Just days before Dupar's, on Ventura Blvd., was to close its doors permanently, I sat quietly in the back on my laptop going over notes and outlines for a new screenplay I was writing.
The restaurant was sparse.
Drawing close to midnight, I was drowsy & minutes away from calling it a night.
That's when the front door opened and a wave of horrible stench wafted through to the back. I looked up as a homeless man walked in and made direct eye contact with me.
My first thought: The character Bill Sikes from the musical Oliver Twist!
The smell was nauseating.
He headed in my direction as if he were a man-on-a-mission, and as he got closer, the smell of feces and piss got even stronger.
I knew instinctively this was not going to be good.
He looked to be in his 70s, his Caucasian skin had been brutally weathered from a life on the streets. The flesh on his face cracked and leather-like, and its elasticity had died long ago.
The night was warm, but he wore a heavy gray floor-length over-coat with a large hat to match; matted blonde hair peeked out from under and grew past his shoulders... I hated to think what creepy-crawler lived inside that mess...
He stopped directly in front of me... and coldly stared.
At that moment, discreetly, I pressed 'record' on my phone.
"I saw ya from outside. You a writer?" Two yellow-brown teeth formed the words, but it was his voice that struck me and gave me chills. It was like gravel; the years of drinking booze had not been kind, then a gurgle, like something more was alive down there.
"I gotta talk to you. Please. I'm beggin,' ya."
"I gotta confession to make. Been holdin' it in for about forty-five years now. I gotta tell someone."
"What kind of confession?"
"... Murder. I murdered a young boy in '73..."
There was a horrible silence between the two of us. How do you respond to something like that? True or not, why did he approach?
"Why do you want to confess to me? This is something for the police..."
"Did it already. Many times. They don't listen. They don't want to listen. They think I'm crazy. I maybe homeless, but I ain't crazy... the problem is... they can't find no bodies..."
"You just said a boy. Is there more than one?"
"Please. I'm beggin' ya..."
I silently offered him to sit across from me. As he sat, his eyes stayed locked on mine.
"Just so you know, I'm already recording."
"I know. God bless you."
"Yes... OK... let's start from the beginning... my name is Waide Riddle, I write for the NoHo Arts District News..."
"Ugh... my name is Stanley Willard. I'm 75 and I'm confessin' to a murder I done."
WR- ... Tell me your story Mr. Willard...
SW- Ya see, back in the 70s, I used ta hang out a lot on, over there, on Ridgemoor Drive. That's with two 'O's' and no 'E' at the end. It was rainin' that day, ya see. One of those rare cloud bursts over L.A. The rainy season here. January. Not long afta the New Year celebration. Anyways... it was in the middle of the day and I was keepin' dry in the bushes up at the hair-pin-curve on Ridgemoor. Rain comin' down hard. I was mindin' my own business... and doin my own business... if you get my drift... when I heard a little boy's laughter. I looked around and saw a little boy, not more than seven or eight, playing' in the water as it gushed out from the drainage ditch. No telling where that water came from, but, it was a kid, and he was havin' fun. Well, I got to thinking' ... nasty thoughts... dirty thoughts... thoughts that would get any man in a whole lotta trouble... But, they was strong thoughts... And, I listened...
WR- What do you mean you listened?
SW- I was weak... I was quiet in the bushes... as I moved closer and closer to this little boy...
WR- Oh my God...
SW- God bless ya... The rain was loud, the gush of water from the drain was loud... I was fast. Quiet as a mouse. It was so easy. Too easy. I grabbed him from behind, putting my hand over his mouth, and swept him up like a little rag doll. He was screamin'... I took him back up into the brush where I was... I pushed him face first into the mud and weeds... I was on fire! I was on top of 'em... pullin' his pants down... down to his ankles... He was trying to scream the whole time... but, I took my fist and started punchin' em in the head. Punched him over and over... Punchin' till his body went limp under mine...
I watched Stanley Willard tell his story. He seemed to momentarily thrill at the horror of it all. He also seemed lost in a memory that--
I raped him. I sodomized that little boy. I committed the worst sin known to God against that child.
He shuddered at the thought.
And, so did I.
I took his body and quickly went over to the drain pipe. What else was I supposed to do with a body? I pushed 'em in. I kept pushin.' So much water. So much force. Mother Nature was gonna make it hard on me for what I'd done. If I could just getem' in there... I pushed and pushed until we were both inside. In the darkness. In the mud. That's when I felt his body hook and lodge on somethin' in the blackness. Couldn't see, but, whatever it was, held on to 'em tight. About that time, I heard a man yelling out in the street, "Lance," he yelled. "Lance." I figured it was the boy's father. "Lance!" "Lance!" "Lance!" I could hear the concern and fear in his voice every time he yelled the boy's name. I waited, what seemed hours in the pitch black and cold water till I figure it was safe for me to come out... That was the start...
WR- The start? Of what?
SW- Afta that, I started hearin' screams of that boy... in my head... it's never stopped. They tell me to do it again... and again... the kids on the milk cartons... I've seen many of them... for the wrong reasons... They're all in my head now... screamin.'
He started to weep.
WR- Why are you crying?
SW- 'Cause I'm marked. They won't leave me alone. They're torturing me... They never found a body.
WR- Who's 'they'?
SW- Told ya. The police. I even took'em to the pipe myself, weeks afta. Guilt. Tortured by all the children that I'd done in... There was no body.
WR- There was no body?
SW- God bless ya. No... they took a whole team over there. No body. Somethins just ain't right about Ridgemoor Drive. What it's done to me. The hair-pin curve... where it meets at the top of Berry Street. Ever think of it?
WR- Think of what?
SW- Where Ridgemoor comes together to meet with Berry... 3800 Ridgemoor and 3800 Berry... It ain't no coincidence. The numbers... They represent the dead. Ya hear me? The numbers are cursed. Somethins evil there... Not only did the cops not find a body... they've not found any of the children I've murdered.
WR- You're insane. And, you want me to document all this.
SW- God bless ya. The police said the same thing. That I was insane and needed help, but it wasn't their jurisdiction... Where did the bodies go, I ask ya? With no body, there's no charge. The father thought I was crazy too and tryin' to get attention... Where did those bodies go? I ask ya.
WR- You're the one that did it. You tell me.
He started weeping again.
SW- ... I don't know... That poor father... Cryin' his eyes out... He begged for his son's kidnapper to come forward... and there I was, right there... No one believed me... I hear screamin’ coming out of the drain when I go over there. Deep in the drain... Screaming... But, there's no body... So, how can that be? Sometimes, I've overheard the neighbors tell of stories that they hear screams, too... comin' from deep in the drain... But, only when it rains... The ghost of that boy is there... He haunts the hair-pin curve. He haunts me. He'll always haunt me.
WR- Stanley... are you getting help for these voices?
SW- God bless you. Yes, yes I am.
He is quiet for a number of minutes. Blowing his nose on his sleeve. His eyes blood shot from the anguish of guilt and madness.
I'm finished with my story now. You'll see that the right people see it, won't ya?
WR- Yes, Stanley, I will. I will be giving this over to the police. You know that, right?
SW- Yes, thank you. God bless ya. The police. Maybe they'll find the body this time...
WR- Stanley, please get the help you need.
SW- Yes, I will. God bless ya. I will. Good-bye.
And, he was gone. Just like that.
I looked down at my phone. The recording was still 'on.'
With a sleepy mind, I realized the night was just beginning and still far from over.