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Saving Spirit Bear

What Price Success?

 

Kimberley James is hoping her new assignment will jumpstart her stalled career with a New York corporate relations firm. Her client wants to develop a mega ski resort in northern Canada. Her job is to convince the current owners of the land to sell. With millions of dollars to be made, it seems like a done deal.

Until she runs up against Jonah Baker.

Baker is part owner of a lodge on the land and an ardent environmentalist. He’s not about to permit a development that threatens ancient rainforests and the habitat of the rare and endangered Spirit Bear for any price.

Kim begrudgingly respects his principles before profit, but cannot allow a tree-hugging, bear-loving zealot to derail her fast track to success.

Jonah admires her determination and worldliness, but will fight to the end to stop a materialistic corporate climber from destroying something rare and unique.

Will their mutual attraction to one another be a catalyst that helps develop an understanding? Will the mythical, white Spirit Bear survive, and what role will it play in resolving what appear to be irreconcilable differences?

Saving Spirit Bear

Published by Rod Raglin, Shakespir Edition

Copyright © 2015 Rod Raglin

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SAVING SPIRIT BEAR

The Eco-Warriors Book 1

 

 

By

 

 

Rod Raglin

 

 

 

 

Dedication

 

This book is dedicated to Chandra, who has kept me grounded, real and in love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil

is that good men do nothing.

 

- Edmund Burke

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

LOVING THE TERRORIST

MAD MAGGIE

Author’s Page

 

 

Prologue

Extremely low temperatures accentuate sound, but despite the stinging cold, there was silence. No wind stirred the naked branches with its frosty breath. The ice that sealed the lake ceased to moan and crack. There was no song, call or footfall on the frozen white ground. It was as still as it was before the Creator, the Raven, gave voice to the rainforest. All life seemed suspended in anticipation.

Then it fell. Whimsically it drifted down from an opaque sky and was simultaneously caressed and carried by the first puff of air. Randomly it fluttered, buffeted now by the increasing breeze, slipping between evergreen boughs, finally coming to rest. The white tailed doe licked the snowflake from her nose. She stood, and her twin fawns nestled close beside her, did as well. A glance from their mother left them motionless in the glade as she gracefully moved to the forest edge and gazed across the lake.

The mounting wind sent the crisp leaves scattering over the steel grey surface. Clouds the color of a fresh bruise, threatened the pale sun, imprisoned as it was in a nimbus of ice crystals. It was time to move deeper into the forest and away from the numbing wind that raced unopposed across the exposed expanse.

Blinking the now frequent flakes from her eyes, the mother returned to her family and they began the perilous journey to a haven she knew, and hoped would protect them from the breaking storm and ever-present predators.

Without further preliminaries, the mid-winter storm exploded. The air was filled with snow falling neither up nor down, but whipped in the direction of a lashing wind. The ancient trees creaked and shuddered as they withstood the furious onslaught. The void of silence that had encompassed the Great Bear Rainforest of northwest British Columbia, Canada was filled with the roar of the gale.

The family of deer was moving too slowly across the open area. The mother used her body as a plow to create a path through the deepening drifts, but the fawns still found it difficult. With each step, their spindly legs sank into the soft snow up to their chests. Her son, stronger and more determined, was doing better than his sister, who seemed close to exhaustion. The doe moved to her side, licked the delicate face clean of white flakes and prodded the panting flank with her head. As a result of the encouragement, the frail youngster managed to get her front legs clear.

A hissing sound distracted the pair and they both looked toward the other fawn a hundred meters ahead and now nearing the edge of the forest. One moment he was there, valiantly struggling to get through the drifts, the next he was gone.

Instinctively knowing what was about to happen, the doe tried to get between the advancing avalanche and her surviving offspring, but she was no match for the tons of speeding snow and ice that engulfed them.

The wind-packed slopes had released their load farther up the mountain and now a large outcrop of rock split the torrent into two channels. Protected by the bluff was a single, prehistoric, Yellow Hemlock. Battered and broken, it still survived, with roots securely entwined after centuries among the boulders and chunks of granite. This symbiosis of living wood and constant rock had formed a shallow cavern, where now, sheltered from the mayhem of the mid-winter onslaught, a miracle of life was taking place just as one was ending.

Inside the cavern, the blackness was absolute. The entrance, shored up with earth and covered with fir boughs, was now topped off with two feet of insulating snow. The floor was soft with leaves, meadow grass, and pine needles. The excavation had been completed in early October and the decorating throughout that month.

 

  • * * *

 

Now in her tenth year, Sitka had mated for the third time in the late spring, but she had never had an opportunity to raise cubs. Born while she was in hibernation, the pair from her first pregnancy had suffocated when she had inadvertently rolled on them. The poor salmon run the following fall prevented her from gaining the necessary body weight for the fertilized embryos to develop. Sitka still carried the disappointment of waking in the spring with no babies.

This year the Creator had favoured her. In June, she had been courted by a very large, very attentive, gentle, Black Bear. For several days, he kept a respectable distance, smelling her day beds and sniffing her urine to see how receptive she was. When he got too close, she would run away, then turn to see if he was following. Because of his patience with her “hard- to- get” antics, in time, she allowed him to get closer and closer.

When she entered her estrous period, they became inseparable. They filled the ensuing days with wrestling, nuzzling, playfully chewing on each other’s head and repeated mating. Then, with a swat in the face that made his ears ring and nose run, Sitka let him know it was time to be on his way.

 

In late August, the salmon returned. Tens of thousands of adult fish churned the river shallows as they fought to make it to their spawning grounds. Sitka waded right in among the masses, selecting just the females, fat with eggs. She gorged herself on the rich roe, gaining nearly a third more body weight in six weeks.

Winter came early in the northern latitudes and by the end of October, she was snuggled up in her cozy den. As she slipped into her long winter sleep, her heart rate dropped from between forty to fifty beats per minute, to eight to ten. She would not eat or drink, neither would she urinate nor defecate during the next five months. The fat put on during the fall would metabolize and she would lose thirty percent of her body weight in the following months.

Sometime in January her cubs had been born. Just one-tenth the weight of a human baby, they would struggle to find a tit, then alternately nurse and sleep until their mother arose in April.

This was the miracle-taking place as the avalanche swept the family of deer to an icy death. Deep in its heart, the old tree protected its precious tenants as they suckled the nutrient rich milk and dreamed the dream of the pure, the innocent and the sacred.

For these were no ordinary bears. These were Moksgm’ol, spirits of the Great Bear Rainforest to the First Nations Tsimshian people. Their legend says that the Creator, the Raven, decided to create a reminder of when the world was once covered with ice and snow. To do this, he flew among the black and brown bear people and turned every tenth one white.

Ursus Americanus Kermodei is a rare subspecies of the Black Bear that, due to the result of a double recessive gene, is pure white. Rare as they are, what had taken place in the den beneath the old growth giant was rarer still. Not only was the mother a Kermode, but also both her offspring. Biologists would say this was an impossibility. But, to the Creator, the Raven, nothing was impossible. He had a special reason for bringing these three creatures to life. They would play a pivotal role in saving the sacred old growth rainforest.

 

Chapter One

 

 

The Twin Otter banked sharply and began a steep descent.

“This maniac is going to kill us,” whined Malcolm, eyes clamped, face ashen, and knuckles white.

Kimberley James was enjoying the spectacular landscape from the aerie vantage point. That must be Baker’s Lodge, she thought, as an imposing structure appeared near the base of the rugged, green slopes of Coliseum Mountain. The lodge had an appealing rustic look, hewed from giant logs from the surrounding forest. From a distance, it appeared weathered but well maintained. Poised upon a bluff, it watched over a tiny settlement below.

The plane leveled off with a shudder. “What was that?” her team leader gasped.

Jutting out from the lakeshore was a long wharf where several motor boats and a couple of float planes were moored. A cluster of ramshackle buildings sprung up from the shoreline and crowded the pier. To the right, a gravel road wound up and back into the forest, apparently leading to the lodge.

“It will all be over soon,” Kimberley said.

“Over!” he cried, as the pontoons skimmed the choppy surface of the lake.

“Sorry, I meant we’re coming in for a landing,” she said, not sorry at all, but rather enjoying her superior’s sheer terror. Malcolm was a nasty piece of work—condescending, insecure and, Kim suspected, a hater of women, particularly young and attractive ones. But it was only by default she was on this junket and she didn’t want to blow an exciting career opportunity by not keeping her mouth in check, a chronic character flaw.

Malcolm winced as the plane skipped along the surface, finally slowing and taxiing to the wharf.

“You can open your eyes now,” Kim said.

“I must look a wreck,” the account manager said, adjusting his silk tie and patting the sides of precision cut, dark hair.

Kim wasn’t interested in Malcolm’s personal inventory. She popped open the cabin door and jumped onto the wharf. Across the lake, steep slopes of solid green rose from the shore. Gradually, they tapered to saw-tooth granite spires, crowned by ever-present snow. She turned and involuntarily took several steps back, intimidated by the enormous bulk of Coliseum Mountain looming up from the end of the wharf. Craning her neck, she was still unable to see the summit of the massive mountain from that angle, concealed as it was by jagged outcroppings of ragged rock. She took deep breaths of the deliciously fresh air to cleanse her senses of her seatmate’s cloying cologne.

The wilderness was reminiscent of her home in northern Minnesota, only everything about the Canadian north appeared much bigger and more intense. Thinking of home made her wonder about her Dad. She made a mental note to give him a call when she returned to New York.

Two men hurried up the wharf to greet them, one handsome and citified, the other backwoods and brutish.

“Welcome to Baker’s Lodge, I’m Lawrence Thirsk, the general manager,” said the former, earnestly pumping Kimberley’s hand. “Murdoch, don’t stand there doing nothing, help the pilot secure the plane.”

“I’m Kimberley James, research assistant with Walsh Stein.”

“Ms. James,” Malcolm snarled, thrusting the large document case toward her and then gingerly extricating himself from the plane. “Malcolm Smith,” he said, pushing in front and extending his hand. “Senior account manager for Walsh Stein Corporate Relations. I see you met my assistant,” he said, putting emphasis on Kim’s position so no mistake could be made as to who was in charge.

The general manager’s focus abruptly shifted. “How did you enjoy the flight?”

“We survived it,” Malcolm said.

“President Tai and his entourage arrived a few hours ago and are resting in their rooms,” said the GM. “I’m confident that after the tour, you’ll all agree that Coliseum Mountain is the ideal location for his proposed international destination ski village.”

The guy is really laying it on thick, thought Kim, struggling with the cumbersome document case as they headed toward the Jeep Cherokee parked at the end of the wharf. But with nearly ten million dollars on the table, who wouldn’t be?

After a short ride up the gravel road they arrived at Baker’s Lodge.

“May I take that for you?”

Kimberley had been appreciating the massive wood beams supporting the huge main room of the lodge. The open space served as a reception area and comfortable lobby. On the far side and two steps up, was an unobtrusive lounge, quiet at this time in the early afternoon.

“Thank you,” Kim said, relieved to relinquish her burden to the young woman who was offering the luggage trolley. “Those Native Masks,” she said, impressed at the several colorful carvings that decorated the rough-hewn walls, “would fetch a small fortune in some Manhattan gallery.”

“They’re all original works by local Tsimshian carvers,” said Thirsk. “Take those bags to the assigned rooms now,” he barked at his staff member. “Our guests might like to freshen up before the tour and they’re on a tight schedule.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Thirsk. I’ll get their room keys right away.”

As the small group was about to disperse, the main door flew open. A man outfitted in a camouflage parka and with a high-powered rifle slung over his shoulder burst in. “Where the hell’s Thirsk?” he bellowed.

The startled guests watched as three others, similarly clad, and all carrying rifles, entered the foyer behind him.

“Terrorists!” Malcolm gulped, and backing away, tripped over the luggage, landing flat on his back.

“Hunters,” Kim corrected him, extending her hand to help him up.

The executive ignored Kim’s offer of assistance and stayed on the floor, cowering behind the luggage trolley. One of the hunters let his weapon slide off his shoulder and collapsed in an overstuffed lobby chair. His companions carefully placed their guns in a rack, shirked caps, red safety vests, and jackets and then stomped off to the bar.

Staff scurried to pick up the discarded clothes while Thirsk steered the angry intruder away from the distinguished guests and back to his exhausted comrade.

“You promised us we’d bag the limit,” he shouted. “Baker wouldn’t let us get near them.”

Thirsk was making conciliatory noises, but it wasn’t placating the angry hunter.

“Come on, Grant, Jonah Baker saved our lives,” the exhausted member of the quartet slouched in the chair finally said. “It was a white-out up there, I don’t know how he found the route down.”

“That’s bull,” Grant hollered. “We could see the mountain goats, but Baker wouldn’t take us up on the ridge to get a shot.”

“And if I had, you’d still be up there, for eternity.”

Jonah Baker stood in the entrance of the lodge. He was smaller than the hunters he’d been guiding, but more formidable. A colorful bandanna stretched across his forehead restraining the unruly locks of long, blond hair. A frown had drawn his bushy eyebrows together like a gathering storm.

“That’s a damn lie,” said the enraged hunter. “I had the ram in my sights and you knocked me off balance.”

“You’d have missed, or worse wounded the animal. Besides,” Jonah said, shrugging off a huge backpack, “we’d have never been able to get the carcass down.”

“Who cares about goat meat, I just want the head, to mount.”

Jonah instantly invaded Grant’s personal space. Faces inches apart, he glared at the hunter, his lean body taunt and trigger-ready. “You disgust me,” he said in voice so filled with menace it silenced the room.

Kim felt her breath quicken. This was so intense and unexpected, so primal and arousing in a visceral way. She gave the men space, expecting a melee to erupt, but the bigger hunter backed down.

Who is this guy?

“Jonah, back off,” Thirsk said, insinuating himself between the combatants.

There was a tense few seconds before Jonah slowly turned away.

The threat neutralized, the big mouth began to roar again. “I want my money back. We were promised kills and just because the guide doesn’t have the guts…”

Jonah’s body went rigid, stopping in mid-stride.

Here we go again, Kim thought, but before Jonah could respond, Grant hastily headed for the bar.

“I can’t believe this,” said the general manager. “Show the Walsh/Stein party to their rooms, now.”

Jonah was looking at her as if she were someone he knew, but didn’t recognize in the immediate context. His eyes, cobalt blue, but now fading, bore into her. A psychic jolt that culminated in the base of her cerebellum sent pins and needles up her spine. She felt unsteady and tried to get control of her breathing as he approached.

“Who are you?” Blunt, direct and vaguely threatening, his tone commanded an answer.

Kim hesitated, momentarily tongue-tied, a unique experience for someone who used words as a weapon. It was like she was in another dimension and his question was code for some deeper, inner meaning. She reset her consciousness for reality and the glib answer came forth.

“Kimberley James, with Walsh/Stein,” she said, and extended her hand.

The complete lack of recognition in his expression surprised her.

He clasped her hand and held on rather than shaking it. She looked down at his fingers, nicked and scratched, the nails broken, the skin rough like sandpaper.

“What are you doing here?”

She pulled her attention back to his face—fathomless eyes sunken with exhaustion, chapped skin drawn across broad cheekbones, at least three days blond stubble made him look edgy and wild. “We’re representing Mr. Tai and Tokai Corp regarding the proposed sale,” she said.

“What sale?

“We’re presenting an offer at the meeting tonight,” Kim explained, and watched mesmerized, as his eyes went from sky blue to ominous indigo. Muscles in his cheek quivered as his jaw worked over clenched teeth. He dropped her hand like she was infectious.

“The lodge is not for sale.”

“You might change your mind,” Kim said, trying to regain her professionalism while recovering from the uncanny effect this man was having on her, “when you hear the generous amount being offered.”

Lawrence Thirsk, returning from accompanying Malcolm to his room, walked briskly toward them.

“Baker’s Lodge is not for sale,” Jonah repeated, now turning his withering glare at Thirsk.

“It’s just an offer, Jonah,” Thirsk said as he reached them. “Just something to consider.”

“And when were you planning to let me in on this? I’d still be up there if there hadn’t have been a blizzard in the high country.”

“It was set up at the last minute,” Lawrence said. “We had to work around President Tai’s schedule. No one was trying to keep you out of the loop.”

All this, Kim knew, was a lie. From Jonah’s expression, so did he.

“I’m sorry, Ms. James,” Jonah said, picking up the burgeoning backpack and slinging it over his shoulder. “You and your client have wasted your time. Baker’s Lodge is not for sale, now or ever, for any amount of money.” Jonah strode away, disappearing into the interior of the lodge.

Kim was startled by the look of pure hatred on Lawrence Thirsk’s face. “We’ll see about that,” he said.

 

“If this torture doesn’t end soon I think I’ll have permanent damage to my lower back,” Malcolm complained, as the Jeep hit yet another jarring pothole in the weathered gravel road. They were returning from a brief tour of the nearby village, a disappointing cluster of rundown shacks. Kim was sandwiched between her boss, and Soshi, the president’s aide, while Tai rode up front with Thirsk.

“After this, I’ll have Murdoch take you out on the lake and you can see the lodge and Coliseum Mountain from a better perspective,” Thirsk said, as Soshi provided instant translation for the monolingual president.

The Jeep pulled up to the cluster of ramshackle buildings along the shoreline that crowded the wharf. The beefy behemoth with the bald bullet-head who’d been on the wharf when they arrived was to be their captain on this impromptu cruise.

Their vessel, a sleek motorboat with an open cockpit, was obviously built more for speed than comfort. Kim noticed Malcolm looking apprehensively at the boat as they stood shivering on the wharf. As Thirsk gave Murdoch last minute instructions, Jonah appeared at the entrance of one the buildings. He watched from a distance before hurrying down to them.

“I’ll take them out,” Jonah said to Thirsk.

“It’s not necessary, Murdoch can.”

“I’ll take them,” he said, jumping into the boat. “Get on board,” he ordered the guests.

Thirsk shrugged and shook his head. “The meeting is in three hours.” He tossed Jonah the keys. “Bring them back in one piece.”

Kim was excited by the change in command. Jonah had already piqued more than her curiosity and now she’d have an opportunity to speak to him. You can’t know too much about your opponent, her research assistant training had taught her, but that didn’t explain her racing heart.

Once they’d cast off, Jonah opened the throttle. The boat took off like a rocket, throwing the guests back into their seats. Beyond the shelter of the tiny bay, the lake was choppy and the hull bounced up and down in the swells.

“Sick,” was all Kim heard as Malcolm lurched to starboard and heaved over the side. She grasped his collar and pulled him upright. His pale face was soaked with icy spray and there was an orange stain on the lapel of his cashmere overcoat. She gave him a scrunched tissue from the bottom of her pocket. He made a weak attempt to wipe his chin.

“Cold,” he said, clutching the coat around him.

“I think you’re killing my boss.” Kim had negotiated her way up to Jonah at the helm. “Maybe you could slow down, unless of course, that’s exactly what you want to do?” she said, giving him a winning smile.

Jonah glanced back at Malcolm, swung into a cove where the water was calmer, and came to a full stop. He passed her a bottle of water and two pills. “Give him these.”

He’s not without compassion, Kim thought, as she administered the pills to a semi-comatose Malcolm, considering he despises us, and everything we stand for.

The presence of a Black Bear ambling along the rocky shore was accompanied by an eruption of Japanese.

“President Tai would like to know if you take visitors to places where this species can be killed?” Soshi translated.

“Not anymore.”

“But the hunters you guided early today—”

“Just fulfilling the last of my late father’s obligations,” Jonah said. “From now on, Baker’s Lodge will solely be used for eco-tourism pursuits.” He started the motor. “We’ve got to get back.”

“So if the lodge is out of the hunting and guiding business, how are you going to pay the bills?” Kim asked. They were heading back to the lodge at a considerably slower speed, apparently in consideration for Malcolm.

Her need to know more about this strangely appealing man was intensely personal, but she was also aware that any information she could learn might be of use in negotiating the deal. It was only because the research assistant regularly assigned to Malcolm had come down with the mumps that Kim was on this trip at all. She was desperate to make a good impression with head office.

With Malcolm out of commission, at least momentarily, she had to seize the day, or be relegated to the research department for perpetuity. She had no misgivings about acquiring this information surreptitiously. It was, after all, business, and at stake were her career, her future and everything else that mattered.

“Baker’s Lodge will be converted to serve the eco-tourism market,” Jonah answered confidently, finally acknowledging her. “No more trophy hunters like your client here,” he said with distaste.

“For Europeans, Canada represents the last bastion of unspoiled wilderness,” Kim said, “and as yet, the market hasn’t been tapped.”

“Is this something you know about?”

“It’s information we thought might be important to our client. That’s what a research assistant does.”

“Of course it is.” The hint of a smile lit up his countenance like daybreak. “I should apologize for being rude earlier,” he said, expertly navigating the boat between swells. “All this came as a bit of a surprise, as you can imagine.”

“Frankly, I can’t imagine. How could someone not know about a deal that would make him a millionaire?”

“Well, I’ve been a bit preoccupied with the recent death of my father,” he said, his smile disappearing and his smooth brow creasing.

“I’m sorry for your loss. Was it sudden?”

“Unfortunately not.”

For a while, Jonah was silent and Kim thought she’d lost him. “In fairness,” he said finally, “I’ve left most of the business stuff up to Larry, but selling Baker’s Lodge was never a consideration.”

“And why is that?”

Jonah’s look of astonishment surprised Kim. “What?” she asked defensively. “You look like I just uttered a blasphemy.”

“That’s exactly what you’ve done. Coliseum Mountain is home of the rare Spirit Bear, ancient stands of rainforest and untouched eco-systems. It’s something to be preserved, not profited from.”

A zealot, but you had to admire his integrity. Most people Kim knew would sell their souls for three and a quarter million dollars. To be honest, she was probably among them.

Kim hoped for engine failure as the boat neared the wharf. She was intrigued, excited and there was something else—a kind of teenage giddiness. She didn’t want this to end. “What will you do if the other partners accept Tokai Corp’s offer?”

“Won’t happen,” he guffawed. “I know people like you and Tai think money can buy anything,” Jonah said, “but even if my sister caves into pressure from her money-grubbing husband, you’ll never get Chief Winter Star’s share.”

“Really,” Kim said, smarting from the remark. “Well, why don’t you tell a money-grubbing person like me, why the Chief won’t sell?”

“Because the trees and the Spirit Bear are sacred to his band, the Tsimshian. Have been since time began, and are therefore priceless.”

Kim was silent. Was he right? Was there something, someone, money couldn’t buy? She thought not. Besides, she doubted the combined resources of the multinational Tokai Corp and Walsh/Stein, the largest corporate relations firm in New York, would have their executives travel thousands of miles into the Canadian north unless it was ninety-nine percent certain a deal could be done. Was Jonah the one percent who could kill it? Or was there something going on that he wasn’t aware of, like he hadn’t been aware of tonight’s meeting?

As they pulled along the dock, Kim wondered what Lawrence Thirsk had meant when he’d said “we’ll see about that,” this afternoon when he’d been confronted with the same dogmatic inflexibility?

What would it mean to Jonah if Baker’s Lodge were sold to be redeveloped into an international destination ski mountain and village? What would it mean to her career if he blocked the deal? She admired his unwavering commitment to what he believed in—at any price. Too bad they weren’t on the same side.

It was going to be an interesting meeting.

 

“I want to thank our guests, President Tai of Tokai Corp, and the representatives of Walsh/Stein Corporate Relations for coming all this way and the interest they have expressed in Coliseum Mountain and Baker’s Lodge.” As general manager, Lawrence Thirsk was addressing the meeting in a suite cum boardroom. Around the table were seated the principals; Tai with his translator, Thirsk speaking on behalf of his wife’s interest, Chief Saul Winter Star, his daughter Martha, and Jonah.

With the greeting done, Thirsk turned the meeting over to Malcolm, who, though still shaky, had made a remarkable recovery once back on dry land.

“We’d like to come away from this meeting with a letter of agreement signed by the majority of owners of Baker’s Lodge on the sale of the said property.” Malcolm took a sip of water and continued. “Earlier this afternoon, you were all presented with a formal offer from Tokai Corp. Before we proceed further, I would like to take a verbal vote by the shareholders of their position. To use the vernacular of a modern quiz show,” Malcolm quipped, “whether we have a deal, or no deal?”

The moment of truth.

Kim held her breath.

“Lawrence Thirsk has the proxy vote for his wife, Laura. Mr. Thirsk, deal or no deal?”

“Deal, of course.”

“Jonah Baker, deal or no deal?”

“No deal.”

Now all eyes turned to the elderly Tsimshian Chief. He sat erect, dignified, hands clasped in front of him on the table, staring straight ahead at a point somewhere behind Malcolm, and just this side of oblivion.

“Chief Winter Star,” Malcolm hesitated, caught up in the drama, “deal or no deal?”

One eternity, two eternity, three…

“Deal.”

Kim’s eyes were on Jonah’s face throughout the countdown. When Winter Star cast his vote, there was a moment of incomprehension, then shocked disbelief. The decision hit him like a body blow, slamming him back into his chair. His boyish features immediately aged as pain transformed his face. He looked at the Chief as a child might look at a parent who had broken a promise, violated a sacred trust or hurt them for reasons unknown. The word “why” was on his lips, but never spoken.

Kim’s hand went to her mouth and her eyes brimmed with tears as she searched for something comforting to say, some action that might alleviate his suffering.

“I can’t let this happen,” Jonah said. “This cannot be allowed to happen.” He stood, and leaning across the table, locked eyes with President Tai. “I’ll enlist every environmental group on the face of the planet to stop this. I will not let this happen.”

Tai held his stare, a wisp of a smile appearing on his inscrutable face.

As Jonah walked quietly from the room, he looked vulnerable and visibly diminished, hardly the self-assured, intimidating character he was just hours before.

For some inexplicable reason Kim felt ashamed.

Martha said something in Tsimshian to her father, who continued to sit stoically, then she followed Jonah out.

“It appears we have a deal,” Malcolm said, indifferent to the intensity of emotion that lingered in the room. His cavalier attitude convinced Kim no other decision had been expected.

“If those in agreement will just sign this letter of intent,” he continued, passing the document out, “we can begin to work toward the closing.”

 

“Ms. James, how good of you to join us,” slurred Lawrence Thirsk, as he handed her a glass of champagne. The meeting had adjourned to the bar where an impromptu celebration was taking place. “To Coliseum Mountain, soon to become the world’s foremost international destination ski resort.” They clinked glasses. As Kim sipped, the GM threw back the contents of his glass and promptly got another from the bar.

“Where are the others?” she asked, noticing that those celebrating with Lawrence had not been at the meeting.

“Laura, my wife, is probably in our suite moping, the Chief is likely communing with his ancestors with the help of his weird daughter,” he said, laughing. “Jonah, I can only hope, has slit his wrists.”

Kim winced at the callous remark. With the exception of Thirsk, the other partners obviously weren’t in a celebratory mood despite just coming into $3.2 million dollars each. Kim wouldn’t have come down except on instruction from Malcolm to have a drink with the clients. He was already anxious about the float plane flight back to Terrace tomorrow morning and needed to rest up after the harrowing day he’d spent.

“That’s quite the dress you’re wearing, Kim,” Lawrence said. “May I call you, Kim?”

“Sure, Larry, if your wife doesn’t mind.” Might as well nip this guy in the bud, or wherever. Sometimes she didn’t mind playing along with the client, but this wasn’t one of those times.

She was wearing a black cocktail dress with spaghetti straps. It contrasted well, she thought, with her dark red hair and white shoulders. The three-inch heels added a bit more height to her five and half foot frame. The dress might be a bit short, but she liked to showcase her well-defined legs—the gain for all that pain on a Stair-Master. The outfit usually had the desired affect.

“So what are you planning to do with this windfall, Larry?” Kim said.

“Get back to civilization as fast as possible.” His gaze eyes wandered over her body, coming to rest on her cleavage.

“Not a backcountry kind of guy?”

“Big city born and raised.” He settled back on a barstool. “Before I came to Baker’s Lodge, my idea of a wilderness experience was a walk around the seawall in Vancouver’s Stanley Park.” He chuckled. “It’s harsh out here and dangerous. Last summer I was confronted by a six hundred pound bear on the ten minute walk from the lodge to the pub at the wharf.” He appeared to blanche at the memory of it. “In the winter, the same walk will leave your extremities numb. Give me air-conditioned, climate-controlled comfort any day.”

In Kim’s position as a research assistant there was no such thing as too much information. If Thirsk was in a talkative mood, she was prepared to listen and encourage him. “What did you do in Vancouver?”

“I had a senior position in a major accounting firm,” he said, thrusting out his chin. “But my wife begged me to support her with the family’s business when her father got sick.” He gave I’m-such-a-nice-guy shrug. “So here I am.”

There was the “what”, and he also had included the “why”, but it somehow didn’t ring true. Kim decided to keep pushing. “And even a guy with your experience couldn’t make Baker’s Lodge profitable?”

“It’s profitable, but very marginally,” Thirsk conceded, “but who wants to spend their prime earning years out in the boonies just scraping by?” He hailed the bartender, changed his drink to Scotch and continued with his story. “Initially, it was challenging. The old man had left a hell of a mess when he got sick and brother-in-law, Jonah, didn’t know the first thing about a balance sheet,” he snorted. “Sure he’s great with the clients and the staff love him, but there’s more to managing a successful business than being popular, isn’t that right, Kim?”

Kim nodded, sipped her champagne, and let him keep talking.

“Damn right there is.” He lurched forward to emphasize his point, the booze sloshing onto his hand. “I would rather have their respect than their friendship.”

Kim suspected he had neither. The conversation was turning into a drunken rant and by the way Larry was now consuming the Scotch, it would soon be an unintelligible one.

“It only took a few months for it to become apparent that no matter how well Baker’s Lodge was managed, it was a dead end,” he said. “That meant no big salary increases, incentive bonuses or future equity.” He shook his head and stared into his glass. “I suggested selling the timber rights to the land the company owned since they were worth considerably more that the business. Selling the trees, splitting the profits, and closing the lodge made practical and economic sense.”

Kim could imagine how that went down with Jonah, but she asked anyway.

“I might as well have uttered a blasphemy,” Thirsk said, slamming his drink on the bar.

There it was again, that word, as though the subject was about religion rather than business.

“What about Jonah’s idea to go after the eco-tourism market?”

Thirsk grunted. “Where’s the money going to come from to hire a marketing expert, and what about the cost of advertising?”

Kim had one more question before she called it a night leaving Larry to celebrate on his own. “Why did Chief Winter Star go for the deal?” she asked, remembering how convinced Jonah had been that the Tsimshian would side with him and against the development.

“It’s 3.2 million dollars,” Larry replied as if the question was a no-brainer. “Who wouldn’t go for it?” Then more soberly, if that was possible, he added, “Winter Star’s got a lot of problems with the young people in the village—no jobs, lots of drug and alcohol abuse. Maybe he thinks the money will help. But then,” he said laughing, “that much cash could buy one hell of a party.” He drained his glass and signaled for two refills.

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to call it a day,” Kim said, refusing the drink and picking up her purse from the bar.

“Hey, Kim, don’t abandon me. Do you know how long it’s been since I had a conversation with someone as sexy as you?” He gave her a lascivious wink and placed his hand on her bare arm. His touch felt like his face looked, hot and sweaty. “All these morons talk about is hunting, fishing, the weather, and the “environment,” ” he spit out the word like it had a bad taste. “In this place culture and intelligent conversation is as endangered as some of the local species.”

“Tomorrow’s going to be a very long day.” Kim moved beyond his reach. She now felt the need to have a shower before going to bed.

“Of course,” Thirsk said, pulling himself together. “No doubt we’ll be seeing more of each other as we get closer to finalizing the deal.”

 

  • * * *

 

“Why?”

The question hung in the still night air, answered finally with a sigh.

“Young people are leaving the village. There are no jobs, no future,” Martha replied out of darkness, her voice heavy with sadness.

She had joined Jonah on the bluffs above and behind the lodge. They sat on a bench, hewn from a fallen tree. Though only a few feet apart, Jonah sensed the events of the evening had opened a chasm between them. He couldn’t lose both Martha and the lodge in one night. He couldn’t let that happen.

“My father feels if the resort is developed they can stay right here and work. The money we get for our share will go to fixing up the houses, maybe the longhouse, and to pay for education and training.”

Martha had just returned from completing her master’s degree in Aboriginal Studies and was an emerging leader of First Nation’s people on a national level. The decision had been made without her consultation, and Jonah knew she was equally dismayed.

“What about the old ways,” Jonah asked, the pain still resonating in his voice. “He used to always talk about going back to the traditional way of life as a salvation for the Tsimshian.” He’d grown up at the knee of Chief Winter Star and his stories of the old ways had instructed and inspired him.

“He says we can’t go back. There’s no one to teach the young people and it’s too hard.”

Jonah could sense Martha’s unease. She was more than just his best friend, they were kindred spirits, linked, he felt, as only children who have experienced life together can be. They communicated without words, but with signs, feelings, and an intuitive knowing of what the other was about to do.

They were born on the same day, she to the Tsimshian Chief in a humble shack on band land, and he to the master of Baker’s Lodge, an imposing structure a quarter of a mile away. Inseparable since they were toddlers, they grew up exploring the deep forest, the lake’s sparkling shoreline, and magnificent peaks that made up the Coliseum Mountain wilderness.

“I’m ashamed,” she whispered.

Jonah remained silent, knowing more was to come,

“I should have been here to help my father with this decision, and honor your father’s wishes.”

“He’s likely turning over in his grave right now,” Jonah said.

“Except we didn’t bury him,” Martha replied.

Only days before, a small group of family and friends, had stood on this very spot and scattered Marshall Baker’s ashes. It was one of his favourite places, open to the sky with a view that looked down to the lodge, across the lake and up the forested slopes to the glaciated peaks beyond.

But that day had been harsh, the clouds and the lake competing shades of bleak and the October wind icy with the threat of snow. It was as if the landscape itself was in mourning. The currents had lifted his father’s remains high into the boughs of the surrounding ancient trees. Jonah wondered if those giants felt as vulnerable as he did now their guardian was gone? “

***

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Saving Spirit Bear

What Price Success? Kimberley James is hoping her new assignment will jumpstart her stalled career with a New York corporate relations firm. Her client wants to develop a mega ski resort in northern Canada. Her job is to convince the current owners of the land to sell. With millions of dollars to be made, it seems like a done deal. Until she runs up against Jonah Baker. Baker is part owner of a lodge on the land and an ardent environmentalist. He’s not about to permit a development that threatens ancient rainforests and the habitat of the rare and endangered Spirit Bear for any price. Kim begrudgingly respects his principles before profit, but cannot allow a tree-hugging, bear-loving zealot to derail her fast track to success. Jonah admires her determination and worldliness, but will fight to the end to stop a materialistic corporate climber from destroying something rare and unique. Will the mythical, white Spirit Bear survive, and what role will it play in resolving what appear to be irreconcilable differences? Spirit Bear is the first in the stand-alone series ECO-WARRIORS, contemporary romances that deliver a satisfying love story with a subplot that addresses important environmental issues.

  • ISBN: 9781310787928
  • Author: Rod Raglin
  • Published: 2015-11-08 09:05:08
  • Words: 51129
Saving Spirit Bear Saving Spirit Bear