Once Upon a Time. Barbara Fradkin

Once Upon a Time - Barbara Fradkin

Скачать книгу
waving her arms all about and screaming ‘my husband, my husband’, and—” Chad broke off, sucking in cigarette smoke to ward off the panic. “Fuck, I never did like bodies.”

      “No one does,” Green muttered drily. “Were there other cars near hers? Can you describe them?”

      Chad rolled his eyes and blew smoke out his nose. “Who the fuck noticed!”

      Green leaned forward, his eyes fixed on Chad’s. “It’s important. Concentrate! Picture yourself back there in the snow, the old woman screaming—”

      Chad’s head whipped back and forth. “I can’t, man! I don’t remember nothing! I know I should have noticed stuff like that, but I just thought ‘Shit, the guy’s croaked! And maybe somebody’s going to blame me!’”

      “Nobody’s blaming you, Chad,” Green soothed. “It’s quite normal to forget everything else, but it’s there, somewhere in your mind. I want you to lean back on the couch and shut your eyes.” Green waited until the young man was ready, then dropped his voice. “Take three deep, slow breaths. Now I want you to picture yourself in the parking lot. It’s cold, the wind is blowing in your face. You’re walking through the snow, the old lady is up ahead screaming at you… Are you there?”

      Chad had closed his eyes dutifully, but his body twitched, and his breathing was erratic. It took a few moments of further coaxing to get him properly focussed on the cars nearby.

      “There’s mostly empty spaces.” Chad wet his lips. “But right next to her, there’s one—no, two cars.”

      “Good. Can you describe the car right beside hers?”

      “Medium sized. It’s dark—maybe dark blue or charcoal grey, maybe even black. Sedan, four-door type. Nice and shiny.”

      “All right, concentrate on it. Describe anything—make, licence—anything.”

      Chad tried to oblige. His eyelids fluttered as he searched the invisible scene. “It was like the shape of the Aries, only newer. Like a Lumina or one of them GM family cars, but fancy. Buick LeSabre, maybe? Tinted windows.”

      “Okay, that’s great, you can open your eyes.”

      Chad sat forward, eyes alight. “Hey, that’s something! It really works. Did you—like—hypnotize me?”

      Green smiled. “Nothing that exotic. I just helped you eliminate the distractions.” He stood up, and Chad followed him with obvious relief. “Tell me, Chad, do some of the vehicles park in the lot on a regular basis?”

      Chad looked blank for a moment, trying to translate. “You mean every day like? Oh, sure. Doctors, nurses and them. They use the lot, pay by the month.”

      “And do they have their favourite spots?”

      “Some of them.”

      It was a slim hope, but a hope nonetheless, Green thought as he headed towards the Civic Hospital. Maybe in the parking lot he would find the dark, shiny sedan which had parked next to Walker’s on the day of his death. And against which Walker must have smashed his head as he fell to the ground.

      But ten minutes later he found himself in the parking lot amid endless rows of dark, shiny new sedans. The attendant on duty walked him down to the end of the lot and showed him where the body had been found. The whole area had been so trampled that it was useless as a crime scene, and there were no cars parked in the immediate vicinity and no dark sedans within fifty feet. Nonetheless, mainly to impress the parking attendant who hovered nearby, he crouched in the snow and sifted through it with his fingers. It told him nothing.

      This is pointless, Green. The old guy hit his head on something, stunned himself and froze to death. You’ve wasted enough of the department’s time. There is no mystery here. Nada, bopkes, zip. What was it Sharon had said? Invent a murder?

      The breath of freedom is over, Inspector. Your paperwork awaits.

      * * *

      Reluctantly, Green headed back towards the office. No fresh snow had fallen since the day before, but the temperature had stayed low, and the snow showed no inclination to melt. Ottawa’s efficient salt trucks had cleared the main streets, but the sidewalks and small roads were still rutted with ice. That, and a rash of fender benders caused by hotshots who’d forgotten how to drive in the winter, had slowed traffic to a crawl. Slipping in a CD of soft rock, Green let his mind drift over the case. Something puzzled him, not so much about the manner of the old man’s death as about the reclusive old man himself. And about his widow, a gracious, elegant lady who Green suspected had put up with a good deal.

      It made a small, poignant tale of a marriage, compelling from a human interest standpoint, but, he acknowledged grudgingly as he pulled into the station parking lot, from a major crimes standpoint, it was not much to get excited about.

      Back behind his desk, he turned on his computer and obediently settled down to his report. After an eternity, his phone rang. It was Sharon. He glanced at his watch instinctively, but it was barely four o’clock. Time crawled when you were having fun.

      “I’m leaving in half an hour,” he promised.

      She chuckled. “I don’t think I can stand this new suburban you. And actually, I think you should swing by the synagogue and take your Dad home first before you come home.”

      “Dad?” His mind drew a blank.

      “It’s Thursday—his pinochle afternoon. It’s too cold and icy for him to walk home. He’s pretty frail, and I think those pinochle games are getting really depressing. Sort of like, let’s see who’s left standing this week.”

      The image of Eugene Walker’s frozen body face down in the snow was incentive enough, and Green abandoned his desk gratefully at the stroke of five. Sid Green lived in a seniors’ residence in Sandy Hill just off Rideau Street, barely a mile from the tenement where Green had grown up. For the past fifteen years, Sid had walked up Rideau first to the old Jewish Community Centre, and when that closed, to the adjacent synagogue to play pinochle with a handful of elderly immigrant Jews like himself. For fifteen years, a touch of shtetl Poland had flourished in the middle of Ottawa.

      Now, as most of them passed eighty and various parts of their bodies failed them, the number was slowly dwindling, and when Green pulled up outside the synagogue, his father’s scowl told him that today had not been a success. In a daily life of so few successes, his father had little optimism to spare.

      “I want you to take me to Bernie’s house,” Sid said as Green guided him into the car.

      Green was reaching for the seat belt and stopped abruptly. “Why?”

      “He didn’t come to the game today.”

      “Maybe it was too cold for him.”

      Sid waved an impatient hand. His white hair stood in thin tufts, and his eyes watered from the cold. He drew his coat tightly around his throat. “Bernie never missed a game.”

      Green started the car. “So call him.”

      “Marv did. There was no answer.”

      “Dad, he was probably just out visiting friends.”

      Sid snorted. “And who are we, chopped liver? We’re all he’s got. Where would he go?” He stole a glance at Green’s set profile, and his voice dropped. “Something is wrong, Mishka. Bernie is looking very bad these past weeks.”

      With resignation, Green steered the car in the direction of Bernie Mendelsohn’s apartment, which was a crumbling low-rise mainly occupied by the elderly poor. He left his father in what passed for a foyer and went in search of the building superintendent. They were just jiggling the lock of Mendelsohn’s apartment when the door cracked open, and an old man in pyjamas peered out.

      “Bernie!” Sid exclaimed. “Why didn’t you answer our call?”

      “What call?”


Скачать книгу