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FICTION | Killer on the Kame, Episode 7

PREVIOUSLY IN KILLER ON THE KAME (Stop! If you are new to the story, the best way to catch up is to read previous episodes here.


(Stop! If you are new to the story, the best way to catch up is to read previous episodes here. Spoilers below!)

Out walking her beagle Milo, Emma Brennan comes across a crime scene—a dead body at a construction site in East Lofthill. At home, she tells her husband Matt that it’s the same man who came to their house the day before, selling insulation. Matt remembers the man acting oddly in their basement with a metal detector. On a hunch, Matt takes a sledgehammer to the basement floor and discovers a buried toolbox filled with slender gold bars worth about a million dollars. Detective Sergeant Janice Cleary and Detective Constable Trent Frayne, of the Niagara Constabulary Service, are assigned to investigate the homicide. They determine the victim’s identity: Leonard Bouchard, an ex-con with a history of thefts from construction sites. Cleary and Frayne soon determine that Bouchard had targeted only certain new homes in East Lofthill. They head out to interview Emma and Matt’s next door neighbour, Kim Stephenson, a realtor, who seems to know more than she’s saying. Likewise, when the detectives speak to Emma and Matt, they too appear to be hiding something. On a hunch, Cleary and Frayne drive west into the country to speak with another ex-con, who reveals that shortly before a planned construction site heist a few years back, one of the thieves—Carmine Rizzolo—went missing and hasn’t been seen since. Cleary and Frayne talk to detective who remembers Rizzolo going missing, a presumed suicide. But oddly, his abandoned car was found near where he worked at the time—at an East Lofthill construction site, pouring concrete foundations. Meanwhile, bored at home, realtor Kim Stephenson goes out for a drive and ends up parked near the lake in Port Robinson. On the radio she hears the new hit song by a singer that she used to date. Then her phone dings with a message from the singer—the one-time Queen of Country, Belinda Boone—urgently asking if they could meet that evening. They do, and Belinda says she’s ready to go public with their relationship. Across the border, Emma and Matt take a chance on selling some of their gold at a Buffalo pawn shop—but Matt angrily balks at being lowballed just $200 when the bars are worth closer to $2000 each. Back in Niagara, Detectives Cleary and Frayne go speak to an inmate and longtime friend of the missing Carmine Rizzolo, and learn that shortly before he disappeared he seemed to have come by quite a bit of money. Cleary and Frayne increasingly suspect that Rizzolo’s body may have been dumped in the foundation of an East Fonthill home as it was being built, where he worked. Yet if the two cases are related, why hide Rizzolo’s body yet leave Leonard Bouchard’s out to be found?


Detective-Constable Trent Frayne came into the office carrying two mugs. “Don’t know how you can drink it this way, but here’s your coffee.”

He put one mug down on the desk and walked behind the chair, looking over Detective-Sergeant Janice Cleary’s shoulder.

She glanced at the mug. “We used to get coffee in the dispatch office with sugar and powdered milk—powdered coffee creamer they called it.”

“I’ve heard of it. Comes in flavours now.”

“It was a flavour then, but it wasn’t anything natural. They kept running out so I started drinking it black and now that’s the way I like it.”

Frayne was looking at the computer monitor. “You could get a latte or a mochaccino. Do you need help with this?”

“I like it black,” Cleary said, “and no, I don’t need any help with a Zoom call. I’ve been making them daily for about three years now.”

“I just ask because it looks like they’re waiting for you.”

Cleary turned and followed Frayne’s look to her monitor. She turned back saying, “Make them wait and leave them wanting more.”

“Right.” Frayne moved out of the view of the camera.

A man’s voice came from the screen, “Sergeant Cleary, you’re with us now?”

Cleary moved the coffee mug to the side of the keyboard and unmuted her mic.

“I am.”

Frayne mumbled under his breath. Cleary heard him but didn’t react.

The man nodded. “Great, we can get started. I can do some quick introductions. You all know me, Sergeant Burroughs—call me Dan—I’m the coordinating liaison on this task force.”

Frayne moved to the other side of the desk and sat down surprised Burroughs hadn’t called it a committee and then he realized he was starting to think like Cleary.

He thought that was okay.

There were six or seven people on the video call from three or four different police services—Frayne couldn’t keep them straight. The introductions went on for too long and when it was finally Cleary’s turn Frayne shook his head when she said, “I feel like the babysitter here,” just knowing no one on the call had any sense of humour.

One of the other cops said, “Hi Janice, we worked together on that pickpocket thing, remember? All those casinos. How’s your Mandarin these days?”

Cleary glanced past the monitor and seemed to study a spot on the far wall. “Bù hâo,” she finally said, feeling just slightly relieved that she still had a few crumbs of her limited vocabulary.

With the introductions done and the allotted time for small talk used up, Burroughs gave what Frayne figured had to be a rehearsed speech, talking about how, “Construction site security is a major concern for business owners. Estimates put the cost of construction thefts in Canada at up to one billion dollars last year. While some costly cases of equipment theft can be traced to local thieves, organized crime has also moved onto building sites. Stolen equipment from Canada has wound up halfway across the world.”

Frayne wondered if the bullet points in Burroughs’ memo might be actual bullet-shaped icons—but with or without the casings?

By the time they got through the updates from everyone on the committee-slash-task force—equipment stolen from Thunder Bay to Windsor to Cornwall to Toronto and Hamilton—it was Cleary’s turn, and Frayne had finished his coffee and was getting restless.

Cleary gave a quick run down of the events in Niagara—the discovery of Leonard Bouchard’s body at the Lofthill construction site, his connection to organized crime in Toronto, his being in prison for the last four years, and then she said, “If you’ve had a chance to see my latest notes, we did make a connection between Bouchard and a known associate he worked with in Toronto, Carmine Rizzolo, who disappeared around the time Bouchard went to jail.”

Now Frayne was wondering if Cleary was pushing the Toronto connection to keep their boss, Superintendent Gawley, happy, or if she was buying more time for herself to keep poking around, as she called it.

Frayne was happy either way.

On the call Burroughs said he had seen the notes and was pleased to get the new name of Rizzolo, someone they hadn’t previously identified as being involved in the theft of heavy equipment.

He leaned a little closer to his camera. “We’ve correlated that information into the known associates file—that’s been distributed this morning so everyone should have a copy. There were a few other additions so I strongly recommend reading it closely.”

Frayne thought Burroughs sounded like a high school teacher reminding kids to do their homework.

Was that...oatmeal cookies?

Frayne sniffed. In the corridor a group of elderly women wearing face masks walked past, carrying white paper sacks. What the.

Cleary said goodbye and moved the mouse a bit. Frayne got up and came around the desk. The screen returned to Cleary’s email.

“They didn’t seem very interested in our murder.”

“It’s got a place in the file now,” Cleary said. “Everybody’s happy.”

“But we’re not happy.”

“We’re not entirely happy,” Cleary said, “but we are also not entirely unhappy. We would still like to know who killed this guy in our backyard.”

She clicked on an email and opened the attached file that Burroughs had mentioned.

Frayne whistled through his teeth.

“A hundred and sixty pages?”

Cleary ran a search on the name Rizzolo. Then she found something new.

“Look at that. Our Peninsula Detention Centre friend Michael DeLuca failed to mention that there was another guy in their gang.”

“Huh. Couple of charges,” Frayne said, “did a little time in Joyceville, just like Bouchard.”

“Looks like some of that time overlapped. Let’s go talk to—,” she squinted at the screen, “—Steven Rossi.”

A quick search got an address in Niagara Falls and a quick call to his probation officer got them a construction site on McLeod Road—where Steven Rossi was working for a company called Martintino Homes.

“Houses going in everywhere,” Cleary said. “Remember when every Italian home builder called their company something like Royal Oak or Majestic Homes?”

Frayne pursed his lips. “Before my time.”

“This way is better,” Cleary said.


The pulsing red artery displayed on Frayne’s navigation app told them to avoid the QEW, so he went through Thorold, took the tunnel and drove past the paintball set-up that tried to look like real military training, and then past the cricket grounds.

“The Falls coming way out here,” he said.

Cleary nodded. “You see what they’re doing with the Greenbelt. It’ll be one big city soon, dictated from above. Every acre paved.”

They approached a billboard featuring a photo of a young, bi-racial family standing in front of a townhome—a “Woods of St. Francis” townhome—giant headlines tastefully screaming that while Phase 1 was SOLD OUT, Phase 2 was STARTING IN THE MID-$600s. They pulled through the gate and started down a dirt road. Dozens of houses under construction spread out in all directions, work trucks parked in front, roller doors up.

Frayne found the foreman’s ATCO trailer and parked as close as he could, saying, “Might get some mud on your shoes.”

“Do you want to take the lead on this?”

Frayne was surprised but tried not to show his pleasure. “Okay. If you want.”

The foreman was at his desk talking on the phone. He put a hand over the receiver and said, “No solicitors.”

Frayne held up his ID and badge.

“We’re not selling anything.”

The foreman looked at the ID then glanced from Frayne to Cleary. “I’ll call you back.”

He hung up. The coiled handset cable had looped back on itself so many times that it was a glob of writhing plastic that continued contracting as the foreman pushed back from the desk.

“Could I see that again?”

The foreman squinted as Frayne held out his ID.

“’Trent Frayne’? Really?”

Frayne snapped the holder shut. “Yeah. My father was a fan.”

The foreman snorted. “Guess so. Anyway, I thought they were keeping it between themselves. Which one called you?”

Frayne cocked his head just slightly.

“Which one do you think?”

“I don’t know, they’re both pains in the ass. I really thought they worked it out, no harm no foul.” The foreman thought for a moment and said, “Well, equal harm, anyway.”

He perched on the corner of the desk.

“A fight with no winner,” said Frayne.

“And no loser.”

This seemed an important point to the foreman, who repeated, “No loser.”

“We’re not here about that,” Frayne said. “We’re looking for Steven Rossi.”

“Why didn’t you say so?”

“I’m saying so now. Where is he?”

“I only know where he’s supposed to be, I have no idea where he is.”

Frayne smiled. “Can you call him, get him to come here?”

The foreman leaned back and wrestled with the lump of coiled cable, picking up the receiver again. “What’s this about?”

“Nothing to do with this site,” Frayne said. “Just something he might be able to assist us with.”

The guy shrugged. “Good luck getting any help from Stevie.”

As the foreman dialed, Frayne glanced at a folded newspaper on his desk, open to a page showing a photo of country singer Belinda Boone in a doorway with someone. He turned his head to get a better look. It was another woman. They were...kissing? And the other one, he could only see half her face but somehow she looked familiar.

The foreman connected. “Hey, Rossi, my office now.” He listened for a moment. “Yeah, right now.” He hung up and looked at Frayne, ignoring Cleary. “Be here in five.”

Frayne nodded. “Thanks for your help.”

They stepped back outside. Cleary hugged herself against the cold. “Times like this I wish I still smoked.”

“How long since you quit?”

“I quit every New Years.”

“So only a month left to go. Looks like you’re going to make the whole year this time.”

“I think that every year. You never started?”

“Cigars for celebrations.”

“Going to hand some out when you have kids?”

Frayne looked out at the job site. “We’re not planning to have kids.”

“Your wife is okay with that?”

“She’s the one who doesn’t want them.”

Cleary tightened her jacket. “Well, you’re still young.”

A table saw revved up down the street and whined as someone fed it plywood.

Dust preceded the pickup truck that turned the corner and rumbled up to them, the passenger door swinging open before the vehicle stopped. The man who got out walked toward the trailer and Frayne said, “Steve Rossi?”

“Who wants to know.”

The pickup drove off. Rossi had the face of a bulldog, with a jacked torso to match, but he was short, real short, and Cleary instantly saw that he’d spent his life trying to convince the world otherwise. She shook her head. What was this—The Little People Gang? First Rizzolo at around five feet and now this tater tot. Give us your bulldozers or we’ll bite your ankles.

Frayne held up his ID. “Who do you think wants to know?”

“Is this about that stupid fight?”

“No, but I am getting curious about that.”

“It was nothing.”

“So everybody says.”

Rossi pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit one. “So what do you want?”

“When was the last time you saw Carmine Rizzolo?”

“You find his body?”

“How come everyone is so sure he’s dead?”

Frayne could tell Cleary was watching Rossi closely.

Rossi shrugged, blew out a stream of smoke. “I don’t think he was smart enough to fake his own death.”

“Why would he want to fake his own death?”

“You tell me.”

“When was the last time you saw Leonard Bouchard?”

“Never heard of him.”

“You were two cells away from him at Joyceville. You never talked to him in the yard?”

“If I did I never knew his name.”

Frayne took a step towards Rossi. “We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t already know you pulled jobs together. When was the last time you saw him?”

Rossi shrugged. “You just said he was in prison. I didn’t visit him.”

Frayne glanced at Cleary to see if she was buying it, that Rossi didn’t know Bouchard was out of prison and a dead man on a construction site ten miles west, but her face was unreadable.

“What about Michael DeLuca?”

“He’s in jail, isn’t he?”

Frayne nodded. “All your old friends are dead or in prison.”

“None of those guys were my friends.”

This time Frayne was sure Rossi knew which ones were in prison and which ones were dead.

“Did you get together with Leonard Bouchard when he came down to Niagara a few weeks ago?”

Rossi shook his head, took a drag on his smoke. “I told you, I don’t know who that is, bro.”

“Well, his body turned up last month on a construction site.”

“If you say so.”

The trailer door rattled as the foreman came out, crossing over to the three of them. Down the street a truck backup alarm beeped steadily, then stopped.

“Rossi, go to the office, pick up the envelope for Margaret and take it back to her.”

“I didn’t bring the truck,” Rossi said. “Albert took it.”

“Take your car.”

“You giving me mileage?”

“Get going.”

The trailer door slammed behind the foreman.

Rossi flicked his cigarette butt to the ground and watched it burn for a couple of seconds.

“You heard the man, I gotta run.”

“Don’t go far,” Frayne said. “We might have a few more questions.”

Rossi gave a little wave as he walked past the trailer to where a few cars were parked. He got into a two-door Fiat 500 and drove off, spraying gravel.

Cleary cleared her throat. “That’s quite a small car, isn’t it?”

“It sure is,” Frayne said. “With a hatchback.”


Matt was putting on his coat.

“You don’t have to come with me.”

Emma looked at him. “What?”

“I can do this myself if you want.”

“Meet some guy you found on the internet alone? I’m coming.”

Matt shrugged and sighed but didn’t say anything more.

He had spent the better part of the previous twenty-four hours on TOR, on the Dark Web, searching and clicking on one dodgy page after another, winnowing out the obvious scammers, the scarily Balkan, to arrive at a very short list of probably safe-ish Niagara buyers of gold, gems, jewelry, and other such valuables with no questions asked and provenance definitely not desired.

Low cumulus clouds scudded east as Matt turned onto 20 and headed in the same direction.

Emma adjusted her sun visor. “Where are we meeting this guy?”

“Parking Lot C.”

They rode mostly in silence. Emma liked the drive. Highway 20 wasn’t exactly a backroad but it wasn’t somewhere any of her friends from Toronto would have been.

A private jet crossed low, the flashing strobe on its belly bright against the blue sky, headed north on descent into Niagara-on-the-Lake, landing gear just starting to drop, the plane noiseless from inside the Mini. Emma was a nervous flyer, but watching as the plane disappeared on the other side of trees and townhouses she thought that she’d be just fine flying private.

Matt had his phone in the little holder on the dash and was following the directions, turning finally into the parking lot.

Emma scanned the cars. “How do we find him?”

“He’s driving a BMW.”

“Oh, wow, it’s not that gold one is it?” She laughed as she pointed.

“Emma!” Matt yelled.

“Hey, calm down.”

“This isn’t a joke.”

“I know.”

Matt grimaced. Then he saw the car. “There, the black one.”

“Why didn’t you say that, why didn’t you say a black BMW?”

The closer they got the louder the music. With a start Emma realized it was the same rap song, the one her nephew liked, that they’d heard in Buffalo at the pawn shop.

Matt pulled up beside the BMW but facing the same way, so Emma was closest to the driver. She buzzed down her window. The music cut abruptly.

Matt leaned down to be able to see across Emma and said, “Are you, uh, Mr. Five?”

The driver was alone, a darker Asian guy in his late twenties, maybe early thirties, and he looked amused. “Do you want to turn around?”

Annoyed, Matt said, “No this is okay.”

The guy shrugged and smiled at Emma. “Okay then. And it’s just Five.”

She didn’t want to smile back, she wanted to be tough and mysterious and dangerous, but the guy—maybe Filipino?— seemed so ordinary and friendly. And very thin, despite the tailored suit.

He clicked off a vape pen and put it on the dash. “Can I see a sample?”

In an irked tone, Matt said, “Oh, right, here.” He reached inside his jacket and pulled out one of the gold bars, holding it up.

“I need to see it close.”

Emma took it from Matt and turned to Five. She couldn’t help it, she smiled. He reached out with left hand and took the bar. Emma couldn’t see his right hand, which stayed hidden at his side. His movements were smooth, like his face, thought Emma, who felt her own face flush. He was feline—a skinny, caramel kitty.

“Yo. Good quality Canadian.”

Matt nodded. “I told you.”

“That is truth,” Five said. “Okay, I can go fifteen hundred. Cash.”

“What if I had more?”

“Same deal.”

“Even if I had a lot more.”

“As many as you’ve got, man, I can take.” God, even his voice was a purr.

Across the street an ambulance siren yelped twice, three times, probably going through an intersection.

“Okay,” Matt said.

Five counted out fifteen one-hundred-dollar bills and handed them to Emma.



Matt leaned over again and tried to make eye contact with the guy. “I’ll be in touch.”

“Like I said, man, anytime.” Five smiled at Emma and she didn’t even try to look mysterious, she just smiled back.


Known as Bao Nguyen to numerous Ontario and Quebec police services, but Five to friends and enemies alike, the guy watched the Mini drive away and shook his head. Slender, yes, but all muscle. And feline? Try alley cat. He let the Glock settle into the centre console, clicked the vape pen, and considered his options.

Bau was the only son of an African-Cuban mother and Vietnamese father. His parents met while his father was on a trade mission to Havana, the capital of the Republic of Cuba, from Hanoi, the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam—and he decided to stay. A few years later, the Cuban economy tanking, Bau’s parents paid a smuggler their entire savings for passage to Toronto via Belize. The family was granted asylum inside eight months. Bau was six.

By his teens Bao was an accomplished pickpocket, his fingers featherlight and lightning quick. With his almond eyes and high cheekbones, it didn’t take long for the comparisons to a famous Vietnamese-Black American golfer to start coming. As a nickname, “Tiger” was too on the nose, so he was christened “Stripes” instead. He came upon his final nickname the time-honoured gangland way—through violence judged excessively brutal even by his associates.

One day he and two other gang members broke into a Brampton bungalow where, it was said, a gray-haired geezer kept tens of thousands of dollars in his basement, packed tight into old coffee cans. They hadn’t found the cash before the old man came home and found them, which is when the universe decided to go ironic on all their asses. Stripes saw the clubs sticking out of a cracked leather golf bag, yanked one at random, and proceeded to clear a path through the man back to the basement stairs and out of the house. The old man died three days later. Bau “Stripes” Nguyen kept the golf club. A five-iron. From then on he was just “Five,” and for years the blood left from one encounter would barely dry on Five’s five before a fresh coat was added. These days he preferred the Glock, although the golf club was always in the trunk—for special occasions. And now he was suddenly feeling the urge to tee-up.

He exhaled strawberry-flavoured mist, boosted the car’s heater against the afternoon chill, pulled a phone from his jacket pocket, swiped down, and found the name.

“Yo Tino, how you doing.” He listened for a moment and then said, “I got some news. You remember your boy, what’s-his-name, the elf? Just before he disappeared there was that rumour he pulled a B&E? Came out of it with a shit-ton of gold bars?”

Five still had the bar in his hand, turning it over.

“Yeah, Rizzolo, that’s him. Well, looks like he really did it. I know nobody believed him, but it’s possible.”

Five looked at the stamp on the bar.

“I’m point nine nine nine certain somebody found them. Casper the ghost. You wouldn’t believe how white this dude is.”

With a quick jerk he cracked his neck.

“I offered cash, but now I’m thinking, yo, we should just go take them. These two. They won’t be a problem.”

He took a drag on the vape pen.

“That Service Ontario guy, you still tight?”

Five smiled, a different smile than he’d given the redhead.

“It’s a Mini, Ontario TEKO 618. Text me the address.”

More strawberry mist filled the car.


Episode 7 of 10. Continued next week.