Light is created when atoms get excited and electrons are displaced from their regular, lower energy orbits. Photons are emitted when electrons return to their natural state.
I fume as I ride the subway back to Sherbourne Station. I was knocked from my natural state and now I flare-up emotionally as I return to the core. First I’m scared, then angry, then strangely content, and now I’m sad the CTV opportunity was bunkum. The thirty kilometer displacement causes me to ponder my career path. I’m directionless again, terrified of Cochutemete and Chantwell and yet mad at them for doing this to me. I’m happy to have four hundred dollars in the bank, and good videos, but I’m bummed that I was so well played. The bikers are shooting each other because of my video. I should just go quiet and keep my head down.
Ding. Another email appears while I’m playing on my phone. My gmail address is posted on my channel and viewers have been congratulating me all day. Photographers who see themselves in my other protest vids want to send along their photos of me, which is interesting. An aspiring auditor wants to meet-up this weekend. But this fresh email is unlike the others. It’s from another police officer.
Community Relations Officer Mark Berlette writes, Can we meet? If memory serves, he’s the push-broom mustached man I tried to videotape at Dundas and University during the Frontline Health Workers protest. Ugh, no more cops..? No thank you. But I open the email.
Hi Toni. You don’t know me. I’m Cpt. Mark Berlette, Community Relations Officer at 52 Division. We’ve just watched your most recent upload to Toni Petti LIVE on YouTube. It’s titled Dark Alley with Toronto Police, Undercovers - ID Refusal. Some material you filmed is now part of an ongoing investigation and there are two detectives here at the station who could benefit from meeting you. Would that be possible? My phone number 416 666 4457
Nope. Not going to happen. I’m not going to help another pig with itchy handcuffs. What’s with that frigging alley?
Is my YouTube channel still active? Or has it been shut down?
Oh my God. Not only is my channel still active, I’m blowing-up. My YouTube Subscribers now total 9251 accounts. The number just keeps getting bigger. NHL Player Blocks Bike Lane, Toronto Police Fail - ID Refusal now has 25,343 views, and my Dark Alley with Toronto Police and Undercovers, ID Refusal upload has 20,025 views. Holy smokes!
I trek southwest past the deserted medical center and the fancy townhouses towards Jarvis. Neill Wycik isn’t that far, but it’s a stressful because I scan every face for danger and I’m constantly searching over my shoulders for approaching threats.
Now the final stretch. The Hooker Harveys at Gerrard and Jarvis is empty during lockdown and the prostitutes who once stood here have moved online, or so I’m told. I scamper past the deserted property and past the Green Plus automotive to cross Mutual and dash into the bottom of Neill Wycik, my base of operations. I don’t like to think of this place as home, but it is where I sleep and so that’s why I must pay my rent this week and not fall two months behind and get summoned before the board.
Security guards in the lobby study me with the same curiosity as they did this morning. Instead of blowing past them and heading straight for the stairs, I look into the Administration Office where I see Yian crouched over his desk. Almost everyone works remote during the pandemic and so that leaves the tall Korean alone on site.
The door is locked, but Yian sees me and rises. “Toni? You okay?” Inside the office, I smell the soldering iron he uses to repair a circuit board. He points to a black & white monitor which shows feeds from a dozen security cameras in tiny boxes. “You don’t have to worry. No requests were made.”
“Pfft. Cops don’t need it now. They found me.”
“Yian. Did Fed Ex drop anything for me today?” I ignore his question because I don’t want to relive my encounter with Cochutemete.
“No. I would’ve texted you.”
“Can I write you a cheque for four hundred?” I ask, “It’s just until next week. My mom’s sending my mail.” It’s only Wednesday today, but I have a sick feeling my Mom won’t FedEx me anything until the weekend.
“No.” He frowns and looks disappointed. It crushes me. His denial makes me feel like garbage. My stress is piling-up and the ignominy of being evicted is just one more unthinkable horror I can’t stomach. Yian sees me ready to overload and explains, “the smallest amount they’ll accept is one month. But...” He pulls out his leather wallet and hands me eight twenty dollar bills. “Can I loan you the difference?”
I see the money, $160, and I almost cry. I probably do shed a tear. So comforting to be reminded there are good people in the world. More importantly, it proves he still has faith in me. I take the cash and hold his hand. I look him in the eye. “Thank you Yian. I’ll pay you back as soon as my mail comes, and I’ll never forget this.”
“I know you’re trying.” He points at the door. “Go. Deposit it now, and bring me the cheque so I can take you off this list.”
“And put you on this other list.”
“You’ll still be a month behind. And now six M.C.P. Hours.”
The closest TD Bank is Yonge and Wellesley and it just happens to be located right beside Ritz Caribbean Foods which is a hot spot for Trinidadians. Besides my Covid mask, I don’t have a good disguise. I don’t have enough hair to hide my face, or a hoodie or scarf. But yet I know I can blend-in just moving quick and acting with intent.
Yonge street is busy even though more than half the stores are closed and some shops have boarded up their widows in advance of Saturday. I avoid all groups and also any vans or SUVs least their doors open and masked men leap-out to grab me. The bank is busy too and I nervously scan approaching faces as I wait for the machines.
The moment I leave, a black car makes an illegal left onto Gerrard. That’s forbidden during the day, and if I was in camera-mode I’d focus on that car to watch for more traffic infractions. But not today. I ignore the petty crime to complete my task and keep my promise.
Returning east along Gerrard, I see the black car park opposite Neil Wycik. Oh no. I carry on closer and keep my eyes on the mystery vehicle but nobody exits. I give it one last look before I enter my building.
In the office, I find Yian looks up at me but his eyes catch on the building security camera monitors. He runs to the door and pulls me inside.
“Hide.” Yian says, his eyes still on the monitor.
“They’re cops.” He points at one box on screen which shows the front entrance, and with his other hand he opens an empty broom closet. “They watched you come in.”
“They are?” I study the two figures as they open the front door. One is a black woman, very attractive while the other is a white shirted Toronto Police staff officer and I recognize him immediately. It’s Captain Mark Berlette, the fellow who spoke yesterday at the protest and who emailed me an hour ago.
But before I can tell him what I know, Yian pushes me inside the broom closet and closes the door. I stand in the dark cubby and listen to the room. I hear a knock and Yian shuffles past me to let the visitors into the office.
"Hello there. I’m Mark Berlette, TPS Community Relations Officer and this is Detective First Class Portia Mann. Have you got a moment?”
"Sure. How can I help?"
"We’d like to discuss a resident who lives here... ” Papers shuffle and Berlette clears his throat before speaking my name, "Antonia Jayanne Petti. Have you see her? Recently?"
“Yes. What’s this regarding?" Yian asks.
"A police investigation,” a woman’s voice; it must be Detective Portia Mann. ”We understand she’s the artist behind Toni Petti LIVE."
"Is she in some kind of trouble?"
"We’d like to discuss things with her and not you, if you don’t mind...” the woman tries to be powerful, but Yian isn’t having it.
"On behalf of Neill Wycik community let me respectfully remind you of our policies.”
"Stop.” Capt. Berlette says, but Yian doesn’t stop.
“Here are pamphlets outlining protocols and there are email addresses on this brochure for the appropriate Board Members and even a phone number to call in emergencies..”
"Enough." Capt. Berlette interrupts, “...she’s not in any trouble. Just the opposite. She’s in real danger.”
Yian doesn’t say anything, I’m sure he’d like to know more about the issues I face without offering any more information about me. There’s no way out of this; if Yian calls my phone it will ring in the broom closet. If they decide to wait I could be stuck in here for hours.
"If you’d please call her and inquire if she’s available?" Berlette asks politely, demonstrating why he should be the next mayor.
“I’m right here.” I open the cubby and step out to present myself. Both cops are surprised. They’re startled and the big man chuckles at my ridiculous entry.
“Hello Toni,” Mark Berlette, the Community Relations officer bows slightly. He’s a barrel chested policeman with a push-broom mustache. He’s got a bearing about him.
“Antonia Jayanne Petti?” the black female detective introduces herself and her companion. “This is Captain Mark Berlette and I’m Detective Portia Mann.”
“Yeah, I heard.”
“Antonia, why did you visit channel nine court today?” Portia Mann is a gorgeous black woman who gets right down to business. But her question confuses me. Do they not know about Cochutemete? Yet they know I was at CTV - Channel Nine Court? I’ve heard that law enforcement suffers from information silos, but this is some serious broken telephone.
“Toni you don’t have to answer any questions,” Yian advises.
“We have some terrific pictures of you crossing the bridge,” Portia produces a six inch wide black & white paper printout of long lens surveillance photographs. They look like they were copied on a computer and then printed on a fax machine. I see myself on the McCowan Street bridge crossing over the stagnant superhighway below. It’s a great shot actually as I’m looking straight ahead and there’s a nice backlight. Now some part of my brain wonders if this is a photograph or one frame from an HD video file? And who’s bothering to record me anyway?
“You’re surveilling me?”
“No. Just the opposite. This is outreach.” Mark Berlette points to the words Community Relations embossed on the gold pin on his white shirt. He indicates the photograph of me, “we’re sharing information with you. We’re trying to keep you safe,” he speaks sincerely.
“Safe from what?” I ask.
“We’re watching someone else,” Detective Mann explains, “who seems to be watching you.” She holds up her file folder, “which is how we got the pictures. You’ve really gotten yourself caught-up in it.” Her pretty face carries an inscrutable expression; her gaze is not sympathetic, but one of morbid amusement.
“My death would be a public relations disaster?”
“Just so.” Captain Berlet agrees.
“Do you recognize this man?” Portia produces another six inch paper image. This one surprises me. It’s a long lens surveillance shot of Commander Govan Cochutemete.
The salt and pepper haired Cochutemete has been captured stepping into a white Mercedes Sprinter van in a shipping container storage yard. The picture appears long lens, as if it was taken from some distance away. What the heck? Just yesterday I’d met this guy on the street out front of the 52 Division. He was less than one hundred feet away from Cpt. Mark Berlette when he gave orders to keep the road and sidewalks clear. But they don’t know I was there... What game are they playing with me?
“Yes. He’s in my video.” I wait to see how they react. Berlette and Portia share glances.
“Was he waiting for you at Channel Nine Court today?” Portia asks.
“Did he tell you he was a police officer?” Mark asks.
“No. He said he’s not. He works for...” I struggle to remember the initials that rolled off his tongue. The Q was for Quebec. “S.Q.?” I guess, “is that right?”
“Did he threaten you?”
“I told him to screw off.”
“Have you ever met or seen this... Motorcycle enthusiast?” Portia produces another picture which shows a muscle man at work on a motorbike in a mechanics shop.
“His street name is Tommy Danger,” Portia points to where it’s possible to see the words Tommy Danger stenciled on a locker in the background.
“Was he your connection to the alley?” Mark asks. They scan me for tells, but my eyes are on the motorbike. It’s a black & white picture so I can’t tell for sure, but the particular shade of grey suggests its a blue bike.
“That’s his motorcycle...” Portia produces a screen shot from my own video that has been printed in the same black & white paper format. It’s the garage on Drummond with the two cops in silhouette. The two Harleys are visible under the light bulb.
Gulp. “Is he..? Deceased?” What I’m really asking is, did my video get this man killed?
“It’s all over the news.” Berlette reports. “It just happened. Yes. He’s deceased. That doesn’t mean you’re safe.”
“It means you’re in real trouble...” Detective Mann says.
“He’s not my source,” I reveal and that shuts them up. They exchange glances again and Portia reaches into her folder for another image. This one I know.
“How about him?” Portia asks. It’s Chantwell. My heart skips and I’m sure my surprise registers. Both Portia and Berlette expect me to say something now, but I take my time and study the picture. The old Trinidadian looks relaxed at a summer party in the park. He’s eating BBQ chicken and has a greasy face. He sits at a picnic table in a spotless white shirt decorated with gold chain necklaces. There’s people on both sides but the image has been cropped and their faces blurred. The only other face that isn’t distorted belongs to grinning boxer dog that rests on its haunches in the foreground with its long tongue hanging out.
“Chantwell?” The female investigator supplies his name, “Chantwell Thomas.”
“His real name is Charles Langren... Much less shamanic,” Berlette says. “Ten years ago he ran an organization called the Shower Posse which committed many murders. Some right here on this street. His posse went away, but he didn’t. Now he’s ten times more dangerous because he’s much smarter and better financed... Did he send you to the alley?”
Silence. I won’t reveal my sources to these cops, or anyone. I just want to bring this whole sad adventure to end and by staying silent I hope it will just pass over me. Blue warned me not to talk to the cops and my own experience tells me that’s usually good advice. The police are not my friends I remind myself, they’ll lay a charge on me just as easily as Chantwell or Blue. I look at Yian and he smiles proudly at me and blink-nods to keep strong. The police officers catch the glance and the Community Relations Officer tries another tack.
“Tony, we’re worried about you,” Berlette says.
I glare at them suspiciously but realize they’re telling the truth. They are sincerely concerned for my well being. Why are they lying about not knowing Cochutemete?
“These men are criminals who play the deadliest game at the highest level. They’re hunters... ” Portia is being very dramatic, “you’re prey.”
“Look. I withdraw. I’m done.” I throw my hands up in surrender.
“Do you have more footage from last night that you haven’t posted?” Captain Berlette asks. Ahh. Here it is. This is why they’ve come here.
“Yes,” I recall the hot dog vendor and the Asian jeweler whom I recorded surreptitiously entering his own business. They can have it all. I don’t care anymore. I’ll send them the same clip I sent Blue earlier.
“Why didn’t you publish that with your other material?” Portia asks.
I shrug. If I had to answer honestly I’d say it’s because it’s crap, and because Chantwell isn’t paying me the rest of the money, so why bother? But I don’t tell them that.
“Did you show it to anyone?”
“No.” I lie.
“Will you show it to us?” Portia asks.
I nod yes.
Yian clears his throat. “Toni can send you a file, but you can’t go upstairs without...”
“Yes. We know.” Berlette waves at him to be quiet. “Toni. Please do send me what you have.”
“Compress it? or use Dropbox.” Portia demonstrates some technical knowledge.
“If anyone contacts you for any reason I need you to reach out to me immediately.” Mark says and they both produce business cards. His reads Cpt. Mark Berlette / Toronto Police Services - public relations officer - 52 Division / 205 Dundas St W and hers reads : Portia Mann, TPS Detective - First Class and the same address for 52 Division.
“Before we go.” Portia packs up all her pictures, “can you confirm it was Chantwell who sent you there last night?”
Silence. I’m not going to give her what she wants. They lied to me about not knowing Cochutemete, and so I know they’re not being entirely forthright now. They’ve come looking for more footage, and I’ll give them that, but I’m not going to be the instrument of anyone’s demise.
Then I have an idea.
“Should I take the last video down?” I ask that purely as a test. I’m not going to do it, but I just want to hear what they have to say on the subject. If they say yes, than I’ll wonder if they were sent here by Cochutemete to remedy a situation he couldn’t solve. If they say no, and advise that I leave it up, then I could conclude they’re on my side against Cochutemete, who seems to desperately want the video taken down.
They regard each other in silence. Portia has no opinion and continues to pack and sort her photos in her folio.
Captain Berlette turns his back to Yian and strolls to the office corkboard.
“We can’t say anything about that.” Berlette says, “For a whole lot of legal reason we can’t take one side or the other.” He removes a green sheet of paper from the board that has am eight word message in typical Neill Wycik fashion, Please Don’t Forget To Do Your MCP Hours. Berlette folds the paper and leaves it on the table so just the words Please Don’t appear face-up on the sheet. He looks to Portia. “All set?′