Remember I told you there was a surprise just around the corner? Well, I had run for about ten minutes when I heard his familiar voice come up behind me. I almost tripped up in my haste to fling myself at him. “Hey Char, long time no see.”
Coming up alongside was my brother Ron. “Oh My God! Ronnie!” I screamed and launched myself into his arms. Was this part of my illusion or was this real?
Laughing he hugged me close. After a few moments he stepped back still holding my shoulders. “God, you’re a sight for sore eyes! Where have you been? Do you know how worried I’ve been? How come you haven’t called me?”
He shook me roughly. Yep, this was real, only a brother got away with that move. Grinning at him, my mind looped madly. I tried to answer but found nothing coming. The shock of his sudden appearance disconcerted me.
My mind settled and when it did it was suspicious. It looped back and replayed his questions. 'Where did you come from Ron? How are you here?' His manner seemed intense and anxious. 'Strange.'
Slowly I stepped back, disengaging mentally and physically from him. “What do you mean? I do call regularly. Is everyone alright? Why are you so worried? How did you find me?” I asked.
Ron’s expression shifted, his eyes taking on a more cautious look. 'Hunh, what's that about? What are you hiding?' I felt a deep wariness, then asked unbelieving, “Are you the one following me?”
Ron quickly realized he had blown it and gone about their meeting completely wrong. He had let his emotions get the better of him. “No, no, everyone’s good. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t believe it was you when I saw you. No, I’m here on a job that’s all. But
I’ve left messages with the family for you. They didn’t know where you were, and you never returned my calls,” he answered gently. “Oh. Yeah. Sorry about that. I’m not really sure where I’ll be from one day to the next. I did mean to call at some point.”
“Well, it’s been way too long Sis. You can’t just drop out of sight like that. We’re all worried about you. Your army doctor, Dr. Ford? He’s very concerned about you. You need to call him so he can update his file regarding your VA benefits. If it’s not too late.”
I considered him. Ron was watching me closely and seemed to be on high alert. I had never discussed what had happened to me with anyone in the family. Yet he seemed very familiar with Dr. Ford.
So why would that asshole doctor want to know anything about me now, when he was zero interested before? Well, Ron was the contact number on my file, so that might be all it was. Did Dr. Ford tell him about me? Does Ron know what happened? Maybe.
But there was something else going on here. “Huh. So, everyone ‘s O.K. Is there something else I should know? We never could lie to each other, so what’s really going on? You must’ve been following me. No way you just accidentally bumped into me.”
It would be such a relief if my stalker was Ron all along. Ron laughed, holding up his hands in surrender, “Alright, alright, you got me. We’ve got a lot to talk about. Let’s go somewhere and sit, O.K?”
"Sure, I saw a picnic table a ways back.” We turned, bumping shoulders, happy to just be together. I was still suspicious and nervous but I would give him the benefit of the doubt. My
heart was busy doing a little jig of happiness. No matter what, I hadn’t seen anyone from the family for years and I was full of love and gratefulness. Ron reminded himself to proceed carefully. “How have you been feeling?”
“Good, good, my health is excellent. You left the Army too, eh?” “Yeah, I got out a few years back. I’m working for a company in Vancouver. They got me on assignment here for now. I got pretty sick of the Army.” He shook his head.
“Yeah, you’re talking to the converted here.” I chuckled, remembering some of our past conversations. “I guess we were never meant to be heroes after all, eh?” “Nope. Guess not. They got enough of me though. It was just time. You intending to stay
here or just travelling through?” he asked. I shrugged, “I’m working for now, taking some time to think about my future. I’ve met some great people along the way.”
Ron smiled, “Well don’t forget you have lots of family too, and we all miss you a hell of a lot. You’ve got to come back home sometimes right?” “I know and I will. For now I just need time to work out a situation. When the time’s right I’ll come back, I promise.”
We reached the picnic table overlooking the Falls and sat. The scene was pleasant and I felt a sense of peace settle over me. This was good. I could savor the moment.
Of course my squirrely thoughts soon took over. 'So, what’s really troubling you? It would be a relief if it was you following me. Damn, if it’s not you, then who is it?'
Ron felt tired and strained. It was so good to just sit beside Char knowing she was safe. 'I’m going to have to just come out and tell her everything. I don’t believe she’s guilty. But I’ll have to lay it all out for her, or she won’t believe me. Well, here goes.'
“Char, I do need to tell you something. Dr. Ford told me what happened to you in Kandahar. Only Dennis and I know. Both of us are really, really sorry we weren’t there for you when you came home on leave."
Ron put his arm around my shoulders. I leaned into him, “No worries, I could’ve called you. It’s just something I needed to work out on my own, you know?” He squeezed me gently.
“Yeah, I get that. Are you truly feeling better about everything now? The doc said you might have suffered some TBI symptoms.” I snorted. Sometimes I’m not very ladylike. “Sheesh! So much for confidentiality, eh? You do know he was probably
the worst doctor ever right? A real incompetent. All he wanted to do was give me pills so I would shut up. Then he wanted me to sign this Agreement that would have effectively negated any charges I made against my attacker. When I wouldn’t do that I was ordered to take an R&R.
Believe me that guy didn’t do me any favors! But yes, in spite of all that, I do feel better. Truly, you don’t have to worry about me, O.K.? Is that why you’ve been looking for me?” He nodded solemnly, “It’s definitely one of the reasons. The whole family is worried about you.”
I leaned forward putting my elbows on the picnic table, “I really am sorry about that. I miss everyone too. It’s just not time for me to come home yet. But what’s the other reason?” “Still can read me like a book, eh? Well, get ready. You’re definitely not going to like this.
First of all, I need to know if you’ve seen anything of your CO Major Bergman since you left the Army?” I started in surprise, “Wow, really!? Why would you ask that?” How much did Ron know anyways?
“Honestly, I hope I never see that asshole again, believe me!” Ron nodded, “Yeah. But do you know that the Major went AWOL the day you left the base in Kandahar?”
'Oh Crap, that's not good. Not good at all. Has he been on my trail all this time then? I should have killed him.' I shrugged, trying not to look as deeply shocked as I felt. “No, I didn’t know that. But how does that involve me? He sure didn’t come with me!”
“We, Dennis and I, have reason to believe he’s stalking you. We’ve been looking for you. Myself for a few years now, but with more intention over the past year.”
'What the hell? They had been looking for me all this time? Why? What was going on?' “Why did you want to do that?” I asked alarmed.
Ron frowned, watching me. “I was arrested in Vancouver, for a murder, around the same time you disappeared. The MO was scary similar to what mine might have been. In fact, what both of ours might be, if either of us were the perpetrator.”
He looked at me intently. I gave him back a look with little expression.' You never could read my bluff face big guy.' He continued, “I looked for you in B.C. and Alberta. I finally found you using the name Claire Adams in Edmonton.
Is there a reason you are using a different name? Are you hiding from the Major? Please, tell me what’s going on with you. I need to know why you went underground," he pleaded.
I tried to answer calmly. “Hiding yes. But I didn’t know who from. The Major really went AWOL the same day I left?” Ron nodded.
“Wow, like he’s dedicated Army you know? And why were you arrested? How could anyone think you would murder anyone? Jesus! What exactly was the MO anyways?” I was confused. 'A murder in Vancouver?? When? I didn't
even stop in Vancouver. What would that have to do with me, or even the Major?’ “The MO was a single stiletto slash to the heart, no bruises, no robbery, no other disturbance to the victims.”
The description sent a shiver through my heart. “Oh. My. God. That bastard and I practiced throwing together lots of times. He knows exactly how I throw. Bloody psycho! Why is he trying to set me up? Is he thinking he can finish the job or something?"
I guess my demon, Rage, didn’t really go too far because now I was channeling him big time. “I don’t know the Major’s mind Char. I do know there were other assault charges made against him while he was in the Army. According to his Doctor he has a serious mental health
background. It is possible that he’s suffered a psychotic break. There’s been at least three murders with that same MO that we know of since he went AWOL. The time frames may align with your travels.
We know at least one of the men has a direct connection to you.” 'Oh boy, she’s going to be pissed when I tell her there’s a BOLO out for her!' Ron thought as he watched her process the information.
I barely heard him because I was still fuming. “No way! No bloody way! That bastard. I should have killed him when I had the chance!” Ron sat up straight and said firmly, “Get hold of yourself Char. Listen to me. He has been tracking you. We know
this because he followed you out of Edmonton. We have a video of him and his Jeep. He filled up at the same gas station you did in Saskatoon. He asked about you there.”
Finally my mind calmed down and I was able to think more rationally. 'That psycho went AWOL the day I left? He’s an excellent soldier, and one of the best trackers the Army has. Could he have been there in Prince George? It would fit, I’ve felt
someone watching me since I was on the farm. It was a different MO though on the guy in PG. Still, he’s totally capable of slitting someone’s throat. I’ll have to come clean about Edmonton. But why would he kill Randy Gagnon? And the
same MO on which others? Maybe I’m not crazy. Do they know about the murder in Prince George? I can trust Ron and Dennis. Obviously they already know how I’m connected to Randy. But who else is he talking about? Why Vancouver?'
“Who is the Major suspected of killing?” Ron laid it all on the table.
“All the victims have the same MO. The Major could be the perp if he’s been following you. A thirty-seven year old guy named Dev Singh was murdered October 11th, 2012, in Vancouver. He was found near No. 5 Orange, a club on
Main Street downtown. He’s the one I was picked up for. Then, a twenty-seven year old hiker named Scott Ardrie was found in Banff National Park, near the Bow Summit Lookout. The coroner estimated his time of death around June 8th or 9th, 2013.
Lastly, Randy Gagnon, in Calgary August 20th, 2014. He’s the one you’re connected to.” I could tell Ron thought I was keeping something back from him.
“You and I know there’s very few who could make that kind of strike,” he said, giving me time. I nodded, sorting out my time line of travel from Prince George to Edmonton after I’d left the farm.
“O.K. The time line would be right. I spent a few weeks travelling after Labour Day weekend. I camped for a few weeks at a river campsite in Lillooet. I’ll tell you about my fishing trip with River Monster Adventures another time, but that was on the 9th of October.
I would have passed Vancouver on the 11th. I don’t know a Dev Singh. I didn’t go to downtown Vancouver. From Squamish, I drove right through West Vancouver, over Second Narrows Bridge and onto the Trans Canada Hwy.
I stayed overnight in Chilliwack. If the Major was on my tail then, he might have gone into Vancouver.” I thought a bit more and the wild night of dancing in Whistler flashed through my mind.
"Wait, there was a guy at a nightclub in Whistler. I think his name was Dev. He was trying to push drinks on me. He would have been about that age. I remember I had to sneak out of the club to avoid him. It could be him. I remember linking him to some scent memories from A-stan."
I tried to rebuild my life around the next timeline. June of 2013 I remembered doing lots of hiking in Banff National Park. But the name he had mentioned wasn’t at all familiar. “The second guy. Scott? I don’t know him at all. But I've
hiked Banff National Park extensively. I could have talked to him at any time during one of those hikes. Definitely I explored the trails to Peyto Lake and the Bow Summit Lookout a few times. The dates would be right for hiking in that area. Again I
could have been trailed there easily enough. There are always lots of hikers in the Park. You obviously know my connection to Randy Gagnon. He skipped on his parole. He was on our apprehension list
from the Edmonton Sheriff’s Department. Our team was sent to pick him up in Calgary. Before we could get to him though, he was murdered. That date works too.”
Suddenly I realized something and stopped talking. I put my head in my hands and said, “This doesn’t look very good does it? I’m a suspect too aren’t I?” Ron looked at me solemnly and nodded.
“That bastard! If he’s been following me since I left the Army, then I’ve got to tell you that I caught him when he stalked me to my RV site in Edmonton. And no, at the time I didn’t know he had gone AWOL. I knocked him out and left
him bound and gagged before getting the hell out of there.” I remembered now how that had seemed a little too easy once I knew it was him. This guy was one of the Army’s best, so how did I get the drop on him unless he let me? Had
he set me up? Why would he want me to know he was my stalker? It didn’t make sense. “It didn’t even occur to me that he might be tracking me. I thought he had just found me by chance knowing that I had trained in Wainwright and Edmonton.
There’s also another murder you should know about from Prince George. A forty-eight year old man named Ralph Walker.
I think I stumbled onto his murder scene seconds after it happened.” I stopped talking. Ron was listening but now he didn’t seem as serious as he had before I started talking. 'Interesting, he hasn’t judged me. Yet.'
“Whoa! What do you mean you ‘think’ you stumbled on a murder scene?” he asked. I shook my head in disgust. “I had an anxiety attack one day while driving Mark’s Coupe to PG. I was sleeping it off in the car, which was hidden by trees, near where it went down.
You know that pull off on top of General Hill? That’s where it happened. Sounds of an assault woke me up. At first I thought I was having a flashback to my own attack, but the next thing I knew I was standing over this big guy with my knife in my hand.
He was bleeding out. His throat was slashed. But my knife was clean, and there was no blood on me. I honestly can’t remember getting from my car to him.
A native woman was screaming and pulling up her pants. Her blouse was torn and she was bloody and bruised. She ran off before I could talk to her. I think maybe I experienced a brain fugue.”
Feeling dampness on my face I was surprised to find tears were streaming down my cheeks. “Is that why you ran? You thought you might have killed him?” Ron asked, wrapping his arms around me.
I nodded wiping at my face. “That, and I kept thinking I was being watched. I wasn’t sure if I was suffering PTSD or TBI or something. I had to leave. I didn’t want to bring any complications to the family.”
Ron rocked me as I leaned into his shoulder. “No, Sis, it isn’t you. I’m positive it isn’t you.” His faith choked me up. “I can’t remember though. What if it is me?”
“I don't believe it. You wouldn’t look as healthy as you do now, or be as rational as this, if your mind was deteriorating. Deep down I don’t think you believe that either, do you?”
Something inside me settled. “No, I don’t, I really don’t. Sometimes though I can almost see the murders happening. What’s that about then?”
Ron shrugged unhappily. “We were soldiers, Sis. All of us have a bit of PTSD when we leave that scene. There’s not much our minds didn’t see and can still create vivid memories of. I don’t think a lifetime will be enough to erase what we've witnessed.”
I nodded. It made sense. Many soldiers can recreate a life and death situation in minute detail years later. “Yeah, I guess so. If it is the Major, then he’s been on my heels the whole time. I thought living off the grid would make me invisible. I guess I didn’t do a very good job of evading him.”
Ron shrugged, “I don’t know about that. According to my army contacts, he’s probably the best tracker they’ve ever seen. Also his knife skills are exceptional. So far he’s evaded me, the VPD, the RCMP, the Military Police and the OPD.”
We laughed. The Major was that good but neither of us doubted we would catch him. “What’s amazing is that you actually were able to get the jump on him. But we’re this close to catching him.”
The Major’s Jeep surfaced again in the Rideau-Vanier area. Game on. I grinned when Ron told me. “Oh, he’s close. Very close. Honestly, I can almost see him in my head. I think my demon must be speaking with his demons. I swear I can feel his
desperation, smell him sweating. He hasn’t found me yet. Don’t be too hard on yourself. At least you managed to find me.” Ron guffawed, relieved now that I was taking this so well, and the tears had stopped flowing.
"Believe me it was damned hard. I didn’t have your name or your vehicle. It helped when I got a look at you on the gas station video. Nice hair by the way, though I prefer red. Your rig though, I might have to take a look at it.”
I laughed. “Oh no you don’t. I know all about your obsession. It runs good just the way it is!” Hearing him tease me and saying that he trusted in my innocence lifted the shadow I had carried for so long.
My conviction was now absolute. I was not the killer. Goodbye doubt. “So what are you not telling me?” I asked again. “Well, there is a little matter we have to take care of. You
have a BOLO out on you. Ever since you left Edmonton,” he replied with a glint in his eye. “What?! You did not!” I cried. 'Oh my God, Jake and the team! They'll be going nuts. I have to phone him asap.'
“Yep, we did. But, don’t worry, now I’ve found you Dennis will get it removed,” he said laughing. I glared at him. “You’d better! You do know I worked at the Sheriff’s Office in Edmonton right? Christ, they must all think I’m a criminal now.”
“No, Dennis assured your friend, Deputy Jake, that you would explain it to him as soon as you could,” he replied still chuckling. I shoved his shoulder, “It’s not a joke! And how did you find me anyways, you haven’t answered that question yet!”
Ron was still unable to stop laughing. “Deputy Jake!! I know. I know. Anyways, knowing how you loved riding, I cased every Riding Stable and ranch until I found you at Queenswood Stables.
Todd, your not-so-secret admirer, answered the phone. He was a great help. I described you to him and assured him I really was your brother. He thinks you’re a walking wet dream and intends to marry you.”
I giggled, “Yeah, that’s Todd, he’s a pest but very sweet. Fourteen and hormone rodeo all the way. He’s my helper from the second he gets home from school to bedtime. Really loves the horses. He reminds me of us when we were younger.”
Ron nodded, “Good memories.” “So, how are we going to catch the Major?” I asked seriously, after a long silence. “I have a line on him. At least we know where he’s hanging out. Once I locate him we might need your help to set a trap.
We’re coordinating with the RCMP and OPD on this too. There’s no solid evidence on him. His kills are clean. We have to catch him with the actual weapon and, or, in the act. It’s going to be hard to nail him, but we will.”
“You can count me in. Believe me, he’s super good and a wily SOB. He was my CO for four years, there’s not much I don’t know about how he operates. You’ll have to nail him in the act. He’s trained to beat any lie detector test you give him.
He managed to beat all the charges brought against him in the Army. Not just mine, but others as well. I think he’s a true psychopath.” “Yeah, I think the doctors agree with you there. Let’s head out, I can do with something to eat
with my new friend Bonnie,” Ron said, wiggling his eyebrows. “Hey, I kind of like that name, but I guess I can go back to being Char King.” “When this is over. Yes, please!” he begged.