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Authors: Giles Blunt

Tags: #Fiction, #Thriller

By the Time You Read This

BOOK: By the Time You Read This
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PRAISE FOR
Forty Words for Sorrow
“Don’t read it just because it’s a good crime novel and because once you’ve begun, you won’t put it down until you’re finished. Read it because it’s excellent.”
—Margaret Cannon,
The Globe and Mail
“Brilliant—one of the finest crime novels I’ve ever read.”
—Jonathan Kellerman
“The clues unfold in convincing ways, with no impossible surprises, no flukey bits of luck to defy belief … the final pages present the sort of ending rare in crime fiction, one which compels readers to congratulate everybody in sight—themselves, the book’s characters and particularly the author, Giles Blunt.”
—The Toronto Star
PRAISE FOR
The Delicate Storm
“This is good. The plot drives fast and well and the people speak like human beings. But it’s Blunt’s sense of place that is unique; that assures us he can join the select group of writers—such as Ian Rankin and Tony Hillerman—who can locate their readers in a fictional universe as physically real as the chair they inhabit.”
—The Observer
“It’s detective work at its best, handled by a skillful writer of the genre…. Cardinal and Delorme make wonderful protagonists, but it’s the weather that takes centre stage in Giles Blunt’s excellent psychological thriller….
The Delicate Storm
is crime fiction at its best. It’s also literature.”
—The Irish Examiner
“[Blunt] has an excellent grasp of the issues and history and does a great job of working them into the plot … he nevers lets go of the characters, which is where he really shines.”
—Margaret Cannon,
The Globe and Mail
PRAISE FOR
Blackfly Season
“Blackfly Season
is a superior thriller. Blunt’s sense of place is unsurpassed, and the scenes and events have an icy clarity that is the hallmark of his style.”
—Quill & Quire
“Giles Blunt writes a taut, gripping tale of suspense that is loaded with gritty realism in a story that comes together like the pieces of a puzzle. Dogged police work, as opposed to quantum leaps of plot logic, turns
Blackfly Season
into a credible, dramatic yarn…. Few can match Blunt’s wit, wry observations and emotionally charged background sketches.”
—Edmonton Journal
“The pulsing, tightly-plotted narrative again shows why Blunt should be considered among the new practitioners of crime drama’s elite.”
—Publishers Weekly
“Having burst on to the Canadian crime writing scene not long ago, Blunt has quickly became one of the top crime writers in Canada, indeed internationally, and deservedly so…. A few more books like
Blackfly Season
and Blunt may well achieve literary iconic status himself: a cultural icon so much more appealing than blackflies.”
—The Globe and Mail
ALSO BY GILES BLUNT
Cold Eye
Forty Words for Sorrow
The Delicate Storm
Blackfly Season

To Janna

I know I could kill someone. I know
I could kill myself
.
                    —The Journals of Sylvia Plath

1

N
OTHING BAD COULD EVER
happen on Madonna Road. It curls around the western shore of a small lake just outside Algonquin Bay, Ontario, providing a pine-scented refuge for affluent families with young children, yuppies fond of canoes and kayaks, and an artful population of chipmunks chased by galumphing dogs. It’s the kind of spot—tranquil, shady and secluded—that promises an exemption from tragedy and sorrow.

Detective John Cardinal and his wife, Catherine, lived in the smallest house on Madonna Road, but even that tiny place would have been beyond their means were it not for the fact that, being situated across the road from the water, they owned neither an inch of beach nor so much as a millimetre of lake frontage. On weekends Cardinal spent most of his time down in the basement breathing sawdust, paint and Minwax, carpentry affording him a sense of creativity and control that did not tend to flourish in the squad room.

But even when he was not woodworking, he loved to be in his tiny house enveloped in the serenity of the lakeshore. It was autumn now, early October, the quietest time of the year. The motorboats and Sea-Doos had been hauled away, and the snowmobiles were not yet blasting their way across ice and snow.

Autumn in Algonquin Bay was the season that redeemed the other three. Colours of scarlet and rust, ochre and gold swarmed across the hills, the sky turned an alarming blue, and you could almost forget the sweat-drenched summer, the bug festival that was spring, the pitiless razor of winter. Trout Lake was preternaturally still, black onyx amid fire. Even having grown up here (when he took it completely for granted), and now having lived in Algonquin Bay again for the past dozen years, Cardinal was never quite prepared for how beautiful it was in the fall. This time of year, he liked to spend every spare minute at home. On this particular evening he had made the fifteen-minute drive from work, even though he had only an hour, affording him exactly thirty minutes at the dinner table before he had to head back.

Catherine tossed a pill into her mouth, washed it down with a few swallows of water and snapped the cap back on the bottle.

“There’s more shepherd’s pie, if you want,” she said.

“No, I’m fine. That was great,” Cardinal said. He was trying to corner the last peas on his plate.

“There’s no dessert, unless you want cookies.”

“I always want cookies. The question is whether I want to be hoisted out of here by a forklift.”

Catherine took her plate and glass into the kitchen.

“What time are you heading out?” he called after her.

“Right now. It’s dark, the moon is up. Why not?”

Cardinal glanced outside. The full moon, an orange disc riding low above the lake, was quartered by the mullions of their window.

“You’re taking pictures of the moon? Don’t tell me you’re going into the calendar business.”

But Catherine wasn’t listening. She had disappeared down to the basement, and he could hear her pulling things off the shelves in her darkroom. Cardinal put the leftovers in the fridge and slotted his dishes into the dishwasher.

Catherine came back upstairs, zipped up her camera bag and dumped it beside the door while she put on her coat. It was a golden tan colour with brown leather trim on the cuffs and collar. She pulled a scarf from a hook and wrapped it once, twice, about her neck, then undid it again.

“No,” she said to herself. “It’ll be in the way.”

“How long is this expedition of yours?” Cardinal said, but his wife didn’t hear him. They’d been married nearly thirty years, but she still kept him guessing. Sometimes when she was going out to photograph, she would be chatty and excited, telling him every detail of her project until he was cross-eyed with the fine points of focal lengths and f-stops. Other times he wouldn’t know what she was planning until she emerged from her darkroom days or weeks later, clutching her prints like trophies from a personal safari. Tonight she was subdued.

“What time do you think you’ll get back?” Cardinal said.

Catherine tied a short plaid scarf around her neck and tucked it inside her jacket. “Does it matter? I thought you had to go back to work.”

“I do. Just curious.”

“Well, I’ll be home long before you.” She pulled her hair out from under her scarf and shook her head. Cardinal caught a whiff of her shampoo, a faint almondy smell. She sat down on the bench by the front door and opened her camera bag again. “Split-field filter. I knew I forgot something.”

She disappeared downstairs for a few moments and came back with the filter, which she dropped into the camera bag. Cardinal had no idea what a split-field filter might be.

“You going to the government dock again?” In the spring Catherine had done a series of photos on the shore of Lake Nipissing when the ice was breaking up. Great white slabs of ice stacking themselves up like geological strata.

“I’ve done the dock,” Catherine said, frowning a little. She strapped a collapsible tripod to the bottom of the camera bag. “Why all these questions?”

“Some people take pictures, other people ask questions.”

“I wish you wouldn’t. You know I don’t like to talk about stuff ahead of time.”

“Sometimes you do.”

“Not this time.” She stood up and slung the camera bag, bulky and heavy, over her shoulder.

“What a gorgeous night,” Cardinal said when they were outside. He stood for a moment looking up at the stars, but the glow of the moon washed most of them out. He took a deep breath, inhaling smells of pine and fallen leaves. It was Catherine’s favourite time of year too, but she wasn’t paying attention at the moment. She got straight into her car, a maroon PT Cruiser she’d bought used a couple of years earlier, started the engine and pulled out of the drive.

Cardinal followed her in the Camry along the dark, curving highway that took them into town. As they approached the lights at the Highway 11 bypass, Catherine signalled and shifted into the left lane. Cardinal continued on through the intersection, heading down Sumner toward the police station.

Catherine was headed toward the east end of town, and he briefly wondered where she was going. But it was always good to see her involved in her work, and she was taking her medication. If she was a little moody, that was okay. She’d been out of the psychiatric hospital for a year now. Last time she had been out for nearly two years when she suddenly embarked on a manic episode that put her in hospital for three months. But as long as she was taking her medication, Cardinal didn’t let himself worry too much.

It was a Tuesday night, and there was not a lot going on in the criminal world. Cardinal spent the next couple of hours catching up on paperwork. They’d had the annual carpet cleaning done and the air was rich with flowery chemicals and the smell of wet carpet. The only other detective on duty was Ian McLeod, and even McLeod, the station loudmouth during the day, maintained a comparative solemnity at night.

Cardinal was putting a rubber band round a file he had just closed when McLeod’s florid face appeared over the acoustic divider that separated their desks.

“Hey, Cardinal. I have to give you a heads-up. It’s about the mayor.”

“What’s he want?”

“Came in last night when you were off. He wanted to put in a missing-person report on his wife. Problem is, she’s not really missing. Everybody in town knows where she is except the goddam mayor.”

“She’s still having the affair with Reg Wilcox?”

“Yeah. In fact she was seen last night with our esteemed director of sanitation. Szelagy’s on a stakeout at the Birches motel, keeping an eye on the Porcini brothers. They got out of Kingston six months ago and seem to have the idea they can actually get back into business up here. Anyways, Szelagy’s reporting back and happens to mention he sees the mayor’s wife coming out of Room 12 with Reggie Wilcox. I was never keen on the jerk myself—I don’t know what women see in him.”

“He’s a good-looking guy.”

“Oh, come on. He looks like one of those Sears guys modelling the suits.” By way of imitation, McLeod gave him a three-quarter profile with a fake-hearty grin.

“Some people consider that handsome,” Cardinal said. “Though not on you.”

“Well, some people can kiss my—Anyway, I told His Worship last night, I said, Look, your wife is not missing. She’s an adult. She’s been seen downtown. If she’s not coming home, that’s apparently her choice at this particular moment in time.”

“What’d he say to that?”

“‘Who saw her? Where? What time?’ Same questions anybody’d ask. I told him I wasn’t at liberty to say. She’d been seen in the vicinity of Worth and MacIntosh, and we could not file a missing-person report at this time. She’s at the Birches again with Wilcox. I told Feckworth to come on down, you’d be happy to talk to him.”

“What the hell did you do that for?”

“He’ll take it better from you. Him and me don’t get along so good.”

“You don’t get along with anyone so good.”

“Now, that’s just hurtful.”

While he was waiting for the mayor to arrive, Cardinal made out an expense report for the previous month and wrote up the top sheet on a case he had just closed. He found his thoughts wandering to Catherine. She had been doing well for the past year, and was back teaching at the community college this semester. But she had seemed a little distant at dinner, a little impatient, in a way that might indicate some preoccupation other than her photographic project. Catherine was in her late forties and going through menopause, which played havoc with her moods and necessitated constant tweaking of her medication. If she seemed a little distant, well, there was no shortage of plausible reasons. On the other hand, how well do we really know the people we love? Just look at the mayor.

When His Worship Mayor Lance Feckworth arrived, Cardinal took him to one of the interview rooms so they could talk in private.

“I want to get to the bottom of this,” the mayor told him. “A full investigation.” Feckworth was a lumpy little man, much given to bow ties, and was perched uncomfortably on the edge of a plastic seat that was usually occupied by suspects. “I know I’m mayor, and that doesn’t give me the right to more attention than any other voter, but I don’t expect less, either. What if she’s had an accident of some kind?”

Feckworth was not much of a mayor. During his tenure, all the city council seemed to do was study problems endlessly and agree to let them drift. But he was usually an affable man, ready with a joke or a slap on the back. It was unsettling to see him in pain, as if a building one had grown used to over the years had suddenly been painted a garish colour.

As gently as possible, Cardinal pointed out that Mrs. Feckworth had been seen in town the previous night, and there had been no major accidents that week.

“Damn it, why is my entire police force telling me she’s been seen around town but you won’t say where or by who? How would you feel if it was your wife? You’d want to know the truth, right?”

“Yes, I would.”

“Then I suggest you explain to me exactly what is going on, Detective. Otherwise, I’ll just have to deal directly with Chief Kendall, and you can be sure I won’t have anything good to say about you or that lunkhead McLeod.”

BOOK: By the Time You Read This
12.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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