Evens, an ambitious Haitian boy, knows who poisoned his dog, Scraps and vows to get even. Because he manages most of the flyer and newspaper deliveries around town he sees a lot of things, things some citizens would rather be kept secret. Getting even for the dog’s death will require smarts by manipulating not only these people, but also the high school bully, whose hides a very dark secret of his own. Manipulating the big fella won’t be easy, but maybe a little bit of voodoo will go a long way.
“Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”
-Theodore Roosevelt, U.S. president b.1858 – d.1919
Planning to go up against the big bully Algernon, or Algie, was terrifying to think about. He was big, perhaps the biggest person in town. Putting my plan into action jacked up fears that had me bolting upright in bed in the middle of the night.
My father was a P.I., a private investigator and I know he would be proud of me for my cleverness and problem-solving skills. Even though he was dead, I suppose he’s the reason I was doing this; somehow to prove myself to him.
I wasn’t going to fight the bully. I was too small, a grade ten student, and he was a senior, a behemoth. I only wanted to control the bully. It was the only way to avenge the death of my dog, Scraps.
You see, I know the man who poisoned him.
Wash an apple in water containing gopher dust and the first person to bite that apple will lose their teeth in five days.
Planning to go up against any bully was scary enough. My bully was Algernon, or Algie, a high school senior and by far the biggest person in school and in town. Putting my plan into action jacked up fears that had me bolting upright in bed in the middle of the night.
My father, Henri Duluce, was a P.I., a private investigator. In his native land of Haiti, he was a fully-fledged, top-rated, brave detective. I know he would be proud of me for my cleverness and problem-solving skills. Even though my parents died violent deaths, I suppose they’re the reason I did this; somehow to prove myself.
I wasn’t going to fight the bully. I was too small, a grade ten student, and he was a senior, a behemoth of the football team. I only wanted to manipulate him. It was the only way I could think of to avenge the death of my dog, Scraps.
You see, I know the man who poisoned him.
When the weather was good or especially during a full moon, I liked to head down to the riverbank with Scraps. On this particular morning Scraps was not in the yard and I missed his presence. Scraps enjoyed running along the shore to bother ducks, romp around the thickets, and occasionally try to swim after beavers. To further disrupt my morning along the river, one of my delivery boys called to say he’d quit his paper route. That meant I’d have to get up before school and take over the spot until I could find a replacement. I managed several paper routes and most of the flyer deliveries in my small town of Devon, Alberta.
I didn’t see Scraps until I returned home. He was in the hedges, lying on his side, panting; not trotting over to greet me as he usually did. Curious, I set my rod against the house and walked over to him.
“What’re you doing over there, Evens?” said Uncle Alain, coming out onto the deck with a beer in his hand.
“Something’s wrong with Scraps.” I knelt down beside my dog, who appeared in great distress.
Scraps was a border collie-cross, mostly mongrel, my parents had adopted from the animal pound three years ago just before they left Canada to visit relatives in Haiti. They never came back. Mom and Dad were abducted, shot, and dumped in front of a police station in the middle of the night. Dad, a former policeman on the island, a top cop, became involved in organized crime investigating the Cite Soleil gang. One day, he gathered up my mother and I, and fled to Canada under threat of death. In Canada, he became a private detective. He taught me all I know about the detecting business and a lot about people.
Scraps was bleeding badly from his nose and mouth and having a lot of trouble breathing. The blood would not stop coming. I went into the shed for a rag to staunch the flow, but it was soaked in no time. He tried to stand to greet me like he always did, but was too weak. His muscles twitched like an electric current ran through him.
“What can I do?” I pleaded.
“He will not be making it, Evens.” Uncle Alain said, and came over with a doggie bowl of water. “Looks like rat poison to me. It stops the clotting and makes blood flow freely.” He nodded in agreement with himself. His large baldhead bobbed like a toy as he set down the water. “Happens when you let him run free like you do. That dog will eat anything. You should not let him wander the town.”
Scraps’ eyes were glassy and seemed to be looking faraway, like watching a daydream go by.
“Can we get him to the vet, or something?” I asked, looking up at my uncle.
“Yes, we can. All we will get is a big bill and the dog will still die.” He set his large brown hand on my shoulder. “He’s too far gone. Say your goodbyes. I’m sorry.”
I sat on the grass trying to comfort my pet by scratching his belly. Scraps coughed a bit and bubbled out more blood. I wiped away some tears. “Wasn’t somethin’ on the street, Uncle. No. Someone did this.” I looked up at my uncle. “I know who did it.”
“Yes, I know who you mean,” said Uncle Alain, rising unsteadily and went inside.
Scraps’ murderer lives three blocks away in a rundown rented bungalow at the end of an unfinished dead end street. Joseph ‘Joey’ Mendel is about 30 years old, a skinny runt inked with cheap tattoos on his arms and neck, always wearing a Bud Light straw cowboy hat he got free for buying a truckload of beer for a party where six people showed up and the music was so loud the police had to pay him a visit. His older model 4×4 truck windows are pasted with oil industry stickers and jacked up so high a ladder is almost required to get in. In reality, he’s a dropout with bad teeth and hygiene who works at the truck wash, power spraying the real oil worker’s trucks. A wannabe. One of my teachers keeps telling my class to develop our own identity as we enter adulthood; find our way in life. I hope I don’t develop like Joey. I don’t know where he got his instructions.
Joey doesn’t like me, and I don’t like him. Neither do his neighbors. If I’m shooting hoops at the end of his street with my buds and the ball happens to roll into his yard, he keeps the ball. He’ll give it back in a few days, but only when Jay’s dad or my Uncle Alain knock on his door. Or else he’ll just leave it in the middle of the street, hoping someone will walk off with it.
“Come try to get it back and I’ll put a hole in you,” he says, in a pathetic imitation of a cowboy sheriff, pounding back a long-neck beer, pantomiming pulling a trigger with his finger.
Scraps, my unfortunate pet, didn’t like Joey much either, and showed it by lifting a leg, leaving some liquid discontent on the chrome rims of Joey’s 4×4. Poor dog just couldn’t help himself. It was as if he knew what Joey was all about, and the disrespect poured out of him. This would send Joey into outer space with rage. He’d grab the garden hose and stammer and holler and swear as he hosed off his wheel. Me and my buds would have a good laugh. Scraps would return with a bounce in his stride to be petted by us approvingly.
This infuriated Joey into:
a) picking up a hockey stick and chasing Scraps down the street.
b) threatening us as we shot baskets, until we left.
c) throwing beer cans at us as we played, forcing us to move the hoop and backboard down the street where we had to play in amongst parked cars.
d) listening to him crank up his crappy country rebel music to ear-splitting levels until we’d leave.
Little Joey’s venom spewed far and wide, bringing out his neighbors for a quick look to see what all the fuss was about. The neighbors were big guys, putting up with the runt and his antics, and the Big Pussies actually told us to quit inciting the man. My father once told me that if the police couldn’t be relied upon to look after its citizens, the community has to take the initiative.
Well, I was in for some incitement myself.
I sat with Scraps until he drew in his last breath and closed his eyes. “You were a fine friend,” I uttered and cried. Scraps was a smart dog, often surprising beavers, ambushing them by making them think he was going one way then double back to jump out at them. I think…no, I know he had a sense of humor, too. When it began to drizzle, I dug his grave under a poplar at the far end of our small garden. I went inside and joined my uncle at the kitchen table. While absently scanning the newspaper I noticed many of the movie listings were about zombies or werewolves or magic.
The word seeded my thoughts. No vampire would be biting Joey–reality would.
Uncle Alain went to the fridge and cracked another beer. He’d moved in with me after my parents were murdered. Uncle Alain was my father’s brother, and had been renting an apartment. He suggested he’d help me out by moving in and paying the bills and taxes. That way I didn’t lose the house because I was a minor. By default, Alain became my guardian. It worked out good so far with him minding his own business and not giving me much parental grief. When he drank in the evenings he was real easy to get along with. Then again, I was a good student and busy with my newspaper delivery business, soon to be an empire. As I stared out the window at the freshly dug earth, I felt my anger simmering, my brain shifting into gear, hurtling recklessly around corners.
“You got that look on your face. Where you goin’?” asked Uncle Alain.
“Going to see the man who murdered my dog!”
“Bad idea, Evens,” he said, trying to rise from the chair. Too many beers had increased the gravity.
I stomped out of the yard, my head hot, vision clouded at the edges with red. I recalled images of Scraps as a puppy, a damaged dog my father rescued from owners who’d abused him. Scraps was fearful, frightened of everything. But love and tender care turned him into a fine pet.
I was smaller than Joey and unwisely figured my rage and adrenalin would give me an edge. I marched along the streets with one thing on my mind–justice. I turned the corner of the street where Jay my friend lived. The portable basketball stand stood against the curb. The dish of water Jay always put out for Scraps lay next to it, the sight spurring me on.
Joey tinkered with his open truck door in the driveway, death metal cranking out from his truck radio, wearing cut-off blue jeans. He spotted me and stopped, his mind working trying to analyze why I’d be stalking purposely toward him.
Then, he figured it out. A crooked smile broke across his face.
It’s when I knew, that he knew, what happened.
“Stay away from me, kid!” he yelled, picking up a garden hose.
“You killed my dog! You’re a murderer!”
He squeezed the nozzle trigger and kept it on high, blasting it in my face.
I kept my hands out as a shield from the cold spray as I approached blindly. “You’ll pay for that! I’ll kill you for it!” I shouted.
Before I knew it I was on the sidewalk, the hose caught around my ankles and Joey on top of me hitting my face with the washing brush, again and again. My hands fended off most of them, but a few made it through against my forehead and cheek.
“I’ll teach you, you skinny, punk-ass school boy!”
“Stop it! You’re crazy!” I frantically tried to wriggle out from under him.
“You blacks are all troublemakers!”
“Hey! Hey!” Someone yelled.
I felt Joey’s weight lifting.
My buddy Jay helped me up while his dad kept Joey at bay, both of them arguing, filling the air with curses.
“Keep away from me, kid, or you’ll get more of where that came from!”
I felt my face and came away with a bloody hand. “Dog killer! I know you killed Scraps! You’ll pay!”
“Go home before I really put some hurt on you! All you blacks are hip-hop criminals.”
“C’mon,” said Jay, towing me away across the street to his house. “What the hell was that all about, Evens?”
I tried to control my breathing. “I just…I just buried Scraps. He gave him rat poison.”
“Oh man, that’s awful. You sure?” asked Jay’s father.
“Yes, he is dead. Buried him in my yard.”
“No, I mean you figure Joey did it?”
“Yeah,” I looked at Jay, “remember last time we were shootin’ baskets and Scraps pissed on his tire, again?” Jay nodded, examining my face. “Well, when I went over to get Scraps away from his truck he said ‘that mutt is as good as dead’.”
“Yeah, I do remember now. Didn’t think he was serious, though.”
We proceeded into Jay’s yard where he sat me on his back deck and went inside. He came out with a wet cloth.
“You’re face is a mess,” he said, handing the white cloth to me.
“I been worse. Thanks.” Although I couldn’t think of when. I dabbed at my face, smearing the cloth red.
Jay was my best friend, my only friend, the first friend I’d had since I was a small boy. His bristly hair was white and cut short, and was taller than me. When we stood together it was quite the contrast; his pale whiteness to my brown skin and red-tinged hair. I dabbed my aching face and watched Jay’s dad come over to us.
“You should know better. He said you attacked him. That right?” asked Jay’s father.
I nodded. “He killed my dog; did just what he said he’d do,” I replied.
“Then you should let the cops handle it.”
“I got no proof except Scraps was bleeding badly and shaking like a leaf before he died.”
“At least report it,” he said. “Lucky he had his sandals on. He keeps a knife in his cowboy boot.” He went inside the house.
Jay examined my face carefully and sat down beside me. “I think it’s stopped bleeding now. That’s so sad about Scraps dying. He was pretty smart. It’s really cruel to kill a creature that way.”
I felt my face begin to sting in several places and felt my eye start to swell. Jay’s dad brought out a bucket of ice. I dumped a handful into the cloth and pressed it against my eye. “Do you think I maybe got some licks in?”
Jay and his father chuckled.
“You were down for the count when we ran over,” said Jay.
Jay’s dad left us alone.
“I know you, Evens, I can see your mind working. You’re plotting something, aren’t you?”
I shrugged. “Might be.”
“Revenge is a dish best served cold,” he said.
“Well, meaning wait until you cool down and can make some clever plan to get even.”
“Strike while the iron is hot,” I fired back.
Jay chuckled. “That will not apply here because his iron is hot–not yours. You just disproved that theory and got your ass kicked.”
“I’ll have to think of something then.”
“Yeah, something better than a frontal assault.”
I walked home, my face feeling like it was stung by a swarm of wasps. I went inside to the bathroom, passing Uncle Alain, and the four empty beer bottles on the kitchen table. He was a functioning alcoholic; never missed work and never drank on the job. At home, he’d pound back the brews like they were pop.
“Told you so, kid,” he said, shaking his head.
The bedroom mirror nearly cracked. My eye was half-shut, black and purple, and my cheeks badly scratched from the bristly brush Joey throttled me with. My upper lip was cut and swollen. My brown face looked darker. I picked out some grass bits from my wiry red hair, a trait from my Quebecois mother. I cursed and searched around for my sunglasses. The lenses were too small to hide all the damage. I wondered if I should see the local eye doctor.
I went to the fridge and pulled out the makings to build a baloney sandwich while Uncle Alain stared idly out the window, his heavy frame leaning against the counter for balance. He tried to hide how much he really did drink by placing the empty bottles in the recycle bin as he finished them. There might be two empties on the table but I knew there were more he’d placed in the recycle bin.
“Won’t be fun at school for you tomorrow. Wear these,” he said to the window and indicated a pair of aviator sunglasses on the fridge. “You should call the cops,” he said.
“Too late, he’s buried.”
“No, I mean on Joey for beating on you.”
I shook my head. “I attacked him. And I got no proof for the poisoning. Dad said you ‘got to have proof’, got to go look for proof. Said it’s all around, just got to dig for it. You want a sandwich?”
He waved off my offer. “Your father would know, he was a fine policeman.
I looked at the wall clock. Almost time to set up for flyer deliveries, make sure the kids showed up. Over half the routes in town were mine. Anytime a route came open, I’d snap it up. Soon, I’d control the entire flyer and newspaper business in town. Some said I was planning to take over the world, one route at a time. I paid junior high kids to deliver, paying them more money than the distributor, a tall, stern looking man. He was too greedy and didn’t pay them enough. He was glad to hand off the routes to me and rid himself of hand-holding the whiney kids. I also had six routes for a big Edmonton newspaper. It was an early morning job and I usually only helped when a kid couldn’t do it for some reason. I took a chunk of change off each route and sorted out the problems.
More importantly, my delivery jobs gave me access to people’s yards. I discovered people in town had plenty of secrets and they weren’t all that clever about hiding them, either. Everyone believed most people were good until proven bad; innocent until proven guilty. I believed everyone had secrets, good and bad ones.
I also inherited my father’s SLR camera; a telescopic lens, and best of all, a box viewfinder. I could position the camera under a coat that was draped over my forearm and look down into the viewfinder as I took pictures walking along. Taking it everywhere was an invaluable tool.
For example, Mr. Kutney, the vice principal and occasional science teacher, was pouring liquid down the sewer at the back of a paint shop with another man. As my luck would have it this other man was Mr. Romanaski, who happened to be the shop owner and Algernon’s father. Algernon was the school bully who had quite an interesting, but disgusting secret, an almost sick one. I didn’t know what the chemical stuff was they were dumping, and probably wouldn’t ever know.
When someone reported some bluish stuff floating in the river and took a picture if it for the newspaper, I put two and two together. The goop was gone by the time a provincial environment guy (they don’t work weekends) came down to check it out the following Monday afternoon. Downstream, several hundred fish died and a few were ‘sent to the lab’. It was the same river that Scraps and I fished. Since then, I was skunked every time I fished. The color of the chemical they secretly dumped matched the color of the stuff I captured on my digital camera, a nice sharp image I snapped from down the alley. They should keep the big doors at the rear closed.
My town had six councilors, one of them Councilor Mansur. Nasir Mansur, a Muslim, kept two wives, and of course, only one officially. How did I know? While delivering flyers I stumbled upon an elaborate ceremony in his backyard. A tent had been erected and a big feast was set out on tables. Lots of ethnic people were there, but no locals. His ‘nanny’ was the star of the show decked out in ceremonial splendor surrounded by women outside a smaller tent. I was chased out of the yard when someone spotted me with my camera hanging around my neck. I snapped pictures walking backwards on my way out using my box view.
Upon further investigation, I did some research on the internet and discovered it was a traditional marriage ceremony. Yes, he was a polygamist; illegal in most countries including Canada. A few days later, the ‘nanny’ forbade me to enter the backyard ever again.
“Stay away! You drop the papers into the box at the front! With the mail. Always now!” she’d said, waggling a long finger in my face. “Not to be poking around the yard.”
As I mentioned, people did not protect their secrets enough. Unwittingly, she led me to the mailbox and all the proof I needed: two government welfare checks: one addressed to Mrs. Aini Mansur, and the other to a Mrs. Ismat Mansur. The checks became another sharp image, pixilated into digital form using the macro setting on my camera. I figured if the government was too stupid not to catch such a blatantly fraudulent act with a simple look at their files, or a quick peek into Councilor Mansur’s mailbox, then they deserved every bit of criticism they got for being wasteful. I will assume they don’t have the sharpest tools in the box working for them.
And then there’s Mr. Herman Foster, a contractor who lives next door to the Romanaski’s. Presently, he lives in his big trailer parked in the driveway because his wife threw him out of the house a few weeks back. One morning, I passed his yard and saw his clothes being tossed out the door by his wife. It was quite a funny scene.
I happened upon him installing a gizmo beside his power meter. I became interested because no one else had it on their house. He cleverly disguised it by setting a dummy mailbox over it; more than enough to arouse my suspicion. A few days later I noticed the box cover was off so I snapped a photo of the doo-dad. Upon further investigation, I logged on to a special website my father subscribed to, an underground site with links to everything weird and illegal. I quickly discovered the unique apparatus was some sort of electrical magnetic induction device that influenced the digital power readings.
One day I took a closer photo of it and felt Mr. Foster’s scream in my ear, startling me.
“Get away from that! It’s live current, you’ll get hurt!” he shouted and chased me off. I had the device on nice sharp images.
I wasn’t about to tell anyone these secrets, but I was always rolling around how I could use them to my advantage.
Now, I had another secret. Joseph ‘Joey’ Mendel killed dogs.
So the vice principal, town councilor, paint shop owner, school bully, and a power thief were in my files. I also knew of six people who were cheating on their recycling. Not so serious you might think, but they were putting in items that weren’t supposed to go in recycle, creating problems at the other end. If the town found out, they’d get no trash pickup and be forced to haul their own garbage to the dump every week; a big inconvenience.
How to use these particular people to get at Joey would require some deep thought and planning. I sat eating my sandwich looking out the patio door at Scraps’ grave, my anger rising and falling in waves like the pain radiating around my face. If I didn’t do something, Joey would get away with it completely. I thought about extortion and blackmail, but I had nothing I could use against him except for my buried pet. Extortion and blackmail are crimes, so maybe I’ll forget about them for now.
What Joey did was a crime. He killed a dear friend of mine. Some cultures ate dogs and even considered them a delicacy. Killing man’s best friend in Western society is a distasteful act and could sometimes get more jail time than murdering a small child. That is where I would have to give plenty of thought. Obviously, I couldn’t just go crazy. Between what I knew about the people in town and what Joey did, there had to be something I could do, some way to get revenge.
And the more outrageous it was, the less chance I had of getting caught setting up Joey for a fall.
The answer came to me in the night.