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About the Author

Jack Batten

Jack Batten practised law in Toronto for four years before turning to a life of writing. He has written for all the major Canadian magazines and is the author of thirty-three books including four crime novels. Five of his nonfiction books dealt with real-life Canadian lawyers, judges, and court cases; a biography of John Robinette was among these books. Batten's books have also dealt with sports, Canadian history, and biography. He has reviewed jazz for The Globe and Mail, movies for CBC radio, and still writes a column on crime fiction for the Toronto Star. His biography of Tom Longboat won the $10,000 Norma Fleck Award for best children's nonfiction in 2002, and the book is being made into a feature film. His most recent book is The Annex: The Story of a Toronto Neighbourhood, published in 2004.

Books by this Author
Blood Count

Blood Count

A Crang Mystery
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Excerpt

So many people turned out for the wake that it had overflowed up the stairs of the house and into my apartment. I own the house. It’s a duplex on the west side of Beverley Street across from Grange Park, behind the Art Gallery of Ontario. I live in the upper apartment and had rented the lower to two gay guys named Alex and Ian. Alex was the wake’s host, if host is the proper term for the person who’s left behind when his companion has died. Ian had died.
“I think Ian would have adored every minute of it,” Alex said.
“Except for the food,” I said. “Not up to Ian’s standards, the little bitty Simpsons sandwiches and those puffy cheese things.” “Oh, he’d have been absolutely appalled if he knew I had his wake catered.” Alex paused and got a reflective look. “Imagine what Ian would have done if he’d cooked for his very own wake. Pull out all the stops, I mean heaven.”
“Ian was divine in the kitchen,” Annie said. “Divine out of it, too.”
Annie is Annie B. Cooke, the woman in my life. She and I and Alex were sitting in my living room. It was about ten thirty. Everybody else had left. Plumes of cigarette smoke still floated in the air, and someone had planted a glass half full of Scotch and water on top of the stack of magazines on the pine table behind the sofa. The glass left a ring in the middle of Branford Marsalis’s face. He was on the cover of DownBeat.
“Smells like Rick’s American Café in here,” I said.
I walked across the room and lifted a window higher. A light May breeze wafted through the stale cigarette residue. “Practically every person we knew in the world came,” Alex said. “Ian would have loved that part.”
“Ian was a party guy,” I said.
Conversation was limping along. I didn’t mind. The idea was to keep Alex company, even if the company was limp. “Who was the dramatic-looking woman?” Annie asked Alex. “In the black with all the veils?”
“His mother.”
“Whose?” I said. “Ian had a mother?”
“She never gave up her dream that Ian would find the right girl and settle down. Old witch, she couldn’t abide me.”
“So that’s why, all the years you guys’ve been tenants, what, nine years and change, I never laid eyes on his mother?”
“Listen, dears,” Alex said, “we got off lucky. I was petrified Ian’s grandmother might attend today.”
“Grandmother.”
“The tongue on her. She’s ninety-one. She phoned Ian at Casey House toward the end. He was all skin and bones and sores and lesions, and the call came from Grannie Argyll. Ian got on the line. I was there, and he managed some banter, you know, and Grannie said, ‘Well, boy, if you’d never gone queer on us, you’d at least have died of something a person could tell her friends about.’”
“Did Ian laugh?”
“Damn near till he did die.”
“Except,” Annie said, “it isn’t a laughing matter.”
“No,” Alex said, “AIDS definitely isn’t.”
I went over and took Alex’s wineglass from his hand. He was sitting in the wing chair. Annie and I occupied the sofa. I carried the glass to the kitchen and topped it up from an opened bottle of Australian Chardonnay in the refrigerator.
“Stop me if it’s none of our concern, Alex,” Annie was saying, “but I think it is.”
I handed Alex his glass.
“No, I don’t have AIDS,” he said, speaking past me to Annie. “There, does that take care of what’s on your mind?”
“We’ve been worrying, Crang and I, ever since we heard about Ian.” Annie wasn’t flustered by Alex’s direct answer. “AIDS is so virulent. I’m not an expert or anything, just what I read in magazines, but aren’t you at risk?”
Alex was smiling. It wasn’t a sad smile, more like an expression of resignation. I’d liked Alex’s face from the first day he and Ian moved in. He was handsome in a rueful way. He had the face of a guy who might be entertaining a long-running secret joke. He was tall and slim, in his mid-sixties. Ian Argyll had been almost twenty years younger than Alex, and the opposite in build, short and chunky. Ian was a real estate agent, a natural at it, a peppy, sweet-tongued guy.
“I’m not at risk, as you put it,” Alex said. “All I happen to be is angry, which is quite enough, thank you very much.”
“A doctor’s cleared you?” Annie was in her persevering-interviewer mode, something she does for pay on television. “You have no symptoms?”
“Annie, I couldn’t possibly have got AIDS from Ian, not unless it’s conveyed by hugs and snuggles. Now, can we agree to get off this particular topic?”
I was drinking Wyborowa on the rocks. “But what you are,” I asked Alex, “is angry?”
Annie laced her fingers through mine and squeezed. The squeeze meant I should lay off and leave the interrogation to her. “It’s natural you’d feel angry,” she said to Alex. “Angry at fate or whatever for taking Ian.”
“Oh, screw fate.” Alex flapped his hand in the air. “My rage is much more constructive than that.”
“At Ian?” Annie said, persisting. “That’s who you’re angry at?”
“Where Ian’s concerned, I never felt anger. With him, I went through a regular catalogue of wretched emotions. Devastation … I was devastated he had AIDS, and for a time there, not too long, I felt … betrayed. But I forgave him.”
“You forgave him,” Annie said, “for straying.”
“Annie, dear,” Alex said, “what a charmingly archaic word. Straying.”
“Well, having an affair.”
Alex was holding up the index finger of his left hand. “Actually,” he said, “one man, one time, one-night stand.”
“And that’s how Ian contracted AIDS?”
“One night is to exaggerate. More like a few nasty moments.”
“That sounds so awful, so wasteful, I want to cry.”
“I tried that already, Annie. Buckets. It didn’t help much of anything. Not the bloody rage, anyway. It’s sitting in me like some malevolent lump.”
Annie’s hand in mine felt damp. “Ian told you about this other man?” she asked Alex. “When? Toward the end?”
“Longer ago than that. He sat me down for a real heart-to-heart and poured it all out at once, the AIDS, the encounter, the certainty he was going to die. A real black-letter day, I tell you, last February fifth. Drank an entire bottle of Chivas between the two of us.”
“Now I am prying,” Annie said, “but I remember Ian looking very much not himself back from about late autumn on.”
Alex nodded. “Flu. He kept saying he had the flu, Shanghai flu, Hong Kong flu, bloody Mississauga flu, whatever strain was going. It was a litany with him. ‘Oh, luv, I’ve just come down with a touch of old devil ague and no time to bring it to its knees.’ Quite gallant when you realize he knew the truth.”
“Gallant, okay, but misleading.”
“An outright lie. But, don’t you remember, the real estate market went through the most remarkably silly boom about then? And Ian was selling a house practically every day over in Riverdale? Those old working people’s homes that yuppies go mad for?”
“Sure,” I chipped in. “Ian was out most nights. Open houses on the weekends. I used to see him dragging in at crazy hours.”
“Well?” Alex had a defensive challenge in his voice. “You see why I believed him about the flu? And how he was too busy to take to his bed?”
“Alex,” Annie said, “nobody could have suspected AIDS, not you, not anybody in your position.”
“That’s what I tell myself,” Alex said, “but I did go through a guilt period. The guilt is one of Ian’s legacies.”
Conversation slacked off. Annie seemed to have checked out of the questioning, at least temporarily.
“Plus the anger,” I said to Alex. “Ian left that behind him.”
“That, too.”
“Maybe you ought to see somebody,” I said. “You know, a professional, a shrink. Get rid of the bad stuff in your head.” “I’ve a more satisfying therapy planned, don’t you fret about that.”
“Yeah, well, a guy shouldn’t practice psychiatry on himself, especially if he isn’t a psychiatrist.”
“Crang, think of this,” Alex said, leaning forward in his chair and enunciating each word as if he was addressing a slow student. “The swine who gave Ian AIDS.”
“Come again?”
“I’m going to confront him. That’s my notion of therapy.”
“Yeah?” I said. “Ian, in fact, supplied a name that goes with the guy?”
“The murderer.” Alex’s voice had an edge. “Why not call him by what he is and what he did? He murdered Ian.”
I spent some time on my vodka, a pause to give Alex space to simmer down. “I don’t know,” I said, “there’ve been cases of guys who had AIDS, knew they had it, and went ahead and engaged in sex with other people and they got charged. Convictions registered in a couple cases for criminal assault. But murder? No way, Alex.”
“Oh, Crang.” Alex hadn’t simmered down. “Stop sounding like a lawyer.”
“Occupational hazard. I am one.”
“I know that, but can’t you see? I don’t give a flying fuck about the law.”
Sitting on the sofa, I didn’t pick up any vibrations that Annie was intending to return to the fray.
“Listen, Alex,” I said, “back to square one. You got a name for the guy who infected Ian or not?”
“Not.”
“Okay, I’d say it’s game over.”
“I think Ian must have held back on his killer’s name because he read my reaction. He saw how furious I was over everything.” “Does it matter now?” I raised my hand and wobbled it back and forth. “All that counts is no name, no confrontation.”
“But I’ve got something almost as good,” Alex said.
“Something Ian gave you?”
“Where he met his killer. The very place Ian met him.”
Annie and I exchanged a fast glance.
“Oh, don’t look at each another that way,” Alex said. “I’m not crackers, and I don’t need anybody humouring me.”
“Well, listen to yourself,” I said. “The place Ian met his killer. Even if you should go rooting after the guy, which is pointless right there, destructive really, the place by itself can’t be much help.”
“It can, believe me on that, my friend.”
“What? Some office Ian did business in? One of his open houses? Along those lines?”
“I’m keeping the location to myself, so don’t bother cross-examining.”
“Helping is what I figured on.”
Alex was silent for a couple of moments. “I appreciate that, honestly,” he said. “I appreciate just sitting here with the two of you. But what I’ve got to do, I’ve got to do alone.”
Alex stopped himself.
“Did you hear that?” he said. “I sound like John Bloody Wayne.”
“Even John Wayne had a sidekick,” I said. “Montgomery Clift, Katharine Hepburn, or somebody.”
“Crang,” Alex said, “on this, I am alone and very determined.”
Alex got a look on his face that I would have called determined.
“Finding the man who murdered Ian,” he said, “is a rather personal crusade, if you like.”
The room seemed to have become much quieter.
“I’m going to find him,” Alex said. “And when I do, pardon the drama, my dears, I am going to kill the bastard.”

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Booking In

Booking In

A Crang Mystery
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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Chapter One

Fletcher Marshall’s phone call woke me at seven o’clock on a July Monday morning that already felt sultry.
“This hour of the day, Fletcher,” I said, “whatever you got, it better be good.”
“A little patience, please, Crang. Just let me tell you about the grief I’m enduring down here.”
“At your store?”
“Of course at my store. Where else?”
Fletcher was a guy with the smarts to run one of the last remaining antiquarian bookstores in the city, but he wasn’t someone whose personality I warmed to. On the other hand, a few weeks earlier, he’d arranged a very large favour for Annie B. Cooke, the woman in my life. Given the favour, Annie asked if I could please find it in my heart to end the animosity toward Fletcher, or at least mute it. I was trying but not always succeeding.
“If my call disturbed Annie’s sleep,” Fletcher said, “tell her I apologize.”
“The lovely Ms. C is away doing an interview for the book job you put her onto.”
“Oh my, yes,” Fletcher said. “The recommendation I gave Annie will mean more money from one writing assignment than she’ll ever see in the rest of her working life.”
“This is noble of you, Fletcher. But if we don’t get to the part about your grief in a hurry, I’m going to hang up and see about falling back to sleep.”
“I need you to come to the store,” Fletcher said, his delivery more brisk. “Right away.”
“Seven o’clock in the morning isn’t my prime time.”
“And bring that burglar friend of yours.”
“Maury Samuels?” I said. “Maury’s retired from the B and E profession. Keep that in mind.”
“For the fix I’m in, it’s the man’s past years of expertise I require.”
“Why don’t you and I try dealing with this fix you’re complaining about while we’re on the phone?”
“Somebody broke into my safe at the store,” Fletcher said. “They cracked the combination and took the entire contents. This is a practically brand-new safe, I might add.”
“Fletcher, I’m a lawyer,” I said. “It’s the cops you should be summoning.”
“I don’t want word of this to get out in any form,” Fletcher said. “No police, no media, none of that right now.”
I fought back the feeling that I was putting way too much effort into a conversation so early in the day.
“Let’s go through this one more time, Fletcher,” I said. “Why is it, in the wide world of lawbreakers and enforcers, you chose to ring me?”
“Frankly, Crang, you’re the first person I thought of who might have the contacts to help me.”
“You’re giving me the real goods when you say you haven’t notified the police about the break-in?”
“I thought I made that clear.”
“And you don’t have one of those electronic gizmos that rings simultaneously at your own house and the nearest cop division when somebody makes an illicit entry into your place of business?”
“Call me old-world.”
“Like your store is.”
“Precisely.”
“For one reason or another, largely dealing with insurance,” I said, “you’ll need to contact the law sooner rather than later.”
“Not before you and your burglar friend inspect the scene of the crime.”
“Maybe I’m beginning to understand your strategy, Fletcher,” I said. “But how do you plan to account for the delay in talking to the cops when they realize they were the last people you invited to the party?”
“Very easy, Crang,” Fletcher said. “We’re closed on Mondays. I’ll tell the police I didn’t discover the break-in until I stopped by the store later in the day.”
I took a few seconds to process everything Fletcher had told me.
“If you have no alarm,” I said, “then I take it you didn’t discover the break-in until you got to the store a few minutes ago.”
“Wrong,” Fletcher said with more than a touch of asperity. “I’ve been here since 3:30 a.m.”
“I’m guessing the predawn arrival isn’t your normal business practice.”
“Hardly normal, for god’s sake, Crang. I was alerted to the break-in by the architect who rents the office over the store. He’s been sleeping on a couch in his waiting room the last couple of weeks because he’s got marital troubles at home. In the middle of last night, he heard loud bangs in my place. He decided the noise was suspicious and rang me at my apartment.”
“Is your secret secure with this architect?”
“He agreed to hold back from the police the part about him waking me up to report the break-in, if that’s what you mean.”
“It buys you time.”
“Much of which you’re wasting,” Fletcher said. “All I’m asking of you and your burglar colleague is professional advice.”
Fletcher was right. I was stalling on any agreement to give him a hand with his break-in, which had trouble written all over it. But I knew my answer was inevitable. It was the big favour he’d done Annie that was the difference-maker. A friend of Fletcher’s, a woman named Meg Grantham, wanted somebody to ghost her memoirs. She had asked Fletcher to recommend a woman writer from among the contacts he’d made in the Toronto journalism community through his bookstore. Fletcher chose Annie, and when he brought Annie and Meg together, the two women hit it off like gangbusters. Meg wanted the book to tell the story of how she got to be so rich, worth in the neighbourhood of three billion bucks. According to Canadian Business magazine, she ranked in the top five wealthiest women in Canada, number one if you counted only self-made Canadian woman success stories. Right off the bat, Meg paid Annie fifty grand just to get started on the memoirs.
“I’ll see you at ten,” I said to Fletcher. “It’ll take me until then to get Maury in gear. Or if you’ll settle for just me, I can be there in a half hour.”
“I envision it as a team concept,” Fletcher said. “You and the burglar.”
“You’ll have to pay Maury,” I said. “These days he’s billing himself as a consultant.”
Fletcher didn’t hesitate. “I’ll expect you people not a minute past ten,” he said.
Then he hung up.

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Crang Mysteries 4-Book Bundle

Crang Mysteries 4-Book Bundle

Crang Plays the Ace / Straight No Chaser / Take Five / and 1 more
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Crang Mysteries 6-Book Bundle

Crang Mysteries 6-Book Bundle

Crang Plays the Ace / Straight No Chaser / Riviera Blues / and 3 more
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Crang Plays the Ace

Crang Plays the Ace

A Crang Mystery
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
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Hockey Dynasties

Hockey Dynasties

Blue Lines & Bloodlines
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
tagged : archery, history
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Jack Batten's Crang Mysteries 3-Book Bundle

Jack Batten's Crang Mysteries 3-Book Bundle

Crang Plays the Ace / Straight No Chaser / Take Five
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Learned Friends

Learned Friends

A Tribute to Fifty Remarkable Ontario Advocates, 1950–2000
edition:Hardcover
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Oscar Peterson

Oscar Peterson

The Man and His Jazz
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Ross Mackay, The Saga of a Brilliant Criminal Lawyer

Ross Mackay, The Saga of a Brilliant Criminal Lawyer

And his big losses and bigger wins in court and in life
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Excerpt

Chapter Fourteen

The first words that Ross spoke in a courtroom in the course of the Lucas case were intended to stall his client’s trial. He was making his argument on March 26 at the case’s Preliminary Hearing before Magistrate Thomas Elmore in one of the courtrooms on City Hall’s first floor set aside for Magistrates. The Preliminary Hearing was pretty much exclusively Bull’s show, an occasion when the prosecution was required to present to the court just enough evidence to convince Magistrate Elmore to send the case on to Ontario’s Supreme Court for a full-scale trial in front of a High Court judge. But before Bull began his pitch to Elmore, Ross rose and argued his request that the Magistrate postpone the Preliminary Hearing for at least a month. Elmore, anxious to push the case along, wanted reasons from Ross. Why should Elmore take an urgent and widely publicized murder hearing off its fixed schedule? Why in the world would he make such an unlikely ruling?

Ross offered two arguments. He told Elmore he had taken over Lucas’s defence just two weeks earlier. He needed many more weeks to analyze the Crown’s case, interview witnesses, and build his defence. Elmore listened attentively enough, but when Ross finished, Elmore shook his head. The rush to trial might be tough on Ross, he said, but that wasn’t sufficient reason to bring the process to such a long halt. Ross would just need to work faster and harder. These weren’t Elmore’s exact words, but it was what he implied in ruling that the Preliminary Hearing would get along as scheduled.

Ross tried out his second argument on Elmore. He reminded the Magistrate, as if anyone in the criminal law business needed reminding, that a highly publicized Royal Commission on Crime was sitting during those very weeks, taking testimony and compiling files on the ever spreading and deeper penetrating volume of crime in Ontario. Ross’s point was that the Lucas hearing needed to be postponed until the air was cleared of the Commission’s unceasing chatter about murder and drugs and prostitution, much of it supposedly generated by American gangsters. It was media reporting of this sort that whipped up a public bias against the much put upon Arthur Lucas. Magistrate Elmore shook his head again. Nice try, Mr. Mackay, he said in effect. He ruled against Ross’s argument, and directed Henry Bull to call his first witness.

Preliminary Hearings were meant to be speedy and efficient, and Bull squeezed the Lucas case into one day, March 26, and most of the morning of the next day. Bull put more than a dozen witnesses on the stand. He began with Frank McGuire, the Post Office employee who discovered Crater’s body, and continued on through Michael Lundy, the manager of the Waverley Hotel who placed Lucas in Toronto on the night of the murders. Bull called several police officers from both Detroit and Toronto who had interviewed witnesses and uncovered such potentially meaningful physical exhibits as the battered Ivor Johnson revolver found on the Burlington Skyway.

Among the other witnesses, Bull drew testimony from Morris “Red” Thomas. Ross looked on Thomas as especially dangerous for Lucas’s cause, the only witness who tied Lucas into the drug trade and one of the two witnesses, along with Wesley “the Kid” Knox, who identified the Ivor Johnson revolver as Lucas’s gun. For the Crown, linking Lucas to commerce in drugs was, if not crucial to the case, then at least helpful in the extreme. According to the theory Bull and the cops were depending on, Crater was murdered to prevent him from testifying against Gus Saunders in the Saunders trial on drug trafficking charges in Detroit. It made sense to assume that the murderer, assigned to the killing job by Saunders, came from Detroit’s drug culture. Hence, the tighter Bull’s prosecution could fit Lucas into the world of heroin and cocaine, the stronger the case against Lucas grew. All of which made Red Thomas, as well as Kid Knox, key witnesses at the Lucas trial. Thomas was a guy Ross needed to cut down to size. (One irony in the connections of all the Detroit underworld characters was that, even without Crater testifying at the eventual trial of Gus Saunders in June 1962, the jury in the case found him guilty, and the judge thumped Saunders with a hefty sentence of twenty years.)

It was with Ross’s cross-examination of Thomas that he rang up a small success. Ross’s principal business during the Preliminary Hearing was, overall, to absorb the gist of the case Bull intended to make later in much more detail at the trial and, in particular, to take careful note of Bull’s list of witnesses. For the most part, Ross left the Crown witnesses alone throughout the Preliminary, not cross-examining them, just soaking up their answers to Bull’s examinations-in-chief and jotting down the occasional note of the answers. But when Thomas testified and brought up the subject of his supposed heroin-peddling expedition to Chicago with Lucas, Ross chose to take a whack at Thomas’s strength as a witness.
After Bull finished his questions for Thomas, Ross rose, gathered himself and got right into his cross-examination at Thomas’s most vulnerable point of attack. Ross read out in court the man’s spectacular record of criminal convictions, his list of sentences served for such crimes as possession of narcotics, parole violations and pieces of thievery. Ross asked Thomas if he recognized this wicked catalogue of transgressions? And did he think it reflected well on a witness who was asking to be believed in his testimony in court against another man? Thomas got fidgety under the persistence of Ross’s cross-examination. He retreated a little, moderating his testimony around the edges. He finally admitted that maybe he misremembered the Chicago trip, maybe Lucas wasn’t a participant in that particular drug deal after all. Thomas continued to insist that Lucas bought and sold drugs, though not during the time in Chicago. This was more than good enough for Ross. He ended the cross-examination and sat down. With the concession from Thomas, Ross had notched a confidence-lifting success, nothing colossal, but all successes counted for something.

Nobody who knew the stolid-faced Arthur Lucas would ever accuse him of giving in to fits of euphoria, but on the second morning of the preliminary hearing, he seemed unusually happy to see Ross. Lucas said he had very good news. Earlier that morning, he had spotted a familiar face in the corridor outside the prisoners’ cells in City Hall though he had no idea what the man’s name was. Lucas asked a duty guard to identify the guy Lucas pointed at. No problem, the guard said, the man Lucas was indicating happened to be a police sergeant by the name of John Fallis. Lucas told Ross he knew where and when he had seen Fallis before; it was in Wong’s Restaurant on Dundas Street early at breakfast time on November 17, the morning of the murders. Fallis was eating there, and he couldn’t have missed Lucas who was the only black man in the place that morning.

Ross had already pumped the waiter who served Lucas at Wong’s on the November morning, asking if he recalled Lucas ordering breakfast at seven or just after. If anyone could place Lucas in the restaurant around that time, the sighting could provide an alibi for Lucas at the moment of the killings or very close to it. But Ross drew a blank with Wong’s waiter. This waiter, a Chinese man who up until that moment spoke perfect English, seemed suddenly to have forgotten the language.

Now Ross had a second possible alibi witness. He approached Sergeant Fallis and explained his mission on behalf of his client. Ross wanted Fallis to testify for Lucas in court.
“I can’t help you,” Fallis said, giving Ross a dead-eyed look.

 

oss took a shot at making his argument one more time, but Fallis had already turned away. Ross gave in. Fallis wasn’t going to come to the aid of an accused murderer, a man Fallis’s fellow police investigators were all set to convict of the crime. Ross knew it was pointless to subpoena Fallis for an appearance before Magistrate Elmore. Fallis would only claim he couldn’t remember where he had breakfast that morning way back in November. He’d be as useless as the waiter.

The Preliminary Hearing ended on the morning of March 27 in just the way everybody in the courtroom expected it to. Elmore ruled that the case of Regina v Lucas would proceed to the Supreme Court of Ontario. The trial would begin on Monday, April 30, before Chief Justice James McRuer.

As Ross prepared for the trial, interviewing his client at the Don multiple times and in multiple particulars, he grew convinced that Lucas was presenting a totally believable account of himself in relation to the murders, something that could play well in court. Lucas struck Ross as no dummy. Though almost totally uneducated, he had an intuitive kind of intelligence that placed him several rungs above the “moron” category that the American prison psychologist had consigned him to years earlier. There was no hesitancy in Lucas’s recital of his story. Even better, the account Lucas gave Ross deviated not at all from the version he first told the Detroit Police Inspector, Russell McCarty, at the cop shop on Beaubien Street. Lucas wasn’t making the story up as he went along, trimming the narrative to fit new or changing facts. He had one version, and he repeated it exactly the same way each time he was asked to explain what happened at 116 Kendal Avenue.

Ross had his own theory to explain the events of the murder, its motive, execution and all other related factors and elements. There was nothing complicated about the theory, just an accounting that cast Lucas in the tale as an unwitting stalking horse. The theory began in the same place as the Crown’s story of the murders, with Gus Saunders’s need to remove Crater’s potential for testifying against him in the drug dealing case. But, as Ross reasoned things, Saunders had no idea where Crater and his prostitute girl friend were hiding out. The only person Saunders was aware of who stayed in touch with Crater was Arthur Lucas. Saunders cooked up a plot, putting a couple of his gangster heavies on Lucas’s tail when he set off on the drive on November 16 from Detroit to Toronto in Eloise Saunders’s Impala. The heavies hung in back of Lucas, trailing him as he led the way to 116 Kendal. They waited outside the house until Lucas finished his hours of drinking and planning with Crater and Newman, and finally left the apartment. With Lucas out of the way, the heavies went into the Kendal apartment where they stabbed and shot the pair inside. The bloody assignment carried out, they scrammed back to Detroit.

Ross developed an adjunct to his basic theory, an addition to his account of the murders that might be the ultimate persuader of Lucas’s innocence. The way Ross looked at the huge volume of evidence that the cops had gathered in the case, the killer or killers must have been efficient, ruthless and anonymous. But Lucas was none of those, not in relation to these murders. Anonymous? Just the opposite, Lucas was all too visible and identifiable. On the day of Crater’s and Newman’s murders, Lucas plastered his name all over Toronto. He signed it on the Waverley Hotel’s register, on the Waverly’s record of phone calls from the hotel to 116 Kendall Avenue, on another phone call on the same early morning from Kendall Avenue to Lucas’s duplex in Detroit. If he wasn’t making phone calls in his own name, then he was putting in appearances in person, as he did when he paid the thirty cent phone charge for two calls at the Waverley early on the Friday morning. What sort of assassin did these highly visible and traceable transactions make Lucas out to be? Just about the most careless assassin anyone could imagine. The cops were claiming that the actual killing of Crater and Newman, the slicing of their throats, must have been carried out by an expert in the arts of murder, but how could such an adjective as “expert” be applied to a man like Lucas who left clues to his identity strung out everywhere in his wake.

Ross had no independent evidence to support the notion of Lucas as a supremely inefficient villain, no witnesses who could testify from their own knowledge of Lucas as a dunderheaded murderer. But the facts of the case as the Crown put them together indicated by themselves that Lucas was no smoothie in the role of the imagined killer of his two friends.

Ross wasn’t obliged, as counsel for the defence, to present an alternate theory of the murders, but it was straightforward enough for him to offer a different interpretation of the established facts. Overall what Ross intended to do in defending Lucas was to pick whatever holes he could find in the Crown’s case, then put Lucas on the witness stand and steer him through the story that the man had been telling so consistently and persuasively all along. Ultimately, as a final fillip, Ross would argue, weird and perverse as it might sound, that Lucas was too inept to fit the role of accomplished hitman.

The prosecution lavished forty thousand dollars on the case it compiled against Lucas, a sum that would bring a staggering 54 witnesses and 105 exhibits into the courtroom. Compared to this massive operation, Ross ran a stony broke defence. Though he was officially handling Lucas’s case as an agent of the province’s Legal Aid system, Legal Aid was as yet unfunded and provided no backup support in any form. Ross had no source of cash, and he knew he would likely emerge from the case even more destitute than he was when he took it on. Nevertheless he planned his defence on the scale he knew it required, developing ideas for witnesses as if he could actually afford the ideas and the witnesses. This was an approach that inevitably slammed him into disappointment and disillusion.

Typical of Ross’s poverty-stricken defence, his intention to call Paul Brown as a witness collapsed in fiasco. Paul Brown was the Cleveland pimp, a witness who might verify Lucas’s presence in the city on the Friday morning of the murder. Even though the two men never managed to hook up, Paul Brown might at least testify to an arrangement Lucas had made to call on Brown. Ross could make valuable use of Brown, but he had no funds to hire a lawyer or an investigator in Cleveland to locate the man on Ross’s behalf and ask him some questions. For sure, Ross couldn’t afford to drive to Cleveland and spend his own days searching for Brown.

Ross settled for working the long distance phone lines. But locating a black guy named Brown in the fairly populous city of Cleveland? An underworld figure? A pimp? A man who might not care to involve himself in a murder trial in Toronto? Ross realized the whole idea was pretty much preposterous, but he took a crack at getting Brown on the line. In phone calls more hilarious than helpful, Ross hit a bunch of dead ends in his run through the “P. Browns” in the Cleveland phone book. As far as Ross could tell, he never came close to reaching the man in person.
Even more desperate and almost as risible was Ross’s last minute trip to Detroit in search of a few words with any witness who might be available, Wesley “the Kid” Knox for one essential example. The date was Saturday, April 28, two days before the trial opened. Ross drove a car he borrowed from a man named Russ Castle who ran a bootlegging business out of his house on Spruce Avenue in Cabbagetown, a working-class neighbourhood on Toronto’s east side. Castle was a large gregarious guy, a flashy dresser who wore glittery rings and paid his dentist a fortune to insert a diamond in one of his upper front teeth. Castle made booze available at outrageous prices by delivery on any day at any hour. He wasn’t a man normally given to acts of generosity, but he allowed Ross to help himself to the Castle vehicle because Ross was a devoted customer. Castle knew he would earn from Ross’s regular booze purchases more than whatever the cost of lending the car amounted to.
In Detroit, driving through areas of the city where Ross’s was the only white face for blocks, things seemed to be breaking his way. Lucas had supplied him with a Detroit contact, yet another man named Brown, Joe Brown in this case, and Joe Brown followed through by not only keeping his appointment with Ross but leading him to Wesley Knox. The potentially revelatory meeting took place at a bar for a black clientele called the Twenty Grand Club.

Without the need of much analysis, Ross caught on right away to two things about the Kid. One, he was already drunk, and, two, he was in a cheeky frame of mind. Or maybe cheeky was the Kid’s perpetual state of existence. Nevertheless, Ross quizzed him relentlessly on the subject of Knox’s crucial identification of the Ivor Johnson handgun that the cops found below the Burlington Freeway. The Kid swore the gun was identical to the revolver Lucas kept under his mattress. Ross told Knox his memory had holes in it, that Lucas’s gun was actually a snub-nosed revolver with a white handle. Knox wavered a little, but ultimately refused to give up his position. Ross, the Kid and Joe Brown closed the bar that Saturday night and met again Sunday afternoon on Joe Brown’s front porch. The Kid, still drinking, still drunk, stuck cheekily to the same story.
By then, Ross felt sure that Detroit’s black underworld was hanging Lucas out to dry. Whether or not Gus Saunders, the drug kingpin, was still in the picture or not—he probably wasn’t, not after the courts ordered him held on a high-figure bail while he waited for his own trial—it was better all round for Detroit’s drug scene if Lucas took the fall for the murders in Toronto. That left the rest of the city’s dealers to operate in a more relaxed and orderly atmosphere. When Ross speculated along these lines, sitting with Joe Brown on the front porch, Brown confirmed that Ross had correctly nailed the continuing state of Detroit’s drug affairs. Brown told Ross about James Spencer, a man whose name Ross recalled from conversations with Lucas. Spencer was the man who stayed at Delores Chipps’s apartment on the day and night after the Detroit cops arrested Lucas. Spencer told Joe Brown that he saw nothing supposedly left behind by Lucas in Delores’s apartment, no bloody clothes, no handgun, nothing else that might have incriminated Lucas in somebody’s murder. Spencer had that kind of first-hand information, but he made it clear to Joe Brown that he was damned if he was going to testify in some Canadian court about what he knew. He refused even to speak to the white boy lawyer who had come to Detroit looking for witnesses.

Though Ross was enlightened by the information from Joe Brown, he had run short of time to chase after James Spencer. He had to be on his way back to Toronto. He climbed into Russ Castle’s car, and when he arrived at Castle’s Cabbagetown home several hours later, the day had already turned into dark night. The trial of Arthur Lucas would begin in just twelve hours

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Silent in an Evil Time

Silent in an Evil Time

The Brave War of Edith Cavell
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Straight No Chaser

Straight No Chaser

A Crang Mystery
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also available: eBook
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Excerpt

Fenk's face was the color of a Santa Claus suit. His mouth was slack, and his eyes popped in a way that made the irises seem smaller and the white parts larger. He didn't look as bad-tempered in death as in life. He looked scared. The cord must have hurt like hell.
"Oh my God."
"What the matter?" James asked, holding position at the door.
"Nothing that's part of your job," I answered James.
I opened the saxophone case. No strap. I looked back at Fenk. The strap was buried in his neck, the strap that held Dave Goddard's saxophone when he played it.

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Take Five

Take Five

A Crang Mystery
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The Annex

The Annex

The Story of a Toronto Neighbourhood
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The Man Who Ran Faster Than Everyone
Excerpt

The Best Runner in the World

To us, today, the race seems peculiar. It consisted of two fit young men running around the small track at Madison Square Garden in New York City 262 times. This event took place on the night of December 15, 1908, and it involved the two competitors circling the track time after time to cover the marathon distance of 26 miles, 385 yards (42.2 kilometers). With about four laps to go, one of the two – Dorando Pietri of Italy – pitched forward on his face, barely conscious and unable to muster one more step. The other runner, close to exhaustion, struggled on alone over the rest of the distance. When he crossed the finish line, he had been running for 2 hours, 45 minutes, and 5.2 seconds, and he won a prize of $3,750. The victorious runner was Tom Longboat of Canada.

For sports fans of the present, accustomed to quick, busy, high-energy action, more attuned to team games than individual contests, the race at the Garden comes across as the athletic equivalent of watching paint dry. But in the early years of the 20th century, such events as the Tom Longboat-Dorando Pietri race were all the rage. Fourteen thousand roaring spectators packed the Garden to cheer the runners that night, and hundreds more– unable to buy a ticket for the sold-out event – milled in the streets outside, impatient to learn the race’s outcome.

These fans, unlike today’s, preferred man-on-man rivalries to team sports, and they applauded endurance over style. They flocked to thirty-round boxing matches, two-mile single-scull rowing events, and, above all, to long-distance running races. There was a craze in North America for distance running in the years before World War I, and two-man races, like the one on the night of December 15, 1908, were the centerpieces of the sport’s enormous popularity. In the winters, these races were held in indoor arenas and in military armories. In the summers, they switched to large open-air stadiums, two-man competitions at such venues as the Polo Grounds in New York and the Hanlan’s Point Stadium on the Toronto Islands. More conventional distance events figured into the racing mix too; these were usually marathons featuring fields of many competitors running over roads on the outskirts of a city and into the downtown core. Spectators lined the streets and cheered themselves hoarse for the runners, especially for Tom Longboat.

*

In the age of the long-distance runner, Longboat was the greatest of them all. He won more races than any of his contemporaries, and he triumphed at every distance from three miles to the marathon. He seemed almost superhumanly tireless, ready to run any race at any time. In the six weeks after his 1908 victory over Dorando Pietri, he ran two more indoor marathons – one in Buffalo, the other back in Madison Square Garden. Longboat won both, and as if to show how secure he felt about winning, he took a few days off between races to get married and take part in a wedding reception for hundreds of guests at Toronto’s Massey Hall.

Longboat’s running feats made him by far the best-known Canadian abroad during the first two decades of the 20th century and the most popular Canadian at home. His fellow citizens couldn’t get enough of Tom Longboat. On an autumn Saturday in the first year of his growing celebrity, 1907, he set off on an exhibition solo run – who could imagine such a thing today? – that covered 35 miles from the city of Hamilton, east along Lakeshore Road, to the center of Toronto. Nearing the Humber River three-quarters of the way through the run, Longboat developed severe foot blisters and limped into an accompanying automobile. The police were horrified by Longboat’s withdrawal from the run. One hundred thousand of his fans had gathered along the route at the Toronto end, anxious for a glimpse of their hero. The police feared a riot if all that rewarded the people’s wait was a shadowy Longboat in the rear of a Model T. They pleaded with him to return to his run, just for the last mile. Longboat obliged.

It’s difficult to measure such an entity as public adulation, but Longboat was probably as idolized in his time as Wayne Gretzky was in his. Glory and grace touched both men in their different athletic performances, and fans responded to each with equal degrees of helpless admiration. Both men seemed accessible and friendly; nothing stuck-up about Tom or Wayne. And, in a satisfying coincidence, both came from the same part of the world – Gretzky from the town of Brantford in Southern Ontario, and Longboat from the gently rolling countryside immediately to the town’s southeast.

But it isn’t helpful to pursue the Longboat-Gretzky comparison to its limits because one unbridgeable divide separates the two men: Gretzky is white while Longboat was Native. The gently rolling land where Longboat grew up was an Indian reserve, the Six Nations. It was a place where many people lived in drafty shacks, rarely earned a white man’s wage, had bad teeth, and died young. Natives made up Canada’s underclass, Longboat included, and no matter how much adoration the public heaped on him as an athlete, Longboat was never allowed to forget what he was and where he came from.

All he had to do, if he needed reminding, was look in the daily newspapers. Sportswriters routinely identified him by such insulting terms as “the Redskin,” “Heap Big Chief,” and “the Injun.” The Globe once pointed out, with apparently no conscious racial sneer intended, that Longboat possessed only “the light veneer of the white man’s ways.”

*

Longboat was a Native, and it cost him. After his death in 1948, he was quoted by one of his sons as having advised years earlier: “Don’t go into running. There’s no money in it.” Longboat was wrong; there was very good money in running, just not for him. The white men who managed Longboat’s career and promoted his races were mostly well-to-do businessmen before their associations with Longboat, and they were measurably more well-to-do after the associations ended. But the money Longboat earned with his magnificent running never seemed to stick to his own fingers. And after his retirement from racing, the best job he ever found was with Toronto’s City Street Cleaning Department. From 1927 to 1944, Longboat picked up garbage from the streets where his fellow citizens had once cheered him to the skies.

Longboat was never known to express bitterness or regret over his fate, at least not when a reporter with a pencil was around to record his reflections. Longboat left the impression, which was surely true in large part, that the running itself brought him pride and satisfaction. He found joy in running. He loved to run as a boy, and when he became an elderly man, he loved equally to set off on long walking rambles. In his final three years, ill with diabetes and living once more on the Six Nations reserve, he used to hike from his home to the town of Hagersville several times a week, each walk adding up to a round trip of 20 happy miles.

Running was what defined Longboat to himself. He was a good husband and father, a diligent worker, an amiable and gentle man, but most of all, he was a runner. He rejoiced in running, and for a long and significant period when distance running was the king of sports, Tom Longboat was the best runner in the world.

**********

Beginnings

Many years after the fact, Longboat put his finger on the humble event that got his life launched on its course to unexpected fame. This event, Longboat recollected, took place at the beginning of the lacrosse season when he was 17, which would put it in the early spring of 1905. Young Tom, a member of the Onondaga nation, played for the Onondaga team in a Six Nations league. North American Natives had invented the sport of lacrosse centuries before white people arrived.

In the sport’s earliest times, teams made up of dozens – even hundreds – of players competed against one another in games that lasted for days on fields that were six times the size of a modern football field. These games were seen by the North American Natives to have spiritual elements, and were often played as a curing ritual for sick or injured people. White settlers took up their own version of lacrosse, which was streamlined with far fewer players and a much smaller playing area in accordance with rules developed in 1867 by a Montreal dentist named William George Beers. The game became Canada’s most popular team sport, until hockey displaced it, and it was this modern version of lacrosse that was eventually adopted by the Natives in the late 19th century.

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