Iggy & Jake 2
Trouble in Cow Town
When we last left Iggy and Jake in Part 1, they had just made the big decision to venture out west in search of a better venue for their music. But their move was also necessitated because of a visceral need to escape their mundane world of small town Canada.
We pick up on their journey west . . .
Monday, July5th, Near Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec
They decided to travel through Montreal and Ottawa, then up over the Lakes on the Canadian side. They could have saved time by going through Maine or New York State, then up to Michigan. But there was no way they were going to cross into the States. Not even with the limited score they had on board. They had heard horror stories of young Canadians ending up in small town jails in the States as a result of overzealous border troopers.
And Toronto was not to be a part of their itinerary. Too big, too damn many distractions to take them away from their goal. Stick to The Plan, Iggy kept saying. The Plan was simple:
1.Take a long Canadian road trip;
2. Enjoy the ride, and
3. Reach Calgary and get into some serious music.
Hell, it was 1971, they had transportation, roughly fourteen grand between them, and not a care in the world!
By the time they hit the outskirts of Montreal, Jake began to hear a knocking sound coming from his vehicle. Iggy knew a bit about car engines, having helped his father one summer around the garage his parents owned in St. George, N.B. They pulled over to the side of the Trans-Canada Highway 1.
Iggy stared at the motor, listening. “Sounds like one of your valves is sticking Jake. We better get off the highway and get this into a shop.”
But they had avoided going into the downtown area so they ended up trying to explain what was happening to an old mechanic at a garage they spotted in Laval. Neither of the boys could speak French, and the old guy didn’t know a word of English. So they had to settle for a can of STP which they hoped would correct the situation, and off they went. The knocking had settled into an ominous tick. Iggy told Jake he better get the valves checked the next chance they got.
They drove as far as Ottawa and decided to call it a night. As they nursed a couple of beers at the lounge in a Holiday Inn Express outside the nation’s capital, they were in good spirits. It was their plan to drive as far as Thunder Bay the next day, Tuesday; then by Wednesday they could make it to Regina. From there, they could probably reach Calgary by Thursday. The weather was excellent and they would take turns driving.
* * * *
“I wonder how the Bug is making out”, mused Jake. The beers were going down easy. It was quiet in the small bar and the boys were feeling good.
Iggy took to laughing and said “Man, what a character! Remember when we were at the place we had on Kent Street, back home in Freddieville? The night Bug had his quote/unquote date in the bedroom__'', Iggy illustrating by wiggling air quotes with his fingers__ “while the rest of us were partying in the living room? Man, you could hear them a mile away! Then the Bug comes panting into the living room, towel wrapped around him, and says, ‘Aaaaar boys, anyone got a boner I can borrow?’ ”
“Yeah, the guy was irreverent!”, said Jake. “Hope he‘s got his shit together out there! What’s he doing, anyway?”
“Last I heard he was working at a bar called The Urban Tomato in Northeast Calgary."
"Now there’s a dangerous combination, Iggy. You wanna call him?”
“Nah. Let’s wait ’til Wednesday. We’ll give him a call when we get to Regina.”
For the rest of the evening, they had a few more beers at the bar and they recalled various stories about the Bug. At one time he had supposedly out-skied an avalanche in Banff. On another occasion he got caught making out with a guy’s girlfriend in the back alley behind Frank’s Fish ’N Chips in Fredericton. Apparently the guy was a semi-pro boxer in that city.
Then in a fair impersonation of the Bug, Jake recalled the story the Bug had repeatedly told anyone in Fredericton who would listen. Laughing, he recited in the Bug’s raspy, cigarette-altered voice for the umpteenth time to Iggy, “He beat the clothes off me. Hit me with so many rights, I was beggin’ for a left!”
On and on the stories rolled. The Bug was a legend.
In his own mind.
* * *
Thursday, July 8th
DOUG THE Bug Canning was in bad shape. His thin frame lay sprawled naked over an old rundown futon that smelled of beer and sour sweat. Somebody flushed a toilet close to him and he slowly woke up with a terrible pain in his head and a queasy feeling in his stomach.
He had no clue where he was, how long he had been there, nor how he had gotten to the place. As he struggled to lift all of his one hundred and thirty five pounds off the cot, a young girl came out of the bathroom adjacent to him. She had greasy brown hair with tats over seventy percent of her pale, obese body.
She also had a very sharp nail driven through her left nostril and something equally lethal protruding from her right eyebrow.
The girl was a scary sight.
“Hey Dougie,” she said, looking at the Bug in a worried way as she walked past him into the living room. “Jeez, I hope you’re not gonna puke“.
That, of course, was exactly the last thing the Bug needed to hear. He rolled across the futon and started hurling halfway to the bathroom where he ended up kneeling in front of the rusted out porcelain bowl, retching until he could bring up no more.
After throwing water on his face and rinsing his mouth, Bug examined himself in a dirty cracked mirror above the sink.
What the hell have I managed to get myself into now ?, he thought. Then ironically he regretted his choice of words and looked apprehensively at his naked crotch area.
Another quick look at the mirror revealed a tanned face that was probably once handsome but was now showing the results of having been ravaged by too much alcohol and a half million cigarettes. A mass of long blond curls fell down to his shoulders. He now looked more like Keith Richards of The Stones.
The Bug was a hurting puppy.
He returned to the living room. “Jesus,” he groaned, climbing into a pair of jeans. “And you would be…..?”
“Betty” the girl pouted. “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten my name already? Especially, like, after last night!” she could have been twenty or forty , it was hard to tell.
“Look, ah, Betty? I don‘t want to be mean here, but if you could tell me where I am, what day it is, and give me some idea where I left my car, I’ll be on my way”,he said as he finished pulling on a tee shirt and sneakers.
Just then, a giant came in through a door which led into a kitchen. He was easily the largest human Bug had ever seen in his life and he was extremely ugly. The guy had that typical biker look: a bald-shaven head, a scruffy goatee, prison tats galore and a stained denim vest covering a black tee that strained against his huge biceps.
“Is this little prick givin’ you a hard time Betts ?” asked the biker, as he gave Bug a long scowl. “What’re ya doin’ here anyway, dipshit?”, the biker asked. Then it was like Betty had forgotten to introduce the biker to Bug.
“Dougie, this is my friend Choker,” said Betty, smiling.
“Choker, eh? Great name, man,” the Bug said as he slowly backed his way into the kitchen then halh way out of a rear door. Behind him he spotted his brown and yellow 1963 Ambassador Rambler station wagon. It was illegally parked by a hydrant on the street about twenty yards away.
Choker was approaching in a threatening manner when with relief, Bug found his keys in his jeans and ran to his car. “Well, big guy’’ he yelled back at Choker, ‘‘You have a nice day now!”
And he tore away as fast as the old Rambler would go, just as an empty beer bottle thrown by the biker bounced off the roof of the retreating vehicle.
Bug soon realized he was driving in the northeast sector of the city somewhere around Mayland Heights, close to the airport and surrounding industrial parks. He recognized his turf and with the familiar buildings, his memory of last night came back to him in bits and pieces.
He remembered leaving work. Bug was a bartender at a hipster’s joint off 16th Ave NW called The Urban Tomato. The bar catered to a large number of preppy seniors from the University of Calgary. The Bug was very much into the off-hours scene as were many of his bar working friends. He now recalled going to Joey’s Body Shop for a pretty wild party that he heard was supposed to be happening there.
Now as he drove along 32nd Ave NE toward his flat, his mind took him back to his relationship with Joey, the owner of the bar/body shop.
The large warehouse that had also contained an auto body repair business in Horizon Industrial Park near Airways Properties came into Joey Delano's possession when he purchased it in 1966, using the funds from an inheritance when his old man passed away. The business had been struggling ever since.
The Bug had run into Joey one night last year at another bar, and after a few hits of some terrific weed, Joey suggested that maybe Bug could persuade his off-hour friends and colleagues to check out his warehouse. He told Bug that with a few renos, the warehouse section of the building would be a natural venue for the ‘budding’ off hours social scene. It had the favoured ‘grunge’ look from bars in Seattle and L.A.
Bug sensed Joey was onto something and he promised to get the word out at the ‘Tomato’. It caught on quickly and in a matter of weeks, it was the place to be, come closing time at the regular bars.
But Joey also had other plans in mind for the Body Shop. He knew if he could bring in the workers from The Tomato and surrounding bars, it would be easy to unload a shipment of cocaine that was recently sent his way on a ‘trial consignment’ basis from some associates in Vancouver.
The Bug was the perfect fall guy for Joey’s scheme. Bug Canning was a wannabe player. He longed for the admiration and respect of his bar buds, but he mistakenly thought it was necessary that he was seen as some kind of cool hipster with contacts to the drug scene in Calgary. And so he was easily introduced to cocaine. Unfortunately, his habit for coke rapidly grew and he was now in Joey’s back pocket.
Over the last eight or nine months as the Bug spread the word through The Tomato about a new after-hours hangout near their area, it wasn’t too long before business at Joey’s Body Shop warehouse was booming.
And not with auto body work. Seven days a week, the doors opened at 12:00 am and the place rocked until 4:00 am. And the Bug had developed quite a nasty little habit from frequent visits to Joey’s and the back room where he and his new close ‘friends’ consumed a steady flow of coke from Vancouver.
During the first few gatherings, Joey treated them all to some free ‘samples’. But lately, as he explained to the Bug and his buddies, his business associates in Vancouver were getting on his back about margins. Joey said they were suspicious he was skimming off the top and some not-too-subtle threats had already been made. Unfortunately, he was going to have to start charging them. That was last month, and now The Bug was having trouble making ends meet in order to feed his habit.
When he got home, the message light on his answering machine was blinking. He picked up and heard Iggy’s familiar voice speaking.
“Yo Bug, it’s Iggy. It’s ah, Wednesday night. Jake and I are in Moosejaw. Saskatchewan’s Fourth Largest City. Can’t wait to see some mountains, dude. The prairies are a real drag. Listen, we had car trouble but we should roll into Calgary some time tomorrow night. See ya soon.”
Not only was his financial health a mess, Bug knew he was in trouble physically. He would never admit it to his friends, but he was definitely hooked on the shit he got from Joey and he had to get clean before Jake and Iggy landed.
Damn. He hated what he was about to do, but he didn’t have the will to resist making a call that would help him get over the edge and get into a little better state of mind before the boys landed. After he got off the phone, he quickly scratched out a note for Jake and Iggy and left it jammed in his front door in case they landed here before he got home.
Then he was off again to Joey’s warehouse.
When he arrived at The Body Shop, it was mid-afternoon and there were not many people around. He checked with Sarah at the bar upon entering and was told Joey was expecting him in his office out back. The Bug walked down a short hallway until he reached the first door on his right. He rapped lightly on the door to Joey’s office and he walked into the familiar room.
Joey was sitting behind his desk acting the role of the big exec, his feet up on the desktop, holding a glass of amber liquid, probably Scotch.
“Well Doug Bug, what’s up?” he asked with a bored sneer. He noted the Bug had his aviator glasses on, his grin was oversized, and he was grinding his teeth while frequently sniffing. The jerk’s hurting bad! thought Joey.
“Hey Joey, I’m kinda in rough shape and was hoping you might be able to fix me up with a few lines to hold me over until payday, later tomorrow, right? You know I’m good for it man and…” Before he could say any more, Joey threw a small soft package that hit the Bug full in the face.
“Bug, shut the fuck up! I don’t want to hear any more of that shit. But listen up. I was just talking with one of my associates from Vancouver and they need a favour. Are you up for helping me out with something here?”
“Yeah, sure man. You name it.” he said as he grovelled on the floor and picked up the glassine pack.
“I need you to make a pickup for me tonight. It’s over in Marlborough behind the Casino on 21st Ave. Listen, all you have to do is meet a guy in the back alley at 7:00 and give him this package”. He threw a square paper-wrapped bundle about the size of a shoe box which felt soft and the Bug assumed it was cash. “The guy is expecting you and he has your description. He’ll give you a package in return, which you will immediately return to me.” Bug was carefully putting the glassine bag in his back pocket. “Hey Bug, you got all this?”
“No problemo, Joey!” The Bug started to say more but Joey cut him off abruptly. “I’d go myself but I gotta meet a dude from L.A. later tonight. So don’t fuck up here. Handle it right and maybe I can throw a bit of work your way, know what I mean? Now get your ass outta here, I’m busy!” And with that he got up and quickly led the Bug out of his office.
When the Bug was out of earshot, Joey picked up the phone and punched the intercom for the bar. “Sarah, the Bug’s on his way out. Tell Frank to get his ass in here!”
A few seconds later a tall, a tall Metis native entered Joey’s office. He was wearing a long braid of black hair which fell behind a black ten gallon Stetson.
“Okay, Frank” Joey said. “The fix is on. Dino thinks you’re making the cash delivery and picking up our coke, but I've sent the Bug. You follow him and make sure he goes to the back of the Casino on 21st NE. If I’m right about what we discussed earlier today, we should soon know where we stand with our guys from Vancouver. And be careful, don’t be seen by anyone, right? You know the deal here, Frank. It's all as we planned. Just stay in the shadows and report back to me.”
As the Bug was driving toward the Casino, he checked his watch. It was only 4:30 pm so he had lots of time. He decided to first go into work and tell his boss he was going to need the night off. Shouldn’t be a problem, he thought. After all, he was on good terms with John, the bar manager, plus hadn’t he obtained a dime pack for him the other night?
He had managed to sneak a couple of bumps outside Joey’s before getting in his car to go to the Casino and he was now heading west toward The Tomato. He had no idea Frank was behind him in his new black Ford half-ton pickup.
It should be a good night. He had lots of time to knock back a couple of beers and see what was happening at work, look after the delivery for Joey, then get back to his apartment. He was looking forward to seeing the guys from back East, assuming they’d be in town by then.
Bug was aware that what he was doing was illegal. But in his hyped-up state, he was not assessing the risk of his actions very well. Plus, he needed to keep on the good side of Joey, at least until he got clean.
* * *
Traffic was crazy, what with all the Stampede crowds filling the streets of Calgary for the first night of the Big Show. And with it, Frank was getting pissed off trying to figure out where the Bug was headed until he followed him off 16th Ave NW, then onto 1st St. NW. He watched him pull up to The Urban Tomato. Shit, now it was getting close to 7:00 and Frank was still waiting for the idiot to come out. Finally, here he comes! thought Frank. He put the Ford in gear and again tailed the Bug through the heavy traffic to their destination at the Casino Calgary.
When the Bug parked his Rambler close to the entranceway of the alley off 21st NE, Frank drove by him and parked half a block further up the street. He watched in his rear view mirror as he saw Bug get out of his car and go into the alley. Frank stayed out of sight and followed him.
The back lane was cluttered with empty cigarette packs, broken beer bottles and general detritus. It was oddly quiet and hardly anything could be heard from the party crowds further down 21st St NE and beyond.
Frank ducked behind a large garbage collection bin and watched as Bug waited beside a back door to the Calgary Casino marked “Service Entrance Only, No Parking”. Just as Bug was checking his watch, the service door opened and a lone figure appeared. The man was carrying a large shopping bag from Sears. The guy was white with a black goatee. He was about thirty years of age, the size of a mountain. He had dull colorless eyes which were half-lidded and looked somewhat reptilian. Overall, a very creepy guy, thought Bug.
“You’d be Mr. Frank. I expect you. You have something for me, yes?", Frank heard him say to Bug in what seemed to be a Russian accent.
“Right on dude”, the Bug replied as he pulled the paper wrapped package from under his shirt and approached the large figure. As Frank listened to this exchange, he realized the Bug was too wired to catch onto the Russian unknowingly addressing him as “Frank”.
It was a fatal mistake.
Frank then saw the Russian pass the shopping bag with his left hand to the Bug. Frank also caught a glint of metal coming from the man’s right hand. As the Bug was handing his parcel to the guy, Frank heard him mutter something like “What the….” and suddenly the Bug was on the alleypavement, moaning loudly while the Russian deftly picked up the bag beside him, looked up and down the alley, and then walked back into the Casino through the service door.
The whole episode only lasted about two minutes. With horror, Frank looked behind him and when he saw nobody was around, he approached Bug. There was already a huge volume of blood pooling on the ground around him. It was coming from the Bug’s stomach which he was clutching uselessly with both hands. He looked up at Frank and said in a whispered tone “Oh Frank! Help me man. Some guy just stabbed me. I think I’m in trouble. Please Frank….”, the Bug’s voice fading fast.
“You’re not in trouble Bug. You’re dead,” said Frank.
Then the Metis native left Bug and crept out of the alley to his truck as the Stampede crowd grew louder and rowdier by the hour.
Inside the casino, the Russian stepped into an elevator and pushed the button designated “Penthouse Suite 21st Floor”. He then got off the elevator and strolled down an expansive hall to the entrance of his employer’s suite.
Responding to the soft knock on his door, Giovanni ‘Dino’ Martini invited his Russian aide into his foyer. The Russian passed both the Sears bag and the brown paper-wrapped parcel to his boss. Martini opened the shoebox-sized parcel and as he suspected, it simply contained plastic wrapped stacks of paper cut to resemble the size of bills. So his suspicions were right: Joey, the little fool, was going for a final large rip off and was probably planning on leaving town as they spoke.
“Everything go okay Grigori?” Dino asked the Russian.
“A piece of pie” replied the aide. “Mr. Frank is no more,” he said.
Dino had met Grigori Ivanov three years ago in Palermo, Sicily where he had been visiting relatives. One afternoon an associate of his had introduced the Russian to him while he was playing bocci. A ‘business’ relationship had been established and since then, the Russian had proven his worth on a number of occasions, doing work for the Mafioso.
“We’ll fly back to Vancouver tomorrow and arrange a meeting with Al and Vinnie when there. I think we should get any further action against Frank’s employer sanctioned before making a move.”
While Dino and Grigori were discussing what had just happened, Frank had hurried back to The Body Shop and reported everything he had seen to Joey. The Metis native was visibly shaken as he spoke with his boss.
“Christ, Joey, what are we gonna do?” asked Frank.
“Nuthin’. They don’t know you from Adam, so stay outta sight!” said Joey. “Dino’s man thinks he killed you and he’ll report that to his boss. You’ll have to lay low though until we can get in touch with the folks in Los Angeles. This is serious shit man, and you know that now we’re gonna have to get out of town. Maybe the guys we know in L.A. will be easier to work for, since they’re anxious to take over this territory from Dino.”
2 Days ago, Tuesday July 6th
100 miles west of Wawa, Ont.
When Jake and Iggy left Ottawa, it was 6:00 am Tuesday. They were on their way northwest on the TCH heading for Thunder Bay. They had been on the road for nearly 8 hours now and they were halfway between “The Soo” and their destination.
“Nice country”, Jake mused as they sped along at approximately seventy miles an hour. Every now and then they would spot the vast expanse of Lake Superior to their left while on their right there was nothing but forest and the odd small town or village. Iggy spotted many good looking lakes and streams that probably held trout or perch, and he regretted not having packed some fishing gear for the trip.
Iggy was an avid outdoorsman. Every early summer, since Jake had known him, Iggy spent a lot of time on the North West branch of the famous Miramichi fly fishing. The river was renown worldwide for the salmon that spawned there and Iggy usually caught his annual quota. Lately, though, there were many poachers and bad characters where he fished and it was becoming dangerous to go out on your own. But here, Iggy thought, at least it looked wide open for some nice lake trout or browns.
Earlier they had stopped in Wawa, Ontario, Canada’s prime haven for hitchhikers, and they had picked up a sorry looking kid there who was heading to Vancouver. The guy was in bad shape so they decided to buy him lunch at a small shop beside a gigantic statue of a Canada Goose. They were driving for a couple of hours after lunch, the hippy named Murray sitting in the back seat of the Beaumont, not saying much. He told them he was from Trois Riviere. Then he quietly began farting.
“Christ, this is not bearable!” Jake signalled with his eyes to Iggy. So Iggy made up a story about having to visit a relative not far from Marathon Lake, the next town. And it was there that Murray had to make an exit at a truck stop when they reached the small town five minutes later.
“Uncle Ralph? Good one there, Igster”, said Jake. “Roll down your window for a while though, would ya? Murray the Hippy has left an impression on us for sure!”
Before reaching Thunder Bay, Jake put in an eight track of Led Zeppelin’s “unplugged” version of Going to California . He turned his custom speakers to full volume. LZ was one of their favourite groups and this particular tune was giving Jake an idea. The song was a definite departure from that band’s usual heavy rock genre, but the sweet sound of Jimmy Page’s acoustic guitar coupled with the unbelievable voice range of Robert Plant worked perfectly together for them.
Jake had to yell over the volume, but said to Iggy, “We should do this tune man. Good to have a few acoustic numbers in our repertoire. It may take a while to hook up with a decent drummer.” He was confident Iggy could cover Plant pretty good and the acoustic sound was being used lately by other artists they were already covering. Like America, Stephen Stills, Lightfoot, and Joni Mitchell. Plus that LZ tune could be suitable for some lounge work down the road. Who knew? The thing was, they were now free to take on anything that came to mind and they were eager to get at it. The two musicians worked well together and they shared similar goals.
Just then Iggy told Jake to slow down a bit as he noticed a police car about a hundred yards behind them. They were nearing Thunder Bay and they were looking forward to calling it a day. Then the inevitable happened and the red and blue flashers of the RCMP cruiser came on behind them. Immediately, Jake and Iggy could only think about the pot they had in the car with them as they pulled over for the cop.
The big police officer studied Jake’s licence carefully then, in a very serious tone said to him “So, Jacob, a long way from home, eh? 34 Prince Street , what part of the city is that in?”
Jake was puzzled, but he was thinking this was some kind of test, so he played along with the cop. “Ah sir, that’s in the North End.”
“ Anywhere near Milledgeville ?”
“Hey, you got it! You from the area?” Jake now eager to talk with him.
“Not really. Lived in Fredericton but I have a cousin that lives in Saint John. I left New Brunswick a few years back. Saw the NB plates on your vehicle and just thought I’d have a chat with another herring-choker!" Ha,ha. "Hope I didn't frighten ya! It’s been a while since I’ve seen anyone from down East.”
"Nah", Jake said. He gestured to Iggy beside him. “This is my good buddy Iggy and, hey, he’s from Fredericton!”
“Yup” said Iggy, not too enthusiastically, thereby letting the cop know he was not anxious to take the conversation further. The cop looked at him suspiciously, then after several beats he gave Jake his licence back and bid them on their way.
“Shit man, you could have been a bit more friendlier,” Jake said, a tad cool to his buddy.
“Come on Jake, that was a cop. Are you fucking mental? For a bit there, I was wondering if you were going to ask him if he might wanna share a joint with us!!” They were in the municipality of Thunder Bay now and Jake was suddenly beat.
“Okay Iggy, I get it, okay? Let’s get a motel here and relax.”
They checked into a nondescript six unit motel outside of town and registered at the seedy looking front reception area.
They were too preoccupied with the short rendezvous with the cop to take notice of the increased knocking noise that was now coming from under the hood of the Beaumont.