Katherine Govier's Between Men

by Shaun Hunter


Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers

  The Calgary Herald arrived in the city days before the railway in the summer of 1883. The first issue was published in a canvas tent. In 1887, the paper moved into this purpose-built sandstone block on Stephen Avenue, where the Divino Bistro now stands. (Photo: Glenbow Museum)

 

The Calgary Herald arrived in the city days before the railway in the summer of 1883. The first issue was published in a canvas tent. In 1887, the paper moved into this purpose-built sandstone block on Stephen Avenue, where the Divino Bistro now stands. (Photo: Glenbow Museum)

February 28, 1889. A Calgary blacksmith called “Jumbo” Fisk mutilates and murders a Cree girl named Rosalie New Grass above a seedy downtown bar. A century later, a young historian, Suzanne Vail returns to Calgary, struggling to find her footing in her hometown after a decade in Toronto. She spends hours in the local history collection at the old sandstone library, a few blocks from the scene of that long-ago killing on Scarth Street. Puzzling through the facts and the missing pieces of the city’s Jack the Ripper murder, she decides to tell the story through a man she calls Murphy. He’s an outsider, and a meddler. In the days after the murder, Murphy hangs out downtown, eavesdropping and scheming. As his story about Rosalie New Grass unfolds, Murphy will reveal his own twisted part in her murder.

 

I went down to the little building where the Herald had its offices, east on Stephen Avenue past the Bodega restaurant. It was quiet in there. The editor was out, and the printers elsewhere. I thought an editorial would be the right idea at that point, as opinions were forming and reforming everywhere. But what would I write?

The town was divided on Rosalie’s case. Most of the top men wanted the whole thing hushed up, and quickly… I toyed with the title “Dead is dead, white or red,” on my sheet of paper, but decided against it. This was no time for word play.

The fact that our little murder came on the heels of London’s Jack and his last strike in Whitechapel had fanned the flames of panic; I suppose I didn’t want to encourage them any more. Mine is an academic interest; though some think me ill-willed, I’m just as happy to see right as wrong.

 

Katherine Govier, Between Men (Viking, 1987)