The story begins as it should. In a small antique run-down Ottawa office with the sign, “detective agency” already fading on the glass. He’s sharpening pencils and staring at an almost empty agenda book. The phone rings. She tells him she wants him over.
She of the loud voice, now a whimpering simmering kitten with kissable tulip lips politely murmurs , “thank you” as he rows lovingly inside her.
Later he roams in the night drizzle on Bronson Ave. . He reaches the Rasputin Café and asks the boss to speak to his ” friends “, who are dishwashers in the back. The boss refuses; so, he leaves a message on a bit of paper, for them. The message asks, “when are you bullshit Marxist Chilean poets going to pay the bill?” As he leaves, his mind wrestles obsessively with how much they owe him for his work to date on tracking down a former CIA agent believed to be residing in Canada, who did Kissinger’s dirty work over in their country. Why didn’t they just knock on doors in Chile, he thought. That’s all they had to do for piles of Chilean ultra right wingers to tumble out of the closet and onto the street, with far worse crime records. But they were hungry for Yankee blood.
Down in the market the wetness on the streets gleams like sparkling diamonds framed by the sky’s blackness. He strides by Mello’s restaurant where prostitutes take breaks between tricks, where you can sit down with a lettuce bacon tomato sandwich and watch them arrive in long fake rabbit fur scarves dangling in front of their coats, cheap patterned silk stockings and latex thigh high boots, white, red, black, where you can watch them let off steam yakking loudly and clowning away boisterously behind formica lunch tables, entertainment at a small price. And if you’re lucky, one of them, a hooker with a heart of gold, offers you a beer.
He enters a waiting taxi where the driver’s speaking brashly yet much too leisurely in Lebanese over his headphone telephone to a friend or relative. He tells the driver to get off the phone and concentrate on the road. The driver continues talking for a while seemingly ignoring the request. He tells the driver he’s changed his mind about where he wants to go; points to a nearby street and for him to turn into it, and then orders him to stop in front of a house. When the taxi stops, he points a gun to the driver’s head.
-You’re a smart pretty boy, aren’t you? I pay for the ride and you’re going to dictate all the terms of my ride, is that it smart pretty boy?”
– I just talk to my uncle. He sick.
He bumps the gun into the man’s scull.
– You better start thinking about cleaning up your act, smart pretty boy, you might have an unexpected kind of accident happen, right here in your car.
He leaves the taxi still pointing his gun, underneath his coat, at the terrorized driver with eyes bulging out of his head. He takes off quickly knowing the driver will call the cops as soon as he’s out of sight. He’s long surmised and labelled the city taxi industry nauseatingly corrupt, with the hands of local police and politicians deep in its pockets. How else would these jokers get away with treating paying clients like scum.
He runs all the way to the Lafayette House Tavern, where he drowns himself in Guinness beer. The tavern was once a luxury hotel in the early 19th century that supplied Queen Victoria, her very Royal self with clean sheets when she came to visit the colonials. He looks at himself in one of the mirrors that hang in a series along the wall. He’s nattily dressed in a suit and tie, but his eyes are wasted, and he feels like crap. In a neighbouring mirror he can see Mr. Sunday, the Mr Sunday he once took for either a weirdo or an asshole college professor, the Mr. Sunday who told him that when he got up in the morning and he didn’t feel in a state of grace, he would go right back to bed. Since then he’d grown some affection for the old dog.
Mr. Sunday was now signaling to him to come over to his table.
– What brung ya here tonight?, asks Sunday.
He looks the other way. Some fat Ottawa low rung bureaucrat in a suit like his is grubbin’ away on French fries.
– Nothing , nothing is sacred anymore or has been for a long time now, burps out Sunday, over his beer.
He reminds himself that what makes Sunday a special person is his willingness to tip over the hamper of ugly stories inhabiting his brain; uncomplimentary admissions and sordid revelations about his distasteful, dishonest and criminal past, to be scattered pell-mell in front of the next attentive shocked listener. He decides he can trust someone like that. It’s the prissy, pompous, lily-white, goody-goody two shoes types he can’t stomach, and trusts even less. Sunday had been a serial adulterer, a cheat, a swindler, an extortionist, a pimp even. Now he’s a born again Christian on a seriously addictive habit of being forgiven.
One other thing. He knows Sebastian Darnley, the ex CIA guy he’s on the hunt for. It was Darnley who supplied grenades to the Chilean army officers who threatened to blow Chilean General René Schneider’s head off if he refused to quietly be kidnapped. As far as he was concerned Darnley was small potatoes but that’s who the Marxists wanted and who he was being paid to get.
– What else can you tell me about Darnley?
– Darnley?, Sunday repeated slowly, then continued sipping on his beer.
Turn around. You see the man in the wheel chair? That’s Darnley.
He did as Sunday told him. There was Darnley. He looked the type that had drank the cup of God’s fury to the dregs. And tonight he was heavily into something prosaic, less animated, but abundantly potent.
He quickly concluded that he was not the type to deliver up a man for deportation who was paralyzed up to the waist in a wheel chair for delivering hand grenades, that, according to his research, were never used. Darnley, he’d learned from his donkey work of poking around, had been a single baby spoke in a big wheel of machination, trickery and international intrigue. There were some things for which he had the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros. This was not one of them. If ever the Marxists discovered that he’d found Darnley and had done nothing, they would roll him over the coals for leaving them swing in the wind. There was nothing sadder than the death of an illusion, especially the one of getting paid. And to help with the one at hand, Guinness gave him fortitude. Darnley had been camping in his brain for a long time. Now it was time to pull up stakes.
Sunday looked at him and understood, the Sunday who was now in the business of being forgiven and forgiving looked relieved.
Over the hill, the distant solitary lonely Peace Tower clock mournfully rang midnight. It was still drizzling on the street but it felt good to be out of the stagnant tavern into the fresh night air.
He filled his lungs with it. He was ready to hail down a cab but stopped himself, instead taking the first steps to meandering back through the dark narrow quiet streets of working class Lower Town. She would be waiting for him.