Once Upon a Time. Barbara Fradkin
An Inspector Green Mystery
Text © 2002 Barbara Fradkin
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Napoleon Publishing/RendezVous Press
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Printed in Canada
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National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Fradkin, Barbara Fraser, date—
Once upon a time / Barbara Fradkin
“An Inspector Green Mystery”
PS8561.R233O52 2002 C813’.6 C2002-902965-1
I am grateful for the contribution of many people in helping to bring Once Upon a Time to life. First, to my late husband Arnie, whose work as a War Crimes prosecutor provided the inspiration for this story and whose critical reading of the earliest draft helped me stay true. Secondly to the many experts who answered my questions; Renfrew historian Carol McCuaig, Sergeant Don Sweet of the Forensics Identification Unit of the Ottawa Police, Constable Brian Patterson of the Renfrew O.P.P. Detachment and Doug Davie of Davie’s Antiques in Harriston. Thirdly, to Constable Mark Cartwright of the Ottawa Police for his ongoing advice and expertise in police matters, and to Jane Ann Tun, Madona Skaff and Robin Harlick for their feedback and support. Fourthly, to my editor Allister Thompson and my publisher Sylvia McConnell for their continued belief in my work.
And most of all to my children Leslie, Dana and Jeremy, for being there when I emerged from the dark places to which I had to go.
This is a work of fiction, and although all the locales in the Ottawa and the Ottawa Valley exist, the people and events are the invention of the author and any resemblance to actual people is purely coincidental. The events concerning Occupied Europe, however, are all based on truth.
September 2nd, 1939
I hear her footsteps on the mossy riverbank See the sun-flamed red of her hair As it swoops in rhythm to her run. She tilts her head, shields her eyes. But still I hide, drunk with hope and disbelief. She has come to me, my rebel princess. Slipped the sentinel gaze of the village, huddled in its uneasy rest. Run across the cornfields behind the mill And out to meet her poet. Nothing to offer her but words spun into shimmering webs, to catch her lofty dreams. She spots me then and smiles, And I open up my arms.
After fifteen minutes of waiting, the old man pulled the sweaty tuque off his head and scowled at the snow through the window. His long plaid scarf pricked his neck, adding to his annoyance. He could see little through the pale wintery light in the room, but he could hear his wife thumping around in his bedroom upstairs. Drawers opened and closed.
What the hell was the woman doing up there! He felt a surge of alarm as he remembered the letter. How stupid of him to leave it in his desk drawer. He should have burned it as soon as he got it. When they got back home tonight, he would. Once today’s ordeal was over.
He looked around the room at the refuge he had sought to create. A modest parlour with a crumbling brick fireplace, a scratched piano and shelves haphazardly stacked with books. All he had ever wanted was this little cottage in the country, his pipe, his whiskey and an armchair by the fire. A retirement cottage, he had told his wife. Far from cruel strangers and prying eyes, from a past that still lurked in his head.
Yet in the end he had not escaped. He leaned back in the armchair and willed away the sudden tears that filled his eyes. She would see them—nothing escaped her—and she would fuss. Not overtly, for she knew better, but quietly, fluttering around the kitchen to make him tea, watching him with silent, questioning eyes. And now, because of that monstrous letter, how long before she knew?
A final thud roused him, and he looked up to see her descend the stairs, pulling a pair of thick woollen gloves over her gnarled hands. She frowned at him as she came across the room, picked up his tuque from the window ledge and pulled it firmly back down on his head.
“I’ll get the car and pick you up out front,” she said.
He heard the thump of her cane as she shuffled through the kitchen and pushed open the screen door against the thick snow on the porch. He glanced at his watch impatiently. Of all days for snow! She’ll take forever crossing the yard, so scared she’ll fall and break something again. And then she won’t be able to start the car.
He heard the shriek of the shed door, the thud of the car door, and finally the screech of the ignition. He cursed her aloud. Too heavy handed, no feel for an engine. But then he heard a hoarse, reluctant cough as the old Dodge came to life, and he hauled himself to his feet.
Outside, he squinted against the stinging snow as he watched her inch the car across the yard. She will think it’s too cold for me to stay in the car. She’ll want me to go into the clinic with her and wait in a room full of creaky old women. More complications.
He surveyed the white fields in silence as they drove down the long lane to the highway. They