Mist Walker. Barbara Fradkin

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Mist Walker - Barbara Fradkin


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      Cover

      

      Title Page

      Mist

       Walker

      An Inspector Green Mystery

      Barbara Fradkin

      By the Same Author

      Books by Barbara Fradkin:

      The Inspector Green Series

      Do or Die (2000)

      Once Upon a Time (2002)

      Fifth Son (2004)

      Honour Among Men (2006)

      Dream Chasers (2007)

      This Thing of Darkness (Fall 2009)

      Short Stories in the following anthologies:

      The Ladies Killing Circle (1995)

      Cottage Country Killers (1997)

      Menopause is Murder (1999)

      Fit to Die (2001)

      Iced (2001)

      Hard-Boiled Love (2002)

      Bone Dance (2003)

      When Boomers Go Bad (2006)

      Dead in the Water (2006)

      Going Out With a Bang (2008)

      Acknowledgements

      Acknowledgements

      Mist Walker deals with a complex, emotionally charged theme which deserves an informed and respectful voice. A number of experts willingly and graciously answered my call for help during the writing of this book. My thanks to Sergeant James Davies of the Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Unit of the Ottawa Police, Staff Sergeant Don Sweet, formerly of the Forensic Identification Unit, Dr. Brenda Saxe of the Centre for the Treatment of Sexual Abuse and Childhood Trauma, Margaret Lederman of the Forensic Psychiatry Unit of the Royal Ottawa Hospital, and especially Constable Mark Cartwright of the Ottawa Police for his ongoing advice and expertise in police matters.

      I am also indebted to my writing colleagues, particularly Mary Jane Maffini, Robin Harlick, Madona Skaff, Jane Tun and Tom Curran, for their insightful support, and to my editor, Allister Thompson and my publisher, Sylvia McConnell, for their continuing belief in my work.

      Mist Walker is a work of fiction, and although the Ottawa Police Service and many of the Ottawa locales do exist, all the events and people, as well as the Rideau Psychiatric Hospital, are the invention of the author. Any resemblance to actual circumstances is purely coincidental.

      Epigraph

      “...and many times beating with her hands on the earth abundant she called on Hades and on honoured Persephone... And Erinys, the mist walker, of the heart without pity, heard her out of the dark places.”

      -The Iliad of Homer Book IX, 569-572

      One

      To Janice’s surprise, the door was unlocked. Matthew Fraser, a man with five locks and a ten minute ritual for securing them, had left his apartment unlocked. She twisted the knob, pushed gingerly, and let the door drift open before her. Even before she stepped inside, the smell knocked her back two feet. Like mildewed carpet and week-old fish baking together in the heat. How could the man stand it!

      A narrow, dimly lit hall stretched ahead of her, its brown carpet worn bare with age.

      “Matt?” She tossed the word cautiously into the gloom. No response. She sifted the silence. Nothing. Not the whir of air conditioning, not the whisper of breathing, not even the distant hum of traffic from Merivale Road. With shallow breaths, she edged down the hall into the main room. At the entranceway, she froze, trying to make sense of the sight before her.

      Lining the walls and filling every spare cranny were floor to ceiling shelves crammed with books, binders and newspapers curling with age. More stacks sat on the coffee table and the floor as if waiting for space. A vinyl couch and a computer were the only other occupants of the room. Dust danced in the slivers of sunlight that seeped past the blinds on the windows.

      “Matt?” she ventured again, peering around a bookshelf into another hall. More bookshelves. More newspapers. An old-fashioned telephone table held a heavy black phone with its receiver off the hook. No wonder I couldn’t get through, she thought as she hung it back up.

      She’d been trying to call Matt for six days, ever since he’d failed to show up for their daily walk. He had seemed unusually skittish at last week’s therapy group, and his old paranoia had been creeping back in. He’d been talking about conspiracies and about the futility of the little guy against the system. Just like bullies in the playground, he’d said, they own all the balls in the game.

      He never stopped trying, that much was clear. Whatever obsessed him was right here in this room, labelled by month and year going back ten years. There was an entire bookshelf devoted to cross-examination and the testimony of minors, and another two bookshelves of Ottawa Citizens and Suns dating back a decade. He had bookcases on psychology ranging all the way from Sigmund Freud through cognitive psychology to recent texts on post-traumatic stress disorder. Other books lay splayed open on the coffee table and stacked on the floor.

      Janice felt the hairs rise on her arms as she gazed at the clutter, which had a flavour of fanaticism. She liked Matt and thought him a lonely, wounded man who was struggling to put his life together. It had taken him weeks to say a word in the therapy group, more weeks to accept her invitation to coffee, and months to confide to her anything of his ordeal. At the beginning, she’d simply thought him shy and slow to trust anyone but his cherished Modo, a Lab-Rottweiler mix that he’d adopted from the Humane Society. Modo had been a reject like himself, found at four months old tied to the railway track on the outskirts of the city. She’d been ungainly and mismatched, all feet and monstrous head, but she’d suited his mood. He’d taken her in when he was at his lowest ebb, shut away from the world, fearing the gossip and the disgust.

      Modo! Janice realized belatedly that the dog had not greeted her at the door. Modo had been well trained to scare off intruders and should have set up a thunderous barking the second Janice started fiddling with the door.

      Matt must have taken his dog with him, Janice decided, which was hardly unusual, since the dog spent most of her time glued to his side. But where would he have gone, and what was he up to? He was agoraphobic; the mere glimpse of crowds and bustling streets sent him scrambling back to the safety of his apartment. On top of that, he was so paranoid that he never even raised the blinds on his windows and had bought himself the biggest, ugliest guard dog he could find. Yet today, he had left his front door unlocked.

      Despite her trepidation, Janice forced herself down the hall to the kitchen, where the smell was even stronger. The room was neat, but flies buzzed around a plate of crusted food on the counter. Modo’s food and water bowls sat empty on the floor by the fridge, and the Toronto Star was spread open on the tiny table. Matt said he read at least four papers a day. She glanced at the date. June 6, six days ago.

      Janice frowned in puzzlement. Matt clearly hadn’t been here for several days, but he appeared to have left abruptly. She felt a twinge of hurt along with her uneasiness, for he had not called her. True, he owed her nothing, because nothing had really happened between them. Just a few walks with the dog in the park, an amicable few hours over lattes at Starbucks, some friendly conversations and the first tentative sharing of private thoughts. But men didn’t come into her life all that often—who was she kidding, one hadn’t ventured near it in over fifteen years—so she’d allowed herself a faint hope.

      But now he was gone, without bothering to pick up the phone.

      Which was off the hook, she remembered with that odd chill again. Resisting the urge to clean up the dinner and throw out whatever garbage was creating the smell, she ventured


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