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Justice, fiction and Canada


Darryl Hopkins was a mild-mannered guy. As mild-mannered as anyone who’d spent two tours of duty – one with Special Forces – in the quagmire of Vietnam could be. Disenchanted with hostile reception he’d received in his home town of Madison, Wisconsin, when he returned from the war, he’d moved to Canada, married a nice girl from the Maritimes, settled into a gray life of Canadian obscurity and eventually moved to Vancouver to escape the endless Winnipeg winters.

The first new year in Lotusland, Darryl rekindled an old interest in downhill skiing and "discovered" Whistler. It wasn’t long before he and his wife – childless by fate, not choice – settled into the weekender lifestlye, driving up Friday nights and joining the rhumb line back to the city Sunday evening or sometimes, Monday morning.

Janet took to skiing like the former hockey player she was – quickly and effortlessly. Whistler became the spiritual centre of the couple’s universe and over the years, their circle of friends came to include only those who shared their passion for the playground two hours north and a world away.

Darryl thought often – obsessed really – about the years of fun they’d had together and the years that stretched ahead, bleak, mournful, bitter years he’d have to learn to spend without his wife. He understood the medical reality of the blood clot that had travelled a venous route from Janet’s injury, up her leg, through her torso and into her heart where it stopped cold and killed her instantly. He knew it was fate, or the hand of God or some other obscure, mystical imagination of the human mind that had killed his wife.

But he couldn’t shake the conviction it was that bastard snowboarder who’d really done it. Killed her as sure has if he’d taken out a pistol and shot her through the heart.

It was the last run of a perfect day, an exhausting day, a double diamond day and they were cruising down to Creekside, a cold beer with friends and a comfortable evening at home. They were on Bear Cub at Darryl’s suggestion, headed for Lower Dave. Toilet Bowl had been a mess of icy moguls earlier in the day and neither of them had the legs to want to ski it again.

Darryl skied behind his wife, enjoying watching her not unshapely hind side cut graceful short radius turns 30 feet or so in front. Just past the first sweeping left, a banzai border had crashed out of the trees above, hit the centre of the run hard, careened into Janet and sent her flying over the edge of the run into the stumps and cedars below. Darryl heard her wail, an unearthly cry as her tibia and fibula snapped clean at the top of her left boot.

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