Three days later Etta, John, and Captain Reynolds - Farmer Thorne’s giant dog of unknown breed, adopted from a shelter - are driving in the farmer’s so called pick-up truck a typical North American child of love of a car and a lorry. It’s huge, just as everything is in this country, dirty on the outside - and shockingly neat inside. Not a speck of dust!
By now Etta’s realised that’s Farmer Thorne’s overall nature - he’s very, very clean. She still thinks back at that bloody pristine kitchen of his that she saw the first day, with its scrubbed sink and mugs arranged in even rows on little hooks on the wall. It’s pretty perfect for Etta - she’s a neat freak too - it just took some time to assimilate this idea with the image of a six four bearman. Maybe, in her past life Etta did something nice; and karma is extra generous to her! Who is she to question this gift from heaven?
The drive is pleasant, although Etta’s brain is slightly scrambled because everything is on the wrong side. Also, Captain Reynolds tends to bark when they pass a cow, but that doesn’t happen too often.
Captain and Etta are mates. She came to the farm in the morning, clad in her new clobber and new boots, mentally - somewhat - prepared to her first wilderness adventure. It had to be postponed, since the farmer grabbed her, threw her over his shoulder, and carried her happily squeaking self upstairs to his bedroom. Three hours later the grinning and tired Etta was fed and placed into the truck.
While she was chewing Farmer Thorne’s skillfully executed omelette with ham, mushrooms, and tomatoes, she met Captain Reynolds, and his three friends - all mongrels, all exceptionally clean and well behaved. There’s a medium size, grumpy ball of brown fur named Watson. He’s old, and to any other activity he prefers sleeping on a rug in the living room. Chioggia - a lanky, overexcitable teen with uneven black and white coat - wasn’t offered to go on the trip due to his constant desire to jump and lick Etta. And Durin, the leader of the pack, a dignified black and silver hound, the size of a miniature horse, was left to watch after the house.
Captain - his character best described as the exact copy of the man he was named after - and Etta bonded over making faces behind John’s back, and sharing the cheese, which had been neatly sliced and placed in front of Etta on a pretty plate. And also, Etta has always wanted a dog; and she likes to scratch the soft floppy ears, and Captain was only happy to offer his.
And now the three of them are driving to the Whiteshell National park; and Etta and Captain are excited; and she says, “Look, a cow!” and Captain says, “Woof!” and John’s smiling with the corners of his mouth - and life is good!
They stop at a small petrol station. Captain needs to go to a loo, while Etta is lured inside by the beloved sign Tim Horton’s. A few minutes later, Etta’s sitting on her seat, door open, legs dangling, with an extra-large cup of Double Double - which is the truly Canadian coffee with two creams and two sugars - in one hand, and a Boston Cream doughnut in another; and she watches Farmer Thorne patiently wait for Captain to attend to his needs on the grass on the side of the road.
And that’s when Etta thinks that John would be a good father.
And then she chokes on her Double Double, because seriously, brain? They’ve only decided to ‘give it a chance,’ nothing more! And that was three days ago! And who cares that her last clue in Linnet’s letter was in binary code - Etta Googled - and decoded as ‘fourth.’ And said ‘John.’ Which would mean John Thorne IV, as in Farmer Thorne being the Third, and his son being the Fourth. Pfft, it doesn’t mean anything, right? And they used condoms!
Etta orders herself to stop being a cliche romantic heroine and concentrate on the quest of retrieving a treasure.
And so, the three of them load into the truck again; and off they go towards their hopefully long and prosperous future. Or at least some 1910s bonds.
The ending of Etta and John’s Glorious Treasure Hunt is surprisingly anticlimactic. They arrive to the Whiteshell National Park, pay the entrance fee, and follow the map and Linnet’s watercolours to find the exact place of their loot.
In his usual silent and incredibly sexy manner, Farmer Thorne spreads a blanket with rubber lining on the ground for Etta, hands her a thermos flask with Tim’s, and a box of timbits; and while she’s chewing a sweet, with Captain Reynolds sitting nearby signaling her with his eyebrows that he’d like one as well, John’s digging in the designated spot with the foldable shovel he brought from the truck. Etta, of course, is ogling the muscles bulging on the arms and the thighs. What they call a tank top here in Canada - and she’d call a white vest - hugging his torso might be just the best thing she’s ever seen in her life.
The chest he digs up contains two neat packages, each accommodating the bonds that surely could pay off Farmer Thorne’s debts, and get his farm started again. Etta’s half is basically just the reflection of the sum he needs - but she isn’t complaining, of course.
John sits down on the blanket near her and gives her a long silent look. She’s done with her nosh by then. Etta’s suddenly not sure where they’re standing - or sitting, in this case.
“So, that’s it then...” she draws out, and he smirks lopsidedly. “So you can have your farm back now, and...”
“And build a pottery studio,” he adds, and Etta feels a wee bit better.
“Yeah?” Etta asks with hope in her voice.
“Yeah.” He nods, and Etta smiles.
After he covers the hole with dirt, and they load the chest into the truck, he offers to introduce Etta to wilderness. She doubts at first; but then it becomes clear that he means a night of abundant shag in a tent - and who’s Etta to refuse such offer?
She wakes up in their shared sleeping bag, with Farmer Thorne asleep and wrapped around her. It’s Captain Reynolds who wakes her up. He’s growling; and she can see fur stand on his nape.
“I’m terribly sorry for the intrusion,” Officer Thorne mumbles, and Etta smiles to him.
“It’s OK,” she whispers, and he smiles to her back.
“I can see your adventure has brought wonderful fruit,” he whispers cheekily; and Etta shakes her finger at him playfully. The farmer mumbles something in his sleep and burrows his nose into her neck.
“So, it is probably my last visit, is it not, Miss Ryan?” the officer whispers, and Etta nods.
She whispers him the instructions regarding the bonds, and the letters, and he repeats them back to her to make sure he remembers. They agree that he needs to contact his former paramour, Polette from the public house, regarding John’s grandfather; and Officer Thorne swears to become the best father a boy could wish. They once again go over the time paradox of the cat portrait, the do-to list, and the ring in the envelope to make sure the officer does his part not to implode the time-space continuum. Etta is very curious about where the ring would come from, but she's almost sure she'll sadly never know.
And once everything seems to be discussed and clear, Etta suddenly feels sad.
“I’ll never see you again, will I?” she asks, and her eyes prickle.
“You have the better version,” he answers and points at the sleeping farmer with his eyes.
“I wish you and Gran Etty all the happiness in the world,” Etta whispers, and he stretches and gently pats her shoulder with his 87% corporeal large hand.
“Thank you, Henrietta.” His eyes are suspiciously shiny too.
And then John Thorne III stirs in the sleeping bag, and grumbles, “Whom are you talking to?”
“The second best John Thorne,” Etta answers, and the farmer’s blue eyes open.
And then he sits up with a jerk and gawks at the officer.
“Holy cow...” the farmer breathes out. “I can see him too.”
The two Thornes are staring at each other, and then the farmer stretches his hand and his long fingers go straight through the spirit.
“Still freaking cool...” he says, and the officer smiles to him.
“Take care of her,” the officer whispers with a warm smile, gets up, and melts into the soft fragrant air of the July night in Manitoba.
“I will,” the farmer whispers, his eyes distant. And then he blinks and turns to Etta.
She gives him a shy smile; he quickly kisses her, and then pulls her down into the sleeping bag.
Five months later Etta’s returning to Winnipeg. She’s been back in London for the last two months, sussing out her paperwork, and selling her flat. Mr. Thornton is now residing with her friend Terry, who has always wanted a cat.
And here’s Etta stepping through the customs, the immigration services, and out of the gate.
The farmer’s standing with a bouquet of her favourite red carnations, and Etta jumps up and hangs on his neck.
“Hi.” John’s grinning, and Etta clasps her hand over his mouth.
“Don’t talk! If you talk, I’ll combust! Or there will be inappropriate public behaviour. I haven’t seen you for sixty three days! Just seeing you now is already more than I can handle. If you say anything...”
“I finished the renovations in your studio,” the farmer interrupts, and Etta growls, grabs his ears, and pulls him into a deep kiss.
Someone whistles nearby - it might something to do with the fact that Etta’s legs are wrapped around John’s waist - but she couldn’t care less! She’s no mousy librarian anymore. She’s a potter with big plans! And a delicious male to devour. First, devouring, and then big creative plans!
The farmer chuckles into the kiss, and starts walking out of the airport, with Etta still nicely nested in his arms, her buttocks cozily supported by the scorching palms.
On the way out he picks up her suitcase with one hand, the other one still in place under her backside; and Etta purrs and strokes the shoulders and upper arms in anticipation. The farmer cocks an eyebrow; Etta giggles.
Captain, Watson, Chioggia, and Durin happily greet her from the back seat of the truck, with different levels of exuberance.
Etta sits on her seat, leans back, and emits a contented sigh.
“Oh, I missed you, boys,” she draws out, and five pairs of eyes are on her. Two of the ten eyes give her a wink.
The farmer starts the truck, and Etta takes her first - highly anticipated - sip of Tim’s.
“Welcome home, Etta.”
Yeah, maybe the man doesn’t talk much, but blimey, does he know how to choose his words!