Saturday, 28 December 2013


NOIR CANADIANA

 A Christmas Story

The night seemed darker than usual, as if every photon of this great, dirty city’s ambient light had been sucked into a black hole. There were no stars in the sky, no blinking beacons of hope. The freezing cold reminded me of a woman I once knew even though I know she never thinks of me now. I tired of trying to change her ways and she never approved of my methods of generating cash money. None of that matters to me now. The name’s Danger, Geoff Danger. I’m a fixer, an edge man gone straight. If you require my services you’ve got serious troubles.

I flipped Coltrane’s A Love Supreme over to side two and placed the needle in the groove. I lit a cigarette and helped myself to four fingers of Irish, neat. “There’s something I’ve got to do tonight,” I said to Ann Fatale, my breathy, blonde bombshell. All cleavage and leg wrapped in black like a present most men only dream about.

 “Baby,” she sighed, “I have a hunch you’re not going to midnight mass.”

 True enough. The Catholics want money in their collection baskets, not loaded 9mm automatics. I smiled at her and recalled the day I realized I was all grown up. It wasn’t the time I beat that biker to death with a ball peen hammer. It was when I figured out that all of the authority figures in my life, the priests, the teachers, the bosses, the politicos, the heat, the lawyers and the doctors, well, most of them weren’t very good at their jobs and none of them seemed bothered by that ugly little fact.

 “You should go,” I said. “Sit in the confessional until you hear from me. Anyway, you’ve probably got a lot to talk about.”

 “Only what I’ve done for you, darling.”

 “It’s no secret how we feel about each other.”

 “Everybody knows,” she breathed. And she was right, more right than she knew.

The meeting was designated at a southside address. I wouldn’t have to cross the river. A short drive away to get an earful of blackmail or extortion, call it what you want. I dressed carefully, making sure my long overcoat was sufficiently bulky. Ann chose my hat, porkpie over fedora. My leather gloves fit like a second skin, no bulky seams to get caught up in the trigger guard.

 The roads were asheen with black ice beneath the ashen glow of the street lamps. I drove across Gateway Boulevard into a light industrial area destitute with bland, low-level buildings, cheap signs, parking lots, railway tracks and unremarkable workingmen’s cafes. I parked in a yard filled with snow-covered scrap metal shapes and upturned pallets. There was a chain-link fence enclosure, the type with three strands of angled barbed wire atop. One of those mysterious businesses with a loading dock and a bay number on its employees’ business cards. Ferocious, angry ice pellets whipped through the night air. Some kind of Christmas Eve, I thought. Hard to believe in God in a place like this.

 I cupped my lighter in my hands and lit a cigarette. There was nothing else to do but enter the premises. It was a big space, concrete and frigid. My exhaled breath and smoke hung in the atmosphere like lost souls in limbo, unbaptised wraiths. I was immediately and inexpertly searched by two young men with gelled hair, earrings and necklaces. For a moment I felt the charity of the season: if they were somewhere else they wouldn’t have to die. The feeling passed.

Another man stepped out of the gloom, well turned out, some sort of metrosexual Bay Street boy. He had the look but I could sense no expertise, just like his hired help who were not good at what they did, but good help is hard to find these days. Good in and of itself is hard to find these days.

 “Geoff Danger,” he smiled. “Well, well.”

“A common name,” I replied. “And whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?”

 “My name doesn’t matter,” he replied. “But what matters is that I know all about you, Ottawa, Montreal, here in Edmonton, even the pea gravel heist. Silence is golden, Mister Danger. Mine comes with a very steep price. What you love most in the world, Mister Danger, I will kill if you do not agree to my terms. Even as I speak my men are collecting Ann Fatale. After I’ve tortured her to death I will come after you. But not right away. It’s important to me that you live with yourself and experience the agony of failure.”

 I shrugged. “You’re supposed to laugh now.”

 “Excuse me?”

 “Something maniacal,” I said, “peals of it.”

 “This is no joke, Mister Danger.”

 “You’ve got that right.”

 I drew. I shot his two soldiers and then plugged him in the belly. He crumpled screaming to the cold cement. “Sometimes,” I said, “I treat myself at Christmastime so tonight I’m going to watch you die.”

 “My men,” he moaned. “Ann Fatale… they’ve got her.”

I threw my cigarette butt in his face. “I don’t reckon your type go to church,” I said. “Happy new year. Oh! Wait! I don’t think you’re going to have one, pal.”

When I pulled into the driveway the house lights were still on. The exterior decorative ones too. I could hear music, Elvis maybe. Ann was in something red and festive, flimsy. I like to open my Christmas stocking early.

 “How’d it go?” she breathed.

 “Routine,” I said. “You?”

 “The priest was a bit shocked, I think, he may not recover. But I’ve got a clean slate.”

 “For now,” I grinned through a cloud of cigarette smoke.

 “I’m a bad girl, Geoff Danger. Merry Christmas.”

“Oh my, I have been good this year.”

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