Verdict in Blood

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Authors: Gail Bowen
concerned, you’re the best choice for any job you choose to undertake. I’m just not certain you should have been asked to undertake this one.”
    “It’s been busy, I’ll grant you that. Just after you left to meet Alex last night, I had a call from the journalist who is responsible for this.” Hilda tapped the Blackwell story with a fingernail freshly painted in her favourite Love That Red. “Later, there were other members of the press. I’m afraid your house was photographed, Joanne.”
    I felt a stab of irritation, not at Hilda, but at the intrusion. “Don’t worry about it,” I said, but my voice lacked conviction.
    Hilda leaned towards me. “Maybe it would be easier all around if I went back to Saskatoon. With facsimile machines and my message manager, I could handle everything from there, and you’d be spared the prospect of living in a circus.”
    “Don’t be silly,” I said. “In a day or two, there’ll be another story for the media to chase. Besides I love having you here. You know that.”
    Taylor’s ginger cat, Benny, padded into the room. As usual, her tortoiseshell, Bruce, followed meekly. My daughter wasn’t far behind.
    “I like it when you’re here, too,” Taylor said. She bent, grabbed Benny, hefted him under one arm, and scooped up Bruce. Then she twirled so Hilda could check out the back of her head. “Are my braids okay?” she asked.
    Her braids were, in fact, okay. So was her face, which was clean, and her runners, which matched and were tied. What wasn’t okay was the T-shirt she was wearing, which had a picture of a bull on it that bordered on the obscene, and an eyebrow-raising caption: “Bottlescrew Bill’s Second Annual Testicle Festival – I Went Nuts.”
    I knelt down beside her. “T, you look great, but you’re going to have to find another shirt.”
    “But this one’s so funny. You laughed when Angus brought it home from the garage sale, and everybody at the cottage thought it was good.”
    “It was good for the cottage,” I said, “but not for school.”
    “Because wearing that shirt to school would be like wearing tap shoes to church.”
    “Dumb,” she said.
    “Not dumb,” I said. “Just not your best choice. Now come on, let’s go upstairs and find a shirt that isn’t going to get you thrown out of Grade 2 before the end of the day.”
    Taylor went off to school wearing a white cotton blouse and the intricately beaded barrettes Alex had bought the day we went to a powwow out at Standing Buffalo. They were reserved for special occasions, but she and I agreed this occasion was special enough. After she left, Bruce looked so miserable I gathered him up and began scratching his head. Benny came over, rubbed against my ankle and howled. Benny and I had never been close, but it was a day to put aside old enmities. I bent down to pick him up too. “She’ll be back,” I said. Benny shot me a look filled with contempt and streaked off; then Bruce, who was sweet but easily led, leaped out of my arms and dashed after him.
    When I finally got around to showering and dressing, I was running late. I knew that if I didn’t make tracks, I wouldn’t be on time for the early-morning meeting the PoliticalScience department always held at the Faculty Club on the first day of classes. I decided to skip breakfast, grabbed my briefcase, hollered at Angus to get moving, called goodbye to Hilda, and raced out the front door and straight into the wall of muscles that was Wayne J. Waters.
    At close range, he was even more intimidating than he had appeared at a distance. He was not a tall man; in fact, he wasn’t much taller than I was, five-foot-six. But he was tattooed to terrify. On his arms, jungle beasts coupled ferociously; savage mastiffs chewed on hearts that dripped blood; buxom women straddled unidentifiable animals and embraced crucifixes. It was the Garden of Earthly Delights envisioned by a lifer. I couldn’t stop staring, and Wayne J. Waters

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