I was down at my favorite bar, the Doorman’s Arms, one rainy night with my pals Billy and Russ, complaining about the price of gas, when a lean stranger walked up to our table. “Help a homeless person on the run from the law?” he asked.
I was reaching for a loonie when Billy, who owns the local PayMor shoe store, touched my arm. He looked down and drawled, “Those Reeboks are pretty preppy for a man on the lam.”
The stranger looked crushed. “I knew I’d never get away with this,” he sighed. “Who are you?” I asked. “They call me Doogle,” said the stranger. He lifted his T-shirt with the “Linux” logo, to reveal a tattoo that said “Microsoft Sux.” Russ was the first to figure it out. “You’re a Web developer!” he charged. “Don’t say that so loud,” said Doogle.
“Darn you all to heck,” said Billy (or words to that effect). A few years ago he paid a fortune for a flashy website that has drawn fewer visitors than Slug Flats’ Museum of Hub Caps. “People like you cost me a year’s profits,” he said. Then Rusty joined in: “One of you sold me an e-commerce site that never worked. Every Monday I had to clean up all the abandoned shopping carts.”
“It wasn’t my fault,” said Doogle. He looked Russ in the eye. “Maybe your site wasn’t scalable. But with a new content-management system and a custom user interface …”
“Let’s kill him now,” said Billy.
I stepped in front of Doogle. “What is this, a lynch mob?” I asked. “He’s never done anything to you.” “We have to stop him,” said Russ, “before he sells again.”
“Don’t worry,” said Doogle. “I haven’t designed a site in months. I’ve been helping people install anti-virus software.” When I looked skeptical he added, “I tried to wash windshields, but the squeegee kids threw me out when they found out I designed a pay-per-use music site.”
“Now my kids will want to kill you, too,” snarled Russ. “Wait,” Doogle pleaded. “Think of what I’ve been through. Once we were thousands. Our neighbors begged us for stock tips. VCs chased us down the street. Now we are lost and shunned, victims of a market we never understood.”
At that, even Russ looked sympathetic. “I have some brochureware you could install on my site,” offered Billy.
Suddenly there was a commotion in the doorway. Two angry-looking men and a woman were arguing with the doorman. Doogle ducked behind my chair. “Who are they?” I whispered. “My arch-enemies,” cried Doogle. “The Investors Who Got In Too Late!”
“We know he’s in here,” shouted a ruddy-faced intruder brandishing a mean set of dental pliers. “Give me back my retirement savings!” squeaked his companion, a meek follower-type who looked just the sort of person to have bought Nortel stock at $90. The strangers entered the room, peering carefully under every table.
“You looking for a skinny guy in chinos and sneakers?” I called out. “There’s a reward for his capture,” replied the ruddy man. “One hundred shares of Chapters.ca.”
“The guy just ran out the back,” I said. “He’s probably heading for an Internet cafÃÆÃ©.” “Let’s hustle,” said the dentist, waving to his team. The woman grabbed her cellphone and barked, “Long Arm, this is Vengeance One. Cover the alley. This time we’ve got him!”
When they were gone, Doogle rose shakily to his feet. “Thanks,” he said. “I’d better be going.” “But where will you go?” I asked. “What will you do?”
“Maybe I’ll go work for my cousin down in the States,” said Doogle. “He’s with a startup that does text-message marketing for cellphones. If that doesn’t work out, I have a job offer to help some Nigerian cabinet ministers with an e-mail campaign.” With that, even I was ready to kill him.
When last seen, Doogle was running for his life down Main Street. If we hadn’t been wearing overshoes, we probably would have caught him.
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