Chapter Thirty Four
Still in bare feet, wearing only a lace bra and black panties, my indecency is covered with a thin fleecy sheet that cops keep in their squad cars for such emergencies. After checking to make sure I have no injuries, I’m escorted out of the enclosure by Captain Mark Berlette and three other white shirt police officers. We move west through a compliant crowd and wait as the fence in front of the Eaton Center is hinged-open to let us pass. I look around and soak up another tremendous cheer. I vow to never forget this moment.
“How do you feel? You’re sure you’re okay?” The Community Relations Officer saddles forth to share the spotlight. Camera flashes and quartz lights focus even more intensely as he speaks to me. “All day we watched you move about on Instagram.”
“I tried to get to you.”
“I had that feeling.” Berlette turns us toward the Eaton Centre and away from the reporters. “I have a lot of questions.”
“I do too.”
“Hah. Of course you do.”
Inside the empty shopping center where the stores are closed and the water fountains and escalators are turned off, it’s much quieter. The white shirts behind us discuss logistics, shift-schedules and how to improve perimeter defenses in the square. Berlette shares more of the day’s events.
“Cochutemete raided the Rum & Cola café on Eglinton at 5pm this evening.”
“Really?” The news surprises me because he caught me in front of 52 Division just after 4pm, and I remember how he’d called Agent Termosa while we watched CP24 News in the hotel at 5:15pm.
“He located a group he calls the shower posse at the restaurant by releasing a brown and tan coloured boxer dog. He set it free in the beer store parking lot on Oakland. They kept it on a long leash and simply followed it.”
“Cochutemete called Judge Roland Edwards in Scarborough and had a search warrant wired to him in under seven minutes, a new record.”
“I hope that dog’s okay,” is my only comment.
“All your belongings were recovered, but none of the high-ranking gang members were present. Arrest warrants were issued, but they’ll be rescinded now.”
“You’ve got my stuff? My camera? My laptop? My boots!” This is amazing news.
“Its all in Evidence I’m afraid, or it will be shortly, but we can make some allowances for any devices that impact your livelihood... Provided you don’t accrue any criminal charges in any of this or subsequent investigations.”
“What?” I give him a sideways glance, “what are you talking about?”
“Which brings us to another matter.”
“And that is..?”
“The poor fellow everyone calls Stolies.”
“Ugg. You know he was set to...”
“Crown Attorney’s Office is taking a look,” Berlette interrupts. “But Wayne, er Mr. Umbedari has some sticky child custody matters with the F.R.O.”
“Family Responsibility Office. I’m not permitted to discuss it any further.”
We reach the far doors and exit into the warm summer night on the far side of the complex. The restaurants on the cobbled breezeway still allow outdoor dining, and every patio is packed. Tourists, YouTubers and intrepid Instagrammers await our approach with ready cameras. Our departure from Yonge Dundas square into the Eaton Centre was chronicled live on CP24 and so every cub reporter with a bicycle raced around the mall to shoot our emergence on the other side of the landmark shopping center.
Three Toronto police SUVs await, and Captain Berlette directs me into the middle car which doesn’t have the usual barrier that separates the driver from backseat passengers. We both sit in the back and continue talking as though the media frenzy outside were normal.
“What’s your relationship with the young men who committed the robbery?” Berlette asks. The cars pull away toward Queen street.
“They’re idiots. Sam robbed me before he broke into the jewelry store.”
“Robbed you? How?”
“He stole the code. The secret way... You know. He stole how to break-in, which I only accidently recorded and thought I’d kept safe.”
“So you deny sending him. You have no footage of him? ...In any compromised situation?”
“Certainly not. Is that what he’s saying?” I pretend to be surprised, but Cochutemete told me this already and I can easily believe Sam would lie to save himself this way. He has no morals. He is a psychopath.
“He was the only one who said you were in charge.”
“What will happen to him? Will he be deported?” I ask because I never want to see him again.
“Deported? Samuel Parris was born in Orangeville.”
“What? Oh my God!” His deception was total.
“The others gave no statements.”
“Where are they?” I ask, and think only of Amelia. I hope she’s okay. And Ghost Girl.
“Metro Detention. But I reckon they’re minutes from being sprung. They’re all lawyered-up. Citizens Legal Defense Group. Err, well all except the two caught on camera committing the act.”
“That’s right. Five of the seven are totally innocent.”
“Mr. Rabethgie called Mayor John Tory and relayed everything you’d told him. All his inventory was recovered. You owe him a Montreal Expos baseball hat apparently.”
“Hah, he knew he’d never see it again.” I chuckle and remember how he’d put on my head. I want to thank him. “He’ll get his jewelry back soon though right?”
“Ummm not soon. No. The jewelry is evidence against Cochutemete now, and McKenzie, Termosa and Philips.”
“What about Smits?”
“The freckle face goon from the East Coast. Talks like dis and dat dere from Cape Breton eh.”
Berlette’s push broom mustache rises on both ends which indicates how he grins at my fake accent under his face mask . The white shirts in the front seat also overhear my impersonation and the passenger turns arounds and nods.
“Yes. We’d like to know more about him.” He adjusts his mask and the driver glances at me in mirror.
“You say his name is Smits?”
“I know more than that. He used his own credit card in the hotel parking garage, the Double Tree on Chestnut.” I point in the direction of the hotel tower. “He complained about it.”
“Ahh, good. Good.”
“Any chance I could get my clothes from in there?” The agent ignores me to focus on driving. Berlette clears his throat.
“So that’s where your clothes ended up?” The Community Relations Officer looks a little flustered. “Detective Mann... It’s her investigation.” He levels with me, “anything found in their suites is her evidence now.”
“Right.” The cars drive-up the ramp behind 52 Division to access the secure parking lot on the roof of the building. I get nervous being near police stations and it really freaks me out to be driven inside of one. “Am I free to go, or..?”
“There are a great many people who wish to speak with you Antonia.”
“But am I being charged with anything?”
“Not yet." Berlette answers, “you’re in custody as a witness,”
Inside the police station, all my bad memories return. I grow physically nauseous recalling Durham Regional Police and the Port Hope area correctional centers. The Wheel turns, in my head and crushes my happiness. Here I am again. More and more special agents arrive and I grow numb to their names and titles. RCMP, FINTRAC, OPP and CSIS and CSEC all gather in one room around a long square table filled with phones and computers. Nobody offers me clothes, beyond a disposable mask, and so I sit barefoot wrapped in the blanket as the whole mess is discussed over and over again. I don’t ask for a lawyer and none are offered; its a weird group interrogation that feels more like emergency planners’ meeting in response to a terror attack. It’s the duffel bag with the Instapot pressure cooker, mothballs and diesel fuel that has them all worried; I wasn’t the only one to report seeing that bag with those items inside.
Cochutemete’s plan, as near as anyone can determine, was to stage a sickening terror attack and then arrest me shortly afterwards. But I ran away from them before everything was ready and nobody can account for the missing ordinance. Even though Cochutemete and four of his high ranking officials are in custody downstairs, everyone’s on alert. There’s a bomb on the loose in the city somewhere.
Two female agents interrupt the briefing. They ask to have a nurse examine me and tend to my injuries. They lead me to a separate room where they clean my feet and disinfect the many cuts and scrapes on my arms, legs, stomach and thighs. One gal gives me flipflops to wear. They query me about what happened in the Double Tree hotel. I tell them straight-up that nobody touched me, but I was forced to remove my top and jean-shorts under threat of violence. When I tell them about my dramatic escape over the balcony railing and they both stare wide-eyed. Then I tell them about the juice upheaval at the Ramada, and how I’d hid inside the Marriot. I describe how the rug was unrolled for Isha at 8pm and they both laugh and were all still giggling as we leave the medical examination room to rejoin the other investigators.
A stack of pizzas arrive and I accept a slice from the deluxe box. I’m ravenously hungry, but after I eat the cheesy meal, I feel incredibly tired. I put my head down on the table and Captain Mark Berlette notices and arranges my ride home as I have no clothes and no money to pay for such transport myself.
They’re not charging me with anything. That’s a relief because in my mind I’m very aware there are several prosecutable infractions beyond my assault on Drubbin. There's also the theft of Casper’s bike, the theft of the boy’s phone at the Roman Catholic Church and arson in the backyard of the Marriot. I omitted those details from my statement, but all the mischief I made along the way negatively impacted dozens of innocent people. I vow to make amends wherever possible.
Another police SUV ride across Yonge St, and I’m delivered to Neill Wycik. It’s just past 2am but there’s still music coming from inside some apartments in the twenty-two story residence. There’s a crowd of people out front and it looks like some folks have waited in their vehicles for me to arrive.
When the police SUV slows to a stop, media professionals emerge from parked cars and move to the entrance of my building. There’s no traffic and so I get-out of the police car right on the street. The cops drive away without fanfare. I’m wearing a covid mask, flipflops and still wrapped in their fleecy blanket.
I’m tempted to push past everyone and flee into the safety of my abode, but Terry English appears in the scrum. He’s been drinking I suspect, for he slurs his words and stumbles. He wants to hug me, but we maintain social distance and he pretend-hugs from six feet away. We talk and share mutual pats-on-the-back as everyone else listens. He compliments me on my run and how well I threw the tiny camera to Mark in the booth. I congratulate him on the awesome television coverage all day long. Terry raises his phone to display my YouTube channel.
Toni Petti LIVE now has 349,564 Subscribers and my latest videos have almost a million views.
“It’s only going to get bigger.” Terry says, “All the stations want to profile you.” I look up and see Global TV, Toronto Star News, CHCH Channel 11 News and OmniTV all waiting to interview me. “Any chance we could get The Toni Petti Story first?” Terry asks.
“Of course. Noon tomorrow at the station.”
One mustached man, immaculately dressed in European style fashion stands apart. He flashes a unique symbol in the palm of his hand. Even though I’ve never seen it before, I know immediately what it means, and who he represents.
In the stranger’s hand is a silver badge with a red rectangle. It’s like a video Play button but instead of the sideways triangle there’s a Canadian maple leaf and so I just know he’s from YouTube Canada.
“Good morning Antonia. You’re in the driver's seat now young lady.” He speaks calmly as though we’re all alone, even though there are other reporters peppering me with questions. “Your next target is a half-a-million subscribers.”
“Can you advance me some of the monies I’ve accrued?”
“Yes. Certainly. Why don’t you come by the office on Monday and we’ll spiff-up your channel. Plus I’ll introduce you to some agencies that manage premium sponsors.”
“Well, we can see you’re using a Panasonic camera, so how about test driving the latest model?”
“Yes. I’d like that.”
“Don’t let anyone put you in a box Antonia.”
It’s good advice. My heart melts as my dreams shift again. I’m so happy I spoke with him first, for every other news gatherer makes it clear they’d like to interview me on camera as soon as possible. Most invite me to their stations to meet their higher-ups. I collect all their business cards and shuffle ever-closer to the front doors of my residence building. Once again it’s overwhelming, and I’m beyond exhausted.
Yian waits for me in the lobby.
“You’re back. I wasn’t sure if we’d see you tonight,” the tall Korean holds the door for me, “or ever again.”
“Toni!” Three pretty girls emerge from the elevator into the lobby with phones in front of their faces. I know by their voices that it’s Barbi, Carmi and Patty Juice. They’ve witnessed my arrival home from higher up in the tower and elevatored down right away to record my entrance. They’re drunk and eager to be friends with me now, but I wave them away and Yian blocks them from mobbing me. He puts his arm around me and holds the blanket in place as we move to the front of the elevator line and into the waiting carriage.
“Are the others here?” I ask Yian as the doors close. He presses 5 on the panel.
“I’ll have your money next week.”
“I know. Don’t even worry about that. FedEx tried to deliver a package. You weren’t here, so I put the slip in your mailbox.”
“Oh good. Thanks Mom.” I knew she’d eventually come through for me.
The doors open on the fifth floor and I hug him goodbye. I head down the hall toward apartment 505. This is going to be interesting.
I knock before entering. For some reason I feel the need to announce my arrival into my own residence. I open the door and find the interior dark and quiet. The decorations from Thursday night are still in the living room. Gordon and Camila are asleep and their doors are closed, but Amelia stands in her doorway and waits for me with open arms.
“Are you okay?” We both ask each other the same question in unison and laugh afterwards.
“Toni. I’m sorry. I should’ve listened.”
“Ames I’m sorry I caused it all.”
“You didn’t. Sam did.”
My door is open and what few clothes I left behind are strewn about the room. The mattress is on its side and the desk drawers are ajar. My room was thoroughly searched by the police and nobody cleaned up afterwards. I find some clothing I can wear tomorrow. For now I’m keen to take a hot shower and have a nice long sleep.
“What are you going to do after this?” Amelia asks. She helps me clean up. “After you get your cheques and everything gets sorted.”
“Well. I wanted to work for a news crew, but now...”
“But now what..?”
“Now I’m think I should just be the news crew. Special Investigations. And you should be on the team Ames. I want you to come work for me.”
“Really?!” Amelia beams with joy.
“You’ll be the first employee of Toni Petti LIVE.”
“What will I be doing?”
“Administration. Top of the list, we need to find a new place to live.”
“Then what? More cop-watching videos?”
“No. We expose injustice everywhere, nationwide. Hundreds of emails came from people watching my channel Ames, and they all want me to cover their stories.”
“Scams of all kinds. Families being exploited. Elders being abused and drained of their life savings in retirement homes. Public officials taking bribes. Phony officials enforcing bullshit codes. There’s a world of corruption out there Amelia, and we can help.”
“Okay. You can help them, and I can help you.”
“That’s our plan. We’ll use Toni Petti LIVE to give voice to those who’d otherwise suffer in silence. We’ll crush bastards big and small.”
“You’re so moxy.”
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