Running North

51 hours since Toronto

Gregg Vincent stepped off a Greyhound bus onto asphalt in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  He watched a few passing vehicles running along 23rd Street East as he pulled his bag from the underneath of the bus.  It was cold, but the snow had stopped just after boarding the bus back in Thunder Bay at 10:30 in the morning the day prior.  A bus change in Winnipeg at around 7pm the night before, and another ten hours until he arrived here.  It was just after 5am in the prairie city of Saskatoon, and the sun had yet to show its glory in the clear skies above.

His breath was white in front of him as he walked along the downtown streets.  He found a hotel that looked less than reputable, and walked in.  Being that the dead of winter was not exactly tourist season, they had a room that he was able to pay for two nights with cash, and no ID required.

His mind went back through phase two of his trek. After leaving the motel the other morning, he had driven back into Thunder Bay.  He pulled into the lot of a used car dealership and parked.

A short round red headed man walked out of the office to greet him with a red face and a cigarette bunched tightly in one hand.  The shirt and tie looked too tight, and the puffy parka over them looked too big.  His black pants were creased in all the wrong places.  “How can I help you this fine morning?”

Gregg smiled at him and pointed at the SUV.  “What can I get for this?”  He held the ownership and insurance in his hand, which he had found in the glove box.

The man blinked twice.  “Well, let’s have a look.”  He walked around the vehicle.  Remarked on the low mileage, and asked if he could test drive it around the block.  He invited Gregg into the office and he took the ownership and insurance papers. A short phone call and he ran back outside with one of the shop mechanics.

Gregg waited patiently as they poked and prodded the Ford.  They offered him a coffee in the office which he gratefully accepted.  Adding a little cream and sugar, he warmed himself while the redhead and the mechanic scoured.

Finally, the redhead came into the office with a big smile.  “That’s pretty new.  I am sure we could swing a deal on it.”

Gregg nodded.  “I need the money now, however.”

The redhead slipped his coat off, showing a brown blazer over black pants.  “Well, it’s worth about fifty thousand, but I’m only…”

“I want five.”

The round man almost fell into his chair.  His eyes searched to see if there was a reason he should ask anything further.  “I can do five thousand now without a problem, but why so soon?”

“My bus leaves in an hour.”

Again the redhead considered if he should question further.

“Listen, I am moving north on a bit of a whim.  Simply put, I finally decided to get the fuck out of Toronto and also decided I don’t would rather sleep the rest of the way.”

“No tricks?”

“One thing, if you would.” Gregg grinned and took a sip of coffee.  “Could you get the insurance cancelled on it? I’m going to be on a bus for twenty hours and it would be a great help.”

The redhead had one eyebrow raise as he obviously felt something was up.

Gregg was still in his jean jacket and pants with a white tee-shirt.  He did not look like the most reputable at the moment.

“I’ll give you four thousand.  Give me ten minutes and I will have the forms for you to sign.”

Gregg quickly stuck out his hand to shake on the deal.  “I will give you half an hour as I am going to wander to the shops across the street and then get my bus ticket.  I will be back at ten?”

The redhead nodded as profit margins danced in his head.

Gregg walked first to the bus station and bought a one-way ticket to Saskatoon. Then he walked back and into the Wal-Mart across from the car dealer. Quickly he found breakfast, a suitcase, and some new clothes. He took his cart out of the store with his purchases and took ten minutes filling the suitcase with two bags of underwear and socks, three turleneck sweaters, two heavy sweaters, four dress shirts, three pairs of slacks and two jeans. Being he had tried nothing on, he hoped that it would fit. He popped the labels and tags off a heavy overcoat and slipped into it.

He then sat for ten minutes and drank a bottle of water and banana. He then kept one plastic bag with three cans of cola, a large bag of salt and vinegar chips, and some reading material.

To Gregg’s surprise, the redhead handed him cash when he arrived back at the dealer.

“A hunch, but a cheque will cause you a problem.”

Gregg figured the SUV was going to land on the redhead’s driveway that night. “Perfect, thanks.”

“Can I give you a ride to the bus?”

“I’m good, thanks. Walk isn’t that bad.”

He made his way back to the bus depot and saw the bus pulling up just as he pulled his new suitcase along behind him.

His bag underneath, and his ticket accepted by the driver, and he was en route northwest again.

He snapped awake in his Saskatoon hotel room. The clock read 11am. Greg got up, showered and switched into some of his new clothes.

He walked out into the sunny street. It was frigid but he immediately noticed how much more tolerable the lack of humidity compared to Toronto. “It’s a dry cold,” he sang to himself, causing a couple of passers by to give him an odd eye. He found a pub and sat at the bar. The place was the typical North American attempt to mimic a British public house. He was the first customer of the day.

The bartender was a short buxom brunette. “Menu?”

“Yes, please,” he gave her a big smile. For the first time he felt he could relax for just a moment.

The bartender returned his smile as she handed him the menu. “First time here?”

He nodded. “How is the steak?”

“Steak is good,” she answered as their mutual smiles became more flirtatious. She continued in a whisper, “Just stay away from the onion rings.”

A quick once over and he handed the menu back. “T-bone, rare. Baked potato and a green salad.”

“Wow, you read quick. Covered all the options. Oh, but…”

“Rickards Red.”

She laughed. “Comin’ right up.” She spun to her computer and punched in the order. Her black skirt twisted at knee length over black stockings. She had a short black jacket over a yellow sweater on top.

Greg was impressed at her curves. He watched replays of hockey on the TV above the bar and openly flirted with the bartender as he waited.

The veggies and potato were inhaled, but he savored the steak when it arrived. He put the last bite in his mouth as, finally another patron came in.

The bartender took his plate. “Anything else?”

“Yeah,” Greg wiped his mouth with the black fabric napkin. “What time are you off?”

She cocked her finger back and forth, calling him a bad boy. “I’m off at eight. You live around here?”

“No, just in town one more night.”

“I see,” she thought about that response. “Where are you staying?”

“Hotel around the corner.” He lay three twenty dollar bills out, likely double what it cost.

She glanced at the cash and back up at him. “Do you smoke?”

“No, why?”

She grinned. “Good, which hotel?”

He gave her the details. She gave no promises, but seemed intrigued.

Gregg left the pub and purchased more clothes and a second suitcase before returning to his hotel. He packed the second case and then took a nap.

His nap was ended by a knock on the door.

He stretched first before answering.

The buxom bartender was smiling as the door opened. Within seconds, clothes were scattered on the floor. The bodies were intertwined quickly and heavily.

Her blowjob was average, at best, in his estimation. He tried to please her in kind, but found she was in a hurry for the main event. Her sex was eager, but inexperienced.

The next morning he scribbled a note and left it on the pillow beside the snoring barmaid. After a quick shower, he returned to the bus depot and purchased another ticket.

Two days earlier in Thunder Bay, Ontario

“Yes, sir,” the man said into the same pay phone Jacklyn had used the night before. “Body is in the trunk and it seems like Mr. Vincent has sold his vehicle and traveling on cash.”

The man adjusted his black fedora before pulling his black trench coat tighter around him.

“True. He’ll have to open a bank account or something with that ID. We’ll be waiting.”

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