It was dark, and the streets were as quiet as a
small town library on a Friday night.
A dry wind rippled through the
fences, throwing candy wrappers and paper into the
faces of anyone under five foot five. At six feet,
Jim Hayawaka-Smith was safer than a crab at
Down the emptying street sat a
sewer grate churning out a steady torrent of steam.
It was the sort of thing that appeared in every
mystery movie made since the fog machine was
invented, but rarely in real life. Jim didn't think
it was possible for an industrial smoke machine to
be jammed in the city's sewer system, so he had to
believe it was real. Still, plodding over with his
hands stuffed in his coat, Jim peered down into the
mist. The steam continued to spill out of the grate,
as if the presence of a living, breathing
Hayawaka-Smith didn't bother it any more than the
cracks in the road, the flickering street lights or
oily puddles Jim had sloshed through to get there.
All in all, the sewer grate was pushing the casual
sort of indifference only sewer grates can push. Jim
sniffed a little, decided he didn't like the smell
of it, and wandered off. The grate couldn't have
It had rained all that
day. When it first came, the rain was
welcomed. North Bay, like most of the country, was
suffering from a terrible drought. It hadn't rained
more than a thimbleful in three months. Farmers had
cried into tin cans for keeping and cows had been
known to start smouldering when left
unattended. So when the rain came, people
looked out their dirty windows and smiled. Farmers
danced in the puddles, cows set sail in the creeks,
and the price of hamburger suddenly dropped. But
when the rain that had started at peacefully at dawn
went angrily into its third day and eleventh hour,
coming down harder than a schoolteacher's union on
the suggestion of a pay cut, people started to
notice. It had stopped being the kind of rain they
needed and had turned instead into the sort of rain
that drives up the price of sandbags. But by 8 p.m.
it had stopped, and the indifferent sewer grates and
nonchalant drains had done away with most of it. By
10 p.m., the farmers had retired to watch football
games from different time zone and the cows had
returned ashore, heavy with foreign booty and well
on their way to a crippling vitamin C deficiency.
Jim Hayawaka-Smith, as sober as a goldfish in a
drinking glass, walked the streets of North Bay and
"There's a certain way a city
feels... after dark, when all the respectable people
are indoors. It's quiet. Cool. There's not much
going on for a guy like me. Tonight the city has
this look, like a mother who expected better. I
started to make my way down to the bar. I thought
maybe I could get a drink, see a show. I didn't
Jim continued on. There were
few people on the street, but they didn't take much
notice of him. North Bay had seen stranger. The
sewer grates oozed indifference as Jim's flickering
shadow moved along them.
If they had taken notice, there
were two things most people noted about Jim
1. That he looked, smelt, and
sounded decidedly human and
2. That he was male.
Others who were more observant
might have noticed him standing at six feet, six
inches tall, with a heavy build, a splash of finely
angled brown hair on his head, two or three days
worth of stubble on his face, a small mouth and a
set of gray eyes that could stare at you over
candlelight softly, silkily, and invitingly.
Not that they ever did. Jim was
as single as he was single-minded. Also, he never
paid for dinner.
"The steam from the sewers
curls around the wet walkways," Jim continued.
"Alley cats march behind trash bins and cower in
front of dumpsters. There's a heaviness to the air,
but not the comforting kind."
Jim was happily narrating when
he heard the scream.
It was piercing. The people on
the street took note, looked toward the sound with
mouths agape and eyes boggling, and then swam
hurriedly in the opposite direction. Against the
weak stream of people, Jim began jogging toward the
sound. He felt both excited and uneasy. Here was
something for him to do.
There was a second scream,
softer than the first. It had a gurgle in it. Jim
didn't know what that meant, but he felt like it
would be a good thing to know. The more he learned
about the sort of things that made women scream
twice in a big city after nightfall, the better he
would be at avoiding them.
North Bay was a city built
around itself. From the air some cities look like
grids while others look like crop circles, but North
Bay was remarkable for looking exactly like a
drawing that Jessie Remington, age 5, had made with
a red Etch-a-Sketch in 1983. North Bay wasn't based
on Jessie's work, but it was a curious coincidence
that the two looked so much alike. Or they did,
anyway, until Jessie gave the old Etch-a-Sketch a
good shake. Then her drawing had looked like North
Bay sister city, Moore, which at this time found
itself in a state of nonexistence.
The long and short of it was
that if anyone wanted to get anywhere in North Bay,
they had best either know the city or spend two days
planning an attack using a map, a magnifying glass
and a military grade stress ball. Fortunately, Jim
knew the city well enough to get home an average of
four out of five times, so running through the back
alleys he felt he would be upon the source of the
Rounding a corner, Jim found
the woman and his feeling of excitement dried up
faster a redhead's lips in January. There, sprawled
on the ground before him, was the deadest woman Jim
had ever seen.
Her left leg was hooked almost
as far upwards as her right, giving her the
appearance of a human anchor. Both her arms were
above her head, and her head was turned at an
unnatural angle. Something was seriously wrong with
her neck, and Jim didn't think it was the sort of
thing makeup would cover, though she was covered in
quite a lot of it.
One would have expected the
sorts of things that people see in movies to be
sprawled around her: pearls, a purse, some coins, a
tube of worn lipstick, or an orphaned future
vigilante. There was nothing to be seen, and Jim was
happy about that.
Regardless, Jim felt his
stomach take a quick trip up to his throat, say
hello, and then plummet back down like a drunk
firefighter on a newly waxed pole. As the intrepid
team of special effects engineers hadn't made their
way over the the alleyway with the underground smoke
machine, nothing was stopping Jim from seeing every
angle the woman had ended up in.
The scene was unpleasant to
look at, so Jim switched from his eyes to his ears.
He listened. There was no sound. No one was running
behind him or before him. It was suddenly much too
quiet for a back alley of a city street on a Tuesday
night. So like an uneasy child playing with a
breaker box, Jim bravely set aside his feelings,
switched from ears to mouth, and began to punctuate
the silence with a dashes of narration.
"Poor girl," he whispered,
"never stood a chance."
Like an enthusiastic owl, Jim
walked in small circles, his head constantly on the
"This was somebody's daughter,
somebody's sister, and maybe somebody's date."
Two things happened when Jim
The first: Jim decided that a
drink would probably be a pretty nice thing to have,
The second: something skittered
by behind him making a skittery type of sound.
Jim's reflexes were excellent.
He spun around, holding his arms out and making a
gun out of his fingertips.
He knew he looked ridiculous,
and he suddenly wished he was someplace dark.
The skittering continued,
moving from Jim's left to his right, and then there
was the smash of a trash bin, the cries of a
cowering stray cat, and the skittering danced off
into the distance. Jim was a fast man. He could have
chased down whatever made the skittering sounds. But
he didn't. Disassembling his hand-made hand gun, Jim
turned, walked five minutes, bought himself nineteen
Liquid Steak shots, went to the threatre, purchased
a ticket, sat down, clapped a little and watched
GHOST BEAVER KICK - THE MOVIE.