Chapter 10: For Sale Death House

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The Ralston job came up on me fast. I wasn’t kidding when I told Adams the Wolf was a fulltime position. Working executions into my schedule wasn’t easy and I had a feeling it would be difficult to arrange Ralston without arousing suspicion in Kate. Not about the Wolf, of course. But she knew I wasn’t the type to go out at night, unless it was for a short walk around the neighbourhood. Any lengthy absence would require a reasonable explanation.

A plan began to germinate during dinner, while Kate talked about the possibility of a fall election? Spring? Fall? Next winter? What a bunch of political bullshit. But I respected her innocent belief in democracy. Whether she liked it or not, I was slaying predatory monsters for her.

“I know the look you get when you’re excited about something. All pensive and focused. What’s Oliver got you working on now?”

I’d been fucking the dog at work for months, doing just enough to get by.

“Oh, he’s got something big on the go. He says it might require two or three technical writers and take six months to finish. He won’t give us any more details but it sounds good.”

I didn’t like lying to Kate. She deserved better.

“Honestly, Roger, you could have your pick of writing jobs. I think your work might have something to do with your dark moods. It’s beneath your talent. I’m sure you get bored ‘translating’ technical reports. What does Dr. Adams say about the possibility of changing jobs?”

“He doesn’t say anything. We don’t talk about my work.”

“Paul Carter is thinking about getting out of real estate. He tells Laura that his sessions with Dr. Adams have changed his way of thinking. He wants to get into something more meaningful. Apparently, he’s volunteering at the Food Bank two days a week.”

I had nothing in common with that monkey-fucking, snake-oil-selling, piece-of-shit salesman. I wanted to yell that at her so she wouldn’t keep bringing the phony fuck up.

“I’d have thought he’d be more comfortable volunteering at the Liquor Depot. All that travel back and forth to buy booze cuts into your drinking time.”

“Honestly, Roger. You’re so rude. Paul is not a perfect human being but few of us are. Laura loves him and Laura’s a good friend. I wish you wouldn’t be so rude. It doesn’t become you dear.”

I loved the way she called me dear. It cut through everything.

“I’m happy that he’s finally finding peace at the Food Bank, dear. The downtrodden can always use more realtors helping out.”

I could have gone on about him scoping out low-end clients for slum housing but I didn’t want to upset her. Things were different after our time on the Island. I cared about her intensely from that time on. That’s why I couldn’t let fate decide anymore. Why I couldn’t spin the chamber.

If I lost, the whole mess would be left on Kate’s doorstep. I couldn’t have that. Not now. If I’m caught I’ll go out in a blaze of gunfire standing up for what I believe, even if the fatal shot is self-administered. That’s what I thought at the time.

I took the next afternoon off but Oliver wasn’t there, so I didn’t have to make an excuse. Thorsby dutifully pointed out the absence of the temp receptionist as if it were incontrovertible proof of their guilty affair–“I told you Old Horny Man is fucking her.”

Not the kind of person I wanted on my jury.

“Ray came in with a shiner this morning then went home after coffee. Probably stuck his dick in the wrong glory hole. There’s one in the public can on the beach near the Coast Guard station, on the side of the stall about the height of a guy’s mouth if he was sitting on the toilet. What a way to live.”

I let his comment hang out there in disapproving silence. The tech writers often made fun of Ray when he wasn’t around. Gay jokes. He was unmarried and slightly effeminate. I didn’t like it and never took part. Ray was one of the good guys. Not the kind of person to intentionally hurt other people. Not a bullshitter. Not a bottom-liner. Thorsby knew how I felt and softened his commentary.

“He said some guy in his building punched him at his mailbox for no reason. Said the guy has made threatening comments to him before.”

I pictured Ray, polite, soft and well past middle age, having to put up with shit from a Neanderthal. It fueled the rage but I kept it out of my voice.

“He lives in the West End, doesn’t he?”

“Yeah, over on Beach Ave. in that round high rise.”

“Did he say what the guy looked like?”

“Just that’s he’s big and has a beard.”

“Somebody should straighten the guy out. I like Ray.”

“Yeah, he’s not a bad guy.”

He said it as though Ray was okay even though he was gay. If I hadn’t had more pressing matters at hand, I would have looked into putting Neanderthal man down. Fucking cowardly, lowlife, prick.

I drove home and changed into cargo shorts, a T-shirt and surgical gloves. I slipped a small wrench and some duct tape into one of the pockets and went for a stroll. I had a kill site in mind about four blocks from our house, two blocks down and two blocks over. It was a new house on a corner lot, across from a park, that had been for sale for more than a year. The rumour was an old oil tank buried in the back yard required tens of thousands in clean-up costs.

I walked past the front and stopped to take one of the flyers from the realtor’s plastic box. Wow. They wanted $889,000. I turned at the end of the block and came back through the alley. There was nobody around to see me slip through the back gate. I went directly to the basement window to the right of the back steps and stuck the tape across the glass in three eight-inch strips. I smacked the taped glass with the wrench and it gave way with barely a tinkle. I stuck my hand through the hole, careful not to cut myself, and opened the window. I peeled the tape off the broken glass and put it in my pocket. I’d missed my calling as a house burglar.

I made my way across the darkened basement. The place was empty. It smelled stale. Creepy. Not the kind of atmosphere to build a new life on. I wondered if a homicide would motivate the seller to lower the price. I tried the switch at the bottom of the stairs and the light came on. A good thing.

The main floor had a kitchen, a living room, an office, a half-bath and a large master bedroom and ensuite with a jetted tub and separate shower. Close to a million bucks didn’t buy much 10 minutes from downtown Vancouver. Even on the East Side. The front door opened into a small foyer that hid the living room from the entrance. Another plus. I flicked another light on-and-off to make sure it worked. That’s all I needed to know. I left the back door unlocked and was out of the house and back in the alley in five minutes.

I went back home and got out the electric typewriter. One more small job before I dumped it.

Fellow citizens…

The bottom-liner Brian Ralston was executed in the name of the people of this great country. Those who choose to advance themselves by swindling seniors should consider it a capital offense. It is our hope his death will provide some closure to those he has victimized. At the very least, his predatory compulsion has come to an end.

Mr. Ralston’s fate should be a warning to all bottom-liners in the cesspool that is the financial industry. Despite what the predatory powers would have you believe; righteous citizens have nothing to fear.

Bottom-liners beware.

Not for everyone. For mad men only.

With your best interests at heart,

The People’s Wolf

Kate was having dinner with Laura Carter the next night and I was hoping to do Ralston then. He wouldn’t be in town for long and I didn’t want to miss my opportunity. I walked to the convenience store at five and made the call from the lowlife landline. The fucking drug dealing deadhead was leaning on the side of the building watching me the whole time, like I was using his private phone. How good would it feel to drive around the city, from phone booth to phone booth, putting the scumbags down? One in the chest. One point blank in the head.

“Hyatt hotel.”

“Can you put me through to Mr. Ralston.”

“Ralston? Let me see. Yes, he checked in about an hour ago. I’ll try his room sir.”

“H.B. Ralston.”

He answered the phone confidently on the second ring, like he was a man in control of his destiny. The dumb fuck.

“Mr. Ralston, my name is Tim Edderly and I’m phoning on behalf of my dad, who has a significant sum of money and is looking for somewhere to invest it.”

“Well, you’ve called the right place Tim. We invest money for people from all over the world. That’s what we do.”

“You were recommended to me by Belinda Strausky.”

Belinda Strausky was the daughter of Arthur Pennington, a now-deceased crony of the hairy ape’s. They pulled a couple of scams while working together at a brokerage firm years back. They both left the firm under a cloud, within weeks of each other. Pennington died of a heart attack shortly afterwards. His daughter Belinda didn’t fall far from the tree. She had been banned from trading on Canadian stock markets and was said to be living in the Cayman Islands.

You can’t beat Google.

“Belinda Strausky. I haven’t thought of her in years. Did you know her father Art?”

“No. I don’t know Belinda well. I happened to be sitting next to her at doinner on a cruise ship and we were chatting about investments. She seemed knowledgeable. When I mentioned my dad selling his motel and RV park, she recommended you for investment advice. Said I should use her name as an introduction. Dad’s been procrastinating for years. He doesn’t trust the stock market and the money is sitting in GICs earning a couple of per cent. They come due next month. I saw your ad in the paper and called.”

“We can definitely do better than a couple of per cent. Why don’t you bring your dad to the seminar Thursday and we’ll see what we can work out?”

“I don’t think I can get him down there. I showed your ad to dad and… well… sometimes he’s not quite with it. He thinks the Hyatt is owned by the Stock Market. All part of some big conspiracy. That’s why I’ve called you personally. I’d like you to come over to the house for a private consultation.”

“Oh, I rarely do private consultations. I like to have sit-downs with ordinary folks but, frankly, I don’t have the time. I have a lot to do preparing for the seminar and so on.”

“I’m sure you do, sir. That’s why I’d make it worth your while. I recently got power of attorney over dad’s affairs and I know it would be worth $1,000 to him for an hour of your time. After all, he’s got well over seven figures to invest. He just bought a house on the East Side, less than a 10-minute cab ride from the hotel. The sign’s still out front.”

“I can probably fit an hour in tomorrow night, but why don’t you come to my suite.”

“Dad doesn’t travel well anymore. And I’d really like him to meet you. Even though I have power of attorney I keep him involved in everything. I don’t want any appearance of impropriety.”

“I understand. Dealing with old people can be difficult. Okay, how about 9 o’clock. I’ll come by for an hour, talk to your dad and see what we can work out.”

“Great. He’s at 109 Albert St. A corner house. See you at nine tomorrow night.”

After hanging up I walked straight over to the drug dealer.

“Be careful using that phone. Someone from CSIS came on the line and told me to drop the phone because of a deadly powder in the mouthpiece. Ricin. A grain or two is enough to kill a person. Agents are monitoring the booth from that white van over there. They’re exterminating drug dealers. It’s part of a plan to appease the Wolf.”

I pointed to a van parked across the street. The deadhead druggie didn’t know what to make of me. He looked from the phone booth to the van.

“Thanks man.”

“No problem.”

I walked home feeling good. Ralston had taken the bait. It felt weird talking to him knowing he had only a day to live. I didn’t feel sorry for the arrogant prick. Nothing like that. It’s just that he was the first of my kills I talked to without imminent death polluting the ambience. Pointing a gun at someone with lethal intent is a real conversation killer. No pun intended.

Kate was home when I got back. She immediately threw a kink into my plan.

“I can’t stay, Roger. I came to change into slacks and a comfortable sweater. Laura and I decided to have dinner and see our movie tonight, instead of tomorrow. She’s picking me up in a half hour.”

“So you’ll be home tomorrow night then?”

“Yes dear, I’ll be home tomorrow night. Don’t worry, I won’t leave you home alone two nights in a row. I’ll make a nice dinner and we can hang out all night.”

“That’ll be nice. I’m going to start getting into shape with nightly walks. I’ll start tonight.”

She was standing in the kitchen doing the buttons up on a white cashmere sweater, her face slightly flushed from the effort. The fine wool looked good against her skin.

“Maybe I’ll go with you. I could lose a few pounds.”

“Nonsense. You’re beautiful just as you are and you’re looking particularly fetching tonight. Let me help you with those buttons.”

Her fragrance got to me when I moved close. A smell as close to innocence as possible on this foul planet.

“I’ll leave the top two buttons open. Cashmere is warm and I like the way the white complements your skin.”

She cupped my hand in both of hers.

“Oh, Roger, I feel so close to you this last while.”

Laura showed up on time, as always. She honked once and Kate was out the door. Sadness shrouded me as I watched her hurry to the car, laughing and calling out to Laura in fun. Sadness so profound it buckled my knees. I leaned against the TV cabinet for support. Any slip-up and this beautiful person’s world would be shattered. Her light would be dimmed forever. Was anything worth that? I knew Ralston wasn’t.

I tried some quiet time early in the evening on the office couch, but the impending execution was stirring up so much turbulence I couldn’t get close to the inner universe. I got up and paced the house. Through the kitchen, around the living room and up the stairs to the bathroom. I stood in the shower for a few minutes looking at the taps then reversed the process. I must have done the circuit 10 times. On the last trip into the shower I turned on the faucet and stood there until my clothes were soaked. I have no idea what these walkabouts were about. All I know is after I stripped off my clothes and threw them in the dryer, I felt renewed. It seems crazy looking back.

Why was I worrying about Kate now? Why not with Cunningham or Greenberg and the others? I wasn’t thinking about her when I spun the chamber. I only wanted to release the pressure building inside. To take the decision out of my hands and leave it to fate. To admit I was thinking solely of myself made me feel small. Unworthy of Kate’s love. Yet there it was.

Still, Ralston was a goner.

I fell asleep early and slept so soundly I didn’t hear Kate come in. She slid in beside me in the night, exuding warmth and comfort. Security. A good human being who believed in me.

We didn’t talk much the next morning. I was barely awake when she left for work. I had important things to do before heading to the office. I thought about calling in sick but there was no need. I wanted everything in my life to seem as normal as possible on the day of an execution.

The kill site was uncomfortably close to home, but it was the only way I could do Ralston without arousing Kate’s suspicion. I thought of some police geographic profiler putting pins on a map. With Ralston, three of the killings were within walking distance from the house. I wondered if he could do a triangulation that pinpointed my street.

I planned to slip out for a walk a few minutes before nine, but I had to put the gun someplace I could get at it. I didn’t want to take the chance of having it in my pocket in case Kate hugged me or it fell out or some other stupid shit happened.

I put on a pair of surgical gloves and went to the office and unscrewed the floorboards. That lowlife in the Seattle bar had been so right. It was a nice gun for what I paid. It seemed so long ago. Another lifetime.

I checked it to make sure everything was working. The trigger clicked crisply. The chamber spun smoothly on its precision-machined axis. It felt solid and familiar in my hand, its curved butt settling into my palm like the ass of a beautiful woman. No wonder Americans love their handguns. I put in a full load but didn’t bother with extra bullets. I didn’t plan on another ‘shootout.’ I put the gun in a small pack sack and stuffed the bag into an empty cement sack. I put the cement sack under the back deck and stacked a couple pieces of plywood on it.

Thorsby was in good form at the office. He rolled out his chair as soon as I arrived and pointed out that Oliver and the temp had both called in sick.

“I’m thinking of calling Old Horny Man at home to see if he’s really sick. Get this temporary receptionist thing nailed down once and for all. The dirty old bugger is having it off with her. I know it.”

“That’s purely supposition, Thorsby. I’ve never seen them say more than a few words to each other.”

“Exactly. They exchange smiles every time he walks past but he never says anything more than a word or two. A classic office affair.”

“Hold on now. Your proof Oliver is having an affair with the receptionist is that they never talk to each other.”

“Think about it.”

“Next you’ll be telling me Oliver’s the Wolf.”

“Please. I’m surprised he has enough gumption for an extramarital hump. The only gun he’s ever handled is the derringer between his legs.”

“You never know. It’s always the person you least suspect. Someone unassuming, like your postman theory.”

“Oh, I’ve given up on that one. The guy’s ex-military. Maybe a rogue cop. They’ll never catch him unless he kills again.”

“A few weeks ago, you were saying he’d be brought to ground in a month.”

“That was before the gangster shootout.”

It continued to amaze me how a couple of lucky shots had elevated the Wolf in the public consciousness. I could just as easily have missed the whole car.

“I’ll bet he strikes again soon.”

I said it with conviction. I couldn’t resist.

“Some guys in my hockey pool have standing bets. Closest one to the date gets the money. I’m not involved, though. Too ghoulish.”

I loved being the only one in the world with the real story. The only person in the vast universe who knew precisely when the Wolf would strike again. It was a rush. I admit it.

Ray walked in before I could reply. His swollen eye closed shut when he attempted a smile. His cheek was red on that side.

“Hey guys, you taking bets on when the Wolf will get caught?”

“No, we’re just speculating about when he’ll strike again. How’s the eye Ray? Looks like a pretty good shiner.”

“Oh, it’s okay. Doesn’t really hurt.”

He said it as if he was ashamed of getting beat up by a scumbag. It pissed me off to see the poor guy off his game. Ray was normally upbeat, cracking bad jokes. I felt sad for him as he walked to his cubicle. If a serial killer feels empathy, does it mean he’s not a psychopath? I doubted I could work the question into a Maxwell Smart session.

I stayed at work until five. No need to hurry home. Everything was ready. Ralston had four hours and change to breathe. On the drive home I concentrated on my own breath. Getting into the moment. It didn’t take long before the moment turned to how many breaths Ralston had left. I got deep into the mental calculations of timing a breath and multiplying it by seconds, minutes and hours.

Kate prepared one of my favourite meals. Pork chops and candied yam. We talked pleasantly throughout dinner about nothing noteworthy. By the time we’d finished clearing up the dishes it was almost eight o’clock. I felt completely calm. Resigned to fate.

“Is there anything special you’d like to watch tonight?”

“Actually, I thought I might go for a walk. It’s a nice night and I’d like to stretch my legs.”

“Want some company?”

“I’d love company on my walks but not tonight, dear. I’ve been thinking about what you said about my job, about it causing the depression, and I’ve got some things to work through.  I find walking helps me think clearly.”

She tried to hide the disappointment of rejection.

“It can’t hurt to think about it, Roger. I read somewhere that being under-employed is one of the major causes of depression. I’m glad to see you’re at least thinking about making a change.”

I left the house about 15 minutes before nine. I put my surgical gloves on outside and retrieved the gun from its hiding place. I was at the Albert St. house in a couple of minutes. I went in through the still-unlocked back door and turned the kitchen light on. Nobody had been there since the break-in. I drew all the blinds, except for the front window, which I left open just enough to allow light to be seen from the street. I put the porch light on and went back to the front window to watch and wait.

I’d only been watching for a minute or two when the cab pulled up. It felt too soon. Two people got out. Ralston and the ash blonde I’d seen him dining with at the Eagle’s Realm. He paid the cab and they started up the sidewalk to the house.

I thought about leaving. Walking out the back door and letting Ralston and the woman live. But I couldn’t do it. It wouldn’t be right, letting a high-value predator loose on the little people.  People would have to learn to keep better company. I put the gun in the right pocket of my track pants, with the grip sticking out. I tucked the grip under my T-shirt and went to answer the door.

“Thanks so much for coming by Mr. Ralston.”

“You must be Tim. This is my wife Amy. We were having dinner nearby. She’s very knowledgeable about financial matters. I hope you don’t mind if she sits in.”

She smiled at me pleasantly but didn’t speak. She had a nice way about her.

“Hello Amy. Come on in, please. Excuse the bare space. Dad wants to carpet the living room floor before he moves his furniture in. We can talk in the kitchen.”

I closed the door, stood back, and motioned for them to enter. Ralston went first and as soon as his wife passed me, I put the gun to the back of her head and fired.

The noise sounded like a cannon shot in the empty house. Ralston jumped about three feet. She dropped straight down without a sound. Blood oozed from her head onto the hardwood floor. Ralston froze with fear when he landed.

“Oh my God, you’ve murdered Amy.

He looked down at his wife but didn’t make a move to assist her. He stood stock-still. White-faced.

“Tell me Brian, did you really think you could cheat all those people without any blow-back? That you could prey on the weak without consequences. Haven’t you taken any notice of the Wolf’s message?”

“Please don’t kill me. I can give you money. Lots of money. Please, Tim, let me live.”

I aimed the gun with both hands, TV cop-style.

“No, no. I’ll give you anything. Please don’t kill me. Please… please.”

The front of his pants was all wet. The hairy ape pissed himself.

“You forfeited your right to live a long time ago, you lowlife cocksucker.”

I fired and hit him in the chest. He fell back against the wall and skidded along it, using his shoulders as a brace, smearing blood. The bullet must have gone right through. The exit wound would be messy. He was spitting blood. Choking out what sounded like words, like he had some last wisdom to depart.

It was a sordid scene, a dead woman on the floor, blood all over, its metallic death smell permeating everything, and this human cockroach clinging to his life like it was worth something. I moved a few steps forward and shot him in the face, just below his left eye. He fell to the floor gurgling. Bits of hair and flesh stuck on the wall. So much blood. I dropped the letter in a clean spot on the hardwood and turned the lights off. I left by the back door.

I took the alleys home, at a moderate pace. Daylight had turned to dusk in the few minutes I was inside. Nobody was about. I stopped at the top of the hill, a block from home, to compose myself. Blow-back from the Amy’s head splattered my hand and the right sleeve of my jacket. The gun had blood on it, too, and I had transferred some of it to my clothes. Messy business.

I put the gun under the back porch before going in the house. Kate was in the kitchen, sipping tea in her rocker, watching one of her shows.

“Did you have a nice walk, dear? You weren’t gone long.”

“I kept a brisk pace and worked up a bit of a sweat. I’ll have a quick shower and join you for some tea.”

I was halfway up the stairs when I said it. I desperately wanted out of the track suit. To get away from the blood. It was all I could do to stop myself from running down the hallway to the bathroom.

Inside the bathroom, with the door safely locked, I noticed bits of hair and skull on my bare wrist. I shook my arm so violently a piece of bloody material stuck on the mirror. I grabbed a piece of toilet paper to wipe it off and noticed flecks of blood on my cheek. I turned the shower on and stepped in, clothes and all. The blood creeped me out.

After a few seconds, I stepped out and stripped. I held the jacket sleeves under the shower and wrung the jacket and pants. The blood flecks on my cheek were gone but I didn’t like the face I saw in the mirror. The man staring back had a shocked look. The kind you saw on survivors interviewed in New York immediately after 9/11. It made me feel weak. Small. Not strong like a top predator. Not like the People’s Wolf.

I thought about the pleasant smile on Amy Ralston’s face seconds before her death. She paid a heavy price for keeping bad company. At least she went out happy. I caught myself in the mirror smiling at the thought and my spirit began to return. It took me a few minutes to clean up the bathroom, to sop up all the water on the floor. I bundled my clothes up in a towel and put on pajama pants and a t-shirt before going back downstairs.

“I’m just going to throw this stuff in the washer, dear. Any tea left?”

“I put on another pot while you were upstairs.”

Kate turned the TV off and I sat down at the kitchen table and sipped herbal lemon tea.

“You look a little strange. I hope you didn’t overdo it. You’re at the age when men have heart attacks.”

“We all have to die sometime. What is so bad about keeling over while out walking. Dying right there on the spot. I can think of worse ways to go.”

“Don’t be so macabre.”

“Death tends to arrive at inconvenient times. I don’t think we have much say about it but I’m not ready yet.”

“I certainly hope not. We have so much ahead of us Roger. So much to live for. I see us walking down a sunny beach in our golden years. Hand in hand.”

She reached across the table and put her hand over mine. I pulled away. I didn’t want her touching my skin where the blood had been. To make up, I stood up and came around behind her and massaged her shoulders and neck.

“I love you Roger Rabbit.”

I bent over to catch her smell. The smell of innocence.

There was nothing in the news over the weekend. I knew it could take time for the bodies to be found. I thought about the disappointed suckers when Ralston was a no-show at the seminar. They could not know I had intervened on their behalf. To keep them from becoming prey.

The truth is the execution of the Ralstons had unsettled me. Had left me with a bad feeling. I couldn’t get away from that awful blood smell. The sordidness in that dimly lit empty room. Some realtor was in for a hell of a shock when he opened that front door. The owner would have to drop his price.

A small article in the business section of the following Wednesday’s paper caught my eye.

Financial advisor skips town

Potential investors were left holding their seminar bags when controversial Victoria investment advisor Brian Ralston failed to show for his own talk at the Hyatt Hotel.

Participants, who had prepaid $200 dollars for ‘seminar materials’, waited in the hotel’s Rainforest Room for an hour Thursday night but Ralston didn’t show.

Hotel officials say Ralston and his wife left two overnight bags behind but did not check out or pay their bill.

Ralston was in the news several years ago when investors lost millions in what some called a well-planned rip-off. Ralston is still facing civil suits in the matter, but no criminal charges were laid.

Police are looking into this latest incident.

The bodies were found on Friday. An enterprising cop looking into Ralston’s sleep and dash, had tracked down the cab driver who took them to the house. He smelled them from the front porch and called in the homicide detectives. I couldn’t resist walking past on Saturday. They had the whole place sealed off with yellow tape and there were cops all over. I went over to the ball diamond in the park, sat on the grass and watched the kids play. Just another guy taking some weekend sun.

Seeing all the activity lifted my spirits. The morning paper called it a double murder but there was no mention of the Wolf. The story concentrated on the financial angle. The reporter noted that Ralston had received death threats over the years from disgruntled clients.

Ralston and Amy had only been married for four months, which would have made them newlyweds when I first saw them at the Eagle’s Realm. If they had honey-mooned anywhere else, they’d both be alive. I believe in fate.

Osterwich broke the Wolf angle in Monday’s paper. The police confirmed a letter had been left at the crime scene but were not releasing its contents. The last three paragraphs in the story hit me like a blow to the guts.

Ralston’s new bride, Amy Collier, was a lay preacher at Christ the Redeemer Church in Sooke, which Ralston began attending after his financial empire imploded. She was a widow with two teenage children and was not involved in his financial affairs.

I sat at the kitchen table for a long time, thinking about her nice smile and easy manner, trying to convince myself the responsibility was Ralston’s, not mine. Why did the lowlife cocksucker have to bring her along? It wasn’t the religion part that bothered me. I would have killed a priest as soon as anyone else. Religious bloodsuckers were high on my list.

I’d always known bystanders could become collateral damage. I planned to take anyone out who stood between me and escape, saving the last bullet for myself if necessary. War is harsh. Donald Wayne’s kid didn’t bother me. He was a predator-in-waiting, at the wrong place at the wrong time. But this woman was different. All she did was fall for the wrong Born Again. It didn’t sit right.

I brooded over Amy Collier’s death all week. At the office, I imagined putting a bullet in Thorsby more than once. He kept repeating the same theme.

“I can’t figure this guy out. Christ, he had people on his side after the Findley shootout. Even though he blinded an innocent kid and killed a working stiff from the club, he had people talking about change. But this is all fucked up. Taking out a woman preacher? I mean how low can you get.”

“What makes you so goddamn sure there was a shootout with Findley.”

I all but shouted it across the aisle. Thorsby had never seen me angry and for a minute he seemed cowed.

“I just know what I read in the papers,” he said, turning back to his screen. I took him about a minute to come back with his rejoinder. “You seem pretty adamant yourself. Do you have firsthand knowledge that the rest of us don’t? Maybe you’re the Wolf. You said he’s probably innocuous and what could be more innocuous than another sap in an overpriced sports jacket. But then, you don’t write as well as the Wolf.”

I instantly regretted the whole exchange. I don’t know why I let this overweight knob with a dumpy girlfriend get under my skin. It didn’t make sense. But nothing had made sense for a long time.

“At least I don’t sit around reading tractor manuals for inspiration. And that guy in the famous hoodie and mask picture looked a little on the dumpy side. I’ve noticed that same maniacal glint in your eye looking up from a Whopper, with mustard on your chin. Now that’s scary.”

We went on that way every day. It sounds harsh written down, but the exchanges were mostly friendly. I liked that about Thorsby. If you stayed away from Molly and his allowance, you could say anything to the guy. He took it as an intellectual challenge. By Thursday he was getting on my nerves so bad I started fantasizing about taking him out. I imagined rolling up behind his chair and putting one in the back of his bad haircut.

Chapter 9: Evil Eye Goes Global


Go to previous postChapter 8: Talking trash

The April breeze carried with it the fragrance of an early spring in Lotusland. Bushes blossomed in primary colors beneath street tree canopies of soft pink and white. A perfect world on the outside. An illusion? Or as real as its rotten core. Seeing the rhododendrons alive with colour reminded me of the gangster I put down. He chose the wrong path and wasn’t around to see the spring. I made a note to drive past Stacey Ryan’s house and check out the colors he was missing.

Believe me, I didn’t lose sleep over the way she might be feeling. I did not feel empathy for her, or any guilt that Donald Wayne’s driver went down with him or that the kid lost his sight. I had fired at the car in self-defense, out of fear, really. I knew the shots were pure flukes. I was trying to hit the passenger side window, to buy time to make an escape. When it shattered and the car drove off, I assumed I’d missed them both. I couldn’t bring back the kid’s eyesight.

Kate loved spring, the season of promise, she called it. I wasn’t surprised when she suggested a getaway to Vancouver Island. She liked the Island’s ambience and we’d been over several times in our marriage. What surprised me was the place she booked, a pricey all-inclusive spa on the east shore near Comox.

“I put it all on my VISA,” she said, as if that meant she got it free. “All you have to do is get the time off. The second Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in April. I’ve got us booked through the Saturday. The price includes three meals a day, his and hers spa treatments and use of the facilities. It’s called The Eagle’s Realm.”

She was so excited I didn’t mention the trip conflicted with my appointment with the little horned-swoggler. Fuck him. He’d blown me off for the cops. I’d phone and cancel. Kate didn’t have to know.

“That’s a hell of an offer, honey. There’s no way I’m turning that down. I’ll quit work if they don’t give me the time off. Four days with you and a massage thrown in. I’m in.”

In truth, I felt lukewarm about the trip. While it would be nice to get away, these romantic interludes almost always disappointed. You left with high hopes for romance and came back wanting to get away from the other person. Still, it would break up the boredom.

I enjoyed the ferry trip. Gliding through the Gulf Islands. I spent part of it on deck, leaning on the rail imagining what it would be like to live in one of the oceanfront homes we passed. Separated from the rest of the predators by water. It must be a safe feeling.

Kate mostly stayed inside, reading one of her thrillers. She went through one a week. After awhile I went back inside and sat beside her. I put my head on her shoulder and she shifted to accommodate. Sitting there in the warmth of the spring sun, with the boat engines vibrating beneath my feet, and the glow of contentment running through me, I got as close to spiritual as I rolled.

Was this happiness? Is this what normal people? Zero turbulence. Peace of mind. Adams’ words came back to me, in that soft fatherly tone, ‘If nothing matters, why not choose happiness.’ Why not?

The Eagle’s Realm was about an hour north of the ferry terminal, in a small bay about a mile off the Coast Highway. Our room had an ocean view and an air jet tub on a tile pedestal in the middle of the room, between the bed and the couch. We sat in it and watched the eagles swoop across the beach.

I found out later, from Kate’s credit card statement, the place cost $600 a night. The price included daily spa treatments for both of us and chef-prepared meals in a dining room overlooking the sea. As I’ve noted previously, Kate was the antithesis of the bottom-liner mentality. She didn’t care what it cost. She wasn’t even a spa person; she wanted me to relax.

We didn’t make love until Friday afternoon. I returned from 20 minutes in the cave-like steam room to find Kate lounging on the bed in a white robe. She’d been for a full body massage and her skin was pink-tinged. It didn’t take much to get us started.

Sex was different with Kate. Not something dirty. Or dark. Or angry. She enjoyed it without inhibition and afterwards almost purred like a cat. This time I was right there with her and we lay on the bed, snuggling under our robes, purring in harmony until it was time to walk over for dinner.

It felt so good to leave everything behind on the mainland. The Wolf wasn’t real over here. He seemed like a memory from another life. Had it all happened? Had I really been chosen?

The restaurant brought me back. It was more crowded than I expected. The clientele was elderly, but one couple stood out. A loud guy in his mid-forties, already balding, with a beautiful, expensively turned out ash blonde about the same age. He was wearing a loose-fitting Nat Naste shirt, like Charlie Sheen wears. The guy spent half the meal talking on his cell phone. Can you believe it?

Kate and I made love again that night. Tenderly. With a closeness I’d never experienced. She kept murmuring my name—“Roger… Roger… Roger…. Roger…—and petting my face like a child.

“I love you, Kate. I love you. I love you.”

I could barely choke the words out. I’d told her I loved her before, but I’d always been faking it. Doing what was expected. My duty. The depth of my feelings surprised me. Kate noticed the change and responded with a ferocity I didn’t know she possessed.

“Roger, honey, darling. I love you more than anything or anybody in this world. I love you, Roger, darling. We can face anything in this life. As long as we’re together, darling.”

We both cried, rocking back and forth. Maybe there was something to this romantic getaway thing.

In the morning I went for a pedicure. At first it seemed too decadent, having another human being clean your feet, trim your toenails. But I confess to enjoying it. Especially the foot massage at the end. I was already relaxed when I hit the steam room. So much so that I chatted with the naked older guy beside me. He was a retired history professor from Victoria. He was informing me about local history when the balding guy from dinner barged in, flaunting his manhood as if he were in a gay bathhouse.

“Hey, Walt, how’s it hanging today?”

“It is hanging lower than I would like, but not so low as to be an impediment to walking,” the professor answered, dryly.

The guy laid his towel down and sat on the lower level. He had a clear plastic bag in his hand. Inside it I could make out a cell phone. The idiot was checking it in the steam room. He’d barely settled in when it vibrated, and he was up and out the door.

“I met Brian yesterday at lunch. Brian Ralston. He’s a financial consultant, very successful if you believe him. Flies around the world in a private plane ‘connecting investors with opportunities.’ He’s well known in Victoria. There was quite a scandal a few years back. His investment company went bankrupt and a couple of hundred old people lost their life savings. He got sued but claimed he’d lost everything too. Must have made a recovery if he’s staying here.”

Ralston came back a minute or two later. Walt bid us adieu by cranking up the steam before he left. Clouds of vapour enveloped the room and for a moment Ralston disappeared in the fog. I had to pause my breathing, to stop the infusion of heat from choking off my chest. I loved the feeling. The thieving prick was stealing my steam time.

He had an elongated hairy body with a prominent pot belly and short hairy legs. He had a towel over his dick now, but I’d seen enough to know he wasn’t circumcised. I wondered about the ash blonde. How she could stoop to sleeping with this ugly con man? Why would she? How much money does it take to buy a woman like that? Why would you want to?

He kept looking at his phone through the cellophane bag. As if I wasn’t there. Then he started tapping the cellophane with his index finger. He was close enough I could see his manicured fingernail, black hair sprouting between his knuckles. Can you believe it? Number one with a bullet on the country’s most wanted list trying to get a bit of relaxation and I have to watch a hairy ape texting in the steam cave.

I fantasized about killing him. About seeing the resignation in his eyes that says, “You’ve got me. It’s over. I know it’s time to pay.”  Instead, I got up and left without giving him another look. Thieving bastard. Stealing old people’s savings. Filthy, hairy cocksucker. Pig fucker. Mercenary, fucking psychopath predator. I hated him with the force of all his victims rolled in. I felt empathy. I felt their hate.

I caught myself mumbling curses in the shower. Of course, I didn’t have the gun with me. And being a guest at the same resort would have been far too risky an exercise. Not to mention the lack of planning. I put the hairy ape out of mind, dressed and walked back to the room. Back to the lightness of Kate. Back to warmth and nurturing. Back to a benevolent empathy.

I can’t explain the connection Kate and I made on that trip, except to say in all the years of our marriage we had never been so close. I hadn’t felt love before, if that’s what it was. I wanted to stay in love forever, but the hairy ape had invaded my space. Brought a chill to the steam cave.

We’d been back a week when the Wolf story spiraled out of my control. I was as surprised as anybody at the news of the New York shooting. I thought it was a hoax when media reports said the shooter left a note identifying himself as The People’s Wolf. A cop trick for sure, to draw me out. When the second Wolf killing happened in Toronto the same week, I didn’t know what to think. The Vancouver Sun printed the letters left at both scenes.

To the people:

White collar criminal Benjamin Adjahou, who conducted his dirty deals as CEO of one of Wall Street’s largest brokerage firms, was executed in the name of the people for his crimes. He paid with his life, although it was hardly worth the pain and suffering he heaped upon the American people. He was brought to justice in the hope it provides closure for some of his victims. Bottom-liners beware.

Not for everyone, for madmen only.

The People’s Wolf


Fellow citizens:

Justice was delivered to the rapist Malcolm Gottfried, who was paroled earlier this year after serving seven years for his second rape conviction. He will not get a chance at number three.

Bottom-liners beware.

Not for everyone, for madmen only.

The People’s Wolf

Then there was one in New Orleans and two in Edmonton a few days apart. All claiming to be simpatico with the People’s Wolf. I should have been ecstatic. The little people were waking up. Instead, I was furious at the thought of somebody stealing my thunder. I couldn’t see the positive side. Not then.

I looked forward to my appointment with Adams and arrived an hour early to eat lunch at the Thai restaurant in the strip mall. I wanted a public place to organize my thoughts. Someplace I wouldn’t get deep into anything like I did when I parked at the beach.  It had been an interesting month since our last talk. I wondered where the session would go. How I could turn it to the Wolf investigation without him noticing?

I stopped on the landing to look at the dumpster. The light rain had turned to a spring deluge while I was at lunch. The sky hung low and dark, like on a bad winter day. The power of the water transformed the dumpster into something shiny green and clean, even through the streaked landing window. There was nothing hanging out of it today. No street people around.

I purposely wore Sheldon Shelby’s half-price, expensive sports jacket that afternoon. With its extra length, the coat was better suited to the night but for reasons I cannot explain I felt the need to wear it. Maybe I wanted to see if Ms. Gail could discern the quality of the coat. It didn’t matter. Nothing did.

“My, my, my. Another sharp jacket. You must be off to somewhere special for dinner tonight.”

Ms. Gail stood beside the reception desk, high-heeled feet together, one slightly forward, leg bent slightly at the knee as if she was posing for the cover of Vogue. She had on a dark charcoal business suit that accentuated her figure. Her wine-colored hair sat flatter on top, as if a stylist had tried to lose the bouffant by putting a 10-pound weight on her head. She was wearing red lipstick and but not her glasses. An astonishing transformation.

“I’m sure all the male clients take extra care with their appearances when coming to see you Ms. Gail. For us, you are the special occasion.”

She blushed instantly, giving her smooth beige skin a sensuous tinge.

“Doctor Adams said you could go right in. You’re in for a big surprise.”

I didn’t have time to think about Ms. Gail. The shock I was about to experience put her completely out of mind.

“Not for everyone. For mad men only.”

That’s what Adams said when I walked into his office, closed the door and entered a weird new world of altered perceptions. A place where reality was in the beholder.

He had redecorated. The drab curtains were gone from the patio doors, replaced by white wood blinds. The man-eating plant was also gone, further opening up the space. The walls had been painted a light yellow, adding to the open feel. The new floor was hardwood. The small teak table and two chairs on the balcony looked like they were waiting for someone to serve tea in the rain. The desk and easy chair were the same. The filing cabinets had been upgraded to heavy duty metal and secured to the floor. The chair Adams used during sessions sat against the yellow wall.

But that was only part of the surprise Ms. Gail had forewarned. The big shock was Adams himself. He sat on the corner of his desk looking like a Harry Rosen mannequin dressed as a psychologist.

The hair was gone. All of it. He was wearing a fine wale light brown corduroy sports jacket, a dark Viyella shirt tucked into tan slacks, argyle socks and stylish brogues. He had new tinted glasses.

“A lot can change in a month, Roger.”

“You should put up a sign or something to warn people. This could send somebody over the edge.

I settled into the easy chair, levering the foot rest up as I always did. Adams got his chair and sat primly in front of me.

“Wow. It’s midlife crisis time. What brought all this on?

He didn’t answer my question. Another stare-off. I didn’t care. I needed time to absorb the perceptual shift. Adams spoke first. He ran both hands over his bald head, as if brushing back the horns.

“I’ve always wanted to try the shaved head look. Emily loves my hair long and thick but it’s a lot of work. Now I just run the shaver over my head in the morning and I’m free for the day. What a relief.”

He looked like a different person. Not the guy I’d laughed with and revealed my weakness to. Not the guy I laughed at. He had a nice-shaped head and losing the hair had shrunk it to a size more proportionate to his body. The casual-chic office attire was what I had expected on my first visit. The make-over afforded him a certain professional gravitas. The change threw all my initial conceptions into the dumpster. I wondered what he was playing at.

“It looks good on you. Looks like you spruced up your wardrobe too. Nice shirt.”

“Thanks. Coming from you that’s a confidence booster. Gail likes the way you dress. She has good taste and isn’t the type to throw out meaningless compliments. I asked her to go shopping with Emily and I a couple of weeks back, after I shaved my head, and she picked everything out. We went to Harry Rosen in the downtown mall.”

You can always tell a Harry Rosen man.

“Was your wife upset? It appears she and Gail have different taste.”

“No. No. Emily is all for it. She believes change is good. She is the most reasoned person I know. She doesn’t look at life from the perspective of hurting or being hurt? She looks at things on an intellectual level. She puts the rules of the universe above the rules of man. She believes in reason, above all else.”

“She sounds like an interesting woman.”

I said it without sarcasm.

“She is the most interesting person I’ve ever met, personally or professionally. No contest. Nobody comes close. And believe me, I’ve met my share of interesting people. Come to a Mensa conference sometime and you’ll see what I mean.”

Did he emphasize nobody? Why did I feel slighted, like a schoolboy who finds out he’s only a tiny part of his favourite teacher’s life? The Mensa midget basically told me I wasn’t nearly as interesting as his matronly wife. Why did I care? What did it matter what this demented man thought.

“It’s good for a marriage to have a meeting of the minds.”

It came out sounding petulant.

“Oh, our minds don’t often meet. She’s on a whole other level when it comes to intellect.”

I was about to ask if all his patients got the privilege of listening to him prattle about his wife when he got to something interesting.

“Emily is able to analyze at warp speed. No matter how emotional a situation, she always arrives at a reasoned decision. And she always backs it up with logic, no matter how contrarian her viewpoint. Take the Wolf. When I started working with the police, she said I was on the wrong side. She is a strong advocate for change in the world on a monumental scale and is of the opinion it can only come with loss of life. She bases her thesis on two points of solid logic: history and human nature.”

“I’d forgotten you were working with the police panel.” I lied and kept going. “I read the list of experts in the paper and didn’t notice your name.”

“Oh, I was listed alright, and with some impressive company. I’m not surprised you skipped over me.”

“What does Emily make of the copycat shootings?”

“She says they are the beginning of a movement and we can expect more. Lots more. I’m afraid I have to agree with her. There will be more killings in other cities. In a million people there will always be someone angry enough at the world to kill.”

“There’s already enough conflict and violence to accommodate even the angriest among us.” I said it as if I wasn’t one of the angry people. “Why do we need a movement? And why would it start in placid Lotusland?”

“Nobody said we need a movement. It’s simply something that happens. As a natural by-product of a human action, a movement works in accordance with the rules of the universe. If it becomes strong it will survive, if not… well we know what happens to the weak. Emily sums it up in her succinct logical way: ‘The People’s Wolf is an idea that’s time has come.”

How had it come to this? I leaned back into the chair and closed my eyes. Is this what it’s like when you go crazy? You start to think people around you are raving mad. Nothing makes sense. Does the whole world become a place that is ‘not for everyone, for madmen only.’ Ruled by mad Mensa midgets and their matronly wives. When I opened my eyes, he was looking at me, studying my face. He didn’t avert his gaze.

“You’re losing me in the turbulence. With all due respect to Emily, are you saying the Wolf is going against the rules of the universe by getting the sheep to overwhelm the wolves.”

“Just the opposite. Strength will win out, as it always must. If there are enough sheep willing to fight the wolves, the sheep will win. But some of the sheep, the leaders, will prove to be wolves in sheep’s clothing and the whole process will start again.”

I had killed six predators at great risk. I didn’t deserve this. Listening to a bald conman make up nursery rhyme analogies as if he was talking to a five-year-old.  I didn’t want to listen to the phony fuck talking about his frumpy wife. Everything had turned upside down.

“Like shaving your head and changing your appearance to impress a bunch of blowhards who pass themselves off as experts?” I said it meanly. “What does anybody on that panel know about killing another human being?”

He didn’t react. He could ignore an insult.

“Well, I hope none of them have firsthand experience at murder. That is not required to track a killer down?”

“Did you experts come up with something that will lead to a quick arrest. Stop him and Emily’s movement theory will soon peter out.”

“We don’t work miracles; we arrive at conclusions with the help of probabilities. I mentioned your group theory, but it was discarded as being highly improbable. You were right, they weren’t open to the idea. But there are things on the go. I don’t think I’m telling tales out of school when I say the police expect to release video footage of a person of interest within a day or two. Supposedly it was taken around the time the sex trade worker was killed.”

“You mean the pimp?”

“Yes, the young black man. Apparently, the textile warehouse across the street had a camera operating from its roof. The security company hadn’t checked it in months and water got inside. They can’t pin down the exact date, but it caught a man walking up the street and returning at a slow jog seconds later. Apparently, the footage is grainy but police are hoping someone can identify that person. They sent the footage to the RCMP lab in Toronto for enhancement. It should be back any day.”

I needed another Oscar-caliber performance to keep from coming unglued when he let that bombshell drop. It’s hard to act indifferent with a lightning bolt sticking in your head. Goddamn fucking cameras spying on everybody. If the government had its way, there would be a camera at every stoplight. From there it’s only a matter of time before the little people lose total control. Cocksuckers.

“Have you seen the video?”

“No. Not yet. They’re going to play it for us before it airs. To see if we can pick up anything by the way he moves. It’s not to say the person in the video is the Wolf. My understanding is that the time and date did not register because of water damage. So, really, it’s just a person walking down the street. Still, it’s someone the police are interested in talking to.”

“So, has the panel established a profile. It must be taking up a lot of your time if you had to cut back your practice.”

“I’m not allowed to discuss specific details but, yes, we’ve achieved a consensus. I’ll tell you, I wouldn’t want to play poker with my colleagues on the panel. I’ve never been part of a group that has such a vast understanding of human nature. I have no doubt that any one of them could pick the Wolf out of a ten-person line-up, given the chance to interview the subjects first.  It will be a feather in all of our caps if our profile fits when he is eventually caught.”

Fucking experts. They’d need luck to pick the Wolf out of a two-person line-up.

“The simplest explanation is a mid-life crisis.” I looked him up and down. I wanted to get off the Wolf. To put him on the defensive. “For the makeover, I mean. I’ve felt the urge a few times but never followed through. I’ve had the same haircut since my twenties.”

“Do you fear change, Roger?”

He switched gears just like that.

“My official position is I don’t give a shit. You can shave your thick hair into a Mohawk and paint your office pink and it won’t bother me. Why would I fear change when I know nothing matters? Why not just relax and take what comes? Be happy.”

“Exactly. But it’s difficult to be happy if what comes is hard to take, Roger. It’s impossible to be happy if you’re angry all the time. Surrender to the certainty of the bleakness, live only in the moment, and you are free.”

He said it with extraordinary tenderness. The kind that draws you in and keeps you wanting more.

We talked about living in the moment. Paying attention to everything. The way a soldier does in a firefight. I thought about the clarity experienced in the final moments before the kill. After a bit, he stood and took his chair to its place against the new yellow wall.

The smug little skin head really mind-fucked me with the appearance change. I had no idea what was going on in that chrome dome. Was he baiting me? Who was I dealing with? The mental midget who wore sweater vests and senior shoes or a Mensa master of the universe with a twisted Buddhist bent. Would he lead a swat team to my door and triumph in the glow of the international media attention? Or would the light deflect back to the heavens off his bald head and settle where it belonged. On me. According to Emily’s law of the universe.

We bowed respectfully at the session’s end but we both knew he came away the victor. I walked away with his words in my head. And I couldn’t get them out. ‘Surrender to the bleakness, live in the moment, and you are free.’ How could it possibly be that simple? I pictured Thorsby’s response. “Free to be what? Bleak?”

Still, it made sense to me on a level so deep I couldn’t shake it. A few days later, I was laying on my couch in quiet time, watching the velvet screen of my closed eyelids. ‘Seeing what would come,’ in the words of the hairless trickster.

I used Adam’s technique, following the air through my nostrils so far into my chest it distended my stomach. After a while my forehead went numb. Each breath adding another level of numbness. Smoothing out the turbulence.

I’m not sure when my brain shut off. Or why it happened then. How I finally got to the point of living in the moment of my breath. Feeling completely relaxed without a care in the bleak world. It had been a long time coming.

The inside of my eyelids became a vast universe stretching to infinity. Filled with the soft lights of far-flung stars and galaxies. Wispy clouds formed floating faces, then disintegrated before the features could be identified. Pulling me in until I was soaring with the planets and stars. Energy moving through the universe without constraints.

I don’t know how long I stayed that way. Conscious of the sounds of the house and the street outside. Of the world around me but oblivious to it all. Free, in the moment.

The experience on the couch had a profound affect on me. I came out of it feeling warm and tingly. The same feeling I got when I was about to zero in on a bottom-liner. Later that evening, Kate and I curled up on the couch and watched a movie together. A light comedy. She fell asleep and I couldn’t bring myself to move her, so I stayed on the couch content in the comfort of her physical presence.

The warm and fuzzies didn’t last. The Wolf movement stalled. The NYPD arrested a young stock broker in the Wall Street shooting. He had been fired by the firm because of mental problems. Detectives from Vancouver flew to the Big Apple to interview the guy. The other cases remained unsolved. Press coverage slowed to a trickle. Without another victim, there was nothing else to say.

Then the security camera footage was aired. All the dread I’d been feeling since Adams had mentioned it dissipated in an instant. The police released a grainy video of a man walking quickly down a dark street and returning seconds later. The lighting was so bad and the quality of the picture so poor I couldn’t recognize myself. It had scared the shit out of me when chrome dome dropped it on me. But when I thought about it, if there was anything to it they’d of had me by now. The still photo they ran a couple of days later, the one half the world has probably seen, proved more interesting.

I had sold Donald Wayne’s girlfriend short. She wasn’t as stunned as I thought. It turned out she was holding a cellphone in her hand, along with the dog, and had the presence of mind to snap a picture of the Wolf dropping his note on the step. The image took my breath away.

The photo, looking down at an angle, showed the full half-profile of a hooded, masked figure in black. What stood out was the eye. The evil eye staring out from its round peephole. The eye of a murderer, still jacked up on the kill. That’s how Osterwich described it. The fucking ungrateful prick.

His status had gone up ten-fold, since I sent him that first letter. I handed him the ticket out of journalism jail on a silver platter. He’d be dining out on it for the rest of his miserable mediocre life.

Still, it was an unbelievable shot. Nothing like a hoodie and a black balaclava to create a sense of urban horror. My eye appeared to be looking directly into the camera, though I have no memory of seeing anything flash. The angle showed a crescent-moon of white glinting from beneath my iris. Like Jack Nicholson in the Shining.

It scared the shit out of me looking at it. Thinking how close I’d come to having my face flashed around the world a million times a day. That’s what it felt like by the time the thing died down. Everybody was talking about it. Every idiotic expert in the world had a theory.

The stupidity of the bottom-liners surprised me. How had people so witless ascended the Darwinian ladder to become top predators? Were they like some kind of evolutionary aristocracy, inbred and living off the avails of their ancestors? So new to their role as prey, as to find it incomprehensible. At the end of the day, the photo gave them nothing but a cheap thrill.

I cancelled my appointment with Adams.

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

“I recognize your voice, Roger.”

She had never called me Roger before. It felt kind of creepy.

“Listen, I can’t make it in for awhile. I’m swamped at work and I may have to go out of town.”

“Oh, that’s too bad. I look forward to your visits. Would you like to book another time?”

She sounded disappointed. Like a woman spurned. For some reason it set me off. Sent me into a fury.


I hung up the phone on her in a state of severe turbulence.

‘Fucking stupid cunt. Pathetic chink bitch.’ I hated her with the empathy of a thousand jilted men. I wanted her dead in that moment.

I felt weak when the rage passed. Ashamed of another racial slur. I didn’t know where the rage came from. I did not hate women specifically. Had never felt disproportionate animosity towards the women I dated. My mother never beat me. Or made me wear girl clothes. I hated without bias. Men, women, white, black or yellow.

I had put off considering a woman as a target out of respect more than squeamishness. Women are more reasonable than men. Not driven to aggression by testosterone that has been fine-tuned over millenniums to hone-in on the weak.

The racial epitaph spewed from somewhere dark. Race didn’t mean shit to me. Bottom-liners came in all colors. I wanted big game. Top predators. Regardless of ethnicity.

I thought about phoning back to apologize to Ms. Gail and make another appointment, but I didn’t want to see Adams. My spidey senses told me it was too dangerous.

In the weeks after I cancelled with Adams, I teetered on the edge of the darkness. Never falling in but always aware of the black void stretching to infinity. I tried to get some quiet time every day, but I couldn’t get back to the state of free-floating energy. Adams words, “Surrender to the bleakness, live in the moment, and you are free.’ delivered in that tender voice, were never far from the surface. But I didn’t have surrender on my mind.

I knew I had to do another one, and that it had to be someone deserving. I thought about doing a woman. I knew killing a female would sway public opinion against the Wolf. Still, it seemed hypocritical to give all female predators a pass because of their sex. Patronizing. It was important to me that the Wolf be viewed as an equal opportunity executioner.

I was flipping through the paper one morning, scanning headlines in search of a worthy dance partner when the face popped off the page. Brian Ralston. The greedy little ape was smiling out of a half-page ad for a free financial seminar he was holding late in June at the Hyatt. The hairy, cellphone-addicted fraud artist was still at it. Fucking the gullible out of their life savings. He had grown a beard and was going by the name H.B. Ralston under the cover of a company called Financial Advice For Life. The ‘free’ seminar was a full day. The cost to participants was $200 dollars for materials. Anyone who would pay anything for a day with Ralston was already a sucker, ready to be fucked over. That’s what he counted on.

I read through the ad with disbelief. It claimed Ralston had already helped countless people on the road to wealth with a secret system he’d developed over the years. His system was so complex that nobody in the financial industry could understand it. Yet after only one seminar, ordinary people following the system laid out in the seminar materials would strike it rich.

Fucking idiots. It was hard to believe anybody could fall for this shit. There was certainly an argument to be made that anybody who did was deserving of their fate. I remembered the old man’s one attempt at entrepreneurship. He had been on the milk route for about 10 years when my mother saw an ad in a magazine promising untold financial rewards. She clipped it out and showed it to him at supper.

Mom never worked after she got married. She’d been a receptionist in a small office when they met. The old man put her on a pedestal from the beginning, saying she was too valuable at home to work. She probably would have been good at sales. By the end of the meal she had the old man and my brother and I convinced we were going to be millionaires.

It was a pyramid scam and the old man sent off a week’s pay, on the promise he would receive a hundred times as much over the coming months. Mom checked the mail with anticipation for weeks. At first the old man came home every day asking, “Are we rich yet, Holly?” and Mom would say, “Not yet darling, but we will be soon.” She always called him darling. It annoyed me because she never used endearments with me and my brother. It was just plain “Roger” or “Sam.”

After a few months, he stopped asking if we were rich yet. I remember Mom comforting him on the couch one night after Sam and I had gone to bed. I got up to go to the washroom and I could see him through the living room door crying softly against her shoulder. She was stroking his hair, telling him everything would be alright. That she could get a job and get the money back. But he wouldn’t have it. Instead he took on extra concrete work on his days off with his milkman buddy.

Thinking about Mom and the old man getting taken brought on the fury. I looked at Ralston’s face, his nicely trimmed beard, and perfectly combed hair. I wondered what his last words would be. If he’d go out crying for his mommy. The thieving little cocksucker would get more than he expected out of his Vancouver seminar. Much more.

I only had about three weeks until he was in town so I started planning right away. My first stop was a trip to the library to Google him. I never did searches on a computer that could be traced. He popped out of cyberspace like magic.

Ralston had never been charged in the Victoria investment scam the professor mentioned in the Eagles Realm steam room. Estimates on how much he got ranged from $10 million dollars up. Several hundred unsophisticated investors were involved, most of them seniors. He had gotten away with it so far by hiding behind a numbered company, claiming it was a civil matter and that he had lost more than anyone.

He lived well, during those glory years. His principal residence was a 10-acre estate near Victoria overlooking the ocean. His modus operandi was to soften up investors by parading his own success. How could a guy this rich not be on the up-and-up? A lot of people fell for it.

Potential investors who met his monetary threshold got the full ticket. He loved unsophisticated people who had a couple of hundred grand in cash and were easy to impress. He didn’t care if it was their life savings or a windfall inheritance from a great aunt. He took it all.

But first he gave them the experience of a lifetime. He’d have them over to the estate for the weekend and cater to their every whim. Fresh lobster flown in from the Maritimes. Salmon fishing at Yellowpoint. Classical musicians. Breakfast delivered to your bedroom deck, looking out at the ocean. A chef from Vancouver flown in for black tie dinners. A cruise without the water. He had his clientele down pat.

He had a plane and an airstrip and would take bigger financial fish on impromptu flights. For the right client, he had tickets to the Super Bowl, hotel and flight included. Stanley Cup playoffs? No problem, he’d get them into a suite. He kept a place in Palm Springs and loved to be photographed with blow-dried women friends. He had a driver and could be frequently seen tooling around Victoria in the back seat of his royal purple Bentley.

When it all came crashing down, and everyone went running for their contracts and other paperwork, they discovered a section disguised in legalese baffle gab that somehow exonerated Ralston. The investors got the estate and the plane, but both were mortgaged to the hilt. The Bentley and all the other stuff was leased. The slick bastard left all the leasing firms chasing a numbered company for their money.

Fucking greedy son-of-a-bitch. Living like a king on money he steals from seniors. Flaunting the stolen money in their faces. I wondered how guys like him stayed alive. I got such a rush of hate I thought I was going to pass out. I tried to control myself by leaning forward, my head almost touching the keyboard. I’d forgotten where I was until I felt a light touch on my shoulder.

“Are you alright, sir.”

I raised my head, away from the inner ugliness, to a sight of purity and beauty.

“Sorry to bother you, but I was walking past and thought you might be in some difficulty.”

The woman was fine-featured, with light brown hair cut short. About 35 with a svelte figure and a soft caring manner. She was wearing a VPL name tag that said Holly. My mother’s name. My shoulder felt hot from her touch.

“Oh, I’m just taking a little break from the world.”

I don’t know why I said that. It just came out.

“We could all use a little break from the world,” she said it with gentleness. “Sometimes I find it all so overwhelming. Climate change, crime and wars, and now this Wolf thing. Sometimes I feel like putting my head down and keeping it there for a day or two.”

She laughed, sadly, and I felt sorry for the part I played in disrupting her world. The truth is, I’d never thought about the affect of the Wolf on the little people. I never thought of the little people at all, except as pawns of the predators.

“I guess I’ve been working too hard lately. I come to the library sometimes to do research. Without the interruptions I get at the office.”

“What kind of work do you do?”

“I’m a writer.”

I instantly regretted saying it. Why was I telling this woman, this complete stranger, anything about myself.

“Oh, that must be interesting. Do you write fiction or are you a journalist?”

“Is there a difference?”

She laughed again. More cheerful this time. Not forced.

“Actually, I’m more of a translator. I turn engineer-speak into English. I’m a technical writer.”

I caught her glancing at the computer screen behind me, as if to see what I was working on. I turned and clicked the screen off.

“I’m sorry to have bothered you,” she said.

“No bother, Holly.” It felt funny saying Mom’s name. “Maybe if we see each other again sometime we could have a coffee.”

“That would be nice.”

She was smartly dressed in a dark blue jacket and a charcoal skirt that came just below the knee. Why had I suggested coffee? What could we possibly have to say to each other? I had no interest in any woman but Kate. When she reached the end of the study carrels she turned and waved. Like she knew I’d be watching her walk away. I waved back.

I learned as much as I could about the slick ape over the next few weeks. A week before the seminar I phoned the Hyatt to see if Ralston was staying there. The desk clerk wouldn’t say, citing privacy concerns. I went down to the hotel to check out the layout.

The seminar was booked in The Rain Forest Room, one of the hotel’s smaller conference settings. It was an escalator ride up from the lobby, down a long hallway near an exit door. I went out the exit and down one flight of stairs. The door on the landing opened onto Seymour Street. I was only a block or so from the Cunningham kill site.

Everything about the hotel scared me. Too many people. Too many cameras.

I didn’t want to do him in the parking lot. The cops could close that off in a second. I assumed he would have a suite in the hotel where he could high roll his suckers, but I had no way of knowing for sure. I phoned the hotel Monday afternoon from a pay phone. It bothered me that I had to use the lowlife landline. I always wore gloves and kept the receiver away from my mouth.

“Hyatt hotel.”

“Hello sir, how are you today?”

“I’m fine sir.”

“That’s a fine way to be sir.”

“Can I help you.”

“I’d like to speak to Mr. Ralston.”

“Mr. Ralston won’t be arriving until tomorrow night, sir.

Would you like to leave a message?

“Yes, tell him Tim Edderly called. I’d like to talk to him about an investment.”


“Yes. Two ds. One l.”

“Is there a number you can be reached at, sir.”

“No. I’ll call after he settles in. Around supper time. Say 4:30 or five.”

“That will be fine, sir. I’ll give him your message.”

No security concerns today. There’s something to be said for poor staff training and inconsistent application of policy.




Chapter 8: Talking trash

Go to previous chapter – Chapter 7: A Menace No More

I was surprised at the reaction to ‘the shootout.’ Donald Wayne was bigger news than the media mogul. Morrie Greenberg, international businessman, had been usurped by a hoodlum with a high school education. Everyone was talking about the People’s Wolf. In restaurants, coffee shops, gas stations and on public transit the standard joke, in a hundred variations, was about ‘keeping better company.’  I had inadvertently coined a phrase that, with Osterwich’s help, had connected with people.

I felt a shift in public opinion. People were getting onside with the Wolf. Nobody official, of course, just ordinary people who needed a champion talking among themselves. They weren’t exactly condoning the killings, but the conversations carried an undertone of sympathy with the cause. There was a general feeling that the bottom-liners had gotten away with too much for too long and that the supposed innocents, Greenberg and Cunningham, must have been into something. The receptionist had it right.

It delighted me that everyone grabbed onto the concept that there had been a shootout. I hadn’t taken any fire but was happy to have people believe that I had. That schlep Thorsby was right. Killing a well-known hard case had elevated the Wolf’s standing.

The rest of January passed uneventfully. I began work on the Nextco story and had almost all the information together in a couple of weeks. I stalled Oliver with plausible excuses about having a couple more interviews to do and showed up at the office every day. I didn’t want to work at home. Alone.

I alternated between feelings of pride and dread. Pride that I had carried out a dangerous mission and dread at the knowledge I would have to do it again. By mid-February, with media coverage slowed to a rehashing of what was already known, I was slipping back into the darkness. Sitting on the couch staring across the street at the neighbour’s house. Isolating. Towards the end of February, I told Kate I’d be working at home to finish the Nextco story. She didn’t buy it.

“If you don’t make that appointment with Doctor Adams I will,” she said one Saturday morning.

I was shuffling about the house in a T-shirt and pajama pants, unshaven, and feeling low. Nothing mattered. Donald Wayne hadn’t changed anything. The world continued as it always had. The bottom-liners went about their business of fucking over society with increased security precautions. The righteous continued in their victim mode. What would it take to wake people up?

“I’ll make an appointment Monday.”

I phoned Gail Whitesong. Maxwell Smart wasn’t a difficult man to see.

“Mr. Delaney, it’s good to hear your voice again. I wondered what you were up to. I can give you the last time on Thursday. Dr. Adams can see you at four o’clock.”

She sounded sincere but I knew better. I was just another despondent client looking for a quick fix. One of hundreds in the files.

“I’ve missed you too, Gail. Why don’t we forget about Adams and I’ll come and see you?”

She ignored my little flirtation.

“Thursday at four, then.”

“See you Thursday.”

Kate’s prodding aside, I was looking forward to seeing the little swindler. I couldn’t tell you why.

Thursday dawned bright; a soft breeze carried the scent of spring under a rare blue winter sky. In a few weeks the cherry trees would blossom.  I’d arranged an easy morning at the office and took the afternoon off. I picked up some take-out for lunch and drove to Kits Beach. I parked in the spot where I’d made the decision about Donald Wayne. How long ago was that? A matter of weeks. How many? I didn’t know. But I did know that the high of killing was wearing off faster.

I drove around Point Grey after lunch, my thoughts swirling around like clothes in a dryer. I parked the car on the cliff at the top of Wreck Beach and walked down the long wooden stairway to the ocean. In summer the place simmered with sex. Homos humping in the bushes. Naked women flaunting their best assets.  Well-hung guys advertising their wares. The restaurant and nightclub crowd. Fucking bunch of degenerates. I didn’t care who did what to who down there.

Even on a beautiful day the beach was deserted. Too cold to get naked, I guess. I sat on a log and stared at the waves coming in. One after another. Forever. I knew with certainty in that moment nothing had meaning. It hit me hard, because to recognize it was to admit the Wolf’s mission had no meaning. And that there was nothing but blackness ahead for me.

I parked on a side street near Adams’ office so I could pass by my favourite dumpster. I’d had the running shoes I wore on the Donald Wayne job in the car. I tied the shoelaces together and dangled them carelessly as I walked, as if I didn’t have a worry in the world. What was real? I didn’t care anymore.

When I got to the overflowing dumpster,  I flipped the shoes on the bagged garbage. One caught the edge and fell back, dangling forlornly.  By the time I reached the stairway landing inside the building and looked out the dirty window at the alley, a street person was already trying them on. It brightened my mood slightly.

Adams outer office was exactly as I’d last seen it. Gail Whitesong sat at her desk, her wine-colored coif perfectly in place, huge red-framed glasses covering half her face.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Delaney.”

She had an attractive way of looking up at you over top of the monster glasses. I could see why she had to be wary of men. But I was feeling too bleak for small talk or repartee, so I simply nodded pleasantly and walked over to the window. The guy at the dumpster was gone now, along with the shoes. The sunny day had faded to late afternoon. My brain had faded to black.

“Roger, come in please.”

The horn-haired little fraud was standing in the doorway to his office wearing a light-colored polyester shirt and dark pants, a bad brown tie and senior’s shoes. Seeing him in the flesh burst my illusion. I didn’t want to be there anymore. I would’ve left right then but the thought of Kate stopped me. I walked past him without saying anything and settled into the easy chair in a snarky mood.

The inner office didn’t feel comfortable. The plant growing up and over the patio door reminded me of the Little Shop of Horrors. I hated that movie. I kicked out the leg rest and sunk right back as he got his chair and set it in front of me.

“So, what’s new?”

“What’s new with you, Roger.”

“I asked you first.”

I said it with a nasty edge, but he took no notice.

“Well, I just got back from a Mensa conference in Lake Tahoe. Quite a lot of fun. There are some real characters, believe me.”

“I took the Mensa intelligence test and failed. They said I was close enough to try again in a year. I never did.”

It was true. I don’t know why I took the test. Probably because I wanted to justify feeling smarter than everybody else. Maybe I was lonely and thought I might connect with like-minded people. They sent me a conciliatory letter advising me of my failure to make the grade. It happened a long time ago and I hadn’t thought of Mensa since.

“It’s not really a test of intelligence. Brilliance manifests itself in a variety of ways. Many members are total disasters in the simplest areas of their lives. They dress oddly, perhaps, or have no luck with women.”


He ignored the irony. Or didn’t get it.

“Mensa members are a bunch of oddballs, so I wouldn’t feel too excluded.”

“I don’t.”

“You’re very abrupt today. Is something troubling you?”

“No more than usual.”

“So, you’re feeling down? Depressed? Experiencing a lot of turbulence?”

“All of the above.”

“What does it feel like to be depressed? I don’t mean just sadness or hopelessness; I mean what does it feel like in the thinking part of your brain? Put it into words for me.”

“It still feels like reality.”

“Please clarify.”

“Seeing life for what it is. Rotten to its core with corruption, greed, the unspeakable violence of the human species. It’s knowing with certainty nothing has meaning and everything just is. That there is nothing in the future but more of the same.”

“You might be surprised to know I agree with some of what you say. Emily and I talk about the state of the world sometimes, after the kids go to bed. She doesn’t have a high opinion of human nature. I stay upbeat by understanding why things are the way they are from a scientific point of view. When you think about it the world is exactly as it should be. Humans are far and away the most aggressive predators on the planet. We have succeeded in subjugating all living things to suit our needs. Why would the depredation stop with other species?”

He paused for a moment. Did the pause have meaning? Had I imagined it? He began to talk again. Like a kindly professor.

“It’s natural that humans prey on other humans. And if you believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution, it follows that the most aggressive humans thrive while the weaker people in the gene pool fall to the wayside.”

“Like the creatures of the Downtown Eastside?”

It was my first comment. I’d been content listening, watching his face as he spoke. Then a hair horn fell forward onto his forehead. When his unsuccessful efforts to brush it into place with his hand became too annoying, I closed my eyes and put my head back. He continued as if he hadn’t heard.

“Take the psychopathic personality, for instance. It makes perfect sense to me that psychopaths rise to the top in almost every field that involves personal gain. If a psychopath starts out in business with the goal of achieving power and wealth, he is much more likely to reach that goal than an individual constrained by morals and integrity. That doesn’t mean most successful people kill to get to where they are. It means they cut corners, screw people over and generally disregard rules and niceties they are convinced don’t apply to them.

“Therefore, a high percentage of our leaders in business, politics, education, organized religion, you name the field, are psychopaths. As I said, if you believe in Darwin, psychopaths and their spawn must rise to the top of the evolutionary hill. Natural selection won’t be denied. Somehow, when I think of it like that, it’s not so depressing. It’s simple science.”

“Thanks for cheering me up.”

“We are all out for ourselves and those closest to us. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that.  It has always been so. The core foundation of the animal kingdom. Everything we do is for personal satisfaction. If good comes out of it, that’s a positive. Even the do-gooders are only in it for themselves. They help others because it makes them feel good. If it didn’t, they wouldn’t do it. There is no right and wrong, only survival, and what it takes to ensure it. As someone with a clear view of reality you’re already a step ahead. Like you said, the universe doesn’t judge, it just is. Once you connect with that, not just on an intellectual level but in the guts of your being, you can begin to move forward.”

“I haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about.”

He bent forward slightly and let go a cross between a laugh and a giggle.


The movement knocked the other hair horn down. It seemed so ridiculous I didn’t respond. We locked eyes and sat that way for several minutes, not speaking. Another stare-off. Who would crack? I shifted slightly in my chair and he mimicked the move. I shifted the other way and so did he. I touched my nose and he touched his. I grabbed my crotch and he flashed me the peace sign.

Neither of us had smiled nor spoken since the end of his giggle. How had it come to this? The People’s Wolf sitting in a drab office above a strip mall, in the shadow of a man-eating plant, playing monkey-at-the-zoo with a badly dressed little con artist who might be insane. I had to laugh. And when I did Adams burst out. We laughed like a couple of kids. I flashed him the peace sign and he grabbed his crotch and it set us off again.

“Oh, you’re… a… real… card, Roger.”

He could barely get the words out. I was laughing so hard I had to turn in my chair and gasp for breath. I wanted to reply but couldn’t. I finally let go in a high-pitched fast burst, running the words together.


He leaned toward me and shook his hair horns. I attempted a matador cape motion and said: “Ole.”

We sat there joking back and forth like children. Small children with bad jokes. At one point he put his thumb on his nose and waggled his fingers at me and I waggled back. We finally arrived at that uncomfortable moment when the laughter becomes a bit forced.

Adams stood up and brushed his hair into place with his fingers. He took the chair back to its place against the wall as I composed myself.

“Look at it this way, Roger. If nothing has meaning, then there’s no reason to be anything but happy.”

He said it softly, with real affection, the way a father might reassure his son. I stood up and he turned towards me and did his preying mantis bow. A short session, but strangely satisfying. This time I bowed back.

Gail Whitesong sat inscrutably at her desk. She must have heard the laughter but she wasn’t letting on. I flirted with her, gently, and made another appointment for two weeks. I left the office feeling good.

I had no idea what had just happened. How the little horned-swoggler had got inside my head and released the pressure. I had never laughed that hard for that long. Ever. Even when I was a kid. It felt so good I didn’t want it to stop. Adams had gotten to me again.

On the drive home I tried to figure out how he did it. It surprised and annoyed me that he was a Mensa member. What I told him was true. I had taken the test in my mid-twenties and failed. It pissed me off severely when I read the letter informing me I’d fallen short of brilliance. Bunch of clueless fucking nerds.

Some things Adams said made sense, though. Over time, the psychopaths had to take over at all levels of society. Greenberg and Cunningham were psychos. I had no doubt of that. Donald Wayne’s record spoke for itself. The drug dealer and the pimp were punks but being stupid psychopaths didn’t make them any less guilty. Five executions, five fewer psychos preying on the world.

His take on life having no meaning hit home. It meshed with my Wreck Beach revelation, but in an uplifting way. If nothing mattered why worry. It was freeing, really, when you thought about it. What could be more liberating than knowing with certainty that everything happens randomly, that there is no karma, no reward in the afterlife for good behavior, no punishment, no judgement. By the time I got home I was feeling downright jaunty. Kate noticed right away.

“You look like you had a good day.”

She was standing at the stove making a stir fry, wearing a plain red apron, wooden spoon in hand, face flushed from the heat rising from the wok.

“You just look good, honey. And something smells wonderful.”

I walked over and she dipped the wooden spoon in the stir fry to give me a taste. The flavors came alive in my mouth. I felt a little high, almost giddy.

“My two favourite things in life: good food and my beautiful wife.”

“Wow, your appointment with Dr. Adams must have gone well. You were seeing him today weren’t you.”

“Yeah, I saw the little horned-swoggler. We had a good laugh. I think he might be crazier than I am. He’s a member of Mensa, you know.”


“It’s a club for brainiacs. You have to have an I.Q. of 160 or some such to get in. A lot of them are oddballs like Adams.”

I used his word, and my tone conveyed newfound respect. It came out that way, from somewhere just below conscious thought.

“Really. Well he came highly recommended but I’m sure he’s no smarter than you are, Roger. You could be a Mensa member if you wanted.”

I didn’t mention failing the test. What difference did it make in the overall scheme. Why bring it up. Kate wore blinders when it came to me. She believed in her heart that I was the smartest, best looking man in our circle. She meant it when she said Oliver was lucky to have me.

I marveled at how different her reality was from mine. Until the light shone on me, I was one of life’s losers. Another Delaney plugging his way through life in mediocrity. I saw her as she was: pleasantly plain, not overly intellectual with simple aspirations and rock-solid morals. I had dated better-looking, more interesting women. Most of them had attitude or were phony or damaged in some way or other.

During my Good Time Charlie years I’d gone out with a stage actress of some renown in Canadian theater circles. She was beautiful and passionate, smart as a whip. I thought I was falling for her until I stayed over at her apartment on our third or fourth date. She had hats hanging on her bedroom walls for decoration, old theater bills in the entrance, a coffee table book about the art of acting prominently displayed. The whole place was one big, phony cliché. I never called her again.

Kate had no pretense. I’d never caught her in a lie, never saw her trying to be something she wasn’t. She was the antithesis of a bottom-liner. Seeing me entombed in the blackness, powerless to help myself, didn’t diminish me in her eyes. She’s the only person I let in. At times, she was my only light.

Adams’ words, delivered in that fatherly, professorial tone, stayed with me. I had no reason to be anything but happy. The entire country was talking about the People’s Wolf. People were bombarding online Wolf forums with their bullshit. A bunch of idiots sitting around in their underwear trying to show everybody how smart they were. I hated online chat sites. Dumb asses living in cyber space where they could pretend to be more than they were in their miserable lives. Little people who talked big but went along like sheep. I’d heard that the Wolf was getting a lot of support, but I never logged into any of the sites. I figured one of them must be a cop trick.

I won’t deny that I loved the attention. I even took public transit a couple of times just to hear people talk. The shootout thing had taken on its own life. Every news story I’d heard or read said only three or four shots were fired but people clung to the fiction that the Wolf had coolly shot it out with gangsters and walked away. Even Thorsby had it wrong. Doing Donald Wayne had created great expectations among the little people.

Towards the beginning of the second week anxiety began to seep through the cracks, turning the brightness to grey.  The Donald Wayne thing happened so fast it took away all the joy of the hunt. I’d planned on staying busy with him well into the new year. I knew I had to find someone else, someone suitable who would keep the Wolf momentum going. Nobody had come to mind by my next visit with Adams.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Delaney. You’re looking smart today.”

Gail Whitesong gazed up at me over her giant red glasses, a hint of coquettish in her smile. Or was there? Who did she see when she looked at me? I had no idea.

“Ms. Gail, fetching as always.”

“You’re a flatterer, that’s for sure. Mother warned me about your type. She said, ‘Gail, men do not give compliments to women without an ulterior motive. It’s not in their nature.”

“But what motive could I possibly have, Ms. Gail. I’m simply showing my natural appreciation for beauty.”

I said it earnestly, as if I was Clark Gable in Gone With The Wind.

“Mother told me what men want. And she knew men, believe you me. Of course, I don’t think that of you, Mr. Delaney. You’re much too refined to be that sort. I love that jacket you’re wearing.”

“Thank you.”

I was wearing a skinny cut, flat-grey wool sports coat from Harry Rosen. I got it on the sale rack for $450. I don’t know how or why our banter had turned flirtatious. The whole Adams thing was bizarre–Ms. Gail, the windows overlooking the dumpster, the man-eating plant, and most especially, Adams and his mental drivel. The guy actually had me grabbing my crotch and thumbing my nose at him. And he got well paid for it. How had it come to be? I didn’t care because it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered anymore.

Adams had added a navy-blue sweater vest to his polyester look. It hung loose, as if it were a size too big. His wife had the taste of a gnat.

“Nice look, doc. Very intellectual.”

“Thanks Roger but I don’t like sweater vests. It seems to me a sweater is worn for warmth and if you leave off the sleeves what’s the point. But Emily had it laid out this morning. She says a sweater vest warms up my look. She spends a lot of time and energy dressing me.”

“It shows.”

Neither of us acknowledged our laughing time together and Adams started things off without a stare-off.

“What would you like to talk about today? What’s foremost in your thoughts.”

“Nothing pops out. Does that mean my foremost thoughts are about nothing?”

“Thinking about nothing is an oxymoron. A scientific impossibility. I’ve got something we can discuss. What about this People’s Wolf fellow? Do you have any thoughts on him? He seems to be on everybody’s mind these days.”

He stared directly into me as he said it. I can’t explain it any other way. It stunned me for a second.

“Where does he fit from a scientific standpoint?” I asked, feigning casual interest.

I badly wanted to know what he thought.

I admit it.

“Well, it goes without saying he is a predator of the highest order. His letters indicate above normal intelligence and a facility with the written word.”

Did he really place emphasis on the last part? Was paranoia my new reality? I sat in silence with my turbulent thoughts.

“If he believes what he’s writing he’s a romantic, but then it takes a realist to kill people for a cause. He sees himself as being above the people he champions and is carrying an unbearably heavy load of anger. Killing people lets the anger go. It gives him relief; the way laughter relieves tension.”

Another subtle signal? He had me glued to the easy chair.

“It sounds like you’ve been giving the Wolf a lot of thought.”

I said it without animosity.

“Hasn’t everybody. You can’t turn on the radio or TV without hearing about it. I got a call from the police the other day asking if I would join a panel they’re forming to put together a profile of the suspect. They probably heard about me through the work I was doing with psychopaths at UBC.”

I’d always prided myself as someone who couldn’t put on the false front needed for small talk. A bad actor. A lousy liar. Sitting there in the easy chair, feeling unnerved at this revelation, I put on an Oscar worthy performance.

“Wow. This Wolf guy has turned into a cottage industry. Everybody’s cashing in.”

“Oh, we get a stipend but nobody’s getting rich. We do it out of scientific interest and hopefully it works out for the better good.”

A curious choice of words? Or not.

“So where does the Wolf stand on the psychopath scale from an expert’s point of view?”

“He is almost certainly a psychopath. He’s already killed five people and damaged many more lives, the latest of which are the young woman who witnessed the execution of her boyfriend and an innocent teenager who saw his dad gunned down, likely the last thing he will ever see. The Wolf shows no remorse in his letters and I very much doubt he has a conscience or is capable of empathy.”

Talking about the Wolf with Adams was more satisfying than trading jibes with Thorsby. And infinitely more dangerous. Once the paranoia settled, I knew there was no possible way he could suspect me. There had to be 100,000 people in the city who had ‘a facility with words.’ Still, I resolved to be super cautious. A slip-up could prove fatal. For someone. I didn’t want it to be me.

“I’m not sure it’s that cut-and-dried,” I said. “You made the point last session that preying on others comes naturally to humans. Maybe the system has screwed him over and this is his way of fighting back. Maybe he believes that preying on the bottom-liners, as he refers to his victims, strikes a blow for the little guy. Maybe he believes in his cause so much he’s willing to sacrifice himself.”

“Oh, he believes in the cause alright. No doubt about that. You’re right, he carries out these killings at great personal risk. To continue now, with security cameras everywhere, and hundreds of police on his trail, is borderline suicidal. And this latest shootout with gangsters appears to be an escalation in the level of violence and danger. But sacrifice himself. I doubt he thinks about it that way.”

I smiled at the shootout reference. The little horned-swoggler couldn’t get his facts straight, either. He wanted to devour the myth of the Wolf as much as anyone. So I fed him.

“The experts say the coolness he showed under fire is something that can’t be learned, except on a field of mortal combat.” An Osterwich angle. “One former military guy put the odds of an untrained shooter hitting three moving targets at night with a handgun at 10,000 to one. And that’s without the targets shooting back.  The disgruntled veteran theory makes sense. Whoever he is, he’s a hell of a shot.”

Adams took a moment to absorb this. I waited for the Mensa man to do the math. And indeterminate number of shots fired from one gun does not a shootout make. He didn’t make the connection.

“What do you make of the reference to Herman Hesse. That’s a quote that would work nicely on my office door. ‘Not for everyone. For mad men only.’ I suppose it might offend some patients.”

He laughed softly. Not the maniac giggle of last session.

“I don’t know much about Hesse. Wasn’t he a German philosopher? I’ve never read anything by him.”

“He was German-Swiss actually. A poet, novelist and painter who won a Nobel Prize for Literature in the 40s. I’ve read his major novels, Steppenwolfe and Sidhartha. The quote comes from Steppenwolfe. Actually, it’s the words on an electric sign: “Magic Theater. Entrance Not For Everybody. For Madmen Only.”

“You’re really up on Herman Hesse. You don’t own a handgun do you?”

He didn’t acknowledge the joke.

“Yes I do. I have a Glock nine millimeter. I got it after I started working with violent psychopaths. When I heard what they were capable of doing from their own mouths, I went through the process and got myself a Firearms Acquisition Permit. Emily has had her FAQ since her early twenties. And a thirty-eight revolver. She’s somewhat to the right in her view of the world. A pragmatist. We go to the range now and fire at targets. They are shaped like humans, which is interesting from a psychologist’s viewpoint. It’s a lot of fun, better than bowling, but I must agree with your expert. Shooting at live armed targets is a whole other thing. I doubt I could get the safety off in the middle of a firefight, let alone point and shoot it accurately.”

I had to hand it to the guy. He was full of surprises. The sweater vest aside, he didn’t look as goofy as usual. Things had got so deep so fast I hadn’t noticed that his black bouffant was slicked down into a two-inch thick mat, with no hint of horns showing. Maybe my matador joke hit the mark. Maybe he just wanted to look more businesslike for his new role in the Wolf investigation. I still didn’t know for sure if it was real hair. Maybe he just changed wigs.

“It certainly is an enigmatic quote,” I said, digesting the gun news. “What do you make of it.”

“It tells me that we are dealing with someone who is conflicted,” he said.  “Steppenwolfe is not an easy read. Perhaps the Wolf thinks of himself as Hesse’s protagonist, Harry Haller, a man in search of himself. My guess is that he is a controlled individual. Someone who rarely shows rage.”

“I’d think you’d have to know yourself well before taking a gun to the streets and executing people in the name of common good. If you didn’t before, you certainly would afterwards.”

“I suppose you would. But if I have learned one thing in fourteen years of practice, it is never attempt  to figure out what another person is thinking at any given moment. It is as difficult as trying to grab a handful of smoke.”

“Here’s my theory. The Wolf is not a he, as you suppose, but instead a group of people who have extensive contacts throughout different stratas of society. They might have met at university, or in a punk band or in the military. Males and females, like the Squamish Five. Maybe they’re all disgruntled veterans. Different group members carry out different functions. Research. Surveillance. Killing.”

“That’s a fascinating theory, Roger. One of the more interesting I’ve heard. How did you arrive at it?”

“Think about it. Killing people takes a lot of planning. Who can work the execution of five people, including two bigwigs and a notorious gangster, into their schedule? One person with a job wouldn’t have time to do everything. A guy with the money to sit around planning executions isn’t going to do it without some motive. A nutcase couldn’t pull it off without someone seeing something. This is not Son of Sam picking off random victims. He pulled a couple of these killings off in broad daylight and the cops don’t even have an accurate description. They can’t even say if he’s black, white or yellow.”

Adams listened attentively, hanging on every word.

“The letter is the clincher. In the last one published the Wolf refers to himself as ‘our.’ Why would he do that? To throw off the cops? That would seem too clumsy for a person with the intelligence he’s credited with. No, the most obvious answer is a simple slip-up. Human error. I’m not sure if I mentioned it but many years back, I worked at a small newspaper. Everybody in the editorial department did everything—writing, editing, proofing. Three sets of eyes could read the same story carefully, looking for errors, and still overlook mistakes in grammar, punctuation and spelling. It happens all the time. The people responsible for the killings are so used to thinking of themselves as a group nobody picked up on it.”

“You’ve almost got me convinced. Would you mind if I bring up the group theory with the panel?  Of course, I wouldn’t reveal your name or involve you in any way. Everything said in this room is in the strictest confidence. As a former journalist you understand the importance of confidentiality.”

“No problem. But I doubt your learned panel will be as open-minded as you. They’re on the lookout for an ex-soldier.”

When he ended the session with the preying mantis bow, I returned it again. It didn’t seem hokey anymore.

The fear hit me a few blocks from home. It came like a lightning bolt through the roof of the car, striking me on the top of the head and running through me, deep into my guts. I pulled the car over on a side street, a couple blocks from home. To think and recover.

A small kid was playing in the front yard across the street with the family dog, jumping and rolling around on the grass in the porch light. I watched him, idly, as I thought things through.

There had to be something hinky happening. What were the chances in a metropolitan area of about two million people that a killer would be a client of a psychologist involved in the investigation? If it was a movie plot it would be over the top. Yet here I was, sitting in my car on a dark street, wondering how such a coincidence was possible.

I had developed a grudging respect for Adams. He wasn’t as goofy as he looked. I went back over the session. Had I imagined him emphasizing the part about the killer having a facility with words? And the look he gave me when he brought up the Wolf? I didn’t think it was all in my head, but what paranoid person does? Logically, I knew there was no possible way he could connect me to the Wolf. I was just another depressed middle age patient. The only thing in the world that connected me to the killings was the gun. If I dumped it, I could walk away.  Free.

I had enjoyed talking about the Wolf with him but when he mentioned bringing it up with the task force profiling panel, alarm bells sounded. The cops would be suspicious of anyone who inserted himself into the investigation. I did not intend to do that, even behind the scenes. Just talking about the killings was dangerous. Still, I knew the opportunity to discuss the investigation with someone officially involved would be irresistible.

“Henry, get in here right now.”

The ferocity of the words snapped me out my reverie.

“I said now. Right now, you little bastard.”

A weaselly man stood on the lighted porch. He was wearing a black T-shirt with the word DEFIANCE on the front in huge white letters. His skinny arms were covered in jailhouse tattoos. He kicked at the kid as he went by. Then he turned to me. He didn’t look as big as yelling at the kid made him feel.

“Fuck off, pervert. I’ll cut your balls off if I catch you around here again. Go look for little boys somewhere else.”

Adams was right about one thing. I never showed rage. Even a month or two ago I would have started my car and driven off, convinced I’d done the smarter thing at the cost of a little piece of manhood. I couldn’t do that now. It wouldn’t be right.

As soon as I opened the car door, the guy came off the porch. I pegged him as a bully when he stopped at the edge of the yard. I pulled my trench coat from the back of the car and stood in the street calmly putting it on. Then I walked slowly across the street toward him, with one hand inside the coat, like some gangster from the 40s. I had become a good actor.

“Oh, you want some, eh? Fuckin’ pervert.”

He talked tough. Pimp talk.  But he didn’t make a move towards me. He stood there in the imaginary safety of his yard as I approached. I didn’t plan to fight. If he took a swing at me, I’d walk away and come back another time and put him down. I just wanted to scare him a little. Make him feel like the kid felt. Teach him some empathy. I closed the distance between us with authority and stopped a few feet short of his yard.

“I told you to fuck off….”

I cut him off mid-sentence. I didn’t want to hear it.

“A goof like you shouldn’t be telling people what to do. You’re not smart enough.”

I used the jailhouse slang; an insult no real tough guy could let pass. I said it evenly, without all the aggression I felt inside.

“You’ve only got one decision to make now, goof. Decide whether you want to live or not. That shouldn’t be too hard, even for a dimwit like yourself. Turn around and go inside the house and I’ll let your ignorance slide.”

I could see the fear. This wasn’t going according to his script.

“You a cop or something?”

“I’m something. Something bad for goofs who yell at people in the street. Stick to the kids. They might buy your tough guy act. Have you made a decision?”

He glanced back at the house, to see if anyone was watching. The kid had paused in the doorway.

“It’s okay, Henry, go inside.” All the anger was gone from his voice. “Listen, man, I thought you were a skinner. I don’t want no trouble. I’m on probation.”

“I don’t need reasons. Make the right decision and you won’t get trouble. Turn around and walk into the house. Do it.”

He stood there for a moment looking stupid. I could see the wheels turning. He’d already made his decision and was searching for a way out without losing too much face. He didn’t find one.

“Whatever, man. I don’t need this shit,” he said, moving towards the house. “Why should I give a fuck about what you do? Do what you fucking like, who gives a fuck.”

He mumbled like that all the way to the door, then slammed it shut. Fucking jar head. I went back to the car and sat there for a few minutes staring at the house. Just to make him nervous. I saw him look out the bedroom window then try to duck back. After a few minutes I drove off.

I hadn’t been in a fight since grade school. Punching or kicking someone seemed so crude, the avenue of last resort. Who wanted to rip a new shirt or get some idiot’s blood all over their clothes? Avoiding confrontations had never been a problem. On the rare occasion a situation came up, I used my brain instead of my fists.

The confrontation brought me back to reality. By the time I got home, I had reassured myself that Adams couldn’t possibly be on to me. The last residue of fear disappeared when I opened the door and smelled Kate’s cooking.

My mood remained buoyant throughout March despite the unexpected call.

“Mr. Delaney, it’s Gail Whitesong from Doctor Adams’s office.

“Yes, Ms. Gail, I recognize your voice.”

“Dr. Adams asked me to call and arrange a later appointment. He’s been quite involved with this police investigation and has cut his office time to two days a week. He wondered if you’d mind seeing him mid-April, say Thursday the 16th at 11 a.m.”

“I can do without the good doctor until then, Ms. Gail, but it means I won’t be seeing you for more than a month. That will be a real hardship.”

She didn’t answer and I thought the line had gone dead.

“Ms. Gail.”

“Yes, I’m here.”

“I thought we’d been cut off, for a minute.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing you on the 16th, Mr. Delaney.”

I don’t know why I flirted with her. It wasn’t a sexual thing. I had no interest in Ms. Gail in that way.  Even in the full hormones of youth I’d never had a strong sex drive. I was more interested in mental coupling. The sex came with it. Duty as much as pleasure. I was always able to do my duty, except once or twice during my coke phase in the Good Time Charlie years.

Kate had never found me wanting in that regard. She was the only woman I had a sexual relationship with that lasted more than a few weeks. With the others, familiarity had bred contempt on both sides early on. It frustrated women when I wouldn’t argue with them about trivial matters. Among cruder things, I’d been called aloof, a chauvinist, insensitive, self-absorbed, conceited, a preening idiot and an asshole. They had me down pretty good. But Kate didn’t see me that way. I can’t put our thing into words except to say I loved her as much as I was capable.


Chapter 7: A Menace No More

See previous chapter –

Chapter 6: Laughing Out Loud

I had a mini-panic attack early in January. I was sitting on the downstairs couch in my skivvies at two in the morning staring at the closed blinds. Trying to shore up my resolve about doing Donald Wayne. I knew I’d have to spin the chamber again first. Let fate be the final arbiter.

I started to shiver and that turned into shaking, then spasms. I thought I was having a heart attack but I didn’t cry out. Dying on the couch of natural causes didn’t seem bad compared to bleeding out on the office floor with a bullet in my head.

The bottom-liners have tried to portray me as a homicidal maniac, someone who feels no fear and shows no mercy. Those who have read this far know different. Donald Wayne had me shaking in my underwear. I knew he’d be constantly on guard against his multitude of enemies and seldom alone.  He would likely be armed or, if not, would use anything at hand to bash his would-be killer to a bloody pulp. I didn’t want to go out in a puddle of blood watching a crazed Dennis the Menace raise a concrete block over his head.

I’m not sure if the whole episode lasted a minute or 10 minutes or an hour. The spasms slowed and I began to rock, a slow rocking.  I got deep into it with the gods of fate, offering up complete surrender. It felt good to turn it over, just like Adams said. It was out of my hands. All I had to do was survive.

I waited until mid-January, with Kate away visiting her sister in Toronto for a week, to get up close and personal with Donald Wayne. I wanted to give myself a reality check. To confirm he was a punk at his core. That he wouldn’t have anything when the end came. I’d learned in my research that he hung around a downtown nightclub called Ecstasy, said to be quietly owned by the Demons. The place was an old warehouse in Yaletown with a huge sprung dance floor. It was packed Thursday through Saturday.

The real action took place upstairs, in the lounge, where high rollers waved hundred dollar bills to get the attention of nearly naked lap dancers. The cover was $50 bucks if you didn’t know the right people. Men who made easy money happily paid to mingle with celebrities, gangsters and beautiful nude women. One side of the lounge had booths that afforded views of the dance floor below. The money men could sit above it, pick out a woman they liked and send a minion downstairs to bring her up. And women outdid themselves on the dance floor to become a chosen one. I kid you not. The place was thick with bottom-liners.

Two things had caught my eye in the article. First and oddly, Donald Wayne Findley was an avid dancer who loved to show off his moves. Who knew? Second, Ecstasy billed itself as a no-camera zone to reassure its publicity-shy clientele. I doubted the second part but figured it would be safe enough to go there on a busy Thursday night.

Anticipation built throughout the week. On Wednesday I went shopping for a sports jacket at lunch. I wanted a downtown look without being splashy. A color and cut that would blend in with the in-crowd. I walked to Hastings Street, near the financial district, where two or three men’s wear stores catered to stylish bottom-liners on their way up.

I went to a small shop called Harry’s. He had a table and a chair in the window with a sports coat hung on the back, as if someone was sitting there and had just stepped away. He changed the jacket every day or so. It was his idea of window dressing. I stopped by the store every couple of weeks to browse the racks and check out his featured chair jacket.

I hated the high-end men’s stores’ window displays. They always conjured bottom-liner good times. Genteel times. The mannequins were always playing golf or croquet or on their way to tennis in just the right clothes. I pictured a Wolf mannequin wearing one of those hunting jackets with leather patches at the elbow and on the gun shoulder. A sporting man.

Harry’s had been located at the same site for 62 years. Its latest owner had only been around for 23 years. His name was Sheldon Shelby. I appreciated his good taste and had gotten to know him a little over time. We even went for a drink once.

“Aah, Roger. I have a jacket you’re going to love.”

Shelby could sell anything, but he was still working well into his sixties because he was a prodigious spender. He lived well, always on the far edge of what he could afford. I liked him for that. He loved people and it showed. He and his wife had travelled the world before settling in Vancouver in their middle years. He had impeccable taste in clothes and took a paternal interest in his young clients.

Shelby stood respectfully at a distance waiting for my reply. He always gave his clients a moment or two to browse before he approached. He was wearing a tailored grey wool suit with a hint of navy woven into the fabric, a brilliantly white shirt perfectly starched at the collar and a dark blue tie and matching three-point hanky. The suit hung naturally on his somewhat stout frame.  It bespoke elegance.

“Looking sharp as always, Sheldon,” I said, moving my eyes from a table of cashmere sweaters to his suit. “I love the way that tie brings out the blue. It’s a nice colour. Understated.”

“Thank-you. I appreciate that coming from a man of your taste.”

He never commented on my attire beyond that generality. He wasn’t a phony flatterer.

“I just got a jacket in that you simply must see. I couldn’t hang it out with the regular stuff. No. No. No. I set it aside for you. It’s a one-of-a-kind 42 tall. We got it from a small tailor shop on Commercial Drive. Some guy got fitted for it, paid half-down for a deposit, then never showed up to pick it up. I can give it to you at the half-down price. It’s the perfect cut to hang nicely on you. I doubt we’ll have to do any modifications.”

He led me to a holding area beside the storeroom door. I could see a sewing machine on a table in the storeroom, with Sheldon’s older brother Benjamin hunched over it in concentration. I spotted the jacket before Sheldon pulled out the hanger. The olive-green fabric stood out among the others hanging on the rack. He laid the coat across his arm to show me the quality of the material and the workmanship as I took off my sport coat. He held the jacket deftly, offering up one arm then the other, as I slipped it on then stepped over to the mirror.

“Nice coat, Sheldon.”

The jacket, a muted olive-green with the latest narrow, high-cut lapels and flattering shoulders, hung to mid-calf, the extra length giving it a bit of a tuxedo feel. It stood out, not so much in its colour as in its quality. It would not stand out in a nightclub filled with high-rolling bottom-line predators dressed to the nines.

“This jacket was made to be worn by a man of substance,” he said. “It says, ‘I am confident and successful. I don’t need to show off.’”

“No need to sell me Sheldon, I’m going to take it. How much?”

He gave me a faux hurt look.

“Of course, you’re going to take it. I wouldn’t have put it aside if I didn’t think so. Another gentleman wanted to try it on. A nice young man but he doesn’t have your substance.”

When I took off the jacket, he showed me what he’d already written on the price tag: Sold to Roger Delaney. With tie, matching hanky and Shelby’s 10 per cent commission, it cost more than $900 bucks. I knew he probably took an extra hundred off the top on these kinds of deals. I didn’t care. The jacket was a steal at $900. Shelby only sold quality. The jacket didn’t need modifications. A perfect fit for a man of substance.

I got to Ecstasy about ten o’clock. Early for the nightclub set. A line of about 30 people waited in the January drizzle. I’d brought a cheap umbrella with me, but not to keep the rain off. I kept it open and angled towards the warehouse, blocking my face from any camera angle on the outside of the building. I didn’t mind the wait. I needed time to assemble my thoughts. Calm my nerves. It felt like I was going to do Donald Wayne that night. I had to remind myself it was only a reconnaissance mission.

I got in sometime after 11, with the group ahead of me, two guys and three girls. All in their early thirties. I’d been flirting with the one who seemed on her own. Debbie. Better to blend in. I was worried that Donald Wayne or one of his cohorts would think I was a cop if I was alone and got too close. I stopped worrying when we passed through beautifully carved wood doors into the warehouse. The scene was chaotic. Nobody noticing anything.

The enormous sprung dance floor was heaving under the weight of bottom-liners getting their mojo on. I followed the group to a table with sight lines to the dance floor and did a quick scan for Donald Wayne while everyone settled in. I bought Debbie a drink, a Bombay Sling, and she introduced me to the table as Patrick, the name I’d used in the line-up. The guys feigned friendliness but it was evident they had no interest in me. Neither did their girlfriends, other than as someone to take care of their fifth wheel friend.

Debbie was the best looking of the three, but she was recently divorced and seemed needy. I had no interest in her beyond a cover. She got the message after about 10 minutes of non-responsiveness and turned to talk with one of her friends. I did not see Donald Wayne on the dance floor or among the male habitués ogling slinky women on the sidelines. He was not among the coiffed heads and well-tailored shoulders visible above the railing in the lounge overlooking the dance floor. I decided to go upstairs to take a look and excused myself from the table. I left the umbrella behind, as if I was coming back.

Even though I knew about it beforehand from my research, the $50 cover to the lounge pissed me off. Goddamn bottom-line scumbags. I didn’t care about the money. Money meant nothing to me after I started the people’s work. I made a decent living and I knew I didn’t have to keep anything back for retirement. I just hated adding to the scumbags’ bottom line. To be played for the rich fool who was so insecure he’d pay gangsters to hang out with them.

To the bruiser taking the money at the bottom of a short stairway leading to the elevators, I was a nobody, a sucker to be fleeced. He was well-dressed in a dark blue suit, with a red tie and matching hanky. He exuded menace, despite the refined exterior. Or maybe because of it.

“The cover includes your first drink and an introductory table dance.” His voice was high-pitched for such a big man. “Keep your hands off the ladies unless invited. They don’t like to be touched and if you upset them needlessly it upsets other people. You don’t want to do that. But have fun up there.”

I went into the bathroom opposite the elevator doors at the top. I sat in a stall, elbows on my knees, head in hands. I slowed my breathing, concentrating on the job, which was to find out as much about Donald Wayne as I could. Seeing him in person might help me later. I wanted to size him up at my leisure. I had no doubt I could get to him, but I knew it would likely take a long time. I left the bathroom refreshed, after splashing water on my face and drying off with one of the soft white towels neatly folded in a wicker basket.

The lounge was done out in what looked to be red velvet. I kid you not. The carpet, the seat cushions, the bar stool seats, the curtains hanging in the window box booths looking out over the dance floor. The room had a long antique mahogany bar with a backdrop of mirrors and shelves filled with gleaming liquor bottles. The mahogany stools and chairs, with their cushioned red velvet seats and carved legs, gave the place an old time feel. Like it was a top notch booze can during prohibition.

Topless women, wearing shoes and red velvet thongs and chokers, mingled among the men in power suits. I wondered if anyone realized what a clichéd picture they made. Nearly naked women and men dressed for success. There were a lot of young guys in the crowd. Guys with slick hair who didn’t pay the cover. None of them looked like gangsters but I knew different. Putting an expensive suit on a lowlife, scumbag thug didn’t change anything.

The lounge was laid out in a long rectangle with the bar stretching along the entire side opposite the window booths looking down on the plebeians below. Small rooms at the far end were reserved for private lap dances. One bigger room was roped off with red velvet cord. The cover didn’t include access.

I took a stool at the bar and ordered a double Chivas. The bartender politely informed me that the cover only included singles. Fucking cheap pricks. I wondered how long a guy would last if he came out blasting in this crowd. I took a single on ice and scanned the room in the bar mirror. It didn’t take long for my introductory lap dance to arrive.

“Hello sir, my name is Sherry. I’d like to dance for you tonight. If you like what you see and want to see more, we can book a more private place.”

“How old are you, Sherry?”

I don’t know why I asked her that. It just popped out. The question startled her.

“Old enough. Are you a cop or something?”

I instantly realized my mistake.

“No, no. I like young girls but only if they’re of legal age. Show me what you’ve got Sherry.”

I turned my stool and leaned back, one elbow on the bar. She started to sway in a small circle. I couldn’t put her on a specific age. She could have been 18 or 28.  Hard to tell with all that make-up caked on. She had a red velvet ribbon in her hair, to match her thong and choker, and red patent leather shoes with ankle straps and impossibly high heels. She shifted her weight from one high heel to the other, hardly moving below the waist, and leaned into me with her long, tits hanging. I had no desire to touch them.

She tried to engage my eyes, sticking a finger in her mouth and sucking on it in a way she thought was provocative. The whole thing was so ridiculous, so not sexy, I laughed in her face. She took it as a positive sign and stuck another finger between red lips. To avoid another outburst of laughter, I moved my eyes down her body.

She had fair skin, narrow shoulders and banana tits that curved out at the ends in opposite directions. The nipples were small and pink. She was thin, with hips like a boy. She had a red stone stuck in her navel, an oval shaped innie. The only sexy thing about her was the small area between her thighs immediately below her crotch. She had one of those boxes men lust after, the kind light passes through when a woman is wearing tight jeans and standing with her legs together. The kind of box made for fucking.

But I didn’t want to fuck Sherry. She was pathetic, a plaything for a bottom-liner with bad taste in women. My hard-on was for Donald Wayne. And he was nowhere to be seen. Not at first.

Sherry finished her preview, which did not inspire a follow-up in a back booth. She tried to get me to buy her a drink, but I dispensed her with a wave and turned my attention to the room. That’s when I noticed the sliding doors that opened onto an outdoor smoking area. I bought a single cigar at the bar for $10 and grabbed a book of matches and my drink.

The patio was bigger than it looked from inside. It was about 40 feet long and 20 feet wide, with stools and tables arranged under huge silver space heaters glowing like red umbrellas in the cool air. Donald Wayne Findley was huddled under one about halfway down, smoking and laughing with three of his hoodlum friends. I took a nearby table, sat down and fiddled with the end of my cigar, as if I knew what I was doing. I thought I noticed a pause in their conversation when I first sat down. By the time I got my cigar going they were back into it.

“The son of a bitch pissed himself,” I heard one of them yell gleefully. Donald Wayne laughed loudest. I got a decent look at him out of the corner of my eye as I pretended to concentrate on my cigar.

He was shorter than I thought, maybe only five seven, but more muscular than he appeared in the pictures I’d seen. He was jacket-less, seated on a stool with his feet perched on the second rung, wearing a white shirt with sleeves rolled to the elbows, a black tie loosened at the neck and beige chinos. What got me were the shoes. In mid-winter, he was wearing tasseled brown loafers without socks. Like some kind of Miami Vice throwback. It disappointed me. Really. I’d built him up in my mind to be more than that.

He had powerful-looking sloped shoulders and solid forearms ridged with muscle. No visible tattoos. No biker beard or tough guy goatee. No rearranged nose or facial scars. He had a pronounced cowlick that wasn’t evident in pictures. You couldn’t look like a hard case with a cowlick like that. I suspected he cultivated the preppy look to give him the element of surprise. I could tell by the respect he was afforded by the other thugs that they knew exactly who he was, and what he was capable of doing.

I sat under the heater’s warm glow puffing on my cigar, careful not to inhale. But I wasn’t feeling all warm and fuzzy. I felt fury, welling up in my brain, expanding into my chest and stomach. Vile curses and invective intruded into my thoughts. Cocksuckers. Monkey fuckers. Smegma-gargling shit eaters. In that venomous moment of hate, I lost any remaining fear of Donald Wayne. I would take him out. Relieve the world of his presence and send a message to the top predators. There was a new sheriff in town.

I hadn’t noticed the woman come outside. By the time I picked up on her she was already at their table, her left arm draped across Donald Wayne’s shoulder and his right arm comfortably encircling her waist.

She was blonde and looked to be in her mid-20s, way too young to be Donald Wayne’s beloved wife. She was wearing a business suit with a name tag on the lapel, the only fully clothed female I’d seen on the second floor. I assumed, correctly as it would turn out, that she worked at Ecstasy. Her name was Stacey Ryan. I would learn in the papers later that she was the nightclub’s general manager and Donald Wayne’s girlfriend. Even in the conservative suit, I could see she was built like a brick shithouse. But my only interest in her was as a conduit to Donald Wayne.

I left the patio without finishing my drink and went back through the lounge, then down the elevator to the dance floor. I moved through the crowd toward the exit, just another moke whose plan to get laid had gone awry.

The car jockeys used a garage one street over for valet parking and I figured staff parking might be over there. But when I got back onto the street, I noticed a 20-foot wide area on the far side of the warehouse with a dozen or so vehicles parked in it, a disproportionate number of black Escalades with tinted windows.

I walked the three blocks to my car and drove back past Ecstasy, checking out the fenced parking lot as I passed. I drove around the area for a few minutes looking for a spot where I could park unobtrusively and watch the Escalades. I settled on a small car lot at the end of the block. It had a service center attached and there were four or five vehicles parked alongside it. I backed into a free space with good sight lines through the chain link fence, turned off the engine and settled in.

I thought the wait would be boring, but time went by in a flash. The parking lot, with its easy access to a side door, was a hub for the line jumpers. Cars came and went, people went in and out of the club, but as far as I could tell Donald Wayne wasn’t among them. By closing time, there were only three vehicles left, two Escalades and an Audi coupe. At about three a.m., an hour after closing, the side door opened and Stacey Ryan came out, with Donald Wayne beside her, and walked over to the Audi. He wasn’t wearing a jacket and after he kissed her, he turned and went back inside.

I made an instant decision to follow her. I wanted to see where she lived. What opportunities it might present. I pulled out of the lot a respectable distance behind and followed from a half-a-block back, letting a taxi get in between us. She turned south on Burrard Street and picked up speed going over Burrard Bridge. I figured she’d turn off into Kitsilano, the funky beach district, but she kept going up Burrard and turned west on West 12th Ave., then south on Arbutus to the leafy streets of Kerrisdale, one of Vancouver’s most affluent neighbourhoods.

She was a block ahead when her taillights disappeared. I sped up and turned right at the corner. I caught a flash of the Audi’s taillights turning into an alley. She was pulling into her garage when I reached the alley. I stopped for a moment before turning to follow, then drove slowly up the alley with my lights out to the garage. The motion detector lights were still on. I stopped short and rolled down my window to listen. I moved the car forward a touch to give myself a better view of the house and saw a light come on in a back window. I backed up to the end of the alley, still without lights, and parked around the corner. I walked back up the alley and entered her yard. The drizzly night was dark, and I kept in the shadows. I had replaced my new sports jacket with a dark windbreaker I kept in the car. It felt good to be back at work for the people.

I went alongside the house to the front, a typical Kerrisdale yard with hedges screening the street and two massive rhododendrons, one on each side of the front walk, overtaking what remained of the yard. The light came on in a front window and I moved into the deep shadows between the rhodo and the hedge. I could see her clearly, standing in the living room wearing a red kimono and talking on the telephone. I felt a little uncomfortable spying on this woman from the darkness. I thought about trying to explain it to Kate if I got picked up as a common peeping tom. Can you believe it?

I was lost in this thought when the vehicle pulled up. I tried to crouch down to make myself smaller and fell back onto my ass. The car door opened before I could recover myself.

“Pick me up at 8. I’ve got to drop Felicia at school in the morning so don’t be late, bro.”

It happened so fast I had no time to do anything but cringe in the shadows as the car drove off, leaving Donald Wayne alone to walk the 30 feet to the front door. If I got caught now being labelled a peeping tom would be the least of it.

I sat there, senses heightened, vulnerable, unable to get up for fear of making a noise. Although I had a distinct height advantage and was about the same weight, I knew I was no match for someone who had already beaten another man to death. I’d never been a fighter. Too much blood.

The few seconds he took to reach the door and fumble with the key imprinted themselves in my brain. Almost as good as taking a bad guy out. Better than sex. Better than the best winning feeling. Clarity. No turbulence. Full alert. But I wasn’t thinking about my state of mind at the time. I was thinking about the gun. Wishing I had it.

A small dog barked frantically when he opened the door. It tried to run past him onto the porch, but he reached down and scooped it up. I still wonder how it would have turned out if the dog had made it past and sniffed me out of the shadows.

I left the yard immediately and walked briskly to my car. I didn’t realize how hyped I was until I started to come down a little on the drive home. Driving the empty early morning streets, I thought of Adams. How could that pipsqueak know anything about these kinds of feelings. About putting your life on the line. About risking everything for the common good.

I was still jacked up when I got home. I went straight to the office and got out the gun. I hadn’t touched it for several weeks and it felt good in my hand. An old friend. I put a round in, spun the cylinder and put the gun to my head. No hesitation. No fear, really. Just a certainty that fate would choose me over Donald Wayne. This was my fourth spin on the wheel of fate. I was still a five-to-one favorite..


So long, Donald Wayne.

I called in sick on Friday. I couldn’t wait to remove another evil presence from our world. To send a clear message to the bottom-liners—Nobody is safe.

The stars were aligned. I decided to do the job that night. Kate would be back Sunday, severely cutting into my late-night free time. I had lucked onto Donald Wayne’s soft spot. His hard dick. I smiled at the thought of it. The happily married tough guy would be brought to heel in his girlfriend’s front yard. With a poofty little dog yapping in the background. It was time to act.

I had picked up an old Selectric typewriter at a second hand store a few weeks back for twenty bucks. I went downstairs and got it, set it up on the kitchen table and plugged it in. I sat down to write a short letter but nothing came. I got up and walked around the darkened house, around the living room and up the stairs, trying to burn off some of the nervous energy. I went into the bathroom, stepped into the shower fully clothed, and stared at the taps. After a while I went back downstairs and the words came out. I had breakfast, phoned the office and went to bed. I didn’t stir until late afternoon. The letter was sitting in the typewriter and I reread it.


Fellow citizens…

Justice has been delivered to the criminal Donald Wayne Findley in the name of the people of this great country. Like the drug dealer Tran Hoc Do, the pimp Raymond Evers, the legal shyster Richard Cunningham and the corporate crook Morrie Greenberg, all of whom preceded him in our cross hairs, he forfeited his right to live by conducting himself in a way that is counterproductive to the greater good.

The bottom-liners among us have had their way so long they take it as a given that resistance to their parasitic lifestyles will be minimal, and easily dealt with by minions. Their world view is based on their own entitlement and dependent on the rest of us believing that great fiction. They would have you believe everyone is at risk. And that I am a madman.

Be reassured, the vast majority among you who comprise the righteous. Go about your business without fear. You are safe. Only bottom-liners need beware.

I leave you with a quote from Herman Hesse:

Not for everyone,

For madmen only.

The People’s Wolf


The ‘our’ reference and the Hesse quote were red herrings for the police. I had no connection to the German author other than reading one of his books in university. The quote, a sign on a closed door in Hesse’s imagination, had always stuck in my brain. It seemed fitting.

I knew from the beginning that communicating was a huge danger. I wasn’t worried that somebody would recognize my style. I’d written for so many trade magazines over the years I had no style, other than correct grammar and spelling. Still, being able to write competent sentences narrowed the field considerably. I pictured some poor cop pouring over the reading list for first year arts students at UBC. It would take a miraculous leap to reach back to my time there with Herman Hesse.

I had a shower, without clothes, then took a long time shaving, pausing several times to stare at my face in the mirror. An ordinary face. How could it be that I had been chosen to take the people’s fight to the evil-doers? Why not some cop or military guy who had training and was familiar with guns? I had no explanation then, and none came later. Some things just are, I guess.

I spent the early evening padding around the house in bare feet and pajamas formulating a plan, gathering what I’d need. I went to the basement to our seldom used tool box and got a small coil of wire and some wire cutters. I laid out my navy track suit, an oversize hoodie with a roomy pouch and a black balaclava-style ski mask I’d paid cash for at a big box sporting goods store. I had the TV on for background noise but took no notice. I had no need for the numbing banality of shows created by bottom-liners to soothe the public into compliance.

I started getting ready for the job around nine. I put on a pair of surgical gloves and retyped the letter, careful to take an untouched sheet of paper from the middle of the package. I addressed the envelope to Osterwich and wet the stamp with a new sponge. The gloves wouldn’t come off until Donald Wayne was on his way to hell.

I put on my track suit and pulled on the dark hoodie over top. The pouch provided better freedom of movement for the gun than the fanny pack and the bulky hoodie made it harder for witnesses or an unseen security camera to determine body type. I was learning on the job. I rolled the ski mask into a tuque and pulled it low over my ears. Then I got the gun, loaded it and wiped it down. I put extra bullets in my pants pocket and zipped it shut.

In my exhilarated state, I felt kinship with the universal soldier. I knew with certainty as I prepared for my mission why combat veterans formed lifelong bonds that often later baffled wives and relatives and civilian friends. They had lived this feeling together, an experience unlike any other in the human condition.

Fear so powerful your body rebels against moving. Threatens to empty its contents in protest. A last mental battle of titanic proportions as your brain searches for a way out and finds nothing acceptable. Profound relief when the decision to act overcomes all protests. Calmness in the eye of life’s perfect storm. Pride at passing through the portal, flowing through your being on a river of adrenaline. All in an instant that repeats itself in an endless Ground Hog Day mental loop that forms the bigger picture.

Clarity. Focus. Purpose.

After this, all else is drudgery.

I debated stealing licence plates to switch with mine but decided against it. Better to have a reason to be in the area if your vehicle was spotted than to be caught with plates that didn’t match your registration. I drove down Hastings in a drizzle, through the Downtown Eastside, past the collateral damage of the bottom-liners war on society, the scabby zombies and ghouls who scuttle along the mean streets. The ones without the strength to make it through. I didn’t feel anything for them. They were victims of evolution. Like the Cro-Magnon man.

I went past the Ecstasy, to see if the Audi was parked in its spot. Bottom-liners in waiting spilled down the street, the long line-up partially obscuring the preferred parking lot on the side. But I could see the Audi through the open gate.

I knew the whole mission was a leap of faith. I had no solid reason to believe Donald Wayne would visit his Kerrisdale girlfriend two nights in a row. Or that she would even go home straight from work. I hadn’t planned on doing him for weeks or even months but I could see no reason to wait. I felt the light shining brightly on me. The storybook hero, working alone against great odds, without any thought of personal recognition or gain.

It felt good.

I drove to Kerrisdale and parked along 41st Ave. in the village shopping area, near a pub. There was enough activity along the street from the restaurants that I wouldn’t be noticed. I thought of having a drink in the pub. But I didn’t want to mess up my high with alcohol. I pulled off the hoodie and tuque before I left the car. Too sinister. I walked the six blocks to Stacy Ryan’s house. A middle age white guy in a track suit out for his evening stroll.

I turned down her alley and slowed my pace in the darkness, looking for a spot I could hunker down for the wait. It didn’t take long. A neighbor a couple doors down and across the alley had taken out a section of fence and parked a utility trailer there loaded with yard debris. It had enough clearance to get underneath it and there was no security light on the garage. I walked to the end of the alley without stopping and made a circle back to my car.

I moved the car around the corner, in front of a two-story condo complex, bundled the gun and tuque inside the hoodie and turned into an alley a couple blocks from where I parked. I found a blind spot behind a garage and pulled the hoodie and tuque on, emerging at the other end as an anonymous dark figure on the tree-shadowed streets. It was still drizzling when I slipped under the trailer at 12:41 a.m. A soldier in the trenches waiting to do his duty.

Stacy Ryan’s car pulled into the alley a little after three. I could see the Audi emblem clearly in the light of the motion detector as the door closed behind it. I didn’t move for five minutes. A long time to wait, looking at your watch. But I didn’t care. I felt calm. No turbulence.

The motion detector lights came on as I approached the garage. It scared me spit-less. Luckily, I had hardly eaten all day, or I might have done a Morrie Greenberg right there in the alley. Hard to stalk prey smelling like shit. I stopped at the gate long enough to flip the latch. I moved into the darkness alongside the house, paused for a second to listen, and continued to the front yard. I took one look at the front window. The light was off in the living room. I went right to work, attaching one end of the wire at about mid-calf to a solid branch on one rhododendron, pulled the wire across the sidewalk, and tightened it around the other bush. In the shadows of the yard, it might as well have been invisible. I was back in the blackness between the rhododendron and the hedge when the living room light came on. I couldn’t see Stacy Ryan this time.

I checked the gun. Safety off. A full load.

Waiting wasn’t hard. I felt too good about myself. I didn’t even feel the damp night’s chill. If Donald Wayne didn’t show, he’d get a little more time. No big deal.

But he did show.

A black Escalade pulled up and parked. I could see it through a gap in the hedges. There were two men inside. Nobody made a move to get out. I couldn’t tell if they were talking or providing security. I wondered if the cops did stakeouts in Escalades. I thought of the letter I was carrying. I thought of the wire. If anyone other than Donald Wayne tripped over the wire, I was committed to action. If only in self-defense.

Waiting wasn’t easy anymore.

The scene sprang to life when the front door light came on. Before I could do more than turn my head towards the house, Donald Wayne was on the porch in his stocking feet, silently waving at the men in the Escalade. He had come home with his girlfriend. I turned enough to see that they weren’t receiving the message. The guy on the passenger side had his head turned towards the driver. Donald Wayne waved a couple more times and when he didn’t get his desired result bounded in a fury down the wet stairs in his socks. He hit the wire on his third stride and went down hard on the sidewalk.

I’d already begun to move when he cleared the porch and he’d noticed the movement out of the corner of his eye and was turning his head when the wire took his legs out. He cracked his head pretty good and appeared stunned when I came around the bush and took dead aim with both hands, TV cop style. I hit him in the chest, and he slumped back, bleeding profusely.

“Oh fuck,” he said. The words came out gurgly.

I stepped around him and walked straight at the Escalade firing. The window shattered and glass flew as the driver squealed away. When I turned back to Donald Wayne, Stacy Ryan was standing on the porch with the yappy dog clutched in front of her like a shield.

“You’re family man boyfriend won’t be hurting anyone else in this life, lady.”

I said it calmly, affecting an East Indian accent so she couldn’t get a read on my voice.

Donald Wayne was breathing heavy. He looked at me when I stepped toward him and pointed the gun. A look of resignation. He knew it was over for him. Time to pay up.

“Not in the face,” he said, turning his head away. I put one behind his ear from about four feet. I wasn’t going to get any closer.

The stupid woman didn’t move or say a word. She just stood there shaking, barely able to hold up the yappy dog. So I walked to the porch and put the letter on a step. No need to worry about the post office fouling things up.

“Keep better company,” I said before disappearing around the side of the house.



I went up the alley at full speed, grabbing the gun and wire cutters in the hoodie pouch to keep them from bouncing. I hung a left and slowed to a fast walk as I passed Stacy Ryan’s street. Lights were coming on up and down the block but there was no sign of the black Escalade. I half expected it to pop out of an alley with guns blazing from every window. When I got a couple blocks from my car I pulled the hoodie over my head and stuffed the ski mask into the pouch with the gun and wire cutters and bundled it under my arm like a sports bag.

Everything was quiet when I got to my car. I threw the hoodie on the back seat floor and pulled onto 41st Ave. heading east. I was barely past the lights at Arbutus when I heard the first siren. Then I saw flashes of blue and red coming towards me fast. The cab that had been in front of me at the lights slowed and moved to the right and I pulled in behind him. Four cop cars went past us at speed, and I marveled that not one of them thought to stop and check us out.

From the time Donald Wayne opened the door to his death to the point the cops passed me couldn’t have been more than four or five minutes. As I’ve said before, killing people doesn’t take a lot of time. I was home just after four a.m.

Doing Donald Wayne had taken a lot out of me. I relived the whole scene a hundred times on the drive home. So many things could have gone wrong. If the henchmen in the Escalade had been on the ball I’d probably be laying in that yard dead. If one or both of them had gotten out of the Escalade and walked toward the house when he waved I would have been forced into a gunfight with three murderous thugs. It didn’t take imagination to figure the outcome. At the very least Donald Wayne could have slipped back into the house to fight another day. But nothing had gone wrong and Donald Wayne was done. The scourge of the local underworld went out worried about how he’d look in his coffin. At least he didn’t beg or call for his mommy

Sitting on the edge of the bed, still dressed, I felt the full weight of the responsibility I’d taken on. The list of villains was endless. I knew it could only end badly if I kept going. I swung my feet onto the bed and went to sleep in my track suit.

I didn’t get up until mid-afternoon. My brain felt muddled. Not turbulence, just an absence of clear thought. I put away the gun, then had to take the floorboards up again to put the bullets away. I made a mental note to get rid of the shoes. I wasn’t about to get caught out by an errant footprint in Stacy Ryan’s flower bed.

I wondered what the cops would think about the wire. I’d meant to clip it and take it with me but it didn’t seem worth the risk at the time. I hadn’t reckoned on the possibility that someone else might trip over it or that Donald Wayne would come out of the house and take a header from the other direction. It seemed like a terrible idea when he was standing on the porch waving his henchmen over as I crouched behind the rhodo with no way out of the yard.

The image that kept coming back to me was the face framed in the Escalade’s passenger window. The kid was blonde with spiky hair on top, clipped short on the sides. The dumb fuck sat there and looked at me with amazement when I stepped toward the car. That’s the last thing I saw before the car window shattered, the surprised face of a kid who had taken a wrong turn and ended up getting shot at.

I waited until five o’clock to walk to the corner store for a paper. I wanted to get the late edition to be sure the killing would be covered. I hadn’t listened to the radio news or turned on the TV. I wanted to read about it in the comfort of home, with a cup of tea. A couple of scumbags standing in front of the store spoiled the surprise. They were smoking and reading the paper. I’d seen one of them around before, using the pay phone to conduct his dirty drug business.

“Shit man, they got the Demon, Donald Wayne Findley. Took him out and shot his son, too.”

“There must be a long list of suspects. That motherfucker had more enemies than Mother Theresa.”

“Mother Theresa?”

“Yeah, that Catholic cunt. Fucking dried up old prune. Probably never been fucked in her life.”

“What’s she got to do with Donald Wayne?”

I went into the store before I heard the answer. Fucking mutts. Pretending to have some inside knowledge and they couldn’t even get the story straight. Then I saw the headlines blaring from the newspaper rack.

Gangster and son gunned down in Kerrisdale

Wolf claims credit for gangland slaying

Two dead, one critically injured

I paid for the paper and left the store. The mutts were standing over at the phone booth talking shit.

“This Wolf guy must be good.”

“You better hope he doesn’t set his sights on your skinny crack-dealing ass.”

“I’m just working for a living like everybody else. Giving the people what they want. He’s a friend of the people.”

It felt good to hear that. Even from a lowlife moron. The message was getting through. If he got it others would get it too.

I covered the two blocks to home in double quick time, but I didn’t read the paper right away. Instead, I put the tea pot on and savoured the moments until it came to a boil. I read the lead story while waiting for the tea bag to steep.

Gangster and son gunned down in Kerrisdale

One of Vancouver’s most notorious criminals was shot dead outside a Kerrisdale home early this morning and his son is in hospital with life threatening injuries.

Donald Wayne Findley, 46, the leader of a gang called the Demons, died on the sidewalk outside a West Side home at about 3 a.m. Another unidentified man was also killed and Findley’s son, Alex, 18, is in intensive care at Vancouver General Hospital.

Police say the shooting happened about 3 a.m., shortly after Findley returned home from a night at Ecstasy, a popular downtown nightclub said to have gang connections. He was killed, execution-style, in front of his live-in girlfriend, Stacy Ryan, who manages Ecstasy.

According to police, the younger Findley was parked out front of the house playing video games with another Ecstasy employee when the gunfire started. After shooting Findley senior, the gunman, who left a note behind (See page 2: Wolf claims credit for gangland shootingopened fire on the car hitting both occupants. The driver managed to make it to VGH but died outside the Emergency Ward before he could receive treatment.

Police are playing down the Wolf angle.

“As a leading member of the Demons Donald Wayne Findley crossed paths with a lot of bad people,” said Detective Sgt. Earl Blancher, head of the gang squad. 

“The shooter left a note at the scene claiming to be the People’s Wolf but at this time investigating officers have no reason to believe this is anything but a gang killing.”

Stacy Ryan, who lives in the house where the shooting took place, told police Findley’s son, Alexander, was being dropped off to spend the night at his dad’s house. He is not known to police. The name of the other dead man is being withheld until relatives can be contacted.

Donald Wayne Findley was born in East Vancouver, where he attended Templeton High School. He has a long record dating back to his teens and was convicted of manslaughter in the beating death of Aubrey John Klenner in 1985. He served four years for that crime. He has two other children with his estranged wife.


Wow. Two dead and the teenage son clinging to life. Stacy Ryan, the live-in girlfriend. Who knew family man Donald Wayne had left his wife? I’d never intended on hitting anyone in the car, but it didn’t make me feel bad. Not even for junior with the stupid look on his face. I’d fired because I thought it was them or me. I’d more pointed the gun than aimed it. Hang around with dogs and you get fleas. Maybe people would start thinking about who they were hanging with. Maybe the bad guys would realize they weren’t as insulated as they thought.

I read through the other stories quickly. The son had been hit in the side of the head and was expected to lose his sight. The story covering the Wolf angle interested me most. Osterwich led with my last words to Stacy Ryan: “Keep better company.” The story included the letter and a bunch of speculation about the Herman Hesse quote. He interviewed a UBC lit prof, who noted that the German author was known for his dark themes.

The Donald Wayne execution had changed everything. The experts had a new theory now. The Wolf had to be somebody with military or police training. Someone familiar with guns. I laughed at the speculation. Five down and the cops had no clue.

I picked Kate up at the airport Sunday night. I acted my part. Kissing her and telling her how much I’d missed her. She prattled on about her sister all the way home. About her kids and lawyer husband and her beautiful home in Scarborough. The importance of staying close to family. What a load of shit. We were almost home when she brought up the Wolf.

“That horrible person killed someone else. I read that he shot two men and a boy, one of the men’s sons. Honestly, Roger, what kind of demented human being would shoot a boy.”

“Eighteen-year-olds carry guns, dear. I doubt he was an innocent kid if he was related to Donald Wayne Findley. The men you’re talking about are gangsters. Killers who deal drugs and think only of themselves.”

“You can’t believe this maniac is working on behalf of the people. How does shooting people on the streets and in their offices help society. Everybody on the plane was talking about it, joking about the Wolf as if he were some superhero. Laughing with two men dead and a boy badly injured. I don’t care what those men did, they deserve their day in court like everyone else.”

Kate was an innocent. One of the little picture people I was risking everything to help. The only thing that bothered me was her reference to the boy as if it somehow demeaned my work. I pictured the surprised face in the window and the wide eyes that would never see again. I felt nothing for the kid who had grown up reaping the benefits of dirty money.

“If the courts were doing their job enforcing the laws this horrible person wouldn’t have to shoot people. The system is rigged, everybody knows that.”

She laughed.

“Honestly, Roger, you’re such a contrarian. Always trying to be so gruff and tough. I know you’re a softie inside where it counts. That’s why I married you. Have you set up another appointment with Doctor Adams?”

“Not yet, maybe in the new year.”

“No maybes about it. I’ll make the appointment myself if I have to. You’re doing so much better now. It would be a shame to waste all that progress.”

I couldn’t wait to get to work Monday morning to get Thorsby’s take on the weekend shootings. Predictably, he went hook, line and sinker for the military man theory.

“You’ve got to be cool under fire to take out somebody like Donald Wayne Findley. Probably a disgruntled Afghan veteran. Someone like the Wolf doesn’t just come out of the woodwork one day and start killing people. There has to be a back story, a trail that leads to his door. I predict he’ll be caught within a month.”

“I’ll put money on that.”

He ignored my betting proposition.

“He’s smart, no doubt about it. And he’s obviously an expert marksman. It says in the morning paper that three shots hit the mark. That’s pretty good shooting under pressure.”

“What happened to the weirdo sitting around his basement suite in his underwear theory. If I recall, you said he was a pussy who wouldn’t take on a tough guy.”

“I never said he was a pussy. A pussy doesn’t go around shooting people.”

“Probably not.”

“No. The guy’s ex-military. I’ll bet on that.”

“How much.”

“Fifty bucks.”

“How will you pay when you lose. Mollie isn’t going to give you money to pay off gambling debts.”

“I’m not going to lose.”

He got all pouty at the mention of Molly and his allowance and rolled his chair back to his desk.

“As I’ve told you before, petulance doesn’t look good on a man in an ill-fitting golf shirt.”

Oliver appeared in the doorway before he could answer.

“So what do you guys think of this Wolf stuff. He must be a cool customer to shoot it out with gangsters.”

Before we could reply, the temporary receptionist, Oliver’s supposed girl-on-the-side, joined in from her desk at the front.

“I think it’s about time someone stood up for the little people against these criminals.”

“What about the lawyer and the media guy,” Thorsby interjected. “They weren’t criminals.”

He couldn’t stay petulant with Oliver standing there.

“He must have had something on those other people. Why would he kill someone if he didn’t know something.” The temp got up and came over. “They’re all a bunch of crooks,” she said with finality.

Oliver smiled at her and agreed.

“There are a lot of crooks out there. I wonder who’s next on the list.”

“I’m sure we’re all safe,” she said. “The Wolf said righteous people don’t have to worry.”

Oliver got back to business. He came in and outlined his expectations on the Nextco story. He wanted five thousand words by the end of February. I knew I could stretch the deadline into March. With Donald Wayne done it would be a leisurely beginning to the new year.


Chapter 6: Laughing Out Loud


To Read previous chapter –   Chapter 5: End of the Line for a Bottom Liner

Kate and I watched the news over dinner. The Greenberg shooting led every local channel and the three national broadcasts. Worldwide gave it more than 10 minutes. Greenberg was in VGH, fighting for his life. They showed footage of his mansion and a profile of his extensive business holdings. They showed his wife and kids returning to the mansion surrounded by men in suits. His brother Eldon, contacted in New York, broke down on camera.

Kate watched with me, reluctantly.

“Why do men kill each other Roger? Why can’t they find civilized ways to work out their differences? Why can’t men be more like women?”

“Men like Greenberg don’t give up their power easily. That’s why revolutions are always violent. It’s Darwinian. The same traits that got the sharpies to the top of various organizations and power structures prevent them from letting go without a fight. And there are always hungry young sharpies looking to move up. There is no compromise when the luxurious lifestyles are threatened. I don’t imagine it will take long to marshal the forces to get his killer.”

“He isn’t dead yet. He might still pull through and the man who shot him might be identified.”

“It’s possible.

Five minutes in, the anchor tilted his head and touched his earpiece for affect, before sternly reporting there was breaking news. He said the station had unconfirmed reports that a note had been left at the scene. Police were said to be examining it for evidence. Good news indeed.

“Honestly, Roger. Can you imagine shooting somebody and then leaving a note behind. Who would be that stupid? The killer must be crazy.”

“I doubt it’s signed, honey.”

“Still, there could be fingerprints. And the police have people who can analyze handwriting. I’m sure it will give them clues. What’s the point?”

“Maybe the killer wants something known.”

I admit to having enjoyed these discussions. And that they made me feel superior. Everyone wants to be on the inside, in the know, and I was the ultimate insider, the only person alive who knew what went down. If Greenberg was still breathing, he wouldn’t be for long. We talked about the shooting through the rest of the newscast. Twenty lousy minutes is all I got. I tried to draw it out, but she went into the kitchen to make herself a tea. Kate didn’t like unpleasantness. Definitely one of the sheep.

I hardly slept the night after Greenberg. A million things were bouncing around my brain. Not turbulence. Exhilaration. I went over the execution a hundred times. The look of astonishment when he saw me in the doorway. The fear after I pointed the gun. The way he tried to pull himself along on his elbows after the second shot. He had a strong will to survive. But the thing I remembered most was the strong smell of shit in a confined space. I’d never be able to take another dump without thinking of Morrie. Can you imagine, seeing that pathetic coward’s face every time I take a shit. I smiled in the darkness at the new cross I’d have to bear.

I thought about the cops going around the side of the building and wondered if the gravelly soil was soft enough for a shoe print. I got up and went downstairs. Kate didn’t stir. I took a sharp butcher knife from the drawer and grabbed the running shoes from the shoe rack. I went out onto the back deck and cut the soles off, then sliced and hacked at the pattern until it was unrecognizable. I went back inside and dumped the whole mess into the kitchen garbage, making sure to conceal it at the bottom. I was putting the can back under the sink when Kate scared the shit out of me.

“What in God’s earth are you doing at this hour?”

She was silhouetted against the hall light, hair askew, her voice still drowsy with sleep. She pointed at the digital clock over the oven.

“It’s almost three thirty in the morning and you work tomorrow.”

The scare infuriated me.

“Can’t I throw a tissue in the garbage without being questioned.”

It came out hard and angry. She took a step back, paused for a second, then turned and went slowly up the stairs without saying a word. I’d been cranky many times in our marriage, but I’d never snapped at her. It felt good to let go, to take off the mask.

I went to the office couch for a moment of quiet time. I focused on my breath, filling my lungs with positive energy, expelling the anger as I breathed out. After a time, maybe minutes, maybe longer, my body relaxed completely. My eyelids, tightly closed but not compressed, displayed wild videos of light and energy moving into infinity against a black backdrop. My head felt light, as if my consciousness had vacated the space and was now moving with the light, independent of my body. It felt good to be free, at last. I fell asleep before dawn, emotionally and physically exhausted.

I woke to find Kate standing beside the couch, one hand on my shoulder and the other holding a teddy bear. One of those squeeze toys for kids with a personalized recorded message. She’d had it made for me a couple of years ago at a booth at the PNE. The joke had long since worn off, but it had been quite awhile since she’d used it to wake me up. To make up for snapping at her I listened patiently to the song.


Wake up Roger, it’s time to start your day.

Wake up Roger, and always start this way.

Make your bed. Dress with care.

Brush your teeth. Comb your hair.

Wake up Roger, it’s time to start your day.

It’s gonna be a gr-e-a-t day.


The Teddy Bear song was so weird in the context of the Greenberg execution the day before it touched a nerve somewhere. I burst out laughing and couldn’t stop. I had tears in my eyes and was having a hard time catching my breath. I put my hand up for her to get the thing away and she squeezed it again, sending me back into convulsions. She jumped on the couch and rubbed the stupid bear against my head.

“Oh Roger, it’s so good to see you laugh like that. I was worried for a while that I’d never see you laugh again. I’m sorry that I startled you last night. I know that working through things can be upsetting. I know you didn’t mean to get so angry with me, but I’ll take it as a positive sign. Showing real emotion is a good thing.  Old Maxwell Smart must be doing something right.”

I barely heard her psychoanalysis. I knew it didn’t mean shit.

“He’s a funny-looking guy, that’s for sure. That loopy black hair combed forward, defying the laws of physics. His ridiculous preying mantis bows and airplane journeys.”

I started laughing so hard I could hardly get the last part out. I finally caught my breath.

“And did you know he’s a time traveler, too. He can take you back centuries into the thoughts of peasant stone workers in the Eastern bloc.”

I said it with good humor. I wanted to keep the mood light. I had not laughed that hard since I was a kid. The Greenberg job touched my funny bone. Kate and I had reconnected as human beings over a novelty teddy bear with a bad voice. She lay behind me and massaged my back.

“I love you Roger Rabbit. Love you. Love you. Love you.”

It felt so good lying there I forgot about the morning paper. The minute it entered my head I got up and went to the front door to get it. Unfolding it gave me a tremendous high. The front headline blared‑-MEDIA MOGUL GUNNED DOWN IN OFFICE–in huge bold type. The subhead below read: Police find note at crime scene. In all, six catch lines directed readers to inside pages. Doctors say head injuries hard to predict p. 2. Greenberg shooting stuns business community p. 2. Police looking at link to other city shootings  p. 2. Victim a big supporter of local charities p. 3.  Brother says Greenberg had no known enemies p.3 International reaction p. 3.

I put the paper aside and chatted with Kate over coffee and toast about the possibility of a fall provincial election. I wanted to read the stories at my leisure, after she’d gone to work. 

“It could be a busy time for you if the Liberals decide on an election. Goodwen will have you working every night for weeks.”

“I’ll make sure I have plenty of time for you, dear. Now that you’re back in good spirits I want to keep you that way.”

Kate voted for the NDP, a left-wing party funded by trade unions. She’d been doing volunteer work for our local MLA, Darryl Goodwen. She wasn’t overly political, but she believed in the Party’s stated goal of helping the working man. Volunteering was a way for her to socialize. A reason to get out of the house when my black moods polluted her world. I lumped the NDP in with all politicians, a bunch of sanctimonious hypocrites who would say anything to get elected. I didn’t say that on this morning. Didn’t want to spoil the mood.

After she left, I settled into the office couch, paper in hand. Osterwich wrote the lead story with the basic facts as released by the police.

–Greenberg had been shot sometime around noon.

–He was discovered on the floor of his Commercial Drive office by a postman on his regular daily rounds.

–No one else was in the building. Nobody heard the shots.

–Police would not speculate on a motive but confirmed that a note was left at the scene by the shooter. Police were examining it for evidence but would not say if or when its contents would be made public.

–Greenberg was alive and in intensive care under police protection.

Of course, the postman aside, Osterwich didn’t have anything I didn’t already know. Still, it was gratifying to see the coverage, to make the big splash. I knew for certain the letter would be released. Probably soon. The style of the writing was the only thing the cops had to go on. They would need the public’s help. They would be obligated to warn people about the impending danger.

The inside stories were standard stuff. A bunch of bullshit about what a great guy Greenberg was. All the crap he’d done for the community. His brother spouting off. “He was a prince of a man. A family man who loved his wife and kids. But beyond that, Morrie did so much for the community, so much charitable work behind the scenes.” No mention of all the people he’d fucked over.

The brain injury story was the usual medical malarkey about the unpredictability of head injuries. The only story that caught my interest was the one Osterwich wrote for page two suggesting a link to other city shootings. Reading between the lines, I could tell he’d read the letter, if not the first then the second one. He mentioned Cunningham by name, saying ‘his execution-style slaying had many similarities to the most recent shooting.’

I got to work late. I knew Oliver had left that morning for a conference in Toronto. The temporary receptionist was off sick, replaced by another temp. Young and pretty but with bad goth hair and makeup. Thorsby was all over it.

“I told you Old Horny Man was fucking the other temp. You think it’s a coincidence she books off sick on the same day he’s away at a conference. I’ll bet you fifty bucks she’s not here tomorrow either.”

“How would I ever collect? That’s more than Molly gives you for allowance for the week.”

His weekly allowance was about the only thing he ever got testy about. He’d told me about it one night after we’d worked late to complete a big report. We went for dinner and a beer at the Chop House when we finished the job and he asked to borrow twenty bucks. He didn’t want to put it on his charge card because Molly checked all the bills at the end of the month. I ribbed him about it at the time and he went all sullen on me. I agreed to pick up the tab to get him back into a good mood. I regretted mentioning it again because he clammed right up, and I wanted to talk about the Greenberg shooting.

“Heard anything more on Greenberg?”

“He made it through the night.”

He said it like a sulking kid.

“Petulance doesn’t become you Thorsby. It’s not a state of being that looks good on an overweight man in an ill-fitting golf shirt.”

This was something he could deal with and he responded in kind.

“Been down to the Goodwill store again, haven’t you? That sports coat looks like the one my old man sent to them a few months back. Hang it in the closet for a year or two and it may come back into fashion. Of course, the old man never had any taste to begin with.”

“The apple doesn’t fall far.”

Thorsby couldn’t stay mad. Toss him a barb and he had to throw it back. Once I got him talking it was easy to shift subjects to the Greenberg shooting.

“Still sticking to your theory about the wife and the hit man?”

He rolled his chair backwards across the aisle.

“I read the story in today’s Sun about connecting it with the Cunningham murder. It makes sense. Maybe Cunningham did some legal work for Greenberg. The two of them could be connected to that drug gang he got off. Financiers or something.”

“I can’t see those guys getting mixed up with drugs. They made too much money fucking over the public legally. Why take the chance?”

“The thing about the note is pretty interesting. I’d love to know what it says. Why would somebody leave a message? What kind of person sits down and writes a note before killing someone? That’s cold. And stupid. No hit man is going to leave the police a clue like that. Think about it. No matter what it says the note alone tells the cops it wasn’t a contract killing. That narrows the field of investigation considerably.”

I didn’t like being called stupid, even unwittingly by a knob like Thorsby. But I kept the annoyance out of my voice.

“Whoever did it must have something important to say. The message must be worth the risk in the mind of the killer.”

“I’ll bet you fifty bucks the guy turns out to be some deranged loner. He’s probably sitting around in his underwear in his basement suite clipping the newspaper stories, pulling his pud.”

“Could be. Could be.”

This time I clammed up. I turned back to my computer screen and Thorsby rolled his chair back across the aisle. My session with Adams was at 3 p.m. I worked through lunch on a mining conference brochure and left the office around 1:30. I drove down to Kits Beach and parked. I sat in the car with the windows rolled down, watching the ordinary people walk past. Thorsby’s talk about the deranged loner had put me off. Not enough to send me back into the turbulence but it stirred up sediment.

I knew the gun had to go. I’d known it all along. I thought about it again right after the killing, when I put it back into its compartment. I could drop it off a bridge or take it up into the North Shore mountains and bury it somewhere it would never be found. Once it was out of my possession there was no way it could be connected to me. Keeping it was an unnecessary risk. Fate had given me Greenberg, but he was the last. Without the gun there would be no more spinning the chamber.

My world seemed a long way removed from the ordinary people passing by. Couples holding hands. Old people with their pets. Young guys riding bikes, stopping at a bench to pose for the girls walking past. They all looked happy. Living mundane lives. Ostriches with their heads buried up their butts. The ones who knew they were being fucked over by the bottom-liners had given up. The stupid ones were so brainwashed they thought they had a chance to move up.

Sitting in the car at Kits Beach the day after Greenberg, during quiet time before meeting with Adams, I was enveloped with a feeling of contentment. I thought about the selfless work I’d done. I’d acted on behalf of the small-picture people, whose narrow focus didn’t include heroic acts. Those of us who could see the big picture had a responsibility. I had stepped up and dared to risk it all. Not for profit. Not for power. But because I was a man.


The parking lot in Adams’s strip mall was full so I pulled around the corner and parked on the residential street in a Residents Only zone. I walked up the alley, past the dumpster. The lid was down. The only piece of urban detritus in site was a single white sport sock hanging down the front of the dumpster, stuck in the lid. I thought about the sock’s owner. How it had come to that. His dirty sock on public view.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Delaney. This is the first time I’ve seen you past noon. My mother always used to say, ‘Gail, you can’t judge a man by what he looks like in the morning. You’ve got to wait until afternoon or early evening. That’s when the true man comes out.”

“Well, Ms. Whitesong, do I pass the test?”

“Please call me Gail. And yes, you pass the test. As sharp in the afternoon as in the morning. Another nice jacket. You must have quite a collection.”

I was wearing an older off-the-rack brown corduroy jacket with patches on the elbows. The kind writers wear in the movies. Comfortable but not very sharp.

“Yes. I hang them by colour, light to dark. This one’s in the middle.”

I wanted to catch her out. To get her to slip and give it away that she read my file. She didn’t. Give it away.

“That’s interesting. Mother liked neat men. She’d say, ‘Before considering a man for husband material check out his closet and sock drawer.’”

“Are you married Ms…  uh… Gail?”

“I like that. Ms. Gail. It sounds so southern. Genteel. No, I’m not married.”

“That surprises me. A catch like you. How did you manage to stay ahead of all the boys?”

I was only half-kidding. I’d never had a good look at her body but the Eurasian face, framed by the red wine hair, held a certain exotic attraction. I tried to imagine it without the absurd glasses.

“I let too many of them catch up. The first one caught up when I was only 17. Mother didn’t like him at all. Called him a ne’er-do-well the first time she met him. Looking back, I think I married him to spite her. She was right, of course. Mother knew men. I kicked him out after a year.”

Adams’ door opened before I could delve further into Ms. Gail’s marital history. A Chinese man in a business suit came out and hurried past us, avoiding eye contact, self-conscious. He opened the door and disappeared down the hallway. Another guy blending back into the world. I wondered if he was a bottom-liner with empathy.

“Hello Roger.”

Adams stood in the doorway; palms clasped together at his waist. Something about his appearance was off but I couldn’t place it for a moment. He was wearing the black senior’s shoes and basic polyester outfit of shirt, tie and slacks. I couldn’t tell anymore if the colors were different from week-to-week. But he had added a cardigan. A red cardigan.

“Nice sweater, Doc.”

I said it nicely.

“Thanks Roger. The wife picked it out. I’m not big on red but she thinks I should brighten up a bit. Add a little colour.”

“It never hurts to add a little colour to our lives.”

We went into his office and closed the door. The curtains were drawn, the only light glowing from a small lamp on his desk. The air smelled of Old Spice.

“Mind if I open the curtains and leave the door open a crack. Let some air in.”

He moved towards the balcony door as he spoke.

“Not at all,” I replied. “I don’t wear cologne. Never found it necessary. I rarely perspire and when I do there is no unpleasant odor. My wife says I’m the only man she’s ever met who doesn’t have a smell. Must be a genetic thing.”


He pulled back the curtains and opened the balcony door about six inches. Sunlight and fresh autumn air pushed the staleness and despair into the corners as he placed his chair in front, his comment hanging in the space between us. We had a mini-stare off before he spoke again.

“Extensive studies done with schizophrenics indicate they have a distinct smell. In blind tests, researchers were actually able to pick rooms where groups of schizophrenics had been gathered even hours after they’d left.”

“Maybe they all like cheap cologne.”

He acknowledged my joke with a weird giggle but cut himself off mid-laugh, as if it would reveal too much. Then he leaned forward.

“That’s a good one.” He giggled again. Longer this time. “And it could be true. That’s why all these studies are peer-reviewed. For instance, a group of colleagues and I recently completed a three-month research project at the University of British Columbia into the violent psychopathic mind. The sampling was too small to make it into any of the major medical journals. But the research was fastidious and the results fascinating.”

“Do psychopaths have b.o. or better taste in cologne?”

“You’re not too far off. We restricted our research to 15 subjects, all serial killers doing life in Canadian penitentiaries. We used multiple murders as a criteria. Each subject was responsible for the death of at least three human beings with a cooling off period between. And the crimes had to be premeditated. No crimes of passion.”

The little prick had my attention. I leaned back into the easy chair and didn’t say a word. He looked at me and paused. I reached over and grabbed one of Ms. Gail’s cookies. Was he sending another signal?  I couldn’t do another stare-off. Not right then.

“You might think it difficult to come up with 15 serial killers willing to talk about their crimes. My colleagues and I thought we would have to travel back and forth to the big penitentiaries in Quebec and Ontario to do much of the interviewing but that wasn’t the case. As it turned out, we found more than enough willing participants in Western Canada. Predators who preyed on the weak. People who took lives for money. Or power. Or lust. Some for the thrill. Others as a job. There’s no shortage of violent psychopaths. I can tell you that.”

“So after all this study and fastidious research you and your esteemed colleagues arrived at the conclusion psychopaths like to talk about their crimes?”

I couldn’t keep the hostility out of my voice. Adams continued without acknowledging it.

“Among many other things.”

“Did you factor in that anyone serving a life term would be so bored he’d talk to the chief of police if he thought it would get him away from prison routine for a few hours.”

“We thought of that but there was more to it. Career criminals doing the same hard time, armed robbers and drug dealers, some of whom had killed, were significantly less inclined to submit to interviews. One curious thing that came out is that 13 of the 15 subjects who met our criteria had good grooming habits. Do you know much about psychopaths?”

“Almost nothing.”

He paused again, for a second or two. Another sign? Or paranoia? There was no way to know.

“For all intents and purposes the terms psychopath and sociopath are interchangeable. While the word psychopath conjures images in the general public of someone who is dangerously violent, a sociopath is seen to be abnormal in a bad way but not necessarily violent. The terms have been much-debated in the scientific community.”

He leaned forward until his elbows touched his knees. His hands came together as if in prayer then pointed towards the floor in the downward preying mantis position. One strand of black hair escaped the impossibly angled bouffant hairdo and drooped against his forward. The sight of it, off putting but strangely fascinating, riveted my eyes to his face. The clarity I experienced as he continued to speak was pleasurable. Like just before and after a killing.

“Let’s use the less harsh term and call them sociopaths. No matter what label, they are narcissists totally lacking empathy and conscience…”

I cut him off and studied his face for reaction.

“I’ll have to tell Kate I’ve lost my place at the top of the heap. That there might be someone with less empathy than me.”

He flicked the loose hair on his forehead once, but it continued to droop with an absurd upward curl.

“Without a doubt.” He said it with enthusiasm, warming to his subject. “Your wife has crossed paths with many sociopaths, as have you and I. The sociopath personality is a natural part of the human condition. Sociopaths gravitate, almost through a kind of sociological osmosis, to leadership positions. They often set society’s agenda and the agenda is always in their favor. By necessity they are skilled mimics when it comes to emotions and Oscar-caliber actors. Often of above-average intelligence, they are usually good at their jobs and have no difficulty getting ahead in society, given that they are driven by self-interest and not hampered by niceties like integrity. They rise to the top in politics, business and the military. They act instinctively but without emotion. That is why, under the right circumstances, they kill without remorse.”

Was the little prick calling me out? I couldn’t tell. He was that good. Or that bad. But I couldn’t let it pass.

“Are you suggesting in some roundabout psychobabble bullshit way that I’m a sociopath.”

I kicked the footrest down and sat up in the easy chair. This time I leaned forward, hands cupped and elbows on my knees. Aggressive and self-righteous. An act of war.

Adams giggled again. He tried to suppress it for a second but then gave way. His nostrils flared as air burst from his pursed lips. His head shook from the effort and another strand of hair came loose and drooped, this time from the other side of the bouffant. They formed reverse black horns on his forehead.

“That’s another good one, Roger,” he said, after composing himself. “You had me going for a minute.”

I didn’t know what to say so I opted for a stare-off. He broke the silence several seconds in.

“To answer your question, you are no more likely a sociopath than am I. Or Gail, for that matter.”

He brushed at the drooping hair simultaneously with both hands, but it fell back into the horns.

“While sociopaths are invisible to the eye, even the most skilled among them can’t control themselves 24/7. They give in to small anti-social impulses at first, often as children. They steal, bully, light fires, torment pets. They progress as adults, continually seeking out situations and people to exploit and prey upon. In hindsight, researchers can usually discern a pattern. Not uncommonly, the anti-social dots are so far-flung that even those people who are closest—relatives, spouses and friends–can’t connect them.”

“I’ve heard it said university psychiatry and psychology departments attract more than their share of students with mental issues. Were any of your interview subjects in the mental health field?”

“No, but you heard right. Psychologists and psychiatrists are often drawn to their disciplines because of personal issues. We all go through therapy as part of our training. Hopefully, though encumbered by the flaws of the human condition, serious students gain enough insight to help patients down the road. Of course, therapy has not proven successful with the sociopath personality.”

“I’m not surprised if this is what you call therapy.  Two guys sitting around talking every couple of weeks. Exactly what am I supposed to be getting out of a discussion about sociopaths?”

He did not acknowledge the rancor in my voice.

“Would you like to talk about something else?”

He said it pleasantly. With empathy.

“This is your time and we can talk about anything you want. In my experience, free-form discussion is extremely beneficial. But at the end of the day, you are the only person who can say if these visits are helpful. If a patient tells me he or she is not benefiting from our visits, I tell that patient it’s best to stop. That they are wasting their money or, as in your case, the money of the company’s health insurer. Are you benefiting from our visits, Roger?”

The clever little prick had me backed into a corner, again. I didn’t know if I was benefiting but I did know I wanted to continue. The thought crossed my mind that Adams was the sociopath, manipulating the weak for profit and his own sadistic pleasure. An enemy of the people. Still, I looked forward to our sessions. I ignored his question.

“There is something I’d like to discuss. How about we start off next session with your views on sex. All that training and experience, you must have some insights to share.”

“Tell me, Roger, are you benefiting?”

He wouldn’t be put off.

“Yes. I’m experiencing less turbulence now.”

It pissed me off to admit it. Made me feel weak. But once it came out, I felt an immense sense of relief. Adams picked up on it right away.

“It’s good to let things go. To not be responsible. To accept the way nature made us and act accordingly.”

I couldn’t look him in the eye, so I fixated on the hair horns and let the words work their way in.

“Just for a moment, think of your life as a movie…”

It broke the spell.

“A movie? Do I have to trade my pilot’s cap for a beret and a director’s stool?”

He ignored the sarcasm.

“You are both star and director. You are the casting director and script writer, the producer and set designer. That’s a lot to take on. What’s more, it gets frustrating when the other characters stop following the script. When they make up their own lines, miss their marks. The responsibility of having to do everything, the sheer weight of it, can bring the strongest among us to our knees.”

I didn’t know what to say so I sat back in the chair and closed my eyes.

“That’s right, Roger, let it all go.”

As he spoke, heat coursed through my chest and stomach, down to my bladder. I didn’t want to open my eyes.

“You are the star, but you don’t have to direct all the characters and write all the dialogue. Let them do and say what they want. It doesn’t affect you. We all do what we must to survive. There is no right and wrong, only survival. You will find your way. Your way to survive.”

I can’t explain how this horn-haired little shit got into my head. How he got me believing his stupid bullshit. It just happened, sitting in that recliner in that cheesy office. He lowered his voice, smoothly shifting from the absurd motion picture metaphor into another layer of multiple meanings.

“Every person is responsible only to themselves, Roger. Not to family, not to friends, not to society, not to the state. The man who follows what he believes is the right course can never lose his way.”

The guy was a font of useless aphorisms. He spewed out psycho babble in a string of clichés and self-evident truisms. It was hard to believe people paid him for it. But they did. And I was one. I can’t say how he did it. Even now, with the benefit of hindsight. I only know he communicated on another level. He cut through everything and got right to the heart of things. Or did he?

At the end of the session he stood and did the preying mantis bow thing before I left. I nodded but could not bring myself to put my hands together.

There was an attractive, well-dressed woman sitting in the waiting area, looking out the window pensively. It was my turn to feel ill-at-ease as I made my next appointment with Ms. Gail, before leaving the comfort of the office for the world outside.


I went through some minor turbulence on the drive home. I knew the psychotic little giggler couldn’t know anything about the executions but, my pleasurable free-wheeling state of clarity aside, the tone of the discussion had been troubling. Every session seemed layered, as if the surface talk was just a cover. His often-inappropriate pauses, however brief, were discomfiting. Or maybe I was paranoid. I wondered how a person knows if they’re paranoid. If you wait too long to find out you’re not, it could be too late.

Minor turbulence aside, I was cruising at 10,000 ft. on the Greenberg high. All engines running smooth through blue sky. Exulted. That’s the word that came into my head when I tried to pinpoint the feeling. It fit. I felt happy. Triumphant. But not over Greenberg’s death. He didn’t rate enough for that. I had triumphed over my own fears. I had looked death in the eye, gambled my own life, and delivered justice unto an enemy of the people. I had walked the talk in a way few people ever do. I carried out an action for the greater good, at extreme risk, without self interest. I followed the right road. I felt fulfilled as a man.

That’s how I felt about it then. Before all the Wolf bullshit started. Adams reference to serial killers bothered me. The press had already labeled me, and I didn’t like the label. Serial killers were scum with deviant sexual desires who preyed on the weak. I was taking the fight to the predators and I knew I would have to point out the distinction to the press.

Kate was organizing a delivery of campaign signs for Goodwen. She had been out a lot of evenings in the last while. A provincial election was in the wind and all the parties were gearing up. Goodwen’s seat was safe. The NDP had held our riding for more than 40 years. All it took was coffee and a doughnut to muster the zombie vote; the lower middle class believed the party’s propaganda about helping working people. Lefty spin doctors had worked that angle so hard for so long it was taken as a given.

I knew different. Goodwen was in it for himself, just like all his scumbag colleagues, whatever their political stripe. Voting themselves gold-plated pension plans. Endlessly propagating the self-serving fiction that they could do better in the private sector. A bunch of hypocrites gorging at the public trough.

Kate got home about nine. I’d already had two glasses of wine. I’d been sitting in the living room, in the dark with the blinds closed, going over and over the Greenberg job. Quiet time. I got an erection as soon as I heard her turn the key in the lock. Hard as a rock.

She hung her jacket on a dining room chair without noticing me on the couch. She was wearing blue jeans and a checked western shirt with snap buttons, rolled up at the sleeves. A hardworking NDPer.

“Have a glass of wine, honey. You’ve had a long day.”

“You startled me, Roger. I didn’t see you sitting there in the dark. Are you feeling okay?”

“I’m feeling just fine dear. Never better. I thought we might have a glass of wine and see where that leads.”

“I’m very tired tonight. It’s been a long day. Honestly, Goodwen’s people are so disorganized I don’t know how they expect to win an election campaign.”

“He’s a shoo-in. The NDP could run a fence post in this riding and win handily. I’m surprised the cheap bastard is even spending money on signage.”

“Please don’t be crude. Mr. Goodwen is a good man. He’s done a lot for this riding. Remember how he stood up for the neighbourhood to stop the rendering plant from stinking us all out.”

Mention of the rendering plant stirred up turbulence. It was a mile away, down on the waterfront, but the stink produced from turning animal offal into money had fouled the neighbourhood. The plant changed its smokestack filters at the hottest time of the summer. Company officials ignored complaints until Goodwen took the issue public. He didn’t give a shit until the volume of complaints translated into a significant number of votes. I was so riled at the time, I’d fantasized about going down to the plant with my gun and creating some human offal.

“He’s a politician dear. He’s supposed to do that stuff.”

“I wish you wouldn’t be so cynical all the time, Roger. That kind of thinking is what brings you down. The world is not as bad as you like to make out. There are a lot of good people working to make things better.”

“That’s true dear.”

Some day she would know I was one of those good people. But for tonight, showing her I was a man would have to do. I wanted sex.

“Did you hear about the killer?”

“What killer?”

“The guy who shot that newspaper executive. He’s calling himself The People’s Wolf. I heard it on the radio driving home. Apparently, he left a note stuck behind the ear of the victim. What kind of cold-blooded person would do something like that? Honestly, I don’t know what things are coming to. Delusional maniacs running around shooting people in their offices.”

I lost my erection. I think all the blood left my dick and rushed into my head. I had a woozy moment. Good thing I was sitting down.

“What did the note say?”

“They didn’t give any details. Just that the police released the note and it would appear in tomorrow’s paper. I’ll have that glass of wine.”

The bottle was on the coffee table, beside the extra glass I’d set there in anticipation of a romantic interlude. I poured her a glass without getting up. I leaned back into the couch to conceal my excitement. I felt like running into the street shouting. Instead, I took a drink of wine to calm myself and burst out laughing mid-drink, spraying wine all over the coffee table.

“Has anyone ever told you that your sense of humor is a bit off. Murder isn’t something to laugh about.”

“You’re the first. Let’s have a toast to all of life’s firsts.”

We touched glasses and I managed to gulp my wine down before the giggles returned. The consternation on Kate’s face set me off. I rolled onto my side on the couch, holding the wine glass aloft to avoid spillage, shaking with laughter for the second time that day. Kate couldn’t help herself. She took the glass from my hand and set them both down, before flopping on me and tickling my ribs.

“I’ll teach you to laugh when it’s not funny, Roger Rabbit.”

We were both laughing now. Hard. And it felt so good.


As you know, the media grabbed onto the People’s Wolf with a ferocity usually reserved for a political assassination or major catastrophe. The letter was reported on every continent. Big shot network reporters flew into town to do interviews in front of Greenberg’s office.

In the weeks following the Greenberg execution, the two city papers ran daily updates, scrutinizing every aspect of all the dead men’s lives looking for a connection. Osterwich did nothing but Wolf stories. Readers couldn’t get enough. Greenberg would have loved the buzz. Good for the bottom line.

I knew the police would be looking even harder than the reporters, but I wasn’t worried. I knew there was no connection. The only thing that tied them together was the gun.

Public reaction to the letter bordered on mass hysteria. Talk show hosts trotted out all the usual suspects. Phony psychologists, retired FBI profilers, the usual no-nothing experts. Of course, the politicians waded in. Vancouver Mayor, Arthur Hoodspith, his balding head gleaming in the camera lights, mouthed off self-righteous bullshit on the steps of city hall.

“I call on all Vancouverites to remain vigilant and to assist the police in any way they can. The eyes of the world are upon us. We must show them that we live in a beautiful and safe city, and that we condemn the acts of this cowardly and deluded vigilante. More than a hundred police officers are working on the case and it won’t be long before this so-called People’s Wolf faces real justice.”

I often thought about the police. Not out of fear that I would be caught. I knew I couldn’t let that happen. It was more curiosity. I wondered who was heading up the investigation and what he or she was thinking about. I paid little attention to the official talking heads who appeared on the news in their ridiculous gold-embossed uniforms spouting the usual crap. Maybe I would put one of the big brass on my list.

Conspiracy theories popped out of Starbucks’ coffee cups. By virtue of their proximity to the endless discussions, pimply faced baristas became experts. Everybody had an opinion on motive. Everybody knew somebody who could be the People’s Wolf. Everybody knew someone who could be in his sights. Everybody knew someone who should be in his sights.

The biggest winners, apart from the media and cops collecting overtime, were security companies. In the weeks immediately after Greenberg, business went up 60 per cent. I should have bought stock in the industry, but that would have been beneath the People’s Wolf. Making money off the killings would be unseemly. Like the Jewish thing. Osterwich did a story on the booming security industry. Bottom-liners from West Vancouver to Shaughnessy were beefing up their home and office systems. The latest technology included night vision security cameras with super sensitive motion detectors that triggered silent alarms. The bigger the bottom-liner the more expensive and sophisticated the security system.

I was enjoying myself, and that’s to put it mildly. I felt high 24/7. Even my dreams were upbeat. All the shit being talked and I was the only one who knew what went down. Of course, Kate noticed the change and attributed it to Adams.

“I think those sessions are really helping you. Honestly, your whole demeanor has changed. You look younger, more vital, full of life. You’re laughing. And a lot handsomer. Happiness becomes you, Roger.”

She kissed me on the cheek. Playfully. I felt too good to burst her balloon.

“Thanks, dear. Maxwell Smart always gets his man.”

Of course, I knew it was Morrie Greenberg, not the little horn-haired fraud, who was responsible for my rise out of the bleakness. Happiness becomes me? Is this what happiness feels like? An adrenaline high that doesn’t go away. I knew it couldn’t last. Way too intense. But it felt good to get up in the morning looking forward to what the day would bring instead of clinging to sleep, my only refuge from the constant turbulence.

I didn’t come down until Christmas. Osterwich was still writing Wolf stories every week or so, mostly non-updates from police higher-ups and politicians reassuring the public with meaningless bullshit. I wondered what all those police officers did all day.

I hadn’t seen the psychotic little giggler for six weeks. He took a two-week vacation in the late fall to travel in South America with his frumpy wife and homely kids.

“Two weeks in South America is worth a semester at school,” he said, moments after announcing the break in our bi-weekly schedule. “Travel can be a life changing experience.”

He said it too self-righteously. I was tiring of the little bore and feeling too good to go back. But I was already on a downhill slope when Thorsby accelerated my decline with a flip comment about the Wolf’s manhood. We’d rolled our chairs to the middle of the aisle and he was half-heartedly rehashing one of his pet theories.

“The guy’s a loser, that’s a gimme. He probably sits around his basement suite in his underwear and superhero cape pulling his pud. If he had any guts he’d go after bikers or Asian gangsters. Someone who can shoot back.”

I’d heard it all before.

“You’re really into this underwear and cape thing, aren’t you Thorsby. Are you dropping hints about your wedding present? Matching capes with his and hers crotch-less superhero costumes? Or maybe you’d prefer his and his outfits. You seemed to be thinking a lot about the Wolf’s pud.”

“Don’t tell me you think the guy’s some kind of stud? He’s a deluded killer plain and simple.  He’ll probably turn out to be a postman who lives with his mother and knows all the customers on his route. He’ll say one of the dogs along the route told him to do it. The People’s Wolf. It sounds like something a dog would come up with.”

Dumpy Thorsby’s stupid barbs popped my balloon. That’s how fragile my mental state was at the time. The stuff about the postman knowing the customers on his route disturbed me. It reminded me of the old man. He talked more with the housewives along his milk route than he did with us boys. By the time he got home he was all talked out.

“I guess you’d know. Didn’t you consult with a couple of big farm dogs when writing those tractor manuals? Or should that be consort?”

I rolled my chair back to my desk, to escape the enveloping despair. I made another flippant comment to Thorsby keeping with the dog theme before conveniently remembering an appointment I had to get to. I left the office to his witless doggie theme rejoinder.


I had the car at work that day and I drove over the Burrard Bridge and turned onto Kits Point. Foreboding clouds hung low in an early afternoon sky, prematurely dark even for the first week of December. Gusts of wind swirled paper and debris across the wet sand as I parked in the Kits Beach parking lot, facing Georgia Strait, and fought back a rising tide of anxiety that bordered on panic.

I sat watching waves breaking, counting the whitecaps…one, two, three, four… My brain felt so overheated my forehead broke out in sweat. I rolled down the window for air and took the rain forest coolness into my lungs in deep breaths. Within a minute or two I was hyperventilating, then shaking violently. Freezing. I rolled up the window and started the car to get some heat. The radio came on with big news.

“Media baron Morrie Greenberg died moments ago at Vancouver General Hospital with his family at his bedside. Greenberg, who was shot in his office in broad daylight by a serial killer calling himself the People’s Wolf, had been in a coma since the shooting almost four months ago. A VGH spokesman said Greenberg had massive, irreversible brain damage. Police say more than 100 officers are working on the case, including a task force bolstered by senior detectives from other jurisdictions.”

I hated the serial killer reference, with all its psycho-sexual implications, but the news calmed me. Smoothed the turbulence. I thought about Greenberg’s shit smell. It always got primal in the end. ‘Please don’t kill me. I’ve got a family.’ What a pathetic excuse for staying alive. I pictured his wife and brother sniffling beside his bed, their thoughts already turning to what would come next, the dividing of his earthly spoils. I knew his death would create a mini-media frenzy that would run hot for a day or two with stories about what a great guy he was before fizzling out again. I knew it was time to act.

Thorsby’s needle about the Wolf’s manhood had jabbed me in a vulnerable spot because it contained an element of truth. The People’s Wolf had taken on a cartoon-like quality in the public mind. In the absence of any new information people made nervous jokes about caped crusaders and creeping werewolves. The bottom-liners had them convinced everyone was at risk.

Thorsby was right. The People’s Wolf had to take the fight to a formidable enemy of the people. Someone capable of violence who wouldn’t garner sympathy or conjure images of his killer as a crazed psycho planning the execution in his underwear. I turned the car off and got out. I walked the length of the beach, hunched over into the wind, then let the gusts propel me back to the car. By the time I settled in behind the wheel I had a candidate in mind.

Donald Wayne Findley.

I didn’t know much about Findley then. Only that he was a well-known Vancouver bad guy, a hard case who made the news. He was in his early 40s with a penchant for violence that stood out even among the thugs and riff raff he ran with. Ruthless and cunning, he had punched, stabbed and shot his way to the top of a local gang called the Demons, a loose affiliation of bottom-line predators whose primary sources of income were said to be muscle and drugs. A formidable adversary.

I went from the beach directly to the downtown library to do a quick computer search. I wanted to get started right away. I didn’t want to wait and lose my resolve later in the darkness. All it took to track the cunning bad guy was a simple Google search.

The first thing I did was go to his picture. Numerous shots appeared in a thumbnail lineup and I clicked on the full frontal, a mug shot dated 2005.  I thought I’d made a mistake at first, that I had the wrong guy. I clicked on another thumbnail of a guy in handcuffs and jailhouse pants rolled up at the cuff being escorted into a building. Same face. I couldn’t believe it. Notorious tough guy Donald Wayne Findley looked like a cross between Dennis the Menace and Monday Night Football commentator Jon Gruden. More model than thug.

I went back to the mug shot and studied his face. He had nicely combed short blond hair, parted neatly on the left side. He stared into the police camera serenely, as if he were having a portrait done and wanted to look his best. He had deep-set eyes; the kind women love. His nose was straight, flattening a little at the end, and well-proportioned to his face. His mouth hinted at a smile. A handsome face. Even under the severe mug shot lighting, he appeared calm and content. Confident. I went back through the thumbnail line-up picture by picture.

One shot showed him standing in a bar with a drink, between two laughing women.

It felt good to be working again. Real work. I clicked on various links to find out more. The Demons did business with all the local bad guys, including the Hells Angels, but Findley’s ego was too large to take orders from anyone. He grew up in a working-class neighbourhood in East Vancouver. His criminal career began as a teenage punk. His first adult arrest came at age 18 when he was still attending Templeton High School and majoring in violence.

He was fingered as the leader of a street gang running a small-time protection racket on East Side corner stores.  Someone threw a Chinese store owner through his front window. The charges were later dropped when the store owner, recovering from having his face sewn back on, refused to testify.

For some reason, probably related to his overblown ego, Findley always used his full name–Donald Wayne Findley—when referring to himself.  The writer said it was a common joke among males of a certain age to say they were going to call in ‘Donald Wayne’ to settle minor disputes.

Donald Wayne got his first serious time at age 21when he beat a man to death in a nightclub in front of several hundred witnesses. The judge said he had anger issues. He plead guilty to manslaughter, got seven years and served three years and ten months. Imagine that, less than four years for savagely beating another human to death. Another predator unleashed on the public by the great Canadian misjustice system.

I went back to the nightclub photo. He was wearing a nicely cut beige sports jacket and a white shirt open at the collar tucked into tan chinos. He looked to be about 5’9 or 10. It was easy to imagine some unsuspecting drunk mouthing off to him and getting the surprise of his life. I wondered if the laughing women knew what he was capable of doing to another human being.

Findley later got four years for assaulting a man at a Canucks game. He smashed the guy’s head so hard against a concrete stair he cracked his skull. It happened in the club seats and a photographer near the Canucks’ bench caught it on camera. The picture made the front pages of both dailies and there was a big public kerfuffle at the time. I hadn’t taken notice. I didn’t read papers or watch the news much then. It didn’t involve me. But the bottom-liners in the expensive company seats wanted their blood sport confined to the ice.

I went back to the mug shot and sat there staring at the face, wondering how it had come to this. My life against Dennis the Menace. I knew he wasn’t worth the chances I’d have to take. At the heart of it he was a small time punk, a brute who preyed on the weak. One of the articles, a feature story in the Georgia Strait, got into his personal life. He lived in North Burnaby on Capitol Hill with his high school sweetheart and three kids, one of them a teenage boy. The writer called him ‘a family man who attended school events and loved his kids above everything.’

Reading the personal part set me off. I felt intense hatred for this scumbag who paraded around nightclubs with loose women and called himself a family man. I caught myself quietly muttering threats and curses at the screen–“Lowlife cocksucker. Monkey fucker. You’re going down shitbag.” Predators like Donald Wayne had no capacity for love. He was a good actor, nothing more. A hypocrite. A bully. He had to go.

I got so immersed in Findley, I arrived home an hour late for dinner. Kate was put out.

“There’s a casserole in the oven,” she said when I walked in. She said it coolly, like it made no difference to her if I ate.

“I’m sorry I’m late dear. Oliver handed me a new assignment today. It’s a long feature and I got caught up in the research and lost track of time.”

My tone told her my mood had improved and she didn’t want to jeopardize it. As it turned out, she hadn’t eaten yet either, so we sat in the dining room for a formal meal together. You know, a couple sharing the events of the day.

“So what has Oliver got you working on. You must be interested if you could put my macaroni casserole on hold.”

“It’s a story about natural gas exploration in the northeast, just south of Prince George. One of our clients, Nextco Gas, has discovered a huge field. The engineers say it could supply the entire province until the end of the century. Oliver wants me to get the story out in Gas and Oil, a glossy industry magazine. It sounds boring, but I’ll make it sing.”

The crux of what I said was true, but I didn’t give a shit about Nextco Gas. I knew the story would be easy to do and that I could stretch it out for a month or two and provide myself with cover for the Donald Wayne research.

“I’m sure you will, Roger, You’re such a good writer. Oliver is lucky to have someone with your talent on staff.”

Kate told me she’d heard from Goodwen that there would be a spring election. I feigned interest, nodding at the correct points, asking the odd question, but my mind was on Donald Wayne. My fate was now inexorably tied to his. One of us would die in the new year. How could this woman prattling on about the importance of democracy ever understand my true commitment to the cause?

Despite the cool start, dinner went well. When she asked about my next appointment with the horn-haired fraud I lied and told her he wasn’t seeing anyone until after Christmas. No need to tell her I was done with Maxwell Smart and his stupid metaphors.

The holidays passed uneventfully. We spent New Year’s Eve at a downtown hotel with Paul and Laura Carter. At one point, well into his cups, Paul cornered me to talk about our mutual mental healer. I didn’t want anything more to do with Adams and I certainly didn’t want to discuss him with Paul. I couldn’t see any difference in the man. Certainly not the vast improvement Laura had reported to Kate. He was still a blowhard who drank too much. A fake son-of-a-bitch trying to put his best face forward to the world.

“I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders,” he said. “Dr. Adams has a way of getting inside you. I don’t know how he does it. Have you found your visits helpful?”

I’d asked Kate not to tell anyone about Adams but I wasn’t mad at her. You can’t stop women from talking about their husbands. Particularly if they think the men have a mutual problem. But the thought of being lumped in with this blow-dried, phony bastard pissed me off. I felt like smashing my wine glass into his face.

“I haven’t seen him for quite a while,” I said. “I think he went on holidays with his family.”

“Oh, he’s been back for weeks.”

“Well, maybe I’ll give him a call and we can all go have a latte together. The three of us. Talk about the good times.”

The phony bastard either missed the sarcasm or pretended he did. He nodded in agreement and then excused himself to get another drink. He was slurring his words before we left.


Chapter 3: Killer Memories, A Letter, Getting Smart

The company I worked for employed about 40 office staff — management, sales, payroll, administration. The six technical writers, TWs in office speak, occupied a 10 by 20 ft. room near the reception area. Although we were seldom all there at once, we dealt with every department and a lot of office traffic flowed through that room. I knew most of our employees by name and a few new hires by face. We nodded, exchanged pleasantries and were generally civil toward one another in our office dealings.

Baffles provided an illusion of privacy for the six workstations in the Tech Writers Room, three on each side of a wide aisle, but nobody said anything in the office they weren’t comfortable with as public knowledge. Bob Thorsby and I occupied the two areas nearest the door. Our workstations were across from each other and we would often roll our chairs back and talk across the aisle. He was the only person at the office I connected with on a personal level. 

Thorsby and I spent considerable work time speculating in the two weeks following the Cunningham killing. I wanted to talk about it in a way I hadn’t done after the other two. When the coverage faded, I needed to keep the feeling of it alive. Thorsby was in his late twenties then, a bit of a loser but with a sharp wit and a tongue to match. A politically incorrect, overweight guy with aspirations to be an ad writer. Can you imagine? There I am, the most celebrated killer in the city, discussing my crime with a guy who aspires to write advertising copy. 

Thorsby was likeably arrogant. He believed absolutely in his own strong opinions and expressed them often. He enjoyed being challenged and would argue endlessly, without getting mad, to make his point. He was refreshingly without guile. We were facing one another across the aisle, each exercising the springs in our leaning swivel chairs. The cops had predictably clammed up and the media had milked all the angles, including coverage of Cunningham’s funeral that featured interviews with politicians and judges outside the church. They recorded his grieving wife and children and profiled his long career. 

“It’s drugs,” Thorsby mused. “When an expensive criminal lawyer gets dusted there has to be a drug connection. Either he was using and did something stupid, or he was financing or facilitating a deal.”

“Maybe. But there are other reasons for killing lawyers. It could have been a disgruntled former client, or an acquitted client’s victim. It could have been his wife or the husband of his lover.”

“Sure. But it wasn’t any of those things.” Thorsby leaned back in his chair, his considerable gut flattened by the effort, until it appeared he might tip over. “It’s got something to do with the murder case for that drug gang. He got them off what should have been a sure conviction but in doing so found out more than was healthy. There may be loyalty among thieves, but it doesn’t hold true for murderous drug gangs. He could have been pressuring them to cut him in on a deal, using his knowledge of their operation as blackmail.”

“You’re reaching, Thorsby. Cunningham was too smart to get involved in anything illegal. He was financially set, and he wouldn’t have jeopardized his reputation for drug money. He made enough fucking the system. Maybe somebody just got tired of smooth-talking lawyers.”

“No. This was too well-planned to be the work of some psycho. That kind of killer just barges into the guy’s office and shoots him at his desk, takes out half his staff then sticks the gun in his own mouth. Bang. It’s over in a final blaze of glory. Crazed killers crave recognition for their handiwork.”

Hearing him in effect call me a crazed killer desperate for attention stung. Especially the part about sticking the gun in his mouth. I wanted to tell him it was about fairness and justice. That Cunningham had been convicted in a higher court and that his punishment had been meted out swiftly, cleanly. That the whole thing was pure and right. That his death closed the circle for the victims of all the scumbags he got off. But I didn’t say anything. I just leaned farther back in my chair and examined the ceiling tiles. Thorsby, sensing an advantage, summed up his position with finality.

“Nah. The guy who did Cunningham was a pro. He probably flew in and out for the job and is sitting as we speak in a Montreal bistro sipping cappuccino reading the stock pages, deciding where to put the cash. The killing will never be solved and in a month or two, with no leads and nothing to go on, even the cops will let it slide. The press has already lost interest. In a world full of killings, there are only so many stories you can write about one murder.”

Of course, I knew Thorsby was right. The killing would never be solved. Richard Cunningham, Q.C. would be reduced to a number in the year’s annual homicide tally. The execution had made a big splash. Disposing of high-priced lawyers garnered a lot more ink than dusting off your garden variety pimps and drug dealers. I followed all the media coverage but resisted the temptation to clip out articles or record broadcasts relating to the case. Thorsby was the only person I discussed it with at length. Kate had no interest in murder. Thinking about it upset her view of the world as a benign place in which people went about their daily affairs without menace toward one another. To her, violence was a horrible anomaly best ignored.

Only one reporter did the story justice. Greg Osterwich, a veteran crime reporter for the Vancouver Sun, had filed 14 stories on the case in the weeks immediately following the killing. He interviewed Cunningham’s legal colleagues, business associates, friends, former clients, the grieving widow. None could suggest any motive. Osterwich explored the possibility of a revenge killing, detailing controversial cases Cunningham had defended over the past ten years. But after a month, even Osterwich’s reports dried up.

The intense pleasure I experienced in the execution’s aftermath carried over into all aspects of my life. Kate and I reconnected; our lovemaking went from monthly to weekly. I phoned my brother Sam in Alberta. He was regaining his speech after the stroke but was still hard to understand and the phone call was awkward. 

“How are you holding up?”

“I’m doing okay. I got more movement in my arm and leg and I can get round now with a cane.”

The words came out slow, as if each syllable required special effort.

“Must have been a shock waking up in a hospital bed. How’s Amie taking it?”

“It’s been hard on her but she’s okay. She took time off work when I got out of the hospital.”

“No more smoking, I guess.”

“The doctor wants me to give it up. I guess I’ll give it a try.”

The guy was disabled, and he still couldn’t commit himself to quitting smoking. Pathetic. We talked for about ten minutes and made all the right noise about getting together soon. Truth is, I had no desire to see my brother, healthy or disabled. He was just somebody I used to know.

I didn’t let it affect my mood, though. I enjoyed going into the office and rarely worked at home. For the first time since my first few years on the job, I joined the technical writers at their Thursday night after-work whinge-and-whine session at a hotel lounge down the street from the office. 

The oldest TW was a gentlemanly guy named Ray. He was single in his fifties and gave off a feminine whiff. The other guys were all in their late twenties and thirties with plans to move on to their true calling. Writing advertising copy or Christmas card greetings. One guy was working on a manuscript for Harlequin Romance. Ray and I were resigned to our position in life. At least that’s what it looked like.

I bought a new bike and cycled to work once or twice a week. But the good times didn’t last. By summer, I was back sitting in the living room, looking through the bars as night closed in, suffering the effects of an intense emotional hangover. I had stopped going into work entirely. In mid-June, I had been assigned to write the annual report for an important client, Calvin Textiles, due in early fall to coincide with the company’s yearly shareholders meeting. It was a large project requiring more than a hundred pages of text that would be co-ordinated with graphics and tables. I convinced the tech writer supervisor this could best be accomplished in its entirety at home, away from distraction.

I assembled all the necessary information and did some perfunctory phone interviews with senior company executives but that’s as far as it got. When Kate left for work in the morning, I sat in my office staring at the wall. Hour after hour. By mid-July I was seriously behind and unable to do the most rudimentary organization of the material. Thorsby’s words—psycho and crazy killer—kept interrupting my train of thought.

I felt no remorse for any of the killings, except in the way a soldier who has killed in the line of duty might. I felt badly for Cunningham’s grown children, a boy and two girls, and for his wife, but not for what I’d had to do. Each of the executed had been responsible for his own fate. Each had put himself into the line of fire by choosing a course that was counterproductive to society. I remained convinced that in the bigger picture the world was better off without the three of them selling sex, drugs and snake oil. 

By early August, I was experiencing an all-encompassing numbness that manifested itself in varying degrees of mental and physical paralysis. I had difficulty lifting my body out of my office chair to move about the house or go to the bathroom. Simple everyday tasks like making a sandwich or emptying the dishwasher became an ordeal. Thorsby phoned once or twice but I was so abrupt he took the hint and quit calling. The contrast between my up time immediately after the killing and my near catatonic state a few months later so alarmed Kate she asked me to make an appointment with a neurologist.

One afternoon in the first week of July she came home from work to find me lying under a quilt on the living room rug, where I had been since before lunch. I had no idea how much time had passed and was surprised to see her come in.

“Why are you home so early, dear. You’ve caught me sneaking an afternoon nap.” I didn’t feel like talking but felt I had to say something. In those dark days of summer Kate was the only human being I was communicating with and I didn’t want her to know how far I had slipped over the edge.

“Early? Roger, for heaven’s sake it’s after six. I stopped at the grocery store after work to get a few things for supper.”

I couldn’t answer. To do so would have required energy that I did not possess.

“What’s wrong, honey? I’ve never seen you this low before. Are you having trouble with the annual report?”

The tenderness in her touch when she reached down and brushed the hair back from my brow triggered an emotional release. I began to cry, quiet and restrained. Tears of shame and frustration at my weakness, at my inability to cope. She got down on the rug beside me and crawled under the quilt. She stroked my face and neck.

“Nothing is as bad as it seems, Roger. No matter what happens I’ll be beside you at night, holding you. We’re a team. ‘Til death do us part.”

We lay like that for about an hour, the groceries Kate had picked up forgotten on the floor beside us in plastic bags. I tried to absorb her strength through our clothing. Neither of us ate that night. We went to bed when it was still light and Kate, as always, was sleeping soundly after a few minutes. I got up and went to my office and locked the door. I unscrewed the closet flooring and took out the gun. I put it on my desk amid the annual report papers and stared at its smooth steel surface, focusing my concentration, willing it to give me back the life force that ebbed out with each passing day. I stayed that way for a long time, maybe an hour or more, then replaced the gun and returned to bed. I tossed and turned and eventually fell into a restless sleep. In the morning I felt marginally better.

“Roger, I want you to get some help. You need to see someone, a professional who can help you get back on track. Your mood swings are becoming more severe. For a while in the spring you were practically walking on the ceiling and now you’re having trouble getting off the floor. Even your speech pattern has slowed. Maybe it’s something physical, something medication can help.”

Kate was standing at the front door, ready to leave for work. I was in the hall, unshaven for several days and still in my bathrobe. It’s hard to argue with someone speaking such an obvious truth.

“Yeah, I’ll look into it.”

“No, I’ll look into it, Roger. Just concentrate on writing your report. I’ll ask around, discreetly, and see if anyone knows someone who’s good. A psychiatrist or a psychologist. And when I find someone, I’ll make an appointment and drive you there. I want the old Roger back. The loveable but cranky guy I married.”

“So do I. So do I.”

I knew the old Roger was gone forever. And with good riddance. The old Roger was a faker, a phoney acting out every scene the way he thought it should be played. A weakling and a coward pretending to be happy and normal while the black dogs gnawed away inside. 

I can’t blame my mental state on a bad childhood. I grew up in a mildly dysfunctional family. Dad was distant but not abusive. Mom, who died of colon cancer when I was 12, suffered from intermittent depression. I remember coming home from school to find her in bed. Dad would say—”Mother isn’t feeling well today, boys.”—and fix us sandwiches or pancakes for dinner before burying himself in the paper and falling asleep on the couch. After mom died, he just gave up. 

He delivered milk for a living back when they dropped bottles right at your door. On his days off he worked with other milkmen paving driveways. Milkmen get up early and he was always tired. He did his duty by us boys, though, putting food on the table of our subsidized low rental row house, buying our clothes and schoolbooks. Paying for sports. But he never came to any games. He never told me he loved me. He was too tired.

Sam, who’s five years older, would go out at night and I would go to my room and read. He left home and joined the army right after high school, a year after mom died, leaving me alone with dad. The house was always quiet then, except for the drone of the TV. I don’t remember feeling lonely or particularly unhappy. I played sports, was a decent student and got along well at school, even though I didn’t socialize much.

The depression was periodic in my late teens and throughout my twenties, seemingly coming out of nowhere and settling in for a few weeks or a month. I’d always managed to get through it, burying myself in work or a hobby. I learned how to play chess and joined a club in university but after a year or so my interest faded. I built model ships. I started riding a bike. People who knew me then would be surprised to hear that I was experiencing inner turmoil. I kept it well hidden. 

The depression escalated in my thirties, the episodes became longer and the periods between shorter. I compensated by socializing more, forcing myself to join in when what I wanted to do was isolate. In the first few years after I started work at my present job I was known as somewhat of a social animal. I went out for drinks after work and attended all the office functions. 

Drinking made me feel normal, but it always wore off. I could be charming and attentive when required but it was all an act. I engaged in conversation and put on a happy face but inside I was empty, disconnected from humanity.

Kate came into my life during a low period. I was attracted to her even disposition and rock-solid moral values. She knew who she was and she liked herself. I turned on the charm during that first lunch date and the effort in doing so lifted the depression I’d been cloaked in when I walked into the insurance office that day. 

Kate said later that she sensed I wasn’t as happy as I pretended to be in the first weeks we dated but it didn’t matter because she knew I was decent, not a phony like other men she went out with who put on airs. We dated for four months before I proposed. Kate was only the second woman I’d gone out with for any length of time. 

My father died suddenly when I was in university. He collapsed on the milk route. A heart attack. I didn’t cry or feel sad like normal people do. I just felt depressed that the old man’s life came to an end in a puddle of buttermilk. That’s what they told my brother and me. He stepped out of the truck with a tray of milk and had a massive heart attack. Two quarts of milk hit the curb and busted. He had nothing to leave us but a couple boxes of papers and junk, a few family photos.

I met a girl I liked at the university chess club during my graduating year. My first girlfriend. I’d thrown myself back into chess to help fight off the depression that took over when the old man checked out. Her name was Melanie and she was majoring in education. We played a lot of chess and made awkward love a couple of times in the two-room basement suite I was renting near campus. At the end of the school year she went to her parents’ home in the Kootenays and never came back. I think she got involved with an old boyfriend. 

She wrote me a letter saying she wasn’t returning to school but that she’d look me up when she came to the city. She never did. It didn’t bother me. I remember feeling relieved that I wouldn’t have to pretend I liked her more than I did. She was just someone to play chess with; the sex was an afterthought, an obligation, something expected.

I went out with other women over the years, especially in my Good Time Charlie period immediately after starting with the company. The other tech writers kidded me because I’d bring a different date to every office function. I slept with some of those women but there was little passion and no emotion involved. One-night stands and weekend affairs that always seemed to conclude by mutual agreement. 

One woman, Rachel, took a real liking to me. We spent a weekend together on the Sunshine Coast and I must have triggered some need in her to nurture because she phoned every couple of weeks for about six months before losing interest. I wasn’t rude to her or anything; I just kept putting her off. I didn’t want to let anyone in to see the weakness. The darkness.

I thought about my past life a lot during those bleak July days—about my parents, my distant older brother, Melanie and Rachel and the others. You have to think about something when you spend hour upon hour staring at the wall or laying on the rug with your eyes open. 

I suppose in immersing myself in the past I avoided dealing with the present, with the annual report and Kate and the emotionally crippling numbness. Though I didn’t consciously think it at the time, I was searching my memory for a seminal event in my life, something I could point to and say, “This is why I kill people.” I wanted a reason, not an excuse. I didn’t want to be Thorsby’s crazed psycho killer. It didn’t fit with the image I had of myself. I was judge, jury and executioner. Someone with the balls to do what had to be done. Someone to make things right.

I didn’t feel like someone with balls, then, though. I felt weak. A sneak.

Coverage of the Cunningham killing had long since tailed off. If the police knew the shots had been fired by the same gun that killed the pimp and the drug dealer they weren’t saying. I knew they didn’t have any cartridges. I thought about the police a lot. I wondered who was working on the cases, and if they thought about me as they tried to figure out a motive. I didn’t fear the police then. I considered them kindred spirits. People who wanted the bad guys eliminated.

The idea came to me as I lay on the rug, in the heat of a mid-afternoon sunbeam angling through the venetian blinds in zebra stripes. The thing missing was accountability. Without someone taking responsibility the killings were wasted. Just more random violence in a world saturated with senseless brutality. The more I thought about it the better I felt.

Two days later, a Thursday, I kissed Kate on the cheek as she left for work. A peck. She squeezed my arm.

“Everything’s going to be alright, Roger. You go see the counsellor tomorrow and I’m sure he’s going to help. Laura said Paul’s had a complete turn-around since he started seeing him last fall. He recommended medication and Laura said there haven’t been any side effects.”

Laura Carter was Kate’s boss. Her husband Paul had sunk into a deep depression in the months after his fiftieth birthday. We went to the party and Paul had dutifully presented himself as a content middle-aged man, blowing out his candles in two breaths and declaring himself to be a half-century young. They lived in a luxury downtown condo with an expansive view of water, mountains and city lights. Both had been married before, Paul twice, and had grown children. They enjoyed living well.

Paul had been one of the city’s top realtors in the boom years of the late 80s and early 90s. He had wispy grey hair combed down over his forehead and the thin-veined, ruddy complexion of someone who has lived a dissolute life. He was slightly built, handsome in a lived-in way and he exuded confidence that made him seem more attractive than he was. I knew he was a weak phony the first time we met. His handshake was too firm, his eye contact too direct, too much like something out of a Dale Carnegie book.

Laura was Kate’s closest friend. They went out to the theater and movies, sharing women confidences in pre-show dinners. Kate had told me Paul’s sales had dropped off, that he was drinking more than Laura liked. That he had problems with his children and that his second wife was initiating legal proceedings to get title to an apartment they jointly owned in lieu of delinquent alimony payments. None of this was apparent at the party, though. Paul danced and drank and acted the good host, the birthday boy. I wondered if I was the only one who could see through the act.

The counselor’s name was Don Adams. He was a psychologist, but Kate didn’t like that term. She called him a doctor. When she told me his name I laughed, a cynical laugh but the first one for a while.

“Don Adams.? Isn’t he the guy who played Maxwell Smart? Get Smart. It fits.” I said it bitterly.

“He knows his stuff, Roger. If you don’t give him a chance, he won’t be able to help you.” 

Kate replied with uncharacteristic irritability. She was alarmed by my deterioration and I knew the counselor wasn’t optional if I wanted our marriage to continue smoothly. I planned to keep the appointment, go through the motions and emerge a few months later a cured man. Another happy client for Maxwell Smart.

In truth, I was already feeling better. The idea that arrived via a zebra-striped sunbeam had germinated into a plan. As soon as Kate’s car disappeared down the block I went to the basement to the corner where the box containing all that was left of Dad’s life was stacked. Papers and picture albums. A jar of cufflinks and tie clips. A few foreign coins. A small manual typewriter I couldn’t recall him ever using

I took the typewriter up to my office and cleared a space on my desk. I put on a pair of the surgical gloves I kept locked in my desk and inserted a sheet of computer printer paper. I typed a few lines of gibberish to test the ribbon. The first words were faint, but the type darkened as the ribbon loosened up. I took it as a sign. I put in a clean sheet and began to type:

Dear Greg….

I enjoyed your coverage of the Cunningham killing, particularly your conjecture about the killing being carried out as revenge by a victim of one of his clients. You weren’t far off the mark.

He was killed because of his sleazy legal maneuverings, alright, but not by an enraged victim. I executed Cunningham on behalf of the people of this great country who were all victimized by his unrepentant subversion of the justice system.

While that killing garnered all the attention, the police and media have characteristically failed to zero in on the bigger picture. Cunningham’s removal was not a random act but part of a plan to neutralize that element of society that by its perversion, weakness and disregard for the greater good threaten our way of life.

Richard Cunningham, Q.C. was preceded into the hereafter by two others of his ilk, the pimp Tremaine Evers and the drug dealer Tran Doc Ho, both executed while plying their unsavory chosen professions.

If the police are on the ball, which cannot be taken as a given, they will have already identified the bullets in all three killings as having been fired by the same gun, a .357 magnum.

Moreover, while no other candidates have been targeted for execution at this point, all those who put self-interest above the rights of ordinary citizens to carry out their daily lives unimpeded by legal, criminal, political or bureaucratic encumbrance should consider themselves to be in the line of fire.


The People’s Wolf

I’d thought about making obvious spelling and grammar mistakes in the note for deception purposes but decided against it. I knew my communication would inevitably become public and I wanted to avoid Thorsby’s psycho killer label. It was important that the People’s Wolf was deemed to be rational, that the killings were seen to have a purpose so people would realize they could fight back, that they weren’t powerless. 

Sending the letter was risky in that it would likely jump start the investigation and could be the impetus behind the formation of a task force. But the change in mood I experienced in composing it and planning for its delivery more than nullified any increased risk. I’d bought the paper the previous day at a large stationary store, being careful to pick the most common type and pay for it in cash. I wore surgical gloves while handling the paper and envelope, which I sealed with a wet sponge. I posted the letter in a downtown mailbox on my way to the appointment with Maxwell Smart.

Don Adams’ office was located on West Broadway near Vancouver General Hospital, a 10-minute drive from the site of the drug dealer’s execution in an area favored by doctors, dentists, x-ray clinics and medical labs. One-stop shopping for the sick of body and mind. 

The office was on the second floor of a commercial mall on the southeast corner of Cambie St., above a Thai restaurant. I pulled in and parked in a spot reserved for restaurant patrons. The address Kate had given me was posted on a door sandwiched between the restaurant and a convenience store. My appointment was for 10 a.m. I was a few minutes early so I dallied in front of the restaurant feigning interest in the menu. I walked to the office door, hoping it would be locked. I pushed and it opened. There was no lobby, just a stairway, an elevator and a notice board indicating the upstairs occupants. A notary public, an accounting firm, a chiropractor and Don Adams, Suite 203. 

I took the stairs to the first landing two at a time, then paused to catch my breath. The window on the landing looked out onto a lane. A faded and soiled single mattress protruded from the dumpster. The kind a child would sleep on. Or a widowed senior. Two street people sat on the pavement in its shadow smoking. The window was streaked with dust. I leaned heavily against the wall and fought an urge to return to the car and drive away. And keep driving. Anywhere but here. I had no intention of sharing my weakness with a stranger. Letting him into my private place. 

I took the rest of the stairs slowly, one at a time, and paused for a moment at the top to orient myself. The hall was dim. Dreary. Adams was at the end on the left. He pried into peoples’ minds from behind an anonymous solid door distinguished only by the suite number.

The door opened into a surprisingly bright reception area. An odd-looking woman with wine-colored hair and oversize red-framed glasses looked up from the reception desk when I entered.

“Roger Delaney?”


“You’re very prompt, Mr. Delaney. I’m Gail Whitesong, Mr. Adams’ girl Friday. Actually, I’m his Monday-Wednesday-Thursday girl. The office isn’t open Tuesday and Friday.”

She seemed pleasant, outgoing. White with some Asian stirred in. I put her in her mid-thirties, but you can never tell with that mix. She had large almond-shaped eyes, black, and her skin was a creamy blend of white and yellow. Her forehead was concealed behind reddish-purple bangs that hung to the top of the huge round glasses. 

She parted her hair in the middle and it fell just above her shoulders, in a stylish semi-circle of deep red wine. I pegged the banter as her standard ice-breaker with new ‘clients.’ That’s what they call you. A client. As if you’re there for legal advice. A phony way to begin. I didn’t laugh. 

She handed me a clipboard with a single sheet of paper attached asking a bunch of nosy questions. Did I smoke? Consume alcohol? How many drinks a week? Were my parents still alive? Was my relationship with them good or bad? How many siblings did I have? Did any family member suffer from depression or any other mental illness? Did I get headaches? 

A load of crap. I answered all 25 questions in a minute or so—yes, no, not applicable. A lot of not applicables.

Gail Whitesong took the clipboard back. 

“You’re quick as well as prompt. Or maybe you’re prompt because you’re quick. I’ll tell Don you’re here.”

The reception area had four or five chairs and a couple of magazine-strewn coffee tables with tissue boxes. I walked to the window and looked down on the alley. A different perspective on the dumpster. The mattress appeared less soiled from this angle. The street people had moved on. The windowpane was clean of dust and dirt. A brighter day. 

“Mr. Delaney. I’m Don Adams. Come into my office and have a seat in the easy chair. We like everything easy here. Can we get you coffee or tea? A glass of water? A soda. Gail brings in cookies most days.”

She handed him the clipboard and he looked it over as he ushered me in. Adams looked to be in his late thirties. He had jet black hair swept back in a pompadour that covered his ears and flowed to his shirt collar in back. The front overhang defied gravity. It looked like a wig. Too dark. Too big to be real. 

He was a small man with a deep voice, maybe five foot six, with a medium build, dressed conservatively in a white shirt and tie. The shirt was tucked into cheap blue dress pants that didn’t quite reach the tops of his black lace-up walking shoes. The kind seniors wear to Walmart. What could this pipsqueak tell me about life? I pegged him right off as a hypocrite. A guy who’d built his whole life with smoke and mirrors. Convincing weak people he can help them when he’s so fucked up he wears a jet black wig.

Adams played host. Polite. Solicitous. Sizing me up.

I was on his turf. At a disadvantage. He knew I had a problem. This first meeting was about taking stock. How much would either of us give up to get the result we wanted.

He had faded blue eyes, a smallish straight nose and a strong chin. A friendly face crinkled with laugh lines. He could be handsome with different hair. I knew I couldn’t get mental help from a little man wearing sensible shoes and a bad rug.

I took the easy chair and accepted a glass of water from Gail Whitesong. She set it on a side table beside a small plate of cookies and left the room, closing the door. Adams grabbed a straight-backed chair from against the wall and placed it directly in front of the easy chair. Maybe five feet away. Too close. He sat down, his back straight, shoulders squared, knees together, and looked at me. Neither of us spoke. 

The silence went on for a full minute. A long time for two strangers to have a stare-off. The longer it went on the more hostile I felt. I thought of giving him a bad hair day by dumping the glass of water on his head. Instead, I reached over and took a sip. The motion broke the stare-off.

“So, Roger, what do you want to see me about today.”

He shifted in the chair, turning his legs slightly to the side while anchoring those black lace-up shoes. His tone was kindly, concerned. I wondered what he’d say if I told him I killed people. The thought of it brightened me.

“My wife thinks I need help. I guess you helped her friend’s husband and she thinks you can fix me too.”

“What do you think? Do you need fixing?”

“Not really.”

He leaned closer, just for a second, before standing up.

“Well, you seem like a man with a handle on life. I have enough trouble helping people who want my help. In my experience people must be desperate to facilitate lasting change. You don’t appear desperate and by your answers on the questionnaire many possible areas of concern aren’t applicable to you. I can’t help you and it wouldn’t be right to take money and pretend otherwise.”

Adams kept his tone even, non-confrontational. One smart guy to another. An easy out for both of us. It threw me off.

“That’s it. I came all the way over here for that.”

“I don’t know why you came, Roger. But that is it. That’s all I have for you. I can only help people who admit they have a problem. It’s a team effort. I don’t work alone. And if there’s no problem you shouldn’t be here.”

He laughed easily as he moved his chair to the wall. I leaned back in the easy chair unable to move. I didn’t want to leave the room, to go back into the world. Back to the fear. The black dogs. Spinning the chamber.

We had another moment of silence. Not a stare-off this time. He was off to the side and I couldn’t tell if he was looking at me. I figured he was, so I used the quiet time to look around the office. The walls were a warm brown colour, dark enough to make the room seem smaller than it was. Cozy. I didn’t notice the sliding balcony door when I came in because the curtains were partially closed. I could see enough to know it opened onto a small deck with planters and a table and two chairs. 

He had a modest desk and chair, with requisite framed degrees on the wall behind, where clients were sure to see them. There was one plant in the room in a huge pot. It grew up the side of the patio door, across the top and down the other side. A leafy green serpent. Green metal filing cabinets took up most of the wall space beneath the window. I wondered what secrets were concealed there. And about how easy it would be for someone to break in and find them out. 

I don’t know how much time passed before Adams shifted slightly. A subtle signal from one smart guy to another.

“Okay, you got me. I’ve got a problem.”

I choked a bit at the end. It surprised me the way it came out. So feeble.

Adams stepped forward and lowered his voice: “Is it something you can’t solve yourself? Do you want my help?”

The sneaky bastard wanted a verbal commitment. To get me onside with the program. On the team. I knew what he was up to. Pure psychological bullshit. But the smart little prick had me backed into a corner. I had to answer in the affirmative or get up and leave the office. Things might have been different if I’d just got up and left right then. I can’t explain why, even now, but I didn’t want to leave that room.

“I’ve been depressed since I was a teenager. It comes and goes but for the last while things have gotten bleak. I’ve lived with it for 25 years but it’s bleaker now, and I’m married. My wife is concerned… and so am I.”

Adams grabbed the chair again and set it down in front of me, back to front. I thought for a moment that he was going to sit with his back to me as some kind of bullshit psychological ploy. But he straddled it instead, placing his arms on the back and resting his chin on his arms. He looked at me with concern.

“What is the depression like?”

“What do you mean?” 

I hated him at that moment. Fucking charlatan. I wanted to drop kick his chin right off the back of the chair.

“Depression is just a word. I mean what does it feel like to you? How does it affect your life?”

“It feels like reality.”

“Hmm. Interesting, but what does reality feel like?”

He wanted to play word games.

“Reality is seeing the world for the shithole it is. It means understanding that nothing matters. People are born, people die. Things happen. Nothing anyone does means shit. Reality feels like nothing. A big empty void.”

“Is that your view of the world?”

“It’s not my view, it’s just the way things are. I see it clearly, that’s all.”

“Well, I’m not qualified to debate the state of the world. How about we start out by getting to know a little bit about each other,” he said. 

His voice was compelling. It offered hope. 

“I’ll go first. I have a Phd in psychology from the University of Alberta. I’m from a small town in Saskatchewan called Kepsie. It has three grain elevators and two commercial streets, each a couple of blocks long. The town is surrounded by empty prairie on all sides. I went to high school there. Kepsie Senior Secondary. 

I wasn’t a super popular kid. Not one of the in crowd. A little too intellectual for a teenager. But I was quite good at baseball so I got along okay. My dad worked for the provincial highways department. He operated a grader in summer and drove a snow plow in the winter. My mother was a homemaker. She had four children. I’m in the middle. She died of breast cancer when I was 13. She died at home. A hard death. My father carried on. We all did. We had no choice. But dad was never the same. He remarried in his late 50s and still lives in Kepsie.”

He’d probably told a hundred sad sacks the same pathetic story.

“I came out to the West Coast a few months after graduating, new diploma in hand, out to set the world on fire. I wanted to help people. I wanted to change things for the better. Of course, I didn’t know enough to really help people back then and I struggled to make it financially for the first few years. Not many people wanted to share their lives with a guy who looked like Doogie Houser. Then I met my wife; she’s a physicist and a brilliant woman. We have two great kids.”

He paused to reach behind for a framed picture on his desk. He brought it around, looking at it as he did, then turned the picture so it faced me. It was a standard studio shot, Adams and his wife behind, two small kids in front. His wife was matronly, with a wide nose holding up large librarian glasses. Stout. The intelligence came through in her face, though. The boys were homely. They had the worst features of each parent. Both had thick, black hair. 

“Nice family,” I said.

“You’re probably asking yourself how a guy like me can help you. As you know, a psychology degree doesn’t come with any special insights. It certainly doesn’t qualify me to advise other people how they should live their lives. Getting the doctorate took six years. It was an endurance event. An exercise in perseverance. You just put your head down and plough through it to the end. Then they give you the piece of paper and you go out into the world pretending to know more about life than other people. You don’t.

“I have many failings as a human being and I’m a long way from being a perfect husband or father. What I do have is a gift. The god-given ability to empathize and connect with other people. And I say god-given with a small g because it’s not about religion. What I mean is I was born with the ability to get inside people’s heads, to feel the things they’re feeling. I’m not talking about reading minds. I can’t foretell the future other than to say that if you work with me it’s very likely things will get better for you. I can’t say when, or even how it will happen but experience tells me that it will. I’ve helped a lot of people over the last 10 years.”

I sat there fuming. The smarmy little Elvis impersonator actually imagined he could get inside my head. Here I am, the People’s Wolf, soon to be the most talked about person in the city, and this little prick is telling me he can get inside my head. To feel things I feel. That was the first time I thought about killing him. Not a serious thought. Just a milli-second in a moment of intense rage. If he could really feel what I was feeling, then he was feeling hatred. Hatred and fear. 

Fear kept me there on that first visit. Fear that walking out would mean walking into unrelenting blackness. I didn’t want to explain to my wife that things hadn’t gone well. I didn’t want to spin the chamber on the gun again. I didn’t want to kill anyone else. Most of all, I didn’t want to get caught. 

“My mother died when I was 12. I guess that’s at least one thing you can empathize with.”

The words sounded distant. Like they were coming from my mouth but not from my brain. 

Weak. Fake.

“My father was a milkman. A nice man without ambition. He did what he could after mom died but her death took the best part of him. I don’t remember him doing anything but work. Nobody ever came over and he didn’t go out. When he wasn’t working, he read the paper or laid on the couch and watched TV. I remember him being tired. Always tired. My older brother left home the year after mom died. He joined the Canadian military. He moved around a lot and I never saw much of him after that. He stayed in the service long enough to pension out in his early forties as a Master Seargent. He lives in Red Deer, Alberta, with his wife, no kids. He worked as a rent-a-cop for a security firm until he had a stroke. I haven’t seen him in years. Wouldn’t know what he looked like if I passed him on the street.”

“That’s too bad, Roger. Family is an important connection with the world.”

He inserted his comment at exactly the moment I paused. Smooth. A smooth little prick.

“I like to wear sports coats.”

I said it to put him off. To ruffle the smoothness.

“I’ve got a dozen sport coats in my closet, one for every occasion. Colour-coded on their hangers, from light to dark. Does that mean I have an orderly mind?”

“My best guess is that it means you like to dress well and take pride in your appearance. Therefore, you care about what people think about you. I like the jacket you’re wearing today. It’s a nice colour and cut. When I was single I always wanted to dress sharp but I could never seem to get it right. I’ve never had much fashion sense. My wife has the good taste in the family. She does all the shopping. She knows my size and the colours I like.”

I had to give it to him. He was hard to ruffle. And he had me talking. I told him I was an English grad and that I made my living as a technical writer. I got into my university years and that first girlfriend, Melanie. How she left and I felt relieved. 

He cut me off before I could get into my Good-time Charlie period. Before I met Kate. He ended our session by asking me to try fifteen minutes a day of quiet time.

“Just find a quiet place. Somewhere you won’t be disturbed. Get comfortable. I prefer to sit up because I usually fall asleep if I lay down. Let your mind relax and see what comes.”

“See what comes?”

I couldn’t keep the edge out of my tone. The goofy little faker wasn’t connecting very well with my mind. My whole life was quiet time. I didn’t have to find a special spot. I already knew what would come. Bleakness. Poison.

“Yes, see what comes.”

He didn’t acknowledge the edginess. He said it pleasantly, then asked me to stand. I had to apply pressure with my legs to get the recliner back up. I stood awkwardly and faced him, about five feet away.

“I like to end sessions with a mutual show of respect.”

He put his hands together as if in prayer, tilted them forward towards me, then bowed his head slowly, the overhang of his black bouffant obscuring his face. The session’s end had a weird uplifting feel to it. A kind of silly symmetry.

“Gail will set you up with another appointment. I think we should see each other every other week to start. See how things go.

Chapter 2: Canadian Justice is Harsh

chapter 2 pic #2 001 

Read previous chapterChapter 1. A pimp gets some

I didn’t start looking around for the second one until January, more than six months after the pimp. The despondency was back. Heavier than ever. I’d been on a slide since early fall. Christmas was bad. Two houses on our block were broken into the week before. The Shelbys, who lived across the street, had all their Christmas presents ripped off. I heard Helen telling Kate about it and it made me feel small inside.

Vulnerable. Depressed.

I was watching the six o’clock news when I made the decision. The lead item was about drug dealing in Pigeon Park, a down-and-out area about three or four miles further down Hastings from where we lived. The police had conducted an undercover operation and nabbed a bunch of low-level drug dealers who operated in the Downtown Eastside.

One of the scumbags caught in the net, a Hispanic from Central America, had been processed at the Main Street police station and released on bail. The television cameras caught him coming out and instead of shying away from the media attention he sauntered up to the camera with a macho swagger and gave the viewers a one-finger salute. A kind of “Fuck you, Canada!” that infuriated me.

I don’t know why I got so mad. I wasn’t particularly patriotic. It just pissed me off, the arrogance of it. I locked the office door, unscrewed the compartment and hefted the gun in my hand. I aimed it at the TV, at the smiling face of the news anchor.

“Fuck you, scumbag, you’re going to get some too.”

I started planning it then and the depression lifted, replaced by self-righteous fury that energized me. I knew it would be too difficult to get the guy on the newscast, so I resolved to get a drug dealer, any drug dealer, but preferably a foreigner. Someone who was taking advantage of Canadian hospitality. It didn’t matter who, so long as a message was delivered.

Pigeon Park was the obvious location, but it didn’t appeal to me. Too many people around. Too many cops in the area. Too many cameras. Too dangerous. A few months before, one of the women in the office had complained about a drug house operating on the corner near her place, on the East Side, off Broadway and Fraser. I took to driving past. The drug house wasn’t hard to spot. A big run-down old shack with an overgrown yard. People coming and going. I could see how it would upset the neighbourhood.

On my third swing past I noticed a guy, he looked Chinese or Vietnamese, standing in the shadow of a big tree on a side street around the corner from the drug house. I pulled the Explorer over and looked at the guy. He came over to the passenger window, but I waved him off and he went back to standing under the tree. Sullen. I drove away.

A few nights later, a Thursday, I came back about the same time, on my mountain bike. I didn’t want my vehicle recognized. Nobody was there so I circled the block, casual-like, just a guy out for an evening’s ride. I didn’t draw any attention to myself.

I went back on Saturday, earlier this time, around 7:30 p.m. There was an Asian guy standing in the same spot under the tree. I rode past down the sidewalk and glanced at the guy as I went. I couldn’t tell if it was the same guy. It didn’t matter. I knew what he was doing. I rode to the end of the block and turned at the corner. I stopped and looked up the street. A car had pulled to the curb and the Asian guy went over. A minute later the car left, and the Asian guy blended back into the shadows under the tree. “You’re it,” I said to myself, and pedaled off home.

I waited two weeks, until the time was right, a Saturday night. Kate was going to a baby shower for the receptionist in her office. I went shopping with her in the afternoon and helped her pick a gift, a blue knit jump suit with tiny little feet. Looking at the baby clothes made her melancholy.

We’d long ago agreed we didn’t want children, but she was acting a bit petulant, as if the decision had been forced on her. I was feeling conciliatory so rather than withdrawing, as I might have on another day, I said I’d put a bottle of wine in the fridge and we’d have it by candlelight when she came home.

“Just because we’re not going to make babies doesn’t mean we can’t go through the motions, honey.”

She smiled at that and before she left kissed me on the cheek at the front door. As soon as her car was out of sight I went to the office and unscrewed the floorboard. I’d handled the gun a lot in the past couple of weeks and it felt good in my hand. I put a full load in and spun the chamber. I made sure the safety was on then went into a crouch and aimed with both hands at my computer screen.


I’d been edgy the entire week, waking up in the night imagining a thousand scenarios that could go wrong. An innocent person out walking. Somebody driving past. The drug dealer pulling out a gun of his own. A drug accomplice emerging from the shadows firing. But now that it was time for action, I felt remarkably calm.

I dressed in the same navy-blue jogging suit and strapped the fanny pack around my waist, with the pack around front. I put the gun in and swung the pack to the side, like a holster. I sat down in my office chair and went over the plan, such as it was. I’d decided to park the Explorer on the other side of Broadway, a block down and about three blocks north of the killing ground, on a side street with a lot of two-story walk-ups. I’d been through the area several times and there were enough apartments around that a person coming or going wouldn’t be noticed. The night was wet, and I put on a plain black baseball cap without a crest.

I left the house at 7:10 p.m. and drove directly to the parking area through a light drizzle. I got there at 7:23, which surprised me because I thought it was a longer drive. I sat in the car for a moment, going over things, then walked to the opposite end of the block from the direction I’d be returning to the car.

The adrenalin rush I got stepping out of that vehicle was unlike anything I’d experienced. Even for the pimp killing. Objects in my immediate landscape got bigger, clearer, slower. A guy came out of a three-storey walk-up and turned the other way. He was 20 yards ahead of me on the sidewalk, but I was almost looking over his shoulder. My brain was processing at turbo warp speed. Movement. Colour. Vehicles. Cameras. People. Dogs. Anything that posed a threat. Anything out of place. All floating at the edge of conscious thought but not interfering with a sense of purpose focused into a pinpoint. The Buddhists have it right. Nothing exists away from the moment. Nothing mattered except my all-in move on life. A thrill to die for.

I walked to Broadway slowly, practising the pace I wanted to keep after the killing, my hand on the gun in the fanny pack. At the first break in traffic, I crossed and walked up two blocks to East 11th, a block past the kill site, and headed east towards Fraser Street. I wanted to approach the shadow of the tree from a direction opposite where the Explorer was parked.

A perfect rainforest night for killing. Soggy. With poor visibility. Except for me. I saw everything clear and sharp. Fraser Street was busy, but I wasn’t worried about being identified from a passing car. Drivers were straining to negotiate the wet streets through foggy windows. What worried me was somebody looking out a house window or walking a dog. If that happened, I would abort.

I paused at the corner of Fraser and 10th as if I was going to cross Fraser. I looked over at the big tree, but nobody was there. My body sagged and the letdown made me realize how keyed up I was. I had a wild impulse to kick the front door of the drug house and blast whoever opened it.

Instead, I turned to walk down 10th on the opposite side from the kill site, back to the Explorer. As I turned my head, I noticed a motion in the shadows and the figure of a man tight against the tree trunk. The silhouette of his head, caught in the microsecond of a moment, cost the drug dealer his life.

I crossed the street at a measured pace, so as not to alarm him. When I was close enough that he knew I could see him I said, “Hey bro, you got something for me.”

He said something in Chinese or some other far-away language. Three or four words. He moved his body off the tree trunk with a backward shove and reached into a coat pocket. I wasn’t nearly as calm as with Tremmie. I wanted to fire off a shot right then, but I was ten feet away and the gun was still in the fanny pack.

“What you got for me?” I asked again, moving closer.

He said something else, this time in heavily accented English, which I couldn’t make out. It seemed like he was talking money. I kept smiling and reached into my pocket with my free hand and pulled out some bills, a ten and a twenty. This time I understood him.

“No enough. No enough.”

I held the money out and moved closer. I glanced around quickly, as if looking out for a cop. We were alone on the street.

“How much do you want, then, a full load.”

He spread his thumb and fingers to indicate five, then formed a zero with his other hand.

“Fitty. Fitty.”

I was almost close enough to touch him when I pulled the gun out and pointed it at his stomach.

“Canadian justice is harsh, my foreign friend,” I said.

I squeezed the trigger, and nothing happened. The safety was on.  My adrenaline red-lined. The stupid little bastard stood there staring so I flicked the safety off and fired.

He dropped on his ass. A big red stain spread across his jacket front. He didn’t twitch or jerk he just sat there and moaned foreign shit. His crotch was wet with pee. I didn’t want to get any blood on me, so I gripped the gun with both hands and fired again from where I stood. The second shot hit him high in the chest, about six inches under his Adam’s apple. He stopped moaning.

The shots roared in my ears and I wanted to run full bore for the vehicle. Instead, I moved a few doors down into the shadow of another tree and hopped a short fence into a yard. For a horrifying second, I thought it might be the house of the woman from my office and that she would come running out to see what all the commotion was about.

I scanned the street and saw a guy on the other side of Fraser looking my way. “Fuck.” The front porch lights came on at two or three houses. I disappeared into the darkness at the side of the house and moved through the yard into the alley. I ran down the alley, stopping to compose myself for a second at the end of the block. I was surprised and alarmed to see the gun in my hand. I stuffed it back into the fanny back and morphed back to Buddha.

“Easy, easy, easy, easy.” I said it softly, like a mantra. “Easy, easy, easy, easy, easy.

Traffic was heavier and I had to wait to cross. I heard the siren before I reached the other side. Incredibly, the police had taken minutes to respond.

“Easy, easy, easy, easy, easy.”

I fought off the full flight urge while walking the two blocks to the Explorer, wondering sickly how long it would take them to seal off an area. When I got to the corner of the street where I’d parked, I broke into a slow jog. The inside lights were on. The driver’s door wasn’t completely closed.

I couldn’t remember if I’d locked the car, or even if I closed the door. I’d been gone less than 15 minutes so there was lots of juice left in the battery. But it was a stupid mistake. A lighted car is a noticed car.

“Easy, easy, easy, easy, easy.

I unstrapped the fanny pack and stuffed it under the seat. The Explorer smelled of gunpowder, or at least I imagined it did. The digital clock on the dash read 7:47 p.m.

I drove to Fraser, then north a block to Broadway. From the intersection I could see a crowd gathering on the next corner. Two police cars blocked the entrance to the street. Flashing red and blue light reflected off the houses and trees just in from the corner. Traffic was backing up in all directions and I was lucky to squeeze in a left hand turn on the orange. Broadway was clear on my side going away from the shooting and the empty road calmed me. I turned north at Knight and everything was back to normal. I pulled up in front of my house at 7:58.

The drug dealer killing had taken less than an hour. Killing doesn’t take a lot of time.

I went to the office, unloaded the gun, and wiped it down before placing it back in the floor, every sense in full alert. Reliving the moment. Incredibly alive. I can’t put it into words, except to say killing is a powerful drug.

It took longer to calm down after the drug dealer. I stared at the TV, then put a video in I’d watched half a dozen times—House of Games, starring Joe Montegna—but I shut it off after five minutes. The movie playing inside my head was more compelling.

Kate got back just before midnight. A girlfriend from work dropped her off and I could hear them laughing and talking on the quiet street. Kate wasn’t a drinker. I could tell by her pitch that she’d had a few glasses of wine. That was good.

Kate has an eye for detail. That’s why I’m so careful with the gun. She notices if things aren’t quite right. Better that her senses were slightly dulled.

Also, booze makes Kate horny. She loses a lot of inhibitions. I knew we were going to have sex the minute she walked through the door.

“You’re still up.”

She said it louder than normal, laughing at the sight of the open wine bottle in my hand.

“I’ve been waiting for you dear. I thought you might like a nightcap after all that baby talk.”

We didn’t get through the first glasses. We made love on the day bed in the TV room. Killing improved my sex drive. Kate fell asleep right after, and I covered her with a quilt. I sat in the living room in the dark for a long time. Going over everything; over and over. Nothing connected me, except the gun. I knew it had to go.

I slept late. Almost to 11.

“It’s not like you to sleep-in, honey. Are you feeling okay?” Kate sat on the edge of the bed and touched my shoulder. She was solicitous. The sex had reconnected us after months of drifting apart.

“I’m fine, dear. I couldn’t sleep so I read late.”

“What are you reading?”

“Oh, true crime, you know, somebody who thinks they can get away with murder.”

“Is the murderer a man or woman?”

“Some insurance salesman who puts out a $10,000 contract on his heavily insured wife, then kills the guy who does the murder.”

“What’s the title?”

Kate’s like that. It’s not that she’s suspicious. She’s interested in details. If you tell her about a dinner you had at a restaurant two weeks previous, she’ll ask about what vegetables were served; how they were cooked; what spices if any were used; the type of bread that accompanied the meal; whether the bread was served warm.

A Murderous Policy. Paper here yet?”

“Yes, it is, dear. Have some juice and I’ll bring it up.”

She put the glass on the side table, flicked on the lamp and opened the curtains. Rain pelted down on the greyest of days. I couldn’t wait to read the paper. The killing had happened in plenty of time to make the first edition. On a slow news day, it would get decent play. I found it on page 3 of the B section:




A landed immigrant who had been in the country less than three months was shot dead last night on an East Vancouver street.

Tran Hoc Do, a 22-year-old Vietnamese national, was dead before the ambulance arrived. Police said he was shot twice.

Police spokesman Cpl. Marjorie Hooley said police did not know if the killing was gang related. She said Do wasn’t known to police but that the corner where he was killed is a place where drugs are available.

Hooley said police are interviewing residents and motorists but would not confirm reports that a pedestrian witnessed the killing.

Do arrived in Canada in November. He was sponsored by an older brother, a restaurant worker in the city. His mother preceded him to Vancouver by a year, also sponsored by his brother.

The murder, which happened about 7:30 p.m., is the 7th homicide recorded this year, putting the city on pace to break the record of 78 murders set in 1987.

“Murder doesn’t fit into statistical patterns,” said Hooley. “We can have 10 killings in January and not have another until March. If it’s a drug turf thing, they tend to come in bunches.”


I reread the story several times. Seeing his life summed up in a few paragraphs bothered me. It took a little edge off my high. The story made it sound routine. A young guy who fell in with bad company and ended up a homicide statistic. Nobody could know how swiftly Canadian justice had been dispensed. I didn’t feel sorry for the kid. I knew he was selling drugs even if the police weren’t prepared to admit it. The penalty for selling drugs is death in southeast Asia. Why should Canada be different?

I wondered what his drug cohorts would think. Would it make them more cautious? Would they mistakenly exact revenge on some hapless fringe player in the drug trade? Perhaps the killing would start a turf war and the ripple effect would rid us of a few more pushers? The thought of it perked me up.

“Any plans today, Roger, or are you just going to lay in bed all day.”

Kate had showered. Her hair was still wet and her breasts, visible where her robe hung open in front, were tinged with pink from the hot water. I took her hand and pulled her down beside me.

“Why don’t we both stay in bed all day.”


The important things in life became clear in the weeks after the drug dealer. I realized how much Kate meant to me. So complex, yet so transparent. So stable.  Capable of so many emotions but so lacking in guile. My libido reactivated with a ferocity I hadn’t experienced, even as a teenager, and we made love often. We were close and connected. Work was going well, too. I was assigned to write the history of a large engineering firm for the company’s 100th anniversary.

It turned out to be an interesting story that required a lot of research and I spent days pouring over newspaper clippings at the library and old photos at the city archives. Some of the photos showed men on wilderness job sites, carbines in their hands or lying against a tree or stump nearby. I imagined what their lives must have been like and wondered if any of them had used one of those rifles to kill anybody. Not likely.

We went to dinner with the Carters a few times and even began to entertain at home, which we had done infrequently before, mostly because of my reluctance. I wanted to see people, to be around them, to interact in a way I’d never been accomplished at.

“So, Roger, what’s new in the technical writing world?”

I couldn’t stand Paul Carter, with his fifty-dollar realtor haircuts and manicured nails. He was too slick by half but I kept my fake face on for Kate’s sake.

“Words. I learn new words all the time.”

“My father faithfully read that section in Reader’s Digest to expand his vocabulary. The one where you learn a new word a day.”

The superior bastard was dumbing me down to his father’s level. Like I needed help with my vocabulary.

“He probably wouldn’t learn about adiabatic walls in Reader’s Digest.

It came out harsher than I intended but the old smoothie didn’t take noticeable offense.

“Adiabatic walls?”

“It’s a barrier through which heat energy can’t pass.”

“That might be useful in our office instead of baffles. A lot of hot air goes back and forth in real estate.”

He laughed. I did too. It was a good comeback.

I started riding my bike again and going for walks around the neighbourhood, in the opposite direction from the Franklin Stroll. I didn’t care what they were doing to each other down there anymore. It was as if the pimp killing had exorcised my resentment towards the human trash who habituated that street. I knew another pimp had taken Tremmie’s place, maybe even with the same two girls. There were more pimps than I had bullets.

About three months after the drug dealer killing, around the beginning of May, I became lethargic and lapsed into prolonged despondencies, deeper and darker than before, which became increasingly difficult to keep from the world. I’d wrapped up the engineering history a few weeks before and at first Kate attributed my mood swing to the project’s end. A kind of letdown I’d experienced in the past after completing large projects. We stopped making love and I became more distant. I’d taken to locking myself in the office again, handling the gun instead of doing the work I insisted needed my unfettered concentration. A couple of times I put the gun in my mouth. Cold and metallic. I could feel pressure building inside.


The third killing came out of a Vancouver story that lead off the National News. About the verdict in a murder trial, the longest and most costly in B.C. history, in which a half dozen Asian defendants were acquitted of murdering a rival drug dealer. The killing happened long before I’d executed my own drug dealer and I’d followed the story in the paper. Everybody knew the defendants were guilty, one of them had threatened the victim on TV. Two eyewitnesses pointed out the triggermen in court, adding to the prosecution’s substantive case.

The killers delved into their drug profits to hire a provincial version of O.J.’s dream team and the high-priced lawyers blatantly stole a page from Johnnie Cochrane’s legal pad by playing the race card. The defence, as trumpeted almost daily in the press for the final month of the trial, consisted of character assassination on investigating officers and witnesses.

In his summation, the team’s lead lawyer, Richard Cunningham, Q.C., accused police of participating in a conspiracy based on their hatred of Asians males, all of whom he said they suspected of having gang ties. Amazingly, the jury bought it. But what was most galling about the whole thing, was that halfway through the trial the defendants had claimed to be indigent, forcing the crown to pick up the dream team’s tab for the remaining three months when Cunningham and his team threatened to walk away from the trial.

I’d followed the O.J. trial and there were quite a few times when I sat staring at Johnnie Cochrane’s arrogant face, fantasizing about what his last words would be. I stayed home to watch the O.J. verdict, and became so furious when the foreman said not guilty, I had to pace around the house to calm myself.

When the National’s cameraman zeroed in on Cunningham on the courthouse steps after the trial, I immediately knew he was the one. He hadn’t bothered to remove his robes before conducting post-verdict interviews, no doubt hoping the legal attire added visual weight to his pontification.

“Justice has been served,” he told reporters. “If anybody is guilty of anything it’s the police officers who perpetrated this conspiracy against my clients. They should be purged from the force. We demand a full inquiry and will push for harsh penalties for those who breached the public trust. Fortunately, we have a justice system that places the fate of innocent defendants, not in the hands of the police or the state, but instead in the care of 12 fellow citizens. The jurors sat through six long months of arduous and at times acrimonious testimony. They heard 93 people testify. The verdict is a tribute to their diligence and common sense.”

He turned and walked down the steps, ignoring reporters’ questions, and ducked into a grey Mercedes parked at the curb. Cameramen trailed after the car as it pulled away, just like in the movies, but Richard Cunningham, QC, having gotten his point across and the last word, had no urgent need to tell the press more. He would save his best stuff for an in-depth interview conducted in a more comfortable setting, an interview he could spend days preparing for once the full impact of the verdict could be discerned. His tactics had not made him any friends on the police force, but the general public is more forgiving. He knew people respected slick lawyers even if they helped the guilty escape justice.

Not me. I hated Cunningham in the moments after that National broadcast with a fury that almost caused me to black out. I had to sit down to keep myself from falling over. The blood rushing to my head produced an intense pain behind my right eye. I thought it might be an aneurism. Cunningham represented every smooth talker who’d ever finessed or bullied his way around logic. “Greedy scum. Self-righteous cocksucker. Arrogant mercenary cunt.” The invectives leaked from my mouth like verbal poison, surprising even me by their intensity.

I knew Cunningham would be more difficult to kill than a pimp or street level drug dealer. His home and office would be monitored by electronic equipment. He would be hard to catch alone. Still, the thought of exacting the people’s justice on this pompous, smooth-talking mouthpiece lifted me out of despondency and I set out to research him as I would any story subject.

I went to the library and ran his name through the computer, careful to ensure there would be no way to connect me to the search. I found a three-year-old Vancouver Magazine profile entitled “He Always Gets His Man— Off” and it was there, buried deep in the article, I discovered his soft underbelly.

Cunningham possessed two traits that would serve me well. He was both a workaholic and a creature of habit. The profiler reported breathlessly that Cunningham fit into the A-type personality that needs little sleep.


“No matter what time he goes to bed, he rises at 5:30 a.m., performs a precision 20-minute workout in the gym off the master bedroom in his West Vancouver home, before crossing the Lions Gate Bridge to take his place, no later than 6:30 a.m., behind his massive mahogany desk on the 16th  floor of the Bentall Centre. There, with the city waking below, and the water and mountains as a backdrop, he puts in two hours of uninterrupted work before the rest of the office arrives.”


A few days after gleaning this information, I walked over to the Bentall Centre and took the elevator down to P3 of the parking garage. I’d purposefully worn a grey business suit to avoid drawing attention, and walked up five ramps from the bottom, putting me one-half level up from the street. The Cunningham, Hainsworth, Detweiller & Company parking stalls lined an entire wall, 20 in all. Over the stall in the prime location closest to the door, was the name Richard Cunningham, Q.C.

It was a typical parking garage with ramps at either end, to allow cars to proceed up and down in a circular fashion. Besides the elevator door, in the southwest corner, and the two ramps, there was a door marked stairs set in the middle of the concrete wall opposite the row of Cunningham & company stalls. I estimated the distance from the stairwell to Richard Cunningham’s parking stall at about 15 metres.

I walked to the door and went down the stairs into a hallway about 10 feet long leading to a door with one of those fire marshal push handles that opened onto Thurlow Street. At this end, in the financial district two blocks up from the water, Thurlow was relatively quiet, even around noon. There were no street level stores on the block, only a few businesses. Nothing, I hoped, that would attract pedestrians to the area before 7 a.m. I walked up the alley past the parking lot entrance. A sign in the window of the booth noted that the attendant came on duty at 7 a.m.

My plan was simple. Park the car where it wouldn’t be noticed, walk to the garage, enter through the car driveway, climb the flight of stairs and wait in the stairwell. If anyone noticed me on the street or in the stairwell, I would abort, have breakfast and continue to work. If everything went well, I’d do the job and head to the office. That’s how I was thinking about it, as a job. Planning the killing raised my spirits noticeably.

On May 17, a Wednesday, I got out of bed at 4 a.m. I’d spent the night in the guest room tossing and turning.  I told Kate I was sleeping there because I had to be downtown early in the morning to meet with a geologist who was taking an 8 a.m. flight to the Yukon.

The Cunningham killing had me on high anxiety alert. I couldn’t shut my brain off. It kept going over the plan. Over and over. Killing the pimp had been easy. I didn’t stew over it beforehand. I’d worried about the drug dealer but nothing like this time. The anxiety was almost unbearable and in the long sleepless hours, in the darkness of the guest room, my body moist from head to toe with the sweat of fear, I decided to stop the killing. To let Cunningham live.

But as soon as I’d made the decision, conceded to myself it was over, I slipped over the edge into the blackness. Deep into it. A coward staring into the abyss. The feeling of hopelessness and isolation was so intense I got up and went to my office in a rage.  I got the gun out, put in one bullet and spun the chamber. I put it to my head and pulled the trigger. The hammer clicked. A loud metallic thunk. I spun the chamber again and pulled the trigger. Another thunk.

I didn’t think about Kate, or about what a selfish prick I was until the second thunk. About her world imploding when she found her husband’s brains splattered all over the office. Revulsion and self hatred coursed through me with so much force I was physically sick. I dropped to my knees and threw up on the hardwood office floor in one huge internal upheaval that spilled the contents of my stomach, kernels of corn clearly visible in the dim light of my desk lamp, yellowy-green liquid oozing into the cracks between the boards.

I knelt there dry heaving over the waste basket, violent shudders like the aftershock of an earthquake, the gun still in my hand. I leaned forward, dropping my head to the floor, my knees sliding along its smooth surface until I was prone. I lay there for a long time, maybe half an hour, my face pressed into the vomit, listening for Kate’s footsteps. Someone to save me. But she didn’t come. Kate was a sound sleeper.

Lying about the meeting had been a mistake. I hadn’t thought the geologist cover through. I hadn’t even checked to see if a flight was leaving for Whitehorse that morning. Kate had asked a bunch of questions I wasn’t prepared to answer. What was his name? What company did he work for? What kind of exploration was he doing? Why hadn’t I met with him before? Where did he live? She even asked if he was married. I winged it, but not convincingly, and she’d turned and walked away with a funny look on her face. As if to say, “Okay, but I don’t believe you.”

After I cleaned the vomit, using a full roll of toilet paper to mop it up, then getting rid of the soggy mess in the toilet with three flushes, I went back to bed and stared at the ceiling. The fear and anxiety were gone, expunged from my body, flushed into the city’s sewage system. I stared at the ceiling. Calm. Resolved to my duty.

Everything about the morning was surreal. The day was heavily overcast, unusual for that time of year, with dark grey streaks of cloud breaking away from the main formations, hanging behind and below, encircling the tops of the office towers like cumulous candy floss, waiting to stick to the tongue of anyone who might venture to the rooftops for a taste of life atop the financial world.

The self-hatred disappeared when I went back to the plan. Being the people’s executioner was my path to redemption. I had been anointed by the blackness, ordained by the greyness of life, an emissary of a power that operated above and beyond the mores of a society and a world gone mad. The revelation, an apparition really, came at the lights at Hastings and Main, a half a block from the old police station at the main crossroads of Skid Row.

I had no memory of driving to that spot, or of stopping for the light. I was in a kind of trance, I suppose, and when the light turned green, I remained stationary, staring at the cloud-shrouded building tops ahead. A light mist had formed on the windshield, not enough to use the wipers without smearing. I heard him before I saw him, looming in front of the car, distorted by a thousand tiny pin pricks of water on glass.

“Get going,” he said, slapping the hood with the flat of his hand. “Get the hell going and get on with whatever you have to do.”

The sudden intrusion into my reverie didn’t startle me the way it should have. I didn’t jump at the sound of his voice or at the slap of his hand on metal. The words came at me as if from out of the cloud cover, a divine confirmation of my mission. Maybe I was a violent Howard Beale, after all. People were mad as hell and they didn’t want to take it anymore. I was the guy who would wake them up.

It didn’t matter that the messenger was bedraggled, a derelict with a dirty face and matted hair. He stood in front of the van, kind of bent to one side from the waist up. I squirted windshield washer and flicked on the wipers to clear the window. His eyes were clear and piercing, the bluest blue. He looked directly into my eyes for a long moment, then walked on across the street. I drove through the amber light without looking back.

I parked the Explorer on the street two blocks from the parking lot and walked over. The attendant booth was empty, and I made my way up to the next level, walking up the car ramp. The Cunningham, Hainsworth, Detweiller & Company stalls were empty, too. I went to the exit door that opened on the stairs leading to the street and propped the door open a few inches with my foot. I had a perfect sightline to Richard Cunningham Q.C.’s parking spot. It was 6:15.

The grey concrete stairwell felt clammy and smelled of urine. Not a pleasant place to spend time. On the wall, halfway down the stairs that lead out to the street, someone had spray painted prophetic graffiti—”Death to the ruling classes.”—descending the wall in a red arc of words. I stood there in my navy-blue trench coat, one hand tucked inside like Napoleon, gripping the gun inside the fanny pack. I wasn’t nervous anymore.

Cunningham didn’t show at 6:30 a.m. and when he wasn’t there by 6:45 I knew he wouldn’t die on that day. I was neither disappointed nor relieved. For whatever reason, fate had intervened, giving each of us a reprieve. I exited the stairwell, walked calmly back to the Explorer on still-empty streets and drove to the parking lot next to my office. There would be time for breakfast before work.

I phoned Cunningham’s office later that morning from a pay phone. There were still some around then. The receptionist said he was out of town but would be back in the office Monday. It felt good knowing I was the only person in the world who knew he wasn’t going to make it that far.

The weekend went quickly. The weather had cleared and on Sunday Kate and I walked around the seawall in brilliant sunshine, stopping at English Bay for a lingering brunch in a second story restaurant with a view of the beach and water. Throngs of people were enjoying the city’s first taste of spring.

It felt good to be out among them. A fatalistic euphoria had replaced the anxiety. It was out of my hands now. Cunningham’s future, along with mine, was preordained. What would be would be. I cannot overstate how freeing it is to live outside accepted human norms. To know that you are out there, in that place in human history where the best men have always dwelled, beyond the control of the evil-doers  and bottom-liners.

“You’re not going in early again?” Kate was skeptical when I told her I had another early morning meeting. “Twice in one week. Are you sure this geologist isn’t a cute blonde? It’s not like you to put in extra time, Roger.”

“It’s a rush project, honey. The guy’s flying back this morning and I’m picking him up at the airport and taking him downtown for a breakfast meeting. He’s renting a car and leaving for Seattle right away.”

She didn’t press for details this time. We’d had sex when we got back from our walk, the first time in more than a month. It had been an emotional coupling and we’d both cried afterwards, holding each other tight and rocking gently in the bed. I told her I loved her, even though I wasn’t sure I meant it, and stroked her hair. She squeezed my free hand between hers and murmured her pet name for me over and over.

“Roger Rabbit. Roger Rabbit. Roger Rabbit.”

It felt so good.

The morning was clear and this time the drive downtown was uneventful. No apparitions. No messages delivered. I parked the Explorer in the same spot and followed the exact routine to the stairwell, arriving five minutes later than before. 6:20 a.m.

I heard the car coming at 6:28 and seconds later a grey Mercedes came into view through the propped-open door. Richard Cunningham was a punctual man. I waited until he parked before starting towards the car at an even pace. I was wearing the grey business suit. I had the gun in my hand, hidden by the trench coat draped over my right arm. The safety was off.

Cunningham got out of the car then leaned back in to get his briefcase. When he stood upright, he was much taller than he appeared on television. Well over six feet. He was wearing an expensive blue suit and a red tie with two grey diagonal stripes. Funny the things you remember in the moment.

“Mr. Cunningham?” I didn’t say anything until I was quite close, maybe ten feet away. He appeared upset by the sound of his name, like a man unaccustomed to having any deviation from his daily routine. He looked at me in a way that said he was running scenarios through his mind, assessing the unexpected interruption and calculating the time it would take to deal with it in a civilized but perfunctory way. He pushed the Mercedes door gently and it clicked shut with German precision.

“Yes. Do I know you?”

I felt no animosity toward Richard Cunningham in those last moments of his life. The hate that coursed through me during his post-trial television appearance had given way to the familiar tingly rush of warmth, the feeling of closeness to the doomed. The course he’d chosen in life, the things he’d done in the name of justice, were evil in the truest sense. They had drawn me to him, and it was time for him to pay. No amount of smooth talking could change that now.

“No, you don’t know me. I saw you on TV after the Bobby Singh murder trial. That was a nice piece of work. Getting those scumbags off.”

I kept my voice pleasant, but I could see the first inkling of alarm in Richard Cunningham.

“Look, if you’re interested in my services you’ll have to go through my secretary. I’m booked through the summer, but she might be able to fit you in.”

The smooth-talking lawyer’s veneer was slipping. He was just another frightened man. He was moving toward the door as he said it, so I let the trench coat slip away. The gun loomed between us.

“All those assholes who have you booked are going to have to look for another sharpie, Richard. Your litigating days are done.”

He stopped moving and stared at the gun. I took one step toward him and he held the expensive, shiny black leather briefcase up like a shield.

“On second thought, you might have one more case to plead, counsellor, but the judge sitting on it won’t be interested in hearing any of your bullshit. Judgement Day is at hand.”

I was holding the .357 with both hands, the trench coat draped over the gun arm. He lowered the brief case enough to get a look over the top and he didn’t like what he saw because he turned and ran back towards the car. He had quick feet for a guy in his fifties, but bullets are hard to outrun.

I squeezed off a shot and caught him high on the right side of his back, about six inches below the shoulder, putting a hole in the expensive suit. The impact carried him forward and he twisted onto his back on the hood of the car. He slid along it, leaving a bloody trail, and then disappeared into the space between the car and the concrete wall.

“Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ.” He said it without much force, the sound muffled by reverberations from the gun shot echoing around the level. Halfway between a curse and a prayer. The shot sounded loud and I knew I had to finish this business and be on my way. His feet were sticking out the front of the car, shiny black loafers with tassels, scuffling on the pavement in pain or consternation. His pant cuffs had hiked up to reveal skinny, hairless white legs above sheer, see-through silk socks. I closed the space between us and looked down over the hood of the car. He had the brief case covering his head and from behind it I could hear frenzied praying.

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph…. Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

“Look at me, Richard.” I said it sharply, but he didn’t respond. I wanted to look him straight in the eye as I did it, so I reached over and pulled on the briefcase, but he was holding on literally for his life. The resistance made me furious.

“You fucking lowlife, cocksucker. Drop that briefcase or I’ll blow your fucking nuts off.”

He clutched the briefcase even more tightly to his head so I put a round into his crotch.

“Owie, owie, owie… Jesus, Mary and Joseph…. owie, owie.

I fired one more shot into the left side of his chest. Richard Cunningham, Q.C., slick mouthpiece never at a loss for bafflegab, left this world without his manhood crying owie like a three-year-old child. I kid you not.

I turned, put on my trench coat and walked briskly to the exit, concealing the gun in the large inside pocket. Everything was quiet. As if the shots had sucked all other sound out of the air. Nobody was on the street when I left the parking lot and I turned and strode purposely in the direction of the Explorer, unnoticed. Another businessman on his way to work.

The news broke about 9:30 a.m. that morning. A prominent city lawyer had been shot in a downtown parkade.  The radio guy had that little extra edge in his voice when he doled out another tidbit of information each hour. Our receptionist, Marjie, kept a radio on at her desk and people stopped by for updates.

By noon, we knew “He worked for Cunningham, Hainsworth, Detweiller & Company, and was a senior partner. The killing had taken place in the parking garage of the Bentall Tower II, where the company’s office is located.”

It’s difficult to describe my feelings that morning in that I had never experienced anything like it. Ecstasy, with its implied imagery of frenzy and excitement, is not correct. I was excited but the excitement was contained within an inner calm, the way I imagine it must be for a great performing artist or an athlete after a flawless performance. I wasn’t worried I’d be connected. At noon I went out to the car, pretended to get something from the glove compartment and ran my fingers over the gun, wedged in its special place up under the driver’s seat. It felt smooth. Sexual.

Chapter 1. A pimp gets some

For everyone sitting on the couch in their sweatpants for the last couple weeks, tired of endlessly looking for a new show to binge on Netflix, eyeing the dwindling supply of Cheetos in the cupboard, Mick has an alternative – he has written a dystopian psychological thriller in serial form.

If you enjoy the first chapter please feel free to share it.

He knows this low time of sheltering in place is the closest he will come to having a captive audience and that the story’s dark theme might seem a little less so in comparison to the reality of a global pandemic.

The story will be presented in a serial format with illustrations from a local artist and its continuation will depend entirely on reader response. To that end, Mick invites you to share the story with any friends and family whose worldview tends toward the dark side or those who like a thriller to get their minds off the depleting Cheetos stock.

         Next Chapter –  Chapter 2: Canadian Justice is Harsh

You think you know me from the things you’ve read in newspapers and seen on TV. But I am not a monster. Not a brutal killer. Not the vicious psycho the bottom-liners like to serve up to deflect attention from themselves.

Neither am I the superhero with nerves of steel others have made me out to be. Not the leader of a movement, though I flattered myself that I was at one time. I didn’t set out to be a violent version of Howard Beale, a citizen vigilante trying to inspire a population that was “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” It just worked out that way.

I’m writing with the benefit of hindsight to set the record straight, nothing more. To describe how the Wolf killings went down without all the bullshit attached. Any Vancouver police officer who worked on the Wolf file, will know with certainty I am the real deal by the details I provide.

I don’t know why I did what I did. I only know it happened. And that once the light shone on me, I was compelled by an energy I didn’t understand to put everything on the line. That’s what I thought when I killed the pimp.

I was far from exceptional. Just a guy who dressed well to hide the despondency of middle-age. An empty shell pretending to fit in. Nobody knew the real me. The kind of thoughts I had.

Not surprisingly, no one noticed when the malaise turned deadly. The process had been gradual, and I’d hidden it well, withdrawing a little more each day. My wife only knew I was isolating. She didn’t know what was in my head.

“Roger, you should get out more. All you do is work and sit there on the couch. What is so interesting about the house across the street that you can stare out the window for an hour at a time?”

She didn’t know how far into the dark place I’d gone. Neither did I. I’d suffered from depression on and off since my late teens and had always coped. Looking back, I can’t say it was any one thing that set me off. Fear. Anxiety. Boredom. Cynicism. Sexual dysfunction. A thousand disappointments. Genetics. Chemical imbalance. Outrage at the injustice of the world. All the above. I do know that crime was the thing I grabbed onto, obsessed about, stewed over.

We lived on Vancouver’s East Side, in a neighbourhood in transition, where revamped heritage houses butted up against shabby two-storey walk-up apartment buildings. A neighbourhood where the lowlifes got right up alongside you. In your face. Sauntering past the front of the house sizing up your defenses. Picking through your garbage. Yelling at each other in the night. Turning tricks on the street. Shooting dope in the alley.

When we bought, the realtor described our house as a cute bungalow with loads of charm and a partial mountain view.

“When this house was built in 1909 the city ended a few blocks to the east. Its history mirrors the city’s,” he said. A real smoothie. “It has the original oak floors and a lovely spot for an office overlooking the side yard.”

He didn’t mention the lowlifes.

We liked the address, 1969, Keefer Street. A vintage year, easy to remember. The house had funky wood floors, a loft with a fireplace and bars on the lower windows. Most of the houses in the neighbourhood had bars, and burglar alarms, and barking dogs.

1969 Keefer sat close to the street, about six feet back from the sidewalk. In the light of early evening, with the unlit living room disappearing into darkness from the outside, I liked to sink into the couch and stare out through the bars, shut off from life behind one-way glass. Serving my time. That’s where I did my brooding, deepened by occasional laughter from the street, soothed by the soft hum of voices from the TV in the kitchen, where Kate liked to watch her shows sitting in the rocker sipping herbal tea.

Kate and I had been together six years when I killed the pimp. She was a sharp woman. Efficient. Plain. Well-adjusted. We were comfortable together. She recognized that I had down time, periods where I was best left alone. It suited her. Kate wasn’t the cloying type.

She was well into her thirties when we married, with a nicely rounded life. She didn’t need constant input from me to keep it going. I liked that, because she let me get way out there on those days when human contact became an unbearable strain. She didn’t take responsibility for my condition or try to bring me around by pretending to know what the blackness was like.


The first one I did—a black pimp who worked two young hookers on the Franklin Stroll­—jolted my life out of the ordinary. Forever.

He was a classic lowlife bottom-liner. Too stupid to make it far up the predator food chain but cunning enough to get other people to do the heavy lifting. He coerced and intimidated young girls to supply sexual services to the lower end of the gene pool while he fucked the rest of society out of whatever he could.

His hookers needed someone to hit back for them and I was that guy. Their hero in the white hat. Their Shane. I didn’t do it for romance, that’s for sure. They weren’t sexy, just pathetic. One of them, a slovenly blonde teenager, wore short, short skirts and tank tops that showed miles of cleavage and rolls of flab. Her thighs rubbed together when she walked. Hard to believe she could charge for sex. The other one had the look of a bedraggled bird, scrawny and unkempt in ill-fitting tight clothes that managed to appear too big. She had a long, skinny nose and a small red-painted mouth. Neither could have been more than 18 but they looked older. Used.

Tremmie might have seemed like a flashy guy to cheap streetwalkers but I recognized him for what he was the first time I saw him, outside the 7-Eleven berating the scrawny hooker.

“You fucking lazy slut. Forget about smokin’, drinkin’ pop and readin’ stupid bitch rags. All the Cover Girl in the world won’t change that ugly face. Now get out there and stick out that skinny ass. Maybe some horny idiot will be stupid enough to pay to fuck it.”

He slapped her hard and waved a black finger in her face. A finger with two gaudy rings on it. I pegged him for a bully and a punk. Not too smart. Mean. Dangerous when cornered.

He looked at me as I rounded the corner, surprised at the intrusion into his private business.

“Dumb cunt,” he said, looking at me as if I was part of it, pushing her toward the street.

I felt a surge of fury, not because of the abused hooker, but for the arrogance of the lowlife pimp. I walked past without comment, though. I’d seen him a few times from a distance, standing in a doorway just off the Stroll, a couple of hundred yards up from the girls’ corner. Close enough for immediate intervention should there be a need. Far enough not to spook the johns. He was short and stocky, the same width from his shoulders through his thighs, and overdressed for the job in creased dress slacks and perfectly pressed shirts.

I occasionally walked on the north side of East Hastings where the action happens. To see what was going on, to keep abreast of activity in my community, if you will. The walks helped my moods. I kept a low profile. I didn’t gawk or bother anybody. Just a guy out for a stroll.

I remember the exact day the pimp’s star attached to mine. My brother’s wife had called the night before to tell me he’d had a major stroke and was paralyzed on the right side. It had affected his vocal cords. He couldn’t talk and the doctors didn’t know if he’d get any movement back on that side.

I remember thinking he’d have to smoke with his left hand. My brother Sam had smoked heavy since his teens. I didn’t feel bad for him. He’d ignored all the warnings and now he’d have to pay the price. The thought of him dribbling food down his chin made me angry. Another wasted life in the Delaney family.

I went for a Sunday morning walk to chill out, to work out the rage and that’s when it happened, walking down the Victoria Street hill. A female scream cut into my dark mood.  I looked up the alley. The pimp had his back to me. His big black fist cut the scream off with a solid blow that sent the fat hooker reeling into a garage door. I heard the fist connect. A smacking sound. His rings must have cut her lip. Blood streamed down her chin onto a big tit that flopped out of the tank top when she hit the wall.

“I’ll give you something to suck on, bitch. I’ll give you something to suck on, you dirty mouth cocksucker.”

She saw me and called out: “Help me mister.”

Her voice sounded small. Younger than she looked. The pimp turned, his mouth twisted in a snarl.

“You want some, too,”

That’s what the pimp said, and that’s when I knew he would be the one. I just kept walking, though. I didn’t intervene.

I’d had the gun for almost a year by then. A stainless steel .357 magnum six-shot revolver.  Smaller than the one Dirty Harry used but powerful. I bought it in a Seattle bar, around the corner from Pioneer Square. I paid a hundred bucks for it. Probably more than a hot gun was worth but I didn’t care. That gun was everything to me.

I brought it across the border in a running shoe box stuffed under the back seat, along with boxes of bullets. Nobody checked the vehicle. Nobody asked if I had a gun.

I’d only held a handgun once before, in my twenties, when I’d fired a dozen rounds with a .22 caliber revolver at a firing range. Even that small caliber had been surprisingly hard to aim and control.

I practised shooting up in the mountains. I went for long day hikes on the weekend, in isolated areas, and fired off two or three loads. The gun sounded loud and I had a lot of trouble controlling the kick. Killing someone wouldn’t be as easy as it looked in the movies.

I couldn’t hit a three-foot-wide tree trunk from 10 feet at first. But then I got the hang of it and didn’t do too bad from close in. I handled the gun a lot at home, in my office with the door locked, where my wife wouldn’t see. She didn’t like guns. She didn’t know I had the 357. Nobody did. I knew from the beginning that’s the way it had to be. The safest way.

I felt comfortable firing the gun after two or three months. The rest of the time was waiting for the right candidate. Figuring out ways to do it. Building up courage. Keeping the black dogs in their kennel behind a wall of hate.

When the pimp threatened me, things moved quickly. I was jacked up for two days, knowing I would put myself to the ultimate test. I didn’t dwell on the consequences if I got caught. I didn’t plan it well. I did what I had to do. I acted.

My brain became crystal clear. The jumble of thoughts ricocheting around in my head formed into one cohesive idea.  I would strike out at the bottom-liners. I didn’t need resolve because I didn’t feel doubt. The pimp would get some, too. I didn’t care about the hookers. I would do it for myself, risk everything for honour and for a greater good. Looking back, it seems delusional but that’s what I was thinking at the time.

Two nights later, a Tuesday in June, I left the house at 10:50 p.m. Kate was at the movies with a friend. It was a 9:45 showing and I knew she’d be gone until midnight. Everything fell into place.

I loaded the gun and put it inside a fanny pack with the safety off. Pulling back the safety produced an adrenaline rush, a physical buzz that zapped any remaining bleakness from the corners of my brain. Like mainlining into the ozone of no return. Clarity. Pure pleasure. Living in the moment. No negative chatter.

My hands were steady, but my heart was pumping piss. I could feel the vein on my forehead throb. I went out the back and cut through the neighbour’s yard to Pender Street, my body so light I was almost gliding. I walked down the block at an even pace. Nobody was around.

There was a guy beside me at the lights at Victoria and Hastings, but he never looked at me and I let him go in front. He turned east on Hastings when he reached the other side and I kept heading north on Victoria. Downhill.

I was wearing a navy-blue nylon jogging suit, lightweight and dark, to blend in. I turned onto Franklin and walked into the darkness. I could see the girls under the orange streetlight at the corner.  The pimp was alone in the doorway. I knew he would be. Our destinies were intertwined. I felt warm towards him as I closed the distance between us, a kind of tingly feeling, like an MDA rush.

“You lookin’ for the company of a lady?” He said it friendly. Like any salesman shopping a product. He didn’t recognize me. I was nothing to him. It made me furious. He nodded at the girls, standing idly in the distance, in the eerie orange glow.

“That’s prime time pussy. Only on the street a month. I turned them out myself. Taught em’ how to suck a man’s cock.”

I had one hand inside the fanny pack. The gun was heavy in my palm and I supported it a little against my stomach. It was important to me that he knew what was coming. That he could feel his own insignificance in a moment of terror, then take the feeling with him to the hereafter.

“You’re not going to be teaching anyone else any bad habits, Tremmie. I took pleasure in the verbal contact. I hoped the words sounded more sinister to him because they were delivered without bravado, in an even, non-threatening tone. “Be thankful for the time you’ve had; it’s more than you deserve. You’re the one I’ve chosen. And that’s the biggest honour you’re going to get. It’s time for you to get some, too.”

I knew his name by then. I’d heard them talking in a booth at the Submarine Shop. He was scared when I got personal and used his name. I could see the fear right away. It didn’t surprise me. I knew he was a punk.

“What’s this shit? You a cop?” He tried to act tough but couldn’t bring it off.

He didn’t make a move. He just stood there looking stupid, so I pulled the gun out and squeezed the trigger. Nothing could ever be the same.

I hit him in the rib cage, opposite the heart. He turned away and spun around. A spin-a-rama move like the one Danny Gallivan made famous on Hockey Night in Canada.

“Fucking crazy.” Those were his last words. Delivered in a soft gurgle. He was twitching and jerking and there was more blood than I expected. I don’t like blood. I was careful not to step in any when I moved closer and put another shot into the side of his head from about three feet. The bang reverberated in the doorway.

The point of impact turned all red and mushy and bits of hair and brain and skull sprayed out from the wound. Some of it got on my jogging pants. Just below the knee. The pimp kept twitching in the darkened doorway, but I knew he was done. I waved at the girls.

They were looking from light into dark and I could tell by the way they were craning they didn’t know what happened. Even under the orange streetlight, I couldn’t make out their features at that distance, so I wasn’t worried about being recognized. I turned and moved away from them up the street at a slow jog.

I still had the gun in my hand. I put it back in the fanny pack and held it against my body to keep it from bouncing. I took one look back at the corner. The girls were moving slowly towards the doorway. I felt good about what they’d see. I turned up Victoria and loped up the hill to the lights. I looked back from the top, but nobody was in sight. A couple of vehicles passed, a pickup and a late model compact, but the drivers didn’t look at me. They had other interests.

I crossed on the green and went into the school yard, out of the light. No one noticed anything. Just another warm June night.

I cut across the schoolyard diagonally and walked down Pender. Two Asian guys were getting into a car with take-out from the place on the corner. Big portions. Cheap food. They didn’t look over at me. I walked down the block, went back through the neighbour’s yard, crossed the alley, unlatched my gate and climbed the stairs to my deck.

I looked at my digital watch—11:06. The pimp killing, from start to finish, had taken 16 minutes. I laid back on the white plastic Canadian Tire lounger and unzipped my jacket. The air chilled my sweat. I stayed there for a few minutes. Savouring the kill.

Everything was vivid. The stars stood out. A siren wailed sweetly. Closer and closer. Louder and louder. Then more. A symphony of sirens playing a dead pimp’s swan song. I was glad of all the ruckus. Exhilarated. I wanted to make a big splash.

I threw my jogging pants into the washer and stashed the gun in a locked desk drawer. I took off my running shoes and rinsed the little red speckles off in the laundry sink. A little blob came off and hung in the drain for a second. When the wash was done I hung the pants on the clothes rack to dry. It doesn’t take long with nylon.

Kate came in at five minutes to midnight. I was spread out on the leather office couch listening to the last caller on Sportstalk make an idiotic point about the Canucks. She poked her head in and I commented on the intelligence of the callers in a way that would make it seem I’d been listening for awhile.

She sat down in the office chair and leaned back, making the springs squeak. She was tanned, even this early in summer, and her legs were smooth and tawny. She crossed them and told me about the movie.

“I don’t know why Hollywood can’t come up with a plot that doesn’t include gratuitous violence. I like a good story, with more dialogue and less blood, like the classic movies.

I loved her at that moment. So clean. So pure.

We made love that night. Afterwards Kate whispered in my ear that she loved me, like she always did when I made her cum. It took it as my due. Payment for a job well done. Then I slept. Soundly.

Everything seemed unreal in the morning. Impossible to believe. That’s the way I wanted it. I had toast for breakfast, like always, and scanned the morning paper for any news of the killing. Nothing. The execution of Tremmie had happened too late for the first edition. The radio had it, though. On the 8 o’clock news. The lead story.

“There was a shooting in the East End last night. Police say a man was shot dead just off Franklin Street a few minutes after midnight.”

The announcer made it sound so impersonal, and it bothered me that he got the time wrong.

“He was dead before an ambulance arrived at the scene. Police wouldn’t release a name, but the dead man was thought to be involved in the sex trade. It was the city’s 34th murder this year.”

“That’s right around the corner, isn’t it dear?”

Kate was in exceptionally good spirits. Sex did that to her. The after-affects of an orgasm could last a week. Even so, the killing put her off. Too close to home.

“Yes. It’s a couple of blocks north of Hastings where all the hookers are.”

“This neighbourhood is really going downhill,” she said. A familiar refrain. “There was a used condom on the boulevard out front the other day. It’s absolutely disgusting. Men are such pigs, paying for sex on the street in front of somebody’s home. Helen was telling me the kids found a hypodermic needle on the school grounds last week. She’s scared to death they’re going to get hepatitis or AIDS. Now we have to worry about dodging bullets.”

Helen was our neighbour. A single mom living in a co-op duplex. Her deck looked down on ours. Sometimes I opened my office window and listened to them talk across the yards. Kate got her dose of domesticity listening to Helen’s tales of woe.

“People like us have nothing to fear,” I said. “Those kinds of killings are always centred around money. Somebody ripped someone off and got what was coming to him. End of story. One less person on the welfare rolls.”

“Honestly, Roger. For someone who votes Liberal you come off sounding like a redneck. I hope you don’t say things like that at the office.”

“Of course I do dear. Having common sense doesn’t preclude one from being a Liberal. People are fed up with crime. Taxes are sky high. The average guy is feeling the pinch while the lowlifes are living off the taxpayers’ largesse and supplementing their incomes by pimping, selling drugs and breaking into people’s homes. We have to put bars on our windows while the criminals swagger around our streets.”

Kate and I had both married late. She at 37 and I at 41. The first marriage for both of us. We got along well, though ours was not a union bound by passion. We were friends first and lovers second. People often said we made the perfect couple. Kate is highly organized. Everything in her life has a place. Including me. I fit nicely into the husband niche.

She was an insurance agent. That’s where we met. I was transferring the paperwork over to my new Ford Explorer and she was especially helpful in clearing up a mistake with a serial number that fouled the computer. Her efficiency impressed me. That and her lovely toothy smile. On impulse, I asked her to lunch and she accepted. We slept together a week later.

I worked for a business communications company as a technical writer, cleaning up geologists’ and engineers’ reports, translating their jargon into readable English, doing annual reports and company histories. I’d started out wanting to be a newspaper reporter but when I graduated from university with an honours English degree there were no jobs at the big dailies.

The first five years, I worked for a small suburban paper and did a little freelance on the side. The owner wasn’t interested in his reporters digging up news stories, especially if they impacted negatively on an advertiser. He just wanted us to fill the spaces between the ads.

I could see there was no money or future in it, so I went into corporate communications. Newsletters, that kind of stuff. Not very satisfying but the experience got me into my present position. At the time of the pimp killing I’d been there eleven years. A solid employee waiting for a pension.

I sometimes worked at home but on the morning after the pimp I wanted contact with the world. I felt too good to stay in the house. I rode in with Kate. She has free parking at work and often drops me at my office on her way.

“That’s where it happened. The shooting.”

I motioned down the hill as she turned onto Hastings Street. I kept my voice disinterested. The sun was shining and people were going about their business. Another Wednesday morning in Lotusland. I felt sorry for all the ordinary people leading drab ordinary lives. I would never be ordinary again.

“Which street is Franklin, dear?”

“The next one over. It’s all warehouses and businesses. If it weren’t for the hookers nothing would happen there after 6 p.m.”

“Honestly, I don’t see why the police don’t do something. Move them somewhere away from residential areas. Or arrest the men. They’re the ones to blame. Pigs.”

“It’s not a problem of policing. Prostitution is perfectly legal and there’s not much police can do. It’s a political problem and our elected leaders don’t have the will. It’s not going to go away so there’s no sense getting upset about it.”

“What makes men so desperate for sex that they pay for it? Have you ever paid for sex?”

I looked over at her and smiled benignly. “Not everyone has someone like you to come home to dear.”

Just then a car cut in front of us causing her to hit the brakes hard. We both flew forward, restrained by our seat belts, tires squealing.

“Asshole.” Kate’s face contorted into rage. Traffic was the only thing she ever got mad about. Maybe it was because she was in the insurance business.  “He didn’t even look back. Some people are so oblivious. They shouldn’t be allowed behind the wheel of a car.”

We pulled alongside him at the next light. He looked straight ahead as Kate glared over. I conjured a mental picture of a red mushy spot on the side of his head.

It seemed to me that my co-workers had treated me with deference that morning. I knew I’d imagined it but it didn’t matter, the result was the same. I felt good. More alive and connected to people than I’d felt for a long time. Maybe ever. I lingered over lunch, enjoying the view of the North Shore mountains, sharply outlined against a blue sky. A glorious day to be alive.

I didn’t have any fear of getting caught back then. It seemed inconceivable that the police could connect me to the killing. The only link was the gun and I didn’t plan to have it around long. I felt no remorse. The world was a better place without the pimp.

Right after lunch I picked up a paper. The second edition. The pimp killing was relegated to page three of the B section. A six-inch brief. I was disappointed, not only for myself but for the dead pimp as well. That’s all you get, pimp. Six inches of fame and you’re out.


Man gunned down on East Side


A 28-eight-year-old American became the city’s 34th homicide victim last night.

Tremaine Evers of Tacoma, Washington, was shot dead in a doorway just off the Franklin Street stroll, a notorious East Vancouver hooker hangout, shortly before midnight.

Witnesses said a lone male approached Evers, shot him twice, waved at sex trade workers standing a block away on the corner and casually walked away.

The victim, described by police as involved in the sex trade, died before the ambulance arrived.

The warehouse district of Franklin Street, between the 2000 and 2400 blocks, has become a haven for prostitutes and pimps.

A police spokesman said Evers was known to police. He said police have no motive but that the killing has all the earmarks of a gangland hit.


Tremaine Evers. Seeing the name in print made me feel funny. Not sorry. Just kind of weird. I read the piece three or four times. I’d pictured him as older. In his thirties. I wondered if anybody would mourn. There would be a funeral, probably in Tacoma. I wanted to go. To pay last respects to the villain. But that was out of the question.

The high lasted for weeks. Kate noticed. She asked why I was feeling so good. In the weeks leading up to the killing I’d been more withdrawn than usual. Uncommunicative. I’d declined all social invitations, saying I was tired or had work to do. I brooded on the couch then sat in my office handling the gun. After I did the pimp I wanted to be with people. To laugh and talk and have fun. I can’t explain it. I can’t explain any of it.

I’d always fantasized about killing a stranger, even when I was a child. I used to lie in bed and think about hiding behind the bushes by our front porch waiting for someone to come walking down the street at night. I’d shoot him—it was always a man—then run around back of the row houses and retreat to my downstairs bedroom. There was never any blood in those fantasies. Just the satisfaction of committing the perfect crime.

I didn’t dwell on it as an adult, like some crazed loner watching late night TV with hate in his heart. But it was never far from the surface. Often I’d wake in the morning with a phrase rolling around my head—”He has a gun.” Not “I have a gun.” or “Be careful he’s going to shoot.” Just— “He has a gun.” I’d get dressed and go to work and not think about it again. It wasn’t a constant theme and I certainly didn’t have any intention of killing anyone.

I suppose I did the pimp out of desperation, to escape the depression. I wasn’t trying to start a movement, the way a lot of so-called experts said later. The dumb fucker threatened the wrong person at the wrong time. It was that simple. My brother’s stroke intensified everything. Not because I loved the guy. He was just somebody I used to know. The thought of him drooling confirmed my life view at the time. At age 47 life had stalled for me. Time was passing but nothing was happening. Nothing interested me. Nothing mattered. Life was shit, then you drooled and died.

I’d bought the gun on impulse. I was in Seattle for a conference and I was having a beer in a tavern near the hotel. A bit seedy but not so you were afraid you’d be mugged. A scrawny white guy came in and bought a stack of pull tabs from the machine on the wall near where I was sitting. He sat down at the next table and ripped them open, strip by strip. He had crude tattoos on both forearms and the words Life and Death etched across the back of his hands in faded blue ink. A lowlife. I didn’t want to talk to him but when the last pull tab returned nothing he turned to me and in a friendly voice said — “Lady Luck left me behind a long time ago.”

I ignored him. He didn’t take offense. Instead, he asked where I was from, so I told him Portland. When the waiter came by, he bought a beer. He tried to talk to me about football and when I showed no interest he asked me if I wanted to buy a gun. He had it with him in an old beat up canvas pack. I told him no. But he handed the pack across to me, taking a quick look over his shoulder at the bar to see if anybody was watching.

“I mean a real gun, not some little pea shooter. Stick your hand in the bag and check it out for balance. It’s a beautiful gun for a hundred bucks.”

I held the pack with one hand and looked inside. There were a couple of articles of clothing, two big screwdrivers and a flashlight in the bag. And a big gun. The handle was huge. I gripped it and pulled it back just enough to get a look, shielding it from view with the table. The grip was dark brown and the rest was shiny steel. He was right. It was a nice gun.

“Is it loaded?” He said no so I took it out and put it in the inside pocket of my jacket. One of those outdoor jackets with big pockets. The weight of the gun pulled one side down at the collar, making it lopsided. I gave the guy five twenties and left right away. I looked back at the tavern door when I got to the end of the block, half expecting police or a gang of thugs to come running out after me. But there was nothing, only the red Budweiser sign in the window.

I didn’t start out with the idea of becoming the People’s Wolf. No. It was only going to be that one time. To prove it could be done. To relieve the dullness. Even when I started practising and formulating a plan it didn’t seem real, like I would really do it. On the night I did the pimp I didn’t know if I’d walk past the doorway and abort until I had the gun out. I think it was the fact he didn’t remember threatening me that did him in. The whole idea was so out of context with my life it was absurd. But when I felt the rush after firing that first shot, waving at the girls, feeling the power of life and death, well, even though I wouldn’t admit it I knew I had to do another one.

That’s why I didn’t get rid of the gun like I’d planned. Instead, I built a little compartment in the floor in the corner of the closet in my office, big enough to hold the gun and a couple of boxes of bullets. I cut out the floorboards between the studs, careful not to disturb the surface of the wood. I pulled two of the nails out and replaced them with screws so I could unscrew them and lift the top off with the screw heads without leaving pry marks. Then I got some dust from the vacuum cleaner and rubbed it into the cracks where I’d cut. I moved a small filing cabinet over the spot.

The office floor was old and patched in places. Even from up close, on my hands and knees, it was hard to tell anything had been done. It probably wouldn’t stand up to a police search but at least some creep doing a B&E wouldn’t find it. I knew keeping the gun was dangerous, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw it into the ocean.