Never Look Back

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Chapter 57

Police would eventually put out a bank notification, possibly even today. On the way to Pinky’s, Don’s nickname to honour the colour his ears turned when he became excited, I cashed the bank drafts in four different banks; visited an eyewear store; bought a suitcase, a briefcase, a Stetson with a rattlesnake hatband and cowboy boots. At a fifth bank, I bought enough greenbacks to pay for a week’s lodging at the Four Seasons. When the manhunt cooled, Brazil’s Ipanema Beach would be a welcomed sight. Once there, safe from the long-armed law, Odera and I would decide on a final destination. Odera might balk, at first, but I was confident she would join me in the end. She did not know how not to be loyal.

Why had she turned off her cell phone?

Why hadn’t she returned my messages?

A nagging feeling, knotted and cold, pitted my stomach. It was unfathomable that Robert’s anger stemmed from the discovery of our relationship. What did he mean when he said, ‘Give her back’? That was an odd figure of speech. Did Brinkman talk? Old lady Fraser? No way. That broad was stand up and Brinkman would lose his license. The appearance of 7-Eleven pushed my quandaries into the background.

I seated myself on a bus stop bench across the street and watched people arrive and depart the 7-Eleven store. After I made certain no one loitered nearby ― part of a sting operation to nail Pinky ― and to acquire a general feeling for the pulse of activity, I used the new pay-as-you-go cell phone I had purchased. Don stood in sight, on the other side of the window, beside the convenience payphone, absorbed in a video arcade game. He delayed answering. A teenage girl swooped in for the interception. Don barely beat her to it.

“Whud up?”

“It’s me. I need some paper.”

“No problem. How soon?”

“Yesterday. Is your wife home?”

“Nope. She went bingoing. C’mon over. We’ll rock Mary Jane’s socks off.”

“Business Don. Stay focussed. See you in thirty.”

I hung up. Thirty seconds later he exited the store and turned for home. No tail that I could detect. After I assured myself that he wasn’t under surveillance for his own reasons, I entered the 7-Eleven to buy tampons and hair dye. I paid for feminine hygiene items wearing that Basset hound look all newly departed bachelors owned. Just another guy sent to the store. Leave casually. Don’t be paranoid; no one’s going to remember you. Paranoia was like fear ― Fuck Everything And Run. Ten minutes later I knocked on the front door to Don’s house.

He must have been waiting because the door opened almost at once.

“C’mon in. Mi casa, su casa.”

“I need three sets of I.D., including passports; one Canadian, two American,” I said when I closed the door behind me.

“Ya got so many doppelgangers doggin’ your heels you can’t say hello?”

“It’s been a rough morning. I’m on South Street South before they slam my ass lower than a snail slime trail. Four hours from now I want to be in Rochester.”

“Anything I need to know?”

“Cock soup. Same old, same old. Cuff now. Convict later. My prick PO claimed that I was an unmanageable risk. You know how it goes. Seeing the Parole Board is nothing but a formality at this point. They’ll revoke my parole and imprison me just because the cops suspect me of being suspiciously close to a crime scene.”

“You need travelling expenses? Ain’t got much, but I got some. There’s this score I know about that’s waitin’ to be marked off. Eight, maybe ten Gs, eh? Fifteen percent finder’s fee for me. Easy breezy for ex-military.”

“Negative. But I need those papers. Best you got to get me off this continent.”

“Cost ya if you’re flush,” he grinned, an action that showed two missing teeth.

“Get to work. Here’s my driver’s license.”

“Deep-six it. I’ve gone digital with templates for one n’ all.”

“Shit. When did you learn to type?”

He probably pecked the keyboard like a one-legged woodpecker with a migraine.

“No respect for the wiser generation. Lug your ugly map to the basement where I risk it cracking my sensitive gear. Wanna road pop?”

“Maybe later.”

The basement revealed itself step by step as we descended into his electronic playground. A forest of shiny chrome, green, amber and red lights glowed. Four-by-eight-foot green screen occupied one corner where special photographer lights and big disk filters produced professional results. Pinky’s man cave had more computers, photography and printing equipment than most retail photocopy/print centres. I whistled appreciatively.

“Go stand in front of that green background. What colour hair?”

“Black.”

Once the camera flashed thrice, he asked, “What state?”

“Texas. Name: Harvey Longstreet. Address: 1024 Main Street. Find the correct zip code and modify the address to match. And I need a dozen business cards for a company called Tritech Industries. New York State and British Columbia for the other IDs. Different names. Full-spectrum of ID. I’ll double your rates if you can include operational mag strips.”

“Stop. You’re makin’ me blush. Social security, birth certificates, driver licenses and passports coming up. Any preference in names?”

“None. Just make sure they have no similarity to mine. Not so much as even the same first or last initial. How much do I owe you?”

“You have an honest face. I’ll trust ya to pay once you view the quality.” He wore a wry grin while jab-pecking the keyboard. “Go do what you gotta do; it’ll take me a few hours to get the holograms correct.”

“Much obliged, pilgrim.”

“Ease up dude. You ain’t the Duke,” cackled Pinky, his ears going redder and redder against the background of his silver-white hair.

* * * * * * *

Almost completed, I said to myself, turning my chin side to side in the bathroom mirror after I daubed my eyebrows with dye-coated tampons. I wondered if I should hit a tanning salon for a little browning. Compelling details would convincingly sell my new persona, I thought. Every little bit mattered. Mistakes were not to be tolerated. Looking at my new look critically, I decided it sufficiently well done for me to brave going out in public without feeling like ‘America’s Most Wanted’ poster child. Perhaps the hotel had an in-house tanning salon. Don’s excited voice called my name. I popped blue-coloured contacts into my eyes before heeding his shouts and going downstairs.

“Check it out. You’re splashed across the news, eh,” he said excitedly. Jail was no more than an occupational hazard to Don and parole was a five-hour head start. He loved playing cops and robbers. “You’re done like roast duck, dude. Convict hunters are looking to bag your trophy ass.”

The news anchorman’s voice filled the room as I stepped off the bottom stair, “Bruce Alexander Garland, paroled while serving an eighteen-year sentence for manslaughter and aggravated assault, is wanted by police for attempted murder, kidnapping, break and enter, assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and being unlawfully at large. Around 1:00 a.m. last night, police answered a 911 distress call to the home of Odera Claire Mansbridge, where they found her neighbour, Julia Alice Dumont, suffering from a gunshot wound to the shoulder.

“When Ms. Dumont investigated screams coming from Ms. Mansbridge’s condominium, she stumbled into an undisclosed number of kidnappers. Ms. Dumont was shot and left for dead, but courageously managed to crawl to the telephone and dial 911. Ms. Dumont was rushed to Toronto General Hospital’s trauma unit where she remains in serious, but stable condition. Police won’t say how Bruce Garland is involved, except to say that Julia Dumont identified Bruce Garland from a police photo line-up.

“When Toronto City Police attempted to apprehend Bruce Garland at Hidden Oaks Design, his place of employment, owned by Robert Mansbridge, the victim’s father, Garland allegedly assaulted one police officer before fleeing the scene with shots fired. Bruce Garland is considered armed and dangerous. Channel 12 News has been able to verify that Bruce Garland was dishonourably discharged from the military after needlessly killing one civilian and brutally injuring another. Garland has undergone combat weapons training and evasion practices. Police are warning people not to approach him directly. If anyone has information regarding his whereabouts, they can call Crimestoppers at…”

“Turn it off,” I snapped as I felt grief pile-drive my guts.

“Whoowee! Johnny-Fucking-Dillinger.” Don triggered the power button on his remote like a gun. “Bag any coppers, Johnny? Is her old man loaded? How much are you figuring on milking him for?”

Don’s last words caused me to turn toward him, but in that turning a terrible wrath blistered across my soul. I stood up straighter. Odera’s kidnapped fate settled in. One look at the arctic squall storming across my features and Don sobered up.

“Sorry, dude. I can see you ain’t involved.”

“I’ll take that beer.” Even though I hadn’t smoked in more than a month, I reached for one of Don’s cigarettes. As he started upstairs, I added, “Keep Longstreet an American from Texas. Write two additional sets of Canadian ID. Any names you want but make sure they’re rock-solid. Use dead babies eight or nine years younger than me ― birth certificates from Old Northwest Territories or the Yukon. Small towns where they won’t have been computerized.” Predatory certainty rang in each staccato instruction. “I want to be able to hand my driver’s licence to a traffic cop and not think twice.”

“You didn’t know the broad was snatched,” said Don scratching his scruffy chin.

“And now I do.”

“Leave town until it blows over,” he suggested, halfway up the stairs facing me. “You rolled craps. Pay the line and beat the feet the fuck out of here before the bottle n’ stoppers put you back inside, or worse. They’re gonna shoot first and ask questions later. I can help with transportation, maybe even a female driver that’ll make crossing the border a little smoother.”

I said mostly to myself, “There’s no reason for kidnappers to have stayed long enough for Julia to arrive. I know that area. All square johns. Julia would have been in bed. It must have taken her five minutes to wake up, identify the noise from Odera’s place, throw on a housecoat and then come downstairs and knock at the door. That’s too long to get there in time to see very much.”

“I dunno, maybe they’re bunglers and couldn’t contain the broad. If you stick around, you’re going down. Way down under.”

I shook my head.

“Even someone as sharp as a marble knows it’s easier to make a grab in the morning when Odera headed to her car, say, than late at night behind locked doors. There had to be fifty better ways than how they did it. I’m talking about a serious case of dumbshit here. It’s all FUBAR.”

“The only thing Fucked-Up-Beyond-All-Recognition will be you if you stay. You’ll get nothing but fucked over, but lots of it,” he said disappearing upstairs.

The ‘not in use’ light on Pinky’s wireless telephone glowed green. That little green light commanded my attention. His Smartphone rested on the table. Friend or not, I ensured a sudden change of heart did not motivate him to commit a foolish mistake. Turning me into the Serious Crime’s Unit would buy him a get-out-of-free jail card for future use.

He must have stopped for a hit-and-a-miss because I heard the toilet flush before he reappeared five minutes later, two beers in hand.

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