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Authors: William Deverell

Tags: #Mystery

April Fool

BOOK: April Fool
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To the Sierra Legal Defence Fund and
all defenders of our natural heritage…



Many fans tell me they delight in taking sightings, somewhat in the manner of avid birders, of several of my characters who flit from one plot to another, but in
April Fool
I have finally succumbed to urgings to recreate a protagonist. Returning to the scene of the crime is Arthur Beauchamp, the fusty Latin-rapping dean of West Coast criminal lawyers. He earns this role for having aided and abetted
Trial of Passion
to become the first Canadian winner of the Dashiell Hammett Prize for Literary Excellence in Crime Writing.

Many friends old and new must be thanked: cops and robbers and lawyers, environmentalists and forensic scientists.

RCMP Sgt. Trent Rolfe, with his wide experience in the Unsolved Crimes Unit, helped provide an insider view of current crime-scene techniques and the handling of exhibits. RCMP forensic scientist Stefano Mazzega was of critical assistance with DNA profiling procedures. As to human profiles, novelist Ann Ireland helped enrich many facets of that embattled seeker of love, Arthur Ramsgate Beauchamp, Q.C., as he grapples with the ineffable mystery of the female psyche.

Senior defence counsel Peter Jensen helped me to navigate current courtroom procedures, as did federal prosecutor Peter Hogg. (Though I've used my literary licence to tweak slightly the rules of court.)

Help on environmental issues came from Jerry DeMarco, former lead counsel for the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, and from
Jan Kirkby, landscape ecologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service. Mort Ransen's documentary
Ah, the Money, the Money, the Money
, about an island rising to the challenge of the clear-cutters was the inspiration for the subplot.

Some years ago, I spent a couple of stimulating days with Dwight Erickson, once the world's number-five jewel thief, who demonstrated his art and provided a wealth of useful tips.

Thanks to all.



“…the uncertain glory of an April day.”

–Two Gentlemen of Verona



ick the Owl Faloon is sitting beside a stone fox by the name of Eve Winters, who is apparently some kind of shrink. They're scoffing up fresh-caught sockeye, sharing a long table with four couples from Topeka, Kansas, who are up here on a wet spring holiday. In spite of all the happy talk, the Owl picks up there is an edge to this dinner, the men regretting they brought their wives along. A fishing extravaganza that put them back a few yards each, and they bring their wives when they'd rather get plotzed and bond.

Though square, they are nice average people, and Faloon hopes they're well insured so he's not going to feel bad about the coming night's
entreprise risquée
, his plan to whack their rooms out. Two weeks ago, while here on a previous dining experience, he made a clean play for the master key, slipping it off its hook long enough to wax it. He also checked a typical room, there was no nighter to secure the door from inside, just a security chain.

“And are you a sports fisher too?”

It's Eve Winters, she has finally become aware of his existence, maybe assuming the little owl-like creature to her left can't possibly be as boring as the other guy beside her, a condominium developer with a spiel of corny jokes. She is somewhere in her thirties, very tall and slender, ash blond, looking in good health–she has done the trail, Faloon overheard her say that, six gruelling days. Sports fisher, she's politically correct, a feminist.

“No, ma'am, I run a little lodge down the hill. Less expensive than this here establishment, but to be honest my food isn't as good.”

The Owl is speaking of the Nitinat Lodge, which is on a back street in this two-bit town of Bamfield without much of a view, and mostly gets backpackers and low-rental weekenders. The Breakers Inn, looking over the Pacific Ocean, survives on its summer fat and still, in March, gets the fishers from Topeka or Indianapolis. And the way these tourists are spending tonight, that'll pay the chef's salary for the month. Faloon had to lay off his own cook for the off-season.

“But I would imagine you have a more exotic clientele.” Eve Winters says in a clear, liquid voice, maybe so her other seatmate can get the point. She has marked down the condo developer as a chauvinist bore, with his story about the fisherman and the mermaid. What is interesting about this guy, to Faloon anyway, is that adding to the bulge of his size forty-eight kitchen is a thick moneybelt.

Faloon tells Eve Winters how he bought his small lodge a year and a half ago, and how he caters to hikers mostly; he likes vigorous outdoorspeople, finds them interesting. That gets this lovely creature talking about her six days on the West Coast Trail with three friends. He enjoys the refined way she expresses herself: “I had a sense of eternity out there, the wind in the pines, and the wild relentless surf.”

It isn't easy to concentrate on tonight's job, Operation Breakers Inn, because he feels a little hypnotized by the soft grey eyes of Eve Winters, who doesn't take on sharp outline, she's like an Impressionist painting. The Owl, who is starting to wonder if he needs his eyes checked, senses her aura, a silver haze floating about her head. No makeup, but none needed, her face tanned gently by the wind and whatever sun you get this time of year on the West Coast. Dressed casually, jeans and light sweater.

Hardly anyone does the trail so early in spring, when it's still a swamp. This has meant a near-zero occupancy rate at the Nitinat since last fall, and by now, the final day of March, he is two months behind in his mortgage payments. His financial adviser, Freddy Jacoby, also his fence, warned him, you'll get three months'business max, maybe four if it don't piss in June. The Nitinat Lodge was his retirement program, cash in on the tourist trade, accommodate wayfarers in the middle of what turned out to be nowhere or, more accurately, the western shore of Vancouver Island–you can only get here by logging roads or the local packet freighter, the
Lady Rose

Eve Winters says she supposes he's walked the West Coast Trail many times, and he replies no, not once, and it's one of his greatest sorrows. A skiing accident prevented him from pursuing his passion for the outdoors, he gets along with two pins in his right leg. That isn't the honest truth, which is that the Owl doesn't like walking more than he has to. Faloon is an easy person to talk to, he brings people out–he's curious by nature, an information-gatherer. So he urges her on about how she found Bamfield “unspeakably funky” and stayed on for a week after her three girlfriends left on the
Lady Rose

What Faloon finds unspeakably funky about Bamfield, permanent population three hundred and something, is that it's almost useless to have a car–you take a water taxi to go anywhere, an inlet splits the town in two, and the terrain on this side is sort of impenetrable. This is the pretty side, though, West Bamfield, with its boardwalks rimming the shore, resorts and craft stores, eye-popping beaches a stroll away, but East Bamfield has the only saloon. The most attractive thing about the town, though, is the RCMP detachment is a couple of hours away by boat or car, in Port Alberni.

The lady lets drop that her full title is Dr. Eve Winters, and according to the card she gives him she has a Ph.D., her angle being something complicated, a “relationship analyst.” He gets
the impression he's supposed to have heard of her. And maybe he has, he remembers something in one of the papers, a weekly column with her picture, like Ann Landers. She's not staying here at the Breakers, but renting a cottage down by Brady Beach. The Owl assumes, without asking, that Dr. Winters is alone there. The Cotters' Cottage, locals call it, is owned by an old couple in East Bam.

“So tell me–is there any entertainment in town on a Friday night?”

The Owl has the fleeting thought that she's asking him for a date, but then he realizes how absurd that would be. April Fool's Day is tomorrow, maybe she's practising for it. Yet he plays with a daydream of escorting her to the Bam Pub, walking in, displaying her. This is quickly interrupted by an image of Claudette glaring from behind the bar. Claudette St. John, bold of tongue and broad of beam, is obtainable, achievable. Eve Winters is infinitely not.

He tells her there's a jazz quartet from Nanaimo at the Bam Pub, as the Owl and the other locals call it. She says she is a jazz aficionada, pronouncing that obscure word correctly, he assumes.

He explains bluntly, lest there be any confusion, that his girlfriend works in that bar, Claudette, and she'll be happy to know you met Nick Faloon and will make you feel at home. As he describes how to get the water taxi and find her way, Dr. Winters seems to be casing him, and this makes him uncomfortable. Does she read his mind, does she know things are getting on him, that he's been sleepwalking, that two nights ago he woke up outside the lodge in his underwear?

“How unfortunate that your friend, Claudette, isn't with you tonight.”

He doesn't know how to take that–is he seen as cheesy, he doesn't take his girlfriend to this expensive restaurant? Or is that an opener, she wants to analyze their relationship. Maybe she divines it's been rocky lately with him and Claudette. He never should have made out with that logging-camp whore.

“Yeah, unhappily she works late on Fridays, and has to stay over in East Bamfield.” Which has an upside, he won't have to explain to Claudette he was on a prowl tonight. “You go over there, you should introduce yourself, she'll protect you from the loggers that will be hitting on you.”

He hopes Eve Winters sees that as more a compliment than suggestive, and apparently so, because she offers a smile with clean white teeth and thanks him. She passes on the dessert and rises. Many eyes are on her as she glides out.

With this leggy creature gone, some of the tension eases, the men stop preening, the wives relax, and another two bottles of wine are ordered. The Owl, who is on the dry tonight, is pleased that all eight are consuming to excess, though the downside is people get up at night to piss.

These tourists are of the capitalist class, the men ordering top-of-the-line Cabernet and Bordeaux, the women with their pearls and gold bracelets, and they all came in by chartered plane. He is taking a calculated risk having dinner with them–though Sergeant Flynn will try to finger him anyway–but he has to take stock of these prospective customers, see if the game is worth the play, find out what rooms they're staying in–which he's already done, he scanned the registry.

In the meantime he's still feeling remorseful–he'd sworn to go straight after becoming a local businessman. He isn't one to mire himself in guilt, despite the fourteen catches on his sheet, and never mind the ones he beat. But he's got to square the bank, he's being forced out of retirement to do so.

When the Owl says something complimentary to the waiter about the sockeye steak, the man opposite says that what Faloon just ate was caught by him this morning. It turns out this guy is a retired insurance exec, and the Owl admits he's retired too, running a little inn nearby.

“What did you do before that?” The tone says he's not really interested.

Faloon says, “Jewellery.”

He thinks about entertaining him, telling him the secrets of knowing a good stone. The Owl had been a class jewel thief in his prime, once ranked as number seven in the world. But loose lips sink ships, and it is time for Nick Faloon to leave, and he says his adieus, pays his bill, and Mr. and Mrs. Galloway wave him goodbye at the door.


The best rooms at the Breakers Inn are on the third floor, with balcony views of ocean, beach, and craggy outcroppings that are worth the extra they charge, and it is here that all the Topekans are staying. From where he's hiding, a darkened alcove with mops and brooms, the Owl can hear muffled snores. He's been crouching here for two hours, after slipping back into the Breakers while the hosts were serving Kahlua and coffee.

He checked out this alcove a few weeks ago, his last visit here, when he excused himself for the john. That's when he got hold of the master, palming it into soft wax. He took a couple of days off, down to Vancouver, where Iggie Nichols ground out a dupe in his shop and got paid with five bottles of cognac the Owl deep-pocketed from a liquor store.

The Owl is hoping he has retained his touch. A hot prowl holds out many perils for a fifty-four-year-old, out-of-practice thief armed only with latex gloves and Hush Puppies. Even if the play runs smooth, the Owl will be the first object of suspicion–Sergeant Flynn will have him immediately in mind. That was the one glitch in assembling a new life–Jasper Flynn showed up last year from Alberni to smell him out. “You cause any trouble, I'll flatten you like roadkill.” That was fair, and to Faloon's great shock the cop didn't spread the word there was a felon in everyone's midst, not to mention his conviction for sexual assault, the serious kind they used to call rape.

Nick Faloon will do a long bounce if this caper doesn't pan out, worse maybe than the ten-spot he drew on that rape because of a cold-blooded but brilliant liar. That was a career-threatening event, it caused the Owl to lose faith in the justice
system. His lawyer, the great Arthur Ramsgate Beauchamp, looked so dejected that Faloon had to cheer him up, reminding Mr. Beauchamp he got him off about a dozen real beefs, he was due, things balance out.

The Owl did the fat six years before parole kicked in, worked his tail off to build another stake, a European tour where his French is handy, hitting five-star hotel rooms, jewellery shops, working with two stalls, sometimes three. Over time he retained some gorgeous women to stall for him, Cat McAllister the all-time titleholder, her shtick being to hike her skirt, adjust her stockings, and the sales manager has his eyes on her thighs as the key to the display case disappears.

He was famous for his stagecraft, his detailed set-ups. Like that time in Beverly Hills–he showed up at a gem store as a window cleaner in white coveralls, with ladder, buckets, and squeegees, the staff paying no attention, the blowtorch below their field of vision anyway. When you heat those plate windows, a linoleum knife cuts through them like cheese, a neat hole bypassing the alarm. A mechanic's claw does the rest.

Faloon wonders if he's still the class act for which he gained fame in some of the best circles, the hotel industry, the insurance industry, Interpol. A spontaneous actor, he always had a gift of the gab and the bluff. Your eyes can give you away, you can't jerk, you got to have flow. It's all angles, reaching in under the salesgirl's arm, or the high-low trick when there's a tall case: “I'd like to see that piece,” and the clerk reaches up and you grab from below. Timing is everything, and little edges like garlic on your breath. When all plans fail, you got to be able to wing it. Your feet are the last line of defence.

But in the end it's the fence who gets the hog, which is why Freddy Jacoby is always ready to pay Faloon's legal bills, to return him to the street, so the Owl can pay off his debt, a vicious circle.

BOOK: April Fool
11.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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