The Menace

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After years of working under someone else, Eddie Henderson has been promoted. She is now in charge of the RCMP detachment in Gibsons, British Columbia--a force of fifteen officers and two civilians. While she is busy sizing up her staff, a woman reports a theft and then another reports a break-in. At first Eddie considers both complaints insignificant, even trivial. But as she and her new second-in-command begin to investigate, they are led into a dangerous confrontation with a stalker, obsessed with a woman who ...
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Overview

After years of working under someone else, Eddie Henderson has been promoted. She is now in charge of the RCMP detachment in Gibsons, British Columbia--a force of fifteen officers and two civilians. While she is busy sizing up her staff, a woman reports a theft and then another reports a break-in. At first Eddie considers both complaints insignificant, even trivial. But as she and her new second-in-command begin to investigate, they are led into a dangerous confrontation with a stalker, obsessed with a woman who lives alone. His rage is rapidly escalating and he seems set to kill. Battling against the clock to find her man, Eddie can't shake the feeling that he may be closer than anyone suspects.

An intricately crafted story with a diverse cast of vividly portrayed characters, Menace is a gripping novel from one of Canada's most celebrated mystery writers.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385257510
  • Publisher: Doubleday Canada Limited
  • Publication date: 8/28/2001
  • Pages: 304

Read an Excerpt

Prologue

It had been a cold, wet spring and then all of a sudden, the sun came out and all hell broke loose. Soon the whole community was in a state of panic -- half the population were scared for their lives, the other half scared of becoming suspects.

The cops talked to him, of course, along with everybody else. And there was this one cop in particular, an arrogant young bastard who strutted around like he owned the place while the pages of his notebook fluttered in the breeze -- he was the boss, and, oh, did he love ordering his flunkeys around.

He couldn't help but admire this cop. And so he started following the guy.

He was fascinated. Enthralled and excited by this astonishing situation, by the transformation of ordinary life into a goddamn movie, and by the fact that he had a role to play, however small, just because he was there. The world seemed folded in on itself. Even though the horizon was as broad as ever, it felt to him like nothing existed except this small, green patch on the planet.

And so he trailed after the cop -- at a distance, but watching his every move, checking out who he talked to, trying to imagine what he might be scribbling in his notebook. And finally, the cop began to notice him. He'd glance at him, casually at first, then irritably, and he'd frown and shake his head. And one morning, the cop saw him and whirled around fast, his arm outstretched, his hand made into a gun that was aimed right at him.

He pointed with his thumb at his chest: "Who, me?" And the cop nodded, looking grim. So he went up to him, feeling sheepish, but defiant, too.

"Explain yourself," the cop said.

And so he did. He bought the guy a coffee and explainedhimself.

At first, the cop was skeptical, but then he looked amused. He sort of shrugged, blew a big mouthful of air at him, and said, "Okay. But stay out of the way."

And later that day . . .

. . . hurrying across a wide sweep of lawn, feeling puffed up and cocky, he turned a corner really fast and almost collided with a long-haired girl carrying an armful of books -- who screamed out loud at the sight of him.

"Shhh," he said.

And she stopped screaming. But she shrank even farther away from him. Her eyes had become so huge he could see the whites all the way around the irises, and she gave off a powerful scent of fear that was stronger than the smell of the lilac trees that grew all around them.

The place was crowded with people, as usual. But for just a couple of moments, in the tree-green alcove between grey stone buildings, they were alone.

And when he thought of it later, he saw them in explicit attitudes. He loomed tall and broad above her, his strong right arm raised threateningly; she was crouched, small and cowering, her head averted and her hands raised, and the spring breeze caught the skirt of her pink dress and pulled it above her knees, and her bright, fair hair spilled around her shoulders.

This wasn't the way it had looked in real life. He was quite sure of that. But the memory-picture was vivid and unambiguous. And it carried with it the thrill he'd felt. Like electricity. The shocking buzz that her helplessness had delivered.

ONE

"You're there," he typed. "Good."

"Yeah. Can't sleep, Harry. You know how it is sometimes."

"Yeah. Tough. But I like it when we catch each other in real time. I wanted to tell you -- I saw a ghost today," he tapped, the computer keys softly clicking. The window was open, and the front door, too. It was a hot night, the Saturday of the Labour Day weekend, and he was sprawled on the sofa wearing only his underwear. "My mom. Good old Mom." He didn't know why he called himself Harry in the chat room. Unless maybe he thought of himself as a prince.

"Ouch," said Jemima. And he pitched her silent reply to reflect compassion.

"Just for a minute, yeah, I really thought it was her."

It would have spoiled his day -- except for the miracle that followed.

"Made me shiver," he typed, "made me shudder, made my fucking skin crawl."

He lifted the laptop from his thighs, which were sticky with sweat, and pushed a section of the day's newspaper under it. He heard the waves washing up on the sand only fifty yards away. From the pub down the beach, laughter splashed onto the breeze and drifted into his small house.

"What a bummer."

"I was feeling good, too. Real good. Spiked," he typed, "and ready to rock and roll."


He moved smoothly down the street with his fingers slid flat into the back pockets of his jeans, feeling lithe and lean and strong and sexy, like the car he drove, like the silvery Lexus LS 400 he'd got, used, only 50,000 K on it, for 35,000 bucks earlier in the summer. He was in big debt now, but it was worth it. He was gonna drive the Lexus all the way down the coast to California someday, maybe next spring.

He was heading for the grocery store, with the Lexus slogan for some reason echoing in his head like a mantra, calming him even as it inspired: "The relentless pursuit of perfection."

He held the glass door open for an elderly man and followed him into the store.

He was a cavalier consumer, shopping without a list, relying upon his excellent memory. As he prowled through the grocery store, he was as relaxed as he ever got. He enjoyed stocking his kitchen -- he always thought of groceries as provisions, as if he were planning a back-country hike. Sometimes he bought things on impulse, but not often. His tastes were commonplace; he liked basic things, like red meat and potatoes -- and canned spaghetti, he thought, tossing three tins into his buggy. In restaurants, though, he made a point of ordering dishes that to him were extraordinary, because he didn't like the idea of living entirely in a rut.

Jesus. It was true. He lived in a goddamn rut. His job. His meals. His clothes. A goddamn rut. Except for the Lexus.

He rounded the end of an aisle too quickly and almost collided with a buggy pushed by an attractive young woman wearing shorts and a halter top.

"Whoops. Sorry," he said, smiling.

She didn't respond: she was too busy trying to deal with an irritated toddler sitting in the baby seat. She took a soother from the shoulder bag that was slung across her chest and thrust it into the child's mouth, but the child spat it onto the floor and continued to bounce fretfully up and down, her face screwed up. She was crying and screaming, "Home! Home! I wanna go home now!"

No wonder people smack their kids, he thought grimly. He was tempted to haul the child from the buggy and give her a smart slap on her little butt. Instead he wheeled quickly away, down the cereal aisle and around another corner into canned vegetables.

He manoeuvered past two middle-aged women who had stopped to chat and past a young guy carrying one of the small red baskets provided by the store for shoppers with not much to buy. He noticed as he passed that this guy was studying the various brands of canned corn with an absorption usually accorded more urgent matters.

Ahead of him now was a couple in their twenties. The young man was pushing the buggy and his girlfriend was leaning into him, her head on his shoulder. His head was tipped sideways, toward her, and their closeness spoke to the man who was following them of an intimacy so profound that he experienced a spasm of envy. He stayed close behind them, feigning an interest in beans and asparagus and artichoke hearts, imagining their murmured conversation, eventually convincing himself that he could hear whispered endearments, seductive allusions to what they had done last night and what they would do tonight.

He followed them until they took their places in a cashier's lineup.

He left them there, reluctantly.

He glanced into his buggy. By now he had coffee in there, and a loaf of bread, and the spaghetti, half a dozen bagels, some cream cheese, a litre of milk, three apples, several tomatoes, a couple of baking potatoes, a box of cereal.

He headed for the meat department, and tossed into the buggy packages of ground beef, pork chops, and chicken legs, looked again, and added a T-bone steak. Music played from somewhere, unobtrusively. It wasn't real music. It was a long, drawn-out drone; it was instrumental wheel-spinning. If it had been any louder, it would've been irritating.

As he spun his buggy over the red tiles of the meat department he noticed a woman in her sixties with curly grey hair who was wearing orange cotton pants and a white sleeveless top. Her handbag sat in the top part of her buggy, and it was this that first got his attention. These damn women -- she had her back to it, for godsake, while she was bent over, peering into the refrigerated case in which were displayed various cuts of meat. She picked up a package of chicken breasts and brought it close to her face to read the label -- she probably had a pair of glasses in that purse, he thought. She was probably too vain to wear the damn things. He watched, increasingly exasperated, while she picked up, studied, and hesitatingly replaced a large number of items. Eventually she sensed his attention, and turned.

Jesus, he thought, shaken. No wonder she irritated him so much. She looked just like his goddamn mother.

He gestured to her buggy. "You shouldn't leave your purse unattended," he said brusquely.

The woman's face flushed. She glanced at the buggy and pulled it closer to her. "Yes," she said. "Thank you."

He nodded, and moved off quickly. He was chagrined to realize that she could still get to him, even though she was long dead. It had been something in that woman's bearing as she leaned over the meat counter, a phony diffidence that set his teeth grinding. Plus she was the general size and shape his mother would have been if she had lived to sixty-two, appropriated the shape of a senior citizen, and not bothered to dye her honey-coloured hair when it got to be mostly grey.

But what really did it for him was her eyes. Wide-apart brown eyes. A steady gaze that had but two expressions he could remember: boredom and anger. And then there was that one time she'd laughed with joy, and all because of him.

But that had happened only the once.

He had never seen this old woman before. He hoped never to see her again, although that would be difficult in a town as small as Gibsons. He wondered if she had just recently moved here. He wondered if he would have to do his shopping somewhere else from now on.

Unloading the buggy, he couldn't think about anything else. He felt her presence behind him, somewhere in the store, and it was as if his real mother was there, searching for him.

As a child he'd trusted her, oh yeah. It killed him to think how many fucking years she'd taken him in -- taken them both in -- with her lying double-talk. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, as horrible as a discredited mother.

He was unloading his groceries so rapidly that the cashier couldn't keep up with him.

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