a crime novel
by Paul and Kent Stetson
“Just finished the book. A real page turner. Couldn’t put it down. I grew up in the Bay St. Lawrence (near Meat Cove) area, and the title is what originally caught my eye. The book was fantastic! All my Face Book friends are aware. Cheers!”
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Waldron (aka. Gandhi) MacKinnon, retired, is an unconventional investigator with a dry wit, a tendency to brood, a barely managed taste for rum and Oxy, and a trick knee. Recently widowed, Special Crimes Investigator Sergeant Gandhi MacKinnon comes home to bucolic Prince Edward Island on Canada’s east coast to get his act together — or die… which ever comes first.
Soon after his return, two young lovers are abducted from a mall. Gandhi knows what can happen to abducted teenagers, in this case the beautiful fifteen year old ‘A’ student and top athlete Bethany Williams and her equally gifted boyfriend Jason.
MacKinnon, a crack investigator with an exceptional solve rate and a lone wolf attitude, is reluctant to accept one more assignment. Until he learns Bethany is the granddaughter of his new friend and next door neighbour, transplanted New Yorker, organic farmer and social activist Esther Cohen-Chisholm.
Gandhi soon recognizes the M/O of the abductor. He has crossed blades with New Brunswick-born, Montreal psychopath-for-hire Cezar Gauthier before.
Land and sea, ships and schooners, SUVs, trains, boats and planes transport hunter and hunted through a digitally savvy 21st century world. Gandhi pursues the innocents and their abductor up the St. Lawrence to Montreal (Gandhi’s last posting), then to the book’s nail-biter climax on a private estate on a remote island in Lake Champlain, Vermont.
Cezar snored in the passenger seat. The four a.m. traffic on the Pierre-Laporte bridge over the St. Lawrence River at Quebec City was light. The Escalade and its four passengers were ten hours out of Charlottetown, two and a half hours from Montreal.
Jason floated up toward consciousness. A female voice rose in anger from the driver’s seat.
“Shit! Shit! Shit!”
The dome light snapped on. Missy shook water from her foot. The gas-pedal foot. She slipped off her wet shoe. She bent to pick the open bottle off the floor. The van swerved. She corrected easily, regained control.
Jason got his bearings before Bethany came around. Each locked onto the other’s eyes. For a second they thought they were okay. Maybe downstairs in the family room in Meadowbank. Or in the Carver’s loft in Breadalbane. They spent a lot of time face to face lately. Not touching. Not even kissing. There was no need. Hormone addled teenager’s waking wet dreams became a tolerable substitute for the ‘real sex’ they’d vowed to delay.
Their shoes had been removed. Their belts and collars loosened. Their jackets had been carefully laid over their torsos. Beneath them, a thick foam mattress. Tied hand and foot with soft cord, they lay face to face on the floor of what they quickly determined to be a moving vehicle. They’d been packaged for transport like exotic fruit, bound unbruised for an exacting market.
When Bethany saw the duct tape on Jason’s mouth, she remembered the white van and the nice girl at the Abegweit mal. Then nothing else. Her eyes filled with tears.
Jason’s stared, his gaze firm and commanding: don’t look away. Bethany blinked her eyes hard, once, smiled then nodded. She understood. Jason struggled to get free. Bethany held his gaze. Her eyes widened then narrowed. It was as though she held a silencing finger to her lips. Jason calmed. He smiled.
The dome lite snapped off.
Missy was bagged. Cezar’s rhythmic breathing didn’t help. Her lids began to drop an hour after Quebec City. She snapped herself back to attention. She dozed. The Escalade swerved onto the shoulder. Missy over-compensated, cut across the passing lane, then back. Horns blared. Missy corrected again. This time, with a jerk. Time passed. Traffic thinned. Missy drifted.
Cezar was rattled awake by the grooved strip cut into the ditch-side of the road. “Caliss tabarnak! What the…!”
Cezar’s anger was Missy’s greatest fear. Horrible to watch. Terrifying when directed at her. As it was more and more often lately.
“I got it covered,” Missy insisted.
“I gotta piss. Gimme your bottle.”
Missy drained the last mouthful of spring water. The plastic bottle was soon full of urine.
“Gimme the cap.”
Cezar tucked the warm piss into the passenger door’s map pocket.
“Gimme another one.”
Missy passed him a second empty. He unscrewed the cap. “Anything from the cargo?”
“Not sure. I thought I heard the boy. Ah… Jason. Maybe just mumbling in his sleep.”
“And maybe not.” Cezar buttoned his fly, tucked the second bottle by the first. He craned his neck. The middle bank of seats remained in place, partially screening Beth and Jay. The third row had been removed to make room for ‘the cargo’.
The next hour was uneventful. The west-bound lanes of the 40 were picking up traffic. Cezar checked his watch. 4:50 am. Halfway between Quebec City and Montreal. Outskirts of Trois-Rivières.
“Pull over at the next stop,” Cezar ordered. “I don’t want them waking up gagged and puking. They’re no good to us dead.”
The parking lot behind the log-cabin style rest stop was empty. Cezar pointed to a shadowed area to the left of the rest rooms.
“Cocksucking quarter pounders. I gotta take a crap. Over there.”
Missy parked the SUV.
Cezar stepped into the cool late-September air. Light from the parking dissolved in a dense stand of dark green cedar.
Missy scrolled through her iPod. A gift from her older sister ‘Becka. The college girl. The oldest. The only one strong enough to escape a crazy father and violent mother. Missy and her brother hadn’t been so lucky.
Michelle ‘Missy’ Mullaley, born in Chatam, Ontario eighteen years ago, ended up on the streets of Toronto. Then the Don Jail. When she got out, Missy found her way to P. E. I. In the company of mis-bred, born-bad New Brunswick native Cezar Gauthier. Missy was just what he was looking for. Picked her especially to help him find kids.
The kind of kid Missy would never be, but learned to ape to perfection.
Cezar’s boss had his eye on a young couple he’d met this past summer. The boss’s clients paid top dollar for young teenage virgins. They wanted purity, not ‘street trash’… by which they meant stoned, diseased young runaways snatched off the streets of big cities. Where better than innocent PEI, the land of Anne of Green Gables, pure beaches and wholesome food produced by good-living farmers and their apple faced wives. Or so went the commercials inviting tourists to vacation on ‘The Gentle Isle.’
Missy opened the rear hatch. The dome light snapped on. Missy knew Bethany and Jason, their foreheads touching, pretended to be asleep. Their breathing was rapid and light.
Missy felt something she wished she hadn’t.
Something familiar and painful.
Missy felt their fear.
Her own fear flooded back.
She knew what awaited them.
She knew she couldn’t allow it.
She’d rather die.
Missy untied their ankles. First Bethany. Then Jason. She pulled them to their shoeless feet. They stood shivering with fear on the cold pavement. She’d began to untie Bethany’s hands. She managed to loosen the knot but not untie the rope when the rest-stop toilet flushed. She hurried the frightened teenagers, still gagged, hands still bound, across wet grass into the woods.
Cezar rooted around under the front seat. He withdrew a flashlight. He dug deeper. The hunting knife wouldn’t be used to gut deer tonight. But it would be used.
A grassy space opened before Missy and the kids. Light from the high parking lot lamps flickered through a grove of maples. Mist lay thin and close to the ground. Missy signalled for quiet. They moved toward the shelter of the trees.
Missy looked almost relieved when a hand clamped over her mouth from behind.
Beth and Jay had never seen pure evil up close. Cezar made sure they saw it clearly now. He held the flashlight to his face. He held it low. Like kids on Halloween. A rose tattoo branched from the neck of his shirt. One tendril wrapped around his left ear. It crossed low on his cheek, ended at the corner of his mouth in a thick thorn. The hunting knife was clenched in his teeth.
He turned the flashlight on them, blinding each in turn.
First Beth, then Jay.
Mouths still taped.
He directed the beam at Missy, holding the flashlight high so the light streamed from above. Almost holy. They saw the glint of the knife. So did Missy. Beth and Jay saw terror, evil’s closest companion, roll side to side in Missy’s eyes. Anguish distorted the face they thought, eleven short hours ago, was pretty enough to be trusted.
Cezar twisted her arm, hard, behind her. He closed the fingers of her free hand around the flashlight. The beam illuminated a small patch of grass. Cezar forced the light up until it rested on Missy’s throat. She trembled. The light wavered.
Cezar took the knife from his teeth. His voice was low. Caressing. “It’s okay, Baby. Hold still. It will all be over before you know it.”
Missy sought a place to rest her gaze. First Jason. Then Beth. They stared back. Wide eyed. Blank. Not comprehending but sensing the inevitable.
“Cezar. Please…” Missy begged.
Missy’s hand shot up to Cezar’s neck. He winced, as though bitten.
The knife slid slowly across her throat. Cut tendons. Veins and arteries. Severed her windpipe. Sliced deep enough to nick a vertebrae.
Missy raked Cezar’s neck with her nails. Her arm fell to her side. A look of profound peace, almost relief, settled on her face.
Cezar held her upright as her blood pumped, it’s arc decreasing with every beat of her heart. Soon it was a slow river soaking her top. Then down to her jeans, where it pooled then disappeared at the waist band, behind the zipper.
The flow thinned to a trickle.
Then there was none.
Cezar flipped the knife into the ground. It pierced the turf, stood perfectly vertical. Jason stared, mesmerized.
If only he could get to the knife.
Cezar held Missy’s lifeless body upright against his. The flashlight remained gripped in her fingers. Cezar manipulated her as though she was a puppet. He raised the flashlight to her face. It caught her starring eyes.
“Hey Kids. This here’s Missy. Was Missy. But you already know that. I’m Cezar. Bienvenu à la belle province. Welcome to Quebec.”
Cezar lowered the flashlight a few degrees. The serrated blade, sharp enough to splay a gutted doe’s pelvis, had left a deep and jagged wound. The beam lingered on glistening skin, severed tendons and ruined flesh.
Cezar turned the light on Bethany. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Her eyes had gone deer-in-the-headlights blank. Doll eyes. Wide open.
He shone the light on Jason. What he saw surprised him. He’d expected to see fear. Fear was there for sure. And horror. There was also rage. He made a mental note. Watch this kid.
Too late. Jay, hands still tied behind his back, mouth taped shut, lowered his head and charged.
Cezar dropped Missy face-first onto leaf litter. He swung the flashlight in a side arc, struck Jason a blow above the temple, careful to avoid disfiguring the perfect cheeks or breaking the boy’s nose.
Cezar’s boss didn’t know his procurer had a little side trip planned for the Jason before delivering him to the main event on Isle Lamotte in Vermont.
Jay went down like a block of stone.
Authors Rights & Copyright Note
It takes 10,000 hours to master a craft. The same to excel in any profession.
I presume as reader and writer we share a commitment to natural justice and the betterment of humankind through literature and the arts. To honesty and hard work. And a sense that we’re all in this together. We are all our brother’s and sister’s keepers.
Writing is arduous and demanding. It is also exciting and, when well done, both entertaining and uplifting.
Years of insight, experience and hard work bring you this nail biter of a novel. I hope you enjoy Meat Cove. I hope you will treat it like any other book. Buy yourself a copy. Then share it with a friend or loved one. If they enjoy it, encourage them to ask their friends to buy a copy. Every one benefits, more work is produced, more folk are entertained and so it goes…
1) Unauthorized digital distribution beyond your purchase contravenes international copyright law.
2) This is how I make my living.
Enjoy Meat Cove
Happy reading and/or listening.