A killing in trounce all.., p.1
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       A Killing In Trounce Alley, p.1

           Donald Harry Roberts
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A Killing In Trounce Alley



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  A Killing In Trounce Alley

  Copyright 2017 by Donald Harry Roberts

  This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.


  A gentle mist curled in from Vancouver Harbour enveloping the harbour front and rail yard. Building, it drifted mystically over Crab Park, across West Waterfront Rd. and finally enveloping the quiet by-ways, alley-ways and streets of Gastown. It created a magical aura about the street lamps and dispelled the late afternoon shadows.

  And night settled in like an old friend.

  Thadeus McCann. It was a name the owner had misplaced a decade ago and which he was only reminded of when the police rousted him from his drunken digs…where ever that might be on…. any given night, demanding he produce some sort of identification. It was not a good life but it was the only one he could navigate. Too many horrible memories were etched in his mind to maintain a sober existence.

  He stood beneath the steam clock at the intersection of Water and Cambie Street. The harbour mist swirled in, carried on a cool, autumn breeze. The last of the leaves fell gently to the red, cobblestone side walk. He watched as the white globes of the street-lamps flickered on, glowing like miniature moons through a thin layer of cloud.

  At that moment a lone tourist accosted him leveling a camera to take a picture of the clock. Thadeus motioned to step aside but the tourist beckoned him to stay. He offered the photographer the best smile he could but it was ruined by yellowed teeth and sadness. Little did he know that the innocent snap shot would weigh heavily on the events of his near future.

  “Perfect.” Cheered the photographer as he stuffed a five dollar bill in his subjects hand.

  “Perfect for what?” Thadeus muttered but his words wisped away with the breeze and the mist. “But what does it matter.” He thought as he jammed the bill into his pocket. It was five bucks he didn’t have to beg for.

  The old bum, The Gastown Beggar, he was known to by the locals, moved slowly from his leaning perch shuffling south bound on Cambie St. At Horner he stopped, quickly glanced about and, finding he was alone he pulled a bottle of amber fortitude from the pocket of his gray, stained and worn trench coat. A mouthful to ward off the chill. A swig to dull the memories and a quick pull just for the hell of it.

  Half the contents swallowed he pushed the bottle back into the pocket and continued his shuffle to maw of shadows and darkness, Trounce Alley, tonight’s digs, hopefully undisturbed. “But can anyone go undisturbed in a place they call Blood Alley.” Thadeus muttered, his words nearly slurred beyond recognition.

  For a moment some ancient memory seeped out of the past, before the horror took his mind. He was a young man again, just for a few seconds. A smile twisted his weather wracked lips as he recalled reading how some comity had dubbed the alley way, Blood Alley. It was misleading at the time destine to become a tourist trap, but had earned its name in the years since.

  Just inside the shadows Thadeus paused and leaned against the wall….his balance and navigational skills abandoning him as the amber fortitude coursed through his veins. Too weakened to go on he slid down the wall his back scraping against the bricks.

  In such a stupor he sat there, his knees brushing his beard and his hands, wrapped in shredded, fingerless gloves rested on the ground to keep him from toppling over. As he sat there something blurred in the haze of his clouded eyes.

  First a young woman….he had seen her before. Seconds later a man, just a faint shadow…tall and stretched.

  “Come back. You have to understand.” A plaintive voice cried out. Then a scream with…”Noooo,” gurgling in the background.

  Then there was silence for a long minute.

  At last Thadeus heard some shuffling followed by the hump of heavy feet running, diminishing down the alley way and finally fading out.

  Thadeus woke, shivering, oblivious to any thing except finding somewhere to sleep.

  He struggled to his feet and went on a sweeping staggering shuffle deeper into the alley until at last he came upon a green dumpster with a sign that read, Cardboard and Paper Only. For the likes of him, it was high and dry and with a little shifting of the contents it could be warm.

  But Thadeus was not quite ready for bedding down. The grumble in his gut reminded him he had not eaten since early morning when he had snatched some doughnuts from a coffee shop destine for the garbage. With any luck he could grab a morsel or two from the taco joint at the other end of the alley. It was always a good place for scraps. If the right cook was on he might even get something fresh from the table.

  But first.

  Thadeus lifted the lid of the dumpster just to make sure he wasn’t horning in on someone else’s digs….causing a fight which easy to do on a cold autumn night.

  When he looked in he froze, starring in horror, his throat clenched in a restricted scream…a scream he had known before. A scream that sent him on this drunken journey a decade before.

  But that new horror filled cry never made it past his lips. Instead Thadeus wretched….and wretched…..and wretched until his throat burned and his gut ached.

  It went on for five, then ten minutes felling him to his knees and crawling away, trying to escape. His knees were soon scratched to blood so he struggled to his feet and stumble, turning about, heading straight back to the dumpster. Looking down he saw his torn trousers soaked in blood. He rubbed his knees with the shredded gloves on his hands, losing his balance. In desperation he grabbed to lip of the dumpster . His fingers slipped and he crumbled to the ground. For a long time he slumped there in the shadows, wracked with horrifying memories mixed with this new terror.

  And he wept uncontrollably until his eyes burned dry.

  It was still dark when Thadeus came to consciousness. He made his feet and stood there unsteadily until he found the nerve to examine the dumpster.

  “It’s real. He winced.


  Retirement. It wears the face of an old man put out to pasture. It was nothing at all like the life Reverend Riddell wanted to embrace or even think about. And given his family history he was surprised, and thankful on a daily basis to have survived the family curse among its males.

  Yes he had survived, but the old ticker still had its short-comings. He refused to let it stop him but reluctantly slowed down to a modest stride.

  He had long ago decided that when this time came, even in retirement, he would continue as he had been doing for years. helping the community of Gastown in whatever way presented itself. Unfortunately that help often came when he examined the darker side of life that somehow always manages to work its way into any community….affluent or otherwise.

  Gastown had experience a wonderful transmutation from ‘Otherwise’ to a community of artists, professionals and the more affluent with a population around seventy nine thousand. It is a community of younger folks in their 30s and 40s. There was also a substantial gathering of retiring folks like Reverend Riddell whom, as a matter of record, was not unknown in the community. Even before he had been put out to pasture he had made his mark as……well….there are many words to accommodate his mark. Suffice to say he was well liked and respected and trusted as a confidential listener.

  He like walking…or….as he put it…. “Strolling the streets and avenues of Gastown.” It did his heart wonders which was well since it had a habit of missing a beat now and then. Strolling was his own regime of therapy and seemed to work as well as any and
was much more pleasant. Strolling in the evening, especially misty evenings, was among the best times. Yet none were bad and some were uplifting, enlightening and eye opening. Some evenings a stroll meant helping a lost soul step back from their shadowy, despairing existence into the light of hope.

  On this evening Reverend Riddell had gone but a short distance from the door of his apartment building on Powell Street. He was about to step into a café when he felt a tug on the right sleeve of his blue pea jacket. When he looked he was met with a pair of wet, rummy eyes filled with such an anguish he could barely contain the rasp of horror threatening to burst past his lips. Instead he simply breathed out, “Thadeus!”

  “Come with me now. I’ll buy you a meal and you can tell me…..” The Reverend was offering.

  “No…No.No You must come with me now. I have discovered something terrible.” Thadeus argued and tugged insistently on the Reverends coat sleeve.

  Reverend Riddell was reluctant. With Thadeus, something terrible could mean something he perceived in his mind. But as he searched the old drunkards eyes there was something in their depths that warned him that Thadeus had seen something far more viable that a twist of his imagination.

  “Very well. Where must we go.” He asked.

  “Follow me Rev. Its this way.” Thadeus urged with an almost sober tone.

  With only slight staggers and shuffling the Gastown Beggar lead the Reverend back to the green dumpster in Trounce Alley. “

  “Ugh. Blood Alley.” Riddell groaned.

  “Its horrible. You had better prepare yourself.” Thadeus warned, lifting the dumpster lid.

  Without looking in Thadeus pointed. “Look Rev. She is dead.”

  Reverend Riddell bolstered himself then peered into the dumpster. It was not horrible. It was far worse. No word or words could describe the mutilation his eyes perceived. “Her head. What did they do to her head?” He gasped then quickly turned away. After a minute in silence with his hand over his heart he caught his breath and told Thadeus to close the dumpster lid. After collecting his wits he lifted his cell phone from a pocket and dialed the police.

  When the call was answered by the electronic voice he keyed and extension. A weary worn voice responded.

  “Detective Inspector Lance.” It was simply a statement of fact , dilute of emotion or even a hint of community politeness.

  “Inspector Lance. This is Reverend Riddell. I am calling to report what looks to me like a murder. A young woman.” The Reverend began then described the scene and the recent movements and discoveries of Thadeus.


  Sometimes I think Reverend Riddell has a crystal ball or at least a ghost or two doing his watching for him. I think this because most often when I arrive at the door of his apartment on Powell St. announced or on a whim, he beckons me enter before I have knocked. And for a point of interest, there is no door-man or land lord/lady to warn him. When I accost him with this ponderance he simply points up. I learned long ago what that means and I am sure you too, will figure it out in time.

  On this particular visit everything went along as usual until I opened the door and stepped through. To my surprise Riddell had a guest, which was a rare thing for eight am.

  I fixed my gaze on the man and saw at first a stranger. Then, to my second surprise in a matter of seconds I realized the man sitting at the breakfast table, gingerly placing some egg and bacon in his mouth, was the Gastown Beggar.

  Riddell gave me a sparkled glance and an amused smile. “I see you quickly recognized this polished version of Thadeus McCann.”

  “Polished! The man is as transformed as Gastown itself!” said I. “How did you manage to pry the bottle from his fingers let alone get him to bathe and shave….and are those your clothes?” Thadeus was wearing a light blue sports shirt, grey, pressed trousers and clean white socks.

  His hair was combed back and as a third surprise in a very short time; when he smiled his teeth were considerable more white than ever I had seen them.

  Upon spying the expression of awe in my eyes Riddell explained with another of his telling grins, “It is amazing what a solution of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda can do for ones oral appearance.”

  What struck me next was, under that foul veneer of drunkenness and filth lived a gentleman of some culture. Thadeus stood and greeted me, faintly smiling “Hello Harry. I hope you are having as good a morning as this old Soggy soul.”

  “Old. I thought so before but you don’t look a day over fifty.” I replied.

  “51 actually.” Thadeus directed then reclaimed his chair and continued eating his breakfast.

  I did at that point notice a tremor in his hands which I knew from experience would get worse the farther Thadeus moved away from the booze. By tomorrow he would be a bundle of quakes and jerks as the alcohol began purging from his system. I suspected the good Reverend Riddell was responsible for this treacherous transformation leant with a good heart and purpose.

  “I suspect it is news of that young lady found in the dumpster in Trounce Alley that has brought you here.” Riddell changed the focus of my thoughts.

  “Sure is. A murder in Blood Alley is just what my column needs. Inspector Lance gave me the earful. Said you called it in. I was pressed to figure out what you would be doing so far from home strolling about in a place like that and peeking into dumpsters.”

  “Well the fact that I called it in was simply because I was the one with the cell phone. It was actually Thadeus who discovered the young lady and came to me for help. Drunk though he was he had enough sense not to stagger to the police station with such a fantastic story. I suspect the police would have ushered him off to the drunk tank without even bothering to investigate his hallucination.”

  “And now you are taking him under your wing and….”I began but Riddell quickly interjected.

  “I am taking him to Dr. Fenlly’s rehab clinic this very morning. Mr. McCann’s need will be better served there than any assistance I could offer beyond moral support.” Riddell directed.

  “Will you be looking into the death of this girl?”

  “Ah. The literary mercenary reveals his true purpose. A story for that crime column of yours.” Riddell chided playfully. “I really hate to disappoint you Harry but this one is fully in the hands of the police. You will have to get your story from Inspector Lance.”

  “How many times had I heard that story?” I pondered silently followed by a low, swift snicker.

  “Well. Maybe Thadeus can give me his story.” I suggested.

  Thadeus McCann scowled at me and said, “No. It was too horrible. I don’t want to remember it. I have had enough horror in my life so leave me be.”

  Riddell grinned and invited me to leave…I suspect so I would not undo the work he had begun turning Thadeus to the lighter side of his existence.

  I know Reverend Riddell well. I should after fifty years. Behind the word of denial I saw that spark of curiosity. All I had to do was wait until something ignited that spark into a flame.

  It did not take long. In fact the very next morning Riddell called me and requested my presences. “I believe that literary mercenary shadow inside you will be quite excited at a discovery I have made concerning the young woman found in the dumpster.” He held out a tid-bit to lure me in. By nature I went for it. My existence in the newspaper world depended on such bits of mayhem and the likes of the good Reverend. Not many folks can pass up a good mystery to read about.

  I was coming up to my deadline fast. It was Riddell and the lady in the dumpster or a generic tale of murder and mayhem from the past I conjured up an opening for A killing In Trounce Alley and filed it with my editor. I made sure to include Reverend Riddell’s name and Inspector Lance, a combination that always captured the readers of my column. When ever those two crossed path the results were….. well how can put it….hmmmm…..the results were explosive.


  I was hanging around the police station waiting for Inspector Lance so I
could get something juicy for my column. I already knew her name. Melamie Sharpe, and how her assailant had bashed her over the head several time. It didn’t take a pathologist to figure out the cause of death. Just an idea what a lead pipe can do to the human scull.

  Lance showed up just after ten pm, took one look at me and scowled. “Don’t you have….” He was about to make a wise-crack when a man, looking as important as he could rushed into the lobby of the station, moving straight in on the inspector.

  “I heard Melamie Sharpe is dead….murdered! Its all over town. You’ll want to talk to me. I know who did it. I saw him follow her into the alleyway.”

  Lance’s eyes opened wide and nearly popped out of their sockets, but he managed to grow a professional mask on his face and reacted calmly to the man’s claim. :You had better come with me and tell me everything, all the details.”

  The man followed Lance to his office giving me the, “ You stay put”, frown.

  But I am a news paper man and my ears are big and work well. I stood close to the inspector’s office door and did what I do well. I eaves dropped and scratched out notes in my personal style of short-hand.

  “So. You saw the attack.” Inspector Lance prodded.

  “No. Not exactly. I was hanging around the Steam Clock. That old drunk that lives…well….where ever, was there too. I was actually a little ways away.

  I watched him for a while then I went and took his picture and gave him five dollars.

  As we stood there a young lady went by. Thadeus nodded and the lady greeted him with a casual familiarity. It was of course Melamie Sharpe. I am not acquainted with her but I know who she is.

  Anyway. After she passed by the old drunk followed her. When she went into Trounce Alley he followed her there too.

  I was going to follow them but I checked the time and realised I was late for a very important meeting. It never occurred to me that that drunk would kill her.”

  I caught the man’s name and jotted it down then hurried home to get the next day’s column ready. I did submit a story but it wasn’t that one because what happened next….what I learned from Reverend Riddell put a whole new light on the witnesses statement.

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