Lighthouse of Reason

A couple days later, Darryl and I sat down for lunch in the food court like we did from time to time, and we got talking about Chadwick, both of us agreeing he was an arsehole after sharing a few merciless jokes at his expense. Perhaps that was the moment our superficial work buddy relationship solidified into a genuine friendship, because at one point he leaned in closer to say he had other footage of the missing girl; however, it couldn’t be shown to the authorities as it came from “unofficial channels”. My curiosity was piqued, so I asked him what the unofficial channels were, and he held his index finger up to his lips. Then he glanced over both shoulders before telling me to drop by his place on the weekend.

Thinking back now it occurs to me, Darryl Boswell was ahead of his time. Normally, that expression denotes something heroic but not in his case. What I mean to say is, he predated two movements, both of which reared their ugly heads ten years after we were fraternizing. Had he lived longer, he would’ve found solidarity within the red pill movement and the incel movement. Never once did I see him in the company of a female, yet he spun many tales of heterosexual conquest, always in vague enough terms to avoid scrutiny. I suppose his Coke-bottle glasses and string bean physique didn’t help his plight. Nor did his high-strung, Woody Allen-esque, man-child demeanor. Despite being fourteen years my senior, I couldn’t help treating him like he was younger than me. Maybe an undiagnosed hyperactivity disorder was to blame, or maybe he simply had no intention of growing old gracefully, as evidenced by the blonde dye in his white hair.

I’ve always been quick to give the benefit of the doubt, thus I assumed his insistence on wearing Adidas tracksuits was less an age-defying statement than a practical consideration informed by his fleetfootedness. Everything he did had to be done at a high rate of speed. Walking beside him meant breaking a sweat, and following him in conversation proved equally difficult, as his rapid-fire chatter would be crammed with dubious facts and figures that made heads with slower processing speeds spin around the heavily biased axis of his ‘truth’. On one occasion, he alluded to having Asperger’s Syndrome, a diagnosis corroborated by the quirks of his behaviour. Rarely did he pick up on social cues, and there were countless instances of him misinterpreting figurative language. Darryl was indeed an odd duck whose character held sharply relieved sides, so much so I never quite knew who I was going to meet upon showing up for work. Some days, he was overbearing to the point of boorishness. Other days, he’d shrink like a violet from the world.

The anti-Semitic seeds of the red pill movement were germinating on the internet circa the mid 2000s, and appropriate policy measures should’ve been adopted in response. But how does one stamp out something that’s probably been around since Ramesses II chased the Israelites out of Egypt? Hindsight is 20/20, and from my vantage point, here in the middle of the third decade of the third millennium AD (2025), it’s easy to be glib about the proliferation of hate speech on the emerging social media platforms of the mid 2000s. What must be remembered is that there weren’t any narratives around content regulation back then, and millions of guys like Darryl got turned away from the lighthouse of reason as a result.

What at first seemed like harmless contrarianism soon turned out to be a deep investment in an ideology of hate. There were, of course, warning signs. For example, denying hard facts appeared to leave him feeling spiritually charged, similar to a parishioner at the end of a Sunday sermon. In his opinion, the Earth wasn’t round, climate change didn’t have anything to do with humanity’s addiction to petroleum, dinosaurs never existed, the real Paul McCartney did not live past 1966, and the Beaux Arts style of architecture that characterized the opulence of America’s Gilded Age didn’t reflect the ambitious designs of architects bankrolled by robber barons, rather, it was the work of a Tartarian empire. According to him, every trace of this mysterious empire had been wiped from the flat face of the planet by an equally mysterious mud flood. On top of all that nonsense, he denied the Holocaust despite being the owner of an anglicized Romani surname. Did he have non-Aryan blood flowing through his veins, and if so, was he aware of it? Maybe the question mark hanging over his ancestry haunted him, and in Hitleresque fashion, he chose to wildly overcompensate. Without stooping to apologetics, I should add to the record that a severely neglected child became visible upon scratching Darryl’s surface, and this served as a challenge insofar as I thought it was possible to talk sense into him by listening to his point of view, and then engaging in rational debate.

I suppose I was in denial about his radicalization, the extent of which became a little more apparent when the weekend rolled around, and I went over to his place to see the footage from his unofficial channels.

He rented a bachelor apartment in the hub of downtown. The area didn’t qualify as the mean streets but it certainly wasn’t a sought-after place to live. Crumbling brownstones and aluminum sided duplexes would’ve been a hard sell for any realtor, yet sold signs were pounded into the patchy grass of trash-strewn lawns; proof the gentrification process had begun.

This was my first time visiting him at his home. We were only familiar with each other in the context of work. Outside of work we didn’t interact, so I had no idea what to expect when his door swung open at the sound of my first knock. Businesslike looks were exchanged as he whisked me down a hallway clogged with computer equipment into an equally cluttered room, where I sat down on a chair frequented by his Persian cat. On the table beside my chair, a cold beer, a bottle opener, a cigarette, a lighter, and an ashtray had been thoughtfully laid out. Sometimes at work, I’d join him for a smoke when our coffee breaks coincided, however, I was not a regular smoker. Nevertheless, I showed my appreciation for his hospitality by opening the beer and lighting up, at which point, he began speaking at length about something called, specifically about how it was poised to become the next big thing in adult classifieds because Craigslist had recently been threatened with criminal prosecution for aiding and abetting sex traffickers by means of its erotic services section.

Subsequent to his Backpage preamble, he claimed to have recognized the missing girl from a Backpage ad, and that’s when he opened a new window on his laptop in order to show me what he was referring to. Sure enough, she looked to be the very same girl, and we both sat in silence for a bit, drinking beers and smoking cigarettes while perusing photos that popped up when he clicked an embedded hyperlink. The visual gallery began with several professional grade shots of her in a sheer nightie hiked-up above a substantial thigh gap, followed by a few of her sporting an underboob crop top while sucking on a lollipop, yet it all felt very wrong because she looked like first-rate jailbait despite the attempt to age herself with makeup. Feeling a little mortified, I broke the silence, hoping to move the evening along from where it awkwardly stood.

  • I don’t see why you can’t show these to Chadwick.
  • What do you mean?
  • Well, you said it was compromising but they’re publicly available and probably relevant to the investigation somehow.
  • Oh, no, no, no. I wasn’t referring to this when I mentioned the unofficialchannels.

We lapsed back into another pregnant silence wherein he scrolled through more racy pictures, as I sipped my beer and finished my cigarette, averting my eyes all the while. An elaboration on his unofficial channels appeared unforthcoming; therefore I continued the conversation, nudging things forward as best I could.

  • So… What are these unofficial channels if you don’t mind me asking?
  • You’d have to promise me and I mean really promise me that you’d keep it a secret if I showed you.
  • Sure, okay… I really promise you.

He closed the laptop in front of him and took out another from a locking drawer in his desk. Then he rubbed the palms of his large hands together while it booted up. Moments later, he clicked one of several thumbnails appearing on the home screen, and a video automatically began to play.

  • Are we looking at a stall in a public washroom?
  • Good eye, Andy, good eye.

An elderly woman entered the stall, lowered her slacks and underwear, and sat down on the toilet.

  • This is a women’s washroom?
  • Yep.

Upon finishing, the elderly woman wiped herself, pulled up her slacks and underwear, and flushed the contents of the bowl. There looked to be several hours of footage but a timestamp enabled him to jump forward to where a young woman entered the stall.

  • That’s the missing girl, isn’t it?
  • Yes, my friend. Now watch what she does right here…

I watched her sit down on the lid of the toilet with a piece of paper in one hand and her phone in the other. She looked to be entering whatever was written on the paper into her phone. Then she crumpled the paper up and stuffed it into the small garbage receptacle affixed to the wall of the stall.

  • I think that paper will be key to the investigation if you can retrieve it.
  • Wait, what?
  • I said: I think that paper will be key to the investigation if you can find it.
  • I heard what you fucking said… Is this the women’s washroom at the mall?
  • Remember your promise, Andy.
  • Did you put a fucking spy camera in the stall of the women’s washroom?
  • Remember your promise, Andy.
  • Jesus Christ, Darryl. You’re damn right you can’t show this to the detective. You’ll be thrown in jail. What the hell were you thinking?
  • I’ll tell you what I was thinking: I was thinking about the safety of girls like her. A lot of crime happens in mall washrooms because we’re not allowed to put cameras in there. Physical and sexual assaults, theft, drug abuse, you name it.
  • So, you’re breaking the law in order to enforce it.
  • Exactly.
  • And I’m supposed to believe you’re not some kind of Peeping Tom.
  • A few of them have pleasured themselves inside the stall but I have no interest in such things.
  • This means you have video of children too, doesn’t it?
  • Yes, it does, but I’m not making kiddie porn here, I’m maintaining the highest possible security level of any mall in the entire world. I defy you to find a mall with tighter security.

I drained the rest of my beer, shaking my head in disbelief. I knew he was weird but I had no idea how weird until now. As for him, he showed no signs of contrition, rather, he stared blankly at me like I was the one who was crazy, before getting up to grab me another beer and cigarette. The disapproving tone he used when referencing those who pleasured themselves got me thinking he might be an abstainer, so I decided to test my theory.

  • Why do I get the feeling you’re one of those puritans who doesn’t masturbate?
  • Actually, I don’t. I have no sexual urges. I’m more evolved than that.
  • Then why were you on Backpage dot com?
  • Backpage isn’t just for perverts, it happens to have a lot of classifieds that can’t be found anywhere else. I use it for buying and selling computer components, security hardware, and other electronic items. I just happened to look through the adult ads out of curiosity.
  • Right, and I’m hung like John Holmes.
  • No you’re not. I bet you’ve got eight inches at the most.
  • It was sarcasm, Darryl, and in this case the sarcasm was supposed to convey the fact that I know a steaming load of shit when I hear it.
  • It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe me, all that matters is your promise.
  • Don’t worry, I’ll keep my promise, but you have to take your spy camera out of that washroom, or I’ll find it and take it out myself the next time I’m in there cleaning.
  • It’s already gone. I didn’t wanna risk it being found by Chadwick.

After a final, fruitless appeal to common decency, I gave up and got ready to leave, but he stood over me as I tied my shoes, and matter-of-factly informed me that the stall footage of the missing girl was taken within the last week. Then, he squatted down to eye level and urged me to search for her crumpled piece of paper before garbage night rolled around. I claimed to have better things to do and left, feeling much dirtier than when I arrived.


9 thoughts on “Lighthouse of Reason

  1. Do you have these stacked up, queued, and are releasing them as a serial?
    I feel dirty now, too. (And now ponder the need to install a VPN bounce app so that I can checkout without fear of being tracked by the FBI.)
    I get the feeling you’re setting us up on the gradual sentimental drift in support of the murders that are soon(?) to be revealed. I can’t wait.
    Time for another shower…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think Darryl needs to meet up with Girl Pokey! Well, maybe not. Could signal the end of all civilization. I like the introduction of this new perspective. Good going. Now to get caught up with your latest!

    Liked by 1 person

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