by Morris J. Marshall
Chapter 8: Coffee Revelations
“I’ve been doing some research,” Krista said, sitting across from Tran in the downtown coffee shop. She had called him last night, asking to meet, but not at the police station. He suggested Java Delights, located at Bloor and Bathurst Streets across from the recently closed Honest Ed’s Discount Store.
Tran hadn’t expected to see Krista again after their last meeting. He had almost forgotten about the Gavin McLeod case and had written it off as a suicide in spite of his earlier misgivings. He had moved on to other fraud cases and assumed that Krista had moved on as well. Not that he wasn’t glad to see her again.
She opened her briefcase and placed some printouts on the table. “Take a look at these, Haiyuan.”
“You remember my first name. I’m flattered.”
Krista smiled. “It’s part of my job. With large numbers of students each day, you start to develop a memory for names and faces.”
“Well, I still appreciate it.”
Krista slid the printouts across the table.
Tran skimmed the material. Four DBC Financial employees dead in the past three years. Three suspected suicides and one mysterious death. Was it still possible they weren’t connected? Everything in his past experience said they were. With all the technology available to police, he wondered why these connections hadn’t been made earlier. Then it occurred to him that only Gavin’s death had occurred on site. The others appeared unrelated.
“What do you think?” Krista asked.
Tran put down the printouts. “With all that smoke at DBC Financial, there has to be a fire. Someone obviously wanted to get rid of Thomas Chan. I’d love to help you find out who, but I can’t go anywhere near that place.”
Since everyone at DBC Financial knew he was a cop, it would be pointless for him to show up asking questions. He had already interviewed Carla Travini. The element of surprise was gone. Everyone else in the firm would be on their best behaviour, and he would discover nothing. Better to have someone undercover so that the perpetrator would feel comfortable and slip up.
There was another, more personal, reason for Tran’s reluctance. The thought of going back up to the thirtieth floor in that glass elevator scared the crap out of him.
“DBC is looking for an entry-level financial planner to start next week,” Krista said as though she had read Tran’s mind. “I’ve already sent in my resume. I have an interview tomorrow.”
“That’s great, Krista, but be careful. After all that’s happened there, I wouldn’t want to lose you.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll keep in touch and share any information. I used to be a journalist, you know.”
Tran reached across the table and touched her hand. “I still can’t help but worry about you.”
Krista smiled. “I’ll be fine.”
Tran looked at her. “It’s been a stressful couple of weeks, hasn’t it?”
“Yeah. First Gavin and now work at school is piling up.”
“When I get stressed, I do something called Somato Respiratory Integration.”
“What’s that?” Krista asked.
“It’s a breathing exercise I learned from my chiropractor. Here, let me show you.”
Tran reached for her right hand. “Put this over your chest, right above your breastbone.”
“Good. Now put your left hand over your stomach.”
Krista followed Tran’s instructions
“Now close your eyes. When you inhale, push the top hand out and pull the bottom hand in. Then exhale, pushing the bottom out and pulling the top hand in.”
Krista inhaled, then exhaled. She repeated the process several times. Her muscles began to loosen and take on a warm, tingling sensation. Her mind cleared and her usually racing thoughts slowed down.
“It’s just like a circuit,” Tran said. “The energy flows from one hand to the other. How does it feel?”
“I’m much more relaxed. The stress is gone.”
Tran smiled. “Now that you’re relaxed, I was wondering if you’d like to see a movie.”
“So there’s method to your madness. A movie sounds good. I could use the diversion.”
“Have you seen Manchester by the Sea? It’s nominated for Academy Awards and it’s playing at Yonge and St. Clair.”
“Let’s do it,” Krista said. “I don’t have an early class tomorrow.”
They went to a late showing, but instead of watching the screen, they conversed all the way through, drawing angry glances and several “shushes” from patrons around them. A circle of light appeared on the floor in the aisle. An usher approached them and asked them to be quiet. He’d have to call security if they couldn’t behave themselves. Tran thought about showing his badge to the guy, but decided against it out of fear that Krista might be embarrassed. He took her hand, got up and guided her out of the theater onto Yonge Street.
They walked north along Yonge through the snow from St. Clair to Eglinton, stopping periodically to look at items displayed in the store windows. The streets were deserted as people sought refuge from the cold January wind.
“I’m surprised,” Tran said, “that a wonderful woman like you isn’t married.” He paused. That sounded much more forward than he had intended. He relaxed a little when Krista laughed.
“I’ve had a few chances,” she said. “But none of them panned out. My mom’s in a nursing home. She has memory issues, but there’s one thing she never forgets. Every time I come to visit, she asks me when I’m going to get married and have kids.”
“Yeah. She’s started playing the old maid card. ‘Krista, love, you’ll be sixty with a houseful of cats before you know it.’”
It was Tran’s turn to laugh. “I sincerely doubt it. If anyone’s going to end up alone, it’ll be me. Do you have a cat?”
“I do, but only one,” Krista said. “He’s a fat Tuxedo named Simon. My teaching keeps me too busy to feel lonely. I can tell my students that I never had kids, but I don’t regret it because I have two hundred kids at the college each term. How about you, Haiyuan? Have you ever been married?”
Tran exhaled and his breath came out in a long white plume. He looked down at the sidewalk. “My wife died two years ago. She developed Lou Gehrig’s disease on our tenth anniversary. When the pain got to be too much, she requested an assisted suicide.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“I gave her the final injection. It... it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”
“Look,” Krista said as they walked past Mount Pleasant Cemetery, “maybe we should call it a night. I can—”
“No, it’s all right. I’ve wanted to talk about this for a while. I haven’t laughed so much in years.”
“It feels good to say how I feel,” Tran said. “I’ve spent enough time dwelling on the past. It’s time for me to move forward.”
Krista took his hand and squeezed it. “Me, too.”
“So, why did you leave journalism to go into teaching?” Tran asked.
When Krista didn’t answer, he said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry.”
“You’re not. It’s a long story, so I’ll give you the abbreviated version. About ten years ago, while I was a business writer for Econobeat, in New York, I was dating a guy named Robert Strickland.”
“The famous financial scammer?”
Krista nodded. “I didn’t know it at the time, but he was involved in a huge Ponzi scheme. The FBI arrested him and, after he went to prison, I wrote an article about him and his operations. He put a hit out on me, but I escaped before his associates could get to me.”
“And you quit writing?” Tran asked.
“Teaching sounded like a safer proposition to me. I moved to Toronto, changed my last name and got a job teaching at Apex College. I’ve had no regrets since.”
“Me, neither,” Tran said. “I couldn’t see myself being anything but a cop. And I’m glad you came to Toronto.”
He took Krista’s hand and they walked until they came to Yonge and Eglinton. A westbound bus was waiting on the corner. Tran waved at the driver, who opened the doors and let them on. They found a double seat and after several minutes Krista put her head on Tran’s shoulder and closed her eyes. As he put his arm around her, he listened to her rhythmic breathing as she slept. For the first time in what seemed like forever, he looked forward to the future.
Copyright © 2017 by Morris J. Marshall