3.1 Ice

I booked a flight up to Peace River for the next night. I finished my safety paperwork. Then, sitting back at my desk, I watched the minutes tick away on the clock on my computer.

I called down to our receptionist, Stephanie. “Why didn’t you call me to let me know someone was here to see me?” I asked. It was part of her job to field us from the interfering outside world.

“You were on the phone.” Why bang my head against the wall when I could just call Stephanie?

“Stephanie, you’re not supposed to just let people wander around the office. What if he was a journalist or some irate farmer?”

“He was cute.” Banging my head on the wall would be less painful.

I rang off and continued to watch the clock on my computer. Donoghue’s appearance at my desk earlier had me stumped. No, it wasn’t that I doubted my feminine charms that much — even if I had forgotten how to use them — I just had a gut feeling on this one. And my gut was shouting something I couldn’t interpret.

Donoghue did pick me up that night. Leave it to a cop to run a check on his date. “You didn’t ask where I lived,” I said as I met him outside my apartment building.

“I know things,” was all he said.

I had obeyed my gut on one thing — I didn’t dress up. I hadn’t worn make-up in over three years and I wasn’t going to start again tonight. The only eye-candy Donoghue was getting was jeans, sweater, and a pony-tail.

Throughout the night, Ray Donoghue continued to flash those ice blue eyes at me, flatter me, and tell me homespun stories of his youth in rural Saskatchewan. Hell, the man even opened doors for me. All these were endearing things under normal circumstances. They could have broken the mold after making this one, but my gut was still screaming. I just couldn’t relax and enjoy it. Even if his cologne smelled really, really good.

It wasn’t until I was in the cab on the way to the airport the next day that it hit me. “Sebbie,” I left a message on his cell phone. “Call me when you get this. I need to know when the cops are done at mother’s. This is important.”

I got to Grande Prairie and collected my bags. I was waiting in the night air for my shuttle when my phone rang, “They finished this afternoon,” Sebastian said. “Why? What’s going on?”

“Don’t let the construction crew back in yet. I want to have a look.”

“Elise, this is money we’re talking about here. If I don’t let them work, it costs me.”

I sighed, looking at the falling snow. It was coming down heavier now. “Sebbie, lie. Tell them the cops are still there; it’s not your fault their schedule is delayed.”

I threw my stuff into my hotel room, fished out my laptop, and threw out a couple emails. Then I picked up the survey plans of the project, and headed across the parking lot to the restaurant. This would be the closest I would come to completing my project.

It snowed through the night.

And not just fluffy flakes. It was a big, wet dump and it had frozen everything. I got up at 530am, scraped the quarter inch of ice off the windshield, then drove as far as the intersection outside my hotel when my SUV lost traction and slid into the curb. Ice is still ice even with four-wheeled drive. Thankfully, it was just the curb and not another vehicle. Even if I could have found the stupidity and bravado to drive through Grande Prairie and make it to the highway, the Dunvegan Bridge would have stopped me. It was the fourth longest suspension bridge in Canada and it was deadly icy in winter. But I probably wouldn’t have made it to the bridge. The Peace River valley was wide and deep. I wouldn’t have even made descent to the bridge. Nope. I was going nowhere. Good thing I had a restaurant in my backyard.

“Morris, I can’t do this project. I’m iced in.”

“Is there an alternate route you can take?” Morris hasn’t been up to Peace River in a while.

“No. There’s only one way — through the ice and the valley. It’s not safe.”

“Did you check the weather before you flew up?”

No, I’m an incompetent five-year old. “Yes. Everything looked fine. It was calling for cold and some snow.”

“You should have checked the road reports.” Shoulda, woulda, coulda. Geez, how many t’s do I have to cross to cover my butt so I can do the job? Filling out the safety paperwork, packing three layers of winter clothing, and lugging another bag of safety equipment and first aid gear onto the plane apparently wasn’t enough.

“Morris, the roads were fine yesterday. It’s today that I’m worried about.”

There was a pause. I could hear Morris’ brain wheels turning. “When’s your flight back?”

“Tonight.”

“Okay. Come home. We’ll figure it out later. Call your client and fill them in.”

I called my client. “We have a schedule, Ms. Marquette. We need clearance on this project ASAP.”

“I understand that. However, there’s nothing I can do about the weather. Safety is more important than getting the job done.” I really wanted to tell him to plan his projects so that I didn’t have to do archaeology in the winter. Duh. It would cost him less money that way too.

“Can’t you rent an SUV?”

I breathed slowly. Counted to ten. Then said, “You hired us because we have good safety stats and because we’re qualified to get the job done.” I breathed again. “I have rented an SUV. The roads conditions aren’t safe. I cannot do the job safely at the present time. We can talk about alternatives when I return to Calgary.”

Ah, the joys of doing archaeology in winter.

My cell phone pinged. I read the text and grinned.

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