[previous chapter] [start from the beginning] “Hey, Rose!”

The woman he was talking to was Rose Lieberman, a perky 29-year-old cop who is, not to put too fine a point on it, the clever and lucky bitch who would unravel what passes for my life. The man who called her was her boss, Capitaine Raymond Bouthilier, of the mighty Laval constabulary.

“You bellowed, sir?”

“Yeah. I need you to do a search for me on the recent break and enters in Laval-des-Rapides. We got a tip suggesting one of the mid-level gang suspects Organized Crime is investigating might be running some kind of a recruiting thing in that area, identifying kids who might have a talent for slipping in and out of places without getting caught and a distaste for law, order and good government.”

The young constable could not hide her surprise. “Yes, sir, but wouldn’t it be a better idea if they had their own people run this search? Aren’t they more familiar with the details of the investigation?”

Bouthilier lifted his head and looked at her over his reading glasses. “Is there a problem, Lieberman?”

Rose never knew when to lie. That was one more infuriating thing about her. “Well, not actually a problem, sir, but rather a concern that I may not be equipped to do this job the way it deserves to be. I also have a few open vandalism cases I’m investigating.” Something about his face made her switch gears in a hurry. “But if you really need me to do that search for them, sir, I’ll do it of course.”

Bouthilier was tempted to glower and send her on her way trembling, but he was a better cop than that. Unfortunately for me. He knew very well that Rose wasn’t lazy; on the contrary she was about as keen as they come. She was so keen, in fact, as to be a touch annoying sometimes and not just to those of us she caught. She so desperately wanted to make it to the Major Crimes unit, there wasn’t a cop in the entire force who didn’t know about it. She wanted to catch rapists and murderers, that was clear. She’d been told she had to prove herself in the division looking after minor crimes and misdemeanors before being considered for the big leagues, and she’d jumped into that field with both feet. There was no need to make this constable tremble, her boss reckoned. She’d come to the police force self-motivated. Which the old-fashioned capitaine considered a rare and beautiful thing, especially nowadays when kids got out of school expecting the world on a platter.

He smiled. “Thanks. I know you’re busy but there’s a reason we want you to run that search, and it’s precisely that you’re not already buried in the details of the organized crime gangs they’re investigating. You will be able to look at the evidence with fresh eyes and maybe be able to see something the other guys can’t. Besides – and you keep that one to yourself – I hear they’re getting ready for a major raid with the SQ and the admin personnel is swamped.”

Rose beamed inside, and I of course panicked. If only I could tell Abdul so he could warn his fri-- well, they weren’t his friends, really, but his associates. Raids with the SQ, the Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police force, always made the news, and for good reasons. They were spectacular, and they helped put some of the big criminal fish behind bars. But what was more important to Rose was that those raids disrupted the gangs’ operations, and she very much enjoyed the thought that for a while at least there was a possibility some of their victims might be rescued.

Organized crime had moved a long way from dealing drugs and selling illegal guns to whoever had five grand and no questions. Now they worked with some rotten elements from the native bands whose reserves straddled the border with the United States to smuggle people caught in the sex trade. And not just 20-somethings from the Ukraine either. The victims were increasingly younger… One thing I liked about Abdul is he didn’t touch that. He was a crook alright, but an honest one, if you catch my drift.

“Yes, sir,” Rose enthused. “Thank you for your confidence in me. I will make you proud.”

Capitaine Bouthilier mumbled a thank you and gave himself a mental high five for being such a terrific leader.

****

Amanda had died on Thursday and it was now Sunday. Her body had been transferred to the funeral home and prepared for cremation. The recently departed had never liked funerals, and detested visitation. So ghoulish, to come look at a corpse in a casket and say things like, “Wow, they did a good job, she looks like she’s peacefully sleeping…” She’d always been very clear about her wishes: No visitation, no big service, and don’t let my body get eaten by bugs. Burn it, put the ashes in a pretty urn and set it down somewhere nice.

Marcel was uneasy about this, and always had been, not that he’d dared defy his wife while she was alive. But now he faced a real ethical dilemma; did he follow her directions against his better judgment, or did he take over the decision-making now that she was dead? He didn’t know what to do. He assumed friends and family would want to come to some kind of visitation and say goodbye. He tried to get Nathalie to change her mother’s will post-mortem, especially as the ladies from the residence were asking when they could visit. As in, visit the corpse. No doubt to comment on how alive the makeup made her look, and to make notes on which kind of hairstyle worked best in death.

What a pickle the poor man was in, and how fortunate for him that his problems were more or less over.

****

Like his wife, Marcel Toussignant was found dead by the morning staff at Résidence des Érables, on the Tuesday before Amanda’s funeral. And like his wife, his demise was not entirely attributable to natural causes, not that there was anything in his circumstances that made anybody particularly suspicious. Did I mention I’m good at what I do?

Marcel had diabetes, he hadn’t been eating or sleeping much in almost a week, and since there were no signs of struggle or violence nor any reason to suspect foul play, people just assumed the old man had died of a broken heart. It happened a fair bit, at that age. His life was his wife, the ladies at the residence said. No wonder he went when she did. Couldn’t go on without her.

It made them shed a tear or two, even. Although when they thought about it more, they weren’t sure if they found the situation romantic or pathetic. Every woman wants a man who can’t live without her, but do they really mean it quite this literally? The ladies shook their heads at the tragedy of it all, and dabbed their eyes some more, but their sadness was tempered somewhat by the fact that Marcel had presumably died without undue pain. At least, there was that.

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