The Hastings Watchman: The Hooded Killer

When the homeless population of Vancouver starts getting knocked off one by one, only a vigilante and a lazy pothead can make things right.

Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

I’ve been a reporter for the Vancouver Sun for about three years now. I suppose I should be thankful that I have such a secure job doing what I love, but I must say in the last little bit I have become bored with it all. There hasn’t been a story that I’ve covered in a while that was more fun that it was work. Maybe I’ve just started to settle in and, like a marriage; the flame that once burned at the beginning has dimmed throughout the years of predictable repetition. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever feel that same excitement I felt when I was hunting my first story…The mystery of the Hastings Watchman.

I was younger then, the budding age of 23, trying to find myself in an unforgiving, forever revealing world. The dreams of being a rock star were starting to seem more and more ridiculous and the things that I used to get away with on account of my boyish good looks were catching up to me now that the years of smoking and poor diet were starting to take their toll. It was a time where I needed to find something of my own, something I could say that I was, something honest and true…something that would make the girls want to fuck me.

I decided that I wanted to be a journalist and tackle the real stories being left out of these cookie-cutter media establishments who gossiped more than they informed. But sadly, with no schooling or experience my resume’s found themselves huddled in the trash with apple cores and Styrofoam coffee cups. I couldn’t get an interview anywhere.

One night, sitting over a beer at the Hasting’s Warehouse, I heard one of the off-duty cooks talking to a waitress about how he had heard there were homeless people going missing around the Lower East Side. Apparently the VPD had picked up a few bodies in the last few weeks, just lying on the pavement in the middle of the street.

“Maybe they just overdosed,” said the waitress, twirling her hair and chewing her gum. I wondered why, for a girl who could obviously multi-task very well, my burger was taking so fucking long.

“No, they all died the same way,” said the cook, trying his best to keep his eyes from sinking chest ward. “They all got their throats slit.”

“Ew, that’s gross.” She said. And she walked off, leaving the kid back to his beer and leaving me with a brilliant idea.

As far as I knew, no one had broken this story in the media yet. If I could get the scoop on who was killing these homeless people, maybe a job wouldn’t be so hard to get anymore. I just had to make sure I found out exactly what was going on, if not just who was behind these murders.

The first person I hit up was Johnny from the Cambie, another one of the restaurants in that little block on the Lower East Side. He wasn’t a server or a cook, he just stood outside and sold weed. Ask anyone who knew him though; they’d say he was just as important to that place as any beer or burger. He also happened to be my personal weed dealer, so if I was going to get an honest and informed opinion about these so-called murders, Johnny was the guy.

“What’ll it be?” He asked, puffing on his cigarette, his hands stuffed inside his sweater pockets.

“Actually, I came here to ask you something.”

“Well, I’m not the Customer Service desk at the mall, so if you want to talk I’d suggest you buy something.”

I groaned. “Fine, fuck it,” I said, reaching into my pocket and pulling out a crumpled twenty bill. He took the cash and slipped me a baggy with the other hand.

He smiled, “Okay, what’s on your mind?”

“What do you know about these homeless people getting murdered the last few weeks?”

“Not much. I saw the road blocked off a couple days ago and someone laying there. That’s about it. I don’t really follow the life and times of crack heads. Why don’t you go ask Nancy?” He pointed across the street to a feeble old lady panhandling on the corner.

“That’s what I paid twenty bucks for?” I said.

“No, you paid twenty bucks for weed and I gave you the information out of the goodness of my heart, ya goof. Fucking smart ass…”

I left Johnny there and jogged across the street to Nancy. “Excuse me,” I said, “I was wondering if I could have a few words with you. My name is Jake Dunlop…I’m a reporter.”

She looked me up and down, “You don’t look like a reporter.” She said.

“I didn’t realize that reporters had a look.” I replied.

She lifted her crinkled Starbucks cup to my face and jingled the change around, “As long as they have pockets.”

I rolled my eyes as I reached back into my pocket for more change. I was getting robbed today. After dropping a couple toonies in the cup, she smiled a toothless smile and provided some answers to what had been going on.

“The cops won’t go public, but it’s a serial killer. How could it not be, right? They all died the same way; Throat slit, out in the street…Terrible. I knew all of them, you know, the ones who died. We all stay at the shelter when we can. They were all good people. They think just because we’re poor, our lives doesn’t have value. They won’t find whoever did it, they won’t even try. It’s just another bum dead. Thank god for the Watchman.”

My head poked up from the pad I was taking notes on, “The Watchman? Who’s that?”

“No one knows,” She said. “He appears every now and then when one of us is in trouble. Like a guardian angel. He’ll find who’s doing this. He’ll get them.”

“Uh, thanks,” I said, putting my notepad back in my pocket.  “Sorry, what shelter were the victims staying at?”

“The Thompson House on East Hastings. We all stay there.”

Thanks, Nancy.” I said. “Take care of yourself.”

“My name’s Marie.”

“Oh, sorry. Thanks, Marie.”

I walked back across the street. “Her name’s not even Nancy,” I said to Johnny as I passed.

“Like I know what her name is…” I heard him say behind me.

 

I decided that I would stakeout the shelter where Marie said the victims had stayed in the past. Maybe then I would catch something. That night I ate dinner in my apartment and, after doing the dishes and taking a shower, I dressed up in my darkest jeans and a black hoodie, grabbed my camera and headed off into the night.

The place wasn’t hard to find. Much of East Hastings had been under construction during the last little bit in an attempt to clean up the area and make it more inviting to Vancouverites. This was great news to the middle to high class folks who went out of their way to avoid the area they saw as scummy and drug ridden, but in order to make room for these new condos and coffee shops they had to tear down a few of the low-income housing building and thus, inadvertently making the homeless problem even bigger. In the midst of the construction, the three storied shelter stood alone. During the day you would find many of the shelter’s inhabitants congregated outside, smoking cigarettes and scheming plans to make a buck for the day but after 11 o clock, curfew, the street was deserted.

At around midnight it started raining pretty hard. Living in Vancouver you come to expect large amounts of rain, but still, it pissed me off. I was thinking of calling it a night and heading back home to my warm bed…but then something happened. It was something I couldn’t believe and something that even to this day I doubt if it really happened like I thought it did. But here it is…

As I pulled my hoodie over my head as a makeshift umbrella, my eyes were pulled across the street where an old man ran against the rain towards the front steps of the shelter. “Too late, bud.” I thought to myself. “The doors shut an hour ago.” Then I noticed a figure behind him, chasing down hard on him and tackling him onto the wet concrete just before the front steps. With some embarrassment, I must admit, my first reaction was one of excitement and not one of concern for my fellow man. How lucky was I that my stakeout would give me front row seats to one of the killer’s attacks. This was the story I was looking for.

I tried to make out more details of the attacker but between the distance, his hidden face and the rain, it was a near impossibility. As the two struggled on the ground, I watched in awe as another figure fell from above and landed not four feet away from them. In all probability, he probably fell from the roof, but I didn’t see anything. For all I knew he had fallen from the sky. His face, like the attackers, was also covered, but, instead of a hoodie he wore a toque and a black bandana over his face. He also wore a leather jacket that had little spikes on the shoulders like the punk rockers I would see outside Funky Winker Beans. It shimmered as the rain bounced off it and reflected the moonlight.

In a moment, the attacker leaped from his prey and darted for the new joiner who stood silent and strong. First, the assailant swung hard at the mysterious man in the leather jacket with what looked to be a blade. The jabs were dodged and the man in the leather jacket returned quickly with a Bruce Lee roundhouse kick that connected directly with the Hooded guy’s jaw.

Without a second thought, I pulled out my camera and set up to snap a photo. I was sure I only had one shot, as once my flash went off, my position would be spotted. I needed it to be perfect. Back and forth they went; the man in the leather jacket seemed to thwart the knife-wielding attacker’s advances with complete control. He knew how to fight, that’s for sure. The scrap was over when the man in the leather jacket dipped low to the ground and came in with a sweep kick that sent the Hooded guy hard to the floor. Seizing my moment, I snapped the photo. The flash lit up the street like lightning and I watched as the man in the leather jacket spun towards me, taking his attention off his foe just for a moment. But a moment was all it took for the guy to jump to his feet and drive his blade into the man in the leather jacket’s side. He dropped to the floor and the other guy ran off into the darkness.

I stood in shock for a moment, unsure if I should run for my life or go help the two men who lied bleeding on the concrete. Before I could make up my mind, I watched in utter amazement as the man in the leather jacket rose up to his feet, seemingly unaffected the stabbing, hopped a nearby fence and was gone. My heart raced, my hands shook and my head spun with a million curiosities and what-the-fucks. It seemed there really WAS someone stalking the homeless population of Vancouver. And even crazier still, it seemed Marie’s Hastings Watchman character actually existed for reals; I could have sworn that part was the crack pipe talking. This was the story of the year. A masked Vigilante protecting the homeless? This was the story of the decade! I rushed home in a hurry to get into some dry clothes and my bed. After all, I needed my rest to be fresh for the next morning. There were three major papers in Vancouver, and thanks to the Watchman, I was sure I was about to be employed at one of them.

***************************

“He’s like some sort of ninja…but more than a ninja. Like…Like a guardian angel in a leather jacket. I swear to god, I watched him get STABBED and then get up and hop a fence like it was nothing. He fell out of thin air”

Paul Dennis, the editor of the Vancouver Sun, sat back in his seat, adjusted his tie and looked me over, “That’s quite a story,” he said. “I just have one question…”

“Sure,” I said.

“Who are you and how the hell did you get passed my secretary?”

“Well, that’s two questions, sir.” I answered, “But I would be happy to answer them both. My name is Jake Dunlop, I’m a reporter. And that being said, as a reporter I am naturally a pretty sneaky guy. I get into places where few can.”

“Is that supposed to impress me? That you snuck into my office?”

I knew he was asking me that rhetorically, but I really DID think it would impress him.

He handed the papers and the photo back, “I appreciate the offer, kid. But please, get out of my office before I call security.”

“But sir, there’s a killer on the loose!”

He slammed his fist on his desk, “Says you! I’ve been doing this for twenty years and you think you’re just going to waltz in here off the street, talking about super heroes and tell me how to do my job? These bums kill each other all the time. Over DRUGS. It’s nothing special. Now get the fuck out of my building!”

Sensing it was time to leave; I took my files and walked out of the office, closing the door on his last profanities. I bumped into his secretary, a super fox in a black dress that I had snuck by on the way in. She looked at me, it was obvious she was trying to remember me on the way in…but like I told Mr.Dennis…I’m pretty sneaky. All my life I’ve been able to do that kind of stuff, from getting into clubs through the back door, to making girls believe I was an older, rich entrepreneur just on a visit for business…I was a sneaky devil, man.

I smiled at her, she smiled back.

“Hey,” I said. “I’m Jake Dunlop. I’m a reporter.”

“I’m Diana,” she said, extending her hand.

Her hands were soft, her eyes were brown. I basically was in love.

When I came out of my trance, it looked like she had been waiting for me to say something. Then she repeated herself, “Mr. Dennis? How do you know him?”

“Oh, yeah,” I said. “Good guy, that guy. We’re like brothers, me and ol’ Pauly. Love that guy.”

She laughed a little, I didn’t say anything. It was kind of awkward for a little second and then I just said, “Diana, I want to take you out for dinner.”

She stared at me for a second, I could tell she was impressed with how forward and confident I was. The fact that I said I was close with the editor of the Sun I’m sure didn’t hurt either. But hey, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. This time, for some reason unannounced to me, I won. She gave me her number and we set up dinner plans for the following night.

Walking out of the building onto Robson, I stood among the afternoon traffic and just laughed for a bit. I couldn’t believe she agreed to go out with me; girls are so gullible. I had been in a major slump recently so it was nice to be getting a little love…even if it WAS based on complete bullshit. I headed on to the Vancouver Province building, walking with my head high, the confidence of a man who had just successfully tackled the female species. I stood outside the building and flipped through a copy of the Province looking to find the name of the Editor. I found his name and headed inside.

*************************************************

“Hello, I’m Jake Dunlop. I’m a reporter…For the Sun. I’m here to see Donald.” I said to the security guard at the front desk. I went with the reporter for the Sun bit because I figured the competition would love to steal a story from a freelancer and I only said the editor’s FIRST name because it makes it sound like we knew each other personally.

The stern faced Somalian gave me a look over and picked up the phone. After a moment he put it down and nodded me towards the elevator.

“Floor 28,” He said.

I tipped my imaginary hat and was on my way. Easy Peasy.

On my way up in the elevator, my eyes caught the picture I had taken the night previous. It was really good, I was pretty impressed with myself. I took it just as the hooded killer hit the floor from that sweep kick. The Watchman stood over him in the rain, looking all bad ass and cool. Hard to believe that only seconds after the picture was snapped, the Watchman had been stabbed and the  Hooded Killer had got away…I guess I was sort of to blame for that… But it WAS a really good picture though.

The editor of the Province sat across from me behind his desk staring down at the picture after I had told him all that I had witnessed. He hadn’t kicked me out of his office yet, which was more than I could say for grumpy old Mr.Dennis at the Sun.

Donald, a.k.a Mr.Bekinshier, shifted in his seat and rubbed his chin, “I like what you got here, Mr.–?”

“Dunlop. Jake Dunlop.”

“Yes, of course. I like what you have here, Jake. This could be a big story. I’ll give you three hundred dollars for the pic. What do you say?”

“I was kind of looking for a chance to be a reporter,” I admitted.

He looked down at his lap for a moment and then said, “Gee, I wish it worked like that Mr. Dunlop. The fact is we have staff writers who went through a lot to get here. We have enough competition in-house, never mind the random turncoats from the Sun. But we do pay handsomely for leads and…pictures like these.” He kept smiling at me. I think he was trying to act “buddy, buddy” but it came off really, “weirdy, creepy”

Three hundred dollars wasn’t too bad for a picture. Besides, I needed the cash on the account of the recent date I made with Diana from the Sun so, I took the money. I did feel a little bit slimy about handing off this story so easily but, the thought of getting Diana naked after I blew her mind with an ass kicking expensive dinner made me forget about whatever doubts I had. An envelope filled with twenties, a quick hand shake, and before you knew it I was walking back into the street, down one picture and up one cheque for three hundred dollars.

That night I made renovations at Le Crocodile, one of the fanciest French restaurants in the city. I had never had French food before, but hey, it looked sexy and it was expensive. Fuck it, I thought. I had to make it just right if I was going to nail Diana. It had been a long time since life went so well for me. “Maybe”, I thought, “Things are going to start changing for me around here.”

********************************************

As I rolled out of bed at 10am, already excited about my date that night, I walked to the kitchen with a swag in my step and poured myself a cup of instant coffee and a bowl of Lucky Charms. “More like GET LUCKY,Charms!” I said as a dropped in my milk and headed to the television room. I sat down on the couch, put my feet up on the coffee table and turned on the television to see the morning news.

I almost dropped my coffee when I saw the picture I had just sold Donald Bekinshier, the one of the Watchman standing over the killer, pasted on the screen. But the title read, “Bandanna Killer Hunts Homeless.”– Which was, if you have been paying attention at all, the complete opposite of how it went down. The more I thought about it I realized he never even asked me how it went down…and I never really told him either. I was so blindsided by the three hundred dollars, I took the money and ran.

Audrey Mason, the morning anchorwoman, was already in mid conversation with the field reporter…

“That’s right, Audrey,” He said, standing outside the Thompson House. “Already six homeless individuals have been killed over the last three weeks. The Chief of the VPD has refused to comment on an ongoing investigation but many witnesses report seeing the homeless in question lying in the street in pools of blood.

“That must have been very disturbing.” She said from her desk.

“A very disturbing sight indeed, Audrey.” Agreed the field reporter.

“Now this picture here is taken from today’s front page of the Province, it shows the man who is believed to be behind these attacks, a man called the “Hastings Watchman” by the Lower East Side residents. Covered face, a toque and a black bandanna. Have the police any word on if the murders are gang related?”

“No word yet on any possible gang relations. As of right now, not much is known about the suspect. The police are keeping very close lipped at this time.”

“Has anyone mentioned any possible terrorist ties or agenda this sadistic murderer and self-proclaimed “Watchman” might have?”

“That’s a very good question, Audrey. With the face covered like it is, it’s hard to tell if he is indeed a Muslim—“

I shut the TV off and whipped my remote down on the couch. How could they just make up news like that? Did the Province even get a reporter on the story or did they just make up this bullshit to sell papers? I had to see the article for myself so I headed over to the BLENZ by my house and grabbed the nearest copy of the Province I could find. The headline said, “HASTINGS KILLER ON THE LOOSE!” With the picture I took directly below it.  When I saw the words, “Photo taken by Jake Dunlop” written in small font at the bottom corner of the picture, I have to say, I stopped being angry. It actually felt really good to be the credited photographer on a such a big story. Maybe it was a lie and sure, I didn’t get an actual job out of it, but with this thing on my resume I was confident that I wasn’t too far off from seeing that happen. I took a photo that was one the front page of a newspaper that millions of Vancouverites were reading. How cool was that? I’m sure cracking that story out at dinner with Diana wouldn’t hurt my chances of getting her in bed. They fingered the wrong guy but so what? It’s not like I knew him or anything. What was he doing around fighting people like that anyway? Besides, no one knew who he was so he could just stop going out dressed like that and never have to worry. Everybody wins.

Okay, maybe I felt a little guilty, but I tried my best to force it out of my head as I got ready for dinner. After ironing my shirt I gave Diana a ring to confirm our date.

“Le Crocodile! How nice,” she said over the phone.

“Reservation is for seven thirty. Shall I pick you up for seven?”

“Well, you know what? I think I’m going to have to meet you there. I’m just out and about doing some things, no point in dropping off the car.”

“Okay, sounds good. So…La Crocodile at seven thirty.”

“Can’t wait,” She said.

I hung up the phone and smiled. Guilt was a small price to pay for Diana Dennis pussy.

*****************************************

I sat at our table at the Crocodile until about seven forty five before I looked at my watch and noticed Diana was late. I was looking at the menu and got distracted by how little food you get versus how much you paid. Really nice restaurants always have these really small dishes. Like one prawn on a rice cake over a small pool of sauce or something like that. I found it ridiculous what people found to be “classy” around this city. I would have been just as content with a twenty-piece chicken nugget meal from McDonald’s. But hey, the bitches love fancy restaurants, right?

At around ten to eight my phone rang. It was Diana.

I answered, “Hello?”

Her voice spoke on the other end, “Hello, Jake. Enjoying Le Crocodile?”

“Just waiting for you to get here.” I said.

Her toned quickly changed , “Well I’m not coming, so you’re going to be waiting a while.”

“Excuse me?” I said, nearly choking on a bread roll.

“Mr. Jake Dunlop, I’m a reporter….You’re so full of shit. I KNOW you snuck passed me to get into my dad’s office! I KNOW you’re not a reporter! You think you’re smooth? You think I’m gullible or something?”

“Are you crazy? Gullible? Pssh! As if…Wait a second, did you say DAD? Mr. Dennis is your—“

“My father.” She said to my embarrassment. “He told me all about you and you two definitely aren’t the brothers you said you were. God, You’re all the same. Don’t call me anymore.”

“Wait…So, you knew all this when I called you before? Why didn’t you just tell me to fuck off then and save me the trip?”

“Liars get lied to,” She said. “I know you’re sleazy, little boy type. I know you don’t give a fuck about French restaurants and the only reason you made a reservation there is because you thought it would I would be so impressed at your culture, I’d throw my panties to the wind. I know you’d much rather be at McDonalds eating a big mac.”

“Chicken nuggets actually. But so what? How do you know I just won’t up and leave to go hit up drive thru?”

She paused on the other end of the phone and then, “Because you probably got all dressed up, looking all nice. You probably ordered a bottle of wine already because you’re not enough of a gentlemen to wait for me, and you don’t want to get up and leave because all the fancy rich people might laugh at you and that just kills you because, you’re a little boy. So what you’re going to do is sit there and eat dinner alone like a bitch, just so it looks like that’s what you meant to do. Because you’re a big man. Congratulations on selling your picture to the enemy. Hope the money is well spent.”

“Diana, I—“

“Don’t bother,” she said. Then she hung up.

I picked up my wine glass and took a sip. Man, she really took me for a ride, making me come all the way to the restaurant and wait like a dummy…I got to say, it made me want her even more. Who was I kidding, she was right. I wasn’t about to get up and and do the walk of shame through the restaurant. Plus, I had already ordered a bottle of wine and some bread rolls.

So I stayed and ate my dinner.

************************

I left Le Crocodile still shaking my head with a smile. That Diana was really something, playing me like that, leaving me to wait for her even though she knew full well that she wasn’t going to come. At least I got to see what it’s like to eat at a fancy restaurant, finally. Meh, nothing special; too many forks, the waiter took himself way too serious, the duck l’orange I had was good…but definitely not worth the sixty bucks I paid for it. For sixty bucks that duck better suck me off.

I stood by my car and fiddled with my keys, the bottle of wine I had downed was starting to get to me. A few moments later I was in, ready to go home and jerk away my worries to some good old internet porn. As I pulled out of parking and turned onto the road, I looked into my rear-view and nearly shit myself when I saw the Watchman staring back at me from the back seat, his eyes glaring into mine over the black bandanna covering the rest of his face. He lifted his arm and put a knife to my throat.

“Keep driving,” he said. His voice was low, cracky, like someone who had been smoking for years.

I did what he said, I was too scared to say anything back. The ride was silent as we went on, with only a “Left here” and a “Right here” coming from beneath his bandanna. We found ourselves parked across the street from the shelter.

I finally got the courage to say something. “You’re not going to kill me, are you?”

“If I wanted you dead, you’d be dead.” He said plainly.

“I see…So…We’re just hanging out?”

“Shut up.” He replied. “You put me in a bad spot, Jake. I’ve been on this guy’s tail since the murders began almost two months ago. Then you come along with your camera and fuck everything up. Cops are all over this city looking for me now. I’m not safe anywhere.”

“I know, I know…I feel really bad about the whole thing. I never meant it to be like that. I didn’t know they were going to pin the murders on you.”

“The man you sold the pictures to…Donald Bekinshier—“

“From the Province?”

“Yes.”

“What about him?”

“He does business with the one behind the killings. The story against me was his way of throwing off the police. The real man behind the murders is Axel Benjamin”

“Axel Benjamin? The construction guy? Are you sure? Why?”

Axel Banjamin is the CEO of Axel Industries, he is one of the riches people in Vancouver. It was his company that got the contract to re-do the Lower East Side. It didn’t make sense that on his free nights he went around killing homeless people.

“The Thompson House refused to sell the land. It’s been owned by the church for years. He’s sent in henchman to try to muscle them out…They refused. This is his next move.”

“So he’s just going to kill all the homeless people? That’s a lot of people.”

“He won’t have to. The people in the shelter are scared, some have already hopped trains out of town and others are ready to follow. And now that the story has been on the news, it won’t be long before the public starts to become afraid…And they’ll point the figure at us: The low-life’s. The good-for-nothings. They’ll make the church sell the property.”

“That sounds kind of far-fetched,” I said, despite my inner-voice urging me not to upset the man with a knife to my neck.

He took the knife away and reached inside his leather jacket, pulling out a photo and handing it to me. There was a man, a large man, standing over a counter, talking to what looked to be a clerk of some sort. What stood out the most was the man’s jaw. It was red and swollen, really ugly looking.

“That’s Jeremy Stands. I took the picture when he came into the shelter the other day. I had been hanging around there, trying to learn some information. Do you see his jaw?”

“Yeah, its fucked.” I said. “What happened?”

“I kicked him in the face the night you took that photo. I wear steel toe boots. That kick would have knocked most people out…Stands is built tough.”

I sat back in my seat, “That’s the guy?! The guy in the hood? The killer?”

“That’s him. He’s Axel’s bodyguard and head grease ball. These are bad people, Jake. This story needs to be told.”

I took out a cigarette and lit it up. It was hard to believe all this stuff and yet, not that hard at all. It was all very Scooby-Doo. I couldn’t help but wonder, as I sat in my car with this guy, which one of us was Shaggy and which one of us was Scoob…

“So how are we supposed to catch this guy in the act?”

“That’s your part.”

“Me?”

“Of course,” he said. “You’re Jake Dunlop…You’re a reporter.” And then, though I couldn’t tell for sure, because of the bandanna on his face, I swore he smiled at me. “If you’re interested, meet me here tomorrow night at 10…I’ll find you.”

Then he opened the car door and ran off into the alley, out of my sight.

********************************************

I woke up the next day and turned on my TV to the morning news. Audrey Mason sat at her desk in the midst of a story, “…Scientists who have been testing the radioactivity in the water have warned that since the meltdown of the nuclear power plant in Japan two years ago, toxicity levels have tripled and sea life has suffered record losses…

In other news, Vancouver business owners in the downtown East Side have banned together with a petition to close down the Thompson House homeless shelter after a string of murders in the area related to trouble among the homeless have left six dead and many citizens concerned for their safety… ”

As she spoke I remembered the how the Watchman predicted that it would end up like that, with the city turning on the homeless.

She continued, “We now take you to a live interview with Axel Benjamin…”

The screen split in two and Axel Benjamin, the Watchman’s key suspect, now stared me in the face. He was a young and handsome man, not to mention rich and impeccably dressed. But he was slimy and disingenuous and gave me a bad feeling in my gut.

Audrey went on, “These murders come at a time when your company, Axel Industries, has begun to shape a new and brighter future for the downtown East Side. Do you feel that these killings may overshadow what you are trying to accomplish?”

Axel smiled and shook his head, “Not at all, Audrey. In fact, it only emphasizes the point that the time for change in this area has come. For too long it has been plagued with gangs, drugs and crime. The people of Vancouver had every right to be afraid to go down these roads after dark. Axel Industries has a plan to change all this, putting the power back into the hands of the working people of this great city.”

That sounded great and all, but he forgot to mention that the only people who were murdered WERE homeless people. I didn’t buy it, it seemed fraudulent. And I spent most my time lying to people, so I would know a liar when I see one.

Then I saw something that really made me wonder. Standing in the background was the man from the picture the Watchman had showed me the previous night; the one with the messed up jaw…Jeremy Stands. He really WAS working for Axel.  All this put together seemed too fishy to overlook. Maybe he really WAS using muscle to get rid of the Thompson House. It wouldn’t be the first time a super-rich guy got caught doing something terrible.

I decided that I would meet the Watchman that night as he requested and follow him down whatever rabbit hole he was trying to drag me into. If I could be the one to break this story, not only would my conscious be cleared of my part in the Watchman’s false accusation, but I would be the reporter who was responsible for taking down one of the biggest business moguls in the city…Like Deep Throat in the Watergate scandal. It would be instant fame! The craziest story in years…and it was mine.

I impatiently watched the clock drag through the day until finally the sun had set and the night was born over downtown’s glowing street lamps and neon marquees. I again dressed up in my darkest clothes, grabbed my camera and tape recorder and headed out to my car.

The closer I got to East Hastings, the more squad cars I saw driving by, their red and blue lights lighting up the night until as they sped away. The area was under pretty heavy guard, I wondered if the Watchman would come out at all that night.

I arrived just after 10pm, parked a couple blocks down from the shelter and got out. I walked under the wood planked roof that separated the sidewalk from the vast surrounding construction zone. The makeshift hallway was softly lit with tiny glowing bulbs that, wire by wire, stretched along as I walked.

The whole area was like this now, I couldn’t believe all the stuff they tore down. They got rid of the Grand Hotel, that place you could get a pint for $3.00, even though the taps were pretty dirty and you could taste it. I went there from time to time when I was short on cash or if I wanted to score some coke. They got rid of a low-income apartment building as well, it wasn’t even rubble anymore. The holes for the new condos were already dug. Everywhere you looked, AXEL INDUSTRIES was on some sign or poster. It felt strange, like it had lost some of its magic…Like it was defeated.

As I crossed the street I noticed Marie, the little old panhandler I first interviewed about the murders. She was drunk I think, limping more than normal and kind of falling over her cane. Suddenly, from out of the shadows, a familiar dark figure emerged…The Hooded Killer, Jeremy Stands.

I screamed out to her, “Marie! Look out!”

I watched as he turned to me and then to her, who was far too drunk to hear me. He swooped in, grabbed her by the root of her hair and threw her into the alleyway. They both disappeared from my sight. I bolted as fast as I could across the road. I don’t know what made me forgo the thought of my own safety, but all I knew is no matter WHAT, Marie wasn’t going to be one of those victims on the news for Audrey Mason to jab on about the next morning. Not her. Not Marie. I couldn’t let it happen. I WOULDN’T let it happen!

I ducked in the alley with my fists cocked, though I had never been in an actual fist fight before and had no clue what I was doing. I watched the Killer pull his knife from out of Marie’s chest. She dropped to the floor. dead. Then, the Killer turned to me. Under his frayed hood I could see the same bruised jaw I saw on Jeremy Stands in the picture. The Watchman was right. The Hooded Killer was Axel’s bodyguard.

“It’s YOU,” He snarled. “The one who took the picture…Way to go. Couldn’t have framed the Watchman without it.”

I felt my face get hot and my blood begin to rush to my fists “You killed her! You sick fuck! You killed her! How could you do that?!”

“Yeah I did…It felt nice. Now it’s your turn. Sorry, no photos.” He grabbed my camera, which I had hung around my neck, snapped it from its strap and smashed it on the floor.

I didn’t care about camera, all I cared about was that this ASSHOLE just murdered an innocent girl. No matter how many teeth she had, no matter what she did for money, no matter how she chose to live her life…she was an innocent girl. And he took her life away. He had to pay. Evil fucks like him needed to pay. It wasn’t about the money or fame anymore, it wasn’t about getting laid anymore…As I stood there facing down the Killer and his blood stained shiv, only one thing mattered… Revenge.

The Hooded Killer and I stood in the alley not six feet apart, staring each other down, each man waiting for the other to make his first move. Marie’s body lied behind him near the fence, limp and lifeless on the concrete. I have to admit, I was scared…but even more than that, I was angry. I was livid. This piece of shit-ass fucker-dick fart had to die.

“What kind of person is willing to die for a bum?” the Killer snarled.

“Fuck you.” I said.

“You’re not going to be fucking anyone. Not when I’m through cutting you up.”

Almost on cue, I heard the Watchman’s deep, raspy voice. Passing sirens of red and blue in the distance revealed his position, crouched on a fence in the darkness behind the Killer.

“Leave him alone, Stands.” He said. “It’s over.”

The Killer turned to see the Watchman leap from the fence, splashing a small puddle that had built up over the last few minutes as the rain began to fall.

The Killer smiled, “I was hoping to run into you again…You fucked up my chin.”

He darted at the Watchman with the blade, missing skin but  getting close enough to cut a hole through the sleeve of his leather jacket. The Watchman retaliated with a hard kick that sent Stands back a few steps. That just made him angrier…

The Watchman called out to me, “Take the girl! I’ll take care of him.”

As they threw fists back and forth, I ran to Marie and picked her up in my arms. My adrenaline and her years of drug use had made her an easy haul to carry. I raced out of the alley onto the streets and didn’t look back.

Running up the block against the rain, I screamed for help to whoever I saw. The people on the streets just stared at me blankly.

Bunch of assholes, I thought. Grow some fucking balls.

My screams and the fact that I was carrying a dead woman finally got the attention of two cops standing by their squad car on the corner up the block. However, I didn’t get the response I was looking for. They drew their guns and pointed them at me.

One screamed, “Drop the girl! Now!”

I started to speak, but the other cop cut me off, “Now, asshole!”

Before I had finished leaning down to rest her on the pavement, one of them shoved his knee into my side which sent me to the floor beside her. Her brown eyes stared back at me blankly. The other one raced over and put his knee into my back, cuffing my hands behind me as he read me my rights.

They stuck me in the back of the car and that’s where I stayed for at least forty minutes while the ambulance came and took away Marie’s body. No one said anything to me until they had me in the interrogation room back at the station. They didn’t bring me water, give me a phone call, nothing. They searched me, took my I.D. and left me in the room for about another hour before the detective finally came in. He gave me a small smile and a nod.

“You are Jake Dunlop, correct?”

“Yes…”

“I see,” said the detective. “Well, I’m Detective Armstrong and I will be kind of going through tonight’s events with you so we can kind of figure out what’s going on here. How did you know the victim?”

“Her name’s Marie…I didn’t know her. Well, I had talked to her once before. She was a panhandler by the Cambie.”

“She was stabbed up pretty bad. Did you see what happened?”

“Yes, I saw it all! I tried telling the cops, they didn’t listen! It was Jeremy Stands! He’s the killer you guys have been looking for! The one behind the Hastings murders!”

He took a calm sip of his coffee, “He’s this Watchman guy?”

“No! Not the Watchman…Listen…I’M the one who took that picture that was published in the Province with the Watchman standing over Jeremy Stands, who was the guy in the fucki—The guy in the hood. They got the story all wrong, it was Stands who attacked the homeless guy and it was the Watchman who saved him.”

“Stands? Who is that?”

“Jeremy Stands,” I said. “He works for Axel Benjamin.”

“Axel Benjamin? Of Axel Industries?”

I swear this guy wasn’t too sharp for a detective. “Yes,” I replied. “Him.”

I told him all about Axel’s plan to use his henchman to drive the Thompson house into selling their land but I could tell he wasn’t buying it. Luckily for me, it seemed his suspicion of me being the one who killed Marie had simmered to a point where he was willing to let me go home to sleep through what little of the night was left.

I could see the sun breaking through the horizon as the cab dropped me in front of my building. My body ached but my mind raced, wondering what had happened between Jeremy Stands and the Watchman after I left. Did Stands get away? Or did The Watchman kill him? A part of me hoped he had killed him. For what he did to Marie and the others, he didn’t deserve to live…AND! That asshole smashed my camera.

I dragged myself into the apartment and dropped on the couch, but as I did something outside on the balcony caught my eye. Something was shining, reflecting the sun rise into the apartment. I got up from my seat and walked over to the window. My eyes went wide when I noticed what it was…

I ripped open the balcony sliding door and picked up the small plastic bag that was tied to the handrail. It contained three things: The first was my tape recorder; how I had dropped it I had no idea. I thought maybe when I was bending over to lift up Marie it had fallen out of my pocket or something. The second item was the shiv that belonged to the Killer, it was still stained with Marie’s blood on the edge. The third item was note. I closed the door behind me and pulled out the note.

It read, “I gave your recorder a listen. It seems you’re a better reporter than I thought…I thought this knife full of his fingerprints and the victim’s blood might help your case.”

I didn’t know what he meant about the recorder, not until I pressed play and heard the Hooded Killer on the other end saying, “It’s YOU!…The one who took the picture. Way to go. Couldn’t have framed the Watchman without it.”

I pressed pause and felt a grin stretch up my cheeks until I burst out into a laugh. I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but by some crazy stroke of luck…I had recorded everything. I had Jeremy Stands admitting to the murders ON TAPE! And his murder weapon wrapped up neatly in a Ziploc bag!

“I got you now, you slimy fuck!” I screamed.

*******************************************

The next day I picked up my car that had been parked down the street from the shelter and drove to the Cambie to meet Johnny at his post.

He finished up with one of his customers and nodded me over.

“What’ll it be?” He asked.

“No weed today.” I said. “I need you to come with me.”

He chuckled softly, “Get the fuck outta here.”

“I’m serious. You’re coming with me. I need your help.”

He took his hand out of his pockets and gave me a little push on the shoulder, “And why the fuck am I going to help you? First you come here for a fucking interview and now you want to go on a date? I sell weed, not friendship…Fuck off.”

“This will help your business, I promise!”

By his blank stare I could tell he wasn’t sold.

I continued, “Okay, so you know their re-building this whole area to make it nice and shit…What do you think is going to happen to you when all the new shit goes up? You think they’re going to let you sit here and sell dope? If you come with me now I can make it so that all this re-construction bullshit stops and you can go on selling weed forever.”

That got his attention.

“And how the fuck are you going to do that?” He asked.

*************************

We pulled up to the Vancouver Sun building and Johnny walked into the lobby while I waited outside like we had planned. If my plan was going to work, things had to go just right. About three or four minutes later Johnny came whipping out the front doors, the Somalian security guard from the front desk chasing him through the front terrace. Seizing my opportunity, I entered the lobby and got to the elevators before the security got back in the building. Johnny had played his role as a distraction perfectly…I didn’t know what he had done to get the guard after him so intently, but whatever it was, cheers to that.

I entered the Sun’s main office and darted for Mr.Dennis’ office, but Diana spotted me quickly and sprang up from her desk. I could tell she was so proud of herself for actually catching me this time.

“Go away,” she said.

“Please, Diana. I—“

She cut me off, “I told you I don’t want to talk to you.”

“I know, I know…I’m here to see your dad, I need to talk to him. It’s important.”

She raised her voice, “He doesn’t want to see you! People make appointments; they don’t just barge in to the office and demand to see him! Who the fuck do you think you are? You got some balls coming in here!”

I smiled, I couldn’t help it. She was really pretty when she got angry.

Suddenly his office door swung open and there he stood, just as pissed and stressed out as the last time I saw him. “What’s all the racket out here?! I’m trying to—“ He stopped in his tracks as he saw me standing there next to his fuming daughter. “You! Again you sneak into my office?!”

I pleaded, waving around my Ziploc bag with the knife and recorder, “Mr. Dennis, it’s important, I swear! I have the story! I have evidence!”

By this time the whole office had stopped what they were doing and stared our way.

He shook his head, “That’s it, I’ve had it. I’m calling security!”

I yelled at him as he went back into his office, “Mr. Dennis, if you call security now you’ll miss out on an opportunity to completely discredit The Province’s story on the Hastings murders!”

He stopped at the door, I had gotten his attention. He motioned me into his office and I followed him inside, smiling at Diana as I passed.

After playing him the tape of Jeremy Stands confession, we agreed that the Vancouver Sun would get the exclusive on this story with the promise that I would in turn receive a job as a staff reporter on the paper. I left the office with a grin, which is the last thing Diana was expected to see on my face.

“What’s with you?” She said.

“Well, Diana…Your dad just gave me a job. I guess we’ll be seeing a lot of each other from now on. I’ll see you real soon!”

Yeah, she looked pretty when she was angry. That day she looked absolutely beautiful.

The story went to print and it made headlines all over. Not only was Jeremy Stands was arrested but Axel Benjamin was also indicted on conspiracy. But like most rich and powerful men, he beat the charges. Stands didn’t do so well…He got life in prison.

Though the reconstruction of the Lower East Side continued, the Thompson House remained alive and the Watchman’s name was cleared. I haven’t seen the Watchman since that night in the alley but I know he’s out there somewhere…watching. And when the day ever comes that Vancouver needs him again, I have no doubt he’ll be there to answer the call. I know because I’ll be right behind him.

You know why?

Because I’m  Jake Dunlop…I’m a fucking reporter, bitch.

 

THE END

 

 

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