Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

      For a moment I thought of joining him, it was a thought I hadn’t had in some time.
      “Hard to believe it’s been four months,” I said, the wind blowing soft against my back. “A lot’s changed, things are so different now.”
      I shuffled my feet as I stood in the autumn morning cold, a thin jacket not enough to protect me from the chill in the air. The ground wore a coat of many colours – fallen leaves covering the wet grass. The sun was barely up, its first light gave the area an ethereal glow and created a thin mist that shrouded the world.
      The flowers were beginning to wilt.
      “Kat and the kids have been back for a while now, I guess you know that, though. Things have been going well, it’s still hard. Every day it’s a new battle, but it’s one worth fighting.”
      I had been much happier, the upside-down world I’d created was starting to right itself. Despite my overall change in mood, tears began to form in my eyes as I looked upon the cold, stern marble.
      “I miss you dad,” I said. I dried my eyes and wiped my cheeks clean then sniffled. “I’ll be back soon, you need new flowers.”
      I picked up the flower arrangement that sat in front of my father’s grave and walked back to my car, careful not to step over the dead. A voice in my head criticized me for talking to a dead man, for believing that maybe he could hear me. I pushed it away and got into the car.
      A stack of freshly washed uniforms lay neatly on the seat beside me – yet another change in these last few months. I started the car, listened to the engine turn over then put shifted to drive and left my father behind once more.

* * *

      It was an hour’s drive to the detachment, my uniforms staring at me from the passenger seat. This was my fifth day back, a block of night shifts already under my belt. Coming back had been harder than I’d expected – four months off was a long time, and the stay-at-home Dad life was tough to abandon. But I’d needed the time, and with everything going on in my life it wasn’t hard to get.
      Marital troubles, shooting and killing a suspect, discovering you’d killed a man as a child and winding up with a broken ankle was enough to be granted (or forced to take) some stress leave.
      I parked my car and walked into the building, the uniforms hanging at my side. It was a short walk to the locker room and I was able to avoid any human contact. I’d done well on night shifts. There weren’t a lot of people to run into until the morning but I’d made my exits quiet and uneventful.
      I hadn’t even seen Kara.
      My fingers spun the dial for the padlock without any thought, the lock clicked and the door opened. The things we never forget. I put my uniforms in place and pulled down my epaulettes, slipped them onto the shoulders of one shirt. The three chevrons marking my rank made it sink in again.
      Patrol Sergeant.
      All my years in homicide and even solving a serial killer case wasn’t enough to keep me away from the bureaucracy of the OPP. Someone found out my secret and here I was, busted from the detective’s desk to the squad car while my former partner found herself working with someone new.
      I hadn’t thought of Kara much lately – I’d managed to keep her out of my mind. There were other things to focus on – a future, for one.
      “Hurry up, Munroe.”
      I turned in the direction of the voice to see my new superior standing before me – my old, new superior.
      “Yes sir, Staff Sergeant Ramirez, sir,” I said with a mock salute.
      “Don’t pull that shit with me.” He slapped me on the shoulder, hard, as he walked past and out of the room.
      I snapped my duty belt around my waist and made sure everything was there – not that it wouldn’t be, of course. Pistol, expandable baton, pepper spray, handcuffs. The only new part was the Taser. A couple of training days prior to coming back was all it had taken to learn the ins and outs of the Thomas A. Swift Electric Rifle. That and feeling the full force of it. Five seconds of the worst pain I’ve ever felt followed by mild euphoria. It was a hell of an effective tool – there was no fighting it.
      I closed the locker door and clicked the padlock into place then walked into the parade room to face my platoon. I was still trying to learn all the names. There was a decent mix of seasoned and rookie officers sitting and waiting for me to come in. George was already at the front of the room.
      I entered without fanfare. Thank god. The first day I’d been met with thunderous applause – the effect of catching a serial killer. I’d tried to ignore it, pretended it was business as usual, as I walked to the front of the room and took a seat. But George had other plans and wouldn’t let up until I’d made a speech. It was short, sweet and asked if Kara – Detective Jameson – had been receiving the same praise.
      They’d all nodded. It hadn’t taken long for word of the attack on Kara to get around. And considering she’d been back to work the next day with a ligature bruise around her neck it was hard to hide. If it wasn’t for Saunders targeting Kara, we may never have caught him. There’d been a few in the room who had broken eye contact when I mentioned Kara’s name.
      But now, things were almost normal. No one expected anything of me, no one praised me as a ‘hero’. I picked up the clipboard and went through the motions. I read out the beats (where each officer would be working their shift) and gave out all the new information – stolen cars, information on known or wanted persons, an anonymous tip about a drug dealer possibly having a sawed-off shotgun and finally, a list of the previous day’s break and enters. It was information officers could follow up on during downtime – look for a stolen car, sit in the area of the previous night’s break-ins, arrest a wanted person.
      I recognized all of the faces in front of me, some more than others. Veronica “Vern” Davis and Marc Deville were the two I knew best, simply because they’d been involved in the Saunders case quite a bit. The others I knew names for faces but little else. Nicknames for cops were common, and if there wasn’t a nickname it was your last name everyone called you by.
      I turned over the last page on the clipboard. We were done and not a moment too soon – I hated being at the front of the room. I dismissed the group, picked up my duty bag from the locker room and made my way to a waiting black-and-white, ‘Supervisor’ written across the rear windshield. There were many reasons not to linger in the building too long and one of them was looking right at me.
      “I knew you’d try to skip out without seeing me,” she said.
      “Sorry, there’s just been a lot to deal with.”
      Kara nodded, she’d probably been thinking about what coming back after four months would be like, especially given why I’d been off.
      “Understandable. But you can’t avoid me forever, Link.”
      There it was again. Even when it seems that everything around you is changing, there are always a few things that stay the same. We still had a connection, one that would be impossible to make disappear.
      I paused, a lump in my throat keeping my words at bay. “Can I ask you something?”
      “It wasn’t me, Link.” Her eyes were fixed on mine. “I wish I knew. Red was the only one who knew, although I think Tsang, the SIU investigator, figured it out.”
      She didn’t need to remind me of who Tsang was. I’d been allowed to watch the video of my interview. I relived in great detail my mental breakdown after shooting Saunders, relived it more times than I wish to admit. The tape would probably be around longer than I would.
      “I have a hunch,” I said, but didn’t say anything further. The look in my eyes was a familiar one, one that said I was done talking – we’d discuss it later.
      “Be safe out there,” Kara said. Her hand reached for my shoulder then she pulled it away quickly. She turned and walked back the way she came, but didn’t turn fast enough to hide the redness in her cheeks.
      I got into the car, and sat behind the wheel of a Ford Crown Victoria that made my Mini Cooper seem like a dinky car. Larger turn radius, rear wheel drive, terrible in the winter and rain but powerful as hell when it needed to be. The light bar had changed from actual bulbs to LED lights but at least the buttons to work them hadn’t changed. I started the car and was pulling out when the night shift sergeant made his way in. He slowed down as he pulled up beside me, his window already down.
      “Hey, Munroe. Good to have you back.”
      A sentiment echoed by everyone it seemed. If only I was so sure.
      “Thanks, Red.” Marcus O’Connell – Big Red. His jaw was moving as it usually did, a high-speed up and down that gave flashes of bright red gum between pearly whites.
      “It wasn’t me, Lincoln.” I wasn’t expecting to get so many denials in one day. Not Kara, not Red, possibly Tsang, and then… no.
      “I know,” I said. Better to feign trust.
      “I didn’t even know about the rest unt-”
      “The rest?”
      “Yeah. The rumour’s out there, Munroe. Some believe it, some don’t. I’ve been trying to quash it, telling people it’s bullshit.” He paused, chewed some more. “It’s not though, is it?”
      I wanted to tell him it was none of his business but, if he was being honest, he was championing Kara and I. I just nodded.
      “Everything okay at home?”
      “It will be,” I said.
      “I’ve got to head in, paperwork and all.”
      The excuse was solid, but it was clear he was feeling uncomfortable.
      “See you around, Red.”
      A wave of an arm out the driver’s side window was my response, but he’d already started driving. Maybe he knew I didn’t fully trust him.
      I drove out of the garage hoping for silence. A Code 1 robbery on my first day, right out of the gates, was a little much. Trial by fire. We’d caught the culprit though – a long track by K9 through farmer’s fields and industrial complexes ended with a bite from the dog and a trip to the hospital for the suspect. Seventeen stitches to the left calf.
      That should teach him not to run.
      The other shifts hadn’t been bad – domestics, a break-in, two impaired drivers weaving down the highway, three collisions, and one attempted suicide. Quiet, by police standards.
      I drove down Westminster Drive hoping for more of the same. This wasn’t where I wanted to be. This wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. I should have been back behind my desk, looking over crime scene photos and catching murderers.
      A few minutes later my phone rang, startling me.
      “Det… Sergeant Munroe.”
      “Nice slip. It’s Red.”
      I laughed. “What’s up?” I was expecting more denial, maybe he hadn’t gotten it all out yet.
      “Jake Carter hasn’t come in. Dispatch doesn’t show him on a call.”
      I knew all too well the rigors of night shift. “Probably asleep.”
      “Yeah. GPS shows him parked at the dead end of Shain Road.”
      I had to think for a minute. I used to know all the county roads, and all the hiding places to write up reports or meet with another officer.
      “Near Belmont, right? I’m not far.”
      “Thanks, Munroe.”
      “No prob.”
      “And he’s a good kid. If he’s asleep, just ream him out. Doesn’t need to be put on paper.”
      “Roger.”
      I hung up the phone and turned right onto Westchester Bourne. I was only a couple of minutes away. Had I been further, I probably would have looked for a cell phone number for Carter – tried to call him before I got there.
      I knew the name. Stand up officer, hard-working, honest and, as far as I knew, never a complaint against him. One who used his head before his hands.
      I turned onto Shain Road and it wasn’t long before I saw the cruiser parked in the circle at the end of the road. There was nothing around here, just farmland. It was a long street with only two homes on it, one where it met the main road and one halfway down.
Nothing down this far.
      The cruiser was parked facing out, toward the main road. This was normal – a quick getaway if dispatch needed you for an emergency call. Turning around wasted precious seconds. I pulled up alongside the cruiser and sure enough, Carter was sound asleep, his head resting on his right shoulder. I rolled down my window and rapped on his but got no response. I never got a second knock in. What I saw in the car stopped that.
      I threw open my door smashing it into the side of Carter’s cruiser.
      Shit. I’d forgotten I was parked so close.
      I reversed quickly then jumped out and ran to the car. The door was locked. Nothing was going right. I couldn’t decide – smash the window or get my keys. It only took a second to decide: keys. Smashing the window would compromise the scene.
      I ran back to my cruiser and grabbed the keys then made it back to Carter’s door within seconds. Cruisers are all keyed the same and his door unlocked for me. I opened the door and put my hand on Carter’s neck.
      No pulse.
      Fuck. His gun was in his lap, his right hand wrapped around the grip. I put my hand on his chin and turned his face toward me.
      He looked so young, so peaceful until I saw the bullet wound in his right temple, red rimmed with blood that had dripped down his cheek.
      The blood was dry. Its metallic scent filled the cruiser but there was hardly any smell of gunpowder. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.
      I used my radio to call into dispatch, requesting George and a few other officers. The scene needed to be guarded. Even as a suicide, protocol needed to be followed. Every death is considered suspicious until proven otherwise.
      And this one was suspicious.
      Gloves. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten. I reached into the right pocket of my cargo pants and took out a pair of black latex gloves. Everything I touched was evidence, it all needed to be preserved.
      First was the gun. I had to make it safe. I took it from Carter’s lifeless hand. The fingers gave only slight resistance – rigor hadn’t set in. Less than three hours dead. I dropped the magazine out of the pistol and racked the slide back several times to make sure there were no rounds left in the gun.
      A casing.
      All that came out when I racked the slide was a spent shell casing, not the live round I was expecting.
      My mind was spinning. When a bullet is fired from a semi-automatic pistol the slide comes back ejecting the spent casing, then snaps forward bringing a live round into the chamber. No live round meant something had stopped the gun from doing its full job. Held properly, the gun would have worked.
      No live round and only the faintest smell of gunpowder. The windows were all up and the doors locked. I looked around for a suicide note and saw nothing. I slid my finger across the touchpad on the in-car computer and the screen came to life: “I’m sorry” was typed on the screen.
      A brief, typed message.
      Everything was adding up. Unfortunately, it was adding up to murder.
      I stepped back, took my body out of Carter’s cruiser for the first time since I’d opened the door. Sirens broke the crisp morning air and I knew I had very little time. I looked in the car again, at the youthful face, at the gold wedding band, and I couldn’t decide whether to scream or cry.
      A murdered cop.
      It had to have been someone known to him. We were notorious for keeping our car doors locked and to let someone in the car, Carter must have trusted them. His duty bag caught my eye, a large black canvas bag with J. CARTER #4532 and an OPP emblem embroidered on the top.
      Facing the wrong way.
      The zippered opening was away from Carter, facing toward the passenger side door. It had been moved and put back wrong. Whoever killed Carter had been sitting in the car with him.
      A cell phone rang from somewhere in the car. I couldn’t let it distract me.
      The casing had been ejected from the gun when I racked the slide. It would’ve been ejected on its own had the gun fired normally, but now it was on the floor of the car, consistent with a suicide. But there should have been a live round expelled when I racked the slide. I picked up the magazine and pushed the top round out into the palm of my gloved hand then threw it under the car.
      I went around to the passenger side and opened the door then turned the duty bag around, the opening facing Carter as it would have been when he was working. The sirens were getting closer, I had to work faster.
      The phone rang again.
      I leaned in across the duty bag and patted the pockets on Carter’s shirt. When I touched his right pocket the phone rang again and vibrated against my hand. The tearing of Velcro filled the car as I lifted the flap on the top of the pocket then reached in, my gloved hand taking out the phone.
      Home.
      He was overdue and someone was worried about him. I’d been on the receiving end of those calls a few times. Stuck on overtime and too busy to remember to call home.
      The phone rang twice more before the call display disappeared and the voice recorder app took its place. I scrolled to a point near the beginning and listened.
      “-figure it all out?”
      “I’ve got a lot of information, a lot of names. I just can’t put it all together.”
      I didn’t recognize either voice. And I didn’t have time to think about it – the sirens were closing in, I looked out toward the main road and could see the lights flashing. I was almost out of time.
      I scrolled forward, hoping for something.
      “-he’s in on it, I know that much.”
      “You have no idea how high it goes.”
      My hands were soaked with sweat, puddles forming inside the latex gloves.
      I stopped the playback and put the phone in my pocket, then backed out of the car. It had been dry the last few days and whoever had been here left no evidence. No mud meant no tire tracks or foot prints.
      There were two cigarette butts on the paved road beneath Carter’s window. Back to the passenger side. None. But there was a slight burn mark, and some ash on the ground. I knelt down and blew the ash away then scraped at the burn mark with my foot.
      Two cruisers rounded the corner onto Shain Road and began speeding toward me. And here I was, destroying evidence and covering up a murder. Not bad for only my second week back.
      But I didn’t know who I could trust.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *