Excerpt from THE NEXT COMING RACE (as yet unpublished).
Pot hunters held rave-type, secretive, pic-nic-style parties, complete with bar-b-ques and beer, on little known or overlooked archaeological sites. They socialized, ate a good meal, and then broke out the shovels, leaving behind a landscape so littered and cratered you’d think you’d landed on a mock-up of the moon.
I suppose what happened next was my fault. Goaded by the wealth of my online data mining and the voracity with which we’d hatched the previous night’s plan, I emailed the others with my findings, urging them to follow through with our stratagem.
It got exciting two months later. One of the pot hunters suggested they get together and investigate an abandoned and soon to be demolished property south of Stouffville. They used SurveyMonkey to determine the best date and settled on having a tailgate-style dinner prior to the dig. Undaunted by the sheer gall of what the pot hunters had suggested, I emailed every one of the original archaeologists. None of us had the slightest clue as to how to proceed. We knew that prosecuting the buggers would be a difficult task—to date, there had been only one case of successful prosecution documented. The solution, we all agreed, was to be on hand to disperse the rave and then hightail it to the Ministry of Culture to register the site.
So we’d have some official capacity, we’d enlisted Michael’s assistance whose job it would be to flash his badge and look menacing, no grand feat for Michael who had the physique of a well-padded football player and the sombre, stoic gaze of a Terminator on a mission permanently tattooed onto his face.
On the date in question, we caught the looters with their metaphoric pants down, munching on ribs and chicken, guzzling beer and Coke by the cans-full. We drove up the dirt access road at dusk, circled them with our vehicles and parked with our brights on. Mesmerized to paralysis at first, the looters presently scrambled, Hibachis and shovels clanging as they were thrown into the beds of their pickups. One by one they snaked between our cars and drove away.
Our group had participated in no less than three such raids since.
To have that power, to be able to do something to protect our passion from marauders, was exhilarating, if not entirely legal. To that end, we swore each other to secrecy, vowing only ever to meet clandestinely, and only when dictated by the slightly lesser legal activities of our pot-hunting nemeses.
The ghost town of Ballycroy in the northern GTA was our first failure. I’d been monitoring online chatter for weeks, trying to pinpoint the message containing the exact date and time of the party. Once I’d found it, I’d marked it on my smart phone’s calendar. Busy at school, I hadn’t gone back to check for revisions. At some point between entering it into my calendar and the scheduled date, the pothunters had changed their meeting and I’d missed it.
After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence between us I said, “I fucked up big.”
“Come on, Moll,” Palmer said, “you had no way to know.”
“Hindsight is 20/20,” Michael said.
“Really, Michael?” I said. “Platitudes? Now?”
“Say, is there any cream?” Michael asked. He left the table and took his coffee with him.
“You need to calm down, Moll,” Palmer told me. “Stop beating yourself up.” I looked deep into his dark eyes and saw the calm I sought. How was he able to slough off what had happened so easily? Probably because he wasn’t on point for plan-making. “Crestwood means well, you know he does.” Palmer reached out and pried my hand from the near death-grip it had around the coffee cup, and squeezed.
When Michael returned to the table I apologized.
We agreed I would be the one to go to the Ministry office first thing the next day and register the site. Not that it would stop future looters from spoiling the archaeological record, but if we were ever going to see these guys prosecuted, it was the first step.
About the Author
Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own