Read The Further Investigations of Joanne Kilbourn Online

Authors: Gail Bowen

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Detective and mystery stories, #Mystery Fiction, #Kilbourn; Joanne (Fictitious Character), #Women detectives, #Women Sleuths

The Further Investigations of Joanne Kilbourn (4 page)

BOOK: The Further Investigations of Joanne Kilbourn
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“Relieved,” I said, and hung up.

He must have speed-dialled me back. This time his voice was low and confiding. “I know this is hard for you,” he
murmured. “Believe it or not, it’s hard for me, too. Sometimes I hate my job, Mrs. Kilbourn, but as much as you and I value your privacy, people have a right to know. You’re a well-known member of this community. People want to hear about how you’re dealing with this tragic reminder of your husband’s murder. Give me something to share with them.”

When I answered, I tried to match Troy Smith-Windsor’s tone. Unction has never been my strong suit, but I did my earnest best. “I guess I hadn’t thought of it that way, Troy,” I said. “But now that I have, could you tell your listeners that I appreciate their concern. And Troy, could you please tell them that, while I regret Kevin Tarpley’s death as I would regret the death of any human being, I welcome the chance to put this tragedy behind me and get on with my life. Have you got that?”

“I’ve got it, Mrs. Kilbourn,” Troy Smith-Windsor said huskily. “And thank you.”

“Thank you, Troy,” I said, and I hung up, proud of myself.

My self-esteem was short-lived. When I turned, Angus was standing in the kitchen doorway. He was still wearing his pig shorts; his eyes were puffy and his dark hair was tangled from sleep.

“Someone shot the man who killed Dad,” he said. “The woman on the radio said it happened yesterday. You knew.” A statement, not a question.

I nodded. “Angus, you’ve been through so much already. Last night you were excited about your party. I thought the news about Kevin Tarpley would keep till morning.”

“You should have told me,” he said.

I reached my arms out to embrace him. He twisted away from me.

“I’m not a kid, Mum. Last summer I went down to the library and looked up the stories about Dad. They have them on microfiche.”

I closed my eyes and the scene was there: my son in the dimly lit microfiche room, surrounded by strangers as he watched the images of his father’s death flicker on a screen.

“Angus, if you wanted to hear about what happened, you should have come to me.”

His voice was exasperated. “Mum, don’t you remember what you were like then? You weren’t like you. You were like a zombie or something. I didn’t want that to happen again.”

“It’s not going to,” I said. I put my hands on his shoulders. “Now, what do you want to know?”

“Everything,” he said.

He was six-foot-one, but his body was still lithe with a child’s vulnerability.

“You’re sure about this, Angus.”

He looked at me steadily. “I’m sure, Mum.”

“Okay,” I said, “I’ll call Jill and get her to dig out the files.”

Five minutes later, it was all arranged. After church, Angus and I would go to Nationtv and look at everything the network had on the Ian Kilbourn case. Hilda had already planned to take Taylor to the art gallery, so the afternoon was free. There were no obstacles. As I poured the eggs into the frying pan, I wavered between dread and anticipation. Pandora must have been unsure, too, in that split second when her hand lingered at the edge of the box.

Few places are deader than a television station on a Sunday afternoon. A security guard watching a Mr. Fix-it show on
TV
waved us past the front desk. We met Jill in the corridor outside her office. She was wearing jeans and an Amnesty International sweatshirt, and she was pulling a little red wagon full of Beta tapes.

“I hope you two know you’re taking a chance with these,” she said. “I just brought them up from the library, and I
haven’t screened any of them. There may be things you’d rather not see.”

“I’ll be okay,” Angus said. “Mum …?”

“Let’s go,” I said.

Jill started towards the elevator. “The boardroom upstairs is free. We can screen the tapes there. It’s got a fridge, Angus. They usually keep it pretty well stocked.”

As the elevator doors closed, I turned to Jill. “Have you heard anything more about what happened at the penitentiary?”

“Not much,” she said. “The prison officials are mortified, of course. It doesn’t do to have a prisoner killed inside a federal penitentiary, but the warden says their job is to make sure their inmates don’t get a shot at John Q. Public; they’re not set up to keep John Q. Public from getting a shot at one of their inmates. And, you know, the man has a point. Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, isn’t Detroit. No one could have predicted a drive-by shooting.”

“Especially not of a model prisoner,” I said.

Jill looked at me sharply. “Right,” she said. “And he was a model prisoner. Until six months ago, the warden said all he did was work out in the gym, watch television, and count the days till his next conjugal visit.”

The elevator doors opened, and we stepped out. “With Maureen Gault,” I said, remembering. “The girl who was in the car with him that night. They got married during the trial, didn’t they?”

“In unseemly haste, some thought.” Jill raised her eyebrows.

“That’s when he changed his story.” Angus’s voice was tense. “I read that in the paper. After they got married, he said she tried to stop him from … doing what he did. That’s why her fingerprints were on the …” For a moment he faltered again. Then he said firmly, “on the weapon.”

“The Crown dropped the charges against her that afternoon,” Jill said. “Just like in the movies.” She stopped and pulled a key-ring out of her jeans pocket. “Here we are,” she said. “Corporate heaven.”

The boardroom was handsome: walls the colour of bittersweet, an oversized rectangular oak table surrounded by comfortable chairs, a big-screen
TV
, and, in the far corner, a refrigerator with fake wood finish. Jill opened the fridge and handed a Coke to Angus.

“Pick a chair, any chair,” she said. She took out a bottle of beer, opened it, and positioned it carefully on the table. “Heads up, Jo,” she said, then she slid the beer along the polished surface of the table towards me. As I caught it, she grinned. “I’ve always wanted to do that,” she said. “Okay, it’s your show. Where do you want to start?”

I bent over and took a tape out of the wagon. The label on the spine said “Kilbourn/Tarpley/Gault.” The names had the resonance of the familiar, like the names of partners in a law firm or of baseball players who had executed a historic triple play. I handed the tape to Jill. When she put it in the
VCR
and switched off the lights, my pulse began to race. I wasn’t looking forward to the show.

But the first images that filled the screen weren’t of death but of life at its best. Ian was standing on the steps of the Legislature being sworn in as Attorney General. It was a sun-splashed June day; the wind tousled his dark hair and, sensitive even then about how his hair was thinning, Ian reached up quickly to smooth it. As he took the oath of office, the camera moved in for a closeup; at the sight of his father, Angus leaned forward in his chair.

And then I was there on the screen, beside Ian. My hair was shoulder-length and straight; I was wearing a flowered granny dress and holding our oldest child, Mieka, in my arms. She was three weeks old, and I was twenty-eight.

“You were so young,” Angus said softly.

I felt a catch in my throat. Jill’s voice from the end of the table was caustic. “And her hair was so brown, Angus. Check it out …”

A smile started at the corners of Angus’s mouth.

“How come your hair didn’t turn blond till you were forty, Jo?” Jill continued.

Angus’s smile grew broader. Relieved that we’d gotten through the moment, I said. “I don’t know. It seems to have happened to a lot of women my age.”

“Maybe it had something to do with living through the sixties,” Angus said innocently, and we all laughed.

Then the next image was on the screen, and we stopped laughing. It was the scene on the highway. Jill jabbed at the remote control and fast-forwarded the tape until the snowy highway gave way to scenes outside the Regina Courthouse. Police cars pulled up. Officers ran out of the building, then ran back in. Television people jostled one another for position. One young woman with a camera was knocked back into a snowbank. The sequences were as mindlessly predictable as a bad movie of the week.

“This is where the
RCMP
brought Kevin Tarpley and Maureen Gault in,” I said to Angus. He seemed frozen in front of the screen. “Their luck ran out. You know that stretch of the Trans-Canada, where it happened, Angus. Normally, during a blizzard they could have counted on those hills south of Chaplin being deserted. There wasn’t anything to connect the two of them to your dad, so they might have gotten away. But there was a car from Regina going back from the funeral. The driver spotted the Volvo by the side of the road and pulled over; she called the
RCMP
on her
CB
radio. Kevin and Maureen had started back to where they’d left their car on the grid road just south of the highway. The
RCMP
didn’t have any trouble catching them.”

“Good,” he said.

I took a long swallow of beer. Kevin and Maureen had finally appeared on screen; the officer taking Kevin from the car put his hand on top of Kevin’s head to keep him from hitting it on the doorframe. It was an oddly tender gesture. I remembered the bloody mess of my husband’s head and swallowed hard. Kevin and Little Mo were wearing matching jackets from their high school; I could see their names on their sleeves. He was wearing her jacket, and she was wearing his. Kevin and Little Mo, cross-dressing killers. They disappeared inside the courthouse, and the screen went black.

“More?” asked Jill.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” Angus said.

“Are you okay?” I asked. He caught the anxiety in my voice, and his eyes flashed with anger.

“I’m fifteen years old, Mum,” he called over his shoulder as he walked out of the room.

“Fifteen,” Jill said, “capable of handling life.”

“He seems to be doing a better job of it than I am at the moment,” I said. “When I saw those faces, I wanted to smash in the screen.”

“I’m glad you restrained yourself,” Jill said. “Smashing this set would pretty well have put an end to my rise up the Nationtv corporate ladder.”

“I’m serious, Jill. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be dredging up the past. I don’t know why Angus is convinced he has do this. And something else … I have a letter from Kevin Tarpley.”

Jill’s body was tense with interest. “Can I see the letter?”

“Be my guest,” I said. “Come over to the house after we’re through here. You can take it with you and put it in your memory book. It gives me the creeps.”

“Jo, I think you’d better hold on to that letter. I have a feeling the cops are going to want to see it.”

“They’d be wasting their time,” I said. “There’s nothing there but a warning to listen to God’s truth and not to put my trust in rulers.”

Jill looked thoughtful. “It could be worse,” she said. “I wasn’t going to mention this, but your letter wasn’t the only one Kevin Tarpley sent out before he died. Apparently, there were two more. The inmate in the cell across from Tarpley’s says that Kevin spent most of the last week of his life writing those letters. It was slow going for him because he was barely literate, but – get this, Jo – Kevin told his fellow inmate that he had to get the letters out to save the innocent and punish the guilty.”

Suddenly, I felt cold. “Who else got letters?”

“The prison people don’t know.”

“Don’t they keep records of the mail the inmates send out?”

“They do,” Jill said, “but it seems these letters went out with a man they call ‘the prison pastor.’ ”

“Kevin mentioned him,” I said. “His name is Paschal Temple.”

“Right,” said Jill. “And he doesn’t know who they were addressed to. He was doing God’s work, Jo. He just dropped the letters in the mailbox and trusted the Lord.”

Angus came back into the room. He’d been crying. His eyes were red and his hair was slicked back, wet from where he’d splashed water on his face.

“Why don’t you get yourself another Coke,” I said. It was as close as he would let me come at that moment, and he got the message.

He gave me a weak smile. “Thanks, Mum,” he said.

Jill held up another tape. “Ready?”

Angus snapped open the tab on the pop can. “Ready.”

“This is the trial,” Jill said.

There were establishing shots of the street outside the courthouse. The sky was blue, and the trees on the courthouse lawn were leafing out into their first green. Two police cars pulled up: Maureen was in the first; Kevin in the second. As they stood, blinking in the pale spring sunlight, Maureen and Kevin were almost unrecognizable. She was in a navy dress with a white Peter Pan collar, and her explosion of platinum hair had been tamed into a ponytail. His long blond hair had been trimmed, and he was wearing a dark suit. Miss Chatelaine and her Saturday night date.

Spectators hurried into the courthouse. I recognized some of them: Mieka’s English teacher; Tess Malone; our next-door neighbours; our minister; Gary Stephens and his wife, Sylvie; Jane O’Keefe with Andy Boychuk, who was dead now too; our dear old friend Dave Micklejohn; Craig and Julie Evanson. Then Howard Dowhanuik with his arm protectively draped around the shoulders of the woman beside him. As they started up the steps, the woman shook off his arm and turned to face the camera. Her mouth was slack and her eyes were as blank as a newborn’s. I shuddered. The woman with the unseeing eyes was me. Angus was right. I had been a zombie.

I turned to Jill. “Is there another beer?” I asked.

“Help yourself,” Jill said, and I did.

The reporting of the trial had its own rhythm. For four days there were shots of the key players arriving at the courthouse, then courtroom sketches of the experts as they gave their testimony. Police officers, forensic specialists, pathologists, two psychiatrists. The faces of these witnesses, skilfully drawn but static, were the perfect counterpoint to the reporter’s voice droning through the endless technical details of expert testimony.

Then on the fifth day of the trial, there was real news. Kevin Tarpley had confessed he acted alone. No time now
for careful sketches; just file footage of Kevin and Maureen as the news anchor’s voice, high-pitched with excitement, relayed the breaking story. Kevin had lied. It hadn’t been Maureen who used the crowbar. She had pleaded with him not to harm Ian Kilbourn. Her fingerprints were on the crowbar because she had tried to tear it from Kevin’s hands. He was guilty; she was innocent.

BOOK: The Further Investigations of Joanne Kilbourn
13.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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