Through the rain and fog, it wasn’t even possible to see across the harbour from Tin Can Beach. It was silent except for the rolling wind and the occasional horn coming through the fog and rain. 

Sawyer stood on the rocks looking out to where the sky and water disappeared into one another, waiting for a friend – a colleague – to come down from the bar up the road. The wind cut through her jacket – a damp chill that settled and stayed. 

Clattering stones followed the scrape of leather soles on asphalt behind her. Sawyer turned. Her friend – colleague – Dusty Gibbons made his way unsteadily down the rocks. 

Dusty was a cop from the local precinct. He was a leak, a mole – a half-in-the-bag alcoholic with child support payments and a girlfriend with class at the Blush nightclub on Sydney Street. 

Sawyer sometimes wrote for the Telegraph and sometimes Dusty was the best friend – colleague – she could ask for. 

“What’ve you got for me, Dusty?” She asked when he reached the beach and pulled his North Face close. 

“Maybe nothing,” Dusty said. “Maybe a piece that’ll get you a Pulitzer.”

“Pulitzer’s American,” Sawyer said.

“Whatever the fuck then.”

Sawyer waited. 

“I’ve got a woman who says Maury Wodehouse has embezzled millions. That he’s paying out big bribes to keep it under wraps.”

“Who’s the woman?”

“A mistress – a lover.”

“What’s her word worth?”

“Maybe nothing,” Dusty said, “but she says she’s got a letter to prove it.” He held out a slip of paper. “That’s her address. You’ll get her in the afternoon.”

Sawyer took the slip. She looked out over the water. The stacks from Wodehouse’s plant lifted through the clearing fog, red and white. Steam or smoke sifted into the sky. Wodehouse was the city’s sole industrialist. A multi-millionaire. A big fish in a small pond.

“Alright, it’s colder than a witch’s tit out here,” Dusty said. “What’ve you got for me?”

“For that?” Sawyer asked. “Nothing.”

Dusty shook his head. “C’mon. I’m sticking my neck out for you. We won’t look far into an allegation like that but there might be something there.”

Sawyer reached into her pocket and pulled out a twenty. She pressed it into Dusty’s outstretched hand. “Buy your wife some flowers,” she said. “If she’ll have ‘em.”

Eleanor Pidgeon’s apartment was over the crest of the hill on Orange Street, in a Victorian house with misaligned brickwork and a green painted door. She lived on the second floor. When Sawyer knocked, she answered in a red silk kimono. Her hair was wet. She was older than Sawyer had expected.

“Ms. Pidgeon?” 

Eleanor looked Sawyer up and down and then stepped back, opening the door wide. “Come on in, hun,” she said. 

Sawyer stepped inside. The ceilings were high – the furniture was old. The entryway smelled of incense. Eleanor closed the door. She disappeared off the hallway and then reappeared with a towel wrapped around her head. “Take off your shoes,” she said. 

Sawyer slipped from her shoes and followed Eleanor into the kitchen, where the kettle was already boiling. 

“Are you with the police?” Eleanor asked.

“No,” Sawyer said. “I’m with the Telegraph.” 

Eleanor sat at the table and looked at the chipping paint on her nails. “So Dusty pawned me off, huh?”

Sawyer sat at the table across from her. Sunlight cast through the clouds and into the open window with a glare. “How do you know Dusty?”

“How do you think, hun?”

Sawyer nodded, entirely uncertain. “Are you ok talking to me?”

Eleanor shrugged. “I think you should ask yourself the same thing,” she said.

“Why’s that?”

“This story isn’t clean,” Eleanor said. “It’s a messy tale and it’s bound to get messier.”

“Just tell me what you know,” Sawyer said. She set her phone down on the table. “Mind if I record?”

Eleanor shrugged again. “Whatever you want,” she said. “Not that it will do much good until we find that letter.”

“You don’t have it?”

“I did until two nights ago. Then it upped and disappeared from my dresser.” 

“Does Dusty know this?”

“Of course,” Eleanor said. “Why do you think I called him?”

Sawyer paused. “I thought you wanted to show the letter to the police.”

Eleanor laughed. “Oh no,” she said. “I wouldn’t show that to the police. It’s my insurance policy.”

Sawyer paused again. She looked out the window across the gentle slope of flat-top roofs. “But surely they would see it if they found it?”

Again, Eleanor laughed. “I didn’t call the police,” she said. “I called Dusty.”

Sawyer set her pen down. “Do you have any idea where you might have lost it?”

“It wasn’t lost,” Eleanor said, playing with the red rope tied gently around her silk kimono. “It was stolen.”

Sawyer stepped out into the late afternoon. It was already beginning to darken. The rain had turned to snow – the wet kind that soaked through boots and coats with ease. Eleanor was right, Sawyer thought. This story was messy and it was bound to get messier. 

Sawyer walked down to the end of the street and bought a slice. She sat near the window and ate. Then she walked down to Queen Square and sat on a bench, looking down over the curve. Two old men were playing chess at the tables along the top of the park. The snow was falling down on their shoulders and onto the board between them.

She tried to take stock of what she knew: Eleanor Pidgeon was Maury Wodehouse’s mistress; Eleanor had a letter proving that Wodehouse was caught up in something shady; she planned to use it for blackmail, or insurance, or something of the sort; the letter was stolen; Eleanor called Dusty; Dusty called her, looking for a couple of bucks. 

It wasn’t much. She looked down at her watch. It was close to five o’clock. The shadows were beginning to creep in across the park. The wind was starting to pick up. She could feel the damp cold beneath her thin coat. The water had soaked through. She stood and left the park on the Charlotte Street side, following the street north. 

Sawyer was sitting in the corner by the window, watching the clumpy snow come down heavy in front of O’Leary’s. It was piling high along the line of cars curling up Princess. She had a half-finished pint on the table in front of her and a notebook beside it. The writing on the page was useless. 

She took out her phone and made a call. 


“Dusty, it’s Sawyer.”

“Yeah,” the cop said. “What do you need?” 

“I went to see Eleanor,” Sawyer said. 

“Who?” Pulsing music underwrote his words.

“Pidgeon. Eleanor Pidgeon. The… you know.” She looked up at the bar, where a man was drinking alone, within earshot.

There was a brief pause. “Oh right.” 

“I need to talk to you.”

“About what?”

“You know what, Dusty.”

There was another pause. The music throbbed. “I’m at the club.”

Sawyer looked out the window. “I’m not going down there.”

“I’ll meet you around the corner,” Dusty said. “The bar on Union.”

“Yeah, alright. Ten minutes,” Sawyer said. She hung up the phone and tucked it back into her bag. She closed the notebook and stuck the pen in the coils, then tucked that into the bag too. 

“You didn’t tell me you knew Eleanor.”

Dusty shrugged. He picked up the Alpine and tilted it to his lips, drinking deep.

“She didn’t call the cops,” Sawyer said.

“I’m a cop, aren’t I?”

“I don’t know – you tell me.”

Dusty set the bottle down on the table. He was drunk. “What do you want?”

“She wants to get her letter back, not burn Wodehouse. She’s blackmailing him, or something.”

Dusty peeled at the label on the bottle. “Sounds like a good story to me,” he said.

Sawyer leaned back in the chair. It was plastic and uncomfortable. “That’s not how this works,” she said. “Why did she call you?”

“She wanted me to get the letter back, like you said.”

“She didn’t want to file a report?”


“And what did you tell her?”

“I told her I wouldn’t touch this,” Dusty said. “No one ever got anywhere in this town by crossing Maury Wodehouse.”

“How did she think you’d get it back?”

Dusty’s lips curled at the edges. “What do you want me to say?” 

“So, what’s her story? She thinks he hired someone to break in and steal it?”

“Something like that,” Dusty said. “And, if he did, chances are it was a cop. I’m not going down that road.”

“Cops do things like that?”

“C’mon, hun.”

“That’s the real story,” Sawyer said.

“That’s the problem with you journalists,” Dusty said. “Some things are better left unsaid.”

“So, what?” Sawyer asked. “You wasted your time going down and talking to Eleanor, so you thought you’d make up for it by selling the story to me?”

“I’ll be honest,” Dusty said, “you’ve given this more thought than I have.” He finished the beer and set the empty bottle back down on the table. “Look, I gotta go. If you don’t like the story, you don’t like the story. I’m just the messenger.”

Sawyer knocked on the door – three quick taps then two more. It was a rhythm of habit, or a habit of rhythm. Whichever it was, she’d done it before. The door opened. Eleanor Pidgeon was standing in a cloud of incense and perfume. She was wearing a black robe this time. White flowers curled and wound up along the sleeves. 

“Hey, hun.”

“Ms. Pidgeon.”

“Eleanor, please.” The woman took a step back from the door, leaving it open. It was an invitation or acceptance. She seemed accustomed to unexpected visitors. 

“I want to talk you about that letter a little more,” Sawyer said, stepping inside. She closed the door. 

“Have a seat,” Eleanor said, gesturing to a blue velvet sofa along the wall. Sawyer crossed over and sat down, setting her bag down on the coffee table in front of her. Eleanor lit a cigarette and Sawyer thought she might pass out in the concoction of smoke and smell. 

“Mind if I record?” Sawyer asked.

Eleanor paused, drawing smoke from the cigarette and examining the woman on her sofa. “Yeah, alright,” she said eventually. “I don’t see why not.”

“I spoke to Dusty again,” Sawyer said. She reached into her open bag and took out her phone. She set it down on the coffee table and started the audio recorder.

“I’m sorry.”

“So, tell me again what happened to the letter.”

Eleanor looked down at the recorder. “It was stolen,” she said.

“From your dresser?”

“That’s right.”

“Three nights ago,” Sawyer said.


“And what did the letter say?”

Eleanor smiled. She took the cigarette from her mouth and held it down at her side, letting the smoke trail up along the length of her robe. “That one’s in the vault,” she said. “For now.”

“Dusty said the letter was about Maury Wodehouse. That he was embezzling money and paying out big bribes to keep it under wraps.”

Eleanor lifted the cigarette to her lips. She drew in and then let a cloud burst free. 

“Who do you think stole the letter?”

“One of his henchmen,” Eleanor said.

“Dusty said it could have been a police officer – a cop.”

Eleanor nodded. “Could have.”

Sawyer leaned forward over the coffee table. “Why would he think that it might’ve been a cop?”

“Because he has them in his pocket.”

“Who has them in his pocket?”

“Maury,” Eleanor said.

“Maury Wodehouse pays off the police?”

Eleanor smiled. “How long you been in town?”

“Have any proof of that?” Sawyer asked.

“Go take a look out the window,” Eleanor said. She lowered the cigarette and turned. She walked into the kitchen. “Want a drink, hun? Water? Tea? Something harder?”

“Water’s fine,” Sawyer said. She stood and walked over to the tall narrow windows along the back of the apartment. She parted the sheer curtain and looked out to the street below. She saw nothing out of the ordinary. She scanned the cars parked along the side of the road and saw it a little down the road: a black Ford with steel hubcaps. Someone sat in the driver’s seat. She could see the dark silhouette through the windshield. 

Eleanor came back into the room and set a glass of water down on the table. Her own glass was clear too but shorter – vodka or gin. 

“How often are they out there?”

“More, recently.”

“They’re watching you?”

“They’re not looking at birds, hun.”

Sawyer went over to the sofa and sat down. “How long have you known Maury?” she asked.

“Better part of ten years,” Eleanor said.

“And what’s the nature of your relationship?”

“I take care of him and he takes care of me.”

“But he hasn’t been taking care of you lately.”

Eleanor looked across the room. “Why do you say that?”

“The letter,” Sawyer said. She leaned back in the sofa, resting her arm across the back. “You’re cashing in on the insurance policy.”

“Everything comes to an end sometime.” 

Sawyer looked at the woman closely. She liked her. She seemed trustworthy, somehow. Sawyer didn’t know many people in this town – and less that she liked. “If I get your letter back, will you give me a story?”

It was quiet in the room for a while. Incense and tobacco burned. The air was thick. Snow was falling softly past the window. “Ok,” Eleanor said. “But we do it on my terms.”

Sawyer smiled. “Where do I start?”

“There’s a cop he works with sometimes,” the woman said. “Lisa Wolfe.”

“Lisa Wolfe.”

Dusty looked up from his sandwich. Smoked meat, Montreal, on a marble rye. “What?”

“Lisa Wolfe,” Sawyer repeated. She pulled out the chair across from him and sat down. “What do you know?”

Dusty looked past her, searching the other tables. They were in the city market. It was not the time or place. “Keep moving,” he said.

“What do you know about her?”

“You’re about to burn the only source you’ve got,” Dusty said. “Get up, or it’s all over.”

“Meet me tonight.”

“You’re in too deep.”

“On the rocks,” Sawyer said. She pushed out her chair and stood. “Nine o’clock.” 

The cop watched her walk away. He’d made a mistake bringing her the story – a lapse of judgement. He’d needed a quick buck, like she’d said. He’d spent it on a two-four. In the end, that was all it was worth, he thought – his life and career: a few too many beers, a hazy night, and a wasted morning. 

Dusty picked up the sandwich and bit into it. Mustard dripped down the front of his shirt. 

Snow fell on the harbour. A hollow bell carried to the shore from a fishing boat in the water. The water was choppy. The boat rocked. Sawyer stood on the rocks at the edge of the harbour watching the water splinter when the red and white boat dropped from the crest of the waves.

She turned and looked back up the rocks to the parking lot behind her. Dusty wasn’t coming. She’d pushed it too far. She walked back up the rocks to the parking lot. There was a single car in the lot. The windows were dark but she saw someone sitting inside looking out over the harbor. 

There was a cop, years before, who brought poor boys from the South End down here on cold nights to keep himself warm. It was a story and a legend and the truth. That was what journalism showed her - there was a kernel of truth in everything she heard. He was caught and he was free. He’d died some years ago. Sawyer walked through the lot, listening to the rocks scrape beneath her feet. The ground was wet. 

She walked through the lot and back up along the road, then went up the street through the South End. The car in the lot turned and the headlights swept across the gravel and then flooded the road behind her. It crawled along, following. Sawyer stepped to the side and looked back over her shoulder. The car rolled to a stop and waited at the intersection. 

Sawyer tried to look through the windshield. She could not see much. The headlights were too bright in contrast. The car was a dark sedan. It was a few years old. That was all she knew. Sawyer turned and continued to walk and the sedan crept forwards through the intersection. It rolled slowly along the road, moving up the hill behind her. 

Sawyer glanced around. There was no one else in sight. Around her were crooked wooden buildings with broken fences and cracked siding. The building to her left was half burnt out and boarded up. Grass grew long and wild between the lots. She looked over her shoulder at the car, then increased her pace. Dark clouds pulled the night sky low.

She could hear the tires crackling over the wet asphalt. When it dropped into potholes, slush splashed. She kept her head low and moved up the hill as quickly as she could. The park, Queen Square, was just a block ahead. She moved quickly towards it. It was on the other side of the street. She would need to cross over. Up there, the buildings were tall and brick. They had freshly painted doors and well-kept lawns. 

Sawyer ran across the street, through the very end of the headlight’s reach. She climbed the slight grass incline to the park. She slipped on the shiny grass, dropping to her knee. She felt the wetness soak through. She kept moving and reached the top. She hurried through the park, cutting across the middle, past the statue in the center. The car on the road behind her sped up and went up to the end of the block. 

Sawyer came out on Charlotte Street and went north. It was a one-way street. The car would not be able to follow. The air was cold against her face. She began to run. The ground was slippery and wet. She turned left after the pizza place and went up the short, dark street on the other side. She ran the length of the block and came out on a well-lit, residential strip. 

She could not see the car anymore. She slowed, breathing hard. When she caught her breath, she straightened up and went north again. The lights were brighter uptown. 

Andy Finn sat behind his desk, twisting the cap on the pen in his hand. “No way in hell,” he said, shaking his head.

“Why not?” Sawyer asked. She leaned forward in the plastic chair. 

“First of all, you don’t even have a story.”

“I’ve got a lead.”

“No, you don’t,” Andy said. “You have a bitter old whore and an alcoholic cop. You know what our lawyers would say if I brought this to them?”

Sawyer leaned back, looking at the editor. He was young but far from eager. “This is big,” she said.

Andy shook his head again. “And, even if you had a story, we couldn’t print it.”

“Why not?” 

Andy laughed. “Do you know who owns this paper?”

“So what? It’s journalism.”

“I’m telling you to drop it,” Andy said. “Or you can find somewhere else to sell your work.” He paused. “Most of our writers have degrees,” he added. “Talent just isn’t enough anymore. Everyone and their mother can write.”

Sawyer stood. She turned and walked to the door. 

“Go out and find a human-interest piece,” Andy said, “something that’ll make Grandma smile.”

The knock on the door was hard. Sawyer went to the window and looked out. There was a cruiser parked along the curb out front. Her heart sank. She opened the door. A cop stood in the hall – a woman.


“Good evening,” the cop said. Her name tag said Wolfe. 

“What do you want?”

“We need to have a word.”

“Who are you looking for?”


“You didn’t even ask my name,” Sawyer said, looking around the door at the cop. She was around the same age as Sawyer, maybe a little younger. Her hair was dyed blonde. She was fit. Sawyer eyed her gun. 

“I know your name,” she said. “Can I come in?”

“It’s not a good time,” Sawyer said.

Lisa Wolfe reached up and pushed the door hard, moving Sawyer with it. She stepped through the door and looked around the apartment. “Nice place,” she said.

“What do you want?” Sawyer asked. She pulled her white bathrobe close and brushed her wet hair away from her eyes. 

“You need to stop what you’re doing,” the cop said. She had her hand on her utility belt, inches from the handle of the gun.


“Don’t play dumb,” Wolfe said. “If you keep it up, you’ll be looking at criminal harassment charges.”

“For what?” Sawyer asked. 

“Where are your notes?” 

Sawyer took a step back. “I need to ask you to leave,” she said. Her voice trembled. “Unless you have a warrant.”

“What the fuck are you going to do?” Wolfe asked. “Go get your notes and bring them to me.” She took a step closer, looking into Sawyer’s eyes. “If I come back with a warrant, it’s going to be for something that won’t look good in the papers,” she said. “And we’ll tear this fucking place apart.”

“I’m going to call my lawyer,” Sawyer said, taking another step back. 

Wolfe put her right hand on the butt of her gun. “That’s an admission of guilt, far as I’m concerned. Lie down on the ground and put your hands behind your back.”

Sawyer reached down to tie her robe with shaking hands.

Wolfe took a step back and drew the gun on her hip. She raised it and held it at chest level. “Get down on the ground!”

Sawyer let go of the robe and it fell open. She felt exposed. Tears began to well in her eyes and she tried to fight them back. She got down on her knees and lay face down on the floor. She put her hands behind her back. Wolfe put the gun away and walked out of view. She crouched down and drew the cuffs from her belt. She tightened them around Sawyer’s wrists. They cut in against the bone. 

Wolfe stood and shut the door. As Sawyer stared at the crack of light beneath it, she heard the cop’s footsteps move around the apartment. She heard the woman flipping through her notebook after a few minutes. It was sitting on the coffee table, right out in the open. “There’s nothing in here,” the cop said.

Sawyer turned her head. “I don’t have anything.”

“This is all you’ve got?” the cop asked.


Wolfe walked back across the room. Her boots were heavy on the floor. They left wet stains behind them. She stooped down beside Sawyer. “If you’re lying to me, I’m going to come back here with some hard sons of bitches who’ll kick your teeth in, if you’re lucky.” She uncuffed Sawyer and stood. 

The door opened and shut. Sawyer rolled over and sat up with her back against the door. She pulled the robe close around her. She could see the snow falling in the dark outside the little window across the room. Tears welled in her eyes.

The morning was dark and cold. Sawyer trudged through the unplowed snow on the sidewalk until the intersection, then she began to walk down the middle of the road. She made her way up to Orange Street. Snowplows beeped and clanked in the distance. 

She went up the steps of the Victorian building and turned the metal handle, opening the green door. She went up the stairs to the second floor and knocked on Eleanor’s door. She waited. Incense and cigarette smoke carried through the door, lingering in the hall. 

Eleanor did not come to the door and Sawyer took out her phone to check the time. It was early. Too early. She knocked again. This time, harder. Again, there was no answer. With fear of the night before in her mind, she tried the handle. The door was unlocked. The handle turned. Sawyer opened the door. It was dark.

When she stepped inside, she reached over and turned on the light. The room was nearly empty. The furniture was still in place – little else remained. No incense burned. She knew right away: Eleanor Pidgeon was gone. Sawyer walked through the apartment. It was empty. She went to the window and looked out to the dark morning. She saw no cruiser on the block.

Sawyer turned and went out the door, turning off the light as she left. She took the stairs down to the bottom floor and stepped out into the street. She pulled out her phone and made a call. The line beeped and then went dead: her number had been blocked. She put the phone back in her pocket. So, Dusty was gone too – someone had gotten to him. Maybe someone with deeper pockets. Or, maybe it was her. Maybe she’d just gone too far. 

Sawyer walked down to the end of Orange and then went straight down through the South End, all the way to the harbour. She tried not to think of Dusty. He was a colleague, nothing more. He was useful ‘til he wasn’t. In the end, what was his word worth? He was a leak, a mole – a half-in-the-bag alcoholic with child support payments and a girlfriend with class at the Blush nightclub on Sydney Street. 

It was too dark to see far ahead and the rain was beginning to fall again. Soon, the snow would melt away. Wodehouse’s plant was somewhere in the distance there, pumping smoke into the air. If only it was a little clearer, she thought. There was a story out there but it was only told behind closed doors.

Sawyer pulled her jacket close. She walked down to the rocks and listened to them clatter as she made her way to the water. She stood there, on the rocks, looking out to where the sky and water disappeared into one another. She had not a friend left in the world and more questions than answers. That’s all that she was left with.

Through the rain and fog, it wasn’t even possible to see across the harbour from Tin Can Beach. It was silent except for the rolling wind and the occasional horn coming through the fog and rain.

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