About the Author

R.M. Greenaway

RM Greenaway has been a waitress and a darkroom technician, and also worked in probation. She travelled B.C. as a court reporter, and writes a crime series set in the province featuring the barely compatible RCMP detectives Cal Dion and David Leith. Her first novel, Cold Girl, won the 2014 Arthur Ellis Unhanged award. She lives in Nelson, B.C.

Books by this Author
B.C. Blues Crime 4-Book Bundle

B.C. Blues Crime 4-Book Bundle

Flights and Falls / Creep / Undertow / Cold Girl
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Cold Girl

Cold Girl

A B.C. Blues Crime Novel
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also available: Paperback
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Creep

Creep

A B.C. Blues Crime Novel
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Excerpt

Only distance had shut up Jack Randall. After the footbridge over Lynn Creek had come boardwalks and rustic stairs, then tree roots, boulders, and now a steadily rising incline. The October rain was coming down — not the second flood Randall had predicted, palm out in the parking lot, but a meanish drizzle. In the time it took to pause, unzip his patrol jacket, and swear at the sky, Dion’s new partner had gone charging ahead, invisible but for the reflective stripes on his uniform.
There was no hurry, in Dion’s mind. Somewhere up the path a dead man waited, growing cold, but a minute here or there hardly mattered. It wasn’t a crime, according to the dispatch. What it sounded like was an unfit man who had hiked himself to death. Happens.
But Randall was new at this, and ambitious — he’d even said so — and was probably hoping for a startling turn of events, a knife in the back or bullet hole in the temple. What he was going to find was everyday tragedy.
Dion had met Randall half an hour ago, their introductions made in the shadows of the parkade as they responded to the call-out, but already he knew more than he needed about the man. Randall hadn’t stopped talking from the moment he’d turned the key till — well, the distance now growing between them had put an end to it.
Randall was twenty-four, a few years younger than Dion. Born in Chilliwack, raised in Surrey, started his career in the central interior. Then, just days ago, he’d lucked into this North Shore posting, which he thought was great. He hoped he would get to stay a while. The plan was to work his way into the Serious Crimes Section, where he could put his brains to good use. He had good brains — he’d said that, too.
Dion pushed on. Rain spattered on his forage cap and his shoulders, on cedar boughs and pathway, and before his eyes, the remaining daylight dimmed. There had been no second flashlight in the boot of the cruiser, and all he had was the penlight on his belt, so when a halo blossomed around Randall’s silhouette ahead — the little bastard had finally switched on the truncheon-sized Maglite — Dion jogged to share the illuminated path.
Randall heard him huffing and turned to stare. “You okay there?”
Aside from this summer’s trouble which had landed him back on uniformed patrol with a loudmouth rookie like Jack Randall, much like when he’d left Depot ten years ago, yes, Dion was okay. “I’m fine,” he said. “Why?”
“We’re leaving the senior’s path now,” Randall said, grinning. He was short but fit. Round-faced, with ginger-gold bangs poking out from under his cap, wire-rimmed glasses, and easy enough in this spanking-new relationship to mock his partner. “Might get a little tougher from here on.”
It did get tougher, but not for long. Their destination appeared between trees, a blot of light. In the distance, Dion counted three figures standing around a mound of shiny fabric. One of the figures appeared to have two heads, but as he caught up, he realized it was two people glommed together in the twilight.
Randall was talking to a medic when Dion arrived. The mound was a body lying on the ground, covered in a foil blanket. Rain thumped on the foil, danced, and splashed. The glommed-together couple resolved into two teenagers in a tight embrace, a boy and girl in rain gear, their hoods up. A second paramedic stood apart, talking on a satellite radio. Everybody winced against the falling rain.
The first medic was saying to Randall, “… Just time and place, you know, thought it’d be a good idea if you guys took a look.”
“Sure,” Randall said. “What’s the story?”
“Probably heart gave out. Name is Aldobrandino Rosetti, fifty-two years old.”
Randall asked to take a look.
“Yes. Just watch what you say. Those are his kids. They found him. Came looking for him when he didn’t get home by dinnertime.”
Dion heard the teenagers murmuring to each other. He heard the word Mom repeated. He looked up the path Aldobrandino Rosetti had apparently come down, a dark tunnel through a wall of old-growth trees. Crazy idea to hike alone, and so late in the day. The victim must have collapsed as daylight waned, when the path had cleared of other hikers. Otherwise someone would have come upon him, reported the find. Nobody had. He might have lain here all night, if his kids hadn’t gone out searching.
Randall leaned over to pull back the blanket, using his flashlight to look up and down the dead man’s body. He checked the pockets for a phone and found one. Dion leaned forward to see what he could of the dead man. He caught a flash of grey-green cargo shorts and a fat, pale elbow flopped to the dirt. Randall lowered the blanket and went to talk to the kids.
Randall introduced himself to the young Rosettis. He got their names, address, and contact information, while Dion configured penlight and notebook to take it down. Randall asked the teens about their father, what brought him here, how they’d come to find him. Wetness choked up Dion’s pen, and he interrupted Randall, more with sign language than words, that this was all stuff they could ask later — in the patrol car, out of the rain — time not being of the essence here. He put away his notebook and asked what really mattered: “Does he have any history of heart trouble?”
“No, none,” the boy said. “His doctor told him to get more exercise. Like everything else he does, he went at it too fast, too hard. I should’ve slowed him down. I should’ve gone with him. I should’ve seen this coming.”
Randall said, “Shorts and a sweater. He doesn’t seem so well prepared.”
The boy and girl were silent a moment, looking at Randall, maybe thinking that criticizing their dad at a time like this was just nasty. Then the boy said, “He knew it was going to rain. His app told him. He loves his weather app.” “He loves all his apps,” the girl said.
Imitating the deeper voice of an older man, the boy said, “Is there an app for that?”
The girl burst out laughing and the boy started crying. Dion shifted his boots on the uneven ground and looked into the woods. He heard the girl say, “He aimed to be home long before the rain started. He was going to be home for dinner.”
Randall asked, “Any idea what else he took with him? Gear, packs, hat, camera?”
“He took his new pack, for sure. I guess his phone, wallet, keys. Lunch. Maybe extra clothes. Probably his camera. I don’t know,” the boy replied.
“Definitely his camera,” the girl said.
“You tried calling him, of course?”
“Of course. Went to voice mail.”
“Sure,” Randall said. “No signal up here, for starters. I don’t see a pack anywhere. Did you see it when you arrived?”
They shook their heads.
“Can you describe the pack?”
The boy described a cheapie from Bentley, black with grey detailing. Randall nodded at the kids, letting them go back to their private conversation. He shone his light at the ground near the dead man’s feet. He looked under the foil blanket again, then spoke to Dion, not quietly enough. “No blood, eh. No wounds.”
The distance between Randall’s mouth and the kids’ ears was too short, in Dion’s opinion. He agreed with Randall that there was no obvious sign of injury and asked the kids to move away, please. They did as told, went to stand behind the paramedics.
Randall crouched to study the earth around Rosetti’s body. The path was sodden now, pooling in places, and smothered in a reddish-brown carpet of conifer needles. The carpet appeared to be disturbed under Randall’s probing light beam. “Looks like he gave the ground a good kicking. Must be hell when that thing gives up, eh? The heart.” He scanned his light about, into the flashing rain, the woods, the undergrowth as far as the rays could reach, then along the path down which Rosetti must have come rushing before his collapse. “So where’s this famous pack?”

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Flights and Falls

Flights and Falls

A B.C. Blues Crime Novel
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Excerpt

Chapter 1: Tony
November 26

Constable Ken Poole wasn’t at his station, and his desk was a mess. File folders in a slithering heap, Post-it memos stuck to other Post-it memos, a half-empty bag of nachos. Pens and bull-clips, and to top it off, a caped action figurine of some kind overlooked it all, hands on hips.

Still no sign of Poole. Dion’s eyes wandered from the action figure to the file folders, to the label on the topmost folder. It read, “Tony Souza.”

Souza was the mystery on everybody’s mind these days. Young, handsome, healthy, a new recruit on the North Shore and on the job for less than a month before taking sudden leave, right off the rail of a high bridge. Dion had been shocked by the news, and like everybody else, he wondered why the man had done it.

Jumped.

Back at his own neat desk, he dropped into his chair and tried to work. He couldn’t recall ever meeting Souza, and only knew his face from the photographs in the paper. Maybe he had seen the man in passing, a hello in the hall?

Curiosity drove him back to Poole’s desk. Using his knuckle, as if a light touch made the act less culpable, he lifted the folder’s manila cover, just to see, and clipped to the front leaf was a photocopy of Souza’s last words. One short paragraph.

Don’t worry about me. I have gone to a better place, it started.

At yesterday’s service, snatches of conversation had told Dion more about Souza than the eulogies did. Souza had broken from his family’s strict religious tradition, had shrugged off heaven and hell, simply wasn’t a church-going guy.

Dion read the rest of the note, and saw it contained anger: To mom and dad and Sonny, I’m sorry. To everybody else, I’m not. Sonny was Sonia, Tony’s sister. She had spoken at the service, saying her brother was much loved and would be missed. If she had any idea why Tony had ended his life, she hadn’t shared that knowledge. Nobody had.

Neither did anybody ask Dion to care — but how could he not? Death by suicide was always tragic. It was the crime that so oft en went unsolved. It was worrisome, too. What if the person had stepped into oblivion because they had stumbled upon the fundamental, bottom-line truth about the meaning of life, like a message in a bottle, and that truth was too awful to bear?

He shrugged. As pointless as it might be, he would go over the note in his mind for a while, as he lay in bed or ate breakfast or warmed up his car, trying to understand its incongruities. If Souza had found God, as the “better place” suggested, the discovery had not done much for him. The proof was in the fall. Souza blamed everybody but his immediate family for his unbearable pain, but Dion suspected that the everybody could be narrowed down to a somebody.

Still, Souza was not his brother, not his case, and none of his business, and his death would not haunt him for long. In these moments of pondering, though, he had to wonder if the new recruit blamed the force for his troubles. He wouldn’t be surprised.

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River of Lies
Excerpt

February 1

Tasha looked at the toes of her new boots and worried. Her workday was done. She had pushed open the school’s service door, checked outside, and shut it again with a shiver. Indoors was all brightness and warmth, but outside ’twas definitely a dark and stormy night.

Shouldn’t have changed from her grubby work shoes into these beauties till she got to Shaun’s apartment. The school’s parking lot would be riddled with puddles, and the boots were special; over-the-knee burnished-gold faux suede. The fabric wouldn’t take mud well.

She had chosen to wear the new boots for Shaun, along with her favourite slinky dress. She wanted to show up at his doorstep looking like a princess, not an off-duty janitor. Because it was February, the month of romance, and he was going out of his way to make her feel special. Only the first of the month and he’d already dropped off a sparkly, heart-smothered Hallmark card. No, appearing at his doorstep in sloppy work clothes was not an option.

She blew out a breath. Tonight would be their fourth date, and she expected there would be sex involved. Like last time, what he had called dynamite, and what she called painful. Shaun was a tad too big for her, when it came to sex.

She thought about the card he’d given her. Her friends said it was charming, and she supposed it was. She wondered if he would carry out his threat of delivering a pre–Valentine’s Day card every day till the fourteenth, a sort of twelve-days-of-Christmas shtick.

Honestly.

They were both in their midthirties, hardly kids anymore. She hoped that in the long run she would get used to his charm and that their relationship would build into something solid. Her parents were looking at her with that loud, unspoken question, Why are you still single? Same question from her friends. Same question from herself, really, because she wanted a husband and lots of kids, and none of that would drop out of the blue if she didn’t do her bit.

She pushed the service door open farther and took another peek at the sky. The rain had stopped, and she decided that instead of changing back to her runners, she would simply avoid the puddles, walk with care. She left the warmth and safety of the school and took her first tentative steps across the asphalt. So far so good — the basketball courtyard was fairly smooth and puddle-free. But ahead stretched the chain-link fence that separated finished ground from unfinished, and that’s where it was going to get gross.

Under lamplight a new worry sprang on her, more serious than the fear of muddy boots — the sense that she was being followed.

Tasha wasn’t easily frightened. Always aware, always prepared, that was the key to survival. She glanced over her shoulder, then did an about-face and stopped. Over by the school’s main entrance, had something just moved, sliding behind one of the support posts? She sniffed, wrinkled her nose, caught the faintest whiff of burning marijuana.

Just some kids. They hung out under the shelter there, sneaking smokes, craving danger, as kids will do. Even at this time of night and in this horrible weather.

She went on her way, thinking she actually wouldn’t mind a bit of danger herself. Not a huge amount, just enough to give her something to tell Shaun, ’cause sex and food, that’s all he seemed to care about, and not necessarily in that order. Spin up a tale, start a conversation, mix it up a bit. She was already framing the narrative as she reached the gate to the gravel parking lot. She saw it was polka-dotted with puddles, worse than she expected. It wasn’t a big school, not a huge parking area, space enough for maybe fifty cars. Of course there weren’t fifty cars here at this time of night. Just two.

Two?

Hers and who else’s?

A long black sedan. Unoccupied. It was parked near the rear entrance that led to the school’s lower level. She had been the only one on the premises, she was quite sure. No office lights burned, no late meetings underway. But a staff member might have left their car, got a ride with somebody. Teachers drank a lot, she’d been told. Maybe someone had decided they’d pick up their wheels in the morning. She gave one more look around before setting foot on the gravel. At the far end of the lot and all along one side was a smudge of forest. A little scary.

Careful what you wish for.

She had her keys in hand, in readiness to beep open the doors, and thought about her best friend’s self-defence tip. Hold your keys like this, pointy ends out, not a bad set of brass knuckles in a pinch. Second line of defence of course was the Toyota’s alarm button, which she sometimes set off by mistake, making herself and everyone around her jump.

This creepy guy was following me, her exciting story would go. I had to outrun him. Barely made it to my car. Luckily I set my key alarm going and he ran off.

Silly to spook herself like this. She was now moving forward, stop and go, tippy-toeing around bodies of mud-grey water. Heavy winter rains had flooded the lot and the puddles spread out, broad and gleaming. Behind her the chain-link gave a metallic shiver. She could hear traffic. She could see the lights of houses in the distance. A far cry from solitude, but in a way she might as well be on Mars.

The school entranceway looked so distant now. Nobody creeping or crawling about. She laughed aloud at her own tall tale of danger, faced her car once more and stopped. She peered through the darkness, not believing her eyes. Only a stone’s throw away now she saw the front right tire was flat. Flat as a pancake.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” she cried.

“Hey, what’s up?” somebody called out.

She whirled. A twitch of her fingers set off the fob alarm and the car’s horn went mad, onn-onn-onn. She yanked the keys from her pocket and pressed the red button. Silence, except the soft whish of the wind playing around her ears.

“Sorry,” she said. The pounding of her heart slowed, and she smiled at the man. He hadn’t been inside the black car, so must have come up from behind her. If he’d been a stranger she’d be busy forming her brass knuckles. But she recognized him. He was a nice guy. They had exchanged friendly hellos in the halls.

She snugged her coat around her tighter, hugged her handbag. The wind was awful, trying to knock her sideways. Her neck felt cold and vulnerable. She beeped open her car to grab a scarf off the passenger seat. Slammed the door shut and said,“Whatcha doing here this time of night?”

“Had to pick up something. Papers. You know.”

He must have arrived as she left, dashed in, grabbed the docket he held under his arm.

He wasn’t as tall as Shaun. Older than Shaun, more serious. Not bad looking. She’d seen him in the halls. What did he teach? Something interesting, like science or social studies, she’d bet. Was he single?

She focused on the flat tire. He followed the direction of her stare and pulled a clownish face of horror. Just being funny. Kind of corny, but it made her laugh.

Laughing felt good. She always laughed at Shaun’s jokes, but sometimes it took effort.

She wondered if this teacher’s life was as humdrum as hers, that a flat tire late at night was the most excitement he’d had in a while. Maybe this chance encounter would lead to a conversation, then to friendship, then to something valuable.

Unlikely, but things like that did happen, didn’t they?

“So,” he said, done being funny.“Sabotage, or bad luck?”

“I’m guessing sabotage. I know who did it, too. And I bet I know why.”

He raised his brows at that.“No kidding? Tell me all about it. But first let’s get going on this flat of yours. Got a spare?”

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Undertow

Undertow

A B.C. Blues Crime Novel
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also available: eBook
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Excerpt

One
Bitter End

Lance Liu was beginning to believe he wasn’t dead after all. He hurt all over, he couldn’t see too well, and couldn’t seem to move. But if he were dead, he would be pain-free, wouldn’t he? And probably serene, and looking down a tunnel of warm, bright light. He was distinctly being and doing none of that.
So he had survived. He blew out a shaky breath. He blinked at the murk above, all dark and dribbly, spattering erratic raindrops on his face. The tree was pissing on him, like it hadn’t done enough already. All around was tall grass, bushes. The bushes made him nervous. Would be nice to have his vision back. Damned shenanigans.
What had his mom always said?
Coming events cast their shadows before them.
Or I told you so.
After tonight, he was going to make some major changes in his life. Maybe return to church. He wanted to bring a hand to the side of his head and feel the damage, but couldn’t. Tried to shift his legs but couldn’t. Just needed to calm himself a bit. He tried to pray, stretched out under the giant tree that had smacked him twice. “Dear God,” he whispered, doing his best, because his best was all God required. “Forgive me my — ” but a noise stopped him. He listened hard.
A car sped past above, wet tires on wet road. Was that the noise he heard? He struggled to turn that way. He shouted out, “Hey! Help!”
The car was gone. Didn’t see his vehicle down there, didn’t see trouble, wouldn’t come to his rescue. Nobody would come to his rescue. The panic surged through him like a low-grade electric shock. He couldn’t keep lying there. He needed to get back to the family, make sure they were safe. He managed to flop a knee, up and down, and up again. Good. Not paralyzed.
He made more resolutions as he worked his other leg back to life and flexed his hands. Never rise to a taunt again.
That was what put him in this ditch. Taunts. The SUV dripped privilege, just glared cash — a big, boxy black-and-chrome Hummer telling him I’m rich; you’re a blue-collar shithead. All he had wanted was to level the field, make a buck, and take that guy down a notch. No face-to-face confrontation. No bloodshed. No harm done.
Didn’t happen that way.
* * *
How did it happen? Lance picked up the tail in Deep Cove, as instructed. He was led around town a bit, stopping at the liquor store, and a KFC, and finally hitting the Upper Levels. All good, just two trucks tootling along the highway. Where it went wrong was the Hummer taking an off-ramp, up a sparsely trafficked two-laner, leaving Lance exposed and vulnerable. That would have been a really good time to back off. But he didn’t.
The Hummer sprinted away, topping a hundred in a sixty zone. Lance did his best to keep the vehicle in sight, trying to tail without looking like a tail. The Hummer swerved hard through a hairpin. Lance took the curve more cautiously, but his tires still squealed. At that point he was hit by an epiphany. “I don’t need this,” he declared. He dropped back so the Hummer’s wide-ass tail lights ahead shrank and converged into the darkness. “We don’t need this. Nobody needs this. I’m calling it off. Not just this, but all of it. Pack it in, moving back to Cowtown, with or without you, man.”
The you, man was Sig — the Sig Blatt in his mind, his business partner and pal. Moving west was Sig’s idea, just like this Hummer business. The Sig in his mind was peeved, a pale, blotchy face telling him to stay on that Hummer’s ass. Lance switched him off and spoke to Cheryl instead, the other reason for this move.
Cheryl’s pressure was more a passive insistence. A prairie girl who thought it would be so cool to live on the very edge of the Pacific Rim. “See what I’m doing here?” he told her. “Never had this kind of baloney in Calgary, did we?” He was based in Airdrie, not Calgary, but from this distance — way over on the West Coast — Calgary and Airdrie pretty well converged to a point on the map. “And all this so you could wade in the waves. Well, you waded, didn’t you? Then you said it was cold and dirty and you wanted to go home. One flippin’ day at the beach. Big moves like this don’t come for free. D’you have any idea what that walk on the beach cost us?” He made up a number. “Five hundred dollars a millisecond worth of walk on the beach. No way, princess. I’ve had it. I’m gonna beg Ray for the job back, and we’re outta here tomorrow.”
Sig popped back into view, still griping. But in the end, Sig would pull up stakes, too. He would follow Lance back to Morice & Bros. Electric (1997), and their cheapskate boss Ray Duhammond. Sig would get it, eventually. They just weren’t cut out to be businessmen.
The tail lights were back in sight, for some reason, and growing larger. The Hummer had slowed right down. Lance did, too. He slapped at his jacket pockets, then the seat beside him, piled with receipts, grubby boxes of connectors, a tangle of hand-tools. He found his iPhone and thumbed the home button. A colourful, glowing line indicated his phone-servant was listening. He snarled at her: “Siri. Call fucking Sig.”
Red blazed at the side of the road ahead and to his right, smeared by rain and darkness. The Hummer had pulled over and was parked on the shoulder. Lance drove past, not giving a fig any more who was in that Hummer or what he, she, they, or it was up to. Siri apologized and said she didn’t understand his request. He started to repeat, “Call Sig,” without the eff-word, but headlights popped up in his rear-view mirror, then pitched and straightened and expanded.
The Hummer was beginning to scare him.
It was now coming up on his rear, and by the way those headlights were spreading like a couple of supernovas, it was coming fast. He sighed in relief as the Hummer pulled into the oncoming lane and tore past. Passed on a solid line, it was in such a hurry. Why the rush? There was nothing up there but forest, rock wall, and more forest.
He didn’t care. He was off the case. He slowed further, on the lookout for a good place to pull a U-ey, and in the distance red dots flared. The fickle-hearted Hummer had put on its brakes. Again. A knot tightened in Lance’s gut. White backup lights glared. The Hummer had thrown itself into reverse and was moving. Seemed to be moving fast, too.
Lance swore aloud. He flashed his high beams. He leaned on his horn. He tried steering forward into the oncoming lane, but the road was narrow, and the SUV was wigwagging, hogging the centre, blocking him.
This wasn’t a freak accident. It was an attack.

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