Saturday, December 25, 2010

Santa in a Red Dress

John McFetridge

An edited version of this story appeared in the magazine DRIVEN and there's a live version of me reading it at an ECW Press party on YouTube somewhere.

I was given the title, "Santa in a Red Dress," by the magazine editor and asked to come up with a story and here it is:


JT had been with the Saints of Hell going on two years, since almost the day he got back from Afghanistan, moving up from hangaround to prospect, still doing the shit work till he could get his patch. Like this: driving two days to Moncton to meet a guy who’d picked up 80 kilos of coke offshore.

Just before dawn, the freighter Sharon David, carrying low-sulphur coal from Maracaibo, Venezuela, to Sydney, Nova Scotia, passed by a mile off the coast, and one of the Filipino crew members tossed an oil drum overboard. At sun-up, a lobster fisherman named Jerry McNeil and his brother-in-law followed the GPS signal to the drum and pulled it onboard.

They had the drum open and the coke in three hockey bags before they got back to shore.

Later that day, Jerry drove almost four hours from Port Dufferin to the Magnetic Hill Motel in Moncton, parked his pickup in front of room number six and went to the coffee shop. Ten minutes later, JT came out of room number nine, took the hockey bags, 60 pounds apiece, and left a backpack with 40 grand in cash—enough to get Jerry through one more season, maybe two, the price of lobsters doesn’t go down as much as the price of fuel goes up.

JT drove back to Toronto, 15 hours in a brand-new Camaro, 300 horsepower and a Boston Acoustics stereo. On the T-Can through New Brunswick he saw a few signs for the US border: twelve miles, nine miles, always so close, and he thought how the coke he was carrying would bring almost twice as much wholesale in Canada, over 40 grand a kilo, because the market was so tightly controlled. The retail price in Canada was less than in the US, maybe 50 bucks a gram instead of 70 or 75, because the Saints sold to anybody and let them fight it out on the street. But that wasn’t his problem.

Getting the patch, that was his problem. Once JT had that, he’d never have to touch the product again.


Det. Barb Roxon drove the Crown Vic from Toronto to Buffalo, two and a half hours with Det. Jason Loewen in the passenger seat telling her what a great deal this will be, how the guy with the coke, Dave Ogilvy, used to be a singer, had a few hits years ago and how he’s buying from the Saints but here he is bringing some back in from the states.

“So he’s not the smartest guy in the world.”

Loewen said, no, not too bright. “He doesn’t think ahead that much. This’ll be great for us.”

Roxon thinking, yeah for us, Loewen saying how he met a cop from Syracuse at the cross-border information-sharing conference they had in Rochester. He said, “Were you there,” and Roxon said no.

Loewen said, that’s right, and then told her again what a great party she missed, they booked the whole Holiday Inn, “All hundred and twenty rooms, place was rocking, cops from all over New York state, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, couple guys from Vermont, it was great.”

“You got a lot of work done?”

Loewen laughed and said, yeah, we did, “In between the drinking, that American beer may be weak-ass shit, but they make up for it by drinking more.”

“So you met a guy from Syracuse?”

“I met a woman from Syracuse, an Onandaga County Sherrif’s Deputy. We had an excellent informal information exchange, just what the program’s about.”

Roxon said she didn’t think the program was about cops getting laid and Loewen said, no, “That’s just a bonus, you should come to the next one, going to be in Detroit.”

“We’ll see.”

“You’re getting back on your feet, Barb, you’re doing great. So anyway, Deputy Edwards was pissed the Feds were taking all the credit for a big coke bust a couple months ago, local cops worked it for a year, guys were moving ten kilos every couple of weeks, a big operation for central New York.”

“Just coke, not meth?”

“Not these guys. Isobel says they had ‘over-lapping supply,’ she said they were going to keep moving up the chain but the Feds couldn’t wait, made the bust and shut down the investigation.”


“None of the supply was from Canada, as far as she could tell, but it looks like they had a few customers from the Great White North.”

“Like our Dave Ogilvy.”

“I asked her to keep me posted, you know, we could get together and continue to exchange information.”

Roxon said, “You’re so romantic,” and Loewen said I am, you know, “I really am.”

Then he said, “So the coke is flowing again in Syracuse and the locals are starting over now that the Feds have fucked off and Isobel calls and tells me about a car with Ontario plates going to see a supplier.”

“Paying half what he would back home.”

“Who can blame him? So, she follows him to the border and they’re waiting for us.”

“This woman really likes you.”

“She’s a good cop.”

“She married?”

“Come on, Barb.” Loewen shook his head, looked hurt and Roxon was thinking about apoligizing when he said, “Been seperated more than a month when I met her.”

“Oh, well then.”


Dave Ogilvy sat in the holding room on the Buffalo side of the border, looking at his ripped-open goalie pads and the kilo of coke on the table. He wanted to tell these cops—the guy and the woman who looked pretty good for late 40s—that they didn’t need to rip open both pads, but he kept his mouth shut because he knew there was more going on.

These were Canadian cops, Toronto cops, on the American side of the border. They were the only ones in the room with him, and so far no one had said anything about arresting him.

The woman cop—Dave figured she must be a jogger, no tits but flat stomach and a very tight butt—was saying no one could blame him for going to the States for his coke. “The Saints selling that watered-down shit at twice the price.”

Dave was looking at her, thinking he wasn’t going to get caught up in whatever the fuck it was she was doing.

“But this, this cost you what, 20 grand?”

She could do something with her hair, maybe grow it out or something, get a decent style, but cops probably didn’t get paid that much. She was doing the best she could with that tight blouse under her jacket.

Then she said, “The thing is, Dave, how are the Saints going to feel about you selling this in Toronto? They think they’re your only supplier, don’t they? You get what, a key a month from them?”

He started to get it and he said, “No fucking way.”

“No one needs to know, Dave, we’re not going to tell anyone.”

He said, “No. Fuck you.”

She looked at the other cop, the guy -- they were sympathetic, nodding like they understood, like they were both the good cop and then she said, “You used to be a singer, didn’t you?”

“I still am.”

“Well, it makes a good front, play a few gigs with your old band -- what’re you called, Smiley’s People? I saw you once, years ago, at Canada’s Wonderland, with Kim Mitchell.”

“We played the Sound Academy last month, big Q107 anniversary thing, Kim was there, too.”

“Love those ‘Patio Lanterns’. You’re singing some radio jingles, aren’t you, is that you on the FedEx ones, the office shipping guy?” She looked at him, Dave thinking, You really did your homework, think you know everything, fine, but I’m not going to fucking help you.

“And dealing the coke makes for a good living.”

Shit, maybe they were both the bad cop, he couldn’t fucking tell.

Then she said, “Okay, Dave, we’re all friends here on the wrong side of the border, we’re just talking, we don’t have any jurisdiction here. Look, I’m Detective Roxon, this is Detective Loewen.”

Dave said, “Yeah, well, I’m not giving you shit about the Saints of Hell.”

And Loewen spoke for the first time, saying, “You don’t think so?”

“We know the guy you deal with isn’t a full patch yet.”

“Or he wouldn’t be dealing with you.”

Dave looked at the guy thinking, Oh right, so you’re the bad cop?

“But he’s on his way up. So you stay close to him and we stay close to you.”

“You have to be fucking insane you think I’ll go along with this, Detective Roxon.”

Loewen poked the torn open goalie pad saying, “Dave, I don’t see you have a choice.”

“This goes on long enough,” Roxon said, “you can call me Barb.”


Dave took 10 eight balls to Rebecca Almieda, a hooker who lived in the condo building on Queen’s Quay across from the Toronto Star building, and asked if maybe he could get a tip for the delivery.

Rebecca, 21 years old and sexy as hell in her yoga pants and sports bra, held out the 15 hundred and said, “You can have this, or we can fuck, which one you want?”

“How about a blow job?”

She peeled off five hundred bucks and said, “You still want it,” holding out the grand.

Dave laughed, said he was just screwing with her.

“That’s my business, you’re ever really interested.”

“Too rich for my blood.” He took the fifteen and Rebecca took the coke, walking into the bedroom, saying over her shoulder, “You ever get a hit single, we can talk.”

Dave watched her go, thinking, This Christmas song I’m working on gets played enough, you never know. It was a novelty song, but close enough. How else do you get on the radio these days?

Rebecca came back into the living room saying, “I’m going to Ottawa for a few days, can I get some more by Monday?”

“Sure, as much as you want.”

She raised her eyebrow and tilted her head looking at him and he said, “You’re a good customer.”

She said, “Sure I am,” and walked towards the door, Dave following. She looked at the money still in his hand and said, “You sure you don’t want to spend a little of that, you’re already here,” and he said, no, that’s okay, “I have to meet a guy.”

She said, “He won’t fuck you like I can,” and winked at him.


JT was waiting at Cherry Beach, middle of the afternoon and no one was around, not even a
dog walker.

Dave pulled into the parking lot in his Monte Carlo and JT said to follow him.

“So,” JT said, “you still had some left, from last month?” and Dave said, what do you mean, and JT said, “You sold some this morning, you still had some from the last delivery,” and Dave said, oh yeah, right, “A little, just a little.”

They walked into the woods there, toward Unwin Street, Dave following.

JT said, good, “That’s good stock management, you’re doing good.”

“Yeah, well...”

JT stopped and said, “What,” and Dave said, “Look, I have to tell you something, some cops talked to me.”

JT told him to hang on, and they walked further into the woods till he was sure they were completely alone. Dave said, “It’s like we’re fags, coming out here to get laid.”

JT said, “What about the cops?”

Dave shifted on his feet. “Yeah, they stopped me... on my way back from New York from that charity hockey game I played in. You know, celebrities against old timers. We had Jason Priestley, couple of guys from The Tragically Hip, Barenaked Ladies. Michael J. Fox was coaching -- ha, what the fuck else is he going to do, right? Barely hold a stick.”

JT said, “Yeah.”

“Yeah, so they stopped me at the border. I... shit, this is hard.”

“Take your time.”

“They stopped me and, really, they wanted to know about you.”


“Well, the thing is, I was bringing something back, I had some...”

“Some what?”

“Some... fuck, you know, it’s just... anyway, I don’t want to... okay, look, I was bringing back some coke, a guy sold me some while I was there, it was so cheap.”

“Yeah, that American shit, it’s half Inositol you know, what did you get, eight ball?” Dave closed his eyes and JT nodded, said, “Tell me, Dave.”

“Guy sold me a kilo. But they knew, the cops knew. Some Toronto cops stopped me at the border -- didn’t want to arrest me. They wanted me to give them info on you.”

JT said, oh yeah? “What’d you tell them?”

“Shit, JT, you know, I didn’t tell them fuck all. They didn’t even know who I dealt with really, they didn’t have a name, they just knew I bought wholesale in Toronto so it must be from a Saint.”

“You’re not wearing a wire now, are you?”

“Fuck no, no way.”

JT said okay, that’s good, and Dave was getting antsy, pacing a little, looking around but there was nobody. He said, “I figured, you know, I’d tell you right away, tell you and then I could be like a double agent, I could give the cops wrong shit, like misinformation.”

JT said, “That’s good thinking.”


“Yeah, that’s a very good idea. And you’re sure they didn’t have an ID on me?”

“Positive. They showed me pictures, you and Boner and Mitch, a couple of the other guys, but they don’t know shit.”

“Okay, that’s good.”

JT took out his .38, his Colt, and shot Dave in the face. Two more in the back of the head when Dave was on the ground, thinking, shit, pictures of all us prospects. Fuck. He’d have to call one of them now, get some help dumping the body, get rid of the shitty Monte Carlo.

Then he thought, no, just leave it here. If it got out one of his dealers was picked up by the cops he’d be even further from that full patch.


Detective Roxon said, “Three shots at close range,” and Loewen, who was talking to the coroner, said, “Yeah, his head’s pretty much blown off, have to wait for the lab reports.”

She said, “Why? Because we can’t figure out one of The Saints did it?”

“You sure he wasn’t out here looking for a hummer?”

The whole place was taped off, uniformed cops all over looking for evidence, Roxon knowing they wouldn’t find anything.

Loewen said, “Shit, he’s got a Christmas song on his iPod.” He had one headphone on, nodding to the beat. “It’s ‘Devil in a Blue Dress’ but changed—now it’s ‘Santa in a Red Dress’.”

“Is it him singing?”

Loewen said, “Shit yeah, it might be.”

“Too bad for him, that one might’ve been a hit.”


Paul D Brazill said...

This story reminded me of the Middlesbro biker's gang, Satan's Slaves, who change their name to Santa's Slaves every Xmas. A beut of a story.

Joyce said...

What a great story. Nice and gritty and dark, with such a sense of realism. Terrific characters too.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Great story John. Like a reading an outake from Let it Ride/

Evan Lewis said...

Cool. I could go for more from this cast.

seana graham said...

Me too. Great, great dialogue. Thanks for the Christmas Day treat.

Alan Griffiths said...

Thanks for a Christmas treat, John. Great characters, dialogue and story.

Al Tucher said...

I think I want to meet Detective Roxon. Strictly, professional, of course.

Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...

"That one might've been a hit." < Well this one was ... I traveled right along with the goods, John. You sling smooth details of a tale swell with dialogue that speaks tone. ~ Absolutely*Kate