Follow me on a trip through and across the sometimes bizarre and magical happenings in my life.Unless otherwise stated these stories are as true as I remember them..however odd,unlikely,unbelievable or far-fetched they may seem.The fiction will come later.
The head of Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.
says any move by authorities to charge the company in connection with
an extensive bribery scandal would immediately threaten its future and
could force it to close down.
SNC chief executive officer Robert
Card, speaking to The Globe and Mail’s editorial board, said he would be
“deeply concerned” if the company was charged because it would hurt the
business severely. And “if the company can’t do business, you really
only have two choices. You are going to do some dismemberment and cease
to exist entirely, or you are going to be owned by somebody else.”
Special to Globe and Mail Update Oct. 08 2013, 7:00 PM EDT
Video: SNC-Lavalin’s ethics chief on the company’s global plan
A shift to a foreign owner would jeopardize the 5,000 Canadian SNC jobs that are associated with its headquarters, he said.
has been reeling from probes into alleged unethical dealings by some of
its former employees in Libya, Algeria, Bangladesh, and in the
contracting process for a new hospital in Montreal. It has fired the
alleged perpetrators – including its former CEO Pierre Duhaime – and
overhauled its compliance efforts, bringing in Mr. Card in 2012 to clean
up the company. Six former employees, including four former executives,
face criminal charges related to the scandal. None of the allegations
have been proven.
The company has already taken a financial hit
from the allegations and survived, Mr. Card said, but it might not be
able to continue in its present form if it faces criminal charges.
not panicked,” he said, because he thinks policy makers will understand
the implications for a crucial homegrown company. What does worry him,
however, is if “some lower-level person says, ‘I don’t think they are
really going to be injured by this, so we are going to do it and see
One reason the company would take such a hit is
that a majority of SNC’s business in Canada is associated with
government entities. New federal anti-corruption rules would ban
companies from doing business with the government if they have been
convicted of crimes. That policy is a “meat cleaver” that allows little
leeway in getting companies to improve their behaviour, Mr. Card said.
if SNC was charged, but not convicted, it would face such damage to its
reputation that all its government business would be at risk, Mr. Card
said. “We operate on image,” he said. “Imagine you are a government
official and you are getting ready to award a big contract to a company
and they have been charged. You have two other companies that haven’t
been charged bidding for it ...”
The reputational damage would
also affect international work, he said, because foreign clients would
be concerned if SNC faced charges in its home jurisdiction.
Card said he can understand that law enforcement authorities might want
to send a strong message to other companies to warn them off unethical
behaviour, but he hopes they will take into account that “there is
absolutely no way to inflict harm on the bad people through the
Indeed, charging the company would amount to “inflicting
pain on the survivors, who are already victimized.” Essentially it
would mean “bayoneting the wounded ... and the shareholders, which are
largely pension funds,” he said.
Mr. Card acknowledged that SNC
needs to be held accountable for the activity that took place in the
company. “There needs to be some signal sent. I don’t know what it is.
... [It] would be meaningful, but would not change the strategic
direction of the company.”
Mr. Card, the first American to run
SNC, is a former official of the U.S. Department of Energy, and before
joining the Canadian company he was a senior executive at Colorado-based
engineering services firm CH2M Hill Co. Ltd. Within months of joining
SNC, Mr. Card overhauled the firm’s oversight procedures, putting in
place a “chief compliance officer” to make sure it didn’t break any laws
as it looks for contracts in Canada and other countries.
also altered the company’s strategy. This spring, SNC pulled the trigger
on two significant deals as part of its shift away from infrastructure
holdings, and toward construction and engineering – particularly in the
oil and gas business.
In May, it signed a deal to sell its Alberta
electricity transmission company AltaLink for $3.2-billion. Then in
June it agreed to the $2.1-billion purchase of London-based oil and gas
services company Kentz Corp., a firm that has 15,500 employees and
operates in three dozen countries. The Kentz deal has closed, while the
AltaLink sale is still waiting for approval from Alberta regulators.
Trudy Parr had been falling all of her life. It was an enduring
dream. From a hotel room window, high over the street. She would open it
and edge out, earnest in her aim, nauseous from the height. And, having
written her brief neatly folded letter of apology, unaware of the
antecedent – did she leap or dive? – she fell. Flags and lighted
windows, the moon and tresses of neon. Since childhood. But she had
always woken before impact. The wind in her hair and comfort in the
outcome. With the redemptive pavement rushing toward her, she would
wake. In the dark of night or grey dawn, hearing perhaps a lonesome
wakeful bird just outside.
But not that night. That night she didn’t wake before shattering like a mirror, her self reflected ten thousand times.
She sat on the edge of her bed, smoking. Having witnessed the infinite glare of extinction.
It was 4 a.m.
Finally, she stood and looked out of the window. She could see
English Bay from her suite at the Sylvia Hotel. The freighters shone
like cities on the water. It was early July. The sun would be prodding
the eastern horizon. She looked west. Her dream had had the density of
stone. It would sink in the bay, if there was a means.
She snuffed out her cigarette and had a shower. 10 am Commercial Drive
“Caffè lungo and Cornetti,” said Trudy Parr. “Have you see Melisa?”
“She no come in today,” said Tony Nuzzo, starting Trudy’s order.
“That’s strange because she’s usually in round eight o’clock. She come
in yesterday, but very sad I think.”
“She gets that way, you know?”
“Yes.” Trudy knew. Melisa Patton did get sad. They’d been friends all
their lives, and she could remember Melisa’s long years of sadness. She
was an artist, a painter of stunning canvases. And she sold them in
galleries as far away as New York.
“You take a table,” Tony Nuzzo told Trudy Parr. “I bring it to you.”
Trudy Parr sat by the widow. Commercial Drive was a busy east
Vancouver high street in an Italian neighbourhood. Through the window
she saw merchants and customers hurry by. Tony Nuzzo arrived with her
order. He’d placed two small chocolate cookies next to her Cornetti.
“A little chocolate for you,” he said. “You too thin, Trudy Parr.”
After twenty years in Canada, Tony Nuzzo’s English was still broken. And
he had held onto old country ideas. “A man likes a woman with a little
width, if you don’t mind me to say so.”
Trudy Parr smiled.
“I’d like to sit down with you,” Nuzzo said. “May I?”
“Grazie, grazie.” Nuzzo sat. “It’s about your friend, Melisa. It’s
none-a-my-business. But she really didn’t look so good yesterday. She’s
pale. No smile. No Hello Tony, how you today? And it’s July.
It’s warm. And she’s wearing this paint stained sweater, long sleeves.
But I see bandages poking out. Her wrists, maybe her whole arms, wrapped
Trudy Parr tried not to look worried. She’d attempted to return
Melisa’s call from the day before last evening and this morning. Her
secretary had said the caller, Melisa, sounded especially melancholy.
There’d been no answer when Trudy called back. It was Melisa’s studio
number. She was almost always there. Now this. Bandages. Melisa had, in
the past, cut herself when things were bad. Her arms. Her legs.
“Did she say anything when she was here?”
“No,” said Nuzzo. “She just had two espresso, one after the other, and left. Maybe she’s unlucky in love, huh?”
“Maybe,” said Trudy Parr. She bit a chocolate cookie and sipped her
coffee. “I’ll ask around, check her apartment and studio. I’ll let you
know if I find anything out.”
“That’s fine,” said Nuzzo. He stood up with a broad smile. “You good at that kinda stuff, you bet.”
The apartment and studio were on the Drive, a half block away from
each other. Trudy Parr knocked and there was no answer at the apartment.
The door was locked. But she found the studio door open when she
arrived. She went in.
The large room reflected Melisa’s obsession with neatness, in spite
of the paints and canvasses, splattered palettes and linseed oil soaked
On the easel was an unfinished painting of a woman, seen from behind.
She was walking away from the viewer, in the rain, without an umbrella.
Her coat was bright red, with darker rustier shades in the creases and
folds. The surrounding colours, however, people, buildings and
automobiles, were bleak. Strangely hopeless, she thought. But it was a
treasure, nonetheless, to Trudy’s untrained eye, nearly complete.
On a desktop under a lamp, she discovered a roll of gauze and a small
metal case containing blue Gillette razor blades. Next to them was a
bloody rag and a beaker stained with a dry rust colour substance. Trudy
Parr shivered. Melisa was talented and a striking woman, educated and
revered. What provoked her?
“Hello,” came a voice from behind her. She turned round and saw a
small man in a dapper suit and his hat in hand. “Have you seen Miss
Patton?” he said.
“No,” said Trudy Parr. “Who are you?”
“A patron. An admirer. A costumer.” His eyes fixed on the painting on
the easel and he said, “Ah, she’s nearly done. It’s exquisite.”
Trudy Parr looked over her shoulder at the painting. “Yours?” she said.
“Indeed,” said the man. “A special commission. A vision.” He walked
into the studio and up to the painting, removing his soft leather
gloves. He ran his fingers over it gently, feeling the texture of the
brush strokes. His eyes closed as he did it. He seemed to be
experiencing a strange ecstasy.
When he was done, he wiped his brow with a yellow silk handkerchief. “Do you know anything of her whereabouts?” he said.
Trudy Parr saw odd markings on the back of the man’s hands. Circles
and cruciforms. And a cursive script she didn’t recognise. They might
have been tattoos, but appeared different, like blemishes. The man
noticed and put on his gloves again.
“You’re a curious one, aren’t you?” he said.
“Some people have said so,” said Trudy Parr. Suddenly the man didn’t
seem so small anymore. His eyes were darker. She swore she heard
“It’s a hard life for a woman, is it not?”
“That’s a peculiar thing to say,” said Trudy Parr.
“I mean for a woman to establish herself in the world of men.”
“What’s your game, mister?”
“If you find her,” said the man, taking a card from his shirt pocket
and handing it to her, “would you call me? I understand you do that sort
of thing for a living. I’ll make it worth your while.”
Trudy Parr looked at the card. No name. Only a phone number.
“I think you’re the last person I’ll call when I find her,” she said.
“That’s entirely the wrong attitude,” Miss Parr.
“You know my name?”
“My knowledge of things here is not unlimited, but I know that much.”
He grinned. But if he meant it to be an agreeable smile, he failed.
In a moment he’d put his hat on his head and walked to the door. Before he left, he turned and spoke again.
“In creating this singular masterwork, Melisa Patton is only repaying
a favour. As the granter of that favour, should I be vilified for
collecting on it?”
Trudy Parr said nothing. Only wished he would go away. He did, without the sound of footfalls as he proceeded down the hall. 7 pm Tony Nuzzo’s
“And so far that’s all I know,” said Trudy Parr. She had
intentionally failed to mention the small man and the whispering that
had surrounded him.
“A mystery,” said Tony Nuzzo. “She’s gotta be round somwheres.”
“She’ll show up.”
A man in a summer suit needing a press came into the establishment and looked at the menu.
“Can a fella just get an ordinary cuppa joe round here?” he said.
“I make,” said Tony Nuzzo, getting up. He knew a flatfoot when he saw one. “I make. I know whatsa guy like you likes.”
It was police detective Olaf Brandt.
“That’s fine,” he said, and dropped a nickel onto the counter.
Nuzzo looked at the small coin and rolled his eyes.
Brandt took a seat across from Trudy Parr.
“I hear you was looking for Melisa Patton,” he said.
“That’s right.” She braced herself. Cops like Brandt didn’t patronise shops like Tony Nuzzo’s, unless they had a reason.
“It’s bad, Trudy,” he said. “We found her this afternoon. She took a room at the Astoria Hotel.”
“She jumped early this morning round four a.m., best we can figure.
She mentioned you in her suicide note. How you were best friends. How
she was sorry.”
“Four? This morning?” Trudy Parr recalled the terrible sequence and
clarity of her dream. “Why’d it take you this long to get to me? I’ve
been calling in to the office all day.”
Tony Nuzzo arrived with a cup of black coffee and put it down in front of Brandt. Then he stood and listened.
“No one noticed her until this afternoon when somebody looked out of a
window. She fell onto an awning, not the street. Sorry, Trudy. Her note
said something about a fella that wouldn’t leave her alone. He wanted a
painting in the worst way. She said she didn’t have the blood in her to
finish it. I guess that’s artist talk. Note said you should run like
hell if you meet the runt. A real little swell. Dresses like a
millionaire. She didn’t want to write his whole name in the note, said
it would be bad juju for the people who read it. Called him Bub for
“He ran his hand over that painting like he was gonna have one hell of an orgasm,” Trudy Parr said.
“Who?” said Nuzzo.
Brandt sipped his coffee, and raised an eye brow.
“That’s some damn fine java,” he said.