Disclaimer - I don't own anything/I'm not making any money/I'm just working off a major crush.
Epilogue - Home is Where the Wild Things Are
It was easy for Fraser to get permission to stay on the case and go after Carl. Arctic Defence had turned out to be two students with a great deal of passion and no common sense calling in to claim responsibility from a phone box, because they thought someone ought to make some kind of environmental capital from the sabotage incidents. If not for Fraser and Vecchio's investigation, Inspector Wheeler would have been in a lot more hot water from above about wasting time and resources.
Carl was the final piece in the case. Fraser and Vecchio had been right that no one but Curtis at the Inuvik branch of NLC had actually seen or met Carl, although the senior engineer was otherwise implicated in the case. Because Carl was the middle-man for everything, although the RCMP had the ringleaders of the scheme, they didn't have the perpetrators who'd actually committed the acts of sabotage, and worst, the bombing. Carl was the only person who could give them that information. It had been made clear to Wheeler that if Bob Fraser's son was available to track Carl, she'd better damn well make use of his skills.
Ray called Welsh to ask to use some of his accumulated leave to stay on the case with Benton, hoping that Welsh wouldn't mention the irony of him asking to use leave to pursue the follow-up to a case he'd bitterly protested being sent on.
"I really want to get this guy, and you know I have plenty of days stacked up."
Welsh was unaccommodating. "Vecchio, that's not going to happen. I'm not having you run around unofficially, possibly shooting people in Canada. That's a ready-made diplomatic incident."
"Listen very carefully, Vecchio, I'm not having you run around unofficially."
Vecchio tried to interrupt to protest again, but Welsh stopped him.
"Okay, how about I spell this out slowly. You won't be there unofficially. You and Constable Fraser were both assigned to this case. If he stays, you stay."
"Yes, sir!" Ray said happily.
"Get this guy Johnson. You'd make a lot of important people down here happy if you can wrap up this case, including Gerard Francis. He's still following things, even now his daughter in law is out of the hospital."
It hadn't gone unnoticed by Welsh that both Fraser's report and the official report lavished praise on Vecchio's efforts, even while barely mentioning Constable Fraser's own role. Vecchio's report so far had been verbal, unprintable, and did nothing for the credit of one Inspector Wheeler. "It does us a lot of good to be able to give our northern neighbors a hand. But you better stay one step ahead of Wheeler's men and land Johnson." Welsh said. He refrained from mentioning that he'd taken an extreme dislike for Wheeler when she tried to tell him, in more diplomatic terms, not to worry his pretty little head about Fraser. Pissing off Wheeler by having Constable Fraser and Detective Vecchio bring Johnson in would be his personal bonus for having his department short a man a while longer.
Two days later, Fraser and Ray set out after Carl. It was quite a task to persuade Mark, Joseph, and several other of the able-bodied Tuktoyaktuk men not to form up a posse and come with them. General opinion held that Carl was headed south through the body of small lakes and streams interconnected by land that opened up between Tuktoyaktuk and civilization when the ice thawed in the spring. Ray could just see a posse of canoeing men in hot pursuit of Carl.
Out on the first larger lake that they came to, Ray was watching Benton handle the canoe paddle. His right hand gripped it strongly and he was using the two unbroken fingers and the thumb of his left hand to balance it deftly. Dief was back to his usual unruly self, running off at every portage they had to make to sniff the local wildlife, no longer clinging protectively to Fraser's side.
Ray realized that he'd be wrong to think that Tuktoyaktuk was Benton's turf. Out here it was clear that Tuk was no more home ground to Benton than Chicago. They'd made mistakes and lives had been at risk because they both were thrown off by being away from the places where they could trust their instincts without second guessing.
This wild land would never betray Benton's freely given trust, or abuse his open-hearted generosity of spirit, the way people too often had. Out here all the masks that made up Benton Fraser's civilized self fell away and no-one could mistake naivety or unease with the constraints of society for stupidity. Out here Benton had nothing to hide, he was all competence and joy, moving in his environment like an eagle gliding on a current. Ray's mouth twitched, his lips curling upward in amusement. Carl didn't have a clue what he was up against, and frankly, he didn't stand a chance.
Author's Note: Well, it's done, and that makes me kind of sad. I did promise I'd put the lovely Constable Fraser back the way I found him, and I hope you find his condition satisfactory considering the hell I just had to put him through for my own entertainment.
I am so happy to have had you all along for the ride, particularly the wonderful people who took the time to review and encourage me to continue.
I have something else in the works, but it's still at plot outline stage. Writing this has been the fine margin between sanity and a screeching mental breakdown during a tough month at work, so you can be sure that as long as work remains a harbinger of lunacy, I'll keep writing. If there are things in particular that you liked or disliked about how I wrote this story, please do critique and let me know so I can keep improving my skills.