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The Passenger
About the Author: Rosemary McCracken writes the Pat Tierney mystery series and teaches novel writing at George Brown College in Toronto. Safe Harbor, the first novel in the series, was shortlisted for Britain's Debut Dagger Award in 2010. It was published by Imajin Books in 2012, followed by Black Water in 2013, Raven Lake in 2016 and Uncharted Waters in 2020. “The Sweetheart Scamster,” a Pat Tierney short story in the crime fiction anthology, Thirteen, was a finalist for a 2014 Derringer Award.

Stéphane glanced at his watch. “Mon Dieu! What can be keeping him, Pat?”

It was approaching three o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, and Stéphane and I were eager to hit the road to Toronto. We’d spent two days behind a table in Kingston’s Holiday Inn ballroom with fellow financial planner, Murray Klein. We’d handed out brochures and chatted up the merits of careers in financial services with whomever came our way. But the weekend job fair in Kingston had not had a great turnout, which I put down to the glorious spring weather. After a long winter indoors, people were probably more interested in soaking up the rays than exploring career options.

The crowd had thinned to a dozen people. Stéphane and I had already checked out of our hotel rooms, and our luggage was under the table. The only thing keeping us there was Murray. He’d left for lunch at ١٢:٣٠. He’d also left his camera, three boxes filled with copies of his new book on retirement planning, and stacks of brochures on the table. Stéphane and I had promised to keep an eye on all of it. But we hadn’t thought Murray would be gone two and a half hours.

“He probably met up with a friend, and they got talking,” I told Stéphane.

He groaned. “This is the last time I let the Council talk me into working a job fair,” he said, referring to the organization that certifies financial planners. “Most of the people we’ve spoken to weren’t interested in jobs in financial services. They were looking for investment tips.”

I knew exactly how he felt. I believed in giving back to the industry I’d worked in for 20 years, but I couldn’t spend any more weekends like this one. I was a single mother, and I needed time with my family.

A tanned young man pulled up in front of our table. He was wearing a tropical shirt, denim shorts and a Toronto Blue Jays cap. Large mirrored sunglasses obscured much of his face, but the flesh under his square jaw was firm. I put him at around 30 years old. “Are you financial advisors?” he asked.

“Yes, we are,” I replied, grateful for his interest.

“I’m Bill. I see you’re from Toronto.” He held up our business cards.

“I’m Pat Tierney,” I said, “and this is Stéphane Pratt. I have my own financial planning practice. Stéphane runs a branch of Norris Cassidy Investments.”

Stéphane ran a hand through his freshly highlighted hair and flashed Bill a sunny smile.

Bill returned it with one just as bright, displaying white teeth. He placed his blue backpack on the floor to shake our hands. “How would I get into your line of work?”

That set us both off, and we launched into the stories of why we’d become financial planners.

“Do you have a university degree, Bill?” I asked.

“Damn right I do! B.A. in history from Queen’s,” he said. “I don’t want to teach, so I’ve been working as a letter carrier while I decide what to do next.”

I handed him a brochure. “Now you’ll need to take courses toward your certified financial planner designation.” I opened a brochure. “The courses are listed here, along with the colleges that offer them. You can also take them online.”

“This is great!” Bill stuffed the brochure into his backpack. “Thank you so much. Maybe I can … uh, contact you about the courses? Which to take, and so on.” His question was addressed to Stéphane.

“No problem at all,” Stéphane warbled.

“Hey, you guys will be heading back to Toronto soon. Could I get a ride to Belleville with you?” Bill lowered his sunglasses for the first time, revealing a pair of cool, gray eyes. I could have sworn he winked at Stéphane.

Belleville was an hour’s drive down Highway 401, and I felt uneasy about giving a lift to a stranger. Maybe because I hadn’t had a good look at Bill. He’d only lowered those sunglasses for seconds.

But Stéphane didn’t hesitate. “Sure, Belleville’s on our way. We’re waiting for our friend to come back and collect his stuff. Then we’ll be off.”

I felt the hair rise on the back of my neck. We’d traveled to Kingston in Stéphane’s car, so it wasn’t my place to object. But I didn’t like the idea of giving Bill a lift one bit.

I watched Bill wander off to visit other tables. Across the room, Murray stepped out of the elevator.

This story appears in our SEP 2021 Issue
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