer before they were ordered to go. Salty Bob and Wetnose were pissed off enough as it was.
"Canvas or aluminum?" Blackteeth asked Plowman soon as they were out of earshot.
"Who cares, Gertie? Either way, one of 'em will be pissed off. Makes me wonder why the hell I joined this bloody outfit in the first place!"
Blackteeth glared at him. "So, you'd want to wind up just another bum on welfare, huh? At least now we're doing something!"
"We're stealing hay, for Riel's sake!"
"Yeah, so? We're rebelling! Come on, it's a long way to Swift Current, and I don't want to be the one to tell Salty Bob and Wetnose that we'll have to walk. Let's just grab the first canoe we find and move on out." Plowman just kept on glaring. "Come on, Sam, let's sing!"
Plowman gave her a shit-eating grin, his mood suddenly improved. He burst into their theme song, written by the great Tractor Jack, who couldn't hack the winters, had gone to New Mexico for a few months, and found the plundering too good to return.
Gertie couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, but it was okay for this song.
When Fraser came out of the bathroom again, he was dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt. He found Ray sitting on his couch, feet on the coffee table, watching TV.
"There's coffee if you want some," he said, not taking his eyes off the screen.
Fraser helped himself, then came to join Ray. "What-"
Fraser turned his attention to the screen, seeing nothing but what looked like a riot, pure pandemonium. He couldn't believe what was written on the bottom of the screen: Live from Moosejaw.
Fraser had lived in Moosejaw. Though too urban for his liking, he'd never seen it that busy.
"What?" he tried again.
The images changed and Ray clicked off the TV. "The pirates hit Moosejaw a couple hours ago. Made off with as much hay as they could, then they dumped the rest into the river before heading west towards Swift Current and disappearing into thin air."
"This is going too far, Ray. We have to stop them."
"Why do 'we' have to stop them?"
"They're our fathers."
"I meant gimme a good reason, Fraser."
Fraser took a seat beside Ray, nursing his coffee cup as he gathered his thoughts. Ray gave him his moment. "I don't know your father, Ray. But I know-knew-mine. Mine was a good Mountie for thirty years. He embodied the spirit of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He was legendary. He'd track a man over sheer ice for thousands of miles to bring him in just so he could face trial, no matter how petty the crime. My father was a just man who did great things. If it becomes public knowledge that he's become a pirate, the last thirty years will have meant nothing. Dad might think that they do mean nothing because he got laid off, but I don't agree. I don't want people to remember Salty Bob. They need to remember Sergeant Robert Fraser who was never too busy to help. He-"
"Okay, okay. I get your point. If we drive like hell, I mean, pedal to the metal, think we could hit Swift Current before they move on?"
Blackteeth and Plowman found a canoe a couple of kilometres down the river. It was a good one, a really good one, made of Kevlar. The pirates were due some luck.
Even luckier, the canoe was barely pulled up onto a sandy cove, the paddles inside. The occupants were quite close by, judging by the mating sounds they were making.
If they care more about sex than their thousand-dollar canoe, Gertie thought, then they deserve to have us take it.
She signaled to Plowman, who was smaller than her, to wait while she got settled in the stern. As soon as he was kneeling in the bow, they pushed off, heading back downriver to pick up Salty Bob and Wetnose. If the old coots had any sense at all, they would have started walking, too. But, apparently, you lost your proverbial sense somewhere around your fiftieth birthday.
Somewhere around Brooks, Ray let Fraser take over the driving. For about an hour. Then he got frustrated with going the speed limit and ordered the Mountie to stop.
"At this rate, we'll never get to Swift Current!"
"Are you suggesting we break the law?!"
"No. Yes. Just a little! No one'll pull you over for doing one 119! 120, maybe, but not 119! Listen, I'm going to crash us if I don't get some shut eye so you either drive faster or risk your neck!"
One nineteen turned out to be rather exhilarating, even addictive.
"You did good, gang," Salty Bob said as he eyed the canoe. "Real good. Here, have some hay."
"Gee, thanks," Blackteeth and Plowman said in unison as they grabbed the handful of wet hay Salty Bob tossed at them. What the hey (hee hee), they had known going into this gig that they weren't gonna be doing it for money, but this was kind of ludicrous....
"Plenty more where that came from," Salty assured them. Even Wetnose rolled his eyes at that one. "All aboard!!!"
This time, they flew their standard.
Swift Current claims to be a town. Perhaps it is, by Canadian standards. When Fraser and Ray roared into it in the early hours of dawn, the town was all a-quiver (whatever that means). Up and down the streets, people were running and yelling. The most popular cry was "The pirates are coming! The pirates are coming!"
Fraser would never have admitted it out loud, but he thought it was rather cool how notorious his father had become.
Ray pulled the car over and tried to flag down someone for information. But everyone seemed to be running on speed, or something. Finally, he just grabbed an arm at random and pulled. He almost got just an arm, then he got a shiner when the arm's twin made contact with his face.
"Let me go!"
"Just a minute, lady. Are the pirates here?"
"The pirates are coming! The pirates are coming! Their standard was spotted two miles out of town!!!" Ray let the woman go and she sprinted away from him. Not bad, he thought, for a broad who has to be at least ninety years old.
He turned to Fraser. "What now?"
"We go to the shore. And wait."
"That's it? That's your idea of a plan?!"
"I don't think meeting them in the water would put us at any advantage."
"Hell, no, it wouldn't. I can't swim. You won't catch me in a boat!"
"Then, that's our plan."
"Do you realise that I've known you less than twenty-four hours and you're already endangering my life in a wildly bizarre way?"
"How is engaging our fathers endangering our--excuse me--your life in a wildly bizarre way?"
"As you said, you haven't met my father."
The pirates continued to make its way up the river, carrying unwieldy cargo they'd picked up along the way. Wetnose had been tinkering with something ever since they'd stolen a couple of chickens and some supplies sometime after Mortlach. When he grabbed a chicken and stuffed it into his contraption, Salty Bob had had enough.
"What the hell is that?!"
"It's a chicken canon!" Wetnose burst out gleefully. "Haven't you ever seen Air Farce???!!!"
"Yeah, but they don't actually lob chickens!"
"Yeah, well, sue me. It's all we have. That, and the element of surprise! Who'd expect to have chickens lobbed at them?"
Blackteeth just looked at Plowman who shrugged, as though to say he was just along for the ride.
At least, it was an interesting ride.
It wasn't long after Fraser and Ray had set up shop on the bank of the river that the pirates' canoe came into view.
"What's so funny, Ray?"
"That's what's terrorizing everyone?!"
"It's not the size of the boat that matters, Ray, but the furry of its onslaught! The pirates have done some serious damage to the economy."
"I'll try to take 'em seriously, then." A flash of light caught his eye as the canoe came closer, but it was still too far out to make out clearly. "Fraser, what are they doing?!"
Ray received only a glare as an answer.
"Okay, so I should have brought binoculars."
"Especially since I don't have super vision." Fraser squinted, shading his eyes against the glare of the morning sun, and tried to make sense of the tiny figures in the middle of the river.
"You didn't tell me to bring binoculars! How was I supposed to know we'd need some?!"
"They're looking straight at us--without binocs. They have no clue what we're doing!"
"Can you see their faces?"
"Nope. Binocs from Giant Tiger are pretty much useless."
Salty Bob smirked. He turned to his group of pirates, appraising them. Blackteeth, Gertie and Plowman Sam sat, if not at attention, if not ramrod straight, at least not hung over. Bob nodded at them, then turned back to Wetnose to give the order:
"Prepare the Chicken Canon!"
"They're preparing something."
"I know that, Fraser--even with my eyesight. What are they preparing?"
Fraser took a moment to turn his head and glare at Ray before returning his attention to the pirates.
"You don't have to glare at me. Sheesh."
"It's not like they can hear us!"
"No, but you're giving me a headache!"
Ray stuck out his tongue.
"Now you're being childish." stunned expression on Ray's face "And, no, I don't have eyes in the back of my head. I do, however, know how a six year old child thinks."
"We'll need to get closer, Salty. Unless we want to drown a bunch of chickens."
"They'll hang us from our knickers if we do that! Let's get closer!" Salty turned his head to look in an authoritative manner at his two pirates. They were pretending to not have heard. "Well?"
"Well?" Blackteeth repeated, flashing a mouthful of bad dentition. "We're waiting for you to give the word."
"I'm giving the word: Hoist your sails!" Then, off Plowman's look, "Er, paddle closer to shore!"
"They're getting closer."
"I can see that, Fraser. Can you make out what they're doing, yet?"
Fraser squinted. "They're definitely aiming something at us and getting closer. They--"
Something slammed into chest, knocking him down. He lay there gasping for a moment, certain he'd been shot, shocked that his father had shot him, then he heard two things.
The first was Ray laughing.
The second sounded like a frustrated chicken.
Frustrated chicken? What the hell?!
Fraser looked down and found that his checkered shirt was covered in white and brown feathers. He probed a bit and discovered that, while his chest felt tender, there was no blood.
Ray was obviously laughing too hard to help him up, so Fraser stumbled to his feet on his own. It was when he standing again that Fraser finally saw the cause of Ray's excitement--and his own pain:
A Hungarian Yellow, if he remembered his chickens right.
Great. Now his father was trafficking rare species. And apparently lobbing them at people. What had he gotten himself into?
Ray was still laughing.
"Ray? Ray? Ray!"
Ray finally stopped laughing, but just long enough to take a deep breath before he passed out. "What?" he wheezed.
Another chicken slammed into him. A third narrowly avoided Ray, who threw himself onto the ground, more because he was laughing so hard he couldn't stand than to protect himself.
Fraser just lay on his back, convinced that he should just stay there. Besides, the chicken digging its claws into his chest seemed perfectly comfortable.
"We got 'em!" Wetnose crowed. "Did you see 'em fall over? Woohoo!"
Salty grinned as he peered through the binoculars, trying to make sense of the blurry images on shore. Sure enough, both men were on the ground. "I'll give it to you, Wetnose, that chicken canon is marvelous! Come on, let's paddle to shore and help ourselves while they're helpless!" Salty tried to cackle evilly, but Wetnose, Blackteeth, and Plowman thought he sounded like a fifteen-year-old teenager with a quarterback's hand up her skirt.
The chicken finally decided that it had rested enough and strolled off Fraser's chest. He "oomph!"ed, then struggled back to his feet. Once he was standing, Ray stuck out a hand to be helped up, but Fraser just glared at him.
Obviously, this partnership was going to require a bit more than a day and a half of knowing each other.
"They're up!!!" Gertie shrieked. She almost got up herself in all the excitement, but suddenly remembered the last time someone had gotten up and excited in a canoe. She planted herself firmly on her seat and tried not to move.
Salty and Wetnose weren't paying much attention to each other. They kept on passing the binocs back and forth, their mouths opening and closing like a bunch of guppies out of water.
She couldn't see what they were seeing, which was two guys on shore recovering from being chickened. They were close enough now for her to see that one was blond and skinny and the other was dark haired and built. She guessed that even cheap binocs had to come in handy at some distance.
They know it's us, Ray."
"My father's doing his best imitation of a bass. Your father looks more like a trout."
Ray grinned weakly. "Why do I feel this isn't going to be the best family reunion of my life, and I've had lots of bad family reunions?"
"I can't imagine."
"Wait an instant, you know one of those guys?"
"He's my son!"
"That's not your son, it's my son!"
"The blond, you idiot! That's my son Raymond!"
"The other one, that's my son Benton!"
They dropped the binoculars (right into the lake, with a definitive splash, but they were cheap and the pirates had other things on their minds) and stared at each other.
Blackteeth poked Plowman in the back and whispered "Me thinks their pirate days are over." She hoped she sounded more disappointed to him than she did to herself.
"I wouldn't be so sure."
"Would it have killed the town to send us some backup?"
"I thought we agreed we weren't taking them in."
"Yes, but that's not the point. The point is, we're cops, the cops should be covering our asses."
"Ray, I believe the police is cowering."
"Cowering? From my old man?!"
Fraser grinned. "Wait till you meet my father."
"Okay, they're almost here. What's the rest of your plan?"
"Ray, I'm making this up as I go along."
"Oh. That's really helpful!"
"Do you have a better idea?!"
"Well, then, the plan is that we wait for them."
Which was a matter of just a few minutes, of course. Just enough time for the pirates to get stuck on a sandbank a couple of feet out and get unstuck and whatnot. So much for a dramatic arrival.
Salty Bob spoke first: "Hello, son."
"Hello, dad. How are you?"
"I'm a pirate, son. Other than that did you mean?"
"No, that's what I meant."
"Oh, never be ashamed to ask a stupid question. I taught you that, didn't I?"
Fraser just rolled his eyes at that. He glanced over at Ray who was greeting his father with awkward silence. Better than being treated like an idiot, Fraser thought. "So, dad, how long are you folks going to keep this up?"
"Keep what up, son?"
"The pirate life suits me, Benton!"
"The Mountie life suited you, too."
"Well, that's over!"
"So it's over and you stop caring?"
"Who said that I stopped caring? I made sure we lobbed those chickens onto dry land!"
"About people, dad! People are scared sick of you."
Salty Bob almost burst a gut laughing (ew). "It's their choice to be afraid, Benton! Look at us! Do we look particularly threatening?"
"Well, that chicken canon isn't exactly friendly, dad."
"That was Wetnose's genius, right, Wetnose?"
Wetnose Kowalski seemed happy for the distraction. "That's right!" he exclaimed, not even looking at them. He didn't have a clue as to what he was agreeing with, of course, but it was always best to agree with Salty Bob Fraser.
"So, did They send you here to stop me?"
"No, dad, this is unofficial. But I'm still here to stop you before it's too late and someone else recognizes you!"
"And so what if someone does? I've found my purpose, Benton!"
"To steal hay?"
"Well, there's that. And the freedom, boy, the freedom!"
"You call being a fugitive freedom?"
"People respect us, Benton!"
"No, dad, they fear you. And fears can be overcome. What happens when they stop fearing you? Are you going to start lobbing chickens into water? And what's going to happen after you start killing chickens? Are you going to move up to humans?"
"Well, um, well..."
"Why don't you and the Redneck join us then?"
Wetnose Kowalski must have said the same thing to his son at the exact same time because Ray turned the same bright red colour as Fraser before both launched into some rapid gibberish that made no sense to their respective pirate father.
Or to Blackteeth and Plowman who didn't have fathers anymore but who understood the need to referee between fathers and children, especially when it wasn't evident who the child was.
They both yelled "ENOUGH!!!"
Which, of course, in clichéd fashion, stopped everyone mid-sentence.
"The way I see it," Blackteeth said, flashing her killer smile. "Is that these two know who we are. They're a liability."
"Erm, Gertie, we can't exactly kill 'em..." Plowman said. Not that he was one hundred percent sure of that, not being up with the pirates manual. If there was one. Salty Bob claimed there was, but he was prone to...exaggeration.
"He's right, Blackteeth!" Wetnose boomed. "Salty, they won't join us and we can't let them go, so..."
"Hostages!" Salty Bob cried gleefully!"
Ray looked at Fraser, seeing his horrified expression matched, if not doubled. "DAD!"
"That's Wetnose Kowalski to you, son!"
"Tie 'em up!" Salty ordered Blackteeth and Plowman. They didn't hesitate.
Faster than a chicken can fly out of a canon, Fraser and Ray were duct-taped better than one of Red Green's projects. Wetnose slung Ray over his shoulder and Salty did the same with Fraser.
The cop and the Mountie were settled in the centre of the canoe, facing each other, with the thwart between them.
"Um, I don't think we can fit six people in a canoe..." Fraser said.
"We'll see about that!" Salty exclaimed. "Now, no more out of you or I'm going to have to duct tape your mouth shut!"
Ray whispered, "Your dad's nuts!"
"And yours isn't?!"
Wetnose and Blackteeth crammed themselves into the stern. Salty and Plowman took the bow. It took a while to push off, what with the canoe being so heavy it stuck to the river bottom like dog doo to cheap sneakers.
Soon as they were clear away from shore, Fraser knew they were in trouble.
"The canoe's sinking."
"Canoes don't sink, son."
"Ordinarily, no. But, ordinarily, they're not piloted by four crazy pirates with two hostages."
"We're going to drown, dad."
A look of mild (okay, extreme) panic flashed across Ray's face. "I. Don't. Want. To. Drown." Fraser had to admire his restraint. If he'd been facing his biggest fear--dying in a pit of writhing snakes--he'd have been screaming like the patients of his village 'dentist'.
"We ain't gonna drown, Raymond, me boy!" Wetnose cried assuredly.
"Whadya know about drowning, dad? We're landlubbers!!! Now, let me off this boat!!!" Ray struggled against his duct tape until Fraser kicked him. "What?!"
"Fighting the duct tape will only make it worse. Just relax."
"Ray, lower your voice."
"No point, son, we can hear you both loud and clear. Now, sit back and enjoy the ride!"
The canoe didn't sink. It continued to ride precariously low in the water, but it didn't sink. Fraser and Ray finally got used to sitting in a puddle of wet (just like being a two-year-old in diapers again) and managed to doze off.
When Fraser woke, the moon was out and the night was almost bright as day. His neck hurt. His back hurt. His wrists hurt. He had to urinate. Badly. He even considered just doing it since he was wet already, but he decided to hold off just a bit longer, just in case. That was when he realised three things: number one, he wasn't in the canoe anymore; number two, he wasn't tied up; number three, he was leaning against a tree.
He was up and running and behind that big old cottonwood and relieving himself before his brain was fully awake.
When he came back around the tree, he found Salty, Wetnose, and Ray all waiting for him, motioning for him to follow, and to be quiet. Blackteeth and Plowman were sound asleep.
He followed Ray and their fathers a few hundred metres away from the fire.
"All a ruse, son. Go!"
"What the hell is going on, dad?"
"We need to look tough for Blackteeth and Plowman. Otherwise, we'll lose power. You'd rather have pirates like us roaming around than them, right?"
Salty gave his son a wry grin. "Admit it, it was fun."
"It was fun, dad."
A similar, simultaneous conversation was going on to the right of them between Wetnose and Kowalski.
"Take care of your mom for me."
"Dad, it's not too late to come home."
"No home left for me, son. Go on. Who knows, maybe we'll get to do this again."
"Oh, yeah, dad. I can't wait for the next time I get to be crammed with five people into a canoe made for three!"
"Life's about adventure, son. This is mine."
"I get it, dad. Take care of yourself."
Had this been a clichéd story, there would have been much hugging at this point, but this isn't a clichéd story so the fathers and sons parted ways without hugs or tears. Fraser and Ray headed back east towards Swift Current. Their dads, well, they were moving on to somewhere else. Places to plunder, people to steal from and all that.
The pirate leaders sat around the campfire as night turned to dawn, waiting for their partners to wake up.
"They would have made good pirates, Wetnose."
"Of course, Salty. They're our sons."
"Where to next?"
"How about wherever the current takes us?"
So it is that, somewhere out in the vastness of the western plains, a Calgary detective and a Mountie from the boreal forests of the north are still chasing The Last Saskatchewan Pirates.
They'll never catch them, of course. But, sometimes, the chase, complete with hostage-taking and plenty of duct tape, is all the fun.