With all of my years of experience in the remote British Columbian wilderness, I have developed what I call my Sixth Sense. Nature has taught me to be aware of my surroundings by listening and observing its sounds and sights. When hiking in remote areas, every 15 to 20 minutes I stop, stand motionless in one place, and listen and look for unusual things I listen for things like the rustling of leaves, the snapping of a twig, noises of animals, and the tone, pitch, or even the absence of birds. When camping and sleeping in remote areas, I only go into semi-sleep and always listen for sounds that are out of place, which will warn me that something could be wrong.
You may think that my Sixth Sense only works in the wild, but if it hadn’t been for me and that Sixth Sense, a burglar with over 200 breaks and enters to his credit would still be prowling the streets of Vancouver today. Let me tell you what happened.
One beautiful sunny Saturday in December 1981, I was sitting alone in my office, finishing up some paperwork and talking to a friend on the phone. All of a sudden a guy entered my office, walked past my private office door, and continued to my back office. He was about 6 ft 2, and he had a very confident manner. The strange thing was that he was wearing a raincoat on a nice day, and it was buttoned all the way up.
I got up from my desk, followed him into my back office, and said, “Excuse me, what are you doing in my office?” He looked at me, and said, ‘I’m a security guard, working undercover. This is one of the buildings we secure. There’s been a lot of breaking and entering recently. I was just checking all the doors in all the hallways, and I noticed that your front door was unlocked, so I came in to your office to see if anyone was here.”
I shook his hand, introduced myself and said, “Thank you very much for checking my door for me.”
“You’re welcome,” he said, and left
From my office on the eighth floor, the elevators were right down the hall. I could always hear the ‘PING’ of the elevator when it reached my floor. He had told me that he was going back downstairs to talk to the two security guards at the front desk. But as time went by, I didn’t hear the ‘PING’ of the elevator reaching my floor. I had gone back to my office and continued my conversation on the phone with my friend, and said “You know, I went to the bathroom a half hour ago, and I could have sworn I locked my door!” As I continued talking, I was now very convinced that my door had been locked.
I told my friend, “I’m going to talk to this guy again.” I hung up, and went to look for this suspicious man on my floor. I knew he hadn’t taken the elevator down, because I would have heard the ‘PING’ of the elevator. So I walked back and forth on the eighth floor, just listening at office doors, but I didn’t hear anything. I thought that this situation was suspicious.
I took the elevator down to the front desk where the two security guards were stationed.
I asked them, “Do you have another guy on staff here in plainclothes?” And I told them about this guy who had come into my office on the eighth floor, claiming he was a security guard, and had told me that my front door was open. But I knew that it wasn’t.
The guards said that it could be somebody from their company, but they thought they should check this out.
One of the guards took the elevator back to the eighth floor with me and walked the corridors, but we couldn’t find this individual. We repeated this process on the seventh and the sixth floors, but he wasn’t there. On the fifth floor there were some renovations being done. It was pretty dark, so we only briefly looked on this floor. We continued all the way back to the bottom floor. The guard thought this was very strange, but thought that the guy had left the building.
I said to the guard, “Do you mind if I check your fire escapes?”
He said, “Yes, go ahead.”
I continued to search for the guy by myself. Instead of using the elevator, and having the pinging noise betray my location, I used the fire escape stairs so that no one could hear me coming.
I first checked the entire first floor, and continued doing this until I got to the fifth floor. On each floor, I walked down each of the hallways, and briefly stopped at every office and listened for any sounds. Being a Saturday, there were only a few offices in which people were working. The noises I heard from these offices were normal, so my suspicious Sixth Sense was not triggered.
On the fifth floor where the renovations were taking place, I came to a door in the middle of a dark hallway. My Sixth Sense triggered a caution signal. I didn’t hear anything, but I had a feeling that someone was standing on the other side of a closed door. I stood there for about two minutes motionlessly, not making any sound, and I became totally confident that he was standing on the other side of that door no more than three feet from me.
What I did then is that I kept walking down the hallway, because I thought he had heard me open the fire escape door when I entered that floor. I thought what he probably thought was, “somebody was walking down the hallway, and stopped outside my doorway. He might have sensed me, and he could be waiting for me.” So I walked about 15 feet, and found an adjoining corridor where I still had a clear view of that door and where he could not see me when he opened it.
Now it was a waiting game. Who can wait the longest? Who has the best nerves? It’s like hiking in the wilderness. I always try to think like the animals around me so I can anticipate what they will do next. I did the same thing here. I assumed that the guy had heard the door to the fire escape close, even though I closed it softly, but I was sure he was aware I was walking softly down the hallway. So we’re both on sensing mode. He was good, because the waiting game lasted over 15 minutes.
I heard him open the door a tiny crack. I couldn’t look, and had to stand there motionless or he would see me. I only had to go by the sounds he was making. Then I had to consider whether he was going to move towards the fire escape, towards the elevator, or into another office. I anticipated that he was going to choose the elevator. I thought he knew someone probably was in the fire escape on this floor, so he would think that he’d better go the other way, use the elevators, and get to another floor.
I waited until he walked right past me. I said, “Excuse me! Could I just talk to you for a moment about my unlocked door?” The guy flinched.
I said, “After you left me on the eighth floor, I wanted to come back and thank you for checking on my door. It’s great we’ve got such good security. So I went downstairs, and I asked the two security guards where I could find you. They didn’t know. The security guard and I searched for you, but we couldn’t find you. Do you mind going back down with me and telling the two security guards who you are, and show them ID to confirm your identity as a security guard with their company?”
He said, “Oh, sure, no problem!”
But when we walked to the elevator, I pushed the down button, and he pushed the up button!
I asked him, “What are you doing?”
He said, “I’ll come down shortly, but there’s two other security people up on the ninth floor that were waiting for me. I have to go and tell them that I’m coming down to see you, so I’ll meet you down there.”
I said, “I hate to be rude, but I’d like you to come down with me now, because the security guards downstairs are waiting for us. They searched seven floors with me, and we didn’t find you. I’d like confirmation that you are part of their security company.”
He said, “No, I have to see these people on the ninth floor. It’s quite important.”
I said, “I want you to come down,” and he said, “No, I’m going up!” I said more forcefully, “No, you’re going down!” He said, “I’m security, and you wouldn’t want to mess around with me.” I said, “I’m not worried. I’m going to tell you one more time, you’re going down with me.”
I was only slightly worried about his raincoat being done up. What if he had a gun or a knife hidden inside his raincoat? So I stayed about three feet away from him at all times, because I knew he would have to open his coat to pull a weapon out. I made up my mind that as soon as he did that, I would take him down.
I finally said, “Let’s cut to the chase. We can either both walk into the elevator and go down, or you can be carried into the elevator and go down with me. It’s your call.” After a lengthy stare-down, he chose to walk into the elevator.
We found the security guards at the front desk. I said to them, “Here’s the gentleman who came into my office and told me he was a security guard!” They asked him for his ID, and he gave them his wallet. They looked at it, and told me, “This guy’s got identification. He’s OK.” They didn’t tell me what identification he had.
The guy asked, “Well, are you satisfied?”
I said, “No.” I saw a small bead of sweat on his forehead just under his scalp. I knew that if it came to a fist fight, I knew it would be a good one, even though I would win. But I sensed he was more worried about something else. The whole thing just did not make sense.
He yelled at me, “You know, I’ve never been checked out like this before! The security guards told you I was OK. I’m now willing to call it quits and go back to work.”
I replied, “No, there’s something wrong. You might check out with the security guards, but I know something’s not right.”
The security guards told me, “There’s nothing more we can do.”
“What will it take to convince you I’m with security?” the guy said.
I replied, “I’ll tell you what, you got a car?”
“Have you got a business card from your security company?”
He said, “Not on me, it’s in the car.”
I said, “That’s OK, let’s walk to your car and get a business card.”
We walked out the front door and started walking up Granville Street. It was a very busy Saturday afternoon.
After one block, I asked, “Where’s your car?” He said, “Another block.”
After the next block, I looked at him again and said, “I thought you said only one more block?”
“Well,” he said, “One more block.”
I asked him, “Are you sure you know where you’re going?”
“Yes,” he said “Only one more block.”
We kept on walking, and then he turned and briefly looked at me, as I was walking behind him. I told him, “Get that idea right out of your head. If you think you’re going to make a run for it, I’ll catch you. I used to run for the Vancouver Olympic club, and I held the record for the quarter mile for my old high school. I’m still in good shape. When I catch you, I’m going to drag you back to the building. What I want you to do is walk back to the building with me now. The security guards will call the police, and the police will check you out.”
He said, “No, I’m not going back there!”
I said, “Your choice, it could be embarrassing, lots of people here on Granville Street. You can walk back, or I’ll just haul you back.”
He decided he didn’t want to be dragged back, so we walked back to the building, with him mumbling all the way about suing me. We went into the building, and the security guards closed the door behind us.
He yelled, “I want this guy sued!” He threatened me with defamation of character, with bodily assault, and with everything under the sun.
The security guards offered him a phone, and he picked it up, dialed a number, and started talking.
“I want this guy sued!” he said.
He asked me what my name was. I told him. He asked me what my company was. I said, “ NIHO Land.” He said, “Well, this is my lawyer on the phone, and I’m telling him to have you sued and kicked out of this building. You’re going to pay a large fine, and you’re going to be in the courts.” He slammed the phone down.
“So there,” he said. “Now I’m gone!”
I said, “No, you’re not! I don’t know who you were talking to. It could have been your wife, it could have been your friend, it could have been anybody, or it could have been nobody at all. The more time I spend with you, the more I think you’re a phony.”
Finally he said to me, “OK, I’ll tell you the truth. I’d like to talk to you in private,” and so we went to a private area.
He said, “I’m a real estate agent, and there’s a real estate office on the ninth floor. I’m quitting my job as a security guard to work for this other company. I won’t get my last paycheque if they find out, so I don’t want the other guards to know.”
I said, “Ok, I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you one last chance. We’ll go up to your desk on the ninth floor. By the way, do you have a desk yet?”
He said, “Yes, I have a desk,”
I said, “Good. Then we’ll go to it, and you’re going to tell me everything in your right drawer. You’ll stand on the other side of the desk so you can’t see into it, and I’ll look through it.”
He said, “OK, fair enough.”
As we went to the elevator, I said to one of the security guards, “One of you had better come with me, because this is the final chance. If he doesn’t pass this one, then you’re calling the police.” It had been three hours since the guy had walked into my office.
One of the security guards said, “OK, I’ll come with you.”
We got up to the ninth floor and got out of the elevator. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him throwing a roundhouse. He glanced the punch off my jaw. Then I nailed him- BANG- three times. I grabbed him by his lapels, lifted him back up against the wall, and, using a jujitsu move I knew, cut off a little bit of his air.
I let him go, and I said “Stand in this spot, and don’t move until the police get here. If you move, I’m really going to get mad.”
By this time, the security guard that had accompanied us had gotten into the elevator, gone back to the front desk, and called the police. We could hear the sirens approaching.
All of a sudden, the guy said “I gotta go to the bathroom”. I said, “Pee in your pants.”
He said, “No, I gotta do more than that.” I replied, “Well, go in your pants.”
Come on,” he said, “You gotta let me go to the bathroom.” I said, “OK. I’m coming with you, but you’re not getting any more than three feet away from me.”
We went to the bathroom, he went into the cubicle, and locked the door. I thought, “Oh, no, he’s finally going to get into his coat.” Then I heard a *CLINK*. I thought, “He’s got a knife or a gun, and he’s banged it against the toilet.” I thought that I had one chance. I would step back about ten feet, run full speed and hit the door with my shoulder. The door would crash right on top of him. But just before I made my move, I heard the toilet flush, and I saw his hands come up above the door. He said, “I’m coming out now.”
We walked into the hallway, and he returned to his spot up against the wall. Very shortly, the security guard returned with the police.
I asked him, “Do you have keys to lock the bathroom?”
“Yes” the guard said.
“Then lock the bathroom, and please let nobody in.”
Because the other guy was nicely dressed, and I was in jeans and a t-shirt, the policemen began to question me. I said, “Hey, you got the wrong guy, it’s him! I’m the one who asked for the police!” The security guard agreed, saying “No, it’s the other guy against the wall that you have to check out.”
The police asked him for his credentials, and frisked him, and they found no weapons. After looking at his wallet, they said, “This guy checks out just fine.”
I said, “No, there’s something wrong about this.” Then I said to one of the policemen, “Could you please come with me?” I took him to the bathroom.
I asked the security guard, “Will you please tell the policeman that you’ve let nobody in here?” The security guard did, and he let us in.
I told the policeman what happened and what I had heard. I knew something had to be in that cubicle. So we went into the cubicle, looked around everywhere, and found nothing. Then the policeman looked in the toilet bowl, and saw something silver. He rolled up his sleeve, reached in, and brought out a big ring of keys. He washed them off and we came out. The policeman with the keys went to the first office. He tried a number of keys in the lock, and finally one opened the door. The keys on that ring opened all the doors on that floor. It was then that they handcuffed the guy and took him downstairs.
On the main floor, the policemen tried the keys on the front and back door. They both opened.
A couple of weeks later, I was contacted by the police. They had been looking for the guy I caught for many years. They suspected that he was responsible for over 280 breaking and entering cases in Vancouver, making this the largest break and enter case in B.C. at that time.
I was phoned by the Mayor of Vancouver’s office. The mayor and the police commissioner took me to lunch. They gave me a certificate of merit for my actions, and the mayor read out a two-page citation that was prepared by the Vancouver Police. The whole story was profiled by Denny Boyd in the Vancouver Sun.
That is my Sixth Sense, useful both in the wilderness of B.C. and in office buildings. Without it, I never would have known that the guy was trouble, and I never would have been able to find him. It was just like spending time in the wilderness with nature- although with a different type of animal.