Continued from Part IV…
All right, so apparently there is this big, multi-national frozen foods company housed in rural New Brunswick. Who knew? I certainly didn’t. I wish I had, though. It would have saved me a whole lot of trouble back in Saint John. I could have marched up to this place and solved this whole case weeks ago. Oh well, you live and you learn. Most of us, do, anyway. I just seem to live.
It’s called “McCain Foods.” I was informed by my editor that I didn’t really have to tell you that, because, in her words, “any idiot knows what McCain Foods is.” Well, this idiot didn’t, so allow me to elaborate.
OK, so this ‘McCain’ is a real hot-shot food company. One of the biggest in its industry, actually. They mostly make potato products. They were nothing to write home about, but they were fine. The question was, why would they be angry with us? It seemed to me that this province had been pretty profitable for them.
These were the thoughts I was mulling over as Horsman, The Runt and I got out of our vehicle in Florenceville.
We parked about a mile away from the facility itself, figuring that it would be easier to get the drop on them on foot. Granted, we weren’t entirely sure what we were planning to do once we had gotten the drop on them, but had I always wanted to “get the drop” on somebody. It sounded so cool.
Unfortunately, this was a sensation I would not get to experience any time soon. As we turned the corner into the back entrance of the facility, we were accosted by a waiting band of armed guards. With sticks. Pointy sticks.
The three of us raised our hands. The jig was up.
Minutes later we found ourselves tied up to three metal beams inside an empty warehouse on the facility. I would have liked to tell you that we were tied in some kind of interesting, thematically relevant way — like having our hands bound with industrial-strength curly fries, or something. But nope, It was just rope. Boring-ass rope.
We stood there, tied up, for a long while as the guards kept watch. They called in their find on their walkie-talkies.
They wouldn’t talk to us, or even acknowledge our presence after they had tied us. I tried pleading, but they wouldn’t look our way. I yelled obscenities at them, but received no response. As a last resort, I even began singing the chorus of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”
“Sweeeeeet Caaroliiiine,” I crooned.
One of the guards opened his mouth to engage in the obligatory “Bomp, Bomp, Bomp,” response, but the other one hit him on the arm, shaking his head disapprovingly.
An hour passed this way, with nothing much to do.
Horsman, The Runt and I began discussing our personal lives with each other. Turns out Horsman was part of an a capella singing group on weekends. Who knew?
Then, one of the guards received a message on his walkie-talkie. He picked it up and said something that I couldn’t quite make out. He then stood, went to the door, and opened it.
A dark figure emerged, eating fries from a greasy paper bag. Once he had placed a fry in his mouth, he would lick the salt from his fingers with relish (the descriptive noun, not the condiment).
“Hey!” I said, making a subtle literary motif obvious. “You’re one of the guys who were supposed to be meeting at the Reversing Falls, weren’t you?”
“Indeed,” said Marcus McCain, the head of the entire McCain operation. “My name is Marcus McCain, the head of the entire McCain operation.
“I must admit you had me a little worried there,” he continued. “I thought, perhaps, that I’d been ‘had.’ But those fears were quickly dashed once I saw those two burly gentlemen hurl you off the side of that bridge.”
Horsman and The Runt looked over to me, surprised. My cheeks burned. Earlier I had told them that I heroically jumped into the Reversing Falls to evade capture, screaming “Viva la New Brunswick!” the whole way down. So I fudged the truth. Sue me.
“But here you are,” he said, clasping his hands together. “You are persistent, I’ll give you that.”
“Like a Waterloo Street whore,” I agreed.
Everyone in the room gave me a quizzical look.
“What the hell are you talking about, Brian?” said Horsman, gently.
“It doesn’t matter,” McCain cut in. “The point is you’ve found us. Unfortunately for you, however, we were ready.”
“There’s just one thing I don’t understand,” I said, raising an eyebrow. “The account that launched the attack was @TheFrenchEFF, but you guys all seem to speak mostly English.
“Right,” he said. “French ‘F’. You know–French Fries…Wait, you didn’t actually think we were a French organization, did you?”
“No,” I lied.
“Because if that was the case we probably wouldn’t have written ‘French’ in English, you know.”
“Yeah, obviously,” I said, not meeting his eyes. “That’s why I dismissed the idea from the start. Let’s move on.”
“Sure. Let’s move on,” he said, smiling smugly.
“Why are you doing this?” cried The Runt.
“Ah, finally — a reasonable question,” said McCain, turning to her. “And who might you be, little miss?”
“None of your goshdarn beezwax,” she said, spitting at his feet.
He turned back to me. “I like this one,” he said, grinning.
“To answer your question, little girl,” he continued, “the social media attack was a response to certain legislation which prevented small businesses like myself to flourish in this province.”
“What legislation was that?” asked Horsman.
McCain turned angrily toward him.
“Your blasted ‘healthy lunch’ campaigns in the schools!” he cried, raising an angry fist into the air. “The education sector was one of our biggest customers, and with one stroke of the pen, you ruined it!”
“What!” I said, indignantly. “I did no such a thing!”
“Uh, actually we did, sir,” Horsman whispered to me. “Months ago.”
“Oh. All right. Yes, I did,” I corrected, quickly admitting my fault. Not enough politicians do that these days, in my opinion. That takes real leadership, right there.
“I guess that’s the hill I die on, then.” Healthy lunches. Jesus.
“So,” said McCain, regaining his composure. “Now that we have the government’s top brass all here in one place, it’ll give our lobbyists a chance to work their magic on your bill.”
“Pretty soon,” he added, “we’ll have then entire province bending to our will!”
Horsman, The Runt and I gave each other a solemn look.
“But hey–” he said, tossing a grinning chunk of potato at my feet. “Smile!”
I looked down at the object.
“Get it?” he asked hopefully. “It’s a smile fry…It’s one of our trademark products.”
“Yeah, I got it,” I conceded. “I just didn’t find it all that funny, under the circumstances.”
“Oh,” he said, looking disappointed. “Well, you can’t please everyone. Boys — move out!”
His minions exited the room in single file. Before he left, McCain turned back to us.
“Think about it gentlemen, in just a few days, we’ll have your entire government…in our pocket,” he said, tossing a pizza pocket onto the floor.
He stood there for a brief moment, as if expecting laughter. When it didn’t come, he made his exit, grumbling to himself.
…To be concluded in Part VI…