Painting The Town Red

It’s been a long night and fatigue is starting to slow my steps. But I have just one more stop before I can rest and it’s the big one, the only one that required an appointment, so I carry on.

I left the slaughterhouse almost six hours ago and I’ve been a very busy little boy in that time. After taking my leave of Wilkerson and Grozny, I hopped on the crowded number twelve bus and found a seat at the back where I could use my laptop in peace. I had to wait five agonizingly slow minutes before we entered a neighbourhood that had a strong enough Wi-Fi signal for me to pick up. I hammered out a message to The Rebel Voice before quickly disconnecting:

W + G are on our trail. Be careful.

The last two words had sprung unbidden to my fingertips but I didn’t have time to consider them before hitting send. I like to pride myself on going straight to the point, no unnecessary words, the less said the better. So why did I feel the need to add on those useless words of warning?

There was no time for self examination so I pushed the thoughts away as I exited the bus and headed for my apartment. My place doesn’t receive the attention it deserves - I’m just not there often enough to bother with the extra efforts required to keep it presentable - but it suits my needs: a central location, neighbours who keep themselves to themselves, and no security camera in the lobby to track my comings and goings.

I dropped off my laptop and set my backpack of supplies on the kitchen counter. I grabbed an arm’s length of cardboard from the coat closet and my pen knife from a desk drawer before sitting down at the kitchen table. I’m not fond of stencilling, I much prefer the joy of painting free hand, but it simply cannot be beat when you need to tag as much as possible and time is not on your side.

A few minutes of work produced the outline I desired. Two names, one symbol: Wilkerson and Grozny, separated by a large heart. Not the most refined thing I’ve ever made, but it would serve its purpose.

I stashed it in my backpack and set to work, bringing only my signature red paint with me. Over the next five hours I tagged banks, storefronts, trashcans, newspaper boxes, office buildings, everything I could hit without being seen, from one side of the city to the other. The city will wake to see those two names joined together everywhere they turn.

About halfway through my spree I realized there was one location I could not pass up, so I set up my appointment. I hit Davis Street, the most recent hub of nightlife here, and found the crowds I needed. I passed by a group of men in business suits gathered outside the entrance to some night club being guarded by the single largest man I have ever seen. I palmed a cell phone from one of the men at the back of the group and kept walking.

I try to limit theft to people that won’t really miss what I’m taking, or could easily replace it with change they find in their couch. I figured this guy fell in the latter category.

I flipped open the phone and dialled the number from memory. The line was picked up on the fourth ring.

“Hello, this is the central depot of…”

“Hey Paulie, it’s Red,” I cut in.

“Hey young gun, how’s life?”

“Busy, as always. You doing okay?” I asked as I turned down an alley.

“Yeah, but I have a feeling you’re about to change that,” he said with a soft sigh.

“I need to get in the yard tonight, let’s say 2 am.” The resigned expletive that floated out of the earpiece was all the answer I needed. I ended the call and dumped the phone in an open dumpster.

So here I am, outside the ‘yard’ - the central storage depot which holds 80% of the public transit buses in the city. Paulie works security here; he’s been doing the graveyard shift for as long as I’ve known him. This is only the third time I’ve had to ask him to look the other way and turn off the cameras so I can do my work. I’d do it more often but I know it causes him trouble - nothing too serious though, they’d never fire him.

I check my watch: 2:05 am. The red light on the camera across from me is still on. Maybe something came up; I wish I had kept the cell phone so I could check in with him.

2:10 am. It looks like it’s time to call it a night… ah, here we go. I move from shadow to shadow until I reach the fence, peel open the section that never seems to get fixed and I’m in. I work quickly and quietly, moving from one bus to another to another, holding the stencil with my left hand and spraying with my right.

I’m three quarters of the way through the fleet, down to one can of spray paint, when the flood lights come on.

The End

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