53: “This is the most exciting church has ever been”

Joey liked church. He found it soothing. He also found it was an excellent place to traffic small quantities of drugs. Joey had been coming to church every week for a couple months. Most of the time, he met someone out back in the parking lot under the unobservant eye of the very elderly to exchange money and drugs. Occasionally, he had been forced to exchange inside the church, like the time he’d nearly had a thousand dollars taken from him by an old woman in a pantsuit with an offering tray. The night of Gord’s special Christmas music service was one of those times.

All of Gord’s friends were there to support him, which was both good and bad for Joey. It was good because, with them around, there was less attention drawn to him specifically, especially since Amare often took church as an opportunity to clear his email inbox on his phone in plain view of everyone and God. With that happening four seats along the pew from Joey, it was at least marginally less noticeable that he was accepting a thousand dollars in cash from Beezy in his bright orange parka and matching tuque. At the same time, it was bad because then he was surrounded by a group of people who knew what he did for a living and were generally suspicious of his motives most of the time. Given that he was using a special Christmas service at church as an opportunity to sell drugs, there was a strong chance they were right to be suspicious.

Joey headed to the church with Robin, where they met up with Finch, his two roommates, and Sybil and Chris, who seemed to have become permanent members of their group now. Joey was fine with it normally, but it was just two more people to notice him doing something illegal. Besides, as Sybil was clearly good friends with Jacklyn, there was the potential that she would tell her what he had really been doing at church. Joey hadn’t told Jacklyn very much about how he made his living. He found it tended to deter most women. It attracted others, but usually not women he would be proud to bring home to his nona.

Gord had a new star in his choir. Her name was Muriel and she had a lovely voice. Gladys was jealous apparently. She’d quit the choir in a huff of resentment and Gord had been hard-pressed to find it in himself to care. It did leave him a bit short for some of the numbers, which were more taxing and elaborate than they would be during a normal Sunday morning service. As such, he had been left to fill in some of the gaps himself. Joey found himself somewhat impressed while he waited for Beezy to show. The service had only just begun and they were only one number in, so Joey wasn’t nervous yet.

“He has a lovely voice,” Joey remarked down the line of Gord’s friends.

“Yeah, yeah, he sings like an angel,” Amare returned dismissively. “How much longer do you think we’re expected to stay here? Because I made other plans.”

An elderly man in a tweed jacket shushed them from the row behind.

Fifteen minutes later, Beezy still hadn’t shown, but Jacklyn had. She slipped into the pew beside him with a sheepish grin in a lovely navy blue dress. She explained that she’d missed the subway to make it to the church on time with a giggle. Joey forced himself to smile back at her. While he was pleased to see her, she had positioned herself in a very awkward place indeed. She had taken the open space in the pew beside him that he’d specifically left for Beezy. He’d gone to the trouble of subtly arranging the seating so that he was on the end of he row with space for Beezy and next to Robin, who knew him the best. Robin knew what kind of degenerate Joey was. He would shake his head when Beezy arrived, but he wouldn’t do anything to stop it. He was accustomed to Joey. He was also incredibly apathetic.

But now Jacklyn had taken the spot meant for Beezy, which would inevitably sandwich her between him and Beezy in any scenario and that was no good. Joey couldn’t very well hand Beezy drugs over her head in the middle of a church in exchange for a roll of cash. People would definitely notice that. He considered the likelihood of him being able to pass it underneath the pew or behind her head, but both seemed precarious and undoubtedly much too obvious. The others would definitely notice. Amare, who had been fidgeting with anxiousness to leave early, now seemed perfectly inclined to stay, which Joey was certain had a lot to do with the sudden appearance of Jacklyn. He would no doubt jump at the chance to expose Joey as someone undeserving of her.

When Beezy finally arrived, he slid into the modicum of space left on the other side of Jacklyn. Jacklyn, who had never met Beezy before, looked over at him in abject horror, like she couldn’t believe that this stranger, dressed almost exclusively in orange outerwear, would dare sit so close to her. Joey didn’t exactly blame her. Beezy was awfully close to her. Plus, he always smelled faintly of cigarette smoke (never his) and weed (always his).

Beezy leaned behind Jacklyn’s head to shoot Joey a questioning look at the same time that Jacklyn looked over at him indignantly, as if to demand his sympathetic response to her current situation. Joey didn’t have a facial expression to respond to both of them at once without raising suspicion from either. On his other side, Robin seemed to have noticed Joey’s dilemma as well, as Joey could hear him sigh loudly and resignedly.

“You’re going to hell,” Robin told him in a hushed voice when Joey looked over to him instead, choosing to ignore both Beezy and Jacklyn for the time being.

“Likely,” Joey agreed. “Help me.”

“Why would I do that?” Robin snorted in response.

“Because right now I’m holding cocaine in my coat pockets, but if you help me, in four minutes I won’t be,” Joey returned frankly. Robin looked over at him. He gave him an appraising look for a long time. Joey assumed he would eventually deny his request and turn his attention back to Gord’s angelic singing.

“You owe me,” he told Joey instead. “And not drug money. I want you to make me dinner. I want homemade pasta and tiramisu.”

“My nona makes good tiramisu,” Joey offered, a little stunned.

“I hope so,” was Robin’s response. And then he pretended to faint.

Amidst the commotion, Joey was able to make the exchange with Beezy. The elderly congregation were very concerned about Robin, which was lovely. One loudly declared that it must’ve been a result of the heat, a fairly good hypothesis given how bloody warm it was inside the sanctuary. It was like sitting in a room meant for hot yoga, but in dress pants. Some of the congregation prayed for Robin. Beside him, Finch was visibly concerned for roughly thirty seconds before he realized that Robin was faking and then he went back to being surly. By the time Robin had made his miraculous recovery, Beezy had left the church entirely, quite a few dollars lighter.

“This is the most exciting church has ever been,” Gavin exclaimed to the others as they all settled back in their seats again and Gord resumed his endearing solo in “O Come All Ye Faithful”. He didn’t know the half of it.

“Merry Christmas, dickhead,” Joey said to Robin with a sharp grin, patting him on the thigh.

“I want tortellini,” was Robin’s candid response.


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