Synopsis: “They say it’s grim up north… Don’t really have a clue, do they?”

‘Ontario Diaries’ is a series of prequel vignettes to ‘Cold Ghost’, told from Joel’s point of view. It will follow various vignettes in his life in the follow-up to the story opening of ‘Cold Ghost’, fleshing out his back story, as well as those of some of the cast on his side of the story. These chapters are intended to be light-weight reading, will contain heavier content much earlier on than the main Cold Ghost plot line.


Part 2

The Ontario Diaries: Part 1

Joel charged down the path towards the Oak Springs Lodges. The call had only come in ten minutes ago, and Mark was out with the office truck, so he had to sprint his way there. He’d had to leave Liz, their latest junior officer in charge of the office – she was meant to get the message to Mark as soon as.

He could see red and amber lights winking through the trees. Oh no, he could hear the drone and whine of sirens, lots of them. It had to be bad. A strange, strangling sickly feeling crept up from his stomach. Joel stumbled off the path, leaping over a snowy log that had been felled during a bad winter two years ago.

“…the hell is the county coroner getting here anyway? Do I have to pack this stiff in the trunk of my patrol car and put snow on top of him?”

“The hell if I know. Freaking park ranger hasn’t even made it in yet, coroner is probably still have his breakfast, know what I mean?”

There was some low chortling after that remark, as well as the slapping noise you got when two open palms impacted one another. Biting back a remark, Joel clambered down over a snow bank and surveyed the scene. There were quite a few emergency response vehicles, and a couple of private cars that seemed to have blue lights slapped on top of them. Did that mean that there were senior police types here? Up at the top of the road, he could just make out that part of the road had been cordoned off. He jogged over to the first person in a uniform he could find, an older woman in an EMT jumpsuit, approaching her from the side so as to not spook her.

“Sorry ma’am, I’m Park Ranger Miller. My office received a call about an accident near Oak Spring Lodges?”

“You’ll be wanting Detective Hart then probably,” she sighed, looking him up and down with a rather bored air. “Be damned if I knew what they needed my team for… Just head up the road there, look for the idiots freezing their asses off with the thermal blankets round their necks. Can’t miss them.”

Well that was… Bizarre if nothing else. Trying to master the confusion on his face, Joel nodded and thanked the EMT before trudging up the hill towards the cordon. As he got closer and inside of the cordon area, there were people milling about, but all official types with official business. Crammed into the side of an old oak tree, was an old estate Volvo, it’s bonnet shredded and crushed against the great truck. As he approached he could… oh Gawd, was that the freaking driver? Whoever he had been, he was crushed against the dash board and his face…

Even in the bitterness of the early morning and the low winds, the smell carried easily and invaded his nostrils. Before Joel knew it, he’d stumbled against a police van, one hand pressed against the side to steady him, emptying the meagre contents of his stomach from that morning.

“Ho, big fella, you contaminating the crime scene there?”

“I uh… I just…”

“Take a break man, just messing with you. Everybody chokes, their first body. Hell, I saw his mug-shot when he still had most of his face. Made me want to toss my cookies too. But seriously buddy, unless you got some id you’re ralfing up there, you need to get on the other side of the cordon. C’mon man, I’ll help you up there.”

A gloved hand appeared in Joel’s line of vision. Too embarrassed to look whoever this guy was in the eye, Joel fumbled inside the lining of his ranger jacket to pass him up his work ID pass. It wasn’t much, just photo ID that said he belonged to the Forestry and Parks Commission, showed the world an unflattering photo where he had the stone cold eyes of a killer. After that photograph, he’d decided that doing post-celebratory chores were better done without a hangover.

The low whistle that came out definitely belonged to a guy. Wiping his mouth on the back of his hand, Joel slowly got back up from his knees. The Gloved Whistler was… well hot, smokin’ hot as Mikey would have said. All dark hair, dark eyes and smoulder, strong jaw, and there was some pout going on. It took a couple of seconds before he’d realised that Gloved Whistler was staring at him confused, one eyebrow quirked.

“So… Ranger Miller, how exactly can I help you out this fine, freezing morning?” he said, giving a quick cough and handing Joel back his ID.

Now it was Joel’s turn look rather confused.

“Actually, I was wanting to know what you guys wanted from me… My office got a call about a quarter of an hour ago about this accident. Somebody wanted to know what we could do about helping you keeping the area closed down while you clean up?”

Now, Gloved Whistler just looked surprised, as he waved one finger back forth between Joel and the crime scene, his jaw working over time, but no noises were coming out.

“Oh, so you’re… the local representative?”


Gloved Whistler started to scratch the back of his head, rustling his longish hair.

“Look, don’t worry, I won’t get in your hair,” Joel said, cutting in. Apparently the fact he didn’t look like Paul Bunyan seemed to shock a lot of people when he told them his profession. “It’s mid-winter, no-one comes up this way to use the log cabins. Earliest we’ll get someone is early March in these parts.

“There’s a writer guy who owns a cabin up this road, sometimes comes up this way during the cold times, but he’d usually call ahead. He hasn’t this year, but could be he just wanted peace… I’ll check his place, make sure whether or not he’s home. I can let you and your men into one of the empty cabins, if you need to set up a command post or something. The Ontario Ranger Service is happy to co-operate,” he finished, trying not to sound too snappy. For whatever reason, the guy seemed to be completely pole-axed, and Joel was no longer in a mood to be gawped at. Admittedly, the rotten stench coming from the wreck was putting him on edge, making him a lot less patient than he would have been otherwise.

Silence hung between them for a few more moments. It was pretty obvious from the expression on the Whistler’s face that the cogs in his head were slowly turning, slower than a toddler’s tricycle.

“Honestly, I thought you were kind of young to be a fully fledged ranger…”

“I know, it’s amazing the things they’ll let a twenty-five year old do these days. Next thing they’ll give us the vote, or let us drive,” Joel replied dryly, a tad of sarcasm creeping into his tone. “Might even give us a sword, let us lead the Halflings to the damn volcano.”

Hey, he could laugh at himself. He’d damn nearly cried at that film – three and half hours of complete inactivity and sitting on your ass while a frustrated lad lost his ring wasn’t his idea of a good time.

Joel thought the guy would have glared at him at least, or muttered smart ass and told him to get a move on already. Instead, he just laughed, big and loud, like it was actually funny. Like he thought Joel was making a good joke. He proffered his gloved hand, and smiled warmly, tiniest bit of shyness was nestled in that expression.

“Sorry, man, wasn’t thinking too hard there. Been up all night chasing that fella who’s squashed to the tree now. Name is Hart, Detective Nathan Hart, but I guess I better take you over to the Chief Inspector, he’s in charge of this whole operation. I’m just new to the Organised Crime Unit,” he said, an awful lot of information just tumbling out at him.

Joel accepted the hand shake, though he didn’t quite understand how he had flipped around to being the pole-axed person in this conversation. He did notice that the hand-shake was a tad lingering, but only for a moment. Then the smile withdrew, it became all business again.

If he’d known then the pain that shy smile would give him, he might have decided to stay on his knees in the snow.


Part 2