PART I CHAPTER 1
Late June, Friday 08:45 Calgary, Alberta, Canada
A wastrel like Garrod Shaw wasn’t difficult to shadow since his release from jail—not for a man such as Willard Mahoney, that is. Willard had spent years drifting from street to street and town to town, living amongst the most vile, contemptible, and directionless group of bottom-feeder drug users the human population had spawned. Living invisible inside the seedier segments of our society was how he earned his living, and Garrod Shaw was just one more wretched miscreant he was hired to track down.
The stubble on Willard’s face was spotted with dirt and grime and his shoulder-length hair was greasy and sat in clumps that poked up in odd angles. He sat up, unable to sleep any longer in the sweltering heat of the tiny, second-story bedroom. He tried unsuccessfully to flatten his hair with one hand as he looked across the dingy room. A thin crack of light broke in around the edges of the tin foil that was fastened to the small window with dried up and yellowing Scotch tape. The sun had risen a while ago. A raw, pungent smell of sweat and urine stung his nostrils.
A mattress lay on the floor. His companion from last night lay sprawled out, naked, with one arm hanging limply over the side and stretched out across the soiled carpet. Next to her hand sat an overfilled ashtray, two empty beer bottles, and her bra.
She looked dead.
It wouldn’t be the first time he had woken up next to someone who had overdosed.
Her face was turned down into her ragged pillow and her scrawny limbs and buttocks stared up at him. He liked his partners scrawny, small, and lean like him; he liked to feel bone beneath skin as he thrust his hips and pounded away. He contemplated rolling her over for one more go.
What the hell was her name? Betty…Becky…? He shook his head and blamed his inability to recall her name on letting himself slide much too far last night.
Beneath the window, his blue jeans and underwear lay in a small clump. It had been four days since he last had a change of clothes or a shower.
He dressed slowly. There was never any hurry in the world in which he chose to earn his living. Each day began with no future and ended with no past. A different street, a strange roof, ever-changing faces: these were the only always certain things. It was a place where all roads for those who lived down here spiralled inwards to wherever the next fix was eventually found.
His thoughts ruminated on last night’s gathering—cocaine, meth, crack, heroin, weed, and an endless array of prescription drugs. Willard always steered himself towards the weed if he could, avoiding the harder, more addictive drugs that rolled in and out the door like fast food at a drive-through window.
But last night was the exception. It was necessary to release the shackles and allow himself to slide nearly out of control. Garrod Shaw arrived, as expected, at this little shit-hole of a house and the deadline his employers gave him for Shaw was approaching.
Shaw had frequented this same drug portal in Calgary’s Ogden neighbourhood since he was released from custody a number of weeks ago. Willard was on his tail the moment he placed his first foot back into the free world. He was certain there was nothing left by now but lint lining the bottom of Shaw’s pockets.
The white lady was the reason Garrod Shaw showed up at the Ogden house and the reason he always returned. It was the only drug he found that offered instant escape from the sobering real world—the one drug that would never let go.
The whispers down on the street surrounding Garrod Shaw’s presence at the drug house started immediately. And one by one, the bottom feeders crawled out for their own look-see at the man who had done the most horrible and unthinkable act imaginable.
The resident master of the shit-hole didn’t care what crime Garrod Shaw may or may not have committed, but he also couldn’t help but smile each time one of his less frequent customers arrived for a viewing. The price of admission was always a purchase.
Garrod Shaw had almost become legendary with the way he thumbed his nose at law enforcement and cackled in front of the press upon his release.
“You ain’t ever can touch me!” he had said with a huge grin. His heavy jowls jiggled as he broke into a laugh. “Yup…” he said while placing his hands together as if choking an imaginary person. He shook them violently up towards the cameras. “…I killed all three of them little bastards.” He laughed again proudly. “I did. I just said it now and there ain’t a damn thing any of you is gonna do about it.” He cackled. “I’m a free man. You heard the courts, I’m free and you ain’t ever can touch me—ever.”
The tragedy at the small lakeside house came as no surprise to those who knew Garrod Shaw in his teens. Most steered clear; touched was the word most used to describe him.
Infamy did have its benefits—but only in all the wrong places. And the wrong place is exactly where Garrod Shaw was headed.
Willard had been leaning up against the chipped and dirty porcelain sink in the kitchen with his hands tucked deep into his pockets when Shaw ambled in. There was no mistaking the desperation in his shifting, jittery eyes as he scanned the faces of those already inside—seeking out that certain someone who might be open to sharing a fix. The house was crowded. Smoke swirled about and the Stones sang about a girl named Ruby in the background.
It only took a slight nod from Willard across the room as their eyes touched, accompanied by a faint squint with a half-smile, and Shaw was soon smiling and twitching anxiously a few feet in front of him.
Willard motioned down with his eyes as he pulled one hand up a few inches out of his pocket.
Shaw looked down and his eyes brightened.
“You want?” Willard asked and tilted his head towards the short hall that led to the two tiny back bedrooms.
Shaw’s eyes were still staring down at the small dime-sized plastic bag containing the white lady that was sandwiched between Willard’s slender fingers.
“Yeah.” He grinned wildly.