Authors: Gail Bowen
Copyright © 2004 by Gail Bowen
This omnibus edition published in 2004 by McClelland & Stewart
: copyright © 1990 by Gail Bowen
First published by Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., 1990
Murder at the Mendel
: copyright © 1991 by Gail Bowen
First published by Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., 1991
The Wandering Soul Murders
: copyright © 1992 by Gail Bowen
First published by Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., 1992
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.
National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Bowen, Gail, 1942-
The early investigations of Joanne Kilbourn / Gail Bowen.
Contents: Deadly appearances — Murder at the Mendel —
The wandering soul murders.
I. Title. II. Title: Deadly appearances. III. Title: Murder at the Mendel. IV. Title: The wandering soul murders.
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.
McClelland & Stewart Ltd.
The Canadian Publishers
75 Sherbourne Street,
For the first seconds after Andy’s body slumped onto the searing metal of the truck bed, it seemed as if we were all encircled by a spell that froze us in the terrible moment of his fall. Suspended in time, the political people standing behind the stage, hands wrapped around plastic glasses of warm beer, kept talking politics. Craig and Julie Evanson, the perfect political couple, safely out of public view, were drinking wine coolers from bottles. Andy’s family and friends, awkward at finding themselves so publicly in the place of honour, kept sitting, small smiles in place, on the folding chairs that lined the back of the stage. The people out front kept looking expectantly at the empty space behind the podium. Waiting. Waiting.
And then chaos. Everyone wanted to get to Andy.
Including me. The stage was about four and a half feet off the ground. Accessible. I stepped back a few steps, took a little run and threw myself onto the stage floor. It was when I was lying on that scorching metal, shins stinging, wind knocked out of me, chin bruised from the hit I had taken, that I saw Rick Spenser.
There was, and still is, something surreal about that moment: the famous face looming up out of nowhere. He was pulling himself up the portable metal staircase that was propped against the back of the truck bed. His body appeared in stages over the metal floor: head, shoulders and arms, torso, belly, legs, feet. He seemed huge. He was climbing those steps as if his life depended on it, and his face was shiny and red with exertion. The heat on the floor of the stage was unbearable. I could smell it. I remember thinking, very clearly, a big man like that could die in this heat, then I turned and scrambled toward Andy. The metal floor was so hot it burned the palms of my hands.
Over the loud-speaker a woman was saying, “Could a doctor please come up here?” over and over. Her voice was terrible, forlorn and empty of hope. As soon as I saw Andy, I knew there wasn’t any point in a doctor.
Andy was in front of me, and I knew he was dead. He looked crumpled – all the sinew and spirit was gone. For the only time since I’d known him, he looked – no other word – insignificant.
The winter after my husband died I had taken a course in emergency cardiac care – something to make me feel less exposed to danger, less at the mercy of the things that could kill you if you weren’t ready for them. As I turned Andy over on his back, I could hear the voice of our instructor, very young, very confident – nothing would ever hurt her. “I hope none of you ladies ever have to use this, but if you do, just remember
.” I was beginning to tremble.
. I took Andy’s chin between my thumb and forefinger and tilted his head back. His flesh felt clammy and flaccid, but the airway was clear.
. I put my ear on his mouth, listened, and watched his chest for a sign of breathing. There was nothing. I was talking to myself. I could hear my voice, but it didn’t sound like me. “Four quick rescue breaths and then
.” I bent over Andy and pinched his nostrils shut. “Oh, I’m sorry, Andy. I’m sorry,” and I bent my mouth to cover his.
– but I never got to
There was a smell on his lips and around his mouth. It was familiar, but I couldn’t place it. Something ordinary and domestic, but there was an acrid edge to it that made me stop. Without forming the thought, I knew I had smelled danger.
Then I looked toward the podium and saw Rick Spenser filling the glass from the black Thermos. I didn’t hesitate. His hands were shaking so badly he could barely hold the glass. Water was splashing down his arms and on his belly, but he must have filled his glass because he raised it to his lips.
Suddenly the world became narrow and focused. All that mattered now was to keep him from drinking that water. I opened my arms and threw myself at Rick Spenser’s knees. It was a surprisingly solid hit. He fell hard, face down. He must have stunned himself because for a few moments he was very still.
The next few minutes are a jumble. The ambulance came. Spenser regained consciousness. As the attendants loaded Andy on the stretcher, Spenser sat with his legs stretched in front of him like the fat boy in the Snakes and Ladders game. When I walked over to the podium to pick up Andy’s speech portfolio, my foot brushed against his.
In the distance I could hear sirens.
That last day of Andy Boychuk’s life had started out to be one of the best. In June he had been selected leader of our provincial party, and we had planned an end-of-summer picnic so that people could eat, play a little ball and shake hands with the new leader of the Official Opposition. Simple, wholesome pleasures. But in politics there is always subtext, even at an old-fashioned picnic, and that brilliant August day had enough subtext for a Bergman movie.
Nomination fights can be intense, and Andy’s had been particularly fierce because odds were good that we would form the next government. The prize had been worth having. And for more than a few people in the park that day, watching the leadership slip into someone else’s hands had been a cruel blow. Soothing those people, making it possible for them to forgive him for winning, was Andy’s first priority at the picnic, but there was another matter too, and this one was going to need skills that weren’t taught in Political Science 100.
For years, there had been unanswered questions about Andy Boychuk’s domestic life. His wife, Eve, was odd and reclusive. There had been a dozen rumours about her strange behaviour, and now that Andy was leader we had to put those stories to rest.
So behind the homespun pleasures of concession stands selling fresh-baked pies and corn on the cob or chances on quilts and amateur oil paintings, there was a deadly serious purpose. That day we had to begin to lay to rest Andy Boychuk’s ghosts. It wasn’t going to be easy. I had driven into the park earlier that morning to check things out. Two hard-muscled young women had been stringing a sign across the base of the truck bed we were using as a stage. It said, “Andy Boychuk Appreciation Day,” and when I saw it, I crossed my fingers and said, “Let it work. Oh, please, let it be perfect.”
For a while it was. The day was flawless: still, blue-skied, hot, and by noon, the fields of summer fallow we were using for parking areas were filled, and we had to ask the farmer who owned them to let us use more. All afternoon the line of cars coming down the hill continued without a break. In the picnic area, the food was hot, the drinks were cold, and the music drifted, pleasant and forgettable, from speakers hung on the trees. Everybody was in a good mood.
Especially Andy. On that August day so full of politics
and sunshine and baseball, he was as happy as I had ever seen him.
I’d watched him play a couple of innings in the slo-pitch tournament, and he’d been sensational. He’d come off the field sweating and dirty and triumphant.
“The man can do no wrong today,” he’d said, beaming. “It’s never too late, Jo. I could still be a major leaguer.”
And I had laughed, too. “Absolutely,” I said, “but there are five thousand people here today who want to hear this terrific speech I wrote for you, and –”
“And I have to sacrifice a career with the Jays to your vanity.” He grinned and wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.
“That’s about the way I see it,” I said. “Remember that line from your acceptance speech about how it’s time to put the common good above individual ambition? Well, your chance is here. There’s one bathroom in this entire park that has a functioning hot-water tap, and Dave Micklejohn said that at three-thirty he’ll be lurking there with a fresh shirt for you, so you can get up on that stage and give the people something to tell their grandchildren about.” I looked at my watch. “You’ve got five minutes. Forget the Blue Jays. Think of the common good. The bathroom’s just over the hill – a green building behind the concession stands.”
Andy laughed. “Okay, but you just wait till next year.”
“You bet,” I said, and I stood and watched as he ran up the hill, a slight figure with the slim hips and easy grace of an athlete. At the top, he stopped to talk to a man. I was too far away to see the man’s face, but I would have recognized the powerful boxer’s body anywhere. Howard Dowhanuik had been premier of our province for eleven years, leader of the Official Opposition for seven, and my friend for all that time and more. He was the man Andy succeeded in June, and there was something poignant and symbolic about seeing
the once and future leaders, silhouetted against the brilliant blue of the big prairie sky. Even from a distance, it was apparent that their talk was serious and emotional, but finally the crisis seemed resolved, and Howard patted Andy’s shoulder. Then, in the blink of an eye, Andy disappeared over the top of the hill, and Howard was walking toward me, smiling.