Saturday, November 5, 2011
An Indecent Death - Excerpt Of David Anderson's Debut Thriller
An Indecent Death is available now at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, the Apple iStore and everywhere e-books are sold. A Striking Death, also featuring Detective Sergeant Nicholas Drumm, will be available soon.
Excerpt: Chapter 3, from An Indecent Death...
Detective Sergeant Nicholas Drumm of the York Police Services, Violent Crimes Unit, was enjoying a well-earned day off. Life had been hectic just lately and the spring sunshine felt good on his face. It could be a little warmer, he thought. He wouldn’t mind that at all. There was plenty of time for cold days in winter. Once spring arrived, he was eager for warmth and resented even one more day where he was forced to shiver.
Drumm was working in his back garden, doing the tidying and weeding required after the long winter. The garden was a mess. He remembered that in November, he had lost interest, as he usually did in the fall, and let it go. He was looking at the resultant clutter with some dismay, wondering how he would be able to get it back to the way he wanted it. Dead stalks were everywhere, there were dozens of pesky dandelions that were already threatening to take over the whole garden, the invading clumps of grass, not to mention the accumulation of doggy droppings from Will.
“Will! Don’t I shovel enough shit at work? Sheesh!” Determinedly he picked up the spade and commenced to edge the border.
“Won’t get done by looking at it, right, Will?” Drumm often chatted to his dog, a habit that he expected many men his age had developed. Especially when they lived alone, as he did. Will was a five year old Shetland Sheepdog, sable in color. As Shelties go, he was pretty special, Drumm thought, not for the first time. Will accepted whatever life threw his way, wouldn’t bark at cars or strangers, loved traveling and was always there to listen. Not the greatest guard dog, he had to admit, but he more than made up for it with his other qualities.
“We’ll have to go for a long walk soon. Right, buddy?” Shelties needed a lot of exercise and Drumm often felt guilty because he didn’t have enough time to get Will out like he should. The dog was content, though, to lie around in the sun, awaiting Drumm’s time and attention when he could afford to give it. A walk would be just what I need today, thought Drumm; might make me feel better.
Yesterday had been a tough day. There was the usual stress at work, the office politics and the petty disagreements. He was worried about his health again and hated the fact that he was worried. In fact it pissed him off that he couldn’t stop obsessing about his damn blood sugar. Drumm had always prided himself on being in charge. He knew himself to be a control freak, and when he couldn’t control his mind, it bothered him. And then there had been the phone call.
His phone had rung last night, not so long after he had gotten home and was looking forward to a relaxing evening watching baseball.
“Nicky?” And that one word, spoken by a female voice, meant that his evening was ruined. Only a few people called him Nicky, and only one female that he could think of. No, most people called him Nick, or Nicholas, or maybe Mr. Drumm. “Nicky” meant that it was Emily, and Emily meant trouble.
“Hello, Emily.” His voice was flat, and wary.
“I’ve been thinking.”
That was not good, not good at all. Emily was his ex-girlfriend, former live-in companion, ex-roommate, common-law wife, or whatever it was called these days. They had never been too sure how to characterize their relationship. Except, for the last six months of it, life for him had been hell on wheels. That was a label he was pretty damn sure was accurate. Drumm loved her dearly, loved her outlook on life, loved touching her, loved most things about her, in fact. But she was emotionally unstable, and he had found that difficult to take. Towards the end of their time together, things had degenerated to the point of shouting matches and weeping. Emily wanted him to give up his career with the Police Services and while he was willing to do a great deal for Emily, that was something he just couldn’t agree to. He felt it was unfair of her to ask that of him and he would get angry. They would fight, and then they would make up, and the making up was heaven. But then the cycle would begin again, until sometimes he felt like was on a merry-go-round, and the constant flare-ups drove him to distraction. He had eventually had enough, they had had one last explosive argument, and she had moved out. Clothes, TV, everything she possessed and kept in his home – it had all left with her.
That had been three months ago. For the first two weeks, he had thought he would die of misery. He had wanted to call her every day, nearly every hour sometimes. Work had gotten him through it, and the past month had seen the ache of her departure die down to the point where it was manageable. And now here she was calling him again, just when he was beginning to get a handle on his feelings.
“OK, Emily, I’ll bite. What have you been thinking?” Despite himself he had to ask.
“I think we should give it another try. Now wait, I know what you’re going to say. Just hear me out. Please?”
Drumm could picture her saying that. She was probably sitting on her couch, feet tucked up underneath her. She would be curling her hair around her finger as she talked, not even aware she was doing it. Those blue eyes of hers would be focused on some distant point and there would be a look of concentration on her face.
Drumm stopped himself daydreaming and said, “Alright, Emily, I’m listening.” God help him. He could hear Emily take a deep breath. When she began speaking, it sounded like there was a catch in her voice. Was she crying?
“I’ve been miserable, Nicky, and I can’t stand it. I miss you so much. I thought it would get better with time, and it has, a bit, but life sucks right now. I want us to try again.”
“I’m different now, Nicky, really I am. I’ve thought about us, a lot, and what we had. I can’t just give up on it. We were too good together.”
“We weren’t good together when we were yelling at each other every day,” he pointed out. Drumm could still remember the bitter words of that last argument.
“I know, I know. Neither of us could go through that again. But I’m different, now, I promise. I…. I’ve been taking counseling, seeing someone, a doctor. I’ve been trying to figure myself out and why I was asking you to give up being a detective. I’ve realized some stuff.”
Drumm was almost amused. “Really? And what have you realized, Emily?”
“I wanted you to think of me as the number one thing in your life, Nicky. But I wasn’t always. Your job came first.”
Drumm snorted. “That’s nothing new! You told me that a dozen times.”
“I know. And I know that the YPS will still come first. But I’d rather share you with the force than not have you at all. My doctor has helped me to see why I used to feel the way I did. I was always worried that something would happen to you. Or when you were late, that you were spending time with one of your lady officers. Like that Sue Oliver.” Detective Susan Oliver was an attractive woman in her early forties who had worked with Drumm on a homicide the previous year.
“You never said that before,” said Drumm. “That’s ridiculous! I was never interested in anyone else, especially Sue Oliver.”
Drumm had found the woman competent but maddeningly slow and fussy.
“The doctor has helped me see that. I know myself a lot better than I used to, that’s for sure,” Emily said. “And I know you’re what I want. I’ll do what it takes to make things work, Nicky. As long as you’re willing to try too. I don’t expect you to say yes right away. Think about it, please, take some time. Call me tomorrow and we’ll get together for coffee. Just one small step, and we’ll see how it goes. Please, Nicky.”
And he was lost. He knew it, and maybe she knew it too. For appearances’ sake he said, “I don’t know, Em. I’ll have to think about it.”
“That’s what I want, Nicky, Just think about it, please, and call me tomorrow. I love you.” And she had hung up on him.
That call had been just after dinner, and instead of contentedly watching baseball, he had sat fretting about Emily. A couple of beers had settled him somewhat and he had been careful not to let the two stretch into six or seven. But he had had a lot of trouble sleeping. Should he call her? Was he ready to get into all that again? But he was just fooling himself. He knew he would phone.
Drumm sighed and bent over his spade again. A little more edging got done. Will lifted his head and eyed him briefly, then settled back contentedly into the grass. Over on the little retaining wall that he had built, Drumm’s cell phone rang. This time it was Staff Inspector Mark Chappell, his boss.
“Drumm? Chappell here. What are you doing? Not busy are you?”
“Now why would I be busy, sir? It’s Sunday and I am gardening. On my day off.” Drumm really didn’t want to work today.
“A policeman’s lot, eh, Drumm? I have a job for you.”
“And I assume it can’t wait until tomorrow?”
“The dead can’t wait, Detective Sergeant. Justice needs to be done and all that. Call just came through from Woodbine. We’ve got a body in Hillsdale Park. Looks like a female, shallow grave. An elderly couple found her this morning, just about an hour ago now. I want you to take this one.”
Drumm thought that the dead actually could wait, had, in fact, all of eternity to wait, but he knew better than to say so. He was a little surprised. It wasn’t really his turn, so it was odd that he was being asked to take this case on. And on his day off too.
“What aren’t you telling me, Staff? Why me?”
“Because it’s probably a teacher, Drumm. And if it is, I want you in charge of the investigation.”
Drumm, in an earlier incarnation, had been a public school teacher for a couple of years, before he came to his senses and realized teaching wasn’t for him. It had been two years of frustration and futility. He had gotten out before he had done serious damage to the little darlings he had been asked to “educate”. Because of that limited experience, the Staff Inspector had given him, in the past, a couple of cases involving schools, figuring that Drumm had some kind of insight that his other officers lacked. There had been a sexual assault involving minors which had happened on school property one Saturday night last summer. And Drumm recalled another case where an eleventh grader had been beaten in a stairwell of his school one afternoon.
Did Drumm have some kind of special insight? Hardly, he thought. But he was familiar with the educational bureaucracy and all its working parts. He had a good idea of the roles of all the school personnel, how they worked together, how much power a principal had, the rights of parents and students, a hundred little things that might come in handy. He understood, for example, how important a school secretary was, and how much the entire building depended on her. He did have some inside knowledge and it had proved useful in those earlier cases.
“Why do you think it’s a teacher, sir? Was there chalk or something found on the body?”
“I think it’s a teacher, Detective Sergeant, because one Paula Noonan, age 32, was reported missing Saturday. And she, Detective Sergeant, is a seventh grade teacher at Elmdale Elementary School. That’s all I’ve got right now. Oh, and you can have Smith and Wesson. If you please, get yourself out there, as soon as possible.” And Chappell hung up.
Somewhat bemused, Drumm put his phone away in his pocket and returned the spade to the shed. His gardening would have to wait quite a while, he guessed. Walking into the house, Will trotting happily after him, Drumm started making his plans. Smith and Wesson? That wasn’t too bad. Detective Karl Wesson was a good, solid cop, dependable and with a sensible head on his shoulders. Detective Lori Singh was typical of the new generation of female officers: young, fit, highly intelligent and quick to learn. It didn’t hurt that she was of Indian extraction, a real bonus in today’s increasingly diversified society. She was sometimes teamed with Wesson. Singh and Wesson, Smith and Wesson. Some wag at the station had called them that early on and the nickname had stuck. No, this might work out fine. Emily forgotten for the moment, Drumm hurried to make his preparations. When Staff Inspector Mark Chappell said as soon as possible, it didn’t do to dawdle.
For more about David, please see the interview with him at http://www.nicholasdrumm.com.
David Anderson has been a writer all his life. He lives with his wife and Shetland Sheepdog, Wilson, in a small town in southern Ontario, Canada. Wilson is the model for Will, the Sheltie featured in his novels. His owner is Detective Sergeant Nicholas Drumm, of the York Police Services. David spent more than thirty years in the classrooms of Ontario as a teacher of young children. All David's books involve (fictional!) crimes involving teachers or other aspects of school life.