by Alan A Sandercott

112 pages. Perfect bound. 5" X 8".
First printing 2005

ISBN 0-9685413-4-8

[Out of Print]

Big City Lights is the tale of two young men who succumb to the lure of the big city. One a small town boy, the other not as street wise as he makes out. Together they are drawn into a spiral of troubles with deadly consequences.

NOTE: This previously published work is covered by copyright.
No printing, copying or use by any means without written permission from the author.

BIG CITY LIGHTS    by Alan A Sandercott

       The lonely sound of a fog horn still emits from the old lighthouse marking the rocky entrance to Salmon Cove's quiet little harbour. The once prosperous village came by its name honestly as a bustling fishing port with canneries shortly after the turn of the century. Changing technologies and tougher economies eventually left their fleet of fishing vessels tied to the dock to rot away with time.
Above the waterfront an eerie fog drifted among the old wooden buildings lining Cannery Row. The seemingly always present rain kept most residents indoors as the fog crept higher along the escarpment into the newer section of town. Ten in the evening and as usual the sidewalks were empty and the single main street devoid of vehicles. Another normal evening in Salmon Cove.
After fueling up their truck at the local Shell Service two local teenagers prepared to bid farewell and hit the road on the first leg of their cross-country road trip to Toronto, Ontario.
    "Find some decent music on the radio and let's get this show on the road," Colin said, heading for the highway out of town. Colin Goldmann was nineteen, the son of a prominent businessman who had moved his family from Toronto two years earlier. Colin was a tall young man with dark hair, dark complexion and sullen brown eyes. His family was well off so he wanted for anything, evidenced by the nearly new Chevy half-ton pickup he drove. He always had money in his pocket and seemed to do pretty much anything he wanted.
    "Where we sleeping tonight?" Erik asked.
    "Good 'ol Vancouver, man. But if you want sleep you better get it now because there won't be time once we get there."
Erik Kaarlson had lived all of his sixteen years in Salmon Cove. He had striking blond hair, blue eyes and an air of naivety about him. Until he started hanging around with Colin, he was well behaved and a good student. The two were as different as night and day. No one could understand the attraction that drew young Erik into Colin's irrational world
Salmon Cove was soon a dim light in the rear view mirror as the highway wound its way up the mountainside. "I hope the hell it doesn't snow going over the summit," Erik remarked.
    "Who cares? That's what four-wheel drive is for."
Higher and higher they climbed, past the clear-cut logging sites, past the main hydro lines that crossed the highway below the summit. There was no snow on the summit, just heavy rain pounding down. The foggy coastline had long since disappeared from the rear view mirror leaving only the blackness of the night.
    "Reach under the seat," Colin said. "There's a bottle under there somewhere. I feel the need for a drink coming on."
It took a bit of searching but Erik finally came up with the whiskey bottle. He had tried scotch a few times and nearly choked on it. It didn't seem to have the same effect on Colin though; he enjoyed drinking the 'good stuff', as he referred to it. Erik opened it and handed it over to Colin who took a good swig and handed it back. "Have one. It'll warm your insides. What're you looking for?" he asked, noticing Erik still feeling around under the seat.
    "Some mixer."
    "For what? You don't put mixer in expensive scotch."
    "I do. I thought there was still a bottle of coke under here somewhere," Erik said, opening the glove box to have a look. What he found sent a shiver up his back: it was a gun. It belonged to Colin's father. He had seen the Browning 9mm semi-automatic before at Colin's house. He's actually held the gun in his hand when he was there. "Why have you got this?"
    "You never know when it might come in handy," Colin replied, reaching over and slamming closed the glove compartment. "If you're going to drink the bloody stuff, drink it straight, not like some damned pussy."
    "Maybe later," Erik said. He slid the bottle back under the seat and tried to get comfortable again, but he found it difficult trying to sleep sitting up.
A half hour or so later Erik gave up his attempt at sleep and sat up straight, "You want to pull over? I need to take a leak."
    "It's pouring rain out there. Can't you wait awhile?"
    "Nope," Erik said, holding his crotch and wiggling his legs. "I've really got to go." All the rain splattering on the windshield simply made him want to go even more. "Suit yourself. Just make it quick. I want to get there tonight." Colin pulled the truck off to the side of the highway and slowed to a halt.
    Erik pulled his jacket over his head and was out the door like a flash while Colin adjusted the truck radio to a different station. The rain seemed to be getting worse as it pounded down creating a staccato effect on the roof.
"Okay," Erik said, climbing back into the truck. "That feels a hell of a lot better." He immediately started twisting around trying to get comfortable again. His jacket, now wet from being outside, had to be folded just right, and then wedged against the door glass for a pillow. Eyes closed, his mind drifted ahead to Vancouver and all the fun they were going to have. The road noise and the sensation of movement soon lulled him to sleep. Colin continued to drive and with each passing mile he felt progressively better about getting away from Salmon Cove for awhile.
Another hour and they were out of the mountains. Off in the distance the sky was ablaze with the lights of civilization. Colin looked across the truck seat at Erik, wide awake and sitting there with a big grin on his face. He had never seen the Vancouver skyline at night before and he was enjoying every moment.
    "Well, look who's awake," Colin commented.
    "How long was I sleeping?"
    "Long enough. What were you just smiling at?"
    "I don't know. I'm in so much shit I should be crying."
    "For what?"
    "For taking off to go on this trip. My father is going to be furious when I'm not there in the morning."
    "What are you worrying about?" Colin asked. "Envision my old man when he realizes his wallet is six hundred bucks lighter and his bar is missing a bottle of his best scotch."
    "You swiped the money?"
    "Sure, why not?" Colin asked, like it was normal practice.
    "I would never -"
    "Bullshit! Where'd you get your money? You do have some money with you I hope?"
    "Yeah, but I didn't swipe it. I had some money saved up for a new bike."
    "Who cares? We're going to have a good time. That's all that counts."
    "I hope so." Erik's eyes remained fixed out the horizon where the lights were growing brighter and brighter. "I've only been to Vancouver twice before."
    "What? You've got to be kidding?" Colin said, surprised.
    "Nope. We hardly ever leave Salmon Cove."
    "Where do you go on holidays?"
    "Nowhere really, just camping and fishing, you know?"
    "You mean you stay right in the local area?"
    "Yeah. I guess."
    "Christ. I take off, every chance I get."
    "Where to?"
    "All over. I even went to Florida by myself last winter."
    "Florida? Holy shit. What was that like?"
    "All I did was lay around on the beach and watch chicks. There was a bunch of guys I met down there. It was great."
    "Where were your parents?"
    "Europe. They don't want me around when they go somewhere on holidays. And that's fine with me; I don't want to be around them either. They always go to the most boring places. So I go somewhere else. As far as they're concerned I'm at some summer camp they picked out."
    Erik sat up straight, resting his arm across the back of the seat and tried to picture what it was going to be like to be on his own.
Once they connected with the main freeway, traffic started to liven up. The big city lights on the horizon were coming closer. More and more residential areas started springing up along the highway, and then the odd shopping mall. Erik took particular interest in a new mall that was under construction. It was bigger than anything he had ever seen before. "That's what I want to do," Erik remarked. "I want to go places and construct huge buildings like that. I'm going to be an engineer."
    "Sure you are," Colin taunted, "you'll be lucky to finish school."
    "Yes I will," Erik corrected. "And after that I'm going to university."
    "That all crap! No one needs all that school shit."
    "No. Not when your old man has all that money."
A few more miles and they crested a hill overlooking the north shore. Far below, the lights of Lion's Gate Bridge pointed the way to Vancouver.
    "Okay," Colin said, sizing up the various hotels along the route. "Where do you want to stay tonight?"
    Erik didn't much care as long as it had a bed. He was fighting to keep his eyes open.
They traveled several more blocks until Colin suddenly swerved into a huge shopping mall. "How about this one?" he asked. Along with dozens of stores and various shops, a mountain sized hotel rose majestically amid a blaze of lights.
    "We're going to stay here?" Erik asked. He had expected Colin to stop at a motel or something, certainly not what appeared to be the largest hotel on the north shore.
    "Sure, why not? First night in town. Let's do it up right." Erik had no chance to respond before Colin turned into the entrance to the hotel's underground parking.
The underground area was a maze of bright lights. It was like daytime down there. Erik couldn't get over how low the ceilings were and he sort of cringed, expecting the top of the truck to collide with the ceiling at any moment. They dropped to the second level where Colin maneuvered through the maze of cars to find a parking spot.
    "There's one there," Erik said.
    "Too far from the elevator."
    Erik found that comment a little amusing; they didn't have any luggage. Why did they have to be near the elevator?
When the elevator stopped at the main lobby, Colin headed for the reception desk. Erik didn't get more than a few feet from the elevator and the stopped.
    "You coming?" Colin asked, looking back.
    Erik wasn't paying attention. He stood gawking around at the lobby. It was like a miniature park. Trees and shrubs were everywhere, even a pond with goldfish. At either end of the lobby there were adjoining entrances to the mall stores so customers could go shopping and never have to go outside. Colin left him standing there and walked over to the counter.
    "We need a room for the night. Up high. I want to see Vancouver," Colin explained to the woman at the desk.
    "A single?"
    "Two beds," Colin replied.
    "Smoking or non-smoking?"
    "Very good sir," the woman said, moving to her computer terminal. "One double room for one night," she said, typing away at the computer keyboard. "... that will be $268.45 all together. May I take an imprint of your charge card please?"
    "I'll be paying cash," Colin said, proudly.
    "Very well. But the hotel's policy requires its cash customers pay in advance."
    "Not a problem." He reached for his wallet, deliberately flashing his tidy stack of money. He dropped two one hundred dollar bills on the counter and turned to Erik who had finally joined him. "So, what do you think? Nice, eh?"
    All Erik could say was, "Holy shit."
    "Pick up my change," Colin said, walking towards the row of elevators.
    "Room 1423," the clerk said, handing Erik the key. "I take it you won't be requiring any assistance with your luggage?"
    "Nope," Erik replied, scooping up Colin's change. He totally missed the coyness of the clerk's remark.
It was one of those speedy elevators, the kind that gives you the sensation of having been launched into space. Within seconds they were at the fourteenth floor and trying to figure out which direction to turn to find their room.
    "Down this way," Erik said, leading the way. When he reached the door with the big brass '1423' on it, he quickly inserted the key. Inside, he was amazed to find that the room was even bigger than his school classroom. Not only did it have separate beds, but it had separate bedrooms. There was a kitchen area, huge bathroom with whirl bathtub, and a massive living room that led out onto a balcony.
    "Holy shit!" Erik exclaimed.
    "Nice eh? The old man and I stayed here when we came in for the last football game. We always stay at places like this."
Erik had never even seen the inside of a large hotel, let alone spent the night in one. He headed straight for the balcony. "Cool!" he exclaimed, cautiously stepping over to the railing. The city spread out in all directions.
    "Bet you've never seen a view of the city like this before, eh?" Colin asked, standing in the open doorway.
    "I thought we had to cross a bridge to get to Vancouver?"
    "This isn't Vancouver. You're in North Vancouver."
    "Yeah. That's Vancouver over there, on the other side of the bridge."
    "Holy shit." Then Erik made the mistake of looking down. He had watched all the floor numbers flashing by on the elevator on their way up, but hadn't realized until just then how high they really were from the ground. The height scared him at first, causing him to quickly cower back from the railing. If he had been afraid of heights before, he wasn't aware of it until that moment. He was about to say something, then paused, afraid of what Colin may think of him.
"That's all Vancouver over there?" Erik asked. "I had no idea it was so big."
    "Not as big as Toronto, though. Wait 'till you see how big it is."
    "I've never seen Vancouver at night before. It's awesome. Look at all the bright lights. It looks so peaceful looking."
    "Don't let the bright lights fool you. Once you get down on those streets at night anything can happen. A kid from the boondocks like you could get swallowed up so fast. You better make sure you stick close to me. I was raised on streets like that. I know what it takes to survive, you don't."
    Erik decided to take Colin's word on that subject but the view from the balcony still looked peaceful to him.
"What say we get something to eat?" Colin asked, flipping through the room service menu. He hadn't eaten since having a burger at lunch. As usual, Erik was famished. He drooled over the menu, eyes bigger than his stomach. Colin just shook his head as he phoned down the order. Erik parked himself in front of the TV to wait for the food to arrive. There was a wildlife program showing, the kind Erik loved to watch.
Colin had time to shower before the knock came on the door. The waiter brought the fancy looking tray in and sat it on the counter by the kitchenette. While Erik hovered over the tray, Colin took care of the bill, including a generous tip to impress the waiter, and Erik.
    "Thank you, sir. Thank you very much. Have a good night," the man said, closing the door behind him.
Erik wasted no time lifting the silver cover to reveal his hamburger deluxe. He nearly inhaled the damned thing he was so hungry.
    "Christ, one would think you hadn't eaten in a week."
    "I was starved," Erik said, dripping ketchup on the carpet. "I wish I would have ordered something to drink though. I wasn't thinking."
    "Get something out of the mini-bar."
    "The what?"
    "The mini-bar. Over there," Colin said, pointing to the small brown bar on the end of the counter.
    Erik pulled on the handle, the seal popped off and the door opened to a treasure chest. To his surprise the bar was stuffed full of chocolate bars, chips, peanuts, candies, pop and booze. He grabbed a can of coke and returned to finish his hamburger. Then, still not content, he tackled the big slice of apple pie he had ordered for desert. His earlier worries from Salmon Cove were fading fast.
Meanwhile, Colin had propped up a pillow on the end of one of the large chesterfields. He stretched out, his half eaten club-house sandwich in one hand, the TV remote control in the other. "Now is this living, or what?"
    Erik couldn't answer; his mouth was full of apple pie. But, 'if this is what it's like to be on my own,' he thought, 'who needs Salmon Cove?'
    "Shit," Colin muttered, flipping through the TV channels. "Where's the Pay-TV channels?"
    "The what?"
    "The pornos, skin flicks, blue movies, man," Colin said. He continued to flip through the remaining channels, and when a hockey game came on, Erik bellowed, "Leave it there."
    "You want to watch this shit?"
    "Damn rights." Erik instantly glued himself to the game.
    "Okay, but after it's over I'm turning on the skin-flicks."
Erik had heard stories about blue movies and wanted to watch one, but not until the hockey game was over. "God, wouldn't it be great if we could go to a game while we're in Vancouver?" Erik suggested.
    "Can if we want to. That's no problem."
    "Hey, there's a game Sunday night. The Toronto Maple Leafs are in Vancouver."
    "Sure. Why not," Colin agreed. If he was going to watch Vancouver play hockey, it might as well be live.
    "Holy shit. I've never been to a real hockey game before."
As the horn went to end the second period, Colin jumped up, "I need a drink." He grinned like a cat with a freshly killed mouse when he opened the door of the mini-bar to reveal all the alcohol. "Want one?" he asked, holding up a handful of miniature booze bottles. He selected two and returned to the chesterfield.
"Let's see," Erik said, moving over to investigate. Erik settled on vodka. "This looks good," he remarked, extracting the bottle and wandering into the kitchenette for a glass. He wanted to mix it with his can of coke.
During the rest of the hockey game Colin made several return trips to the mini-bar, reducing its content of bottles by preference, good stuff first. Erik stuck with his one bottle but he put a major dent in the number of bags of chips, peanuts, and even a fancy box of chocolate covered cherries.
After the game ended, Colin switched to the pay-TV channel and a porno movie. Within ten seconds Erik sat upright on the sofa staring bug-eyed at the TV screen, taking it all in, and saying nothing. The last thing he wanted was to let on that he'd never even seen one before.
Soon Erik was at the mini-bar for another drink, then another, until he was sound asleep on the sofa. Colin didn't bother trying to wake him. When the movie ended, he took the breakfast menu card he found on his pillow and hung it on the door knob in the hallway. Then he finished off one last cigarette and hit the sack.
It was Erik who woke to the early morning knock on the door. He opened it to a waiter with the tray of breakfast Colin had ordered the night before. Erik didn't question it, he reached into his pocket and paid the bill from Colin's change from the night before, less the big tip that Colin would have given.
He went into Colin's bedroom and tried to wake him but to no avail. So Erik took his breakfast tray and moved out onto the balcony. The sun was up and even though the rain had quit, it was still a touch cool outside. After breakfast he remained on the balcony, fascinated by the hustle and bustle of the city.
Checkout time was 11:00 a.m., and that's when the two of them finally stepped from the elevator into the lobby. Colin was unprepared for the $82.50 mini-bar and pay TV bill awaiting them when he dropped the room key on the cashier's counter.
    "For what?" Colin asked, looking at the bill.
    "The refreshment bar in your room, sir," the cashier explained.
    Colin had forgotten about the mini-bar. He reached for his wallet once more and begrudgingly dropped another hundred dollar bill on the counter. This time he waited for his change.
Before leaving North Vancouver, Colin made a quick stop for a case of beer, and then later pulled into a big service station and restaurant complex. Colin handed Erik a twenty dollar bill and told him, "Fill 'er up and when you're finished park the truck over there. I'll be in the restaurant getting some breakfast, seeing as how you ate mine."
    "What can I say? You didn't want it."
Colin took Erik by surprise when he told him to park the truck. Colin never let anyone drive his baby.
It was in the restaurant that Colin met Shelly. She was sitting alone in a booth by the window, like she was waiting for someone. Shelly was hard to miss with her red hair, freckled face and sparkly green eyes. Her seductive smile drew Colin like a magnet.
When Erik finished parking the truck he walked into the restaurant looking for Colin. He found him sitting in a booth with cute little Shelly. 'Boy' Erik thought to himself, 'Colin sure knows how to pick them.'
    "Slide in," Colin said, motioning to Erik to join them, "and make yourself homely. This is Shelly."
    "Hi," Erik said, sort of hypnotized by her green eyes. He had never seen anyone with green eyes before.
    "You want something to eat?" Colin asked.
    Erik slowly shook his head, still concentrating on Shelly. She appeared to be about his age.
    "So, Shelly," Colin asked, returning his full attention to her, "what's there to do in this place?"
Twenty minutes was all it took for Colin to clean up his breakfast and wolf down a couple cups of coffee. Conversation covered everything from weather to school sports days, but mostly centered on Shelly. She loved to talk and by the time the three reached the truck they were like long-time friends. For the next while they cruised the streets of North Vancouver with Shelly giving directions. They managed to tour two parks, the harbour, and even drove back to the mall under construction. That was for Erik's benefit. There they parked for awhile so Erik could wander around the site.
While Erik was gone, Colin made his move on Shelly. She seemed more than willing to get to know Colin better. After a couple of exploring kisses amidst the roar and clatter of construction workers and equipment, Colin suggested another plan, "Let's go somewhere a little quieter, a bit more private. What say?"
    She knew exactly what he had in mind. "Let's head up to Bridgeview."
    "What's that?"
    "It's a viewpoint. Lots of my friends go up there. You look down over Lion's Gate Bridge and see all the traffic," she said, smiling at Colin.
    "Okay by me," he said, leaning on the truck horn to alert Erik.
On their way to Bridgeview, Erik couldn't get overly excited about going somewhere to watch traffic on some bridge. He had spent the whole morning doing just that, and from probably an even better location. From the hotel balcony he could see the entire harbour area as well as the city. However, his interest picked up when Colin pulled over to the curb and said, "You drive, Erik."
    Twice in the same day he got Erik to drive, and out on the street this time. He wasted no time switching places.
    "And don't hit anything." Colin laughed, but Erik knew that he was serious about not wrecking the truck.
There was never any doubt in Erik's mind why he was driving. He hadn't even pulled out into the traffic before Colin had his arms around Shelly and they madly kissed and caressed each other.
    "So where am I going?" Erik asked. He was already paranoid about driving, and not knowing where only made things worse.
    "Just keep following this street up to the next traffic light," Shelly said. "Then you turn right. Then go straight ahead until I tell you to turn."
Erik tried to keep to the curb lane, afraid to wander out into the mainstream traffic. What he didn't realize was that it was still noon-hour rush and the curb lane was for the buses that he kept getting caught behind.
Then he got the bright idea of following a taxi that was using the bus lane. Big mistake, as he soon found out that required an ability to weave in and out of traffic. Within minutes he decided it would be a lot less dangerous to travel on the paralleling side streets, which he did. That worked well for Erik but proved nothing but confusing for Shelly and her attempts to give directions. Colin couldn't have cared less. It wasn't long before he was reaching behind the seat for a beer. He handed a can to Shelly and cracked one open for himself. "None for the driver," he laughed. The last thing Erik wanted right then was a beer.
Erik was a basket case by the time he pulled the truck into the Lion's Gate viewpoint. It was bad enough trying to drive, but with Colin and Shelly pawing each other fast and furiously, he'd had a hell of a time just keeping his eyes on the road. Things didn't change at the viewpoint either. If anything they got worse. Erik tried not to notice but it was almost impossible when Colin had his hands all over Shelly, mostly under her clothes. Her moaning didn't help, either.
    "Maybe I should be taking a little walk?" Erik suggested. He couldn't see the bridge very well from where he parked, but he had seen it all before from the hotel balcony.
    "Good idea," Colin quickly agreed.
    Shelly got Erik's meaning quick enough, "I think Erik feels left out. We need another girl."
    "You know someone? A girlfriend maybe?" Colin asked her.
    Karen nodded her head thoughtfully.
    "Why don't you fix him up then?"
    "I don't know," she joked. "What kinds of girls do you like, Erik?"
    "He's not fussy," Colin said. "Just as long as she has big tits. Just like yours," he laughed, grabbing at the front of her blouse.
    "Okay, I know someone who fits that description. Want me to give her a call and see if she's home?"
    "Absolutely," Colin said. "Okay, driver, back down the hill and stop at the first phone you see." He reached over and pulled Shelly close again.
While Shelly placed her phone call, Colin and Erik changed places so Colin could take over the driving.
    "I don't know about this," Erik said. He was a little apprehensive about being fixed up with someone he had never seen before. One minute he was playing chauffeur and the next he was meeting a blind date. Not exactly how Erik would have planned his afternoon. But anything was better than being in the truck by himself with the lovey twosome.
Shelly had a big smile on her face when she returned to the truck. "She's going to meet us in an hour."
    "What's she like?" Colin asked. "Erik is worried you're going to fix him up with a dog."
    "No. She's cute. Her name's Thelma. You'll like her." Shelly slid into the truck while Erik held the door for her. "She's going to meet us at a '7-11' station near her place. I'll show you how to get there."
It still bothered Erik that no one saw fit to even ask him if he wanted a date with the girl. But he said nothing about it and reached behind the seat for a beer for himself. He took a long drink from the can and then sat back to await his fate. Shelly moved all the way across the seat, right up tight to Colin.
"Why don't we go get something to eat?" Erik suggested. After all, it was hours since he cleaned up two breakfasts at seven in that morning.
    "You can," Colin said, "We'll wait in the truck."
From a distance, Thelma appeared a little on the heavy side but pretty nonetheless. She had shoulder length dark hair, almost black. She wasn't too tall. Erik immediately noticed the short skirt and bulky sweater, but it was the mounds bulging from within the sweater that really caught his attention. Shelly was right and he liked what he saw. Any apprehension he'd had quickly disappeared as he jumped out to hold his door while she climbed in alongside Shelly. A few quick introductions and they were off, to what Erik hoped would be an eventful and rewarding Friday afternoon.
The fragrance of Thelma's perfume quickly filled the truck's interior. She turned partially towards Erik, making it easier for him to help her off with her jacket. There was no eye contact on Erik's part; his eyes were fixed to the front of her sweater.
Thelma was the congenial type that could get along with anyone. She also loved to party and couldn't be bothered waiting for Erik to offer her a beer. She simply helped herself to his.
    "Would you like one?" Erik asked, a little surprised by her forwardness.
    "Not right now. I don't drink that much," she said, handing back what was left of his. "Anyone got any weed?"
    "No. But I'm sure we can arrange something," Colin said, putting his arm around Shelly again and pulling her close to him. "Where's your local dealer?"
The air outside the truck was getting cooler as the afternoon passed into evening. A moderate rain was just starting when they stopped across from a hotel pub in the downtown area.
    "This is the spot," Shelly said. Both she and Thelma began their vigil for Simon, one of the local drug dealers. There were lots of dealers in the area but Simon was the one Shelly and her friends used most often. Simon was also a full-time drunk, always blowing every cent he made in the pub. And if Simon wasn't carrying, he could quickly lay his hands on a stash -- for the right money, of course.
Fortunately, they didn't have long to wait. "There he is," Shelly said, pointing to a scruffy looking tall guy exiting the pub's double doors. Simon was nocturnal by the nature of his business. When the night crowds began hitting the city streets, so did he.
    Colin quickly opened his door to get out.
    "You better let me go," Shelly said. "He knows me."
    Colin just shrugged. "How much?"
    Colin slipped her the money as she climbed out of the truck.
Everyone watched from the truck as Shelly crossed the street and spoke with Simon the drug dealer. He was so drunk he could hardly stand and staggered around as Shelly explained what she wanted. Then he finally nodded his head and stepped back into the pub.
For several minutes Shelly nervously paced the sidewalk, occasionally glancing over at Colin who was watching her every move. Erik, on the other hand, still had his eyes riveted on Thelma, and it wasn't her radiant smile that held his attention.
When Simon finally returned to the sidewalk, he staggered over to Shelly, so close she could smell the stench of stale beer on him. They made the exchange and he disappeared back through the bar doors into a haze of smoke. The sale would keep him in beer for another hour or so.
Back in the truck, Colin held the plastic bag of marijuana to his nose and sniffed.
    "That's good shit," Shelly said, speaking from experience. "Believe me."
    "Party time," Colin laughed, dropping the truck into gear.
Not surprisingly they finally ended up at the viewpoint again, an obvious favorite haunt of Shelly and Thelma's. There were already several cars parked when Colin pulled the truck up to the railing and killed his lights. Except for a few nearby street lights, it was nearly dark outside. Below them the bridge stretched out in a wide arch over the inlet marked only by its rows of lights that disappeared into the fog on the far side. The previous night had been clear, giving a full unobstructed view of Vancouver. Now, as the fog drifted in, Vancouver was no more than a bright glow in the distance.
"There," Colin said, adjusting the radio for a music station. The lights from the dash provided just the right amount of light in the cab, but no more. With each hit on the marijuana joint being passed around, the cab would glow red for a second, then drift back into darkness.
    "If anyone gets cold, speak up," Colin said. But there wasn't much chance of that, especially Colin and Shelly. She slid even closer to Colin and, after another long kiss, she buried her face into his neck.
"I'm glad Shelly called me," Thelma whispered into Erik's ear. She followed up by nipping him on his ear with her teeth. He took on the consistency of butter at her touch. He too was glad, glad he was no longer third man out and expected to 'take a walk'.
    "Me too," he said, tightening his grip around her.
    "You smell nice." She snuggled closer to Erik, her face close to his. He turned his head slightly to face her, their lips meeting in a kiss, light at first but then bolder. After their kiss, Thelma leaned her head on Erik's shoulder, "Look at all the cars down there," she said. Erik hadn't given it much thought, cars were cars, and he had spent most of the previous night and all morning watching them. He wasn't about to waste any more time watching cars. The increasing rain was making it difficult for Erik to keep his window open.
During the long trip up to the viewpoint Erik had worked diligently with his free hand, clumsily testing Thelma's response to his touch. Not all in vain either. Sitting there in the darkness, he had actually worked his hand from around her waist, up under her sweater and brought it to rest on one of her breasts. 'Holy shit," he thought, 'she's got even bigger tits than the women in the porno movie.' He suddenly slowed his advance.
    "What's wrong?" Thelma asked, sensing something.
    "Nothing." He realized a part of him was rising to the occasion. But even that, as embarrassing as it was, couldn't erase the exhilaration he was experiencing at the moment with Thelma.
For the next while Erik continued in his dreamland. His breathing increased as his hand caressed first one breast, then the other. He wondered if he could have done the same thing with any of the girls back home. Would they have been as pleased as Thelma seemed to be with his new found boldness? He leaned over and kissed her full on the mouth, forcing her lips apart, and feeling her tremble lightly at the caress of his hand.
The flare of a match prompted Erik to glance over at the other two. Colin was just lighting up a joint, the smoke drifting across the truck cab to Erik's partially open window. The light from the match, just before Colin blew it out, lit up the cat and mouse look on Colin's face. Shelly's hands were out of sight, but they were certainly busy, as confirmed by Colin's moans of encouragement.
The other cars had left. Rain pounded down even harder on the roof as Erik kissed Thelma once more, even harder than before. She clung to him tightly, one of her legs hooked partially over his as if preventing his escape. He hated to move his hand but he had to find out. Slowly he let his hand slid down her side, down to her waist, into her lap and out along her leg to her knee. Then he slowly drew his hand back along her inner thigh, feeling her warm skin. She made no attempt to stop him, only kissed him harder. Higher and higher he inched his hand until he felt her legs press together, trapping his hand in a vise grip.
When Shelly passed the joint over, Erik's hand remained trapped. It was Thelma who accepted it. It was Thelma who also held it to Erik's lips as he drew in the marijuana smoke. All the while he made no attempt to withdraw his hand, enjoying his moment of glory.
    "What are you doing?" she murmured.
    "That's not what it feels like. I didn't say you could do that."
    "I know. I just wanted to."
    Unsure of her wishes he pulled his hand free and returned it to its previous location, his thumb brushing her hard nipple.
    "Erik ...."
    He said nothing, but leaned forward and gave her a long hard kiss, one she had to respond to. Her exploring tongue sent ripples up and down Erik's backbone.
Time passed until Shelly rolled the last of the marijuana into a joint and it made the rounds. Except for the radio softly playing in the background, the interior of the truck was quiet. Erik could hear his breathing increasing again as his hand slowly slid down over her stomach until he felt the smoothness of her panties.
    "Be good," she whispered to him.
    "I am."
    "No you're not."
    "Sure I am," he whispered. After a few seconds he tried slipping his fingers under the elastic.
    "Don't!" she said aloud.
Both Colin and Shelly began to giggle. "What's wrong, Erik? Won't she cooperate?" He had been watching Erik's progress with a great deal of interest. It was not the same Erik from Salmon Cove. Colin wanted to think some of his coaching was finally rubbing off on Erik.
    "We're doing okay," Erik replied, surprised that Colin had been watching them. He relaxed his hand.
    "Lighten up, Thelma," Colin said. "Shelly doesn't mind when I do that." He deliberately started running his hand up and down the inside of Shelly's legs. She didn't move. She had a big grin on her face, like she enjoyed playing to an audience.
    "Told ya," he said.
    "Yeah. Lighten up a little," Erik added, his hand remaining where it was.
After a few minutes of idle conversation, Colin reached for Shelly. They laughed, then embraced and kissed. Thelma continued to watch them for a moment, and then turned back to Erik. Her dark eyes stared into his and then she kissed Erik as hard as she could. He felt her relax somewhat. For Erik, whose confidence level was right up there with the stars, new challenges were up for consideration. He wondered if Thelma would make out with him and complete another milestone in his seventeen years. He had a couple condoms in his wallet that Colin had given him. It would be his first time if he managed to pull it off, a fact he would never share with Colin. He started giving serious thought to suggesting Colin and Shelly may want to go for a walk, but that thought was short-lived.
No one had noticed the car pull up behind them. It wasn't until the flashing red and blue lights came on that they realized they weren't alone in the viewpoint.
    "What the hell?" Colin exclaimed, suddenly.
    Erik snapped out of his dream world to the sound of a flashlight rapping on Colin's window.
    "You got any booze in there?" the cop asked, shining his flashlight around the interior after Colin had rolled down the window.
    "Nope," Colin replied.
    "How about you?" the cop asked, shining the light square in Erik's eyes. Erik panicked. He knew there was an open can of beer on the floor somewhere by his feet. He had been too busy to drink the damned thing.
    "No, sir," he lied, nervously rolling his window all the way down as well. Fortunately, the cop didn't seem to notice the smoke haze that lingered in the cab.
    "Let's have a look at your driver's license and registration," he said to Colin. "Whose truck is this?"
    "It's mine," Colin said, digging for the papers.
    "How old are the girls?"
    "I don't know?" Colin said, and he didn't.
    "How old are you?" he asked, shining the light in Shelly's face.
    "And you?" he asked, turning the light towards Thelma.
    "Seventeen," she replied. Erik could feel her trembling.
    "How about you, son?" it being Erik's turn.
    "Seventeen," he lied. He didn't want Thelma knowing he was younger than her.
Colin handed his license to the cop. After looking it over for a minute the cop then checked the registration.
    "Who's the pickup registered to?"
    "It's my truck," Colin replied.
    "Just wait here a minute," he said, and walked back to his patrol car.
    "What's he going to do?" Erik asked.
    "Just check us out on the computer. No big deal," Colin said.
When the cop returned he handed Colin back his papers. "Do I have any reason to believe there's any drugs in your vehicle?"
    "No." By then both windows had been wide open for several minutes.
    "You sure? I could bring a dog up here and go right through your pickup."
    "There's no drugs in here."
    "What are you doing up here?"
    "Nothing, just sitting here listening to music and watching traffic jams on the bridge."
    "This is no place to take young girls you know."
    "We're not doing anything. Just sitting here."
    "Well, I think maybe it's time you called it a night and take the girls home."
No one said a word until after the cop had returned to his car and his lights disappeared from sight down the hill.
    "I should get home anyway," Thelma said. "If I'm late my father will kill me."
    "What are you worried about? It's not that late," Colin said.
    "That cop might come back," she said. "I don't want to get into any trouble. Please take me home."
    Colin just shook his head and started the truck.
    "We could always go somewhere else," Erik said, hopefully. He was so close with Thelma he didn't want to give it all up.
    "Ahh, to hell with it," Colin said, disgusted. "Let's take 'em home. I want to go over to Vancouver yet tonight."
They left both girls at the '7-11' where they had picked up Thelma. After that Colin headed his truck back down town and by eleven o'clock they were crossing the Lion's Gate Bridge into Vancouver. Even at that time of night, Vancouver's down town core was alive and well. Colin knew how to get to BC Place and that's what he headed for. That's where he and his father had watched the BC Lion's play football. On their way to the stadium they hit Hastings Street and Vancouver's infamous East End. From what Colin had heard, the East End was the place to go to score anything you wanted.
It was almost midnight before Colin finally settled on a motel for them to stay. It wasn't very fancy but well located, right on the busiest part of Hastings Street. There was all the night life they wanted, all within walking distance. When he wheeled up to the office entrance, a half-asleep old rummy peered at them from behind dust laden Venetian blinds.
    "How many nights?" the old clerk asked when Colin went in to register.
    Colin gave it a quick thought. "Three," he said.
    "Cash or credit card?"
    "Cash ... yeah, I know, in advance."
    The clerk didn't even crack a smile. He pushed a card and a well-chewed pencil in front of Colin. "Sign it."
It was afternoon before Colin rolled out of bed at the motel. Erik had been up for hours. After showering he had walked several blocks in both directions until it started raining. Then he spent the rest of the morning watching cartoons on TV. Both were starved and when Colin suggested that they get something to eat, Erik was out the door, to hell with the rain.
Dining at McDonald's, something unavailable in a small town like Salmon Cove, was the order of the day. With a couple of Big Mac's and all the trimmings under their belts they hit the streets again. It was still raining and difficult to walk very far without getting soaked. Neither Colin nor Erik would have been caught dead carrying an umbrella. But almost everyone else on the street had one, making it a comedy to watch them trying to dodge one another.
It wasn't long before Erik spotted a theatre running a movie he wanted to see. "Holy shit! I wouldn't mind seeing that movie. I've seen it advertised on TV and it looks pretty good."
    "That right?" Colin replied, showing little interest.
    "Yeah. It'll be years before a movie like that ever gets to Salmon Cove. You want to go?"
    "Better than walking in the rain I guess."
    "Maybe the rain will have quit by the time it's over," Erik said.
    Colin didn't much care one way or the other as long as they got out of the rain. The weather was depressing and the daytime street crowd uninteresting. So he agreed.
Inside, Erik headed straight for the confectionery counter.
    "You just finished eating," Colin said. For the life of him, he couldn't understand how Erik could always be hungry.
    "Can't go to the show without popcorn. Then you have to have something to wash it down with."
Colin took careful notice of the girl taking tickets and quickly made eye contact. She blushed shyly. Erik took his tub of popcorn and drink and headed for a seat while Colin remained behind to talk with the ticket girl. The picture was almost half over before Colin finally sat down to watch the show.
The movie managed to burn off a few hours. By the time they walked back out onto the street it was starting to get dark. The rain had let up a little, just in time for the rush hour, as people scurried around trying to get home before the rain started up again. For the next while they wandered up and down Hastings Street in the general vicinity of their motel. Walking around in Vancouver was something new for Erik. He found the streets fascinating, the crowds of people rushing around, all strangers, all with their own lives and secrets. He could have walked all night if it hadn't started raining heavier.
"Let's get a beer," Colin suggested. There were lots of pubs in the area of the motel, a factor that had figured favorably in Colin's choice of their motel. Every time they walked past one the music from inside flooded out onto the street.
    "Come on," Colin said. "I'll show something you won't see in Salmon Cove."
    "What's that?"
    "Real strippers, that's what."
    "They've got strippers in Salmon Cove," Erik said, remembering when he seen one, for at least thirty seconds before the cops had come along and chased him away from the doorway.
    "Not like these ones." Colin grabbed the bar's entrance door and yanked it open, allowing the sounds of music to pour out onto the streets and hit Erik like a brick. The unmistakable smell of stale beer and cigarette smoke rushed out to greet them. Bright coloured lights flashed throughout the interior. Inside, Erik could hardly hear himself think. A big stage sat smack in the middle of the smoke filled room. It was just like Erik had seen on TV at times, a big brass pole at each end of the stage. He stood frozen in the doorway, taking it all in until Colin thumped him on the shoulder.
    "You coming or not?" Colin asked, in a loud voice.
    "Holy shit!" Erik blurted. It was definitely different from what he remembered from back home. He wondered what his parents would say if they knew where he was.
Colin maneuvered his way through the crowded floor with Erik in tow, heading straight towards the stage and a seat with a view. This was new territory for Erik, and he marveled at Colin's apparent familiarity with the bar's interior. 'Had he been in these bars before?' he wondered.
    "Here, let's grab this one," Colin said, referring to one of the dozen or so small round metal tables surrounding the stage.
    Erik slid into his chair and pulled it up to the table, immediately noticing the beer stained table cloth. "It's soaked with beer," Erik said. He pushed his chair back from the table a bit.
    "You're only drinking here," Colin laughed. "You're not eating off it."
    "I know, but ..." He paused, realizing he was close enough to rest his arm on the edge of the stage. He suddenly felt a little conspicuous in the glare of the stage lights.
Colin caught the eye of a waiter and stuck up two fingers, while Erik heard an announcer over a loudspeaker introducing the next dancer. Amidst all the racket around them he missed most of what the guy said but he did catch the bit about 'let's hear it for Miss Linda'. He clapped and cheered along with the rest of the room as his eyes quickly fixed on the blonde woman sliding down one of the brass poles. It reminded him of the poles at a fire station that the firemen slid down, only she was a lot better looking than any fireman. She was gorgeous, just like in the skin magazine he had seen in Colin's room. Erik knew he was going to enjoy this as she danced across the stage to the music, dragging a leopard-skin blanket along with her.
By the time the waiter hit their table, Erik's mouth was dry and he was ready for a beer. Only it was not to be. Instead of setting the beer down on the table the waiter hesitated, "Okay fellas, let's see some ID."
Right about then Erik's great anticipated evening collapsed. Colin simply reached for his wallet, dug out his driver's license and held it out to the guy. Then the waiter turned to Erik. "How about yours?" he asked.
    Erik swallowed hard, glancing at Colin for help. "I forgot my wallet tonight," Erik said, "but I'm nineteen." He knew he was dead. He hadn't sounded very convincing, even to himself.
    "Sure you are," the waiter said. "Sorry guys, you better try somewhere else."
    "Well how about mine?" Colin asked.
    "Sorry, I can't serve the table. Your partner here has to leave."
    "Shit!" Colin exclaimed. "Let's get the hell out of here."
    Erik suddenly felt guilty as hell. He could see that Colin was really pissed off. Even more disappointing was the fact that the blond was just about to take off her top.
Outside again, Colin started walking up the block swearing to himself. The rain had stopped but a wind whipped the streets.
    "Holy shit. It's getting cold out there," Erik said, pulling up the zipper of his jacket.
    Colin said nothing. Erik could tell that he was deep in thought. After about a half a block, Colin stopped. "Listen," he said, suddenly flashing a big smile. "I've got an idea."
    "Next place we go to, I'll go in and order a couple beers. After the waiter takes off you come in and sit down."
    "I don't know ... do you think it'll work?" Erik asked, a little unsure after having been thrown out of the first place.
    "Don't worry, they're so busy at night no one will even notice you."
    Thinking back to the blond stripper, Erik was ready to try just about anything.
So, a couple of doors down and another bar, Colin left Erik waiting inside the door while he looked for a table, one not as obvious as before. Colin always preferred to be near the stage but knew he couldn't take any chances on getting turfed out again because of Erik. The place was packed, just like the other bar.
He stood until he spotted a guy getting up to leave, then Colin made a bee-line for the table. Making sure Erik could see where he was, he sat down and pushed the empty glasses to the far side of the table. A short dark-haired girl, totally naked except for a G-string and a pair of high-heeled shoes, was dancing her heart out on the stage. A drunk near the edge of the stage kept trying to grab her ankles each time she danced by. She knew all the moves and easily kept her distance.
    "One?" a waiter asked, scooping up the empty glasses.
    "Sure ... no, make it a couple," Colin said. "Save yourself a trip."
The table Colin had grabbed was right next to a big post but shielded from the bright lights of the stage. Colin lit a cigarette and settled back to watch the girl finish her dance. He hoped to get in at least a couple shows before they closed for the night. It wasn't long before the waiter was back and plunked down a couple full glasses of beer in front of Colin.
    "Take one for yourself," Colin said, handing him a bill.
    "Thanks," the waiter said. He dropped the rest of the change on the table and disappeared into the crowd.
From Erik's vantage point by the door he could barely see the stage through the smoke laden room. But he kept his eye on Colin, waiting for the okay sign, and when Colin finally did signal him over, he nervously made his way through the crowd to the table and quickly sat down.
    "See," Colin said, pushing a full glass of beer to Erik's side of the table. "No problem."
    Erik was still worried though. He couldn't help glancing around watching for the waiter. He tried moving his chair even further behind the post, but that only obscured his view of the stage, so he moved it back. He did his best to blend in but still felt openly conspicuous sitting there. "I don't know about this," he said, turning to Colin with a worried look.
    "I'll fix that," Colin said, and scanned the room. "Wait here a minute."
Erik watched as Colin got up and approached a nearby table. He couldn't hear the conversation but he did see some guy handing Colin a baseball cap in exchange for a bill.
    "There," Colin said, sitting back down at the table and handing the cap to Erik. "Put this on your head and pull it down over your eyes."
    "Hey, this is all right," Erik said, adjusting the cap. He hiked up the collar of his jacket and turned back towards the stage.
Then the room filled with music once more and a girl - this one blonde, just like at the other place - climbed onto the stage. She too dragged a blanket behind her, just like the others. Erik began to wonder if it was costume or some kind of security blanket like in a Charlie Brown cartoon. In his eagerness to watch, he forgot all about the waiter. He picked up his glass. "Let the show begin," he said, and tipped back the beer glass. His evening was back on track.
Erik couldn't believe what that stripper was doing on stage. "Holy shit," he kept saying. He had never watched a live stripper perform before and he loved every minute it. He had heard some of the older guys talk about strippers, but now here he was, sitting in a bar, beer in hand, watching a live show for himself. Now he knew what he had only been guessing at since peeking into the bar back home.
His eyes remained glued to the girl all through her dance, every intimate detail, every single move she made. Then she too was naked except for her skimpy little red sequined G-string and her red high-heeled shoes. Erik had never even seen a woman undressed before, other than in the magazines, and that porno movie of course. Then, before he knew it, even the G-string was gone. "Holy shit!" he said, turning back to Colin. "Now I see what you mean." Again, pictures from the porno flooded back into his mind. He noticed more than his excitement was rising. He pulled his chair closer to the table.
After the girl had slipped on her robe and left the stage, Erik downed the last of his beer and turned to look for the washrooms. The beer and all the pop from the theatre were starting to have an effect. It meant making his way through the crowd again, and possibly being seen by the waiter, but he had to go. It surprised Erik that no one, not even the waiter that he nearly bumped in to, paid the slightest attention to him.
In the men's room, where the smell almost knocked him over, yet another first adventure faced Erik. He was at the urinal doing his thing and busily reading all the little scribbles on the wall. While committing some of the raunchy ones to memory for future use, an old guy next to him deliberately leaned over to watch Erik pee. The look in the guy's eye worried Erik, but when the guy actually put his hand on Erik's shoulder and tried to turn him around, that scared the hell out of him. He almost caught himself in his zipper trying to get out the door as fast as he could. He could hear the old guy back in the washroom grumbling like crazy.
Back at the table again, finding four more full glasses of beer on the table surprised Erik. Colin had taken advantage of Erik's absence to stock up.
    "Why so many?" Erik asked.
    "That's not many."
    "Oh," Erik said, picking up a full glass and taking a drink. He was about to tell Colin about the incident in the washroom then thought better of it. "I'm beginning to like this place," he said, a big grin on his face.
    Colin just laughed and sucked at his beer glass.
Another dancer hit the stage, this one towing a big woolly sheep skin. She really caught Erik's attention. "Boy," he said, "is she ever built." To his surprise she didn't look any older than he was. He wondered what it would be like having a stripper for a girlfriend.
    "How'd you like to get into her pants, eh?" Colin asked.
    "Holy shit, would I ever," Erik said. And for once he actually meant every word.
    "You got enough money?"
    "What? You mean she's a -"
    "That's right. They all flog it on the side."
    "You're kidding?"
    "Trust me, they're all hooking. That's how they make their money, picking up guys in bars."
    Erik couldn't believe it. Somehow she didn't look like a prostitute, but then he realized he had never really seen a prostitute before. "Are you sure?"
    "Sure. They're all selling it," Colin assured him.
    "Well what would she ... you know ... how much?"
    "Depends what you want."
    "Hmm," Erik muttered, raising his eyebrows. He wasn't really sure what Colin meant and he wasn't about to ask for a clarification. So he took another drink and sat back to watch the show.
As Erik watched the dancer going through her routine, he realized how similar it was to the previous ones. Her twisting and turning, gestures to the crowd, spinning around the brass pole. But when she spread out her sheepskin on the edge of the stage, Erik no longer heard the loud noises in the room, the smoke no longer bothered him, as he was totally entranced by the girl his age. By then she was lying naked on the rug, writhing around, teasing the guys at the edge of the stage. The more she teased, the more they cheered her on. Colin couldn't help noticing Erik, the boy from Salmon Cove who only a month earlier wouldn't have said shit if his mouth was full of it, now drooling over some stripper. Erik was right in there with the rest, whistling and clapping his approval, sucking back beer and acting normal according to Colin's standards.
When the lights suddenly flashed off and on a few times, Colin turned to Erik. "Last call. You go to the bathroom for a few minutes. I'm going to get us another round before they cut it off. I'll signal you when to come back."
    "Okay," Erik said, but he wasn't going back into the men's room if that old guy was there. Once was enough. He made his way to rear of the crowd and then across to the men's room. The stench was still there, but not the pervert. Nevertheless, Erik wasted no time getting in and back out as fast as he could. Then he waited at the back of the room until after the waiter had dropped off another round at their table before returning.
There were two more performances that night, both pretty much the same as the others. Both captured Erik's full attention and by the time they had finished, Erik had finished off five beers. That was the most Erik had ever drank. It wasn't until he went to stand up to leave that he realized five beers was probably over his limit. He was a little drunk all right but he felt fine and ready to party.
By the time the two of them hit the street again it was late and raining heavily. The crowds that had filled the streets earlier were gone. Now there were just the night people: the stragglers from the bars, the drunks, the reprobates, and all the hookers.
    "Now where?" Erik asked, zipping up his jacket again.
    "Let's get the truck," Colin said. "It's too early to shut it down, but I'm not walking around in this shit."
    "Yeah," Erik agreed, "I hope it's not pouring like this tomorrow night when we go to the hockey game."
They were soon cruising the streets in the comfort of the truck. Block after block passed by with little excitement until they heard the howl of sirens cutting the night air. Within seconds several fire trucks came roaring by them with sirens blaring, their flashing red reflecting off all the surrounding buildings as they screamed up the street.
    "Let's get 'em," Colin said, stepping on the gas, as soon as the trucks had passed.
    "Hey, all right," Erik said, coming back to life.
They followed the procession of flashing lights for several blocks until they stopped in front of an old storage complex. Smoke billowed from an open door and dozens of broken windows on the second and third floors of the building. Colin was like a little kid, all bright eyed and excited. "I should have been a fireman," he said. "I love this shit, don't you?"
    "Not really," Erik replied. If anything, he hated fires. When he was just a toddler, a house a few blocks from his had burned to the ground. A man had died in that fire. Since then Erik feared fire and what it was capable of doing.
    "Come on let's get closer," Colin said, opening his door.
    "No way. You can go over there and get your ass burned. Me, I'm staying right here."
    "Chicken shit," he said, and took off into the confusion of firefighters and spectators. It wasn't long before he was back, though, after seeing a police photographer taking videos of the spectators.
The rain had thinned out the streets pretty good by the time they returned to cruising. There was the odd person that braved the weather. One in particular, a woman, hugged a store front under an awning to get out of the rain. Colin drove past her a couple times. On each occasion she gave them a big come-on smile that Colin couldn't resist. He drove around the block one more time and then parked right near where she was standing. Then he went over to talk with her while Erik remained behind and listened to the radio. He couldn't hear what they were saying, but there was no doubt in Erik's mind that Colin was trying to pick her up.
In less than a couple of minutes Colin was opening his door for her to jump in. Erik hadn't noticed much through the rain but when she climbed into the truck, he couldn't help noticing she was a lot older than he was. But she was really nice looking and very well put together, standard qualities of all girls Colin associated with.
    "This is Julia," Colin said, quickly firing up the truck and heading for a little park area they had seen earlier in the evening.
Once there, things went pretty much the way Erik expected; he was booted out into the cold. Fortunately, his jacket was water-proof, but he had to keep moving to stay warm. From time to time he glanced back at the truck. 'God,' he wished he could see what was going on but, knowing Colin, he would get a full blow by blow description later.
The minutes ticked by and suddenly all hell broke loose. He could hear Colin yelling inside the truck. The back window was fogged up but Erik was sure they were fighting inside the truck cab. He could only assume the girl was fighting off Colin's unwanted advances. He wasn't sure what to do. Should he try and intervene? No, he didn't dare. He remained frozen where he was, shivering from the cold and rain running down his face.
The truck's interior light came on when the passenger door flew open. Colin was swearing and punching Julia as hard as he could while she struggled to get away. Then she was out, landing on her back on the sidewalk. She performed a kind of backwards crab-walk trying to get away from the truck. Suddenly Colin was out the door as well, still swearing and kicking at the woman. She rolled to her side and struggled to her feet, only to be struck in the face by Colin's fist and down she went again. Erik could not believe his eyes. Colin was like a madman, kicking and swearing, while the poor woman curled into a fetal position.
"What the hell?" Erik yelled, slowing closing the distance to the couple.
    "He's a goddamn fag!"
    "What? She's a guy?"
    "You want to feel his prick to make sure?" Colin asked, taking another swift kick at Julia, or who ever, that no longer resisted.
    "No way." Erik stopped in his tracks again. He was definitely not getting involved. His mind flashed back to the woman who he had opened the truck door for, the woman he thought was good looking and nicely put together.
When Colin retreated to regain his composure, Erik walked over and looked down at the rain-soaked crumpled body lying on the sidewalk. It still looked like a woman to him, even with her hair all scraggly and blood pouring from her nose and spreading onto the cement. This was definitely a first for Erik and one he would never forget.
Erik had no idea what time Colin had come in during the night. He had only opened his eyes long enough to unlock the door and then dive back into bed again. But it was well after noon on Sunday before Colin finally woke up. Erik had gone out for breakfast and then spent the rest of the morning watching cartoons on TV. When Colin woke up, he was snarly as hell and Erik wasn't about to ask why.
It took a long hot shower and a shave before Colin really woke up. Then all he wanted was a beer.
    "Aren't you going to eat first?" Erik asked.
    "Yeah, I suppose we could go out and get a burger or something."
    "Good. I'm starved."
    "What's new? Then I want to hit the bars again."
    "I can't get in, remember?"
    "Ahh, for Christ's sake," Colin said in disgust. He sat down for a moment, mulling things around in his mind. "We're just going to have to get you some ID."
    "Like what?"
    "A driver's license saying you're nineteen."
    "I'm not nineteen, remember?"
    "Doesn't matter if we simply buy one."
    "On the street. You'll learn. You can get anything you want on the streets. You just have to know where to look."
Erik doubted that a fake ID would do him any good but given Colin's mood he wasn't about to argue the point. To Erik, it seemed like a waste of money when there were better things to buy - like tickets.
    "We also have to get our tickets for the hockey game tonight," Erik reminded him.
    "Shit, yeah," Colin said, searching around for a phone book.
Erik went back to watching his cartoons on TV while Colin phoned the ticket office. He didn't pay much attention until Colin yelled, "How much? That's bullshit." He slammed the receiver down. "No bloody way I'm paying that much," he roared.
    "How much?"
    "They want a hundred and sixty bucks for tickets alone. Shit. By the time I pay for parking and all the crap you eat, it'll be two hundred bucks. No way!"
    "Holy shit," was about all Erik could say.
    "I'm going for a hamburger, you coming?" Colin asked, after he cooled down a touch.
To Erik's delight they dined at McDonald's again and where he automatically ordered the Big Mac with everything. He was so hungry, not only did he finish off his own, but he also ate most of Colin's fries.
    "Let's get out of here and go for a beer," Colin said. "I can ask around there for someone who knows where we can buy you a fake ID."
    "Why don't we go down to the aquarium," Erik suggested.
    "Where's that?"
    "Down in Stanley Park," Erik said. "You know, down by Lion's Gate Bridge."
    Colin shrugged his shoulders. He had never been down there and being Sunday he figured there wouldn't be much else going on. "Whatever," he agreed.
It was a warm sunny afternoon and Stanley Park was packed with people, especially girls, which was just the way Colin liked it. At the aquarium, the unlimited varieties of fish and the huge tanks proved highly interesting to Erik. He went from tank to tank trying to identify each species as Colin followed along uninterested. The shark tank, however, did catch Colin's attention. "How'd you like to try swimming with them?" he asked.
    "No thanks," Erik replied. "The closest I ever got to a shark was a dogfish off the jetty this summer, and even that little bugger tried to bite me." Around a couple more corners he came upon a tank with a huge octopus in it. "Look at this thing," Erik said. But when he looked back Colin was nowhere in sight. He was still back at the shark tank, only it wasn't the sharks that held Colin's attention, it was a woman. Erik couldn't hear, but whatever Colin was telling her, she was laughing like crazy.
When they caught up to Erik and saw the octopus the woman fell back, saying things like, "Gross!", and "Yuck."
    "What's wrong?" Colin asked, stepping up to the tank and placing his hand against the glass. On the other side was one of the octopus' tentacles, its rows of suckers stuck to the glass. "He just wants to hug you," he said, rapping his knuckles hard against the glass.
    "Don't," Erik said. "You shouldn't bang on the glass. You'll scare them."
    "Who cares?" Colin said, laughing and putting on a show. Then he said, "This here's Buffy."
    "Buffy?" Erik asked. It sounded like a little girl's name to him.
    "She's offering to show us around the park," Colin said.
    "Cool," Erik replied, smiling at Buffy. Then he took a closer look at her, wondering if she was really a girl, or . . . ."
At the far end of the aquarium there was a closed-in terrarium section where tropical trees and plants grew right out over the walkways. And, as they soon discovered while walking along, there were a whole host of birds and monkeys overhead as well. "Want one?" Colin asked, reaching up to grab the tail of a monkey. The thing let out a howl and leapt higher into the branches. Buffy again laughed at Colin's antics. Erik didn't.
Then there were the alligators. There were three or four small ones in a pond beside the walkway, with little more than a glass divider separating them from their human audience. Both Colin and Erik leaned over the railing for a better view, but not Buffy. She started her "Yucky" comments again. Then Colin suddenly grabbed Erik around the waist and lifted him off his feet. "Lunch time," he yelled, tipping Erik towards the waiting alligators. Erik held onto the railing so hard he probably left dents in the steel pipe from his fingers. The incident caught Buffy off guard and she screamed so loudly a security guard came running. That's when Colin dropped Erik and started to kill himself laughing. But Erik didn't think it was so funny, and neither did the security guard. He quoted various aquarium regulations as he escorted the three back out to the lobby area.
"That dude has no sense of humour," Colin said later as they wandered into the souvenir shop. Erik wanted to pick up a souvenir of Vancouver so the other two followed along. The place was full of stuff, all the way from cards and pennants to huge paintings. There were shelves full of knickknacks as well as carvings. One in particular, a soapstone carving of a Killer Whale, caught Colin's eye. When he picked it up to examine it he was amazed at its weight. "Bloody thing weighs a ton," he said.
    "How much is it?" Erik asked out of curiosity.
    Colin turned it over and almost choked. "Seventy-nine, ninety-nine," he said, with a laugh. "No way."
    "It's really nice though, isn't it?" Buffy commented.
    "I know. That's why I want it," Colin said.
    "That's a lot of money," Erik commented.
    "Not really," Colin said. He glanced around to make sure no one was watching, and then quickly slipped it into his pocket.
    "Holy shit," Erik said.
    "Let's see what else they got in this joint?"
By the time Erik picked out a card and paid for it, Colin and Buffy were waiting back in the lobby. "Let's go over and walk around the zoo area," Buffy suggested. "You better hold my hand so I don't get lost" Colin said, with a grin.
For the next couple of hours, until it got dark, the three wandered from cage to cage. From monkeys and snakes, to otters and polar bears, they saw them all. Colin had made a quick trip back to the truck to get his bottle from under the seat. It was only a part bottle and gone in no time, drunk mostly by Colin and Buffy.
At one point they managed to catch part of the killer whale show. That's when Colin pulled out the whale carving which Buffy immediately fell in love with. He wasn't about to part with it though.
As night closed in and it finally got too dark to see anything, they all headed for the truck. Buffy was cold and wasted no time cuddling close to Colin. Erik had watched their relationship develop during the day from warm, during introductions, to hot and heavy by dark.
    "Let's stop somewhere for a quick beer," Colin suggested, as they cruised through downtown Vancouver. Buffy was all for it, but Erik simply wanted to get something to eat. Fortunately, the area Colin picked to park worked out for both. While the other two disappeared into a bar, Erik hit a Burger King on the corner. Later, after filling his face, he walked both sides of the block, ending up back at the truck. No Colin. So he walked farther, taking in several blocks. Still no Colin when he returned. So he dug out the spare key from under the box railing and unlocked the truck.
Erik was half asleep to the sound of country and western music flowing from the radio when Colin and Buffy finally returned. They both piled in, Buffy sitting tight against Colin as before.
    "We're heading back to the room," Colin said, starting the truck.
    Erik said nothing, but he knew he wouldn't be getting much sleep that night. And right he was. Even with the TV cranked up he couldn't ignore Colin and Buffy on the next bed. When things got so hot and heavy that Erik couldn't stand it anymore he decided to take off. "I'm going out for a walk," he said, grabbing the key from the table.
    Colin stopped only long enough to lift his head. "Good plan," he agreed, and turned back to Buffy.
It infuriated Erik that he had been forced to get out of bed and 'go for a walk'. He wandered along, block after block, always aware of the rubbies that frequented the streets at night in that part of the city. His brush with the pervert in the men's room at the bar still lingered in his mind. He still had a few dollars on him so he hit the theatre and took in the remainder of the last show. At least he was warm while he killed time.
About the same time that Erik was dozing away in the show, Buffy was busy getting dressed. Colin was laying on the bed fighting to keep his eyes open. Buffy, on the other hand, seemed wide awake. By the time she finished dressing, Colin was out like a light. She tried to wake him, saying she wanted him to go out for something to eat, but all she got was some unintelligible mutterings. That's when she rolled him over, pulled out his wallet, removed all the bills and let herself out the door.
Back at the theatre, when the movie ended and the lights came on, Erik sat up and rubbed his eyes. Everyone was leaving so he followed them out into the night. A light rain had started to fall. "Shit," he said, zipping up his jacket and stuffing his hands into the pockets. He covered the three blocks to the motel in record time. About then he really didn't give a shit what Colin and Buffy were doing, he was going to bed, to hell with them.
The lights were still on when Erik unlocked the door, but there was no sign of Buffy. Colin was in his usual position, crashed out on his bed, partially dressed. Erik made no attempt to wake him. He was too tired to bother; he just killed the lights and hit the sack.
Erik hit the shower before eight the next morning. He always felt better after a nice hot shower, and for sure he felt better than Colin who was still dead to the world, still laying on top of the bed in his clothes. After dressing, he tried waking Colin but it was no use, he just groaned and pulled a pillow over his head. "To hell with you, then," Erik said. He was getting hungry and he wasn't going to sit around waiting for Colin to wake up. He did, however, need some money, so he reached down and picked Colin's wallet off the floor. To his surprise the wallet was empty, but he shrugged and threw it on the night stand. 'He's probably carrying the money in his pockets,' Erik thought, and there was no way he was going to get caught going through Colin's pockets. So, there was nothing else to do but flop back down on his bed and watch TV.
Around about eleven there was a knock on the door. When Erik opened it there stood a little old oriental woman, the motel's cleaning lady, complete with her large cart of towels and cleaning stuff. "You checky out?" she asked.
    "I don't know yet," Erik said, "I'm waiting for my friend to wake up."
    "It say here you go Monday," she said, referring to the clipboard in her hand.
    "Well we don't know yet."
    "Hokay. Checkout pretty soon. I come back," she said, and started dragging her cart to the next room.
It hadn't occurred to Erik that they were supposed to check out that day. Now he had no choice but to wake up Colin. That almost resulted in a smack along side his head as Colin lashed out wildly at being disturbed. So Erik did the next best thing. He grabbed onto the blankets and pulled. Colin hit the floor in a flurry of curses. "What the hell's going on?" he roared, scrambling to get up.
    "Time to wake up," Erik said, from a safe distance.
    "Bullshit!" Colin replied, and flopped across the bed once more.
    "Come on, Colin. You gotta get up."
    "Leave me alone."
    "Come on. Get up. It's late and we were supposed to check out of here by eleven. It's after that now."
    "I'm not going anywhere. Just let me sleep."
    Erik realized he was wasting his time. "To hell with it then," he said loudly, for Colin's benefit. "You can sleep all day if you want to but I'm going out for some breakfast. I'm starved."
    "Go. I don't give a shit. Just leave me alone."
    "But you've got all the money."
It took several more minutes of talking and prodding to get Colin off the bed. He looked as if he was going to be sick and raced for the bathroom. Erik had never seen him looking so rough. Even after he came out of the bathroom he still looked like hell.
    "You must have really had a lot to drink," Erik said.
    "I didn't have that much. What the hell happened last night?"
    "I don't know. Buffy was gone by the time I got back here. You were passed out on your bed so I just left you sleep."
    "I don't remember anything."
    "We're supposed to check out of here today."
    "I want to hang around a while longer. We can head east tomorrow, or the next day. Right now I don't feel so good."
    "Maybe after you get something to eat?" Wrong thing to say. Erik could see the colour immediately changing on Colin's face.
    "I feel like throwing up again," Colin said, suddenly heading for the bathroom. The sound of Colin barfing away filled the room, along with coughing and spitting. When he came back out, he looked even worse than before.
    "Are you going to live?" Erik asked, not feeling too sorry for him.
    "I think that bitch must have slipped me something," Colin said, laying down on his bed again.
The knock on the door came as no surprise to Erik as it was way past checkout time. He was right. He opened the door to a woman he had seen at the motel office a few times.
    "Checkout time was eleven," she said.
    "We know," Erik said.
    "You're going to have to pay for another night."
    "That's okay. We're planning to stay another night anyway."
    "You have to pay in advance, you know?"
    "I know. We'll stop by the office on our way out for breakfast."
She would have preferred to have the money in her hand but reluctantly agreed and left.
    "Are you coming out to get something to eat?" Erik asked.
    "Hell no," Colin said. Just the thought of food was enough to turn his stomach. "You go."
    "I don't have any money," Erik reminded him.
    "Oh, yeah," Colin said, reaching for his wallet. When it wasn't in his pocket he felt around on the bed for it. "Where's my wallet?" he asked.
    "My wallet."
    "On the night stand."
It took some effort on Colin's part, but he finally managed to sit up and reach for the wallet. When he realized it was empty, he snapped to life. "Where's my money?" he barked.
    "Don't ask me. It was empty when I picked it up off the floor this morning."
    Colin's shoulders suddenly drooped. He looked up at Erik and then back to his empty wallet. "Buffy! That bitch. She rolled me!" he yelled.
    "Holy shit," Erik said. "Are you sure?"
    "Well it's empty, isn't it? I know the money was in there when we were at the bar."
    "She could have done it when you fell asleep."
    "She must have slipped something into my beer. I know I didn't have that much to drink. That bitch!"
    "Now what are we going to do?"
    "Shit, I don't know," Colin said. He took a swift kick at his bed before going over and sitting down at the small table by the window. Erik said nothing. He could see Colin was deep in thought.
    "You could phone home," Colin suggested, "ask you old to send you some money."
    "No way. I know he's madder than hell right now. No thank you."
    "How much money do you have on you?" Colin asked.
    "Nothing. That's why I couldn't go for breakfast."
Both boys sat silently for a few moments, considering their options. Colin dug through his own pockets for money. "I've got about twenty," he said, counting out the few crumpled bills and loose change.
    "That's more than I've got."
    "Shit, where's my whale?" Colin asked, suddenly realizing his carving was missing. "Have you seen my whale?"
    "Shit! That bitch must have swiped it, too," he said, jumping up. "Come on. Let's go back to the park."
    "I'm guessing she probably hangs out there. I'm going to find her and get my whale back."
    "What about the money?"
    "Yeah, that too."
Colin's day brightened a little when he unlocked the truck. There on the dash sat the whale carving. But unfortunately, that was to be the only bright spot in Colin's day as he turned the ignition key. His truck wouldn't start. "Shit!" he exclaimed, hitting the steering wheel with the palm of his hand. He tried again. Then again. The motor turned over but there was no way that it would start. He continued to crank it over, pumping at the gas pedal until he finally flooded it. "Shit!" he roared again, jumping out and slamming the door. He walked around to the front of the truck and opened the hood.
    "What's wrong with it?" Erik asked.
    "God damned if I know," Colin snapped. He stood staring down into the engine compartment.
    "Can you fix it?"
    "Shit. I just drive these things. I don't fix 'em."
    "So now what?"
    "How the hell would I know? Colin asked, closing the hood again. "Grab your jacket and let's go have a beer."
They almost made it to the street before the woman in the motel office spotted them. She immediately came charging out. "Wait a minute, you two," she yelled. "I want the money for the room."
    "I'm on my way over to the bank right now," Colin told her.
    "How do I know you're coming back?"
    "All our stuff is in the room. My truck's parked right there for Christ's sake."
    "I want your truck keys as security," she said.
    "Like hell," Colin said. He turned and walked back towards her. "I'll write you a cheque. You can either cash it or wait and I'll buy it back off you later this afternoon."
    She thought about it for a minute. "How do I know your cheque's any good?"
    "Why would I be going to the bank if I didn't have any money?"
    Again, she spent a second thinking it over. "Okay," she finally agreed. "Come into the office."
Inside Colin filled out the blank counter cheque she gave him, signed it and handed it back. She picked it up and scrutinized it carefully. "I'll hold this until tomorrow morning," she said. "That's when I do the banking."
    "No problem," Colin said, and walked back outside.
McDonald's was the restaurant of necessity that day. Even Erik felt the need to scale back on his food order. They sat at a window booth eating, Colin deep in thought, Erik somewhat relieved that Colin at least had money in the bank.
    "Which bank you going to?" Erik asked, hoping it wouldn't be too far away.
    "Get real. I told you I was going to pick up some beer."
    "What about the bank?" Erik said.
    Colin shot a look at Erik that told him in no uncertain terms to drop it. He did.
    "We could always take a bus down to the park," Erik said.
    "No bloody way. You can go if you want but I'm going to pick up a six-pack of beer and take in a movie."
    Erik could think of better things to do with the remaining money, but he knew better than to tell Colin how to spend his money.
They went straight to the same theatre as the first evening. They then by-passed buying tickets and walked right into the lobby area which was nearly deserted except for a customer buying popcorn at the counter. The girl checking the tickets inside obviously recognized Colin and immediately smiled when she saw him. "Hi, Colin," she said, taking him by the arm and pulling him off to one side. "How come you're still here? I thought you were heading for Toronto?"
    "Not yet. Can you get us in?" Colin asked.
    She glanced over to where Erik was waiting. "Both of you?"
    "Yeah. The kid's with me."
    She thought about it for a second and then smiled. "Sure." She slid her arm around Colin's waist and drew herself close to him. Erik couldn't believe it. He knew Colin was fast with the girls but this was record setting.
    "Come on," Colin said, waving at Erik to follow.
    She led them over to the far side of the theatre and seated them right near the back, leaving an empty seat for herself on the outside. "I'll come back when the show starts," she said, leaning over and kissing Colin.
After she had gone, Colin settled back in his seat. From under his jacket he pulled out the six-pack of cans he bought on the way over. "Want one?" "Sure, why not" Erik agreed.
    Colin slid the rest under the seat and snapped the ring on his can. After taking a long drink he turned to Erik, "Now, isn't this better than taking the bus?"
    Erik shrugged. The movie would normally be his first choice, too.
    "She's okay, eh?"
    "Yeah, I guess."
    "Her name's Karla. Remember, the first night when we were in here."
Soon the lights dimmed and the curtains slowly opened. First there was a short cartoon.
    "See," Colin said. "They're running a cartoon, just for you."
    "What's the movie about?"
    "Damned if I know." Colin hadn't come to the show to watch the movie. He came for Karla.
By the time the main feature started, Colin was reaching under the seat for another beer. "Ready for another one?"
    "No. I'm okay." Turned out it was a movie Erik had never seen before. A kind of western, just the kind of movie Erik enjoyed most. He settled back into his seat and took a sip of his beer. A few minutes later Karla slipped into the seat along side Colin.
    "Give this to Erik," she said, handing over a large bucket of popcorn. "I remember how much he likes it."
    That put her in Erik's good book. He always said, 'you can't watch a movie without popcorn.'
Right away Colin and Karla were in each other's arms. Out of the corner of his eye, Erik could see Colin kissing her, his hand slowly moving down the front of her uniform. He wasn't wasting any time. Even if it was a western, Erik knew he was going to have a problem concentrating on the movie.
    "What time do you get off?" Erik heard Colin ask Karla.
    "Not till eight," she said, "I'm on afternoons today."
    "That's okay. Maybe we'll wait for you."
    "All afternoon?"
    "Sure, why not. We've got nothing better to do."
    She leaned over and kissed him again.
Erik got to see three movies that afternoon. With each one came another bucket of popcorn to keep him happy, so he wasn't complaining. Every so often Karla left to do her job, but mostly she spent the whole afternoon sitting with Colin. At one point Erik felt Colin push back against the seat. When he heard Colin sucking in his breath, he turned. Colin was sitting with his head back, his eyes closed; Karla's head was in his lap. Instantly, Erik eyes flashed back to the screen. He felt a rush of embarrassment cross his face and, try as he may, it took the longest time before he could concentrate on the movie again.
Back outside it was dark, and as they waited under the canopy for Karla, it started raining again.
    "Where're we going?" Erik asked.
    "Not far in this rain. Let's take her back to the room. Maybe we can both get lucky," Colin suggested, with a laugh.
    "Not me. Not after the other night."
    "You know."
    "Well then, go to another show," Colin suggested.
    "With what? We're broke, remember?"
    "Then just go for a walk or something?"
    "Like I did the other night? I froze my ass off."
    "Ahh, you're acting like a pussy again," Colin said. "Why don't you come back to the room? She's really hot."
    Erik didn't answer, but the look on his face said, 'no way.'
    "Here," Colin said, taking off his watch, "I'll make it worth your while. I'll give you my watch if you find some where else to crash tonight. How about it?"
Erik didn't even get time to respond before Karla came out. She immediately walked up to Colin and kissed him in one of those long embraces that brought back memories of Colin and Buffy the previous night.
    "Okay," Erik said, holding out his hand for the watch. 'Might as well get something out of this,' Erik thought.
Back at the room Erik grabbed a blanket and pillow and moved out to the truck. With his favorite country and western music playing on the radio he stretched out on the seat. A push of the illumination button on his fancy new watch told him it was only eight-thirty in the evening, too early to crash, but he closed his eyes anyway.
It was late when Karla caught a bus in front of the motel. Colin waited till after the bus pulled away, then went over to the truck and woke up Erik. "Let's go get something to eat," Colin said.
    "With what?" Erik asked. "We don't have much money left."
    "Who needs money?"
    "I don't follow you?"
    "You will. Come on."
Several blocks away on the corner of the block there was an all night grocery store. They had stopped in there one other night to pick up some coke. This night the store was almost deserted. A little Chinese guy was waiting on a customer while some perverted looking type was thumbing through the girlie magazines. They stood outside the window for a few minutes while Colin laid out his plan for Erik.
As soon as they walked in the door, the old man looked up from the counter. He looked at least a hundred years old, all stooped over with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. They first stopped to look through the magazine rack before wandering further back into the store. Erik had wanted to have a look at another one of those girly magazines, but he wouldn't go anywhere near the guy that was there. Fresh fruit and vegetables filled one side wall and Colin couldn't resist plucking off a few grapes and popping them into his mouth. Erik had been keeping an eye on the clerk who was busy keeping an eye on them as well.
    "He can see us, you know," Erik whispered.
    "Don't worry about him," Colin said. "He won't be watching you. I'll keep him busy."
    "How?" Erik asked, nervously.
    "Quit worrying."
Then, at the freezer section, Colin stopped and smiled. "There," he said.
    "There, the sandwich meat and stuff."
    Erik nervously looked in the direction of the old man. "He's watching us again," he said.
    "Christ, will you chill out?" Colin said. "Relax. All you have to do is stuff some of this shit under your jacket and walk out of here. I'll meet you out front."
    "I don't like this," Erik said. "The guy's watching every move we make. Maybe we should try someplace else."
    "Ahh, quit being such a pussy. Just do it!" Colin ordered, and walked towards the counter.
Erik could feel his stomach beginning to knot up; a tingling sensation crossed his butt and ran down both legs. He could even feel goose bumps forming on his arms. Add to that the cold sweat brought on by the thought of being caught stealing. He didn't give a shit what Colin had said, he was seriously considering running out the door and back to the motel as fast as he could. He turned and took a few steps towards the door, but by then Colin had reached the counter. Erik stopped and listened.
    "Gimme a pack of smokes," Colin said, pointing to the ones he wanted. "Plus one of them lottery tickets." All the lottery tickets were on a board below the glass counter.
    "What one you want?" the man asked, sliding the board out a ways.
    "I don't know," Colin said, reaching towards the tickets.
    The old man pulled back on the board, "No touch," he said.
    "How about that one," Colin asked. "How much?"
    "Two dollar."
    "How about that one, then?"
    "Two dollar."
    "You got any for one dollar?" Colin asked.
    "This here, one dollar," the man said, pulling out a ticket.
    "How much can I win on that one?"
    "Five thousand."
    "Is that all? Haven't you got any that I can win a million bucks with?"
    "This one ten thousand," the old man said, getting impatient with Colin.
    "How much is it?"
    "Two dollar."
    "Let's see it."
    The old man pulled it out and sat it on the counter. Colin studied it, making a big deal out of it until he saw Erik pass by and head out the door.
    "No. I don't want one," Colin said, dropping a bill on the counter. "Just the smokes."
Outside, Erik was still shaking. He had convinced himself he would never make it out the door, but his first real attempt at shoplifting went off without a hitch. Real easy, just like Colin had said.
    "Did you get it?" Colin asked, as he walked up to Erik on the sidewalk.
    "Let's see what you got," Colin asked, reaching for Erik's jacket.
    "Not here," Erik objected. "Let's go back to the motel."
Colin had no problem waking up the next morning. The loud banging on the door could have woke the dead. Erik was parked in front of the TV watching his usual cartoons. When he removed the chain and opened the door, the same woman from the office came busting in, madder than hell.
    "This cheque's no good," she yelled, waving the cheque around. "The bank wouldn't cash it."
    Erik didn't know what to say and fortunately Colin jumped to his rescue.
    "Must be a mistake," Colin said, sitting up on the edge of his bed.
    "I want the money. No more cheques," she said. "Or I'm calling the cops."
    "Chill out," Colin said. "I'll get you the money."
    "Right now."
    "I haven't got that much on me right now, but I'll go over to the bank and get some more. Then I'll pay you. All right?"
    "The bank told me you didn't have an account there."
    "You're obviously using a different bank," he said. "Soon as I get dressed we're going out to get something to eat. When I get back, I'll have the money. I'll even leave my truck parked here."
    "You better, or I'll have the cops over so fast -"
    "Don't worry. I wouldn't stiff you."
    She seemed satisfied with that. Once more the smooth talking Colin had saved their asses.
Before they left Colin unlocked the truck and removed the whale carving. "I knew this would come in handy," he said, putting it in his pocket.
    "What are you going to do with that?"
    "Pawn it, what else?"
    "I take it there's no bank then?"
    "There's a bank all right, but I don't have enough in there to buy breakfast. That's why I'm going to pawn this thing. Too bad too. I really like it."
Erik recalled having seen a pawn shop just down the street. He had spent a full half-hour staring in the window one morning. He remembered how the door and window were covered with heavy steel screening, perhaps with good reason. There was all sorts of good stuff in there, lots of it he wouldn't mind having, if he just had the money.
Erik was soon to learn how lucrative the pawn-shop business really was. The carving that Colin put on the counter sold at the aquarium for seventy-nine bucks. The chunky little pawn broker only offered Colin ten.
    "Give me a break," Colin said. "It's worth eighty bucks."
    "Not to me," the man said, shaking his head. Smoke from his cigar curled up into his red eyes. A wall of steel screen separated the man from his customers, with only a small opening to hand things back and forth. 'A dangerous business,' Erik thought.
    "How about fifty?"
    "How about you take it somewhere else?"
    "Twenty-five then?" Colin asked.
    "Fifteen. Not a penny more," the man offered, chomping on the cigar.
    "We need more than that," Erik whispered to Colin.
    "How about my watch, then?" Colin said, turning to Erik. "Gimme the watch."
    "This is mine," Erik said. "You gave it to me -"
    "You want to eat or not?"
    Erik thought about it for a second, then undid the watch and placed it on the counter.
    "Am I going to burn my hand if I touch this?" the man asked.
    "It's not hot," Colin assured him.
    "Sure, I know." The guy picked it up to have a look.
    "I can prove it. It's got my name engraved on the back of it."
    "That only knocks the value down," the guy said, turning it over.
    "It was a birthday present from my mother. I know she paid over three hundred bucks for it."
    The guy studied it for a minute, holding it up to the light. He looked at Colin for a second, and then removed the cigar from his mouth, "I'll give you fifty bucks for it."
    "That's all?" Colin asked, disappointed. "It's worth over three hundred."
    "Take it or leave it. Plus fifteen for the carving, and I'm being generous."
    Colin took it.
"God-damned crook," Colin spat as he walked out the door.
    "The room rent will take most of the money."
    "Piss on that noise. I'm not wasting any of this on some bloody motel room."
    "But she said she'd call the cops."
    "She won't. As long as the truck is parked there she'll wait. Meanwhile let's get something to eat. Afterwards I want to go down to the park to see if that Buffy bitch is around there. I'd love to get my hands on her."
    "I thought you wouldn't ride the bus?" Erik asked.
    "Ever heard of a taxi?"
By eleven that night the street crowds had thinning out. They never did spot Buffy at Stanley Park and the two cabs had almost cleaned them out of what little money they had. They had just spent the last couple of hours just walking up and down Hastings Street waiting for dark. The evening was warm and void of rain when they parked themselves on a street bench to rest. Colin paid particular attention to the bar right across the street and the clientele coming and going.
    "What's on your mind?" Erik questioned, noting Colin's deep interest in the bar.
    "We need money to get the truck fixed, don't we?" Colin asked.
    "Well, I know how to get it."
    "All we have to do is wait for the right person to come out of the bar, and then we follow them and borrow the money."
    Erik didn't like what he was hearing. "What are you suggesting?" he asked, nervously.
    "It's easy. It happens all the time. We wait till some woman comes out, one that looks like she may have money. Then we follow her to a quiet area and grab her purse. Nothing to it. I wish I had a smoke."
    "Holy shit," Erik said. Colin's plan really worried him. "We could get in serious trouble doing something like that."
    "Quit worrying. We won't get caught," Colin said, trying to reassure his nervous partner.
    "I can't help it. I don't want to end up in jail."
    "No one's going to jail. Now listen. You either pack up this pussy shit or I'll take off and leave you on your own. See how far you get without money." Colin knew that would spook Erik into helping him. And it did.
Erik felt trapped, and he knew why. They were in notorious East End Vancouver. The thought of him sitting alone on a bench at night seemed a lot more dangerous than what Colin was planning. "I'll try."
    "You'll do more than try. I could easily do this by myself if I had to, you know."
    "I know."
    "I don't want you chickening out on me at the last minute."
    "I won't." Erik said it, but he wasn't sure he meant it.
They sat and watched the bar crowd for the next half hour until, finally, Colin spotted what he felt was the perfect victim. She was an older woman, obviously drunk, and leaving the bar alone. She stumbled around in front of the bar for a while and then staggered off down the street.
    "That one. She's got the bucks. Let's do it," Colin said, jumping up and motioning to Erik to follow.
    "How do you know she's got money?"
    "Easy. Look at the way she's dressed. Those aren't cheap clothes. And that coat is real fur." Given the number of fur coats his mother kept at home, Colin could tell.
    "This'll be easy. Look how loose she's holding her purse." Excitement showed on Colin's face, like a pack animal closing in for the kill on its nightly hunt.
Erik kept looking around nervously, expecting the cops to jump out of every doorway. At the next corner the woman made a turn up a side street, away from the bright city lights of Hastings Street.
    "Come on, we don't want to lose her," Colin said, increasing the pace.
By the time they reached the corner the woman was half way up the dimly lit side street, still staggering along the sidewalk, muttering to herself. Colin took one last look up and down Hastings to make sure the coast was clear, and then they turned the corner as well.
Once away from the main drag Colin laid out the plan. "Look, you follow on this side. I'm going to cross over to the other side of the street so I can keep a lookout." Erik said nothing, just walked and listened.
    "I want you to stay about a half-block behind her and keep your eye on me. When I give you the signal you close up behind her. Don't run. Don't scare her. As long as you're quiet she won't even know you're around. Then, when I give you the high-sign you grab her purse and take off up the street.
    "Why me? You've done this before. Why do I have to be the one to do it?"
    "Just shut-up and listen. You're a lot faster than me, that's why," Colin explained. "Anyway, I'll be right behind you. First corner you come to, turn right. Head down that block all the way to the end. After that, you follow me, understand?"
    "Yeah. But . . . I don't know why -"
    "Don't start that shit again. She's drunk for Christ's sake. She can't hurt you. Just grab the bloody purse and run."
    "What if -"
    Colin spun around angrily. "I'm warning you. Get moving. Now!"
Erik's heart was pounding so hard it hurt. Right about then he wished he had way of returning home to Salmon Cove. Facing his father when he got home would be a lot easier than what he was about to do. He wasn't sure what was scaring him the most, the thought of snatching the woman's purse, or Colin's wrath if he didn't. One thing he knew for sure; first chance he got he was heading home and facing the consequences.
Erik increased his pace so that he was within thirty feet of the woman. She was so drunk she had no idea he was following her, but he was now close enough to hear every word she muttered in her drunken stupor. Colin crossed the street and was almost directly across from him. Street lights were few and far between and Colin's signal came at the darkest spot on the street. In a way, Erik was relieved to finally get the dreaded signal. Had Colin waited any longer, Erik was sure he would have bolted and run the other way.
Ironically, the woman was singing when Erik suddenly closed the gap between them. The second she heard something behind her and started to turn, it was already too late. Erik charged from the darkness, grabbing her purse and yanking hard. The purse strap broke, but not before the force of Erik's attack knocked her to the ground. From that point on, Erik was terrified and running on pure adrenaline. He tore up the street as fast as his scared legs would carry him, oblivious to anything around him, especially the woman laying on the sidewalk screaming her head off. All that was on Erik's mind was reaching the next corner and turning right.
The strangest things were crossing Erik's mind as he roared down the street. He thought back to before he had met Colin, back to when a tough day was riding the mountain bike trails with his then best friend Jamie. Nothing they ever did had the potential of landing them in jail. Bad used to be falling asleep in church. Now he was stealing food and snatching purses from a drunken woman.
"Whoa, slow down," Colin said, grabbing at Erik's sleeve to get him stopped. Erik had been running flat out for three blocks before Colin finally caught up to him. Even then, Erik wanted to keep going. It was all Colin could do to drag Erik to a halt. When he finally did, Erik almost collapsed on the spot.
    "See, I told you it would be easy," Colin said, taking the purse.
    "Easy?" Erik puffed, trying to catch his breath. "Easy for you maybe. I've never been so scared in my life."
    "Quit your whining. Come on, let's keep going," Colin urged, leading the way at a trot.
They went another six blocks before Colin stopped under a street light to check on the contents of the purse. He walked around beside a big garbage dumpster and spilled the purse contents out on the ground. In the dim light Colin retrieved the wallet. "I smoke again," he said, holding up a cigarette package. Then he scooped up a few loose bills and change from the sidewalk. The rest of the contents he rummaged through, pocketing the woman's comb and a package of gum. "Throw the rest of this stuff in the garbage," he told Erik. And while Erik cleaned up the mess, Colin checked the wallet. "Let's see how much money there is here," Colin said, removing the bills.
    Erik said nothing, but he did make himself one small quiet promise, 'I don't care. I'll never do this again.'
    When Colin finished counting the bills, he looked up with a big smile on his face.
    "How much is there?" Erik asked.
    "There's close to a hundred bucks here. Plus we can use her credit card for gas. We're rockin."
    "Holy shit!"
    "There should be enough money to fix the truck and then some."
    "We can't use the credit cards," Erik warned.
    "Because. She's bound to report them stolen."
    "So what?"
    "They can be traced, every time they're used. The cops will always know where we are."
    Colin realized Erik was right but he wasn't about to admit it. "These have her name on them. Do I look like I could pass for a woman named, Sandra?"
    "Not really. Not unless you dress up like Julia."
    Colin was not amused. "I should have killed that sonofabitch." He tossed the wallet, credit cards and all, into the garbage dumpster and started walking away.
Back on Hastings again, they had to hike a good half dozen blocks before they made it back to familiar territory. It had been a long time between meals, and Erik's hunger couldn't get past a Chinese restaurant. The place was almost deserted when they slid into a booth near the front windows. Just happy to be able to sit for a while, they both relaxed. Colin lit up a cigarette and studied the menu. Erik, on the other hand, sat quietly paranoid, sure at any moment the streets would be alive with police sirens. It never happened.
    "You did okay," Colin said, with a big grin.
    "Not something I'm proud of."
    "If you want to survive on the streets, you better get used to it. There's no weekly allowance waiting for you out here."
For the next hour they ate and talked of other things. Colin was still upset about the pawn broker and planned going back to get his watch. He related more of his stories of what it was like to grow up in a city the size of Toronto. Somehow, listening to Colin, Erik felt a lot better about growing up in Salmon Cove even if it didn't have the bright lights of a big city.
Back out on the street they headed for the motel.
    "The office is probably closed now," Erik said, "so we won't be able to pay that woman till the morning."
    "Piss on that noise. I'm not giving her any money. We just go in, get our stuff from the room, get the truck and get the hell out of there."
    "How?" Erik asked, "It won't run, remember?"
    "Who said anything about driving it out," Colin said, firing up another cigarette.
They waited and watched until the "No Vacancy" sign switched on. The office was in darkness except for the glow of the night clerk's TV. Of the two big mercury-vapour flood lights in the parking lot only one near the very back worked. That only left the lights over each door to partially illuminate the parking area.
    "It's still light enough for the clerk to see us," Erik warned.
    "Don't worry, the guy's probably sound asleep."
    "I sure hope so."
    "You're such a goddamned pussy. Just keep it quiet and follow me," Colin said, leading the way. He quietly worked his way around the office and then darted straight across the centre of the yard. A police siren in the distance howled into the night, sending Erik slinking into the shadows, still suffering his earlier paranoia.
Colin headed straight for their motel room door where he quickly reached up and unscrewed the exterior light bulb. Suddenly darkness bathed both him and his truck. However, his luck changed when he tried to unlock the door - the lock had been changed. "Shit," he said to himself. That meant he couldn't get at his sport's bag with his change of clothes and razor. Unlike Erik, with his peach-fuzz face, Colin had to shave every day. He thought for a minute, and then motioned Erik to follow. They made their way around back where Colin counted the windows to determine which their room was. He dragged cautiously peeked in the window but it was dark inside. Then, to Erik's horror, Colin took a rock and broke a corner of the window. When there was no response, he broke I bit more to allow his arm to reach through and unlock the window.
Erik was frozen with fright, his head jerking around to see if anyone was coming as Colin pulled the window open.
    "Get over here," Colin whispered, motioning Erik under the window. "I'll give you a boost inside."
    "What?" Erik didn't like that idea.
    "You grab our stuff and pass it out the window."
Erik resisted but finally crawled inside. It seemed to him it would be simpler to unlock the front door but he did what Colin instructed. Inside he managed to find their stuff and handed it out to Colin. Then he struggled out the window himself. He was still trembling when his feet touched the ground.
Both boys retraced their steps around front and across the yard to the truck. Erik stood watch patiently as Colin put their stuff in the back and quietly unlocked the driver's door and ever so cautiously reached inside to move the gearshift lever to neutral. Right away the truck started to roll back, aided by Colin who leaned into the door post and pushed, turning the steering wheel as he went.
Once clear of the parking stall, he changed his position and began pushing. That was when he realized he was alone. Erik was still standing back in the shadows where the truck had been parked. Colin almost yelled at him, he was so mad. He waved at Erik, motioning him to help push.
    "It's okay. There's no one around," Erik whispered, when he caught up to the truck.
    "What a surprise," Colin replied sarcastically. "Now push!"
With both of them pushing, the truck picked up speed as it rolled quietly across the parking lot. When they passed the office they were pushing for all they were worth. Erik kept expecting to hear the office door open and the clerk start yelling, but nothing happened.
Then they were over the sidewalk and onto the street. All Erik could hear was Colin laughing like hell, and the farther down the street they got, the harder Colin laughed. "Give 'er shit man," Colin yelled back at Erik.
    "I am. I am."
    "See, I told you," Colin said, hopping up on the door sill to ride and steer while Erik pushed. "Slick as snot. Nothing to it. I'd love to see the look on that old lady's face in the morning when she finds out that the truck's gone."
    "She'll call the cop then for sure."
    "Who gives a shit?"
Fortunately for Erik, who was doing the bulk of the pushing, the street had a bit of a decline and he was able to hop up on the back bumper and ride for short distances. The odd person on the street that watched them pass by paid little attention, like it was some sort of normal occurrence to see two guys pushing a vehicle down the street in the middle of the night. There were a few other vehicles on the street but they passed unconcerned.
    "We better hope the cops don't see us," Erik said.
    "So what? You worried about getting stopped for speeding?"
    "No," Erik replied, still concerned. "But they'll think we're stealing it."
    "You think? Grab a brain. I've got the keys remember? It's my truck."
    "Well, it still looks suspicious?"
That little remark triggered Colin into steering over to the curb. He quickly jumped in and brought the truck to a halt in a parking spot.
    "What're we stopping for?" Erik asked.
    "Do you know where we're going?" Colin asked.
    "Service station, to get the truck repaired."
    "Yeah, but where?"
    They blankly looked at each other. All the time they had spent walking the streets they had never even seen a service station.
    "Let's leave the truck here and hike up the street and see what we can find," Colin suggested, locking the truck. "I'm not planning on pushing this thing all the way to Toronto."
Luckily they didn't have far to walk before finding an all night service station, no more than eight blocks. Lady luck was on their side. Within twenty minutes they had the truck back out on the street, and this time they knew where they were going.
    "Push, man. Push!" Colin barked. His laugh started up again as the truck rolled silently down the street. "And keep pushing." Colin jumped into the seat so he could steer better.
The slight decline in the street continued to work to their advantage. Block after block the truck moved along at a pretty good clip with Erik providing the necessary horsepower. Then suddenly he stopped pushing and dropped back to walk along behind.
    "What're you stopping for?" Colin asked, jumping down himself to push.
    "Traffic light," Erik said, pointing ahead. "We're not going to make it."
    "Who cares? There's no other cars out here. Keep pushing!"
    Erik shrugged his shoulders and started pushing again, right through the red light.
Three blocks later they reached the service station. That's where the work began. They both had to push like hell to get the truck up the elevated grade of the yard, right to the garage doors. Colin quickly jumped inside the truck and hit the brakes.
    "Holy shit," Erik said, puffing like crazy. "That's too much like work."
    "Wait here. I'll go talk to this guy and see if he can fix it."
"Sounds like gas to me," the service station attendant said, after listening to Colin's description of the problem. "You sure you're not just out of gas?"
    "No. It's not out of gas."
    "Well, I can have a look at it if you want. Run it into the first stall. I'll open the door for you."
    "It won't run."
    "So how did you get here?"
    "We pushed it."
    "Then keep pushing, right inside," the attendant told the.
It ended up taking all three of them to push the truck inside. The attendant opened the hood and had a quick look around. Then he slipped into the driver's seat and tried to start the motor. Same as before, all it did was spin over.
    "How longs this going to take?" Colin asked.
    "Don't rightly know. An hour maybe. There's a cafe across the street. You could wait there if you want."
Colin's patience was running short. He had hoped to be long gone within an hour, not sitting around drinking stale coffee. He kept looking at the clock on the restaurant wall and then over at the service station to see if the truck was back outside. Half an hour passed, then forty-five minutes, then an hour. Colin was driving Erik nuts with all his complaints about time. "Why don't you go over there and see for yourself," Erik finally suggested.
    "Yeah. He should have it going by now. He said an hour, right?" Colin asked, impatiently. "I better go over and check."
    "You do that, and I'll have another piece of pie while I'm waiting."
The truck was still in the shop with the hood up when Colin walked in. "So how's it coming?" he asked.
    The attendant was bent over the fender working inside the engine compartment. Hearing Colin he jumped back in surprise, banging his head on the hood in the process. "Ouch!" he said, holding the back of his head. "You caught me off guard. I didn't hear you come in."
    Colin almost laughed. He would have, only he didn't want to piss the guy off. He needed him to repair the truck.
    "Did you get it fixed yet?"
    "Not quite, but I think I know what's wrong with it."
    "You've got water in your gas."
    "Water?" Colin replied in disbelief. "How would water get in the gas tank?"
    "I don't know, but there's water in the bottom of the carburetor bowl."
    "Can you fix it?"
    "Well, I've already cleaned the water out of the carburetor and changed your gas line filter. And now I'm going to have to drain the water out of your gas tank," he explained.
    "How longs that going to take?"
    "Not long, another half hour maybe."
    "That long?"
    "At least."
    "Can't I take it as is?"
    "Suit yourself. But it'll only take a few bumps to shake up the tank and you'll have water in the carburetor again."
    Colin glanced at the clock on the wall. It was already after three-thirty and he wanted to be out of Vancouver before daybreak.
    "Well, what's it going to be?" the guy asked.
    "Yeah, go ahead. I'll be across the street."
    "Right you are. I'll call over when it's ready," the guy said, sticking his head back under the hood, making sure not to crack his head again.
Erik was cleaning up his second piece of apple pie when Colin returned and dropped into the chair. "Christ, you still eating?"
    "I was hungry," Erik replied wit a grin.
    "You're always hungry."
    "What's with the truck? Isn't it ready yet?"
    "He says there's water in the gas."
    "Water? How would you get water in the gas?"
    "How the hell should I know?" Colin said, shrugging his shoulders.
    "Have another coffee," Erik suggested. "It's so strong it'll take your mind off anything."
    "I need something," Colin said, looking around for the waitress. He finally had to get her attention by whistling and waving his arm.
    "Sorry to wake you," he joked, when she strolled over to their table.
    "I'm really sorry, sir. The last thing I wanted to do is make you wait for service."
    "I'm joking," Colin said, surprised by her apology.
    "So am I," she said.
    Not many girls could catch Colin like that and Erik loved it.
Normally Colin would have been after her like a bear and honey, but she was way too old for him, plus she looked like death warmed over.
    "Have you got any of that delicious coffee left?"
    "I think I could find a cup."
    "Good. I'm waiting for my truck to be repaired."
    "Where is it? Across the street?" she asked.
    "Then I better make a new pot. You'll be here for awhile," she said, walking away with a chuckle.
    Colin and Erik looked at each other. "I hope that was another joke," Colin said. But it wasn't.
It was another hour before the waitress informed Colin that the guy from the service station had called. "He says your truck's ready." Colin reached over and gave Erik a shake to wake him. After his third piece of apple pie he had dropped his head into his arms and crashed. Colin, on the other hand, drank just about all that new pot of coffee.
Erik was already in the truck and waiting when Colin got in. "Well, we're almost broke again," Colin said.
    "The bastard charged us two and a half hours at sixty bucks an hour. Plus parts."
    "Holy shit."
    "Yeah. But he didn't get a chance to charge us for this," he said, pulling a road map from inside his jacket and throwing it on the seat.
    "Now what are we going to do?" Erik asked.
    "Hit the road. I want to get the hell out of Vancouver before the morning rush hour starts. We can stop for gas later."
    "How much gas have we got left?"
    "About a quarter tank. That asshole spilled most of it when he drained out the water."
    "So, we wouldn't get very far without money," Erik reminded him.
    "Don't worry; we're still heading for Toronto."
    "With what? We'll need gas pretty soon."
    "Will you quit worrying? We've done okay so far, haven't we?"
    "Yeah, I guess," Erik agreed. "I just thought that -"
    "Look. If you don't want to go, say so. You can get out right now. I don't care. It's up to you."
    Erik would prefer to head back home, but the thought of being alone in Vancouver terrified him. "No. I'm cool. Let's go." He sat back in his seat disappointed as Colin pulled the truck out onto the street and followed the signs east to the freeway.
Erik wasn't sure how long he had been sleeping, but when he opened his eyes they were turning off the freeway. "Where are we?" he asked.
    "Damned if I know," Colin said, "I thought I saw a service station over this way." He followed the exit to an intersection. From there he made a guess as to which way to go. Naturally it was the wrong way and they found themselves smack in the middle of a residential area.
    "Shit," Colin said, trying to get his bearings in the maze of dead-end streets.
    "There it is," Erik said.
    "Right over there," Erik said, pointing a couple streets over.
Not really caring if anyone was around, Colin pulled a U-turn, up over a curb, and headed back to the corner. There he turned right, only to find himself on another dead-end street bordered by a big school playground. He could see the service station, but on the next street over.
    "You should have gone straight ahead at the last corner," Erik said. "Now we'll have to go back again."
    "Bullshit," Colin snapped, looking around and seeing no one. He dropped the truck into four-wheel drive and drove right up over the curb, through a perimeter flower bed, and straight across the playground.
    "Holy shit," Erik said, watching chunks of lawn sod fly into the air from by the lugs on Colin's tires. They exited the playground through the centre of a ball diamond, through another perimeter flower bed, and finally out over a curb onto the street. From that point Colin had only to drive across the street and into the service station. Some gardener was in for a horrible surprise when he discovered the deep ruts across an otherwise well manicured lawn.
Parked alongside the gas pumps, Colin switched off his lights and motor, then paused a moment to see if his detour had drawn any attention. It hadn't.
    "You sure they're open?" Erik asked. "There's not much sign of life in there."
    "Well, the lights are on," Colin said, getting out. When he stuffed the nozzle into the gas tank filler spout and flipped the lever the pump sprang to life. "Must be someone awake in there," he said.
    "I've got to go to the bathroom," Erik said, opening his door.
    "Wait," Colin told him.
    "Just wait. You can go later."
It only took a couple minutes to fill up. Colin hung the nozzle up again and replaced his gas cap. Then he reached for the squeegee and started washing the windows. "Get back in and close your door," Colin said.
    "What for?"
    "Just shut up and do it."
    "What're you going to do?" Erik asked, suspicious of the grin on Colin's face. He always knew when Colin was up to no good.
    When Colin finished the windshield, he started washing his door window, and then suddenly he dropped the squeegee and jumped into the truck. In a flash he started the motor and roared away from the gas pumps.
    "Holy shit," was all Erik could say, but he did hear someone from the service station yelling at the top of their lungs.
Still in unfamiliar territory, Colin retraced his tracks back across the playground, churning up flowers and lawn turf and almost demolishing a set of monkey bars in the process. Erik said nothing but could feel his adrenaline soaring.
Several blocks later they hit the interchange and they were back on the freeway.
    "That was nice of them to lend us some gas, eh?" Colin said, laughing as he leaned on the gas pedal. He lit a cigarette and relaxed again.
    "They're probably calling the cops right now."
    "Probably, but who gives a shit? Anyway, we'll be long gone before any cops show up. They don't even know which way we going. Sit back. Relax."
Only the sound of the radio filled the truck cab for the next while. Erik kept thinking back over everything that had happened since leaving home. The high spot had to be the night in the bar watching strippers.
    "What are we going to do when we get to Toronto?" Erik finally asked.
    "I don't know. I'll think about that when we get there."
    "There should be lots of work back there, eh?"
    "Depends what you mean by work."
    "Construction?" Erik suggested.
    "What kind of construction?"
    "I don't know, office buildings or malls or something."
    "You can go building if you want. Not this kid. The Stock market," Colin said. "That's where my old man made all his money. If he can do so can I. I'll do some wheeling 'n dealing, make some fast money. Wait and see. I know some guys in TO we can stay with until we get our own place. Some of the guys I used to go to school with."
    'Maybe it won't be so bad,' Erik thought, 'just maybe.' He curled up in the corner, his head resting back against the window.
A garbage truck banging cans around was the next thing Erik heard. He sat up, yawned and rubbed his eyes. "I must have dozed off," he said. Then he noticed Colin was gone. 'Probably went for a walk,' Erik thought. They were parked in a back. He didn't even know what time it was. Colin had pawned the watch he almost had. He closed his eyes and went back to sleep.
"You awake?" Colin asked, slamming his door behind him.
    "What?" Erik said, half awake, and trying to sit up straight. "Where were you?"
    "I had to have a leak. All that coffee is catching up to me."
    Rubbing his eyes, Erik looked around. "At least it's getting light out," he said, "what time is it?"
    "After eight I think," Colin said, reaching for the road map to figure out where they were.
    "Know where we are?"
    "Right about . . . there," he said, pointing to where he thought they were. "Come on, let's get some breakfast. We can look at this later."
    "Good idea. I'm starved."
    Necessity drove them to the only place they could afford, another McDonald's.
After a 'big breakfast' and juice - no way could Colin handle any more coffee - they headed back out onto the freeway. By then the traffic had increased considerably. Erik settled back to enjoy the scenery, especially the farms that dominated the lush Fraser Valley, bordered on both sides by mountains. Colin did his best to keep his eyes open, but not having slept in twenty-four hours, he finally had to pull over. He had the choice of letting Erik drive while he slept or simply stopping and sleeping. He chose to stop. "I can't keep my eyes open any longer," he said, pulling into a large rest area used by truckers so as not to draw attention to themselves. By that time Erik himself was sleeping and didn't even realize they had stopped.
It took the air horn of a passing truck to wake Colin from his deep sleep. Erik was sitting quietly listening to country and western on the radio.
    "What time is it?" Colin asked, sitting up and yawning.
    "A little after four, according to the radio."
    "Huh, damned near slept all day," Colin said, rubbing his eyes. "What'd you do, sleep too?"
    "Some. I went for a couple walks. Had a nice visit with a couple of those cows over there. Talked to a couple truckers. Even watched a cop give a truck driver a speeding ticket."
    "Right here beside us."
    "Did he notice us parked here?"
    "She. The cop was a she. And yes, she did see us. She said 'hi' to me."
    "And that was all?"
    "Yep. You would have liked her too. Just your type."
    "Yeah. I'll bet."
    "She even carried a gun. You'd like that."
After Colin made a quick visit to nature's men's room they were back on the freeway. Ahead of them lay the mountains rising up out of the fog shrouded valley. They drove for the better part of a half hour before Colin pulled into another rest stop. Again he studied the road map. "We should get something to eat before we go through the mountains."
    "I don't see any McDonald's out this way."
    "I know, but there was one at the last town we passed is only about ten miles back."
Colin drove around the town looking for a secluded service station. But everywhere he looked there were too many cars and too many people.
    "I want to fill up before we leave, but we're going to have to wait until later tonight," Colin said.
    "Can't we siphon some gas or something?"
    "You happen to have a rubber credit card with you?"
    "A what?"
    "A piece of hose, a rubber credit card? You know, to siphon the gas?"
    "Oh. No, no I don't."
    "Didn't think so," Colin said. "Let's get something to eat. That should kill some time."
They pulled into a McDonald's Drive-Thru and placed their orders. Then they found an out of the way spot to park and eat.
After they ate, Erik took to walking up and down streets, returning to the truck every so often to check on Colin. He wasn't always sleeping though. At times Colin was deep in thought. He had a lot on his mind, trying to figure out what to do next, so he was just as happy to see Erik continue on walking.
Erik returned to the truck just before eight that night. Colin was sitting listening to the radio and having a smoke. "Where'd you get to?" he asked.
    "Walking," Erik said. He couldn't help noticing the can of beer in Colin's hand. "Where'd you get the beer?"
    "I was thirsty so I picked up a six-pack. I found a few bucks in the glove-box," he lied.
    Erik knew damned well Colin was lying. He had watched Colin tear the truck apart looking for cigarette money.
With a little coaxing Erik managed to get Colin to move to another parking spot, one more to Erik's liking. They spent the next four hours parked in front of a furniture store where a TV in the display window was left on all night. Erik couldn't hear any sound or change channels but it was better than being bored stiff looking at a vacant lot. He remained glued to the TV until Colin finally decided it was time to go.
The street traffic had died down and pedestrian traffic was non-existent. Of the several service stations around the town, only two met Colin's criteria. It had to be both remote and easy to get away from, with easy access to the freeway. They drove by both. Finally, Colin settled on the one he was looking for, a combination all-night convenience store and self-serve gas bar stuck on the corner of two streets. Before saying anything to Erik, he drove the half dozen blocks to the freeway and back, just to make sure there wouldn't be any surprises. "This is it," Colin said, stopping across from the store and studying the area.
    "But there's no school playground." Erik joked.
    "Funny, man," Colin said. "This time I know exactly where I am and where I'm going."
    "That takes all the fun out of it."
    "Listen," Colin said. "I want you to stay in the truck. Listen to your music or whatever. Just make damned sure you stay in the truck."
    "Sure. No problem," Erik said, shrugging his shoulders.
    Colin started the engine but waited.
    "What are you waiting for? It's almost midnight."
    "For that car." There was a vehicle parked at the store entrance and Colin wanted to wait until it left.
Colin left the motor running until a guy finally walked out of the store, got in his car and left. Then Colin drove across the street and pulled up to the gas pumps. One last look around to make sure the area was clear of witnesses, and Colin jumped out to pump the gas. Erik waited in the truck as instructed; anticipating the moment Colin would jump back into the truck and make their dash for the freeway. He actually enjoyed the rush of adrenaline he had experienced on their last gas and run.
Then Colin did something totally unexpected. Instead of jumping back in the truck and taking off, he walked over to the store.
    Erik quickly rolled down his window. "What're you doing?" Erik asked, curious as to why Colin would risk walking into the store.
    "Just wait there," Colin told him, "I have to get something."
    Erik shrugged, rolled up his window and cranked up the radio. Music from one of his favorite country & western programs filled the cab as he sat back to wait.
Inside, Colin stood for a moment looking around the store. The lone store clerk watched as Colin picked up a couple of bags of chips and dropped them on the counter. He was an older looking man with grey hair and a bald strip right down the center. He was wearing a short sleeved white shirt that strained at the buttons from the man's excessive weight. His bulbous cheeks and double chin gave him a gopher-like appearance as he tried to smile.
    "Gimme a carton of cigarettes," Colin said, pointing to the ones he wanted. "Got any sub sandwiches or anything?"
    "Sure, right in there," the clerk said, pointing a pudgy finger at the cooler.
    Colin scooped up a couple and dropped them on the counter. Then a couple of cans of coke for Erik.
    "That it?" the clerk asked.
    "Yeah, that should do it."
The old man punched at the cash register keys for a second as Colin looked back outside. He could see Erik waiting patiently but there was no other sign of life to be seen outside.
    "Including the gas, it comes to $47.65," the clerk said, putting the groceries into a bag.
    "Okay," Colin said, reaching behind for his wallet. But what he came up with wasn't his wallet. It was the Browning 9mm pistol, and he shoved it into the clerk's face.
    "Now take it easy," the clerk said nervously, the smile disappearing from his face.
    "Just shut up and do what I tell you." Colin motioned to the cash register, "Open it," he ordered.
    The clerk quickly obeyed.
    "Now give me the cash."
    At first the clerk hesitated, but when Colin pointed the pistol straight at the man's head he started removing the bills. After emptying the cash tray he handed the money to Colin. The wide-eyed look of fear that appeared on the clerk's fat face excited Colin. He felt an exhilarating surge of power come over him. "The rest of it," he ordered, stuffing the bills into his pocket.
    "There is no more."
    "You're lying," Colin said, reaching for the cash register drawer. "Underneath."
    Immediately the old man moved to block Colin's hand, trying to slam the drawer closed with one hand and reaching for the pistol with his other. It was a stupid move and just as his hand closed on the pistol, Colin fired. The bullet slammed into the man's stomach, just below his ribcage. He gasped loudly, a look of shock on his face as he fell back against the wall. Instinctively, he clasped a hand over the wound to stop the bleeding, his other hand reaching out for something to steady himself. Colin finished lifting the cash tray from the drawer and removed what few bills there were. "You lied to me!"
    "No. I . . . I didn't know . . . ." His eyes dropped to where blood oozed from between his fingers. Blood soaked the white shirt and ran down the front of his pants. He looked back at Colin. "I need a doctor, please!" he begged.
The clock was ticking and Colin knew it. He had to get out of there and fast before someone came along. His mind raced as he stared over at the man's face, trying to determine what to do next. There was no way he could leave the guy like that. If he lived he was sure to talk to the cops. Barely conscious, the man sensed Colin's intentions, his eyes widened with terror. Slowly and deliberately Colin raised the pistol in line with the man's chest. As the old man moved his arm to shield his face, all Colin could say was, "Nice watch." A second shot rang out. The man stood for a moment, a look of disbelief on his face, and then he slumped to the floor.
Colin had meant what he said about the watch. He stopped to remove it before grabbing another carton of cigarettes from under the counter. Then he crumpled up several newspapers and threw them on the floor, setting fire to the last one before dropping it. He stood back, a glazed look in his eye and a smile on his face as the fire grew. As he backed out the door flames had reached counter height and were threatening to spread throughout the store.
Erik was still listening to the radio when Colin opened the door. Saying nothing, he jumped in and threw the bag on the seat.
    "What's so funny?" Erik asked, noting the humorous grin on Colin's face.
    "You had to be there," Colin said. Then his face took on a serious look as he started the truck and drove their escape route to the freeway.
They had traveled several miles on the freeway before Colin spoke. "Have a sandwich," he said, pushing the bag towards Erik.
    Surprised at all the stuff he found in the bag, Erik asked, "Where did you get the money?"
    "I wrote him a cheque," Colin said with a laugh.
    "Like the last one?"
    "What do you mean?" Colin asked.
    "Is it any good?"
    "Shut up and eat your sandwich."
They were only on the freeway for a good twenty minutes when they spotted a police car coming at them from the other direction. The closer it got the brighter its flashing lights became.
    "Oh shit!" Colin said, slowing down a little. He nervously glanced into the review mirror to make sure there wasn't any more behind them.
    "He probably got us on radar," Erik said. "How fast were you going?"
    "I don't know, but if he stops us we're dead."
    "He'd only give us a ticket." Erik asked.
Colin said nothing. He sat rigidly at the wheel, his eyes fixed on the flashing lights that were getting closer and closer. Soon they could hear the wail of the siren and Colin moved over to the side of the highway.
    "He's not slowing down," Erik said, and within seconds the highway patrol car screamed right by them.
    Colin's eyes remained glued to the rear view mirror as the police car sped off in the opposite direction. If the interior of the truck hadn't been so dark, Erik would have noticed the worried look on Colin's face, something he had never ever seen.
At the first intersection Colin peeled off onto a side road. The cop car had definitely spooked him.
    "Where you going?" Erik asked.
    "I need to stop and have a look at the map," he said.
Erik had to go to the bathroom anyway, so he took advantage of the stop. While he stood along the edge of the road behind the truck, Colin glanced at the map and then dropped it again. He didn't need a map to tell him he was on the freeway heading east. Ahead of them the highway started up into the mountains. If the cops decided to set up a roadblock, it would be in those mountains and they would be trapped for sure. He had to know how much money he'd got from the store. He dug out the fistful of crumpled bills that he had stuffed in his pocket, counting as he straightened them. "Shit," he said aloud, infuriated to find there was only $122. "We can't get very far with this." He stuffed the money back into his pocket.
"That feels better," Erik said, climbing back into the truck.
    "My turn." Colin walked up the road in front of the truck. He stood staring off in the distance for awhile, his dreams of Toronto fading fast. Then he held the watch up to have a look. It was gold coloured with what looked like a picture of a railway engine on the front. The back had some engraving but it was too dark for Colin to read it. So he shrugged and slipped it onto his wrist anyway.
"Toronto's too far to go without money," Colin said, closing his door behind him. He flipped on the interior light and reached for the road map. Colin's announcement took Erik by surprise. One minute they were on the road to Toronto and then . . . "So, what are we going to do?" he asked.
    "Toronto's a couple thousand miles at least and we can't even afford breakfast tomorrow. I think we should head back."
    Erik didn't dare express the excitement he felt at Colin's decision. The trip was turning into a nightmare. However, he had to admit, Vancouver was an experience he was never going to forget.
Back at the service station a shocked customer found the clerk sitting in a pool of blood in a smoke filled store. The fire had died down, scorching everything around but never really catching hold. The '911' call had the fire department and police on site in minutes. The police quickly secured the crime scene, ambulance attendants confirmed the man was dead, and an intensive investigation began. But without witnesses, all the police could do was piece together what little physical evidence there was.
The clerk's death came as a terrible blow to the store's owner when she arrived on the scene. It was difficult for her to even look at the body long enough to make the identification. She supplied the man's name and address to the officers.
    "Do you know if he had a wife?"
    "No, his wife died several years ago. He's retired and lives by himself in a trailer park about a mile from here. He only worked here for something to do."
The interior of the store suffered extensive smoke damage but as a fireman told her, "You're lucky the whole place didn't go up. With that amount of heat we'd never have stopped it."
    "I suppose I should consider myself fortunate, but I feel so sorry about Lawrence. He was --" She broke into tears and rushed outside for some fresh air.
At the request of the police she conducted a quick check for missing money. "The float's gone," she told the cop. "We always keep a fifty dollar float in the bottom of the drawer. It'll take me a minute to figure how much more is missing," she said. She spent a few minutes running off the sales tapes on the cash register. "I'll have to get a starting figure from the office ... Oh, no."
    "What?" the cop asked.
    "The office. There's a small safe in the office," she said, running across the floor to the office in the back of the store. A huge sigh of relief escaped the manager's lips when she realized nothing had been touched. She made a few more hasty calculations and said, "There's roughly a hundred and fifty dollars missing."
    "That's it?"
    "Not much to kill someone for, is it?"
    "Never is. Can you tell if anything else is missing?"
    "Not right now. I'll have to take inventory. But the lottery tickets are still there. There may be cigarettes missing, but -"
    "What about that security camera?" one of the cops asked, referring to one he suddenly noticed high on the wall over looking the counter. "Does it work?"
    "Excellent, we'll need the video tape."
    "There's one outside too," she revealed, removing tapes from both recorders.
    "We'll need them both."
Colin had stuck to the side roads after turning around. Meeting the police car had scared the hell out of him and there was no way he wanted to risk driving back through the town. For the next hour Colin drove one side road after another, stopping only to refer to the road map, but never back to the freeway. "Less traffic," he told Erik. Even after they reached Vancouver, he stuck mainly to side streets and slowly made his way to the Second Narrows bridge and across to North Vancouver.
On the north side Erik got the notion of looking up Thelma, but when Colin reminded him it was nearly two in the morning, he curled up and went back to sleep.
It was light out when Erik woke with a stiff neck. Colin was propped up against the other door, sound asleep. Erik didn't want to wake Colin but he had to go, so he opened and closed the door as quietly as he could. Colin had parked in a hospital parking lot figuring no one would notice the truck in there. Unfortunately for Erik, it meant that he had to walk several blocks before he could take a leak. When he got back Colin was still sleeping so he headed over the hospital's main entrance. Several patients gathered around just outside the doors, all in housecoats, some dragging IV poles, and all braving the cold to have a cigarette.
According to a large clock inside the entrance way it was almost 10:00 a.m. which surprised the hell out of Erik as he had just assumed it was still early in the morning. In the large reception area he found several vending machines, one of which dispensed coffee. He had just enough change to get two cups.
    "What the hell?" Colin barked, when Erik hit the door with his knee.
    "Open up. My hands are full," Erik said.
Later, Colin pulled into the same restaurant where they had met Shelly. Erik was far too hungry to question where he had gotten the money. He tied into the bacon and eggs like he hadn't eaten in weeks.
    "Why don't you take your jacket off?" Erik asked. It was real warm in the restaurant and Colin looked hot and uncomfortable.
    "I can't," he replied, pulling the front of his jacket out away from his body a bit.
After Colin finished eating he talked about the trip back to Salmon Cove.
    "After we get up the coast a ways you can drive if you want," Colin offered.
    The offer surprised Erik.
    "Sure, yeah, okay. I want to get my drivers license this summer so I can use the practice." The smile disappeared from his face. "I still don't know what I'm going to tell my father," Erik said. "We've been gone a week. My mother's probably worried sick."
    "Awe quit worrying," Colin said. "She'll still love her baby boy. It's your old man you have to worry about."
Then Erik remembered Thelma. "I'm going to call Thelma."
    "We haven't got time. Beside, you don't have her number. You don't even know her last name."
    "Yeah, you're right," Erik admitted.
    "Here," Colin said, leaning forward. "Take this and stick it in your jacket. I have to go take a crap."
    "What is it?" Erik asked, sliding back to look under the table. The gun was in Colin's hand under the table.
    "What are you doing with that?"
    "Never mind. Just hide it in your jacket till I get back."
    "Just do it! I don't want it falling out of my coat half way across the restaurant. I'll take it back after."
    Erik reluctantly reached for the gun. He was surprised when it felt warm to the touch instead of cold like steel. Looking around to make sure no one was watching, he slid the weapon inside his jacket and zipped it up tight.
    "I'll be back in a minute," Colin said, sliding out of the booth and heading to the washroom.
The police had been busy since the service station robbery. The two video tapes revealed everything; who did the shooting, who set the fire. They also showed that Colin acted alone and that his accomplice had never left the truck. But also as damaging, the tape showed a clear picture of the truck and it's licence number. All the descriptive information went out over the police radios immediately.
The sight a police car pulling into the restaurant parking lot was disturbing to Erik. He worried about their earlier gas and run capers, but reasoned there was no way the attendants could have identified them to the cops. Convinced it was just a coincidence, Erik continued with his breakfast, even finishing off Colin's toast.
By the time Colin emerged from the washroom the cop car had left. He went straight to the cashier and paid the bill and then made his way back to the table where Erik was finishing the last of his coffee.
    "First thing I'm going to do when we get back is spend an hour under the shower," Colin said. "Come on, the sooner we get going, the sooner we get home.
It was early on a sunny Friday afternoon when the two passed through the restaurant doors onto the sidewalk.
    "You can eat supper at home tonight," Colin said, as he stepped off the sidewalk onto the pavement and headed for the truck.
Erik saw them first; police cars closing on the parking lot from all sides. Flashing lights were everywhere. He froze in fear. By then Colin was half way across the lot. He spun around when he realized what was happening to see where Erik was.
"Stop where you are!" came the warning over a loud speaker. Then, "Raise your hands over your heads."
    Erik immediately did what he was told. Colin paused, poised to run but there was nowhere to run. Cops where out of their cars, guns drawn and aimed at the two teenagers. The loud speaker crackled and blared once more, "Raise your hands over your heads. Now!" Colin then complied as well.
Then Colin did something totally unexpected, he dropped one arm and pointed at Erik. "He's got a gun," he yelled. Erik panicked as he saw more of the cop's guns swing in his direction. He quickly reached into his jacket for the gun so he could drop it on the ground. But when the gun appeared in his hand several police officers fired. Erik didn't hear the shots nor feel the bullets that slammed into him. He was dead when he crumpled to the ground.
Total confusion reigned as cops closed on Colin, knocking him to the ground and securing his arms behind his back with handcuffs. When the officers reached Erik he lay face down on the pavement, blood soaked his new jacket and puddled on the ground, Colin's gun lay a few feet away.
Colin screamed in pain as one of the cops pulled him back onto his feet by his arms. The cuffs cut mercilessly into his flesh, but the cop showed little sympathy towards Colin. "Take it easy. I didn't do anything. He had the gun."
Colin continued to plead his innocence all the way to the cop car and into the back seat.

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