The apartment was in an area called Corso Italia. As gentrification gnawed its way through Toronto, many areas were affected and changed. This area was no exception. For many years, the storefront on the ground floor had been a small family grocer. Next door was a small old style fish market. Both of these businesses were long gone by the time I moved in. Many of the original owners aged out of their businesses or died a slow death when large supermarkets opened nearby.
The former fish shop was vacant for months, probably years. I often looked inside the window. The space was small, was probably last renovated in the 1950’s. There was the same baby blue 4 x 4″ ceramic tile on the walls, as was in my kitchen and bathroom. I guessed that maybe the buildings and businesses belonged to the same owner, or they were pals with the tile guy.
One day some rough looking dudes started moving stuff into the empty fish shop. They’d had a used furniture/whatever shop down the street but I supposed this was less expensive. They set up shop, and it was sort of a crappy jumble, with high prices. There used to be a woman with dyed hair around, but then she was gone, replaced by an ultra annoying chatty guy.
The way the buildings were set up on this block was that they were all solidly stuck together. There was no lane access, and the narrow walkway shown in my firescape photo was the only way to get to the street from the back half of the block. The building I was in had been (illegally, not to code) built out to cover the entire lot, though in decades past there would have been a large yard or storage area behind the store. Some of the other buildings still had a yard, while others had been built out to varying degrees.
I spent a little time on the “deck” and could see down to the former fish shop’s yard. As the dudes moved in, the yard was quickly filled up with furniture, store fixtures, building equipment and other stuff, concealed under tarps. I assumed that once they were completely moved, that it would get organized properly.
Instead I watched antique upholstered furniture get soaked in the rain, and more contents piled up. This was around the time that I started to be seriously concerned about the possibility of insurance arson.
Not long after they moved in, I saw my first roach, in the bedroom. This was on the adjacent wall to the fish store. Then the salon saw some roaches, then the new third floor tenants. Ugh.
This is what their yard looked like after a couple of months:
Spring came, and as they had a couple of extension ladders, they decided to make the fish shop roof their personal beach, and took lawn chairs and their drinking pals up there.
In theory this was okay, except that on the roof they could see straight into my bathroom and bedroom windows. I sure didn’t like this. Their pals were all really sketchy creeps, too. I didn’t want them outside my apartment on the roof, having break in ideas.
Thankfully, the rooftop beach was abandoned quickly, though they just left the chairs and table up there. I was tempted to toss them off the roof during a windstorm, but I thought this might rejuvenate their rooftop interest.
The second worst creep disappeared for awhile then reappeared. Then it seemed like he was living in the back of the shop. I noticed a bunch of former water bottles, now being used as piss bottles, starting to pile up by their back door. (As far as I could tell the former fish store was just one room, with no basement or washroom.)
The salon got robbed on a Saturday. Camera footage captured the dude confidently walking in, who went straight to the cash drawer, when the receptionist was away from her desk for a moment. Creep # 2 was shown the footage by police, who claimed he recognized the guy from the last time he was in jail a few weeks ago, but didn’t know his name or anything.
On Sunday night I was getting ready for bed when I heard a woman SCREAMING, loudly screaming like she was terrified and desperate. It sounded like it was coming from the back. I ran out, worried that it was the woman upstairs who was being assaulted. I could hear the woman screaming again, and sounds of slaps or punches. No lights were on upstairs, but I could see the back door to the crap store was open. It sure seemed like the sound was coming from there.
I called 911, and took the officers through the apartment out on the roof and showed them the back door. Someone else had called to report the screams, too. The police went around the front, while others climbed down the ladders.
The woman didn’t want to press charges, and I guess maybe they escorted her out.
My theory is that creep # 2 definitely knew the thief, and was probably full of helpful advice about the salon. They probably split the cash. There were some homeless addict women doing street level prostitution close to the LCBO store a few blocks down the street. I guess he offered one of them some cash and maybe booze or drugs, and when she wasn’t a compliant enough victim he assaulted her. This is the only scenario I can think of as to why any woman would be within a mile of that guy.
The sound of the blows and her screams was sickening. I didn’t know what to do but convinced myself I would drag her to safety if I could. It was horrible.
Piss bottles and garbage bags full of piss bottles are just below the ladders by the wall. See the door.