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Go for Broke



Go for Broke

Appeared in the Third Annual Osprey Mystery Series and featured in the anthology Mystery Ink by The Ginger Press 2007.

Mystery Ink
2007
180 pages
Publisher: Ginger Press
ISBN: 978-0-921773-11-0

Read an excerpt below.


Excerpt

Anton Ryker contemplated the knife in his hand and the eyes watching him from across his hotel room in downtown Belleville.

Ryker had no choice in the matter.

The blade captured sunlight from the window, offering him a slivered glimpse of his acne-pitted face and the man he had become. He turned the knife over, thinking about the things he’d done in his life, the things done to him, and the things he had to do. And as he considered his past, his anger burned until a measure of pride suppressed it.

He tapped the blade on the flat of his hand.

He’d come a long way. Paid a huge price. Yet the system wanted more. People always wanted more. But the way he saw it, his bill was paid in full.

He’d left hell behind and was half-way home.

All that he needed to get there was attached to that mute face with the big eyes watching him from the king-sized bed across the room.

The blade tapping stopped.

Ryker’s jawed tensed, tightening his grip on his knife he took a step toward the face watching him.

Let’s get this thing done.

******

“Twenty-five thousand dollars.”

Reggie Hicks cranked up his radio as he guided his taxi through the city. Twenty-five grand. Today_s the day, man. His dream was alive. So close, he could almost touch it. Could almost taste it.

He clenched and unclenched his hands on the wheel. The next clue was coming. He was locked on to CBWQ, Quinte West’s newest radio station, and playing hard. He was a contender.

“SPOT the Paymaster and CBWQ will pay you TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS! ON THE SPOT! Get ready for today’s clue!” A long drum roll of doom flowed through Reggie_s speakers. His knuckles whitened, “Today’s clue is: _My cup runneth over in ninety-five_!”

Reggie’s radials squealed. He pulled into the strip mall across from McDonald’s on North Front, slid the transmission into park. Don’t forget it. Repeat it. They only say it once, “_My cup runneth over in ninety-five_.”

Reggie snapped through the pages in his notebook, wrote it down. ‘My cup runneth over in ninety-five. He scanned the previous clues he’d analyzed over the course of the three-week radio contest. His instincts were telling him he had it.

All he had to do was spot the Paymaster.

******

In his hotel room, Ryker clamped one hand over the head, positioned the blade tip over the chest, and eased his knife into the soft abdomen. The steel glinted as he made a clean incision, just large enough to let him slip his hand inside.

Not a sound from the victim. Iceberg, the stuffed toy polar bear. He just lay there, smiling his stupid smile, which was now starting to piss Ryker off, mocking him as his fingers probed the bear’s stomach, not finding what he needed to find.

Concern creased Ryker’s face as he kept searching, glancing at the remains of the box, which had been sent through a mail forwarding service.

Where is it?

He couldn’t allow this to happen. Not after everything he’d been through, everything he’d planned. He prodded Iceberg until he accepted that he was searching in vain.

It wasn’t there.

******

Reggie dropped the window of his cab to catch the breezes as he stroked his moustache to help his concentration. No fares at the moment, which suited him. It gave him time to focus on the clue.

To spot the Paymaster.

He had two hours before the radio station pulled the plug on, “today’s clue to spotting the paymaster and winning twenty-five thousand dollars.”

My cup runneth over in ninety-five.

A red light at College Street gave him time to review yesterday’s clue: “I’ll wear it well.” Put that together with today’s clue and all the others to date, man it could only mean one thing.

Hockey.

Belleville was a hockey town. Home to the Bulls, home to the 1959 World Champs, the Belleville MacFarlands. The place that nurtured Bobby and Dennis Hull from tiny Point Anne, the Crawfords, the Meaghers and all the others. Hockey history flowed through this city like the Moira River.

Reggie slammed his palm on the wheel.

Cripes.

It was hockey.

******

Ryker would have to risk another call.

It was the only way he was going to get home.

He barely recognized himself, standing shirtless in faded Levis before the mirror. His flat stomach, broad chest and rock-like biceps were laced with a mosaic of tattoos, skulls, demons, Scripture, and a bleeding heart engulfed in flames. His left ear was pierced, his head shaved, his Van Dyke was gone.

Ryker’s new look since he’d left Alberta.

The entire package was tanned from the few day trips he’d taken out to the Sandbanks to stare at New York across diamond waves of Lake Ontario. Sitting on the beach, he’d polished his plan. The makings of it were arrayed on the desk: a few editions of the Intelligencer were splayed near his laptop, his pocket atlas of the United States, his computer bag and tickets.

Concealed in the hollowed out soles of his Nikes, and in hidden compartments of his laptop, and computer bag, were: An Ontario driver’s license with Ryker’s picture, and four credit cards all in the name of Jack Lawson; a New Jersey driver’s license and three credit cards for Chad Tulmer; twenty-one thousand dollars in Canadian cash and thirty-six thousand in U.S. currency.

Everything but his new passports.

Dammit.

They were supposed to be shipped today in the bear’s stomach. Ryker refused to go further without them. He’d come too far to risk it. He wanted a full set of the best documents. His life was on the line.

Such that it was.

In the mirror, he caught the reverse lettering of the Scripture over his heart: “Dust thou art and unto the dust thou shalt return.” Creed from his younger days in Drum. Where they did things to him. Things so bad, he had to get out. Don’t think about that. Best way to deal with the past is to leave it there.

Ryker pulled on a shirt, grabbed his calling cards, wallet, dark glasses.

He’d call Donna Jane again, get her to Fed-Ex his back-up material directly so he’d have it by morning. Couldn’t risk delaying any longer. He’d go to that mall. What was it? The Quinte Mall.

Use the public phone there.

******

Hockey.

All the clues pointed to hockey, Reggie thought rolling along Front Street scrutinizing everyone he saw, taking in the downtown storefronts, the Cosy Grill, the Modern Caf‚, his hangouts. Scanning the streets, it hit him: The best place to search.

He turned left onto Market Street, around City Hall just as the clock tower was chiming atop the smaller replica of the Parliament Buildings.

Behold: the Memorial Arena.

Belleville’s first church of hockey where the legendary Macs and the Hull boys had skated. Home of dynasties. Just about every kid raised in this city played hockey.

Reggie had played.

He smiled at the memory of scoring seven goals in one game when he was eight years old. Got his name in the Intell. Thought he was destined for the Leafs. But he never made it out of the minors where he played right wing until a slapshot to his ankle ended any shot at the pros.

Ok, so that’s not entirely true.

Flunking out at Loyalist was part of it. Then his job at Northern. Then there was his short-lived marriage. His failed effort to start over as a city bus driver in Barrie before returning to Belleville to find the years had sort of gotten away from him.

He stroked his moustache.

It was all right. He had a house behind the funeral home on Burton Street where he lived with Leo, his Shepherd. He had a 60-inch TV and a handle on things now because he also had a dream. It was taped to his dash. A gleaming stretch limo, a 23-foot-long Cadillac Fleetwood. Like riding on air. Low mileage. Mint condition. Buddy in Sudbury was ready, “to give it away,” for thirty-five.

Reggie’d already saved ten, no, eleven, for his limo business.

Spotting the Paymaster would take care of the rest.

It was going to happen.

Reggie could smell it in the air.

******

The deadline for Ryker was Saturday.

The charter left Belleville at some godawful hour Sunday morning. It crossed at Niagara Falls, then onto Buffalo, Orchard Park, the stadium and the Bills’ game.

His plan was simple. Enter the country with a busload of football fans from Canada. All that was required at the border were two pieces of identification, like a driver’s license, a passport, birth certificate. A busload enters New York, but returns light by one passenger.

Ryker.

He’d be long gone before kick off.

Going for broke in an end zone run for home.

As he headed for the hotel lobby, he tried hard not to think of the wasted years.

******

At the hotel desk, Bonnie, the assistant manager, looked at the hardened face in the photo while Vic Grady, the man who’d asked if she recognized it, studied hers.

“He kinda looks familiar, what do you think, Derrick?”

The lanky clerk next to Bonnie leaned into the colour head and shoulders photo and said, “Sorta.”

Then Derrick shrugged to Grady, the RCMP Corporal, dressed in jeans, sports shirt and a jacket, like Mickey Unger, the Belleville city detective who was with him.

That morning, Grady, a fugitive specialist out of Toronto, and Unger, a sharp-eyed investigator, began canvassing the motels along North Front showing a photo spread of Anton Carl Ryker, convicted two-time killer who’d escaped from Drumheller Institution northeast of Calgary five weeks ago.

Ryker, a U.S. citizen, had ties to Texas. In fact, some ten years before he was convicted in Canada, he’d escaped from Huntsville. After his recent escape from Drumheller, the FBI had secured warrants for the phones of Ryker’s relatives. Nothing had surfaced until this week. Then came several calls to Ryker’s ex-mother-in-law, Donna Jane Cantrell at a trailer park near Lufkin. The calls to Cantrell were made from public phones located at the Quinte Mall, Belleville, Ontario, Canada.

Shortly after one, Cantrell, shipped a package to Utica, New York, which the FBI and U.S. postal inspectors were tracing. At the same time, the FBI had alerted the RCMP in Ottawa, who alerted Belleville police and the Ontario Provincial Police.

“You sure he looks familiar?” Grady flipped the picture over to another. “How about the same guy, only with the beard removed?”

Derrick placed his thumb over the top of the man’s head in the enhanced picture, imagining him without hair.

“Oh my gosh!” Bonnie said. “That’s Mr. Lawson in 408.”

Derrick nodded big nods.

Bonnie’s fingers blurred on the keyboard as she checked the registry.

“He’s still with us.”

Vic Grady reached for his cell phone. Mickey Unger pulled out a walkie talkie.

Copyright© 2017 Rick Mofina. All Rights Reserved.