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 17: On the Roof
Reems was standing only a few feet from Krista. His revolver was pointed directly at her head. He motioned for her to move toward the edge of the building. “Do it. Now. If you try anything, I’ll finish you right here.”
Krista shuffled slowly backward, putting one foot behind her at a time. She kept her arms outstretched for balance, feeling for the edge of the roof with her heels. She still had one ace up her sleeve but, once that evaporated, Carla would have no more reasons to keep her alive.
“Very clever,” Carla said, looking up from her smartphone. “You changed your password to your RRSP accounts this evening. If I can’t access them, I can’t cash in my housing investments. What’s the new password?”
Krista didn’t answer.
Reems struck her in the cheek with the butt of his gun. “She’s asking you a question.”
The left side of Krista’s face exploded in pain, and her eyesight blurred. Her knees buckled, but she managed to stay on her feet.
“Push her closer to the edge,” Carla said to Reems. “Let’s see how much she likes heights.”
For encouragement, Reems jabbed her in the stomach with his gun barrel. Krista bent over, slowly straightened and turned. Her back was now toward the building as she stared down at the street lights.
Condo buildings in various states of construction were visible around the downtown core. Krista was surprised at the sheer number of construction projects visible from this height. The cars on the street below resembled Matchbox toys. It suddenly occurred to her that Gavin might have stood on this very spot just before he plunged to his death. She wondered if he was as scared then as she was right now.
Krista turned to face Carla. “Okay, I’ll give you the password. Just tell me something.”
“How did you get Gavin to come up to the roof? Did he come willingly, or did these two guys—”
“I guess I can tell you. It doesn’t matter now. Gavin told me he’d discovered something disturbing and wanted to talk to me privately. We got to work early, and there weren’t many people around. The sun was coming up, and I asked him to join me for coffee on the roof.”
“Didn’t he think that was strange?” Krista asked. “Having coffee on the roof in the middle of winter?”
“It wasn’t cold out. Gavin told me he’d discovered that someone was siphoning money out of RRSP accounts and funnelling it into housing market investments. He didn’t know who, but he was planning to go to the Securities regulators. He was in front of me, standing near the edge of the roof. As he leaned forward for a better view of the sunrise, I pushed him. If I hadn’t killed him, they would’ve killed me.”
“The people who set it up. They’re powerful.”
“What about the other financial planners?” Krista asked. “Peter Vendetti, Thomas Chan and Edward Vickers.”
“I approached them about the investment. They all refused. Vendetti and Vickers killed themselves. That was a bonus.”
Reems smiled. “I took care of Mr. Chan. Broken neck.” He proudly acted out the motion with his hands.
“Krista! Get down! Quick!”
“Haiyuan!” Krista heard him say something, but his words were quickly swallowed up by the moan of the cold wind.
Tran was on the north section of the roof, separated from Krista by a forty-foot gulf of air. His gun hand was trembling, and he avoided looking down. He fired a shot at Reems and missed. The bullet ricocheted off the ground and flew away harmlessly. Reems returned fire and missed.
Krista ran around the edge of the building to get closer to Tran. “I love you!” she yelled.
Tran smiled and waved at her in acknowledgment. Now near the edge of the roof, he wavered on his feet and seemed to lose his balance. Ignoring the heights, he focused on Reems and fired another shot, hitting his target. Reems grabbed his shoulder and sank to the ground.
Krista waved at Tran with both hands. “Watch out, there’s another shooter!”
In that instant, he looked down and the twinkle of the lights below blinded him. There was a loud Crack, and Tran clutched his chest. A warm gush of blood flowed through his fingers. His right foot struck some tar on the roof. He stumbled and fell off the edge of the building, plunging into the darkness.
“Give me the password,” Carla said.
Krista ducked and lunged to her right, not caring anymore what happened to her. Sanders fired a shot. Krista felt a sharp pain in her right shoulder, followed by a warm moistness. She ducked down behind a large trash compactor and stared in disbelief at the spot on the roof where Haiyuan had been standing just seconds before.
Another gunshot sounded, this time from the direction of the building. Sanders dropped his revolver and grabbed his throat, gargling. His hands turned red with blood, and he dropped to the ground. Carla ran back to the building while Krista waited quietly in her hiding place.
“Are you okay, lass?”
Tears welled up in her eyes. “Haiyuan saved me, but I couldn’t help him. He’s... he’s...”
Bill helped her up and drew her closer. “Shh... it’s all right. There was nothing you could do.”
“Carla killed Gavin,” Krista said, her voice muffled against Bill’s blue suede coat. “She told me. She also had Thomas Chan killed.”
Before Bill could respond, Krista pulled away from him and ran to the side of the building, afraid of what she’d see if she looked down, yet unable to resist the temptation. She scanned the darkness below, trying not to think about Haiyuan lying dead on the cold pavement, broken and bleeding like Gavin. Sirens were sounding in the distance, coming closer, dispelling Krista’s thoughts like ripples on a lake.
“Bill, the police are on their way.”
Her words were met with silence.
Copyright © 2017 by Morris J. Marshall