by Morris J. Marshall
Krista Beauregard, a part-time college professor, is delayed in rush-hour traffic one winter morning. Toronto police have cordoned off the intersection of Yonge and King Streets, and a bloody tarp lies on the sidewalk. Krista discovers that this incident has a personal connection: Gavin McLeod, her former top student, has died in a fall from a nearby office building in which he worked. The police quickly close the case, contending it was a suicide, although one of the investigating officers suspects more is at play. Devastated by the suicide ruling, Gavin’s father asks Krista to help him discover what really happened.
Chapter 1: An Unexpected Delay
Krista Beauregard sighed and slipped her nyloned foot out of her right pump. She scrunched her toes twice, reached down and slowly massaged them with the ball of her thumb and forefinger. Then she rested her foot on top of her shoe to let it breathe.
She glanced out the streetcar window to her right. The King streetcar had been idling in the January morning rush hour traffic for the last ten minutes while one green light after another appeared. A strip of yellow police tape had been stretched across Yonge Street. Further down, two police cars stood side by side, lights flashing, guarding a brown tarpaulin that lay on the sidewalk.
This could take a while, Krista thought. Her Macroeconomics class started at nine and it was already eight forty-five. She could walk to the college, but that would take at least twenty minutes, probably closer to twenty-five with her sore feet. Then again, what choice did she have?
She slipped her foot back in her pump, grabbed her briefcase and headed for the centre doors. After walking down the stairs, she looked right for cars before stepping onto the sidewalk. While crossing Yonge Street, Krista glanced at the tarpaulin. She was sure it was stained with blood.
Half an hour later, after a series of short sprints and longer walks, Krista hobbled into Apex College, heels hanging from her right hand. From now on, she thought, I’m going to wear flats to work. Thankfully she had a comfy pair in her office.
“Is everything okay, Krista?” a voice behind her said. It was Ed Starks, Chair of the Business Department.
She turned around. “Sorry I’m late, sir.”
Her boss was dressed in his usual charcoal grey suit, the shoulders of which were dusted with dandruff. His blue tie looked new. His salt-and-pepper hair was neatly parted to the right side and he was smiling. Krista interpreted the smile as Where have you been? Don’t you realize it’s nine-fifteen?
“Something happened on Yonge Street,” she said. “The police shut it down.” She thought about mentioning the bloody tarp, but decided against it.
“Your students are waiting, Krista,” Starks said. “They were making a lot of noise and someone called the office to complain.”
“I’m sorry, sir.”
“No problem,” Starks said, the smile still on his face. “I’m sure it couldn’t be helped.”
“I guess I should be getting to class.”
The elevator was out of order. Krista walked barefoot up the stairs to her fourth-floor office. A fine morning this was turning out to be. First the delay. Then Starks. Although she’d been at the college for ten years, she was still part-time. Seventy percent of her colleagues were in that position, most of them barely getting by. Krista had more seniority and, even though Starks gave her a few more courses, she still found it necessary to supplement her income with tutoring during the summer.
On her way back from her office, she pushed open the glass door leading to the third floor. The buzz of collective voices drifted out of room 303 at the far end of the hall. The accounting professor in room 302 peered out the door and gave Krista a dirty look.
Walking into her Macroeconomics class, Krista yelled, “Okay, everybody, sorry I’m late! Quiet down and we’ll get started!”
Individual students broke away from their groups and took their seats. The noise slowly dwindled to silence.
Krista picked up her dry erase marker and wrote the lecture topics on the whiteboard, as she did each class. There were always a few engaged students, but most would sit quietly, playing with their smartphones while she discussed economic theory.
Her students had been unexpectedly lively during her last lecture on unemployment. She attributed some of the interest to the applied nature of the subject. Today’s topics promised to be a snore fest: Measuring Gross Domestic Product and Economic Growth. Measuring Inflation using GDP data. Krista was sure Starks would find them interesting.
On her lunch break, she returned to her office, removed her laptop from her storage unit and turned it on. She went to an on-line news site to see if there was any mention of the morning delay. Several comments appeared:
One of my colleagues saw the tarp on the sidewalk. Maybe a hit-and-run?
It was a jumper, wrote someone with the online name “Cat Lover.” Early thirties. I work in a dentist’s office in a nearby building. The guy looked like a banker.
He jumped off an office building at King and Yonge Street, someone named “Stella” chimed in. My boyfriend was across the street when it happened. The jumper was dressed in a blue suit. He landed on the sidewalk just metres away from Chris. It sounded like a bomb went off. His head—
Krista turned away from her computer screen, but she’d already seen too much. She picked up her tuna sandwich, looked at it and put it down.
The office door opened and Krista’s colleague, Steve Menter, a physics professor, walked in. He glanced at her. “Are you okay, Krista?”
“Do you have any antacids?”
Krista nodded. She covered her mouth and burped.
Steve went to his desk, reached into the top drawer and removed a small plastic bottle. He unscrewed the top, fished out two white tablets and passed them to Krista, who chased them down with bottled water.
“Better?” he asked after a couple of minutes.
“Much. I was reading about the delay at King and Yonge this morning.”
Steve came over and rested his arms on the wall of Krista’s cubicle. “You mean the jumper.”
“How did you know?”
“Do you remember Gavin McLeod?”
Krista paused at the mention of his name. Fall 2010. Last period Macroeconomics. Tall, slim, with red hair and sea-blue eyes. Straight A’s. She’d nominated him for the department Economics award and presented it to him at the annual awards ceremony. His parents sat in the front row, beaming at their son’s academic accomplishments.
“Of course I remember him,” she said. “Why?”
“It was him.”
“My God. He had a great sense of humor, always laughing and joking. It doesn’t make sense. How did you find out?”
Steve lowered his voice further. “I was waiting outside Starks’ office when the call came through. He turned white. The guy was so shocked he actually blurted out the news. You won’t tell anyone, will you, Krista? I’m not supposed to know.”
“Your secret’s safe with me.”
Steve walked to the window and looked outside. “That building is thirty stories high. With acceleration at ten metres per second squared, Gavin would have hit the ground in about two seconds.”
Krista jumped up, left the office and ran down the fourth-floor hallway, hands clamped over her mouth. She went into the nearest bathroom stall, kneeled down on the floor and vomited into the toilet.
Copyright © 2017 by Morris J. Marshall