by Jacqueline Landry
Les Éditions David, 2013
Sergeant Greg McLeod took a deep breath and ran a hand through his thinning grey hair. Twenty-five years on the force had hardened his face, carving long furrows between his bushy eyebrows and narrow lines around his lips that lent him a permanent air of sarcasm. Even the blue of his eyes seemed to have long since faded. Many long hours on duty, sitting at his computer or in an unmarked car on a stakeout, had added unsightly bulges to his once muscular body, which no amount of working out seemed able to shift.
The fatigue he felt was overwhelming. “Tony and Marshall are already overstretched with the gang operation, and they’re following up a lead in the Lower Mainland right now. A tip from an informant. The guy they’re after is the head of the Red Scorpions. Apparently he was the one who took out eight members of a rival gang in those shootings in and around Surrey. So you can forget about them. That leaves Pierre Levac, the Quebecer. He can hold his own pretty well in the field. Take him along with you. I’ll see if I can assign you another officer. We don’t have a lot of resources available right now, what with the gang wars and the security detail for the Olympics. It’s a relief the games are over now, but the guys still have a bunch of reports to write up. That doesn’t leave me with a lot of men in the field, Nicolas.”
“But Levac’s the guy who’s going to be welcoming the new officer in the detachment—what’s his name… François Racine? They’re supposed to be partners for the next six months.”
“Racine won’t be here for another week yet. He’s decided to drive across the country with his family. That’ll give you plenty of time to begin your investigation. Then I’ll see about having him join you. He became a police officer in his forties, so he’s mature enough to be spared a lot of the rookie stuff. He could turn out to be a good guy to have on board.”
“And how are things with our colleagues in Vancouver?”
McLeod lowered his voice. “It sure took them a long time to decide to look into this series of disappearances. They already had forty-five or so cases on file at headquarters stretching back nearly fifteen years, can you believe? All on file, but carefully ignored and gathering dust somewhere. These were the cases that led to Clayton being arrested and tried. And it’s a nightmare now for the Vancouver police with these new disappearances. They can’t give the public any reasonable explanation why they’ve been dragging their heels so much. Believe me, they’re in hot water down there.”
“The truth is,” said Nicolas, “these women don’t exactly carry a lot of weight in the justice system, if you ask me.”
Nicolas knew that the Downtown Eastside—the area between Burrard Inlet and Clark, Main and East Hastings—was the most downtrodden neighbourhood in Vancouver and played home to the highest rate of drug addiction in North America. Things were so bad in the area, with no fewer than seven thousand drug addicts squeezed into just fifteen city blocks, that it wouldn’t take much for the World Health Organization to declare an AIDS epidemic there. It must be some kind of record, thought Nicolas. Forty percent of the drug addicts and prostitutes who live there are HIV positive.
“That neighbourhood is a blight on the Vancouver landscape. No wonder people are so ashamed of it. Most of them just don’t want to know what goes on in that no man’s land. And the few who do don’t have a lot of sympathy for the down-and-outs who live there. One thing’s for sure, no one gives much credit to what some working girls have been saying about missing women and a serial killer down there. Anyway, let’s face it: it’s going to take more than a few missing prostitutes to stir up public opinion and pressure the authorities to look into things.”
McLeod nodded, rubbing his chin. “Which makes that neighbourhood a prime hunting ground for anyone who gets a kick out of roughing up sex workers. They’ve got free rein down there. The last twenty-five years have shown me that. All those prostitutes, drug addicts, and transsexuals on the street down there have no protection whatsoever. It’d be easy to point the finger at the Vancouver police for dragging their heels on this—and I’d be the first in line—but you can also see where they’re coming from. After all, those missing girls chose to work in such a risky business.”
“Actually,” Nicolas argued, “a lot of them say they didn’t choose a life of violence and sexual assault.”
McLeod cut him off impatiently. “But what do they think? That society forced them to take their first hit of heroin or crack? Come on, we all make decisions that end up shaping the rest of our lives, and they’re no exception. Right now, that’s not the problem. In fact, there’s a very simple reason why this investigation has never been done by the book. Those girls don’t exist. They don’t belong to society. And because they don’t exist, they can’t have disappeared. It’s a cruel thing to say, but that’s the truth.”