But when the body of a young boy is unearthed ten years after he was reported missing, Lane's investigation into the crime puts him in conflict with a powerful and charismatic Calgary real estate developer and restaurateura cunning sociopath whose desire to suppress any threat to his empire will endanger the safety of Lane's own family.
The sixth book in Garry Ryan's award-winning and Calgary Herald bestselling series of Detective Lane mysteries pits Lane against his most dangerous antagonist yet.
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Chapter 1Monday, August 1
Lane sat on a bench, inhaled fresh Rocky Mountain air and smiled at the painting of reflected peaks on the surface of Lac Beauvert. He rubbed his right hand over his short brown hair and stretched his lean six-foot frame. A goose flapped its wings, accelerated, began to step lightly on the water and then rose into the air. He watched the bird's image and its wake ripple across the mountains reflected on the water. The evening sun made the lake's surface into sparkling diamonds and emeralds.
The food, the coffee, the mountain air. I haven't felt this relaxed in a long time, he thought. He wiggled his toes in his sandals and wiped at a speck of lint on his grey slacks.
Christine put one hand on the back of the bench, lifted her right running shoe and looked at the sole from over her shoulder. His six-foot-tall niece was wearing a white sleeveless blouse, baggy white shorts and cream-in-your-coffee skin.
Lane looked around. Every male and every other female within shouting distance were looking their way. He could read their minds.
Christine dragged her shoe over the grass. "There's goose shit everywhere! How could geese have that much crap in them?" She looked out over the water at a Canada goose being followed by five goslings and cooed, "Awww. Do you see that? Aren't they cute?" Christine pointed at the family. She handed Lane his cell phone.
He stuffed it in his shirt pocket.
The invasive rumble of unmuffled exhaust pipes made them look left.
A pair of low-slung motorcycles approached along the road leading to the lodge entrance. Both riders wore black leather, ample bellies, sunglasses, tattoos and black helmets. The lead rider eased off on the throttle. The second rider spotted Christine.
The second rider promptly forgot about his front-running riding partner. There was a scream of metal. One engine raced, the other stalled and both bikes fell over. A second engine died.
The riders got to their feet in the sudden quiet. One looked hopefully in Christine's direction.
Christine looked at the wreckage. "What were they looking at?"
Lane smiled. "You."
"What's that supposed to mean? You think it's my fault?" Christine frowned.
Lane thought, Quick, change the subject. "Where are Matt and Dan?"
"Swimming." Christine looked over her shoulder at the pool. "You didn't answer my question."
Lane stood up. "No, I don't think it was your fault! You're drop-dead gorgeous and oblivious to the fact. Arthur's having a nap. If you get him, I'll get the other two and we'll go get something to eat."
The five of them met for dinner. The table overlooked the lake and the surrounding mountains tipped with white.
Matt had lost weight, was shaving every day and wore his black hair cut short. He said, "It would be nice to stay for a few more days."
Christine said, "You know, this is the first time I've been to Jasper. And the first time I've seen a grizzly."
Daniel, her brown-haired boyfriend, was taller than Christine, slender and introverted. He was finally beginning to feel relaxed enough around Lane to open up. "The grizzly was incredible."
Lane nodded. "It was a thing of beauty. A hunter." It's good to be talking about bears instead of cancer, surgery, scarring, fatigue and what the last doctor had to say.
"Okay, tell us what you're thinking." Arthur looked out over the water. His new exercise program was beginning to pay off. His belt had two old cinch lines in the leather to prove it. It hadn't, however, helped him grow back the hair atop his tanned head.
"I was thinking how it's good for all of us to be here. I was thinking I'm glad you don't have to have chemo. And I was thinking we should go to California next. Maybe San Diego." Lane looked around the table, gauging the reactionsof four people.
"Can Daniel come?" Christine asked.
"Can we stay close to the beach?" Matt asked.
Lane's phone began to vibrate in his shirt pocket.
Arthur smiled. "That's not what I asked you. That's not what you were thinking. You just changed the subject again."
"You really want to know what I think of grizzlies?" Lane asked.
He felt their curiosity pique and the resultant attention shift in his direction.
Lane ignored his phone. "The bear was afraid of us, yet we fear it. It's a hunter. It's very good at what it does. And it makes us feel like prey. Still, we're not the endangered species."
"Like you," Matt said. "You're a hunter."
"And people fear you," Daniel said.
Lane picked the phone out of his pocket and flipped it open.
Christine grabbed it from him and put it to her ear. "Hello?" She slapped Lane's hand away as he reached to take the phone back. "Hi, Keely. How are you? Yes, we'll be back tomorrow. Probably in the afternoon." She listened for a minute, then said, "I'll pass the message along. He's right here, but we were in the middle of a good conversation, and he was using your call as an excuse to avoid answering a tough question. You know how he avoids answering the questions he doesn't want to answer? I'll get him to call you right back."
"What's up?" Lane asked.
"I'll tell you when we finish this conversation." Christine curled her fingers around the phone.
"Could I have my phone back, please?" Lane motioned with his open right hand.
"No." She put the phone on the table, covered it with a napkin and put her hands over top.
Lane looked at Arthur, who was getting his spark back after a double mastectomy. It had been a long haul. There was the shock of the diagnosis, the operation and recovery from surgery, then the chemo and all of those lovely side effects.
Arthur said, "She wants some answers. You expect the same from us. Remember your big speech about us being honest with one another?"
"Okay. What do you want to know?" Lane refilled his coffee from the carafe at the centre of the table.
"Do you admire the grizzly because it's a hunter like you?" Matt asked.
"Or because it's feared and misunderstood?" Arthur asked.
"What about the fact that it's nearly extinct?" Christine asked.
Lane joined in on the laughter.
Daniel said, "Of course it's not because male grizzlies sometimes kill male cubs."
Christine glared at Daniel. "How did you know that was what the call was about?"
Christine will forever be leaping to conclusions after the way she was mistreated in Paradise, Lane thought, then asked, "About what?"
"Keely said they found the body of a missing boy. She thinks it may be related to one of your unsolved cases." Christine lifted the napkin and handed him the phone.
Excerpt from "The Cannibals"
Click Click. That's the sound of his stick on the drum.
The show is long over. The light is gone and nobody is left on the street now. Only an occasional wretch wanders by, who, if he happens to look up into the face of the little girl, coming at him fast out of the dark, raises his arm with a "Hey you!"freezes in the wind for a minute, then gets mauled by a passing wet newspaper. The little girl continues on, her hair flying about wet in the wind, her narrow skirt stretching taut, making the sound of a bat's wing with each step. Flap Flap.
Lately, all the women around Anna K. had been going down, one by one, done in by love. She frowns and tries to commit to memory the defining characteristics of the drummer who'd been playing at the new club, The Starlite, that night. As it turned out,there was nothing starry about The Starlite; it was little more than a hole in the wallliterally, just a small, cavelike room painted red. No place for a boy like him, she thinks, in a noir-ish voice.
Click Click. The drumstick taps nervously in her head. Like a code. The latest assignment, she imagines, planted there by her nameless, faceless boss. Somewhere out in the night, The Drummer's living room window is aglow. Anna thinks of him and his bandmates: happy and easy, moving about in there with their clinking drinks and artsy things, the ironic music they'll put on, can afford after a night of playing their own songs to applause. Their normal, successful, non-assassin-like lives.
Anna woke, turned over, and picked up The Book. It opened in her hands to BAT: the bat is restless compared to the blue bird, creature of heaven. Its fluttering is uncertain. Unable to glide, it is doomed forever to beat its wings to stay in flight. Because of this, it is considered the symbol of the one bogged down in an intermediate phase of development, no longer on a lower plane, and yet unable to reach a higher. Dark flight. Ground-clinging flight. Nature had tried and failed, produced a hairy membrane. This must be part of the code, thought Anna.
A failed word, a monstrous wing to music.
Anna closed the book. Before her life as an assassin, she'd lived with "The One True Love," who had led her to believe he was a musician, a saxophone player. This explained why they were always on the movehis saxophone case carried from place to place, but kept in the closet. She kept her singing voice low, so he wouldn't get angry. When they went out, her hand rested lightly on his folded arms. She didn't ask questions when he left in the middle of the night. When he returned, he would unfold one arm towards Anna, who lay curled at the foot of the bed; he'd wrap his long, webbed fingers around her skull, which made her head feel like a ball of white electricity. All the while, he'd talk of a great leap she must make, across a void. Not to worry, The One would say: true love is always best expressed by silence; silence is the best thing you can say; everything exists, finally, in its greatest form, in silence. Etc. And then he'd put her back to sleep as though she were a princessfanning her slowly with his great wings, or sometimes with the blank, yellow leaves of a crumbling book.
Anna K.'s father, who was a poet, was always telling people that Anna's mother had read The Odyssey by the age of five. When her mother was pregnant, another poet laughed and said she would give birth to a book. These remarks pissed the mother off to no end and she gave birth, instead, to Annawho stayed purple on the operating table for a long time, gasping, chin quivering. When the poet-friend saw her, he called her "The Baby That Ate The World."
Anna's mother and father lived in a big house fortified with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with the most important (though generally unread) books in the worldthe kind that needed to be decoded: for example, Georges Perec's novel written without using the letter e. Her father loved these kinds of writing games, said they involved constraint that gave birth to interesting accidents. But both parents were almost speechless at Anna's birth. "Oh wow," said the father. "Hello, baby," said the mother. The parents held their future-assassin baby tight to their breasts. Their wordless baby held on.