Authors: John McFetridge
“I remember little Georgie Stein; he wanted maple syrup.”
“We had a two-day leave; we were docked in Liverpool and we took the train to London. There was a place there, Canada House â you could get pancakes for breakfast with real maple syrup.”
“No, it was part of the Canadian High Commission, right there on Trafalgar Square.”
“And it served pancakes?”
“You could get mail there, find out where guys were stationed, that kind of thing. They tried to make it like a little piece of home.”
“And pancakes were a big deal?”
“After Spam three times a day for two weeks all the way across the Atlantic? Yeah, it was a big deal. And the real maple syrup, we all wanted it, not just George, so we went there and got ourselves beds in a rooming house around the corner, dropped our stuff and then we went out on the town.”
“Even in a war you have to get out.”
“Especially. But George didn't want to, said he was going to go to bed early so the rest of us went out. And,” his father paused and lit another cigarette, “got into a fight with some Americans.”
“A fist fight?” Dougherty said, having a tough time picturing his father in a bar brawl.
“Yeah. There were Americans all over England then, building up for â¦ well, for what yesterday's the anniversary of. Overpaid, over-sexed and over here.”
“What we said about the Americans. They had that song, âOver There.' For us the war'd been going on for years by then and then they came in like â¦ well, like they were going to save the day, like we'd been waiting around for them.”
Dougherty was looking sideways at his father, hearing this for the first time, worried that if he said anything his father would stop talking. So he didn't and his father smiled a little and said, “The streets were dark, no lights, the whole city was completely dark so the bombers coming in couldn't target anything. The bars all had these plywood entrances built in front of the doors, little vestibules so you could go in there and then open the door and not let the light out. We were walking down one of these dark streets and all of a sudden there was all this light, a couple of guys holding open both sets of doors and then a body came flying out.”
“A dead body?”
“No, an Irishman from Belfast, Royal Navy. He got up and said there were a bunch of Yanks making a lot of noise in the bar, the pub, I guess he said, so we went in to straighten them out.”
“Straighten them out?”
“Of course we all ended up in the drunk tank at the police station.”
“I don't get it,” Dougherty said. “What's this got to do with George Stein?”
His father nodded, the smile fading. “The next morning we had to get our things and get back to Liverpool, get back on our ship, and when we got to the rooming house it was rubble.”
“Everybody in it killed. Canada House was hit, too, and a big hotel next door.”
Dougherty waited a moment and then he said, “What did you do?”
“We got on the train back to Liverpool.”
After a moment his father said, “You want another beer?” and Dougherty said sure, and watched his dad go into the house.
Then Dougherty's mother came out and sat down and said, “So, you gonna catch this guy?”
Dougherty's father came out and handed Dougherty a beer and sat down.
“The guy, Bill, whatever his name, the guy killing these girls. You gonna catch him?”
“We're trying, Ma.”
Dougherty said, “Yeah, of course,” and then he was going to tell them how he was helping, how he was part of it, how maybe the information he got from Gail Murphy about the big white car might be really important and Detective Carpentier was bringing him into the investigation, but he didn't want to say too much, make himself sound important because he figured he was probably finished now, been all the use he could be to a murder investigation, so he just let it go.
A couple of hours later his father lit the barbecue and they had hamburgers and potato salad and steamed fiddleheads. Cheryl missed it but came back a little while after they'd finished and stomped off to her room and slammed the door. Tommy made a face and Dougherty laughed, but his mother didn't see anything funny about it.
When it got dark, Dougherty and his father were sitting on the patio by themselves, and Dougherty told him about helping Carpentier and talking to people in the Point and even a little about how good it felt to intimidate Danny Buckley. His father didn't tell him to be careful about that or not to let it go to his head or anything, he just nodded and said, “I guess it would.”
By the time Dougherty was driving home over the Champlain Bridge, he was feeling pretty good, felt he was doing a good job and was part of something.
Dougherty had called the homicide office Sunday morning before he went to the Park but was told that Detective Carpentier was unavailable. Same thing on Monday, so when he got to work Tuesday morning to start a couple weeks of day shifts the first thing he did was call the homicide office again and this time, instead of being told he was unavailable he was told Carpentier had been reassigned.
The receptionist repeated very slowly in English, “Detective Carpentier has been reassigned,” and Dougherty said, “What are you talking about? I need to talk to him.”
“Is there a message you would like to leave for him?”
It didn't seem like something that could be left in a message, that he'd talked to a girl in Pointe St-Charles who didn't want her name coming out and said she saw a car that looked suspicious but she wasn't exactly sure what kind or what the licence plate was or even that it was actually suspicious in any way. This was really something he wanted to tell Carpentier face-to-face, so he just said, “No thanks,” and hung up.
Then he asked Delisle what the hell was going on.
“Detective Carpentier in homicide has been reassigned?”
“Probably going to CATS.”
“Didn't you hear about the new task force?”
“No, I didn't hear anything; I was off for two days.”
“Some of our guys, some QPP and some Mounties, they're calling it the CAT Squad, Combined Anti-Terrorist.”
Delisle shrugged and said it was all for show, “for politics. They had a press conference, said eleven bombs have exploded in Montreal in the last five weeks.”
“Bombs have been going off for months.”
“Oh right,” Dougherty said.
“So they have to look like they're doing more.”
“More about the bombs, but what about everything else?”
“We also got a memo,” Delisle said. “Police on routine patrols are asked to use extreme caution.”
“Does it really say that, extreme caution?”
Delisle held up the memo and waved it. “You want to read it yourself?”
“Carpentier was working on these murders. What am I supposed to do?”
“What do you mean? You work your shift.”
“But I have information for Carpentier.”
“So give it to Desjardins â he's still in charge at homicide â and then get to work.”
Dougherty checked out a patrol car and drove down the hill to Bonsecours Street, but before he went to the homicide office he went to ident, where he found Rozovsky dividing a pile of photos into three stacks.
“You find another body?”
“Did you find another body that fits with the case?”
“Oh, no, I'm looking for Carpentier.”
“He's on the new task force.”
“I heard, but is he around?”
Rozovsky said, “What are you asking me for?” and Dougherty said, “Do you know?”
“They're upstairs, fourth floor, but they can't decide if the offices will be here or in the RCMP building on Dorchester.”
“How many are on the task force?”
“They don't know that, either, yet.”
“This is bullshit,” Dougherty said. “A few kids with bombs and we're making it sound like such a big deal, Drapeau going on the radio saying it's professionals from Algeria. You ever heard of that?”
“Or Cubans or draft dodgers â anybody but us, right?” Rozovsky held up one of the pictures. “What kind of car is this?”
“A Comet GT, looks like a '
“Is that a Ford?”
Rozovsky wrote that down and said, “Desjardins is in the homicide office, I think,” and Dougherty said yeah, but didn't move. Rozovsky said, “He's probably lonely, you could talk to him,” and Dougherty said okay and headed back down the hall.
He stood there for a moment looking at the closed door of the homicide office and imagined how the meeting would go. He'd introduce himself to Detective-Lieutenant Desjardins, who wouldn't know anything about him, so he'd explain about working with Carpentier, leaving out the part about picking him up drunk in Nap's, and then tell him about talking to people in the Point and about the white car and Desjardins would say, that's it? Then Dougherty would say yeah and the detective-lieutenant would stare at him like he was an idiot and then he'd leave and spend the rest of his life working night shifts out of Station Ten.
So he went upstairs, looking for Carpentier, didn't find him, and then walked out of the building and found him getting out of a car on Bonsecours.
“Detective, hey, I was looking for you.” He thought for a second that Carpentier was trying to remember where he knew him from and wasn't sure what to say.
“Yes, Constable Dougherty?”
Dougherty said he had some information, so Carpentier waved at the other detectives going into the greasy spoon across the street and said, “Yes, so, what is it?”
“I talked to Gail Murphy after the funeral.”
He waited a moment, making sure Carpentier remembered what he was talking about, but now the detective looked impatient so he said, “She said she saw a suspicious car the night Brenda Webber went missing.”
“What made it suspicious?”
“She just didn't think it belonged in the Point. It was a big white car with a black roof.”
“She didn't think so.”
“Has she seen it before?”
“She thinks so, yeah. A man driving, by himself.”
Carpentier nodded. ”Okay, sounds interesting. Can you ask around some more?”
“In the Point?”
“She didn't think the car was local?”
“No, she'd only seen it a couple of times. She couldn't really say why she noticed, it just kind of creeped her out.”
Carpentier said, “A hunch?” and Dougherty said, “Yeah, I guess.”
“Okay, that's not much. We need more than that for Desjardins.”
Dougherty said yeah, thinking this was exactly why he hadn't wanted to take it to Desjardins himself and then Carpentier said, “
, why don't you take a drive out where Brenda Webber's body was found, see if you get anything there.”
“That's not our jurisdiction. Should I talk to the LaSalle cops?”
“Just ask around a little, unofficial for now â you probably won't get anything.”
Dougherty said, “Right, probably not,” and then, “But if I do, I bring it to you?”
Carpentier nodded and said, “If you find anything? Sure, bring it to me. Officially I'm not working this, either, I've been assigned to this new task force, but if you find something, or you think you find something, yes, bring it to me. It's probably nothing, a guy got a new car, that's all, so let's not send the homicide detectives on a wild goose chase now that there's hardly anybody left.”
Dougherty said okay and got in the patrol car thinking, Sure, a wild goose chase, that would be my job. He thought for a minute about just going back to Station Ten but then he got on the Ville-Marie Expressway and headed west.
The old guy said, “It's HMCS
, or it was,” and Dougherty said, “Oh yeah,” thinking he could barely see the canal across the street and past the train tracks.
“It was a naval repair station, very busy during the war, and after for a while, too. It only closed last year.”
Dougherty said he'd thought it was a factory, like the rest of the buildings along St. Patrick and the old guy said no. Then he looked around at the weeds and the brush and the pieces of old cars and washing machines. “This is where she was left?”
Dougherty nodded, thinking that was the first time he'd heard it described as anything but “dumped,” and he said, “Yeah, right here.”
“Well,” the old guy said, “a lot of guys worked at the shipyard, thousands over the years, and the other factories here.”
“You thinking about how many people know about this place?”
“I guess, yeah, still thinking like a cop.”
“You were a cop?”
“Oh, not Montreal,” the guy said, “not the big city, just here in LaSalle. Made it to sergeant,” and he held out his hand. “Denison.”
Dougherty shook his hand. “Well, Sergeant Denison, it looks like it's all going to be one city soon, the whole island of Montreal.”
“At least one police force, that's the talk.”
Dougherty had driven to LaSalle and parked on Cordner Street, where the new houses were going in, and looked for someone to talk to. People were living in some of the finished houses but the whole area just felt empty. Then as Dougherty walked into the field, coming at it from the opposite side as he had when he'd come from St. Patrick Street, the old guy, Denison, had come up behind him and asked what a Montreal police car was doing in LaSalle. Dougherty asked him if he'd heard about the girl's body that was found, and the old guy'd said, “Yes, a tragedy.”
Now Denison was looking past the closed-down HMCS
building to the raised expressway on the other side of the canal. “Well, it sounds like there's a little more cooperation now, that's good.”
“There wasn't always?”
“One of the last things I did before I retired was the explosion we had here.”
“Oh yeah,” Dougherty said, “at the Monsanto plant?” and he pointed along the canal towards Verdun, but Denison said, “No, that was '
, after I retired, I mean the apartment building in the Heights in '
. Place went up just after eight in the morning â we didn't get any help from Montreal until the afternoon, four, five hours later.”
“I remember that explosion,” Dougherty said, “some kids were killed.”
“Twenty-eight. Not all kids, fifteen were kids. They hadn't left for school yet.”
Dougherty said, “Wow,” and Denison said, “Oh yes. Monsanto was bad, too, eleven men killed.” Then he looked at Dougherty and said, “You know, there was another gas explosion in LaSalle in
, just around the corner from the other one, seven people were killed.”
“I didn't know that,” Dougherty said. “But I'm just trying to find out about one death now.”
Denison said, “No less important,” and Dougherty said, “Yeah, that's right.”
“So, you said you think she was brought here in a white car?”
“With a black roof.”
“On Thursday night?”
“Sometime between Thursday night and Tuesday morning.”
“Jesus,” Denison said. “That's all you've got?”
Dougherty said, “He could have driven in here off Cordner,” and Denison said, “Or Elmslie or Lapierre.”
“Yeah, and left by a different way.”
“There are some kids in some of those houses, you could ask,” Dension said. “Come on, my granddaughter's one of them.”
They walked back to Cordner Street and Denison explained how his daughter and her husband had bought two units in a fourplex on Thierry Street and were Ârenting out one unit and he was living in the bachelor apartment in the basement. “Not really the basement,” he said. “It's a walkout, has a door to the backyard.”
The granddaughter was maybe ten years old, playing with a couple of friends, and didn't know anything about a big white car with a black roof. Denison asked if any older kids were around, and one of the friends said her brother was in the house, so Denison asked her to go get him.
The kid was maybe fourteen or fifteen and Dougherty was a little surprised to see he was clean cut and seemed respectful. He figured it was because the kid was Italian, probably still translating for his parents.
Denison asked the kid if he'd seen a white car and the kid said yes, and Dougherty said, “With a black roof?”
The kid said, “Yes,”
“A big car?”
“Yes, a big white car with a black roof.”
“When was this?”
“In the morning, I was delivering my papers.”
Dougherty said, “The
?” and the kid said yeah.
“My little brother has a
“No, on the South Shore, Greenfield Park.”
The kid nodded but didn't say anything, and then Dougherty said, “But you remember the car?”
“Yeah, there's not many cars around when I deliver.”
“You have to be finished by seven, right?”
“Yeah, but I'm usually finished before that. I have to help my mom make lunches.”
“So what time do you think you saw the car?”
The kid thought about it. “Well, I was just starting, and I was right here, so it must have been before six, maybe quarter to.”
“And what day was this?”
“I'm not sure.”
“But not Sunday, there's no
“And not Saturday, my little brother helps me then â we have all the flyers to deliver.”
Dougherty said, “Maybe Friday?” and Denison looked sideways at him, seemed to be trying to get him to realize something, but Dougherty didn't know what. The kid said, “Yes, that's right.”
Dougherty said, “But not this past Friday, it was the Friday before, right?”
“Yes, that's right.”
“That's quite a while ago,” Denison said, and the kid said yeah and thought about it for a moment. “I think there was a story on the front page about a hijacking.”
Dougherty said, “Okay, so this was Friday morning and you saw the white car on Cordner. Which way was it going?”
The kid looked up the street and thought about it for a bit and then said, “That way,” pointing past the field towards Montreal.