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Authors: Scott Thornley

The Ambitious City

BOOK: The Ambitious City
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Copyright © 2012 Scott Thornley

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.
Published in 2012 by Random House Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited.

Random House Canada and colophon are registered trademarks.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Thornley, Scott
The ambitious city / Scott Thornley.

eISBN: 978-0-307-35930-8

. Title.

43 2012        C813’.6         C2011-908140-7

Front cover image: Shin Sugino
Cover concept and art direction: Scott Thornley
Cover design: Kirk Stephens
Cover imagework: Mark Lyle



Wesley Gordon Woods, OBE (1915–2008)

Classical scholar and linguist, Anglican priest,
bomber navigator, British cultural attaché,
artist and birder—my uncle and mentor


“Show me a hero and I’ll show you a tragedy.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald


as The Grave, the steel company’s dock dropped five storeys to the thick muck of the harbour below, its nickname a less than subtle nod to Dundurn’s history. Or at least to the history of a myth that had arisen shortly after the dock was completed back in 1926. Competing mobs in the city, it was said, were dropping their cemented dead into the harbour off that dock. Over time, as the bay grew more polluted with human waste and industrial runoff, no one would willingly venture into the water to check it out. The police were happy to simply call it a myth.

Sheltered from the noise of several suction pumps that had been running night and day for four months, Howard Ellis, principal engineer for the
Project, sat in his “room with a view”—the only trailer of six at the dredging site whose windows faced Dundurn Bay. The others looked out onto the red-brown chaos of cranes, elevators and an ever-changing parade of mud-caked men and diesel-belching heavy equipment hauling the
day’s sludge away to God-knows-where.

The city hadn’t seen a project of this magnitude since the completion of the Sky-High Bridge in 1958. And before that, you’d have to look all the way back to the industrial development of the waterfront in the early 1900s. Three books lay fanned out neatly at the end of the long worktable dominating Ellis’s trailer. One contained architectural renderings, another, construction tendering documents—the largest of the three—and the last was the one Ellis would flip through the way he used to flip through the Eaton’s catalogue, longing for his parents to get him the blue CCM bike. This last volume brought the project to life in a way the drawings and dock-bottom scans couldn’t. He’d studied it so many times he had committed the opening paragraph to memory:

It was just after midnight on Sunday, August 8, 1813; the schooners
—dangerously top-heavy, overloaded with men and munitions—were anchored miles offshore of Forty Mile Creek. They were part of an American squadron assembling to engage the British fleet, lying off Burlington, the next day. Men were asleep on deck and below, propped up against cannons, shot boxes and barrels of gunpowder, when a sudden squall tore through the otherwise still night. In less than five minutes, both ships sank, carrying all but a dozen to a watery grave, where they remain to this day—three hundred feet below the surface of Lake Ontario.

Ellis stared out over the bay again, trying to imagine the day when the two warships, raised from the depths, would arrive on his site. The fireboats would spray great plumes of water, the freighters and tugs would sound their horns, bunting would fly from the Burlington Bridge and the steel company’s rusting cranes, and the
Royal Dundurn Yacht Club’s sails and powerboats would fill the bay. Mingled with the horns and ships’ whistles would be thousands of cheers and huzzas from the crowd. And he’d be right there to guide the schooners in.

Maybe, he thought, if the bigwigs got off their butts, they’d even have a fleet of tall ships—a grand escort flotilla of sail.
Certainly it’ll be a historic day for Dundurn
, he thought,
but it’ll also be a day of unprecedented glory for Howard Ellis

As he took the Thermos of coffee out of his briefcase, a young man from the tech trailer burst through the door. “Here ya go, Mr. Ellis,” he said, handing him a large manila envelope, and left as quickly as he had come. Once a week Ellis received outputs that gave him an accurate picture of what was beneath the toxic soup that had lain undisturbed for almost a century off the harbour’s eastern wharf. It was so dense that their scanning equipment could penetrate only three feet or so beneath the surface. He’d managed to find a place on the wall for all the grainy, gridded printouts, and he looked them over now before opening the envelope of new scans.

Ellis filled his mug and sat back to enjoy the first coffee of the day while he studied the latest printouts. What he saw caused him to spill his drink. He bolted out of his chair, grabbed the scans, and ran to find the engineer, two trailers away in number four. If he was going to believe it, Ellis would have to see what was on the computer monitor for himself.


in Cayuga.”

The headline was terse and grim, the story short on details because the crime scene on the farm in Cayuga was locked down until the full extent of the mayhem could be uncovered. So far the police had found seven dead bikers, two from a shotgun blast to the face and one from a less messy gunshot. Three were dead from blunt-force trauma or broken necks, and one had his throat cut through to the spine. MacNeice’s colleague Detective Superintendent John Swetsky had been given the lead, and within hours he had seconded most of the available homicide detectives in the city. Most, but not all. Swetsky and his team had been at it now for two weeks, and MacNeice had decided it was time to see if there was anything he could do to help.

The cruiser blocking the driveway moved aside when the uniform inside recognized the heavy Chevy approaching. Driving slowly down the long lane, MacNeice counted three more cruisers, two police buses and four unmarked cars, one of which belonged
to Michael Vertesi, the young detective inspector who reported to him. Behind the farmhouse there was a large black trailer—a mobile forensics unit borrowed from the Mounties and fitted out by Dundurn’s own forensics team. And beyond that, the city’s only EMS-CS, a cold-storage van known irreverently as the ice cream truck. As MacNeice parked the Chevy, Vertesi and his other report, DI Montile Williams, emerged from the farmhouse.

“You know, for bikers, they keep a very tidy house,” Vertesi said, peeling off his latex gloves. “What brings you out here, boss?”

“Just wanted to see if I can help. Swetsky’s emptied the division—I thought I heard crickets in there this morning. Where can I find him?”

“In the barn, checkin’ inventory,” Williams said. “They got more equipment than Dundurn Streets ‘n’ Sanitation.”

As MacNeice headed towards the barn, he could see two lines of cops walking the open field, looking for evidence. So far the daily reports had said they’d found almost four hundred spent rounds from a variety of weapons, mostly in and around the buildings and on the driveway.

The bodies had been buried between the barns, piled like cordwood six feet down, each sealed in plastic. Forensics was examining them for DNA, after which they’d be shipped to the coroner’s lab. He could hear the high-speed hum of the forensic unit’s exhaust fans. As he hadn’t eaten anything, he decided to avoid going near the trailer.

Three rows of equipment filled the massive space inside the main barn—everything from recreational 4×4s to Bobcats, tractors and posthole diggers—and that was just what he could make out while standing on the threshold. He heard the big man coming before he actually saw him; Swetsky emerged from the farthest row carrying a clipboard.

“Mac! What brings you to Sherwood Forest? Have you been pushed into this one?”

“No, but since you’ve cleaned out the department, I thought I’d offer a hand too. How are you doing?”

“It’s a serious mop-up. I gave ’em each a floor of the farmhouse and put Palmer in the basement, where he belongs.”

“Have you worked out who the Damned Two Deuces were at war with?”

“No—so far all the bodies are D2D. The rest cleared out after they buried them. I heard there was a Quebec gang down here, but I haven’t seen any evidence to prove it.”

“I’ve read the reports. Other than the shrink-wrapped bodies, the place seems pretty clean.”

“Yeah, well, we’re cataloguing all this shit”—Swetsky nodded towards the tractor beside him—“and there’s more in the other barn. Believe it or not, some of it’s legit. We’re also making sure we have all the bodies.”

MacNeice’s cell rang and he looked down at the call display. “I have to take this.” Back out in the sunlight, he answered.

“Mac,” a familiar voice said. “Jesus, it’s been a long time. Are you okay?”

He could hear gulls calling and wind buffeting the microphone on the other end. “I’m fine, Bob. Where are you?”

“What do you know about the

Driving back to the city, MacNeice recalled that the last time he’d seen Bob Maybank, Dundurn’s popular mayor, was at Kate’s funeral. It seemed that not a day went by when he didn’t see the mayor on television or in the papers, but in the flesh, the last time had been at the cemetery. MacNeice was impressed that he had made the trip up north to watch her ashes being interred. It wasn’t that he didn’t like the mayor—he did. They’d grown up together, played on the same teams and at times dated the same girls. He even admired what Bob was doing for Dundurn. But
four years was a long time between calls. There were friends of his and Kate’s who had made themselves scarce after she died, and Maybank was one of those. The urgency in his voice had been palpable—he’d called today because he needed something.

BOOK: The Ambitious City
8.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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