Manu finished. About 59,000 words. What to do with it now? I guess that is the question. I wish I was more ambitious. But then that’s always been one of my failing. I think it’s a pretty good read. And I have outlines for 2 more additions to this story line. Good luck to everyone else.

Gone

November 29, 2008

39. Gone

As Wendel and Sam drove up Bloor Street toward the Six Points Plaza they saw the goons car dive into the ground, it’s tail flipping up in the air. A moment passed. The car exploded. Wendel slammed on the brakes. The cop car slid toward the hole, now a cloud of smoke and fire. The car came to a stop.

“Jesus!” Wendel said, his mouth dropping. He glanced at Sam opening his door. The Canadiana Restaurant exploded. The concussion of the blast threw Sam back into the car beside Wendel. Wendel pulled his arm over his face and turned his head. Debris rang down on the car. A bottle of wine smashed through their windshield. Wendel groaned. He could taste blood in his mouth. He glanced sideways as Sam climbed out of the car for a second time and began to run towards the Canadiana. Wendel struggled to get his seat belt off. It was stuck.

“Shit!” Wendel pulled on the seat belt. It released. He pushed open his door and climbed out. He looked toward the plaza. Smoke billowed out of the restaurant. The crack of timber breaking, floors and ceilings caving in broke the silence of the falling snow. He started to run toward the restaurant. Sam was far ahead of him. Wendel cursed his Italian shoes that slipped beneath his feet.

Crossing Sam’s path from Bloor Street, two other figures, boys, ran ahead. They stopped at a figure huddled in the snow. Sam ran up. He looked at the two young boys. He didn’t recognize either of them. He put his hand on the shoulder of the huddled figure. Junior looked up. A baby wrapped in towels lay in his arms. The baby cried.

“I couldn’t find her,” Junior said.

Sam looked toward the restaurant. A tongue of fire licked the sky as the remainder of the roof crashed into the ground floor with a boom. Sam pushed passed the boys toward the restaurant. Before he could get much further, Wendel tackled him.

“You can’t Sam!”

Sam pushed Wendel away and climbed to his feet.

Wendel grabbed Sam again. The two boys, Stretch and Ship, piled on top, keeping Sam down.

“She’s gone!” Wendel cried. There were tears running down his cheek.

Sam looked at Wendel like someone in a dream. There was no emotion on his face. He tried to push the boys off him. And then something exploded inside Sam Kelly.

“No!”

Sam fell into Wendel’s arms and bawled.

Junior stepped over to the boys, the baby in his arms.

“Look.”

Ship and Stretch looked up. They were still holding Sam down.

“In the smoke,” Junior said pointing toward the restaurant.

A woman covered in ashes and soot stepped out of the restaurant. Wendel looked up. A smile flashed across his face.

“Sam. It’s…”

Stretch and Ship ran toward the woman. She collapsed into their arms. All three fell into the snow. Sam rose from Wendel’s arms. He staggered across the snow towards them and fell to his knees. He grabbed Margaret and hugged her, weeping. She pushed him away.

“My baby,” she cried. “My baby is gone.”

***

Mustafa had been sitting in the waiting room for a long time. There had been complications. The doctor had suggested he leave the operating room. Mustafa had never felt so alone. His knee still ached, the doctors had bandaged it, but he didn’t care. There wasn’t enough pain to make him forget. Every decision he had made in his life had been about himself. I’m gone. He was beyond redemption. He knew that. He tried to pray. He didn’t know how. All he felt was empty. There was nothing he could say to any God. He had walked like a shadow through his life. Now for the first time, he felt real. And being real made him feel empty. The image of Lois’s eyes pierced his side like a spear. Take me.

Mustafa sat with his head in his hands. He hadn’t heard the doctor approach him.

“Mr. Ali.”

Mustafa looked up. She’s gone.

“You’re a daddy, Mr. Ali,” the doctor said.

“What!” Mustafa cried. “Say that again.”

“You have a little baby boy.”

Mustafa smiled. A boy!

“A boy!”

The doctor smiled.

“And Lois?”

“The mother is doing fine. We had to do a Caesarian. She’ll need a lot of rest. But she’ll be fine.”

Mustafa stood up and hugged the doctor. He put his head on the doctor’s shoulders and wept.

“Would you like to see your son?”

Mustafa released the doctor and nodded. The doctor led the limping Mustafa down the hall. They stopped in front of a window. Behind the window a half dozen babies were exhibited in small cribs. There was one brown baby amongst the lot. Mustafa pointed at the baby. The doctor nodded. Mustafa looked at the miniature version of himself. Mustafa made a face. The baby started crying. Mustafa giggled. The doctor left him.

Two policemen walked down the hall toward Mustafa. Mustafa turned. They were coming to arrest him. Mustafa didn’t care. All he wanted was to stay a bit longer and look at his son. He recognized the two policemen. They walked up to him. One of them stood on either side of him. Mustafa put his hands behind his back expecting to be cuffed. One of the policemen pointed to the baby beside Mustafa’s.

“He’s smiling,” Sam Kelly said shaking his head.

“That’s one happy kid,” Wendel said.

“That’s my son,” Mustafa said pointing to his son.

The two detectives started laughing. Sam Kelly put his arm around Mustafa’s shoulder and squeezed him. Mustafa laughed.

***

The snow stopped falling the next morning. It started to melt. Frank O’Connor woke up in the front seat of his Chrysler with a hangover. He pushed the two empty bottles of wine off him and sat up. There was a drift of snow covering his windshield. Sunlight lit up the snow so that it glowed. A dark figure clouded the melting snow on Frank’s windshield. The figure was eating its way through the snow toward him. Frank O’Connor leaned forward to see what it was. A woman’s head with long blonde hair pressed against his windshield. Frank screamed. The head was smiling.

THE END

Frank And The Boom

November 28, 2008

38. Frank and the Boom

Frank O’Connor sat his Chrysler, snow falling all around him filling up the Canada Trust parking lot. He started to remember his youngest daughter’s wedding dress. And then the wedding. Her fiancé got drunk and started to tell his future father-in-law what he really thought of Frank. Unfortunately the groom had mistaken the priest for Frank. The priest was ready to call off the wedding. Only Frank’s intervention saved the day. Frank stared across the blanket of snow at the old folks home and the van parked there.

Why were they there? How long would they remain? Would I end up in the old farts’ home? I know that’s where the kids want me. And the wife. God, I think she lost her mind ages ago. She does the same thing everyday and precisely at the same time. Like clock work. And she’ll continue that until she drops like one of those kids’ toys that keeps bashing against the wall until the battery dies.

Frank was listening to some old rock and roll. They were playing the Door’s The End. He’d forgotten how stupid the song was. Frank was about to make himself some hot chocolate when a face smashed against his door window.

“Shit!” Frank fumbled around looking for his keys. I’ve been spotted and they’d sent someone over to whack me. The cops had warned me. God, they might be all around me. Frank glanced from his lap to the window. The guy at the window had this stupid expression on his face, a cartoon expression like when Wiley Coyote runs into a cliff face.

“Psychopath!” Frank fumbled in his lap for his keys and grabbed his cock. “Shit!” Then he noticed that the keys were already in the ignition. He turned on the engine and gunned it. The Chrysler swirled in the parking lot, banged against a sign, and then peeled out into Bloor Street, swirled again, hitting a snow bank on the other curb and then tore off down Bloor Street. Frank made a quick decision and turned south, gunned it through the snow on the side street, hit Dundas Street and headed east. Moments later he was sitting in a snow bank in the parking lot of the Six Points Plaza. The wheels of the Chrysler spun crazily. He was stuck.

Frank swirled around in his seat, looking in every direction. There was no one around. He sat for a long time panting. His chest started to hurt. I’m having a fucking heart attack! He didn’t have enough breath to yell. Minutes passed. When Frank regained his breath, when the pain in his chest subsided, he tried to open the door. It wouldn’t open. He tried the other door. Snowed in. He crawled into the back seat and then recalled that the back doors hadn’t worked for months. Frank was marooned.

After climbing back into the front seat, Frank turned on the radio. Pennies From Heaven was playing. Calm down. Got to think. He listened to music for some time. A talk show came on. The talk show toasted started to rant on about the ice shields on Antarctica melting.

“This could cause dramatic changes in weather. If the water in the ocean rises only a couple of inches major cities along the coasts could see flooding. Most of New York will be under water. Boston as well. The Netherlands will disappear all together. The oceans will cool forcing the Gulf Stream to move south. Northern Europe will see Artic conditions. The Thames will freeze over. Tropical countries could see drought. Brazil will turn into a desert.”

A million thoughts raced through Frank’s head. If those fellas were going to find me, they’d be here by now. Frank decided that there was nothing to do but wait until the next morning. Surely someone would come in and find him. He had enough provisions. The generator still worked and he had a heater. Hell, I could last days here. He took his bottle from under the seat and took a sip. And then he took another sip. His eyes grew heavy. Frank did not know how much time had passed when he was awoken by an explosion. He looked out his window. Across the parking lot on Bloor Street a car was on fire. And then moments later there was a second explosion. The roof of the Canadiana Restaurant’s roof blew off. Smoke leaped out of the building like a tongue licking the falling snow. Debris came down on the Chrysler including dozens of bottles of wine that fell into the snow beside the Chrysler. Some were still unbroken. Frank was able to roll down his window enough to grab a couple of bottles.

“Hell, if the world’s going to end, I might as well get drunk.”

***

Jimmy Higgs let out a whoop. He pulled the loose bricks from the wall and shone a flashlight into the basement of the bank next door. When he turned around Montgomery had a gun pointed in his face. Guy stood beside her.

“Get that thing out of my face!”

“Sorry, Mr. Higgs,” Guy said apologetically. “But we don’t need you anymore.”

Jimmy looked from Guy to Montgomery and snarled.

“I get it, lad. Did she promise to suck your…”

A gun shot rang out. A small hole appeared in Jimmy Higgs forehead. For a brief second his eyes rose up to see a black snake crawl out of the hole. Jimmy was dead.

Guy looked at Montgomery with a puzzled expression on his face.

Montgomery looked from Jimmy to Guy.

“I didn’t like being called Crack,” Montgomery said.

***

Sam and Wendel followed Michael and David’s car up Kipling Avenue. The cop car was sliding all over the road.

“Should have put snow tires on her,” Sam said.

Wendel struggled to keep the car running straight. “I just had them taken off. Who the hell thinks you’re still going to need them in April? It’s all I can do to keep us on the street.”

“No need to catch them, Wendel. The way they’re driving they’ll run into something sooner or later.”

There was a call on the radio. Sam picked it up.

“Right on it,” he said, put back the radio, reached over and turned on the siren.

“What?”

“Emergency. Canadiana Restaurant.”

Wendel put the gas pedal to the floor.

***

“Fuck!” David said, turning at the sound of the siren to look back at the cop car. “They’re coming after us now.”

Michael laughed putting the gas pedal to the floor. “I love being a criminal.”

Their car sped up.

“We’re losing them,” David smiled. “Turn left up here at Bloor Street. We can head west to the 427.”

Michael glanced at the car that was headed south on Bloor Street. A dark skinned man was driving. What kind of fool is out on a night like this? The car slid sideways as Michael made the turn and climbed the slight incline toward the Six Points Plaza.

“Brother, construction signs up ahead!”

“Where?”

“The hole!” David cried, bracing himself.

The car hit the hole at an angle, its nose ducked into the side. In the collision David was thrown through the front window. As David passed over the hood of the car, he fumbled in his pocket. It looked like he was waving goodbye. Michael raised his head from the steering wheel. Blood ran down from his forehead. His chest ached. The car exploded.

***

When Wendel made the turn up Bloor Street towards the Six Points Plaza they saw the car ahead of them dive into the ground, it’s tail flipping up in the air. A moment passed. The car exploded. Wendel slammed on the brakes. The detective’s car slid toward the hole, now a cloud of smoke and fire. The car came to a stop.

“Jesus!” Wendel cried, his mouth dropping.

Sam opened his door and was about to get out when the Canadiana Restaurant exploded. The concussion of the blast threw Sam back into the car. Then debris rang down on the car. A bottle of wine smashed through their windshield.

***

Guy looked down at Jimmy Higgs. In death the big man looked small. He heard the sound of a baby crying.

“Did you hear that?” Guy said.

Montgomery leaned toward him. She kissed him on the lips. Guy felt the nozzle of her gun in his ribs.

“Why?” he asked.

“You can’t speak French.” Montgomery smiled.

Then Guy smelled something funny. Gas leak. I’m dead! Montgomery fired.

***

Willie Marcus put his son on his knee and took a book from the stack beside him. Willie loved this dream about having a family. He’d been having the same dream all night. He never wanted it to end. A moment later his daughter ran into the room. She wanted to sit on his lap and hear the story too. Willie picked up his daughter and put her on his other knee. “What story are you going to read us?” his son asked.” The Three Pigs”, he answered. His daughter squealed with delight. “I like that when the wolf blows down the straw house and then blows the house made of sticks down , but he can’t blow the house of …”

Willie woke up with a jolt from his dream.

“The hole!” he cried.

Now

November 27, 2008

37. Now

Using a crowbar Jimmy pried the wine rack lose from the wall. Some bottles tumbled out of their cribs and crashed on the floor. Then Jimmy put down the pick, grabbed the wine rack and pulled it down. More bottles crashed on the floor.

“Jesus, that’s a hell of noise, Mr. Higgs,” Guy commented.

“Ah, don’t worry about the noise, lad. No one can hear us down here.”

“I heard you,” Montgomery said leaning against the wall, a cigarette dangling from her lips. “And it’s giving me a migraine.”

“Seems like an awful waste of good wine though,” added Guy with a chuckle. “Times when I had wet dreams about being in a wine cellar.”

Guy glanced at Montgomery. Jimmy didn’t seem to suspect anything but Guy didn’t want to take any chances. The best thing was to keep him preoccupied.

“Just Canadian wine.” Jimmy put his hands on his hips like a man proud of his work. The pose reminded Guy of his father, an arrogant man who liked to remind Guy on a daily basis that he’d never amount to anything.

“Soon you’ll have enough money, lad, to buy the real thing.”

Montgomery leaned against the far wall, wearing her white gloves, a cigarette in her mouth. Jimmy turned to Montgomery. “We know all about French wine, eh, Crack?”

Montgomery stood there indifferently, smoke slipping out of her nostrils.

“You’ve been to France, Mr. Higgs?” Guy asked.

Jimmy nodded. “Several times, lad. Once on business. Had to bust into a bank in a small town in Belgium. Little hole in the wall called Hamme. The vault was empty. My colleagues failed to discover that all the town’s money was kept in the sacristy at the convent. Taught me a lesson. Never rob a bank in a country where you can’t speak the language.”

Guy glanced at Montgomery. She winked back at him.

“What are the French ladies like?” Guy asked.

Jimmy sighed. “Everything you’ve heard. And then some. Ever been to France, Crack?”

“Why’d you cut the telephone lines?” Montgomery asked ignoring Jimmy’s question.

Jimmy looked at Montgomery and then at Guy as if he was going to diverge a state secret. “Security systems. Hooked up to the telephone lines.”

“But won’t that bring a service call, Mr. Higgs?”

“There’s bound to be dozens of lines down in weather like this. Don’t you worry, lad. Things are falling into place just like I planned.”

Montgomery looked at her watch.

“Don’t worry about the time, Crack,” Jimmy said. “We’ve got lots of time. The restaurant will open late tomorrow if it opens at all. You have to learn to relax, Crack. This is the easy part of the job. The planning is where you sweat. After that all you have to do is put the pieces of the puzzle together.”

Montgomery released a cloud of smoke and said nothing.

Jimmy looked at Guy and laughed. “All business, ain’t she?” He turned back to Montgomery. “You are the most man like woman that I’ve ever met, Crack. Don’t you ever have fun? Just sit back and let your hair down.”

Montgomery looked around the basement of the restaurant.

“I can think of better place to party,” she said.

Jimmy turned and looked at Guy. They both laughed.

“What are you going to do with all your money, lad?”

“Pay my debts,”

“Hell, forget your debts. Move to France and fuck those lads.”

Guy blushed. “I can’t speak French, Mr. Higgs.”

Jimmy laughed. He took the flask out of his back pocket. He offered a sip to his partners. Guy declined. Montgomery grabbed the flask and took a swallow then handed it back to Jimmy who took a drink. He put the flask back in his pocket.

“Hand me that pick, lad. Too many damn pipes.”

“Water?” Guy asked.

“Who the hell knows, lad. They haven’t been used for years. When we put in the wine rack, we didn’t bother tearing them out.”

***

“What the hell was that?” Junior asked.

“The basement,” Margaret replied. Beads of sweat began to run down her forehead. “Try the phone again.”

Junior climbed to his feet and stepped over to the phone.

“It’s dead, Mrs. Kelly. We could get out of here now, mam. They’re making such a racket downstairs, they’ll never hear us.”

Junior returned to the floor beside Margaret.

“Can’t have this baby out in the snow.” Margaret grimaced. “Oh, Jesus.”

“We might be able to flag someone down.”

“There’s no one out there, Junior. And there’s no time left. This baby is going to come soon. Boil some water. There’s some towels over by the sink.”

Junior hesitated. “I’m scared.”

“So am I, honey,” Margaret replied, her words seeping out of her clenched teeth.

“I never delivered a baby before.”

“I’ve never had a baby before.” Margaret grabbed the sleeve of her jacket and bit down on it as another contraction grabbed her. There were tears in her eyes.

Junior got up from the floor, grabbed a pot and filled it with water. He put it on the stove and turned on the burner. Then he grabbed some towels and brought them over to Margaret.

“God, I’m starting to bear down now. Look and see if you can see the top of the baby’s head. Turn on the light.”

Junior stepped over to the wall and turned on the light. He looked down at Margaret and hesitated. “I can’t look there.”

“You have my permission,” Margaret said, tugging at her panties and pulling them down her leg. She spread her legs.

“Look!”

Junior did as he was told.

“Oh shit! Something is there. I want to help but…”

“You ever played baseball, honey?”

“Ya.”

“What position?”

“Third base,” Junior replied.

Margaret let out a cry. Junior jumped back.

“The hot corner.” Margaret lifted herself slightly and put one of the towels under her. “When the baby comes out, all you have to do is catch it.”

“Okay,” Junior replied obediently.

“And once the baby is out, you’ll have to cut the umbilical cord. Put one of the cooks knives in the hot water.”

“Yes, mam.”

“Junior.”

“Yes, mam.”

“Don’t worry. I have complete confidence in you.”

“Yes, mam,” Junior replied. “I wish I felt the same.”

***

Stretch walked back and forth in front of the telephone. “We can’t just wait here.”

“We got to,” Ship insisted. “Junior said to sit tight.”

“Fuck that! I’m going to phone the restaurant and find out what to do. What’s the number?”

Jackson said nothing.

“Ship! Give me the fucking number.”

Stretch grabbed Ship and shoved him up against the wall. Ship gave up the number.

After dropping a quarter in the telephone, Stretch dialed the number.

“You be sure and tell Junior that this was all your idea,” Ship said.

“Fucking line is dead!” Stretch slammed the phone down.

Ship sighed with relief.

Stretch stood thinking. He fumbled in his pocket.

“What are you doing now, Stretch?”

“I’m calling the cops. Give me a quarter.”

“Quarter? I don’t have a quarter.”

“Ship!” Stretch yelled.

***

Mustafa moved slowly down Ashburne Avenue.

“Can’t you go any faster?” Lois asked sprawled out on the back seat.

“The roads are slippery. I don’t want to put us in the ditch. How the hell do you get to the hospital?”

“You don’t know?”

“No, I don’t know. Am I expected to know everything?” Mustafa regretted barking at Lois.

“Go east on Bloor Street then south on Kipling.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“That means we’ll have to go by the Six Point’s Plaza.”

“Is there something wrong with that?” Lois asked.

“No,” Mustafa responded. But there was something wrong. He was afraid that the gang might see him pass by in the car. God, he did not want to come within a hundred miles of them.

Mustafa dared not stop at Bloor Street. He slowed down and took a quick glance in each direction. He couldn’t see a thing. Slowly he made the turn, feeling the wheels beneath him sliding, the tail of the car swinging too far. He turned into the skid and the car straightened out. Mustafa sighed.

“Could you go any slower?”

As they approached the plaza, Mustafa gave the car a little more gas. The wheels began to slip. And then he noticed it. There was a huge hole in the middle of the street. The car began to slowly slide toward it. Mustafa turned the wheel as he gave the car some more gas. There was a bump against the side of the car as they slid passed the hole.

“What was that? Lois asked.

“One of those construction signs. We hit it. Everything is okay, now.” Mustafa did not see any point in telling Lois about the hole. Lois had enough to think about.

As they rolled down Bloor Street toward Kipling Avenue, Mustafa prepared to make the right turn. The light was red. He tried the breaks. The car would not stop. Instead it began to slide again. He took his foot off the break and let the weight of the car carry them down the slight decline. As they slid into Kipling Avenue, Mustafa turned the wheel and gave the car some gas. The car began to slide sideways out into the middle of the street and into the far lane. Mustafa prayed that there weren’t any oncoming cars. Releasing the gas and turning the steering wheel he managed to regain control of the car. As he softly pressed down on the gas pedal, he steered the car into the right lane. Just as he did he spotted a car barreling down Kipling Avenue toward him. It passed him. He glanced in the mirror and saw it fish tailing as it made a left turn onto Bloor Street and climbed toward the Six Points Plaza. A moment later a cop car came whirling down Kipling Avenue. Its siren was screaming. It too made the same left turn at Bloor Street.

Mustafa let up on the gas and let out a sigh of relief.

“What’s the matter?” Lois cried.

“Nothing.” Mustafa turned and smiled at Lois.

There was an explosion.

“What was that?” Lois cried out.

Mustafa turned and looked at the road ahead.

There was a second explosion, a much louder explosion. It shook the car. Debris began to fall on the car’s roof. Lois screamed. Mustafa looked all around but couldn’t see anything. He pressed his foot on the accelerator. A white glove fell with a thud on his windshield. There was blood dripping from it.

Near the end

November 26, 2008

I am near the end of my novel. I have written the final chapters and am now revising each one. And I should be just over the 50,000 word mark. This whole thing has been a great motivator (all deadlines are) but I could not have done this if I hadn’t a detail outline to guide me. Those who are writing off the top of their head each day must find themselves exhausted most days.

Quiet

November 25, 2008

36. Quiet

Stretch sucked on the cold evening air as if he had a cigarette in his mouth. He walked in small circles. Occasionally he peeked out into Bloor Street and across the street where the van had disappeared. He looked over at the Canadiana Restaurant.

“I say we go right over there and find out what the fuck is going on.”

Ship shook his head, occasionally blocking Stretch’s access to the telephone. “Can’t do that, man. Junior is working things out. The waitress is still in the restaurant. A cab should be here any minute to pick her up.”

Stretch stopped walking in circles in front of Jackson Shipley. “Why do I get the feeling that you’re not telling me something, Ship?”

“What do you mean, Stretch?”

“You were on the phone for a long fucking time, Ship. Junior must have said more. It’s not like Junior to just hang up. He would have had a plan. Especially since we’re stranded out here in Siberia.”

“Just that the waitress is all banged up. Pregnant, I mean. Baker’s half dozen. Houston, we have a problem.” Ship laughed.

“What the fuck…” Stretch cried then walked away from Ship and banged his hand on the telephone booth. He hated it when Ship was trying to be cute. He was never cute. “Ship, don’t start thinking now.” Stretch knew there was more to the tale than his friend was telling him. Ship knew something that he wasn’t saying and now he had decided to mull it over in his mind before releasing the information.

Ship laughed. “Do you think this snow will ever stop falling? My old man was listening to the radio tonight, after the TV cable got knocked out, and they were saying that there was a break in the weather pattern. When the snow stops falling the temperatures are going to drop. Or rise. I can’t remember which. It’s like December all over again. What happened to August, eh?”

Stretch did not respond.

“You think that this is the new ice age, Stretch?” Ship didn’t expect an answer. What would Junior do? “Hell, we might all have to move to Jamaica.”

Stretch turned and looked at Ship. The guy is a moron.

“Ship, listen to me.” Stretch stepped closer to his friend. His voice was low and measured. He did not want Ship to think that he was judging his intelligence. That would lead to a confrontation. “Junior is in that restaurant with the waitress who works there. She is not supposed to be there now. There are bank robbers on the roof of the building breaking into the restaurant. They may be in the restaurant already. There not supposed to be there. Bank robbers carry guns. Our buddy talked to you. He knows all of these facts. He would not have hung up the phone without giving you some instructions.”

Ship was quiet. Stretch waited patiently.

Finally Ship spoke. “You think I’m stupid, Stretch. That’s it. You think I’m stupid.”

***

Margaret took Junior’s hand and put it on her belly. Junior felt uneasy. Before Margaret had become pregnant, Junior and his friends had hung out in the Canadiana. Margaret had become the symbol of all the older women the boys had fantasized about, all those sexually deprived women in the world who were searching for boy toys. They had speculated amongst themselves what they would do with Margaret if they were alone with her. Now Junior felt guilty about all those thoughts. He liked Margaret. With all that had happened to his family, she had never treated him like a leper. She had been kind. Always telling him to help himself to the donuts in the morning. Sometimes she would make him a sandwich before he left work for home. And she had listened to him, laughed with him when he talked about his friends, held his hands when he spoke about the loneliness of his sister. And now he was touching her body. Not in a sexual way but like her protector.

“Do you feel him?” There were tears of sweat appearing on Margaret’s forehead.

Junior shook his head.

“There,” she said.

“Ya.” Junior smiled. It felt like her belly was having muscle spasms.

“We’re thinking about calling him Sam. That’s what I want to call him. Sam disagrees. He says that he’ll just end up being called…”

Junior pulled his hand away. “Your husband is right. Don’t call him Sam.”

Margaret smiled. “I like the name Junior. Maybe we’ll just call my husband, Senior.” Margaret tried to laugh. “Senor Kelly like he was Spanish.”

Junior smiled. Margaret grimaced. Another contraction. She bit down on her lip so she wouldn’t cry out. Her hand reached for Junior’s and squeezed it. The contraction passed. Margaret looked at Junior, their faces only inches apart.

“Little Sam isn’t going to wait. He wants to meet you, Junior.”

“I don’t think that’s a good…”

Margaret squeezed Junior’s hand. “This baby isn’t going to wait. You’re going to have to deliver it.”

Someone in the back of the restaurant cried out.

***

Guy climbed down the ladder into the closet of the restaurant. He stepped into the pail of water.

“Fuck!” He kicked the pail to one side.

From above, Jimmy Higgs looked down into the closet. “Watch out for the pail of water on the floor, lad.”

Guy glared up at Jimmy but said nothing. He carried most of the equipment down the ladder into the restaurant. The place was pitch dark. He grabbed one of the flashlights and looked around for the lights.

“Don’t turn on the lights, Wheels,” Jimmy said as he reached the bottom of the ladder. “You spilt water all over the floor.”

“Sorry, Mr. Higgs.” Fuck calling you Ocean. Guy was becoming increasingly tired of Jimmy’s condescending voice.

“Been a long time since I was in this place,” Jimmy said glancing around. “Can’t remember where the door to the basement is. You take a look at the front of the restaurant. I’ll poke around here in the back.”

Guy moved down the hall. He was careful this time. He didn’t want any more accidents. Who knows what these people left on the floor? He recalled one job where he had stepped on a mousetrap. It had broken a toe and scared the life out of him. He opened the door to the front of the restaurant. The restaurant itself was lit up by the snow outside the front window. He had to be careful not to let anyone see his flashlight from the outside. That was one of Jimmy’s orders. Fuck him. Who the hell would be out on a night like this?

Making his way amongst the tables he flashed his light along the walls. He checked out one door. It was a closet filled with napkins and tablecloths. He looked across the room toward the kitchen. Must be back there. Stepping across the room he noticed how quiet it was. When he’d been in the restaurant before, the place had been filled with noise, customers, music, food cooking. The stillness gave him the creeps. He opened the kitchen door. He flashed his light around the room.

“Wheels,” a cry came out from the back of the restaurant.

Guy turned. Mr. Higgs stood in the open door. “I found it, Wheels.”

Guy moved back towards Jimmy.

“Where the hell is Crack?” he asked. “Didn’t I tell you to go and get her.”

Before Guy could say anything, Montgomery appeared out of the closet.

“Anyone got a light?” she asked, glancing at Guy. “I need a smoke.”

***

Mustafa banged on the door. He was exhausted. He had managed to hobble on one leg across the hydro field and then the block to the house. Lois opened the door.

“Thank God, you’re…” she began. “What the hell happened to you?”

Mustafa pushed his way passed Lois and limped into the kitchen. He fell onto the couch, grabbing his legs and wincing.

“Get me some ice,” he cried out.

Lois disappeared. Mustafa pulled up his pant leg and looked at his knee. Jesus!. It’s all blown up like a balloon. Lois returned with a paper towel wrapped around some ice cubes. Mustafa grabbed it and put it on his aching knee.

“It’s time, Mustafa.”

“I don’t want to lose my leg,” Mustafa cried with a wince. Tears ran down his cheek. “It hurts like hell. Burning inside, honey.”

Mustafa opened his eyes and looked at Lois standing in front of him. She had her coat and boots on.

“You’ve got to drive me.”

“You’ve got to drive me to the hospital,” Mustafa insisted. “I can’t drive with this pain.”

“Mustafa, our baby is coming. How did that happen?”

“It’s a long story,” Mustafa responded. “God, it hurts like hell. Where’s your mother? Why couldn’t she take us?”

“She hasn’t driven a car in years. I don’t even know if she has a license anymore. Besides mom passed out”

“Drunk?”

“Does that matter? She can’t drive.”

“Is there anything left?” Mustafa asked. “I could use a drink.”

Lois searched around the sofa. The bottle was laying on its side. She picked it up and handed it to Mustafa. He raised the bottle to his mouth.

“Fuck, the cow drank it all.” The bottle fell out of his hand and rolled across the floor.

“It’s just as well,” Lois cried. “I don’t want a drunk driving my baby to the hospital.”

“Couldn’t we call an ambulance?”

“I tried that. The lines are out.”

“I can’t,” Mustafa said.

Lois leaned over and slapped Mustafa across the face. “That’s enough, Mustafa. Act like a man and get in that car and drive us to the hospital.”

Break Out

November 23, 2008

35. Break Out

“Couldn’t she give us a hand, Mr. Higgs?” Guy said to Jimmy as they fished around the snowdrift for the ladder they’d buried beneath the snow days before.

“Ocean, lad,” Jimmy corrected Guy as they kicked the snow about. It occurred to Guy that some kids might have stumbled over the ladder and taken it. Kids would take anything that was laying about. Guy had once dragged a gas stove home when he was a kid. His mother made him take it back. She was terrified of gas stoves and screamed at Guy as if he had dragged a serial killer home.

“There she is, Wheels.” Jimmy picked up one end of the ladder. The snow fell through the holes like cheese through a grater. “Just leave Crack in the car. Her wrist is still pretty sore and she needs to keep her hands warm, lad. Those fingers will be our bread and butter. Keep your thoughts focused on the prize at the finish line. Don’t worry about what you have to do to get there.”

A light breeze had swirled in eddies in the alley creating drifts against the building. The snow was up past the back windows of the restaurant. Only the space outside the back door had been cleared away. They placed the ladder against the wall. Guy grabbed some of the tools they would need once they were in the basement of the restaurant and had to start digging through the wall into the bank. He could see now that he was going to have to take the place of Mustafa. He had become the mule. Although he had never killed anyone before he felt as if Mustafa was good starting point. The little shit should be here.

When Guy reached the roof of the restaurant, he threw down the bag of tools. Looking around, he sighed with relief. It had been his fear that they would be faced with feet of snow to shovel. And he knew who was going to do most of the shoveling. Guy stepped onto the roof. A moment later Jimmy Higgs stepped off the ladder and stood beside him.

Jimmy smiled. “The gods are with us, lad. Look at that. The wind has blown the snow off our entrance. I don’t mind telling you, lad, I was afraid that we might have to spend considerable time and effort in finding and then uncovering our entrance.”

“Too easy.”

“What lad?” Jimmy was in an ebullient mood.

Guy shrugged.

“Let’s get the rest of our gear up here and open the entrance,” Jimmy said and reached into his pocket, pulling out a small flask. “Have a sip. I saved it for the work up here. Help take the nip out of the air.”

Guy took a sip. The whiskey revived his spirits. Once they had all their gear on the roof, Guy and Jimmy pried open their secret entrance into the restaurant. Jimmy took a flashlight out and shone it into the closet. He spotted a pail of water below. Satisfied that all was well, Jimmy sent Guy back to the van to get Montgomery. When Guy opened the door of the van he found Montgomery using the rear view mirror to put on makeup.

“Hello sailor.”

Montgomery’s smile made Guy feel uneasy. She’d seen her flashing it at Jimmy and in the Zig Zag when she was seducing the bank manager.

“It’s show time,” Guy said.

Montgomery put her makeup back in her purse. Guy saw the flash of a gun.

“What do you need that for?”

“A girl can’t be too careful.” Montgomery took a package of cigarettes out of her purse and offered one to Guy.

“Mr. Higgs want us up top.”

“He can wait. Come on inside. We’ll have a little talk then we’ll go up.”

Guy slid into the van and took a cigarette.

“What are you going to do with your money?” Montgomery asked, smoke slipping out through her lips. And almost effortlessly as if it was the most natural thing in the world, she leaned over and kissed Guy on the lips.

***

“What’s wrong?” Ship asked from the other end of the telephone line.

Junior looked down at Margaret and smiled nervously.

“Nothing. You decided to come after all.”

“Ya. I missed you guys. But there’s no time to explain…”

“The lady I work with is going to have a baby,” Junior said.

“What?”

“Forget the plan,” Junior whispered, turning away from Margaret. “Get off the line. We’ve got to call a cab.”

“You’ve got to get out of there, Junior!”

“What?”

“There’s a gang of bank robbers who have climbed up onto the roof of the restaurant. They’re going to break into the restaurant and climb down into the basement. They know all about that wall behind the wine cellar.”

“Where are you?” Junior asked. A gang of bank robbers! It didn’t make sense. Ship was always screwing things up. He wished he could talk to Stretch.

“I’m across the street with Stretch. Junior, you’ve got to get out of there.”

Margaret looked up to the roof.

“Someone is on the roof,” she whispered.

Junior looked up. He glanced around the room. He spotted a place in the corner behind the stove where they could hide.

“Call the cops,” Junior said to Ship and hung up.

Junior looked up then pointed to the corner. “Burglars.”

Margaret struggled off the chair and with Junior’s help made it over to the corner. They both sat on the floor. Margaret heard a noise from the back of the restaurant.

“The closet,” she whispered.

“Fuck!” Junior skipped across the kitchen to turn off the light. On hands and knees he crawled back to the corner of the darkened room.

“My friends will call the police.”

“I can’t wait that long, Junior. My water just broke.”

***

Sam stared at his cell phone. He looked at Wendel. “The line just went dead.”

“Must be this storm,” Wendel responded. “Don’t worry. Margaret will be okay.”

Outside the wind had picked up. Gusts of snow blew across Lakeshore toward them. It was becoming difficult to see anything when the snow was blowing. And just when Wendel was going to suggest that they call it a night and check out the Canadiana, a car came hurling out of the parking lot of the Miami Inn. Sliding sideways as it turned to speed off, the car smashed against the rear of the cop car. And just as quickly tore off down Lakeshore disappearing in a cloud of blowing snow.

“Shit!” Wendel turned on the ignition. The car did not respond. Wendel pumped the gas and tried the ignition again.

“Don’t flood it.” Sam’s voice was calm and collected.

Wendel took his time, turned on the ignition again, softly touched the gas. The engine roared. He moved out of the side of the road and, once on firmer ground, made a u turn and sped off after the goons.

“Do you see them, Sam?” Wendel’s heart was pounding.

“Slow down, Wendel. We’ll catch them.”

The cop car moved along Lakeshore. Wendel leaned forward trying to see through the gusts of snow. The wind stopped.

“There they are.” Sam pointed down the road.

Wendel laughed as the car sped up. “Jesus, I love being a cop.”

Anxieties

November 22, 2008

34. Anxieties

Sam looked nervous. I knew he was thinking about Margaret. Margaret was a resourceful person. She could take care of herself. I didn’t like women like that. They always underestimate danger and overestimate their abilities. Too damn independent.

“Why don’t you call, Margaret?” We’d been watching the Miami Inn now for a couple of hours. Our boys were probably asleep already, but I knew Sam wouldn’t call off the stakeout. Once a plan of operations had been decided upon, Sam would not give it up.

“She’ll be home by now,” Sam said.

Ever since I’d known Sam, I’d never seen him doubt Margaret. A cop had to trust his wife. He couldn’t worry about her and keep himself out of danger’s eyes. You had to stay focused. That was my problem with Edna. She was always in a state of panic about something.

“Give her a call anyway, Sam. A night like this deserves a phone call.”

Sam nodded. He took out his cell phone. I kept an eye on the motel. A white van passed between us and the motel heading east along Lakeshore. What the hell is he out on a night like this for?

“Any luck?”

“Margaret isn’t home,” Sam said matter-of-factly. We waited. I don’t how much time passed. It was hard to tell with all this snow. It was as if we were caught in the moment, like no time was passing at all. I looked down at my watch. Another hour had passed.

“You want to leave?”

Sam shook his head. Sam started to phone again.

“We’d better stay here, Wendel. I’ve got a funny feeling in my stomach.”

Sam phoned the hospital. He started to give out Margaret’s name. When he closed his phone I could tell that Margaret was not at the hospital. Then he made another phone call.

“Why don’t you phone the restaurant?” I suggested.

Sam put the phone in his pocket. “Just did. The line is busy.”

I looked at my watch. The restaurant should have been closed by now. Margaret should have left. Sam didn’t say anything. He stared across the street at the motel.

“I’ll phone later. Margaret’s probably calling for a cab.”

We slouched down in our seats, trying to get comfortable and waited. Time passed. I couldn’t stand the silence. I needed to talk. Words were like an engine that kept time moving. “I don’t know what to do about Edna, Sam. I think I could get full custody of the kids, her turning into a lush. But it makes me feel guilty. It might put her right over the edge. She’s never done anything but be a mother. Never had a full time job. Doesn’t have any skills. I wanted her to stay home. My mom worked her ass off when we were kids. I didn’t want my kids to come home after school to an empty house.”

“I thought she had a job.”

“If you call working at Brennan’s a job.”

“She could go back to school, Wendel.”

“Never finished high school. Edna was a real social butterfly as a teenager. Cheerleader, year book, all that sort of shit. Didn’t pay much attention in class. One of those girls who spend more time on her makeup than algebra. And she was good lucking. God, I thought she was a goddess. What a set of legs. I don’t know what happened to them. Cellulite. It plagued her. Why don’t men get cellulite, she complained. Like everything was a conspiracy to make women’s lives more difficult, that men got off scot-free. After the kids came along Edna cut her hair. Used to have this long blond hair that fell down over the small of her back. But once her procreation duties were successfully completed she graduated into the pragmatic homemaker. She got wider. Her shoulders got larger. How does that happen? I read someplace where old married couples start to look alike.”

Sam looked at me and grinned.

“What?” I laughed.

“I think you’re underestimating Edna. She’ll bounce back.”

I shook my head. “Edna isn’t like Margaret. I’ve always taken care of everything. She can run up a charge card but she’s never paid a bill. The kids tell me that the house is a mess. She was always a lousy housekeeper.”

Sam looked over at me. “How did you stay together for so long?”

I grinned. “The sex was always terrific. Until the last couple of years. I think Edna is tired of life. Sometimes I look at her and she has that sadness little girls sometimes have. She looks scared and angry. And I’m to blame.”

Sam looked at me skeptically.

“I’m serious, Sam. I’m to blame for everything.”

***

“Will you get away from that window,” Michael cried.

David turned from the window and looked at his brother who was sitting on the bed cleaning his gun.

“Those cops are still there, brother. Their fucking car is practically buried in snow and still they sit there. What do they think? That we’re going to rob a bank or something on a night like this? You couldn’t pay me enough to be a cop. That’s the third time you’ve cleaned that thing tonight.”

“It passes the time. Helps me relax. Allows me to think. You should find something to occupy your mind.”

“Well, I threw away our dope,” David said angrily. “The fucking TV doesn’t work. God, this waiting is driving me nuts.”

“Get some sleep.”

“Ya, like I’m going to sleep with those assholes sitting out there. I need a broad.”

Michael laughed.

“Go ahead and laugh, brother. I’ve got a high sex drive. Not like you. How long has it been Michael. A week? Six months?”

Michael looked up from his gun. “Go jerk off in the can.”

“You got some magazines?”

Michael shook his head. “Use your imagination.”

“Very funny,” David responded. “You know that I don’t have any imagination. Did you see that broad in the club, the strawberry blonde?”

“They were all blondes.”

“That Brittany chick. Nice back porch. She used to be George’s girl. Remember George Maybe. Big ugly fellow. Used to be the bouncer at the Diamond. George once told me that Brittany fucked like a rabbit.”

“George was a psychopath, David. Now a dead psychopath.”

“What the hell does that mean, psychopath?”

Michael looked up at his brother and smiled. “Like you.”

“Very funny, Michael. If you weren’t my brother…”

Michael put the last pieces of his gun together. “After we find this fellow, Lombardo, we’re going to deal with Mazudo.”

“A party, brother?”

Michael smiled. “We’re going to teach that little slime ball a few dance steps.”

The smile on David’s face disappeared. “But first we’ve got to find Lombardo. Before I get too bored.”

Michael put his gun back into his bag. “We’re getting out of this hole.”

“But the cops…”

“Fuck them.”

David laughed. “Now you’re talking brother.”

Mustafa’s Flight

November 21, 2008

33. Mustafa’s Flight

My bladder was full. Maybe it saved my life. Standing there pissing away at the back of the van. Snow falling down so softly. I don’t believe in God but if he does exist, he must speak like falling snow. Everyone’s nerves were on edge. I knew that the longer I was gone, the more tensions would rise. But my bladder would not empty. And then I looked down. Footprints. Someone had been standing next to the van. Only minutes before. I looked around. There was no one in sight. I knew I should hurry back and tell everyone what I had seen. But my bladder would not stop. And then I started to think. Maybe it was more than footprints. Maybe it was a sign. I don’t believe in God but I do believe in signs. I started to think about Lois. How scared she must be. About to have a baby. Alone. Maybe the baby was coming tonight. Maybe she needed me tonight. I kept thinking about her eyes. How they always believed in me. But this job could be my only chance to hit it big. I’ve always believed that you had to be lucky in life. And being lucky meant that you had to be prepared when opportunity came knocking. But it seemed that I was being drawn between two futures, one with Lois, one with money. A lot of money. Would I stay with Lois if I was rich? I wish I could have said yes, but I wasn’t sure. And still my bladder was not empty. Steam rose up from piss hitting the back of the van. I turned and zipped up. The zipper nipped my cock. I gave out a cry. And it felt as if I had passed over a divide. On the one side was the van and the bank and danger. On the other side was Lois. I decided to run. A soft breeze twirled around me as if I was being camouflaged in a cloud of snow. I couldn’t wait to tell Lois. I had chosen her. I wanted to yell out loud to announce my joy to the world but there was still danger behind me. I knew that if Mr. Higgs saw me fleeing he would give chase. And so I ran down the line of stores, across Jopling Avenue and across the Canada Trust parking lot, my eyes closed, my mouth reaching up into the sky tasting the sweetness of freedom. I should have been watching where I was going. I ran right into the Chrysler that was parked there. The face of the driver was pressed flush against the glass only an inch away from mine. He looked terrified. I crumbled to the ground. He started his car and sped out of the parking lot, fish tailing, smashing the side of the Chrysler against the sign that advertised A Better Future with Canada Trust. A cloud of snow fell off. I grabbed my leg and cried out. The Chrysler sped down Bloor Street. I looked back. They must have seen him speeding away. They must have seen me. I tried to climb to my feet. My leg gave way. Shit, it must have been broken. I dragged myself off the parking lot and crawled behind the Canada Trust building.

I lay there in the snow, massaging my leg. It was my knee. It was throbbing. I pulled my pant leg up. The knee was swollen. I made a snowball and put it on the knee. Then I peeked back toward the old folks home. I could make out someone at the back of the van. Maybe if I crawled into the hydro field and covered myself in snow they wouldn’t be able to find me. I certainly wasn’t going to be able to outrun anyone. Jesus Christ! It must be another sign. I had made the wrong decision. What had come over me? I shouldn’t have left. Now they’d be coming for me. Dead man crawling. I looked at my knee again. It didn’t look good. I checked out the van again. It was moving out of the parking lot. It crossed Bloor Street and disappeared into the alley back of the alley. Safe for now. But they’d be coming after me. Not now but later. Mr. Higgs didn’t like leaving any loose ends. How could I have been so stupid?

I don’t know how long I’d been laying there feeling sorry for myself. That’s my nature. Can’t seem to think straight until I go through a period of sulking. I’m not proud of it but that is my M.O. I thought of Lois again. She’d be in danger now. And our baby. Who knows what Mr. Higgs would do in a rage? I never trusted people who thought too much, who pretended to be in control of their emotions. They were like a balloon that’s inflating. Sooner or later they would burst. You can only keep your emotions pent up for so long. I wanted to run, to hide someplace safe. If I went back to Lois, I could be heading back into danger. But how could I leave her? Maybe they wouldn’t do anything to her. Maybe they’d show up at her apartment and feel sorry for her. Maybe Mr. Higgs would have second thoughts. Sure, Lois would be safer without me. But, where else could I go? There was nowhere else. I gathered myself and started crawling home.

Mustafa’s Departure

November 21, 2008

32. Mustafa’s Departure

“I gotta take a pee,” Mustafa said.

Jimmy Higgs looked back into the van.

“Can’t it wait? We’ll be going over to the bank in a couple of minutes. You can pee in the alley over there.”

“I can’t wait, Ocean.”

“You’ll have to wait,” Jimmy said. “Someone might see you get out of the van.”

“No one will see me.”

Jimmy Higgs grumbled.

“One of those old people in the home sees some colored fool with his dong hanging out of his pants on a night like this and they’re going to phone the cops.”

“God, let him go,” Montgomery said. “I don’t want him pissing back here. It’s disgusting.”

Jimmy sighed and nodded.

Mustafa slid the panel door of the van open and stepped out.

“Close the fucking door!” Montgomery cried.

Mustafa closed the door and stepped to the back of the van. He started to pee. When he looked down at the ground he saw footprints. Jesus! Someone has been here. Impatient to finish his pee, he cursed his full bladder. Someone has been here. Probably gone to phone the cops. All this fucking snow. So damn cold. Lois may need me. They’ll kill me if I don’t tell them about the footprints.

Inside the van, Jimmy Higgs began to grumble. “How long does it take to piss?”

“Maybe he got lost.” Montgomery laughed.

“You shouldn’t put Mustafa down like that,” Guy said. “He’s a sensitive guy. We’re all in this together.”

“Go see what’s happened to him,” Jimmy said to Guy. “And keep it quiet.”

Guy stepped out of the van.

“Where the hell did you find these guys?” Montgomery asked. “They’re so unprofessional.”

A moment later Guy returned. He slid back into the driver’s seat. “He’s gone.”

“What do you mean, gone?” Jimmy asked.

“He’s disappeared, Mr. Higgs.”

“Are you sure?”

“That’s great,” Montgomery said. “I knew that little shit wasn’t dependable. Always trying to peek up my dress. Goddamn pervert!”

Jimmy sighed. “We don’t need him. We’ll split his take.”

“What if he phones the cops?” Montgomery asked.

“He won’t do that,” Guy said. “Mustafa’s on parole. If he calls the cops then he’ll have to implicate himself. That means he goes back to the cooler.”

Jimmy turned to Guy. “He’s your responsibility, Wheels.”

“What do you mean, Mr. Higgs?”

“I mean, lad, that when we’re finished all of this, you’re going to find him. You know where he lives. I want you to kill that little fucker.”

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