Their mission was simple, if a little underripe.
Under the cover of darkness, two men in hoodies drove through the Montreal residential neighbourhood of Bois-Franc as their unsuspecting targets slept soundly through the night.
As daylight came over the cul-de-sac on Monday morning, many residents woke up to find a perplexing present on their doorsteps.
Nearly every house on the street had been bestowed a whole watermelon, each accompanied by a cryptic yet irreverent message.
"First name: Walter. Last name: Melon," one Post-it note read. Many of the fruit favours were simply marked "enjoy" or "watermelon."
Speculation ran rampant in a neighbourhood Facebook group. Some suspected the watermelons had been tampered with, while others struggled to surmise the fruit's significance.
But it turns out the motive behind the stunt was neither sinister nor symbolic.
"We were really interested in doing something chaotic yet good for the community," said Evgeny Patvakanov, who pulled off the produce prank alongside partner-in-crime and cameraman Victor Rene de Cotret.
The 20-year-old students, who call themselves "the watermelon men," said the grocery giveaway is part of a series of well-intentioned shenanigans they've filmed for the "evgeny" YouTube channel.
Patvakanov said their latest gambit was inspired by a social media post proposing that the best way to leave a mark on a stranger's life is to leave a watermelon on their doorstep.
Why a watermelon? Patvakanov's best guess is that the durable rind prevents damage during drop-offs.
But as with many internet phenomena, he believes the inscrutability of the gesture may be the point. "It's great for content," he said.
With clicks and likes in their sights, Patvakanov and de Cotret went grocery shopping. Three stores and $150 later, Patvakanov's convertible was filled to the brim with 50 watermelons.
The duo drew stares as they drove around town, handing out the occasional watermelon to someone on the street.
Clad in all black, they decided to strike Bois-Franc at 1 a.m. "We're redistributing the wealth," Patvakanov tells the camera.
The YouTube video features a montage of Patvakanov and de Cotret scampering from home to home on a slapstick mission to deliver watermelons without detection.
They feared their cover was blown when the automatic porch lights were triggered at one house. A few drops later, the lights flashed on again — this time manually. Someone was awake.
Patvakanov and de Cotret disposed of the remaining watermelons and hopped into the car. As they sped off, they saw the red and blue lights of emergency vehicles seemingly headed toward the scene.
Based on the community's reaction, Patvakanov and de Cotret believe their operation proved to be fruitful.
They achieved one of their objectives in attracting the attention of local news site MTL Blog, which posted a story seeking out the "watermelon man."
More importantly, de Cotret said he and Patvakanov showed that mischief doesn't have to be mean-spirited.
Unlike many YouTube pranks that turn unwitting passersby into the butt of the joke, de Cotret said he and Patvakanov devise schemes that are meant to surprise and delight.
"Especially now, there's not a lot of random joy in life," Patvakanov said. "This seemed like a very wholesome and friendly way of thanking people."
The troublemakers said they have a few more tricks up their sleeves, and while they can't reveal their secrets, they're thinking big, round and juicy.
"Once we get a budget upgrade, we'll be able to do a bigger scale," Patvakanov said. "Like a U-Haul truck full of watermelons."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 22, 2020.
Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press