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William Deverell

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April Fool

April Fool

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Nick the Owl Faloon is sitting beside a stone fox by the name of Eve Winters, who is apparently some kind of shrink. They’re scoffing up fresh-­caught sockeye, sharing a long table with four couples from Topeka, Kansas, who are up here on a wet spring holiday. In spite of all the happy talk, the Owl picks up there is an edge to this dinner, the men regretting they brought their wives along. A fishing extravaganza that put them back a few yards each, and they bring their wives when they’d rather get plotzed and bond.

Though square, they are nice average people, and Faloon hopes they’re well insured so he’s not going to feel bad about the coming night’s entreprise risquée, his plan to whack their rooms out. Two weeks ago, while here on a previous dining experience, he made a clean play for the master key, slipping it off its hook long enough to wax it. He also checked a typical room, there was no nighter to secure the door from inside, just a security chain.

“And are you a sports fisher too?”

It’s Eve Winters, she has finally become aware of his existence, maybe assuming the little owl-­like creature to her left ­can’t possibly be as boring as the other guy beside her, a condominium developer with a spiel of corny jokes. She is somewhere in her thirties, very tall and slender, ash blond, looking in good health — she has done the trail, Faloon overheard her say that, six gruelling days. Sports fisher, she’s politically correct, a feminist.

“No, ma’am, I run a little lodge down the hill. Less expensive than this here establishment, but to be honest my food ­isn’t as good.”

The Owl is speaking of the Nitinat Lodge, which is on a back street in this two-­bit town of Bamfield without much of a view, and mostly gets backpackers and low-­rental weekenders. The Breakers Inn, looking over the Pacific Ocean, survives on its summer fat and still, in March, gets the fishers from Topeka or Indianapolis. And the way these tourists are spending tonight, that’ll pay the chef’s salary for the month. Faloon had to lay off his own cook for the off-­season.

“But I would imagine you have a more exotic clientele.” Eve Winters says in a clear, liquid voice, maybe so her other seatmate can get the point. She has marked down the condo developer as a chauvinist bore, with his story about the fisherman and the mermaid. What is interesting about this guy, to Faloon anyway, is that adding to the bulge of his size forty-­eight kitchen is a thick moneybelt.

Faloon tells Eve Winters how he bought his small lodge a year and a half ago, and how he caters to hikers mostly; he likes vigorous outdoorspeople, finds them interesting. That gets this lovely creature talking about her six days on the West Coast Trail with three friends. He enjoys the refined way she expresses herself: “I had a sense of eternity out there, the wind in the pines, and the wild relentless surf.”

It ­isn’t easy to concentrate on tonight’s job, Operation Breakers Inn, because he feels a little hypnotized by the soft grey eyes of Eve Winters, who ­doesn’t take on sharp outline, she’s like an Impressionist painting. The Owl, who is starting to wonder if he needs his eyes checked, senses her aura, a silver haze floating about her head. No makeup, but none needed, her face tanned gently by the wind and whatever sun you get this time of year on the West Coast. Dressed casually, jeans and light sweater.

Hardly anyone does the trail so early in spring, when it’s still a swamp. This has meant a near-­zero occupancy rate at the Nitinat since last fall, and by now, the final day of March, he is two months behind in his mortgage payments. His financial adviser, Freddy Jacoby, also his fence, warned him, you’ll get three months’ business max, maybe four if it ­don’t piss in June. The Nitinat Lodge was his retirement program, cash in on the tourist trade, accommodate wayfarers in the middle of what turned out to be nowhere or, more accurately, the western shore of Vancouver Island — you can only get here by logging roads or the local packet freighter, the Lady Rose.

Eve Winters says she supposes he’s walked the West Coast Trail many times, and he replies no, not once, and it’s one of his greatest sorrows. A skiing accident prevented him from pursuing his passion for the outdoors, he gets along with two pins in his right leg. That ­isn’t the honest truth, which is that the Owl ­doesn’t like walking more than he has to. Faloon is an easy person to talk to, he brings people out — he’s curious by nature, an information-­gatherer. So he urges her on about how she found Bamfield “unspeakably funky” and stayed on for a week after her three girlfriends left on the Lady Rose.

What Faloon finds unspeakably funky about Bamfield, permanent population three hundred and something, is that it’s almost useless to have a car — you take a water taxi to go anywhere, an inlet splits the town in two, and the terrain on this side is sort of impenetrable. This is the pretty side, though, West Bamfield, with its boardwalks rimming the shore, resorts and craft stores, eye-­popping beaches a stroll away, but East Bamfield has the only saloon. The most attractive thing about the town, though, is the RCMP detachment is a couple of hours away by boat or car, in Port Alberni.

The lady lets drop that her full title is Dr. Eve Winters, and according to the card she gives him she has a Ph.D., her angle being something complicated, a “relationship analyst.” He gets the impression he’s supposed to have heard of her. And maybe he has, he remembers something in one of the papers, a weekly column with her picture, like Ann Landers. She’s not staying here at the Breakers, but renting a cottage down by Brady Beach. The Owl assumes, without asking, that Dr. Winters is alone there. The Cotters’ Cottage, locals call it, is owned by an old couple in East Bam.

“So tell me — is there any entertainment in town on a Friday night?”

From the Hardcover edition.

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High Crimes

High Crimes

also available: eBook
tagged : hard-boiled
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I'll See You in My Dreams

I'll See You in My Dreams

An Arthur Beauchamp Novel
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IT WAS JUST AFTER THE 1962 EASTER WEEKEND when Beauchamp’s first murder file landed on his desk. Only twenty-five, he was in his fourth year of practice and still regretting his choice of criminal law over pursuit of a doctorate in classical studies. So it was a matter of extreme irony that the case that finally tilted him toward the law involved the death of his respected – nay, idolized – tutor in the Greek and Roman classics, Dermot Mulligan, D.Th., Ph.D.
Let us put this life-shaping event in context. His firm, Tragger, Inglis, Bullingham, was perhaps the most conservative, the most staid of Vancouver’s major law offices, and it regarded its small criminal division almost with embarrassment, its staff as untouchables. This is where Beauchamp toiled, in a windowless office on the fourteenth floor of a West Hastings bank building.
By the spring of that year he had built a creditable record of victories, but only one of note: a dangerous driving charge against the Highways minister, Phil Gaglardi. Many had been cases from the Legal Aid Society, earning a paltry thirty-five-dollar per diem. Occasionally, to the disapproval of his seniors, he would even act pro bono – a beggar, a vagrant, a street drunk. He was a pushover for the sad stories of the oppressed.
Earlier that year he’d finally escaped from the stifling oppression of his parental home on University Hill, to a West End bachelor flat. One might often see him having a fifty-cent breakfast in one of the busy diners on Denman Street, or on lonely walks by English Bay: gangly at six foot three (friends called him Stretch), hair clipped short, sombre of expression, his lugubrious eyes and heroic nose combining to give an impression of craggy world-weariness. Picture him on a chill and misty April morning in Tragger, Inglis’s requisite uniform – overcoat, hat, dark suit, black shoes – striding beneath the pink-blossoming trees of the West End toward the crypt, as he called his windowless office, to prepare the cross-examination of a young woman whose front teeth had been knocked out by a detested client . . .
Tuesday, April 24, 1962
Ah, yes, Schlott – Hugo Schlott – that was his name. A beefy, red-faced, post-pubescent progeny of a doting, disbelieving mother who was paying my fee. The chief of the criminal section and my immediate superior, Alex Pappas, had handed it off to me with a smirking “Do your best, pal.” Truly the Schlott case represented the low point of twenty-five years of a life poorly lived, spent in random wandering without clear direction. It offered stark proof I had taken an ill-conceived detour from the path of enlightenment to the path of shame. The doors of academia had been opened wide, bounteous scholarships offered. Instead I was bound upon my barrister’s oath to defend an odious bully.
I had no stomach for the trial, and I fully intended not to punch in that day. Instead I would march into the den of the managing partner, Roy Bullingham, and announce I would be applying to Cambridge to complete my thesis on The Aeneid. I owed that to Dermot Mulligan, for he had opened those academic doors and I had failed him. Dr. Mulligan – author, classicist, philosopher, mentor throughout my master’s program at ubc – had disappeared on Easter weekend, only a few days before, from his retreat by the Squamish River, and it was feared the river had taken him to his death.
That it was a pleasant spring morning seemed only to add to my malaise. That I entered my building amid a hurrying group of pretty secretaries only made me feel more lonely. Members of the intimidating other sex tended to spurn this socially dysfunctional sad sack; I’d never known the touch of Venus, that which they call love.
For no accountable reason, those few moments in the rattling elevator stick in my mind (though withheld from my prying biographer as too delicate for his omnivorous ears). I’d plastered myself to the back wall of the crowded cage behind the comely Gertrude Isbister: nineteen, newly hired, among the loveliest of the flowers that adorned our secretarial pool. As the lift lurched in ascent, she made a misstep while adjusting her skirt. Without thought I reached out to steady her, my hand resting for an electric second on the fluffy fabric of her tight angora sweater.
I said, “I truly beg pardon. Excuse me” – something like that, my face aflame. Whether out of shyness or reproach, she did not respond, though she didn’t move away and continued tugging at her skirt. We were let out on the fourteenth floor (in reality the thirteenth, which, according to local legend, was the haunt of ghosts wailing from the air conditioners). As Gertrude preceded me, I saw that her right stocking was poorly aligned, puckered at the knee. Staring rapturously at that juncture of skirt and knee, I barely missed colliding with Geoffrey Tragger as he exited his office.
“Steady there, son,” he said, adjusting his glasses. “Beauchamp,
isn’t it?”
“Yes, sir. Arthur Beauchamp.” I was surprised. This absentminded senior partner, a corporate tax specialist, rarely recognized, let alone spoke to the forty-odd inferiors in practice there. “You’re on the criminal end, are you not?” (These and following conversations are reconstructed as best I can remember; do not call it creative non-fiction – I seek to offer a fair rendering, without gloss.) “Your name was mentioned this morning . . . Yes, Mr. Bullingham wants a tête-à-tête. Something that’s been in the news . . . Well, never mind. He’s waiting for you.”
Bully’s secretary showed me straight in. He was seated behind his massive oaken desk, a gaunt man of middle years, a skindeep sheen of affability disguising the Scrooge within. Lolling in an easy chair across from him was Alex Pappas, wearing a rumpled suit and a vanity hairpiece, fleshy wattles quivering below a stubbly chin.
“We got something for you, kid,” he said.
“Alex believes you’re up for this,” said Bully. “Your first murder.”
I had rehearsed an exit line from Pliny: Multi famam, conscientiam pauci verentur. Many fear their reputation, few their conscience. My conscience (I might have added) will not let me defend a violent misogynist, sir. Fie, I say, to reputation. But my tongue was tied. A murder? Something that had been in the news? I trolled through the possibilities: the gangland turf war then adorning the front pages, or maybe that psychotic who’d mistaken his mailman for the Antichrist.
Bully was sifting through the papers in a thin folder. “You really think he has it in him?”
“He’s streaky,” Pappas said. “Won five straight, dropped the next two. Then four wins – charity cases.”
“Yes, I’ve heard of his penchant for defending life’s losers. Noble intentions, I’m sure, but we can’t have too much of that. What about Crawford?”
Pappas lit a cigarette. “Too lazy. Arthur is the best of a poor lot. Not much jury experience, a couple of cases. He’s not afraid of work. Seems to have some innate tools. Almost unconsciously eloquent at times.”
I might not have been there. I retain an image of myself shifting from foot to foot, hands hanging loosely, staring at a framed photograph of a younger Bully greeting my hero, John George Diefenbaker, the famed orator, criminal lawyer, and then prime minister. A similar photo, Bully clasping the hand of Louis St. Laurent, had disappeared after the Tories submerged the Liberals four years earlier. Another campaign was underway that year, Dief fighting to hang on to his job. (By the mid-sixties Lester Pearson had replaced him on Bully’s wall.)
“Am I to be allowed in on the secret?” I asked boldly. “Which murder case is this?”
Pappas blew a stream of smoke. “Dermot Mulligan.”
My mouth fell open. “Dermot Mulligan? Murdered?
“Read the papers much, kid? Some loudmouth Indian got charged yesterday. Maybe you should tell him to shut his yap before he talks his way to the gallows.”
I stammered, “I . . . I can’t take it on. Professor Mulligan was . . . I knew him. I took courses from him. A hugely respected scholar. I’d be fouling his memory.”
I was met with incredulous stares.
On the Saturday of Easter weekend, Mulligan had disappeared from his hobby farm – ten acres along the Squamish River, across from the snow-capped peaks of the Tantalus Mountains. In late March he’d begun a sabbatical there to write his memoirs; he was later joined by his wife, Irene. They were both about fifty, and childless. But I’d heard speculation from mutual friends that Gabriel Swift, a young aboriginal, had taken on a filial role, and that the Mulligans had begun to dote on him.
I was aware from news accounts that Swift was twenty-one and had worked a few years as their caretaker, looking after their A-frame cottage when they were at their Vancouver home. For the term of Mulligan’s sabbatical, Swift had moved back to the Cheakamus Reserve, though he returned daily for chores: splitting wood, operating a small tractor, tending a pair of riding horses. Shortly after Mulligan’s disappearance he’d been arrested, questioned, and released. But apparently on Easter Monday – just yesterday – he had been detained again, and this time charged with Mulligan’s murder.
A theologian and philosopher, Dr. Mulligan was also famed as a translator and expositor of classic literature, which he had taught me to love. A rebel within his once-revered Roman Catholic Church, he was a bit of an oddity, awkward and jumpy, slightly fey. His lectures were often brilliant, yet peppered with anecdotes that rarely seemed on point. A powerful scholar, he’d published nine books on philosophy, religion, and morality, the best of them meditations on the ancient gods and the poets who’d praised them. Thin, balding, given to wearing heavy horn-rims, he was a man reclusive in habits, rarely appearing outside home, hobby farm, and lecture hall. But I’d shared a glass of Madeira with him, had been among the privileged few to be invited into his book-lined den. Had I been his favourite? I wanted to believe so.
“I revered him . . . It’s hard to explain.”
 “Well, as long as he wasn’t going up your ass, I don’t see a problem.”
That salacious innuendo from Pappas I recall distinctly – I was contemplating ripping the toupée from his head.
“All the better that you hold a reverence for the deceased,” said Bully. “The jury will be the more impressed that you would defend his killer.”
This eye-popping presumption of guilt was, I think now, Bully’s effort to shock me, to force me into waving the flag for presumption of innocence. In putting my sense of justice to the test he thought to bend me, break my will.
“One must occasionally do the charitable thing,” Bully continued. “The image of the grasping lawyer is all too prevalent. So when the Legal Aid Society calls upon us to show our good heart, we do not demur, particularly for a high-profile case. And there are rewards beyond printer’s ink. They have offered an unusually generous hundred dollars per diem, plus a smaller amount for your junior counsel.” 
“Out of curiosity, whom do you have in mind?” I asked.
“Ophelia Moore,” Pappas said. “Spin this baby out and we may even turn a profit. And maybe you’ll get laid in the bargain.” The female staff called Pappas “Mister Hands” behind his back. It was all around the office that when he squeezed Mrs. Moore’s rear, she’d grabbed his testicles so hard he yelped.
Bully scowled at Pappas. “We don’t suggest you’ll win, young man. The odds are stacked against you. Eminent scholar slain by a hot-tempered Native with, doubtless, your typical drinking problem. But justice must seem to be done, and you, young Arthur, are the one who must seem to do it.”
There was more along this line. It was the ethical duty of counsel not to turn away the impoverished supplicant. This would be my chance, even in defeat, to embellish a growing reputation. A career-maker. Winnable cases would follow. Tragger, Inglis had its eye on me.
Despite my reservations, I felt challenged – I’d been worked over well. And I was intrigued; I had dreamed of putting what skills I had to the supreme test. A murder, a hanging offence! Maybe I owed Dr. Mulligan this – after all, he’d been not only an opponent of capital punishment but a vigorous supporter of Native rights. In his early years he’d been the principal of one of the Native residential schools that he later spoke of so scathingly. I suspected Swift had been his project of redemption.
Pappas stubbed out his smoke. “He’s waiting to meet you at Oakie.” Oakalla, in Burnaby, the regional prison.
“I have a trial. Hugo Schlott.”
“That bum? You’ll have to find some way to put it over, pal.”
“It’s set peremptorily. I’ve adjourned it seven times.”
“Mr. Pappas will be pleased to do it in your stead.” Bully’s expression warned that he would not hear debate. Pappas looked as if he’d taken a boot in the groin.
Before heading off to Oakalla Prison, I squirreled myself away in the Crypt with the file and several back issues of the Sun and the Province. The file was skimpy indeed: a legal aid form and a sheet of paper with some phone numbers – no details, no police report. The news stories (still extant, crisp, yellowed, and well-fondled by Wentworth Chance) revealed little. After Dr. Mulligan’s disappearance, some clothing, presumably his, was found by the riverbank half a mile from his cottage. They were being examined for bloodstains. Irene Mulligan was speechless with grief, secluding herself and refusing to be interviewed by the press.
A person of interest had been questioned, held, and released, but Swift’s name wasn’t mentioned until his re-arrest. In his remarks to the press, Staff Sergeant Roscoe Knepp of the Squamish rcmp had used the typically prolix phraseology of his trade: “I can only affirm at this point in time that the arrested individual had been in the employ of Dr. Mulligan for approximately two years and five months. A formal charge of murder in the first degree has been preferred against the aforesaid individual. We are pursuing further investigative leads.”
Press photos showed Swift being bundled into a cruiser: a young, slender, bronze-skinned lad in rough clothes, a pair of braids, sparking black eyes. He’d called out to reporters that he was being “framed by a fascist f—ing cabal of racist brownshirts.” That gave me a jolt. Such bluntness would gain him little sympathy in a white man’s court. What in God’s name had I gotten myself into?
Swift was obviously a much-politicized young upstart. He was a farmhand, a labourer, a son of the Cheakamus tribe, born on its reserve, educated in a church-run school. No interviews with his friends or family decorated those pages, though encomiums for Dr. Mulligan filled columns.
The few neighbours who would speak of Swift – all white and working-class – claimed to know little of him. Thelma McLean, who lived across the road with her tree-faller husband, had often seen him “lazing about on their porch with a book,” a curious observation, implying an association between reading and laziness. “I can’t remember speaking to him, but he seemed troubled, always hiding in a book.” Mrs. McLean and other neighbours were attending to Irene Mulligan, shielding her from the media swarm outside her house.
Before slipping the file into my briefcase, I looked through the contacts Pappas had jotted down. Staff Sergeant Knepp’s number was there, and that of the court clerk in Squamish. The final name caused me tremors. M. Cyrus Smythe-Baldwin, Q.C., the lion of the criminal courts, had been named special prosecutor.

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I’ll See You in My Dreams

An Arthur Beauchamp Novel
tagged : legal, crime
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Kill All the Judges

There was no dispute about the facts. A hundred-pound weakling with the redundant name of Gilbert F. Gilbert had stepped into a crowded Vancouver courtroom and aimed a small-calibre revolver at Chief Justice Wilbur Kroop. A police officer leaped from the witness stand, and as he tackled Gilbert the gun fired. The officer stopped the bullet with his heart.

All these facts were admitted by the defence at Gilbert Gilbert’s murder trial in January 2007. It was conceded, too, that the accused — forty-five, single, friendless — was a senior court clerk. Thus he had easy access to the courtroom from Kroop’s chambers, where he’d been hiding.

They called Kroop the Badger, not just because of his squat, broad body but because of his claws. The defence portrayed him as a notorious bully who had taunted and shamed Gilbert, who made a fool of him in open court and sent him off in tears, who drove him to the precipice of madness and made him jump.

The defence argued that in his delusional state the accused had convinced himself Kroop was a former Nazi death camp commandant whom Gilbert had been ordered by God to eliminate. “God’s will be done!” he shouted at his jailers, at the many doctors who examined him.

His counsel was Brian Pomeroy, of the feisty criminal law firm of Pomeroy, Macarthur, Brovak, and Sage, and he was assisted by young Wentworth Chance, who did most of the work, burying himself in the law, interviewing specialists in post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia. In comparison, the Crown’s witnesses in rebuttal were a mediocre lot.

With Chance doing the heavy lifting, Pomeroy played to the jury, raising objections and cross-examining with his typical dry, manic wit. A celebrated neurotic, he’d won celebrated trials, most notably the recent defence of the assassin (alleged) of the president of Bhashyistan. But his life was in turmoil — he was drinking hard, tupping his secretary, and his marriage was heading for meltdown. Unable to face Caroline’s cold silences and searing looks, he had taken to sleeping in the office on weekday nights.

In overcoming these handicaps, it helped that Pomeroy had drawn a dispassionate prosecutor and a judge with whom he used to smoke dope. The jury seemed interested and sympathetic — all except the sneering foreman, Harrison, a retired major from the Patricia’s Light Infantry, a former combat training instructor. He would look at Pomeroy with a disdainful curl of a smile, as if to say, You lawyers will defend anybody, won’t you? Even a hypersensitive worm like Gilbert.

Neither judge nor prosecutor interfered when Pomeroy portrayed Kroop, who, at seventy-four, was on the eve of retirement as a sadistic mountebank. However, the chief justice was spared the ignominy of having to testify, and thus spared the whip of cross-examination. Meanwhile, Gilbert had got himself together while in custody, was functioning again, restored to his old rabbitlike persona but with total amnesia for the events of the previous June. Physically, however, he was deteriorating, stressed, complaining of dizzy spells and heart palpitations.

Pomeroy wondered what it would be like to take a holiday from reality. Was psychosis truly a haven from unbearable oppression, as the psychiatrists testified? Might it even be fun? Like tripping out on LSD. He’d tried nervous breakdowns a couple of times, but they weren’t fun. More like tripping out on fumes from paint cans.

The prosecutor’s summing-up was a concise, no-nonsense plea in which she urged her case for conviction but conceded that Wilbur Kroop had stretched the bounds of civility toward his beleaguered clerk. Kroop, during all this, was in his chambers on the next floor up, pretending lack of interest but in a tight-lipped, vengeance-seeking fury.

On the eve of his final address, Pomeroy was relaxing over a couple of drinks at the office — he felt he had it in the bag — when he got a distressing call from the oldest of his three adopted kids, fifteen-year-old Gabriela (“We miss you, Daddy, please love Mom, please come home . . .”) The agony, the sleepless night, would have felled many lesser men, but Pomeroy gutted it out in a ninety-minute jury speech, covering all bases, thanks to Wentworth Chance’s forensic aide-mémoir. Trauma-induced psychosis. Delusional ideation. Confabulation. Almost too much to take in one gulp.

At one point, however, he began to cry, and because he’d been going on about the tyrannies perpetrated by Wilbur Kroop on his client, the jury mistakenly believed he was crying for Gilbert Gilbert.

The jury went out on January 11 and stayed out for five increasingly tense days. They came back twice seeking clarifications, strain on every face, cold determination on the foreman’s. Pomeroy feared that the wuss-despising major was winning the war in that barren, locked room. That he would miss the start of Regina v. Reuben (Ruby)
Morgan and Twenty-one Others, a marathon drug conspiracy trial set for January 17, was the lesser of his worries.

But one day before, the jury finally trooped in after dinner, weary but ready. The clerk rose: “Mr. Foreman, what is your verdict? Do you find the accused guilty or do you find the accused not guilty by reason of insanity?”
Major Harrison stood at attention and hissed, “Guilty, by God.”

A stunned silence while the other jurors looked at one another in confusion, finally remonstrating. “Excuse me, Major, but . . .” “No, no, we agreed . . .”

The judge asked if there was a problem. Major Harrison did a quick shake of his head, as if coming out of
a fog. “No, sir, I’m sorry, sir. Not guilty.”

“And are you unanimous?” asked the judge.

“Yes, sir.” Through gritted teeth.

Not many in the crowded court were focusing on Gilbert Gilbert during this exchange, but when the major misfired with his faulty verdict, Gilbert sat back as if punched in the face. Pomeroy turned to see him blanching, struggling to his feet, gasping and clutching his chest, and finally keeling over. He died almost instantly.

The fates had allowed Wilbur Kroop to exact revenge, but little did anyone suspect that more judges were about to be targeted . . .

As Brian reread that ghastly paragraph, he felt a Pavlovian shock, the kind administered to a rat making a wrong turn in the maze. Ever since he’d installed Horace Widgeon’s program on his hard drive — Secrets of the Whodunit, $59.98, Version OS X — he’d been getting these little jolts, not painful but persistent. The sensible
part of him believed there was a short-circuit somewhere in his ugly, glowing purple eMac. In his fantasies, he imagined Widgeon was pressing a zap-Pomeroy button on a supercomputer in his cottage in the Cotswolds.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Kill All the Lawyers


On the second Tuesday of February, Wentworth Chance arrived at the office ashen-faced and out of breath.


"John Brovak just snapped in Court 54," he announced.


The firm convened an emergency meeting in the library, where Wentworth delivered a breathless summa­ry of Brovak's last moments before being taken to the cells. When he finished, Max Macarthur and Augustina Sage sat looking at each other in silent wonder.


"Cocaine psychosis," said Max grimly.


"Cerebral meltdown," Augustina said softly. "The Monster finally did him in."


Regina versus Watson and Twenty Others—more commonly referred to as the Monster—was a case Brovak had been fighting for half his career. Mistrials, retrials and appeals, the case sputtering, stalling, reviving itself, wheezing forward—for six years.


Over that span, attrition had reduced the ranks of the lawyers from an original high of twelve to a current low of four. Brovak, who had started with two clients, had inherited seven more from lawyers who had dropped out to preserve their marriages or their sanity.


When the Appeal Court ordered yet another new trial last year, the Justice Department, wearying of the battle, had wanted to halt proceedings. But Staff-Sergeant Everit Cudlipp of the RCMP insisted on one last go-round: he had smashed the West Coast's biggest cocaine ring, and he wanted satisfaction. So the Monster had commenced in September and had been plodding along before a jury at the Vancouver courthouse for the last five months.


Appointed to direct this latest rerun—it was as if a macabre joke had been played on Brovak—was Mr. Justice Leroy Lukey, newly elevated to the bench despite his failed efforts to prosecute O.D. Milsom for four seri­al murders. He and Brovak had been mauling each other from opening bell. Today was day eighty-eight of this sweaty match. The Hunk Meets the Hulk.


"From the top," said Max.


He and Augustina sat in morbid silence as their arti­cling student related his story once more. Wentworth, who had been junioring His Satanic Majesty, was ner­vous and flustered in the telling. The mirthless expressions on his bosses' faces did little for his equanimity.


"So John was cross-examining this cop, and at some point the judge turned his back to him and said, 'You've asked that question five times.' And John said, 'Are you speaking to me or to the wall?' And then everything kind of went still. The judge just said, 'You heard me, you've asked that question five times.' And John said something like, 'I got five different answers, and at least four of them are lies.'


"And when the judge said he thought the witness was doing his best, John accused him of coddling all the cops like they were his personal troop of Girl Guides. Then he kind of muttered, 'Asshole flogs his meat at the sight of a uniform.'"


Augustina's dark eyes widened in alarm as she snubbed out one cigarette and lit another.


"The judge heard all the laughter and asked, 'What did you say?' and then Mr. Boynton, the prosecutor, stood up and said ... 'My lord, counsel made a remark in the most execrable taste.' And John turned to the prosecutor and, I don't know, it's like John just blew up, and that's when he called Mr. Boynton ..." Wentworth looked through his notes. '"A dicksucking little pansy fink.'"


The judge, he recounted, leaned forward and almost screamed at Brovak. "You are in contempt!"


"And John said, ah, okay, he'll withdraw the word dicksucking because it's only hearsay."


"And then?" said Max, looking very bleak and worn.


"Well, Mr. Justice Lukey kind of half stood up, grabbed his ledger, and slammed it down on the desk, and told John to leave court. He said, and this is a quote, 'I want to see the goddamn end of you, Brovak!'" Wentworth looked up from his notes, and shrugged. "And that's when John turned around, raised his robe, and pulled down his pants." He paused and added, "Full harvest moon."


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Mind Games

Ah, Allis, what a piece of work you have before you. As you led me from your consulting room to confront the dreaded elevator, I saw you woefully shake your head. How, you were wondering, can you expect to repair this tattered psyche in the weekly hour allotted to me?

I’m sorry that we ran out of time today, your patient having wasted much of it with his fiddling and farting. I should have known better than to try to grasp the reins of therapy. I felt you were less interested in an everyday bargain-basement marriage breakdown than by the grim portents of murder, and I needed desperately to talk about Sally, my grief, my suppressed anger, I wanted pity and solace.

This evening, even as my mind replays today’s awkward session, do you sit with Richard at the dinner table, entertaining him with my persecutory delusions? “He claims someone wants to kill him?” “Yes, dear, and I can understand why.”

When you asked me to take the lead, to waltz you down the byways of memory, I was briefly lost. Where to begin? Was I to pick up the thread a year ago, when disintegration began? A decade ago, when there were youth and hope? A lifetime ago, before the patterning of childhood warped the bell curve of normality into the shape of a burned-out light bulb? How to begin my unburdening, how to describe the clutter of neurotransmitters and synapses, hormones and hemostats, that comprise Timothy Jason Dare?

Sorry I emoted so much. I’ve cooled off. A couple of beers, some soothing jazz… (Picture this skinny geek in his undershorts aboard his old sailboat tooting mournfully on a clarinet. Dispossessed of home, that’s where I live now, my classic wooden cutter, the Altered Ego.)

Anyway, having botched today’s first session, let me whip my thoughts into line, reassemble them in more coherent fashion, to prepare for our next session. (By the way, Friday afternoons are fine, I’m rarely in court then, and I’ll be able to use weekends to recover from whatever catharses come my way.)

To put my fears in perspective and to set the stage for what follows, let’s go back six years ago to a scene so graphic that my mother, if she cared to lift it for one of her books, might be forced to tone it down. (We haven’t got around to Victoria Dare, who, having published a horror novel, has been sued for libel by an overly sensitive small-town politician who saw himself portrayed as the killer. The trial is only a couple of weeks away. An added stressor.)

We are in Dr. Barbara Loews Wiseman’s consulting room. She is staring at a raised dagger, desperately pleading, trying to persuade Bob Grundison that God has not ordered him to kill her, that she isn’t Satan in the guise of a psychiatrist. Imagine the dagger descending, thrusting . . .

The image is fixed? Now let’s fast-forward to a couple of weeks ago – this was just before Sally cut me adrift – to a hearing to determine whether this killer might be released by Order-in-Council onto the already treacherous streets of Vancouver.

The inquiry was at the provincial mental hospital, Riverview. Usually I enjoy my trips there, my ambles about the grounds with patients. But this promised to be a strenuous day of listening to the Grundison family’s hired psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers: I was on a panel struck by the provincial cabinet – they were tossing us the buck; if Grundison were to celebrate his freedom with a psychotic rampage, they would blame the experts.

I arrived slightly frazzled from the long traffic-jammed taxi ride to Riverview, and before we convened I apologized to all – though I was only fifteen minutes late. The panel consisted of me, Dr. Irwin Connelly, and Dr. Harriet Loussier, the hospital’s chief psychologist. A pair of lawyers for the Grundison family was present, along with several medical experts (one of them my nemesis, Dr. Herman Schulter) and a clutch of supporters and relatives there to bear witness to their love of Bob Grundison. He’d been excused from the room – we wanted to speak frankly about him.

Also present were his parents. Robert Grundison Sr. is a staunch pillar of capitalism, owns several tall buildings, shopping centres, a hockey team. But he’s highly regarded: a philanthropist who gives handsomely to Christian charities. His confident body language, even as he sat, expressed power and control. In contrast, his pink-complexioned wife, Thelma, exuded an odd serenity – though with the glassy-eyed aspect of a lush. Sitting next to them was the Honourable Ephriam Wright, an Alberta cabinet minister and evangelical pastor with the unusual reputation, given those careers, of brightness.

The day dragged on. The experts (three of whom, including Schulter, had testified at his trial) concurred: as an adolescent, Grundison had suffered occasional delusions (talking to God, chiefly, though the evidence was vague and came mainly from members of his church), then was revisited by his disease six years ago, when he was twenty-one. Now, Grundison was not only stabilized but cured.

Much was made by Herman Schulter (the clubby, deferential chair of my discipline committee – would he yank my practising certificate if I denied freedom to a killer?) of Grundison having resolved “aggressive behaviour patterns” by channelling his energy into sports. Grundy, as he’s often called, had formed a couple of leagues while at Riverview, basketball and softball. Schulter’s view was that this showed enterprise, leadership.

I listened to such confident prognoses with growing discomfort. I was on this panel because I had a history with Grundison. Six years ago, new in practice, puffed with arrogance (behold the youngest winner of the B.F. Skinner Prize at Stanford), I was the only witness the Crown could find who dared to claim Grundy was faking schizophrenia.

Grundison was arrested several minutes after leaving Barbara Wiseman’s office, wandering around Broadway and Cambie, ostensibly in a daze. Schulter, who was rushed to the cells to interview him, testified that his affect was flat and shallow, a vacant stare, face muscles flaccid, eyes lifeless, toneless, his memory train not intact.

I interviewed Grundy at length, gave him tests. Not psychotic but psychopathic, I concluded, a cold-hearted killer.

So now I was in a conundrum. I’ve never believed (nor, I suspect, did Barbara Loews Wiseman) that Bob Grundison was delusional, but the rest of the world seemed to believe that – who was some long-haired, wild-eyed forensic psychiatrist to disagree? And how could I argue he was insane now, and required continued treatment? However psychopathic, he was mentally competent by the definition of the law. He cannot be tried again for murder, yet he’s a murderer.

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"I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that . . . that thing over there, that statue or whatever you want to call it, is what the Criminal Code calls a disgusting object. Guilty as charged." As Judge Wilkie stammered through this verdict, his unbelieving eyes were fixed – as they'd been through much of the trial – on Exhibit One, a twelve-foot sculpture of a winged, serpent-necked anthropoid with its head halfway up its rear end.
Arthur Beauchamp, Q.C., hadn't expected to hear any brave and stirring tribute to artistic freedom, not from this clubby former small-town practitioner. In all honesty, he himself was repelled by his client's artificium – he'd even found himself nodding at the prosecutorial rhetoric: "Is this something you'd allow your five-year-old to see?" Arthur knew he should hold modern, liberal views, but one has to be true to himself, and the hopeless truth was he was a stodgy old fart. Even in his youth he'd been a stodgy old fart.
He was annoyed at losing, of course, but mostly because of the blow to his pride – the judgment had brought his long string of victories, thirty-eight, to an ignoble end. A porno trial. If he were going to end his career at the bar – and he was determined this would be his last case – he'd have preferred to crash in the flames of a good old-fashioned murder.
The venue for this entertainment was Garibaldi Island's unfinished community hall – the framing and siding were done, the roof in place, but windows not. Papers rustled in the balmy breezes from without, a late-September day on warming planet Earth. A few score of the local mobile vulgus sat grinning on foldup metal chairs, amid sundry press and international art fanciers.
"Extraordinary." That more satisfactory verdict had been whispered in awed tones by a museum curator during a break. "Breathtaking," said a Boston gallery owner. "Such raw energy," said a buyer for a California collector. Enthusiasts of the bizarre, they'd arrived on Garibaldi like aliens from some planet whose dwellers were required to be outfitted with Armani suits, Rolexes, and Prada bags. Arthur felt like a rube in his comfortable rumpled suit.
"That leaves the matter of sentence, Mr. Beauchamp."
Arthur turned to Hamish McCoy, sitting at his elbow with his leprechaun grin, a pixie mix of Irish and Scots with a Newfoundland brogue. He'd been an artist of middling renown until he unveiled this work two years ago on Ferryboat Knoll. Now, thanks to all the tittering publicity and Internet traffic, he'd been discovered; his pieces, mostly giant mythical creatures, were fetching respectable prices.
McCoy had intended the statue as satire – it was his penance for an earlier crime, a grow-op, two hundred kilograms of Orange Super Skunk, a scheme to pay down his mortgage. Judge Wilkie had granted him a discharge conditional on his erecting a sculpture near the ferry landing, a tourism enhancer. All through the trial, the motions, the arguments, the drone of testimony from art experts, the judge had been in a sulking fury. Out of court, he'd been overheard fulminating about how he'd given McCoy a break only to be mocked.
"A suspended sentence would admirably reflect the gravity of this victimless minor offence," Arthur said.
Wilkie sat back, offended. "A slap on the wrist? For this obscene garbage?" He again fixed his obsessive gaze upon the statue, a study in stilled motion: looped, whorled shapes, a great round belly, a serpentine neck coiled downward and up like an elephant's trunk, a rat's face seeking entry into that most inelegant of orifices. Plaster over forms, rebar, and chicken wire. McCoy's preferred medium was bronze, but that would have been hugely expensive, given this flying rodent's girth and ten-foot wingspan, its humanoid legs with splayed bare feet. Wilkie may have found the tiny penis and testicles especially insulting.
"If it's garbage, it's worthless," Arthur said. "Sentence should be commensurate with that."
"There are victims. It is the duty of the courts to protect those who may be morally corrupted by such filthy displays."
That would probably include every man, woman, and child on Garibaldi, given it had been stored in the RCMP's fenced compound, open to view through binoculars on well-tramped Chickadee Ridge. Stoney and Dog, Arthur's occasional handymen, had earned handsome tips guiding tourists there.
Wilkie unhitched his eyes from the sculpture, turned to McCoy. "I ought to send you to jail, that's my first impulse. But I've decided society should not be burdened with the cost of your upkeep. Fifty-thousand-dollar fine, six months in default."
McCoy looked like he was about to blow his top. "Fifty . . ."
Arthur bent low to his client's ear. "Zip it."
"How much time does he need to pay?"
"I suggest fifteen years."
"Payable in six months. Now what do we do with this thing? I don't see anything in the Code about disposing of such items."
"Exactly, Your Honour. It remains the property of the defendant. But maybe not for long." Arthur turned to the gallery. "I understand there's some interest in this unique abstraction."
A pony-tailed gentleman in a double-breasted frock coat: "I represent an interested party."
"Who might that be?" Arthur asked.
"The Shockley Foundation. I hold a certified cheque for eighty thousand dollars."
Up jumped a bejewelled older woman in a chic pantsuit. "Manhattan Contemporary Gallery. Ninety thousand."
Wilkie looked aghast.
"Thank you, I have ninety," Arthur said. "Do I hear a hundred?" A hand was raised, the Armani suit.
"Mr. Beauchamp! This court is in session!"
"I beg forgiveness."
"Please take your business outside."
Arthur bowed solemnly to the judge, motioned to the bidders to join him on the lawn.
"Call the next case," Wilkie said, his voice cracking.
"Regina versus Robert Stonewell. Thirteen counts of operating businesses without a licence, one count of maintaining unsightly premises."
Wilkie blanched as Stoney shuffled forward, holding his tattered copy of the local bylaws. "Not guilty, Your Honour. These here charges deny my fundamental right to earn a livelihood." He was an experienced hand at this, a pettifogging amateur lawyer.
Outside on the grass, under a hot fall sun, Arthur kept the media at bay while bargaining continued, the piece finally fetching a hundred and sixty thousand. McCoy would see a quantum sufficit of that, but Arthur wasn't going to let him welsh on the fees this time. He had driven up his stock considerably.
McCoy shook hands with the winning bidder, the Armani suit, a German gallery owner. Arthur accepted a certified cheque for half, scribbled out a contract. As part of the deal, McCoy would enjoy an all-expenses trip to Berlin to oversee installation.
If only out of principle, the conviction would be appealed, but not by Arthur – let the Civil Liberties Association take it. He was at an age when most lawyers were packing it up, retreating to hobby farm and lakeside cottage. He'd undertaken this case only as a reprieve from Ottawa, from which he regularly fled to perform in another scene of this stop-and-go trial. Ottawa was his unhappy home away from home since his beloved wife won a federal by- election thirty months ago. Margaret Blake, diva of the environmental movement, Parliament's sole Green Party member and its leader.
Another bitter Eastern winter looming. The apartment they'd rented was dismal, though well located near the Rideau Canal. But it was four thousand miles from his farm at Blunder Bay, from the gentle, forgiving winters of the Salish Sea.
On his every return to Ottawa, Arthur would endure ribbing from the reporters and politicians he'd befriended. McCoy's opus foedus was the subject of much hilarity in the corridors of Parliament, even among normally censorial M.P.s, though they would don pious masks when in the chamber, pretending shock and offence, demanding an end to federal grants for such salacious art.
Arthur wondered if he'd been born with an abhorrence for politics, though likely it had been instilled early by his close-minded, right-wing, iconoclastic parents. He saw politics as a Machiavellian game of clandestine deals and low intrigue. To his dismay, Margaret enjoyed it, enjoyed her underdog role in the Commons, had proved herself agile at it, despite a tart tongue and an impatience with the eco-hypocrisy that pervaded the House.
She'd been isolated by the old boys' club, orphaned to a rear seat on the Opposition side, but she was the poster girl of the Green set, darling of the liberal press, whom she worked with jokes and sound bites. Two decades younger than Arthur, vigorous, trim, and comely. Sort of a political sex object, her gams boldly displayed in that recent Maclean's profile. (When had she taken to wearing such short dresses?)
Sauntering from the hall came Robert Stonewell, fresh from beating his bylaw charges. Most of his illegal businesses were autorelated: motor mechanics, a taxi service, and rentals and sales from his sprawling used-car lot, Garibaldi's infamous Centre Road eyesore. But Stoney ran other illegal trades, including a specialty crop called Purple Passion. By now, in late September, his plants will have budded out.
"He finally gave up."
Wilkie, he meant, who'd probably developed one of his migraines trying to deal with Stoney's convolutions. An imminent ferry departure had also played a part: judge, prosecutor, and staff were rushing for their cars, with the local constable, Ernst Pound, escorting them, emergency lights flashing.
"Stoney, I hate to offend you by asking, but when am I going to see my truck again?" Arthur's venerable Fargo had been sitting for a month in the reprobate's yard, awaiting a transplant. It was Blunder Bay's sole vehicle, other than a tractor, Margaret having sold the half-ton diesel. Arthur had been making do by walking or hitching.
"Well, I was gonna surprise you, but you spoiled it by asking. I found a skookum rebuilt trannie in Victoria which I plan to acquire maybe as early as tomorrow. Those babies don't come cheap no more."
The traditional bargaining ceremony followed, one that would not have been out of place in a Cairo souk. Finally, Arthur bowed to the inevitable, greased his palm.
The hall was emptying out. Arthur must get back to the farm. Assuming the caretakers weren't in one of their squabbling modes, he would have a few more days' repose before flying to Ottawa to serve as loyal consort to the member for Cowichan and the Islands.
"Listen, man," Stoney said, "it's that time of year, and a certain individual is in the process of getting his crop off, and this could be a chance to make a advantageous investment. The party I represent needs a little front money."
Arthur looked quickly to his right and left, toward the hall, saw no one close enough to hear this criminal offer.
"Hundred per cent purple Thai, man." Stoney lit a joint, as if in demonstration. "Sweet." The fat rollie gave off an intense aroma.
"Stoney, I do not do drug deals."
"Heaven forbid that I would sully the name of our respectiful . . . respectable town tonsil. In case you ain't aware, Arthur, I am addressing my brother here, my long-time soulmate who has just come into some tall money."
Arthur looked down to see a horny, muscular hand reaching for the joint. Hamish McCoy, a foot shorter than Arthur and below his radar during his lookabout, was right under his beaklike nose.
McCoy took a drag. "Yiss, yiss," he said after a moment, "a fine vintage, b'y."
The two rogues went back to the hall to celebrate and scheme, and Arthur headed off to the trail to Eastshore Way, which led ultimately to Potters Road and home. A two-mile hike, getting his strength up for another snowbound Ottawa winter.
He was limping as he cut across the high pasture – his feet didn't like these stiff city shoes. Blunder Bay unfurled below, a ridge of arbutus and Douglas fir above a scallop-shaped inlet, a rickety dock with his forty-horse runabout. Greenhouse, barn, deer-fenced garden, goat-milking shed, and two grand old farmhouses. The weary-looking one with the slumping veranda was lived in, and the other was being refurbished: the former home of the neighbour he'd wooed and won.
That was eight years ago, after he'd made a break for freedom, vowing forever to retire from the odious practices of the law. The courtroom had taken a cruel toll: the artifice, the duplicity, the games that he'd despised himself for excelling at. The bloodletting, the acrimony. Dragging the innocent through the mud, painting the brutish client as the angel of innocence.
No one had been surprised as much as Arthur by the prowess he'd displayed in court. A classical scholar, a shy and gentle soul plagued by self-doubt, by an overwhelming sense of inadequacy (blame his merciless parenting), he had magically transformed each time he'd put on his robes.
Maybe it was a dissociative disorder, a double personality. Mildmannered Arthur Beauchamp becomes his opposite, dons the armour of the Greek and Roman heroes glorified by his beloved Homer and Virgil. He'd astonished himself by winning his first twelve murders, tying Hercules' record of twelve labours, besting the savage Cretan bull that was his own felt impotence.
And then he became a jealous cuckold and a drunk . . .
He carefully closed the gate, manoeuvred around the thick coils of excreta left by Bess, their Jersey milk cow, and Barney, their old stallion, who was grazing by the fence, blind and deaf, only mouth and anus working. In contrast, Homer, their two-year-old border collie, had everything working – he'd seen, heard, and smelled Arthur's coming, was bounding so fast toward him that he overshot his target by ten feet.
Arthur treated him to a shoulder rub, then ordered him back to work. Homer bounded off to the lower pasture, where the young goat they'd named Papillon had escaped the pen again, was hiding out amid the sheep, trying to look inconspicuous.
Directing this light entertainment was the vivacious Savannah Buckett, eighteen months out of jail for an act of eco-sabotage against a high-end logging operation. She waved, looking a little helpless and flustered – a city woman, a street-smart radical, unused to the travails of country living. As was her partner and fellow parolee, Zachary Flett, who was out there too, sealing a hole in the goat pen.
Arthur paused to look at his flourishing garden, its fattening pumpkins and cabbage heads and wilting potato tops with their promises of bounty below. He will fork some up as soon as he gets out of this sweaty suit and into a uniform more rustic.
Zack had added more solar panels to the roofs of the house and barn – he was a fair hand with green technology. ("We're going to take you off the grid, big boy," Savannah had said, patting his farmfed belly.) They'd been reviving Margaret's 1920s frame house as well, and planned eventually to move into it.
He mounted the creaking steps to his veranda, sat down on the rocker, kicked off his shoes, massaged his feet, and watched with approval as, with Homer working right point, his caretakers finally arrested the goat while loudly blaming each other for its bolt to freedom.
At first, Arthur hadn't minded sharing his house with this pair. It was spacious, three bedrooms, a large parlour off the living room, funky gingerbread details. But they were constantly at each other over the most trivial transgressions – mislaid toothpaste, underwear and socks lying about, compost not taken out.
Savannah, Zachary, and three other activists of what the press dubbed the Quatsino Five had canoed by night into a log-booming grounds below a hotly debated old-growth clearcut, armed with acetylene sets in backpacks. They'd cut through the boom chains, and by morning several hundred logs were afloat on the Pacific Ocean. Gourmet timber, yellow cedar, forty-thousand dollars per raw log in Japan. Much was salvaged, more pirated by scavengers.
A vicious and ruinous act of eco-terrorism, snarled the judge, getting his headline. He gave each defendant four years, and each served two and a half, unrepentant.
Others had answered Blunder Bay's ad for caretakers, but Margaret made the politically precarious choice of these two newly sprung parolees. She believed in peaceful protest, she assured the press, and disagreed with what they'd done, but they'd paid the price and deserved a chance. Arthur echoed her loyally: rehabilitation not retribution.
Zachary and Savannah were in their early thirties, both from Vancouver, where they'd met and coupled a decade ago. Zack came out of prison wrathful and bitter, but Savannah somehow had taken it in stride, harboured little rancour. In the end, theirs was not a lost cause because half the ancient cloud forest they'd fought to save – a habitat for threatened marbled murrelets – was made a reserve.
"Sometimes a little serious monkeywrenching works," Zack had said. Such musings made Arthur nervous, hinting of anarchist attitudes. He sensed Zack revelled in the role of hero to the more rambunctious elements of the environmental movement.
Though tenderfeet, both were intelligent and industrious, if cynical, and firm subscribers to an organic lifestyle. Neither owned cars, out of principle, relying on bicycles, but Zack seemed adept enough with the tractor and the Fargo, when it was on the road. And it was a break to have someone to talk to other than the layabouts at the General Store. However, they did tend to patronize Arthur, with his square, traditional world view.
Arthur ascended briskly to the second floor, his floor, with its own den, its ample bedroom and bath, its expansive ocean view: the San Juan Islands and the distant snowy Olympics. Might he bring out rods and tackle this evening? Bait some crab pots? So little time, so many things to do.
Clad in rough farm wear, he went down to find Zack barefoot in the kitchen, washing up. Of middling height, gaunt, angular. "Papillon pissed on my boots." He swept a swatch of untrained coal-black hair from his dark sad eyes.
Savannah examined him critically from the doorway. "Jeez, Zack, change your pants while you're at it. Lesson learned. Don't stand behind the livestock."
Arthur picked up a gamy, sweaty smell as she bussed him with pouty lips. A modern woman, brash and tart. Taller than her boyfriend, thick blond curls, a busty, eye-catching figure. Arthur had got used to her nighttime roaming – a sleepwalking disorder had plagued her since childhood.
She continued to scold Zack. "When are you going to get a damn haircut? You look like a palm tree in a hurricane."
"Yeah, right, I'll head right down to the nearest salon."
"You need a weed whacker, pal." She turned to Arthur. "So who won today's battle between good and evil?"
Arthur regaled them with Judge Wilkie's show of dismay as his punitive fine was dwarfed by later, generous ransoms.
"Sounds like the judge we drew," Zack said. "Another guardian of the dying order. Maybe telling him to go to hell was a strategic error. Did Wilkie really think it was a caricature of himself?"
"I'm afraid that's rather typical of the self-absorbed."
"Reminds me of someone else. A pork-bellied flightless ostrich with its head up its patoot – who am I thinking of?"
 "Huck Finn," Savannah said.
The Conservative prime minister, she meant, Huck Finnerty. Whom the member for Cowichan and the Islands, in one of her more acidic sound bites, had accused of having his head up his exhaust pipe.

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Cuddling a nearly new laptop — I just got it today — I pause halfway down the stairs and listen to Arthur taunt Ariana Van Doorn in the moose room. She will make her debut tomorrow, and Arthur and Nancy are prepping her.

“Necessity? Necessity? My dear Professor Van Doorn, why was it so critical, so necessary, to commit a serious criminal offence, a surreptitious break-and-enter by night, when no one’s life was in immediate peril?”

“Excuse me, my field is biology—”

“It’s a simple question, madam, I’d like an answer, please.” Arthur has Khan’s slightly old-school accent down pat.

“Okay, in my opinion, people have been hurt, they were in immediate peril. According to the pesticide poisoning statistics we heard yesterday, one in 12,500 users accidentally imbibe insecticides in any given year—”

“Immediate peril, not some accident in the vague future…”

“Objection, counsel is baiting the witness, and is also being ridiculous.” That’s Nancy.

Ariana gives a throaty laugh. I carry on down to the back patio with the Dell notebook. Okie Joe will be stopping over to make sure it isn’t rigged to explode in my face. I pack a pipe with pot.

I’m seeing criminal law in a new light. There’s flexibility to it. I find it profoundly creative of Arthur and Nancy to have made adjustments on the fly to the frail defence of necessity. They’ve narrowed its focus to real people, like the unlikely duo of Barney Wilson and Charlie Dover.

Most people are deaf to the climate crisis, they don’t want to hear about the bees, it’s all too depressing and abstract. It was maybe asking too much of our jury to conclude we had to knock over an insecticide lab as a wakeup call against planetary collapse. But the poisoning of a fellow hominid brings it home.

Because we raided the Vigor-Gro plant, because we exposed their corrupted tests, because we spoke up, because of the publicity, because of this very trial, we have rescued farmers susceptible to what we now call the Dover-Wilson Syndrome.

That’s the essence of today’s testimony from an agricultural economist, a climatologist, and an actuarial scientist with a doctorate in statistics. Together, with reams of tables and stats and graphs and international sales figures for Vigor-Gro, they made a case that it’s statistically likely that a “significant” number of pesticide users out there are allergic to ziegladoxin. And it’s also statistically likely that our action has warned a “significant” number of accidental imbibers to get flushed out right away. Something like that.

It’s a pretty stretchy theory, so taut it could easily snap as the jury tussles with it. But if they’re desperate to find reasonable doubt … just, possibly, maybe?


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