49. It’s all fun and games until the lawyer shows up

“I’ll take your statement,” said cop number two. Looking beyond him, he said, “Where’d the other guy go?”

“Michel?” Jesse said.

“Took off and left you to deal with the mess. What a pal.” Cop number one was gloating.

“That’s okay, I was expecting it,” Jesse said. His knees were so cold they felt like they’d gone sledding with Amundsen.

Two more cops in plain clothes arrived. They went inside to chat with Rodrigues after confirming who everyone was.

“Can you explain why the buckshot is all lined up in a row on the front step?” said the third cop, approaching Jesse from behind, which was unpleasant, and then dropping into a squat next to him to scowl into his face.

“It realized it was being fired into Michel and fainted in terror,” Jesse said. George had said he’d never spend a night in jail as long as George had anything to say about it. Whether that useful promise had any legs, or tentacles, or any other organic means of locomotion whatsoever, was not clear. He remained hopeful.

The medical examiner and the forensics people arrived.

“Look, I was called here for a job, and a man tried to murder me and I found a dead woman who turned out to be my customer.  Can you arrest me, detain me for questioning indoors or release me please?”

Cop number three got up in disgust and walked away.

Michel chose that moment to arrive — except it wasn’t Michel. 

“Jesse!” Michel called.  Reassuringly, it was Michel’s voice coming out of the strange face.

“Michel,” Jesse said obediently.

“I called the lawyer with our location.”

“Really?” Jesse said, pleased.

“Also all the media, and your supervisor, you braindead anchor on the taxpayer’s ass,” Michel said, giving a little wave to cop number one. “With a little reminder about how not to treat people when they’ve called in a murder.”

“Now can I stand up?” Jesse asked.

“I took pictures of them all, too, since it’s not illegal to take pictures of officers from the street unless there’s an active shooter (I don’t see one) or an evacuation order (nope, nothing around here like that), or there’s a national security issue (nope, plain old everyday femicide) but even then judges can be fussy when they think the cops are bringing the administration of justice into disrepute.”

“You can’t wet a river,” Jesse said.

“I hear ya, kid, I hear ya,” Michel said, nodding thoughtfully.

“Would you try to focus sir,” — the word sir nearly imploded under the weight of his contempt — “and tell us what happened?” cop number one said.  His partner took notes.

“Jesse banged on the door. I heard the shotgun while I was coming up behind. I used a battering ram to shove Jesse to one side and the blast hit the battering ram.”

“Why would you take a battering ram to a client’s house?” cop number two asked, pausing in his dictation, appalled by such barbarism.

Michel was dismissive. “You think this is our first trip to Playland? We’ve both had guns pulled on us by unhappy exes, and had to get into places that had been barricaded by paranoid hoarders and crazed boyfriends and whacked-out landlords.”

“Don’t forget the pimp.” Jesse was not going to forget that night anytime soon.  George had turned up for that one.

“Where’s the battering ram now?”

Michel looked around, eyes wild and dubious. “Should be here somewhere.” Jesse tsk-tsked.  Michel was obviously pranking the cops, who would never find what had never been there.

“No record of Jesse Silver in the system,” cop number one said, coming back from his car. “How about you, Michel?”

“Here, have some ID.” The change in appearance made much more sense now.  He’d lifted some poor soul’s wallet and was skin-walking his way through the encounter with the cops. He felt sorry for whoever it was had parted with his wallet. Or maybe Michel had squirrelled it away well in advance. 

“The ID doesn’t say Michel.”

“It don’t when you were born a man and your true name is Michelle,” said Michel, softening his voice and raising his pitch a smidgen, “And you can see how much I look like the picture,” he said, presenting a profile and then replicating the blank expression on the driver’s licence. It was all Jesse could do not burst out laughing, so he looked down.

“Where’s your BC I.D.?” cop number one asked, eyes narrowed.

“I only just moved here from Montréal! Jesse can confirm,” said Michel. “I got three months, you officious dough head.”

Jesse said, “Can I please stand up now?”

Cop number two did something with his face, something Jesse couldn’t see.  Michel snickered. Cop number one, surly to begin with and angered by his partner’s apparent lack of support, said, “Sure. But don’t move.”

Jesse was sorely tempted to break into a two person conga line and motor away into the darkness while Michel allowed a week’s allotment of RCMP 9 mm ammo to rain down on his ass. Giving up the truck hardly seemed worth it, and he had to wait for the lawyer, now anyway. He was amazed that Michel, with George’s assistance, seemed to have had no trouble rousting out a lawyer at two a.m. It took a little under an hour for him to arrive. Michel mentioned he was coming from North Van.

When he pulled up, there was a stir. Supported by a slender young man a few years older than Jesse, a very pink and white old man in an expensive black suit slowly made his way to him.

“I’m representing you, it appears,” he said.  His voice was frail and breathy, but the intellect behind his eyes seemed unimpaired.

“My name is Cyrus Armbruster. You can call me Cy.  This is my son Colin.”

“Grandson Colin,” the young man corrected gently.

“Yes. It’s your father’s fault for naming you after himself.” This appeared to be a gag of some standing, and Colin sighed but did not speak.

“Sir, aren’t you a retired B.C. Supreme Court judge?” cop number three asked hesitantly. Cop number two, realizing this was true, slipped inside to warn the others.

“Why, yes, I am!” the old man said, delighted to have been recognized. Colin gave Jesse a lopsided grin. “So young man, have the police been harassing you? My understanding is that you reported a murder and now they’re treating you like you did it.”

One of the detectives could be heard yelling, “What?” through the open front door.

Cop number one looked like he wanted to chew on some Tums®.

“I just want to go to the station house to get my fingerprints done for exclusion and go home,” Jesse said, suddenly realizing that even if he did get home within the next couple of hours, sleep would be impossible.

“Well, gentlemen?” the retired justice asked, smiling with welcoming calm.

“Don’t leave town,” growled cop number one.

“Jesse, will you undertake not to leave town?”

“I promise I will not leave the Lower Mainland without informing the RCMP for the duration of this investigation,” Jesse said promptly.


“Nah, I can’t do that.”


“Nah, I can’t do that.  I won’t leave town or go more than 20 k out in the water. Love fishing you know.  It’s why I moved to BC!”

“I’m not letting them leave until I search the truck,” cop number one said.

“Got a warrant?” Michel asked.

“Michel, your steadfast defence of your hard-won liberties is a credit to you, but in this case, there’s no harm in the police searching your work vehicle. Unless you think there’s a reason not to.”

“It’s not my truck, it’s the company’s. Your say-so, you’re the company lawyer.” Michel turned aside with apparent indifference.

Jesse took out the keys and opened the cab and the back doors. The old man and his grandson went back to their car to wait it out.

Cop number one, assisted with obvious distaste by his partner, took his sweet fucking time, but after about twenty minutes he realized that he would probably have to dig his career prospects out from under a disciplinary letter — or worse — if he kept it up.

While they were waiting, Jesse went over to the judge’s car. Colin rolled the window down. 

“Do you know about our friends?” Jesse said.

“I only met George before tonight,” Colin said, not misunderstanding. “Michel is something else.”

“Do not talk about it,” said the judge, in a voice that had once commanded a courtroom.

“Colin, old buddy, I just replaced my phone and I lost your number,” Jesse said, winking badly.

Frowning, the judge decided to ignore the rest of the conversation.

“Sure.” They exchanged contact details and a knowing look that promised alcohol-fuelled revelations.

Emerging from the truck, cop number one looked at Jesse and Michel with a contempt that did not dare express itself in full, and said, “I’m keeping my eye on you. I don’t know what you’re doing here but I know you’re up to something. Kids like you don’t have pull like this.”

“Colin and I are drinking buddies,” Jesse said.  The lie came easily, and Colin’s number was now on his phone.

“All we do is move furniture while complaining about the police, sir,” Michel said. “Last I checked none of that was a crime.”

“Get lost,” cop number one said.

“Get fucked,” Michel said, waving, as soon as the door closed and Jesse had started the truck.

Jesse was inclined to agree.

A news van turned onto 14th just as they were pulling away, which was lucky for them since they now had a nice big parking space in front of the crime scene.

The man whose identity had been purloined was asleep, and he would have been startled to hear that he’d been stopping buckshot in Burnaby while sawing logs in Côte des Neiges.

Michel ground up the ID later that night. He had spares, of course.

Thirty seconds after their departure, the detectives emerged from the house and told everyone not to sweat it.  It was open and shut.  The phone calls proved it.  The asshole friend gave up Rodrigues, the gun matched, the bloody clothes in the burn barrel were his, and each of the four discharges had a matching hole. One in Melissa, one in the door, two in the poor dog.

The weird ballistics at the front door weren’t an issue. The movers had gotten lucky, that was all.