Jimmy LaPlante’s neighbors either didn’t know a thing about him or thought he was a mean recluse with a nice dog. The dog was a Labrador Retriever, young and friendly, willing to chase any stick thrown by anybody into the bay. He didn’t especially like dogs, but he had gotten the black puppy last fall to keep him company and be a bow wow alarm. He wasn’t worried about his neighbors. He was worried about Montreal. Jimmy was from Montreal but had lived on St Peter’s Bay the past eleven years. He kept himself to himself and his only friend on Prince Edward Island was the Lab.
Nobody except his dog and his neighbors and his niece knew where he lived. Now it was only the Lab and the neighbors. He had made sure Montreal didn’t know where he was. He had made absolutely sure. He was sure they still didn’t know. He was careful talking to them on the pay phone outside the down the road fish and chip shop, never talking long. He knew they knew how to trace calls.
His niece hadn’t been his friend, but he didn’t like it when he read in the newspaper that she was dead. Now at least he knew something. Until then all he had known was that Becky was gone. She had been found buried in a potato field up around Rustico. What was she doing there? The cops weren’t saying much so the papers weren’t saying much.
What the hell happened? She had delivered the hundred grand of good cash from Montreal and long since was supposed to have delivered the two million dollars of bad cash to them, although he had known all winter she hadn’t. He wasn’t returning his hundred grand, though. He told Montreal that and told them to find the girl themselves. He had done his part. When they found her, they would find their money, he said. They didn’t like it and told him so. He told them to drop dead and hung up. He knew it was the wrong thing to say, but what could he say?
He knew somebody would be showing soon enough, nosing around, looking for him and their money. The newspaper said she had been found with a briefcase but no identification. It didn’t say anything about what was in the briefcase. He knew without thinking about it that it had been empty just like he knew from now on he was going to have to be careful. That’s the way the Quebecois men were. He didn’t think they would find him but started sleeping with his dog at the foot of the bed and a Colt .38 Super under his pillow.
Jimmy was 16 years old when he made his first counterfeit bill. By his late teens he was making fake c-notes that his friends spent everywhere without any of them bouncing. By his early 20s he was flooding the market with so many of the fakes that many businesses stopped accepting them. The Bank of Canada was forced to change their design to put their currency back on the right track.
He got good at reproducing security holograms on banknotes and earned the nickname of “Hologram Tom.” His middle name was Tom. When he took a break from forgery, he took up impersonation. He masqueraded as a pilot for Air Canada so he could fly on courtesy passes. Over the next five years he pretended to be a doctor and a lawyer, among other things. One man died and another man was disbarred, but he left his mistakes behind him when he moved on to bank checks. In the end he went back to hard cash. It was what he knew best.
What had happened to his niece? It had to be something to do with that dickhead biker, who he disliked and distrusted the minute he saw him and whose name he never got. He thought he was probably an islander, although he wasn’t sure. He didn’t know where he lived, but guessed it had to be Summerside or Charlottetown. He didn’t even know what kind of motorcycle the ferret rode, although he knew it was red.
If push came to shove, he might tell the men from Montreal what he knew but make sure he told them from the back end of his handgun. He wouldn’t let them get their hands on him. If they did, he stood no chance. He knew that as well as he knew anything. He wasn’t planning on moving or leaving Prince Edward Island. There was no point to it. It would just make them testy and not believe anything he might tell them later. He would sit tight until if and when they showed up. He had moved to Prince Edward Island to get away from the life of crime, although crime was how he made his living. He knew the everyday risks, which was why he left Quebec for Atlantic Canada. The past eleven years had been quiet, the occasional phony bag of loot keeping him in plenty of spending money.
It had blown up in his face, but he put a brave face on it and took his dog for a walk. He wore a pair of knee-high rubber boots. His house was just past Bay Shore Rd. where it turned toward Greenwich Rd. The dog and he walked on the thin strip of beach on the bay past some cottages until there weren’t any more cottages.
St. Peter’s went back to 1720 when the village of Saint Pierre was established. It was one of the most important settlements on the island then because it had a good harbor and good fishing grounds full of clams oysters quahogs lobsters trout and schools of salmon. Many of the French considered it to be the commercial capital of Isle St. Jean. When the Fort of Louisbourg on Cape Breton surrendered to the British it was the end of Isle St. Jean. The French were all deported in 1758 and the English poured in. The land became Prince Edward Island. St. Pierre became St. Peter’s.
The British weren’t overly interested in fish. They were more interested in boats. They turned St. Peter’s into a booming shipbuilding community, building 27 big craft between 1841 and 1850. There were three shipyards, all controlled by Martin MacInnis and William Coffin. They couldn’t launch their ships fast enough because the north shore was a graveyard for ships.
Passenger steamers between the mainland and Prince Edward Island sank all the time. When they did new ones had to be built. In 1859 the Fairie Queene from Nova Scotia didn’t make it. The bells of Saint James Church in Charlottetown tolled eight times on their own on the morning of the disaster, foretelling the deaths of the eight passengers on board the steamer.
“Keen blows the bitter spirit of the north,” is what everybody said.
Jimmy lit an Export-A and blew smoke out through his nose. He wasn’t interested in the past. He was only interested in what was in front of him.
The Turret Bell was driven ashore by a violent storm in 1906 at Cable Head. It stayed beached for more than three years and became a tourist attraction. Picnickers sat in the dunes staring at the rotting hulk, eating apples, drinking cold tea, and chatting. Their dogs ran up and down the beach barking up a storm.
The first sawmill was Leslie’s Mill near Schooner Pond. There were lobster factories on the northside. A starch factory opened in 1880 and stayed open until 1945. A racetrack opened in 1929. It was still there. Jimmy wasn’t a betting man and never went there. He liked horses but disliked trotters. If God had meant horses to pull two-wheel carts for sport, he would have created two-wheel carts. If Jimmy had gone to the track, he wouldn’t have bet real money, anyway.
Jimmy and his dog went as far as Sunrise Ave. and took a break. Sitting on the sand leaning back against a mound he watched the Lab run into the water after a stick. Whenever a stick went flying into the ocean the dog became a creature of habit. He watched a man and a woman both in summer shorts coming his way. The man had a camera slung around his neck. It bounced on his chest with every step he took. He looked fair and sunburned. The woman was slightly taller than the man. She didn’t look fair. She carried a kind of messenger bag over her shoulder.
Tourists, Jimmy thought.
They stopped a few yards away and watched the wet dog lunge out of the water and run up to Jimmy. He shook himself dry, the water spraying all three of them. The woman reached into her bag. She pulled a Colt .38 Super out of the bag and shot the dog twice. He cried yelped groaned staggered backwards and fell over, shaking uncontrollably until he stopped.
The dog’s last thought before giving up the ghost was, “What did I ever do to you?”
Jimmy tried to get up.
“Stay where you are. Don’t be the dog.”
“Jesus Christ, why did you do that?” He was shaken.
“Dogs are a man’s best friend,” the woman said. “I’m not a man. He wasn’t my best friend.”
She threw the gun down at his feet. “That’s yours.”
In that moment Jimmy understood they were from Montreal. He understood they had found him. He understood his life was in danger. He didn’t reach for the handgun. There was no point in trying. If he tried, he would be as dead as the dog in no time flat.
“What you need to do, Jimmy, is print another batch of bills for us,” the man said, taking a picture of the counterfeiter. “If you don’t, what happened to your dog will happen to you. The sooner you print them, the better. In the meantime, we are going to find whoever stole our first batch and take care of that business. When we do, we will be back to get what is ours before we leave. Do you understand?”
“I understand,” Jimmy said.
“If anybody asks about the dog, just say he dropped dead,” the woman said. “And put that gun away somewhere safe, so nobody gets hurt on this shitty island.” They walked away, going up the bay the way they had been going.
“You’ve had a hell of a bad attitude ever since we got here,” the man said as they walked away. “There was no need to shoot the dog. What is the matter with you?”
“Shut the fuck up,” she said.
“And that’s another thing. You’ve been cursing up a storm everywhere we go. You’ve even been cursing in Portuguese in your sleep.” They shared a motel room with two queen beds. He avoided her bed the same as if a snake was under the covers. “Tone it down. We’ve got to stay low profile.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she muttered.
Waiting until they were specks in the distance, Jimmy stood up and looked down at the dead dog. “Goddamn it,” he said to himself, and turned around to go back the way he had come. When he was gone gulls and crows started nosing around the still warm lifeless Lab. A fox crept out of his burrow to investigate. Maggots and flies put the word out and were soon gathering. Jimmy came back and waved them away. He pushed the dead dog into the bay. By that night the carcass had floated past Morell, Greenwich, and the lighthouse. When the moon came out, he was far out to sea.
The next day Jimmy drove to a farm outside Saint Catherine’s and got a new dog. It was a Pit Bull almost full grown and trained to bite on command. It took a week, but he taught the dog to hate guns. When he was done, the Pit Bull knew full well to bite off any hand not Jimmy’s that had a gun in it.