About the Author

Giles Blunt

Books by this Author
Blackfly Season

Blackfly Season

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Chapter 1

Anybody who has spent any length of time in Algonquin Bay will tell you there are plenty of good reasons to live somewhere else. There is the distance from civilization, by which Canadians mean Toronto, 250 miles south. There is the gradual decay of the once-charming downtown, victim to the twin scourges of suburban malls and an unlucky series of fires. And, of course, there are the winters, which are ferocious, snowy and long. It’s not unusual for winter to extend its bone-numbing grip into April, and the last snowfall often occurs in May.

Then there are the blackflies. Every year, following an all-too-brief patch of spring weather, blackflies burst from the beds of northern Ontario’s numberless rivers and streams to feast on the blood of birds, livestock and the citizens of Algonquin Bay. They’re well equipped for it, too. The blackfly may be less than a quarter-inch long, but up close it resembles an attack helicopter, fitted with a sucker at one end and a nasty hook at the other. Even one of these creatures can be a misery. Caught in a swarm, a person can very rapidly go mad.

The World Tavern may not have looked too crazy on this particular Friday, but Blaine Styles, the bartender, knew there would be problems. Blackfly season just doesn’t bring out the best in people — those that drink, anyway. Blaine wasn’t a hundred percent sure which quarter the trouble would come from, but he had his candidates.

For one, there was the trio of dorks at the bar — a guy named Regis and his two friends in baseball caps, Bob and Tony. They were drinking quietly, but they had flirted a little too long with Darla, the waitress, and there was a restlessness about them that didn’t bode well for later. For another, there was the table at the back by the map of Africa. They’d been drinking Molson pretty steadily for a couple of hours now. Quiet, but steady. And then there was the girl, a redhead Blaine had never seen before who kept moving from table to table in a way that he found — professionally speaking — disturbing.

A Labatt Blue bottle flew across the room and hit the map of Canada just above Newfoundland. Blaine shot from behind the bar and waltzed the drunk who’d thrown it out the door before he could even protest. It bothered Blaine that he hadn’t even seen this one coming. The jerk had been sitting with a couple of guys in leather jackets under France, and hadn’t raised even a blip on the bartender’s radar. The World Tavern, oldest and least respectable gin joint in Algonquin Bay, could get pretty hairy on a Friday night, especially in blackfly season, and Blaine preferred to set the limits early.

He went back behind the bar and poured a couple of pitchers for the table over by the map of Africa — getting a little louder, he noticed. Then there was an order for six continentals and a couple of frozen margaritas that kept him hopping. After that there was a slack period, and he rested his foot on a beer case, easing his back while he washed a few glasses.

There weren’t too many regulars tonight; he was glad about that. Television shows would have you believe that the regulars in a bar are eccentrics with hearts of gold, but Blaine found they were mostly just hopeless dipwads with serious issues around self-esteem. The stained, shellacked maps on the walls of the World Tavern were the closest these people would ever get to leaving Algonquin Bay.

Jerry Commanda was sitting at the end of the bar nursing his usual Diet Coke with a squeeze of lemon and reading Maclean’s. A bit of a mystery, Jerry. On the whole, Blaine liked him, despite his being a regular — respected him, anyway — even if he was an awful tipper.

Jerry used to be a serious drinker — not a complete alky, but a serious drinker. This was back when he was in high school, maybe into his early twenties. But then something had sobered him up and he’d never touched alcohol again. Didn’t set foot in the World or any other bar for five, six years after that. Then, a few years ago, he’d started coming in on Friday nights, and he’d always park his skinny butt at the end of the bar. You could see everything that was going on from there.

Blaine had once asked Jerry how he’d kicked the bottle, if he’d gone the twelve-step route.

“Couldn’t stand twelve-step,” Jerry had said. “Couldn’t stand the meetings. Everyone saying they’re powerless, asking God to get them out of this pickle.” Jerry used words like that now and again, even though he was only about forty. Old-fashioned words like pickle or fellow or cantankerous. “But it turned out to be pretty easy to quit alcohol, once I figured out what I had to do was quit thinking, not drinking.”

“No one can quit thinking,” Blaine had said. “Thinking’s like breathing. Or sweating. It’s just something you do.”

Jerry then launched into some weird psychological bushwah. Said it might be true you couldn’t stop the thoughts from coming, but you could change what you did with them. The secret was being able to sidestep them. Blaine remembered the words exactly because Jerry was a four-time Ontario kick-boxing champion, and when he’d said sidestep he’d made a nifty little manoeuvre that looked kind of, well, disciplined.

So Jerry Commanda had learned to sidestep his thoughts, and the result was him parking himself at the end of the bar every Friday night for an hour or so, with his Diet Coke and his squeeze of lemon. Blaine figured it was partly to deter some of the young guys from the reserve from drinking too much. Pretty hard for them to cut loose with the reserve’s best-known cop sitting at the bar, reading a magazine and sipping his Coke. Some of them, minute they saw him, just did a 180 and walked out.

Blaine swept his wary bartender’s gaze over his domain. The Africa table was definitely getting boisterous. Boisterous was okay, but it was just one level down from obnoxious. Blaine cocked his head to one side, listening for warning notes — the gruff challenge, the outraged cry that was inevitably followed by the scraping of a chair. Except for the bottle tosser, it looked to be a peaceful night. The bottle tosser, and the girl.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Breaking Lorca

Breaking Lorca

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Chapter One

Sooner or later the other soldiers in the squad were going to kill him. It was only a matter of time. Victor had never done anything to antagonize the brutes he worked with, but he was sure they hated him, or soon would.

He had wanted such a different life. He had wanted to be a teacher, but war had come and schools were closed. Many teachers were killed, many disappeared. Both of Victor’s parents were dead; he had joined the army out of necessity. Now all he wanted was to stay alive.

He tried to concentrate on the paperback in his hand. Victor was reading Of Mice and Men – very slowly, and with an English—Spanish dictionary – but even reading at this turtle’s pace, he was touched by the loyalty between the two men: big, dumb Lenny and shrewd, crabby George. John Steinbeck knew that people should exist in pairs. Victor would have given anything for a friend, someone to be loyal to, but there was no one like that in this place.

A friend might have helped stem the tide of fear that rose around him; he could feel it lapping at his chin. Soon the waters would close over his mouth and nose and he would drown altogether. The Captain hated him to be reading, he knew that, but there was simply no other way, lacking a friend, that he could distract himself from the fear that – maybe not for a month, maybe not for two – the other soldiers were going to kill him.

In America, now, things would be different. They had jobs in America, not war. You didn’t have to carry a rifle to prove your manhood. He could go to a vast American city and lose himself among the crowds. No one would know what a coward he was. He would work at two jobs, three if necessary, and perhaps one day open a restaurant or a store. Maybe New York, maybe Washington, he hadn’t decided yet. That was the nice thing about a fantasy, there were no decisions to make. He devoted himself to the study of English, knowing that one day he would speak it in America. Oh, all of the soldiers spoke a little English, but none of them could read it – he wasn’t even sure if his uncle could read it.

Not that he could lose himself for long in fantasy, not at the little school. The air was sour with the smell of bodily fluids. The guardroom was a tiny space between the cells and the interrogation room. Pretty much the only thing the soldier on guard had to do was to bring the latrine bucket to the cells as needed, and to shoot anyone who tried to escape. There was no chance of that. Guard duty was easy, but the stench from the cells was not something you could forget for more than a few minutes at a time.

“Reading again.” The Captain filled the entire doorway, casting a shadow over the book.

“Yes. Same story,” Victor said, showing the cover. Anger emanated from his uncle like heat from a stove.

Captain Peña did not even glance at the book. “That’s why you took guard duty, I suppose. Even though it’s not your turn.”

“The others enjoy their card games. I thought, why not let them?”

“You don’t do it for them. You do it because you want to read.”

“Well, yes,” he said with what he hoped was a disarming smile. “Reading is definitely my vice.”

“Don’t imagine you’re making friends by taking extra duty. You read in here because you don’t want to be with them. You think they don’t know that?”

“They like cards, I like books. Why is that a problem?”

“Don’t be stupid. They know you are from a different class. By reading, you rub their noses in it.”

“I don’t think I’m better than them.”

“Then you’re even stupider than I thought. With your background and education? Of course you are better than them. But you’re a corporal, not a general, and from now on you take your breaks like everybody else. You spend your free time with your brothers-in-arms.”

“It’s just going to cause trouble, sir. They don’t want me around.”

“They never will, if you don’t make the effort.”

A prisoner called out, “Please. I need the bucket. I can’t wait any longer.”

Victor started to get up.

“Sit down. I’m talking to you.”

Victor sat down.

“I’m beginning to wonder why I saved your ass. I should have let Casarossa put you in front of that firing squad.”

“Please don’t think I’m ungrateful, sir. I’m very grateful.” That was true. He was still amazed that his uncle, whom he had never known all that well, had saved him.

“I didn’t do it for you. What would your father do if he knew he had a coward for a son?”

“He would have shot me himself,” Victor said. “He would have had no mercy.”

“Exactly. You didn’t deserve any. That fake wound on your head.”

“The wound was not fake, sir. I ran into a guy wire.”

“Very convenient to fall into a ditch just when the firefight is about to begin. Quite a coincidence.”

“I can’t say. I don’t know what happened.”

“Oh, of course not. You were unconscious through the whole thing.”

The prisoner called out again, “Please. The bucket. I can’t hold out any longer.”

Victor started to stand.

His uncle screamed so that the veins stood out on his neck. “You get up when I tell you to get up and not before! You think our dainty little prisoners need a bucket every time they whine for one? Forget the prisoners. The prisoners are dogs.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Dogs.” The Captain took out a handkerchief and mopped his brow. He spoke more softly, as if he had suddenly remembered they were blood relatives. “I blame myself for letting things slide. Two weeks go by and you don’t make the slightest effort to fit in. Well, things are going to change, understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Number one: no more reading. Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Number two: you spend your free time with your squad. Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Number three: I’m going to be on your tail night and day. No more mollycoddling. You’re my nephew, you’re a Peña – I expect more of you, not less.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Every day I’m going to move you a little bit closer to the heart of what we do in this place. If you stay on the edge, the others won’t trust you. I know the work is hard, I know it doesn’t come naturally. You think I like this work?”

“No, sir.”

“I hate this work. God knows how I hate this work. But it’s my duty, and you do your duty or you are nothing but a traitor, you understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Holy Mother, the things I’ve had to witness. They would make you sick just to hear about them. The war has forced this on us, the fucking Communists. I get no pleasure from what we do here. I just do my job, understand? And from now on, you will be one with the team. Otherwise, I’ll send you back to Casarossa with my apologies. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll just shoot you myself.”

“Yes, sir.”

The Captain’s anger seemed to ebb again. He took out his handkerchief and mopped his brow, and when he put it away his tone was softer.

“Listen, Victor, I have seen even some of the worst soldiers eventually shape up. I’m not giving up on you. First opening that comes available, I’ll pull some strings and send you for training. Real training. They have a wonderful facility in Panama. Even better would be the United States. Fort Benning. That would be the best.”

“The United States,” Victor breathed with hope. “I could go to Fort Benning?”

“Possibly. But it’s for soldiers, not cowards. Next detainee we bring in, I don’t care who it is, you are going to get some hands-on experience, is that understood?”

“Yes, sir. Understood, sir.”

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By the Time You Read This

By the Time You Read This

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Nothing 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’s 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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Cardinal: Forty Words for Sorrow (TV Tie-in Edition)
Excerpt

It gets dark early in Algonquin Bay. Take a drive up Airport Hill at four o’clock on a February afternoon and when you come back half an hour later, the streets of the city will glitter below you in the dark like so many runways. The forty-sixth parallel may not be all that far north; you can be much further north and still be in the United States, and even London, England, is a few degrees closer to the North Pole. But this is Ontario, Canada, we’re talking about, and Algonquin Bay in February is the very definition of winter: Algonquin Bay is snowbound, Algonquin Bay is quiet, Algonquin Bay is very, very cold.

John Cardinal was driving home from the airport where he had just watched his daughter, Kelly, board a plane bound for the United States by way of Toronto. The car still smelled of her—or at least of the scent that had lately become her trademark: Rhapsody or Ecstasy or some such. To Cardinal, wife gone and now daughter gone, it smelled of loneliness.

It was many degrees below zero outside; winter squeezed the car in its grip. The windows of the Camry were frosted up on both sides, and Cardinal had to keep scraping them with an ineffective plastic blade. He went south down Airport Hill, made a left onto the bypass, another left onto Trout Lake Road, and then he was heading north again toward home.

Home, if you could call it that with both Catherine and Kelly gone, was a tiny wooden house on Madonna Road, smallest among a crescent of cottages set like a brooch along the north shore of Trout Lake. Cardinal’s house was fully winterized, or so the real estate agent had told them, but “winterized” had turned out to be a relative term. Kelly claimed you could store ice cream in her bedroom.

His drive was hidden by four-foot-high snowbanks, so Cardinal didn’t see the car blocking his way until he almost rear-ended it. It was one of the unmarkeds from work, great pale clouds of exhaust blasting out from behind. Cardinal reversed and parked across the road. Lise Delorme, the Algonquin Bay police department’s entire Office of Special Investigations, got out of the unmarked and waded through the exhaust toward him.

The department, despite “great strides toward employment equity,” as the bureaucrats liked to phrase it, was still a bastion of male chauvinism, and the general consensus around the place was that Lise Delorme was too—well, too something—for her job. You’re at work, you’re trying to think, you don’t need the distraction. Not that Delorme looked like a movie star; she didn’t. But there was something about the way she looked at you, McLeod liked to say—and for once McLeod was right. Delorme had a disturbing tendency to hold your gaze just a little too long, just a split second too long, with those earnest brown eyes. It was as if she’d slipped her hand inside your shirt.

In short, Delorme was a terrible thing to do to a married man. And Cardinal had other reasons to fear her.

“I was about to give up,” she said. Her French Canadian accent was unpredictable: one hardly noticed it most of the time, but then final consonants would disappear and sentences would sprout double subjects. “I tried to phone you, but there was no answer, and your machine, it’s not working.”

“I switched it off,” Cardinal said. “What the hell are you doing here, anyway?”

“Dyson told me to come get you. They’ve found a body.”

“Got nothing to do with me. I don’t work homicides, remember?” Cardinal was trying to be merely factual, but even he could hear the bitterness in his voice. “You mind letting me through, Sergeant?” The “Sergeant” was just to nettle her. Two detectives of equal rank would normally address each other by name, except in the presence of the public or around junior officers.

Delorme was standing between her car and the snowbank. She stepped aside so Cardinal could get to his garage door.

“Well Dyson, I think he wants you back.”

“I don’t care. You mind backing out now, so I can plug my car in? I mean, if that’s okay with Dyson. Why’s he sending you, anyway? Since when are you working homicides?”

“You must have heard I quit Special.”

“No, I heard you wanted to quit Special.”

“It’s official now. Dyson says you’ll show me the ropes.”

“No, thanks. I’m not interested. Who’s working Special?”

“He’s not here yet. Some guy from Toronto.”

“Fine,” Cardinal said. “Doesn’t make the slightest difference. You gonna get lost now? It’s cold, I’m tired, and I’d kind of like to eat my supper.”

“They think it could be Katie Pine.” Delorme scanned his face while Cardinal took this in, those solemn brown eyes watching his reaction.

Cardinal looked away, staring out into the blackness that was Trout Lake. In the distance the headlights of two snowmobiles moved in tandem across the dark. Katie Pine. Thirteen years old. Missing since September 12; he would never forget that date. Katie Pine, a good student, a math whiz from the Anishinabek Reserve, a girl whom he had never met, whom he had wanted more than anything to find. The phone began to ring inside the house, and Delorme looked at her watch.

“That’s Dyson. He only gave me one hour.”

Cardinal went inside. He didn’t invite Delorme. He picked up the phone on the fourth ring and heard Detective Sergeant Don Dyson going on at him in his chilly quack of a voice as if they had been separated in the middle of an argument and were only now, three months later, resuming it. In a way, that was true.

“Let’s not waste time going over old ground,” Dyson said. “You want me to apologize, I apologize. There. Done. We got a body out on the Manitou Islands, and McLeod is tied up in court. Up to his ears in Corriveau. Case is yours.”

Cardinal felt the old anger burning its way into his veins. I may be a bad cop, he told himself, but not for the reasons Dyson thinks. “You took meoff homicide, remember? I was strictly robbery and burglary material, in your book.”

“I changed your case assignments, it’s what a detective sergeant does, remember? Ancient history, Cardinal. Water under the bridge. We’ll talk about it after you see the body.”

“‘She’s a runaway,’ you said. ‘Katie Pine is not a homicide, she’s a runaway. Got a history of it.’”

“Cardinal, you’re back on homicide, all right? It’s your investigation. Your whole stinking show. Not that it has to be Katie Pine, of course. Even you, Detective Has-To-Be-Right, might want to keep an open mind about identifying bodies you haven’t seen. But if you want to play I Told You So, Cardinal, you just come into my office tomorrow morning, eight o’clock. Best thing about my job is I don’t have to go out at night, and these calls always come at night.”

“It’s my show as of this moment—if I go.”

“That’s not my decision, Cardinal, and you know it. Lake Nipissing falls under the jurisdiction of our esteemed brothers and sisters in the Ontario Provincial Police. But even if it’s the OPP’s catch, they’re going to want us in on it. If it is Katie Pine or Billy LaBelle, they were both snatched from the city—our city—assuming they were both snatched. It’s our case either way. ‘If I go,’ he says.”

“I’d rather stick with burglaries, unless it’s my show as of this moment.”

“Have the coroner toss a coin,” Dyson snapped, and hung up.

Cardinal yelled to Delorme, who had stepped in out of the cold and was standing diffidently just inside the kitchen door. “Which one of the Manitous are we on?”

“Windigo. The one with the mine shaft.”

“So we drive, right? Will the ice take a truck?”

“You kidding? This time of year, that ice would take a freight train.” Delorme jerked a mittened thumb in the direction of Lake Nipissing.

“Make sure you dress warm,” she said. “That lake wind, it’s cold as hell.”

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Crime Machine
Excerpt

1
 
 
A small city that heralds itself as the Gateway to the North is unlikely also to be known as the gateway to fine dining, and until recently—unless your idea of an evening out involved donuts or poutine—this was pretty much the case with Algonquin Bay. Many an intrepid restaurateur had been brought to ruin by the economic realities of trying to serve fresh Atlantic salmon, not to mention an edible tomato, 340 kilometres north of Toronto. But they kept trying, and this particular year at least three restaurants—two steakhouses, as well as Bistro Champlain—were vying for the attention of local gourmands.
 
Of these, Bistro Champlain was by far the most successful. Partly this was the work of Jerry Wing, its creative chef, but being located across the highway from a first-class ski resort called the Highlands didn’t hurt. When the Highlands did well, Bistro Champlain did well—and right now it was doing very well indeed, owing to the winter fur auction. Buyers from all over the world had descended on Algonquin Bay to bid on hundreds of thousands of furs that would end up in showrooms from Manhattan to Moscow to Beijing. Champlain’s dining room may have maintained its luxurious hush, but for a couple of hours the kitchen had been a scene of barely controlled chaos.
 
It was nearly ten, and Sam Doucette had just plated what she hoped was the last order for the night: the maple venison, accompanied by sweet potato mash and a red wine reduction. The rush was over, and the decibel level of slamming skillets, pans and ramekins had finally settled below the pain threshold. Jerry had already gone home, and Sam was praying that Ken, the manager, would not seat some late arrival with a huge appetite. Working as a cook—a skill her mother had taught her—was supposed to be part-time, a way of subsidizing her art classes at Algonquin College, but for the past few nights she had been doing the work of two cooks, one of her colleagues having been summarily fired for attempting to exit the premises with two hams stuffed in his backpack. All but two of the waiters, Ali and Jeff, had gone home, and Sam couldn’t wait to get out of there.
 
She rested one foot on the bottom of an upturned pickle bucket and wiped the sweat from her brow with the sleeve of her chef ’s tunic. Would Randall call? If he called, fine. If not . . . well, she didn’t want to think about that. Romance, she was discovering, was not uninterrupted bliss; mostly, it was uninterrupted anxiety. So she turned her mind to Loreena Moon, the heroine of a graphic novel she was drawing and writing just for fun. Well, she told herself it was just for fun—she didn’t want to get all worked up thinking about actually selling it—but she was also toying with the idea that it might be a series. She had already drawn lots of images and written several scenes. For some reason, the imaginary Loreena Moon was clearer in Sam’s mind than anything about her real life, except Randall and his passionate kisses.
 
Loreena Moon was cool, aloof, self-reliant—everything Sam was not. She moved through the shadows of the city, a perpetual frown of suspicion darkening her brow. She carried a knife in a fringed sheath on her hip, a quiver of arrows at her shoulder, and a small bow slung across her back. She was always outraged, always righting wrongs and saving helpless people, wronged people. Loreena never looked back and she was never, ever in love. She was the same age as Sam, eighteen, but she didn’t live on the reserve and she didn’t live in Algonquin Bay. Sam was not yet sure where Loreena Moon lived. It couldn’t be a house or an apartment; no bills or personal responsibilities for Loreena. The only place Sam could imagine her staying was in hotel rooms, and never the same one twice.
 
The kitchen clock hit ten, ending Champlain’s food service for the night. Sam’s cellphone rang in the breast pocket of her tunic and her heart gave a skip of happiness. The tiny screen said Randall Wishart.
 
“We have a place,” she said. “Please tell me we have a place. I’ve missed you so much.”
 
“Me too,” Randall said. “Come to the Island Road house. How long will you be?”
 
“I’m done here. I just have to set up for the lunch crew.”
 
“Park some ways away,” he said, “and don’t let anybody see you.”
 
Sam turned off the deep fryer, the ovens and ranges. She had already wiped down the counters and cutting boards. Ken McCoy, the manager, stuck his head in from the dining room and gave her the okay signal.
 
She changed in a supply closet behind the kitchen. The white tunic came off and went into the laundry bin, followed by the ridiculous check pants. Loreena was always in black jeans and tank top, sometimes a black T-shirt, maybe with a cat logo or a lightning bolt. Sam’s own jeans were a struggle, she was so sweaty from the stove. She pulled on the soft red sweater that she knew Randall liked, slung her coat over her arm and went out the back door to the parking lot.
 
The night was fine, the snap and sparkle of December without the face-freezing cold that January would soon bring. Loreena Moon would have hopped on her Kawasaki, but Sam had to be careful getting into her ’96 Civic. The door had to be lifted just so as you opened it or the hinge would go out of whack and the thing would refuse to close.
 
 
The Island Road property was out on Trout Lake, at the tip of a point it had all to itself. In summer there might have been people cruising by in boats, people driving back and forth to their cottages, but this time of yearit was dead quiet. Even so, Randall opened the door the way he always did, standing behind it so he couldn’t be glimpsed by any chance passerby. He was still wearing one of the dark sports jackets he favoured for work, but he had taken his tie off and, seeing Sam, his face lit up like a hot young actor’s at the Academy Awards. The moment Sam was inside, he took her in his arms and hugged her tight.
 
“Three whole days,” Sam said. “I was going crazy.”
 
“Did anyone see you?”
 
“Nope.”
 
“Where’d you park?”
 
“The hydro turnoff you showed me.”
 
“Cool.”
 
The house was a bungalow, very open and lots of polished wood everywhere. Too pretty for Loreena, but Sam liked it just fine. She hoped the owners never came back. She took off her boots and hung up her coat in the vestibule and Randall hugged her again. He switched off the vestibule light and they went to the bedroom and got undressed, Sam draping her stuff on a wooden chair by the closet.
 
“Jane have nice body,” Randall said. “Tarzan like.”
 
“I wish I could take a shower. I’m all sweaty.”
 
“Me like all sweaty.”
 
They lay down on the blue blanket Randall always brought to cover whatever bed they happened to use. He kept it in his car and Sam occasionally wondered how he explained its presence there to his wife. He stretched out naked, hands behind his head, showing off his biceps. Sam loved his body. Loved it in a way she was sure you should never love anything of this world. She had always thought love would be a melding of minds, a union of souls, and until she slept with Randall Wishart she had never considered the possibility that you could be positively loony over the sheer physicality of another human being.
 
Sam straddled Randall’s chest, pinioning his arms. Her hands looked dark against his so not-Native skin. “I think about you all the time,” she said.
 
“Me too.”
 
“No, I mean really, really all the time.”
 
“If I could draw like you, I’d draw you over and over again, all day long.”
 
Sam touched his cheek. It was always smooth. Randall never allowed the slightest stubble. He would have considered it unprofessional in a realtor.
 
“I think about your voice,” she said, touching his neck. “Sometimes I even hear it in my sleep.”
 
“Oh yeah? What am I saying?”
 
“I can’t tell you.” She covered her face.
 
“Come on, what am I saying?”
 
Sam shook her head.
 
“I know what I say.” He tilted her off and put his lips to her ear and whispered a string of outrageous commands and nipped at her earlobe. That started their usual delirious tangle, which after six months still had the power to leave Sam breathless and amazed. Randall always found just the right touch, the exact timing that could drive her pleasure up and over thresholds whose existence she hadn’t even suspected. Was it just because he was older? Or did he have some kind of gift? Or was it—maybe, oh, she hoped so—because he really, totally, absolutely loved her? A Force Ten orgasm in no time at all.
 
He fell away from her, gasping and laughing. “That’s it. I swear. That was the one. I’m never going to need another one. That was it for all time.”
 
Sam laughed. “They ought to have an Olympic event. The hundred-metre orgasm.”
 
“Synchronized orgasms.”
 
They were laughing, but Sam was already beginning to feel sad the way she always did afterward. Sad that Randall would be going home to his wife. Sad that she would be going home to her mother and her little brother and her self-absorbed art instructors at Algonquin. Most of her friends had left town for universities farther afield. Her dad was off on one of his winter camping trips, hunting or just being alone, something he liked to be a lot. She turned on her side and touched Randall’s pale shoulder. “Can we go away somewhere, sometime, maybe?” she said. “For a few days at least?”
 
“That would be nice, wouldn’t it.”
 
“Can we do it? Just take off for Toronto or Montreal or, I don’t know, anywhere? For a weekend maybe? Even just overnight?”
 
“I’d love to, Sam, but I can’t. What am I supposed to tell Laura?”
 
“Tell her that you’ve found a beautiful Indian princess who makes you incredibly happy.”
 
“That’d go over real well.”
 
“Well, make something up, then.”
 
“I can’t, Sam. I’m a terrible liar and Laura would know like that.” He snapped his fingers.
 
Sam could feel his tension rising the way it always did whenever she talked about life outside whatever vacant house they happened to be in. She knew she should shut up, but she couldn’t stop. “Don’t you want to spend time with me somewhere else? Somewhere outdoors maybe? Or anywhere—a coffee shop, a bookstore—it doesn’t even matter. Just somewhere we could be like normal people?”
 
“Sam, Laura and I have been together a long time. I can’t just up and dump her, and like I say, I’m a lousy liar.”
 
“Well, that’s a good thing, I guess.” Sam moved her hand to his forehead and stroked his eyebrows. He gave a little moan of pleasure, and soon he was asleep.
 
He always fell asleep after, out cold like you’d shot him full of Valium. He’d stay that way for five or ten minutes, during which time Sam got to wonder about his other life, his real life. Laura Wishart was pretty and smart—Sam had looked her up on the Internet—the quintessential blond success, some kind of financial expert. She must have been well off to start with, because her father owned Carnwright Real Estate, where Randall worked. Sam wasn’t sure why Randall was unhappy with his wife. He rarely talked about her, except to say they never had sex anymore.
 
She tried to think about Loreena Moon. Loreena was free, always on the prowl. Loreena was cool and untouchable. She was like Pootkin, Sam’s black cat that roamed the neighbourhood and sometimes came home and sometimes did not. She had given Loreena Pootkin’s green eyes—the only spot of colour in her monochrome artwork. She wasn’t sure if you could actually have a single dot of colour like that in a real book, but she liked it.
 
She wanted her heroine to be essentially good—that is, always helping the underdog and bringing evildoers to justice. But she didn’t want her to bebound by petty rules of behaviour. This past weekend she had drawn a series of images of Loreena swiping stuff. She was investigating a rich industrialist whom she suspected of poisoning the water supply of several reserves, and while snooping through one of his mansions she pocketed various valuable items. Sam liked the idea of Loreena being as amoral as Pootkin, but wasn’t sure if she could square that with helping the underdog. She loved Pootkin, but not because the cat had shown any inclination to altruism.
 
Randall woke up, and picked up his watch from the bedside table. “God, I gotta go. I’m supposed to be watching the game at Troy’s place. I did see most of it.”
 
“Better check the score before you get home.”
 
“I’ll check it on my phone. Not that Laura cares.”
 
They got dressed and Randall folded up the blue blanket. In the vestibule they put on coats and boots. Randall switched off the light. His hushed voice in the dark as if people might be listening right outside the door. “Give it two minutes, right?”
 
“Okay.”
 
“And make sure the door is shut properly. Lock seems to be screwed up—everything sticks in this house.”
 
He gave her a quick kiss, said he couldn’t wait until next time, and then he was gone. A cloud of cold air, smells of snow and pine. His car starting in the drive. It shouldn’t hurt this much, she told herself. You’re a big girl. Supposedly. No cat-hearted Loreena, though, that was obvious.
 
She watched through the door window as his tail lights winked through the trees. It was a long drive back to town and then up the highway to the reserve; she decided she’d better visit the bathroom before hitting the road. She wiped her boots on the mat until she was sure they wouldn’t leave water on the hardwood.
 
As she was coming out of the bathroom, she heard a key in the front door. A man’s voice. Not Randall. Stomping of boots and voices answering.
 
Sam stepped into the bedroom. If these are the owners, she said, or even another agent showing the place, I am in shit city, and so is Randall. But the owners weren’t supposed to be back yet, and why would an agent be showing a house at this hour of the night? It didn’t make sense. The toilet was still running, and she prayed it would stop.
 
Voices and movement deeper into the house. Hall light going on.
 
Sam got down on the floor and slid under the bed. There is no kind of serious person, she said, that would be in this situation.
 
Several minutes of quiet, then the man’s voice louder and footsteps coming her way. Dulled sound of stocking feet. Did that mean they would be staying?
 
The man’s voice from the hall. “Got a nice bathroom. Nothing luxurious, but it’s the location you’re paying for. The tranquility.”
 
The bedroom light came on and Sam held her breath. She couldn’t see anything, the bedspread hanging almost to the floor.
 
“Good-sized master bedroom. Room for a queen-size bed, obviously. Decent closet space. You might want to pick yourself out a different colour.”
 
Sound of closet doors sliding open.
 
A woman’s voice, some kind of accent. “It was built when, you said?”
 
“Early sixties.”
 
“So new. Looks older, the style.”
 
Closet doors sliding shut.
 
“Character,” the man said, closer now. “They didn’t just reach for the cookie cutter.” He crossed the room and there was the sound of curtains being pulled back. “You got the lake out back, snowmobiling in winter, canoeing, water skiing or whatever’s your fancy in summer. It’s the view makes the place. I gotta get you-all out here in the daytime. Smack dab on the water, out on a point—it’s a postcard, there’s no other word for it. Pretty unique. Got two more bedrooms.”
 
“Is only one bathroom?” Another man’s voice. Again a foreign accent.
 
“Yessir. You mightn’t consider it for your primary residence, but for a northern getaway? I think you’d be hard put to beat it.”
 
Their footsteps thudding toward the hall and the light going out.
 
“You-all check out the other bedrooms,” the man said, “and then I got a little something to warm us up.”
 
Sam shifted her position under the bed. She could hear the man and woman in the hall, some foreign language. How long could it possibly take you to check out a little bungalow? Leave, she told them. Just leave.
 
Footsteps moving back toward the kitchen or living room, no longer in the hall anyway. The people didn’t leave, but she couldn’t hear them anymore.
 
She tried to regulate her breathing, to calm down. They would go soon. Another few minutes maybe.
 
From the living room, the clink of glasses. Laughter. Sam prayed they were not planning on an all-night booze-up.
 
She waited, thinking about the window. The house was such an open style there was no chance of getting to the front door without being seen. She had never seen the back door, but it would have to be somewhere near the kitchen. That meant the window.
 
Is there one single solitary thing I have to be grateful for in this situation? she wondered. One single solitary thing to justify that famous “attitude of gratitude” her father was always encouraging her to cultivate? Maybe one. Got to the bathroom before all this. Otherwise there’d be a whole other layer of anguish.
 
Gunshot.
 
Sam’s head hit the box spring. Her father had taught her to shoot when she was nine. There was no doubt in her mind, not for one instant, that someone had just fired a gun.
 
Another shot.
 
A man shouted. The kind of yell a man lets fly when his team has just scored a goal.
 
When you get lost in the woods, her father told her—and everyone gets lost in the woods, even Indians—the first thing you do is what you don’t do. You don’t panic. Panic will kill you faster than any wolf, faster than any bear. Panic is the quickest cause of death known to man. What you do is you notice it, you name it for what it is, and you lock it away in a little safe where no one can get at it, not even you, understand?
 
Don’t panic, she told herself. Maybe no one has been shot. They were looking at a house—why would anyone shoot anyone? Maybe someone’s shooting blanks for some reason. Maybe they snorted some coke or something and they’re going a little wacky. Don’t panic.
 
She tried to get control of her breathing, her heart rate. No one knows I’m here. Whatever’s going on, it’ll be over soon. They’ll leave, I’ll leave. Life will be normal and no one will be dead. Not me, at least.
 
None of this slowed her heart rate. Blood thundered in her ears.
 
She eased herself out from under the bed. There were two windows side by side, one with an air conditioner fixed into it. Outside, moonlight on snow. She turned the lock on the other one and lifted. It didn’t move. Her heart jacked itself up even more. It was all she could do not to scream.
 
This is panic. Heaving up on the window grips, pushing on the sash, nothing moving. Thinking, this is panic, get back under that bed.
 
Grabbing the chair. To this moment still having made no sound.
 
I do this and there’s no going back. It’s one chance and no more. I should get back under that bed.
 
She swung the chair with all her strength, spinning her weight into it. The noise was terrifying.
 
One knee over the sill and onto the slight ledge outside. Hands on the sill and glass slicing into her in many places at once. She pushed herself off, coat ripping, and hit the ground hard, knees and hands. Then up and running, and bullets spitting snow in front of her before she even heard the first shot.
 
She made straight for the darkness of the trees, thinking, my tracks in fresh snow saying shoot me. She dropped down behind an outcropping of granite and looked back. Someone had turned on the bedroom light, but there was no shadow in the window. Think, she said. To her left, the platinum lake, the ice still too thin for anyone heavier than a cat. There’s only two ways back to the car, one on either side of the drive and then the road. He saw me come this way. He’s going to bust out that front door and head for this side and he’s going to hear me even if he can’t see me and then I’m dead and I really do not want to die.
 
The open ground between her and the house looked like the worst place in the world. She left the rocks and ran right back through it, keeping close to the rear of the house, and then into the woods on the other side. Every instinct told her to run all out. I’m fast, she said, but I’m not Loreena Moon and I’m not about to outrun bullets. The trick is not to run fast but to run silent.
 
She tried to remember all of the tracking lessons her father had given her. How to move in on your prey without being detected. Keep your steps to the rocks, right on them or close by. Ease your weight by grabbing low branches close to the trunk. Don’t step on twigs. Great bit of Indian lore there, Dad. I’d never have thought of that. Being a good tracker was not the same as being good, meaning living, prey.
 
When she was well past the front of the house, she crouched amid a stand of pine and listened. She could see the drive, could hear the man crashing through the woods on the far side. How dumb was this person likely to be, was the question. How long would it take him to see that there were no tracks over there, no footprints in the night’s thin layer of snow. Then he would either wait or head down to the back of the house and see her trail doubling back.
 
He came out of the woods and turned slowly, conning the snow, the woods. Sam reached into her pocket for her cellphone. Not there. She felt her other pockets. The man moved back toward the house, the gun long in his hand. Sam took off again. A few moments later the road was in sight through the trees. Her car was down the road a little toward town. To avoid crossing the open driveway, she would have to get to the far side of the road and into the woods, which climbed a steep hill, or risk the open road.
 
The man was crashing through the brush behind her. Sam broke for the road and ran for it. If he saw her, he would have trouble getting a shot, and by the time he reached the road, she would be at her car. A bee whizzed by her face and then the following crack told her everything she needed to know. She got to the hydro utility road and her car parked maybe fifty feet in from the road.
 
If he’s made it to the road, the noise of me starting this thing up is going to tell him where I am.
 
She kept the lights off. The Honda started first try. She took it slow on the service road; the slight rise would have been enough to render those bald tires useless. As she rolled up to Island Road, she saw him coming and gunned it, back tires spinning but drifting up onto the road. It was agony to ease off on the pedal, but it was the only way the tires were going to grip. A bullet slammed into the back end, and the man was yelling, running toward her in the rear-view.
 
The tires caught and she eased her foot down, keeping low in the seat. Another bullet slammed into the trunk. She rounded a curve and breathed a little easier. He couldn’t get a shot and he wasn’t going to catch her on foot. His best move now would be getting into the car she’d seen shadowed in the driveway and coming after her all Terminator. She had the advantage of knowing Island Road, which had some serious twists and turns, and he couldn’t be sure if she was headed to town or farther north.
 
A car coming the other way blasted its horn and flashed its lights. She put her headlights on and kept it fast, the Honda fishtailing on the hills and curves. Nothing in the rear-view, but then you could only see back to the last curve. Up ahead, the Chinook Tavern on the right and beyond that the highway.
 
The Chinook parking lot was busy for a Thursday night. People outside, huddled over their cigarettes. A guy was poised to pull out on his Harley, but there was no way she was going to let him. She blasted by and totally ignored the stop sign at the intersection. He yelled something—hurling his outrage into the night.
 
Then the smooth road and the lights of town in the distance. She patted her pockets again for her cell. Definitely gone. She must have lost it when she jumped. Moonlight on the f lat white surface of Trout Lake, the road itself in the deep shadows of trees and hills. The speed limit was 80 kilometres, but she pegged it at 120. You couldn’t go faster on these curves. It was a perfect speed trap, of course. The cops often staked it out, hoping to lasso the drunks weaving back to town from the Chinook.
 
The steering wheel was sticky with blood. Her knee was hurting, and not in a way that was going to fade any time soon. The blood had soaked down nearly to the cuff of her jeans. That was probably going to need stitches. You are in trouble ten different ways, she said, and if you’ve got some plan for getting out of it, I’d really like to hear it right now—preferably before Mr. Murder decides to come after me.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Forty Words for Sorrow

Forty Words for Sorrow

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It gets dark early in Algonquin Bay. Take a drive up Airport Hill at four o'clock on a February afternoon and when you come back half an hour later, the streets of the city will glitter below you in the dark like so many runways. The forty-sixth parallel may not be all that far north; you can be much further north and still be in the United States, and even London, England, is a few degrees closer to the North Pole. But this is Ontario, Canada, we're talking about, and Algonquin Bay in February is the very definition of winter: Algonquin Bay is snowbound, Algonquin Bay is quiet, Algonquin Bay is very, very cold.

John Cardinal was driving home from the airport where he had just watched his daughter, Kelly, board a plane bound for the United States by way of Toronto. The car still smelled of her-or at least of the scent that had lately become her trademark: Rhapsody or Ecstasy or some such. To Cardinal, wife gone and now daughter gone, it smelled of loneliness.

It was many degrees below zero outside; winter squeezed the car in its grip. The windows of the Camry were frosted up on both sides, and Cardinal had to keep scraping them with an ineffective plastic blade. He went south down Airport Hill, made a left onto the bypass, another left onto Trout Lake Road, and then he was heading north again toward home.

Home, if you could call it that with both Catherine and Kelly gone, was a tiny wooden house on Madonna Road, smallest among a crescent of cottages set like a brooch along the north shore of Trout Lake. Cardinal's house was fully winterized, or so the real estate agent had told them, but "winterized" had turned out to be a relative term. Kelly claimed you could store ice cream in her bedroom.

His drive was hidden by four-foot-high snowbanks, so Cardinal didn't see the car blocking his way until he almost rear-ended it. It was one of the unmarkeds from work, great pale clouds of exhaust blasting out from behind. Cardinal reversed and parked across the road. Lise Delorme, the Algonquin Bay police department's entire Office of Special Investigations, got out of the unmarked and waded through the exhaust toward him.

The department, despite "great strides toward employment equity," as the bureaucrats liked to phrase it, was still a bastion of male chauvinism, and the general consensus around the place was that Lise Delorme was too-well, too something-for her job. You're at work, you're trying to think, you don't need the distraction. Not that Delorme looked like a movie star; she didn't. But there was something about the way she looked at you, McLeod liked to say-and for once McLeod was right. Delorme had a disturbing tendency to hold your gaze just a little too long, just a split second too long, with those earnest brown eyes. It was as if she'd slipped her hand inside your shirt.

In short, Delorme was a terrible thing to do to a married man. And Cardinal had other reasons to fear her.

"I was about to give up," she said. Her French Canadian accent was unpredictable: one hardly noticed it most of the time, but then final consonants would disappear and sentences would sprout double subjects. "I tried to phone you, but there was no answer, and your machine, it's not working."

"I switched it off," Cardinal said. "What the hell are you doing here, anyway?"

"Dyson told me to come get you. They've found a body."

"Got nothing to do with me. I don't work homicides, remember?" Cardinal was trying to be merely factual, but even he could hear the bitterness in his voice. "You mind letting me through, Sergeant?" The "Sergeant" was just to nettle her. Two detectives of equal rank would normally address each other by name, except in the presence of the public or around junior officers.

Delorme was standing between her car and the snowbank. She stepped aside so Cardinal could get to his garage door.

"Well Dyson, I think he wants you back."

"I don't care. You mind backing out now, so I can plug my car in? I mean, if that's okay with Dyson. Why's he sending you, anyway? Since when are you working homicides?"

"You must have heard I quit Special."

"No, I heard you wanted to quit Special."

"It's official now. Dyson says you'll show me the ropes."

"No, thanks. I'm not interested. Who's working Special?"

"He's not here yet. Some guy from Toronto."

"Fine," Cardinal said. "Doesn't make the slightest difference. You gonna get lost now? It's cold, I'm tired, and I'd kind of like to eat my supper."

"They think it could be Katie Pine." Delorme scanned his face while Cardinal took this in, those solemn brown eyes watching his reaction.

Cardinal looked away, staring out into the blackness that was Trout Lake. In the distance the headlights of two snowmobiles moved in tandem across the dark. Katie Pine. Thirteen years old. Missing since September 12; he would never forget that date. Katie Pine, a good student, a math whiz from the Chippewa Reserve, a girl whom he had never met, whom he had wanted more than anything to find.

The phone began to ring inside the house, and Delorme looked at her watch. "That's Dyson. He only gave me one hour."

Cardinal went inside. He didn't invite Delorme. He picked up the phone on the fourth ring and heard Detective Sergeant Don Dyson going on at him in his chilly quack of a voice as if they had been separated in the middle of an argument and were only now, three months later, resuming it. In a way, that was true.

"Let's not waste time going over old ground," Dyson said. "You want me to apologize, I apologize. There. Done. We got a body out on the Manitou Islands, and McLeod is tied up in court. Up to his ears in Corriveau. Case is yours."

Cardinal felt the old anger burning its way into his veins. I may be a bad cop, he told himself, but not for the reasons Dyson thinks. "You took me off homicide, remember? I was strictly robbery and burglary material, in your book."

"I changed your case assignments, it's what a detective sergeant does, remember? Ancient history, Cardinal. Water under the bridge. We'll talk about it after you see the body."

"'She's a runaway,' you said. 'Katie Pine is not a homicide, she's a runaway. Got a history of it.'"

"Cardinal, you're back on homicide, all right? It's your investigation. Your whole stinking show. Not that it has to be Katie Pine, of course. Even you, Detective Has-To-Be-Right, might want to keep an open mind about identifying bodies you haven't seen. But if you want to play I Told You So, Cardinal, you just come into my office tomorrow morning, eight o'clock. Best thing about my job is I don't have to go out at night, and these calls always come at night."

"It's my show as of this moment—if I go."

"That's not my decision, Cardinal, and you know it. Lake Nipissing falls under the jurisdiction of our esteemed brothers and sisters in the Ontario Provincial Police. But even if it's the OPP's catch, they're going to want us in on it. If it is Katie Pine or Billy LaBelle, they were both snatched from the city-our city-assuming they were both snatched. It's our case either way. 'If I go,' he says."

"I'd rather stick with burglaries, unless it's my show as of this moment."

"Have the coroner toss a coin," Dyson snapped, and hung up.

Cardinal yelled to Delorme, who had stepped in out of the cold and was standing diffidently just inside the kitchen door. "Which one of the Manitous are we on?"

"Windigo. The one with the mine shaft."

"So we drive, right? Will the ice take a truck?"

"You kidding? This time of year, that ice would take a freight train." Delorme jerked a mittened thumb in the direction of Lake Nipissing. "Make sure you dress warm," she said. "That lake wind, it's cold as hell."

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No Such Creature

No Such Creature

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ONE

On a cool night in late June the traffic on Highway 101 was not heavy – not for a Saturday night, anyway – and moved along at a steady clip, people cruising out to restaurants or movies or to spend the evening with friends.

There was one car travelling north from the city – a midnight blue Lexus. An old man was driving, his considerable belly pressed up against the steering wheel, and the passenger seat was only partially filled by a blade-thin boy who looked to be in his late teens.

As the Lexus rounded a curve, it broke away from the rest of the traffic and veered across an entire lane. A sharp left, and then it bounced into the parking lot of a gas station and made a swift circle so that it came around again, nose pointed toward the highway.

Inside the car, the boy took his hand from the dash, where it had been bracing him against becoming a highway statistic, and said, “Would you mind telling me what that was all about?”

“Final wardrobe check.”

“We already did that, Max. Why do we have to do it over again?”

“It’s your hide I’m looking out for, Owen, me lad. You know I never give a thought to myself – I’ve been accused of it many times. ‘Max,’ the doctor said to me – cardiologist, I hasten to point out, knows a thing or two about this sorrowful organ we call the human heart. ‘Max,’ he said, ‘the fact is you are suffering from magnacarditis. Your heart’s too big. An albatross borne down by giant wings. You care too much for other people, and it’s driving you to an early grave.’”

“The only thing getting bigger on you,” the boy said, “is your gut, and if you had a decent doctor – not that I believe you ever went to see a doctor – he’d tell you to cut back on the Guinness and the single malts, not to mention the hamburgers, the milkshakes and the shepherd’s pie.”

“It pains me to hear such cynicism from one so young.” Max placed a hand over his heart as if to protect that overworked organ. “The world is a barren, comfortless place when a seventeen-year-old –”

“Eighteen.”

“– when an eighteen-year-old addresses his mentor this way – insulting the sage and learned man who’s raised him up as his own and taught him everything he knows.”

“I know lots of stuff you didn’t teach me. The capitals of Africa, the rivers of South America, how to calculate the area of an irregular surface.”

“Trivia,” Max said. “Tell it to Roscoe. But you wound me, boy.” He tapped a plump finger on his heart and sighed. “I’m a gentle creature, beset by a heartless teenager, no doubt an incipient gangbanger. You, of course, are a warlike American, whereas I remain your humble Warwickshire yeoman, and ever shall.”

“I’d like to visit Warwick one day. I’d love to hear from somebody other than you what you were like as a kid. I have a feeling they’ll be telling a very different story about Max Maxwell over there.”

“Nonsense. They would recall a heroic figure, just as you see me today.”

The boy examined himself in the rear­view mirror. “Okay, so how do I look?”

Max squinted at him, ginger eyebrows furrowing. “Terrifying. Perfect young Republican.”

They had decided on a dark wig and vigorous curls for Owen, and neatly trimmed sideburns. A gorgeous black Armani jacket and pants were set off by an expensive white T-shirt that showed off his fat­free abdominals. Owen’s first draft of the look had been red hair, freckles and polka-dot bow tie, but Max overruled him: too on-the-nose, he called it, a parody. And besides, it was important to make optimal use of Owen’s heartthrob potential. The curls did give the boy’s profile a touch of the Greek god, not that Owen believed that heartthrob business for one minute.

“You don’t think the hair’s too curly?”

“It’s perfect. Gives you a bit of the Kennedy – to which even the most granite-hearted Republican is not immune. And me?” Max smoothed his ginger moustache. Even up close it looked completely natural.

“I’d say you were a real bastard. Kind of guy who owns several mines and seriously mistreats his workers.”

“Thank you.”

“Hey, Max, I bought you a little present.”

“No time, boy, no time.” Max started the car again. “We must get a wiggle on.”

“Hang on. You’re gonna love this.” Owen pulled it from an inside pocket and held it out.

“A cellphone?” Max furrowed his new ginger brows. “Why in the name of heaven would we need another cellphone?”

“We don’t. Try to make a call from your cell.”

Max gunned the motor, eyeing the traffic whizzing by. “Owen, time is of the essence.”

“We’ve got plenty of time. Try to make a call.”

Muttering, Max extracted his cellphone and dialed Owen’s number. “Nothing happening,” he said. “Completely dead.” He showed the tiny blank screen to Owen.

“Exactly,” Owen said. “Because what I have here is not a cellphone. It’s a cellphone jammer. Good for up to five hundred yards.”

“You actually found one?” Max said. “Sweet boy, you are my very Ariel.”

Owen put on a thin, reedy voice – he was good at voices, and this one made him sound like a tiny alien. “All hail, great master! I come to answer thy best pleasure, be it to fly, to swim, to dive into the fire!

Max laughed. “You’re a good lad, Owen. Truly, it’s not every boy who’s cut out for a life of crime.”

The old man slid the gear shift into drive and the Lexus eased back onto a highway peopled with innocent civilians.

TWO

The home of Margot Peabody was lit up like a Chinese lantern, all four storeys of it, a beacon to the rich, the Republican and the reprobate. It was an ornate wooden structure located in the most exclusive segment of Belvedere, purchased by pulp and paper magnate Cyrus Peabody (now defunct) some ten years previously for a comparative song. Expensive automobiles gleamed in a semicircle of driveway, their uniformed drivers absorbed in the sports pages.

Owen’s usual stage fright kicked up a notch.

“We’re gonna be coming right back out,” Max said to the teenager directing traffic. His accent was now American, a touch of the East Coast in it, but not much. “Put us somewhere we can make a fast getaway.”

“Sure thing, sir. Just park it over there under that tree. I won’t let anyone block you.”

“First class, kid.” Max handed him a rolled-up bill. “First class.”

At the door they were met by an Asian houseboy in white livery. His hair was so slick, his skin so flawless, he looked as if he had escaped from a waxworks.

“Good evening, sir. What name shall I say?”

“Carter and Christopher Gould, but it’s hardly worth the bother,” Max said, “we can’t stay.”

In the vast cathedral of space before them, men in dinner jackets mingled with well-tended women too thin for their hairdos. Owen looked up at the beautiful redwood beams supporting a ceiling that had to be at least forty feet high, but Max had taught him never to comment on such things, to act as if he took luxury and service for granted. Under massive skylights, a redwood mezzanine ran around the entire great hall.

The butterflies in Owen’s stomach took flight up into his chest. But he loved this moment, this sense of balancing on the edge of the high dive, poised to plunge into triumph or disaster. It would be a hard thing to leave behind.

“Turn around, kid,” Max said to the houseboy. “Just let me use your shoulder, I’ll write a cheque right now and we’ll be out of your hair.”

The houseboy obligingly turned, tilting his head slightly, and Max whipped out a chequebook.

“This state has had a Republican government for nearly eight years and I want to make sure it stays that way. Twenty thousand should help. If it was legal to give more, I’d do it in a shot. Carter, your turn.”

Owen pulled out a chequebook and wrote out a similar figure, signing it Carter P. Gould with a flourish.

“Now, where do we drop these?”

“In the large bottle by the stairs, sir, but I must tell Ms. Peabody you’re here.”

“Relax, kid, put your feet up. Margot!”

Max waved to a woman just emerging from the crowd in an ivory summer dress tied at the waist. The sandals laced elaborately round her ankles hinted at ancient Greece, besotted fauns and massive hedge funds.

“How lovely to see you,” she said with a smile that gave no hint they had never met. Max was always meticulous about his research, and had assured Owen that Margot Peabody was renowned for a spectacular collection of jewellery. It was not much in evidence tonight: a single strand of pearls, perfect milky spheres, circled her throat. “Come and have a drink on the lawn. I’m sure you’ll find scads of people you know.”

“Sorry, Margot. Can’t stay. Gotta be in the capital first thing in the morning.” He waggled the cheque at her and popped it into the bottle.

“Oh, stay for one drink, I insist. I’m trying to remember where it was we met.”

“Hah! You’ve got me there. The Leonardo drawings?”

“The Getty! Of course, of course! And is this your son?”

“Nephew. Carter Gould – doesn’t like to use the numerals. Grumpy teenager, way they all are.”

“A handsome teenager nevertheless.” She reached out a hand that was pure gristle. He gave it a brief squeeze. “Are you really such a grump?” she asked.

“Not at all, ma’am,” Owen said. “Pleasure to meet you.” He inserted his cheque into the mouth of the bottle and tapped it home.

“You’re both too, too kind. Now follow me.”

She led them through the crowd toward a pair of French doors. Owen noted earrings, necklaces, brooches, watches; your honest, God-fearing Republicans were not averse to a little ostentation. What’s the point of owning diamonds if you never wear them?

Under a snow-white canopy out back, a cover band was doing an earnest version of “Born in the U.S.A.,” the singer sounding in imminent danger of aneurysm. Sausalito glittered across the black water, and off to the south the arc of the Bay Bridge. In the dark of the waterfront, the house seemed to blaze and shimmer.

Ms. Peabody led them to the bar and made sure they got their drinks – gin and tonic for Max, Coke for Owen. She introduced Owen to a busty debutante who shook his hand and smiled shyly. He tried to engage her in conversation, but she blushed and looked at her feet.

“To be perfectly honest,” Margot Peabody said to Max, “I don’t think we’re in much danger of losing in November, but we do want to be on the safe side, don’t we.”

“Absolutely,” Max said. “Have to generate a healthy investment climate, get those returns growing again.”

“Well, yes. And property values.”

“Excuse me,” Owen said, “back in a minute.” He headed into the house at a clip that suggested serious discomfort.

“Poor kid,” Max said. “Ever since the accident he’s had the bladder of a little girl.”

“Accident?”

“High-strung filly. Took a nasty tumble.”

Ms. Peabody spread that gristly hand, fanlike, over her heart. “A riding accident! He’s lucky he didn’t end up paralyzed, or in a coma.”

“He was wearing the regulation helmet, thank God.”

“He was playing polo? There’s nowhere near here, is there?”

“Cirencester, U.K. Charity match. Three princes there that afternoon, and I guarantee you not one of their horses balked. I was ready to blow a gasket, but you know you can’t say anything to a royal – raise an international stink. They did send a nice card, I’ll give ’em that.”

“The least they could do, under the circumstances. You probably could have sued them.”

“Nah,” Max said. “Polo’s a tough game. Have to expect to get knocked around a little.”

“How delightfully macho,” his hostess said, and gave a musical laugh.

Inside, Owen bounded up the front stairs two at a ­time.

“Sir! Sir!” the houseboy called after him, “there are plenty of restrooms down here.”

Owen found a sumptuous bathroom halfway along the hall. He stepped in and checked himself out in multiple mirrors. The black Armani looked great, he had to admit, and the new curls seemed to be working wonders with the female element. He flushed the toilet and set the tap running in the sink so the bathroom would sound occupied, then shut the door from the outside. At the end of the hall a pair of double doors was closed. Under Max’s tutelage he had developed an instinct for such things.

If you want to rob a Republican, your best time is suppertime, Max had taught him. They always have company, the place is full of strangers, and every alarm is exactly where you want it: off.

Five minutes, he wouldn’t need more.

The master bedroom was all rustic wood and white fabric, but Owen made straight for the dressing room, a compact chamber redolent with aromas of cedar, Guerlain and shoe leather, and got it right on the first guess: the set of library steps gave her away. He reached up into the space between the ceiling and the top shelf and pulled out a high­quality wooden chest secured with a paltry lock that he snapped in less than two seconds.

Inside, there was a diamond brooch that had to be worth thirty or forty grand, an exquisite jade cameo, and a gold and ruby bracelet. But the real showstopper was the pair of emerald earrings, emeralds being more valuable even than diamonds. Both gems looked free of inclusions and were at least twelve carats, the light and clear green of a cat’s eye. Hundred and twenty grand on a bad day.

Owen lifted the tray out of the chest. Underneath, he found two fat packets of hundred-dollar bills. He had no idea why Margot Peabody would be stashing approximately thirty grand in her jewellery box, but he certainly wasn’t about to complain.

“God, I love this job,” he said softly. He stuffed his pockets, closed the doors, and returned to the bathroom to shut off the water.

When he emerged, a somewhat off­kilter babe in a shimmery blue dress was having trouble making it up the last few stairs, pressing a cellphone to her ear with one hand and clutching a martini in the other. She snapped the phone shut, eyeing Owen.

“What are you doing up here?” she said, an edge in her voice.

“Bathroom.”

“There are bathrooms downstairs,” she said, slurring a little.

“They were occupied.”

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The Delicate Storm

The Delicate Storm

A John Cardinal Mystery
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Chapter 1

First came the warmth. Three weeks after New Year’s and the thermometer did what it never does in January in Algonquin Bay: it rose above the freezing mark. Within a matter of hours the streets were shiny and black with melted snow.

There wasn’t a trace of sun. A ceiling of cloud installed itself above the cathedral spire and gave every appearance of permanence. The warm days that followed passed in an oppressive twilight that lasted from breakfast to late afternoon. Everywhere there were dark mutterings about global warming.

Then came the fog.

At first it moved in fine tendrils among the trees and forests that surround Algonquin Bay. By Saturday afternoon it was rolling in thick clouds along the highways. The wide expanse of Lake Nipissing dwindled to a faint outline, then vanished utterly. Slowly the fog squeezed its way into town and pressed itself up against the stores and the churches. One by one the red brick houses retired behind the grubby grey curtain.

By Monday morning Ivan Bergeron couldn’t even see his own hand. He had slept late, having drunk an unwise amount of beer while watching the hockey game the night before. Now he was making his way from the house to his garage, which was less than twenty yards away but totally obscured by fog. The stuff clung in webs to Bergeron’s face and hands; he could feel it trailing through his fingers. And it played tricks with sound. The yellow bloom of headlights glided by, dead slow, followed -- after an otherworldly delay -- by the sound of tires on wet road.

Somewhere his dog was barking. Normally, Shep was a quiet, self-sufficient kind of mutt. But for some reason -- maybe the fog -- he was out in the woods and barking maniacally. The sound pierced Bergeron’s hungover skull like needles.

”Shep! Come here, Shep!“ He waited for a few moments in the murk, but the dog didn’t come.

Bergeron opened up the garage and went to work on the battered Ski-Doo he had promised to fix by last Thursday. The owner was coming for it at noon, and the thing was still in bits and pieces around the shop.

He switched on the radio, and the voices of the CBC filled the garage. Usually, when it was warm enough, he worked with the garage door open, but the fog lay in the driveway like some creature out of a nightmare and he found it depressing. He was just about to pull the door down when the dog’s barking got louder, sounding like it was coming from the backyard now.

”Shep!“ Bergeron waded through the fog, one hand out before him like a blind man. ”Shep! For God’s sake, can it, willya?“

The barking changed to growling, interrupted by peculiar canine whines. A tremor of unease passed through Bergeron’s outsize frame. Last time this had happened, the dog had been playing with a snake.

”Shep. Take it easy, boy. I’m coming.“

Bergeron moved with small steps now, edging his way forward like a man on a ledge. He squinted into the fog.

”Shep?“

He could just make the dog out, six feet away, down on his forepaws, clawing at something on the ground. Bergeron edged closer and took hold of the dog’s collar.

”Easy, boy.“

The dog whined a little and licked his hand. Bergeron bent lower to see what was on the ground.

”Oh my God.“

It lay there, fishbelly white, hair curling along one side. Toward the wrist end, the flesh still bore the zigzag impression of a watch with an expandable bracelet. Even though there was no hand attached, there was no doubt that the thing lying in Ivan Bergeron’s backyard was a human arm.

* * * * *

If it hadn’t been for Ray Choquette’s decision to retire, John Cardinal would not have been sitting in the waiting room with his father when he could have been down at headquarters catching up on phone calls, or -- better yet -- out on the street making life a misery for one of Algonquin Bay’s bad guys. But no. Here he was, stuck with his father, waiting to see a doctor neither of them had ever met. A female doctor at that -- as if Stan Cardinal was going to take advice from a woman. Ray Choquette, Cardinal thought, I could wring your lazy, inconsiderate neck.

The senior Cardinal was eighty-three -- physically. The hair on his forearms was white now, and he had the watery eyes of a very old man. In other ways, his son was thinking, the guy never got past the age of four.

”How much longer is she gonna make us wait?“ Stan asked for the third time. ”Forty-five minutes we’ve been sitting here. What kind of respect does that show for other people’s time? How can she possibly be a good doctor?“

”It’s like anything else, Dad. A good doctor’s a busy doctor.“

”Nonsense. It’s greed. A hundred percent pure capitalist greed. You know, I was happy making thirty-five thousand dollars a year on the railroad. We had to fight like hell to get that kind of money, and by God we fought for it. But nobody goes to medical school because they want to make thirty-five thousand dollars.“

Here we go, Cardinal thought. Rant number 27D. It was like his father’s brain consisted of a collection of cassettes.

”And then you’ve got the government playing Scrooge with these guys,“ Stan went on. ”So they become stockbrokers or lawyers, where they can make the kind of money they want. And then we end up with no damn doctors.“

”Talk to Geoff Mantis. He’s the one who took the chainsaw to medicare.“

”They’d make you wait, anyways, no matter how many of them there were,“ Stan said. ”It’s a class thing. Class not only must exist, it must be seen to exist. Making you wait is their way of saying, ‘I’m important and you’re not.’“

”Dad, there’s a shortage of doctors. That’s why we have to wait.“

”What I want to know is, what kind of young woman spends her day looking down people’s throats and up their anuses? I’d never do it.“

”Mr. Cardinal?“

Stan got to his feet with difficulty. The young receptionist came round from behind her desk, clutching a file folder.

”Do you need some help?“

”I’m fine, I’m fine.“ Stan turned to his son. ”You coming, or what?“

”I don’t need to go in with you,“ Cardinal said.

”No, you come too. I want you to hear this. You think I’m not fit to drive, I want you to hear the truth.“

From the Hardcover edition.

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Until the Night

Until the Night

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