Rounding up the usual suspects in the Kyoto caper

The Old Man called me into his office and smiled his wintery smile. “Got a case for you,” he said and handed me an empty folder. “Here’s the McGuffin, kid. Kyoto. Missing.” He put a quick stop to exotic visions of an elusive Oriental seductress on the lam from some gang she’d double-crossed. “It’s this big plan to put the chill on the economy,” he explained. “But we got no details. Nothing at all. Never seen anything like it.”

“Any suspects?” I asked. “All the usual,” he replied. “Right-thinking persons. The whole lot of ’em. Get out there and find out what they’re up to.” So I put on my coat, turn up my collar and head out into the raw wintery May morning, past the dying tulip festivals.

Word on the street is there’s a hit out on carbon. Forget six feet under. They’re gonna put it a klick and a half down. Lower than Hoffa. And “The Premier” was talking tough about taking out the coal plants but that turned out not to be very current. Folks got browned off, or out, or something.

I need someone to emit something, fast. So my next stop’s a hideout on Wellington, the house they call The House. I’m set to creep in all careful and quiet but there’s no need. There’s so much yelling going on six people could mug an oil company executive in broad daylight and get away with it. You might expect these yeggs to draw the curtains and lay low for a bit after the sponsorship-racket shmozzle. But the ruckus makes some kind of sense. When ya got no cards ya gotta play ’em big. And that’s just what the Red Gang done.

Billy the Chin and his crew puffed themselves up and cornered their chief rival, the man they call Big Steve. Really Big Steve. They looked him right in the eye and said give us back the plan you stole. Like they’d had it and were all set to go when Three Lunch Steve muscled in on their turf. Pure bluff. Adding to the confusion, Little Jack’s there too, all eager, trying to bust his way into the action, never knowing he’s the patsy. Yeah c’mon the plan, he says, and his henchman gets all blustery about “misrepresentations” and “untruths” and “a government that has the will to do so.” Yeah yeah, the gaudier the patter. Keep on riding me and they’re gonna be picking methane out of your liver. While “Bugsy” Duceppe is eyeballing everybody like he wishes he was in some other country.

The Ambrose broad tries to stall ’em with a tough act. Plans? We don’t need no stinking plans. But the Global Gang ain’t buyin’ it. Strong Mo and Fig Leaf Dave and Big Al are threatening to come up town and make some serious noise. Or not, since the Gang that Couldn’t Register Straight don’t let no one throw lead in this town. Gold, sure. But not lead. Plus you can’t dump bodies in the river ’cuz of water quality and safe-boating regulations. So no one gets fitted for any concrete galoshes but the Blues wind up in a back room knocking off benzene and bourbons.

So far it’s still the no-paper caper. Seems like everybody’s left fingerprints on this thing but nobody’s ever got it. I call up my buddy in the ink trade, Syd Izzen. He tells me Priority Paul, who once thought he was a player, was big on “the plan” but was left holding the windbag when the Shawinigan Strangler blew town. Maybe the Strangler knows something, maybe not. Doesn’t sound like it. “A proof is a proof.” Huh? When you have a good plan, is it because it’s planned? Anyway, I heard he got into the oil racket. And when I start trying to trace him everyone just holds up a golf ball and smirks.

I’m gettin’ nothing but unshaven here. Then I hear they’re blowing more smoke across the river. Some Andy Clearwood dude says Quebec should follow the plan and this mug they used to call Curly says sure, we’re gonna follow the plan. Fact it’s already workin’ so we’re gonna do it more. But I check it out and they ain’t got the plan neither. Lotta big talkin’ small-timers mixed up in this case, that’s for sure. All wind and no power, if you get my drift.

Lot of times some kid joins the agency thinking detective work’s gonna be a gas. It ain’t. Sometimes it’s a gas-electric. While I’m on stakeout in an unmarked hybrid kinetic energy vehicle looking at a broken hockey stick across the way, a flatfoot I know, Lou Tennant, slouches by. Seems he’s after some of the same mugs I am on a related charge: impersonating a statesman. He asks me what’s in the folder and I tell him, “Its, uh, the stuff that speeches are made of.” Nobody shows. A cold wind blows. I light up a smoke and the riot squad descends.

I wind up back in the Old Man’s Office, tired and sore and hungry, and nothing to show but the same empty folder I left with. “Whatcha got for me, kid?” Sorry boss. Blame it on Rio.

[First published in the Ottawa Citizen]

ColumnsJohn Robson