[previous chapter] [start from the beginning] Rosie was still trying to get a handle on Abdul’s other associates, the small fry who sold drugs for him. She was making careful notes about them, collecting pictures when she could snap some, building herself a little database detailing Abdul’s empire. It wasn’t much of one, and she couldn’t quite figure out why her organized crime colleagues might be interested in him. Her best guess was that they knew he wasn’t a significant part of the gang’s operations but needed to have that confirmed through surveillance. And since they were always short-staffed, they went around asking other departments to do their legwork for them.

Besides, everyone hated surveillance and you could see why. It’s boring as hell, sitting for hours on end, unable to go to the bathroom when you feel like it or to get a decent cup of coffee or read or do anything that demands your attention. The higher up the food chain you were, the more likely you were to pass this chore down to people who couldn’t refuse it.

This annoyed Rosie a fair bit. She hadn’t joined the force to be anybody’s errand girl. She was smart, educated, and devoted to justice. She was determined to make it to the homicide department and solve big crimes. But that took time, and a lot of grit. The older guys in homicide didn’t really like young women walking all over their turf.

“It’s so frustrating, Mom,” she’d complained during a visit one Sunday evening. “I’m stuck following this crook around, trying to piece together his organization, and it feels like I’m just spinning my wheels.”

Ruth Lieberman was a meticulously well-dressed woman in her early 60s who never appeared in public without her hair, makeup and nails done. She was a very annoying woman.

“Well, love, I’m sure you’re going to do a fantastic job no matter how tedious you find the assignment. Now I’m no police expert, of course, but one thing I’ve learned from Sherlock Holmes is that it’s usually the small, insignificant things that solve the crimes.”

Rosie couldn’t help herself. She burst out laughing. “Mom! Life isn’t a Sherlock Holmes story!”

Her mother smiled. “No, it’s not. But you never know! It could be that what you’re doing now will help uncover a terrible crime!” Ruth had always been an optimist. Also a dreamer, and she sure dreamed big things for her only daughter. Rosie didn’t mind so much anymore. Amazing how her mother had improved in the last 15 years…

“You know what, Mom? That’d be awesome. But as likely as not I’ll just keep spinning my wheels for a few months and nothing will come of this particular job.” She sighed. “It’s OK. I’m taking one for the team and sometimes you just have to swallow hard and do what you have to do. I just wish I could do more, you know, important work.”

“Yes my dear. But what’s the harm in doing your best anyway? Here. Tell me about this new couple of yours. Why did they get your attention?”

Rosie almost had to staple her eyeballs into place to prevent them from rolling all the way to the back of her head.


“What? What harm can it do? Come on, tell me. What is different about this couple?”

Rosie knew her mom wouldn’t let go until she’d given the game a good whirl so she resigned herself. “Well, for one thing, they’re white.”

“Rosie! I did NOT raise you like that! What does it matter what race they are?”

“What? I’m no racist, you know that. But you asked me what was different about this couple and I can tell you, as a cop who’s been following and uncovering and stopping crooks for some time now, that most of the ones that get caught are non-whites.”

“Are there no white criminals?”

“Of course there are. But they tend to commit different sorts of crimes. Crimes of passion, domestic abuse, white-collar crimes, fraud, that sort of thing. Drug dealing, prostitution, small-potatoes stuff like crimes against property, muggings, those are primarily non-white criminals in our area. Take this guy I’m investigating. Abdul. He’s half Algerian and half Quebecer. His father left when he was just a little kid. Went back to Algeria, I gather to be with his wife. His “real” wife, I mean. Appears the Quebec woman he had Abdul with was good enough to sleep with while he was here studying, but not good enough to marry because she’s not Muslim. These men need a younger woman to marry, and one who’s known to be a virgin. Abdul’s mother was a typical liberated Quebec woman. He liked her enough but never took their affair seriously. And when the child came along, well, he considered that to be the mother’s problem and he just took off one day, never to be heard from again.”

“How horrible for the poor child!” Ruth was a sentimental woman where children were concerned. “Did you track him down?”

“As a matter of fact, yes, I did. He’s living a quiet life in Algeria, in a town called Sétif, with his wife and seven children. He manages an internet cafe. He has a clean file, the local police have nothing to say about him whatsoever, and his social network profiles are about as inoffensive as yours.” Ruth jumped a little in her seat. “Well, maybe not quite like yours, but you know. There’s nothing there that suggests anything. I don’t think Abdul got his crooked gene from his father. In truth, I don’t think he inherited his desire to be a crook. I think growing up without a father, feeling rejected by his father, is what set him off on this life.”

Ruth was reclining in her chair, closing her eyes, her fingertips together, imagining herself as Sherlock Holmes listening to Dr. Watson describing a suspect. “I see. Yes. You’re probably right. What else can you say about this Abdul?”

“Shouldn’t you call me Dr. Watson or something?”

“Rosie, don’t be silly! I’m trying to help, here.”

“Alright. What else. He’s young, mid-20s. His mother went back home to Rimouski. She took a job with the regional government and lives quietly near her parents and extended family, doing not much that’s worth reporting. She got a speeding ticket two years ago and that’s about the extent of her involvement with the police.”

Ruth kept her eyes closed for a moment, thinking. “OK, I think I’ve got the mother figured out. Good! Let’s make some tea, then you tell me more about the others.”

[next chapter]