Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Cat-killer Caper Finale


December 24

Kate took the stairs two at a time to the fourth floor. For the first time in weeks, she felt energized. Her hand still hurt. She still missed her father. She still wished she could hibernate between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. But today was a good day.

“Ms Garrett?”

It would have been a better day if she could have avoided Mr Koehne.

“Good afternoon, Mr Koehne.”

She wasn’t sure what else to say. She could hardly open the conversation with, “Sorry your sister turned out to be a psychopath.”

Koehne handed her an envelope.

“It’s thirty-days notice,” he said. “According to our agreement, for the first six months, either party can give thirty-days notice to terminate if the arrangement proves unsatisfactory.”

Kate nodded.

“Due to family obligations, I find advisable to go back to working out of my home.”

“Understandable,” Kate agreed, adding to herself, especially when your landlord is the cause of the family problems. Then, because she had to know, she asked, “Did you have any idea what your sister was doing?”
He stared at her, wide-eyed. He knew.

“Forget I asked,” she said quickly. “But between you and me, seek legal counsel. Your sister has confessed to killing the cats because they were watching her – just as her own cat had watched her. She will no doubt be found non compos mentis and be remanded to a psychiatric facility to get the care she has evidently needed ever since her husband abused her.”

Koehne dropped his gaze.

“Her husband’s disappearance will be re-examined,” Kate warned. “If at any time they discover that you knew that she was making cyanide out of peach pits . . .”

She let the sentence hang. He nodded and turned away from her.


“I’ll be home for Christmas. You can count on me . . .”

Jake didn’t make a dig about the Christmas song, he was just pleased to see Kate so cheerful. She was giving the wistful song a jaunty beat and seemed completely unaware that she had an audience.

“I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams . . . Yes, I know you’re there, Carmedy.”

“Making café au lait?’ he asked, pretending he hadn’t heard her.

“Coffee nogs,” she said. “We’re celebrating.”

“The solving of the Cat-killer Caper?”

She chuckled.

“You did a good job with that,” he added. “Though if Thorsen knew you downloaded information about Collin’s missing husband when you were supposed to be changing your bandage . . .”

“I did worse than that, I used his authority to request a second test of the poison used on the cats to look for organic traces. It occurred to me that if Irene was turning her pit shells into mulch, she might be finding a use for the kernels too.” she gave him a self-satisfied grin. “But that’s not why we’re celebrating.”

“Oh?”

“My tenant has given his notice. I should be sorry about the loss of income but mostly I am hugely relieved.”

While she steamed the eggnog and poured the coffee, he did some last minute considering. When she turned to hand him his mug, he broached the matter.

“Before you rented the suite to Koehne, I was thinking of making you an offer on the space. I thought I could convert it to an apartment.”

She leaned back on the counter as if it was the only thing keeping her from falling over in shock.
“Shit.”

“You don’t like the idea,” he said, trying not to sound hurt.

“No, I think it’s brilliant.  The tax rebate for creating new residential space will cover a big chunk of the renovation costs, and I won’t have an annoying deadbeat for a tenant.” She grinned at him. “At least, you better not be an annoying deadbeat.”

“I also had an idea about Christmas,” he added, figuring he might as well try for the whole enchilada. “Come home with me. My aunt and uncle would be happy to have you.”

He could read her answer on her panicked face.

“It would be my way of paying back Joe for inviting me to the Thorsens’ way back when,” he added, hoping to make it seem like nothing more than a friendly invitation.

Kate fought for control over her emotions. For a moment she thought Jake wanted more from her than a working  relationship and for a moment that was fine with her. Scary, but fine.

“Thanks, Jake,” she said, feeling that the occasion warranted the use of his given name. “Mum and David went and made plans for me to go skiing with them. I’m not crazy about skiing but they’ve made the reservations and . . .”

“I understand,” he said. “Maybe next year.”

He backed away from her and for a moment he was under the mistletoe. She wanted to take advantage, but she hesitated and the moment was gone.

Maybe next year.



Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Alison, Midnight, Christmas 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Cat-killer Caper Part 6


December 23

Twas the night before Christmas Eve, and against the Gilchrist house,
Carmedy and Garrett were hiding, as quiet as a mouse.


If she had more time, Kate would have butchered the famous poem further.

A cat rubbed itself against the trunk of a topiary yew. It was a calico, slightly scruffy, but with large luminous eyes that looked upward with an expression that clearly said pet me, I’ll purr. As a hint of rewards to come, it let out a soft brrpp of pleasure. Then it sat, waiting expectantly.

Thwip!

The dart was thrown with lightning speed and deadly accuracy . . . or it would have been deadly if the cat was real.

Before the dart stopped vibrating, Jake and Kate were out on the sidewalk. Irene Collins was staring at the ‘Real Kitty’ toy in shocked horror. She was so taken aback, she hardly noticed the detectives until they laid hands on her. Then she started screaming and flailing about, like a woman fighting for her life.

Jake tried to calm her. Kate, who was cold, stiff and in need of painkillers, went straight to the taser and zapped her. Irene jerked, then folded like a rag doll. As Jake cuffed her, Kate bagged the dart and decoy. The cat was still purring.


Concluded tomorrow, or read the whole story at:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Cat-killer Caper Part 5



December 21
Kate woke up when the painkillers wore off. She was in her father’s bed. Her pills and a bottle of water were on the bedside table. She still had her underpants on and Carmedy’s shirt. Everything else, including her bra, was in the laundry hamper.

Interesting. She didn’t even remember getting out of the car.

When she got around to going downstairs, she found Carmedy on the office couch. On his open terminal, she could see the annual report was completed. Kate poured herself some juice and read his additions, tweaking his grammar here and there.

“We’ll proof it later,” he said, coming up behind her. “Tell me about Irene Collins . . . while you make coffee.”

“She’s the peach jam lady,” said Kate, heading for the kitchenette.

“No way.”

“Way.”

She brought him over the half-empty jar and showed him Irene’s name.

“Does that mean you’ve dismissed her as a suspect?” he asked, smiling. “After all, we don’t want to interfere with our supply of preserves.”

She shook her head.

“I’m checking on her missing husband. Maybe he’s come back and is trying to terrorize her.”

She told him about her interviews with the neighbourhood watch and her brief talk with Ms Collins. Irene confirmed the gossip that her husband abused her and she was afraid of him returning.

“She said her cat died just before he left.”

“That’s significant,” he agreed. “We’ll see what turns up tomorrow. Right now we have to get ready for dinner and for me, that means a trip home.”


A couple of hours later, clean, dressed appropriately, and inappropriately terrified, Kate stood in front of the Thorsens’ house.

Think of it as a business function, Kate told herself. You and your business partner are meeting a client and his family for dinner.

Right, except that the Thorsens were her family. She baby-sat the Thorsen kids. She was with Mama Maggie when Erica, the youngest, was born. Up until Jake Carmedy came along, Kate and her father spent every Yule at the Thorsen home. Then her father practically adopted Carmedy. After one very tense Yule dinner, Kate announced she’d visit the Thorsens with her mother and step-father from now on.

She knocked at the door. Obviously she was expected because she only got one knock in before the door flew open and Erica jumped out, throwing her arms around Kate’s neck.

“Katie!”

The girl was no featherweight. She almost knocked Kate off her feet. That would have been embarrassing: detective bowled over by ten-year-old.

“Erica! Settle down,” Thorsen shouted from the kitchen.

“It’s okay,” Kate called out. “I don’t mind.”

She set down her bags and flipped the girl over. Erica giggled so hard she started to hiccup. Kate put her down and handed her two of the three bags she brought.

“Here monster-girl, these are to go under the tree.”

Once the girl was out of sight, Kate hugged her bad hand to her chest. She was going to need more painkillers.

Thorsen greeted her with a scowl.

“Carmedy tell you about last night?” she guessed.

“Only after I grilled him. I got the initial report from Mohr.”

“Mohr called you?”

“No. I called Mohr when my daily reports flagged your name. Why didn’t you call me, Kathleen?”

There were a lot of answers to that question. Kate picked the least controversial.

“Too tired to think of it.”

He dropped his arm around her shoulder and guided her into the kitchen.

“We’ll talk about it later.”


Jake looked up from the baguette he was slicing. Igor was looking better now that Kate was here.

“Almost done?” Maggie asked him.

He made the last few cuts and dumped the pieces into the bread basket.

“Done,” he said.

“Good, because you’ll have to do the job I reserved for Kate.”

“I can work,” Kate said.

“Someone needs to get the stuffing out of the bird.”

“Can’t do that,” Kate agreed. “How about stirring the gravy?”

“That’s Andrea’s job. Sonia and Erica are setting the table. Igor is preparing to carve . . . Can you set out the condiments and relishes? Or will the jars be a problem?”

Kate waved her good hand.

“I’m good.”

Jake split his attention between digging out the stuffing and watching Kate wrestle with jar tops. She was watching him on and off too. Finally she came over to him.

“You have to scoop out the other end too,” she whispered.

Jake rolled his eyes and turned the bird around.

When he was done, Igor shooed him away so he could carve. Kate now had everything out and was faced by a cluster of open jars. Jake washed up and offered to put the lids on while she ferried the dishes to the table.

Two varieties of pickled onion, three varieties of pickled herring, gherkins, bread and butter pickles, sliced dill pickles, tamarind sauce, fig sauce and peach chutney. He took the chutney out so he could steal a taste. It wasn’t as good as the jam, but it was pretty damned good.

“You like it?” she asked, catching him in the act. “Irene must go through bushels of peaches. You have to wonder how she maintains quality control when she hates dealing with people.”

“I just wonder what she does with all the pits.”

“Mulch. But that’s just the shells.”

She stared at him for a moment then announced, “ I need to check something.”

“Not work,” he hissed. “Not here.”

He followed her back to the kitchen, but she swept past him with her purse in hand.

“Got to check my bandages.”

He didn’t believe her, but there was fresh gauze wrapped around her hand when she returned – just in time to sit down with the family. There was also a self-satisfied smile on her face.


Now that she had solved the puzzle, at least to her satisfaction, Kate was able to set it aside and enjoy the family celebration. After dinner was cleared away, they settled in the living room with coffee and schnaps. Kate passed on the schnaps. She eyed an open place on the couch, but was pulled down onto the floor by Erica who then leaped back up again.

“Presents!” she cried. “I want to give Kate my present first.”

No one objected, so the girl dug through the parcels until she found what she was looking for. Finally, she handed over a homemade box with a recycled bow on top. Kate opened the box, removed the tissue and pulled out a coffee mug. It was a bit lumpy and included a perfect thumb impression where the handle was joined to the cup.

“I made it myself,” Erica said. “I painted this side.”

She pointed to the side nearest Kate. It was decorated with holly and mistletoe.

“But on this side,” she turned the mug in Kate’s hands, “I had them put a photo. See – there’s me.”

Mama Maggie was obviously trying to get her youngest to look toward the camera, but the baby was more interested in trying to get into Mama’s blouse. Papa Igor had Sonia on his lap. Beside him was her Dad with Andrea perched on a knee. On the other side of Maggie, Kate was trying to get baby Erica’s attention. Beside her, sitting on the arm of the couch was Carmedy. Their first and last Yule together.

Kate’s eyes welled up with tears. Sure, she had been with Erica every season since, every birthday, every significant event, but she had cheated herself out of nine Yule dinners because of pride.

“You okay, Katie?” Erica asked, her voice tremulous. “Don’t you like it?”

“I love it, honey. It’s the best gift ever.”


Jake was desperate for the washroom but Kate was asleep, leaning against his leg, using his knee as a pillow.

“Big change from last time you two were in this house,” Igor commented. “I take it you’re getting along now.”

“Except when we aren’t,” Jake replied.

“I’m going to want her back, you know. I let her have the time off because she would have quit on me if I didn’t, but she has the makings of a fine homicide detective. She won’t get that opportunity in private investigation.”

“Joe did.”

“Joe was Joe.” Igor’s brows furrowed and his mouth was tight. “There’s a lot of resentment towards private contractors. You don’t see it because Joe was practically legendary. In other cities there’s been trouble. Toronto’s given up the practice completely. They’ll refer qualified private investigators, but they won’t hire them.”

“Are you telling me that Carmedy and Garrett Investigations can’t expect much work from you?” Jake asked. “Or will you still send us the pet crimes?”

“No business tonight,” Maggie said, rousing from her doze. “Jake, Andrea made up the couch in the basement for you. I was thinking Kate could sleep with the girls but . . .”

“I can sleep on the couch too,” Kate said, without lifting her head. “It’s big enough.”

Jake had the satisfaction of seeing Igor blush. He guessed it had more to do with being overheard than Kate’s provocative offer.

Kate’s good hand crawled up his shin and braced itself on his knee. With a grunt of effort, she stood, using him for leverage. Once she was up, she grabbed his wrist and pulled him to his feet.

“Come on, partner,” she said. “Good night all.”

Jake followed her down to the finished basement. As promised, the couch was made up into a queen-sized bed. There was also a full bath so he disengaged from her grip so he could make use of the facilities. She was already stripped down to her bra and panties when he returned.

“Do you have a spare t-shirt?” she asked. “I didn’t come prepared to stay.”

He was prepared and his bag had been brought down earlier. He rummaged for a clean t-shirt and tossed it to her.

“Thanks.”

She put it on and took her bra off underneath.

“Is this a form of rebellion?” he asked.

She grinned.

“Partly. I heard most of my godfather’s diatribe. He’s right, of course. We can’t count on getting high profile cases. We’ll be called in for support, but we won’t get the kind of cases my father got.”

She slipped between the covers, staying to the edge, leaving him almost two thirds of the mattress. If he only took up a third, they’d have a decent buffer zone. That would work.

“The thing is,” she continued, “the first thing my father taught me was that most important thing about solving a case was solving it. If you can take the stand in court and present the facts clearly, so that no one can shake your testimony, then you’ve done your job – whether it was a high-profile homicide or a traffic accident.”

He wasn’t sure whether he bought her line, or even if she did, but he knew she wasn’t lying about the source. Joe had said as much to him.

He stripped down to boxers and undershirt and crawled into bed, careful to keep to his side. Obviously, she thought of him in platonic terms so this wasn’t a problem for her. It was a problem for him, but he’d deal with it.

Then the shoe dropped.

He turned over, putting himself in the middle of the bed.

“You’ve solved the case.”

She turned onto her back and grinned up at him.

Continued tomorrow, or read the whole story at:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Cat-killer Caper Part 4


December 20

Kate had just finished building two cream cheese and peach preserve sandwiches when Jake entered the office. He didn’t look particularly rested, but she didn’t want to rock the boat by pointing this out.

“It’s not as healthy as the meal you made me,” she said, handing over the waxed paper wrapped parcel, “but they should help you get through the night. I’ve also made a thermos of café au lait and given you the last two energy drinks. I’ll go shopping this evening.”

“Don’t get too much,” he warned. “Maggie and Igor will send us home with enough leftovers for a week and the office closes down in a couple of days.”

“Speak for yourself, Kemosabi. I’ll be around to eat. Even if there’s no work here, I have a ton of stuff to do upstairs.”

Carmedy slung his pack on his shoulder, and patted his pockets for keys and wallet, then checked the heavy-duty flashlight on his belt. No gun, Kate noted. No real need, she supposed but it didn’t stop her from carrying her Sig Sauer and a taser. Strict weapons controls only applied to law-abiding civilians and Kate didn’t count herself among the civilians.

“I’m going home tonight if you want to use the apartment,” she said.

He shook his head.

“It’s okay . . . I changed the sheets for you, by the way.”

Kate was surprised at his thoughtfulness.

“Thanks. You didn’t have to.”

He gave her a shrug and turned to go. Over his shoulder he commented, “Yes, I did.”


Kate kept the office open for another hour before calling it a day and going up to change out of her day-wear. She had almost as many clothes in her father’s flat as her own apartment. She’d have to make up her mind where she was going to live soon. But not today, she thought, running through her own checklist. Wallet, cuffs, flashlight and shopping bags were in her large shoulder bag. Keys and personal alarm in her pocket. BlueBerry, taser and pistol in their respective holsters on her belt.

A couple of hours later, with a bag full of wrapped presents, Kate hailed a taxi and headed to the apartment. She asked the cabby to wait while she dropped off her parcels, then she directed him to take her to the east end. On the way, she called Carmedy.

“Hey, partner,” he said.

She smiled. He must be having a good evening if he was being so friendly.

“How’s it going?” she asked.

“Nice night for a walk.”

“I just wanted to give you a heads-up. I’m going to try to interview a couple of the people on my list. I don’t anticipate any trouble but . . .”

“Better safe than sorry. Update my PCD on your location so I can find you if you shout.”

She uploaded the addresses she would be visiting and established a quick link to his PCD in case she needed to ‘shout’ for help. Soon after, the taxi stopped. Kate filed the electronic receipt to recoverable expenses and bid the cabby a safe and prosperous evening.

Her first target was Irene Collins. No Christmas decorations, but a mulch covered path lined with solar lights led the way to the porch. Beside the door was a hand-painted sign advertising peach preserves for sale, by appointment only. Finally, Kate realized where she knew the name. Ms Collins produced that delicious peach compote that she and Carmedy had been enjoying for the last couple of days.

She rang the bell.

No answer.

She rang again, then knocked loudly on a panel of one-way glass set that decorated the heavy wood door.

“Who’s there?” came a voice through a speaker by the door.

Knowing she was in full view of the unseen woman, Kate adopted an open stance and a friendly – but not too friendly – smile.

“I’m Kate Garrett, one of the detectives hired by your community to find the cat-killer.”

“I don’t belong to the neighbourhood watch,” she said firmly.

“Understood, Ms Collins, but you do like to walk at night. It is possible you’ve seen something without realizing it and I am sure you would want to help keep your neighbourhood safe. After all, people who hurt animals are just as likely to hurt humans.”

There was a pause – long enough to make Kate wonder if she should knock again.

“That doesn’t follow,” said the woman on the other side of the door. “Being a butcher doesn’t make you a suspect for cutting up human bodies. Exterminators don’t become killers just because they destroy vermin.”

Actually, a butcher might become a suspect if the cadaver was cut up like a side of beef and an exterminator would be questioned if their poisons matched the cause of death. Kate didn’t argue the point.

“Your neighbours’ pets are being targeted, not vermin or meat.”

Another long pause.

“I never saw anything,” she said finally. “Now please go.”

“You make that wonderful peach jam, don’t you?”

“What does that have to do with cats?”

“Nothing,” Kate said. “I just noticed your sign. Your brother rents an office suite from me. My partner and I bought some of your peach compote from him. It’s delicious!”

“Are you going to evict my brother if I don’t talk to you?”

“Uh, no,” Kate said, momentarily derailed. “I would appreciate talking to you about your usual route when you walk, Ms Collins. You might have noticed something without realizing it. While I’m here, I’d like to pick up some of your peach chutney. Your brother doesn’t carry it. However,” now she laid on a tone of shocked affront, “I would never consider letting your lack of cooperation impact on a business relationship.”

Twenty minutes later, Kate walked away with a little more information and four jars of chutney.

Her next destination was Paulo Crabbe’s home.


Jake put away his PCD, wishing Kate had called to talk rather than sending a text message.

“Penny for your thoughts,” said his patrol partner, a no-nonsense Indian matriarch.

“My partner just reported she’s moving on to her second interview.”

“Suspect or witness or person of interest?”

Carmedy smiled. Mrs G watched crime shows in her spare time.

“Person of interest.”

“Ah,” she said, tapping the side of her nose, “lets hope it’s a person of great interest. My Sandy is suffering extreme cabin fever, but I’m not letting him out at night until this case is solved.”

“Sandy’s your cat?”

She shook her head.

“My husband. He is so high strung.”

Carmedy had no idea how to respond to this. They walked in silence until Mrs G pointed out the lights at number fifteen and the subject turned to holiday decorations. They had moved on to holiday plans when Jake’s panic alarm went off.

“Call the watch leader,” he said, checking Kate’s location. “Wait for her here.”

He was close enough to the car to make it a viable first target. As soon as Jake was within line of sight, he keyed the button to unlock and start the vehicle. He plugged his PCD into the dock and put 911 on standby.

He heard sirens as he pulled into Crabbe’s driveway. It seemed that Kate had already called in the cavalry. Even as he cut the engine, his PCD chimed.

“Carmedy?” said Kate, sounding out of breath.

“I’m here.”

He took the six porch steps in two. The front door was locked. He was considering whether there was any point trying to kick it in when it opened by Kate. She was covered in blood and lumpy goo. Behind him, an EMS truck pulled up.




Carmedy had a death grip on her shoulders and his eyes were wide – almost bugging out. Kate looked down at herself and grimaced.


“It’s okay,” she said. “It’s not my blood.”

She stepped aside and let him see Paulo Crabbe, one arm handcuffed to his wrought iron stairs, the other holding a towel to his face. He was wearing an open kimono robe and a pair of silk boxers that were a little too large and a lot too pink.

“What happened?” asked the first of two paramedics coming up behind Carmedy.

“Mr Crabbe attacked me,” Kate replied. “I broke his nose.”

“What’s the orange stuff?”

“Peach chutney.”

“Ah.”

The paramedic nodded and turned his attention to Crabbe, who was already being checked by his partner.

“Peach chutney?” Carmedy asked.

She winced with embarrassment.

“I was reaching for my flashlight and came up with chutney.”

He bit his lower lip. He was trying not to laugh at her.

Flashing lights heralded the arrival of the police. One of them was a new hire but Kate knew the other guy from her time in community policing. He looked her over, head to toe and shook his head.

“Now what, Garrett?”

“Same old, same old, Mohr. You met Carmedy?”

Mohr held out his hand.

“Yeah, I think Joe introduced us once.”

Carmedy shook the hand and nodded his head. Kate could tell neither man remembered the other.

“Any of that blood yours?” Mohr asked.

Kate shook her head.

“I don’t think so.” She flexed her hand and winced with pain. “Maybe. I might have a cut. Definitely have bruises.”

Carmedy took her hand and examined it.

“It should be washed with running water just in case there’s glass left in the wound.”

“Not yet,” Kate told him. “It’s not life threatening, so Mohr needs to establish if there is evidence on my hand to preserve.”

Mohr rolled his eyes.

“Don’t teach your grandpa how to suck eggs, Garrett.”

The senior constable turned to his partner.

“See if you can free up one of those paramedics and take ‘em to the kitchen with Garrett.” He turned back to Kate. “You can tell my rookie how to do her job while she takes your statement.”

An hour later, Paulo Crabbe was on his way to the hospital under police escort and Kate was finally allowed to leave the kitchen. Her sweater, t-shirt and shoulder bag had been taken in evidence, but she was allowed to keep the bag’s contents, including two of the remaining jars of chutney. Mohr kept one intact jar “for evidence”.

“Here,” Carmedy said, passing her his shirt.

She took off the paramedic’s blanket and put on the still-warm garment. Carmedy wrapped the blanket around her shoulders holding it while she awkwardly fastened the buttons.

“She needs to go to the hospital,” the paramedic announced.

Kate opened her mouth to protest, but Carmedy spoke first.

“I’ll take her.”

Weary but resigned, Kate agreed.



En route to the hospital, Jake stopped for coffee. He picked a drive-through even though it meant paying extra for the convenience. Except for asking what she wanted, he maintained a tactical silence until she had her first sip.

“So?” he asked, pulling out of the parking lot.

“The whole evening or just the part with Crabbe?”

“Start with Crabbe.”

He heard her take another sip before she started.

“I approached Paulo Crabbe with the same spiel I gave Irene Collins, but he was a lot friendlier. He invited me in, made a show of trying to remember his routine . . .”

She heaved a sigh.

“I could tell he was stringing me along,” she continued. “He wanted attention and for a little while I thought we might have our cat-killer, but then he revealed himself.”

“And?”

“He revealed himself,” she repeated. “He opened his kimono and dropped his shorts. I guess he wears them loose on purpose.”

“Pervert.”

“Oh yeah. I stood up, one hand on my taser, the other hitting the panic button. I asked him to pull his pants up . . .”

She took a ragged breath. Startled, Jake glanced sideways and saw that she was holding her travel mug in a death grip. When she finally spoke, she sounded so shaken, it was all Jake could do to keep both hands on the wheel.

“I was caught off guard. He lunged at me, throwing me off balance. I couldn’t get my taser free, but my bag was handy so I reached into it for my flashlight, to use it like a cosh. I came up with peach chutney instead. I didn’t mean to smash it into his face, but the guy was getting rough, so I didn’t have much choice. Even then, I had to kick him away from me.”

“That’s when you broke his ribs.”

“That’s when I broke his ribs." She gave a harsh laugh. "To be honest, I was a bit pissed off by then.”

This time she caught him looking and answered his concern with a poor attempt at a reassuring smile.

“I was an idiot,” she admitted. “I shouldn’t have gone into his house alone.”

It was a stupid reckless thing to do, but he wasn’t going to point that out now. He wouldn't offer sympathy. That would only make her feel worse. But he wouldn't kick her when she was down either.

“Then you cuffed him to the railing,” he said.

“Yes.”

“Do you think he’s the cat killer?”

He glanced toward her and saw she was shaking her head.

“I figure if he were to kill anything, there would be a sexual component to the crime.”

Jake gave an involuntary shudder.

“Yeah,” said Kate, “that’s how I felt about it too.”

Continued tomorrow, or read the whole story at:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Christmas Cat-killer Caper Part 3


Chapter 2: December 20

Kate crawled into bed at five o’clock in the morning, and stumbled back out at nine. She could have used more sleep, but she knew Carmedy would be on tenterhooks, waiting for her to finish the annual report.

Showered and dressed, she came down the inside stairs to the office to find her partner looking much more cheerful than usual. In deference to the season, he had broken up his unremitting khaki colour palate with a red sweater.

“Good morning,” he said, looking up from his terminal. “How did it go last night?”

“Same old, same old,” she reported, automatically going to the kitchenette to start the coffee. It was already made.

“I figured you’d be down soon, so I started a pot.” Carmedy grinned. “I also brought bagels and cream cheese to go with the peach compote.”

Kate took a second look at the counter and noticed the bag of bagels, the tub of cream cheese and six mason jars of peach preserves, one of which was half empty.
“Evidently, Koehne’s sister has a cottage industry producing peach preserves,” Carmedy said, answering her unspoken question.  “Peach jam, peach syrup, peach chutney . . . you get the idea. He’s marketing the stuff for her. He has a display set up on his front counter.”

She poured coffee and made up a bagel with cream cheese and jam.

“This is good!”

“That’s why I got six jars,” said Carmedy. “Oh, and Koehne asked me to deliver an envelope to you. It’s on your desk.”

Kate set her breakfast on the desk and opened the envelope. It was the rent cheque.
“Did you lean on him?” she asked.

When he didn’t answer, she narrowed her eyes and stared at him until he admitted, “Maybe a little.”
She nodded. Putting the cheque to one side, she sat and took a sip of coffee.
“Carmedy.”

“Yes.”

“Never, ever make coffee again. I don’t know how you managed it, but this is awful.” She pushed her mug away and picked up the cheque again. “About this, thanks.”

“Jingle bells, jingles bells . . .”

“Jingle all the way.”

Jake blushed, he hadn’t realized he was singing aloud until Kate joined in. He had been generating invoices all morning and the knowledge that they had enough money coming in to cover January and part of February had cheered him immeasurably. In less than four days, he’d be going home for Christmas. If they could catch the cat-killer, he’d go home with a clear conscience.

“I was just thinking that we might be creating too much of a presence in the neighbourhood.”

She looked at him blankly.

“East Hills,” he said, “the neighbourhood we’ve been staking out for a week. Maybe we should make it look like we’ve given up; draw the cat-killer into the open.”
She shook her head as if to clear her mind. He had come out of left field, from her point of view.

“Into the open where?” she asked. “There’s no pattern to the killings except for being within the East Hills development.”

“Yeah,” he sighed. “We need to narrow the field.”

East Hills was a nice place to live, but a nightmare to survey. It was built around land reclaimed from the city dump. The dump had been turned into a park with trails winding over man-made hills, through formal and natural gardens and past two playgrounds. A wide avenue surrounded the park from which streets extended like bent spokes.

The neighbourhood had its own watch. Members took turns patrolling the area in pairs. Jake had soon learned that each pair had their own routine so that a clever observer could count on which streets were patrolled at what time. That was the first thing Jake changed.

“If we went back to the original routine,” he said. “Maybe we could lull the perp into a false sense of security.”

“Okay,” Kate agreed, “but I think we need to close off the park.”

“Close off the park,” Jake repeated. That wouldn’t be easy.

“Consider,” Kate continued, “since no suspicious vehicles appear in correspondence to the killings, we can assume the cat-killer lives in the neighbourhood and hunts on foot. If we cut off access to the park – the shortcut to everywhere –  we might limit his or her territory.”

“Assuming we could close the park, we’d have to let him strike again to narrow the field.”

She heaved a sigh.

“Yeah, that’s the problem. We need a few suspects.”

“We need lunch,” said Jake. “I’m feeling the need for pizza. Do you want to get it, or shall I?”

“You go,” she said. “I should get back to this report. You’ll be happy to know, I’m on the home stretch.”


Kate stared at the screen, humming carols. She had compiled the statistics for November. Now she had to summarize reports.

“Coffee,” she said aloud, when she was done. “I need more coffee.”

What she really needed was time out. The ritual of cleaning the machine, measuring the beans and water, then washing the cups as the coffee brewed gave her that. Because it was infinitely preferable to going back to the report, she thought about the cat-killer.

They had been concentrating on the pet owners. Leaving a dead animal on a door step is a pretty personal message, so the assumption that the cat-killer had an issue with the families seemed reasonable. That didn’t make it correct.

The cat-killer probably used a microchip reader, a commonly available piece of technology, to identify the cat owners. Either that, or he was freakishly aware of his neighbours’ pets. All the victims had good homes and carried subcutaneous tags, as per animal control bylaws.

Maybe, Kate thought, returning the animals was a courtesy, not malice. Maybe it was all about the cats.

She called up their case notes and started making phone calls.


Knowing how long he’d been gone, Jake started his apology before the door closed behind him.

“I ran into Vince at Mario’s. We got to talking about the upcoming Eldridge trial.”

He handed her a piece of pizza and watched her take the first bite. It was a sensual pleasure that made the walk and the wait worthwhile. Neither hunger, stress, nor shortage of time stopped Kate Garrett from getting the most out her first taste. Jake was one of those people who looked on food as fuel, yet her enjoyment fascinated and delighted him.

She sighed and he quickly looked away. Her terminal caught his attention and he frowned.

“Finished the report?” he asked.

“Almost. I was following up on a few ideas about the cat-killer while you were gone. I don’t think the pet owners are relevant, only the cats. My guess is that there are more dead cats that didn’t have tags to identify their homes.”

“And you’ve corroborated this how?”

“I talked to the Humane Society about missing animals. It isn’t proof, but it is suggestive. If we look for a dumping ground, or fresh burial locations, we might be able to narrow our focus. Also,” she added, becoming more excited, “I thought we should look at who hasn’t been coming out since we were called in, so I called some of the members of the neighbourhood watch.”

Without much enthusiasm he prompted, “And?”

“I’ve got a short list of people who we might have driven inside for one reason or another.”

“Good, I’ll follow up on it this evening.”

“I can help,” she said.

“I’d rather you finish the report. I want to have time to go over it before I go home for the holidays.”

She stiffened, looked down at the piece of pizza in her hand and set it aside. It was as if she suspected him of poisoning her.

He replayed their conversation, looking for the reason for her sudden chill. Whatever it was, the report was now up on her terminal. He was trying to think of a conciliatory remark when his computer told him he had an incoming call. With a key stroke, Igor Thorsen appeared on his screen.

“Hey, Chief.”

“Hello, Jake. Is Kate with you?”

Kate appeared at his shoulder. Jake pushed off from his desk and let his chair roll to one side so she could step closer to the audio-visual pick-ups.

“I’m here, boss. What can I do?”

“This isn’t business,” Thorsen said. “I’m out shopping for gifts and I want to know if your mother is currently on a diet. I want to get her some handmade chocolates but . . .”

Kate giggled. Jake had never heard her giggle before. It was weird.

“Mum’s not dieting.”

“Well, it’s not like she needs to, but . . .”

“I know what you mean,” she said. “She tries out every new diet anyway – but not over the holidays. Or maybe she goes on a turkey and blintz diet, who knows.”

Thorsen gave a bark of laughter causing Kate’s smile to widen.

“One other thing,” Thorsen said. “Maggie made me promise that I’d remind you that tomorrow night we celebrate the Yule. You are both expected at the house by six o’clock.”

The smile disappeared. Her expression gave Jake an unwelcome emotional lurch.

“I can’t,” Kate said. “It’s my night on the stakeout. The felines of East Hill are depending on me.”

“I’ll take the stakeout,” Jake said. “You go to dinner.”

Thorsen heaved a sigh so heavy, Jake half expected the news flimsy on his desk to be ruffled.

“I’ll assign an extra patrol car to the area,” Thorsen said. “Both of you are expected tomorrow night. No excuses. Maggie is counting on you. The girls are counting on you. And I will send out a posse to detain and deliver you if need be.”

Kate sighed and the paper was ruffled.

“Don’t disappoint me, Kathleen. This time, of all times, we need to be together. Getting through the holiday will be hard enough as it is.”

Shit! Of course. No wonder she went all stiff when he mentioned getting away for Christmas. She spent Christmas with her father. No matter how much he missed Joe on a day-to-day basis, his holiday wouldn’t be affected by Joe’s death.

“I won’t disappoint you,” Kate told Thorsen.

“I know you won’t. Got to go.”

Jake cut the connection and watched Kate go back to her desk. She stared at her screen, but didn’t seem to see it.

“You know,” Jake said, carefully casual, “there’s no reason I can’t start going over the beginning of your report while you finish up.”

She nodded. With a few keystrokes, she sent the document to his terminal. He skipped to the end to see how far she got.

Shit. Shit. Shit. Why hadn’t he anticipated this?

She was up to the Gage-Proctor murders – the case that was tied to Joe Garrett’s death. No wonder she was having trouble finishing.

“You know,” he repeated, “we haven’t got a lot of time to wrap up the case of the cat-killer. Thorsen offering a patrol car made me think, if we made the perp think the police were taking over and that they were limiting themselves to the park, we might be able to set a trap.”

She looked over at him, brows furrowed.

“That means,” he continued, “that you’d have to follow up on the leads you have between now and tomorrow evening. After that, we have to look like we’re stepping back.”

Her head cocked to one side, questioning.

He made a show of checking the report’s page of contents.

“I see you’re almost done and . . .” He did a double take. “This is really well set up . . .  Anyway, why don’t I finish this up? Then you can concentrate on the East Hill case.”

She hesitated. Jake held his breath and crossed his fingers. Then she sighed and nodded.

“Okay,” she said.

He let out his held breath as softly as possible.

“Just show me how you’ve indexed this first. I don’t want to screw it up.”


That was weird, Kate thought, sitting back at her desk after giving Carmedy his referencing tutorial. She was a trained detective, yet, what seemed to impress him the most was her facility with a data management macro. Giving her head a shake, she went back to her forgotten pizza and munched on it while she went over her notes.

So far, neighbourhood watch members had identified five people who they regularly saw on patrol but hadn’t been out since Carmedy and Garrett had been called in. She still had to check with the rest of the watch list but she decided to organize her notes so far.

Accessing her BlueBerry, she called up her chronological case notes. In a new window, she started a table with the names of the five people. For each, she indicated who suggested the name and why.

Everyone knew Mrs Djohns, an octogenarian who regularly took evening walks with the aid of her cane. She had recently had to switch to a walker and had been noticed strolling in the afternoon, before the watch patrolled. Kate couldn’t see the woman carting cats around in her walker basket, so Mrs Djohns went to the bottom of the list.

Paulo Crabbe was a suspected peeping tom. The watch hadn’t been able to catch him at it yet, but the presence of professional detectives would probably be enough to keep him in at night. Voyeurism was usually the first step to more serious crimes, just as felinicide might be the first step to homicide. Kate put him at the top of the list and started a search for priors.

Mr Theo Konstantin didn’t like new people, she had been told by several people. Kate had almost met Mr Konstantin on her first patrol. When hailed by the watch member escorting Kate, Konstantin crossed the road and turned down a lane, going out of his way to avoid them.

Marc and Evelyn Chauvelin walked their cat nightly, but not since the cat-killings became common knowledge. Safety probably kept them inside. Kate put them just above Mrs Djohns on her list.

Irene Collins had been pointed out to her a couple of times. Her neighbours looked out for her, but always at a distance. When she moved to the neighbourhood as a newlywed, she was reserved but not shy.  Gradually she withdrew from the community.

“I think her husband abused her,” said Flavia, one of Kate’s contacts. “He seemed okay at the time, but after he deserted her it was like she was afraid he might show up again. She stopped going out except late at night.”

“No obvious signs of abuse?” Kate asked.

“No bruises or unexplained trips to the hospital, if that’s what you mean, but there are other forms of abuse.”

Kate didn’t need to be told that. She’d encountered her fair share of mental and emotional abuse victims. At least with physical abuse it was easier to collect evidence against the perpetrator.

“There are a few of us that run errands for her,” Flavia continued. “She won’t talk to us directly, but she leaves little presents for us and is very pleasant and polite in her notes.”

Irene Collins. The name was familiar. Kate had seen it somewhere recently. On the basis of a niggling feeling of familiarity, Ms Collins got bumped up the list and Kate initiated a search on her name.


At three, Jake announced that he was going to take a nap.

“Want to use Dad’s place?” Kate offered.

“I’m okay on the couch.”

“It’s just that I’m about to make some phone calls.”

She gave him an apologetic grimace.

“I can work upstairs if you like,” she added quickly.

She seemed determined to please, so he took her up on the offer of Joe’s bed.

“Shall I call you in a couple of hours?” she asked.

“Just in case I don’t wake up?”

He grinned. Not bloody likely. He had a near-infallible ability to sleep for exactly as long as he gave himself, and no longer.

He used the inside stairs feeling the weight of loss with every step. Maybe Kate would move in properly and make it her own, but right now it was Joe’s place and being there reminded him Joe was gone.

He was falling into melancholy. He needed to fall into bed. Putting action to thought, he hitched up his backpack and headed for the bedroom.

The bed was barely made, covers pulled up hastily. Jake smoothed them out and stripped down to his boxers. It wasn’t until his head hit the pillow and he breathed in the lingering scent of Kate Garrett that he had second thoughts about using the office couch.

Maybe he should have his nap on one of the recliners.

 Maybe what he needed was a hot bath . . . or a cold shower.


Continued tomorrow, or read the whole story at:



Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Christmas Cat Killer Caper Continued


 Chapter 1: December 19 (Part 2)

Coffee in hand, Kate returned to the case reports.

She was glad Carmedy had given her the job. It gave her a chance to delve into the minutiae of private investigation. Her father had only discussed the highlights, never the day-to-day routine. For instance, eighty percent of the case files never took them out of the office.  They were background checks and skip traces performed for a handful of regular corporate clients, a couple of lawyers and the occasional private citizen. Fortunately, they could be summarized with statistics for each month.
Insurance cases accounted for about fifteen percent of the files and sixty percent of the income. The summaries for these only had to be detailed if the case involved criminal action. Most of the remaining five percent of the files was taken up with police cases. 

The original idea behind private investigators working for the police was to make use of senior detectives forced to retire because of age, physical disability or financial cutbacks. Consulting fees worked out cheaper than paying ongoing benefits and they could be hired on an as-needed basis only – a plus in smaller cities that didn’t have the infrastructure to maintain a large pool of detectives. One major crime could severely stretch their ability to investigate the daily influx of crimes against persons and property. Yet, every victim wanted their case to be given top priority.

Because Thorsen trusted her father, his former partner and mentor, Garrett Investigations had preferential status. In theory, Carmedy & Garrett Investigations maintained that preferential status but Kate had to wonder, would her father have taken a cat-killer case?

At four Carmedy sat on the edge of her desk until she finally gave him her attention. Although not particularly tall compared to the men she was used to working with, it wasn’t his lack of presence that caused the delay. He was built along square lines, broad shouldered, deep chested, muscles designed for strength, not speed. He was an immovable object and he was casting a shadow on her notes, but she was determined to finish her current summary – determined to show that she was taking the job seriously. When she turned to him, he was almost smiling. He seemed to approve of her diligence.

“Are you going home or upstairs before the stakeout?”

“Upstairs,” she replied. “I brought everything I’d need.”

She shared an apartment with an old friend and ex-boyfriend. Though only a few blocks from the Downtown, these days, she spent less time there, and more in her father’s attic flat above the office.

“If I tell you to go upstairs, will you take a quick nap, or will you go back to packing up your father’s stuff?”

She shrugged. If she decided to move into the flat, she needed to make it her own. If she let Carmedy take it, as she had offered, or put it on the rental market, it needed to be cleared out. Either way, there was a lot of work to do and Kate couldn’t find the energy to do it.

“I’ll have a shower,” she said. “If I nap I might not want to get up again.”

“Then go,” he said. “I’ll call you in an hour if you haven’t returned.”

Kate smiled and nodded. He could be autocratic at times, but this was an order she didn’t mind following.

She locked down her terminal and disengaged her BlueBerry from its docking port.  Flipping Carmedy a salute, she bypassed the inside steps and used the main entrance accessed from the fourth floor foyer – the location of her father’s personal mailbox. It was stuffed with the usual junk mail and a utility bill.

“Ms Garrett!”

She suppressed a sigh and slapped a smile on her face before turning to greet her new tenant whose pinstripe suit was marred by a flashing Santa Claus lapel pin.
 Kate had inherited her father’s share of the building which included control of the fourth and fifth floors. The business didn’t need all the space available on the fourth floor, but her father had never had much luck renting out the second suite. When the financial advisor from the third floor asked if the space was available for his son’s new business, Kate figured it would be a good way of generating additional income – income she might need if she decided to stick with private investigation.
Jake hadn’t been too happy about her decision, but at least he had the grace to say he wished she had consulted him, not that she should have done so. Now she wished she hadn’t acted so hastily.

“Good afternoon, Mr Koehne,” she said, taking his outstretched hand.

“Always a pleasure to see you,” he said. “I was wondering if you had a chance to consider my offer.”

“I already considered it, Mr Koehne,” she replied, pulling her hand free. “I declined, remember?”

“Ms Garrett . . . Kate . . . may I call you Kate?”

“I wish you wouldn’t.”

That put a small road bump in his pitch, but didn’t slow him long enough for Kate to make her exit.

“The thing is,” he continued, “Outreach Dating has plenty of men on its lists, men who are looking for Ms Right – or at least Ms Right for now – but we don’t have many women. I’ll throw in a hair and face make-over before your interview. Not that you aren’t lovely as is, but the fashion is for up-dos and forties-retro is in, so if you have an appropriate outfit . . . Wouldn’t you like a date for New Year’s? All we have to do is book a time . . .”

“Time is one thing I don’t have,” Kate said pointedly. “I’m also short on money, specifically the money you owe for last month’s rent.”

It was better than a boot in the rear for getting rid of the pest. He exited, with a hearty “Happy Holidays” before she had a chance to extract another promise he wouldn’t keep.

Jake phoned Joe’s flat a half hour before Kate had to leave. He woke her up. Despite her best intentions, she had fallen asleep on her father’s bed, wrapped in one of his over-sized bath sheets. Jake appreciated the view until she woke up sufficiently to turn off the phone’s video.

Thirty-five minutes later, feeling like a mother hen, he sent her on her way with a bag of sandwiches and fruit, and the keys to the company car. He knew if he didn’t pack her a dinner she’d pick up coffee and empty calories. The damned woman might irritate the hell out of him, but he also felt protective of her. It was as if Joe’s death had put her into his custody.

Joe would just love that, he thought.

Jake was only ten years Kate’s senior, but Joe had put a three-metre fence between them. On Jake’s side was a ‘do not trespass’ sign. The fence started coming down soon after Joe’s death. Not that romance was the issue. She made it clear the fence had to go for the sake of developing a good working relationship. Jake bought into the plan – albeit a little reluctantly. He stopped calling her Miss Kate but he couldn’t make the leap to calling her Garrett, or Detective Garrett, as protocol dictated. Joe was Garrett. She was Kate.

Bored with administrative work, fatigue catching up with him, Jake closed down the office shortly after Kate left. The dating service across the hall was just starting to show some activity.

Perfect.

He knew she’d make him regret acting on the knowledge, but Jake had watched the conversation on the security camera between Kate and the new tenant, and he knew the guy was remiss in meeting his financial obligations. Not only was he a deadbeat, but he kept hitting on her every chance he got. Jake figured he could bust two chops with one punch.

Continued next week, or read the whole story at:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Deck the Hall with Holiday Mysteries

Characteristics of a Serial Killer
...
They are involved with sadistic activity or tormenting small creatures.
Source: Internal Association of Forensic Science, an article written by FBI Special Agent Robert K. Ressler
"The Serial Killer," Harold Schechter 


The Christmas Cat Killer Caper


Chapter 1: December 19



“Deck the halls with boughs of holly . . .”

“I thought we agreed, no holiday songs in the office.”

“We agreed no holiday music in the office,” Kate said, hanging fresh holly over the last window. “I didn’t think that included me singing.”

“Well it does,” said Carmedy, scowling at her.

She turned and her eyes were large and luminous; her lips were pulled down in an expression of wounded sorrow.

He sighed.

“Or it should,” he temporized.

Her lips quivering, she managed a sad smile.

“Oh give it up,” he said, laughing. “The pouty-face was one thing, but I don’t believe that quiver for an instant.”

But I got you to laugh, Kate thought. These days, that’s victory enough.

Things had been pretty grim around the office of Carmedy & Garrett Investigations – with good reason. A month ago, Joe Garrett had been killed. Jake Carmedy lost his business partner, but Kate had lost her father. He owned the majority share of Garrett Investigations. By the terms of his will, Kate and Carmedy became equal partners. She took a leave of absence from the City Police Services to involve herself in the business.

She knew Carmedy disapproved of her decision. He only told her once or twice a day. She thought that adding the ‘Carmedy &’ to ‘Garrett Investigations’ would help. Instead, he complained about tampering with the company identity.

But that was yesterday’s news. Kate was determined to reduce the tension between them. She knew she wasn’t finished grieving, but she was tired of being sad all the time and walking on eggs around Carmedy was getting old.

 Irritated, Jake watched her hang holly over the door to the lobby. She was supposed to be working on the annual report, a tedious job that used to be Jake’s. The report, which probably would never get read, had to be filed with City Police Services by December 31, but since Jake planned to be out of the office between Christmas Eve and New Year, he wanted it delivered by December 23 and he wanted to check it first.

Failure to report could lead to them losing the certification that allowed them to be contracted by the police as investigative consultants. Since a sizable chunk of the agency’s income came from police contracts, they couldn’t afford to miss the deadline and Jake didn’t want to miss his family Christmas.

“How’s the report going?” he asked, hoping the question would nudge her back to work.

“It’s going,” she said, looking around the room and checking her handiwork. “I’m making coffee. Want some?”

He looked at the half empty bottle of flat cola on his desk.

“I’ll make you a café au lait,” she prompted.

He didn’t want to encourage her, but she did make a delicious café au lait.

“Yes, please.” Then, hoping he sounded generous, not concerned he said, “I could help you finish the annual report.”

She stiffened. He had offended her. Damn.

He was so tired of having to walk on eggs around her.

“Then how about if I take your turn at the stakeout tonight?”

She laughed and he was amazed, not for the first time, how quickly she could shift moods. Must be the red hair.

“Miss prowling around in the cold and damp? No way!”

Their current client was a neighbourhood association. The case had come to them via Igor Thorsen, the City’s Chief of Detectives. Someone was maliciously poisoning neighbourhood cats with cyanide-dipped pub darts, then leaving the bodies at their owners’ front door. Disturbing as it was, Police Services did not have the time or manpower to pursue the case. Carmedy & Garrett Investigations was referred. Since the cats were always attacked at night, they had been taking turns staking out the area with one or more of the residents.

She handed him his café au lait with something close to a condescending smile.

“Don’t worry Carmedy, I’ll get the report done . . . in time for you to make sure I did it right.”

He nodded. That’s what he needed to hear.

 “Now that I’ve cleared my head and have fresh coffee,” she continued, “I’m good to go. But first . . .”

She picked up the paper bag and climbed on top of her desk.

“What the hell?”  Carmedy yelped.

She pulled out a bunch of fresh mistletoe, wired into a ball and tied with a red ribbon. Carefully stepping over her keyboard and police-standard BlueBerry, she hung the ball between their desks. For a moment, Jake hoped that she’d jump off the desk into his arms. That would place them both under the kissing plant. Instead she backed down the way she came.

“Before you tell me it’s unprofessional to have mistletoe in the office, the plant was originally hung to bring peace.”

“I knew that,” he replied.



Continued next week, or read the whole story at: