The Road to Oblivion
Captain Reese closed the office door behind him and sank into his desk chair, glad to be back in familiar surroundings. He rubbed his temples in a vain attempt to ease the headache that was bugging him whenever he tried to recall details from the past three days. All the while he couldn't shake the nagging feeling that he had forgotten something important.
It had all started three nights ago when a call came in that a missing witness in a high profile case had finally been located. After a search within the metropolitan area yielded no results, a province-wide APB had been issued, and the witness had finally been identified by the police in Wawa. All that was left to close the case was a statement from the elderly lady who had visited her niece in Toronto at the time the crime occurred. Fearing repercussions from the killer, she had given a false name and left for home before anyone had interviewed her, unaware that the killer had already been apprehended, but couldn't be convicted without her statement.
Reese had decided to personally see to it and asked Nick to accompany him.
Nick had looked anything but happy. His first response had been to suggest that Tracy would be better suited for the trip. However, Tracy had been unavailable due to family obligations, and Reese preferred to have Nick with him because the detective had a unique way of getting the most reluctant people to talk. He also wanted to use the opportunity to see for himself if his star detective truly had recovered after being shot in the head last month. When Nick had reported back to work only a week after the incident, Reese had doubted if he was already sufficiently recovered.
After finally giving in, Nick had insisted on taking the Caddy. Reese had questioned the reliability of a 30-year old car on a 2000 km trip, but Nick had assured him that it wouldn't be a problem.
When Nick picked him up on the following evening after sunset, Reese placed his knapsack into the trunk next to Nick's duffle bag. Chuckling at the size difference of their bags, Reese wondered, "Did you pack for a week? We won't be gone longer than two days."
"Three," Nick corrected him.
"I'm not going to drive during the day. It's a 10-hour drive to Wawa, and sun's coming up in eight hours. You can do the math."
"Well, we'll see," Reese mumbled and got into the passenger seat.
They left Toronto on the 400 northbound. The conversation was rather monosyllabic as Reese got the irritating impression that Nick paid more attention to the guy on the stereo than to his Captain. Only after the signal faded near the city of Vaughan did Nick actually participate in the conversation. They talked a couple of cases over, but whenever Reese asked something about the time before Nick transferred from Chicago, the replies became almost evasive as if his detective preferred not to talk about his past. Reese attributed this to lingering effects of the amnesia Nick had experienced last month.
At Parry Sound they stopped for coffee and continued northbound on the 69. When they reached Sudbury, they turned westbound onto the Trans-Canada-Highway.
They were about half an hour east of Sault Ste. Marie when Nick pulled into a parking lot of a motel. "Sun's coming up. I suggest we stay here for the day."
"You've got to be kidding me," Reese exclaimed. "We could be in Wawa in less than four hours. Why don't you take a nap and let me drive?"
"No," Nick replied in a tone that caused Reese to look at him. "You're tired, Joe. You need to rest."
Reese yawned, feeling exhausted all of a sudden. "You're right," he observed and got out of the car.
They checked into two adjoining rooms. Reese flicked on the television, laid down on the bed and was asleep within minutes.
* * * *
When Captain Reese woke around 4 p.m., the sun was streaming through several holes in the curtains. It would at least be another three hours before they could resume their journey. After taking a long shower, Reese walked to the door that led to Nick's room and knocked softly. "Nick? You up yet?" he called. When no answer occurred, Reese left his room to peek through the curtains into Nick's room. As in his room, the curtains were rather flimsy and offered a good view of the room. Much to his surprise, Reese found the room to be empty and the bed untouched. "What the hell?" he muttered. "I thought he can't walk around during the day."
He fetched himself a sandwich from the gas station store next door and settled into the chair in front of his window in order to enjoy the last rays of the sun.
As soon as the sun had vanished beyond the horizon, he heard the sound of the closing trunk. Looking up, he saw Nick standing next to the Caddy, regarding him with a puzzled expression that reminded Reese of a little boy who had been caught in the act of doing something forbidden. "Good evening, Captain."
"Mind telling me where you just came from?" Reese inquired. He was sure that he hadn't seen Nick stepping out of his room. "If I didn't know better I'd say you just emerged from the trunk."
Nick's expression turned into a sly smile while his eyes focused intensely on Reese. "I've already checked out and stored my bag while you were napping in that chair."
Reese scratched his head. "Seems I must have dozed off. Do you want to eat anything before we head on? They have some sandwiches down there at the variety store." He pointed towards the gas station.
"I've already eaten a little something," Nick declined.
"Then let's get started."
* * * *
Following Highway 17, they entered the Lake Superior Provincial Park that stretched along the northeastern shores of the lake.
Reese noticed the increasingly frequent and enlarged moose warning signs with growing concern. "Are you sure it's a good idea to take this road at night?"
"Don't worry, I can see quite well," Nick soothed him.
"Yeah, but deer tend to appear rather quick."
"Trust me, I would notice any larger animal." There was a certainty in Nick's voice that caused Reese to believe him despite his concerns.
"We're missing all the scenic outlooks at night," Reese remarked after a moment of silence. "Did you know that this is supposed to be the second most beautiful scenic drive in Canada?"
"What's the best?" Nick inquired.
"Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia. Denise and I once went there on vacation. Spectacular views. Have you been?"
"Where do you go on vacation? You have quite a lot accumulated."
Nick shrugged. "I haven't made any plans yet."
Reese sighed in frustration, wondering if Knight had been as distant with his former Captains. Maybe he should have a little chat with Joe Stonetree when he was back.
* * * *
Two hours later they arrived in Wawa. Reese had called ahead and arranged for a meeting with the witness. They got their statement on tape and started their way back around 2 a.m.
They made it as far as Sudbury before Nick pulled into the parking lot of a motel chain. Reese was already half asleep when he heard the door of Nick's room close. A moment later he heard the sound of the trunk. He must have fallen asleep immediately afterwards because he never heard Nick return to his room.
* * * *
Reese woke shortly before sunset. When he emerged from his room freshly showered, Nick was already waiting for him by his car. Soon they were back on the road.
Once they reached the outskirts of Toronto, the stereo came back to life. "Welcome back, gentle listeners. The Nightcrawler is extraordinarily pleased that his audience has returned. After all, one doesn't run off to parts unknown without so much as a courteous farewell, wouldn't you agree?"
Reese noticed a big grin on his detective's face.
An hour later they entered the bullpen.
"Hey Nick, some guy named Lacroix called and wanted to know if you were on a business trip," the desk sergeant called.
Nick merely rolled his eyes and sat down at his desk while Reese headed into his office and closed the door behind him.
Reese gave up trying to figure out what exactly had been off on that road trip. Despite his aching head, he felt a sense of satisfaction as he pulled the tape from his pouch. They had the statement and the crown could stop breathing down his neck. That was all that mattered at the moment.