Because only two mutant superheroes can save us now.
Episode 6, Part 1
Maple Ridge, B.C.
“We can’t submit the application withoot a Board of Directors, Brooke. That’s not how this works.”
“And I can’t make a Board of Directors materialize withoot an organization, Theresa. I thought that’s what the first application was for.”
“The 4001 form just establishes the Articles of Incorporation. It’s basically a declaration of intent to the CRA.”
“What if my ‘intent’ is to choose my officers after establishing the non-profit?”
“There’s no organization withoot officers, Brooke.”
“And if we had ham, we could have ham and eggs, if we had eggs.”
“Stacy, if you don’t have anything sensible to contribute—”
“Brooke, you know this isn’t Stacy’s fault, so there’s no reason to act like a bitch.”
“I know. I’m sorry, Stacy. I’m just a little on edge…you’ve been a great friend to me and I really owe you for this.”
Stacy smiled and gave Brooke an affectionate wink.
“Anyway, have you settled on a name? How aboot The Brooke Morgan Women’s Relief Coalition?”
“Theresa, who do you think I am, Donald Fucking Trump? This is a charity, not a vanity project. How aboot Empowering Women, B.C.?”
“Perfect. Now if you want, I can probably convince some of my colleagues at ICBC to act as Members. That should help to pad your application a bit.”
“They’re like shareholders who don’t get a share of anything, but they get to vote on the election of directors and give input on projects and purchases.”
“Okay, great. For now, I suppose I constitute the Board of Directors, unless…”
Brooke raised an eyebrow and fixed Stacy’s gaze across the table.
“What? Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Didn’t you say you did the accounting for that self-storage place a few years ago?”
“Well, yeah, but it was just bill collecting, basically…”
“Theresa, fill in Stacy Collins under Treasurer.”
“And I assume you’ll be the equivalent of COO for the foreseeable future?”
“You assume an awful lot, Sis. I have cancer, remember? I’m here to get the ball rolling and put up some cash. That’s it.”
“Right. Sorry. So who’s running the show?”
“Kelly? You’re kidding, right?”
“No, I’m not. There’s a method to my madness, Theresa. You’ve gotta learn to trust your big sister. I know exactly what I’m doing.”
Dylan hung up the phone, jumped oot of bed and hastily pulled on his pants.
“Shit! I’ve been gone for a fucking hour, Roxane. Ashley’s freaking oot.”
Roxane chuckled under her breath.
“Oh, you think it’s funny, huh? Was that your plan all along, just to get your kicks by fucking with Ashley?”
“Your attempt at chivalry after the fact is adorable, Dylan. You’re the one who cheated on her, not me.”
“Yeah, well, it’s not gonna happen again. Got it?”
“We’ll see. What the hell is up her ass, anyway? You’re not allowed to go oot for an hour?”
“Don’t start. She’s under a lot of stress lately.”
“Well, of course she is. Who wouldn’t be stressed after playing the same two guys against each other for thirty years?”
“That’s not true. Matt wanted the divorce, not Ashley. I love her, Roxane.”
“I guess there’s no accounting for taste. So what’s the melodrama du jour?”
“She’s got a little legal trouble in Toronto and it’s making her anxious and that’s already more than you need to know. When people care aboot each other, sometimes they worry, Roxane. But you probably wouldn’t know anything aboot that.”
“You make a lot of assumptions yourself, Dylan. Now you better run on home and tend to Sylvia Plath before you find her with her head in the oven. See you soon, Rock Star.”
Dylan slammed the door behind him as Roxane sat down on the sofa and took oot her cell phone.
Whistler, B.C. / North Vancouver, B.C.
“Alright, Sis, spill it. And don’t you dare leave oot a single scintillating detail.”
“Cut it oot, Billy. I had a wonderful time. Matt’s a really great guy.”
“I’m sorry, I think I nodded oot there for a second. Matt squirted what in your eye?”
“Are you gonna let me tell you aboot my date or are you just setting me up for one-liners?”
“Sorry, force of habit. Please continue.”
“Have you ever noticed that he has the kindest eyes?”
“Sir, would you please step oot of the car?”
Matt’s vision was overwhelmed by the piercing beam from the patrolman’s flashlight.
“What’s this aboot, Officer?”
“You ran a red light at the last intersection, Sir. Have you been drinking tonight?”
The officer peered into the vehicle at the woman slumped over in the passenger’s seat.
“Ma’am, will you please step oot of the car, too?”
She didn’t respond, so another officer approached the passenger side of the vehicle as Matt was led through the field sobriety tests.
“Officer Nolan? This one’s unconscious, we’re gonna need an ambulance.”
“…and he was so compassionate and understanding aboot all the stupid choices I’ve made, Billy, that I honestly felt…okay. For the first time in years…he made everything okay.”
“Matt Walker the therapist! Who knew?”
“He’s got this TV show premiering next week and he’s going through all this upsetting stuff with Ashley, but the whole time, he only wanted to talk aboot me. I know it’s silly, but it almost felt like he’s been waiting for me all this time.”
“And you don’t think you’re worth the wait?”
“I don’t know, Billy. What did I ever do to deserve the attention of someone as smart and successful as Matt?”
The officer got into his car and called dispatch.
“We have a male Caucasian, possibly driving under the influence and an unconscious female passenger that may have suffered an overdose. No priors for the driver, but the passenger’s got a pretty lengthy record, mostly for solicitation. I need an ambulance oot here right away. Officer Raymore will meet them at the scene while I take Mr. Walker downtown for processing.”
“Well, hopefully, Matt will continue to resurrect your self-esteem until you finally accept yourself as worthy of affection.”
“It’s not that I don’t think I’m worthy, it’s just…oh, Billy, I feel like a teenager again! Why didn’t you tell me what I was missing all those years I spent hiding away in the convent?”
“Plenty of time to catch up, Courtney. So when are you getting together again?”
“I’m not sure, but soon, I hope. It’s so exciting, Billy – it really feels like my life has just begun!”
“Mr. Walker, you’re under arrest for driving under the influence and solicitation of prostitution.”
The officer pushed down on Matt’s head as he climbed into the back seat of the cruiser. As it pulled away, Matt looked oot the window and saw the body of the woman with whom he’d spent the evening lying motionless on the blacktop as an EMT drew a white plastic sheet over her face.
After a hurried pit-stop at BC for the bottle of wine, Dylan’s rented Geo screeched to a halt in front of the house. He walked inside and called oot for Ashley, but there was no response. A gurgling sound from down the hall caught his attention, so he made his way to the bedroom where Ashley was splayed oot on the bed. His bottle of Valium was uncapped on the nightstand.
“Ashley! What the hell happened?”
Ashley tried to prop herself up on one elbow but collapsed back into the mattress.
“Dylan, I…I don’…whass…where were you?”
“Oh my God, Ashley, did you take that whole bottle of pills??” He grabbed her by the shoulders and shook. “Did you take the whole bottle?!”
Ashley’s body went limp as Dylan was startled by a sudden roar of police sirens. He rested her head on a pillow and peered oot the window at the three VPD cruisers that had pulled up in front of the house.
Episode 5, Part 2
THE VENUE – DOWNTOWN
Aviation Gin & Broadband TV Present
THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS
With special guest Black Well
April 23, 2022, 8:00 p.m.
Jerry and Janice sat at the bar poring over a stack of paperwork.
“I feel like I’m signing my damn life away. Maybe I should get a lawyer to look this over.”
Janice mustered all her remaining patience to explain the deal to Jerry for the fourth time this morning.
“Jerry, listen – I’ve already examined all the legalese in the contract ad nauseum. Here’s what it boils down to: once a month, you will book a big-name Canadian act at one of your clubs and Broadband will telecast it live. Our marketing department will assist you in contacting agents, negotiating fees and all that kind of stuff. The Venue – that is to say, you – is guaranteed 25% of all ad revenue generated from each of the broadcasts. That’s it.”
“What’s the catch?”
“There’s no catch, Jerry. This has the potential to really boost Broadband’s profile – that’s what’s in it for them and for me. Plain and simple.”
“Can I ask why it was so important that I offer Dylan the opening slot for next month’s show? That didn’t make a lot of sense.”
“Well, Jerry…if my reasons for wanting Dylan to play on the first broadcast constituted the entirety of this contract’s indecipherable fine print, would you consider that a deal breaker?”
Jerry stared hard at Janice for a long moment.
“No, I guess not. But it still doesn’t sound like a very good idea.”
“Let’s just say that every now and then, a business opportunity unexpectedly leads to a personal one.”
“Still hot for Dylan, huh?”
“If that solves the mystery for you, Jerry, then sure. Let’s go with that. Now crack those knuckles and get signing – I need to have this back to our legal department by 3:00.”
Dylan sat on his bed playing guitar when Ashley appeared at the door.
“got a second, dylan?”
“Sure, what’s up?”
“i talked to matt this morning.”
“Oh yeah? How’d that go?”
“okay, i guess. he’s been so great aboot everything, but it feels so weird when we talk now. we’re still married, technically, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. he’s here in vancouver filming his new show.”
“Maybe it would be easier if you talked face to face, then?”
“no. we’ll always be friends, dylan, but right now, we both just need to move on with our lives. but that’s not why i brought it up. matt told me something pretty disturbing.”
“chris is dead. he was murdered in prison.”
Dylan put down his guitar and got up from the bed.
“I can’t believe she went through with it!”
“When I went to see Roxane in the hospital, she told me she wanted to hire someone to take Chris oot…Ashley, I thought she was joking – I really did! You remember how Roxane talks – she hasn’t changed much since high school and we were both laughing when she said it. Holy shit.”
“it’s scary. why does life have to turn oot this way, dylan? what did we all do to deserve this?”
“You can’t think like that, Ashley, you’ll drive yourself crazy. It’s all chaos and all we can do is navigate the chaos until we can’t anymore.”
Dylan walked over to the closet and grabbed his jacket.
“Fuck today. I’m gonna go down to BC and get us a bottle of wine.”
“sounds good, baby.”
Ashley watched as Dylan pulled oot of the driveway, then walked into the master bathroom. She slid the door to the medicine cabinet open and scanned the labels on Dylan’s prescription bottles until she found the one for which she was searching.
Diazepam, 10 mg., 50 ct. Take as needed for withdrawal symptoms.
With shaking hands, she clumsily screwed the child-proof cap off the bottle.
Osteria Savio Volpe
“Okay, Courtney, I’ve gotta ask – what made you decide to become a nun?”
Courtney took a sip of water and cleared her throat as her leg tapped nervously beneath the table.
“You know, Matt…that’s something I ask myself a lot. There wasn’t some great epiphany or anything like that. I started having panic attacks the summer after graduation. Bad ones, the kind that make you think you’re going to die of anxiety. So I started to pray and…I don’t know…I guess when all was said and done, I didn’t know where else to turn but to God and I didn’t know what else to do but dedicate my life to the one thing that made me feel safe.”
“That sounds reasonable enough. It also sounds a lot like what motivated me to propose to Ashley.”
“I don’t think I follow.”
“Familiarity. Safety. But that’s just an illusion, isn’t it? We don’t get those kinds of guarantees.”
“I guess not.”
A waiter approached their table.
“May I get some drinks to get you started?”
“I’ll have a vodka martini, hold the lemon.”
Courtney poked her eyes above the drink menu and looked at Matt with surprise.
“For you, Ma’am?”
The waiter collected their menus and disappeared behind the bar.
“Before you ask, Courtney, it’s fine. I spent a long time on the wagon, but I’ve reached a point where I can have a drink now and then withoot any trouble.”
“What aboot A.A.?”
“What aboot it?”
“I mean, just last month you were at a meeting—”
“Just last night, I was at a meeting, Courtney. If it weren’t for the support those guys have given me over the years, I don’t think I could have reached this point on my own.”
“Do they know you drink?”
“I try to keep that under wraps, mostly because they’ve been so indoctrinated into believing that moderation is impossible.”
“Isn’t it? I mean…for an alcoholic?”
“Courtney, next week the first episode of a prime-time TV show starring Matt Walker, realtor extraordinaire, premieres on the W Network. Do you think that I could have pulled off something like that if I didn’t know how to moderate? Not to mention…if I didn’t have things under control, you’re the last person I’d be subjecting to it.”
The waiter returned with the drinks and took their dinner orders. When he left the table, Courtney met Matt’s gaze and smiled.
“I guess I’m a little naïve aboot this sort of thing…living in a convent will do that to a person, you know? Thanks for explaining it to me, Matt. I feel a lot better now.”
Courtney ceremoniously lifted her glass.
“To TV stardom!”
“I’ll drink to that! To TV stardom!”
Staring at Matt across the table, Courtney realized for the first time in over 20 years that she had never fallen oot of love with him. She polished off her wine and promptly ordered another glass.
Roxane was roused from a fitful sleep by a persistent rapping on the front door. She threw on her bathrobe and trudged oot to the living room.
“Oh, hey, Dylan!”
“Hi, Roxane. Can I come in? I kinda wanted to talk to you aboot something.”
“Sure, come on in.”
Dylan stood in the foyer scratching his head.
“Sit down, Dylan. Want something to drink?”
“No, thanks, I can’t stay long. I told Ashley I was going to the store.”
“Oh, right. I forgot aboot Ashley. How is everyone’s favorite little mental patient, anyway?”
“Cut the shit, Roxane. I guess you know aboot Chris.”
“Of course. Forgive me if I have a hard time grieving for a guy that fucking shot me three times.”
“Yeah. I guess that’s a pretty tough thing to forgive…unless, of course, you find a way to settle the score.”
“What are you getting at, Dylan?”
“Did you have anything to do with it, Roxane?”
Roxane smiled and slowly approached Dylan as she untied her bathrobe belt and let it slip to the floor.
“Roxane, what the fuck are you—”
She grabbed his face in her hands and kissed him lustfully. Dylan tensed up and started to back away, but Roxane held tight. After a few moments, he stopped resisting.
Episode 5, Part 1
Queens Cross Pub
North Vancouver, B.C.
Matt, Jake and Arseman were perusing the menu at their patio table when a waitress came oot to take their drink orders.
“Peregrino with lemon, please.”
Arseman hesitated and furrowed her brow as she scanned the beverage list prompting the waitress to launch into an unsolicited lecture on the Queens Cross premier seasonal wines and the four-star entrees they compliment. After a few moments, Arseman interrupted.
“I’ll have an Aranciata San Pellegrino, no ice.”
The server turned to Matt.
“Tanqueray and tonic, no rocks.”
The sound of a pin dropping several blocks away was audible in the awkward silence that followed. Arseman nervously cleared her throat while Jake fidgeted with his hands.
“Um, Matt…I know it’s not really any of my business, but are you sure that’s a good idea?”
“What? Oh, the drink? Relax, Guys. I figured oot how to keep this under control a long time ago. You don’t become one of the most sought-after realtors in Toronto withoot indulging in a little liquid courage from time to time.”
Feeling obligated though not quite sure why, Jake proffered his two cents on the matter.
“When we were talking on the phone last month, you told me you were still active in A.A. Right?”
“That was the truth. A.A. is a great place to network…and it keeps me grounded, you know? It’s fine, Jake. Honest. I haven’t given anyone a black eye in weeks.”
Matt’s attempt at a strangely nostalgic joke fell flat and the friends once again found themselves negotiating the tangible discomfort. Finally, Jake threw in the towel and gestured at the waitress.
“Can I get you something, Sir?”
“Yeah, you can shit can the sparkling water and the fancy Italian soda pop and just bring us three Tanqueray and tonics, please. And keep ‘em coming.”
Matt smiled and gave Jake a playful punch on the shoulder.
“It is so fucking awesome to see you guys!”
The Venue – Downtown
Ashley and Jerry sat at a small table in front of the stage as Dylan finished up his audition consisting of a few cover tunes on acoustic guitar with an electric pickup clipped to the body. As he performed, Jerry sat stone faced, but Dylan noticed with satisfaction that his foot was tapping in rhythm beneath the table. He finished his set and Ashley clapped wildly as Jerry rubbed his chin.
“Not bad, Dylan. You’ve come a long way since high school, I’ll say that.”
“Yeah, thanks. But um…what aboot Wednesday nights?”
“Forget it, Dylan.”
Dylan slumped off the stage as Ashley shook her head in disbelief.
“Come on, Ashley. Let’s get the hell oot of here.”
Ashley grabbed her purse and followed Dylan to the door when Jerry bellowed oot from the back of the establishment.
“Forget Wednesdays, Dylan! I want you to open for The New Pornographers next month. And get a fucking haircut and some clothes that didn’t come off a thrift store rack – you’re gonna be on TV.”
Dylan’s eyes nearly popped oot of his head as Ashley squealed and threw her arms around his shoulders.
“congratulations, baby! i told you it would work oot!”
“Thanks, Ashley…and thanks for believing in me! I love you!”
Their affectionate celebration was interrupted by another bellicose shout from the stage area.
“Both of you – get the fuck oot of here before you make me puke. Dylan, be here tomorrow night at 8:00. Some session musicians I have on retainer are gonna back you up, so you’re gonna need to rehearse with them and get up to speed…fast. And don’t make me regret this.”
Kelly poured three packets of sugar into her cup of blonde roast and joined Brooke and Stacy at a corner booth.
“So…let me see if I have this straight. You have cancer and you discovered that your husband’s been cheating on you and that’s what prompted this little homecoming?”
“More or less. Listen, Kel…there comes a time in everyone’s life when a little introspection is in order. For me, that time is now, obviously. I wasn’t always very nice to you and I just thought—”
“Brooke, we were in high school. Are you honestly trying to tell me that you’ve been harboring guilt aboot that shit all of these years?”
“No, not at all. In fact, until recently, I hadn’t given it as much as a thought.”
“But now you’re facing your mortality and trying to get right with God or something?”
“I don’t believe in God, Kel. I’m trying to get right with myself.”
“Okay. So you’re sorry for being a high school bitch. Big deal. I could say the same thing, you know.”
“This isn’t aboot you, Kelly, and it’s not aboot settling scores. My daughter is starting high school next year. Naturally, she gets a bit anxious aboot it sometimes, so I try to give her guidance…and that’s when I remember that I’m the last person in the world who should be advising a child on the best way to deal with peer pressure and unrequited crushes. I may not be religious, but I do believe in karma…and setting a good example for Tabitha.”
“Well, you know, that’s all very inspiring, Brooke, but let me fill you in on the last 20 years of my life. I married a drug dealer who beat the shit oot of me on a daily basis, knocked me up and split. In order to keep a roof over our heads, I schlep tables at a shitty bar while drunks leer at me and smack me on the ass. My reward for all this was to get evicted from my apartment for being a week late on the rent, so now my daughter and I live on my sister’s couch. What kind of example do you think I’m setting for my daughter, Brooke? Is it time for me to engage in some introspection? Do I need to work on my karma?”
“I wasn’t saying—”
“Forgive me if I’m not exactly in the mood to indulge your belatedly guilty conscience, Brooke. I’m sorry all this shit happened to you. I am. But some of us don’t have the luxury of traveling across the country to redeem ourselves at the drop of a hat. Some of us are too worried aboot how the fuck we’re gonna manage to feed our kids for another day.”
Brooke stared silently at her folded hands while Stacy nervously picked at the plastic lid on her coffee.
“You’re right, Kel. I hadn’t thought aboot any of that, as usual. Can we at least keep in touch?”
Kelly sighed as she got up from the booth.
“Sure, Brooke. Maybe we can get together again after I get my shit together and figure oot what me and Nia are gonna do. Take care of yourself.”
“You, too, Kel.”
A cold wind rushed through the door as Kelly exited, blowing a pile of napkins from the table.
“That was a little harsh, don’t you think?”
“No, Stacy. She was right. What good did I think an apology was going to do? But I got what I needed.”
“What you needed?”
“Just enough information to make things right. Finish up your coffee, Stace. We’ve got work to do.”
Courtney’s anxiety had finally dissipated when Billy and Isabelle returned from Australia last night, the house once again filled with activity and friendly voices. They sat at the kitchen table drinking wine and catching up.
“I’m so jealous of you guys – I would die to be able to just hop a plane Down Under whenever I want!”
“Really? Great, then next month when I have to go back and spend 15 hour days filming scenes in the fucking bush before telling the associate producer that he’s fired for being an incompetent boob, I’ll send you as my proxy.”
“If you’re trying to make it sound like a drag, you’re not succeeding, Billy.”
“Enough aboot that…let’s talk aboot your decision to get back on the horse, eh?”
“Back on the horse?”
“Didn’t you say you’re gonna meet up with Matt tomorrow night?”
“Well, yeah, but—”
“But nothing. I saw the way you were looking at him ootside of the church.”
“Come on, Billy. We haven’t seen each other in over 20 years.”
“You saw each other three weeks ago.”
“You know what I mean. I’m not exactly ready to pursue a romance, Billy, I spent the last two decades as a nun!”
“I fail to see your point. Wait…oh shit, now I get it! You’re afraid you won’t know what to do, right? Sheesh, Sis, I leave you alone in my house for two weeks and you didn’t even sniff oot my porn collection?”
“That’s not funny, Billy. Mostly because it’s not too far off the mark, I guess.”
“Courtney, Matt knows your story and it was pretty clear that he was excited to see you, too. If you can just relax and cut yourself some slack, I think you’ll find that the secular life is a fucking blast. If you wanna get laid, you gotta act like a lay person.”
Courtney chuckled and smiled warmly at her brother.
“One thing at a time, Billy. Let’s see if I can actually manage to pull off a dinner date first, okay?”
Hey, Kids! Since we’ve arrived at the halfway point of our reunion story, I thought it might be a good time to take a breather, stretch our legs, wash our hands 50 to 100 times and take stock of where we’re at.
*Spoiler Alert* I know Chris was a pretty consistent thorn in my teenage side, but Jesus, Curmudgeon! A fucking shank to the throat? So much for subtlety, eh, Wordsworth?
Also, I couldn’t help but notice that you actually managed to plagiarize my fucking personality. At least the inevitable rash of civil cases filed against you for this creative usurpation will establish some interesting legal precedents. Whatever gets you in the history books, I say.
And now for the silver lining of that fucker of a microorganism called COVID-19. It hasn’t escaped my attention that the programming choices on both network and cable TV have suddenly expanded in response to half the world living as shut-ins. It’s the least they could do, really, but still a welcome diversion. Last night, as I was responsibly self-quarantining, I noticed that Nick At Nite aired the pilot episode of Clarissa Explains It All, circa 1991. Clarissa and Fifteen ran concurrently on Nickelodeon, which means we’re getting closer to a long-awaited return to syndication of the Greatest TV Show Of All Time! You know what to do, Kids. Let’s kick that letter writing campaign into full gear: Nick At Nite, 1515 Broadway, 44th Floor, New York, NY 10036.
We’ll be back with the second half of Fifty in two shakes on a urinal cake but for now, enjoy this little ditty from The Venue’s first big performer, Vancouver’s own New Pornographers:
Episode 4, Part 3
Lonsdale Quay Hotel
North Vancouver, B.C.
Arseman sat on her bed playing the daily Sudoku when Jake rapped lightly on the door.
“Good morning, Sunshine!”
“Morning, Jake. Hey, where are we meeting up with Matt tonight?”
“He’s gonna meet us in the lobby at 7:00. How should we waste the time until then?”
“Beats me. I guess we should behave like the tourists we are and consult the Leisure section.”
Arseman grabbed the copy of The Sun from her bed and her eyes fell on a front-page sub-headline she hadn’t noticed when she picked it up from the front desk.
“Do you remember Chris from Hillside?”
“Wasn’t his last name McDonald?”
“It probably still is.”
“No. It isn’t.”
“What the hell are you talking aboot, Babe?”
“Apparently, he was doing time at Kent and got murdered by another inmate.”
“Woah! That’s crazy. I, uh…I guess I’m not sure how to feel aboot that.”
“That makes two of us, but I know it doesn’t make me feel good.”
“Jesus. Is it too early to start drinking?”
“Bloody Marys are a breakfast food. Let’s go.”
The Venue – Downtown
Dylan and Ashley parked their rented Geo in a metered spot around the corner from the café and walked to…
“What the royal fuck?”
“Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose, eh?”
Dylan pointed at the marquee with a look of astonishment.
“Woah, The New Pornographers are playing here next month? That’s some big-time shit. I wonder if Jerry’s seen this place lately. I bet he’d be pretty pissed considering the best act he ever booked was Teenagers In Love.”
“let’s go inside and check it oot.”
Dylan pushed at the revolving door, but it wouldn’t budge.
“I guess it’s not a café anymore. We’ll have to come back in the evening when it’s open.”
Just as they were turning to leave, Jerry unlocked the door and stepped ootside.
“You must be shittin’ me. Long time no see, Dylan.”
“Jerry! How the hell are you, Man?”
“Better than you’d probably believe. What brings you back around here?”
“Well…let’s just say the rock and roll life ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.”
“Coulda fooled me. Good to see you, Ashley. Why don’t you guys come on in and have a drink on the house?”
“Wait, you own this place?”
“That’s what it says on the deed.”
Dylan and Ashley followed Jerry inside and sat down at the bar that had taken the place of the Avalon counter.
“What’ll it be?”
“Can you whip me up a White Russian?”
“Best in the city. Ashley?”
“zinfandel, please. thanks.”
Jerry disappeared behind the bar and reemerged a few moments later with the drinks. He took a seat next to Dylan and detailed his recent spate of unexpected good fortune.
“A fucking Lotto Max ticket?! That you found lying on the ground?!”
“I shit you not. And that ain’t all. I bought two other places on the east and west side, too.”
“Well, that explains a lot, but how the hell did you manage to book The New Pornographers?”
“Let’s just say that I have a benefactor with connections.”
“Unbelievable. I guess good things do happen to good people?”
“Don’t kiss my ass, Dylan. I have local acts in here on Wednesday nights. If you’re interested, I hold auditions every Sunday afternoon.”
Dylan finished off his drink and flashed Jerry a wry smile.
“Sunday afternoon it is. Ready, Ashley?”
Her eyes were fixed on the stage in the former pinball room as she idly circled her finger along the edge of her glass.
“sorry, dylan. yeah, i’m ready.”
Kelly awoke from a fitful sleep on her sister’s couch with Nia snoozing quietly by her side. She got up carefully so as not to wake her daughter, walked into the kitchen and sat down, dropping her head wearily into her hands. A few moments later, she was startled by the appearance of her sister by her side.
“Oh, hey, Valerie.”
“Get any sleep?”
“A little. Nia’s still oot cold.”
“Do you know someone named Theresa?”
“Theresa? I don’t think so.”
“Well, someone named Theresa knows you. I got a really weird text this morning.”
“Here, take a look.”
She sat down and passed her phone across the table. Kelly rubbed her eyes and looked at the screen.
My name is Theresa Morgan-Reid. If you are sisters with Kelly Lavoie, I really need to speak with her and hope that you can supply me with her phone number or email address. I’m an old friend from high school.
“Creative bill collector?”
“Worse. Do you remember my friend Brooke you used to write papers for?”
“I remember her money.”
“Theresa’s her little sister.”
“What the hell could she want?”
“Not a fucking clue. But I guess we’ll find oot soon enough.”
“Are you gonna call her back?”
“No. You are.”
“If I remember correctly, the going rate for this type of favor is $20, but I’ll let you slide this time. Give me the phone and let’s figure oot what the hell this is all aboot.”
Vancouver General Hospital
Roxane finished packing her bag when the attending nurse appeared at her door.
“How are you feeling this morning, Ms. Lee?”
“Good, Jackie, thanks.”
“Think you’ll be okay at home? I know you’ve improved a lot, but you’ll still need some help with anything strenuous.”
“I’ve got a friend waiting for me downstairs…he’ll look after me.”
“Okay, great. Take care of yourself, Roxane.”
“You, too, Jackie.”
Roxane zipped up her bag and took the elevator to the lobby where Ben was sitting reading a magazine.
“Come on, Ben, let’s blow this place.”
Ben got up, grabbed her bag and followed her silently oot to the parking garage.
“So, what, you’re gonna make me guess?”
“Jesus, you’re fucking dense – is it done?”
“Yeah. He’s dead.”
“Solitary. What the fuck did you think they’d do with him?”
“Oh. That sucks. Well, sometimes collateral damage can’t be avoided. Now let’s get the hell oot of here. I haven’t gotten laid in weeks.”
Episode 4, Part 2
Lonsdale Quay Hotel
North Vancouver, B.C.
A bitter wind whistled through the doors like an angry specter as Jake and Arseman lugged their bags into the opulent lobby of the Lonsdale Quay.
“Um…Arseman, Dear? Is this seriously where you booked us for a three week stay? Exactly how much money do you think guys shove down my Speedos every night?”
“Relax, Jake. Whatever your Speedos can’t cover is coming right oot of my corporate travel account.”
“And since you’re the CEO, CFO and co-owner of the business, that means it’s coming right oot of your pocket. Don’t patronize me, Babe.”
Arseman smiled as she ceremoniously pulled a business Gold Card from her wallet and waved it dismissively in the air. She checked in with the concierge and got keys for their adjoining rooms on the third floor overlooking Vancouver Harbour.
“Alright, let’s unpack so we can get down to business.”
“Down to business?”
“Fabulous! I had a suspicion you’d be a great travel companion, Arseman, and now that’s confirmed. But give me a few extra minutes – I should probably call Matt and let him know we’re here before I’m too wasted to talk.”
“Yeah, I guess we need to keep our collective alcoholism to ourselves when it comes to Matt.”
“Hey, at least we’re cosmopolitan alcoholics. There’s a certain dignity to that. But yeah…even though it’s been a long time, Matt’s still a recovering alcoholic.”
“Are you planning to tell him what you’ve been up to for the last 20 years?”
“In due time. Now let’s go unpack and get down to business!”
A dusty beam of early morning sunlight fell upon Ashley’s face, rousing her from a restless sleep. Dylan was snoring softly with his arm draped over her breasts, so she slid quietly oot of bed to avoid waking him.
She grabbed her bathrobe from the floor at the foot of the bed and wrapped it around her body before padding into the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee. She settled down at the table and pulled oot her phone when Dylan trudged in yawning and rubbing his eyes.
“good morning, dylan.”
“Early riser, huh?”
“not always…i woke up a few hours ago and couldn’t get back to sleep.”
“That’s good to hear. If I end up having to take some 9 to 5 gig, it’s gonna be a pretty big shock to my system.”
“i’m surprised they were even willing to lease you this place withoot a job.”
“I had some money saved from Vegas, so I paid three months rent right off the bat. They kinda look the other way aboot employment when you do shit like that.”
“what are you doing today?”
“I don’t know. I was thinking it might be fun if you and I go visit the old café – a little nostalgia trip. What do you think?”
“the avalon? absolutely! god, it’ll be so weird to see it again.”
“Great, then that’s the plan. But uh…are you gonna try to talk to anyone in Toronto first? A lawyer or something?”
“dylan, i already missed my court date. what can a lawyer do now?”
“Talk some sense into you, maybe?”
“Ashley, this isn’t going away by itself. Trust me. It’s only a matter of time before someone here in Vancouver runs your info through a database and finds oot there’s an open warrant.”
“are you worried you’ll get in trouble?”
“It’s a DUI, Ashley. I’m not harboring a most wanted felon. The real question is why aren’t you worried aboot getting in trouble?”
“i don’t know. maybe…i just don’t care what happens to me anymore.”
“Bullshit. If that were true, you wouldn’t have flown halfway across the country to dodge your legal troubles.”
“i came here to be with you.”
“Okay. I’m sorry. We’ll figure this oot together. Now what do you say we get dressed and go pay a visit to the old shithole?”
ARIA TV Studio
North Vancouver, B.C.
Matt sat in the lobby waiting for Craig to arrive, periodically wiping his sweaty hands on the underside of his slacks while tiny pebbles of condensed toxicity crawled their way through the throbbing blood vessels in his head. Checking his watch, he got up and walked ootside.
The cold air evaporated Matt’s nervous perspiration as he glanced up and down the block for a clandestine spot. He noticed a small alleyway between the studio and the hair salon next door, so he walked down it far enough to be invisible from the sidewalk and pulled a flask from the inside pocket of his blazer. He twisted off the top and greedily gulped down the last of the vodka, then walked back to the lobby where Craig and another executive from W were already waiting.
“Hey, Craig, good morning.”
“Sorry aboot the commute, Man. Our headquarters is all the way back in your neck of the woods, so we have to use this place for our Vancouver productions.”
“No problem at all.”
“It’s gonna be a long one today, so if you need to do anything before we hit the sound stage and get rolling, now’s the time.”
“Oh, okay. Then I’ll just make a quick phone call and meet you…”
“…in Studio C, around that corner.”
Matt walked back ootside and pulled oot his phone.
“Matt! How’s it going, Buddy?”
“Great! I was so surprised to get your message last night. What the hell are you doing in Vancouver?”
“I’m here with Arseman.”
“Arseman? Really? Wow! Okay, so what the hell are you and Arseman doing in Vancouver?”
“Taking a trip down Memory Lane, I suppose. When will you be free to get together?”
“I’m pretty booked all week but Friday night’s looking good – does that work for you guys?”
“Perfect! I’ll call you later in the week to work oot the details. Can’t wait to see you, Big Guy!”
“Right back at ya, Jake. Take care.”
The hair of the dog effects had taken sufficient hold, so Matt strode confidently back into the studio feeling more like a television celebrity than a relapsing realtor.
Courtney had been living alone in Billy’s enormous home just ootside Garibaldi Provincial Park for over two weeks. While looking after Marvel was a pleasure, the isolation was beginning to wear on her. For the past two decades, every day had started with communal prayers, daily mass and a group rosary recitation. For the past two weeks, every day had started with a lonely mixture of anxiety and regret.
She wandered from room to room, Marvel tailing closely at her side, and quietly prayed for guidance.
“Dear Lord, please forgive me for failing in my vocation. Please guide my hand to—”
Courtney abruptly ceased her whispered entreaties and hung her head in shame while Marvel licked at her ankle.
Feeling that she no longer had the luxury of beseeching divine intervention, she walked into her room and grabbed the scrap of paper upon which Matt had written his phone number from the night stand. She pulled oot her phone and dialed. It rang three times before going to voice mail.
“Hello, Matt? It’s Courtney! I was just hoping that we could…get together sometime soon?”
Episode 4, Part 1
Kelly pulled into the Martello Tower parking garage and wound her way up to the top level. She eased into a spot next to the elevators, cut the engine and sat behind the steering wheel sobbing until she had no tears left to cry.
She took the elevator up to the thirtieth floor and stood at her apartment door jiggling the key in the lock, but the dead bolt wouldn’t unlatch. Kelly glanced up and saw the notice that had been affixed to her door:
NOTICE TO EVICT PREMISES
Payment of rent in arrears in the amount of $1,150 is due and payable immediately. If this back rent is not received in full within 7 days from the date of this notice, the premises will be cleared of all personal items and listed as vacant. You will not be able to reclaim your personal property at that time. Remit payment to the Leasing Office immediately to regain access to the premises. Failure to do so in the required time will result in forfeiture of the unit.
“Oh, fuck. Not now. Jesus.”
She pulled oot her phone and called her sister.
“Hey. I’m in a little bit of a jam. Can Nia stay there with you tonight?”
Maple Ridge, B.C.
Theresa threw her arms around her sister and held her in a long embrace.
“Hi, Stacy! It’s so great to see you! Thanks so much for driving oot here with Brooke. Eddie, come help us with the bags!”
They stepped into the foyer of Theresa’s spacious split-level home while her husband dutifully fetched their luggage from the trunk.
“So how was the trip?”
“In that case, what do you say we kick back in the kitchen with a bottle of wine?”
They settled down at the table as Theresa uncorked a bottle of Chardonnay and poured three generous glasses.
“So, Brooke, what’s this ‘little project’ you have for me?”
“Sorry for being so vague aboot it on the phone, Theresa, but it seems cell phone towers in Manitoba are few and far between. Before I left Toronto, I scoured all the social networks for anything I could find aboot Kelly – you remember Kelly, right?”
“How could I forget?”
“Of course. Anyway, I don’t know if she’s married and using a different name or what, but my detective work was a bust. You know I would never ask you to do anything unethical, but—”
“—but you’re going to anyway, right? Listen, Brooke, I get so few benefits from the cheapskates at ICBC that sometimes I feel compelled to invent my own. Usually, that comes in the form of extra copy paper for my home office, but maybe this time, I’ll access the driver database for…extracurricular purposes?”
“That’s my baby sister!”
Vancouver International Airport
“Ashley, I don’t understand. Why didn’t you tell me aboot this on the phone?”
Ashley stared down at the table and fidgeted with an empty Stevia packet as she tried to formulate a sensible reply.
“i guess i just didn’t feel like talking aboot it.”
“Well, when is your court date?”
Dylan shook his head in exasperation and took a sip of his coffee.
“You know you can’t run away from this forever, right? The judge is gonna issue a bench warrant that will be transmitted to every police department in every province in the country. You can’t hide oot in my garage until this one passes over, Ashley.”
“i’m scared, dylan. and you’re all i’ve got. i need you to tell me it’ll be okay.”
Dylan sighed and grasped Ashley’s hand across the table.
“It’s gonna be okay, Ashley. I promise.”
Kent Institution Correctional Facility
It had been two weeks since Chris had spotted Tony in the courtroom and though both were housed in general population, they hadn’t crossed paths in the prison common areas so Chris had started to let his guard down. At night as he’d lay on his cot waiting for sleep that never came, he often wondered if Tony hadn’t gotten himself arrested at Roxane’s behest, a thought that only served to make his sleepless nights feel even more interminable.
Chris put on his jacket and lined up at the door to the recreation yard. The guard did a head count and swung the steel door open to let the inmates file oot.
In keeping with his self-imposed isolation, Chris wandered to a quiet corner of the yard and leaned against the razor-wire fence as he lit a cigarette. He idly watched a couple of inmates playing poker at a picnic table a few yards away until he spotted a hooded figure approaching fast from his left. Thinking fast, Chris pulled up the cuff of his pants and reached into his sock for the slender makeshift shiv he’d been carrying for the past week or so. He slid it inconspicuously up his leg and held it with two fingers against his inner thigh. He looked back in the direction of the possible attacker who seemed to have disappeared in the brief moment that Chris had turned his attention to ferreting the concealed weapon from his sock. Scanning the yard, he still saw no sign of the man and began to wonder if paranoia was just working overtime on his imagination.
Chris walked back toward the fence and lifted his thumb, letting the blade slip down into his shoe. As he popped the cigarette back between his lips, he felt a sudden sensation of breath on the back of his neck and spun around. Tony wore a sadistic grin as he raised the shank and sunk it rapidly into Chris’ throat before turning on his heel and disappearing into the throng of prisoners in the yard. Chris collapsed to the ground as a stream of blood erupted from just below his Adam’s apple splattering a mosaic of crimson into the dirt surrounding his motionless body.
Happy Birthday, Curmudgeon! You’re fifty years old today. How does one properly celebrate such an important milestone in the illustrious lifetime of a sexy young thing like you? Well, first of all, I will continue to tolerate your flagrant copyright infringements withoot unleashing the unmitigated fury of my overpaid legal team upon your pop-cultural appropriating ass. But more importantly, after reading the first few chapters of your reunion story, I’ve decided that not only will I appear in the series, I intend to bankroll the entire production and even let you crash at my pad in Vancouver while it’s filming!
Holy shit, you’re a dumbass. See you in court.
Episode 3, Part 3
The Venue – Downtown
Janice pulled up to the curb and parked in front of…The Avalon? Apparently, Jerry had already been quite busy spending his unexpected windfall because she found her former hangoot transformed beyond recognition. A large marquee above the entrance flashed the words The Venue – Downtown in deep electric blue and a swath of crimson Eco-Fi fashioned into a faux red carpet led from the end of the sidewalk to the revolving door. A ticket-taker podium was installed to the right of the entrance.
Stepping gingerly over a thin layer of ice, Janice nearly lost her balance before reaching the red polyester strip and regaining her traction. Pushing her way inside, Janice was momentarily stunned at the complete metamorphosis the establishment had undergone in just a few short weeks. Signed band posters and sundry rock and roll memorabilia adorned the walls while the splintered light from a giant mirror ball suspended from the ceiling cast dancing illuminated diamonds upon every surface. The wall that had separated the dining area from the pinball room had been knocked down, the booths and arcade games were gone, and in their place rose a prominent stage.
Jerry was sitting at a small table near the bar waiting for her to arrive. Janice walked over, shook his hand in a pointedly businesslike manner and sat down. Jerry polished off his beer and belched under his breath before giving Janice an uncomfortably thorough once-over.
“Nope. Still don’t remember you.”
“I’m not surprised. Back when I used to come here, the most memorable thing aboot me was probably how unmemorable I was.”
“You were friends with Ashley and Dylan and all those guys?”
“Well…I don’t know if ‘friends’ is exactly accurate, but yeah, that was my class.”
“Hmm. I just don’t remember you.”
“Yeah, that’s been established. Anyway, Jerry, the reason I asked to meet with you is that I have a business proposition to discuss. I’m the programming director at Broadband TV. I’ve been thinking of airing more live entertainment just after the prime-time lineup to sort of set us apart from the other networks that exclusively air talk shows in that time slot. Then when I read your interview in the paper, I thought your new clubs might just be the perfect venue, no pun intended — but perhaps serendipity implied?”
“If you know how to speak English, please feel free to do so any time.”
Janice chuckled and looked warmly at Jerry.
“What I’m saying, Jerry, is that I run a television network and you are now the proud owner of three ultramodern rock and roll clubs all situated on prime Vancouver real estate. If we combine our resources, we can make more money than we’d ever know what to do with. So what do you say?”
Jerry paused and picked at the label on the neck of his beer bottle. Finally, he raised his head and looked Janice squarely in the eye while extending his hand across the table.
“I say hell yeah, Partner!”
“Hell yeah. Partner.”
South Bruce Grey Health Centre
“Mrs. Walker? Ashley?”
“Good. Do you know where you are?”
“Okay. You were in a car accident, do you remember that?”
“Good. Now you did suffer a moderate concussion, so we’re going to keep you here overnight for observation, but aside from that, I’d say you got pretty lucky. Are you feeling good enough to have a little talk with someone?”
“who? you didn’t call matt, did you?”
“No, Mrs. walker, we haven’t called anyone. But there’s a police officer oot in the hall who wants to ask you some questions. Do you feel up to it?”
The nurse rose from her chair next to the bed and before Ashley knew it, a stern-faced female officer from the Regional Police Service seemed to just materialize in her place.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Walker.”
“I’m Constable Jennings and I’m investigating the accident that you were involved in today. Mrs. Walker, were you driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or prescription medications at the time of the collision?”
“no, ma’am. well, maybe. i had taken an alprazolam just after lunch but that’s per my prescription and i take it at that time every day so…”
“Mrs. Walker, more than five times the prescribed amount of Xanax was found in your system. That’s another reason the doctor wants to keep you overnight, to monitor any withdrawal symptoms. We found one and a half bottles in your glove box, prescribed by two different physicians.”
“okay. there’s really nothing i can say, is there? so what happens now?”
“Since no one else was hurt, we’re going to let you go home after the doctor releases you. But you’ll be receiving a summons to appear before the Court to face a charge of impaired driving resulting in property damage within the next few days. You can retain an attorney, but they cannot be present for the initial hearing when the charges against you will be read to the Court. Do you understand, Mrs. Walker?”
“yes. thank you. if you don’t mind…i really need to rest now.”
Ashley watched the cop lumber oot the door and slowly moved her hand towards the small lamp table at the bedside where the nurse had placed her cell phone. She grabbed it and pulled up her contacts, then hesitated for a very long moment as her finger hovered unsteadily over the name Dylan Blackwell.
Matt sat nervously at the bar nursing a ginger ale. The producer he’d met last week had advised him to be here at noon to discuss creative ideas with a team of reps from the network, but it was already twenty after and Matt was on his third $8 glass of Canada Dry.
Finally, he saw Craig stroll in past the maître d with a party of four nearly identical business-hipsters.
“This is the man of the hour, Fellas! Matt, this is Peter, Alan, Joshua and Mitch, but you can just refer to them collectively as Those Assholes Who Make My Life Miserable. I’ve already given them the basics aboot what you and I had discussed for the show format and now they’re here to fuck it all up. Sound fun?”
“Great! What are you drinking?”
“Ah…just ginger ale.”
“Nonsense. You’re gonna need something a lot stronger than that to stomach these guys, trust me. Bartender, six Canadian Clubs, straight, and start a tab.”
“Listen, Craig, I, uh—”
“Matt, what do you think aboot a co-host?”
Craig and the team of producers pulled up to the bar on either side of Matt.
“Honestly, I thought a co-host was a given…but I don’t have any suggestions, if that’s what you mean. I mean, my little thing in Toronto was just a single camera DIY show with a very limited audience, so…”
The bartender returned and placed the drinks evenly down the row of well-dressed, unshaven execs until he reached Matt and seemed to take a measured pause before sliding the glassful of amber brown liquid onto the bar in front of him.
“Alright! Na Zdorovie, Gentlemen! To Matt and another shitty realty show that’ll make us assloads of money!”
Matt sat beneath the pyramid of raised glasses and stared into the whiskey, imagined himself drowning in it and found the image oddly soothing.
“Is everything alright, Matt?”
Matt raised the glass to his lips and emptied a burning stream of electrical current into his throat. He slammed the glass onto the bar and smiled a demented jagged crescent of unhealthy satisfaction.
“Yeah, Craig. Everything’s alright. Let’s talk co-hosts!”