Fateful Choices: Part Three of a murder with a twist by B. B. Wright

policebaker

Fateful Choices: Part Three
21 Darlington Road

Inspector Alexander Collier Mysteries will often provide a choice for the reader. If you want to obtain a deeper understanding or a ‘feel’ for the period follow the embedded links (high-lighted blue and underlined) found in the text of the story.

A Short Story of Fiction by B. B. Wright

 

The call came through to his home at 4:00 A. M. Putting on his slippers he grabbed his robe from the foot of the bed and while struggling to put it on in the darkness he encouraged his wife, Lila, to go back to sleep. By the time he reached the bottom of the stairs the phone was into its fifth ring. Turning on a small table lamp on the telephone table in the alcove under the steps he cleared his throat and picked up the receiver: “Chief Inspector Collier…”

The call was concise and disturbing to say the least. Arthur Brodley had been rushed to the hospital shortly after midnight as a result of a severe beating and had died within the past half hour. Sergeant Billie Snowden was quick to advise him that the crime scene had already been secured.

“Who called it in Sergeant?”

“His granddaughter, Valerie…She found him in the lounge.”

“Did you get her statement?”

“Constable Dubin did, sir.”

“Did she say if anything was missing?”

“In her statement she said that his rings, watch and gold chain were missing.”

“Did anyone check his pockets after his arrival at hospital, Sergeant?”

“I did, sir. They were empty.”

“Good work, Sergeant!”

“Should I await the preliminary autopsy report?”

“Let’s not worry about that for the moment. Give me time to shave and have a bite to eat…Say an hour? …Yes…pick me up in an hour.”

Collier had barely noticed that his wife had passed him in the hall as he slowly returned the receiver to its cradle. The rattling of pots and pans and clatter of dishes sent him along the hallway to the kitchen’s entrance.

“Lila…I’m sorry. Please…go back to bed.”

“Shush,” she replied crossing over to him. She reached up and put her arms around his neck and kissed him on the cheek. “I need to be here; so that’s that. Now go get yourself ready while I make breakfast. We certainly don’t want to start your day off on the wrong foot, now do we?”

He wrapped his arms around her waist lifting her off the floor and twirled her around in a complete circle before putting her down. “I love you. What you ever saw in me I’ll never know. I’m just glad you saw it. I don’t deserve the likes of you.”

“You’re right, you don’t,” she sighed, eliciting a broad smile. “Nevertheless, you got me. Now, don’t you be too long or you’ll try my patience.” She playfully slapped him on the backside as he headed out of the kitchen and returned to the stove to prepare his usual breakfast of poached eggs, sausage, toast and homemade preserves.

Sergeant Snowden had barely parked the Wolseley in front of Chief Inspector Collier’s home when the front door of the house opened and he stepped out. The Sergeant quickly scrambled out of the driver’s seat to open the back passenger door for him.

“Good morning, sir,” greeted  the Sergeant cheerily as the somber looking Chief Inspector walked toward him.

“I wish it was, Sergeant. I really wish it was. Thanks for being on time.”

The weather report forecasted a warm and sunny spring day. As the sun awoke from its nightly slumber, a gold hue spilled out from the horizon and was carried by the gentle rhythm of the waves toward the shore, while the sides of the coastal road broke free from its veil of grey and darkness to expose a plethora of colorful spring flowers nestled within a landscape of richly shaded green and chalk-like stone.

All of Nature’s dressing up went unnoticed by both Chief Inspector Collier and Sergeant Snowden. Collier’s mind was focused on capturing some thoughts in his notebook before he arrived at the Brodley residence while Snowden struggled to keep alert after a sleepless night on duty.

Fifteen minutes later, Snowden came to a stop in front of 21 Darlington Road and waited for the attending constables to usher a small group blocking the drive to one side. Once the entrance was cleared, he drove onto the crushed stone drive and parked the Wolseley in front of the two-storey house and exited the vehicle to open the door for the Chief Inspector.

Collier glanced back at the small crowd gathered at the entrance to the drive as he stepped out of the vehicle and his forward motion stopped abruptly. “Well I’ll be damned…”

“Sir?”

“Murder always draws out a strange mix of onlookers, doesn’t it Sergeant? Get the names of the people in that group and any pertinent information you can. By the looks of their bedroom attire I’d say they’re neighbors and nosey ones at that to be out at such an early hour of the morning. My bet, Sergeant, is at least someone among them has seen or heard something. Once you’ve finished interviewing them, please encourage them to go home. I saw Mrs Stoddard, the one they call ‘Queenie,’ among them. Ask her to join me inside.”

The oak doors to the lounge were wide open as Collier stood at the threshold with fountain pen and notebook in hand, recording his initial, salient observations of the murder scene:

1) Safe opened and empty (contents???)
2) Brown paper bag, crumpled and twisted on floor (wrapped around murder weapon???)
3) Cigarette butts strewn across carpet and sofa ( murderer’s???)
4) Toppled beer glass on table (finger prints??? murderer’s???)
5) Hair curler????

He let out a long sigh as he watched the crime scene investigators, lead by Leonard Scoffield, go about the meticulous business of gathering and recording evidence. Closing his notebook, he returned his fountain pen to the inside pocket of his jacket. Before returning his attention back to the room, he looked out the glazed leaded square bay window at Sergeant Snowden speaking to the crowd and estimated that their numbers had increased markedly. “What are your thoughts on all of this, Leonard?”

Leonard was in his forties, medium height, with curly black hair, bushy moustache and an aura of stern faced dignity that easily melted away like a sunburst when in the company of a friend. “Hi, Alex! I didn’t notice you were there. Nasty business, this is. In my opinion, it smacks of robbery as the apparent motive. How’s that lovely wife of yours doing? Joyce and I were talking about you two the other day. We haven’t had supper and a game of cards together in awhile, old chum.”

“Be careful with the “old” there Leonard,” Collier replied, smiling. “Lila’s just fine. And, it’s our turn to provide supper. Wednesday work for you?”

“Wednesday works.”

“Good. Now that that’s done, have you found many finger prints?”

“Lots of them but no likely murder weapon yet. By the amount of blood, the murder weapon was wrapped in that paper bag to finish him off.”

“Any prints on that beer glass?”

“A thumb print but it’s a good one.”

“As you well know,” Collier said, pointing to the beer glass and cigarette butts, “Arthur was a teetotaler and non-smoker.”

Leonard agreed with a nod. “I see where you’re going, Alex. My thoughts too. Probably the murderer’s?”

“It’s a very good likelihood. Be sure to collect all those butts. I want whatever saliva is on them tested.”

“Tested? What do you hope to find?”

“The blood group of whoever smoked them. It’s a relatively new technique—developed 14 years ago—that uses a person’s secretions such as saliva and urine.”

“I think I’d better catch up on my scientific literature,” Leonard chortled with a broad smile. “To my way of thinking old…chum, blood group and saliva are disconnected. As for urine, I’ll hold off on that.”

“A hair curler on the scene strikes me as strange, unless it belonged to the grand–daughter. I understand she found him?”

“That’s right. I’ve already taken her finger prints as part of the elimination process. I’m sure, Alex, that it’s not her thumb print on the beer glass. Presently, she’s staying at the aunt’s. As for the hair curler, she denied that it was hers.”

“That’s something I’ll have to explore with her later. Any idea what was in that safe?” His eyes drifted to the front window to watch Sergeant Snowden coming up the drive to the house alone.

Leonard shrugged and scratched the back of his head. “Your guess is as good as mine on that one, Alex.

Collier excused himself in order to meet the Sergeant at the front door. “I thought you would have had Mrs Stoddard with you, Sergeant.”

“I would have if she had been there, sir. You must have been mistaken.”

“Mistaken?!” Tipping his head slightly downwards, he glared at the Sergeant. “Sergeant, I don’t…” He bit his lip. “Never mind…Please make a note to call her into the station before day’s end. Now…did you learn anything out there?”

“Yes sir, I think I may have several pieces of useful information,” Snowden replied.

“Good! Tell me on the way to the hospital. I think it’s time to learn what the autopsy report reveals.”

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An Unexpected Gift: Part One of Two

white picket fence oneAn Unexpected Gift
A Short Story by B. B. Wright

November’s rain and bone chilling dampness blanketed the Town of Milsburg in the Region of Grey-Bruce. For many inhabitants of this Region which was located two hours north of Toronto on the fresh waters of Georgian Bay, the Grey part of the Region’s name had taken on a life all of its own. Grey days outnumbered sunny days twenty to one and sunny days fell into that apocryphal meteorological category of overcast with some sunny periods. That is, sunny periods seen in the blink of an eye that heavily depended on whose blink you were talking about.

Cozy in her blue, soft brushed polyester pajamas, bought for her by her late husband, Tom, Sylvia Canfield snuggled down in bed and, turning onto her side in a fetal position, she pulled the comforter tightly up around her and chided herself for not programming the thermostat to come on earlier.

Beside her, Pepper, her black terripoo dog, stood up, shook himself out, turned around a couple times before flopping down with a hard thud against her back.

Once assured that Pepper had settled into his cozy spot, Sylvia closed her eyes and began to slowly drift off to sleep.

On the edge of REM sleep, she was jolted awake by Pepper who had become annoyingly restless.

Plying his doggie thing of standing up, turning around and slamming up against her with increased frequency, Sylvia turned intending to throw him off her bed when Pepper jumped off and ran to the bedroom door and began to scratch frantically at it.

“Ugh! Okay! Okay, Pepper! I’m getting up,” she said, disgruntled by the thought of leaving her warm bed.

She pushed her thick blonde hair back from her face and swung her legs over the side of the bed.

In her mind, the intent and urgency of Pepper’s plea left no doubt that time was of the essence.

But, by the time her feet on her five foot-two frame hit the cold wooden floor searching for her Haflinger woolen slippers, Pepper had managed to nose the door open and was on his way downstairs.

“I don’t know where you think you’re going without me,” she grumbled as one hand searched for her slippers which had somehow got kicked under the bed while the other hand fumbled in the darkness for her dressing gown that should have been draped over the chair at the end of the bed but was found instead on the floor.

One sleeve of her dressing gown in place, she rushed through the open bedroom door while unsuccessfully attempting to snag the other sleeve. Switching on the hall light and gathering up her gown so not to trip, she bounded down the stairs to the kitchen after Pepper.

“A dog in need could be an accident indeed and this morning isn’t going to be one of them,” she murmured repeatedly, hoping her words would provide inspiration and reassurance.

Moments later, Sylvia let out a long satisfied sigh as she adjusted her robe in place and watched Pepper rooting about outside searching for the best place to do his business.

He seems so undeterred by this foul weather, she thought. And, she envied him for that.

Forcing her hands into the side-seamed pockets of her blue, full snap-front robe, her shoulders crunched inwards to a sudden chill.  A burst of warm air from the vent she stood beside traveled up her leg and she moved closer to it.

By the time her toast popped up in the toaster and the whistle on the kettle heralded, Pepper was back in the house shaking off the rain drops and looking for something to eat.

Savoring each morceau of generously spread homemade strawberry jam on her buttered toast, she leaned forward slightly at the kitchen table to watch Pepper eating from his chow bowl.

Though still tired and sleepy, Sylvia felt a sense of comfort and satisfaction as she watched him.

Putting down her slice of toast, she picked up her tea mug and blew across the tea’s surface and welcomed the warm, moist steam on her face and the heat from the cup cradled in her hands.

Her attention drifted to the kitchen window and the inclement weather and she hoped that Pepper wouldn’t pester her too much for his ritual walk.

In the background, the weather report from the radio assured its listening audience that the rain would stop late morning; the clouds would lift and sunshine was expected for most of the afternoon.

Winds off Georgian Bay could be biting this time of year but the promise of sunshine was the trump card that made her walk with Pepper that much more palatable and likely.

Unnoticed by her, Pepper had finished his meal, slurped down some water, and, leaving a trail of water droplets behind him from his soggy beard, made his way across the room to her and sat on the floor in front of her.

A single soft bark was all Pepper needed to get her attention.

“Good Pepper! You used your quiet voice just like we taught you.” And, she fed him a small piece of her toast to reward him. Placing her cup on the table, Sylvia adjusted her position on the chair and patted her lap to encourage him to jump up onto it.

Immediately, she regretted her invitation because his wet face, licking tongue, and affectionate energy were overpowering until she got him to settle down. Once she could comfortably pat him, she became more accepting of his occasional gestures of affection.

_____

Tom had first brought her to meet the litter of terripoo puppies during their third year of marriage.

It had been 3 months after her miscarriage.

Shortly after the miscarriage, an invisible curtain had fallen between them as she struggled against the depression that had seeped into her life. Laughter—a constant companion before the miscarriage—had become silent and foreign.

She often looked back on this period and wondered if she would have survived without Tom’s steady support.

On the day he took her to meet the puppies, intuitively she knew why he had taken her.

As the six puppies cavorted around her while she sat on the floor, she found it impossible to remain aloof from their unconditional loving natures; slowly she began to interact with them.

Mysteriously that day, laughter, that had been so unattainable and deeply buried within her, bubbled to the surface.

While playing with the puppies, she noticed for the first time that a black one had already carved out Tom’s attention.

Later, she learned that Tom had already named him Pepper.

Pepper, Tom’s first dog, had not only brought out the endearing little kid in Tom but Pepper that day, alongside his brothers and sisters, had helped to initiate her road to recovery and her reconnection to Tom.

Sylvia looked upon the next seven years as the happiest in her life. Though she had learned that she would be unable to have children, somehow it no longer mattered as her life had become filled to overflowing with travel, teaching, writing her first novel and being with Tom. She and Tom had even discussed adoption.

Then, last summer arrived and with it Tom’s diagnosis.

When Tom was dying of cancer neither she nor Pepper left his side.

Pepper, normally a quiet dog except when strangers came onto the property, had become unusually restless during Tom’s final hours.

When Tom finally died, Pepper’s prolonged forlorn howling sent a soul-chilling dagger through the night.

_____

Sylvia’s eyes bubbled up with tears as she recalled that night two months ago and she cradled Pepper closer and buried her face into the soft, downy fur on his head.

She knew it was just her imagination but, for a brief moment, she could have sworn that she had felt Tom’s presence. And, she held Pepper even closer.

As the morning dragged on, the rain finally stopped as it had been forecast and the sky cleared up.

Placing Pepper on the floor she said: “Well little friend, if we’re going for a walk I’d better wash up and put on warmer clothes.”

Pepper playfully zigzagged in and out around Sylvia, occasionally leaping up at her, while she pretended to try and catch him. This continued for several minutes until he bounded up the stairs barking and headed in the direction of her bedroom.

Two hours later, Sylvia was glad she wore her ankle-length black Spanish Merino coat as she walked along the pebbly beach at Macleod Park, roughly ten minutes from where she lived. The sunshine had brought a handful of people to the park but most, she surmised, were discouraged by the cold north wind blowing off Georgian Bay.

She pulled the long hair Tuscany collar, that doubled as a hood, over her head and watched Pepper running ahead, sniffing this and that as he went along.

Normally, she would have had Pepper on a leash but, with so few people in the park today, she thought it would be safe to let him run free.

Pepper rarely ran too far ahead. Often, he would scurry back with some prize or other he had retrieved and laid it at her feet. Occasionally, Sylvia would gather up his newly found toy and play fetch and retrieve but more often than not, she deflected his attention elsewhere while she discarded it.

She was glad that she had decided to wear her woolen mittens as the cold wind nipped at her cheeks.

Picking up a flat stone from the beach she tried to skip it in the rough water but was unsuccessful. Undeterred, she tried several more times until one stone completed a triple skip.

And, she giggled like a young girl.

Looking around for Pepper, she found him further along the shoreline than usual and, with his nose planted so close to the ground she surmised he was following the scent of something.

_____

The Town of Milsburg began to change about ten years ago. Whether it had changed for better or worse was open to debate. The local bakery coexisted with Tim Horton’s—contrary to expectations—and the tax base was given a sizable boast from the influx of people from the Greater Toronto Area hungry for land on which to build their dream home. Those who came had come for a chance of respite and an opportunity to play in at least one of the four seasons. This would have been all fine and dandy if the outsiders had been willing to leave well enough alone. But, when the smell of money to be had reeked across the landscape, the tenor of country living—though kicking and screaming—was corralled in and redesigned to give a contrastingly new meaning to what was meant by country living.

Country living had become defined along narrower lines that emphasized the self-centered blindness of entitlement. This philosophical shift irked the locals to their very core as they felt these city dwellers had bullied their way into their life-scape.

Real-estate that had once been enjoyed by all—especially along the shoreline—became prime real-estate gobbled up overnight, only to be traded for a hefty price-tag when the time was ripe.

Three new high-rise condominiums had been completed along the shore-line last spring so that there were now five: two at one end of Macleod Park and three at the other.

The number of upscale shops along Sykes Street which ran parallel to Macleod Park had tripled. These shops mainly catered to seasonal dwellers and tourists; while the locals stayed with the familiar to support their friends, their family and their way of life.

Begrudgingly, the locals slowly came around to tolerate these unwelcome changes and to accept them as part of life’s natural flow which included  the unfortunate  disappearance of familiar faces and the arrival of strangers in their place.

At the corner of Sykes and Lombard was a century old Tudor-style building, the Boar Inn and Pub where the  locals—mainly the fifty plus group—came for a few pints, a game of darts, a good chin-wag and sing-along, and plain good food, usually British fare. The younger group on Friday and Saturday nights wouldn’t be caught dead there and willingly drove the forty minutes along the coast to the joie de vivre atmosphere of the Town of Collingwood to celebrate the weekend at the Admiral’s Post Pub, Lounge 26 and the Copper Blues.

Gregarious people, Sylvia and Tom were easily assimilated into this community and had become staunch contributors to the community’s cohesiveness.

Though Sylvia and Tom had come from the city, they were part of the melt of local citizenry who looked upon the urban influx as nothing more than pesky insects that defined one of the four seasons

_____

Pepper was busily trying to pull some sort of object out from between two large boulders on the shoreline with the help of a man.

If Sylvia could have disappeared she would have that very moment. The man helping Pepper was none other than Thackeray Thomson, their family lawyer.

Tom and she had always been on good terms with Thackeray but she was embarrassed by not having returned his many phone calls. His voice messages had been very clear and explicit: “…There is a pressing matter with respect to Tom’s Will. Please call as soon as you hear this.”

When Yesterday Becomes Tomorrow: Chapter Five

Part Five Brown Envelope

My apologies to those of you who have been following this story. I had hoped to get it out sooner but I am presently undergoing radiation therapy for cancer and as a result my energy and concentration levels have not been up to par. If all goes well Part Six should be up by the end of the weekend. Thank you for your understanding and support.

Now, I introduce for your reading enjoyment  When Yesterday Becomes Tomorrow: Chapter Five by me, B. B. Wright.

_______

Louise nibbled on a small piece of garlic bread as she watched Ethan clear the table and load the dishwasher. A pleasant enough dinner, she thought, but… uneventfulDefinitely not what I expected. Putting down her garlic bread, she picked up her half filled wine glass and, sitting back in her chair, she folded her arms across her chest.  “Ethan?”

“Uh-Huh.” Placing the last dish into the dishwasher, he picked up his wine glass from the counter in front of him and turned to face her. “I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far?”

“I have! Very much!  But…Ethan…I think you’re here for more than just feeding me a great meal and talking over old times. Huh?  What’s the real reason for your visit?”

Ethan bit on his lower lip and looked at her long and hard before finishing the wine in his glass. “I kind’a hoped we’d get through dessert before…we discussed that.”

Taking a sip from her glass, she smiled and, raising her eyebrows, replied: “Then, maybe we should have started with dessert.”

He breathed deeply and let it out slowly. “Maybe… we should have.”

Placing his empty wine glass on the table, he disappeared into the living room and returned a few seconds later with a large brown envelope tucked under his arm. Sitting in the chair opposite her, he placed the envelope beside him and offered to refresh her drink from the partially finished wine bottle in front of him.

She waved off the refill and, with haunting undertones, asked: “Is it that bad that I need a drink?”

He poured an ample portion of wine into his glass and slid the envelope toward her and began massaging his chin as he watched her reaction. “In a word…yes, I think it is.  I’m sorry, Louise, for what’s about to happen.”

“What’s ‘about to happen’? What is this?” Her eyes narrowed as she scrutinized his face looking for an easy answer. Seeing none, she abruptly sat back in her chair as if the envelope was a viper about to strike.

“It’s an autopsy report. To be more precise, it’s Tom’s autopsy report.”

Bug eyed, she retorted: “Tom’s?  Why? How? There was no autopsy report. I would have known.  He…died from complications due to his prostate cancer. No! Whatever you’re about to show must be a lie.” Tears swelled up in her eyes as she stood up and walked into the kitchen for a tissue. “Why are you doing this to me, Ethan? Maybe you should go. NOW!”

He wanted to comfort her but at that moment he knew it was best to keep his distance. Too many unpleasant questions had to be asked and if he hoped to crack open his investigation some of them had to be asked tonight.

“Louise…please…Come back. After you’ve read it, you’ll understand why I can’t just pick up and leave.”

Several moments passed in silence before Louise returned to the dining room with a box of tissues and sat down. Dabbing her eyes with a balled up tissue, she eyed the envelope that lay a short distance from her. Her hand crept across the table and her fingers touched its edge tentatively.

“Ethan, how did I not know there was an autopsy report?”

“It was arranged through CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) working with the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police).”

“What was Tom working on?”

“He had been working on some highly classified stuff before his death. I know that doesn’t answer your question but in time you’ll learn.”

“You’re one sonofabitch, Ethan. You know that, don’t you? Once I’ve read it, I want you out of here. DO YOU HEAR ME? OUT OF HERE!”  She pulled the envelope toward her and spilled its contents onto the table. Picking up the report, she had barely started to read it through her teary eyes when she looked up at Ethan quizzically. “What’s lethal polonium-210-induced acute radiation syndrome?”

“It means that Tom was murdered,” he replied, dolefully.

“Murdered?” Slack-jawed, her mind agonized over what she had just heard and the questions she knew she had to ask; her eyes feverishly skirted the room looking for readymade answers only Ethan could supply. “Are you telling me he didn’t have cancer?”

“No…Louise, he had cancer. I’m telling you that…someone wanted him dead before he had a chance to talk to me. And, whether you know it or not, you may have the clue to who did it.”

“But…murder?”

“What twigged us into the possibility that Tom was murdered was the Alexander Litvinenko case a few years back. I don’t know if you remember it because it got scant coverage on our news.” She shook her head in the negative. “Well, he escaped persecution in Russia by obtaining asylum in the U.K. It turned out he had been working for British Intelligence, namely for both MI5 and MI6. Litvinenko wrote two highly controversial books accusing the Russian secret service of staging Russian apartment bombings and other terrorism acts in order to set the stage for Vladimir Putin regaining power.

We were aware that Tom had prostate cancer, Louise, but we were also aware that it was not life threatening. Two weeks before he suddenly got sick, he alerted us that he had come across some highly sensitive material. Based on the symptoms exhibited in your doctor’s report and comparing it to Litvinenko’s death, the clandestine autopsy was ordered.” Feeling the tension gathering in his neck and shoulders, he stood up and stretched.

“Did you ever find out what the sensitive material was that Tom had discovered?”

“We went to his usual drop-off location with the hope of finding it there but came up empty. So, either someone else got to it or else Tom hid the information in a different location.”

“But Ethan, how would I have the clue to who killed Tom? Or to anything else? How?” Standing up, she began to pace back and forth. “I don’t understand. How could I possibly know such a thing?” She stopped and glared at him.

“Louise, no matter how I looked at it, unraveling this puzzle always came back to you.”

“Ethan, what are you saying?” She rounded the table and headed toward him.

“I’m saying…”

A bullet shattered the ceiling fan light in the living room on its way to its mark and within seconds the frame splintered at the bolt of the outside door to the kitchen sending the door smashing against the wall.

When Yesterday Becomes Tomorrow: Chapter Four

Country Home B

When Yesterday Becomes Tomorrow by B. B. Wright
Chapter Four

It was 3:20 in the morning when Louise switched on her night-table light and sat up in bed. Placing her pillow and the one beside her at her back, she picked up the novel “The Light Between Oceans” by M. L. Stedman from the table, leaned back and tried to read.

Disturbed by her movement, Pepper stood up, circled a couple of times before plopping down hard against her and resuming his sleep.

She struggled to finish the chapter she was reading but her mind kept drifting back to her conversation with Ethan the previous day. Inserting the bookmark, she closed the book and placed it on the table. Pepper was now snoring beside her. The running shoe he had retrieved from the rocks at the beach lay beside his head.

Though she and Ethan had spent three hours over lunch catching up on old times, she had been unable to elicit any information about what he knew about the case Tom had continued to work on shortly after he and Ethan had gone their separate ways.

Or did they go their separate ways? I never thought about that possibility until now, she mused.  “Hmm.” Tom became so distant then. Why?

Uncharacteristically, Tom never discussed anything related to his new position in 33 Division even when he returned home one day with a badly bruised cheek. Often, he would disappear for weeks at a time. “It’s police business,” he’d say. “So don’t fret, dear, it’s not another woman. But, I can tell you this. When this case breaks wide open there’s going to be a few high level heads rolling.” It was the only time she remembered him breaking his silence.

Louise recalled how thankful she had been that Sheila, Ethan’s wife, had continued to be friends. Sheila’s friendship had been a boon during Tom’s long absences. Not a day went by that the two of them hadn’t been out on some kind of an excursion whether to buy new clothes, attend live theatre in Toronto or Thursday morning breakfast at the nearby Tim Horton’s. Then, one day—a year later—it had all ended with a call from Sheila. The conversation on the phone had barely lasted twenty seconds. No explanation! Caput! Finished! Nothing!

Consternation and remorse still easily bubbled up in Louise whenever she thought about that day. Friends, she thought, don’t just pick up and disappear like that…unless… she really wasn’t a friend.

Begrudgingly, she had come to accept that for all of the time she and Tom had spent with Ethan and Sheila she had really never known them. A conclusion easily reached when she learned that Sheila had run off to Vancouver with Ethan’s new partner who became the head of the newly formed Drug Investigative Unit there.

She reflected: How does that John Lennon quote go? Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

Her conversation with Ethan the other day about that time troubled her because he had treated the whole thing so nonchalantly. He had been unwilling to divulge so much as a modicum of information that might have shed some light on what had happened. When she had pressed him on it, his demeanor changed dramatically and he became quite defensive. So much so she had to quickly back off. Their conversation had remained strained for a time afterwards but by the time they parted any hint of it had clearly subsided. His reaction, though, continued to confuse her and—to her way of thinking—there was something that just didn’t add up. But, what it was, for the moment, eluded her.

She glanced over at Stedman’s novel on her side-table and let out a long, forlorn sigh. Tom was the name of one of the main characters in her book and she couldn’t help but feel that her life, similar to that of Isabel’s, Tom’s wife in that novel, was about to unravel. She wished she hadn’t agreed to have supper with Ethan this evening. But, curiosity had got the better of her. Unfortunately, she remembered what curiosity had done to the cat. What bothered her the most occurred when Ethan had admitted their meeting in the park had not been an accident. She wondered what was up his sleeve. Would he drop it on me during the main course or during dessert? She mused. She guessed dessert. Life’s short, eat dessert first, she thought with a smirk. For me, it’s the time of greatest flavour.

Easing herself out of bed so as not to disturb Pepper, she headed downstairs for a glass of milk and the last slice of chocolate cake from a bridge party she had hosted the previous week.

As she sat at the kitchen table looking at her reflection in the window, she wondered what it was that Ethan needed to show her and why he felt it was so important that it be shown in privacy. Picking up her fork she cut through the triple layered wedge of chocolate cake and savored the morceau in her mouth before downing it with a drink of milk.

She glanced at the wall clock. It was 4:30. Getting up, she walked over to the cordless phone and brought it back to the table along with her address book and sat down. After she finished the remainder of the cake and milk, she opened the address book, found the phone number she wanted, punched in the numbers on her phone and waited for the pickup at the other end. She didn’t have to wait long.

“This had better be good Louise,” said the gruff, groggy voice of Jeffrey Deaver, the recently retired Captain of 33 Division, who picked up on the first ring. “You know what time it is?”

Louise smiled: “Of course I know what time it is.” She quickly discerned she was talking to empty air.

“Good! You didn’t wake up Meredith! Now what’s up?”

“I bet you were snacking in the kitchen like me. Old habits don’t die easily even in retirement,” she sniggered. “How’s that wife of yours handling you being underfoot?”

“Meredith’s doing just fine. But, why don’t you just cut to the chase and tell me why you called.”

“Do you remember Ethan Cranston?” She shifted the telephone to her other ear and stood up and walked into the living room. “Your silence is deafening Jeff.”

“Yeah… I remember him. So?”

“He’s in Meaford and it’s no accident.”

“Fuck!” He mumbled under his breath. “He’s always been a lose cannon. And Tom knew that especially…”

“My sentiments too, but you have such a poetic way of saying it.” She opened the candy dish and popped a chocolate in her mouth and sat down on the couch. “What were you about to say?”

“Nothing, nothing important. Did he tell you why he’s there?”

“He says he’s investigating a murder, if that’s what you’re asking?”  She turned on the table lamp when Pepper came down the stairs and jumped onto the couch and settled in the corner opposite her.

“Hmm… Did he say what murder?”

“I guess I’ll find out this evening.” Patting her side, she looked over at Pepper to invite him to snuggle against her which he readily acceded to.

“This evening?” Jeffrey queried with more than a hint of astonishment in his tone.

“Uh-Huh. He’s coming here for supper. Even bringing it,” she replied smugly as she ran her hand softly along the top of Pepper’s head and down his back. “By the way, how’s retirement?”

“Okay…I guess.”

“Just okay? What the hell does that mean?”

“I’m going to bed,” he retorted.

“Wait! Help me out here. Ethan hanging out here has opened old wounds. Whatever happened between him and Tom?” Silence greeted her ears. “Nothing? You’re saying nothing?”

“Are you okay with inviting me to supper?”

“It depends.”

“Just say yes or no.”

“Yes,” she replied, unable to hide a tinge of reluctance.

“What time?

“Six.”

“You’d better tell him to bring lots because I’m bringing Meredith, too.”

 

 

When Yesterday Becomes Tomorrow: Chapter Three

Tudor PubWhen Yesterday Becomes Tomorrow by B. B. Wright

Chapter Three

Louise strained her eyes to identify the man who was trying to help Pepper but came up empty handed.

    _____

Gregarious people, Louise and her late husband, Tom, were easily assimilated into the community and, as a result, quickly became either fast friends or familiar with most whom quite rightly so called themselves permanent residents.

Staunch in their cohesiveness as a community, they learned to endure the onslaughts from the city as nothing more than pesky insects defining a season.

 _____

“Hey Pepper! What are you doing? Get over here,” she commanded, pointing down to her side. That’s not like him not to come, she thought, as she marched toward him.

The man who had been helping Pepper began to walk toward her. His toque was pulled down tightly over his ears and his high-back collar partly obscured his face. He smiled at her as he approached and slowed down, tipping his head in her direction as he passed. “Cute dog you’ve got there.”

She smiled and nodded back. He seems familiar, she thought.  “If you think disobedience is cute,” she chuckled, pointing in the direction of Pepper who stayed his distance while playing with the running shoe he had retrieved from between the rocks.

“What can I say?” he replied, laughing. “He’s got the curiosity of a perpetual two year old. But, he’s still cute.” And, he began to pick up his pace.

“Ethan? Is that you?”

Stopping, he turned and slowly walked back toward her with a wide grin on his face.

Pepper dropped a soaked and muddied running shoe at her feet and attempted to get her attention.

“Shss.”  And, she kicked the shoe away. “My god, Ethan! Is it really you? This is the last place on the face of the earth I’d expect to meet you. Take off that silly toque and let me have a good look at you.”

About to remove it, he hesitated. “Why don’t I keep it on until we find warmer surroundings?”

“Then I’d recommend the Boar Inn.”

When Pepper returned with the shoe in his mouth she bent down and grabbed him by the collar and hooked on the leash. Unable to dislodge the shoe from between his teeth she gave up and, placing her arm under Ethan’s, the  two of them toddled off toward the Inn with Pepper leading the way.

“You know, you look pretty good for an old fart,” she said teasingly.

“Thanks,” he chortled, patting his stomach. “I’ve put on a few pounds there

since the old beat.”

“Tell me something. Would you have just kept on going if I hadn’t called out?”

“Louise…I know you’re still grieving over Tom. Timing…well…I didn’t want to intrude until…”

“Oh, Ethan! “  Why would you even think that?” She gave his arm a squeeze. “You and Tom were so close.”

“Yes…at one time we were. But, if you remember, he and I didn’t part under the greatest of circumstances.”

They crossed the street in silence and stopped outside the pub’s entrance.

“Ethan, all I knew back then was that you two were no longer partners. He never spoke about it…at least not to me. I’ve never held any rancor toward you.”

“Louise, I know that.” He sighed deeply. “Look, he was sworn to secrecy. Just like me. Few people knew. That’s the way the department wanted it played out.”

“Wanted what played out?”

“Let’s get in out of the cold,” he replied, opening the door. “Should we tie him outside?”

A smirk formed at the side of her mouth. “No…Pepper’s a regular like me. Anyway, he’s got a special in with the owner.”

A few minutes later they were sitting in a booth with hot coffees between them. Lying on the floor beside the table was Pepper with the running shoe tucked between his paws.

“It’s as plain as the nose on your face that you don’t want to talk about what went on back then between you and Tom. I’ll buy that for the moment.  But, can you at least tell me why you showed up here after all these years?”

Ethan blew across his coffee and took a sip before answering.  “I’m here investigating a murder.”