Rough Business
151 pages

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151 pages

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Twin highly intelligent killers with unwavering revenge on their minds terrorize two bustling Canadian cities. Detectives Collins from Toronto and Thorpe from Edmonton are thrown together to find a link between the chilling murders. What drives the brothers to keep killing? Just as the net closes in around the twins, they slip away and lead the police on a tension-filled chase around the world.



Publié par
Date de parution 18 mars 2016
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9781772990683
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0032€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


By RandallSawka
Digital ISBNs:
EPUB 9781772990683
WEB 9781772990706
Print ISBN:9781772990713

Copyright 2016 byRandall Sawka
Cover art by MichelleLee
All rightsreserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reservedabove, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in orintroduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, orby any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, orotherwise) without the prior written permission of both thecopyright owner and the publisher of this book.
To my wife Nancy, withlove.
Chapter One
Sweat rolledoff Peter Houston’s brow and dripped onto the controls of thetreadmill. The sun poured in through the oversized windows,overpowering the stressed air conditioning in the private gym atthe firm of Dominick Investments in downtown Toronto. Houston wipedthe sweat from his eyes. He reached for a sports drink and took along pull. A man climbed onto the treadmill to Houston’s right withhis own bottle of Megapower.
In thereflection of the tinted glass Houston noticed three men from thesales department he managed skulking around two attractive womenfrom the accounts department. None of them daring to lift a weightor ride a stationary bike and risk creasing their designer gymwear. Peter looked at his own reflection. He wore an ancientsweatshirt, twenty-year-old-jogging shorts, and an old sweatband onhis forehead that did little to stop the flood of perspiration.Houston smiled, knowing that the group at the far end of the gymlived a lie. They were maxed out on their credit cards, and rentedapartments that far exceeded their pay scale. He, on the otherhand, was worth many times their total net worth thanks to a bigpayday dating back from his days in Edmonton when he acted as ago-between in a somewhat unethical business deal.
Houston hadbeen eking out a living as an investment analyst in Edmonton. Oneday he ran into a man named Claude Gervais at a coffee shop.Gervais was desperate for financing to build a manufacturingcompany to compete with the company he had worked with for manyyears. Houston smiled at the blue liquid drip down the side of hisbottle. The liquid was the product of the formula Gervais stolefrom his previous employer. Houston found money for the project andhis cut was large. Gervais didn’t mind the money came fromunderworld criminals who insisted on a quick payback and absolutesecrecy. In fact, secrecy was a vital part of Gervais pulling offhis plan. The money suppliers knew that if the police learned aboutthe transaction they would pass the information on to the taxdepartment. Houston’s part in the deal was done. All he had to donow was relax and keep his mouth shut.
People moved inand out of the gym. Some were fit and aggressively exercised tomaintain it, others barely fit into their clothes. The tall manPeter was unfamiliar with started his treadmill and jogged at aleisurely pace. Peter touched the computerized controls, increasinghis own speed another fifteen percent.
At the far endof the gym a man in maintenance coveralls huddled behind a plasmatelevision with a box of electronic parts and hand tools. An Out ofOrder sign hung over the large screen. Peter increased the speed ofhis treadmill another twenty percent and was now running at hismaximum pace.
Suddenly thetelevision exploded, sending up a plume of smoke and a shower ofsparks. The workman was leaning back against the wall, apparentlythrown there by the force of the blast. The electrical equipment inthe gym vibrated and ground to a halt. Peter staggered back as thepower stoppage threw him off balance sending him tumbling onto thesoft mat surrounding the machine. Instinctively his arms reachedback, reducing the impact of the fall. The man on the nexttreadmill managed to maintain his balance. Nobody saw the man grabboth his sports drink in his left hand and Houston’s sports drinkin his right. Houston sat down on the mat, joining several otherswho slipped off their apparatus, staring at the light show at theend of the gym. Someone nudged Houston on the shoulder. Looking up,Houston saw the man from the next treadmill handing him a bottle ofMegapower. He had no reason to expect it wasn’t his.
“Thanks.” Petersaluted the man with a wave of the bottle.
The man smiledback. “My pleasure, sir. Good bye.” He grabbed a towel from histreadmill and walked towards the change rooms. He tossed Houston’sbottle in the garbage can around the corner.
The excitementat the end of the gym cleared up as quickly as it started. Theplasma TV quickly came back to life, the smoke cleared through theventilation system, and the workman departed through the serviceentrance. Peter Houston got off the floor, wiped down the treadmilland tossed the worn towel over his shoulder. He walked past thegroup in overpriced spandex, nodding in response to the smilesdirected at him. Peter sat down at the bar and ordered his usual, aglass of orange juice and club soda. The bartender brought thefrosty glass and, as usual, Houston drained it in a moment. Aftersigning the bill Peter waved it at the barkeep, who gave him thethumbs up.
Peter walkeddown the hall and pushed open the door to the change room. Aftershowering he tried to open his locker but had a little difficultyremembering the combination. A few tries later and the old metaldoor opened. Peter dumped his gym clothes in a sports bag andchanged into his suit. The suit was of a high quality. It was wiseto dress sharply when trying to convince clients that you know thebest place for them to keep their large investments.
* * *
The man dressedin the maintenance clothes went down the rear stairs of thebuilding, slipping out of the coveralls halfway between floors. Atthe bottom of the staircase he looking around to make sure he wasalone. He ducked behind the last set of steps, past the stack ofdusty, broken staking chairs that blocked the entrance to the openarea under the stairs. As he bent into the opening he grabbed abrown paper bag containing two empty sandwich bags, an empty waterbottle, and two expensive sleeping bags. He heard footsteps.Reaching into his tool kit, he gripped the small pistol and glancedover the edge of the stairwell. His twin brother, still in workoutclothes, swung around the corner and joined him at the bottom ofthe stairs. The two men slipped into the building the previous day.They had brought two small video players and tied into the videofeed in the cable running under the stairs. They recorded theactivity in the gym from the previous day and played it today. Thepeople manning the security desk in the office towers frontentrance wouldn’t see what was happening in the last few minutes.There were no surveillance cameras in the stairwell. The twinswould be long gone before anybody in authority tried to find them.Ken, the older twin by ten minutes, glanced at his watch. He andEric had been in the building for twenty-four hours. The stairwellwas clear of people, so the brothers slipped out the emergencydoor, having previously disconnected the alarm. They walkednonchalantly along the rear alley, passing a truck dropping offboxes to the rear entrance to a deli a short distance down thealley. Ken hopped on a nearby motorcycle hidden behind a garbagebin and strapped on a helmet. Eric walked around the corner, andordered a double espresso at a sidewalk café across from thebuilding they just left. Sun reflected off the large window in thegym. Eric lifted his sunglasses and glanced at his telephone. Thescreen displayed the video feed from the camera on his brother’smotorcycle helmet. At the top right of the screen was the time ofday.
He should behere in about five minutes. Eric sipped his coffee.
* * *
Afterstraightening his tie in front of the mirror in the change roomPeter Houston took the elevator to the parking garage in thebasement. The hinges squeaked as he pushed open the cold metalsecurity door. Slightly disoriented, he had to think twice beforehe turned to his right and walked up to his twenty-year-old pickuptruck.
Houston tappedthe fender on the truck. No sense wasting money on pretentioustransportation. The clients won’t see it. The engine fired and alittle blue smoke shot out the exhaust pipe as Houston pressed theaccelerator. The truck backed out of its spot, chugged up the ramp,and turned onto Bay Street. Ken’s motorcycle pulled out of thealley and followed Houston’s truck, keeping two vehicles betweenthem.
Peter passedthe street-front café and slowed as he came to a busy intersectionfilled with cars and SUVs. His eyes watered and perspiration on hishands made him lose his grip on the steering wheel. He rubbed hisdry throat while he struggled to control the vehicle as the lightchanged to green. The truck swerved left, then right, ripping themirror off the compact car in the next lane. Peter never heard thedriver in the expensive sports car to his right honking as thetruck scraped against the length of the bright red car, coming torest against the curb. Houston’s body twitched several times thenslumped back against the sticky vinyl seat, his face contorted andpale.
Ken’s smilingface wasn’t visible through the tinted visor as he drove past thetruck. Eric’s expression was more sombre as he watched the sameview through his cellphone. Eric pressed a button on his phone andthe video of the accident was attached to an email and instantlyrelayed to the Toronto Police Headquarters. He munched on a warmcroissant, and sipped his strong coffee. Wiping the crumbs off hisface, he paid the bill and walked several more blocks beforeturning down an alley and walking ten more blocks. After passingthe tenth block Eric stopped at various garbage bins, depositingthe items he carried out of the office building, including theprepaid cellphone. In the event the police checked nearby garbagebins for evidence they usually went a maximum of five blocks. Heentered a small park and found an empty bench. A few minutes laterhe spotted his brother removing the licence plate from themotorcycle. The twins walked several blocks, their last stop at apier on Lake Ontario where they discretely dumped the pistols.Walking along the water for thirty minutes, they entered a buildingand took an elevator to the thirtieth floor.
Chapter Two
A carp. A coldunmoving fish. Detective Jim Collins had seen plenty of dead bodiesin his twenty-five years on the police force, but nothing likethis. The pressure of dealing with the families of the victims andpressure from the brass had turned his hair grey. The terriblehours of a detective also saw him develop a gut since it was nearlyimpossible to schedule regular visits to the gym when the cellphoneseldom stopped ringing. Peter Houston’s face looked like all theskin was sucked inwards. Collins’ tech crazy partner David Folk,one of the new breed of cop who had more education than physicalstature, bent his tall thin frame over the stainless steel tablestudying the body with the close-up interest only found in youngcops.
Thepathologist, Doctor Emily Good, stood across the body from Collinsand Folk, her eyes fixed on a chart.
Collinsscratched his three-day-old stubble and bent closer to Houston’snaked body, “Emily, the ambulance report says he lost consciousnessand the vehicle bounced against several cars, likely a heartattack. Why’d you call us, we’re in homicide?”
Emily Goodlooked up from the chart. “It wasn’t to see your pretty face,Jim.”
Collins smiled.Having worked with Dr. Good on many cases over the years he and hiswife were friends with Emily and her husband. “Come on Emily, youcan’t keep your eyes off me. What would Steven say?”
“Steven doeshave a message for you. Next time you play golf with him bringenough balls for yourself. He can’t afford to lend you five ballsthat end up in the woods.”
Collins laughedand shook his head. “Okay, Emily, what’s with the fish here?”
“Well gents, atfirst glance it does look like a heart attack but I noticed hiseyeballs are shrivelled and grey. I ran a blood test and found highlevels of butylate. That was the cause of the asphyxiation. Once itworked its way through his system it substantially reduced thetransfer of oxygen, hence the eyes.” Good lifted an eyelid andexposed an eyeball that looked like a grey prune.
Folk moved infor a close look. “Butylate? Never heard of it.”
“I’m notsurprised. Very rare stuff. A sophisticated choice of poison. It’sused in the manufacture of resins. Whoever did this did theirhomework and had expensive taste, this stuff costs a bundle.”
Folk enteredGood’s information into his smartphone. Collins scratched his head,nudged his partner, and walked towards the exit. He stopped andturned back to the doctor, “Expensive? How expensive?”
“Let’s put itthis way, it would cost you a month’s salary for the amount thatkilled this guy.”
“How was ittaken” asked Folk.
“Orally. Ifound it in his stomach. It was either in a sports drink or orangejuice he ingested just prior to death. The chemical makeup of thesport drink is consistent with the newest brand on the market,Megapower. The OJ is tougher to pin down, many brands use the sametypes of oranges.”
“ThanksEmily…thanks a lot. Listen, can you send me the details on thatstuff?”
Folk waved hisphone at Good and she nodded. “By the way, Mr. Houston left ahealth club at the Dominick Investments Building just prior to hisdeath.”
Dr. Good turnedto her computer and emailed the information to Folk.. She alsofaxed the same information to police headquarters, knowing Collinspreferred the traditional hard copies.
We have to getJim into this century. Good smiled indulgently.
Collins pushedopen the cold grey door and the two detectives left the morgue.They climbed into the black sedan, Folk sat in the passenger seatrepeatedly tapping on his phone.
“Jim, I justreceived an email from headquarters. Captain Dubois reports someonesent us a video of Houston’s demise claiming responsibility.”
“Wow, we have amurderer with balls.” Collins slipped the key in the ignition andhesitated. He looked over at his young partner. “Hey kid, you seempreoccupied. Something on your mind?”
Folk stoppedtapping the screen set down the phone. “Jim, there is somethingnagging at me about that MO, but I can’t place it. I need to gointo the archives to update my data.”
“You think thishas been done before?”
“Yeah, I thinkso. There’s something…”
“Okay, let’sget back to the office and look it up.”
“I think I canfind it from here,” Folk booted up the laptop computer in the car.His fingers flew over the keys as he linked with national homiciderecords database. A notice he had entered a secure site flashedacross the screen. He keyed in his password, techsolvesit and thepage opened. Folk input health club. The computer buzzed for a fewseconds and the screen responded, no match. Folk flopped back inthe car seat, the vinyl squeaking as he squirmed. “There wassomething, Jim.” He looked back at the report on the Houston case.He took a breath and went through the data word-by-word, notwanting to miss a detail.
Folk sat boltupright and again leaned over the computer. He returned the cursorto the search box and typed in Megapower. The computer hummed for amoment and two file numbers flashed on the screen.
“All right,I’ve got it, Jim.”
“Spell it out,lad.”
“Right, therewas one other murder involving Megapower sport drinks. Three weeksago in Edmonton.”
“It happenedduring a junior hockey game. The local team’s goalie, Jean Provost,collapsed on the ice shortly after Megapower he kept on top of thenet. He died twenty minutes later.”
Folk read on insilence, his jaw dropping.
Collins lookedover at his partner.
“Christ, Idon’t like that look.”
“Jim, theyreceived a video of the victim as he collapsed, I’ve requested acopy of the complete file.”
“Good workDave. When will we get the file and info on the other case?”
“Here it isnow… the detective on the case is listed as Albert Thorpe, EdmontonPolice Services.”
“Okay, callThorpe and see if there are unpublished details we can use. We haveto get to the crime scene a.s.a.p.”
Folk dialledthe Edmonton Police Department. After a short stay on hold he wastransferred to Detective Albert Thorpe’s desk. Thorpe wasn’t thereso Folk left a voice-mail message explaining the situation,including his number.
“Any otherdetails in that file” asked Collins.
“Not much.Nothing linked to Dominick Investments, the only similarity is theplace was crowded. Hundreds at the game and lax security on thebench.”
“Did they keepcopies of the television and security video?”
Folk’s fingersdanced again. “Negative. The tapes in the security system hadcopies of the previous game. Someone disabled the system.”
“That’s a lotof trouble to go to just to kill a goalie.”
* * *
The adjoiningsuites near the top of the luxury hotel offered panoramic views ofToronto. Eric Clelland slept fitfully, an empty champagne glass onthe stand beside him. Ken leaned against the windowsill, staringout at the endless streets. He cradled a half-empty flute ofchampagne. His gaze drifted from the city to the glass. Trackingdown arrogant Peter Houston had been easy once they learned whoarranged for the money that allowed Gervais to drive ClellandIndustries, out of business. Gervais never spoke publicly about thesource of his financing, but he’d told his wife, the co-owner ofGervais Manufacturing. The listening devices placed in Gervais’soffice recorded enough information to lead the brothers to Houston.Ken swished the wine around and drained it. He lifted the bottleout of the bucket, saw that it was empty, and dropped it back ontothe melting ice.
Eric stirredbut didn’t open his eyes. “Do you want to order anotherbottle?”
Ken set hisglass on the table and glanced at his watch. “No, we better pay ourbill and get to Ottawa, your flight is in eight hours.”
“All right,I’ll take a quick shower. Can you settle the room, Ken?”
“Will do.” Kenwalked over to the closet and grabbed one of two carry-on bags,their only luggage. He threw it on the bed and unzipped the top.Inside was a change of clothes, toiletries, and a thick envelopeheld closed with an elastic band. It snapped off into Eric’s handas the envelope opened, exposing a thick stack of twenty-dollarbills. Quickly counting off twenty-five bills, Eric took enough topay the room bill without leaving an electronic trail. Grabbing hisphony Spanish passport issued to Juan Sanchez, the young man leftthe suite. In the elevator on the way down to the lobby he glancedto his right. A short, chubby, dark-haired chambermaid eyed the redpassport. She looked up, smiled shyly, and asked from where Kencame. “Hola Señor, de donde es?”
Ken smileddown, recognizing her Madrid accent. He replied in a perfectsouthern Spanish accent. “Soy de Sevilla, Señora. Y su?”
“Soy deMadrid.”
A buzzersounded announcing the arrival at the twentieth floor. Lookingdejected at the limited conversation and possibly a littlehomesick, the woman started to leave the elevator. “Adios.”
Ken peeled offtwo twenties, flashed a big smile, and handed her the money. “AdiosSeñora y gracias.” The door closed, the short woman bowing herthanks. Eric continued alone to the lobby. He paid the bill, usingbroken English with the clerk. He returned to the room to find Ericfreshly showered and dressed, working on the laptop.
“TorontoDetectives Collins and Folk are assigned to the case,” Eric lookedup as he spoke, “Collins is a veteran, and Folk fairly new.”
“Sounds likeFolk fits our bill.”
The twocarry-on suitcases stood by the door. Ken did a final search of theroom, stopping when he was certain there was nothing left behindthat could tie them to anything. The brothers departed and walkedseveral blocks north. Once alone on a quieter side street they setdown their suitcases and looked around. Ken gave Eric the thumbsup, Eric nodded, and they peeled off the plastic fingerprints fixedover their own. After tossing them in a garbage can they walkedseveral more blocks away from the hotel before hailing a taxi. Ablue taxi stopped and Eric leaned in the open passenger sidewindow.
“Good day sir,how much to get to the Ottawa airport?”
Eric saw thedriver trying to size up how much he could squeeze out of him.“Well, on the metre it would come to over eight-hundred, but I cando it for six-eighty cash.
Eric held backa smile as he thought back to the taxi ride to Toronto two daysearlier for five-hundred and eighty. He decided to dicker enoughthat the trip wouldn’t not stick out in the driver’s mind. Ericheld a thick wallet in his hand, the bills visible to the driver.“Five-twenty cash, including tip.”
“Hop in.”
A final look upand down the street confirmed nobody had followed them. With a wrysmile on his face Eric shook his brother’s hand and climbed intothe back of the taxi, setting his carry-on beside him.
The driverglanced in his mirror at the small case. “Travel light, eh?”
Eric pulled outthe newspaper that came with the hotel room and flipped it openwithout answering. The veteran cabby got the message and drove insilence for five hours.
Once his twin’scab was out of sight, Ken walked down the street and turned into abustling bus station. Pulling a key out of his pocket he opened alocker and removed a small sports bag and a tool kit. Lockinghimself in a stall in the large dirty washroom Ken changed fromsweater and dress pants into municipal coveralls and work boots.After carefully folding the dress clothes and concealing them inthe sports bag he checked the stall three times before leaving,confident he left nothing behind. Next he locked his suitcase andthe sports bag in the locker and walked several blocks. In an alleyhe reached behind some pallets and garbage and pulled out astepladder and cracked light globe. As he clipped on anidentification badge he took on the persona of a municipal worker.He picked up the ladder, set the globe in a paper bag, and carriedthem up the worn steps, past a bank of lights with the same globe,and walked, unnoticed into Toronto Police Headquarters.
The detective’sdepartment, a collection of back-to-back desks in a large room, wasnearly empty. Ken moved from desk-to-desk, glancing at letters andbusiness cards. Eventually, he found the desks belonging to Collinsand Folk. Flipping open the ladder, Ken climbed up to the cracked,peeling ceiling and removed the globe from the light above thedesks. After descending, he pulled the cracked globe out of the bagand set it beside the good globe on Folk’s desk. He wiped bothglobes with a dust rag, reached inside the cracked globe andremoved a minute hypodermic needle fastened onto a small, strongmagnet. A small click sounded as the magnet grabbed onto the metalframe at the bottom of the backrest on Folk’s chair. The ultra-fineneedle was the only thing that stuck out pointed towards the frontof the chair. After confirming the magnet was secure on the metalchair frame Ken replaced the good globe on the light fixture abovethe desk and carried the ladder out of the room. The few busypolice officers in the room barely looked at the tall maintenanceman. Ken walked out of the building, the globe and ladder in hand.Once outside and around the corner of the building he removed theidentification badge and threw it along with the light globe in agarbage can. He set down the expensive ladder near a group ofhomeless people and continued on for several blocks, certain theladder would disappear in minutes. After ascertaining he wasn’tfollowed he returned to the bus station and changed his clothes,including the work gloves. Walking five blocks north, Ken hailed acab and rode to the airport, his U.S. passport and ticket to LosAngeles were in his breast pocket.
* * *
Collins andFolk entered the security office at Dominick Investments. Thesecurity man in charge led them to the video recording area.
“Here it is.”The security guard pointed to the video recorder handling thecamera in the gym at Dominick Investments. The system was modernand in colour.
“Could youfast-forward to the time Mr. Houston was in the gym?” Collins askedthe guard.
“No problem.”The guard pressed a button and the video became a blur. The guard,concentrating on the time rather than the screen, stopped the speedof the tape. It played for a moment and stopped it. The securityman looked again at the written log that listed the time of theelectrical disruption. A look of concern appeared on the man’s faceas he replayed the sequence again at a slower speed. The tape againshowed normal activity in the gym.
“That’s veryodd,” said the guard.
Folk leanedcloser. “How’s that?”
“It showsactivity in the gym, but something is wrong. Just a sec.” The guardleaned close to the screen.
“Now I knowthis ain’t right.” The guard paused the tape and pointed to a womanbehind the bar. “That’s Christine. She was off yesterday.”
“Are you sayingthe tape wasn’t working yesterday?”
“No, the timestamp shows yesterday…there was a feed from a previous day somehowrecorded over what really went on yesterday.”
Collins leanedback on a wall. “Can you find out where the feed came from?”
“There are onlytwo places where the cable from the gym is accessible. I was hereall day and nobody else came in the room. It’s unlikely it happenedin the gym where the cable only juts out of the ceiling a fewinches as it feeds into the camera. There were too many peoplearound and not enough room to install a feed. It had to be thejunction box in the lower stairwell where all the camera feeds arelinked before they’re fed into this room.”
The guard wavedover another guard. “Jack, take over here.”
The guard ledthe detectives to the rear stairwell and the dusty area under thebottom stairs. The guard pointed to the area. Folk and Collinsslipped on latex gloves and moved the stack of chairs. They spottedthe sleeping bags and video recorders.
Collins turnedto Folk. “Does your cell phone work down here?”
Folk flippedopen the phone, put it to his ear, and nodded. “Identificationteam?”
“Make it two,we need one in the gym too.”
Collins staredat the elaborate video setup under the stairs “Someone went to alot of effort to kill Mr. Houston. We need to talk to the gym staffwhile their memories are fresh. You head to the gym. I’ll wait herefor the ID team.”
Folk and theguard ran up the stairs two at a time.
In Folk,Collins was blessed with a young partner possessing a strong mindand an abundance of energy. Collins had no problem letting theyounger man do more than his share of the legwork. Collins wantedto stay on the job for another eight or ten years and knew he hadto pace himself. Even though he kept himself in pretty good shapehe had his limits.
After IDarrived Collins joined Folk in the corporate gym. Folk alreadyexamined the area around the treadmill and the bar.
Folk spoke tothe bartender at the health food bar. “We’re looking for anythingingested by Peter Houston as well as anything unusual that happenthe afternoon of the death of Mr. Houston.”
The bartenderpointed across the room. “Peter stopped by the bar and had hisusual, a large orange juice and soda water.”
“How did Mr.Houston look to you?”
“Nothing out ofthe ordinary. As far as anything unusual, there was the incidentwith the new TV.”
“A maintenanceman was working on the back of the television when sparks and smokefilled the far end of the gym.”
“That is astate-of-the-art plasma TV. What was wrong with it?”
“Nothing as faras I knew. I came to work yesterday morning and there was a sign onit saying it was out of order. The odd thing was, after thefireworks the repairman packed up his things and was gone in ashot. The TV and exercise equipment worked fine.”
“Do you havethe containers from the orange juice and club soda?”
“The soda wateris on tap. Half the drinks use it.”
“If that wasthe source we would have an epidemic on our hands.”
Collins turnedback to the bartender. “What about the OJ?”
The bartendertapped a machine behind the bar. “Only fresh squeezed, and again,we sell gallons of it each day.” The bartender scratched his chin.“I know Mr. Houston had a sports drink. He always carried one withhim.”
“Thanks.”Collins handed the bartender a card. “If you think of anything elsegive us a call.”
The bartendertook the card and slipped it in his shirt pocket.
Collins pointedto the bowl of nuts on the bar. “Did Houston eat any of these?”
“Never touchedthem.” The bartender pushed them towards Collins. “I opened a freshbag this morning.”
“Thanks.”Collins grabbed a handful and tossed some in his mouth. Thedetective winced. “What the hell are these?”
“Soy nuts,”answered the bartender.
“That’sridiculous. Who ever heard of nuts made out of soy?” Collins wasabout to toss them in the garbage can when he spotted somethinginside the garbage can. He set a napkin on the bar and placed thenuts on top. He slipped on latex gloves and removed a bottle ofMegapower.
Collins showedit to the bartender. “The same?”
“Same brand andflavour.”
Collins wavedthe newly arrived ID team over. “I want this whole gymchecked.”
“Right.”Responded the lead ID person.
Folk grabbedhis phone. “I’ll have the lab check the water bottle.”
Folk made thequick call and Collins turned back to the bartender. “Just one morething, where is the manager?”
The bartenderwaved over a young attractive woman and turned away to serve a manat the other end of the bar.
“My name’sAlison Page, I’m the manager. May I be of assistance, gentlemen?”The woman smiled.
“I’m DetectiveCollins. This is my partner, Detective Folk. We have a fewquestions about the events here yesterday afternoon. Can you giveus the details for our report?”
“Of course.”Alison led them over to the huge television. “There was a workmanfixing the television when there was a small explosion and thepower went out in half the gym.” The manager pointed to theequipment along the one wall. “The affected equipment, includingthe treadmill occupied by Mr. Houston, jerked to a halt, sendinghim, and others, off balance. Mr. Houston ended up lying on thefloor. He wasn’t hurt and we quickly helped him to his feet.”
Alison pointedto a rowing machine. “I was helping a woman with her rowingtechnique on that machine nearby. Mr. Houston’s water bottle wasstill on the machine and a gentleman from the next treadmill handedit to him.”
“Can youdescribe him?” said Folk.
“Tall fellow,wearing sunglasses. That’s about it. It was very busy.”
Folk looked atthe back of the television and the power receptacle behind it.“There are no signs of a fire or charred wiring. How long did ittake the repairman to fix it?”
Alison thoughtfor a moment. “Now that you mention it, the equipment and thetelevision were back in working order right away. I rememberbecause I wanted to have a word with the electrician, but he wasgone before I could get over there. I called maintenance and theydidn’t have a record of a workman in the gym. I presumed it wassomeone from the television supplier or cable company. Thisequipment is leased.”
Collins andFolk exchanged glances.
“Alison, thisis very important, did you get a good look at the repair man?”
“Well, I didn’tsee his face, he was hidden behind the TV, but it struck me that hewas a large man.”
“Why’s that”asked Folk.
“Becausedespite being hunched over. His back stuck out well above thetelevision set, and it is a large set.”
“Thank you,Alison. Please call if you think of anything else.” Collins handedher a card.
Alison walkedaway and Folk crouched behind the television. “She’s right, Jim.You would have to be six-three or better to have your backexposed.”
Collins paced.“Two tall men. Two smart, tall men. That’s a start, partner?”
Folk andCollins worked with the ID team and came away with nothing to addto the sighting of two men in the elaborate poisoning of Houston.As they exited the building Collins’ phone rang.
“DetectiveCollins, this is Detective Albert Thorpe from the Edmonton PoliceDepartment. I understand you have a case that parallels my casehere.”
“Yes, itappears a man had his Megapower sports drink poisoned. We’re justleaving the crime scene.”
“Right. TheProvost case here in Edmonton is a clear parallel. The team told mesomeone had been donating cases of Megapower for the past fewmonths. They presumed it was the manufacturer since they’re inEdmonton. I spoke to the owner of the company, a Mr. Gervais, andhe’d never heard of Mr. Provost, nor had his company donatedproduct to the team. He seemed concerned about the reputation ofthe brand name, but I assured him that it was clearly only onebottle that was tampered with. If it’s all right, I’d like to flyout right now and go over the case with you two.”
“Of course. Oneof us will pick you up at the airport. Oh, Albert, can you contactMr. Gervais again and ask him if he’s heard of Peter Houston?Houston lived in Edmonton up until six months ago.”
“Will do. I’llcall him on the drive out to the airport. See you later today. I’llcatch the next flight out.”
Eric Clellanddozed in the back of the limousine as it weaved its way throughEdmonton’s river valley. The flight from Ottawa landed in Edmontonan hour earlier. Eric took a few minutes at the airport to rip upand throw away the fake identifications and the false beard. Hestill wore the wraparound sunglasses, helping to reduce the chancesof his identification on a video camera. The long, black carstopped outside a large shopping centre on Jasper Avenue indowntown Edmonton. Eric paid and tipped the driver in cash andwalked into the shopping centre. An espresso coffee and a read ofthe newspaper at a second-floor coffee bar took thirty minutes. Heleft the shopping centre through a different exit in order toconfuse anybody trying to follow his movements through videocameras.
Eric walked theseven blocks to the building where he shared the penthouseapartment with Ken. He took the private elevator to the top floor,punched in the security code word created by the brothers,s-w-e-e-t-r-e-v-e-n-g-e. Taking a deep breath of relief, he droppedhis bag on a table, crossed the plush white carpet, and stared outthe corner floor-to-ceiling windows. The fine leather on theoverstuffed sofa squeaked as Ken stirred awake from his nap.“Welcome home. Any hitches?”
“No, thingswent exactly as planned. You?”
“That rentedprivate jet is the only way to go. Finished my task and still beatyou here.”
“Are you inshape to update the list?”
“Just asec.”
Eric went outon the balcony and smoked a joint while Ken sat inside with aworried look on his face. Eric re-entered the apartment. “Let’s doit.”
Ken reachedunder a cabinet and pressed a hidden button. The cabinet movedupward revealing a wall safe with two numbered keypads. Ken tappedin a code. “Your turn, bro.”
Eric slippedpast his brother, squinted at the keypad with dilated pupils, andtapped in his code on the other pad. The thick door popped open,revealing a large pile of cash and a leather-bound book. Ken pulledthe book out of the safe while Eric reached into his suitcase andgrabbed several bundles of twenty-dollar bills. He tossed the billsonto the pile in the safe. The brothers sat down at the table andKen flipped open the book. The first page contained pictures of ayoung man in goalie equipment. Below the picture and on thefollowing page were detailed notes on his habits. A dark red X wasscored across his picture. The second page held a picture of PeterHouston. The pages contained details of his habits, including theregular trips to the gym.
“Ken, when dowe finish this thing?”
“Patience,tomorrow we hit the third target.” Ken slashed a red X acrossHouston’s face and flipped to the next page that contained a photoof an attractive young woman riding a bicycle.
“Can’t we takea break?”
“We agreed toget the job done, and done quickly. We’ve done all of ourorganizing and just need a few more days work and we’ll befinished.”
“Yes, but…”
Ken walked overand put his arm around his brother. “Easy does it, Eric. We’ll befine. Just be patient.”
“All right, allright, I’ll be cool.”
* * *
Claude Gervaishad started to relax. The effects on the sales of Megapower weren’tnoticeable after the incident with the goalie. It was treated as anisolated incident. While he was making plenty of money, the futureof his company was riding on the one product. When his secretaryadvised him Detective Thorpe was on the line, his heart raced.Gervais was under a ton of pressure. The company was taking up agreat deal of his time. It was affecting his personal life. Hiswife’s annoyance at his absence was appeased by the huge limits onher credit cards. She spent huge amounts of money, but Gervais hadto keep her happy, she did own half the company, and knew hisdarkest secret.
Gervaishesitantly picked up the phone. “Gervais here.”
“Good morning,Mr. Gervais. I have a couple more questions for you, if you have amoment.”
“Mr. Gervais,I’m afraid there has been another incident involving Megapower,this time in Toronto.”
“My word. Whathappened?”
“A gentleman ina private gymnasium had his sport drink poisoned in the same manneras the incident involving Mr. Provost.”
“Is thereanything I can do? Is a recall warranted?”
“No, it was anisolated case, but since it also involved Megapower we’reinvestigating all angles. Mr. Gervais, are you acquainted with aman named Peter Houston? He lived in Edmonton last year.”
“No, I can’tsay I know the name.”
“Very well,thank you for your cooperation, Mr. Gervais.”
“Any time. Goodbye.”
Gervais hung upthe phone and reached into his desk for a drink. Instead ofMegapower, Gervais poured a stiff drink of scotch and downed it. Hemopped his sweaty brow with a tissue.
* * *
Collins andFolk stopped to eat on their way back to headquarters. While eatingCollins called the Toronto Chief of Police and let him know aboutthe visit from the Edmonton detective.
Folk droppedCollins off at Toronto Police Headquarters and headed out to theairport to meet Thorpe. Collins pulled a chalkboard out of a cornerof the room and set it by his desk. He cleaned the board and wrotethe details from the Houston murder in bold letters, finding iteasier to analyze information when he could sit back and stare atit. Collins had the same coffee cup since he started on the forcetwenty years ago. The Niagara Falls logo wore off years ago. Justlike Collins, the cup looked a little tired, with permanent stainson the inside and a chipped rim. The detective refilled the oldrelic with steaming hot coffee and leaned back in his chair tocontemplate the case.
An hour laterDetective Folk walked into the room. A man a few years older thanFolk pinned a visitor’s identification badge on his lapel as heapproached Collins’ desk. He was fit and tall with slightlyreceding blond hair worn a little longer than regulation.
Folk gesturedtowards the Edmonton detective. “Jim Collins, Albert Thorpe.”
The twodetectives shook hands.
“Welcome toToronto.” Collins waved to the chalkboard. “I’ve sketched out thedetails of the Houston homicide.”
Thorpe tappedhis phone. “I’ve brought the compete file on the Provost case.”
Folk pointedhis smartphone at Thorpe. “If it’s okay, you can transfer it and Ican print out a hard copy for Jim. He’s allergic to tech.”
Thorpe and Folkpointed their phones at each other and the information wasinstantly relayed. The young detective walked to a room on theother side of the large office. He downloaded the information intoa computer and pressed a button. The printer in the corner spit outeight pieces of paper.
Thorpe andCollins silently stared at the board.
Thorpe pointedto the note on the overriding of the security tape. “Electronicexpertise for sure, but why such intricate plans?”
Collinsrefilled his stained coffee cup. He held the pot up, offering someto Thorpe.
Thorpe put hishand up. “Sorry, I don’t drink coffee.”
Collins pouredin too much sugar and stirred it with a wooden stir stick. Hewalked back to the board. “The killer, or likely killers, arebrash. They want to tell us they can’t be caught.”
“Brashbastards,” added Thorpe.
He doesn’tdrink coffee, but at least he swears. I like him. “We’ll get them.They will slip up,” Collins predicted.
Folk returnedand set the pile of paper on top of the rest of the papercluttering Collins’ desk. Walking over to a fridge, Folk pulled outa bottle of orange juice. He glanced up at Thorpe and held up abottle. Thorpe nodded. Folk tossed him one and grabbed another forhimself. Collins shook his head and laughed. Thorpe shook hisorange juice as he studied the board. Folk grabbed the small pileof pink phone messages on the corner of his desk. He cracked openthe top of the juice bottle and took a long pull. As he set thejuice on the desk he dropped into his chair.
“Damn.” Folkleaned forward and rubbed his back. “I think something bit me.”
As he rubbedthe small of his back his hand scraped against the needle. Hepulled his bleeding hand away and stared at it. His face went paleand he collapsed on his desk. Collins and Thorpe ran over. Collinsgrabbed his phone and called for medical assistance.
Collins grippedone of Folk’s arms. “Albert, help me lay him on the floor.”
The detectivescarefully laid the young detective on the cold floor. The medicalteam was there quickly and found no pulse or respiration. Theystarted CPR and loaded Folk on a gurney.
Collins walkedup to the medics. “He complained of a bug bite just before hecollapsed.”
“We’ll havethem check for allergies.”
“Don’t bother.”Thorpe was leaning over Folk’s chair. “He was poisoned.”
Collins leaneddown and Thorpe pointed to the needle sticking out from the back ofthe chair. The medic took a swab of the needle for a sample to useat the hospital.
“We’ll meet youat the hospital,” said Collins.
In the car onthe way to the hospital both Collins and Thorpe were deep inthought.
“Jim, I have totell you something that happened in Edmonton.”
“What’s thatAlbert?”
“When Provostwas killed I had a partner in the investigation. Her name was HelenBright…she died two days after the goalie, a fall while rockclimbing. We presumed it was an accident. Now I’m not so sure. I’mgoing to call Edmonton and have them take a look closer at herdeath.”
“Agreed, itdoesn’t smell right.”
Thorpe calledEdmonton and spoke to his captain. The captain promised a promptand thorough investigation of Bright’s death. The two detectivesarrived at the hospital and paced outside to emergency room whilethe medical staff worked on Detective Folk. Twenty minutes laterthe doctor came out and told them Folk never regainedconsciousness. He was killed with a large dose of nalitiumparitinder, a poison extracted from plants in tropicalclimates.
Collins droppedThorpe off at his hotel, met with his captain and deliver the newsto Folk’s family.
The nextmorning Thorpe received a call from Edmonton indicating there weresome concerns regarding Detective Bright’s death. Her climbingpartner was positive Bright bought brand new rope the week beforethe accident. The rope that snapped, sending Bright plunging to herdeath, had been frayed. The presumption was the rope rubbed on thejagged rocks and become compromised. Upon further investigation itwas clear that it was very improbable the rope would wear thatquickly. The death was now officially a homicide.
Thorpe couldn’tstomach his breakfast. When Collins joined him in the hotelrestaurant the Edmonton detective relayed the information. Theyreturned to police headquarters and were immediately directed tothe Chief’s office. Chief Dubois informed the detectives he hadspoken to his counterpart in Edmonton and they agreed that, becauseof the links in the cases, the two detectives should work together.The detectives concurred and returned to Collins’ office.
Videotape andwitnesses confirmed an unknown tall maintenance man had been in thepolice building. The man wore his hat down low and dark sunglasses,so no clear view was available.
Collins andThorpe gathered the information collected at the gym and the policestation and spent hours sifting through it. Collins advised Thorpethe bottle containing the poison was spiked at the gym, a vialcontaining residue of the poison was found in the garbage in themen’s change room. No prints or other leads were discovered on thevial. The locker room was covered with hundreds of prints.
“Shittycleaning service for an expensive club.”
Thorpe filledCollins in on the details of the goalie’s murder. He pointed outthat not only was there a full house for the game, but the warmspring weather forced them to leave ten doors open to improve aircirculation in the old wooden arena. The goalie’s Megapower waskept stocked on a shelf at the end of the bench. “The trainerreplaced the stock with a fresh bottle at the end of every period.Always fresh, always green. Superstitious athletes.”
Thorpe flippedto the interview of the trainer in the file. “He quicklystraightened things on the bench then rushed to the locker room tohelp the players.”
Collinsinspected the pictures showing the four-foot glass surrounding thebench. “Nobody could have leaned over and tamper with it withoutsomeone seeing. Is there someone on the bench at all times betweenperiods?”
“No, they havea small volunteer training staff. The bench was empty for about tenminutes before the start of the next period. We interviewed thefans sitting in the first two rows behind the bench and severalsaid they saw a man with a maintenance uniform working on the hingeof the gate.”
“Was themaintenance guy legit?”
“No, thetrainer indicated the door worked fine. One of the peopleinterviewed thought the man was tall.”
“Any videotape?”
“Afraid not.The game was too small to be televised and the few people we foundwith video cameras only had footage of the game, nothing with thebench between periods. This one shows Provost collapsing.”
Thorpe put theDVD in a player and they watched it, along with several otherpolicemen. The tape showed the goaltender’s reaction slow as thesecond period went on and the opposing team scored two quick goals.About five minutes into the period the goalie collapsed inconvulsions. Medical staff moved in and he was promptly taken tohospital. The young goalie, Jean Provost, lived with his family inSherwood Park, a suburb of Edmonton.
* * *
As agreed,early the next morning Eric handled the first part of the next itemon their agenda. He slipped into the old, quiet neighbourhood oftheir next target, disguised as a gas company employee. Wearing theperfect cover, coveralls and a gas mask, he knocked on severaldoors on the quiet street asking each resident if they had noticedany unusual odours. Each person did not hesitate to let him checkthe basement and gas fixtures in their houses. As he left eachhouse he assured the people there was absolutely nothing to worryabout.
The smallcorner house was Eric’s last stop. The attractive blond answeredthe door wearing the same startled look on her face as the otherson the street.
“Yes, can Ihelp you?”
“Sorry tobother you, Miss Kirkpatrick. We are investigating the gas lines inthe area. Have you smelled any unusual odours?”
“My word, no, Ihaven’t.”
“No reason tobe alarmed, it’s probably nothing. May I check the gas fittings inyour house?”
The womangrabbed the cat that had been rubbing her legs and stepped outside.“Of course.”
Eric glanced ata digital gas censor in his hand. “The readings here look fine.I’ll just do a quick check inside. Are there others in theresidence?”
“Very good.Won’t be a minute.”
Eric walkedinto the small house, moving the digital device from left to right.He glanced discreetly over his shoulder. The woman was outside,moving away from the door. After searching through likely cupboardsin the kitchen Eric finally found what he was looking for, ahalf-full case of Megapower. One more glance over his shoulder. Allwas clear. Eric slid his jacket to one side and pulled out ahypodermic needle. He jabbed the hypodermic into the neck of eachof the bottles and injected poison. He replaced the hypodermic andleft.
Eric held aphone to his ear as he exited the front door and approached thewoman. He returned the phone to his pocket as he came up to theyoung woman. “Everything is just fine. No need for concern. I justreceived a call from head office that it turned out to be a minorcomputer glitch on one of our sensors. Sorry to be a bother.”
“No bother.Thanks for checking the house.”
Eric wavedgoodbye and kept walking down the tree-lined street. The womenmoved into the house. Eric walked several blocks. He slipped intoan empty public washroom in a nearby park and removed the remainderof his gas company clothes and changed into blue jeans and a teeshirt. Eric then walked seven blocks before disposing of theclothes and equipment in an industrial garbage container. His carwas parked nearby and he drove home, taking a long zigzagroute.
Thirty minuteslater he arrived home, with takeout food for Ken and himself.
The brotherssat down and ate. Ken dug into a Caesar salad while Eric ate hisusual double mushroom burger.
Ken glanced upfrom his salad. “Everything go okay?”
“Smooth, verysmooth. We’re all set.”
Ken finishedhis meal and glanced at his watch. “Good, very good. I’d better getready.” Ken slipped into bicycling clothes and a helmet. He pulledan expensive bicycle out of the large closet and slipped on leatherriding gloves. Ken took the bike down the private elevator in thetwelve-story building and hopped on. Before starting his ride hechecked his watch again. It was 11 AM, he had plenty of time, butKen headed straight to the park in the river valley. The windingstreets moved left and right as he glided down the steep hill, andacross the bridge, entering the massive green space. Turning southon a bike path Ken rode easily until he reached a jogging path thatmeandered along the south edge of the North Saskatchewan River. Hepulled up to a picnic table a short distance from where the smallerpath joined the one beside which he waited.
Another quickglance at his watch told Ken the time was near. His heart rateincreased with anticipation. Five minutes later Donna Kirkpatrick,wearing a high-performance outfit, a MP3 player in one hand, and afresh bottle of Megapower in the other, jogged towards the river onthe narrower path. Ken patiently waited for Kirkpatrick to movepast him. He had logged her routine for several weeks and knew shealways jogged at the same time and the same distance. As shepassed, he noted her shoes were expensive, a current model, andstarting to wear. As Kirkpatrick moved away from him, Ken flippedhis bike around and followed her at a distance. After ten minutesKen noticed her flip open the top of the Megapower and take adrink. Ken picked up his pace and moved onto the grass, parallelingher still at a safe distance. Kirkpatrick started to waver and tookanother long drink. Ken moved slightly ahead of her and stopped hisbike, he mimed talking on his phone. Kirkpatrick dropped the bottleand fell to the ground, her hands around her contracting throat.Her face contorted and she stopped breathing, the poison workingquickly. Ken recorded her death on the video built into the phone,aiming the camera through a remote screen he had designed to looklike a speedometer on the bike. Ken glanced at the picture ofKirkpatrick sprawled on the ground. Others gathered around. Anassortment of phones materialized, several contacting 911. Kenrecorded twenty more seconds of video before moving on. The crowdwas too thick to get a good shot.
After ridingalong the North Saskatchewan River for an hour Ken turned west androde home, checking the reflection in large windows, making surenobody followed him. The bike rested against the railing of thelarge penthouse balcony as Ken walked into the living room andpeeled off his bike gear. “Eric, I stopped at an internet café andsent the video to the police. This one will shake them up. Ismashed the phone and tossed it in the river.”
“Is tauntingthe police necessary, Ken? It just adds pressure.”
“I don’t give ashit! We have a message to send. Don’t worry, we’ve covered ourtracks.”
Eric shook hishead, went outside and lit up another joint.
The brothershad patiently waited to get back at the people who they felt haddestroyed the family business. Their hatred and need for vengeancewere exacerbated when the police ignored their pleas to investigatea trusted employee who they were sure stole trade secrets fromClelland Industries. Ken felt especially bad about the demise ofthe corporation. The chairman of the company, Ken Clelland Seniorhad groomed his namesake to take over the company. It wasn’t theloss of money that fueled the hatred felt by the twin brothers. Thelocal community looked up to the Clelland family for theirparticipation in charity work and the arts. The backbone of thefamily’s reputation was the successful sports drink business, amajor industry in Edmonton for many years. Their formervice-president, Claude Gervais was treated as one of the family andknew the future expansion plans of the company. He had been paidextremely well for his work. It was a shock to Clelland Industries,and the Clelland family, when Gervais secretly opened a competingcompany on the opposite side of Edmonton and used the new formulaClelland Industries was one year away from launching. Gervais evenwent so far as to accuse Ken Clelland Senior of trying to steal hisformula. The older Clelland received an additional blow when, theweek after Gervais opened the rival factory, his wife was diagnosedwith terminal cancer and died three months later. The once powerfulman disintegrated into a shell of his former self and died in a carcrash two months later after a night of heavy drinking. His car hita mini-van carrying a mother and two children. One of the childrenwas badly hurt. The family’s reputation never recovered.
The policeinformed the Clelland children there wasn’t enough evidence tocharge Gervais with theft. They suggested the boys try suingGervais. They considered it, but decided that their grievances wentbeyond money. They wanted Gervais to suffer. Ken and Eric sold theremaining family holdings and moved to Europe for a year. Kenfocused on seeking means of revenge. He researched and brainstormedideas focussed on paying back both the Gervais family and thepolice for not helping. Eric, on the other hand, went to Spain andstudied Spanish. While in Spain Eric fell into a daze. A dazeaugmented by a new drug habit. He went along with his twinbrother’s plan, but didn’t share his drive.
Provost, thefirst target was the son of Bill Provost, the lawyer who Kenbelieved orchestrated Gervais’ betrayal, and cleared the way forthe creation of Gervais Industries. Provost blocked every attemptby Clelland Sr. to stop his rival from using the new formula.Provost also invested in the stock offering by Gervais Industries,turning a huge profit after six months.
Peter Houstonwas the architect of the financing and stock sale that proved soprofitable for all involved. Houston’s gains were throughcommissions and bonuses for tracking down money for the newenterprise. Ken was certain the company would never have enjoyedsuch great success nationwide without the large influx ofinvestments. Gervais had money, but nowhere near enough to financenational distribution and marketing.
Ken patted hisbrother on the back. “We’re getting there, Eric. When that bastardGervais learns Kirkpatrick is dead he won’t know what to do.”
“It was a sweetmove.”
Ken and Erichad discovered Gervais had a mistress he kept with the fortune hehad amassed. Ken had installed listening devices in both Gervais’soffice and at the mistress’ house. The tapes and photos suggestedGervais was planning to leave his wife. Eric, who had learned topick locks in Europe, had broken into a law office occupied by oneof Gervais’s lawyers and found documents confirming he was seriousabout divorcing his wife. Kirkpatrick’s death was extra sweetbecause Gervais couldn’t tell the police about the ties withoutrisking his wife finding out about the affair and possibly takinghalf of his financial holdings.
* * *
Police ChiefAdam Talbot was in a meeting with the mayor when his secretaryknocked on the door. Frustration showed on the mayor’s face, butthe Chief felt nothing but concern. His secretary would neverinterrupt a meeting unless it was extremely important.
The Chief ofPolice stepped out of the office and spoke with her.

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