Amy answered the phone, “PayDayNow,” and a man’s voice said, “Yeah, hi, how are you?”
“I’m good, what can I do for you?”
She was on her stool behind the counter, looking at a few people who’d already cashed their cheques but were still standing around the store. Regulars, a couple of guys in paint-splattered overalls and work boots and a big woman with a diaper bag over her shoulder.
“That was really something in Boston,” the man on the phone said.
“What?” Amy asked.
“At the marathon, those people killed, those bombs.”
“Yeah, that was something.”
“Couple of guys did all that damage with some fireworks and a pot.”
The woman with the diaper bag left.
Amy said, “Do you need to cash a cheque?”
“All they did was leave a couple backpacks.”
“You see that backpack by the front door?”
“I see it.”
“You better get the manager.”
When Mike got on the phone the man told him that the bomb in the backpack could be set off by a remote. “I’m watching the building, I can see those two chicks coming in. Here’s what you do, you let the cashiers keep working while you go get the money out of the safe, put it in one of those big brown envelopes and put that in the garbage can in front of the dry cleaner. Then walk right back to PayDayNow and stay inside.”
“What about the… backpack?”
“Don’t touch it.”
“Call the cops, the bomb squad will be able to take it apart easy.”
Mike hung up and looked at Amy. She was scared, sure, but holding it together which helped him keep it together. He went back into his office and put the money – had to be almost twenty grand – into an envelope. He stopped then because he hated to lick the fucking glue, but almost laughed as if that was the worst of his problems.
He walked back out to the front of the store and glanced at Amy who was serving the two women. She looked at him and gave him a little nod as he pushed open the door. He walked along Danforth thinking Amy was okay. No, she was good so why do I give her such a hard time? Because she’s always giving me a hard time, he thought; coming in late, never wanting to work extra shifts, bitching about everything, her mother, her kid, never having a babysitter, everything.
He dropped the envelope in the garbage can then, looking around, walked back to PayDayNow. It was busy, lots of cars, buses and lots of people. The guy on the phone could be anywhere, he could be in a car, he could be that guy walking the dog or the one on the bike.
Back inside Mike stood by the door. When the two women left he turned the sign to ‘closed,’ and said to Amy, “Call the cops.”
He couldn’t see the garbage can from inside the store so he started to open the door.
“Wait,” Amy said.
Mike stopped and looked over his shoulder at her. She was pointing at his feet and he looked down and saw the backpack.
A cop car pulled up a minute later. Mike opened the door and said, “There’s a bomb.”
The cops were fast. They stood on the sidewalk on either side of the PayDayNow front door and held back the pedestrian traffic. More cop cars showed up and closed Danforth and Vic Park. Buses, cars and trucks backed up. The place was a mess within minutes.
Then the bomb squad arrived with all their fancy toys, even had a robot. They spent hours working on it. They finally got the backpack open and found a pot inside all right, not a pressure cooker, just a regular pot with the lid taped on. When they got that open they found it was full of nails and nuts and bolts – but no explosives.
Mike said, “I fucking knew it.” He’d already given his statement to a couple of detectives and now he had to go over it again. Before he did that he said to Amy, “You might as well go home.”
As she was going out the door Mike said, “You have to get home for the babysitter.”
“Yeah, that’s right,” Amy said.
When Amy unlocked the door to her apartment and went inside, her son, Josh, was sitting on the living room floor playing a video game.
He said, “So, how’d it go?”
“Exactly the way we planned.” She picked up the envelope and poured the money onto to the kitchen table.
Had to be close to twenty grand, exactly what she’d expected.
“The voice thing worked perfectly,” Amy said. “He was certain he was speaking to a man with a deep voice.”
“It really helped I could talk to you first.”
The way they’d planned it. A familiar voice, help Josh to calm down. Make it feel like a game.
“Okay, so now we can sign you up for hockey.”
She watched him playing the video game, glad he’d be getting into something that would get him out of the house. Something that would get him a little exercise.
Bio: John McFetridge is the author of the ‘Toronto Series’ novels; Dirty Sweet, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Swap and Tumblin’ Dice. His short fiction has appeared in the collections Terminal Damage, Collateral Damage and Discount Noir.