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Black Bear Country
About the Author: Rosemary McCracken is a Canadian journalist who writes the Pat Tierney mysteries. Safe Harbor, the first mystery in the series, was a finalist for Britain’s Debut Dagger. It was published by Imajin Books in 2012, followed by Black Water in 2013 and Raven Lake in 2016. “The Sweetheart Scamster,” a Pat Tierney short story in Thirteen, was a Derringer award finalist in 2014. Jack Batten, The Toronto Star’s crime fiction reviewer, calls Pat “a hugely attractive sleuth figure.” Rosemary lives in Toronto.


It was Ellie’s idea, certainly not mine. A lakeside cabin in the Canadian wilderness was not my dream vacation spot. Bugs, wildlife, water sports—yeesh! We’d tried the cabin experience years before when our kids were young, and it had been the holiday from hell. But Ellie must’ve forgotten about that because all she wanted to celebrate her sixty-fifth birthday was two weeks at a lake.

We left Toronto at noon and headed north. When we arrived in Good Springs, we had an hour before we could claim our little piece of paradise. So we toured the town, which consisted of a police detachment, a diner, a Laundromat and a general store. We bought triple-scoop ice-cream cones and ate them on the bench in front of the store.

We drove further north on the highway and turned onto a dirt road. A good ways down that road, two cottages came into view, each with a numbered marker on a tree. Behind the cottages, an expanse of blue lake sparkled in the afternoon sunlight.

“Paradise Lake!” Ellie said beside me in the passenger seat. From the awe in her voice, it sounded like we’d reached the Great Beyond.

At the marker for the second cottage, we bumped down a rutted lane and pulled up in front of a weathered brown bungalow. Moss was growing on the cabin’s shingles, its wood siding buckled, and its deck with its overhead grid of beams had seen better days.

“It’s darling, Henry!” Ellie cried. “We’re going to have our best vacation here ever.”

The key was where I’d been told it would be—under the flowerpot beside the peeling green door facing the lane. A sign beside the door announced: You’re in Black Bear Country! I’d forgotten that bears roamed this part of the world.

Ellie checked out the cabin’s interior and the grounds. I hauled our bags and groceries from the car with blackflies hovering around me. Blood-sucking bugs love me, and the ones at Paradise Lake were ravenous.

“The canoe’s at the dock,” Ellie said when I was done. “Up for a paddle?”

She knew I didn’t like being out on the water.

“Tomorrow,” I said, hoping I’d have a good excuse by then. “I need a rest.”

I collapsed into an Adirondack chair on the deck, slathered on bug repellant and cracked open a beer. After my second bottle, I visited the washroom where, to my dismay, the toilet wouldn’t flush. I tried jiggling the handle, then I used the plunger I found in the closet. To no avail. I lifted the tank cover, and the chain and flapper appeared to be in working order. But the damn toilet would not flush.

“Easy peasy, flushing’s easy,” Ellie said when I told her.

She filled a pail with water at the kitchen sink and poured it into the toilet bowl. It flushed down the contents of the bowl.

She turned to me with a cheeky grin. “Learned this at my grandpa’s cottage when I was a kid.”

I wanted to call Mike Lachance, the cabin’s owner, to complain about the toilet, but there was no landline in the cabin and our cells weren’t picking up a signal. “This place is costing us a small fortune,” I grumbled, “and we have to use a bucket whenever we take a leak.”

“Not a major problem, Henry. We’ll fill the pail in the bathtub when we use the toilet.”

“The ad said this place had a full bathroom. No mention of the need for buckets.”

“Relax. It’s summer and the living is easy.”

It would have been a lot easier back home.

“Fire up the barbecue,” Ellie said after she’d set the table for supper. “Time to grill the steaks.”

I lifted the cover of the gas barbecue. The grill was coated with black grease, a spider had made its home in the cover, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if rodents were nesting in its innards. “No way I’m lighting this contraption,” I told her. “Can you broil the steaks in the oven?”

She muttered something about the rites of summer, but headed indoors with the platter of meat.

“We should’ve brought a television and a DVD player,” I said after we’d eaten and the dishes were washed. “We could’ve watched a movie.”

“Let’s go out and look at the stars,” Ellie said. “The sky’s brighter than in the city.”

The bugs were vicious that evening, and you can only look at stars for so long. We were back indoors in five minutes and in bed by ten o’clock.



This story appears in our JUL 2018 Issue
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Reader Discussion

16
Jul
A good little story. Nice progression and the little bug—s get their just desserts.
By Susan Rickard

16
Jul
Sorry - deserts
By Susan

17
Jul
Nice story and a good find of the Meth house on the other island. Not sure how the broken toilet and the drugs play together. Is there another hiding spot for the drugs in the cabin?
By Alex Hamling

17
Jul
Cute story! Thanks for the read.
By Kaye George

17
Jul
Really enjoyed taking a break and reading your story. Good plot, good pace, crisp writing. More!
By John Ptacek

17
Jul
I just got done reading Black Bear Country and I want more. It's refreshing to read a story that has a good plot, the characters are what drew me into the story. It was a clean read that I would have the young adults along with grown ups to read this story.
By Bonnie Drummond

18
Jul
Good one! Guess I'm never going to Black Bear Country:-))
By George Garnet

18
Jul
There are no "drop off points" for drugs. Drugs are exchanged for money, usually under tense circumstances due to the nature of bringing drugs and money together at the same place. Exchanges are done in clandestine places to avoid attention and not where drug parties are held. Didn't even find out Henry's name until halfway through the story and can't remember if he had a last name. Have no idea what he or Ellie look like.
By Jim Andisio

18
Jul
This was a light and upbeat story. I expected more of a mystery, but, overall, I liked it.
By Frances Dunn

19
Jul
A wonderful short story. I liked Henry. I got a few good laughs, so I enjoyed the humor. A refreshing read. Keep on writing...
By Nina Ritter

20
Jul
Thanks for all your comments! It's great for authors to get readers feedback. Keeps us on our toes.
By Rosemary McCracken

21
Jul
A fun story. The husband and wife are such real characters, and the plot line was clever, and unexpected. Great job.
By Robert Petyo


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