Monday, November 22, 2010
So I've been away from the writing table for a bit due to other obligations. The reason being is that from time to time I do a little part-time work where the hours are long and very tiring. The work is for a security company that for the purpose of this writing, I'll call Jackson's Security.
When I do get called in to work it is always outdoor work. I detest being cooped up inside for hours on end and unable to leave. So for me, this keeps things fresh and doesn't get too boring. The work I get called in for is done under the cloak of darkness while trying to remain inconspicuous and do my best not to attract attention. This is way easier said then done let me tell you! Add to it that there is always some element of danger and for this reason it's all taken very seriously.
Now, one of Charlie's Angels I'm not, in any way, shape or form! I don't carry a sidearm or even any kind of weapon. My secret weapon is my husband who works right along side of me. HE wears the uniform while I dress civilian. He drives the truck. I run the laptop and the camera and the cell phone. Between the two of us there are 4 eyes to do the rest. I have to mention that we also work hard at keeping each other awake! This is a true challenge and not easy to live up to. Although I will state that it only takes one false alarm, or one good scare to set your nerves on edge, get your heart pumping and your blood rushing and staying awake is no longer an issue. When the spidey senses start to tingle and every nerve, suddenly, without warning are jumping to life...sleep is the last thing on your mind. It's a rush that reminds you how alive you really are!
Our very first assignment was at a lime quarry.We were called in to replace the regular security officer who was off for two weeks sailing in Alaska or something. It was a very large quarry that ran about 130 acres. If it wasn't for the fact that most of the area is forest, I would of sworn we were on the Moon.
The inside of a lime quarry is grey. I mean everything is grey. There are endless mountains of grey, endless pits of grey. There are different grades of lime and the one that makes the most mess and covers everything is like a talcum powder. This is the stuff that is very easy to inhale. It's everywhere, including the air. It's caustic. And you know if you've inhaled any because your throat and chest burn a bit...like when you have a cold. It's almost impossible not to inhale when you are surrounded by it and are driving around in your vehicle kicking up even more clouds of it. I have to say though that inhaling lime dust is the least hazardous thing about that job. There were other things more frightening to me. Like the size of some of the pits. They were so wide and so deep that monster dump trucks and tractors and backhoes looked like tiny little dinky toys that had been placed on what looked like ledges that ran the circumference of the pits. The ledges ran in a spiral formation all the way to the bottom of the pits. These pits were so huge that to say you could build a small village inside of them wouldn't be an understatement.
The thing I didn't like the most about those pits were that if one didn't know the area well it would of been all too easy to drive right off the edge of one of them, be airborne and drop into a black void before you could realize what was happening. Some of the pits had huge boulders to prevent anything like that happening but, not all. Some of them looked like a side dirt road that led to nowhere. I know this because one night, just at dusk, when you could still see, while beginning our rounds we stopped when we came across one of those roads. We got out and walked the 30 or so feet into the road when it ended abruptly and just dropped off into one of those grey pits. It was more than several hundred feet down. If we had decided to just drive onto that road.....oh I can't even get my head to go there. The very idea makes me shiver and stops my heart! Add to that there were no road lights, none. The only lights you had at night were from some of the buildings.Once away from the buildings the only lights you see are your own headlights. It's just plain dangerous.
Our job was that once an hour or so we were to drive around the quarry to nine different check points. We would go to designated areas to do checks with a metal wand and touch the wand against a metal button and the wand would record the time and date of the check and this would show you had done your job.
We were given access to the main building where the offices and weigh station were located. We'd sit in the conference room and watch television and come meal times we had use of the kitchen to cook or warm up some lunch or just make coffee. Then every 40 minutes of so we'd lock up the place and climb into the truck and drive from building to building and complete the check points. The strangest part of the job...and the most important part of all the check points were there were 3 hidden dynamite shacks hidden deeper in the woods away from the quarry. That was what we were really there for. To make sure they were kept secure and that no unauthorized vehicles or people were anywhere near them. THIS made me nervous!
Dynamite....I don't care how it is being kept. I don't care how safe the storage is. If it is there, then the potential is there for something to happen. Everything is up to code and regulation but, there is still that 'what if' factor that didn't sit well with me. It's the same as having a gun in the house.
To add to all of that was we had to keep our wits about us whenever we were outside of the vehicle as for wildlife. The quarry is surrounded by a residential neighbourhood and someone had left garbage out and attracted a black bear into the area. We'd seen the little guy in our headlights one night as he was digging through some garbage. He wasn't very big, not much bigger than a cub. I was on the outlook for a mama bear but I was less nervous about that bear than I was those deep dark pits and dynamite shacks.
One night, we were at home getting packed up for another night at the quarry when the phone rang. It was the boss telling us we were being reassigned effective immediately.
We were re-routed to another part of town. One of the wealthier neighbourhoods in the city. Our assignment...covert surveillance. Our subject was a female of some importance who had a death threat layed against her. Her employer had hired Jackson's Security to keep an eye on her. She on the other hand had no idea her employer had done this. She had no inkling that we were there or that she was being watched.
There were moments during this gig that now seem almost comedic. If you can picture a very wealthy neighbourhood where everything is immaculate. Manicured lawns where one was a carbon copy of the next one and so on. Beautiful gardens surrounding every home. Perfect streets with perfect sidewalks, and perfect houses. A neighbourhood where no one ever parks on the street. They park inside their huge garages or in their perfect driveways. Then in we drive in our white 98 Dodge Ram 1500 with dual exhausts which blat a sound that is just plain rude in such a neighbourhood. Our pet name for the truck is ....Snoop Dodgey Dodge, what else? It's very hard to do any kind of snooping in such a vehicle as it makes a grand entrance and exit. You can't do anything inconspicuous with dual exhausts! And to add to that we were told by the boss to park 3 houses up from our subject...on the street...and don't bring any attention to yourselves! This was almost funny! We were about as inconspicuous as a bull in a china shop. And the neighbours let us know it too.
So our first night there we are parked 3 houses up from our subject but, we were parked in front of two homes as well. One man after watching us through his curtains came out, approached the truck, and asked very politely what we were doing. We told him the truth. That we were working and that if he had questions to call the city police and ask them as they were aware of our presence. The man politely backed away and said he was sorry to have bothered us and retreated inside his house.
I certainly didn't mind that man asking questions as he had every right to know why there was truck parked in front of his house late at night. What I didn't like were his neighbours next door to him. They were going to be trouble. They had arrived home late in the evening and it was the first sign of life from this house. As they pulled into their driveway the wife was staring hard at us and giving us very mean dirty looks. I knew right there she would be trouble.
Once inside their home she kept peeking between the curtains at us. We weren't suppose to notice her there I guess but she wasn't very good at spying! We for the most part didn't look in the direction of her house and did our best to ignore her. Then out comes the husband. It wasn't hard to assume that he didn't want to be approaching us as he had a air of nervousness about him. I open my door and slide out of the truck and walked towards him. He asks who we are. I introduce myself and tell him we are there on a security job and to call the city police if they want to know anything else. He literally backed away when I mentioned the police, like I was holding a gun on him. He looked downright scared which made me suspicious of HIM.
His wife in the meantime had gotten brave and was standing in the window with the curtains wide open and arms folded and a knot in her face expecting us to drive away. We didn't budge and continued to sit there. I'm very good at body language and have a strong sixth sense and I can tell you that the woman was emanating pure anger. That was the first night on that job. Other than the trouble with the neighbours it was a uneventful night.
The second night there our boss shows up and tells us that the 'angry woman' had called the police and had gotten nowhere with them at all. So that really made her mad. So she called head office for Jackson's Security to file a complaint. She told them it was a private neighbourhood and we had no right to be parked on the front street. She also complained about the noise whenever we started the truck claiming the sound was petrifying to her and it was making her sick and she was pregnant. The term control freak came to mind. Spoiled and use to getting her own way. Using her pregnancy to have her demands met. This woman was anything but fragile and was used to getting her own way. We stood our ground and never budged.
On our second night there we had one vehicle that repeatedly kept driving around the block. Each time we seen it come from around the corner at the end of the street it would slow down in front of our subjects house. It did this 5 times and on the 6th round I had my camera ready and snapped a picture and made sure the driver seen me taking his picture. I wanted to scare him off and it worked because he didn't come back, until much later that night.
In this neighbourhood it seemed that most of the houses would go into total darkness after 9:00pm. There was virtually no traffic either. So to see an approaching vehicle would make us sit up and pay attention. Around 11:30 that night that same car slowly came around the bend at the end of the street. It slowed and paused in front of our subjects house for maybe 4-5 seconds. Then suddenly, he spotted us still there, watching him, he tore up the street and went past us in a blur. He never came back after that. The whole thing made my heart rush.
The imagination can be very quick to play tricks in a situation like that too. Around 4:00am that same night a van came slowly creeping around the bend at the end of the street. It was driving painfully slow, it's headlights softly, soundlessly bouncing their reflection off the road before it. It was stopping every now and again, would pass another couple of houses and stop again. We were alert and watching. I was getting a feeling of dread in my stomach. Then he stopped in front of the subjects driveway. We seen the side door open on the van and they threw something into the air. It landed on the upper end of the driveway with a 'plat' sound. My heart began slamming inside my chest and my ears started to ring. I suddenly had a taste of metal in my mouth. This is what they call adrenaline. This is also what they call fight or flight syndrome. Well there would be nobody flying anywhere. This is what we were paid to do. Now we had been told to watch for just this kind of thing with someone approaching and leaving suspicious packages and the like so we were ready. I grabbed the cell phone ready to call for the police. The van door slid closed and they continued their slow crawl up the street towards us. They were getting closer. With shaking hands I quickly flipped the cell phone open. Suddenly they stopped two houses away and again the side door of the van opened and again something was tossed onto the driveway. It was the Saturday morning newspaper. Like I said...the imagination.
Come daylight the next morning we left our post and slowly head home. The streets were empty, devoid of any early morning traffic for a Saturday. It seemed we were the only ones awake except for the birds and bees. We arrived home without incident. Had our usual morning coffee and a bite to eat and headed to bed. When we awoke about 6 hours later I checked the phone for any messages and found there was one from the boss. He said the gig was over and to head back to the quarry that night. I thought to myself. "well that was short and sweet." No heads up or warning. We were done. Period. We figured the perp must of been arrested and therefore they didn't need us anymore.
It was a few hours later, we were getting packed up to head off to the quarry when I snapped on the television to catch the news. I was half watching and half listening as I packed up my bag when the news casters voice made me stop dead in my tracks. That morning around 8:30-9:00am there had been a horrible murder of a woman. I felt my gut sinking thinking how horrible it all sounded. The man had stabbed her to death right on a sidewalk in broad daylight.
It wasn't a far stretch of my imagination before I began to wonder about our woman. I found it strange that the job only lasted 3 days and unless our perp had been arrested why would our woman be any safer than she was 3 days ago? Added to that the job ended so suddenly. Eric kept telling me to stop worrying that it was all a coincidence.
All that night at the quarry I listened to every news cast I could waiting to hear the name of the victim. By the time we headed back home in the morning a name still hadn't been released. We got home and went straight to bed. I was having a problem sleeping. I couldn't get the whole murder thing out of my mind. I was sick with worry and had a feeling of helplessness. I was silently talking to myself. My mind was racing with what ifs "what if this woman was our woman?" "she was alive when we left her, she didn't die on my watch!" "what if the perpetrator had been watching us and soon as we left our post he moved in for the kill?" I tossed and turned, turned and tossed. I got up from bed, stumbled out into the kitchen and made some tea. I quietly took my tea to the living room and snapped on a lamp. I lit a cigarette, sat at one end of the couch, curled my feet up under me and sipped my tea and lightly puffed on my cigarette. I couldn't stop my thoughts from racing with guilt, remorse and anger. Yes I felt anger. I felt great frustration at not having access to any information. All we had was our woman's name. That was it. I never got a wink of sleep..
Later on that day they finally announced the name of the victim. When hearing them announce her name I got instantly sick to my stomach. Her name had set of any and all bells to be rung in my gut. I grabbed my note book and flipped through the pages of information until I came to the page that held the information on our woman. I scanned the page for her name. When my eyes fell upon it they stopped dead and cold. It was not our woman. But something almost spooky happened. Her first AND last name were almost identical to the victim. Their physical description were identical. But the name is what got to me most of all. Almost letter for letter they were the same yet different. Even the first and last initials were identical. This almost seemed as if fate was playing some kind of sick joke on me. I wasn't laughing. What ever became of our woman I'll never know as the company doesn't do follow ups with us to the outcome of the job. All I know is that she is still alive and breathing.
After that gig I no longer wanted to do that kind of work ever again. In my opinion I didn't handle it well. I wanted nothing more to do with murder and mystery or covert assignments. Leave that to the mystery writers.
Seven months went by before we did any more work. So a month ago we get another call for another job. This time all we are required to do is sit and watch a burned out apartment complex for looters. Sounded pretty straight forward. No murder or mayhem involved.
Our instructions were pretty straightforward as well. We were not to allow ANYONE near or into the building unless they were wearing a badge. The boss put an emphasis on ANYONE. We understand. Should we see anyone breaking in or going into the building we are to call for police. We are given our hours,12 hour shifts 8:00pm-8:00am. The boss does what he does best and asks, "Can you start tonight?" We look at the clock. It's 4:00pm. This getting called out at the last minute is something we've come to expect from this job.
We start hauling out the cooler and begin to pack up food and drink. We pack up pillows and comforters. We pack up the laptop and movies. When doing night time surveillance you pack pretty much like you are packing to go camping. While insuring comfort one needs to be mindful of not getting 'too comfortable' as when one hits the 8 hour mark the fatigue is starting to slowly rear its head wanting to pull you into the soft slumber of dream land.
It's hard not to let yourself fall onto cloud number 10, sleep. We sit with our seats moved into recline position. We have our pillows behind our heads for propping purposes(don't want to get a stiff neck) and our comforters wrapped tight and snug around us to keep the chills off. It is dark, quiet and if the night becomes uneventful it is too easy to forget why you are there.
We watch movie after movie and if we are really lucky and pick up on wireless Internet we watch all kinds of great stuff from documentaries to television shows. At times like that the $10 an hour comes easy. I have to say that I have done all kinds of labour intensive work...and I mean laboured work. I have done very intensive work. I've worked jobs so intensive that people 20 years younger than me have run off the job in tears. And I have to say that surveillance work of sitting in one spot for 12 hours in the dark through all kinds of weather conditions and trying to stay awake is painful in its own right. For me when I get to that point where I'm running my hands hard over my face and cannot for the life of me sit still...this is the hard point for me because then I start to feel sick....and I still have 4 hours to go. That is when I feel I earn my money. You may be wondering why do it at all. It's simple for more reasons than one. Reason number one is I'm not rich. Any chance to make some honest extra money I'll do. All jobs are short term only, so I see the light at the end of the tunnel. It doesn't require a lot of physical ability. The only challenge for me is not to get sick due to the fatigue. I have multiple health problems and I can crash very easily at times and getting overtired is one of my weaknesses. My husband says I hide my health problems well. I look healthy. You may see me carrying grocery bags up my stairs but you won't see me do it more than once. You may see my house is kept for the most part clean. You won't see how long it takes me to do it. You won't see how many times I have to stop due to pain. Yet I get it done. To see me doing surveillance I look normal. That's good enough for me.
So doing surveillance on a burned out building will be a cake walk. At 7:00pm we head out the door for our first night of work. We go to the address we were given. We know the area. Everyone within the borders of the province knows of this area.
We are driving into one of the worse crime infested neighbourhoods in our province. Every kind of crime lives in this hood. From arson to break and enters, rapes, assaults, drive-by shootings and murders. It is one of the projects in the city. It is a checker board neighbourhood of blacks and whites. A mixture of low income workers and the rest on public assistance. Although it looks nothing like my old south-end neighbourhood, the atmosphere is similar.
We were expecting to arrive at our posting without incident. This was not to be.
As we drove up the street we could see a commotion ahead on the street. I remember thinking to myself,'please let that NOT be our house!' The traffic was backed up and at a standstill. People were walking and standing around in small groups. We were about 6 car lengths away from the house and although it was hard to see in the dark we could see traffic sitting still coming from the side street which faced the house. Two lineups of traffic and about 30 people milling about in front of our house.
The bosses words were ringing in my ears, "There is to be absolutely NOBODY around or in that house!" What I was looking at was a circus of people. Eric started to cut the wheel of the truck to the left and squeezed out from the vehicle in front of us and slowly passes on the left side of the traffic in front of us. He pulls up onto the sidewalk facing the house. We couldn't believe what we were seeing. The front lawn of the house had 5 SUV's parked on it. All the backs of the trucks were open and people coming in and out of the house carrying boxes and furniture to the trucks. The place was crawling with humanity. We shut the truck off. Some people stopped to look at us. Then went back to what they were doing.
I look at Eric and ask "what do we do?" "Call the police." was his response. I answered, " It's obvious these people are salvaging their belongings." Eric's says,"We don't know anything about that, we were told no one is to be inside that building." I'm having a problem with calling the police. I hold the cell phone in my hand and hesitate. "Call the boss."Says Eric. OK good, now this I can do. I call the boss at home and explain what is going on. "Call the police." he says. "Do I really have to? I really don't want to have to do that." I said. "You have to." says the boss. I hang up the phone and sit there and feel myself cringing. I didn't want that kind of excitement, really.
I punch in the numbers for the police dispatch. A female answers and I identify myself and why I'm calling. She knows who I am as they were notified earlier that night of our presence at the house. "I'll have a car come by right away." she says. It wasn't 10 minutes later that not one but, two cruisers appear what seemed to be out of nowhere. One parks in the middle of the street, another one pulls up behind us. An officer climbs out of the car parked in the middle of the street. All activity from the people on the street and the house stops and they stand quietly watching the police cars. The cop approaches our truck coming up along side the drivers side. Eric explains to him that no one is suppose to be near that building. The officer becomes agitated and defensive and says with his voice rising, " Well I can't just throw these people out of their homes!" He's mad...at us! I lean forward and don't hesitate to show MY irritation and say to him "Look we certainly don't want that either, I think these people have been through enough but, there is not suppose to be anyone in that building so YOU will have to go talk to them!" "OK, I'll go talk to them but, can you get hold of your boss or someone I can talk to?" "Sure thing." I say.
The officer approaches the house and the people and I dial the boss once again. I explain what is going on and that they want to talk to him. The officer is still inside the house dealing with the people so I slide out of the truck and batter the wind and rain and make my way back to the officer still inside the cruiser parked behind us. I explain what is going on and hand my cell phone to him. After a lot of 'I see, uh huh...OK, OK, righttt...ok' he hands the phone back to me and says thank you. HE was nice. He climbs out of the car and heads up to the house and disappears inside. I climb back inside the truck. A few minutes later the police emerge from the house and approach the truck and explain that they checked their identifications and told the people to finish up quickly and leave. We thanked them and waited for everyone to vacate.
20 minutes later the last of the SUV's drive off the lawn with a truck load of household goods and before we know it we are sitting there alone in the dark and quiet. After a while we realize there is a back yard to this house where you can drive around back and come out the other end. So we figured on the best place to park would be in the back. If anyone was going to break in they wouldn't be doing it from the front street but from the back of the building. Neither of us got any naps in that night as there were a lot of curious spectators wanting a glimpse of the burned out structure. Every now and again we'd see a set of headlights come around the end of the building driving slowly and craning their necks to see what there was to see. That was the first night.
The second night was pretty much uneventful except when we took a bathroom break around 5:30am and went to the nearest Tim Horton's to use the facilities and get coffees. When we arrived at the coffee shop we pulled in and parked beside 3 police cruisers. We entered the shop to see 3 officers having coffee. Two of them were the same officers from the night before. They called us over and asked us if there had been a very loud black truck driving around and around in a repeated fashion around the house. Eric and I looked at each other, then the officers and said "No." "Strange." one cop says. "We just got a call about a truck driving around that building." "Well we didn't see anything. We just left there to come straight here for a bathroom break." They left to answer that call, we headed back and seen no signs of them or any black truck.
Our third night there was a Saturday night. It was day three of a rain storm that was hitting the area. We again were parked in back of the building trying very hard not to fall asleep. It was hard with the rain beating on the hood of the truck and the wind rocking us back and forth. Talk about being lulled to sleep!
We had our seats reclined, our pillows behind our heads and our comforters tucked in around us to keep the dampness out and were watching a movie on the laptop which we had propped on the console between us. We were very comfortable. Too comfortable. We'd let our guard down.
It was 3:52am and we were very much involved in a movie when suddenly we can hear a loud rumble in the air. From down at the end of the building we see headlights come around the building followed by that loud rumbling. It had to definitely be the black truck from the night before. The truck sounded louder than a army tank. In comparison our truck sounded like one of those little squeaky party favors. It hit the gas and appeared to be coming straight at us with it's headlights blaring rudely in our eyes. It was trying to intimidate us. When it lined up with our truck it slammed the breaks on. It's windows were tinted black. We couldn't make out anyone in the truck. It just sat there revving its' motor for maybe 5 seconds. Then it slowly rolled forward and away from our truck. My head slowly turned watching it move away. When I was almost completely turned in my seat I was looking through the back window.
I was straining my neck and my eyes trying to see through the steamed up rained soaked window to see why the truck had stopped. Then I seen the reason why. Suddenly the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I swear my blood ran cold. I remember making a fist and jabbing Eric in the arm and between clenched teeth said, "Look!!" Eric followed my gaze to see two large dark figures standing behind our truck. They approached the black truck. They were dressed in dark clothing. They were wearing hoodies with the hoods pulled up covering their faces.
It scared the hell out of me to be blunt as we didn't see nor hear those individuals approaching from behind our truck. They spoke to the person in the truck then stepped back from the vehicle. The black truck revved its motor, squealed its tires and drove off and disappeared around the end of the building. The two large dark forms slowly turned in the direction of the truck and slowly walked away until they disappeared into the darker shadows of the yard.
It was very apparent that these individuals were planning on breaking into the house until the the people or person inside that truck warned them that there was someone in our truck or the place was being watched. A break and enter had been averted. They never returned as we were there for over a week and they never came back. It had scared the begeesus out of me to see that truck charging at us.through the wind and rain. It made every hair on my body stand on end to see those two dark forms standing behind our truck. And it saddened me to think that there are people out there that would stoop so low as to take and steal from people who had just lost everything they owned in the world. The little these victims had left these creeps were going to steal. What's even sadder is that these creeps were probably from the same neighbourhood. They'd steal from their own people. This was hard for me to swallow and accept because where I came from the south-end, the people there would never steal from their own. They would protect their own community, not pillage it.
That was our last job posting, until the next one. You learn something of human nature in the strangest of ways. I've learned that human behavior and intelligence, thought and reason can easily score less on the IQ scale than some animals. Some humans level of intelligence isn't much higher than that of a wild coyote. A scavenging opportunist that will move in and take the last bite of food you may have left. It seems that when the poor are at a disadvantage that there is always someone lurking in the shadows waiting to kick them while they are down. I'd like to think that this is not what God intended for us to be. Bad as some humans can be, God claims to love them too. They don't know how lucky they are.
I have a new found respect for Security Officers. I, like many people, have in the past found them to be annoying at best. I would say, like a lot of people that those who choose to work security work, were just cop wanna-bees. I would be wrong. These hard working men and women put themselves in potentially dangerous positions and work long hours for very little pay. It's an honest living and for that they should be respected. Who knows how easily they could go the other way and become the very people they stand against.
The rest of that assignment went smoothly and without incident. The last morning there was the longest as I couldn't wait to leave the sadness, poverty and crime behind me. My financial status probably isn't much different than those living in the projects but, I get to leave, they don't.
We point Snoop Dodgy Dodge in the direction of the highway and head home in the pre-dawn light. I rest my head against the back of my seat and take a deep breath, I let it out slowly. I was releasing the bad karma. It felt that even the air you breathe in the projects is bad and I wanted to leave that behind me.
I needed to get back home. I needed to stand on my deck that faced the Bay of Fundy and breathe in the tang of the salt air. I needed to feel enveloped and cleansed in the salty vapor carried in on the wind. My tired, tainted eyes needed the soothing view of the bay to heal them. To soften the strain from darkness to light. I was yearning to see the incoming tide with its blue-green swells rolling and filling in the land that lay before it, its edges laced in snow white sea foam. I feel so humbled that I get to witness such pure natural beauty in action. For this I am rich and wealthy and want for nothing else. I've been blessed...............
Until the next high tide.........