Excerpt from By the Time You Read This by Giles Blunt, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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By the Time You Read This

A Novel

by Giles Blunt

By the Time You Read This
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2007, 352 pages
    Jul 2008, 352 pages

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“We’re sure. Patrol on the scene already confirmed.”

“All right. I’m just a few blocks away.”

The mayor and his wife were quarreling. Cynthia Feckworth had her arms folded across her chest, head bowed. Her husband faced her, hands extended, palms out, in the classic gesture of the pleading mate. An employee was outlined in the doorway of the motel office, watching.

The mayor didn’t even notice as Cardinal drove away.

The Gateway building was in the east end of town, one of the few high-rises in an area that was breaking out in new strip malls every day. In fact, the ground floor of the building was a mini-mall with a dry cleaner, a convenience store, and a large computer-repair concern called CompuClinic that had moved over from Main Street. The businesses had been open for a while, but many of the building’s apartments were still unsold. Road crews were working on a new cloverleaf to accommodate traffic to and from the burgeoning neighborhood, if it could be called a neighborhood. Cardinal had to drive through a gauntlet of orange cones and then detour by the new Tim Hortons and Home Depot to get there.

He passed a row of newly built “townhomes,” most still unoccupied, although lights were on in a few of them. There was a PT Cruiser parked in front of the last one, and Cardinal thought for a second that it was Catherine’s. Once or twice a year he had such moments: a sudden worry that Catherine was in trouble—manic and somewhere dangerous, or depressed and suicidal—and then relief to find it was not so.

He pulled into the Gateway’s driveway and parked under a sign that said resident parking only; visitors park on street. A uniformed cop was standing beside a ribbon of crime-scene tape.

“Oh, hi, Sergeant,” he said, as Cardinal approached. He looked about eighteen years old, and Cardinal could not for the life of him remember his name. “Got a dead woman back there. Looks like she took a nasty fall. Thought I’d better secure a perimeter till we know what’s what.”

Cardinal looked beyond him into the area behind the building. All he could see were a Dumpster and a couple of cars.

“Did you touch anything?”

“Um, yeah. I checked the body for a pulse and there wasn’t one. And I searched pockets for ID but didn’t find any. Could be a resident, I guess, went off one of those balconies.”

Cardinal looked around. Usually there was a small crowd at such scenes. “No witnesses? No one heard anything?”

“Building’s mostly empty, I think, except for the businesses on the ground floor. There was no one around when I got here.”

“Okay. Let me borrow your flashlight.”

The kid handed it over and let Cardinal by before attaching the end of the tape to a utility pole.

Cardinal walked in slowly, not wanting to ruin the scene by assuming the kid’s idea of a fall was correct. He went by the Dumpster, which seemed to be full of old computers. A keyboard dangled over the side by its cable, and there were a couple of circuit boards that appeared to have exploded on the ground.

The body was just beyond the Dumpster, face down, dressed in a tan fall coat with leather at the cuffs.

“I don’t see any of the windows or doors open on any of the balconies up there,” the young cop said. “Probably the super’ll be able to give us an ID.”

“Her ID’s in the car,” Cardinal said.

The young cop looked around. There were two cars parked along the side of the building.

“I don’t get it,” he said. “You know which car is hers?”

Excerpted from By the Time You Read This by Giles Blunt. Copyright © 2007 by Giles Blunt. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Co. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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