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Authors: Gail Bowen

A Killing Spring

BOOK: A Killing Spring


“Bowen is one of those rare, magical mystery writers readers love not only for her suspense skills but for her stories’ elegance, sense of place and true-to-life form.… A master of ramping up suspense”

Ottawa Citizen

“Bowen can confidently place her series beside any other being produced in North America.”

– Halifax

“Gail Bowen’s Joanne Kilbourn mysteries are small works of elegance that assume the reader of suspense is after more than blood and guts, that she is looking for the meaning behind a life lived and a life taken.”

Calgary Herald

“Bowen has a hard eye for the way human ambition can take advantage of human gullibility.”

Publishers Weekly

“Gail Bowen got the recipe right with her series on Joanne Kilbourn.”

Vancouver Sun

“What works so well [is Bowen’s] sense of place – Regina comes to life – and her ability to inhabit the everyday life of an interesting family with wit and vigour.… Gail Bowen continues to be a fine mystery writer, with a protagonist readers can invest in for the long run.”

National Post

“Gail Bowen is one of Canada’s literary treasures.”

Ottawa Citizen


The Nesting Dolls
The Brutal Heart
The Endless Knot
The Last Good Day
The Glass Coffin
Burying Ariel
Verdict in Blood
A Colder Kind of Death
The Wandering Soul Murders
Murder at the Mendel
Deadly Appearances

Copyright © 1996 by Gail Bowen

All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the publisher – or, in case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a licence from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency – is an infringement of the copyright law.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Bowen, Gail, 1942–
A Killing Spring: a Joanne Kilbourn mystery / Gail Bowen.

eISBN: 978-1-55199-613-4

I. Title.

PS8553.08995K54 2011      C813′.54      C2011-900308-2

We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and that of the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Media Development Corporation’s Ontario Book Initiative. We further acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for our publishing program.

Published simultaneously in the United States of America by
McClelland & Stewart Ltd., P.O. Box 1030, Plattsburgh, New York 12901

Library of Congress Control Number: 2011925608

Cover design: Terri Nimmo
Cover image: Snaprender/

McClelland & Stewart Ltd.
75 Sherbourne Street
Toronto, Ontario
M5A 2P9


For our children
Hildy Wren, Max, and Nathaniel
“Every age is best.”


With thanks to Carol Abbey, for her computer wizardry and endless patience; to Dr. Joan Baldwin, for being everything a family physician should be; to Dr. Bernie Selinger, for his unflagging support and friendship; and to Ted, for never having to be asked twice


In the twenty-five years I had known Julie Evanson-Gallagher, I had wished many things on her. Still, I would never have wished that her new husband would be found in a rooming house on Scarth Street, dead, with a leather hood over his head, an electric cord around his neck, and a lacy garter belt straining to pull a pair of sheer black stockings over his muscular thighs.

I was on my way to my seminar in Politics and the Media when Inspector Alex Kequahtooway of the Regina Police Force called to tell me that the landlady of the Scarth Street house had found Reed Gallagher’s body an hour earlier and that he wanted someone who knew Julie with him when he broke the news. Although my relationship with Reed Gallagher had not been a close one, I felt my nerves twang. Alex’s description of Reed Gallagher’s death scene was circumspect, but I didn’t require graphics to understand why Julie would need shoring up when she heard about the manner in which her husband had gone to meet his Maker.

On the Day of Judgement, God’s interest might lie in what is written in the human heart, but Julie’s judgements had
always been pretty firmly rooted in what was apparent to the human eye. Discovering she was the widow of a man who had left the world dressed like RuPaul was going to be a cruel blow. Alex was right; she’d need help. But when he pressed me for a name, I had a hard time thinking of anyone who’d be willing to sign on.

“Jo, I don’t mean to rush you …” On the other end of the line, Alex’s voice was insistent.

“I’m trying,” I said. “But Julie isn’t exactly overburdened with friends. She can be a viper. You saw that yourself when she paraded you around at her wedding reception.”

“Mrs. Gallagher was being enlightened,” he said tightly, “showing everyone she didn’t mind that you’d brought an aboriginal to the party.”

“I wanted to shove her face into the punch bowl.”

“You’d never make a cop, Jo. Lesson one at the police college is ‘learn to de-personalize.’ ”

“Can they really teach you how to do that?”

“Sure. If they couldn’t, I’d have been back on Standing Buffalo Reserve after my first hour on the beat. Now, come on, give me a name. Mrs. Gallagher may be unenlightened but she’s about thirty minutes away from the worst moment of her life.”

“And she shouldn’t be alone, but I honestly don’t know who to call. I think the only family she has are her son and her ex-husband, and she’s cut herself off from both of them.”

“People come together in a crisis.”

“They do, if they know there’s a crisis. But Alex, I don’t know how to get in touch with either Mark or Craig. Mark’s studying at a Bible college in Texas, but I’m not sure where, and Craig called me last week to tell me he and his new family were on their way to Disney World.”

I looked out my office window. It was March 17, and the campus, suspended between the bone-chilling beauty of
winter and the promise of spring, was bleak. Except for the slush that had been shovelled off the roads and piled in soiled ribbons along the curbs, the snow was gone, and the brilliant cobalt skies of midwinter had dulled to gunmetal grey. To add to the misery, that morning the city had been hit by a wind-storm. Judging from the way the students outside my window were being blown across the parking lot as they ran for their cars, it appeared the rotten weather wasn’t letting up.

“I wish I was in the Magic Kingdom,” I said.

“I’m with you,” Alex said. “I’ve never been a big fan of Minnie and Mickey, but they’d be better company than that poor guy in the room upstairs. Jo, that is one grotesque crime scene, but the media are going to love it. Once they get wind of how Reed Gallagher died, they’re going to be on this rooming house like ducks on a June bug. I have to get to Julie Gallagher before one of them beats me to it.”

“Do you want me to come with you?”

“I know you aren’t crazy about Mrs. G.,” he said, “but I’ve been through this scene with the next of kin enough times to know that she’s going to need somebody with her who isn’t a cop.”

“I was just on my way to teach,” I said. “I’ll have to do something about my class.” I looked at my watch. “I can meet you in front of Julie’s place at twenty after three.”

“Gallagher’s identification says he lives at 3870 Lakeview Court,” he said. “Those are the condos, right?”

“Right,” I said.

After I hung up, I waited for the tone, then I dialled Tom Kelsoe’s extension. This was the second year Tom and I had co-taught the Political Science 371 seminar. He was a man whose ambitions reached far beyond a Saskatchewan university, and whenever he heard opportunity knocking, I covered his classes for him. He owed me a favour; in fact, he
owed me many favours, but as I listened to the phone ringing unanswered in his office, I remembered that this was the day Tom Kelsoe’s new book was being launched. Today of all days, Tom was hardly likely to jump at the chance to pay back a colleague for past favours. It appeared that our students were out of luck. I grabbed my coat, stuffed a set of unmarked essays into my briefcase, made up a notice saying Political Science 371 was cancelled, and headed out the door.

When I turned the corner into the main hall, Kellee Savage was getting out of the elevator. She spotted me and waved, then she started limping down the hall towards me. Behind her, she was dragging the little cart she used to carry her books.

“Professor Kilbourn, I need to talk to you before class.”

“Can you walk along with me, Kellee?” I asked. “I have to cancel the class, and I’m late.”

“I know you’re late. I’ve already been to the seminar room.” She reached into her cart, pulled out a book and thrust it at me. “Look what was on the table at the place where I sit.”

I glanced at the cover.
“Sleeping Beauty,”
I said. “I don’t understand.”

“Read the note inside.”

I opened the book. The letter, addressed to Kellee, detailed the sexual acts it would take to awaken her from her long sleep. The descriptions were as prosaic and predictable as the graffiti on the wall of a public washroom. But there was something both original and cruel in the parallel the writer had drawn between Kellee and Sleeping Beauty.

Shining fairies bringing gifts of comeliness, grace, and charm might have crowded one another out at Sleeping Beauty’s christening, but they had been in short supply the day Kellee Savage was born. She was not more than five feet tall, and misshapen. One shoulder hunched higher than the
other, and her neck was so short that her head seemed to be jammed against her collarbone. She didn’t bother with eye makeup. She must have known that no mascara on earth could beautify her eyes, which goggled watery and blue behind the thick lenses of her glasses, but she took pains with her lipstick and with her hair, which she wore long and caught back by the kind of fussy barrettes little girls sometimes fancy.

She was a student at the School of Journalism, but she had been in my class twice: for an introductory course in Political Science and now in the seminar on Politics and the Media. Three times a week I passed her locker on the way to my first-year class; she was always lying in wait for me with a question or an opinion she wanted verified. She wasn’t gifted, but she was more dogged than any student I’d ever known. At the beginning of term when she’d asked permission to tape my lectures, she’d been ingenuous: “I have to get good grades because that’s all I’ve got going for me.”

I held the book out to her. “Kellee, I think you should take this to the Student Union. There’s an office there that deals with sexual-harassment cases.”

“They don’t believe me.”

“You’ve been there already?”

“I’ve been there before. Many times.” She steeled herself. “This isn’t the first incident. They think I’m making the whole thing up. They’re too smart to say that, but I know they think I’m crazy because …” She lowered her eyes.

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