Sam North/Sam Hawksmoor
'...I need your
help now '
was particular from the word go. In fact, Jennifer wouldnt
use the word go; go would be too short for her. She
hated using short words when long words would do. She liked long
explanations as to why she was always late, lengthy expositions
on why her problems were a lot greater than yours ever could be
and even longer pauses between words as she considered,
from her extensive lexicon, the exact appropriate word that would
describe her suffering; and she did so agonise over her suffering.
Jennifer had dating difficulties. Anyone who had taken the risk of dating
her would regret it from the very first time they ever went to Bean Around
the Corner or any other coffee shop that wasnt Starbucks. (She,
of course, would not frequent Starbucks because they oppressed coffee
pickers somewhere she was never specific about where.)
Her coffee had to be Americano, the cup had to be porcelain, half filled
with coffee and half with hot water, but making sure there was room for
milk, which had to be 2%, but not fully skimmed and certainly never half
& half. Then it had to be brown sugar and stirred with a wooden stick
because shed read that plastic spoons heat up and leach carcinogens.
Then, assuming there would be a chair (shed leave, abandoning the
coffee if there wasnt), shed sit and stare at the coffee mug
rather than talk to you until the coffee was the exact right temperature
and then shed drink it really fast in case it got too cool. Then
shed immediately need to pee. The washroom would always be too dirty
by her standards, so shed feel compelled to clean it first and negotiate
with the baristas for bleach to assist her in this. Mostly they would
be only too obliging as they hated having to clean the toilets anyway
and customers were always mistreating them. This would take, oh around
an hour, or so.
Jennifer was always complaining to friends that her dates
would abandon her in coffee shops before they ever got to say a word
If you saw Jennifer walking down the street or at a party you would be
stunned. I have seen men instantly dump whomever they have arrived with
and cut in and cut out whoever she was talking to at the time. She was
striking and tall, never went out without her black hat jauntily placed
on one side of her long blonde hair which just brushed her shoulders.
She had slim, elegant legs that were usually encased in something very
tight from Zara and to look at her, see her move, if you didnt know
her, youd fall in love.
Her best friend Louise has suggested to me (and others) that perhaps she
had bonded with her Barbie just too tightly when she was young and that
could account for her rather self-obsessed behaviour.
Of course living up to Jennifers standards was hard. She had a list
and if you didnt have the qualities she required, clearly defined
and well known amongst her friends, you wouldnt stand a chance.
Even Ryan Gosling wouldnt have made it to the list, especially Ryan, as she didnt like or men with beards, or day
old growth or men shorter than her, or men with perfect teeth and polished
shoes. She was especially circumspect of men who paid too much attention
to their grooming. Striking the right balance was a challenge to say the least.
I was not on her list. I am not even sure how we met, or how she had my
phone number, or why she considered me her friend, but the
odd party invite would come along and I go and mock her catering arrangements.
She preferred dry food as then it wouldnt make a mess. I liked to
watch her anguished eyes as she followed peoples plates around the
room just waiting for them to drop food on her teak floor, or spill wine
on her sofas.
She called me out of the blue late one Wednesday night. I was about to
go to bed. I hadnt heard from her in about five months. Id
not even thought about her much except to try and warn someone about her
when he called to ask what she was like. I seemed to remember it was Rob,
a journalist Id met at an Italian coffeehouse in town. I am not
sure of my exact words but it ran along the lines of hed be
better off throwing himself under a truck. He just laughed, he was
pretty confident hed get her into bed. Clearly he did
not know Jennifer well. Louise has assured me that Jennifer did sleep
with the occasional date, according to legend. But no person any of her
friends actually knew. I think she favoured people from out of town.
Look, I am sorry to call you out of the blue like this she
was saying, I dont want to inconvenience you, Sam, but I need
Other people might have just said Help me, but not Jennifer.
Hi Jen, what do you want?
I need you to help me to remove Rob.
Yes Rob, hes a friend of yours. He said he was.
Rob Mellor, the third, actually. His father owns quite a lot of
Thats the kind of thing that made it onto her list. Owning downtown,
calling yourself The Third. Having been to a good school,
being a member of the tennis club and possessing great teeth. But no trust
fund babies, she liked men who had careers. Trust fund babies have
no focus, they always do stupid things and you always end up mothering
them, she would say. Not that she knew. Mothering didnt seem
to be one of her natural skills.
If hes drunk, if hes being rude or obnoxious
I began, but she cut me off. I need you now Sam. Hes heavy.
I need your help and I know I havent been a good friend, but I am
a friend and I need your help now.
I sighed. Theres a code in friendship. You shouldnt have to
beg people to help you if you are a friend. Besides it would
take a strong personality to say no to such a request and no one ever
said I had a strong personality.
Ill be there in I checked my watch. Twenty minutes.
Thank you. She abruptly disconnected.
It was cold and damp. I would have walked, but given the urgency I took
the bus. Jennifer lived virtually opposite me, across the Burrrard inlet.
I lived in an old house, on Kits Point; she lived in a high rise.
She lived on the 4th floor because she hated to climb if the elevator
ever packed up or there was a fire. She was mortally afraid of fires.
The family home had burned down one night whilst her parents were at the
theatre. I believe the family fortune was based almost entirely on the
insurance payout after they sued the family of the baby sitter who smoked.
But I cant be sure any of that is true. Her father had bought the
apartment for her and although it was two bedrooms, she lived alone in
pristine hygienic splendour.
Naturally the elevator was out of order. I walked up, noting that even
in expensive apartment blocks kids had scrawled graffiti on the walls.
She answered me on the second buzz.
Who is it?
Who else did you invite?
She opened the door and pulled me in. Dont take off your shoes.
She was dressed in old jeans and some scrappy sweater. This was not the
girl I knew, but all the better for it. I knew she was naked under the
sweater and for some reason this excited me. (I had long ago given up
on expecting anything other than friendship from Jennifer).
So where is he?
She sat on the floor with the white pages trying to find an address. I
want the sheets burned, where would I find someone who does that?
I looked at her and saw she was much more distressed than I had thought.
What had Rob done? I immediately thought of him raping her in some drunken
stupor and that naturally burning the sheets would be part of some cleansing
ritual. But then he was still here, which was strange.
Jennifer looked distracted and distant. Hes in the bedroom.
Youll have to wrap him in the sheets.
Is he stoned?
She didnt answer. I went into the bedroom.
Rob lay there on the bed naked. He looked drained, his face was bluish,
he was not a well guy. Rob? I asked cautiously.
I looked more closely and it was plain after a moments consideration
that he was dead. His body was so pale I felt I should look for tell-tale
vampire marks on his neck. I look back towards the open door.
Jennifer? You do know he is dead right?
Jennifer said nothing for a moment, probably thinking hard about the appropriate
thing to say.
He swallowed something, of course hes dead.
Arent you suppose to call an ambulance or the police?
Hes dead Sam. Hes dead and I want him out of here.
I left the bedroom a moment. She was still staring at the phone book.
Jennifer, when a person dies there are certain things you have to
Not in my home. Not here. Not with me. He swallowed something and
hes dead Sam. I want him to die somewhere else. You understand?
He did not die here.
I looked at her and frowned. Talk about putting a friend in an awkward
situation. Jennifer, you have to report it, by law. You didnt
I reported it to you. You have to help me.
Would it be any use in me asking her why I had to do anything at all?
He was your friend, she added.
He was your lover.
I did not have sex with that freak. You understand. I didnt
have sex with him, we barely kissed.
He died naked in your bed, Jen. You dont have to pretend to
be Mother Theresa with me.
Ill pay you. I know you need money. A thousand dollars.
A thousand? I was surprised.
Two thousand then. Misinterpreting my remark. But I
want him gone now.
I let a silence fall between us. Two grand was two months rent. Useful.
Of course I had to help, but wouldnt this make me accessory to murder?
If it was a murder. Of course it was an accident. Rob swallowed something.
Then we have to burn the sheets, she added snapping the phone
I went back to the bedroom.
When did he die?
About two hours ago.
I was in the bathroom. He was dead when I came out.
I looked at Rob more carefully. Now I thought about it, his clenched hands,
and his distorted neck. This man died in pain. I tried forcing open his
mouth but couldnt get much movement, rigor mortis was setting in.
I moved the side table lamp and looked down his throat. Amazing white
teeth the guy had and there, at the back of his throat, along with some
vomit, a chunk of aluminium foil. I knew what that was. A wrap. You see these things being handed around at parties. But the assumption
is that you unwrap a wrap to smoke it or swallow whatever it was (and
I didnt want to think about what really was in there.) I tried to
surmise on how it had lodged in his throat. Had Rob begun sucking on it,
waiting to surprise her with whatever he had in there? Had he been bored;
endlessly waiting for Jennifer to come out of the bathroom, then fallen
asleep and the wrap had somehow had lodged in the back of his throat.
Nasty way to go. A stupid accident.
He choked to death, Jen, you sure you didnt hear anything?
Jennifer ignored me. She was looking for an old blanket in the cupboard, something she
could burn without missing it too much. This one its got paint on it. She looked at me.
Wrap him up Sam. Dont forget the pillowcases.
up pretty well. I hadnt noticed how short he was out of his heeled
boots. Jennifer rolled the blue rug around him and taped up the edges
with masking tape. I watched her make sure it was secure and had neat
edges. She didnt want any part of Rob to flop out. I couldnt
but help think that she had done this sort of thing before.
The Bridge is too bright, she mused, is there anywhere
else we can dump him?
You want to dump him? What about his parents, theyll miss
him. He had a girlfriend too, Grace somebody.
Well, he was with me, shes not going to miss him now, is she.
She thought for a moment, screwing up her eyes to think. Spanish
Banks. The tide will take him.
Its pretty public and the police patrol that area.
Its winter, its dark, the cops are in the doughnut shops.
I just want him gone and disconnected from me. Thats all I care.
She pointed at a box. Everything he touched is in there and his
I looked at the box and back at Jennifer, then sighed, OK.
We carried him down the stairs to the basement. We didnt meet anyone
and she dropped him twice as he was heavy and awkaward as we negotiated the bends. Finally with
effort we got him into the Jeep. No one appeared. No one surprised us,
nothing happened. I drove us to Spanish Banks out by Point Grey. The tide
was coming in, and it was windy, so that meant waves. Jennifer never said
a word the entire time. This event was already over as far as she was
concerned. We parked as close to the beach as we could get and I switched
the lights off. There were no other cars around and I could see the usual
ships moored out in the bay their lights twinkling in the black night.
We need to be quick, they patrol quite regularly.
I dragged Rob to the beach and Jennifer followed carrying his clothes.
What are you doing Jennifer?
I read that when people commit suicide they take their clothes off
and wade into the ocean. Unwrap him.
We have to put his trousers on and his sweater. Its more realistic.
I dont want to touch him.
Jen, help me dress him. OK?
I felt her staring at me with annoyance, but couldnt see her too
well in the darkness. OK? I repeated.
We unwrapped him and although she didnt want to touch him, she helped
me pull his pants on. This is not an easy task on a cold beach with the
freezing water swirling around. Jennifer was staring at his sweater with
My god, its acrylic.
I shook my head. This was no time for aesthetics.
Give me his wallet.
Because it will look more natural if it is in his pants.
Theres a hundred dollars in it.
All the better. She brought it to me from the box, along with
his boots. We put the boots on, but my hands were so cold I couldnt
tie the laces and left them loose. I think I may have put the boots on
the wrong feet. It was impossible to see in the dark.
As Jennifer huddled in the blue blanket and sheets, I waded out to sea.
The problem with Spanish Banks is that you have to wade quite a ways to
get a body launched so it wont come back at you. He sank a little,
but not much.
The cop car arrived about two minutes later. I was still out in the water
transfixed by his headlights.
Jennifer shouted to warn me and then (she confessed later) actually pissed
herself and started crying. I thought she was going to die there she was
The cop shone his flashlights on her and then at me out in the water.
I waved to him, calling loudly.
Officer? Youd better see this, theres a man in the water.
I could sense that he didnt want to wade out into the cold ocean.
You know you cant park out here after sunset, he was
I was wading back towards him. I was trying to call the police,
but my signals dead. Theres a guy floating in the water. I was trying
to pull him in but hes heavy.
He shone the strong car searchlight across the water and finally picked
out Rob floating there, rising and falling with the waves.
Shit, Ill have to call the coastguard. You could tell he was annoyed.
You want to help me get him in? I started back out into the
ocean, trying to look as co-operative as a body dumper could in the circumstances.
Lucky we stopped. Shes was feeling sick and my headlights
just caught him as I turned.
The cop reluctantly waded in after me. Fuck, this waters cold.
Sorry, the guys dead, but I had to check.
The cop was still cursing his luck. No, you did right. Damn this
Is he dead? Jennifer was calling from the shore in her most
innocent little girl lost voice.
We reached Rob and the cop shone his flashlight at him and swore again.
Yeah, hes dead. Get floaters out here all the time.
This floater was taking on water, but I was sort of glad to hear it. Suddenly
there was this great surge of water that rolled over the both of us. The
cop dropped his flashlight, I was bowled over and found I was swallowing
water in a moment of panic and the cop was struggling himself.
Damnit. Both of us were swearing and coughing up seawater
when we surfaced and of Rob, there was not a sign.
Naturally we looked a bit longer, but neither one of us was keen to get
pneumonia and we eventually called it quits and headed back to the shore.
Jennifer was sitting in her Jeep looking miserable and expecting the worst.
The cop looked frozen and not really in the kind of shape to this kind
of thing. He took our names when he could finally hold his pen again..
Then seeing as both Jennifer and myself were turning blue with the cold
told us to go home. And next time neck in the park or something,
I ended up sleeping over at Jennifers that night. She was too scared
to sleep alone and since there was only one bed, I was obliged to share
it. Of course we had to make the bed and she had to soak in the bathroom,
but she did let me take a warm shower first, seeing as I didnt have
any dry clothes. Sometime later in the early hours of the morning I found
that she wanted comforting. Only then did she finally settle. Curiously
I spent the rest of the night wide awake thinking about Rob on his way
Six weeks later, after no contact from her at all, she arrives at my office
to tell me she is pregnant and thinking of killing herself.
As far as she is concerned I am the guilty party. I think about Rob, but
then remember she said she only kissed him. Now, of course, I wondered
if that was true.
We went over to the Bean Around the Corner and talked about it as she
warmed her hands on her Americano. Somehow, I am not sure why, duty I
suppose, that, and knowing that she was Catholic, I asked her to marry
She looked at me with horror, then back at her coffee and then at me again.
After what seemed like an hour, during which time she was probably weighing
in her mind the right kind of polite but adroit and balanced response
to my sudden, but hardly unexpected question, she suddenly sighed, looked
at me again with searching eyes and said,Yes, I suppose so.
I can't remember what I felt, duty has no feeling perhaps. I think I heard
the sound of a heavy stone drop a hundred feet into a well, but I can't
They found Rob, or what was left him, the day we had our engagement party
at her apartment. The cop from the beach came around to tell us. He seemed
happy to see us and stayed for one drink when he realised we were getting
engaged an all. It was a lucky thing Rob had such good dentistry
he told us. It was all that was left of him, those white shining crowned
I know Jennifer was glad Rob had washed up at last. Now his family would
know where he was and realise why he hadnt called in a while. His
girlfriend Grace was at our party and Jennifer was very particular in
making sure she hugged and comforted her a lot once the cop had gone away.
Poor Rob, what a terrible thing to have happened she repeated
more than once, for everyones benefit. She did not of course explain
why the cop had come to her place to tell her about it, seeing as Grace
was supposed to be the girlfriend.
Grace, who hadnt especially missed Rob, but had been slightly miffed
that Rob hadnt called her, suddenly realised that he had meant something
to her after all. She was happier to share this sudden blow with someone
so caring as Jennifer.
Jennifer, particular as always, wouldnt have wanted it any other
© Sam North/Sam Hawksmoor 2002/2014
Sundays in Vancouver
MEAN TIDE (Extract)
More Fiction in Dreamscapes
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