Victim of convenience, p.1

Victim of Convenience, page 1


Victim of Convenience

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Victim of Convenience


  Also by John Ballem


  The Devil's Lighter

  The Dirty Scenario

  The Judas Conspiracy*

  * Reissued as Alberta Alone

  The Moon Pool

  Sacrifice Play

  The Marigot Run

  Oilpatch Empire

  Death Spiral

  The Barons


  Murder as a Fine Art

  The Oil Patch Quartet


  Lovers & Friends


  The Oil and Gas Lease in Canada

  A Victim of


  John Ballem

  A Castle Street Mystety

  Copyright © John Ballem, 2006

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a

  retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic,

  mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise (except for brief passages for

  purposes of review) without the prior permission of Dundurn Press. Permission

  to photocopy should be requested from Access Copyright.

  Editor: Barry Jowett

  Copy-editor: Andrea Waters

  Design: Alison Carr

  Printer: Transcontinental

  Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

  Ballem, John, date

  A victim of convenience / John Ballem.

  ISBN-10: 1-55002-617-8

  ISBN-13: 978-1-55002-617-7

  I. Title.

  PS8553.A45V52 2006C813'.54C2006-901334-9


  We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the

  Ontario Arts Council for our publishing program. We also acknowledge the

  financial support of the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing

  Industry Development Program and The Association for the Export of Canadian

  Books, and the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Book Publishers

  Tax Credit program and the Ontario Media Development Corporation.

  Care has been taken to trace the ownership of copyright material used in this book.

  The author and the publisher welcome any information enabling them to rectify

  any references or credits in subsequent editions.

  J. Kirk Howard, President

  Printed and bound in Canada

  Printed on recycled paper

  For Grace,

  who shares my affection for this toddling town.

  Table of Contents


  Title Page


  chapter one

  chapter two

  chapter three

  chapter four

  chapter five

  chapter six

  chapter seven

  chapter eight

  chapter nine

  chapter ten

  chapter eleven

  chapter twelve

  chapter thirteen

  chapter fourteen

  chapter fifteen

  chapter sixteen

  chapter seventeen

  chapter eighteen

  chapter nineteen

  chapter twenty

  chapter twenty-one

  chapter twenty-two

  chapter twenty-three

  chapter twenty-four

  chapter twenty-five

  chapter twenty-six

  chapter twenty-seven

  chapter twenty-eight

  chapter twenty-nine

  chapter thirty

  chapter thirty-one

  chapter thirty-two

  chapter thirty-three

  chapter thirty-four


  chapter one

  "Another one!" The rookie cop who had been on patrol in the southwest sector gave up the struggle to sound professional and, hand clapped to mouth, bolted away to retch helplessly into the shrubbery.

  Chris Crane, the primary in the serial killer case, tactfully looked away. As required by protocol, both he and the young officer remained behind the yellow tape while the forensic unit checked out the scene. In the course of his career, most recently five years as a sergeant in charge of the Forensic Crime Scenes Unit, then as a lead detective in Homicide, he had been at the scene of many murders. Still, he had to swallow hard against the gorge rising in his own throat as he looked at the victim's naked, mutilated body. In life, she must have been beautiful—a knockout. Except for the half-shut eyes, glassy and suffused with blood, her face was unmarked, the same as in the other three killings.

  The victim was tanned and fit; Chris visualized those long, lovely legs bounding lithely over a tennis court. She would have been somewhere in her mid-thirties. The deep stab wounds low in her chest were the ones that had killed her, but the killer hadn't been satisfied with that. The nipple had been sliced off her right breast; the blood, now dry, had trickled down first to fill, then overflow, her navel. Worse, far worse, was the dark red blood matting the light brown pubic hair and spreading obscenely across her inner thighs. In a mocking gesture, the killer had clasped her hands together as if in prayer and placed them at rest on her blood-streaked abdomen.

  Turning away from the corpse, Chris saw Brenda, looking chagrined, coming back to join him. He motioned her to follow him as he went over to question the witness who had found the body and called 911 on his cell.

  The witness, a stockbroker, had been walking his dog in this remote part of the park, as he always did first thing in the morning. His name was James Stanley. Separated from his wife, he lived by himself in a condo on the Old Banff Coach Road and worked at Loyalty Capital, a well-known downtown brokerage firm.

  Stanley explained that walking the dog in the park was the last thing he did before leaving for the office. That would account for the shirt and the tie he had loosened for comfort. It was early because he had to be at his desk when the markets opened in Toronto at seven-thirty Calgary time.

  "It was Duke." At the mention of his name, the Lab sitting obediently at his master's side wagged his tail, making a swishing noise in the scrub grass. Stanley patted the broad head and continued. "He was off leash, which he's not supposed to be ..." As he said this, the broker paused to look somewhat askance at the detective. Chris gave him an understanding smile and motioned for him to continue.

  "That's why we were up here, where almost nobody ever comes. Then Duke started to bark. He doesn't bark all that much. Labs usually don't as a rule. And there was something about the way he was barking. Deep, way down in his throat. More like a growl. I could tell he had found something."

  Nodding his thanks, Chris closed his notebook and looked across at the Crime Scenes team. He had worked with both members. In fact, Gwen Staroski had been his protegé. She was intelligent, sure, but it was her powers of observation and her perceptiveness that made her so valuable. Chris smiled to himself as he recalled the Murray murder: Gwen had been the one to recognize the possibility that the blue paper clip, which had seemed so promising a clue, might have been deliberately planted by the suspect. Short, with a broad, plain-featured face and stocky body, she was no looker, but she had this great intuitive sense about people, which Chris had come to rely on. Despite the fact that they were now in different units, he had been able to second her because of the urgent need to solve the case that was holding the city in the grip of terror. Now it seemed she was going to return the favour.

  Holding a plastic bag containing white coveralls, latex gloves, and surgical masks, she walked over to Chris. "I guess you st
ill know how to work a crime scene," she teased, mischief glinting briefly in her steady brown eyes, her voice muffled by her mask.

  "I'll be good." With the ease of long practice, Chris pulled on the white coveralls while Gwen tied the strings of his mask. "More of TLC's handiwork, damn his black soul," he muttered as he slipped under the tape.

  "It certainly looks like it. But ..." The doubt in her voice made Chris glance sharply at her. "There are a 10 couple of things you need to look at," Gwen went on as they stood gazing down at the body, ignoring the electronic flashes as her partner photographed the scene with a digital camera.

  "I see what you mean." Chris placed a gloved finger against a suspiciously erect breast and gently jiggled it. "She's had breast implants. Like the last one. Only this time the killer hasn't ripped them out."

  The third victim's breasts had also been surgically augmented, and that had driven the killer into a frenzy. Both breasts had been savagely slashed until they lay slack and flat against her chest.

  "There's more. I put the hands back the way they were, but look at this." Gwen tugged at the clasped hands, stiffened by rigor mortis.

  "The cross is on the wrong hand." Chris frowned as she turned the right hand palm up. "It should be on the left."

  "I know. That could be very significant, or not significant at all. The cross looks the same. Traditional. An upright and a cross bar. It's the same length as the others—eight centimetres. Lightly incised with a very sharp, thin blade. Possibly a razor blade."

  "What about rape?"

  "Violated. But not raped. Like the others. The usual foreign object. Not a bottle, though. Too deep for that. From the look of things, it penetrated her colon. That would have killed her as well. In a matter of hours if she didn't receive surgical attention."

  "As our distinguished colleague Steve Mason would say, the creep probably couldn't get it up. It could also be that he didn't want to risk leaving his DNA behind."

  "He could have used a condom."

  "Not completely safe. If you'll forgive the pun. There's always the risk of semen leaking out on with-drawal. Or one of his pubic hairs might get caught up unnoticed with hers. I remember one case where the guy shaved his pubics for that very reason."

  "I know the one you mean." Extracting a rectal thermometer, she held it up. "Rigor mortis is well established. That and her liver temperature tell us she's been dead for eight to ten hours. The night was cool, so it's probably closer to eight. Depending on how long she's been out here."

  Pointing down at the purplish path on the left side of the victim's ribcage, Chris said, "That tells us she wasn't killed here. She would have been transported here in a vehicle of some kind."

  "We'll spray the top of the hill and check for tire prints. But the grass is real dense, so I don't hold out much hope. Al and Dennis should be here soon, and I'm going to have the scene secured all the way across the field over to the road and down to the base of the hill."

  "It's the same story from the top down to here. He would have carried her down, as the bruise under her right knee tells us." Chris mentally chided himself for automatically assuming the killer was male. Still, all the psychological evidence pointed to the killer being a man, and not many women would have the physical strength to carry a body weighing at least fifty-five kilos for a distance of fifty metres down a steep incline. Male or female, the rocky terrain offered no clue.

  Gwen and her team would be working the site for another three hours or so. Knowing he could depend on her to fill him in on anything of interest, Chris decided to go back to headquarters and open a file to begin the formal investigation. The first step was to identify the victim. There was no ID, but as Gwen had remarked, "It doesn't take long for people to start looking for someone like her."

  The media was waiting in the parking lot across the river. They were held back by four uniformed police officers but were close enough to shout questions at Chris. "TLC strikes again. Right, Detective Crane?" It was more a statement than a question. The killer's chilling pseudonym, one he had conferred on himself, an acronym for "tender loving care," had become public knowledge. It was a cruel, mocking reference to BTK—"bind torture kill"—the infamous signature of Wichita's serial killer who had tortured and strangled ten victims from 1974 to 1991 and who'd escaped detection for years.

  Most of the eager faces were familiar to Chris. He had dealt with them before as the serial killer story gathered steam. Tim Mahoney from the Herald was there in the front row, standing beside Bill Clarke, the crime reporter for CTV television, and a cameraman recording the scene. Pat, short and rotund, whose last name Chris didn't know but who was from the Calgary Sun, was taking pictures with a digital camera; behind him stood Phil Dummett, a freelancer who wrote think pieces that were attracting an increasing amount of attention, and Amanda Fraser, the local stringer for the Globe and Mail. The others he didn't know.

  As expected, his standard disclaimer that it was too early to divulge any information was greeted with groans of weary resignation. Partly hidden by the open door of the cruiser, Chris methodically finished stowing his gear inside, then eased himself into the driver's seat. He stared straight ahead as he inched forward through the forest of out-thrust microphones and importuning faces.

  Morris Pettigrew, senior partner of the corporate law department of the McKinley law firm, glanced uneasily around the boardroom table. The meeting had been called for 8:30 and it was now 8:ffl. Clearing his throat, he said, "I can't imagine what's keeping Adrienne. She has a thing about punctuality."

  "There's no point in starting without her," the general counsel of the client oil company remarked. "She's been in charge of the file since the get-go."

  "I'll see if I can track her down." Jeff Ingram got up from his chair. The young lawyer, just four years out of law school and three years at the bar, was working with Adrienne Vinney on the Madison Energy share prospectus.

  "Do that." Pettigrew nodded. "While we wait, we'll have some coffee." At his nod a white-jacketed server moved around the table, refilling cups.

  The four executives seated with Pettigrew at the polished mahogany table—the president and CEO of Madison, together with the general counsel, the vice-president for exploration, and the chief financial officer—were the picture of corporate success and the rewards that went with it. And those rewards were due for a handsome increase when the new share issue hit the market. Buoyed by the spectacular success of its drilling program on the Lost Horse Block, Madison's shares had climbed steadily in recent months, and the new issue was bound to sell at a premium. Despite this, there was a palpable air of tension in the conference room. The company lawyer nervously tapped a pen against his teeth until a glare from the president made him put it down.

  In a few minutes, Ingram, looking puzzled and upset, returned with the news that Adrienne hadn't arrived at the office. Nor had she called in.

  "I just don't understand this," Pettigrew muttered. "She knows how important this meeting is." Looking at Ingram, still standing in the doorway, he asked, "Did you try her at home?"

  "Her assistant did. Fifteen minutes ago. No answer."

  "She could be caught in traffic," Madison's president offered, but without much conviction.

  "Not Adrienne." Pettigrew frowned. "That lady plans ahead. Knowing her, I would have expected her to be in her office two hours ago, preparing for this meeting."

  "So would I," the general counsel agreed. "Adrienne is conscientious to a fault." Giving Pettigrew a worried look, he said, "I don't like this, Morris."

  The senior partner looked at his watch. "I suggest we give her another fifteen minutes. If she doesn't show up by then, Jeff should contact the hospitals, and ..." he added after a moment's hesitation, "the police."

  Ingram's phone calls to Calgary's three hospitals drew a blank. There was no record of any Adrienne Vinney having been checked in at either Emergency or General Admissions. Nor anyone fitting her description. Doing his best to seem unconcerned, Ingram
walked the short distance down the carpeted hall to Adrienne's legal assistant's cubicle. No word from Adrienne.

  The blue pages of the telephone directory listed a number for Missing Persons Coordinator under Calgary Police Services. That was the place to start, but as soon as he began to describe Adrienne, he was told to hang on while his call was transferred.

  "Homicide." The voice was brisk and business-like.

  "I want to report a person who seems to have gone missing."

  "Describe the person. But first could I have your name and address, sir."

  There was a moment's silence when Ingram finished describing Adrienne in words that he realized could have come from a besotted lover. Then, in a voice softened with professional sympathy, his listener said, "It's possible we might have some information for you, sir. I'm afraid I must ask you to visit the medical examiner's office and view a body. You may be able to identify it."

  Ingram only half listened as he wrote down the street address. Adrienne was dead. That, and only that, would explain her failure to show up for the meeting. The detective offered to send a car and driver for him. "That won't be necessary. I can make my own way there. But I have to talk to some people first."

  chapter two

  So the victim was a lawyer. A partner in the largest law firm in the city. Chris Crane sighed and put the two-page report down on his grey metal desk. That was the sum of everything useful they had learned in the twenty-four hours following the discovery of the body. Homicide, along with the other sections of Major Crimes—Robbery, Sex Crimes, and Child Abuse—was housed on the tenth floor of the police headquarters at 133 6th Avenue SE. Originally the building had been the head office of Dome Petroleum. Subsequently it had been acquired by the city and renamed Andrew Davison in honour of the man who had been a long-serving mayor back in the 1930s and ‘40s. A bronze plaque commemorated his career in civic politics. It was common for police officers to say they were "heading to Andrew Davison" when they were on their way to headquarters.

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