The heat hit Detective Bernadette Callahan as she stepped out of her RCMP Jeep. The sun’s rays made her skin itch, the hot air grabbed the back of her throat. A rivulet of sweat began its way down her chest. Her bra would be soaked in minutes. She hated that.
She walked towards the crime scene—an old house frequented by drug dealers. The oppressive heat wasn’t stopping the dealers from killing each other. She took a drink of her water bottle. It had been filled with ice a half hour ago but was turning tepid already.
Yellow police tape wafted in the hot breeze. An officer at the door shifted uncomfortably as the wind blew in his direction. He was young and tall with rippled muscles in places where most men didn’t know there were places.
He looked up at Bernadette. “Hey, Detective, looks like I won the heat wave pool—it’s been fifty-eight days above 35C.”
Bernadette smiled. “Yeah, Stewart, you won. Hope that gives you enough for some cold beer.” She stood beside him at the doorway. The heat from inside the house was worse than outside. The smell of decomposing bodies hit a gag reflex in the back of her throat.
Constable Stewart saw her discomfort. “There’s no need to go in. The CSIs have been here for the past hour, they’ve taken all the pictures. A pretty clear gang hit. All the victims are known, long lists on their rap sheets... but if you still want to check it out...”
Bernadette paused for a moment, and then donned a pair of gloves. She walked in, took a quick look around and nodded at the CSI team. They looked in pain. It was 37 Celsius outside; it must have been high forties inside.
When the bile in her stomach started to move upward, she knew she’d had enough. She backed out of the room, avoiding the knowing look of Constable Stewart.
“Yeah, you’re right. Pretty straightforward,” Callahan said. “I’ll catch the photos and report at the detachment. She walked straight to her Jeep, started it and hit the A/C on high.
The stench of death started to clear from her nostrils. The bile receded in her stomach as she sucked in cool air. She sipped some water. She looked down at her bra. She cursed, “Damn it, soaked again.”
Her phone rang, it was Chief of Detectives Jerry Durham, “I need you back here,” he said when she answered. He was always direct. He was a good guy to work with—but direct.
The RCMP Detachment was only minutes away in the small city of Red Deer, Alberta in western Canada. The city was on a flat prairie in sight of the Rocky Mountains with over one hundred thousand people, but there was enough crime there to keep an RCMP detachment and Callahan’s serious crimes division busy.
This was Bernadette’s second year in the city. She liked it there. The people were straightforward, most working for the oil service companies and the criminals were just as dumb as anywhere else.
Bernadette was in her mid-thirties, a red head with Irish and Native Cree ancestry and definite ideas of right and wrong that made her the perfect candidate for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, except when she bent the rules, which was too often for her superiors.
Her instincts and work ethic were excellent which kept her one step ahead of reprimand. She put on the radio as the news came on. The announcer went over the latest death tolls from the heat. Eastern Canada had over 500, western Canada had just under 200 hundred—for the month.
The worst news was the American states. The deaths were hitting the thousands in the mid and southwest USA where temperatures were over one hundred Fahrenheit.
This heat wave had started in mid-August. It was now late October. The Canada Geese should be flying overhead. Instead they were hanging around up north. Maybe they knew something no one else did.
Everyone was talking about this as climate change. Some people were loudly proclaiming the heat wave was the result of all the world’s misdeeds and misuse of the planet but Bernadette had a gut feeling there was something more happening. She couldn’t put her finger on it. It just felt weird.
She reached the RCMP headquarters and ducked into the women’s changing room for a quick shower and change of bra and t-shirt. She carried several changes with her. This was her second one of the day.
She found Chief Durham in his office. He was beginning to look older than his mid-forties. The job, or his three kids had managed to recede his hairline and add a multitude of wrinkles to a once unblemished face.
“Sit down, Callahan.” Durham motioned her to the chair in front of him.
“Am I in some kind of shit again, Chief?” Callahan asked.
He shook his head. “No, but if something comes up—you always come to mind.” He swiveled his laptop and punched some keys. “We got a Skype conference with Canadian Security and Intelligence Services. You’re just in time.”
The screen came on. Agent Anton De Luca was in front of them. “Good afternoon Detectives.” He greeted them with a beaming smile, looking his usual well-put together self. Bernadette thought De Luca could have been the star of a half dozen Italian soap operas or commercials. He had drop dead handsome looks with a silky voice that sounded like you’d just been placed in a vat of tiramisu.
“What’s up, Anton?” Bernadette asked. “You run out of serious international espionage that you have to call up us little city folks? I only got dumb ass drug dealers—but you’re welcome to them.”
Anton shook his head. “Always with the sense of humor, Bernadette. I hope you keep that as I tell you what mission I have for you.”
Bernadette felt her insides take a small loop de loop, like the roller coaster ride that flips upside down and has you screaming for it to come back up. “You got my attention.”
“Good, a group of scientists in Canada and America think this latest heat wave cannot be attributed to what we’ve experienced in normal climate change,” Anton said. His demeanor was solemn now.
Bernadette stopped herself from blurting out I knew it, instead, she sat forward and said, “Really? Why do they think that?”
“The heat wave has come on too quickly,” Anton said. “Several scientists think this is a manmade event.”
“I don’t get it. How do you heat up a region of the planet like what’s happening now?” Bernadette said. She looked up at Durham. “You know, I’ve been thinking this is crazy odd myself. What are the scientists thinking?”
“They think someone is messing with the ocean currents,” Anton said.
“Wouldn’t we see something like that?” Durham asked. “I mean... it seems like you’d need something significant to affect a body of water.”
“Well, yeah,” Anton admitted. He paused for a second as he read from his notes. “Professor Bjarni Sigurdsson, from Iceland, came up with a theory of how we could turn the temperature down or up just from adjusting the amount of heat generated under the ocean floor.”
“And, where is the good Icelandic professor now?” Bernadette asked.
“That’s the problem. He’s gone missing. He was supposed to present a paper in Stockholm on how North America could change the currents and temperature of the Pacific and provide more rain or drier conditions when needed. He never showed up. He vanished without a trace.”
“How long ago?” Bernadette asked.
“Back in June of this year,” Anton said.
“I take it you want me to go out and look for him?” She cocked her head to one side. “You know, I’m pretty good at finding people, but asking me to head to Sweden on a five-month-old missing persons case is kind of pushing it.”
“No. I’m not asking you to go to Sweden. I need you to go to Nicaragua.”
Bernadette sat back in her chair. “You found this Sigurdsson guy in Nicaragua?”
Anton shook his head slowly. He looked straight into the screen. “We found Alistair McAllen there. We think he can lead you to Sigurdsson.”
“How is McAllen linked to Sigurdsson?” Bernadette asked.
“The Stockholm police found Sigurdsson’s cell phone. He had numerous calls to McAllen.” Anton said. “There’s also some history between the two. They go way back in their University days. The bright boys in intelligence think McAllen’s our way to Sigurdsson, and your name came up as the way to get the information.”
Bernadette dropped her arms to her side. She looked at her Chief of Detectives then back to the screen at Anton. “Are you serious about this? You really want me to meet up with him again? Why do you think I could convince him to find this missing professor?”
“Because you let him go last time you met. Remember?” Anton said.
Bernadette cleared her throat and sat up straight in her chair. “If you read my report of when we met in Mexico, you’ll see I was helping you, Anton. Remember, you were injured and I aided you... then he got away.”
Anton smiled into the screen. “Yes, Bernadette, that was a wonderful report. The FBI and the CIA had to swallow hard to digest what they knew was a total fabrication of the facts—now listen,” Anton put up his hand, “I know you want to throw out a whole lot of rebuttal but we don’t have time.”
Bernadette closed her eyes, and then opened them again. There was no way she was getting out of this. “Okay, let me have it. When do I leave?”
“You’re booked on the 6:55 am flight from Calgary to Houston tomorrow morning. There’s a layover in Houston where you’ll be met by your partner from the FBI,” Anton said.
“Who is?” Bernadette said.
“Agent Carla Winston.”
“Oh—my—god, this keeps getting better,” Bernadette said.
“You know her?” Chief Durham asked.
“We were in Mexico together, helping in the hunt for McAllen,” Bernadette said “She was supposed to be my minder there, you know, look after me so I didn’t step out of line... I sort of stepped out of line...”
“Here’s your chance to make it up to her,” Anton said. “You’re on strict orders to find McAllen, see if he has knowledge of where Sigurdsson might be, report that information and head home. This is seventy-two hours tops—you’ll be back by the weekend.”
“Let me get this straight. Everyone in the intelligence community in North America knows where Alistair McAllen is, and you want me to go see him and not arrest him—is that correct?” Bernadette asked.
“You got it. He’s on an island in Lake Nicaragua. Intelligence says he’s heavily armed. If we send in the FBI there’d be a shoot-out and an international incident. Nicaragua doesn’t like the USA very much; they are getting friendly with China right now. We need you do this quietly. You got that?” Anton said.
“Yup, I got it, Anton.” Bernadette smiled at Anton and threw him a salute. She looked at Durham, “I’ll turn my file over to my partner and go home to pack a bag.”
Durham nodded. “Are you going to be okay with this? I remember you having some history with this Professor McAllen.”
Bernadette swallowed hard and looked at Durham. “Yes, he escaped from me once off the coast after he tried to damage world oil, and I kind of had to let him slip away in Mexico...” She dropped her eyes and cleared her throat. “Anyway, you’re right, we’ve had some history—”
“And you’re going to be okay with meeting him again?”
“No worries, Chief. I’ll handle this with care and be back in for our weekend barbeque.” She got up and headed out the door, a knot growing in her stomach. Was it foreboding of the mission or what she had to say to her fiancé when she got home?
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