Chapter 1: Clare

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Clare Vengel tossed a leg over her Triumph and kicked it into gear. The sun was shining, the mayor was dead, and Sergeant Cloutier wanted to meet with her. As she sped along Dundas Street, weaving too quickly through traffic, visions of her first undercover assignment danced in her head.

Would she be a political assistant, juggling a BlackBerry and iPad as she raced after some swelled-chested councillor? Would she be a reporter with a press pass, entering City Hall’s backrooms to give incisive exit interviews? Or would she be given a menial role, like a janitor, with after hours access to computer files and fax records?

She pressed her horn at a Kia SUV that was sloooow to make a right turn. The driver, a blond yuppie in a ponytail, poked her head out the window and gave Clare the finger. Too many yuppies in this neighborhood, pushing out the railway workers, furniture makers and meat packers who had founded it. Clare zoomed around the Kia and smiled at the lady as she passed. She was in too good a mood to let a social climbing yoga mom ruin her day.

If she could choose her assignment, she’d take a background role, a fly on the wall. Harder to screw up cleaning toilets than mingling at cocktail parties, pretending to know the difference between a law and a bylaw. But as long as she was undercover and out of uniform, Clare was game for any job on offer. Anything to break the monotony of petty crime response. Technically each day was different but really they were all the same—My bike was stolen—don’t you cops even care about personal property? Or: That gang vandalized my garage—again. You'd think you'd have someone patrol the area to catch these graffiti artists red-handed. And Clare’s favorite: Are you even old enough to be a cop? And if the calls weren't tedious enough, the paperwork after each visit was enough to keep Visine in business.

She patted her gas tank with affection. There was a bit of rust on it, but she didn’t mind and neither did the bike.

At Dundas and Dupont, she found the donut shop where Cloutier had told her to meet him. She would have thought he’d choose a diner or a food court. Even Starbucks would be less stereotypical as a cop shop. But maybe the best cover was plain sight. One thing Clare knew: she still had everything to learn.

She pushed open the door into a blast of air conditioning. There he was, already seated, the heavy man who had only ever grunted at her in passing. Her new boss, at least for now. On his table were two enormous paper cups. Clare hoped one was for her, and full of coffee.

“So.” Clare flashed her brightest smile as she slid into the cushioned booth. She set her helmet beside her. “Who am I?”

Cloutier pushed one of the coffees toward Clare. He pulled a dutchie from a white paper donut shop bag. He said, “I’m not pleased to be using you.”

Clare nodded. That was fair. She was as green as they came. She vowed silently to please him with results.

“We need somebody who looks young. We also need someone with field experience. Apparently in this enlightened age it’s the packaging that counts.”

She sipped her coffee. Piping hot, which meant he hadn't been waiting long. What was she supposed to say?

Cloutier nodded to some sugar packets in the center of the table. “Not gonna use those?”

Clare wrinkled her nose. “No, thanks.”

He took one and added it to his own coffee.

“You’re going back to school.” He slid a plain white envelope across the table. “You’re a third year political science student.”

“Political science?” Clare opened the envelope and discreetly observed a student ID, driver’s license, credit card, and other documents in the name of Clare Simpson. “Is that more like politics or science?”

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