February 2008

Let Me Introduce You To A friend Of Mine...

Walker Carr was not a bad person.

People throw those labels around a lot.

Walker was at heart, a good person who lived with a series of bad circumstances. He could have made other choices in his life, but at the same time, those choices would have led to further choices which would only have gotten harder and more self defeating as they went.

It is what it is.

Let me say this then, and I'll leave you the rest to decide for yourselves.

Walker was an average person. He did some good, he did some evil and at the end the universe banged it's gavel and clearly stated that all things being equal, all things were pretty much equal.

That's the really important thing. In the matter of Walker Carr vs. the universe the judgment was neutral. At the end of this story You may agree or disagree to your hearts content, but the important thing for this story, and perhaps the most important thing in Walker Carr's existence was that verdict.

Not yours.

Please remember that.

Please Sir, May I Have Some More...?

Walker was born in England in the year 1838. His mother was a textile factory employee who got knocked up by the floor boss. She couldn’t afford to keep Walker when he was born, and the floor bodd made it perfectly clear that his wife would not be pleased if Walkers mother kept the baby, so she did what so many factory workers of the time who found themselves dealing with an unexpected pregnancy did.

She left him on the steps of an orphanage with a note explaining that she wished she could keep him, but the state could give him a far better life.

Which, all things considered, wasn’t saying much.

Up until the age when he burned down the orphanage, the lonely life of being a single child in a sea of many was largely the only life he knew. The orphanage consisted of two main halls and two large washrooms. One hall, an enormous cold gray room that looked more like some sort of a cave than a building created by the hands of man housed the several hundred orphans that the orphanage cared for. Down the center of this ran a divider that separated (and barely at that) the girls from the boys. At no point was there ever an absolute silence. Even in the earliest hours of the morning there was always some sort of sound, be it snoring or sobbing from a few of the children who called that hall home. The other hall functioned as a mess hall, assembly area and just about anything else that the orphanage needed it to be.

As with many of the Orphan boys at the time, Walker spent his time either trying to convince himself that he may one day be adopted (highly unlikely), refine his basic street crime skills for a potential career in petty crimes (highly likely) or simply try to avoid the attention of the various but invariably strict orphanage admisistrators.

Of these three endeavors, only one of them ever saw any success.

Before the age of eight, all of the police officers for roughly ten city blocks around the orphanage knew Walker by name, and to their credit, for the most part they treated Walker quiet fairly. There was of course the occasional officer who saw catching Walker in the act of some minor theft as a fantastic opportunity to show what a man he was as a member of the police force and beat Walker within an inch of his life. Some would just take whatever money Walker had on him as well as “reclaim” the stolen goods for their own use and allow Walker to make something of a nameless faceless escape.

Which instilled in Walker not necessarily a disdain, but certainly a lack of respect for the long arm of the law.

Other officers however, would just give Walker a smack with their baton, return whatever it was that Walker was trying to make his escape with to Walkers victim, and send him off with a warning that they never really expected Walker to pay heed to.

Which instilled in Walker the understanding that even corrupt organizations that allowed abusive violent men in their ranks had their merits.

Both of these lessons would later serve Walker well in life

The Roof, The Roof, The Roof is On Fire...

So this was the way of things until just after Walkers 10th birthday. Walkers 10th year was the year that he found his permanent and only employment in life.

It was also the age at which he burnt the orphanage to the ground.

It was also New Years Eve.

On the day of Walkers 10th birthday, he was walking down one of the side streets when he saw a man that he hadn’t seen before. He was a larger man, but more with the heavy set somewhat overweight appearance that only the wealthier of the city could afford. There was another man walking beside him, but Walker’s attention was focused on the larger of the two. A man who looked of money in the way that man did would be carrying money, and Walker had become quite the efficient pickpocket.

Walker grabbed a potato from one of the street carts and started running. This particular trick had worked well for him in past and had been taught entirely unintentionally to him by a magician who had visited the orphanage. The magician had made all manner of things disappear, but it was Walkers keen eye that had picked up on the suble use of misdirection to aid in the disappearance and reappearance of his props. Walker had taken that lesson and applied it to his practice of pick pocketing. By stealing something minor and running, Walker could get the full attention of the street simply by being sufficiently obvious about his theft that the shopkeeper would notice and yell after him with all his breath. Walker could then run into his intended victim “accidentally” while making his escape, rifle his or her pockets and be off before anyone was the wiser.

Walker barely got his hand around the wealthy looking mans billfold when he felt an iron grip on his wrist followed by the sensation of flying through the air before coming to a very sudden and unpleasant stop against the wall of one of the buildings that lined the street.

The first realization that hit Walker after he hit the wall was that at no point had the grip on his wrist relaxed. The second realization was that he was being suspended about a foot in the air by that same grip. As he opened his eyes, which had involuntarily clenched shut during his flight, Walker saw the face of the wealthy looking man smirking at him and felt himself being washed down by the mans putrid breath.

As Walker was being held there, the other man picked up the potato that Walker had dropped and began walking back to the shopkeeper.

As the man handed the potato back to the shopkeeper they spoke briefly before the shopkeeper reached into his pocket and handed a sizeable sum of money to the man.

Certainly far more than the potato was worth.

As the wealthy looking man watched his compatriot begin to walk back to join him, he turned his attention back to Walker. He explained that he perhaps owed Walker a favour, seeing as how he had just helped him close a rather important business deal, but he was in the ironic position that he now felt he had to beat Walker quite soundly in order to fulfill his end of the deal. Walker offered up the plea that it was his birthday (which, in a strange twist of fate, it actually was although Walker had no way of knowing that fact) and could the kind man find some measure of mercy and let him escape.

The wealthy mans face twisted into a smile and he laughed. He told Walker that kind of moxie was hard to come by and he would let Walker go this once, but if he caught Walker stealing from that street vendor again, he would forgo the beating he had described earlier and simply tie a rock around Walkers neck and throw him in the Thames.

Walker thanked the man enthusiastically as he was let to the ground, straightened the mans coat and ran off. As he ran off the man reached into his pocket for his cigarettes only to discover that they were missing. He smiled and laughingly shouted after Walker that if he ever needed a job when he was old enough that he would remember him.

That night in the orphanage, Walker lit a cigarette for the second and last time in his life.

The first had been immediately after he was sure of his escape. Walker stole a box of matches from a girl selling them on the street (he was quite sure that she was far to young and frail to throw him up against the wall) and lit the cigarette as he had seen the administrators at the orphanage do many times before. He did not inhale intentionally that first time, instead drawing the smoke into his mouth and storing it in his cheeks before blowing it out. He did this several times over before an unexpected snezze forced him to inhale some of the smoke. He coughed, threw the cigarette in the snow and made his way back to the orphanage before curfew.

The second time he lit a cigarette, he had been showing them off to some of the other orphans in the lavatory. In an effort to show them all how stunningly mature he was, he lit one then and there in the washroom and after passing it to the other boys he smoked the remainder of the thing himself. After the boys left to tell as many of their compatriots that could be trusted, Walker ran to a toilet and threw up.

Never one to let common sense get in his way, Walker threw the still smoldering butt of the cigarette into the trash when he was done with it. In no time, the smell of smoke began to assert itself in the air and Walker knew there was a problem. He bolted out of the washroom and went looking for a good place to hide.

In under a minute it became clear that hiding wasn’t an option.

In under five, the building was ordered to be fully evacuated.

In under ten it was fully evacuated with the exception of a few unfortunate mice and rats.

In under twelve, it was completely engulfed in flames.

It took the orphanage the better part of four hours to burn completely to the ground.

And Walker ran.

When walker stopped running he found himself standing in front of a local pub. Walker stood there, unsure of what to do next. Looking through the window, he saw the wealthy man again.

Walker weighed his options at that point and decided he needed to ask about the job the wealthy looking man had mentioned earlier. It was better than the cold winters night that was setting in, and at the very least Walker thought he might at least be able to hide under a table to keep warm.

So a very brazen and scared young Walker walked in to the pub.

He walked right up to the wealthy looking man and demanded a job.

The wealthy looking man, already half drunk on the new years festivities didn’t recognize Walker at all initially. When he did, he burst out in great peals of laughter, his baritone voice rolling all across the ceiling of the pub.

Walker begged the man, explaining that his orphanage had just burned down and he had no where to go on New Years Eve.

The wealthy looking man though for a second before reaching into his pocket.

He pulled out five bills and handed them to Walker and he said this.

“Boy, if you go find me a pack of cigarettes as I seem to have misplaced mine…” he paused, “I’ll make sure that you get a job and that you never have to worry about having a roof over your head again. But you must do it within the hour and you must return to me all of my change”

Walker looked around the table. There were four other men there. Walker knew that there were no stores open at this time that he knew of, but he also noticed that one of the other men at the end of the had a cigarette container lying on the table. Walker walked around to that end of the table and asked the man how much he wanted for his cigarettes. The whole table burst into laughter and the man with the cigarette case told Walker he would give Walter the cigarettes and the case for all five of the bills that Walker had just been give. Walker countered with one bill and they eventually agreed on three. Walker took the case and walked to the opposite end where the wealthy looking man sat with a more than slightly amused mused grin on his face.

“Son” he said, “You’re quite the errand boy, what, pray tell is your name?”

Walker answered, “Walker sir”.

“Well Walker, I happen to be in need of a resourceful young errand boy like yourself, I’ll pay you two of those bills a week and you can have a room of your own at this here very pub, what do you say?”

Walker said he would like that just fine.

And the wealthy looking man shook his hand and told Walker that his name was Robert.

And that was how Walker got his foot in the door of organized crime. It was a foot that he would never be able to pull back out, right up until the day he died.

Setting Up Shop...

And so, while the vast majority of the orphans who were put out into the streets on the night of the fire were still desperately trying to find a place to stay the night without freezing to death, one of the matrons of the pub emptied out a closet on the third floor of the pub and showed Walker to his new room.

Which was, in Walkers somewhat naive opinion, the finest accommodations that he had ever seen.

Which was, in fairness to Walkers circumstances up until the point, also a fairly reasonable assessment of the situation. Walker had a door to a room where he would be the only person, instead of the massive gray stone hall that he had known all of his life.

One might have thought that Walker might have found that tiny closet lonely and tragic, but even when Walker grew old enough that he couldn’t lie down without folding himself into the fetal position and he woke up with the most painful leg cramps imaginable, even then, Walker loved that closet dearly because it was his own.

It was his home.

Walker filled the remaining years of his youth either running errands for Robert or doing chores around the pub. The upper three floors of the pub were actually an Inn of sorts with the uppermost floor being almost entirely occupied by Robert and his band of cohorts.

After two years of faithful service from Walker, Robert finally decided that Walker deserved a room with slightly more space and moved him to a larger closet on the third floor. This closet was large enough that when Walker first moved in he could stretch out entirely and have his head touching one wall and his feet barely touching the opposite wall. It also smelled somewhat better as it had been, up until Walkers occupancy used as a relatively seldom-visited storage closet.

Only a year after that Walker once again could not lie down without folding himself up like a jack knife, and again Robert noticed that Walker moved progressively more stiffly in the mornings.

And so, Robert had Walker moved one final time to the attic. The pigeons and various other birds had been having their way with that space for some time and Robert had finally had enough, so in a typically shrewd deal Robert offered Walker the attic if he first cleaned up all of the bird droppings that had accumulated over the years. This represented not only an immediate solution but a rather long term one as well. Robert knew that with a tenant up there the birds would be chased out on a regular basis and also the droppings would be cleaned.

Walker of course jumped at the opportunity.

It took him the better part of a month working from the end of his day running errands to where he was almost falling asleep on his knees chipping away the droppings and fixing the attic up to a point where it would be livable, but after that month he moved into a space that was larger than anything he’d ever seen.

In truth, when Robert saw the job that Walker had done cleaning up, he almost rescinded his offer as he knew some of his other employees would be jealous, but Robert was if nothing else, a man of his word and Walker retained possession of the attic and his privacy.

Which were both things that he had come to value more than anything else in life.

What Colour Is Your Parachute?

So Walkers first job was as an errand boy for one of the higher-level criminal lords who ruled the slums of London.

Walker didn't mind the work at all. He got paid well enough that he could go spend a couple of hours with one of the ladies of the evening who worked within walking distance of his loft, and he never had to pay for his entire tab at any of the local pubs. He knew that he was in with a bad crowd. He knew that bad crowd was doing bad things to both good and bad people, but walker drew the distinction that HE didn't actually do any of those bad things. He brought food orders to people who paid him very well to do exactly that and never remember anything that he saw or heard regarding the comings and goings of the many people who came in and out of that 2nd floor office.

And that's pretty much how Walker would have lived his entire life had it not been cut somewhat short. I suppose the reality is that WAS that Walker spent his life doing that. Smoking cheap cigars, getting irresponsibly drunk and bedding the occasional prostitute all while making a living being a bagboy for the mob.

Now I know what you're thinking.

Seriously.

I do. You're thinking that this is the part of the story where a series of plot twists bring Walker to a somewhat predictable but somewhat unpredictable scenario where despite his years of service to the Mob boss, Walker sees something he shouldn't have, I mean REALLY shouldn't, not the normal kind he dealt with on a day to day basis, and after a couple of more twists, the kind that have walker drunkenly tell one of his prostitutes some of the minor details of what happened, but the prostitute knows someone who knows someone who knows the guy who had something happene to him and Walker ends up looking down the barrel of a gun and realizes the mistakes he's made (albeit somewhat late) only to have the Mob Boss who doesn't have any other choice if he wants to maintain the fragile peace with a rival and equally powerful crime syndicate pull the trigger and shed a quiet tear when no one can see him. He really did like the kid; after all, just a wasteful costs of doing business

Sorry.

Walker got run over by a carriage. He was stone drunk, stumbled out into the street and was crushed underneath 32 iron horseshoes and the eight horses they were attached to, as well as the two heavy oak wheels on the left.

Took him about an hour to die and it hurt like all hell right up to the point where it all went black.

And On Come The Lights...

Let me save you the trouble. He was not in heaven. Nor, for all you naysayers was he in hell.

He was, of all things, reincarnated as a rabbit.

And one day, after only having been a rabbit for a couple of weeks, he found himself sitting on a white porch. The paint was badly peeling, but there was this lovely smell floating in the air. Just a hint of a lovely smell actually, but a lovely smell nonetheless.

Walker found himself drawn to this lovely smell, which if had been around for more than a couple of weeks he would have known was in fact the smell of roses.

But he had only been around for a couple of weeks, so he only knew that it was a lovely smell.

Nonetheless, source of the lovely smell identified or not, Walker followed it and made his way around the outskirts of the house where he found the most beautiful garden he had ever seen.

In either life.

which isn't saying all that much being that he had only seen two gardens prior to this one so he really had no significant experience to draw from in determining the quality of the garden. That and, he was after all, only a rabbit.

But by even the highest of standards of men (who are often thought to be excellent judges of a gardens quality, provided they have sufficient experience in garden judging), it was in fact, a stunningly beautiful garden.

So Walker did what any self-respecting petty-thief-turned-rabbit would do.

He hopped to the edge of the garden and began to move as much plant matter from the soil of the garden into his little rabbit belly.

After a few minutes, Walker heard someone coming around the house and ran off as rabbits are often wont to do.

He escaped with only some very strong words following him, which considering that two of the other rabbits in his litter had already learned that if it looks to good to be true it usually is. One of them met their demise underneath the business end of a shovel and the other had encountered a family dog that didn’t appreciate the young rabbit treating his yard like a buffet table.

So all things considered, he got off pretty easy.

He would not get off so easy the next time he returned to that particular garden.

TO BE CONTINUED

Of course.