Nathan Taylor’s apartment was just off of downtown in an older section of town, dominated by mostly apartment buildings. The Red Deer River, now running slow in the summer heat, meandered just a few blocks away from the four-plex that was the apartment.
The buildings had seen better days, and probably better landlords than the one that owned it now. The outside was peeling yellow paint, with two brown wooden balconies hanging on for dear life. One enterprising tenant had placed a piece of two by four against the sagging balcony to keep it from dropping off the side of the building. A lone kitchen chair bleached by the sun and cigarette butts sprouting from a coffee can were evidence that someone lived there.
Constable Stewart pulled up ahead of Bernadette, popped his trunk and put on his armored vest that made his massive weightlifter chest even more defined. Bernadette averted her eyes. The constable was way too young for her. But those pecks of his were eye candy, and she couldn’t help but take a peek.
Constable Stewart looked up at Bernadette as he closed the trunk, “Not wearing your vest, Detective?”
Bernadette laughed, “Hell no, I intend on standing behind you—you know I always got your back.”
Stewart shook his head in mock disapproval, “I think the apartment’s the one on the right side.” He led the way as they walked across the broken cement walkway that stretched over the parched brown lawn. A dog barked from the lower unit, a face appeared at a window next door and quickly disappeared. "No one really likes to see the RCMP," Bernadette thought.
Constable Stewart pounded on the metal door of Unit 4, disregarding the doorbell that hung from a single wire, dangling in disrepair, but daring someone to use it anyway. His heavy fist made a thumping sound that echoed into the quiet neighborhood. The dog next door stopped barking.
Bernadette rested against the back of the peeling porch rail, hoping it would hold. “What do you think? We go get a search warrant and come back?”
Stewart held up his hand, “Wait, I think I hear some movement inside.”
A shuffling sound was followed by a door lock being turned. The door came open a crack, and a sleepy female voice said, “What do you want?”
“RCMP, we need to speak to you about Nathan Taylor, please open up,” Constable Stewart said to the door. He placed one hand on the doorknob.
The door opened fully to reveal a disheveled young blonde clad in tight-fitting t-shirt and panties. She was cheerleader pretty, full bosom, wide hips, and portioned like a beer ad for Coors or Miller Lite. The only blemishes were metal rings on her nose and above her eyes. The young lady shielded her eyes from the bright sun, “What’d you want with Nathan? He’s still at work.”
Bernadette stepped from behind the large frame of Constable Stewart, “Sorry to inform you Miss, but Nathan Taylor was found deceased out on a pipeline this morning.”
The young lady stood back from the door, dropped her hands to her side. “Oh . . . that kinda sucks.”
“Were you and Nathan Taylor not close then, Miss . . . ?” Bernadette asked. The answer to this was obvious but she thought she’d ask the question.
“The name's Chandra Rice . . . no, god no, we were just roomies . . . my girlfriend moved back to Toronto, and I needed help with the rent. Nathan Taylor answered the ad, he looked harmless, and so he took the other room. I work nights at Cowboys’ Bar and Grill. I hardly saw him.”
Bernadette took out her notebook. “Oh? I have a note here from his boss where he says you two were quite an item.” She looked back from her notes, staring down the young blue eyes with her own steely green.
“Yeah, he wished,” The young girl flipped her hair; the other hand massaged her tummy.
“So, there was nothing between you?”
Chandra pursed her lips, looked down at the floor while examining a pink toenail, “You know you . . . could say there was something. The little guy was some kind of a perv; he liked to watch me when I had guys over. I’d be doing it with my boyfriend, and the little jerk would be at the bedroom door with a camera.”
“You knew this?” Bernadette asked. She noticed Constable Stewart’s eyes widen.
Chandra bowed her head. Her long hair covered her eyes. “Yeah, I knew it got him off, and I figured what the hell . . .”
“Sounds like it got you off as well,” Bernadette countered.
Chandra flipped up her hair; a knowing smile edged her lips. She forced it back. She shrugged her shoulders. “You can come in if you want . . . I’ve got nothing to hide.”
“Obviously. How about if you put a shirt on Chandra. I need my constable’s full attention,” Bernadette nodded towards Constable Stewart as they walked into the dark apartment.
Chandra flashed her eyes and smiled at Stewart, and whirled to walk back to her bedroom. Stewart’s eyes stayed glued to her ass as she walked out of view.
“Easy, Constable, they say you can go blind from watching that.” Bernadette smiled in Stewart’s direction.
“Yeah, but if I had that seared into my retinas, it might not be so bad,” Stewart laughed.
Chandra returned wearing a shirt, her long legs still catching the constable's eye, and flicked the lights on to the main living room and kitchen. The place was a disaster of empty pizza boxes, beer cans, and fast food cartons. The smell that rose up as they closed the door was stale pizza and beer. Bernadette thought she smelled young hormones as well, but thought better than to comment on it.
“Nathan’s room is down this hallway,” Chandra motioned to them. “Look, I have to shower and get ready for my shift, so look around, ask me whatever, but I gotta be outta here in an hour . . . okay?”
“Sure,” Bernadette said as she followed Constable Stewart down the hallway.
Nathan Taylor’s room had the same design as the rest of apartment. Empty pizza boxes and beer cans, half-consumed cans of beans with a spoon stuck at half-mast, with clothes scattered about the room. A laptop computer sat in the center of the room on a small desk with a chair that looked like it had been rescued from a garbage bin. A Sony video camera was plugged in beside it, and one Post-it Note stuck to the side of the laptop. The Post-it Note said, “Today is the Day.”
Bernadette turned to Constable Stewart, “How are your computer skills?”
Constable Stewart stood over the laptop, his large fingers hovering over the keyboard. “You know we can’t access this unless we have a warrant or permission from his next of kin.”
“Uh-huh, sure I know that, I’m up on my law. Did you by any chance reach the deceased's next of kin?”
Stewart shrugged, “Ah, no, I placed a call to the number I got from the pipeline company, but I got no answer . . . I left a message.”
Bernadette squared her shoulders, as if about to make a speech, and turned to face Constable Stewart. “Constable, I believe that on this computer we will find evidence that will lead us to who killed one Nathan Taylor, therefore no warrant or permission is required.”
Stewart lowered his large frame onto the desk chair, as he powered up the laptop, “Okay, that’s a bit on the fringes of the law, but that works for me, Detective.”
The laptop was still powered up, with no password protection required. Stewart got onto the videos and documents site, and the first thing that came on was Chandra. Chandra in low lighting straddling atop a male with his hands on her thighs . . . the volume was on high, and the loud sounds of Chandra’s enjoyment were obvious. And then . . . Chandra turned her head toward the camera and winked.
Constable Stewart's head lurched back. “Damn, these two had one hell of a kinky relationship.”
A voice behind them said, “Am I in trouble?”
Bernadette turned to see Chandra standing at the door, “No, videotaping sexual acts between consenting adults is not a crime . . . It would seem from your actions . . . the wink you gave to Nathan that you were aware of the taping. Whether this makes you as perverted as Nathan, well I leave that up to you.”
Chandra looked away and left the doorway. Bernadette looked back at the computer. “Constable, can we look over another file, as I am quite sure our victim did not die of this . . . though he may have turned himself partially to stone . . .”
Stewart’s face turned visibly red, “Sure, sure . . . I’ll access some of his recent places on the Internet.”
They viewed a few more sites, and then came to the PLK website. The site was populated with a graphic from Star Trek, and various planets bounced around. Then four young men came into view. “This looks like a video conference our victim saved,” Bernadette said.
A tall blonde kid sitting at a table spoke first. “Nathan Taylor, your mission, should you accept it, is to strike a blow for all Humanity. To avenge the wrongs done to our former leader, Professor Alistair McAllen, and show the world that we . . . these gentle nerds here, and I . . . have more power than anyone in the world. By tomorrow, they will no longer fear Al Qaeda; they will fear us, the Pipeline Killers. I, your commander, Paul Goodman, command you to go forth and do battle. Our fellow warriors, Bill Hirschman, Martin Popowich, and Jason Campbell, will monitor your feats, and will go forth to do battle once your attack is successful. Live long and prosper.”
The video ended with a Star Trek Voyager space vehicle streaking across the sky, and music playing in the background. Bernadette stood back from the laptop “Damn it, this is as bad as it gets.”
“What’s as bad as it gets?” Stewart looked up from the computer, “This looks like a bunch of university kids doing a spoof on Star Trek.”
“Yeah, it would be if they hadn’t mentioned Professor McAllen . . . look, grab the laptop, and meet me back at detachment headquarters. I need to meet with our chief and make a call to a guy I know at the Canadian Security and Intelligence Agency.”
Bernadette headed outside. The strong light of the late afternoon hit her as she walked down the steps and got into her Jeep. Her mind was flashing through all the possibilities of what was about to hit the oil industry this time. The first time McAllen surfaced he almost put Alaskan Oil and Fort McMurray Oil Sands into mothballs. His lab creation called polywater could have suspended production for years if she hadn’t figured it out. But what the hell was he up to this time?
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