October 2018 / Scarborough, Ontario, Canada
A Will to Kill
By Glen Panama
The construction site was contained by a wire mesh fence. On the outside were large signs advertising the luxury condominiums being built. The signs read 300 DANFORTH – Luxury, Location, and Convenience. Next to the gate a sign, in red lettering, instructed: ALL VISITORS REPORT TO THE SITE OFFICE. Right now the soon to be condo was nothing more than a skeleton of steel girders and prefabricated concrete slabs. Men in canary yellow hard hats were swarming around the frame as were bulldozers and cement trucks. Towering above all the activity was a crane Glen estimated to be at least 80 to 90 metres tall.
For several minutes Glen, who was parked across the street, leaned against his car and scanned the ongoing labour. They’re like ants, thought Glen as he got back into his vehicle and retrieved his iPhone. He dialed Don.
“It’s Glen again, sorry to keep bothering you. Before I talk to these guys, I need to know what he looked like.”
“Who looked like what? Talk to what guys?” asked Don.
“The guy you gave the fruit basket to when you made the delivery. I’m at the construction site. I want to talk to whoever’s in charge. It would help if I had a description. Do you recall what he looked like?”
“Promise to keep me out of this? No mention of me whatsoever.”
“You’ll never come up, promise.”
“Red hair, pudgy built, was dressed like the rest of the guys there. Like I said he was carrying a bucket. The moment I drove through the gate he put down the bucker and started running up to me.”
“Yeah… had a bit of a gut. You’d think guys who work construction would be in good shape, he was out of breath when he came up to me. He just ran a very short distance.”
“Did he say anything to you?”
“Just “Thanks” as he signed for the delivery.”
“And then what?”
“I backed up the van and left for my next delivery.”
“Did you see where he went after he took the gift basket?
“Nope. I was backing up, not looking at him.”
“Glad to be helping you with whatever it is I’m helping you with. You know where to reach me.”
As the sign instructed, Glen went to the site office, which was really nothing more than a rusting sky blue shipping container with a few dirty windows and a well-worn door. Just as Glen was coming to the few stairs leading up to the door a somewhat burly man, who apparently had not shaved in a few days, came out.
“Can I help you?”
“Looking for the site manager.”
“That’s me, what can I do for you?”
“I’m looking for Randall Flagg. I believe he works here.”
“Name doesn’t ring a bell. As you can see I have a lot of men here, most are contractors, they come and go. Can’t remember all the names.”
“Red hair, on the heavy side, anyone here fits that description or maybe did a few days back? He was here this past Friday.”
“What’s with the questions?”
Glen reached into his sport jacket’s breast pocket and retrieved a business card, which he handed over.
“A private eye. My son will be impressed to hear his old man met an actual PI. I have a cousin out in Cornwall who’s in the RCMP. He’ll be retiring next year at the end of April. He was telling me he’s thinking of going into security work. Is there any money in it? By the way, my name’s Chris.”
“Can be Chris. Don’t do much of it myself, mostly domestic stuff like what I’m doing now.”
“Tell you what, I’ll go back inside and see if a Randall appears anywhere on the payroll. Give me a few minutes.”
“I’d appreciate that.”
“I’ll be right back.”
A few minutes later Chris was back.
“I went back all the way to June, when we first broke ground, no Randall has ever been on the payroll. So I did a quick check of the visitor’s log, nobody by the name of Randall ever visited.”
“How hard is it to walk onto this site during the day?”
“You just did. As the sign at the gate says, all visitors need to report to my office on wheels here. I admit there are times when someone doesn’t come to the office, and one of my guys sees them wandering around and tells them to where to go, as if this is hard to find,” said Chris as he nodded towards his office.
“But if I don’t report to your office I can walk on and off this site without being questioned; especially if I looked the part.”
“Looked the part?”
“Wearing a hard hat, work boots, carrying tools… looking like one of the guys here.”
“Yeah, it’s possible, just as if I wore scrubs I could walk around a hospital as if I worked there.”
“Exactly. Good analogy. If you do happen to recall a heavy set redhead walking around on Friday, please give me a call. In regards to your cousin, when he’s ready to set up shop have him call me, I might be able to point him in a few directions, introduce him to a few people who can help him get started.”
“That be very much appreciated, I’ll certainly keep your offer in mind. I’ll ask around and let you know if anyone remembers a redhead walking around on Friday.”
Glen stood outside the gate and scanned Danforth Road. Randall was waiting for Don; the question is where was he waiting? There were a few options; the parking lot of one of the many small industrial businesses lining the road or the mini-strip mall, a common sight throughout Scarborough, Glen could see in the distance when looking east. I’ll start there.
Walking up to the strip mall Glen could see it was borderline derelict. “For Lease” signs, by a local RE/MAX agent, were in the windows of three ghostly looking storefronts. Baraka Supermarket, selling spices and herbs under signs, in a language Glen could not read, along with vegetables and fruits with vaguely familiar names like dragon fruit and pomelo, occupied at least a third of the strip mall. Keeping the supermarket company was a shop offering shoe repair and another renting Bollywood videos, then there was Rockin’ Burgers, displaying a hand-painted sign offering a hamburger, fries and medium Coke for $5.99. Randall would either get hungry or need to relieve himself, thought Glen as he walked into the greasy spoon and was greeted by the smell of frying red meat.
“What can I get you,” asked the gothic-looking women behind the counter, whom Glen estimated was in her mid-20’s.
“I’ll take your lunch special to go. I also have a few questions.”
“A few questions I like that. Let me place you order, and then you can fire away. The questions aren’t too personal I hope. You ok with your burger being all dressed?”
“Works for me. Were you working here this past Friday afternoon?”
“I was. That’ll be $5.99, plus tax, which comes to $6.77.”
Glen handed her a ten-dollar bill.
“Keep the change. By any chance was a heavy set guy, red hair, looked like he worked at the construction site up the street, here when you were working?”
“Actually I remember him well.”
“Oh, how so?”
“My sister went out with him back in the day. They went to Sir Wilfrid Laurier, as did I, talk about a small world. Eric walks in here of all places, sees me and literally freezes. Gained weight, but otherwise, he looked the same since the last time I saw him, which must have been at least seven years ago.”
“Red hair, somewhat overweight, wearing dusty work clothes, that’s Eric you just described. He has a different name now?”
“If we’re talking about the same person, he goes by the name of Randall Flagg.”
“Randall Flagg, like the character in Stephen King’s The Stand?”
“I read a lot, King’s one of my favorite.”
“Eric was here for a while?”
“Funny you should ask. He ordered the chicken fingers and fries and then sat at the window counter just staring out the window for a least three hours until he saw something that made him suddenly get up and run out of here. Hardly spoke to me, no “Hey, how you’ve been?” or “Long time no see, how’s Christine?” Just acknowledged we knew each other, placed his order and sat at the window. It wasn’t like he and my sister had some huge dramatic breakup, they just drifted apart. She went to Dalhousie to study Clinical Vision science, Eric went out west to chase the money to be made in Fort McMurray, which is why I was as surprised as I was when he walked in. I didn’t know Eric had come back.”
Glen was about to ask his next question when the cook in the kitchen rang the bell indicating his order was ready. As gothic girl handed Glen the brown paper bag, he asked, “Eric’s last name is?”
“Cruso. Napkins and ketchup are in the bag.”
Continued next month.