Thursday, 29 January 2015



"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."

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.”


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:


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.

Thursday, 22 January 2015



"War can only be abolished through war, and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to take up the gun."


The bodyguard had already driven up to the end of the cul-de-sac.  Marty was in Richard’s room, ready to rush out at the first sign of trouble.

“He’s here?” Richard asked from the other end of the room near the door to the kitchen. “You want a cup?”

“No, no tea for me,” Marty answered.  A big dark man in a black jacket came out of the driver’s side.  His shoulders alone were about as wide as Richard’s whole backside.  He was almost twice the size of the darker haired friend of Ivan. “Jesus, that guy could be a football player,” he remarked, wondering if he should have hired him for himself instead.

“Really Marty?  A bodyguard agency?” Richard asked with a scoff. “Great way to keep a low profile.”   

“I know what I’m doing,” Marty snapped back, twisting his crouching body backward to face him. “At least my ideas don’t involve hiding in a park like a predator.”

“How much of your money did you spend on this?  What do you have now, a little more than a million?”

Marty shrugged.  He only had around six hundred thousand in cash now.  He put it all in his knapsack.  It was going to stay with him.  He just hoped they never got robbed. “A little less than a million.  Did you want me to support you or not?”

The kettle started whistling.  Marty turned himself around again to look out the window.  The bodyguard shook Tony’s hand, quickly glance about and then reached forward to take hold of his arm and lead him toward the passenger side of his tinted-windowed four-wheeler.

“Amazing what a bit of money can do,” Marty said as a slight smile crept onto his face.  The price tag was in the tens of thousands; forty thousand exactly.  The guard himself was half of that for two months and the other half was for Tony to pay for hotel rent, food and bets.  He was going to be in Niagara Falls replenishing his fortune.

“Marty?” Richard interrupted his thoughts of Tony sitting at a poker table with the giant dread-locked man with dark shades whispering in his ear. 

“Yeah, what?”

“You’re going to support me too?”

Marty raised his shoulders. “Do I have a choice?”

Richard said nothing as he poured himself a cup of boiling water from the kettle.  Marty returned his attention to the window.  The car had driven off.  He leaned over a bit, managing to catch sight of it turning onto Maria Street.  There was no sign of any other vehicle.  Marty wondered if the two Russians were telling the truth when they said they would wait three days before coming back.

“It wasn’t too hard to convince him, but it wasn’t an easy talk,” Marty said quietly, getting up from his discreet window peering position.

He remembered going down to talk to Tony.  Even though Marty was in a hurry he was able to start the conversation way off-base from the necessary topic. 

“I never got that,” he had replied to Tony’s explanation of why some races were naturally evil in fantasy stories.

“They’re more or less cannon fodder in everything, the orcs and other basic evil races.”

“Yeah, but it’s so unrealistic, I’ve always thought so,” Marty explained.  He leaned on Tony’s doorframe, keeping his head low as he always did in there. “I mean I guess Tolkien is mostly to blame since everything’s based on his writings anyway.”

“Yeah,” Tony agreed and nodded. “But you have to remember that most of Tolkien was based on European mythology and folklore in general to start with.”

“Yeah, that’s true, like frost giants, trolls and goblins.  They’re just wicked creatures.  I guess I like it when there’s some realism in a story even if it’s only fantasy,” Marty sighed, fully cognizant that his rambling was a stalling tactic.  He decided to cut to the chase, slowly bringing himself closer to Tony, crouching down to face across from him as the blind man sat on his bed. “Hey man, look, there’s something I need to tell you.  I don’t really have much time to tell you, but I can’t let you stay in this house any longer.”

Tony, who had been leaning his face on the top of his hands at the top of his walking stick, perked his head up. “Why?”

Marty shuddered, thinking of Tony’s reaction if he told him that he and Richard had accidentally (supposedly) killed their landlord and had what looked like mobsters on their trail.  Instead he opted for half the truth.

“I’ve done…well, see, I’ve done some bad things,” he started.  Unable to stop them, his eyes turned up to the window.  The window well was illuminated slightly, making the area dim and dank like an old pub.  A pile of pale dummy bodies with their dangling limbs sat on top of Ivan.  Marty recognized his face, that moustache now fainter, looking white like he had aged thirty years in death.  His face was white and cracked; eyes and jaw open in a frozen shriek.  Marty felt the beginning pangs of another black hole forming in his lower bowels.  The semi-preserved corpse of Ivan lay facing the basement room in a fetal position, hands now boney, clasped together like in prayer. 

“Mmm?” asked Tony, not seeming to notice his distress.

Marty slowly began to step closer to the window, keeping his own eyes on the glazed-over white lenses that glared back at him.  There were no pupils, he realized when he was right up to it, just what looked like pale marbles in his eye sockets.  Marty looked up to where the corner of the cinder block had split the top of his skull.  There was a single thick jagged line running down from it, like how the very end of an egg can have a single crack.  A few thick black lines ran down from the end of the line, likely blood that had caked over and then frozen.

And then Marty saw past Ivan's death-face and saw his own reflection.  His jaw had also dropped.  His stare became blurry, his eyes seemingly crossing on their own.

“Marty?” Tony asked.

He stepped back from the edge of the room, Ivan’s face in sight once more.  He had four silver fillings  in his mouth that Marty could see now.  His hair, it was soft, much lighter than he remembered it.

“Sorry,” he said to, finally turning away from the horrid sight.  For a brief second he felt envy for Tony. “Tony, I’m sorry.  I just—just we fucked up something.  Me and the others, the guys you were playing poker with.”

“What happened?  Are we talking illegal stuff?  I kind of figured something like that was going on.”

Marty nodded, forgetting who he was talking to.  A tear tried to leave his eye, but he pulled back, sniffling instead. “We did some stupid things, really stupid dumb things.  I don’t even know why.  We can’t stay here.  If you stay here whatever is following us will get you.” 

Tony said nothing, just stared into space.  Marty waited a moment, but when his friend just kept staring past him quietly he continued. “There’s got to be something you can do.  I mean, go to Niagara Falls and make some money.  We can’t go with you.  You’ll want to be away from us anyway, but you can hire someone, maybe a bodyguard, some big guy.  We’ll give you money.  I can give you around four hundred thousand or more maybe.”

Tony’s eyes shot open. “In Valen's name!” he shouted.

“Uh, yeah,” replied Marty, unsure of what he meant by that. “Well, you can have it.  The guy will probably accompany you to Niagara Falls if you give him fifty thou.”

“And how do I know he won’t just rob me and leave?”

“No, he won’t do that.  I’ll tell them you’re my father on the phone.  I’ll tell them you are going to Niagara Falls to make more money and that you’ll pay them more once it’s over.  I’ll give you my cell number and the number to the agency.  Call me if there are any problems.  I will make sure it’s the most professional agency we can get.  Trust me, money talks.”

“I know that,” said Tony even softer than usual. “And I’m always the one with the weak voice.”

“What do you mean?”

“I have nothing,” he said. “I always have nothing.”

“Not anymore.”

"No, I still have nothing." He wiped his eyes with the back of a hand and sighed heavily.

“Tony, you’re my friend.  I’m so sorry.  The things we did were before you were even here, most of them anyway.  I don’t do these things; normally I would never have done anything like these things.  I always stayed away from anything criminal and I grew up in Jane and Finch!   Of course, it was always easy for me to walk away.  I was a white guy in Canada, had two supportive parents making decent enough money, and had lots of financial support from my grandparents growing up.  My dad was a doctor.  I don’t know why we stayed in that area for so long either.  But the thing is, I’m a total nerd and yet I guess I hung out with some wrong people.” 

He thought of Jimmy and Spades, but also of Richard.  It all started with that, with Ivan’s killing.

“It came to it and I guess I should have known better,” he explained, noticing one tear slowly making its way down Tony’s left cheek.

The blind man sighed again. “It’s been so long since I lost my sight.  I always thought I could take care of myself.”

Marty lowered his head.

“I guess I just needed to realize that I can’t live alone,” he continued, starting on the verge of breaking into crying, each syllable seemed to take strength for him to stop from bawling. “I just can’t really look after myself.”

Instinctively Marty lunged forward to seize his shoulders, hugging him lightly.  His own eyes started to water.  He knew it was his fault that his friend was in this situation.  Instead of getting revenge on Harvey Franco and making money off Ivan’s antiques perhaps he should have spent more time with Tony.  Even with everything that he had done with the others, Tony was the only one that he unreservedly trusted.

“It can happen to anyone,” Marty said. “I can lose my vision someday, have my legs amputated, or just completely lose my mind.  I think that last one is the closest,” he laughed and cried. “I already lost it living here.”

Tony sighed, nodding.  Marty pulled off from him. “I’m not a good person,” he told him.

“No, that’s not true,” Tony replied, wiping his face with both hands.

“It is.  I’m maybe now chaotic neutral at best.”

Tony smiled. “No, you’re chaotic good, definitely not lawful though if you were doing things outside of the law.  A man who steals to feed his family, kills an unjust ruler," he paused a second. "In real life you can change alignments and you can change back.  In a campaign game it’s different.  You have penalties.”

“We have penalties here too,” said Marty, standing back up. “Only it’s not just me paying for it.  Tony, I’m really sorry this has to be done, but you can’t stay here.  Call me tomorrow and the day after, let me know you are okay.  If you need anything just tell me.  If anything goes wrong tell me.  I'll do everything to help make it right.  If there is one thing I can do right by you it’s this.”

Tony stood up, turning to face Marty firmly.  He smiled. “You have done right by me already.” He reached out.  Marty took his hand and they hugged again.

The bodyguard and Tony had left.  Marty stepped outside right after, just to have a look around for the black car.  Richard had tried to stop him, but Marty insisted he would only be a few minutes at most.  He stood there thinking about Tony, worrying if he had made the wrong choice. "I should be leaving soon.  No, I should be leaving now." He wondered if he should do as Richard had recommended and just ditch the other two.

“You leaving now too?” Spades voice came from behind him as he was standing at the end of the cul-de-sac staring over at Maria Street.

Marty turned to him.  He had a knapsack on. "Where you going?" he asked, trying not to show he was startled.
 “I’m going home to do some things before I get going.”

“So you’re skipping town?” Marty asked, wondering if Spades had taken his fair share of the money from Jimmy.  Marty and Richard had their share accounted for, but the rest of it was held by the other two upstairs. 


Marty reached to shake his hand, a bit disappointed that there was now no way the communal farming plan would be happening. “Good luck then.  What about Jimmy?”

“He says he’ll need a day to think about it,” Spades said shaking Marty's hand firmly, temporarily turning back to look at the second floor of the house. 

“I’m afraid we don’t have a day,” Marty said.

“What you mean?”

Marty shrugged, not knowing if he should tell him.

“Those Russian guys?”

“What Russian guys?” Marty pulled his hand back quickly.  Spades knew about them. “How?” he wondered.

“They came to me before I came back in,” Spades answered as if he had read his mind. “Two big guys.  They wanted me to tell them where the landlord was.  I told them I didn’t know what the fuck they were talking about.”

“You said that to them?”

“Hell yeah,” he laughed. “Who are these guys?”

“Friends of the landlord,” replied Marty.

“They were asking about you.  They asked me who the Jewish kid is.  I told them ‘what Jewish kid?’  Man, who’re you involved with?” He grinned. “Good luck dealing with those goons, dawg.  Seriously.”

“These guys hate me and my friend,” Marty answered, deciding to tell Spades only the bare skeleton of the story.  Marty remembered one of the first times when he had met Spades he had asked him personal questions that involved his crime dealings.  It was considered impolite. “We might be out of the house at least for a while to lay low from them.”

Spades nodded. “Good idea if you have another place to stay.  I can’t help with you that.  Fuck, I don’t envy you having to deal with this shit.”

Marty smiled. “I wouldn’t.”

“You strapped, or you need to get a piece?”

“Hm?” asked Marty, unsure if he knew what he was getting at.  Spades made one of his hands into the gun symbol.  Marty had guessed this was what he had meant. “I never really wanted a gun.”

“Same, haven’t carried one in years.  Don’t want to get caught strapped, but I can get you one and some ammo if you think you need it.  These guys probably got some guns, or at least can get them easy.  I can tell.”

Marty never wanted anything to do with firearms.  As a teenager he hated hearing about shootings of people his own age throughout the city.  He even knew a guy who was shot to death, not a close friend but a decent acquaintance he knew since he was in elementary school.  The guy was a nice guy, but got into the wrong crowd once he had reached sixteen. 
For some reason though, Marty said the opposite of what he would have always expected he would say.

“Get me one.”