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Authors: David Anderson

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It took Wesson most of the morning to locate Terry Noonan. Karl had discovered that he was a truck driver for a local firm, Hobbes Transport. His job took him all over the area and sometimes out of the country. This particular morning he had driven a load of auto parts down to Oshawa and was due back at the depot later in the morning. Karl decided it was best to wait for his return rather than try to intercept him somewhere on the road. He occupied himself by thoroughly checking out Noonan’s work area.

Karl showed his badge to the manager of the facility. “We just need to talk to him about some routine matters,” Karl said. “Has he worked here long?”

“Five years, more or less.” The manager was an older man, thin, fortyish and with a nervous manner. “Terry’s a good driver. Shows up on time, does whatever I ask him.”

Karl tentatively labeled the manager, whose name was Douglas Madsen, as a smoker with a Type A personality, the kind of person who finds it difficult to sit still. At the moment he was shifting from foot to foot, clearly wanting to be somewhere else, and his thin face appeared anxious.

“I won’t keep you long, Mr. Madsen,” Karl said reassuringly. “Just a couple more questions, if you don’t mind. Has Mr. Noonan been doing much driving lately?”

“Lately? Nope, we’ve been real slow. None of the guys has had much work.”

“How about on the weekend?” Karl asked. “Was he driving for you then?”

“Hell, no. This weekend just past? No. Today’s his first job since Tuesday. He was joking about it this morning. Said that if I didn’t get him some more jobs, he’d have to go somewhere else. Least I think he was joking.” Madsen suddenly appeared thoughtful.

“Do you socialize with him, Mr. Madsen?”


“You know,” Karl said. “Like, go out for a drink after work? That kind of thing.”

Madsen snorted. “Nope. First, I don’t like him enough to go drinking with him. He drives good but that don’t mean I want to drink a beer with him. And second, he’d rather be off with a woman.”

“He’s married though, isn’t he, Mr. Madsen?”

A wary look came over the manager’s face. “Yes, he’s married. Least I think he still is. He and Sarah have been separated for the best part of a year now.”

“Do you know Mrs. Noonan then, Mr. Madsen?” asked Karl.

“I know her, yeah, but not well at all. That’s to say, if she walked into this yard just now, I’d recognize her. Good looking woman.” The manager was looking fidgety by now. “Look, I gotta go. Anything else, ask Terry – he’ll be back any time.”

“Thanks, Mr. Madsen. I’ll just poke about a bit while I’m waiting, if that’s okay?”

The manager just waved a hand at him as he hurried away.

Karl located Terry Noonan’s locker but there was nothing for him to see as it was locked. The employee part of the office building consisted of a vending machine, a small table, a few chairs and some lockers. Karl supposed that when your employees spent ninety-nine percent of their time somewhere else, you didn’t need to worry much about décor.

Terry Noonan himself showed up a little later. Through a small, grimy window, Karl watched him park his rig. The name “Terrible Terry” was lettered on the cab with a picture of what looked like a wolverine. Karl let him drop off his paper work before approaching him by his locker.

“Mr. Noonan? Detective Karl Wesson, York Police Services. May I have a word with you, please?”

Like most of the people Karl met, Terry Noonan immediately got a guilty look on his face. “Me? What for? I haven’t done anything. You can ask Doug, I keep my logs all up to date. Never had a problem with them.” Noonan was a stocky, well-built man, with powerful shoulders and well-developed arms. Karl estimated him to be about six feet tall, two hundred pounds. He was wearing a black leather jacket over a red golf shirt and dirty blue jeans, tight around the crotch. He had a rather rounded face, dark, wavy hair, and a couple of days’ stubble on his face.

“It’s nothing to do with your job, Mr. Noonan,” Karl told him. “Let’s sit down here.”

Seated at the table across from Terry Noonan, Karl broke the bad news. “I’m afraid it’s about your wife, Mr. Noonan. She was reported missing Saturday morning. Yesterday a body was discovered at Hillsdale Park. We think it might be your wife.” There was never an easy way to say this kind of thing, Karl thought. He usually just said it as quickly and kindly as possible.

“Sarah? Sarah’s missing? You mean she’s dead?” Noonan was staring at him. He seemed quite shocked.

“We think it’s her, yes. Her friend – Lynnette Cranston – supplied us with a photo and the body we found matches it. Of course, we’ll need positive identification. Can you please look at a picture?” Karl had a photo of the victim’s face, the best one they could get. Even so, it was rather gruesome. When a person is strangled, the result isn’t pretty. Terry Noonan was in for a nasty morning. “I’m sorry, sir. I have to warn you that it’s rather an unpleasant sight.” And Karl slid the picture across the table so that the other man could see it.

“God!” Terry Noonan shook his head as if to make the photo go away. He pushed the picture quickly back across the table to Wesson. “It’s her. I’m pretty sure it’s her.” Terry Noonan swallowed nervously and he couldn’t look at the detective.

“Right, sir, sorry to have to show you that, but it was necessary. And my sympathies for your loss.” That wasn’t quite the way they were trained to say it, thought Karl, but it sounded right to him under the circumstances. Terry Noonan was clearly upset; Wesson had just ruined his day, that was obvious.

Karl had a feeling Noonan was going to be a lot more upset soon, but he contented himself with saying, “Mr. Noonan, we are going to have to ask you to come and formally identify your wife.”

“Alright, yes, of course. Later this afternoon? I’ll just check with Doug and see if he’s got another job for me.”

Karl was firm. “Now sir, if you please. These things need to be done as soon as possible, I’m afraid.”



Drumm cruised along through busy traffic, feeling much revived after a filling lunch, and enjoying the feel of the Miata. She handled so smoothly; it was one of his daily pleasures at this time of year to get behind the wheel and enjoy the spring sunshine. Following Lori Singh’s pale green Toyota Prius (how on earth could she afford it?), he was planning ahead as to when he could call Emily. What exactly would he say to her? As if on cue, his telephone rang. Or rather, it played the Guns ‘n Roses theme that indicated the caller was Karl Wesson.

“Yes, Karl?” Drumm had the hands-free phone option in his Miata, so he could drive and talk legally.

“Nick, Terry Noonan has been to the morgue and has positively identified our victim as his wife.”

Drumm sighed. “OK, then, we’re off and running. How did he take it?” The Miata swerved easily around a slow-moving cement truck. He had to raise his voice a bit over the noise of the truck’s engine.

Wesson hesitated a little, then his voice said, “He seemed pretty upset, both at work when I showed him the photo, and at the morgue. But, I don’t know… he didn’t seem all that surprised. More shocked, I think. Or I could just be reading too much into it. Looking at your strangled wife has got to be unnerving.”

“Yes, I imagine it would be. Alright, we’ll leave him alone for the rest of the day but we’ll have to talk to him tomorrow. Set that up with him, will you? Down at the station, of course. And dig deeper into this guy – I want to know more about his background. First, though, meet Lori at Elmdale School. Break the news to them there, and find out what you can about the victim. I’m joining up with the FIS team at Sarah Noonan’s apartment. Let’s meet at The Cat and Fiddle at five and we’ll compare notes.”

“I’ll look into Noonan’s boss too, fellow by the name of Douglas Madsen,” Karl replied, his voice sounding a little tinny. “He had a bit of an odd reaction when I mentioned Sarah Noonan to him. He obviously knew her but he didn’t want to talk about her, that’s for sure. He changed the subject quickly.”

“Good, yes, then check them both out, Karl. And we’ll meet up later.”


Sarah Noonan’s apartment was in a modern, multi-story building located on a busy street. It was just one of several such buildings lined up all in a row like tall grey dominos. Her unit on the fifth floor proved to be a modest one-bedroom, furnished with good quality furniture and a plush area rug on the floor. The pictures and clock on the walls were undisturbed.

The FIS team had started when Drumm arrived but he was still able to have a good look around, trying as always to get a feel for the place. Everything appeared to be in order – there was nothing broken or knocked over. In the bedroom were clothes carelessly thrown on the floor and a chair, but the bed was made and the things on the dresser orderly. Drumm noted perfume bottles and hairbrushes, a teddy bear and a class photo, as well as a picture of Sarah by herself, smiling into the camera. Drumm recognized it as the typical school portrait provided free of charge to teachers. With her shoulder-length blonde hair and brown eyes, Sarah Noonan had indeed been a striking and beautiful woman.

“Anything yet, Kenny?” Drumm asked.

Ken McIntee, the FIS team leader, shook his head. “Nothing out of the ordinary, Nick. We’ll check for prints, of course, scoop up her laptop, see if there’s anything interesting on it, but a quick look didn’t show much. Just school stuff: mostly report cards.”

Drumm knew that teachers often did their reports at school but many of them kept copies on their personal computer so they could work on them at home. “How about the answering machine? And her cell phone?”

“No messages at all on the machine. Everything’s been erased – that could just be her usual routine, of course. There are a bunch of numbers on the phone but no text messages, and we haven’t found anything suspicious. You’ll run down all the numbers and check the phone records?”

Drumm was nodding, distracted. “Sure. Is there anything at all to show she was killed here? We don’t have a crime scene yet, just a dump site.”

“Nope, but we’ll know more after we analyze the samples we’ve collected. Maybe we’ll turn up something from the rug or the bed.”

“What about the kitchen?”

“A few dishes in the drying rack, nothing to indicate she had company at all. See for yourself, we’re not working in there yet.”

Drumm had a look at the kitchen, just large enough to hold a table and two chairs. In the drying rack on the counter there were a plate, a bowl, a wineglass, a spoon, a knife and a fork, all dry. The refrigerator held four bottles of water, a jug of orange juice but nothing else to drink. There was a bowl of what looked like tuna casserole covered with a clear wrap and the usual bottles of condiments. Eggs, yogurt, margarine, various fruits and vegetables – it was just the normal foodstuffs one would find in anybody’s refrigerator. The freezer held some chicken, fish and orange juice cans; in the cupboard were some cans of soup, chili, tuna and rice cakes – Drumm saw the food choices of a health-conscious, non-vegetarian woman, trying to stay fit and healthy.

“A wine glass but no wine bottle, Kenny. Significant, do you think?”

“I noticed that, too. And there’s no bottle in the trash or recycling.”

“And Sigrid says there was white wine in her stomach. Maybe the bottle’s down the garbage chute. I’ll look for it, and canvass the neighbours as well, see if they saw or heard anything.” Drumm wasn’t hopeful. People in an apartment complex like this usually kept to themselves and often didn’t even know who lived beside them.

Drumm left the FIS team at work and started knocking on doors.



Elmdale Elementary School was typical of many newer Ontario elementary schools, a generic brown brick building with much glass and a welcoming entrance; Karl parked in the staff lot beside Lori Singh’s Prius. The structure had two storeys, with an attached gym, large playgrounds on three sides (quiet at the moment) and the main office at the front of the building. And, as he had remarked to Drumm, there was not an elm tree in sight. The parking lot was full. He estimated this school had about twenty classrooms, which meant roughly five hundred students.

Wesson went up to Lori Singh who was waiting for him at the entrance.

“Ready for this, Lori? Shall we do things our usual way?” Their normal procedure was for Karl to act as primary, as senior of the two detectives, and Lori to observe and take notes, jumping in as she saw fit.

“Sure,” she said.

Karl opened the door with the “All Visitors Must Report to the Office” sign and the two of them entered the office.

Even though he and Singh weren’t in uniform, a couple of boys sitting in chairs eyed them curiously. They were probably in trouble, Karl thought; they looked the type. There was an attractive, middle-aged woman sitting at a desk behind a tall counter. He showed her his card, identified his companion, asked to see the principal and was told to wait. A nameplate on the woman’s desk identified her as Mrs. McCall; she had some family pictures on her desk.

“He’ll be right out,” she said as she hung up the phone.

“Thanks. Pretty quiet this morning,” Karl said.

“Oh, it’s early yet. Come back a little later and you’ll see some action.” She winked at him. “Sit still!” she suddenly barked. Smith and Wesson turned to see one of the boys settling back into his chair, a guilty look on his face.

“Welcome to Elmdale. I’m Jim Shaughnessy.” A short, mostly bald man in a brown jacket and matching tie had emerged from a back office and was standing in front of them. His face was red and flushed; he looked to be in his fifties. His shirt was trying valiantly to hold in his stomach but failing badly. Karl could see hairy skin between the buttons where the shirt was gaping open. “Come on in.” Back in his office, he closed the door and shook hands with the two of them.

Karl resisted the urge to wipe his clammy hand on his pants and said, “Detective Karl Wesson, Mr. Shaughnessy. And this is Detective Lori Singh. Thanks for seeing us on such short notice. We’re here about one of your staff: Sarah Noonan.”

“Sarah? Have you found her then?” The principal looked concerned. “And please sit down.”

“You knew she was missing, sir?”

“Call me, Jim, please. Yes, I knew she was missing. Lynnette Cranston called me Saturday morning. See, I don’t usually give out my home phone number, but Gail has it – that’s Mrs. McCall out there, the secretary – because things sometimes happen to the school on the weekends. Gail lives in the area so she usually knows what’s going on. And occasionally she needs to get in touch with me about vandalism or whatever, so she has my number. Lynnette phoned Gail, upset, and she gave Lynnette my number.”

Wesson wondered if Jim Shaughnessy was always so long-winded but then decided he was probably just trying to be helpful. “I see. So Lynnette Cranston – she’s the seventh-grade teacher, right? –she called you Saturday morning? What did she say? And by the way, Detective Singh will be taking down a few notes. Just routine.”

Shaughnessy looked over at Singh who was sitting in a comfortable chair in the corner, legs crossed and a notebook balanced on her knee, pen in hand. “Sure, no problem. Yes, Lynnette called me; she was quite worried. She and Sarah had a date to work out at The Fit Life over at Sunrise Mall. Apparently it’s a regular Saturday morning thing with them. They have memberships. And Sarah didn’t show up, she said. But you haven’t told me, Detective, have you located her?”

“I’m sorry to bring you bad news, Mr. Shaughnessy, but Sarah Noonan was found dead Sunday morning.”

The principal’s rather round face didn’t show much reaction, Wesson noticed, but his mouth opened slightly. Combined with his triple chins and the beads of sweat on his forehead, it made for an unattractive picture.

“What! What happened? Was she in an accident? Where was she?”

“Not an accident, sir, no. She was found strangled and buried in a shallow grave in Hillsdale Park.” The words were delivered in a flat, dispassionate voice. In the corner, Karl noticed, Lori Singh was watching carefully.

Jim Shaughnessy reacted strongly, leaning forward in his chair. “Good God!”

“So, we need to ask you some questions. I’m sure you understand.” Karl showed his teeth.

“Yes, I understand.” The principal was sitting back in his chair again. “Glad to help in any way I can.”

Wesson asked, “When did you last see Sarah Noonan?”

Shaughnessy thought for only a moment. “That would be sometime Friday afternoon, I think. She came to me at second nutrition break, about a discipline problem. We spoke for a few minutes then. I don’t think I saw her again after that, not that I remember anyway.”

Second nutrition break?
Karl thought.
What was that?
“Do you mean second recess, Mr. Shaughnessy?”

The principal replied, “Yes, except that the York Area School District went to a balanced day two years ago, which means we have three teaching blocks separated by two lunch or snack times. The politically correct term is now ‘nutrition break’.”

“I see,” said Wesson. “Nothing like complicating things, is there? So you saw Ms Noonan at second break. Roughly what time was that?”

“Would have been about 1:15 p.m., I’d say, maybe 1:20. We didn’t talk for long.”

“And what was it about?”

Shaughnessy gave a short laugh. “She has a boy in her class, a real dipstick, who has been drawing detailed, obscene pictures and leaving them for some of the girls to see. She wanted some advice from me.”

Wesson sat forward in his chair. “How old is this boy? And how big? Could he have been a threat to Ms Noonan?”

Shaughnessy stared at the detective for a second or two, then said, “God, no! I see why you have to ask but the kid’s twelve. And about four and a half feet tall.”

“We’ll still need to talk to him, Mr. Shaughnessy.”

The principal nodded, then said, “I just can’t believe it. Sarah was murdered? When did you say?” He took a handkerchief from his pocket and patted his forehead.

“She was found Sunday morning. I can’t tell you when exactly she died.” Wesson looked at Shaughnessy carefully. “I need to ask you what you were doing Friday evening”

The principal said, “I was home by myself. On Fridays I generally just do some reading and watch some television.”

Karl thought about this and then said, “How well did you know Sarah Noonan?”

Shaughnessy grimaced. “As well as I know any of my staff, Detective Wesson. This is only my first year here but we got along. I have always made it a practice to keep some distance between me and my teachers. She was no different.”

“I see. Do you know which staff members she was closest to, Mr. Shaughnessy? Was she involved with anyone?”

The principal paused to tidy the collection of pens and pencils on his desk. “Teachers don’t usually tell their principal about their personal relationships, Detective.” Karl thought, that was probably true. He waited for more. “So I’m not in a position to comment on her personal life. You’ll want to talk to Lynnette Cranston about that. They work together in seventh grade and I know they socialize outside of school hours, not just the exercise thing. And, Detective – you’ll also want to talk to Greg Parent, for sure.”

Wesson asked, “Greg Parent? Why? What grade does he teach?”

“No, you misunderstand. He’s not a teacher, he’s the father of one of Sarah’s students. And a couple of weeks ago, he was in this office, yelling at Sarah and pounding on my desk. He was sitting in that chair right where you are, Detective Wesson.” Shaughnessy indicated the one occupied by Lori Singh. “And Sarah was sitting where you are. I had to threaten to call the police to get him to calm down. He was furious with her.”


The Cat and the Fiddle was a Canadian version of an English pub. As a substitute it was a decent imitation, but anyone who had been in a real English public house knew the difference. Still, it made for a relaxing spot to unwind and compare notes. The place was dark and usually fairly quiet. Drumm liked it because the food was good, a step above “pub grub” and there were booths tucked away in the back where he could sit unobtrusively and enjoy a beer. At the moment Drumm had a beer in front of him, Lori Singh was sipping on a club soda and Karl Wesson was waiting on a cup of coffee.

Wesson was filling Drumm in on the school visit. “Shaughnessy said the meeting in his office was because Parent felt Sarah Noonan was picking on his daughter. Not only did Parent shout in the principal’s office, he had apparently accosted Sarah in her classroom twice before, and once at the grocery store on a Sunday. Shaughnessy made this guy sound like a nasty piece of work.”

Lori said, “We decided to leave Parent until tomorrow. We talked to Lynnette Cranston instead.”

Drumm looked at her over his beer. “And?”

Wesson answered, “She was very cooperative. I’d say she was friendly and accommodating, wouldn’t you, Lori? It seemed like she had nothing to hide.”

Singh nodded. “Yes. She was also obviously upset when Karl told her Sarah was dead. She started crying.”

“What? In front of her kids?” asked Drumm.

Karl shook his head. “No, it was that second nutrition break time again and she was marking papers in her classroom when we spoke to her. Her students were outside getting their recess run-around. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to chat with her because the bell rang. And then the room started to fill up with the noisiest kids you’ve ever seen.”

“I doubt that,” murmured Drumm.

Lori smiled. “Anyway, she agreed to meet us tomorrow at her home. The principal told her to take a couple of days off as personal leave, and she said she would. She looked like she needed some time away to herself.”

“Anything else?” asked Drumm.

“We talked to Chelsea Parent,” said Karl. “But only for a minute. She clammed right up when we identified ourselves. Wouldn’t say much except that her father wouldn’t be home until very late.”

“To be fair, there were a bunch of kids standing around listening,” said Lori. “She would hardly want to say much in front of her peers.”

“True,” admitted Karl. “Anyway, we were given a tour of the building. Elmdale is a Kindergarten to Grade 8 school and there’s nothing unusual about it. Sarah Noonan’s room is right beside Lynnette Cranston’s in the intermediate hallway. There are no portables.” Karl looked at his notebook. “The staff complement is forty-one, including the principal, vice-principal, secretary, part-time secretary, three custodians, six teaching assistants, twenty-nine teachers and a partridge in a pear tree. The teachers include a librarian, three special education instructors and twenty-five classroom teachers. There are sixteen males on staff,  and twenty-five females, which strikes me as a lot of men for an elementary school. Aside from that, it is a typical, unremarkable public school. Except that they have a murdered seventh-grade teacher.”

The server finally arrived with Karl’s coffee. When she had gone, Drumm asked, “What else?”

Karl took a sip and then put down his cup. “You asked me to look into Terry Noonan. He has a clean driving sheet, no record of any traffic offences, no moving violations, not so much as a parking ticket. He is a good, reliable trucker and it looks like Hobbes Transport is lucky to have him. He’s been with them for five years and two months. We spoke to some of the other drivers and none of them had anything bad to say about his driving.”

“So he is a squeaky clean motorist. But?” Drumm prompted.

Lori joined the conversation. She had a cynical expression on her face. “Our friend Terry is a bit of a bad boy. He has an assault conviction from nine years ago. He beat up a guy pretty badly in a bar fight. He served six months for that one.” Lori sipped some of her club soda.

“But there’s more, isn’t there?” Drumm was holding his glass of beer and looking at them with a half-smile.

Karl said, “There is. Sarah Noonan twice called 9-1-1 and reported that her husband was assaulting her. This was fifteen months ago and then again eighteen months ago. The police reports indicated she had bruises on her face and arms. Ms Noonan stated on both occasions that he had gotten drunk, grabbed her and hit her. However, she wouldn’t press charges either time.”

Lori said, “So it looks like three assaults were enough for her. Presumably he did it a third time and that’s what caused the separation.”

“Three strikes and he was out,” Karl agreed. He picked up his cup. “He’ll be at the station tomorrow morning.”

“Thanks, Karl. Good job. And you too, Lori. So, it appears that Mr. Noonan is a first class jerk, as well as being our chief suspect. Anything else?”

Lori said, “You know, I haven’t been in a school in I don’t know how long. I have to say that I found it interesting. Elmdale seems like a well-run place, which means, I suppose, that the principal does a good job. He said he didn’t know much about Sarah, though. And he seems to be a personable man.”

BOOK: An Indecent Death
8.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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