Authors: Stanley Evans
PRAISE FOR STANLEY EVANS
“Evans' combination of [Coast] Salish lore and solid plotting is a winner.”
âThe Globe and Mail
“A fast-paced, entertaining story with enough plot twists to keep the reader guessing.”
“A mystery novel worth reading and lingering over.”
“A gritty murder-mystery with some violence and suspense thrown in for good measure.”
Oak Bay News
“Tightly written mystery . . . a pleasure to read.”
âComox Valley Record
“Evans does not disappoint.”
“Well worth reading. Evans knows how to set a scene, creates vivid minor characters, and is capable of spitting out the requisite snappy dialogue.”
“An exciting introduction to a Coast Salish cop with a lot more entertaining stories to tell.”
âMystery Readers Journal
“Sharp, calculating and extremely convincing style of writing.”
“Evans is a forceful story teller.”
âParksville Qualicum News
“[An] evocative series.”
“Makes great use of the West Coast aboriginal mythology and religion.”
âThe Globe and Mail
“The writing is wonderful native story telling. Characters are richly drawn . . . I enjoyed this so much that I'm looking for the others in the series.”
SEAWEED IN THE SOUP
For my sister Marion, and Douglas Bee
THE WARRIOR RESERVE DOES NOT EXIST
. All of the characters, incidents and dialogue in this novel are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons or to real events is coincidental. Depictions of Native mythology and religion are based on ethnological research and do not necessarily reflect the present-day observances and practices of Canada's West Coast Native people.
Victoria is surrounded by forest, and when I go out of an early morning, checking up on the homeless people sleeping in parks and doorways and alleys, I often see wild animals as well. Raccoons, skunks and squirrels are common. Coyotes, deer and cougars wander our streets occasionally. Moreover, because we'd had a long cold spring that year, huckleberries, salmonberries and blackberries were scarce, and hungry bears had been coming down from the mountains to forage on garbage.
But ravens seldom nest in the inner city, and when a pair moved into a tree on Pandora Street, I kept a wary eye on them.
Because of its black plumage, croaking call and carrion diet, the raven has since ancient times been regarded as a bird of ill omen. To Canada's West Coast Natives, Raven also symbolizes Creation, prestige and knowledge. In Coast Salish mythology, Raven placed the sun in the sky and put fishes in the sea. In the Coast Salish language, Raven's mystical name may be also be translated as “Trickster,” a powerful god with the power to change itself into anything it choosesâa woman, say, or a tree, or a whale.
That morning, though, it was easy to overlook the ravens' Trickster reputations as they soared joyously upwards wing-to-wing, before plummeting recklessly back to earth half out of control, calling raucously. Possessed by love, the ravens spent hours cheek-to-cheek cooing, warbling, and preening each other's purplish-black feathers. Next, a couple of fluffy brownish chicks appeared. The doting parents spent their days airlifting rotten meat and other delicacies to the nestlings. Well-fed raven babies don't croak; they coo and they gurgle.
One warm August morning, the nestlings were flapping their wings on a favourite bough when a couple of young women came by. Both were wearing cut-offs, flip-flops,
Jesus loves you, everybody else thinks you're an asshole
T-shirts, and shades.
The women were on the chunky side and looked like fresh-off-the-reserve folks to meâdoe-eyed Indians with long black hair, copper-coloured skin and pretty faces. As they marvelled at the ravens, I took their measure. Statistically, one or both women would be skinny crackheads within two years. Maybe this pair would beat the odds, although, given those four harbingers of mischief watching us from above, I somehow doubted it.
I went over and said, “Good morning. I'm Sergeant Seaweed. Call me Silas. You're both new in town, right? Anything I can do for you? No? Well in case you're wondering, I belong to the Warrior Tribe, that's my office over there. If you run into a problem drop in and see meÂ .Â .Â .Â ”
That's as far as I got, because Nimrod Wright shoved himself into the picture. In a soberer incarnation, Nimrod Wright had been a fisherman. By then, he was an incoherent panhandler who oscillated between the drunk tank, rehab and the funny farm. When Nimrod staggered up to the women with his handout, they turned their backs on us and cleared off around the first corner.
It was about eight o'clock in the morning. A nice sunny August day. I found Chief Detective Inspector Bernie Tapp in Lou's Cafe. Bernie is a tough-looking guy with hair a quarter of an inch long, an eighteen-inch neck, and eyes the colour of coal. He has the same hard leanness as men who chop down trees for a living. He was wearing a white shirt with the top button undone, a maroon necktie that had been slackened off, and a pair of blue denim pants. His red golf jacket had burn marks on both pockets. He didn't look like a detective, but that was the whole idea.
Bernie was sitting alone in a booth by a window, eating steak and eggs. There was a paperback book propped up on the table in front of him. A trace of runny egg, visible on Bernie's chin, led me to conclude that Bernie was more interested in what he was reading than in what he was eating. Lou was busy serving customers. I helped myself to a cup of coffee and carried it over to Bernie's table. I didn't say hello until I was seated opposite him. Taken by surprise, Bernie grabbed the book and put it down on the seat beside him where I couldn't see it. He was too slow. I grinned, but I didn't say anything. The book's title was
Mood DisordersâHow Sudden Impulses Can Ruin Your Life
Bernie drank some coffee and stared at me expectantly. He's the best friend I've got. We go fishing occasionally whenever Bernie takes a day off work, which isn't often. Not nowadays. Being a CDI is a big deal, but Bernie used to get more fun out of life when he was a sergeant. He was waiting for me to rib him about the book, but he was saved by the ringing of his cellphone.
One minute later, the pair of us were aboard Bernie's Interceptor, and he was driving too fast on a winding stretch of blacktop through a stand of half-tamed rainforest. An occasional secluded mansion told us that rich people lived around there. After a couple of screeching turns, we ended up on Collins Lane, a winding gravel road suddenly dead-ended by a giant shingled house. Bernie hit the brakes. With gravel spitting and snarling from beneath our wheels, we skidded to a halt alongside a blue and white patrol car. I noticed a shiny new BMW convertible and an '88 Toyota Corolla parked in a detached garage.
There are places in Victoria where you can't get down to the waterfront unless you own it. This was one of those places. “Must be nice,” Bernie remarked, as we tramped up a flight of granite steps to the front door. The house had about twenty rooms. It was the kind of residence that people like the Astors and the Vanderbilts would call a summer cottage. Instead of knocking, Bernie and I barged straight into a vestibule with a full-size Chinese rickshaw parked in a corner. An Inuit kayak was propped up in another corner. The remaining space was large enough for a ping-pong tournament. The ceilings were twelve feet high. A single yellow driving glove lay on an oak table. The door leading from the vestibule into the house was held ajar by a hideous but no doubt expensive elephant's-foot umbrella stand. The houseâfull of museum-grade art and furnitureâsmelled of beeswax, and the parquet floors gleamed. We tramped through a vast echoing hall and on into a formal dining room with a mahogany table, chairs for sixteen people, and enough heavy silver candlesticks, rosebowls and platters to ballast a ship.
A woman's laughter drew Bernie and me through an archway and along a passage to a kitchen at the back of the house.
Lightning BradleyâVictoria's oldest uniformed constableâwas seated at a table drinking coffee, smoking a cigarette, and telling jokes to a woman who was washing dishes at the kitchen sink. The woman wore a lace-trimmed white apron over a black dress. The lines on her face put her at fiftyish; her eyes twinkled with amusement. Bradley was appraising her with a gaze too frank to be innocent.
Bradley turned his big square face towards us. Instead of showing some ordinary polite respect for Bernie's rank, Bradley remarked idly, “This pretty lady is Mrs. Milton, the housekeeper. She's the one who found it.” After a moment, Bradley added as an afterthought, “Ricketts is watching it downstairs.”
I groaned inwardly, thinking,
here we go again
. Barely controlled rage was fast becoming Bernie's default mode, and it looked as if everybody was in for a bad day. “Say, Mrs. Milton,” he snarled. “Why don't you just leave those dishes for now, and wait for us outside? We'll have some questions for you later, so don't wander too far.”
Mrs. Milton's smile faded. Startled and upset by Bernie's unnecessarily harsh tone, she hurried out to a back patio, her black skirts swishing around her legs.
Bradley stubbed his cigarette in a saucer and stood up quickly. “Oh yeah, right, Bernie,” he said, holding his hands up as if to admit his folly. “You know how it is, we got to talking and I never thought. It's this way, let me show you.”
Bernie bottled his anger. We followed Bradley through a doorway off the kitchen, down a flight of wooden stairs to the basement, and along a hallway to an L-shaped bedroom. When we entered, the thick meaty odour of freshly spilled blood enveloped us like a mist. It was a gruesome scene. The rumpled blue duvet covering the room's double bed looked as if somebody had emptied a can of red paint across it.
The room's other occupant was Constable Ricketts, a new recruit. Ricketts was gazing fixedly at a slim Asian male stretched out naked on the floor's blue carpet. Appearances suggested that during his final agonies, the doomed man had rolled off the bed.
Ricketts' face had a sickly pale tone, and he appeared to be deeply shaken. He made a noise in his throat when we joined him, but didn't say anything comprehensible. Bernie took latex gloves from his pockets, blew on them to inflate and stretch the rubber, and went down on his haunches to examine the corpse.
The dead man lay on his back. His neck had been slashed. The wound had severed both of his carotid arteries, as well as the jugular veins. The incision was so deep that the dead man was almost decapitatedâhis head lay at an unnatural angle to his body. Flies buzzed around, feasting on the dreadful wound and on the splashes of blood that Rorschached the surrounding area. “There's a word for this kind of blood loss,” Bernie said. “I just can't think of it now.”