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Chapter Fourteen

CTV’s television studio is located at #9 Channel Nine Court which is McCowan Rd and Hwy 401 and traveling that far northeast is an ordeal for anyone without a car. I haven’t ventured north of Bloor Street yet and I seldom ride buses, streetcars or underground trains. Once I research the address on Google Maps, I find that Channel Nine Court is located directly across the highway from the Scarborough Town Center mall. I’ll have to take the subway east to Kennedy Station and then ride Line 3 Scarborough which used to be called the SRT, or Scarborough Rapid Transit. This is going to be an epic journey made even more uncomfortable by my need to conserve funds; an Uber or taxi up there would cost fifty dollars or more.

Trepidation grows as I pass through the lobby of my building. The security guards whisper and I’m sure they’re discussing last nights’ events. I ignore them and aim for the front doors. Are there people outside waiting for me? Blue did tell me not to go anywhere today. Should I get my camera ready? Or cue-up Live Producer on my iPhone again?

The sidewalk is clear. Parked cars line both sides of the street, but they’re all empty. I keep sharp eyes for police cruisers, black Cadillacs or any Trinidadians who might approach. Every honk, whistle, and shout turns my head and causes me to continually scan my surroundings.

I walk north on Mutual street and aim for the Sherbourne TTC station, not the Yonge & Bloor station or College Station; I want to totally avoid the area I traipsed through last night. This choice lets me wander narrow side streets lined with posh houses. Sherbourne is an area in transformation as condo towers now replace the seedy rowhouses.

Effective July 2, masks or face coverings are mandatory when travelling on the TTC! A sign shows a mother adjusting a cloth mask on her child’s face. Sometimes I look at these placards and imagine an eerie post-apocalyptic future where everyone is dead and there’s an inch of dust on the ground. On every door are laminate posters politely advising the population to please wear their masks.

It takes thirty-seven minutes to ride the subway east from Sherbourne to Kennedy. After Pape Station the train is empty. The window offers infrequent views of endless low-rise commercial landscapes. The last three minutes of the voyage cut through a massive construction site that is the new Eglinton subway extension, now more than half complete. The new line will transform Kennedy Station into a huge connector hub and only rivaled by Union Station, the southernmost subway stop and train station at the heart of Toronto.

Kennedy Station is already a busy intermodal transit hub with four separate levels. The SRT or Scarborough Rapid Transit platform is located at the top of the complex. The ground floor consists of ten or more bus platforms which surround the main building. Wi-Fi service is available and I check my phone. I cycle through my texts, Facebook messages, emails and lastly I check YouTube.

My YouTube Subscribers now total 4653 accounts! The number is steadily climbing. NHL Player Blocks Bike Lane, Toronto Police Fail - ID Refusal now has 15,403 views, and my Dark Alley with Toronto Police and Undercovers, ID Refusal upload has 10,325 views. This is becoming addictive.

I ride the escalator-up without looking around until hear a marvelous swishing sound. The metal staircase brings me to the top just in time to see a beautiful sleek passenger train glide into the station. Oh wow. This is the future.

I step onboard, but I’m surprised to find the interior is smaller than I’d imagined. The doors close and the train pulls ahead. I hear and feel an incredible grinding and shaking as the carriage turns a corner on rails. Riding in this train is like sitting inside a shuddering washing machine. After six minutes of agitation, the vessel arrives at the Scarborough Town Center and I disembark.

A minute later, the mass transit vehicle swish away towards McCowan which is the end of the line. I could have stayed aboard and transferred to a bus at that station. There’s a transit stop right across from my destination, which is just across the bridge. But instead of enjoying the train’s comfort, I intend to walk the rest of the way and there’s a reason for that. I want to make a video of the TransCanada Highway at it’s widest point.

Scarborough Centre TTC station is located west of McCowan road and south of the Scarborough Town Centre mall. Like the Kennedy station, the complex has multiple levels. The rapid transit trains are on the top, passenger entry from the mall is the middle level, and there are TTC buses below.

I ride the escalators to the bottom and exit on the ground floor, but I screwed -up because I’m in the shopping mall parking lot. One glance back confirms my mistake; I could’ve just as easily transited through the complex and enjoyed more pleasant air-conditioned scenery. Regardless, it’s a short walk to the road and soon I’m hiking north on McCowan.

The 401 highway is ten lanes wide under the McCowan Street bridge, and on this hot July afternoon it’s even more jammed-up than I’d expected. There’s precious little wind today and I can see heat waves emanate from the tarmac. Drivers suffer and honk their horns in frustration as they melt into the road. Yet despite their discomfort, the parade of automobiles will make a beautiful video. Some of the bestselling clips on iStock are slow moving highway traffic scenes. Corporate communication agencies, infomercial producers and documentary filmmakers all buy such images to represent the economy, travel trends or consumer flow. Video clips of big highways sell.

I make my way to the middle of the bridge. If you’re going to photograph a giant traffic artery, then it only makes sense to try and make it appear as wide as possible. I have the perfect lens. In a little blue velvet Crown Royal bag, I keep a Panasonic LUMIX G 14mm f/2.5 ASPH. II. This sleek wide-angle prime is specially designed for Micro Four Thirds system cameras like mine. It’s a sad fact you can only get so wide with Panasonic’s GH5. The camera has a crop factor of 2x and so that means my 14mm full frame lens will have a field of view of around 28mm. That makes it a proper wide-angle lens of course, but not ultra-wide. Regardless, a 28mm-equivalent focal length yields a wider-than-normal perspective. I like composing pretty pictures using the glass towers downtown with this lens, and I’ve shot some great cityscapes from the roof of Neill Wycik.

In the middle of the bridge there’s an orange ribbon tied to the rail. This marker was likely left behind by another artist attempting something similar. This must be the center point. I snap-in my new lens and get set-up. I check the corners and compose a lovely frame which really leverages the properties of the glass; I want viewers to believe there’s more happening in the picture than what they’re seeing with their eyes. Simply put, the lens distorts reality as it stretches the image to fit the frame. In this way it makes things appear slightly larger than life.

This highway shot reminds me of how my career has taken a strange turn. Recording police interactions is not what I wanted, even though I’m obsessed with the genre. I’d rather make and sell interesting stock videos like this than be the center of controversy; I’d rather be an artist than an auditor. Maybe I’ll exhibit this footage in the interview today.

It was my intention to shoot the Gardiner Expressway last month and do this very same exercise. I’d just gotten my wide-angle lens and wanted to try a new trick called focus stacking. That’s what it’s called when videographers use their camera’s computer processor to set two different focal lengths for every frame of video. This keeps the picture super sharp and produces incredibly crisp shots. Even without such technical connivance the GH5 takes stunning video when paired with good lenses. The level of detail is incredible, colors are accurate, and the dynamic range is incredible when shooting RW2 which is Panasonic’s RAW format; that means I can screw-up the exposure real bad during the shoot and fix it in post.

My final destination is entirely visible on the other side of the highway. Channel Nine Court and the CTV studios are literally right there. I’m a few minutes early which means I’m right on time.

CTV’s McCowan Rd studio complex is not impressive. It’s a ramshackle cluster of 1950′s era buildings with a glass solarium on the front. Its highest point is four-stories tall and the structure has the same red and white brickwork as my high school in Cobourg. I imagine they were both built around the same time. The side facing the parking lot has an enormous billboard façade with the initials T.S.N. embedded over a giant picture of a soccer player scoring a winning goal. The property is so close to the highway that the sound of the traffic echoes off the trees. The front entrance has potted conifers out front to signal visitors to use those doors. I’m still a few steps away when I become aware of people inside watching me.

Three coronavirus-masked security guards in dark blue and black reflective vests stand in the foyer. They’re all white people under the age of forty. The one out front has a big belly and deep-sunk eyes. He stands in front of two others, male and female who linger beside a metal detector and rope lines. This guy before me has a Canadian Thin Blue Line flag patch sewn on his shoulder.

That’s a clear signal he favours law enforcement, but most security guards bend that way. It surprises me to see the mark so prominently displayed however, because it’s considered very incendiary downtown. It’s certainly never seen at Black Lives Matter protests. The aberration is a retaliation against BLM, or at least that’s how many minorities view it. That’s because it’s usually accompanied by the written slogan Blue Lives Matter. This brute backs away when I enter the foyer which shows that he respects the city’s social distancing guidelines. “Toni Petti?” he asks and then he checks his wristwatch without waiting for my reply.

“That’s right.”

“Thanks for being on time.” Big belly pirouettes to address his skinnier sidekick. “Tell Linda, she’s here.” Then instead of returning to face me, he turns all the way around to address the female guard, a short stocky woman with rosy cheeks. “Come out Maz. You can run her through.”

“Hi Toni. We’ve been expecting you.” The lady steps out from behind the counter. I admire her well tailored uniform and cute little boots as she crosses through the barrier. “I’m Maz.” She says and give me a friendly wave. She’s more what I expect from a TV station security guard.

“Hi. Thanks.”

“This way,” she directs me left and not through the metal detector. I’m confused but come to understand there’s a process. That’s why the building appears discombobulated. The add-on solarium is designed to coral large groups of visitors that have agreed to appear as studio audience members in the network’s daytime talk shows, or it was, before the pandemic. Maz leads me over to a wall of lockers like you might find in any high school except they’re stacked one on top of another, three rows tall. These cubbies are square boxes and there’s forty or more of them, all empty. “Did you bring a lock?” she asks.

“I..? No. I didn’t know I had to...”

“We supply.” Maz produces a combination lock sealed in a clear plastic blister pack. The numbers are printed on an orange slip of paper folded inside for secrecy. “Normally there’s a five-dollar charge, but John said you wouldn’t have one, so...”

“John Stayer?”

“You can lock your bag in here,” The cheery guard points down to an empty locker. It’s a two-part affair with a grey plastic bin inside the compartment. This is so entire families can share a box and so the people who get assigned the top units can better load their valuables. The bins are big enough for coats, purses, and winter boots. Maz smiles and points to my backpack.

“I don’t want to put my bag in there,” I tell her.

“You never been inside a TV station before?”

“No.”

“We don’t take any chances with people snapping pictures behind the scenes.” Maz explains, “Production’s here today. Nobody wants to catch glimpses of themselves on Instagram.”

The padlock in the blister pack appears brand new. “Okay.” I put my knapsack in the bin.

“Put your phone in too,” Maz waits until I produce my iPhone from my pocket. I very reluctantly put it in my backpack, in the bin. With the single exception of my Lenovo, which is on my desk, locked in my room at Neill Wycik, everything I care about in the world has now been separated from me. With some reluctance I push the container into the locker. Maz closes the door and I apply the new padlock. The orange slip of paper says, 8-15-3.

The metal detectors emit a loud groan as I pass and Maz pinpoints all the metal on my body; she notes my jewelry, the buttons on my shirt, the zipper on my shorts, and my apartment keys. Do they treat other journalists this way? It brings new meaning to the term entry level position.

“Toni Petti?” a skinny woman in a grey dress asks. She’s in her mid-thirties and clutches an old-school wooden clipboard on which there appears a single sheet of paper. “I’m Linda McCormick. I work for John.”

“John Stayer? Excited to be here Linda, and to meet you,” I say.

She raises her clipboard to her chest and I see that it’s marked with a vintage Canada-Am sticker on the back.

“Um. This is awkward. But our producer has asked me, to ask you...”

“Yes?” My mind races. What could she want? My original footage? A wardrobe change? Maybe I need to sign a legal disclaimer?

“...to ask if you’ll speak to a police investigator about your last video. Beforehand.”

“What?” I give her a questioning glance. Is this whole thing an ambush?

“It’s no worry,” Linda holds the board to her chest like a protective shield. “I’m sure there’s no trouble. It’s just a police detective waits in our Green Room.”

I freeze. The woman’s fake smile unnerves me. She knows more than she’s saying...

“Is that normal?”

“It’s a little unusual.” Linda admits, “but then... So are you.” She gives me another fake smile. My heart rate increases and my stomach churns. I’ve got a bad feeling about this. Should I just leave? No. That would be cowardly and unproductive. What’s the harm in hearing what a police detective has to say? I’ve committed no crime. Nobody can arrest me for anything.

I nod okay, but don’t speak. We walk in silence through an administration area where there are people in masks grouped around a table and others in cubicles. It looks like a fun place to work, pre-pandemic; I can see fridges full of sports drinks and there’s a mini basketball court beside their lunchroom. Around the corner is another huge inner wall with another mural that reads T.S.N. The Sports Network.

Linda studies me and radiates her proud importance as we pass through her workspace. We exit through double doors and into a cavernous sound stage. It’s dimly lit back here with weak sodium lamps high in the rafters. The room is filled with plywood structures made by joining wooden risers and flats with braces & angles which is Theatre Stagecraft and Set Construction 101 and I love it. We stop in front a green door with a black star on which the words Dini Petty Room appear in white letters.

Dini Petty was a talk-show host from the late nineteen eighties and I’m familiar with her career only because we have the same last name, albeit spelled differently. There was a time when I wanted to be a talk show host. I wanted to be Jenna Marbles, and then I wanted to be Azra Bajrami and recreate Azraland with a studio audience. That was just a couple years ago if I’m being honest.

The Green Room as Linda called it isn’t green at all, but it does have a comfy green couch, and a wooden coffee table. There’s fake tropical plants and elegant wooden armchairs and a wall-mounted television screen which is not turned-on. The windowless room has two doors, one on either side and three walls have cubbies which are shelved with film and TV books. One glance at the library and I see vintage equipment manuals, autobiographies, and official accounts of the Canadian Television Network. Boring stuff for most folks, but I could spend days in here reading this stuff. The areas without shelves have large oil paintings that are life-sized portraits of legendary news anchors, reporters, and talk show hosts. I’m in Heaven.

“Oh?” Linda looks around and seems surprised to find the room empty. She clearly expected someone else to be in here. “Please wait.” She pulls the door shut behind her.

I sit in the armchair under Dave Devall’s portrait. A book, The Canadian Reporter: News Writing and Reporting catches my eye. There are yellow post-it note page markers which prove somebody found it useful at one point in time. What a gem!

Commander Govan Cochutemete enters the Dini Petty Room and my heart stops. Just like that, I’m in Hell. He wears a beige three-piece suit and gives me the same awkward smile he issued when we first bumped into each other at the protest in front of 52 Division. That’s when I saw how he carries a gun under his jacket. Today he holds a briefcase that matches his brown leather shoes.

“Hello again... Antonia," he says my name triumphantly like he’s solved a great mystery. He watches my reaction carefully and by his manner I understand that getting my personal information was challenging. How should I react? My scared and confused look comes pretty natural.

Cochutemete parks himself on the green couch under Lloyd Robertson and sets his suitcase on the knee-high coffee table. This is an ambush.

“What’s going on?” I demand.

“Oh I do hope you can control yourself long enough to listen.” he opens his briefcase. “This is going to be good for you,” he states, almost happily. “I know you want your YouTube channel to be successful and respected. I read your bio.”

“Did you also watch the videos?”

“I did.”

“Did you see yourself in the last night’s video?

“I did.”

“Did you hear your words?” Now I study him, his stubbly whiskered face and cold grey eyes. He sits with his hands folded like we’re friends having tea. “I’d broken no laws and yet you threatened me with arrest. How did it feel to hear yourself? You know I’m innocent.”

“You like playing that role.” Govan opens his briefcase. “The innocent witness. But I’ve done some research on you.” He smiles and shakes his head no. “Not so innocent.” He grins happily. What could he be talking about? Yes, I made a terrible mistake once, but as a youth offender. I was only seventeen when apprehended. The deal Panofsky Lockyer made was that I’d have no criminal record as an adult, after time served as they said. So how could he know anything about that?

“There is no CTV interview is there?” I ask.

“The email never promised a CTV interview,” Cochutemete corrects me. “It just said interview.”

“Oh my God. This is...” I stand-up, enraged. “I’m out of here.” My hand is on the door handle when he says it.

“Antonia, I’m not an ordinary policeman.”

“Huh...?” That throws me for a loop. I just stare at him open mouthed. What is he then? Last night I read in the July 2018 Guns & Gangs Press Release that he was appointed commander of Special Division.

“I’m one of thee extra-good guys.” Cochutemete smiles up at me and enjoys my surprise. Is he a James Bond type of special agent? He could be, but without all the pretty Bond Girls because he’s certainly not that attractive. He motions I should sit down again. “Just listen. Make your own decision but know the facts. Before you make and sell scandals... You try to be a magnifier glass eh? But in dis case huer jussa a monkey wrench.”

“Huh?”

“You don’t know the damage...”

“Who do you work for?” I sit down.

“S.Q.,” the Frenchman replies and then elaborates. ”Sûreté du Québec. Judge Pierre-Antoine Doucet.” Then he uses my first name like we’re old friends. “Toni. We’re close to finishing something big. To really putting a pin in it here in Toronto.”

“At thirty-two Drummond?”

“Well, maybe not there anymore.” Govan smirks, “will you tell me why you were recording in the alley last night?”

“I got a tip.”

“From whom? May I ask?”

“You may ask. I’ll never say.” I take that position by default; serious journalists never reveal their sources even if they doubt the sincerity or morality of the person who fed them the information, as I do Chantwell. I’m upset with him because he threatened me, and I’m even a little scared of him, but regardless his identity is safe. “...Higher code.”

“Please reconsider... They gave no thought to your well being.” Cochutemete reminds me. “To send you in there like that. Alone. At night? They wanted to read about you in the Crime Section.” He looks at me sympathetically, and when I still don’t say anything he continues. “I cant imagine anything more dangerous. You’re lucky it was us, the police who first encountered you.”

“First? Who else was there?”

“Who sent you Toni?”

“I’m not at liberty to...”

"Liberty? Is the ability to do as one pleases..”

“Yes, liberty. A synonym for the word freedom.”

"Libertie is my job. It’s my career to safeguard the freedom you enjoy. Please help your country and answer my questions. This is your government asking.” He holds my eyes . His demeanor actually causes me to reexamine my position.

I am patriotic. I am proud of Canada’s role in the World. When you put Toronto’s reaction to the death of George Floyd up against the violent protests and civil unrest in American cities, it’s clear that Canadians are just more civilized. I’ll also concede that the sovereignty of our nation is likely threatened by rogue actors every day. I bet there’s dozens of nefarious supervillains, foreign and abroad, looking to crime-it within our borders. So, it’s logical there must be thousands of people working in the shadows to maintain our well being. For that reason I shouldn’t be surprised when I run into people like this, or to believe what he says is true. I can feel myself crumbling...

“Antonia. We’ve tracked high level criminal operatives here to Toronto,” he blinks and becomes confessional, “I would never have approached you if I’d known you were making a movie. There’s too much at stake. Some very recognizable motorcycles at the twelve minute mark.”

There were two motorcycles in the garage at 32 Drummond. Is that a clue? Chantwell must have seen those bikes as well but he didn’t ask about them. He only wanted to know more about the white Sprinter van. What does that old Trini really want? And what is this secret agent man not telling me? I look him in the eye. “So you put it out over the radio to snatch me up? You called patrol cars to grab me and boost my camera?”

“Yes,” Govan confesses. “I did.” He looks at me with pleading eyes, “I just wanted to talk to you like we’re talking now.”

“Whoa..” I really wish I had my camera here and rolling. “You just admitted to a very serious offence.”

“And I’ll answer for that...” He buries his eyes in his open briefcase. “I only wish I’d succeeded. The nation would be safer.”

“Huh?”

“Toni, my father infiltrated the FLQ in seventy-one.”

“The who?”

“The Quebec Liberation Front. It was the military wing of a sovereignty movement. Papa was awarded the Q.F.P. Distinguished Conduct Medal for his service. I’ve spent my career in his boot prints.” He studies me and I keep silent to see what else he’ll say, “Today there are new subversions. People are being radicalized online, right under our noses. Vloggers like you help them as unwitting accomplices.”

“Hey. Not Fair. I’m just trying to make a career.”

He sits quietly and watches me wrestle with my thoughts. I grapple with the idea that I will have to take down the Dark Alley video for the good of my country, and to help fight organized crime. I’m okay with that.

“Toni, if you help us...” Govan Cochutemete produces a brown Manilla envelop from inside his briefcase, “I’ll give you five thousand dollars.”

“Huh?”

“If you help us,” Cochutemete reiterates, “your government will help you.”

Whoa. Why the money? That ain’t right. No bureaucrat would ever offer cash payments so casually, and especially not the police. I’ve spent time in the system; I know how things work and this is not right. My alarm bells ring. He’s crooked. I know it now. I know it because he doesn’t think appealing to Better Angels will work with me, which means it wouldn’t work with him. Which means he’s lying, and he’s desperate. That makes him dangerous. Fear creeps into my consciousness and clouds my thinking. Calm down. Just sit back and see where this goes...

“It pays to serve the Crown.” Cochutemete grins at my non-reaction. He must think I’m just blown away by his offer. I paint a smile on my face and to my surprise he starts counting-out the brown hundred dollar bills right in front of me. “You can buy a lot of nice things.. One, two, three, four, five thousand.” He stacks the banknotes in piles of ten on the coffee table and then produces a blank sheet of paper and a pen.

“I suppose so.”

“The money is yours.”

“A receipt?” I nod at the paper.

“No receipt necessary,” Govan opens his hands and smiles magnanimously. “No, this is... I need you to write down your YouTube email, username and password. All your access information. Write it on this slip of paper. We’ll have to remove your most recent video of course, but we can keep the others up.” He smiles and just expects me to agree. I can see Lloyd Robertson watching me, while Dave Devall peers over my left shoulder at the money.

“Listen carefully,” my rage is triggered by the way he said we can keep the others up. That’s maddening. “I’ll never sell-out for silence.” My venom punctures his joy. He’s crestfallen and looks like he might cry. He snatches up the money in a sudden motion that frightens me.

“You’ll regret this. Our meeting today was just a courtesy. We have people at YouTube. We’ve already flagged the video and it’ll be delisted in a hour’s time. I’m also formally requesting you be extirpated from the platform. For life.”

“Won’t happen,” I stand at the door.

“We can look for you at your stepfather’s house I suppose? In Cobourg? Grant Higgins and your mother, Cindy Petti. Good people with a small income tax problem.”

“They’re not part of this.”

“Things will go hard for you if you don’t comply. I’ve shown you the carrot. I also have a stick.”

“Is that a threat?” I wish I could record this.

“You’re not fooling me, or anyone. You’re an angry little girl who stirs-up trouble as gauze for her own malaise. You’re going to regret sticking your camera where it doesn’t belong.”

“You’re a criminal hiding behind a badge. That’s black. You’re the villain here.”

“Toni. If you don’t delete that video, I won’t stop until you’re behind bars. Again.”

That chills me to my core and he knows it. That ranks high among my greatest fears. But wait a minute, he’s changed the story.

“So the video won’t be delisted in an hour?” Suddenly the whole thing becomes clear, “you can’t get it taken down? ...And it’s ruining you.”

“You have no idea what I can do.”

“You can’t do anything to me. I haven’t broken any laws.”

“Haven’t you?”

I slam the door.

Outside the Dini Petty Room, the diminutive security guard who went to find Linda approaches, but I don’t wait for his words. I retrace the route back from memory. I speed-walk a few paces ahead as he strides along behind. I half-expect to meet Cochutemete holding hand-cuffs as I round corners and pass through doors, but the path is clear. We continue at a brisk pace all through the TSN administration office toward the front door.

Maz nods at me from behind the metal detector and I pass through unchallenged. I beeline straight to the solarium to collect my bag. I get the combination right the first time and leave the padlock hanging on the door.

I lift my pack from inside the plastic crate and head for the exit. The sooner I’m out of this place the better.

“Umm Miss. You left something behind.” The slender male security guard points down into the bin. There’s my iPhone SE. My device is apparently is no longer stored in my backpack where I distinctly remember leaving it.

“How.... dare.. You bastards!”

“I just noticed it there. I think it just fell out.” The slender young guard backs away and I can see he’s telling the truth. Or he’s an amazing actor. I grab my phone and check that it works. It does. I check my bag and find everything present. My camera and three lenses, even the camera’s chip is there. I turn-on my Panasonic and find all the wide-angle stock footage I recorded on the bridge. Maybe my phone did just fall out of my bag...

I leave through the front door and never look back. I hike up the noisy driveway and onto McCowan. Should I call a taxi? No. Should I wait for the bus? No. Instead I walk across the busy bridge with my head down, feeling sorry for myself. The sidewalk is cracked and broken and it’s hot and miserable outside, just like me. I can feel passing motorists checking me out from all angles as I cross over the concrete arch.

It’s fifteen minutes before I can think straight and before I’ve cooled down enough to contemplate this experience. I’ve been so naïve; I followed my vain desires here without listening to that little voice that shares common sense. CTV is not going to email in the morning and schedule an interview on the same day. What was I thinking?

Commander Govan Cochutemete played me perfectly. He’d made me travel up here to where he could get me on his turf with no camera or phone to record his bribe. But I foiled him, or maybe I just screwed myself over. Probably both. He wanted to turn me into some kind of street informant and make me give up my source. He wanted me to sign over access to my YouTube account! As if I’d ever do that...

Did they dick around with my phone? There are no fresh scratches. I type in my pin-code. There’s no difference. No damage and plenty of battery strength. Lots of signal strength too of course being so close to a megamall and superhighway. All my apps are present and appear in the same order as before. To break into my device, they’d need my PIN code. Or they’d need a long time to crack it.I don’t think it happened.

I follow the sidewalk into the Scarborough Town Center parking lot. The sun is boiling hot, even now at four pm in the afternoon.

“Young lady? You need a ride somewhere?” A greasy middle-aged man in desperate need of a haircut rolls-down the passenger window of a grey Chevy Cruze. The compact car has plenty of scrapes and bangs on the quarter panels and the exhaust is too loud. The driver leans into view. “We’ll take you anywhere you need to go. No funny stuff.”

I keep walking. Experience tells me it’s best to ignore them. Any engagement could have unpredictable outcomes. There’s no upside. Even politely dismissing them would mean looking at them and addressing them and that would inspire them to further boldness and completely nauseate me. I carry-on, eyes forward.

The car zooms ahead and stops in front of the mall entrance. The passenger leans out the window again and opens his mouth. I raise my phone like I’m taking his picture. This has the desired effect. He ducks back inside the car and the vehicle speeds off. What did girls ever do before phone cameras? I don’t know. They always traveled in pairs I guess.

-

I affix my cloth mask and step into the Scarborough Town Centre. Its cooler in here and I shiver once or twice before my body gets used to the chillier climate.

In addition to numerous anti-viral transmission warnings there are posters which read, Scarborough Town Centre is open as of June 24. As per the order of the Premier of Ontario, Scarborough Town Centre and participating stores and restaurants are now open for in-store shopping! Just inside the front door is a hand washing station with a green sign that reads, Live Love Sanitize. A female shopper ahead of me uses the pump dispenser. I’m not waiting to go next. I’ll just remember not to touch my eyes, nose or mouth until I get home to wash.

Outside the Toronto Dominion Bank, a well-dressed young man in a dress shirt with a green tie deals with a customer using an iPad. There are ATMs here in the concourse and I decide to deposit the four brown bills I carry in my back pocket. That brings my bank balance up to $432 which is not enough to cover even one month’s rent. But maybe my cheques will have arrived...

Scarborough Center TTC station’s digital sign reads DELAY Eastbound for Shooting Investigation. Details pending. That’s fine for me. I’m traveling west. Another screen above a lottery ticket kiosk is set to CP24 News coverage and the picture is from a helicopter circling above an urban intersection. There are a dozen police cars, firetrucks and ambulances on the scene. Cars and trucks lie smashed-up and smoking in the road. What happened?

The scrolling headline on the bottom the screen reads, Biker Road Rage Kills Three!

What? I continue to watch the coverage. A female reporter that I don’t recognize warns, ”...what you’re about to see might be disturbing." The broadcast cuts away from the aerial view to show two motorcycles, one red and one blue lying on their sides in the street. Shell casings and blood surround the wrecks. I recognize those machines. They’re the same blue and red Harley Davidson motorbikes from my video.

These bikes were in the garage at 32 Drummond, I’m sure of it. I know they’re the same ones because of the long handlebars on the red chopper. Oh no. Could this be the result of my production? Of course, it is! Cochutemet had said there’s people who’d recognize the bikes. Oh my freaking God.

"These guys fought back,” says the witness interviewed in the news report. “There was a long battle here. Hundreds of rounds were fired...” The volume on the TV is set real low and I have to stand directly underneath the box to hear the reporter introduce the law enforcement officer in charge of the investigation.

“...Detective Staff Sgt. Len Isnor, the operations coordinator with the Biker Enforcement Unit of the Ontario Provincial Police.”

Detective Isnor appears near a grassy section of roadway with many emergency vehicles flashing lights in the background. ”There’s reports of numerous businesses and passing cars struck by gunfire. Two bystanders have been taken to the hospital. Their condition is not known at this time. In terms of combatants, so far we have three confirmed dead and two in critical condition."

"Any idea what caused the violence?" The reporter on scene asks.

"There must be territory shift, or one Chapter is cleaning house. I should add there’s little danger to the public. It’s rare for the clubs to attack each other in public like this."

"..Let’s bring in the mayor." The news anchor says. ”Here’s Mayor John Tory, live from City Hall."

The view shifts to a crowded press conference. ”Let me say clearly,” Mayor Tory begins. ”That my administration will leave no rock unturned until we find the underlying cause of this. We’ll not tolerate gun violence during Lockdown. Even more resources are required.. ”

The westbound train appears, and I leave the TV broadcast to board the light rapid transit vehicle. My heart thumps. My video has started a biker war!

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