That morning the mailman wakes up, like every other morning, and does the things he’s used to doing in the few liberated hours before going to work. He makes his coffee and does his crossword while sitting in a room that he calls his office. He showers and brushes his teeth then shaves around his mustache before getting dressed and leaving through the front door. On him are a pair of headphones connected to a pocket radio, an old fashioned one that he keeps in his front coat pocket. The walk to the bus stop isn’t a long one and soon he’s with the early morning rush going into the city.
Through the radio, in French, plays a song about a sweater. The mailman thinks about how he understands French but can’t speak it worth anything. Around him on the bus are other commuters and he’s using all his strength to stand steadily as the bus sways and jolts and brakes. On the radio, the music stops and the words-vioooliiin, piiiiiiiiepe, guiiiiiiiiiitaaaar-come through in voice that sounds far away. The music keeps playing. The mailman let’s go of the overhead railing and reaches into his breast pocket to pull out a little red book. He jolts down: Violin, Pipe, Guitar , and puts his notebook away, struggling to not bump into other passengers while swaying on the moving bus.
He gets to the depot and files through the security gate and metal detector to the shop floor. Here he puts his jacket away and almost immediately starts sorting mail at his station, wrapping flyers and envelopes in red rubber bands sorted by address and putting them into his bag. His hands move swiftly and smoothly in a blur. He listens along to the radio while sorting the letters and thinks about that, how his hands move like some magicians or surgeons or baker. A cowboy drawing a pistol. He finishes the sorting and packing his bags not once stopping to catch his breath. He hops in a truck with a driver named Bret Erie, like the lake. Erie drives to Centretown to let off the mailman.
The mailman starts his route in Centretown, which he doesn’t mind. There are many apartment complexes, office buildings, and old homes that look like a post card photo. The apartments have a mail room so there is not much walking to do, but the office buildings are old fashioned in this part of the city. The mailman goes floor by floor to each suite saying hi, have a good one, smiles without words. Each block is different but really, they all look the same. It’s a deep grey overcast and he smells the rain. But, he treks on through the morning, skipping a break, and finishing his bag. He walks to the drop off box for another one. He does this all synchronized all the while listening with one ear phone to his radio that has been playing all morning. Occasionally the radio stops the music to say things like tin can, binoculars, coffee grinder in that familiar voice, and he writes them down in his little red notebook in the middle of the sidewalk, on the stair case in the buildings, on a little path in front of someone’s house.
On the corner of Cooper and Ducados sits a non-descript office building with a mere seven floors. On the first floor by the elevator sits a single suite and on the door is a golden plaque that reads OLGA-TRAIL DETECTIVE AGENCY. The mailman gets to this suite, knocks, and opens the door to drop the letters on a conference table the agency has in an area that normally would hold reception. There’s a tall woman with her hands on the table reading a large map. Behind her on wall is a map of the city with push pins placed in coordinates that have no real meaning to the mail man whenever he takes a glance at it.
He says while throwing the letters on the table, but the woman says nothing back to him. She’s speaking to someone through a headset, and it sounds unpleasant.
He turns around to exit, listening to the soft pop music playing in his ears, and in the doorway stands the largest and most peculiar looking man he has ever seen. He is certainly the tallest, gigantic even, standing well above 6’3, 6’5 maybe. His broad shoulders fill up the doorframe so that he makes a slight angle side way when he tries to enter. He smiles at the mail man the way one does to strangers. The mailman was scared, or traumatized, or in wonder at the mans giant teeth and grin.
Sorry, scuse me. Mumbles the mailman, and the large detective gets out of his way.
Thanks, have a good one, says the mailman awkwardly and rushes and almost trips on the rough black carpet in the hall.
Frank Gator usually gets in well after his associate Ramona Fiasco . She lifts her hand up in a wave. Ramona is the agencies lead and only other investigator. She’s arguing over the phone with a stranger at the conference table. In front of her on the table is a map of forests and lakes and hills and farms. Gator enters and stands over the map while his colleague goes on and on across the telephone line. He studies the topography, the hills the lakes, burning it into his memory and recognizing the roads as the ones that go west away from the city. He smiles at his partner who waves him away so he goes to his office, brushing and knocking some objects off the conference table without noticing.
He’s so bored sitting at his office chair, that is more of a stool. Email, nothing. Post-it notes with old reminders. Papers of stupid mysteries; dead ends, burnt leads, angry clients, and nothing solvable. He doesn’t know what he’ll do when he gets home. Eat, most likely. Television doesn’t interest him, although he does own one and flicks through occasionally. He can’t read very well and if someone asked him what kind of music he likes, he most likely wouldn’t have an answer. He likes watching movies sometimes. He doesn’t know the names of actors or directors or what makes a good movie, but he enjoys them enough that he will watch almost anything. He watched one the other night. It was a documentary of Russian dash cam footage. Ninety minutes of car crashes and close calls and other strange occurrences with characters from the other side of the World. It did make him anxious when the footage was of a smooth drive. Something could be coming from out of sight, around the corner, out of frame. Another car, a tank, a meteor, an angry man with a large hammer. There was no narrative, only the scenes loosely connected by geography and circumstances. The whole film was nothing but a lesson in anxiousness. He might watch a movie tonight.
“Fiasco, did you bring lunch?” Gator asked from his office without getting out of his chair.
“Yeah I did”.
It was only eleven, but he desperately wanted to go eat. His stomach had been uneasy since he stopped on the road earlier.
“What is it you’re doing?” Gator asks.
“Looking for hiding spots, within the area this map covers.”
“A girl. Ran away from home. She’s walking so she can’t be far. She’s outdoorsy, I think she’s camping somewhere. Her parents suck. She might be better off out there.”
“Gonna get cold soon” said Gator. “I’m going to lunch, be back in an hour”.
There’s a sushi restaurant Gator goes to for lunch on Somerset; right beside the old house of Igor Gouzenko. It’s bad. The chef puts some sushi on special, the food that hasn’t been touched in more then a day and has an odour starting to seep out. Gator buys as much as he can because it’s so cheap. He eats it in his minivan, sometimes listening to the radio, other times not. While sitting looking down the street outside his windshield are scenes of late morning life, people working and not working, maybe buying groceries, old ladies and men in uniforms. The rain picks up again while he slides day-old Salmon rolls down his throat.
With the trash from lunch on the floor of the passenger side, Gator again tries to figure out what to do today. Fiasco didn’t seem to need help with whatever she had going on. He can’t remember the last time he had a new lead or call. Maybe I’ll do administrative stuff when I get back. He knows how this day is going to end; frustrated and bored at home – going to sleep early and hungry.
Back at the office and Ramona is gone so Gator starts thinking about going home early. What do other people do at their jobs? What’s the guy doing in the law office upstairs? Dude’s always outside smoking. When does he eat? He walks to his office and sits on his chair, knocking some things off his desk in the process. One of which was an envelope addressed to him. Here it was. What he was asking for. Something to do. He didn’t open it right away, and instead started thinking about all the possibilities that it might be:-a kidnapping the police can’t solve so the concerned family turned to help from the outside, the accused faked death of a former baseball star by his life insurance company, the robbery of an art thief by other art thieves-and when he was most excited the sobering gravity of cheating partners, workplace injury insurance boards, and statistic gathering pull him back to the little office. All the while he went to make a cup of coffee with the Keurig machine Ramona brought to the office. He looked for sugar, looked at the map still on the conference table, cleaned some things off the floor that he knocked off the tables while doing all of this.
Finally, he sat at his desk and pulled the tag on the envelope. Inside was a note that read:
November 18, 2015
To who it may concern,
Please meet me in the basement of the Chateau Laurier. There is a service elevator behind the concierge desk you can take down. When you leave the elevator, take a left down the corridor then another left. There will be a row of offices, mine being number 0074C. I will be there between the hours of 9:00pm-6:30am. If the office is empty, wait for me. I have a job for you.
Cooper street is almost empty. Except for a smoker on their stoop, and a person walking their dog. Gator starts walking against traffic on the one-way street, crossing Ducados until getting to Bank. He had decided to go find a restaurant he can sit at and eat while waiting until he can meet the client.
On the corner of Bank he notices that the street is empty. Desolate. No cars. buses, or people. Silence. Beyond the wind and an electrical hum emanating from the city. Gator stops, not wanting to contaminate what he thought might be a movie shoot. He looks up and down the street some more for any sign of danger. He takes a look to his right and sees a man walk from the to the middle of Bank. He's dressed in all black; black boots, black jeans, a black shirt, and matching hat. He has a pistol on his hip and his hands by his side. Gator takes a look to his left and sees another man walk onto the street. He's in a black suit, white shirt, black tie. He too, has a pistol holstered on him and he has his hand on it like a cop. The men stare at each other and square themselves up. The guy in the suit tries to lift his gun off his holster but the one dressed like a cowboy is too quick. He shoots before the other gun can be aimed and while many bullets fly up the street only a few hit the man in the suit and he falls down. The cowboy dressed in black walks down the street, past Gator, and gets to the bleeding man on the ground. He reaches into the bleeding mans pocket and pulls out a piece of paper. A taxi pulls into the intersection and he hops in, setting off down Somerset towards the west.
People began coming back onto the street, continuing on their day. Gator keeps walking towards Chinatown, in the same direction the taxi went. He smells the blood when he gets onto Somerset.
A few minutes ago, the mail man too was finishing up his route and ready to go home. He was coming down Maclaren when he stopped in the same way Gator did. He watched the duel too and saw the crowds pour into the streets like nothing happened. He was closer to the cowboy and got a good look at his face and thought he was quite handsome. But he did feel weird about it all. And seeing Gator across the street Bank, the tall figure being the only soul on the street beside him, confirmed that this was an event worth noting down in his little red notebook.