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Authors: Stanley Evans

Seaweed Under Water

BOOK: Seaweed Under Water
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PRAISE FOR STANLEY EVANS

“Evans' combination of [Coast] Salish lore and solid plotting is a winner.”
—The Globe and Mail

“A fast-paced, entertaining story with enough plot twists to keep the reader guessing.”
—Times Colonist

“A mystery novel worth reading and lingering over.”
—Hamilton Spectator

“A gritty murder-mystery with some violence and suspense thrown in for good measure.”
—
Oak Bay News

“Tightly written mystery . . . a pleasure to read.”
—Comox Valley Record

“Evans does not disappoint.”
—
WordWorks

“Well worth reading. Evans knows how to set a scene, creates vivid minor characters, and is capable of spitting out the requisite snappy dialogue.”
—Monday Magazine

“An exciting introduction to a Coast Salish cop with a lot more entertaining stories to tell.”
—Mystery Readers Journal

“Sharp, calculating and extremely convincing style of writing.”
—Victoria News

“Evans is a forceful story teller.”
—Parksville Qualicum News

“[An] evocative series.”
—Montreal Gazette

“Makes great use of the West Coast aboriginal mythology and religion.”
—The Globe and Mail

“The writing is wonderful native story telling. Characters are richly drawn . . . I enjoyed this so much that I'm looking for the others in the series.”
—Hamilton Spectator

SEAWEED UNDER WATER

Stanley Evans

This book is dedicated to Xanthe Evans

THE WARRIOR RESERVE does not exist. The Mowaht Bay Band does not exist. All of the characters, incidents and dialogue in this novel are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons or to real events is coincidental. Depictions of Native mythology and religion are based on ethnological research and do not necessarily reflect the present-day observances and practices of Canada's West Coast Native people.

CHAPTER ONE

PC came into my life last winter. Her private life is none of my business, although she acts like she was brought up in an alley. Sleek, black, alluring, PC has a way of suddenly appearing. Sometimes I feel a presence, look up from my desk and there she is, eyeing me seductively from the door with her legs crossed and toes pointing out. We make eye contact and the next thing I know she's sniffing around as if she owns the place.

I knew she was a hussy, so it didn't surprise me when she started coming on. Office romances often end in heartbreak, although like most men I occasionally give way to quixotic impulses. The next time PC shook her tail in my face I reached out and grabbed her. Big mistake—I ended up scratched and bleeding. I haven't laid a hand on her since.

After that I should have known better, but—as must be evident—I lack restraint. So there I was, a 40-year-old Coast Salish cop, head over heels with a tiny black female with God knows how many children, every one of whom—I'll bet my pension on this—has a different father. One day I brought a carton of milk to work, drank most of it, poured what was left into a saucer and placed it by the door. Within a month, I was PC's primary caregiver, my wastebasket was her principal residence and she was making increasing demands upon my wallet.

One hot summer's day, PC was dining on salmon (two dollars a can at Thrifty Foods) and I was doing nothing when somebody knocked on my door.

“Come in,” I said.

A young woman entered, wanting to know if I was a policeman. I told her I was. She asked me why a Victoria policeman was wearing jeans and a black shirt with Harley Davidson patches instead of a uniform.

“I'm a neighbourhood policeman,” I told her. “Sometimes I monitor public parks and shopping malls for pickpockets and rowdies.”

“What's
monitor
mean?” she asked. She seemed sleepy and a little lost.

“That's a very good question. All it means is, I keep my eyes open.”

She was wearing a faded blue T-shirt, baggy corduroy shorts and tennis shoes. Glossy black braids hung halfway to her waist. I judged her to be aboriginal, like me, except I'm a full-blooded Coast Salish Native and she was half white, at least. Instead of sitting, she leaned against a wall with her hips cocked. Posed like that, tall, loose-limbed and beautiful, she looked sexy enough to lure a senator from his soapbox. I had an idea she was a hooker; I get a lot of them in here, usually when the weather's bad. Her name was Terry Colby. She was sweet, gentle and not very bright. She seemed to be the kind of person of whom the unscrupulous might easily take advantage.

PC chose that moment to stick her nose inside the doorway. Terry gave PC a passing glance, half-turned toward me and said, “My mother . . .” Words failed her. She broke into sobs, chest heaving, and tears running down her cheeks. Then it got worse. I stood up as Terry's eyes rolled back in her head. She swayed a little. With colour draining from her pretty face she went limp and slid to the ground. I reached her fast enough to stop her head from smacking the floor, cradled her in my arms and felt her pulse—her heart was beating too fast. Even though the sun coming through my windows was hot enough to melt floor wax, Terry's wrist was clammy beneath my fingers. Moments later she opened her eyes, pushed me away and tried to stand, but her legs were rubbery and she couldn't manage it on her own.

“It's all right,” I said, helping her into a visitors' chair. “Take it easy for a minute.”

Terry pulled herself together at last and said, “I'm looking for my mother.”

These words started another flood of tears. I grabbed a box of tissues from my desk, handed it over, laid a comforting hand on Terry's shoulder and made vague paternal tutting noises with my tongue while Terry blew her nose and wiped her eyes. “Tell me about your mother,” I said, after she calmed down.

Terry raised her lovely face and stared at me directly for the first time. She didn't smile, and something in her eyes reminded me of a mistreated dog. “Something happened to my mother,” she whispered.

I felt the hair on the back of my neck rising eerily, but I shook off the feeling and asked calmly, “What happened to her?”

Terry shook her head. “I don't know.”

After some patient questioning, I learned that Terry lived in a care home in James Bay. Terry didn't know her mother's address and couldn't quite remember the last time she'd heard from her, or had seen her.

“We'll find your mother,” I promised, speaking with more optimism than truth, because sometimes mothers with difficult children just run away.

PC jumped onto my desk. Before I could warn her that PC scratched, Terry had reached out and was stroking her neck. Purring like an engine, the cat rolled over, waved its furry legs in the air, closed its yellow eyes and let Terry rub its belly. Terry had calmed down nicely by the time I took her out to my car and drove her home.

PC wanted to come too. I wouldn't let her.

≈  ≈  ≈

Architecturally, Victoria's James Bay district is a hodgepodge—houses and bungalows alternate with modern apartment towers and corner grocery stores. Terry lived at 25 Crowe Street—a large Italianate mansion replete with bay windows, ornate jigsaw fascias, balustrades, turrets and brick walls ornamented with stucco. It had been built with fur-trade money in the days when servants worked cheap. During the Second World War, it fell into the hands of a gambler, who operated it as a girly joint. Today it was a residential care home.

Terry and I entered the grounds through wrought-iron gates and tramped together up a pathway between well-tended lawns and flowerbeds. As we neared the house, Terry began to drag her feet. I pressed a button beside the front door and heard brassy chimes echoing inside. Waiting for somebody to answer, I noticed that every window in the house had bars across it. The door opened eventually, and a calm middle-aged nun stood gazing at me. She was wearing long black robes and a stiff white collar. Long silver hair flowed from beneath a starched head-covering like a snowy owl's outspread wings. An ivory crucifix the size of a postcard dangled from a silver chain around her neck. Tall, willowy, serene, she reminded me of a nurse who had mothered me at boarding school.

“Good morning. May I help you?” she said, smiling as if she meant it.

I was saying “I'm Sergeant Seaweed, VPD” when she spotted Terry cowering behind.

The tiny lines wrinkling the nun's forehead smoothed. “Terry, my dear!” she cried. “We've been so anxious.” Taking Terry's elbow, she ushered her into a large reception hall. I slid inside too, before an automatic door-closer shut me out.

“Whatever is the matter, Terry?” the nun was saying, “You ran off without eating your breakfast, or taking your pills.”

Terry's eyes flicked from the nun and then to me, back and forth like a cornered animal. Sagging with despair, Terry looked ready to faint again.

The nun turned her smile on me again. “I am sorry. Who did you say you are?”

“Sergeant Seaweed, Victoria Police Department.”

She told me that she was Sister Mildred, and asked me to wait. Her arm around Terry's waist, Sister Mildred steered her across the polished hardwood floors, through an inner doorway and out of sight.

That high-ceilinged house felt distinctly cool. Small tulip-shaped light bulbs, shining dimly from wall sconces, lit the hall fractionally. A red settee faced a marble fireplace. A coloured lithograph of Christ, wearing His crown of thorns, hung above the mantel. A polished brass crucifix as long as a walking stick stood on an oak credenza. I moved to a writing desk in an alcove near the door. Undelivered mail filled its many pigeonholes. I picked one letter up at random and examined its postmark—it had been mailed to a Marilyn Jones at this address, three years previously.

An electric wheelchair appeared along a corridor. The tiny creature driving it was about 30 years old and the size of a 6-year-old child. She had beautiful long golden curls and a doll-like face, with bright blue eyes and a painted red mouth.

“Hello,” she squeaked. “I'm Daphne. What's happening?”

“I just brought Terry back.”

“That was a stupid thing to do,” Daphne said sweetly. “Why do you think Terry ran away?”

“Was she running away?”

“Sure she was! You'd run away too if you were cooped up in this dump.”

Daphne manoeuvred her chair to a window and gazed longingly between the bars. “You're Indian, aren't you?” she asked. “Pisses you off though, being called Indian. What are we supposed to call you nowadays? Natives? First Nations? How about wagon burners?”

Before I could get a word in edgewise, Daphne went on, “Terry is Indian too, poor thing. We had other Indians stayed here, plenty of 'em; till they stepped out of line and nuns murdered 'em and chopped their bodies into small pieces and jammed 'em in the furnace. One Indian was a basket maker who made me a hat. Looks kinda goofy and scratches my head when I wear it though. Want to see it?”

“Another time, thanks. I'm waiting for Sister Mildred.”

“Millie's the worst of the lot. They call themselves
nuns
. Nuns my ass. I call 'em ladybugs. The government pays 'em thousands of bucks a month for warehousing us. I heard that from a high-court judge so believe me, it's true. Pretend they're Christians but they're a bunch of perverts. Talk about orgies. I've seen 'em going at it. I know what I'm talking about.”

I'd discovered a gossip, a policeman's greatest resource—when they tell the truth. I said, “Tell me more.”

“If Millie's not a serial killer, I'm Queen Elizabeth and my wheelchair is the Royal Coach.”

The inner door opened. Sister Mildred appeared again, her robes flowing behind her, and glided toward us on unseen feet. Daphne put a finger to her red lips, winked and scooted off in her little chariot along the corridors and out of sight.

BOOK: Seaweed Under Water
10.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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