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Authors: William Deverell

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Mind Games (26 page)

BOOK: Mind Games
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Meanwhile, Vancouver was almost in a state of siege, demonstrations were continuing. Gay rights activists were camped on the doorstep of the Attorney General’s office in Victoria.

According to the best estimate of the city pathologist, José Pierrera had died Wednesday, September 17, four nights before his body was discovered. It seemed beyond coincidence that the vagrant in New Brighton Park was murdered earlier that evening by the same men.

As with dogs gone wild, one slaughter only excited the killers’ thirst for blood – I believed the murder of Pierrera reflected a growing appetite for death, a need that might be building anew: thrill killing offers the sufficiently depraved a gratification more addictive than heroin.

Yes, Allis, I was drugged and depressed and dysfunctional, and I was working on little more than a hunch from deep within that Grundy was involved, but a makeshift plan took form. It didn’t involve Jack Churko, who would only try to waylay me. In fact I asked James to call Churko, to tell him he didn’t need to come by, because Grundy had cancelled his appointment.

It was early afternoon of a balmy fall day as I taxied down
the abdomen of Vancouver, south across the flatness of Lulu Island, under the Deas Tunnel to the Delta farmlands, through Ladner to River Road. Protected by a dike where the river makes a wide curl was the Grundison estate, the imposingly Edwardian house visible from a distance.

The property is walled, but the gate was open and the guardhouse empty. No one tends the gate during daylight hours, but from seven p.m. to seven a.m. a watchman is stationed there: on weekdays this is Greg Stairs, twenty years old and “a bit slow” according to the report I read. He’d told detectives that while at the gate or patrolling the grounds he saw all comings and goings. These he recorded in a log: the traffic for September 17, when Moe Morgan and José Pierrera were killed, didn’t include Grundy or Lyall.

The taxi wove through a pitch-and-putt course, sparkling wet from the sprinklers, and stopped in an oval driveway where a late-model compact was parked. The turreted mansion was as grey as a prison. Some distance beyond, close to the dike and secluded within trees, were several cottages. Some of the staff lived in these, others commuted by car. I recalled mention of a dock beyond the dike, but it was out of view.

The first clue that my investigative tools might be chemically dulled came when I made to pay my fare – I’d left my wallet behind. The driver, one of my regulars, had no problem with it. He agreed to park in the driveway and wait.

I introduced myself as Dr. Dare to the bronze-skinned young woman who greeted me at the door, and asked if she could announce me to Mrs. Grundison. She told me the lady of the house was indisposed and urged me, pleasantly enough, to return in the morning.

I said I was really here to see Robert, but that I also wanted to talk to the staff, her included. She hesitated, then asked to see identification. I felt foolish having to explain about my missing wallet, wished I hadn’t taken those last pills. I also regretted not bringing a tape recorder.

I assured her Grundy would be prepared to see me, and she became flustered. She was sorry, but Bob was busy with “something,” and she wasn’t even sure she was allowed to talk with me.

By now I’d managed to wedge my way into the house. An interior designer had been given carte blanche – finely chosen antiques, an A.Y. Jackson, a Lismer, but there was an eerie sense about the place, a heavy silence penetrated by what seemed the groaning of ghosts in the oak panelling. The Xanax was really starting to kick in.

I presumed that this plumply attractive woman, with her slight Spanish accent, was the live-in maid whom detectives had quietly interviewed: Louisa Ramirez, twenty-three, Honduran by birth.

I was set on interviewing her, but my way was barred unless I took a chance. Was she under police orders not to talk? Then maybe we should give Inspector Churko a phone call. She went into a nervous stall, then escorted me to a small parlour with a phone. On the wall were photos of the Grundison family, framed certificates, awards from charities acknowledging their gifts. Golf trophies behind a glass case. Shelves of leather-bound great masters.

Sounding of a mouth full of doughnut, Jack Churko sputtered as I explained: Grundy had asked me to delay his appointment, so I advanced it – and in the meantime Louisa Ramirez was here and would he kindly lift the gag order.

“You want to tangle with the Grundisons? Be my guest, I’m going to maintain deniability. Aw, shit. Put her on the line.”

She listened, nodded, voiced a weak, “Yes, thank you.”

I congratulated myself for having walked a tightrope. I told her to relax as best she could: nothing would be repeated to her employers. I had a mandate to supervise Grundy’s progress, and to fulfill it I must speak to those who see him daily. I assured her Bob would understand that.

I found a pen and paper. She sat stiffly as I asked about Grundy’s routines, his interaction with Lyall and other staff. I
gave her openings to express her feelings about him, but she was careful not to say anything negative, though distaste showed in an occasional flaring of nostrils. There had been no temper displays; he had been steadfastly sober, hadn’t consumed so much as a beer.

When I asked about Grundy’s escapes to the city, she showed unease yet said she was certain that he’d been home on the evening of September 17. Thelma Grundison had hosted friends that afternoon for a regular Whist Wednesday, a busy day for the maid because trays had to be prepared and drinks served. Ramirez recalled Grundy having words with his mother over her heavy drinking, then locking himself in his study at around six p.m. His radio was on, tuned to his favourite music station.

Thelma Grundison had “retired early.” She regularly did that, and Ramirez would usually take a dinner tray up to her. This was prepared by the cook, who leaves the house by eight p.m. and spends her nights in one of the cottages. Only Ramirez and DeWitt among the staff were resident in the house.

Lyall was in his room most of that day, playing computer games or surfing the Internet: interests he’d never mentioned to me. He was a “joker,” Ramirez said, enjoyed doing imitations, Hispanics, East Indians, gays, and he could go on like that for an hour or more, Grundy laughing, easily entertained.

Did she remember them leaving for a whitewater rafting trip in August? “Oh, yes, they took the pickup truck – it was packed with camping gear.” A high-riding four-wheeler, one of several vehicles the family keeps.

I asked her if Greg Stairs, the night watchman, was available, and at the mention of his name she flushed slightly and broke eye contact. I wasn’t too mentally dulled to infer that some hanky-panky might have prompted them to lie.

As I was asking Ramirez to fetch Stairs, a voice called: “Louisa, where’s that pack of Lo we bought.”

She blanched as Grundy yanked open the door. He was in bare feet, wearing only sweats. He froze as he set eyes on me.

Flustered, the maid quickly stood, straightened her dress. “They’re in the back of the fridge, Robert.”

He was having trouble pulling himself together, but he worked up a smile. “Hey, Dr. Dare, this is unexpected. What are you doing in this neck of the woods?”

I told him I wouldn’t take up much of his essay-writing time: a short session, then I would continue inquiring after the staff about his progress. Louisa Ramirez had given him an A on his report card, but what, I asked, did he mean by a pack of Lo?

“I was getting a Löewenbräu for Lyall. He likes his kraut beer. Hey, how about you, Doctor – care for a cold one?” I had never seen Grundy quite this unsettled: he had the look of a distressed rat eyeing a lab scientist.

I declined the beer. I was functioning on too fuzzy a plane to take an incisive reading of him, but his discomposure told me I’d arrived at an awkward moment. He seemed overheated, like a horse after a race.

I advised Ramirez I would be back in half an hour, then followed Grundy down a hall and past a doorway leading to an exercise room. He’d been taking a break there, he said, working out, getting up his energy to attack that darned essay.

The kitchen was a wide, tiled, sterile space presided over by Bernice, Beatrice, something like that, who was preparing dinner. We chatted about nothing I can remember while Grundy pulled a bottle of Löewenbräu from the fridge, uncapped it.

He told the cook that I would be interviewing her, “so be as helpful as you can.”

It’s in my notes that Bernice then asked if “Miss Markevich” would be staying for dinner, and Grundy replied, “Negative, I think she’s already gone.”

He wanted to show me his study, “where I’m busting my brain.” The oak-panelled room did give proof of his labours: textbooks open on the desk, a foolscap pad crammed with his writings, a screen-saver drawing whorls on his computer monitor.

“I’ll run up and deliver this beer. Make yourself comfortable.” Grundy seemed too anxious to deposit me here. He handed me a couple of sheets of paper. “Hey, maybe you can give me some help with this essay.”

A laugh died in his throat when I proposed another plan: we would see Lyall together; I needed to talk to him anyway.

“Right now?”

I nodded. I tried to jot down some of my observations, but my mind drifted as I read a line from his essay: “Man is motivated by two basic drives, aggression and sex.”

Grundy was aware of the conditions of his release, but his long silence hinted he was thinking of not cooperating. I looked up and saw twitching in his upper cheek. “I don’t know what he’s doing, I’ll just check.”

He left abruptly. I followed. Upstairs, I found him with his head wedged through a partly open doorway. He turned and said, “Looks like Jossie’s still here.”

Lyall showed himself at the crack in the door. “What’s up, Doc? Be with you in a split second.” The door closed.

Nothing was meshing, I was being buffeted by too many impressions. Jossie Markevich was Grundy’s girlfriend – what was she doing in a room with Lyall?

Watching me warily as I tried to scribble notes, Grundy continued with his staccato explanations: Jossie’s between jobs, hangs around here a lot. You never know what she gets up to. She’s a free spirit. But I just can’t get mad at her.

When Lyall opened the door a few minutes later he appeared freshly dressed and combed. The bed looked hastily made, sheet edges hanging out, coverings loose. A closed door presumably led to an en suite, where it seemed Markevich had fled.

“Yeah, the doctor’s doing his rounds,” Grundy said. He shouted, “What are you up to in there, honey, come out and say hello.”

Lyall was scanning the room as if for evidence still unhidden. His laptop was open, an Internet search engine loading.
I was being treated to a charade but having the devil’s time processing it.

Jossie emerged, her lipstick gleaming, fully dressed but for footwear. One sandal was missing, the other was in her hand.

As she greeted me, Lyall reached under the bed and withdrew the other sandal. I glimpsed a pair of high-top running shoes there as well, about Grundy’s size.

Jossie made departure noises, shouldering a small backpack, while I casually prowled the room, looking for other tidbits. A bookcase – I’ll say this much for Lyall, he’s a reader – hardcover thrillers, military biographies.

“You got what you were looking for on the Internet?” Lyall asked Jossie.

“Yes, thank you very much.”

“Okay, I’ll turn it off.”

How stagy this conversation sounded, especially since the computer had obviously just been turned on. I was standing before it, looking at Lyall’s list of bookmarked Web sites, and when he reached in front of me to shut it off, one item caught my eye: White American Christian Brotherhood.

The tranks, the stilted theatrical atmosphere, the sense of decadent carryings-on, and now this little whiff of fascism, made me feel queasy. I had to sit down.

Grundy left with Jossie, promised to be just a minute. Lyall was too preoccupied to be aware of my physical unease. Stiffly grinning, he began speaking rapidly, one of those trips into the fast lane that suggests one is lying, in this case a progress report on Grundy: he’s been cracking the books, Doc, he’s a grind, it’s been real boring around here.

He looked out the window, at Grundy and Jossie standing by the compact car. They saw him and waved. I caught Lyall blowing them a kiss, a gesture that seemed inappropriate, out of character. “You plan to hang around much longer, Doc?”

I was leaning against the bookcase just then, and suddenly
I felt a jar, it was as if I was going through some kind of warp. I had a macabre feeling that something had just imbedded itself deeply within the unconscious.

“I think I need some fresh air,” I said, gasping for lack of it.

“Hey, you don’t look good.”

I rose unsteadily. “I’ll take a little walk.”

I declined Lyall’s offer of help, held myself close to the hallway wall, letting it guide me, tightly grasped the banister down the stairs.

I felt I’d suffered a major head trauma, and I had to steady myself by one of the veranda pillars. Something had entered my mind, a subliminal truth. What had prompted it – that mock effeminate gesture, the blown kiss? Something I saw? Something Lyall had said to me? I was engulfed by a deep intuitive knowledge that Lyall DeWitt and Grundy Grundison were steeped in blood; they’d murdered Wilmott, Morgan, and Pierrera.

It took me a few minutes to focus on what was happening around me. I remember Jossie Markevich at the wheel of the compact, Grundy leaning to her, talking low. My driver, standing by his taxi. Louisa Ramirez on the grass of the oval, talking to a young man – Greg Stairs, I guessed.

I willed myself to walk across the driveway, waving at Grundy with an effort at nonchalance as Markevich drove off, indicating I was taking this opportunity to continue my interviews.

“Beautiful day,” I said as I joined the maid and the watchman. Both looked oddly at me; I was shaking. What had DeWitt said just before I suffered that jolt?
You plan to hang around much longer, Doc?
Why would that trip something in my brain?

BOOK: Mind Games
12.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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