Ray wished he could close the old man’s eyes. The body lay on the left hand side of the bed, grey hands clenching the blankets up to his neck. The old man had woken up to die. Peaceful or not, his skin was starting to slip off his cheekbones and chin and his distended belly pulled the blankets from the right hand side of the bed.
Ray studied the photograph of a handsome woman on the other side of the bed rather than think of the smell. Even with the November air through the open window, there was no mistaking it. He glanced down to his phone. He’d called for an ETA on the coroner twenty-seven minutes ago and been told then it would be at least another hour. Edmonton was the murder capital of the country in 2011 but it was the natural deaths that kept the coroners hopping. Each body had to be sat with until they were pronounced dead, and Ray didn’t think the poor guy on the bed was going to have a miraculous remission any time soon.
He left the bedroom and went into the small eat-in kitchen. The house couldn’t have been more than five hundred square feet, and the black and white checked linoleum throughout the kitchen and living space made it seem even smaller. The refrigerator humming was the only sign of life in the entire house. Two goldfish in the small bowl on the table bobbed at the water’s surface. One had eaten the other. The places on fish where the bits were missing were impossible to look away from. Ray was glad they were both dead. He couldn’t imagine what he’d do with a fish that had resorted to cannibalism.
The newspaper on the table was four days old. That made sense. Ray had stepped over three bundled Edmonton Journals five hours ago. He’d read the articles on the newspaper a half dozen times at least, but still felt the twist in his gut when he saw the article about the missing man for the seventh time. He’d been known to the police, a polite way to phrase over a decade of arrests and warnings. He’d only been twenty-seven, but looked at least a decade older. They’d looked for family for a photograph to release for the public, but had to resort to his most recent booking photo.
Ray cracked his back. Another thirty-two minutes and either the coroner would arrive or he’d be able to call dispatch for a new ETA. It was something to look forward to.
The rap on the door two and a half hours later caught Ray by surprise. She was new. Ray’d been with Fraser well over a decade but the not-quite dormant part of his brain took in the freckles and high cheeks. Canadian winters -- and screw the calendars, winters in Edmonton started too close to the day they celebrated as Thanksgiving to call it -- cloaked everyone in thick coats and coverings. Her eyebrows were black, at least. She pulled off her toque, put the case she’d been carrying down and offered her hand. “Julie Ross.”
“Ray Kowalski,” Ray said.
“Sorry about the wait. It’s been a horrible day. Another young man found in an alley.”
Ray’s mouth twitched. He should’ve been called to the crime scene. The detective exam wasn’t for another week, and even then he’d probably spend another couple years on major crime before getting near a homicide. It wasn’t pride or jealousy, he knew, that caused his stomach to twist or his pulse to pound, but he did regret not being able to help. “Same as the others?” he asked, because he couldn’t not.
She nodded. “Other than the gender.” Last year six transient women were found, mostly women or Metis. Fraser had worked with city police, as the RCMP was involved with the Native Women’s Association of Canada. Ray had personally seen the work and effort the homicide squad had put into trying to find a break in the case, but there wasn’t any physical evidence to be found. A band saw had been used, peri or post-mortem.
The press had screamed, in a polite Canadian way, that the police were doing nothing, but the sad fact was, there was nothing that could be done. The murders had stopped suddenly for almost eight months. Last month they’d started up again, but this time young men were the targets. Three so far, and even closer together.
Julie continued. To her, obviously, a body was a body. “I can smell from here that the poor man’s dead. Did you find anything suspicious at all?”
Ray shook his head.
Her mouth twitched. “Sad when the old ones die alone. My guys are backing the wagon up to the house. I’m told you’ve been here for hours. Thanks for staying, but you can go. And tell your man outside, if he doesn’t know already, that there’s no need to set up a perimeter if there’s no sign of unusual activity.”
“Man?” Ray asked. With the horrible roads thanks to yet another winter storm, they’d all been stretched pretty thinly. “It’s just me.”
Julie glanced up at him, obviously surprised, but shrugged. “Okay then. You can still go. Did you find any family to do the notification?”
“A daughter in Vancouver.”
“At least he’ll be missed,” Julie said, and then went into the bedroom. Ray didn’t want to go back in with her, so he left.
The two men taking the gurney out of the back of the black van nodded at him and he nodded back. It was almost five-thirty and the sun was had set forty-five minutes ago. He still couldn’t get used to that. The coroner van parked beside the police cruiser hadn’t drawn curious neighbours to the tiny house, or at least any curious neighbours willing to stand out in the cold for the chance to see something gruesome.
Ray had made it back to his silver Subaru with the keys out in his hand before he heard his name called behind him. His ears pricked and the hair stood up on his neck. He hadn’t heard anyone approach. With all the crunchy freeze-dried puddles on the edge of the road and spanning the cracks in the sidewalk, he’d expected something.
He turned, and the relief of seeing a familiar blue uniform and a very fresh, scrubbed face was only temporary. The boy couldn’t have been legal to drink in the states, and the uniform’s collar peeking out the great coat over his uniform had throat bulging over it. Brown wisps of hair flattened against his temples and the skin around his blue eyes and thin lips was grey and hatched with pre-frostbite.
Ray forced a smile he didn’t feel on his lips. “Kowalski,” he corrected. He braced himself, for some variant of being American, gay, or a gay American. Not all Canadians were as opened-minded as the brochures suggested.
“Kowalski,” the boy repeated, as though the word gave him pleasure. “Of course. You’re the American detective."
“In the cold flesh.” Ray would have thrown out his hands and done a shuffling ta-da motion but he couldn’t. Not after the body in the bedroom.
“My girlfriend and I would love to go for coffee with you,” the boy said. He said it so quickly, My-girlfriend-and-I as though the most important thing was that Ray understand that he was straight, first and foremost. “Being a detective in a big city. My girlfriend and I would love to move to a bigger city. Vancouver or Toronto. Calgary, even.”
He said the last city with the distain that most Edmontonians had for anything from Calgary. He’d even caught that tone from Fraser on occasion. “What’s your name, My-girlfriend-and-I?”
“George,” he said. The name didn’t settle well. Ray memorized the badge number without looking directly at it.
“Well, George, most of it is just like Edmonton.”
George licked his chapped lips with his already dry tongue. “But not all of it. I’m taking the detective exam with you, next week.”
“Best of luck,” Ray said, meaning the exact opposite.
George beamed at him, looking boyish. “Thank you.”
Ray shrugged and turned his attention to more important things, like whether or not his car would start.
Ray used to think Chicago in November was cold. Edmonton in November was winter as often as it was late fall, and even though it was his second year in Alberta, it still surprised him to see snow. As 97th Street turned into Highway 15 and the city fell away, the snow crept up the spreading shoulders. The headlights of his Subaru turned the shadows blue.
Beaumont was twenty minutes north of Edmonton; the acreage was ten minutes north of that. All the lights were out inside, but a Coleman lantern illuminated three feet around a fence pole behind the house. The previous owner had floodlights that could chase shadows into the next county. Fraser never used them.
Ray parked his car beside Fraser’s old pick-up and got out. The cold bit at his hands and throat. He zipped his jacket and thrust his hands in the sheepskin-lined pockets. He had over a dozen pairs of mittens and gloves, a basket full of hats and toques, but for now he still just turned up the collar of his jacket and hoped for spring.
Fraser was just beyond the ring of light, pulling fencing staples out of the old posts. Coils of old barbed wire lay propped up by his feet. They’d bought the property with the half-dozen acres already fenced in, but apparently it wasn’t fenced in well enough.
Fraser nodded. Ray nodded back. He’d called Fraser when he’d been assigned the body watch. They were supposed to go to town, grab a movie and eat supper on the couch. A spare set of gloves sat on the post three down from him. Fraser must have been expecting him just a little sooner. He put them on and began winding the wire.
They didn’t talk. Lester B came from out of the darkness, his thick coat meant for the cold night, and he flopped down in the snow. He had his father’s coat, but he was smaller, less rugged even though his mother was a blind wolf-mix. Other than the year they’d spent in Nome, the young dog had lived his life south of the tree line. Lester B had taken to the six-month winter just fine, but Ray couldn’t handle the cold or the darkness. He hadn’t said anything, but Fraser had known. That spring he’d gotten himself reassigned to Seattle.
But diplomatic work wasn’t what he wanted and interesting cases like the ones that always seemed to come up in Chicago were few and far between. Fraser had pined away the same way Ray had up north. Moving back to Canada had seemed the only logical solution.
So they did. Getting married solved the visa problems. Fraser had done a year in High Prairie while Ray’s paperwork had gone through, and Ray had gotten hired on with the Edmonton City Police on his second attempt. Fraser had remained behind in High Prairie before his transfer had been approved -- Ray had killed the GTO going the eight hundred kilometres round-trip every second weekend.
And then the transfer had gone through. They’d spent six months in the city in Ray’s one-bedroom rented apartment, literally and figuratively on top of one another, then Fraser had found this old place. They’d moved their meager belongings in a weekend with just the pickup.
They finished pulling off the last of the wire when the moon cleared the trees. Fraser grunted, satisfied if slightly weary, and Ray took that as a job well done. New snow crunched under his boots to the entrance of the mudroom.
It took a good minute to strip down all the protective layers before entering the house proper. They undressed together, close enough that Ray could feel Fraser’s body temperature. Fraser hung up his jacket last, and turned to Ray, and smiled.
Ray’s heart thumped loud enough to hear it in the small room. Fraser had thickened some, his hair had turned grey at the temples and in the morning’s stubble, but he hadn’t changed. The salty smell of hard work fought with the chill of his lower extremities and won. Fraser pushed him back against the wall. Ray yanked Fraser’s shirt up.
Fraser’s lips and chin were stunning cold against Ray’s throat. Ray thrust his own icy fingers down Fraser’s jeans. Fraser grasped, sliding his hips away from the chill. “Let’s get something warm in those hands before this goes much further,” Fraser said, and went into the kitchen.
Ray adjusted his hard-on and followed. His throat felt cut for all the good it did him to tell Fraser about his day. It had been a morning full of photo radar and moving violations at the Walterdale Bridge and then corpse-sitting in the afternoon. He was used to solving things. Fixing things so that they were going to be better. Being a beat cop was hell, but a hell he’d willingly put up with since it meant he and Fraser were together again. Fraser never talked about his job, either. The topic just stopped coming up in High Prairie. He missed the responsibility as much as he did the wacky-hijinx that always seemed to follow them when they were together.
Dinner was already in the oven, cooking low and slow. They left the lights off, using the banked fire in the fireplace as their light. On another night Ray would have been full of words. He would have talked about the old man, about the upcoming detective exam and how worried he still was despite taking it and passing three times in three different states, or how Fraser’s day went. Instead they left the dishes in the sink and went to bed together early.
George pushed the door opener. It opened, revealing a brightly lit, stark garage. He stared straight ahead, ignoring the thick plastic holding back the pink insulation. He tried not to remember the sound of a staple gun puncturing it, over and over again.
The house had rooms George hadn’t been into for months. When Peterson was alive, it hadn’t felt so huge. With him gone, it loomed empty on the block. The kitchen blazed, as did the front entryway, the dining room and the stairway.
It lit up Peterson, sitting on the fifth step. He wore the same blue uniform he had the day he’d been shot. The blood bloomed across his chest. George heard the sucking sound of Peterson’s lung bubbling blood at the darkest point over the hum of the refrigerator.
Peterson’s mouth was opened wide enough to show the fillings in his back teeth. His skin beyond being grey and waxy had condensation drops on his cheeks and forehead. He hadn’t been completely dead when George had started the saw. Peterson’s eyes, though clouded and dried, were filled with accusation.
“He seemed very nice,” George protested. Weak, even to him. He squeezed his eyes shut, counting back from ten, but when he opened his eyes again, Peterson was still there. He told the departmental therapist that it worked, and he was ever hopeful that it would just someday start.
Peterson said nothing. But then, he never did.
He forced himself to walk to the fridge and pulled out last night’s take-out Chinese. The rice was cold and hard in his mouth, but he shoveled it in and swallowed when it hurt to do so.
Through it all, he heard Peterson’s wound breathe, right behind him.
Ray finished tying his shoes. They needed a polish, but even after a full day in his cruiser his pants still had a crisp crease. When he moved, he caught a whiff of clean from his shirt. He smiled, not able to help himself. Fraser did the laundry every Sunday afternoon.
“Kowalski!” he heard, from the door. The staff sergeant, Jenkins, took up most of the frame. He was tall, bald, and his cheeks were pink from hypertension. More of him hung over his belt than was contained by it. “The captain wants you.”
Jenkins looked him up and down. Ray was conversed enough in Canadian to know that was quite a cutting put down. He missed getting growled at every once and a while. “Didn’t say.”
Ray followed him down the hall. The captain’s office was on the second floor. The door was open, but Ray rapped his knuckles on it as he past. Captain Chopra glanced up from all the crime scene photos. He was still more pretty than handsome, even being a good decade older than Ray was. He motioned the photographs with long delicate fingers. They were grouped in two, the men and the women on opposite sides of the desk. “Have you seen these yet?”
“Not officially, sir,” Ray said. The detectives worked a different floor, but they weren’t completely sealed off.
Ray moved forward, taking a quick, cursory glance at the top layer. Dead was dead, but murder looked different. These bodies were piled together. “Stomach wounds on the torso,” Ray said.
“Multiple stabbings, to begin with. The last two have only been stabbed once.”
“Are you withholding anything from the press?”
“There’s nothing to withhold.” Chopra spread them out. The layers of clothing the victims all wore got lighter, but the bleak, paved alley dumpsites had no apparent change with the seasons.
“I’ve been told you’ve gotten a lot of unorthodox results,” Chopra said. His voice came from a distance. Ray had to look away from the photographs to answer.
“It’s been a while, sir. And I didn’t exactly get those results by myself.”
“You worked with your spouse in Chicago.”
Ray studied the words for innuendo or judgment. They were as clean as his shirt. Chopra’s face was nothing but curious. “We weren’t then, but yeah.”
“He was Canadian. He works for the RCMP. He’s stationed here, in the city.”
“None of those were questions, sir,” Ray said.
“No, of course they weren’t. We’ve tried orthodox. There’s nothing orthodox about any of this. The RCMP liaise with concerned groups.”
Ray felt a flare of nostalgia from the old days. “That’s stretching it, sir.” The RCMP worked with some native women’s groups, and some of the victims could have been Metis.
“It’s beyond stretching,” Chopra agreed. “I’d even go so far as to say desperate. These are desperate times, Ray.”
“I’m not a homicide detective,” Ray said.
Chopra slid a badge across the table, right between the two piles of evidence. Ray was glad they didn’t touch. “You are now. Consider it a temporary loan until next week.”
“And Fraser?” Ray asked.
“He’ll here in the morning. I’ll expect you here first thing.”
Ray’s cheeks hurt. He must be smiling. “In plain clothes.”
“That wasn’t a question either,” Chopra said, but he nodded.
Beaumont didn’t have much of a nightlife. But it did have a restaurant that served Chinese and Western food as well as a single movie theatre that played one movie, three times a week. Ray and Fraser could have gone back to the city, but it didn’t feel right to celebrate working a serial killer case together. It was better to sit in the vinyl booth together, Fraser telling him of the most northern latitude he’d ever eaten pineapple chicken balls in. Hottah Lake, apparently. Ray nodded like that meant something.
They shuffled out with the mostly older crowd into the lobby after the flick finished. The concession had closed and the popcorn that remained in the machine smelled as though it were already going stale, but it was warm in the theatre. The crowd took its time doing up their jackets and coats with thickening fingers and weaker eyesight, but Ray looped his arm through Fraser’s and patiently waited their turn to have the chill of the night steal their breath. When he was a young cop, he never pictured himself being old, gay and Canadian, and yet here he was.
Both of them turned. Nothing wrong with the reflexes, apparently. The young man pushing a bit too roughly through the crowd was familiar but not known. Ray quickly shuffled through all the people who he arrested first but came up blank. He was fresh-faced and shaved, despite the late hour. His jacket was done up to his chin which made him even harder to recognize out of the blue uniform Ray had seen him the day before.
“George,” Ray said, glad the name came to him when he first drew a blank. The alarm still going off down his spine didn’t settle. The tension he felt through Fraser’s body didn’t relax any, either. “What are you doing in Beaumont?”
George’s grin split his face in two. Cold still emanated from him. There was no way in hell he’d sat in the warm theatre for the past two and a half hours. “You know. My aunt lives here.” It was a lie. Ray felt it in his gut. George continued as though Ray had made the correct social sounds to encourage him. He glanced at Fraser. “Who is this?”
“Fraser,” Ray said.
“Fraser,” George repeated. His grin turned rictus. “I’m George.”
“George?” Fraser asked, all but forcing George to give up his last name. His eyes weren’t focused on George, but two feet behind him and slightly to the side.
“Collins,” George said. Some of the bravado in his voice wavered. Fraser’s breathing changed. Ray didn’t know how, but Fraser recognized the name. So did he, but it didn’t know from where. “Do the two of you want to go for coffee?”
“Some other time,” Fraser said, before Ray could come create an excuse. “My dog needs to defecate.”
George met Ray’s eyes. It wasn’t that George wasn’t obviously familiar with rejection; from the first false jubilation in his tone he knew how it was going to end, but there was still genuine pain in the blue eyes. “Maybe next time.”
“Maybe,” Ray said, ignoring the way Fraser’s hand tightened on his arm. The lobby had mostly cleared out, and in the small parking lot Ray’s snow-covered car was beside a spotless Taurus. The engine was still ticking.
Fraser all but marched him to the car, and they sat in silence as the Taurus fired up and reversed away. “Do you know him?” Ray asked.
“I know of him,” Fraser said. He took a long breath. “Jessica mentioned him.”
“Professionally knew him?” Ray asked. Jessica was Fraser’s partner. She was close to six feet herself, broad shouldered and huge chested, but smart and funny. She’d been for supper at their house several times despite the fact she’d only been Fraser’s partner for a couple months. Before joining the RCMP she’d been a member of ASIRT, which was Canadian for internal affairs. They investigated all officer-involved shootings in Alberta. Peterson hadn’t been shot, as far as anyone knew, but his partner was the last one who had seen the man alive.
Fraser nodded. “His partner disappeared after his shift.”
Oh. That George Collins. The disappearance had taken place just before Ray had joined and had been on the news. George had appeared so much older despite being a rookie. “They said Collins wasn’t involved.”
“They had no proof he was involved,” Fraser said. The rear windshield had defrosted enough that the main street was visible. There wasn’t a vehicle on it as far as the streetlights let them see. “Jessica thought he was.”
“You don’t think he shot his own partner, do you?” Ray asked.
Fraser made a sound in the back of his throat. Ray didn’t want him to elaborate.
George pulled into a farmer’s driveway and executed a fourteen point turn so that he was facing the highway again. He killed the engine, turned off the lights, and slid down in the seat. He turned the GPS tracker on. Even on the dimmest setting, it still gave off more light than he would have liked, but he had to know where Ray was heading.
Dripping blood and that horrible sucking sound came from the seat beside him. “Go away,” George said, not moving his eyes from the GPS. The hair on his arms and the back of his neck told him that he wasn’t alone in the cab.
He concentrated on the red dot heading north. The bleeping light came through town and headed up highway 15. It went another ten or so kilometres from Beaumont and then turned off the paved road on an unmarked road that wasn’t on the map. A driveway, apparently, as the vehicle came to a stop only twenty or so metres from the highway.
The GPS was less than an inch from Peterson’s knee. He had to reach up and put a marker on Ray’s location, but he physically couldn’t move his hand to do so. The sucking wound was right next to his elbow. The springs on the seat groaned as Peterson turned to him. Peterson made a strangled noise in the back of his throat, something he’d never done before, and even without looking he felt Peterson lifting up his stiff arms to reach for him.
George scrambled for the door handle. He leapt out of the car and slammed the door behind him. Peterson began to shake. Not in complete movements, when he swung his arms it appeared and disappeared with strobe light movements.
Worse though, than the flailing dead man’s limbs was the wailing howl. It was so loud George felt it reverberate in the hollows of his lungs more than he actually heard it. It was so loud he couldn’t believe that the lights of the farmhouse didn’t come on. Clamping his hands over his ears didn’t help, even if he took off his gloves and used the bare skin of his palm. The wail grew louder still, sending sleeping crows in a nearby tree up and across the moon. George started walking, hands still over his ears, but he heard it even after a trucker picked him up and took him back to the safety of the city.
The RCMP roll call was half an hour earlier than the city police’s, but for once they got up at the same time. Fraser brushing his teeth in boxers and an undershirt was something Ray had just forgotten to admire over time. He leaned against the doorframe and crossed his arms over his chest.
Fraser removed the toothbrush. His forehead furrowed, like a curious, rabid dog. “What?” Even with the mouth full of foam, the t sound at the end of the word was perfectly formed.
“You,” Ray said.
Fraser blinked, and spat. “What about me?”
Ray took a step and was beside Fraser. The upstairs bathroom wasn’t that big of a space. He put his hand on Fraser’s chest, feeling the familiar thumping of Fraser’s heartbeat. “Just you.”
Fraser said nothing. The furnace kicked in. Warm air swirled around their ankles from the radiator on the floor and then they were kissing. It lasted half a dozen heartbeats before Fraser gagged and spat out the last of the toothpaste.
Ray pulled Fraser back down the hall to the bedroom. He saw Fraser glance at the bedside clock. “It will look bad if we’re late on our first day.”
“We won’t be late,” Ray said. “Just less early.”
The worry line between his eyebrows divided Fraser’s brow, but Ray moved to him and kissed the tension away. He slid his hand under Fraser’s boxers, and cupped his balls. He stroked the soft spot behind them and felt the corresponding hot hitch of Fraser’s breath through his T-shirt.
Fraser shifted, pushing Ray back to the wall. Through the years they’d developed a routine, Ray on his back or Fraser on his hands and knees. On weekends or holidays the sex could still go on for over an hour, slowly but so thorough Ray heard a hum in his ears and his knees felt weak enough that he gripped the handrail going down the stairs afterwards just in case they gave up on him.
This wasn’t that. Fraser kissed his chin, his jawline and his adam’s apple. Under the toothpaste Ray still tasted on his lips and soap the smell of Fraser caught him unexpectedly. That they weren’t already fucking suddenly seemed disastrous. Fraser yanked down Ray’s boxers and tossed them to the side.
When Fraser backed away half a step to strip off as well, Ray turned around and put his hands flat against the wall at shoulder-level. The furnace was going full bore, but the morning’s chill remained unstirred in the corner of the bedroom. He felt the cold air on the backs of his thighs and along his length of his cock. His skin felt so hot the contrast worked almost as well as a hand-job. He arched his back and his ass brushed against Fraser’s naked hip.
“Here?” Fraser asked, surprise obvious in his voice.
“Do you have a problem with that?”
“Just a logistical one. The lubrication is by the bed.”
“You’re a resourceful guy.”
Ray heard Fraser’s throat click as he swallowed. “If you say so.”
Ray was about to tell him that yes, he was saying so, when Fraser pinned him to the wall. Ray went from standing against the wall to assuming the position in less than a second. “I want you to stay right here,” he whispered in Ray’s ear, but in a tone that said Ray didn’t have any choice in the matter.
Not that Ray wanted any. He didn’t answer, but he didn’t need to. Fraser nudged Ray’s thighs further apart, just enough to throw off his balance. By the time he found his new centre of gravity, Fraser was back behind him.
Cold lube. No prep. Fraser eased into him gently and used both hands on Ray’s hips to guide him back. He wanted it hard and fast up against the wall, but not quite yet. Fraser ran his thumbs over the small of Ray’s back as he adjusted. Ray concentrated on his breathing until Fraser was all the way inside him and the last of the discomfort was gone. He braced against the wall.
“Now?” Fraser asked.
Ray took a deep breath and nodded.
Fraser’s grip on Ray’s hips tightened.
It had been a long time since they fucked that hard. Ray had to take a hand off the wall and use it to jerk himself off if he wanted a chance to keep up to Fraser. Ray couldn’t manage on one hand bracing for both of them so they moved to the floor. That way at least he could still use his elbows. Fraser grabbed onto his shoulders, pulling him back as hard as he fucked him. He didn’t know or care if he’d come or be crushed first.
He came. Crumpled on the floor as he was, what he didn’t catch in his fist splashed on his chest. Fraser collapsed over him, his arms and body trapping Ray to him. There would be worse ways to go. For a moment they remained perfectly still. Ray’s heart slowed down enough that it no longer hammered his ribs. His mouth and throat were both dry enough that his breathing tickled.
When Fraser did eventually push off him, it was to get the glass of water from his bedside table. He drank exactly half and then handed it down to him. Ray finished it off noisily, and then pushed to his feet and staggered into the bathroom to drink two more glasses before handing it back down again.
They were on time, but only because Ray didn’t have to change into his uniform before roll-call. Fraser was introduced to the unit and Ray caught the glances at him when the other detectives thought he wasn’t looking. The looks ranged between sly and curious. With the afterglow Ray still felt, he didn’t let them bother him.
They spent the morning getting caught up on the case. Not that it took that long. Seven bodies so far. Three women, four men, all stabbed first and then dismembered. All with the same band saw, a middle of the line Canadian Tire brand with the same missing tooth.
“What’s known about the first male victim?” Fraser asked. It was the lynchpin to the whole case. It hadn’t been an anomaly or an accident. The young man killed was 5’9 and 130 pounds wet and could have been easily mistaken for a female with his long dark hair, but each one of the victims was taller and stronger. The last one murdered had been 6’2.
Sophia sighed. She unbuttoned the grey blazer she wore over a white blouse. The day had started off cold but turned sunny and the building’s heat hadn’t adjusted to the warmer temperature outside. “Not much. David Cooke. Left Vancouver on September 12th. We found his Greyhound ticket in his clothes. He’d been staying at Hope Mission. At first we thought it was a revenge killing. David made a lot of money tipping off the Vancouver police and had just made contact here with us. He was found in the alley behind the shelter.”
She tapped a white document box on the table. It was standard size, but bulged out at the seams. “A little light reading for you boys.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” Fraser said. He put his hat on the table beside the box and pulled out one of the uncomfortable looking chairs. “Ray?”
“They’re doing the autopsy right now. You’re invited, of course.”
Autopsy beat old files. Ray was about to thank her for the invite when Fraser glanced up from the box. “Thank you, but no. I don’t think that will be necessary.”
“Necessary?” Ray asked, putting more emotion in the word than he meant to in front of a stranger. Fraser couldn’t have gotten that out of practice. It wasn’t like he was riding a desk at his detachment. “It’s evidence.”
Fraser met his eyes, missing Ray’s meaning entirely, but probably intentionally. “That will no doubt be studied, analyzed and followed up on. I’m sure the detectives already assigned to the case will do a more than adequate job of it.”
“It will get us up to speed on the case.”
Fraser tapped the box with his thumb. It made Ray flush to think of the last thing he used his thumbs for. “This will bring us up to speed. Attending the autopsy will be skipping ahead.”
“It’s real police work.”
“This is real work.”
They stared at each other for what seemed to be forever, but it couldn’t have been more than a couple seconds. Ray tried all different ways to send “please”, “just this once” and “come on, do it for me”, but Fraser was unmoved. He could afford to be. He was right.
Ray turned back to Sophia. “We’ll stay here with the dry, dusty files.”
“It’s probably for the best,” Sophia said. “But if we do find anything new, I’ll send you a text.”
“We’d appreciate that,” Fraser said, and took the first folder off the pile. Ray sat down and took the next one. He sighed and put his reading glasses on.
Transcripts followed transcripts. Case notes, interviews, photographs meant hundreds of man hours putting in new and different ways of saying no evidence, no witnesses, and no motives. David Cooke had had the most of the box all to himself. He even had a pay as you go cellphone that was recovered with the body. Every single phone number that Cooke had called or received had been located and alibied. The victims had no linking histories other than being below the poverty line. Two of them had government assisted housing, four of them moved from shelter to shelter, and two of them stayed on the streets even through the coldest winter. They were as young as nineteen and as old as sixty-four.
Around noon, Ray received a copy of the results from the autopsy. The stab wounds on the belly weren’t sexualized. Joseph Frying Pan had been stabbed four times, but even that wasn’t the result of a pattern. The number ranged from one up to seven. The bodies were all dismembered the exact same way. Arms, legs, head, torso left intact.
“Well that could be a pattern,” Fraser said, pushing away from the table. He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hands but his face was already covered with fingertip-sized ink smudges from the photocopies. “If you ignore the mode of one--"
“Nobody cares about the mode, Fraser. It’s a completely useless statistic.”
“Well, ordinarily I’m in full agreement. But here, being as there is only one number that repeats itself twice, that in itself is interesting.”
Fraser was blowing the pipes out for a full-out completely sensical rant, but Ray was too tired to hear. “Or a fluke.”
“Or, possibly a fluke,” Fraser agreed. He sat back and pushed the first box away. “We could start on the second box.”
There was a slight question there. “Or?” Ray asked. When Fraser said nothing, Ray continued. “Or we could do some follow-up?”
Fraser nodded. “We could visit the shelter.”
“And do what, exactly? They’re not going to fall for your innocent Canadian act here, Fraser. They’re all Canadians.”
“True. But I have a wolf.”
“He’s fifty percent at best.”
“I have you.”
“They’re not going to fall for my innocent Canadian act, either.”
“Work the new immigrant angle. Adopted country, cultural mosaic, that sort of thing.”
“It won’t help.”
“We could start the second box,” Fraser said. There were four more boxes on the table. The detectives working the scene had been thorough and attentive. The notes were meticulous.
“We both know we’re not going to find anything.”
Fraser rubbed his eyes again. “Then we’ll have to play good cop, polite RCMP member.”
Ray glanced down at his watch. That it was only 4:45 and the sun still showed from between the tall office buildings was already setting. The Hope Mission that Cooke had spent his last days in was less than a six block drive from the headquarters, so they walked it. With rush hour traffic emptying the small downtown core of the city, it was faster than driving.
Lester B ran ahead of them obediently on his leash. Downtown Edmonton was like any downtown in any city. The heat from the buildings melted the early snow even in the shadows and the crush of bodies was everything from executives shivering but too important for winter jackets to street people settling into their doorways for the night.
The Mission, with its curved building and office-like entry way surprised Ray. He was expecting something with a little more depression added on. There was no mistaking the smell though, Lysol mixed with overcooked vegetables, or the look of the people just sitting with their unidentified food and juice boxes as anything else other than a shelter.
The volunteer put down the pitcher she was holding and came to them. “Officers?” she asked, brushing a strand of grey hair that had escaped the tight ponytail at the base of her neck. Her voice was thick, like a lifetime smoker.
Fraser took off his hat. “We’re looking for your director.” They hadn’t discussed who was going to do the talking, but it felt right to Ray being behind Fraser.
She put her hand over her mouth. “This is about poor David.”
“It is, ma’am.”
“I will grab Angelo for you. One moment, please.”
A family had come in while they were talking. Mom, dad, and two kids. The adults had a stunned look about them, the husband’s mouth was open and the woman looked as though she’d spent most of the day in tears and was about to cry again. The two kids looked exhausted. She sat the kids down and helped the adults get dinner trays for everyone before going to get the director and Ray didn’t mind the extra wait at all.
Angelo came out from the drab hallway side the hall. He wore black, with a white collar. “Officers? We could go back to my office but I can tell you absolutely nothing that you don’t already know. No one here saw or heard anything the night of the murder.” He kept voice down but Ray didn’t think it would matter. The men and women at the tables were so wrapped up in their miseries Angelo’s voice had nowhere to carry to.
“We understand that,” Ray said.
“Then why do you keep coming back? A large percentage of my clientele have a phobia of law enforcement. You coming here doesn’t help them.”
“What about him?” Fraser asked, motioning with his chin toward a young man wearing a baseball cap. He wore a heavy coat. He had high cheek bones and skin the colour of really milky tea.
“He can’t help you,” Angelo said, not even looking over, but when he did he made a clicking sound in the back of his throat. “That’s Mike Man Standing On The Side Of The Road. I didn’t know he was back in town. He took off to Vancouver after the murder.” Angelo rubbed his hands over his face. “He was David Cooke’s best friend.”
“May we speak with him?” Fraser asked.
Angelo gave him a dirty look. “You don’t need permission from me.”
“No. But we’re asking you regardless.”
“Of course you can. But be careful with him, please. He had a huge fight with David the day before the murder and hadn’t seen him since. He blames himself for not being there.”
“There was no mention of him in any of the reports.”
“What good would it do? He was across the city when the murder took place.”
“We’ll be gentle.”
Angelo stepped away. “Ray, stay back,” Fraser said. “And whatever you do, don’t speak.”
Ray didn’t even argue to ask why.
Fraser made eye contact with Mike first, all but asking permission to approach. Mike’s dark eyes were heavy with mistrust, but he nodded his head a quarter inch. Fraser walked slowly to the table, and Mike didn’t look away from him until Lester B reached the table first. He buried his head under Mike’s hand, then tossed his head back so that Mike was scratching him behind the ear before Mike was even aware that was what he was doing.
“Nice dog,” Mike finally said.
“Thank you. He’s an excellent judge of character. Mr. Man Standing On The Side Of The Road, do you know what kind of law enforcement officer I am?”
Mike’s lips peeled back. “You’re RCMP.”
“Do you know what that means within the incorporated city limits?”
“Yeah, I do. It means you don’t got no authority.”
“That’s right. No authority whatsoever.”
Mike glanced to Ray. “But he’s a cop.”
“Despite how difficult it’s going to be for him, I’ve already asked him to let me do the talking. It’s why I’m asking you to come to the RCMP headquarters to help us find who killed your friend. You’re under no obligation and you can leave at any time.”
Lester B whined. Mike scratched his throat with practiced confidence. “We always had dogs at home,” he said, his voice wistful. “Real dogs.”
Fraser opened his mouth to speak, but whatever he was going to say to the sound of the door chimes going off. Fraser turned at the same time Mike looked up, so only Ray saw the colour drain from his cheeks. He bolted for the back door without a word, and Fraser, with only a glance to tell Ray to stay where he was, ran after him.
Ray finally turned to see George Collins standing in the entranceway. He looked as though he’d slept in the uniform he had on, and the dark shadows and hair flattened to the right side didn’t help dispel the look.
They met eyes, halfway across the hall, and the sudden joy in George’s eyes didn’t last for more than a second before he all but boxed his ears with his own fists, turned around, and ran out the door.
The floor of the shelter was polished and Ray’s shoes were wet from the walk over. It took him a few extra seconds to cross it and even with the extra care, he almost crashed into the doors. By the time he got outside, he lost George to the crowd. He froze, concentrating on the crowd half a block away looking for any sign of blue to the south, but saw nothing. He turned north, to 107 Avenue, and saw the flash he was looking for turning east, into Chinatown.
He took off after him. In plain clothes he didn’t carry his radio on his belt. He went to grab his cellphone, but realized he would be calling in on a cop in uniform, who hadn’t done anything wrong. Asking for back up because a fellow officer had run out of a building for no apparent reason on the first day that Ray had been bumped up to a detective wasn’t going to go well regardless of how often these things happened in Chicago.
Gut instinct told Ray to be careful. It also reminded him that George had a firearm, and that if the cop felt cornered, it wouldn’t go well for either of them.
At the corner of 107th and 99th Street he caught a flash of the red stripe down George’s pant leg flying east again the next block over. There was no way Ray would catch up to him, but he followed him down the street and then down the alley way behind the Lucky 7 Grocery Store.
Half way down, Ray slipped on an oily patch of broken pavement and went down on one knee. He swore, but caught himself before he did a face-plant. He glanced up, quick enough to see George turning east onto the street. If he crossed 97, the roads there turned into an inner city labyrinth of inner city snarl. George was gone.
Ray stood up and felt the delayed smart of pain from the knee he’d landed on. The alleyway was just like all the pictures of the body dump sites, down to the rubble and garbage behind the businesses. The sun had gone down and he realized suddenly just how dark the alley was. A few of the doorways had a dirty light bulb that was actually on, but it was just enough light to make the shadows stretch. Any one of a dozen could have been a mound of body parts.
He turned back the way he came. When he put weight on his left knee it twinged at him, but took his weight. Still, it was going to be a long walk back to the shelter.
As he limped along, picking up the pace with every step, he saw the shape of a man cross the mouth of the alley. For a heartbeat he thought, impossibly, that George had lapped the block and was now coming for him. The uniform was the right colour, but the build was wrong. Maybe it was another beat cop, who’d seen a plain-clothed man chasing after a uniform. Ray was reaching into his pocket to pull out his ID before thinking that was probably not the best thing to be doing in such a poorly lit place.
Then he saw the bloodstain.
It was black against the blue uniform, and the blackest point of the stain was at least two of Ray’s fists. The wound was right over the sternum, missing his heart by inches. It hadn’t mattered, of course. The pink streetlight reflected grey off the waxy skin.
Ray froze for the second time that night. The way the cop’s mouth hung open left no question that he was dead. A deafening buzz filled Ray’s skull. At first he couldn’t get his lungs to take in enough air to scream, then he realized it was more serious than that when he couldn’t even breathe at all.
The cop took a shuffling step on legs that didn’t bend where the knee should. The sound of something sucking through wet cloth filtered through the buzzing.
Ray didn’t faint, so much as he decided that the best thing to do at that moment was just sit down. He drew his knees up, burrowing his head in his arms. He squeezed his eyes shut so tight the muscles around them hurt.
The world greyed out and turned to black. But not before Ray heard screaming over the sound of the saw.
Ray hugged the blanket to his shoulders and got out of the cruiser. When he’d seen the uniforms leaning over him, he’d had enough breath left to actually scream. The officers had leapt back as though Ray had brandished his gun.
Once Ray had been helped to his feet and the EMT’s cleaned and bandaged his knees, he’d convinced Amanda and her partner Bill to drop him off at the RCMP headquarters on Kingsway rather than take him all the way to Royal Alex hospital further down the road.
The RCMP member at the desk pointed him to the cafeteria instead of the interview rooms. The caf itself had been closed down, but Mike sat at one of the far tables, with a pizza box from the Funky Pickle. He had a blanket over his shoulders as well.
Fraser glanced up as soon as he entered, relief obvious across his face. Ray hoped someone had already told him that they’d found Ray in one piece, even if it was curled up in an alley way. Fraser’s partner, Jessica, sat on the other side of Mike. Her thick black hair had a gloss to it even the institutional lighting couldn’t dim.
“Welcome back, copper,” Mike said, helping himself to another slice. “Thought you were a gonner.”
“Why would you think that?” Fraser asked. The question had mild curiosity in it at best, but the line appeared back between his eyes. Ray wanted to rub his shoulders and tell him he was perfectly fine. He’d also have killed for a slice.
As though reading his mind, Fraser pulled off one and slid it over to him as Mike finished chewing. He swallowed and drank down at least half a can of coke. “Because he was running after Officer Collins.” He waited, no doubt expecting Fraser to argue the point. Mike met Ray’s eyes, too, daring him to defend his department, but Ray had already seen what Mike knew.
“He killed his partner.” Mike said.
“And why did he do that?” Jessica asked. Her voice was soft.
“They didn’t agree on their dates. Peterson liked them a bit softer than George, you know?”
“Did you see anything?” Fraser asked. Ray knew what he was thinking. If it was a regular suspect, they could probably get a warrant on eye-witness testimony, but they would need more.
“Not me. We were fighting then, too. We fought a lot. I didn’t want to come to Edmonton. David was always looking for the next big score.”
They all exhaled, despite themselves. Mike saw them, and just as Fraser made their excuses, Mike reached into his shirt and pulled out a leather thong. On it was a film canister. He popped the top and shook out a mini-SD card. “I didn’t see a thing. David recorded it.”
“Why didn’t he come forward to the authorities?” Ray asked, despite himself. “We could have done something about it.”
Mike shrugged. “David thought he had it made. I was supposed to go with him, but we fought about that, too. I thought Collins would kill us both.” Mike’s mouth twitched. “I would have shared the money, though.”
The judge signed off on the warrant and the SWAT team moved in. Ray pointed out that Collins’ address was Peterson’s old address. The lights were off, the garage empty, and the team knocked down the door.
Jessica remained behind. She had no jurisdiction, after all. Ray still didn’t feel up to driving so he handed the keys over. Downtown to Riverbend meant they had to get across downtown and over the river, so they were stuck in stop-and-start traffic for half an hour.
The High Level Bridge traffic slowed to a crawl as they waited their turn to merge into one of the lanes. Ray had adjusted the heater higher and higher until a heat flush started to grow from Fraser’s collar, but he didn’t say anything about it.
“They told me they found you in an alley,” Fraser said, finally. “I heard on the radio that they thought you were shot. When you--" Fraser either couldn’t finish or find the word. “When they found you and you were all right, I was very glad.”
Fraser’s typical over-reaction. Ray slipped his hand over Fraser’s thigh. He wanted to tell Fraser what he’d seen, but he couldn’t quite speak about what he saw, but he couldn’t put it into words. He tried, a couple times, but he couldn’t even begin the sentence.
Fraser squeezed his hand and slipped into traffic.
The SWAT team was already gathered, and was just moving into the house by the time they arrived. The massive front doors needed three whacks with the battering ram before they came off its hinges. Ray strapped on his bulletproof vest as Fraser did the same.
The all clear was sounded fifteen minutes later. Ray was the first non-SWAT into the front door. Fraser was right behind him. Fraser glanced towards the group of gathered police in the living room, and then down to a closed door off the kitchen.
“Fraser?” Ray asked, but Fraser wouldn’t look away from the closed door. Ray saw nothing, until he looked away. He caught a glimpse of blue. Sweat broke out and chilled his back and ribcage. He grabbed at Fraser’s arm. “Ben, don’t. Please.”
“It’s all right,” Fraser said, and again patted his hand. “They can’t hurt you.”
“What?” Ray demanded. He couldn’t stop his head from replaying the way the mouth gaped.
“You can stay here,” Fraser said. He headed towards what could only be the basement stairs.
To Ray’s own credit, he only stayed put for three very long, very heart-thudding seconds before he was back where he belonged at Fraser’s side. As he walked through the doorframe he felt a cold, sticky feeling like walking through a spider web on a cool autumn day. He shook his head, plunging down into the brightly lit basement with his partner. “They said it was all clear. They would have checked the basement. If they meant all clear except for the basement I’m sure that’s exactly what they would have said.”
“I’m sure it is all clear,” Fraser said. He wasn’t looking at Ray, but went into what looked like an unfinished laundry room.
“Are you sure you’re sure?”
Fraser stopped, and stared at a newly mudded over drywall. “This isn’t to code.”
Nothing Fraser said really surprised Ray any more. “We’ll be sure to add that to the list.” Fraser ignored him and started to move the empty baskets and detergent bottles. “What are you doing?”
“Looking for a crowbar.”
“Or a tire iron. A rebar might do, if it was short enough to give the proper amount of torque.” He pulled the washing machine away from the wall with a god-awful shriek. “Aha.”
“Who says that?” Ray asked. Fraser emerged, his uniform only slightly dusty, with a crowbar. Ray didn’t want to really look at. He’d seen too many weapons encrusted with blood or brain matter, but it was a perfectly clean, serviceable tool.
Fraser ran his hand down the long seam that was two and a half drywall sheets stacked on top of each other and slid the crowbar into the non-taped side. For a moment, nothing gave, then the whole wall slid open like a door.
Ray expected a smell like he’d spent the day with when he babysat the body what seemed like a year ago. Or at least the unforgettable metallic stench of blood that had congealed and dried that stuck to murder scenes long after the bodies had been removed.
What he got was a nose full of bleach. While peered at the wall, trying to find a light switch or something, Fraser walked to the centre of the room and reached up. The cord was almost invisible outside of the harsh rectangle of light from the makeshift doorframe. The cord was there, and brought a naked, 100 watt lightbulb to life.
The bottle of bleach was to the left of a large drain hole. A table saw, missing the tell tale tooth was on a bench beside the drain hole. It was clean, no doubt hosed off after each use. The hose, probably hooked up to the washing machine behind the walls, was coiled on the floor next to a wall. It had a high pressure nozzle on it
The walls in the room weren’t drywalled. The naked studs had pink insulation between them and, right next to where Ray was standing, was the slowly moldering body of Officer Peterson in pieces, his bottom jaw on the skull gaping and as white as its teeth.
Ray said nothing all the way home. He couldn’t. Fraser drove with his fingers white on the steering wheel.
Relief washed over Ray as they arrived, safe in their yard. Fraser turned off the engine, and they stayed in the warmth of the car for an extra second before unbuckling their seat belts and getting out.
Fraser went inside the house long enough to get changed into work clothes and then he turned on the floodlights, turning the back of the house into a white arena. The wire that made up the fifteen yards or so of old fence looked practically invisible in the bright light.
They finished it, working well into the night. Ray’s knee where he skinned it gave out with a vicious twist of pain before they finished the last couple feet.
Fraser grabbed his arm, and even through the gloves and the thick jacket, Ray felt the touch electrically. Fraser leaned over and kissed him on the part of his forehead that was exposed in the night air. “Go inside and start a fire. I won’t be long.”
Ray almost asked him to promise, but held his tongue. He limped back to the house and turned every light on the main floor. The fire was well established before he heard the back door open and close again, and then came the familiar rattle of Lester B’s dog tags off his collar.
Fraser clumped around the mudroom for a few minutes. Lester B had sprawled in front of the fire on the carpet over the old hardwood before Fraser came in from the kitchen, turning off lights as he came. “All done?” Ray asked.
“All done,” Fraser agreed.
“Thank god. Let’s go to bed.” Ray pushed the old throw he’d put around his shoulders down and went to stand.
“No,” Fraser said, maybe a little too quickly.
Ray sat back down on the couch. “No?”
“We should stay down here.” Fraser paused. “To have sex.”
Fraser leaned against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest. If it wasn’t for the slight line of worry that appeared again between his brow showed he wasn’t entirely comfortable.
Still, Ray didn’t want to make Fraser stress anymore than he already was. Ray leaned back against the sofa. “That’s your big seduction?”
“Did it work?” Fraser ran his hands through his hair.
Fraser relaxed. “Good.”
He moved to the couch. They were older now; it took an extra couple seconds to adjust themselves so that Fraser straddling his lap was comfortable for both of them, but they adjusted. Ray put his hands on Fraser’s thighs, up tight against his. Fraser’s skin was cold from being outside but beneath the surface chill he felt Fraser’s core heat.
He felt Fraser shift as he shifted his hands down to the seams of Fraser’s inner thighs. His breath caught in his throat. Ray cupped Fraser’s balls through the jeans. Here there was no cold, just Fraser’s radiating warmth. He wanted it closer to him.
But Fraser wasn’t quite ready to move yet. Any attempt Ray made to shift him away so that he could take off their jeans was met with a dodge. Eventually Fraser gathered Ray’s wrists and pinned them down to the back of the couch. Ray exhaled, sharply, not fighting Fraser’s hold so much as wanting to be held down and still have Fraser’s body pressed against his.
They were at a stalemate. He didn’t want to come in his pants, but Fraser had both of his hands occupied as well holding down Ray’s wrists. Ray relaxed, and Fraser transferred both of Ray’s hand into his one.
“Don’t you have something else you could use?” Ray asked.
Fraser cleared his throat. They didn’t use handcuffs. It was too close to work. But in the beginning, they used to use Fraser’s belt before the routine settled in. Fraser backed off a few inches. With one hand he unbuckled his belt and pulled it from the loops. The friction sound of it sliding free made Ray shiver.
“It’s been a while,” Fraser said. He looped the belt around Ray’s wrists calmly, but rather than tying it off he gave the loose strap to Ray to hold. He tightened it, feeling the strain, but when he relaxed, it did, too.
“Too long.” It didn’t need to be said, but Ray said it, regardless. With Fraser’s hands free, he could unbutton’s Ray’s shirt and pull up his T-shirt underneath. Fraser put his hands on Ray’s chest, then, all but ignoring the strain Ray made to force the hands down lower, to his own cock.
Fraser smiled, genuinely thrilled. He leaned forward, letting only his finger tips touch Ray’s belly. He started to stroke down the line dividing what passed as Ray’s flat abdominal muscles. Ray could only suck in his breath and arch his back. “If you’re waiting, now would be a good time.”
“Hum,” Fraser said. He moved his hands lower, slipping them into the waistband of Ray’s jeans.
Ray closed his eyes and leaned back against the couch. As much as he wanted Fraser inside him, he could wait in this moment forever for it. The anticipation, want and need of Fraser’s hands on him, of his straining cock desperate for attention drove away the badness he’d witnessed. There was no saw, no photographs of body parts, just this, here, in the now. The darkness behind his eyes had no fear in it.
Fraser could have been reading his mind. Their jeans came off with practiced care. Ray felt Fraser grab his hips, pulling him down so that he was on the edge of the couch. Fraser knelt down between Ray’s legs. He felt Fraser’s mouth on his hip. His breath tickled.
And then his mouth was over Ray’s cock. Blow jobs were quick. They were in the shower or too tired to really fuck or quick morning before a day’s work sex. A lick and a promise, so to speak. This wasn’t any of that. Fraser took his time, with his hands firmly on Ray’s stomach. He wasn’t holding Ray down, so Ray could lift his hips, driving himself further down Fraser’s throat in the same slow, deliberate pace that Fraser had already set. He twisted his hands in the belt, loving the strain on top of what Fraser’s lips and tongue were doing, but he suddenly couldn’t take anything else slow.
With his hands still bound together, he brought them forward, to Fraser. The leather between his wrists cradled the back of Fraser’s head and just like that, he was in complete control. Fraser made a sound he felt in Fraser’s throat.
Fraser jerked his hands away from Ray’s belly, and the flesh on flesh sound he made kept pace with him. He didn’t even try to stop or slow the orgasm as it was happening. He didn’t feel that he could begin to contain it. He felt his body bow away from the couch so that only the back of his neck and thighs touched it, and even that wasn’t enough. The rush throughout his body stole his breath and sped his pulse so much he could feel it crashing in the back of his mouth.
Fraser pressed his forehead against Ray’s abdomen too. His shoulders started to shake, then his whole body. When he lifted the belt from the back of his head and sat back on his heels, his entire face was flushed.
He didn’t say anything, though. Neither of them did. They didn’t have to. Fraser pulled himself up beside Ray on the couch, and his arm and pectoral muscles spasmed while he did so. They sat there, arms still entwined as Ray’s lungs remembered how breathing worked again, and it was good.
The fire had burned down to ashes before Ray felt the need to speak again. “You saw him, at the house,” he said, simply.
“I did. You saw him in the alley way.”
Ray nodded, and swallowed. “He didn’t move right. Did he move right to you?”
“No.” The word felt cut off at the end. Ray kept staring at the fire. Fraser had more to say, and he wasn’t going to push. “They appear the way they want to appear, I suppose. There aren’t any rules.”
Ray wanted to ask how Fraser knew that, but they both heard a crashing sound coming from the yard. Fraser was up and dressed in the time it took Ray to pull his jeans back on, but he was at Fraser’s side a moment later.
“What the hell was that?” Ray demanded. A single flash light was on in the shed, but it was on the floor and rolling away.
“A trap,” Fraser said. He pulled on his boots and ran outside.
Ray grabbed his phone off the charger and his gun and followed. He heard a horrible groaning sound, but this one sounded very much alive still. “He still has a weapon,” Ray warned.
“It’s the very last thing he’s thinking of right now,” Fraser promised.
Ray didn’t want to know how Fraser was so sure, but when he saw the tangle of barbed wire dug into Collins’ leg, he didn’t doubt it either. There must have been five or six strands of it, just loose enough to wrap around his legs as he fell, and the barbs, too cruel for Fraser to trust around animals, dug into his legs at dozens of bloody points.
Collins didn’t have the attention span to fight as Ray trained his gun at the large, central mass of him. He tried to put his hands up but couldn’t take them away from the bloody mess his legs had become. Fraser plucked the service revolver from Collins’ belt and rather than use it himself, he threw it into the darkness.
He did take Ray’s phone, though, stepping just outside the shed to make the call so that Collin wasn’t so loud.
Suddenly Collins stopped screaming, so suddenly Ray wished he had continued. Collins’ eyes bulged out of the skull in a way pure pain alone couldn’t make them. Ray stepped even further into the light.
Ray didn’t want to study the shadows. He didn’t want to see, not just the flash of blue that he knew would stop his heart, but the other shadows in the back of the shed. He and Collins weren’t alone anymore, and from the desperate, garbling sounds coming from Collins, he knew it too. The waiting ones’ vigil had the still, endless patience that only the dead could have. Ray blinked hard, and the shadows blurred back into the familiar shapes of the tool shed, but Collins still stared into the dark corners. Ray had a feeling Collin would be seeing them for a long, long time yet. Ray shuddered with more than just the cold, and stepped back out to the snow-swept yard.
The rest of it was pretty routine. Fraser was given a verbal warning for putting the trap up to begin with, but the town of Beaumont was RCMP territory and Fraser had full jurisdiction. There would be a tonne of paperwork in the morning, of course, there always was, and Ray waited until the last rookie put up the last bit of police tape around the scene before leaving to ask the question he had to know.
“How did you know he’d go to the shed, first?”
Fraser put his arm around Ray. They’d both gone in to get their jackets at different time during the evening, but they’d both the connection.
“It was where we kept the power tools.”
“He could have broken into the house and shot us both.”
“He could have,” Fraser said. “But his partner knew he’d go for the shed.”
“When did he tell you that?”
“In the basement. He tried to tell you.”
Ray shivered. “C’mon, Fraser, it’s cold out here.”