Keith and Brenda watched as the police car drove away with Tamara. As soon as the car turned a corner and was out of sight, Brenda sighed and looked desperately up at Keith.
“Keith, I need a hug,” Brenda said, as tears starting to run down her face. He hugged her and the two neighbors stayed in a tight embrace for over a minute.
When Brenda finally let go of Keith she asked, “Keith, can you come over to my house for coffee and maybe some pie or cookies?”
“I’m not working this afternoon. I’d be glad to come over. I think you need someone to talk to, my dear lady,” he answered.
“You couldn’t be more right about that,” Brenda said while letting out a huge sigh of relief.
Brenda owned a beautiful house in the Norwood Flats area of Winnipeg. She was now the sole owner of Brenda’s Cleaning Service. She had contracts with many major business offices in the city as well as having a solid base of residential clients. Brenda ran a successful janitorial service business that was known for its efficiency, reliability and charging reasonable and affordable prices for services rendered.
Before she set up her own janitorial company, Brenda had been a very successful and respected grade six teacher up until her last teaching assignment. During this time, Brenda was hit with a bombardment of both personal and professional crises. Her father had recently passed away after a long battle with prostate cancer and shortly after, the brother that Brenda felt the closest to was killed in a car accident by an impaired driver. That year the school that she worked at underwent a change of administration. Brenda now had to adjust to two administrators who had both decided that Brenda’s performance as a teacher was now below the minimum standards.
This series of crises, all coming together around the same time period, eventually pushed Brenda over the edge.
Things came to head on the day that one of Brenda’s colleagues found her in the staff shower room trying to hang yourself. A one -month compulsory hospitalization in a psychiatric ward, followed by two years of staying at home collecting long-term disability benefits effectively ended Brenda Cameo’s teaching career.
‘How about you, Tamara?” Keith asked. “I don’t know anything about you yet.”
“Well, I just moved in with my grandmother,” Tamara answered.
“You mean Brenda Dawson? I’ve talked to her many times. She’s a really nice lady. She is still known as the pet rescue lady in the neighborhood. Brenda always has at least two stray animals that she keeps until she can find good homes for them. Where were you living before you moved in with your grandma?” Keith asked.
“I was living with my boyfriend, Blake Edwards in Orlando, Florida, not too far from the Everglades,” Tamara answered.
“Where’s Blake living now?”
“He’s in Manitoba right now getting free room and board in The Headingly Correctional Facility. He originally moved to Winnipeg with me and got himself a bachelor suite on Furby Street. After living there for only two days Blake tried to rob a Chinese restaurant two blocks away. The truth is that Blake is not a very smart criminal. It only took the cops about an hour to arrest him,” Tamara answered.
“When is he going to be released from jail?” Keith asked grabbing another corned beef sandwich.
“They’ll probably keep him for a few months as Blake gets into trouble with the law a lot. I think that Blake made a poor choice when he decided to be a career outlaw. The truth is that he is not very good at it, but he hasn’t figured that out yet.”
“Are you in love with Blake?” Keith asked as Tamara took a sip from her glass of water.
“It’s hard to say. I don’t really know what love is. If you are talking about a physical, chemical attraction to Blake, yeah, it’s there. I don’t approve of his lifestyle though. I wish he’d grow up, get a job and have some positive direction for his life.”
“It sounds like you want a quality life. How did you end up moving to Winnipeg?”
“That was Marilyn’s idea. She’s my stepmother. She didn’t want me living that close to the Everglades. Marilyn is worried that it’s too dangerous a location for me. About a month ago, she was watching tv and saw a story about a nine foot Burmese python that wandered into one of our neighbor’s yard in Orlando. The snake had eaten their dog. Marilyn phoned Brenda, my grandmother, and asked if I could live with her for awhile until I found a place of my own in Winnipeg. Marilyn didn’t know that Blake was coming to Winnipeg with me.”
Whisper by Ken David Stewart
It was back, Big Time. Harold Peyton found himself in the clutches of the most devastating episode of clinical depression that he had ever experienced in his sixty-five years. He was used to this. Harold suffered from the type of depression that was episodic in nature. He was not depressed all the time, but large chunks of his life had been lost. During these times, Harold would succumb to the vast darkness of depression. What Winston Churchill described as his ‘black dog’.
Harold just wanted to shut down and block out the whole world. He sat in a broken down office chair adorned with torn upholstery. Harold was a published author and was working on a new mystery novel. The problem was that he couldn’t get his muse turned on. Every time he tried to think of a new idea to move his plot along, his mind went blank.
Harold just stared at the blank word document on his computer screen. Everything that he attempted was hard. Harold was grateful that he had a month’s holiday left from his part time job as a substitute teacher. To do a job like that you have to be able to get yourself pumped up and be able to think very sharply. Right now, Harold could do neither.
Harold Peyton was exceptionally fit and healthy for a sixty-five year- old male. He was once a heavy smoker but overcame his addiction to cigarettes twenty years ago. Harold made his physical fitness regimen a top priority in his life. He rode his prized black and white Giant Mountain bike every day, even during inclement weather. On alternate days Harold would go to Shapes gym for a forty-five minute resistance training workout. Although he was still a bit pudgy, he carried his excess weight well and was still a physically attractive man. Harold looked at least ten years younger than his chronological age.
Harold lived in a modest home in the suburb of River Heights in the windy city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He loved animals and was presently the proud owner of two dogs and two cats.
Following the frustration of fifteen minutes of totally unproductive writing, Harold got out of his office chair and walked over to the burgundy colored drapes of his picture window. He tugged on the cord that opened the curtains and gazed upon the outside world. The city of Winnipeg experienced an early bitter winter during November, 2013. The picture window was covered with intermittent patches of frost and ice. Snow was now falling very heavily.
Harold honestly enjoyed the winter season especially fresh snow falls. He loved the way the tree branches looked when they were covered by shiny, white, snowflakes.
Episode 3 and 4:
But today the beauty of the winter season had little effect upon Harold’s somber mood. When he was trapped in this mental state, he was unable to bring himself to experience joy in things and activities that had once brought him pleasure. It was as if his happy button had been turned to the off position.
Harold thought of his ex-wife Clarissa. They had been divorced nearly five years now. Harold missed Clarissa, but he did not blame her for leaving him. What woman could live with the frequent
intense darkness of his moods. During these times Harold would totally ignore her as he closed himself off from the entire world. After staring out his picture window for about two minutes, Harold could hear his dogs barking loudly and sharply. He soon realized what was upsetting them.
A white Ford 150 truck was parked directly across the street from Harold’s house. He could see the black hair of a large burly man with black hair in the driver’s seat. The man appeared to be in his early thirties. He was very angry at a young female who looked to be in her early twenties. Through his picture window
Harold watched as the burly young man pushed his female passenger out of his truck and onto the ice packed snow covering the road. The burly man in his early thirties then tossed a large orange and turquoise colored duffle bag onto the street. It almost hit the young woman who was lying prostate on the street. The angry male in the truck yelled a few vile obscenities at his female victim and then drove away in his Ford 150.
Looking through his picture window, Harold watched the young woman slowly and painfully rise to her feet. She was wearing only a grey hoodie sweatshirt, black sweat pants with a tear in one knee and a pair of well worn red Converse running shoes. She was now standing in the street shivering on a cold day in March. A black Honda Accord honked loudly at her as he came close to colliding with the girl who now had tears streaming down her cheeks.
Harold watched after the Ford 150 drove away. He stood and stared at the young woman and started to think what he was going to do about her. Harold didn’t even consider calling the police. Instead he opened the front door of his house and called loudly to the girl in distress.
“Come here young lady. You need to get out of the cold or you’ll freeze to death!”
The young female looked towards Harold with a confused and frightened look. She wiped the snowflakes off her hoodie and walked awkwardly towards the door that Harold was holding open for her.
“Thank you so much Mister. You may have saved my life. May I come in your house?
“Step into the living room and make yourself at home,” Harold replied.
“Thanks. Hey, I should introduce myself. My name is Whisper,” the strange young woman said as she found a place to sit on Harold’s yellow and orange patterned sofa. Whisper admired the brass antique lamp to the left of the sofa. The full décor of Harold Peyton’s living room had the ambiance that could only come from a man who appreciated fine art.
“Could I interest you in a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee or perhaps a mug of hot chocolate?” Harold asked. “By the way, Whisper is a beautiful name. Who gave you that name?”
“My grandma came up with it if I remember correctly,” Whisper replied.
While standing in the hall, Harold now had a good opportunity to observe Whisper. Her hair was blonde highlighted by orange streaks. It presently looked wet and tangled. There were still some snowflakes in her hair. Whisper’s make up was smudged and smeared from her tears. Whisper had a gold rod piercing through her nose. She wore orange lipstick and had a pentagon tattoo on her left forearm. She was not very attractive and was slightly overweight giving her somewhat of a pudgy look. Harold thought that Whisper resembled a naughty, terribly neglected little elf.
“I would love to have a hot chocolate, sir. What’s your name?” Whisper asked.
“My word, where did all my manners go? With all the excitement going on, I failed to recall that I haven’t as yet told you my name. It’s Harold, Harold Peyton.”
“Could I ask a big favour of you. Mr. Peyton?” Whisper asked sheepishly.
“Oh, you don’t have to call me Mr. Peyton. I’d like it very much if you just called me ‘Harold’. What would you like me to do as a favour to you?”
“I would like to take a shower and get myself cleaned up,” Whisper asked as her face reddened with embarrassment. “But I would like to drink my hot chocolate first, if you don’t mind.”
“Of course you can my dear,” Harold answered. Harold wondered why he had called Whisper ‘my dear’. After all he didn’t even know this girl yet.
“Did you bring a clean change of clothes to put on after you wash up?”
“Yes, I have some clean clothes in my duffle bag,” Whisper replied.
“I just asked in case you didn’t have a fresh change of clothes with you. I still have all my daughter’s clothes in a closet in her bedroom. You appear to be about the same size as she was and her clothes would probably fit you. Harold’s countenance suddenly looked very pained.
“You said ‘was’ Harold. What happened to your daughter?”
“Today is the first anniversary of Erica’s passing. While getting a ride home from a party her friend’s car was involved in a head on collision. The driver of the other car was inebriated. Erica’s friend suffered severe injuries but survived. Unfortunately, my daughter did not survive the accident. As soon as he finished saying this, Harold Peyton sobbed loudly and his body began to shake uncontrollably.
“Sit down in your Lazy Boy, Harold. I’ll make myself a hot chocolate. Would you like something to drink too?” Whisper asked.
“Yes, I would like a cup of coffee if you don’t mind making a pot,” Harold replied starting to regain his composure.
“No problem. I see that you’ve got the good stuff, Tim Hortons. It should be ready in a few minutes.”
After setting up and turning on the percolator Whisper returned to the living room.
“I’m very sorry to hear about you losing your daughter. It must be very painful for you.”
Yes, it is, but I should be an old hand at grieving by now. My wife Clarissa divorced me five years ago,” Harold said causing another tear to trickle down his cheek.
“That’s terrible, man. Two major losses in five years! No one should have to suffer that much.”
“I agree, but it happened to me. It is what it is,” Harold said taking out a handkerchief to wipe away his tears.
“But I’ve told you enough for now about my problems. What happened to you out on the street. Who was that guy that pushed you out of his truck?”
“That would be Tony. He’s a real piece of work, man. He pushed me out of his truck after I told him that I wouldn’t have sex with him. Tony just figured that I owed it to him. He called it ‘taking it out in trade’. He said it was only fair because he let me sleep on his couch for a few nights.”
“Why did he drop you off in front of my house?” Harold asked.
“For no particular reason. Tony and I had been having a really wicked fight for about fifteen minutes before he drove the truck down your street. Tony told me that I was giving him a migraine headache when he pushed me out on the road. We were just driving around in circles. I really don’t have any place to go anyway,” Whisper explained.
Harold stretched out in his burgundy colored Lazy Boy chair. He owned a high end model that could give him a massage similar to what you could get from visiting a professional masseuse. He looked at an abstract painting that was situated on one of the walls in his living room. This beautiful piece of art had a splatter design using only black and white colors. The painting would have put a smile on the face of Jackson Pollock.
“Are you injured? Can I get you an ice pack from the freezer?” Harold asked.
“It would be a good idea to put some ice on my back. I probably have a couple of nasty bruises, but it doesn’t feel like anything is broken. You rest in your chair, Harold. I’ll get the ice pack myself while I’m making a pot of coffee. What do you take in your coffee?”
“I like Southern Butter Pecan International Delight coffee creamer along with two packets of Sugar Twin,” Harold answered.
“|gotcha. Your wish is my command,” Whisper said as she made her way to the kitchen. She liked walking across Harold’s retro yellow shag carpet. She had taken off her wet socks and sneakers and was now walking barefoot toward the kitchen. She noticed a family portrait on the wall that included Harold, his former wife, his deceased daughter and an unknown young man and woman.
After a few minutes had passed, Whisper returned to the living room with a cup of coffee for Harold, her hot chocolate and an ice pack for her back.
“What do the buttons on your chair do?” Whisper asked after she put the refreshments on a round glass coffee table.
“They are for giving a massage. Would you like to try it?”
“Sure,” Whisper said as Harold got up from his easy chair and exchanged places with Whisper on the sofa. It felt a bit damp where he sat on the couch as the snow that had been on Whisper’s sweat pants had melted.
I’m going to get you started on a gentle massage setting until your body adjusts to the new sensations,” Harold told Whisper. As a result of some permanent damage to his left eye Harold had difficulty reading the small lettering on the control panel of the easy chair. Harold accidentally pushed the high tension massage button.
“This chair is amazing Harold. I feel like I’m getting a real massage from a professional masseuse!” Whisper said. She could feel the heavy pressure on her back muscles. The sense of human hands kneading her back was now coming in waves giving Whisper a total body massage. It works by automatically descending to the lower back muscles.
“Did you set the timer for this chair Harold?” Whisper asked
“Yes. It should automatically shut off in ten minutes.”
“Thank you Harold. This massage is awesome. It’s helping work the soreness out of my bruised back.”
“When the timer goes off you can return to the couch and I’ll hand you an ice pack,” Harold said.
As soon as Whisper’s massage session ended, she and Harold exchanged seating locations. Whisper was now the one on the orange and yellow couch and Harold returned to his Super Deluxe Lazy Boy chair.
“I can’t thank you enough for letting me into your house and for treating me so well. I must be messing up your whole morning routine,” Whisper said.
“Oh, that’s not a problem. When I’m not out working as a substitute teacher, I usually try to dedicate at least a few hours to working on my writing. I wasn’t accomplishing anything when you entered my house anyway. I sort of had what those in the trade call writer’s block during the past few days. I’m trying to come up with a new plot and characters and I have been drawing a blank. Often writers experience this sort of thing,” Harold said.
“Can I suggest an idea?” Whisper asked.
“Certainly, I’m all ears,” Harold said.
“You could start your story off by writing about a stranger that arrived at your door one morning.”
This made Harold laugh. “You’ve got a quick wit my girl. But I want to follow up on something. You said that you don’t have a place to stay.”
“That’s right, but can I use your shower now? I’m feeling kind of gross.”
“No problem. The bathroom is upstairs first door on your left.”
“Thank you so much. We’ll continue the conversation after I shower and make myself more presentable,” Whisper said. As soon as Whisper had taken her backpack upstairs, Harold had some time to think. He thought to himself:
‘What are you thinking? You just let us strange young woman into your house. You hardly know anything about her. She could rob and kill you for all you know.’
Harold thought about the body art that was visible on Whisper’s arms when she rolled up the sleeves on her sweatshirt. He also remembered the piercings in her nose and close to her lips.’
Harold realized that these should be serious red flags for him.
When Whisper her shower and was coming down the stairs, Harold was astonished by how much more attractive she looked. Her shoulder length blond hair was slicked back and gave off a pleasant aroma as she descended closer to the bottom of the stairs.
Whisper was now wearing a Los Angeles Kings replica Jersey. It was the design the Kings wore when Wayne Gretzky was their team captain. On the back of the jersey the lettering ‘Whisper 99’ could be seen. She wore a pair of shiny silver slacks. The looseness of Whisper’s jersey helped conceal her extra upper body weight. Her silver slacks were also loosely fitted, disguising the impression that her legs were somewhat plump.
As soon as she got herself settled on the couch Whisper said, “Thank you for letting me use your shower. I feel so much better now. Does your coffee need to be reheated?” Whisper asked.
“Oh no. It’s fine. I’m about three quarters way finished it anyway.”
“If you want a fresh cup just ask,” Whisper said. “So you would like to know more about my housing situation.”
“Yes. It sounds like you don’t have a permanent place to live.”
“Yes. Unfortunately, that’s presently the situation I find myself in,” Whisper said.
“So I gather you can’t stay at Tony’s place tonight? Harold asked.
“Oh no. He might kill me.”
“You’re exaggerating, aren’t you?” Harold asked with genuine alarm in his voice.
“No, I’m not. I can’t count how many times that Tony has beat me up this year,” Whisper answered.
So, where were you living before you stayed with Tony?” Harold asked.
“At the Headingly Correctional Center for Women.”
“You’re kidding. What were you charged with?” Harold asked.
“Shoplifting,” Whisper replied.
“Why did you shoplift?” Harold asked.
“Probably because I didn’t have any money for food and cigarettes.”
“Do you steal from stores a lot?” Harold asked.
“Yeah. Quite a lot, actually. I get a cheque from social assistance, but it doesn’t provide nearly enough, especially if you smoke like I do. Mostly I steal because I need stuff. I run out of money early in the month. I don’t budget my money real well. Sometimes I just shoplift when I get bored. I get an adrenaline rush from it.”
“Do you ever feel guilty about stealing?” Harold asked.
“Not really. I mean I know it’s not right, but a person has to provide for themselves don’t they?.”
“Have you ever had a regular job before?” Harold asked.
“Sure. I was the human resources director for a large Christian non profit organization for about five years. Then I got fired.” Whisper answered.
“Why did you get fired?” Harold asked.
“For embezzlement. They found out that I was padding my expense account pretty regularly.” Whisper answered.
It was the Saturday morning after the big hockey team party. Misty awoke in her bedroom in time to see the sun shining through the blinds. Misty gave herself a push and managed to make it to the kitchen. Right now her most immediate need was for strong coffee and a couple of aspirin. Misty proceeded to set up the coffee percolator. She filled a large glass with water. Her next step was the bathroom medicine cabinet to find a bottle of aspirin.
Misty definitely had a hangover. Although she felt uncomfortable with the hockey wives she had at least made peace with Linda Saunders. The problem was that this was not Misty’s type of party. This was not her crowd. She loved Rick, but this was not her scene. It was obvious that she hated being a hockey wife and was praying that Rick would retire from hockey after this season. The truth was that Misty missed California and the whole hippy scene. As much as she loved Rick, she dreamed about moving back to California in a year or two. Maybe she could talk her father into moving with her, or maybe Rick could be persuaded to come to California with her. After taking two aspirins, Misty’s coffee maker finished percolating. Misty made herself a Tim Horton’s coffee and added two packets of Sugar Twin and a shot of Southern Pecan coffee whitener to the mix. Although her head was still throbbing, Misty lit up a Sweet Caporal cigarette and propped herself upon Lloyd’s tattered, light blue coach. Misty was just starting to slump over onto the cushions at the end of the couch, when she heard loud pounding on her back door.
Getting off the couch slowly and painfully, Misty made it to the back door. When she opened the door she was shocked to see Gypsy smiling back at her. It was snowing and snowflakes were covering Gypsy’s long, burgundy coat. He was wearing a black Oakland Raiders toque and black leather gloves.
“Hey, beautiful. Long time no see,” were the first words out of Gypsy’s mouth.
“Gypsy? What are you doing here? I thought I’d never see you again,” Misty said.
“Why don’t you get dressed, put out your cigarette and come with me for breakfast at Perkins restaurant?” Gypsy asked.
“I’d love to, but my dad is still sleeping. When he wakes up, he won’t know where I am,” Misty answered.
“Just write Lloyd a note and leave it by the coffee percolator. Only don’t write that you’ve gone out for breakfast with me.”
“What should I say on the note?” Misty asked.
“Tell them that your boyfriend is taking you out for breakfast. You have a boyfriend, don’t you?”
“Yeah. His name is Rick Miller. You met him already. He was the guy with Sasha at the rock festival last summer,” Misty answered.
Gypsy started to laugh, “You stole your boyfriend from your sister?”
“Not so loud, Gypsy. You’ll wake up my dad,” Misty said as she reached into the clothes closet for her white down filled parka.
On Tuesday morning Rick got a surprise visit from Peyton Ramparts and his girlfriend, Sabrina Davis. They walked into Rick’s hospital room and threw their winter clothing onto a chair besides Rick’s bed. It was snowing outside and there were still snowflakes on Peyton and Sabrina’s parkas.
Rick had been up for a couple of hours already. He had a bad dream during the night in which his coach, Brad Keenan had told him that he couldn’t play for the Cougars anymore due to medical concerns.
Previous to Rick being hospitalized, he, Peyton, Sabrina and sometimes Misty went for coffee at The Red Top Restaurant every morning. Rick found out that Peyton used to play organized hockey in the past, but quit because he had more interest in forming his own rock band. Peyton told Rick that he used to play center for The Norberry Knights and that his coach and teammates told him that he was a really good player. Whenever his band, Winter Dreams had an evening off, Peyton and Sabrina would come to watch Rick’s hockey games.
“Hey Rick, how are you doing buddy?” Peyton asked while putting his hand on Rick’s shoulder.
“My head still feels kind of foggy. It’s like having cobwebs on your brain,” Rick answered. He groaned as he sat up in his bed as his muscles were still very sensitive.
“I’m sorry to hear that, but I kind of expected you would still be hurting after your injury. That dick, Davidson took a run at you on purpose. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that his coach put him up to it,” Peyton said, his face starting to redden with anger.
The league’s convener wrote a letter to both Maplewood’s coach, Brad Keenan and Norberry’s coach, Jeff Hadley. The letter was to inform the two coaches that the previous game that the two teams had played would be declared. ‘no contest’ and that a make up game would be scheduled. It also stated that extra security measures would be taken. Four security workers from the Garda Security Company and one Winnipeg Police Services constable would be hired for the rematch. It was agreed that the Garda Security guards would check every fan in attendance for concealed weapons prior to the start of the hockey game.
Coach Brad Keenan folded the letter up after he read it and placed it in its envelope. He put it in the right hand corner of the desk drawer in his office at the Maplewood Community Center. Brad got up from his well worn executive chair and walked towards a window. The weather looked sunny and bright, but Brad had a bad feeling about the rematch. He had kept a close eye on Miles Myers performance in goal during last night’s practice. The coach realized that Myers was struggling to make some of the more difficult saves that Rick Miller would easily have stopped. Brad wasn’t the only one to notice. The rest of the Cougar players had also observed the same weaknesses in Miles’s performance.
Misty arrived about ten minutes late for her afternoon gym class. She was finishing her cigarette at the smoking pod behind Maplewood Collegiate and was talking to a new girl who had just enrolled in the high school that day. While they were talking Misty lost track of the time. When Misty arrived at the lockers about five minutes late, the other girls were already in the locker room getting changed. Misty waited outside the entrance to the locker room and could hear the other girls talking. The girls’ voices were loud enough that Misty could overhear what they were saying. The dominant voice that drowned out the rest was that of Linda Saunders. Linda was a strong personality that attracted her own group of followers. At this very moment Linda was holding court with a group of four other girls. She had just overhead one of the other girls singing the praises of Rick Miller.
“Rick is such a great goalie. His play is the only reason that our hockey team is still competitive. I just hope that his injuries don’t keep him out of the line up too long. The Cougars have some key games scheduled for the next two weeks,” Sandra said.
“That’s for sure,” Tristan said. “I hate to say it, but I don’t have much confidence in Miles Meyers’ ability to lead the team.”
Sandra and Tristan were so busy talking that they hadn’t noticed that Linda Saunders had walked up right behind them.
“You two are full of crap,” Linda yelled. Her face was beet red. “Yes, I agree that Rick Miller has played well so far this year, but consider how much experience Rick has. This is his third year playing for the Maplewood Cougars. This is just Miles first year and he has been working very hard at improving his skills.”
‘That may be true Linda, but let’s face it. Right now, Rick Miller gives the team the best chance of winning,” Sandra said.
“That’s only so long as Rick and his slut girlfriend, Misty manage to stay away from drugs,” Linda said as she put on her red gym shorts.
The odor in the girl’s change room was bad enough, but it appeared to be getting worse due to the tension in the room.
“What drugs?” Tristan asked.
“Pretty well any drugs those two can get their hands on. Stuff like weed, hash, acid, peyote, downers and bennies just to name a few.” Linda answered.
“How do you know this for sure?” Michelle asked sceptically.
“How do I know? I got the scoop from my cousin Rudy. Rudy’s a real stoner who goes to all the Winter Dreams concerts. He also went to all the outdoor rock festivals this summer. Rudy told me that he’s seen Rick and Misty stoned out of their heads at these rock festivals. Further more both Rick and Misty are very tight with Peyton Ramparts, the lead guitarist for Winter Dreams. You can always see them having coffee at The Red Top Restaurant. Rick and Misty always attend Winter Dreams after concert who goes to those parties is a stoner,” Linda said.
“Why did you call Misty his slut girlfriend?” Cindy demanded.
“Because she is. I got that information from Rudy too. He told me that he saw Misty with some freak called Gypsy at The Lake Mariposa Rock Festival. Rudy says that Misty loves drugged out hippy guys. She’ll sleep with anyone she meets. Before Rick, Misty was dating this grease ball called Jim. Jim is such a slime that he used to beat up Misty regularly.”
Just then Miss Redding, the gym teacher, broke in on the discussion and ordered the girls to hurry and get on the gym floor before she started handing out detentions.
As soon as Miss Redding’s back was turned, Misty escaped through the back exit door of the girls’ locker room. With tears streaming down her face, Misty ran to her favorite local park about three minutes from the school. She used one of her green gloves to wipe some snow from a park bench. Once a spot was cleared Misty sat on the bench lowered her head and began to cry. She was still very upset by the way Linda Saunders had been talking about her. When Misty looked up there was a bright sun out that enhanced the beauty of the snow covering the branches of the trees. Misty was startled when she felt two hands on her shoulders. She turned around to see Peyton Ramparts and Sabrina Davis.
“Are you skipping gym class, too?” Sabrina asked.
“I tried to go to gym class but I’m very sorry that I did,” Misty said starting to weep again.
Peyton looked Misty on the eye and said, “So tell us what happened.” He started using one of his black gloves to clear enough room for he and Sabrina to sit down.
“I’m really starting to hate the fact that my boyfriend is the Cougar’s star goalie.” Misty said.
“Why?” Sabrina asked.
“It’s those damn hockey wives. They are such a clique. The worst of the whole bunch is Linda Saunders. She’s been spreading horrible rumours about Rick and I.” She’s just jealous that Rick’s a much better goalie than her boyfriend Miles,” Misty replied.
“What kind of rumours?” Peyton asked. All three friends could now sit on the park bench as Peyton had cleared off enough snow.
“Linda’s been telling the other girls that Rick and I are heavy stoners and that I’m a slut,” Misty answered.
“That is bad,” Sabrina said.
“Now that Linda has told the other hockey wives the rumours are starting to spread through the whole school,” Misty said and continued to sob.
Peyton leaned over towards Misty. I’ve got an idea. Do you know Gordon Zender, our band’s security manager?”
“I don’t really know him, but I think I’ve seen him at band parties,” Misty answered stifling her sobs.
“So you’ve seen Gordon and know what he looks like. We call Gordon, Godzilla for a reason. He’s six foot four and weighs around two hundred seventy pounds. Most of it is muscle. He works out at the Iron Works gym three to four times a week. Before our band hired him, Gordon was a bouncer at the LaSalle Hotel. The LaSalle used to be a rough place with lots of fights, especially on the weekends. That all stopped a few days after they hired Godzilla as a bouncer.
The first night on the job two guys started heckling the LaSalle’s house band, Blind Rage. Godzilla didn’t waste any time. He grabbed both those idiots by the back of their collars and carried both of them out to the back parking lot. One of the hecklers turned to the other one and said, “We can take him. It’s two against one.”
As soon as one of them made a move toward him, Godzilla grabbed both of them and dropped them in a nearby parking lot dumpster. That’s how Godzilla likes to take care of business. As Winter Dreams were all there to watch Blind Rage that evening, we were very impressed with Godzilla’s ability to handle a dicey situation. That night the band called him over to our table and asked Gordon to be our road manager. The rest is history as they say,” Peyton said.
The Cougars hockey team became very unfocused once the reality of their circumstance sunk in. Their star goalie was being taken to the hospital with undetermined injuries. They prayed that Rick Miller’s injuries were not serious, but, at this point in time, they had no way of knowing.
Coach Brad Keenan gathered the rest of his team together at the bench while the players on the ice warmed up Miles Myers. The referee was explaining the penalties to be assessed to both the Cougars and the Knights team captains.
“Look you guys. What just happened on the ice was terrible, but we have to get our focus back. Eric Coswell has received a game misconduct and will be out for the rest of the game. Both teams will be playing a man short for the first five minutes. I’m going to send Joe Savard to the penalty box to serve the five -minute penalty. Guy Gilbert will serve the ten-minute misconduct penalty. Miles is warming up in goal as we speak. I realize that we lost two of our key players for the game, but we are not going to quit playing hard. I expect you guys to give Miles some increased protection by blocking shots wherever possible. You defencemen are really going to need to step up your game to make up for not having Eric Coswell. I am expecting every player on this team to play their A game during the next two periods. This is an opportunity for guys to really show both your courage and your character. I can guarantee that the Norberry Knights think that they are going to walk all over us, but we are not going to let that happen.”
Just as Brad finished his pep talk. The referee signalled for a face off to resume the game.
The Maplewood Cougars were inspired by their coach’s speech, but were more motivated by their collective anger at the Norberry Knights. They were sure that Rick was injured with intent and they wanted to show Norberry that they were not about to be intimidated by the size advantage that the Knights had. They started the second period with every intention of winning the game.
The referee had just dropped the puck for the opening face off when an altercation started on the east side of the stands. A few of Norberry’s fans had crossed over to the Maplewood supporters’ bleachers. Three Cougars fans were returning to their seats after getting a coffee at the concession stands when they were accosted by three thugs from Norberry’s side. One of the brawlers said, “This is payback for Glenn Davidson, you losers.”
Many of The Maplewood Cougars fans turned around to witness three of their own being manhandled by the opposition’s aggressors. Within seconds, several of the Cougars fans jumped in to help the victims of the vicious attack.
When Norberry’s fans saw what was happening in the opposite stands, many of them went around the arena to the Cougar’s side to join in the fray. After a few minutes had passed, approximately twenty people were pushing, shoving, kicking and throwing punches. Blood was starting to spill onto the arena’s floor.
As all this chaos was breaking out in the stands, both the players and the officials on the ice stopped playing the game and looked up into the stands. It was almost unnecessary when the head referee blew his whistle to officially end play. There were only three arena workers on duty. The senior worker said, “This fight in the stands is out of control and there’s no way I want to try to break it up. I’m calling the cops.”
The players that were on the ice both returned to their respective benches. The head referee skated over to both benches to talk to the coaches. He told both coaches that he was officially ending the game and that he would phone the convener to inform him of his decision. The two coaches both asked about the recorded out come of the game. The head referee stated that he didn’t know. The final decision would be up to the convener as to whether tonight’s game would go into the record books or declared, ‘no contest’. Whether or not the game would be replayed at another date he could not say.
Misty, along with Rick’s family followed the ambulance to St. Boniface Hospital. When they arrived at the hospital, Rick had already been taken to an emergency area for examination and treatment. Rick’s family and Misty were asked to find seats in the waiting room. Only about four other people were there before them. A couple of them were watching CNN on the widescreen tv while the other two looked worried and carried on a quiet conversation.
In approximately one hour, the admitting nurse called the family in to talk to the doctor. They shook hands with the young intern who introduced himself.
“Hi, I’m Dr. Olafson. I’ll be Rick’s attending physician this evening. Rick told me that his injuries occurred at the St. Vital arena where he was hammered into the boards by an opposing player.”
“That’s correct,” Rick’s father replied. “Only I wouldn’t refer to the kid who assaulted him as an opposing player. He’s a goon. I have a strong suspicion that he took orders from his coach to try to injure Rick. My son is the Cougars’ star goalie and Norberry knew that they would not win the game with Rick in goal.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” the young doctor said. “I once played junior hockey myself and I know that these types of incidents happen far too often. There are a few really bad coaches that will do anything to win a game.”
“How are you doing Rick?” Misty asked. She was wiping the tears from her eyes when she saw Rick grimace with pain.
“I’ll live,” Rick answered. “I just hope that the team gets good and mad and beats Norberry. I hope that Miles doesn’t get too nervous and plays well in goal.”
The young intern, Dr. Olafson addressed the family, “We’ve run several tests and taken x-rays. Fortunately, there won’t be any permanent damage to Rick’s neck or back. However, he does have quite a few nasty contusions on his body. The best treatment for these will be ice, Tylenol 3’s and rest. There is one serious concern I have regarding your son’s injuries.”
“What specifically?” Rick’s mother asked with a worried look on her face.
“Rick has suffered a concussion. I don’t foresee any permanent consequences. However, I may not be able to say the same if your son suffers another concussion during this season. I know that the final decision is up to Rick and the family. But my recommendation would be that Rick sit out the rest of this season.”
“No way!” Rick said sitting up in his hospital bed. “The Cougars need me to be there number one goalie this season. We have a chance to be city champions.”
“I understand your loyalty to your team. If you insist upon returning this season, I must order you not to play for the next three weeks.” Dr. Olafson said.
The longer the fight in the stands at St. Vital Arena went on, the more spectators participated, either as active combatants, or they were only there to shout out encouragement to their friends. One of the brawlers was thrown heavily against an arena pillar and had the back of his head cracked open. A thick stream of blood now trickled down the white pillar behind the man’s head.
Six burly police constables had now entered the arena. One of the spectators, a pudgy little man in his mid thirties yelled out a warning, “Hey you guys! Break it up. The cops are here. Run for the back exit!”
In under a minute all the fighting had ceased and the arena was clear of brawlers and spectators. The police just watched as the fight’s participants fled out the back door of the arena. The senior arena employee walked up to the police constables.
A somewhat, stocky constable appeared to be in charge. He looked to be in his mid-forties. The police officer turned to the head arena attendant, “Looks like quite the kafuffle you had going on here. We’re not going to bother chasing those guys. There’s too many of them and it would be too hard figuring out which men we should charge. My men will just walk around to make sure there aren’t any more fans hiding somewhere in the arena. I will need you to show me to your office so that I can ask you some questions for the police report.”
“No problem, Officer.”
Gypsy had just arrived at the Greyhound terminal in Winnipeg. After the summer rock festival, he hitchhiked to Fargo, North Dakota where he knew a few friends. While he was there Gypsy found work as a casual employee at the Fargo Addictions Center. He enjoyed working there, but lost his position after he was seen smoking a joint behind a large garbage bin during his coffee break.
Gypsy had been with a lot of females, but from time to time, he would think about Misty, the girl he met at the rock festival when he was in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He knew that Misty’s dad hated him, but this didn’t deter him from wanting to go back to Winnipeg. As Gypsy had just lost his job in Fargo and the people he had been staying with weren’t really close friends, he figured that now was as good a time as any to leave the United States and head for Canada.
Gypsy bought a Greyhound bus ticket and was soon on his way to Winnipeg. When he arrived at the bus terminal in Winnipeg his first stop was at the Salisbury House Restaurant. He was very hungry as he didn’t eat anything during the bus ride. He was also very tired, even though he attempted to take some short naps on the bus ride. Gypsy thought that a Big Nip, a plate of fries and some strong Salisbury House coffee might help him feel human again.
The Salisbury House was very busy as they were getting the lunch time crowd. Gypsy could see only one spot left in a red booth where a young man was sitting. Gypsy said,” Hey man. Can I join you?”
The young man was Norman Schaefer, the guy who was going to jump off the Osborne Bridge. He looked quite different now. Norman was wearing green work pants and a red tee shirt that had his name sewn on it. He gave Gypsy a friendly smile that revealed that he had lost his two front teeth.
“I’m just on my lunch break. Seeing as I cashed my first pay cheque today. I decided to treat myself to a restaurant meal. I usually just bring along a bag lunch they give me at the homeless shelter. I get the bag lunches for free so I shouldn’t complain, but they don’t taste that great. They’re generally the left overs from last night’s supper made into a sandwich,” Norman said.
“That doesn’t sound that appetising. Oh, I should introduce myself. My name’s Gypsy. I just arrived here by bus from Fargo, North Dakota. Do you work at a service station, Norm?”
Norman laughed. “Oh, gee, I wonder how you know my name?” lowering his chin to look at the name tag on his shirt.
“It’s probably not too hard to figure what I do either, pointing to the lettering on his tee shirt that said. ‘Allen’s Auto Clinic’. There was another dead give away, the dirt and grease under Norman’s finger nails.
“So, what brings you to Winnipeg, Gypsy? Do you have family or relatives here?
“No, I was in Winnipeg during the summer and made a few good friends here. This might turn out to be just a visit for me, but I kind of like Winnipeg, at least in the warmer season. Who knows? I might even look for a job while I’m staying here,” Gypsy said.
“Where will you live?” Norm asked.
“Well, I know that there are a lot of cheap hotels and motels in Winnipeg. I might rent a room at one of them. I don’t have much money on me so I’m going to have to go the least expensive route, at least until I get a job.”
“You might want to try The House of Hope. It runs a men’s hostel downtown. I have a friend who works there. He’s the same guy who got me the job at the auto clinic. The shelter is actually pretty good as far as homeless shelters go. You get a single room to yourself and they have a main dining room where all the meals for the residents are cooked. The staff keeps it fairly clean. They don’t have beg bugs or anything. The best part is that they only charge rent on an ability to pay basis. Most of the guys there get their rent paid by welfare,” Norm said.
“I might want to check the place out.” Gypsy said.
“I can take you there right after work and I’ll introduce you to my friend, Lloyd Roberts, the evening shift supervisor.”
“Your friends name is Lloyd Roberts?” Gypsy asked as a wave of anxiety gripped him.”
As soon as Rick stepped on the ice he could hear a cacophony of noise coming from both the left and right hand bleachers. Most of the crowd in the left bleachers were booing Rick and the Cougars, but he could also hear some cheers of encouragement coming from the opposite bleachers. The Cougars were blessed to have a large group of committed fans who travelled to all their road games. Rick didn’t mind the booing and verbal assaults from the Norberry fans. It just pumped more adrenaline through his veins.
Rick made a practice of only skating one cycle around the rink. During the end of his skate Rick dropped two practise pucks on the ice for his teammates. The rest of the Cougars would complete one more round of the rink and line up at the blue line ready to take warm up shots at Rick. Rick took the warm up routine very seriously. His goal was not to allow any pucks to get by him during the warm up. With Rick’s lightening fast, well developed glove hand, none of his teammates shots entered the net. Rick’s team followed a routine of taking only slap-shots from the blue line.
Just as important to Rick as not letting any pucks in during the warm up routine, was his desire to stop the first shot fired at him by the opposition. Rick’s first test came early. The Cougar’s lost the first face-off draw to the Norberry Knights. This allowed Norberry’s star left winger, Paul Bolten to fire a blazing slap-shot at the Cougar’s goal. The Cougar’s goalie countered with lightening speed and caught the puck that was intended for the top right corner of the net. Rick decided to play it safe and freeze the puck for a face off in the left face-off circle of the Cougar’s goal.
This was just a foretaste of what Rick was forced to handle during the rest of the first period. The Norberry Knights were physically a much larger team than the Cougars. The Cougars had a slight advantage in speed, but Norberry’s game plan was to counter it with brute physicality. The Cougar players were taking hard checks every time they tried to get the puck out of their own end of the ice. Fortunately, Rick was in top form, stopping both high and low shots from every angle and scrambled to constantly stay on top of the action in front of his net. To Rick’s relief the siren to mark the end of the first period sounded just as Rick made another spectacular save.
Misty could guess what the term, ‘hockey wives’ meant and was not sure that she liked the implications. She could not imagine her prime identity as being a hockey player’s boyfriend. As she watched the first period of the game she was not sure that she even liked hockey. She wondered if some of the other girls felt the same way and only attended the hockey games because they loved their boyfriends. Misty also thought that for most of the girls being attached to a hockey player was an important part of their identity. For them, being a hockey player’s girlfriend was an important status symbol. The women’s liberation movement was starting to make some head way in the sixties, but it seemed to not have had much impact on the majority of Canadian females. To these women, dating a hockey player was critical to their self esteem and placed them in an elite group at high school.
As Misty scanned the row of ‘hockey wives’ she noted that all were attractive young women. This seemed to imply that a member of the hockey team had to have a good looking girl at his side. If he couldn’t latch onto a beautiful girl, there must be something wrong with him and he would be better off just being single, just as Rick had been before this evening.
Eric’s girlfriend, Susan introduced Misty to the rest of the group.
“Don’t be nervous, Misty. We’ll all have time to talk after the first period ends. During that time the players go to their dressing rooms for fifteen minutes. It gives the guys a chance to rest and to get feedback from their coach.
When the Cougars returned from their dressing room to start the second period defenceman, Eric Coswell skated over to Rick’s goal crease to tap his pads with his stick.
“You’re playing great tonight Rick. You’re really keeping us in the game. If Miles was in goal, I bet we’d be behind by three goals already.”
“Don’t be so hard on the kid. Give him some time. Miles has been working hard. He just needs more experience,” Rick replied.
“I’m still glad you’re playing tonight, Rick,” Eric said.
“Just remember, Eric. We can take these guys. A win against the Knights this early in the season would give our guys a big boost and would really increase their confidence,” Rick said.
“That’s another reason I like you Rick, your positive attitude.”
“Hey, I’ve never played for a losing team and I don’t intend to start now,” Rick said.
“I’ll pass your words of encouragement on to the guys when I get back to the bench,” Eric said.
In the stands Susan turned towards Misty. “The team’s sure lucky to have Rick with us this year. He’s giving us a chance to be a winning team.”
Misty took a sip from her cup of coffee and smiled. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad going out with a star hockey player.
Linda Saunders, Miles’s girlfriend, overheard this conversation and gave Misty and Susan a dirty look. Before Rick Miller decided to join the Cougars for one more season the other girls were singing the praises of her boyfriend, Miles. Linda was afraid that this would cause her to lose some prestige among the rest of the player’s girlfriends.
Linda turned to Shelly who was standing next to her in the stands. “You know Shelly. I’ve heard some wild stories about Rick Miller and his new girlfriend, Misty.”
Shelly looked surprised. “Yeah? Like what?”
“I heard that both Rick and Misty are really into drugs and that Misty sleeps around a lot,” Linda said.
“Wow!” was all that Shelly could say.
Eric Coswell skated over to the Cougars bench to pass on the pep talk that Rick Miller had just given him. He then skated back to take his position on defense. Eric was the best defenseman on the Cougars roster and he was absolutely fearless when it came to protecting Rick in goal.
Shortly after the puck was dropped to start the second period Eric’s determination and courage were put to the test. During the first intermission, Jeff Hadley, the Norberry Knight’s coach had given one of his power forwards, Glenn Davison, a special assignment. Jeff asked Glenn to meet him in the washroom for a private conversation.
“Look Glenn, I didn’t want to say this in front of your teammates, but I want you to do something for me during the second period.”
“Sure. What do you want me to do, coach?” Glenn asked as he adjusted his elbow pads.
“Glenn you’re a smart enough player to see what happened out there in the first period. We badly out played the Cougars. We had the puck in their end the majority of the time and out shot them eleven to four. We should be winning this game by at least two goals, maybe three. The only reason we’re not winning this game is Maplewood’s goalie, Rick Miller. He’s made some incredible saves during the first period and that is why the game is still scoreless. As soon as you get a chance, I want you to take a run at him. I want to see Rick Miller hit so hard that he has to be taken out of the game. At the very least, I want to see Miller so shaken up that it will throw him off for the rest of the game,” Jeff said trying to speak quietly so that his other players wouldn’t hear what he told Glen. The Knight’s coach knew that there were a few bleeding hearts on his team that would not approve of so unsportsman -like a game strategy.
“No problem coach. I’ll take Miller out of the game. I know that their defenseman, Eric Coswell will go after me as soon as I crash into Miller,” Glenn said.
“I know he will, but you’re the team’s enforcer. I expect you to punch Coswell out in the ensuing fight. I want to send the Cougars a powerful message. We can’t allow a weak team like Maplewood beat us this early in the season. I want our team to win the city championship,” Jeff said pounding his fist into his other hand for emphasis.
The referee dropped the puck and Norberry center, Milt Hamilton won the face-off draw. He immediately passed the puck back to his teammate, defenceman, Russel Stein. When Stein saw a Cougar forward rushing toward him he immediately dumped the puck along the boards. The puck careened behind the Cougar’s net and Rick Miller left his net to stop it. Glenn Davidson saw his opportunity and charged towards Rick using all of his two hundred pounds to smash the Cougar’s goalie into the boards. Rick didn’t see the hit coming and slid down the boards laid flat out on the ice. Rick was unconscious.
A few seconds after Davidson levelled Rick, an enraged Eric Coswell raced in front of the Knight’s enforcer and dropped his gloves. Davidson did the same and an epic battle appeared inevitable. Coswell matched Davidson in height, weight and power. Eric threw the first punch, a powerful round house right that brought the Knight’s power forward to his knees. A stream of red blood started to stream out of Davidson’s mouth. By this time the referee saw that Davidson looked seriously injured and with the help of two linesmen restrained Eric Coswell from any further aggression towards his opponent. Norberry’s trainer came out to examine Davidson and Maplewood’s trainer arrived beside Rick Miller. The fans let out two audible gasps. One when Davidson bulldozed Rick Miller into the boards and another one when Eric Coswell pole-axed Glenn Davidson.
With the help of the trainer and a teammate a wobbly Davidson was taken to the Norberry Knights bench. Maplewood’s trainer didn’t want Rick Miller moved until the paramedics arrived with a stretcher. As soon as she saw what happened to Rick, Misty climbed down towards the Cougar’s bench. She turned to Susan and wept when she saw the paramedics arrive.
Two young paramedics came on to the ice. Two of the Cougars players grabbed onto the paramedics’ arms as they escorted them towards Rick. Rick was now slowly becoming conscious, but felt woozy. His vision was blurry.
Two other paramedics were at The Norberry Knights bench attending to Glenn Davidson. As soon as the paramedics finished their examination of Glenn, they put some ice in a towel for temporary treatment of a cut lip that would require suturing. They also wanted to take Glenn to the hospital so that the attending emergency physician could check for a possible broken jaw.
When Rick’s paramedics got ready to assess Rick’s medical condition, Rick was lying prone on the ice behind the Cougars net. Rick was able to answer the questions asked by the paramedics. He was feeling disoriented and slightly confused. Rick could tell the paramedic where he was, but wasn’t sure what had happened to him. The paramedics brought out a stretcher and carefully placed Rick on it. Both Rick Miller and Glenn Davidson were transported to St. Boniface Hospital.
After the ambulance left the referee and his linesmen huddled together to discuss what penalties needed to be assessed. In less than five minutes, the officials had come to a consensus. Glenn Davidson was assessed a boarding penalty, a ten- minute misconduct and a game misconduct. Eric Coswell was given a five- minute roughing penalty for drawing blood, a ten- minute misconduct and a game misconduct. The official knew that when they composed their game report at the end of the third period, they would have to describe the violent incidents in detail. The game report would be reviewed by the league’s conveners who would decide what would happen in terms of suspensions for both Glenn Davidson and Eric Coswell.
On the Cougar’s bench, Coach Brad Keenan told Miles Meyers to get on the ice and start taking some warm up shots from the teammates that were still on the ice.