All posts by Edward Staskus

Edward Staskus is a freelance writer from Sudbury, Ontario, and lives in Lakewood, Ohio.

Chapter 21

   Every morning before breakfast Snaps liked to stroll to the edge of the cliff behind the house, lay on his stomach like the Sphinx, and watch cormorants in the sky and fishing boats on the sea. The birds were looking for food and the fisherman were looking for food, too. Until a stroke of good luck landed him at Conor’s house, Snaps had always been on the prowl for his daily bread. He was never not dreaming scheming about where his next full stomach was coming from. Now he didn’t have to forage and fight for grub. It was in a bowl in the kitchen. Whenever he wanted to eat, he went and ate. If his food or water bowl was empty, all he had to do was find Conor and pester him. It worked like a charm except when Conor was gone God knows where, in which case Snaps had to bide his time.

   Biding his time was no problem. He was so good at it he could spend all day doing it. He had heard a farmer say good things come to those who wait when he was a kitten and had adopted the old man’s point-of-view as his own. That was the way he looked at it from them on, even after the farmer did his best to drown his family. He never knew what happened to his brothers and sisters, but he clawed his way out of the burlap bag weighted with rocks and swam to shore.

   His fur was water repellent enough that he didn’t get waterlogged. He didn’t know how he knew to paddle, but that is what he did. After he made it to shore, he was on his own. The first year was hard. He almost starved to death. He found an abandoned fox den and lived in it through the winter. There were some scraps of mummified vole left behind. He lived on the occasional mixed-up mouse and old root vegetables. The vegetables gave him diarrhea, but it was better than dying.

   When he heard Conor’s Buick GNX coming up the parkway he stretched and beat feet to the kitchen. He was a hungry dog. After he ate, he would show Conor what he had seen.  

   Conor emptied the clothes washing machine while Snaps ate and hung the clothes on a line outside. He had a dryer but didn’t use it when the weather was fair. The nearly constant breeze and summer sun did the trick faster than electricity.

   It took a few minutes of meowing and suggesting, but Snaps finally convinced Conor to follow him. He headed straight for the barn, looking over his shoulder to make sure Conor was getting the message. When he got to where the nighttime man had dug up and buried something, he pointed to the spot with his forepaw, pretended to dig, and backed away. Conor didn’t seem to understand what he was saying, so he repeated the pantomime.

   “There’s something there?”

   Snaps pointed to the spot again

   “All right,” Conor said, humoring the cat.

   When he took a closer look, he realized the dirt was loose. It looked like it was recently loose. He went into the barn and came back with a shovel. Snaps sat on his haunches and watched. It didn’t take long before Conor unearthed a black plastic trash bag. He pulled it out of the ground, puzzled. 

   “Jesus Christ,” he said under his breath when he looked inside the trash bag. It was full of money. Lots of money. More money than he had ever seen in his life.

   He got on the telephone, called the RCMP, asked that JT Markunas call him, and left his name and number. He sat on the porch within earshot of the telephone and waited. It took an hour before JT called him back.

   “I’ve got something to show you,” he said.

   “What is it?”

   “I’ll show you when you get here.”

   “I’m over in New London,” he said. “I should be there in a half-hour or so.”

   An hour later when JT walked up to his porch Conor pointed to the trash bag.

   “Something in there?”

   “Something in there, yes.”

   “I’m going to assume this isn’t yours,” JT said after looking inside the bag and whistling.

   “You would be right about that,” Conor said.

   “Where did you find it?”

   “Buried beside the barn.”

   “In the ground?”

   “Yes.”

   “What made you look there?”

   “The cat,” Conor said pointing to Snaps, who was snoozing nearby. “He pointed the spot out to me and more or less said dig there.”

   “The cat?”

   “The less we say about that the better,” Conor said. “I don’t like it any better than you do.”

   “So, you dug it up?”

   “Yes.”

   “Can you show me where?”

   “Come on.”

   The two men stood beside the barn and looked down into the foot-and-a-half deep hole.

   “Are you thinking the same thing I’m thinking?” Conor asked.

   “Yes,” JT said.

   He went back to his car and radioed headquarters.

   It took another hour before an unmarked police car pulled into the yard and parked behind the barn. Two men in summer clothes got out and waved. They walked up to the porch, and everybody went into the kitchen. Snaps stayed where he was. He had done his part and wasn’t interested in anything that might happen next. He had better things to do.

   A half hour later the four men walked out of the kitchen. One of the plainclothes RCMP men went to his car, got a backpack, came back, and put the black trash bag inside it.

   “We are probably going to come back tonight and bury it where you found it. In the meantime, we will have a man here watching, at least until we get back. If you don’t see him, he’ll be doing his job. We’re hoping the moneyman hasn’t seen any of this and won’t see us when we come back.”

   The two RCMP men looked down at Snaps who half opened his eyes and squinted back at them. They looked harmless so far. He closed his eyes again.

   “If you weren’t former RCMP I’m not sure how we would take this,” one of the men said. “As it is, we’re going to take your word for it. Whoever he is if he comes back don’t interfere with him. We will want him to take the trash bag. When he does, we’ll be able to find him.”

   Conor didn’t ask how. He knew electronics had come a long way. He knew they had their own way of doing things. It was partly why he wasn’t with them anymore. He nodded at the two men.

   “By the way, we saw the weed you’ve got growing back there. Is it for your personal use?”

   “Yes.”

   “All right, that’s fine, we don’t mind about that.”

   “Thanks,” Conor said. “I had juvenile arthritis. It’s in remission now, but the damage has been done. The weed helps.”

   “Like I said, we don’t mind so long as you keep it to yourself.”

   “Is that right” JT asked when the two policemen were gone.

   “Yeah, I’ve got some permanent joint pain, especially in my knees. It didn’t bother me much when I was a kid but when I got into my late 20s, they started to ache. So long as I smoke some every day, I feel all right.”

   “Nothing else helps?”

   “I’ve tried everything else.”

   “Is that why you’re not with the force anymore?”

   “I couldn’t go around arresting teenagers for pot when I was a pothead myself. Besides, I would have been found out sooner or later and been given my walking papers.”

   “You’re right about that,” JT said.

Chapter 22

   Monk Kennedy had been an impulsive child, an impulsive teenager, and was an impulsive adult. He never thought anything out. Every choice he made was instinctive and immediate. He went with the flow, although he couldn’t have said what the flow was. He wasn’t able to control his mind and so wasn’t able to control his actions. He was always looking for something that wasn’t there. He needed all the excuses he could make. 

   The funny money he had been living on since last year made him even more impulsive. Whenever he wanted to, he could stuff his pockets with it and have fun, except there was hardly any fun to be had on Prince Edward Island. He hated the place. Most people were hard-working while he wasn’t. The rest were tourists. He hated them, too. He had to be careful in Charlottetown and anywhere else there might be a cop nearby. What was the point of having two million in one-hundred-dollar bills if it was always a pain in the ass spending it?

   Even most of the girls were a pain in the ass. He shouldn’t have killed the one who was free and easy. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, and even though he hated second guessing himself, it might have been a bad idea. He would never know so he dropped the doldrums. Never look back is how he looked at it.

   He decided in the drop of a hat he was leaving, the sooner the better, before it started getting windy cold again, for sure. Bad weather wasn’t far off. It didn’t matter. He could pack and go in an hour. The island was a great place to ride his Kawasaki so long as he didn’t mind parking it for eight months. But he did mind. His motorcycle was the only friend he had. 

   The Kawasaki and he had to find a new home. The rest of Canada wasn’t much better than Prince Edward Island. Atlantic Canada was out. What the hell would he do in Moncton or Saint John? Quebec was out for sure. There was no future for him there unless he was looking for an early grave. As it stood, he was sure somebody was either on his way from Montreal to the island or already here looking for somebody like him, or him personally. He knew there would be no complaining or explaining. Contract killers never listened to reason or reasons. Out west was out, too, flat and endless and pointless. Toronto would fit the bill for the winter. It was big enough to get lost in and he could spread his hundreds around, collect and save all the legitimate money he got as change, change it into American dollars in the spring, and go to the United States. What was left he would squirrel away somewhere, maybe even in a bank. At the border all he needed was his driver’s license. He would say he was going on a tour for the summer, pointing to his saddlebags. He would have to remember to throw his dope away beforehand. The border guards had dogs who could sniff out anything. Once he was safely across, he would head south.

   He thought New Orleans was his kind of place. That’s where he would go, he decided. The Big Easy was his style, babes and bourbon, gators and bayous. Why wait, he thought. I’ll get the rest of the money tonight and catch the ferry in the morning. He would have to circle around Montreal and stay overnight somewhere near Ottawa. There was no sense in tempting fate. He would be in Toronto the next day. He could stay in a motel for a week-or-so and find a room in a boarding house. He would have to behave himself. It would be hard, but he thought he might be able to do it for six months. He had trouble thinking that far ahead, but he could try. After that he would be home free.

   He got his bags, laid them out on the bed, and started packing. He was a slovenly man, but neat when it came to packing and traveling. There was only so much he could carry, and he parceled it. When he was done, he changed into leather pants and a leather jacket. He had a Candee Red Outlaw Bandit helmet. He tucked it under his arm and walked out to his Kawasaki. He secured his bags, secured his helmet on the back with a bungee cord, and straddled the motorcycle. He felt good. He felt like going. He got going. 

   I may have my faults, he thought, but changing my mind isn’t one of them.

   It was too early to go up to North Rustico, so he headed for Chubby’s first. He would grab a double burger and a pint, hang around, and shoot the shit until night fell. He would go when it got good and dark. They rolled the sidewalks up early in North Rustico, but he would wait until they were all sweet dreaming. He would have his money in five minutes and be on his way. He could sleep rough outside Borden until the first ferry left in the morning.

   Port Borden was a small village that grew after World War One when Prime Minister Robert Borden located a ferry terminal there at Carleton Point. In the 1920s, after the use of automobiles was legalized on the island, the roads leading to the terminal were improved. Still, most of the ferry traffic was still rail cars. That changed in the early 1960s when the Trans-Canada Highway across the Maritimes was built. A new automobile-only ferry was built in 1962. All through the 1960s automobile traffic saw record growth. The Abegweit, a new ferry put into service in 1982, was the biggest vessel to ever operate out of Port Borden. It was the boat Monk planned on taking to his new life.

   Chubby’s was full to the gills. Monk took his burger and pint outside and found a spot at a picnic table. The parking lot was full of motorcycles. The island was a great place to ride a bike in summer, chock full of winding rolling country roads. American Motorcyclist magazine was even advertising six-day tours of PEI and Newfoundland. Monk couldn’t stomach riding in a group.


   “Look at this glam piece of Jap trash,” he heard a heavy-set man wearing colors say, looking down his nose at his Kawasaki. Monk’s good eye got shiny and sharp as an icepick when he heard the comment. He didn’t like it and said so.

   “Who are you, anyway?”

   “I’m the man who rides that,” Monk said.

   “That’s too bad, sonny,” the man said. “You should try riding something real.” He nodded at a nearby Harley Davidson. “Something like that.”

   Monk saw red, jumped to his feet, and reached for the switchblade in his back pocket, flicking it open.

   “Whoa there, son, whoa,” the man said, backing up. 

   “Take it back.”

   “Are you serious?”

   “I’m serious as hell, which is where you’re going. Take it back.”

   “I’m not taking anything back.”

   “Give it up, man,” another biker said. “Only crazy people take themselves seriously.”

   “All right, all right, I’m sorry about what I said, that make you happy?”

   Monk slid back into his picnic table seat without saying anything, put his switchblade away, and took a swallow of beer. His mouth was dry. He kept his head down finishing his burger but kept his eye on the big man. He fired up his Harley and roared away, but not before spitting on Monk’s Jap bike as he went past it.   

   “Son of a bitch,” Monk muttered to himself, wiping the slobber off the gas tank. Nobody who had seen what happened said anything. Monk got himself together and sped off. He took Route 6 to Grand Tracadie to Oyster Bed Bridge to North Rustico. The ride took him a half-hour. He zipped past Conor Murphy’s house and barn, surprised to see the barn doors wide open and the barn lit up like a jamboree. He parked at Cape Turner and walked down to the Murphy homestead. There was some kind of party going on inside the barn. It was packed full of people dancing to a record player. There was food and drink. There was a banner. It said, “Congratulations PEI Teachers.”

   “What the hell?” Monk asked himself. “Fucking teachers?”

   He had barely spent a day in a school room. He wasn’t home schooled. He was self-taught. Most of the lessons he had learned were learned the hard way. He had the bumps and bruises to prove it. He backed away from the barn a few feet into the trees and the darkness and waited. 

   Snaps watched him. “What does that skunk want?” he asked himself, keeping his distance. He knew a bad smell when he saw one. He adopted his Corkie pose, relaxed and watchful.

   The party went on long and loud. There were no neighbors to disturb so there was no need to be quiet. The teachers were busting loose. Monk yawned, yawned again, propped himself up against a tree trunk, and fell asleep. When he woke up the party was over. It was dawn.

   He waited while the morning wore on until he saw Conor come out of the house, get into his car, and drive away. He didn’t notice the big black cat watching him. Snaps could be stealthy as the devil when he had to be. Monk waited ten minutes, walked to the barn, dug up his money bag, and walked back to Cape Turner. Snaps watched him go, spat out the side of his mouth, and rambled to the oceanside. He was going to stretch his legs, go for a long walk, and do some exploring. He might mess with the odd mouse for old time’s sake.

   Monk stuffed the trash bag into one of his saddle bags and rode away towards Cavendish. He kept strictly to the speed limit, which is what he was going to do all the way to Toronto. He could outrun any police car, but he wasn’t about to invite trouble, not with millions of dollars of counterfeit money on his hands. When he got to New London, he was going to take Route 8 to North Bedeque and from there to Port Borden. When the ferry arrived, he would take it to New Brunswick and head for Ottawa. He would be in Toronto soon enough, safe and sound.

   It was all going to go wrong at Stanley Bridge, but he didn’t know that, yet. He was going to find out all the things that could go wrong in about ten minutes. In the meantime, he was happy as a man who has fallen off a high bridge. Halfway down, no problem, it’s a good view so far.