Chapter 10

November 14, 2011 at 12:23 am (The Truth)

At the precinct, Mack deposited the knives with the other evidence for the Ebersole case. He headed for his desk while Pike headed for the coffee machine, but Hilbert caught their attention and waved them into his office. Mack nodded to the man standing near Hilbert’s desk, but got no response in return. Hilbert made quick introductions. The man was an RCMP liaison from the Surrey detachment. His name was Sergeant Danny Fishman and he was Detective Erik Fishman’s older brother.

“Sergeant Fishman is here to review the details of your case and compare it with what they have from the Surrey Slayer case of twenty years ago.”

Mack nodded and Pike remained stoic. They didn’t have a choice about complying, but they didn’t have to like it. Mack had already reviewed their case and knew that several of the major points tied in with the death of his mother. The note in her mouth, obviously, was different and it would be interesting to see what the liaison made of that.

“We’ve set him up with a desk next to yours,” Hilbert said, gesturing to Mack. “See that he has complete access to the files on Grace Novak’s death, only.”

Mack led Fishman to The Pen, as their area was affectionately known. It was a large room with desks and cabinets shoved in no apparent order, but it seemed to function well anyway. Mack’s desk was up against the back wall, giving him a stingy three feet between his desk and a window looking down on 2nd Ave. Construction on a new condo unit nearby was about to block what had been a terrific view of the mountains.

The desk assigned to Fishman sat at a forty-five degree angle to Mack’s. Mack pulled the paper copy of the file on his mother’s investigation for Fishman to review. “I haven’t added my notes from today yet, but this includes the official report from the ME and what has come in so far from the crime lab.”

“What are you doing here?”

Mack looked up and saw Erik staring at his brother, sitting at the desk Mack had pointed him to. Mack could tell there was no love lost between these two, but there was something else in the air. He couldn’t tell what it was, but it set his senses on high alert. The animosity Erik had for him seemed paltry in comparison for what he had built up for his brother.

“I’m here to make sure you don’t fuck up,” Danny replied.

Mack didn’t know if the jibe was for him or for Erik. Perhaps it was intended for both of them. Erik looked to Mack with a frown. Mack shrugged as if to say, what can I do about it? “He has been assigned as liaison from the RCMP to review the investigation into my mother’s death.”

“Which you shouldn’t be involved with,” Danny muttered.

“Not your call,” Mack reminded him. Mack ignored Danny and watched Erik. He knew that there were five boys and Erik was the second oldest, with Danny being a couple of years his senior. All of the boys were cops, but Erik was the only one who hadn’t joined the RCMP. Mack didn’t know the reasons for Erik’s decision to apply to the VPD; they didn’t talk much.

“I’m not surprised they didn’t give the case to my brother,” Danny continued. “He doesn’t have the guts for real police work.”

Mack saw the taunt was a direct hit. Erik’s eyes narrowed and he took a step toward his brother. Mack rounded his desk and cut Erik off. Danny had risen from behind his desk and stepped up to face his brother.

“What are you going to do, little brother? You going to try and hit me? Never could as a kid, what makes you think you got it in you now?”

Mack, who had a couple of inches and thirty pounds on both men, shoved Danny back a little harder than was necessary. Danny lost his balance and hit the side of the desk. Mack put a hand on Erik’s chest and gave him a shove, though not as hard. Turning to Danny, he pointed at the desk.

“You’re here to review the case and that is all. Do not stick your nose into this investigation outside of that file. Do not harass any officer in this precinct or you will be tossed on your ass with your privileges revoked. And if you don’t like it, remember that your father doesn’t work here.”

Danny swore under his breath, but he knew he wouldn’t have any sway in this house. At his own precinct, his word was law and everyone knew it. Even his own boss curried favour because his father was the Assistant Commissioner. The AC had pulled several strings to get Danny assigned to this case.

Mack gestured Erik toward the lunchroom. When the door closed behind him, Mack crossed his arms and leaned against it to block anyone from entering. “Is this going to be a problem for you?”

Erik scowled at Mack. “You’re not my boss.”

“No, I’m not. But I know you want on this case and if the inspector pulls me from it, you having issues with your family isn’t going to help get you there.” Mack didn’t want to get pulled from the case, but if he did, he knew that Erik Fishman was the next best person to see the job done right.

Erik kicked a chair out from the table and sat, pushing his hands through is hair. “How much do you know about my father?”

Mack took a seat opposite him and placed his arms on the table. “I know he’s the AC for the southern Fraser Valley area and they’re grooming him for Deputy Commissioner. I’ve never met the man in person.”

“I joined the VPD because I wanted to be a cop and I didn’t want my career to be controlled by my father. I needed to know that any promotions I received, I had earned.” Erik rubbed his hands over his face. “My brother would be a lot higher rank than he is now if he didn’t have a few nasty marks on his file. Dad couldn’t quite get the last case of excessive force expunged from his record. The girl was the niece of the Premiere.”

Mack nodded, recalling the incident. It was from several years ago and they had a new Premiere now, but at the time it had been the lead story for several days. The then-Premiere’s niece had been brought in on a drunk and disorderly. According to several other cops on scene, she had gotten lippy and then started to harass them. She fought their hold and resisted arrest. Danny had used his baton to subdue her.

“She sat in the cell for several hours before another cop noticed that she was having difficulty breathing and called an ambulance for her,” Erik said. “Danny had busted four of her ribs and several of her fingers when she’d tried to protect herself.

“The Premiere was calling for his arrest and Dad had to do a hell of a lot of scrambling to get that to go away. I still don’t know how he did it. I assume he had something on the Premiere. Danny got busted back down to Constable, not that Dad let him stay there long.”

AC Fishman had been with the RCMP for over thirty years. A man learned a lot of secrets in that time. It wouldn’t surprise Mack to know that the AC had used one to shut the Premiere down. “Your father isn’t here and he has little power here. He got your brother in, but only as liaison. And Danny has no access to computer files, only paper. Even if he proves the case is linked to the Surrey Slayer case, they have no jurisdiction over our investigation.”

Erik leaned back in his chair and studied Mack. Erik wanted to be inspector and he felt that Mack was the only person who could beat him to the job. That annoyed him, but it also compelled him to work harder. Still, Mack was damn good at the job. He worked hard and Erik could respect that. He’d heard Pike whisper about Mack’s voodoo and had no idea what that was about, but he could see there was something more to the man.

“What are your thoughts on this case?” he asked. It was as close as he could get without outright asking the man if he had visions or extra senses or stupid shit like that.

“I don’t think my mother was picked at random and I don’t think her body was dumped behind my place by accident. I also don’t think she’ll be the last.”

***

Mack couldn’t put off the visit any longer. When his parents had split, his dad had moved the family to Port Moody. Their mom had come back to them twice during the first year of separation and then she’d never returned. Mack had done his last year of high school at Centennial and then he’d gone to live on campus at SFU. His brother had left the house two years later when he’d enrolled at UBC. The drive was too much for the pre-law student and Blake had opted to live on campus.

After that, it was just dad and Hannah. She’d been ten or eleven when they had moved into the house, so she remembered it more than any other place they’d lived. She had only moved out on her own a couple of years ago. Her dancing career was supplemented by teaching ballet and tap classes at several studios downtown. At one time she had talked about going to New York to try out. Mack knew that their dad had offered to send her, but Hannah had never taken him up on it.

Their dad had taught high school math for thirty-five years before he’d retired at sixty. He had sent his kids to Centennial, but he’d accepted a job with Terry Fox Secondary. He said it would be awkward if he’d had one of his kids in his class. Centennial was a lot closer to home, too.

Mack knew that his dad tutored students when he wasn’t busy with his latest hobby. These days, that hobby appeared to be rowing. Port Moody had an excellent rowing center and the Burrard Inlet was practically at their doorstep. He’d been at it for the past year and Mack noticed that he’d gotten fitter for it. The regular exercise and the exposure to the sun had given him a healthy glow that hadn’t faded with the onset of fall.

Mack had called ahead, to make sure his dad would be home. He timed his arrival to coincide with the departure of his dad’s last tutoring session. He didn’t want any time constraints on their conversation. His dad was in the kitchen when Mack knocked on the door and walked in. He could lecture his dad about locking his door, but his father would tell him he’d known Mack was near. If Mack had voodoo, he’d gotten it from his dad.

Mack had often wondered if that was what had attracted his dad to his mom. She had always been a bit off kilter, he’d said. Sensitive to the fluctuations of emotions that people exhibited, his dad would have found his mother very intriguing. Mack had, when he’d been a kid. The more the alcohol had loosened her up, the more she had sent out emotional markers for him to pick up on. He had found it to be a fun game at first. As the alcohol had destroyed her and when the drugs had become a factor, the markers had become more like land mines ready to explode on impact. Dodging them had been physically and emotionally draining.

His dad already knew. Mack could see it in the droop of his shoulders as he stood at the sink, staring out the back window. Mack put his arm around his dad’s shoulder and pulled him close. They stood that way for several minutes, neither saying a word.

“I felt her slip from my grasp,” his dad whispered. “This time I knew it was for good.”

“I’m sorry dad.”

Another few minutes passed in silence and then his dad pulled away. Reaching above his head, he removed a bottle of single malt from the cupboard. He grasped two short glasses from another cupboard and placed it all on the kitchen table. Neither he nor his dad was a big drinker, but the mood called for it.

His dad poured a healthy two fingers of the amber liquid into each glass and set the bottle aside. Mack swirled the scotch around in his glass a few times before taking a small sip. The burn soothed the rawness in his throat. He had words he needed to say, but he couldn’t be sure his dad needed to hear them. So he waited for his dad to speak first.

“We never divorced,” his dad said.

Mack wasn’t sure what he’d expected, but it wasn’t that. He’d assumed that when they’d moved to Port Moody and his dad had gained custody of the kids, that his mom had signed the divorce papers. He asked why she hadn’t signed.

“She did sign the papers. I didn’t sign them.” His dad explained that he’d always kept hope that his wife would return to him and she would let him help her heal. He’d had no reason to sign the papers. He knew he wouldn’t marry again and he’d doubted marriage was top of the mind for his wife.

“I think, buried somewhere deep, I knew she’d never come back to me. In some ways, I’ve been mourning the loss of the woman I married for twenty years now. This just makes it permanent.”

Mack kept his words to himself. His dad didn’t need to know what he was feeling. It was his burden to bear and he would shoulder it in silence. Instead he told his dad as much as he could about the investigation and his thoughts on the copycat killer. He kept the grimmest details to himself. If his dad hadn’t sensed the trauma his wife had suffered before she’d died, Mack wasn’t going to enlighten him.

“Those were some of the roughest days I’ve ever gone through as a parent,” his dad admitted. “You mourn the loss of the one child while still having to be strong for the others. That sort of thing, losing a child, it breaks something inside you that can never fully heal over. I miss him and I find myself wondering what sort of man he would have become.”

“Dad, do you remember Nelle Tatum?”

His dad nodded, a smile playing about his lips. He could remember the way the other boys had teased Harris about his crush on the Tatum girl. And he remembered Harris asking him what love felt like. He’d said that love felt like whatever had been missing before, was now found. And that once you found it, you never wanted to lose it again. He didn’t know if Harris had felt that way for Nelle Tatum, but he liked to think his boy had enjoyed that first spark of love, even for a short while.

Mack told his dad about meeting Nelle recently and what she’d said about her last day with Harris. How they’d taken a drive to Surrey and she’d shown him where Harris had met up with her as she’d walked home. He said how Harris had made sure that Nelle got home safely before he’d left her. She’d hugged him and Mack said that he hoped Harris had hung onto that memory when he’d been killed.

Mack took another small sip of his scotch. “I like her,” he admitted.

His dad heard what Mack wouldn’t say. “And you wonder if that’s being unfair to Harris. If falling in love with Nelle would lessen what he’d felt for her.”

Mack nodded, knowing it sounded silly, but also knowing that his dad would understand. He didn’t know if he loved Nelle. He thought that what he felt was the beginning of love. He’d never felt it with another woman before, so it was difficult to define. Or he was making it more difficult than it had to be.

“Harris felt what he did, until the moment he died. Your loving Nelle can’t take that from him.”

It made him feel better to hear his dad say that. Some of the constriction around his heart eased a little. Mack spent another hour sipping his scotch and sitting with his dad. They didn’t say a lot, but it was still a comfortable time. He said that he would tell Blake and Hannah, but his dad said the news should come from him instead. Mack didn’t argue.

When Mack left his dad’s house, he didn’t even consider going back to the precinct to update the case file. He was emotionally spent and needed to distance himself from his work for a while. He allowed a quick glance over the notes he’d taken, so he wouldn’t forget any pertinent parts before the morning and then he changed into his battered jeans and slightly frayed t-shirt. Grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge, he headed out onto his half-completed porch and started swinging his hammer.

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