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Looking back on everything now, I suppose it all started with a letter, well, several letters really by the time all was said and done. But it all had to start somewhere so, for the sake of argument, let's say it all started with one particular letter.==================== ===== ====================
Fraser looked up as Maggie breezed into his office waving a stack of letters and magazines. She had a naturally cheerful disposition but on this particular morning she was unusually, even excessively, perky.
"Have you been eating chocolate-covered coffee beans again?"
Her glare was quite impressive, although she chose to ignore his comment in favour of whatever had her so relentlessly cheerful. "There's a very interesting item in today's post."
He reached for the proffered stack of letters, hoping she was referring to the latest edition of Canadian Geographic. He was disappointed that it wasn't there but was consoled to find the latest edition of The Beaver.
The magazine was pulled out of his hands and replaced with a small envelope – a basic #8 sans security lining – sealed with slightly mangled cellophane tape. He turned it over to read the return address and immediately turned a glare on his half-sister. "Is this some kind of joke?"
"Don't blame me; that was in the bundle when the mail arrived." She crossed her arms over her chest.
"It's addressed to Santa at the North Pole." At her smirk, he upped the intensity of his glare but it had no effect. "Do I look like Santa Claus?" he asked.
She looked over to where the scarlet jacket hung and then back at him with a small shrug.
"Be that as it may, this is hardly the North Pole."
"Close enough to a kid in Chicago. Look, it obviously got mixed up and didn't make it to Santa's helpers at Canada Post. I'll send it back to the post office; maybe someone can answer, it even if it missed Christmas."
"Possibly more than one Christmas," he murmured as he studied the smudged postmark. Well, he wasn't Santa, nor was he at the North Pole, but perhaps he could send some kind of response – assuming there was an address inside.
Maggie slipped away when he opened small battered envelope.
According to the date on the letter, the envelope had been in limbo for about 15 years. He'd expected demands for whatever the popular toy had been that year but instead found a heartfelt plea from a little girl asking for help. She only wanted her big brother to be happy and safe from the bad men. Oh dear.
Diefenbaker chose that moment to jump up to inspect the letter. Fraser reached over to scratch behind his ears. “This isn’t what I expected,” murmured Fraser. “I’m at a loss as to how to respond.”
“So don’t,” said Diefenbaker. At Fraser’s horrified look, he added, “Look, if you’re concerned about this cub, then why not just drop by and make sure things are okay.”
“Drop – you mean go there?”
Diefenbaker somehow gave the impression of shrugging. “Why not? Then you could see for yourself what the situation is.”
“You want me to go to Chicago?”
Diefenbaker snorted. “Don’t be ridiculous. I mean we should go. I’ve never been to Chicago. I’ve never even been out of the country.”
Fraser stared at his four-footed friend in disbelief. “You crossed into Alaska chasing after that Siberian husky.”
“It was an accident – and I didn’t even know about the border until you’d already brought me back.” Diefenbaker yawned in boredom, grumbling, “And if that bitch was from Siberia then I’m a poodle.”
Fraser decided to let that pass; his own romantic endeavours were hardly the stuff of legend. Bringing the subject back to the matter at hand, he said, “I suppose – assuming arrangements can be made regarding scheduling and transport – but then again, how are we supposed to track a child from almost 15 years ago in a city we’ve never visited?”
Diefenbaker looked a bit confused for a moment. “There can’t be that many Francesca Vecchio’s – can there?” he asked.
Maggie suddenly appeared in front of them, causing both man and half-wolf to give a startled yelp. She handed Fraser travel documents and a map of the greater Chicago area. “Oh, and here’s a list of Vecchios. This should give you a good place to start. The Canadian consulate is expecting you; you can bunk there while you’re in town.” She disappeared as quietly as she’d appeared.
Fraser looked down at Diefenbaker. “How does she do that?”
“Don’t look at me; she’s your sister,” he replied. “Since when does Chicago have a Canadian consulate?”
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And that’s how it all started. What should have been a quick in and out job turned into a whole lot more than expected. Looking back, I think it was probably the most fun they’d had in quite some time. As you may have gathered, Benton didn't really get out much.==================== ===== ====================