Detective Raymond Vecchio of the Chicago Police Department gazed longingly at the power saw displayed behind the counter, and sighed. Just that one tool would make life so much easier, if only he could get Bennie to agree. Perhaps he could just sneak it into their shopping and then Bennie wouldn’t notice until too late? No, that wouldn’t work. His friend was, if nothing else, observant. But perhaps he could persuade Bennie that it would be beneficial for the task at hand? Well, it was worth a try.
"Hey, Bennie," Ray opened the conversation, "Why not get the power saw? Wouldn’t it help get the flooring more even?"
Bennie considered the question for a moment, his head slightly tipped to one side. Ray still found it strange to see his friend in any clothes other than one of his damned uniforms, but the lumberjack check jacket and blue denim pants were fairly well worn. Perhaps they were Bennie’s only other set of clothes.
Before Ray could muse too much further on his friend’s wardrobe, Bennie reached a conclusion.
"Well yes Ray, the saw would allow us to get the floorboards to fit tighter," he began. Before he could finish his sentence, Ray leapt into action.
"Great! We’ll get one then!" Ray beckoned to the man behind the counter, only to see the grizzled old-timer was slowly shaking his head. "We won’t? Why won’t we?" Ray turned back to Bennie. "Why won’t we get one Bennie?"
"There’s no power up at the cabin Ray. How would you operate it?" Although Bennie’s face was expressionless, Ray could swear that there was amusement lurking in the back of those eyes staring at him. He felt his face flush - he had indeed forgotten that they were staying out in the back end of beyond with no sign of civilisation, that going to the can consisted of going behind a tree and entertainment meant finding more firewood.
With a slight sigh, Ray bowed to the inevitable, and fell silent while Bennie finished obtaining their supplies for the next week. Only a few covetous glances back at the power saw gave any indication of his longing for normality.
* * *
Constable Benton Fraser of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police looked at the Thermulation(TM) hat-covered head of his friend with some concern. Ray had fallen unusually silent since they had finished shopping in the general store. In fact, despite being sat in the sled they were pulling (with the supplies tucked in around him) Ray hadn’t even complained when one of the huskies had broken wind practically in his face. Very unusual.
Before Fraser could think of a suitable conversation opener, he spotted an unfamiliar shape ahead. As they drew closer, it turned from a dark and sinister lump into a transit-type van parked on one side of what would be a road. Well, technically, it was still a road. It was just hard to tell with the three feet of snow on top of it.
A shouted command slowed the huskies, until the sled pulled up alongside the van. Ray suddenly appeared to notice that they were not yet back at the cabin.
"What’s up Bennie? Why’re we stopping?"
"I have to check the van Ray. Someone may be in trouble." Fraser stepped off the back of the sled and approached the van on the driver’s side. Behind him, he heard a stream of sotto voce grumbling as Ray started to extricate himself from the warm fur coverings.
The van appeared to be quite battered, but otherwise in good condition. There was no-one behind the wheel, although the passenger seat and a small space behind both seats were stuffed with possessions. A guitar, some clothes, food and drink packages, and some medical supplies were all clearly visible through the window. Also clearly visible were the metal bars, installed about two feet behind the seats. They were closely set, with cross bars, creating a menacing-looking barrier.
Fraser rubbed the window, trying to get a clearer look, and frowned.
"Ray, what do you think of this?" he sought a second opinion from his street-wise friend.
"Someone ran out of gas and dumped their van here. You should get them for reckless parking. Or endangering wildlife. Or something," Ray jibed as he joined Fraser at the driver’s side window.
"No, what do you make of that?" Fraser pointed towards the metal cage, and the just-visible slot about half-way up on the side nearest the door.
"Some kind of freak-o cage?" Ray suggested. "C’mon, there’s no-one here and I’m just dying to get back to sawing up logs." Fraser heard the words, but the sarcasm didn’t register as his attention was wholly on the back of the van.
"Strange," he muttered.
"Strange? What’s strange? I’ll tell you what’s strange. Strange is me using up half of my very valuable annual leave to come to the hinterland wilderness with you to help you mend your dad’s old cabin and then when I find out there’s no power, no TV, and no bathroom I don’t turn right round and head back to Chicago where I can eat real food."
"Ray, it’s not that I don’t appreciate your offer, and I’ve told you before, you don’t have to stay and help me. But that’s not what I meant. What’s strange is the back of the van. Look at it."
"Alright, I’m looking at it." Ray did indeed take a moment to stare at the battered back of the transit, but obviously had no patience. "What am I looking at?"
"All the damage to the back of the van must have happened from the inside." Fraser answered, still staring at the various bumps.
"How d’you figure that one?"
"Look, all these distortions of the shape. They’re all outwards, indicating that the point of impact was inside the van. If the impact was external, then they’d be concave not convex." Fraser turned back to the van door, and tried the handle. It was locked. He moved along to the side door, and found that was locked too.
"Good point Bennie. So, now what?"
"I think we should check the inside of the van." Fraser answered, kneeling down to see if there was a spare key underneath the body, or inside the wheelarch.
"Allow me!" Ray rubbed his hands together in anticipation. Fraser gave up on trying to find a spare key, and stood up to find Ray examining the door lock.
"Do you think you can open it?" Fraser asked.
"Bennie, I grew up in Chicago. I can open this door. This is one of my skills, opening car doors. You can eat dirt and tell stuff from it, I can open car doors. Now, pass me a wire coat-hanger."
* * *
Oz woke up to the sounds of two men arguing. For the moment, he was in too much pain to pay any attention to what they were arguing about. His hands hurt, his head was sore, his stomach felt very queasy and every muscle in his body was screaming for attention.
Opening his eyes, Oz realised that his fingers were crusted with dried blood. The wolf must have tried to dig it’s way out of the van again.
Full moon was a bitch.
Slowly, Oz managed to get on to his knees. They hurt too, but he had to be standing up to be able to get out of the cage. He was actually quite proud of the cage. He’d had it welded into the back of the van and presto! One wolf-proof room ready to go wherever he was and no more worries about accidentally eating someone at the wrong time of the month.
On his knees, Oz managed to crawl towards the front of the van. Using the crossbars as grips, he slowly got to his feet. Only then was the slot in the bars at the right height for him to slip his hand through, pull the keys off their hook on the back of the driver’s seat and put them into the lock on the inside of the sliding door. Only once the keys were in could he then open the door far enough back that he could topple out of the van and into the welcoming, cold snow.
* * *
Ray and Fraser had been too busy discussing exactly why wire coat-hangers were not a normal part of the survival gear recommended for the Canadian wilderness to notice the pale arm snaking through the slot in the cage. Nor did they notice the keys being used to unlock the door. But they did notice when a red-haired and utterly naked young man fell out of the transit into the deep snow.
Fraser moved swiftly to the young man’s side, as Vecchio ducked to the side of the van door and checked the interior.
"Clear," he announced, before joining Fraser next to the unmoving body in the snow.
The red hair seemed shockingly bright next to the pale white skin of the young man. But the hair was not the only colour to him. Bruises, from dark black to purple-green were all over his body. It looked like someone had been trying to pull out his fingernails too.
"Has he been tortured?" Ray asked in a whisper. Before Bennie could reply, the youth began to twitch, then started coughing. Full body spasming coughs which climaxed in vomiting. Ray leapt out of the way just in time with a disgusted "Oh god!"
"Sorry," the young man apologised weakly, in between coughs. His chattering teeth made him hard to understand, but reminded Fraser of an important question.
"Where are your clothes?"
"Front seat. Van," the young man managed to bite out.
"I'm on it!" Ray grabbed the keys from the inside of the sliding door and started trying them in the lock on the driver's door. Finding the correct key on his third try, Ray wrenched the door open. Before he could grab the clothes dumped in the footwell, Fraser was there helping the young man into his van.
The two friends then politely turned their backs and studied the snow-covered valley with intensity, allowing the young man what privacy they could.
All characters belong to their respective creators. This story is not published for profit, merely for fun.