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Ontario Police Department Homicide Detective Johnny Oliver reflects on retirement as he sits at his desk in North Bay, contemplating what he is going to do with his life after policing. A phone call puts his plans on hold. He and his partner, Detective Sakaë Sayo head north to Kapuskasing, following logging roads into the wilderness. It's hunting season, only this time someone is hunting the hunters. Homicide Detective Johnny Oliver reflects on retirement as he sits at his desk in North Bay, contemplating what he is going to do with his life after policing. A phone call puts his plans on hold. He and his partner, Detective Sakaë Sayo head north to Kapuskasing, following logging roads into the wilderness. It's hunting season, only this time someone is hunting the hunters.



Publié par
Date de parution 01 septembre 2017
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781773626208
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 RonCrouch
Digital ISBNs
Amazon Print978-1-77362-623-9

Ron CrouchCopyright 2017
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 above publisher of this book.
* * *
This is a workof fiction. Names, characters, places and events in the story areeither a product of the author’s imagination or have been usedfictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead isentirely coincidental.

There are twopeople who have turned me into a published author. Both veryprecious to me and essential in my continued and ongoing success asa writer. There are not enough words in a thesaurus to adequatelyconvey my gratitude to my wife Catherine, the person behind thescenes who makes things happen, my best friend; and Judith Pittman,Books We Love who continues to believe in me and does so much tohelp further my career as a writer.
Chapter One
Thick Canadianboreal forest, limestone outcrops, huge areas of exposed graniterock. The Canadian Shield. Remote Ontario wilderness. In an hour orso, the leaves will dance in shimmering colours of crimsons, reds,yellows, oranges and all spectrums of colour in between.Spectacular fall colours accentuated by a westerly breeze.
A cool morning,but not freezing. By seven o’clock the sun will appear over theconcealed horizon before filtering through the tree canopy paintedover with what will become a clear blue sky. The hunter dressedhead-to-toe in camouflage, face painted like a military sniperwaits patiently in a thicket, superbly hidden among theundergrowth, becoming part of the vegetation itself. All senses intune with the surroundings … watching and waiting. Two hours haveticked slowly by. One hundred and twenty minutes. Seven thousandtwo hundred seconds of time forever lost, wasted, but not in theeyes of the hunter. No rush. Hunting is not something that can berushed. It requires skill, knowledge, stealth and above all else,patience. Infinite patience. Stretching a hand up carelessly toscratch an irritating itch on the side of one’s nose could be justenough movement to spook your prey. An almost imperceptiblemovement of material, but loud enough to cause panic followed byrapid disappearance into the deep forest. All those seven thousandtwo hundred seconds would definitely be wasted then.
But not thismorning. This morning heralds a wonderful start to the day. Thereare two of them, one behind the other making their way along thewell-worn game trail. The hunter didn’t have a tag for them,couldn’t get a tag. The hunter sees them approaching from theright, experience says they’re too far away, not only that, they’llspot the hunter and take off into the trees and disappear fromsight. No, better to wait until they are directly in front, someseventy-five metres away, allow them just enough time to put thehunter over their left shoulders before taking down the rear one,then the one in front. Upwind, the advantage to the hunter, bothunaware of the hunter’s presence. Speed and silence will beessential to get both of them, especially with a bow. Not any bow.Not one of those manufactured compound bows. A beautifully,handcrafted, homemade longbow made of yew, the traditional woodchosen by medieval makers of such powerful weapons of death. Aformidable weapon used in the Hundred Years’ War during the 14thand 15th centuries. Six feet in length, this one cleverly designedto come apart into three pieces using carbon fibre connections. Thehunter, being a traditionalist, as near as possible also made thearrows; half inch shafts from oak complying with former militaryspecifications of past centuries, heavier than cedar or poplar,better penetration against larger game. Anglo-Saxon broadhead arrowtips, forged by the hunter in steel, razor sharp. The arrows werejust shy of thirty-six inches. Like the bow, for ease of carriagethe hunter designed them to come in two halves. A lot of troublehad gone into making the threads for the two halves so they wouldscrew together in the middle, the join only visible under closescrutiny. Goose feather fletching fashioned into the more modernparabolic feather design, better in flight, more accurate than thetraditional arrangement. The nock, made of hardwood. The hunterpreferred the more modern string fibres for the bow string,twisting them into a Flemish twist by hand. The whole thing aunique work of art, a creation of beauty. The hunter was thefletcher, string fellow, bowyer and arrowsmith all in one.Individual occupations in earlier times. Even the dark-brownleather bracer worn on the right wrist, had been lovinglyhandcrafted by the hunter. This longbow had been tried and testedover and over again, the kinks reconfigured until the bow wasdeadly accurate and efficient. This morning however, was to be itsfirst test in the field against real-live prey.
A longbowrequires strength to draw back the arrow and even greater strengthto hold that arrow steady in place against the bow, until themoment of release. The hunter was excited to try out the bow. Usingsuch a weapon on a regular basis requires a certain level offitness on a target range. Out in the wilderness requires a highlevel of fitness and stamina to be able to hike across ruggedterrain carrying a heavy pack with supplies and equipment for whatcould amount to two weeks of living and sleeping outdoors.Depending on the topography, the hunter could travel anywhere fromten to twenty-five kilometres a day, for as long as it took. It wasno wonder then, the hunter had no trouble drawing the bow thirtyinches at one hundred and twenty pounds pressure on thelongbow.
Silently thehunter positioned the arrow’s nock into the nocking point in thecentre of the bow string, smoothly drawing back the arrow. Hourupon hour of practice had conditioned the hunter not to aim at thetarget, but to focus on the target until, eventually it all becamemuscle memory. Breathe in, breathe out slowly, breath in, hold andrelease. To the uninitiated, a loud twang might be expectedas the fingers holding the taut bow string instantly release,projecting the arrow at 186 km/h, reaching the target, in this casein less than half a second. In medieval times, a longbowman couldfire off six arrows a minute, one every ten seconds. Impressive. Itwasn’t a twanging sound so much, but more like a sharp woodplane gliding over a long piece of relatively smooth timber, orperhaps a Buck knife being used to whittle a stick.
The first arrowentered between the left shoulder blade and spine having firstpenetrated the bright-orange vest, the thick padded camouflagejacket, shirt and thermal long-sleeved vest. The arrow, capable oftraveling three to four hundred metres, burst out through the man’schest, protruding a good eight inches. Death was not instantaneous,not like the movies where people drop dead from a single shot. Forthat to happen, the shot would have to strike through the triangle of death, that area above the mouth, forming atriangle around the nose. A sniper shot with a rifle, not with abow and arrow. The man dropped his rifle, looked down in shock andhorror at the arrowhead sticking out of his chest, his kneesbuckled and he went down, hard, eyes rolling back in his head,still alive, but bleeding out. It wouldn’t be long.
The secondarrow was already on its way, tearing across the back of theleading man’s orange vest, leaving a long razor-sharp cut in thefabric, skimming across his now bent back as he crouched to helphis friend. On seeing the protruding arrow, disbelief turned toterror, a huge adrenaline dump kicked-in. Fight or flight. He choseflight, scrambling away on all fours into the underbrush, movingwith surprising speed for a man in his fifties and like hiscompanion, overweight and out of shape. There was no third arrow.The hunter remained motionless, thinking, strategizing alreadyaware a hunting camp lay about ten kilometres back down the trail,where the two men had parked their black Dodge Ram pick-up truck.They would have gone as far as they could on their four-wheelersbefore following the narrow game trail on foot. Perhaps others hadarrived at the camp. The hunter didn’t know, but suspected theyhad.
The second manstill had his rifle with him, a lot more efficient and accuratethan a longbow. A tricky situation compounded by the possibilityothers were at the camp. No cellphone reception here, but maybe theguy had a satellite phone, or more likely a walkie-talkie radio. Hewas unlikely to start firing off his rifle in an attempt to alertothers he needed help. That would immediately give away hisposition to the hunter as well as using up valuable ammunition.
The hunterremained motionless, every sense on high alert. It would be awaiting game now. Five minutes, ten, fifteen. There it was, asexpected, a flash of orange. The man hurriedly removing his vest asthough he’d just realized he still had it on, then crawling awayfrom it deeper into the woods. Cat and mouse.
Reaction isalways slower than action, that’s why baseball players can stealbases. In a burst of speed, the hunter hurtled out of the bushes,charged zig-zag across the game trail, crouching low, snatching upthe dead man’s Winchester .308 bolt action rifle with gloved hand.A powerful bullet whizzed past, close overhead, so close thedisturbance of air could be felt, the percussive explosion fillingthe surrounding forest for miles around. Birds previously unseenflew out of the trees and away from perceived danger. Then all wasquiet. Woodland quiet. Both now knew roughly where the other was.The waiting game began again.
Far away in thedistance, the sound of four-wheelers approaching. Maybe two orpossibly three. Not good , thought the hunter. They wouldn’tbe able to penetrate deep into the forest, not without clearing apath with chainsaws. That would take time. The game trail was fartoo narrow, even for an off-road four-wheeler. Silence again.Somewhere out there they’d stopped, no longer any engine noise.They’d be on foot. Gunfire inside a large forest is no accurateindicator of where the sound came from. Just a general direction.The sound echoing off rocks and canyons. The hunter kept all thesescenarios in mind, including the fact this Winchester rifle had amaximum five round magazine, plus maybe one in the chamber. It wasnot an AK-47.
The hunter wasconvinced the man had a walkie-talkie, but would have heard himspeaking into it, even in a muffled voice. Maybe they had a code,Morse code. S.O.S. The man could key the mike and send outdot-dot-dot dash-dash-dash dot-dot-dot, easily enough and quietlyenough, as long as he turned the walkie-talkie off afterwards. Anytype of reply, verbal or a series of clicks would immediately givehis position away. S.O.S. didn’t tell you what the lifesavingemergency was.
The huntercupped hands over ears, listening intently, turning slowly back andforth. No sound from the man hiding somewhere in the undergrowth.The hunter caught the faint sound of a human voice, indistinct andfar off. A name being called, two names … Carl, Gerry!
They weregetting closer, the calling louder, but still not that close. Theyneeded another signal to draw them in the right direction,otherwise they were looking for a needle in a very big haystack.The hunter waited. The sound of them calling began to drift away,they were headed off in the wrong direction. Patient, bepatient.
The man losthis nerve, “Over here!” Followed by one loud echoing explosion,completely out of place with the surroundings. It seemed to lingerin the air, floating among the trees until finally swallowed up bythe vast forest.
The hunter wasup and running, weaving through the trees away from the man, awayfrom his backup who were now sure to be running in the direction ofthe rifle shot, heading toward the hunter. The hunter knew the manwas down, otherwise he’d have fired repeatedly back in thedirection of the muzzle flash. Dead, injured or just hiding wouldhave to remain an unknown quantity. I hope they don’t have dogswith them. The hunter didn’t want to end up in a standoff withthe incoming threat. Whereas the hunter had the element ofsurprise, they had the greater numbers, unknown exactly how many,or how many more they could call in, plus more rifles, moreammunition and possibly an opportunity to call in a policeemergency response team, assuming they had a satellite phone amongthem. Distance, the hunter needed to put as much distance betweenthem as possible. The rifle was more of an inconvenience now, heavyand cumbersome, slowing down the hunter. The backpack was heavyenough, no need for the rifle, maybe only four or five bullets leftanyway, maybe less. Lots of arrows though, if needed. The hunterwouldn’t go down without a fight, wouldn’t be easy to kill.
The hunterfigured no more than half an hour before the others found either ofthe men, likely the one on the game trail first, might not find theother concealed in the bush if he was VSA. Vital Signs Absence asthe emergency responders liked to say. Within two hours the placewould be swarming with police, tactical units and K9. Paramedicswould be allowed in when the scene was secured. At some point aforensic unit would arrive. There would be eyes in the sky, maybe ahelicopter, a small plane and very likely in this modern age oftechnology, a drone of some sort. Maybe all three … searching. Thehelicopter was sure to have heat seeking equipment, thermalimaging, not so good trying to penetrate through thick forest. Theycould be lucky, zeroing in on a heat source at ground level movingquickly below. They’d get a few of them from deer, moose, and blackbear moving through the forest. The hunter didn’t need a helicopterpinpointing a position to a heavily armed, well trained and veryprofessional tactical support unit, bound to be a sniper amongthem. The hunter kept jogging, keeping a good pace a marine corewould have been proud of. By late morning, the distant sound of ahelicopter. They had found a body, maybe both and were hunting thehunter.
By earlyevening, the O.P.D. Mobile Command Centre would set up in the smallparking area where the men had parked their pick-up trucks. TheOntario Police Department were good, efficient, practiced, justlike the hunter knew they would be. Unfortunately the cat had nowbecome the mouse. The mouse was fit, but not superhuman. Theadrenaline dump now turned to exhaustion. Having followed fastflowing creeks to evade police dogs, the hunter was soaked, cold,tired and hungry, but didn’t know the effort was wasted. The othermen searching for their friends had ruined any chance of K9following a scent. The police dog handler ended up going around incircles. The hunter changed into dry clothes, refuelled and keptmoving. Just before nightfall, the hunter made a call by satellitephone. As darkness closed in, the hunter donned night visiongoggles and kept on going.
Chapter Two
My phone rang.I looked up at the clock. Six hours to knocking off time. DetectiveSakaë Sayo looked over at me from her cubicle. It was just her andI in the office this morning. Detective Inspector Lynch walkedin.
“Are you goingto answer that?”
“No,” I said,picking up the phone on my desk, pushing files out of the way tofind it.
“Can you nottake a leaf out of your partner’s book, look at her desk comparedwith yours. Immaculate, neat and tidy, everything in itsplace.”
“That’s becauseI do all the work and what she gets she tosses on my desk when I’mnot looking.” I was joking, my new partner was a workaholic. Inhomicide you had to be. There was never nothing to do. No downtime. Cases had to be rigorously prepared for trial, meetings inthe Crown’s office, follow-ups. Victim’s families to be reassured,witnesses tracked down and scripted. When a new case came in, thefirst forty-eight hours were non-stop. It took me a few weeksafterwards to come down off the caffeine high. If the case wasn’tsolved by then, you were likely in for the long haul. A detectivein homicide, any detective for that matter had to have a veryunderstanding spouse, most were on their second or third marriages,few on their first. Mine wasn’t going too well as it was. Policeofficers in uniform didn’t fare much better. Bullets, booze andbroads, the downfall of many police officers, regardless of rank orunit.
I held thephone up against my right ear and began scribbling down notes withmy left hand as the Duty Inspector brought me up to speed. I wasn’tone for crooking the phone in my neck, I heard somewhere it couldbe injurious to your health, certainly a good way to hurt your neckand end up in physio.
“Okay sir,we’ll start making our way north, it’ll be late afternoon by thetime we get up there, maybe later, especially if we have to go offroad for part of the way. Thanks for the heads up.” I put the phonedown. “Dove, we caught one right up your alley,” I said addressingmy partner.
DI Lynch was aregs and company man, everything by the book. Black and white nogrey and certainly no colour. Not a lot of imagination either. Imissed the old inspector already, grumpy, hated those above him,tolerated those below, but fair and wouldn’t do you a bad turn.Can’t ask for more in this job, don’t expect more, that way youwon’t be disappointed.
“DetectiveOliver, see me in my office.”
“You wanna knowwhat we got?”
“It can wait,my office, now.”
I followed DILynch into his office, I had to duck going through the doorway, hedidn’t.
“As no doubtyou are aware,” he began, standing behind his desk, “policedepartments all across Canada are adopting new guidelines regardingharassment of staff, particularly of female staff. From now on, youwill address Detective Sayo by her proper title and not by thenickname, Dove. I don’t care if she doesn’t object, as athird party I do, that’s all that matters. Have I made myselfclear?”
“No problemInspector.”
“Why do youcall her Dove in the first place?”
“Because sir,she is the poster girl, sorry, woman representing the real deal. Anormal woman, not one of those Hollywood female detectives thatlook more like models in high heels and fancy clothes and allmakeup. Our Dove, I mean, Detective Sayo is the sensible shoes,everyday kind of girl. You’ve no doubt seen the Dove soap adsInspector, that’s why I call her Dove. The perfect woman, theperfect partner, all meant in good fun and with the greatestrespect and admiration. I don’t just call anyone Dove sir, it’sreally quite an honour.”
DI Lynch staredat me in disbelief. “I was warned about you before I took overthree weeks ago. Do you need money from petty cash to buy yourselfa razor? Clean yourself up man, for God’s sake, you look like ahobo.”
“Hobo? I wasworried there for a minute, I thought you said I looked like ahomo, not that there’s anything wrong with that sir.”
“Why do youstink of wood smoke?”
“It’s a longstory sir.”
My boss closedhis eyes, breathed in and out slowly, and then opened them. “Whereare you and Detective Sayo off to?”
“Kapuskasing,well more northeast of the Kap, toward Smokey Falls actually. Twofresh bodies in the woods, both hunters apparently. Both male, onewith a gunshot wound the other has an arrow sticking out of hischest.”
“Okay, you needanything, call me.”
“Forensics areenroute. I’ll need the Mobile Command Centre to set up there, theDuty Inspector will give you the details. The uniform officers fromthe local detachment have done a good job, scene protected, TPU andK9 already on scene and assisting as a precaution. Earlyindications are, they were taken out by a third party, maybe moreand this individual or persons are on the run somewhere up in allthat wilderness.”
“Eyes in thesky already up and looking, nothing so far. I’ll let you know morewhen I get up there.”
“Good. By theway, as you know, Detective Sayo is fairly new to this unit, she’sbeen partnered with you because of your experience. You were not onmy list of choices, but this came from above. She comes to us withan impressive pedigree. She’s actually, Doctor Sayo. She has a PhDin behavioural science, among other things. Keep that to yourself,it’s not something she wants spread about.”
“That isimpressive Inspector. Myself, I have a CDM.”
“Yes sir,Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.”
“Close the doorbehind you Detective Oliver and keep me posted.”
“Everythingokay Johnny?”
“It’s all goodDove, all good. We’re gonna need our overnight bags on this one,you might want to make some personal calls.”
“Personalcalls, why?”
“To let hubbyor the boyfriend know you’ll be gone a while and have no idea whenyou’ll be getting back. Maybe someone needs to feed the kids or thedog, cat, goldfish, chameleon. I dunno.”
“Can you dropme off at my place on the way, I’ll need to pack a bag? Sorry, Ishould have had one ready.”
“No worries.Okay then, you ready?”
“Let’s go then,I’ll brief you on the way.”
I always kept aduffel bag under my desk, stuffed with spare clothes for allweathers. There was a pair of binoculars in it, a digital camera,some extra rounds and some other odds and sods and a LifeStraw, oneof those tubes that filter water in case you end up gettingstranded in the middle of nowhere and get thirsty.
“Dove, do Ismell of wood smoke?” She nodded. “I’ll fit right in where we’regoing.”
I grabbed a setof keys off the board for the unmarked. A grey Chevy Tahoe, big,like a tank, but fast, incredible acceleration for the size of it.But a gas guzzler, not eco-friendly or taxpayer friendly either.Very comfortable, something I could actually fit into. A vehiclesuited for driving around northern Ontario. Fully gassed too, thenI remembered, I was the last one to use it.
I pulled theunmarked into the curb outside a very expensive looking townhouse.“Nice place Dove, North Bay must be booming.”
“Thank you.Want to come up?”
“Nah, that’sokay I’ll wait here, take your time.”
She was quick,tossing her bright pink bag onto the backseat.
“I have alittle gift for you Johnny.”
“Really, I’mtouched, how kind.” She handed me a small white cardboard box. Dovesoap.
“Every time youwash you can think of me,” she laughed.
“In that case Ibetter not take it in the shower with me.” For my witticism, Ireceived a playful punch on my right shoulder.
“We’ll takehighway eleven, pedal to the metal.”
It took acouple of hours to reach Kirkland Lake where we refueled ourselvesand the truck before continuing our journey. The ubiquitous TimHortons was there waiting for us.
“Medium greentea, bag in, medium dark roast with two cream and a couple of thosechicken sandwich rolls as well please.” I swiped the company creditcard, tucking the receipt into my wallet, we found a table in thecorner and sat down.
“You neverasked me why the inspector called me into his office.”
“Not mybusiness. I should have asked the girl to put some cold water inthis tea, by the time we reach Kapuskasing it should be the righttemperature to drink. Anyway, if you wanted me to know, you wouldhave told me already. Obviously he doesn’t want you calling me Dove anymore. Don’t look at me like that, I didn’t make acomplaint, formal or otherwise. Let’s get something straight hereJohnny, if I had a problem with you, you’d know about it, believeme. Rest assured, I’d tell you personally, face to face. You’vetold me why you call me Dove, and I’m flattered, not offended.Nobody else gets to call me that, just you. I’m still working on asuitable name for you.”
“I hope it’snot asshole or anything like that.”
“Johnny, you’rethe furthest thing from an asshole. The trouble with you is, youdon’t love yourself enough. You know you have to love yourselfbefore you can truly love anybody else don’t you?”
“What is this,a therapy session?”
“What ticked meoff the other day, was overhearing one of the D’s trying to befunny. Obviously didn’t think I’d heard him.”
“What did hesay?”
“ I love youlong time Johnny . The Vietnam War ended in 1975, furthermoreI’m Japanese, not Vietnamese, well, Canadian now.”
“Which assholedetective said that? I’ll soon put a stop to it.”
“It doesn’tmatter Johnny.”
“Not from ourunit I hope?”
“No. If he saysit again, I’ll deal with it myself. I don’t need you getting into abrawl at the station, I’ve heard about your method of dealing withproblems. At your age, I would have thought you would have hadbetter control over the reptilian part of your brain.”
“From therapyto counselling, I can’t keep up with you Dove. Changing thesubject. Tell me something about yourself you haven’t told mebefore?”
“I need to loseweight, a few pounds. I want to get into a smaller dress size formy sister’s wedding.” I sipped my coffee and waited. It tasted alittle bitter. “I joined policing for a bit of adventure,especially after years of studying in university.”
“I bet you werebitterly disappointed, not a lot of adventure in trafficenforcement.”
“That’s becauseit’s being approached from the completely wrong perspective. Roadsafety is a very complex problem Johnny. It starts with automobilemanufacturers and their methods of advertising. Not all, but mostof them are about power and speed, sure safety features arementioned, but speed and power remain the main focus. Why do weneed cars that can break the sound barrier? You can’t, legally thatis drive at more than one hundred kilometres an hour, not inOntario anyway. Then there’s the unknown, the mentality of thedriver. Did they get up in a bad mood, are they late for work, didthey catch their spouse cheating, are they under the influence ofalcohol or drugs? You get the picture.”
“Road rage,” Isaid, trying to sound interested.
“Exactly.Random speed enforcement doesn’t work Johnny. You need to doresearch, target specific problem areas on a regular basis.”
“I’m sorry nowI even mentioned it. So, what were you studying in university,surely not the Highway Traffic Act for all those years?”
“Why ask, youalready know the answer. Inspector Lynch told you already before weleft, didn’t he? Please, don’t insult my intelligence by denyingit.”
“He did andswore me to secrecy.” Detective Sakaë Sayo looked across the table,an exasperated expression on her face.
“The best wayto update the whole police department is to swear a police officerto secrecy.”
“I can’t arguewith you there Dove, but I think the only reason he told me isbecause he wanted me to show you more respect.”
“Well, in thatcase, he doesn’t know how well we work together. I’m asking you asmy partner, not to tell anyone. You know how it is, people get bentout of shape. An intelligent woman , who would havethought , it puts some people off. For some reason they feelthreatened by it. Having fancy degrees is no guarantee of a goodpolice officer anyway, even I know that.”
“You don’t haveto tell me that, I understand exactly where you’re coming from.When I was on the road, back when a guy walked in front of the carwith a red flag so you didn’t go too fast, we had a guy on ourplatoon with a doctorate. He did brain research, looking into thecause of headaches. If he’d been researching the police departmentI could have saved him a lot of time and trouble ... management.Like you, he wanted a bit more excitement in his life. They had himwalking the beat, all those wasted grey cells. But he was happy,always smiling, maybe he got laid every day and that’s why he wassmiling. That reminds me of a story one of the guys told me. Hiswife asked him how come he was getting all the decorating in thehouse done so well and so quickly. She was so happy with him. Hetold her it was the blow-job she’d given him. After that he had topace himself, he didn’t want to run out of work. He was so happy.Sorry, I see by the look on your face, we don’t know each otherwell enough for that story. Apparently it’s true. Anyway I digress.I understand and appreciate you not wanting people to know you havea PhD. I have the same problem, I don’t let too many people know Ihave a CDM.”
“Why do I getthe feeling this is going to be another Johnny Oliver joke? You mayas well tell me and get it over with.” I told her. “Pathetic,” shesaid, biting into her sandwich.
“Exactly howmany pounds do you want to lose Dove?”
“How much doyou weigh?” I knew I was really pushing my luck, but couldn’t helpmyself. The look on her face was priceless.
“None of yourbusiness and don’t ever ask me that question again, otherwiseyou’ll be sleeping with one eye open.”
“Okay partner,point taken. Would you mind driving the rest of the way, I didn’tsleep well last night? Coyotes kept me awake for hours.”
“Try closingthe window next time.”
“Yeah, goodidea, if only I had thought of that.”
“Where do youlive Johnny?”
“I have a pieceof property outside town on fifty acres, lots of trees, creekrunning through it.”
“Yeah it is.When I get to know you better I’ll invite you over for a singsongaround the campfire.”
“I’d like thatJohnny, I really would.” I was beginning to get paranoid, imaginingbecause of her training, she could read my mind like an openbook.
Her driving wasawful.
“Dove, keepyour eyes on the road,” I said, as the passenger-side tires caughtthe gravel shoulder.
“Oh shut up.”We both started laughing.
As we gotcloser to our destination I updated my partner on what to expectwhen we arrived and all that I knew about the case, which wasn’tmuch. Facts were few and far between, so there was no point inwasting breath speculating.
I didn’t wantto waste time exchanging pleasantries at the Kapuskasingdetachment. As we pulled into the forecourt at 4:45 p.m. Dove and Ichanged seats. A marked Chevy Tahoe was waiting, the officer waveddrove out onto the road and we followed. After a while the roadchanged from asphalt to gravel and then onto a rutted loggingtrail. Finally it was off-road forcing me to engage four-wheeldrive. It was all sharp bends, steep hills up and down untilfinally at 6:20 p.m. we drove into an excuse for a parking area. Anatural clearing of mud, scrub, long grass and exposed granite,protruding through the earth’s surface like the top of a giant’sskull. Okay for a four-wheel drive vehicle with good chassisclearance but not a car, not unless you wanted to tear the axleout.
There werethree civvy pick-up trucks parked side by side in the corner allfacing the trees, medium-size steel trailers hooked on the rear ofeach one, the type with thick steel mesh ramps. They were stillloaded with gear, apart from their four-wheelers haphazardly parkedbehind the trailers, four of them, big chunky tires and black metalracks. All camouflage of course. I knew already two were missing,somewhere out on the trail, their former riders deceased. The deadguys’ truck was parked on the inside. On the outside, an oldermodel dark green Chevy Silverado, in the middle a brown Ford F150.Brown was a good choice, helped conceal the large rust patches froma distance. Parked on the other side of the clearing a new black,mud coated Ford Expedition, unmarked. The Tactical Police Unit’svehicle. A marked Tahoe with mesh rear windows, K9 emblazoned alongthe sides. Another marked Chevy Tahoe, this one with the words Supervisor along both rear quarters. All mud splattered.
Four men, alldressed in camo stood around the four-wheelers. Two looked to be intheir mid-fifties, maybe older, the other two late twenties, earlythirties. All of them in a state of shock, one visibly upset, oneof the younger men, the other three doing their best to comforthim. They were angry and upset. I got the distinct impressionpolice officers would be their last choice of company. They didn’tlook pleased to see me and my partner, no sense of relief showingon their faces. I parked the unmarked by the supervisor’s truckinstantly recognizing the big man standing by the driver’s door. Ahuge Dutch guy. Capable, professional and very experienced. Not aman easily intimidated. At six-four, two hundred and forty poundsand in good shape, despite being in his mid-fifties, it was easy tosee why. We started Police College together decades ago, were inthe same class, that’s where he got the nickname Viking. Itreally suited him and stuck with him. I had another two inches onhim, maybe another pound or two, okay maybe ten, but he had atleast another five years on me, but looked younger. Clean living,less stress, same wife. The Viking’s face lit up when he sawme.
“Johnny Oliver,I was hoping it would be you. How long has it been bud?”
“Too long,” Ireplied as we bear-hugged each other.
“Johnny look atyou, are you homeless? Wife kicked you out again? You’re not backliving in that tent of yours are you? Christ man, I’ll even lendyou my camper if you’re that hard up.” I could feel Dove’s eyes onme. I looked at my old friend, feeling a sense ofembarrassment.
“She startedhaving trouble with her legs,” I said. “It’s been a recurringproblem unfortunately.”
“I’m reallysorry to hear that Johnny, I hope the doctors can help her.”
“She can’t keepthem closed, that’s the problem.”
The Vikinglooked genuinely concerned, began processing this information, thenfinally the penny dropped. Dove stared at me, a confused look onher face.
“That’s toobad,” said the Viking.
“I gave her thehouse and walked away. She says she’s letting me keep mypension.”
“She stillrunning the veterinary clinic?”
“Oh yeah,that’s where she met him.”
“What aboutyour son Andrew?”
“Thinks I’m anasshole, we don’t speak.”
“What’s hedoing now?”
“Firefighterout west, always liked to be busy. Anyway enough of that.”
“That’s toobad,” the Viking said again.
“Oh, this is mypartner Detective Sakaë Sayo. Sakaë, this is Sergeant Jannsen.”
“Pleased tomeet you Sergeant Jannsen.”
“Call me Bill.You’re in good hands detective, they’ve partnered you up with oneof the best … and one of the worst,” he laughed. “Johnny and me goback a long way. Okay, it’s going to be dark in two hours, we’llget you in on the four-wheeler, one of you will have to ride in thetrailer, won’t you Johnny.”
Looking towardthe civvies I said, “Those guys been scripted?”
“All done,separately and pure version, the way you like ’em done Johnny.They’re in my truck if you want to read them.”
“Yeah please,I’ll take a quick read, being pure version statements they won’t belong. That guy’s pretty upset.”
“He would be,the guy with the arrow through his chest is his dad. Heads up,they’re coming over.”
“Good, I’llneed to speak with them before we head in.”
“What the fuckman! While you cops are shooting the breeze, the killer’s gettingaway.” This from the son, tall and skinny, bum fluff under hisnose, shaved head, wispy excuse for a goatee. Smelled of whitesupremacist, the lightning bolt tattoos on his neck confirmed it,his eyes still red from crying.
“I’m sorry foryour loss,” I lied, hoping it sounded genuine. “Got any ideas as towhat happened?”
“How the fuckshould I know, that’s your department de-tective. I guessthat’s what you are. What’s she doing here?”
“I’m DetectiveOliver, this is my partner Detective Sayo. We’re the leadinvestigators on this case.” Reluctantly I put my hand out for himto shake. Reluctantly he shook it, angrily, hostile. Inside my headI was saying, Doesn’t sound like any great loss to society, whydon’t we all turn around and go home. “What’s your name sir?” Isaid instead.
“Bulloch, JasonBulloch.”
“We will findwhoever did this Jason.” I was sincere, it was the thrill of thechase that excited me. Hunting bad guys, what more noble professioncould one have?
“You fuckin’better, or I will and when I do, I’m gonna string ’em up on themoose rack and gut ’em myself … alive.”
“Don’t givethem any ideas,” I said. “They could still be out there,listening.” There it was, that flicker of fear in his eyes. Iwatched as he made a quick, involuntary scan of the trees aroundus.
“How long areyou going to keep us here?” one of the older men asked. Polite, notangry. “I realize you got a lot of work to do, but we have to getback, we wanna be with Jason when he tells his mom what happened toher husband Carl. Gerry Fontaine’s wife’s gonna be a mess too whenshe finds out her husband’s dead.”
“Gentleman, Iappreciate your cooperation. Once I’ve taken a look at the scenemyself, I’ll be back. I’ll likely have more questions for you then,meanwhile, think back over everything that happened this morning.As I understand it, when you guys arrived, Carl and Gerry hadalready left the camp. Everything is important, down to the tiniestof details. Something that you might think isn’t important, so youdon’t bother telling us, could and often does turn out to be acrucial piece of evidence.”
While I wastalking, Dove read through their statements. She was an expert instatement analysis, far better than me, or anyone else I knew forthat matter. If there was the tiniest hint of deception hidden inthose statements, she would immediately recognize it for what itwas. If she found anything, none of these men were going anywhere.A couple of the TPU guys stayed behind to keep an eye on thecivvies. They weren’t technically under arrest, it was more of anarbitrary detention, helping us with our inquiries. But they didn’tneed to know that. However, if they decided to leave, well, let’sjust say they wouldn’t be allowed to. Until I knew otherwise,r easonable suspicion was still hanging in the air.
Dove climbed onthe four-wheeler behind the Viking, I sat uncomfortably in thesmall trailer. It was a long, bumpy ride in. Finally westopped.
“Okay, fromhere we’re on foot,” said the Viking. “In silence, please. He, she,they or it could still be out there.”
It was a longhike through the bush, then along the game trail. To avoid gettingshot in a blue on blue confrontation, the Viking calledahead on his radio to let the officers guarding the scene know wewere coming. It was tense, the air electrified. The killer orkillers could be out there, unlikely, but still a real possibility.Senses were heightened, the earthy smell of leaves composting backinto the soil, others waiting to fall and join them. The smell ofpine needles, of damp moss, lichen-covered rocks, fallen trees nowdecaying, fungi covering some and beginning to form on others. Themusky smell of what was likely a black bear, long since gone, thescent still lingering in the cold air. I don’t know why, but thesound of the wind whistling through the trees made my heart beatfaster. It felt like a forest full of ghosts, wailing and moaning,swirling among the trees unseen. Primeval I guess. Wind broughtdestruction. Early man would have been cautious about walking amongthe trees on a windy day.
“I forgot myKevlar vest,” whispered Dove.
“Don’t worry,”I said. Unlikely it would stop a rifle bullet anyway. As for anarrow, it would pass through it like cheese wire through softcheddar. I only put mine on to keep my chest warm, I’ll lend it toyou.”
“No thanks, itwould look like a Kevlar dress on me, but thanks for theun-reassuring words.”
Four TPUofficers were waiting for us, strategically positioned, concealedamong the trees, but in line of sight to one another. They werethere not to protect the scene, though of course their verypresence did that. Their primary function was to protect us and theforensic unit when they arrived. Two uniform officers from thedetachment were there to protect the scene, as best they could,given the various locations of evidence. Yellow plastic POLICELINE DO NOT CROSS tape had been tied across the game trail atboth ends of the crime scene about fifty metres apart. A body layon its left side on the trail about twenty metres ahead of us.Yellow tape had been tied to four wooden stakes, fashioned fromsaplings taken from outside the crime scene, positioned so as toprotect the body. I would have preferred the area had been leftuntouched, but in remote areas like this, you had to improvise. Istayed behind the tape strung across the trail.
“Don’t you wantto see the bodies?” asked the Viking.
“Not untilident gets here, which shouldn’t be long now. I don’t need tocompromise the crime scene any more than it has been already, don’twant to upset those forensic guys.”
I recognizedthe K9 officer as she emerged from the trees, accompanied by a tacofficer for her protection and the dogs for that matter. A lot oftraining goes into a police dog and their handler, the departmentwould be pissed off to lose either, that would be a lot of moneywasted. Her dog Mitzi was on a short leash at her side.
“The body withthe arrow through its chest was moved by the son and one of themen, Jimmy Rawlings,” said the Viking. I nodded. “Up there on thatincline to your right is where the other body is. The one that wasshot, so we believe. You can’t really see it from here, but you canjust make out the yellow tape tied among the bushes around it. Theymoved that one too. Apparently he was still alive when they foundhim, no dying declaration or anything like that. Died in Rawlings’arms ten minutes later. They said his eyes rolled back in his head,let out a gasp and that was it, lights out, the final curtain. Ilet one of the paramedics take a look to be sure, I got all hisinfo and the time death was officially pronounced for bothdeceased. Very professional guy, not his first rodeo.”
“Good, at leastthat way the son and his friends can’t make an announcement on theinternet that they were alive and the police did nothing andwouldn’t let the paramedics near them,” I said.
“The dog foundan arrow embedded in the tree over there,” said the Viking pointingto the right. “Hi Becky, good job.”
“Thanks Bill.”Then she noticed me. “Johnny Oliver, geeze you do look rough.”
“Don’t judge abook by its cover. Good to see you too Becky.” I introduced mypartner. Becky Collins, hard-bodied, attractive, there wassomething intriguing about her. The rumour was, she swung bothways, but then police departments are full of rumours. However, forme the jury was still out on this one. All I was concerned aboutwas having the best officers at my crime scene. Get the wrong oneand screw-ups are bound to happen leading to acquittals.
“Mitzi locatedan orange vest, not far from where she found the arrow in thetree,” she said proudly. “It’s marked. About another thirty metresback in the woods, same northerly direction,” she was looking toher left, my right. “We also found a rifle in the underbrush, aWinchester. By the way it was laying, I’d say it was flung inthere. It’s marked too, nothing touched. Heads-up, it could stillbe loaded. There’s an officer guarding it.”
I looked at theViking. “Bill you got a whole army in here, how’d you managethat?”
“I lucked out,the tac guys were up this way anyway on a training exercise. Me andmy guys from the detachment are pretty tight, they don’t take sickdays, not unless they’re really sick. You know how it is, smalldetachment, everyone looks after each other.”
There was a lotof truth to what he said. In a small detachment, someone takes asick day because they’re hung over or they just don’t feel likegoing to work, the station ends up short. Your partner, who tookthe trouble to come to work goes out on the road and gets killed.Not necessarily the officer’s fault who took the sick day, butsomething that would haunt them and follow them to their grave. If only I hadn’t gone sick. The Viking was a man’s man and agood leader, the kind of sergeant you felt lucky and honoured towork for. Alas, a dying breed.
“Anything elsemy partner and I should know Becky?”
“I’d like totell you I found a scent to follow, but unfortunately the civvieshave been all through this area, had me and Mitzi going around andaround in circles. I can’t tell you if there’s one, two or moreperps. If there is a track to be found, we’re gonna need a lot moreK9 up here. My best guess is, we’d have to fan out maybe fivehundred metres or more, that’s our best chance of finding the routetaken out of here.”
“Johnny, Ican’t even give you that. Well, except to say, common sensedictates they went in the opposite direction to the civvies,judging by where the rifle was dumped, northwest would be my guess.Maybe they had a vehicle hidden somewhere.”
“Thanks Becky,good job. Coroner?”
“On her way,”said the Viking.
“Who else hasbeen near or touched the bodies apart from Bulloch, Rawlings andthe paramedic?”
“Me,” said theViking. “As much as possible we’ve used the same route in andout.”
“Better haveforensics check the area around each body, just in case theyscraped a name in blood on the dirt.” I was beginning to thinkaloud.
Dove was takingit all in, the scene, everything. Every little nuance. For thefirst time since arriving at the crime scene, she spoke. “JasonBulloch doesn’t like you Johnny.”
“That’s becauseI’ve got one strike against me. I’m a cop. He likes you evenless.”
“How so?”
“Because youhave, in his eyes, three strikes against you. One, you’re Asian.Two, you’re a cop and three, you’re female.” She winced. How’sthat for behavioural analysis. I thought it, but didn’t want toembarrass her by saying it. “The arrow in the tree, might give thetrajectory from where it was shot. That’s something for theforensic mathematical geniuses to work out.”
“Ah, sorryalmost forgot and this you’ll find very interesting,” said theViking taking out his cellphone. “The arrowhead, the one stickingout of the dead guy’s chest, I’d say is quite unique. I took somepictures, here take a look.”
“Good job Bill,nothing like I’ve ever seen before. Take a look at these Do …Detective Sayo.” She stared long and hard at the images, the Vikinghad to keep refreshing his phone.
“What is itSakaë?” She looked up at me nervously. “Out with Sakaë, it doesn’tmatter how out there it is, I need to know, so tell me. Out there’s have solved cases before.”
“It’s abroadhead arrowhead, made from an English Medieval design. This oneis likely hand forged, not mass produced. Judging by the size andlength of the arrow shaft, I’d say it was shot from a traditionallydesigned longbow. The fletching however, is not traditional. Thefeathers on this one, likely goose are of the parabolic design forbetter flight control.”
For a while, noone spoke. We all looked at each other, then stared down at thisshort, curvy Oriental young woman with an impish face. Dove,suddenly aware of our intense stares, put her hands to her face,obviously embarrassed.
I put my armaround her as a father would his daughter. “You never cease toamaze me Detective Sayo.”
“I studiedarchery, particularly traditional Japanese, something I told myfather I wanted to do ever since I was a little girl. I could neverhave drawn a longbow. It takes a great deal of upper body strength.Even you and Sergeant Jannsen, if you had never held one before,would have difficulty drawing the arrow back, let alone holding itlong enough in position on target and releasing it. Whoever firedthat arrow has good upper body strength, is very practiced andextremely efficient with the longbow. A very deadly weapon.However, if I were going to target someone, especially in terrainlike this, I wouldn’t use a longbow, I’d use a compound bow, easierto draw and I’d use manufactured arrows. We can’t yet be sure aboutthe kind of bow used, but the fact that these arrows are verylikely handmade, speaks volumes about the mindset of the person whoshot them. Perhaps it’s their own creation. That’ll be interestingto discover.” We all looked at Detective Sayo with both a sense ofintrigue and respect. I felt my chest swell with admiration.
“DetectiveSayo, I take back everything I said earlier. Detective Oliver willbenefit more from this partnership than you will.”
Dove, evergracious replied, “I don’t think so Sergeant Jannsen.”
“Are we talkingRobin Hood here?”
“I doubt itBecky,” I said. “I don’t think robbery was the motive here, otherthan to steal another person’s life.”
Someone wascalling me on my radio … “Okay, we’ll come and get you. Did youbring a metal detector with you? … Good.” I turned to the Viking.“Ident just arrived. They reckon they’ll be here for two or threedays, the coroner’s arrived too. We’ll need to keep the scenelocked down and ensure all of our officers are protected until weshut it down or at least, until we know for certain there’s nothreat. The last thing we need to hear over the radio are the words… Officer down . We don’t need a member of our forensic unitwith an arrow sticking out of their chest, that’ll really put adamper on things. I’m gonna have to get hold of DI Lynch, there’s ahost of logistical problems here. One being the welfare of ourofficers, by that I mean somewhere warm to recoup, hot drinks andmeals, washrooms. It wouldn’t do to have one of our officers caughtwith their pants down in the bushes by a roving asshole reporter,plastering their picture all over the internet. Good thing we got amedia relations officer.”
“Definitely nota job for you Johnny,” joked the Viking. “No tact, no diplomacy, nofilter and not an ass-kisser.”
“I secondthat,” said Dove and Becky in perfect unison. They both laughed,smiling at one another.
“I don’t thinkthere’d be more than one of them,” Dove said. “At least not here,maybe there are others elsewhere, but not nearby.”
“How do youreckon that?” I asked, surprised.
“I’m not sayingwe should change any of the plan, officer safety is paramount. Lookat it this way, if there were say two of them, both armed with abow and arrow, whatever type, they’d be up against four men withrifles. With their skills and obvious training, we’d have sixbodies as opposed to two. One person armed with a bow and arrowwould not want to risk taking on four men with rifles. Not verygood odds.”
“Makes sense,”said the Viking.
“I think you’reonto something there Sakaë. We’re gonna have to go througheverything at the end of the day, depending on what ident finds,and come up with a strategy. At the moment, we don’t even have amotive.”
“I’m working onthat,” replied Dove. “I’ve got some ideas Johnny. Mind if I stayhere? I’d like to take it all in, before it becomes a zoo.”
“Nobody betterthan you to do that Sakaë, fill your boots.” I didn’t need to add, And don’t touch anything. Dove was a pro, she knew what shewas doing, this was not her first crime scene. I had developed agood feeling about her as my partner and like a big brother, beganto feel very protective toward her.
“By the way,”said the Viking. “Because of the exigent circumstances, myself andone of my guys searched the hunting cabin for weapons andammunition.”
“Like bows andarrows you mean Bill.”
“Yeah. I guessin hindsight, I should have secured it and waited for you guys toarrive with a warrant. There was so much going on as you canimagine.”
“No problemBill, given the circumstances, it was a wise move. I take it youdidn’t find anything, or you’d have told me by now.”
“Definitely nobows and arrows. As you can appreciate, Bulloch and his friendsweren’t too keen to hand over their hunting rifles. I seized them,just in case the bullet that went through Gerry Fontaine’s chestand out the other side matches one of their rifles. Not that we’llfind it. You got any more Major Incident Control Log sheets? I’llneed some more for the officer checking everyone in and out.”
“Yep, I gotsome back at the truck. When the Mobile Command Centre gets here,there’ll be a ton of them on board.”
Chapter Four
Dr. ClaireDonovan, one of the local coroners was in deep conversation withfour forensic investigators, all now dressed in white coveralls.She was a very experienced family doctor, in her mid to lateforties with a passion for forensic pathology. She’d taken over herfather’s practice, he had also been a coroner.
A lot ofexperienced men and women had turned out for this crime scene, Icouldn’t have asked for better people, from the uniform officer incharge of the Major Incident Control Log, to Dr. Donovan herself.The icing on the cake was having forensics Detective MartyMacAlasdair on scene. His face lit up when he saw me.
“Hey, JohnnyOliver, how are you? I was so happy when I heard you were OIC onthis one, now I know we’ll get the job done properly. The bad guysare already quaking in their boots I bet.”
“I was thinkingthe exact same thing when I saw you brother.” We didn’t shakehands, no sense in contaminating the forensic guys. “Before you andyour team head into the crime scene area, can you get eliminationprints from the civvies and footwear impressions from them? Thatway I can get them out of here, they’ve had a long and verystressful day. The black Dodge Ram belongs to one of the deceased,I have the keys in case you want to take a look at it. I don’tthink it figures in the big picture, but you never know.”
“No problemJohnny.” He turned to one of his team members, a young looking guy,looked more like a college kid than a forensics identificationinvestigator. The young man smiled eagerly and went off tofingerprint the four men and photograph the tread pattern on theirboots.
“Excuse me aminute Marty, I’ll just head over to the civvies and update them onwhat’s happening.” He nodded.
“I don’t needmy fuckin’ prints taken, you assholes already got ’em on file.”
“Mr. Bulloch,”I said, trying to hide my frustration. “It’s just a formality andwill save us a lot of time, I’m sure you don’t want any more timewasted. The real detective work is about to begin.” I immediatelyregretted saying that.
“About fuckin’time.”
“You’ll be keptupdated regularly as the investigation continues. You have mynumber and e-mail, don’t hesitate to contact me.”
“Yeah,whatever.” I was already fully aware that Bulloch had a string ofconvictions for robbery, aggravated assault, domestic violence,sexual assault as well as a string of break and enters, thefts anddrug offences. Assaulting a peace officer particularly galled me.He’d already done pen time. Not enough for my liking. Iwasn’t expecting any kind of thank you, so was surprised when oneof the older men, Bud Jennings came over to see me.
“Detective,don’t mind him, he’s always been a bit of a hothead. Nothing likehis father, in fact Carl would be very upset to hear him talking toyou like that. His dad was a good, honest, hardworking man. Didn’tdeserve this, neither did Gerry. I know you’re gonna do your bestand I thank you for it.” He turned and walked away, tears in hiseyes. One bad apple doesn’t mean you have to throw the whole barrelout. Took me a long time to finally realize that.
Marty and histeam began unloading what looked like enough equipment for a sixmonth stay, including a generator to power the lights and awningsto cover the bodies. They’d likely set up an examination tent so atleast they could work in some comfort with a heater giving them asemblance of warmth. They’d need to get a move on, within the hourit was going to be pitch black.
“Dr. Donovan,nice to see you again,” I said and meant it.
“DetectiveOliver, nice to see you too, can’t say I’m enamoured with thelocation though.” She gave me a long hard stare. “You need to getsome rest detective, you don’t look well. When was the last timeyou saw your family doctor?”
“A week ago. Hewas out jogging, I was picking up some cigars.”
“Oh Johnny,what are we going to do with you. All right, let’s get startedbefore we completely lose the light.”
I stayed behindthe yellow police tape leaving the forensic team to sort out theirequipment. Before they entered the crime scene, one of Marty’s teammembers, a young techy we called, Gadget, prepared a dronefor flight. She saw me staring at her and interpreted this as alook of devout interest.
“This,Detective Oliver, is a UAV. An Unmanned Ariel Vehicle. Thisparticular model is a Dragonfly Dragonflyer X6, with a wingspan ofnine hundred and ninety millimetres. It weighs one thousand gramswith a pay load of five hundred grams. The body and rotors arecarbon fibre. Speed, thirteen point four metres per second with amaximum flight time of fifteen minutes. Operating range, twohundred metres. It can fly to a height of two thousand threehundred and thirty-eight metres and can be operated between atemperature range of minus twenty-five degrees Celsius tothirty-eight degrees Celsius.”
I couldn’t helpit, I began to laugh. “Are you trying to sell me one?”
“For about ninethousand dollars this could be yours.”
I was stillsmiling at her. “I don’t think the police department would likethat.”
She lookedsurprised. “Not this one silly.”
Pilot Gadgetput on a pair of weird looking goggles, manoeuvring thecamera-carrying drone skillfully along the narrow game trail, allthe while the digital onboard camera took pictures. It hovered overthe body of Carl Bulloch for a minute before she flew it among thetrees and bushes like she was actually inside the thing. Finally asif this was the grand finale, she sent it souring above the treecanopy and out of sight. Moments later it returned through the treetops and landed smoothly in front of us. I felt an urge to applaud,but thought better of it.
Drones. The21st century policing tool. An eye in the sky for just about anyfacet of policing, limited mainly by the imagination of the policedepartments deploying them. This one was decked out in full policemarkings. An incredible tool at serious traffic accidents. Wishedthey’d had them when I was back in uniform. But, when I stop tothink about it, back then we would have used it for deliveringcoffees between the cruisers. Someone would have used it for targetpractice at an after-shift party. Ah, those were the days. With oneof those things we’d have had a blast. It gave you a bird’s-eyeview of the whole scene, captured in a digital photograph or video.Saved a lot of discussion time at court. Where exactly was myclient’s vehicle officer? They could be utilized at barricadedperson calls, or at hostage incidents. In this case, capturingimages of a crime scene before the forensic officers even touchedthe scene. I could see them being developed down the road toneutralize human targets. Drones armed to the teeth with pepperspray, firearms capabilities and grenade launchers. For thatlone-wolf shooter holed up in the town’s clock tower shooting downon unarmed innocent citizens below. The drone pilot gets the greenlight, up goes the drone, lobs in a grenade, no more shooter. Thetown gets a new clock tower. It’s a win-win situation, as I seeit.
Crime scenes.They have to be shut down fast to prevent further unnecessarycontamination. Outer and inner controlled perimeters. One route inanother out. The old days of the Brass arriving to take aghoulish look, long gone. Nobody enters unless cleared to do so.The uniform officer at the control point is God. Everyone getslogged in and out on the Major Incident Control Log. No more, Don’t mark me down, I was never here. A crime scene is a big deal.
The coronerentered with the forensic team. Now the real, painstaking workbegan. I thanked my lucky stars again that Marty was leading thisone. If there was anything to be found, he would find it. Floodlights were up turning darkness into an oasis of daylight. I beganto feel an overwhelming sense of tiredness seeping through my body,reached into my jacket pocket, pulled out a bag ofchocolate-covered coffee beans. Dark chocolate. Made me feel I wasdoing something minutely healthy and popped at least a half dozeninto my mouth. Chocolate-covered coffee beans in one pocket,antacid tablets in the other. If I ever got run over and killed,hopefully it would be an exotic car, like a Lamborghini and not anold banger or one of those Russian Ladas, the pathologist wouldsay, Look at this guy’s insides, if the Mack truck didn’t killhim, he would have died anyway.
It was going tobe a long night. I heard the Viking calling me, “Hey Johnny, theMobile Command Centre’s just arrived.”
“Good, I hopethey brought a month’s supply of coffee and creamers with them,otherwise there’s gonna be another crime scene at the parkinglot.”
The tac guysorganized their own relief. Good men and women, an impressive unit,couldn’t get much more professional than them. The Viking organizedrelief for his own officers. There’d be a new uniform sergeant ontheir way out to relieve the Viking, this scene needed goodsupervision. Dove and me weren’t going anywhere in the foreseeablefuture. My stomach grumbled, I could feel acid trickling into it,burning, making me cough. I reached into my other pocket, poppingtwo antacid tablets into my mouth, hoping for relief. Earlier I hadtold DI Lynch over the phone, “Make sure when they bring that MCC,it’s well stocked with food, water and coffee.” He assured me itwould be. He wasn’t much of a cop or a detective for that matter,his saving grace was, he knew his failings, but as anadministrator, he was second to none.
I never forgotthe long hours in my uniform days, spent guarding a crime scene,through one shift and into the next, no relief, not even a sip ofwater or a crumb to eat. Not happening at my crime scenes. Takecare of that uniform officer, who’s tired and pissed off, eitherfreezing to death or boiling under a hot summer sun, give them ahot drink, bottle of water and a burger, you got a friend for life.Leadership. You either have it or you don’t. I don’t care what theysay, you can’t teach that shit.
Dove declinedmy chocolate-covered coffee beans. She was wide awake, wiredeven.
“I think I havean idea about what happened here and why,” she said. “You okayJohnny, you look grey? You’re not going to die on me are you?”
“Probably, if Ido you can have my tent. It’s a good one. Okay, let’s hear it.”
“See across thetrail there?”
“I think that’swhere the killer was hiding. That’s exactly where I would haveconcealed myself. I asked Marty to take a look up there, heconfirmed that someone was up there.”
“Go on, goodwork by the way.”
“The killercould be either a man or a woman, we don’t know that for sure, tookout Bulloch first, Gerry Fontaine was struck by the second arrow,the one embedded in the tree. But, he bent down to help his friend,I doubt he even registered the arrow sticking out of his friend’schest at first. That second arrow was already on its way to him,had he not bent over to help his friend, it would have got him justlike it did Bulloch.”
“How do youknow that Dove?”
“Forensicsexamined the orange vest we believe Fontaine discarded in thebushes. I mean, let’s face it, if someone’s hunting you in theforest, the last thing you want to be doing is running aroundwearing a bright orange coloured vest.”
“I guess ifyou’re gonna being doing that, you might as well stick a set ofantlers on your head.”
“Exactly,anyway here’s the interesting part. The vest has a cut in the backof it, not ragged, but a smooth cut, made by something razor sharp,like an arrowhead. That arrow sticking out of Bulloch is razorsharp, you’ve seen it yourself.”
“So what’s yourtheory Dove?”
“The secondarrow, assuming there are no others out there, at least nothingindicates that so far, glanced off Fontaine’s back and then intothe tree. Also, there’s a cut in the back of his camouflage jacket.When they check it out at the lab, I know it’ll fit perfectly inline with the cut on the vest.”
“I’m impressed.Looks like Fontaine scrambled away for his life into the bushes,away from the vest. The killer didn’t want to waste another arrow,couldn’t be sure of the target hiding in the bushes. Bulloch’srifle became the weapon of opportunity for the killer. Ballisticswill prove no doubt, the bullet that killed Fontaine was fired fromBulloch’s rifle, if they find it.”
“Yes, but notby Bulloch. At least I don’t think so.”
“Johnny! Wefound the bullet, it’s likely the one that passed throughFontaine.”
“Good jobMarty,” I called back. “Well Dove, another piece of the puzzle inour hand, but now we have to see where it fits.”
“So far, nodiscernable tread pattern in the few boot impressions found, thatwe believe the killer made. Ground’s frozen and covered in leaves,so it’s not surprising,” Dove said.
“Makes senseDove. Shame the civvies trampled everything, couldn’t be helped Iguess, given the circumstances, they’re not cops after all.”
“Given all thetrue crime shows on TV, you’d think everyone would know that.”
“Yep, makes memad, don’t know why detectives give so much away about how we catchcriminals. It’s hard enough catching them in the first place, letalone putting it all on television.”
“You’reprobably right. I got asked to do one once, wouldn’t do it. No wayI’m giving anything away that helps rapists and murderers evadedetection.”
“I guessthey’ve only got to look on the internet.”
“Don’t get mestarted Dove, that’s another problem.”
Dr. Donovanhung around, despite her role having been completed. I knew she wasfascinated with how Marty and his team worked on the crime scene,gathering evidence. I called a quick on-site briefing.
“We dug outanother bullet,” Marty said. “It was lodged in a white pine outsidethe taped-off perimeter leading out the way we came in. Gadgetfound it on her way back to the parking lot to pick up some moreequipment. The headlights of the four-wheeler caught the whitenessin the tree where the bullet entered, so it’s a fresh one.”
“Way to goGadget,” I said. She beamed with pride and rightly so.
“Using alaser,” continued Marty, “I stood with my back against the treewith the bullet in it, aimed it up to where Fontaine was shot, thebeam passed close to where Bulloch was lying on the trail. Whichbegs the question, did Fontaine shoot at Bulloch?”
“I don’t thinkso Marty, I like my partner’s theory better,” I said, explainingit.
“Interesting,”Marty said. “I’m inclined to agree. The bullet that killed Fontainelikely came from the rifle found discarded in the bushes.”
“The one thatBulloch junior identified as his father’s rifle,” Dove said.
“In that case,the bullet found in the tree will be shown by ballistics, to havebeen fired from Fontaine’s rifle. If he wasn’t shooting at Bullochthen who was he shooting at?”
“I thinkMarty,” said Dove, “he was shooting at the killer running fromconcealment across the trail, snatching up Bulloch’s rifle andrunning off into the trees.”
“I needcoffee,” I said. “What do you guys want? I’ll make a list and bringyou some back.”
“Thanks,”replied Marty with genuine gratitude. I took their orders andheaded back to the MCC with Dove and the Viking.
Back at theMobile Command Centre, Dove and I got caught up on our notes as theViking headed back to the crime scene with coffees and snacks forthe troops.
“A lot ofunanswered questions Dove, the main one I think being, were theseguys killed by someone they knew or by a complete stranger and moreto the point, why?”
“I think I knowthe answer to that,” Dove said. I looked up at her, a puzzledexpression on my face. “Moose.”
“Moose? Whatare you talking about Dove?”
“Hear me out.Recently, both on the radio, CBC by the way and televisiondocumentaries, biologists have been trying to understand why themoose populations across Canada are in such steep decline.”
“I didn’t knowthat Dove, that’s both interesting and disturbing. Such an iconiccreature. So what did they come up with?”
“Well, in someareas they’re almost extinct while in others they appear to bedoing quite well, but those places seem to be in the minority. Thescientists believe it’s a combination of a number of things, globalwarming for one. They don’t think the moose have been able to adaptto the increased summer temperatures and aren’t breeding like theywere. The alarming increase in ticks, global warming again, theincrease in the white tail deer population, they carry a parasitethey can cope with, but is deadly to the moose. Forest fires areanother problem, poaching another. There’s also a lot ofcontroversy about calf hunting, emotions are running high. That’swhy I think we have a misguided lunatic on the loose somewhere inthis massive forested area.”
“Interesting.You might be on to something there. I was speaking to a friend ofmine recently, he’s a hunter.

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