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Authors: Brenda Chapman

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BOOK: Butterfly Kills
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This didn’t feel right.

Something clicked behind her and she began to turn. “Not funny, Wol …” her words were cut short by a
of movement and lights as the raised brick smashed into the back of her skull. Her neck snapped forward and her teeth clamped together, cutting into her tongue. Blinding pain radiated from the back of her head the split second before her world went black. The force of the impact toppled her unconscious body onto the concrete steps like a sack of cement, where she lay with her head hanging over the edge, her arms and legs wantonly splayed. The scissors dropped into a hyacinth bush directly below. Mercifully, she didn’t feel a thing when her face banged against the concrete as she was dragged back inside and rolled with a kick against the wall. Nor did she offer any resistance when her arms and legs were pulled back and she was hog-tied and left like a trussed-up chicken until the cleaner’s arrival at six-thirty the following morning.

Chapter Twenty-Five

felt like Kala had just closed her eyes when the alarm broke through her beautiful dream. The beautiful dream had been coming on the nights when she was overtired like a returning old friend. In the land between sleep and awake, she was ten years old again and running in her deerskin moccasins down a dirt path through the woods near Birdtail Creek where Lily waited for her by the river. The running always took up a good part of the dream, and tonight was no exception. When she finally reached Lily, their conversation was always the same.

“You’re late, but I told you I’d wait for you, Sun.” In the dream, they used the childhood names they’d given each other. Lily crouched down and lit a cigarette, blowing smoke toward the river and squinting at something on the far bank. She wore her old buckskin jacket and her hair hung in two black braids half-way down her back.

Kala dropped down next to Lily and hugged her knees to her chest. “I had trouble finding you. I’ve been running and running.”

“Well, now you’ve found me.” Lily’s mocking smile turned in her direction and it changed into her happy one — the smile she seldom used. Her eyes turned old. “I have a daughter now, Sun. I named her Dawn, after you. She’s the best thing I ever did. I want you both to meet soon.”

“I want to meet her too.”

“Family, Sun. We’re family, and no matter where me and Dawn go, that won’t change.”

“You’ll come back for me, Lil?”

“You know I will. You can bet your life on it.”

Kala leaned her head against Lily’s shoulder and they sat silently in the falling autumn leaves until the darkness made Lily’s face shadow over and recede into graininess, like a movie camera pulling back.

Kala reached over and slammed down on the clock’s alarm button. She rolled onto her side and opened her eyes, watching the morning sunlight stream through the open window and letting the warm feeling from the dream settle into her for a few moments. This was as much of Lily as she would ever have, this fuzzy childhood memory from their lives on the rez some eighteen years ago mixed up with the present. Their reunion as adults half a year earlier had ended as quickly as it had materialized. Lily had disappeared with Dawn and left no forwarding address, but Kala would search no more. Their spirits would have to meet again in another world. The dream was nature’s way of helping her to accept that.

Kala slipped out of the covers and padded naked to the bathroom, leaving Taiku spread sleeping across the foot of the bed. She turned on the faucets and let the water run hot before she stepped into the shower. She stood in its steaming stream as she washed her hair and soaped her body. Afterwards she dressed in clean jeans and a white blouse, leaving her shoulder-length hair loose to dry.

“Come, Taiku,” she called. “Time to rise and shine.”

Taiku raised his head from his paws and jumped from the bed, leading her out of the bedroom. They went downstairs into the kitchen. Kala started a pot of coffee and put on Marjory’s sweater from the rack near the back door before stepping outside onto the deck. She and Taiku walked across the lawn down to the river’s edge. Clouds had moved in overnight and the sun was hidden behind grey skies. A stiff wind crashed waves against the shoreline. Kala shivered and buttoned the sweater before following Taiku down to the narrow strip of beach, sidestepping the waves slurping up on the sand and rocks. They walked to the far point where Kala stopped to skip stones across the waves.

“Look at that, Taiku. Six skips. I’m becoming unbeatable.”

Taiku sat down next to her, his tongue lolling out one side of his mouth, and looked out at the lake as if he was thinking over her words. She laughed and bent down to scratch his head. “Let’s head home then and get you some breakfast.”

The wind was against them walking back and she thought about the cup of hot coffee waiting for her. She even had enough time to toast a bagel to go with it. Still a half hour of peace before she had to meet Gundersund.

They were climbing up the short embankment onto the grass when she spotted him sitting on the stairs of the deck. Her heart gave a jump for which she mentally kicked herself. She would not let the man mean more to her than he should, even if there was something about him that made her happy to see him.

Gundersund stood at her approach and his eyes found hers. He started across the lawn to meet her half way. She noticed that his hair was wet, slicked back from his forehead. He’d missed a dab of shaving cream on his cheek, all speaking to a rushed exit. He was dressed much like her in jeans and a light-blue denim shirt under a windbreaker. What she could see of the shirt looked wrinkled.

“I thought we agreed to meet at Tadesco’s office?” Her voice came out gruff, but he didn’t seem to notice.

“Trouble, Stonechild. We have to get to the help line centre instead. I tried to call, but when you didn’t answer your phone, I thought I’d better come over to get you.”

“I left my cell inside while we took our morning walk. Sorry. What happened?”

“The cleaner found a staff member unconscious when he opened up this morning. Somebody smashed her head in from behind and tied her up. She’s in bad shape.”

“Which one?”

“The girl with the tattoos. Gail Pankhurst.”

“Damn.” Kala wondered what she’d missed. Could she have prevented this? She had to put the guilty thoughts away. “I never had a chance to interview Gail yesterday. Looks like Leah Sampson’s death is somehow linked to the help line.”

“It’s looking that way.”

“Della Munroe also smashed in Brian’s head from behind. I wonder if that means anything.”

“I thought of that too. But Della didn’t tie her husband up and tear apart his office.”

“They were searching for something?”

“Apparently. Rouleau’s going to meet us there.”

Kala nodded and started past him. “Let me get Taiku some food and I’ll be ready to go. Looks like we’re about to have another long, messy day.” She stopped and moved a step back toward him. “Two young women. What do they know that somebody is willing to kill them for?”

“It could be Leah’s secret boyfriend. He might be desperate to keep the affair from being exposed.”

“Someone said that Gail Pankhurst kept notes about her coworkers. You might be onto something. The fact both women work at the help line could be a red herring as far as the motive goes.”

“We should also consider that the two attacks aren’t connected.”

“What do you think the odds of that are?”

“Low, but still needs considering.”

Kala thought for a moment. “You haven’t mentioned the other option.”

“Which is?”

“Somebody phoned in information anonymously and Leah threatened to reveal what they told her. Maybe they’d done something so horrific that she was willing to break the code of silence.”

She could see the skepticism in his face. “I don’t know how she could have exposed anyone since they never identify themselves.”

Kala accepted his doubt without protest and started up the steps after Taiku, but her mind was turning over possibilities. At the top, she stopped again and turned to face him. “What if she recognized their voice? What if she let on she knew who the caller was and they had to make sure she never told anybody what they’d done?”

Gundersund looked up at her. She could see him thinking about what she’d said. His voice came out harsh in the morning’s silence. “Then whatever it is they’re trying to hide must be pretty damn awful if they’re willing to kill two women to make sure it never sees the light of day.”

Chapter Twenty-Six

sent Woodhouse and Chalmers to get a search warrant and then over to her apartment to go through her things.” Rouleau led them across the office to the corner where Gail Pankhurst had been found trussed up and unconscious. He pointed to her dried blood. “She bled from her head but the cut was superficial. It was the force of the blow that did the damage.”

Gundersund squatted down for a closer inspection. Kala looked at Rouleau. “Is she going to make it?”

“I don’t know.” His anger at what they’d done to the girl mirrored what he saw on Stonechild’s face. “From the trail of blood, we can tell that after she was hit from behind on the steps she was dragged across the floor and left there by the wall. Somehow they got her to unlock the door. Mark Withers is outside. He said that Wolf was supposed to work last night but sent a text around nine that he’d been held up. Withers also said that Nate would have locked the door on his way out per their rules since Gail was on the night shift alone when he left her.”

“Maybe he didn’t lock it.”

“There’s blood on the top step so it appears she was lured outside or she was heading home and the attacker surprised her.”

“Her bag is upside down by her chair. She would have had it with her at the door if she was on her way home.” Stonechild stepped around papers strewn in fistfuls around the room and an overturned chair on the way to the desk where Gail had sat the day before. “She kept files on people. Could that be what they were looking for?”

“Maybe. The files would be on a computer, but I’d be surprised if she kept them on a common drive at work. Chalmers will pick up her home computer or laptop from her apartment. That said, she might have kept a notebook too. Mark Withers’s office has also been ripped apart.”

Gundersund moved next to Rouleau and said, “We should get him in here to see if anything is missing.”

Rouleau agreed. “We’ll let forensics finish their work in his office first. Go find out if he knows anything else and I’ll send word we’re ready for him. Dino Tadesco was at home but said he’d be here within the half hour when Withers called him. He should have arrived by now.”

Stonechild and Gundersund exchanged glances. “Fortuitous,” Gundersund said. “Saves us a trip.”

They walked outside and found Professor Tadesco and Mark Withers standing with a police officer at the bottom of the steps. Tadesco saw them first and broke away from the group. Gundersund hadn’t met Tadesco before and studied the most likely candidate for Leah’s lover as he approached. Tadesco could be Italian aristocracy, a tall man with slicked back black hair and a swarthy complexion. An open trench coat and loose silk scarf around his neck added to the European flair. He strode toward them like a man used to having people take him seriously. Gundersund thought the guy a serious fop.

“What the hell is going on?” Tadesco demanded. “How could this abomination happen again to one of our staff?” He angrily ran a hand through his hair. “Have you any idea who could be behind this?”

“Nobody yet,” said Stonechild. “We’re hoping you might have some ideas.”

Gundersund glanced at her. Had she also caught the false note in Tadesco’s anger? He didn’t know her well enough yet to tell the difference, but he’d swear there was irony behind her words. Tadesco plowed on, oblivious.

“This is insanity. Leah and Gail were both wonderful girls. Bright, dedicated to helping others. I can’t imagine why anybody would want to hurt either one of them.”

“So you knew them both well?” Gundersund turned his focus back on Tadesco and watched to see if he gave off any tells about his relationship with Leah Sampson.

“Of course.” Tadesco waved him off and turned sideways to look at Mark, who’d stepped up next to him. “Mark, have you any idea about what is going on here?”

Mark shook his tangled blond hair. “Gail was quirky but harmless enough.” He paled. “She wasn’t thumped, was she?”

“We don’t have that information yet,” Gundersund said.

“Christ,” Tadesco said. “Could this get any worse?”

“She could die,” Gundersund said. He looked past Tadesco to the cop signalling to him on the top of the steps. “Come with me, Withers. Time to find out if anything is missing in your office.”

Tadesco and Mark looked at each other. “We’ll meet up later,” Tadesco said. Mark nodded as if some message had passed between them. Gundersund exchanged a glance with Stonechild. She was watching both men intently.

After they’d gone, Kala said to Tadesco. “We
get to the bottom of this with some cooperation. Have you any information that could help us?”

“I wish I did. If this keeps going the way it is, the university will be pulling the plug on the help line. I can’t tell you the politics of keeping the place going, but let’s just say some will be more than happy to use the money elsewhere.”

Kala looked across the street. Small groups of students were gathering on the sidewalk and along the roadway. A news truck had pulled up and a reporter was angling herself so that the cameraman had them in his shot. Tadesco followed the line of her eyes.

“Let’s get out of here,” he said. “I don’t know about you, but I have no desire to be on the six o’clock news.”

“Lead the way.”

She followed him at a half-run down the street to the next block. They ducked into another limestone building crawling with red ivy and walked side by side down the wide concrete stairs into the basement. Two couches and four chairs were arranged to their left. Lamps on coffee tables served as muted lighting, giving the space a private, cozy feel. Tadesco made for the chairs near the pillar. Kala was happy to see the room was empty of eavesdroppers.

“Coffee?” Tadesco asked, pointing to a vending machine in the corner of the lounge.

“Sure. Black is fine.” She took a seat and waited while he fiddled with coins and buttons. He returned balancing two Styrofoam cups and handed one to her before sitting in the chair next to her. He sipped as he sat down. She smelled his musk scent, both expensive and inviting. It was the kind of scent that could make a woman want to bury her face in a man’s neck.

“Terrible swill, but welcome this morning.” He stretched out his long legs, elegantly draped in expensive black slacks. “I found this little spot quite by accident last year and use it as my refuge now and then. It’s usually empty of students.” He smiled at her as if they were sharing a private moment. She could see the charm he used to make his way through life.

“I thought your office would be your refuge.”

“God no. I can barely get any work done there. Students and faculty are stopping by
.” His eyes were dark and his black lashes were long and thick.
Bedroom eyes.

“Leah Sampson took your class last year and this semester. Was she one of the students stopping by to see you after class?”

“On occasion.” He sipped his coffee and eyed her over the brim of the cup.

“Do you sleep with your students, Professor?” Kala asked.

He slowly lowered the cup. “I’ve never had relations with any of the women who work at the help line, if that’s what you’re asking. If Leah or Gail was having an affair — and I doubt very much if Gail has emerged from the closet — they were not having one with me.”

Kala listened for the lie in his voice. She detected something off, but he sounded sincere about Leah and Gail. She thought over how he’d worded his response. “You didn’t sleep with Leah or Gail. Have you slept with other students?”

His eyes widened before he looked down into his coffee cup. “I don’t see the relevance or the need for me to answer.”

She waited a bit to see if he’d fill the space with further explanation. He didn’t and she figured best to let it go for now. “Have there been threats to the help line centre staff before this?”

She observed the lines in his face relax at the change in subject. “No. Nothing. We keep a low profile and don’t broadcast our staff names or whereabouts.”

“But somebody could find the location if they set their mind to it?”

“Sure. The location of the Queen’s Help Line is in the school directory, although we only advertise the phone number in pamphlets and such. We don’t hand out the address as a rule.”

“Back to Leah Sampson. Do you know why she and Wolf Edwards broke up?”

“I heard through the grapevine that she’d met someone else.”

Kala nodded. “We heard the same thing. Do you know the name of the new love interest?” She watched conflicted emotions dart across his face. It seemed he had loyalties to someone he was reluctant to implicate.

“Look, I thought it was Mark Withers at first to tell you the truth. He assured me, however, that he would not sleep with the staff. I believe him.”

“Was Wolf angry with Leah when they broke up?”

“Initially they weren’t speaking to each other. They were friends again a few weeks afterwards. Wolf isn’t the type of man to hold a grudge.”

“What kind of man is he?”

“Poetic, deep. He’s a man whom people gravitate towards because he cares about them. I would no more believe him a killer than I would you, Inspector Stonechild.”

“A strong vote of confidence.”

“Well placed, I assure you.”

Kala tried one more avenue through Tadesco’s carefully constructed answers. “Did you know that Gail was keeping notes on her co-workers?”

Tadesco’s laugh was loud and spontaneous. “Who would believe she’s as good a counsellor as she is? I think it has something to do with all the pain in her own life. Being overweight, socially inept, and gay do not many friends make. Gail put up an eccentric front, but she was just getting by the best she could. If she was keeping notes, they were harmless observations.”

Kala finished her coffee and stood. “I hope you’re right, Professor, but somebody was desperate to find something in your help line offices. If you think of what it could be, here’s my card. Call me anytime.”

Tadesco stood as well and flicked the card against his wrist. He leaned in toward her and said, “I will most certainly be in touch if I remember anything that could help. You can count on it.”

They walked up the stairs together and he shook her hand before he headed on foot toward his office. He pulled out his cell and held it to his ear as he strode away from her, his trench coat flapping around his long legs. Kala stood without moving and watched until he disappeared from view. She started back to the help line centre, his musky smell stubbornly filling her nostrils as she climbed the steps to find Gundersund and Rouleau.

BOOK: Butterfly Kills
3.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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