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Authors: John McFetridge

Black Rock

BOOK: Black Rock
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Praise for John McFetridge

Dirty Sweet

“McFetridge is an author to watch. He has a great eye for detail, and Toronto has never looked seedier.”

— Globe and Mail

“McFetridge combines a tough and gritty story populated by engagingly seedy characters … with an effective use of a setting, Toronto.”

—Booklist

“The dubious fun is in the dialogue and details of a very entertaining and libidinous local debut.”

— Toronto Star

“A sexy, fast-paced story about ambition, greed, and motorcycle gangs.”

— Hour

“If more people wrote the kind of clean-as-a-whistle, no-fat prose McFetridge does, this reviewer would finish a lot more of their books.”

— National Post

“McFetridge describes a Toronto of opportunists, seedy deals, and double-crosses not unlike Elmore Leonard's Detroit or James Ellroy's Los Angeles, but his books are distinctly rooted in his home city's rhythms and flavours.”

— Quill & Quire

Everybody Knows This is Nowhere

“Amid the busy plot, McFetridge does a good job depicting a crime-ridden Toronto (a.k.a. the Big Smoke) that resembles the wide-open Chicago of Prohibition days with corrupt cops, gang warfare, and flourishing prostitution.”

— Publishers Weekly

“This is McFetridge's second novel, and once again, Toronto is a leading character in a fine crime novel. The city's sprawling growth, its ethnic diversity, and its ‘almost American' focus on money are all ongoing motifs that enrich a novel already rich in on-the-make immigrants, edgy cops, and charming, devious women. Sex. Dope. Immigration. Gang war. Filmmaking. In McFetridge's hands, Toronto might as well be the new L.A. of crime fiction.”

— Booklist

“An absorbingly complex tale that combines the concerns of troubled cops with accounts from an underworld of bikers, the Mafia, sex-trade workers and ethnic-based gangs.”

— London Free Press

Swap

“[Swap] grabs you by the throat and squeezes until you agree to read just on page, just one more page.”

— Quill & Quire

“In just three novels … McFetridge has demonstrated gifts that put him in Elmore Leonard territory as a writer, and make Toronto as gritty and fascinating as Leonard's Detroit. … [McFetridge] is a class act, and he's creating fictional classics — maybe even that great urban literature of Toronto the critics now and then long for.”

— London Free Press

Tumblin' Dice

“He's the guy with just the right balance of grit, humour, and rock'n'roll knowledge to do the job.”

— Toronto Star

“Dialogue that sizzles and sparks through the pages, providing its own music, naturally of the hard-rocking kind.”

— Toronto Sun

“McFetridge is Canada's best kept crime fiction secret, and we think it's a good time for the rest of the world to take notice.”

— Crime Fiction Lover

“Each of John McFetridge's … novels has a rhythm to them, mixing taut dialogue, spare description, and a dark sensibility with the cool calm of a master bass player.”

— National Post

“John McFetridge is — or should be — a star in the world of crime fiction.”

— London Free Press

“Like [Elmore] Leonard, McFetridge is able to convincingly portray flawed figures on both sides of the law.”

— Publishers Weekly

BLACK ROCK

An Eddie Dougherty Mystery

John McFetridge

ECW PRESS

For my sister Susan

who was there

&

For Laurie, always

part one

chapter

one

Constable Eddie Dougherty climbed up the ironwork of the Victoria Bridge and said to his partner standing by the radio car, “Yeah,
c'est une bombe
.”

They were halfway between the island of Montreal and the South Shore, cars slowing down but still managing to get past in the single lane, and Gauthier said,
“Vachon arrive,”
as the unmarked black station wagon pulled up behind the radio car and Gilles Vachon and Robert Meloche got out.

The bomb squad.

Dougherty walked over the railway tracks in the middle of the bridge and showed Vachon the blue Expo
67
flight bag wedged between one of the stone piers and an iron truss.

“Tabarnak,”
Meloche said, and Vachon nodded and looked from the flight bag to Dougherty's badge and name tag and then, in English, said, “Did you hear anything?”

“Just the river.”

Vachon said, “Of course.” Twenty feet below the bridge the St. Lawrence flowed by. “This bridge is over a hundred years old,” Vachon said. “It would be a shame to lose it.”

Dougherty didn't know what to say: he'd only been a cop two years, practically still a rookie, and Vachon was already a legend, he'd dismantled so many bombs.

“It was the longest bridge in the world when it was built, almost two miles. Just for trains then, of course,” Vachon said. “These lanes were added later.” He stomped on the metal grated surface the cars drove on.

Meloche said, “Come on,” and started climbing down the ironwork.

Vachon nodded, looked down at the bag and then back to Dougherty and said, “You didn't get too close, did you?”

Dougherty said no, but now he was feeling too close. A bag stuffed with dynamite and the bomb squad turns out to be two guys in overalls.

Vachon reached down and took something out of a leather pouch on his belt. Dougherty figured it must be some kind of fancy bomb squad tool, then saw it was a pair of nail clippers.

“Snips the wires,” Vachon said and followed Meloche until they were standing on the concrete pier, face-to-face with the blue bag.

Dougherty followed as far as he could, holding onto a truss and watching as the two-man squad who'd ­dismantled almost a hundred of these dynamite bombs in the last year talked over what to do. The flight bag was zipper-down, wedged in fairly tight.

From up top Gauthier yelled, “What are you doing, come up here,” speaking English, but Dougherty didn't say anything. He watched Vachon and Meloche waving their hands and talking but couldn't hear what they were saying over the rushing water below.

After a few minutes Meloche shrugged and pushed one end of the bag until it came loose and fell into the river. It disappeared in the fast-moving current. And then the two bomb squad guys climbed back up the ironwork to the railway tracks.

Dougherty said, “What the hell?” and Vachon said, “It's gone now.”

“Yeah, but now there's a bomb in the river.”

“You don't know that,” Meloche said, “could be a bag of doughnuts,” and he climbed up past Dougherty.

Vachon said, “The dynamite is ruined. In any case, it's safe now.”

“What are you going to say in your report?”

“What report?” Vachon walked to the unmarked station wagon, stood by the passenger door and said, “If we report it, it gets in the press. Why give these bastards what they want?”

Dougherty said, “Yeah, I guess,” and Vachon smiled and got into the passenger seat and Meloche drove towards the South Shore to turn around and head back onto the island of Montreal.

Dougherty watched them go and then Gauthier, who'd been a cop longer than Dougherty'd been alive, said, “Come on, that's enough action for me, I need a drink,” and got into the squad car.

The action was why Dougherty had joined the police.

It was
1967
, the Summer of Love. Montreal had thrown a party and invited the world. Dougherty'd been out of high school a couple of years with no plan and no direction, kicking around construction sites and fighting with his father, who had never finished high school himself. He'd finally given up on Dougherty going to McGill but was still trying to talk him into night classes at Sir George Williams, still bent on him getting that all-important piece of paper that would set him up for life.

But there was no way Dougherty could sit in another classroom, listen to more boring crap just so he could sit in an office, watch the world through a window. He said to his father, “When you were my age you'd already been in the navy fighting the war for years, in the north Atlantic. You'd dropped depth charges on U-boats and had corvettes torpedoed out from under you. You were already a Chief Petty Officer.”

“You want to join the navy?” his father said, and Dougherty said, “No, I don't want to join the navy.”

“So what do you want to do?”

Dougherty joined the police force.

He told his father he wanted to help people and make a difference, do something productive with his life. His father, sitting at the kitchen table, smoking a Player's Plain and drinking a rum and Pepsi, said, “Great, just what the world needs, another Irish cop,” and closed the
Gazette
he was reading. There was no way Dougherty could tell him he really joined because when he was working construction on the American pavilion, the big geodesic dome everybody said the Yanks were just going to roll back home when Expo was over, he saw a bunch of cops race through traffic on the Jacques Cartier bridge and he wanted to drive fast like that.

He wanted to get in on the action.

Picked up an application form at police headquarters on Bonsecours Street and carried it around in his pocket for a week, not saying anything to anyone. When he finally handed it in the desk sergeant said, “We don't get many English anymore.”

Dougherty said, “My mother's French,” and the desk sergeant looked at the form and said, “Dog-eh-dee?”

“Doe-er-dee.”

The Summer of Love ended and the year of the revolution started. It was all over the world; Paris was shut down, tanks rolled into Prague, riots in Mexico and New York and Washington, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy assassinated.

Dougherty was on the front lines in Montreal, hit in the head with a bottle in the Saint-Jean-Baptiste parade riot and it just got worse when every dignitary left the reviewing stand, diving for cover, except Pierre Trudeau, who stood there giving the rioters the finger. Dougherty was in the middle of it with the rest of the cops, swinging his nightstick and wishing the prime minister would just get the hell out of there, but the next day the guy won the federal election.

More than fifty bombs were planted in Montreal in
1968
and they were different than the first wave of bombs in '
63
, the ones in mailboxes, and the ones in '
66
that were mostly in the offices of businesses where the workers were on strike. In '
68
the bombs were a lot more powerful — five, ten sticks of dynamite wired to cheap alarm clocks and put in public buildings: post offices, shopping centres, army recruiting offices, banks. Someone always called in the location a few minutes before the bomb was set to go off. Dougherty got his wish to drive fast through city streets.

It was always a little tense clearing all the people out of the building and waiting for the bomb squad. Dougherty's partner, Gauthier, was counting the days to retirement and had no problem saying, “You want action, it's all yours,” and staying out of the way. Afterwards there were always a few beers and a lot of cops not admitting it was actually kind of fun.

Then on January
1
,
1969
, two bombs exploded: one at city hall and one at a federal Manpower office downtown. Middle of the night, no one was hurt, but no warning calls were made. It was a new year and a new era. A half dozen more bombs went off around the city in January. In February, Dougherty got to work another riot, this one at Sir George Williams University, de Maisonneuve Street covered in a million computer punch cards and the four hundred students who'd been occupying the Henry F. Hall Building for a week driven out when the place caught fire.

Two days later a bomb went off in the Montreal Stock Exchange in Place Victoria and blew out the southwest wall. Dougherty and Gauthier were among the first radio cars on the scene, Dougherty driving right up onto Victoria Square in time to see a huge slab of concrete fall off the fourth or fifth floor of the almost fifty-storey building, catch a ledge and smash through the window of the bank in the lobby.

The bomb squad was right behind them, Sergeant Vachon in his black, unmarked station wagon. Gauthier said,
“Trop tard,”
and Vachon said,
“On a reçu l'appel juste cinq minutes avant l'explosion.”

Dougherty ran to the building, thinking, At least this time there was a call, and saw about a dozen women stepping out through the busted plate glass wall of the bank.

“Is everybody okay?” he said.

One of the women said, “So far. We heard there was another bomb.”

More cops had arrived, Dougherty thinking probably every car on shift was coming, and people were pour­ing out of the building, almost every one of them stopping to look back up at the hole blown out of the side.

In the lobby Dougherty saw a guy had taken charge and was directing people from the smoke-filled stairwell out of the building, and he figured he wasn't a banker, more likely from building security, so he asked,
“Quel étage?”
and the guy said,
“Quatrième.”

The fourth floor was a mess. The main trading floor — a huge open room — was filled with smoke and there was debris everywhere. The ceiling had collapsed, the viewing gallery railing was in the middle of the trading floor, smashed desks were blown across the room, and there were still people everywhere but there was no panic or yelling.

A man came up to Dougherty and said, “It was in the visitor's gallery — blew out the wall and the ceiling is caving in,” and headed to the stairwell.

“Over here,” another man yelled, and Dougherty rushed over to where the guy was pulling pieces of rubble off a pile and saying, “There's a girl under here.”

Dougherty started tossing pieces of wall and desks and ceiling tiles until they saw a woman's face covered in blood and they dug faster. They had her out from under the rubble in less than a minute and saw right away she was still breathing. Dougherty stood up and saw the St. John's Ambulance guys wheeling in stretchers and called them over. The ambulance guy started to tell the man who'd been digging in the rubble to sit down, but the guy said, “Not me, her,” and then Dougherty saw the blood dripping down off the guy's mostly bald head and said to him, “Yeah, but you, too.”

The guy had a handkerchief in his hand and was pressing it against his head. “I'm fine, this is nothing.”

Dougherty looked around at the trading floor and said, “Nothing? It looks like a war zone.”

“Son, I was at Normandy.”

Dougherty said, “Okay, you want some help getting down the stairs?”

“What I want is a gun so I can shoot back at these bastards.”

Dougherty was thinking that sounded like something his father would say — another guy who was at Normandy but never talked about it. Then Dougherty saw the ambulance guys had the young woman up on the stretcher and were starting to look for a way out through the rubble and he said, “Maybe you can help these guys find their way out.”

The man had the blood mostly wiped off his face and the top of his head and he nodded. “Yes, come around this way, we'll use the members' stairs,” and led the stretcher through the smoke and debris.

They walked a few feet and almost bumped into a man standing still and staring blankly, not really looking at anything, and Dougherty said, “Are you okay?”

The man turned and Dougherty realized he was young, in his twenties, shaking his head and saying, “They would have all been killed.” Dougherty said, “Who?” and the young guy said, “The phone boys. If the New York exchange hadn't closed early — they've been closing at two since the beginning of the year, catching up on the backlog, last year was so busy. If New York had been open they would all have been …” He motioned to where the gallery had collapsed, and Dougherty saw the row of small desks under the rubble.

“Well, we're lucky,” Dougherty said, and the young guy said, “Yeah, lucky.”

Dougherty got the young guy moving, got him to the main stairwell, where people were walking down in a steady stream. An hour later they had the whole trading floor and most of the rest of the building cleared, and Dougherty was out front directing traffic in the middle of Victoria Square, getting the ambulances and the cop cars back into the street for the trip to the hospitals.

The last of the injured were taken to the hospital: over two dozen it turned out, most of them women. Lots of head wounds and shock but it looked like everyone would survive. Dougherty leaned back against his squad car, lit a cigarette and looked up at the hole in the side of the building. The smoke had stopped pouring out and it didn't look like any more pieces of ­concrete were going to fall off. He was thinking they really had been lucky when he heard a woman's voice say, “You have another one of those?”

He said, “Sure,” and got out his pack.

She was wearing a miniskirt and was holding a man's suit jacket around herself and managed to extend a hand and put the cigarette in her mouth. She leaned forward a little so Dougherty could light it.

“I left my purse, my coat, everything.”

Dougherty said, “You should get inside, people are in the Métro station,” motioning to the subway entrance, the art nouveau portico that looked like a Métro entrance in Paris — in fact, it was a gift from Paris — installed right beside the statue of Queen Victoria. The woman shook her head, exhaled a long stream of smoke, and said, “I don't want to be underground.” Then she said, “I was looking for Barbara but I don't see her anywhere.”

BOOK: Black Rock
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