The Christmas Cat-killer Caper Part 3

Chapter 2: December 20

Kate crawled into bed at five o’clock in the morning, and stumbled back out at nine. She could have used more sleep, but she knew Carmedy would be on tenterhooks, waiting for her to finish the annual report.

Showered and dressed, she came down the inside stairs to the office to find her partner looking much more cheerful than usual. In deference to the season, he had broken up his unremitting khaki colour palate with a red sweater.

“Good morning,” he said, looking up from his terminal. “How did it go last night?”

“Same old, same old,” she reported, automatically going to the kitchenette to start the coffee. It was already made.

“I figured you’d be down soon, so I started a pot.” Carmedy grinned. “I also brought bagels and cream cheese to go with the peach compote.”

Kate took a second look at the counter and noticed the bag of bagels, the tub of cream cheese and six mason jars of peach preserves, one of which was half empty.
“Evidently, Koehne’s sister has a cottage industry producing peach preserves,” Carmedy said, answering her unspoken question.  “Peach jam, peach syrup, peach chutney . . . you get the idea. He’s marketing the stuff for her. He has a display set up on his front counter.”

She poured coffee and made up a bagel with cream cheese and jam.

“This is good!”

“That’s why I got six jars,” said Carmedy. “Oh, and Koehne asked me to deliver an envelope to you. It’s on your desk.”

Kate set her breakfast on the desk and opened the envelope. It was the rent cheque.
“Did you lean on him?” she asked.

When he didn’t answer, she narrowed her eyes and stared at him until he admitted, “Maybe a little.”
She nodded. Putting the cheque to one side, she sat and took a sip of coffee.


“Never, ever make coffee again. I don’t know how you managed it, but this is awful.” She pushed her mug away and picked up the cheque again. “About this, thanks.”

“Jingle bells, jingles bells . . .”

“Jingle all the way.”

Jake blushed, he hadn’t realized he was singing aloud until Kate joined in. He had been generating invoices all morning and the knowledge that they had enough money coming in to cover January and part of February had cheered him immeasurably. In less than four days, he’d be going home for Christmas. If they could catch the cat-killer, he’d go home with a clear conscience.

“I was just thinking that we might be creating too much of a presence in the neighbourhood.”

She looked at him blankly.

“East Hills,” he said, “the neighbourhood we’ve been staking out for a week. Maybe we should make it look like we’ve given up; draw the cat-killer into the open.”
She shook her head as if to clear her mind. He had come out of left field, from her point of view.

“Into the open where?” she asked. “There’s no pattern to the killings except for being within the East Hills development.”

“Yeah,” he sighed. “We need to narrow the field.”

East Hills was a nice place to live, but a nightmare to survey. It was built around land reclaimed from the city dump. The dump had been turned into a park with trails winding over man-made hills, through formal and natural gardens and past two playgrounds. A wide avenue surrounded the park from which streets extended like bent spokes.

The neighbourhood had its own watch. Members took turns patrolling the area in pairs. Jake had soon learned that each pair had their own routine so that a clever observer could count on which streets were patrolled at what time. That was the first thing Jake changed.

“If we went back to the original routine,” he said. “Maybe we could lull the perp into a false sense of security.”

“Okay,” Kate agreed, “but I think we need to close off the park.”

“Close off the park,” Jake repeated. That wouldn’t be easy.

“Consider,” Kate continued, “since no suspicious vehicles appear in correspondence to the killings, we can assume the cat-killer lives in the neighbourhood and hunts on foot. If we cut off access to the park – the shortcut to everywhere –  we might limit his or her territory.”

“Assuming we could close the park, we’d have to let him strike again to narrow the field.”

She heaved a sigh.

“Yeah, that’s the problem. We need a few suspects.”

“We need lunch,” said Jake. “I’m feeling the need for pizza. Do you want to get it, or shall I?”

“You go,” she said. “I should get back to this report. You’ll be happy to know, I’m on the home stretch.”

Kate stared at the screen, humming carols. She had compiled the statistics for November. Now she had to summarize reports.

“Coffee,” she said aloud, when she was done. “I need more coffee.”

What she really needed was time out. The ritual of cleaning the machine, measuring the beans and water, then washing the cups as the coffee brewed gave her that. Because it was infinitely preferable to going back to the report, she thought about the cat-killer.

They had been concentrating on the pet owners. Leaving a dead animal on a door step is a pretty personal message, so the assumption that the cat-killer had an issue with the families seemed reasonable. That didn’t make it correct.

The cat-killer probably used a microchip reader, a commonly available piece of technology, to identify the cat owners. Either that, or he was freakishly aware of his neighbours’ pets. All the victims had good homes and carried subcutaneous tags, as per animal control bylaws.

Maybe, Kate thought, returning the animals was a courtesy, not malice. Maybe it was all about the cats.

She called up their case notes and started making phone calls.

Knowing how long he’d been gone, Jake started his apology before the door closed behind him.

“I ran into Vince at Mario’s. We got to talking about the upcoming Eldridge trial.”

He handed her a piece of pizza and watched her take the first bite. It was a sensual pleasure that made the walk and the wait worthwhile. Neither hunger, stress, nor shortage of time stopped Kate Garrett from getting the most out her first taste. Jake was one of those people who looked on food as fuel, yet her enjoyment fascinated and delighted him.

She sighed and he quickly looked away. Her terminal caught his attention and he frowned.

“Finished the report?” he asked.

“Almost. I was following up on a few ideas about the cat-killer while you were gone. I don’t think the pet owners are relevant, only the cats. My guess is that there are more dead cats that didn’t have tags to identify their homes.”

“And you’ve corroborated this how?”

“I talked to the Humane Society about missing animals. It isn’t proof, but it is suggestive. If we look for a dumping ground, or fresh burial locations, we might be able to narrow our focus. Also,” she added, becoming more excited, “I thought we should look at who hasn’t been coming out since we were called in, so I called some of the members of the neighbourhood watch.”

Without much enthusiasm he prompted, “And?”

“I’ve got a short list of people who we might have driven inside for one reason or another.”

“Good, I’ll follow up on it this evening.”

“I can help,” she said.

“I’d rather you finish the report. I want to have time to go over it before I go home for the holidays.”

She stiffened, looked down at the piece of pizza in her hand and set it aside. It was as if she suspected him of poisoning her.

He replayed their conversation, looking for the reason for her sudden chill. Whatever it was, the report was now up on her terminal. He was trying to think of a conciliatory remark when his computer told him he had an incoming call. With a key stroke, Igor Thorsen appeared on his screen.

“Hey, Chief.”

“Hello, Jake. Is Kate with you?”

Kate appeared at his shoulder. Jake pushed off from his desk and let his chair roll to one side so she could step closer to the audio-visual pick-ups.

“I’m here, boss. What can I do?”

“This isn’t business,” Thorsen said. “I’m out shopping for gifts and I want to know if your mother is currently on a diet. I want to get her some handmade chocolates but . . .”

Kate giggled. Jake had never heard her giggle before. It was weird.

“Mum’s not dieting.”

“Well, it’s not like she needs to, but . . .”

“I know what you mean,” she said. “She tries out every new diet anyway – but not over the holidays. Or maybe she goes on a turkey and blintz diet, who knows.”

Thorsen gave a bark of laughter causing Kate’s smile to widen.

“One other thing,” Thorsen said. “Maggie made me promise that I’d remind you that tomorrow night we celebrate the Yule. You are both expected at the house by six o’clock.”

The smile disappeared. Her expression gave Jake an unwelcome emotional lurch.

“I can’t,” Kate said. “It’s my night on the stakeout. The felines of East Hill are depending on me.”

“I’ll take the stakeout,” Jake said. “You go to dinner.”

Thorsen heaved a sigh so heavy, Jake half expected the news flimsy on his desk to be ruffled.

“I’ll assign an extra patrol car to the area,” Thorsen said. “Both of you are expected tomorrow night. No excuses. Maggie is counting on you. The girls are counting on you. And I will send out a posse to detain and deliver you if need be.”

Kate sighed and the paper was ruffled.

“Don’t disappoint me, Kathleen. This time, of all times, we need to be together. Getting through the holiday will be hard enough as it is.”

Shit! Of course. No wonder she went all stiff when he mentioned getting away for Christmas. She spent Christmas with her father. No matter how much he missed Joe on a day-to-day basis, his holiday wouldn’t be affected by Joe’s death.

“I won’t disappoint you,” Kate told Thorsen.

“I know you won’t. Got to go.”

Jake cut the connection and watched Kate go back to her desk. She stared at her screen, but didn’t seem to see it.

“You know,” Jake said, carefully casual, “there’s no reason I can’t start going over the beginning of your report while you finish up.”

She nodded. With a few keystrokes, she sent the document to his terminal. He skipped to the end to see how far she got.

Shit. Shit. Shit. Why hadn’t he anticipated this?

She was up to the Gage-Proctor murders – the case that was tied to Joe Garrett’s death. No wonder she was having trouble finishing.

“You know,” he repeated, “we haven’t got a lot of time to wrap up the case of the cat-killer. Thorsen offering a patrol car made me think, if we made the perp think the police were taking over and that they were limiting themselves to the park, we might be able to set a trap.”

She looked over at him, brows furrowed.

“That means,” he continued, “that you’d have to follow up on the leads you have between now and tomorrow evening. After that, we have to look like we’re stepping back.”

Her head cocked to one side, questioning.

He made a show of checking the report’s page of contents.

“I see you’re almost done and . . .” He did a double take. “This is really well set up . . .  Anyway, why don’t I finish this up? Then you can concentrate on the East Hill case.”

She hesitated. Jake held his breath and crossed his fingers. Then she sighed and nodded.

“Okay,” she said.

He let out his held breath as softly as possible.

“Just show me how you’ve indexed this first. I don’t want to screw it up.”

That was weird, Kate thought, sitting back at her desk after giving Carmedy his referencing tutorial. She was a trained detective, yet, what seemed to impress him the most was her facility with a data management macro. Giving her head a shake, she went back to her forgotten pizza and munched on it while she went over her notes.

So far, neighbourhood watch members had identified five people who they regularly saw on patrol but hadn’t been out since Carmedy and Garrett had been called in. She still had to check with the rest of the watch list but she decided to organize her notes so far.

Accessing her BlueBerry, she called up her chronological case notes. In a new window, she started a table with the names of the five people. For each, she indicated who suggested the name and why.

Everyone knew Mrs Djohns, an octogenarian who regularly took evening walks with the aid of her cane. She had recently had to switch to a walker and had been noticed strolling in the afternoon, before the watch patrolled. Kate couldn’t see the woman carting cats around in her walker basket, so Mrs Djohns went to the bottom of the list.

Paulo Crabbe was a suspected peeping tom. The watch hadn’t been able to catch him at it yet, but the presence of professional detectives would probably be enough to keep him in at night. Voyeurism was usually the first step to more serious crimes, just as felinicide might be the first step to homicide. Kate put him at the top of the list and started a search for priors.

Mr Theo Konstantin didn’t like new people, she had been told by several people. Kate had almost met Mr Konstantin on her first patrol. When hailed by the watch member escorting Kate, Konstantin crossed the road and turned down a lane, going out of his way to avoid them.

Marc and Evelyn Chauvelin walked their cat nightly, but not since the cat-killings became common knowledge. Safety probably kept them inside. Kate put them just above Mrs Djohns on her list.

Irene Collins had been pointed out to her a couple of times. Her neighbours looked out for her, but always at a distance. When she moved to the neighbourhood as a newlywed, she was reserved but not shy.  Gradually she withdrew from the community.

“I think her husband abused her,” said Flavia, one of Kate’s contacts. “He seemed okay at the time, but after he deserted her it was like she was afraid he might show up again. She stopped going out except late at night.”

“No obvious signs of abuse?” Kate asked.

“No bruises or unexplained trips to the hospital, if that’s what you mean, but there are other forms of abuse.”

Kate didn’t need to be told that. She’d encountered her fair share of mental and emotional abuse victims. At least with physical abuse it was easier to collect evidence against the perpetrator.

“There are a few of us that run errands for her,” Flavia continued. “She won’t talk to us directly, but she leaves little presents for us and is very pleasant and polite in her notes.”

Irene Collins. The name was familiar. Kate had seen it somewhere recently. On the basis of a niggling feeling of familiarity, Ms Collins got bumped up the list and Kate initiated a search on her name.

At three, Jake announced that he was going to take a nap.

“Want to use Dad’s place?” Kate offered.

“I’m okay on the couch.”

“It’s just that I’m about to make some phone calls.”

She gave him an apologetic grimace.

“I can work upstairs if you like,” she added quickly.

She seemed determined to please, so he took her up on the offer of Joe’s bed.

“Shall I call you in a couple of hours?” she asked.

“Just in case I don’t wake up?”

He grinned. Not bloody likely. He had a near-infallible ability to sleep for exactly as long as he gave himself, and no longer.

He used the inside stairs feeling the weight of loss with every step. Maybe Kate would move in properly and make it her own, but right now it was Joe’s place and being there reminded him Joe was gone.

He was falling into melancholy. He needed to fall into bed. Putting action to thought, he hitched up his backpack and headed for the bedroom.

The bed was barely made, covers pulled up hastily. Jake smoothed them out and stripped down to his boxers. It wasn’t until his head hit the pillow and he breathed in the lingering scent of Kate Garrett that he had second thoughts about using the office couch.

Maybe he should have his nap on one of the recliners.

 Maybe what he needed was a hot bath . . . or a cold shower.

Continued tomorrow, or read the whole story at: