Nick the Owl Faloon is sitting beside a stone fox by the name of Eve Winters, who is apparently some kind of shrink. They're scoffing up fresh-caught sockeye, sharing a long table with four couples from Topeka, Kansas, who are up here on a wet spring holiday. In spite of all the happy talk, the Owl picks up there is an edge to this dinner, the men regretting they brought their wives along. A fishing extravaganza that put them back a few yards each, and they bring their wives when they'd rather get plotzed and bond.
Though square, they are nice average people, and Faloon hopes they're well insured so he's not going to feel bad about the coming night's entreprise risquÃ©e, his plan to whack their rooms out. Two weeks ago, while here on a previous dining experience, he made a clean play for the master key, slipping it off its hook long enough to wax it. He also checked a typical room, there was no nighter to secure the door from inside, just a security chain.
"And are you a sports fisher too?"
It's Eve Winters, she has finally become aware of his existence, maybe assuming the little owl-like creature to her left can't possibly be as boring as the other guy beside her, a condominium developer with a spiel of corny jokes. She is somewhere in her thirties, very tall and slender, ash blond, looking in good health -- she has done the trail, Faloon overheard her say that, six gruelling days. Sports fisher, she's politically correct, a feminist.
"No, ma'am, I run a little lodge down the hill. Less expensive than this here establishment, but to be honest my food isn't as good."
The Owl is speaking of the Nitinat Lodge, which is on a back street in this two-bit town of Bamfield without much of a view, and mostly gets backpackers and low-rental weekenders. The Breakers Inn, looking over the Pacific Ocean, survives on its summer fat and still, in March, gets the fishers from Topeka or Indianapolis. And the way these tourists are spending tonight, that'll pay the chef's salary for the month. Faloon had to lay off his own cook for the off-season.
"But I would imagine you have a more exotic clientele." Eve Winters says in a clear, liquid voice, maybe so her other seatmate can get the point. She has marked down the condo developer as a chauvinist bore, with his story about the fisherman and the mermaid. What is interesting about this guy, to Faloon anyway, is that adding to the bulge of his size forty-eight kitchen is a thick moneybelt.
Faloon tells Eve Winters how he bought his small lodge a year and a half ago, and how he caters to hikers mostly; he likes vigorous outdoorspeople, finds them interesting. That gets this lovely creature talking about her six days on the West Coast Trail with three friends. He enjoys the refined way she expresses herself: "I had a sense of eternity out there, the wind in the pines, and the wild relentless surf."
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It isn't easy to concentrate on tonight's job, Operation Breakers Inn, because he feels a little hypnotized by the soft grey eyes of Eve Winters, who doesn't take on sharp outline, she's like an Impressionist painting. The Owl, who is starting to wonder if he needs his eyes checked, senses her aura, a silver haze floating about her head. No makeup, but none needed, her face tanned gently by the wind and whatever sun you get this time of year on the West Coast. Dressed casually, jeans and light sweater.
Hardly anyone does the trail so early in spring, when it's still a swamp. This has meant a near-zero occupancy rate at the Nitinat since last fall, and by now, the final day of March, he is two months behind in his mortgage payments. His financial adviser, Freddy Jacoby, also his fence, warned him, you'll get three months' business max, maybe four if it don't piss in June. The Nitinat Lodge was his retirement program, cash in on the tourist trade, accommodate wayfarers in the middle of what turned out to be nowhere or, more accurately, the western shore of Vancouver Island -- you can only get here by logging roads or the local packet freighter, the Lady Rose.
Eve Winters says she supposes he's walked the West Coast Trail many times, and he replies no, not once, and it's one of his greatest sorrows. A skiing accident prevented him from pursuing his passion for the outdoors, he gets along with two pins in his right leg. That isn't the honest truth, which is that the Owl doesn't like walking more than he has to. Faloon is an easy person to talk to, he brings people out -- he's curious by nature, an information-gatherer. So he urges her on about how she found Bamfield "unspeakably funky" and stayed on for a week after her three girlfriends left on the Lady Rose.
What Faloon finds unspeakably funky about Bamfield, permanent population three hundred and something, is that it's almost useless to have a car -- you take a water taxi to go anywhere, an inlet splits the town in two, and the terrain on this side is sort of impenetrable. This is the pretty side, though, West Bamfield, with its boardwalks rimming the shore, resorts and craft stores, eye-popping beaches a stroll away, but East Bamfield has the only saloon. The most attractive thing about the town, though, is the RCMP detachment is a couple of hours away by boat or car, in Port Alberni.
The lady lets drop that her full title is Dr. Eve Winters, and according to the card she gives him she has a Ph.D., her angle being something complicated, a "relationship analyst." He gets the impression he's supposed to have heard of her. And maybe he has, he remembers something in one of the papers, a weekly column with her picture, like Ann Landers. She's not staying here at the Breakers, but renting a cottage down by Brady Beach. The Owl assumes, without asking, that Dr. Winters is alone there. The Cotters' Cottage, locals call it, is owned by an old couple in East Bam.
"So tell me -- is there any entertainment in town on a Friday night?"
From the hardcover edition.
Excerpted from April Fool by William Deverell. Copyright 2005 by William Deverell. Excerpted by permission of McClelland & Stewart. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.