Start with part one here
THE DOPPELGANGER PROJECT (PART THREE)
Murder Most Putrid
“Have you been on the Maalox again, Pam?” Sean was attempting to clean up Pam’s puke. There were leaves of lettuce everywhere. Celine had yet to come-to from her fainting spell, and Vivienne was hydrating herself with the rest of the wine.
Jacko was cradling what was left of his friend’s head in his arms.
“James, James,” he wailed. “Don’t leave me now. I never paid you back that score I borrowed off you.”
“Donate it to charity,” Claire offered.
“He loved you, you know,” Emer sobbed. “I mean, really loved you. He showed me the used tissues to prove it.”
“I know. I thought it was gross, too. Still, though, I thought you knew.”
“You’re more my type,” Claire said, winking at Emer. “Jacko’s not the only one who likes the camogie uniform.”
Liam clapped his large hands. “Hey, Folkies. In case everyone has forgotten, we have a dead James on our hands here. Has any one got the slightest idea what the fuck just happened?”
“Someone put a dart of some sort into the spliff. I think it was timed to detonate at a specific moment. It could have been any one of us.” Brian was slapping Vivienne’s face gently to make sure she stayed awake. The bottle of wine she’d been drinking from was nearly empty, and the last thing he wanted was for her to lapse back into a coma. “Viv? You still with us?”
“More wine, dickhead,” she snarled drunkenly.
“Right you be, so.” Brian looked across the table and spied an fresh bottle of red. It was covered in vomit, but he wiped it and handed it to his girlfriend. “That should see you right, darling. I’ll go over to Jacko and see if I can help.”
“Fuck off and let me drink,” Vivienne whined. “Can’t you see I’m in mourning?”
Brian grunted and turned his attention to Jacko and Claire, who were clearly in bits over what had just happened.
“We’ll have to contact the police,” said Claire.
“And how the fuck do you think we’re going to manage that? Do you see any phones?”
“Maybe the Lord of the Manor left us a contact number with his message. Do you still have the envelope, Sean?”
Sean searched his pockets. “I think I left it on the table here, somewhere. I can’t see it, though.”
“Poor James,” said Pam. “He loved me, did you know that, Sean?”
“I thought he loved me,” Claire retorted.
“You’re a lesbian,” Emer snided. “Anyway, he always preferred me.”
“But he asked me to his Debs Ball,” Pam cried.
“And you couldn’t go because you were having one of your fat days. He brought Celine, in the end.”
Liam put his head to his hands and started to sob. “And I planted one on him because he tried to drop the hand on her. I feel so guilty, now.”
“Lads, lads, lads,” Jacko shouted. “Let’s stop this whinging and try to get some help…..Oh! Is there any more wine in that bottle, Viv? All this death is giving me a fierce thirst.”
“There’s plenty for every one,” she slurred.
Jacko rested James’s body on the ground and took the bottle from Vivienne. He swigged down a good third of it and then said: “We must do something in his memory. I think we should have a song-a-thon. Celine, get your guitar. You too, Liam. We’ll do a medley of his favourites, starting with ‘In The Air Tonight.'”
“I knew I should have brought my drums,” groaned Brian.
They covered everything from Abba to ZZ Top, taking in a bit of Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Queen along the way. After two hours of roaring their voices off, they were all sung out. It was time to go to bed; but first, there was a problem that needed to be sorted out.
“James doesn’t half smell,” said Celine. She had come out of her scare earlier, and had joined in the ‘wake’ when an Andrew Lloyd Webber song was being sung — “Memories” from the musical Cats.
“Yeah,” Sean agreed. “There’s a bit of a ‘peggy dell’ off him, all right. I say we fuck him outside and deal with it him in the morning. I’m knackered. All this shite has knocked the bollix out of me.”
“We can’t just leave him outside. What if the goats come along and eat him?” Pam was miffed at the suggestion, to put it mildly.
“Goats don’t eat human flesh,” said Liam.
“How do you know? Maybe they’re mutant goats.”
“You watch too many late night horror movies, Pam,” Jacko said. “It’s no shaggin’ wonder you don’t eat. Mutant goats. Jesus, I ask you……No, Sean’s right. We can’t keep him inside. We’ll never get the house painted.”
Emer turned a nasty shade of puce. “You honestly think we’re going to paint this castle, even after James has been murdered?”
“We signed a verbal contract, Folkies. We’re people of our word and our word is our bond. Plus, we won’t get paid, otherwise.”
“You are a callous brute,” Celine remonstrated, shaking her head empatically. “Fuck, I’m after losing a contact. Liam, help me find it.”
“Ok, love.” Together, they bundled underneath the table, looking for Celine’s misplaced contact lens. “Do you want to make out?”
“Liam, for fuck sake…….Ok.” Sounds of sloppy kissing could be heard by the rest of the gang. They tried to ignore it, though.
“Emer, what did you mean when you said that James was murdered?”
“Jacko, you thick shite. You hardly think James did this himself, now, do you? As Brian said, someone put that thing into the joint. One of us was supposed to die.”
“I suppose. Maybe it was meant for another person, and it was given to James by mistake. It doesn’t change the fact that he’s dead, though.”
Emer thought about this for a moment. “Could be, but Claire is also right. We must get outside help with this. What time is it?”
Jacko looked at his watch. “It’s half past three.”
Brian said, ” Me and Viv will go down to the beach in the morning and try and catch a boat to the mainland.”
Vivienne looked across at her boyfriend. She was close to passing out again.
“Rule number one, Clarke: never ever fucking volunteer me in one of your mad missions. You can go, if you like, but I’m staying put.”
“I’ll go with you, Liam,” Pam offered. “I could use the exercise.”
“That’s sorted, then,” said a relieved Jacko. “Right. Anyone for dessert? I think I saw some cheesecake.”
After dessert, the gang bailed into the vintage port and finished the feast with Irish Coffees and petit-fours. Then Jacko and the rest of the lads carted James’s corpse outside. They sat him up against the main door.
“That should keep them Jehovah’s Witness cunts away,” Sean mused.
“Nothing keeps them away,” replied Liam. “I’ve a stack of Watchtowers at home. Fuckers turned up one Christmas morning in the pissings of snow. The Ma had a few on her and bought a five-year subscription. Then she invited them in to have dinner with us.”
“Hate that,” said Brian. “Couldn’t watch the Queen’s speech then, could you?”
“No poxy way. Are we all set? It’s bleeding freezing out here?”
“Yeah, we’re done,” Jacko said. “Let’s go back inside. Those Irish coffees were massive. I could do with one or two more of them.”
As they were heading back inside, Sean caught Jacko by the arm.
“Jacko, I need to ask you something?”
“What’s that, Sean?”
“How the fuck can you sign a verbal agreement?”
“Couldn’t tell you. I made that one up, to be honest.”
“Thought so. Very clever of you.”
“I’m the brains of the operation, my friend. You’re the muscle.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
It was after five in the morning when every one decided to call it a night….morning….whatever. Jacko set the alarm on his digital watch to go off at 11am. They found the bedrooms and decided to put their cases into the room that would have been James’s, if he hadn’t met with such an unfortunate death.
There were three bathrooms. The lads took one of them; the girls divided the other two between them.
Brian was still moaning, though.
“I could have put my drum kit into the spare room. It’s not fair.”
Jacko gave him a clatter across the head. “Yeah, right, Brian. Like we knew James was gonna get killed. You’re such a plonker at times. Get to bed, you, and no sneaking into Viv’s for a quick one off the wrist. We’ve work to be doing tomorrow, and I need everyone fresh as a daisy.”
“You’re still insistent we go ahead with the job, then?” asked Liam.
“James would have wanted it that way.”
“What James would have wanted was to be alive, Jacko,” Brian remarked.
“True, but the world keeps turning, regardless of what happens to us.”
“You’re very philosophical this evening.”
“I am, Brian, but I’m also very realistic. Let’s get some sleep, so. Sean, you and me will get a plan of action ready for the decoration work. The girls can start cleaning around. When Liam and Pam come back with help, we’ll get cracking.”
“Sound,” said Sean. “I’m off to bed. I’ll just stop in with Pam for a minute and help her to sleep.”
“That’s not fair,” Brian said, again.
“I’m over twenty-one, fuck-head, and I’ve been going out with her for four months. We’re practically married now. You’ve only been with Viv six weeks. You’re still in the betrothal stage.”
“Fuck you and your betrothal,” Brian shouted, as he stormed out. “I’m off to see Viv.”
Within an hour, the castle was in silence. The gang had fallen asleep. Jacko’s rule of “no co-habitation” fell by the wayside. As it turned out, Jacko, himself, stayed in Emer’s room; Sean, in Pam’s; Celine bunked in with Liam, and they made out until they conked out; Brian attempted to light Viv’s fire, but to no avail — she had passed out, yet again. Only Claire slept on her own.
Outside, two jackdaws had settled on James’s shoulders and were having fun, pecking at his lifeless eyes. No goats came over to eat his flesh, though.
It was after seven when Brian’s bladder started to cause him some discomfort.Fuck, he thought, on rousing. I need a piss.
It took him a couple of minutes to acclimatise himself to his surroundings. He was still groggy with lack of sleep and copious amounts of alcohol. Vivienne was snoring loud enough to wake the dead. Brian thought he might look for a clothes-peg on his way back from the toilet.
He slipped out and went down the hallway to the bathroom. He needed to pee badly, and now his stomach was cramping. It was time for a dump, as well.
He reached the bowl just in time and sat himself down. Within one or two seconds, his bowels started emptying. Brian felt relief flood through his body. He reached around to flush the toilet, and experienced a pleasant sensation as the water washed his arse at the same time.
He went to get up but, to his surprise, found he couldn’t. His arse was literally stuck to the toilet seat, but that wasn’t all that was wrong.The pleasant sensation from moments earlier had now turned distinctly unpleasant.
The water from the toilet bowl was now burning into the skin of his arse, and Brian could smell his flesh burning. He went to let out a scream, but all that came out of his mouth was a wheezing sound. The pain went from his rear end, right up his spinal cord and, soon, enveloped is entire body. But still, he couldn’t call out for help.
He was being bathed in acid that was pumping up from the toilet bowl. There was nothing he could do to stop it. All poor Brian could do was dissolve. He continued to scream silently, until the moment of his death. It was then, finally, that the pain stopped. He left an awful mess, though. It was going to be a bugger to clean.
Claire thought she heard something outside her window. It was loud enough to stir her from her restless sleep. She got out of her bed, tossing her teddy bear, Mr. Fluffykins, aside, and went to have a peek outside. She couldn’t see anything.
I wonder if this opens, Claire thought. She pulled at the window and, after a bit of moving about, got the window to open slightly. She heard more noise nearby.There’s definitely something going on outside. She continued to pull, and managed to open the window half way. She stuck her head out and looked around. The sun wouldn’t be fully risen for another hour or so, but there was just enough light to enable her to have a decent view of the surrounding area.
Nothing, she thought finally. Just then, a couple of jackdaws flew by. One of them had what looked like an eyeball in its beak. Poor James, she thought. We should have kept you indoors, no matter how badly you were beginning to smell.
She was about to pull herself back in, when she felt someone or something grab her from behind. Before she knew it, Claire was off her feet and through the window. She had no time to grab on to anything, and within moments she was falling, screaming, to her death.
She landed on the ground, head first. It split open like a watermelon. Another clean-up job that no one was going to volunteer for. Murder: it’s a messy business, so it is.
The message to Kafelnikov was brief and to the point: “Three down. Six to go. Projekt Doppelganger proceeds, according to plan.”
The general cackled and raised another glass of vodka, toasting the glory of Mother Russia. Soon, very very soon, the entire world would feel the wrath of the mighty Soviet nation.
(c) James McShane