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 some of these people, but also the high school bully, whose hides a very dark secret. 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.
I missed Scraps when I was on the riverbank fishing. Scraps would chase after ducks, romp around the thickets, and occasionally try to swim after beavers. I didn’t know where he was until I returned home. He was in the hedgerow, lying on his side, panting; not trotting over to greet me as he usually would. Curious, I set my rod against the house and walked over to him.
“What’re you doing over there, Evens?” said Uncle Alain, sitting on the deck with a beer in his hand.
“Something’s wrong with Scraps.” I knelt down beside the dog, who appeared in great distress.
Scraps was a collie-cross, mostly mongrel, my parents had adopted from the animal pound three years ago just before they left Canada and were killed in Haiti by a marauding gang. Scraps was bleeding badly from the mouth and having a lot of trouble breathing. He tried to stand to greet me like he always did, but was too weak. His muscles twitched like an electric current zapped him.
Uncle Alain came over with a doggie bowl of water. “Looks like rat poison to me,” he said, his big head bobbing like a toy, setting down the water. “Happens when you let him run free like you do. That dog’ll eat anything.”
“Can we get him to the vet, or something?” I asked.
“Yes, we can. And we get will be a big bill and the dog will still die.” He set his large brown hand on my shoulder. “He’s too far gone. I’m sorry.”
I sat on the grass trying to comfort my pet with his favorite scratching of his belly. I wiped a tear from eye. “Wasn’t somethin’ on the street, Uncle. No. Someone did this.” I looked up at my uncle. “I know who did it.”
“Yeah, I know who you mean,” said Uncle Alain, rising unsteadily and went inside.
Scraps’ murderer lives three blocks away in a run down rented bungalow at the end of an unfinished street. Joseph ‘Joey’ Mendel is about 30 years old. Skinny runt with cheap tattoos on his arms, always wearing a Bud Light straw 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. He drives an old 4×4 truck full of oil industry stickers pasted to his bumpers. In reality, he’s a drop-out with bad teeth and hygiene and works at the truck wash, power-spraying the real oil workers’ trucks. That’s a fact.
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.
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 Jason’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, making us think he’s got a gun.
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 and 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 shitty 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 told me that the police couldn’t be relied upon to look after everything. The community occasionally has to take responsibility.
Well, I was in for some incitement myself.
I sat with Scraps until he drew in his last breath. “You were a fine friend,” I uttered and cried. He was a smart dog, often surprising beavers, ambushing them by making them think he was going one way then doubling 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 table. While absently scanning the newspaper I noticed many of the movie listings were about zombies or werewolves or…magic.
Uncle Alain went to the fridge and cracked another beer. He moved in with me after my parents were killed returning to Haiti to visit relatives. Mom and Dad were abducted, shot, and dumped in front of a police station in the middle of the night. Dad was a former policeman on the island. He gathered us up and escaped to Canada under threat of death. In Canada he became a private detective.
Uncle Alain, his brother, rented an apartment at the time of their death and 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 any 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 was almost the same size as 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 Jason, or Jay, my friend lived. The portable basketball stand stood against the curb. The dish of water Jason always put out for Scraps lay next to it, the sight picking up my pace.
And there was Joey, wearing cut-off blue jeans, tinkering with his open truck door in the driveway, death metal cranking out from his truck radio. He spotted me and stopped, his mind working trying to analyze why I’d be stalking purposely toward him, his face twisted in rage.
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!”
“You blacks are all troublemakers!”
“Hey! Hey!” Someone yelled.
I felt Joey’s weight lifting off.
My buddy Jason 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 Jason, towing me away across the street to his house. “What the hell was that all about, Archie?”
“I just buried Scraps. He gave him rat poison.”
“Oh man, that’s awful. You sure?” asked Jason’s father.
“Yeah, he’s 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 remember now. Didn’t think he was serious, though.”
We went into Jay’s yard and he sat me on his back deck and went inside. He came out with a wet blue cloth.
“You’re face is a mess,” he said, handing it to me.
“I been worse. Thanks.”
Jay was my best friend, my only friend, the first friend I’d had since I was a small boy. He had white hair cut short, almost bristly and was taller than me. When we stood together it was quite the contrast; his pale whiteness to my brown skin and red 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 wandered away to the front yard.
Jay regarded my face carefully and sat down beside me. “That’s so sad, 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 begin to swell. Jay’s dad brought out a bucket of ice. I dumped a handful into the cloth and pressed it against my eye. “I guess I didn’t get in any licks in, did I?”
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 go over there now and you’ll get your ass kicked again.”
“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 giant wasp. 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 brown face looked darker. I picked out some grass bits from my wiry red hair, an affection from my French white 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 not to show how much he really did drink and often placed the bottles in the recycle bin so there was always more beer he drank than appeared on the table as empties. He wasn’t fooling me.
“Won’t be fun at school for you tomorrow. Wear these,” he said to the window and slid over a pair of aviator sunglasses across the table. “You should call the cops,” he said.
“Too late, he’s buried.”
“No, I mean Joey.”
“Got no proof. 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 flyer deliveries, make sure the kids showed up. 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. I paid junior high kids to deliver, paying them more money than the distributor, a tall, stern looking man, who was too greedy and didn’t pay them enough. He was glad to hand off the routes to me and rid himself of handholding the whiney kids. I also had five 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 a *lot of secrets. 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 and whether they were good or bad depended on many things.
Uncle Alain said I took after my father, inheriting his nosiness into other people’s business.
I also inherited a good camera; a telescopic lens, and best of all, a box viewfinder, so 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. Fredericks, my vice principal and occasional science teacher, was pouring liquid down the sewer at the back of a paint shop with Mr. Romanasky, the 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 paint shop 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 an environment guy (they don’t work weekends) came down to check it out one Monday afternoon. Downstream, several hundred fish died and a few were ‘sent to the lab’. It was the same river I fished along with Scraps. 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, unofficially. How did I know? While delivering flyers I stumbled upon a ceremony in his backyard where they had a tent erected and a big feast 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 pictured walking backwards on my way out.
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! 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 Mrs. Ismat Mansur. The checks became another sharp image, pixelated 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 Councillor Mansur’s mailbox, then they deserved every bit of criticism they got for being wasteful. I can assume they don’t have the sharpest tools in the box working for them.
Mr. Herman Foster is a contractor who lives next door to the Romanaski’s in his big trailer parked in the driveway. Mr. Foster’s 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 and 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 it. Upon further investigation, I logged on to a special website my father had subscribed to, an underground site with links to everything weird and illegal. I discovered the unique apparatus was some sort of electrical magnetic induction doo-dad 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 6 people who were cheating on their recycling. Not so serious you think? 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 have to drive their own garbage to the dump every week.
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, fueling my anger. 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 dead pet. Extortion and blackmail are crimes, so maybe I’ll forget about them for now. What Joey did was a crime. Some cultures ate dogs and 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.
There must be something I could do, some way to get revenge.