Authors: Gail Bowen
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Women Sleuths
by Gail Bowen
The Nesting Dolls
The Brutal Heart
The Endless Knot
The Last Good Day
The Glass Coffin
Verdict in Blood
A Killing Spring
A Colder Kind of Death
The Wandering Soul Murders
Murder at the Mendel
Copyright © 2015 by Gail Bowen
All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the publisher – or, in case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a licence from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency – is an infringement of the copyright law.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication information available upon request
eBook ISBN 978-0-7710-2402-3
Published simultaneously in the United States of America by McClelland & Stewart,
a division of Random House of Canada Limited.
Library of Congress Control Number available upon request
This is a work of fiction. Characters, corporations, institutions, and organizations in this novel either are the product of the author’s imagination or, if real, are used fictitiously without any intent to describe their actual conduct.
Cover design: Leah Springate
Cover image: © Peeter Viisimaa/Vetta/Getty Images
McClelland & Stewart,
a division of Random House of Canada Limited,
a Penguin Random House Company
For my husband, Ted,
with thanks for helping me pass Old English forty-six summers ago
When Brock Poitras moved into our building, my husband, Zack, our soon to be sixteen-year-old daughter, Taylor, and I had been living in Regina’s Warehouse District for a little over a year. I took my early morning run with our dogs, but our area can be dodgy and Zack was relieved when Brock, who had been a wide receiver for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, began joining me. Brock and I never talked much when we ran, and Labour Day morning was no exception. After we exchanged greetings, Brock took our mastiff Pantera’s leash, I tightened my hold on our bouvier Willie’s, and we set off.
Rose Street was about halfway along our usual route, and whenever we turned onto it I felt as though we entered another world. Demolition had cleared the way for progress in our part of the neighbourhood, but Rose Street remained a grim Dickensian landscape of condemned warehouses, abandoned shops, and once-tidy pre-war bungalows that had crumbled into slum dwellings. Brock had grown up on Rose Street. As much as anyone could be, he was inured to the ugly realities of life in the heart of North Central. I was not, and whenever we ran there my nerves were tight.
That morning trouble was not long in coming. When we were midway down the block, the front door of the storey-and-a-half on our left burst open. A woman and a man were screaming curses at each other. Within seconds, the man picked the woman up, slammed her body from the porch onto the concrete front walk, and ran back inside. Brock and I halted in our tracks. Startled at the break in routine, the dogs tensed and turned to us for direction.
The porch was at least two metres above the walk, and I was certain the impact must have broken the woman’s bones, but, still cursing, she scrambled back onto her feet. Brock took Willie’s leash and fished in his pocket with his free hand for his phone. “I’ll call 911,” he said. I moved towards the woman.
She was really just a girl – late teens, Aboriginal, and high on something that was making her manic. She was flailing her arms, and she couldn’t stop talking. “I’m sixteen weeks’ pregnant,” she said, whirling to face me. “Sixteen fucking weeks. I’ve got three kids, and that asshole boyfriend of mine is still making me work the street. I told him he should fucking get a job. I’m sixteen weeks’ pregnant. I don’t want strangers jamming their cocks in there. It’s not good for the baby. Sixteen weeks.” She held out her hands imploringly, then her eyes opened wide and she bent double and clutched her abdomen. “What the fuck?” she said.
“Hang on,” I said. “There’s an ambulance on its way.”
She had beautiful, long-fingered hands. She reached towards the crotch of her jeans and when her fingers came back bloody, she began to keen. “Sixteen weeks,” she moaned. “Sixteen fucking weeks.” Her eyes met mine. “Do you think I lost the kid?”
“I don’t know. The
workers will take you to the hospital,” I said. “There’ll be people there to care for you. My name is Joanne.”
“I’m Angela,” she said, and her voice was dead.
“Angela, is there someone to take care of your children?”
“Just Eddie,” she said. She grimaced with pain. “Everybody told me he was a son-of-a-bitch bastard. I shoulda listened.”
The ambulance arrived, and the police were right behind it. Brock and I gave our statements and told the police that, as far as we knew, Angela’s boyfriend was still inside and three children were with him. The police took our contact information and strode towards the house.
workers were loading Angela into the ambulance. I couldn’t leave without checking on her. The manic phase had passed. She was drained. Her skin had a yellowish tinge and her lips were bloodless. When she spotted me, she raised her hand in a kind of salutation. “See you around, Joanne,” she said.
“Angela, I’m so sorry.”
Something in my words ignited her. Angela’s tone was scathing. “So you’re sorry, and everything’s all right again,” she said. “Everything’s fixed. Joanne, you seem like a nice lady, but you’re fucking clueless. Nothing’s ever fixed for people like me.”
workers closed the doors and I turned to see an old Aboriginal woman wearing trousers, a hunting jacket, and men’s bedroom slippers come out of the house across the street from Angela’s. The stuccoed two-storey at 12 Rose Street had caught my eye on earlier runs – first because it was seemingly in good repair and second because it was painted an eye-scorching shade of mustard yellow. The old woman found a place on the sidewalk beside Brock. As the ambulance disappeared around the corner, she clicked her teeth. “
But as for the murders and the sexually immoral, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur
… Revelation 21:8.” Her eyes, black as pitch, fixed themselves on me. “The Bible isn’t talking about that girl.
She’s blameless – so are the other ones who are forced to commit indecent acts. The lake of fire and sulphur burns for the evil ones, the ones who break innocent bodies and steal souls.” Her words still hanging in the air, the woman turned and went back inside.
Brock and I waited until Angela’s children had been led out of the house at Number 15. They were very young, and when a female officer approached them, they went with her willingly. Clearly they knew the drill. After the children were safely inside an unmarked car, two officers brought out Angela’s boyfriend, Eddie. He was shirtless – a thin, pale, heavily tattooed young man sporting low-slung jeans, a blond ponytail, and an expression of abject remorse. As the officers shepherded him into the back seat of the squad car, Eddie was co-operative. He, too, knew the drill. Acquiescence and a show of penitence now would hold him in good stead when he appeared in court.
We finished our run in silence. The brutality we had witnessed had shaken us both. Before Brock got off the elevator in our building, he handed Pantera’s leash to me. “I wasn’t close enough to hear exactly what went on,” he said.
“Her name is Angela. She was pregnant,” I said. “And I’m pretty certain she lost her baby.”
His face was stony. “That may not have been the worst outcome,” he said.
Zack was at the breakfast table with the morning paper when the dogs and I came in. “How was your run?”
“Fine,” I said. I swallowed my urge to tell Zack about Angela. “The weather should be great for the opening.”
“Speaking of …” he said, holding out the morning paper. “Check this out.”
A photo of Zack and Brock was on the front page. “Nice-looking dudes,” I said. “What did they do?”
“Read the story,” he said. “It’s a very favourable account of what the Racette-Hunter Training and Recreation Community Centre will mean for this city.”
I skimmed the article. “Absolutely glowing,” I said. “As are you. And you deserve to glow.”
For over a year, Zack and Brock had been putting in punishing hours to make the Racette-Hunter Centre a reality, and today was its official opening. The centre had begun as the dream of Zack’s friend, the late Leland Hunter, a developer who believed that through mentoring and on-the-job training the people of the deeply troubled community of North Central Regina could salvage their lives and change our city. After Leland’s death, his widow, Margot Hunter, asked Zack to take over the Racette-Hunter project. She hadn’t had to ask twice.
A year of swimming in the murky waters of civic politics and dealing with obstructionists on city council had politicized my husband. Now he was running for mayor and Brock Poitras was running for council from Ward 6, our ward in North Central.
I was managing both Zack’s campaign and Brock’s, and we were counting on the opening of Racette-Hunter to give them a much-needed boost. Civic elections don’t engender much interest. Our opponents were a mayor running for his fourth term and an equally entrenched city council – all of whom had seemingly bottomless war chests.
Zack and Brock both had impressive resumés, but both were dragging some heavy baggage. As a trial lawyer, Zack had been ruthless and single-minded. When it was necessary, he got blood on his hands, and the colleagues he eviscerated in court had long memories. Zack had been a paraplegic since he was run over by a drunk driver at the age of seven. He was forty-nine when he and I married. Until then, believing that his chances of making it to a ripe old
age were minimal, Zack had lived like an eighteen-year-old with a death wish: hard drinking, gambling, fast cars, and many, many affairs, not all of which ended amicably.