|A Sudden Realization
By John Edward Gordon
I could start this about the time when she came into the office, wearing her fedora, fooling me for an instant into thinking that she was a man. I
could also mention, on noticing her blouse undone to the third button, being aware that she wasn't a man at all but very much a woman and a full
bodied voluptuous woman at that, barely held together by a sexual tension that oozed from her every pore. I could begin there, but I won’t.
I’ll start when, suckered in by her magnetism I went to the address that she had written down on a tattered business card she had thrown on my
desk. On the good side was her information, on the other a barely legible address of some dive in the lower east end.
She didn’t offer much information and I didn’t ask for much seeing as she had accompanied the card with $250 cash which I needed as badly as I
needed a drink and a smoke, with the cash quickly afforded me. She had done her research, this one, knew my caving point without any negotiation
or other bullshit, and offering just the briefest of explanations.
“I think my boyfriend’s been sleeping with this bitch, “was all she said in her lusty voice and that was enough for me. Even if I had to break in, it
was something I was good at and was reasonably confident that I wouldn’t be caught.
Before I could question her too extensively, she had risen and was headed to the door.
I started to ask her some more information, but, as she got to the door and forced me to take my attention off her beautiful ass crying out to be
vaporized in a quick assault of mad passion, she turned and put her fingers to her lips so as to shut me up.
“Just check it out Mr. Shephard and let me know, “ and quickly shut the door behind her as she left.
I guess I had all that I needed, a contact number, some cash and at least something to do that day which hadn’t been the case in some time.
I turned and put my feet on the window ledge, staring out onto what looked like another record breaking hot day in Toronto , watching the
pollution and dust form into another glorious and most poisonous day.
I left the office at around 10 am, grabbing the money on the table and stuffing it into my pocket. I had a few subway tokens floating around down
there, which were always hard to find as they were so small that they tended to get lost amongst the loose change.
I took the 501 Carleton Car out to the closest intersection near the address and decided to walk as I enjoyed the heat, feeling that it would dissolve
all the tension that had accumulated in a rather long and meaningless life and fuse it in a state of bliss that I had read about that the yogi’s achieved
when reaching nirvana.
It hadn’t happened yet, but once when I was really drunk I had come close and if I hadn’t been arrested for collapsing drunk into the fountain on
University Avenue, felt surely that I would have been freed from the bounds of karma that imprisoned me so precisely these days that at times I
had difficulty breathing.
It was a typical hot summer Tuesday in Toronto , a little quieter than usual seeing as this recession had bitten deeper than most expected and was
one of the reasons that I had taken this assignment so readily. A few alarm bells had gone off when she threw down the 5 crisp $50 bills on my
desk, fanned out like a poker hand as if she had had them all prepared (I learned later that she had). But she needn’t of done much to con me as at
that point I would have conned myself as desperate as I was for the money.
I ducked into a Korean variety store and bought a pack of smokes, after waiting for the guy to thoroughly check out the fifty that she had given
me. He handed me the change and the smokes and as I left, the brass bell on the door clanging behind me, felt a certain comfort that at least the
money she had given me wasn’t phony.
I found the place readily enough, a old warehouse building that had been converted into “artist’s lofts” and quickly surveyed it for security devices
and concealed cameras and satisfied myself that there weren’t any. I entered the front door and went up to the third floor as the address said apt
302 and looked down the long hall covered in plaster dust but not enough to cover the finished pine floors beneath.
There were some foot prints on the floor but not enough to suggest a great deal of traffic. I knocked on 302 and waited. The door had moved
slightly suggesting that not only was it not locked, it was open so I waited a sufficient amount of time before entering.
I was in breaking and entering territory here, but I really didn’t care much as I could always manage to talk myself out a tight situation and knew
just enough of police holds and moves (having been one many years previously) to extricate myself from most tight situations. There were a few
times that I had failed and I had the scars on my face to prove it.
I wanted to get this thing over with so I could keep her money in good conscience and then get on with the rest of my life, whatever that may be.
I walked into the main part of the studio and was immediately struck by the vibrancy of the artwork that was scattered throughout the studio. I
didn’t know much about art but this work definitely demanded your attention for better or worse and I would have spent more time on it had I
had not been an uninvited guest.
I could hear a faint whirring sound coming from a half open door on a wall opposite the arched factory windows that were just beginning to
forego the morning light as the shadows of the neighbouring trees and buildings started to fill the studio space. My guess was this guy was an
early bird if he needed the natural light to paint as it seemed to fade around late morning.
It was an observation made through experience and countless investigations when you start to remember that all details, no matter how
unapparent they may be at the time, seem to have some significance at later time. And although I was barely able to motivate myself from day to
day, it was a habit of old workhorse that would never forget its handlers commands to start, or stop or turn right or left.
As I drew closer to the sound of the fan, I could hear the drip of the water tap as I approached the washroom. Drip, drip, drip as I gently pushed
open the door. Although the fan was turned on, the light was off, so I fumbled around for the other switch that would turn on the light. There
was only the one switch that controlled the fan, so that must have meant that the light was burnt out.
I always carried a flashlight. This I had learned from my cop days and had always carried me in good stead. Instead of those heavy head bashing
metal cop flashlights, I preferred the really light weight LCD’s, small but effective and bright. I had long ago resolved that the use of force would
never replace an intelligent escape plan, no matter how desperate.
I shone the light toward the bathtub and at first found the long lanky arm hanging loosely down the side of the tub. I followed it up to the
shoulder and then to the head resting on it facing to its left and directly at me. I didn’t need to have been a cop for ten years to know that this guy
was dead and following instinct I approached the body to determine the cause.
I was smart enough, in this age of DNA and special Crime Scene Investigators to be very careful around a crime scene but curiosity was driving me
at this point and I couldn’t help myself. And, having my survival at stake and accepting her money, I wanted to make sure that I completed the job
so I could justifiably claim all that she had given me.
I saw no obvious signs of trauma. His deep blue eyes seemed to follow me around the bathroom as I checked each limb for any signs of bruising.
I noticed an empty wine glass dropped from his outstretched hand, lying sideways on the bath carpet, with what looked like a residue of red wine.
Although I was tempted to lift it, I thought better of it. I would leave that to the cops.
I started to back out slowly. The body was still fresh enough not to smell too terribly and was careful to retrace my steps .. I don’t know if it was
because I was getting old and less attentive that when I felt a hand on my shoulder I was taken completely by surprise.
The hand forced me backwards and by the way the person moved me, I was pretty sure it was a cop because of the way that she handled my person.
“Don’t move mother” and I felt the edge of Glock pressed against my neck. Having attended various AA meetings I knew when it became
intelligent to surrender to a higher power and so I went as limp as I could without falling down, awaiting further instructions.
The other body had my right arm twisted up behind my back and was forcing me against the wall. I was yet to identify my attackers.
They forced me against the wall with instructions not to move which I complied with.
“Put both hands up against the wall.” The voice had calmed a bit, realizing that they were now in charge by my willing compliance and the voice
now a little softer to make me realize that I was dealing with a female.
I heard another voice, this one a male voice. “Ok turn around slowly and keep your hands up.”
I complied and was facing two plain clothes cops, a female in her thirties and an older male of my vintage whom I recognized immediately.
“Wholly fuck, Shephard, what are you doing here?”
It was Sergeant Smith or at least had been a sergeant when I was with the force. Looks like he had finally made it to Detective.
I started to relax and put my hands down. “Keep em up”. It was the female officer.
I was hoping Smith would intervene as my arms were beginning to feel the strain but no such luck.
“Look Paul, please frisk me if you must but I’ve got sore shoulders and find this particular stress position exceedingly painful.”
I was looking directly into his deep hazel eyes, and as always tried to gauge his intent, which I never managed to do even after working with him all
those years on the force. He knew about the car crash and the damage it had done to me and I was hoping he would remember my disability.
“Search him Amy.”
She seemed a little nervous so I retreated as much as I could into total passive mode to give her the encouragement she needed. She approached
“Go ahead, he isn’t going to hurt you. He’s basically harmless”.
That was both good news and bad as it meant that she was going to search me so I could relax, but a bit of slap as to my current prowess. Truth
be told, he was probably right, but I didn’t want to be reminded of the fact.
She did a cursory search and pulled out my flashlight and wallet. She thumbed through wallet for my id and pulled out my driver’s license.
“Ted Shephard, 09/08/1951. 33 Roncscevalles…”
“Yea I know, ok you can put your arms down,” which I quickly did.
“You know this guy Detective?”
“A long time ago, on the force.” was all he said.
Amy proceeded over to the bathroom. “Looks like we gotta a body here Paul.”
I refrained from commenting on her brilliant powers of observation.
“So can you explain yourself Ted?”
“Do I have to?”
“Well you’re found at an apartment with a dead body in the bathtub, I would say you do.”
“Just working on an assignment for a client.”
“What’s her name?”
“First of all you know I can’t answer that and that I don’t have to answer that and second, how do you know she’s a woman”
“Because I know you Shephard, you have a soft spot for the femme fatales.”
I let that one pass; there was just too much water under the bridge to let bite at that one.
“I can’t confirm or deny….”
“You’re starting to sound like a fucking politician Ted. See what we have here is you as a material witness to a suspicious death and …”
“I know what you can do to material witnesses. Let’s just say I was doing a very preliminary investigation into the condition of a person who
resides at this apartment for a client and happened upon this situation as much as you have.
Which kind of begs the question, how did you happen upon this situation?”
I could hear Amy clanking around in the bathroom. By the sounds of things, she wasn’t being too delicate in there considering it was a crime scene
and all. Detective Smith sensed it too.
“You better back out Amy, and let the forensic people have their way in there.”
“Yea your right, my first call would be suicide, but then what do I know?”
Paul winked at me and a small sarcastic smile cracked his leaden face.
“Good idea, get out here and help me decide what we’re gonna do with Ted here.”
When she emerged from the bathroom, I realized that she wasn’t half bad looking. She was short and slightly overweight but that’s how I liked
them. I was told that woman still found me attractive but realized that I was reaching that point in aging where it was hard to guest past my
oldness for a lot of younger woman. Anyway, I was mostly too old to care.
“Can I go now?”
I could see Paul was inclined to comply. I saw Amy tighten up as she was about to exercise her cop authority and was hoping that Paul would
exercise his seniority. He knew where I could be reached and although not friends, felt he had a grudging respect for me after all these years.
“I’ll need my flashlight and wallet back, umm Amy.”
“Sergeant Porterfield to you buddy.”
She walked over and handed me my wallet and flashlight back.
“Umm thanks Sergeant. So may I go now?”
“When did you get here.”
“About five minutes before you did.”
She stared directly into my eyes as if she believed somehow her cop eyes and training could detect whether I was telling the truth. Which to me was
complete bullshit because I had worked with enough sociopaths in my life to know there was no such thing as a lie detector, either built-in
accessible through “cop-intuition” or through any kind of silly machine.
“Yea fuck off Ted, we’ll be in touch.”
If I had waited around at the door after I left the room I would have heard Paul explain me to his partner but I couldn’t bear to listen to his
assessment of me and told myself that I really didn’t give a shit anyway.
I reached into my dungy old leather jacket and fished out the business card that she had dropped on my desk along with the cash earlier that
I found out for the first time that her name was Madelaine and that she called herself a Tarot Reader/Symbologist on her card, whatever that was.
I pulled out the cell phone and dialed the number, as a series of squad cars, an ambulance, a hearse and the coroner went flying past me down
Broadview as I turned north toward Carleton.
It went directly into voice mail. I felt her I owed her a face to face even though I had her money, and even after all these years I felt that telling her
someone was dead over the phone was not a kind gesture. The least I could do was make an appointment to see her.
“I have information on your friend, please call me at 416-555-5555” and was about to hang up when I realized that she probably wouldn’t know
who it was so added…” umm this is Ted Shephard, the guy you met with this morning.”
I hoped that was enough to jog her memory. I had noticed throughout my life that I could disappear from people’s minds with remarkable ease,
like waves that disappear in a freshly disturbed pond, leaving behind absolutely no impression of a previous disturbance. It could be a blessing and
It wasn’t long before the phone rang. It was Madelaine. I noticed that her place wasn’t far away so I offered to meet her there in 30 minutes. She
was amenable. The fact that she didn’t immediately press me for details made me assume that somehow she already had known the outcome.
Her office was up on the Danforth, and even though it was pretty close to 40 degrees Celsius in the sun, I kept my black leather jacket on and I
walked up the gentle slope to her office.
The air had become increasingly cluttered with particulates of carbon and dust and other vile elements of a increasingly polluted and poisonous
world and as I approached her office I found myself fully considering whether this atmospheric changeover was indeed a serious attempt by aliens
to change our biosphere to accommodate their requirements for living and specifically the Borg from Star Trek fame as they seemed to like methane
I noticed the number on the corner was 501 and her address was 699 so I wondered along the shady side of the street looking in at the shops as I
approached her premises.
Her number was hidden beneath a layer of white paint which made it hard to see. The windows were all covered by old and yellowed lace curtains
reflecting the tastes of a person of a much older age than I recalled her this morning.
As it looked like a store front I didn’t bother to knock upon entereing.
It took a second or two for my eyes to become adjusted to the light. I saw her back as she was sitting on the back of her legs, her firm ass facing me
resting on her shapely legs.
She did not budge when I entered seemingly to be in a trance or some such state but I could see that she had a cell-phone pressed to her ear. I
waited for her to acknowledge my presence as she would have surely heard the bell jingling as I entered the premises.
She snapped the phone shut and turned and faced me, still sitting on her legs, pivoting on one hand.
“So ahh, “ she glanced down at the card I had handed her earlier off my desk…..
“Mr. Shephard.. that was quick.”
“You can call me Ted…”
“Well I found someone at that address, but the unfortunate thing was that the person appeared to be deceased.”
I watched her carefully to see if there was any reaction to the news. They’re appeared to be none.
I waited for her to question me further.
She was either stunned into silence or really had nothing else to say. I shuffled uncomfortably. She appeared deep in thought.
I was about to turn and make a graceful exit when she suddenly turned her full attention on me and almost ordered me to sit down in an old
stuffed chair in the corner. I was upset that I hadn’t been able to leave before her orders.
I noticed the grey cat sitting on the chair just as I was about to release my weight and manage to swhoosh it out of the way.
The cat disappeared into the room through a door that was behind Madelaine.
I awaited her response.
“How did you find him?”
“Passed away Madelaine, at the address you had given me.”
“Was he alone?”
“There was no one there and there was no evidence of any one being there.”
“How did he look?”
That was a tough question not to answer with one word, namely “dead” but I tried to elaborate as best I could.
“Well, it looked like he had committed suicide and from a quick look, it appeared like he had taken some drugs to accomplish the task. There were
no marks on him that would have suggested violence or any other kind of suspicious death…”
I watched her intently for any kind of response. Her look to me seemed purely quizzical.
I was hoping that would end it and I could quickly retreat and therefore retain her full payment in my pocket. I couldn’t afford to give her any
As if she had read my mind, she responded quickly, “Don’t worry about the money Ted. I’m sorry, it just doesn’t make much sense to me him
having committed suicide like that.”
“Like gone into the bath and drank whatever he had drunk.”
I knew I hadn’t mentioned anything about the bath. Again as if she could read my mind….
“No I knew it would be in the bath, because he always told me that’s how he would commit suicide if here were going to do that,….”
“Well that is a bit of a contradiction Madelaine, you knowing that he would do it in the bath but saying he wouldn’t never have done that.”
“I know, you’re right, it’s just at this particular part of his life, I don’t think he would have done it now, he seemed so happy.”
“Well, as I was leaving the cops showed up so they’re now undertaking their investigation. I know one of the officers who showed up. I could
follow up if you like.”
“Would you Ted”? I found it hard to resist the pleading in her voice, also I stilled owed her a full day’s work.
“The ad said $250 a day so will that be enough?”
I started to like what I was hearing. It sounded like she had more money where that came from and I might be able to draw this job out a few
more days. I really did need the money.
“If it only takes me a day. Sometimes dealing with the cops can take some time.” I eagerly awaited her response.
“Sure well let me know, if it’s longer I can pay you.” That was music to my ears.
“Ok Madelaine, I’ll let you know when I know.”
I left quickly. The atmosphere in there suddenly seemed more oppressive than the atmosphere outside.
I don’t know whether she induced a trance-like state or not but walking out her front door seemed to jolt me into another reality.
The noise of the traffic and the honking horns were a welcome change from the whited sepulcher that was her office, although when I was in there
it didn’t seem like that at the time.
The refined art of the true sorceress I thought to myself as I left her premises.
I carried on past the shops from whence I had come. I was going to pass the local police station so I thought I would drop in on Paul, to find out
the rest of the story and earn the rest of my money.
I asked for him at the main desk. “Paul Smith please.”
The desk sergeant looked at me as if I was from another planet.
I was about to restate my request when I saw his mouth move.
“Detective Smith, you must be kidding”.
“No as a matter of fact not really.” I was trying not to sound too aggressive.
“I don’t know who you are pal, but Detective Smith hasn’t worked here in five years. He retired and moved to Costa Rica last I heard. Not even
sure if he’s still around.”
“Hey Ralph,” The Sergeant looked up from behind his desk. I heard a faint “Yea Jim”…
“Do you know where Paul Smith is?” The man he was speaking to suddenly appeared from around the corner. I recognized him immediately.
It was Ralph Hurtz. Unfortunately he recognized me also.
He was ½ way through who wants to know when he saw me.
“Well, well, well, if it isn’t little Teddie Sheppard” I constrained myself, drawing in a deep breath.
“I figured you would have heard….” Having never read the papers or anything that the police association sent me ever, (don’t even think I was still
on the mailing list anymore) I hadn’t heard whatever there was to hear.
“I guess I can tell you, he died of a heart attack last month, buried down there in Costa Rica . He was living with a Nicaugran women and had
several kids. Left his wife up here with nothing. Kind of pulled a stunt like you pulled Ted..”
Beneath the shock of all this, I was still having to restrain myself for not punching this guy in the face. I never liked Ralph much and at a time like
this I knew exactly why.
“What about Amy Porterfield?”
“What about Amy Porterfield?”
“Is she in?” I was doing the best to contain my shock. But I thought to myself if I could at least see her, there might be some explanation as to
what went on earlier this day.
“She’s off until tomorrow, Teddie. What’s all this about?”
I didn’t know whether to continue or not. I thought that I better leave this alone for now. My first thought was to return to place of the alleged
crime earlier that morning.
“Should I tell her you called?” I just raised my hand in acknowledgement that I had heard him. I really couldn’t speak at that point.
I headed back to Grant Street to view the “crime scene” that I had seen earlier. I reached into my pocket and the 4 crisp new $50 bills were still there
and I remembered I had spent one on cigarettes on the way here, which I also still had. The change was still there. I lit one and carried on through
the smog filled heat.
I entered the building at 109 Grant street and proceeded to the third floor as I had done earlier that day. The door was slightly ajar. I could hear
someone moving inside so I knocked softly.
A man answered, a man that had been in the tub earlier, the dead guy. All I could do was stare at him. He sensed my surprise but very politely
asked me in. I couldn’t resist. I followed him into his studio and sat down on the ottoman on the far side of the large room, with the cathedral
windows to my right and the bathroom to the left.
“Have you come to look at my art?”
“Sure” I had to say something. He started to place various paintings against the wall for my perusal. They wasn’t anything spectacular about them
just a general sense of grandiosity seemed to fill the room.
“Are you interested in buying any?”
To be honest, I wasn’t sure. I said as much. He didn’t seem at all offended. And then for no particular reason as far as I could determine he asked
me if Madelaine had sent me.
I was beyond trying to conceal anything at this moment. I was just desperate for the truth, whatever it may have been at this particular instance in
time and space.
I must have nodded because he sat down and lit a cigarette.
“Yes she seems to be overly concerned about me recently. I really don’t know why. Let’s you and I go for a beer.”
“Might as well” I didn’t know if I had thought this or spoke it but it didn’t seem to matter. The next thing I knew we were both headed out to
the street and I was following him to his favourite pub.
We entered into the downstairs pub and I followed him to what appeared to be his table. Everyone seemed to know him. He brought back a beer
for himself and me a coke. I guess he knew about my drinking thing.
After a minute he turned and faced me and in an instant with his statement, although it didn’t answer any of questions, seemed to answer them all.
“If it were that easy Ted, we would all know the answers and this world we call existence we be over in a heartbeat”.
And to this day, even though I don’t have a clue as to what he may have meant I have ceased to inquire but rather live my life moment to moment,
trying not to formulate questions so as not worry about any stupid answers.