Photo illustration: Devin Jones

Eyevestigation: The death of Smith Johnson

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

By Skyler Ash

The day is Tuesday, April 4. The time is 4 p.m. The Eyeopener goes to print in an hour, but intrepid staff reporter and investigative dynamo Smith Johnson is still chasing a story. We sent him out of the office with a fresh notebook, a ballpoint pen and half a meatball sub. He flashed a smile and walked out the doors of our office for the last time. We didn’t know where he was going, because the life of an investigative reporter is shrouded in mystery, and none of us asked when he left.

But this story actually starts in September, when former Eye reporter Jevin Donesé went undercover to expose Ryerson’s most elite club, the Ardillas—a group of students who have been operating in illegal squirrel fights in Lake Devo since 1963. Donesé stayed with the story for months, but after leaving the club and the paper behind for a more quiet life, we hired Johnson, who took over the investigative beat in Donesé’s place.

Johnson didn’t know he was walking into a trap, and neither did any of his fellow reporters. Donesé had burned a lot of bridges with his inside sources, and they weren’t happy.

A few weeks ago, the Toronto Police said they were going to banish the infamous gang of pigeons that plague our campus. We thought they did, but it seems the gang just moved underground, where Ryerson has started building its new tunnel system that is set to open in February 2019.

Leaving The Eyeopener office, Johnson was headed for the third subway grate at the top of Gould Street, near the campus bookstore. He had been tipped off earlier that day by local bench enthusiast, Leslie Key. She said there was supposed to be a great bench under the street, but every time she went to go down there, she heard mysterious sounds.

Looking both ways, he pushed the grate aside and jumped down into the darkness. Johnson took out his flashlight and ate his meatball sub, making sure to leave a trail of marinara sauce so he could find his way out later. Hearing the sounds of a scuffle ahead, he turned on his recorder—which was returned to us with his body—and hid behind a pipe. What he saw would change everything.

“Put down the gun,” said Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi , who was surrounded by an angry crowd of pigeons and squirrels. “It doesn’t have to end like this.”

Across from Lachemi stood Yustin Yandler, Swedish indie film superstar who had fallen from grace a few months back. Fresh out of rehab and brandishing a gun in hand, Yandler wasn’t backing down. “You promised! You said you would pay back our 6 Fest refunds, but you didn’t! You liar!” screamed Yandler.

The angry Swede seemed to enrage the animals, who crowded closely to Lachemi, tearing at his cleanly pressed khakis and ripping off his authentic plastic anklet—a gift from his dear friend and former Rye prez Sheldon Levy.

Moving a few feet closer to the action, Johnson could see the bench Key had been talking about. And while it was a damn good bench, it was what was on the bench that really mattered.

A swatch of duct tape over his mouth and chains around his torso, there sat Ryerson’s newest zone ambassador and former YTV host, Carlos Bustamante, with a gun to his head.

“Just give me my 6 Fest refund, and I’ll let your little innovation puppet go,” Yandler said to Lachemi. “Don’t make this harder than it needs to be, Lachemz.”

“You have to understand,” said Lachemi. “I don’t have that money anymore. Obaid, the RSU president, he’s the one you want. Let Carlos go.”

Yandler paced the decrepit beginnings of the tunnel while that weird canola oil scent coming off of Gould Street lingered heavy in the air. But there was something else in the air, too. The Ardillas could sense it as well. The pigeons began to stir. “Is that… marinara?” asked Yandler.

“I think so,” said Lachemi. “You can tell by the subtle notes of oregano.”

Pointing his gun at a few of his animal followers, the creatures silently scoured the area. With the recent crack-down on gangs, they were left without a leader, and quickly looked to the effervescent Yandler. We have on the tape that came back with Johnson a slew of expletives and heavy breathing, as he knew he was about to be discovered.

Johnson stepped bravely into the dim light of the tunnel, passing a few framed selfies of Lachemi and his friends, and everyone gasped.

“You’re that reporter! The one who’s been exposing us and spreading lies!” said Yandler.

“I’m just doing my job,” said Johnson. “And now I’m about to finish it.” Lunging forward, Johnson freed Bustamante from his chains, ripped the duct tape from his mouth, and a shot rang out.

Lachemi let out an ear-piercing shriek like a toddler on a rampage as the ravenous gang of “common street vermin” held him back. But they didn’t have to try too hard to contain him, as the sight before him would leave him shocked, and a little bit sick.

There stood Johnson, clutching his chest, where blood poured from the shot fired by Yandler. As Johnson staggered backward, he hit the tunnel wall, knocking aside a frames photo of Lachemi and Levy playing with a model train set. When the frame fell to the floor, so did Johnson and a huge pile of money.

“The 6 Fest refunds!” said Yandler. “They were here the whole time!”

But before Yandler could run forward, Bustamante knocked him out cold and whispered, “This is my zone now,” before promptly fainting from exhaustion and innovation overdose.

At the sight of Bustamante fainting, Lachemi fainted, murmuring “Sheldon, save me,” over and over.

In his last few moments, in a dark tunnel under Gould Street, Johnson did what any good reporter would do: he filed his story. Whipping out his phone, he shared his editor on a Google Doc and got writing.

Unfortunately, we ran this story instead. Johnson’s article didn’t make any sense because he was too busy bleeding out to think about how the fuck a news story is written.

But we think he’d be proud. Because that’s the kind of guy he was. Just a hard working reporter with a hunger for the thrill of reporting and a good meatball sub.

So tonight, the night of our last issue of the semester, we raise a meatball sub to you, Smith. You were a damn good reporter.

*By the way, you aren’t getting your 6 Fest refunds. When Johnson’s body was recovered, the money was gone. We think it was Yandler, but we don’t have an investigative reporter, so we’re not really sure where it went.

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