Kate had just finished building two cream cheese and peach preserve sandwiches when Jake entered the office. He didn’t look particularly rested, but she didn’t want to rock the boat by pointing this out.
“It’s not as healthy as the meal you made me,” she said, handing over the waxed paper wrapped parcel, “but they should help you get through the night. I’ve also made a thermos of café au lait and given you the last two energy drinks. I’ll go shopping this evening.”
“Don’t get too much,” he warned. “Maggie and Igor will send us home with enough leftovers for a week and the office closes down in a couple of days.”
“Speak for yourself, Kemosabi. I’ll be around to eat. Even if there’s no work here, I have a ton of stuff to do upstairs.”
Carmedy slung his pack on his shoulder, and patted his pockets for keys and wallet, then checked the heavy-duty flashlight on his belt. No gun, Kate noted. No real need, she supposed but it didn’t stop her from carrying her Sig Sauer and a taser. Strict weapons controls only applied to law-abiding civilians and Kate didn’t count herself among the civilians.
“I’m going home tonight if you want to use the apartment,” she said.
He shook his head.
“It’s okay . . . I changed the sheets for you, by the way.”
Kate was surprised at his thoughtfulness.
“Thanks. You didn’t have to.”
He gave her a shrug and turned to go. Over his shoulder he commented, “Yes, I did.”
Kate kept the office open for another hour before calling it a day and going up to change out of her day-wear. She had almost as many clothes in her father’s flat as her own apartment. She’d have to make up her mind where she was going to live soon. But not today, she thought, running through her own checklist. Wallet, cuffs, flashlight and shopping bags were in her large shoulder bag. Keys and personal alarm in her pocket. BlueBerry, taser and pistol in their respective holsters on her belt.
A couple of hours later, with a bag full of wrapped presents, Kate hailed a taxi and headed to the apartment. She asked the cabby to wait while she dropped off her parcels, then she directed him to take her to the east end. On the way, she called Carmedy.
“Hey, partner,” he said.
She smiled. He must be having a good evening if he was being so friendly.
“How’s it going?” she asked.
“Nice night for a walk.”
“I just wanted to give you a heads-up. I’m going to try to interview a couple of the people on my list. I don’t anticipate any trouble but . . .”
“Better safe than sorry. Update my PCD on your location so I can find you if you shout.”
She uploaded the addresses she would be visiting and established a quick link to his PCD in case she needed to ‘shout’ for help. Soon after, the taxi stopped. Kate filed the electronic receipt to recoverable expenses and bid the cabby a safe and prosperous evening.
Her first target was Irene Collins. No Christmas decorations, but a mulch covered path lined with solar lights led the way to the porch. Beside the door was a hand-painted sign advertising peach preserves for sale, by appointment only. Finally, Kate realized where she knew the name. Ms Collins produced that delicious peach compote that she and Carmedy had been enjoying for the last couple of days.
She rang the bell.
She rang again, then knocked loudly on a panel of one-way glass set that decorated the heavy wood door.
“Who’s there?” came a voice through a speaker by the door.
Knowing she was in full view of the unseen woman, Kate adopted an open stance and a friendly – but not too friendly – smile.
“I’m Kate Garrett, one of the detectives hired by your community to find the cat-killer.”
“I don’t belong to the neighbourhood watch,” she said firmly.
“Understood, Ms Collins, but you do like to walk at night. It is possible you’ve seen something without realizing it and I am sure you would want to help keep your neighbourhood safe. After all, people who hurt animals are just as likely to hurt humans.”
There was a pause – long enough to make Kate wonder if she should knock again.
“That doesn’t follow,” said the woman on the other side of the door. “Being a butcher doesn’t make you a suspect for cutting up human bodies. Exterminators don’t become killers just because they destroy vermin.”
Actually, a butcher might become a suspect if the cadaver was cut up like a side of beef and an exterminator would be questioned if their poisons matched the cause of death. Kate didn’t argue the point.
“Your neighbours’ pets are being targeted, not vermin or meat.”
Another long pause.
“I never saw anything,” she said finally. “Now please go.”
“You make that wonderful peach jam, don’t you?”
“What does that have to do with cats?”
“Nothing,” Kate said. “I just noticed your sign. Your brother rents an office suite from me. My partner and I bought some of your peach compote from him. It’s delicious!”
“Are you going to evict my brother if I don’t talk to you?”
“Uh, no,” Kate said, momentarily derailed. “I would appreciate talking to you about your usual route when you walk, Ms Collins. You might have noticed something without realizing it. While I’m here, I’d like to pick up some of your peach chutney. Your brother doesn’t carry it. However,” now she laid on a tone of shocked affront, “I would never consider letting your lack of cooperation impact on a business relationship.”
Twenty minutes later, Kate walked away with a little more information and four jars of chutney.
Her next destination was Paulo Crabbe’s home.
Jake put away his PCD, wishing Kate had called to talk rather than sending a text message.
“Penny for your thoughts,” said his patrol partner, a no-nonsense Indian matriarch.
“My partner just reported she’s moving on to her second interview.”
“Suspect or witness or person of interest?”
Carmedy smiled. Mrs G watched crime shows in her spare time.
“Person of interest.”
“Ah,” she said, tapping the side of her nose, “lets hope it’s a person of great interest. My Sandy is suffering extreme cabin fever, but I’m not letting him out at night until this case is solved.”
“Sandy’s your cat?”
She shook her head.
“My husband. He is so high strung.”
Carmedy had no idea how to respond to this. They walked in silence until Mrs G pointed out the lights at number fifteen and the subject turned to holiday decorations. They had moved on to holiday plans when Jake’s panic alarm went off.
“Call the watch leader,” he said, checking Kate’s location. “Wait for her here.”
He was close enough to the car to make it a viable first target. As soon as Jake was within line of sight, he keyed the button to unlock and start the vehicle. He plugged his PCD into the dock and put 911 on standby.
He heard sirens as he pulled into Crabbe’s driveway. It seemed that Kate had already called in the cavalry. Even as he cut the engine, his PCD chimed.
“Carmedy?” said Kate, sounding out of breath.
He took the six porch steps in two. The front door was locked. He was considering whether there was any point trying to kick it in when it opened by Kate. She was covered in blood and lumpy goo. Behind him, an EMS truck pulled up.
Carmedy had a death grip on her shoulders and his eyes were wide – almost bugging out. Kate looked down at herself and grimaced.
“It’s okay,” she said. “It’s not my blood.”
She stepped aside and let him see Paulo Crabbe, one arm handcuffed to his wrought iron stairs, the other holding a towel to his face. He was wearing an open kimono robe and a pair of silk boxers that were a little too large and a lot too pink.
“What happened?” asked the first of two paramedics coming up behind Carmedy.
“Mr Crabbe attacked me,” Kate replied. “I broke his nose.”
“What’s the orange stuff?”
The paramedic nodded and turned his attention to Crabbe, who was already being checked by his partner.
“Peach chutney?” Carmedy asked.
She winced with embarrassment.
“I was reaching for my flashlight and came up with chutney.”
He bit his lower lip. He was trying not to laugh at her.
Flashing lights heralded the arrival of the police. One of them was a new hire but Kate knew the other guy from her time in community policing. He looked her over, head to toe and shook his head.
“Now what, Garrett?”
“Same old, same old, Mohr. You met Carmedy?”
Mohr held out his hand.
“Yeah, I think Joe introduced us once.”
Carmedy shook the hand and nodded his head. Kate could tell neither man remembered the other.
“Any of that blood yours?” Mohr asked.
Kate shook her head.
“I don’t think so.” She flexed her hand and winced with pain. “Maybe. I might have a cut. Definitely have bruises.”
Carmedy took her hand and examined it.
“It should be washed with running water just in case there’s glass left in the wound.”
“Not yet,” Kate told him. “It’s not life threatening, so Mohr needs to establish if there is evidence on my hand to preserve.”
Mohr rolled his eyes.
“Don’t teach your grandpa how to suck eggs, Garrett.”
The senior constable turned to his partner.
“See if you can free up one of those paramedics and take ‘em to the kitchen with Garrett.” He turned back to Kate. “You can tell my rookie how to do her job while she takes your statement.”
An hour later, Paulo Crabbe was on his way to the hospital under police escort and Kate was finally allowed to leave the kitchen. Her sweater, t-shirt and shoulder bag had been taken in evidence, but she was allowed to keep the bag’s contents, including two of the remaining jars of chutney. Mohr kept one intact jar “for evidence”.
“Here,” Carmedy said, passing her his shirt.
She took off the paramedic’s blanket and put on the still-warm garment. Carmedy wrapped the blanket around her shoulders holding it while she awkwardly fastened the buttons.
“She needs to go to the hospital,” the paramedic announced.
Kate opened her mouth to protest, but Carmedy spoke first.
“I’ll take her.”
Weary but resigned, Kate agreed.
En route to the hospital, Jake stopped for coffee. He picked a drive-through even though it meant paying extra for the convenience. Except for asking what she wanted, he maintained a tactical silence until she had her first sip.
“So?” he asked, pulling out of the parking lot.
“The whole evening or just the part with Crabbe?”
“Start with Crabbe.”
He heard her take another sip before she started.
“I approached Paulo Crabbe with the same spiel I gave Irene Collins, but he was a lot friendlier. He invited me in, made a show of trying to remember his routine . . .”
She heaved a sigh.
“I could tell he was stringing me along,” she continued. “He wanted attention and for a little while I thought we might have our cat-killer, but then he revealed himself.”
“He revealed himself,” she repeated. “He opened his kimono and dropped his shorts. I guess he wears them loose on purpose.”
“Oh yeah. I stood up, one hand on my taser, the other hitting the panic button. I asked him to pull his pants up . . .”
She took a ragged breath. Startled, Jake glanced sideways and saw that she was holding her travel mug in a death grip. When she finally spoke, she sounded so shaken, it was all Jake could do to keep both hands on the wheel.
“I was caught off guard. He lunged at me, throwing me off balance. I couldn’t get my taser free, but my bag was handy so I reached into it for my flashlight, to use it like a cosh. I came up with peach chutney instead. I didn’t mean to smash it into his face, but the guy was getting rough, so I didn’t have much choice. Even then, I had to kick him away from me.”
“That’s when you broke his ribs.”
“That’s when I broke his ribs." She gave a harsh laugh. "To be honest, I was a bit pissed off by then.”
This time she caught him looking and answered his concern with a poor attempt at a reassuring smile.
“I was an idiot,” she admitted. “I shouldn’t have gone into his house alone.”
It was a stupid reckless thing to do, but he wasn’t going to point that out now. He wouldn't offer sympathy. That would only make her feel worse. But he wouldn't kick her when she was down either.
“Then you cuffed him to the railing,” he said.
“Do you think he’s the cat killer?”
He glanced toward her and saw she was shaking her head.
“I figure if he were to kill anything, there would be a sexual component to the crime.”
Jake gave an involuntary shudder.
“Yeah,” said Kate, “that’s how I felt about it too.”
Continued tomorrow, or read the whole story at: