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Mahoney's Camaro

Mahoney's Camaro

A Crime Novel
also available: Paperback
tagged : crime, hard-boiled
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“Base to 36, base to 36. What’s your twenty, over.”

Mahoney picked up the microphone and clicked. “McPhillips and Stardust, Dolores. Just grabbing the breakfast of champions, over.” The voice at the other end of the transmission laughed and coughed at the same time, a damp smoker’s cough. “That cat food is gonna stop your heart cold one of these days, over.”

“And four packs a day won’t? Over.”

“Fig you, Baloney, and your little dog too, over.” As raw as the off-air conversation could get at the Hook Me Up office, Mahoney knew that the on-air banter for the two-way had to be kept PG, thanks to a few complaints that had made their way to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission. Someone was always listening, even if it was a fat kid in a basement with a Radio Shack scanner and virgin ears. Even he could complain — to his Mom anyway.

“Whaddya got, Dolores? It better not be some drunk rich kid’s Trans Am at Night Moves, cause I’m nowhere near it, over.” Mahoney waited for the dispatcher to chastise him for his insolence with a few figs, maybe an offer to go multiply himself repeatedly. Instead, there was a pause. Dolores always paused when it was a bad one. Mahoney knew that the timing was right for a bad one. High school graduation season was in full swing throughout the city. Many schools were still trying to push the designated driver concept, though the reality was that at least two teens would die that weekend in closed-casket crashes.

“It’s a cop call,” said Dolores. “North Main Street boat launch, got a car in the water. Did you get that fiddling cable fixed on the fiddling winch yet? Over.”

“It’s as strong as your breath. Ever heard of a fiddling Tic-Tac? Over.”

Dolores coughed. “Ever heard of a ritual killing? Over.”

“Got it Dolores. 36 over and out.” Mahoney hung up the mic. He steered with his knees while he ate.

It took Mahoney about fifteen minutes to get to the North Main Red River boat launch. It would have taken less than ten, if it wasn’t for the media blockade. They’d been monitoring the police band on their respective scanners. Mahoney had attended to numerous calls where the media was first on the scene. Listening in was illegal, though the police had never followed through on enforcing it. As much as the media could bring a world of hurt to an ongoing investigation, it could also assist in locating a missing person, or a person of interest. Mahoney knew, like most Winnipeggers, that the city’s police department was still feeling the sting of negative publicity from a few high-profile cases in the last few years.

The third trial for Thomas Sophonow was underway, with many citizens quietly convinced that he had been railroaded into the role of the Cowboy Killer, that had strangled Barbara Stoppel in the bathroom of the Ideal Donut Shop. Candace Derksen had been found in January, hog-tied and left to die in a shed within walking distance of her family home. Paul Clear had been murdered by two of Winnipeg’s not-so-finest in the summer of ’81. The pair was convinced that he had snitched on them for their on-duty burglary hobby. One of the cops was Clear’s brother-in-law.

At the entrance to the boat launch, a skinny rookie was keeping the reporters at bay. He signaled to Mahoney to head through as the respective news outlets snapped their pictures and filled their Betacams with the barricaded scene. The CKND van tried to follow Mahoney in, stopping quickly when the driver locked eyes with the rookie’s icy glare. The rookie motioned to another officer in an idling cruiser who quickly got the hint, blocking the gravel access road with two tons of black-and-white Ford LTD.

Mahoney looked ahead to the riverside activity. The road was thick with black-and-whites and unmarked detective units. An ambulance passed him on the left, looking to be in anything but a hurry, its emergency lights dark. Mahoney saw why as he started the decline to the Red River. The meat wagon. It was a non-descript, windowless black Ford Econoline, usually seen in the grainy crime-page pictures of the local papers. Mahoney could see the Harbor Master runabout in the water. The boat’s driver was talking to a police diver, who nodded his goggled head attentively before heading back down to the watery crime scene. The stage had plenty of backlighting, thanks to the side-mounted floodlights of the MS Paddlewheel Queen. The riverboat had practically been at its berth near the Northgate Copa dinner hall when one of the passengers noticed the red lights in the water. The previously-upbeat River East Collegiate Class of 1985 had quieted down considerably. The deck was lined with boys in rented tuxedos, and girls in what would most likely be the second-most expensive dress of their lives. They watched in stunned silence. Some of the girls were crying. Mahoney figured that going all the way tonight for any of these grads had about as much chance of happening as the waterlogged car below starting its engine and driving away.

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Starlight sat back on his heels and watched them run. In the flush of moonlight they appeared as bursts of shadows between the trees. The lope and bend of them. When they hit the glade the leader dropped into a low prowl, the ears of him flat to the skull and his snout pressed close to the ground. The rest of the pack stayed in the clasp of the trees. The big one swayed his head around then raised his muzzle and sniffed at the air and for a moment fixed his gaze on the man on the rocks then dropped his head like a nod and padded out deeper into the open. The other wolves bled out of the shadow and stood around him. Waiting. In the luminescent blue of the moon Starlight could see the huffed clouds of their breathing. They sat back on their haunches, tongues lolling like dogs, and when they flexed their jaws he could hear the smack of their tongues on canines, sharp and feral, and the piercing whine and whimper of wolf talk. The alpha male sat like a stone, staring intently at the rocks. Starlight felt the hot muscles in his thighs but held his pose, staring back at the humped shadow of the wolf in the glade. He breathed through his mouth. The big wolf raised his head and swivelled it to catch the wind and when he was satisfied he stood, and Starlight was impressed at the size of him. The wolf walked slowly across the front of the rocks and the others trailed behind him, and when he broke to a trot they picked up the pace silently. Starlight waited until the last of them was gone and then slid out of the rocks and began to run behind them.
     He ran easily. Like a wolf. He bent closer to the ground and loped, the slide of his feet skimming through the low-lying brush without a sound, and when he found the pace of the pack he angled off through the trees and took a parallel tack to them, keeping them on his right and dodging the pine and spruce easily, his night eyes sharpened by use. He ran with them, the scuttling pace easy after the first three hundred yards.
     They broke up the side of a ridge and he could hear the push of their hind feet loosen the talus and he followed the tumble of it up the hard slant. It was a tough climb but he ran it. When he breached the top he saw them gathered in the trees. The big male looked back over his shoulder. Starlight could see the shimmer of his eyes and he felt pinned by the look. He stopped and stood against the open light of the drop. The empty sky behind him. The moonlight. There was nowhere to move so he stood there and breathed and waited and watched the wolf, who kept his eyes on him and opened his mouth and let his tongue droop and huffed his breath so that for a moment it appeared to Starlight as though he laughed, and then he turned his head and studied the trees on the flat. The others sat patiently. None of them looked back. The leader rose slowly and arched and stretched and the others followed suit. Then they broke. In unison. He marvelled at that, the ability to communicate with thought, the language of them hung and shaped on the power of intention, and when they were twenty yardsgone he broke into the lope again and followed.
     The landscape rolled easily through the coniferous jut and the running was uncompromised by brush. Instead, there were sprinkles of holly and swatches of mountain grass and here and there the plunked forms of fallen trees, decaying trunks he leapt in a single bound while he kept the relaxed prowling pace of the wolves.
     He carried nothing but a small pack on his back. He wore no gloves despite the chill and his clothing was loose and warm. His shoes were stitched together out of moose hide and laced tightly. The soles of them were thick pads of felt and he could feel every poke and thrust of the territory he crossed and the tracks he left were mere outlines. The shoes functioned as wrapping for his feet so that the feeling was of being barefoot but protected. They enabled him to run quietly. His hair was short and cropped close to his head, severe like a military cut. There was nothing to catch or snag, even his trouser legs tucked neatly into the tops of his shoes and the sleeves buttoned tight to his wrists. He ran parallel to the wolves and he made no sound.
     They angled sharply suddenly and propelled themselves in a hard zigzag up a cut of ridge. It was lightly treed and there were hamper-size rocks and boulders strewn about and he found himself having to clutch and grab at saplings to pull himself upward while he ran. He followed their path. His lungs ached and the muscles at his calves protested and his thighs and buttocks burned at the push but he pressed on. The hardscrabble face of the cut was inches from his face and he could smell the lichen on the rocks. Dry. Dusty. Metallic almost. He angled his feet to grab more of the face and strained harder against the gravity he felt upon him like a weight. The wolves crested the ridge and disappeared. He took deeper breaths and forced his muscles to work and he could feel the tension in his neck and shoulders. When he finally stepped quivering onto the lip of the ridge he was spent and leaned forward with his hands on the top of his knees and breathed through his mouth and peered through the top of his eyes to locate the wolves.
     They lay on a sloping boulder that poked out over the far edge. The moon behind them like a giant shining eye. The alpha male was the only one sitting and he faced the shimmering orb of the moon with his head slightly raised, like a child wrapped in wonder. Starlight caught his breath quickly and stood to his full height. The wolf turned his head. They regarded each other and the man felt plumbed, known, seen in his entirety, and there was no fear in him, only calm like the unwavering gaze of the wolf leader. The wolf stood. He swept his gaze back and forth across the star-dappled blanket of the heavens and Starlight followed the look. The universe, deep and eternal, hung above them: solemn and frank as a prayer. 
     The wolf sat again and appeared to study the panorama. Then he raised his snout and yapped a wailing howl at the face of the moon and the stars thrust out around it. It was high and piercing, and it brought the others to their haunches and they all stared at the great silvered orb. Starlight slumped the pack from his back and took out a camera body and a long lens and screwed them together quickly. He sidestepped so that he could see the wolves in profile. They never moved. The dozen of them like acolytes at a shrine. He knelt and focused on the leader and breathed with his finger on the shutter. In the frame he held the pocked face of the moon and the head of the alpha wolf. When the leader raised his muzzle Starlight pulled the focus tight, and when he opened his muzzle to howl he let him yap the first syllables and then pressed the shutter on a rare and personal moment. The wolves turned at the whir of it. They studied him. He caught them in the viewfinder with the full moon behind them and snapped another. They watched him. Then they turned their attention back to the heavens and began to howl. He felt it in his spine. He felt in his belly. He disassembled the unit and tucked it back into the pack and slung the bag on his back then turned and walked to the lip of the ridge again and stepped down without looking back. The howl of them, ancient, powerful. They followed him back down into the night.

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None So Deadly

None So Deadly

A Cullen and Cobb Mystery
also available: eBook
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