Book #4 of the Vigilante series
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Claude Bouchard Books
The homeless of Montreal are dying at the hand of 'Allan', a serial killer set on ridding the city of street people...
... As the killer taunts the police about the increasing body count, Captain Dave McCall calls on
the services Jonathan Addley and Chris Barry, both operatives with the government's clandestine 'Discreet Activities' team...
All while fighting the city's proposed by-law banning the homeless from downtown parks, philanthropist and activist, William Enright, joins the law-enforcement crusade to capture the assassin...
... But will the combined efforts of the law and old money be sufficient to stop the Homeless Killer?
Chapter 1 - Saturday, July 1, 2006
Arnie finished tying the last rope, giving it a good tug to make sure the knot was nice and tight. Satisfied, he backed away a few steps to admire his handiwork, a toothless grin spreading across his dirty, wrinkled mug.
“Hehehee!” he giggled to himself with delight. “Home sweet home, and ya know what they say about real estate: location, location, location.”
Arnie’s new abode was in fact a tent/shanty built with a variety of cardboard boxes, bits of lumber he’d gathered here and there, an old 6 x 6 tarp he’d lucked upon and, of course, yards of string and rope to hold everything together while trees served as the foundation. The inside of his new residence was furnished with an old gym mat, an older sleeping bag, two plastic milk crates (one served for storage, the other as a stool) and a small rusted and rickety folding table. Added to this was his prized kitchenware; a battered sterno camping burner, an old cast iron pan, a plastic bowl, a coffee mug (sans handle) and a full set of cutlery for one (which he had boldly snatched from a terrace table at a restaurant on St-Denis Street).
As far as location went, Arnie had indeed landed on some prime real estate. He had built his home for the summer on the east side of Mount-Royal on a small flat section of the incline overlooking the Royal Victoria Hospital’s rear parking lot. Surrounded by dense trees and bushes, his new home was sheltered from view and hikers rarely ventured through the woods, remaining rather on the Olmstead or Le Serpentin paths. He was, however, a mere fifteen minute walk from downtown Montreal where he went on his scavenging and panhandling treks seven days a week. Being homeless was a full-time job.
“Ain’t no cops gonna be bustin my butt this summer, no siree!” the fifty-six year old vagrant stated proudly as he settled down on his milk crate to take a mid-afternoon break. “Arnie’s got himself a nice summer place; won’t need to be sleeping out in the parks and gettin hassled.”
~ ~ ~ ~
As Chris Barry glided up to the dock of his Lake Brome home in Knowlton on his newest toy, a twenty foot Performance Nacra 20 catamaran, his wife Sandy walked across the wide expanse of lawn, a phone in one hand and waving with the other.
“Ahoy, Matey,” Chris called, jumping onto the dock to tie the boat down.
“Ahoy back at you,” Sandy laughed as she approached. “Dave’s on the phone for you. Do you want to call him back?”
“No, that’s alright, I’ll take it if he can hang on a second,” Chris replied over his shoulder as he moved to the stern and secured a second line.
He trotted along the dock to join Sandy, giving her a quick hug and kiss as he took the phone from her.
“Captain McCall,” he said officially into the phone as they walked back towards the house. “To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?”
“Just keeping tabs on an old buddy,” replied the police captain from Montreal. “How’s life in the Townships?”
“Couldn’t be better,” Chris exclaimed. “Dave, you have to get down here as soon as you can; I got the boat!”
Chris had decided to buy the boat following a month long vacation in the Caribbean the previous February where he had fallen in love with sailing. He had ordered the catamaran from its manufacturer in California upon his return and it had been delivered just the previous week.
“Well, I’ll certainly have to take you up on that offer,” agreed Dave, also a sports enthusiast. “Maybe Cathy and I can come up next week-end. But, the reason for my call was to see if you’d be into a round of golf and dinner tomorrow, sort of an anniversary celebration; that is, if I can drag you away from your boat and you’re keen on driving to Montreal?”
“Sure, no problem with that,” Chris answered, a little puzzled. “What anniversary are you talking about?”
“How soon they forget,” McCall said, his tone hurt, before chuckling his response. “We were archiving some old files this week and, scanning through one of them, I came across some field notes I had written at the time; basically a summary of the first meeting I ever had with Chris Barry, then EVP and COO of CSS Inc. That meeting took place on July 2nd, 1996. Tomorrow is our tenth anniversary, sweetheart.”
“Well, I’ll be damned,” Chris laughed. “Do I have to buy you flowers or something? I’m not familiar with the etiquette in this type of situation.”
“No, all you need to do is lose the golf round gracefully for once,” suggested Dave.
“I guess ‘lose the golf round for once’ is what you meant to say,” countered Chris who had always managed to play a stroke or two under Dave.
“Yeah, whatever,” said Dave. “Sandy is most welcome to join us for dinner. Cathy’s got nothing planned in the afternoon and said she’d love to hang out with your wife while we boys go out and play.”
“I’ll ask her but I doubt she can make it,” Chris replied as he looked up at Sandy. “The gallery has a show opening on Monday and the artist and his works are arriving late tomorrow morning.”
Sandy nodded in agreement as Chris continued. “They have to hang the show and be ready for the opening Monday at six. Sandy is confirming all that I’m saying with nods as I speak.”
“Well, that’s too bad but I understand and so will Cathy,” reassured Dave. “We’ll just make it a boys’ night out and the girls can catch up next week-end. For tomorrow, do you want to line up for an early dinner so that you don’t get back too late?”
“Nah, get an afternoon tee off time and we’ll have dinner whenever,” Chris decided. “I was planning to get into town for a couple of days this week to look after a few things anyway. Sandy’s gonna be busy with the show so I’ll just crash at the condo and get my stuff done before heading back.”
“Excellent then,” agreed Dave. “It’s a date. See you tomorrow, buddy.”
“You got it, honey-buns,” Chris responded before hanging up.
~ ~ ~ ~
It being Canada Day, Arnie had considered going down for the evening festivities at the Old Port of Montreal. Tourists and locals abounded at such events and the whole party atmosphere tended to open the people’s sense of generosity. If for nothing else, half full beer bottles, cans and glasses could be found all over the Old Port site as well as everywhere along Place Jacques-Cartier.
However, Arnie had worked hard over the last two weeks, over and above his usual panhandling and scavenging activities, getting his construction materials to this spot and building his shelter, all while being on the alert lest someone spot him and report him to the park authorities or worse, try to move in onto his plot.
No, Arnie had decided, this year he would celebrate Canada Day in the peace and quiet of the woods surrounding his new summer home. In a short while, he would probably be good to catch some of the Old Port’s fireworks right from the comfort of his tiny plateau.
As he settled down by the light of a candle with the half mickey of Southern Comfort he had proudly saved for his house-warming, he sensed rather than heard a slight rustling in the trees up behind him towards Olmstead Path. Stiffening, he blew out the candle and recapped his bottle, sliding it into the shelter opening beside him before picking up a stout branch he had selected as a walking stick and protection. He listened more attentively, ignoring the sounds created by the breeze, crickets and the downtown core below. He heard a branch cracking, the crunch of leaves, slight but distinct; closer.
Rising slowly to avoid making noise of his own, he turned to face the direction the sounds had come from, his club clutched tightly with both hands. He saw nothing but darkness and tree shapes at first but then saw a movement, a silhouette, darker than the rest. As fear and uncertainty gripped him, he heard the voice, more than a whisper, but soft all the same.
“Hello. Is anyone there?” the voice asked, almost tremulously.
“Who’s there?” demanded Arnie, sounding much more confident than he felt.
“Allan,” the voice hesitantly replied. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“What do you want?” continued Arnie, a bit braver than a moment before. “I ain’t doing nothin wrong here.”
“I just like to come up here and roam in the woods a bit,” Alan replied from the dark. “Just to get away from people and be with my thoughts; I really didn’t mean to bother you. Is it alright if I come closer? This talking to the dark is spooking me.”
“I guess so,” said Arnie uncertainly, disappointed that someone now knew of his summer place. “But you better come slow and I’m warnin ya, I’m armed.”
“I’ve got a flashlight with me,” announced Allan. “I don’t generally turn it on unless I have to because it attracts the cops on patrol up here. But I’ll turn it on just for a minute so that I can see where I’m going and…”
“No, wait,” ordered Arnie. “I got a candle here. You stay put while I light it then come over slow.”
He lit the candle and stepped back, still gripping his club. “OK, come on, slow now.”
He heard a few crunching footsteps in the carpet of dry leaves and then saw the man appear in the feeble candlelight, his hands spread out, indicating that he meant no harm. Allan appeared to be in his fifties, maybe about Arnie’s own age but more fit, better dressed. From the look on his face, he seemed even more frightened than Arnie was.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Arnie demanded again. “I worked hard to get me all set up here and my first night you come and screw it all up.”
“I’m sorry,” Allan replied. “Like I said, I just like to come up here in the woods sometimes alone.”
“To do what?” growled Arnie, still clutching his sturdy branch. “Come on, tell me.”
“Uh, just to get away, you know, have a couple of drinks,” Allan explained uneasily. “Smoke a joint and uh, kind of let loose.”
“Yeah? Let loose how?” insisted Arnie, now feeling in control of the situation. “Come on mister, spit it out.”
“Ah, dammit,” Allan muttered, seeming to deflate in surrender. “I get off playing with myself in public, ok? I come up here in the woods, get a nice buzz going and then I play with myself. Happy? Can I go now?”
Arnie looked at the other man for a few seconds before breaking into a wide grin. “Well, mister, if that’s all you’re up to, I guess everything’s ok. Don’t want ya to start doing anything like that now, mind ya but I can unnerstand a fella gettin his jollies.”
“Uh, well, thanks for understanding,” Allan replied, smiling meekly. “I guess I’ll get out of your hair and find some other spot if that’s alright with you.”
“Well, hold on a second, there, Allan is it?” said Arnie. “Since you’re here already and no harm’s done, you can have a seat and maybe start working on that buzz you was aiming for. I don’t mind joinin ya for a little nightcap or two if you’ve got something worth drinkin.”
In response, Allan shrugged out of the small backpack he wore, pulled out a sealed 26 ounce bottle of XO cognac and held it out to Arnie.
“Praise the Lord,” exclaimed Arnie, dropping his club and grabbing the bottle with both hands. “Happy Canada Day,”
He looked up at Allan with a huge smile, just in time to see the gun fire at him, point blank in the face. In the instant that the life left his poor, abused body, the first fireworks lit up the sky over the Old Port in the distance.
“Happy Canada Day indeed,” said Allan as he turned and made his way back to the path.