A Real Hero: The Club

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Don’t start here. Click the image to read the first part of the story.

The Club

14:46, Thu, 29 Sept, 2047 [Weir Lecture Theatre; Introductory Behavioural Psychology]

“And that pretty much covers the content outlined by today’s intended learning outcomes. We can start delving further into the course in earnest in the lectures after the break, but I suggest you review what we’ve covered so far to prepare for…”

Forty-seven minutes past. The big digital display ticks over. Closing in on five minutes to three, second by second. I like the smaller lecture rooms that still have old mechanical clocks. You can feel that physical presence of time emanating from them, the reassuring tick tick tick of its passage.  Fifty eight on the screen now, there’s something to the ruthless accuracy of the digital world though. Right, I think it’s time we heard the magic words now Dr Freud. Last day of teaching before the four day weekend, topics are covered for today, say it. Time to finish up early.

“So to conclude with something a little bit more interesting, let’s look at psychopathy for the last few minutes. This is something that won’t have much impact in your practice, but has a real relevance in day to day life.”

NO! He must know what he’s doing to us. Dr Sykes is a practicing psychiatrist, he must understand that he tempted us with an early release then destroyed those hopes. And what use is five minutes on psychopathy? He’s hitting the most basic points, it’s like listening to one of those dumb list articles on those traffic whore sites like zoomsearch or NEWSGEST. Just bullet points and no substance, bor… no, it appears he’s piqued the class’s interest. And here I remain in my own orbit over in this chair that refuses to let me get into a comfy slouch.

“While their inherent callousness and calculating, uncaring nature equips them for success in many areas, as well as outfitting them with the necessary mindset for criminality, the truly intriguing thing about the psychopath is his ability to function in and hide amidst normal society…”

Fuck me this is like death by a thousand needless facts. Seven minutes to. He legitimately has to let us out soon, to give us time to get to our next class.

“Much of the initial work on psychopathy was carried out by Robert Hare, coming from his experience working as the psychologist at the British Columbia Penitentiary”

Ah now that would be an interesting lecture. That book has a lot of genuinely good insight which is being glazed over at the moment.  I wish I could have got a paper copy of it, but it’s one of those examples of a book we’re lucky to even have digitally. We lost a whole lot in that period when people decided that physical text on paper literature was no longer necessary. We probably lost lots of crap as well but lots of worthwhile writing we’ve never heard of too.

“Manipulative, grandiose sense of self worth, promiscuous sexual behav”

He’s probably just describing himself now. I give up, I’ll just doodle Sigmund Freud until I get out of here.

15:15, Thu, 29 Sept, 2047 [Science Way]

I’m free! As it turned out, the lecture ran long as the class got engaged by the subject and started a discussion and kept me in way past time. It doesn’t matter now. Walking down the old cobblestones, big old serious looking buildings on either side and scientists walking all around me, I feel in my right place.

This marks the start of the four day independence weekend, and my first opportunity to be a full time superhero. With no classes to worry about and an easy excuse for being out late if I need it, I can really commit to my mission.

I’ve not been at this long now, a few weeks maybe but I’m starting to get into the swing of it. No real injuries to speak of since that first night. Sure, lots of fighting, bruises, scrapes and a black eye but nothing serious. I pick up speed, the sooner I get home the sooner I can get started. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the outright scummy parts of the city, looking for trouble and finding it constantly. For the long weekend though, I have a new plan of action to try out, should be a good change of pace I think.

12:38, Fri, 30 Sept, 2047 [Mewsgate District]

Straddling the side of a rooftop overlooking much of the street and with a particularly good view of the entrance to the McGovern residences, I finish off my patrol snacks. You would be amazed how good some chocolate and a hot drink can be at midnight on a rooftop. It’s been a good shift so far, one carjacking nipped in the knackers, three kids burning a bin scared straight, a young team moved on from a playground with minimal violence. Baby steps.

As I finish chewing I spot a hot red glint down below. Three men outside the residences, one smoking. They look quite normal, dressed like actual human beings, not drinking, not shouting. Not doing anything suspicious in the least. That in itself is suspicious here.

I’m not posing on the roof of a skyscraper, but I am reasonably high up, a good five minutes from the ground (without swan diving to my death). I start descending down to a lower vantage point to be closer to the only action currently going on. Those guys are probably living in that building, coming out to smoke and chat, normal people wouldn’t smoke in those apartments, it’s against the rules.

I have a good view of them now. I need to be close in case someone goes for them. But it’s weird, surely at this time of night it’d dangerous to loiter outside. I’ve come here because it’s not a total warzone, it’s where average Glaswegians live, some students who can’t afford University accommodation or rented housing in the West End, but it’s not a safe place by any measure. Do they live here? Could they be waiting for something?

The McGovern residences are tall apartment buildings. They’re different to the kind that you see elsewhere, the prison towers with tiny packed one bedroom hovels and those scary elevators with the tiny windows. The Govie as the residents call it was built before packing as many people together as cheaply as possible was all that mattered. The building itself is still quite nice really; it’s just the world around it that went to shit.

I hear the car but can’t see it. Two men approach the group, the cigarette gets stubbed out. Looks like they were waiting after all. Masks come out. Now I don’t want to judge a book by its cover, I’m wearing my own mask right now, but five men donning balaclavas in the middle of the night really is suspicious.

They all turn and precisely follow the smoking man into the building, quickly and carefully.

Shit shit shit. Move, get down there quick.

My little flask falls out of its insecure pouch and shatters in the darkness of the street below. Shit shit shit.

12:42, Fri, 30 Sept, 2047 [Inside the McGovern Building]

My clattering footsteps echo throughout the stairwell as I throw open the door to another landing. Nothing. Long hallway, no movement, doors all closed. More stairs, have to be fast. More closed doors. Shit.

I stop moving and try to take in the situation. Those guys were here for a reason, at best to rob an apartment they knew to be empty, at worst to kill someone they know they don’t like. Regardless, they know exactly where to go and I haven’t the first idea. I could run around like mad for half an hour and find nothing, I could have already passed them. I might already be out of time.

I have it! Sprinting down the hallway I find what I’m looking for. I bury my hand in the fire alarm much harder than necessary. Whatever they’re doing, wherever they are, the whole building is alive now. They can’t hide, I hope.

Heavy steps follow, moving down the staircase. It’s them. This place is all tight corners and small spaces. As fast and strong as I am I can’t move like I want. As I exit the building, the car from earlier, two men inside is screeching off. In the opposite direction, in front of me a van is also tearing away. It’s got too much of a start on me so I extend my arm in its direction.  I pull in my breath, squinting. One bolt to the rear tire could stop them. Might send it careening off and cause havoc, might just miss and twat something off in the distance. With a sigh I drop my arm and try to get some of the license plate.

*!*

There’s an idea. Time for some old school sleuthing.

12:57, Fri, 30 Sept, 2047

The residents poured outside then shuttled back again in short order. They think it’s a false alarm. I’ve found a better spot now, closer to the ground, better access. I’ve been waiting a while I think, I lost track of time. My fingers are pretty cold, fifteen minutes at least?

Ah, that’s what I’ve been waiting for. The police car pulls up. It wasn’t an empty apartment then. All I need to do is follow the polis for my next lead on cigarette man and the balaclava boys.

01:16, Fri, 30 Sept, 2047

Perched on this balcony of sorts outside apartment 412, I can hear everything. I say everything, but there isn’t much of an exchange. The officers have few questions, seemingly unimpressed and unmotivated to investigate much further. It seems that Ms Wallace had been grabbed by two of them and knocked around just a little before the alarm sent them on their way. The lady is understandably upset, both at what has transpired and at the uncaring sentinels standing in her little kitchen. She clearly had a lot to say, but was interrupted by constant clicking of police scanner chatter and sighs. They hardly ask anything, they make excuses and leave. The front door shuts and I’ve learned nothing.

I find myself sitting in that little kitchen. My mask is gone, my face exposed as I look at Ms Wallace. Catherine.  Losing the guise was necessary to put her at ease, the last thing she wanted was another masked man in her kitchen. Once it was off she saw I was just a nice little boy in a Halloween costume and warily let me in from the balcony.

So they left as soon as they heard the alarm then?”

“Yea, well… The two with me were keeping me quiet, I don’t know if they were going to leave. Then another man came in, said they had to go, and that was it.”

“What was his voice like? Could you make anything out of them at all?”

“Just sounded… normal. Kind of low. He sounded like he was from here. He was definitely from here. All I really saw was that they were dressed darkly, all quite similar. They had smooth gloves on… when they grabbed me.”

So now I know that one of them is in charge. Two found her waking up and tried to keep her quiet while the others were in the rest of the house. Pretty precise break in, so what did they want?

“So what did they want? Do you have many valuables that anyone else might know about? Anyone who might have a reason to hurt you, an ex boyfriend or…”

“I don’t have a boyfriend, I only moved to the city a few weeks ago. I don’t know why anyone would come here like this.”

I believe her. She doesn’t seem at all like someone who could be disliked. Looking at her I can tell she’s a nice girl and… really pretty. I try not to look like that’s what I’m thinking because she doesn’t need me leering just now. But it’s noticeable. Her looks, not my leering. She’s not actually all that much older than I am, but she has her own place and a job so she really is.

She sets down some tea for me. Thanking her I pick it up; my fingers thank me for the hot drink. It was colder out than I expected for September.

“ I bet you’re freezing out there like that. You’re lucky, I’ve only just had the electricity fixed, broke down not long after I moved in.”

“Yea, electricity’s tricky… uh, in these old buildings. So, can you think of anyone who’s been here recently, anyone at all? They either picked that lock or had a set of keys from the looks of it.”

“No I don’t really know anyone here all that well. I guess the last tenant could still have the keys. The only person other than you who’s been here was an electrician. He fixed whatever it was, had a cup of tea and left. The usual.”

“An electrician?”

08:47, Fri, 30 Sept, 2047 [Crawford Crescent]

Kenny Fletcher. A quick search on the net brought me to his website and from there the socials filled in the rest. 36 years old, friends, a wife, a kid, a house I’m looking at right now. Lekkie by day, burglar by night? He didn’t seem to have ever been in prison and from his updates he was apparently at home last night. His profile didn’t mention armed, late night break ins as a hobby but nothing says this isn’t my guy.

That’s him. He’s walking out of his house to his van, going to work. Today isn’t a holiday for everyone. Monday is a public holiday, today is actually just a University holiday, any excuse. So Mr Fletcher and most of the city are hard at work today. As am I.

“Hi! Uhm, excuse me? I’m new at this do you get your paper delivered here?”

I’ve got a messenger bag full of today’s papers. I need an excuse to be here to get a good look at him. I act as witless as possible as cover.  He looks at me like he’s looking at someone who used to tease him at school. His eyes are tired.

“Eh, naw we don’t get em heurgh!”

He says it brusquely; it was probably going to be his response no matter what I had said. I look at the fist clutching keys by his side, taking note of the yellowed, tobacco stained fingernails.  I glance at the van on his other side, making out the shape, noting the familiarity of the license.

“Oh well thank you anyway!”

I say that cheerfully, glibly, eloquently. I’m smiling too. He’s now looking at me like he wants to spit directly in my eyes. I’ve found the smoking man.

09:12, Fri, 30 Sept, 2047 [Crawford Crescent]

I’m back in the car now, waiting for Mrs Fletcher to take the kid to school and go to work. I know she’s working because people freely share the minutiae of their lives on the Net.  I’m listening to The Talking Heads, who had been big in the nineteen eighties, a song called ‘Mind’. It sounds so ethereal and strange. Apparently this was very different from most music of the period, but I can’t really say. Most of the people who originally liked this music aren’t even alive now, these opinions are second hand to me and probably from people who never experienced it firsthand anyway. ‘Psycho Killer’, wow the guy singing. He sounds like he’s on a totally different planet, just crazy.

It’s a short wait before I can make my move, I don the mask in case things go sideways and approach the house.

09:20, Fri, 30 Sept, 2047 [39 Crawford Crescent]

I’m in a bedroom now, upstairs. I scaled the house from the back garden and came in through the bedroom window – seemed like the most sensible way to do it considering. The bedroom is very tidy, no screens. Must be used solely as a bedroom then.  Nothing but clothes in here and none of them balaclavas.

I peer around the upstairs landing: a bathroom, probably another bedroom and… yes! A mancave, that’s what I wanted to find. If a man had something to hide, this is where he’d hide it. I set my Glass down beside the monitor and connect it. It doesn’t take long to get the password. The Net can get you whatever you want if you look in the right places.

I start with his browsing history. Mr Fletcher has a very interesting taste in pornography. While it’s pretty damn unsavoury and violent, it’s not outright illegal. Masks are becoming a theme. Nonetheless I tick it off in a mental checklist and keep looking.

About ten minutes of looking turns up something interesting. A file, Kenny has his own checklist it seems. It doesn’t tell me much, or rather maybe it’s too much information. A long list of names, addresses, some other bits and pieces to go along with some of them. I’ll need to have a better look at this when I’m not trespassing so I put a copy on my Glass.

This computer isn’t used for much. There are hardly any apps, the Net browsing is mostly porn. That’s interesting. In the mail client I strike gold. A message, sent out to four other people, subject: The Club. Kenny (Fletch_32) has sent a message containing just a time and a place, he’s organising them. A meeting was set at the Govie last night, matching up with the break in. This account and all the others are aliases, so I can’t track the balaclavas down directly, but I can meet them at flat 218 Kelvin Gardens tomorrow night.

I have all I need so there’s no need to snoop much further. A locked drawer in the cabinet beside the computer is full of jewellery. Chains, watches, rings. They all shuffle around and clatter in their clanky metal cell. That definitely supports the robbery theory. The drawer below is full of black plastic things. I pick one up and it dangles, curling like a snake held by the tail. It’s a cable tie, the kind you use to bind bundles of wires. Who needs this many cable ties?

11:42, Sat, 1 Oct, 2047 [Flat 218 Kelvin Gardens]

I’m in a small living room, bathed in darkness, my eyes fixed on the front door standing stoically, patiently across from me. I came in silently and found two girls in the flat, which is strange. Are these the most incompetent house burglars in the city? All is quiet save for the reliable ticking of a clock somewhere in the room. The girls appear to be students from the looks of the place and are sleeping soundly, they don’t know I’m here.

The door whispers, a click as it is unlocked right on cue. Five dark figures enter in sequence, their faces are hidden. They don’t know I’m here either.

They spread around the room, two of them decisively passing along the hallway towards the back of the house, the others fanning out in the living room with me. They’re moving carefully since it’s very dark, but my eyes have adjusted to the light here. This one is walking towards the window, to me. It’s hard to make me out against the navy blue curtains.

I spring on him before he does. I grip his forehead tightly. With a direct connection like this it’s easy to send a current through him and he drops unconscious to the floor. The other two goons look into the blackness. I’m illuminated faintly by the crackling blue sparks from my hand which is holding nothing now.

With a balletic twirl I sweep the man closest to me. Falling flat on his back I follow this with a gentle drop of my palm which sends his entire body into erratic convulsions. Defibrillator.

The smaller, skinnier one he was with makes a move for the door, hoping I’m too slow to catch him. I hit him soundly in the gut with a strong left hook and let him slump onto the wooden floor.

The commotion, such as it is, brings me two more opponents. I can’t quite make out what he’s swinging at me but I can tell that it’s blunt. One bad miss and it’s gripped in my hand. I give him a hard punch in the dome which makes him seriously wobbly. I put him through a set of fairly flimsy shelves and meet Kenny’s panicked eyes.

Ducking under a poorly planned right cross, I snatch the left jab that follows. Placing his arm across my shoulders I break it then kick him in the left side of his chest, sending him crashing loudly into what I think is the kitchen.

When the students trepidatiously emerge to see the chaos that is their living room, I “reassure” them by telling them the police are already on their way before taking off down the fire escape, leaving the Fuckwit Five mostly unconscious and bound by little black cable ties.

18:32, Mon, 3 Oct, 2047 [My House, G67 AC772]

I shut off the six o’clock news with a now familiar feeling of dizzying incredulity and nausea.

Rape club. The words swirl around in my head, unable to settle anywhere. They were foreign. Not my words and not the medias. They were Kenny Fletcher’s words, his description of what he and his four friends had been doing for the last 4 years.

 “It’s not like we killed anyone”.

No, he had seemingly killed no one. I was following the story online and on the vids since Saturday night. The wheels of justice had turned swiftly once I had oiled them and set them spinning.

The overall scenario is this: Kenny Fletcher, Ryan Chalmers, Adrian Gostelow, William Shearer and Andrew Baker had been systematically selecting and assaulting women throughout Glasgow for years. An electrician, a plumber, a real estate agent, a locksmith and his apprentice. Between them they could find single women, get a good look around their homes and often be perfectly equipped to get in when they knew no one else would be around.

As far as anyone is concerned, these men appeared to be completely normal. Families, jobs, friends whatever. So far, between admissions of guilt and people coming forward, 22 victims had been confirmed. The experts say that because of the nature of the attacks, the fear and shame associated, that most victims may have never even reported what happened. The motives were callous and misogynistic and I don’t want to detail them.

In the end, I’m not upset by Kenny because I always knew there were truly evil people in this world even if this was particularly shocking. I’m mostly disgusted by the fact that even with all of the victims who did come forward, the police would never have caught these men purely because of apathy. Too much crime to deal with and this was just lost among it.

And then there’s the reaction online. Sick jokes and memes. It’s the focus on the socials this week, and at heart so many of these people just don’t care. The callousness here is sickening, the result of year upon year of hate and depravity being a daily occurrence. It’s bred a culture of indifference to the evil we live with, and a fear in normal people of challenging the world. A sane reaction to an insane world?

But this has given me new resolve. No more being a part time hero. What if I hadn’t thought of the fire alarm? Hadn’t even been in that part of the city? Hadn’t taken the crazy step of breaking into that house when it was such an obviously stupid thing to do?

Now I know that every moment I spend away from my late night activities, a Kenny Fletcher is out enjoying his. Living in indifference is not an option. I have to become the hero people need.

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