When an RCMP officer is sent undercover back to his hometown to build a case on an old friend, his loyalties quickly become challenged and his old self begins to shine through.
Written by Gregory Patrick Travers
“All I’m saying is that when people hear you say ‘Royal Canadian Mounted Police’, the first thing they think of is a guy with that stupid hat and that red uniform with the black pants and brown boots, standing beside a fucking moose or something. That’s why I always say RCMP…It sounds a lot less gay when you say RCMP.”
“But when people hear you say Federal Bureau of Investigation, they think federal, they think investigation. And the word Bureau…it sounds so professional and badass. People are impressed by bureau; Mounted Police, not so much.”
“So what are you trying to say?”
“I’m trying to say that Canada fucked up.”
Max took a sip of his coffee and placed it back in the cup holder. He checked his rear view and he smiled that stupid smile of his, like his thoughts were too hilariously funny to share with everyone else. I never knew if he was smiling because he thought I was funny of if he was smiling because he thought I was stupid. He responded with, “I think you should just be happy you’re on the force. It’s a big step up from C.O. Would you rather be back at the prison?”
I found it funny he should ask that because, in many ways, I did miss the prison. A lot of those guys in there, in some demented way, reminded me of how I used to be with the crew back in the day. Back home it was, “Fuck everybody, us against the world.” But I guess a mortgage, car payments and a pregnant wife changed that view for me. You can’t be an angry teenager your whole life. Still, if there’s one thing that working the lock up has taught me, it’s that not every prisoner is a blood thirsty, child raping, killer. There are actually a lot of normal, down to earth guys that just wound up on the wrong side of life. But Maddox was my senior detective and even though he wasn’t much older than myself and a lot easier to get along with than some of the other old-timers, he still had a big role in my evaluation and my future so I always made sure he knew that I wasn’t complaining.
“No, I joke around but I’m honored to be here. I mean, what kid doesn’t grow up wanting to be a detective? Chasing bad guys, finding clues, cracking the case…and here I am, my first case as a junior detective. I’m living the dream.”
“Well, let’s not get too crazy. This case will probably be open and shut. More paperwork than legwork. Suspicious packages usually turn out to be duds.”
“But what if it’s, like, a bomb? Or anthrax? Or a human finger? Then we got a real case on our hands. Those are the type of cases you get promoted for…”
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Maddox turn his attention to me with a look on his face as if I had completely lost my mind. “You just became a fed,” he said. “Junior detective for the RCMP… Maybe, you should enjoy your first promotion before you go start dreaming about the next one.”
“Hey, I got a baby on the way. The more money I can make, the better.”
“I hear ya,” said Maddox. “It ain’t cheap to raise a family these days…”
“You know it…”
Before long we pulled up to the front drop off entrance of the Whistler Fairmont and headed into the main lobby. As we approached the front desk, I turned to Maddox and asked if it was okay if I was the one to introduce us. I had never done one and I was excited to break my cherry…make it official and whatnot.
“Sure,” he replied. “Take ‘em down champ!”
His words resonating, I stepped up to the concierge wearing my serious, don’t fuck around detective face who no one except for Nina, my wife, would ever know just how much time had been spent in front of the mirror mastering this work of art.
I pulled out my badge, “Good afternoon M’am, my name is detective Zack Wesson and this is detective Larry Maddox. We’re here about the suspicious package..”
The ladies eyes went wide with concern, “Suspicious package?!”
I knew right away that I had messed up by telling her the reason we were there. I should have know better; the first step is to contain the situation and avoid panic. We should have gone straight to the lady that called us, now this girl was going to tell the next ten people she sees that there’s a terrorist attack about to go off. Between phone calls to loved ones and social media, the whole world would now know in less than 24 hours….so yeah, I fucked up.
Maddox took the reigns, “We spoke to a woman named Allison on the phone?”
Shaken, the employee responded, “That’s the manager…I’ll go get her”
The manager joined us out front and then led us to the back where she showed us into her office. On the desk there was an envelope, creased and wrinkled like it had been through war, ripped on the back and sealed with the glue strip from a zig zag. It was clear that it wasn’t a bomb…but anthrax or a finger still hadn’t been ruled out.
Upon further inspection of the envelope, it was found to hold a half ounce of cocaine, placed neatly in a drug store birthday card. The envelope had no return address but it had been addressed specifically to a certain room on the employee residents. Once we confronted the hotel manager with this information, she was adamant that the couple who was living in the apartment in question had something to do with the crime as they often received noise complaints about the parties they would throw and drug use was highly suspected.
We set up an interview with our two suspects who at first they claimed they had nothing to do with it, as most people do, but after we put the fear of jail in them, they opened right up. They cried and begged for mercy, as none of them had ever seen an actual jail before and were desperate to avoid the fate that awaited them. The fear of a dick in the ass had them telling us whatever we wanted to know.
We learned that the drugs had been sent from Streetsville, Ontario.That was my hometown, my stomping ground, I knew those streets like the back of my hand. We also learned that the drugs came from a man named George Hawkins who, crazy as it was, I had been very close friends with throughout high school. We went through a lot of shit together back in the day.
I told this to Maddox who, as if a lightning bolt of genius had struck him right in the ass, contacted the chief, who THEN decided that they were going to send me undercover to re-unite with my old high school buddy and build up as much evidence against him and his suppliers as possible.
Despite Nina’s reservations, I took the job. The bonus was too much to turn away and as a soon-to-be father, there was no way she could tell me otherwise. She tried…but she tried unsuccessfully. Besides, this was exciting, like something out of the movies. If all went according to plan, I would be on the plane back west before the baby was born and with me, a fat bonus check from Stephen Harper and the boys.
Then, of course, I thought about George….It had been so long since I had seen him, more than a decade. I felt bad that he was in this situation but, hey, he picked his path. That’s the reason I left Streetsville; I knew it would be too easy to fall into that way of life and I wanted more for myself. The more I thought about it, the more I became okay with the idea of returning. It had been years since I had been home and it would be a perfect chance to catch up with all the old family and friends around those streets—even if it was under false pretense.
But if I knew what was about to unfold, I would have never even got on the plane…
Maddox and I landed at Pearson Airport and got in a cab to the Motel 6 on Britannia where there was a surveillance room set up for us. I had been there before as a kid for the prom after party, this time however there were a lot less empty bottles and empty coke baggies lying around. Still, the stained hallway carpets and the smell of stale cigarettes took me back to that night in a flash. I remembered running around the parking lot with my shirt off, so happy I was done with the bullshit of high school. I remember George yelling at me out the window from in our room to come back inside before the cops came.
“Fuck the police!” I screamed. Man, I was such a little shit back then.
Maddox began setting up our gear and I worked on getting me strapped up with the audio surveillance. After that, I left Maddox to his coffee and I got on my way.
We figured out that George was working at a restaurant called Mario’s and so the plan was for me to go there for a drink or two and “mistakenly” run into him. Because he knew that I had been a Corrections Officer, we came up with the cover that I had been fired from my job for selling coke to inmates and had moved back to Streetsville to start over. It didn’t take long for our plan to work out.
As I ordered my second pint I saw him come around the corner. He looked a lot older, I was kind of surprised. I mean, I went through a lot of physical training to get where I was so it wasn’t like I was even comparing him to me, but I always remembered him so youthful and happy. He just looked so defeated–Scrawny, bags forming under his eyes and the hair in the front of his head had begun thinning. But even with all that, he still had those eyes; those hopeful blue eyes that could save your life and destroy your future all in the same night. It didn’t take long for him to notice me. He stopped in his tracks, I could see the years flying back in time behind his eyes. A huge grin creeped across his face and he came rushing over.
“No fucking way,” He said under his breath, still aware of the patrons scattered throughout the lounge. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“I’m home,” I said, tilting my beer. “You work here?”
He ran his hands through his thinning hairline, “Pff…For too long, man, too long…But how about you? I thought you went out West for Corrections?”
I laughed in counterfeit reflection, “Yeah…That didn’t work out so good.”
“Oh, man…” He said apologetically, “Life’s a bitch sometimes…Hey, I got to get back in the kitchen there, but we gotta go for a beer and catch up, it’s been like—like—like 12 years, man! Shit, you look the same as you did back then.”
“You too,” I said.
“Yeah, fuck off,” He replied. “I feel like I’m sixty.”
“Hey, how’s Pete? You guys still hang out? Is he still getting all fucked up?”
“Fuck, I haven’t seen Peter since a few years after you left. He went to rehab for the drinking.”
“No way. That bad, huh?”
“Yeah. After he got out he stayed out East. I hear he’s doing good but…Yeah. Been a while.” He perked up, “But no sense dwelling on the past, right? Listen, give me your number and I’ll give you a shout when I get out of here. Should be around ten. Where you staying at, you’re parents’?”
Despite the future ramifications of my response I said yes, I was staying at my parents. I shouldn’t have said it, it’s right there in the training…but I did. At this point in time however, it hadn’t occurred to me yet the error I had made. I actually left the bar in good spirits, except for the news about Peter. I knew, along with all the others who knew Pete, that he had his problems with the drink but I never thought it would reach that point. I thought if I would find anyone still hanging out around Streetsville, it would be ol’ Petey.
I guess hearing that kind of opened up the floodgates to all the old memories I had tucked away in dusty boxes in the attic of my mind. I started thinking about everyone else I knew from those days and where they may be in their lives. I really lost touch with everyone after I moved out west. I never did the Facebook thing because in Corrections they warned against it and after that, I never really saw the need for it. By then I had met Nina and we had our own lives to live. Judging by the sounds of Peter and the looks of George, Streetsville was eating people alive. My sympathy for them was only matched by the happiness of knowing I had gotten out before it ate me too.
These thoughts stayed with me throughout the day and even still as I was back at the motel getting ready for George’s call. Maddox noticed my distance as he went over, yet again, how much a rookie mistake it was for me to tell George I was staying with my mom and dad as, since I was not staying there, if he were to come look for me at that address he would learn I had lied and thus, put the whole operation in jeopardy. It didn’t help our moods that it was incredibly hot outside and the air conditioning in our room was shady at best. We got on damage control and I gave my parents a shout to let them know about what I was doing in town.
It was my pops who answered the phone. He was getting older and starting to go a bit in the head. The older he got, the more racist he got. He said he wasn’t surprised; the neighbourhood had gone to shit with all the immigrants. If he only knew the person I was investigating was a cereal box white kid he used to have over to his house for dinner. Dad promised to keep a tight lip and I promised to visit, then we said our goodbyes just in time to have the phone ring again with George on the other end. He told me to meet him at Panda’s, a pool hall down on Britannia and Queen St. in an hour, so again we strapped on the wire to my leg and I headed out.
On my way through the door, Maddox grabbed me by the arm and said, “Remember, handle this like we talked about and we’ll have a quick bust. We’ll be back home to the wives in no time. You’re there to find the supply, not to reconnect with old friends, understood?”
“Okay, then…let’s do this.”
Off into the night I went, excited I was about to have my chance to shine in front of my superiors. Playing George would be easy, I thought to myself. Driving down Britannia, passing all the strip malls we used to skate at, I watched our old ghosts messing around in my imagination. The night was warm and peaceful, still and quiet. I suppose it was fitting, calm before the storm so to speak…
And what a fucking shit storm it was, let me tell you.
I walked into the Panda’s Billiards and took a look around. Just another dive bar, I thought to myself. It reminded me of a bar back in Vancouver that I discovered had been running a prostitution ring in the basement. That was actually the case that got me promoted to junior detective.
George was nowhere to be found so I sat down at the wood and ordered a Stella. As I sipped my beer I nonchalantly scanned the room, training that had been burned into my brain years ago and now had been just instinctual reaction. To my left, a handful of young ones—mostly Asian; laughing it up by the pool table about something that must have been a riot, but I’d never know because I don’t speak Chinese or Korean or whatever the fuck tongue they were talking in. The Asians dominated the West coast, and I don’t even want to get started chirping about that because I’d be here all week. Behind me, a middle aged couple—thirties to fourties; It was hard to tell where the one ended and the other one started. Their lack of shame for their PDA was explained by the two empty pitchers of beer sitting next to their pool cues that stood lonely and untouched. What a bunch of fucking rednecks, I thought to myself. Then to the far right, almost right in the back corner of the place, a tall, slender man stood staring in my direction, chalking his cue. He had a mean mug and it looked like he smelled something off me but maybe I was just paranoid, my first under-cover operation and all. His face was worn in a way I had seen many times during my stint as a Corrections Officer. It was years of cigarettes and fist fights that turns skin leathery tough like that.
I barely had turned back to my beer when I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was George. The bartender had his drink poured and over a coaster before he even sat down.
“Wow,” I said. “Ain’t that some service.”
He laughed modestly, “I come here a lot…Sorry that I’m late.” As he sipped his beer, he looked around and his head shot back when he noticed the couple making out behind us. “Shit…” He muttered.
What is it?” I asked.
“Someone I’d rather not see. Remember Rachel Mews?”
“Holy shit, from high school?” I turned around covertly and stole a better glance. It was Rachel, I couldn’t believe it. I guess I hadn’t recognized her at first because her face was getting sucked off by her eager date. Though she looked as if age was getting the better of her, she still had a rocking body and though scattered with speckles, her tits were just as perky as I remembered them in that uniform all those years ago. We used to hook up like crazy in high school.
“Yeah…We were seeing each other for a while. It didn’t end well. She left me for that guy she’s fondling over there—Mikey or Matty or something. He won some crazy amount of money in a poker tournament in Niagara and she jumped on his dick right after.”
“Fucking women, eh?”
“He bought her those tits too.”
“I knew those were too perky to be real.”
He took a long sip of his beer, washing down the bitter taste on his tongue. It was easy to see he was heart-broken. Eager to change the topic of conversation, he turned to me, “What about you? Are you seeing anyone? Have any kids?”
“Single and ready to mingle,” I lied.
Just then, Rachel and her date came over by the bar to pay their bill. She noticed George and stormed over.
“What the hell are you doing here?” She slurred, “Where’s Niomi?”
“Diana is watching her for a few hours.” He said, trying to avoid eye contact. Poor George, I felt bad for him. I could see from their demeanors that she probably used to push him around a lot. George, the nice guy he was, probably just took it to avoid a fight.
“Diana? I don’t know that bitch. I don’t want a stranger taking care of my daughter.”
George started to get mad, “First off, you’re fucking drunk. Your breath reeks of alcohol, it’s disgusting. Second, Diana and I are common law so get used to her. I came out to catch up with my old buddy Zack over a beer, not to fuck around with you. So fuck off, go pass out while getting fucked in the ass or whatever it is you and your boyfriend do.”
“I know you meant that to be offensive…but it’s actually pretty accurate,” said the man.
“Shut up, Mike,” snapped Rachel. She turned back to me, putting on her sexy smile and offering her hand while she clumsily straightened her posture and used her other hand to push the hair out of her face. “Zack…I can’t believe it’s you. It’s been so long…You look great, though.”
“Thanks,” I said, tilting my glass. “You do too.”
She blushed and straightened up her boobs, “Thanks, hun. We’re just on our way out but it was great seeing you. Maybe we can catch up sometime while you’re here. Where are you staying?”
“His parents place, now fuck off!” George barked.
“Yeah, that would be great,” I said. Then they stumbled off on their way. I turned to George who was shaking his head in shame.
“Sorry about that,” he said. “What I didn’t tell you is we had a kid together. Naomi, my daughter. She’s turning four this year.”
“Wait a second…You’re telling me that George Hawkins and Rachel Mews had a child? Jesus-donkey-fucking-Christ, that is crazy as shit. She was the hottest girl in school, man! Congratulations!”
“She used to be great. I’ll be honest, before we starting seeing each other I was in a really bad place. She made me want to live again…Well, she’s a fucking wreck now. I’m thinking of trying to get full custody of Naomi…Shit stresses me out”
I put my arm around his shoulder, “Tonight is not a night for stress, my old friend. Tonight is about catching up and getting absolutely fuckered! Bartender! Shots!”
I kept the shots coming to get George nice and loose, willing to talk about what I wanted to talk about. He asked what had went wrong with the Corrections gig and, like we had planned, I told him I had been fired for selling coke to the inmates. His reaction surprised me, it was like he was looking down on me with such disapproval. I found that strange being that this guy was mailing half ounces of the stuff across the country. I came to my own defence, “What? You’re above all that now? That’s not the George Hawkins I remember.”
“When you left here I was proud of you, man. I thought that, hey, at least one of the crew made it out of Streetsville and is doing something with their life. I’ve watched that stuff ruin too many lives man. I just don’t want to see you going to jail over some stupid shit.”
Again, this coming from the guy who was mailing coke across the country, was pretty ironic. Who was he trying to kid? If he only knew what I know, I kept thinking to my own amusement. But as the night went on and the drinks kept coming George would end up opening up to me about everything.
“I lied when I said I don’t know how to get the stuff. I know where to find it,” He said as we stood in the parking lot having a cigarette. “I don’t like to fuck with it and I don’t like people to know I fuck with it…I have a daughter, I love her, I would would never want to do anything that would risk having her taken away from me. That’s why I say I don’t know…but I know. Working at the restaurant doesn’t pay much. It’s not much…but we have benefits which is good. Kids need all kinds of medication and shit like that.”
“It’s not cheap to raise a family these days,” I said.
“No sir, it’s not. But I have a little thing that I do for some people every now and then and it really helps with the bills.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
George confessed to everything; how he knew a few people in hotels around the country and would send them coke through the mail every few months, as most of the hotels were resorts and far from the reach of the urban drug circuit and because of this he could sell the drugs at a huge mark up. I swear, I couldn’t have gotten a better confession out of him if I had written it myself.
I played along and convinced him that I wanted to start selling the stuff to build up some cash. Though he advised against it both as a moral issue and one of safety, I persisted and finally he agreed to introduce me to his supplier the following evening. Getting back to the motel, I felt like a champion. It only took me one meeting to get a confession out of George and arrange a meeting with the supplier. Both Maddox and the chief were really happy with me. I called Nina from the motel payphone and told her how well things were going.
“That’s awesome, baby.” She said over the phone. “We miss you. We worry about you.”
“Oh, you know you don’t have to worry,” I said. “I’m invincible, remember?”
“No one’s invincible, Zackary.”
“How’s my little baby?”
“He’s been kicking a lot lately,” She laughed. “I think he wants out!”
“That’s great. I can’t wait to be home with you two.”
“We can’t wait for you to be back with us. Hurry up and get your secret agent butt back in one piece, okay?”
“Okay, babe…I love you.”
“I love you too, Zack.”
That night I lied in the motel bed staring at the ceiling. It seemed sleep was impossible; I tossed and turned, I bent my knees and I straightened them out, I pushed away the covers then hid beneath them—nothing helped. I kept telling myself I was just excited about how well the day had gone but there was something else I was trying not to think about and by trying not to think about it, it became all that I could think about…
It was George’s daughter Naomi; I never had expected George would be a father. I guess I found it tough seeing him as a criminal when it was clear that his love for his daughter was his only motive in life. Knowing what I was here to do and what I had already set in motion weighed heavily on my conscience and it was making getting to sleep very, very difficult.
The rain splashed down into the puddles all around me as I did my best to keep dry standing under the marquee of Panda’s Billiards. I was tired from the lack of sleep I had the night previous and my leg was itching like hell but I was afraid to relieve myself with a good hard scratch because I was sure I would displace the microphone that Maddox had spent a good half hour that morning getting just right. The last thing I needed was the microphone falling out the bottom of my pants during the meeting with George’s supplier.
A car pulled up to me and the passenger window rolled down to reveal George, who signaled me into the back. I jumped in the backseat and we pulled out of the lot. The driver I didn’t recognize but he looked extremely familiar. It finally came to me that I had seen him the night previous playing pool by himself in the corner.
“This is Spinz,” said George, referring to his company. “Spinz, this is Zack. He went to high school with Rachel and me.”
“What’s up, Zack,” said Spinz, giving me once over through the rear view mirror. “You were at Panda’s last night. I remember you. What are you looking for?”
“An ounce,” I said.
Spinz laughed, “Wow, no fucking around with this guy. What the fuck are you going to do with an ounce of blow?”
“Sell it,” I said plainly.
Very quickly, Spinz pulled over and stopped the car. He turned around in his seat and spoke very seriously, “An ounce of blow isn’t just peanuts. People have died over less, you understand? On the real, I find it a little suspicious that you just show up here out of the blue looking for an ounce of blow, even if George says you’re tight.”
“Rachel knows me too.”
“Fuck Rachel. That bitch is a shit talking fiend who fucks whoever’s holding the bag.”
George interjected, “C’mon Spinz…that’s the mother of my child.”
“That’s what the fuck I’m talking about! Bitch is supposed to be a mother and she’s rocking eight balls weekly. That’s your child support she’s putting up her nose. I don’t trust that chick for a second…she’s gonna land us all in jail one day.” Then he turned to me, “I can give you a quarter for now. You get rid of that then okay, I’ll take you to see Taylor and you’ll get your ounce.”
“Whose Taylor?” I asked.
“Spinz’ boss,” said George, a response Spinz didn’t like very much.
“What the fuck did you say?” Cussed Spinz, “We’re partners. Fucking partners. Just because I’m running the streets and he does the big weights doesn’t mean I didn’t work just as hard as his fat ass to get us where we are now. I’d do big weights too but if I get nabbed again that’s life.”
The mood was starting to get a little heated so I agreed to take the quarter and come back again after for the ounce. I gave him six hundred dollars and he gave me my coke. He also, unbeknown to him, gave me a recorded confession which, after I separated from the two, I brought back to the motel for Maddox to analyze.
“We got the fuckers,” said Maddox as he finished going over the tape. “Let me just get the chief on the horn, we’ll get the warrants sent over and book these fucks tonight.”
“Whoa, whoa…Now? You want to book them now? What about this Tayler guy? You heard Spinz, he’s the one with the big weight.”
“We get these guys now; one of them will talk for an early walk.”
“You don’t know these guys. They won’t talk.”
“And how do you know that?” asked Maddox. “You haven’t talked to the one guy for over ten years and you just met the other.”
“I don’t need to know them,” I said. “I’m from Streetsville. There’s a code amongst these guys. I know because I used to live by it.”
Maddox shook his head, “I’m starting to wonder if you still do, maybe.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I shot back.
Maddox wasn’t intimidated, “It means that you’ve been acting awful friendly with the suspect on these tapes. I’m starting to think maybe you’re just stalling to avoid having to arrest your little coke dealing buddy.”
“I can’t believe you would even think that about me. I’m insulted.” I said as I grabbed my coat off the chair and headed out of the room in a fit. I had to get away from Maddox. Not really because what he said was so ridiculous and untrue that I had to leave in order to keep my composure, even though that’s what I made it seem like it was, but in my heart of hearts I knew that I was upset because what Maddox said was true. I was, though pointless as it was to do, stalling, or at least attempting to, having to arrest George. I kept thinking about Naomi having to go on without a father and not much of a mother. I thought about Nina pregnant at home…What if my son lost his father? What if I wasn’t there for him? Every kid should have a father. I guess I felt a weight of guilt knowing I would be the one to take Naomi’s away from her. These were good people, maybe a little unorthodox in their ways, but good, loyal people who would go to war for their friends if they so asked. And who was I? I was just a snaky little narc who took advantage of his old friends so he could get another promotion.
I found myself at The Cock and Fox Irish Pub drinking pint after cheap domestic pint. It was the dive bar in the neighbourhood, the one we used to go to when we were underage because they never carded us–Me, Peter and George. We’d just sit at the bar all night drinking, jumping between smoke breaks and lines in the bathroom. Then I grew up, which, believe me, happens faster than you think it will. But those guys, well, those guys just didn’t change at all. For a long time I resented them, I guess I thought they were lazy or basic or something. They just never felt the need to move on, to grow up, to evolve. Yet as I sat there sipping the bitter taste of the dirty taps, I failed to recall anyone who ever went to the ends that they went for me.
When I ran away from home in grade six, I stayed at George’s for like a week. His mom fed me and did my laundry. She brought my parents over eventually, but they let me cool off and treated me like their own. When I skipped the first day of exams because I was coming down too hard off ecstasy, Peter pulled the fire alarm and made it so everybody missed the first day of exams. If he hadn’t had done that, I might have failed grade twelve and who knows how different life might have turned out for me then? These are just a couple of a laundry list of incidents like it and as much as I had matured and moved on with my life, I could not escape the self-loathing that consumed me for what I was sent here to do.
And so, after my thirst had been quenched and I simply could not think anymore, I stumbled back to the motel where Maddox was waiting for me. “We’re staying,” he said, though clearly annoyed by the sound of it.
“I said we’re staying. Chief wants to get this Tayler guy. We wait a week and then contact George to bring us to Tayler. We’ll have a team standing by to pick up the three of them.” Then he went into the bathroom and shut the door behind him. I lied down on the bed and drifted off to the sound of the shower running. It didn’t take long for me to knock out. Maybe it was the drinks that had me in such a peaceful state, or maybe it was because, miraculously, the inevitable had been delayed for just a little bit longer and Naomi would still have her father, if only momentarily.
I got a call from George one afternoon in the week asking me to come to The Cock and Fox for a pint. He sounded concerned and a bit nervous. Naturally, I agreed to meet him. Maddox wanted to me wear the wire but I disagreed.
“There’s no point. We already have both suspects’ confessions. He sounds nervous this time. I don’t want to take any chances.”
“Maybe it’s not what he’s saying that I want to listen in on.” He said.
That was enough for me to step to him, “I’m pretty fucking tired of your subtle accusations, you get me? I got picked for this sting, I didn’t ask for it. There’s a reason the Chief trusted me with this. There’s a reason I’ve been promoted so far so quickly. I started as a fucking Correctional Officer and I’m about a case away from taking your job. Don’t forget that I took down a prostitution ring on my own in my first month on the force, so if we’re going to be partners on this you better give me the god damn respect I deserve!”
That shut him up pretty good. I left the motel with my head a little higher that day. It was like the old Zack, the one who didn’t take no shit from nobody, had resurfaced somehow after years of being dormant while doormat Zack was busy giving handshakes and kissing ass to a long line of his superiors.
When I got to the bar, George was throwing darts in the corner. I ordered a beer and joined him.
“Thanks for coming,” he said. “I had to get out of the house.”
“No problem,” I said. “You sounded like shit over the phone. What’s wrong?”
He sighed, whipping the dart at the board. His concentration was off.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I guess I’m having a case of the guilts.”
“The guilts? Why?”
“It’s Diana…We got in a fight today about money. It happens more than you think.”
“Oh that,” I laughed. “Yeah, I know all about that.”
He turned to me, “You do? I thought you said you were single?”
He chuckled, “I guess it’s the same all around, eh?”
“You know it, bud.”
“She doesn’t know about these little side deals I’ve been making, I couldn’t bring myself to tell her. She’s not like us; she’s a good girl. So yeah, she worries. After all, my salary isn’t exactly top of the line. We’ve been talking about getting a lawyer to get us full custody of Naomi, she thinks we can’t afford it, I don’t know how to tell her we can without causing some suspicion…Do you have any idea how tiring it is to keep a secret for so long? Do you?”
I wanted him to know that I did know what it was like to hold a secret for so long but I couldn’t. I had a secret that I hadn’t told anybody, not even Nina, and some days it drove me nuts with how ashamed I was of it. The whole reason I got promoted to junior detective, all the pride and praise, it was all bullshit. Yeah, I busted a prostitution ring my first month on the first but the truth was, it was an accident. I was just looking for the bathroom and was lucky enough that someone was dumb enough to leave the door that should have been locked, open. It was just a matter of chance, the right place at the right time. Did I deserve my promotion? Maybe not, but how stupid would I have looked if I came clean. I would have been a fucking joke. But we drank more and talked it out and for just a little while I forgot that I was a cop and he was a criminal and we just chilled out like we were seventeen again, shooting shit and playing darts. Around the time of our third pint, his cell phone rang. It was Spinz.
After our first meeting with that guy, I went back to the motel and we ran a background check on him. He may have looked a little goofy with his long skinny arms and crooked nose, but his rap sheet spoke of a lifetime criminal that had been through the system many times before. Real name Dennis Steely, with convictions like assault and possession of illegal fire arms, he wasn’t someone to be taken without caution.
“What did he want?” I asked after their conversation came to an end.
“He’s coming by,” George said, putting his phone back in his pocket.
“Nice,” I said before a long sip of beer. Inside I was kicking myself for not having put on the wire back at the motel…Just for peace of mind that if anything went down, Maddox would be listening. But it was too late for that now. At least I had a small .45 tucked in the waist of my jeans to ease my worries.
Despite my reservations, when he arrived he seemed in good spirits. He took us to the bar and lined up shots for us.
“Jesus, Spinz. It’s 4 o’ clock. Are you trying to get us smashed or what?”
“Shut up and drink, George.” He said. “It’s good for the soul.”
We laughed and tossed them back.
Then Spinz stepped around George over to me, “So how’s business?”
“Good. It’s good to be home, what can I say.”
“Of course, of course,” He smiled. “Everybody’s hungry around here.”
“I’m going to have to see you sometime next week and talk about that other thing.”
He replied as he dug threw his pockets, “Yeah, okay. Why don’t we go for a smoke, smooth out some details?”
So the three of us went outside around to the back alley. It smelt of piss the same way it used to when we came out of the bar to smoke a joint all those years ago. It was oddly comforting. Spinz was still digging through his pockets, looking for something while his cigarette dangled loosely from his lips.
“Shit…Zack, you got a light?”
I reached in my pocket, and as I did, I was suddenly knocked over the head with something hard and heavy. My head throbbed painfully and I dropped to the floor.
I heard George yell, “What the fuck! What the hell are you doing?”
With the little strength I had after being struck so hard, I reached behind me to grab my .45, but I felt the hard grip of Spinz’ hands on my wrist as he threw my hands out of the way and took my weapon from me. I was fucked.
He kicked me hard in the chest, “Where is it?”
I could hear George, “Where’s what? Spinz, what the fuck are you doing?”
“Where’s the fucking wire?!” He barked, hitting me across the face with the butt of my own gun. I was barely conscious at this point. I tried to speak, I tried to say something but his kicks to my chest had knocked my wind clear out. All I could here was George pacing back and forth close behind me on the asphalt. The last thing I remember before I passed out was hearing Spinz saying, “This fucking asshole is RCMP, George… And he’s fucking dead.”
When I came to, I was sitting in a chair with my hands tied together behind my back. I couldn’t tell where we were, a basement of some commercial building was all I could really put together. My face still pounded from getting knocked around in the alley. Spinz was nowhere to be seen but George was there, standing in the corner nervously while he spoke on his phone, “I know baby, I just got held up at the restaurant…okay….okay, I’ll be back home soon…Love you too, babe…Bye….”
He hung up the phone and turned to me, “You know, I’ll admit that Rachel and I have had our problems over the years but this is the second time she’s saved my life. About ten years ago I was going to kill myself, I was lonely I had no one…I saw Rachel getting robbed, by Spinz and Tayler funny enough, those guys were a lot less organized in those days…It was being with her that made see the beauty of life again. And when we had Naomi that’s when I knew I had a purpose in this world. And now, all these years later, she saved my life again. You see, she went to your parents to say hello, knowing her she probably wanted to suck your dick for old times’ sake, but that’s Rachel, she’s fucked, I know it, you know it, everyone knows it. Anyway, she went to your folks and your dad, good honest guy that he is, told her that you weren’t staying there like you told me…He said you were staying at a motel in town on some “secret police business”.”
“Listen to me,” I said. “You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. Kidnapping a cop? That’s long term jail time. Right now, you’re only going down on distribution. You’ll get three years tops, as a first offender you’ll probably only serve a year. If you continue with this you could be looking at fifteen to twenty years in a federal prison, George. Be smart.”
He gave a chuckle, I could tell he was losing it. “Be smart…yeah. I guess it wasn’t so smart trusting you, was it?”
“I’m sorry, George…It’s my job.”
“Well your job might have just got you killed. Spinz is on the way back here with Tayler and Tayler doesn’t fuck around.”
“Then untie me. I’ll do everything in my power to make sure you get as little jail time as possible. Please, George…I have a wife and a kid on the way.”
“You said you were single. Bullshit too, eh? I would love to untie you, Zack. You think I want to do 15 years? But if I let you go, Tayler is going to kill me instead. I can’t be dying now. I need to be a father to Naomi.”
“I can protect you,” I pleaded. “But we have to leave now.”
George stood there trying to make a decision but it was easy to see how torn and afraid he was. I had seen it many times before with a wide variety of perps and prisoners. As I had hoped it would, his fear of prison got the better of him and he came over to untie me. Just as he did though, the massive industrial door squealed open and Spinz, along with who I could only assume was Tayler walked in, each holding their pistols clenched in the fists. When they saw what George had done, Tayler raised his and let of a deafening POP!
In an instant, George dropped to the floor…Dead. Lifeless. Taken. I turned my head the other way, unable to look at his body on the floor beside me. I was going to throw up.
Then, another loud POP! POP! But it wasn’t me who had been shot. I open my eyes and saw Spinz standing over the larger framed suspect they called Tayler, his gun still smoking and his teeth clenched, forcing himself not to cry.
“You killed George, you fat fuck!” He screamed and let off two more shots into the man’s already dead body. Then he turned his pistol to me. “You! This is your fucking fault! You did this! George is fucking DEAD BECAUSE OF YOU!! Are you happy? Huh? You pig fuck! Are you happy, you rat prick!? We got along just fine before you got here. We never hurt no one that didn’t have it coming. It’s YOU!! YOU did this!!”
I tried to stay calm but his desperation scared the shit out of me. He was off the edge now, in a state capable of doing all sorts of unreasonable things, after all, he had just shot a man dead right in front of me. I started to pray and think about Nina and the baby…At least, I thought, they would receive enough money in my life insurance policy, to go on and live comfortably. This was me making peace with what I thought was my imminent death. But he didn’t shoot me. He kept the gun pointed and retied my hands. As he stood behind me I could hear him weeping and muttering profanities over George. I was just as horrified, just because I’m a cop it doesn’t mean that I’m not human. George was a good friend. I didn’t see a drug dealer lying dead at my feet. I saw the energetic little boy I grew up with. The one that had so much passion and life ahead of him…He didn’t deserve to die like this. I agreed with Spinz– all of this was my fault. I wasn’t ready for the responsibility of my job, I shouldn’t have been promoted…it was just luck, I kept thinking. I was just in the right place at the right time, it could have happened to anyone. I just happened to be a cop.
He forced me up and ushered me out of the room in to a narrow hallway dimly lit by Florissant lights that hummed loudly and flickered off more often than they flickered on.
“Where are you taking me?” I asked him.
“If Tayler’s boys heard the shots, they’ll be on the way down here. We got to get the fuck out of here quick, so shut the fuck up and let me think.”
He started moving me towards the elevator until it dinged and the doors slid open. Spinz definitely recognized the two men standing in the elevator entrance but they didn’t look very pleased to be seeing one another. I heard him mutter an obscenity and then push me into a small break in the hallway which, to our surprise, held the door to the stairs. He opened up the door and pushed me in.
“Go! Go!” He screamed.
Up the stairs we ran. The fear in Spinz’ eyes was telling me the consequences of not keeping pace would be nothing short of fatal so I booked it just as fast as him. I would have ran faster but I had no clue where I was or where I was going. It was hard as hell to run with my hands tied together, but at least they were in front of me and not tied around my back. Downstairs I could hear the door to the stair entrance open and the two men from the elevator start up after us. If we thought we were running fast before, this definitely put us into turbo mode. After three flights of stairs Spinz made a hard right, grabbing me by the shirt and dragging me along through an exit that took us into an alley where his car was parked.
“Get in, now!” He screamed, waving the gun in my face. I didn’t argue, that would have been a death wish. We got in and Spinz floored it in reverse down the length of the alley. As we tail whipped into the street, we watched the two men who had been chasing us run out into the alley with their guns drawn, but at that point we both knew they were too late.
I tried to familiarise myself with my surroundings now that we were out on the road and away from that basement where George’s and Tayler’s dead bodies still lied. I knew we were somewhere near Port Credit, but I didn’t know the area very well. My whole time in Streetsville, I never ventured to Port Credit very often.
“Where are we going?” I asked, trying to keep him talking.
“We need a place to hide,” He said. “Those guys will be coming for us, especially when they go back in that joint and see Tayler like that.”
“Let me take you into custody,” I said. “I can protect you.”
He laughed, “You’re fucking crazy. After what you just saw me do? There’s no way. I’d go down for murder. That’s life in prison…”
“I saw what happened. He killed your friend and you acted out of instinct and self-defence. I can testify to that. This man was a murderer and a drug dealer—no one will care.”
His face became deadly serious, “That’s the fucking problem. Ain’t nobody give a shit about us. Tayler may have deserved what he got but we grew up together. He wasn’t always like that…” I could see him catch himself as the tears began to build up in his eye. He wiped them away and became cold once again. “But…He killed George. George has a daughter and shit…She ain’t got no father. Who’s gonna go tell her that, huh? You? Are you gonna tell her you got her father killed? This is your fault, man. This is your fucking fault. You want me to just let you go so you can get some pats on the back and go back to your sweet little life while you totally ripped our world apart? You think I’m just gonna let you walk away from that?”
“You think I didn’t care about George? I didn’t want him to die. He was my friend.”
“Yeah, some friend…”
“Listen, If you kill me you’ll go to jail for the rest of your life. If you work with me we can help you. The drugs are one thing, but the shooting was self-defence and you saved me from Tayler, which goes a long way, saving a cop, trust me…This can have a happy ending.”
“There ain’t no happy endings,” He said. He didn’t speak for the rest of the drive.
We pulled up to a house somewhere in Port Credit and Spinz came around to pull me out. He didn’t say anything; he just pressed the gun against my back and walked me to the front door, giving it a few hard knocks.
“Teddy!” He screamed. “Open up!”
There was no response.
He banged on it again. “Teddy! It’s Spinz! Hurry the fuck up! Open this shit!”
Finally we could hear movement and the sound of locks turning. The door peaked open and a man stuck his head out. “Spinz? What the fuck? What’s all the fuss, man?” He said, looking like he had just been woken from a nap.
“I need to hideout for a minute, let me in! I’m serious!”
The man looked at me and then back at Spinz, “Whose this guy all tied up and shit? And why do you have a gun in your hands?”
“Jesus Christ, can we talk about this inside, please? Some really fucked up people are on their way here so it would be best if they didn’t see me.”
“Not until you tell me who this is.”
“Fine!” Spinz groaned. “He’s a cop.”
The man’s eyes went wide, “Fuck that! You’re not coming in here with a cop hostage, are you completely fucked?! Who’s after you? Why did you come here? I can’t help you!”
“You lived the closest! Teddy! Please! How many times have I had your back, huh? How many times? Remember Cindy? And her driver Rocco? Who gave you that gun? Huh? I did. You never even paid me for it, neither!”
“That was like ten years ago! I’ve changed. I’ve got a house, a job, a girlfriend. I can’t be mixed up in this.” He turned to me, “I haven’t been involved with gangs or drugs in years, I swear to you!”
“Yeah, but you sure like fucking prostitutes, don’t you?” Spinz replied.
“I haven’t done that since Cindy, fuck off! Who do you think you are coming here and fucking up my day and then having the balls to call me out!?”
Spinz raised his gun, “I didn’t want to have to do this but LET…ME…IN!!”
The man Spinz called Teddy opened the door and motioned us in. He led us to the television room where Spinz dropped me to the couch and motioned Teddy to the kitchen. As they walked away Teddy called back, “I just want to make it clear, I only am aiding him because he’s holding a gun at me. I think this is just as fucked as you.”
Once they entered the kitchen I took my opportunity to grab my cell phone from my front pocket and send a quick 911 message to Maddox back at the motel. With me not wearing the wire that day, he was clueless to the events that had taken place. I didn’t know our address but it wouldn’t take him long to trace the location of the call. I managed to get the phone back in my pocket just as the two men walked back into the room and no one had noticed.
About an hour later, red and blue lights surrounded the home. A voice came over the megaphone letting Spinz know he was surrounded and to come out unarmed. He had no idea how he had gotten caught. At first he was caught off guard but then he turned angry.
He pressed the pistol to my temple, “How the fuck did this happen?! How?!”
“Spinz, stop!” Ted yelled. But Spinz didn’t listen. He lifted me up and walked me outside, using me as a shield as he pointed his gun at the officers on the lawn. I don’t even think he saw the sniper that shot him from the roof, but just before he died he smiled like he had gotten what he wanted; a happy ending, maybe. As they pulled me away from him I watched him lay there. He did seem strangely at peace.
The next little bit was tough for me. Our whole investigation had been killed…literally. There was a lot of protocol I didn’t follow and I got a lot of shit for that. The chief called it a suspension, but he knew just as I that it was a leave for mourning. I stayed in Streetsville and went to George’s funeral. Holding the small hand of Naomi, Rachel wouldn’t even look at me. I wish they knew that he was just trying to do the right thing. Spinz getting gunned down became a media sensation, they made him out to be a real heartless gangster when they read off his track record in the system, but I knew he wasn’t like that. He cared for people, he had feelings. He just chose a path and that is where it took him.
Every night since then I thank god I have Nina and yes, my newborn son Anthony. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to Streetsville. The roots are just too deep. I used to feel in so many ways that Streetsville had betrayed me and yet now, though it hurts to admit, I feel like I have betrayed Streetsville. But I go on, I do my best to fight for what is right and take care of my family, so if that makes me a villain in my part in all of this, so be it. Because this is life— and whether you’re a drug dealer or an RCMP officer, everyone’s just trying to put food in their mouths the best way they know how.