The front door of number 23 Crossley St swung shut behind Sharp as she ran from the building and down the front path. The temperature had dropped while she’d been inside talking to Frank Davies and the cold, biting autumn air perfectly matched the feeling in her gut when she heard the door open behind her.
“I’m going to call the police on you, you hear me?” Davies called out. His voice sounded thick and wet like bubbles of saliva had gathered in the corners of his mouth.
Sharp pulled a ring of keys from her jacket pocket and fumbled among them for the K-car key. She found it and shoved it at the door lock, but fear was making her fingers sweat. The key bounced off the metal and the whole set landed on the pavement.
“Shit,” Sharp cursed as she snatched up the keys and tried again.
This time it worked.
She pulled open the car door and jumped in, stuck the key in the ignition and the K-car rumbled to life. The transmission lever, which stuck out of the steering column, popped into drive and the car rolled forward.
It was then that Sharp looked over at Claire’s building. A fresh shot of fear radiated through her body. The landlord was standing at the edge of the path. He’d stopped following her and was watching her instead. His eyes locked with hers and for the first time, Sharp noticed his dark, black, lifeless pupils. His mouth creased up into a smile.
“Ah!” Sharp grabbed the steering wheel and swung it to the right narrowly missing the back end of a parked Gremlin.
A moment later, she looked up in the rearview mirror — but Frank Davies was gone.
“What the heck?” Sharp turned in her seat and looked over her shoulder. But the mirror was right — the guy had vanished. But how can he move that fast? she wondered.
Sharp’s forehead knitted together as she pictured Davies, only minutes ago, slowly climbing the stairs to the third floor, grasping the banister for support and lifting one, old, stiff leg after the other.
If he was lying about being crippled, what else was he lying about? She thought to herself, frowning, as she guided her K-car into the evening traffic on Yonge Street.
Golden brown liquid tumbled and rolled, then settled and slowly filled the bottom of a glass tumbler. Sharp inhaled the heady mist, then closed her eyes and tossed back the contents of the glass. Scotch whiskey ran like hot spikes through her body.
When she opened her eyes, she felt relieved — until a familiar worry crept back into her eyes and made the corners of her mouth turn down.
She filled her glass again and walked the two steps that carried her from the kitchen into the living room of her one-bedroom apartment.
The place was still a mess from Thursday night’s ransacking, courtesy of the thug with the golden ring and his pal, though Sharp couldn’t remember what the pal looked like. She cleared a spot on the floor and sat down, leaning her back against an olive and blue cloth-covered chair with teak legs and arms. She’d acquired it off a Rosedale sidewalk while on case there.
She tossed back her second scotch and sighed. She closed her eyes and thought back to Claire and all that had happened in the last seven days.
When she opened them again, she noticed a shiny folder sticking out from an upended footstool. She reached over and pulled it free.
It was her kitchen calendar, folded over to October’s page.
An image of a dappled orange and red forest next to a shimmering blue lake had a caption under it that read, “Haliburton Highlands Fall Colour.” Gorgeous, she thought to herself. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been in the north country. Actually she could if she really admitted it to herself. There had been a girl involved. And camping. Sharp had gone along with it — pretending to be interested in sleeping in tents and making campfires and eating out of dirty bowls but it really wasn’t her thing and the girl had suspected as much; the relationship had ended quickly — and badly.
But not in murder, Sharp thought, tapping her fist against her chin. She was studying the calendar’s grid of boxes. Except for a few pen jottings noting dates with Meg that Sharp had mostly missed, the boxes were empty. Suddenly Sharp crawled up and disappeared into her bedroom, then reappeared with a pen in her hand and sat back down.
She leaned over the calendar and her mop of hair fell forward. She wrote, “Burglary/murder-23 Crossley” in the Oct 22 box. She looked up, thinking, then wrote, “Burglary-97 Donald” in the box for the 16 and in the box for the 19, “Burglary-52 Isadora,”
“Every third night,” she said. “And then nothing!” Sharp tapped the pen on the Thursday, October 23 box. “There should have been another one on this night, right here.”
She shook her head, confused, then leaned back and gazed at the chaos in her living room: an upturned chair, a table lamp on its side, a shelf of books knocked over and scattered across the floor, newspapers strewn around . . .
She gulped. “Here?” Her eyes explored the corners of their sockets.
She jumped up and grabbed her empty tumbler and walked into the kitchen and refilled the glass right to the top.
The Iversons? She thought to herself as she walked slowly into the living room and straight out onto the balcony.
Cold air wrapped around her. She leaned against the cool metal railing and looked out at the night sky. Does that mean the Iversons are behind the East End burglaries? Sharp wondered.
She glanced down at her K-car, parked among the other silent heaps of metal then suddenly recoiled, remembering Eve’s white, upturned face staring up at her in the night. Sharp stepped back from the edge and retreated inside.
She picked up the calendar off the floor. Her eyes counted forward three nights from Thursday’s break-in at her apartment.
Her finger landed on the box marked, Sunday, October 28, 1984.
Sharp looked up. “That’s tomorrow night,” she said out loud. A sick feeling was moving through her.
And it still was a few minutes later when she walked into the kitchen, caught her shoulder on the edge of the fridge, lurched sideways and grabbed the counter just in time to stop from falling right over.
Time to go to bed, she thought to herself, as she tipped the bottle over her empty glass.
Drang! A spruce branch scraped across Sharp’s bedroom window. It was 10 after nine in the morning. She leaned up on her elbows and looked outside to see just how windy it was. For the spruce in front of The Briar Apartments to lean far enough over to touch her window, the wind had to be near tornado strength. On the street outside, Sharp saw a ripped cardboard box with the word “Tide” printed on it blowing along the street then sailing right up in the air. Sharp concluded that it was windy, all right.
She fell gently back into the pillow and groaned. Her head was a throbbing mass of ache and a blade of pain pressed straight down between her eyes.
She desperately needed headache pills but that would mean getting out of her warm bed.
Sharp sighed and sat up. I’ll sleep in for another hour, she promised herself as she lifted off the covers.
That’s when she noticed the folders lying on the floor beside her bed.
She reached down and picked-up the top one. Iverson Devotionals was written in gothic script across a photo of a polished wooden pulpit. Sharp flipped open the folder.
Her eyes squinting at the text, as much from pain as from interest, she read through the Iverson Devotionals product list, amazed at how many objects were necessary in the practice of religion — from hymnals to chalices to every type of cross imaginable.
She turned the folder over and was about to toss it back on the pile when two words stopped her.
On the back of the folder was a list of Iverson Devotionals clients. One of them was Grace Chapel.
Sharp thought of Claire standing in the doorway of chapel — Claire who was really Eve! Sharp looked up from the folder, frowning. Her eyelids twitched.
Drang! The spruce branch scraped across her window.
A moment later Sharp was pawing through her clothes in search of something to wear — to church.