Extract from The Bloody Business of Luck © Trine Bronken 2016
Detective Paul Lee brought his unmarked police cruiser to a stop at the scene of Vancouver’s latest homicide.
“What’ve we got, Larsen?” he yelled to a hulking individual in black hoodie and backwards ball cap.
“Got a piece here. A piece there. Little pieces everywhere, Paul.” Don Larsen lifted the crime scene tape over his head and ambled across to the senior detective’s car.
Lee glared at his partner. “Bobbitized?”
“Not quite that up close and personal, but it’s pretty gruesome.” Larsen peeled the foil from a fresh stick of gum. “There are no signs of forced entry, but our vic’s been shot twice and stuffed in a closet after having his lips, ears, and one hand excised.”
“One hand? What’s the point of that?”
“Good question. Of course, we could still get an excellent set of prints from the remaining hand.” Larsen nodded to the attendants wheeling the body to the waiting van, then bent down to the open car window. “Another good question would be why we found the missing hand in the guy’s cookie jar.” He raised the stick of gum dramatically, as if he were proposing a toast, then added it to the tasteless wad in his mouth.
Chapter 1 - Two Weeks Later
Three hours into her ferry journey up the coast of British Columbia, Kate’s concentration was shattered by an elbow jabbed in her side.
“That guy over there is wearing that A’Climatize jacket I want. I’m going to go ask him how much he paid for it,” Matt said.
She shot him a disapproving look.
“They wear the stuff on Everest, you know. I should start a company like that.”
Kate closed her book and executed a surreptitious glance down the aisle. “What’s he doing here?” she whispered.
“You know him?”
“It’s Rhys Wilson. He’s a reporter for the Star.”
“Do we like him or don’t we? I get all your reporters mixed up.”
“We don’t. He’s fanatical about anything to do with gambling. He’s the one who investigated the murder of that lottery ticket scammer a couple of weeks ago.”
“The dismembered guy? Wasn’t he re-selling old tickets to seniors or something like that?”
“He talked them out of their banking information and robbed them blind.” Kate wrinkled her nose in disgust. “Of course, his business has fallen off since he was chopped up and stuffed in his closet.” She nodded in Wilson’s direction. “That guy made my life hell. I was really sorry those people got scammed, but it had nothing to do with Pacific Lottery. We’re run by the government and there are all kinds of watchdogs and regulations in place.” Her back to Wilson, Kate sunk a little lower in her seat and feigned great interest in her book.
Matt peered back down the aisle. “If you know him that well, maybe you could ask him about the jacket?”
“You seem to be missing my point.” Kate glared at her boyfriend. “And I’ve never actually met him. I’ve seen him at press conferences though, and he constantly hassles me on the phone for info and quotes for his column. Now he’s colluding with those crazy anti-gambling zealots that organized that protest last month.”
Matt rolled his eyes. “Aren’t you overreacting just a little? What are they going to do, flatten your tires or something?”
Kate stared at him in disbelief. “Those nuts are consumed with this. According to the police, they’re right up there with the dopes that picket abortion clinics and shoot doctors. Maybe that’s something you can relate to, Doctor Brooks.”
* * *
Angry at Matt and unsettled by Wilson’s presence, Kate bought a coffee from the cafeteria and stepped out on deck for some fresh air. The drizzle had lifted and the clear blue ocean sparkled in the sunlight as the ship wove its way between islands thickly cloaked in Sitka Spruce, cedar, and hemlock trees. Gulls floated effortlessly alongside the vessel looking for easy snacks tossed by passengers. Alerted by an announcement from the bridge, Kate was lucky to catch sight of a pod of killer whales as they breached.
Kate had joined British Columbia’s Pacific Lottery Corporation on a contractual basis, ten months before. Her responsibilities as Communications Manager included all internal and external corporate communication as well as facilitating the company’s expansion into “Las Vegas-style” destination casinos. What started out as an exciting challenge, though, had turned into a nightmare for which years of experience had not prepared her. Plans to expand casino operations had been met with a huge negative outcry from volatile religious groups and from PAGE, People Against Gambling Expansion, who were concerned with gambling addiction. Reporters misquoted Kate and hassled her constantly at work and at home. Committees formed on all sides of the debate and changed the direction of the project as much as one hundred and eighty degrees from one day to the next.
Seizing the opportunity to get out of Vancouver and away from it all, she volunteered to co-ordinate the grand opening of the first destination casino at Dragonfly Lake in the province’s northern Chilcotin region. A joint-venture between Pacific Lottery and the First Nations Native Band, on whose land the resort was built, it was to be marketed as a year-round attraction for the tourists who flocked to the area. The opportunity to take the scenic route to the resort, sailing up the coast to Bella Coola and then driving inland, was something she hadn’t been able to pass up.
The area had been frequented by Russian furriers centuries ago, explored by Spanish mariners, and claimed by English sailors for their King. This spectacular morning, however, there was no sign of history’s turmoil, no sign of development, and no other ship in sight. The deserted coastline looked like it had completely escaped the hand of man. As they motored by trees standing tall and proud, Kate leaned on the rail, sipped her coffee, and tried to forget the stresses of the past ten months.