Chapter Twenty Eight
The metal fire-escape shivers with every little disturbance in the neighbourhood. Screwed into the cinder block wall, the iron frame acts like a signal antennae to catch vibrations. My body, crouched on the top shelf becomes a pretty good receiver. I can hear and feel the TTC streetcars pass on Eglinton and I feel every compaction the garbage truck makes on Dunholme. I can feel it when the restaurant workers close their walk-in refrigerator downstairs, and I feel it when the third floor tenants return home, four hours later.
The sun is low in the sky and the air finally cooling off. Creak... Cachunk. I hear and feel the apartment door open and close as people enter the room on the other side of the window.
“Gramma dere’s a lady on da firescape,” a six-year old black girl in a pink dress stares at me through the glass. “Gramma she’s bleedin.”
“Step away child.” A grey-haired black lady ambles forward and studies me in the dim light. She cracks open the steel frame window frame. “Who are you girl?”
Before I can answer, a thirty something year old black man enters the living room. I can tell immediately that he’s the old woman’s son and the girl’s father. This is a multi-generation household.
“Clara. Turn-off the lights in the kitchen sweetheart,” the man switches-off the overhead fixture. There can only be one explanation; he knows the Shower Posse controls these parts and he doesn’t want any trouble. He knows others can see in the windows and he doesn’t want any witnesses to his mother’s kindness. “We just stayed out for the night.” I hear him tell his mom. “We went for that long walk afterwards okay.” He programs her to keep her safe and he makes it clear she can’t tell anyone about this. I sense all this even before I speak a word to either them.
I rise-up and try to introduce myself but only gasp; my throat is too dry and my whole body seems to have rigor-mortised into the crouched position.
“You need help.” The old woman states. It’s not a question. She pushes her son aside and opens the window door.
“I’m... Thirsty as anything.” I tell them, but they both appear more concerned with the cuts, bruises and blood on my face. They help me inside and support me as I limp towards a little bench which they must set outside on nice weather days. I watch the six year old black child use a similar footstool in the kitchen to open a cupboard and fetch a drinking glass. She moves the stool over to the sink and fills the glass with tap-water, and then to my great relief she brings it to me.
Grandma meanwhile pulls down a medical bag which signals she’s an army reservist or was herself raised in war zone. The middle-aged dad stares at me like he wants answers, but doesn’t know what questions to ask. He lets his child deliver my water and then calls her away to safety.
“What’s your name?” He clutches the child to his breast and studies me from the sofa
“What happened to you gyul?” The old woman asks.
I shrug. Where to begin?
“You at da Rum and Cola?” The young girl's father asks. Now I know he’s tapped into the gangland scene. I frown. Bad luck.
I nod yes.
“Ambulance was dere today. Some par of da roof collapse dey say.” The middle-aged man probes me for details.
“I wouldn’t know...”
“Don’t worry child.” The army nurse waits till I drink some more water before she tends to my wounds. She unbuttons my shirt. “Chantwell is no friend of ours. We’re God-fearing Christians and Iken spot da Devil.” The old woman probes my side and continues unbuttoning my blouse. “All hes fancee jewelerrey dun give it away an ee’s honeywors...”
“Respect.” The man interrupts his mom.
I stand-up and she removes my top entirely. The garment is dirty and soaked in blood and sweat. She holds it out toward her granddaughter. “Clara go wash dis in the tub like you do you bathing suit sweetie.” She hands the young child my shirt and I watch her run toward the bathroom at the end of the hall. The lady rummages through her medical bag to retrieve a can of alcohol wipes. Oh no. This is going to hurt.
“Saul. Heat up the pasta we had for lunch.” The kind old woman cleans my wounds and doesn’t even ask if I’m hungry before she provides food. Clara’s dad, who answers to the name Saul, visits the kitchen and microwaves a plate. After five minutes he brings forth a bowl of cheese penne with ham and sets it a card table beside me with a spoon and a napkin. The little girl giggles as I wolf it down.
“If de showermen be huntin ya den... Ja cannya stay ’ere.” Saul clutches his daughter again from the sofa, “I’m sorry.” He apologizes to his mother not me. She frowns with disappointment at him.
“Child. Do you want us to call the police?”
“Ma,” Saul gives her a strained look which tells me that’s not an option he’d ever allow. It’s also the last thing I want. Instead I gather their eyes and point back to the fire escape.
“I like it out there.” I tell them and that’s not a lie. “But can you lend me a blanket?”
Saturday Morning - August 1st - Emancipation Day.
Birds chirp just before dawn. I lay atop the metal fire escape and listen. I can feel the city begin to wake under my body. It’s 5:00 am judging by the glow in the east, an hour to sunrise.
How do I get myself out of this jam?
There is only one good answer; I need to secure proof of Cochutemete’s crimes. Tis da only way wit cruked cops. I need to pick-up where Chantwell failed. I need to get the proof he couldn’t secure; I need video evidence of the Quebec commander accepting bribes, consorting with bikers or known gang members, or murdering my friend.
It’s time to smarten-up. I can hear Blue’s voice telling me to carry on, and solve this mystery. I need to find the evidence that will exonerate me and incriminate a police commander. I’ve very likely seen all the clues already. What am I missing? It’s all probably right here in my head. I just have to calm down and think things through.
I replay the hour before Paul disappeared. We parked the SUV, and the dog peed in the flowers. Blue said he was hungry and he ordered a sausage from that shady hotdog vendor in the park. The cell service went dry and he said, ”das wha happens.”
But why? The cells signals all dried up for me on Tuesday night too; when I’d tried to use Live Producer, I couldn’t connect. Could it be a signal jammer? Why? The cops or maybe the criminal gangs must deploy a phone jammer to interfere with radio communications just before their meetings. That’s a violation of federal law. Where would such a rig be found? Are they handheld? Or maybe in that house? Or in the van? What would such a thing look like? I can’t do any research online now.
How did Da Pooch get away from Paul? Why did the animal run back to me and not stay by his side? He must have already been taken, but yet I heard the commotion on Kerson Lane when I stood and listened on Drummond. The dog pursued like he knew Blue was inside the van.
Mr. Rabethgie surprised me. He entered the park behind me as I recall. He must have come through the walkway from Yonge St. He was probably just returning home from somewhere when he spotted me and tried to detain me. ”I have cameras too," he said, “...I saw you creeping around. You filmed me enter. That’s how you knew.′ The look on his face haunts me still and I shudder when I recall the desperation in his eyes.
I have cameras too, he said. Of course he does. But what else could they have recorded? I wrestled him in the park when Blue met his attackers. Does Mr. Rabethgie have security cameras in the rear alley? Did they capture that? I have to speak to that Asian jeweler, but he’s not going to want to talk to me.
Regardless, that’s where I need to start. I have to make him show me what his camera’s recorded Thursday evening.
Why not just go to that Public Relations cop, Cpt. Mark Berlette? Why not just go and beg for the mercy of The Courts? Because anyone who puts blind faith in the justice system is a fool. I have to make it work.
I can’t win here until I get hard proof that Commander Cochutemete is a dirty cop.
In order to get justice, I must find the truth.