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Authors: George Fetherling

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Canada, #Social Science, #Travel, #Western Provinces, #Biography & Autobiography, #Archaeology

Jericho (10 page)

BOOK: Jericho
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There was a round anti-shoplifting mirror in the corner, near the TV, and I caught a glimpse of the manager looking at me. I could tell she was pretty doped up and maybe wasn’t seeing too well. Or maybe she was staring at me because I looked too straight.

Blue Hawaii, Blue Sunshine, Blue Thunder, Blue Velvet, Body and Soul, Body Double, Body Heat, Bongo Man, Borderline, Born in East L.A., The Boston Strangler, Brain Damage, The Brain That Won’t Die, Brainstorm, Brainwaves, Breakdance…

Finally Bishop came in. He was pretty inconspicuous, and you know, for him that’s not easy; he’s never practised. He didn’t make eye contact with me at all, and barely noted the existence of the black-leather guy. My heart
skipped a beat when someone else started to come in right behind him.

Breathless, Bridge on the River Kwai, Bridge to Nowhere, A Bridge Too Far, Brubaker, Bruce Lee the Legend, Buck Privates, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Buck Rogers Space Vampire, Buddy Buddy, Buddy Hackett Live! and Uncensored!, The Buddy Holly Story, The Buddy System…

Bishop got adventurous and said hi to the manager. She told him and the rest of us, “Sorry, I have to close now for a while,” and turned the sign on the door so that it read C
LOSED
when seen from the street. She called outside to some people: “Come back later.” I thought she probably had to pee—or do more drugs. The potential customers looked concerned but said OK thanks. I knew—Bishop must have too—that she wasn’t going to toss us out because she was closing early. I thought Bishop handled the situation beautifully. He didn’t freak. He was cool and collected.

Buffalo Bill and the Indians, Bull Durham, Bulldog Drummond Escapes, Bulldog Drummond Returns, The Bullfighters, Bullies, Bullitt, Burial Ground, Burn, The Burning, The Burning Bed, Burnt Offerings, Bus Stop, Busted Up, Butch & Sundance The Early Days, Butterflies are Free, Bye Bye Brazil…
That last one was in Portuguese (not dubbed).

Even though she’d turned the sign around, the manager didn’t go pee or shoot up. I guess she was already so high that she’d lost her train of thought. She just looked to be all wrapped up in her movie, which seemed to be about a serial killer in a sorority house. But then she changed and I could see out of the corner of my eye how real life, and maybe danger too, slowly broke through the haze she lived in. After that I kept my head down, browsing like a mad fool.

Cabaret, Cabin in the Sky, Cactus, Caddyshack, Caddyshack 2, Caesar and Cleopatra, Cahill U.S. Marshal, The Caine Mutiny, Calamity Jane, California Reich, California Suite, Caligula, Caligula and Messalina, Call It Murder, Call Me, Call to Glory, Camelot, Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?, Can’t Buy Me Love, Can-Can, The Candy Man, Cannery Row, Cannonball Run, Cannonball Run 2, Cape Fear, Captain Blood, Captains Courageous, Captain Kidd, Captain Newman M.D., The Captain’s Paradise, Captain’s Table, Captive Hearts, Car Wash…

I was scared. I didn’t want to give myself away, so I arranged myself so I could still read the titles on the boxes as though everything was normal all the while I was watching the scene in the big convex mirror.

The Care Bears Family Album, Carly Simon Live from Martha’s Vineyard, Carmen, Carnal Knowledge, Carny, The Carpetbaggers, Carrie, Casanova ‘70, Casanova’s Big Night, Casino Royale, Cassandra, Castaway, Castle of the Walking Dead, Casual Sex, Cat & Mouse, The Cat and the Canary, Cat Ballou, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Cat People, Cat’s Eye, Catch-22, Catch Me a Spy, Catch the Heat, Cave Girl, Cease Fire, Certain Fury, The Chain Gang Killings, The Chain Reaction, Chained Heat, Chalk Garden, Chamber of Fear…

Bishop talked to her very softly, just like a stick-up man in the movies—how appropriate when you think about it—but with hands out where anybody could see he was unarmed. He said, “Have you ever been held up in here?” The manager looked a bit fazed. “I mean, have you ever been held up in here
before?
” She didn’t quite get it. So he said: “Open the box and give me the money. Use your right hand and put the other one on the counter where I can see it.”
Looking back, I think anyone who wasn’t doing drugs would have laughed in his face and told him to get out. But she paid attention and did exactly what he said. Neither of them panicked. When Bishop spoke to her he used the same tone of voice people use when they’re telling a dog how good she is. Did he know exactly how to talk to somebody who was that spaced or had they met before? I never found out.

Listening to all this, I was scanning the boxes faster and faster, afraid to look over at what was happening and afraid not to.

The Champ, Champions, Change of Seasons, The Changeling, Charade, Chariots of Fire, Chariots of the Gods, Charlie Chan at the Opera, Charlie Chan in the Desert, Charlie Chan in Paris, Charlie Chan Wax Museum, Charly, The Chase, Cheech & Chong’s Still Smoking, Cheech & Chong’s Up in Smoke, Cheerleaders’ Wild Weekend, Cheyenne Autumn, Children of the Corn, Children of a Lesser God, China Girl, China Seas, The China Syndrome, Chinatown, The Chinese Connection, The Chinese Godfather, Chloe in the Afternoon, Choices, Choose Me…

She did as she was told, but you could tell somehow that she was still having trouble dividing her attention between the movie and the reality of being robbed. The radio didn’t help her concentration either.

I browsed for dear life.
A Chorus Line, A Christmas Carol, Christmas Evil, A Christmas Story, A Christmas to Remember, Cinderella, Circus World, Citizen Kane, City Heat, City Limits, City of Shadows, City of the Walking Dead, The City’s Edge, Claire’s Knee, Clan of the Cave Bear, Clash of the Titans, Class, Class of 1984, Class of Nuke ′Em High, Class Reunion, Cleopatra, Clergyman’s Daughter, Cloak and Dagger, Clockwise,
Clockwork Orange, The Clones, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Closely Watched Trains, Clue, Clue the Video Game, Coal Miner’s Daughter…

The guy in leather approached the till, but Bishop told him to turn round and move away from the counter.

Cobra, Cobras vs Ninja, The Coca-Cola Kid, Cocaine Cowboy, Cocoon, Code Name Alpha, Code Name Emerald, Code Name Zebra, Code of Silence, Cold Feet, Cold River, The Cold Room, Cold Steel, Cold Sweat, The Color of Money, The Color Purple, Colors, Coma, Combat Academy, Come Back to the Five-and-Dime Jimmy Dean Jimmy Dean, Comes a Horseman, Coming Home, Commando, Commando Attack, Commandos, Compromising Positions, Conan the Barbarian, Conan the Destroyer, Concert for Bangladesh, Concrete Angels…

Bishop was stuffing money in his pockets. Lifted the tray out of the cash box to look for big denominations underneath. “Everybody stay calm,” he said as he began to back away. But the other people looked like zombies to me, particularly the manager. They weren’t going anywhere.

I was still doing what I was told.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Conqueror, Conquest, Conspiracy Trial of the Chicago Eight, Consuming Passions, Contagion, The Conversation, Conversation Piece, Coogan’s Bluff, Cool Cats, Cool Hand Luke, Cop, Corrupt, The Corrupt Ones, The Cotton Club, The Couch Trip, The Count of Monte Cristo, Count Yorma Vampire, Countdown, Country Girl, Country Man, The Court Jester, The Cowboy and the Ballerina, The Cowboys, Crackers, The Crazies, Crazy Moon, Creator, Creature, Creepers, The Creeping Flesh, Creepshow, Creepshow 2…

He walked out quickly but not too quickly, taking big strides at a steady pace. I heard a little bell cling as Bishop opened the door to leave. I hadn’t heard it before over all the electronic racket, or over the sound of my heart pumping and titles echoing in my head. It took him only a couple of seconds to disappear. I was bent down towards the floor, reading the bottom row. There was delayed-action hubbub. I heard the woman ask the leather guy, “What do you think I should do?”

Crime Story, Crimes of Passion, Crimes of the Heart, Crimewave, The Crimson Pirate, Critical Condition, Crocodile Dundee, Crocodile Dundee 2, Crosby Stills & Nash, Cross Creek, Crossdressers, Cross My Heart, Cross of Iron, Crossfire, Crossover, Crossroads, Crucible of Terror, Cruise into Terror, Cruising, Cry Freedom, Cry of the Innocent, Cry Uncle, Crystal Heart, Crystal Stone, The Cult, Culture Club, The Curse, Curse of the Black Widow, Curse of Frankenstein, Curse of King Tut’s Tomb, Curse of the Pink Panther, Curse of the Werewolf, Curtains, Cyclone, The Cyclops

As soon as we pulled out of the laneway, I asked Bishop, “How did we do?”

“Not as much as I hoped. Not enough to buy a car. We’ll stick with this one for a while and then ditch it.” He patted the steering wheel.

After an awkward silence I started to babble, like I was trying to make up for the quiet.

“There were a few movies in there I’ve been meaning to see sometime.” I couldn’t believe I was saying this. Then, to make it worse, my ears heard my mouth asking him who his favourite actor is.

“John Wilkes Booth,” he said quickly.

I didn’t react because I wasn’t absolutely positive that this was who I thought it was. But later I looked it up and it was.

After that, whenever I got too nervous I would fall into the trap I’d set for myself and attempt to make small talk.

“What did you want to be when you were growing up?” I asked him once.

“Gone,” he said.

My sister Annie always says that with the way I keep putting my feet in my mouth it’s a wonder I’m not better at yoga.

two

A
FTER
M
O RETURNED FROM MATERNITY LEAVE
, the workload at the office was restored to its normal levels of unbearableness. One morning she brought the baby in to show us before dropping it off at daycare. On another occasion her partner came by with the kid to take them both home at the end of the day. Jane had met the partner previously but I had not had the honour. He seemed very vernacular, possibly some figure from folklore. There’s no telling who a straight woman is going to find attractive. I can speak from experience in a previous life.

Today Mo comes in and says, “Did you hear about the robbery at the video place?” She had seen the police there. I can imagine the reluctance with which Cult Video telephoned the police. Later, after the police had gone, she went back and was talking to the manager. Mo asked her if she felt like she’d been violated. “No,” the manager replied, “I feel robbed.” Apparently, she acquired a good look at the guy
despite being in her usual drug stupor. She told Mo that he was tall and slender with long dead hair to his shoulders but bald on top so you could see the little plugs where he’d had transplants. I got angry to an extreme degree, something I do not usually permit myself to do.

We got only a couple of hundred dollars, which ain’t even gas money, but of course that’s not the point: this wasn’t about the cash. It was about the master plan, and that was unfolding exactly as it was supposed to and according to my timetable. If I say so myself, I showed my genius by stealing a stolen car from the guy who stole it originally, so he couldn’t report. Now I dumped the car by parking in front of a hydrant. Let tickets pile up a couple of days. Then, before they tow it to impound, the cops will check the plates and see it’s stolen, then tow it to impound anyway but for different reasons. You know what the traffic situation in Vancouver is like. This ought to give us maybe three days to excape, maybe more. I disposed of the car at
5:00 A.M.
, so that I’d be right on time to take the truck, right on the money as they used to say.

Field research and recon, that’s the key in this sort of venture. I’d already walked the future crime site like the Stations of the Cross, once even taking Polaroids of all the major points, destroying them later of course by cutting em into shreds, mixing em all together and then walking round the downtown and distributing a few in each trash barrel I came to.

Beth knew a place where we could lay low for a couple of weeks. I outlined everything during our walks together. She’d sent most of her stuff, including all her unsold jewellery, to
her sister, who’d moved back to Alberta to hang out with all those people that think dinosaur bones are skeletons of the Devil and the earth is only five thousand years old. She was quite good about waiting for the final go-ahead. That’s the part where the tension gets to people and they start to crack. But not Beth. She had all the frontier virtues. I phoned her at six in the morning and told her to be standing by. I knew it was early and she wasn’t awake, but even so she sounded very strange, like she was keeping some big secret from me. Was it strange enough to set off my automatic alarm? No. It took me years to know which of my instincts to trust and which ones to ignore.

BOOK: Jericho
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