Read an Excerpt
Every Mountie has a reason why he or she became a cop.
Rachel Kidd's reason was the Ku Klux Klan.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Rachel was a fetus in her mother's womb that horrible night in 1957 when her father was abducted by four racists in ghostlike sheets and pointed hoods. They drove him to a deserted waste and lit a burning cross. The Klansmen castrated her dad with a razor blade, then passed his severed testicles around in a paper cup so each could raise half his hood ashed gray by the burning cross to spit on the emasculated black's manhood. They staked him to the ground to pour kerosene on his wound, and left her dad screaming at the foot of the cross.
The cops who investigated were Klansmen, too.
Soon as her dad could travel, the Kidds moved to Seattle.
Rachel's mom was from a nine-kid family. To have a similar brood was her maternal instinct. Within a year she left her eunuch husband for a Boeing technician who played baritone sax. Rachel spent every Sunday with her deserted dad.
In July 1970, father and daughter picnicked at Peace Arch Park on the weekend after both Independence and Dominion days. Marking the border between the States and Canada was a towering white arch etched CHILDREN OF A COMMON MOTHER flying both flags. North and South were on parade for a joint celebration with all the hoopla, color, and folderol each nation could muster. The honor guard on her side was blue, and looked like those shown on the evening news about My Lai, Kent State, and the gassing and clubbing of blacks demanding civil rights. The mounted guard on their side was red, dressed in the snazziest uniform Kidd had ever seen: brown felt flat-brim Stetson hat, high-neck scarlet tunic with a white lanyard and cross-chest Sam Browne belt blue breeches with a yellow stripe, brown riding gaunt lets and boots with spurs, gleaming buttons, badges, and insignia with all the glamour and dash of the high noon of Empire and dominance of the British over "lesser breeds without the Law."
"What's over there?" Rachel asked, pointing across the border.
"That," said her father, disgust in his voice, "is where those against establishing the American Colony of Vietnam are going. That was the end of the Underground Railway for fugitive slaves."
Rachel was twelve and searching for something true to believe in.
Dazzled by the Redcoats, she thought, I'll become one of them.
The grass is always greener . . .
The first problem she encountered was females were barred from the Force. But by the time she came of age that had changed. The next problem she encountered was recruiting standards favored a college degree. So Kidd applied to Simon Fraser University and enrolled in the School of Criminology. The last problem she encountered was citizenship: to keep Yankee traitors out only Canadians may recruit. The Force has its roots in the British Colonial Army.
Attending SFU on the outskirts of Vancouver, Kidd shared a basement suite with two undergrads, a Jamaican woman majoring in English, and a Caucasian gay studying Biology. A Canadian Caucasian gay.
"Tony," she said, one day while they were cooking spaghetti. "Ever thought of marriage?"
Tony blinked. "No," he replied.
"I've been thinking of a marriage of convenience, so I can join the Mounted Police. Know any countrymen whose marriage prospects wouldn't be ruined by marrying me?"
"Uh-oh," Tony said.
The marriage was a sham to get her citizenship, so it was ironic the marriage became a moral union in fact when Tony contracted a virus on an Amazon trek, disease turning him into a living skeleton as doctors scratched their heads and friends shunned the plague, only Rachel -- "in sickness and health" -- to see him to the end. A month after she scattered Tony's ashes on his favorite mountain, the Force�on a "visible minority" recruitment drive -- selected her for the next troop into Depot Division.
Kidd was in the Mounted.
"So what's the occasion?" her father asked, dining with Rachel last night at the Oyster Bar on Chuckanut Drive in Washington State, halfway between Seattle and Vancouver.
"You're shucking oysters with Corporal Kidd of the Mounted Police."
"Sounds like you're in the army, not a cop."
"Dad, I'm the first black to get this rank."
"But are you happy?"
"It was rough when I first joined, but the Force is changing fast. The white prairie boy recruit days are history. Women made it into the commissioned ranks last year."
"Inspector and above."
"Ranks between you and them?"
"Sergeant and Staff Sergeant."
"Sounds more like the army every second." A wry smile curled his lips. "All that effort whuppin' Redcoat butts so my only child could join and climb their ranks."
Corporal Rachel Kidd's first shift on duty in her new rank began at seven P.M. With Coquitlam Detachment hosting tonight's dinner at Minnekhada Lodge, only a skeleton crew manned the office on Christmas Way. Every available Member called out to the killings of Bert and Ernie on Colony Farm Road, Kidd arrived at work to find GIS deserted.
The sign on the door read 247 GENERAL INVEST. SECTION. A box with items from her desk in Burglary Detail under one arm, Kidd paused in the corridor outside to savor the moment, then walked into the short entrance hall of the bull pen. To punks, the cops in GIS were "the bulls," and for a moment she wondered if that made her a "cow"? The bull pen's shape was a lopsided T: the entrance hall the stem, the stubby arm to the left the glassed-in office of Staff Sergeant Tipple, the man in charge of all Plainclothes Members. The main room occupied the fat arm of the T angling right, with desks and chairs for nine GIS bulls. Rachel approached her new post beside the staff's overlooking window, and dropped the box on the desk to stake her claim.
As Kidd sat filling the drawers with personal odds and ends, along the corridor outside in the Operations Communications Center, a call came in.
"Coquitlam RCMP, GRC," the switchboard answered.
"Something is wrong at my neighbor's," the caller said.
The line was transferred to a complaint taker at the next post.
"Name?" the c.t. asked.
A number on Mary Hill Road.
"I'm the local Block Watch rep. My neighbor's home and won't answer the phone. Her house backs on Colony Farm. With this nut on the loose, I'm afraid to check."
"Neighbor's name and address?"
The caller gave both.
The c.t. passed the complaint to the dispatcher at the next post, and the dispatcher sent a patrol car to Mary
Alone in GIS, Kidd surveyed her new digs. Her back toward the staff's window, she faced the far end of the right T-arm. Two paired partners' desks lined each side with a ninth desk in the entrance hall. Above the bulletin board beside the face-to-face corporals' posts, a round clock ticked time over her head.
Tick tock . . . Tick tock . . .
Traitor, she thought.
Of all Canadian institutions, the Mounted is most sacred. With lineups from East to West jostling to get in, Canadians want it reserved for true Canadians, not a Southern buttinsky like her. The undercurrent traitor would always flow from them. Hard to know which was the biggest albatross: being a woman, being black, or being American. Dad, on the other hand, thought her a traitor, too. American whites had taken his balls, but love-it-or-leave-it remained, and she had left it for a foreign frontier. Dad was flummoxed by her belief a politician should never be head of state, because every politician ends up spattered with shit. The Queen had seen Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton through, and still had her good name. Charles had dropped the Ming vase. Charles had fumbled the ball. So hopefully Charles would stand aside for his unsullied son. But meanwhile, there was the constant Queen, and the unbending ethic of her Mounted Police: Do anything to damage the honor of this Force, and we won't close ranks around you, we'll throw you to the wolves. Sorry, Dad, but if my frontier makes me a traitor to both countries, then a double traitor I will be.
Now all she needed was a good murder case.
It had a nice ring.
At 7:25 P.M., in the OCC along the corridor, the dispatcher got a call from the patrol car. He conveyed the report to the radio room constable, who briefed the watch commander, then called GIS.
A phone in the bull pen rang.
Rachel picked it up.
"Consta . . . Corporal Kidd," she said. "GIS."
* * * * * * *
Coquitlam is the Indian word for "smelling of fish slime." Tourist brochures say it means "river of little red fish." When Hanging Judge Begbie arrived in 1858 to found the Mainland Colony of B.C., he was followed by Colonel Moody and 400 Royal Engineers charged with selecting a site for construction of the Imperial capital. Vying with New Westminster for the Royal City location was a hill farther upstream where the muddy Fraser joined the Coquitlam River. Moody chose "the first high ground on the north" bank instead of the second, then as a consolation named the rejected heights after his wife. Thus Mary's (later Mary) Hill.
West of the Coquitlam River is the City of Coquitlam. East of the Coquitlam River is the City of Port Coquitlam. The flatlands on both banks are Colony Farm. Colony Farm climbs the slope to Mary Hill Road, the upper side of which was recently denuded of trees when it was ravished by gang housing known as Citadel Heights. Hugging the Colony Farm curb was an old peaked pioneer home, in front of which Rachel Kidd parked by two patrol cars with red-and- blue wigwags flashing.
A female constable left the porch to brief Kidd by the driver's door.
"The house is locked, Corporal. Front and back. No sign of forced entry we can find."
"Did you break in?"
"No. Looked in the kitchen window. You can see the body on the floor by the sink. Her skull's crushed. No way she isn't dead."
"Possible the killer's still inside?"
"Maybe. The porch angles around three sides of the house. I've been at this corner watching two walls. Constable Stekl's kitty-corner, eyeing the other two. No sounds from within."
"Ident's coming," Kidd said. "Stay where you were and let's keep it sealed. Who responded first? You or Stekl?"
"Stekl," the patrol cop replied.
From Mary Hill Road to the front porch was perhaps fifty feet. The green-and-white house was single-story with an attic peak, built on a stone foundation with no cellar. The windows flanking the front door were dark, but light glowed from the kitchen at back. The porch rounded the left side of the house, where the constable stopped while Kidd pressed on. Her view ahead was down the hill across the Coquitlam River bisecting Colony Farm, the Lougheed Highway off to the right by Riverview Hospital, FPI off to the left by the junction of the rivers, and connecting them Colony Farm Road lined with flashing police cars like those parked here. Between this house and the crime scene where Bert and Ernie were murdered stretched a mile of misty murky muddy marsh.
"Don't shoot," Kidd said, rounding the rear, where another constable stood by the far shadowed corner. "No sign of anyone inside?"
"Nothing," said Stekl.
The back door was solid wood, cat scratched below but with no jimmy marks. The window to the right threw light onto the porch, and looked into a kitchen as cozy
as could be. A cast-iron stove squatted beside a modern range, with a basket of wood ready to feed the firebox. Against the far wall separating the kitchen from the front parlor stood a Formica table under a fading photo of a girl feeding pigs. Crumpled between this table and the sink beneath the window through which Kidd peered, the body of a woman lay blood-pooled on the floor, face twisted sideways to expose the back of her head smashed in like a soft-boiled egg.
"You first on the scene?"
"Yeah," Stekl replied.
"Anyone hanging about?"
"Not a soul."
"Who called it in?"
"Woman named Parker. Lives in the house across the road."
"Speak to her?"
"Yeah. She knows the victim well. Says Dora Craven lived here thirty-five years."
"Seventeen years. Before that, eighteen years with her son."
"Better check him out."
"I doubt he'll be a suspect," the constable said. "Dora Craven's son is Corporal Nick Craven of Special X."
Reprinted by permission. EVIL EYE by Michael Slade, Copyright © Black River Adventures, 1996. All rights reserved.