About the Author

Mark Lisac

Mark is a writer living in Edmonton, Alberta. Originally from Hamilton, Ontario, he began working as a journalist in Regina in 1973, moved to Edmonton in 1978 to join The Canadian Press as a reporter-editor, became provincial affairs columnist at the Edmonton Journal in 1987, and was publisher and editor of an independent political newsletter from 2005 to 2013. He has since been a freelance editor and written novels, the first being Where the Bodies Lie, which was shortlisted for the 2017 Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award for best first novel. He edited a collection of speeches by former Alberta lieutenant-governor Lois Hole, titled Lois Hole Speaks, and wrote two books about Alberta politics, The Klein Revolution and Alberta Politics Uncovered, the latter winning the Writers Guild of Alberta Wilfred Eggleston Award for Nonfiction in 2005. He enjoys the work of many authors, including David Adams Richards; his favourite authors of mysteries/thrillers include Ross Macdonald, K.C. Constantine, Nicolas Freeling, Dorothy Sayers, and Josephine Tey.

Books by this Author
Image Decay

Image Decay

also available: eBook
tagged : political, legal
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The river slid underneath him. The water was nearly clear over the gravel bars. Over the deeper hollows and channels it folded in slowly undulating ribbons of olive and light brown. The surface looked like camouflage fabric with something alive underneath it. Some of the greens bordered on dirty blue but all the currents had the tint of suspended mud or dead leaves.

It did not look like it was flowing hard. Random twigs floated by faster than his normal walking pace, passing out of sight under the bridge. There was still laziness to it.

Not like the Niagara, which he remembered as cold, blue and terrifyingly muscular.

The light was not the same either. In the early September sun, the air here had lost the diamond hardness of midsummer and had taken on the clear, washed-out quality of faded jeans. Not the soft haze usually visible around the Great Lakes. Not the faint golden promise of the air in California. He could have lived in either of those places. He had chosen instead this pre-cast concrete city, frozen half the year, slovenly with litter and dust the other half, in denial about its nature always.

"What am I doing here?" Ostroski thought.

He stopped. Had he spoken the words out loud? He could not remember when he had started mumbling his thoughts, or when he had stopped being embarrassed about it.

His mind wandered in other ways, he knew. Faded jeans. Sky like faded jeans. Why did they have to be faded? When had they stopped making powder blue?

Sweat started trickling down his back. The sun had swung onto his side of the bridge and his jacket was now too warm but there was too much risk trying to take it off. He rubbed his back against one of the iron girders, its black paint starting to peel and rust starting to show around the peeled patches and the rivets.

He looked at his hostage. She had short brown hair, darkening toward black in a few patches. Her liquid brown eyes met his. They looked alternately nervous and angry.

He did not flinch from her gaze. If he had to, he would throw her over the railing. He had already threatened to do it once to keep the cops back. He thought he would need about one second--two at most--to send her dropping straight like an elevator into the water. It would probably take another two or three seconds for her to hit. She might survive. You never knew.

He reasoned the cops would not shoot him because there was too much chance of hitting her. But he would have to do it fast. They might try to shock him with a flash grenade or tear gas. The big plainclothes cop who had got close to him to talk might have decide to rush up and grab him.

He hoped they would find the lawyer or Adela soon. He was willing to talk to one of them, although even they would have to keep their distance. He did not want to send the girl sailing in a short arc and then straight down through the washed-out air and onto the surface of the river. Onto, not into. He guessed after a drop like that it might feel more like concrete than like water. He didn't want to do it. It had already been a tough life for her. That idiot had named her Mitzi."Don't worry, Mitzi," he said. "I'm not asking for much. They'll see reason."

She tilted her head slightly with curiosity on hearing him talk. What he had hoped would be reassuring words seemed to have little effect. She was probably getting irritable with hunger. She was bored, too, getting squirmy. At least she wasn't drooling much. He hoped her boredom and nervousness did not slide into aggression. He didn't like the look of her pointed teeth. Her voice was snarly, too. That was even more disturbing.

"Goddamn dachshunds," he thought. The nastiest, most short-tempered kind of dogs he could think of. He would rather have been holding onto the leash of a small pit bull, or anything else light enough to lift over the edge. Just like that smug moron to breed dachshunds and think they're lovable.

Just like me to start concentrating on the goddamn squirming dog and forget how fast even a big cop could get to me, he thought as he heard shoes scratch on concrete. He felt the big cop slamming into him. He dropped the dog as a twisted and toppled to the sidewalk, scraping a knee and elbow. He lay still and tired as the shock of the collision and the fall seeped through him.

Mitzi stepped up and licked his face. She was snarly, but not one to hold grudges. It was the most physical affection he had known in twelve years.

On the ninth floor of a nearby administrative tower a grey wraith of a man's silhouette let vertical blinds drop back into place. He had looked out to check the weather and been held by the drama taking place down on the bridge walk. Disorder mesmerized him. He had spent most of his last fifty years struggling to keep life under control, keep it as neat as the files in his office and the art collections he now supervised. He looked at his reflection in the glass covering a pen-and-ink drawing of an 1880s-era homestead on the wall across from his plain mahogany desk. He saw his metal-rimmed spectacles and thinning hair and flat, expressionless mouth, but he could not see past that surface detail. Nor did he want to.

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Where the Bodies Lie


Asher looked down at the blond oak bench. It reminded him of the church pews he had sat in as a kid during church services, and later at funerals and weddings.

It was hard and noncommittal. The law was more alive. The law kept evolving. It was a tree of words with branches that grew, and bent in the wind. The bench sat there hard and unchanging year after year.

He looked at the prosecutor's black cloak. She was leafing through a binder, making sure she asked all her questions. Asher knew her to be conscientious and fun to talk to. She would be thinking of the Caribbean about this time of year but he was sure she had put the thoughts of a warm blue beach out of her mind as soon as she walked into the room with her meticulous background materials.

He glanced to his right and saw two women and a man whose worn department-store clothes set them apart from the young political staffers, reporters, and lawyers scattered around the public gallery. These three older people would be part of the regular spectator crowd, a small group of pensioners who showed up every day. For them, there was no such thing as a boring trial. They had decided real life delivered more blood-and-guts thrills than any courtroom show on television.

One of the women had a beehive hairdo, the first Asher had seen in years. Her hair was mostly white but there were traces of the blonde it had once been. The strong, flat structure of her face stood out with her hair pulled back. She had large, round glasses. She was smiling.

Asher thought this was what the knitters watching the guillotines during the French Revolution must have looked like. The only difference was the women knitting at the guillotines had real grievances worming around inside them. The court spectators felt only boredom -- so much boredom that they were willing to sit quietly through long stretches of meaningless, half-heard words in order to be present at the kill.

The other woman in the group glanced at him as if she had felt his stare. The glance became a full look. Her brown eyes shone like burnished chestnuts. Asher felt an attraction. So this is what it's come to, he thought. Now I'm interested in older women.

He looked up at Turlock in the witness box. The spectators' faces were still. Turlock's was immobile. He had dark eyes and a dark shadow of beard that could never be shaved close enough to lose its colour against his skin. Asher remembered those dark eyes had never spilled much emotion other than suspicion. Now they had no suspicion because Turlock knew who was playing what role and what was coming. He didn't need to calculate and prepare anymore. He simply needed to last out the insults.

The judge rotated his gaze constantly from the prosecutor, to Turlock and to the surface of the desk in front of him. He had once been the subject of rumours about a teenage girl he had represented when he'd been a defence lawyer. Now he had perfected the blank judicial mask so completely that it was difficult to believe he would ever feel or risk anything again.

Asher wondered if the judge would call a recess or if the prosecutor would ask for a break. They had heard plenty of evidence. Turlock's lawyer had heard enough to sink into a quizzical gloom, his chin resting on his right hand. Asher had heard nothing that interested him.

The prosecutor turned a page of her binder. Asher looked at her nondescript brown hair, cut to just above the shoulders of the cloak. He hadn't seen her face in at least thirty minutes. He had long been intrigued by the way her cute snub nose contrasted with her coarsened cheeks, which looked perpetually windburnt.

She began her next question and Asher felt his body suddenly hum into attention. He flicked his gaze back to Turlock.

Turlock kept still in his seat and tried to look matter-of-fact as he explained that yes, he had killed Apson and then explained why. But the leaden shadow on Turlock's face shifted slightly as his cheeks tightened and the dark eyes glittered and expanded just enough. Asher knew he had found what he needed.

Turlock said, "He had the brains of a gopher. That's what you do with gophers -- run 'em over with your truck."

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Lois Hole Speaks

Lois Hole Speaks

Words that Matter
by Lois Hole
edited by Mark Lisac
foreword by Jim Edwards, PC
tagged : political
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