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16 March 2011 @ 07:11 am
"Show Me the Gun-y: A Laird Barron Adventure"  
The following story within a story is true. Only the names have been changed. And the location. And some of the facts.

It was July 2009 and I was at Readercon with a couple of friends, Simon Strantzas and Richard Gavin. Well, Richard was a friend, Simon was just some guy we knew who had a car. We had driven down from Canada for the convention, and we didn't really know anyone. Laird Barron was one of the first people to introduce himself and make us feel welcome.

On our second night at the convention, Simon, Richard, and I happened to meet up with Laird and a few others in the lobby. We ended up sitting around for several hours telling stories. Somehow we got onto the subject of film noir and police/detective stories, and I happened to mention that my father was a constable in the RCMP.

Laird nodded. "Oh yeah. The RCMP. Been there, done that."

Everyone sitting around Laird (myself included) leaned in closer, intrigued. "You were in the RCMP?" I said.

"Briefly," Laird replied. "I hooked up with them when I was making the move from Alaska to Washington."

"What?" I said, aghast. "But how?"

"It's a pretty strange story," Laird said. "You see, I had all of my belongings, books mostly, packed into this huge truck. As everyone knows, to get from Alaska to Washington, you need to drive through part of Canada — specifically the province of British Columbia.

"Well, it turns out there are some pretty serious load restrictions on Americans coming into Canada. I guess they don't want people dragging all their crap into the country and leaving it there. So the border guards took one look at my truck and started hassling me about it. I tried to tell them that I was only passing through their beautiful country, but… well, if you've been through the border, you know they've got a special class of people working there. It's like they went around to every school in the world and rounded up all the worst bullies and groomed them to become border guards.

"Anywho, one of these hosers puts his hand on my shoulder like we're pals, and I gotta tell you his grip was cold to the touch. They really scared me. The other guy is going through my papers, and happens to see that I ran the Iditarod…"

"You ran the Iditarod?" said a young woman dressed as Sailor Moon. If her voice had been filled with any more awe the room would have been saturated with the stuff like an… an… awe-scented Glade Plug-In.

Laird leaned toward her and grinned. "Three times."

The young woman dressed as Sailor Moon swooned. She actually swooned!

Simon leaned forward and said, "I ran away from a rabid mink one time."

"So," Laird went on, "the border guys saw that I had taken part in this extremely difficult sled-dog race not once but three times, and they mentioned there might be a way I could get out of this unpleasantness." He looked around at Simon, Richard, and me. "I don't know if you guys know this, but Canada has its only version of Guantanamo Bay. A secret prison located deep in the Northwest Territories."

Simon scoffed. "Are you kidding me? I would have heard of something like that."

"He just said it was secret," I scolded him. "Stop ruining the story."

"Yeah," Richard backed me up. "Don't be such a nimrod, Simon. Sheesh!"

Laird continued: "I had visions of being taken to this prison, which I heard is called The Slush Mines, and I could tell these border jerks wanted to make me some kind of deal. So I told them to cut to the chase and spin it for me quick."

"What was the deal, Laird?" I asked.

"Yeah, what was it?" Richard asked.

"Slush Mines," Simon grumbled.

"The deal," Laird said, pausing perhaps for dramatic effect, maybe because he was lost in the memory. "… was that I had to join the RCMP for one week."

The group gathered around Laird (minus Simon) let out a collective "Wow!"

"It turns out the RCMP was running low on members, and they were doing everything they could to get people to join up. This was during the time The X-Files was on television, and the RCMP was losing a lot of their officers to the States. These people were heading south to join the FBI, on account of it being the cooler of the two federal policing agencies."

We all nodded in agreement.

"The RCMP was so desperate that they were even willing to hire Americans to fill positions in their dwindling ranks, even Americans who were only passing through Canada for a short period of time. That's how they got me. They said if I worked for them for one week, they'd look the other way on my load restriction troubles. They said they'd even have my truck waiting for me on the other end of the province, right at the border into Washington. No fuss, no muss, and everyone's happy. It was, quite simply, a deal I couldn't refuse."

"So what happened?" I asked.

"To be honest, it was pretty dull. As any law enforcement officer will tell you — and it doesn't matter if you're an RCMP constable, an FBI agent, or a CIA spook — 95% of the job is paperwork. Now I'm a writer, and I do a lot of my own paperwork, if you know what I mean" — Laird grinned at the young woman dressed as Sailor Moon, and she tittered — "but this stuff was Dullsville. Endless forms that needed to be filled out in duplicate, triplicate. I felt like Ferdinand De Conté in La Jus D'Orange."

Everyone laughed except for Simon, who didn't get the reference.

"The big trouble in British Columbia was drugs. All kinds of stuff was being smuggled from Canada to the U.S. and Miami vice versa."

"Miami vice versa?" I said, confused.

"It's drug terminology. They call it the Great White North Triangle. A darkly splendid realm that covers the area of Vancouver to Seattle to Miami. It makes the Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia look like… I dunno, some sort of rhombus or something."

Then I asked the question that tends to come up when you're speaking to someone who has worked in law enforcement.

"Did you ever use your gun in the line of duty?"

Laird paused for a long moment. Then he said, "Well, I was tempted to pump a few shots into those filing cabinets."

"But did you ever shoot anyone?"

"For the RCMP? No, I never did. But I did show someone my gun once."

We all looked at one another with confused looks on our faces. Except Simon. He was scowling. "What do you mean you showed someone your gun?" he asked snarkily.

Laird hunched over his knees. "It was a cold, wet, miserable day. What is commonly referred to in Vancouver as a 'weekday.' Consequently, it was also my final day working for the RCMP.  A tip had come in that a known drug smuggler named Slow Eddie Miggs was at that very moment headed to the U.S. border with a load of Yukon heroin. Known in some circles as Yellow Tiger."

We all nodded, Simon a bit more rapidly than the rest of us. Hmm.

"I was partnered with an older, more experienced constable." Laird looked at me. "He looked a bit like you, actually, Ian. Anyway, he asked me if I had any experience with guns. I told him I had carried a rifle with me during the Iditarod. You had to, in case of rabid polar bears or shoggoths. And let's face it, I'm an American. We may not all have been born with silver spoons in our mouths, but we all had a handgun or two in our cribs."

The Americans in the group all nodded their heads, while Simon, Richard, and I looked around, a bit ill at ease.

"So the constable gave me his gun. Since he'd be driving the car, he wouldn't be able to use it anyway. As we headed out, I realized I didn't have a holster. I considered sticking the gun in my waistband, but didn't feel like shooting my balls off. So I ended up putting the gun in one of the big pockets of my bright yellow RCMP raincoat. And we were off!"

"That doesn't make any sense," Simon cut in. "Everyone knows the RCMP rides horses. It's in their name: Royal Canada Mounted Police."

But no one was listening to Simon anymore. Everyone was focused on Laird.

"So we sped off to the highway, with two other RCMP cars behind us. The plan was to cut Slow Eddie off before he could reach the border. We weaved in and out of traffic until we saw his car up ahead. We pulled up alongside him and I rolled down my window and yelled at Slow Eddie to pull over. He shook his head, even when I flashed him the cool RCMP badge they'd given me. That man had absolutely no respect for the law." Laird shook his head ruefully.

"He left us with no choice but to box him in and make him pull over. My partner and I took the left side of Slow Eddie's car, while the other two RCMP cars took up positions in front of and behind Slow Eddie. Carefully we edged him closer and closer to the guardrail. But Eddie didn’t plan on going quietly."

"He had a gun?" I gasped.

"No," Laird said, looking at us grimly. "But he had on running shoes. You see, it turns out Slow Eddie was given that name because he was, in fact, an award-winning sprint runner in high school. You know those reality cop shows where they show helicopter footage of the bad guy running through back yards and stuff, and the cops eventually catch him? Well, Slow Eddie was so fast he even outran the helicopters!"

"So the name was ironic," Simon said sagely. But no one was listening to him still.

"Slow Eddie didn't intend to get caught. He could see we were boxing in his car, so he did the only thing he could. He decided to run. He tried to open his door, but my partner and I were right up next to him. So he rolled down his window instead and started climbing out. Except my window was still down from yelling at him, and Slow Eddie started climbing into our car!"

We let out a collective gasp. Except Simon. He snorted dismissively.

"I knew I couldn't beat an award-winning sprint runner in a foot race, so I did the only thing I could."

"You pistol-whipped his kneecaps?" I said.

"You threw him under the wheels of your car?" Richard said.

"You undid the top button of your shirt?" said the young woman dressed as Sailor Moon.

Laird shook his head. "Nope. I showed him my gun…"

"You pointed your gun at him?" Simon said, unimpressed.

Laird shook his head again, slowly. "Nope. I just took it out and showed it to him. Slow Eddie looked at me, then he looked at the gun, then back at me, and I told him, very calmly and sincerely: 'I'm not chasing you.' "

Everyone gave a collective sigh of relief that was immediately followed by applause. Simon sat on his hands.

"Yeah," Laird said, "Slow Eddie didn't do any sprinting that day. Or any smuggling, for that matter. He's in a federal penitentiary now, where he's probably learning a bit about being 'mounted' himself." He tipped a wink at Simon and we all laughed.

"That reminds me of this other time," Laird said, "when I was over in Ireland for Scotchtoberfest and I ended up working for MI7."

"There's no such thing as MI7," Simon said sulkily.

Laird threw back his head and laughed. The rest of us joined him. "Well, sometimes you need to look beneath the surface of things to find the truth." He paused. "Thinking about Scotchtoberfest is making me thirsty. What say we head to the bar and I'll finish the story there."

We all got up and followed Laird to the bar. He yelled back over his shoulder:

"First round's on Simon!"

We all laughed again. Except for Simon.

Simon Strantzasstrantzas on March 16th, 2011 12:33 pm (UTC)
You are so dead.
Ian Rogersonemoreshadow on March 16th, 2011 01:19 pm (UTC)
Kat said the same thing after she read the story last night.

It was the heroin thing, wasn't it?
International Bon Vivant and Raconteurnick_kaufmann on March 16th, 2011 02:00 pm (UTC)
Don't worry, we'll remember you fondly.
Simon Strantzasstrantzas on March 16th, 2011 02:35 pm (UTC)
I just read it again. So dead.
Ian Rogersonemoreshadow on March 16th, 2011 02:37 pm (UTC)
Even though I pimped both of your collections in the story? I thought I was doing you a favour.
Paul G. Tremblaypgtremblay on March 16th, 2011 05:04 pm (UTC)
Leah Bobetleahbobet on March 16th, 2011 06:07 pm (UTC)
Joe PulverJoe Pulver on March 17th, 2011 12:35 pm (UTC)
LIKE! !! :)
punumine on April 8th, 2011 12:56 pm (UTC)
Very intereresting reading. thx