Authors: Brent Pilkey
in pursuing your dream,
you inspired me to reach for my own
In the spring of 2004, the officers and civilian staff of 51 Division said good-bye to 30 Regent Street and moved to their new home at 51 Parliament Street.
All would agree, the original station was too small, too run down and simply too old to carry on. The new station was better in every way. But ask any officer who worked out of Regent Street and they'll tell you, the old station was the heart and soul of the division. The old lady will be greatly missed.
takes place several years before the closing of the real 51.
When you stare for a long time into an abyss,
the abyss stares back into you.
â Friedrich Nietzsche
“5106, in 9's area. See the complainant at the corner of George and Britain. He believes he's found a body in a dumpster.”
The cop driving the scout car chuckled. “A body in a dumpster. How clichÃ©d.”
“Interesting, at least,” the cop in the passenger seat replied. “You think it'll tie us up for the rest of the night?”
Paul Townsend grinned at his passenger, white teeth flashing in an ebony-black face. “I keep forgetting you're still kind of new to this, Jacky-boy. If it's a homicide, we'll be lucky to be out of here on time this morning.”
Jack Warren, recently of 32 Division, frowned self-consciously, embarrassed he had asked such a rookie question. “Well, you don't get a lot of calls involving dead bodies up in 32.”
Paul snorted. “If it's dead bodies you want, you've come to the right place. Stay in 51 long enough and you'll soon lose count of how many you see.” Paul Townsend had been in 51 for three years now and some of the stories he had told Jack over the past week were hard to believe.
Jack nodded noncommittally and turned his attention to the life on the downtown sidewalks passing by the police car. Almost midnight on a Sunday night and the streets were still busy as if it was six hours earlier. But it was a different busy from what he was used to. Six years as a Toronto police officer and he had just discovered in the past week how little he knew about being a cop.
He was used to university students and young professionals out for a night of partying, young guys full of too much testosterone cruising the asphalt in their street racers, simple trouble looking for a place to happen. Oh, sure, 32 Division had its problem spots, notably the Jungle, a sprawling government housing complex in the city's north end, but nothing compared to this.
51 Division was another world entirely from the North York communities Jack had patrolled for six years. Drugs and violence, that's what his old staff sergeant had warned him he would find downtown. Nothing but drugs and violence. The old guy had been right; drugs and violence pretty much summed up the small division.
And Jack loved it.
They cruised by the large Salvation Army hostel â or the Sally Ann, as Jack had learned to call it â and Paul automatically slowed down to scan the faces by the front steps. Jack kept his attention focused on his side of the street, watching the people in front of the Moss Park community centre. That was the first new skill he had had to develop upon coming to 51. Jack had moved from an area that had little street-level crime; he had to learn how to scan a crowd for the people who casually turned their faces away, for hands sliding into pockets or behind backs.
Watch the hands,
Paul had told him the first night they had worked together, the night Jack had learned how little he knew.
Watch for the exchange of drugs or money. Watch for the ones trying to hide. Look for the ones getting ready to run, waiting to see if you slow down. Watch, watch, watch.
“Streets are busy tonight,” Jack said without taking his eyes from them.
“Always are on a summer night. Busy, busy, busy.”
Jack grinned and slowly shook his head in mild disbelief. “What a difference,” he whispered out the open window.
“What's that, Jacky-boy?”
“Nothing, really. Just thinking how different it is down here. I mean, if this call had come across in 32, we'd be flying there, lights and sirens, and just about everybody would be jumping on the call.”
“Just another dead body, man. Nothing special.”
Sure ain't in Kansas anymore,
Jack thought. Paul had three years less on the job than Jack, making Jack the senior man in the car. Technically, at least. But three years in 51 were a whole lot different from double that in 32.
Just another dead body.
“That must be our man,” Paul announced.
Jack snapped out of his reverie.
Paul had turned the car onto George, a small street running south off Queen. Jack saw a mixture of old buildings and converted warehouses. A man in a business suit was frantically waving at them from the end of Britain Street where it T-intersected with George. Paul pulled up short of the man to let Jack get out.
If you don't know what's going on, don't let anyone walk up to the car window,
Paul had instructed him.
Fewer nasty surprises that way.
Jack rolled up his window, catching a faint image of himself in the glass. Dark brown hair, cut regulation short, and a clean-shaven, unremarkable face that looked its twenty-eight years. He had been told he looked like a cop, but he always figured it was the uniform people responded to, not the person wearing it. The uniform represented different things to different people and right now Jack was betting it meant safety to one hell of a nervous guy.
“Oh, thank God, you're here. It's over there,” the man said, gesturing down Britain Street. With his other hand, he clutched a cell phone the way a drowning man would hold on to a life preserver.
Jack stopped out of arm's reach and casually rested his forearms on his gun butt and double magazine pouches. A nice, relaxed stance that just happened to keep his hands in front and his gun side turned away from whomever he was speaking with. The interview stance, they called it in the college, but Jack thought of it as the 51 stance. He couldn't remember ever seeing anyone, including himself, use it in 32.
Just another dead body.
“What's over there, sir?” Jack asked as he studied the complainant. Mid-thirties, what was left of his hair dishevelled as if he'd been running his hands through it and a business suit as dishevelled as his hair.
“The body. In the dumpster.” The man in the suit pointed down the street again then turned to face Jack. Big, frightened eyes.
“Why were you looking in a dumpster?” Paul asked as he joined them on the sidewalk, standing a short distance from Jack.
Never stand next to each other,
Paul had instructed.
Never present a single target unless you know who you are talking to.
The man turned to Paul and took an involuntary step backward. “Calm down, sir. We're here to help.” Standing six-five with a bodybuilder's mass and a complexion he liked to call “midnight black,” Paul was accustomed to making people nervous. Hell, even Jack, at five-ten and just fifteen pounds shy of two hundred from hitting the gym regularly, had been nervous the first time they met.
“Sir? Why were you in the dumpster?” Jack asked, drawing the man's attention.
“Oh, uh, I'm an architect and I was looking for some cardboard tubes to take some drawings home to work on. That's when I found them.” He shivered.
On a hot summer night, he shivered, and Jack realized the man wasn't scared, he was downright terrified. “Them? I thought you had found one body.”
“No, not a body,” he said, shaking his head emphatically. “At least . . . I don't know. Maybe.”
“Maybe? Sir, I need you to slow down, take a deep breath and tell us what you found in the dumpster.” Jack spoke slowly, using his voice to calm the complainant.
It worked. For a moment. Business Suit took a deep breath, held it, then it all gushed out. “Feet! I found a pair of human feet in the dumpster.”
“Feet,” Paul said, disbelieving. “Are you sure it wasn't an old pair of shoes someone had thrown out?”
The man shook his head so hard Jack was surprised it didn't pop off. “Uh-uh. Feet. Bare human feet. In that dumpster over there.” He turned and pointed again. Not down Britain but into a dark parking lot not a stone's throw away from where they were standing.
“Jack, you want to have him point out the dumpster while I get the car?”
“Sure thing. C'mon, sir. Show me where this dumpster is.”
It was a small parking lot, between Britain and Richmond, the next street south. Despite being downtown, it wasn't paved but hard-packed dirt, but this was 51: a little east of the downtown core and a whole lot east of normal.
The lot's east side ran up against the brick wall of an old building with a single loading dock jutting into the night. There were no lights and the building was heavy with shadows. Jack couldn't see a dumpster but thought there was a darker shadow close to the loading dock.
White light swept across them as Paul pulled the scout car into the lot. He parked beside them, the headlights aimed at the loading dock, and turned on the high beams and roof-mounted takedown lights. The side of the building and part of the lot were bathed in intense light. Steps away from the loading dock, sitting harmlessly in the stark brightness, was the dumpster.
“That's it. I'm going to stay right here, if you don't mind.”
“No problem, sir. Just hang tight.”
Jack and Paul approached the dumpster together. Its lid was open and the remains of cardboard boxes and packaging jutted up like broken teeth from a gaping mouth.
“Just another dead body, right?” Jack said.
“Yup. Or parts of one. Watch where you step,” Paul cautioned. “Don't want to trample any evidence.”
They picked their way over the oil-stained dirt to the metal sides of the dumpster. One at each end, they stepped up onto the lip that ran around the bin midway up its sides. The lights from the scout car scattered sharp shadows across the contents and buried the depths in a deeper blackness. Suddenly, Jack could understand why the complainant â
Damn! I didn't even get his name yet
â was so shaken. The bin was crammed full of old boxes and Jack wasn't exactly thrilled about digging for a body.
Or just feet,
He glanced over to make sure Business Suit was still waiting for them but couldn't see him. A spark of panic jumped up his throat. He could picture the ass kicking a sergeant would give him for letting the complainant go without getting his information and taking a statement.
First to discover a homicide and quite possibly a suspect and I let him go. I'm screwed.
Something moved beside the car and Jack saw the man's dim form beyond the lights. He blew out a relieved sigh. “Just stay put, sir,” he called. “We'll be back in a minute to speak with you.”
“C'mon, Jacky-boy. Quit stalling.”
“I don't see you digging for the surprise at the bottom,” Jack shot back, a little more sharply than intended.
“True, true,” Paul conceded. “Let's get to it, then.”
Both cops slipped on latex gloves before thumbing on flashlights. Jack played the beam over the garbage at his end. Flattened and broken boxes were mashed together like a lunatic's 3-D puzzle.
“No blood so far,” Paul said.
“Same here. Let's move on to the next level, shall we?”
Jack pulled back the nearest cardboard flap, ducking his head to check under it before pulling it off the pile. Nothing. He shifted the next box and stopped. Dead.
“Paul,” he said softly. “I've got a pair of feet over here.”
He focused his flashlight on them and forced himself to slow down.
Look before you move. Note what you see. For God's sake, don't mess this up.
The feet were bare â as the complainant had said â but the legs, what little Jack could see of them, were wearing jeans. The feet were side by side, toes pointing up and no blood. So maybe there was a body to go with the feet. The skin was dark, but from dirt or skin colour he couldn't tell.
“No blood, no shoes,” he told Paul without looking up.
“Check the lowest point of the foot for discoloration,” Paul instructed from his end of the dumpster.
Jack looked up. “For what?”
“For pooling blood,” Paul explained. “When a body's been dead for a while, the blood settles to the lowest points and the skin looks purple.”
“Right. I knew that.” He did too. He was just a little too freaked out to remember it. “No, no discoloration, I think. It's hard to tell; the skin is too dark or dirty. Hang on a sec, Paul.” Jack turned off his flashlight, jumped down from the dumpster and pulled out his portable radio. “5106, call radio.”
“5106, go ahead,”
the dispatcher came back.
“Yeah, dispatch. We've definitely got a body here. We're going to need extra units, a road sergeant, and could you notify the CIB, please?”
“10-4, 5106. What's your exact location?”
“Parking lot south side of Britain, just east of George. They'll see our car.”
“10-4, 5106. Units on the way.”
Jack slid the radio into its pouch and climbed back onto the dumpster. He clicked his flashlight on and looked at Paul.
The big cop nodded. “Okay, nice and slow. Let's see what we've got.”
Together, slowly and carefully, they started pulling cardboard away from the feet, trying to get a clear look at the rest of the body. Jack's blood was pounding in his ears. His first homicide, and Jack was first on the scene. The boxes and shadows shifted in the lights, folding in on themselves, never revealing what lay beneath. He was reaching into darkness, groping blindly.
Oh, God, I don't want to put my hand in
â his hand touched something warm.
“Paul, I think I've â”
And then the body sat up.
Jack screamed and leaped backward. His feet hit the dirt, then his butt and then his back slammed into the ground. His breath whooshed out of him and he gasped for air, squirming on the ground like an overturned turtle in its Kevlar shell.
Dimly, he heard shouting through the roaring in his ears. He coughed and gratefully pulled in a lungful of air, then sat up and saw Paul kicking the dumpster for all he was worth.
“Get the fuck out of there! You little mother â” The rest was lost beneath the great clanging as his boot slammed into the metal bin again and again.
Still fighting to breathe properly, Jack dragged himself to his feet as a very scared-looking fellow timidly poked his head out of the bin.