[previous chapter] [start from the beginning] Despite his relatively young age, Abdul Bédard-Lellouche knew how to be a successful crook. And he sure taught me a lot. You had to be quiet. You had to watch your back, and above all else you had to be straight with your people. Which was kind of funny considering the business we were in. “The Importance of Honesty in the Criminal Professions,” that’s not a title you see in bookstores, much. But it was true, and many of Abdul’s former friends had neglected that rule, to their detriment.

And by detriment I mean death.

Abdul knew a lot of small-time crooks who’d left the business feet first. Their deaths hadn’t always been pleasant, to be sure. Some had been harvested by the grim reaper in especially ghastly ways, like this kid Abdul used to see at the subway station, Marcus, who got his balls squeezed to bursting point for having had the temerity to kiss a girl he hadn’t realized belonged to someone much more self-important than him. Abdul had been there when they found his body, a bullet in the head and his scrotum burst open. I don’t care how tough you think you are, some of the stories of how the mob enforces its own rules give me the creeps. And apparently Marcus wasn’t the worst.

Anyway, Abdul had no intention of following that kind of example. (Me neither!) He knew he would probably never make it to the big leagues of organized crime, and that was fine with him. He just wanted to be big enough not to be on the street doing the dirty work himself. He didn’t want to be so big as to be a problem for the really big guys. He wanted to be one of their junior, mostly trustworthy partners. And he mostly wanted to be left alone to do his thing.

Abdul’s plan to achieve his goal was to develop a niche market that wasn’t already controlled by organized crime and that was reasonably clean. For while Abdul did not mind selling pot, “normal” prostitution or killing people, he had a real distaste for selling psychosomatic drugs to teenagers and he could not stand it when humans were trafficked into the sex trade against their will. It was one thing for a 16-year-old from the boonies to run off to Montreal and end up dancing and having sex for the money she needed to live. But he drew the line at selling kids for sex.

In an odd way, Abdul was a pretty decent criminal. That was one reason I didn’t mind working for him. He also had a lot of empathy for people who’d had a patch of rough luck. Like me, say. Or my girlfriend – I’ll tell you more about her in a few minutes. My Claire…

Anyway. Abdul and the mob. He knew he had to do a few things to prove himself before they’d accept him. That was the only way they did business. Abdul never told me what the things he had to do to prove himself were, and I can live with that. Not that I’ll be living much longer. But you know what I mean. I feel better not knowing.

To make a long story short (if it’s not too late), Abdul wanted the kind of easy money that came with reasonably sophisticated crime but that was pretty much as ambitious as he was. So he found a niche for himself to develop, and he hired me to help him do that.

Ironically it was his mother who gave him the idea, indirectly, of course, and no, she knew nothing of his activities. Are you kidding? She’d die right there on the spot if she knew. He told her he worked for a friend’s dad, who was managing a call centre for big companies like Rogers and Sears. He’d even gone so far as to hire the services of an off-site receptionist so he could give his mom his “work” phone number and when she called there a pleasant young lady would answer “Fréchette Communications bonjour, how may I direct your call?” Abdul’s mom would ask for him and the pleasant young lady would say, “Certainly I will tell him to call you back as soon as he’s free” and leave him a message on his “real” phone for him to call his mother using the cellphone he kept just for that. Abdul had about eight different cellphones, for various aspects of his life, and they were even colour-coded to help him remember which was which.

Obviously, Abdul was no dumbass. Or so we liked to think.

His mother had told him about an acquaintance of hers in Rimouski who was complaining so much about having to keep his mother in a nursing home because she was senile and incontinent and unpleasant with everyone to boot. That man was going so far as to say, out loud, that if he could get away with it he’d have his mother killed. This would accomplish several goals: 1) free his poor mother from the shackles of dementia, since her life wasn’t much of one anymore anyway; 2) free up a space in the already overburdened elderly care system for someone who at least still had some mental faculties, and 3) stop spending this particular man’s inheritance on the old crone while at the same time freeing the entire family from having to visit someone who didn’t recognize them anymore.

“I thought it was a horrible thing to say,” Abdul’s mother had almost cried to him on the phone. “Can you imagine being in that kind of position where you think killing someone is an act of mercy, and it actually is an act of mercy? Oh, Abdul, I hope I die well before that point so you’re never put in the position that man is in…”

She’d cried a bit more then moved right along to other things, but Adbul’s mind had been set racing. That was four years ago and much progress had already been made on that original idea.

[next chapter]