Read Flight of Aquavit Online

Authors: Anthony Bidulka

Flight of Aquavit

Flight of

Aquavit

Also by the author

Amuse Bouche

Tapas on the Ramblas

Flight of

Aquavit

A R u s s e l l Q u a n t M y s t e r y

Anthony Bidulka

INSOMNIAC PRESS

Copyright © 2004 by Anthony Bidulka

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be repro-

duced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form

or by any means, without the prior written permission of the

publisher or, in case of photocopying or other reprographic

copying, a license from Access Copyright, 1 Yonge Street, Suite

1900, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5E 1E5.

Edited by Catherine Lake

Interior designed by Marijke Friesen

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Bidulka, Anthony, 1962-

Flight of Aquavit / Anthony Bidulka.

(A Russell Quant mystery)

ISBN 1-897178-09-3

I. Title. II. Series.

PS8553.I319F55 2006 C813'.6 C2005-907617-8

The publisher gratefully acknowledges the support of the

Canada Council, the Ontario Arts Council and the Department

of Canadian Heritage through the Book Publishing Industry

Development Program.

Printed and bound in Canada

Insomniac Press, 192 Spadina Avenue, Suite 403

Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5T 2C2

www.insomniacpress.com

For Herb

Kuù lei aloha mae òle

Àla mapu i ke anuhea

Aloha wau iâ òe

Chapter 1

IT WAS A LITTLE AFTER 11 p.m. on a frigid Tuesday

night. I kept the Mazda’s engine running while I

waited, having little desire to lose my nose and ears

to frostbite. And for the umpteenth time that

evening, I wondered if this rendezvous was a good

idea. What was I doing here, meeting a man I didn’t

know on a cold, dark, stormy night? Okay, it wasn’t

stormy but it was really cold. He had my cellphone

number and the colour and make of my vehicle. I

knew nothing about him. But since I was already

here, I decided I might as well see it through.

I didn’t have long to wait. A dark green Dodge

Intrepid, a few years old, pulled in front of

McQuarrie’s Tea & Coffee Merchants two parking

spots ahead of mine. I watched as the sole occu-

pant of the car released his seat belt, fumbled with

gloves and pulled his hood over his head. The

door of the car stuttered open just as a gust of

bracing December wind, laden with razor-sharp

ice crystals, bore down upon it. The man threw his

shoulder into the door and successfully swung it

out far enough to allow him to exit. Without hesi-

tation he approached the driver’s side of my car

and leaned down to look in at me. I rolled down

the window.

“You’re Russell?” he asked with an accent I

couldn’t quite place—Aussie maybe.

I checked him out. He had dark eyes under

heavy brows, a thick jaw covered with a later-than-

8 — F l i g h t o f A q u av i t

five-o’clock shadow and big teeth that were very

white. Maybe thirty. Something about the texture of

his skin, his wintertime getup and cold-tinted

cheeks made him look like a ski instructor—and

given that this was flat Saskatchewan, no doubt an

out-of-work ski instructor. “Yeah,” I said with a

smile to return his. “I’m Russell. You’re Hugh?”

He only nodded. “Whaddaya say we go some-

where more private to do this?”

“Uh, sure,” I agreed, lamb-like.

“You follow me, right?”

“Okay. Where are we headed?”

“Got your cell with ya?”

“Sure.”

“I’ll jes give you a ring if it looks like you’re not

keeping up. Mother, it’s gettin’ brisk out here.” He

trudged back to his car, calling over the wind,

“Follow me, right?”

This couldn’t be a good idea. What was I

doing?

The traffic on Broadway Avenue was almost

non-existent as the Intrepid headed south with me

and my Mazda on its tail. We passed by the dark-

ened windows of retail shops, salons, art galleries,

butchers, bakers and candlestick makers and saw

only a smattering of late-nightnics entering and

exiting the area’s pubs and restaurants. The

Broadway Theatre was just letting out a couple

dozen fans of some funky foreign independent

film. We quickly reached 8th Street and Hugh

made a right turn, speeding down several blocks,

obviously not taking time to enjoy the Christmas

decorations hoisted high above the street by some

Anthony Bidulka — 9

brave city worker. He hung a left onto Lorne

Avenue and we continued our journey south.

Before long I caught sight of the gaudy Las Vegas-

lite sign of the Emerald Casino. Its parking lot was

bursting to capacity, as it is almost every night of

the year, and across the street a statue of a rearing

stallion marked the entrance to Early’s Farm &

Garden Centre.

Suddenly the situation changed tenor.

We were leaving town.

It was one thing to follow someone I didn’t

know to somewhere I didn’t know within city lim-

its, but leaving the safety of the city was an alto-

gether different matter. I had to make a decision.

And time was running out. We passed the woodsy

fairytale setting of the German Canadian Club

Concordia and the spartan lot of the Schroh Sports

Arena. And that was it. Urban street became a

two-lane rural highway and our speeds quickly

upped to ninety kilometres an hour. The lights of

the city fell behind us like the dying embers in a fire-

place. What to do?

I thought back to my first contact with the man I

was now following. It was an end-of-workday

phone call from a person in distress. He told me

his name was Hugh and that he desperately

needed my services as a private detective. He told

me he was wary of meeting in public or talking

too long on the phone. So we arranged to meet on

Broadway Avenue. This might sound a bit strange

to some, but after all, I am a detective and few of

my client meetings take place between 9 and 5 in

a comfy boardroom with an urn of designer cof-

10 — F l i g h t o f A q u av i t

fee. But in the country after dark? Hmm.

In the end, propulsion made up my mind for

me. With no ready exits or approaches, there was-

n’t an easy way to get off the road, and besides, I

had nothing else planned for my Tuesday night,

so why not keep going? I maintained a several-

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