The gathering cloudsMature

Minnie Ritter answered. "RCMP Pickle Flats."

Dale couldn't speak. His mouth hung open, he was catching flies. His knees throbbed. He swayed. He was 91. Always swayed now, without his walker under him. Minnie sighed over the phone on his ear. Minnie Ritter. Finest backside in the Pickle Flats detachment.

Dale steadied Nora Higgins' backside and legs in the binoculars as best he could with his other hand. She lay face-down, mostly under those lilacs. Her left foot twitched, twitched again. Like Etobicoke Joe, the kid shot through the neck on Juno Beach.

"Dale Dixon, you okay? Got you here on the call display."

Dale let go a shuddering breath. Nora Higgins bounced about in the 8 x 40 view. He set the binoculars down on the windowsill. "Minnie. Nora Higgins..."

"Nora withrew her complaint, Dale. She called this morning..."


"...Oh shoot."

"She only looked away two secs, only reached for some bonemeal. I smacked the window. She didn't hear — "

"Jeez Jeez — "

"She didn't see it climb out — run from the sun and under the lilacs. It got her." Dale swallowed, to stop his jabbering.

"Jeez, Dale. Doozie of a storm coming, too. That's just gonna make it bigger, right? Jeez. I figured I'd have my career with the police, get married in a few years and squeeze out a couple of perfect little ones, y'know? Now maybe none of that's ever gonna happen." Minnie was sniffling, huffing up a gale.

"Keep it together, Minnie Ritter. Pickle Flats isn't finished yet."

"Right. Right. Calling everybody in now..."

"But not Ottawa."

"Right. Not after last time."

"And not all the RCMP, Minnie."

"Right. Only OUR RCMP. Gotcha, Dale." Minnie hung up.

Out Dale's living-room window the sky was still mostly blue. But the sun wouldn't be there forever. The wind was up. The stormfront edged closer from the horizon which was all black billowing cloud.

Even without binoculars Dale could see Nora Higgins hadn't budged. The lilac whipped about. Like the rising wind wanted to tear it from the ground. He glanced into the dark places under the green. The hairs prickled up the back of his neck.

Dale forced his eyes shut. "Go. Go."

He set both hands on his walker. He tapped and tapped and tapped his way across the living room toward the gun case.

The End

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