Sunday, 12 October 2014


"Courage stands halfway between cowardice and rashness, one of which is a lack, the other an excess of courage."



Jimmy huffed as he shot his arms up straight.  Marty felt the swoosh of air from his friend’s mouth hit him in the forehead.  Jimmy lowered the bar back down, hovering it for a second over his chest.

“Thanks for the breeze,” Marty said lightly, placing the curve of his fingers under the weight’s center. “One more, lift!”

Jimmy’s face went red as he shot the bar up again.  For a second he held it straight above his chest, but then his left hand started lowering, prompting Marty to move both of his hands leftward to level the bar.  “Up, up, up, good!”

He sighed as Marty secured the weight on the uppermost rungs of the bench-press.  

“So, that’s the first exercise?” Jimmy asked, leaning up on the bench.  He looked to his right, over at the latest equipment piece they had bought, the multi-purpose Goliath Pro, a seven foot item that incorporated the shoulder press, butterfly, tricep pull and preacher curls.

“We’re working chest and biceps today,” Marty explained, heading to Jimmy’s other side and sitting on the exercise bike. “So I guess we can do the free-weights next.” 

These weights had been placed on the floor across from the bench-press.  There were six sets ranging from ten pounds to fifty.  Buying them was easy.  They had sold a few remaining antiques and managed an extra few hundred dollars on top of what they already had.  Getting all the weights and bars and the big multi-use piece required two taxi rides from the fitness store out in Etobicoke. 

“Okay, so biceps.  I'll start at twenty,” Jimmy said as he made his way to the weights. “Too bad you got a window instead of a mirror like a real gym.”

“Who needs a real gym when we got one right here?  I guess it costs more than membership, but you never have to leave the house.”  

“I guess,” said Jimmy, lifting the pair of weights with both hands.  His arms were skinny and lanky and unless he changed his diet (or metabolism) drastically Marty could not imagine his arms would be getting any bigger.

“We should buy some mass gainer for you,” he said. "You look like a scarecrow."

Jimmy shook his head. “Is my form right?”

“Yeah,” Marty muttered, getting up from the exercise bike and moving over to Jimmy's side, facing the window.  He had kept expecting to see a police cruiser out on the street.  There was a large black car instead sitting across the cul de sec's end.  Marty saw this vehicle often, figuring it was likely a neighbour's. “I wonder if we should buy a car,” he said as he looked out.

Jimmy shrugged in the middle of lifting, something unrecommended by fitness trainers. "Get more girls that way," he said.

“I never liked cars much before,” Marty explained as he bent over and picked up the thirties in both hands. “But we can probably afford one,” he grunted, standing himself straight again. “Maybe when we do that thing in the penthouse.”

His friend did one more curl with each arm, then paused, letting the small weights dangle at his sides.  Marty finished his set, intending to do ten curls but only doing five, quickly realizing that he had over-estimated his arm strength.  He had worked out almost everyday in his last two high school years and first year in university, but had stopped at the year-end exams and never managed to get back into it since.  Now that he had purchased a personal gym he knew that there was no excuse not to get bigger and harder.  Back when he was working out regularly he remembered being overall the happiest.  It was probably the chemicals that flowed in his brain when he lifted and the sense of accomplishment that followed.

“Yeah, about that,” started Jimmy. “Is that still on?”

Marty nodded. “It's on if you're down.  I got the skeleton key.  We can do it.”

Jimmy shrugged again. “Can we?”

They had not really talked about it since that day before (now three days passed) when Marty had first proposed the idea.  He had told Jimmy the basic plan, but they were both very drunk and stoned at the time so it was not completely concise.  Marty had thought it out though, at least for the most part. “As long as I'm not the one who goes in,” he explained, taking in a deep breath before started his next set of bicep curls with his weights.

“Well yeah, they know you so obviously it'll be me or me and someone else,” said Jimmy.

Marty used some extra energy to shake his head as he lifted the second rep with his left arm. “(Two!) Nope, no one else, just you.  The less people who know about it the better. (Three!)  Even Richard, who is, well, was like my best friend doesn't know. (Four!)”

“Ah yeah,” said Jimmy, starting his own set. “Why do you hang out with that guy? (Uno!)”

“What do you mean? (Six!)”

“He's not helping getting you any pussy,  so why? (Trios!)” 

“Sexist!  (Seven!)”

“(Quatros!) Fine then, girls.”

“Ah fuck—seven's all I can do.”  He knelt down with one leg and dropped the weights at his sides. “You haven't exactly helped me with girls yourself so I don't know what you're talking about.  It's because of a woman why this rich douche-bag got me fired.  We didn't even do anything.  He just didn't like us talking and waving at each other.”

Jimmy placed the weights at his side just as Marty had done. “So what, this is revenge then?  I can't even see you doing this shit.  Selling someone's shit is one thing, but since when do you teef people's property like that?  It's break and enter we're looking at on top of it.”

“Since when do you care?  You steal shit all the time.”

“Like, not all the time and it's just drinks from asshole bosses anyway.”

“Okay, well this guy is the ultimate asshole boss,” said Marty with a grin.

“Since when are you a criminal?” Jimmy asked

Marty paused, not knowing what to reply with.

“Anyway, when is your landlord coming back?” Jimmy asked next.

“Great he's changed the topic,” Marty said in his head. “Well, the topics aren't exactly unrelated.”

“Many months,” he answered. “Don't worry about it.  So, what are you saying?  You in?

He shrugged once more. “How do we pull something like that off?”

“Well, I got to do a reconnaissance mission, maybe two.  I am just going to make sure the schedule of the building is the same as it was beforehand.”

“Okay and how do you do that without being noticed?”

“I'll be in disguise,” he replied.

“As what, a homeless guy?”

Marty nodded. “Yep, exactly that.  We can buy a realistic fake beard, there are plenty of theater type stores over in the Junction Triangle, you know Dupont just East of Keele?  I can get some shitty clothes too and I know where is out of the surveillance camera's vision.  I can wear contacts and we'll have one way radios to communicate.  Of course I'll put mine in an L.C.B.O. bag or something.  When you are robbing the place you tell me what you're taking.”

“And how do I get up there in the first place?”

“When Harvey Franco and his girlfriend are gone you go in, just around eleven.  Usually a meals of wheels van comes by for Mrs. Whiteshire, this sweet old lady on one of the lower floors.  You go in and say you are with a new contracting company.  One of us will call the building's security earlier in the day or the night before you notify them that a new company is going to deliver her lunch from now on.  You will go in with some trays and they will let you up. Then you go to the penthouse, look out for security, who usually patrol at ten and are done by then.  Then you go in, take jewellery, sculptures if he has any, and whatever else he has that can fit into your delivery sacks.  That's it.  The normal food delivery people come at noon but you'll be long out by then.  It only takes a few minutes right?”

“I guess,” Jimmy consented. “But are you sure there are no house-cleaners or nannies or anything?”

“There are but they always arrive at around three.  I know them by sight.  As I said, I will set out a few days before and make sure the weekday routines are all the same.”

Jimmy went on to his next set of lifts.  When he was done he asked Jimmy if they could smoke a joint when they were done working out. 

“First thing we got to do is get some costumes,” Marty said once they were outside smoking.

Jimmy looked uncertain.  His face was blank but Marty could read his hesitance. 

“When did I become a criminal?” he asked himself as his friend changed the topic again, this time saying he wanted to get some protein shakes after they finished the joint.

Marty acquiesced.

As they walked down to a slushy Dundas Street Marty started to wonder about the possible consequences of his plan.  The weed made him more paranoid too, making him feel a sense of dread as he thought of getting arrested or even attacked by Harvey Franco if they got their timing off.  

He somehow doubted it though.  The consequences of stealing might not catch him if the consequences of murder had not done so. 


He woke up to the sound of loud thumping coming from upstairs. Richard Brewer leaned up, groaning as the sunlight pierced his eyes.  His hands flew up to block them.  He swallowed, feeling the inner muscles of his throat ache while the inside walls of his mouth felt dry and tingly.  His stomach contracted, heaving up something that tasted bitterly foul.

“Ach!” he wretched, sounding more Scottish than English.  The nasty taste doubled in his mouth.

Another thump fell from above the ceiling.

“Morning,” he said in a creaky hoarse voice.  He started wondering how long he had been sleeping for.  As he thought it became semi-clear that the last thing he recalled was being awake at night, typing away at his laptop’s keyboard like a high-speed factory machine.  His eyes were wide, nearly bulging as he sent the words from his head down his arms and out his finger tips and onto the screen.  In the background he had a youtube playlist of rock music from the eighties.

The story he had been working on, the one he had been unable to write due to his writer’s block, was finally getting finished.  The plot became complex, moving beyond the murder in the depths of the underwater station on Europa to a large-scale drama involving the entire crew of the station and various corporate and governmental entities on Earth.  Every organization had agendas, and each character had their own loyalties; some to other people, others to the organizations they worked for and yet others to abstract ideals.  The story’s emphasis on characters shifted.  Some characters, most of them by the end, had died.  Most of the deaths he had planned out in his head months before, but a few of them he had not anticipated. 

“Then what happened?” he thought, not of the novel but of himself. “When did I go to sleep?”

He crawled out of bed and over to his desk.  The computer was still on, though the screen was asleep.  Richard pressed the spacebar and the image of the word document faded in, the flashing prompt at the end of the word 'End'.

“I'm done?” he asked, not recalling typing those words. “Come to think of it,” he thought. “I don’t remember anything past Dayne getting crushed by the bulkhead.”

He heard the sound of a door slamming shut and then he looked out the window to the street, just catching two people walking down the sidewalk.  A few cars were parked across the street.  One was large and black; the others were smaller white, grey and beige ones.

Richard looked over to the space on the floor under his desk.  The sack of money was still there, half empty, the sack of drugs sitting next to it.  Richard had been awake for nearly three days straight, having typed out his story in two major writing blocks.  It had been about a week since he had started this.

He stood up.  The room spun. 

A knock came from the front door, startling him as he struggled to keep himself standing.  He turned around and went for the door to the kitchen.  The table was littered with empty beer cases and pizza boxes and dirty napkins and paper towel strewn about them.  He turned himself about again to head to the little hallway and the front door.

As he came up on the doorknob there came another knock, this one louder, sending shots of pain through Richard’s head. “Okay!” he shouted, bringing one hand to his left ear as the other one turned the knob.  The sunlight blinded him for a second, but then the shapes of two big people came into focus. 

They were two men, both tall and broad shouldered.  The one on the left was slightly taller with a thinner face.  His sparse hair that ran up the sides of his egg-shaped head was a sandy blonde with some greys.  The man’s nose was thin and combined with his larger than normal eyes reminded Richard of Vladmir Putin.  The more stout man on the right had a wider face with a thick mouth and dark brown hair.  Both of them wore dull-coloured turtle-necks and long gray coats.

“Hi,” Richard said.

The balding man looked to the other.  “Hi,” he said in a deep voice.

“Can I help you guys?”

“Maybe you can,” the man said and Richard could now hear the man had an Eastern European accent. “We are looking for our friend.  Have you seen him?”

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