“The mills of the Gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.”
“Yes, it’s so tragic isn’t it?” the tall blonde woman says, taking a sip of her Pinot Grigio. The hum of the party fills the air with electricity.
The squat blonde woman with glasses, drinking sparkling water out of a wine glass, replies with, “He’s literally a nutjob. Like, can you believe all these women voted for him, too?”
“Who are these people!?”
“I know!” They both laughed uproariously, looking around to see if anyone they knew or could comment on passed by. Apparently no one, for they turned their attention to the approaching waiter in a crisp black bowtie. He’s holding up a platter of sushi, salmon, toasted bread, and caviar. He stops in front of them and the ladies each take a piece of toast (find out a fancy bread) and dip it into the caviar. “Mmmm. It’s so delicious,” the short woman says, grabbing another piece of bread as the waiter meanders off into the crowd. “Imagine being a big ol’ Beluga whale and not knowing you have these jewels inside you,” the tall woman says. “I’m a vegetarian, but for breast cancer I’ll make an exception.” The tall woman smiles and brushes her hair behind her ear. She just had a root canal and hides the ounce of pain the crisp bread causes her sore tooth. It throbs dully, uniformly in its place in her skull; but the caviar? It’s delightful. The salty sweetness of the roe was worth the pain.
Greg and Temple are just off the coast in the early morning hours of a spring day. A light misting of fog hampers their view of the Terminals and the surrounding coastline. The water is calm as a cookie sheet and there are no sounds except the soft, faraway voices coming from Temple’s laptop, on which is playing an old episode of Seinfeld. He chuckles quietly at a joke and Greg whisper-shouts down from above, “Hey, retard, be quiet, you’ll spook the fish.”
“Bro, they can’t hear this shit,” Temple says from below. “They’re just dumb-ass fishes.”
“Shut up and get your ass up here, I think I got a bite,” Greg says, moving towards the three rods leaning over the stern. The left and middle rod are leaning still at attention, but the one on the right is animated, bobbing and swishing back and forth. “Fuck, I think we got one!” Greg exclaims. He grabs the rod and strains to reel in the fish. He yanks and reels. Yank yank reel reel. The mighty beast is surely getting closer to the boat. His wrists and forearms are burning. Sweat drips from the bottom of his substantial beard onto the bulging veins of his hands. “Come on you fucker.” His temples are starting to grey and he doesn’t ever think about correcting the natural course of things. Leave it the way it is if that’s the way it’s going to be.
Greg is getting tired so Temple takes over the rod. He stands squat, patiently alternating between a good yank and a good reel. “Man, he’s got to be at least a hundo,” Temple says. Greg is in the captain’s chair checking the GPS, looking at the sonar. He comes out with a large net.
“I think the lines good. Almost got her,” Temple says.
Greg is salivating. If they don’t produce some Sturgeon eggs soon for the boss, they’re in some deep shit. The two long-time friends had never worked for the mafia before and thought it was something to brag about around town. Greg’s uncle knew a guy who knew a guy in Toronto and it was surprisingly easy to set up a relationship with Vinny. Maybe Vinny was looking to make a little profit on the side or maybe his bosses instructed him to get into the caviar business, Greg and Temple didn’t know. They figured he was a pretty low-level, possibly mid-level guy. Maybe wasn’t even part of the mafia at all, just some other, smaller gang. But he promised insane cash so it was irresistible. The man did look very Italian, though. He combed his feathers back and had a big ol’ schnoze. If there’s an illegal trade, you can bet the mafia and other gangs will be there. So, here we are.
Greg’s one big regret in the whole deal was that he assured Vinny he knew all about Sturgeon fishing. A little too good on the sell. He knew the lures, the hotspots, what time of year you can catch them; he had the sonar equipment and the rods ready to go. Vinny bought it hook, line and sinker. “That’s great. I’ll let my guys know,” Vinny said.
He was offered more money than he’d ever seen at once in his life. Twenty G’s to get started. A couple stacks of high society. What was he supposed to do? Pretend he knew fuck all about fishing? He knew plenty about fishing. His Dad left him the boat and he went out most weekends in the summer and caught—or didn’t—whatever shook his rod. Truth be told, he was more focused on drinking and getting high than fishing. Half the time, a bite was ignored because he couldn’t be bothered. Fishing was more like a front for his drinking than anything else. But hell, you can’t help but learn a little bit on the way.
One evening, Greg went online and looked at a few Sturgeon photos and thought he was set. He read the Wikipedia entry for Sturgeons. Then he hopped on YouTube and watched a few videos.
Now he’s scared. It was late July and he still hadn’t even caught one Sturgeon. Vinny was personally coming up later today to discuss things. And it definitely wasn’t going to be all back-patting and smiles. Was he going to have to pay Vinny back the twenty thousand? Was he going to get his ass kicked? Or worse? These things raced around inside Greg as the hot summer sun shone down on the water, diamonds sparkling all around. That’s why Temple is here; he’s the biggest guy he knows.
Greg paced back and forth along the small deck while Temple was still fighting the fish. “Dude, relax!” Temple says, noticing how nervous his friend was. “I got this sucka.”
“Let’s hope so.”
An inchoate form began to emerge out of the depths, and like a cloud, the two men see different things. Greg, who was more experienced in fishing than Temple by virtue of his Dad’s old boat, but who has worse eyes than Temple, is the first to point out the boxy, square nature of the fish. “Doesn’t it look too square to you? There aren’t any stingrays round here,” Greg says.
“Can’t quite tell yet, but yeah, it looks kinda square and shit.” Temple spits overboard and tells Greg to get him some water.
Greg comes up with a bottle and takes over for Temple. The fish starts to emerge from the water and the pain is too intense for Greg to even speak at first. It’s cosmically hilarious, this fate of his.
What a lark, this life.
Who fucking cares, just get it over with. He began laughing hysterically at the sight; the sheer futility of his efforts. Temple sees the catch and laughs, too. “Hah-haw, aww shit man, open it up. It could be full of coke, or money, or something.”
“Yeah,” Greg pauses and regains some of his composure, “or it’s a head and torso.”
They bring the old, battered light brown suitcase ashore and stare at it. The thing must have been in the bay for years. They haven’t made them with buckles for years.
“I’ll give you two fifty for the day if you open it . . . and we’ll split whatever’s in there fifty-fifty,” Greg offers.
“Sounds good to me, bro.”
Temple leaned over the case, shaking it gently back and forth. “Feels kinda light.” He fiddled around with the main buckle keeping the suitcase closed. “It’s all rusted out.”
Greg pulled out a jackknife and tossed it to Temple and he sawed at the old leather buckle. The flap came off and he tossed it overboard. “Let’s see what our treasure is,” Temple said. He opened up the suitcase and grabbed a heaping handful of green. He held it up and looked at Greg: “It’s just seaweed, dude! Fuck! Not even weed weed.”
It was dark now and they were smoking cigarettes, taking their time loading up the gear into the pickup, when an Escalade with massive silver rims parked nearby. “Fuck, there’s Vin,” Greg said. “Thought he’d be here in an hour.”
Vinny got out of the rear driver’s side door, his thinning, greying hair slicked back like he’s done for the last thirty years. Two other men accompanied him that Greg had never seen before. Not good, he thought. Vinny brought muscle.
“Gentleman,” Vinny said smiling. “Beautiful night, isn’t it?” The two men stood milling behind him, faces hard and stoic.
“Yeah, sure. Hey Vin, you’re early.”
“I just couldn’t wait to see my friend Greg. Any nibbles out there today?”
“I’m so sorry Vin, it’s just that— ”
The two men hit Greg with one bullet each in the chest, two faint echoes responding back from across the bay, even though the pistols were equipped with silencers. The air becomes still after the shells rattle and ping against the pavement. Greg is laying on his back, groaning and gasping for air, his blood gurgling out of his mouth like a lackadaisical volcano. One of the men, the burlier of the two, steps over Greg and fires a shot into his forehead and the body goes limp.
“What the fuck is going on!” Temple is screaming, scared and confused. “We didn’t catch no fish! I’ll do whatever you want, fuck, fuck, fuck, I got nothing to do with this. I’ll suc— ” a pop and then a pfft, as a red mist emanated from his head. The big man let out a guttural moan and sank down, falling backwards. Blood is burbling out of his right temple in arterial spurts. His arms try to move, vaguely reaching upward, softly gyrating until he falls still.
“Clean this shit up,” Vin says, staring out towards the artfully lit Collingwood Terminals, surrounded by darkness. “And put the gear in the truck.”
Sometimes you just need a goddamn poutine. I could eat a bathtub full of poutine, he thought. He’s got barely any time for working out. Family and working like crazy eats up his days. He remembers back when he could flex his pecs and make them wink.
One at a time, then both together.
The mindless, childish sounds of Dora the Explorer blare from the next room. Little dolls and other feminine toys litter the kitchen. Pink is the predominant colour.
“Trevor, remember to pick up Emily’s meds tonight, mmkay?”
“Of course, dear,” he says dryly. She picks up on it but leaves it alone. They are a happy couple, one could suppose; too busy working and raising their young daughters to worry much about headier affairs like politics, sex, or frivolous entertainment—outside of Disney shows of course. What did you do with kids before TV? It’s like they’re hypnotized by a bonfire. Their days were filled with parent-teacher nights, getting new brake pads, grocery shopping, picking up meds, helping with homework; and then trying to find time some leftover scraps of time to go the gym. It was all so exhausting, but that was life. No one said the Canadian dream didn’t leave you feeling tired.
The morning is still and comfortably warm. There are little cracks during the drive where the bay sneaks through—between streets, between houses. The sun glints off the sparkling diamonds of gentle waves while Cormorants and Gulls fly above. There’s nowhere near as much road rage up here as in Toronto. The odd old lady who drives too slow, but fuck it, you can just go around her.
He hits the gym and does mostly calisthenics—push-ups, leg lifts, pull-ups—before heading out to work. Trevor is forty two but his body is lean and the muscles show when he takes off his shirt. His arms are sinewy from chopping and carving up animals these past twenty years.
“Trevor’s T-Bones & Assorted Meats” in sharp orange letters against a black back drop hangs above his butcher shop. It is reminiscent of Halloween and he always gets more than his fair share of kids every October 31st. The unit is the same size and square footage as the five other shops in the strip mall. There’s a hairdresser, a bank, a Starbucks, and a couple others that he forgets because they keep changing. Niche stores that just didn’t take hold, like a Vinyl record store that was also a coffee shop, called “Zappacino’s”. That one lasted three months.
The security system was disengaged and the lights flicked on. Trevor walked towards the back and yelled out for Knuckles. “Yeah, over here boss,” he shot back from somewhere, hidden behind one of the many carcasses. Knuckles emerged with a blood-stained smock, holding a reciprocating saw, the serrated blades slowing down to a stop, guts stubbornly clinging to the steel grooves. His white smock looked like it had a bloody Rorschach test on it.
“They deliver the pigs?”
“Yep, carving ‘em up right now,” the young man said with the satisfaction that he was one step ahead of the boss.
“Good stuff, Knucks. I’ll be out front.”
He wiped the chalkboard clean and wrote out the day’s special cut: “Pork Shoulder 2$ a pound” with a slow-cooker recipe written underneath. It was a simple recipe. Got to be a fool to screw up a shoulder blade in the crock pot. Lots of soy and worcherstshire, you can’t go wrong. While Trevor’s writing on the chalkboard a woman approaches from behind and does a comically vigorous “ahem” in order not to scare Trevor. He looks behind him and there stands Lottie with two coffees. “I left the one of them black because I don’t know how your guy in back likes it.”
“Oh, hey. Don’t worry, we have a little kitchen back there, so he can figure it out.”
“Or maybe he likes a splash of pig blood in his morning coffee?” she says with a wry smile. He chuckles. Trevor thinks Lottie’s attractive and is easy to be around. He’s only known her a few weeks but she’s slowly ingratiated herself into his routine, popping in every couple days when things were slow for both stores, mainly after lunch. Now Lottie tells Nina to watch the store for a few until she’s back; the perks of middle management.
“Wanna hear something nuts?” she asks.
“So, my Mom’s ex-boyfriend was supposed to meet her for coffee four days ago and he, like, literally disappeared from the face of the Earth. He didn’t answer her texts or calls and he’s not like that. They weren’t fighting, and he’s the kind of guy who always answers his phone anyways.”
“Huh. That’s weird.”
“Yeah. I wouldn’t be surprised if he came in here once or twice. He liked to barbeque.”
“I’d hate to lose a customer.”
“Shut up, this is serious,” she replies with a tinge of annoyance. “It’s been four days and he hasn’t shown up for work, either. They’re freaking out, too. I think there’s going to be an article in the paper about it tomorrow. Some people are saying he was last seen at the docks by the Terminals taking his boat out with some big black guy.”
“Maybe he just sailed away for a while, get away from it all. The weather is great lately.”
“No! He’s not that kind of guy! My Mom said he works like crazy to stay on top of his child support payments for his kid in Kelowna. Even though he barely ever saw his daughter, he prided himself on always paying on time. He always manned the fuck up, ya know?”
“It’s not like he’s fucking Kaiser Soze. I’m sure he’ll turn up. Think he . . . ya know, offed himself?”
“It’s possible, but he’s not the type. He’s a hustler. The guy loved struggling against the odds. But yeah, that’s probably what the police are thinking. Still gonna be in the paper tomorrow,” Lottie noted again.
“Hold on a minute,” Trevor said and went into the back. He opened up a freezer and rooted around for a small, but good, cut of beef. He emerged back into the front with a tenderloin cut, a perfect deep, ruby red slab of flesh.
“Compliments of Trevor’s T-Bones & Assorted Meats. Hopefully, the guy is found safe and sound.” He wrapped it in butcher’s paper and handed it to her. “Oh my God, thanks, Trevor.”
The bay was warm and calm as Trevor approached the docks. A Belted Kingfisher broke the silence with its rapid fire ca-ca-ca-‘s, nature’s machine gun. A few Mooseheads down, but up a couple Rainbow Trout. He docked the boat, satisfied with his Sunday off, alone with his thoughts, out of cellphone range. Sometimes all a man needs is the open water and some sunshine to get back to where he belongs.
There was a curious figure milling about the docks. He had a cowboy hat on and was checking out old man Berglund’s boat snazzy new catamaran.
“Oh, hey there Trevor,” the man said, as Trevor was distracted tying up his boat’s rope to the bollard.
“Well, hi there . . .” a silence hung in the air, as if he was trying to put a name to the face but couldn’t quite place it. Collingwood was the size of a city where a butcher shop owner knew most, but certainly not all, of its customers.
“Dodson. Graham Dodson,” he said, offering his right hand.
“Trevor,” Trevor said, “as you apparently already know.”
“The T-bone man. Any bites?” Graham asks, tilting his head towards the Styrofoam cooler sitting on the deck.
“Actually, not bad. Got a couple of Rainbow Trouts.”
“Hmm. You work over at the BBQ shop on Second Street, huh?”
“Yeah, sure do. Don’t recall ever seeing you in there though, Graham.”
“Oh, me? I’ve never been there. The wife does the shopping. Helluva salmon marinade you have there, son. I’m with the IGLFC, by the way.”
“I’m sorry, the—”
“The International Great Lakes Fishery Commission.”
“Oh, OK,” Trevor said, tentatively.
“Lot of estuaries in this general region that are getting their share of Sturgeon activity. It can attract a certain type. Not you.” Dodson smiled wryly. “Dangerous people.”
“Some of them are stupid, but some of them aren’t. It’s the latter I’m worried about. Found some traps and other evidence out near Blank Man’s Bluff. And it’s happening at a strange time, Trevor. Your country’s government is going to legalize dope in the near future and, well, when you plug a leak, a new one opens up. The bad guys are hedging their bets.”
“Yeah, I guess you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the pot smoke is blowing, huh?” Trevor’s attempt at levity fell short of its mark.
“Uh-huh. I been in town now for a good few months, and I was wonderin’, you see anything ‘spicious the last while around the docks? Anyone look . . . outta place in Collingwood?”
“No, not really. I mean, I haven’t been out as much lately since my second kid was born a couple years back. Just don’t have the time. Go to work, go home.”
“I know how it is. Got me one of my own out there.”
A dozen or so Cormorants were sunning themselves on a small archipelago of rocks that sat above the waterline. They’re all so still; if you get close enough, their blue eyes are like most birds eyes—at once intense, yet blankly emotionless. And yet still other birds just had inscrutable black orbs, like a dead doll’s eyes. A couple of the Cormorants spread their wings out to dry in some prehistoric Christ pose.
“This woman, she’s the manager of the Starbux a few stores down from me, and she mentioned that some guy, her mom’s ex I think, had gone missing.”
“Last time he was seen he was leaving the docks in his boat on the morning of the 17th. A large black man was on board with him.”
“That sounds about right. I’ve heard that, too. It would seem they’re both missing. You ever catch a Sturgeon, Trevor?”
“No, never. I’m just a weekend warrior. Aren’t they as big as a bus, or something?”
“They are large, yes. Well, the suckers have been around for 60 million years—just roaming around the bottom of lakes like zombies; can live over a hundred years. There’re some out there that have felt the bombs from the Battle of Ypres. These creatures have been around 60 million goddamn years, and I’m here to make sure they stick around for a couple million more, until this whole shithouse goes down in flames.” Graham squinted his eyes and looked out into the distance. He seemed to be in a pensive mood.
“OK . . .” Trevor said.
“What is value, Trevor? For 59.999 million years the black gold in the females’ bellies had none. They were just eggs. They belonged to nature. To the Earth; to the rivers, lakes, and streams where they spawned. Now, a kilo is worth thousands of dollars. Now, rich folks at political fundraisers shove it in their faces and think they’re all fancy. The Mob sells it to the Russians. Putin is probably slurping some up right this minute. The whole thing is messed up.” Graham lit a cigarette and offered one to Trevor. A Marlboro red. “You can take the man out of America but not America out of the man. Anyways, I’ll see ya around, kid. What’s the special tomorrow? I’ll have Marge swing by.”
Trevor took a drag. “Ribeyes. And I just added Italian sausages marinated in Guinness.”
Graham patted Trevor on the shoulder in a friendly manner. “Mouth’s watering already, buddy.” He walked back towards his truck, cigarette dangling from his lips, hands in his pockets.
He was sweating and his curled knees throbbed. He’d been inside for over an hour. “Hurry up. Hurry up, sciocchis,” he whispered to himself. The large man fumbled into his pants pocket, the jean pocket tight because of his fetal position. A fucking 2006 Vibe? He couldn’t get something a bit more roomy? He lurched back and forth to fit his sausage finger-tips in and pulled out a pill bottle, lined up the arrows and popped two more Naproxen. He put them in his mouth one at a time; had to swallow them dry. The second one got caught and he sucked up all the remaining saliva from his cheeks before it finally went down smooth. He started to doze off a little, a half-dream about owning his own home in cottage country. A boat, wife, kids. Making his own mozzarel. Maybe being the coach of his kids baseball team. Bathing in the satisfying mundanity of middle-class life. “Come on, son, throw it harder. Daddy can handle it.”
A gull squawked nearby and snapped him out of it.
Then he waited some more.
The jazz trio was playing softly in the background. The kind of soft jazz that just meanders around different scales, never really sounding like anything, setting a refined ambience just below the din of glasses clinking and people talking.
The Bayside Eatery is the fanciest restaurant in town; the only one in Collingwood that sits right on Georgian Bay.
On the patio there are tiki-torches strategically placed near each table. The flames are merely pieces of silk animated by small fans, and illuminated with red Christmas lights; the whole works hidden in a faux wooden base beneath the “flame”, of course. The sun is setting and Mute Swans loll placidly in the shallow waters, their backsides occasionally pointing towards the sky as they pluck seaweed from the depths. Trevor takes out a cigarette and pretends to light it from the torch nearest his table and Patricia rolls her eyes, but not in a seriously annoyed way. The girls are at Patricia’s parents’ place: one of the few perks of your in-laws living nearby.
The kids could never stay at Trevor’s parents’ place because they’re both dead. His Father had a massive heart attack, his Mother died from breast cancer a few years back. His Aunt probably would have taken over the duties of raising him, but she died on Flight 831 twelve years before he was born. It crashed outside of Montreal on November 29th, 1963. But, like an atom bomb, the Kennedy assassination obliterated all other news stories for weeks. Nothing was safe from the fallout, even the biggest plane crash in Canadian history up to that point. In the collective consciousness of the country, the incident is all but forgotten. It’s not terribly scandalous, either. No missiles, no terrorists. Just plain bad weather and some old fashioned mechanical failures. Nothing scandalous unless a member of your family is on the plane, of course. Every now and then a bunch of small screw-ups add up to a tragedy. There’s no escaping that. All 118 on board died. Any time the JFK assassination is brought up, Trevor can’t think straight, he’s transported back to November of 1963. Watching the Zapruder film is like watching the death of his Aunt through osmosis.
“So, honey, what are we having?” They both scanned the menu, which doesn’t take long. It’s the kind of small menu that fancy restaurants have; only a few things are done, but they are done well. Bayside was known for its seafood—lobster, kalimari, and also its tomahawk T-bone steaks. Trevor half picked this restaurant for their anniversary because he wanted to foster some goodwill between him and the owner, Jerry Mustakios. Jerry imports his meat and seafood from Toronto and he’s being trying to convince him for a few years to buy from his shop. His T-bones are noticeably better, if he’d only try them. Old allegiances die hard. Which didn’t bother Trevor—nothing wrong with loyalty. But, if you want to make a business grow you must take risks, and risks tend to hurt someone.
“Don’t look now, but just behind you are a couple a dudes straight out of Goodfellas. Remember how I told you that Graham guy told me to look out for people who are out of place around in Collingwood?”
“Yeah, so—” Patricia began turning her neck to look behind her, as innocently as she could.
“No! No! Not now,” Trevor whisper-shouted and smacked her on the hand. “They’re looking in this direction. OK, wait a second, OK . . . now look.”
“It appears this new venture isn’t working out quite the way we’d like, is it?” The man was large and mostly bald with the sides still slicked back. His fingers were like sausage casings; the large gold ring on his pinky the size of a key ring. He was pockmarked and grizzled, but there was a refinement to his character, his thick Italian accent an exotic charm. “Perhaps a little in over our head, yes?” He exhaled, a slight gurgling sound emanating from his esophagus. “I used to fish a little in the old country. We’d go out in the morning and come back with sardines, tarpin, merlins, you name it. But what lurks in the waters here in this—” he waved a hand dismissively towards the bay, “I don’t have much of a clue . . .”
A brief silence fell between them.
“My son, you assured me you knew people who did know. Who did have a clue. That’s the thing of it right there. My faith in you.” The man sat back, allowing Vinny a chance to respond.
“I know Freddie, I know I fucked up. I should have been more discerning, but I was duped.”
“Everyone’s born a dupe, Vin; you got to change it into dupe-licity.”
“Ha—that’s a good one, boss,” he said nervously, and twirled a thatch of spaghetti around his fork and timidly put it into his yap.
“I think it would be best for you to come back to Toronto, maybe stay in Woodbridge for a month or two with Gabalucci, learn some new things.”
“Shut up, Vinny. You done messed up out here where the water ain’t got no sale. But we’re gonna make it right,” Freddie Montaglio said, shaking a finger at Vinny. “We’re gonna make it right 100%. I know you’ve had a hard life, our lives ain’t easy, but everyone’s got a story. Stories don’t excuse failure. Up and up the chain we go until someone is held accountable. I’m trying to help you here, Vinny.”
“You know my Mom hates you but my Dad loves you. My Mom immediately thought you were creepy because of the age gap. And my Dad thought, ‘Fuck yeah, bro,’ or something like that. He’s always been a lovable lughead.”
“As long as she doesn’t drown the kids, she can hate me all the wants.”
“I don’t know, I can’t help myself.” He busied himself wrestling open a crab-leg and squeezing out the last few drops from a parched quarter slice of lemon.
“I—I just don’t know what to say sometimes. I wished she liked me more. What can ya do?” The crab was succulent and almost unconsciously he took note of the quality. It was part of his job. Fuck, he thought, I got to talk to Mustakios.
Just then, the two Mafioso-looking guys got up to leave and both Patricia and Trevor watched them walk across the parking lot to their car, which, in the semi-darkness looked like a Pontiac Vibe or a similar model, at least ten years old. “Well, I guess they’re not in the Mafia after all,” Trevor said, and she nodded in affirmation. “Or, who knows,” she perked up, “maybe they want to blend in?”
“Could be. Who knows?”
The two men got into the hatchback. Freddie turned the engine on and classical music softly filled the interior. There was no one else around, so he gave the signal. “A beautiful night, isn’t it? Don’t you worry about a thing, Vin, every little thing’s gonna work out fine.”
Without warning a large man fell over into the back seat and Montaglio hit the ‘lock all’ button. Vinny tried haphazardly a few times at the handle and then banged feebly on the window as something thin and hard was wrapped around his neck. He managed a wild punch that hit Freddie square on his right eye. “Dannazione!” he cried, covering his eye. With his remaining strength Trevor turned his head towards Montaglio, a pleading look in his wide, bulging eyes. The low E string, .54, was digging in, constricting his windpipe and larynx, making possible only frothy gurglings. Air was forbidden from entering his body. Little green and purple veins were poking through Vinny’s temples and forehead, like the pathways of a forgotten city rising to the surface. The thick-wristed man kept an unforgiving grip, giving an occasional yank to make sure. Vinny dug at the guitar string, but it was too tight against his neck. He was turning a bluish purple; he threw a weak left hand towards Freddie and he lazily waved it off even with the one eye open. He threw another semi-punch, more of an attempt to grab, and Freddie was forced to pin Vinny’s left arm against the centre console.
Once it was clear that Vinny was gone a relaxed feeling swept over the two living men. Sharp fluttering notes again filled the car.
“Ah, crap, boss. He shit himself. Smells like fucking spaghetti and meatballs.”
“Eh, it’s a rental.”
“That was Brahms in maj7…” a soft voice said as they pulled out onto Highway 26.
Ding-ding-ding, the three little bells at the top of the door jingled and jangled as Freddie Montaglio stepped into the shop.
“Good day, sir,” Trevor said in his typically friendly manner. He immediately recognized the man from The Bayside Eatery a couple nights ago. The guy was impossible to miss, and now he’s got these blue tinted glasses on and a shiner on his right eye. Trevor, not one to be wholly couth, pointed at his eye and said, “Doorknob win the fight, eh?”
“Yeah, my wife got me pretty good. Young man, I can get a little colourful after too much vino. My tongue becomes sharper by the glass.” He slicked back the sides of his hair and then slicked back the few remaining wisps on top.
“A good woman is hard to find, huh? Well, maybe I can interest you in our daily special—I call it the Salami Tsunami! Knucks?” Trevor called out towards the back. “Bring out the Tsunami platter!”
Trevor turned his head around and smiled at him, sweetly and a little awkward, waiting for Knucks to appear. Montaglio stared coldly at this strange man before him, not having much confidence in his abilities. He seemed like he was half-ritardare.
He decided to give this guy’s shop a shot. Freddie felt out of place at large, chain-style grocery stores; lost in a wilderness of cold, phosphorescent aisles. He preferred authentic family-owned shops run by a small team. Those chain shops are full of teenagers and other people who don’t give a shit about their job.
Knuckles entered the room carrying a platter, each thin slice half covering the next, like a perfect Venn diagram; it was a meat spectrum in a wide semi-circle, a florid display of deliciousness. “Ah, here we are. This is the best salami this side of Genoa.” Trevor handed a small piece to Freddie. His mouth watered as the salty meat was masticated and the flavour gave his taste buds an orgasm. It was the best salami he’d had since he was a boy in Sicily. It immediately made him homesick for a place he hadn’t thought about in years. “Mmm. Very good my, friend. Eccezionale! I will take one pound of that; slice it up nice and thin.”
Another customer entered the shop; an older woman with tight curls. She takes of her sunglasses. “Oh, hi Marge. I’ll be with you in a minute.”
“That’s OK, Trevor, I’ll just patiently eyeball all of the things I can never have.”
“Whaddya mean?” Freddie interjected. “Have a slice of this salami. I grew up in Sicily and I never had—”
“I’m one of those crazy vegetarians,” Marge said, just to get it out of the way.
“A vegetarian in a meat shop?” he asked, incredulous.
“Yes, a vegetarian in a meat shop,” she repeated with mock incredulity. “It’s for my husband. He knows the love of a good woman; a good woman who knows how to cook.”
“How annoying must the first vegetarian have been?” Trevor blurted out. Marge shot him a look and rolled her eyes while Montaglio chuckled heartily, a hearty laugh from the depths of his vast belly.
“And for your information, I’ve never once tasted meat. Don’t know what it tastes like at all.”
“Ah, well, suit yourself,” he said. The man had bigger problems to worry about than some vegetarian broad. “You don’t know what it tastes like? Ahh . . . how do I explain the colours of the rainbow to someone who’s been born blind?”
The salami came to fourteen dollars. Signor Monsalto gave him a twenty and said gracias as he exited the store. Once the jangles of the bells on the door stopped and the man was outside, Marge began: “What’s that guys’ freaking deal?”
“I saw him the other night at The Bayside Eatery having dinner with some other guy; looked like his son or something. Don’t really know anything about the guy.”
“Well, pardon me, but he seems like an asshole. I thought Canadians were supposed to be nice like you!”
“If you stay here long enough, ma’am, assholes will reveal themselves. We got ‘em here, too. So, what’ll it be? Graham likes his steak, right?”
“We’ll take four tenderloin steaks, a T-bone, and a rack of back ribs. Got company coming over tomorrow.”
“Oh, yeah? What’re you going to do?”
“I was thinking of whipping up a marinade with vinegar, sugar, broth, pineapple, green peppers, a few other things and throwing the ribs in. Then cook them low and slow in the oven. Nothing too fancy, but you can’t go wrong with sweet n’ sour ribs now can you?”
“Heck no!” Trevor was getting worked up. He loved food porn. Talking about food and watching food be prepared was almost better than food itself. Pour some virgin olive oil all over chopped potatoes and let it drip away. Better than sex once you hit forty. Often, at night if the house was asleep, he’d sit in the bathroom with his iPad and watch three episodes in a row of Diner’s, Drive-In’s, and Dive’s. There was something about that show. Guy Fieri is kind of goofy and outlandish, but the Americana that comprised the show was so genuine, it just worked. Guy was a real talent. You don’t know how hard it is to host a travelling food show until you see other, even more unlikeable people attempt it. Triple D was the gold standard.
Not long ago, he was re-watching season six of Triple D on Netflicks late one night and fell asleep. He dreamt that he was driving with Guy in his signature red Mustang on a rural road with six foot tall cornstalks on either side. Could have been the Ontario countryside or somewhere in the Midwest. “Cayenne, Turmeric, three Bay Leaves, pinch of S&P, Brown Sugar . . . ” Guy keeps on listing spices and staring at Trevor, gunning the ’Stang down the straight shot country road. “ . . . Dill, Corriander Seeds, Dry Mustard, Chili Flakes, Ginger . . .” There are five sets of windshield-wipers going at varying speeds but it’s not raining.
A Great Grey Owl lands on Guy’s shoulder and says, “ . . . Cilantro, Olive Oil . . .”
“I’m a vegetarian shit-lord,” Guy says. All the back-up cornstalks go, “just a shit-lord, oh, oh, ohhh. Just a shit-lord, oh, oh, ohhh.”
A couple of Sandhill Cranes land in the back seat and start un-wrapping their own respective Big Macs with their beaks. The wrappers were held up with said beaks and disappeared into the darkness. Guy tilts a knob by the steering wheel and a mist of fresh Parsley flared up against the windshield, quickly dispelled by the ten different wiper blades moving at various speeds.
Up ahead there’s a crash on the road—a massive one. As the red Mustang approaches, Trevor sees that it’s a plane crash. People on fire running around in circles; random body parts scattered, lying uselessly. “Aunty! Aunty!” Trevor tried to scream but with all his effort he couldn’t vocalize it above a whisper. He looked up and saw her in one of the tiny plane windows. She was banging frantically on it with the sides of her palms. “Trevor! Trevor!” she screamed as flames raged all around her and she began to melt.
“Let me know how the ribs turns out,” Trevor said.
“Sure will, honey. Graham says ‘Hi’.” With a wink she exited the shop.
Trevor went into the back where Knucks was chopping up some lamb-chops with a butcher’s knife. The constant hum of the freezers buzzed all around them.
“We’ll close up in twenty.”
“Sure thing, boss. I’ll be all cleaned up and outta here in a few.”
Knucks left, and Trevor was looking around the shop making sure everything was in its right place. He hit the lights and fished around in his pockets for the keys. Just then Lottie opened the door. “Oh. I thought you were still open.” She looked at her watch. “Shit, I was kinda busy.”
“Ha, it’s all good. What’s up? You need anything?”
“Umm . . . kinda, yeah,” she said and locked the door behind her.
She was looking at him strangely, almost sinister like. “Uhh,” Trevor muttered.
Lottie pushed herself against his chest and put her lips on his. He instinctively reciprocated, their arms and tongues intertwining and writhing. Trevor was swelling up, also instinctively, and Lottie could feel it pressing up against her. Trevor broke away. “Lottie, what the hell’s up with you!”
She bit her lip. “You . . . you don’t want me?” Her nipples were visible even through her starchy Starbux uniform. They look like pencil eraser-heads from grade school, Trevor thought, his mind confused by lust.
“No, I like you, I really do. You’re great. You’re awesome. Jesus, I got a couple a kids, Lottie.” The throbbing in his pants didn’t give a lick either way. He grabbed her by the top button of her pants and pulled her toward him. They kissed again. She could feel it pressing against her thigh. A soft moan passed through her lips. “Just fuck me, Trevor.”
“Let’s go into the back.”
They both busied themselves unbuttoning and unzipping their shirts and pants. This wasn’t romance; it was animal lust. Trevor pulled Lottie’s black slacks down and shoved her panties aside. She bent over, proffering herself to him. “Grab onto the pig head.” She clutched either side of the pinkish-white head hanging from a meat hook. The tongue was sticking out and the face had a comical look. Trevor slid it in. She was more than accommodating. Boiling wet, he had no trouble getting it in.
“Fucking kiss that head, Lottie.” Caught in the throes of passion, she started sucking the pig’s protruding tongue. “Mmmm . . .”
Trevor let out a guttural grunt, “Fuck, I’m gonna cum.”
“Not inside me, OK?” She had her fingers inside the eye sockets for leverage.
Trevor made a mess all over her buttocks and the guilt immediately set in. In the few minutes it took to engage in lust-induced sex, their relationship had irrevocably changed. “Shit,” Trevor muttered to himself. He grabbed a few Kleenexes out of a nearby box and gingerly dabbed, then wiped her ass clean. It was a real thick, goopy one. Little flecks of Kleenex stuck to her cheeks but she pulled up her pants, anyways. “I . . . I gotta get going,” he said. “I gotta go, too,” she echoed. “I liked it, though.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“Can I wash my hands first?” she asked. “I have brain goop on them.”
Cyril was sitting on the dock with a smoke in his mouth and a rod between his toes.
“Yeah, I don’t have no arms, and I’m fishing with my toes, and later I’m gonna fuck your mother in the ass,” Cyril said to Graham, who stared a little too long for his liking. Cyril wasn’t particularly sensitive to any attention to his affliction, but if you gawked, he’d let you know about it.
Upon Graham’s friendly insistence, Trevor was taking him out for a cruise around Georgian Bay. See some sights, do some fishing. It was probably Marge who set it up. She didn’t like her husband being in this new city, this new country with no friends. He’d get too obsessed with his case. A man’s got to go out on a boat every now and then and have a few beers.
It was an oppressively hot and humid day; a breeze came in off the coast, making the air feel like a blow-dryer on low, right in your face.
“I meant no offense, sir,” Graham said, amused by this most unusual fisherman.
“Whaddya got binoculars around your neck for? You some kinda bird-watcher? What for? Stupid things just fly around and go ‘caw-caw’ and ‘quack-quack’. Shee-it. Most answers are right in front of you, ain’t no need to magnify it.”
All of a sudden he got a jerk on his rod and his calves flexed in response. “Oh, shit, here we go, baby!” Cyril proceeded to make some grunts and groans, viciously yanking on his rod and then furiously turning the spool with his index toe. In place of his arms were little flipper nubs that jerked wildly in every direction, like an inflatable air-dancer at a used car lot. “Got me something good—I can feel it, it’s a biggun. Mmmm, come on now, girl.”
He continued the process of yanking, then reeling in the line. “You go out in yo fancy boat, white boys. I’ll get mine right here.”
The catch breached the surface, and a tall thin man with perfect teeth, who appeared to be Cyril’s friend, approached with a net. Cyril gave it his all and did one last reverse curl-up, his knees almost touching his nose, and the fish dangled in the air for a moment. It was a beautiful, mature Rainbow Trout. The tall man scooped it into the net and took out the hook.
“Just hooked up dinner, maw-fuhkas.”
“Congratulations, my man,” Graham said.
The pair started towards Trevor’s boat and Cyril called out to them: “You get any of that black gold out there, come talk to me, love me some caviar. Haw-haw.” Cyril crudely licked and slurped his lips. “Just can’t attend the white man’s charity events cause I’m a freak is all; otherwise I’d be there, right? Eating some good ol’ cav-i-ar. Haw-haw.”
Trevor busied himself unlatching the rope, while Graham squinted his eyes and examined Cyril.
Could have been a coincidence, but sounded a little too on the nose. Does this armless, minority fisherman know more than this whole damn town? Graham thought. He couldn’t quite tell. Not many know that 92% of the caviar served at Toronto soirees are illegal Sturgeon caviar. Why would he mention that? As the Trevor’s boat departed into the open waters of the bay, Graham made a mental note to talk to Cyril when they docked.
Graham was looking at the Terminals through his binoculars. “I think ships from all over the place went there to load up on grain. Now it’s some kind of historical landmark thing,” Trevor, taking on the role of local guide, explained to the Yankee.
“Yeah, so I’ve heard.” A Great Blue Heron flew overhead and Graham trained the binoculars onto the bird and followed its flight path. “A Great Blue Heron,” he said. “They’re like dinosaurs stuck in the present.”
Trevor cupped his eyes and squinted at the awkward stork-like shape in the sky. “Pretty cool.”
“And over there on the shore is a pair of Brown-Headed Cowbirds, I believe. They’re a very sneaky species of bird, Trevor. Know what they do?”
“Uhh . . . no, not really.” Trevor still held the ship’s wheel, though they were safely out of the bay and into the open waters of Lake Huron. “They cuck the other birds. Lazy cuck-fuckers, that’s what they are. Ever hear that term before? ‘Cuck’?”
“Can’t say that I have,” Trevor said, in all honesty.
“I got a teenage son back in Virginia. On the internet, some pranksters say it to make fun of liberals or something like that. ‘Shitposting’ is what my son calls it. A form of ball-busting or fucking with people, I suppose. Anyways, birds spend most of their time in the mating season building nests and incubating their eggs. They’ll vigorously defend their eggs from predators. But not Brown-Headed Cowbirds. They don’t need to. The females put all their energy into laying eggs. They can lay dozens in a summer. And while their target bird—be it a finch or grackle or sparrow—is out foraging for food, the female Cowbird lays an egg amongst the other ones. Mission accomplished. Let the other bird do all the heavy lifting. Then when the chicks hatch you can witness the cuckoldry in all its starkly hilarious glory. Like a ruddy faced Scottish woman holding a Nigerian baby, you can find a Common Yellowthroat, which is a tiny yellow warbler with a black eye-band, resembling Jordy La Forge’s, act as the parent to this bluish grey juvenile blackbird that is three times the size. The parents raise the unusual chick as if it was one of their own. Nature is cruel and unforgiving, but it’s heartfelt in a bittersweet way, don’t you think? Deception defeated by love.”
“Here, have a look, I took a photo a couple years back in Virginia,” Graham said, whipping out his phone as Trevor squinted against the sun.
“Ha. Pretty funny. Kinda like that Jim Carrey movie,” Trevor said, and then quickly returned to more personal matters on his mind. He didn’t have time to give a flying karate kick about birds. “My wife annoys the shit outta me,” Trevor said. “I mean, she’s OK and all, but I love my daughters to death. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know if I’d tolerate her. They better be mine! Ha ha! But, seriously, I don’t know what it is. She’s a decent, loving person. I’m just kind of sick of her after all these years. There’s no excitement.”
“Hmm. I’m having the opposite problem. My son is causing all the trouble and my wife is wonderful. Can’t have it all, I suppose.”
“Yeah, you’re wife comes into the shop all the time; a mighty fine lady. Pass on the message: We’ll have Badayami Mushroom infused Ravioli as the special tomorrow. Just say BM Ravioli and she’ll know what I mean. Mind if I have a smoke?”
“Only if you give me one too, and promise not to tell my wife.”
“Your secret’s safe with me.”
The two men lit up, Graham’s smoke dangling from his lips as he scanned the horizon with his binos. “Ah, a Caspian Tern. Quite a lovely, regal bird.”
Trevor killed the engine and they lolled on the soft waves with their rods in the water.
“So, you’re investigating illegal Sturgeon fishing or something?”
“You’re mostly right there, Trevor. Without saying too much, there has been increased Sturgeon roe harvesting activity in the Collingwood area. We’re concerned some mafia elements are—as I hinted when I first met you—diversifying their portfolio to offset the coming hit to their pockets. It appears your federal government has decided to legalize recreational marijuana. That is going to impact large-scale pot dealers. It will affect the importing and the exporting. What better crop to turn to than caviar? Sell it to fancy restaurants and foreign countries like Russia. Ca-ching. I don’t have anything to do with drug enforcement. But, if it flies or swims, they have entered my house, and they ain’t leaving until I’m done with ‘em.”
“Never really was a big fan of the stuff. Maybe I should be selling it at the shop. Don’t know if there’s really a steady market for it, though. There is quite a bit of money in the area. Hey, I bet you could know some people who could get it at a good price.”
Graham put down the binos and glared at Trevor, almost forming a scowl.
“It’s a joke, man. It’s a joke, I swear. I don’t want any freaking Sturgeon caviar. But I must admit, I’m kinda curious about this whole thing now that I’m out here on a boat all by myself with you. Don’t get me wrong, I like you, it’s just a little odd is all.”
“You’re a fine kid, Trevor. I just needed to befriend someone with a boat. My penny-pinching bosses wouldn’t provide me with one. Out of their jurisdiction, they said, because I’m up here in Canada. Trump ended NAFTA, and that complicated things.”
Trevor looked vaguely hurt and confused.
“I’m fucking with you . . . mostly. I don’t know anyone around here and need to get out of the house once in a while or I’ll go crazy with the case. That’s probably what Marge told you. If you go too deep without coming up for air, you can’t see the big picture, and you waste time on meaningless things that appear significant.”
“Right. Well, it’s hot as hell out here; I’m gonna grab a cold one. You down? If we’re not breaking any international fishery commission rules, of course.”
“Yeah, yeah, sure grab me one, too.”
The sun beat down on them, as the pair smoked cigarettes and drank from dripping wet cans of Keith’s and Side Launch. Trevor whipped his dick out and emptied his bladder into Georgian Bay. “Aww yeah, this’ll help ‘stop the drop’.” Trevor said.
“‘Stop the drop’? What the hell is that?”
“Oh, just the slogan to a local campaign a few years ago about raising awareness about the dropping water levels in the Nottawasaga River. It feeds into Georgian Bay, on which we are currently floating.
“Ah, I see.”
“It’s kind of funny. Ocean levels are rising, but it appears that the Great Lakes are going the other way. Go figure.”
Trevor cracked open another tall boy and took a healthy gulp of liquid gold. “I can’t believe it, I’m such a bad person. I mean, never before, never before in my life. Thirteen years together, and not even once. Funny how life comes at you so fast,” Trevor said, staring out into the distance.
“What in the fuck are you talking about, son?” Graham bellowed, letting the binoculars rest against his chest. He was only semi-conscious of the tan line the strap might leave on the back of his neck.
“I . . . I fucked this Starbux manager who works a couple stores down. It all just happened so fast.”
Graham eyed Trevor, not quite sure in his half-drunken state if he was still messing around or if he was genuine. The guy looked like he was on the verge of tears.
“I came all over her ass. Oh my god, what have I done?” He began to get more emotional, burying his head in his hands.
“It’s OK, it’s OK,” Graham said, and gently patted Trevor’s shoulder. “Pull yourself together, man. Your wife doesn’t know, right?”
“No,” Trevor whimpered.
“It must have been so hot. Some cute young Starbux manager. Enjoy it while it lasts, my boy. You’ll be old, fat and bald soon enough, and there’ll be nothing else to worry about except which kid gets your Zappa records.”
“The guilt, though. I feel like a fraud when my daughters hug me, never mind when I’m with Patricia. Like a goddamn imposter. It’s killing me.”
“Everyone feels like an imposter, sometimes. Everyone is going around pretending not to be an imposter, secretly afraid that other people will figure out they’re pretending not to be an imposter. It’s OK, son. Hell, I messed around years ago on Margaret.”
“Yeah, but I work right beside this woman, I can’t just forget her like yesterday’s news. I’m gonna have to see her on Monday!”
“Ain’t your life a like a dime store novel. Tell her it’s over on Monday, it was a fun mistake, and she’ll get on with things. There’s a sucker around every corner, and she’ll bump into another one. This town ain’t that small.”
All of a sudden Trevor’s rod started bending violently; even the boat began tipping back and forth. He dropped his beer onto the deck and the foam burbled out like a geyser, but it didn’t matter because the rod was rocking. A simple mess could wait.
Fishing is like a drug: when your mainline gets a bite, nothing else matters.
There was about as much commotion as humanly possible for two people to make on a small boat. Graham made for the rod but slipped on all the beer and foam, the beer in his hand flying over board and landing in the bay with a plop. He almost did the splits and then face planted into a red and white cooler. Trevor wobble-walked towards the fishing rod, half-slipping every other step. Something big was on the line, it was hooking like a horseshoe. Trevor finally made it to the rod and started yanking and reeling—fighting the sucker. It was something fierce, dragging him along the beer soaked deck anytime he managed to back away a few feet, as if he was jet-skiing. A beautiful rhythm fell into place—fighting, then giving, then fighting again.
“Now, if this is a Sturgeon, Trevor, it better be a goddamn female, because the males are useless. They don’t have any black gold in their bellies. And you never know until you cut the fish open if it’s a male or a female.”
“I don’t know what the hell it is, man, but it’s killing me. I’m drunk as fuck and getting tired.”
“You almost got it, Trevor, I see the shadow just beneath the surface!” Graham exclaimed.
Trevor amped himself up. “Whoo-ahh! Let’s get this fucker!” There are no daughters, there is no time, there is no wife, there is no meat shop, there is nothing but this moment; this moment of conquest. Like eyeing a whale from atop the masts. Is this what it was like on the Pequod? The mouth waters and the mind is singular. What have I taken from the depths!? Man asks. What monster have I tamed?
Graham got behind Trevor and put his arms around his waist. He began pulling him backwards with all his might, basically using his two hundred plus pound frame to fall backwards while holding onto Trevor. The added homoerotic weight proved a success. The pair fell backwards, as a massive, prehistoric monster was aloft, high in the air, gleaming against the sun. Must have been all of ten feet. The beast hit its zenith and then dive bombed the supine men covered in beer. Trevor, youth on his side, barrel-rolled along the deck, but Graham, with one hand on his knee, attempting to rise, was clobbered in the face by the giant fish and toppled backwards. Graham was holding the right side of his face. “You hit, bro?” Trevor yelled. Graham, slightly dazed, took his hand away. It was like they were on a landing craft during D-Day. Indeed, he was hit. Distinct swelling was well under way underneath his eye. “Yeah, he smacked me. Got me pretty good. I mean her. Well, I hope so.” Graham eyed the flopping fish dancing on the deck like it was being electrocuted. “That right there is a mature Sturgeon. Probably been around since the Nuremberg Trials.”
“I don’t think there were many females tried at the Nuremberg Trials,” Trevor said.
“Shut up and get me the sharpest knife you got on this boat! I’ll slice ‘er up real nice. The Southern way; how we do it in the Chesapeake Bay.”
Trevor rustled around in some old tackle box and came out with a small, yet razor sharp carving knife. “Man, be careful,” he said, while handing Graham the knife handle first. “We’ve been drinking and smoking. Getting all this sun, too. Just don’t slice your fingers off. That’s my rule of thumb, if you know what I mean. ‘No slicing and dicing when I’m imbibing’.” Trevor flashed all ten of his fingers and wiggled them. Proof of life. It’s hard not to trust an alcoholic-adjacent meat-merchant with all his fingers when it comes to carving.
“Bring over that large cooler. I have to cut this fucker open on something,” Graham slurred.
“You sure? I’m too drunk to reattach your finger if you cut it off, ya know.”
“Eh, I’ll just say it was a snapping turtle. At this point in my life, son, I don’t need all of them. My beating off days are long gone.”
“Pretty sure you can still beat off with four fingers, but I get what you’re saying.”
The water remained calm. The boat was still, but Graham was tottering like the sea was angry. He grabbed the massive fish’s head with his left hand and began carving with his right. “You got to take off the diamonds first. Cut this baby up real good . . .” Graham was talking more to the fish than anything, lost in the process of stripping the tough skin. A few fillets were sliced off, only a touch sloppy.
“Now we’re going to see if this one has any treasures inside.” The knife was pointing upward clutched in a knuckle-white grip. Graham had a glint in his eye and then it twitched a couple times. He started in on the fish once with the alacrity of a surgeon reassigning someone’s sex. There was a bloody mess of guts and flesh lying all over the deck. “It looks like a black shadow in its belly, but I can’t quite tell yet,” Graham mused, slicing away at the paper-white flesh. “No, wait, I think I got something. I have to go slow.”
A few tense minutes passed while Trevor swigged from his can.
“Shit, Trevor get over here and look at this . . .”
Graham peeled apart the belly, his fingers causing a goopy sound emanating from inside the fish. Hundreds of tiny black balls were revealed, sitting inside the belly of the beast. Like a weasel stealing a bird’s eggs, we too, steal the eggs of the unborn and consume them.
“Haleh-fucking-lulah,” Graham said, reverentially. “You better have some Ziploc bags around here. There’s a ton of it in there. At least 10K. Easy.”
“No shit, huh?”
“She’s a big ol’ girl. Perfectly ripe. We got her at just the right time.”
The two men diligently scooped out all the black goop and filled four medium sized Ziploc bags. Though they had been in the sun for some hours with drink and smoke going through their veins, their financial wits were still intact. Each man, in his own head, was already slicing up the potential profits. Still, a veneer of civility lingered in the air. Trevor opened one of the bags, the plastic unzipping like a fly. He scooped a menial amount of blackish goop with his index and middle fingers and slipped them into his mouth. “Now, that’s some good shit right there. Just some salt and it’s perfect.”
Trevor offered the bag to Graham and he took a taste for himself. “Out of this world. Top fucking shelf. Unbelievable. You can see why the more unsavoury elements in our world have been dabbling in this market.” If the two were closer friends, there would have been some ball busting about who gets the eggs. Instead, there was an unease lurking between them. To compensate, the two semi-strangers acted above the mere squabbling over thousands of dollars.
For now, the four lumpy, turgid bags were placed in a cooler. Carefully, Trevor placed two side by side, and then stacked the other two on top. He closed the cooler and clasped the buckle on the front to keep it so.
“Give me a smoke,” Graham said, matter of fact. He found a lighter after searching a couple of pockets. A small cloud of smoke hung in the hazy summer air. “I reckon we just split it down the middle. Fifty-fifty. I get two bags and you get two. I mean, technically, I could take it all because it’s illegal to harvest Sturgeon eggs in Lake Huron right now. But I won’t do that to you, Trevor. Just don’t sell it openly at the shop, it could lead to trouble.”
Trevor put his arm around Graham in a drunken display of agreement. “Awesome. Sounds good to me.”
“Well, shit, we better get back. Fire up the engines, captain. If we run into any law men, I’ll handle it.”
Trevor climbed up a few steps to the ship’s helm and the engines began humming. The ride back to dockside was mostly quiet. The booze and the excitement had given way to a general air of peaceful rumination—at least on Trevor’s part. He was in the best frame of mind to come up with the special two days from now. The low baseline of concentration needed to steer a boat coupled with a nice alcohol buzz let his mind wander away from his troubles and combine ingredients. Obviously, he thought, these Sturgeon eggs are going to be a part of the story. He couldn’t wait to look up how to properly cure the eggs to make the best caviar. Maybe even stuff them inside a prime rib roast. And he’ll only let a select few customers in on the stuff. He won’t take any chances and display it. He’ll talk to Knucks and even give him a generous portion for himself. The man deserves it. Always on time, can handle complex cuts. The man is a godsend.
Graham’s mind was temporarily slowed by all the drinking, but still racing onwards. He wanted this final feather in the hat and then he could ride into the sunset on a nice pension. Let someone else chase the bad guys. He’d rather talk to a group of high school kids about birds; enjoy a good cut of meat and some red wine.
There wasn’t much progress on the case, though. There’s been some strange behaviour around these docks but he couldn’t quite figure it out yet. Two people had disappeared after having last been seen here; that much is true. Graham felt it in his bones that the two men were tangentially related to the increase in Sturgeon poaching. He spoke to someone who knew someone who knew one of the guys that he was bragging about working for the mob. A rumour, merely hearsay, no doubt. Still, there was something about it that stuck with him. It gelled with his grand theory of the Sturgeon situation. That the Mafia in and around Toronto were testing the waters, so to speak. Without the proper fishing expertise, they would be forced to subcontract the actual work. That would expose the notoriously well-insulated ’Ndrangheta.
The boat docked in its lane and the crew began to disembark down the narrow docks. Ships of all sizes, and even a police boat, sleek and aerodynamic, with more antennas than the rest, sat in their respective spots. From afar, the pair looked like a mass of coolers and rods. They came down the walkway, the wooden planks shifting a little with each step making it even harder for the pair to keep their balance. There was a small gate with a lock on it. Trevor put down the cooler and balanced a couple rods on top, and fished out the key from his front pocket. A couple boat cops were getting ready to depart into the bay. Trevor smiled and waved at them in a friendly civilian manner. If cops are nearby, it only rankles suspicions if you keep your gaze averted, trying to act insouciantly. Greet them with a smile and just the right amount of comradeship. “Hello, keeper of the law,” the face says. “Good day to you.”
The officers both signalled back warm, slightly rigid expressions; no waves, only subtle head nods to acknowledge the interaction.
Cyril was still sitting on the docks with his cooler, rod, and tacklebox. A cigarette was tucked into the right side of his lips.
“Well, looksee what the tide brought in,” he said, chuckling, intuiting from many years of experience that the two were fucked up in some capacity or another; possibly multiple capacities. “A couple a deep fried white boys. Hoo-eey!”
“I got you something,” Trevor said, dropping a small Ziploc bag bulging with tiny black balls into his lap. “Put it on a cracker or something.” Cyril set aside his fishing rod. He trampolined the bag up into the air with a hip thrust and caught it between his toes; he swung the toes under his nose and gave it the smell test. Impressive. Top shelf product, plain as day if you knew what you were sniffing. “I know good stuff when I see it. This is good shit. Do I look like I flip burgers with a fly-swatter to you? I ain’t no dummy. This is dope shit right here. Thanks my nigga.” Cyril extended the foot without the bag to bump Trevor’s fist.
“Hey, no problem Cy,” Trevor said, crouching down for a bro hug. Referring to the baggie of roe: “Want me to put that in your tackle box?”
“Please,” Cyril replied.
“Hey, Cyril, lemme ask you something,” Graham began in his Southern drawl. “How do you know about fancy Toronto parties serving Sturgeon caviar?”
“Eh, I overheard a couple guys talking about it a while back. A white dude and some big fat black guy. Now that I think of it, haven’t seen them around at all lately.”
“Yeah, so I hear.”
They got into Trevor’s truck, each of the men popping a piece of gum in their mouth. “Are Tic-Tacs popular up in the States? I can’t remember seeing anyone with those things in the last few years around here. I wonder if they’re being squeezed out of the market.”
The sky was blushing against the clouds as the sun, God’s fiery red masterpiece, sunk in the distance. Bank Swallows swooped through the air, circling around the water’s surface, never stopping. Talk about thinking on the fly.
“You OK to drive me home?” Graham inquired, ignoring the question, his half-mast eyes adopting the pinkish hue of the sky.
“Eh, I’ll take you to Hollywood if you want.” Trevor slipped on his sunglasses and actually appeared quite sober. “It’s a five minute drive. You’ll arrive alive, I promise.”
The short drive passed in silence and the men said their goodbyes. Though Graham was tired and woozy, he had the presence of mind to take his share of the caviar and bring it into the house. He walked up to his front door with a bag clutched in each hand. There was a moment of confusion as he thought about how to open the front door with both his hands engaged. He leaned against the door and attempted to both hold the Ziploc bags and turn the knob with his thumb; it didn’t work. He finally settled on putting one of the bags down so he could. Graham disappeared into the darkness behind the door.
Fuck me, I’m drunk, Trevor thought, as he drove the few kilometres back to his house. I shouldn’t be driving. Patricia’s gonna kill me. There was a yellow light ahead and he decided to gun it. The light turned red just as his truck was roaring under it. Trevor frantically searched his rear-view and side-view mirrors for the law. It would wreak absolute havoc if he lost his licence—nevermind all the shame and embarrassment. Logistically it would be terribly stressful. Patricia would have to drive him to work, or he’d have to spend tons of money on taxis. Either way it’d be a nightmare. How would he explain it in kid-speak to Em? Daddy drank too many wobbly-pops and went driving. Daddy wasn’t supposed to do that, and he got caught by the police; now he’s in trouble.
He pulled into the driveway and killed the engine. He rooted around in the box by his seat for another piece of gum. He checked his face in the visor mirror. Eyes a little droopy and red; passable for being sober in the right light. Maybe I can surprise her with some caviar, Trevor thought. Eh, she probably won’t care. Sobriety is more important than caviar to her. Fucking women—their priorities are all messed up.
Onyx was blasting from an iPod stereo. Knucks was bobbing his head gently along to the rhythm while he made beef patties with chopped Jalapenos inserted into the centre for a surprise blast of heat. Trevor told him to make fifty. If they sold out, next time he’d make seventy-five. There’s nothing wrong with a regular burger but from the feedback Trevor received from customers it was clear that they wanted to live on the edge with their food. Their lives may be staid, but through food Collingwood residents could live a more dangerous life. Wait until Uncle Foster bites into the middle of this burger! Trevor bets that all the people who lead predictable, nine to five jobs in offices watch the most murder and suspense on TV. People who lead truly exciting lives don’t care about murder mysteries. Only boring people watch SVU. That’s why people come to the shop. They love all the surprises in store for them.
For Trevor, it’s Triple D from here to eternity.
“Just getting the patties ready boss man,” Knuckes said, as Trevor sauntered into the back room of the shop. He had on sunglasses and his hair was disheveled. “Shit, you’re looking rough.” Knucks was never one to mince words, even with his boss—and Trevor liked that about him. They could bust each other’s balls and it wasn’t personal.
“Yeah, I’m hungover as fuck and my wife currently hates my guts. But on the bright side I got eight pounds of Sturgeon caviar that I caught yesterday.”
“No shit, huh?”
“It’s in the car, I’ll grab it in a second. Two nice fat Ziploc bags full.”
All of the patties lined up on the cutting table looked perfectly normal, only a nominal bulge emanating from the middle on a few of them, if you looked hard enough.
“Get that shit and I’ll prepare it nice, bro.”
“She knew I was fucked up last night and driving.”
“Haha, you idiot. I told you, that bitch has got a sixth sense for detecting being fucked up. Some hoes got it and some don’t. Yours got it, dude.”
“Ah well. The kids still love me, that’s the important thing. Lemme get that caviar out of the car before the sun cooks it.”
“Aight, boss man. Nice catch, by the way.”
“Hey, keep your mouth shut about the caviar, though. I’m not supposed to sell it.”
“Yeah, sure thing my nigga, it’s all good.”
Trevor got the Sturgeon eggs out of his truck and brought them into the shop.
“Take a look at these puppies,” he said, plopping an engorged ziploc bag on the bloody butcher’s table.
“Sweet. You lucky bastard. Don’t see these everyday around here.”
“What can I say? I can’t help it if I’m lucky.”
Trevor went out into the front of the shop to flip over the ‘OPEN’ sign. Being a meat shop, customers rarely came in right at the moment it was opening up for the day, but Trevor eyed that strange old Italian guy sitting in his car. As the man got out Trevor said, “First customer of the day, and for that I’m going to let you in on the secret menu.”
“Oh, gracias my good man.”
“Looks like the eye is healing nicely,” Trevor said, referring to the now pride-flag coloured ring around his right eye.
“Yes, yes, getting better. You should see her, though!” Freddie exclaimed.
Trevor laughed respectfully at the distinguished older man’s joke, and welcomed him into the store. He was a customer, after all.
“You’re here early. Don’t usually get many folks showing up right at 8 o’clock.”
“Eh,” he waved his hand, “I don’t like the crowds. And if a family run shop is around, I prefer the discretion. I always choose family over a chain store; I’m an off-hour kind of man, too! These people everywhere, it slows me down.”
“Yeah, I hear you, sir,” Trevor said, busying himself rebooting a wireless debit machine that lately had been acting up. Three quarters of the time the cards worked, whether they were inserts or taps, but one quarter didn’t work for some reason. He couldn’t figure it out. There was no rhyme or reason; all kinds of different banks and credit cards, it didn’t matter. There was no discernable pattern. He huffed on the cards and rubbed the fog off the magnetic strip with his shirt, still to no avail. Exasperated, he would often offer a discount if they could pay cash, or simply give it away.
“It might be nice for a while, but all the little machines will let you down in the end. I’m not sure of much, but of that much, I’m sure, Mr. Trevor,” Montaglio said, cryptically, with an air of
“Give me a slice of some well cured prosciutto, and eventually the machines will comply,” Trevor said with a smile.
Freddie Montaglio perused the proffered meats behind the glass, hands clasped behind his back. He gazed upon the smoked carcasses with a satisfactory inquisitiveness. Temporarily, all was right in his world. Lots of salt and lots of time, and one is rewarded with the most succulent slices of heaven.
Trevor couldn’t resist himself. This guy had been a good customer recently, buying lots of top notch cuts. He thought about it for a second, and then gave in. The prelude to divulging this private information was one of the satisfying things about life; a small joy swelled inside of him. With what privilege I can now bestow the joy on you, my fellow man! My loyal customer! And it’s hard to blame him; who doesn’t want to feel the altruistic orgasm of letting a friend in on a secret? To impart a rare, succulent, salty treat to a dear friend who was unsuspecting?
“Actually, I have a little surprise for you, sir, if you’re so inclined . . .”
“Whatcha got, kid?” Freddie asked, masking the inchoate swelling of excitement behind a veneer of nonchalance. He was a man that had authorized death with the slightest of head nods. Yet, he was an older man now, and things like properly cured meat revved his engine. We all distill into a simpler state at some point. Retire into the excessive mundanity of seniorhood. He kept drifting back to his first wife who died in a plane crash. He was so busy his whole life with the business that he didn’t have any time to think about it. But you get older and less important, and your mind wanders about itself more; one blows the dust off old memories and takes a good long look.
“Just let me pop into the back and I’ll see if it’s ready,” Trevor said, disappearing behind the door.
“Get those fat-ass sausage fingers out of my caviar you peasant!” Trevor yelled, craning his neck around a few pig carcasses to find Knucks. A voice resounded from the bowels . . . “This shit is tight, boss man.”
Trevor waded around a corner and there was Knucks with a spoon about to go into his mouth. “Here, have a taste . . . ” They were close enough now that Trevor would willingly accept a spoonful from him. Trevor willingly opened his maw and accepted the spoonful of the small, black eggs.
His eyes widened.
“Ho. Ly. Shit. Amazing. The customers are in for a treat, young Knucks! Put a few scoops into a small container, I got a guy out front.”
Knucks spooned a few scoops into the container and snapped the lid on. The black mass of goop crawled up the sides of their prison, staining it with a black ink.
Trevor walked back into the shop where the old man was milling about. He was holding the container in a pincer grip with his index finger and thumb; it was the size of a pill bottle.
“Here is what I have for you today, sir . . .” Trevor proffered the plastic container to him and he took it in his hand and held it up to the light. It didn’t click what he was looking at, just looked like some black goop because his eyes were bad. It looked like some kind of dark chocolate ice cream, perhaps a gelato mouse. He popped the lid off and smelled the contents, and that’s when he knew. His face remained emotionless, as it had many times while processing serious information. Montaglio might be an old man now, be he still had that poker face; you didn’t know if he wanted to hug or kill ya. The gears were already going in his head but Trevor just looked at him with an expectant, puppy-dog gaze.
The Signor stuck a finger into the container and slurped it dry. “Delicioso,” he remarked. “Where’d you get this? It’s fantastic.” The man could barely believe his senses. It was the best caviar he’d ever had. Even better than Gotti’s wedding.
“Goddamn!” Trevor exclaimed. “I told ya. I told ya it’s outta this world, isn’t it?”
“Where’d you get such a fine specimen?”
“Me and a buddy just got lucky out in the bay, hauled in a pregnant female.”
“Ah, congratulations my friend, some of us only run out of luck; you seem to be full of it.”
Trevor shrugged his shoulders: “Like Bob Dylan says, ‘I can’t help it if I’m lucky’, I guess.”
“I’ll see ya around, kid,” and just like that, Freddie Montaglio left the shop with his container of caviar.
Trevor busied himself with shop duties uninterrupted for a quarter of an hour. Then Graham’s wife popped in.
“Hey there, sunshine,” she said, taking off her sunglasses.
“Oh, hi, Mrs. Dobson, How are ya?”
“Fine, fine. Well, maybe not. You know me Trevor, I like a good piece of gossip and I’ve always been a little snoop, just can’t help myself, I suppose. And with Graham’s line of work, it’s exciting—criminals, wildlife—it’s like whoa, there is some crazy stuff going on and it’s really dangerous. Like a movie, ya know? But he’s been acting a little weird lately, weirder than normal. You know how he is. I checked his online history and he was obviously doing research on the Collingwood Terminals. The history of it, blueprints of the layout, stuff like that. I mean, they’re kind of nice to look at, but after a while, what the heck, they’re just a bunch of brick silo things; who cares, ya know?”
“Yeah,” Trevor said.
“And then this morning he was mumbling to himself, with notes scattered all across his desk. He was saying something like, ‘finish it at the Terminals,’ or ‘tonight it ends at the Terminals.’ What the heck is he obsessed with these historically-preserved, defunct grain silos for? Trevor you got to talk to him. Call his cell sometime today. He’s not answering any calls from me. Maybe Washington’s giving him heck and he doesn’t want to tell me about it.”
“I know, right?”
“Anyhoo, call him sometime today on his cell and see what he’s up to, dear.”
“Sure, Mrs. Dodson, no problem at all.”
Trevor handed her a couple steaks and two pounds of lean ground beef, most likely for spaghetti and meatballs.
“Oh, and thanks for the caviar. It’s tres deliche, non? I feel like a queen eating that stuff!”
“Muah,” he gave her a chef kiss. “The best.”
Trevor was in the back chatting with Knucks when the front door bells jingle-jangled. “Just a minute!” his disembodied voice called out.
“It’s OK, take your time!” Lottie yelled back, cupping one hand against her mouth, while balancing the tray with two coffees against her hip.
“Oh shit, it’s you’re girl, dawg,” Knucks chuckled.
“Shut-up, dummy, don’t let her hear you.”
“Ha, ha. Relax fool, she didn’t hear me.”
Trevor went to the front of the store and greeted Lottie sheepishly. “Oh my God, can I get some service or what?” she said playfully to cut the tension. “I brought you and Knucks some lattes.”
“Cool, thanks,” he said taking the tray. “So, uh . . . ” Trevor began.
Lottie burst in, “So you know that Texas Walker Ranger dude that has been around lately?”
“Well, he was asking me about the city and if there were any people lurking around who didn’t seem like they belonged here. I said that he didn’t much fit in and he laughed. Then I told him about my Mom’s ex, who we still haven’t heard from, and the police still haven’t told us anything. He’s involved in fishing or something, and is the only one who has shown any interest. I just kind of blurted out, not even being serious, that there’s an old Italian guy who keeps going alone to Trevor’s—” Lottie pointed at Trevor—“going alone to your shop.”
“Sure, he comes in.”
“Right, right. I don’t know, he’s just weird, ya know? He sticks out. So whatever, I mentioned him. I just want to know where Greg is. That’s all. The whole thing is driving us crazy. The other day I saw the Italian guy and he had a black eye. Why does an old man have a black eye? The imagination just runs wild with accusations and assumptions.”
All of a sudden, Trevor’s mind was now racing with accusations and assumptions, too. He was having a hard time putting it all together, but couldn’t shake the fact that there was something there.
“The whole thing is kinda . . . strange,” he said finally. “His wife wants me to call him and see what the hell’s going on.”
“Yeah, I went out fishing with him. He doesn’t know anyone around here and his wife suggested it. We had a good time, actually. Oh, that reminds me, I have a little treat for you. Hold on . . .”
Trevor poked about underneath the cash register—which was a homely Victor single drawer from the 50’s—and came up with a small plastic container three-quarters full with a black sludge.
The caviar flicked something in his brain. It all clicked together and he saw the whole deal. “You OK Trevor?” Lottie asked, her forehead wrinkling with concern. “You look pale.”
“I’m fine, I’m fine. Here, it’s Sturgeon cav—”
And with that Trevor, who fought the involuntary reaction as valiantly as he could, burbled out some barf and it splashed onto the floor, a not insignificant amount splattering Lottie’s left boot and pant leg. “Trevor!” she cried out, “what’s wrong?!”
“I, I just don’t feel too hot all of a sudden. I think I caught a bug from one of the kids.” He was surprised at how easily the lie slipped past his lips. “Here, take the caviar, it’s delicious,” he managed while slumped over and gripping his stomach.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, yeah. Maybe come back later.”
“OK. Oh my God, get well soon.”
Lottie reluctantly left the shop, and Trevor thought for a second about getting Knucks to mop up the mess and blame it on a customer, or do it himself. Begrudgingly, he went into the back and soaked a mop. Knucks was carefully lining up, then slamming a butcher’s knife into a rack of pig ribs. He didn’t even notice Trevor. Merely a man lost in the minute details of his work.
He brought the mop to the front and swooshed it around the vomit until the floor was gleaming again. He set the mop against the wall and got out his cellphone. It rang and rang, Trevor’s stomach sinking lower after each one, the momentary silences between rings like an endless chasm. The ringing abruptly stopped and Graham’s voice began: “Hi, you’ve reached Graham Dobson, Chief Investigator for the Fish & Wildlife Services, leave a message and I will get back to you as promptly as possible.”
There was a prolonged beep and Trevor decided to hang up instead of leaving a message. He was too afraid of what he might be up to; too afraid that he’ll sound insincere and maybe his voice would crack. Better to simply say nothing. Graham can call him back if he chooses to.
The rest of the day went smoothly. The shop even ran out of pork roasts and blueberry infused sausages.
Trevor couldn’t remember ever feeling this uncomfortable before. He called Patricia and told her he’d be a couple hours late; that he had to pick up ten pounds of smoked pork from Barrie. If he didn’t get it tonight it would be gone by tomorrow. She begrudgingly accepted his explanation, even if there was a hint of suspicion.
He was sweating profusely, a pool in both armpits as he drove the ten minutes towards the Terminals. It was a quiet, still night. The kind of night where you can flick a lighter without cupping your hand. The bay was as calm as a cookie sheet.
The liquor store was the was the nearest business to the Terminals, so he parked there and headed north, away from the glitzy window displays of enticing amber coloured booze, towards the looming darkness.
Everything was silent as he walked as nonchalantly as possible towards the imposing structure. From afar the Terminals were the size of a postcard. Up close, however, the silos were giant cylinders that stretched endlessly into the dark. As he walked on, he noticed Graham’s truck parked in one of the private residences that line the street leading up to the site. “Holy fuck,” he muttered aloud. “He must be here.” Trevor became acutely aware that he had no weapon. Why the hell would he ever need a weapon? Never needed one before, except at the shop. Maybe I should turn back, it’s not too late, he thought. Go back home to Patricia and the girls; squeeze out a couple episodes of Triple D after they go to bed. Guy recently went to Europe and he couldn’t wait to check it out.
The nearby boats were sitting still in the humid summer air, and it appeared there was no one else around. He pulled out a small flashlight and made out a door that was seemingly pried ajar. It gave way with little effort, the creaking cutting through the cavernous building. He pushed the door back to how he found it, and went into the darkness, into the long shadows cast by the moonlight. Trevor swung his light this way and that. There were cobwebs thick as rope attached to every possible corner and the air was musty with bird shit. Trevor thought about calling out “Hello” in a low voice but his throat had tightened up and knew it would come out as a squeak. Besides, there was recon to do. Dust fluttered through his flashlight’s beam as he scanned the ground floor for anything of interest, only to hear the scurrying sound of critters who are rarely disturbed.
There was an elevator in the northeast corner and Trevor made his way towards it. A tiny, faint flashing red light caught his eye. It was right beside a panel of numbers like a regular apartment. He hit the ‘L’ button; it glowed a dull orange, and the grinding of gears began roaring through the empty air.
Trevor gulped as the elevator settled down at ground level and he prepared for the doors to separate. A tiny ding! rang out as the doors parted to reveal an impeccably shiny and sparkling interior. A brass rail lined all three sides at waist level. He stepped in and hit “6”, the highest floor. Why not? Start at the top. The doors closed with considerable effort and the elevator dropped a half of a foot.
“Fucking hell!” he cried out in fear.
The elevator then jolted him upright as it began climbing. It smelled like an old insane asylum inside an old insane asylum. There was no muzak, only the strain of wires and gears. The elevator was painstakingly slow, but what do you expect in an abandoned set of grain terminals? He couldn’t believe there was an elevator at all, though he declined to really think the anomaly through. The overhead lights flickered and the restored contraption came to a halt.
The doors slowly peeled apart.
There was merely more darkness and shadows, illuminated by the moonlight. There were columns and base parts; the deformed, rusted chassis’ of old equipment. It was like a maze of old gear. In the distance he could hear a solitary voice. It sounded like it was coming from the northeast corner that overlooks Lake Huron.
He didn’t actually think he’d find anything here, let alone a working elevator. He thought it was his imagination running wild with him, and now he felt strangely vindicated with his suspicions. Patricia will never believe the story I’ll have for later tonight. There was some guy yelling at the top of the old Terminals! It was crazy!
Trevor meandered through the dusty darkness and took a moment to admire the view. The water was an expanse of darkness, like a gigantic impenetrable ink blot. As the voice got louder he could discern the sound of another presence. An older, softer voice. A voice that was resigned to its fate. Ironically, Trevor placed this quiet voice first: The one and only Freddie Montaglio. He sounded like he was concerned, maybe even scared, yet too prideful to whimper and plead; clearly not the man of power that he normally is.
Trevor felt the fool for not catching onto the southern lilt of Graham’s voice. It was so animated like he was giving some kind of monologue in a play, it went over his head. He peeked around the corner of large square beam and saw Graham pacing back and forth, gesticulating with his arms—the movements punctuated by a knife in his right hand.
On a nearby table lay a set of knives. Some small and sharp, others long and imposing. They sat there side by side, always ready.
His mouth was a desert. He killed the flashlight and watched the scene, baffled by how serious his evening had become. He thought of turning back, forgetting the whole scene and going home to his wife and kids. There was no sight of the old fat Italian gangster, though. He had to see where he was.
He craned his neck forward, a millimetre at a time, until the full ghastliness of Montaglio’s position was clear: The old man was tied down to some kind of slab. A length of what appeared to be seatbelt straps stretched across both his chest and legs. His fat little fingers squirmed like worms by his sides. Trevor could hardly believe his eyes.
Carelessly, he stuck his head out a little further to get a better look at the captivated man—
“Trevor! Now we only have to make one trip back down. This is great!” Graham said delightedly. “Come here, come here, don’t be afraid, Trevor, we’re friends here. I mean, look at this view,” Graham pointed the knife towards the windows. “Most Americans don’t really know too much about Canada, but it’s sure got some natural beauty.” Graham sighed. “Don’t shit your pants, boy, I ain’t gonna kill you. Get out here, Trevor.”
Trevor was so terrified that his body and mind were only tangentially connected. The nerves tingling and mind foggy with the violent absurdity of what he’d gotent himself into. He could be at home right now jerking off to the hot chick on Beat Bobby Flay. He checked her out on Wikipedia and she was apparently married to Billy Joel for a while.
“What the fuck is going on here, man? This is . . . I don’t know what to say,” Trevor said, exasperated.
“I know, I know. It must seem kind of strange. I even made the elevator work though, right!” Graham exclaimed. “Isn’t that cool? Who knows, maybe when I retire, I’ll modernize historically significant sites.”
Graham noticed Trevor staring wide-eyed at Freddie.
“Oh . . . him? He’s a bad, bad boy aren’t you?” He knelt down by Montaglio’s head and lovingly brushed back the remaining wisps of salt and pepper hair clinging to his cranium. “You poor, poor thing.”
“Eh, fuck your sister raw with a cleaver, you cocksucker,” Montaglio said, spitting in Graham’s face as a bookend to the retort.
“Well, now that’s not very nice,” Graham said, looking at Trevor like he was an innocent victim. He turned back to Freddie. “Where are your manners, sir?”
“Get it over with already, you pizon!”
“Delayed gratification is the best kind. Plus, our guest has just arrived. Speaking of my sister, she died tragically in a plane crash, so I’m going to make it hurt just a little more.”
“Eh, my wife died in a plane crash, too, so do it for her,” Freddie spat out.
Graham, his interest suddenly piqued, inquired further. “Oh, really? Which one?”
Freddie, staring up at the ceiling of the Terminals began: “I had just married her. I was in Toronto running numbers for the ‘Ndrentghata, which had only recently started operations in Canada. Maria was tired of being alone in the house, me away working long nights and days. It wasn’t exactly matrimonial bliss on her part. I was raking it in, I knew some people who knew some people from the old country, but she missed her life in Montreal, however nice we were doing in Toronto.” Montaglio, partly touched by an old memory, and partly trying to elicit sympathy, was in a rare talkative mood. The longer he talked, the longer he stayed alive. The man had had dozens upon dozens of attractive women in the half-century since that tragic day, but she was one of the few he really loved. Poor Maria, scared out of her mind as the oxygen masks fell, the plane shaking in a violent storm.
“So she went home to visit her family for a week while I kept working on my business. I remember the day she left. I dropped her off at Pearson, then called Toronto International Airport, and when I got home, the radio was saying that President Kennedy had been shot. I was boiling eggs and I cracked the first one as the announcer said it. Every time I crack a hard-boiled egg I think of Kennedy getting beaned in the head. It’s this country’s forgotten tragedy; the crash. Not even a week after the assassination it happened. A plane crash obliterated from collective memory; lost in the fog of the history of the United States.”
“Wait a second,” Graham interjected. “Not even a week after JFK? Are you taking about Flight 8—”
“Flight 831, yes,” Montaglio finished for him.
“Ho-lee-shit. It’s a small world, after all.”
“Oh yeah, why do you say that?”
“I can hardly believe it. My older sister was on that flight. I’m not shitting you. Kind of strange considering the circumstances, but I swear to you, it’s true. I was eleven years old. My Mom was on the phone and she began wailing hysterically. I was watching The Beverley Hillbillies—”
“—I think you’ve been watching too much Dexter,” Freddie chimed in with a small chortle, quite pleased with himself.
Graham let forth a hearty, good-natured laugh, and beat the butt of the knife against the table with the set of knives for emphasis.
“Too funny. That’s a good one. The last season really sucked though, huh? Anyways, I was watching The Beverley Hillbillies and I’ll never forget my Mom’s face. It was contorted beyond description with tears pouring out of her like a leaky faucet. My sister, Jenn, was a student travelling internationally for the first time, if you consider Canada international. We weren’t hurting that bad, but were by no means wealthy, so Toronto and Montreal were the only international destinations that my folks allowed. They were kind of protective as well, didn’t want their only girl straying too far from home, especially at the tender age of eighteen. She was a looker, too. You’d have loved her, Trevor,” he turned to him and winked. “A real Virginian beauty. Shiny blonde hair and blue eyes; a smile that’d melt your heart. Of course, I didn’t know anything about that at the time, but I sure as hell noticed all the creepy neighbourhood boys hanging around our house trying to get her attention.”
Trevor, frozen in his place, sweating like a priest on a playground, cleared his throat. “Uh, I hate to say it, but this is so fucking weird. My Aunt was, uh, on that flight as well. I wasn’t born yet, of course. Uh, maybe I should go? This is too fucked up.”
“You’re kidding, right?” Graham said, incredulous.
“My lord have mercy on my soul!” Freddie Montaglio cried out. “The lives of the saints are looking down on me!”
“Quite the co-in-ki-dink, huh gang?” Graham said, somewhat amused at the turn of events. “No. Trevor, you stay. You don’t want to miss this. Plus, I need your help.” Graham smoothed his beard down with his free hand.
Oh, I’m quite sure I want to miss this, Trevor thought, but stood there immobilized instead.
“As the man said,” Trevor gestured towards the supine Montaglio, “it was indeed Canada’s forgotten tragedy.” Poof! Gone just like that. Wet and cold, body parts everywhere, and the stupid ambulances—not that it really mattered, everyone was dead—but, the ambulances couldn’t get to the crash site because of the traffic jams caused by the storm. No one talks about it. Except now, obviously, I guess.”
“I was there,” the horizontal voice said to the ceiling. “I drove from Toronto to Montreal in four and a half hours. Didn’t stop for any red lights the whole time. It was a madhouse when I got to Montreal, so I abandoned the car and ran towards the site. I could’ve gotten another one tomorrow.” He smiled, reminiscing about the reach his powers once had all those years ago. With the snap of his fingers he could have a brand new Cadillac in his driveway.
“I knew I was getting closer because I could smell burning fuel, and there were tons of fuzzula running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Then I knew I was really getting close when I could smell burning flesh. People were screaming, skin hanging from their bodies like a half-peeled potato. Parts. A leg here and a torso there. I never did find my Maria. Eventually, a couple firemen made me back up.
“Who the hell are you, anyways, one of Violi’s guys?” Freddie turned his attention back to the present. “No fucking way you’re with the Fish and Wildlife Commission. Might as well be honest with me now, you gindaloon.”
“Sir, I simply love wildlife more than I love life itself. It’s true. And I want illegal fishermen and poachers to feel pain. To suffer like the wildlife they kill.”
“Really?” Trevor mustered the courage to pipe up. “You eat lots of animals from my shop.”
Graham turned to Trevor and raised an eyebrow. “No one gives a flying karate kick about a cow or pig, they’re not endangered. If pigs flew and only nested on pristine shorelines, and there were only a small percentage of the species left—and guys like you were killing them—then yes, you’d be on this table instead. Listen, I don’t care about the mob, the mafia, la costa nostra, or whatever these clowns call themselves. These guys talk about honour and loyalty all day long while secretly plotting to kill each other. What a joke.”
Freddie Montaglio was wriggling around underneath the straps, trying to stretch his cramping muscles. He sighed. “I have nothing against the cute littly fishies,” he said half-mockingly, “I’m following orders from above. The Canadian government wants to legalize marijuana, well then it’s my job to tap another source; offset the looming losses. I saw an opportunity and seized it. And now here I am,” he said, looking around, stuck here with you two jamukes. I made it this far. I’m only sad for my daughter.”
“Well, I wouldn’t worry too much about your daughter, my friend. It’s not like there will be a . . . uh . . . body. She’ll think Daddy just vanished into thin air. Then again, that might torture her more than knowing you’re dead. The lack of closure, the torture of not knowing. Oh well, she’ll have to manage. It’s a wicked world.”
“Fucking let me go or get it over with.”
Trevor was impressed by the man’s seeming bravery in the face of imminent death. He really was an old school criminal; ready to fall on the sword when his time came. A chance to die with honour—perhaps only because there was no chance to rat anyone else out to save his own life. A tainted honour, sure, but honour nonetheless in the history books. There was no way he was going to jail; too old, too many enemies, too many problems for his family.
“If only it were that simple,” Graham said, his attention at the moment consumed with the knives lying on the table. He grabbed one knife, hesitated, then put it down, and picked up another one and set it to the side, apart from the others.
Graham walked over towards the elevator, crouched down and rifled through a dufflebag. He came up with a pristine, white body-length apron. “Here, put this on,” he balled the apron up and tossed it towards Trevor and he caught the dense piece of fabric. It was industrial thick. Knucks didn’t even wear something this heavy.
“Man, I’m really uncomfortable,” Trevor pleaded. “This is just nuts. I don’t want to be involved in something like this. I got a wife and kids.”
“So do I!” Graham yelled. “This is about honour and justice, son, and honour and justice don’t wear pink tutus and sip lattes. This fucking guy and his crew were attempting to suck the Georgian Bay dry of its rare and valuable population of Sturgeon. Like a gang showing up in Collingwood and flooding the streets with fentanyl-laced heroin. Except the fish are the ones dying from the hopped-up heroin.” Graham was pacing back and forth, getting worked up.
“Well, we actually do have a lot of those problems on our streets.”
“Shut up, Trevor, and put the damn apron on.”
He did as he was told. He observed Graham take his shoes off and followed suit, but Trevor was confused about keeping his clothes on. “Should I take my— ”
“No, no, leave ‘em on.”
Graham also slipped into an apron.
They looked like members of a strange cult. Freddie’s face was long, a permanent scowl etched upon it. Every sleepless night was written across the lines on his face. The frantic twitching and readjusting had been given up to the acceptance of fate. There was no escaping the buckles around his chest and legs.
“Remember that Sturgeon we caught the other day?” Stand right there,” Graham pointed to the opposite side of where he himself stood. “This one’s worth a wee bit more. Now, in case our captive audience hasn’t figured it out yet, I’m going to do to him what he was trying to do to the ecosystem. They say that fish don’t have any feelings, and perhaps they’re right, but it’s neither here nor there. He probably doesn’t, either.”
With that Graham gripped the small carving knife tightly and put the tip to Montaglio’s chest, just below where the restraint was. Without warning he plunged it into the convex mound of his mid-section. Crimson shot out like a massive pimple being popped. Freddie let out a scream that quickly hit a lower, more viscous note, as blood flooded his lungs. The knife travelled down the stomach and stopped at the top of his pubis.
Trevor found himself screaming, too. “Oh, be quiet, you two,” Graham admonished.
Blood was cascading down his massive belly and dripping onto the floor. It began leaking out of Montaglio’s mouth, too. His body was spasmodically shaking. He lifted his head instinctively to see the damage wrought to him. He spit a huge blood loogy in Graham’s face, and he calmly wiped it off with a nearby cloth. “Again. How rude.”
Amidst Montaglio’s guttural moans, Graham put down his bloody knife and cracked his knuckles. “Now the fun part.”
He placed his fingertips into the long incision and gave a wry smile to the horrified accomplice. He steadied himself and then ripped the two sides apart in one foul swoop.
“So sorry about your first wife, Montaglio! I feel your pain!”
His stomach, like walrus blubber, flapped against his sides. A look of bewilderment came across his ashen face. Endorphins flooded his system as shock took hold. There would be no more pain in Montaglio’s world.
Then a funny thing happened. Freshly eaten, half-chewed caviar was gurgling out of the stomach wound. “Hoo-wee! We got ourselves a fee-male, Trevor!” Graham said in a mock Southern accent. He dipped a finger into the goopy mix of bowels and organs and licked it. “Goddamn, that is some good stuff. Could still serve it to the Queen of England.”
Trevor winced at the spectacle of grotesquerie before him. How confusing and sickening the last hour had been. And to think that his family history was intertwined with these two people. It was all too much and he keeled over, vomiting onto the pool of blood mixed with black globules of chewed caviar. “One helluva weak stomach you got there, son. But it’s in better shape than his.”
Trevor gripped the side of the table that Montaglio was tethered to and found himself face to face with the old mobster. His mouth, once used to sending men to their death, was babbling something unintelligible, while intermittently coughing up a thick, blackish bile. Some of it landed on Trevor’s face and he instinctively wiped it off with the back of his hand, his face appearing as though it was smeared with mascara.
“Now the fun part, my man.” Graham was holding some kind of handsaw. “It’s not rocket science. You always start with the limbs. Doesn’t matter much which one. Left arm, or right leg. They all gotta come off, anways.” He revved the saw a couple times. “You’ll probably need to back away, might get a little messy.”
Trevor walked backwards, away from the scene, back into the semi-darkness, and almost slipped on a small pool of blood as Graham donned what looked like a welder’s mask. Blood was still burbling out of Montaglio’s mouth, but aside from that, he appeared lifeless. The top buckle was loosened and the prisoner didn’t budge from his position. Graham stretched out one of Montaglio’s arms and lowered the saw on the shoulder. The grinding bellowed in the cavernous terminals as it tore through the chunks of guts and bone.
Trevor gazed out at the moon swept bay, the water doing what it always does. What a mess. He didn’t want any more of it; couldn’t stand another second. He gazed out towards the black horizon as the various degrees of sawing intensity gnawed at his brain. He closed his eyes, covered his ears, and screamed to drown it all out.
“Almost done!” a Graham yelled, merely a dozen feet away, yet another world entirely. “I’ll make sure your bag is lighter, don’t worry,” he chuckled, before sawing away again. He stopped briefly to change batteries, and went back at it. “Always have to change batteries when I get to the torso. So much bone in there. And with a guy like this,” he wobbled back and forth, his arms outstretched, mimicking an obese person. “Got a lot of them back in the States; lot of human sludge trudging around. That’s one thing I notice about you canuckleheads: not a bunch of fatties. Good for you, guys. Oh Canadaaa!”
He went back to work, sawing away, and then began wrapping the parts in butcher paper, stowing them away in the two hockey bags he brought. “These hockey bags are great for limbs. Canadian Tire should really advertise that,” Graham laughed to himself. The battery operated heavy duty flash lights illuminated the blood-soaked table that recently hosted Freddie Montaglio. “Quite the big boy, huh? Thought I might need three bags, but if I stuff him in tight I think two’ll work.”
“I . . . I didn’t want to be a part of this.”
“Ain’t no choice now, is there little buddy? Listen, I got a couple guys who work with the FBI and they’re gonna clean all this shit up and there’ll be no linking you, me, or anyone else to this . . . tragedy. I’m sure his associates will assume he wore a pair of cement shoes and will never be found. Cost of business, or whatever other shit the mob tells itself. Who cares? As long as you keep your trap shut, we’re good. I can tell, you’re good at keeping secrets.” Graham winked at Trevor. “You’re no bad seed.”
They each grabbed a hockey bag and hoisted it onto their shoulders. There was an awkward silence after Graham hit the elevator button and they stood there waiting. On the way down Graham broke the silence: “Fucking hell this is heavy. It’s killing my shoulder.”
Sensing Trevor’s shock and confusion over what had just occurred, Graham put his hand on Trevor’s shoulder. “Cheer up buttercup. I’m sorry for your loss . . . of a loyal customer such as Freddie was, but he was going to fuck up the delicate balance of nature, and I can’t allow that. Looking at the long game, you can put this in the win column, little buddy.”
The elevator dinged and the doors separated. The two men walked as nonchalantly as they could with their hockey bags. The moon was bright, illuminating the boats and their shadows, but there was no one else around. They instinctively went to the other side of the street that was shaded from the streetlights by a row of maple trees.
“Don’t worry, no one’s home,” Graham said by way of explanation when they got to his truck. They each slung the bags off their shoulders and onto the bed of the truck. “Listen, I know that was kinda nuts. But the world ain’t pretty, Trevor. The man’s got lawyers up the wazoo. It would tie up much-needed resources that would otherwise go to conservation. Sometimes it’s easier this way.”
“This way!” Trevor was incredulous, rage now taking the place of shock. “Couldn’t you have put a fucking bullet in his head and be done with it! I didn’t need to see a guy get hacked up like that!”
“Hey, hey, keep your voice down,” Graham said, looking back and forth down the quiet street. “I thought of all people, you wouldn’t be all queasy at the sight of some blood and hacking. But you really want to know why, son?”
He paused as his face grew hard.
“Because it scares and confuses them. So the scumbags in organized crime think the government is crazier and more violent than them. Hell, maybe we are. Or, they’ll think it’s some particularly twisted rival. Some of the boys in Virginia will leak rumours. Fuck ’em all, anyways. Saves the good guys money, saves the time of navigating a byzantine bureaucracy, and it saves all the stupid, sensational press coverage—unless they want the coverage. In which case, fuck ’em two times. But outside of Gotti, they never do.”
“Oh yeah, a mob guy chopped up like a Sturgeon. The newspapers really hate that kind of stuff.”
“Not if they don’t know about it. Like I said, some of the boys in the agency will be here any moment to do C&D—clean-up and disposal. It’ll be like it never happened.” Graham patted Trevor’s shoulder once again. “Now, let’s get the hell out of here. I’ll touch base with you in the next few days.” Graham surveyed the scene around him and made a quick deduction: “I’m assuming you parked at the liquor store and walked over?”
“Uh-huh—But—but then why do you have the guy in those hockey bags? Couldn’t your buddies take care of that?”
“It’s just my end of the bargain. Another little factoid that means nothing to you, so as they say, fughettaboutit.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Trevor muttered and walked away, the bright moon drawing a long shadow behind him while his head swirled with anger and confusion.
“Oh, come on, buddy. I’ll see you soon, OK? We’ll go fishing!” Graham yelled towards Trevor’s receding back.
His hands shook as he struggled to get the keys into the ignition. What could he do? He was terrified. Nothing much he could do but keep his mouth shut. On the drive home, he contemplated telling Patricia, but feared it would terrify her even more. Does he really need to bring that stress into her life? She’d ultimately turn it around on him and blame him for getting mixed up in the whole mess.
Amidst all the night’s events, he almost forgot that they all had relatives, or in Montaglio’s case, a wife, who died on the same plane crash in 1963. What the hell did that mean, if anything? Trevor wanted to put the pieces together, but he wasn’t even sure the difference between the pieces and the puzzle.
He pulled into the driveway and when he opened the car door he noticed a small blotch of blood near his right hip pocket. It was barely noticeable, and all the lights were off in the house. The least of his worries, he thought.
There was a kale and sausage infused ravioli recipe he needed to email to Knucks—that was the first thing he remembered upon entering the silent home. He thought it was OK himself, not great, but acceptable for a Wednesday special. The mushroom sauce was always just off in some way and he couldn’t figure out why. Instinctively, he went to the fridge and scanned its contents. There was a plate of half a chicken breast, broccoli, and some roasted potatoes. A glossy layer of saran wrap was pulled snug over top. Patricia must have left it for him. It was all the little things that added up to a good woman, he thought. He shut the fridge door and almost dropped the plate as he gasped.
There was a figure standing in the shadows. He froze as it came silently towards him.
“Hi, Daddy,” Emily said, wiping the sleep from her eyes.
“Jesus Christ, Em! What are you doing? You scared the crap out of me!”
He set the plate down on the island in the middle of the kitchen and lifted her up in his arms. “Cheese and rice!” she said, laughing. “That’s what Mrs. Graidon tells me to say instead. Eww, Daddy, you smell kinda funny.” She crinkled her nose at him.
“I probably do, don’t I?”
If fatherhood had taught him anything, it was to think fast on his feet. “You know how Daddy works with food? Well, sometimes before it becomes food, the food can smell kinda funky.” He gave her a little tickle with his fingertips and she laughed hysterically. “Stop it, Daddy!”
“Arr, I’m gonna eat you.” He became a cartoonish monster trying to bite her while she giggled and banged away at his chest. “OK, it’s bedtime, you shouldn’t be up this late.”
“It’s your fault; I heard the door when you came in.”
“It’s my fault, but you still have to go to bed, sweetie. Daddy has to eat.”
“Fine,” she said, as he lowered her down to the Earth and she trudged off towards the stairs. He heard her slight footfalls move towards the second floor and then turned his attention to dinner. He microwaved the food and began eating so fast that he had to tell himself to slow down and chew.
He put the nearly spotless plate into the dishwasher and went to the cupboard above the fridge. There was no need for even the simple formality of a glass. Trevor guzzled as much Canadian Club as he could stand and exhaled like a fire-breathing demon. He went back to the well a few more times and the nights events became less and less raw. He grabbed a sleeve of Saltines out of a cupboard and then took out a container of caviar from the fridge. The lid was tossed carelessly onto the counter.
Trevor made his way to the couch and put the bottle in between his legs, resting it against his crotch.
The iPad glowed to life.
Season’s one through twenty-four were available for viewing. He couldn’t remember if he’d seen all of season twenty-two, but knew he was near the end, so he fired up the finale, and washed down another burning gulp with a cracker shingled with black gold.