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Summer Suspense

By 49thShelf
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New gripping reads to get your hands on this summer.
Heart of the City

Heart of the City

also available: Paperback
tagged : thrillers

In the latest thrilling crime novel from bestselling author Robert Rotenberg, Homicide Detective Ari Greene discovers the bludgeoned body of Toronto’s most reviled developer behind his controversial new construction site.

When Detective Ari Greene was charged with the murder of the woman he loved, he stopped at nothing to clear his name and uncover the real killer. After his acquittal, Greene fled to London to get away from it all, but now he’s back. And he’s not alone—with Greene is his …

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Glass Houses

Glass Houses

A Novel
also available: Paperback Paperback

An instantNew York Times Bestsellerand August 2017 LibraryReads pick!
“Penny’s absorbing, intricately plotted 13th Gamache novel proves she only gets better at pursuing dark truths with compassion and grace.” —PEOPLE
“Louise Penny wrote the book on escapist mysteries.” —The New York Times Book Review
“You won't want Louise Penny's latest to end….Any plot summary of Penny’s novels inevitably falls short of conveying the dark magic of this series.... It takes nerve and skill …

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The Party

The Party

A Novel

Robyn Harding’s domestic drama, hailed as “tense and riveting” by Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author of All the Missing Girls, explores the aftermath of a sweet sixteen birthday party that goes horribly awry, as the members of a wealthy family in San Francisco find their picture-perfect life unraveling, their darkest secrets revealed, and their friends turned to enemies.

One invitation. A lifetime of regrets.
Sweet sixteen. It’s an exciting coming-of-age, a milestone, and a …

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Be Ready for the Lightning

Be Ready for the Lightning


From acclaimed New Face of Fiction alumna Grace O'Connell, a suspenseful, poignant and provocative tale about violence, sibling love, friendship, heroism--all told through the lens of a young woman trapped in a hijacked bus.

On the surface, Veda's life in Vancouver seems to be going just fine--at nearly thirty, she has a good job, lifelong friends, and a close bond with her brother, Conrad. But Conrad's violent behavior, a problem since he was a teen, is getting more and more serious, and Veda's …

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I’ve never been shot. I’ve never even seen a gun up close, other than my father’s hunting rifles up at the cabin. And those old .22s, with their wooden stocks, are more like something from Davey Crockett than Quentin Tarantino.

He took Conrad into the woods to shoot sometimes—my dad, not Quentin Tarantino. Muffled booms from deep in the trees. It was just pop cans off stumps, and once, on a whim, the slowest, dumbest rabbit. Tears from Connie afterwards.

They didn’t invite me into the woods to shoot. It wasn’t because I’m a girl. Just an assumption that I wouldn’t have wanted to go. They were right. I wouldn’t have.

I get on the city bus that day in April after running three blocks down Fifth Avenue, along the side of Central Park. I’ve been in New York a couple of months already, but there’s still a part of me, a dorky tourist part, that can only think I’m running down Fifth Avenue. I’m running beside Central Park as I go. A numbskull commentary of the obvious.

I’m wearing my shoes that got ruined in the rain. They’re half-slipping off my feet, but the bus is almost at the stop, so I run past souvenir stands and lemonade carts and a pile of seemingly discarded blue wooden slats telling me sternly, “Police Line Do Not Cross.” It’s unseasonably hot in Manhattan, and I’m sweating in my pits, down my back and a little where my bra meets my skin.

On the bus, there isn’t an open seat except where I would have to really squeeze in beside someone, which I don’t like, so I just stand. I hang from the clammy pull-down handle, swinging and swaying around. I bump into a moustached man beside me and apologize.

He says, “Don’t worry dear,” and my homesick heart gives a little jump, because that is something my dad would say, the dear. I can almost hear him saying it, the faded Irish lilt buttering the edges of his voice. When I’m away from them, I miss a version of my parents
that doesn’t really exist, a sort of cuddly perfect-family nostalgia. Maybe I’m not the only one; maybe this is why people leave, move on, put distance between themselves and where they’re from—so they can miss a Vaseline-lens version of things.

Central Park goes on forever. Just before we pass by the Met and its grand entrance, a crowd of kids gets off the bus with a woman herding them, probably a teacher. There’s a playground peeking out above the stone wall of the park. I don’t know why—I don’t get sappy about
kids usually—but it makes me smile. 

After the kids go, there’s enough room to sit, but I don’t bother. Neither does the moustache man. I feel attached to him, as if we are friends. I do this with strangers all the time. I do it with cars that I drive behind on the highway for a long time. I get sad when they exit.

A tall guy, one of those slab-of-meat Russian types, gets on the bus and sits down in one of the spaces vacated by the children. He’s talking loudly into a cell phone.

“Yeah, I’m on the M1 now, I’ll be there when I’m there, it’s good. Doesn’t matter, anyway, she wouldn’t even let me pick him up, like picking him up is something so big, too big for me apparently. It’s some bullshit, but what am I supposed to do? I got my mom to do it,
apparently that was okay, even she wouldn’t say no to my mom—”

A professorial-looking man across the aisle makes a shh sound and says, quietly, “Could you keep your voice down? You’re disturbing everyone.”

Without even moving the phone away from his mouth, the first man says, even louder, “Don’t tell me to shh, I ain’t disturbing anyone but you.” The two of them glare at one another for a second, and I get tense all over. I hate fights. There is that swollen, pre-storm feeling that crackles between men sometimes. Then the smaller guy drops his eyes, and the loud one returns to his call, and there is an air of relief and emasculation around the man who complained.

In the seat in front of him, two teenagers are taking photos of each other with a phone.

The girl says, “What’s it called? Photographic memory? I totally want that.”

And the boy says, “Anyone can do it, it’s easy.”

“No, it’s not, you have to be born with it.”

“No, you can learn it. You need these special lights, and there’s a book that teaches you how. My sister told me about it.”

At this the girl looks cowed, impressed. Then the boy points the phone at her, and she smiles again.

I’m looking out the window, somewhere in the lower fifties or upper forties, watching a man take a photo of his wife on the sidewalk as she pantomimes throwing her umbrella into a trash can.
I picture them torturing their nieces and nephews with a computer slideshow of those photos, when they get home. Why take a picture like that? Celebrating the end of the rain, the beautiful
day? I guess I opted for the bus over the subway for the same reason, and because I don’t like being underground, and because
I’m not in a hurry.

I haven’t been in a hurry since I got to New York. I’m filling my hours, wandering around, tutoring kids who are either too dumb for me to ever get them where their anxious parents want them to end up, or too smart to need me. I prefer the dumb ones. I can comfort them, and some of them have already developed appealing compensations for their dumbness—humour or charm or selfdeprecation. They know that they’re not going to make their parents happy. The smart ones are sadder, more desperate. They want to be even smarter than they are; they are already worried about being anything less than perfect.

One girl asked me to write a college essay for her. I was confused, because she’s one of the brightest kids I tutor. I knew whatever she wrote would be good. “Not good enough,” she said, her perfectly smooth hands twisting together on the dining room table. “I’ll pay you. I have my own account. How much do you want?” Sounding slightly manic, she started listing the things she could give me: this purse or that cell phone; she could give me her brand-new laptop and tell her parents she lost it; did I want her coat, her shoes, her dresses? I didn’t take her money or her stuff, but it wasn’t because it would have been wrong. It was because I could tell this girl didn’t have it in her to lie well, to lie blandly and in that small way lies need to be told in order to be believed. That she would panic and throw me under the bus, when her parents said, “Is that what really happened?” That she was still missing the slightly rotten thing I’d found in myself that keeps you calm and flat when you should be sorry.

In Midtown, a guy gets on wearing a checked shirt under a long, heavy coat. His thin legs poke out from shorts below the coat, sport socks yanked up above tennis shoes. It is a heartbreaking outfit, a clash of boy and man. He must be so hot. Also, he’s sort of goodlooking, despite the weird clothes, one of those dark honey blonds, sharp-nosed with the sort of finely veined skin that looks like it would bruise easily.

After the door closes behind him, just as the bus begins to pull away from the curb, he reaches into his jacket and takes out a gun, leans over the fare box, around the Plexiglas shield, and points it at the driver’s head. The gun is big and sort of rectangular, like a cell phone from the ’80s.

“Stop the bus,” he says.

I only see and hear this because I’m close to the front; I’m already looking at him. He couldn’t be more than thirty, if that, the same age as me. The driver slams on the brakes, the bus lurches to a halt, and my body goes forward and then back. I bump into the moustache man again, who says, “Don’t worry, don’t worry, I’m not made of glass,” even though I didn’t say anything this time. He’s behind me and hasn’t yet seen the man with the gun. But an older woman in front of me, sitting in the courtesy seats, has, and she is making small noises.

“Pull it right over to the curb,” says the man, “and put your hands on your head. Don’t speak on your radio. Please.” His voice is lower than you’d expect from his size, his looks. A baritone, a radio voice.

Some people behind me are grumbling and saying, “What the fuck?” because they don’t know why the bus has stopped. And all of this so far has taken only seconds. The driver puts the bus in gear and it trundles to the right. One wheel goes up on the curb, and more passengers yell. What the fuck. Is this idiot drunk? Jesus Christ. The driver puts his hands on his head, and I can just see a scrap of his elbow jutting out to the side.

“Put it back in park,” says the man, and the driver does so, the elbow dipping out of sight momentarily. I can hear him speaking now. He says, “Just walk off, just go home. You’re okay, man, you’re okay. It’s nothing, really, nothing at all.”

I’m not really thinking anything right now. In the morning, I’d been walking around in the Met feeling strangely disconnected, as if I’d gone deaf. I was still worrying, irrationally, that what happened to my ear in B.C. had damaged my hearing, though logically I knew that my zonked feeling was probably just a hangover from the bar night I’d just had for my birthday with Al and Marie. I got the Met tickets from the parents of a boy I’m tutoring who’s wonderfully rich and woefully stupid. Technically, you can go to the museum for free, but they ask you to buy a ticket–you can choose any price, or none at all. The idea of just ignoring the request and swanning in without paying was too intimidating, but paying for a free museum seemed wasteful on my limited budget. The pre-paid ticket was easy, anonymous. If I told Annie that, she’d make fun of me. Spineless. I know it.

On the bus, in this moment, it’s too quick. The whole thing seems like something that is happening but also not happening. I feel like I’m floating. I still have the little metal badge from the Met clipped to the neckline of my dress, a summer dress I’m wearing, because it is so oddly warm today. The only tiny working corner of my brain theorizes that this might be some sort of extreme ad campaign or maybe a movie shoot (how, somehow). Or something terribly strange
but legitimate, allowed. It can’t be real. 

The gunman steps back a little, blinks a few times. He looks at the Plexiglas barrier that half-shields the driver’s seat. Then he shoots the driver in the head.

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Our Little Secret

Our Little Secret

also available: eBook Paperback Audiobook (CD)

For fans of In a Dark, Dark Wood and All the Missing Girls comes Our Little Secret, a compulsive and thrilling debut about a missing woman, a tangled love triangle, the secrets we keep and the secrets we share.

The detective wants to know what happened to Saskia, as if I could just skip to the ending and all would be well. But stories begin at the beginning and some secrets have to be earned.
Angela is being held in a police interrogation room. Her ex’s wife has gone missing and Detective Nova …

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When the Music's Over

When the Music's Over


By one of the world's top writers of crime fiction, When the Music's Over -- which takes on the sexual abuse of an adolescent girl by a celebrity in the entertainment world -- is one of Robinson's strongest to date.

When the body of a young girl is found in a remote countryside lane, evidence suggests she was drugged, abused, and thrown from a moving van -- before being beaten to death.
     While DI Annie Cabbot investigates the circumstances in which a 14-year-old could possibly fall victim t …

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

A heartbreaking set of murders bring detectives Leith and Dion together in the Lower Mainland, where violence flows like a riptide.

Last summer the inlet waters washed an unnamed woman’s body onto the rocks of North Vancouver’s Neptune shipyards. When RCMP Constable Cal Dion returns home after a year’s absence, he finds the case still open and grown cold.

While Dion works to fit back in and put closure to the Jane Doe drowning case, newly relocated Constable Dave Leith is learning to cope wi …

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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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Blood Count

Blood Count

A Crang Mystery
also available: Paperback

At a time when gay communities were hidden worlds, Crang needs to root out a killer and do his best to right a grave wrong.

At the height of the AIDS crisis in the early nineties, a close friend of Crang’s, Alex Corcoran, loses his partner, Ian, to the disease. After Ian’s death, Crang is enlisted by Alex to find the man who infected Ian. Crang searches for the man to prevent Alex from getting himself in trouble. However, when Alex is murdered, Crang owes it to his friends to find their kille …

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So many people turned out for the wake that it had overflowed up the stairs of the house and into my apartment. I own the house. It’s a duplex on the west side of Beverley Street across from Grange Park, behind the Art Gallery of Ontario. I live in the upper apartment and had rented the lower to two gay guys named Alex and Ian. Alex was the wake’s host, if host is the proper term for the person who’s left behind when his companion has died. Ian had died.
“I think Ian would have adored every minute of it,” Alex said.
“Except for the food,” I said. “Not up to Ian’s standards, the little bitty Simpsons sandwiches and those puffy cheese things.” “Oh, he’d have been absolutely appalled if he knew I had his wake catered.” Alex paused and got a reflective look. “Imagine what Ian would have done if he’d cooked for his very own wake. Pull out all the stops, I mean heaven.”
“Ian was divine in the kitchen,” Annie said. “Divine out of it, too.”
Annie is Annie B. Cooke, the woman in my life. She and I and Alex were sitting in my living room. It was about ten thirty. Everybody else had left. Plumes of cigarette smoke still floated in the air, and someone had planted a glass half full of Scotch and water on top of the stack of magazines on the pine table behind the sofa. The glass left a ring in the middle of Branford Marsalis’s face. He was on the cover of DownBeat.
“Smells like Rick’s American Café in here,” I said.
I walked across the room and lifted a window higher. A light May breeze wafted through the stale cigarette residue. “Practically every person we knew in the world came,” Alex said. “Ian would have loved that part.”
“Ian was a party guy,” I said.
Conversation was limping along. I didn’t mind. The idea was to keep Alex company, even if the company was limp. “Who was the dramatic-looking woman?” Annie asked Alex. “In the black with all the veils?”
“His mother.”
“Whose?” I said. “Ian had a mother?”
“She never gave up her dream that Ian would find the right girl and settle down. Old witch, she couldn’t abide me.”
“So that’s why, all the years you guys’ve been tenants, what, nine years and change, I never laid eyes on his mother?”
“Listen, dears,” Alex said, “we got off lucky. I was petrified Ian’s grandmother might attend today.”
“The tongue on her. She’s ninety-one. She phoned Ian at Casey House toward the end. He was all skin and bones and sores and lesions, and the call came from Grannie Argyll. Ian got on the line. I was there, and he managed some banter, you know, and Grannie said, ‘Well, boy, if you’d never gone queer on us, you’d at least have died of something a person could tell her friends about.’”
“Did Ian laugh?”
“Damn near till he did die.”
“Except,” Annie said, “it isn’t a laughing matter.”
“No,” Alex said, “AIDS definitely isn’t.”
I went over and took Alex’s wineglass from his hand. He was sitting in the wing chair. Annie and I occupied the sofa. I carried the glass to the kitchen and topped it up from an opened bottle of Australian Chardonnay in the refrigerator.
“Stop me if it’s none of our concern, Alex,” Annie was saying, “but I think it is.”
I handed Alex his glass.
“No, I don’t have AIDS,” he said, speaking past me to Annie. “There, does that take care of what’s on your mind?”
“We’ve been worrying, Crang and I, ever since we heard about Ian.” Annie wasn’t flustered by Alex’s direct answer. “AIDS is so virulent. I’m not an expert or anything, just what I read in magazines, but aren’t you at risk?”
Alex was smiling. It wasn’t a sad smile, more like an expression of resignation. I’d liked Alex’s face from the first day he and Ian moved in. He was handsome in a rueful way. He had the face of a guy who might be entertaining a long-running secret joke. He was tall and slim, in his mid-sixties. Ian Argyll had been almost twenty years younger than Alex, and the opposite in build, short and chunky. Ian was a real estate agent, a natural at it, a peppy, sweet-tongued guy.
“I’m not at risk, as you put it,” Alex said. “All I happen to be is angry, which is quite enough, thank you very much.”
“A doctor’s cleared you?” Annie was in her persevering-interviewer mode, something she does for pay on television. “You have no symptoms?”
“Annie, I couldn’t possibly have got AIDS from Ian, not unless it’s conveyed by hugs and snuggles. Now, can we agree to get off this particular topic?”
I was drinking Wyborowa on the rocks. “But what you are,” I asked Alex, “is angry?”
Annie laced her fingers through mine and squeezed. The squeeze meant I should lay off and leave the interrogation to her. “It’s natural you’d feel angry,” she said to Alex. “Angry at fate or whatever for taking Ian.”
“Oh, screw fate.” Alex flapped his hand in the air. “My rage is much more constructive than that.”
“At Ian?” Annie said, persisting. “That’s who you’re angry at?”
“Where Ian’s concerned, I never felt anger. With him, I went through a regular catalogue of wretched emotions. Devastation … I was devastated he had AIDS, and for a time there, not too long, I felt … betrayed. But I forgave him.”
“You forgave him,” Annie said, “for straying.”
“Annie, dear,” Alex said, “what a charmingly archaic word. Straying.”
“Well, having an affair.”
Alex was holding up the index finger of his left hand. “Actually,” he said, “one man, one time, one-night stand.”
“And that’s how Ian contracted AIDS?”
“One night is to exaggerate. More like a few nasty moments.”
“That sounds so awful, so wasteful, I want to cry.”
“I tried that already, Annie. Buckets. It didn’t help much of anything. Not the bloody rage, anyway. It’s sitting in me like some malevolent lump.”
Annie’s hand in mine felt damp. “Ian told you about this other man?” she asked Alex. “When? Toward the end?”
“Longer ago than that. He sat me down for a real heart-to-heart and poured it all out at once, the AIDS, the encounter, the certainty he was going to die. A real black-letter day, I tell you, last February fifth. Drank an entire bottle of Chivas between the two of us.”
“Now I am prying,” Annie said, “but I remember Ian looking very much not himself back from about late autumn on.”
Alex nodded. “Flu. He kept saying he had the flu, Shanghai flu, Hong Kong flu, bloody Mississauga flu, whatever strain was going. It was a litany with him. ‘Oh, luv, I’ve just come down with a touch of old devil ague and no time to bring it to its knees.’ Quite gallant when you realize he knew the truth.”
“Gallant, okay, but misleading.”
“An outright lie. But, don’t you remember, the real estate market went through the most remarkably silly boom about then? And Ian was selling a house practically every day over in Riverdale? Those old working people’s homes that yuppies go mad for?”
“Sure,” I chipped in. “Ian was out most nights. Open houses on the weekends. I used to see him dragging in at crazy hours.”
“Well?” Alex had a defensive challenge in his voice. “You see why I believed him about the flu? And how he was too busy to take to his bed?”
“Alex,” Annie said, “nobody could have suspected AIDS, not you, not anybody in your position.”
“That’s what I tell myself,” Alex said, “but I did go through a guilt period. The guilt is one of Ian’s legacies.”
Conversation slacked off. Annie seemed to have checked out of the questioning, at least temporarily.
“Plus the anger,” I said to Alex. “Ian left that behind him.”
“That, too.”
“Maybe you ought to see somebody,” I said. “You know, a professional, a shrink. Get rid of the bad stuff in your head.” “I’ve a more satisfying therapy planned, don’t you fret about that.”
“Yeah, well, a guy shouldn’t practice psychiatry on himself, especially if he isn’t a psychiatrist.”
“Crang, think of this,” Alex said, leaning forward in his chair and enunciating each word as if he was addressing a slow student. “The swine who gave Ian AIDS.”
“Come again?”
“I’m going to confront him. That’s my notion of therapy.”
“Yeah?” I said. “Ian, in fact, supplied a name that goes with the guy?”
“The murderer.” Alex’s voice had an edge. “Why not call him by what he is and what he did? He murdered Ian.”
I spent some time on my vodka, a pause to give Alex space to simmer down. “I don’t know,” I said, “there’ve been cases of guys who had AIDS, knew they had it, and went ahead and engaged in sex with other people and they got charged. Convictions registered in a couple cases for criminal assault. But murder? No way, Alex.”
“Oh, Crang.” Alex hadn’t simmered down. “Stop sounding like a lawyer.”
“Occupational hazard. I am one.”
“I know that, but can’t you see? I don’t give a flying fuck about the law.”
Sitting on the sofa, I didn’t pick up any vibrations that Annie was intending to return to the fray.
“Listen, Alex,” I said, “back to square one. You got a name for the guy who infected Ian or not?”
“Okay, I’d say it’s game over.”
“I think Ian must have held back on his killer’s name because he read my reaction. He saw how furious I was over everything.” “Does it matter now?” I raised my hand and wobbled it back and forth. “All that counts is no name, no confrontation.”
“But I’ve got something almost as good,” Alex said.
“Something Ian gave you?”
“Where he met his killer. The very place Ian met him.”
Annie and I exchanged a fast glance.
“Oh, don’t look at each another that way,” Alex said. “I’m not crackers, and I don’t need anybody humouring me.”
“Well, listen to yourself,” I said. “The place Ian met his killer. Even if you should go rooting after the guy, which is pointless right there, destructive really, the place by itself can’t be much help.”
“It can, believe me on that, my friend.”
“What? Some office Ian did business in? One of his open houses? Along those lines?”
“I’m keeping the location to myself, so don’t bother cross-examining.”
“Helping is what I figured on.”
Alex was silent for a couple of moments. “I appreciate that, honestly,” he said. “I appreciate just sitting here with the two of you. But what I’ve got to do, I’ve got to do alone.”
Alex stopped himself.
“Did you hear that?” he said. “I sound like John Bloody Wayne.”
“Even John Wayne had a sidekick,” I said. “Montgomery Clift, Katharine Hepburn, or somebody.”
“Crang,” Alex said, “on this, I am alone and very determined.”
Alex got a look on his face that I would have called determined.
“Finding the man who murdered Ian,” he said, “is a rather personal crusade, if you like.”
The room seemed to have become much quieter.
“I’m going to find him,” Alex said. “And when I do, pardon the drama, my dears, I am going to kill the bastard.”

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