Authors: Gail Bowen
ACCLAIM FOR GAIL BOWEN AND
THE JOANNE KILBOURN MYSTERIES
“Bowen is one of those rare, magical mystery writers readers love not only for her suspense skills but for her stories’ elegance, sense of place and true-to-life form.… A master of ramping up suspense”
“Bowen can confidently place her series beside any other being produced in North America.”
“Gail Bowen’s Joanne Kilbourn mysteries are small works of elegance that assume the reader of suspense is after more than blood and guts, that she is looking for the meaning behind a life lived and a life taken.”
“Bowen has a hard eye for the way human ambition can take advantage of human gullibility.”
“Gail Bowen got the recipe right with her series on Joanne Kilbourn.”
“What works so well [is Bowen’s] sense of place – Regina comes to life – and her ability to inhabit the everyday life of an interesting family with wit and vigour.… Gail Bowen continues to be a fine mystery writer, with a protagonist readers can invest in for the long run.”
“Gail Bowen is one of Canada’s literary treasures.”
OTHER JOANNE KILBOURN MYSTERIES
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
The Wandering Soul Murders
Murder at the Mendel
Copyright © 1994 by Gail Bowen
First M&S paperback edition published 1995
This edition published 2011
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
Bowen, Gail, 1942-
A colder kind of death: a Joanne Kilbourn mystery / Gail Bowen.
PS8553.08995C6 2011 C813.’54 C2011-900307-4
We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and that of the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Media Development Corporation’s Ontario Book Initiative. We further acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for our publishing program.
Published simultaneously in the United States of America by McClelland & Stewart Ltd., P.O. Box 1030, Plattsburgh, New York 12901
Library of Congress Control Number: 2011925607
Cover design: Terri Nimmo
Cover image: Woo Bing Sieu/
McClelland & Stewart Ltd.
75 Sherbourne Street
For Ted, husband, lover, friend
Three minutes before the Hallowe’en edition of
Canada This Week
went on the air I learned that the man who murdered my husband had been shot to death. A technician was kneeling in front of me, adjusting my mike. Her hair was smoothed under a black skullcap, and she was wearing a black leotard and black tights. Her name was Leslie Martin, and she was dressed as a bat.
“Check the Velcro on my wing, would you, Jo?” she asked, leaning towards me.
As I smoothed the Velcro on Leslie’s shoulder, I glanced at the
monitor behind her.
At first, I didn’t recognize the face on the screen. The long blond hair and the pale goat-like eyes were familiar, but I couldn’t place him. Then the still photograph was gone. In its place was the scene that had played endlessly in my head during the black months after Ian’s death. But these pictures weren’t in my head. The images on the
were real. The desolate stretch of highway; the snow swirling in the air; the Volvo station wagon with the door open on the driver’s side; and on the highway beside the car, my husband’s
body with a dark and bloody spillage where his head should have been.
The sound was turned off. My hand tightened on Leslie’s shoulder. “What happened there?” I asked.
Leslie turned towards the monitor. “I just heard part of it myself, but apparently that guy with the long hair was killed. He was out in the exercise yard at the penitentiary and someone drove past and shot him. He was dead before he hit the ground.”
She stood and moved out of camera range. “Two minutes to showtime,” she said. Through my earpiece, I heard the voice of the host of
Canada This Week
“Happy Hallowe’en, Regina,” he said. “What’ll it be: ‘Trick, or Treat’?”
Beside me, Senator Sam Spiegel laughed. “Trick,” he said.
“Okay,” the voice from Toronto said. “We’ll start with
Sam groaned. “Why do we always have to talk about
The host’s voice was amiable. “Ours is not to wonder why, Sam. Now, I’ll go to you first. Is the fact that environmental regulations aren’t being equally enforced by our trading partners having an impact on investor confidence up here?”
Sam looked cherubic. “Beats me,” he said.
Another voice, this one young and brusque, came through the earpiece. “This is Tom Brook in Toronto. Washington, is there any sign of Keith yet?”
I looked over at the monitor. The image of my husband’s body had been replaced by images of Keith Harris, the third member of the
Canada This Week
panel. Keith was late, and as he slid into his chair and clipped on his lapel mike, he grinned apologetically. “I’m here. In the flesh, if not yet in the spirit. We’re in the middle of a storm, and I couldn’t get a taxi. Sorry, everybody.”
The sight of Keith’s private face, unguarded and gentle as his public face never was, stirred something in me. Until three weeks earlier, Keith had been the man in my life. At the outset, he had seemed an unlikely choice. We had both lived lives shaped by party politics; philosophically, we were as far apart as it is possible for reasonable people to be. Somehow, after the first hour we spent together, that hadn’t mattered. Keith Harris was a good man, and until he had taken a job in Nationtv’s Washington bureau at the beginning of summer, we had been happy. But distance had divided us in a way politics had not. Passion became friendship, and when Keith came to Regina for Thanksgiving he told me he had met someone else. I was still trying to sort out how I felt about that news.
The monitor switched to a picture of Sam and me. Through my earpiece, I could hear Keith’s puzzlement. “Sam, what are you doing in Regina?”
“I came in with the prime minister yesterday and decided to stay over. I thought it would be fun to be with Jo in person for a change.”
“Wise choice,” Keith said. “I wish I was with you guys. It’s colder than a witch’s teat down here.”
“Nice seasonal image, Keith,” said the voice in my earpiece. “Okay, here we go.”
In our studio, the man behind the camera, sleek in a spandex skeleton costume, held up five fingers, then four, three, two, one, and the red light came on. We were live to the East Coast.
I felt as if I had turned to wood. I missed my first question, and Sam Spiegel gave me a quick, worried look, then picked up the slack. When we broke for a commercial, he touched my arm. “Are you okay, Jo?”
“I think so,” I said. “I just had a shock.”
On the monitor, Keith was saying, “Come on, Jo. It’s starting to sound like the Sam Spiegel show out there. The
only reason I showed up tonight was to hear your voice.”
“Five seconds,” said the man in the spandex skeleton suit. He held up five fingers and started to drop them again.
Sam touched my arm. “I’ll set you up. Tell about that screw-up with the microphone when the P.M. was in town yesterday. It’s a great story.”
The red light went on. Sam turned the discussion to the prime minister, and I told the story of the microphone that picked up some of the P.M.’s private and earthy musings about the U.S. president and broadcast them province-wide. My voice sounded odd to me, but Sam was right, it was a great story, and as I finished, the moderator’s laughter rumbled reassuringly through my earpiece. We moved to other topics. I could hear my voice, remote but seemingly assured, suggesting, responding. Finally, the man in the skeleton suit held up his fingers again, and the red light on the camera in front of me went dark. It was over.
I turned to Sam. “Thanks,” I said. “I was glad you were here tonight.”
The producer, Jill Osiowy, came out of the control booth and said, “Good show, guys.” Then she looked hard at me. “God, Jo, you look whipped. Is something wrong?”
I unclipped my microphone. “The monitor picked up the last few minutes of the news before we went on,” I said. “Kevin Tarpley was shot today.”
“And you were sitting here watching. Shit. Is there anything I can do?”
“Get them to run that tape with the sound, would you? All I saw was the pictures.”
She looked at me dubiously. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure.”
She sighed. “I’ll get Leslie to set it up.”
We went into an editing room and stood behind Leslie Martin as she brought the five o’clock news up on a monitor.
It was a surreal moment. The woman in the bat suit conjuring up the image of my husband’s killer.
When the boy with the goat’s eyes appeared on the screen, I had trouble absorbing what the news anchor was saying. His words seemed to come at me in disconnected units. “Convicted murderer Kevin Tarpley … twenty-five … assailant unknown …”
He was twenty-five. He had been nineteen at the trial. When he stood up for sentencing, his hands were trembling, and I was filled with pity. Then I had remembered what those hands had done, and it hadn’t mattered how young he was. I wanted him dead.
I had wanted him dead, and now he was.
More words came at me from the
screen. “Police are baffled … model prisoner … born again … spent days and nights reading the Bible …”
The goat-eyed boy vanished, and the snowy highway filled the screen again. The polished voice of the news anchor continued, and I tried to make myself focus. He was talking about my husband. “Twenty-eight when he was named to Howard Dowhanuik’s cabinet … the country’s youngest attorney general … believed by many to be the man who would succeed Dowhanuik …” The anchor’s handsome face filled the screen. Leslie Martin looked up. Jill nodded and the screen went blank.
“Come on,” Jill said. “I’ll buy you a drink.”
“I can’t,” I said. “I’ve got to get home. Taylor’s waiting to go Hallowe’ening.”
Jill put her arm around my shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “I’ll walk you to the door.”
The lobby of Nationtv is a three-storey galleria with a soaring ceiling and glass walls. In the daytime, the area is filled with natural light, and the elm trees on the lawn outside make shadowy patterns on the terrazzo floor. But
that night as Jill and I came upstairs from the
studio, the sky was darkening, and the leafless trees were black against the cold October sky.