No longer on the force, Karen Grant is now working as a journalist—and one of her two sources has just been murdered in what police have written off as a drug deal gone bad. When Grant and a witness become hunted themselves, she can think of only one person to turn to: her ex-partner, disgraced Toronto detective Steve Nastos.
With help from his friend, lawyer Kevin Carscadden, Nastos is about to confront two ambitious rookie cops and some nasty outlaw bikers who have one thing in common: they’ll do anything to serve their own interests . . .
About the Author
R.D. Cain has worked for the last 19 years in the emergency services as a paramedic, a firefighter, and currently a Canadian police officer. He is the author of Cherry Beach Express (2011) and Dark Matter (2012), the first two novels in the Steve Nastos mystery series. He lives in Trenton, Ontario.
Read an Excerpt
The Filthy Few
A Steve Nastos Mystery
By R.D. Cain
ECW PRESSCopyright © 2013 Richard Cain
All rights reserved.
Constables Jake Radix and David Morrison wore regular street clothes when they entered the Toronto Police Central Property Unit through the main front doors. Morrison's back and hands were soaked with sweat, his fingers cold and pale. A glance at Radix showed he looked just as scared, except he had an expression of determination on his face. Radix was going to push through this, he always did. Morrison forced himself to breathe out deeply. He knew he was pale from fear. Any paler, people would take him for white. I'm not nervous, Morrison said to himself, as he had a dozen times on the drive over. This is either going to work or it isn't. Nervous is just a waste of time.
Radix caught him staring and said, "Just do what I say and we'll get through this, I promise."
Morrison was unconvinced but lacked better options. This had better work.
There was a constable working the counter. His name tag read Moulton, and he was a big guy with his right wrist in a cast. This entire unit had grown over the decades by warehousing the sick, lame and lazy, the walking wounded. The big man was keeping himself busy fiddling with his iPhone, scrolling through pictures, barely amusing himself.
Radix began, "Hey pal, we're from fourteen. We need to pick up some property." He held out a property slip with a case number and forged inspector's signature written on it.
Moulton pulled glasses out of his pocket and held it at arm's length, then gave it a quick scan. "Sure," he said. He pressed a button and the door buzzer sounded.
Morrison reached for the handle, pulling it open, and Radix led the way inside. They were headed to the drug lockers at the back of the building. Moulton's lame arm hung from his shoulder like a heavy slab of meat.
Radix asked, "What happened to you?"
"Slipped on nothing, fell backward." He held the cast up for Radix to see, a look of disgust on his face. "And that's my drinking wrist."
Moulton opened the door with a magnetic swipe key. The grey metal door slowly scraped its way to a locked-open position, its wire lattice rattling until Moulton silenced it with his thick hand.
Morrison had never been in here. The walls, like the top half of the doors, were lattice; any person inside the drug locker was visible to anyone who cared to look in. And if no one bothered looking, there were the video cameras hidden behind tinted domes that hung from the ceiling just like the kind in department stores.
The warehouse was packed to the rafters. Labeled bankers boxes, pending cases, matters under appeal or review, cold cases and the forgotten or misfiled for whatever the reason, all was evidence that had to be stored until the official word came to destroy it, return it to someone or send it to auction. Despite the recently polished floors and faint scent of bleach, what Morrison noticed was the smell of musty forgotten boxes and the walking wounded like Moulton guarding them. He felt himself begin to relax.
Moulton checked the information on the property slip again and searched the rows of storage. He must have felt like being the helpful type. "Yeah, down this way." He trudged down the corridor, holding up his casted wrist.
Morrison cleared his throat. "You should keep that thing elevated or it's going to ache. I busted my wrist when I was fifteen."
"Oh, yeah?" Moulton turned, interested. "What happened to you? Fall down?"
"Hell, no," Morrison replied. "The doctors called mine a repetitive strain injury."
Moulton's face crinkled. "From what, typing?"
Morrison manufactured a smile. "I was fifteen. Masturbating."
Moulton laughed, but kept his wrist up. "Yeah, I'll go get my sling. Be right back."
The room felt like it had grown three sizes with him gone. Radix looked around, made sure that no one was there then sped down the corridor, Morrison following. While Morrison tried to stand wide, Radix found the evidence box he was looking for, put on rubber gloves and carefully opened it. He reached in carefully, moved a file brief around and tried to pull something out, but it was stuck. He grunted, dragged the box out and half dropped it to the ground. Morrison felt his head begin to pound.
Radix never looked back. He popped the lid off of the box and tore into it. On top there were a few evidence bags labeled cocaine. They were clear bags, the powder inside still pristine and ready to blow minds. Radix dumped it aside and dug deeper. The next layer was a young girl's white dress. Patches were cut out, likely where FIS, Forensic Identification Services, had removed them for DNA scans of blood or, more likely, semen judging by the other items in the box. Duct tape, handcuffs, rags. Under it all was what they needed: cash. Two property bags each contained twenty-five thousand dollars in cash. American hundreds adorned with none other than Ben Franklin himself. Slightly smaller bills than Canadian currency, they were bound with elastic, triple wrapped as if they had to be kept from escaping just like the girl the freak-show American tourist had abducted.
The American had been extradited years ago and the case forgotten. No one was going to miss the money in a case that would never go to a Canadian court.
Radix pulled his waistband back and slowly tucked the money into his pants. Morrison felt the sweat roll down his temple as Radix reached in again and took out another bundle of cash.
Morrison exhaled. "I gotta bad feeling."
Radix said, "Too late now," then quickly stuffed the contents back in the box, heaved it up on the shelf then jammed it back in place next to the other boxes, identical except for the case number.
Morrison found the box that corresponded with the property slip they had given to Moulton. He whispered, "Hurry, man," and carried it back toward the door.
If Radix took any offence he didn't show it. He spun around, took the rubber gloves off and stuffed them in his pocket. After he turned, Morrison heard Moulton approaching. Radix grabbed his arm and looked him in the eye, "We made it, man. Play it cool."
Morrison couldn't feel more guilty if he'd stolen from the church collection plate. Radix pushed his way past, getting to the door as Moulton arrived, looking surprised that they were on the way out.
"You guys find everything?" His arm hung in a black sling. His fingers were a puffy deep red.
Radix held the door open for Morrison, who avoided eye contact on the way out. "Yeah, it's well organized in there."
Moulton studied Morrison's face, wondering what he was missing.
Radix couldn't blame him. Rather than draw further attention he decided to just get the hell out of there. "See ya later, Moulton. Take care of yourself."
"Yeah, you too."
They left him standing there. He'd pack away the box that Morrison had left on the counter, then go back to the front desk and wish he had something more exciting to do, like watch snails hump.
Radix held back from unleashing on Morrison once they made it outside, mindful of the 24/7 infrared security videos and god knows what else they had all over the building. Radix bided his time until they sat back in his newly acquired pickup truck. "What the fuck was going through your head in there?"
Morrison jammed his seat back as far as it could go and slumped forward, his head between his knees. He had the pale sweats going and was rubbing the palms of his hands on his knees. It wasn't the kind of stoic strength the police recruitment posters advertised. "Not now, man," Morrison pleaded. "Just hit the gas and get us the fuck out of here."
Reluctantly Radix put it in Drive and headed toward the Gardiner Expressway going downtown. "You panicked, Morrison, you nearly blew the whole thing —"
Morrison had straightened up. "Me? Me? You started this, Jake, not me, so don't start with that bullshit." He was jabbing his finger like a knife. "You wanted to do the off-duty arrests, the drug buys —"
Radix turned and shouted at him, the veins in his neck bulging. "And who shot the unarmed man, Morrison? You. Not me, you!"
Morrison let his head drop back and stared at the ceiling of the truck. "What the hell have you gotten me into?"
How it had begun was becoming a blur. It had been Radix's strategy to get into the Street Crimes Unit by doing off-duty drug purchases and arrests to boost their stats. Morrison reluctantly agreed to be the safety officer. Not long after, Radix decided that if Morrison wanted the glory, he had to share the risks. Not long after that, mistakes happened.
His temples were pounding to the point where he wondered if he was going to have a stroke. I could blame everything I did on the brain injury. Please God, let it happen.
They drove in silence for a time. Radix jabbed his thumb toward the bag in the back seat. "Count it."
Morrison held the plastic property bag up in his hands. There was a barcode sticker on the top and a label that read Accused, Di Francesco, with a case number from last decade. The label read twenty-five thousand but Morrison counted anyways, grateful to have a distraction. The bills smelled of stale beer. There were two stacks of hundreds, each four inches thick. Morrison caught Radix glancing over whenever the lunch-time traffic driving into the city would allow. It was like Radix found this more exciting than dangerous. It was like being squeezed like this made him feel important. Maybe Radix was even proud of himself for being able to get away with it. Morrison's heart began to race again. What if this isn't the end of it? What if we need to do more?
The pounding at his temples came back with a fury. His head hurt so much he had to put on sunglasses, despite the overcast sky.
Radix asked, "Is it all there?"
Morrison was still counting. "Yeah, yeah it looks like it. Twenty-five Gs, just like the bag says."
The tension in Radix eased noticeably, his grip on the wheel slackened and he ran his fingers through his hair. Morrison looked up to the sky and prayed that this would be the last time they had to do something like this.CHAPTER 2
"So, Doc, when was the last time someone sat here in your office and confessed to killing his wife?"
Dr. Mills, No Frills Mills, the police services psychologist, sat beside his desk, his tan loafers propped up on the corner. His office had been remodelled. The couches were new black leather, the taupe walls were now grey. Despite the remodelling, he had done nothing to change his own image; still wearing denim cargo pants and a well-worn T-shirt that said Same Shirt, Different Day. He had the same receptive body language, whether honed over time or natural, that had been putting Steve Nastos at ease despite his reluctance to co-operate over the past five sessions.
"Been a while," Mills said after a moment's thought. He remained still. "Is that how you feel? Nastos?"
"I killed her, I don't deny anything. My wife is dead because of me." Before the psychologist could respond, Nastos added, "And if it hadn't been Maddy, it could have been Josie. I had no business putting them at risk. So any way you see it, Doc, it's my fault she's dead."
The Chief's choice of Dr. Mills was no accident. He had likely read Nastos' personal records, or "pers files," stored since he was fired from the police service, in a hunt for weakness and found what he was looking for in health benefit claims for Dr. Mills. The problem was that Nastos liked Mills and now he found himself in a position where he was forced between indirect co-operation with the chief who fired him or self-preservation and going to jail.
Nastos' wife had liked Mills. He was tall, handsome, a good listener. Nastos just had to put in time until the session was over, another ten minutes, then he could convince himself that none of this was happening.
"Risks are everywhere, Nastos. How many cops go a career without ever firing their gun? You're putting too much on yourself. It's understandable that you lost objectivity because it happened to you. It's a normal, natural narcissism that when something like this happens, you worry about yourself and lose objectivity."
Nastos was barely paying attention. "Honestly, Doc, you tell me, which was the bigger mistake? Should I have not taken the case, or should I have killed Chavez when I had the chance? 'Cause I'll tell ya, lying to him to get what I wanted to smooth things over failed miserably. I took the path of compromise. That's the mistake I made. My instincts were telling me to strangle him to death. And I should have. Maddy would still be alive and he didn't have the brightest of futures anyway. I told him he'd be fine if he helped us find Lindsay Bannerman. He fessed up, and I screwed him over. Look what happened to my wife because of it.
"So yeah, I guess I feel totally responsible for my Maddy's death. If it was just me and her, I could just get drunk every day, bury it deep inside and get on with life. But I have Josie. Getting my wife killed was bad enough, but getting my ten-year-old daughter's mother killed? No offence to the profession, Doc, but there's no therapy in the world that could help a person get over that."
Mills was nodding like he couldn't disagree. It was easy to distract him with the story of Madeleine since he had known her so well. His eyes dropped to the folder on his desk. He opened the first page and read something over. "Maybe it's time to talk about the incident that actually brought you here." He leaned back in the chair, watching carefully for Nastos' reaction. "What about the Chief?"
"Screw him. You didn't get the full story."
"Nastos, it was on live television."
"I don't want to talk about that."
"Well, I have to sign you off, or you get charged with assault and —"
"You can't go to jail, you have Josie."
"I'd rather get punished for the man I am than praised for a man I am not." Nastos felt that Mills might have him on the perfectly valid go to jail option. At most it would be weekends, maybe thirty days' worth. While it was true that he could handle it, he wasn't so sure Josie could. "Josie can stay with Carscadden and Hopkins."
Nastos had become so close to Carscadden, the lawyer who defended him against murder charges, that he had become an uncle to Josie. When Nastos and Carscadden later formed the private investigations company they had become even closer, despite Carscadden being a lawyer. With Hopkins running the office and he and Carscadden doing the legwork they had become an extended family and Josie loved them both.
The buzzer was soft, like a cellphone on vibrate. "Well, Doc, I guess that's time." Nastos slowly rose to his feet, as if getting the hell out of there, away from the head shrinker, was the last thing he wanted to do.
"You have two more appointments, Nastos, and then I have to hand in my report."
Nastos extended his hand, shaking with Mills. "Okay, see you tomorrow."
Nastos grabbed his coat from the rack that was near the door. Mills shouted, "And get some sleep!"
I'll sleep when I'm dead was the only response he could think of. He couldn't remember the last time he had slept eight hours without having to get drunk first.
There was a waiting room with black leather chairs that matched the couches in the sitting room, a TV and magazines but no one was supposed to sit there. The meetings were forty-five minutes long, timed so that a person going in would not see the person going out. That way everything would be confidential. No Frills Mills was highly attentive to the needs of his clients.
The door chimed and Nastos turned to see the door swinging open. He stepped back and out of the way and a woman walked in.
"Oh, sorry," she said.
"About hitting me with the door? No problem."
She looked around the empty office. "No, I mean ..."
"Not a problem. I'm proud of what I'm here for; it's the rest of the world that's crazy."
Nastos squeezed around her, noting her deep blue eyes, full lips and shoulder-length, curly hair. Too bad we're both crazy, he thought, then left for his car.
The woman had parked a Lexus beside him in the double driveway. It was black with tan leather interior and was spotless inside. No Frills had his office in a house on an unassuming street. Looking down the road, most driveways were empty. The rest were retired people, stay-at-home moms or designated foreign nanny parking.
Nastos checked his phone after getting in his car and saw a text from Hopkins. Call this number for Karen, URGENT.
Karen who? Then it occurred to him. Not Karen Grant, please no. He started his car, backed out of the driveway and began the drive to work at the restaurant. Quitting the police service was easy, especially after he was fired. Quitting the insurance business had been nerve-racking, letting that kind of money go, and then he had given up the private investigation work to spend more time with his family of two. He returned to work against Madeleine's protests, and soon afterwards the case backfired and she was killed. A collage of images washed through Nastos' mind: Anthony the psychic absconding to South America, Chavez jumping at the train, Madeleine falling from the sky and Josie, too weak to walk at the funeral. He noticed how tight his hands had become around the steering wheel and forced himself to ease off.
Excerpted from The Filthy Few by R.D. Cain. Copyright © 2013 Richard Cain. Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
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