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Saturday, 28 July 2018

Lobster's Revenge

Greetings,

Jesse Zimmerman has released Part 3 of Lobster's Revenge, a comic fantasy story featuring the two sisters, Flora and Fauna, and their hired ranger friend known only as the Challenger. They are on a quest to have a quest! All three stories are now archived.


Part 1 is contained in this archived link: Lobster's Revenge Part 1

Part 2 is contained in this other archived link: Lobster's Revenge Part 2

Part 3 is contained in this other other archived link: Lobster's Revenge Part 3

The 3-Part story was published in the UK-based webzine, Shlock! 


Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Junction Landlord by Jesse Zimmerman


Welcome to Junction Landlord

This blog contains a work of fiction written by Jesse Zimmerman, a Toronto-based fiction writer.  It tells the tale of a young man who moves into the Junction neighbourhood of Toronto where he encounters many challenges. 

Aside from oddball house-mates, the transplanted north Torontonian is forced to contend with having a ruthlessly shitty landlord.  In this situation he finds the true meaning of oppression, rebellion, and independence, and ultimately learns what kind of material he himself is made of.

Start reading Chapter 1 today, find out how Marty Goldman proceeds in his dealings with the Junction Landlord.  Join the Facebook group today.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Epilogue

Marty

By morning they had crawled out of the park, exiting further west on Bloor Street.  The road was completely empty as it would usually be at predawn.  The two of them moved up a side street between old two-story apartments on the north side of the street.  After turning and going up a few curvy roads they would find the next east-west street and just beyond that was the Junction.

 "So Richard," Marty said once they reached an old church at the top of a great slope.  The road forked up ahead, both ways going northward. "Is that like your superpower?"

"What?" Richard asked, pointing to the left path. "This takes us nearer our street.  No point making us walk more and be out in the open."

Marty nodded. "Is your superpower freaking out and grabbing hard heavy to hand to people?"

"No," he said quietly, looking away.

Marty knew he shouldn't say anything more.  He had wanted to break the tension. "What the hell do I do now?" he repeatedly asked himself.  He thought of Jimmy and wanted to go back.  Richard had argued with him about that, but Marty had no intention of reconsidering.  He had to know what had happened to him.

"Are we walking into a trap?" he asked Richard, picturing a S.W.A.T. team bursting in on them the moment they got to the kitchen.

"I guess it's because of the Falklands," the older man answered instead, his voice shivering slightly. "That's it.  That's why I do it.  Nigel."

"Nigel?" Marty inquired, just barely remembering Richard having called him that once.  It was when he had given him the brick.

"He was in my company," the Englishman explained. "We were shelled real bad that night.  I heard him scream over the bombs and I rushed out to get him the medkit.  I wanted to get the medkit to him so I could help him.  I wanted to..."

Marty brought a hand to his forehead to shield his eyes from the first direct sunrays of the morning.  Between each old house on the west side huge bursts of light and heat hit the sides of their faces.  Up ahead was Dundas Street West, the heart of the Junction.

"After we find out about Jimmy we leave," Marty said. "I won't touch him."

"We should just leave," Richard replied, wiping his cheeks with both hands. "There's no reason to stay.  Someone else will come looking around, even if Jimmy didn't rat us out.  He's a liability to have around anymore."

"What then?  Should we drop a rock on his head?"

Richard's hands balled into fists.  Marty knew he had hit an exposed nerve.  "Okay, okay," the young man said, raising his left hand as if to block. "Never mind I said that.  Forget it.  Let's just check him, then go."

"Go where?" the older man asked. "Where are we going to go where no one can find us?"

"If Jimmy doesn't talk, if he just takes his money and goes and doesn't tell anyone.  He can implicate himself if he goes to the police.  He robbed..." Marty looked about, and then lowered his tone. "He robbed Franco's place with me and Spades.  He's fucked if he goes to the cops.  He'll just have to deal with it."

Richard shook his head, glancing about the sidewalk.  Some people were in the bus shelter up ahead of them, the early morning commuters.  Marty envied them for a few seconds.  They were going to work.  If they worked then they had homes. 

No matter what he did with the money, it would be a very perilous path for both of them going forward.  They left behind them one confirmed death, two unconfirmed ones, and a ransacked pent-house.  He wondered if the names Marty Goldman and Richard Brewer were safe ones to have.

As they passed under the shade of an old oak, a police cruiser strolled by on the road to their right, sputtering up slush as it bounced slightly on the inequalities of the snow underneath.  Without a thought or word between them they lowered their heads, staring at their feet and the salt on the sidewalk.  Marty anxiously stepped over each crack, seeing the cruiser turn around in his mind's eye.  He raised his head and saw that the car was headed for the Junction instead.  It turned left once it reached Dundas.

"They're already there," Richard muttered.

"We don't know that," Marty protested, knowing instantly that it was in vain.

A second vehicle shot down Dundas, an ambulance, it's sirens strangely silent.  Richard laughed dryly. "They'll get a body on the stretcher, but not a live one," he said."Marty, we're not going back.  Come, we're going right, up towards the Junction Triangle.   I got an idea."

He wanted to argue, to insist they get a closer look first, but his instincts kicked in.  Those emergency vehicles were headed to their former house.  Going back would be walking into custody.  This was their chance to cut their losses and run.  Richard led him eastward, crossing Keele Street.  They slipped through alleyways rather than the roads when they could, walking quickly and quietly.  In the distance, maybe back at Dundas, they could hear sirens now. They sped up their pace, now headed north, crossing a Dundas Street that was beginning it's first spasms of rush hour. 

"Is there anything back in the house that you have that has your name and former address on it?" Richard asked as they turned into an old industrial street off from the main roads.  The place looked like it was once a center of a community five or six decades before.  Here the buildings were brick, signs of crumbling marking their corners, and old rusted fences strung out around abandoned lots that were now reclaimed by tall grasses and weeds.  Marty knew this place.  They were near the tracks.

"I threw out my paystubs ages ago," Marty replied. "There is just some clothes there and a few books.  And, uh, my work uniform...ah man.  My uniform!"

Richard nodded. "They'll figure it out eventually," he said. "And that'll tie you to the robbery maybe, especially if Jimmy talks."

"If he's alive," Marty agreed, wondering if Ivan's friends would have done him in.  Marty knew he would know someday, probably someday soon too.  He would either hear of it when he was in jail, or find out about it by reading a newspaper if he stayed free. 

Marty Goldman sighed.  He thought over the past few months.  It was a shorter time than it had seemed.  He was back in the kitchen, standing and waiting for Ivan to show him the grimy coffee maker that first day.  Marty came home then, seeing Richard in the kitchen boiling some soup on the stove.  He saw Jordan and Nicky next, his other room-mates, both of whom he regretted not knowing better.

They came to a crossing spot, the metal wall that covered the tracks from the rest of the city parted here.  There was a train blocking their way.  It was stopped.  Marty looked left, seeing it stretch all the way down his sight, probably ending closer to Jane or Runnymere, even further west than the Junction.  To the right it was the same, no end in sight.  This was one of those super long freight trains, the ones that take a full ten minutes to pass by. 

Richard paused for a second when they came to the train, and then kept going alongside it.  Marty followed him up to the side of the nearest freight, a huge rectangular one with two levels.  The walls were grated, with little diamond shaped holes every few inches. 

"What are we doing?" Marty asked as Richard crawled up onto the side of the freight and peered into one of these holes.

"Well, we're not riding in this one," he said. "Too many pigs."  He jumped down and pointed to the next one down.

"We're going to ride the rails?" Marty asked, feeling completely mixed about the idea.  It could be a potential getaway.  No one would be checking them here and it takes them off the roads and out of the city. "Are we hobos now?" he asked himself. "Hobos with millions of dollars?"

"This one!" his friend called over to him.  He had already climbed up onto the ledge at the end of the next freight.  Marty joined him, crawling up on the small space between the trailers. 

The train jolted.  Marty grabbed Richard, the older man lunging forward to grab the handle of the door of the trailer in front of them.

"It'll start up again soon," Richard said, tugging at the lock to open the big metal door. "Ah shit, this won't open."

"I'm pretty sure all the trailers are secure," Marty replied. "They wouldn't leave them without locking them up.  Let's do something else.  If we just hang on for a bit we can jump off when we're clear of the city, or at least on the other side.  We can go to Oshawa if it's going east."

"It'll be all over the news soon," Richard replied. "That is, if they have us as suspects already.  That might take a few days."

"Fake I.D.'s," said Marty.

"Hmm?"

"That's what we'll do.  Get haircuts and fake I.D.'s right away.  We just need to find connections.  First stay at some grimy motel off the freeway, and then we go to seedy bars and ask around, carefully of course, but then we get fake I.D.'s, change our looks, get new clothes and be off."

"And then what?"

"We'll figure that out as we get there," Marty answered.

"I guess so," Richard said, nodding. "I'm freezing though.  Let's see if we can get inside one of these."  He jumped off and moved further down the train.  Marty went after him again, kicking up pebbles as he caught up to him.

"I'll miss Tony the most," Marty said as he returned to his side.  Richard was too busy gazing over the freights as they passed them to answer.  The train made another few noises.  It sounded like the engine was panting sporadically, trying to move the massive weight that was in it's charge.

"There," Richard said, pointing at a cylindrical silver freight. 

There was no door, just a four foot tall, three feet wide doorway.  They got closer and saw that the lower half of the space in the doorway was blocked by a big box.  Marty pushed on the box, trying to move it out of the way, but it was immobile, wedged perfectly into place by another box the same height and size up ahead.  He stuck his whole head in next, just resting his chin on the top of the box.  Up ahead it was dark, but he could feel free air in the space there. 

"Can you fit in?" Richard asked as Marty pulled his head back out.

He nodded. "Both of us can.  I just don't know what's ahead, if there is enough space or if we can just crawl in and lay down on our stomachs for the journey."

"Only one way to find out."

Marty went in first, pulling himself forward by his fingers that he fit in the creases between the boxes.  He went forward a few feet before he felt the space beneath him open up.  Richard pushed at his feet from behind, demanding to know what was ahead.

"Wait," he called back, pulling himself over the edge and falling onto a cold metal floor.  In the dark he slowly stood up, unsure of when his head would hit the ceiling. "It's fine!" he shouted. "I can stand here!"

"Move over!" Richard cried back, bringing himself next down the row of box tops and onto the floor by Marty's feet. 

The place, though cramped between rows of larger boxes, went back another six feet or so, enough space for both of them to stand, sit, and even lie down with one of their feet in one of their faces.  And despite a breeze coming in from the half-covered entrance it was much warmer than outside.  Marty flicked on his cellphone, realizing in that moment that it would be best to dispose of it as soon as possible.  He would throw it out the doorway, letting it fly onto the tracks to get crushed under the train.

"There's enough space," Marty noted aloud as he looked up at the ceiling, using his phone as a flashlight. "I got to throw this phone out soon though.  You got anything we can use for light?"

Richard reached into his pant pocket and pulled out a lighter.  Marty smiled, sitting down at the far end, placing the open cell on his knee. He pulled out something small and smooth from the bag, feeling a wide open grin coming on as he felt his fingers over the plastic bills as well.

"What you got there?" Richard asked.

Marty pulled out the ivory pipe.  He had put something in it earlier.  Now seemed like any time to smoke it.  Richard handed him his lighter when Marty reached his hand out and made the flicking motion.  After he took in a long inhale he handed it to Richard.

"Why not?" Richard sighed.  The smell of marijuana overwhelmed them.  If they got caught with the smell on them that would be the least of their worries. "Marty, I just realized something."

Marty took the pipe back when Richard had had his puffs. "Yeah?" he asked, lighting the plant bits up again.

"My usb, it's gone."

Marty breathed in.

"I had my whole novel on it," Richard went on, rubbing his eyes, likely covering tears. "Somewhere, whether on the bike ride, when we were running in the woods, or when I fell over...at some point it flung out of my pocket.  Almost a year, and all those drugs to finish it.  Now, it's gone.  All the words, all the chapters, all the people, all gone.  Dayne dead again, just like Nigel and nothing I can do."

Marty breathed out. "Do you remember e-mailing it to me?"

At first Richard stared at him.  Slowly a look of relief crept onto his face. "Oh...yes, how could I forget that?  That was an unfinished version though, I still have to write a chapter again, the last one, but that's nothing.  Maybe I will write more, add more scenes and change the ending a bit, or keep it going for a few more chapters?"

"Thank God you remembered," Marty laughed, feeling the numbness of the weed take over.  He stretched out his tired legs in front of him.  After that whole ordeal he needed the rest.  He had earned it.  Now he was going away, going far from that house, leaving everything about it behind him forever.

"You always had my back," Richard said.

Marty nodded, handing over the pipe. "Where is this train going then, east or west?"

"I don't remember.  Could be either."

"Montreal?"

Richard shrugged. "Or northwest to Winnipeg."

"Nah, I'll go to Montreal," replied Marty.

"Anywhere but Toronto is good right now.  Let's just go, start fresh.  We got this one fighting chance to keep going."

Marty agreed, closing his eyes, letting the soft rumble of the train overwhelm his tired body and mind.  He fell into a blissful sleep.  In his mind the house from the Junction faded further from him; grasslands, hills, lakes and rivers passing underneath him.  Everything was behind him.  The only things he wanted to think of were the things before him.




THE END . . . ?





Friday, 6 February 2015

38

38

"Death is the solution to all problems.  No man - no problem."

Richard 

“Ivan?” Marty squeaked, kicking his knapsack back into his room with his left heel. “Ivan’s in Russia.”
    
“He’s not in Russia,” Jimmy said blankly, earning an angry glare from Marty.
    
“Shut up Jimmy, you don’t even know him!” he snapped. “He’ll come back.  He always comes.  I don’t know why he left,” he then told the two trespassers. “Honest!  That’s all I know!”

The dark-haired man with the gun shook his head. “Take us to him now.”

Jimmy stood up quickly, the blank look still on his face. Richard cringed as the taller of the two men backed up into the space with the staircase and the front door.  Richard knew that Jimmy knew where to find Ivan and was going to lead them there.  Two pops from the gun would surely follow.

“Come on!” barked the armed man, raising his pistol. “You will come with us now, both of you.”

“No,” said Marty, lowering both of his arms at once and shoving his hands into his pockets. 
    
The big man shook his head and cocked the gun.
    
“Marty!” Richard snapped. 
    
“I won’t go,” the younger man said. “You’ll have to shoot me.  You’ll shoot me anyway.”
    
“Where.  Is.  Ivan?” he asked again, pausing between each of the words. “This is the last time I’ll ask, buddy.  You better tell me.”

“Answer him!” yelled 'Putin' from behind him.  Jimmy by now had made his way around the table, quickly scurrying behind the big one. 
     
“This is it.  We’re both dead,” Richard thought. “They know.  We’re dead.”
       
He had been near death before in the Falklands: 

A boom woke everybody up.  Seconds later multiple explosions of light erupted inside the bunker.  Mere seconds seemed like miniature eternities, the blink of an eye became a pause between explosions.  When it was over Richard thought that he had died, been blown apart already.  All around him there was nothing but lingering smoke and streaks of blood on the walls.  Nigel was dead.  Richard found him, one half of him hanging over his bunk, the other on the floor.
   
“Nigel…”

Now hearing the sounds of men’s screams around him, the panicked voices of old comrades he had not seen in years, he reached into his duffel bag.  It was still on him, a single strap over his shoulder and chest holding it up.  The man still had his gun trained on Marty.  Jimmy had gone down the stairs, Putin turning to follow him.

“Come now,” said the dark-haired man, his upper lip curling slightly. 

Richard felt the tip of something sharp and heavy inside the bag; the rhino’s horn.  Marty had robbed it from that rich guy in the penthouse.  He had left it in Richard’s room though.  The image of a dead bloodied rhinoceros with a hornless nose flashed in Richard’s head, causing something inside him to stir.
 
The echoing of shrieking soldiers stopped.  As he lifted the great horn out of the bag the thunderous crashing of a herd of massive charging beasts enveloped the room. 

“Nigel!” he screamed to the room, hurling the horn at the gunman's head.  

He saw it coming too late.  The end of the horn shot into his face, instantly tearing up his cheek and nose, missing his right eye by centimeters.  His hands shot up to his face as he fell backward.  

Richard saw the gun fly out of his hand, bouncing off the refrigerator and then flinging into the washroom.  The big man's head smacked hard against the wall, causing a new crack to spring up and spread out into different smaller cracks like a tree forming and sprouting branches in seconds.
 
Putin’s eyes darted from his friend and then to Richard.  He lunged forward at them.

“Run!” yelled Richard as he bolted over to his companion across the kitchen.  Putin ran forward, stopping himself at the last second from smashing into the oven.  Marty spun about, grabbing his knapsack before he kicked open the door to his room.  Richard came up on his heels, pushing him inside with both hands.

“Window!  Window!” he shouted after him.

Marty pried it open and in one swift movement shot himself through like a torpedo.  Richard looked behind him, seeing Putin running back to the other. “Shit!” he yelled, jumping out of the window and landing on top of the wooden roof of the window well.  The wood made a sharp creaking noise as he landed.  For a second he thought it would give out from under him, sending him crashing down on top of Ivan's carcass, but it managed to hold.

Marty turned back, reaching out both hands as Richard scrambled back to his feet.  A train rumbled by on the other side of the metal wall. “The bikes,” he said to Marty, tapping him on his shoulder. “Come on!” 

He led him to the end of their yard and over the fence.  Normally Richard would have trouble scaling it, but in the heat of fleeing from death, it felt easy.   His arms managed to lift him upward until they reached the top and jumped the rest of the way down into the next backyard.  Richard darted ahead to the side of the house.  The bicycles were both there, neither tied up as usual. 

He grabbed the first one off of the wall and swung his legs over. “Sorry kids,” he muttered hastily. 

Marty grabbed the other one.  They pedalled frantically, down the side of the house and into the next cul-de-sac. “Where are they?” Marty asked as he came along to his side. 

Richard shrugged back. “They’re either in the other yard or coming out on our street in the car.  Shit, turn right!”
   
Both of them veered sharply onto Maria, Marty veering sideways so sharp that he was looking for a split second like his horizontal body was parallel to the street.  The road was slushy; their front wheels sending up storms of ice and water, the two of them creating a new set of twin trails behind them. 

“Where do we go now?” Marty shrieked.

“Dundas.  Left now!” Richard shot back, turning down a small north-south street. 

Marty glanced over his shoulder as they took the last turn. “Ah shit!  They’re after us!”
   
Richard looked back to see the black car coming down Maria, already almost at the corner. “Damn it!” he spat, swinging about to cross Dundas Street. 

A car barely missed them both, shooting its high beams on them, honking loudly. There were people out on the sidewalk, but none of them seemed to take note of them.  It was dark now, looking like night already.  They were going south now, away from Dundas and down a long empty street.  To the left and right were shadow-shrouded old houses, each three or four stories with old brick foundations, some with castle-like turrets sprouting up from their slanting roofs.  Richard stole another glimpse behind him.  At Dundas the sides of numerous cars were in view, the two pursuers likely blocked.

Marty was ahead of him now, riding directly under a weeping willow’s looming branches.  Richard sped up his peddling, convinced that they only had a few seconds' reprieve at best. 

“Where are we gonna go?” Marty called as Richard caught up to him.

“Just keep going!” Richard shouted back, storming on ahead, sending now hundreds of shards of slush ahead of his front wheel with every full spin.  He reached a hand free for a second to make sure his bag was fastened to him.  Marty, he had seen, had his knapsack slung against his own back.  They had their fortune.  They just needed to get away.   

Marty nearly lost balance, yelling from behind, something about “black guys” from what he could tell.  Richard turned back as they sped through a green light, catching sight of the car an intersection away behind them, it’s headlights beaming forth at them like target crosshairs.

“Go!  Go!  Go!” Richard shouted, his heart pounding, eyelids strung open as an aggressive adrenaline took over, sending his feet into a spinning frenzy. 

“Help!  Help us!” the younger cyclist started shouted as they zipped past a crowd of people huddled in a bus shelter to their right. “They’re trying to kill us!”

Another street going east to west was coming up ahead. “Turn!” Richard called to him, swinging left.  Marty went right. “Ah shit.”  He sped down to the next street, passing by some old churches.  Keele Street was only a few yards before him.  A bus passed by heading south toward the edge of High Park.  Without any hesitation he turned right, remembering that it was a steady downhill slope south to Bloor Street.  Here the snow and ice was largely cleared, the constant exhaust from the heavy traffic likely having melted away everything.

Once he was gaining on Bloor he stole a peek back quickly.  There three were cars driving towards him, but not one of them a black one.  He skidded his bike through an amber light just in time, coming up on the northeast corner of High Park’s sprawling canopy.  Another cyclist suddenly appeared to his right, swerving onto the grassy space before the trees.

“Richard!” came Marty’s yells when his wheels hit grass instead of sidewalk.  

Richard's fingers squeezed the brakes.  Marty jumped off the sliding bike, letting it fall onto its side in front of Richard. “Ditch the bikes!  They’re behind us!” he cried, waving his hands frantically in the air.  Two lights beamed forth from behind him, highlighting his thrashing silhouette against the darkness under the trees.  The next three sounds were the horn honking, the brakes slamming and then a single gunshot. 

Marty moved first, dashing into the trees, leaving the blinding beams in Richard’s face.
     
“Stop running!  Let me kill you now!” a deep voice barked. 
      
“Marty!” Richard yelled, spinning around.  The adrenaline kicked in a second time, his feet burning with each frantic step.  There was a path straight into the woods.  At first it was even, but once he got under the trees it shot steeply downward.  He remembered this place, it was the great ravine that was almost the whole eastern half of the park.  Richard’s vision could only make out basic shapes now.  He knew that off the path the trees were thick, nearly impassable, the ground there full of vines and bushes jutting out between ledges and slopes.

“Richard!  Can you see me?” Marty’s voice rang out from what sounded like a few dozen feet ahead and below him. From behind  he heard one man shout in another language. 

“They’re just behind,” Richard whispered harshly, catching up to Marty, grabbing his shoulders and bringing him close.
   
Marty nodded. “Should we hide?”
   
A loud pop rang out, making them both hunch over and tear down the path.  They came to a stone bridge over a river.  Past that it suddenly forked; one way going down along the river's edge as it curved, the other turning uphill into deeper forest.  Without thought they chose the upper trail.

Soon after they were running up and down what felt like great mounds.  Neither of them turned their heads, but the loud curses could still be heard what sounded like little more than twenty feet behind them.

   
“We can’t lose them,” Richard thought, his knees feeling weak, each footfall now sending sharp pain up his ankle and into his calves. “It’s over.”

Marty ran up ahead, tearing up a steep slope first and then disappearing downward to his left.  Richard stopped himself from falling over, just managing to stagger up the hill after him.  The ground started falling quickly, his feet kicking out, trying to find a place to land, his whole body more falling now than running.  Something here seemed familiar, even more so than before.  His eyes were starting to see the surroundings better.
   
“Stop!”
    
At the sound of the yell from behind him Richard tripped on something, a jutting root or loose rock, something, and fell over, just managing to cushion his face with his forearms at the last second as he landed at the bottom of the hill. “Run Marty!” he managed to yell after him.  Marty stopped instead and came back for him. “No!  Go!”

Marty slipped and fell backwards, landing on his back on the semi-frozen ground. 
   
“Shit,” Richard groaned, flinging himself quickly onto his back, looking up.  The man who looked like Putin stood over him. 

“Here!” Putin shouted, turning back. “We got them!”


The footfalls of the larger man were heard coming downhill to them.  Richard looked about hastily, remembering the area.  Looking back the way they came he could see the sloping ground now and the large figure making its way down to them.  To the left was a wall of earth that went up a few dozen feet, the top of it covered in vines and branches, above that only darkness.  To the right the ground ended, a cliff.  Richard remembered it now.  He had looked down there during the evening one time he had visited before.  It was a direct drop of forty feet or so.  At the base were a mass of logs, tree trunks and rocks.  Huge trees jutted out from the side of the bluff, growing sideways, some twisting upwards, others pointed downward to the deep ravine below.
   
“I was here.  I remember this place exactly,” Richard thought, barely able to hear his inner voice between his baritone heart pumps.

The big man came to Putin’s side.  His face, now visible in the little moonlight that managed to peer in through the treetops, was bloodied and bruised from the rhino horn, his skin pierced from the edge, a bloody tear running down his cheek from his eye nearly to his chin.  He still had his gun.

“Marty!” Richard cried out as he moved his face up.  His friend was still sprawled out on the ground.

“Yeah Richard?” he called out weakly.
 
“I’m glad we became friends.”
   
“Me too.”
   
“Good-bye comrade!”
   
The gun hovered above his face, the man scowling down on him.  He said something in his language, curses probably.  Richard shut his eyes.  He expected the gunfire to come any second, the last thing he would ever hear.

“Laura,” he whispered under his breath. “I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.”
   
Then he heard a loud growl.  Something lunged out of the darkness to their left.  The gun went off.  Richard opened his eyes. 
   
The big man was at the side of the cliff, a large black dog had his forearm in its jaws. “What the fuck?” Richard spat, jumping to his feet. “The dog!  The dog!  Yes!” 
   
Putin stood there, looking in shock.  The big man had lost the gun, flung it out into the shadows somewhere.  He screamed, his voice high pitched now, flinging his arm wildly, the beast refusing to let go, fresh blood shooting out as the dog’s jaws stayed clamped down like a merciless vice.

Marty came to Richard’s side, hands up as if they still had a gun on them.  Putin shook himself from shock and ran forward just as the two locked opponents fell over the side of the cliff-face, the dog crouching on top of the man as they went.
   
“Atlas!” came a voice from behind them.  A figure dashed out into the light, the homeless man Richard had seen before.  Putin ran to meet him, tried to grab hold of him, but the other man charged him, head-butting him squarely in the chest, causing him to fall back. 
     
"Yeah!" Marty shouted, springing up from the ground.  Putin tried to get back up, but the homeless man started kicking him in the ribs. 

Richard thought of Nigel again and the whole world started spinning.  He frantically glanced around, setting his sights on a large rock down the path.  He ran over, picked it up and shoved it at the attacking man.  Putin tried to get up again.  The homeless man glanced at Richard and took the rock.

“Whoa!” yelled Marty, taking notice of it. "Again?"
   
The rock flung down onto Putin’s face, emitting a loud crunch.  He shrieked in pain, still trying to get up.  The raggedy man yelled and swore at him, still kicking wildly at his chest, gut and neck, one after the other.  Putin rolled over sideways, moving inch by inch at each strike.

Soon he too fell over the side of the ledge.  They heard him scream, ten seconds later hearing him land somewhere below.
   
“Motherfuckers!” the man who lived in the woods howled after him. 

Richard smiled as the black dog, Atlas came to the man's side.  He had seemingly managed to land on a log or a ledge below and get back up.  Marty grabbed Richard’s shoulder, bringing him over to the edge.  They both peered down.  Neither of the two men were visible, only shadows below, like they had been consumed by a black sea.

Without a second thought Marty and Richard reached into their bags.  The man had slumped down on the cliff-face, letting his legs dangle, grabbing hold of Atlas’ face and kissing the dog's forehead.  The two room-mates came to his side and shoved bills at him, twenties and fifties.  They reached into their bags again and gave him more after that, nearly a quarter of their total fortune.
   
 “Wherever you go make sure you have a decent landlord,” Marty told him.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

37


 

"When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home."
 
Marty

It was January 29th around three o’ clock when Marty and Richard went back to the house to check on things.  They had been out of the house for a full twenty-four hours, just the two of them.  Marty had asked Jimmy if he wanted to come along when they had left, told him that it was best to get out of the house, but he had insisted he stay, opting to sleep in the game room.  He told Marty he would likely leave in a day or two.  Richard had gathered up a few things in the duffel-bag that was once Ivan’s; some clothes, a tiny box of tea-bags, tea biscuits and some granola bars, placing everything on top of half of their money stash.

Their first destination had been the Coffee Time at the place where Dundas Street West split northward, ran under a bridge and became Dupont Street.  This was the Junction Triangle, the eastern-most part of the greater Junction area where more of the old industry stood.  There were open lots of gravel and cracked up cement, most likely the future site of condo development.  The street seemed to alternate between houses, abandoned houses, and stores with apartments on top.  Every few dozen feet there were also shelter homes and tire yards.  Dundas West Station was just a ten to fifteen minute walk eastward.

“So are we going back or not?” Marty asked once they were seated in front of two steamy cups of black coffee.  An all-nighter had been suggested on their quick walk through the Junction’s back alleys and Vine Avenue.

Richard scratched his chin and then blew on his cup. “Why go back?  We got everything we need here.”  He pointed his eyes first at the duffel bag on the chair to his right and then to Marty’s knapsack across from it.

“I left my laptop there,” Marty sighed in reply. “I just remembered, damn; at least they don’t have my desktop password so I guess they can’t get it, but still.  It could end up as evidence should the cops every get their hands on it.”

Richard quickly brought a finger to his lips, looking about the coffee shop apprehensively.  There was the small man behind the counter who was on the phone arguing in another language, and two other people at the far end of the shop at a different table.  The whole room was bathed in a golden glow that came from the sun that dipped behind the three story buildings west of them towards Keele and Dundas.

“Yeah, okay,” Marty said, dropping his tone. “But maybe we should go back; at least I can go back.”

“There is an alley beside the two houses behind us, the ones that face the other street, the one with the synagogue?  We can sneak in through the space between the last two houses and then hop their fence into their yard and then hop into ours.”

“Isn’t that illegal?”

Richard scoffed.  Marty got the message.

“Feels like shit though,” he added. “Running now after all this.  I guess I knew we couldn’t stay there forever.”

“Yeah,” agreed Richard. “It’s amazing though; no one came, no one suspected a thing except these two blokes.”

“Who do you think they are?” Marty asked, bringing down the volume of his voice. “What was Ivan’s deal anyway?  We found all these antiques in the house, plus lots of other useless stuff.  What is it, some business with material, or counter-fitting?”

Richard shrugged. “Could be anything; money-laundering, prostitution, drugs, or just general slum-lording.  It’s not really important though, is it?  They’re lump men, lumpenproletariat.”

“Possibly bourgeoisie elements, depending on how big their enterprises are,” Marty corrected. "Probably something connected to people back in Russia, could be international in scope."

“All we know is once they find out what’s happened they’ll be after us.”

“They already are,” Marty corrected, glancing out the window to the parking lot.  There were only two cars out there, none of them black.  Marty shielded his vision to take in the beginnings of rush hour traffic jams forming on Dundas Street.  Every red light at the place where the street split into two directions caused a caravan to form.  He kept expecting to see it, that black car coming in like a hearse making the whole jam look like a stalled funeral procession. “We should get going,” he said, downing the rest of his coffee quickly, shaking those thoughts from his head.

“Yeah,” Richard said.

Once they were outside they both started south on the small streets leading into the neighbourhood known as the West Bend.  This was a more affluent place, upper middle class to lower upper class, made up primarily of three to four story Victorian houses.  Many of the lawns were still decorated with Christmas ornaments even though it was nearly February.

“This area is nice,” noted Marty as they passed by a deflated Santa Claus and started heading slightly downhill. “I wish I'd moved here instead.  Put me in one of these basement apartments and I’m happy.”

“This is a very nice area,” Richard agreed. “We could move in somewhere here if it weren’t so close to the other place.”

Marty turned to him. “So is that what we’re doing then?  Finding another place in Toronto and renting?”  It felt bad in some ways, putting themselves back into the situation they were in in the first place. “And what, get another Ivan in the process?”

“This time we have a bit under a million dollars though.  What else do you propose?  At least they won’t find us if we’re out in Scarborough or Pickering.  What, are we going to fight these guys?  Yeah,” he laughed. “Good luck, you take the big guy, I’ll take Vladmir Putin.”

Marty thought about Spades and imagined a pistol in his own coat pocket.  He would feel safer going back to the house if he had it.  Spades had told him he would call him as soon as he had it ready.  After Marty had asked him Spades had pulled out a wad of cash (two hundred dollars), placing it in Marty's hands quickly and clasping his fingers around it. “I took a few extra hundreds when we were at Franco’s, consider the rest of what I took payment.  I’ll be back in a day or two.  I’ll call you as soon as I get it and we’ll work it out,” Spades said.  Marty shoved the money in his pockets and then reached forward to grab Spades in a bear hug.

It had been a day already since then.  The phone rang earlier in the day, but it was Tony.  He was already in Niagara Falls and had won a few hundred, giving half to his bodyguard.  Tony told him that he was renting a hotel but might be in the market for an apartment soon if his luck held up.  Marty saved his number after saying good-bye, asking Tony to call him again soon to update him.

But there had been no call or text message from Spades all day.  Marty called his number a few times, but got no answer.  He was starting to reconsider if he wanted a gun, especially if he and Richard were going to just jump town or move into a different neighbourhood.

“I think we should go back just once to the house,” he told Richard when they had reached College Street. To their left they could go to the gates of High Park, to their far right was Roncesvalles.  Richard nodded his head towards the direction of the park. 
 
“We’re not sleeping in there,” Marty said once they made it to the edge of the park on Keele Street. 

“Then where are we going to sleep?”

  “I don’t know, but it’s not there,” Marty replied, starting to feel the cold in his knees.  He imagined huddling in the bushes at night when the temperature would reach minus twenty degrees. “There has to be a shelter that’ll take us in for one night.”

“Yeah, then we’ll be fighting bums all night!” the other laughed, air-boxing as they turned around and started walking back up Keele. "I was thinking we could stay in the park overnight, but not in this cold now that I’m out here.  We might have to go to a shelter.  Okay, we get a room together and it should be okay; maybe we sleep in turns?”

Although he hated the idea too, there was no way Marty would sleep outside in this weather.  Another painful gust of arctic wind flew in their faces, sending a stinging sensation over Marty’s exposed skin.  Richard started talking again, but Marty’s ears had plugged up from numbness.  He just nodded stiffly, unable to even move his head fully.

They turned northward at the next street and then westward at the intersection after that, keeping up a good pace until they reached Dundas again.  There were plenty of shelters here at the Junction Triangle.  They chose the nearest one, a two-story white bricked building with some people crouching at the sides of the doors, smoking and drinking.  Marty made eye contact with none of them nor asked around for weed like he might have before, pressing forward to get out of the hellish winter cold.

Inside was warm, soothing to his throbbing face and ungloved hands.  Richard approached the middle-aged man at the counter while Marty tried moving his fingers and stretching.  The guy behind the counter was bald and big, looking like he could have been a bouncer or a security guard of some kind.  His soft voice made Marty rethink that.

They were in luck.  A two-bed room was available.  It was only six in the evening, but already dark.  Once they were in the upstairs room they placed their bags under the twin beds and sat up.  Marty’s body felt less numb, although his face still hurt.  His nose had regained its sense of smell though.  He wished that it hadn’t.

“This place stinks,” Richard muttered, shuddering in the light of a single bulb hanging loosely from the ceiling.  There were brown stains on the wall and ceiling, more than a few of them shaped like little handprints. 

“Worse than Ivan’s,” Marty replied. “I’ll be sleeping in my clothes on top of the bed-sheets.”

“Same.”

It was quiet in the dim room, save the sounds of strong winds pounding against the window and the occasional yell from somewhere down the hall.  Hours passed by yet no one knocked on the door to rouse them.  At one point they had both fallen asleep at once, waking only when the morning was already over. 

They thanked the man at the front and stepped out into a chilly afternoon.  It had snowed heavily again, the early thaw being nothing but a weather tease.  They returned to Coffee Time, trudging through deeper snow to get inside again.  As Richard went to the washroom, having refused to use the shelter’s shit-stained toilet, Marty called Spades.  There was still no answer.  He called Jimmy next.

“I think you better get over here,” his friend told him at once.  There was something about Jimmy’s tone, more serious than he had heard it ever before.

“Yeah?  Shit.  Why?”

“Spades, I can’t get a hold of him.  Do you think the five-o got him?”

“I can’t reach him either,” Marty answered.  Richard came back to the table.  “Jimmy, do you want to leave?”

 “Soon, yes, but get back here first.”

They had argued about going back once Marty ended the call.  Richard insisted they were ready to go and could leave Jimmy behind.  Marty was sick of his willingness to leave people who got entrapped in the problem that the two of them had created behind.

“Tony was blind, okay; fine it was good you got him out, but Jimmy?  Come on, you can’t trust this guy to come with us.”

“You hated him since the start, before you even knew him, didn’t you?  He wasn’t the one who took money and hid out getting stoned.  Fuck it, I’m going back.  You can wait here.”

Richard stood up, insisted he go wherever Marty went.  Marty patted his soldier comradely and nodded, already regretting bringing up Richard's drug binge. “Thanks,” he said.  As they left the door he assured Richard that they would slip in quickly and talk to Jimmy and then leave.  If Jimmy refused then they would just go together.

When they reached their street again they saw no sign of the black car.  There were some vehicles parked on the street, but they were all covered completely in snow.

“Jimmy!  What’s up?” Marty asked as he and Richard entered the kitchen on the main floor.

His friend sat at the table with both hands on the edges. “Hi,” he said quietly, glancing up once and then darting both eyes down at his lap.

“He knows something,” Marty thought, noting that he was shaking as he sat. 

“One thing I got to get,” Richard said to Marty, turning to go to his room. “You left it in my room.”

Marty fake-laughed as he turned to the door of his own room.  He had to get his laptop. "Leaving once I get it," he thought, not wanting to even try to talk to Jimmy about it. "He must have found the body." 

“You never told me this, Marty!” Jimmy called in after him.

“Huh?” Marty asked, feeling a rush of adrenaline as he came to his laptop on his desk.  It was still on.  He flipped it open frantically and waited for the screen to materialize.  It was online too.  His e-mail was open.  There were two new messages.  The first one was from Richard.  It had a file inserted, a word document.  The heading of the message read: My novel.  The other one just above it was sent minutes ago and was sent from Jimmy.  Marty’s breath went short as he opened it, reading:

Marty,

You knew I would do things.  But you never, ever told me we would do anything that involved killing someone.  I would risk going to jail, but never to Hell.

He gasped, closing the laptop shut and shoving it into his knapsack.  Then he heard the door to the kitchen from outside swing open.  Marty stormed back into the kitchen.  Jimmy looked up at him, face pale and sickly.

“Why?” Marty asked meekly.  Richard arrived at the door seconds later, he too becoming pale as he noticed the two big men had entered, the larger of them sporting a pistol.

“Stay where you are!” he bellowed, raising the gun and pointing it at Marty. “Now you will answer; what did you do to Ivan?”

“Shit!  Shit!  Shit!  SHIT!  SHIT!  SHIT!” he screamed in his head, dropping his knapsack as his hands flung up.

“We shouldn’t have come back,” Richard mumbled, raising his own.