Authors: Glynis Whiting
Tags: #Mystery, #FIC022040, #FIC019000
Â© Glynis Whiting, 2013
All rights reserved
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Thistledown Press Ltd.
118 - 20th Street West
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S7M 0W6
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
A nose for death [electronic resource] / Glynis Whiting
Electronic monograph in HTML format.
Issued also in print format.
PS8645.H5655N68 2013Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â C813'.6Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â C2013-900964-7
Cover photograph by Ken Hewlett
Cover and book design by Jackie Forrie
Printed and bound in Canada
All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental
Thistledown Press gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Saskatchewan Arts Board, and the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund for its publishing program.
This novel is only publishable because of the support and encouragement of several dear and clever souls; if my friend and mentor Alan Twigg and his lovely wife Tara hadn't provided excellent feedback and convinced me to keep going and if that hadn't led to the Vancouver Mayor's Award for Emerging Literary Artist; if my daughter Amour Shukster hadn't eliminated the first thick layer of typos; if I hadn't had the camaraderie of the Cocktail Duck Writers with whom I regularly hole-up so that we can ”retreat to move forward”, as well as the enthusiastic feedback of librarian-with-a-passion and cousin Janine Jevne, and writer Andrew Campbell; and if not for the shelter of the Nicola River retreat provided by Randy and Jeff. My gratitude to all of you knows no end.
I also owe thanks to my editor Michael Kenyon, and the experts who tethered my imaginings to reality. Staff-Sergeant Kevin Morton provided feedback as both a member of the RCMP and an avid reader. Dr. John Butt confirmed that my chosen “cause of death” could be fatal and Provincial Court Judge Joe Galati gave me guidance about the judicial system in British Columbia circa 1979. Any errors, gaping or minor, are mine alone. My family, too, deserves my everlasting gratitude. My children, Amour, Shamus, and Kelsey, grew up to the sound of typewriter keys clicking, then my mutterings when computers wouldn't cooperate, and they never complained when dinner was delayed because I had one more page to finish. Then there is Ken Hewlett, my husband and best friend, who picks me up when I'm down, fills the house with soothing music, and was the very first to read
A Nose for Death
In memory of Glenys Nora Robb, my mom,
who believed in the powers of creativity, laughter, and books.
Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant
land mines, hidden under the weedy mass of many
years and experiences. Hit a tripwire of smell, and
memories explode all at once.
â Diane Ackerman,
A Natural History of the
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
The Impostor Syndrome, in which competent
people find it impossible to believe in their own
competence, can be viewed as complementary to
the DunningâKruger effect, in which incompetent
people find it impossible to believe in their own
â Wikipedia, 2012
HE DAY THE INVITATION ARRIVED
chose to ignore it. Oh, she opened it all right. Felt the thick embossed letters on linen paper, read the greeting requesting her presence at the Madden High thirtieth reunion. Then she tossed it on the hall table among the real estate, pizza, and dry cleaning fliers. Whoever had sent it hadn't bothered to check the records. If they had, she wouldn't have been on the invitation list. She wouldn't tolerate that kind of carelessness in herself. Exhausted from too many nights at work, she had no patience for it in others.
It was several weeks before she could finally hang up her smock and emerge from the lab before dark. The front office was abuzz with news of the award. It wasn't everyday that Constellation Ltd. received the industry's highest honour for developing a new food flavour. Even the receptionist, Rosy, was giddy with pride, handing out cake and pouring champagne in the middle of the afternoon. Joan, though, just felt like going home and crawling under the covers. It was all too much. She was the one who had gone through a thousand compounds in the past year, testing and re-testing until she'd narrowed it down to just the right combination of flavours: a satisfying licorice, a subtle hint of spearmint with a whiff of peppermint, and a bare trace of wintergreen. She'd spent months consulting on texture and colour, insisting on rigorous international product testing of the “adults only” chewing gum. If they could nail a flavour that appealed to both the North American and Asian markets, they'd have a shot in the highly competitive world market.
Joan had two remarkable gifts. The first was a memory that helped her instantly identify over half of the six-thousand scents in the Constellation Ltd. inventory. The other was an ability to reach deep into the web of human emotions with her creations by engaging her keen senses. Smell was her most precious but each was a valuable tool: taste, for knowing how much sour would be too much or if another dash of salt would be perfect; touch to feel velvet on the lips, heat on the tongue; and sound, to hear a musical crunch or the delicate smacking of lips. She'd been on the ground in Japan, Korea, and Hong Kong to witness individual reactions, watching for the slightest tilt of the head, drop of an eyelid, shift in the body to tell her just what test subjects were feeling. Finally, after living in airports and out of suitcases for six months, she had presented Hint of Midnight gum. It was her baby. The award had her name on it. Dr. Joan Parker was an international celebrity in the cutthroat world of food flavour and aroma design.
Today she didn't feel like any sort of star. The dark service elevator was never her first choice of departure from the lab. It was infused with the sickly sweet smell of pineapple that had leaked from a cracked beaker months ago. But this route allowed her to bypass the Marketing Department. She couldn't face another “Way to go, girl!” Why did middle-aged women cling to Valley Girl lingo? It was like breathing stale summer air. The thought of being forced into water-cooler chat was more than she could stomach. Research chemists have never been hailed as social extroverts, and in Joan's case, it was true. The socializing that had been required to get the product launched had sapped her energy more than the actual work to develop Hint of Midnight.
Just when she thought she had escaped detection, Ted Harman caught up with her in the parking lot. Her boss was the high priest of the team approach.
“Not staying for champagne?”
She tucked her blunt-cut brown hair behind her ears and braced herself for an argument. “I have to get back here early tomorrow.”
He studied her for several long seconds. “No, you don't.” He wasn't smiling.
“Take some time off. You deserve it. Tony can clean up the paperwork. I don't want to see your face around here for at least two weeks.”
Anyone else would have been thrilled, but Ted had hit her most delicate nerve. She was afraid to go away. Deep in the marrow of her tired bones, she was afraid she'd lose everything, that she'd be found out. Despite her years of hard work and the accolades heaped upon her, she didn't believe she deserved success. She felt like an imposter.
“I'm fine, Ted. A good night's sleep, that's all I need.” She unlocked her car door. Before she could slide in, though, he clasped her shoulder, turned her to face him, and solemnly looked her in the eye.
“No, Joan. Two weeks, minimum. Spring break.” There was something else. Something she couldn't put her finger on. “I can't afford to have you crash and burn.”
“And . . . ?” She knew that there was more. He paused then continued uncomfortably.
“Some of the staff interprets your distance as aloofness. It's affecting morale.”
Her jaw dropped but she couldn't find words to protest.
Ted added, “I know that's not it. We all know you care, but it will help all around if you recharge.” He held open the door to her Honda hybrid and she climbed in without a word.
When she arrived home, Mort was in the condo kitchen packing his gourmet-cooking utensils.
“Baby, you look like crap,” he said with a smile.
“Thanks a lot.” She poured herself a glass of red wine from the kitchen stash and studied him. “Why do you come in here when I'm out?”
“I have two forks and a spatula in my apartment. How am I supposed to cook anything?” He looked at her with those big, droopy eyes. He had aged handsomely.
“Take what you want. It's mostly yours. You bring anything to eat? I'm starving.”
Mort could create a meal out of nothing. Necessity had been his mentor. When they had first moved in together a dozen years ago, they had both been struggling. They were thrilled to have snagged a little cottage with creaking floors and a stove with three functioning burners. Joan was finishing her dissertation and working as a lab assistant for a multi-national food supplier. She had no time to eat, let alone cook. Mort had just landed a job as produce manager with a local Grocery Cart food store and would haul home over-ripe fruits and vegetables at the end of the day, often exotic foods that the middle-class customers were wary of buying. Every evening their cottage welcomed her with the spicy aromas of a busy, happy kitchen. Now Mort was general manager for the western region and being groomed as V.P. of Human Resources for the entire Grocery Cart chain. Since he moved out four months ago, Joan had been busy with the Hint of Midnight project, and the kitchen now smelled of ripe garbage.