Authors: John McFetridge
A Little More Free
One or the Other
For Laurie, always.
“Save your neck,
Or save your brother,
Looks like it's
One or the other.”
The Band, “The Shape I'm In”
Montreal, March 1976.
Standing in line at the bank, middle of the afternoon, Constable Eddie Dougherty was thinking that he couldn't keep waiting for a full-time promotion to detective and pretty soon he'd have to propose to Judy McIntyre anyway â they couldn't stay in limbo forever.
Two men came into the bank then, both of them wearing overcoats and red, white and blue Montreal Canadiens tuques, sunglasses and fake moustaches, and Dougherty was staring down the barrel of a sawed-off shotgun. The guy holding it said, “Don't move,” and Dougherty said, “I'm not going anywhere, I have to cash my cheque.”
For once he was glad he wasn't wearing his uniform â that would've changed everything.
The two guys in overcoats and tuques waved their guns around and told everybody in the place not to move. One of them stood by the door, looking at his watch, and the other one went along the line of tellers, holding out a BOAC flight bag for the cash.
Dougherty was pretty sure the guy by the door looking at his watch was Pete McCallum so he figured he was out of jail and back in town, not gone to Toronto after all.
Then Dougherty was thinking if McCallum recognized him that would
change everything but when McCallum looked up from his watch he said, “All right, let's go,” and Dougherty saw the other guy turn around and head for the door even though he still had one more teller to collect from.
As he rushed past Dougherty, the guy with the BOAC bag looked at him a second too long and bumped into another man in line, dropping the bag. When he reached down to pick it up, the other man started to move like he was going to throw a punch, but Dougherty held up his hand and said, “Don't.”
The guy in the overcoat grabbed the bag off the floor and ran out of the bank with McCallum right behind him. The whole thing had taken less than two minutes.
The man in line said, “I could've grabbed him.”
Dougherty was running out onto St. Catherine Street then and he turned and called, “Hold my place, that last teller can still cash a cheque.”
On the street, a cop car was already pulling up, the doors opening and two cops jumping out.
Dougherty pointed across the street and said, “They went into Eaton's, overcoats and Habs tuques,” and led the way through the department store's doors.
The place was crowded, everybody wearing some kind of overcoat or winter coat. The woman at the perfume counter said, “They went down the stairs, Officer,” and Dougherty wondered for a second how she knew he was a cop.
At the top of the stairs, Dougherty moved aside and let the two uniform cops run ahead. He knew they wouldn't catch anybody now. McCallum and the other guy were probably in the MÃ©tro by then, probably already caught a train and were long gone. The whole thing seemed well planned and timed and it certainly wasn't their first rodeo.
Then, as Dougherty was walking back out through the main floor of the department store, he saw someone else he knew and said, “Hey, Rod, how you doing?”
An older guy, mid-fifties, turned around looking angry and then softened into a smile and said, “Eddie, man, hey.”
Dougherty took him by the arm and pulled him out of the aisle towards a display of new summer dresses, saying, “What've you got in the bag, Rod?”
“Come on, Eddie, you think I'm a shoplifter?”
“No, Rod, I think you're a lookout for a couple of bank robbers.” Dougherty had the bag opened and he said, “Shit, you were going to drop these on the stairs. You could've really hurt somebody.”
“I don't know what you're talking about.”
“Who was it with Pete?”
“Like I'd ever tell you.”
“You guys working together, like old times. When did Pete get out?”
“Let go of me, man. I didn't do anything wrong.”
Dougherty said, “You can come with me, Rod, or I'll ask that nice lady for a twenty-five-dollar bottle of perfume and I'll put it in your bag and arrest you.”
“You're a prick, Eddie, you know that?”
The woman from the perfume counter was walking towards them then and said, “Is there anything I can do?”
“Call the manager,” Rod said. “This guy won't let me go.”
“Everything's under control, thanks,” Dougherty said. He pulled Rod towards the doors and looked back for a moment and thought, Yeah, better propose to Judy soon.
Judy said, “I can't believe there was another riot.”
“It was a bunch of high school teachers,” Dougherty said. “They threw some chairs on the stage, it wasn't a riot.”
“You mean the riot squad wasn't called this time.”
Dougherty finished his coffee and looked at his watch. “We heard you're going to sue us over the last one, last week, when the riot squad did get called.”
“I haven't been hired â I'm not one of
“You will be.”
Judy looked doubtful. “With all this going on, the last thing the school board is going to do is hire new teachers.”
“They're going to have to, can't have schools with no teachers.”
“Are they really going to sue the police?”
The waiter came to the table with the coffee pot and filled their cups and said, “Will there be anything else?”
Dougherty looked at Judy and she said, “No, thanks.”
“Just the bill.”
They were in the Coffee Mill, a small Hungarian place on Mountain, a couple of blocks from the apartment Judy was sharing with a few other students while she finished up her teaching degree. Neither Judy nor Dougherty had brought up what would happen to their living arrangements when she graduated. For a second Dougherty thought maybe he should say it casually, like it just occurred to him: Hey, what do you say we get married?
Judy said, “I heard someone got beaten up at the meeting last night, taken to the hospital?”
“One of the teachers, union guy, the head of it.”
“Don Peacock, is he okay?”
“Yeah,” Dougherty said, “the meeting was at Wager so they took him to the Jewish General. He's all right, maybe a mild heart attack.”
“Well, I doubt it'll be his last one.”
“Looks like it could be a long strike,” Dougherty said. “No one's giving in.”
“And now the nurses, too.”
The waiter put the bill down beside Dougherty's elbow on the table and slipped away. They were the only customers in the place, three o'clock in the afternoon, getting together before Dougherty started his shift.
“Those were my mother's only two career choices,” Judy said, “nurse or teacher.”
“Is that why you resisted teaching for so long?”
Dougherty got out his wallet and was thinking that for all her anti-establishment hippie years, Judy would probably want a real wedding and a real engagement with a ring and everything.
Or maybe that's what he wanted, he wasn't so sure now.
“You know you're going to be a great teacher.”
“You think so?”
“You're going to be every boy's favourite, for sure.”
“I don't know, I'm worried about it.”
Dougherty stood up and dropped some cash on top of the bill. “You worry about everything, it'll be fine.”
Outside on Mountain a few students walked by, and Dougherty thought how young they looked even though he and Judy had only a few years on them.
She said, “Will you be okay to make Sunday dinner at my parents'? What'll it be for you, breakfast?”
“I'll be fine.”
“Get ready for my father to lecture us about the evils of unions.”
She took his arm as they walked and it felt good to Dougherty. He was ready, and he was pretty sure Judy was, too.
Give them something else to talk about at dinner.
The assistant director of the Montreal Police, the man in charge of all detectives, Paul-Emile Olivier, looked over his big desk at Dougherty and then back to the file he was reading and said, “Detective Carpentier tells me you have been very helpful in a number of homicide investigations.”
Dougherty said, “Yes, sir.”
Olivier was speaking more formal French than Dougherty was used to with the cops and crooks he spent most of his time with but, then, Olivier was wearing a much nicer suit than Dougherty was used to seeing and the office they were sitting in was much bigger and better appointed than any Dougherty had ever seen in a police station. He was starting to understand that at this level the cops liked to pretend they were businessmen or bankers, that they'd always spent time in offices and behind desks and didn't work their way up rolling in the dirt with drunks and bloodying their knuckles on criminals.
“Though you have never been officially assigned to the homicide squad.”
“That's right, sir.”
Olivier smiled for a moment and it looked like it was part of his duty, like he was following an instruction, and then he said, “
Un vrai joueur d'Ã©quipe.
Dougherty'd never heard anyone use the expression that way in French, a good team player, and it sounded funny, but he just nodded.
“You have been with us eight years now.”
“And you are currently assigned to Station Ten.”
“Yes,” Dougherty said. “I've been an acting detective-constable a few times.”
“Would be nice to make the rank permanent, wouldn't it, Dougherty?” Olivier said slowly, pronouncing it clearly, Doe-er-dee. Then he looked at the file on his desk again and said, “Captain Boisjoli is not displeased with your work.”
Dougherty almost said he should be bloody well pleased with my work, the amount of times I saved his ass, but he was learning to keep his mouth shut.
Olivier closed the file and then said, in English, “I'm glad we had this little chat.”
Dougherty was taken by surprise, the interview, or whatever it was, ending so abruptly but he stood up and held out his hand. The two men shook and Dougherty said, “
Je vous remercie .Â .Â .
Three floors down, Dougherty walked into the evidence room and saw Rozovsky looking over a spread of eight-by-ten black-and-white pictures and said, “Was that your picture in the
, Olympic Stadium going up, looked like an open hand, a bunch of fingers?”
Rozovsky didn't look up. “The story said the workers were not under any great pressure to get it finished in time.” Then he looked up at Dougherty and said, “Well, except for the four guys who fell off and died last week, they might have been under some pressure.”
“Games don't start till July, right,” Dougherty said. “We still have four months.”
Rozovsky held up a picture and said, “Do you know her?”
“Is that at the Limelight?”
“She was talking to Colucci; Ste. Marie wants to know who she is.”
Dougherty said, “She looks twelve years old.”
“You've never seen her in a raid? She could work upscale.”
“Since when do we raid upscale brothels?”
Rozovsky leaned back in his chair and said, “Bad meeting? Were you talking to Carpentier?”
“Shit, you getting fired?”
“I thought it was about a promotion.”
Rozovsky shrugged. “That would be better.”
“I can't read that guy, though. And at the end he said something in English with the weirdest accent.”
“His generation, when they get high enough up in the force they talk like they went to Selwyn House.”
“A private school, like Loyola but for rich Protestants.”
“Is there one for rich Jews?”
Dougherty said, “I guess I better get back to work,” but as soon as he stepped into the hall he was almost knocked over. “What's going on?”
“Un gros vol, un camion de la Brink's.”
Rozovsky was already coming out of the office with two cameras strung around his neck saying, “You have a car?”
“Across the street.”
Cops were filing out of the building onto Bonsecours Street, and Dougherty ran to the patrol car he'd driven to his meeting with Olivier. He swung the car onto the street and Rozovsky jumped into the passenger seat, saying, “Royal Bank building on St. James.”
Dougherty cut through the heart of Old Montreal on Notre Dame, popping the siren even though no one moved out of the way, the narrow street crowded with cars and delivery trucks, and even a horse pulling a
ignored the siren.
Rozovsky said, “There,” already taking pictures from inside the car, getting shots of other police cars and the crowd starting to gather.
Dougherty got out of the car and said, “Where's the truck?”
A uniform cop standing at the mouth of the lane between two big old buildings said, “They took it.”
“They took the whole truck?”
There was a half-ton moving truck parked at the other end of the lane so all the cops were coming in from St. James.
The cop said, “Those guys went back inside the bank for the last load,” he pointed at three Brink's guards standing a few feet down the lane by the side door of the bank, “and when they came out it was gone.”
“So maybe it's a joke, the driver went around the block.”
“These guys don't joke.”
Dougherty looked at the three guards and figured that was true, they didn't look like they'd ever told a joke in their lives. It didn't look like someday this would be a funny story for them. He walked back to his patrol car, where Rozovsky was standing, aiming his camera at the sky. Dougherty said, “What are you doing?”
“I never really saw it from this angle. Look at those columns.”
“Neoclassical,” Rozovsky said. “When was this built? Must be twenty storeys.”
Dougherty said, “No idea.”
“Had to be before the Depression.” Rozovsky looked at the buildings lining James Street and said, “All these places haven't changed in decades.”
Dougherty said, “Yeah,” feeling useless, no idea what to do, and then the dispatch came on the radio saying the Brink's truck had been found, and Dougherty said, “Let's go,” jumping into the car and hitting the gas as Rozovsky got in.
Dougherty drove fast, swerving through traffic on the Bonaventure Expressway and heading towards the Champlain Bridge. Dispatch had a couple of updates, saying the truck was near the tennis courts.
Dougherty said, “You know where that is?”
“Yeah, there's a traffic circle. Take the first exit.”
Dougherty screeched around the traffic circle, took the exit and said, “I don't see any tennis courts.”
“They're in there.”
They drove around a big low concrete building and just past the parking lot was an empty field and then the river.
The Brink's truck, the back doors wide open, was sitting there.
“Why would he drive it out here?”
Rozovsky said, “Maybe that had something to do with it,” and he was out of the car, aiming his camera at a white van behind the Brink's truck.
The back doors of the van were open, and inside was a big gun on a tripod. Rozovsky had a dozen photos before Dougherty caught up to him.
“What is it?”
Dougherty said, “Anti-aircraft gun.”
“Would those bullets have gone through the truck?”
“Armour-piercing, oh yeah.”
Dougherty looked in the front of the Brink's truck and saw the radio was smashed. He walked back towards the other cop cars and saw a guy in a Brink's uniform smoking a cigarette and talking to one of the younger cops. The Brink's driver looked to be in his thirties and one of the lenses of his glasses was broken. His eye was banged up, looked like he took a pretty good shot, and there were handcuffs dangling from one wrist.
The young cop said, “
Eille, Dougherty, ici Gilles Lachapelle le driver du truck
Lachapelle spoke French, saying, “You guys got here fast.”
“Yeah, you okay?”
Lachapelle touched the tips of his fingers to the spot just above his eye and said, “Like a high stick. I've had worse.” He smiled a little.
Dougherty said, “Did they tape you?”
“Yeah.” He rubbed his cheek where there was still a little tape and stringy bits stuck to his five o'clock shadow. “My mouth. And they taped my legs. They put me in the back of my truck.”
“But you got away.”
He held up his wrist with the handcuff still attached and said, “They didn't close them right, the other end.”
“How many were there?”
“I don't know,” Lachapelle said. “I only saw one, he was wearing sunglasses. The van backed into the lane, and one guy got out of it and came around the side. I honked at him and he opened the back doors, showed me that fucking thing.” He motioning towards the white van where Rozovsky was still taking pictures.
“There must've been another guy,” Dougherty said, “in the back with the gun.”
Lachapelle looked surprised for a split-second but then it was gone and he said, “Yeah, that's right, he was wearing sunglasses, too, and a tuque.”
Lachapelle smiled a little and said, “
Bleu, blanc, rouge. Les Canadiens.
“Then what happened?”
“He told me to open the door, so I did, and he shoved me down and got into my truck. He drove it here.”
“Did he speak French or English?”
Dougherty said, “You're lucky they didn't shoot you.”
Lachapelle looked serious and said, “They would have.”
“For sure.” Dougherty saw the ambulance pull into the parking lot, so he started to walk away, then stopped and said, “Hey, there was a half-ton in the lane, too. What was that doing there?”
Lachapelle said, “Must have been so no one else could have come in. That lane is pretty narrow.”
Dougherty said, “Yeah, I guess,” and walked away as the two ambulance guys got to Lachapelle.
More cars were pulling into the lot then, detectives and a few reporters. Dougherty saw Detective Carpentier and walked over to him.
“C'est arrivÃ© trÃ¨s vite
Carpentier spoke French, saying, “The guards hit the alarm at two forty and this guy called it in fourteen minutes later.”
“He says he was handcuffed in the back of the van and his legs were taped. And his mouth. Didn't take him long to get out.”
“Didn't matter,” Carpentier said. “They were long gone.”
Detective Ste. Marie walked past Dougherty and Carpentier and said, “You sure you want to work homicide, look at all the excitement in CID.”
“If you need any help,” Dougherty said.
Ste. Marie said, “I'll let you know,” without slowing down on his way to talk to Lachapelle.
“Do you know how much they got?” Carpentier said.
“Between two and a half and three million dollars.”
“Not bad for fourteen minutes' work.”
“That kind of money all of a sudden floating around in town,” Carpentier said. “There's going to be some homicides to work.”
“Well, you know me,” Dougherty said, “
un vrai gars d'
Carpentier laughed and said, “You've been talking to Olivier, that's good.”
“I've been talking,” Dougherty said. “He didn't say anything.”
“Now he knows who you are, that's good.” Carpentier was looking at Ste. Marie talking to Lachapelle and said, “You believe him?”
“I believe what he says happened.”
“But you think he knows more?”
“I asked him about the other truck in the lane, he said it was probably there so no one else could get in from that direction.”
“Yeah,” Dougherty said, “it's the kind of thing you think about when you're planning a robbery.”
“He say anything else?”
“He said the guy spoke English.”
“You believe that?”
“Why not? There are plenty of English guys robbing banks in Montreal.”
“Yes,” Carpentier said. “But it is going to send them in one direction.”
“Maybe the right one.”
Dougherty said, “Well, we'll see soon enough who has a lot of money on the street.”
“Yes,” Carpentier said. “And there will be homicides for you to work. I'll put in another word with Inspecteur Olivier.”
Dougherty said, “Thanks.”
He didn't care if he was assigned to homicide, he just wanted to get out of uniform and be a full-time detective. He was feeling the door closing.
And then all he got was another acting-detective job.
Someone decided that the Brink's job could only have been pulled off by professionals from out of town, probably Boston, and if they had any local help it was some of Dougherty's old friends, the Point Boys.
Still, acting-detective â better than nothing.