He was startled to hear from George by text two days later.
I don’t have a driver’s license so can you please meet me to pick up a credit card to rent a truck.
You have a customer?
The answer was offputting.
Unfortunately, yes we do.
George appended the time and address.
Jesse texted his sister.
I told you about George – just asked to meet me to rent a truck.
Raven’s response was predictable.
?! Make sure you get paid up front.
Apparently George lived in Gastown. He mentioned that his apartment was nearby, when they met at the Starbucks. Jesse didn’t normally patronize chain coffee shops, but it was the only one open after sunset. Without fanfare, George handed over a HSBC MasterCard, and Jesse said, perplexed, “You’re just going to hand a credit card over to me.”
“You are not a thief.”
“There’s no way you can know that.”
“I’m sure you’d steal if you thought it was in your interest,” George said. “It’s a good thing your standards are so high.”
“Why don’t you have a driver’s licence?” Jesse asked, after deciding that picking a fight about his standards was not wise.
“My family doesn’t drive,” George said.
“Your whole family doesn’t drive,” Jesse said slowly. Then, with more curiosity than heat, he asked, “Where the hell do they live?”
“Oh, here and there, mostly in eastern Europe,” George said. “My cousin Michel is thinking of moving here from Montréal, and of course my mate lives nearby.”
“Your mate. You say you have girlfriends, but also a mate.”
“I’m serious about her. We’re trying to have kids,” George said starkly. In a calmer voice, he added, “The same cannot be said of my girlfriends, who I think would be very angry with me if I tried to get them pregnant, not that I would without informed consent.”
“Nobody at the poly meeting has ever seen your ‘mate’,” Jesse said. He had checked, after George left.
“And they won’t. She’s shy of her appearance and has mobility issues,” George said.
Jesse contemplated the implications for a moment, and decided that George was either flat out lying or playing a game of misdirection.
“So I won’t meet her,” Jesse said.
“I’m not ruling it out. It’s her call,” George said. “She’s a difficult person in some ways, but in any substantive respect, she is without peer.”
Jesse had never heard a man describe his true love in quite those terms, but responded instead to the personal reference.“She knows about me?”
“Yes. I showed her a picture of you and she says you look big and strong,” George said.
George realized his error from Jesse’s expression, and added, “From the Facebook page.” “For the poly group,” he added.
“Oh,” he said. “Oh, that picture.”
“She finds it comforting to know that if it came to it, you wouldn’t have any trouble carrying her. Not that you would have to, I can carry her, no problem.”
Jesse did not know what to say to this, and so turned to the business at hand.
“About our client,” Jesse said.
“She’s a friend of a friend of an acquaintance, and she paid up front.” George offered an envelope. “I already took out your share of the truck rental. Her boyfriend can’t help because he’s on a job out of town, and her girlfriends are all too scared to help, so it will just be us and the client.”
“Why does she have to move out in the middle of the night?”
“Her landlord gets out of jail in two days,” George said. “He would have been out today but he was injured during the arrest.”
“Oh God,” Jesse said.
“Oh Montréal,” George said agreeably. Jesse didn’t recognize the phrase and stared at him. George continued, “Mr Landlord put cameras in her flat, assaulted her boyfriend, messed with her heat and hydro to give himself an excuse to enter the premises, and then he got caught going into her flat without 24 hours’ notice after her boyfriend set up a cam of his own.”
“So, he’s a scumbag. Oh gosh. Is scumbag a gendered slur?”
George smiled.“Not in my lexicon. I prefer clownbag, that’s what Michel calls people who shout a lot and hit people.”
“It’s ten o’clock at night,” Jesse said. “How do I get the truck?”
“We’ve got about half an hour to pick it up,” George said. “They’re going to want your driver’s licence but they won’t care whose name is on the credit card.”
After a short cab ride, they pulled up at a lot with a number of white cube vans. A harassed looking man came out of the shadows, put a Square on his cell phone, ran the card and handed over the keys.
“Drive safe and bring it back here for 6:30 –no later – or it’s big trouble.”
“M’kay,” said Jesse.
The brakes screeched and the gearbox was so stiff it took all of Jesse’s concentration to drive to the address in Burnaby George had given him.
They pulled up at a typical Burnaby monster house; it was big, it was ugly and it was beige. Gulnaz, their client, a thin woman with an eagle nose and two close-set brown eyes, ran out to greet them, “Thank God.”
George murmured for Jesse’s benefit, “As an atheist, I’m always pissed that God gets the credit for my heavy lifting,” and Jesse said, “Ha!”
Gulnaz had not been idle while she waited for them. Everything was boxed, taped and labelled. A couple of times as Jesse passed her, going back and forth to the truck – which they’d had to leave on the street as the driveway was blocked by two cars with expired plates – she was weeping, and angrily wiping the tears away with the back of her hand.