Murder on the Docks
Detective John Robichaud Mysteries
By H. Paul Doucette
BWL Print 9780228607298
Amazon Print 9780228607304
Copyright 2019 by H. Paul Doucette
Cover art by Michelle Lee
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book
I also want to thank Ali Mae-Lynn Hebert and Tim Cohoon
for their much appreciated contribution to this work.
BWL Publishing Inc. acknowledges the Province of Alberta for their Provincial Operating Grant for Publishers, for its financial support,
An East Coast Port, 1941
It was early in to the third year of the war. The city was at the breaking point in its effort to handle the constant influx of ships, goods, materials and men destined for the fight in Europe. Bedford Basin seemed to be always filling up with ships of every nationality awaiting their perilous voyage across the Atlantic. A constant stream of railcars, passenger and freight, choked the rail yards that ran along the shoreline of the Basin. Along the waterfront, the sheds were filled to the rafters, and the rail sidings full with waiting boxcars, and cargo ships laying alongside the docks loading their precious cargoes, while others waited in the harbour streaming at anchor for their turn alongside.
It was just gone two am. The dock at shed twenty-four was busy. Men bundled against the cold rain that had fallen for the last six hours, slung cables over five-foot-high pallets laden with boxed and crated goods bound for England. Forklifts and men with handcarts or dollies skittered about, moving cargo from inside the shed to the apron waiting to be loaded.
The foreman, Louis Slaunwhite a burly man from Cape Breton, approached two men standing in the shadows just inside the shed door. His customary bottom half of an unlit cigar in the corner of his mouth.
“Whadda fuck you guys doin’ standin’ ‘round doin’ nothin’?” he growled when he stopped in front of them.
“Take it easy, Louie,” Ed Kline said. “We was jus’ lightin’ up, okay?”
“Yeah, well, git yer arses out there. Ya listenin’, Kline? This tub’s gotta be outta here by three, an’ them pallets ain’t gonna load themselves.” Slaunwhite shook his head sending water flying from his sou’wester before he walked away yelling at someone further off in the dark shed. “Hey you. Git that fuckin’ pallet outta there.”
“Asshole,” Jencks, the second man, said as Slaunwhite disappeared among the stacks of cargo.
“Screw ‘im.” Ed said. “You got the stuff ready?”
“Yeah. It’s down at the other end.” he said, tilting his head toward the end of the shed.
“When’s da truck ‘spose ta be here?’
The man pulled out a pocket watch from his vest pocket and angled his hand to catch some light. “We got about ten minutes,” he said, putting the watch back into the pocket.
“Right,” Ed said, “let’s git down there before Slaunwhite comes back.”
The men took off, manoeuvring their way through the stacks of pallets and bales, keeping to the shadows.
When they reached the far end of the loading dock, they stood in the shadows at the side of the open loading dock door facing the rail tracks outside. The tracks were filled with boxcars laden with war materials which arrived earlier in the day. There was a narrow passage at the end of the tracks where a truck could back up to the shed.
“Whaddya figure this batch’ll git?”
“Dunno,” Ed said, “I figure we’ll git a coupl’a hundred maybe.”
“No shit! Ya really think so?”
Ed shrugged inside his heavy overcoat, “Ya know what da boss’ like.”
George Jencks turned his head and looked out the door. “Truck’s here.”
Ed moved off, grabbing a cart while George opened the canvas flap covering the back of the truck, rolling it up on to the roof of the box. There were two men inside the back of the truck. He nodded, grabbed an empty cart and followed Ed to where eighteen crates and cartons were stacked in a pile. Most were marked on a corner with a painted black X. The men weren’t aware of what was in them and didn’t want to know. They started to load the items on the carts.
A few moments later, they returned with two loads and hand bombed the items to the men in the truck.
“Dat it?” one of the two men said from the back of the truck.
“One more,” Ed said as he headed back into the dark, returning a few minutes later with another load that he dropped at the door. Suddenly, a loud voice stopped him in his tracks.
“Whadda fuck you assholes doin’? Stealin’?” Slaunwhite stepped up to the door and peered into the truck. “You stupid fuckers. I figured you assholes were up ta no good. Ya know dis means Dorchester fer da lotta ya, right?”
Ed Kline moved quickly behind Slaunwhite, pulling out his cargo hook; a curved steel rod set into the middle of a wooden handle. He raised it over his head then brought it down with all the force he could muster. The point pierced three inches into Slaunwhite’s neck at the jugular. Slaunwhite instinctively raised his hand and grabbed the steel as he slowly dropped to his knees. But it was too late. His eyes rolled back as he fell forward onto his face. Dead.
“Sweet Jesus,” one of the men in the truck said, breaking the silence. “Whaddya do dat for?”
“Why’d ya think! I ain’t goin’ ta prison agin, ‘specially Dorchester. Been there once an’ dat was enough. Now shut up an’ let’s git outta here.”
Ed had let go of the hook when the body fell. The four men looked at the body, no one saying anything. Ed bent down and retrieved his tool, cleaning the blood off on Slaunwhite’s coat.
Finally, one of the men in the truck broke the silence, his voice a little shaky. “Give us a hand ta git da body inta the truck. We’ll dump it somewhere.”
Ed and George dragged the big man’s body across the concrete floor and rolled it into the back of the truck.
One of the two men inside reached up and grabbed the canvas from the roof of the truck. “You guys git outta here, We got dis.” He slapped the side of the box then pulled the canvas down.
Kline and Jencks watched as the truck pulled away before returning to where everyone was working, each pushing a handcart loaded from the stack of crates just inside the open door. The tallyman signalled them to stop while he checked off the items on his manifest then flagged them on to where the stevedores were loading cargo nets on the apron between the shed and the ship.
Later, at the end of their shift, they headed into the city, walking quietly without much talking. They eventually ended up at Ed’s place, a single room flop on the bottom end of Inglis Street. Inside the room, George sat on one of two wooden chairs at the small table while Ed retrieved two quart bottles of beer.
“Hey, Ed. Where do ya reckon they’ll dump his body?” George asked.
“Don’t know George, an’ don’t care,” Ed replied, bringing the bottles over, passing one across to his mate.
“Jesus, what if it comes back at us?” George took a pull on his beer, a worried frown creasing his forehead.
“Don’t worry ‘bout it. Ain’t no way they kin put it on us.”
“Yeah but...?” George said.
“Look, I said ta fergit it, okay? What’s done is done. Nobody saw us, so we got nothin’ to worry about. We jus’ gotta stick to da same story if anybody asks any questions.”
“An’ what’s dat?” George asked.
“We ain’t seen him since comin’ on shift. Now drink yer beer then clear out. I’m beat.”