Sonya arrived with her cameraman, Jorge, at noon. The plan was to meet before the celebration. They sat down in the kitchen; Simon, Sonya and Mattie while Jorge filmed. Mattie said she didn’t want to be included, but Sonya made it clear from their conversation the evening before she’d have sole editorial authority.
Mattie made introductions.
“What’s being proposed is a documentary film specifically about the ramifications of the killing of Joudy Charles, a First Nations youth from the Red Pheasant Reserve,” Mattie said. “The purpose is to give a clear and unbiased report of the incident with context from the immediate and the distance past. Okay so far?”
Simon and Sonya nodded.
“The star, for lack of a better word, of the film is Simon.”
“His actions will drive the narrative,” Sonya said.
“Am I right in assuming, in hoping, if Simon has a film crew tagging along everywhere he goes he won’t come to any harm?” Mattie said.
“We’ll be witness to everything he does and we’ll have it on video. Neither Jorge nor I will give it up,” Sonya said.
“Just so it’s clear,” Simon said, “the documentary is about the incident and my efforts to organize an appropriate community response. There’ll be no mention of The Counsel of Warriors.”
“Agreed,” Sonya said. “But we’ll need access to all your deliberations with the others involved and insight into what you’re thinking and feeling.”
It had taken two hours for Mattie to convince Simon that having Sonya make a documentary of the events unfolding would not only keep him safe but be a positive vehicle to improve relations between First Nations people and the rest of the Canadian public. Media coverage of issues tended to be sensational, shallow and fleeting. They did more to reinforce stereotypes and systemic discrimination than expose it.
Reluctantly, Simon agreed. He consulted the Counsel, and they thought it might help, but were adamant they not be mentioned. They were eager for Simon to leave as soon as he could.
Mattie had offered to pay for his flight to Saskatoon which was an hour and a half east of the Red Pheasant reserve, but Simon reminded her the Counsel didn’t accept funding of any kind including donations from individuals. Someone was picking him up right after the celebrations.
Sonya thought it would be a good idea to travel with Simon across the country filming his interactions with members of other bands as he journeyed the fifteen hundred kilometres to the Red Pheasant Reserve.
Jorge would be delayed, but would fly into Saskatoon and in a week and they’d meet up.
The traveling arrangements made Mattie apprehensive. Sonya’s beauty hadn’t diminished since the last time she’d seen her at the court house. The summer sun had darkened her skin which made her teeth gleam when she smiled. And she smiled a lot, especially at Simon. Would he survive this only to succumb to Sonya?
They finished their meeting just as the catering truck arrived. The celebration now seemed anti-climatic compared to the events of the previous evening and she still hadn’t told Simon about Franklin.
Sonya caught up with Mattie as she went to talk to the caterers.
“Are you going to finance this production?” she said.
“I thought you would.”
“Do I look rich to you?”
“Can’t you raise the money? Isn’t that what film makers do?” Mattie said.
“Yes, and I’ll do my best, but I don’t think the subject will appeal to corporate donors, nor are grants likely from the federally funded Canada Council for the Arts.”
“Are you backing out?”
“Hell, no. I’m just saying keep your eyes open for an angel investor, someone with a social conscience and a lot of money.”
How likely was that? “How much money?” Mattie said.
“A documentary suitable for public television can cost up to ten thousand dollars per finished minute.”
“Can’t you make your money back when you sell it?”
“Documentaries traditionally make more in social capital than return on investment.”
“Right.” Sonya grabbed Mattie’s hand. “Don't worry, Mattie. I’m going to make a great documentary that will make a difference, you’ll see.”
“I don’t give a shit about you making a great film or it making a difference, whatever that’s supposed to mean. All I want is Simon back alive.”
“I’d take a bullet for him and you.”
“You might have to.”
EVERYONE ARRIVED ON time including Ann-Louise. Mattie had to concede the girl had nerve considering that during their previous conversation, the first they’d ever really had, Mattie was blunt to the point of brutal.
Also invited were Jonathon, Candace and Brian, the new guy who managed the bird boarding, and some sanctuary volunteers.
“Did you get my email?” Jonathon said.
“That’s one rich young woman,” Jonathon said. “See if you can get her on the Saunders Exotic Pet Sanctuary Society’s Board of Directors.”
The Soames had been pioneers, arriving in British Columbia in the 1890s. They established a saw mill near the mouth of the Fraser River and prospered. Fifty years later they owned four mills and the entire north bank of the Fraser up to New Westminster. As Vancouver grew and heavy industry moved out the riverfront property the mills were situated on was sold or developed and now The River District was one of the choice neighbourhoods in the city and home to twenty thousand residents.
For a while Griffin and his wife Ann were society darlings and lavish supporters of the arts and charities. Then she died, and he disappeared except for two brief appearances in court on impaired driving charges.
Most recently, the elder brothers, Carter and Anderson, had used the family’s enormous wealth and influence to do exactly what Louise had said, buy rundown properties in poor neighbourhoods and get them rezoned. Then, these affordable units that housed society’s most vulnerable and marginalized citizens were demolished and replaced by condos for the wealthy.
Millions became hundreds of millions and who knows how vast the Soames’ fortune would have become if their private jet had not stalled shortly after takeoff from Aspen and plunged into a mountainside killing both brothers and their families and leaving Griff the sole heir.
Jonathon had found almost nothing about Ann-Louise. She didn’t flaunt her accomplishments, wealth or beauty on any social media channels and, unlike Mattie, managed to keep out of the public eye.
All that money and Ann had said she was lonely. It was understandable, trying to identify an ethical person among all the people who wanted to take advantage of her would make anyone suspicious, even paranoid. And Mattie thought she had issues with trust. Maybe they could help each other. Maybe.
The celebration started with a short parade of volunteers carrying the cages holding the ten Glaucous-winged Gulls, two Cormorants and a Harlequin Duck into the afternoon sunshine and placing them on tables. The birds seemed as excited as the humans and why not, they had beat the odds and were to be returned to the freedom of the wind and the sky.
Three elders from the Tsawwassen Band performed a short prayer song accompanied by a single hand drum. They'd asked Simon to take part, and he added his voice to the chorus. Mattie expected it to be hokey, but instead found it appropriate and moving. She saw Simon in an entirely different context and though it was fascinating it accentuated how little she knew him and how different they were.
“Thank you for coming today,” Mattie said. “I thank you and the birds thank you for saving their lives. You can go forward from today knowing you have done a good thing. As with all acts of caring and generosity, at some time, somewhere and in some way you will be repaid many times over, if only when your spirit is lifted at the sight of a magnificent bird soaring above you.”
Mattie walked up to Miracle’s cage. “Ready?” The gull tilted its head. “Set them free!”
The volunteers opened the cages. The birds took flight, strong, steady into the sun and toward the sea.
There were cheers and tears. Then they lined up at the catering truck and took their food choices to the picnic tables set up in the field at the front of the property. There were congratulations all around, Jeremy called out names and passed out certificates of appreciation, Simon talked with the elders and Sonya and Jorge recorded everything.
Mattie sat down beside Ann-Louise. “I wasn’t sure you’d come.”
“Neither was I,” Ann said.
“I imagine we may have a few more differences of opinions.”
“I’m okay with that. Are you?”
Right back at you. Mattie liked that. “We’ll see.”
“I thought you didn’t like the media?” Ann said.
“I don’t. Sonya’s making a documentary film about Simon. He’s sort of an organizer for First Nations’ causes.”
“Interesting,” Ann said. “I did a paper on the government’s Truth and Reconciliation Policy.”
“You did?” Mattie said. “What are you taking at university?”
“A BSc in International Relations at the London School of Economics.”
“What kind of job do you want when you graduate?” Mattie sounded like an old relative. She was.
“Government, foreign service, something where I can make a difference.”
Did she say make a difference? “How would you like to produce this film?”
“Hi, I’m Simon.” Simon had come up behind them and now was standing by Ann.
“Sorry, I’m forgetting my manners.” Mattie said. “This is Simon, the guy I’m in love with, and this is Ann-Louise, my half sister.” The implications of the introduction made Mattie’s head spin, but it saved hours of awkward posturing.
“Pleased to meet you,” Simon said. “Mattie, I’m leaving now.”
“Now? You mean like right away?” Mattie saw his duffle and computer bag at his feet.
“I told you I had to leave right after the celebration.”
“Yes, but can’t we like have a couple of minutes alone or something?”
“We said our goodbyes last night,” Simon said.
“I know, but...” Mattie turned to wipe the tears from her eyes and saw Sonya standing there shooting the scene.
“Will you turn that fucking camera off?”
“Are you kidding?” Sonya kept recording.
“My ride’s here, Mattie.”
“Okay, okay,” she sobbed. She was making such an idiot of herself, but she couldn’t help it.
Simon put his hand on her cheek. Mattie pulled it to her lips. “Simon, Simon.”
“I won’t, I promise. I’ll call every opportunity I get,” he said.
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