Authors: Brenda Chapman
sat in her truck and checked the address she’d copied into her notebook when Mark Withers brought up Wolf’s personnel file on his computer. She pulled out her map of Kingston from the glove compartment and traced the route with her finger. Wolf Edwards lived outside the campus, heading northwest.
She tossed the map onto the passenger seat and started the engine. If there’d been a common thread running through every interview, it had been the boyfriend Wolf and his recent split with Leah Sampson. Jucinda Rivera was the only one who’d said Leah had been sleeping around on him with a married man, but she’d stopped short of giving a name. Gail Pankhurst had admitted that Leah and Wolf dated at one time, but clammed up about their breakup.
How angry had Wolf been at Leah’s infidelity? Angry enough to torture her? Men did crazy shit when women left them. Sometimes men you would never suspect of being capable of violence.
Her phone buzzed in her pocket. She slowed the truck and pulled over to the curb. Scanning the tree-lined street ahead, she counted mainly oak and maple with the odd poplar. Old trees in an old town. She held the phone to her ear.
Gundersund. She’d forgotten all about him.
“Where are you?” he asked.
“Just finished up the interviews and am heading to see Leah’s ex-boyfriend, who lives northwest of the university on Centennial Drive. He also worked at the help line until recently. Autopsy over?”
“No. The parents were late and had a hard time with their daughter’s death. They were with her a while so we’re about an hour behind. I just stepped out to call you. Maybe you should wait for me and we can go together. What’s the guy’s name?”
“They call him Wolf. Last name Edwards. Has the coroner found anything yet?”
“Says she died sometime in the early morning hours on Saturday. There are bruises all over her torso and broken ribs. The fingers on one hand are mashed. She has rope burns on her wrists and ankles where the bastard tied her to the chair. Whoever it was cut her superficially all over her body, but the knife wound in her stomach was deep and nicked her liver. She died when she bled out.”
Kala let out her breath but didn’t say anything. She watched a squirrel do a high wire act above the road in front of her. A cardinal flashed red in its flight between two trees. She thought about all the normal life that had been going on while Leah Sampson was strapped to a chair, being beaten and cut.
Gundersund’s voice dropped. “Her crawl to the living room must have been excruciating.”
She could hear the gentle in and out of his breathing in her ear. She wondered if he was waiting for her to react. If so, he was going to wait a long time. “I’ll come back in after I’ve interviewed the ex,” she said before the emptiness on the line stretched out too long. “Don’t worry, I’m used to working alone.”
She turned off the phone without waiting for his reply and flung it onto the map lying next to her.
Gundersund slipped his phone back into his pocket and thought about having a cigarette. Autopsies were stressful and being teamed with Stonechild was becoming another thing to worry about. What was she doing tracking down a prime suspect by herself, especially someone named Wolf? He could feel the beginnings of a headache starting up behind his right temple.
He’d quit the habit for two months and three days but could conjure up the taste of nicotine and the round feel of one between his fingers at will. Usually, it was enough. This autopsy was the first real test of his resolve and it was weakening. All he had to do was step outside and head to the smoking area on the north side of the building where he could easily bum one. He could feel the pull.
He looked down the hallway. Fiona was walking toward him with two coffees in her hands. The baggy green scrubs hid her slender body and the heart tattoo on her left shoulder. Her rubber-soled shoes squeaked on the waxed floor. She stopped a foot away and handed over one of the Styrofoam cups. Her fingers touched his hand longer than they needed to.
“No sugar, right?”
“I remember lots of stuff when it comes to you.”
Gundersund laughed to cover his discomfort. “Let’s not dredge up the bad memories. As I recall, you had a long list of my failings by the time you moved out.”
She tilted her head so that her blond hair swung over one shoulder. Her perfume filled the space between them. It was spicier than what she’d worn when they were together. “We had more good than bad between us.” She sipped her coffee. Her blue eyes stared into his. “I’m living alone again.”
“What happened to the surgeon?”
“Long gone. Why don’t you come for dinner tomorrow night? I could barbeque steaks, bake some potatoes, uncork a bottle of red.”
“This case will probably have me tied up.” He was quite certain that taking her up on her offer was a very bad idea.
“Well, if you end up free, the invitation’s always there.” She pushed the door behind them open with her hip and stepped inside the autopsy room. She looked over her shoulder. “Coming? I’m cutting into her brain next.”
“Well, since you put it that way.”
He followed his wife through the door and realized he’d forgotten all about the cigarette, but he hadn’t forgotten about the maddening Kala Stonechild. He should call Rouleau to let him know what she was up to, but that would alienate her and get their partnership off to a bad start. He’d try to finish up early here and track her down. She was turning out to be just one more woman out to make his life hell.
Guitar music circled the house from the backyard. Kala pushed open the gate and followed a brick path into a small patio area wrapped in flower gardens and shrubs. A man sat on a stool with his back to her, a guitar in his lap, one leather-sandaled foot crossed over the other leg. She recognized a Gordon Lightfoot song: “Railroad Trilogy.” The man’s brown hair was pulled back into a curly ponytail. He was shirtless, his broad shoulders and back lean and muscled. When he turned around, Kala saw why he’d been nicknamed Wolf. The lower half of his face was bearded and his eyes were almond-shaped and a curious shade of green and gold. His hands and body went still.
“Yes? Can I help you?”
She stepped around clay flowerpots bursting with begonias and impatiens. Thyme grew between the bricks at her feet, sending up a dusky fragrance as she walked closer. “Are you Wolf Edwards?”
“I am. And who might you be?” He smiled, his face friendly, unguarded.
She pulled the ID from her pocket that Vera had typed up that very morning and watched his expression alter. “Detective Kala Stonechild. I’m here about Leah Sampson.” She was now a metre from him. She stood in full sun while he sat in the shade of a blowsy willow tree that draped around him, only a short distance above his head. His brow furrowed as he read the ID and for a moment, she hesitated.
He lifted his eyes to hers. “Has she gotten herself into trouble?”
“I’m sorry to say that she’s been murdered,” Kala said. The words never came out soft enough, but how could they?
Wolf started to stand and then fell back. He stared at her as if seeking evidence in her eyes that she was lying. When he couldn’t find any, he gripped the neck of the guitar with both hands and levered it upward, level with his chest. He began to swing it into the trunk of the willow tree but instead swung it past and into a rose bush several feet away. Kala stood stock still in front of him and waited, unfazed by his anger. She’d seen every reaction imaginable after delivering this news, from complete denial to physical illness. Without warning, he stood and kicked the stool against the trunk of the tree. One sob ripped through his throat into the silence of the garden. Kala took a step closer and put a hand onto his forearm.
“Should we go inside and sit?” she asked quietly. “I can tell you what I know.”
His back straightened. He searched her face, his eyes seeking purchase. “I need to know what happened.” Each word seemed ripped from his throat.
He turned abruptly and led her through a torn screen door directly into a kitchen. She took in a clean square room with a green tile floor and white cupboards. A wooden blind hung at a crooked angle over an open window. The sun streamed in through the open slats. She crossed to the table, ignoring the remains of a joint in an overflowing ash tray. They sat across from each other at the pine table.
“Tell me,” he said.
can’t share much, but we believe Leah was killed late Friday night or early Saturday morning in her apartment. When was the last time you saw her?” Kala pulled a notebook and pen from her handbag and sat back, waiting for Wolf to answer.
“I walked her home after she finished her shift on Friday. I watched her go into the house where she’s living. It was around nine-thirty. Then I met a buddy at the campus pub. Did it happen in her apartment?”
“Yes. Did you see anybody on the street or hanging around near her building?”
Wolf shook his head. “Was somebody waiting for her? If I’d walked her to her apartment door, would she still be alive?” He moaned and dropped his head into his hands. When he lifted his eyes to hers a minute later, they were wet. “I’d like to see her.”
“In time. Can I have the name and address of the buddy you met that night?”
“This is a waste of time.”
“It’s called crossing out possibilities.”
He sighed and gave her the information while she took it down. “How did you meet Leah?”
“I don’t see how this is going to be of any value.”
“It will help me piece together who she was and hopefully lead to who killed her.”
“From finding out when I met her?”
“It’s just one piece of her life. It could lead to more avenues for us to investigate.”
“High school. My parents moved to Brockville when I was seventeen and she’d grown up there. She was in grade nine and I was three years ahead. We lived on the same street and walked home together one day.”
“Did you begin dating then?”
“No. I thought of her more like a little sister. In fact, she hung out with my younger sister, Amber. You know how it is in high school. A three-year age difference is a lot when it comes to dating.”
“But things changed.”
“I started in psychology at Queen’s and saw her whenever I went home, usually at our house. She and Amber remained best friends through high school and our house was where they spent their time. Leah came to Queen’s four years ago and we started going out her second year.”
“You’re finishing up your Ph.D. this year,” Kala said.
Wolf nodded without asking how she knew. “I took a year off and travelled after my masters.”
“While you were dating Leah?”
“Yeah. We’d just started going out but I’d had the trip to India planned and didn’t want to miss the opportunity. I was volunteering with a children’s orphanage. Leah stayed here and carried on with her studies.”
Kala thought this man sounded too good to be true. “I understand that you and Leah broke up a few months ago. Could you tell me about that?”
Wolf shifted in his chair and avoided looking at her. Perhaps he’d realized for the first time how wrong this could all go. He crossed his arms across his chest and scowled.
“Leah had started up with a married man and I asked her to choose. She told me that I was insane. But Leah’d been secretive and gone one weekend without explanation. I could read guilt on her face. There was enough evidence that I knew it was true.”
“Do you have a name?”
Kala searched his face. He’d answered too quickly, but she’d give him a little leeway … for now. He’d just had a major shock and perhaps hadn’t fully comprehended what was at stake when it came to proving his innocence.
“Can I see Leah now?” he asked.
Kala wrote her cellphone number on a piece of paper and ripped it out of her notebook. She set the paper on the table in front on him and stood. She looked down at him. “We’re currently doing an autopsy. Leah’s parents are here and perhaps you should contact them about the arrangements. We’ll be releasing her body once all the forensics are completed.”
“Her father’s here?”
“Yes. Is there something I should know?”
Wolf shook his head again and looked down at the table.
“When you’re ready to tell me something of substance, I’ll be ready to hear it,” said Kala. She pointed to the paper. “That’s my cellphone number. Call me anytime. I should also advise you not to go anywhere. We’ll certainly be back to speak with you again.”
She left by the back door and was stepping over the trailing vines on her way to the gate when he came outside and called to her.
“You didn’t tell me how she died. I think you owe me that.”
She stopped and faced him. He reminded her of too many other people who’d just found out the world as they knew it had ended. Maybe she didn’t owe him anything, but the anguish on his face gave her pause. She took a few more steps and raised her hand to push open the gate. She looked over her shoulder at him.
“Leah died of a stab wound. We’re following up on every lead, I promise you that.”
He took a second to digest her words before nodding. He wiped his forehead and pushed the hair from his eyes, then he pulled the door shut and disappeared inside.
It was nearly six o’clock and Rouleau could feel his stomach rumble with hunger. He’d breakfasted on four cups of coffee and a stale doughnut and missed lunch. He decided to get through the day’s reports quickly and head to his father’s to cook the steaks, still wrapped in brown paper in the meat cooler from the day before. He’d gotten home too late from the murder scene to cook supper and his father had managed with a sandwich. He’d said that morning that he would wait for Rouleau to get home even if it meant a late meal.
There was a knock on his office door and Gundersund entered. The big man looked tired, the scar on his cheek sharper than usual against his pale skin. He took the seat across from Rouleau.
“Any word from Stonechild?”
“Not yet.” Rouleau looked over Gundersund’s shoulder. “But it looks like she’s just arrived.”
Rouleau watched her crossing the floor in the outer office to her desk. He raised a hand and signalled for her to come into his. She hesitated, then walked past her desk and pushed open his office door, flashing Gundersund a quick smile before taking the seat next to him.
Gundersund’s eyes fixed on Rouleau as he recapped the day’s progress. “We think somebody grabbed her just inside her apartment. There’s no sign of a forced entry so the attacker could have been waiting in the laundry room. It’s the most likely scenario.”
Kala interrupted. “I spoke with Wolf Edwards, who walked her home Friday night. He watched her go up the sidewalk to the house but didn’t see anybody lurking outside.”
“He’s the ex-boyfriend?” asked Rouleau.
“Yeah, but I got the feeling he didn’t know about her death. He seemed genuinely grief-stricken. He gave me the name of a friend he met up with after he dropped Leah off. That’s why I’m late. I went to check Rick Carlson out. He wasn’t home so we’ll have to follow up.” Her eyes darted to Gundersund and then straight ahead.
Rouleau looked from Kala back to Gundersund, who sat silently, his hands still in his lap. “The door-to-door interviews haven’t come up with anything else. Nobody saw or heard anything. What about the autopsy?” Rouleau asked Gundersund.
“What I told Kala this afternoon about the autopsy hasn’t changed much. Leah’s ribs and fingers on her right hand were smashed in addition to lots of other bruising. She was superficially cut with a knife over a good part of her body but the thrust in her stomach killed her. Fiona says we’re looking for a hunting knife most likely, six-inch blade.”
“Was she raped?”
“What about her co-workers?” Rouleau swung his eyes back to Kala. “Find out anything useful?”
“Hard to say. It’s going to take a few visits to get all the secrets out of them.”
“Well tomorrow, Kala, you’ll be working with Chalmers and Woodhouse on the rape case. Gundersund can make the follow up call to the help line.”
“But …” Kala began.
Rouleau held up a hand. “I know. This is hardly the time to split you up, but the two of them need a woman’s point of view. I apologize if that sounds sexist, but I assure you it’s a compliment. You can move back and forth between the two files.”
“The two of them already given up?” asked Gundersund, amused. “Or have they got a lead that needs chasing down?”
“They got nothing today that we didn’t already have,” Rouleau said. “I need some imagination on this file.” He slid a folder across the desk in her direction. “A little light reading for your evening’s entertainment.”
“How did you guys ever get along without me?” Kala asked, reaching for it.
“Not all that well obviously,” Gundersund said.