Authors: Inger Ash Wolfe
OTHER HAZEL MICALLEF MYSTERIES
BY INGER ASH WOLFE
Copyright © 2012 by Inger Ash Wolfe
Cloth edition published 2012
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
Wolfe, Inger Ash
A door in the river / Inger Ash Wolfe.
PS8645.O442D66 2012 C813′.6 C2012-900952-0
We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund 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.
McClelland & Stewart, a division of Random House of Canada Limited
One Toronto Street
In honour of my grandmother,
Freda Strasberg, born Wolfinger
Saturday, August 6, 11:21 p.m.
She needed to get to the road. She knew it led away from here. Eventually, it connected to the highway that went all the way to Toronto, a city she’d once visited. But if anyone was looking for her … the road was two hundred metres away, and the parking lot in between was all lit up. She could stay in the woods, she supposed, and get farther south before exposing herself. That would probably work. But then from Toronto? She wasn’t thinking that far into the future. And if she wanted one, she’d have to stay more than a few steps ahead.
By now, he would be missing her. By now, he’d know she was gone.
He was going to follow her. She knew he would. She could lose him in the city, change her looks. But if she did that, she’d never know if she was safe. He’d always be in the back of her mind. No matter where she went, she’d be expecting him to step out of a doorway and say hello.
Then there was the problem of the man lying at her feet. He was on the ground between the pickup and the Camry, flat on his back and breathing funny. She wasn’t sure what was wrong. She wasn’t sure it mattered now. He was out of view, anyway. She watched his lower jaw working silently in time to the movement of his hand, a pulsing motion, like he was operating a tiny bellows that worked his mouth.
She crept toward him cautiously and then leaned down and rifled the pockets in his jacket. His eyes were wild, following her, trying to communicate with her. She pushed him over onto his side and saw the bulge of his wallet in his back pocket. She wedged it out and opened it. “I …,” he said, and she saw the effort it took him to utter even this single syllable. She opened the wallet. There was a bit of money and some ID. His driver’s licence gave the name
, but he’d told her his name was Henry. Maybe that was a lie, too. She used her foot to settle him on his back again, and he puked violently and breathed it in and his chest rose up. He let out a deep
and fell back against the gravel. She put the wallet away undisturbed in his jacket pocket and took a step away into
the darkness. But he knew she was still there. His hand was open, straining. His eyes were like starlight in his head.
This Henry complicated matters. This was way too many loose ends, too much unfinished business. No one was going to take care of it for her. It was up to her now.
She backed up off the asphalt and when she hit the grass, she turned and kneeled down behind the derelict pick-up. She peeled her rotten shoes off her feet and ran, crouched, back into the cover of the woods. Back into the heart of Westmuir County.
Monday, August 8—Friday, August 12
] 1 [
Monday, August 8, 10 a.m.
Emily Micallef was refusing to smile. Her daughter, Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef, had got her to agree to the photo session and to get gussied up in a fine dark-blue summer dress, and even to stand in the garden, but she wouldn’t smile. The photographer, Jonas Greenlund, had resorted to sticking a quarter to his forehead, but all that won from Emily was a scornfully raised eyebrow and the rejoinder that she wasn’t a fourteen-year-old in her first bra. She was a woman of eighty-seven who was entitled to look any way she pleased. And she wanted to look respectable. Serious.
“But you look stern, Mother.”
“It’s steely intelligence.”
“But this picture is for me. If Martha or Emilia want a picture of you that looks like you’ve been constipated since The Beatles, then they can pay for it.”
“Oh for the love of Mike,” said Emily, and she bared her teeth in mockery of a smile, sticking her face forward on her neck. Her face looked white and drawn, a wilting flower on a dried-out stalk. Greenlund took a shot.
“If you don’t give me a natural smile, Mrs. Micallef,” he said, “I’ll put you on my website.”
The phone rang. “I’ll get it,” said Emily, practically leaping toward the house. “I may be back.”
“We might as well do me,” said Hazel. “She’ll probably creep out the front door and drive to town.” She took her position in the garden and stood turned one-quarter away from Greenlund. She’d decided against having her picture taken in uniform, as the Port Dundas Police Department already had an official photo for the station house, and it had been a while since a good likeness of her had been taken. If these turned out, she thought, each of her daughters could have one, and even her ex-husband, Andrew, might like one for his house. (She imagined it pinned to the wall, sharing space with screwdrivers and hammers, over his workbench in the basement. She merited that much.) Greenlund was waving her a step back and telling her to relax her shoulders. Hazel had dressed in a black blouse and forest-green cotton skirt that hung down to her shins. She was wearing her best shoes as well: a pair
of black Italian flats she’d bought from Bally three years ago, on sale for $120. That these were her best shoes spoke volumes about her, and Hazel knew it. Not merely that she was frugal, but that she could never have seen herself in $500 shoes, no matter the occasion. She could never have carried it off. But this was one of the things about growing old successfully: you came to learn your own personal price points. She could spend more on trousers than tops, for instance (her legs were long for her height), but no matter what she spent, she could not wear bracelets, and every kind of hat but her OPS cap made her look like she’d taken the wrong advice from someone.
This ensemble (total cost: $385) was just right. It had the kind of elegance she could plausibly display, and she was comfortable in it. Greenlund had her turn this way and that, coming close and then backing away, firing off pictures. “These are going to be heirlooms!” he exclaimed and then took two quick pictures of Hazel’s skeptical smile.
They were still playing with angles when Emily appeared at the back door, holding the phone at her side. She hadn’t changed her clothes. “It’s Melanie from the station house.”
Hazel took the phone. “What is it?” she said to her secretary (whose actual title was
“Have you heard about Henry Wiest?”
“What about him?”
“He’s dead. He had a heart attack on the reserve.”
“Jesus. What time did this happen?”
“Midnight or thereabouts.”
“In Queesik Bay?”
“Right. Cathy Wiest phoned Jack Deacon. Someone on the band police called her at home and told her they had her husband in the hospital on the reserve. They didn’t tell her he was in the morgue until she got there. She agreed to let them do the autopsy.”
“Why didn’t she call anyone up here?”
“Isn’t Deacon her uncle?”
“Maybe. But … god! Dead?” Both her mother and the photographer swivelled their attention to her. “And what was he doing in Queesik Bay?”
“Skip, I don’t know!” said Cartwright. “Maybe he was going to the casino. But they found him in the parking lot of one of the smoke shops on the 26.”
Hazel stood with the phone to her ear, shaking her head.
“You there?” said Cartwright.
“Funeral’s Thursday. I expect the whole town will be at the service.”
“I bet,” said Hazel. “Okay, Melanie. Thanks for telling me.”
Hazel hung up and stared at the phone in her hand. “Henry Wiest is dead,” she said, like it was a question. “Had a heart attack. At a smoke shop on Queesik Bay Road.”
“Oh, poor Cathy,” said her mother. Henry and Cathy had been married for fifteen years and everyone in the two Kehoes – Glenn
River – as well as in Port Dundas knew who they were. They were almost a famous couple, known by name to just about everyone who lived in those towns, and many more besides.
Hazel was retreating into the house. “We’ll have do this another day,” she said to Greenlund.
“I understand completely,” he said. “I wonder if my wife knows.” He put the lens cap on his camera and took out his phone.
The autopsy done on the reserve gave the cause of death as cardiac infarction brought on by extreme anaphylaxis. He’d been stung by a bee. That made it the second fatal sting of the summer. There had been news in May of a new strain in Ontario and Quebec and it’d been spotted for the first time in Westmuir in July. Every week now the papers had another story of kids stung on a camping trip or someone having a bad reaction to a sting in a village garden. All the local paramedic teams had tripled their stock of EpiPens and there were editorials on how to deal with the invaders and avoid their stings, from wearing shoes outdoors at all times to defensive soda drinking (“Keep the opening on your pop can covered at all times! Bees love sweet things and will crawl inside your sugary drink only to,
, sting you
inside the mouth
The one death had occurred in Fort Leonard, in the middle of July – a camper on a portage had been stung repeatedly while carrying his canoe – and Wiest was the second. It was impossible to know if you might have an anaphylactic reaction to a bee sting. The problem with anaphylaxis was that you could receive six bee stings in your life (or eat a dozen peanuts, or wear latex gloves twenty times) before the deadly reaction kicked in. And, sometimes, a series of mild anaphylactic reactions would lead to a fatal one.