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Authors: Joan Boswell

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BOOK: Cut to the Bone
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“Nothing.”

Rhona, finished with the bureau and moved to the bookcase. Sabrina had not been a reader. A pile of
People, US, In Style,
and quilting magazines did not count as literature. The baskets held fabric and sewing equipment. Rhona glanced at the bed. She thought the carefully pieced pattern was called double wedding ring. She didn't know where the information had come from — crafts and sewing had never interested her. In one basket, completed blocks in pinks, creams, and mauves almost filled the space. They were beautiful and she felt a momentary sadness that Sabrina's quilt would never be finished. She opened another covered basket and found neatly organized files. Thumbing through, she discovered that Sabrina had taken a small business course at George Brown College. She had documented her progress towards the establishment of a quilt- and latch-hooking business. A file on possible properties, another on sourcing, on quilt shows and competitions. On a piece of paper she'd written possible names for the store.

“She was a quilter, not a reader, and she was in the final stage of preparing to open a business,” Rhona said, reaching for the first of the black binders.

In a minute or two Ian looked up. “What's in the books?” he asked.

“The first one contains dozens of erotic photos, very explicit pictures that Sabrina probably used for escort publicity. The second one has the traditional shots photographers take for models preparing portfolios. The second album may have been made before she got into the escort business. The photos are the kind a model presents to an agency,” Rhona said. She carefully extracted one that showed smiling Sabrina modelling a plaid shirt and jeans that might have come from an L.L. Bean catalogue. She recorded the removal in her notebook. “We'll make copies of this for the white board and to show to any family we find.”

“Maybe she intended to take the first route and either didn't get the bookings or learned that the escort business was more lucrative,” Ian said.

“That would be my guess,” Rhona agreed. “She seems to have been an organized woman who had a goal and was prepared to do whatever it took to get there.”

“I agree. I just checked her trash. She used the computer to make dates and dragged the info into the trash so there wouldn't be a record. Presumably she did that in case her apartment was raided and her computer was seized. Fortunately for us, she hasn't emptied the trash in quite a while, so we'll retrieve the information.”

Rhona moved to the cupboard. “Still no family.”

“No, only friends and not many of those. We could contact them and ask about her background,” Ian said and he leaned over. “Wait a minute. I've moved to the desk drawers. In the bottom one she has files, and one contains personal documents.”

Rhona left the cupboard and moved to stand beside him.

He flipped open a purple folder with inside pockets and extricated a birth certificate, a will, and other legal documents.

“This copy of her will is two weeks old. Why so recent?” Ian said.

“Because she was afraid and wanted to tidy up her life in case anything happened to her,” Rhona said as she bent to read over Ian's shoulder. “Aside from two special bequests, she leaves everything to the Toronto Children's Aid Society. Her collection of antique quilts is to go to her mother, Marie France Trepanier, of Oakville, with a thank-you to her and to her grandmother, Marie Claire Arsenault, if she's alive, for teaching her to sew. All other clothes and personal possessions go to Virginia Wuttenee, currently living at 68 Delisle Street. Now all we have to do is locate her mother. Trepanier can't be that common a name in the Oakville area.”

Ian picked up a file of monthly bank statements. “She has money, most of it in GICs. She must have been cautious, 'cause they don't pay much.” He looked over at Rhona, who had opened the cupboard. “Seems she thought of being an escort as a business and a way to accumulate as much capital as she could.”

“I wonder why we didn't find her purse in Ms. Wuttenee's place. Perhaps the killer took it to cover his tracks or make it look as if the crime was a robbery gone bad,” Rhona said before they moved downstairs. She phoned the investigating team and emphasized how important it was to intensity the search for the missing purse.

When Rhona and Ian entered the party room, Ginny, long hair shining, face scrubbed clean, wearing blue jeans and a cavernous maroon sweatshirt with “Toronto” emblazoned on the front, stood staring into the large fish tank, one of the room's distinguishing features.

“Ms. Wuttenee, we're here,” Rhona announced and waved the young woman to a soft, upholstered chair while she chose a firmer one for herself. “Have you remembered anything more that could help us?”

“No. I can't imagine why anyone in the whole world would kill Sabrina. She was nice, really, really nice. You asked about clients. If she didn't make a client happy he wouldn't come back, but why would he kill her? Maybe somebody from her past. She never talked about the past.” She rubbed her eyes. “I've tried and tried and tried but I can't think of a single thing to tell you that might help. I wish I could.”

“Thanks. If anything does come to you, phone us immediately. Now tell us about yourself, about your background. Give us a picture of yourself,” Rhona said.

Ginny glanced quickly at the door as if weighing her options for escape. “You mean a photo?” She looked puzzled.

“Sorry, I didn't mean an actual picture. I meant that we want to learn about you, where you come from, who you know in the city, if you and Ms. Trepanier had any friends in common. That sort of thing.” Rhona smiled as encouragingly as she could. She sensed that any previous encounters Ginny had had with the police had been unpleasant, so she did her best to put the young woman at ease. “Take your time and don't worry about deciding what might or might not be important. We'll do that.”

Ginny looked from one to the other. Clearly she felt uncomfortable. She shrugged. “Nothing much to tell. As you can see I'm an Indian. I'm a status Indian and grew up on the Red Pheasant reserve. When I was,” she paused, “eighteen I came to Toronto.”

“How old are you now and where is Red Pheasant?” Ian asked.

“I'm still eighteen. It's in Saskatchewan.”

“Then you haven't been here long.”

“No. Four months.”

“Is Red Pheasant where you went to school?”

“Clifford Wuttenee to grade nine.”

“A relative?” Rhona asked.

“Lots of Wuttenees.” She shrugged. “I think he was the guy who signed Treaty 6. No relation.”

“After grade nine?” Rhona said.

Ginny shifted as if sharp nails covered her chair. “Battleford. North Battleford Comprehensive. My grandmother didn't want me to go to Sakawen. She thought you could fight whites better if you went to their schools.”

“What's Sakawen?” Ian asked.

“An Aboriginal high school. They've got two of them now. I had to go to the white school. Believe it or not I stuck it out to graduate because my grandmother really cared. She wanted me to be proud to be Cree, to be strong. She didn't want me to end up like my mother.” Unexpectedly, her eyes brimmed and she wiped them with the back of her hand, drawing attention to her bitten nails and cuticles.

“My grandmother insisted that I be proud of who I was and where I came from too,” Rhona said. “It makes a difference in your life if someone who loves you believes in you, doesn't it?”

Ginny didn't say anything but she considered Rhona's remarks. “I don't think it's the same when you're an Indian,” she said.

“I am and it did,” Rhona said.

This time Ginny stared at Rhona as if she could check out her DNA. “
You're
an Indian?”

“My grandmother was born on Poundmaker's reserve. She took me back there in the summers when I was a little girl.”

“But she didn't live there?”

“No. After she left residential school she worked as a maid in Battleford and married a young Methodist minister. You won't remember, but until they changed the Indian Act, an Indian woman who married a white man lost her status and couldn't live on the reserve. We visited family but we couldn't stay. “

Ginny smiled. “Wow. And now you're a cop. Pretty good for an Indian kid.”

“Thanks, but we need to get back to you.” Rhona glanced at Ian and knew by his raised eyebrow and quizzical smile that he thought she'd been out of line. He probably considered it a tactic to persuade Ginny to reveal whatever she was hiding. It wasn't true. Rhona hadn't intended to reveal as much. She was still reacting to the Spirit Report and her own acknowledgment of the shame about her past that she sometimes felt.

“What happened to your mother?” Ian probed.

“She died,” Ginny snapped without looking at him.

“People do. What did she die from?” Ian said.

“This has fuck-all to do with anything, but for your satisfaction, my father killed her and he's in the Prince Albert pen.”

“I'm sorry.” Ian did look as if he wished he hadn't been quite so abrupt. “How old were you?”

“Four.”

Rhona closed her eyes. How horrible and traumatic. Probably another example of a man who felt undervalued and inferior using alcohol to deaden the pain, and when that didn't work, turning his self-hatred and rage against those closest to him. She opened her eyes and met Ginny's steady gaze.

“There's nothing I can say except I'm sorry.”

“Thanks,” Ginny said.

“What happened after you graduated?” Ian asked.

Pause. Rhona felt Ginny was considering whether to tell them something else. From experience she knew they should sit back and wait. But there was no way to communicate her belief to Ian, who plowed on.

“Well, what did you do?”

“Came to Toronto. Got picked up at the bus station. Worked the street until Fatima found me and here I am.”

“Your pimp must have been angry. Did he come after you?”

“Probably, but he didn't find me, and now I'm always careful where I go.”

Time for Rhona to issue a warning. “I'm glad to hear that, because we believe you, not Ms. Trepanier, may have been the target. Sabrina was in your bed and the killer may have been after you. That's why we wanted to know your background, to see if you could think of anyone who might have reason to kill you. Tell us about your pimp.”

A clearly shocked Ginny pulled back as if Rhona had menaced her with a hot poker. “My god,” she said, looking from one detective to the other. “Do you really think so?”

“Your pimp?” Ian persisted.

“Jigs, I never knew his last name. A guy from Nova Scotia. Treated me real good at first but ended up beating me.”

“Drugs?”

Ginny shook her head. “He wanted me to. My older sister, Loraine, got caught in that mess. She died from an overdose and I didn't want that to happen to me. I just wanted to make money and have nice clothes. Fatima saved my life.” A flash of fear on her face. “If you find him don't tell him I told you, or tell him where I am. If he could, I think he
would
kill me.”

“We won't,” he assured her. “Now tell us about Ms. Trepanier. You were good friends?”

Rhona watched the tension drain from Ginny. Her shoulders, which had been bunched around her ears, resumed their normal position, her hands which had been clenched in her lap, opened and her lips, which had been pressed into a straight line, softened.

“Yes. It surprised me that Sabrina wanted to be friends, because she was so smart.” Her eyes lit up and the corners of her mouth lifted. “Did you find out that she planned to open her own business?” Ginny didn't wait for an answer but rushed on. “She said that when she did I could live with her and help her in the store. She was teaching me all about fabric and quilts and stuff. My grandmother used to do quill and beadwork and sew. She taught me the old-time stuff when I was a little girl and said I had a gift for it. I guess maybe Sabrina thought so too.” Ginny stretched her fingers as if to prove that these were hands that could make things.

“Sabrina took me downtown to Queen Street to the most beautiful fabric stores. She knew the people who worked there and they all liked her. No one there knew what we did. I never said much but she was always telling me stuff about how important it was to use the right thread and buy fabric that was suited for quilt-making.” Ginny looked as if she was reviewing a lesson. “Not all quilts are made of cotton. Only the ones used on beds. The ones that hang on walls can have all kinds of stuff on them. You can print photos on fabric and sew lace and buttons and make them so they stick out. I've forgotten the name for that, but you use cord and a special foot on the sewing machine. I had fun.”

“I'm sure you did and you'll miss her,” Rhona said.

The smile disappeared and Ginny stared hopelessly at them. “Now it will never happen. Poor Sabrina.”

“Did you and Ms. Trepanier have friends other than the women on the fifth floor?” Rhona asked.

“I didn't. I don't know about Sabrina.”

“Have you identified any clients who threatened or frightened you?”

“Only a couple. I told you already that Sabrina kept records and wouldn't have had a man like that again. She was so beautiful and elegant that men took her places when they needed a date. Did you look in her cupboard?”

Rhona nodded.

“Didn't she have gorgeous clothes? She dressed like a lady and she talked like one too. I didn't know her for long but I loved her,” Ginny said in a small voice.

The feeling must have been mutual, Rhona thought, because Sabrina's will made Ginny her beneficiary. “I'm sure you did. If you think of anyone who might have wanted to hurt her or any client who threatened her, please call either one of us.” Rhona handed Ginny a card. “That's my cell phone number on the bottom, and you may call at any hour if you think of anything.”

BOOK: Cut to the Bone
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