Read Butterfly Kills Online

Authors: Brenda Chapman

Butterfly Kills (5 page)

BOOK: Butterfly Kills
2.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Chapter Seven

Hamilton sat in a chair in front of a giant television, his face ashen in the pooled light from the table lamp. A Blue Jays game was playing on the screen with the sound off. Bobby sucked on the end of a cigarette while avoiding looking directly at Kala and Gundersund as they lowered themselves kitty corner to him on the stained green couch, the only other place to sit. Bobby had shot them a darting look when they entered the room, then fixed his unblinking eyes on the screen.

Kala sat on the edge of the couch and tried not to think about what had made it so filthy or what could be crawling underneath her. She forced down her revulsion and angled herself to get a clear view of Bobby. His shoulder-length blond hair was already giving way to baldness — the hairline had receded with a circle of thinning noticeable on top — and his eyes were pale blue in his bony face. His hollow cheeks and pointed jaw hinted at malnourishment. Someone who’d rather spend their money on drugs than food. A smell of pot hovered in the room, filming the walls and ceiling, giving silent confirmation of her assessment.

Gundersund coughed as if his throat was constricting. “So you found Leah’s body,” he said when he caught his breath. He coughed again and his face turned a deep red. He glared at Hamilton as the choking came to an end.

Bobby chanced a glance at him before nodding. He pulled on the cigarette like he was sucking on a straw.

“Do you mind putting that thing out?” Gundersund asked, pointing at the smoke rising from Bobby’s fingers.

“What, this?” Bobby shrugged and dropped the cigarette into a beer bottle on the table next to him. It hissed and sputtered, then went out. He spread his legs wider and sunk deeper into his chair.

“You found Leah Sampson’s body.” Gundersund had pulled out his notebook.

“So it was her.”

“Can you tell us what you saw?”

“I went downstairs to do some laundry after supper. Around eight o’clock. I smelled something stinkin’ and followed it over to her apartment. I knocked but the door was open a bit so I yelled to see if she was okay.”

“Did you go in?”

“No way.” Bobby shook his head and looked at them for the first time. “I just looked down the hall and saw blood and combined with the smell … I hightailed it back upstairs and called 911.”

“Did you hear anything coming from Leah Sampson’s apartment the last few days? Anything unusual that you can remember?”

“Like what?”

“Like noises or raised voices; anything at all unusual.”


“Did you see anybody coming or going?”

“I’m not her bloody keeper.”

Interesting choice of adjective. “What do you do for a living, Bobby?” Kala interrupted.

“I work for the city. Garbage collection.”

“So you’re not home during the day.”

He looked in her direction, his eyes assessing her like a woman he’d just met standing on a street corner. “That’s right. I leave for work around five a.m. and get home mid-afternoon, unless I go to the bar when I’m done.”

Kala ignored the suggestion in his weasely eyes. “Did you do that last week, say on Friday after work?”


“You said that without thinking about it,” said Gundersund.

“That’s cause I go to the bar every night after work. It takes a while to get the taste of garbage out of my throat.” He smiled, showing yellowish teeth. One of the bottom front ones was missing.

“We’ll need details and names of the people who might have seen you,” said Gundersund.

“Why? I didn’t have nuttin’ to do with what happened to her. I was the good corporate citizen that reported it, remember?”

“We know that,” said Kala, cutting off his sudden burst of anger. “We just need to find out where everybody was.”

“Yeah, right,” said Bobby. “I got an idea how this works.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. He handed Gundersund a card with the phone number of his supervisor. “Wayne was at the bar with me Friday and tonight.” His eyes went back to the television screen.

“Did you know Leah at all?” asked Kala.

“Nope. I keep to myself.”

“Is there anything else you can tell us?” Gundersund asked.

“Such as?”

“Who might have killed Leah.”

“I ain’t got absolutely no idea. A guy does his civic duty and all of a sudden you’re checking out his whereabouts and asking if he knew her killer. I think I’m all done talking.”

“Thanks for your time,” said Kala. “We appreciate your assistance.” She kept her voice flat, hiding any trace of sarcasm.

Out in the hall, Gundersund snapped his notebook shut and tucked it into his pocket. “Think the guy’s done time?”

“It’s not a question of if, but how much and for what,” Kala said, starting down the stairs.

She looked through the screen door at the bottom. A red-haired girl carrying a gym bag stood outside talking to one of the officers. As Kala reached the bottom of the stairwell, the gym bag hit the sidewalk with a
and the girl covered her mouth with both hands. Her scream filled the hallway.

Kala turned to Gundersund. “Looks like the second floor tenant just arrived home.”

The girl’s name was Becky Pringle and she’d been living in the top floor apartment for three years, two years longer than Leah Sampson had lived in the basement. They’d walked Becky upstairs into her apartment after rescuing her from a near collapse on the front steps. Kala sat with her on the couch while she cried. Gundersund signalled to Kala before leaving the room, and she soon heard the kettle boiling. He returned with a cup of tea that he placed into Becky’s shaking hands. She sipped it in choking slurps. Eventually her sobbing subsided.

“I just can’t believe it. Anybody but Leah.”

How many times had Kala heard these same words come out of victims’ mouths? Anybody but their loved one.

“We know it’s been a terrible shock, but if you can tell us about Leah, it might help us to find out who did this to her.”

“This is just unbelievable,” Becky repeated. “Leah and I liked to get together after work and have tea or something harder to drink. She was warm and funny. She was the kind of person who would do anything for you.”

“Could you tell us where Leah worked?” asked Kala.

“She was finishing up her Master’s thesis in psychology and just completed her last exam. She worked part-time at the crisis hotline on Queen’s campus.”

“Did she have a boyfriend?”

Becky paused. “They broke up about a month ago.”

“What was his name?”

“She called him Wolf. I don’t know his real name. He worked with her at the help line. I think they grew up in the same town. Do you think he…?”

“We won’t jump to any conclusions. Do you know where her parents live?”

“A little town near here, but I don’t know which one. Oh wait, she told me they sold their house and moved to Montreal. She was going to visit them at the end of the semester.”

“Was Leah worried about anything or anybody recently?”

“Yes. No. I’m sorry. My thoughts are all jumbled. She seemed lonelier after she broke up with Wolf and distracted the last few times we talked, but I wouldn’t say she was worried. She went away for a weekend last month for a break but she didn’t tell me where. We haven’t had a real chance to talk since she got back because of schoolwork or I would have asked her about her trip.”

And now they never would.
Kala could see the girl was near breaking. “Okay, Becky. That’s all for now. We’ll probably come back to see you again once you’ve had a chance to take all this in. Is there somebody you can call to come stay with you?”

“My boyfriend. He lives a few blocks over.”

“Good. It’s best you have someone to be with you now. This has been an awful shock.”

They waited while she made the call. She spoke briefly and nodded after hanging up. “He’s on his way.”

Kala and Gundersund stood and headed for the door. Gundersund stopped as Kala stepped onto the landing. “Becky, how long has Bobby Hamilton lived below you?”

“About a year. Just a bit longer than Leah. She and I were hoping he’d move out so Leah could move into his apartment, but he wasn’t going anywhere soon so Leah was thinking about finding another place to live. Moving on up since she’d be done school and making money.” Becky’s voice caught in a sob.

“I can stay until your boyfriend arrives,” said Kala. She motioned at Gundersund to go on without her. “I’ll meet you downstairs in a few minutes.” She started back toward the girl on the couch.

Chapter Eight

darkness gathered in the crevices and over the tree line the farther Kala drove west and away from downtown. She turned off the air conditioning and rolled the windows all the way down. The air smelled earthier and greener and she could almost see herself here for longer than a day. She drove past the limestone turrets and sand-covered walls of now-closed Kingston Penitentiary, continuing on past a drug store and single-home dwellings that lined both sides of the road. The pavement hugged Lake Ontario with stretches of beach and water shimmering through the trees in the moonlight. Taiku sat at attention next to her, taking in the view through the front windshield, his nose sniffing the air and the gusts of breeze ruffling his fur. Bonnie Raitt’s bluesy “River of Tears” filled the truck cab and trailed out the windows into the passing darkness of the countryside.

Fifteen minutes from downtown, Kala glimpsed the turn-off to Old Front Road tucked inside a cove of brush and trees. “Almost there, boy,” she said, and reached over to ruffle Taiku’s head. She made a quick right and drove slowly down the paved road, peering at large homes behind the oak and maple trees. A few minutes down the gently curved road, she spotted the red mailbox on a white post that marked Marjory’s driveway on the left. She’d visited the year before on a long weekend when she was stationed in Ottawa. It had been the first time she and Marjory had ever met. Tonight, Marjory had left the outside lights on to guide her way.

Kala parked the truck next to Marjory’s Subaru and leaned over Taiku to open the passenger door.

“Out you go, boy.”

She let him run down to the water and stood looking out over the lake while he snuffled through the underbrush and ran along the shoreline. The heat of the day had been broken by a breeze sweeping off the lake. Crickets chirped in the swaying sweet grass while a sprinkle of fireflies flashed in the grass near an ancient maple. The night air held the dusky scent of jasmine and roses from a garden built into the incline. Kala inhaled deeply and closed her eyes. She heard the back door open and turned in time to watch Marjory run lightly across the deck and down the steps to where she stood. Marjory enveloped her in a bear hug.

“I was starting to get worried. I thought you might have gotten lost.”

“I should have phoned but I got involved in a police call.”

“In my heart I knew that you could look after yourself.” Marjory took a step back to look at Kala. “You’re thinner than last time I saw you, but you look rested.”

They linked arms and started back toward the house, a greyish-blue two storey with a red roof. Taiku bounded ahead of them. “I’m so glad you made it tonight,” Marjory said. “I leave for Northern Ontario in the morning. I’m researching a court case that will take months.”

Kala’s heart dropped. “I was hoping we could spend some time together. When will you be back?”

“Likely not until November, and then only here for a visit. I’ll be gone a year, probably longer. I’d like you to stay and house-sit for me, that is if it suits your plans.”

“I’m not sure how long I’ll be staying.”

“When Ray called day before yesterday to tell me you were on your way, I told him that I was going to ask you to stay for a while. He said good luck with that.” Marjory smiled at her.

Kala returned the smile with a shrug. “It’s just that I don’t know where I want to be.”

A shrill whistling and the smell of marinating herbs, red wine, and beef greeted them as they stepped inside. Marjory turned, “I put the kettle on when I heard you pull in. I have stew on the stove if you’re hungry.”

“I’m beyond hungry. It smells delicious.”

Kala fed and watered Taiku while Marjory got the food ready. The kitchen was wide and bright with pine cabinets and a large window that looked out over the water. The grey slate tiles felt cool underneath Kala’s bare feet. The room’s neutral colours were warmed by a woven red-and-orange rug positioned under the pine table near the sliding patio doors. Kala looked down the hallway and into the living room at the Inuit paintings on the wall above a wood fireplace. She remembered them from her last visit.

They took plates of stew, homemade dinner rolls, and a pot of tea to the back deck and settled themselves at the patio table. Marjory lit a camp lantern and candles while Kala poured the tea. Taiku flopped down at Kala’s feet and stretched out with a grunt. The distant sound of waves rolling onto the shore soothed something in Kala’s soul, like a faithful friend waiting to be rediscovered.

“This is so good,” Kala chewed a spoonful of stew. She ate quickly, ravenous from hours in the truck and the energy used to comprehend the crime scene. The evening had gotten away on her. The nervous anticipation in the pit of her stomach when the murder call came in, the surge of adrenaline that always accompanied the first glimpse of a killer’s trail had kept her from thinking about her own needs until this moment relaxing on the deck with Marjory.

“You went to see Ray?” Marjory asked.

“Yeah. We flew in and canoed Sand Lakes. It took about a month. Your dad’s doing well for a guy in his seventies.”

“Ray didn’t tell me why you were heading back this way.”

“Just tying up loose ends.”

“Ray told me that you found Rosie in Ottawa.”

“That’s right. I was looking for her in Ottawa last year when I came to see you.” Kala had forgotten that she’d told Marjory. Now she wished she hadn’t because Rosie hadn’t cared enough to stick around once they’d made contact. The rejection still hurt.

“You call her Lily, don’t you?”

“Yeah. Rosie is Lily to me. She used to call me Sunny.” Kala grinned. “Hard to believe, I know.”

“Ray said she’s got a daughter.”

Kala nodded. “A twelve-year-old girl named Dawn. Nice kid. Lily’s involved with some guy who did time for robbery. They disappeared after I made contact.” She was silent, reliving the moment when she discovered them gone; the moment her dream of having a family evaporated like morning mist.

Marjory shook her head. “Lily’s picked a difficult path. You must have found it hard to lose her so soon after finding her.”

Kala nodded again but didn’t say anything.

Marjory dropped her head and Kala knew she was deciding whether to keep going or leave the subject alone. Her dad, Ray, wouldn’t have said much, she knew that. Marjory raised her black eyes to Kala’s. They were kind eyes, non-judgmental eyes, the reason Kala had returned for a visit at Ray’s urging. Marjory nodded as if telling herself to let it go.

“Ray and I had that falling out when I left Birdtail Rez to follow Tommy Lightside to Winnipeg. I was just sixteen years old — thirty years ago if you can believe it. God, I thought I knew it all back then, and man, was I wrong. It took a few years but I went back home and Ray … Dad was still there, waiting. He’s why I got on track and finished high school. I never would have gotten the law degree if I’d stayed with Tommy.”

“I know what you’re trying to tell me,” Kala said. “It’s not going to happen in this case. Lily won’t be looking to change her life anytime soon.”

“People have a way of coming around. Lily knows you’re there for her when she needs you. She still keeps in contact with Ray, if only sporadically. He’s there for her too.”

“I wouldn’t put any money on Lily.” Kala wasn’t prepared to talk about her any longer.

Marjory took the hint. “So, where are you planning to go when you leave here?” she asked. She refilled their mugs with tea and settled back against the cushions.

“Back to Red Rock, although I’m not sure that’s even a good idea.”

“Why not?”

“It’s complicated, but the man I was seeing has moved on.”
Moved on back to his wife and baby.
“I just don’t want to stir up what’s best left alone.” Kala put her fork down and leaned over to pet Taiku’s head. “I guess Taiku and I’ll stay here and house-sit until you finish your research up north. This might be the space I need to figure things out.”

“Well now, that would be a help to me. I’ll be on the road a lot these next few years and worry about leaving this place empty.”

“I’ll just commit to the next month if that’s okay with you. I’ll be here in November when you return but can’t promise anything longer.”

“Fair enough.”

Marjory lowered her head to eat but not before Kala saw a smile turn up the corners of her lips. Kala picked up her fork and dug it into the warm stew. With a slight nod in Marjory’s direction she acknowledged Marjory and Ray’s small victory of manipulating her into this decision before tucking into the last of her meal.

An hour later, Kala settled into the back bedroom on the second floor. She’d slept here on her one previous visit and was happy to be back in this small room with its casement window and window seat looking out over the water. She propped herself up on the cushions for a while, letting the day’s events settle and her mind decompress until she felt that she could sleep. Taiku appeared to also have remembered being in this room on their one and only visit. He’d immediately stretched out on the hooked rug at the foot of the bed, snorted a long sigh, and fallen asleep.

Kala reached across and opened the window as wide as it would go. The wind rushed in as if it had been lurking outside, waiting for an invitation. It blew the hair back from her face and billowed the curtains around her. It filled her nostrils and lungs. No matter how difficult her day had been, the wind always made her feel connected to something bigger than herself. It brought her a measure of peace.

She stepped back and slipped out of her clothes, then climbed naked between the crisp sheets on the double brass bed. She lay awake a while longer, listening to the waves lap onto the shore as she began to drift off to sleep. Rouleau’s concerned face, strong and sure, hovered above her just out of reach as she finally let go of the day.

BOOK: Butterfly Kills
2.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

His Forbidden Submissive by Evans, Brandi
Twice-Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Claiming His Wife by Golden Angel
Dinner with Buddha by Roland Merullo
#Score by Kerrigan Grant
Crash Into Me by Tracy Wolff
Mahu Vice by Neil Plakcy