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Every City Is Every Other City


Driving back to the movie set I figured with the information Teddy would give me – which would be nothing – and a couple of talks with cops in Sudbury and maybe a couple of interviews with friends of Kevin Mercer it might be enough to be an investigation and then Barb Mercer could put it to rest and move on.

As soon as I thought that I caught myself. Lana was right, of course, there wouldn’t be any closure or any real moving on, Barb would live the rest of her days in the same way whether she believed her husband killed himself or that he just left.

Or maybe not, maybe if I tried hard enough I could convince myself that the rest of Barb’s life would be different if she knew one way or the other, it would be better somehow.

Why not, as a location scout I spend my life finding things that people believe are something else; a bar in Toronto is in New York, the front of a house propped up on an empty lot in Oshawa is a haunted house in Maine in 1955, half of downtown is the Suicide Squad’s Midway City.

As I was pulling into a spot on a side street we were using for crew parking my phone rang. It was Teddy.

He said, “I’ve got a question.”

“What is it?”

“Where was the last place this guy was seen?”

“I’m not sure, he drove up to about a hundred clicks north of Sudbury and walked into the woods.”

“That’s where they found his truck?”


“But when was the last time someone identified him?”

I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant. “His wife saw him on the morning of the 8th and the police found his truck on the side of the road two days later.”

“And his credit card was used on the road, he stopped for gas and lunch on the way, right?”

“You’ve got the statements,” I said.

“Yeah, I was just wondering,” Teddy said, “the last time he used the card was at a gas station in Sudbury?”

“If you say so.”

“Then he drove about a hundred kilometers north, it’s just woods up there, it’s not even a highway it’s an old mining road.”

I said, “That’s right.”

“And he stopped in the middle of nowhere and walked into the woods, that’s the theory?”

“Yeah, that’s it. It all fits,” I said, feeling bad again, realizing that Barb would never get anything more because she already had everything and just didn’t want to believe it.

“He also used the card at an Esso station about a hundred clicks south of Sudbury, spent a hundred and eighty bucks.”

“Sounds like he filled it up,” I said.

“That’s what I thought,” Teddy said. “I imagine that’s what the cops thought, too. How far could he get with a full tank?”

“I don’t know,” I said, “five or six hundred kilometers.”

“So two or three times as far as he drove?”

“That’s right.”

And then Teddy said, “And he spent a hundred and ninety at a station in Parry Sound. So tell me, why do you think he spent another hundred and seventy-five dollars at a gas station in Sudbury?”

“I don’t know, he just wanted to be sure,” I said.

Teddy said, “That sound likely to you?”

And I had to admit, it did not.


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An Arthur Beauchamp Novel
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Cuddling a nearly new laptop — I just got it today — I pause halfway down the stairs and listen to Arthur taunt Ariana Van Doorn in the moose room. She will make her debut tomorrow, and Arthur and Nancy are prepping her.

“Necessity? Necessity? My dear Professor Van Doorn, why was it so critical, so necessary, to commit a serious criminal offence, a surreptitious break-and-enter by night, when no one’s life was in immediate peril?”

“Excuse me, my field is biology—”

“It’s a simple question, madam, I’d like an answer, please.” Arthur has Khan’s slightly old-school accent down pat.

“Okay, in my opinion, people have been hurt, they were in immediate peril. According to the pesticide poisoning statistics we heard yesterday, one in 12,500 users accidentally imbibe insecticides in any given year—”

“Immediate peril, not some accident in the vague future…”

“Objection, counsel is baiting the witness, and is also being ridiculous.” That’s Nancy.

Ariana gives a throaty laugh. I carry on down to the back patio with the Dell notebook. Okie Joe will be stopping over to make sure it isn’t rigged to explode in my face. I pack a pipe with pot.

I’m seeing criminal law in a new light. There’s flexibility to it. I find it profoundly creative of Arthur and Nancy to have made adjustments on the fly to the frail defence of necessity. They’ve narrowed its focus to real people, like the unlikely duo of Barney Wilson and Charlie Dover.

Most people are deaf to the climate crisis, they don’t want to hear about the bees, it’s all too depressing and abstract. It was maybe asking too much of our jury to conclude we had to knock over an insecticide lab as a wakeup call against planetary collapse. But the poisoning of a fellow hominid brings it home.

Because we raided the Vigor-Gro plant, because we exposed their corrupted tests, because we spoke up, because of the publicity, because of this very trial, we have rescued farmers susceptible to what we now call the Dover-Wilson Syndrome.

That’s the essence of today’s testimony from an agricultural economist, a climatologist, and an actuarial scientist with a doctorate in statistics. Together, with reams of tables and stats and graphs and international sales figures for Vigor-Gro, they made a case that it’s statistically likely that a “significant” number of pesticide users out there are allergic to ziegladoxin. And it’s also statistically likely that our action has warned a “significant” number of accidental imbibers to get flushed out right away. Something like that.

It’s a pretty stretchy theory, so taut it could easily snap as the jury tussles with it. But if they’re desperate to find reasonable doubt … just, possibly, maybe?


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The Lost Decades of Uncle Chow Tung
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Season of Smoke

Chapter 1I like to say I’m not a killer because it helps me sleep at night. I’ve killed people, sure, but I’m no killer. Does that even make sense? I only kill in self-defence, or so I tell myself. I wanted to put that part of my life far behind me. I wanted to sit out on my porch in the country and whittle sticks while the sun went down and crickets kicked up a racket in the grass. Sometimes, though, life has other plans.


I was living about half an hour outside of Orangeville, Ontario, in a sway-backed trailer that had once belonged to my good friend The Chief. The Chief had vanished ten years ago. I liked to think he was drinking daiquiris on the beach under an assumed name and maybe a brandnew mustache, but deep down I knew that wasn’t the case. The Chief was dead and gone for more than a decade now. I’d inherited his trailer, his barn, and his land, complete with tripwires and buried mason jars filled with rolled-up cash. I had been working all fall to clear the tripwires. It was slow going, poking around in the woods, jabbing at piles of leaves with a walking stick, bending down to snip rusty barbed wire with a pair of industrial strength clippers. I didn’t want anyone getting hurt.

The recruits were waiting for me in the barn. I walked past a few trees that hadn’t yet shaken off their leaves and tossed one of The Chief’s traps onto the garbage heap. My boots crunched on the gravel driveway as I headed for the barn.

The sign above the barn door said PALACE SECURITY in huge red letters. The sign gave me the warm fuzzies every time I saw it. Is it possible to change your life? Hell, yes. I, Jack Palace, was living proof.

Marcus, my first recruit, was standing just inside the barn. He and I had been working a job back in the city, but the pay wasn’t great. We stood around in front of a jewellery store, and now and then when a shipment came in we stood at the back while guys climbed out of Town Cars with jewellery cases handcuffed to their wrists. No one had tried to rob us since we had started working there. Avi, the owner, was thrilled with our track record and kept making noise about a performance bonus, but so far that bonus was just a distant dream.

We needed more clients and we needed more recruits. I had put some feelers out, but all my connections were still back in the city, so I’d put an ad in the paper. Half my day’s pay went to fuelling up the truck to get to and from the city. It would be nice to get some local clients and not have to make that drive every day.

Marcus shot me a smile as I walked in. “It’s a good-looking group, Jack.”

I nodded. There were two men and a woman lined up near the heavy bag dangling from the ceiling. This was where The Chief had trained me so many years ago. Right there by that bag was where I finally got the drop on him, or so I’d thought. He twisted easily out of my grasp and then broke my arm. A white lightning bolt of pain shot through my body, and that was the end of training for that day.

I smiled at the recruits. I wasn’t planning on breaking any arms. I could almost hear The Chief snorting. “You baby ’em, Jack, and you’re going to end up with a bunch of babies. You think anyone is going to hire a bunch of babies?”

“Hello,” I said to the recruits. “Thanks for coming. I’m not going to lie to you, this job can be very demanding. We are going to train and we are going to train hard. Some of you might not make it to the end and that’s okay. Maybe some of you have worked security jobs before. We’re going to do things a little differently around here. Make no mistake: after I’m done training you, you will have the skills to survive. What’s the number one most important part of training?”

The woman raised her hand high. I gave her a nod. “Safety,” she said. I nodded again. “That’s right. We’re going to work hard, but we’re going to look out for each other. No one’s getting hurt on my watch. You got that?”

All the recruits mumbled.

“All right.” I smiled. “Let’s get started.”

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