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About the Author: Marcelle Dubé writes mystery and speculative fiction novels and short stories. She is the winner of the 2021 Crime Writers of Canada Award of Excellence for short fiction. Her short stories have appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies.

Luke ran his hand over the top of the credenza he was sanding. It was a bigger piece than he was used to crafting and took up more of his woodworking shop—which used to be his stand-alone garage—than he liked, especially with the six chairs in various stages of completion stacked along one wall.

Even though the early October morning was chilly, he kept the garage doors open. He didn’t want to be trapped inside with all that dust.

The wooden garage was old-fashioned, with double doors that had to be opened and closed by hand. It stood behind the house and to the side, at the end of a long, straight driveway that hugged the house. He parked his pickup in front of the garage and Annie parked her Bronco at the side of the house, near the wide spot, so he could get around her if he needed to.

He heard steps on the gravel outside and turned to see Annie walking around the pickup toward him in her no-nonsense navy slacks, flat shoes and red wool blazer. She came in and stood looking down at the credenza, her long, straight dark hair cascading down her back, her brown eyes lively with interest.

“It’s looking good,” she said.

Luke couldn’t help it. He grinned. He was pretty sure approval from his wife was what kept his heart ticking.

“Thanks, honey. You off?”

She nodded and came over to bury herself in his arms, a warm bundle of plump curves and enticing scent. And now, dust.

“The kids will be sketching their favorite animals today.” Her voice was muffled against his chest and he resisted the urge to kiss the top of her head. She didn’t like that.

As if guessing his thought, she pulled away and smiled up at him.

“See you after school,” she said.

He waved her off and watched her crunch over to her Bronco. He loved watching her walk.

Then he sighed and went back to sanding.

He had finished applying the first coat of stain and was considering going inside for a cup of coffee when he heard tires crunch on the driveway.

He walked around his pickup to see who it was. He rarely got visitors. He and Annie lived an hour from Calgary, on the outskirts of Way River, on five acres, most of which they leased to a local farmer. This year the farmer had planted canola and the house had sat in a sea of cheerful yellow all summer. Now the field looked forlorn with only the stubble left.

There were no close neighbors. Sometimes clients came but they always called ahead to get directions. And nobody ever dropped in to visit unless Annie was home. She was the social one.

The dark green, late-model Audi drove down the long driveway to the house, sunlight glancing off its tinted windows, then turned around at the wide spot before coming to a stop next to the house, where Annie usually parked, facing back toward the road. Luke wiped his hands on a rag and walked toward the back of the car, trying not to scowl. His jeans were a bit grubby and the front of his plaid shirt and his rolled-up sleeves were covered in stain but there was nothing he could do about it. He was a woodworker. He got dirty.

The driver’s side door opened and a tall man stepped out, his back to Luke. The man wore jeans, too, but they were dark and new, clearly designer, and he wore gleaming cowboy boots to go with them. Luke rolled his eyes. When he focused on the red Western shirt and noticed its fringe and embroidery across the shoulders, he almost groaned.

“Nice place.”

Luke kept control of his emotions but he couldn’t stop the blood from leaving his face. That voice … His gaze slowly moved from the ridiculous shirt to the back of the man’s head. He finally turned around and grinned a familiar shit-eating grin.

“Bouca,” said Luke softly.

Freddie Bouca laughed in delight, still standing in the open doorway of his Audi, one manicured hand on the car’s roof. The fabric of his gaudy shirt stretched tight across his belly.

“I know, right?” he said. “How long’s it been?”

“Fifteen years,” said Luke. Fifteen years, four months and thirteen days. His hands tightened into fists. He slowly relaxed them.

This story appears in our APR 2023 Issue
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