Conspiracy of Brothers: The Murder of Bill Matiyek

On October 18th, 1978, Bill Matiyek was murdered in a gangland-style execution in a Port Hope bar. Conspiracy of Brothers, the classic true crime book, tells the story of rival outlaw biker gangs in small-town Ontario and the murder that thrust them into the courtroom.

Mick Lowe's true crime novel Conspiracy of Brothers was a national bestseller and winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Non-Fiction Crime Book. It...

Cathy Cotgrave stifled a yawn as her eyes swept over the deserted taproom of the Queen’s Hotel for perhaps the hundredth time that day. It wasn’t shaping up to be a particularly memorable night. The big, L-shaped room, licensed to seat 220, held at most a dozen patrons. It was early yet, the end of the supper hour, when most of the ten thousand residents of Port Hope, Ontario, were at home finishing dinner with their families, the time when only the most earnest of drinkers would forgo a meal in favour of alcohol. But there was none of the promise of a busy night to come that Cathy sometimes sensed during the slack period of the dinner hour.

Though only nineteen, Cotgrave was already an experienced barmaid— cocky, bright, and alert. Like any good waitress, she was constantly aware of her customers, their drinks, and her surroundings—such as they were. She noted automatically, without really seeing, the bar’s dingy interior— the tacky red velvet wallpaper, darkened by a decade of smoke and grime, the round Formica-topped tables, each one surrounded by four wooden captain’s chairs, their seats and backs upholstered in dull black leatherette.

Her gaze settled, finally, on a table at the far corner of the room, the only table that was providing a brisk business. There were three rough-looking men at the table, and an equally tough-looking woman, and Cathy knew them all: Bill Matiyek, Fred Jones, Sonny Bronson, and the woman, Jamie Hanna. Though she barely knew the latter three, Cathy considered Bill a good friend. In fact, she’d eaten breakfast with him at Turck’s Restaurant earlier in the day. Afterwards they’d gone to her apartment and smoked a joint of Bill’s grass, dropped into the hotel briefly, and then driven over to Newcastle to see a friend of Bill’s. Matiyek had brought her back to Port Hope in his truck in time to start her three-o’clock swing shift at the hotel.

Cathy liked Bill a lot, a sentiment that was not shared by everyone in Port Hope, where many people considered him the town bully. At the age of twenty-three Bill Matiyek was a veritable grizzly of a man, standing six foot three, weighing nearly three hundred pounds. His massive torso and great belly seemed to overflow the wraparound wooden arms of his chair, and its legs creaked precariously whenever Bill shifted his weight or roared in gales of laughter at something Fred or Sonny said. That was Bill, Cathy thought, with a giant’s appetite for living, laughing, fighting, or drinking. He was just as expansive with money. He earned big money at his job on the pipeline, and he wasn’t afraid to spend it, especially on his women friends. However mean Bill might be around some people, he was always a perfect gentleman around most women and all children—warm, sensitive, gentle, and generous. Too bad Bill wasn’t buying his own drinks tonight, Cathy caught herself thinking. He was a good tipper. He’d bought the first round, but Fred seemed to do all the buying after that, and he wasn’t nearly as open-handed. Maybe Fred was repaying Bill for the bennies—the little white diet pills—that the big man was sharing with his friends. As Cathy watched, Lawrence Leon joined the foursome at Bill’s table.

Bill was delighted to see Lawrence. They shook hands warmly, biker-style, thumbs up, forearms almost touching. With Lawrence here, Bill’s day was now complete, and this was a day he’d looked forward to for months—the first day of his winter-long layoff from the pipeline. All summer he’d labored in the deep, endless trench, throwing heavy wooden pallets out of the muck and over his head with no more apparent effort than a normal man might show heaving a piece of stove wood. Now, a long, lazy winter stretched ahead: partying, drawing pogey, maybe augmenting that income with the odd dope deal.

Besides being best friends, Bill and Lawrence were also brothers of sorts, because they were both officers in the same motorcycle club—the Golden Hawk Riders. Lawrence was President and Bill was the second-in- command, the Sergeant-at-Arms. It was true the Hawks had only seven members, but they were genuine “one-percenters” nonetheless, true out- laws. Bill was pleased to have Lawrence see him here with Fred and Sonny, because they were members of the Outlaws, the second most powerful club on the continent. Headquartered in Chicago, the Outlaws were the biggest club in Detroit, west to the Mississippi, south through Dayton, Ohio, and Atlanta, and right into Florida. They’d spread north into Ontario just eighteen months before by taking over several chapters of the Satan’s Choice, which had been Canada’s largest club. Sonny and Fred were former Choice, and the fact they’d come to see him was a great honour. That thought, plus the tingling rush of the bennies, the countless double ryes, and the expectation of the winter ahead, filled Bill with a warm glow of satisfaction.

The four men fell into the easy, obscene banter common among bikers. The conversation was mundane—Harleys, parties, drug deals and busts, who was in prison, who was at war with whom. Bill and Lawrence regaled the more senior bikers with tales of their trip last April to Daytona, Florida, to the annual Daytona Splash, the largest gathering of outlaw bikers in the world. Thousands of clubbers from across the continent converge on the east Florida beach town each spring, and the ear-splitting roar of Harley engines fills the streets and echoes off the tawdry storefronts from noon each day until long after dark. Bill and Lawrence described in coarse detail the beautiful American broads in their skimpy bikinis who lined Main Street Avenue to watch the non-stop, wheel-to-wheel procession of men and their metal. It had been Bill’s first trip to Bike Week, though Lawrence had gone many times. One year, Lawrence never tired of boasting, he’d even had his picture printed up in Easyriders, the glossy American biker magazine. Jamie Hanna was studiously ignored by the four men at her table, and this, too, was typical.

Bill truly loved the world of outlaw motorcycle clubs. The no-nonsense way that one biker had with another true brother, the total and absolute freedom. Bill was not one to be pushed around, and he loved to fight—he’d probably started more than his share—but with his size he was the match of any two or three normal-sized men. The club was a way out for Bill—a way to get off his parents’ farm in the hills north of Port Hope, a way to be somebody and to escape the drudgery of life on the pipeline.

But the Life had its darker side, too. For this was a world of hair-trigger tempers and hair-triggers, period. Bill was ready for that. He was, in fact, a walking, talking one-man arsenal. His favourite weapon was his .410 double-barrelled, sawed-off shotgun. With its shiny nickel-plated barrels it was a lovely, illegal, and, at close range, highly lethal piece. It looked like something a riverboat gambler might have carried, fitting quite nicely up Bill’s sleeve or down the top of one of his black, hand-tooled cowboy boots. Lately he’d even taken to packing another chunk, a little .32-calibre pistol he’d borrowed from his friend Neil Caplan, a part owner of the Queen’s. It nestled now in the left-hand pocket of his red-and-black-checked lumberjack shirt.

Bill loved to flash the .410. Sometimes, riding his bike on the country roads north of town, he’d pull it from his boot and, for the sheer joy of it, blast a farmer’s fencepost with both barrels, watching the sturdy wooden post atomize before his eyes. But the .32 was his little secret, and he carried it even now, surrounded as he was by friends. For beneath his daunting exterior, running like a disquieting river under the warm flow of the speed and the rye and the grass, Bill Matiyek harbored a deep and abiding fear, mingled with hatred: he lived in utter terror of Satan’s Choice, the motor- cycle club that Sonny and Fred had betrayed, and that he and Lawrence, by reviving the Golden Hawks, had defied. But tonight, among friends and with his fears at bay, Bill Matiyek downed another round of double rye.

Outside the eternal gloom of the Queen’s the autumn sun was setting, the shadows lengthening along Walton Street and its row of three-storey Victorian buildings—some of the finest Main Street “Heritage Architecture” in all of Canada. Across Walton from the Queen’s Hotel the proprietors of Cortesis Jewellers and Guardian Drugs had rolled up their awnings, emptied their tills, and gone home to dinner. Later they might spend a quiet evening with their families watching television. Mork and Mindy was the smash new sitcom of the season and two John Wayne movies were listed in the TV guide for that night.

But inside the Queen’s a true-life Canadian drama was about to unfold, unexpected and unscripted. It was 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, October 18, 1978.

Tee Hee and Porker arrived at the clubhouse of the Kitchener-Waterloo Chapter of the Satan’s Choice Motorcycle Club shortly before seven. They were planning to meet Gootch—Tee Hee had planned the whole thing in detail—and it was typical of David “Tee Hee” Hoffman that he would arrive a few minutes early for an appointment. Porker wheeled his old Biscayne into the paint-store parking lot beside the clubhouse and the two men ambled across the empty lot to the clubhouse door. But the heavy steel door opened from the inside as they approached and two strangers stepped out to meet them. Coppers.

“Fellas, there’s a little investigation going on in here, and you can’t come in till we’re through. Would you mind waiting outside?”

Tee Hee looked at Porker, then back at the cops. He shrugged, and the two bikers returned to the Chevy. Another raid was no big deal, especially to Tee Hee, who was, at the age of thirty, a veteran member of the Satan’s Choice. Both men had a pretty good idea what it was all about—a woman had claimed she was raped in the clubhouse a few nights earlier, and whoever the police were after, Tee Hee and Porker knew it wasn’t them. The two men sat idly in the car for a half-hour or so. It struck them as funny—or highly incompetent—because while the cops were inside, doing their thing, several members whom Tee Hee reckoned the police might have wanted to ques- tion about the skin beef also came into the parking lot, saw him and Porker sitting in the car, figured out something was wrong, and quickly took off again. Tee Hee smiled inwardly.

Had he known who was inside the ramshackle two-storey clubhouse, the big biker might have been more concerned. There were, in all, a dozen officers, representing four different police forces. The Waterloo Regional Police, who had the local jurisdiction, were there in force, with both plainclothes and uniformed officers. The Ontario Provincial Police were represented by Corporal Terry Hall, the commander of the OPP’s Special Squad, Intelligence Branch, better known within motorcycle circles as the “biker squad,” and Constable Donald Denis, who was also assigned to the squad. A member of the Metro Toronto Police biker squad was present. Even the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had a man there. It was an imposing array of elite law- enforcement specialists for such a routine investigation.

At last one of the officers signalled to Tee Hee and Porker. The police were beginning to leave the clubhouse, their business apparently finished, and one of them, a plainclothes dick from Kitchener, told Tee Hee he could go inside, to make sure that everything was in order and that nothing had been damaged. Porker was told to wait outside.

Tee Hee’s selection to make the inspection was not accidental. He was widely known and respected by the police present, who also considered him something of an enigma. And Tee Hee was an unusual character, even by Choice standards. Outwardly every inch a biker, with his long ponytail and Fu Manchu moustache, vaguely menacing by his very size—almost as wide as he was tall—Tee Hee Hoffman was much more than a stereotypical biker. There were two clues to his nature in his external appearance: his glasses and his choice of footwear. Hoffman wore horn-rimmed spectacles, a rarity in club circles, but a necessity for a man who spent eight hours a day doing close work; and he almost never wore the heavy leather boots that were a mandatory and practical part of biker apparel. Boots were essential for kicking the heavy kickstart pedal on a balky Harley, and useful for just plain stomping whenever the need arose. But Tee Hee preferred running shoes, and he wore them as long as the weather would permit.

Hoffman coolly appraised the six rooms of his clubhouse: on the main floor, the large clubroom with its bar at one end, a juke box, and an air conditioner that never seemed to work, the floor tiles cracked and chipped by hard use; upstairs, the smaller rooms, one of which contained a grubby mattress lying on the floor. Everything appeared to be copacetic. He had also noticed Terry Hall leaving the building, and Hall had noticed him. Tee Hee had glowered; the cocksure Hall had smiled back.

The burly biker shrugged his approval, and the rest of the coppers began to leave, some of the younger, uniformed ones stealing a last curious glance at Hoffman. He was a tough one to figure out. Here was a guy who’d been a Choice for over ten years and yet he had virtually no criminal record. He held a steady job, in fact he’d had only one job in his whole working life, as a bookkeeper for B. F. Goodrich, where he’d worked since he was nineteen. Despite his club affiliation he was a model employee, respected and trusted by his supervisors, who were gradually promoting him to more responsible positions within the company hierarchy.

To the police, all of this meant only one thing: Hoffman had been very smart so far and his greatest value to the club lay in his ability to handle the ever-increasing cash flow that was pouring into club coffers, the police were certain, from a wide range of criminal activities that included stolen goods, prostitution, and drug-trafficking.

Tee Hee stood at the front door of the clubhouse as the last of the cops departed. The lock, he noticed, had been badly damaged when the coppers had busted in. Porker entered finally, and by then Tee Hee knew exactly what he would do, for his mind, as befitted a man who worked with numbers, was orderly, precise, logical.

Porker would go to buy a new lock—the clubhouse could not remain unlocked overnight. Then Tee Hee would call Claude “Gootch” Morin, the chapter president, to tell him about the raid and that the coast was clear. Finally, he’d have to phone Stratford, where he and Porker and Gootch had been heading before the raid. All their plans were ruined now, anyway.

Tee Hee, so nicknamed by his club brothers because of his high-pitched, tittering laugh, possessed a keen sense of humor. He might have paused, then, to savor the rich irony of the moment. Here he was, treasurer of the K-W Chapter of the Satan’s Choice, an organization that had, only eighteen months before, been compared to the Mafia by police officials quoted in the local newspaper. His sinister plans for this particular evening had been to drive to Stratford, to a shop called “Costumes by Colleen,” to rent Halloween outfits for the annual Vagabonds Halloween party in Toronto, slated for one week from Friday.

But Hoffman didn’t pause. He reached for the clubhouse phone and dialed Gootch’s number. As he did so, a tape recorder clicked on in a building adjacent to the clubhouse. As he talked to Gootch, the reels on the machine turned slowly, in total silence, faithfully recording every word of their conversation. It was exactly 7:36 p.m.

While Tee Hee Hoffman was making his inspection of the Kitchener club- house, another waitress, Gayle Thompson, was beginning her shift at the Queen’s Hotel. She usually worked through until the one-o’clock closing, and, if necessary, Cathy would work through her usual quitting-time of 11 p.m. It sometimes got quite busy in the bar then, as the afternoon-shift workers from Eldorado Nuclear, Wire and Cable, and Davidson Rubber got off work. Often they’d drop into the Queen’s to ogle the strippers and have a few beers, but tonight there was no live entertainment and Gayle could see right away that it looked to be a long, dull evening. When it was quiet like this she and Cathy would both work the whole room, sharing the tips, and Gayle, too, began to serve Bill Matiyek’s table.

In many ways, Gayle Thompson and Cathy Cotgrave were remarkably similar. Both were mature for their years, and both felt at home in the tough environment of the Queen’s. Like Cathy, Gayle considered Bill Matiyek a good friend, he drank so often at the hotel. He sure knew how to party. Sometimes Bill would get so drunk that he’d start to throw people out of the hotel himself after closing-time, just for the fun of it. It was a standing joke among hotel employees that they should watch Bill closely at the end of a long day’s drinking. If he passed out, he weighed so much that all of the staff together couldn’t lift him. They’d have to lock him in, and just leave him there until morning.

At about 7:30 Lawrence Leon rose to leave the group at Bill’s table. They all urged him to stay, but Lawrence had promised his wife that he’d be home after just one drink, and for once he meant to keep his word. Actually, he’d had three or four drinks in the space of an hour as Fred Jones kept ordering more rounds. The president of the Golden Hawk Riders could see that the others were already half-pissed as he departed.

The evening began to sour a little for the remaining foursome at the corner table after eight o’clock with the arrival of Brian Brideau. Brideau was known to all the Queen’s regulars as a speeder, a real street freak, who never seemed to have enough money to support his habit.

Brideau flitted from table to table in the barroom, all twitchy and hyper, hustling drinks or money or both, and no one paid much attention until he got to Bill’s table. Matiyek strongly disliked Brideau, considering him a real bug, and the little speed freak’s tendency to hang out with the Satan’s Choice did nothing to endear him to Matiyek.

Brideau had been bugging Matiyek for money, or for some of Bill’s bennies, and an argument started. Bill hooked Brideau, and before anyone knew what was happening both Bill and Fred Jones were on top of Brideau, Matiyek holding him down on the floor while Fred kicked him in the head. It made quite a commotion in the almost empty bar, and Gayle Thompson moved quickly to Matiyek’s table and ordered the three of them to take it outside, which they did. Bill and Fred beat Brideau thoroughly before returning to their table. They’d just gotten settled back in when Brideau ran into the bar- room, still breathless and shaking. He pointed a finger at Bill. “The next time I see you,” he screamed, so loud Cathy Cotgrave could hear him halfway across the room, “your head will be at the end of a shotgun!” With that, Brideau stormed out of the bar, but not the hotel. He stopped at a bank of pay phones in the lobby, lifted the receiver, took a deep breath, and began to make good his threat against Bill Matiyek.


Rick Sauvé had just finished putting his four-year-old daughter, Angie to bed when the phone rang. The caller was Brian Brideau. He told Sauvé he’d just been at the Queen’s, that Bill Matiyek was in there drinking with two Outlaws, Fred Jones and Sonny Bronson. They had started talking about the Choice, and they told Brideau they wanted to have a meeting with an officer from the Peterborough Chapter. Brideau just thought Rick should know. Sauvé thanked him and hung up.

Rick Sauvé had been a member of the Satan’s Choice Peterborough Chapter for less than a year, and he wasn’t sure what he should do about Brideau’s call. He knew that most of the club’s Peterborough Chapter offi- cers were in jail, awaiting trial on a rape charge. Two members were up in Peterborough, probably in a hotel bar somewhere, but Sauvé doubted he’d be able to find either of them. It was a half-hour drive from his house on the outskirts of Port Hope to Peterborough, and besides, since his wife Sharon was at work he couldn’t leave Angie alone.

Of course, there was always Merv. He was a real old-timer in the club and he should be at home. Rick remembered Merv had had a number of teeth pulled on Monday and was off work all week. Sauvé called Merv Blaker’s number and told him about the call from Brideau. Did Merv know where any of the other Peterborough Chapter guys might be? He didn’t. Rick said he’d try to find some other members, he’d call Merv back, and they could all go down to the Queen’s and check out what was going on. Merv said that was fine by him.

So there were two of them now, at least, Rick thought. But he wasn’t about to walk into that bar with just Merv to back the play. Merv’s club nickname was “Indian,” because he was an Ojibway. Merv was the quietest, most easygoing guy you’d ever want to meet, at least until he started drink- ing. Even though he had been in the club since 1967, Merv wasn’t much of a scrapper. In fact, he came about as close to being a non-violent outlaw biker as anybody in the whole club. No, Rick would need more brothers than just Merv.

He wondered what was going down at the Queen’s. Sauvé knew Matiyek fairly well: he was more than a passing acquaintance but less than a friend. Rick knew that Bill was a close friend of his older brother, Larry, and that the two families, the Sauvés and the Matiyeks, were related by marriage. Sauvé himself had had several run-ins with Bill Matiyek, as had others in the Peterborough Chapter. Most of the hassles had been started by one Choice member, though—Tommy “Retard” Horner. Retard’s nickname said it all—he’d fight anybody, any time, anywhere, for no reason at all, and he and Matiyek couldn’t spend ten minutes in the same room together without going at each other. But Horner was in jail now, too.

Sauvé was on less certain ground when it came to the two Outlaws. He knew who they were, knew that they’d switched patch from Choice to Outlaws before he’d joined the club, and that a state of near war had existed between the two clubs for a time. And now, here they were not five minutes’ drive from his house, and they wanted a sit-down with an officer from the Choice. Sauvé considered all these things before making his next move. It was 9:19 p.m. when he finally reached for the phone and placed a long- distance call to the Satan’s Choice clubhouse in Toronto. As he did so, Sauvé had no way of knowing that Brian Brideau had failed to impart two vital pieces of information: first, that he had just been beaten up by Matiyek and Jones, and second, and more important, that Bill Matiyek was carrying a gun.

Nutty Comeau happened to answer the clubhouse phone. Sauvé told him briefly what the situation was: that Matiyek and two Outlaws were drinking down at the Queen’s, that they said they wanted a meeting with an officer from the Peterborough Chapter, that Rick couldn’t locate any officers, just Merv.

Nutty looked around the clubhouse. There were a fair number of guys around because the weekly chapter meeting had just ended, but he doubted that any of them wanted to make the hour’s drive to Port Hope. “Can’t you guys down there handle this? Try again to find some of your own guys,” he told Sauvé. “If you still can’t find anybody, call us back.”

Comeau knew that Rick Sauvé was a greenhorn, but everybody had just gotten comfortable at the Markham Road clubhouse, drinking beer, watching the Maple Leafs play one of their first home games of the season on TV. Mike Palmateer was in goal against the Sabres and the teams had played to a score- less tie in the first period. It was a good hockey game and what the hell, maybe the Leafs were even going to have a decent season for a change. Comeau cracked open another beer and went to join the other guys in front of the TV.

Nutty Comeau was no greenhorn. His real name was Gary, but his nick- name suited him perfectly. He was full of nervous energy, always in motion, always mouthing off, playing practical jokes, scheming, and always in trouble. He’d joined the Satan’s Choice back in 1970, when he was just eighteen. Now twenty-six, Nutty was a veteran biker with a long criminal record.

His first criminal conviction had been for a minor offence, a $100 fine for possession of hashish; and the second beef was just plain bad luck. He’d gotten pinched for driving while impaired, but he was using false id. He was released on his own recognizance, but the radio stations reported the charge, under the assumed name. It turned out that the hot id had belonged to a former copper, whose mother heard about it on the radio and called the police. He was convicted twice: for driving while impaired, and for “acknowledging bail,” a rare charge based on the fact that he’d signed out on his own recognizance under a false name.

A year later he’d copped a plea on indecent assault after a clubhouse party. Gary always claimed it was a bullshit charge—the broad had pulled the train before, but this time someone at the clubhouse had stolen her ring and her money, which was stupid. When she got home her mother, who was on welfare, had started hassling her for the rent money. The woman was just a splasher, the type that was forever beating down the clubhouse door, but when she realized her money was gone she decided to lay charges. Some of the Vagabonds had pulled pen time on a similar skin beef only a few months before, and Nutty’s lawyer worked out a plea bargain for some of the Choice members. Comeau served six months in the bucket, the only time he’d ever done. Now he was surviving on a pogey rip-off, running a few broads on the street, running errands for some of the other club guys, whatever was going down at the time.

It was just after 9:30 when Rick Sauvé called back. Once again Nutty took the call, and once again Rick said he couldn’t find any of the Peterborough Chapter members. Comeau said he’d see what he could do, hung up the phone, and hollered around the clubhouse to see who wanted to go down to Port Hope. No one really did, but late in the second period Sittler put the Leafs two goals ahead and that sort of decided the issue. With Salming and Turnbull on defence and Palmateer in net it didn’t look as if the Sabres would be able to come back. About a dozen guys drained their beers and headed for the door. Nutty grabbed a couple of travelers, to drink on the way down.

No one was entirely sure exactly why they were all driving to Port Hope. Some thought that Rick Sauvé himself was in trouble with the Outlaws and Matiyek. Some expected trouble with Matiyek, while others figured the hassle was with Jones and Bronson. Maybe they were trying to recruit Matiyek, to start a new Outlaw chapter in Port Hope, which was Choice territory. Others had never heard of Matiyek but sure didn’t mind the chance to settle old scores with Jones and Bronson. A barroom brawl was as good a way to celebrate a Leafs victory as any.

As far as Jeff McLeod was concerned, he was going to Port Hope to render whatever assistance might be necessary. At six feet, 320 pounds, McLeod was certainly the right man for the job. With his full beard and long hair, which he often wore in a ponytail that stretched halfway down his back, Jeff was the very archetype of a big, dumb biker, truly frightening in demeanour and appearance. He was also best friends with Nutty, which was how it hap- pened that they were in the same car. Nutty and Jeff were inseparable—both had grown up in Scarborough within a few miles of each other, though they hadn’t really become friends until Jeff joined the club, five years after Comeau, in 1975. McLeod’s police record was a lot shorter, too.

Lorne Campbell and Larry Hurren shared a second car. Dark, dangerous, and deceptively soft-spoken, Lorne was an iron-worker—a high-steel man— who supplemented his income by collecting bad debts, usually with a base- ball bat and a partner to back his play. Although Lorne was, at thirty, just four years older than Larry, he still regarded Hurren as a kind of godson. He had, after all, given Larry his first ride on a Harley when Hurren was only sixteen, and then sponsored him into the club a few years later. Larry still possessed a certain boyish charm, especially when he smiled.

Armand Sanguigni was in a third car. Of all the members of the Satan’s Choice who were speeding through the darkness towards Port Hope, Armand was far and away the scariest. He’d been a suspect in several murders—but there was never enough evidence to convict him. The police also considered him to be one of four members of the Satan’s Choice with direct ties to the Mafia. (One of the others was Cecil Kirby, who had left the club two years earlier to become a professional mob hit man before turning police informer and, later, something of a media celebrity, to the everlasting shame of the Choice faithful.) Clean-shaven and not overly large, Sanguigni was also the straightest-looking of the Choice members barrelling down Highway 401 that night. With his handsome looks, Armand Sanguigni could have been mistaken for a college boy. He stood out from the others like a Honda on a club run.

Taken together, they would be twelve of the meanest, roughest tickets ever to darken the doors of the Queen’s Hotel and that was a source of great pride and satisfaction to each of them. It gave them a sense of belonging, somehow.


Things were definitely beginning to drag at Bill Matiyek’s table. Just before ten o’clock Fred Jones and Jamie Hanna had gotten into an argument and Jones had slapped her. Neither Cathy nor Gayle was close enough to hear what the argument was about and neither actually saw Fred hit Jamie, but it was a quick, hard slap, and they both heard the “smack” of flesh on flesh.

Jamie left Bill’s table then, and took a seat at another table near the bar. There was already an old man sitting there, pretty drunk, whom nobody knew. After a few minutes Bill came over to Jamie’s new table to talk things over. He moved back and forth several times, and then Fred came over and sat down to apologize. He even ordered Jamie another beer as a peace offering.

A few more people drifted into the hotel. Sue Foote arrived around 10:30. She noticed the guys at Bill’s table, Jamie Hanna at hers, and Rod Stewart at the bar, as she walked through the main lounge and into the shuffleboard room, a partitioned area in one corner of the larger room. Sue ordered a beer and started watching McClintock, just killing time until Cathy got off work at eleven. Like Bill and Jamie, Sue Foote was a regular at the Queen’s, and she and Cathy had become roommates at the beginning of the month. They had planned to meet Cathy’s boyfriend, Doug Peart, and a friend of his, Dave Gillispie, and then go to the Ganaraska, Port Hope’s other hotel, for a few drinks. Doug and Dave arrived at around a quarter to eleven, and the three of them played shuffleboard for a while.

Rod Stewart had been in the Queen’s, perched on a bar stool, since 8:30, but he hadn’t really come there to drink. Stewart was a small-time Port Hope contractor and a member of the Town Council, and he had bid successfully on the job of renovating the gloomy interior of the hotel lounge. Stewart had come in to make some estimates and talk to one of the co- owners of the hotel, Leo Powell. He’d been joined by two friends who were drinking beer. Stewart was drinking Coke.

Neither Rod Stewart nor anyone else noticed the first of the Choice arriv- als. Lorne Campbell and Larry Hurren reached the hotel before the others, because the rest had gone to Sauvé’s house first, to get directions. Larry knew his way around Port Hope and had guided Lorne to the hotel. Hurren went up to the bar to get a drink and Lorne sat down quietly at a table and started to check things out. He spotted Matiyek right away—it was hard to miss him—and Broson and Jones. The main Choice contingent, meanwhile, had arrived at Sauvé’s. Merv was already there. Before leaving for the hotel they assigned the task of babysitting Angie to two strikers, or trial members.

As Lorne surveyed the peaceful barroom the house telephone rang. The call was for Bill Matiyek, and the big man left his table to take the call on the phone, which was mounted on a wooden post at the bar near Rod Stewart and his friends. Stewart was facing the telephone as Matiyek approached, and he noticed Matiyek stagger slightly as he neared the bar—the result, Stewart decided, of too much drink.

Bill was on the phone when the rest of the Choice members arrived. Sue Foote, who was still in the shuffleboard room, noticed Rick Sauvé and Merv Blaker come in the back door, as part of a larger group. They acknowledged her with a nod, and she smiled back. She knew both men fairly well, and had had dinner at Merv’s house in the past.

Another group of Choice members entered the bar through the front door. None of them were flying colours; some were wearing green Hydro parkas, but almost everyone in the room knew Blaker and Sauvé and assumed that the men with them were Satan’s Choice. Their arrival together had an enormous impact in the almost empty room. Suddenly a chill was on the evening and the air was heavy with apprehension.

Gayle Thompson felt a clutch of fear at her throat. She hated the Choice. Months before, Retard Horner had pinned her against the bar and threatened to kidnap her if the bartender didn’t turn up the jukebox. She’d had no doubt he would have done it, too, if it hadn’t been for the timely arrival of Merv Blaker, who’d managed to get Horner settled down. All members of the Satan’s Choice had since been barred from the hotel; there was a notice to that effect pinned up behind the bar beside the ice bucket. Gayle went over to speak with Leo Powell, her boss, who was behind the bar. She told him she was certain that the new arrivals were members of the Satan’s Choice, that they’d been barred by his own order, and that someone should get the police right away.

Cathy came over and agreed with Gayle. But Leo, to Gayle’s immense disgust, seemed to hesitate. It dawned on Gayle that all Leo could see was dollar signs, sudden business on a slow night. He actually wanted them to serve these animals! It was almost eleven o’clock and time for Cathy to go off shift.

“Cash your float,” Gayle told Cathy. “No, no, Cathy, I want you to stay on and help Gayle,” Leo insisted. Rod Stewart was still watching Matiyek. Suddenly Bill seemed nervous, apprehensive. “It feels kind of lonely here,” Stewart heard Matiyek say on the telephone. Finally Bill hung up and made his way back to his table.

To Cathy, there seemed to be great confusion as the Choice arrived. They milled around at first, making sure that everyone noticed them. Sauvé and Blaker took a table together not far from the corner of the bar where Rod Stewart was sitting. In the pinball room—another partitioned area at the opposite end of the barroom from the shuffleboard area—a group of the Choice led by a man whom she didn’t then know but would later identify as Armand Sanguigni, were talking with Fred Jones. Jones looked kind of hysterical; he was waving his arms around. Cathy went over to Sauvé and Blaker’s table and told them they were barred and weren’t going to be served. The two bikers just looked up at her and shrugged.

Gary Comeau had arrived with the group that entered through the back door. He immediately noticed a woman sitting at a table with an old man in front of the service area of the bar. She looked kind of interesting and she obviously couldn’t be with the old man . . . maybe this wouldn’t be such a wasted evening after all. Comeau pulled out a chair at the table and ordered a “50” from one of the waitresses standing behind the bar only a few feet away.

Merv Blaker went up to the bar to get a book of matches and talk to the bartender, Rick Galbraith. Galbraith was a biker too, but not a clubber, and he’d known Merv for years. The Indian looked funny with half his teeth missing, and Rick kidded Merv about it. Larry Hurren was still at the bar and Galbraith, who had been off work all summer and didn’t know the Choice were barred, had served him.

Gayle Thompson was waiting for the trouble to start when Leo, along with Julie Joncas, his girlfriend and the head waitress, left the hotel. They said they were going for the cops—the Port Hope police station was across a small park just behind the hotel—but Gayle never forgave the hotel owner for leaving when he did. Wasn’t a captain supposed to be the last man off a sinking ship?

Rod Stewart and his friends were still in their stools at the bar. Stewart’s back was turned to most of the Choice, which made him distinctly uneasy. With his voice lowered, Stewart asked his friends whether they all shouldn’t leave. They decided against it—they didn’t want to draw attention to themselves.

Dave Gillispie emerged from the shuffleboard room and walked across the lounge to chat with Sauvé and Blaker. Gary Galbraith, the bartender’s younger brother, was a Choice striker and he’d cracked up his bike the day before. Gillispie had heard about Gary’s accident and he squatted between Sauvé and Blaker to ask how Galbraith was doing and whether his bike was totalled—maybe he’d want to sell some parts off it?

Gary Comeau tried to strike up a conversation with the broad. She asked him if he was in a bike club. Gary said he was—Satan’s Choice.

“Oooooh.” She seemed impressed. “What’s your name?”

“Nutty’s my nickname.” But after that there was a lull in the conversa- tion, and Gary began to grow impatient. And he still hadn’t gotten his beer. What was going on here, anyway?

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Mick Lowe's true crime novel Conspiracy of Brothers was a national bestseller and winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Non-Fiction Crime Book. It is being rereleased by Vintage Canada  for its twenty-fifth anniversary.