Scapegoat – one of the short stories from Allsorts

The Scapegoat

Cold, heavy rain had been falling since sundown. The well-trodden path across the sanitarium grounds had become a morass of filthy puddles and slippery mud. In the murky darkness, occasional large tree roots, easily avoided during the day, were now hazards. Gerry cursed again as he raised himself out of the quagmire. Two tumbles had so far resulted in a slightly twisted ankle, a sore right knee and wet, clay splotched track pants. He wasn’t happy. Gerry reached out to steady himself against an old stone gatepost as he struggled to re-focus on the mission. Almost instantly he recoiled as something wet and spongy compressed beneath his palm. God he hated slugs. Revolted he wiped his hand violently on his waterproof jacket. Then tentatively he extended a probing forefinger. Moss, just bloody moss. His nerves jangled like wind chimes as he squinted through the downpour at the administration building. A few lights were on upstairs and over the ground floor entrance. On a night like this he was confident that the security guard would be keeping warm, somewhere inside; probably watching television with a cup of coffee or something stronger. Gerry tugged at his jacket collar and cap for the umpteenth time and moved forward. He stumbled again as he rounded the decorative hedge and this time everything went black. When he came around the first thing he heard was Bruno’s voice, ‘Come on you clumsy bastard. Get a move on.’ It was an effort for Gerry to stand and gather his thoughts. Having Bruno on his back made it harder. ‘Go on,’ said Bruno, ‘I knew I’d have to keep a close eye on you. You can’t back out now.’ For a moment Gerry considered giving Bruno a big punch in the face. He deserved it. Then Tom spoke up, ‘Pull your finger out. Some bloody trained killer you are. Put off by a little bit of rain and mud. The SAS must‘ve gone to the dogs.’ ‘Oh great, you’re here as well’, Gerry muttered to himself. Gerry covered the remaining distance without further incident. When he reached the wide stone steps leading to the main entrance, he paused and crouched. The glass front doors gave a clear view into the foyer. As he had expected there was no security guard in sight. For that matter, there was nobody to be seen. Silently he closed his hand around the doorknob. It turned easily. Security here’s a joke, he thought. He drew a deep breath and stepped inside. The coast was still clear. To his left, carpeted stairs led up to the offices. As he climbed, the pain in his injured knee and ankle flared a bit more. He grimaced and shrugged it off. Once he was at the top he pulled out the double-edged knife he had been given. As he studied the weapon he felt calmer. This was what he knew. This was his territory. It was just another mission. The first floor corridor was dimly lit. He had been told that Dr Harris’ office was at the far end. As he crept closer, Gerry could see that the door was closed but a yellow sliver of light showed beneath it. He stopped, Harris might not be alone. Gerry put his ear to the door. Two voices, but very low. Hard to tell what was being said. The hairs on the back of his neck rose, not in fear, but in anticipation of action. He loved the cold thrill that rippled through him at such times. Gerry’s training kicked in as he reminded himself that he had the benefit of surprise. He was very fit and his reflexes were excellent. Gerry grinned. He knew he was more than a match for pudgy Dr Harris or anyone else who might be in that room. Suddenly there was no light under the door. Gerry retreated and flattened himself in the next doorway; knife in hand, balanced and ready. But the door stayed shut. He listened for what seemed like several minutes, nothing. He couldn’t wait all night. Besides, that lazy sod of a security guard might just decide to make some effort at doing his job. There was no time to muck around. He crept back to the office door and quietly tried the knob. It was locked. Stuff it. ‘Use the knife and jemmy the lock’. It was Bruno again. ‘Just knock the bloody door down,’ added Tom. ‘Where did you guys come from?’ ‘We got sick of waiting in the rain,’ said Bruno. ‘Get in there and finish the bastard,’ said Tom. ‘Alright, alright, keep your shirts on. I’m on it. You two watch out for the guard.’ Gerry pushed off from the wall opposite to Harris’ office and slammed shoulder first into the door. The hinges had seen better days and easily gave way. Momentum carried him across the room and he crashed into a coffee table covered in files. Papers went flying as he completed a forward roll and regained his feet. In the pale light, he could make out two people on the divan. Two sets of clothes were scattered here and there on the floor. ‘What the hell are you doing?’ said an angry male voice. Gerry made no answer. The voice had sounded like Harris but who was his companion? ‘Who are you? What’s going on?’ said an indignant female. Perfect, thought Gerry and smiled. Harris and Stacey caught together in the act; jackpot. The boys will be pleased. Now Gerry moved swiftly; he feinted and then drove the knife into the man who had assumed a protective position in front of the woman. It slid in and out easily. Once, twice, three times, before the man collapsed to the floor. A hideous gurgling sound came from his throat. The woman screamed and ran. She reached the ruins of the door and was still screaming as the knife thudded into her back just above the kidneys. Gerry smiled again. It had been quick and easy. I’ve still got what it takes. The weak light from the corridor was enough to confirm Gerry’s success. Blood was flooding from Harris’ wounds and staining the carpet. Stacey lay motionless on her side. Gerry withdrew the knife from her back then rolled her over. Shame, she had a nice body. But she would never abuse him again. When he looked out of the doorway the corridor was empty. What had happened to Tom and Bruno? Then Gerry heard the unmistakable sounds of a fast approaching security guard. Nobody could have failed to hear the screaming. The bastard was breathing heavily and probably taking two steps at a time. He would be armed with a Glock, just like a real copper. The exit door slammed shut behind Gerry as two bullets thudded into the doorframe. He used the railing as a slide and went out the fire door ignoring the automatic alarm. As he raced almost blindly across the lawn Gerry heard the fire door open again. Two more slugs whined past his head. Gerry accelerated. For a brief moment or two he thought he must have the sonar capabilities of a bat, but then he collided with an oak. Dazed he dragged himself to his feet and half-staggered towards the safety of his unit. There were no sounds of pursuit. Perhaps the guard was calling for back up. That would mean the police. Gerry slammed the door behind him. He knew he had been lucky although his thoughts were clouded by the onset of mild concussion. In the small bathroom he stripped off his sodden clothes and boots. He threw the knife on top. He needed to rest and think. A nice hot shower would help. Soap, mud and blood mingled with the water going down the drain. Gerry started to feel clean and a little relieved. Later, as he dried his hair, Gerry looked in the mirror. The job was done, but his knee ached and his ankle was starting to balloon. His head was sore in a couple of places and there was a nasty graze on his forehead. He felt tired. Sleep would be good. Then just as Gerry turned down his blankets he heard a noise. ‘Here you are’, said Bruno. ‘How did you get in here?’ ‘You look like the cat that swallowed the canary’, said Tom. ‘Yeh. Tha…thanks, I guess’, stammered Gerry. ‘Don’t worry mate,’ said Bruno, ’the cops will spend all night trying to work out what happened. Give us the clothes and the knife and we’ll put them all in a garbage bag. Tom can ditch it in the coal cellar. They won’t look there.’ About time you two took some responsibility, thought Gerry. After all it was Bruno who had first raised the idea of killing Harris and Stacey. Tom had supported Bruno straight away but Gerry needed to think about it. He finally made up his mind after Stacey embarrassed him in front of the group. But old Frank had just sat on the fence and said they needed to be careful. Only Stephen, bloody Stephen the book worm, had opposed the plan. He was such a wimp. Even now Gerry could hear Stephen’s girly voice. ‘No good will come of it. We will all suffer further humiliation and punishment.’ What a wanker. ‘What about some drinks, mate?’ said Bruno grinning. Gerry smiled before producing a bottle of scotch and glasses. Sleep could wait for a while. He poured the drinks and made a toast. Freedom! Two hours later, a dozen or so armed policemen awaited the order to break down the door. They had been told that the suspect was ex-SAS, but these men were well-trained and primed for action. Now! At the sergeant’s signal, a human battering ram was unleashed. Seconds later the door had been reduced to matchwood. Four burly officers swiftly had their man trussed up while the others searched the unit. Despite the ruckus, three glasses of scotch somehow remained undisturbed on a low table. ‘Get off me you bastards. Leave me alone. I’m not well.’ ‘The place is clear sir. Nobody else here,’ said the sergeant. The Inspector’s face took on a pained expression. There had only been one set of footprints from the crime scene and the trail had ended just outside this unit. The tipoff had said there was only one perpetrator so why would there be anyone else? He knew that sarcasm would be lost on Sergeant Jones. Taking the Inspector’s silence as an indication just to get on with things, Jones turned towards the doorway. It had just become occupied by a distinguished looking gentleman wearing an expensive trenchcoat over a dark suit. The man swept past Jones and extended a hand to the Inspector. ‘Inspector, I’m Dr Harris the sanitarium’s director. I’ve only just heard the dreadful news about Dr Morris and Ms Stacey.’ ‘What can you tell me about this guy?’ said the Inspector, jerking a thumb at the prisoner who was now handcuffed and sitting on the lounge dressed in a tracksuit. ‘His name is Stephen, Stephen Moore.’ ‘Why is he here?’ ‘A condition called Dissociative identity disorder.’ ‘Do you mean a split personality?’ ‘Yes. That’s what we used to call it.’ ‘Oh, so how many people live in Stephen?’ ‘We‘ve identified five, so far Inspector. All of them are very different. Each is aware of the others, but they see each other as individual real people.’ ‘Could you say what happened here Doctor?’ ‘No, Inspector. I’d need to speak to Stephen before I could answer your question with any precision. But I am afraid that all of Stephen’s personalities have violent tendencies of one kind or another.’ ‘The crime scene suggests that Ms Stacey and Dr Morris were disturbed in the act of making love.’ Harris shook his head, ‘Then it seems the hospital rumours were true, Inspector.’ The Inspector thanked Dr Harris and walked over to the prisoner who was holding his head in his hands. Harris suppressed a smile as he left. It seemed as though everything was going perfectly. ‘Stephen? Your name is Stephen isn’t it?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Can you tell me what happened here tonight?’ ‘Gerry did it. Bruno and Tom egged him on. Me and Frank said no but they decided to do it anyway.’ ‘So whose idea was it, Stephen?’ ‘Bruno told me that Dr Morris wanted Dr Harris and Ms Stacey dead.’ ‘What? Dr Morris? Why?’ ‘Bruno said that Dr Morris hated Dr Harris and wanted his job. I don’t know why Dr Morris wanted Ms Stacey killed as well.’ ‘But it was Dr Morris not Dr Harris who got killed tonight.’ ‘Well, I guess Gerry just stuffed up.’ Later, as he was led limping and wrapped in a blanket to a waiting police car, Stephen smiled. Frank and he would be alright. Dr Harris had said he would look after them. The others deserved to carry the blame. It had been their idea, them and that rotten bastard, Dr Morris. Fancy him screwing Ms Stacey when she was supposed to be Dr Harris’ girl?

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