After Oil

By Kristan Cannon

Sci-Fi, Thriller, Action & adventure

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496
7 mins

Chapter One

Green grass when you go to bed, mused Marissa as she ambled by the front window of her home, shaking her head the sight of her neighbour holding his shattered shovel in his hands and glowering at his driveway. And then so much snowfall the next morning your shovel breaks…

… And someone always assumes those cheap plastic rigs from the local discount store are enough, Marissa lifted a brow as she continued to sip her coffee. Apparently he just found out otherwise.

As she gazed out into the yard, she marvelled at thick white blanket covering everything. Movement in her own driveway caught her eye and she realized it was her husband clearing it with nothing more than a shovel.

She opened the window and ducked her head out. “Derek, what the hell are you doing?”
He mumbled under his breath and chose to not actually answer with something she could hear. Marissa shook her head and then ducked back inside the house, shaking the snow out of her shirt as she continued to watch him.

Derek heaved a heavy, and visible, sigh and then resumed clearing the snow from their driveway. Marissa knew their idea to spend their holiday at Sheridan’s was in peril unless he managed to first free his ageing Toyota SUV from the driveway.

Still, why he was not using his snow blower—something that would have made short work of their driveway—was a conundrum.

Finally, he managed to dig his truck free and he rested on the shovel.

Derek and Marissa’s driveway was at least now clear. But looking around, she could see that the street was still covered in snow. It was not as if Derek had to dig through a snowbank to get to the grossly under plowed street.

That would have been at least amusing, if annoying.

To Derek, at least.

I’d hear about it all the way to Whitefish, she thought, as she turned away from the window and picked up her phone. Which reminds me…

Digging through a hardened snow bank left by a plow was almost a rite of passage anywhere in Northern Ontario and Sudbury had certainly never been any different.

Had Derek had to cut through it Marissa knew he would tell Sheridan and her grandmother Lorraine. Once they got out there and use it as an excuse for Lorraine to make him her specialty hot cocoas—a drink that had more than just mere cocoa in it for added ‘warmth’.
But that was hardly her worry right now…

…The puzzle was that there was no snow bank at all for Derek to dig through to get to the street.

* * * * *

“You are actually going home sometime today, aren’t you?” asked the Mayor as she walked out of the elevator and towards her car.

“Home, no, but to my daughter’s and son in law’s, yes,” answered Daniel. “My daughter has a huge holiday week planned for those who want to show up. I think she’d have plenty for dinner or to drink if you went out.”

“Thanks for the invite, I’d love to see Sheri again, but I have plans as well—so long as I can get there first,” she answered as she rummaged around in her purse. “Blasted keys. Why do they always wind up in the bottom of my purse all the time?”

Daniel tilted his head. He leaned against the heavy cement support and watched as a few other uniformed officers left.

“Merry Christmas, Dan!” Shouted one of the local police officers. “Looks like more snow. Might want to get out of here while you still can. You too, Madam Mayor.”

The Mayor waved her hand at him as he got into his personal car. Dan gave a half wave in reply as the other police officer drove by them.

When he was gone, Dan turned back to the Mayor as she continued to search her purse for her keys.

“Maybe if you had a smaller purse you’d find them faster,” he suggested.

The Mayor looked up at Dan while lifting a brow. “Are you trying to tell me my purse is too big?”

“I’d never presume to—” he was cut off as one of the office assistants came running up.

“Oh no, I am officially on holidays,” began the Mayor.

The assistant stopped, bending over to catch his breath before he stood up. “I’m sorry, Ms. Piacentini, but there’s this Colonel from the Armed Forces insisting on talking to you. He said it was urgent and important.”

“Always is,” mused the Mayor. She sighed and gave up her search for her keys. “Knowing my luck I left my car keys up in my office anyway.”

“All right, since I have to go back upstairs anyway you way as well arrange for him to meet me in my office. Have him wait in…”

“He’s already waiting in your office,” answered her assistant. “I’m really sorry, ma’am, but he barged in and…”

The Mayor sighed heavily as she brought a hand up to pinch her nose. “Dan, I know you’re on your way out too, but I would really appreciate it if you were there with me for this.”

“Why do you need me?” asked Daniel. “You’re more than able to tear a strip off of people on your own.”

“Yes, that’s my point,” she answered. “I think I’ll need you to keep me from tearing too much of a strip off a pompous arse who thinks he can throw his weight around.”

“It’s not too late to run… I do have a car,” Daniel pointed out as he followed her back to the underground entrance to City Hall and took the lift to the Fourth Floor. “What do you think he wants?”

“Don’t tempt me,” she said as she shrugged, screwing up her face at the same time. “I have no idea what he wants. I’ll deal with it and I hope whatever it is can be handled quickly so I can grab my keys and go.”

She paused and Daniel sighed. “Sheridan’s house is in Whitefish.”

“Don’t tempt me—like I said, I don’t get to see her often enough,” answered Valeria and she grinned. “She still as horse crazy as I remember her being since grade eight?”

“More so now that she actually has horses,” he chuckled as the lift opened and they stepped out onto the carpeted floor. “I’ll stay here. I’m sure you can resist the urge to murder someone. If not, well, I guess I’ll have to arrest you.”

She stuck her tongue out at him as she walked through the maze of desks to her office, motioning to her assistant to open the door.

“May as well get this over with,” Dan overheard her say from across the large open room as the door opened. “I’m sorry, didn’t catch your name…”

What else she could have said or what the other man said in response was lost as the door closed. Daniel leaned against the rail and stared down at the brown hexagonal tiles of the mezzanine floor where a small group of uniformed soldiers milled below.

A group of armed soldiers—with their rifles in hand, he noted. The first inkling of worry slid into his veins.

This isn’t a normal meeting, he thought. What the hell is going on?

* * * * *

The farm was in a small town clear on the other side of Sudbury. It was so far out the four lane highway along Highway 17 heading west out of the city ended. So small it was not even its own town and just barely within the city’s limits.

Panache Lake was a quiet corner and that was the way Terrence Scapael and Sheridan Wither preferred it.

However, this morning Terrence had the clear feeling he wanted to live closer to the city where the roads were plowed more frequently than they were here. He awkwardly balanced his phone between his shoulder and ear as he drove the ATV with a plow attachment on it up and down his long driveway.

“That’s what I said to Sheri this morning.” He flipped the phone over to the other shoulder and lowered the blade of the plow again as he prepared to take another swipe at the snow down the drive. “If it keeps snowing this much, we’ll be digging out clear through June.” He paused to listen to the other person, again switching which shoulder the phone rested on. “All right, maybe not that long but the point still stands. One of these days I swear I’m moving to someplace without snow.”

Sheridan walked outside and watched her husband as he cleared the driveway, shaking her head as she did so.

Terrence looked up and over at her, waving, and ignored her slight frown. “Are you and Marissa still coming over for New Year’s?” he asked. “Great, I’ll tell Sheri to expect you. Later.”

He hung up the phone and slid it into a pocket as he drove the four wheeled bike up to the front steps. He saw his wife and stopped. “What?” he asked.

“You do know what you’re doing is illegal now?” She stood there with her hands on her hips, staring at him. “And for damn good reason.”

Terrence stared at her in confusion and asked, “What is?”

“Where do I start?” she wondered aloud. “First, lack of a helmet. Second, distracted driving. And while limiting the movement of your head by holding your cell and using the position of your neck to your shoulder which therefore ruins your ability to look around—something very important when it comes to driving.”

“Relax, Sheri, it’s only our driveway.”

“More than eighty percent of accidents happen in the home or within the closest few kilometres,” she retorted. “And I’ve seen enough of the worst which can happen to last for a lifetime. Please don't invite it to my front door.”

With a sigh, Terrence had to admit to himself that if anyone would know it would definitely be her. Sheridan finally sighed at his sudden ‘lost puppy’ look. “When are they getting here?”

“Derek said he had to pick up a few things so he wouldn’t be coming empty handed. But he did say he and Marissa should be here sometime tonight,” answered Terrence as he swung his legs over the side of the bike while still sitting on it. “S’good thing too. I think one of the panels in the north field is on the blink again. Maybe he and your Uncle can see what's up and perhaps get our field back up to normal operations.”

“Like you can’t do that either.”

Terrence chuckled. “Are you still planning on heading into Sudbury?” he asked.

“I expect so—I have to buy groceries if we’re going to have a house full over the holidays.”

“Could you grab some beer while you’re there?” he enquired, even though he knew she was probably overloaded with preparations for the influx of guests over the holidays.

“Why don’t you come with me and help me with all this?” she asked with a sigh.

“Still have to plow the back drive and then do the same over at Karen’s,” he replied. “Grab your uncle or your Dad.”

“Uncle Russell is helping Karen in the barn before he leaves to head back to Toronto, and Dad isn't even here yet,” she added. “Russell and I will likely head out at the same time and split off at Lively.”

“Where's Nathan?”

“He’s also in the barn.”

“Jeremy?”

“Helping Karen.”

“Is everyone in the barn?” asked Terrence in surprise.

“None of the regular hands showed up today,” she answered. “Some of them didn’t bother to answer me while the others said it was too far and they had to stick around their own barns. I’m not surprised because of the weather, I’m annoyed that some of them didn’t deign to answer their phones, but I get it.”

Terrence grunted in concern. “If I had my rathers, you wouldn’t be going out there either.”

“I’m only going as far as Lively,” she answered dryly. “Not even all the way into Sudbury. I asked Marissa to grab some things on their way through from Garson.”

* * * * *

Two cars pulled off to the side of the road just down from the overpass bridging Copper Cliff and Lively. Here the intersection had a set of lights so Sheridan could turn around with ease and go back into Lively. Russell got out of the rental, a newer SUV, and kicked at the loose snow on the ground.

“Are you sure you have to go back now?” asked Sheridan as she walked over to him.

“I should,” answered Russell. “I’ll stop by Uncle Kirk’s and then head straight down through Parry Sound.”

“The roads are atrocious,” she pointed out.

“In town, maybe,” answered Russell. “But not so bad on the highway. Once I get to the main highway, things will be far better.”

“If you say so,” Sheridan crinkled her nose. “I don’t think it’s any better anywhere.”

Russell hugged his niece. “I’ll drive slow,” he pointed out as he turned back to the rental. “You drive safely… at least I’m driving something that’s four-by-four. I don’t know what to call that.”

He pointed at Sheridan’s car, which was an older Smart Car. She lifted a brow. “What of it?”

“Sheri, you’re a surgeon and you drive that.”

“Gas is too expensive—even for me,” she pointed out. “It’s what I could afford to drive from the house to Sudbury Regional, and around to the offices I need to bounce around to.”
With a sigh, he hugged her again. “Well, you drive safe and I’ll call when I make it to Parry Sound. Deal?”

“Fine,” she conceded. “Just make sure you actually do. You know you’ll drive Gramma spare if you don’t. You know how she worries.”

“I know,” he answered as he got into the rental.

She watched him drive up the hill then settled herself in the driver’s seat of her car. Before she could pull away, a line of military trucks drove past her down the hill, leaving one truck by the ramps and bridge.

Confused, she drove down the hill and to the grocery store.



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