Ilze Berzins
Revenge on the Rideau cover

Click the image for a larger view

Click here to read the first few pages of Revenge on the Rideau

Revenge on the Rideau (Page 1)

The late afternoon light broke through the clouds, staining the winter sky with a burst of Van Gogh yellow. Like a flash of lightning the sun flamed through the window, dappling her face with a shower of tiny sunflowers. For a moment her reflection in the mirror shimmered, gold brushed her cheeks, and she looked beautiful. Then suddenly a veil fell over the sun, storm clouds thickened, the light faded. And her face became ordinary again.

Her face was too pale, she saw. Almost a greyish pale. The face of a ghost, a shut-in, an invalid—or the face of a newly released convict, she thought. She turned towards the window as if to bring some colour to her skin. But the light had gone, and a shameless film of dust had settled in its place.

She looked back at her reflection. The grey eyes that were the mirror of her soul showed nothing—nothing but the cold white stare of madness—and of uncompromising resolve.

Even his death had not brought her close to tears. Grief was beyond her. She had stretched out for it, had longed for it, but any human feeling she could feel had been swallowed up by the darkness that had gathered around her. She couldn’t mourn; couldn’t feel sadness. Her heart had been ripped out. It lay frozen somewhere in a far-off land, waiting for justice.

Mascara, blusher, lipstick. Her hands were sticky with nervousness as she applied her make-up. She pressed her palm to her forehead, panic breathing down her neck. Must stay in control… must… must…. she chanted breathlessly as she scanned her mind for anything that could go wrong.

Nothing could. It just couldn’t, she told herself. She winced as she swept back her hair. It was wet. Wet from the sweat that was beading her face. She frowned. The trick

Revenge on the Rideau (Page 2)

was to look inconspicuous. Just like everyone else. And to act like everyone else, as if nothing was wrong—even though life, as she had known it, had come to a brutal end.

She would leave her apartment much like any other day, self possessed and regal, and head north along Bank Street, sticking to ‘her’ side of the street. She would walk fast, not allowing herself the wild gallop that every impulse in her body would scream for. She would walk all the way. No taxi. No bus. No one to remember having seen her that day.

The day was achingly cold with the kind of penetrating chill that could seep through gloves and scarves, and slither under the tightest of coat collars. Clairelise Leowen was not dressed for the weather. Just minutes ago she had thrown on her new fall coat. Her knees had been shaking as she had hurriedly pried her feet into her only pair of boots, boots that were too small for her. It hadn’t mattered what the weather was like. It hadn’t mattered that her feet would be aching. It had only mattered that she look smart and respectable. And that she fit in.

Clairelise was glad that no one had seen her moments of frenzy earlier that day as she had raced around her apartment like a wild woman before spinning to a stop at her bedside table. Then she had pulled open the top drawer, snatched up a bundle that lay hidden there, and thrust it into her briefcase.

Locking the door behind her she ran down the stairs, almost colliding with another tenant. A large middle aged woman wearing slippers and holding a clutch of bags came scurrying up the stairs. At the sight of Clairelise the woman’s face lit up. Thin lips parted in a half-smile. She stopped, expecting a chat.

The timing was bad. Clairelise brushed by abruptly. Then as a fleeting twinge of guilt tugged at her conscience she tossed a smile over her shoulder, much like she would toss a few crumbs to a hungry bird. The woman opened her mouth to speak. Then she closed her mouth tight, and started to chew on her lower lip, her eyes bleary with disappointment.

Clairelise was glad that no one had seen her run out of the building. Well, only poor Wilma Sprott had. And that didn’t count.

She moved swiftly, and pushed open the front door. Her mind focused, her lips pursed with determination, she barely noticed that it was one of the dreariest days of the year—a late February afternoon, desolate and gloomy with winter hanging on remorselessly.

She sneaked a glance at her wristwatch. ‘God, it’s late!’ a voice in her head cried out. No time to waste! She picked up her pace, and marched on, almost in military fashion, so good at self control that no one would ever suspect she was too terrified to breathe.

All winter long violent thoughts and emotions had coursed through her mind. It was death that caused her to spring into action. But she didn’t call it death―not a natural

Revenge on the Rideau (Page 3)

death, that is. She called it murder. The inner voice that put words to her thoughts was urging her to hurry, telling her that nothing mattered, not her terror, nor the bitter cold, nor her aching feet. Nothing mattered but the mission that lay ahead.

Ice cold rain began to sting her cheeks. The razor sharp wind quickly turned the rain to sleet, and then sporadic snowflakes began to fall. Soon a veil of fresh snow twinkled in her hair like a network of tiny white stars.

“Nearly there,” she gasped as a thrill of fear went through her.

Never in her life had Clairelise imagined that she could be capable of the monstrous act which lay ahead. This is what it had come to. There was no turning back. She tightened her grip on the briefcase and looked at her watch again. She frowned. Despite the treacherous icy pavement she could not afford to be cautious. She had to hurry.

Just north of the Glebe lay one of the city’s most squalid zones. From class to trash, Clairelise thought vaguely as she quickly left the privileged enclave of Clemow Street and, lengthening her stride, soldiered on through the bleakest stretch of Bank Street with its seedy fast-food joints, rooming houses, and abandoned storefronts.

Groups of headscarf-swathed women, teenage mothers struggling with kids, and a gaggle of students colonized the bus stops. A shifting population of pavement-sitters begged from passersby, and unemployed youths shuffled aimlessly from store to store waiting for something to happen.

From the wasteland strip of lower Bank reared the polished gleam of the commercial district with its well-groomed business folk beetling back and forth, from appointment to appointment. Clairelise melted in. Just five more minutes, and then it’s minute by minute, she breathed. Mustn’t run, she warned herself as she crossed Queen Street dodging cars and rushing people. She reached the end of Bank Street. And there, just a few paces east, beat the historic heart of Ottawa.

With steely determination she turned on Wellington. She threw an unseeing glance at the Parliament Buildings looming black and uninviting against the winter sky. Yes, yes, her inner voice muttered a fleeting commentary. The Peace Tower, the Eternal Flame―it’s all still there. But what does it matter, her mind nattered on nervously. Panic was stealthily edging closer. She took a deep breath. Then another. With an immense effort she staved off the panic. It was almost four. The hard part was coming up. She knew that getting inside would be tricky. She’d have to bulldoze her way past security and secretaries and God knows who else.

Revenge on the Rideau is no longer in print. If you wish to request a copy, please click here to let me know and I may be able to get it for you.