Excerpts from Going Silent
In the summer of 2006, Brand Coldstream found himself in a hastily thrown together camp set up by a group of environmentalists. The protesters had migrated to this region of Northern B.C. in order to bring a halt to drilling work being carried out by Context Energy, a major player in the Canadian oil industry.
The camp was at the start of a road built by the oil company to provide access to the leases they had been granted in this area.
The area now resembled a small town. It was a beehive of activity. For the past several months, sur- veyors had been slashing cut lines through the remote Boreal forest, marking out routes for the road crews to follow when constructing roads to connect the various lease sites in the area. The series of roads now bisected the once untouched stands of natural pines and poplars, crossing small open meadows and skirting sections of muskeg, reaching far into the wilderness.
The work was tough and the area was desolate. But the pay was good. Better than most jobs. The men and women working for the energy giant, put up with the mosquitoes and the long hours of isolation to finance better lifestyles for them and their families.
A caravan of eighteen-wheelers loaded with oil derricks, huge engines, pumps and an assortment of trailers used by the drilling crews started to leave northern Alberta for the journey to the new sites in British Columbia. As each drilling rig finished their job in Alberta, the drilling crews broke down the rigs and readied them for the move.
But before the drilling rigs even had a chance to test the newly built roads protesters started arriving in the area, first trickling in, then scores of them started a mass migration to the area causing trouble for the workers and blocking access to the newly built roads. At first the dem- onstrators provided just a nuisance for the workers, but as their numbers grew, the nuisance turned to annoyance and then festered into a serious problem. The protestors had built their camp across from the main entrance to the lease sites. As more people showed up to protest, their camp spread across the road butting up to the workers camp. The volume of people and cars soon choked the main road and the lease access stopping any further work from being done.
Context Energy tried to have the demonstrators removed, but the protesters became more and more bel- ligerent. Tensions escalated between the two sides. Local and then mainstream media arrived to broadcast the standoff. The environmentalists posed for the cameras spouting on about the evils of oil and gas, rattling off a well-rehearsed version of their green propaganda.
The oil companies’ trucks and other equipment fell victim to vandalism. Company workers attempting to stop the vandalism soon found themselves to be targets, their work camps fell under attack. The situation was getting out of hand; nobody had been seriously hurt yet, but the way tensions were escalating it was only a matter of time.
The oil company went before the courts to apply for restraining orders against the demonstrators. They demanded that the perpetrators be removed and cited their own legal rights to carry on with the work. The police arrived, but instead of upholding the court’s deci- sion they simply refereed in an attempt to separate the two sides. With the media attention brought to the site because of the environmentalists, the police had to be very careful. They didn’t want to appear to be acting on the side of big oil, so they simply aimed to keep the peace.
There was nothing else for the oil company to do; their men and equipment would remain idle until this whole mess blew over, whenever that would be. This wasn’t the only site where protesters had shut down work. In the past year, all across the country, wherever oil companies moved in to an area to explore and to drill for oil and gas, demonstrations would flare up, forcing work stoppages. The whole industry was slowly being brought to a halt.
The protests had become so frequent and well organized that the Canadian Energy Minister and other government officials started to take serious notice. The Energy Minister asked the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency to assist the RCMP in an investigation into the sudden surge of the demonstrations. A unit of CSIS agents were assigned to investigate and to the find the cause behind this organization. The Canadian economy was starting to feel the pinch.
That’s what had brought CSIS agent, Brand Coldstream here; he certainly wasn’t in camp to protest. He had arrived with the intention of integrating himself among the protesters and getting information. Brand had been in the camp for over a week now. He liked the outdoors, but this was ridiculous. He hadn’t had a decent shower the whole time. The protestor’s camp was rudimentary at best and in no way set up to support the amount of people in it. The thrown together campsite was starting to resemble a garbage dump; the great out- doors was the group’s bathroom.
Brand had his small tent setup on the outskirts of the camp. He discreetly talked to several members of the group, the majority had no idea what they were actually protesting, and others shied away, suspicious of his ques- tions. The week wore on and Brand watched and listened. The leaders of this demonstration were easy to spot, the reason why they were so vehemently against the oil company was not as clear. They spouted the usual rheto- ric one would expect to hear at one these rallies which was funny to him, almost all the demonstrators arrived in separate vehicles, gas and oil consumption obviously lost to them. Each evening he watched the leaders of the group climb into their luxury automobiles and drive away the site only to return the following morning.
While Brand was searching for answers at this camp, four other members belonging to the same CSIS unit were carrying out similar investigations in other regions of the country where protests were being held.
It took time for Brand to cultivate the trust of some of the other protesters so they would accept him as one of their own and talk freely with him. Brand and his fellow agents had started to notice that a small group of people were showing up repeatedly at numerous demonstra- tions countrywide, but only at the more media worthy events, all the while enticing the locals in those areas to follow their fight against the oil companies.
Some of the major protestors weren’t even Canadian. For such a well-organized attack against the Canadian energy industry, Brand and the others looked for a common thread tying all the pieces together. The team began to hypothesize that a single group was financing the whole debacle. Though the reason why they had yet to discover.
Through diligent investigative work, a clearer picture started to emerge. The leads were starting to point toward foreign money being funnelled into the country to support the environmentalists. Who would benefit most from crippling Canada’s oil and gas industry? Which country would want to see the Canadian economy destroyed?
Most of the environmentalists leading the protests appeared to be American. To the team investigating the disturbances that didn’t make much sense, America relied heavily on Canadian exports, so the American economy would suffer too! Digging into the finances of the imported leaders, the CSIS unit was able to trace the money to offshore accounts. They were finally getting close.
Once Brand and his unit got closer to the truth, certain MPs started to question the integrity of the inves- tigation, and an oversight committee was formed. As it is with any type of oversight committee, Brand and the other four soon found themselves spending more time in Ottawa testifying than out in the field investigating. Red tape bogged them down at every turn. Defending their actions was prioritized over searching for the real culprits behind the whole scheme.
The committee came to the conclusion that CSIS was overstepping its mandate by investigating Canadians who had every right to hold peaceful demonstrations.
Near the end of the year, Brand and the others were called in front of the committee one more time. They were told to end their investigation immediately. The conclusion the oversight committee arrived at was that the protests were not out of the ordinary and CSIS should not be harassing Canadian citizens who were concerned about the environment; CSIS was looking for a conspiracy where none was to be found.
Brand and his unit moved on to other missions, assigned to protect the security of the country, but Brand found he no longer had the drive and desire to continue with his job.
After years of faithful service to his country, and all the miles of red tape he’d had to deal with along the way, that committee’s decision proved to be the last straw for Brand. He and the other guys in his unit had put their asses on the line for their country repeatedly and every time it seemed some bureaucrat would drag them in front of another committee, doubt them and ques- tion their work. He decided he had spent enough time defending himself for work he had undertaken for his country. Enough was enough!
At thirty-seven years of age, a change of venue seemed like a good idea. He would find something else to occupy his time that didn’t involve having to defend his every action. Brand submitted his resignation and left the life of a civil servant. He’d done very well over the years in the money department affording him plenty of time to pursue other interests.
Shortly after the commons committee shut down their investigation, the protests started dying off all by on their own. Nobody stopped to wonder why. As the years went by, the whole episode was slowly forgotten.
Other than a few high clouds, the sky was a stunning blue. The kind of sky that just begged a person to head outside and enjoy the day. With a slight breeze and a temperature in the low twenties, the day was perfect for sitting in a boat, sipping on a beer and waiting for a fish to bite.
The lake had a slight ripple to it, the indicator on the end of the fly rod had a steady wave, enough to keep the fly on the end of the line moving at a good rhythm to hopefully convince a fish to come and join the fun.
It was an eight-weight fly rod holding a floating line with a chartreuse deceiver dangling from the end, suspended eleven feet below the indicator. Any sign of the indicator ducking below the greenish blue surface of the lake and the rod would be raised, ripping the line through the water, hooking a fish in a momentary battle.
The boat was a newer model designed strictly for fishing, the big mercury four stroke motor made getting around on the water easy, even in high rolling rough conditions.
Fish resting near the bottom of the lake were steadily being marked on the sonar. The boat was anchored in twelve feet of water. Abundant plant growth covered the bottom of the lake, climbing to within a few feet of the surface, the weeds providing shelter for baitfish, which in turn drew in the bigger predatory species searching for an easy meal. Perch, northern pike, and walleye were the predominant catch, although with patient you might hook the odd whitefish.
Suspend a buck tail fly like the deceiver pattern that Brand was using, and with a little luck or skill you’d hopefully be rewarded with a few minutes of action. By using a fly rod, a fish didn’t have to be overly large to make the fight worthwhile.
Brand Coldstream removed another beer out of the cooler. Drinking beer on the water was illegal, so he was careful to keep his actions out of sight. Being the first week of September, kids were back in school and the campsites around the lake, along with most of the cot- tages, were deserted during the week now. Brand only noticed one other boat out in the bay along the west shore with a couple people water skiing. Everywhere else he looked the lake was empty.
Brand opened his beer and poured it into a travel mug. He raised his eyes, a smile turning up the corners of his mouth as he surveyed the shores around him. Life was pretty good at the moment.
The radio was tuned to a classic country station. George Jones was inviting people on a grand tour of his broken home. Beautiful. Life just kept getting better.
Suddenly, the indicator plunged below the water’s surface and the fly line started to peel off the reel. Jerking the tip of the rod up to set the hook, Brand put his left palm against the bottom of the reel trying to add a little extra drag to slow the fish. The fish must have some size to it the way it was pulling line out.
A minute and several more yards of line later, Brand started to gain the upper hand and was slowly winning the tug of war by reeling the fish back toward the boat. Keeping the rod tip high to maintain pressure, loop by loop the line wrapped back on the reel.
Just as he thought he was winning the battle, the fish took off on another long run. Brand watched as the backing of the fly line rush through the end guide on the rod. The hooked fish was giving a pretty good account of itself, maybe a large walleye, Brand thought, pike usually play possum until they get close to the boat, and then they fight back.
Once again palming the reel, Brand put more pres- sure on, and returned to dragging his catch back toward the boat, stripping a couple of feet of line at a time and letting it fall to the bottom of the boat in loose curls, the tip of the rod held high in the air to absorb the fight. Brand watched as the clear tapered leader rose out of the water. He shouldn’t have a problem, even if he had latched on to a pike. He prayed it was a walleye on the fluorocarbon leader; pike with their big teeth could easily bite through the tippet and steal the fly. They could chew through anything they could get their mouth around, a lot of other lake life fell prey to those sharp incisors.
Brand turned and reached behind him to where his net lay. Keeping it close at hand, he turned back concen- trate on his fight with the fish, not watching where he set his foot down. He continued to bring the fish closer to the boat. Normally he would land the fish by hand, but this one seemed to be a little big for that. When the fish was close to the boat, when Brand thought that he had won, the fish decided to dive for the bottom of the lake, rapidly pulling the fly line off the reel again. Brand felt something tug on his foot then the line abruptly came to a stop. Looking at his feet he noticed the line had become tangled around his foot, probably when he had turned to grab his net. He raised his foot and tried to untangle the mess of line with one hand while he maintained pressure on the escaping fish with the other. Trying to maintain his balance while the boat rocked, he struggled to work the tangled line free of his foot. When he had the last bit of line cleared he resumed fighting the fish thankful that the fish didn’t escape.
Soon, the head of a large pike broke the surface of the water, its body thrashing crazily behind. Not bad for a lazy day on the lake. This fish should be close to twelve or thirteen pounds, at least. A couple more minutes spent coaxing the fish closer, Brand reached the net out to scoop the fish in.
Setting his rod aside, pliers in his hand, Brand worked the hook out of the pikes mouth. Careful to keep his fingers away from those razor sharp teeth, he unfas- tened the fly and set it along with his pliers in the boat. Staring at the fish, he decided there was no use bring- ing it into the boat, so he dipped the net back under the water and watched as the pike slithered out of the net. Brand swished the net around in the water then returned it to its spot on the boat.
Slowly straightening up a smile reappeared on his face. He had been a fishing guide for years now so it was a good thing he didn’t have a client in the boat to witness the lack of finesse of what he had just done. Brand laughed at himself as he removed his ball cap and ran his fingers through his shoulder length brown hair. He placed his cap back on his head then reached for a cigarette. He bowed his head while he cupped his hands to shelter the lighter as he lit his smoke and then reached for his beer. Brand found his chair and sat down. Seated, he put his feet up on the side of the boat and enjoyed the moment, the fight with the fish still fresh in his mind. After a drag from his smoke followed by a long pull of beer, he figured that it was probably time to head back to his cabin.
Earlier in the day, he was successful in landing a few perch. They currently resided in the live well, so a so-called “shore lunch” was a pleasing thought. The perch in this lake were a very good size on average; he would fillet them once he was back at his cabin.
Putting out his cigarette and downing the last swallow of beer, Brand looked toward shore in the direction of his cabin. The building was hidden behind the trees, but he could just make out the path that led from the lake to the cabin. He realized that if he didn’t start to get the boat ready to leave now, it would be very easy for him to just sit and take in the day. He stood up and walked to the bow of the boat.
Lifting and moving the trolling motor out of the way, Brand grabbed the anchor rope and hoisted the anchor into the boat then he put away his rod and tackle in the rod locker. Slowly surveying the inside of the boat to insure that everything was stored properly he turned the key the boat fired up. Brand put on his life jacket. Even though he was a good swimmer and the lake wasn’t that deep one never knew.
As the shore rushed up to meet him, he pulled back on the throttle and trimmed the motor. The lake got a lot shallower near the dock, only about three or four feet. Killing the motor, the boat drifted toward the dock and in a few minutes, he had the boat securely fastened.
Brand fumbled around in his pocket for the keys to his quad. The cabin wasn’t very far from the lake, but he liked to drive his quad back and forth. He loaded the bag of fish onto the back of the quad, stuck the key in the ignition, put it in gear and then he pulled away from the lake and headed toward home.
Even with a tan that comes from spending so much time outdoors, he could feel a slight burn on the fronts of his legs. Never could convince himself to apply sunscreen.
His cabin wasn’t big, but it was comfortable enough. For years now, he’d been slowly renovating, bringing the sixty-year-old building up to more modern standards.
Brand carried the bag of fish over to the sink, dumped them in and then filled the sink with cold water; there they would stay until he got around to cleaning them. Next, he poured himself a glass of rye from the bottle in the freezer and went out onto the back deck.
Brand pulled a chair away from the patio table and sat down. Setting his rye on the table, he removed a cigarette from its pack and lit it. A couple of blue jays flitted in the trees on the far side of the lawn. Taking a drink, Brand looked back out at the lake. His guiding business had been fairly busy this past summer so he was determined to take advantage of the few days off he was now enjoying.
The room erupted in laughter as Duane Greenburg regaled everyone with stories of the exploits that had taken place at the protest site he was leading a demon- stration at. He had actually worked some of the locals up and then watched as they tangled with the cops today. Some of them were so gullible and misinformed that they would pretty much do whatever he said to prove how much more dedicated to the cause they were then the next guy.
Some cause. He and a few other greenies for hire had worked the local idiots up to stop the work of the big bad oil company from destroying the environment. In any other country in the world, they’d be thrown in jail for what they were doing, but not in Canada, here you were regarded by the poorly informed masses as some kind of messiah.
The group of protesters who had migrated to stand arm in arm with him and the others had been blocking an access road for weeks now.
The area around the road now resembled a garbage dump more than the pristine land that it had been before his little group arrived. Makeshift tarp tents were erected, bottles and other garbage was strewn all over the area. The area looked like a shantytown in a third world country.
The protest was starting to get violent and the protesters had completely stopped any work from taking place, so the oil company went to court and got an order to have Duane and his group removed. The police showed up but only stood and watched in silence. Today though, he worked up some of the protesters and they started clashing with the cops. “Save the environ- ment,” they would chant... stop global warming... what a crock. Global warming indeed... global money making scheme more like it... and it was paying off for Duane quite nicely.
He could keep this group here as long as he wanted; the cops sure as hell weren’t about to do anything to stop them. The secret was to get the media involved. The police had to be very careful how they handled matters or they came off looking like the bad guys on the evening newscasts. He knew that and used it to his advantage. The media never bothered to dig too deep or ask hard questions of the protesters, never showed that the people attending these demonstrations drove there in their Beamers or Hummers or returned to their nice houses heated with gas and powered by electricity.
Duane and the other for hire greenies never spent the nights at the site, not like some of the locals who were duped into camping out to prove their dedication to the saving of Mother Earth. A group of mostly rich univer- sity kids with no purpose in life and some old burned- out hippies. Most of them were living comfortable lives but felt guilty for what their parents provided them and tree hugging was the trendy thing to do these days, their way of giving back, appeasing their conscience’s.
Not for Duane, he couldn’t care less about the environment; he was just here for the money. Duane paused and reflected back to when a friend of his dads had called him and asked him to come to Canada just for this purpose. Duane certainly didn’t need the money; his dad owned a very successful shipping company in San Francisco. In fact, the main cargo on his dad’s ships was oil. Go figure.
In his home country nobody paid much attention to environmental protests. But Canada, here a person could stop huge projects and tie everything up in the courts. The people there were so dumb. Everyone drove or heated their homes, needed power for their comput- ers and cell phones, but still huge demonstrations were carried out across the country, twenty-first century irony.
He was hired to lead Canadians across the country in demonstrations against whichever oil company he was told and not little mom and pop demonstrations either, hundreds of protestors blocking country roads, city streets and even city blocks, whatever worked. Shut down as much work by the oil companies as possible, a little vandalism here or there, and keep the cops from doing their jobs. All the while, the media showed the demonstrations and were making heroes out of him and some of the others. They had forced the industry come to a grinding halt with the court cases and media driven review panels.
The house he stayed at in North Van probably used enough power and gas to run a small town and here he was... mister environment, paid to disrupt sites all over the country along with his traveling circus. Whenever the trip was too far for him to drive his Hummer, he would be flown, charter. It was a great gig. It even came with his very own set of bodyguards.
When he was done relating the hilarious events of the day, he turned to his host, an older white haired gentleman. This man had also made his fortune in the shipping business, again oil being the main cargo.
The shipping magnate was a Russian ex-pat who had settled on the BC coast and over the years had built up a very large shipping business.
Duane turned to his host, Victor Kulinov. “The past couple of weeks, some of the others have told me about a new member of our little group, this man has been doing some serious nosing around. He’s seems to be asking a lot of questions that go beyond the mindless rhetoric of the normal hangers on. Very involved questions, in fact, like he’s digging for something. He’s been harassing a lot of the locals.”
“If you notice this man tomorrow, point him out to the boys.” Kulinov said clearly troubled by this new information.
Juan Carlos sat in a noisy nightclub on Whyte Ave. on the south side of Edmonton. Juan was fifty-three years old and single. He was hoping to find a nice little Chiquita to keep him company for the few days while he was back in town. Juan was only six inches past the five-foot mark, but stocky, with muscles and not much fat. His job required him to retain a reasonable fitness level, which he didn’t mind, and the women liked the way he looked. His dark hair was cut a bit longer than a brush cut and a thick moustache with goatee covered the lower part of his face, a face that was lined with wrinkles from the stress that came from being in his line of work. Not a model, but good enough looking that women didn’t run away screaming.
He’d usually had good luck in the nightclubs he frequented when he was in town. He’d been at this par- ticular club several hours, sitting by himself, every now and then finding someone to have a dance with him. It was getting late and he was getting tired. He was hoping to convince some pretty girl to leave with him.
He keenly watched a table across the bar with a few women who looked like they were single, acted that way anyways. One in particular caught his eye. He grabbed what was left of his cerveza, wandered over to their table and started a conversation.
They laughed and joked through another beer until her friends said it was time to leave. Juan, turning on what he hoped was charm and not bravado brought on by the beer, told her that he would be more than happy to drive her home. She laughed and told him some other time maybe. As she got up, she dug a pen out of her purse and scribbled her name and number on a napkin. She smiled at him and left with her friends.
Juan finished his beer and headed for the door himself. It was too late and he wasn’t going to find any company for the rest of the night, but he smiled as he stuck the napkin with girls phone number in his front pocket. Tomorrow he would call her... and who knew?
Juan walked outside. His car was parked across the street, but he wasn’t sure if he should be driving. He couldn’t remember exactly how many beers he had had, but it wasn’t that many, he thought, and he had been in there awhile. Patting his front pocket that held the phone number, his face lit with a smile and he headed for the other side of the street.
He was halfway across when the headlights of a car lit him up. He turned his head toward the lights. A few beers less and he might have had the split second quicker reaction he would have needed to jump out of the speed- ing car’s path.
As he threw himself toward the sidewalk in front of him, the car’s front grill made solid contact with his body, throwing him forward and right into a light stan- dard. His head crashed into the sidewalk. With his last movement, he reached his hand back to the pocket with the phone number.
Six-thirty the next morning found Brand nearing the end of his daily ten-kilometre run through the quiet streets of the lakeside community. He was on his way back to his cabin, coming up to the only business in the village. He spotted a couple of trucks pulled up to the front of the restaurant. The restaurant was in the same building as the convenience store and gas bar and carried an assort- ment of supplies that both the residents of the summer village and the campers from various campsites in the area might require. Through the summer months the store kept relatively long hours, but as the busy season ended and everyone headed home for the fall, the hours were cut back.
Thick low hanging clouds replaced the sunny sky of the previous day. Brand had thought that he’d go for a short swim after his run, but he was already feeling the first drops of rain on his arms. He’d have to wait and swim another time.
Returning to the cabin, he set up the coffee and proceeded to download the newspaper on his tablet. He jumped in the shower as he waited for both the coffee and the newspaper. Towelling himself off he stopped in front of the mirror trying to decide if he should shave the beard he had let grow over the past few days. Stroking his hair covered jaw he studied his face in the mirror. His dark brown eyes stared back at him; his face tanned dark by a life spent in the great outdoors, a few wrinkles showing around his eyes. His hair was longer than he usually wore it, but what did it matter he thought, he had been his own boss now for years so he didn’t have to abide by anyone’s rules but his own.
He still maintained a vigorous workout routine to keep his body in shape but as the years passed he noticed signs of a more sedentary lifestyle slowly creeping up on him. His six-foot frame remained fairly toned although his waistline was starting to expand, signs of the middle age bulge creating more of a problem in holding his weight around the low two hun- dreds. Luckily he hadn’t come across any fish lately that put his conditioning to the test he thought as he left the bathroom and went to build a small fire in the fireplace before he grabbed a coffee. The outside temperature this time of year was warm, though the interior of the cabin was still slightly cool in the mornings.
He poured a cup of steaming black coffee then sat in a rocking chair facing out the window at the lake. He put his feet up on the coffee table and picked up his tablet, a Calgary newspaper now downloaded ready for him to read. Nothing spectacular here, a few crashes locally, a robbery or two, and obviously the provincial govern- ment was in a state of confusion.
Four pages in, he spied a small headline; an Edmonton man was found on the side of a street the product of an apparent hit and run. The police were investigating but still hadn’t found the driver of the suspected vehicle. The man had died of his injuries on arrival at the Misrecordia Hospital.
Somebody being hit by a motorist was common- place in the larger cities these days but still something about the story nagged at him. Then it came to him. The name of the victim was Juan Carlos. The name seemed to stick. Brand used to work with a man with that name. In what Brand now referred to as his previous life, he’d worked for the Canadian Intelligence Agency with a group of men and Juan was one of them. He made a mental note to later check if this was the same man. Brand hoped it wasn’t.
He was working his way through the sports section. The Redskins were playing their first game of the season this upcoming weekend, the Oilers were in training camp getting ready for the upcoming season, and the Toronto Blue Jays were out of the playoff picture after dropping a three game set to the Yankees in New York. As he was getting to the end of the paper, his tablet dinged notify- ing him that he’d just received an email. Wrapping up his reading, he took a sip of coffee and switched the screen from paper to email.
The email was sent to his guiding website. He had been guiding now for the past seven years offering guided trips to lakes and rivers in central and southern Alberta. From the Rocky Mountains in the west, down to the Crowsnest Pass in the south, and even into south- eastern BC. He also had links to some of the fly shops in Red Deer and Calgary, and he would take trips from them whenever they were overbooked.
This email was from a George Randolf. The man wanted to book a three-day trip for two to a small trout lake north of the Spray Lakes area in the south-western part of the province. The park was set back in a huge area called Kananaskis Country. The lake in question was just east of Banff National Park.
It was fairly inconvenient, tough lake to get to. They could drive only as far as the Spray Lakes campground, then, depending on the weather conditions and gear they’d have to pack, they were looking at a minimum four hours hiking.
Maybe the guy wanted a little mountain scenery to go along with the fishing. The backcountry on the east side of the Rockies offered scenery that alone would be worth the trip. Brand didn’t have any other trips booked at the moment and he had just spent the last couple of days fishing at his cabin so the outing would give him something to do, why not he figured it wouldn’t hurt.
Before he replied, he searched online to find out some more information on the hit and run. He dug through the other Edmonton newspaper. The victim in the paper was fifty-three, which Brand figured would be approximately the right age. He believed Juan had been about eight years older than him. Finally, he came across an article accompanied by a photo. He hadn’t seen Juan since leaving the agency, but even with a bit more weight and greying hair, it was clearly him. That’s too bad, Brand thought, Juan had been one of the good guys. Of the group of guys that Brand had done missions with, Juan had been the one he’d most counted on to have his back.
Brand tried every day not to think of the shit his group had been involved in in their work for CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, all those years ago. He didn’t always succeed, but he tried. There were still some nights he’d wake up, soaked in sweat, looking around in the darkness in a panic. As the years passed, the memories of what he and the rest of his group had done had slowly started to fade.
When he’d graduated high school, he wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted to do. He loved watching the old detective shows and reading conspiracy novels. At that time, the big bad Russians, or Soviet Union, as they were known back then were sworn enemies of the western world, so what better thing was there to do then join the fight against them? Brand wasn’t the army type. Too regulated, he thought, so instead he’d joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Not for a career as a cop, but with aspirations to join the intelligence division. Things had spun out of control then. Brand let out a sigh. The not so good old days.
Brand found another article stating when the funeral would be. Not for another week and a half giving him plenty of time for this trip and still be able to get up to Edmonton for it. It dawned on Brand that he didn’t even know if Juan had any other family. He must have, Brand supposed. After he retired, Brand never found the time to keep in touch with the other members of his old unit, never really thought about them much anymore.
Brand switched from the newspaper articles on his tablet back to the email. He typed in instructions on what he expected the others to bring and what he would supply.
Also included in the message was a confirmation of his fee. Normally it would be six hundred and fifty dollars for two people for an eight-hour guide, but this trip would be three days and two nights, so the price reflected that. Not a bad haul. Finishing the message, he’d told them to contact him back if the terms were agreeable. If they were, then he’d send directions on where to meet.
An hour later, Brand received an email back. The fee for the trip was fine and the other gentlemen would bring the gear they’d need and they wanted to start the trip the following Monday. Brand let them know Monday would be fine and sent instructions for them to meet him at his house in Calgary.
Roche Tremblay was nearing the end of what was a very long workday. As the Energy Minister for the Canadian Government, Roche’s workload had been substantially increased with the growing Canadian energy industry. Canadian oil and gas production was being driven by the world demands for fossil fuels. It seemed like he had endless meetings with both the producers around the country and foreign officials looking to purchase the products. He had to walk a fine line between what the country produced and what foreign markets needed. As foreign demand increased, keeping up with demand was getting more difficult each day. To compound the pres- sure, the Canadian oil production had come under attack by environmentalists. Drilling was being hampered and pipelines disrupted by demonstrations. Eco-terrorism and anti oil propaganda flooded the Canadian media, constantly bombarding the Canadian public.
The Canadian Energy Ministry fought the battle on two fronts. The first about what was right for the country as a whole, the second on how to deal with the anti-oil crowd with all their environmental misinformation. All while being politically correct, of course.
As the Canadian people started to side with the environmentalists, approvals for pipelines to transport the oil were bogged down in the courts. Sure oil and gas could be transported by rail, but with trains came derailments. With derailments came the anti oil crusad- ers who lamented in the dangers of oil spills. The envi- ronment is being harmed... people’s lives are being put in danger.
With oil production being strangled, foreign gov- ernments that were looking to Canada for oil and gas shipments started looking to other countries. Canada’s exporting problems started to have an adverse affect on the country’s economy and trade reputation.
Roche felt like all he was doing these days was running in circles. Meetings to sell the oil and gas one day and the next day trying to convince the buyers that Canada could fulfill its promises. He was starting to lose his sense of humour. As the Energy Minister, he had to be very careful about what he said with regards to the prob- lems that were occurring. Privately though, his thoughts were very politically incorrect. WHO IN THE HELL WAS CAUSING THIS SHIT? And why?
Feeling another headache coming on, Roche started grabbing some documents and setting them into his briefcase. He had another meeting in the morning he still had to prepare for.
“Hey Brennan, you still awake out there?” Roche called out to his bodyguard, who was waiting in the outer office.
Brennan Dumaire walked into Roche’s office.
“Ya, you bet. You almost ready to go?” Brennan asked.
“You can call Dave and have him bring the car around, if you wouldn’t mind.” Roche said. The Minister’s phone rang as Brennan was leaving the office. Brennan heard the Minister answer.
“Hi Jules.” Roche spoke. “No, just getting ready to leave...”
Brennan walked to a phone in the outer office to call for the Minister’s car.
Brennan Dumaire worked as a security specialist, his current assignment was to guard the Energy Minister. He worked for a private firm that was contracted to help protect the Minister against the growing stack of threats that he had been receiving lately. Some of the threats had been getting very serious, much more serious than the type the garden-variety nut jobs usually made.
Brennan notified the Minister’s driver and then waited for the Minister to grab his coat and briefcase before the two of them headed for the elevator. When the elevator stopped in the building lobby, Brennan went ahead of the Minister, watching for threats as the two made their way to the car.
The car pulled out into traffic, heading for the freeway that would take him home. The Energy Minister lived forty-five minutes east of Ottawa. Even at this late hour, the roads were filled with traffic. The four-lane highway, when they turned on to it, was still busy with the hum of Ottawa drivers.
Roche Tremblay was reviewing some documents he had brought with him as the car drove east. Brennan gazed out the window, happy that his day was coming to an end. The stress of always being on the watch for threats against the Minister was starting to wear on him. Fortunately nothing had transpired but attempts on the man’s life could come from anywhere at any time, he knew enough to realize that any attempt would be sudden, he couldn’t let his guard down. Brennan’s job was to keep the Minister safe while he was away from his house, after that it was the responsibility of others to protect the Minister at his home.
The Minister always had his car kept too warm for Brennan’s liking. He loosened his tie and was about to lower his window. Gazing out the window, Brennan noticed, but didn’t quite comprehend the actions of the car in the lane beside them.
As the Minister’s car was nearing the outskirts of the city, the car in the next lane appeared to lose control. The two cars collided with a solid thump, as fender ground against fender. The second car remained tight to the right fender of the Minister’s car, shoving it out of its lane into oncoming traffic.
Brennan watched as the Minister’s driver frantically fought the steering wheel, trying to pull the car back into its own lane. Brennan watched in horror as head lights from the oncoming traffic shone through the windshield. At the last second, the other car pulled away and sped off.
A tractor-trailer unit was rapidly barrelling toward them. The Minister’s driver fought as hard as he could to get their car out of the path of the oncoming truck. The impact was horrendous.