Chapter 11: Last Howl on the Hill

Go to previous chapter – Chapter 10: For Sale Death House

As we all now know, Thorsby was wrong about doing the woman. The press put Ralston’s shady dealings under a spotlight and his wife was deemed guilty by association. Lay preacher or not. I even overheard a couple in a coffee shop joking that she should have ‘kept better company.’ Osterwich reported that a Wolf letter had been found but for reasons known only to them, police continued to withhold its contents. The brass and politicians probably wanted to discourage Wolf wannabes. It didn’t work.

The third copycat Wolf shooting happened in San Francisco about a week after Ralston and Amy hit the news. A banker got taken out leaving his golf club. A note was left behind citing the Wolf. Then there were two in one day. A city council member shot to death in his Chicago office and the mayor of a small California town assassinated as he sat in his car at a stop light. The killer threw a note tied around a rock through the broken driver’s side window.

An oilman was gunned down in Calgary and a Conservative Senator, whose recent patronage appointment had garnered a lot of negative press, was blasted with a shotgun outside his Ottawa apartment. None of the notes were released to the public but authorities confirmed all the killings had been done in the Wolf’s name.

Things were quiet for a week, then another round of shootings started. Two in Dallas a couple days apart, one in Los Angeles, another in Minneapolis, and two in Miami on the same day. A Regina lawyer was killed by a sniper who mailed his note to the man’s office. A Kamloops businessman lost his head to a shotgun blast. It heartened me that, though clearly outgunned, Canadians were doing their part.

Arrests had already been made in several cases. The bottom-liners were calling it insurrection. Asking for military intervention. Howling in the media like frightened wolves while the sheep went about their daily business, complacent.

Emily had been right, a movement caught hold. Honestly, it surprised me. I didn’t think enough little people had it in them. I knew that some of the killings attributed to the ‘Wolf Pack,’ as the press called the various murderers, were personal or done out of greed. Taking advantage of the chaos, one bottom-liner onto another. It didn’t matter. The sheep were waking up.

And so was I.

“What do you have to say about Dr. Adams now dear?”

We were sitting in a Greek place on Commercial Drive after a splendid meal and a couple carafes of sangria. Things had been going well between us for months, even though I had exploded at her once or twice. She saw my anger as a good thing. She called it emotional release. Maybe it was. I felt restored after letting go but I don’t feel good about it looking back. Kate deserved better.

“I’m not sure Adams can take all the credit, but I’ll admit things are smoother.”

The truth is, I was feeling better than I’d ever felt. Not walking on the clouds. Just even. Without all the severe turbulence. What I imagined to be normal.

“All I care about is the real Roger is out. The kind, caring man I saw behind the gruff exterior when I accepted your proposal. The man I’ll love ‘til death do us part.”

I put my hands on top of the table and she placed hers over mine. The connection felt so good. Warm and tingly, like my last moments with the doomed, without the blood and violence.

As predicted, there was a fall election. Kate put in a lot of time working for that smarmy prick Goodwen. He won our riding in a landslide. Another four years of wallowing in the trough. Four years closer to his gold-plated pension. I’d met Goodwen several times, the last at his recent election night victory celebration. Kate introduced me again that night. The phony fuck pretended to remember who I was. He had the Bill Clinton handshake down pat. Firm, with a light touch on the elbow with his free hand.

“You’re a lucky guy Roger, having a wife like Kate. She practically ran the whole campaign herself. It’s people like your wife who make politics worthwhile.”

There it was again. The fiction that politicians are somehow doing a difficult job, sacrificing lucrative private opportunities for the greater good. Bunch of smooth-talking fucking grifters. If he hadn’t brown-nosed his way into a secure NDP riding the guy would be selling used cars at some corner lot.

“I think politics would be a lot more worthwhile if people like Kate actually ran for office. But selfless people rarely crave power. They’re too busy helping people and much too innocent to make it in the cutthroat world of party politics.”

I said it with a smile. Like a true politician, he ignored the insult and moved on to spread his bullshit around the room. Kate gave me a whispered dressing down as soon as he left.

“This is a happy night, Roger. There’s no need for unpleasantness.”

She was right, of course. I tamped down the bitterness and put on a good show for the rest of the evening. After all, the NDP was the party of the little people and I was their champion. But I wasn’t alone in my poor opinion of politics. Of the 70-odd people shot in the Wolf’s name to date, 15 were elected officials. Second to bankers and financial finaglers but ahead of lawyers. I kept track in those early days of the sheep insurrection.

Those readers with a tolerance for darkness who have persevered through this grim narrative will understand by now that this is an unvarnished account of the People’s Wolf killings. No heroes, only villains. Innocents like my dear wife Kate, who would not have read this far if she was around for its publication, may condemn the worldwide carnage. Law enforcement who worked the cases have no doubt been engrossed, knowing beyond doubt that I am the real deal. The various blowhards and pontificating know-everythings exposed by the real story will furiously rewrite the history of their prognostications as they wipe egg from their chins. I write only to keep the record straight.

What follows is an exact description of the bloodletting that spurred the Wolf Pack on international fronts and ended my enthusiasm for the job of the People’s Wolf. Forget all other bullshit you have heard. Although all writers, even confessing serial killers, hope readers remain rapt through the final sentence, the more sensitive among you could not be faulted for tuning out before this story’s murderous denouement.

Not long after that political celebration, the turbulence ramped up. I hadn’t seen Adams for months. The Wolf killings had tapered to a trickle, then stopped. The count got stuck at 79. Fifty-eight in the U.S., 20 in Canada and one in Germany. All male victims.

The pride I felt at taking out Ralston and igniting a fire under the little people was tempered by the death of Amy Collier and the memory of that bloody death-smell room. Killing people wasn’t clean, like in the movies. It was dirty business and I’d had enough. The torch had been passed. I’d done my part. Risked enough. I had Kate to think about and a new appreciation for love.

In retrospect, part of why I’d been feeling so good was simple relief. I wouldn’t have to take that terrible risk again. No more spinning the wheel of fate.  Life, though meaningless, seemed worth living. I didn’t know why, and I didn’t care. It just did. I didn’t get rid of the gun, though. I couldn’t. I wasn’t ready.

Even with the minor turbulence, I got through the Christmas season on an even keel. Kate dragged me to the Downtown Eastside to help dole out a Christmas meal to the zombies and ghouls who inhabited Canada’s poorest postal code. I didn’t find it to be the uplifting experience she did. The volunteers were enough to sour me on the whole experience. A bunch of hypocrites who took a day off from their fancy bottom-line lives to feel superior. What had Adams said? “There wouldn’t be any do-gooders if it didn’t make them feel good.” Maxwell Smart’s stupid sayings were always intruding into my thoughts. ‘Turbulence.’ ‘Quiet time.’ The hokey little hairless one had gotten to me.

The volunteer next to me on the food line was a lawyer with Cunningham’s firm. Can you imagine? He’s serving food beside the guy who took out his esteemed colleague, his most feared late-night bogie man. By the beatific look on his face you’d think he was Mother Theresa instead of a sharpie who billed his time out at $500 an hour. Imagine this pretentious prick convincing anybody one hour of his time was worth more than a week’s wages for a guy with a shovel in his hand? I accidentally slopped gravy on his shirt and designer jeans.

“Sorry sir, the spoon slipped.”

It didn’t faze him. He grabbed a napkin and dabbed at the stain.

“Don’t worry about it. I’ve got a load at home to go to the dry cleaners next week.”

He probably spent enough on dry cleaning in a year to feed one of the zombies. How did the world get so fucked up? On the way home in the car, Kate was beaming.

“What a nice way to spend Christmas. The holidays should be all about helping the less fortunate. Did you see the looks on people’s faces? So grateful for so little. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have no home, no family, not even enough money for a meal. We’re so lucky dear.”

In my view, Kate had mistaken gratitude for resentment. Christmas hadn’t turned the zombies and ghouls into emotionally crippled saintly Tiny Tims. Most of them had burned all the bridges in their lives. They’d fucked over everyone they knew so many times that their family and friends had given up. I had no doubt they’d fuck over the volunteers feeding them if given the chance. I felt no empathy for life’s losers. Didn’t see them as sheep. More like rodents. I didn’t say that though. Kate’s happiness had become important to me.

“We are lucky. Lucky to be born in a country with more than enough to go around. Lucky to have each other.”

I reached over and patted her hand.

“I love you Roger.”

“I love you too, Kate. Being with you is my Christmas present.”

By mid-January, the brightness in life had faded to dull grey. Not total darkness but enough to warn of a coming storm. My mood matched the overcast sky of Vancouver in winter. It was coming on to a year since the Donald Wayne ‘shootout’ and almost six months since Ralston and Amy went to their afterlives. The Wolf copycat killings had stopped, as if the little people were waiting for a signal from their leader.

I didn’t have another candidate in mind or enough anger left to undertake another mission. I hadn’t seen Adams since his skinhead conversion and wasn’t planning another visit. Kate was okay with it as long as I stayed out of the complete blackness.

Then it happened. The fucking camera thing.

Although Goodwen had won his seat, the Liberals had taken the election handily and were planning to implement one of their campaign promises—photo radar. The idea, championed by a car dealer who masqueraded as a cabinet minister, was abhorrent to me. Alarm bells should have been ringing in every dwelling in the province but instead the little people were going along, like the sheep they still were.

The plan was to put cameras at stoplights and along sections of road where speeding was endemic. At first glance it sounded reasonable. Catch the speeders and the drivers who ran orange lights and send them a notice in the mail with the accompanying fine. A steady source of government income paid for by miscreants who flouted traffic laws.

I knew better. Cameras were a powerful weapon for the bottom-liners. A way they could monitor the movements of the little people with minimal manpower. How could the People’s Wolf operate with cameras on every corner? I couldn’t let it go unchallenged.

The cabinet minister’s name was Ron Saltzman. He had a GM dealership on Marine Drive—Saltzman on Marine–that was supposedly placed in trust while he served the people. He had been promoting the idea of photo radar for years. A camera on every corner was a government cash cow, like casino gambling, which Saltzman also championed. Every time his name got in the news, business at his car dealership picked up. Promoting gambling and cameras kept him in the news.

He was the personification of a bottom-liner. A high-value predator. Being a shill for casinos was one thing but pushing for more cameras was taking it to a different and more dangerous level. Many of you will see my aversion to cameras as self-serving. After all, “Why worry if you’re not doing anything wrong? Right?”

Wrong.

Here’s the straight goods: information is the bottom-liners’ most powerful weapon. Nothing else comes close. Forget about the gun nuts living in the last millennium howling for access to all manner of fire power, the Second Amendment idiots and their mouth-breathing Canadian counterparts. They are too stupid to understand what the bottom-liners long ago figured out. Monitoring the movements and goings on of the little people is key to staying in control.

All it takes to rid the bottom-liners of 100 little people armed to the teeth and baying for insurrection, is a precision drone strike on the garage where they meet. One fat flunky, maybe somebody like Thorsby, can track them all on central screens then press a button at the appropriate time. End of problem.

The little people who swallow Saltzman’s bullshit pre-suppose that in 50 years the world will remain as benign a place for their grandchildren as it was for them, and that the bottom-liners’ malfeasance as well-controlled. I take it as a given, with the weight of history to back me up, that the opposite is true.

As sure as there were dinosaurs, Darwin’s predators will keep on preying on the weak and, by evolutionary mandate, rising to the top. The gap will widen between the top predators and the prey. And with all other species subjugated, the only sport left will be keeping little people in their place. I envision cameras on every street corner, TVs with microphones in every living room, GPS standard in every phone and vehicle, smart meters monitoring all in-home activity and satellites tracking everything from above. The digital table will be set for the next Hitlerian psychopath who rises from the sludge to slaughter more sheep.

These are the kind of futuristic thoughts that bounced around before I made my decision to unretire. I couldn’t let Saltzman expand camera use in the Wolf’s home turf without a response. To do so would be to make all the other deaths the work of a madman. A coward who would live forever in darkness.

So I went back to the Roman Ruins, as the Vancouver library was euphemistically known. Inexplicably, the renowned library architect had emulated the Roman Coliseum, with a huge enclosed concourse running down one side. It had no connection to its surroundings. Nothing to do with the West Coast or the rain forest. No doubt the bottom-liners made out like bandits building it.

There was a lot of material to go through on Saltzman. He’d been a public figure since his mid-20s, when he played linebacker for the Lions. A bad knee injury cut his career short. He segued from football fame into car sales and eventually got his own dealership. He was one of those shameless self-promoters who do their own commercials. He had served two terms as president of the Vancouver Board of Trade and was a go-to guy for the media whenever they wanted bottom-liner comment.

The guy led a busy life. He was a long-time member of the Vancouver Tennis Club. The perfect place to schmooze with swells. He curled in winter in a senior men’s league with three other car dealers. He helped coach high school football at a Catholic school.

He was on his second marriage and had two kids by each wife. All girls. The youngest, at age 14, lived with him and his second wife in Southlands, a toney rural enclave on Vancouver’s West Side at the mouth of the Fraser River. A fantasy world of stables and fenced estates, where the predators wear jodhpurs and ride their horses down the streets. A community heavy with security.

I immediately dismissed Southlands because of the high-end security and the possibility of private patrols. Also, there were only a couple of exit routes onto Marine Drive. I didn’t want to do him at work. Government offices tend to be monitored and I doubted I’d catch him at his constituency office after dark toiling away for the little people. I’d have to get him when he was at play.

Good thing it was curling season.

“Hello, again, Mr. Technical Writer. You’re looking more upbeat today.”

I looked away from the screen to see a familiar VPL tag.

“Hello Holly. You’ve got a good memory.”

“It’s an occupational hazard. Librarians are trained to remember obscure facts and interesting things. I don’t often come across an attractive man contemplating the state of the world with his head in his hands. How is the translating business going?”

As you may recall, Holly had approached me while I was researching Ralston, another lifetime ago, and I’d impulsively suggested that we have coffee.

“Well none of the libraries I go to have such caring and attractive employees. Do librarians get coffee breaks?

I can’t tell you why I brought up the coffee thing or where it came from. I hadn’t thought of her since that time before Ralston.

“Yes, but not as many as writers. And not for as long.”

“Time enough to go to Starbucks in the concourse?”

“I’d like that. But you’ll have to introduce yourself first. I never go for coffee with a man until I know his name.”

“Paul Carter.”

Bad choice. Stupid. Saying it filled me with shame. The whole thing was ridiculous.

“I’ll come back in about 15 minutes. Would that be okay?”

Walking to Starbucks involved two minutes of nervous small talk. It had the feeling of a first date among Roman ruins. Carey Grant and Audrey Hepburn or some such shit. Can you fucking believe it? I didn’t know what I was doing or why. I had no intention of becoming involved with this woman. Yet there we were, drinking chai latte, sharing intimacies. At least she was.

She seemed pleasant and easy to listen to, but I wasn’t used to personal conversation. The niceties involved. The only person I really communicated with besides Kate was Thorsby. My only friend.

Talking with Holly required little more than a nod or shake of the head at appropriate intervals, with a few hmms and the odd monosyllabic reply thrown in. It amazed me how much information she provided about herself. If only I could have coffee with Saltzman’s wife.

Things were going swimmingly until she mentioned being a widow with two teenagers. When she said it, negative energy enshrouded me. And, for a moment, wild paranoia. The same name as my mother? A widow with two teens–Amy Collier? She had approached me twice. Remembered what I did for a living six months later. A cop?

The thought of it sucked me into a jet stream of turbulence. For a few seconds, my thoughts were bouncing so hard I couldn’t form a cohesive sentence. I nodded a couple of times and took the first opening.

“You’re a delightful conversationalist, Holly, but I have a meeting in Burnaby in less than an hour.”

I lied smoothly, like a good bottom-liner.

“I’m sorry to have kept you so long,” she said with good humor, pushing her chair back. “I wouldn’t want to keep you from important work. The world needs good men doing important work.”

“No need to rush off this minute.” I couldn’t let it go. “Please, finish your thought, and your coffee. No meeting is too important that a writer can’t arrive a few minutes late. We have poetic licence.”

She settled back into her chair and fixed piercing eyes on me over her Starbucks cup.

“You know, it wasn’t long after I met you that the Wolf Pack killings started up again. First a double murder only a few miles from here then the copycat killings that followed in other places. A lot of people got scared. Things were coming apart. I hoped you’d come back to the library. Something about you made me feel safe.”

“Holly, I would hazard that your chances are much higher of being hit by a bus then being killed by the Wolf. From what I’ve read, you’re not his type.”

“I don’t disagree with everything he does you know. My father got taken in by that man Ralston. He lost all the money from his house and it ruined the last ten years of his life. That’s why I noticed you were reading about Ralston when you had your head down on the keyboard the last time. Did he take advantage of someone you loved.”

My spidey senses quivered. Warning signals or pure paranoia?

“That’s an extremely small circle of people, none of whom are given to dealing with flim flam artists. I think Ralston was financing a project for an architectural firm we do work for. I’d have to go back to my files.”

“Thanks so much for the coffee Paul. I feel better about the world knowing there are strong men doing important things.”

An odd choice of words. I stood at the railing and watched her walk away and disappear through the door. Her chances of getting done in by the Wolf as opposed to a bus were 50-50 by the end of our conversation.

I didn’t go to a meeting in Burnaby. I started for home but was too shaken up, so I went down to New Brighton Park to clear my head. I parked the car in the deserted parking lot and walked through the tunnel toward the grassy fields. The place was empty except for a few ducks paddling around the rainwater at the bottom of the outdoor pool.

I walked to the pier then out over the water. Nobody was out boating in the drizzle. Not even a dog walker in sight. The two grain elevators next door to the park stood idle, awaiting a ship to bring them to life. I sat on a bench and stared at the cloud-shrouded North Shore mountains across the inlet.

The encounter with Holly fucked me up. Badly. The reference to Ralston was what sent me over the top. She had to be a cop. If that was the case, they were on to me. But if they were on to me why didn’t they arrest me? They couldn’t just leave me out there to kill someone else. They must be following me 24/7. How could they be onto me? It didn’t seem possible when I thought about it rationally. But I wasn’t thinking rationally. I was having a panic attack.

It started with a quickening of my breath, sharp and shallow, and turned into full-on hyperventilating. Fear flowed over and through me. Became me, as I became it. I saw the police tearing apart my home, Kate standing off to the side, distraught. I pictured them seizing my work computer and confiscating Adams’ files. I thought of being in a cell, alone at last.

The fear followed me home from New Brighton. It stayed close, letting me know my hold on normality was tenuous. Too tenuous to contemplate at length without the fear taking over. Too tenuous to hold on for long.

Looking back, I can see the fear came from within. Born of weak character rather than being related to getting caught. It wasn’t rational fear, a natural human reaction to impending danger. It was all encompassing and ever-present. Swallowing me in its folds, poisoning my thoughts with its noxious stink. I feared I wasn’t strong enough to face the future, whatever that would be. To admit that was to invite death.

I finished my research on Saltzman at internet cafes, half expecting Holly to walk up with a coffee in her hand. I decided to do him at the curling rink, or at least in its parking lot. His team, The Happy Dealers, played Tuesday night at the municipal curling club near Queen Elizabeth Park. The old rink had been revamped for the Olympics and the parking lot had been pushed north, beneath a towering stand of trees that cast shadows in moonlight.

I went down to Q.E. Park Tuesday about 6 p.m. I parked on a side street about six blocks away and walked to the curling club. My hands buried in the hoodie’s pouch. One of them gripping the gun. I liked doing surveillance.

Carrying the gun was super dangerous but I wanted to be ready in case an opportunity came up, like the first time with Donald Wayne. I sat down at a bus stop across from the parking lot entrance and waited. A couple of buses stopped, and little people got out, silently going about their business in the dark. No one noticed the guy in the grey hoodie and ball cap. No one knew they were in special company.

When I saw Saltzman drive up about five to seven, I was rushing on adrenalin, a couple of heart beats short of vibrating. Everything was crystal clear. Sharp. I could see the lines on Saltzman’s face through the car window when he slowed to turn. He drove a Lincoln Navigator. Top of the line. Probably used the little people’s money to lease it to himself. I’m surprised the prick didn’t have a driver.

He did have passengers, though. Three of them. The Happy Dealers, I assumed. I watched him pull into a parking space on the far corner of the lot, under a massive weeping willow. I got up and crossed the street. I kept my pace slow. A curling enthusiast headed for the ice.

The Happy Dealers were in a jovial mood, bantering back and forth with the usual bullshit that passed for bottom-liner bonhomie. I cut between cars. They were about 15 feet from me, milling around the back of the Navigator getting their brooms. They hadn’t noticed me. The gun felt solid in my hand.

“Nice night for curling,” I said it cordially as I approached.

Only one of them took any notice. A little guy with glasses who looked familiar. Maybe I’d seen him in a car commercial.

“Yeah, great,” he boomed. His voice was bigger than he was. “Every night’s a great night for getting your rocks off.”

Something about the way he said it stopped me from shooting. An old curling joke. But it still got a laugh from the Happy Dealers. I could hear them bantering back and forth about Viagra as they walked to the club.

As soon as I reached the darkness of the park I circled back towards the car. I stopped under a huge cedar to regroup and have a piss. My whole body was shaking from the adrenalin rush. Or was it fear? I barely got my dick out in time or I would have pissed myself.

I walked back to the car berating myself for even contemplating taking them out on impulse. I thought I’d do them all right up until the last second. When the guy made the joke. Fear and good sense held me back. Too dangerous. Too much activity. Too many targets. Plus, the Happy Dealers were armed, if only with brooms, and one of them was a former linebacker. I only had six bullets. Five counting the one I might need for myself. Four kills with five shots would have cemented the Wolf’s legend. So would being taken down by men with brooms.

I couldn’t shake the fear. It stayed with me all the time now. From the moment my conscious mind switched on in the morning until it shut down from exhaustion in the early hours. I sat in the car for quite a while, the fear pecking away at my resolve. Preventing me even from putting the key in the ignition and driving away. I had no clue what was going on. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. Can the predator that surrenders to fear survive. I didn’t think so.

I’m not sure how much time passed before I got it together enough to turn the car on. A half hour. Maybe more. It suddenly hit me that sitting in a parked car looked suspicious. I worried a neighbor might call the cops so I drove down to Broadway and had sushi.

I phoned the curling club from the pay phone in front of the Holiday Inn to find out when league play ended. A nice lady told me ‘9:30 or thereabouts.’

I parked on the street a little way past the bus stop, pointing in the direction Saltzman had arrived from. The nice lady knew her customers. The club parking lot started emptying about 9:35. The Dealers were among the last out, brooms on their shoulders like rifles. The men with brooms thing creeped me out. I kept picturing Paul Gross in his red Mountie suit. I knew I was close to the abyss.

Saltzman fucked me up by turning the other way when he came out of the parking lot. I swung a u-turn on the first side street and got behind him two cars back. The fear was gone now, forced out by adrenalin. Bringing the gun and my earlier impromptu walk in the parking lot aside, I hadn’t planned to do him on this night. The others weren’t part of the plan. This was simply reconnaissance.

He was heading east along the north edge of the park towards Main Street. It surprised me when he turned right into the park. I wasn’t going to follow at first. The cops could close the park off in seconds. But I turned anyway and that is how the Hilltop Massacre came about. I shit you not.

When he took the left fork to the top of the hill along the North Side of the park, time slowed. That’s the only way I can put it. I immediately realized he had to be going to the restaurant parking lot to drop the Dealers at their cars. There was nothing else to do at the top of the hill on a Tuesday night in February. Well, almost nothing. They must have gone for dinner first and gone to the rink in one car.

The risk was huge, but I knew I would not get another chance like this. I formed the plan as we drove, keeping just out of Saltzman’s rear view mirror as we negotiated the curves. I couldn’t get too far behind because I had to do them in the car, without their brooms. If things didn’t work out, I’d circle the parking lot and drive home.

As fate would have it, things fell perfectly into place on that cool and now famous night. The restaurant closed early in winter and everyone was gone. There were only two cars left in the lot. Saltzman was pulling the Escalade in beside one of them. I put on my four-way flashers as I entered the lot and honked the horn twice to distract them from leaving the car.

I took my hat off, put it in my lap and pulled alongside the Navigator on the driver’s side. Too close for Saltzman to get his door open. I rolled down the passenger window and smiled reassuringly while mouthing nonsense at him and pointing at the back end of his car. When he rolled down his window, I shot him in the face.

He gave me a quizzical look a second before I fired. Almost comical. Like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

I got out and moved quickly around the back of the two vehicles to come up on the Navigator’s passenger side. The little guy with the booming voice was halfway out of the back seat looking scared shitless. I aimed for his head but hit him just below the neck and he dropped to the pavement. The dumb fuck in the front seat decided to stay in the vehicle. He closed his door, locked it and turned away like a little kid. I stepped around the little guy and shot him in the back of the head.

The window shattered and glass flew. The Happy Dealer in the front passenger seat slumped against Saltzman with a big hole in his head and glass in his hair. They kind of leaned on each other. Saltzman still had the silly look on what was left of his face.

The other guy in the back seat put a dent in my rear door trying to get out the other side. He rolled down the window and tried to squeeze through it. I leaned in through the shattered window and put one in his mid-back, right between the shoulder blades. He stopped moving and slumped back. The Navigator smelled like gunpowder, and blood, piss, and shit.

I pulled my head out and took a deep breath. The guy in the back seat started moaning and moving again so I reached in and shot him in the head. When the little guy lying on the pavement grabbed my ankle from behind it startled me so much, I hit the side of my head on the window post as I was turning. I fired at the fucking little prick and missed. The bullet sparked off the pavement beside his head. Can you believe it? The Wolf missed from three feet.

The little guy let my ankle go. Blood oozed out of his mouth and ears. He looked at me calmly, as if to say, ‘Hey, do your worst. It’s no big deal.” I had to respect him for that, but I couldn’t put him out of his misery. I had no more bullets.

“You should have taken my advice and kept better company,” I said, not unkindly.

I felt for the guy. Empathy at last? I couldn’t beat him with the gun or stomp his head or choke him or do some other medieval shit, so I left him laying there. A live witness. Someone who had seen my face. Twice.

I got back in my car and drove off. I didn’t pass anybody going down the hill. Nobody saw me driving out of the park. I didn’t hear any sirens. I doubt the whole thing took five minutes. It didn’t seem right leaving the little guy in the dark to suffer. I knew leaving a witness was stupid and incredibly dangerous. But what could I do? Bash his head in with the car door?

I was home well before 11, when Kate got back from her night out with the girls. A bunch of them had formed a book club and they met once a week to talk about books they were reading. We chatted for a few minutes before bed. That week’s selection was Of Human Bondage, by Somerset Maugham. It’s funny the things you remember in life.

That’s the straight goods on the Hilltop Massacre from the only person who knows how it went down. I couldn’t believe all the bullshit flying around afterwards. The talk of mafia hit men, gangsters and terrorists. Every expert and so-called pundit weighed in with a theory. What a bunch of crap.

The bodies were found just after midnight after the wives got together and phoned the police. In an incredible stroke of luck, I had gotten two provincial cabinet ministers. It turned out that the little guy with the booming voice was the Attorney General of B.C., the province’s highest-ranking law enforcement official, who was filling in for a Happy Dealer who had the flu. He died at the hospital the same night. I wondered if he was able to talk before, he went to his maker. Could he ID the car?

The story went international, but I didn’t care about that anymore. The fear came back as soon as the adrenalin wore off. My constant companion. I couldn’t shake it off or even pinpoint what I was afraid of. It clung to me, like the smell of death.

Without a note, the killings were not immediately connected to the Wolf. That would take autopsies and ballistic tests on the bullets. Even then, the cops might not release the information. I would have to write to Osterwich. I hadn’t gotten around to dumping the electric typewriter yet. It had one more job to do then it had to go.

Dear Greg…

I hope this missive finds you well and that your career path continues its skyward trajectory.

The executions in Queen Elizabeth Park were carried out by the Wolf Pack in defense of democracy. The primary targets, politicians Ron Saltzman and Anthony Demarco, promoted a vision for the future that is contrary to the interests of the people. Namely, the expansion of electronic surveillance.

Placing cameras on every corner is abhorrent in a free society, where citizens must be able to move about without fear of government monitoring. Anybody promoting such a concept will put themselves squarely in our cross hairs.

The car dealers Paul Bremmer and Alex Sokorsky, who no doubt sympathized with the odious idea of camera surveillance, lost their lives for keeping bad company.

I urge all righteous citizens to choose their companions carefully. And to remain vigilant against the bottom-liners who will stop at nothing to retain their positions of power.

Not for everyone

For madmen only

The People’s Wolf

The bottom-liners bellowed long and loud when the Sun published the letter three days after I sent it. Petitions were started to expand the use of cameras beyond even what Saltzman wanted. But the sheep bleated back.

More internet sites sprung up in support of The Wolf and civil liberty types got off their asses to decry the use of cameras as an intrusion of personal privacy. One independent politician called for a commission to investigate the legal and moral ramifications of government surveiling its citizens.

I took pleasure in bringing the issue front and center, but it didn’t still the unknowable fear weighing me down. I felt heavy all over. Kate did not notice. Like everyone else she was caught in the media frenzy.

In the weeks that followed the Hilltop Massacre all hell broke out in the Wolf Pack world. There were copycat shootings in 35 states and six provinces. Five Mexico City politicians were shot in a single day. Two Saudi Princes and their bodyguards were killed in a commando style attack outside a London casino. A movie star and a Hollywood producer were shot at a sidewalk café by a man in a wolf mask who turned the gun on himself. Three high-ranking Swiss bankers were taken out when somebody dropped a grenade in their car window as they parked outside a Zurich patisserie.

Within a month the worldwide death toll had shot up to 1,472 people. Men and women. And those are just the ones whose killers associated themselves with Wolf Packs. CNN went all Wolf Pack all the time, with round-the-clock live coverage from kill sights around the world.

Commentators began separating the victims into categories. Throwing around words like revolution and insurrection. Most victims were members of the establishment. Legitimate people with means and power. Politicians led the way. Lawyers. Corporate CEOs. Bankers. Money people. Bottom-liners of every description. Adams matronly wife had been dead on. The Wolf was an idea whose time had come.

Months passed and the Wolf Pack killings continued, albeit at a slower pace. The death toll bogged down in the low 4,000s. Enough powerful people had been killed to get the establishment’s attention. People in power were admitting some change was due. They were short on specifics, though.

Strangely, I didn’t get caught up in the media coverage. The whole thing put me off. Despite my earlier bleating about rallying the sheep, I was not cut out to lead or inspire an international movement. I knew about killing now, up close, and personal. The ugliness of it. The banality of taking a life. I knew half the people in the Wolf Packs were nut cases and the other half were probably bottom-liners eliminating rivals in the chaos.

What stopped the fear from crushing me completely was the reaction of the little people, the ones who didn’t prey on other human beings. They did not take to the streets demanding the Wolf Packs be hunted down. They did not call for more surveillance or a crackdown on guns. They said what the bottom-liners wanted to hear in public but an unspoken energy circulated in the populace, a variation on the old “gangsters only kill each other” theme.

I was on the Skytrain platform waiting for a train when I overheard two guys in their 40s, working stiffs wearing bad-fitting matching blue pants and jackets.

“They say this Wolf guy is getting ready to take someone out in Vancouver. It’s been a good while now since the Hilltop Massacre.”

“Yeah, that was a real tragedy. He only got two Liberal cabinet ministers. Everybody knows Saltzman was a crook.”

“The other guys were probably into something. This Vancouver Wolf guy is selective with his targets.

“As far as I’m concerned there’s a few more he could knock off. I wouldn’t miss old man Wilson.”

They both laughed and the train pulled up.

But I didn’t laugh. There had been no copycat killings on the Wolf’s turf. The closest had been the lawyer in Kamloops, and that turned out to be a domestic triangle thing.

I took the Skytrain to Canada Place and walked along the sea wall towards Stanley Park. By the time I got there the constant fear I carried crystallized into something I could identify. Something sharp and painful. I couldn’t go into the office. I couldn’t deal with Thorsby. Or anybody for that matter.

It was a nice day and a lot of people were out enjoying Lotusland. And why not, they lived in a beautiful city in one of the most prosperous areas of the world. But I wasn’t enjoying myself. I was filled with fear. The risk I had taken on the hill had been monumental. Making a u-turn with the gun on me. Not checking the parking lot for cameras. Reckless. I kept a brisk pace to try and walk it off. A panic attack here, amidst the lovers and tourists and businessmen out on a morning run, wasn’t an option. I was practically jogging when I got to the edge of the park. The tinkling of masts did not provide solace as I passed. The fear tingled under my skin.

I cut up behind the Aquarium into Ceperly Meadow and sat down on the grass, far from the footpath. I gave the ocean a thousand-mile stare and concentrated on breathing. Quiet time. One breath at a time. It took a while to calm the turbulence but I didn’t care. I had nowhere to go in the shape I was in. I just sat there breathing until the turbulence formed a cohesive thought.

Nobody had taken up the torch. The Wolf Pack killings had peaked. CNN was back to politics and scandal. Nothing had changed and nothing ever would. I knew it in my heart from the moment I shot the pimp. I got an incredible rush from killing predators. Nothing else could ever match it. That is why I did it. Not to start a cause.

Killing Ralston and Amy Collier had changed things. Not just because she was an innocent. The squalidness and smell of death in that dimly lit room stuck to me. The Hilltop Massacre only reinforced what I already knew. I was finished. There would be no more. The gun had to go. The thought of it sent me reeling into the blackness.

I got to the office a couple of hours late and put on my happy face.

“Either you’re starting to believe those fancy jackets allow you to keep bankers’ hours or you’ve been sleeping in the park.”

Thorsby pointed to the grass sticking to the back of my jacket and pants.

“Or is that a new fashion statement. The urban squire jacket, it comes with its own grass stains. Bet you have to pay extra for that.”

I looked him up and down. Rumpled golf shirt and cheap suit pants. Black running shoes.

“You know you can’t make any bets. I should phone Molly right now and have her cut off your allowance.”

I wanted to shut him up but he didn’t take offense this time. Instead he dropped a bomb.

“My allowance will be going up substantially when I start my new job at McDougall & Riley in two weeks.”

Thorsby was moving on up. He’d finally got his job in advertising. The poor schlub was so happy I couldn’t rain on his parade. I rolled my chair across the aisle and shook his hand.

“Looks like Molly and I will be tying the knot next year. Don’t worry, you’ll get an invite.”

“You’ll have to get yourself a new white golf shirt and a nice jacket to go with it. Put a shine on those black running shoes.”

Believe it or not, I was happy for the guy, but the news furthered blackened my mood. My only friend was leaving. Molly came to get him for lunch and when they left I made the call.

“Hello, Ms. Gail, it’s Roger Delaney calling.”

“Yes, Roger, I recognize your voice.”

How long had it been since I’d hung up the phone on her in a rage after she called me by my first name? Why had I done it? It felt good to hear her say my name.

“I’d like to make an appointment with Dr. Adams as soon as possible.”

“Is it urgent?”

I couldn’t admit to that.

“Well, it’s not an emergency but sooner would be better.”

“I’ll get you in tomorrow afternoon, Roger, at the end of the day. Four-thirty. It will be such a pleasure to see you again. Wear a nice jacket.”

“See you tomorrow then.”

I felt small when I hung up. Like she was a bigger person than me. They all were. All the normal ones.

Kate and I had never been closer. We made a point of sitting down to dinner most nights and talking about the day. Talking to her helped with the fear.

“I made an appointment with Maxwell Smart for tomorrow. I think I need a refresher.”

“I’ve sensed something has been bothering you for a while Roger but I thought maybe it was just all this turmoil. All these killings. You pretend not to notice, but I know you’re a sensitive man.”

“You used to say I was the least empathetic person you know.”

“That’s the person you like to show the world, but I know better.”

I loved Kate in whatever way I was capable, but she was a poor judge of character. Empathetic people do not get a thrill from killing. She had married a predator. How many people had I killed? I had to stop and count.

Pimp Raymond Evers. Drug dealer Tran Hoc Do. Shyster Richard Cunningham, Q.C.. Media manipulator Morrie Greenberg. Gangster Donald Wayne Findley. His driver/body guard Christopher Williamson. Swindler Brian Ralston and his preacher wife Amy Collier. And the four Happy Dealers. Twelve people, not counting the blind kid.

Kate’s sensitive, empathetic husband, the serial killer.

I parked on a side street in a resident only area and walked up the alley behind Adams’ building. The dumpster lid was down, with nothing hanging out. I tossed in a bag with the typewriter. I had smashed the keys beyond recognition and wiped it clean. There were no street people around. I pictured one of them walking somewhere in my old running shoes.

I took the stairs slowly, without pausing at the landing to look out. There was a bulb out in the hallway making it drearier than usual. Then I opened the door to Suite 203 and walked into the light.

“Very nice. I like the colour. It really suits your hair.”

Gail Whitesong was all brightness. Seeing her standing beside the desk in her faux model pose provided a comfort I badly needed. I wondered how she could time it so perfectly. Was she watching out the window as I dumped the typewriter.

“Ms. Gail. Fetching as always. I see you’ve changed your hair.”

The shorter cut showed her face to better advantage. She had a delicate nose, dark almond-shaped eyes behind toned down glasses, beautiful skin, and good bone structure. I don’t know why I ever thought her odd-looking. In truth, she was a beauty.

“Yes, it’s much easier to keep. Mother always kept my hair short as a girl. Maybe that’s why I grew it longer when I could. As usual, she was right. Who has time to waste on their hair?”

“True enough.”

“Dr. Adams is just gathering his thoughts for a moment. I know he enjoys your visits. I think he finds them a nice break.”

I didn’t know what to say.

“You mean there are patients more boring than me?”

“Oh, I don’t know anymore about any of them than I do about you. A woman notices certain things.”

We ended with that enigmatic comment when the door to Adams office opened. He stood there smiling, his hair grown back into a mini-bouffant. He had his polyester outfit on, shirt, slacks and senior’s shoes. I slipped into the easy chair and sampled one of Ms. Gail’s cookies while he got his chair from against the wall. He hadn’t changed the office back. With the plant gone it seemed bigger and brighter.

“Very nice. Mint chocolate chip.”

“Yes, they are quite tasty. I try to keep it down to one or two a day. I don’t want to start expanding.”

He touched his stomach lightly.

“Well, I see you’ve gone back to Emily for your fashion advice.”

“I tried the bald thing and, you know, it just wasn’t me. The kids didn’t like it. Emily and Gail both prefer my hair longer. When I grew my hair back the clothes didn’t suit. Emily dropped the new stuff at the Salvation Army. Three sports jackets, six pairs of slacks and two pair of shoes. I kept all the shirts.”

“Nice gesture. I thought I saw a guy out by the dumpster wearing a Harry Rosen jacket.”

We both laughed. I felt safe sitting in that easy chair. Like there was nowhere else I wanted to be. Talking with a Mensa midget who only felt comfortable dressed badly. How could it be? I didn’t know then and I don’t know now.

“So how have you been, Roger, with all this turmoil going on? All the media attention about these Wolf Pack killings is getting a lot of people down.”

“I bet it is. Especially people with money and power. As far as I can see, ordinary folks are weathering the storm quite well.”

“If you and Emily ever get together, we’ll have a revolution on our hands. My wife believes deeply in the need for change. She supports the goals of the Wolf Packs if not their violent methods?”

“Goals. What goals? Half of the Wolf Pack killings were probably committed by opportunists, enemies of the victims taking advantage of the chaos. I don’t remember hearing anything about any goals.”

He considered this for a moment.

“As you know, I am pragmatic about the human species. The best predators will always rise to the top. It’s basic science. Emily, however, has a different view. And as I said before, she can back it up with reasoned argument.”

He shifted slightly in his chair and moved his head from side to side as if to loosen his neck. The pompadour was too short to fall forward into  horns. Give it a month or two.

“I’d like to hear it.”

“Well, the Coles Notes version is that she believes in the inherent goodness of humans to the core of her being. She can cite countless cases throughout recorded history, where humans have sacrificed everything for their beliefs.”

“It’s a good thing there’s always someone around willing to accommodate them in their sacrifices.” I played Devil’s Advocate out of habit. “There has never been a period in human history short of torturers and murderers.”

It did not deter him.

“Emily argues that the cynic’s take on history, with its emphasis on the horrible atrocities and brutality man is capable of, fails to account for the fact that good people always win. Believe me, she can cite a hundred examples of tyrants and despots, empires and tribal fiefdoms in which the people have overcome evil rulers. In her view, the fact that it is a never-ending process doesn’t come into it. The good people keep fighting the good fight, ad infinitum, because it is what good people do.”

“That argument conveniently overlooks the fact the good people turn bad as soon as they get control.”

“Evil pops up, good people put it down. Like the carnival game with the mallets.”

Here I was again, sitting in this Mensa midget’s office listening to baffle gab, second-hand baffle gab at that, and it somehow connected with my life view.

“Like the carnival game with the mallets?” I tried to keep the sarcasm to a minimum.

“I told you it was the Coles Notes version. Emily explains it much better. She is a fierce opponent of electronic surveillance and information gathering, you know. She calls it the greatest evil facing the world today. But enough of Emily. How are you doing, Roger?’

“I’m afraid all the time.”

It came out just like that. Matter of fact.

“Why are you afraid? What are you afraid of? Has someone threatened to harm you?”

“I’m afraid of life. Afraid I can’t make it through.”

“Have you been thinking of taking your life?”

“Not recently.”

“But you have thought of it in the past.”

“Yes, hasn’t everyone.”

“Probably not. But certainly, a lot of people have considered suicide in an intellectual way. Some go as far as to act it out, I mean they enact it, but don’t go through with it. That is not as unusual as you might think. Have you enacted, Roger.”

I thought about spinning the chamber and it filled me with shame that I was willing to inflict such an act of selfishness on my wife. Only fate saved her.

“If you mean have I put the gun to my head and pulled the trigger”—I cocked my thumb and put my forefinger to my temple— “yes I have.”

I clicked my thumb.

Adams sat motionless, gazing into my soul from under his mini-bouffant. Reading the secrets there. He said nothing and suddenly we were into another stare-off. Silence filled the room with an energy I cannot pretend to understand.

The longer the silence went on the more connected we became. I didn’t feel uncomfortable. I didn’t reach for a cookie to break the tension because there was no tension. We just sat in complete silence looking at one another. I wanted to sit there forever.

I heard Ms. Gail closing up shop. She shut the outside door loud enough that we would hear. It must have been past 5:30 by the fading light through the patio doors but Adams still did not make a sound. And I had nothing pressing but a world of fear.

When he spoke, at last, I was ready to hear what he had to say.

“How did you miss from that close?”

That’s what the little prick said. I shit you not. I didn’t want to laugh but what could I do? He laughed too, but not for long.

“People who want to kill themselves get the job done. It’s quite easy, as you know. Pills. A car in a closed garage. A leap into the unknown off a bridge or building. A bullet in the head.”

He paused. But only for a moment.

“I don’t see you as someone who would take his own life. Suicide is the last choice of life’s broken people.”

“Do broken people feel frightened all the time?”

It came out quietly, without any swagger.

“We all feel frightened at least part of the time, Roger. And well we should. The Wolf Packs aside, the world is a dangerous place. I know that I’m frightened every day. Afraid that one of my kids will get hit by a car. Worried that the world they inherit will be uninhabitable. Scared that Emily will get sick, or leave me for someone smarter. Fear is deeply ingrained in the human condition. We couldn’t survive without fear. It’s how we handle the fear that counts. How do you handle your fear, Roger.”

“I carry it around, staggering under its load.”

The way it came out surprised me. I didn’t feel weak saying it, though.

“Unknown fear is the heaviest of all. It takes a strong person to carry it and an even stronger person to put it down. To drop the load. Kerplop!”

“Kerplop?”

It came out as a question but in some weird way it made sense. I repeated the word a couple of times with quiet resignation.

“Kerplop…. Kerplop….”

Was this what it had all come to, sitting in a strip mall office with a poorly dressed nerd gravely repeating a silly word? Apparently so.

“That’s a good word isn’t it, Roger? Comical sounding. Evocative. Full of meaning. Finality.”

He did one of his mini pauses, but I was beyond the paranoia phase. He had peered into my soul.

“Unknown fear is quite different from fearing the unknown. People often confuse the two. Fear of the unknown is tangible, based on some future catastrophe of the mind’s making. A thinking species like humans has good reason to fear the unknown. Throughout history the unknown has usually brought violence and death. Fearing the unknown is rational.

“But, if I’m assessing the situation right, you are feeling the other kind. The unknown fear. The kind of fear that grabs hold of your thoughts and tries to shut down the system. Tries to take over everything. It wants control of the ship. Total control.”

“Am I on the ocean or is it a spaceship?”

I tried to mock his lame metaphor, but it came out weak.

“That’s a good, one Roger. Heh heh heh.”

His laugh gave me comfort. Can you believe it?

“And, as usual, you’re not far off the mark. Actually, the ship is cruising through inner space. The final frontier. Losing control of the ship isn’t an option. So you fight the fear, holding it back, but it is relentless. Day after day, holding back the fear pushing you towards the total blackness of inner space. It’s quite a load. Some carry the fight all their lives, never quite losing but never quite winning. And then they die. The smartest let it go.”

“Kerplop?”

“Kerplop.”

We sat there for a comfortable moment in the fading light.

“I’m off the Wolf task force, you know. Apart from the obvious fact that the profilers have not been helpful in capturing the Wolf, I found some of my colleagues difficult to work with. One in particular. A nasty person.”

“I thought all these so-called experts had unsurpassed collective knowledge of the human species. Isn’t that what you said at the beginning?”

“Well, that was my first impression. Yes. But reality seldom reveals itself on first impressions. Having knowledge about human beings does not preclude you from suffering the same failings as the people you study. I find it much more interesting working with my patients.”

“So you quit.”

“That’s right.”

We were done. I stood up while he moved his chair back to the wall and when he turned, I gave him the preying mantis bow. He returned it solemnly and I left the office, leaving him sitting at his desk in the near dark scribbling on a pad.

Two scruffy guys were rummaging in the dumpster, poking through the junk with a rake. Cops? Neither of them was wearing my running shoes or holding a mangled typewriter.

“Nice night for treasure hunting.”

I said it cheerfully.

“Can you spare a buck? We ain’t eaten since yesterday.”

I walked over and handed him a twenty.

“Fill your boots, guys.”

For the first time in a very long time the fear was gone. Cynics among you will call bullshit. I don’t begrudge your skepticism. I know everything Adams said was a bunch of bullshit. I knew it at the time, but I didn’t care as I walked up the alley feeling the lightness of being.

Two weeks after my session with Adams took the unknown fear out of my life, the Wolf Pack struck in Vancouver. A psychiatrist who worked on the Wolf profile panel was shot dead in the garage of his fancy house on the UBC Endownment Lands. Police said a note was left behind but wouldn’t release the contents, other than to say the shooter claimed to be the Wolf.

The first copycat killing on my own turf shocked me. But it didn’t bring back the fear. Just the opposite. I felt light and free. I wondered if the shooter used a Glock nine millimetre. Or maybe a thirty-eight.

The spike in copycat killings wasn’t as sharp as in previous Vancouver Wolf killings but the worldwide toll was 5,000-plus and counting. A lot of top predators had been taken out, enough to make the bottom-liners, ever the self-preservationists that they are, take notice. They made token changes and gave lip service to the idea of reform. No politician in British Columbia came forward to champion photo radar and the Liberals let the idea die a bloodless death.

The night after I heard about the psychiatrist, I went to my office put on my latex gloves, unscrewed the floorboards and took out the gun. Kate was out with Laura at the movies. I had all the time I needed.

I put in a full load and spun the chamber. It felt good in my hand. Solid. Balanced. Powerful. I grabbed the last of the bullets, stuffed them in my pants pocket and pulled on the grey hoodie. I got in the car and drove to Vancouver Heights, above the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge. The neighbourhood was notorious for the bike gang thugs who lived there, laundering their money with half-million-dollar house renovations. I parked on a side street close to the bridge, near a house with motorcycles in the driveway.

When I walked past, I noticed a brawny tattooed man further up in the driveway, bent over, pondering an old engine block, oblivious to the danger so near. I walked past the house and went down the steps to the sidewalk leading to the bridge. There was a fair amount of traffic, but I didn’t care.

I took my time getting to the high point of the bridge, far out over the water where the iron workers had fallen to their deaths while building it. I inhaled the night view, with its twinkling lights and moving cars, in four or five deep breaths. When there was a break in traffic, I fished the bullets out of my pocket and threw them in a spray. Then I dropped the gun. When it hit the water, I heard a faint splash. Or maybe it was a kersplash.

I went to Thorsby’s wedding the following year and was impressed to see that both he and Molly had lost weight. He looked pretty good in an off-the-rack rental tux. I felt all warm and tingly when they did their solo wedding dance.

I never followed the Wolf coverage after the psychiatrist went down. In fact, I avoided all media and relied solely on Kate’s second-hand reports of the world’s goings on, delivered in bits and pieces over dinner, always with a positive spin. I couldn’t tell you what the final global death toll was in the Wolf killings.

I quit the technical writer job not long after Thorsby’s wedding. Kate encouraged me to write fiction and supported us financially for the first few years. She was right about the career change. I had a couple of modest successes writing crime thrillers and was lucky to have one of them made into a movie. The turbulence became less frequent, the smooth patches lasted longer.

Kate died of liver cancer at age 49. It was a quick death, but the pain of her passing seared me to the core of my being. I teetered at the edge of blackness for weeks after, grieving so deeply I longed for the gun to end the pain. I even went back out over the bridge and stared at the water, thinking about joining the gun.

I cried when I lost Kate with an intensity that bordered on hallucinogenic. I saw visions of Amy Collier in my tears, and the blinded kid. I saw the Happy Dealers, Cunningham and all the rest. Even Donald Wayne.

I went back to Adams, then, for the first time since the fear had lifted. It had been years. He had one of those Jay Leno skunk streaks going on in the bouffant, and it looked about as good on him as it did on Jay. I saw him again infrequently, when the need arose, and with no insurance to foot the bill, even paid the little nerd out of my own pocket. Gail Whitesong, ageless in her Eurasian beauty and beautiful in her soul, continued to light my visits with her presence. We went out for occasional dinners and walks. No sex. Nothing romantic. We became friends. Same thing with Holly from the library. They were both good company. Better conversationalists than Thorsby.

I started working on this confessional about two months after Kate died. This is my last book and it will be published posthumously by my agent. I gave him a key to a safety deposit box containing the manuscript, to be opened only upon my death, after I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I couldn’t spin the chamber but I did choose my own time. I opted for assisted death, less messy than jumping off a bridge. I stipulated that all book profits go to a women’s shelter in Kate’s name. I’m predicting a best seller, given all the free publicity it will get. I told my agent I want one of the Canadian Ryans—Reynolds or Gosling—to star in the movie. I willed the rest of my estate to the SPCA. Maybe they could use it to help mistreated sheep.

I accept the label serial killer now. I fit the definition. I know I killed people out of whatever selfish predatory need drives humans to act out. I was at the top of the predator food chain for a while and it felt unbelievably good to be there. I don’t deny it or pretend to feel guilt about all the people who were killed, not even Amy Collier.  I am a psychopath but claim minimal empathy. If that is possible. I have no regrets going out in these low times of Donald Trump and the world pendulum’s shift to the right. In the decades to come, a more cunning successor to Trump will no doubt act out on the Hitler scenario of my fevered futuristic vision. Evolution won’t be denied. As Maxwell Smart so frequently asserted, ‘It’s basic science.’

For the Wolf Packs, the bottom-liners, the psychiatrists, the talking heads and so-called experts, for all you cynics and critics, for all you wolves and sheep, for all you wannabes and wolves in waiting, for all you who judge me and for those who judge me not, I have one final word.

Kerplop.