Everything is just so loud—in my mind.
Someone has been taking children.
Police say he’s fat, ugly, and a loner. Typical.
Four children, so far. Two boys, two girls. All from Montreal West.
Maybe it’s the Persian guy with the baggy, black clothes who collects cans from the recycling bins.
But the culprit likely has a vehicle.
Or maybe it’s the old man on Fenwick who smokes two cigarettes on his front porch every night.
He’s married, though.
Or the chubby slob with Tourette’s on Ainslie Road who threatens everyone and scares all the students at Royal West.
As I take my nightly walk, I inspect all the people and houses. I know this neighborhood as well as anyone. Maybe I’ll spot him.
It has to be a him. A woman wouldn’t do this to a child, I don’t think.
It must be a man. Someone who grew up near here—who knows the Montreal West as well as I do. It’s too risky, otherwise.
If I had this man’s sickness, there’s no way I would strike in the same neighborhood multiple times. So, why would he? Unless he had to. Is he incapacitated in some way? Trapped?
No, this man is able-bodied. He’d have to be.
Who could wander through the streets unseen? A mailman? A policeman? In disguise? It needs to be someone with regular access to his targets. A teacher?
No, something more like what I do: a caterer—to schools. Someone nameless, but trusted by the victim. Maybe even liked.
He could slip in and out over months. Years. Observe. Get to know the routines of schools, locations of surveillance cameras, bus routes and stops, which pupils walk—in groups, or alone.
In a windowless van, operating on a fixed schedule—never varying. Solid alibi.
He’d know them by name. Pick them up with a, “Hey, Joel!” or a, “Hey, Charlotte! You want to be the first one to get a cookie? Hop in, I’ll give you a lift up to the school. You’ll have to sit in the back, it’s a bit messy up front. Don’t worry about a seatbelt, we’re not going far. You like music?”
Then a stop. A slight struggle in the back. An injection. Eva or Liam never shows up.
Meanwhile, the caterer arrives at the school and delivers the hot meals and warm cookies. Later, he’ll take care of what’s left in the van.
If he’s killing them, what about the bodies?
It’s bold. It’ll be a long time before he’s caught.
Who are the other caterers? There’s Edu-Express, Le Chat Botté. I’ve only ever worked for Chez Barbeleu.
I’ll let the police know about my suspicions.
Who am I kidding? It’s probably all wrong. They already know much more than what they’re sharing with the public. I’m just some amateur sleuth who spent years his room reading Conan Doyle and Chesterton—Moriarty and Flambeau. They have teams of detectives, full departments of forensics and investigators. They’re calling him L’Ogre de L’Ouest.
I have never enjoyed weekends. Fridays are the most painful. Partly because I know the whole world is going out and having fun.
When my parents divorced—over thirty years ago—Friday became my dad’s pick-up day. It used to be the day when the three of us ordered Pendeli’s pizza. He’d pick me up at Willowdale Elementary and we’d go home. Mom would be gone for the weekend—somewhere up north, Dad said. On Friday night, Dad would drink beer and let me watch The Dukes of Hazzard. Then he’d put me to bed. Sometimes I didn’t want to go to bed, and he’d hit me. One morning I woke up with some blood on my pillow. I washed it myself, so Mom wouldn’t get angry. Saturday I’d play inside or in the backyard for a while, then we’d go to McDonald’s. I always had the same thing: two Big Macs, large fries, large chocolate milkshake, and two cherry pies. Still do. Saturday night, Dad watched Hockey Night in Canada and drank more beer. He tried to get me into hockey, but I never liked sports. I made sure to stay quiet in my room when the Canadians lost. Sometimes he came in anyway.
On Sunday, Mom would come home after Dad left for his apartment. He never let me stay at his apartment because he said there was no room. Mom would get driven up in a black Camaro by a man with a moustache. Dad had a moustache too. I remember when Mom and Dad used to kiss under the plastic mistletoe in our basement—for a second, she would look like she had a moustache too. It was funny. We stopped using our basement as a family room after Dad left, and Mom started drinking almost every night. She’d pass out watching British TV in the kitchen. She never bothered going to the doctor to get her cancer checked until it was too late. She died at St. Mary’s.
I inherited the house. 2 Wildfern Street. It’s hidden by trees, right on the edge of where the commuter train tracks meet the escarpment. Both our front and backyard are overrun with weeds and wildflowers. Our driveway is made of dirt because Mom had the whole concrete one dug up and never paid to repave it. After a while, even the mailman stopped coming.
On my nightly walks, I most often take the bike path that skirts the train tracks. Then there’s a dirt footpath that cuts through the playground and the abandoned baseball field to the back of Loyola High. I walk there, then make my way back along the train tracks. There’s a hole in the rusted fence at the bottom of the escarpment. Through there, I can walk up to the east side of my house—a mini park where they recently built another play area for kids. Sometimes teenagers drink in there at night. My walk takes me about an hour. I can extend it by taking any of the side streets around Royal West, but I try and avoid high traffic streets like Westminster. Our neighborhood is busy, but it quiets down the closer I get to the house.
At the end of Wildfern, right beside us, there’s a steep dirt path that locals call Devil’s Hill. It tumbles down to overgrown fields behind the Ville Saint Pierre industrial park. Kids ride down there on their bikes, but I was always to scared to try—even after Dad called me fat chicken.
But I know of a path that winds from the top of the escarpment right down to a grove of tangled sumac trees and bulrush. It’s beside a stagnant pond with frogs in the springtime and soft earth all around. The only way to get there is through the gate in my backyard. No one goes there except for me.
And everything is just so quiet.
Adam Kelly Morton is a Montreal-based husband, father, acting teacher and writer. He has been published in Open Pen, Talking Soup, Danforth Review, and Urban Graffiti, among others. He has an upcoming piece in A Wild and Precious Life, an addiction anthology to be published this year in London, UK. His website is here.