About the Author

Barbara Fradkin

Barbara Fradkin was born in Montreal and attended McGill, the University of Toronto and the University of Ottawa, where she obtained her PhD in psychology. Her work as a child psychologist has provided ample inspiration and insight for plotting murders, and she recently left full-time practice in order to be able to devote more time to writing. Barbara has an affinity for the dark side, and her compelling short stories haunt several anthologies and magazines, including Storyteller, Iced (Insomniac Press, 2001), and the Ladies Killing Circle anthologies, including Fit to Die, Bone Dance and When Boomers Go Bad, published by RendezVous Press. Her detective series features the exasperating, infuriating Ottawa Inspector Michael Green, whose love of the hunt often interferes with family, friends and police protocol. The series includes Do or Die (2000), Once Upon a Time (2002), Mist Walker (2003), and Fifth Son (Fall 2004). Once Upon a Time was nominated for Best Novel at the Arthur Ellis Awards, Canada’s top crime writing awards, and her latest title, Fifth Son won this prestigious award in 2005. The fifth in the series, Honour Among Men, (2006), repeated the honour, the only time that consecutive novels by the same author have won the award. The sixth and seventh novels, Dream Chasers and This Thing of Darkness, followed in 2007 and 2009.

Books by this Author
Amanda Doucette Mystery 3-Book Bundle

Amanda Doucette Mystery 3-Book Bundle

Fire in the Stars / The Trickster's Lullaby / Prisoners of Hope
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Beautiful Lie the Dead

Beautiful Lie the Dead

An Inspector Green Mystery
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook eBook
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Do or Die

Do or Die

An Inspector Green Mystery
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Dream Chasers

Dream Chasers

An Inspector Green Mystery
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Evil Behind That Door

Evil Behind That Door

A Cedric O'Toole Mystery
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tagged : crime, family life
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Fifth Son

Fifth Son

An Inspector Green Mystery
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Fire in the Stars

Fire in the Stars

An Amanda Doucette Mystery
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also available: Paperback
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Excerpt

Chapter One
Amanda didn’t begin to worry in earnest until a hint of land shimmered through the early morning fog. Slowly, Newfoundland emerged in a ragged silhouette of rock and the blurred white spire of a lighthouse. The MV Highlanders had ten decks and she was on the top, her favourite place. The powerful engine of the ferry throbbed beneath her and the cold ocean foamed below. She leaned on the railing and sheltered her cellphone from the mist. It had finally registered a signal from the town of Port aux Basques.
No messages. Not one word from Phil. Normally this would be a minor frustration. Black holes could swallow him up for days on end, but he’d spring out of them ebullient and cleansed as if they had never happened. Even my wife calls me Mr. Unreliable, he’d once said with a twinkle in his eye.
But this time was different. For one thing, this camping trip had been his idea, and Amanda had sensed a manic edge to his excitement when he’d begged her to come. You need this, he’d said. We need it. There’s nothing like the wilds of nature to heal a broken soul. She wasn’t so sure, but it was the closest he’d come to admitting to a problem.
For another, he’d promised to do all the planning. Newfoundland was his adopted home now, and he wanted to show off its charms. All Amanda had to do was get herself, her motorcycle, and a sleeping bag over to the Rock and he’d find them the perfect getaway. Imagine miles of rugged coast, tangy surf, the wind in her face, and the call of ocean birds. After her long, bleak year spent clawing back from the terror of Africa, it had sounded like paradise.
The problem was, he’d never told her where this paradise was. Now that she was about to disembark on the southern tip of the island, she had no idea where to meet him. Newfoundland’s coastline was ten thousand kilometres of switchback coves and ragged headlands, most of it wild. There were island bird sanctuaries and dark, unexplored inland forests. Its oceans teemed with whales, dolphins, seals, and polar bears, its forests with moose and bears. The perfect getaway was everywhere.
Amanda had always loved nature. As a child trapped in the tidy residential crescents of suburban Ottawa, she had escaped whenever possible to the lakes and forests of the surrounding countryside, much to the bemusement of her parents, who considered a wine tour of Tuscany to be the ideal holiday. During her postings in the hot, arid climates of developing countries, it had been the wilderness that she had missed most about her homeland. The lush green of the forest floor, the delicate birdsong, and the chatter of brooks tumbling over rocks.
The solitude.
There are not many people in Newfoundland in September, Phil had promised her. No machetes, masked marauders, or homemade bombs. Not even many tourists left. We’ll have the campgrounds and coves to ourselves.
The ferry was churning through the narrow channel toward the dock, past the breakwaters and pastel cottages scattered along the barren shore. Passengers had begun to head toward the stairs leading to the car decks, clutching their pillows and bedrolls blearily. Where are you? she texted one last time before slipping her phone back into her jacket and heading to the pet kennels. The sound of barking was deafening as the dogs woke to the sight of their masters. For a moment, when she couldn’t hear Kaylee’s bark above the din, she felt a familiar surge of anxiety. My dog’s safe, she assured herself. You know she’s safe. It’s only a seven-hour crossing, and she’s had plenty of water.
Nonetheless Amanda was surprised by the rush of relief that coursed through her when Kaylee’s high-pitched scream joined the fray. She spotted the frenzy of red fur as she drew closer. Kaylee hurled herself against the door of the kennel, every inch of her wagging. Amanda opened the door and knelt down to press her face into the dog’s long, silky fur.
“Sorry, pumpkin,” she whispered. “No more, I promise.”
Kaylee tugged at the end of her leash as they made their way down to Amanda’s other prized possession, her brand-new motorcycle. Having spent almost all her adult life in the developing world, she was much more at ease on two wheels than on four. She loved the lightness, agility, and thrilling speed of motorcycles. In anticipation of this trip, she had traded her smaller bike and splurged on this latest-model Kawasaki, which could handle a trailer, but she had not yet found the perfect name for it. For now, she called it Shadow, which had an intimate, evocative ring. Not only did it have its own shadow of sorts — the small, custom-built trailer for Kaylee — but it felt like an extension of her soul. It gave her the freedom to roam the wide-open spaces, to race the wind, to follow any whim that beckoned her.
Kaylee leaped eagerly into her spot in the trailer, her tongue lolling and her eyes dancing in anticipation. As Amanda fastened the dog’s seatbelt and undid the straps and cables that secured the bike, she smiled in response to the stares from the neighbouring cars. She suspected the red dog and the lime-green motorcycle made quite a spectacle.
She was almost thirty-five, but, dwarfed in her sheepskin jacket, leather boots, and red helmet, she looked barely fifteen. Hardship had aged her on the inside, but her fine freckles and long chestnut hair belied the decades. Noticing the little boy in the minivan beside her eying Kaylee solemnly, Amanda winked at him.
“She’s looking forward to Newfoundland. Are you?”
He nodded. “What kind of dog is that?”
“She’s a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Forty pounds of pure energy. Do you have a dog?”
He shot a quick glance at his father before shaking his head. “What’s her name?”
“Kaylee. Since she’s a Nova Scotia breed, I figured she deserved a good Gaelic name. Do you know what a ceilidh is?”
He shook his head again.
“It’s a party. The lively, dancing-singing-making-music kind. And that’s what she is, a party.” Amanda leaned over to ruffle the dog’s ears. “Do you want to pat her?”
The boy glanced at his father again. The two of them were alone in the minivan, father and son on a holiday. The man looked as if he hadn’t slept or shaved in days, but he managed a bleary smile. But just as the boy was opening his door, car engines rumbled to life around them and the vehicles prepared to inch forward. The boy tugged his door shut and gave Kaylee a shy wave.
The long trail of vehicles wound through the ferry dock and out onto the open road, where the fog still hung thick. Amanda could see nothing but a blurry stream of red lights heading north along the only highway toward the interior of the province. Signs and landmarks leaped out of the fog too late to decipher. She longed to lean into the wind and open up the throttle, but decided it was safer just to follow the taillights directly in front of her.
She needed a decent breakfast and, more importantly, coffee, and just as she was beginning to despair of finding either, the lights of an Irving gas bar and diner caught her eye. She pulled in, fed Kaylee, and took her for a short stroll to a handy patch of grass before tying up the dog and heading inside the diner. The place was bright and bustling as if half the ferry passengers were inside, but Amanda found a small table by the window where she could keep an eye on Kaylee. The waitress was at her side instantly to fill her coffee cup. A woman of experience, Amanda thought with a smile of thanks. Once she’d taken her first sip, she pulled out her cellphone. No response to her text. Mr. Unreliable indeed.
While she looked up his home number in Grand Falls, she braced herself. Phil had confessed that things were rocky between himself and his wife, and Amanda wasn’t sure how Sheri felt about this trip, nor about her. Phil had assured her that Sheri supported it, that in fact the trip had been her idea. Anything to get me out of her hair, he’d joked. She can’t come because she’s teaching, but she knows how much I need this escape.
Amanda hoped that was true. Despite their different temperaments, the two women had once been friends, but that was before Africa, and Amanda knew Sheri could be unforgiving. Did she still blame Amanda for Phil’s decision to go?
It had been nearly two years since Amanda had last spoken to her, but time slipped away the moment the woman answered the phone. The same brisk, no-nonsense voice, with just a hint of Newfoundland.
“Hi, Sheri, it’s Amanda Doucette. How are you?”
A pause, a drop in tone. As if the air had gone out of the room. “Amanda. It’s been a long time. You’re back in Canada for good now, I hear.”
“I am. I just arrived in Port aux Basques.” She paused, listening to the silence. Feeling the chill through the airwaves. Not forgiven, then. “Is Phil there?”
“How could he be? He’s with you.”
“No. I’m supposed to meet him, but I don’t know where.”
“Well, he’s already gone. I imagine he’ll call you, in his own sweet time.”
Bewildered, Amanda plowed ahead. “When did he leave?”
“Two days ago. I’m surprised you haven’t heard from him yet. Well, not exactly surprised, but …”
“Did he say where he was going?”
There was another long silence. Sheri’s voice lost its chill, became uncertain. “He … we … I was out when they left. He didn’t actually say goodbye.”
“They? Who’s with him?”
“Well, Tyler. Our son. He’s going with you.” She paused again. Amanda heard a small intake of breath. “Isn’t he?”
Amanda felt her own small quiver of alarm. First, Phil’s manic excitement about the trip, followed by the days of silence. What was he up to? “I’m sure it’s just a misunderstanding,” she forced herself to say. “You know Phil.”
“Indeed I do.”
Amanda rushed on. “He’ll probably be in touch any minute. Meanwhile I’ll head up toward your place.”
“Why?”
Amanda floundered in the heavy silence. “In case he comes back. Or we can at least figure out where Mr. Unreliable has disappeared to.” She hung up before Sheri could object and glanced outside to reassure herself that Kaylee was still there. The early morning fog was lifting, curling off the scoured coastal rock in pale, wraithlike swaths. At this rate, she could reach Grand Falls by afternoon. To what purpose or reception, she wasn’t sure.
Her attempt at levity on the phone was fooling no one, least of all Sheri, who must know how close to the edge Phil could stumble. Indeed, she’d been the one to drag him back more than once over their twelve years together.
Amanda had heard it in her voice at the end. Sheri was angry and fed up, but she was also afraid.

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Going Out With a Bang

Going Out With a Bang

A Ladies Killing Circle Anthology
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Honour Among Men

Honour Among Men

An Inspector Green Mystery
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook eBook
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Inspector Green Mysteries 10-Book Bundle

Inspector Green Mysteries 10-Book Bundle

Do or Die / Once Upon a Time / Mist Walker / Fifth Son / The Whisper of Legends / and 5 more
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Inspector Green Mysteries 9-Book Bundle

Inspector Green Mysteries 9-Book Bundle

Do or Die / Once Upon a Time / Mist Walker / Fifth Son / The Whisper of Legends / and 4 more
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Mist Walker

Mist Walker

An Inspector Green Mystery
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None So Blind

None So Blind

An Inspector Green Mystery
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Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time

An Inspector Green Mystery
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Prisoners of Hope

Prisoners of Hope

An Amanda Doucette Mystery
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Excerpt

Chapter ONE

Amanda smiled as she watched the speedboat swoop playfully up the bay. Once it drew closer, she could make out the gleam of antique cedar and brass. A lone man sat in the cockpit, one hand on the wheel and the other trailing in the water. He leaned into the curves, grinning as the boat carved up the bay and left curls of froth and ripples in its wake.

She was sitting on a granite rock at the edge of the parking lot, and she rose for a better view as he pulled back on the throttle and aimed the powerful boat toward the nearest slip. Surely this wasn’t George Gifford. She had pictured the kayak outfitter as a rough outdoorsman piloting a dented aluminum runabout. A beard, cargo pants, and khaki jacket with a half-dozen pockets and rings.

While she’d been waiting, there had been no such boat on the bay. In fact, it being late May, there were almost no boats at all. A few luxury yachts bobbed at anchor and a couple were tied up at the docks, but most of the summer cottagers’ boats were still stored in hangars or under tarps inland, awaiting the summer cottage invasion.

Cottage season didn’t truly hit its peak in Georgian Bay until the July 1st weekend, when cottagers and tourists poured in from the crowded cities farther south to set up stakes on the spectacular islands and bays that formed its coastal fringe. Over thirty thousand islands had earned the eastern coast the distinction of the largest freshwater archipelago in the world. Although it had once been overrun by the logging and fishing industries, most of it had now reverted to nature and provided an unspoiled getaway for kayakers, campers, birdwatchers, and hikers during the long, warm summer.

In May, however, the ice was barely out, and only the most intrepid were willing to brave the mosquitoes, blackflies, and chilly winds that still swept across Lake Huron from the west. Amanda was there on a scouting expedition for her family kayaking adventure in July. She had chosen the historic cottage village of Pointe au Baril as the rendezvous point with her outfitter because it was located in a deep, protected inlet near the midpoint of the archipelago. She and Kaylee had been waiting at the village dock for George Gifford for almost at hour, and she was beginning to wonder whether she’d been stood up. She’d thrown the dog’s ball at least a hundred times, and her arm was growing numb.

On his website, George Gifford had seemed like a reliable man. His company wasn’t big and flashy, but he was a fourth-generation Georgian Bay native who had thirty years’ experience in the guiding and outfitting business. He had kayaked all over the world from the roughest Pacific seas to the most serene Ontario lakes, and he claimed to know every tree and shoal on the eastern Georgian Bay coast. She had been counting on him to help her choose the perfect itinerary for her group of eager but utterly inexperienced adventurers.

The man in the speedboat was standing now as he guided the boat into one of the slips and killed the engine. Morning sunlight glinted off his windblown hair, burnishing it to honey gold as he leaped cat-like onto the dock and tied up the boat. On the phone, George had the gravelly bass of an older man, and an internet check of his credentials had turned up a man with a steel-grey buzz cut.

Not George Gifford, then. Amanda felt a twinge of disappointment, which quickly changed to frustration. The man was nearly an hour late for their very first meeting, which didn’t bode well for his reliability during the intricate coordination of the six-day kayak trip to the offshore islands.

She sneaked a peek at her phone. No messages either. And where was Chris? Even if he was late leaving Newfoundland, he should have texted his arrival details by now. Unless he’d gotten cold feet. Not that she would blame him. He’d expressed excitement about coming on this scouting expedition, and there’d been a palpable thrum of electricity between them, but what did she really know about him? No matter how much he was in her dreams, they’d spent barely two weeks together in the past eight months, most of it dealing with crises.

The stranger stood on the dock, shielding his eyes from the sun as he scanned the parking lot. He too glanced at his phone and frowned. Kaylee, delighted at the possibility of a new playmate and oblivious to his dark mood, snatched up her ball and bounded down onto the dock to drop it at his feet.

Amanda was about to call her back when the man’s frown dissolved into a smile. “Well, what do you want?” he asked, bending to pick up the ball. Kaylee danced expectantly, and the man looked up at Amanda. “Can I throw it?”

“She’d love it!” Amanda exclaimed. The man curled back his arm and shot a beautiful high ball far up onto the road behind the parking lot. The little red dog was off like a shot, and the man laughed as he strolled up the dock.

“Beautiful dog,” he said. “It’s a Nova Scotia something, isn’t it?”

“Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Don’t worry, no one ever remembers the whole name.”

Kaylee came bouncing back to drop the ball in front of him. “Look at that focus!” he said. “Does she like the water?”

“Part mermaid! They’re bred for it. I warn you, though, she’ll retrieve until your arm falls off.”

“This is my kind of dog,” he said, bending to pick up the ball. “We just got a Lab puppy, but I think they left the brains out of the package.”

Amanda laughed. “All puppies are like that.” She tried to call Kaylee over so that she would not pester the man yet again, but the dog was too excited. “You have a beautiful boat. Is it an antique?”

“It is. It’s been in the family — well, my wife’s family — for sixty years. It’s temperamental, but it’s my favourite.” He tossed the ball again and then looked up to scan the road behind the parking lot. His frown returned. “You haven’t seen a woman and a baby anywhere around, have you?”

Amanda looked around. There was only one vehicle in the parking lot, an SUV from Michigan parked next to her lime-green motorcycle with its custom-built dog trailer. Most of the traffic that had driven by in the past hour had been contractors in pickup trucks.

“There’s construction on the highway,” she said. She’d been giving herself the same excuse for George Gifford’s delay.

He grinned. “There’s always construction on the highway.” At that moment the roar of an engine and the squeal of tires heralded the arrival of a car. They both turned expectantly just as a silver Audi slewed into the parking lot and jerked to a stop. The door was flung open and a woman leaped out. Amanda noticed the skinny white jeans and the gold wedge sandals first before taking in the mass of platinum curls, the huge sunglasses, and the cherry-red lips. Not exactly a country look.

In that instant, Amanda felt every inch of her frayed jeans, baggy T-shirt, and flip-flops. In anticipation of Chris Tymko’s arrival, she had washed her long, light-brown hair and pulled it into what she hoped was an attractive ponytail, but she’d clearly fallen well short of the mark.

“Her usual grand entrance,” the man muttered before heading up toward the car.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” Cherry Lips exclaimed. “The traffic out of Toronto was insane, and I had to stop four times because —” An outraged screech from inside the car stopped her short, and she clutched her head. “Omigod, Benson, he’s been like that the whole time! He just won’t settle! I tell you, you’re a lifesaver. If it weren’t for you, I’d be murdering the kid!”

Benson strode toward the car. “Well, let’s get the little guy out.” He opened the rear door and bent inside, crooning baby talk. The woman seemed to notice Amanda for the first time. Her gaze flicked over the baggy T-shirt, and a faint frown pinched her face. Amanda tried a sympathetic smile, which the woman ignored.

Benson emerged with a baby in his arms, now miraculously quiet. He tossed the little boy into the air and then buried his face in the boy’s belly, making him burst into giggles.

“Benson, I have to go. I’m so late!” The woman opened the trunk and began to dump suitcases, half a dozen bags, a car seat, and a stroller on the ground. “If he gets colicky, push him around in the stroller.”

“We’ll take you for a motorboat ride, won’t we, Tommy?”

“Thomas. It’s Thomas.”

Benson grinned at her, and Amanda suspected they’d played this game before. “Would you like to spend a few days with Uncle Ben? And all your cousins?” He tossed the boy again before tucking him comfortably in the crook of his arm.

“And if he won’t eat, all the instructions from the doctor are in this binder here. His whole routine. He needs his routine.”

“Candy, we’ll be fine. Danielle is a miracle worker with babies. Don’t worry, go!”

“I guess you can always get Kaitlyn to help out as well. If you can get her out of bed.”

A frown flickered across his face. “She’s only fourteen, Candace.”

Candace looked about to contradict him but checked herself. She stood on tiptoe to kiss her son and then paused, her head tilted to gaze up at Benson. Her eyes softened as she touched his arm. “Thank you,” she mouthed.

He bent his head to kiss her forehead. “Have fun. Get some rest.”

Then Candace was gone with a squeal of tires and a little wave of her red-tipped fingers out the window. Benson turned toward his boat and paused to eye the mountain of luggage on the ground.

 

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The Fall Guy

The Fall Guy

A Cedric O'Toole Mystery
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The Ladies Killing Circle Anthology 4-Book Bundle

The Ladies Killing Circle Anthology 4-Book Bundle

Fit to Die / Bone Dance / When Boomers Go Bad / Going Out With a Bang
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The Night Thief

The Night Thief

A Cedric O'Toole Mystery
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also available: Paperback
tagged : suspense, crime
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The Trickster's Lullaby

The Trickster's Lullaby

An Amanda Doucette Mystery
edition:Paperback
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Excerpt

The stranger who hammered on the door made no apologies or introduction. She stood in the doorway, braced against the cold, her breath swirling in the frosty air. 
“Amanda Doucette?” she demanded.
At her tone, Amanda stepped back warily. Dressed in a frayed navy parka with a red cloche hat and matching mittens, the woman looked harmless enough, but her tone held an edge of desperation. From her years in international aid work, Amanda knew desperation could make people dangerous. She was alone, and even in this quiet country cottage in the backwoods of Quebec, trouble could still find her. 
“Are you Amanda Doucette?” the woman repeated, even more sharply this time. A faint Québécois inflection was now audible in her speech.
Amanda glanced at the small Honda parked in the snowy drive. The car had once been white, but layers of salt and rust gave it a mottled look. One headlight was broken and the fender was dented. Like its owner, it looked battered by time. She softened.
“Yes,” she replied. “May I help you?” Kaylee had raced up to greet the visitor, and she held the dog back. She should have invited the woman in, but even after a year and a half, trust was still a fragile ally for her, fleeing at the first hint of threat. This cottage was her private sanctuary, hidden and unpublicized in order to keep curiosity-seekers at bay. Almost no one knew where it was.
“I want you to take my son on your trip.”
Amanda’s heart sank. This was a pressure she had not anticipated when Matthew Goderich persuaded her to launch her Fun for Families charity tour last September. The idea had been inspired: to take disadvantaged youth on adventure trips that provided a brief escape from the daily struggle of their lives. And Matthew, the consummate salesman, had promised her, “You plan the fun, I’ll find the families.” But the demand for the adventures had been huge and the selection of participants agonizing. So many needy children, so few spaces on her trips. 
“Is he on the list?” she asked, hearing the echo of a thousand bureaucrats in her words.
“He should have been, but the college said he was unsuitable because of his past. An eighteen-year-old isn’t allowed to make mistakes? To take a bad path?” Her fingers dug into Amanda’s arm. “He’s a good boy, but he needs encouragement to find his way. Please.” 
Amanda wrapped her baggy fleece tighter against the cold air blowing through the open doorway. She had two choices: either to turn the woman away with that dreaded bureaucratic sleight of hand — I don’t make the lists — or to invite her in to tell her side of the story. Amanda had fought arbitrary bureaucratic obfuscation in the international aid world for too many years to have any stomach for it herself.
A smile of gratitude brightened the woman’s face when Amanda invited her in. As she tugged off her boots, she apologized for the snow on the pine floorboards. “Merci mille fois,” she said. “Just to have someone listen and not reject my son as a bad apple.”
“What’s his name?”
She looked up, her blonde curls falling across her eyes. The blonde was out of a bottle, and an inch of grey showed at the roots, but she’d done her best to style it. “I’m so sorry. I’m Ghyslaine Prevost, and he’s Luc Prevost. Well, technically he’s Luc Prevost-MacLean, but he doesn’t like the MacLean part. Ever since his father left us. I don’t like to upset him by insisting.”
Amanda had seen the list of twelve youths who were enrolled in her Laurentian Extreme Adventure, and the son’s name had not been on it. Nor had it been on the longer list of thirty submitted for consideration to Matthew Goderich by the youth counsellor working on the project. 
International aid had been Amanda’s life passion for more than ten years, and she had never planned to give it up, but Boko Haram’s murderous rampage in the Nigerian village where she worked had changed all that. Nearly two hundred school children abducted or killed, their parents slaughtered, and their village torched. Two years later, the memories of that night and her own terrifying escape were still so vivid that she doubted she could ever go back overseas. 
When, while in search of a new way forward last fall, she had conceived of Fun for Families, the premise had been simple: a charity fundraising tour centred around adventures in iconic settings across Canada. The adventures would nurture joy, a sense of belonging, but most of all hope for the future, for her as well as the families and youth involved. 
However, the logistics of the projects were proving a whole lot more complicated than she’d imagined. Choosing the venues and the adventures had been easy — this one was six days of snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and winter camping near the world-renowned Mont Tremblant National Park north of Montreal — but selecting the participants had not been. Ever since her fundraising idea had hit the news, partly because of Matthew’s hyperactive talent for galvanizing social media, she had been flooded with suggestions for needy groups and pleas from parents to include their own children.
It had been Matthew’s idea to insulate her from the crush — and the resulting resentments — by assuming that job. Although he claimed it allowed her to face the groups unencumbered by a history, she suspected he also saw her mental strength wavering. Matthew knew her better than anyone; since he was an overseas journalist, their paths had often crossed in remote trouble spots in the world. He had been in West Africa covering Boko Haram; he had seen her in the aftermath of the massacre, and again after her terrifying ordeal in the Newfoundland wilderness last fall. He knew her stress points, perhaps even better than she did.
When she ushered Ghyslaine into the main room, the woman perched on the edge of the sofa near the door like a bird poised for flight. Kaylee jumped up to nestle next to her, instinctively responding to the woman’s distress. Amanda was about to call the dog away when the woman sank her fingers into Kaylee’s silky red fur and smiled as if the dog had already performed her magic.
“What a cute little Golden Retriever,” she said. “What’s his name?”
“Kaylee,” Amanda replied, warming immediately to the woman. At the mention of her name, the dog perked up. “It means party. She’s actually a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. They’re sometimes called little Goldens with attitude.”
The woman looked around the spartan cabin, furnished by Amanda’s aunt from yard sales and flea markets. Aunt Jean had the good sense to spend the winter in Florida, which left her cottage and her car free for Amanda’s use. The woman had no aesthetic sense, so the only criterion had been comfort, which suited Amanda just fine. It was to this simple, remote Laurentian refuge that she came to recover from Nigeria and later from Newfoundland. The only nods to modernity were the phone and the laptop open on the desk by the front window. From there, Amanda could see the road and always knew who was coming. A small measure of reassurance.
Her guest seemed to register the lack of opulence, for she lowered her head. “I’m sorry to disturb you. I know you are busy preparing for the trip, but Monsieur Zidane is not returning my calls. He says the decision is made. A violent criminal record, he said. That wasn’t Luc, I told him, that was the drugs. Yes, Luc was angry and confused, but it was the drugs that made him desperate.”
Drugs and violence, Amanda thought with dismay. “Has he done jail time?”
Perhaps the woman saw the door swinging shut, for her eyes hardened. “Yes, but—” 
“How many times?”
“Only once—”
“How many convictions?”
“Why do you people only pay attention to the bad? Why did Luc take drugs? To feel happier, to forget his father’s rejection. That’s what’s important. Luc needs some hope, some light to shine on his world.”
“But the drugs, Madame Prevost—”
“Please. Ghyslaine. He’s clean now. It is Monsieur Zidane himself who counselled him and said he’s better. Then suddenly he turns his back on him, just when Luc was finally beginning to trust him. What kind of counsellor does that? It was like a rejection all over again!”
“How long has he been clean?”
“This time, three months.”
This time. Not a promising sign. Amanda’s heart felt heavy as she steeled herself to face the woman. “You understand that we cannot have any risk of drug use or violence on the trip? We will be five days in the wilderness, living together in tents, without Internet and out of touch with help. That’s part of the experience.”
“There are satellite phones,” Ghyslaine said.
“Only for extreme emergencies. The group is fragile, Ghyslaine. I have to protect all of them, some recently arrived from violent homelands. There are other groups more suited to teens with your son’s problems.”
“Sure. Throw him in with a bunch of druggies and gangsters. That will help him find the path!”
At the woman’s sharp tone, Kaylee raised her head and edged away. Amanda couldn’t argue with the mother’s logic, so she searched for a more positive answer. The woman, and her son, needed help, and Amanda hated to turn her back. Had always hated to turn her back on need.
Ghyslaine took her silence as refusal, for she stood up and reached for her parka. “Monsieur Zidane only cares about the Muslims. That’s his loyalty. Luc is a spoiled little Canadian brat who doesn’t know what real suffering is.”
Amanda mentally reviewed the list of the twelve candidates. A small niggle of doubt took hold. Had Zidane deliberately turned his back on a needy young man, simply because the boy was Canadian? Amanda had found the counsellor guarded and inscrutable, but the college had been effusive in its praise of his work. It was true there were several Middle Eastern and North African names, but then the college Zidane worked at was in a largely immigrant area. That was one of the reasons she’d chosen it. Immigrant children struggled to feel at home in Canada and often had no chance to experience the rugged charms of their chosen land, which was so removed from the hot, crowded countries they had left behind.

 

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The Whisper of Legends

The Whisper of Legends

An Inspector Green Mystery
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
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This Thing of Darkness

This Thing of Darkness

An Inspector Green Mystery
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook eBook
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