Saturday, December 19, 2009
I learned something while participating in NaNoWriMo last month: I don’t write very fast.
When I started NaNoWriMo, I had been reading Doc Savage, Tarzan, and Gabriel Hunt stories. Edgar Rice Burroughs and Lester Dent made their living writing and writing a lot. Famously, the first Doc Savage novel was written in less than a month. With the type of story I was writing and the reading I was doing, I figured I could blaze through my entire 50,000-word novel in 30 days.
I didn’t. Sure, there were days in which I wrote 1,800 to 2,000 words. Those were good days. It was those days that I wanted to channel more of since the words flowed like butter on a hot roll. It was those types of days I figured I could do every time I sat down to write.
Real life, however, is different. For every 1,800-word day, I had a 800-word day. There were some days, of course, where the writing was less a thing of leisure than a grueling slog. Now, all you professional writers out there know that writing is a job and, like a 9-to-5 gig, there are days when you just don’t want to friggin’ write and, yet, you have to. And you do. You’ll make it up with a 3,000-word day.
That’s not me. Yet. I’m working on a new short story and I know all the contours of the tale before I even began. I see the ‘movie’ in my head and I know the bulk of the action and the dialogue. Yesterday, however, as I was putting pixel to screen, the words emerged from me less like butter on a hot roll but more like syrup in January. A couple of passages were agony, so bad that I had to get up and refill my coffee (Eggnog Spice from Rao’s) just to get some breathing room.
It was yesterday that the realization truly crystalized: I’m not a fast writer even though I think I am. To be honest, I’m not slow either. I’m medium. Dave White, in a previous column, also commented that he doesn’t write fast. He wrote again about it two days ago.
In that realization, I couldn’t help but remember James Reasoner’s recent post that he hit the million-word mark the other day. Actually, it was 1 December. Do the math: 1,000,000 words in 334 days = 2,994 words/day. Yowza! But that’s why he’s a pro and I’m not.
But I want to be. To that end, in the coming year, for every project, I’ll be setting word-count goals (weekly, to allow for life to interfere) to reach and surpass. I may not be able to increase the speed of my writing but I will be able to increase the quality of my writing. I suspect that the more seasoned I get, the better the writing will become and, naturally, I’ll write “faster” since I may have fewer edits.
Elmore Leonard once said that he found his voice after writing around a million words. Well, I guess I’d better get started...
Friday, December 18, 2009
(with apologies for the briefness and the flashbacky nature of this post - - the day job has been eating up my time these last few weeks. It happens in retail around this time of year. And I still can’t figure why…)
It came up again recently. Back in 2005, on my original (and still occasionally updated!) blog, I talked about reading a book with dialogue so appalling that I could hardly believe my eyes.
I never read anything quite so bad again.
Until recently. With a book I simply had to finish because I couldn’t believe that every sentence was a cliché, like the author was playing some kind of game to see whether he could actually achieve such banal awfulnesss on such a scale. It didn’t help that the plot was a clichéd retread of every single serial killer novel you’ve ever read and also every movie you’ve ever seen (right up to the appallingly bad in their own right Saw movies).
But it was the dialogue. The unceasing, unsubtle tell-don’t-show dialogue that really made me keep reading. Like, I wanted to see if there was a single shred of human emotion in this book that might ring true.
And as in 2005, I thought about the comics writer, Brian Michael Bendis:
My goals for dialogue come from the fact that I so abhor exposition .Information has to be given to the reader, but I always ask myself if this dialogue I have written is something someone would say out loud.
This is something that runs true for me not just in dialogue, but in narration. A stilted and formal narration has me running for the hills every time. I have to feel like the story is flowing in a way similar to dialogue. Because I love those voices in my head when I read.
Listen to your friends. I mean, really listen. People do not talk in complete, perfectly structured sentences. People stutter, stammer, start and stop sentences in funny places. This is like music to me.
Oh, sing that Brother Bendis.
As I said back then, and as I still believe:
If you want to learn about real dialogue, you should read Bendis’s comic books (Ultimate Spider Man, Powers, the darkly noiresque Jinx, the fantastic run he did on Sam and Twitch where he made two supporting characters from the Godawful Spawn books take on amazing hardboiled lives of their own). You should also read Leonard and Charlie Stella. You should listen to your friends. You should listen to people in the supermarket queue. You should realise that, yes, all written dialogue is artifice, but it shouldn’t feel like artifice! And it shouldn't feel like anyone in the book is trying to tell the reader anything.
Dialogue. Its one of the hardest things you’ll ever write. But if you can get it right, let me tell you, to readers like me, it’ll sing right off the page. And we’ll love you for it.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
When I sat down to write the book I'm working on, I had a great idea.
Write fast and revise a little.
I outlined. I banged away at the keyboard every day 1,000 words. I finished the book. I had someone else read it. I took feedback. I revised.
And now, more than a year later... I'm still revising it.
And with good reason.
The book, that I worked really hard on, that I slaved away at... Just. Wasn't. Good.
But I'm working at it.. and now it's almost done. I think one more round of major plot changing revisions (but not too much) and then some cleaning up... And the book'll be ready.
But I had to learn that. I had to learn that I am not a good writer when I'm writing fast. I can't just barrel my way through a story, dust it up and hand it in. I have to wring my hands over it. I have to think about each and every character and each and every motivation.
I have to write and outline and write and outline some more and then write and character sketch.
And, yes, there are days... weeks, where I just want to put my head through a glass window.
But I realize why I have to do it. I don't want to put out any old thing just to have a book out there.
I want to put out a damn good book.
And I can't do that writing fast. I just can't.
It's taken me two years to come to terms with that. I wrote WHEN ONE MAN DIES in 2 and a half years. And the revisions on that book put it through the wringer. I wrote THE EVIL THAT MEN DO in about 9 months, but it was constant work because I was on deadline. I am always writing and re-writing.
But I want this book to be the best thing I've ever written. And I want my fourth to be the best thing I've ever written.
And sometimes you get a note from your agent that puts a smile on your face... and even that keeps you going. Like this one, from my agent: "Writing's a big steaming jobby, isn't it? You're almost there, pal."
So, if you're a writer, and you're out there struggling with something that's taking FOREVER... take a deep breath... and keep going. You'll get there.
You gotta want it. You gotta want to finish...
But keep working and eventually the end will be in sight.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
There’s even a documentary, The Candian Conspiracy, about how we’ve been trying to take over the American entertainment industry – it was made in the early 80’s so you’ll have to ask your parents to tell you who Anne Murray and Margot Kidder are (and what that weird Superman movie was all about), but it’s only gotten worse.
But it’s the early years of James Cameron’s career I want to talk about and a guy he worked with who isn’t Canadian but sure seems like he is.
In 1980 James Cameron was the art director on a movie called Battle Beyond the Stars, one of the many Star Wars rip-offs that came out at the time.
On a movie like, say, Avatar, art director is a pretty important position that involves a lot of art. On a movie like Battle Beyond the Stars art director was likely a gopher job given to a guy who owned his own car and could source out or make cheap props.
But the important thing about Battle Beyond the Stars was that it was written by John Sayles.
I have no idea if Sayles and Cameron ever talked to one another then, but they sort of worked on the same movie again the next year. John Sayles wrote the screenplay for Piranha in 1978 (a Jaws rip-off) and in 1981 Cameron made his directorial debut when the director of Piranha II: The Spawning was fired or quit (I’m sure it was over artistic differences, it must have been about the art) and Cameron moved from art director to director (something that really only happens when the movie is being produced by Roger Corman).
Sayles used the money he made writing these movies to write and direct his own film, The Return of the Seacacus Seven which later, in a reversal of Sayles’ earlier screenplay rip-offs was itself ripped off by The Big Chill (the difference in the treatment of "the outsider" in each of those films would make a great term paper).
Cameron used the money he made from directing Piranha II and the connections he made to write and direct his own film, The Terminator.
Now really, it seems like it should have been the American to go on and make Aliens and Titanic and Avatar and the Canadian who’d go on to make Matewan and City of Hope and Men With Guns but there you go.
Later, of course, John Sayles made some of the most quintessentially American movies, Passion Fish, Lone Star, Sunshine State, Limbo, Silver City and The Honeydrippers. All of them really good films.
So, tonight while everyone I know is going to see my fellow Canadian James Cameron’s giant sci fi movie epic I’m going to stay home and pop in my DVD of Brother From Another Planet, my kind of sci fi movie.
And then maybe I’ll watch The Canadian Conspiracy (“Lorne Greene – green card? You think that’s a coincidence?!?!):
Monday, December 14, 2009
By Jay Stringer
I shake a lot these days.
I tried to spit three hours ago and my lips are still sore. I wont be doing that again for a while. Rosie says things get better; she says it’s all worth it in the end. I don’t really believe a word she says though, because she died in 1996.
The bed is wet and not very comfortable. Its good though; its warm, and wet is better than cold.
Rosie used to stand on the street corner. I’d see her every Wednesday. She’d always be holding the same bag of sweets, sucking on them between her teeth, telling stories to cute strangers and asking for favours. She was really sweet. I think, sometimes, that I loved her before I even met her. I’d always loved her. There was magic in the way she talked and the stories she told. She carried herself like she was an old movie star. One of the big pampered ones from black and white, when Hollywood meant something more than sleaze and money. The way she went on, it was like it was perfectly natural for someone to be an old time movie star and a young girl on the streets. Like you could be both at once.
We believed it.
Moving to the city was the best thing I ever did. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have done anything. I’d still be back home. My parents would still be asking me when I was going to get a job, and my friends would still be tapping me for money.
But here in the city? Nobody taps me for money.
I moved up with my best friend, Billy. He played bass and had really cool hair. Wore tartan trousers in a way that didn’t look stupid. I tried it once. Looked stupid.
Billy loved Rosie, too. He’d talk about her all the time, and I think his songs were about her. She broke his heart just like mine, but the difference was he came up here to get his heart broken. Its what he’d always wanted; singing songs about girls even before he knew what girls were.
Music does that to you.
There was someone hammering on my door a couple of minutes ago, but I didn’t hear what they were saying and I didn’t move. They always stop eventually.
I remember the first time I spoke to Rosie. She gave me a grin, the sort that she didn’t give to just anyone. She told me all about the films she’d been in and all the rich men who’d bought her jewellery. I told her I was in a band, and she looped her arm round mine and we walked down the street arm in arm. We got drunk on a rooftop and shouted at the sky.
It was great, I’d recommend it.
Last time I watched the news, they talked about how it had never been this hot in the city before, that even in the shade it was hot. I remember they showed someone frying an egg on the roof of a car. I can believe it. I just want some rain. Have you ever got high in the rain? It’s the best feeling. It doesn’t matter what you’re taking, rain makes it better. You can sit and feel it, only you’ll really feel it, you know? Or you can cry about how beautiful it is. Rosie was a crier. She’d sit and cry at most things, when she got like that;
She was crying the last time I saw her. Her makeup was streaked and dark and her dress was torn. She’d been out on the town, but the comedown had been epic, it was showing no signs of stopping.
She said, “Would you believe me if I said I was Jesus?”
I said, “Would you believe me if I told you anything?”
She hugged us both for most of the night and nobody ever saw her after that.
I argued with Billy last time I saw him. He said I was fucked up, that I’d stolen money from him. I don’t know what he was on about, I spent an hour helping him look for that money. If I had taken it, I would have known where to look, wouldn’t I?
I sneezed yesterday and blood came away with it, and I’m having all sorts of problems you don’t want to know about. I spoke to this guy who told me he knew what I was going through. He quoted scripture and Bob Dylan. His hair was matted and I wondered if that’s how people looked when they got saved. All I know is that he said he’d help me if I gave him some money. I had money in my pocket.
He went away after that. I haven’t seen him since. I’ll just stay here until he gets back.
You could see it by the way he swallowed too much. The way he let everyone at the reading get in line ahead of him. The way he mumbled to himself, practicing what he was going to say.
There was going to be trouble.
I was over to the side by the shelves, hanging out, waiting to see if he needed to be tackled – like this was how I wanted to spend my Thursday night.
“To Rodney,” he said when he handed the book to the author. “I’m really your biggest fan.”
“Thanks, Rodney,” the author said, signing, then handing the book back.
“I mean, you probably get that a lot.”
“Always nice to hear. Glad you like the books.” He capped his pen, slid it into his pocket. Started to push away from the table.
“Oh, yes," Rodney said. "You’re what got me into writing.”
Yeah. I cracked my neck, bent my legs to keep loose. This might not end well. I hadn’t put an elbow into anyone’s temple in months, but I wanted to be ready.
The author looked around for his helper. She’d gone to the coffee bar to get him a chai latte. He couldn’t decide whether to stand up.
“Maybe you’ve heard of me,” Rodney said. “I run a Web site called The [something mumbled]-cy.” Prophecy. Contingency. Something like that. The Moon Fart Prophecy, for all I knew. I guess I don’t pay attention.
“Oh, well,” the author said. “Good. That’s good.”
“I thought maybe you might like to read some of my stories. I printed a book. Sold out, too. My teacher said it’s a cross between Harlan Ellison and Jerry Seinfeld.”
“Well, good luck with that.”
“I thought maybe you might like to look at it. I mention you in the acknowledgements.”
“Oh, uh,” the author took the coffee from his helper who’d just gotten back to the card table. “Sure, if you can leave it with,” he leaned over to look, “Marcie here, she can mail it to me.”
“That’s great. I thought you might like to look at it.” Yeah, we got that, Rodney.
The author turned, knocked over a couple of stacks of his books and a poster of himself on the edge of a dragon’s fire, and sloshed his coffee all the way to the back of the store.
Rodney harrumphed at having to give the manuscript to Marcie, who took it, stacked it on about ten more just like it, and walked to the back.
Rodney turned to walk out of the store. “Think he’ll ever look at it?”
“I don’t know, man,” I said. “But you have to take a shot. C’mon. I’ll buy you a drink on the way home. We gotta be at Mom’s in an hour.”
So I was thinking about the different kinds of folks who come to readings.
The writer: Has written something and wants help with it. Or help promoting it. Just the name of an editor. Or agent. One of those publishing people. Or wonders why your crap gets published while hers is too good for an agent.
The reader: Has read all the books and wonders why in your first book the narrator’s mother was called “Nancy” and in the second book she’s “Nanci.” Or wonders why in this new book that people are just buying now for the first time but that she’s read because her aunt works in publishing, well, why did you make the school teacher be the murderer? That was a completely unexpected twist on page 300.
The wanderer: Heard there was something going on and thought there might be crackers with that soft cheese covered in nut bits.
I was at the Jeff VanderMeer reading in Richmond, VA last week. Most everyone was really nice, though I’ll admit it was touch and go there for a second or two. There was no one there like Rodney. I'd have TwitPic-ed the heck out of that.
Mr. VanderMeer talked about his book tour, gave some insights into writing. Charming. Bright-eyed. He couldn't have been more entertaining if he'd have been juggling drunk armadillos.
Ever since Dave posted here about the folks who come to his readings saying they could stuff write better than his if only they had time, I was thinking about all the other types of folks who come to readings. And why. They’ve spent 400 pages with you and want to see what you’re like in person? They heard your book was cool and wanted to give you a shot? Are you looking for your community? Other fans of Jay Stringer or whomever? What's the point of a reading? The jibber-jabber on the InnerWebs is that readings are dead because they cost too much (thousands) to sell too few books (5-ish).
I've been star-struck at readings of favorite writers and completely dorked it up. No, seriously. I have. No, really. Oh, I see. You're making fun. Oh, haha.
Anyway, why do you got to readings?
If you give readings, what kind of audience do you want?
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Glen watched the kid creep up behind the armoured car guards from across the street. The kid only got his right hand on one of the bags sitting on the snow-covered sidewalk before a guard noticed. The kid took off, leaving the bag where it was, with the guard in tow. Robbing a bank is easy, Glen thought as he watched the chase. Easy when all you put into it is balls. Glen stood outside Union Station looking at his watch. The Timex Ironman he wore digitally showed him everything: Friday, December 14, 9:57 a.m. The snow was coming down heavy; big flakes fell on his face making him blink to get the cold powder out of his eyelashes. Robbing banks was easy all right, Glen thought, but doing it right took more than balls. You have to treat it like a job, and do that job by the numbers. Plenty of cons have balls. They also have a 6 a.m. wake up call every morning in their cages. Pro’s do the job, get paid, and go home.
The light went green and a crowd of people began to build up beside Glen at the curb. Everyone held shopping bags in their gloved hands. The slush on the ground was too thick to splash, so everyone crowded close to the street waiting for the blinking white man to tell them they could cross. Glen watched a cab accelerate over the slick pavement trying to beat the yellow. He positioned the box he was carrying under his arm and put a gloved hand to the watch. He accessed the stopwatch, and hit start. The numbers sped by in milliseconds as Glen’s foot found the ass of the best-dressed shopper holding the most bags. By 00:00.75, the woman was in front of the cab. By 00:00.85, she was under the wheels.
There were screams, panic, phone calls, and accusations, but Glen didn’t pay any attention. He was already at the stairs. Glen took the stairs two at a time down to the subway platform.
At the bottom of the stairs, Glen caught sight of Terrence standing in the corner of the platform. There was a ten-foot radius of space between Terrence and the rest of the crowd waiting on the concrete. The men and women on the edge of the circle forced the other people towards the waiting train like Spartan warriors. The smell coming off Terrence was a fate worse than death. He saw Glen and walked in his wake towards the waiting Train. He caught up easily, people parted like puddles in front of Moses when they caught sight or smell of the bearded man. His coat was a seasons old puffy winter ski coat with several holes leaking down. His shoes and gloves were wrapped in duct tape, and a smelly toque was stretched over his long filthy dreadlocked hair.
“Good to see you, Terrence,” Glen said as they boarded the train. He glanced at the Timex and saw that it read 00:45.15. By 02:00.00, the first cops would be on scene at the accident on the street above. More cops would stream in every minute after as the calls to 911 set off chatter all over the police bandwidth.
“I hope this female is as fine as you say ‘cause my time be worth money, Charlie.”
Glen had told Terrence that his name was Charlie when he befriended him over a week ago. “I told you; she’s just back on the market, and she has a thing for bad boys.”
“Well, they don’t get badder than Mr. T. She probably just pity fools like you.” Terrence laughed at his own joke while the subway car shifted away.
“Here, this is two dozen long stem roses. She loves roses.”
Terrence accepted the box and examined its four sides. “You start a bitch on roses, you can’t end with dandelions. She gonna haf’ ‘pectations from this.”
“She won’t. Now leave the box alone, it’s classy if they come in a box. Chicks dig classy.”
“I be a classy gent, Charlie.” Terrence laughed again, but Glen didn’t think he got the irony of his own joke.
The train came to a second stop, and the two men left the vacant part of the train car they stood in. As they walked away, Glen saw the people file into the space they had left open for Terrence and his smell.
They climbed the stairs together while Glen laid out the plan. “She might not be on break yet, so wait by the doors until I tell you to come over. I don’t want her boss to get upset; it will ruin your chances.”
“Once she gets a load ‘a me and these here flowers, she won’t care what her boss gots to say.”
“Just wait, okay? Be patient.”
“Whatever you say, Charlie man. But remember, I got plans. I got to meet with my many associates today.”
Glen led Terrence into the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. He took him by the shoulder and stood him to the side of the doors. “Stand here. Hold the flowers up so when I point you out, she sees them.”
“Okay, player. Do your thing. Do that voodoo that you do so well.”
Glen got in line and looked at the Timex – 4:57.28.The two local squad cars would already be at the accident scene four blocks away. The ambulance would be another minute out on a good day, but the snow, combined with the traffic that had instantly started building up around the accident, would grind everything in an eight-block radius to a halt. Response time for the wagon would be in the double digits.
Glen got in line behind three old women. The bank had opened less than two minutes ago and there was a backup already. The time of year and day was a bitch for bank tellers. They had to be ready early with three times as much cash in their tills to help every grandmother, who was still petrified of the ATM, fill their grandchildren’s Christmas cards with crisp twenties and fifties.
Sweat built up under the two coats Glen was wearing, but he kept his head tilted down and a smile on his face. The outer coat was a leather Harley Davidson motorcycle jacket; it was adorned with several orange and silver crests and a huge eagle emblem on the back of the coat. Over his shoulder, Glen had a Harley Davidson duffel bag he bought at the same store he picked up the jacket in.
“The snow is coming down so hard today. I’m glad I wore my boots,” an old woman said gesturing to her tiny feet.
“Yes, ma’am, the snow is stacking up, but I’m gonna shop anyway. My boys need their toys.”
“The toys change every year don’t they?”
“Only the money stays the same.”
“Nothing. You’re up, ma’am.”
She turned her head to see an exasperated teller with a vacant spot in front of her. “Oh, I’m sorry. Merry Christmas.”
Glen checked the camera pointed at the head of the line with his eyes only. Chubb security cameras were old school these days. Their images were grainy and poor under the best conditions. Most new branches opted for more current technology, but the older branches subscribed to the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ adage. He could smile right up at the lens and they would not be able to get more than an image that could be almost any male between the age of twenty and fifty. Glen stopped thinking about the camera and put his right hand into his pocket around the Walther PPK. The small British Gun served secret agents and James Bond well; it would do just fine in the bank.
“Next customer, please.”
Glen walked to the teller who called out to him. She was a young woman in her twenties, fresh faced, blond, and fashionable. She wore a colourful shirt with a daring neckline for the bank she worked in. She accessorized with chunky retro earrings and a matching ring. It looked like the sombre winter weather never touched her.
“How can I help you?” She asked.
Glen put an arm on the counter and looked back to Terrence.
“You see that man over there?” Glen said tilting his head towards the doors.
“The… um… gentleman by the entrance?” The teller said, choosing the word gentleman with care.
“Yeah, inside the box he’s holding is a shotgun; one of those big loud ones that you have to pump. You say a word out of turn and he will let loose with it.”
The girl looked confused and startled. Glen brought the pistol out from his pocket and put it under his palms on the counter so that the teller was the only person who could see it.
“Wave to him so he knows you understand.”
The teller waved and Terrence smiled. He lifted the box to show her the flowers and she winced as though he was showing her a dead rat.
“You been robbed before?”
She shook her head.
“It’s easy. Nothing to type in, you just load the bag with all of the cash in your till, no bait money, and we leave.”
The girl stared at Glen, then at Terrence. A single black mascara tear ran down her cheek. Glen looked over at Terrence. He saw him look, smiled, and began to walk towards the teller.
The teller saw Terrence moving in on her and said, “Okay, okay, I’ll do it.”
Glen put out a hand and stopped Terrence before he got ten steps from the door. He looked disappointed, but he stopped and went back to his spot.
“Just load the bag fast, and my friend stays where he is,” Glen said.
“Something wrong, Denise?” The older teller on the right had finished with her customer and she was looking warily at the bag on the counter, and at Glen.
“Tell her,” Glen said.
The young blond put her face to the older woman’s ear and whispered out a stream of words that caused her body to shake. When the older teller looked at Terrence, he beamed and raised the flowers. Glen nodded and mouthed the word, “Classy.” The bum smiled back and nodded his head.
“I’m going to need the money from both tills please,” Glen said.
By 7:32.41, Glen had a duffel bag full of money. “Now, I don’t have to tell you two to stay calm until we leave. None of us wants to see what’s in that box,” Glen said nodding towards Terrence. “After we’re gone, you can scream bloody murder. Okay?”
The two women nodded.
“Merry Christmas.” Glen said.
The younger teller actually returned the festive goodbye. Glen got to Terrence and whispered in his filthy ear, “They can’t wait to meet you, big guy. Keep it classy.”
“You know it, Charlie.”
The bum hustled towards the two women while Glen moved outside. He heard their screams from the street. The snow was still falling hard and it was collecting on the gridlocked cars in front of the bank. Glen checked his watch—eight and change. The bank job had taken three minutes and the nearest cops were four blocks and at a quarter of an hour away. Half a block away, he went down a flight of stairs leading to the subway and walked straight into the washroom. He pulled off the Harley Davidson jacket and took the empty backpack he wore underneath off his shoulders. He loaded the money from the duffel bag into the backpack and put it back on over the navy blue peacoat. Glen left the Harley Davidson coat and bag in one of the bathroom stalls and walked onto the waiting westbound train.
Rick got on the train behind Glen and stood behind him holding the overhead rail for stability as the train pulled away. In the tight confinement of the subway car, he could smell the stick-up man’s aftershave. The knife he was carrying was unfolded and pressed against his thigh. Rick had seen the teller’s face while he was in line at the bank. He knew the look on her face well. It was a look he had planned to put on a few faces in the bank himself. That was until the bastard in the two coats got to the teller before him. Rick watched the man gesture to the bum, watched the bag get filled, and he watched the thief leave—but it was from outside the bank. He left before the stick-up man and waited in an alley outside. He waited again outside the bathroom while the guy changed coats and bags. Now on the subway, he would wait a little longer until the packed train car was pulling into the next station. He’d slip the knife in under the stick-up man’s ribs and rip it across his back. His lungs would fill with blood while he cut the backpack straps off his shoulders. Rick figured he would be off the train and up the stairs by the time any of the busy Torontonians gave up their practiced vacant subway stares to notice the body. Robbing banks is easy, Rick thought, easy when someone else puts it all on the line for you.