Muskoka. Saturday, December 29, 2001. 9:30 A.M.
A heavy cold mist hung over Lake Joseph. Visibility beyond a hundred feet was impossible. The temperature was near freezing. There was no wind, almost no sound.
Steve had been working his heart out. He had spent the previous forty-eight hours working and sleeping at The Monster. A commercial grade Salamander heater provided almost all the heat he needed. His objective was to complete all of the interior trim and painting, then escape his beloved Muskoka for a period of two weeks, just enough time for him to attend his bachelor weekend at South Beach, Miami, his wedding to Christine in Naples on New Years Eve, and his honeymoon in the Grenadines.
The two men working for his painting sub-contractor finished their assignments shortly before noon, then Steve paid them and thanked them. He continued to work alone for another thirty minutes, then packed up his tools, loaded them onto his green Ford truck, locked the doors, and headed for his Port Carling home. There, he exchanged his tools for two fully packed travel bags, took a quick shower, then headed south to Toronto’s Pearson Airport. He left his truck at ParknFly, and took a shuttle to Terminal One, where he boarded Air Canada, Flight 719, Toronto to Miami.
Miami. Same day. 4:30 P.M.
Steve cleared customs at Miami International Airport, took a taxi to South Beach, and booked into the Ritz Plaza Hotel on Collins Avenue, position A for exploring the strip. Once the tallest building in Miami, the aging twelve story, four star hotel was the unanimous choice of the five members of Steve’s wedding party: Tom MacDonald, his best man and childhood friend from Muskoka, Ian and Michael Monteith, Steve’s two younger brothers, Peter Mitchell, his hockey buddy and high school class-mate, and finally, Monty Kaplan, a fraternity brother who had managed to drink his way through university, then become one of Toronto’s most successful criminal lawyers.
After throwing his bags on the bed of his room, Steve headed for the bar. He glanced at his watch as he entered the elevator. It was five thirty. “Late for your own party,” he said with a smile to the mirrored wall.
He entered the bar and was greeted with loud cheers and whistles. The other five members of his wedding party were there, and as he would soon discover, they had a huge head start.
“It’s about time you got here, Monteith,” Tom MacDonald said, hoisting his third beer in Steve’s direction.
Steve shrugged his shoulders, and turned his palms skyward. “Sorry. I almost forgot I had to spend this weekend partying with a bunch of drunks,” he said with a big smile. After handshakes and hugs, he took a seat and ordered a beer. “So what’s the program?” he asked.
MacDonald stood and saluted. “I’ve been authorized to speak on behalf of the group, sir. First, we’re gonna drink this place dry. Next, we’re taking a limo over to Miami, boarding a big ass boat, and taking a dinner cruise on Biscayne Bay. Finally, after they pour us off that boat, we’re compelled to sample the strip’s eye candy, and the offerings of every bar on South Beach. We’re taking a limo because nobody volunteered to be the designated driver.” He pointed to Ian Monteith, a year younger than Steve, a Toronto stock broker, and almost a carbon copy. “Tell your brother about the torture we’ve planned for tomorrow morning.”
“You’ll be required to report for breakfast at Front Porch Cafe, sharp at nine. It’s on Collins Avenue, just a little north of here. You can easily crawl there. We’re going to hit the beach after breakfast. You’ll be required to endure a Cuban fashion show and stare at a bunch of Cuban goddesses wearing designer dental floss.” He patted his younger brother Michael on his head. “Tell your brother what he has to do tomorrow afternoon.”
Michael was by far the best athlete of the family. He had starred as a Junior A player for the Toronto Marlboros, and was now the starting center for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He married his Leaside High School sweetheart and had two beautiful daughters. He stood and smiled at Steve. “If you’re up to it, you’ll be required to report to the docks near MacArthur Causeway at noon. We’ve chartered a deep sea fishing vessel, and we’ve asked the captain to fill it with beer and slutty women. We’re going to sea and might even do some fishing while we’re at it. Buy some Gravol, and don’t leave home without it.”
Peter Mitchell stood and saluted. “On the assumption that we’re all still alive by Sunday morning, and that’s a stretch, we’re planning to blow out of here by ten. Since you and lovely Christine Stewart are about to make uncles out of them, each of your brothers has rented a car. They’ll drive us to The Ritz in Naples. We should get there by noon. That’ll give us plenty of time to massage our hangovers and get ready for your wedding... You’re a hell of a guy, Steve Monteith. We took a poll to see if any of us knew a person who could convince us to leave our wives and families and fly to this God forsaken place for a bachelor party. It was unanimous. You’re the only one.”