Brand was on his second cigarette when the night erupted with the wail of sirens closing in on his block. The blasts of a siren signalled the imminent arrival of a black and white, flashing blue and red lights pierced the darkness seconds before the cruiser roared into view. The car brought to an abrupt halt in front of his house. Sitting on the deck he watched the doors of the cop car fly open, and a pair of uniformed officers step onto the slick pavement, their bodies protected behind the open car doors, guns in hand, searching the front of the house for danger.
From his chair, Brand watched the cops exit the car then called down to them, waving his arm, motioning the pair to the house. The policemen edged from behind the safety of the metal car doors, cautiously moving onto the sidewalk, guns held in outstretched arms ready for trouble. Brand stuck his hands in the air, not knowing what else to do, showing the officers he was unarmed.
An older officer, a Sergeant with the Calgary Police Service climbed the stairs. A younger officer, the driver of the car, walked close behind. The Sergeant stopped on the deck, his eyes switching between the open door and Brand. The gun in the sergeant’s outstretched hand held firm, the barrel unwavering.
Brand glanced at the nametag on the Sergeant’s chest as the officer stepped past the square column on the edge of the deck. The name Whitly embroidered in blue thread on a white rectangle patch on the front of the man's uniform. Brand crushed his cigarette in the ashtray, nodded toward the open door and began explaining the shootings that took place only minutes earlier. In a gravelly voice, tainted by years of smoking, Sergeant Whitly interrupted Brand.
“Mac…” Whitly called to the younger cop. “Grab your notebook and record the man’s statement. I’ll go and have a look around the inside.” Turning his attention back to Brand, the Sergeant said. “You stay here and give officer McLennan the details.” As he finished, the Sergeant eased into the house, his arm extended, his service revolver leading the way.
Flashing lights and a loud siren announced the arrival of a city ambulance seconds before it rounded the street corner and screeched to a halt behind the police cruiser the same time the Sergeant entered the house. A pair of EMS attendants jumped to the street with medical bags in their hands. Officer McLennan waved them to the house and called inside to the Sergeant.
“How you doing in there Sarg? The paramedics are here.”
The Sergeants raspy voice echoed through the open door. “Hurry and get them boys in here. There are a couple of weak pulses need attending.”
Staying out of the way, Brand sat in his chair and lit another cigarette. His mind drifted into the house, concern for his friends occupying his mind. More police cars steered onto the street joined by another pair of ambulances, the continuing deluge of vehicles adding to the already jammed conditions on the narrow road in front of his house. The quiet, rain-soaked evening in the neighbourhood under siege with the deafening sirens, while the flashing lights from the vehicles lit up the block in a melding of red and blue strobe lights.
Brand looked around from his seat and watched as his neighbours were awaken by the sounds of emergency vehicles. Porch light after porch light flared into the night as people poured onto their decks, curious to find the reason for their sleep being disturbed. In the ensuing minutes, the pavement swarmed with first responders and onlookers alike. Brand stepped toward the door eager to see how Jerry was doing, but the young officer McLennan stopped him motioning him back to his chair.
Brand sat down and watched while emergency workers commandeered his house. Fishing another cigarette from the pack, Brand cupped the lighter in his hands and blocked the light, chill breeze. He bent his head touching the cigarette tip to the waiting flame and drew on the cigarette until it smoldered. Lifting his head to peer across the deck rail he stared off into space. Concern for his friends flowed deep inside as he once again considered why the gunmen would target his house.
He sensed, rather than saw, a man walk over and stand beside him. Looking up, Brand noticed a balding, heavyset man gazing down at him. The guy’s tan slacks hung loosely below his large belly. The buttons on his rumpled shirt straining to hold the fabric closed, a brown blazer draped over his shoulders.
The man stood blocking the porch light, his face obscured by shadows. Brand’s gaze followed the man’s hand as he dug inside his blazer and produced a wallet. Flipping it open, the man waved a CPS detective badge. Brand read the name stamped on the ID, Walgreen, detective Frank Walgreen. Raising his eyes from the wallet, Brand stared into the detective’s face.
“Mind if I sit down?” Walgreen asked. Brand motioned to a chair with his head. “Looks like you’ve had a busy evening?” Detective Walgreen said, worming his portly frame into the narrow deckchair.
Brand shook his absently, his thoughts with his friends in the house. The Detective sat silent for a few minutes before speaking.
“You feel up to telling me what occurred inside?” Walgreen said. “Start from the beginning… when you’re ready.” He added, as he removed a notebook from an inside pocket of his suit, then sent his hand back inside to fish for a pen.
“Find out how the old man on the couch is doing first.” Brand said.
“A friend of yours?” Detective Walgreen inquired. “Hang tight for a minute and I’ll go check.” The detective let a grunt escape as he lifted from the chair and wandered into the house. Several minutes passed before Detective Walgreen returned to the deck and sat down. “The paramedics tell me he’s stable thanks to the bandages you applied. They’re about to wheel him out. He’ll be on his way to the hospital soon."
Brand nodded his head. “Good. From the beginning then.” He said. He told the detective of his impromptu trip to the liquor store and was describing the gunshots he had heard from the garage when the paramedics wheeled Jerry Kartman from the house, down the steps, and into a waiting ambulance.
Brand sat silently watching the EMS duo load Jerry’s stretcher into the back of the ambulance. He stared after it as it disappeared down the block before he turned back to the detective and continued speaking. Detective Walgreen jotted notes in his book, occasionally interrupting for clarification as Brand walked him through the shootings.
Another man, a second detective Brand realized, had joined them on the deck before Brand had finished his statement. The second man stood behind Walgreen, the porch light shining on his face revealing a full head of short red hair and the stubble of a five o’clock shadow on the man’s pale face, all this set off by a blue sports blazer, a pale yellow, wrinkled shirt and dark slacks.
When Brand got to the end of his statement, the second detective showed Brand his badge and ID, Detective Darcy O’Brien. Detective O’Brien asked Brand if he had any ID on him. Brand looked at O’Brien quizzically and then slid his wallet from his pocket and opened it, showing his driver’s license. The Detective O’Brien removed Brand’s ID and moved close to the exterior light.
“Brandon James Coldstream,” O’Brien said out loud and continued reading the specifics. “Born, May twenty-second, nineteen sixty-nine.” The man droned on. “Six feet tall, one hundred and ninety-eight pounds. Brown hair. Brown eyes.” The detective glanced at the picture on the license and then matched the face with Brands.
“That your rifle standing inside the door?” The detective asked.
“Is it registered?”
“And you arrived back at your house from the liquor store to find these intruders shooting your friends, is that right?”
“Pretty much like that.”
“Couldn't be that you guys had too much to drink. There's an awful lot of empties and guns scattered around inside. Maybe your little party turned violent, a disagreement between friends?”
The comment was a slap in the face for Brand. He looked up at the man, anger mixed with shock. “You’re kidding…right?” Came the reply out of Brand’s mouth.
“Just asking.” Detective O’Brien said defensively. “You and your friends don’t partake in the occasional drugs, do you? Maybe the gunmen were a message sent by a pissed-off associate. A sort of, even things up, kind of deal?”
Brand glared at the man and shook his head. The detective remained silent for a minute then continued his tirade. “This is the way I see it. Those two men came to your house, and you and your friends had a problem with them. Maybe a disagreement, I don’t know. The two men you shot are certainly not on our radar. I checked with the gang unit.” O’Brien paused.
“For all we know, you could have shot all four of those men. Something doesn’t smell right. We’ve got three dead men inside your house, one man rushed to the hospital, and you sitting here, smoking cigarettes on the deck, and enjoying the evening air. What’s your take on this, Frank?”
“I agree. I think Mr. Coldstream should accompany us downtown.”
“Bullshit.” Brand replied and started to stand up. “I’m the one who called 911. My friends were shot and my house is crime scene, for god’s sake. If I was going to kill someone, I could certainly think of better places to do that.” Brand stared into the other detective’s eyes. “No, I’m going to the hospital to check on my friend.”
“Whoa. Sit back down.” Walgreen warned. “You will have plenty of time to be with your friend.”
O’Brien called into the house for Sergeant Whitly. The three waited in awkward silence until the sergeant appeared.
“Sarg. We’re going to run this fellow downtown for a chat. Make sure the crime scene is buttoned up when forensics are done and have a pair of uniforms remain behind to watch the house?”
The sergeant nodded and returned inside. “You coming along peacefully or…” Detective Walgreen asked, a pair of handcuffs dangling in his hand. The detectives waited for Brand to stand up.
“Turn around,” Walgreen commanded slipping the handcuffs over Brand’s wrists before guiding him toward the deck stairs. The three climbed down to the street, Brand walking between the two detectives.
Walgreen’s partner, O’Brien, opened the back of the squad car, waited for Brand to climb inside. The detective closed the door and circled the car for the driver's seat. Walgreen flicked off the siren while O’Brien steered the car away from Brand’s house, the three rolled out of the suburbs for police headquarters.