Table of Contents

Summer 2008

From The Editor

Letter from Sandra Ruttan

Short Stories

Amra Pajalic

The Game

The Old Man

The Vow

The Other Shoe

Patrick Shawn Bagley

Bank Job

John McFetridge

Overtime

Russel D. McLean

Her Cheating Heart

Steve Mosby

Fruits

Grant McKenzie

Out Of Order

Patricia Abbott

Pox

Leaving

Damien Seaman

Love In Vain

Ugly Duckling

Steve Allan

Hump The Stump

Stumpy's Revenge

You and Me and Stumpy Makes Three

Stephen D. Rogers

Head Shot

Richard Cooper

Simmer Time

Sandra Seamans

Predatory

Allan Guthrie

Freckles

Brian Lindenmuth

Gun

Tony Black

London Calling

Brian McGilloway

Spoonfull of Sugar

Interview

Damien Seaman with Tony Black

Reviews by:

Sandra Ruttan

Savage Night

The Cold Spot

Brian Lindenmuth

Kockroach

The Crimes of Dr. Watson

Half the Blood of Brooklyn

Crimson Orgy

Mad Dogs

The Resurrectionist

Sharp Teeth

Lawrence

Black Man

Tricia

Hip Flask: Concrete Jungle

Chadwick

At the City's Edge

Amber

Small Favor

Madhouse

Book Excerpts

Toros & Torsos
by Craig McDonald

Paying For It
by Tony Black

Dirty Sweeet
by John McFetridge

Feature

The Graveyard Shift: blog by Lee Ofland

Dirty Sweet: Excerpt by John McFetridge


“She was in shock, man.”

“She was a lot of things,” Price said. “But shocked isn’t one of them.”

“C’mon, you see a guy’s head get blown off right in front of you?”

Price took his spicy sausage from the guy behind the cart and started loading on toppings. “`Most of it hit that bike courier,’ that’s what she said.”

“She was in shock.”

Sauerkraut, onions, black olives, corn relish, the corn relish makes it, Dijon mustard. They were standing on Spadina at the corner of King. Traffic was moving again, crawling down Spadina towards the Gardiner. Loewen already halfway through his hot dog when Price got his, walking back to their car, saying, “No way. She was not in shock.”

“She’s got great legs,” Loewen said.

“She’s got a great body,” Price said, “but she ain’t in shock. I doubt anything ever shocked her.”

“She’s a real estate agent.”

Price leaned on the hood of their car and looked up Spadina. Another block and Chinatown started, vegetable stores out on the sidewalks. There were a lot of people set up on rugs and towels on the sidewalks, too, selling colourful scarves and incense and beaded jewelry. Mostly girls who looked like they stepped out of 1968, except they showed a lot more skin and had tattoos all over; their arms, their backs, even their necks. Price couldn’t imagine what they had where the sun don’t shine. And every part of them was pierced.

He said, “She’s a lot of things.”

Loewen said, “Yeah,” drawing it out enough for Price to roll his eyes.

“Oh man, you going after her?”

“I’ve got to do some follow up.”

“You know this is going I.S. That guy was Russian mob.”

“He was Russian, we don’t know mob. We can work this.”

“We don’t know mob, yeah right. Come on, we don’t have to do anything. We file our IR’s and move on, be glad about it. We’d never be able to put together anything on this.”

Loewen said, “What are you talking about, there’s plenty. Crime Scene hasn’t even finished, we’ve got witnesses. We can’t just walk away now, the only thing we know about the dead guy is his name. We’re just assuming he’s mob.”

Price gave him a look, like why would you want to bother. “Well, we got his Russian name and the fact that he got his head shot off waiting for a light to change. No argument, not even a scratch on his brand new Lincoln Navigator which we’re going to find out was stolen in Edmonton. Maybe he was a doctor back in Moscow, but over here he’s the mob.”

“So that’s why we should keep going.”

“Going? Going where? Ten witnesses, can’t agree what kind of car it was five feet in front of them.”

“It was a Volvo S80, Midnight blue. You know it and I know it.”

“What about the ones said it was a Lexus? Or a Honda?”

“Come on, we’ve got to be able to get something. Hit a guy in the middle of the day on a busy street?”

“I doubt that was the plan. They just saw their chance and took it.”

“Okay, that’s it. So this is my chance.”

“What?” Price turned sideways a little. He couldn’t believe this guy.

Loewen finished his dog. He said, “Come on, when is Maureen getting back?” Price’s partner, Maureen McKeon was off on maternity leave. He told Loewen she’d been off a month and she was taking six, wouldn’t be back till September.

“Okay, so this is a real chance for me, I’ve only got a few months to get noticed, go for a full time transfer.”

“Why you want to work homicide?”

Loewen looked at Price. So cool in his thousand dollar lightweight summer gray suit, baby blue shirt and red and silver striped tie. His shades. Leather shoes. His whole demeanor, showing up on the scene, people freaked out, traffic backed up, uniforms running around everywhere, and he takes charge. Loewen said, “Come on, homicide’s where it’s at.”

Price chewed on his sausage, took his time, cool as always, before saying, “Guys killing their wives, sitting in the corner sobbing, drunk, when we get there. Wannabe gangbangers up in the jungle, think they’re tough, shooting each other for shoes, we clean up the mess. It’s not glamorous.”

Loewen said, “Come on, I’ve been partnered with you for two days, we already got a Russian mob hit.”

“If it is a mob hit, you think we’ll get anywhere with it? Better to give it to the big boys, let the pony patrol take it.”

“The fucking Mounties?”

“Task force.”

Loewen was shaking his head up and down, “Now you’re talking, maybe we can get on the task force.”

“Be what, gophers?”

“Look at this as what it is, man. This is a great opportunity, this guy getting whacked in the middle of King Street.”

“Look at you,” Price said, “two days on the job, you’re saying ‘whacked.’”

“Two days in homicide, I’ve been on the job ten fucking years. I know chances like this don’t come along everyday.”

Price walked back to the hot dog cart and bought an iced tea. He waved the bottle at Loewen, offering him one, but he shook his head. Price came back to the car, leaned back on the hood, put one expensive leather shoe on the bumper. It was true, what Loewen was saying about opportunity. When Price had been on the force less than a year, working bullshit public relations jobs and standing next to the mayor every time a TV camera was on because he was black, they called it ‘Community Relations Officer,’ he had his first conversation with an inspector and changed his whole career path.

He was working a party at one of the hotels right behind City Hall. Big developers, the mayor, a bunch of city counselors, the Deputy Chief and some Inspectors. Most of them headed upstairs as soon as they could get away to the top floor where the hookers were stashed. By two in the morning the press was gone and Price had enough of showing off the force’s cultural diversity so he went to the City Hall parking garage across the street to smoke a joint and found Inspector Alistair Nichols.

The Inspector was so drunk he’d gotten about ten feet and slammed his Crown Vic into a post. Price found him sleeping with his face on the airbag. His pants around his ankles and the girl nowhere to be seen. Inspector Alistair Nichols, so high up in the force he still had his Scottish accent said, “There’s a good lad,” when Price pulled up his pants and helped him into an unmarked car and drove him home. Came back and got the Inspector’s car to his brother-in-law’s body shop. There wasn’t much damage and they charged some asshole lawyer for an airbag replacement, told him his wasn’t working. The next day Price took the totally repaired Crown Vic to the Glasgow Rangers Supporter’s Club in Scarborough. No paperwork, no reports, nothing. Just Inspector Alistair Nichols looking out for him.

Since then, Price figured he did everything on his own. Made detective and was on his way. But still, when an opportunity presents itself, you gotta take a look. Price said, “I guess we could ask around a little.”

“All right. You’ll talk to Nichols, get us on the task force?”

“Slow down, man. We don’t want to show up empty handed, begging to be on the team. Maybe if we knew a little more about the dead guy.”

“Now you’re talking. I’ll run him through CPIC, see what the computer has to say.”

“No, hold up. I know a guy.”

And Loewen thought, of course you do.

@#$%%$#@

What Roxanne remembered, it was right after Boris Suliemanov tried to lease the first floor of the Toy Works that her Jeep was stolen. She was in the building late one night, the T1 lines had just been hooked up, she was making sure everything worked, got lost on the internet and when she came out the lot was empty. It was on a lease and fully insured so she got another one, but it was still a pain.

Now she was trying to think if there was a way to work it. CityPulse24 was still calling it road rage, all the anchors whining about what has our city become? It might just disappear, another unsolved homicide in a city with more and more unsolved homicides. She could call him up and say, “Hey, Boris, this is Roxanne Keyes, you tried to lease some space in the Toy Works building down on King? Remember, I didn’t want a strip club in the lobby? Well, anyway, I saw you drive the getaway car in a hit yesterday and I wondered…” What? What did she wonder? Would he just give her money? How much? How would it work? She promises not to go to the cops and he pays her?

Because she really needed the money. Angus was tired of waiting. If she couldn’t come up with something by the end of the month, he’d…

She remembered seeing Angus on a building site take on a guy twice his size. Angus said the guy was stealing from him, the guy was denying it, waving his arms around, shouting, and Angus wouldn’t back down. All the other guys on the site were watching by then and the guy says to him, “You calling me a liar?” trying to turn it around on him and Angus just told the guy to get the fuck out and when the big moron wouldn’t, Angus shoved him up against the side of the office trailer, almost knocked the thing off its blocks and that’s when Roxanne saw the hammer in his hand. She hadn’t even seen him pick it up, he must have had it when he first confronted the guy. He smashed it against the side of the trailer, put a big fucking dent a couple of inches from the guy’s head and told him to get the fuck off his site. Then he just dropped the hammer and turned around, saw Roxanne. He kind of shrugged and they went into the dented office to look over some numbers.

Now he was just about done with her.

But Boris. This is a guy who drove a Volvo downtown and watched a guy get his head blown off. From the frying pan into the fire.

Then an image of Vince from the online porno place came into her head. She couldn’t believe it, he was sexy all right, but it wasn’t really the time. Then she realized what she was seeing was how calm he was. She could be that calm.

She got the vodka out of the freezer, in there beside a stack of Weight Watchers entrees and a tub of Chapman’s ice cream – chocolate fudge, poured half a glass, added orange juice and lit a cigarette. She looked out the windows of her condo at Lake Ontario, big and dark on one side and downtown Toronto, steel and glass and all lit up on the other.

Maybe just run into him, like a coincidence. Meet him somewhere, say, “You look familiar,” something like that. Feel him out, see if he remembered her.

Then she thought, what did he do after the Toy Works wouldn’t lease to him? She remembered he said his club would be classy, upscale, very European, professional dancers. International, he’d said.

Roxanne finished her drink and found the yellow pages in a cupboard under the sink in the kitchenette. She sat on a barstool at the breakfast nook and looked under ‘entertainment’ and saw ads for belly dancers, Strip N’ Tell, clowns and Hollywood lookalikes. Flipping pages she saw twenty or more full page ads for escorts and remembered something about most of the ads all being the same place, a house on Coxwell, some guy and his wife who got arrested last year. Or else entirely new ones were already in the phone book.

She looked under clubs and found the Blue Jays fan club and a bunch of tennis clubs and then she looked under nightclubs. She found the Exotica Cabaret, Cheaters Tavern featuring Las Vegas style dancing, Treasures Nightclub, House of Lancaster, the Landing Strip and Club International.

That would be Boris, Club International, Dixon Road. Looked like he’d opened up out by the airport. Roxanne thought maybe she’d stop by. Then what, ask to see the owner? The manager? Look in the parking lot for a Midnight Blue Volvo S80? What if she found him?

What if he remembered her?

What if he saw her this afternoon?

That stopped her. Staring at her own reflection in the condo’s windows. It was possible. What if while she’d been trying to figure out who he was, he’d been figuring out who she was. Thinking, that woman on the patio, I know I’ve seen her some place, but where? Going over everything. She wondered how long she’d had the skirt she was wearing, and the blouse, the Dior. No, it was new. So was her hair, shorter than it had ever been and a lot blonder.

But he looked right at her.

Say it would take him a while to realize she wasn’t a stripper. Then he’d go over the professional women he’d met. That’s what she was, and he probably hadn’t met that many. Would the breweries send a female rep to strip clubs? Maybe, they might like that better.

Maybe he’d come looking for her. Could she play it cool like Vince would? Could she say, “Boris, hi, how’ve you been? I see you opened up near the airport. That’s a much better location. I guess you don’t get downtown much.”

But if he did look her up, Roxanne wondered, would she play it cool so he wouldn’t think she was a witness, or would she play it cool so that he’d know she was, but she could be reasonable?

Really, though, what could she do? Call the cops and say, “Oh, I remembered something. It turns out I know the guy who drove the getaway car?” It was possible, but it sounded lame. She didn’t want to turn him in, but she had to have something on him.

The license plate.

Not the whole thing, but what if she could call the cop, what was his name, Loewen? and say she remembered part of the license number.

He’d say, hey that’s great.

Or maybe he’d say, just like that?

Or, isn’t that lucky.

What did Oprah say, luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity?

So here’s some opportunity.

@#$%%$#@

Khozha said, “Do they all have those big fake tits?”

“If they don’t, they’re hitting me up to pay for them.”

Boris closed the door of the safe in the floor of his office. There wasn’t really anything in it, a little walking around money, maybe twenty grand but enough to let someone think he’d found the cash. Boris knew no one would ever find the other safe, the real safe, in the changeroom behind the lockers, but still he was pissed fucking Anzor was such trouble. Made him nervous, that much cash just sitting there.

Khozha’d come out of the VIP room. The real VIP room, with the big couch and the lock on the door. This was his third girl since he’d said he wanted to go straight to the airport. Boris couldn’t believe the old man could get it up that many times. Later he’d ask the girls what he did in there.

“Why don’t you take two of them in there at the same time,” Boris said. “We won’t have this line-up.”

Khozha sat down on the couch across from the desk and said, “And all those fucking studs; navels, eyebrows, fucking studs all over their cunts, their nipples, their faces. Tongues.”

Boris said “That can be good, on the tongue.”

“They gonna leak out all these holes.”

“They dance naked, they have to decorate themselves somehow.”

“And the fucking tattoos. Teddy bears and flowers and barbed wire and Chink writing.

What’s with the Chink?”

Boris said, “I don’t know, it’s spiritual or something.” Then he said, “There’s only a couple
more flights tonight. You ready?”

“That one with the really short hair, the crew cut, and the redhead? They go together?”

Boris said, “If you want.”

Khozha said, “Yes, I want,” as he stood up.

The office door opened and a big guy walked in. Over six feet, close to three hundred pounds, he looked like a biker trying to look straight in his blue suit and white shirt. He still had his long hair in a pony tail, though, and there were tats on his hands, a spider web and a knife dripping blood.

Boris said, “Khozha, this is Henri, my manager.” He said it the French way, On-ree, and the big guy stuck out his hand to shake.

Khozha turned and opened the door to the VIP room. He said, “And bring me another bottle.”

Boris watched the door close and didn’t want to look at Henri. He moved some papers on his desk and said, “The redhead, what’s her name? Angie, and GI Jane. Send them in together.”

Henri said, “He’s going through every girl we got, your uncle.”

“Yeah, he is.”

“I thought he was going straight to the airport.” Not a question, the way Henri said it.
Boris said, “He likes my club,” letting a little pride show, finally looking up at Henri, waiting for him to say it was his club too, or some shit like that. Before Boris took it over the Club International was a sleazy tittie bar called the Beaver Tail run by Henri and his biker buddies. The chicks were always stoned and had plenty of attitude. The customers were delivery drivers and raghead cabbies and security guards from the airport. Didn’t even have a VIP lounge.
Now the place was classy. Two main stages, flat screen TV’s running top European skin flicks and internet connections in the booths. The clientele was a lot more upscale businessmen, and not just guys waiting for flights, a lot of local office guys, regulars. Boris brought in chicks from Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, all over eastern Europe, good looking white chicks who knew what their job was and were good at it.

Henri said, “You didn’t have to bring him in, you know.”

There it was, Boris figured. Henri had it so good he didn’t like it. It confused him. He stayed on as the manager, ten percent owner, booked the girls, kept them in line and with what Boris paid him and dealing speed and weed, he made more than he ever had in his life. Still, he was pissed off all the time.

“I need a new car.”

“I know, fuck, it was all over the fucking TV. Middle of fucking King Street.”
Henri had wanted to do it. Said he could take care of that prick bastard Anzor and be done with it. That’s what Boris couldn’t figure, here was Henri in his thousand dollar suit, taking care of business, paying fucking taxes he was so clean and he wanted to go and pop some prick when he didn’t have to.

“Saw a chance, took it.”

“Guy from fucking New York, what does he care.”

What do you care, Boris thought, but he shrugged it off. “I want another Volvo, or an Audi.”

“It’s on the way already.”

Boris nodded, pleased. He couldn’t tell about this Henri. Here he was doing everything right but talking like a hotshot. Maybe he was all talk, maybe he was glad they brought in Khozha. Really, though, Boris thought, what the fuck do I care? Another year, have a few legit businesses going and dump this club right back in his fat fucking lap.

@#$%%$#@



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