A Constable Molly Smith Novel
By Vicki Delany
It’s the end of March and Trafalgar, British Columbia, is preparing for the last influx of the seasonal skiers. Teachers, parents, and students are preparing to relax at home or head off on vacation. But for high school English teacher Cathy Lindsay, the week of relaxation doesn’t work out as planned. She’s gunned down by a sniper on a hiking trail, her small dog the only witness.
Cathy Lindsay is an unlikely candidate for a murderous ambush: she was a respected teacher, in an apparently solid marriage to an Internet developer, living a quiet life. Sergeant John Winters, with the help of young Constable Molly Smith, digs into the Lindsay marriage and friendships, searching for a motive, but one thought continually niggles at the back of his mind: is it possible this was not a random killing but a case of mistaken identity?
After writing two standalone novels of suspense I wanted to try my hand at a police procedural series in the British style I most like to read. Small problem: I have absolutely no experience in law enforcement whatsoever. To complicate matters, I live in Canada and my books are set in Canada, yet almost everything we see on TV or read in books is written in the US or the UK. Policing in Canada is very different than in those countries. My main protagonist is not a detective, she is a uniformed constable and it was important to me to get the details right.
So I set about finding out what I didn’t know. I have found police officers to be very helpful. I’ve been on ride-alongs and walk-alongs, to in-service training, to the firearms range. I have officers I can call on if I have questions. And believe me, I have a lot.
I was observing in-service training one day, and the officers were learning high-risk takedowns. I drew upon what I observed for this scene in A Cold White Sun. A woman has been shot by a sniper on a residential street.
Evans gave Smith a nod and they slipped away from the throng, drawing their weapons. Evans held a flashlight. Guns clutched in hands trying not to shake, watching their footing on the thin crust of ice coating the snow, the two officers made their way into the backyard of the closest house. A motion detector light switched on. Ignoring the rain dripping down collars, soaking through pant legs, they crouched in the cover of the building, leap-frogging each other, one moving forward, staying low, the other maintaining guard, using hand signals to communicate.
She pushed all conscious thought to the back of her mind. If the shooter were here, hiding, watching, she’d deal with him. That was all she needed to know. Back in Police College when they did use of force training, the immediate rapid deployment instructor had been a woman by the name of Sergeant Angelina Sullivan. Tough as they came, Sullivan ripped the head off anyone who dared call her Angie. Smith had been surprised to come across Sergeant Sullivan at the mall one evening. Leading a tussle-headed toddler by the hand, pushing a stroller, laughing up at a tall handsome man carrying shopping bags, she looked like a real human being. Smith thought of Sullivan now. Tried to remember everything she’d learned from the woman.
It was all a blur.
She remembered making a mistake, bursting into a room that supposedly contained the shooter, seeing movement to one side, turning toward it, yelling at it, “Get down, get down, get down.” It was a dummy, set up to represent a hostage, while the trainer playing the shooter came up behind her and said, “bang.”
The class laughed as Smith’s face burned with embarrassment.
Get it wrong now and she’d be a lot more than embarrassed.
Smith whipped around the building, gun up, moving from side to side. Dig your corner, dig your corner, Sullivan bellowed at her. All was still. Thank heavens for snow. Unless the shooter could fly, he wasn’t here. The lawn was an unmarked, pristine carpet.
They cleared the yard, moved on to the next house. A garden shed stood in a dark corner against the back fence. The snow here was heavily trampled. Kids probably, out playing. Tracks in and out of the shed. Evans jerked his head toward it.
Smith went first. She stacked right; Evans positioned himself on the left. He gave her a sharp nod. She swallowed and tightened her grip on her Glock. She reached for the door knob. She twisted it, threw the door open and crashed in, gun up in a two-handed grip. Evans followed, swinging the flashlight from side to side, checking out the corners.
Nothing here but rusty garden implements and a jumble of sleds and snow shovels.
They moved from house to house, garden to garden, tension twisting their guts. Dogs barked and the curious peered out kitchen windows. Her radio told her Mounties were sweeping the other side of the street. Every officer who lived within a hundred kilometers was being called in.
Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers. She also writes standalone novels of psychological suspense, and the Constable Molly Smith series set in the Interior of British Columbia. Vicki’s Rapid Reads book, A Winter Kill, was shortlisted for the 2012 Arthur Ellis Award for best novella. Having taken early retirement from her job as a systems analyst in the high-pressure financial world, Vicki enjoys the rural life in bucolic, Prince Edward County, Ontario.
Visit Vicki at www.vickidelany.com, on Twitter @vickidelany and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Vicki.Delany. She blogs about the writing life at One Woman Crime Wave (http://klondikeandtrafalgar.blogspot.com) and check out her books on AMAZON.