[previous chapter] [start from the beginning] Marc hadn’t forgotten his unease with the old suicide story, but it had been weeks now and since Nathalie was getting past the immediate shock of her parents’ death he saw very little point in trying to share his concerns over their demise. He never considered the possibility that they might have been murdered, obviously. He couldn’t think of anyone who’d hated them that much. Nathalie’s brother Jeff had always had a rocky relationship with his parents, that was true, but he seemed to manage it mostly by staying away from them and leaving Nathalie to do all the emotional heavy-lifting.
Boy, was he wrong about that…
“Hey, Marc, thought you might find this interesting,” his work partner, Luc, said as he flung a copy of the Journal de Montréal in his face. Marc had been last-minute this morning due to an argument with his younger daughter over a birthday party, and he hadn’t had a chance to look at the papers yet.
The story was splashed across the front page of the tabloid paper, in 72-point all-caps red boldness: SUICIDE NURSE? and underneath, in comparatively modest 40-point white: COPS ARREST MAN SUSPECTED OF KILLING SENIORS IN LAVAL NURSING HOMES.
My first, but not my last, front-page appearance.
Nathalie hadn’t seen the news story but her brother Jean-François had. And now he was sweating profusely. What would he do? The story said the arrest had come after they had linked three deaths to me, but the police rather suspected there were more cases of involuntary deaths, or fake suicides, among the area’s seniors.
“Damn it!” he exploded. “They said it was safe!”
It wasn’t a conversation Marc really wanted to have, but if he was going to have it, it should be in person, not over the phone. He showed the newspaper to his supervisor and told him he needed to go talk to his partner before she saw it or heard about it from someone else because she might think her parents had been among the victims. This didn’t technically entitle him to paid time off, but his supervisor was a decent fellow and understood the urgency. “Go, take the time you need. Just let me know, when you can, how long you’ll be off.”
He rehearsed his opening line in the car on the way home again. Fortunately for him Nathalie wasn’t at work this morning. She was home doing the laundry when he phoned her. “Hey, honey,” he told Nathalie when she picked up, “we need to talk about your parents. I hope you have time now. I’m on my way.”
“Really? Now you’re worrying me. What is it, Marc?”
“I’ll be home in 10 minutes, I’ll tell you then. Could I ask you to prepare two mugs of coffee please?”
He didn’t need the coffee, and he didn’t need to ask her to do things for him – he was perfectly capable of looking after his basic needs by himself. Divorce does that. But he needed Nathalie to be focusing on something mundane instead of letting her mind run around in all kinds of directions.
He shouldn’t have bothered. By the time he reached their front door she was ready to burst.
“OK, come in, sit down, spit it out. I can’t stand this.”
He hugged her close to him for a minute, trying to soothe her nerves. “I love you, baby peanut. So much…”
They sat down with their mugs of coffee without so much as taking a sip.
“Remember I was asking you lately if there was a chance they might have been suicidal and you said not really?”
“Yes, I remember.”
“The cops have arrested someone suspected of killing people in nursing homes in Laval and making it look like natural deaths. I worry about what happened to your parents; it all happened so quickly, and so out of the blue. Plus they weren’t suicidal, as you said yourself. I worry something bad might have happened to them, and I’d like to talk to the cops about their case.
“But why?” She couldn’t quite believe what she was hearing. This was nuts!
“Listen. There are concerns this guy who got arrested might also have killed seniors who didn’t quite mean to commit suicide, or at least, that’s what the news story suggests. Look, Nathalie, I know this hurts, but if someone did violence to your parents I want them found and punished.”
“But who? Why?”
“I don’t know. And it may be that your parents are not at all connected to any violence, but if that’s the case then talking about them to the cops won’t hurt any, right? I can do the talking and leave you mostly out of it if you like, but if they think your parents might have been victims of this guy they’ll probably want to talk to you and your brother.”
“Hi, I’m Rose Lieberman, nice meeting you,” she shook hands with Marc as they sat down in the coffee shop around the corner from her office.
“Thanks for taking the time. My wife thinks I’m half crazy for wanting to talk to you, but I think it’s best to share my suspicions so you can check it out. If I’m wrong and nothing bad happened to her parents – other than dying suddenly one after the other, I mean – then there’s not much harm done, right?”
Rosie smiled. “No, indeed.” She’d never before taken a complaint from another cop and she sure liked it, for it was short, to the point, and thorough. Marc had written a complete outline of his case, with all the pertinent details colour-coded and neatly laid out on the page. If everyone prepared this way before taking their cases to the police, she thought to herself, most of them would be solved in a matter of days and there would be very little crime and criminals for the cops to chase.
She looked at the sheet of paper for a few minutes, then looked at Marc. “Thank you. I appreciate the work you put into this, it’s extremely helpful. I will see if our suspect paid a visit to your in-laws’ residence at or near the time of their death, this would be a good clue. Unfortunately not all the residences kept close tabs on his visits, and he would often sign the register with a fake name when the receptionist wasn’t looking, which is surprisingly often in that business, so that’s one problem I’ve had in compiling the case against him. I’m thinking I’ll have to expand my search to a lot of relatives; we think there might be cases where the desire for our suspect’s services did not come from the victims themselves but rather from someone in their family who was eager to, well, not have the older generation around anymore.”
Marc’s eyebrows perked up considerably when he heard that. He’d been wondering about the same thing himself since he’d first read that news story. “Yeah, I know what you’re saying. My partner was quite surprised by what happened to her parents; she doesn’t think they were suicidal but she also can’t see who’d have wanted to have them killed, but I’ll bet there are cases…”
Rosie nodded. “And as I’m sure you realize, if we’re dealing with cases where it’s more than assisted suicide our suspect provided, we have, potentially, a very different kind of crime on our hands. I don’t know how far the court system will let us go in prosecuting assisted suicides, but if we find evidence of a conspiracy to murder seniors while making it look like so many natural deaths or suicides, well, now that’s different.”
“Yes, I see that. Anything I can do to help?”
“Not at the moment, no, you’ve already been helpful. I will of course want to talk to your partner and her siblings – or sibling?” she looked down at the document Marc had given her, “right, sibling, just one brother, along with spouses and other friends and relatives, but not today.”
Marc took this as his cue. “I understand. We will be available to you when needed, you have my card with my contact information. Thanks very much again.”