IN THE DARKNESS SERIES
Where once she dwelled, she dwells no more
No longer of shadow, but of flesh
Evil rises and blood flows.
This time there is no end
To the darkness that falls…
Rampton Secure Hospital
A smile tugs at the corner of my lips as Dr Phillip Peters enters the room, joining his colleague.
Dr Phillip Peters is having a bad day. In fact, he’s having a terrible year.
Six months ago, he discovered that his wife of ten years was having an affair with their neighbour, Darren Baxter. Darren Baxter is a partner at a prestigious law firm, specialising in divorce for the rich and powerful. Divorce is big business, and it’s booming.
Three months later, despite the marriage guidance sessions, his wife moved her belongings into Darren Baxter’s home. This morning Dr Phillip Peters received the divorce papers.
His marriage has ended abruptly, and he is now working through the emotional war raging inside him. Regardless of the financial implications, Dr Phillip Peters isn’t fighting the divorce. There is no fight left in him. Acceptance allows him to move on, adapting to the peaks and troughs, as his heart breaks and adjusts to life without his wife. The desire to place this turbulent part of his life behind him is paramount. It is affecting his sleep, work, and observational skills.
All this is making me one fortunate serial killer. To quote William Langland – “patience is the greatest virtue.”
It is too late for Dr Phillip Peters to realise the misfortune of working with his spouse—soon-to-be ex-spouse. The atmosphere here is oppressive. Dr Vanessa Peters’ ringless hand is like a flag, waving at the broken bull stampeding through Dr Phillip Peters’ heart. No wonder they both miss the warning signs. Not everything is as it should be here at the hospital.
Rampton Secure Hospital opened its doors in 1912. Named Rampton Criminal Lunatic Asylum, it acted as an overflow facility to Broadmoor. For over one hundred years, Rampton’s has housed some of England’s most dangerous criminals.
The Mental Health Act of 1983 keeps its patients locked away from the public. To be locked up at Rampton’s, the Mental Health Act classifies the sufferer by their learning disability, mental illness and/or psychotic disorder.
The looney tunes club, as I refer to Rampton’s, is a short-stay facility, and the average stay is five years. Killers such as the Angel of Death—Beverley Allitt, and the Yorkshire Slasher—Lauren Michaels—that’s me—are here indefinitely. Allitt has been here since Nottingham Crown Court found her guilty in 1993.
Murder makes me observant. Though my ears are well-proportioned, they are like antennas, picking up snippets of gossip as my eyes scan for information. Killers must remain alert, even when imprisoned. How else are we to take advantage of a situation?
People are a substantial source of information. Tiny changes in routines and habits, awkward silences between married couples, or even a legal document peaking from the inside pocket of a jacket, provide vital clues.
Dr Phillip and Dr Vanessa Peters’ hyperawareness levels should be greater than most. They are psychologists, trained in the art of observation. That skill is lacking at present. It is shameful to see such a potent skill unused.
Dr Vanessa Peters, her voice clipped and unfriendly, centres her blue eyes on me. “How are you feeling today, Tracy?”
Excited about killing you, is what I want to say, but I don’t.
No point in having her screaming down the hall like a looney before I’ve stopped her lungs inflating and her heart beating. This place is full of loonies. Besides, I am killing her today—that knowledge will suffice for now.
Dr Vanessa Peters sits opposite her soon-to-be ex-husband, an expectant look on her sour face. She will wait a long time for me to answer her stupid question. Instead, I skirt around the issue. Mind games are such fun. They make me feel alive, keeping the brain active.
My facial expression is one of doubt and confusion, my fingers pulling at the sleeves of my top. “I miss Susie and Abigail.”
Both doctors nod their understanding at this drivel. Give a psychologist what they want to hear, and it restores the balance of their inner happiness. The importance they place on understanding the human brain outweighs the truth. Ticking boxes is what it’s about.
It is the amenable Dr Phillip who answers. “That is understandable, Tracy.”
Susie Johnson and Abigail Hill… are—were, Tracy Bennett’s best friends. Their visits stopped when Susie got engaged. It’s a shame. As much as I hate them, they were entertaining. Many hours have been spent envisioning their blood dripping onto the floor.
There is a startling visual likeness between me and Dr Vanessa Peters. One I aim to take advantage of. I have been planning my escape from the looney tunes club for some time. My interest in Dr Vanessa's mannerisms has increased. Mental notes in the way she talks, sits, walks, and avoids people are stored ready for use.
The countless diplomas decorating the bland walls suggest that Dr Vanessa Peters is an intelligent woman. Her IQ is not as high as the diplomas imply—I’m not the one sitting face to face with death and too stupid to recognise it. No, that is the diploma freak in front of me.
“And how does that make you feel, Tracy?” Dr Vanessa asks. She’s all about exposing our feelings.
Mutely I stare at her.
Inside my head, I’m telling her how thrilled I will be when she’s dead. The decrease in stupid and pointless questions will please the other patients.
My continued silence makes her twitchy. Tracy Bennett wasn’t chatty, but she would talk. The weight and discomfort silence induces is enjoyable, why squander it with words.
Fifteen years of being locked up has given me an appetite for freedom. Even though I had planned for the police to catch me—sometimes, like it or not, for full potential to be achieved, there are setbacks that need overcoming. After fifteen years my wait is over, and everything is falling into place. When the red light goes out on the security camera, Lauren Michaels, aka the Yorkshire Slasher, is getting the hell out of the looney tunes club.
Doctors don’t get involved in the nitty-gritty of running and maintaining an asylum. Last week, the cretins assisting me on my daily exercise were bitching about the maintenance crew. The hospital has undergone a telephonic upgrade, moving away from conventional switchboard to a triage system. And now it is the turn of the security systems. The merry dance my feet demands is being ignored, instead I bounce my right leg over the left, a nervous expression falling over my features. Tracy Bennett was such a mouse.
Disruption of the security cameras will occur, I look at the clock, in ten minutes. The interruption will last for fifteen minutes. Plenty of time to strangle Dr Vanessa Peters with her pretty scarf, strip her, and walk out of Rampton’s as the doctor.
There is the minor inconvenience of Dr Phillip Peters. A serial killer is an inventive and creative creature, so Dr Phillip is not a huge issue.
Obsession kills—as Dr Phillips is about to find out. His obsession with Dissociative Identity Disorder is about to bite hard. True sufferers are a rarity. DID is the lack of connection with thoughts, memories, feelings, actions, and a sense of identity. Trauma is the main trigger. This is where Uncle Kevin comes into the picture. He kidnapped and raped Tracy when she was a little girl. Tracy’s mind fractured, and I was born. The other, weaker personalities Tracy’s mind conjured have been crushed. Their demise is a pleasure I still feel now.
There is a lot of controversy around DID within the medical profession. Dr Vanessa’s scientific mind doesn’t support DID. DID patients hold a high IQ. Criminals, such as Kenneth Bianchi, have used the disorder to evade prison and avoid consequences. Bianchi, a California’s Hillside Strangler back in the 70s, duped health officials into believing he’d killed his alter-personality, Steve Walker, the perpetrator of the crime. As a result, he wasn’t competent to stand trial.
Dr Phillip’s fixation has presented me with certain privileges. My extra entitlements aren’t much. The odd plastic cup of water. Left alone for the odd minute with Dr Vanessa, while the good doggy fetches the deranged killer a drink. There was no danger in this arrangement when Tracy Bennett was alive. But things have changed. Tracy is gone.
Tracy Bennett was so bendable she should have been a rubber plant. Rules followed; questions answered. She lived to please. Tracy’s persona to some degree has been—and it pains me to admit this—a blessing. It is amazing that when Tracy faded away, no one noticed the subtle changes, as I took full control of this body and mind.
“S-sorry,” I say, “do you think I could have some water? My throat’s dry.”
A few well-placed coughing fits emphasise my parched throat.
Dr Phillip jumps to his feet. “I’ll get it.”
Who’s a good doggy?
The doctor steps out the room leaving the door ajar. Dr Vanessa Peters’ lips draw into a line of disapproval. She doesn’t like Tracy. Dr Vanessa Peters isn’t a believer in DID. There are too many variables. While I understand her scepticism, Dr Vanessa is not the one living with snivelling Tracy Bennett. No. Until recently, that was me.
Suspicion smears a negative attitude onto a psychiatrist’s patients. Dr Vanessa Peters oozes suspicion. A weaker person would buckle under its weight—confess all and happily rot in the hospital’s claustrophobic cells.
Dr Vanessa’s fingers drum on her crossed legs, not bothering to hide her angst at Dr Phillip’s absence. The water cooler is a mere three metres down the hall. Yet, it is taking some time in retrieving it.
Wincing, I uncross my legs, rubbing at my left calf. “Would you mind if I stand? I’m getting cramps.”
The doctor’s blue eyes pin me to the sofa, and on lowered lashes I stare at her unfashionable shoes. No point in turning this into a pissing contest.
An exaggerated sigh escapes her lips. “Very well.”
Dr Vanessa stands with me, her eyes watchful. She is an inch taller, but nothing noticeable. Her nose is longer, her waist thicker, and her manner standoffish and unfriendly. My cheekbones are more structured, and I possess a panther-like grace her military walk doesn’t hold. No one is going to stand us side by side and play spot-the-difference as I walk out of here dressed in the doctor’s clothes. At a passing glance, our differences aren’t noticeable.
It was child serial killer, John Straffen, who gave me the idea of escape, having escaped from Broadmoor Hospital on the 29th of April 1952. Using his job as a cleaner at the facility, and with assistance from a shed roof, Straffen climbed the ten-foot wall to his freedom. Within hours of his escape, Straffen was back to killing. Dressed in civilian clothes, he travelled seven miles, cadging a lift with a woman who later told the police he was acting strangely.
Hm… I bet he was.
Ideas are everywhere, waiting to inspire us. Advancements in technology and security are changing how a killer can gain freedom. This advancement doesn’t make it impossible—just trickier.
The light on the security camera goes out, and I make my move, stumbling forward. Hands reaching, I connect with the desk, sending the doctor leaping to my side, a muffled curse falling from her lips. Off-balance I grunt in surprise grabbing the doctor’s arm for support. Within a heartbeat, I strike, gripping her scarf, and twisting the cloth around her throat, cutting off her air supply. Her short fingernails claw at my hands and I tighten my grip on the fabric. Strangulation is hard work. It requires a lot of strength. When freedom hangs in the balance, strength is very easy to find.
Arms thrashing, Dr Vanessa Peters tries to dislodge my grip. Legs wide, I pour all the strength I have into two things. One, keeping the tension on the scarf. Two, maintaining my balance as the doctor fights for her life.
Dr Vanessa Peters stops struggling. Her body goes limp. She’s dead. There is no gratification, and the tiny buzz of pleasure I feel when killing is missing. Like Uncle Kevin, so long ago, Dr Vanessa Peters’ death is a necessity, rather than a choice. This kill should not be credited to the Yorkshire Slasher. It is dull, lacking in true artistic beauty. My preferred choice for murder is a knife. It’s all about the blood.
The moment her body hits the carpet, I strip off my clothes, and proceed to undress the doctor. Getting her clothes off takes more time than expected. The clock is ticking. Dr Vanessa’s clothes are loose on me. Her shoes tight. This begets another problem: getting my clothes on the doctor isn’t easy. Sweat trickles down my face as I pull the joggers over the doctor’s arse. There is a slight stretch in the fabric, but not enough. In six minutes, the camera will come on.
Footsteps sound outside the door and I freeze.
There’s a long exhale of breath. “Yes, nurse?”
“If you have a minute?”
The doctor walks away from the door.
Eyes closing, I breathe.
That was close.
Zipping up the hoodie I arrange the doctor so her back is presented to the camera. When Dr Phillips returns his dead wife will be the first thing he sees. It is a shame I won’t be around to witness his reaction.
Back to the camera I tie the doctor’s scarf around my neck and pick up her coat and briefcase. Making a point of looking at the doctors watch now adorning my wrist, I walk out the room.
Heart summersaulting in my chest, and shoes clicking against the tiles, I make my escape. Adrenalin pumps through my system, and every fibre of my being screams at me to run, but I don’t listen. On steady footsteps that appear in no rush, I walk down the hall.
Dr Phillip Peters has his back to me as he speaks with a nurse, whose arms are flapping in an agitated manner.
A few minutes ago, Dr Phillip Peters’ life was rotten to the core. He might hate his wife—and with good reason—but her death means he doesn’t need to sign the divorce papers. He keeps the money in the joint account and the house.
That is something the police will need to consider, given the doctor’s obsession with me. And the longer the police take investigating Dr Peters over his wife’s death and my escape, the longer I have to implement my plan. No one is locking me up in the looney tunes club again.
Head down, I tip-tap my way down the hall. Dr Vanessa Peters is an abrupt no-nonsense woman. She never engages in small talk. The plastic card in my hand allows me to exit the secure facility with no alarms sounding.
The door closes behind me, and I smile.
Lungs inflating, I inhale the sweet scent of freedom.