It had started out as an ordinary day, but the event that soon followed led to such an unspeakable horror that the blood in my veins still freezes when I think about it 30 years later.
I had moved from the Maritime Province of NB to Vancouver, BC in search of work and had ended up waitressing and going to Business College in the day.
I lived across the street from City Hall in an old renovated house. It wasn’t much and I could barely afford the rent, but hoped I would make enough in tips to cover it. Besides, it was within walking distance of every place I needed to be and it had a spare bedroom I could rent out if things got to tough. The living room had beautiful hardwood floors that I discovered under layers and layers of old linoleum. I sanded them re-stained them and picked up a beautiful old Persian rug at a flee market along with some second hand furniture. Beautiful French doors opened to the master bedroom that had 12’ ceilings, a fireplace and leaded glass windows. The kitchen was small with windows running completely across the entire front looking out at City Hall. All- in- all in wasn’t too bad.
Karen, a girl I met in school, soon became my room-mate. We were around the same age and had a lot in common, so when she said she was looking for a place to live but couldn’t afford much rent, it seemed only natural that she should move in with me. That day marked the beginning of a long friendship, a lot of fun and an event that would change us forever.
She came from a broken family.?Her mother lived in Victoria and her father lived in Vancouver. He owned and automobile leasing company. The relationship she had with him was very strained to say the least. He was a big man about town…used to being in control. It was his way, or the highway. That is why she wouldn’t live with him. She would visit him at his business and have lunch, but always returned upset. Her mother had re-married and Karen didn’t like the new beef cake who she claimed made passes at her, so she only saw her mother when she made short day trips from the Island. I soon became her family and visa – versa.
We became inseparable – spending all of our free time together. We went to school together and eventually worked together for Tony ‘The Greek.’ who we met at Business College while he was taking some courses he thought might be useful in the operation of his new Night-club. He needed waitresses and offered me more money than I was making at my current job, so I accepted.
After the first night, I knew I had hit pay dirt. With the exception of the imported Greek singer…the clientele were all male business men. They came to talk business in the dark with the Greek band playing in the background. They would order ouzo …give you afinand always say keep the change. Then they would buy a round for their friends or the house and the anti would double or triple. I would go home with never less than a hundred bucks in tips on week nights and double or better on the week-end . When Karen saw the lout I wouldspread out on the kitchen table to count and roll for my bank deposit, it didn’t take her long to switch jobs too. Work was like one big party. God…we had fun.
Tony was great; allowing us to work the same shift and have the same days off.?Had it not been for that simple fact…I would not be telling you this story. We had somehow managed to arrange between our school schedule and work schedule to have a week-end free and had decided to have a house party, inviting our school chums and any other pals and acquaintances we considered good fun.
We had spent the early morning cleaning and cooking and had everything ready and in order. The fridge was full of food and beer. The hard stuff would be – BYOB - BRING YOUR OWN BOOZE.
It was autumn and the weather had been unusually cold and damp for that time of year, so we decided we would light the fireplace in the bedroom and open up the French doors so the bedroom and the living would become one large gathering area. All we needed was some fire wood. Karen had managed to get the use of a van for the week-end from her dad’s leasing company, so she agreed to go get some presto logs. After a while she returned empty handed. There wasn’t a single presto log to be had anywhere - SOLD OUT due to the unexpected damp cold weather.
Just then a knock came at the door. It was Bill…the guy who rented the basement apartment. Nice guy, kind of cute, but a pain in the butt. He was always borrowing something. This time he wanted matches. Dying for a smoke, he didn’t want to go all the way to the store for a match. I told him to come in while I went out to the kitchen to get them. In the meantime, Karen asked him if he had any presto logs. He said he didn’t, but he knew where we could get some free fire wood. Old broken wooden crates from a factory put out to the curb on a daily basis for garbage pick-up or for anybody who wanted it. Well…it looked like our problem was solved so off the three of us went with Karen driving the van from her father’s leasing company and Bill directing the way.
It wasn’t long until we arrived down near the waterfront parked with the four way flashes on in front of a neatly stacked pile of wooden slats. Out we jumped and started piling the wood in the back of the van.?Bill kept telling us to be quit and that seemed kind of odd to me.?Why did we have to be quite if the wood was free and there for the taking ? Before I could figure it out, the answer became horrifyingly apparent.
I had been bent down picking up another load of wood and as I rose up, my heart suddenly stopped. Nmbness started in my toes and quickly rose to the roots of my hair. There on the other side of the wood pile stood the strangest sight I have ever seen. A huge hulking man with a long beard that hung way down on his chest, long scraggly hair that looked like strands of wire topped a Neanderthal face that starred at us with insane eyes. He wore bib coveralls over a red and black checker flannel shirt.?There he stood with his arms raised in a battle stance holding an axe. I could see his lips moving, but could hear nothing.The flood of fear coursing through my veins caused a roaring so loud in my ears, it blocked out everything else.
He quickly stepped from around the pile of wood and put the axe through the windshield of the van as I watched it splinter in to millions of viensthatheld together for a moment,then completelyshattered spilling onto the hood of the van, into the van and on to the sideway.?He quickly moved from window to window, smashing each one with violent force. Just before he made it to the back of the van, I saw Bill make a quick exit from and run like a locomotive down the street leaving Karen and I to fend for ourselves. My audio was slowly coming back and from what I could decipher,the neanderthal was spouting biblical passages. Somehow in his crazed mind he though Karen and I were jezebels.
I to this day can not explain what happened next. All I know is that I felt a presence so strong that seemed to speak to me telepathically, telling me what to do. A calmness suddenly came over me and I was no longer afraid. I felt completely protected and knew in that moment no harm could come to me.
I began to talk to the man very calmly. I don'tremember what I said, I only know he listened and as he replied, I whispered to Karen to go get help andcontinued to talk to him. He didn't seem to see her leave.
There we stood in a vacant side street by an old factory down by the waterfront, me and this strange man in the midst of a billion pieces of shattered glass. Him still holding the axe and continuing to talk in a biblical language and me telling him I understood him and at the moment in time, I did.
He was still holding the axe, but in a less threatening manner when Karen arrived with a female officer.When all was said and done, the officer told us he was just an old confused eccentric man and asked if we wanted to press charges. Karen began to cry; she didn’t want her father to find out about this and if she pressed charges he would.?She simply wanted to forget the whole thing and try and get the widows of the van fixed before she had to return it. I,at this stage was feeling sorry for the old guy and agreed with her.
We went home in silence and remained silent for some time. Karen arranged to have the windows fixed and her dad would be none the wiser. For some reason I still do not understand, we did not talk about it. Perhaps we were in shock. I just don’t know why.
Soon our guests arrived and we had what would appear to be a good time and never once mentioned what had happened that day. It was as if by not talking about it, we could convince ourselves it never did.
The next evening while watching the news, we saw the news commentator broadcasting outside a Sobey’s Chain store where earlier that day an axe welding man had been shoot and killed by police after he had chased a women he called a jezebel to her car where he bashed in the windows while threatening to kill her. The police were unableto stop him and when he attacked them, they shoot him.
Karen and I looked at each other and never said a word.?We never spoke of it again and as time went on our friendship began to die, we just never seemed to be able to go back to the way we were before that incident. Eventually Karen moved out and as time went on we gradually lost touch with each other.
That was back in the 70’s and every once in a while, something like a man with a long beard of seeing somebody chopping wood or hearing the word jezebel , will bring that memory back in vivid clarity, reminding me just how fragile life is and how fortunate I am to be alive.