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Murder on the Mainline

Dave Horton

Murder on the Mainline

another Mike Claymore Mystery: Florence





BookRix GmbH & Co. KG
80331 Munich

flyleaf

Murder on the Mainline

or another

Mike Claymore Mystery: Florence

A novel by: Dave Horton

Copywrite: 2000

Chapter 1 - 1st Tuesday

It’s a cold grind as Mike pulls away through the stoplights in Revelstoke and starts the climb towards Golden. He isn’t in the best of moods this trip. He misses a gear and curses, glaring at a tan Cadillac with Oregon plates as it swishes by throwing slush and water up the front of his rig.

“Bastard tourists!!” Mike waves his closed fist at the windshield, “Watch him!! He’ll cut me off now!!”

Lenny just grunts with a small smile.

“I told ya!! See that!!”, Mike explodes in fury. “Shouldn’t allow people like that on the roads when it starts to snow.”

Lenny knows what is really bugging Mike and it's not the tourist but he knows enough to say nothing. He watches the sun sparkle off the new fallen snow. It’s May but you never know what to expect for weather up here in the parks of western Canada. Roger’s Pass could be clear and dry when they get there or it could be like it is here, wet and slushy. You have to be ready for anything this time of year.

As they pull under the ‘Road Conditions’ sign it says Number 1 is wet with slippery patches through Glacier National Park. There’s no mention of Roger’s Pass.

Lenny looks out across the town of Revelstoke in deep shade with lights winking on in section after section of the town. With a little luck they’ll be into Golden before midnight. It feels like they’ve been on the road for two days instead of one.

They had left Port Coquitlam early this morning and got into Kelowna before the warehousemen went for lunch at the Zellers Department store. They’d been lucky there and got quite a bit of weight off the rear trailer although they did have to shift some of the load back for balance. Through Sicamous they had checked out just fine at the government weight scales.

Mike starts flicking on lights and Lenny checks his side. Clearance lights show up on the trailer and the pup close behind it. Everything seems to be in order so he gives Mike the high sign.

This was an unusual load so they gave it to Mike. They always did! His big Kenworth could make time and do it economically, as well. They are hauling from Vancouver Harbor to Kelowna, Calgary; then on to Medicine Hat for Zellers with goods from the Orient. Then picking up a trailer in Lethbridge for Canadian Tire stores back on the coast. Another truck had brought it to Lethbridge from the east.

They could stretch this trip to four days but Lenny knew they’d be back in Port Coquitlam (POCO) yards in three. Mike was in a foul mood and would really push it. A sly smile crept over Lenny’s countenance as he thought, “And all over a piece of tail! That’s what has him so worked up!”

When they had gotten to Laidlaw, Trudy was not at the truck stop. Mike had called her and she’d said her little girl was sick, so she wouldn’t be able to go with him on this trip. Mike had been miserable ever since.

Mike calls out, “Can you see those chains in your mirror? I hear something rattling and it sounds like it’s on your side. They haven’t broken loose, have they?” Lenny stretches out his neck but can see no problems on his side.

Lenny calls back, “Can’t see anything loose here. Nothing’s making sparks anyway. I don’t see anything unusual.”

They roll on for another mile or two. Mike exclaims, “That’s it! I just caught a glimpse in your mirror of a flicker. It’s a train down on the tracks beside us. Do you see it?”

“No, it’s too dark! …Hold on, there it is. I see it! …Yep, I guess that’s what was making the noise. It’s down below us.”

They roll along in the dark, still gradually climbing and soon overtake another eighteen-wheeler. The other rig is laboring heavily and flashes his lights for Mike to pass. Mike picks up his microphone and calls out, “Hey there, Mayflower! You got your ears on, good buddy?”

The CB crackles with a southern accent, “What the ‘ell you guys call dis white shit? S'pose to be blossom time inna Rockies, they tole me in LA. Ha!!!”

Mike chuckles and keys the mike again as they pass, “Where you bound for, my friend?”

“Uhhhhh.” pause, “Edmonton, is what the bills say. Some asshole who made his fortune down in movie land is moving home, they tell me. What the ‘ell he wants to come back to this crap for I’ll never know!”

“Tell you, friend, the man’s got good taste, that’s why, hahaha. By the way, this stuff should run out before you get to the big hills. Good luck, now.”

“See ya on the flip side. We’re out and gone.”

Once again the night closes in on the two friends in their K100 cab over Kenworth with the big roomy sleeper.

Mike swerves away from the shoulder to avoid the tan Cadillac sitting with it’s nose up against some rocks and he lays on the air horn splitting the night like a foghorn.   Lenny watches the car as they swing by and says, “Doesn’t appear to be much damage. Just slid off the road.”

“Yeah, he’s alright. Just in a big hurry, that’s all. He won’t be bothering us again tonight though. He chuckles and starts whistling a lilting tune.

Sure enough as they near the Selkirk Mountains and the Rogers Pass the road becomes dry and bare. They climb up through the snow sheds and into the pass itself.

“Do you see any signs saying we have to chain up, Len?”

“Nope, must be bare and dry all the way. It sure looks it.”

They can see two other rigs ahead of them climbing the long steep grade to the summit. Everyone is moving steadily and low intermittent chatter is heard on the CB. They rush headlong through the long curves heading into the upgrade as the moon lights the road ahead beyond the sweep of their headlights.

Mike starts the process of gearing down, keeping the revs up by ear and disregarding the tachometer. They can hear the huge diesel purr steadily and feel the surge of power as Mike matches power requirements with the gear he selects. Black smoke belches out of the pipes as they climb, dark pavement spinning out behind them in the large side-mounted rear view mirrors.

As the lights of the lodge at the summit first appear over the rise Lenny realizes he has been holding his breath since they started the climb and he releases a long sigh. Len breaks the silence, “I think we’re going to make it into Golden long before midnight, Mike. It’s only ten ten.”

Mike grunts and waves his hand towards the lodge, “Looks like Jack up on the pull off. Can you see if that’s his rig?” He points ahead and up a rise where another CPX rig is parked with clearance lights burning. He picks up his microphone and calls out for Jack.

There’s no response but he sees him out by the side of his trailer checking his load. Mike gives a toot on his air horn and Jack waves as they fly by. He has indicated by his friendly nod and wave that all is well with him.

Lenny accompanies Mike as swamper (helper) because many times parts of loads have to be unloaded by hand as in Kelowna today. In a pinch Lenny can handle the driving and is licensed to do so but is reluctant to travel much at night as driver. He is content to travel the roads with another driver and assist in loading and unloading.

There are few drivers that have permanent swampers. On the long hauls across the nation two drivers pilot the truck and take turns driving. On shorter inter-provincial runs the driver is usually by himself or herself and the trips are terminal to terminal. Loading and unloading is done by warehousemen in the terminals. Local deliveries are done by a driver alone and the customer assists with loading and unloading.

Near the summit they swing through the curves and enter the first snow shed on the down side with jake brakes barking as Mike gears down. They pass through one tunnel and into the next… then out into the night. The pavement widens out before hitting the next tunnel and they pick up some speed before the walls close in around them again. This snow shed is a long tunnel that curves back and forth as they rush by metal girders and mountains on their right, cement pillars and westbound traffic on their left. They emerge into the night again and there is just one short dark tunnel before the curves and the steep downgrade from the pass.

After clearing that last tunnel Mike pulls into a brake inspection pull-off and parks. Time to stretch his legs and check the brakes and tires. Both men jump down from the cab and meet in the headlights glare.

Mike checks his watch, “I think you’re right Lenny. We’ll be in at the Husky truck stop in Golden about eleven forty-five their time. I’ll call Toronto from there. Central Dispatch may have decided they need this load in Calgary early tomorrow morning. We’ll see.”

Mike goes under the side of the load and checks brakes while Len walks around checking tires. They meet back by the driver’s door and both indicate all is well. Mike climbs up into the cab and goes through some tapes looking for music while Lenny climbs in his side. He tosses a couple to Len who inserts one into the player and adjusts the volume. The rig moves ahead towards the long downgrade.

With the diesel barking and backing off, Mike judicially applies brakes intermittently as they descend into the valley then quickly he gears up for the haul across the valley floor and the next upgrade.

They swing through the turns with musical accompaniment and soon pass by the “time-change” marker as they climb again into the Selkirk range of mountains. Now they have an hour’s difference but Mike has taken the time change into account. They can still make it to Golden by midnight.

Soon they have crossed the Selkirks and are descending into the Rocky Mountain Trench. They come out across the Columbia River and it is eleven twenty local time. They pass the lights of the lumber mill at Donald and from there it’s a straight run into Golden. Their faces are lit then fall back into shadow as the bright flickering moonlight reflects off the river casting a cold white glow into the cab. By eleven forty-five they are pulling off Number One highway into the truck-filled yards around the Golden Husky service station and truck stop.

Mike grabs paperwork and descends from the cab. He and Len enter the café and head for the washrooms. “Grab us a table and order up java, Len. I’ll get on the horn to Toronto. Okay?”

Len nods as he heads into the café. He eyes the room and grabs a table by the front windows. As he pulls himself into the booth a waitress appears by his elbow. “Start with coffee, Len?” He looks around and sees Jena, an old friend who has been waitressing here for many years. He holds up two fingers and she fills two cups.

Jena, who is about forty-five, winks at Len and says with a smile, “Got a new girl on tonight, I’ll send her over and tempt Mister Mike.” She laughs and Len grins but shakes his head.

“Mike’s not in that good a mood tonight so I doubt he’ll be amused but what the hell, give it a try.” He chuckles as Jena leaves them menus and heads back towards the kitchen with the coffee pot. Len settles to enjoy his coffee and Mike soon joins him.

He explains Toronto has instructed them to drop the pup in Calgary and go straight to Medicine Hat (The Hat, as he calls it) with their goods then proceed to the Saskatchewan border at Gull Lake to pick up a load for Canadian Tire. Then it’s back into Alberta to Lethbridge where they will load some freight in the main trailer for the coast.

He continues, “Guess I’ll try for a few hours shut-eye here in the yard. Did you order?”

“Not yet,” says Len, “I was waiting on you.”

A pert young waitress of about 25 comes up to their table and Mike exclaims, “Hey Blondie, I haven’t seen you around here before. You must be new!”

“I’m Cathy and I am new. Can I take your order?”

Mike gets a twinkle in his eye, “Let’s start with a quick tour of my rig out there in the yard. Have you ever seen the inside of one of those big trucks before?”

Len just grins and says, “This here is Mike and I’m Len. Pay him no mind. What’s the truckers’ special tonight?”

Cathy grins, “I rather like his suggestion but I better not mess up my first night on the job. Steak and hash browns with fresh asparagus or peas on the side. Its discounted 25% and it’s really good. I had it earlier.”

Len decides to go for the steak but Mike wants something lighter so he can sleep. He decides on an omelet and toast. “Got to try and get a few hours sleep out there in the sleeper. You can bring me coffee around five.” He grins lopsidedly at her as he winks. She leaves to get their order.

In a moment Jena comes by and tousles Mike’s hair then she cuffs the top of his head a glancing blow, “I’ll bring you coffee at five, Mike, and drown you in it!” She grins and goes on towards the front counter.

They clean up their food and Mike goes to get a few hours sleep. Len spends an hour gabbing with Jena then goes for a walk around the yard. He then meanders down the highway to the government weigh scales where he chats with the officers for another hour before returning to the café for coffee. He joins some other truckers who have come in and puts in time.

Around four thirty he starts watching for Mike. Just after five he sees Mike’s long lanky figure climbing down from the cab with a towel over his shoulders. He grins. Mike will grab a quick shower and be in for coffee in about fifteen minutes. He turns to catch Jen’s eye and she is looking towards the rigs in the yard. She glances his way and nods. Mike’s coffee will be waiting for him when he comes in.

Soon they’re on the road again, diesel roaring as they climb up out of Golden in the early dawn’s pink light. Then they descend through the S curves and cross the Kicking Horse River twice before they start to climb for Banff, Alberta. They whistle past the railway town of Field watching for wildlife.

By seven they are rolling out through the Bow Valley and across the flat lands of Alberta heading for Calgary. By eight-thirty they roll into the CPX terminal yards and drop the pup.

They fuel up and by nine-thirty are heading into the rising sun.

Mike dons dark mirror sunglasses and Len hits the sack in the sleeper. Mike sings along with western music on the radio as he wheels across the flat prairie. With his single trailer only half loaded he has to be doubly careful to keep his speed down. It’s easy to get a ticket out here on the flat lands.

He pulls in for lunch at Brooks, Alberta. Len comes out to join him. Just over another hour will see them into the ‘Hat’. They down their lunch and are on the road again by two.

About three thirty they pull into the new mall east of Medicine Hat and they back into the Zellers Department Store warehouse dock. Warehousemen swarm the trailer and the load is unloaded in half an hour. Mike checks again with Central Dispatch in Toronto and there are no changes.   They head for the Saskatchewan border and drop their empty trailer at a set of highway weigh scales before going on to Gull Lake.

The yard in Gull Lake is an unattended fenced yard behind a 24-hour service station. Mike unlocks the tumblers on the gate looking for trailer 5709, spots it and backs up to hook onto it. As his 5th wheel slides under the trailer it latches and he slips down from the tractor to stretch his legs.

Len comes around from the far side and tells him the seal number as well as confirms the tires on the far side are okay. Mike nods as he hooks up airlines and pulls the bills out of the trailer’s pouch. He crosschecks the seal number, checks the contents and destination then nods his head and does a circle check of his own. When both are satisfied that everything’s in order Mike heads for the gate. Len walks to the gate, buttons up the yard and joins Mike in the cab.

Now they head into the afternoon sun as they backtrack to the Alberta border and the scales house where they earlier left the empty trailer. They hook up to it behind the first and pull up on the scales. Everything is okay. They head west for Medicine Hat and then turn southwest to Lethbridge on Highway # 3.

“Are you tired, Len? We’ll be in Lethbridge by ten thirty. I plan to sack out there for an hour or two then pull on through to Cranbrook for another few hours sleep. The reason for the couple hours in Lethbridge is I like to hit Crow’s Nest Pass refreshed.” Mike grins as Len nods and heads for the sleeper.

On schedule Mike drops the empty trailer in Lethbridge and hooks up to a load of pottery destined for the coast. He puts it in front and the lighter load for Canadian Tire in the rear then pulls them around into a darkened area of the yard. Its his turn in the sleeper birth and Len goes to chat with some of the warehousemen on evening shift. He chats with the night man after midnight for about an hour then goes to thump the side of the sleeper with the flat of his hand.

Mike climbs down rubbing his eyes and yawning. Checking his watch he says, “Thanks, Len. I would have slept through the night if you hadn’t wakened me.” He stretches and heads off though the gloom to the washrooms.

Soon they are westbound again on Highway # 3 heading into the foothills of the Rockies. Traffic is light as they climb towards the summit of the Crow’s Nest Pass. They are fully loaded and the climb is slow but steady, black smoke belching from the twin pipes and streaming back over the load.

They roar through the community of Crow’s Nest and Mike let’s her roll down the gentle grade from the summit towards Sparwood.   Len crawls back into the sleeper for a while and Mike puts in a tape of his favorite country and western music. He calls back to Len, “Cranbrook by four.” Len just grunts. It’s as he figured, it will be a three day run.

In Cranbrook Mike pulls into the CPX yard into a corner and parks. Len climbs down to go for a walk and Mike goes to the washroom. He comes back and curls up in the sleeper.

Len ends up chatting with the night man. As the eastern sky brightens he wanders down to the rig and pulls out a book to read. He reads for about an hour when he hears Mike roar out, “Len! Are you there?!”

Len calls back, “Right here Mike, what’s up?”

“What time you got?”

“Eight fifteen.”

“Hell’s bells! I was hoping my watch was wrong. Guess we better get on the road.” He comes climbing out of the sleeper and pulls the tractor around to the fuel pumps. “Might as well top up here,” he grins, “Save our supply at home.”

By nine-thirty they are on the westbound trail rolling down the slopes of the Purcell Mountains. Through the fertile valleys they roll and around noon are approaching the Nelson Range and the town of Creston. Number 3 highway is a much slower route than Number One due to the grades and corners.

Number One is the Trans Canada Highway and thus has been improved with longer and easier corners and lesser grades. Number 3 is typical of mountain roads everywhere. There are long steep grades and quick abrupt corners at the bottom with narrow bridges to navigate. It will be like this all the way back to the Fraser Valley at Hope.

There’s no stopping in Creston. It’s straight through on highway 3A then 3 again to Osoyoos and the Okanogan Valley. As they swing north to Keromeos they are less than a hundred miles from the route they followed east two days ago.

It’s after five as Mike pulls into the last fruit stand in Keromeos to stretch his legs, check the rig and pick up a case of apples for his wife. They also grab a cool cider each and chat with the attendant.

“Are you hungry, Lenny?” asks Mike as they head back to the truck. “I was thinking of stopping for some Kentucky Fried Chicken in Princeton. Can you make it?”

Len’s reply, “Lead on. Sounds good to me!”

By seven twenty they are parked on the shoulder of the road in Princeton by the KFC. They bring their food to a picnic table overlooking the Similkamine River flowing noisily with spring run-off. The weather is mild.

Len breaks the moody silence, “Why are you still driving rigs, Mike? I thought you were doing well with that insurance investigations business for the Provincial government.”

Mike shrugs, “Not enough work in the small town of Abbotsford to keep a guy going steady. I was working for a local security company as their insurance fraud investigator. The pay was good and I have the background in security from back east in Ontario, but we’re settled in Abbotsford now and there are just not enough jobs to keep a guy going full time… and I enjoy driving truck.”

“Why not take on a partner and do long hauls back east. I would think the money would be better and it would be steadier. One run a week, Vancouver to Toronto, and the rest of the week off.”

Mike grins, “The long hauls don’t sit well with my wife. This is bad enough. She complains that I am never home now, as it is. I probably won’t have another run this week. She’ll be happy.”

“And then again, they might have another load for you tomorrow.”

“That’s true but my wife finds this job tolerable because most weeks I only have a single run and it’s only to Calgary or the Okanogan. I can often do some investigations on the side the rest of the week. It’s work near home, I’m home for supper and it works.”

Len goes on quizzically “And then there’s Trudy… how do you get away with her in your schedule? I hope you don’t feel I'm getting too personal. I am truly curious.”

“No, that’s okay, Len. You know my situation as well as anyone, I suppose. We work together most often.”

He pauses, “I fit her in.”

Again a pause, “She has something… or perhaps I should say we have something... that has stagnated in my marriage. I don’t know just how to explain it. She’s special, alive and damned intelligent. There’s a spark between us, a bond. Like in an undercover operation, a good feeling of two like spirits doing intimate things together. My wife and I once shared feelings similar to the ones Trudy and I enjoy.   Somehow we have become bogged down in the humdrum everyday mechanics of keeping our marriage and family together and afloat.”

He continues, “It’s not all sex with Trudy, although that’s terrific, but it’s also good old plain intelligent conversation. She has helped me with investigations in the past, she knows how to use her head.”

They sit quietly to finish their meal each with their own thoughts. Mike stretches and walks around the rig checking tires, brakes and hoses. The stretch of highway between here and Hope is the worst on number 3 so he wants to be sure everything is working right. Finally they climb back up into the cab and head for the coast.

It’s raining lightly as they climb up passed the mine tailings from Copper Mountain mine and it’s going to get dark early tonight. Mike figures they will be in Hope by nine-thirty so he can stop at Trudy’s. Len has got him thinking about her again and he’s wondering how her daughter, Crystal, is fairing. He should have picked up some comics for her. He thinks belatedly he should have got some in Calgary.

It’s constant barking of the Jake brake on the downhill runs and roaring of the diesel on the upgrades after they pass the lodge in Manning Park. Mike is watching for wildlife but traffic is light, since it is only Thursday, so the driving is fairly easy. As they pass the Hope Slide Mike starts whistling and appears more cheerful than he has the whole trip. Len grins as he realizes what this means. They’ll be making a stop in Hope!

Len has known the petite blond from the truck stop in Laidlaw for nearly a year now but has never given her much thought. He knows she was from Prince Edward Island and that she was married to a Frenchman out at the base by Chilliwack. She married him down east and it hadn’t gone well. He’s heard her comment that the only good thing that ever came from their marriage was her daughter, Crystal.

Her father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Canadian Forces and her ex was in the forces as well. If his memory is correct he doesn’t think her divorce is finalized yet. He wasn’t aware until two weeks ago that she and Mike were seeing each other. She went with them on a run to Kamloops and Calgary. By the time they reached Kamloops he knew they were close and had been for some time.

Well, it was none of his business. He liked Mike but didn’t know his wife or family that well, had only met them twice in the last year of running with Mike. He knew Mike had a varied past of driving truck and serving as a prison guard for quite a few years. He also knew he was involved in insurance fraud investigations for a while. It appears he still is on the side.

As they pull down into Hope Mike swings off the highway and pulls farther into the lower residential area out near the airport. He eases the rig to a slow pace and stops on a solid grassy shoulder by an isolated frame stuccoed bungalow all in darkness.

“I’ll only be a minute,” says Mike as he opens his door and prepares to climb down. “Uhhhh, I may be a bit longer… have you got a good book to read?”, he blurts out grinning at Len with a shrug.

Len laughs, “Get out of here!”

As Mike wanders across the grass Len thinks she might not be home. He doesn’t see any car and the place is in darkness but Mike goes to the door and raps. He waits and then raps again. A light comes on in the entryway and Mike talks to a young girl on the step. It doesn’t look like Trudy. In the dim light she looks too tall, too dark and too young.

Soon Mike comes back to the rig and climbs up into his seat. “She’s working for someone else tonight at the truck stop.” He mumbles something else and grunts as he puts the truck in gear and eases back out onto the wet blacktop. Circling the block they head back to Number one highway (the Trans Canada Highway).

Soon after leaving Hope they come to the Laidlaw truck stop. They pull in as Mike exclaims, “Time for a coffee!” He pulls the rig along side three others in the lot and they go inside. They seat themselves at the counter and Trudy brings them coffee.

She has a special smile for Mike and beckons him to follow her. They slip out a side door and she comes into his arms. After a passionate kiss and embrace Mike eases her back down onto her flat feet and asks about Crystal.

“Oh Mike, I wanted to go with you this time so bad but Crystal developed a bad cough and sore throat. I thought it might be tonsillitis but the doctor has her on some medicine and it is getting better. I missed you so much the last few days. Must be just because I knew you were on the road all alone somewhere. You were probably chasing some other waitresses somewhere, weren’t you?”

Mike raises his right hand, “I swear I never touched another hand except maybe Len. Does he count?” He grins.

This brings a smile to Trudy’s lips and she says he had better not be messing around with guys. Then she adds she doubts he would be interested in guys anyway, not the way he is with her. They both laugh over this.

Again she comes up on her tiptoes to pull him down for a long kiss. Mike’s dark eyes twinkle as he lifts her off her feet and she wraps her legs around him continuing their kiss. He lets her down and she catches her breath, shaking hair back out of her eyes and chuckling, “Feels to me like you’ve missed me!” She glances at the bulge in his pants, “I think we better go back inside before I get fired… or you get fired up.” She giggles as she opens the door.

They stay for about half an hour, Trudy often coming by to gab with them. Then it’s back to work so they return to the illuminated rig idling in the yard and climb aboard.

Mike’s in a real good mood now and they head west for Abbotsford, then north across the river to Mission and west again to Port Coquitlam (or POCO, as they fondly call it). It’s nearly midnight when they pull into the CP Express and Transport (CPX) yard on Kingsway. As they pull in Mike sees a dark car leaving the lot so he flashes his lights at them but the car goes on and leaves the lot.

“Hmmmm, that’s funny. He didn’t flash his lights or wave or anything. Wasn’t that Ray’s car? You know Ray Chauffe, don’t you? He does local deliveries on day shift. I wonder what he was doing here so late at night.”

Len responds with, “It sure looked like his car. That’s his rig at the end of the row. Maybe he was working on it or something.”

After they drop the trailers and park the Kenworth, Mike walks over to Ray’s truck and lays his hand on the Mac’s hood. The bodywork is warm so he knows it has been running recently. Len comes over to join him and says, “Warm, is it?” Mike nods.

Len continues, “Must have been him. Looks like he washed it. He babies that Mac like it was his own. Somebody should tell him that CPX owns it.” They chuckle together as they head for the parking lot. They come up to Len’s old Pontiac and Mike says, “Goodnight Lenny. See you next round. Likely next week.”

“Right Mike. By the way, did you put the waybills in the pouches on those trailers? Seems silly but I don’t recall seeing you do that and it could save you a trip back here tomorrow.”

“Oh Shit!! Thanks, Len. I had my mind on something else, I guess.” He grins and they wave goodbye as Len pulls out of the lot. Mike walks to his Mustang and fires her up.

i

He drives back into the yard and goes to the trailers they have dropped. He jumps out and puts the bills of lading into each trailer’s pouch. As he goes back towards his car the Commissionaire on night duty appears in the car’s headlights.

“Oh, it’s you, Mike. I thought it was but I had to come down and check. It’s been a quiet night but one has to check everything.”

“Dave, have you been here all night or have you just come on?”

“Just came in at midnight. They had a night shift in the warehouse until eleven-thirty, so they said they didn’t need security until midnight. Have you just come in from Calgary?”

“Round trip this time to the Hat and back with stops in Kelowna, Calgary and Lethbridge. Back on number 3 so it was a grind. That highway really takes it out of a guy.”

“Well, you go get some rest and take care, Mike. I have to finish my round. See you later.” Commissionaire Dave Broady waves as Mike leaves the yard.

As Mike crosses the Pitt River Bridge heading east towards Mission and home to Abbotsford, a police cruiser with lights flashing and siren wailing passes him headed towards POCO. Mike thinks out loud, “Thursday night, must be an accident. Weekend parties don’t start until tomorrow night.”

He chuckles as he heads on down the wet highway. It’s a misty wet night but warm so he drives with the window down and whistles with the music on the radio. When he reaches Mission he debates whether to turn south to Abbotsford and home or to continue west to Hope, Laidlaw and Trudy. He decides to turn south and go home.

In Abbotsford’s residential area south of the hospital Mike pulls into his driveway. There is a flickering glow from the large front window in his condominium so someone must be watching TV. Probably his wife, he thinks. He unloads his overnight bag, locks the convertible and walks to the side door. He unlocks it and steps inside where he takes off his work boots and leaves them with his bag by the clothes rack in the entryway. He steps up two steps to the main level and goes to the living room door quietly.

The TV is hissing and the screen is covered with a snowy pattern. He steps forward and sees his wife sleeping on the couch.

Marlene Claymore (nee McRae) is an attractive brunette of twenty-seven, who married Mike when she was eighteen. Their oldest child, Richard has just turned nine so she was three month’s pregnant when they married. They had been going together for nearly a year at the time. She has given him two daughters since, Shelly, who is eight and Janet, who is six and a half (she insists on the half).

The house is quiet except for the hiss from the TV. Mike picks up the remote and clicks it off causing Marlene to stir and open her eyes. She smiles, “You’re home! I didn’t expect you until tomorrow night.” She reaches for him and he kneels beside her, taking her in his arms and kissing her.

She pats the couch beside her and he sits to tell her, “It was a real fast run. No traffic to speak of and no work except driving. It went perfect.”

She runs her hand up his shoulder intimately and says, “Are you hungry? I can make you up a hot beef sandwich with leftovers from supper, if you’d like?”

His hand runs lightly up the inside of her thigh as he asks, “Have you got anything else that’s hot?” He grins and winks.

She pulls him down to her so she can kiss him suggesting, “Maybe you just want to go straight to bed.”

He reaches up to turn out the lamp and responds with a passionate kiss of his own. Moving her over with his hip he lays down beside her. He runs his hands over her body and under her housecoat to cup a breast and tease a nipple.

She breathes faster and whispers, “Oh Mike, you haven’t come home this horny in quite a while. What’s the occasion?”

Mike whispers back, “Do I have to come up with a special reason to want to make love to the most beautiful woman in Abbotsford?”

He kneads her breasts as he kisses her and she responds by pressing herself to him and whispering, “Just in Abbotsford?”

Around three thirty they sneak upstairs, Mike carrying his clothes, and they go into their bedroom. She gets to the bathroom first, but as soon as she’s finished Mike goes for a shower. When he comes to bed she sleepily kisses him goodnight.

Chapter 2 - 1st Friday

Mike sleeps in until around ten thirty and wakes to find a note that Marlene has taken Janet to the pediatrician for a check up. The other two are in school, so the house is quiet.

He finds coffee in the dripolator and pours himself a cup. He turns on the radio in the kitchen to catch the eleven-o-clock news. As he is making a beef sandwich out of leftovers, he hears a report that there has been a murder in Port Coquitlam last night. He says to himself that must be where the Police car was rushing.

Then he hears that the body was discovered this morning. Children who were crossing the tracks on their way to school discovered it. He listens more attentively as he realizes they are talking about the kids crossing the CP Rail mainline behind the vacant lot next to the CPX yard in POCO. Just then the bell rings and he goes to answer the door.

He opens the door to an RCMP Officer, who asks him if his name is Mike Claymore. He says it is and the officer asks if he might come in and have a word with him. Mike opens the door wide and say, "Sure, come on in."

He offers him coffee but the officer says, "No thanks, but you go ahead and enjoy yours. I have a few questions for you. You drive for Canadian Pacific Express and Transport, do you not?"

"Yes, I do. This must be about the murder in POCO last night. I just heard it on the radio. I got in late and slept in this morning. Who was he?” Mike gestures, “You know, the guy who was murdered?"

The officer follows him into the kitchen and asks if he might sit at the table. Mike waves him ahead as he takes another swallow of his coffee. He turns down the radio.

The officer puts a pad on the table and writes down some details as he asks, "Were you at the CP Express yard on Kingsway in Port Coquitlam last night?"

"Yes, we pulled in just about midnight from Alberta. My swamper and I, that's Leonard Fargo, he runs with me, we pulled in and left there about one, I guess. I got in home here at around two. Who was the victim? Not someone from CPX, was it?"

"We can't discuss the case in detail while it's under investigation. Please describe anything unusual you might have noticed around the premises when you came in."

"I can't think of anything unusual. I met and spoke with the Commissionaire on duty at the yard. He said he came on at midnight and it had been a quiet night. He was in the middle of his first round, I believe he said."

"Did you by chance, see anyone else around the property while you were there?"

"No, just the Commissionaire and my partner, Len. It would help if I had some idea of what happened and where. The news just said a body had been found by the CP mainline."

"Do you know a Robert Hanson of Burnaby?"

"No, I don't think so. The name's not familiar to me. What does he do?"

"I believe he drives bus in Vancouver."

"No. I don't know any bus drivers by that name. Is he the one they found?"

"How about Ray Chauffe or Anton Vanuetche?"

"Yeah, I know those guys. They drive for CPX locally. Tony and Ray do local deliveries in Vancouver. I don't know them personally, oh, I've had a beer or two with Ray and kibitzed around with Tony around the loading docks but I don't know either of them that well. Are they involved?"

"Sorry, Mr. Claymore, but I ask the questions. You've struck up a drinking relationship with Mr. Chauffe, eh? What can you tell me about him? Is he married?"

"Oh, I don't know. I think he lives alone, may be divorced or just a bachelor, and he's shy, you know, quiet and soft spoken, never speaks unless you speak directly to him. I think he's about my age, maybe a year or two older. I like him to talk with and he's a good drinking buddy. Never noisy or boisterous, if you know what I mean? You won't get in trouble drinking with Ray. I've known him since I've been driving for CPX, I guess. A few years now."

"And what about this Anton Vanuetche?"

“Tony!” Mike chuckles, "Tony's a bit of a card. Real outgoing, likable character that is always playing jokes on the guys around the warehouse. As I said, he does local deliveries as well, in the Vancouver area. He would be a little younger than myself and I don't know whether he's married or not. Rumors have put him ... well, never mind. You're not interested in rumors, are you?"

"Rumors sometimes have a basis in fact. What have the rumors been about Mr. Vanuetche?"

"Well, around the coffee room I've heard it said that he uses drugs or something of that nature. I didn't question the fact and I don't know if they were referring to cannabis or hard stuff. It really is no business of mine."

They hear the front door opening and in a moment Janet runs to her Dad hollering, "Daddy! Daddy! There's a police car out..." She stops in her tracks as she looks at the policeman sitting at the table.

Marlene calls from the entryway, "Janet, come back here and take those shoes off! You know we don't allow shoes in the house. Are you up, dear?"

Mike calls, "In the kitchen, honey?" He looks at the officer who is putting away his writing materials and preparing to leave.

The officer says, "I may be in touch with you further in this matter. I can tell you that a statement is being taken from your co-driver this morning and the Commissionaire confirms that you entered and left the yard when you said you did.”

He goes on, “The murder victim was a young lady and the crime occurred sometime after midnight behind the vacant lot next to your yard. You will hear all that in the news anyway. Thank you for your cooperation." He gets up to leave and meets Marlene in the kitchen door. He says, "Good day, Ma'am." Then he proceeds towards the front door.

Marlene looks at Mike then turns to watch the RCMP Officer leave then looks again quizzically at Mike. Mike shrugs and nods towards Janet then says, "Just business, my love."

Janet starts chattering, "Did you see his gun? He was a really big man, wasn't he Daddy? I saw his car outside. I did! I did!"

Mike kneels down beside her and says, "You sure did. He's got a real hard job looking after all the people in town. He has to keep the bad guys away and he works hard at it. That's why he has his gun and hand cuffs and drives that big car. We like and respect a good guy like him, don't we?"

"Yes, Daddy. He's a nice policeman." She smiles up at him then at her mother. Mike helps her untie her shoelaces and she runs back down to the entryway with her shoes in hand.

Marlene says, "What was that all about, Mike? You running stop signs or speeding, again?" She grins.

Mike looks at her solemnly and says, "A girl was murdered last night next to our yard in POCO by the tracks. He wanted to know if I saw anything suspicious when we came in off our run."

Marlene says, "And?"

Mike looks thoughtful and says, "I think I saw Ray leaving the yard when we came in but I'm not sure. I didn't tell him. I can't imagine Ray being involved in anything illegal. I wonder what really happened there? I wish I had an inside track on what was being done in the investigation."

"But you do. You worked in security all those years and have friends that work for the RCMP. Can't you find out anything through them?"

"None of the officers I knew are stationed here in the valley now. And none of them were involved directly with the POCO area or homicide investigations. I'll just have to keep my ears open, I guess."

"What about Nina. She works in the POCO detachment. I know she's only a secretary, but she knows what's going on there all the time. She won't discuss work much with me over coffee but she's a good friend and might give you some hints. Why don't we invite her and her husband over tonight for cocktails? It's Friday and she just might go for it."

Mike thinks about what she's said then says, "Might not be a bad idea. Call her when she comes in from work. She should be home around five. Or maybe I'll see Jeff this afternoon, when I'm mowing the lawn. I could hit him up with an invite then."

Mike gets around and gets dressed. He gets out the mower and starts working on their small patch of grass. He takes his time working on flowerbeds before starting on the lawn itself. He putters in most of the afternoon and greets the kids as they come in from school. Soon after he sees Jeff pull into his driveway two doors down and calls him over as he shuts down the mower. "Well, how's the world of high finance treating you, Jeff?" He laughs as they sit down at the picnic table. "Care for a coffee?" Mike sips on his.

Jeff chuckles and says, "Seen any sign of that wife of mine yet?"

"Not a sign."

"Okay. If the coffee's made, I'll grab a cup."

Mike steps to the door and calls, "Hey honey, can you bring Jeff a cup of coffee?" In a moment Shelly appears balancing a cup of coffee and puts it down on the picnic table. Mike says, "Thanks, Shelly. Is your Mom busy?"

Shelly says, "No, I don't think she heard you, but I did. Okay?"

Jeff is watching and says, "They sure grow up fast, don't they? I keep telling Nina we should start a family soon but she just wants to keep on working. Busy week for you this one? I didn't see your Mustang since Monday."

"Been on a run to Calgary then the Hat and back to Lethbridge then home via Number Three. Left Tuesday morning and got back in last night."

"That's a lot of ground to cover in three days. How do you do it?"

"Born to drive, I guess. Hey, I got an idea. It’s Friday night and if you haven't got any plans, why not come over for cocktails about eight. We'll pack the kids off to bed early and we can have a few rounds of bridge. What do you say?"

"Oh, it’s tempting. But I do have to go in to the office tomorrow morning for a few hours work. Oh hell, the office won't be open so I can go in anytime. Why not? Around eight, did you say?"

"Yep, I'll make sure I have fixings for martinis. I know that's Nina's favorite. Hey, could you guys use some apples. I got a crate in the Okanogan yesterday. They're Red Delicious so they should be good eating or canning. They're nice and firm. I'll have Marlene save you out some of the better ones, if you'd like."

"Probably right out of cold storage, I imagine this time of year. Good price?"

"Lot better than the local super market price."

"Maybe Nina would like you to get us a crate, too, if it's not too much trouble? I'll let you know tonight."

They chat a bit longer and soon Nina drives into the driveway two doors down and waves. She pulls on into the garage and walks over to join them.

She's a prim and proper brown haired, conservatively dressed and business suit clad twenty-five year old lady. As she approaches she takes off her glasses and pulls barrettes out of her hair. She shakes her head and smiles at the two men watching her. Now she looks younger and a lot less conservative. "So what are you guys plotting?" She plunks herself down next to her husband and plants a kiss on his waiting mouth.

Jeff winks at Mike and says, "Maybe we're going to be busy this evening." He looks at his wife and says, "Mike has asked us over for cocktails later and some cards. What do you think?"

Nina looks at Mike with a twinkle in her eye and says to Jeff, "If you'd rather, dear." She laughs at Jeff's consternation. "I think it'd be a great idea. It's Friday and no work tomorrow. We'd love to, Mike. I better get home and get supper on. See you later." She waves as she goes back across the intervening lawn.

Mike and Jeff finish their coffee and Jeff leaves while Mike starts the mower again. Mike finishes off the small patch of grass and goes into the house. He slips off his shoes at the side door and finds his wife in the kitchen at the stove.

Richard has music going at a pretty loud volume in his room so she doesn't hear him as he comes up behind her. He reaches his arms around her waist and cups her breasts as he leans over her shoulder. She just lets herself settle back against him and says in a low sultry voice, "I hope the kids aren't too close, lover man."

Mike grins and says, "How'd you know it was me? Might have been Jeff sneaking up on you or some tramp slipping in our door."

Marlene says, "Hmmm, I don't care who you are, just keep it up. It feels great!"

Mike nibbles at her ear as he kneads her breasts; then lets both his hands slide down her stomach and settle over her pelvis. He works the fingers there and she moans softly. "Mike, you’re not going to get any supper tonight if you don't ease up. About another minute of that and I'll seduce you right here in the kitchen."

Mike just laughs and lets her go.

She quips, "You sure are in an amorous mood since you got home last night. What happened? Did one of your truck stop girls come down with the flu or something?" She's laughing but there's an edge of bitterness in her voice as well. She often claims he's seeing other women but has never caught him at it. Mike just says it's her overactive imagination.

"Are Jeff and Nina coming over this evening?" She asks because she has seen him and Jeff at the picnic table earlier.

Mike nods in the affirmative and proceeds towards the bathroom to wash up for supper. In a while he comes back with a sobbing Janet in his arms. "She says her teddy bear bit her. I think her and Shelly were fighting, but they both deny it. What do you say there, Mom?"

Marlene takes Janet in her arms and says, "Did Shelly bite you? She shouldn't do that, should she?"

She watches Janet's face as she pouts and says, "No, she shouldn't! I was only trying to help her color a picture of a rainbow. She had the colors all wrong!"

Marlene looks up at Mike and says, "Father, you better have a word with your daughter. We don't allow biting around here." Mike looks pained but heads for the girls' bedroom.

He enters and Shelly doesn't look up. She's busy coloring a picture. Mike clears his throat and begins, "Mom says you should be punished for biting your sister. What do you think?"

Shelly turns belligerent and stammers, "Janet's a tattle tale! She should be punished for that and for trying to ruin my picture." She holds the picture out to Mike.

Mike takes the picture and studies it. "You drew this picture?" He   sees a family represented on the paper with a rainbow overhead and a dog roaming in the background. "Who are the people?"

Shelly takes the picture and points to each individual. "That's Mommy and Daddy in the middle, that's Rick behind you and that's Shelly and me behind Mommy. And that is Spot."

"Spot?"

"I guess it would be nice to have a house out in the country and a dog. That is what I would like."

"Why did you draw my nose so close to Mommy's?"

Shelly looks down at the floor and says in a low voice, "Because you're arguing."

Mike looks shocked and says, "But why would you want to draw a picture of Mommy and me arguing, honey?"

Shelly looks afraid now and says she has to color the picture. Mike sits down on the edge of the bed and watches her. "Do you think we argue a lot?"

Shelly says in a quiet voice. "Yeth." She catches her breath and Mike detects a sob in her voice. "I hears you at night, sometimes, like last night downstairs."

Mike grins and says, "We weren't arguing. We were kissing and rubbing noses. We were playing roughhouse like you and Rick sometimes do. It was our way of saying we were glad to see each other again.”

He explains, “Once in a while we argue but not very often. It's like when you and Janet argue because she wants to color the picture her way and you want to color it your way. You both think you're right so you argue. Some times your mother and I have the same problem. She thinks she's right and so do I. But we usually can figure out a way to make us both happy so the argument is over. Why don't you try that? You could draw a picture for Janet to color so she could do it her way and you could color yours the way you want. Wouldn't that make you both happy?"

Shelly brightens up and says, "Yeah, that's a good idea."

Mike then looks her in the eye and says, "Now, what about the biting. What punishment would be the best to prevent you from doing that again?"

"I'll tell Janet I'm sorry and draw a picture for her."

"I think you better promise me it won't happen again and be serious about it. Biting is not something nice little girls do. How about it?"

"I promise I won't bite her again, Daddy. Honest, I won't!"

"Okay. Now I have one more little problem. Why did you tell me you weren’t fighting? That was a lie, wasn't it? I think for lying you had better go to bed right after you've had supper. Nice girls don't lie, either. No TV tonight for either of you, since you both lied to me. I hope you will learn not to lie any more. Do you understand why I'm punishing you?"

"Yeth, Daddy. It’s because we lied. I promise I will always tell the truth from now on, Daddy."

Mike returns to the kitchen and finds Janet licking out a bowl in which had been icing. He watches her and Marlene says, "Well, how did your little talk go?"

Mike speaks up so both can hear him. "Shelly has promised not to bite anyone again. How's your arm, princess?" he says to Janet.

She looks up and says, "It's okay. It just hurt for a little while. All better, now." She goes back to cleaning out the bowl.

Mike goes on, "She is also being punished for lying to me. She said you two were not fighting. I think that's what you said, too. Wasn't it, Janet?" She just works steadily at the dabs of icing as if she doesn't hear him. "Her punishment is to go to bed right after supper. I think you had better do the same. That way you will learn not to lie to me, don't you think? Hmmm ?"

"But I didn't want her to call me a squealer," whines Janet.

"Honey, it's always best to tell the truth when you are asked a direct question. You mustn't lie. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Daddy."

"Alright, I think your sister has something for you to prove she's sorry for biting you. You better run along now."

After supper, baths and prayers their father tucks the two girls into bed and he makes certain each one knows why. Rick has some homework so he disappears into his room and the adults are left to their own devices. Mike helps Marlene put away the last of the dishes from the dishwasher, and gets out stemware. He places them on a tray then mixes up martinis and puts the shaker back in the freezer. They will be ice cold in an hour and just right.

Meanwhile Marlene is putting the finishing touches to a large tray of tit-bit’s. There's celery hearts and cheese, sardines and crackers, smoked almonds in a center bowl, fancy cut radishes and other crackers. She is just adding a small cut crystal bowl of dip and putting crinkle cut potato chips into another bowl.

Mike says, "Do you suppose Nina has heard anything yet about the case? It may be too soon for her to know anything."

"I guess we'll know soon enough. They should be over in less than an hour. You told them eight, didn't you?"

"Yeah. Guess I'll slip on a clean shirt. No tie, though!"

"Jeff will be wearing one."

"Sure, he wears one all day at work. I don't and I don't intend to put on airs. He'll accept me as I am." He goes to change shirts.

Marlene follows him and says, "Do you think I should change? Maybe just a little fresh makeup."

At eight on the dot the other couple arrives. Mike catches Nina around the waist and swings her up off her feet. "Well, little bitty pretty one, did you come to beat me at cards or drink me under the table?" With a laugh he sets her down again and she blushes.

"Oh Mike,”she cries, “you know I can drink you under the table any night of the week." She giggles and rushes to help Marlene set out the drinks.

Jeff throws an arm around Mike and says, "It's been a while since we got together for an evening's fun. Guess we've all been too busy." He throws his other arm around Marlene as she comes by with the tray of goodies and says, "You been keeping this guy too busy, Marlene?"

"When I can get him home long enough, I manage to drag him off into a corner... or onto the couch." She grins at Mike and he winks back.

"I smell a conspiracy here. The couch, is it?" says Jeff. "These guys have been playing musical chairs, I think. Doesn't it sound like it to you, dear." Nina just grins and says she thinks they may have a good idea, that maybe they should try it.

Mike snorts and says, "Not on my couch, you don't." They all laugh and Mike pours martinis. "So what's so important in a finance company as to drag you into the office on a weekend, Jeff?"

"Just some backlogged work when we were short handed. And even now with three new employees on staff who aren't really certain how things are done yet, work has piled up. We can't be too tardy or the customers will go elsewhere. And who can blame them. Problem is the new people's work has to be double checked before approvals can be granted. Used to be I just signed the approvals as they came in. It'll get that way again if we can hang on to some of these new ones. Mmmm, good martini, it’s like ice!" He swizzles his olive around in the glass and sips again.

Nina is sipping hers and glances at Mike with a smile of appreciation. She can taste the hint of maraschino juice in her mix and knows Mike has added it at the last minute. No olive for her, just a plain swizzle stick.

Marlene raises her glass and says, "To old friends and new, may we ever be true." They all clink glasses as Jeff whispers 'Amen.'

Mike gets out a fairly new deck of cards and says he thinks the guys should take on the ladies tonight. Marlene and Nina laugh and say the guys won't stand a chance. Mike lets Nina cut for deal then Jeff. The men win the cut and Jeff nods to Mike to deal. He deals out for bridge.

To his left, Nina says two hearts right off the bat. Marlene looks knowingly and chuckles. Mike says, "No hints across the table there, you witches!" and grins.

Jeff joins him by saying, "Watch them, they'll cheat, you know." Jeff passes and Marlene comes back with three of the same.

Mike just passes and comments, "Let's see you make it." They stay with three and could have made four, but they both thought the guys were holding out on them. Of course that's what the guys were hinting at.

After the girls beat them a game, Mike refills the glasses all around and asks Nina if she's been busy at work with the recent murder in POCO.

"There was a lot of activity around the office today but not much is being said yet. It’s all hush hush."

"That's getting too close to home. They found the body next door to where I work, you know. And I came home last night about the time she was murdered. An officer was here this morning to question me about it. I had only just heard about it on the news."

"Did you know her?"

"Not really. I'm not even sure of her name." Mike is fishing.

"Florence Hanson. She was a waitress over at the Gardens. Very active social calendar, if you know what I mean. They're checking some of the CPX drivers. She apparently went out with a few of them. They're also checking her ex. It seems she took him for quite a bit. An even split on the divorce and she sued him for assault and battery. That almost cleaned him out."

Marlene pipes up, "Flo Hanson? She's a waitress in POCO, and you never met her, Mike? I'm surprised." A bitter edge has crept again into her voice.

Mike just laughs as he again says to Nina, "What the devil would ever make her go down into that area by the railway? That's what has me buffaloed."

"They're saying she must have known her attacker and since they had a padded blanket with them, they must have been planning on some kinky sex act or something. Maybe the attacker scared off her lover or maybe it was the lover himself who did the deed. Who knows?” She shrugs, “It’s awful gruesome anyway. She was raped and strangled! What a horrible way to die!"

"Not raped if she went prepared to have sex with a lover." Mike points out.

"That's what makes them think her lover must have run off. The damage indicates she was forcibly raped in a very rough fashion. Not nice to think that the animal who did that is still around the area somewhere."

"He may not be. If it happened along the CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway) mainline near the rail yards he could have been a transient who stumbled on them, did what he did and jumped the next freight train out of there. He could be in Calgary by now."

Jeff shudders and says, "How can you talk about such things in such a calm professional way? I've heard enough for one night! I'll have nightmares whenever you have to work late, dear."

Marlene agrees with Jeff but Mike goes on. "I find it fascinating. I often deal with people who commit fraudulent acts, usually because the opportunity comes up and they decide to take a chance and try to beat the insurance company. But this crime was planned; or at least Nina indicates that they think some deranged individual might have planned it. Maybe that's why I prefer to think of this as a crime of opportunity, the transient, rather than a crime of passion, the lover."

Nina seizes the moment to say, "I agree. It's a fascinating scenario to try and puzzle out who and why. The act has been consummated, there's no going back. But why did they do it?”

She nods,“I understand Mike's fascination. It may simply have been two lovers seeking new thrills and he could have gotten too rough, been afraid, especially if she said she would charge him with rape for the damage he did, and choked her to try and get her to say she wouldn't charge him. He could have just gone too far and killed her, then got scared and ran away.”

She purses her lips, “But I think this crime has all the markings of a deranged sexual predator." She finishes her martini and passes the glass to Mike for a refill with a conspiratory grin. He pours her third over a small amount of maraschino juice and affixes a cherry to her swizzle stick. She rolls her eyes and takes a healthy slurp.

Mike looks around and says, "Anyone else for a refill?"

Marlene asks, "How about some munchies?" She pulls the chips and dip to the center of the table and passes around the tray of nibblers.

Mike stubbornly comes back to Nina and asks, "Do you have any idea how old the victim was?"

"She was only twenty three years old. I heard she was eighteen when she first got married and was in hospital within six months with a miscarriage. She said she fell down stairs but in the divorce she claimed her husband threw her down the stairs. She claimed she was beat up every time he went drinking, and that was often. She was granted a divorce on grounds of physical and mental cruelty, so I guess the judge believed her.”

Nina adds, “You know that was only a couple of years ago. Since then she's been seen with a lot of men, including some of your co-workers. I'm surprised you've never seen her. I've even heard it said that she had sex for money occasionally. They're checking out that aspect of it as well. Maybe she was with a 'John'.”

Nina pauses, “Then you ask yourself, but why in that particular spot? More likely it was someone she knew and trusted. Otherwise why would she go there?”

She shrugs, “Who knowsh? It's quite a puzzzle." Nina is starting to slur a few of her words as she grabs the deck of cards and tries to shuffle.

Just then a sleepy eyed Rick comes into the kitchen and Marlene puts a finger to her lips. Nina tries to do the same and blows fumes in Mike's face. They laugh and Mike takes the cards from her. He deals as Marlene talks to their son.

"What's the matter, Rick, can't sleep?"

"I just came to get a glass of water, Mom."

He proceeds to the sink and gets a glass. He soon toddles off to bed again and Marlene declares, "This is not fair! How can we play if my partner's crocked?" Her and Nina lean across the table to each other and giggle as they high five. Jeff rolls his eyes heavenward and Mike just grins. They settle down to the game and this time the men win a resounding victory.

Jeff says, "One more game to decide who will break the tie. Thanks, Mike." He accepts a refill and Nina holds out her empty glass. Promptly Marlene puts her glass by Nina's. Mike fills the glasses and then pours his from a Ginger Ale bottle without anyone noticing. He feels he's had enough.

Marlene has dealt so they settle down to play Bridge. Mike asks Nina, "I know many of the guys who she went with so I would like to keep track of what's happening. Can you sort of keep me abreast of what's happening in the case?"

"I'll keep you a breasht if you promise to behave wish it." She giggles and Marlene laughs.

Jeff shakes his head and comments, "I think you've had enough martinis, my dear. Try eating a few snacks. You don't want to be sick later, do you?"

Nina looks at him forlornly and says, "Party pooooper!"

Once again the guys take the game and congratulate each other as the women claim they got them drunk so they could beat them. The party breaks up with Jeff promising, "Next time at our house," as he guides his weaving wife across the neighbor's lawn. Mike and Marlene watch them from the kitchen window. They all wave again just before they go out of sight into their house.

Mike grins at Marlene and says, "You were right. She's a gold mine of information, but she wouldn't dare have said as much as she did if she hadn't been drinking. I guess you know enough not to repeat anything she said tonight, right?"

"I know, lover man. Are you going to take me back to the couch tonight?" She smiles up at him.

Mike says he'd love to but then he goes on to explain what Shelly told him earlier. "We could go and make out in the back seat of the car." He grins an evil grin.

Marlene rolls her eyes and says, "I think I prefer our nice comfortable bed upstairs."

Mike locks the doors, checks electric plugs and switches then proceeds to the bedroom to find her sound asleep. He takes a shower and goes to bed.

Chapter 3 - 1st Sunday

Saturday they putter around the house since it’s raining and the kids keep getting under foot. Mike spends part of the day doing up paperwork for an insurance claim report he has been working on for a week. He drops it off over at the ABC Security Service office late in the afternoon. He checks with the secretary but she doesn't have any more work for him right now so he heads home for supper.

Marlene is snarly this evening from having the kids home and in the house all day. She claims he cops out by going to his office or sneaking away to the security office. He tries not to argue and they go to bed in a sour mood.

Sunday morning the sun beams into their windows and it looks like it will be a beautiful day. Mike suggests a picnic lunch and a drive in the country. Marlene loves the idea so she packs a lunch while Mike gets the kids around and ready. They head out of Abbotsford to Mission then east along the Fraser River. It's a bright sunny day in early May and the yellow broom is just starting to bloom. They dot the riverside and along the roads. The fresh green leaves and growth of grass has turned the landscape into a fairyland of newness, a reaffirmation that spring brings all things alive again. They stop at the lookout on Mount Woodside and peer out over the many meandering courses of the mighty Fraser River with Mount Cheam looming in the background over Agassiz.

 

 

Marlene suggests they stop here for lunch but Mike says he plans on stopping at Bridal Veil Falls, unless they are too hungry to go on. "Is anyone too weak to go any farther?" he asks. A chorus of 'no's is his response so they pile back into his wife's station wagon and head on out through Agassiz, across the bridge and into Bridal Veil Falls Park. Of course the first thing the kids see is the Flintstone Park and water slide. Mike insists they find a table by the falls and have lunch before they go into the Flintstone area.

After lunch he flips a coin with Marlene to see who will take the girls and who will take Richard. He ends up with the girls so they head off to the Flintstone Playland hand in hand. They ride a few rides and then he turns them loose in a pen filled with brightly colored Styrofoam balls and tumbling equipment. There are a dozen other kids in there so Mike relaxes and wanders over to get himself a soft drink.

He comes back to see if they are tired but they seem to have teemed up with another little girl and are having a ball. He absently watches Shelly climb a ladder and call down, "Come on, Crystal, you can do it. Come on. Janet, you help her." He starts and looks closely at the other little girl then turns his head to scan the crowd. She's by the corner of the pen grinning at him and holds up two fingers then points at the girls and looks quizzically at him. He grins and nods in the affirmative. She looks around and seems to be looking for someone then looks at him again in a quizzical manner. He looks around and sees Marlene far over near the front fence so he sidles up to Trudy and whispers; "She's over near the front fence in the red sweater. That's our son, Richard, with her. What are you doing here? I thought you were working this weekend."

"The kids look like they're pretty busy and safe. Come on." She nods at a trail behind the pen that leads up to the falls. Quickly they follow the trail to an area where a short side trail leads into an alcove. They slide in out of sight and he picks her up to kiss her. She wraps her legs around him and they kiss again. Her tongue darts into his mouth and she wriggles in his arms with hers clasped behind his head. Breathlessly she gasps, "I'm so glad to see you today. I've been thinking about you ever since I couldn't make it to go with you this week. When do you have another trip?"

"If you don't stop wriggling you won't have to wait for another trip. My God, where are your panties?"

"W

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