Tag Archives: The Doppelganger Project

The Doppelganger Project: Part Five (Endgame)

Start with part one here.

THE DOPPELGANGER PROJECT (PART FIVE)

The Truth Is Out There… Somewhere

(The Director’s Cut)

Jacko dashed through the main door and barreled up the stairs. “Emer! Emer! Sean! Viv! Where are you?”

“I can’t see anything, Jacko.” Celine came up behind him. “All this smoke is getting in the way.”

“They have to be alive. They simply have to be.” Jacko was in panic-mode and had begun to run up and down the stairs like a chorus girl on barbiturates.

“Calm down, Jacko. If we make a run for it, we can reach the bathroom in a matter of seconds. We need to cover ourselves with wet towels so we can breathe. I saw Paul Newman do that in The Towering Inferno. Or was it Steve McQueen? Or was itEarthquake? I can’t remember.”

“Celine, you’re babbling.”

“I like babbling. Let’s babble together.”

“I’ll get some towels. Don’t go anywhere, ok? I’m not losing you, too.”

With that, he darted back downstairs to the kitchen. This is fucking crazy, Jacko. What in the name of Rod is happening? We are sailing…we are sailing, stormy waters, cross the sea……Wake up, Maggie, I think….Towels. There they are!

Jacko slapped both his cheeks. “Right, fuckhead,” he said to himself, “get your act together and save the love of your life. Failing that, Sean will have to do.”

“No one will be saved today, Jacko,” a voice behind him said. “Long live Mother Russia and Projekt Doppelganger.”

Jacko turned around. “What’s with the silly voice?” And that was all he could manage to say, because his killer-to-be pulled out a stiletto and pierced Jacko’s left eye-ball. He tumbled to the ground, convulsed for a few seconds, and then fell completely still.

“You definitely watched too many movies, my dead friend.”

************************************************

Vivienne stirred herself from underneath her bed. The explosion had thrown both her and Emer across the room, but Vivienne was the luckier of the two. The cover of the king-sized bed had protected her from most of the after-effects of the blast.

Emer was lying underneath the fallen wardrobe. There was a lot of blood coming from her head. Vivienne didn’t know if she was alive or dead. Then, Emer moved slightly. That answers that, then.

“Emer? Can you hear me?” Oh, my fucking head. What kind of wine was it, anyway? I won’t be drinking red again, that;s for sure. “Emer?”

“Huhhhhhh! Ooooooh! Owwwwww!” Emer turned toward Vivienne. “Thomas…..Where is Thomas? Viv?”

“Hold on, Emer. There’s been an explosion. I don’t know where anyone is. Don’t move. I’ll see if I can get you out of there.”

“Hurry, Viv. I can’t feel my legs. My camogie playing days are over, I fear. Ooooooh! Owwwwwwww! I’m in pain.”

“I can hear that………..Hnnnnnnh……..Hnnnnnnnnh……It’s too heavy. I can’t move it.”

“Get Thomas. Please. Ooooooh! Owwwwww!”

“Shut up, Emer. I get the fucking picture. You’re in pain; you’re legs are broken; yada, yada, yada.”

“Bitch!”

“Lezzer!”

“Find Thomas, or I’ll start moaning again.”

“All right. There’s a lot of smoke outside, though.”

“Go!”

“I’m gone.”

Vivienne sneaked a look outside the room. She thought she could hear someone calling out, but she wasn’t sure. There was a fair amount of flame about, and she didn’t know how long she had before the entire house became engulfed.

Viv took a deep breath and made a run for the stairs……and ran straight into Sean.

“Sean! Thank fuck you’re ok. Have you seen Jacko?”

“Who?”

“Jacko. Have you seen him?”

“Who’s Jacko?”

“What are you talking about? Jacko Jackson……Sean? Are you all right?”

Sean had a glazed look in his eyes; it was as if he could see, but not really see. “Who’s Sean?”

“Fuck,” Viv swore. “Amnesia. Did you get a bang off something?”

“A bang off what? What’s this?” Sean felt the back of his head. “Strange. I don’t think this is supposed to be here.” He turned around, and Vivienne covered her mouth to stifle a scream. There was a large shard of glass, almost dagger-like — from the bathroom mirror, probably — sticking out from a spot just above Sean’s neck. It seemed to be dug into him. “Little girl? Can you pull this out?”

“Who are you calling ‘little’? I’m petite. It’s not my fault I’ve got tits like two fried eggs in a napkin.” Vivienne had a closer look, all the same. “Hold on, Sean. I’m going to pull it out. Ready? On three. One. Two. Three.” She grabbed hold of the offending object and yanked it out.

She was sorry she did, though.Immediately, she was sprayed with Sean’s blood. Not that he seemed to notice, however. “Cool…..Hey, look at them polar bears. Are we in Norway?”

Sean took a couple of paces forward and stopped. Like a marionette, when its strings have been snipped, he fell to a heap on the floor. Blood continued to drain out from his wound.

“Bang goes nursing school,” Vivienne muttered. “I won’t get the interview now.”

She checked Sean’s body for a pulse. Nothing. “Shite,” Vivienne grumbled. “How am I going to explain this to my parents? Jacko….I have to find Jacko.”

The fire was burning steadily, but there seemed to be a clear passage to the stairs. She decided then to go back for Emer and give it one more go with the wardrobe.

“Vivienne? Is that you?”

“Celine?”

“Yes, it’s me. I’m just coming up the stairs. Stay there.”

Vivienne saw a shape emerge at the end of the hallway and breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh, Celine. Thank God. Sean is dead and Emer is trapped underneath a wardrobe.”

Celine came closer. Vivienne saw that she was wearing a towel around her face.

“Sean is dead?”

“Yeah. He must have been in the bathroom when the explosion happened. A piece of the mirror took a liking to him. I tried to take it out, but I only made it worse.”

“Was it a quick death?”

“Yes, it was.”

“A pity, that.”

“What did you say?”

“Nothing. Do you need help with Emer?”

“Please, if you wouldn’t mind. Then we have to find Jacko.”

“Jacko’s downstairs. He’s a bit indisposed at the moment, though. He’s taking some “Rod” time.”

“Him and Rod can wait. We need him up here to help us move Emer. She thinks her legs are fucked.”

“Let’s see what we can do, will we?”

Vivienne became uneasy. There was something going on with Celine that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Something weird.

“Are you ok, Celine? You sound a bit strange.”

“I’m grand, Viv. Come on — Emer needs our help.”

They went inside the room. The flames were beginning to make headway. “We haven’t much time, Celine. You grab one side, I’ll grab the other.”

“Hey, Emer.”

“Celine? Where’s Jacko?”

Where’s Jacko? Where’s Jacko. You would swear the guy was Superman, the amount of times you two ask after him.”

“Jacko is downstairs, Emer,” Vivienne interrupted. “We’re going to bring you down to him. Are you ready?”

“Huh?”

“We’re going to lift the wardrobe off you. Are you ready?” Viv asked, again.

“Uhh…..yeah, I think.”

Celine and Vivienne grabbed either side of the wardrobe and began to lift. Much to Vivienne’s surprise, the wardrobe moved easily. “That’s some strength you’ve got there, Celine.”

“Thanks. I’ve been working out.” They pulled the wardrobe away from Emer. She still had the wine bottle in her hand.

“I can feel my legs again,” she said. “I don’t think they’re broken.”

“That’s good, dear sister,” Celine said menacingly. “Say hello to Pam for me, will you?” Celine raised her right leg and brought her foot crashing down on Emer’s neck. There was a loud crack as Celine stomped her way through Emer’s windpipe, shattering her neck.

Emer never knew what hit her; all Vivienne could do was watch it unfold.

***************************************

“Celine? What the fuck?” Vivienne was close to fainting, but she knew that if she did, she would soon be dead. She had to stay alert in order to stay alive.

The assassin Vivienne knew as Celine studied her sister’s dead body. A low growl emanated from the depth’s of Celine’s stomach. This growl soon became a deep, sinister, evil laugh.

“The ‘Celine’ you knew died last year by Russian hands. We took her in Achill when you and your friends went to visit there last summer.”

“Russia? What has Russia got to do with me and my friends? Who are you, if you are not Celine?”

“I am her clone.”

“Ah yeah. That explains everything…….What’s a clone?”

“Stupid female. Do you think that I’m going to fall for that old trick?”

Vivienne looked around the room, hoping to find something that might give her an advantage over the killer. “What old trick?”

“The one where you get me to tell you my evil plan, while you look for a way to incapacitate me and make good your escape.”

“Really? I never thought of that. Wouldn’t work, though, would it?”

“Not in the slightest, little girl.”

“Hey! Your tits aren’t that much bigger than mine.”

“Your foolish attempt at humour fails to amuse me.”

“What’s with the silly voice?”

“I am weary of your pathetic Irish accent. Enough talk. Time to die.”

Vivienne was hatching a plan. It involved precision timing and a shit-load of good luck. She saw, as well, that the fire was close to engulfing the entire floor. Time was of the essence.

“If I’m to die, you may as well tell me why I have to. It’s nice to be nice, so it is.”

“Very well. I am the prototype for Projekt Doppelganger,” the Russian Celine said smugly. “I was grown from DNA, taken from the body of your dead friend. I am a perfect copy in every way and when I was ready, I was given this mission: complete Projekt Doppelganger, and begin the era of Soviet supremacy.”

“How are you to do that? This sounds really interesting, if you don’t mind me saying so. It’s right out of a James Bond film.”

“Bond is an amateur compared to the might of the KGB.”

“I believe you, Celine……Sorry, you’re not really Celine, but I can’t think of what else to call you.”

“You may call me Agent 498XGK998LMP23QW.”

“I’ll stick with Celine, thanks.”

“Whatever. I have to make this quick. I need to collect the remaining samples, your’s included.”

“What for?”

“Your clones will bring forth havoc to this capitalist world. Inside of you will be placed thermo-nuclear devises; then you will be sent to heavily populated areas around the globe, and detonated.”

“What kind of heavily populated areas? Are we talking about Men’s Final Day at Wimbledon? The January Sales at Browne Thomas?”

“Stupid female,” the Celine-clone said again. “We have bigger plans than that. Prepare to die. I will grant you one final wish.”

“That’s rather good of you. I think I’d like to say a prayer over Emer’s body.”

“Make it a short one. I know how you Catholics like your long prayers; some of them go on for hours. You do not have the luxury of time, my young victim.”

“The Lord’s Prayer it is, so,” said Vivienne jauntily. She moved slowly over to her dead friend and knelt down. She started to whisper to herself.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven……..”

The Celine-clone took the stiletto out of pocket. It was still wet with Jacko’s blood and membrane

“….Give us this day our daily bread……..nearly there……and forgive us our trespasses……..”

The assassin wiped the blood from the blade, polishing it to a bright shine. The flames were almost on top of them.

“…….And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Vivienne jumped up suddenly and hit the clone on the side of its head with the wine bottle Emer had been holding, throwing her entire strength into the blow. The bottle smashed into hundreds of tiny pieces.

The clone was stunned for a few moments; it swayed from right to left, and back again, but it didn’t fall to the ground. It was enough time, though, for Vivienne to make a dash for the door.

*********************************************

She was having extreme difficulty navigating through the flames, however. When she came across Sean’s body, she picked up the towel the Celine-clone had dropped, as well as the shard of glass that had led to Sean’s unfortunate demise.

She turned around quickly. As yet, there was no sign of the murderous creature coming after her. Hop to it, Viv, she demanded of herself. If you get out of the castle, you have an outside chance of losing whatever that thing is,

She wrapped the towel around her face and hurried to the stairs. As she reached the top, she heard a loud crash behind her. The clone had picked up Sean’s body and had thrown it in her direction. It missed, but it announced the deadly intent of its pursuit.

Vivienne practically fell downstairs. The door, she thought. Make it to the door.

Make it, she did. She opened it quickly and rushed outside.

Lovely. Fucking lovely. Of all the poxy, bleeding times for it to rain.

It wasn’t just the rain — there was the howling wind to contend with, as well. It was hurricane-like, and it nearly forced Vivienne back inside the castle. It took what was left of her strength to push her way out and into the courtyard.

The gate. Where’s the fucking gate?

She ran, hoping she was heading in the right direction. She didn’t dare to look back. The wind and rain continued to hinder Vivienne’s progress; for every step she took forward, it seemed she was being blown two steps back. Still, she persevered.

Gradually, she could see herself making progress — the gate was coming into view. It was then that another massive explosion occured back at the castle. The shock of the blast brought her to her knees. Vivienne didn’t stay down, though; instead she picked herself up and ,with one final spurt, sprinted as hard as she could to the gate.

When she finally got there, Vivienne collapsed. Her breath and strength had been depleted; she could run no more. Damn! Fuck! Shite! All for nothing. I love you, Mammy. I love you, Daddy.

The Celine-clone was standing over her. “Puny little human,” it shouted over the gale. “You are no match for the might of the new Soviet Army. We will take over the world. Lenin’s Ghost, be praised!”

“Fuck you, and fuck Lenin’s Ghost, too, while you’re at it.”

Vivienne didn’t know where the effort came from, but she managed a final lunge at the clone. She brought her total weight into plunging the shard of glass into where she thought the clone’s heart might be — that’s if it had a heart. She pushed, then pushed again, harder, until there was nothing more left she could do.

Vivienne finally collapsed from her exertions. Was it enough? she thought. I fucking hope it was.

The clone didn’t move. It’s eyes were open, but all sign of life appeared to be gone. Rain was teeming into its open mouth. It was, for all intents and purposes, dead.

Vivienne fainted.

****************************************************

She awoke some time later, covered in leaves and muck. There had been no let up in the storm. She cast a glance at the clone. It hadn’t moved.

Vivienne went over to its body and removed the glass dagger from its chest. Closing her eyes, she stabbed it a dozen more times. She then started on its face, taking out its eyes for good measure. If it does manage to wake up, at least it won’t fucking see me, Vivienne surmised.

She stood up when she was finished and looked at her handiwork. Job done!

Now it was time to find a way off this miserable pile of rock. She heard a noise. It sounded like a groan. She looked up and saw the gargoyle coming off its perch.

“That’s weird,” Vivienne mumbled to herself. “What’s going on here?”

It was too late, though. The gargoyle was off its foundation and falling to earth. It landed right on top of poor young Vivienne, crushing her skull, killing her instantly.

*******************************************

The Kremlin: Moscow

The new General Secretary of the Communist Party looked over at the demoted Yuri Kafelnikov.

“And who’s hare-brained idea was this Projekt Doppelganger?”

“Your predecessor, Comrade Secretary. I thought it was insanity, myself.”

“You did, did you?”

“Yes.”

“Mmmmm. You know where you’re going, don’t you?”

“The Siberian Salt Mines. I have my case packed.”

“Good for you, my friend — you’ll need all the clothes you can get your hands on. It gets cold there, this time of year.”

“Comrade Secretary?”

“Yes?”

“What will happen to Doppelganger now?”

“Nothing. My new KGB chief sent agents to the island. All evidence has been removed; the clone has been destroyed, along with every body we can find. We found the ferryman, Ferdie. He has since joined up with his friends at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. There is no, nor has there ever been, a Projekt Doppelganger. If you understand that, maybe you can come home a little earlier from exile.”

“I would appreciate that, Comrade.”

“Go. Out of my sight.”

Kafelnikov left. The General Secretary doubted he would ever see him alive again. He reached for his phone.

“Dmitri, get me the President of the United States. Tell Mr. Reagan that Mikhail would like a quiet word in his shell-like.”

“Yes, Mr. Gorbachev. Right away.”
THE END

AUTHO’R’S NOTE

I would like to thank the following people for making this story possible:

Thomas Jackson

Sean Fitzsimons

Emer McAuley

Pamela McAuley

Celine McAuley

Claire Cullen

Vivienne Mahon

Brian Clarke

Liam Parrott

Rev. Peter Meldon CC

Rev. Michael Geaney PP

This has been the realisation of 25 years worth of dreaming. All you people made such a profound impression on my life as a teenager and a twenty-something. Whatever it is you’re doing now, I hope each and every one of you are happy.

God bless you all, and thank you for being my friends, all those years ago.
To Cindi: Without this project, this story may never have had the chance of being re-told. I thank you, too.

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The Doppelganger Project: Part Four

Begin with part one here.

THE DOPPELGANGER PROJECT (PART FOUR)

The Butler Didn’t Do It. Honestly!

Excerpt from the diary of Lady Winnifred Karkoff, third wife to Lord Mortimer Karkoff of Goatherd Island.

June 7, 1866 (Tea-time)

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again…….or was it Scunthorpe? I can’t remember. This damned Irish weather has me in a tizzy; it rains and it rains. When it does decide to stop raining, it starts to snow. It’s the beginning of June and it’s fucking snowing. (Pardon my French.)

Mortimer has insisted on going ahead with this gargoyle thingy at the entrance to the castle grounds. I’m not too pleased with it, myself; it looks too much like his mother. The man knows I’m with child, and the bloody thing horrifies me. Those teeth. Those piercing eyes. Those frightful ears. And those horns…..those beastly horns. It’s his mother, all right.

My ‘darling’ husband wants to employ some men to put the monstrosity over the gate. “It’s to ward off evil spirits,” he says. Evil Spirits? Is he having a laugh, or what? The only evil spirits here are down in the wine cellar. Cheap brandy from Poland, of all places. You could strip walls with it.

No, he’s going ahead with it. I hope it falls on him one of these days. Where’s Rebecca with my tea? Or is it Rachel? Fuck, I can’t remember. (Pardon my French.)

July 4, 1866

The gargoyle has been erected successfully. (It’s the only successful erection I’ve seen since I became heavily burdened. Mortimer has gone right off his bit of slap and tickle.) Men from Mayo came over and spent a week putting it over the gate. “It’s as safe as houses, your Lordship,” they said to Mortimer. “The storm of the century will not move it from its spot.”

Mortimer thanked the men, and sent them on their way with a case of Polish brandy for each of them. What? You expected me to drink it? In my state? I prefer a dry white wine spritzer, thank you very much.

Daphne has arrived for a visit. I must be away. She has stories to tell of Jamaica Inn. She’s for the birds, that one.

August 3, 1866

Don’t look now, but the storm of the century has arrived. The goats have gone into hiding, and the jackdaws are nowhere to be seen.

My dreams have returned. This time I’m dreaming of strange young men and women. They are attired in odd raiments. They look fucking stupid (pardon my French). They are afraid because their numbers are dwindling. I’m afraid because I think the castle is going to blow down with the force of the wind.

I need a gin and tonic. I wonder where the lemons are?

August 6, 1866

The storm shows no sign of abating — if anything, it gets stronger with each passing moment. Mortimer worrys about his gargoyle breaking. Me? I worry about my waters breaking. Mortimer has decided to check outside and ensure everything is in order. I asked him to bring back lemons. Gin isn’t the same without them.

I feel woozy — it must be the quinine in the tonic water. At least I won’t catch malaria.

August 8, 1866

No sign of Mortimer. I think he went to Mayo to fetch lemons. The storm has calmed, somewhat, and the castle remains standing.

I send Rachel/Rebecca/Whoever to search the grounds for my ‘dear’ husband.

August 13, 1866

Mortimer’s funeral has passed peacefully. Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, sent a note, commiserating me on my loss. Bless her. Bitch.

My servant had gone out to look for Mortimer, and she didn’t have to go far. She found his body at the gate. The wind had blown the gargoyle from off the top of the gate. It fell directly onto Mortimer’s head, killing him instantly. He was not a pretty sight. The jackdaws had made off with his eyes. There was goat shit all around his corpse, and he smelled something rotten. No lemons, though. Fuck him (pardon my…..oh fuck that, as well)!

Goatherd Island is mine. It could do with some landscaping.

September 26, 1866

I have given birth to a bouncing baby boy. I shall call him Wistbury. Good name, that. When he is of age, we will leave this God-forsaken island and go back home to Mother Russia. I miss the vodka.

End of excerpt. No further communication exists from Lady Karkoff. She must have done a runner, after all.

**********************************************

Jacko’s alarm clock failed to wake him up at the first attempt. When he eventually did manage to rouse himself he jumped out of the bed with a start, knocking Emer on to the floor in the process.

“Bollocks,” he shouted. “What’s the bleeding time? Emer, Emer. Wake the fuck up, will you? There’s work to be done.” He rushed to the door, shouting at the top of his voice, “Lads, come on. Up ye get. Wakey, wakey, everyone.”

He stopped suddenly when he had the bedroom door opened.

“What’s that bleeding smell? Sean? Are you in the jacks? Did something crawl up your arse and die?” Jacko heard a buzzing sound coming from inside the bathroom. “Pam, is that you in there? I know a vibrator when I hear one.”

“We’re in our room, Jacko,” Sean called out, “and Pam’s vibrator makes a whistling sound, just so you know.”

“There’s an awful pong coming from the jacks, Sean. Go in and have a look.”

Vivienne stuck her head out from her doorway. “Has anyone seen Brian? He’s not in here……Is there any drink left over?”

Celine came marching down the hallway. She was in her painter’s gear already. Jacko liked that about her. Of all the McAuley sisters, she was the one who wasn’t afraid to get stuck in. He loved Emer, but she was more of the “sporty” type; Pam  stuck her fingers down her throat too much for his liking.

“I’ll find out what it is, lads,” Celine decided. “I’m dressed for the occasion.” She tried the handle but it wouldn’t turn. “It’s locked.” She knocked loudly on the door, using the side of her fist. “Hello? Is there anybody in there.” Celine leaned in and listened for any signs of movement. “Nothing. Just a load of buzzing.”

Liam was the last one to show up. He, too, was ready for work. He looked despondant, though, like he was forced into wearing them. He was pulling at the sleeves of his overalls. “What’s going on?”

“We can’t find Brian,” said Emer. “We think he’s inside the bathroom, but we can’t get in. The door’s locked.”

“Wish I was!” Vivienne whispered.

“I’ll get a hammer,” said Jacko, and went off to find one.

Pam looked at Liam. “What are you dressed up for? Aren’t we supposed to go and get help?”

“I’m not letting Liam mess up his good clothes going outside,” replied Celine. “Have you seen the weather? There’s a storm coming.”

“It’s poxy June,” exclaimed Sean. “You don’t get storms in June. You’ll be saying its going to snow next.”

“Here we go.” Jacko had returned. “This sledgehammer ought to do it. Out of the way, lads and ladies. James had his big stick, but Thomas J. Jackson has the mighty Mjolnir: the hammer of Thor, Norse God of Thunder.”

“You read way too many comics, Thomas,” Emer sighed. “Get on with it. I’m freezing my knickers off here.”

Jacko raised the hammer over his right shoulder and came down on the door handle with a mighty whack. The handle broke off at the first attempt.

“Amateur job,” snarled the Thor wannabe, as he kicked the door open.

They were greeted by a buzzing cloud of flies that hovered over a fetid pool of decomposed human flesh. The smell of rotting remains invaded their nostrils, and Vivienne fell to her knees, vomiting up last night’s alcohol consumption. Emer and Pam joined her. There was safety in numbers, it seemed. The rest of the Folkies just stared and screamed.

*************************************************

“Right, lads,” Jacko squeaked, once people had stopped screaming and puking. “We need to get help. Fast!. Pam, you and Liam get your arses into gear and get to the coast. This is fucking awful. Viv, are you all right?”

“How the fuck can I be ‘all right,’ Jacko. My boyfriend has melted on me, overnight. That kind of mad shit doesn’t happen every day. I seriously need a drink now.”

“Sean?”

“Yes, boss?”

“Get me some wine, a mop, and a very big bucket. This is going to take some time.”

“Yes, boss.”

“Emer?”

“Yes, Thomas?”

“Get Vivienne back into her room. She doesn’t need to see this.”

“Yes, Thomas.”

“Liam?”

“Yes, Jacko?”

“You and Pam, hurry the fuck up.”

“Aye, aye, Jacko.”

“Celine?”

“What?”

“What?”

“Yeah, what?”

“Huh? What’s with the attitude?”

“Who died and made you king?”

“James and Brian did. How’s that for starters?”

“I’m upset.”

“You’re upset? I’m fucking upset. Find Claire, will you? She must still be asleep.”

“Ok.”

Jesus, Brian, thought Jacko, as he entered the bathroom, for a short fucker, you left a huge bleeding mess.

Jacko knelt down and picked up what used to be Brian’s head. Flakes of skin were stuck to the skull. Alas, poor Clarkie, I knew him well. He put it back down on the tiled floor. “Sean, have you got that mop and bucket yet?” he shouted.

Just then, Celine came rushing in, and she had to stop herself from slipping in Brian’s bodily fluids. “Claire is gone,” she panted. “Her window is half open, but there’s no sign of her at all.”

“Oh fuck.” Jacko was becoming more and more frustrated “We’ll have to go search for her. The others are busy.”

“Let’s go, so. Sorry about tearing into you earlier, Jacko. I’m scared, as well as upset.”

“I understand, Celine. No time to waste, though. No one else is going to die. Not on my watch.”

“Jacko, you watch way too many movies.”

Sean came in with the mop and bucket. “I left the vino in with the girls.”

“Good man. Clean up Brian’s mess, will you?”

“Fuck sake, Jacko. Why do I get all the dirty work?”

“That’s what I pay you for.”

“You don’t pay me at all.”

“Moot point. Claire has gone missing and we need to find her. She may know something about what’s going on.”

“And I have to stay here and clean up? That’s not fair, Jacko.”

“Life isn’t fair, Sean. Be careful not to breathe in too many flies — they can’t be good for you. Celine, I think it better if we split up. We’ll cover more ground that way.”

“I agree,” she replied. “Good luck with the cleaning, Sean, and be careful. It looks like Brian had an acid bath.”

“How do you know.”

“I can smell it.”

Sean grumbled as he put on a pair of rubber gloves.

Jacko and Celine went off, hunting for Claire.

*********************************************

“If I’d known you were going to bring your Walkman, Pam, I’d have brought my Dire Straits cassette. Money For Nothing is a class tune.” Liam was big into guitar bands. His all-time favourite band was Led Zeppelin. Man, that Jimmy Page could play a mean six-string, or twelve, for that matter. Knopfler was running a close second at the moment, though.

“‘Get your money for nothing and your chicks for free,'” he sang.

“‘I want my, I want my, I want my MTV,'” Pam joined in.

“You have a lovely voice, Pam. You should sing more often.”

“I don’t want to,” Pam pouted. “People see me as an anorexic, bulimic air-head, with a very weird hair fetish.”

“Well, you do change it every day, Pam.”

“See what I mean?”

They are almost at the castle gate, and Celine was right — there was a storm brewing. If help was to come from the mainland, it would have to come quickly. Crossing the sea, with the wind rising, might prove to be too dangerous. They could easily end up stuck on the island until it blew over.

They passed under the gate, looking up as they did so.

“Do you think that gargoyle is safe up there?” asked Pam.

“I would think so,” replied Liam. “It’s probably been up there for over a hundred years; it could stay up there for a hundred more.”

“The wind might blow it off.”

“It won’t, Pam.”

“I wouldn’t want to be underneath it if it does.”

“You won’t be. Now, come on. We have to get to the coast. Maybe the ferryman has come back for us.”

They trundled on for two or three miles until the found the steps leading down to the beach.

“We’re in luck,” Liam cried. “The ferry. Look! It’s there.”

Sure enough, it was. And so was Ferdie, the ferryman. He spotted them and waved. Liam and Pam waved back. They didn’t hear the rustling in the bushes behind them, however.

Phht! Phht!

Two silent darts caught both of them in the neck. The tranquiliser did it’s job quickly; Pam and Liam fell to the ground. Ferdie rushed up the steps to greet his employer.

“What do you want me to do with them?”

“As we discussed. Make sure they sink to the bottom.”

“Aye, I will, but would it not have been better to just shoot them? With bullets, like.”

“I want them to suffer. Mother Russia demands it.”

“They don’t suspect you, then?”

“No. When they do find out, it will be too late. I have to head back. Do what you’ve been told to do.”

Ferdie watched the killer run off back to the castle. He shook his head.

“Russians,” he mumbled. “Fucking nutjobs.”

It took him ten minutes to carry Liam and Pam’s unconscious bodies to his ferry. On board, he wrapped thick ropes, weighted with large rocks, around their frames. Then he set off to sea.

Two miles out, the tranquiliser began to wear off. They were only given enough to put them out for a short while, Ferdie thought to himself. Poor bastards.

“Whaaaa…..whaaaa…” Liam was struggling to get the necessary words out. He moved his head, but found that was all he could move. “Ffffferddd….”

“Hey, pal,” said the ferryman. “You and your girlfriend are going for a little swim.”

“I can’t swim,” Pam, however, looked wide awake.

“You can’t? Not to worry, then.” He looked out at the sea. “We’re out far enough.”

He rolled them down toward the back of the ferry, and then unlatched the loading bay doors. “It’s cold out there, but you won’t feel it for long.”

Pam screamed and struggled with the ropes. Liam looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming car — he didn’t move at all. Both of them knew what was going to happen to them.

“Why?” Pam shrieked.

“Fucked if I know,” Ferdie said in a matter-of-fact way. “I just do what I’m paid to do. All the money I need, and all the Polish brandy I can drink.”

With that, he first rolled Pam into the sea — her screams silenced when she hit the waves — then the unfortunate Liam, who never opened his mouth as the water consumed him.

They sank without trace.

************************************************

“Any luck yet,” Celine asked Jacko.

“None. It was a good idea to split up, though.”

“Yeah, it was. Where is the window to Claire’s room from here?”

They were back at the main door. James’s body was still there, minus his eyes. Someone had brought out his big stick and put it under his right arm. Probably Sean, Jacko surmised. He looked like a sentry, guarding the gates of Hell.

“Fuck. Why didn’t I think of that? Good call. It’s around the side, I think.” Jacko ran off; Celine followed him.

They found Claire’s body soon after. Stunned to total silence, they looked at her corpse for almost two minutes before Celine started to sob.

“Someone is killing us, Jacko. I think it may be one of us.”

“Hush now, Celine.” Jacko grabbed her by both shoulders and brought her to him. “There, there. It can’t be one of us. It can’t be.”

“Who else is on the island then?” Celine began to shiver violently.

Overhead, the clouds darkened and it started to rain, gently at first, then with more persistence.

“Poor, poor Claire,” Celine wept. “She never had much of a head for heights.”

“She doesn’t have much of a head now,” Jacko responded.

“Not on your watch, Jacko. That’s what you said.”

“I’ve seen too many movies, Celine. That’s what you said.”

“How many more of us have to die before all this is over, Jacko. How fucking many?

Suddenly there was an explosion. A bright flash of light, followed by a massive roar. It wasn’t thunder and lightening, but whatever it was it ripped apart the top of the house. Jacko and Celine were thrown to the ground. A chimney top missed them by mere feet. The floor containing the bedrooms was on fire.

Jacko got up quickly. “Emer?” he shouted. “Emer?”

Oh God. Not on my fucking watch.

(c) James McShane
(Continue to part five here)

The Doppelganger Project: Part Three

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.”

“Ewww!”

“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.”

“Ewww!”

“Just saying.”

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

The Doppelganger Project: Part Two

(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.”

Thomas.

“What?”

“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.”

“The bishop?”

“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.”

“Aww, Viv.”

“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.”

“How much?”

“A tenner.”

“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.”

“Oh.”

“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.”

“Sound.”

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.”

“Ha-fucking-ha.”

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:

Dear Folkies,

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,

Yours sincerely,

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.”

“Thanks, love.”

“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.

The Doppelganger Project: An Explanation of Sorts

This isn't us, by the way. We looked way better.

Back when I was a good boy, I went to Mass regularly. I kind of believed in God (the Catholic version) in my teenage years.

I also believed I should get out more and start meeting girls. So I decided to put the two together, and joined the local folk group. We sang every Sunday evening at 7pm. We took our vocation seriously, some more serious than others. But it was through my participation in that group that I developed my innate nature to have like-for-like, deep and meaningful friendships. We had fun, though. In every group of people, no matter what it is that brings them together, there is always an element of fun.

Every Sunday, after service, we headed over to the pub. A lot of us (including me) got good and drunk. Some of us, over time, developed intimate relationships. I fancied quite a number of the young women in the group. I never had any luck, though – but it wasn’t through the want of trying.

I knew I wanted to be a writer back then, and I came up with the idea of creating a fictional story, featuring most of the ‘folkies’ I knew. Being a big James Bond fan, as well as an avid reader of Agatha Christie whodunnits, I developed what would eventually be called The Doppelganger Project. In essence, it’s about a group of young people, all of them members of St. Monica’s Folk Group, who are brought to a lonely island off the coast of Achill, County Mayo, under the pretense of redecorating an old house.

Over a period of about a week (it was during this week that I began my love affair with coffee), I wrote my manuscript. I had one copy and one copy only. I handed it around to my friends, who read it and enjoyed it. Then that copy went missing. To this day, it has never turned up.

Then, two years ago, on WEbook.com, I set myself a new challenge: to see if I could write it again from memory. I have done so. The concept remains unchanged: it is very much a Cold War-style thriller…with laughs.

Over the next few days, I will post an instalment of the story. I hope you read it and above all, I hope you enjoy it. I dedicate it to the ‘folkies’ – the best people I ever knew.