Monday, September 01, 2014

A Little More Free–Chapter One

The second Eddie Dougherty novel, A Little More Free, will be published in 2015 by ECW Press. This one takes place in the fall of 1972 in Montreal. Eddie is still a uniformed constable working out of Station Ten and once again he ends up in the middle of a murder investigation.

Here is Chapter One:

CHAPTER ONE

Montreal, September 1972

Friday afternoon before Labour Day weekend, Constable Eddie Dougherty gave evidence in the trial of three women charged with being naked in a public place. The week before he’d been temporarily assigned to the Morality Squad and was one of the cops who’d gone in plainclothes to a discothèque on Ste. Catherine Street and arrested the women who were dancing in the window.

At first it had been fun, his first undercover work, and the club was lively and the girls were having a good time. Dougherty figured, of course they were dancing in the window, they were trying to get more customers in the place, but the guys he was with, Morality Squad regulars, weren’t having any fun.

Now at the trial one of the other cops, Trepannier, was saying, “They wiggled their posteriors towards the window,” and Constable Quevillon said, “It was shocking, the women appeared bottomless as well as topless.”

When Dougherty was on the stand the prosecutor showed him the bright orange and red costumes, a thin strip of material, and said, “Is this, in fact, what this woman was wearing?” and motioned the g-string towards the blonde at the defence table sitting between the other two women.

Dougherty said, “Well, it looks like it, but I’d have to see her wearing it again to be sure.”

Pretty much everyone in the courtroom burst out laughing and when the judge finally got them quieted down the blonde winked at Dougherty and blew him a kiss.

The judge said, “I’m afraid that’s a little out of the question,” and adjourned the trial until the next week when he said they’d hear from defence witnesses.

One of the reporters looked at Dougherty then and said, “You might as well just stay on the stand, constable,” and everyone laughed again.

In the hallway outside the courtroom the blonde came up to Dougherty and said, “Hi, I’m Erin Mulvaney,” and Dougherty said, yeah, “I remember from the arrest report.”

“Oh yeah. Anyway, I have to work tonight.”

Dougherty said, “So do I.”

“But sometimes when we finish we go to Dunn’s for a bite.”

“Oh yeah?”

“If you’re, you know, hungry.”

“Maybe a little cheesecake.”

She was giggling then and said, yeah, “Maybe some cheesecake.”

Dougherty said, okay, maybe, and then he watched Erin walk away with the other two women.

That night he was back driving a squad car out of Station Ten. Captain Boisvert of the Morality Squad said Dougherty wasn’t going to work out and Dougherty was okay with that.

A little after eleven Dougherty was standing beside his squad car having a smoke with the doorman at Rockheads on St. Antoine and a call came over the radio about a fire at the corner of Dorchester and Union.

The doorman, a Joe Louis lookalike named Jones, looked up the hill towards downtown and said, “Union? By Phillips Square, that the Blue Bird?”

“Or the bar upstairs.”

“Wagon Wheel,” Jones said. “Country western.”

Dougherty said, “You know all the clubs,” and Jones said, “Gotta know what’s what in this business,” and he leaned in a little and winked and said, “and who’s who.”

“Yeah,” Dougherty said, “like this business,” nodding his head a little towards the open window of the squad car. “Maybe it’s a kitchen fire.”

“Maybe.”

The radio squawked out another call for the fire and Dougherty said, “Sound like something.” He was looking up the hill then, too, downtown blocked by the expressway but he saw smoke rising and started around the cop car saying, “Keep the peace tonight, all right,” and Jones said, “Will do, boss.”

Dougherty drove fast up Mountain and turned right onto Dorchester. It was only a few blocks to Union, the radio going steady, every cop and fireman on duty called in. As soon as he saw the place, Dougherty knew it was bad.

A little two-storey building right on the corner, used to be a garage, now flames were pouring out the front door. Dougherty knew that behind the door were the narrow, rickety stairs going up to the nightclub.

And no one was coming out that door.

Dougherty jumped out of his squad car and saw a man hanging from the big neon sign on the side of the building for a couple of seconds and then watched the guy fall onto the roof of a car and bounce onto Union Street.

People were falling from the sky, climbing out the window behind the sign and jumping.

There was a fire escape on the other corner of the building and dozens of people were coming down that as fast as they could, tripping and falling, getting up or just crawling. Fire trucks were pulling up, guys dragging hoses towards the building and hooking them up to hydrants, people were screaming and black smoke was pouring out of the building.

Chaos.

There was a loud crack and the wrought-iron fire escape gave way and collapsed.

People were thrown off and people were crushed underneath.

Dougherty saw a rookie getting out of a squad car looking like he was going to faint and grabbed him and said, “Stay on the corner and keep Dorchester clear, make sure the fire trucks and the ambulances can get through. Start getting these people to hospitals.”

People who had gotten out of the fire were standing by the building yelling back for people still inside and Dougherty tried to move them all further away. He heard a guy calling his name and saw the bouncer and managed to make out something about the back door.

Locked.

Dougherty ran around the building to the parking lot and the back door, ran up to it and heard screaming. Women screaming.

Pounding on the door.

No handle on the outside.

Dougherty looked around on the ground for something to pry open the door but didn’t see anything in the dark.

The screaming died down and for a second Dougherty thought the panic was ending but then he realized the people trapped inside were just passing out from the smoke.

Then the doorframe busted and the door slammed onto the ground and three or four guys fell out and staggered, coughing and trying to breathe.

Dougherty pushed past them and saw the bodies in the stairwell, piled all the way up the stairs. One of the guys who’d broken the door and gotten out was right behind Dougherty going back in saying, “My brother,” and grabbing bodies and pulling them out. The stairwell was full of thick, black smoke, it was impossible to breathe. Dougherty picked up a body, looked like a teenage girl, rushed outside, rushed back in, grabbed another.

A couple minutes later there was a fireman at the top of the stairs yelling down, saying, “Tous monde dehors?”

Dougherty tried to speak but his throat was closing up so he just stood there nodding and waved and the fireman rushed back into the club.

Outside a guy grabbed Dougherty by the arm and said, “My fiancée’s in there.”

Dougherty was trying to get air into his lungs, doubled over and gasping and he looked up at the guy and said, “We’ve been taking... people to hospitals.”

The guy let go and ran off.

Dougherty took a few steps to a car, leaned back against it and looked back at the club. The Blue Bird Cafe on the ground floor was dark but there were still flames coming out of parts of the second floor, the Wagon Wheel. The place was surrounded by fire trucks, the big ladders extended over the roof, firemen in the buckets pointing hoses at the building.

The flames were getting smaller, going out.

Now Dougherty realized the crowd was growing, it wasn’t just the people who’d been in the club it was people showing up looking for friends and relatives. He closed his eyes and heard voices... my sister... my husband... it was a birthday... a party... we were celebrating...

There were more cop cars on the scene then, cops moving people away from the building.

Dougherty got some breath into his lungs, it tasted like soot, and he tried to push himself off the car and stand up. He heard a voice that sounded far away but he focused harder and saw a man inches from his face.

“Are you okay?”

Dougherty realized it was a reporter he knew, Logan, and saw he was covered in black ash.

“They’re all out of the stairwell, they’re out.”

“Good.”

Logan leaned back against the car beside Dougherty and said, “It looks like they’ve got it under control.” Then he looked at his watch and said, “That place went up fast.”

Dougherty said, yeah. He pushed himself off the car and walked back towards the building. As he pushed through the crowd he saw people with blood on their faces and hands and smashed glass all over the ground and figured they’d gotten out through the small windows. He’d been to the club a few times since it had become the country bar, almost everyone there was English from Verdun or the Point or the West Island. Lots of women who worked in Place Ville Marie or the Sun Life building a little further down Dorchester, secretaries, and guys from the custom brokers and shipping companies down the hill by the port. A working class crowd.

Around the front of the building Dougherty stopped and stared. The firemen were carrying out bodies, handing them from one fireman to another and cops were loading people onto stretchers and into ambulances and police cars.

The crowd was staying back but there was panic in the air.

Dougherty pushed his way past a couple firemen, one of them looked like the captain, and he heard him saying, “Bien sûr, respirer la gas, tout l’escalier,” and realized right away it was true, he could smell the gasoline, it was arson. He pushed his way up the stairs into the club.

A couple of firemen were shining flashlights into the far corner of the room, past the dance floor, and Dougherty saw that was where they were picking up the bodies. He went over to help and caught unconnected words, “Women’s bathroom,” “fenêtres brisées,” “kids.” He took his turn picking up a body from the floor and walked across the club to the stairwell and handed it – him, Dougherty was thinking, a man about his own age, probably someone he’d seen when he was in the club – to a fireman.

Then he went back for another.

When the bodies had been cleared, Dougherty and the rest of the cops went down the stairs and left the firemen to do whatever it was they did.

Out front Dougherty had no idea how much time had passed since he’d first seen the flames coming out of the building – an hour? Three hours? There was still a big crowd all the way up Union to Phillips Square, and in the other direction Dougherty saw the rookie he’d told to direct traffic still standing on Dorchester waving cop cars in and out. He went up to the kid and said, “How you doing?”

“It’s bad, isn’t it?”

“The worst.”

“Probably fifty trips to the hospital so far.” The kid waved another cop car out onto Dorchester and looked at Dougherty and Dougherty didn’t think he’d ever seen skin so white. He thought maybe that was just because every other face he’d seen for hours was covered with black soot but then he thought, no, this kid looks like he’s going to pass out.

“Okay,” Dougherty said, “keep the cars moving, we’ve got to be coming to an end.”

The kid looked unsteady on his feet but he nodded and looked glad to have something to do.

Dougherty wandered back around the front of the Blue Bird and saw Logan talking to a couple of guys, saying, “He played the drums?”

One of the guys said, “Yeah, he plays drums, we’re Don and Curly and the Dudes.”

Logan was writing in his notebook. “You were the first one to see the fire?”

“Curly saw it, he stopped playing, he put down his guitar, told everybody not to panic.”

Dougherty took a few steps away, the voice fading, “... tried to get everybody out, the windows were boarded up with plywood...” and he saw the Night Sergeant from Station Ten, Beauchamps, talking to a couple of detectives and the bouncer, guy named Riley, who was saying, “Around ten, ten-thirty.”

Riley saw Dougherty and said, “Eddie, you know that guy, Gaetan...”

“Gaetan who?”

“I don’t know, sometimes he’s in here with his brother, you had to straighten them out a couple weeks ago.”

“Gaetan Eggers.”

“It was him I threw out tonight, him and a couple of his buddies.”

“His brother?”

Riley thought for a second and said, “No, two other guys. They were all drunk, they came in and tried to sit with people they didn’t know, they didn’t want them, I had to get them out.” He looked up at Dougherty and shook his head and said, “Eddie, man, the place was packed.”

One of the detectives, a guy in his fifties Dougherty didn’t recognize said, “Do you know the other two?”

Riley said, “They’re in here all the time, I don’t know their names,” and looked at Dougherty who said, “I’ve picked them up before, sometimes Eggers with his brother and another guy, O’Boyle.”

“That’s right, Jimmy,” Riley said, “he was one of them.”

“But you don’t know,” the detective said, “if it was them who started the fire?”

Riley shook his head, he didn’t know.

The detective looked at his watch and said, “Bon, it’s after three, bars are closing.” Then he looked at Dougherty and said, “Call the Station, get addresses on these guys. Try to remember the other name.”

“It’ll be in one of the arrest reports,” Dougherty said. “They’ve been picked up a few times.”

He turned and took a step before he realized he didn’t know where his squad car was and as he was standing there one of the bartenders from the Wagon Wheel came up to him looking like he wanted to say something but Dougherty had to say, “What is it?” before the guy would say, “I don’t really want to bother you, but...”

“But what?”

“Well, somebody rifled the cash register.”

“What?”

“And a bunch of purses were stolen, the girls are talking about it over there.”

Dougherty said, “Okay, well, tell them to come into the Station tomorrow, okay? There’s nothing we can do now.”

The bartender said, okay, and started to walk away and Dougherty said, “Hey.”

“What?”

“Try and keep them calmed down, okay?”

The bartender nodded, said, “Okay,” and walked back towards the crowd. Dougherty watched him go, thinking the guy was still in shock, but hoping he could talk to the regulars, at least.

Then Dougherty saw his squad car on Dorchester, the front wheels up on the sidewalk and he went to it and got on the radio to Station Ten and asked the only guy in the building to look up the arrest report on Gaetan Eggers. “Drunk and disorderly back in July, I think.”

“That’s all you got?”

“There was one in the winter, too,” Dougherty said, “fight in Atwater Park, with a drug dealer, I think, coloured guy, I chased him down Ste. Catherine, he broke a window in that store,” Dougherty thought for a second and then said, “Cargo Canada. In the D&D there was another guy with him, Jimmy O’Boyle, and probably another guy, I don’t know his name but I need an address for him, too.”

Over the radio the cop said, “That’s all?” Sarcastic even now and Dougherty said, “As fast as you can.”

The cop at Station Ten said, “Okay.” Then he said, “How bad is it?” and Dougherty said, “Bad.”

“They’re saying on the radio more than a dozen killed.”

“Yeah,” Dougherty said, “more than a dozen.”

Dougherty was standing beside the car holding the handset, the wire connecting it to the big radio on the dash stretched as far as it would go, looking over the scene. The two westbound lanes of Dorchester were blocked with squad cars, Union Street was filled with fire engines and there were hundreds of people just standing around.

A few minutes later the cop at Station Ten was back on the radio saying, “Okay, I got one for Eggers, NDG, below the tracks, no surprise there.”

“What about the other guys?”

“O’Boyle is in Verdun but there’s no one else on the report. I’ll keep looking, last winter, and back.”

Dougherty said, “Okay. What’re the addresses you have?” The cop read out the street addresses and Dougherty ran back to the detectives.

“One’s in NDG and one in Verdun.”

“The third?”

“Still looking.”

“Okay, get another officer and you each go and wait, maybe they’ll go home. If they do bring them in.”

The other detective said something and then the two of them spoke quietly to each other for a moment and Dougherty couldn’t make out what they were saying. Then the first detective nodded and said to Dougherty, “We’ll get a coroner’s warrant, with that we don’t need to charge him with anything right away. You pick him up bring him to Bonsecours Street, we’ll find out if it was him.”

“Okay.” Dougherty ran to his squad car. He found the rookie who had been directing traffic standing under a streetlight looking dazed and gave him the address in Verdun and told him to go and wait there. “Park around the corner, try and stay out of sight, but watch the building, if anyone goes in radio right away.” The kid nodded and got into a squad car and Dougherty watched him drive away hoping he wouldn’t crash.

Then Dougherty got into his squad car and backed out onto Dorchester. As he pulled away he looked into the rear view mirror and saw the fire trucks still surrounding the small building, the ladders still extended above it, the hoses still spraying water onto the smouldering, blackened husk.

It was bad.

Dougherty drove fast, the streets deserted at three in the morning and got to Grand Boulevard in less than fifteen minutes. On the other side of the train tracks it was a wide, tree-lined street with nice, old brick houses, especially once it crossed Sherbrooke, but below the tracks Grand was a single block of three- and four-storey low-rent apartment buildings and some old fourplexes and walk-ups. Dougherty dumped his squad car behind some trucks in the parking lot of a landscaping company on St. Jacques and waited in the shadows across the street from Eggers’ building.

He didn’t have to wait long.

A gray Comet pulled up and Eggers got out just after three-thirty. Dougherty grabbed him. There was no fight, no struggle. Eggers had been drunk earlier but now he looked like he was in shock.

Dougherty said, “So, you know how bad it is,” and Eggers started crying, saying, “We didn’t want to hurt anybody.”

Dougherty cuffed him and dragged him across St. Jacques to his squad car, put him in the back seat and then got on the radio and called it in.

The cop at Station Ten said the detectives would meet him at HQ and Dougherty said, “Okay.”

He drove all the way to Bonsecours Street in Old Montreal with Eggers sobbing in the back seat.

An hour later Dougherty was standing in the parking lot behind the building having a smoke when Detective Carpentier pulled up in his own car, a Bonneville, and got out saying, “Mon Dieu.”

Dougherty had known the homicide detective for a few years, had been with him when they’d arrested a man they thought had killed five women and he’d never seen him so shaken.

Carpentier looked at Dougherty and said, “On dit peut-être plus de trente?”

Dougherty spoke French, too, saying, yeah, it looks like more than thirty, and the detective said again, “Mon Dieu.”

Then Carpentier switched to English and said, “You have a suspect?”

“Yes. There are two more, we’ve got a man waiting at one of the apartments and this guy,” motioning towards the building, “will give up the other one.”

“They were thrown out of the club earlier?”

“They were drunk, the bouncer threw them out.”

“And you’re sure it was them?”

Dougherty took a drag on his cigarette and tossed the butt on the ground. “He’s been crying since I picked him up, saying how they didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”

Carpentier nodded and walked past Dougherty to the doors of the police station saying, “Well, they did.”

The sun was coming up then and a little while later the parking lot started to fill up with people coming to the morgue to identify bodies. Dougherty recognized a few people, had nodding acquaintances with them, a couple he’d been in classes with at Verdun High School.

Then it was quiet for a few minutes and Dougherty was thinking about going home when a car pulled up and a guy got out and Dougherty recognized him but couldn’t place him. The guy was by himself and as he came towards the back door and saw Dougherty he said, “She wasn’t at the hospital, she wasn’t at the Royal Vic or the General or the St. Luc.”

As he was talking, Dougherty realized he’d seen him the night before, outside the Blue Bird looking for his fiancée.

“They told me to come here.”

Dougherty said, “Downstairs,” and as the guy pushed past him into the building, Dougherty touched his arm and said, “You by yourself?”

The guy said, yeah, and they looked at each other for a moment and then the guy went inside.

A little while later Detective Carpentier came out and stared up at the blue sky. He lit a cigarette and said, “Do you know where they bought the gas?” and Dougherty said, no.

Carpentier didn’t look at him, he just kept staring at the sky and said, “A gas station on de Maisonneuve.” He took a drag and exhaled slowly, smoke coming out of his nose and said, “Where his father was working. His father told him he was drunk and he should go home. One of the other guys...” Carpentier turned and looked at Dougherty and said, “You were right, he gave them up, it was O’Boyle and another, David Gratton.”

Dougherty nodded, “Yeah, I know him.”

“Oh yes, they are what the newspapers will call, ‘known to the police.’ Going back years.”

Dougherty said, yeah.

“They spent the day drinking, the three of them, on the South Shore, then they came to the club.”

“Riley told me, he kicked them out.”

“They went to Club 67, do you know it?”

“On Crescent.”

“Yes, that’s the one. They had a few more drinks and came up with their plan. The first gas station they went to wouldn’t sell them any so they went to where Eggers’ father was working. Eggers talked to him while Gratton filled the, how you say, canne de gaz, rouge?”

“Jerrycan.”

“Jerrycan. And they went back to the Blue Bird.”

“Where are the other two?”

“He doesn’t know, he says he left them at Torchy Wharf, you know it?”

“La Tortortue, yeah, it’s in Verdun, bottom of Allard Street.”

“He doesn’t know where they were going, he thinks out of town.”

Carpentier finished his cigarette and tossed the butt on the ground. Then he turned around and went back inside.

A couple of cops came out and squinted into the sun. One of them said, “Tabarnak, Je suis fucking fatigué.”

The other cop, an older guy probably in his late forties, looked at Dougherty and spoke English, saying, “There were two birthday parties in that club. One guy was turning thirty-nine, he was there with his wife.” The cop moved his head a little, the smallest of motions towards the building and said, “They’re both here. Four kids at home. Orphans now. The other one was turning twenty-one.”

The other cop, the tired one, said, “Deux filles là, quatorze ans.”

Dougherty didn’t say anything but he wasn’t surprised to hear there were fourteen-year-old girls in a bar. Montreal always a party town. Then he wondered if this would change that but didn’t think it was too likely.

Then the older cop said, “Bon, better get some sleep,” and looked at Dougherty. “You work tonight?”

“Yeah.”

The other cop said, “You working the game?”

“What game?”

Quelle jeux? Come on.”

Dougherty shook his head and said, “Right, shit.” Then he said, “No, I’m on patrol.”

“Me too, we’re watching it at the bar in the plaza, Alexis Nihon.”

“Not Toe Blake’s?”

“Hey, we might get a call, it would be too crowded, too tough to get out of there.”

Dougherty said, “That’s very conscientious of you,” and the other cop said, “Eh?”

“That’s good thinking.”

“Oh well, it won’t be much of a game, but fun to smack some commie bastards around, eh?”

Dougherty said, yeah, and the other two cops walked through the parking lot towards the Métro station. He’d forgotten about the Summit Series as it was being called. After years and years of watching the Soviet so-called amateurs beat up on Canadian university kids at the Olympics and World Championships, Canada’s pros were finally getting their chance at some revenge. Four games in Canada and then four games in Moscow. First one tonight at the Forum in Montreal. Be good, Dougherty figured, give people something to cheer about.

He walked to where he’d parked his squad car a few hours earlier when he brought in Eggers and as he opened the door he looked back at the building and saw a man coming out with his hands over his face. He was stumbling and shaking and Dougherty went to him, grabbing him by the arm and holding him up.

The guy was crying, sobbing, and Dougherty realized he was the one who’d been looking for his fiancé.

They stood there for a minute by the door and then Dougherty said, “Where do you live, where’s your family?”

“I’m okay, I’m okay.”

“Come on,” Dougherty said, “where do you live, I’ll drive you.”

“No, it’s okay.” The guy took a deep breath and got himself under control. “I’m okay.”

“Your parents, man, where are they?”

The guy took a couple more breaths, struggling to get air in and out, and then he said, “LaSalle, it’s okay. I’m okay.”

“I’ll follow you.”

The guy said he was okay again and walked to his car in a daze. Dougherty got into the squad car and followed him, onto the expressway at Berri, west through the Ville Marie tunnel and then to de la Vérendrye Boulevard through Verdun and into LaSalle.

When the guy pulled up in front of a two-storey duplex on 9th Avenue Dougherty pulled over, too, and watched the guy go into the house. There were other people inside. It was quiet for a minute and then Dougherty heard the crying.

Then he drove back downtown, dropped the car at Station Ten and walked the two blocks to his apartment. Almost six hours till he had to be back on shift.

“Sixty-five cents for a pint? We should arrest you.”

“You’d like to try, you would.” The waitress had an Irish accent and Dougherty thought she sounded a little like his grandmother but the wench outfit with the low-cut white blouse and the short skirt took away that image pretty quick.

Gagnon, who’d complained about the price was saying, “It’s fifty cents at the Royal,” and the waitress said, “Ah, but they don’t treat you so well,” and Dougherty had a feeling her joking around was just about over as she put down six pint glasses, three in each hand. The place was packed with guys watching the game and the waitresses were hopping.

Dougherty handed her a couple of two dollar bills and a single and said, “It’s my round, thanks.”

Canada had scored thirty seconds into the game, Phil Esposito banging the puck out of the air and past a Russian goalie nobody’d ever heard of.

Dougherty started his shift at six but got sent on a call right away and by the time he finally parked his squad car on Atwater across from the Forum he heard the eighteen thousand people inside cheer the second goal. It was looking like the rout everyone predicted but by the time he got to the Maidenhead bar at the Metro level of the Alexis Nihon shopping plaza across from the Forum, the Russians had scored to make it 2-1.

Now Gagnon was saying it was great to see the Commies get put in their place but one of the older cops, a guy named Duclos that Dougherty had never seen outside the station said, “They’re starting to look better, look at the way they move as a unit.” Every guy at the table, half a dozen cops all in uniform, told him he was crazy.

Then just before the first period ended the Russians scored a shorthanded goal off a two-on-one and Duclos said, “How do you get a two-on-one killing a penalty?”

The cops made Duclos buy the next round.

Dougherty got sent on another call. He had his walkie-talkie on his belt and when the call came in he looked around and saw he was the only one with a radio.

Duclos shrugged and said, “If you lose it or if you break it, you have buy a new one out of your own pay,” and Dougherty said, yeah, “I know the rule,” and Duclos said, “So, leave it in the station like everybody else.”

The call was actually in the plaza, a couple of kids had grabbed some jackets from the Jean Junction and ran. Dougherty brought Gagnon with him and they ended up chasing the kids up three flights of stairs and then back down, past the Miracle Mart and the Steinberg and the Vieille Europe food store and the poster shop and the movie theatre and finally caught them at the turnstiles to the Metro almost at the doors to the Maidenhead.

Gagnon said, “You made us miss the game,” and one of the kids said, “Screw you.”

They were both teenagers, boys with long hair wearing t-shirts with images of rock stars with long hair, confident that they were still minors and nothing serious would happen.

Dougherty told Gagnon to take the jean jackets back to the store and he took the kids to Station Ten and dumped them in a cell. They were mouthy when he’d dragged them out of the Alexis Nihon but they got quieter in the squad car and had nothing to say at all in the cell. Dougherty figured it might make an impression and it might not, hard to tell these days, but it was pretty much all he could do. He phoned the manager of the store and sure enough the guy was just happy to get the jackets back and didn’t want to have to go to court if it looked like the kids’ parents could afford a lawyer and Dougherty told him, “Yeah, it looks like they can, addresses are in Westmount,” so he let them go and drove the couple blocks back to the Maidenhead.

And was shocked to see the Russians were leading 5-2.

The bar was quiet, shocked silence.

Duclos said, “It’s a hundred and ten degrees in there and Sinden is only playing three lines.”

Canada got one back but the Russians scored two more and the game ended 7-3 for the commies. Huge upset. Unbelievable.

Gagnon said, “So much for eight games to none.” The prediction every hockey expert had made. Eight easy wins for the Canadian professionals.

One of the other cops said, “Well, they’ve been training all summer, we’ve been playing golf,” and a few guys tried to agree but it was half-hearted. The game hadn’t been close.

“Oh, we’ll win a couple,” Duclos said, “but the bubble has burst.”

“We’ll win the next seven games.”

“All right,” Duclos said, “we have to do some crowd control,” and he led the way out of the shopping plaza and onto Atwater.

The crowd was coming slowly out of the Forum and the people were upset about the loss but it looked to Dougherty like they were more in shock. And maybe when they got out of the steam bath that the inside of the Forum had become and into the cool night air they calmed down. Whatever it was, the crowd wasn’t rowdy, they looked like the living dead.

Dougherty’s radio crackled again and he took it off his belt and pressed the button, saying, “Go ahead.”

The sergeant at Station Ten, Beauchamps, told him there was something suspicious on the stairs coming off Mount Royal at Peel and Dougherty said, “Suspicious?”

“That’s what the call said, yeah.”

“On the stairs?”

“That’s right.”

“Okay, I’ll check it out.”

He got into his squad car and was amazed that eighteen thousand unhappy people could disperse so easily and quickly. The bars had filled up, no doubt, and the Métro was probably crowded for a while, but the streets were surprisingly empty.

Dougherty drove up Atwater to Pine, halfway up Mount Royal. He parked at Peel and stood for a moment looking at the cobblestone path leading to the stairs, the black iron railings on either side cutting through dark forest all the way up. He figured if it was an office building, the stairs would probably go up ten or fifteen stories – the lookout at the top higher than any of the big downtown buildings, higher than the nearly fifty stories of Place Ville Marie, and then there was the huge cross on top of that.

It was almost midnight by then and the area was dark and quiet so Dougherty turned on his flashlight and lit up the first section of stairs as far as the landing – maybe twenty stairs.

Nothing suspicious.

As he started up the stairs, trees on either side, he was hoping he wouldn’t have to go all the way to the top and then realized he wouldn’t.

Right there in the trees beside the first landing was the something suspicious.

Dougherty got out his radio and called in, saying, “I found it.”

The Sergeant said, “It is suspicious?” and Dougherty said, yeah, “It’s suspicious.”

“What is it?”

“It’s a dead body.”

 

end of chapter one

Monday, August 04, 2014

Blog Hop

 

Off the top I want to say thanks to Dietrich Kalteis for tagging me in this Blog Hop.

Each week a writer answers four questions and posts them to his or her blog, then introduces two more writers to take part for the following week. And they in turn invite two new writers each to take part, and so on; As ER Brown says, ‘it’s kind of a chain letter for writers.’

At the end of this I’ll give you links to the two writers I’ve tagged, Dana King and Steve Weddle who will be posting answers to these questions on August 11th.

So, here we go:

What am I working on?

A couple of weeks ago I handed in the manuscript of the second Eddie Dougherty novel, this one called A Little More Free, and set in Montreal in 1972 and then I started pretty much right away on the next one which will be set in 1976 and cover the Brinks truck robbery (at the time the biggest robbery in North America), the summer Olympics and the first election of the Parti Québécois.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My first four novels were multi-pov crime novels that aspired to fit into the Elmore Leonard school of writing and didn’t differ much from others in the same genre. They were set in and around Toronto and may have had a little more Canadian feel to them but otherwise they were character-driven and loosely plotted stories of cops and criminals going about their business.

My most recent novel, Black Rock, is more of a traditional whodunit, told from the pov of a young constable who is thrust into the middle of a homicide investigation. It’s set in 1970 in Montreal against a backdrop of real-life events.

Why do I write what I do?

I’m trying to find answers to questions I have. Francis Ford Coppola said, “The idea is the question and you make the movie to find the answer.” That’s how I feel about the novels I write, I start with a question – usually a pretty basic question – and then try to answer it. My first novel, Dirty Sweet, started with the question, Why Do People Move to Toronto? (no spoilers, but the answer is for the opportunities.)

For Black Rock the question was, Is One Life More Valuable Than Another? Of course, we will all say the answer is no, but the reality is different. In Montreal in 1970 two politicians were kidnapped and one was murdered and the whole country stopped what it was doing. Task forces were assembled, the army was called out, civil rights were suspended and new laws were passed. At the same time a man murdered three women and the police knew from the second victim that it was the same murderer. And it barely made the news. No task forces were assembled, no additional cops were assigned to the case and no laws were changed.

How does my writing process work?

For these historical novels the process starts with the research. I use a lot of real-life events so I start by making a timeline. Then I fit the fictional aspects of the story into it and start writing.

And now the two writers I’ve tagged:

I met Dana King online when he posted insights and funny comments to various blogs and discussion groups and then we met in person at Bouchercon in Baltimore. The first book of Dana’s I read was, Wild Bill, a terrific story of FBI agents and mafiosos in the era of terrorism taking up all the attention and resources. It was funny in a mature, not-laugh-out-loud way and had plenty of action and insight. Since then his private eye novel, Small Sacrifice has been nominated for a Shamus Award and that private eye, Nick Forte, shows up as a secondary character in the novel, Grind Joint, which takes place in the small town of Penns River, a place that got left behind when the steel mills closed. Check out Dana King here.

“Steve Weddle’s writing is downright dazzling.” – the New York Times. Not really much I can add to that. So go check out what he’s working on here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Radio Interview

Last week I was interviewed by Richard Crouse on his Entertainment Extra show. He asked some very good questions about Black Rock and about the difference between writing for TV and writing novels.

It was fun. I was really nervous but Richard is a very good host and a very good interviewer.

This link should take you to the interview. It starts at about the 19:00 minute mark:

https://soundcloud.com/entertainment-extra/may-10th







Monday, April 14, 2014

Noir at the Bar

 

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May 8th at PJ O’Brien Irish Pub I’m thrilled to be included with a fantastic lineup of writers for some reading, drinking and fun.

Looks like fun so if you’re in the neighborhood drop by and say hi.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Must Avoid Panic in the Face of Bomb Terrorism

 

On September 29th 1969 a bomb exploded at the house of Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau. No one was injured but, as the newspaper report said, “The pre-dawn explosion which shook the neighbourhood… forced the mayor’s wife and son into a cold drizzle. They didn’t even have time to put on their shoes.”

This was the 10th bomb of 1969 to explode. Dozens of other bombs were defused by Sgt. Robert Coté and the bomb squad.

The Premiere of Quebec at the time, Jean-Jacques Bertrand, said the people of Quebec must avoid panic in the face of bomb terrorism. “The police forces are doing their job and it is our hope and expectation that those responsible for such outrages will be brought before the courts and the law will take its course.” Then he repeated the claim made by pretty much every official at the time that the bombs were being planted by “foreign nationals” who received “training in Cuba.” Then he made a joke, apologizing for calling the terrorists “beardos,” and saying, “Some of best friends have beards.”

Four days later the body of 20 year old Shirley Audette was found behind the apartment building she lived in on Dorchester Boulevard (now Boulevard René Lévesque) near Guy. She had been strangled. In the investigation it was discovered that she had been treated at a psychiatric hospital (the Douglas in Verdun) and was five weeks pregnant. She was the first victim of the “Vampire Killer.”

Four days after that the Montreal police went on a strike which lasted 16 hours and resulted in one death and 108 arrests. The strike was motivated by difficult working conditions caused by disarming so many separatist-planted bombs and patrolling frequent protests. The Montreal police also wanted to be paid the same as police in Toronto.

During the melée, Sûreté (provincial police) corporal Robert Dumas was killed by shots fired by security guards.

As the riot was ongoing, the provincial government passed an emergency law and forced the police back to work. The army was also called in but by the time the 22nd Regiment (known as the “Vandoos”) arrived at dawn the riot was over.

The CBC archive has some very good news footage from the day.

A couple months before Shirley Audette was killed, the Manson Family murders had taken place in California and the idea of “drug-crazed hippie-murders” was being talked about a lot.

The Vampire Killer’s second murder took place a few weeks later on November 23rd, a few days before the Canadian football championship game, the Grey Cup, was played in Montreal. The entire police force had spent the weeks before the game preparing for the possibility of a terrorist attack.  

So, busy times.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

The Real Stories

A lot of what happens in Black Rock is based on actual events. The first couple of events mentioned in the book are the riot at Sir George Williams University (in the Hall building, where I had a lot of classes in the 80s) and the bomb at the stock exchange.

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Wikipedia describes the events at Sir George like this:

Beginning on January 29, over 400 students occupied the university's computer lab. The occupation was sparked by the university's mishandling of racism allegations against professor Perry Anderson at the school. Fed up with what they considered to be intransigence on the part of the administration, black and white students left a meeting and occupied the university computer lab on the ninth floor of the Henry F. Hall Building.

Most of the occupation was quite peaceful: the police were not involved, and negotiations continued. Some claim that the computer lab was not damaged, except for several million computer punched cards that were sent fluttering to the street below; but a Canadian Broadcast Corporation documentary shows smashed computer tape drives and extensive fire damage. The damage was listed in millions of dollars. It is unknown who caused the fire. The police accused the occupiers of the damages, while the occupiers accused the police of setting the fire as an easy way to get all the students out of the room without physically entering it. Other students also claim that they saw police locking doors and exits that were normally open and police confiscated fire axes from students the day before the fire was set.

The occupation continued until February 11 when negotiations broke down and riot police were called in. A fire broke out in the computer lab, forcing the occupiers out of the building. 97 of them were arrested. The computer lab was destroyed, resulting in over $2 million in damage. Windows were broken and computer tapes and punched cards tossed onto the street below. The charges against most of the rioters were eventually dismissed.

Among the occupiers arrested was Roosevelt Douglas, who later became Prime Minister of Dominica, and Anne Cools, now a Canadian Senator. Also deeply involved was student Cheddi "Joey" Jagan, Jr., son of Guyana's prime minister.

 

Two days later a bomb went off at the Montreal Stock Exchange in Place Victoria.

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Some people described it as a “miracle” that no one was killed. 27 people were hospitalized.

The New York Exchange had closed early that day so quite a few people from the Montreal exchange were sent home, among them the “phone boys” whose work station – a row of desks along the wall – was destroyed in the blast.

What really surprised me about the stock exchange bombing was that although a huge hole was blown in the side of the building and there was an estimated two million dollars of damage to the trading floor and offices, the building was open again the next day.

Busy days for the police on the front lines, including Black Rock’s, Eddie Dougherty.