Authors: Brenda Chapman
Kala dropped her eyes back to the report on her screen. Most curious. Gundersund had somebody in his life who had the power to upset him.
Shahan woke up early, just as fingers of sunlight broke through the darkness of her room. She lay on her side with her eyes open, watching the sunbeams dance through the flimsy curtain onto the hardwood floor.
It would be nice to be a sunbeam,
she thought. Sunbeams made people happy.
Already, she could hear her mother moving around in the kitchen preparing breakfast. The spicy smell of beef haleem — wheat, lentils, and beef with coriander, cumin, and turmeric — drifted up the stairs and made her mouth water. There would be leftover samosas too, with green chutney from supper the evening before.
Dalal stepped out of bed and looked down at Meeza, still sleeping so peacefully with one arm flung over her head on the pillow. Meeza’s other arm was wrapped around her stuffed teddy bear, Boo. Meeza had her own room but sometimes came to sleep with Dalal in the middle of the night when she got lonely. Meeza didn’t like being alone much.
Dalal kept her eyes on Meeza’s face as she skirted around her bed to the bookcase near the closet. She knelt and reached her hand behind the Quran her parents had given her on her tenth birthday. She let out a breath of relief to feel the thin diary still in its hiding place.
Ghazi hadn’t found it on his last search of their room because she’d carried it to school in her knapsack two days before. Immediately upon arriving home after school, she’d told her mother she needed to use the bathroom upstairs. She’d tucked the book inside her underwear under her dress before getting off the bus. It had felt strange but comforting to have it next to her skin. She’d hurried upstairs and hidden the diary in the bookcase before scurrying across the hall into the bathroom. By the time Dalal entered the kitchen, her mother had already emptied her knapsack onto the kitchen table as she did every day when Dalal came home. Dalal felt a flush of guilt at this small rebellion but if she had to do it over, she would not change one thing.
Dalal pulled out the diary and straightened the books in an even row as they had been. She tucked the book under her arm as she crossed back to her bed and got under the covers. She rolled onto her side so that she faced away from the door and pulled the sheet over her head. When she was sure nobody was stirring across the hall, she opened the diary and squinted at the delicate swirls and loops in blue ink. The scrap of paper she used as a bookmark was still in place and she flipped to the spot she’d left off. She began reading.
I got up this morning and heard them talking in the kitchen, like old women conspiring. Odd. They looked at me with guilty eyes when they saw me standing in the doorway. I pretended not to notice and ate my breakfast even though I wasn’t hungry. I put on the black hijab and ugly long coat as expected and hurried for the bus. I prayed I wouldn’t meet Susan and Josy and I was lucky today. If they saw me in the head scarf and coat, they’d tell all the other girls. I hate, hate, hate their sly looks and superior way of looking at me. Brit met me in the park with my jeans and T-shirt. I changed behind the trees while she kept watch. She brought lip gloss and eye shadow and a little mirror. I’ll have to remember to rub the makeup off before I leave school. Ghazi is hanging around more, spying on me and reporting back. If they knew, well, I won’t think about that today. Chad Stephens smiled at me when I walked into history class. My heart is singing.
Oh joy of joys! Brit told me at our lockers this morning that Chad wants to take me out this Friday to the movies!!!! My heart is going to burst wide open, I am so, so happy. There has to be a way to be allowed out without them suspecting. I will go no matter what. I will find a way to have a night away from them if it’s the last thing I do. I will have a life.
Dalal jumped as Ghazi’s alarm clock began its wake up beeping in his room next to them. The wall muffled the annoying sound but Ghazi would let it go on a while before he woke enough to hit the snooze button. Dalal quickly closed the diary and decided she’d hide it in the bedclothes and take it to school again in her knapsack. She didn’t trust her brother to stay out of their room today because he only had one class at the university this morning. He had all afternoon to search while she and Meeza were in school. He had all day to plot and scheme.
gathered the team in the meeting room before lunch.
“Looks like we can wrap up the investigation into the Munroe death,” Chalmers said, leaning back in his chair. “I spoke with the prosecutor this morning and they’ll be pursuing involuntary manslaughter with provocation. She admits to killing her husband, but he’d broken into her house and was making off with the kid. She won’t be doing any time, is my guess.”
“Della Munroe told us that she was hanging up a mirror and left the hammer on the floor. Did that check out?” Kala asked.
“It did.” Chalmers held up a photo. “The wrapping for the new mirror was in the recycle bin.” He looked at her, a lazy smile spreading across his face. “Anything else?”
She met his eyes without smiling. “Yeah. Had the Munroes corresponded that day?”
“Nothing shows up in the phone or computer records.” Woodhouse interrupted their staring contest. “We’ve had someone checking all morning. Della said she’d locked the door and he had a key, but she’d also put the chain lock on. When the chain stopped him from getting in, he broke the glass and reached in to undo it.” He held up a photo of the broken window on the kitchen door before handing around the crime scene photos, adding, “Everything Della Munroe told us is checking out.”
“On the other hand, she wasn’t actually being physically threatened,” said Gundersund. “The force she used was excessive. Anyone who takes a hammer to somebody’s head has to be aware of the damage they can do.”
“He’d ignored the restraining order and broken into their house. He was in the act of taking their son away. I’d say he was threatening her in other ways. Mental abuse can be more powerful than physical over time,” Kala said. Her eyes had shifted to Gundersund’s. He held her gaze.
Rouleau waited a few seconds before he broke the impasse. “It won’t be up to us to argue her case, for or against. I want Chalmers and Woodhouse to finish up the investigation on this one. Stonechild, you can continue working with Gundersund on the Leah Sampson murder today. Still no solid leads or suspects, so you’ll have to dig deeper into her life and the people she dealt with.”
“Yes, sir,” Kala said.
Gundersund looked at her. “Let’s grab some lunch and go over the reports. We can plan our interview schedule.”
“Perfect,” Kala said. Her jaw jutted out dangerously. She looked at Rouleau. “Anything else?”
“I’m taking an hour to meet with a real estate agent to check out a house. I’ll be on my Blackberry if you need to reach me.”
“Whereabouts?” asked Gundersund.
“Along the waterfront to the west of downtown.”
“It’s not too far from Dad’s, the only reason I’m giving it a look.”
Rouleau leaned against the hood of his car and checked his watch. He’d give Laney Masterson five more minutes before driving downtown to pick up some lunch. He’d made initial contact with the real estate office by leaving a voicemail, but hadn’t expected her to leap into action so soon. He wasn’t even sure if it was the right time to leave his father alone. However, it would take a few months to finalize a sale and move in, so no harm getting the ball rolling.
He looked over at the house Laney had picked to show him. He’d specified a two-bedroom house, preferably a bungalow. This three-storey home wasn’t even close to what he’d had in mind. The waste of his time irritated him. Her lateness made him doubly impatient, but he wanted to meet her if only to set her on the right track.
The sun beat down like a heat lamp and sweat trickled down his back, making his shirt cling uncomfortably. Grey clouds had gathered on the distant skyline but as of yet offered no relief. Rouleau worried that his shaved head would burn if he didn’t soon get out of the sun and looked around for some shade. A few oak trees towered above the house in the backyard, but none in the front. He debated heading to the neighbour’s yard where a couple of pine trees shaded the driveway. Before he roused himself to walk that far, a car engine sounded behind him. He turned to see a silver Nissan barrelling toward him at a speed that should have earned the driver a ticket and a few demerit points off their licence. They wheeled into an empty parking spot a few spaces down and the engine died. Rouleau squinted and made out a woman’s ghostly face behind the sunlight reflecting off the front windshield.
The driver door was immediately flung open and a tall woman stepped out of the car. He was struck by how well put together she was, elegantly turned out in a white suit and red high heels with her auburn hair pulled into a bun at the nape of her neck. The bones in her face were sharp and angular and her eyes were hidden behind dark sunglasses. He could see enough to know that she was staring at him as she walked toward him. She held out a hand and he encircled her slender fingers with his own. Her grip was firm. In her forties, she had the body and movements of a much younger woman.
“Mr. Rouleau, so pleased to meet you,” she said. Her voice was low and pleasing to his ear. “Have you had a chance to look around?” She waved a hand in a sweep. A diamond bracelet sparkled on her wrist.
“I decided to wait for you.”
She flashed a quick smile as if acknowledging the implied rebuke, but didn’t comment on her late arrival. She added brusque, business-like “Good. Then let’s get started.”
They walked up the sidewalk toward the front door. A white verandah wrapped around the front and side of the house.
“I know this is bigger than what you asked for in your voicemail, but the price is within your budget and the house is in excellent shape. The yard is well maintained and there are lovely trees in the backyard. I believe you’ll enjoy living in this neighbourhood, that is, if you decide to buy.”
She used a key to open the front door and they stepped inside. The front hall was narrow and cool, painted a creamy lilac. The only light came from an oval window near the ceiling.
She took her time showing him the downstairs — a large living room with a wood fireplace, small bedroom and bathroom, large kitchen with walk-in pantry, and formal dining room off the family room — and he let her talk about the updates and redone birch floors without interrupting. He wondered if the look of genuine appreciation on her face was feigned or real when she ran her fingers over the granite countertops and the oak mantle over the fireplace. She had all the jargon down.
Rouleau stopped her as she started up the winding stairs to the second floor. “No point going any farther,” he said with unexpected regret. “It’s a lovely home but isn’t what I’m after. I’ve no desire to waste your time.”
She turned her feet resting on different steps, and frowned down at him. The confident glow in her lovely face had disappeared. She studied him for the first time as if she’d just realized he wasn’t on board with her program. “Are you sure? This is the area of town you asked to see, but there isn’t much available in your price range.” She paused as if she wasn’t used to such stupidity in her clients.
“It’s too much house. I need something smaller. I’m sorry.”
“No need to be sorry. I’m the one who brought you here.” She retraced her steps and brushed past him, her high heels clicking on the hardwood as she crossed the hall and disappeared into the living room. Her floral scent lingered. A moment later, she emerged with her purse and folder. “I’ll keep looking for you,” she said, her eyes momentarily apologetic. She started toward the front door.
“No rush yet, but let me know if something comes up,” Rouleau said, quickly stepping past her. His hand found the door knob before her and he held the door open.
They descended the front steps and walked toward his car. He looked up. The western clouds had scudded in quickly and he felt a dampness in the air that hadn’t been there when they’d entered the house. Kingston weather could change on a dime.
“How do you know Heath?” he asked, stopping at the end of the walkway.
Laney turned and faced him. Her eyes clouded over. “He didn’t tell you?”
“No, I suppose not.” Her lips drooped in a scowl. She resumed walking toward her car, aiming her key fob at the passenger door. “Let’s just say that we have a history together.”
“I really didn’t mean to pry,” Rouleau said. He wished he’d never broached the subject. He felt like he’d stepped into something awkward and silently cursed Heath for not preparing him.
“It’s okay. Had is the operative word.” She turned and smiled for the first time, giving him a glimpse of what lay within. He noticed the crinkles around her blue-grey eyes. Under a coating of makeup, her face was tanned bronze from the sun. He pictured her stretched out in a lawn chair on a cruise ship with a drink in her manicured hand.
Rouleau nodded. “Well, let me know when you find something else. I should be able to meet you if given enough notice.”
“I promise you something more suitable next time. Now that we’ve met, I have a better idea of what will please you.” She smiled again, full wattage, before ducking her head to slide into her front seat.
Rouleau watched her car pull a u-turn and zip away from him down the street. She just barely stopped at the stop sign before whipping left and disappearing from view. He shook his head and got into his car to head back to the station. Laney Masterson looked to be a woman used to the privileged life where rules didn’t apply to her. He turned the key in the ignition and wondered what had gone on between her and Heath. A wise man would turn and run the other way rather than get involved with either one of them. Rouleau glanced one more time at the house he’d never own, then cursed himself for being a fool because he was already looking forward to the next time Laney Masterson called. If that wasn’t folly, he didn’t know what was.