Authors: Claude Bouchard
it makes perfect sense,” I disagreed. “You burned people to death. That puts
you right up there with the gang punks and the murdering child molester.”
case against me was thrown out of court,” he argued. “I was acquitted, for
. I’m nothing like those animals.”
case was thrown out of court,” I explained, “Because those cops screwed up. I
can’t even say I blame them. The media tipped you off so these guys hustled to
get the dirt on you before you cleaned it up. Unfortunately for them, the judge
was ‘by the book’ instead of ‘by common sense’ so you won and they lost. Tell
me I’m wrong.”
won my case fair and square,”
was by the book. Nobody got paid off. The system did its job. Case closed. This
you kill people?” I asked.
saved people,” he countered. “I put my life at risk, going into burning
buildings and carrying people out who would have died otherwise. I saved their
pulled the can of WD40 out of a side pocket of my jacket as I walked over to
the nightstand to his left where three tea lights burned. Aiming just right, I
had practised, I sent a burst of spray over the flames. The vapours ignited
into a miniature ball of flame, over the bed and close enough to his head that
he felt the heat.
are you doing?” he shrieked in fear. “Do you want to set this place on fire? Do
you know how many people live in this building?”
many people lived in the buildings you torched, Philippe?” I asked. “In total,
give me a ballpark.”
are you doing this?” he pleaded, another common question from this lot.
many people did you kill?” I asked, sending another spurt of flame over his
that,” he sobbed. “I saved hundreds of lives from those fires. You can’t
condemn me because a few died.”
slipped the aerosol can back into my pocket and pulled out my knife before
saying, “You’re useless…”
three weeks earlier, on May 1st, to be precise, I had spent part of my evening
with Etienne Jean, one of the two violent home invaders who had taken the life
and ruined what remained of his wife,
Isabelle’s life forever. Etienne’s brother, Emile, had yet to pay for his
crimes and I honestly did not believe that grieving for his sibling’s passing
was sufficient punishment for the horror he had brought on to a couple in their
thinking of street punks and gang members, one thing which had never come to
mind for me was die-hard athlete. Sure, we can easily associate many of these
people with pumping iron in the prison yard and huge tattooed biceps but
devoted cyclist and disciplined runner just didn’t jive with gang banger, at
least in my mind. Regardless of my misconceptions, that is exactly what Emile
mornings, from early spring to late fall, this violent, thieving thug was on
his bike by five-thirty, pedalling from the
des Prairies sector where he lived, to the eastern tip of the island of
Montreal, which remained a mostly undeveloped and wooded area, a bit of
pristine nature unblemished by urban chaos.
there, Emile would park his bicycle, not even bothering to lock it, so few were
the visitors in the area this early in the morning, and run his set course
through the labyrinth of trails carved out through the foliage by nature lovers
over time. I had followed him on several occasions, starting in late April just
when the trails had become fairly usable, to learn the course he ran, and to
see if he varied, which he generally didn’t.
hadn’t tried to hide my presence, in fact, I had purposefully let him see me,
my intent being that he become comfortable with my being around once in a while.
There’s just something about familiarity which gets people to let their guard
down. We had even ended up running the course together a couple of times,
exchanging a smile and a nod when we encountered each other and a wave at the
end as we went our separate ways. The earphones and
we both sported made conversation unnecessary and avoiding it easy.
course he ran was a cross-country challenge of varying terrain which included
flat, open areas, narrow, curving paths as well as upgrades and downgrades.
Though sunrise by this date was just around five-fifteen, much of the run was
through denser foliage amidst tall trees which reduced the natural light, even
on a bright, cloudless day. As it was, variable skies were upon us that day,
reducing the light that much more, which was fine by me.
waited for him, well hidden behind a tall copse of bushes along the path,
checking my watch, knowing at what time he would run by almost to the minute. As
expected, he was on schedule. I gave him a fifteen second lead as he
disappeared around a bend – I had chosen my spot along a zigzagging part of the
trail – then sprinted off, as if I had been closing in behind him. He came into
a straight section and, seconds later, glanced behind him, saw me appear and
grinned, probably having heard my steps between two beats from his earphones.
ahead was a downslope, which happened to run through a particularly densely
wooded area, one of those spots which never saw much sunlight. He raced about
twenty feet downhill, the grade helping his acceleration then his feet seemed
to catapult off the path. He continued downhill, literally flying through the
air feet first for a few of seconds before crashing to the ground and tumbling
into a shallow ravine to one side.
explanation, if I may. Upon my arrival that morning, I had strung a length of
quarter inch nylon rope, a taut clothesline, across the path from one tree to
another, some twenty feet down the slope. Having soaked it in muddy water a few
days earlier, the once white rope was barely visible in the dim light, even if
one knew it was there. Emile didn’t and had raced right into it, catching it
hard, right in the throat. I had correctly estimated we were of the same
hurried down to join him and found him gasping for air but failing dismally,
his neck a bloodied mess, his eyes already bulging somewhat as he choked. I
guess he had crushed his larynx or something but, hey, I’m not a doctor. All I
can say is he had certainly hurt himself pretty badly.
you okay, Emile?” I asked, feigning concern.
shook his head in panic, trying to breathe but not succeeding, at least not to
his satisfaction. The fact that I knew his name didn’t seem to register.
you can’t breathe, can you?” I enquired.
a head shake in response as his skin took on a bluish tinge.
never done this before but I’ve heard about it,” I said as I pulled out my
knife and locked the blade open. “I’ll do a tracheotomy so you can breathe,
saw doubt in his eyes but he nodded after a few seconds; he was running out of
your eyes and try to relax,” I said, bringing the blade to his neck as I added,
“And if I screw this up, tell Leo, that guy you and your brother killed, that
Isabelle misses him.”
Bertrand’s number had come up. The third attacker of Gaston
the life-loving art teacher whose only crime had been to cycle through a park
one night, had overrun his time amongst the living and had to pay for his
three months had gone by since I had dealt with
Leclerc and just under three months since Henri
had paid his dues, Bertrand’s two partners in the horrendous crime. That
Bertrand had been given an extra trimester or so to eat, breathe and sleep had
not been a calculated move but rather, simply luck of the draw for him because
of my busy schedule. However, all good things come to an end and that was a
definite for Nicholas.
two close buddies getting murdered within weeks from each other had certainly
shaken Bertrand up and he had gone into overdrive to clean up his act and stay
out of trouble. Through some connections with an uncle, he had managed to get
himself a grounds keeping job at the Meadowbrook Golf Course in west-end
job consisted of a lot of manual work, prepping the fairways and greens as of
five in the morning to satisfy the critical lot who played the course as of
seven every day but, it was a paycheque, honestly earned without the fear of
getting busted by the cops or confronted by some idiot from another wannabe
to work was something of a hassle since Nicholas lived near La Fontaine Park,
, while the golf course was in Cote
St-Luc, south-west of N.D.G, an area not easily accessible for one without a
car. The commute, which lasted an hour twenty minutes when all was on schedule,
consisted of an initial walk, two bus rides, the second lasting close to half
an hour and a final foot trek of over twenty minutes.
with all my prospects, I had been keeping an eye on Nicholas Bertrand so I was
attuned to his timetable, even impressed by how well he had been sticking to
it. I had even noted how, if he had the minute or two required to grab a cup of
coffee at an early-bird corner store near his first bus stop, he went for it
zealously, coming out with a large cup to spark him up. He was running a bit
late this particular morning so he had to forego his cup of
My good, his bad…
caught his bus, the 359 heading north on
bit before four, right on schedule and I zoomed ahead in the barely existing
traffic, knowing he would be getting off at Rosemont for his next connection
with several minutes to wait. I got there first, obviously, and waited a few
minutes until I saw the bus arrive, Nicholas get off and cross the street to
wait for the 370, his next ride heading west.
watched him from a block away, a lone figure in the dark of early morning then headed
around the corner to where the minivan was waiting. A minute or so later, I
approached the intersection on Rosemont with my bullshit all lined up, slowed
and lowered the passenger window.
,” I called
to him. “Nicholas?”
,” he replied
with uncertainty, though he approached.
work at Meadowbrook?” I continued in French, a statement more than a question.
,” he replied,
visibly relaxing. “Do I know you?”
haven’t met,” I replied with a smile, “But I’ve seen you around. I’m Marcel
, Tournaments Manager. Are you going to work?”
,” said Nicholas. “Just waiting for my bus.”
that’s where I’m going,” I said. “Get in, unless you rather take the bus.”
,” he replied as he opened the
door and slid in. “Thank you.”
problem,” I said, stepping on the accelerator while our light was still green. “Like
I said, that’s where I’m going.”
never seen you there,” said Nicholas, not questioning me but more so to make
mostly in my office on the phone,” I explained. “Dealing with corporate clients
for company tournaments, that kind of thing. But,
part of my job to make sure the course stays in shape for the events I book so
I like to keep an eye on things.”
you knew my name?” he asked, impressed and curious.
laughed. “Nicholas, every year we get young people like you coming to work on
the course to keep it in perfect condition. Within the first week, some stop
showing up, because they just can’t handle the job. Others keep coming to work,
arriving late, missing days,
early and smoking
joints while they’re on the job. However, a few understand the importance of
what they’re doing and they just do it. I remember the names of those few.”
remained silent for a few seconds, digesting what I had just told him then
I have been doing my best but it’s nice to hear it, especially from someone
guys, the good ones, just don’t hear it enough,” I replied. “I think I need to
have a chat with your boss.”
get me in trouble,” he joked, though nervously.
have nothing to worry about, buddy,” I assured him as I pulled off to the curb in
front of a tiny diner on the nearly deserted street. “I need my morning coffee
and this place is the best in the city. How do you take yours?”
coffee?” he spluttered in surprise. “Uh, milk, one sugar.”
up,” I said as I climbed out of the minivan and slammed the door.
returned within two, maybe three minutes with two small coffees, mine with just
a bit of milk and his with milk, one sugar and… Okay, I need to tell you a bit
of a story here…
case you may have forgotten, back on February 20th, I had dealt with Mathieu
Masson, the driver in the drive-by shooting which had taken the life of Sylvie
and her unborn twins. Now, you may remember that
when I hooked up with Masson, he had a gym bag loaded up with goodies he
intended to sell that evening to anyone looking for a high, a buzz or a low. I
had told him I had no use for the crap in his bag but I had gone through his
inventory after the fact, just out of curiosity.
his portable drugstore, I had found several boxes of 20 mg
a brand name for
, a potent drug used to
treat insomnia… Yep, good old sleeping pills… Since Masson had been in no
condition to ever sell drugs again once I was done with him, I had kept the
, along with other products which might prove
useful at some point in the future. Always plan ahead… Now, back to our story.
getting our coffees, I went into the tiny bathroom and took a moment to stir in
into Nicholas’ cup which I had crushed
into powder beforehand. I was banking on the fact that he hadn’t had his
caffeine fix yet so he’d hopefully slurp it down quickly enough. I doubted the
drug would sufficiently distort the taste for him to notice and, as I
mentioned, I had got us small coffees so he would likely ingest the whole dose
within a short time.
you go,” I said as returned to the minivan and handed him his coffee before
sliding back into my seat.
he replied, busying himself with the plastic lid separating him from his
morning brew. “What do I owe you?”
laughed. “Get outta here. A small token of appreciation for your hard work.”
Thanks again,” he said before taking a healthy swallow.
it’s hot,” I cautioned. “Don’t burn yourself.”
grinned and replied, “All I drink is restaurant coffee which is usually almost
boiling. I’m used to it.”
prove his point, he took another swig, reducing the cup’s content down to about
half. You’ve got to like a cooperative victim.
should have bought you a big one,” I joked.
okay,” he replied. “Thanks to you, I’ll be there early enough to get myself
another one and even drink it before I start working.”
good for you,” I said, adding nothing more.
rode in silence for several minutes during which time Nicholas drained his cup
then sat there, holding the empty container in one hand, the plastic lid in the
other as he gazed out the windshield. After a moment or two, he looked down,
noticed the cup and lid he was holding and decided to reassemble the two. Not
as easy a task as he was expecting. He misaligned the cover before dropping the
cup between his thighs. Fumbling to pick it up, it slipped from his fingers
twice before he muttered and tried to get it a third time.
you okay?” I questioned, noting his difficulties.
shook his head, not in response but more in trying to shake the increasing
effect of the triple dose of
he mumbled, shaking his head again as the cup and lid slipped from his fingers
and fell to the floor.
do you mean, you don’t know?” I asked. “What’s wrong?”
slurred. “Was fine jus
you do anything?” I enquired. “Any drugs, something like that?”
no,” he replied, leaning back against the headrest and rocking his head back
and forth. “
night, maybe?” I persisted. “There must be something making you feel like this.”
j-jus smoke a joint,
two lass nigh,” he
struggled to say. “I
’ on. I’m
Henri gave you something?” I suggested, “Or perhaps Max put something in your
?” he managed to get out, confusion adding to the somnolence.
that’s right,” I replied. “Both Max and Henri are dead. They were killed, weren’t
rolled his head toward me and nodded, though rather awkwardly then mumbled, “
passing out on me, Nicky,” I said, reaching over and lightly slapping his
cheek. “Stay with me for just another minute, will you? Make an effort for me,
nodded again and even struggled a bit to straighten himself in his seat as he
forced his eyes open.
sleepy…” he whispered.
because I doped up your coffee, Nick,” I explained. “I needed to knock you out
so I could take you somewhere without any trouble. Do you understand?”
shook his head and slumped forward a bit though the shoulder strap of the seat
belt held him up. “
you’re going to hook up with Henri and Max, my friend,” I replied. “Don’t
worry, I’ll look after everything and I promise I’ll let you wake up before I
send you off. But take a nap now. You look like you need it.”