SOME KIND OF FRIEND
by Alan A Sandercott
319 pages. Perfect bound. 5" X 8".
First printing 1999
[Out of Print]
What happens when a naive young man allows himself to be caught up in the misguided ways of a big city stranger? "SOME KIND OF FRIEND", is the fictional story of an unusual friendship between two young men. Innocent at first, the friendship slowly erupts into a life and death situation and threatens to destroy the economy of an entire community.
This book is a work of fiction. The characters, names, incidents, dialogue, and plot are the products of the author's imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons or events is purely coincidental.
Author & Sheba
NOTE: This previously published work is covered by copyright.
No printing, copying or use by any means without written permission from the author.
SOME KIND OF FRIEND by Alan A Sandercott
A dark cloud would soon descend over a small fishing village on British Columbia's west coast. That cloud would be in the form of a young man named Scott Goldmann, someone residents of Dry Harbour would not soon forget.
In the lull before the storm, word circulated that Copeland Cannery had finally been sold. Rumors had circulated for months that the fish processing plant would soon close. What with dwindling fish stocks and growing competition from major plants in Vancouver, the Copeland family was calling it quits. Everyone knew the closing would send unemployment sky high. Apart from some logging, the cannery was the only major employer in the area. Their community's future survival depended on the old plant's resurrection.
According to the Harbour Review, the local newspaper, the new owner was a fifty-two year old American by the name of Robert Goldmann. The paper went on to explain that Goldmann had owned and operated a similar operation in New Hampshire. Now in Dry Harbour, he and his wife, Elaina, had bought a new home in Lancing Place, a well to do residential section of town overlooking the whole harbour. They have one son, Scott.
Erik Karlssen, one of the eight hundred and twenty odd residents of Dry Harbour, was especially relieved by the announcement of the cannery's purchase. It meant he would be keeping his job as a day-shift supervisor in the plant where he had been employed for the past eighteen years. Prior to that he had worked on his father's fishing boat. Erik's son Max - named after his grandfather - was in grade eleven, a year and a half away from graduation; an opportunity his parents, Erik and Sonja, never had.
For Max, and the other young people his age, the purchase had mixed meanings. For most, it meant the cannery would provide jobs as it had done for the past seventy odd years. A few, like Max, had their sights set on big and better things, university and careers that would probably take them away from Dry Harbour.
Like his father, Max showed his Scandinavian ancestry through strong Nordic facial features, fine blond hair and blue eyes. He was typical of kids his age. At seventeen he stood 5' 10" tall and ready to take a crack at adulthood, to be a man. At the suggestion of his father, he signed aboard a fishing boat at the start of the summer holidays. Erik wanted his son to experience life on the sea as he had done as a boy. But unfortunately, Max only lasted a couple of trips. He spent each voyage seasick, hanging over the railings calling to fish with dry-heaves. After the second excruciating trip he quit. The experience left him with new resolve to graduate high school and keep his feet firmly on dry land.
Max was determined not to become stuck in Dry Harbour and spend the rest of his life stinking like fish. Karlssen ancestors had always made a living from the sea. His grandfather, Maxan Knutsen Karlssen, had immigrated to Canada years before as a fisherman. When Erik Karlssen was born his father was away on a fishing trip for the whole month. Back in those days fishermen spent more time at sea than at home. No. No fishing for Max. After graduation he planned to join the army and become an engineer. He wanted to travel around the world, but not on some stinking fish boat.
For the remainder of the summer holiday, Max passed his time in a carefree naive boyhood manner. Most days, when it was not raining, he and his best friend Jamie would ride their mountain bikes over the miles of gravel roads, cris-crossing the logged-off mountain hillsides. Always leading the way would be Max's dog, Sheba, who never missed an opportunity to run with the boys. She would spend hours rooting around old tree stumps for mice and squirrels, and whenever she flushed a ruffed grouse the race would be on.
Jamie was the same age as Max; same build, about five-foot ten, roughly a hundred and forty-five pounds. His hair always looked as if it had been cut with a bowl on his head, except for the beginnings of a small ponytail at the back of his neck.
As for sports, the closest the boys ever came was their bike riding. Neither boy was much good at baseball, and when it came to football, it seemed to Max he was always the one on the bottom of the pile. However, there was not a baseball or football player in school that could out-perform Max on a mountain bike.
School was a mixed bag for Max. He was a good student who took his work seriously. Smiled upon by teachers for his scholastic achievement, he often found himself in disfavour by a few students who failed to share Max's zeal for learning. One in particular was Kenny Michelle, his worst nemesis. Kenny was the sort of student that every teacher wished was in someone else's room; disruptive and generally a first class pain in the ass. At eighteen, he held the distinction of being the only kid currently in that high school to have failed grade eleven. He bragged, "Soon as I have the money I'm quitting school and buying my own boat." A rather dumb statement as he came from a poor family, had no job, and no prospect for one any time soon. He was a definite candidate for gutting fish down at the cannery.
It was September. The school year was only beginning and already a pattern of past years started to unfold as Kenny began making Max's school days a living hell. Kenny Michelle was not the brightest apple in the basket but he was definitely the most rotten. He had a knack for specialty pranks, like when he swiped a baseball bat from the gymnasium and hid it in Max's locker, and then he left an anonymous tip as to where it could be found. Max ended up in the Principal's office accused of stealing.
Another time Max opened his locker to find it full of earthworms. Then one Monday morning a dead sucker fish from a nearby creek showed up in his desk drawer; that caper ended up costing Max's parents three new text books.
"Boys will be boys," the Principal told an angry Erik Karlssen when he complained. Erik's complaint fell on seemingly deaf ears as nothing ever came of the promised investigation, even though the whole school knew Kenny Michelle was the culprit.
"Why don't you tell your teachers?" his father would ask whenever Max tried to explain his problems at school. Then his advice would usually be: "Just ignore him."
There were a few others that Kenny Michelle tormented, but Max always seemed to be his favorite. Kenny had a following of two specific boys that he always encouraged in the same direction. At times the trio would see who could bounce the most spit-balls off the back of Max's head in class. They hurt! And always, oblivious to what was happening, the teachers carried on scribbling on the blackboard while Max endured the barrage. It was impossible for Max to ignore Kenny Michelle.
The previous year Max had taken his father's advice and complained to a teacher. What resulted was a face to face between Max, Kenny, and the school counselor. The offshoot, after Kenny had promised, "Yeah okay. I'll leave the kid alone", was that Kenny waited for Max after school one day and beat the hell out of him.
"I don't want you fighting," Max's father told his bruised and battered son that night.
Right. As if Max had any say in the matter. Fight Kenny? That was the farthest thing from his mind. Kenny was a lot stronger and meaner than Max, and took considerable pleasure in punching out smaller guys.
Max would prefer to think of himself more as a lover than a fighter, a take-off from the TV cartoons he loved to watch. Problem was, Max did not have a girlfriend. He had friends who were girls, a couple of whom he would love to call his girlfriend, only he was too shy to ask either of them.
Monday morning. It was the third week of September, and Max unwittingly played right into Kenny Michelle's hands. With the best of intentions Max had spent a considerable portion of his weekend studying and completing his school homework, not an easy task with a forty-five pound Siberian Husky continuously interrupting by jumping up to get her share of attention. As usual, Kenny and his two cronies showed up at class with incomplete homework. The teacher took the opportunity to openly praise Max for his efforts.
"Well done, Max," the teacher said, speaking loudly for the benefit of the whole class, "I'm glad to see someone took my homework assignment seriously."
Well, that was all it took. No sooner had the teacher turned his back when the artillery opened up and spit-balls rained down on the back of Max's head. So intense was the barrage that Max cried out. The teacher wheeled around, just in time to see Kenny in the middle of a projectile launch.
"Out!" he bellowed, already tired of Kenny's disruptive influence on his class. "Out of here! I won't have you disrupting my class. I don't want to see you back in here until you're prepared to behave yourself. Do you understand?"
Kenny mumbled incoherently, a smile of personal satisfaction on his face. To further his point, he deliberately crossed three rows of desks and stalked up behind Max. "You're dead, asshole," he said, followed by a sharp smack across the back of Max's head.
"That's it!" the teacher roared. He quickly advanced towards Kenny who wasted no time heading for the door. "You are out of here. You're finished in this school."
Max interpreted the teacher's words to mean that Kenny would be expelled. For the remainder of the day he tried to imagine school without Kenny Michelle - it was a tantalizing thought that persisted in his mind. The clock on the wall slowly ticked off the remaining minutes before the final buzzer.
Both Max and Jamie felt a huge sense of relief outside the school when Kenny was nowhere in sight.
"Let's get out of here before he shows up," Jamie suggested. He too fell prey to Kenny Michelle's warped sense of humor on occasion. They wasted no time unlocking their mountain bikes and setting off for home.
They didn't get far. Only two blocks from the high school, Kenny was waiting with one of his friends. Like vultures, a group of students began to gather. At first Max contemplated turning and making a run for it, until he realized Kenny's other friend was behind them, cutting off their escape.
"Well, if it isn't the big suck," Kenny called out. "I've been waiting for you."
Both boys held their ground as Kenny advanced on them. The kid behind them suddenly grabbed the back fender of Max's bike and lifted it high into the air, then dropped it to bounce on the cement sidewalk.
"Back off!" Max barked, wheeling around to face the kid who immediately stepped back. The kid loved to do things to impress Kenny, but fighting Max wasn't one of them. Besides, Kenny was threatening to take care of that item.
Suddenly Kenny grabbed the handlebars of the bike, attempting to wrench it from Max's grip. They were now face-to-face and Max knew in his mind he would not be walking away from there unscathed. He cast a glance at Jamie, but it was clear Jamie was no more interested in fighting Kenny than he was. The crowd of expectant faces surrounding them was eager to see a fight, any fight. He turned back to face Kenny.
"Trying to show me up again, eh?" Kenny accused, yanking at the bike.
"No I'm not," Max replied.
"Showing up at school with your homework all nicely finished and then rubbing everyone's noses in it."
"I just did my homework, like we were supposed to."
"You think you're so damn smart. You're nothing but a bloody suck," Kenny taunted.
"I do my homework because I have to do it. My father makes me."
"Bullshit. You do it so you can show up the rest of the class. You've got your nose so far up the teacher's ass it's turning brown."
"Stinks too," the other kid said. Kenny's comments amused everyone but Max and Jamie.
Max tried in vain to pull his bike free of Kenny's grip but Kenny just laughed and pushed Max backwards. Struggling to retain his balance, Max released his hold on his bike. It fell to the ground. Kenny's two cronies cheered him on as he pushed again, sending Max crashing down on top of his bike.
"Leave him alone," Jamie said, as Max attempted to regain his footing.
Kenny just laughed, stomping his foot down on the front wheel and bending several spokes.
"You son of a bitch!" Max yelled, seeing the damage inflicted on his expensive mountain bike. He managed to get back up on his feet.
"What'd you call me?" Kenny bellowed. He waved his closed fist in Max's face.
At the same instant the kid behind them took a vicious kick at the bike.
Max didn't even stop to think. He stepped back and took a wide swipe at the kid's head, the side of his fist slamming into the kid's face, knocking him back on his butt. Unfortunately, Max was now off balance and as he turned back, Kenny made good his threat. He sent a fist crashing into the side of Max's face, catching him by surprise. Max reeled backwards fighting to retain his balance, the whole side of his face stinging with pain.
"I'm not going to fight you," Max said, tripping backwards over his bike.
"Good." Kenny swung again. This time Max was able to fend off the blow.
"I'm still not fighting."
"I don't care. I'm still going to kick the shit out of you," Kenny said, his right arm lashing out again, his fist glancing off Max's head. A second fist followed that caught Max in the rib cage.
It was purely a defensive struggle for Max as he fended off blow after blow. His legs were taking on the consistency of rubber. He felt as if he was blacking out as he tried to anticipate Kenny's next move.
Suddenly a hand reached out from the crowd and grabbed Kenny's arm. "Why don't you try taking a swing at me?" a voice said. No one had noticed the red pickup truck pulling up along the curb when the crowd was gathering. Nor did anyone pay particular attention to the stranger that stood quietly on the outer edge of the crowd. Now that same stranger with the dark brown hair suddenly positioned himself squarely between Kenny and Max.
"What's your problem?" Kenny asked. He was a little troubled by this six-foot intruder wearing a black leather jacket and who easily outweighed him.
"You. You're my problem," the guy said, his brown eyes staring defiantly at Kenny.
Now it was Kenny's turn to go on the defensive. He turned slightly, sucking in a deep breath as if to inflate his body size. Their eyes locked. "This is none of your business."
"I'm making it my business."
Max did not have the slightest idea who the guy was, but right then, he was more than happy to have him on his side.
Kenny looked to his two friends. Both of them had melded into the crowd, one of them still holding his bloodstained face where Max had nailed him.
"If you're smart you'll get the hell out of here right now. And take your snot-nosed pukes with you."
"I ..." Kenny started, and then paused to rethink his situation. He was trapped. As much as he would have preferred getting out of there, he did not dare back down. He knew he had to stand his ground to save face. What the hell, he'd fought bigger guys than himself before. With another deep breath, his muscles tightened and both hands slowly formed hardened fists.
Tense seconds passed. Then a smile formed on the stranger's face. "You're even stupider than you look."
All Kenny saw was a blur as one fist slammed into his face, a second plowed into his stomach. Kenny dropped like a bag of sand, rolling onto his side in agony. Almost as fast a foot snaked out, crashing into Kenny's ribs. Then a second foot buried into his ribs with a sickening thud. Blood began running from Kenny's nose and mouth, spreading out over the rain swept cement. Only then did the stranger step back.
Except for a girl's crying there was no sound from the crowd. Kenny sat head down, unable to make eye contact with either Max or the stranger who had come to his aid.
"You ever lay a hand on my friend again and I'll really mess you up," the guy said.
Kenny only moaned and spit more blood, but he got the point.
Then the guy turned towards Max. "Come on, I'll give you a ride home," he said with a grin.
"What about Jamie? He -"
"It's okay," Jamie said. "I'll ride my bike home."
Max picked up his crippled mountain bike and carried it over to the flame-red pickup truck parked at the curb.
"This yours?" Max asked.
"Throw your bike in the back. Just don't scratch the paint."
Max was confused why this guy would come to his defense like that. He was bigger, older, even owned his own truck. Perhaps he was one of the kind of person that stands up for the little guy. At any rate, the brown-eyed, dark haired stranger had delivered Max from Kenny's clutches. He even referred to Max as his friend.
As they drove away from the fight scene, Kenny watched them with a cold stare. The crowd then quickly dispersed, leaving a beaten Kenny Michelle to lick his wounded pride.
"My name's Scott Goldmann. What's yours?"
"Max. Max Karlssen."
"So, Max Karlssen, what was that all about back there?"
"He was kicked out of school today and he's trying to blame me."
"Who is he when he's at home?"
"Kenny Michelle. A real dip-shit. He's always picking a fight with somebody, usually me."
"I'm surprised you can't take him."
"Me? No way. He's been beating me up for as long as I can remember."
"What'd he get thrown out of school for?"
"He got caught shooting spit-balls at me."
"You're kidding, right?"
"Nope. He was shooting spitballs at me when the teacher caught him. Boy, was Mr. Snodgrass ever pissed."
"Yeah. He's one of our teachers."
Scott had a good chuckle over the name. Whenever he moved his head it caused light to reflect off the small gold earring he wore.
Neither Max nor Jamie had ever given much thought to having their ears pierced. The closest thing they had to 'cool' was Jamie's haircut that Max's mother hated. There were a few students who had their ears pierced, some several times. But not Max. The thought of having a needle poked through his ear; that was reason enough to shy away. However, because Scott chose to wear one put a whole new slant on things. He could just imagine trying to persuade his parents to let him pierce his ear. Hell, his mother still cut his hair at home, thus ensuring he would not follow some of Jamie's weirder trends.
"This is a really nice truck," Max said.
"I got it for graduation. The old man let me pick it out."
"You graduated already?"
"How old are you?"
"Nineteen," Scott told him.
"I'm going into the army after I graduate. I want to get into engineering. What are you going to do now that you've graduated?"
"As little as possible. What kind of a car do you have?"
"Well how do you get around then?"
"That's it? A bike? You ride a bike all the time?"
"How do you take your girlfriend out on a bike? Side-saddle?" Scott laughed.
Max had to chuckle over that one himself.
"You do have a girlfriend, don't you?"
"Ahh, ... sure," Max lied.
"I used to borrow my old man's car all the time but that sucks."
"Yeah. I can't imagine my father -"
"You can't keep borrowing your old man's car forever, you know. Shit, what you should do is sell the bike and get yourself some real wheels, man."
"I mean it. God, I'd be dead without my wheels."
"I don't know." Max grinned at the thought of having a car of his own.
"It doesn't have to be new like mine. I'll help you look around for one if you want?"
So began the strangest friendship in Dry Harbour.
Scott Goldmann was not cut out for Dry Harbour. He was a city boy, through and through. His parents were very well off, a fact Scott bragged about to anyone who would listen. They gave him pretty much anything he wanted. Years of pampering had spoiled him rotten and created a self-centered adolescent with a nasty disposition. Now he felt trapped in a small fishing village, bored stiff, and hating every minute of it.
Max had to lie to his father that night about the damage to his bike. "It was an accident," he told his angry father who would have to cough up the money for repairs.
"You think money grows on trees?" he asked his son.
"You had a perfectly good opportunity to go fishing this summer. You could have made some good spending money for yourself. But no. You had to up and quit."
"I was always sea-sick," Max insisted.
"That's normal. I was too when I first went to sea, but you get over it."
"I'll never get over being sea-sick. That's why I want to join the army. They stay on dry land."
"I still don't know why you can't stay here in Dry Harbour. They need engineers to run the equipment at the cannery. You could get on as an apprentice."
"That's not the kind of engineer I'm going to be. I'm going into construction. I want to build things."
"Well if you're planning to join the army then you better grow up and stop wrecking things."
Max didn't see Scott around for the rest of the week but it didn't matter, Kenny kept his distance anyway. Scott had made a lasting impression on Kenny Michelle. Then when Max left school on Friday afternoon he was surprised to find Scott waiting in the parking lot. "Throw your bike in the back," Scott said.
"Where we going?" Max asked.
"For a ride. I want you to show me around town."
"Sure," Max said, enthusiastically. He quickly and carefully put his bike in the back of the truck. Jamie hadn't come out of the school yet and Max wasn't sure if he should ask Scott to wait. He decided not to and hopped into the cab.
"So Max, what's there to do in this town, besides stay in out of the rain?" Scott asked, once they were out on the street.
"Not much. There's a video arcade in the mall."
"That's about what I figured. I've been here a couple weeks and the place is dead."
"It's not such a bad town," Max defended. "You'll get used to it."
"Not me. I don't plan on being here that long."
"I'm going to head back east."
"Toronto. That's where I'm originally from."
"I thought you were from down in the states somewhere?"
"We were there for a while, but Toronto is where I grew up and went to school. I've got some good contacts back there. Better than being cooped up in this place." He took out a package of cigarettes and offered Max one.
"No thanks," Max said. "I don't smoke." He hadn't even considered smoking since his mother had found a cigarette in his lunch box two years earlier, another of Kenny's weird attempts to get Max in trouble; it worked. He changed the subject. "When did you move here?"
"A couple weeks ago. My old man bought some fish cannery."
"Yeah, that's it," Scott confirmed.
"Holy shit! That's what everybody in town's been taking about. Is your father really as rich as everybody says he is?"
"He's a millionaire. He made a killing on the stock markets."
"Must be nice. Bet you have a nice house then, eh?"
"Yeah. We bought a big house up in Lancing Place."
"Boy, that's the rich part of town."
"That's right," Scott said, a big grin crossing his face. Max couldn't help noticing that whenever Scott smiled or laughed his dark eyebrows almost touched. "It's not as nice as what we had back east," Scott went on, "but it's okay."
Max listened as Scott drove and continued to brag about how great Toronto was. Hell, Max hadn't even been past Vancouver. The previous summer his father had taken the family to Vancouver on a shopping trip. Max got to spend a whole afternoon in the Vancouver Aquarium. Not much, after listening to all Scott's tales of Toronto. What with all their money, Max now knew what Scott had meant about doing 'as little as possible' after his graduation. He wished his father had that kind of money. Maybe they too could have a big house in Lancing Place.
"So, what's your girlfriend like?" Scott asked.
"She's okay," Max lied, remembering what he had told Scott earlier.
"Maybe I should get myself a date and we'll all go out together?"
"Where to?" Max asked, buying time. It was a little late to admit now that he didn't have a girlfriend.
"I don't know. A show? You do have a show in this place, don't you?"
"Okay. So let's do it."
"I can't do it for a while though. I'm broke right now. I'd have to ask my father for an advance on my allowance."
"Allowance? You actually get an allowance," Scott laughed.
"Yeah," Max replied sheepishly. He remembered he was talking to Scott with the rich parents.
"So I'll buy," Scott offered.
Talk about putting your money where your mouth is. Max was running out of excuses. Where was he going to suddenly come up with a girlfriend? He resolved to do what ever it took to keep this new friendship going. "When?" he asked.
"Next week. My old man and I are going into Vancouver tonight. Big football game tomorrow. We used to take in all the football and basketball games back east, especially basketball."
"Holy shit," Max said, very impressed. "Sure wish my father would take me to hockey games in Vancouver."
For the next hour Max gave directions and guided Scott on the nickel tour of town. They even went down on the docks where Scott got to see his father's newest acquisition, the Copeland Cannery.
"That's it?" Scott asked. "Looks like it's ready to fall down."
"Built in 1920, according to my father. He works there."
"That right? Your old man works in there?"
"Just about everybody in town does."
Scott guided his truck into Copeland's office parking lot.
"Where we going?" Max asked.
"I want to show you something."
"The old man's Mercedes," he said, pulling up behind his father's car. "Sharp, eh?"
"Looks like a sports car."
"It is. That's a Mercedes SL500, man. They don't come any better than that."
"Can you believe that thing's got a 5 litre V8 in it? Goes like a scared rabbit. I could borrow it if I wanted."
"That's what I'd like to have," Max said.
"Well you better save up your money. The old man paid over a hundred grand for that one."
"It's worth it, though. That hardtop roof flips back and you either have a soft-top or you can run it as a convertible. Neat eh?"
Max had never seen anything like it. Nobody in town could afford to drive a car like that, not on what the cannery paid.
Max had been down to the cannery with his father several times, but never at the offices, and there was never a Mercedes parked around there either. Old man Copeland drove a car almost as old as he was.
"You be polite to him," Max's father would say. "Someday you may want to work here."
"No way," Max would always say. "I'm never going to work here." He was never able to understand how his father could stand to work there. The smell of the cannery was almost enough to make him throw up.
Their tour continued, out to the breakwater where Scott drove right out to the end and stopped. He had to get out and, "drain his horse," he said.
"What do you play?" Max asked.
"No. I mean like sports."
"Some basketball when I was in school," Scott laughed, flipping his cigarette into the ocean.
"Women. Love to play with women."
"Any good places to eat in this town?"
"Big Mamma's Pizza Place. Best pizzas and hamburgers in town," Max said. He then remembered he was broke. "I'm broke, though."
Max figured he could get used to hearing Scott say those magic words.
It was the first time Max had been to Big Mamma's since school started. Kenny always went there after school and so Max and Jamie avoided the place like a plague. As Scott pulled into the parking lot several eyes peered out at them from the restaurant. The fire-red pickup truck was a real eye-catcher for students who packed the place after school. Max couldn't help noticing several girls suddenly stop talking and stare at them when they entered. He knew it was Scott that caught their eye, but he was now Scott Goldmann's friend.
A waitress walked by with a load of dishes. She backed up when she spotted Scott Goldmann. "Hi. Be with you in minute, okay?" she asked. She sported her best tip-generating smile.
Scott smiled back at her, then leaned out of the booth to watch her from behind. "Not bad," he said, grinning at Max.
"That's Sheila. She's in my class at school."
"I don't know, sixteen I think."
"Jail-bait," Scott laughed, "but I love it."
It suddenly dawned on Max that Scott wasn't that much older than he was and it sounded like Scott had been going out with girls for years. Max, on the other hand, was only starting to think about girls.
"Busy place," Scott remarked.
"Yeah, this is the school hangout. You should see the place at lunch times."
"Like ... what can I get you?" Sheila asked, her warm brown eyes staring down at Scott. She had rushed to return to their table before the other waitress could.
"Hawaiian Aloha Delight. Twelve inch. Lots of cheese," Scott rattled off.
"And to drink?" she asked.
"You know, beer."
"We don't sell beer here," she said.
"Oh yeah. I keep forgetting, I'm in Canada now. Make it a coke then."
"And for you, Max?" she asked.
"Coming right up," she said, dragging herself away.
"Maybe I should take her out," Scott said.
"She has a boy friend," Max advised.
"I thought you said she was jail-bait?"
"I'm only taking her to a show. I'm not planning on jumping her bones."
"What?" Max asked, a confused look on his face.
"Boy, you are backwoods, aren't you?"
Sheila was back in no time with their order. "Anything else you'd like?"
"Sure," Scott said with a sly look on his face. "How about you?"
"I'm not on the menu," she said, brushing back her short auburn hair. Had she leaned over Scott any farther she would have fallen right into his lap.
"That's okay. I wasn't planning on eating you, I just wanted to take you out to a movie. How about it?"
It amazed Max how easily Scott had asked Sheila out on a date. It surprised him even more when she accepted the offer.
"Sure. When?" she asked.
"Next week sometime?"
"Not a school night though."
"Okay, how about next Friday night? Max and his girlfriend are coming along."
"Sure," she agreed. "I can get a friend to cover for me in here." She gave him another big smile. Then when she turned to leave she gave Max the strangest look because she knew damned well he didn't have a girlfriend. Poor Max just held his breath and prayed she wouldn't say anything.
All day Saturday Max moped around the house trying to resolve his girlfriend problem. He regretted having told Scott that he even had a girlfriend. The more he thought about it, the more depressed he got. He was sure his newfound friendship would be short lived if Scott found out he had lied. He couldn't talk to his parents about his problem, nor could he confide in Jamie. Neither boy had much success in the girl department. If anything, given Jamie's sense of humour, Jamie would probably laugh and suggest Max take Sheba on the date.
At church the next day Max couldn't bring himself to pay attention to the minister's sermon. His mind struggled with his dilemma. Max's father, noticing his son's preoccupation in church, continually prodded the boy. After the service, Max's father shook hands with the Reverend Clyde-Whyte out on the steps of the church. The reverend, who spoke with a strong English accent having recently come over from England, had made good friends with Erik Karlssen and his family. They exchanged a few pleasantries before the reverend turned to Max. "We've missed you in Sunday school lately, Max."
"Yes sir," Max responded.
"Max seems to think he's getting too old for Sunday school, Reverend," his mother explained.
"Well Max, we could always use your help teaching the younger children you know. You would be more than welcome."
Max didn't respond. The thought of teaching Sunday school was too hard to swallow. He wondered what Scott would think of that?
"Thank you, Reverend," Max's father said, shaking hands again. "We'll talk to Max about your offer."
Max didn't wait for his father to pursue the matter. He beat a fast exit down the steps. Half way to the sidewalk a familiar voice cut short his escape. "Hi Max." It was Karen Williams, a girl who lived a couple blocks from him. She was in Max's class and easily one of the more popular girls at school.
"Hi," Max said, slowing his pace to allow her to catch up to him.
Karen joined him on the path leading out to the street, something she hadn't done for years.
"How are you doing, Max?"
"I heard what happened with Kenny the other day. I'm really sorry. He's nothing but trouble. Too bad they didn't expel him for good." Mr. Snodgrass's threat to have Kenny expelled had fizzled. The school principal reviewed the matter and much to Max's dismay, and the rest of the class for that matter, Kenny Michelle was allowed back into class.
Then Karen really threw Max for a loop. She leaned over close and asked, "I understand you and Scott Goldmann are good friends. Is that right?"
"Yeah, he's a friend of mine,"
"Would you like to walk me home, Max?"
"Sure." He was surprised by her sudden friendliness. "Why not?"
It was eight blocks to Karen's place and most of the way all Karen did was ask questions about Scott. Somewhere along the way Max let it slip about his proposed date with Scott, "... problem is," he said, "I told him I had a girlfriend."
"What's wrong with that?" she asked.
"Everybody knows I don't have a girlfriend."
"Well how do I tell him now that I don't have a girlfriend? He'll know I was lying."
"You mean that's all you're worried about?"
"Yeah," he admitted.
"Let me get this straight. Scott Goldmann's taking Sheila Wilson, and you and your girlfriend are supposed to be going to the show with them?"
"How'd you know about Sheila going?"
"It's all over town."
"If everybody in town knows about this, then I'm dead."
"I'll go with you," Karen said.
Max almost choked, not sure he'd heard her correctly. "You'll what?"
"I'll be your date. We can go out with Scott and Sheila."
"Cool," he said, enthusiastically. "You just saved my life."
Karen had solved his problem. The question of why she wanted to go out with him never crossed his mind. All he saw was the continuation of his new friendship with Scott. He felt as if the world's problems had suddenly been lifted from his shoulders. As they walked along, Max suddenly realized the irony of the moment; Karen was one of the few girls he always wanted to call his girlfriend but was afraid to ask, and now she wanted to go out with him. He had known her all his life. They were the same age and virtually grew up in the same sandbox. He remembered playing with her when her hair was done up in long braids. Now that she was all grown up, she drew her long silky blond hair into a single ponytail.
When they neared Max's driveway, Sheba saw them coming. She got up from her favorite sleeping spot - under Mrs. Karlssen's large Lilac bush - and rushed to meet them.
"No," Karen said, trying to hide behind Max. She loved dogs, but not when they were jumping up on her. She was wearing a good dress, not the old faded Levi's and Jean jacket she wore daily.
"Sheba, down!" Max commanded. But as usual, Sheba only heeded commands when it suited her. He had to hold her by the collar while Karen petted her. Then Sheba was content to escort them the rest of the way to Karen's place.
During the next week Max was ecstatic. On Monday afternoon he walked Karen home from school. Then each day after that they walked both ways together. By Wednesday, Jamie, who had been walking with them, lost interest in being third man out and went back to riding his bike. Max knew everyone in school was talking about him and Karen and he loved it. In class Karen would often catch Max staring at her in a trance. She would smile back and he would turn away with a red face. Then on the Thursday morning, Karen asked, "Did you tell Scott yet?"
"What?" Max asked.
"That I was going to the show with you?"
"Not yet, but I'll tell him."
On Friday morning Scott Goldmann stopped off at his father's office to replenish his pocket cash. The first time Scott had gone down to the office was at his father's request so he could introduce his son to the staff. Scott didn't say anything but he wasn't too impressed. Instead of the foxy secretary his father had in New Hampshire, this one had to be at least a hundred years old, Scott figured. That's why Mrs. Pardeau's desk was in the outer office with the bookkeeper. Back east, Robert Goldmann's private secretary had a desk right in his office. His wife didn't appreciate the arrangement but he enjoyed the scenery. Many a time Scott would park himself on the edge of her desk only to become mesmerized by the woman's low-cut, almost transparent blouses. Scott knew for a fact that his mother preferred the new arrangement. The only female in the office now was a full-sized stuffed sea otter that was left over from old Mr. Copeland.
As for George Mannicks, the bookkeeper, Scott was sure from the beginning that there was something a little strange about him. He gave the appearance of a happily married man, but he was far from it. When you got close to him you could see the blood-shot eyes that gave away his drinking problem. He was fifty-six years old and had nothing to show for his years of work but a messy divorce. He ate too much and drank too much, a walking candidate for a heart attack.
The previous owner, old man Copeland, had allowed George to occupy a self contained bachelor pad attached to the office. Scott's father didn't like the idea but agreed to a trial period.
"I'll expect you to keep an eye on the place, sort of like a security guard," he told George who eagerly agreed. There was no way in hell he could afford to pay full rent for an apartment of his own. George Mannicks had a second vice; gambling. His addiction to poker, along with alimony payments, kept him broke most of the time. He often hosted a poker game at night in the office. Big mistake.
One evening Scott's father came home mad from the office. "I should have fired him on the spot," he roared, after Scott's mother had asked him what the problem was.
"Who?" she asked.
"Mannicks. I walked into the office tonight and he's got a poker game going. And in my office! You know my thoughts on gambling." That was one thing Robert Goldmann wouldn't stand for among his employees; gambling. He was dead set against it. He had seen too many of his friends fall prey to gambling. They would get in deeper and deeper until they destroyed their careers and wound up in bankruptcy. "Who in the hell does he think he is?"
Obviously George must have survived the ordeal as he was at the counter when in Scott walked. And, as usual, Robert Goldmann was in his office busy on the phone.
"How are you making out?" George asked, making conversation.
"Okay," Scot replied, suddenly taking notice of the money on the counter. George was in the process of counting out money for a bank deposit. He had little stacks of bills spread out across the counter.
"Have you found a job yet?"
"Not looking for one," Scott said, watching George count out the money.
"I'm sorry. I thought I heard your father mention -"
"Scott," his father called out suddenly. He had quickly hung up the phone when he saw his son waiting. "Just the boy I'm looking for."
"What?" he asked, walking into his father's office.
"I need you to run your mother downtown. She's picking up her new car today. I was supposed to give her a ride but I'm tied up here."
"Was there something you wanted to see me about?" his father asked.
"No. Not really. I could use a few bucks though. I have a big date tonight."
"Well, okay," his father said, reaching for his wallet. "But you take it easy, you hear? I don't want to see you getting into any trouble. You know what I'm talking about."
"I know," Scott said, pocketing the money and heading for the door. It would prove to be a profitable morning, when he dropped his mother off at the car dealership she slipped him some money as well. He could always depend on her.
That night the big date started out at the local movie theatre. Even though Scott had offered to pay, Max made a point of paying for himself and Karen. It would put a big dent in his upcoming allowance but he felt obligated to pay Karen's way. He'd let Scott pick up the rest. Loaded down with popcorn and drinks, the foursome filed down the aisle, but not too far down. Max made his way into the row first, then Karen, then Scott and Sheila. Scott had conveniently situated himself between the girls, something Max didn't even notice until later. Sheila had met them at the theatre, having come straight from work. And she was still working as far as her parents were concerned. It wouldn't have gone over too well if her father had found out she had skipped work and gone off to the show with Scott Goldmann.
Both Scott and Sheila seemed to be getting along well together. Before the movie started, Scott sat quietly with a large barrel of popcorn on his lap. That way Sheila had to lean over whenever she wanted some. But as soon as the lights went down, the popcorn disappeared and they were in each other's arms. Max wanted so much to put his arm around Karen but he sat frozen, his eyes straight ahead.
At one point during the show, Scott bent over and had both Sheila and Karen giggling at him. Max leaned over to see what he was doing. "What's up?" he whispered.
"Shh." Karen laughed. "Bartender at work."
"What?" Max asked.
Scott held up the bottle for Max to see. He was pouring vodka into a partially filled cup of orange crush.
"Where did you get that?" Max asked, referring to the mickey of vodka.
"I bought it earlier," Scott said, shaking the cup to get it all mixed.
"You're not allowed to have booze in here," Max warned.
"Who cares?" Scott laughed. He sat up and took a drink from the cup. Satisfied with the mix, he passed it to Sheila. She took a sip and then passed it over to Karen. And to Max's great surprise, Karen didn't hesitate to take a drink. He obviously didn't know her as well as he thought he did. Karen wiped her lips with the side of her hand and passed the cup to Max.
"We're going to get kicked out," he said, refusing the offer.
"Have a drink," she said, continuing to hold the cup to him.
"No." He had said it before he realized. Now he figured she would probably be mad at him. But drinking in the local movie theatre wasn't something Max wanted to do. He'd never even had a drink before, other than beer. On one of their bike trips up the mountain, he and Jamie once found a six-pack of beer in a creek. Someone had stuffed them in the creek to keep them cold and then forgot them. They each drank one can. Max didn't get sick, but he sure didn't care for the taste. He only finished it to prove something to Jamie. Hard stuff had to be worse he figured, as Karen handed the cup back to Scott.
"Don't be such a God damned pussy," Scott said, taking a drink and then handing it to Sheila to finish.
"That was good," she giggled.
"Someone's going to see you," Max warned again, concerned someone would catch them drinking. Boy, if his father ever found out he was drinking alcohol in the theatre...
"Gimme a break," Scott said, shaking his head and then settling back in his seat. Sheila immediately cuddled close to him. They watched the movie for a while, or at least Max and Karen did. Scott and Sheila appeared oblivious to anything around them. Karen was so flustered by all the moaning and kissing going on next to her that she reached out and took Max's hand.
A short time later Scott mixed another cup of vodka and orange. This time he handed it straight to Max. "Now drink it." It sounded to Max like an order and with both girls and especially Scott watching him intently, he knew he was on the spot. He concluded he either had to drink it or kiss good-by any further association with Scott. So, he sheepishly accepted the cup, glanced nervously over both shoulders, then raised the cup to his lips and emptied it. The look of approval on Scott's face was almost enough to offset the horrible sensation of the vodka burning its way down his throat. He could feel his eyes begin to water as he remembered having heard that vodka had no smell or taste. Bullshit! If he'd been alone he probably would have gagged and thrown up. But more importantly, he was now one of the foursome.
More than one special cup made the rounds that night, passing one to the other beneath the seat line. As the evening wore on Max kept a close eye on Scott to better learn from the Scott Goldmann approach to girls. Without being too conspicuous, he studied Scott's every move with Sheila, from the first arm around her shoulder to the later hand somewhere in her lap. The more intimate the attention Scott paid Sheila; the more she seemed to enjoy it. Karen, noticing the action in the next seats, began feeling a touch of jealousy.
It had been a deliberate move on Scott's part to sit between the girls. On more than one occasion he leaned towards Karen and whispered something into her ear. Whatever it was, her face turned red, even in the subdued light of the theatre. But it was when Scott started tickling Karen in the ribs and she began giggling uncontrollably that Max began to feel the pangs of jealousy. In a move that surprised even himself, he placed his arm around Karen's shoulder, drawing her closer to him and away from Scott. He suddenly felt proud of himself, and Karen seemed pleased as she leaned closer to Max. He felt a sudden surge of confidence as she rested her head against his shoulder. Max didn't pay much attention to the remainder of that movie.
Later at Big Mamma's, Scott kept going at Sheila as if they were off somewhere by themselves. And it wasn't only with Sheila that Scott plied his attention. Max couldn't believe his eyes when Scott began flirting with their waitress. Sheila dug her nails into Scott's leg and got his immediate attention. He promptly gave her a big apologetic kiss.
Later yet, after they had finished off a couple of pizzas, Scott started tickling Sheila. The more she laughed, the more he kept at her. At one point she was laughing so hard she drew the notice of other girls in the restaurant. Nearly all secretly envied Sheila's romping with Scott Goldmann, especially when he leaned over and passionately kissed her in front of everyone.
"Sheila, come on with me," Karen said, "I've got to go to the bathroom."
"I don't think she can hear you," Max said, reaching for Karen's hand. "Want me to go with you?" She just laughed. At that point his heart was pounding louder than the background music.
"No thanks," she said, prodding Sheila.
The girls were in the bathroom and Scott's mind was on the waitress. Max began wondering what he was going to do when it came time to take Karen home. Would she let him kiss her goodnight? Could he even get up the courage to try to kiss her? That was the real question. He had watched Scott and Sheila kiss several times at the show and again at the restaurant, but every time Max leaned close enough to kiss Karen, his courage would suddenly crumble. It wouldn't have been the first time he'd kissed Karen. He remembered years earlier when they were smaller, much smaller, like back in the sandbox days, he'd kissed her then.
Max was watching when the two girls made their way back from the washroom. He was also watching when a hand reached out from one of the booths and grabbed Karen's arm.
"Where you going?" a male voice asked. "Why don't you ladies join us?"
"No thanks," Karen said.
"Ahh, come on. Sit down for a while," the coaxed. Max watched her suddenly being dragged into the booth.
"No!" she said, trying to twist away from the man.
Like a flash, Max was on his feet and heading to Karen's rescue. She was still attempting to pull away when he stepped between her and the man in the booth. When the guy saw Max he released his grip and glared up at the intruder.
"Leave her alone," Max heard himself saying. His sudden burst of heroics surprised even himself. He now found himself staring into the faces of two men, both older and bigger than himself. Then one of the men stood up. "I suggest you mind your own business."
"Just leave the girls alone," Max warned.
A hush crept over the restaurant and all eyes fell on Max. He suddenly found himself in the centre of attraction and very unfamiliar territory.
"Come on, Max," Karen pleaded, "let's go." She pulled at his sleeve but he remained riveted to the spot.
"Yeah," the guy said, poking a finger into Max's chest. "You better go while you can still walk."
For some unknown reason Max stood his ground. He was scared shitless, but he still couldn't bring himself to back off. Scott, on the other hand, was watching the whole episode with great amusement.
"Max!" Karen pleaded again, "Come on."
"Yeah, Max, get the hell outta here." The man shoved at Max, forcing him back several steps.
That's when Scott came out of the booth and walked up along side Max. "Why don't you try pushing me?" Scott challenged.
"Another one," the guy said, looking back at his friend. "The town's full of punks. What say? Wanna kick some butt?" His friend didn't hesitate. He stood up, dropping a bill on the table.
"Take it outside," a voice said from across the room. A man in a stained cook's apron had suddenly appeared on the scene.
"We'll be waiting outside," one of the two guys from the booth said, "if you've got the guts."
Scott paid the bill and then walked to the front doors. He waited only long enough to light a cigarette before stepping outside into the parking lot. Sheila clung to his arm, trying to hold him back, but there was no stopping Scott Goldmann. It was like the men had waved a red flag in Scott's face.
Max fell in step along side Scott. "What're we going to do?"
Scott didn't answer. He knew exactly what he was going to do as he marched right up to the two men waiting in the lot.
"Which one of you wants to kick my butt?"
"I do. Right after I kick his," one of the guys said, referring to Max. "Let's see if the little punk's got the balls to finish what he started."
"I never started anything," Max said. "You were hitting on my girlfriend."
"I wasn't hitting on her. We were just being friendly, weren't we?" he-man said, turning to his friend and laughing.
"Let's just go," Karen said.
"Get in the truck," Scott told the girls.
Max quickly took both girls by the arm and steered them towards Scott's truck. But the second man moved to intercept Max. "Maybe they'd like to stay and watch," he said, propping his foot up on the front bumper of Scott's truck. "Maybe they'd like to see you get your butt kicked." Max stopped, not sure what to do.
"We don't want any trouble," Karen said.
"There's going to be trouble all right," Scott said, turning to the guy at the truck, "if he doesn't get his foot the hell off my truck!"
The guy didn't answer. He just remained there with a stupid looking grin on his face. "You mean this piece of shit?" he asked. He then turned his head and spit on the hood.
"You son of a bitch!" Scott exclaimed, "Nobody spits on my truck like that."
"He just did," the first guy said, taking a step towards Scott. "What are you going to do about it?"
That one step was as far as the guy got. Scott's foot lashed out with lightening speed, catching the guy right under the kneecap. His leg buckled. He howled in pain as he dropped and landed on his other knee on the pavement, trying to keep from falling. Instantly, Scott followed up with a fist straight into the guy's face. Blood spewed from his nose as he crashed backwards onto the ground. Then his friend rushed in to help. Max was still in a position to block the man but couldn't. The guy bowled right over Max and charged at Scott, only to meet Scott's fist face on. Then a second fist slammed into his face, and before he could recover, Scott's foot lashed out into the man's groin. With a muffed scream of pain, he doubled up and toppled to the ground.
Fortunately for the two on the ground, a police car was passing. They were fortunate in the fact that Scott had just gotten started. Max recalled what Scott had done to Kenny and these guys were getting off easy. When the cop saw the commotion, he wheeled into the lot, red and blue lights flashing and a whoop of the siren for good measure. Scott backed away but the damage was done. The first guy was up on his good knee, blood still pouring from his nose. The second was flat on his face on the pavement, half under the front of Scott's truck, still moaning and groaning.
"What's going on?" the cop asked, walking over to Scott.
"They started it," Scott said.
"They were giving these two girls a bad time. Then they tried to gang up on Max here."
"He's lying," the first man said.
Scott reeled, "And that asshole spit on my truck," he said, referring to the other one who was starting to pick himself up off the ground.
"Both of you, shut up," the cop told them.
"It looks like you've got a broken nose," the cop said, shining his flashlight in the first man's face. He was still on one knee, blood running all over the place.
"You, over here," the cop said, stepping over and taking the second guy by the arm and leading him over by the police car.
"I want to see some ID. Where're you from?"
"Seattle," the man said.
"And your partner over there?"
"Seattle, too," he said, handing the cop his driver's license.
"What are you doing up here?"
"We're on our way back from Alaska. We had some problems with our boat and we had to put in here for repairs," he explained.
Then the cop walked back over to where Scott was about to get into his truck. "Where do you think you're going?" he asked.
"Why?" Scott asked. It was over as far as he was concerned.
"Let's see your driver's license. Is this your truck?"
"Let's see the registration."
"What are you hassling me for? They started it," Scott said.
"License and registration, now!" the cop ordered, tapping his finger on the truck hood.
Scott threw his license on the hood and then reached into the truck's glove compartment for the registration.
Max and the girls piled into the truck to get out of the cold while the cop looked over Scott's papers. "You work at the cannery?"
"No bloody way."
"Then what are you doing driving one of their trucks?"
"My old man is Robert Goldmann. He owns Copeland. The truck's mine, it's only registered to the damned company."
"Have you been drinking tonight, Scott?"
The cop flashed his light in Scott's face and looked closely at his eyes. "You sure you haven't been drinking?"
"What have you been smoking then?"
The cop paused again for a moment. "You take it easy. I don't want any more trouble from you tonight," he said. He then turned and started walking back to his patrol car.
"Prick," Scott said, in a low voice as he opened his door.
"What did you say?" the officer asked, spinning around.
The cop stared coldly at Scott for a minute, then turned back to the man by the patrol car. "You better take your friend over to the hospital and get his nose looked at."
"We don't have a car."
"Three blocks, that way," the cop said, pointing in the general direction. "Walk. Fresh air will do you good."
When Scott pulled onto the street he left behind one pissed-off cop, two badly bruised opponents, and their blood stains on the pavement. Several of the restaurant's customers had witnessed yet again the vicious temper of Scott Goldmann. His mean reputation was growing rapidly in Dry Harbour.
"I want to go home," Sheila said, as Scott turned onto the main street.
"Me too," Karen added, "it's getting late."
"You can let me off at Karen's," Sheila said. "I'll walk home from there"
Scott was in no mood to argue, and after dumping everyone off at Karen's, he headed for his father's office for a drink.
Max had never experienced anything like that evening. It had started out so well. One minute he's imagining kissing Karen, and then he starts a fight in the restaurant. He had almost freaked when he saw the cops pulling into the parking lot. 'Holy shit,' he thought, 'If my parents ever found out, I'd be grounded for life.' More than anything, though, he worried that Karen may never want to go out with him again.
At four in the morning the phone rang in Robert Goldmann's bedroom. Half asleep he fumbled for the phone, listened for a minute, then hung up.
"Who was it?" his wife asked.
"George Mannicks. There's a fire down at the dock," he said.
"Oh, my God!" she exclaimed, "Not again. Is it -"
"No. It's one of the boats tied up at our dock. The fire department's there already. I'd better get down there myself," he said, rolling out of bed.
By the time Robert Goldmann reached the dock, the fire on the boat was already out. Police officers were busy questioning the owners and witnesses while firefighters rolled up their hoses.
"It's not that bad," George said, coming over to meet his boss.
"What happened?" Goldmann asked.
"They don't know. It's that American boat. The fire started on deck apparently. Luckily they were sleeping on board and discovered the fire before it spread."
"Any damage to the dock?"
"None. We were lucky. If the fire had spread to the dock, the whole plant would have gone up in smoke. These old timbers are soaked in creosote and are tinder dry."
The boat fire was the talk of the town the next day. The police and fire department's investigations into the suspicious fire continued. All morning curious people gathered at the dock to have a look and share their theories on the fire. Even Scott had a peek when he showed up at the office to collect his usual cash donation from his father.
Later that afternoon when Scott swung past to pick up Max, Sheba started barking and ran up to the truck. By the time Max got outside, Sheba was jumping up at Scott's door. Scott, worried the dog would scratch the paint, started yelling at the dog to get away.
"Sheba, come!" Max called from the driveway, and Sheba reluctantly came trotting back.
When Scott got out to inspect for any damage, Sheba immediately ran back towards Scott again.
"Sheba, come!" Max called again, but having a mind of her own, she ignored him and started jumping up on Scott.
"Get the hell outta here!" Scott yelled. Sheba was not easily deterred, but quickly backed away when Scott took a vicious kick at her. "Get away!" He raised his arm as if to strike her.
"Don't hit her!" Max yelled, but it was too late. Sheba sensed the man's threat and right away her posture changed to aggression. Her lips rolled back exposing her fangs as she growled a warning. Holding her tail high, she advanced at Scott. He quickly reached over the tailgate of the pickup box and grabbed a tire iron. Fortunately, Max was close enough to grab Sheba, or Scott may well have struck the dog with the steel bar.
"Sheba, down!" Max commanded. He grabbed his dog by the collar and pulled her back into the yard, barking all the way and fighting to get loose. Scott remained standing in the back of his truck until after Max had pushed the dog into the house and closed the door.
"You should get rid of that bloody thing. It's dangerous!"
"I've never seen her do that before," Max explained, still shaken by the encounter.
"I hate dogs. About all they're good for is target practice."
"I don't understand," Max said. "She's usually friendly. She's never ever bitten anybody."
"Well, she almost bit me."
Their first stop was at Scott's place for a moment. When he came back out of his house he was holding his jacket tightly to his side to hide the mickey of whiskey he had just swiped from the bar. He quickly slid the bottle under the seat before starting the truck.
"Let's go somewhere and have a drink," he said.
"Let's go down and have a look at that boat that caught fire," Max suggested.
"I saw it. No big deal. I'd rather head down to the breakwater."
Scott's one drink turned to several. As they sat parked at the outer reach, the surf crashed into the rocks along the breakwater, blanketing the pickup with a fine salt-water spray.
"Here," Scott said, handing over the bottle.
Max didn't much feel like a drink. The smell of it turned his stomach. But rather than upset Scott, he held his breath and tipped the bottle to his lips, plugging the end with his tongue and pretending to drink. Scott didn't catch on, his mind obviously somewhere else.
It was starting to get dark by the time Scott threw the empty bottle out the window where it smashed on the rocks below. "Let's go see what's on the streets," he said. "You better drive, though."
"Me?" Max asked, surprised.
"See anybody else in here?"
"I ... I've never driven before."
"I was going to take driver's Ed at school this year but they canceled it."
"You don't need that shit to learn how to drive, you know. I can teach you."
"Sure. It's easy."
Just to be safe, Scott backed the truck off the breakwater. Then Max took the big step and went around to the other side and slid behind the wheel. A few rudimentary instructions from Scott and they were off in a cloud of dust. It was a touch erratic at first, Max soon settled down to his driving lesson. Before he knew it, they were cruising along back roads as though he had been driving all his life. Almost.
Up ahead, a bridge loomed in the headlights. They had been following the channel for the last few miles and the moonlight reflecting off the water created an eerie hypnotic effect on Max.
"Watch it!" Scott warned loudly, as the truck drifted towards the bridge railings. His arm shot over to grab the steering wheel, but not in time, and he cringed as he heard the grinding of metal against metal.
"What happened?" Max called out, not sure what the noise was.
"For Christ's sakes!" Scott cursed. "You can't drift all over the road like that." He now had his hand on the wheel and kept it there until they were off the bridge and stopped. Then Scott was out of the truck like a flash.
"Shit. Shit. Shit!" Scott repeated, as he inspected the damage. The bridge abutment had left a jagged crease in the metal the length of the front fender and along the door.
Max remained behind the steering wheel at first, afraid to say anything. He knew the truck meant everything to Scott, and now he had wrecked it. Finally he braved the inevitable, getting out and slowly walking around to where Scott was ranting and raving.
"I'm really sorry," Max said, genuinely. He noticed Scott was shaking he was so mad and Max fervently hoped Scott wouldn't take his anger out on him. One thing for sure, his first driving lesson was finished and he had failed miserably.
For the first couple days of the week, Max and Karen continued to walk back and forth to school together. Max's bike was growing cobwebs in the garage while Jamie rode to school with another friend. Since Max started going out with Karen, he never seemed to have time for his old friend Jamie. Even in school Max spent his time following Karen around like a lovesick puppy. Each afternoon Karen would ask, "Where's Scott Goldmann?" She was expecting Scott to pick them up after school. The first time Max simply shrugged. The second day he told her Scott's truck was going to be in the garage for a while. The next morning Karen went ahead with her friends and Max walked to school alone.
Wednesday was newspaper day in Dry Harbour. The Harbour Review weekly hit the streets with blazing headlines reading, AMERICAN FISH BOAT CATCHES FIRE. The paper went on to talk about the suspicious nature of the fire and the owner's attempt to seek compensation from Copeland Cannery. The article re-kindled the town's interest in the fire. But more than that, it fed the lingering feud between Canadian and American fisherman. Caught smack in the middle was Copeland Cannery, owned by the American, Robert Goldmann. A poll of the community would have produced a strong 'No' vote with respect to compensation for the American boat.
Max had obviously been a little hasty in telling Karen that Scott's truck was in for repairs. He was still driving it when he picked Max up after school that day. Scott too was a little surprised, to find that Karen was not waiting with Max. "Where is she?"
Max shrugged his shoulders, "Took off with some other girls."
"Let's go then."
Their first order of business was to head to Big Mamma's for a pizza. "I've gotta take the truck into the bodyshop this afternoon," Scott said.
"For how long?" Max asked, still feeling guilty about the accident.
"Better not be very long. I don't plan on walking."
They were just getting into the truck outside Big Mamma's when Scott heard someone call out his name. He turned to see George Mannicks hurrying his way.
"Shit," Scott muttered, opening his door.
Max heard him swearing quietly. "What?" he asked.
Max turned to see the man approaching. "Who's That?"
"He works in the old man's office."
"Scott," George called out again, making sure he had Scott's attention. "I need to talk with you for a minute." He was breathing hard by the time he reached the truck having run from across the street. It was the most exercise he'd had in quite a while.
"What?" Scott asked.
"Remember when you were at the office last Friday morning, when I was making up the bank deposit?"
"Well, some money went missing at that time," George said. He had given the matter considerable thought and everything pointed to Scott. He was not sure what kind of reaction to expect from Scott. He got none.
"Well, you were right there by the counter ... I just wondered if -"
"Are you accusing me of stealing money from my old man?" Scott quickly became very agitated.
"No. Of course not," George replied, taken aback. "But you were in the room at the time and -"
"What about that old lady. Did you accuse her of stealing?"
"I'm not accusing anyone. I just thought maybe -"
"Well, you thought wrong," Scott snarled, then got into his truck and slammed the door. "Maybe you took it yourself to play poker? I'll suggest that to my old man and see what he thinks?"
"No, for God's sake. I'm obviously mistaken. I'm sorry."
"Lets get the hell out of here," Scott said to Max. They drove off leaving George on the curb with his mouth hanging open.
"What an asshole, eh?" Scott asked, driving away.
"Who's he, anyway?"
"George ... something or other, he's the bookkeeper down at the cannery. He's lucky I didn't smack him one."
They had driven the length of the main street twice and still Scott was still unable to shake George from his mind. Then suddenly he pulled over to the curb, a big grin on his face. Max said nothing, but got out when Scott did and followed him over to a men's clothing store. "That's what I need," Scott said, pointing into the window.
"A new jacket."
"Like that?" Max asked, staring at the jacket Scott had pointed to. It was one of those sporty jackets with leather sleeves, and a big 'Chicago Bulls' crest on the back. "Too expensive for me."
"Who cares? I'm not planning on paying for it. Just watch this," he said, and paraded straight into the shop.
Several fittings later, Scott had found the perfect size jacket for himself. He turned in front of the mirror a few more times, then asked Max, "What do you think?"
"Looks good to me," Max said.
"That's our top sport's line," the clerk added with pride.
Scott continued to admire himself in the mirror. "Yeah, I like this," he said. "I'll take it."
"Excellent," the clerk said, with a smile. "Will that be cash or charge?"
"And your name, sir?"
"Charge it to George Mannicks down at the cannery," Scott told him.
The clerk stopped what he was doing and looked back at Scott for a second. "I'm sorry, sir. I know Mr. Mannicks, but he doesn't have an account in this store."
"That's okay, George wants you to send him the bill."
"I take it you do know Mr. Mannicks, do you?"
"Sure, I was just talking to him a minute ago, wasn't I, Max?"
"That's right," Max confirmed, nodding. That part was true. He had just talked to George all right.
"He works for my old man," Scott added. "Robert Goldmann. He owns Copeland Cannery, you know."
"Oh, certainly, Mr. Goldmann. I don't see any problem with that arrangement." The clerk quickly made out the bill. "If you would be good enough to sign for the jacket I'll wrap it up for you."
"That's okay," Scott said, scribbling his name, "I'll wear it."
Max waited by the truck while Scott admired his reflection in the store window. "I don't understand?" Max remarked. "I thought you hated this George guy? Why would he buy you a jacket?"
"Because, if he doesn't, I tell my old man he accused me of stealing. He knows the old man would probably fire him for that."
Considering what he had just witnessed, Max made a mental note never to accuse Scott Goldmann of lying.
On Friday, after two long days without wheels, Scott was suffering cabin fever from hanging around home. When he could stand it no longer he sidled up alongside his mother in the kitchen and put his arm around her.
"What do you want?" she asked, suspiciously.
"I know you. I always know when you want something."
"What makes you say that?"
"Never mind, I'm your mother. Now what do you want?"
"I want to borrow your car?"
"No. That's a brand new car and I don't want it smashed up like your truck."
"I'll be careful," Scott promised.
"I don't care, you're too reckless."
"I told you. My truck was hit downtown in the mall parking lot. Hit and run. I wasn't even there when it happened."
"I said no."
"Ah, come on," he pleaded, giving her a big hug.
"I said no and I meant it."
"But I promised to give Max and his mother a ride down town. They'll be waiting for me."
"He's a friend of mine."
"What's he like?"
"He's all right. His father works at the cannery."
"When are we going to meet him?"
"You will, if I can borrow your car. I promised. His mother needs a ride to the doctor's office."
"Where's her car?"
"They only have one and Max's father needs it for work. So can I?"
"Well ... I don't know. I was going out myself."
"I won't be very long. I'll just take them into town and come right back."
"Well, you better."
"I will. Where's your keys?"
"They're in my purse on my dresser, and don't you mess up my purse."
"I won't," Scott promised as he headed for the stairs.
Scott removed the keys, and then listening to make sure his mother was still downstairs he took out her wallet. She always packed lots of money around with her. He thumbed through the bills, extracting a few and then replaced her wallet.
"Did you find them?" his mother called from the bottom of the stairs.
"Got 'em." He tucked the bills into his pocket.
Scott pulled his mother's brand new Cadillac into the school parking lot, stopping right where everyone would have to walk past it. It was a sharp looking car and Scott loved the way people had turned their heads when he drove by. His mother appreciated such attention as well. Between her cars and her clothes, she always looked the high society type.
Scott surprised Max that afternoon by waiting at the school, especially in a Cadillac.
"Where'd you get the car?" Max asked right away.
"It's the old lady's. I'm using it until I get my truck back. What say we go get a pizza, or something? Where's Karen?"
"She's coming." Max didn't mention that she hadn't paid much attention to him in the last few days. While they waited, Scott lit up a cigarette, even though there were no smoking signs all over.
When Karen finally showed up she came straight over. "Hi Scott. Hi Max," she said, stopping by Max's side. There was a big smile on her face when she saw that Scott was driving a Cadillac. "Whose car?"
"Mine. I'm driving this till I get my truck back," Scott said.
"I've been wanting to talk to you both."
"You can talk to me anytime you want," Scott said, with a big grin.
"I'm having a Thanksgiving party at my house next Saturday night. I would like you and Max to be there."
"Sure. Why don't we go for a pizza and discuss it," Scott suggested.
"I can't," Karen said. "I have to get home."
"To hell with that. Let's go get something to eat first."
"No. Really. I can't. I have to get right home."
"Okay. Jump in. We'll drive you home."
Karen slid in between Scott and Max. "I love this car," she said, running her hand across the leather seats.
"This is the kind of car I'm going to get when I become an engineer," Max said.
"You have to be rich to have a car like this," Karen remarked.
"I can use it whenever I want," Scott boasted.
"When do you get your truck back?" Max asked.
"I don't know. It's in the repair shop, but there's a problem. My old man claims the insurance company is refusing to pay the claim."
"They don't believe that the damage happened in the mall parking lot."
"Is that what you told them?" Max asked.
"Sure. What was I supposed to say? That you were driving without a license."
"You were driving?" Karen asked, looking at Max.
"Sure he was," Scott confirmed. "Only he doesn't have a driver's license, so I reported that it was a hit and run."
"What's going to happen if they don't pay?" Max asked.
"The old man will pay. He'll scream bloody blue murder, but he'll pay for it. It just pisses me off. That's what insurance companies are for. If it were up to me I'd sue their ass off. Anyway, I don't give a shit as long as I get my truck back."
After dropping Karen off at home, they headed back downtown. It was Friday and the streets were full of cars. Scott made two slow sweeps of the main drag to show off the Caddie before pulling into the mall parking lot. There was only one shopping mall in all of Dry Harbour, giving it a pretty good monopoly. The study of people facinated Max, he and Sheba had spent a fair amount of time at the mall, just watching, as people scurrying around, always in a hurry, going nowhere.
Inside the mall, Max was so absorbed in watching people that he almost missed Scott turning into the drug store. "... to pick some stuff up," Scott said. They wandered up and down the isles until Scott found what he was looking for: condoms, rubbers, safes. Max felt his face flushing as Scott rummaged through the various brands to find the ones he wanted.
"You want some, too?" Scott asked.
Max was too busy looking around to see who was watching. Scott had to ask him again, "Hey, do you want a package of these or not?"
Max didn't know what to say, so he just said, "Sure," and immediately began wondering what the hell he was going to do with them.
Then they went to the magazine racks, and not the sports or car magazines that Max would have expected of Scott, but into the adult magazine section. When Scott opened one magazine to the centre-fold, Max sucked in his breath, not believing his eyes.
"How would you like a little of that?" Scott asked.
Max mumbled something incoherently, again feeling the flush of embarrassment. But, he didn't take his eyes off the centerfold.
"How about this one?" Scott asked, flipping another magazine open to the centre page.
"This one has some good stories in it every month, but they're all bullshit."
"I've never even seen a magazine like that before."
"Well, you have now," Scott said, looking around to see if anyone was watching. Then he stuffed the magazine into Max's jacket.
"What are you doing?" Max gasped, as Scott yanked the zipper up.
"Now you have your own personal copy."
The thought of putting the magazine back scared Max. What would Scott think? What if someone saw him? No one would ever believe he was putting it back. They would nail him for shoplifting, sure as hell. He recalled an incident a year earlier when three girls from school were caught shoplifting in the mall. They had to go to court and everything. No one would even speak to them for months. His eyes were wide with fright as he glanced in all directions. He wanted out of there so bad, but first they had to get past the checkout counter. And, if that wasn't bad enough, there was a girl working the counter, and worse yet, she was a friend of his.
"Hi Max," she said in a pleasant voice, when they stepped up to the checkout counter.
"Ahh, hi," he replied sheepishly.
Scott dropped the packages of condoms onto the counter. It didn't seem to bother him in the least that he was buying condoms from a girl. Max tugged his jacket tighter.
The girl said nothing while passing the scanning wand across the boxes, but when she gave Max a sly smile he almost panicked and ran from the store.
At the opposite end of the mall from the drug store, Max stopped and leaned back against the wall. "That was close," he said, his heart madly pumping away. "I've never been so bloody scared." Then he heard Scott laughing.
"I don't believe you," Scott said. "Haven't you ever boosted anything before?"
"No. I haven't. I was scared as hell in there."
"Nobody gives a shit anymore. So you swipe a magazine. What's the big deal?"
Max waited where he was, using the time to catch his breath. "Most excitement I've had for a long time," he admitted, finally able to muster a small laugh.
"You want excitement? I'll show you excitement. This place is too quiet anyway."
Right next to Max's shoulder there was a little red metal box on the wall with a sign above it that read, 'Pull in the event of fire'. Scott pulled. All hell broke loose. Suddenly the mall was alive with fire alarms. People poured from stores looking for the nearest exits. Store owners scrambled to lock their premises, while a few doubting types simply stood gawking around. Amid all the confusion, no one paid any attention to Scott and Max, slowly making their way out into the parking lot.
"Holy shit!" Max exclaimed under his breath. He couldn't believe all the confusion and racket. "I didn't think you'd really do something like that."
"Why not? Nothing like a good fire alarm to shake things up a bit."
"We better hurry up and get the hell out of here."
"Relax. Wait'll the fire trucks get here. That's when it really gets exciting." He was right.
A traffic nightmare developed at the entrance to the mall's parking lot. Cars and trucks were trying to escape onto the street while at the same time two fire trucks were trying to get into the parking lot. Panicked drivers were laying on their horns while the fire truck's sirens screamed loudly. Scott was killing himself laughing. "Now that's exciting," he roared. Don't you just love the sound of fire sirens?" He hung his head out the window to hear better. "We used to do this at school all the time. Drove the fire department nuts."
"You used to do this at your school?"
"At least once a week. How often does yours go off?"
"We have a drill couple times a year. That's about all."
"You're shitting me, right? That's no good. You're going to have to show them how it's done. The Fire Department expects it."
"I don't think anybody would -"
"But you'd do it, right?"
Max didn't answer. He didn't like the direction Scott was taking the conversation.
"I'll make you a deal," Scott said. "You pull the fire alarm at your school next week and I'll forget about you wrecking my truck."
"I don't know," Max said, hesitantly.
"You're not going to be a pussy again, are you? I thought you were supposed to be a friend of mine?"
"Well then prove it!" He wasn't joking. Max could tell by Scott's tone of voice. He said nothing as Scott started the car and pulled out of the parking lot.
During the next week Max was a little subdued, haunted by Scott's ultimatum. Other than school, he spent his time at home with Sheba and keeping up with his homework. He wasn't risking not being allowed out on the weekend. No way he was missing Karen's party. He recalled the last time he had been to Karen's place for a party; it was a birthday party when she was six years old, almost eleven years earlier. About all he could remember of that party was the cake and that he'd had fun, and he intended to have fun at this one as well.
Each day as Max walked down the school hallways he was painfully aware of the red fire boxes on the walls. They seemed to jump out at him, taunting him. But each time he attempted to pull the alarm, he would suddenly chicken out and tell himself, 'next time'. He got through Monday, and then Tuesday. On Wednesday afternoon he actually stopped for a moment and leaned against the wall like he had done at the shopping mall, the red box next to his shoulder. He recalled the alarm going off at the mall and how it had made his heart pound: now it was hammering! He waited, watching a student walk past until the hall was clear. His hand inched towards the red box. Suddenly the school buzzer sounded and Max almost went straight through the roof. It was several seconds before he could force himself to move or even breathe. When he could, he was out the front doors and beating a hasty retreat for home. He didn't even wait for Karen.
That night Max sat in the living room doing his homework. As usual, Sheba did her best to assist. She found her favorite stuffed toy and packed it over and dropped it in Max's lap. He brushed it onto the floor. "Not now, Sheba. I'm busy." But Sheba wouldn't take no for an answer, and time after time she would pick up the toy and drop it back into his lap. When that didn't get his attention she flopped both front paws into his lap and began licking at his face. That worked, but his books ended up on the floor along with crumpled papers.
"Why don't you take your homework upstairs?" his mother asked.
"She'll just follow me up there."
"Close your door," his father said.
"Won't make any difference," Max explained. "The latch is broken. She just pushes the door open."
"How did you break the latch?"
"I didn't. Sheba did."
Max's mother hummed to herself as she continued with her crocheting. Erik Karlssen was reading the weekly newspaper. Max could see the headline, "AMERICAN FISHERMAN THREATEN TO SUE COPELAND CANNERY".
At school on Thursday, Max was still shaken by his pathetic attempt to ring the fire alarm the day before. He was determined to prove to Scott that he could do it. However, Thursday passed without Max finding the right moment, or more accurately, the courage. Then, it was Friday. He was running out of time and beginning to sweat. What bothered him the most was the ease with which Scott had pulled the alarm in the mall. Scott had even laughed about it. For most of the morning Max sat in his desk staring at Karen. He imagined himself alone with Karen in the back of Scott's Cadillac. "That's it!" he said to himself. He got up from his desk and left the room.
It took only a few minutes for all the students to file outside amidst clanging of the fire alarm bells. Groups of students gathered in the noonday sun as teachers began their count. It wasn't long before Dry Harbour's volunteer firefighters showed up, sirens blaring. Max couldn't help noticing the light blue Cadillac that followed along behind the fire trucks. Scott must have heard the fire trucks and knew where to look. Max's knees were knocking but he felt a sense of accomplishment, almost pride, in what he had done. He could feel Scott smiling at him.
Later that afternoon when Scott showed up at the school he had his truck back. He was standing back admiring it when Max came out. "You're late," he said. "I thought maybe you had already gone."
"Nah, everyone had to go to the gym and listen to the principal talk about playing with the fire alarms."
"I see you finally did it, eh? I was beginning to wonder if you had the balls."
"No big deal. Just like you said." Max was proud of himself. "Hey, you got 'er back, eh?" he remarked, referring to the truck. "Looks real sharp."
"Yeah, finally. Where's Karen?"
"She took off downtown to get some stuff for her party."
"Let's go then."
"Aren't you going to wait for Sheila?" Max asked, throwing his backpack in on the seat.
"It's Friday, she's already working."
Dry Harbour wasn't very large, so it didn't take long to drive around. They drove up and down the main street several times while Max kept his eyes peeled for Karen. She was beginning to fill most of his waking thoughts. He was developing a one-track mind. Pretty soon he would be as bad as Scott, or so he wished.
"So how you making out with Sheila?" Max asked.
"She's okay I guess."
"She really likes you."
"What's not to like?" Scott laughed.
"She not like that Karen, though. I bet she's pretty hot, eh?"
"I guess. I don't know, she's -"
"Don't tell me you haven't got into her yet?"
"Well, we ... I mean she -"
"Shit, man, she's asking for it. What're you waiting for?"
"I don't think I should ... I mean I don't think she wants...." Max was muttering. Talking like that, even with Scott, embarrassed Max. Besides, he had only really been going with Karen for the last couple weeks, unknown to Scott of course. He wasn't like Scott, even if he wished he were.
"She's going to waste man. If you don't take care of her, someone else will."
"We're doing okay."
"What are you packing to her party tomorrow night?"
"What do you mean?" Max asked, puzzled.
"Booze man, booze. What are you taking to drink?"
"Nothing. I doubt if her parent's would allow it."
"So who cares? You can't go to a party without something to drink. How do you expect to have a good time?"
"I don't know," Max said. He remembered how eagerly Karen had taken to booze at the theatre.
"We'll pick up some good stuff," Scott said. "Like gin. That makes good panty remover."
Max laughed, but he had another problem. "I'm broke," he admitted.
"Borrow from your old man."
"I already borrowed from him to go to the show the other night."
"I didn't say ask for it."
Max didn't respond but he knew damn well he could never steal from his parents. "Maybe I could get an advance on my allowance."
"Allowance? I still can't believe you get an allowance?"
"Sure. Don't you?"
"Of course not. That's for kids. Shit, I'll get you a bottle if you need one."
"Sure," Max lied, not wanting to sound like a wimp. He remembered the theatre only too well.
No one was home when Scott pulled his truck into the driveway. Max had never been in Scott's house before. Once inside they walked right into the den where Scott put a couple of glasses on the bar. "What do you want to drink?"
"I don't know," Max said. "I better not. If my parents smell booze on my breath, I'll never get out tomorrow night."
"Quit worrying. I'll give you a mint or something," Scott said, turning to the fridge to get ice. Max had never seen anything like it before. The wall behind the bar was like a liquor store. "Try that," Scott said with a laugh. "That'll grow hair on your chest."
Max picked up the glass and raised it to his mouth. The strong smell of alcohol filled his lungs as the liquid crossed his tongue. It certainly wasn't getting any easier to stomach, but if he was going to continue hanging around with Scott Goldmann, he was going to have to develop a taste for booze.
"Not bad, eh?" Scott asked, showing Max the bottle of very expensive scotch whiskey.
"Yeah," Max lied. It all tasted the same to Max. He managed to keep a straight face while his throat burned.
"How about a game of pool?" Scott asked. He set his glass on the bar and walked over to the large pool table.
Not only did the room have a bar and pool table, but the walls were lines with heads of stuffed animals. There were deer, moose, and antelope, even a buffalo head that commanded most of one wall. A huge bear rug lay on the floor and an old style piano that played by itself stood next to the bar. One wall was devoted almost entirely to photographs. Max walked around the room. The pictures appeared to be mostly of hunting trips, but it was the animal heads he found the most intriguing. "Holy shit," he said, in amazement. "These are great."
"Yeah, I know."
"Did your father shoot all these?" Max asked, motioning to the mounted heads.
"Not all. I shot some of them. My old lady shot that one," he said, pointing to the head of a deer with large sad eyes that stared right back at you. "This is the rifle I used," he said, opening a large gun cabinet full of rifles and removing one. He lifted it to his shoulder, taking aim at the buffalo head on the wall. Then after placing the rifle back in the cabinet he removed a pistol. "Now here's a real piece of work."
"An automatic. Sweet as they come," he said, raising the pistol and taking aim at various animal heads, then panning around the room and finally pointing straight at Max. Having a real gun pointed at him was extremely frightening to Max. He took a step back, almost on the verge of running. Then Scott lowered the pistol. "Nice, eh?" he asked, handing the piece to Max. When Max made no attempt to touch it, Scott added, "Go on, it's not loaded. See." He removed the clip.
Strange, but Max expected it to be much heavier. He hefted the pistol a couple times. Then, like Scott, he raised it and took aim on one of the animal's heads.
"I'll teach you how to shoot it if you want," Scott offered.
"I don't know," Max answered hesitantly. "Maybe."
"Come on. I'll whip your ass at pool," Scott said, taking back the pistol and putting it away.
After Scott had cleanly defeated Max at several games of pool, the novelty wore off and he lost interest.
"Let's take my rifle out and do some target shooting," Scott suggested.
"Sure," Max agreed. He was both scared and excited by the prospect.
"Want another drink first?"
"No. That's okay." Max knew any more would be way too much.
Back at the bar Scott washed out both glasses and put them back in the cupboard. Then he reached into the lower cupboard and took out a full twenty-six and a mickey of gin. He handed the mickey to Max.
"There," he said, "you can have that for the party."
"Won't you get into trouble?"
"Hell no. The old man never knows what's in here."
"Isn't one bottle enough? I don't think we both need one."
"Ahh, bullshit. Don't worry about it. The old man will never miss it."
"But that's stealing."
"So what's your point?" Scott asked with a shrug. "Haven't you ever lifted anything from home?"
"No," Max answered flatly.
"Are you serious?"
"Boy, you have led a sheltered life. I'll have to introduce you to the real world."
Max didn't like the sounds of that. "How?"
"You'll see," Scott said. He removed his rifle from the rack and pocketed a box of bullets. "Let's go make some noise."
It wasn't long before they were high up on the mountainside following the old treacherous logging roads. There were virtually no trees, everything in the area had been clear cut due to logging years earlier, leaving a battle-ground appearance to the country side. This was the country Max and Jamie roamed on their mountain bikes so Max knew it like the back of his hand.
The road closely paralleled the main power line. The multiple high-tension lines strung between precarious steel towers carrying the community's lifeblood of electricity. It was four-wheel drive only as Scott cautiously maneuvered his truck over the winding road, avoiding its razor-sharp rock out-croppings that could tear vehicle tires to shreds.
Near the top, on a relatively flat piece of ground, Scott parked the truck and got out. Far below they could see Dry Harbour nestled on the water's edge. They could even make out the cannery along the docks, probably the biggest building in town.
"You actually ride your bike up here?" Scott asked.
"So is walking around the block."
"We used to pack a lunch and spend the whole day up here."
"Must be nuts," Scott muttered to himself. He walked to the back of the truck and dug out a six-pack of empty beer cans and lined them up on the base of a steel tower. Then he reached inside the truck and brought out the rifle. Max watched with interest as Scott loaded it, leaned over the hood of his truck, and took careful aim on the tin cans. Two shots rang out. Two beer cans blasted into the air, then landed with a hollow clanking sound on the rocks, ripped apart by the hi-calibre rifle bullets. Both shots echoed through the mountain valleys.
"Now you," Scott said, injecting a shell into the chamber and holding the rifle out to Max. "Lets see if you can hit anything."
It was a struggle, but Scott finally managed to get Max situated. He tucked the rifle to Max's shoulder and helped him aim roughly in the right direction. "Keep the rifle butt tucked in tight to your shoulder." he warned. "Otherwise it can break your collar bone." Not exactly what Max wanted to hear. More time passed as Scott explained how to aim. His last instruction, "Now, when you've got it lined up, you slowly squeeze the trigger."
Max peered down the barrel at the beer can off in the distance. When it seemed to somehow resemble what Scott had described, Max closed his eyes and pulled the trigger. The loud crack of the rifle in his ears was bad enough, but when the rifle kicked back into his shoulder, it felt like his arm was being ripped from its socket. "Holy shit! That really kicks."
'If I'd have known it was going to hurt like that,' Max thought, 'I wouldn't have been doing any squeezing.'
"It gets easier. Here try it again," Scott said, pumping another shell into the chamber and giving the rifle back.
"Just tuck it in. That's it. Okay now, take aim, and then slowly squeeze the trigger."
It took a few seconds, but when Max had recovered from the second blast he realized that it didn't get easier. He was sure there were telephones ringing in his ears. "Did I get it?" he asked.
"Not even close. But cheer up. You did hit the mountain. Let's try it again."
Almost a box of shells later Max hadn't hit a single can, but he was sure blasting hell out of the mountain. Scott finally took the rifle and put the remaining four cans out of their misery with four rapid shots. Then he swung the rifle on a new target; the bright glass insulators high up at the top of the towers.
"Watch this," he said. Before Max could say a word the rifle barked and one insulator exploded into a thousand pieces. Scott roared with laughter as fragments of green glass rained down on the ground.
"Want to try one? Lot bigger than a beer can," Scott said, holding the rifle out to Max.
"Don't be so damned chicken shit," Scott said. He turned and raised his rifle to fire a second time. Another explosion high in the air and glass rained down.
"Holy shit! We're going to get in real trouble over this," Max warned.
"They gotta catch us first."
"What if they hear the shots and come up here?"
"They can't hear anything down there. That's just the echo you're hearing." Scott stood the rifle up against the truck and lit up a cigarette.
"You gotta quit worrying so bloody much."
By the time Scott had finished his cigarette, Max had calmed down a little. "What time is it?" he asked.
"Going on five," Scott said, picking up the rifle again.
"I've got to get home for supper."
"Yeah, okay. One last shot."
Just as Max feared, Scott raised the rifle to the sky. Only this time, as another insulator disintegrated, all hell broke loose. Suddenly there was a loud crack and the whole line came down. Both watched as the wire came within a few feet of touching the ground, then stopped.
"Holy shit!" Max exclaimed.
For a moment Scott said nothing, just stared at the line, now swaying gently in the breeze. Then he started to laugh.
"How's that for a shot, eh?"
"You've knocked out the power."
"No way. The wire's still connected."
He had barely finished his sentence when a gust of wind blew the wire against the side of the tower. There was a blinding flash, sparks flew everywhere, and a plum of blue smoke exploded into the air.
"Now you can worry," Scott said, grabbing the rifle and jumping into the truck. "Let's get the hell out of here. Fast!"
Max was in such a state of paranoia that Scott took him straight home. Along the way they noticed lights were out all over town. Big Mamma's was even in darkness, leaving Scott with nowhere else to eat but home. His father was furious when he got home from work that night. The cannery, the biggest employer in town, had been hit hard by the power outage. The plant had to be shut down and everything between cold storage and the cookers had to be destroyed. Damage at the cannery alone ran into the thousands of dollars. Scott made a point of steering clear of his father that night.
Max had arrived home to find his mother in a dither. Without power she worried about getting supper ready for her family.
"How long has the power been off?" Max asked. He had a pretty good idea.
"About an hour. And right at supper time too. You and your father are just going to have to wait."
"That's okay. I don't mind waiting," Max said. "I'll be up in my room doing homework."
Upstairs, Max paced back and forth past his bedroom window. He knew damned well he and Scott were responsible for the blackout. He wondered if this was what Scott had meant about dragging him into the real world? Having Scott as a friend was proving more of a harrowing experience than he had expected. 'God,' he thought, 'What if my father finds out I caused the blackout. I'll be grounded for the rest of my life. Or worse, I may end up in jail.' He felt a cold shiver travel the length of his spine. He fell back onto his bed and closed his eyes, not even stirring later that evening when his mother brought him up a sandwich. He did notice, however, that it was getting very dark outside. He closed his eyes again. Sheba made short work of the sandwich.
Saturday was the day of Karen's big party. The power was back on and things looked a lot brighter. This was the day Max had been looking forward to all week.
"Is your homework finished?" Max's father asked, when Max came down for breakfast.
"Yes," Max lied. He was almost finished, but it was hard to work in the dark. Besides, he still had lots of time before Monday.
"Are you still going to Karen William's party tonight?"
"I want you home at a reasonable hour tonight."
"I'll be home by 2:00 a.m." Max replied, knowing full well his father wouldn't agree to his coming home that late. He knew from experience that no matter what time he suggested, his father would make it earlier.
"You better be home a lot sooner than that, young man."
"Well, the party won't be over until at least midnight. I'll be home shortly after that, okay?"
"You make sure you're home by 12:30. Not a minute later, do you hear? It won't take that long for you to walk home from Karen's."
"I'm serious. I don't want to have to come over there after you. You've got church in the morning and I want you to be able to stay awake during services."
"Ahh, do I have to go to church tomorrow?" He knew what Scott thought of religion and he didn't want Scott finding out he attended church regularly.
"Well of course you have to go to church. We all have to go. Perhaps if more families attended church together we wouldn't have so many troublemakers on the streets. I heard on the news this morning that it was some kids shooting at power-line insulators that knocked the power out yesterday. We had to shut the cannery down. A whole shift lost pay because of some vandals running the streets. I hope the police lock them up when they catch them." Erik watched the colour draining from his son's face. "Are you feeling okay, son?"
"Yes sir," he lied. Actually he was feeling sick to his stomach. He couldn't shake the image of Scott laughing after having shot down the power line.
"You look like you've seen a ghost or something."
"No. I'm okay."
Max was half way to Karen's house that night when Scott's truck pulled along side.
"Need a ride, sailor?" Sheila asked, through the open window.
"Sure," he said, opening the door and sliding in. The interior of the truck was alive with Sheila's perfume, the kind she wore especially for Scott. Max noticed how pretty she looked in her party going blouse and skirt. And with Scott in his navy blazer, they made a striking couple.
"Hi all," Max said, pulling the door closed behind him and rolling up the window.
"You ready to party?" Scott asked, a big smile on his face. Max could see from Scott's eyes that he had already been drinking. Probably he and Sheila had just come from the breakwater.
"Good. Your stuff is under the seat."
"What stuff? ... Oh, right," Max said, remembering the mickey of gin. All day he had become more and more anxious about Karen's party. After supper he had even considered ways to back out of going, but he didn't want to disappoint Karen. Now he figured a drink or two would probably help to calm his nerves. He didn't think Karen would mind, as long as he didn't get drunk. 'Boy, if my father ever knew that I was....' Max thought. Anyway, he had to catch up to Scott and Sheila.
Outside Karen's house there was little to indicate a party going on inside. There was only one vehicle in the driveway as Scott pulled up under a tree by the curb and stopped.
"Aren't you going to park in the driveway?" Max asked.
"I'd rather park out here. I like a little distance."
"That's right," Sheila said knowingly. "It's more private out here."
Shutting off the motor, Scott adjusted the radio then reached under the seat for his bottle. "Here," he said, handing it to Sheila, "let's get this party started." Then he reached under and came up with a second bottle, handing that one to Max. "There you are, one bottle of 'panty remover'. Take a couple of stiff shots. Or is it, take a couple of shots to make you stiff?" he laughed. "Either way, this will get you started."
"I don't mind if I do," Max said. He surprised Scott by taking a drink without making a fuss.
"That's better. Now stick it in your jacket, I'm not playing bartender tonight. I've got other plans," Scott said. After taking one last pull on the bottle he reached over and pulled Sheila closer to him. By then she was sitting so close a cigarette paper wouldn't fit between them. When they started kissing and touching, Max decided it was time to leave. "I'm going in," he said.
"Have another drink first?"
"I'll come out and get one after," he said, reaching under the seat.
"No. Take it with you. I'm going to lock up when we go in," Scott said.
Max didn't have much choice. He stuffed the mickey inside his jacket and zipped it to the neck.
It didn't take long for the party to start hopping. Max counted close to twenty all told, including some sitting out on the front porch. Karen was happy to see Max. She gave him a big hug and then looked for Scott. "Where is he? What did you do with Scott?"
"He's out in the truck with Sheila. Where else?"
"Well tell them to get in here," she said, moving to check out some extra loud laughter in the kitchen. "Maybe they can get everybody up dancing."
There were two couples dancing, and Max immediately shied away from them. Most of the apprehension he had experienced during the day was from the thought of trying to dance. He chose a big soft chair in the corner of the living room and dropped down. Keeping time to the music with his foot he went to work on a big bowl of potato chips. Every once in a while, when Karen wasn't in sight, Max would sneak the mickey from his jacket and take a quick sip.
It must have been at least an hour before Max came to realize that Scott and Sheila hadn't come in yet. He decided a little fresh air was in order and headed outside for the truck. The windows were all steamed up but he could see Scott and Sheila still going strong, having their own private party.
"Okay, break it up," Max said, opening the truck door.
"Did you hear something?" Scott asked.
"No, must be the wind or something," Sheila said, sitting up and straightening her clothes.
"Karen's looking for you guys," Max told them.
"What for?" Scott asked.
"The party's inside and you're missing all the fun. Karen needs you to get the dancing going."
"I doubt it. Now, where was I?" Scott said, his hands reaching for Sheila again.
"Forget it," Sheila said, reaching for her purse, "I'm going in. I need a bathroom."
"Ahh, just when it was getting interesting," Scott said.
"You've got a one track mind." Sheila pulled a hairbrush from her purse. When she turned the rearview mirror so she could see, Scott let fly.
"Don't touch the mirror!" he snapped. "I've told you before."
"I need to see what I'm doing."
"Tough, leave the mirror alone," Scott said, re-adjusting it.
She gave him a dirty look, then sat quietly brushing her hair.
"Okay," Max said, groping around under the seat. "What've we got under here for mixer?"
"Nothing," Scott said. "What's wrong with drinking it straight? It's only gin."
"I just like it better when it's mixed, that's all."
Sheila followed Max out of the truck. Fortunately, he was standing there or she would have fallen for sure. She was drunker than she realized and was having a problem standing. Scott didn't seem to be getting out, so Max helped her into the house. Karen had been watching the whole thing and met them at the front door.
"Are you okay?" Karen asked her.
"I'm okay. I just ... like ... have to go to the bathroom," Sheila giggled.
"I think she's had a few too many," Max said.
Karen took over from Max and helped Sheila across the floor and up the stairs.
The evening was turning into one cracker of a party for Max and he couldn't remember ever having so much fun. The half mickey of gin he had drunk was starting to have its effects. It seemed the more he drank, the more relaxed he became. He had finally found something booze was good for. His confidence level had grown considerably by the time Karen dragged him onto his feet to dance. He put up only minor resistance. "I can't dance," he admitted.
"Sure you can."
"No! I can't"
"I'll show you," she said, and almost did before they were interrupted.
"Sheila's sick," one of the girls called down from the top of the stairs.
"Oh no!" Karen blurted. She left Max standing in the middle of the floor while she rushed upstairs.
It dawned on Max that he hadn't seen much of Scott inside the house. He went looking and found him out on the porch having a smoke with several others. Karen had made it clear there was to be no smoking in the house. So, between the drinkers and the smokers, half of Karen's guests were outside on the front porch. That's where Karen found Max when she came back downstairs. He was smoking with the rest, which really surprised her. "I didn't know you smoked?" she asked, crouching down beside Max's rocking chair.
"I don't, the cigarette does," he laughed. Then noticing her disappointment he added, "It's no big deal," and discarded it in the ashtray.
"That's better." She smiled, poking him in the ribs. "You still owe me a dance."
"I'm afraid my dancing hasn't improved in the last ten minutes," he said, bashfully.
"Oh, come on."
"I'm telling you, I can't dance."
"Yes you can."
Amidst the howls of approval, Karen grabbed Max by the arm and pulled him out of the chair. Inside they joined two other dancing couples in the living room. Well, not only did Max survive that dance, but Karen managed to keep him up for a second. He was quite proud of himself.
Later, outside on the porch, Scott gave Max a big pat on the back for his dancing effort. Another smoke and a few more sips at his bottle and he was willing to dance again. Problem was, when he got back inside, Karen was dancing with someone else. He felt a touch of jealousy as he watched, finally making his way to the kitchen to find something to eat.
Max was sitting on the couch in the living room the next time Karen came looking for him to dance. The mickey bottle was sticking out of his jacket and she quickly spotted it. "Max, you promised. No booze in the house."
"I know," he said, stuffing it back in. "But Scott locked the truck."
"Don't you think you've had enough to drink, anyway?"
"I wouldn't want to see you get into trouble when you get home."
"I'm okay," he reassured her. "I'll just eat some cheese or something and then walk home. He jumped up, holding his jacket closed, and stumbled out onto the front porch with the smokers. By then he had caught up to Sheila's drinking and was just as drunk as she was.
A while later, Karen dragged Max out of the kitchen and into the living room to dance. He tipped the orange crush bottle to his lips and took a drink before leaving it on the counter.
"What's in the bottle?" she asked.
"Because, I don't want any booze in the house, remember?"
"Then it's orange crush."
Dancing was no longer a problem for Max. He eagerly accompanied Karen and proceeded to dance up a storm. Unfortunately, Max was the only one to approve of his newly acquired dancing skills. He stumbled around, bumping into other couples, and nearly tripped backwards over a coffee table before landing in his favorite chair. Max's level of intoxication worried Karen. She had never seen him like this before.
"Where's Sheila?" Max asked, noticing Scott dancing with another girl.
"Scott's on the prowl."
"I rather think Sandy's a little young for him," Karen said, dismissing the idea.
"Don't bet on it. She's jail bait," Max said, watching Scott hover over the sweet young thing. "That's just the way he likes 'em. You better find Sheila."
"He's only dancing with her."
"Maybe now. But I know him. You better let Sheila know."
"She's laying down on my mother's bed. She's not feeling very well."
"I know. I heard she was puking her guts out in the bathroom not too long ago."
"Oh no," Karen said, suddenly concerned. "Not again. That's my mother's bathroom. She'll kill me." Karen headed for the stairs.
When Max turned back, Scott was nowhere to be seen.
Scott held the bottle to his lips, letting the gin warm his throat. It hit the spot on a cool evening.
"Here," he said, handing the bottle to the girl, "you want to take a little sip?"
She giggled a bit and reached for the bottle. Scott watched her as she tipped the bottle back, taking a short swallow. He dragged his finger up and down her sleeve, wondering how far she would go with him. Then she handed the bottle back. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, giggling again. "Umm," she purred, with a smile and a laugh, "that's good." However, the look that came over her face told him she had probably never even had a drink before.
"So what's your name?"
"I like that. Must come from your blond hair, eh? How old are you?"
"I don't know. Just curious."
"I'll be seventeen next year," she said, watching Scott's face for his reaction. He knew bloody well she was lying but he didn't let on.
"How do you like the party so far?"
"Great. I don't usually go to parties though. My dad thinks I'm too young to go out with boys."
"What do you think?" Scott asked, taking another swig from his bottle.
"I'm old enough."
"You are, eh?"
"Want another little shot?" Scott asked, holding the bottle out for her.
"Sure," she said, eagerly accepting the offer.
Scott sat staring at Sandy for a long moment. "What would you do if I tried to kiss you?" Scott asked her amusingly.
She just smiled at him. "I don't know."
She didn't say no, so he leaned over and kissed her lightly on the lips. Surprisingly, she didn't draw back at all. In fact he could feel her respond to him. She closed her eyes as she kissed him back, her lips parting slightly. After a moment Scott leaned back. She was really cute. Delicate blue eyes. He leaned over and kissed her again, longer this time. At the same time he let his hand move down her arm to her waist, then slowly move up the front of her blouse. She stiffened but did not pull away.
"Do you have a boyfriend?" Scott asked, with a smile.
She smiled back at him. "No." She seemed unafraid of the moment. Scott looked around to make sure no one was watching. He moved closer to the girl, sensing her eagerness to go farther, and he was quite happy to oblige her. Her eyes closed as his lips touched hers once more, his fingers toying with the buttons on the front of her blouse. First one, then a second, just enough for his hand to slid inside. He felt her shudder as his hand touched her warm skin, a slight moan emitting from her throat. Her boobs were small, the smallest he had ever had his hands on, but they swelled at his caress.
Scott almost had a heart attack when Max hit the hood of the truck. He had been standing there watching them.
"Whoops," Max said, opening the door and suddenly realizing that it was not Sheila in the truck with Scott. "Sorry. I was just coming out to join you for a drink. Don't let me bother you." He immediately closed the door and headed back towards the front porch and the smoker's circle.
"You better go back in before you're missed," Scott told Sandy.
She looked a little disappointed but nodded her agreement. She quickly did up the buttons on her blouse and then slid across the seat and out the door.
Inside the house, things were not quite as Karen planned. Sheila had definitely made a mess of Karen's mother's upstairs bathroom, then passed out on Karen's bed. Several glasses of punch had been spilled on the living room carpet. A smoke alarm in the kitchen went off when someone used the wrong settings when making popcorn in the microwave, filling the room with smoke. And worse, Max was becoming more belligerent as the evening wore on. Regardless of Karen's wishes, he had continued to follow Scott's lead and by midnight he was well on the road to falling down drunk. Then there was the music that Karen had to constantly turn down for fear of waking the whole neighbourhood. She was about to ask herself, "what next", when the inevitable happened.
"They're fighting out there," she heard someone yell from the front door.
A crowd gathered on the front porch and, through it, Karen was able to make out several figures at the end of the driveway, some of them fighting. "Who is it?" she asked, trying to work her way across the porch. It seemed like everybody had moved outside to watch.
"I don't know," one girl said.
"Hard to tell," another said.
Well, at least she knew it wasn't Max as he was passed out in the rocking chair. Persistent, she elbowed and squeezed her way down off the porch and out onto driveway, to where the fight was raging.
There was a car parked just inside the driveway with its headlights still on. In the glare Karen could see a guy lying on the ground. Scott was yelling and kicking at him. He stopped when he saw Karen. She saw blood was running from the guy's nose and mouth from where Scott had knocked him down and kicked him in the face.
"They were going to crash your party." Scott said, "I warned them but they wouldn't leave."
"You're crazy," the other guy said, bending to help his friend. "They ought to lock you up."
Scott turned back; ready to fight the other one for calling him 'crazy'.
"Just stop it!" Karen yelled.
"Come on," the guy said, straining to get the injured man to his feet, "let's get out of here."
"And don't come back," Scott snarled at him, "unless you want to look like him."
"Scott. Please!" Karen pleaded. "Let them go."
The spectators on the porch remained until the car's taillights had disappeared down the street. Almost at the same time a police car approached from the other direction, red and blue lights flashing, sirens blaring. Everyone rushed back inside. No doubt the remainder of the Karen's sleeping neighbours heard the commotion. Up and down the block lights flashed on and window curtains brushed aside.
The two cops went about the business of sorting out everything. Karen tried her best to explain what had happened and was actually making headway until Sheila showed up in the driveway. The noise had awakened her and she decided it was time to party again. As soon as she saw the ruckus, Sheila rushed out and started a verbal assault on the cops, with language that didn't become a young lady. Realizing how drunk she was, one of the cops took her by the arm and hustled her off to the police car, placing her in the back seat.
"What are you arresting me for?" she asked, fighting to get back out.
"You're not under arrest." The cop blocked her from getting out. "Just sit there for a few minutes and cool down. What's your name?"
The cop waited a minute by the open door and then began questioning her as to where she had gotten the alcohol. She was afraid to answer; afraid she would get Scott in trouble. So she leaned forward and started crying.
"Who did you come to the party with?" he asked.
Reluctantly, she pointed in the direction of Scott's truck parked along the curb.
"Whose truck is that?"
He nodded his head. He had recognized the truck as soon as she pointed it out. Scott's reputation was preceding him.
"What have you been drinking?"
"I don't know."
"Were you drinking with Scott Goldmann?"
"No," she lied, still sniffling from crying.
"Then who were you drinking with?"
"Come on. You're obviously drunk. You must have got the booze from someone?"
"I'm not saying. I want to go home."
"You just wait here for a minute," he said, closing the car door.
Both cops compared notes for a moment, then the one walked back to his car again. Sheila was still crying when he opened the back door. "How old are you, Sheila?" he asked.
"Are you sure? You don't look seventeen to me?"
"I am. Can I go home now?"
"You just wait. We'll give you a ride home in a few minutes."
"No," she said, starting to cry harder. "I want Scott to take me home."
"I don't think so."
Scott was standing by his truck when the cop approached him. "Come on around here where I can see you," the cop said, taking Scott by the arm and leading him out into the lights of the police car.
"Just stand here," he said, stopping Scott and turning to face him. "How much have you had to drink tonight?" He shined his flashlight into Scott's eyes.
"I don't know," Scott shrugged. "A couple beers."
"Don't give me that. I can see it in your eyes. You've had a lot more than a couple beers. Let's see your driver's license."
Scott handed his license to the cop, who glanced at it and then asked, "Where did you get the beer from?"
"I bought it."
"Do you have any beer in your truck right now?"
"Then you won't mind if I have a look?"
"I don't care," Scott said, confident they wouldn't find the bottle he had stashed in the springs under his seat.
"Put your hands on the car."
Scott took a step towards the police car and placed both his hands on the hood.
"Now. I want you to stand right there," the cop said.
There was no beer smell when the cop opened Scott's door, but he sure noticed the perfume. Leaning inside he flashed his light around the interior, then under the seat. Nothing. After checking the glove compartment, he slid back out and trained his light into the back of the truck where it came to rest on several empty beer cans. "There's more than two beer cans back here," he said.
Scott said nothing.
"Is this the beer you fed to Sheila?"
"No," Scott replied, "I never gave her any beer. Those are mine."
"They are," Scott told him again. "I save 'em. They pay good money for empty cans, you know. You ought to try it yourself."
"Watch your mouth," the cop warned. "I can still run you in for impaired driving."
Scott shut up, as the cop walked over to where Scott was standing. He picked up the license off the hood and stared at Scott for a moment. "I don't want you driving anymore tonight. I'm suspending your driver's license for 24 hours. You can pick it up at the police station tomorrow night."
"How am I supposed to get home?" Scott asked.
"Walk. The exercise will do you good."
"My old man's going to be pissed off when he finds out you made me leave my truck here for no reason. He's Robert Goldmann, you know. He owns Copeland Cannery."
"I know who your father is, Scott. You're still not driving tonight."
When the police car pulled into Sheila's driveway she felt sick. She was in big time trouble.
"Sorry to bother you this time of night, Mr. Wilson, but is this your daughter?" the cop asked, when her father came out to meet them.
"The name's Kincaid, Arthur Kincaid. And yes, she's my daughter," he said, peering in the back window of the police car. "What's the trouble?"
"I'm afraid she's had too much to drink. She was at a party tonight that got out a little of hand. We felt it best to bring her home."
Sheila wasn't even in the door when the you-know-what hit the fan. "What do you have to say for yourself?" her father yelled at her.
"I was just over at Karen's."
"I didn't give you permission to go to no party. You were supposed to be at work."
"I asked Mom."
"I told you to ask me, remember?"
"I know, but -"
"No goddamn buts!" he yelled at her, now only a couple of feet from her. She feared he might hit her he was so mad.
"You weren't home so I asked Mom."
"I don't care," he said, taking another step towards her. "You don't go anywhere unless I say so. Do you understand?"
"Yes," she said, smelling the alcohol on his breath. He was drunk again.
"You've been drinking."
"Just a bit," Sheila said. She knew it was pointless to lie. She could hardly stand up.
"You know what I told you about drinking."
"You sneak off to a party, get drunk, and the cops have to drag you home."
She didn't say anything. She knew that no matter what she said he would just get worse. She felt a little better when she heard her mother come downstairs. "I told her she could go out," her mother said.
"I don't give a shit," he said, turning to his wife. "She has to ask me."
"I'm her mother. Besides, you weren't here."
"I don't care," he said, throwing his arms into the air, getting even more upset.
"I didn't see anything wrong in her going over to Karen's."
"You don't give a shit what she does."
"You heard me. She's too young to be going out to parties with boys. Look at her."
"I know how old she is."
"All the other girls my age can go to parties," Sheila said.
"Well, I'm your father and I say you're too young."
"You're not my father! You only my step-father, and you're a drunk."
"You hold your tongue," he said, trying to slap at her but Sheila ducked back.
"Leave her alone!" her mother demanded.
"How do you know what she was doing out there with those boys."
"She wouldn't do anything wrong, I know her."
"I'm not so sure about that," he said, turning towards Sheila. "What were you doing at that party besides drinking?"
Sheila backed up a bit. She had seen him like this before, and he usually ended up hitting her.
"I don't think she would -"
"Oh shut up," he lashed back at his wife. "She's just like you. Look at the way she's dressed."
"Nothing happened," Sheila cried.
Her father looked at her for a long minute and then asked, "What happened to your blouse?"
"What?" she asked, looking down at her front.
"Right there," he said, stepping forward and grabbing her arm. "Your blouse is torn. How did that happen?"
Sheila looked at the tear for a second, unaware it had even happened. "I must have caught it on something."
"Are you sure that's what happened?" he persisted.
"Nothing happened," she cried.
"Did some boy force you to do something?"
"Don't lie to me. What did they do to you?"
"They didn't do anything."
"Then how did they tear your blouse?"
"They didn't," she cried.
"Never mind your crying. Just tell me which one of them bastards tore your blouse?"
"She said nothing happened. Now stop it," her mother said.
"Keep out of this. If those boys raped her, I want to know about it."
"Nobody raped anyone. For God's sake, stop it," her mother said.
"Look at her. She comes home drunk, all scruffy looking. Her clothes torn. You can't tell me -"
"No!" Sheila screamed at him.
"Don't lie to me," he said, grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her.
Sheila was visibly scared and crying uncontrollably.
"They forced you, didn't they?" he continued, threatening to hit her.
She didn't answer, but she struggled to get away from him.
"Don't you dare hit her!" his wife yelled at him.
"You stay out of this or I'll smack you one too. I'm warning you," he growled, waving his fist in her face.
"Go ahead. Hit me. Just leave Sheila alone. You're scaring her."
"I'll do more than scare her," he ranted, grabbing at the front of Sheila's blouse, forcing her to pull away to protect herself.
"Keep you hands off me!" Sheila screamed at him.
He suddenly noticed Sheila was not wearing a bra.
"You whoring little bitch." He raised one arm to hit her. "Where do you get off going out dressed like this?"
"Arthur! For God's sake," her mother said, stepping between them. "Leave her alone. I mean it."
"You shut the hell up. You're no better than she is. You're the one who let her go out dressed like a slut."
"That's enough," she said, shoving at her husband.
"That's it!" Sheila screamed. "I'm going to my bedroom." She promptly turned and stormed out of the room.
Her mother carried right on. "If you didn't have your nose stuck in a beer glass all the time, maybe you would -"
"Don't you dare talk about my drinking. I don't drink that much."
"Oh no? How about every bloody day? You're always drunk."
That was all she got out. His hand lashed out, catching her on the side of the face and knocking her backwards.
"Oh sure," she said, holding her face. "That's how you solve everything around here, with your fists. Big man."
"I know she's lying. I'm getting the cops back here. I'll get those boys arrested."
"Go ahead. Call the police. And I'll tell them how you hit me. I'll have you arrested. Go ahead."
"You would, wouldn't you?"
"Yes. So why don't you just go and have another drink. Maybe you'll pass out and we can have some peace around here."
He brushed past her into the kitchen and into the fridge for another beer.
"I'll call them in the morning. You wait. I'll get those bastards."
Back at the party, pretty well everyone had left. Karen and another girl were trying to get Max mobile. Fortunately, he had slept through the whole thing; otherwise the police may have taken him home as well. They managed to get him on his feet.
"I don't need any help!" he told them, just prior to taking a header down the front steps.
Scott was still there, sitting in the truck with the motor running. He had agreed to give Max a ride home.
"Are you okay?" Karen called out. She raced down the steps to where Max lay sprawled on the ground. He wasn't hurt and just lay there laughing.
"Hi Karen," he blurted out when he saw her staring down at him. "I'll dance with you if you want?"
"Come on, Max," she said, trying to help him up. "We've got to get you home. It's really getting late. Scott's going to drive you home." It was well past midnight, not that Max cared.
"Where's Scott?" Max asked, sitting up and looking around. "Where's my old friend?"
It was obvious she wasn't going get Max up by herself so she called Scott over to help.
"Boy, are you hammered," Scott said, as he lifted Max up on his feet.
"I'm a pretty good dancer, eh?" he laughed.
After half dragging Max over to the truck, Scott practically picked him up and sat him on the seat and quickly closed the door. He sat there for at least thirty seconds before falling over against the door. "I don't feel good," Max slobbered.
"Don't you dare get sick in there," Scott warned.
"Is he going to be okay?" Karen asked.
"You better come along and keep an eye on him."
"Ahh ... I don't know," she said, not sure what to do. "Wait, I'll be right back. I have to get someone to watch the house for me."
Scott drove slowly up the street to Max's. He wasn't taking any chances bouncing him around and making him sick.
"I hope his father doesn't see him like this," Karen said.
"Don't worry, we'll sneak him in. His old man will never know." Scott gave her a big smile and reached down to squeeze her leg. She had slid into the truck from the driver's side so as not to move Max, placing her right next to Scott. She pushed his hand away.
"I just wish he hadn't drank so much," Karen said.
When they reached Max's house, Scott pulled into the driveway and stopped. Max was still slumped over against the door.
"He won't wake up," Karen said, gently shaking Max.
Scott turned, but not to help with Max. He slowly slid his hand up her bare leg to her knee, then higher.
"Scott, don't," she said, pushing his hand away. "I'm having enough trouble with Max. Don't you start."
"You know what."
"No I don't." Scott moved his hand back again, gently rubbing the inside of Karen's leg.
"Help me wake up Max."
"I can't, I'm busy." He slid his hand even higher.
Karen had to twist away while holding his hand. He wasn't about to let go.
"Come on Scott, we've got to get Max inside."
"Come here first," Scott said, reaching for her.
"One kiss, then I'll help you," he said.
"Come on. Then we'll get sleeping beauty inside."
"Okay," she said, glancing down at Max and then back to Scott.
She tried to make it a short kiss but it didn't work. Scott held her face, his lips pressing as she felt her lips part. She couldn't help thinking about all the times she had wondered what it would be like to kiss Scott Goldmann. Now she knew and she was powerless to pull away. She felt a deep urging to return his kiss. Neither one of them saw the porch light suddenly switch on, but they both heard the door open.
"Max, is that you?" a woman called out. It was Max's mother.
Scott turned off the headlights, like he should have done before they turned into the driveway.
"Now what?" Karen asked.
"I don't know. Say something to her."
"Me? Why me?" Karen asked, in a scared voice.
"Just do it," Scott ordered, "or she'll come out here."
Karen sat for a second, not knowing what to say or do.
"Max. You better come on in now. It's late," Mrs. Karlssen called again.
"Karen?" Scott looked at her expectantly as he opened his door to let her out.
As Karen slid across the seat she was beginning to wish she had stayed at home. She felt so bad bringing Max home drunk, even if it wasn't her fault.
"Good evening Mrs. Karlssen," she said, stepping out onto the driveway. "Max will be right in."
Mrs. Karlssen said nothing and closed the door behind her. But once inside she slightly opened a window curtain so she could watch for her son.
Both Scott and Karen stood by the open door looking at each other. She felt so sorry for Max. Scott had a strange look on his face. "What?" she asked.
"Never mind. Just wake Max up," she said walking around to the passenger door.
Scott followed her around to the passenger side. He opened the door and shook Max hard. When he only groaned, Scott shook him again. Max groaned again, only this time he slowly sat up.
"Max, your mother is waiting inside for you. You better go in," Karen said.
Then things took a turn for the worse. The front door opened again and this time Max's father appeared.
"It's your dad," Karen said. "He's at the door. Come on, Max. You better go in before you get in any more trouble."
Max continued muttering in a stupor. "I don't give a shit. I'm not afraid of him."
"Here he comes. Your old man's coming out," Scott warned.
"Max, I want you in the house, now," Max's father called, charging out the driveway in his bathrobe. "You were supposed to be home long ago."
"Come on, Max," Karen said, giving Max one last tug to get him moving.
"What?" Max asked, still in a daze.
Then his father was there. "Where is he?" he asked angrily, pushing Karen back out of the way and looking in the door. At first he couldn't believe his eyes and stepped back a couple of steps. Staring out from the truck was his son, Max, blood shot eyes and a dumb grin on his face.
"I don't believe...." he started, realizing Max's condition. "You're drunk!"
"Just a little," Max said, holding up his fingers to show the little bit, and laughing.
His father was furious. He looked across at Scott and then to Karen. "Who's responsible for this?"
Scott didn't say a word, and Karen couldn't even look him in the eye.
"You get in the house right now!" the man demanded of Max.
"I'm okay. I'm okay," Max said, trying to get out of the truck without falling on his face.
"You just get inside," his father yelled, stepping back to let Max out. He turned to Karen and snapped, "Where did he get the alcohol?"
"I don't know," she answered, too scared to say much else.
"Did you have alcohol at your party?"
"Well I'm going to be talking with your father, young lady. There's going to be trouble over this."
Meanwhile Max was hanging onto the truck door to keep from falling down. "I think I'm going to be sick," he said, and then stumbled towards the edge of the driveway.
"Serves you right," his dad said.
Max didn't hear, he was too busy heaving his guts out.
"I think you two better leave. Max's mother and I will take care of him now."
"I'm sorry Mr. Karlssen, I'm...." Karen was at a loss for words.
After they got back into the truck, Scott backed out of the driveway. They watched from up the street as Max staggered up the walk, his father mad as hell and waving his arms about.
Scott just laughed.
Karen couldn't find the humor in it. "Scott, it's not funny, you know. Max's in a lot of trouble now."
Scott just looked at her, still smiling. "What say we go out to the breakwater for awhile?" he asked.
"I can't. You know that."
"Sure you can. Just for a while. We can pick up where we left off."
"No. I have to go home."
"Ahh, come on."
"Go to hell then!" Scott suddenly snapped.
"Damn you," Karen cried, jumping out of the truck and slamming the door. Scott put the gas pedal to the floor. The high-pitched squeal of screaming tires filled the night air. The truck roared away, leaving two fifty-foot black tire marks etched on the pavement.
The earlier storm clouds had dissipated by the time Scott reached the breakwater. A light but otherwise cool breeze drifted in from the sea. Usually it was Sheila close at his side as they parked after dark to watch the submarine races. Sheila never could figure out what Scott meant by submarine races; there weren't any submarines. Now he was out here alone, listening as the surf broke gently on the rocks. It was a lonely sound but he still had a part bottle of gin to keep him company. He cranked up the radio and made the best of it.
Lights were on in the office area as Scott later pulled into the administration parking lot. For a moment he sat in the truck with the motor running, looking out over the harbour. He had drifted to the dockside rather than heading home and deliberately avoided a clash with his father who adamantly voiced displeasure whenever Scott arrived home in the middle of the night, especially when Scott had been drinking. The chesterfield in his father's office was far more appealing, providing of course his father wasn't in the office. And he wasn't.
George Mannicks failed to hear the truck pull up outside. When Scott let himself into the main office area he could hear voices coming from his father's private office. It looked like a back-alley casino type bar that Scott stumbled into when he opened the door. The room paled with cigarette smoke and the stench of whiskey and stale beer. Seated around the big meeting table were George and four others, smack in the middle of a poker game. Poker chips and over-flowing ashtrays littered the table. There were half empty drink glasses, a partial bottle of whiskey on the table, and two dead ones on the floor. The best George could offer was a toothy grin when he realized Scott had caught him in the act. All Scott could think of was how pissed off his father would be if he found out George had used his office for another poker game.
George had figured he was reasonably safe holding the game there. After all, Robert Goldmann had left with a roaring headache and a bag full of medication to make him sleep. But it never dawned on him that Scott might come barging through the door. And Scott was just as surprised as the rest of them, plus a little disappointed at being deprived of the comfortable chesterfield in his father's office. After a moment of weaving on the spot, Scott turned and stumbled out the door. George quickly moved to the window, just in time to see Scott climbing into his truck.
"Damn!" George exclaimed. "We better break up the game before he gets home to tell his father. If Goldmann catches us in here I'm going to be out of a job."
No one questioned George's decision. Suddenly there was a flurry of activity. Everyone pitched in to clean up the mess. They opened doors and windows to expel the smoke, gathered up all the bottles, ashtrays and garbage. They washed the glasses and returned them to the bar. Out came the vacuum cleaner for a quick run across the floor. A quick wipe here and there and they were soon putting on coats and heading for the door. After one last visual inspection George flipped off the light to his boss's private office.
Luckily Mona Rietsma was a light sleeper, or Scott would have spent the night parked behind her apartment building. Scott had met her at the Fisherman's Lounge on several occasions and they become good friends. Mona had recently split with her husband in Vancouver. He had driven her crazy with his insane jealousy, and given her looks and curvaceous body, it was easy to understand why. To get away from him, she jumped in her car and drove, ending up in Dry Harbour. She now lived on the ground floor of a large complex on the edge of town. Her bedroom window faced the back alley and parking area so, when Scott pulled up, his headlights lit up the whole room. She lay in bed for several minutes, hoping whoever it was would turn off their lights. Finally, in frustration, Mona rolled out of bed and pulled on her dressing gown. It was difficult for her to see the truck with its lights on but she soon recognized it as Scott's. She also managed to see Scott slumped over the steering wheel, sound asleep.
Actually, Scott was passed out. He didn't even move when she opened the truck door.
"Are you okay?" Mona inquired, shaking him lightly.
Scott turned to face the voice from the darkness. "What?" His bloodshot eyes lay bare his whole night of drinking.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah." Scott dropped his head back on the steering wheel again, banging his nose in the process.
"What are you doing here, Scott?"
"Sleeping. What does it look like?"
"Christ, you can't sleep here."
"Can I sleep with you then?" He raised his head to give her a pleading smile.
Mona reached over and turned Scott's head a bit. Blood was starting to run from his nose as a result of hitting the steering wheel.
"Come on, let's get you inside and clean up your face."
Her intentions were good but extracting Scott from the truck proved anything but easy. She managed to reach in far enough to remove the keys. Then she pushed Scott's head back against the headrest and stuffed a piece of Kleenex into his hand.
"Hold that over your nose. You're getting blood all over yourself."
It was tough order to fill, but after the third or fourth try, Scott managed to find his nose with the Kleenex.
"Come on Scott, let's get you inside," Mona said, pulling on Scott's arm to get him started. It was a slow process but eventually Scott came out like a sack of sand. When he did, the weight was too much for Mona and, try as she might to hold him up, Scott collapsed on the pavement.
After a short breather, during which Mona secretly questioned her motives for even trying to help, she grabbed Scott under the arms and lifted. "Come on. Help me."
Mona shook her head, then took a deep breath and heaved once more. Up he came. Now she had him propped against the side of the truck.
"I lost my Kleenex," Scott laughed.
She was not impressed. It was all she could do to hold him against the truck.
"I am. I'm up already," Scott said, spinning around as he regained his balance.
"Okay, come on," she said, trying to steer Scott towards her apartment while reaching behind her to slam the truck door.
"Turn off the lights," Scott mumbled.
"Turn off the motor."
"It's off. Just keep walking."
Once through the door and down the hall into her apartment, Mona dropped Scott into a kitchen chair and closed the door.
"I ... I feel sick," he said. "I'm going to be sick."
"Oh Christ, not in here. In the bathroom."
"I'm going to be sick," he said again, looking around.
"Don't you dare. Not in here," Mona told him, and exerted the extra effort to herd Scott across the floor into the bathroom.
Scott wrapped his arms around the big white porcelain bowl, like it was his best friend. As the sickly taste in his mouth increased, he drooled like a baby, then he could hold back no longer. Mona closed the bathroom door to dampen the sound of Scott's retching.
"That'll teach you to drink so much," she said to herself, a big grin crossing her face.
Mona was half way through her beer by the time Scott opened the bathroom door, his face still white as a ghost.
"How do you feel now?" she asked.
"I think I died."
"You look like it."
"You're going to have to spend the night here. You can't drive home in that condition."
"I want to sleep here with you."
"No way. Not when you stink like that. You can have the couch, only don't you dare get sick in there."
"I won't. Just let me sleep," Scott said, stumbling in the direction of her chesterfield.
"What time do you want me to wake you?" Mona asked.
Next morning when Robert Goldmann showed up at the docks, his office smelled like a flower garden. There wasn't the slightest trace of the previous evening's activities.
First thing Monday morning, Sheila caught up with Max in the school hallway between classes. There was a worried look on her face. "We have to talk," she said.
"What's up?" Max asked.
"You may be in a lot of trouble. My step-father is trying to have you arrested, along with all the other boys at the party."
"What for?" Max asked.
"I think he told the police that some of you ripped my blouse and tried to rape me."
"That's bullshit!" Max snapped.
"I know it is. But he wouldn't listen. He was drunk when I got home. I told him over and over that nothing happened. But he kept insisting that I was raped by some boys at the party."
"My father is going to kill me if he hears about this," Max said.
"Hears what?" Karen asked, joining them.
"My step-father was really angry the other night," Sheila said. "When the cops brought me home I was just as drunk as he was. I've never seen him so mad. He kept accusing me of all sorts of things."
"What things?" Karen asked.
"You name it. He got so mad he hit me across the face. Mom too."
"Your father hit you?" Max asked.
"He's not my real father. He's just a drunk that my mother had the misfortune of marrying. Whenever he's drinking all he wants to do is fight."
"That son of a bitch," Max snapped. "You should turn him in to the cops."
"He'd only do it again, only harder. And that's not all he does to me when he's...." Sheila suddenly turned away, not wanting to discuss it.
"What did your father say after we took you home?" Karen asked Max.
"I don't know. I don't remember too much. I woke up Sunday afternoon with the good Reverend sitting on the foot of my bed saying a prayer over me. I didn't know if I was dead or not. I know I sure felt like it. How about you?"
"Okay. It took me an hour to clean the stains out of the carpet. I cleaned mom's bathroom that same night so she didn't see the mess. Actually, everything was fine until one of our neighbours told dad about the police being there."
"I don't know yet. My dad was going to phone the police station today to find out why they were called. I doubt that I'll be allowed to have any more parties for a long time."
"Won't bother me," Max added. "My father's so mad I'll probably be grounded until I grow grey hair."
"I'm sorry," Sheila said.
"That's okay. A few sessions with the Reverend Clyde-Whyte does wonders around our place."
Sheila's suspicions were right. There was a knock on the classroom door at eleven in the morning.
"Max," the teacher said, "you are wanted in the Principal's office right away. You can just turn the papers over on your desk for now."
Max acted as if it didn't faze him but he knew damn well what was up. He looked over at Karen and Sheila before heading for the door.
"What's that all about, Sheila?" Karen asked in a whisper.
"My step-father went to the cops yesterday."
"I think he told them that I was raped at your party."
"What? ... by who?"
"Scott, Max, all the boys at the party. He's accusing them all."
"What did you say to him to make him think -"
"Nothing. My blouse was torn and he jumped to conclusions, that's all."
"That's crazy! He can't just accuse them like that."
"I told you, he's a drunk and he does stupid things."
Max paused in the principal's outer office. From there he could see into the private office where two uniformed police officers were talking with the principal.
"I'm supposed to see the Principal," Max advised the woman standing behind the counter.
"And your name?"
"Just a minute," she said, as she slowly moved over to the door and knocked lightly. "Young Karlssen is here, sir."
Max slowly entered the private office. The principal was sitting behind his paper-cluttered desk. The two officers turned as Max entered.
"Max, these officers would like to ask you some questions."
Max said nothing. There was no doubt in his mind why they were here. He knew he hadn't done anything, but still felt like he was in a world of trouble.
One of the officers opened a file folder in his hand and leafed through the pages. "How would you like to close that door and take a seat."
There was numbness in his butt as Max lowered himself to the chair.
"Is your name Max Karlssen?" he asked.
"How old are you, Max?"
"Were you present at a party at Karen William's home last Saturday night?"
"Did you see Sheila Wilson at the party?"
"Who was she with?"
"I don't know," Max answered, knowing the direction of the questions.
"What do you mean, you don't know? You were there weren't you?"
"Did anything unusual happen that night, Max? Something you and Sheila were involved with?"
"Are you a friend of Scott Goldmann?" the other officer asked.
"Did you see Scott with Sheila at any time during the party?"
"Not really. Scott may have danced with her, but I really don't remember." He wasn't about to say anything that would get Scott in trouble.
"You wouldn't lie to us, would you Max?"
"Look Max, we are going to be interviewing all the kids who were at the party that night. So, we'll find out if you're not telling us the truth."
Max said nothing.
"We'll want to talk to you again. But in the meantime we want you to keep this to yourself. Do you understand?"
"We'll be talking with your parents as well," the first officer said. "So if there's anything you've suddenly remembered, now's the time to tell us."
Max simply shook his head, and the second he was released from the room he beat a hasty retreat to the washroom. The noon buzzer sounded before he came out.
All that afternoon the school buzzed with rumors. One after another, those from the party were paraded back and forth to the administration office. By the time school was over Max wasn't sure he had the courage to go home. The cops had said they were going to talk to his parents. Block after block Karen kept assuring him. "You've got nothing to worry about. Nothing happened, remember?"
"You're right," Max said, but he couldn't help remembering Sandy in the truck with Scott. What if they found out about that? Everyone on the porch would have seen her getting in and out of the truck. Plus everybody knew about Scott and Sheila because they had spent half the night sitting in the truck drinking. He was worried sick, right up until the time his father arrived home from work, apparently unaware of what was transpiring. Then Max began to worry about the next day. He wanted to phone Scott and warn him but couldn't bring himself to pick up the phone. Max got very little sleep that night.
Next morning Max showed up at school, tired and scared. Finding Sheila absent did little to quell his fears. The school rumors of yesterday had now focused on the assumption that Scott Goldmann had raped Sheila.
"She's probably got a convenient flu," Karen said. "I know if I was in her situation I wouldn't want to face anybody."
"I guess not," Max said. "I just wonder how Scott is taking it. The cops must have talked to him by now."
He was right. At that very moment Scott was undergoing a barrage of questions at the police station. Worse yet, a police car would soon be on its way to the school to pick up Max for further questioning, this time at the police station.
The police had Scott in a small interrogation room. Its walls were plastered with different notices, including a poster for missing children. A small window covered with heavy wire mesh was the only break in an otherwise drab interior. He was in there with two cops, both firing questions at him about the party.
"... you gave the booze to Sheila Wilson, didn't you?" a Constable Harrison asked.
"No way," Scott said.
"Where did she get it from then?"
"I don't know. Ask her."
Constable Peelman was the second officer. He started out saying, "Come on, Scott. Quit yanking our chain. She's your girlfriend, for Christ's sake. Where else would she get it from?"
"Who said she's my girlfriend?"
"Only about a half dozen kids we've interviewed so far. They saw you and Sheila drinking in your vehicle."
"Yes way," Harrison said, "we know you had booze there. We know you were drinking. That alone is enough to revoke your probation."
"You didn't think we knew about that, did you?" Peelman asked.
Scott said nothing.
"Is that what you want?" Harrison asked. "You want us to revoke your probation and fire your sorry ass into jail?"
"Well then, quit jerking us around."
"Come on, Scott." Peelman said, "Just level with us. You offered Sheila a drink, right? You didn't know how old she was, right?"
"No way," Scott answered. He wasn't about to get sucked in with trick questions.
"How old are you?" Harrison asked.
"That's right. Nineteen makes you an adult here in Canada.
"Come on, Scott," Peelman said. "Why not admit it and then we can all go home. You gave Sheila a couple drinks, so what."
"It's not your fault that she gets drunk so easy," Harrison said.
"That's it, isn't it?" Peelman said, standing behind Scott. "First she got drunk and then she started taking off her clothes."
"According to her father's complaint you got his daughter drunk and then you raped her," Harrison said.
"That's bullshit!" Scott blurted right back.
"Excuse me?" Peelman yelled, grabbing the back of Scott's chair and swinging him around.
"You heard me, that's bullshit. Ask Sheila, she'll tell you."
"We interviewed her last night," Peelman said.
"What did she say?"
"What do you think she told us?" Harrison asked.
"I don't care what she told you. I never raped her."
"You better start talking to us," Peelman said, "or you're going away for a long time. We have several witnesses that place her in your truck with you, drinking."
"We were just talking. I was parked right in front of the house. There's no way anything like that could happen without someone seeing something. And no one did, right? If anything happened, then it happened to her in the house. I never even saw her for at least a couple of hours before the cops showed up. She must have been in there drinking with someone else."
"Maybe you're right. Maybe something happened in the house," Harrison said.
"Yeah, that's right," Scott agreed.
"All you did then was give Sheila a few drinks, right?" Peelman asked. "Someone else got her drunk."
"That's right. Someone else got her drunk."
"How much did you give her before she went inside?"
"Come on, Scott," Harrison said. "We know you were the only one at the party with booze. So it must have been you that gave it to her."
"I wasn't the only one with booze."
"How about your friend, Max Karlssen? Did he have booze at the party?"
"Did you see him giving Sheila anything to drink?"
"He might have. I wasn't in the house."
"Where did Karlssen get the booze from?"
"Not from me. I didn't have any to give away."
"Gimme a break," Peelman said, "You had booze with you, all right. It's in the police report from that night. They found the empty beer cans."
"Yeah. Empty cans."
"But you were drinking at the time. You were given a twenty-four hour road-side suspension."
"I had a few beers before I got there. So what?"
"This Karlssen kid, is he a good friend of yours?"
"He's a friend."
"Did he go to the party with you?"
"Nope, he walked."
"Was he ever in the truck with you and Sheila?"
"I don't know. For a minute maybe."
"Did he help you rape the girl?" Peelman asked.
"So you did it alone?"
"This is bullshit!" Scott yelled, jumping up from his chair.
"Shut up and sit down!" Peelman ordered, pushing Scott back into the chair.
Scott immediately tried to get back up but Peelman shoved him down again, "Either you stay sitting or I'll chain you down," he said.
"I'm not saying another word," Scott told them. "I want a lawyer."
When Max arrived at the police station, he was hustled straight into a room to wait by himself, for what seemed like years. Unknown to Max, it was the same room that Scott had been questioned in only an hour earlier, still drab and empty. There was nothing but a table sitting in the middle of the room, surrounded by a few chairs. He spent the next half hour staring at posters and searching for the interrogation spotlight, a carry over from too much TV.
When the door finally opened, there were the two cops from the previous day, Harrison and Peelman, plus his father. Now there was no doubt. He was in deep trouble, as confirmed by the tingling feeling in his butt. His father was offered a seat while Harrison pulled up a chair on the far side of the small table. Peelman remained standing, walking around. If it was their intention to intimidate Max with their cold stares, it worked. They hadn't said a word and already his stomach was tied in knots.
"Okay now, Max" Harrison started. "I'm Constable Harrison and my partner here is Constable Peelman. We're going to ask you some more questions, and if you know what's good for you, you'll answer them truthfully. Understand?"
"Yes, sir," Max replied nervously.
"Your last name is Karlssen, right?"
"How old are you?"
"Where were you on Saturday evening last?"
"I was at a party at a friends house."
"Where was the party at?" Peelman asked.
"Was Sheila Wilson present at that party?" Harrison asked.
"How about Scott Goldmann? Was he present at that party?"
"Are you and Scott Goldmann good friends?"
"How did you get to the party, Max?"
"How did Sheila Wilson get there?"
"I don't know."
"Don't lie to us, Max," Peelman said. "Sheila told us she rode with Scott Goldmann to the party."
"How much did you have to drink, Max?" Harrison continued.
"Not that much," Max lied.
"We know you were drunk?"
"You guess?" Peelman asked, "Or do you mean you were too drunk to remember?"
"I don't remember," Max insisted.
"Your father has told us what condition you were in when your friends brought you home the other night."
"What were you drinking, Max?" Harrison asked.
"Where did you get it?"
"I found it."
"By the side of the street."
The two cops looked at each other and laughed a bit. "Come on, Max. Do you expect us to believe that?" Harrison asked.
"I don't know," Max said, with a shrug.
"Did you share your gin with Sheila?"
"Well then, where did she get the booze?"
"I don't know," Max lied, again not wanting to involve Scott.
"Don't lie to us, Max," Peelman said. "We know she was drinking. The police officers who broke up the party had to take her home. So where did she get it from?"
"How about Scott Goldmann?" Harrison asked, "Did you see him give Sheila anything to drink?"
"Come on, Max," Peelman said, "quit your lying."
"You must have seen them together?" Harrison said.
"Scott and Sheila," Peelman said, raising his voice. "Who do you think?"
"You're lying again. You told us yesterday at the school that you saw them dancing together."
Max's mind raced trying to remember what he had said.
"Did Scott and Sheila leave the party together, at any time?" Harrison asked.
"I don't think so. I mean, no."
"So you're telling me that Sheila was inside at the party all night?"
"I think so. I don't know," Max replied. He was getting confused.
"We have several witnesses who saw you in the truck together with Scott and Sheila."
"Just for a while."
"I don't know."
"Were you drinking in the house?"
"No. Karen didn't allow any booze in the house."
"Were you drinking in the truck?"
"You're lying again. We know you were drinking in the truck. Other kids saw you."
"I might have had a drink in there."
"Were Scott and Sheila there when you had your one drink?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"Can you tell us how Sheila's blouse got ripped?"
"I don't know. I have to go to the bathroom," Max said.
"In a minute. You don't know anything about the ripped blouse?"
"You're lying again, Max," Peelman said. "Sheila said she told you about it yesterday morning at school. So you lied to us again. You do know about the blouse, don't you?"
"Yes, but -"
"Come on, Max. Tell us!" Harrison ordered.
"I think you were there when it was torn," Swenson said, his voice just short of yelling. "You and Scott got her drunk and tried to make out with her. Isn't that right?"
"No. Nothing like that happened in the truck."
"I don't know."
"I think you do. I think you found her asleep upstairs in Karen's room and you raped her. Admit it!"
"Now just a minute," Max's father interrupted.
"No. No. That's not true. I was never upstairs," Max replied. Now he really had to go to the bathroom. He was really scared.
Max and his father were left to sweat it out while both officers went to confer with their boss, Sergeant Lindski, in his office.
"I think it's obvious we're not getting the whole story here," Peelman said.
"Too bad we don't have any medical evidence," the Sergeant remarked.
"We tried," Harrison said, "but her father refused to allow it."
"What about the mother?"
"I think she's too scared to go against her husband. He's being a real asshole about the whole matter."
"Well, if they did try anything with her, she's not going to admit it," Peelman said. "She may not remember anything. She was pissed to the eyeballs."
"I don't know," Harrison said, "I'm not so sure anyone touched her."
"Maybe not," the Sergeant said, "but someone supplied the booze that night. Lean on the Karlssen boy and see if he'll give up Goldmann."
"I don't know," Harrison said, "I think Mr. Karlssen's about to start screaming for a lawyer."
"Then do it tactfully."
When Scott's father came through the front doors of the police station he was anything but in a good mood. Robert Goldmann had just left a meeting with his lawyers to come down to the police station. He walked right up to the counter. "My name's Goldmann. Robert Goldmann," he told the receptionist. "I received a phone call this morning saying my son's been arrested."
The Sergeant overheard Goldmann come in and walked out to meet him, "Mr. Goldmann," he said, reaching out to shake hands. "I'm Sergeant Lindski. Thanks for coming in."
"Where's my son? What was he arrested for?"
"He's not under arrest, Mr. Goldmann. We brought him in this morning for questioning. He's in a holding cell at the moment."
"Questioning for what?"
"We're investigating an assault complaint and your son is a suspect."
"He's been fighting?"
"No, sir. The complaint alleges sexual assault. It apparently happened last Saturday night at a local party."
That tid-bit stunned Robert Goldmann, Dry Harbour's newest executive and candidate pending approval of the local Rotary Club. This was the last thing he needed or wanted. "I'm going to have to make a phone call, if you don't mind." he said. "I left a meeting to come over here."
"Certainly, sir. There's a phone in the entrance way you can use," the Sergeant said.
Young Max was almost in tears when the Sergeant opened the door to the interrogation room. "I'd like to have a word with Max's father," he told the officers. "Are you almost done in here?"
"Sure," Harrison said, gathering up his file folder.
As soon as Robert Goldmann had finished his phone call, the Sergeant introduced the two individuals.
"Yes. I know Mr. Karlssen," Goldmann said. "He works for me."
"Yes, right. Well, come into my office for a minute, both of you. We can talk in there."
Once seated, the Sergeant handed each of the men a piece of paper. "This is a copy of a complaint we received yesterday morning from a Mr. Kincaid. In it he alleges his sixteen-year-old daughter was raped."
"Surely you don't believe it really happened?" Erik asked.
"We have spoken with everyone in attendance at the party. As of right now both Max and Scott are being held for questioning."
"This is preposterous," Robert Goldmann said. "There must be some mistake."
"Well," the Sergeant explained, "our investigation is on going, but I have to be honest with you both, it doesn't look good right now. And you should be aware, Mr. Goldmann, that Scott is being totally uncooperative. He's refusing to talk until he has a lawyer."
"Oh, he'll be represented all right. I'll see to that. My lawyers are here in town right now," he said. "I'll have one of them over here as soon as I can."
"Can I take Max home now?" Erik asked.
"I'll have him released into your custody. But we'll probably want to talk with him again."
"I understand," Erik agreed. He was just happy to get Max out of there.
"Scott, on the other hand," the Sergeant told Robert Goldmann, "is an adult under Canadian law. And given his record, we're going to hold him here temporarily."
"For how long?"
"I should think that will depend on Scott's willingness to cooperate. But you can talk with him if you like."
After questioning, Scott had been moved to a jail cell for holding. It wasn't the first time Robert Goldmann had seen his son behind bars, but it was still frustrating to be reminded of the past.
"Well you've really done it this time, haven't you?" Scott's father said.
"I didn't do anything," Scott replied.
"That's not what it looks like."
"I don't care what it looks like. It's all bullshit."
"I had hoped you had learned your lesson back east."
"I'm telling you it's all crap."
"You wouldn't listen. I told you, all your drinking and carousing around would get you into nothing but trouble."
"I didn't do anything," Scott said, adamantly.
"That's what you said last time and look how it turned out."
"That was because of you and your stinking private school."
"Don't try and blame me for your mistakes."
"You're the one that stuck me in there. Just so you could brag to all your friends that your son was enrolled at Abram's Academy."
"Oh, and I suppose it was me that took those girls into your dorm room?"
"I told you I didn't want to stay in that stupid dorm."
"One of these days you're going to realize you can't always have what you want. That was the best school on the east coast, and you blew it."
"Big deal. Who needs it," Scott said, sarcastically.
"You do. In case you haven't stopped to notice. You're sitting here in jail. You haven't even finished school, let alone university. How do you expect to support yourself? Or do you plan on being a bum all your life?"
"You see. There you go again. All you ever do is criticize."
"I'm not going to stand here and argue with you. Mitch Robarts is here from Vancouver. He's a lawyer, and he's very good at what he does. So you listen to him. Maybe he can keep you out of jail."
Max was too scared to say anything during the long drive home with his father. All he could think of was how he could possibly explain all the mess to Karen. What if she didn't believe him? Worse, what if his parents didn't believe him? His interviews with the cops were mild compared to the inquisition he was about to face. Both his mother and Reverend Clyde-Whyte were waiting for them when they got home.
Slowly, Erik Karlssen explained what was going on and the painful consequences should any of it be true. Max did his best to reassure them that, as far as he knew, nothing had happened. He told them about Sheila's warnings, and how her drunken stepfather had hit her when she had denied his accusations. The reverend was quick to pick up on the evils of alcohol and chastised Max for his indulgence. Max didn't see what that had to do with his being accused of raping Sheila. He felt isolated from his family, and except for Sheba who loyally sat at his side with her head in his lap, he wasn't sure anyone believed him. The evening ground on.
While his mother sat and cried her eyes out, Erik laid the law down to his son. "... we want you straight home after school everyday. There'll be no more going out at nights. No more shows, and certainly no parties."
"Why not?" Max asked.
"Because you're too irrational. That's why."
"I am not."
"Well, you've certainly been acting like it over the last while. We can't allow it. It's bad enough I find out you've been fighting after school, after I specifically told you not to. Then you come home drunk from Karen's party, and now this. Have you any idea how that makes your mom and I feel?"
Max didn't answer, but rather stared at Sheba who remained at his side.
"Have you the slightest idea what it's like to be called down to the police station and told your son is accused of rape? Do you?"
"You don't know just how lucky you are. You could have been in jail right now."
Then Reverend Clyde-Whyte tackled him as he searched for the reasons for Max's sudden change in behavior. What few theories he had on the matter centered on Max's recent abstaining from church activities. On it went.
For over an hour, Max sat like a whipped puppy as his father laid down the new rules. Then he started in on Max's involvement with Scott Goldmann. "As of right now," his father told him, "you're not to see that Goldmann boy again. He's nothing but a bad influence on you."
"He is not," Max replied to the attack on his friend.
"Yes he is. First he gets you drunk. And now he's in jail. Well there won't be any more of it because you're not going to have anything more to do with him."
"You can't make me do that."
"You stay away from him. I'm warning you." There was a sharp edge to his father's demand. Max recognized it and wisely excused himself to his bedroom to do homework. There he took solace in a true friend, Sheba, who lay curled up on the bed beside him.
Scott awoke when he heard his cell door open. The guard was bringing his breakfast. "What time is it?" he asked, having been relieved of his watch along with his cigarettes.
"Little after seven," the guard said, handing Scott the tray.
Before locking him up, they had taken his shoes and belt, but it was his cigarettes that he missed. All bloody night without a smoke. He was like a caged animal. "Can I get my smokes?" he asked.
"I'll bring you one when I come back for the tray," the guard said. Then the door clanged shut.
It was nearly ten o'clock before Scott's lawyer showed up. He had been in the night before but only long enough to talk with Scott and the two investigating officers for a few minutes. Scott had expected his lawyer would at least get him bail, or something. Instead, Scott found himself booked into the crowbar hotel for the night.
"How are you this morning, Scott?" Mitch Robarts asked, setting his briefcase down on the table. They had brought Scott back out to the interrogation room to meet with his lawyer.
"Okay, I guess," Scott said. "When are you going to get me out of here?"
"I met with the prosecutor this morning. It's obvious to me they haven't sufficient evidence to proceed with an assault case against you."
"Then why was I locked up over night?"
"You have to understand that Mr. Kincaid has not withdrawn his complaint. The investigation is still ongoing, and as long as the prosecutor believes there's grounds for a charge, the file remains open."
"But I thought you said they didn't have any evidence?"
"As far as I'm concerned they don't."
"So, get me out of here then."
"I'm going before a judge within the next hour to see if I can have you released on your own recognizance. Now, what that means is that you're going to have to keep your nose clean. If not, if you so much as sneeze, you'll be right back in here. Do you understand?"
"Sure, whatever," Scott agreed. "Just get me out of here."
Mitch did his job and Scott was home in time to shower and change into clean clothes before lunch. At his mother's insistence, Scott remained and had lunch with her. She loved her son very much but little of what she said had any effect on him. He excused himself as soon as he could and headed for town.
Scott's first stop was Copeland Cannery where he maneuvered his truck into a parking slot along side his father's Mercedes. George was sitting at his desk when Scott entered the main office and didn't look overly pleased to see him. Usually when Scott showed up George was all smiles.
"The old man wants to see me. Where is he?" Scott asked.
"He had to go down to the courthouse with the lawyers," George said.
"They're settling that American fisherman's law suit."
"That's bullshit," Scott said.
"Probably," George agreed. "Listen, I'm glad you stopped by."
"I just received a bill from Hanson's Clothing for $164. Seems you've been shopping there and charging it to me?"
"Why would you do that?"
"Because you accused me of stealing, that's why."
"I told you, that was a mistake," George said.
"That's right. And you made it."
"And because of that you go around town running up bills against me?"
"Just this jacket," Scott said. Scott did a complete turn to show George what he was paying for.
"What makes you think I'm going to pay the bill?"
"Oh, I think you will. I could always mention your little poker game the other night. I'm sure the old man would be really impressed."
"I thought we were friends. I've never done anything to hurt you."
"Just accused me of stealing."
"I apologized for that."
"I'm accepting the jacket as your apology," Scott said, not looking at George but staring out the window. He knew he had George just where he wanted him.
George was quiet for a while. It was obvious he couldn't reason with Scott. The last thing he wanted was to submit to Scott's blackmail, but what choice did he have? His job hung in the balance. "So, where does this go from here?" he asked.
Scott continued to stare out the window with his back to George. He said nothing.
"This has all been one big mistake," George said.
"Yeah, and you made it."
"Listen, Scott, we need to resolve this thing. I want to be your friend."
"Yeah, I'll bet."
"I'm serious. What's it going to take?"
"That's easy. You help me out from time to time and I'll keep my mouth shut."
"I don't understand. Help you out how?"
"I can always use a little spending money."
"That's blackmail, Scott."
"Call it what you like."
"Look, what if I pay this bill and we forget all about this mess? We drop the whole thing and start again as friends? Deal?"
"I'll think about it," Scott said, hearing a car pull up outside. "That's probably my old man. I have to talk with him. I wonder if he's changed his thinking on poker?"
"That's not funny, Scott. Do we have a deal?" George asked, as Scott headed out the door.
His father was shaking hands with one of the lawyers that Scott had never met, but he recognized Mitch who was doing the driving.
"Who's that," Scott asked, when he and his father met on the lot.
"One of Mitch's law partners. We just settled out of court on that fishing boat fire."
"I don't see why you gave them anything."
"It was either that or drag it out through the courts."
"Yeah, but now it looks like they won," Scott noted.
"No. I don't think so. The fire was not our fault."
"How do you know?" Scott asked.
His father gave him an intense look. "Do you know something about the fire, Scott?"
"Boy, if I find out you had something to do with that fire."
"I said no! Now, what did you want to talk to me about?" Scott asked, changing the subject.
"Come on into my office."
Inside, Scott plunked down on the big chesterfield. He was still tired from the night before.
"I think it's time you slowed down," his father said, "and got yourself a job."
"If you're not going to go back to school then you're going to have to get a job."
"Back to school where?" Scott asked, not wanting to entertain the thought of working for a living.
"Your mother and I have made some inquiries. There's a couple of excellent private schools in Vancouver -"
"No way," Scott snapped. "No more private schools."
"I suppose you could go here."
"No bloody way. I can't go to school in this dip-shit place."
"No, I guess not. Not after all this mess. But that doesn't leave much."
"I'm not going back then. I don't need that shit anyway."
"Then you go to work."
"Right here. I'll arrange to have you start in the plant -"
"You watch your mouth," his father warned.
"Well I'm not working in no stinking fish cannery."
"No one else is going to hire you around here."
"I don't see why I have to get a job around here anyway. I could always go back to Toronto. There's lots of jobs back there."
"You'd probably starve and end up in jail. Besides, you can't leave here as long as you're on probation."
"I can if I want to," Scott said, belligerently. He jumped up and walked to the window overlooking the harbour.
"Don't be stupid," his father said. "You're not going anywhere. I think you better give me the truck keys if you're going to talk like that."
"I mean it. I want those keys. Let's see how much trouble you can get into on foot."
"No way. You're not taking my truck."
"That's not your truck. It belongs to Copeland Cannery. I paid for that truck."
"I really don't give a shit. You gave it to me and I'm keeping it."
"We'll just see about that."
"Kiss my ass!" Scott lashed back, then turned his back and stormed out of the office.
Max's day in school was like a day in purgatory. He would have preferred having Kenny on his ass rather than the silent treatment he received around the school. He lasted until lunchtime and then went home and locked himself in his bedroom. He was still there when he heard his father arrive home from work. By then he had built up such resentment towards his father he knew he could never face him at the supper table.
Max sat up on his bed where he had spent the afternoon feeling sorry for himself. Sheba looked up at her sad master from her spot by the window.
"I'm not a kid!" he muttered. "He has no right to interfere with my friends, does he?" Sheba's only response was to walk over and lick Max's hand as he stroked her head. For the first time in his life, Max felt a growing hatred for his father.
He was still grumbling and complaining when he went out his bedroom window, across the roof, down his mother's rose trellis and headed straight for Big Mamma's Pizza Place.
A strange hush descended over the restaurant when Max entered. He suddenly found himself enduring a gauntlet of stares and whispers as he made his way to the back and the booth that he and Scott always used. To his relief, Scott was there. A cold, half-eaten slab of pizza and an empty glass sat on the table. A woman was sitting in the booth with him, but when Max showed up, she quickly moved to another booth.
"Who was that?" Max asked.
"Oh, that's just Mona."
Max slid into the booth.
"So, what did you tell the cops?" Scott asked.
"Nothing," Max said. "They kept asking me questions about you and Sheila, trying to get me to say you were alone together, stuff like that. Where the booze came from. But I didn't tell them anything."
"That's good. I didn't tell them anything, either. My lawyer did most of the talking. He's one of the best lawyers in the country, you know."
"Where's Sheila?" Max asked, surprised she wasn't with Scott.
"No idea, and I really don't give a shit."
"Why? After all the shit she's caused? I want nothing to do with that little bitch."
"That wasn't her fault. It's her step-father. He's -"
"Wise up, for Christ's sake," Scott snapped. "Look around. Everybody thinks we raped her. They're all feeling sorry for her because she had to quit her job. They're blaming us."
It didn't take a straight "A" student to know Scott was right. Hell, the mere fact that none of the waitresses had come to wait on him confirmed it. Normally, Scott had to beat the girls away. "It's just not fair. We didn't do anything," Max complained.
"Told you before, life sucks!"
They spent the next half hour comparing notes from their experiences at the cop shop.
"... yeah," Max said, "my father was so mad last night when he took me home I thought he was going to kill me."
"You were lucky. At least you got to go home," Scott said. "I had to spent the night in jail."
"What did you tell them about Sandy?"
"Sandy, the girl in the truck when you banged on the hood, remember?"
"Not really. Anyway, nobody asked."
"Well, somebody told them. They wanted to know who she was."
"What did you say?"
"I said who ever told them that was lying. Shit, she's only fifteen."
"Well I didn't say a word about her. They were more interested in where I got the booze," Max said, changing the subject.
"What did you tell them?"
"Told 'em I found it."
"Found it?" Scott asked, surprised at first, then shrugged it off.
After cleaning up the left over pizza, Max mentioned his father's warnings. "My father was really pissed," he said, "I've never seen him like that before."
"Don't worry about it. He'll cool down."
"I hope so. I took off when he got home. He blames you for everything, you know."
"So what's new? He probably told you not to hang around me anymore, right?"
"Yeah," Max said, surprised, "how did you know?"
"I've been down this road before."
Two boys in a booth across the room had been whispering and staring towards Scott. Max simply ignored them, but Scott didn't. He suddenly turned and shouted, "What are you staring at?"
Immediately the two boys grabbed their bill and high-tailed it out of there.
"Let's get out of here," Max said. He knew if they stayed there was bound to be trouble.
"Good idea," Scott agreed. "I need a drink." He got up and walked over and said something to Mona, then headed for the door.
Despite the amount of trouble booze had caused him lately, Max felt he needed a drink as well.
Max had never seen the inside of the Copeland offices before and eagerly followed when Scott offered to show him around.
"Just keep it quiet," Scott said.
"Never mind. Just do it."
They went directly to Robert Goldmann's private office where the stuffed sea otter caught Max's eye. He headed straight for it, caressing the silk-like fur that glistened in the light. "I've seen these up the coast a few times," Max said.
"I've seen one. That one, whatever the hell it is."
"It's an otter."
"What ever," Scott said, trying the door on the safe to see if it was locked.
Then Max took an interest on the wall full of old photographs, most of which were of the cannery during the old days. "Some of these are really old," he said, studying them carefully.
"Uh-huh," Scott muttered uninterested. He moved across the room and parked himself at his father's large desk. As Max studied the old photographs, Scott snooped through the desk drawers. What he was looking for was the new combination for the safe. His father had a habit of taping the combination to the underside of his desk, and it was there. "Okay," he muttered to himself.
"What?" Max asked.
Scott ignored him, moving back to open the safe. When he came across an envelope of petty cash he chuckled aloud.
"What are you doing?" Max asked.
"Just getting a few bucks."
"You're taking money? Holy shit. Aren't you in enough trouble already?"
"What do you care?" Scott asked, closing the safe.
Max shrugged. It was none of his business.
"Better check the bar while we're at it," Scott said, opening the doors of the credenza.
"The old man's bar," he chuckled, studying its contents. "Seeing as how he left me in jail, he owes me a drink. A big one." He made a point of selecting only the good stuff. He stood up and tucked the bottle of scotch into his jacket.
Outside, Scott handed Max a twenty-dollar bill.
"What's this for?"
"You want it or not?"
"Sure," Max said, not wanting to offend Scott's generosity, even if it wasn't his money. "Why not? Where we going?"
"The breakwater," Scott said, "but we have to make a stop first."
The stop turned out to be Fisherman's Lounge on the main drag. The bar had the reputation of being the hot spot in town for the drinking crowd. At one time it had been the Dry Harbour Hotel's old beer parlour, now totally modernized, complete with strippers. The police caught Max and Jamie one afternoon with their noses stuck in the door. The cop had blasted them with a loudhailer and scared the hell out of them. That was the boy's one and only exposure to the smoky intersanctum of Fisherman's Lounge.
Max waited in the truck, all the while envying Scott for being old enough to get into bars. Mona was on Scott's arm when he returned a few minutes later. She had a jacket thrown over her shoulders and her long hair waved in the breeze as they dashed through the light rain.
"This is Mona," Scott said, after they were both in the truck. "She's coming along with us for a drink."
Mona's good looks immediately caught Max's eye. Corn-silk blond hair flowed down over her shoulders, highlighting her golden complexion. When she smiled at Max her seductive ice-blue eyes made him blush. Max found out later that Mona was a hostess in the Fisherman's Lounge where she was very popular among the male patrons, a fact proven out by her gratuities on the job.
Two hours and a half bottle of scotch later, during which time Scott and Mona were all over each other, Max nipped at the bottle and stared blankly out over the harbour. He was downright embarrassed by the way Scott carried on, like he wasn't even there. There were no words, only the heated action of Scott and Mona as they kissed, touched, caressed, and kissed again to a chorus of moans and groans.
Every once in awhile Scott would tickle Mona and make her laugh so loud they may well have heard her all the way back in town. Then she would be quiet once more as Scott's hand would disappear beneath her clothes. Red face or not, Max's eyes were drawn to the front of Mona's blouse. Her tight nipples surging against the flimsy material fascinated him. When his growing sensation finally reached the point of near bursting, Max excused himself and got out for a leak.
"Why don't you go for a little walk?" Scott said, as Max was about to climb back into the truck.
Max knew what that meant. It wasn't the first time that Scott had suggested Max take a walk and he knew better than to argue the point. There was a chill on the breeze coming in off the water as Max stepped back into the night. He pulled his jacket tight and immediately walked along the breakwater, towards the tree line and shelter it provided from the wind.
Max was almost frozen by the time he heard the truck start. He had seriously considered walking back to town. The wind had increased and he waited in the trees for Scott to back the truck off the breakwater, then he was right there to climb back into the warm truck. Mona looked a little embarrassed when Max opened the door. She was busy buttoning her blouse and straightening her skirt. It didn't take a rocket-scientist to know what they had been doing.
"Holly shit," Max said. "It's freezing out there."
"Should've taken the bottle with you," Scott laughed. "It warms you up. We didn't need it, did we?"
Mona just laughed. Max shivered.
They left the breakwater and headed for town and parked along the main drag near the Fisherman's Lounge. Mona didn't hang around long. "I've got to get home," she said. Then she and Scott locked in an embrace, kissing and moaning, the likes of which nearly drove Max back out into the night again.
After Mona had left they remained parked along the curb, motor running, heater blasting and the radio blaring. It was cold outside from the moist fall wind blowing in off the harbour and few people ventured to walk the streets. Of the few who did, Scott quickly singled two out.
"This should be good," he said, getting out of the truck to confront the two men approaching them on the sidewalk. They were a couple of the local citizenry who Max recognized right away. They were braving the weather to hand out religious pamphlets in front of the bar doors, just the sort of thing that ticked Scott off in no uncertain way.
"What's all this crap?" he asked, as one man held out a pamphlet to Scott.
Max was quick to sense trouble brewing. He joined Scott on the sidewalk in a vain attempt to intercede.
"Max? Max Karlssen? Is that you?" the second man asked.
Scott was confused. He looked back at Max. "You know these guys?"
"Yeah," Max said. The first was the type of person that felt he had a God-given obligation to save the world. Max had often seen him in the mall handing out religious material. He and the guy with him were die-hard members of the same church Max's family attended, a piece of information he preferred Scott not know about. "I know him. He's a friend of my father," Max said.
"I don't care. They have no right to be handing out crap like this on the street."
"We've gotta get out of here," Max urged, pulling at Scott's sleeve.
"Not yet," Scott said. "I'm not finished here." He ripped up the pamphlet and sprinkled the pieces on the sidewalk in front of the guy.
Max turned back towards the truck. He wanted to get the hell out of there, fast.
"Max Karlssen?" the other man called again, as he approached. "It is you. What are you doing out here on the streets this time of night? This is no place for a decent God fearing young man to be."
"Piss off, old man," Scott said. He turned back to Max whose face was white as a sheet. Max was so upset he couldn't speak. All he could do was think of was getting out of there before Scott learned the truth.
"Blasphemy!" the man yelled out at Scott.
"Kiss my ass," Scott snapped back.
"You. You're no good. You're doing the Devil's work," the first man yelled, waving his handful of pamphlets in Scott's face.
Well, that was like waving a red flag in the face of a mad bull. Scott's hand lashed out, knocking the pamphlets from the man's grip. The wind caught the papers, swirling them around before depositing them over the sidewalk and gutter. The second man stepped forward to help pick up the pamphlets. "What's your father going to say when he finds out you're hanging around with this vermin of the street?"
Max moved quickly, knowing Scott would react to being called vermin. He rushed and planted himself between Scott and the men. The first man, still shaken after Scott's attack, took a step forward and placed his hand on Max's shoulder. "You must pray with us, Max. We'll help you cast off this follower of the Devil. Pray that -"
That was it. With no thought to the consequences, Max shot both arms out, straight into the man's chest. He watched the man's eyes almost pop from their sockets as he was jolted backwards, and then fell backwards on the sidewalk.
"Holy shit!" Max exclaimed, "Now I'm dead."
The man reached out from where he lay on the street and grabbed Max's pant leg. "I forgive you, Max. But I'm telling your father and the good Reverend Clyde-Whyte. You need help," he said, staring up at Max.
"Let go of him!" Scott shouted. He pulled Max back, trying to break the man's grip. The man refused to release his grip on Max's pant leg, but he let go when the toe of Scott's shoe dug into his rib cage. The man shrieked in pain. "I told you to let go. Goddamn it, ... I told you," Scott snarled, looking down as the man curled into a fetal position to protect himself.
Max could think of nothing to say. He just looked at the man laying on the sidewalk, the other man hovering over him quoting verse and prayers.
"Come on, let's get the hell out of here," Scott said, walking towards the truck.
Back to the breakwater they went, which was just fine with Max. He had a lot on his mind as he sat staring off across the harbour.
"So what was all that shit they were spurting about church?" Scott asked, after a long silence.
"I don't know."
"You don't go in for that religious crap, do you?"
"Nope. I used to go to Sunday school when I was a kid."
"The cops will really be on our asses now," Scott said,
"Sorry. I shouldn't have pushed him."
"Why the hell not? Assholes like that deserve what they get."
Max fell silent again. He tried not to think what his father was going to say when he found out Max had shoved one of his friends down on the street. They would tell him about Scott for sure. "I'm really going to get shit when I get home," Max said.
"Well you stuck your foot in it pretty good, that's for sure," Scott said, opening the bottle of scotch and taking another long drink.
"I'll be lucky to graduate now at the rate I'm going," Max said.
"I do. I've got to finish school so I can get into the army. I'm going to be an engineer, remember? I want to travel the world."
"You can't join the army with a criminal record, you know."
Max stared at Scott. The word 'criminal record' hit him with the force of a sledgehammer.
"Sure," Scott said, "the minute they charged us with raping Sheila, you got a criminal record. That means no army."
"I didn't know -"
"Hey, life sucks, man. Shit, now you'll be lucky just to get a job in the cannery."
"I'm not working in any stinking fish cannery," Max said. "Neither am I. That's why I'm getting out of here."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm not sticking around here waiting for the cops to lock us up. That's what I mean."
"I thought your lawyer said they didn't have the evidence to press any charges?"
"Wise up. Lawyers always lie so they can charge you more."
"Then if those two on the street go to the cops -"
"That's right, they'll have your ass behind bars for sure."
"Holy shit," Max said.
"You're lucky you're not on probation like I am."
"What?' Max asked, shocked by what Scott had just revealed.
"You heard me. Probation. You have no idea. I'll tell you something because you're a friend, but you better keep it to yourself."
"Certainly," Max said, intrigued.
"I'm not really an American. Neither is my old man. Up until a couple years ago we lived in Toronto. We moved from there to New Hampshire so I could attend Abram's Academy, a boy's private school. The old man owned a packing plant there; only it was for lobster. Anyway, there was trouble at the school and they were going to kick me out."
"I had a girl in the dormitory."
"They were going to kick you out for that? Boy, tough place."
"It was the third time," Scott said, with a grin.
"Anyway, the old man threatened to cut me off if I was thrown out again."
"Yeah, I was expelled twice in Toronto. I can't help it. School sucks. Anyway, the old man and I got into a big fight and I torched the plant."
"You mean you actually set the place on fire?" Max asked.
"Yeah, burned the son of a bitch to the ground, man. You should have seen it. Smoke and flames shooting up into the air. They had three fire trucks and still couldn't put it out," Scott said. He took another long drink from the bottle. Then he pushed back, his head resting on the seat top, his eyes closed.
"What happened then?"
"They had to take me to the next town to lock me up. All the lobster workers wanted to lynch me."
"Yeah, they didn't have any sense of humour about losing their jobs. No plant, no jobs. Then I had to go to court. They would have stuck me in some youth jail but the old lady wouldn't have any part of it. She was half owner of the plant and she refused to press charges. So they put me on probation."
"Wow," Max said, flabbergasted by Scott's story.
"The old man heard about the cannery here in Dry Harbour and here we are. That's why I've got to get out of town. If I stay around here I'll probably get stuck in jail for breaching my probation."
"Where you going to go?"
"Back east I guess. I'm finished in this town. I'll head into Vancouver first, then work my way back to Toronto."
"Holy shit. You're really gonna do it?"
"God damned rights. You should come with me."
"You mean run away?"
"Sure, why not. You're sure to end up in jail if you stay here."
"I don't know." It sounded pretty drastic to Max, but he figured Scott knew what he was talking about.
"I'll drop you off at Big Mamma's, give you time to think about it. I've got to make a stop," Scott said, starting the truck.
Nothing was said all the way back to town. All Max could think of was his friendship with Scott. He would sure miss that if he stayed behind. Outside Big Mamma's he sat in the truck for several minutes, trying to think of something appropriate to say.
"Hey Max," Scott said, leaning across the truck seat, "buy yourself something to eat while you're waiting." He handed Max a twenty-dollar bill.
"Nah," Max said, shaking his head slowly, "I've got enough."
"Bullshit. Go ahead and take it," he said. "What are friends for?"
It was pitch dark and raining when Scott pulled his truck into the parking lot at his father's office. He sat there for a long time with the motor running. All he could think of was getting the hell away from his old man, away from everything. 'Toronto, that's where I should be,' he thought, 'all the women and booze I want and no old man to screw it up for me.' "Goddamned rights," he said aloud.
The office was in darkness when he let himself in. Closing the door behind him as quiet as he could, he listened for a moment to make sure George wasn't awake. Then he moved across to his father's office and turned on the desk light, adjusting it so he could see the safe combination.
After three unsuccessful attempts to open it he swore. "The combination's been changed again. Probably that bloody George," he muttered to himself. He sat back in his old man's chair to think. He opened the desk drawers hoping to find the new combination but no such luck. He was so desperate he next went after the file cabinets with a letter opener. As he pried the lock his hand slipped, raking his knuckles over the sharp metal corner. "Shit!" he exclaimed, dropping the letter opener. Then he heard the door to George's room open. A few seconds later, Scott looked up see George standing in the doorway in his housecoat; his hair all messed up.
"What are you doing?" George asked.
"Just looking for something," Scott said, walking back to the desk.
"Looking for what, Scott?"
"Come on Scott. You're not supposed to be in here."
"I can if I want. It's my old man's office."
"I know, but I'm responsible for it."
Scott studied George for a long moment, finally easing himself down into his father's chair. "I need a favour, George. I need some money from the safe."
"No, Scott. I know you already took money from the safe tonight."
"I don't give a shit. I need some more."
"I'm sorry, Scott. I can't give you money from the safe."
"I'm not asking you to. Just give me the new combination and go back to bed."
"I'm warning you," Scott said, staring straight into George's eyes. "Either I get the combination or I tell the old man how you're still holding your little poker games in here."
George swallowed hard. He had come to know Scott well enough not to trust him. His mind struggled to rationalize a few dollars in light of the aggravation, not to mention being fired.
"Look," George said, trying to reason, "if I give you a few dollars, will you leave quietly?"
"Sure," Scott said, relaxing into the chair. "All I need is a few bucks to tide me over. Big party tonight."
"Well, ... okay," George said, reluctantly moving towards the safe. He was very nervous and his fingers trembled as he slowly turned the combination knob. When he leaned back and turned the handle, the door opened.
Scott said nothing as George removed and opened the cash box. He said nothing when George extracted a bundle of bills and removed the elastic band.
"How much do you need?" George asked, removing a twenty-dollar bill.
"More than that."
As George withdrew a second bill, Scott suddenly laughed and pushed George away from the safe, sending him sprawling across the floor. Fear crossed George's face when he saw Scott reach over and snatch the bundle of bills from his hand. He was too scared to resist. He could only watch as Scott thumbed through the bundle, finally placing a wad of bills in his shirt pocket. Then Scott dropped the remaining bills into the cash box, closed it and returned it to the safe.
"Want me to lock it up for you George?" Scott asked, pushing the door closed and giving the dial a spin. "There you are. Now that wasn't so bad?"
"Your father will know there's money missing."
"You're the bookkeeper George. You fix it."
"I can't do that."
"You better, if you don't want to end up in jail."
"I didn't take the money, you did."
"You really think my old man will believe you?" Scott asked, pulling the liquor cabinet door open and grabbing another bottle.
George just stared at Scott in disbelief.
Outside in his truck Scott unzipped his fancy new jacket and counted the handful of bills. A big smile crossed his face when he realized how much he had. "I'm outta here," he said, cranking up the motor.
Max was staring out the window of Big Mamma's when Scott pulled into the parking lot. He had been giving a lot of thought to what Scott had said, especially about going to jail. When Scott didn't come in, Max walked out to the waiting truck.
"I figured you'd already left," Max said, opening the passenger door.
"On my way," Scott said. "What are you going to do?"
"Were you serious about me coming with you?"
"It's up to you. You want to go to jail, or hit the road?"
"I haven't got any money, no extra clothes," Max said.
"I've got enough money. Trust me. I know what I'm doing. Things always work out. You'll see."
"But my parents. They'll never -"
"Phone them from Vancouver. Let 'em know you're okay."
"I suppose I could," Max said, shrugging a little and looking at Scott.
"Make up your mind," Scott said, revving the engine a couple times.
Max had made up his mind back in the restaurant. "Drive. Let's get the hell outta this town."
Forward to Part 2
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