Ned Strahan sat on one of the park benches in Occidental Park, near the bronzed firefighter statues; and he looked as nondescript as one of the many inlaid stones that created the un-level, yet geometric appearance of the park’s pavement. In most places, Ned would have caused passersby to stir, or squirm, or look away. In Occidental Park, Ned’s unkempt beard, blackened fingers, matted hair, gaunt face, and stained clothing caused no alarm. The half-acre park is nestled in Pioneer Square between Occidental Avenue South and Main Street South in Seattle. It is conveniently close to one of Seattle’s missions and additionally boasts ample seating with benches, steel chairs, and tables, which at night transform to sleeping surfaces and makeshift living quarters. For these reasons, the park is a haven for many homeless people and other vagrants, who nightly stage territorial wars with each other over the park benches, trash cans, and access to those people who dared to walk around the park after dusk and before sunrise. This is important for him. He needs to blend with his environment and like a phantom be able to disappear at will.
He travels as light as possible, with all of his belongings fitting into a rolling duffle bag and a nylon backpack. He has a toothbrush and some other basic supplies in the backpack. He has clothing, including multiple pairs of mismatched socks, jeans, a hat for the rain, and a thin sleep mat. A box of sandwich bags and disposable latex gloves are in the duffle bag also.
Ned is a regular at the park, he routinely is seen scribbling notes with a short pencil into a black and white composition notebook he normally holds closed with a rubber band. It isn’t uncommon to see a homeless person writing with apparent diligence and passion on paper or other things to pass the time and to appear busy or to respond to the voices compelling the person to action. Most people passing through figured Ned is writing innocuous notes or doodling or maybe working on a Sudoku or crossword puzzle. And that is what he wants everyone to think. In fact, Ned is tracking the movements of the regulars that pass through the park. Not unlike a person bird-watching and cataloging the birds, activities, time and location of sightings, Ned keeps detailed notes on the movements of his potential…prey. He notices movement and behaviors of people passing through and creates an elaborate tracking and rating system for people who traveled through the park, and even gives them nicknames, which sound like chat handles on the Internet.
Ned’s “trackees” are rated on a five- point scale based on several factors including, Apparent Weakness (fitter people got more points), Park Commuting Time (very early or late are given more points), Age (younger get more points), and Disgust. The latter classification more subjective than the former, and Ned gave this rating based on the first sight reaction he got with a person. Each tracked person has a rating from 0 – 20. The higher the score, the higher the risk or satisfaction would be derived from the potential kill.
There was “Blonde & Curly,” the young professional woman who pretends to talk on her cell phone as she walks quickly and awkwardly, with her four-inch high heels. She feels strangely safe when she holds the cell phone to her ear, even when no one is actually speaking with her. She is a legal assistant but has an apartment on Jackson Street, and uses the diagonal shortcut from Second Avenue South through Occidental Park to kill some time from her walk home. Ned rated her a 13.
“Long-Boarder,” a 14, walks through the park on a regular basis during the day and occasionally after dark. He carries his board under his right arm and typically slings a small backpack over his left shoulder. He routinely guzzles Red Bull or Monster energy drinks as he heads to and from the paved walkway along the Alaskan Way viaduct. It is perfect for skateboarding and cycling.
Other regulars Ned tracked included, “Pudgy,” (a 10), “Speedy,”(a 17) “Never Looks Up,” (a 12) and “Gotta Get Coffee,” (a 19). The latter trackee had the current highest score…largely for Ned’s disdain for Seattle’s coffee-based sub-culture. None of the people being cataloged could ever have guessed this was occurring, which played perfectly into Ned’s ultimate scheme. He has been planning this for a long time… and things were coming together nicely.
In another section of Ned’s notebook, he diligently, almost anthropologically, tracks and records the names, key attributes, and any noted events from the plethora of homeless people he lives among. Because of the transient nature of many of these people, he spends time at this activity daily. There is always something new to note and edits to make. When Ned talks with these street people, they often ask, “What are you writing in that notebook?”
Ned casually replies, ”Notes, for the next great American novel,” and strangely enough, this disarms those who ask this question. It is like they feel like they might be famous some day.
A question that Ned always asks his homeless peers is, “Have you ever been in jail?”
If the person says, “Yes.” Ned quickly follows with, “What for?”
It never ceases to amaze Ned some of the hardened, and potentially dangerous ex-convicts that are wandering the streets of Seattle. He places special notes on the pages for those vagrants, because he has a diabolical vision for them.
Do you want to read CHAPTER THREE?
(C) 2013 – 2016 – Darin Hartley