Archive for November, 2012

An interview with Australian writer & author

Morgan Grant Buchanan

Morgan Grant Buchanan is a talented Australian writer and author. He has his hands in a variety of media projects including screen plays / scriptwriter, comic books, and novels, all primarily in science fiction and fantasy.

He most recently published book is a collaboration with Claudia Christian (remember Commander Susan Ivanova of Babylon 5) titled ‘Babylon Confidential: A Memoir of Love, Sex & Addiction’ and has just signed with Tor Books (Macmillan) for Wolf’s Empire: Ice Station Legionary, a sci-fi novel also written with Claudia Christian!

Morgan has been kind enough to grant this interview, letting us have a brief peek into his life, and his work.

 ——————-

WD:  Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself:

Morgan: I’m an Aussie though I lived in Rochester, NY for a few years at one point. I’m a full time writer and part time tai chi teacher. I’ve worked on comics, films, short stories, novels and now, Babylon Confidential, a memoir with Claudia Christian. 

WD:  What inspired you to write your first book / When did you first consider writing and what were your influences?

Morgan: Bablyon Confidential is my first published book (with Claudia Christian) though I’ve written a few others that are in the process of being sold. I’ve always written stories, and used to entertain my school-friends with them, so I guess that’s where it all started.  

WD:  Do you have a specific writing style?

 Morgan: I’m a Taoist so I try to write with simplicity and clarity. After that it depends on the subject. With Babylon Confidential my objective was to get out of the way as much as possible and ensure Claudia’s voice and story were present on the page. 

WD:  What books / authors have most influenced your writing?

Morgan: Taoist poetry, Mark Twain, Stephen King, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, any ancient world classics like the Odyssey and Iliad. I was a comic book nut when I was a teenager so I know everything about comics in the 80s and 90s. Even when I write prose, I still visualise the scenes like it was a comic and sometimes I lay out scenes in panels before writing. I hope that brings a cinematic element to my work. I just finished up a Babylon 5 fan fic novelette with Claudia Christian called Red Fury. Lots of the feedback related to people’s experience of the story being similar to watching a movie or the TV show, which made me happy. For my part, I wanted to give the audience the feeling that they were back in the B5 universe. 

WD:  Where do you find inspiration for your work? Your characters, scenes, plots, sub-plots, etc..

Morgan: That’s the ‘”Where do you get your ideas from?” question. I have an easy answer – from dreams. I have very vivid dreams and I write them down when I wake up. Often these serve as inspiration for my stories. 

WD:  Is there anything you do for extra stimulation when you’re looking for inspiration?

Morgan: I’m normally writing every day so when I relax on the weekend with my family, or when I meditate, ideas spring up.

WD:  What holds you back? Is there something you would love to do, but.?

Morgan: Right now I’m doing everything I want to with my life. I love my family, I’m teaching tai chi and helping people and I write professionally every day. I collaborate with very talented writers and artists and have lots of work lined up. Things are pretty good right now.

WD:  How much time do you spend writing?

Morgan: Two to three, two-hour shifts, five days a week. 

WD:  Do you get much time to read in your day? What book(s) are you reading now?

Morgan: I try to read in the evenings when my kids can’t crawl all over me. They like to do that when I try to read. In fiction I’m reading a collection of Roald Dahl’s short stories and also the books you get from other writer friends. Top of the list is my friend Cecilia Dart-Thronton’s new young adult novel, The Midnight Game. In non-fic I’m reading The Pax Britannica trilogy and The Elizabethan Underworld.

WD:  Is there anything you find particularly demanding in writing?

Morgan: Some days are easier than others. The hardest thing for me was establishing a dedicated routine of daily writing but I’ve been doing that regularly for some years now so it’s mostly a pleasure. I write in cafes, the louder and busier the better.

WD:  A lot has been made about the ‘work life balance’; do you find it difficult to find that balance?

Morgan: Sure. Especially when there are deadlines pressing. Tai Chi helps me a lot with this. I meditate and practice every day. It helps keep things in perspective. 

WD:  Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Morgan: I’m working on a future Rome sci-fi series with Claudia Christian. Some significant news on that coming soon. I’m collaborating on a sci-fi children’s book with artist Eytan Wronker. I’m also collaborating on a comic series with two talented Australian artists. I have a TV series I’m pitching to a network. A Victorian-era supernatural murder mystery novel is in the works. There’s another historical fantasy series that I’m collaborating on and it looks like Claudia and I might also be involved with some exciting interactive digital books. The schedule is pretty jam-packed right now!

WD:  In light of your co-writing, how did you find the experience? What challenges, if any, did you have to work through?

Morgan: I collaborate with quite a number of people. The most important things in successful collaboration are communication and respect. If both parties respect each other’s input and keep the lines of communication open then it will be a success and a pleasure. In terms of my relationship with Claudia when working on Babylon Confidential, we got on very well. We’d worked on a sci-fi space race movie called Barrier and developed a good relationship. Claudia was incredibly brave, she bared her soul and was very honest during our interviews.

WD:  Staying on the theme of challenges for a moment, you have also tackled screenwriting. How did you find the transition from novels to scriptwriting?

Morgan: It wasn’t a problem because I’d started out writing comics. Comics are a cousin to movies and full comic scripts have lots in common with screenplays. In fact, when I write novels, I sometimes lay them out in rough storyboards first!

WD:  What are some of your long term goals or projects that you can share?

Morgan: To finish all those projects mentioned above and then get onto the next ones.

WD:  In today’s age of communication, there is a trend to reduce the amount of time spent traveling. With agents in New York, co-authors around the globe, book signings, launches and other events; do you find you still have to travel very much or are you able to work online?

Morgan: There’s less need to travel thanks to social media. In the past, if you were writing in Australia you have to overcome what we call “the tyranny of distance”. Thanks to social media I’m doing better with my career in America now that I’ve moved back to Australia, than I ever did when I lived in upstate New York! Telephone and video conferencing is now commonplace technology, as well, which makes things easier – although the time differences can be a bit of a challenge. 

WD:  Do you design you own covers? If not, how much input do you have in the creative process?

Morgan: It depends on the publisher. The covers are their call. I do have a background in design and I do put forward my input regarding covers but ultimately it’s the publisher’s choice. 

WD:  How much time is spent on the cover design and how important is the design to the book?

Morgan: It’s extremely important and publishers put lots of money into getting the right cover design, especially if it’s a book they anticipate will be popular. 

WD:  Do you have a favourite character in your writing and if so, why?

Morgan: They’re all fun but right now (I guess because we’re working on it) I enjoy Accala Viridius, the protagonist of the Wolf’s Empire books. 

Thank you so much for this interview Morgan, it has been a wonderful thrill to meet [the virtual] you; and I look forward to reading the Rome series with you and Claudia Christian along with seeing your [future] work. It all sounds great.

Some links you may enjoy.

Babylon Confidential is available at Chapters Indigo, Amazon, Kobo, and other book stores

Wolf’s Empire: Ice Station Legionary is a colaberative work with Claudia Christian and will be avalible soon from Tor Books (Macmillan)

                                                                   

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Frustration and anger boiled over in Detective Kuan-Yin Lui as he pounded his fist on the desk. Papers, files and CD’s flew onto the floor as everyone in the small squad room jumped, startled by the outburst.

“Forty five cases since November!” Lui shouted as he stood. “Eighty seven people dead and countless others injured and we’re still not closer to finding out what’s going on.”

Kuan-Yin Lui, born in Henan Province in China, was not accustomed to public outbursts. Growing up in Zhengzhou, the capital city of Henan Province, Kuan-Yin Lui lived what one would call a privileged lifestyle. His parents were both Party members in the Central Committee so he attended the best schools, associating with high officials and learning to hide ones emotions. He was not accustomed to let his emotions get in the way of doing his job. Lui even developed a nickname, with many of his friends coming to refer to him as the Chinese Spock; where logic and the purging of emotions were normal.

“Lui!” yelled Inspector Karpov. “If you’re through beating up on your desk, get in my office.”  The Inspector stood by his open door, hands on his hips. After a moment, he lowered his aggressive posture to a more inviting stance, gestured with his head toward the inner office.

Inspector Karpov, a twenty five year veteran of the Ottawa Police Services, was solidly built at one point nine meters and even without trying he came across as intimidating. It was something he used to his advantage when the situation required. This was not one of those times however so he adjusted his posture and tone.

“Anderson, you’re also invited to this meeting.”

Staff Sergeant Jeffery Anderson, Lui’s junior partner was trying to speak with someone on the phone while taking notes through the din in the squad room. He responded to the Inspector with a wave of his hand as he held up his index finger indicating he’d be there in a moment.

Anderson had transferred from the Edmonton Police Services to Ottawa when his wife was relocated. Her career in the Royal Canadian Air Forces shifted quickly after being promoted to Colonel and she was assigned a position at Defense Headquarters in Ottawa as part of the team overseeing the replacement of the CF18 fighter jet with the Euro Fighter.  Truth be told, Anderson did not have any misgivings with the move. He lost his seniority and part of his pension, but his own career in Edmonton force was, stalled. Beginning to get routine and he didn’t like where he was going. He jumped at the opportunity; and the Ottawa force was in the middle of a re-org in the detective squad so the move came at a most opportune time.

Anderson glanced over at Lui pointed to the tablet he was typing on, indicating he would not be long.

Lui, still frustrated and now slightly embarrassed, turned toward the rest of the squad room and with a slight bow, apologized to the other officers for his outburst. His strong belief in his Chinese heritage would not let that kind of public display of anger go without some act of contrition.

He was a very likeable officer, joining the Ottawa force just over four years ago and was always known as a calm and precise individual, not one to let frustration get the better of him. Lui immigrated to Canada from China with a distinguished police career and nothing like this was ever noted on his record.

That calm demeanor was being tested by this current case however and it was having a noticeable effect on Lui. Un-pressed shirts and ties, pants that looked as if he’d slept in them, along with his lower tolerance were all signs that he was under extreme pressure to solve this case.

Once the room settled back to routine, Lui walked toward the Inspectors office and went inside, standing beside the desk. Anderson hung up the phone and grabbed his note Blackberry and Playbook tablet computer, as he too hurried into the office.

Inspector Karpov closed the door and sat down, inviting the two officers to sit. He then looked at Lui and waited.

Lui quickly said, “I apologize for my outburst Inspector. I’m not sure what got into me and I am sorry.”

Karpov surprised Lui with his response, “You have nothing to apologize for,” he started with a sigh. “I know you and I share your aggravation. Let’s face it, we have nothing but guesses, conjecture and nothing else.  I’m not even sure what direction we go from this point. I can bet however this is not the last incident though. Bring me up to date from the beginning.”

“Well, we have a series of apparently unrelated rampaging attacks across the city. All starting, we believe, in November last year when Frost Elementary School was attacked. Four children and three teachers died in that case. Since then, we’ve seen dozens of people dead and scores wounded.  The assailants have no common background or connection, at least nothing we have found so far. All data has been sent to the RCMP crime computer to check for commonalties.  The attackers used knives or whatever object was handy in their attacks, making this seem to be unmediated.” Lui paused to check his notes on his Playbook tablet before continuing, “The attacks were targeted at kindergartens and elementary schools in the beginning. Other attacks were at the courthouse, and then random victims at markets and on a train just out of the station headed to Montreal. This last attack yesterday was with a front end loader at a construction site on Bank Street, which at last count resulted in eleven dead.”

Anderson chimed in at this point. “The attacks have prompted calls for more efforts to diagnose and treat serious mental illnesses and have ignited fears in the medical community about undiagnosed issues in so many people. The city council have authorized increased security at schools and public venues along with orders to limit media coverage of the incidents; trying to discourage copycat attacks. The Ontario Provincial Police crime lab, Solicitor General’s office and the RCMP crime labs have all offered any assistance we may need.”

“And with all that effort we don’t seem to be any closer to containing this,” said Commissioner Donald, surprising the three as he stepped into the office quietly, closing the door.

Karpov stood and shook the Commissioner’s hand before offering him a chair. “It’s good to see you Commissioner, but this is a surprise.”

“A surprise yes, but you must have known I would be paying you a visit soon enough about this case. You’ve been turning off the heat in this place Karpov? It’s like an ice box in here,” said Commissioner Donald, joking with the Inspector as he blew into his hands, feigning trying to warm them up.

“Sorry sir, I’ll crank up the heat.”

“Sit Karpov, I’m fine and I suspect it’s been plenty hot around here lately.” Donald looked over at Lui.

“You’re the lead investigator Lui, what’s your assessment of this mess? Is there anything that I can take back to the mayor?”

Lui glanced at his partner who nodded, as if to say ‘go ahead, tell them’.

“Detective Anderson and I have a theory, but it’s only a theory at this point and quite frankly it’s not complete. It’s also a…” he paused, not sure how well his hypothesis would be received.

Anderson jumped in, “It’s just a bit ‘out there’ sir; but we’re looking into a few things first before we jump at it.”

Lui was grateful for the save, then continued, “So far, we are saying, publicly at least, that the incidents are as a result of individuals with serious mental illnesses. Some diagnosed, others not; and many were copy cat cases of violence. The problem with that however is I’ve checked with the Royal Ottawa Hospital and Doctor Diovan confirmed that even in the cases with a pre-diagnosed case of mental illness existed, it would be beyond the wildest of odds that all of them would have committed these acts at the same time. In fact, only fifteen percent of the assailants had any previous confirmed mental illness. Also, of the cases with no psychosis, there have been no issues previous that would lead anyone to believe there was a mental problem. Many were family men with active and productive social and employment histories…”

“Come to the point,” interrupted Donald and sounding frustrated.

“My point Commissioner is that we’re not looking at any insanity as the cause of these incidents. We’re looking at something else – I’m sure of it. We just haven’t figured out yet. I Just know it could not be mental illness…,” Lui paused for a moment before continuing, “…and I think that this may have happened before.”

The others gave Lui a queer look.

He explained, his voice softened, “eighteen years ago in China, I was a very new and young police officer when the force was thrown into total confusion. Over two hundred very similar incidents happened over a three year period and sores of men, women and children were killed or injured by people, which for no explained reason, went on a rampage. Very much like what we’re seeing here.

“I think I remember something about that. It was all over the news at the time; local men, good fathers, husbands, going crazy and hacking at children in junior schools. What was the cause there? What happened in the end and why haven’t you mentioned this before?” Karpov demanded.

“Nothing…it just stopped. The media was told to keep quiet about the incidents after the first dozen incidents made the international news; and only a very limited amount of stories ever made it out to the public within China itself. We found no cause or explanation and it was all attributed to mental illness, just like now. The authorities said these were all isolated cases. And I haven’t said anything because it was so bazaar that this could be anything similar, that I wanted to make one hundred percent certain that we are dealing with the same thing. In China we are brought up to keep quiet until we have definitive proof of fact. Even after forty cases….”

Anderson jumped in at this point, adding and confirming part of Lui’s suspicion, “I just got off the phone with the coroner and she’s found something interesting that may support our case for an alternative theory. In the eighteen cases where the assailants died, there was what she called ‘an unusual swelling of the brain’. She said that it was unusual because these were healthy people with no prior history of trauma, illness or concussion. She followed up with family doctors and none have any history of, or current tumors. There was also no history of medication or drug use in any of them and she could find no…” he paused to read off his notes, “…outward signs or reasons for the swelling. The toxicology report also showed no known toxins, drugs or stimulants in their systems. She is running more tests and will contact us if there are any other findings.”

“I’m telling you Commissioner; this is not mental illness gone wild. This is being caused by – something. We just have to figure out what.”

“What’s this ‘we’ stuff Detective; this is all yours. If you can’t find out what’s really going on and stop this, the shit that’s hitting the top brass now will begin to roll right down to the bottom of the pile and guess what… you’re standing right where it’ll land.” Donald stood abruptly and went for the door.

At the door, he turned and said in a more consolatory tone, “Gentlemen, whatever you need to fix this, you’ve got it. I’ll sign off on it – just get it done.” With that Donald opened the door and walked out, letting the spring hinged door close on its own.

“Well gentlemen, what’re you waiting for? If it’s not mental, then find out what’s causing apparently normal healthy people to go berserk and put an end to it. You’ve got a squad room full of officers on this team at your disposal, use them. Just keep me in the loop.”

Lui and Anderson stood and walked out quietly, leaving Karpov sitting at his desk shaking his head.

Lui turned to Anderson as they walked back to their desk and said, “Grab your coat, we’re going for a ride. I want to see the last crime scene again.”

“We’ve picked through it already Lui, why go back out?”

“I think we’ve missed something. I want to revisit it and maybe go see the others, starting with the first one at the kindergarten school. Bring your Playbook with you too.” Lui then turned to the other squad room members working on the case with him. “Right ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got some work to do and we’re moving in a different direction. I want each survivor and assailant re-interviewed along with their families. We need to know if there is any commonality. We need to know where they’ve been, what they’ve eaten, their friends, neighbors, clothing, school, work, shopping, everything. Find out who their doctors are, were they sick with the cold or flu; did they have a neighbor or friend who may have known or been known amongst them. Six degrees of separation needs to be narrowed down to zero. There has to be a common thread and we need to find it.”

The officers and detectives sighed, but only slightly. Everyone knew this had became the top priority in the city.

The two men stopped by their desk and picked up all their gear, and making sure that notes going back to the first case in November were downloaded to their Blackberry Playbook. Lui stopped, turned and picked up the phone, dialing a number.

“Doctor Grace Allan please,” he asked. “Yes, Doctor Allan, its Detective Kuan-Yin Lui, you were speaking to my partner a few minutes ago. Yes, that’s right.  I wanted to ask you if you’ve had a chance to visit with the other accused.” A pause, “That’s what I thought. What authorization would you need to meet with them and can you take…I don’t know…samples or something to see if they also have or had any brain swelling or common issues?”

Anderson waited beside Lui listening, as he quietly put on his overcoat.

“Thank you doctor. Make it a top priority please and me know as soon as you get any results,” Lui hung up and the two men left the squad room.

The squad room was a beehive of activity with civilians and police personal milling about, back-checking reports and statements, or on the phones. Ever since the first attacks took place the force had been on high alert trying to piece together events. After the first attack in the kindergarten, the police had quickly caught the attacker only to have him commit suicide, jumping off the roof of the two story school head first into the playground structure.

It was random and brutal with five children and one teacher killed. Then came another school attack, then another, then a car dealership, the courthouse, and on and on they came. Each one being explained as random and unrelated; as the public demanded answers and a halt to the carnage. Yet the police could not explain why and that nagged at Lui.

At the elevator, Anderson asked, “What was that with the cornier?”

“I want to know if any of the other perps have the same brain swelling she found in the eighteen dead ones. We have to start someplace and this is the first real lead we’ve had since the beginning. Back in China there was no way to properly link the cases. Many of them happened in remote villages and no autopsies were preformed on the killers.”

“Even if we run with this latest theory, what do you think we’ll find at the scene?”

“Not sure right now. I’m hoping for a smoking gun; and maybe I’m – what’s the expression? – grasping at straws, right now but a drowning man has to grasp at something to maintain hope of survival.” He smiled.

“Is that one of your famous Confucius sayings?”

“No, it’s pure Lui,” he beamed. “Look, even if every one of the perps had some brain swelling, lesions, chemical imbalance or something else that caused the berserk behavior, there has to be a cause for it. We may be in for a lot more attacks and this city will go into a mass panic. We won’t have to worry about shit rolling down on us…it’ll be hip deep and all over the place – no one will be spared.”

The elevator indicator chimed and the door opened, allowing three people to get off and the two detectives to enter. Lui pressed the basement parking button and as the door closed, he glanced over to Anderson with a worried, pensive look about the future.

As the doors opened on the parking level, Anderson took two steps out of the elevator, leaving Lui behind. Turning, he quickly reached out with his hand to stop the door from closing, which brought Lui out of whatever thoughts occupied his mind.

“I want to make one stop before we go to the scene,” said Lui.

“Where?”

“Chinese embassy on Saint Patrick Street. It’s a long shot but I want to see if we can get a follow up on the murders fifteen years ago. I want to look at any autopsy results from that time. I don’t ever remembering reading anything about swelling of the brain in that original investigation. And after speaking with our good doctor, I think we should revisit the past.”

“You do live in a funny world my Chinese friend. You know they’ll never give up the intel; especially not to you.”

“A couple of people over there owe me a favor or two. I’m going to call in – what’s the term, the marker – and see what happens. At this point we have nothing else to go on.” Lui didn’t want to sound defeatist but that’s how the words flowed.

His whole demeanor lately and his normally sunny outlook on the world around him was shattered by the thought that what happened eighteen years ago could be starting up again and he had no clue as to how to stop it.

The parking garage was well lit as they walked toward the unmarked black coloured Carbon Motors police car. It sat along the far wall and as they approached it they spotted a lone man leaning against the hood of the car.

He wore a dark blue suit and his white shirt collar button was open, his black tie loosened.

Lui spoke first as they approached, “Can we help you?”

“You can Kuan-Yin, you can end the investigation you’re conducting right now.” The Chinese accent was unmistakable as the man spoke.

“Who are you?”

“You have a short memory Kuan-Yin if you do not remember your old partner.”

“Sheng? Sheng Wey Un, What are you doing in Ottawa?”

Lui approached closer and as he neared enough to see Sheng clearly, stopped and bowed slightly, then reached out and shook his hand warmly.

“Kuan-Yin Lui, you are a site my friend.” Sheng returned the bow. “It seems that you have not slept in some time and I suspect this case is why.”

“So what’s this about shutting down the investigation? What are you talking about and again, why are you here?”

“I was asked to come and meet with you. Our government…”

“Your government,” interrupted Yui.

“..The Central Government has requested that you stop this line of investigation and attribute the killings to a kind of mass mental illness that was previously undiagnosed.” Sheng held up his right hand, “Before you interrupt, I know what you are thinking and I agree; but I have my job and still have to ask.”

“If you know what I am thinking then you already know the answer to the request. I must humbly decline.”

“Don’t be a fool Lui, what can you possible achieve by trying to find some elusive cause. You know the result we had in China; the manpower and resources we expended. We found nothing and you will come up with the same answer here.”

“I am surprised that your government would even suggest that we…”

“It is your government and people that we are speaking of Lui. Don’t try and pretend you are not Chinese,” interpreted Sheng angrily. “We are concerned that you may bring shame and dishonor on the force and do not want the Central Government’s name dragged down.”

“You have nothing to worry about Sheng. I am already pursuing another line of investigation that will, if nothing else, prove that we did not fail in China, but rather did not see the path we should have been on.”

“Bah!” scoffed Sheng, throwing up his arms, turning and walked away.

“Before you leave in haste my old friend, you may save me a trip to the embassy.”

Sheng stopped but only looked back, not turning his body, “What do you ask of me, old Friend?” He said old friend like it was poison.

Stepping forward, Lui spoke with determination, “I want our old case files, intact, complete and uncensored. I am looking for similarities between our cases. I believe that we did miss something all those years ago and it is not over. The ‘illness’ may come back to haunt you and the department if we are not successful. I also believe that if I am correct in my theory, then we are in for, as they say here, a world of hurt.”

Sheng turned to face Lui, “What did we miss?”

“This is not mental illness Sheng. This is something that is far worse and far more sinister than simple undiagnosed mental disease. I think that there are commonalities that we overlooked, either by our narrow view of events or by design and I have a need to find out and stop it. I also want to focus on the autopsy results from eighteen years ago.”

“What you ask is not impossible, but dangerous for me. Can you assure me that it will not follow me?”

“You have it with you, don’t you?” Lui said with some surprise.

“I suspected you might require some – information.” Sheng reached into his overcoat and removed a small data memory stick. He twirled it around between his fingers with a forlorn and distant look. It was a look of resignation mixed with determination and fear all rolled into one.

No one spoke for some time, then Sheng tossed the memory stick to Lui who caught it with his left hand. He never removed his eyes from his old partner, and friend.

“Give your word to me Lui – promise me that I will never see you or that data stick again. Promise me that no one will approach me on the streets of Beijing and tell me what I have done today.”

“You have my word that no meeting between us has taken place my old friend. You also have my word that I truly believe that we did all we could those many years ago with all the resources we had at our disposal. We could not have solved this case then.”

Sheng grinned, turned and began to walk away again. On his way out he did say one last thing, “I truly wish you well in putting this crime to bed my old friend.” Sheng walked through the open door of the parking garage leaving Lui and his partner in silence.

Anderson broke the silence, “Well, that was strange.”

Sheng had been Lui’s friend and partner since joining the detective squad in China. Up until that moment however, even with the circumstantial evidence and the new direction the investigation was taking, Lui had his doubts.

“Strange is not the word my friend.” Lui turned to face Anderson and took a step closer. “Why would the Chinese Central Government want to have me stop a murder investigation, in Ottawa, and attribute the crimes to some natural or unknown cause? What happened in China was eighteen years ago.”

“I read your brief on the Chinese incidents, but tell me something Lui, did anyone ever come to any conclusion as to why it stopped?”

“Once the killings stopped we went on for about a month but were told to wrap it up. We never did truly finish the investigation.”

Anderson thought for a moment, turned and walked around toward the driver’s door then opened it. Lui followed his lead and walked toward the passenger side.

Anderson sat down and closed the door before turning to Lui. “I’m going to throw this out and I want you to think about it for a moment.” He was cautious in choosing his words, mulling it through as he spoke. “You say that the killings ended. They didn’t taper off but just stopped. Why? Why does that happen in any case we’ve ever worked on?”

Lui thought about it, and began to follow Anderson’s line of thought.

Anderson continued, “If the killer was caught, or died, or moved, whatever was happening would have stopped. What other reasons would cause the events of eighteen years ago to end?”

“I do not know my friend, but I agree, it is odd; it was odd then just as much as it is odd today.” He took out the memory stick and looked at it as it he could read the data just by staring at it.

Anderson took his phone out and pulled up the number for immigration Canada. “I’m going to call an old friend at Canada Border Services. Let’s see if what sort of immigration we’ve had from China in November last year.”

“Good idea, but get the list prior to November. Begin in January right up to November.”

While Anderson was on the phone, Lui placed the memory stick in the police cars computer and called up the data. As he anticipated, the files were in Chinese. He read through the catalog index and noticed one section he did not anticipate seeing.

“May my ancestors be thanked. Anderson my friend we have our first break.”

Pressing the end call button, Anderson turned to his left, “And that break is?”

“You asked the question why the killings in China just stopped. Your thoughts to check CBS for new immigration from China can now be added to this list of Chinese who have been imprisoned for the past eighteen years.”

“What? “

“This memory stick has a list of individuals that were imprisoned at the time when the killings ended, with their release dates. If we can find a match we may have the beginning to a plausible working theory.”

Anderson found it difficult to keep his skepticism from showing. “I would suggest you keep your emotions in check as this is just a wild guess on my part. It could be something or nothing.”

“Yes, but it is a straw from a wagon full of straw that is different. It gives us some hope.”

“Confucius?”

Smiling, “No, Lui again.”

The two detectives drove in silence as they weaved their way through city traffic toward the last crime scene. The streets of Ottawa were busy with summer construction blending into the fall construction season. Most trees were bare, their leaves long fallen, giving the normally warm, green and inviting boulevards a stark, cold and forbidding look. It was a city of contrasts as they drove South on Queen Elizabeth Way toward First Avenue where they turned right.  Ottawa is a city of the very old mixed with the very new as it tried to redefine itself into a world class metropolis. It never seemed to hold itself to that high standard however as Lui observed many times.

He always felt, deep down, that Ottawa was more of a small town disguised as a big city. Some of his friends and colleagues seemed insulted by this observation, but many saw it as a complement. That somehow Ottawa never lost its warmth and historical charm. It mixed that old Victorian heritage with the newer, modern high tech edge world capitals aspired to be. And that was, in his humble opinion, a good thing.

Lui let his mind wonder as they drove west along First Avenue toward their final destination just off Bank Street in the Glebe. He forced himself to think of other things, trying to give his thoughts comfort and rest from the case.

As they approached Bank Street, Anderson found an empty parking spot, pulled the car over to the curb and parked.

“I’ll start canvassing again. Maybe some of the store employees around here noticed something. We may have missed some individuals that left right after the incident.” He grabbed his tablet and got out of the car, headed north on Bank Street.

Lui took agreed that was a good idea, and walked toward the actual construction site where the front end loader was taken. That was two blocks south from where they parked; and technically speaking Lui thought, the large machine wasn’t really stolen, since it was the legitimate operator that went on this killing spree. As he turned onto Bank Street, he noticed a news paper box with the headline:  DEATH TOLL AT 17 AFTER KILLING SPREE

He deposited change into the box and removed one of the papers; wanting to see how the press was treating this latest incident

The Associated Press – Ottawa Ontario Canada – 03 August 2012

 The death toll has risen to 17 after a drunk driver at the wheel of his bucket loader tore through a coffee shop and bus shelter on Bank Street in Ottawa in an area known as The Glebe, residents said Tuesday, the latest in a string of grisly rampage attacks across the city. 

 Families of the victims mourned their loved ones at funerals across the city after 38-year-old David Eward, went on his killing spree. 

 Shattered buildings, crushed cars and splintered trees testified to the severity of the damage inflicted by the massive machine.  Eward drove off in his loader Sunday afternoon after killing his boss at the construction site where he worked. No one at the site could remember Eward recalled him drinking, but it was apparent from his behavior and subsequent actions that alcohol may have played a factor. 

 After killing his Forman in what is described as a deliberate attack, he apparently picking his victims at random, Eward smashed his way down the tree-lined mixed residential and small business street, running over motorcycles and small cars and ripping first into the busy coffee shop. In some cases, he stopped to flip the vehicles with his bucket before crushing them under his wheels, residents said, adding that the youngest victim was five years old.  Witnesses, some hanging onto the side of the vehicle, attempted to stop the mayhem, one of them stabbing at Eward several times with a kitchen knife after he ran out of a kitchen supply store.

 Eward, after ripping into the crowded but shelter, drove back to the construction site and, bleeding heavily, brandishing a crowbar he climbed down from the cab of the machine.

He was finally overcome when another construction site foreman, Wang Xinjiang, climbed over one side of the front end loader, and tackled Eward, kicking him in the groin and pinned him to the ground. 

 “He came down [from the vehicle] and shouted ‘I’m a dead man anyway! I’m dead anyway,'” said Wang, a former soldier in the Canadian Armed Forces. 

 Friends and family gathered to offer condolences at one home where the bodies of a 34-year-old housewife and her young daughter were laid out in coffins, according to their custom. 

 “We didn’t know him. We don’t know why he did it. It is just like some natural disaster that came along,” said the woman’s husband, who identified himself only by his surname, Jacobs. 

 Eward was taken into custody and almost certainly faces numerous 1st degree charges for murder. Calls to local government officials and the Ottawa Police Services rang unanswered on Tuesday. 

 A series of apparently unrelated rampage attacks across Ottawa in recent months have left dozens of people dead and scores wounded. 

 Assailants, most of them wielding knives, have targeted kindergartens and elementary schools, a courthouse, and random victims at markets and on a train. 

 The attacks have prompted calls for more efforts to diagnose and treat serious mental illnesses, and have ignited fears about the nation’s capital city emotional’ health.   Authorities have responded with increased security at schools and other public places.

It was what he expected as he read the article – not much on facts but lots to fuel panic he thought. Looking around as he walked, he noticed several make shift memorials where individuals left flowers, pictures and lit candles to remember the dead and injured.  Many people, families, children, and individuals, from all social classes, stood or sat on the ground to pray, cry and try to make some sense of the carnage. Lui could not think of anything that would allow someone to make sense of this.

He arrived at the construction site and saw the front end loader parked on a mound of debris where the driver, the killer, had left it. The site was eerily quiet for what should have been a busy weekday.

Lui stood far enough back to get some perspective.  He was a methodical person and his visual scan of the scene began from his position at the edge, moved forward toward the far left of the site and then moved toward the right edge, where the construction site met the existing sidewalk. It was as it was left at the time of the incident. The taped off section where David Eward killed his first victim was left undisturbed. Other than the police tape however, there were no other changes.

Continuing his scan of the area, he began to see a pattern. He opened his tablet and accessed the original police report; looking for the TOI. The time of incident was thirteen hundred and ten, just past one o’clock – lunch time by all accounts. That was when the calls first started to come into the nine-one-one dispatch. This corroborated what he was seeing – lunch bags, thermoses’, and sandwiches left where they were dropped by panicked workers.

Lui then checked the report again. David Eward had never shown any signs of anger, psychosis, or abnormal activity in the past. Everyone described him as a loving family man, kind, honest and caring. He was also described as someone who never drank outside of the holidays or social occasions and never to excess. So what triggered him?

The crime scene map, as it was drawn up by the attending constables, showed Eward’s location prior to him taking his loader. Lui checked the map with the on ground position and walked to where Eward sat with his fellows and ate lunch.

What he saw was lunch for seven individuals including Eward scattered. The witness said that Eward did not run, panic or freak out; he just stood up, smiled and turned, walking toward his loader.

Carefully, Lui examined each lunch. He noted in the report that this was not done at the time and he concluded that this was sloppy work on the part of the on scene constables.  As he checked each lunch, he noted that there really wasn’t anything that looked, smelled or seemed out of place. Corn beef on rye, peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, coffee, orange juice, pop, water…. and then Eward’s. Now that was different – Fish. Odd for a construction worker thought Lui. He pulled out several small evidence bags and took samples of each lunch, marking the outside of the bag with its location and then placing the corresponding location on the map in his tablet.

Lui looked around at other lunch meals left deserted by the workers and none of the others seemed to have had fish.  It was different as first noted, but nothing too out of the norm of human consumption.  In his native China almost all the lunches would have some sort of fish after all. Lui made note in his tablet and moved on from there.

Police investigation is part science and part luck. It is the collection of evidence at the same time the reconstruction of a past event. In either case, it’s the cop on the ground that has to decide that is or is not evidence. It is the cop on the ground that has to decide how one should reconstruct the past event.

The problem Lui was having right now is he could name a dozen different occasions where the direction of an investigation took a wrong turn because of the narrow views of that cop on the ground.

It wasn’t enough to collect evidence as one never really knew what was or was not evidence. The original investigation in China had so many ‘cop’s on the ground’ that much evidence was missed and the reconstruction of the crime went in diverging directions. That was clear enough after the fact, but at the time, no one pointed out what should have been obvious.

They was also the usual political interference as the Communist government of the Central Committee made it very  clear they did not appreciate the international scrutiny brought on by the killings. There was enormous pressure for investigators to find a solution. Whether or not it was the correct solution did not matter. In all cases, it came down to the quickest explanation – human frailty of the mind.

That was when Lui began to question his own commitment to his job, his career and his country. He began to see, in case after case, his colleagues end an inquiry only to spout off the party policy. It became very clear that the truth did not always matter as suspect after suspect was charged, given a trial and sent to jail or executed. He had to admit that things were changing and the Central Committee was more receptive to an open and fair process, but there were still too many limitations to finding that truth. Truth, after all, can be an inconvenient intrusion when it makes one look bad.

He believed in due process, in the investigation to uncover the truth and at times, the original suspect was not what the truth uncovered.  That was what he pursued now, the truth. He always considered himself to be an idealist. He chuckled at that thought.

There was not much more to be found at the construction site. Not at this level anyway. He looked up at the unfinished skeleton of a building. Scanning, he spotted a ladder leading up to the second story and then another further inside that led to the third floor.

Lui climbed up and walked toward the edge. He knew the crime scene investigators had gone over the area with a tweezers but it never hurt to the job yourself. He had already found the inconsistency with the lunch samples after all.

His first question as he climbed the ladder was why go after the big loader? If Eward had an issue with his boss, the first victim, why not use what was at hand? The witness statements said he made a deliberate chase for the foreman with the loader. There were over a dozen different possible murder tools Eward could have picked up between his location as he sat down for lunch, to where the foreman was at the time.

Lui checked the crime scene map on his Playbook against what he was looking at from the third story of the building. There was something that did not make sense; something out of place, but he just couldn’t put his finger on it.

Just then he heard, “Lui…. Lui, where the devils are you?” it was Anderson.

“Look up!” he shouted back down.

Anderson stopped and craned hi neck upward to see Lui staring down at him. “Now how the hell did you get up there? And why the hell are you up there?” he asked, shaking his head in disbelief.

“The ladder… just past the loader. Come on up.”

Anderson moved to see around the big machine, spotted the ladder and made is way over to it.

“I trust you have good reason for making me climb up this thing.”

Lui handed him the tablet on his arrival and asked, “What do you see down there my out of breath friend?”

Anderson took the device and gave Lui a disgruntled look. He studied the map first, then, holding onto an exposed iron girder, leaned out to get a better view of the ground below. He saw the front end loader, the taped off area where the foreman was killed, and the location where co-workers first noticed Eward climbing into the loader.

“OK, what exactly am I looking at?” he asked, with some mild frustration.

Lui answered, “Put yourself in the place of Eward. Start at the point where he was having lunch. Now go after the foreman.”

Anderson, skeptical, did what he was asked. He first sought out the lunch spot, then began to trace a route from there to….. then he saw it.

Excited, he said, “There was nothing about a pre-confrontation in the witness statements.” He half shouted.

“Let’s go down to his level first before we get too excited. This may be nothing, it may be something.”

The two men climbed down the ladders as quickly as they could in dress shoes; then carefully running over to the lunch spot.

“OK my friend, I am Eward. I will follow the witness statements to the letter. You too are Eward, but you will do what any single, fixated obsessed mind would do if you were bent on killing your foreman.”

The two men began at the same location; they began to walk in the direction of the loader, and the foreman. That’s when it became clear. If Eward wanted to just harm the unfortunate foreman, Eward would have had a better, faster and more effective way of killing him.

The witness statements said Eward walked past where the foreman, and others who were also eating, were sitting down. None of them reported Eward in an agitated state or seemed upset in any way. If anything, they said he smiled, stopped to make small talk, and then went off to where he parked his machine.

If Eward was targeting the foreman, why not just pick up a crowbar, pri-bar, spanner, rebar, brick, bolder or any other item to smash in his head. He was supposed to be frantic, hysterical, frenzied – totally out of control.  Yet none of that was taking place as far as any of the dozen or more witnesses reported.

Anderson cut in at this point, “The other witness I just canvassed all reported that Eward was just – well, just driving the loader as if he was on his way home from work without a care in the world. No panic, anger or emotion on his face. This would have been better to see from the position of the driver in the loader. And the statements are consistent.”

“Look at where you are standing now,” said Lui. “See, it is not even in the direction of the loader. You are walking away from it, toward the foreman. No my friend. The foreman was not a target; just someone in the wrong place.”

“But once Eward got into the loader, he drove it around as if looking for the poor basterd. As soon as the foreman,” Anderson paused to look up the foreman’s name. “As soon as Martneau sited the loader coming in his direction, he took off. That didn’t matter however, as Eward followed his every direction. Besides, look at where the loader was parked before he got in. On the other side of that shed, behind the tractor trailer full of rebar. That’s a long way to go just to chase down one man at random.”

“Yes, and where does it say the others ran? Into the building, away from the loader since it could not possible get through the maze of steel support columns. If Martneau ran into the building he may have been safe, and alive today. No… I do not believe this was a targeted killing. I do however believe there is more to this ‘hysterical madness’ than meets the eye. This only proves that Martneau was not a deliberate target. Not why Eward went berserk. ”

Lui took out his phone and dialed a number. “I am checking something with the coroner again.”

“Doctor, its detective Lui. I wonder if you can check something for me. Did you get an opportunity to examine Mr. Eward, the latest suspect….. Yes, the dozer killings…. Please, put this at the top of the list. Can you do a CT scan and MRI of his head? I will send a BBM message to the station and have the escort and medical test papers ready for when you arrive. I will not say what I suspect but yes, it is related to our last conversation….. And doctor, this is a priority at this point; I need the results of the scan as soon as possible with the report from the other attackers. Yes…Thank you.”

Lui hung up and returned his Blackberry to the leather pouch attached to his belt.

Anderson stood on a small rock pile, hands on either hip, surveying the area. When Lui was off the phone, Anderson asked, “Are you going to tell me what you’re thinking at some time?”

“What I am thinking has not changed, and I am even more convinced that this is not some random madness but a deliberate act of murder – and Mister Eward and the other assistants’ are just as much a victim as the dead and injured. I am not able to prove my theory as yet, but I believe that once we have the coroner’s test results and we study all the data from my previous cases in China we will have something… more concrete to bring back to Inspector Karpov.”

“We better head back to the station then. It will take time to review the files you have and wait for the doctor’s results. We have no evidence to back up our theory and we will need more than a hunch or a gut feeling to take this further.”

Taking one last look around the construction site, the two men walked back to the car with a renewed determination. Even without direct evidence, their working theory was starting to show signs of being at least plausible. Which is far more then they had to go on before.

At the car, Lui asked, “Did you manage to find anything new in the canvas?”

“Nothing, zip, bubkis. People are freaked out and the newspaper headlines are not helping. I thought the media had agreed to tone it down.”

“The media will do what they do best, sell papers whether the news is fact based or gossip. And the general public will buy into hype.”

Nothing more was said on the return drive to the station. After parking the car, Lui removed the memory stick from the car laptop and pocketed it. “We will pull the squad together and get an update before the two of us sit down and review our next step. I am hoping the good doctor will be in touch before that.”

In the large meeting room, one floor down from the squad room, Lui began the check in of detectives.

Sergeant Gorge Campbell was the first to speak, “Wellesley, Marcotto, Saputo and myself just wrapped up the evidence review. We haven’t been able to find any commonalities between the assailants. We checked financials, education, family, clubs, social and employment and nothing. Even medical connections came up zero. No common thread at all.” Campbell almost slammed the tablet to the table as he finished.

As each team reported in, the results were the same and the emotional and physical effect on each officer was palpable. Weeks of nothing new and no leads can bring the most energetic of teams down and Lui felt, and shared, their frustration.

“I want to begin by congratulating all of you on doing a great job on such a difficult case. We can all share in the frustration and until now, you have all done very well. It is understandable that you are feeling anger, stress, and what can only be described as a sort of futility in finding out what is going on and stopping it. It is after all why we became police officers.” Lui paused, looking at each officer in attendance. Everyone nodded to show agreement. “Anderson and I have been formulating a theory that will move the investigation in a different direction and until now I had hesitated to bring it forward. However, in light that we have nothing else, it is beginning to seem….. more conceivable. A great detective once said ‘that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth’. I do not know if this will lead us to the truth, but it is, in my humble opinion, worth the effort.”

Lui outlined the theory over the next thirty minutes. No one spoke but many heads bobbed in agreement on key points. A couple of the older detectives, more set in their way, seemed hesitant or uncertain at first, but Lui’s logic began to make more sense than whatever they could come up with; which was nothing at this point. It was the only thread the drowning investigation had left to hang on to. Yes, it was grasping the preverbal straw but it was the only straw left in the pile.

After the meeting broke up, and Lui had assigned additional tasks to his squad, he and Anderson found an empty booth in the computer research lab on the seventh floor of police headquarters. He pulled out the memory stick and booted up the records. In Chinese, Anderson wasn’t much of a help in the actual search, but they did agree on a number of key words and phrases that Lui should look for.

Meanwhile, Anderson contacted Canada Border Serves to follow up on that list of immigration names and compared that to the list of names of Chinese prisoners arrested eighteen years ago and released just before or between January and November.

As he scanned down the list, “Lui, do you know how many Chinese immigrated to Canada last year? Eight thousand six hundred and twenty eight. Do you know how many people were arrested eighteen years ago and released last year? Thirty two thousand, nine hundred and sixty seven. Do you know how long this is going to take?”

“What, you have a date? It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”

“Great, more Lui?”

“No my friend, that one is all Confucius,” Lui beamed from ear to ear to the dismay of his partner who just sat there with feigned indignation. “What? I am Chinese you know.”

“Ya, you’re a real Charlie Chan.” Anderson laughed.

The next few hours were spent drinking coffee, eating stale tuna sandwiches,  huddled over a computer terminal and on the phone to numerous individuals at a dozen or more agencies trying to focus on a time, event, place and name;  something that could put the pieces together. Lui was convinced that this puzzle did have all the pieces they needed, but he was trying to build it with no starting picture, no framework to guide him and his team.

The day slowly dragged on to evening and now the night. It was close to ten o’clock when Lui’s Blackberry rang, “Hello, Lui here. Yes, hello doctor, what news do you have? You’re kidding, do you know what time it is and you want me to g where? All right, calm down Anderson and I will be there in thirty minutes.”

“What was that all about?” inquired Anderson.

“Doctor Allan wants to meet us at the Elm Street entrance in the Market Garden Sheridan. She said they found something and she will be at the bar.” Lui’s voice trailed off, not knowing what to make of the good doctor’s strange request for a meeting place.

“Only one way to find out I guess. I’ll go get the car and meet you in front if you want to secure this room. I’m sure we’ll need to pick up where we left off sooner than later.”

Lui agreed and suggested they begin a preliminary computer search on the key words they’d come up with so far. “We can let it run while we are out.”

Anderson grabbed his coat and hat before leaving while Lui entered the search command in the computer before he also left, locking the door behind him. On the digital status board to the right of the door he typed in the booking conformation and ensured the lock code on the door panel was changed to allow only the two of them access.

On arrival at the Market Garden Sheridan Hotel, Anderson drove under the mirrored entrance. It was dotted with dozens of LED lights giving it a pleasant star light effect. He pulled the unmarked police car into the parking spot reserved for emergency vehicles, took out the police vehicle sign from the glove box and placed it on the dash.

Both detectives entered the upscale hotel, Anderson pointing toward the Elm Street sign, to the right of the revolving doors. It was an open space with two large ornate columns on either side of an oval half wall. On the wall, spaced equally apart, was oversize flower pots and to the left of that was the bar entrance. The words ELMSTREET BAR arched over the opening in brass lettering. Small pot lights provided the soft, subdued illumination in the bar area, in contrast to the harsher lighting of large hotel lobby. The English Victorian style of the bar gave it an upscale look, with natural dark stained woods, leather chairs and brass accents.

People milled about and soft jazz music could be heard above the din of hushed conversations. The conversation themselves all melted together as the sounds merged into one.

Anderson spotted the doctor first, pointing her out to Lui. She was sitting at a lounge area in the bar. A group of four high back brown leather button wing chairs, a low round table in the middle. Doctor Allan looked up then and spotted Lui and Anderson, waving them over.

“Good evening Doctor Allan.”

“Gentlemen,” she held out and shook both detectives hands. “I suspect that we are going to be working closer on this case and you may as well start calling me Grace,” she smiled.

Lui invited her to sit back down, noting she had already had a glass of red wine on the marble table. A well dressed and very formal server came over at that moment and asked for their orders. Anderson asked for a rye and soda while Lui ordered tea. The doctor gestured to the almost empty wine glass and signaled a refill.

Once the server left, the doctor began, “I apologize for dragging you two out at this time, but I was on my way back to the lab after getting the CT and MRI scans of Mister Eward. I, or should I say we, lucked out and also received some preliminary test results from your queries. Simply put, the results, all combined, don’t add up to something I can easily explain. “

The server interrupted, placing the tea and drink on the table before leaving.

The doctor continued once he left. “Mister Eward’s scan, the post mortem samples, and three of the other surviving assailants tested so far, all show a tumor the size of a pancake with tendrils growing on parts of the brain that control everything from consciousness, automatic body functions, memory, pain, cognitive functions. It makes no sense. I have, and I can tell you that none of my staff, doctors at the hospitals, techs, no one, has ever seen anything like this.” She drank half the refreshed glass of wine before continuing. “The dame thing sits primarily on the Parietal Lobe with dozens of….. branches, snaking its way throughout the brain. It’s the damnedest thing and I can’t find any other record anyplace to explain what the hell it is or how it could have formed.”

“Doctor…”

“Grace, please.”

“Sorry, Grace, if I understand what you are saying, this tumor, growing on the assailants brains could have caused them to behave in a manner…. Inconsistent, with their natural actions?”

“What?” she turned to Anderson and grinned, “You’re right, he is the Asian Spock.”

Anderson chuckled and turned away from Lui, who he was sure was now thinking of painful ways to get back at him.

“That is exactly what I am saying. This tumor would have caused anyone with it to behave without cause, remorse, knowledge, or even react to pain. That’s why your witness statements say that even after being injured, the assailants seemed to have no reaction. But for the life of me I can’t understand how that many people contracted it, why it grows the way it does or even how fast it might grow. There is no record of anything like this.”

A noise caught the ear of Lui and Anderson and both men stood up to see what all the commotion was about. Someone, many people screamed right then and everyone in the area of the elevators and lobby stampeded for any exit they could find.

“What the hell!” exclaimed Lui as the two men ran from the bar toward the centre of confusion.

What they saw caused both of them to reach for an pull out their side arms. Lui removed the safety from his Glock police pistol. A lone figure, a young woman in her late twenties, was covered in blood. Her hands, dripping and stained in blood, held onto an umbrella. The point of the umbrella had what looked like flesh, hung from it as she held tight. She had no expression, no emotion on her face as Anderson took up a position off to the right of the elevator, parallel to Lui. The woman, wearing a knee length skirt and brown leather jacket dripped blood as she walked forward. As she cleared the elevator door, Anderson could see three bodies on the floor, a man and what looked like two children. It was hard to be certain however at the angle, what had gone on in the elevator cab.

Some people were still in the lobby area, everyone huddled down on the floor, behind desks or chars. Many of them crying or whimpering softly in utter shock and dismay.

Lui, speaking in as soft and calming a voice said, “Hello, my name is Detective Lui of the Ottawa Police Services. Can you put down the umbrella for me?”

“I have to go to work. I’m running late and it’s raining. I can’t give you my umbrella. I need it.” There was no expression in the woman’s voice, no emotion, not even an awareness of what just happened or what was going on around her.

Anderson quietly pulled his police radio from its belt pouch and called into dispatch, ordering medical services and police back up to the hotel. He tried to move for a better shot and to see further into the elevator but couldn’t without drawing attention to himself. Right now the woman was focused on leaving and with Lui directly in front of her, she did not pay attention to anyone else. Anderson wasn’t even certain she could see anything around her. It was as if no one else was there.

Doctor Allan had made her way to the side of the elevator, just out of site of the woman. She bent down, opened her medial bag and pulled out a vile and syringe. She removed the needle safety cap, inserted it in the vile and drew a measured amount before placing the vile back into her bag.

Lui could see the doctor and realized what she wanted to do, agreeing with a slight nod his agreement. He slowly backed up toward the door, allowing the blood covered woman to move forward. The doctor waited till she passed the wall and in one swift motion lunged forward to meter distance, plunging the syringe in the woman’s neck.

Under normal circumstances, anyone that had just had a needle inserted into their neck would react. They would pull away, jump, grasp at the injection site, something. This woman did nothing; no reaction and no indication she even knew what had just happened.

It took a few more steeps and seconds, which seemed like minutes to Lui, before the woman first dropped the umbrella and then fell to her knees, then forward on her face.

Doctor Allan ran over to her as Lui kicked away the umbrella toward the open elevator. “Thanks for the assist Grace, nice timing.”

“I’m glad I could help, but I have to say I’m surprised this woman is still alive.” She checked for a pulse and began to assist for any injuries as she spoke to Lui. “After seeing her behavior I realized we may be looking at another ‘incident’ and up the dosage. A normal dose would not have done anything if she was in this hyper-state and the dose I gave her would have knocked out an elephant. Her pulse is far too strong for an average person under this sedative. We need to get her into a hospital.”

Anderson approached slowly, replacing his sidearm into its holster. “I’ve already called for paramedics and back up. Ah, Lui, you may want to see this. Doctor, you too please – the elevator. I’ll watch her.”

“Lui finished putting binders on the woman’s hands and the doctor placed her in the recover position.

The two moved quickly to the elevator opening, the door jammed open with a sign Anderson found. Inside was carnage that made Lui cringe.

Doctor Allan gasped, “Oh my God!”

She rushed inside and checked the two children, they couldn’t have been more than three and five years of age. Doctor Allan looked up to Lui and shook her head confirming his worst fears. They were huddled together, fear frozen on their tiny faces as blood pooled below them. The man, maybe in his thirties, was bent forward, crumpled to his knees and slumped, his head on the floor, hands grasping his neck and head. When the doctor checked his neck, she pulled her hand away in reflex. Her fingers found not skin, but a hole that went straight through; the left eye hanging out of its socket as if pulled out by force.

“She most have used the umbrella to kill him first then the children.” Doctor Allan stood moved out of the elevator car. She leaned back against the wall beside of the door so she could not look into the car.

“get her tested for the tumor right away Doctor. Escort her to the hospital and get the scans done. I need to know as soon as possible. “

“Yes. Yes, I’ll phone you as soon as I get confirmation.”

Lui saw a purse on the ground surrounded in blood. He bent down, opened it and pulled out the wallet. Inside was the drivers’ license of the woman; the photo matching the woman lying on the hotel lobby floor.  He patted down the man and found his wallet in a front pant pocket. Her husband and the two children matched pictures in her wallet – her children.

With the hotel secured, witness statements recorded, forensic evidence taken and the woman removed to the Ottawa Hospital, Lui and Anderson drove back to police headquarters in quiet contemplation. Nothing needed to be said as the tragic, and gruesome, events of the night spoke volumes on the urgency to solve whatever was happening.

Inside the computer lab, Lui sat down quietly, Anderson taking the other chair. Anderson spoke first, “I thought I had seen it all in my carrier. But I have never something like this.”

“The only way to end this is to solve it.

TO BE CONTINUED IN

‘RAMPAGE – THE DEAD SPEAK’

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I just finished reading the SF short story ‘Babylon 5: Red Fury’ by Claudia Christian and Morgan Grant Buchanan. It was one of those shorts that you wish was a full novel; you want more. Red Fury is well written and reads nicely with just enough detail to get you hooked while keeping you on a short lead. Claudia and Morgan weave in a lot of action on every page as the plot unfolds. if you are a Babylon 5 fan, i recommend you visit http://claudiachristian.net/babylon-5-red-fury/ and download your free copy (PDF format)

On Sunday, November 11th 2012, Remember the sacrifice of the Men and Women of the Canadian Armed Forces who have given their service, their courage, their honor to Canada and the World. In their name we raise a glass and say, “Thank you.”
One the 11th Hour, of the 11th Day in the 11th Month we will remember