02:17 Thu, 23 Oct, 2047 [Rooftops above Sauchiehall street]
It’s a moist, notably mild evening on the rooftops of Sauchiehall street. The rain is falling in a forgivingly light mist and its cold enough that I’m staying crouched to preserve warmth, but not so cold that I can’t feel my fingers. This is about as good as it gets late October in Scotland’s stab capital.
As bad as things can be in the city, there’s something bracingly beautiful about Glasgow at times. The greenery looming beside venerable 19th century Victorian architecture would be a perfect setting for an Arthur Conan Doyle story; though it mostly serves as the backdrop for heroin dealing. Earlier I walked across a bridge overlooking the motorway. One main artery of vehicles coursed along the middle, while smaller routes wound around it, ferrying traffic to and from the smaller outlying areas of the city, feeding into the smaller capillaries of Glasgow itself. A range of grim tower blocks overlooked the entire scene, an imposing background presence. The whole scene resembles a more grimly realistic MC Escher painting, a feeling accentuated by the barren grey skyline.
Right now I’m overlooking swathes of drunken club and pub goers, hazily gravitating to buses and taxi ranks – pulled by a sort of unpredictable yet irresistible force of inebriation. The soused masses that emerge segregate into defined cliques of hens, lads, older gents etc, then make a loud circuitous path home, bleeding through the smaller lanes and alleys along the way and occasionally stopping in at a kebab shop. This is decidedly less exciting than my usual beat, but this eagle eye view of the nightlife is an anthropologists dream.
Buchannan and Sauchiehall street are centrally located, and some of the most friendly areas in the city. They’re home to shoppers and office workers by day and revelers by night and consequently crime takes the form of light purse snatching and mugging – a cut below what I typically concern myself with. This past week I’ve been trying something new by focusing all my attention on this area, I’m trying to deal with the small time punks, trying to clear them out entirely before going back to mitigating the massive amount of serious crime occurring in the rest of the city.
I got the idea from reading up on broken windows theory, the idea that policing small crimes like vandalism and graffiti can reduce overall crime rates and restore some semblance of public confidence. It’s apparently worked before (like in New York in the 1980’s), but I’m not totally convinced. I’m certain in fact that tidying up here is going to have no impact whatsoever in the East End, in the yards, in Springburn or anywhere else. On the other hand, I’ve been coming down as hard and as bombastically as possible on every punk I’ve come across this week and it seems, at least anecdotally, to be working. Tonight has been boring, and boring is good. The Batman approach to heroics seems to be working out nicely.
I can see a janitor in the distance, drearily cleaning an empty stairwell. A message buzzes in my shoulder pocket, interrupting Geto Boyz ‘still’. Normally I don’t really like gangster rap so much as the smoother stuff, but having just watched the movie Office Space on the train yesterday I was in the mood for it. The message is from Bryce: “See me first thing tomorrow, we need to talk about the kidnappings. GO TO BED”. Kidnappings?
10:37 Thu, 23 Oct [West Medical Building]
“You call this early?”
“You didn’t say early, you said first thing, and this has been my first order of business. What’s so urgent then?”
“You don’t know about the kidnapping?”
“Janet Harris went missing yesterday, as did Andrew McCulloch. It’s been massive news, how could you miss it?”
“I’ve been too busy fighting crime to read about it. If they only went missing yesterday, how did it escalate to this already? And why is this such a pressing concern for us? Missing persons is maybe the one area the police are better suited to handling than us. Do you think we’re Mulder and Scully or something?
“Have a look. He’s asked for you specifically”
Bryce beckons towards the screen. My face is painted with pure astoundment as I take it in.
This is for all of you. You mindless drones, going to your pointless jobs, living out your boring existences, buying shit you don’t need with money you don’t have. You are all so BORING. Buzzing around with your “friends”, wasting your years online, never making real connections with anyone. You are all alone and you refuse to see it. I’ll show you how alone you are, how you’ll die alone with no one you can depend on for help. Ms Harris will be the first to see it. Glasgow’s hero thinks he’s so impressive with the show’s he’s put on for us, but he’s pathetic. An attention seeking whore just like she is. It will be fitting thenwon’t it mr Electric Man? You can show us all how great you are! I want to test you, because honestly I’m a fan. I have a request for you, and if you can’t get it done for me, Ms Harris is going to die right here on her profile page for everyone to see. Ready Hero? I want you to rob the Buchannan street branch of the Independent Bank of Scotland, and I want to see you with the money right here on this profile by 6pm or else I’ll show you a video of my own.
A video of a blindfolded, restrained woman bookended the scrawl and put a fine point on the dark mood that had descended on the room.
I exhale, still taken aback by the frankly bizarre and worrisome turn of events the morning had taken.
I slouch back on the adjacent workbench, laying back and observing the light fixtures above. A pensive silence fell between Bryce and I. My stomach felt weighty and knotted. This was the first time I had ever actively been forced into the role of hero. Every other time I had sought it out, could have opted out. This was no game, and as much as this Simon Says character disturbed me, he really had engineered a true test of superhero mettle in more ways than one…
“The ramblings of a fucking lunatic.”
Bryce remained quiet, he didn’t appear to be in the mood for levity now.
“Do you think he got the whole Simon Says angle from Die Hard III? Because that’s a weak installment in the franchise and if he thinks its good enough to pay homage to that probably speaks volumes about his character”
“Don’t be so fucking stupid! You need to get out there and find her before six!” Bryce snaps, visibly upset by events.
“Calm down Scully. Like I said, we can’t contribute anything to a search and there’s no way in hell the police will be able to track her down in the next seven hours.”
“We have to do something! The theory is that the missing man is the kidnapper. Andrew McCulloch and Janet Harris worked in the same building and going by their social profiles they were dating a few months ago. That has to be enough to go on.”
“We will do something. Let the police run down the McCulloch thing, we can’t add anything to that. We have to do what they can’t.”
“Well what are we gonna do?”
“Simple. I need you to build me a bomb”
14:25 Thu, 23 Oct [Buchannan street]
Robbing a bank in the shopping district is not something just anyone can do. These banks are still thriving money powerhouses, the beating hearts of capitalism in a dying city. As such their defenses: sturdy bulletproof glass, panic locking doors that seal the place up and a terror safe vault makes the heist a professionals only job. Bustling streets, ready daytime armed response and ubiquity of surveillance makes getting away with it even harder still. The fact that I have been publicly challenged to rob IBS has meant that armed police are stationed around the bank and spread much thicker than usual. It’s now impossible to get this done cleanly.
My reconnaissance of the area confirms all of this. I’ve specifically come at the busiest time, cars and people are streaming through obliviously. Cameras have eyes pretty much everywhere, but I’ve managed to pick my blind spot close enough to the building to make this work.
I’ve dressed for the part today. Tight trousers, boots, a striped tanktop in October and some ridiculously pretentious glasses. The ensemble is completed by an oversized duffle bag, which in most circumstances would seem quite suspicious but here simply blends into the student chic look. I can walk around and survey the territory with impunity. No one suspects me of anything more than being a bit of a dick.
I step into my carefully selected blind spot. I can see an armed officer on the other side of the street, brandishing a compact yet threatening machine gun. He looks like he has a pretty cool head. If he reacts quick enough, if his aim is good enough, he might just put me down right here on the street. Any of them could really, if things don’t go to plan. It’s a risk I know I have to take. There’s a life on the line here.
Pulling my mask on, I emerge from the surveillance black spot and step briskly out into the road. I have to be quick now, no one is going to chalk the balaclava up to a fashion statement. Not today. I’ve managed to stop traffic on both sides, Cool Head Cop looks like he’s about to talk to his buddies.
“GET OOTTAE ROAD FAGGOT!”
That one was uncalled for. I take pleasure in the fact that I’m not going to improve that man’s day one bit.
Drawing out the large metallic object from my bag and holding it aloft, I am now the definitive center of attention. Pouring electricity into it, the device hums with a deafening whurr and exudes a forceful vibration, the two of which combined seem to shock everyone into inaction. As the noise and vibration edge to an unbearable extreme and my hands feel too numb to cling on any longer, they are replaced by a different, more all encompassing chaos. There is now a vibrant cacophony of alarms, the streetlights are flashing, every car’s fancy electric engine has panicked it’s way towards an outright shutdown. Every camera in the vicinity has blinked out, the lines of communication have been severed. The EMP has crippled every electrical device on the whole street. I drop the spent shell of the EMP device to the pavement and recede into the havoc that it unleashed.
Staying low and weaving between the mass of traffic, I make my way to the bank unseen amidst the panicked crowds and dead cars. As expected, the armed details have gravitated out to where I set off the pulse, drawn away from the bank with their return blocked off. One guard stands outside the IBS building. I leap across the open ground between us, watching as he reacts, raising his weapon up towards me. I just make contact with his gun as he fires. Pushing it aside with my left hand, I send a jolt of disabling energy into him with the right, completing the leap in a fluid roll and moving into the bank itself.
I draw a prop gun and point at the crowd. The doors are unable to lock because the alarm has malfunctioned, but the glass will cover me from gunfire if it comes to that.
“Move! You, get own ey fucking grownd!”
I conjure my best Glaswegian accent, because a Glaswegian accent is intimidating, even in Glasgow. A shot of electricity fired in the air makes most everyone hit the deck. Hopping up onto the register, I drop the duffle bag down to the cashier, who begins filling it with the fat stacks the already open registers are so readily presenting.
“Stay Down! I’m here for the banks money not your money. Your money is insured by the Scottish Government, you won’t lose a penny. Don’t try and be a hero”
If now isn’t the time to quote Heat I don’t know when is. I shift my oversized fake pistol around the room. Things look stable. I turn the inside of my wrist to my face, three minutes, have to get out soon. And with that thought, helpful Janice the cashier raises the bag with great strain up to me as best she can. Quickly pulling it over my shoulder (It weights a fucking ton) I head quickly and calmly for the door. I’ve delayed the response with the stunt, but it’s not quite over. I need to get to the rooftops tout suite. I inhale deeply as I clear the door and hit the street. Almost done.
18:02 Thu, 23 Oct, [West Medical Building]
The Professor and I are once again sitting in that uncomfortable silence. He’s looking quite knackered from the pressure of today. A video of me in full costume, presenting a sack of ill gotten gains has long since been uploaded for the world to see. And now we have a reply.
Amazing! I didn’t think you’d really come through, that you would be a proper hero. But a terrorist! That was very entertaining, a bank heist wasn’t enough for you, you had to set off a bomb right in the middle of the city! Well I’m glad everyone can see what you really are now.
I’ll spare Janet for the moment, you’ve earned that much. Unfortunately, Andrew will have to go. That smug macho cunt deserved it trust me. Now, if you want a shot at saving her and the rest you best get in touch and I’ll give you the details. If you tell anyone else I can guarantee you’ll regret it hero.
That fucking psycho killed him for no good reason. This guy is clearly too far gone to take at face value. I’ll need to be careful here.
Bryce looks lost, the whole deal is not sitting well with him at all.
“Is this… my fault? Do you think he’s doing this to get my attention?” I ask genuinely concerned.
“It doesn’t matter right now. Go home and get some rest while you have time, I’ll contact you when I know the details. From the sounds of it, he’s taken more people…”
22:15 Thu, 23 Oct, [Judge and Partners Building]
I’ve made my way to the foyer of the Judge building, alone, as requested. It’s one of those bland, white and glass buildings that you pass by and never think much of. The kind of place that could covertly hold massive conspiracy’s and secret thinktanks but which is actually just full of people sitting in front of keyboards bored out their boxes.
It’s eerily empty in here tonight. The place shouldn’t be bustling, but there’s not a hint of life down here. No janitor, no security guards. Nothing. Some wet floor signs have been arranged into a crude arrow, directing me into an elevator. Inside, the button for floor eight has been circled in red marker pen. This couldn’t feel much more like a trap.
22:18 Thu, 23 Oct, [Judge and Partners Building 8th floor]
Exiting onto the eighth floor, I’m greeted by an overturned printer, out of which has spilled what must be hundreds of identical pages. Printed on each is a short message:
I’ve hidden 5 hostages for you between this floor and the twelfth. You have until exactly 10:40 before they go boom. Either way, come see me when it’s over. I’ll be waiting for you at the top.
The message is repeated ad infinitum, taking up the whole page. That gives me just over twenty minutes to save them. Shit!
22:20 Thu, 23 Oct, [Judge and Partners Building 8th floor]
Nothing so far. I need to save one person every four minutes at this rate. Over five floors. I’m methodically, hurriedly checking every door I find. Nothing behind this one. Bathrooms? Can’t chance it, check there. This is taking too long and I don’t know the layout so how can I possibly check everywhere?
22:23 Thu, 23 Oct, [Judge and Partners Building 9th floor]
I’m panting really hard now. Another identical drab hallway. Identical doors lining each side, no indication whatsoever of layout anywhere. No one screaming for help. You have until exactly 10:40 before they go boom. What does that mean? Five hostages across five floors; but is there one person on every floor? He could well have put them all on floor 11 for all I know. This isn’t working.
I stop dead, despite the ticking clock. I close my eyes, trying to steady my heavy breathing. Think. Think of something. A proper superhero would think of a new approach to a problem like this. A new way to use his powers.
Making this work is mostly a case of feel, of intuition. Keeping my eyes closed I clear my mind and focus. I need to see with new, clear eyes and when I open them again I do. Electricity is illuminated now, standing out against the drab office buildings in a vibrant white glow. It’s almost overwhelming at first, but I maintain focus and attune my eyes. I can trace wiring in the walls, see equipment that’s been left on and most importantly, I can see the hostages now.
22:25 Thu, 23 Oct, [Judge and Partners Building 8th floor]
Back downstairs, I rush towards the glowing silhouette of nerves that I had missed earlier in my crazed ransacking of the office. I narrowly avoid tripping on an overturned desk (which I’m certain I knocked over in the first place) as I reach a rather upset man bound to a chair. Whipping off the cloth covering his face, I spot two things which concern me. First is the ball gag in his mouth, which is muffling the cries for help. It’s certainly bondage gear while it’s made for this and should be less demeaning than say, tape or an old sock – there’s still something quite unseemly about it.
Secondly (and more importantly) there’s the collar around his neck. This isn’t fetish gear, it’s a device of some kind and it has a current running through it. Gag man’s bugged out eyes just about confirm my suspicions. This must be the boom Simon was talking about. He really doesn’t want me touching it, so I decide to hear what’s on his mind.
As soon as the gag comes loose he blurts out
“Don’t touch it! He said it explodes if you try to take it off”
“Well I’m afraid it’s going to blow up in uuuuh… 14 minutes anyway. So, want me to take a shot at it?
That doesn’t seem to have helped much. Doesn’t matter much though, I need to get cracking. Before there’s time for any discussion I close my fist around the collar and short it out. It works perfectly and the low hum of its inner workings dies off.
“Well sir, it’s been a pleasure. I still have 4 more people to save, so sit tight and the police will be here for you in no time.”
I leave him slouched back in his office chair bindings with the look of a man who knows he’ll live to see breakfast tomorrow. Four to go.
22:39 Thu, 23 Oct, [Judge and Partners Building 12th floor]
Fuck fuck fuck. 46 seconds left fuck fuck fuck.
I crash through the door knocking it off the hinges because fuck door handles and spot my last hostage in waiting just a bound or two away. Clearing the distance (DO NOT TRIP) I pull the cloth free of her face and deactivate the collar without taking the time for introductions or explanations.
After freeing her up I collapse on my back in relief, letting the hot pain in my lungs recede. Thirteen seconds to spare. Regaining my composure and an upright position I look at her, a fairly pretty blond young woman with teary blue eyes.
“Ms Harris? I’ve been running around ragged for you today like you wouldn’t believe”
And with that she crumbles into a blubbering wreck. These people have been through a great trauma, and I get the feeling that hers is deeper somehow, more personal. I exchange words, gaining an understanding of what’s going on and offer the little comfort at my disposal. I’m no good at this part, but where I can’t console her I can at least try and bring about a modicum of justice for what’s transpired today. Floor thirty seven here I come.
22:50 Thu, 23 Oct, [Judge and Partners Building 37th floor]
Here we are, top floor boardroom. Peak of the white collar summit. Inside I finally get to put eyes on the shit behind today’s madness. He’s a not particularly attractive, not particularly notable pudgy man in a white buttoned shirt, standing across the room just in front of the windows overlooking vast swathes of the beautiful West End skyline. His shirt is open at the top, revealing a small patch of dead black chest hair. His shirt has a peculiar orange stain on the chest. He looks at me with a mix of anger and self satisfaction as he brandishes a pistol, pointing it accusingly at me.
“Hero! You’re here, you really fucking did it didn’t you?”
He’s narrowing his eyes and letting out an uncontrolled, wheezing laugh.
“Hello Peter. Peter Brent. Yea I know you. We can drop your Simon says shit now. Peter Brent, a boring name for a boring man”
“What this isn’t what you wanted? Now I know your name, now you’re a big deal right?”
“You don’t understand! I thought you might get it but you’re just like they are. Floating through life, not paying any fucking attention to me, acting like I barely even exist. And that bitch. That fucking bitch was the worst. Every damn day was about her. Every part of the day I spent thinking about her, about how to spend time with her, how to get her attention, what she liked, how I could get her to like me.”
“So you kidnapped her, did all this?”
“You really don’t get it? It’s not even about that cheating whore, it’s everything, these people and working here grinding your soul down every day for some pointless pathetic… shit.”
I’m closing the distance between us but he catches me and snaps his gun up at me again, moving with a sweaty alacrity to keep me at bay.
“Put it down and come cleanly or else shoot at me. Either way you’re not getting away with this. Just make it easy, you can’t win here trust me.”
“Oh I’ve already won. Let me teach you something. You want to be special, and inside you know you’re not good enough right? You want to be a hero, but it doesn’t matter what you do or how you act. All that matters is how people see you, what they think. An they’ll all think you’re a thief and a murderer.”
And with that, Peter Brent, record deviation adjustment technician and violent narcissist, dropped to his death. The motherfucker Hans Grubered me with his last act on earth.
Loneliness and indifference killed Peter Brent, drove him to a mental breakdown and set him upon the people who ignored him. Exasperated, I collapse into a seat at the head of the meeting table. There remain a few things to tie off here before I can close things up: I need to call the police in to pick up the pieces and I need to give Bryce an update.
But a few things aren’t sitting well with me. Brent was not a technically proficient or otherwise resourceful man, so how was he able to get into and clear this building tonight? Where exactly did he acquire those collars and get the know how to rig them the way he did? And why would an office building have so many cameras?
Even here I can see a camera, sitting in the corner of the room partly hidden by the blinds. As I approach I see that it doesn’t appear to be part of the building but more… freestanding. Was someone planning to film this, to film me? As I reach it, the camera powers itself down.