Chapter 11

November 14, 2011 at 12:25 am (The Truth)

Nelle hadn’t left her apartment since Mack had dropped her off on Saturday afternoon. She still needed groceries. Her aborted shopping trip earlier in the week hadn’t been attempted again. She had survived on delivery but she was getting tired of leftover pizza and pasta. Her first stop, however, would have to be Starbucks. She’d run out of coffee beans, which had given her the extra boost she’d needed to get off her butt and go outside.

The weather was cooperating, for a change. It was biting cold, but it wasn’t raining. There was a threat of snow, but Nelle hoped it would hold off for a few days yet. One of her best friends was flying back from Hawaii on Thursday and Nelle didn’t want the airport to get shut down from bad weather.

Bundled up in her hat and scarf with her gloves at the ready, Nelle opened her front door and stepped onto the sidewalk. She locked her door behind her and turned toward Gastown. Nelle glanced across the street when someone shouted her name. The shock stopped her in her tracks.

Her father stood across the street from her. He was dressed for the weather in a perfectly fitting coat and matching hat. He stepped to the edge of the street and, when the traffic had calmed, crossed the road to her side. As he got closer, she could see that the coat was cashmere.

He had a few more lines around his eyes and his hair had gone grey at the temples, but otherwise he looked the same as he had twenty years ago when he’d stood on the doorstep and watched her mother drive away. He’d not waved to her, like he had the day before when she’d stood at the gate with Harris. He’d never called and when she had called him, the phone had always gone to message. She had never left one.

He approached her cautiously now, as if he knew he might not be welcome. He didn’t try to hug her. She wouldn’t have allowed it. He looked her over, but she couldn’t tell if she passed muster. It bothered her that she still hoped for more from him. She had told herself a thousand times that it was his choice to cut the ties and he had lost out on knowing her.

So what was he doing here now?

“Hello Nelly,” he said.

Nelle almost cringed at the childhood name he’d teased her with. As a kid, she’d thought the name Nelle was terribly old fashioned, when all of the other kids had names like Hillary and Kimberley. She’d gotten over that, but the nickname still struck a chord inside her. It was from a time when her dad still smiled and he still played with her. It didn’t fit her anymore.

“Hello,” she replied. She had nothing to say to the man. It occurred to her that any of the questions she would have asked from one of her old school friends, or of anyone she hadn’t seen in a long time, wouldn’t get past her lips. She didn’t want to know what he’d been up to the past twenty years. She didn’t care what excuses he had for the way he’d behaved. He’d forgotten she existed and he should have had the good sense to stay out of her life.

When he didn’t say anything further, Nelle stepped around him and started walking down the street. After a moment’s hesitation, he caught up with her.

“Nelly, I’d like to talk to you. Can I buy you some lunch? We can go anywhere you’d like.”

Nelle stopped walking and rounded on him. She got right up in his face and looked him in the eyes. And she saw that there was surprise, but nothing else. He didn’t care about her now any more than he had before.

“I don’t wish to speak with you. There’s nothing to say. I won’t have lunch with you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some shopping to do.” Nelle carried on down the street, but her father didn’t let her get very far before he caught up with her once again.

“I’d like you to meet your brother,” he said.

“My brother died twenty-two years ago,” she reminded him.

“I meant your half-brother, Nelly.”

That brought her up short. She’d known about the kid, of course, but had never given him much thought. She knew that he’d been born before her parents had split up. She’d heard that one from her mother during one of her drunken rages not long after they’d moved away. It hadn’t made much sense to her at the time, but later on, when she’d gained a little more experience, she’d finally understood it.

Nelle faced her father. “Why should I want to?” she asked him. She could not come up with a good reason for her to meet him. There was simply no need. The boy, who wasn’t really a boy anymore at around twenty-one years old, would care as little about her as she did about him.

“He’s dying.”

As heartless as it sounded inside her head, she still thought it. Why should that concern her? Why should she meet a brother she had never had any connection with, just because he was dying?

“His kidneys are shutting down and he needs a transplant from a relative. I’m not a match and neither is his mother or his sisters.”

So, she had half-sisters as well. He hadn’t mentioned meeting them though, just the precious son. Who was dying. Nelle couldn’t process the information. She knew she should care about a boy who was dying, but her emotions were all tied into knots at first seeing her father again and then realizing the only reason he’d shown his face to her was because he needed her to save his son. No doubt they had gone through every last relative they had before he’d agreed to approach her.

“I don’t know,” she whispered.

“Nelly, please, just think about it.” He took a card from his pocket and held it out to her. “Call the number on the card when you’ve made your choice.”

Nelle stared at the card in his hand for a long minute before she grabbed it and strode off down the street. Her eyes blurred with tears that she couldn’t prevent from falling. He’d never loved her, of that she was certain. But she had thought it was only her. Now she wasn’t certain if he was capable of loving any woman. His son was his life and nothing else came close to touching him. She found herself curious about the woman who had stayed with him for twenty years and borne him other children. Had he been disappointed when they’d been born girls instead of boys? Had they disappointed him further when they couldn’t provide a kidney to save their brother’s life?

Nelle mopped at her face with a tissue and continued to Starbucks. Turning the card over in her pocket, she fished it out and read the front. It held her father’s name and a phone number, both embossed in gold on cream vellum. There was nothing to indicate what he did for a living. She wondered if her mother knew what he was doing now. Opening the lines of communication with her mother was out of the question. It would prompt her to set Nelle up on another bad blind date.

At Starbucks, Nelle collected her coffee beans and a triple grande latte before doubling back to the grocery store. An hour later, at the checkout with her groceries, Nelle spotted the headlines on the Vancouver Sun newspaper. Has the Surrey Slayer Returned? screamed the text. Nelle didn’t know anything about the story, so she scooped up the paper and added it to her bag. Paying for her groceries, Nelle hefted the bags home and left them on the counter while she read the story.

She was shocked to see that Mack’s mother had been killed and her body had been dumped behind his house. According to the reporter’s unnamed source, there had been enough differences on the body to suggest that the killer was a copycat. The fact that the victim was female was a big indicator. But, and the reporter wouldn’t say what, there was some undisputed piece of evidence that suggested the Surrey Slayer was back in action.

Nelle frowned at how enthusiastic Ms. Sutton appeared to be about the killing. She wasn’t quite gleeful at the idea that the killer had started up again, but she didn’t seem upset by it either. Nelle knew it was the woman’s job to report the news and a story like this would probably be an enormous feather in her cap. Nelle was also suspicious of the timing. Not even a week ago, Ms. Sutton had tried to contact her for a story on the killer and now the man was killing again. Nelle didn’t believe in coincidence.

Mack had discovered his mother’s body the night they had gone to Surrey. Had the killer seen them poking around the old neighbourhood and wondered what they knew? Nelle grabbed her phone and dialed Mack’s number. His cell phone went straight to message and the message box was full. No doubt he had a dozen messages from various reporters all wanting an interview. She tried the precinct and was put straight through to his desk. It rang several times and then clicked over to message. His message box at work was also full, but this time the call clicked over to an aide. Nelle declined to leave a message, stating that her call wasn’t relevant to anything he was working on.

If Mack was screening his calls, he didn’t need to be bothered by her. His cell phone log would tell him that she’d called and he could call her when he had a moment to breathe. She knew he’d not been close to his mother once his parents had split, but no one should have to see their parent in such a state. She wondered if the killer was taunting Mack, or if this was the killer’s way of getting Mack on his trail. She had watched enough TV to know that some serial killers were quite devious in the way they plotted their crimes. The ones who stayed at large the longest were the ones who planned every last detail. Or was that just on TV? Maybe the Surrey Slayer had remained free for so long because he had an inordinate amount of luck. Would the advancements in technology over the past two decades make the detectives’ jobs easier? Nelle knew she could analyze the data for a century and never make heads or tails of it.

She didn’t want the killer to be back. She had spent the past twenty years imagining him rotting in hell for all the families he had hurt. He should bloody well have stayed there. God, she hoped it wasn’t something she or Mack had done that had awakened him to begin killing again.

***

Inspector Hilbert looked up as his door swept inward. He wasn’t surprised by his visitor. The front desk had already alerted him to the man’s intent to visit. Hilbert knew it wasn’t a social call. He rose from behind his desk and crossed the room to shake hands with Assistant Commissioner David Fishman, Erik and Danny’s father.

“AC Fishman, it’s a pleasure,” Hilbert said, though he thought he’d choke on the words.

“Hilbert, I hope you can spare a few moments out of your busy schedule to speak with me,” Fishman said as he settled himself onto the couch.

Forced to take a seat opposite the man, Hilbert asked if the AC would care for anything to drink. When Fishman declined, Hilbert got right to the point, asking what Fishman wished to discuss. He had a gut feeling that he knew what was coming.

“What are you thinking of, leaving this Novak person in charge of the investigation of his own mother’s death?”

“Well, it’s nice to see you don’t believe in mincing words, AC Fishman. As to what I was thinking, I don’t see how that’s any of your business. If that’s all you wished to talk about, then I’m afraid I do have a rather tight schedule.” Hilbert made the motion to rise, but Fishman wasn’t moving.

“We both know that Erik would be better suited for this case, Inspector. Leaving this Novak character in charge is downright ludicrous and I’ve informed the Superintendent of this.” Fishman waited for Hilbert to realize his error, but he saw that he had miscalculated with this man.

“I’m sure my Superintendent didn’t appreciate being told how to do his job any more than I do, AC Fishman. I don’t have to explain my decisions to you. Your position may have gotten you in here to see me, but it doesn’t entitle you to attempt to bully me into complying with your wishes. I would ask that you leave of your own accord, AC Fishman, otherwise I will be forced to have you escorted from the building.” Hilbert did rise this time and walked over to the door. His Superintendent stood on the other side, preparing to knock.

AC Fishman smirked at Hilbert and remained where he was. The Superintendent walked into the room and stood next to Hilbert. “Inspector, has the AC informed you of his reason for calling on us today?”

“He has, sir,” Hilbert replied.

“And do you see any need to change the decisions you have made regarding the Grace Novak case, thus far?”

“I do not,” Hilbert replied.

“Very well, Inspector. Carry on.”

Hilbert watched as his Superintendent walked from the room without so much as a glance at AC Fishman. Fishman, on the other hand, growled and launched himself to his feet. He stormed from the room, chasing down the Superintendent. Hilbert shut his door and decided that dealing with an enraged RCMP AC was part of the Super’s job description.

Hilbert had just taken his seat behind his desk when a knock sounded on his door. If the AC was back again, Hilbert would call the front desk and order the man removed from the building. Calling out that the door was open, Hilbert was relieved to see Mack and Pike waiting to speak to him. He motioned them inside and waited until they had taken their seats opposite his desk.

“Before you give me your report, you should know that the Super and I have both had AC Fishman breathing down our necks today. You may have seen him storming through the building just now.”

Mack had been sitting at his desk when Fishman had chased down the Super and demanded to know what the hell was going on in this precinct. Danny Fishman hadn’t said a word, but he did look surprised that his father wasn’t being treated with the same deference he would have gotten at his own precinct. Erik, who had also been at his desk, had had trouble controlling his laughter.

“He wants Erik in charge of the Grace Novak case, but neither I, nor the Super, feel the need to change the lead detectives, at this time.”

“Sir,” Pike said, “why does AC Fishman want Erik in charge?”

Hilbert rubbed his right hand over his chin several times. It was a habit he’d built when he wore a beard. The beard was gone, but the habit remained. “I think it bugs him that Erik has managed to get where he has with no help from his father. If the AC had gotten us to change the lead detectives on this case, he could have held that over Erik. That’s just a guess. I have no idea what actually goes through that man’s head. Just see that we don’t give the AC that ammunition.”

Mack nodded and began his report.

 

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