Pavelec, SMS, and Bailey watched the projected image between Pavit’s hands as the masked man on Walter Carton’s porch readied his assault rifle. The image lurched as Pavit’s car took off. Everyone held their breath, waiting for something to happen, for bullet holes to pepper the car’s windshield, for some kind of chase.
Then the present-day Pavit opened his eyes and lowered his hands, and the flickering projection melted into the darkness.
“What happened?” demanded Brenda.
“They didn’t shoot,” said Pavit. “I don’t know why. I drove as fast as I could back to see Jovo and told her what had happened, and she sent me to the safe house in Esquimalt. I stayed there and didn’t talk to anyone until today.”
Bailey kicked viciously at Pavit’s feet, still tied around the ankles. “Well what good is that? Who were they? Why were they after Carton? You haven’t told us anything!”
“Take it easy, Brenda,” said SMS.
“Don’t tell me what to do,” snapped Brenda. She kicked Pavit again, defiantly.
“Come on, Brenda,” said SMS. “Just calm down.”
Bailey reached down and slapped Pavit across the face. “There must be something else,” she growled. “Tell us what else you saw!”
SMS stepped forward and put his hand on Brenda’s shoulder. She whirled around and shoved him, hard. He tumbled over backwards, but thankfully the leaves and pine needles made for a soft landing. He came up furious. “This is exactly why I didn’t want Innis to send you along. I don’t even know why he keeps you on his list. You’re out of control.” He knew, somewhere in the back of his mind, that Brenda’s aggression-inducing pheromones were affecting him and clouding his judgment, but the combination of the chemical influence and the background stress of the day were too much. “I want you off this job right now!”
Bailey bared her teeth and advanced on SMS, one fist raised. He rose to meet the challenge.
The distinctive click of a pistol being cocked brought them both to a halt. Pavelec stood in the headlights, her gun pointed casually in their direction. “I think this might be a good time to remind you that I’m a police officer and you’re well-known criminals, and if I wanted to I could put you both away for a long time. I don’t think anyone would much care if I brought you in with a few bullet holes, either. So why don’t you just settle down and, seriously, quit wasting my time.”
Reluctantly, Bailey lowered her fist. SMS’s shoulders slumped as his more rational mind took over. Glancing at Brenda he realized how close he’d come to being beaten to a pulp. That woman had biceps the size of his head…
“That’s better,” said Pavelec. “Now, Pavit hasn’t been completely useless to us. If you’d been paying close enough attention, you might have noticed that the weapons the men he saw were carrying—the ones they didn’t shoot at him with—were definitely familiar. Those were the same assault rifles the soldiers from the Laurentians have been carrying both times they’ve come after us today. That doesn’t necessarily prove anything, but I think it’s a pretty good indicator that we’re dealing with the same people. There aren’t that many groups around with access to that kind of weaponry.”
“You’re right,” said SMS. “Definitely the same guns. But why didn’t they shoot at Pavit? Why let him escape?”
Pavelec scratched her jaw with the muzzle of her pistol. “Maybe they knew it would mess up the cover story they were trying to construct.”
“What do you mean?” asked SMS.
“We know from the investigation that Carton was poisoned with a needle and then had his neck broken after he was dead. I was telling Innis about it earlier today.”
SMS nodded. “I remember.”
“There are plenty of good reasons to use poison to kill him. It’s quiet, clean, and, if you pick the right stuff, virtually impossible to trace. But if they were going to kill him by poison, why break his neck? My guess is that they wanted us to think he’d been killed by one of his clients. And that was the leading theory before we found the poison, so their cover was working.”
“It’s not a very good cover,” said SMS. “They must’ve known you’d see the needle mark on his neck.”
“It wasn’t easy to find,” said Pavelec. “They used an unusual delivery method of some sort. We only spotted it because SU has an expert on staff who specializes in that sort of thing.”
“Specializes?” said SMS, raising his eyebrows.
Pavelec smiled grimly. “It’s amazing how many of us are out there, isn’t it? Just a matter of matching the skills to the task.”
“‘Us’?” said Bailey. “You’re a special, too? What do you do?”
Pavelec glared, but said, “I don’t sleep. And I don’t get into pointless fistfights with my allies, either.”
“Anyways,” said Pavelec, “as I was saying, I think maybe they didn’t shoot at Pavit because they knew that if the neighbours heard gunfire it would be obvious that it wasn’t one of Carton’s clients who killed him. It would be a dead giveaway—pardon the pun—that someone else had been involved.”
“Seems plausible,” said SMS. “But there are still two things we don’t know. First, why did they want Walter Carton dead? And second, how did they track down Pavit today? We can assume they wanted to come after him because he was a witness, but even if they managed to get a look at his face—which they might not have—that’s not much to go on for finding him.”
“They could’ve used Carton’s notebook,” said Pavelec. “The one he used to keep track of his clients. They could see who had recently used his services, and that would have led them to Jovo.”
“True,” said SMS. “But Carton was killed weeks ago, and they would’ve had that information right away. Why wait this long to tie off the loose end?”
Pavelec sat on the hood of her car and kicked her heels on the bumper, frowning. Then she looked up. “If you think about it, none of their actions today make sense from the perspective of a basic cover-up for Carton’s murder. The attacks on Jovo and Pavit were far more public than the killing of Carton. They’ve only been drawing more attention to themselves today. But maybe that’s because they knew we were on to something. Up until now the SU had been investigating Carton’s death internally, and making little progress. That’s why I came to Innis. And once he put us on the track to Jovo, that’s when they knew they had to do something to stop us.”
“You may have something there,” said SMS. “If you’re right, they weren’t really worried about what Jovo might do with Pavit’s information, and they didn’t seem too worried about the main police investigation, either. So what scared them so much about our involvement?”
Pavelec’s eyes suddenly went cold and hard. Quietly, she said, “Maybe what they’re scared of… is me.”