Creekstone Press

Northern BC's publisher

Creekstone Press Publications

Excerpts from Shafted: A Mystery

At first, the note to Charles Bateman looked like someone’s idea of an April fool jibe. Cabin fever. Most people in British Columbia live on the coast where April is cherry blossom springtime. But in the mountain towns along the interior highway of the northwest, April is a jumble of contradictions. Daylight finally lasts past supper time, but piles of dirty snow are slow to melt in the shadowed alleys. Ecstatic skiers descend from the mountains looking like sunburnt gods while restless tree planters, waiting for cutblocks to clear, clog the laundromats with dogs and dreadlocks. Small town kids come home from university with tattoos and jewellery in strange places. Locals who should know better let down their guard and leave home without a jacket only to find themselves shivering in a sudden squall.

Those who keep track of these things know that it’s when the pressure of winter finally lets up that fragile tempers are most likely to crack, that the unstable come apart. When the ground is laid bare, people are wise to tread carefully. The melting snow often reveals things better left buried.

It turned out that Charles Bateman wasn’t the first to get a note. They had been showing up like a winter’s worth of dog turds. Some were irritating. The town librarian found one tucked in a cloth book bag. Libraries should pay their own way! Still jubilant after winning an increase to the library’s budget from the usually stingy town council, she tossed it without a second thought.

Others were nasty. The new pharmacist, who’d almost succeeded in forgetting he was Jewish, found a dark green scrap in his jacket pocket. No words, just a swastika and strand of barbed wire. His co-workers wondered why, after apparently settling in nicely, he decided not to sign up for the store’s slo-pitch team and started looking for a job down south. A young man from one of the town’s more vocal pro-life families shook out his sleeping bag to discover a drawing of a baby on a blue slip of paper, a knife in it, and the single word, Hypocrite! His girlfriend, who he figured must have blabbed, went into the emergency room the next day with a broken arm.

When the whole story came out, people wondered how many notes had been furtively crumpled before anyone could ask about the beautiful paper they were written on. How many still lurked in a New Year’s Eve dress or a treasured baby blanket? How many waited until the special tablecloth was unfolded to poison a Thanksgiving gathering or a fiftieth anniversary tea?

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