(Read part one here)
THE DOPPELGANGER PROJECT (PART TWO)
The Journey Begins
(Murder, She Drank)
A month later, the gang were ready to head off to the west of Ireland. As Jacko was the only one among them to possess anything close to a driving licence, he was the designated driver.
“I have to drive all the way to Achill?” he exclaimed. “I won’t be able to have my usual quota of twenty cans, will I?”
“You’ll have to make do with ten, Thomas,” his girlfriend Emer replied. She refused point blank to call him Jacko. The nickname reminded her too much of Michael Jackson. Thriller had just come out and she absolutely hated it. She was more of a Lionel Richie girl.
“Do you think I should pack my camogie gear?” she asked.
Jacko’s eyes lit up. “Oh yes, please do, Emer. I love you in your camogie outfit. All legs and whatnot. The goats won’t stand a chance.”
“Naughty naughty. What would Sister Regina think?”
“Fucked if I know. I doubt the old hag would know what to do with a camogie stick, anyway, except beat the living crap out of Padre Peter.”
“You’re so disrespectful. Here, help me with my case.”
“Any Budweiser in there?”
“No. Just Liebfraumilch and Blue Nun.”
“It’s a pity Fr. Peter can’t come with us,” said Claire. “He could watch over us and pray for the success of our endeavours.”
“Sean would ony spike his cocoa again,” James answered. “He’s desperate for revenge in strip poker. Say, Claire….”
“No. Emphatically, no. I think it’s a disgusting game. Anyway, my mother barred me from the group for two weeks when she found out about the last time. You certainly didn’t help by coming around with your pirate copy of The Exorcist. She’s a strict Catholic, James, and you offended her sensibilities.”
“Is that why she took it off me?”
“She wanted to see for herself what it was like. She loaned it out to her friends to get their opinions. I think the bishop has it now.”
“Yeah. Seemingly he’s conducting a study of banned videos. He’s looking for a copy of The Life Of Brian, but Cardinal Murray has the only one in Dublin. If you come across a copy of Debbie Does Dallas, can you let me know? The bishop wants one. He’s a big fan of American Football.”
“And Debbie, no doubt.”
“What was that, James?”
“Nothing, sweetheart. Are you ready, yet? We’re leaving at four.”
“Almost there. I’m feeding the gerbil.”
Sean and Pam were having a swifty in the Concorde. It was just gone half past three and they reckoned they had time for one more. Pam, as usual, had no money.
“What the fuck do you spend it on, Pam?”
“Make-up and laxatives,” she responded, her mind wandering towards the Ladies.
“I’ll go get the drinks in. You go shit your brains out.”
“Brian, there is no fucking way you’re bringing your drum kit.” Vivienne was tearing her hair out. They were running late but Brian was adamant. “There’s no room on the minibus. We’re going over to paint a house, not play at Slane Castle.”
“Don’t you “aww, Viv” me, you stupid bollocks. Now, get your arse into gear and grab my guitar case.”
“It’s not fair. You get to bring your guitar but I can’t bring my drums.”
“It’s common sense, Brian. Something which you obviously don’t have. Come on, hurry up. Jacko will leave without us.”
“He won’t,” said Brian. “I’ve his whiskey.”
“He won’t be drinking that. He’s driving.”
“Never stopped him before.”
Vivienne grabbed the bottle of Jameson’s from Brian’s bag. She opened it and took a large swig. “There,” she said, after knocking back a quarter of the bottle.”Less for him to drink now.”
Then she passed out.
Celine and Liam were already at the minibus waiting for the rest of them. The parish priest, Mick “Papa” Geany, was there, as well.
I’m here to see you off, my folkie friends,” said the priest, gazing into the heavens. “I will light a hundred candles and say fifteen decades of the Rosary for you all. Every day.”
“That’s a lot of candles,” said Celine.
“That’s a lot of decades, as well,” Liam joined in.
“Aye, it is. But the Spirit of the Lord compels me……Right, I’m off. I’m due on the first tee in twenty minutes. Toodle-pip.” He got into his Jaguar XJS and sped off down the road.
“So much for the candles,” said Celine.
“So much for the decades, as well,” Liam replied. “Do you want to make out before the rest of them get here?”
“That sounds nice. Spit out the gum, though.”
Soon there were eight of them at the mini-bus. The only ones missing were Brian and Vivienne.
It was closer to five when they finally turned up. Brian was carrying Vivienne over his shoulder. Their bags were under his left arm. He was a short lad, but he had some strength in him. Years of playing drums, badly, paid off in other ways.
“What happened to her,? Jacko asked
“She drank most of your whiskey, Jacko. I’m sorry. I couldn’t stop her.”
“Wagon,” Jacko spat out. “Fuck her in the back. I’ll be driving over as many pot holes as I can between here and Achill. Did you collect our dole money, Sean?”
“I have it here, boss. I had to give some of it to Pam, though. She’s a bit strapped at the moment.”
“That’s not too bad. I’ve a ton on me. That should be more than enough. Right lads, are you all ready?”
The gang nodded in agreement.
“Let’s be off, then. We’ll stop in Westmeath for a bite to eat and a few scoops. Emer, get me a can. I think it’s going to be a bumpy ride. James, as folk group leader, do you have any last words before we head on our way?”
James thought for a moment and said, “Just get us there in one piece, Jacko. That’s all I ask. And if anyone starts singing Cat Stevens songs, I’m getting out my big stick.”
“But I love Moonshadow, James,” Claire retorted.
“Oh, alright. Just the one time, though.”
They barrelled onto the bus, carefully, so as not to step on Vivienne’s comatose body, and away they went. They got as far as Coolock when the first bars ofMoonshadow were heard by people on the street. The side of the minibus said it all. It read The Folkies On Tour. Spreading The Gospel Of Love In Song, Dance And Whatever You’re Having Yourself. A number of the locals blessed themselves as it passed by.
The first stop was indeed in Westmeath. Mullingar, to be precise. There were two or three piss stops on the way, though. Jacko’s pothole plan was not successful in waking Vivienne up, but it certainly succeeded in stirring his passengers’ bladders. They had to take it in turns, though. The Gardai were constantly patrolling the roads out of Dublin looking for IRA sympathisers and escaped convicts.
They ate and drank in a pub called Christy Two-Stools. Jacko ordered and paid for the drinks: 18 pints of Guinness, 4 gin and tonics, 10 tequila slammers and a coke for Claire. Vivienne was still conked out in the back of the minibus.
Jacko paced himself, however. There was still a three hour journey ahead of them, so he settled for two of the pints and three of the slammers. James drank all of the gin.
They shared four ham and cheese sandwiches between them. Pam ate half a tomato, then vanished into the toilet for ten minutes.
The rest of the trek was uneventful. James was cajoled into singing his party-piece, Gloria in Excelsis Deo.
“Who the fuck is Gloria?” Liam asked Brian.
“I couldn’t tell you, horse. I think she might have worked in the chipper, once.”
“Fuck that,” said Jacko. “I’m putting on some Rod.” He slipped a cassette into the tape-deck and turned the volume up full. As they crossed the county border into Mayo the entire gang, with the dishonorable exception of Vivienne, sang Sailingand Do You Think I’m Sexy in full voice.
The Kremlin, Moscow, Russia
General Yuri Kafelnikov was rather put out to receive a surprise visit from the Chairman of the Communist Party Viktor Nockabolokov.
“Where is your mandatory portrait of Lenin, Comrade General?” the portly man asked, noticing the white spot where the picture should be.
“I had an accident with a glass of Stolichnoya, Comrade Chairman. Our Glorious Hero’s facade is in the repair room as we speak.”
“I trust it will not be too long before he is back in his rightful place.”
“I think it look would better by the window, would you not agree?”
The Chairman failed to catch the general’s lame attempt at lightening the mood. He possessed little in the way of good humour. He was a dour man, with a nose as red as his predecessor Leonid Brezhnev. He had his share of accidents with vodka, too, but the cleaning staff always mopped up the evidence, before being carted off to Siberia.
“Harrummpphh,” he grunted. “Make sure it is back in place before my next visit, or it’s off to the salt mines for you, dear Comrade.”
Kafelnikov had been threatened with this so many times that he refused to eat chips anymore. He broke out with a rash whenever the thought occured to him.
“I’ve good news, Comrade Chairman. Projekt Doppelganger is proceeding as planned. My spy is in place and has reported that all is going smoothly. We expect further updates in the morning.”
The Chairman barely batted an eyelid. “I expect nothing less than total success, Yuri, or else…..”
“I know, I know….the salt mine thing again.”
“Have the replacements been made ready for activation?”
“They are on stand-by, Comrade Chairman.”
“Good. I shall be off, I think. I have a pain in my lower regions, and the lumbago is acting up. I may go for a lie down.”
“You rest yourself, my friend.” It was all Kafelnikov could do not to breathe a sigh of relief. “I will keep you informed as to our progress.”
“Very well. Good day to you, Comrade.”
Jacko made Westport at one in the morning. There was a ferry waiting for them, as scheduled.
The gang got off the minibus, removed their belongings, and toddled over to meet their guide, Ferdie the Ferryman,
Ferdie was gulping down a can of Carlsberg. “Hello, girls and boys,” he said, in between belches. “It’s a soft day, thank God.”
“It’s one in the fucking morning,” said Brian, still pissed off that he was made leave his drums behind.
“Be that as it may, young Mr. Clarke, it’s still soft. Where is your rather pretty girlfriend, the fair Miss Mahon?”
“Shite,” Brian exclaimed. “She’s still on the bus. A bit too much of the hard stuff. I’ll go get her in a bit. I need to piss like a racehorse. Where’s the jacks?”
“Into the sea will do rightly,” Ferdie replied. “The Atlantic accepts all donations with gratitude.”
“She’ll be grateful for me, as well,” said Jacko, unbuttoning his fly.
Pretty soon there was a line of nine people, either standing or squatting, letting it all flow out. The Atlantic had its levels rise by an inch that night.
“All aboard, that’s coming aboard,” cried the ferryman, gleefully. “We set sail in ten minutes. Our journey should be no longer than half an hour. I hear the Lord of the Manor has provided a welcoming feast for his new tenants.”
“Any gargle?” asked Sean.
“A fuck load, so I’m informed.”
Within the ten minutes, all had gotten on board the small ferryboat.
“What about Viv?” asked Emer.
“Fuck ker in the back,” replied Ferdie.
The journey to Goatherd Island took less than the thirty minutes Ferdie had originally thought. He helped them with their bags and cases, and even offered to carry Vivienne for Brian.
“Thanks, Ferdie,” said Brian.”You’re a star.”
“No problem, my fine drummer boy. Anything to oblige.”
He plonked her on the sand beside the luggage, “She’s a sound sleeper. T’is as well she didn’t drink the poteen. She’d be sleeping for a month.”
With that, he gave them instructions on how to get to Goatherd Manor. “It’s just up them steps,’ he said, pointing to a stone stairwell at the side of the beach. “Walk straight ahead for about a mile and follow the signs. Ye’ll hardly miss it. Watch out for the goat shit, though. The stuff’s a bugger to clean.”
The folkies thanked him and watched him sail off into the night.
“Bit of a weirdo, don’t you think?” Claire asked James, who was busy swilling from a naggon of gin he bought in Mullingar.
“I thought it was strange he knew our names and that Brian plays the drums, badly.”
“I heard that, you fucker,” Brian called from behind them.
“You were meant to. Let’s move it guys. I’m dying for a dump.”
They climbed the steps handily enough, though Brian had difficulty with bags and Vivienne in tow. He was lucky not to bang her head more times that he already had. When they reached the top, they carried on straight and soon found a signpost that read: Goatherd Manor –two miles. Watch out for goatshit. That stuff’s a bugger to clean.
They followed the direction of the arrow. The full moon served as a light by which they navigated the dirt track.
They reached the Manor quick enough. They hadn’t spotted neither goats, nor goatshit.
The Manor was right out of Hammer House of Horror central casting. A large archway greeted them. An ugly looking gargoyle was perched in its apex, peering viciously down at them.
“Hi gorgeous,” Liam said to the gargoyle. “Do you mind if we go through?”
The gargoyle, of course, said nothing. It continued its vicious peering.
“I think it said, OK, Liam,” Celine remarked, with a slight shiver in her voice. “Let’s go in, guys.”
“You need a dump, as well?” asked James.
“No. I want to change my tampon.”
Liam coughed violently. “Fucking rag week,” he groaned. “Of all the poxy times to get it.”
They passed through the archway and walked up to the manor, looking warily as it loomed ever closer.
“Did any of you see Frankenstein?” Pam asked. “This place looks exactly like the castle did in that film. Look at those chimney tops.”
“Turrets,” said Liam.
“Bless you,” replied Pam.
“No, you dope, They’re called turrets or little towers. I read about them in Readers’ Digest.”
“I thought you only read Batman,” Celine wondered. “You’ll be reading War and Peace next.”
They reached the door. There was a large brass door knocker slap bang in the middle of it.
“Should we knock?” asked Emer.
“Either that, or it will open by itself.” Brian was feeling the strain of having to carry Vivienne. “Can anyone else get that smell?”
“What smell?” asked Jacko and Sean, at the same time.
“It’s a strange, dirty smell. I don’t know. Maybe it’s me.”
“Probably is,” whispered James.
“I heard that,” cried Brian.
“You were meant to.”
With that, the door, indeed, opened by itself.
“Spooky, isn’t it?” Emer said, slowly, as they went inside. “Look, he left us paintbrushes and overalls.”
Over in the corner of the hallway there were around fifty tins of paint, of a variety of colours, and two dozen brushes. There were ten overalls, three ladders and four cases of Budweiser.
“Happy fucking days,” Jacko said, rejoicing in the choice of beer. “This Lord is a man after my own liver.”
“Amen to that,” agreed Sean. “There’s a note, as well.”
“Read it,” Pam said.
“Ok, here goes:
Welcome to Goatherd Island. I trust your journey was both swift and uneventful. Inside this note you’ll find a map of the island and instructions for the refurbishment of Goatherd Manor.
I have taken the liberty of preparing for you a banquet of cold meats, salad, cheeses and chutnies. I also offer you a selection of my finest wines for your approval.
There are no rules that you must adhere to, with the exception of the timetable. Please ensure all renovations are completed thirty days from now.
Enjoy your stay and happy painting,
Lord Wistbury Karkoff,
Earl of Goatherd
“That’s all he says. The instructions are here, as well.”
“We’ll look at them tomorrow,” Jacko decided. “Right now, I’m fucking starving and I’ve a goo on me for a moxey load of drink. What say you all?”
“I’m up for it,” replied James, “but I have to drop a load first. I think the toilets are in here. Cover me, I’m going in.”
The rest of them went off in search of the dining room. When they eventually found it they all agreed that a lavish spread had been put up.
“Which one is the chutney?” asked Claire.
“That jar over there,” James said, pointing out a glass container which had ‘mango chutney’ written on it. “It goes great with a curry.”
“Let’s tuck in,” Sean enthused. “Pam, that head of lettuce over there is all yours.”
“Hold on, hold on,” Brian said. “What about Vivienne? We can’t just leave her in the hall.”
“Fucking get her then, will you? She’s your responsiblity. You can put her in one of the chairs. She’ll wake up sooner or later.” Jacko, it seemed, had taken on the role of foreman. No one appeared to mind. Brian went off to get his girlfriend, meeting James just as he was leaving the room.
“I’ve got something special for you guys,” James proclaimed. “One of my customers got me a pile of hash.” He reached into his case and took out one of the biggest joints anyone had ever seen. “We’ll eat first, then smoke this after.”
“That’s sound by me,” Liam said.
Brian came back with Vivienne, who was as limp as a rag doll. He put her in a chair near the top of the table and let her flop into it. A single trail of drool leaked out of the side of her mouth. “There’s no budging her at all,” he said, miserable. “I hope she’s all right in the morning. She can be a bear when she’s hungover.”
“Serves her bleeding right for drinking my shagging whiskey,” Jacko sniped.
Celine picked her seat and clapped her hands. “I think we should say grace before we eat.”
“Sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up,” Sean snarled. “There’s no priest here this time.”
“Just a thought.”
So, there they were, the ten of them, folkies one and all, eating and drinking away to their hearts’ content — with the obvious exception of Vivienne, who was slumping further and further down into her chair.
The time came to light the joint. James produced a Zippo and lit it with a flourish. He took a long pull from it. “This is good shit,” he said, passing it to Celine, who declined. It was given instead to Liam, who also dragged deeply on it. “Damn good shit,” he agreed.
Jacko was next, then Emer. Then Brian. It skipped Vivienne and went to Sean, who smoked it like it was a fine Havana cigar. Pam took a small drag and proceeded to cough her lungs up. Claire took the joint from her and gave it back to James.
“Not having any, Claire?” James asked.
“Not my thing,” she replied. “I think whoever smokes this muck needs to have their heads examined.”
“Suit yourself. More for the rest of us.” James put the weed into his mouth and took another pull. Then he froze suddenly and started to gag.
To everyone’s astonishment blood seeped out of his ears. He coughed once and fell flat on his face onto the table. There was a hole in the back of his head, and a small dart-like object, covered in bone and brain matter, was sticking out.
James had died, instantly.
Claire was the first to react. She screamed at the top of her lungs. Jacko jumped from his chair, sending it tumbling, careful not to knock over his wine glass.
Pam started to vomit lettuce leaves and Celine just fainted.
It was at that precise moment that Vivienne woke up.
“What?”, she asked. “Did I miss something?”
(c) James McShane
Continue to part three here.