Gerard was almost home when he heard the police sirens. They weren’t at his house, but they were nearby. He pulled into the driveway, turned off the car, and rushed to the door, fumbling his keys when he got to the door. The sirens were getting closer.
He unlocked the door and rushed into the living room, throwing back the rug over the secret chamber. He searched for the right knot in the wooden floor, pushed it, and lifted up the door. He spun the safe’s lock, the sirens getting closer and closer. He opened the safe door and lifted everything in there out, trying to think of somewhere else he could put it all. He ran his hands through his hair, staring at everything gathered there.
The police cars pulled into his drive. He couldn’t think of anywhere to put it all. There was nowhere… This was the most secure spot, but…
He threw everything back into the safe, shut the door, and closed the secret door. He searched for what he would otherwise consider the “wrong” wooden knot-button. He swallowed a lump in his throat that was threatening to choke him, and was about to push the button when five police officers burst through his door and pointed their guns at him.
“Stop what you’re doing.”
Gerard froze. Pushing the button and destroying everything seemed his only hope, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. Suddenly he remembered that he had idiotically brought the gun Clyde had given him with him, and left it in the car.
A glimpse of hope rushed through him that, even if Clyde had been careful and worn gloves when he handled it, he knew Jem hadn’t. Jem had taken it in his bare hands when he took it from Gerard. There would be that one slim chance of redemption for Gerard.
“Get on the floor and put your hands over your head,” the same police officer said.
Gerard did so, and a different officer came and handcuffed him. But how had they known to come? Even if Clyde had contacted them some time before, he couldn’t have known that he would be shot, and he wouldn’t know exactly when Gerard would be arriving home. Damn that bastard.
Clyde looked at Jem as he removed his skin-tight gloves. Not gloves exactly, though. Jem had found someone who was able to take a hand-print and make gloves that left the identical print. Clyde had gotten them based on Gerard’s hands. It was an extra precaution, if Gerard wore gloves and Jem had to jump in, or if Gerard didn’t take the gun at all and Jem had to get it himself. Gerard’s prints had to be on there.
The gun was a fun thing to design, Clyde thought. He hadn’t altered it personally, but he had developed the plan for it, and gotten the same guy who made the gloves to actually change it.
He had procured two identical handguns – down to the identification number, which wasn’t terribly important for his uses, but still a good precaution -, saved one for personally killing Devin, and then started work on the second one.
It wasn’t that tricky of a feat of engineering, basically just the addition of a small switch that was activated by the trigger. The switch was what started a massive data transfer from his server to that of the police and government and anyone else he thought would be interested. Information that he had collected, partially true and partially falsified but completely believable and technically “true” now, given the changes he had made to Mind Pharmaceuticals right before leaving. Editing the history of a company was so much fun.
It was sort of like an inverted deadman’s switch. Still triggered by someone dying, but instead of the person who died triggering it, it was the person who killed that person. Rather useful for his plan. That way, if, for some reason, the gun didn’t go off, all information would still be retained in secret for a future time.
The bullet, too, had been customized. It wasn’t even really a bullet, of course. It was a round that had a lower dose than usual of gunpowder – he didn’t want to accidentally die from it, of course -, with fake blood filling the rest. The smack with the gun that Jem had given him helped with that, too, by providing extra blood for the scene.
He smiled at how well the plan had worked. Perfectly, even.
The police, of course, had found the pistol in Gerard’s car, and found that two shots had been fired with it. They weren’t sure of one of the shots, but the other one matched a bullet wound in a man named Devin Caldwin who had been found dead the previous day.
Gerard’s prints, of course, were all over the gun, but, somehow, no one else’s were. Their natural conclusion was that, as Gerard had been the only one to handle it, he was obviously the murderer of at least one person.
But this was only the beginning. Gerard wasn’t able to burn the information he had gathered in time, and the police added it to an already substantial amount of information they had somehow gotten.
Gerard hadn’t known about half of this information. When they looked into Gerard, they found that he had been the CEO at Mind Pharmaceuticals for the past five years, and no denial from Gerard could convince them otherwise. They learned of the human testing, the deaths that resulted from it all, and everything else.
Clyde’s final words echoed in his mind. Have fun picking up the pieces, Gerard. He doubted if he’d even be able to do that much.
He was ruined.
There was no hope of redemption, nothing that could stop what Clyde had already done. Even after dying, Clyde still trumped everything Gerard was able to do. His comparison of them to two very unequally matched chess players was all too true.
The court date had been set for the next week. Until then, Mind Pharmaceuticals had been shut down, the employees fired, and the test subjects, if the reason for their incarceration not deemed too serious, set free. The thought of Michael being free was Gerard’s one comfort. He still didn’t know if Michael had forgiven him for everything he had done. He doubted he ever would.
James vomited into a bucket he had sitting next to the couch he was laying on. He wiped his mouth with an already dirtied cloth that he clutched in his left hand.
Withdrawals were a bitch, he thought.
For some reason, two days ago when he had arrived at Mind Pharmaceuticals, it had been locked with a sign behind the door saying that it was closed. Looking through the glass, he had seen crime scene tape forming perimeters around certain areas.
Dread had filled him at the realization of what this really meant for him, and the days up till then had been absolute hell, and he was sure the hell would continue for several days.
And after that, of course, he’d have to find another job.
John arrived at Mind Pharmaceuticals to find that it was locked with a sign saying it was closed until further notice.
Dread filled him much in the same way it filled another employee there that he did not know of, but for a different reason. Smashed were his chances of continuing to work there and slowly making his way up the chain of command until he was something more than a lowly intern.
Little did he know that the chaos caused by a detour of boredom that he had caused directly contributed for this situation. It was best that he didn’t know.
Michael was free. He didn’t know what to do with that freedom. It all felt utterly surreal and strange to him. He first went to Gerard’s house, where the two of them had lived together for some time before all of this happened, but found that it was now wrapped in crime scene tape.
“God, what happened?”
Not knowing anything about it all was torture to him. There wasn’t even anything about it in the news. He supposed that even when it was released, it would be a heavily edited version of the true story.
When he had first been released, he had thought with no small amount of joy that Gerard had succeeded. Soon enough he found that wasn’t the case at all.
He rented a small apartment that wasn’t located far away from Mind Pharmaceuticals. Passing by it often as he did brought back horrid memories, but it was the cheapest he could find in the area.
A few days later, he received a notice in the mail saying that one of his relatives would be at court the next week.
He didn’t know what to think of that, other than that he would certainly be attending.
Devin’s body was covered in flames, burning in a furnace. It felt nothing, it knew nothing of what had happened. And that was for the best.
Clyde drove his car, Jem seated in the passenger seat, down a long and winding dirt-and-gravel road.
Finding this address had taken no small amount of effort, as Desmond had refused to tell it to him – not that he didn’t want them to come, but email was far too insecure for him – but Clyde had found it, as he always did for information he wanted, and they were going there.
He could see that Jem was filled with excitement. He smiled, with no cruel intentions in mind, for the first time in a while. He was free from it all, finally. His original plan had always been something like this, and when Gerard had stuck out his neck just a little too far, it provided Clyde with the perfect scapegoat for it all.
He had found the date and time of Gerard’s trial. With a little more effort, he found the contact information for the jurors and judge. It was one final plan, and one a little too blunt for Clyde’s tastes, but it was done and would work.
Clyde appreciated art. Not just “the arts”, but art in everything that he and anyone else did. Cooking could be a humdrum process, or it could be an artistic process. So could paving roads, or assembling fans in a factory, or gardening, or anything else. As a result, Clyde strove to make his plans artistic and aesthetically perfect as possible.
Again, it wasn’t a particularly artistic plan, but it was simple enough that, just perhaps, the simplicity of it was the art itself.
The two of them pulled into a drive in front of a large house. Behind it was growing a forest of a very recognizable, to those who knew it well, tree. Grand Willowdraught.
Clyde smiled again, getting out of the car. Two car doors closed, and Clyde and Jem began walking towards the house.
They knocked on the door and it was opened by a man Clyde hadn’t seen in far too many years. Clyde shook his hand, then hugged him.
“It’s been a long time, Desmond.”
He looked towards Jem, who was quite stupefied by Clyde’s expression of emotion. Clyde laughed.
“This is Jem, who I’ve mentioned. I believe he’d like to become a bit of an apprentice to you, isn’t that right?”
“Certainly.” Jem extended his arm and shook Desmond’s hand. “It’s very nice to meet you.”
“The same to you. Would you two like to come in? Some refreshments, perhaps? You know, I was just about to test a new batch.”
“I’m sorry, old friend, but I have a court date to attend to, so I must be leaving soon. Well, perhaps not soon, but sooner than I would be able to if I… indulged in some of your product.”
“Fine, fine. Still, come in, the two of you. I’m sure Jem would like to sample it, at least. And perhaps some real refreshments for you, Clyde?”
Clyde and Jem entered the house.
Clyde was not a happy person in the least. He held the idea of “happiness” with no small degree of disgust. It was only something that weak people held onto and tried to shield themselves against the fury of the world against.
But at this moment, he could admit he was happy, and was enjoying it.
Michael arrived at the trial, along with all the other onlookers. As he entered the court room, he passed by a tall, unnaturally pale man who wore a perfectly tailored suit and an utterly black – blacker than any black Michael had ever seen – hat that concealed most of his face. Michael was unnerved by this man, though he couldn’t tell why. The man went into the court room as well, though once he was seated, he kept his head low, the hat further blocking his features. But Michael, seated to the man’s side, saw a cruelly delighted look pass over his features as the trial developed, very contrary to the content of the case and the expressions other onlookers were wearing.
The trial itself horrified Michael. He had gotten the feeling that things could go wrong when Gerard had spoken to him, but he couldn’t have imagined how they could’ve possibly gone this wrong.
Gerard admitted – falsely, Michael was sure – to the murder of one man, Devin.
Not known to Michael, Gerard hadn’t mentioned the murder of Clyde – which wasn’t, he argued with himself, actually his doing at all -, as there was no evidence for it. Somehow, the police hadn’t found any evidence of it, no body, nothing.
Michael was sickened by the entire ordeal. He still had some distrust of Gerard, lasting from several years being falsely incarcerated and tested on, but Gerard was his brother, after all, and they shared many good memories. Memories of their father.
Once, the name Clyde Edison Orrville had been mentioned, and Michael happened to be looking at man who so unnerved him at the time. At the offhand mention of the name, there appeared a deep, dark smile on the man’s face. His eyes were open in an expression of euphoria.
Something clicked in Michael’s mind, and he was instantly sure of who it was. He had no actual proof, but he had a deep-seated feeling that he couldn’t explain or justify, but was utterly convincing at the same time.
He would’ve attacked him at that very moment, but knew, as he was in a court, that would only end up with himself being arrested. He resolved to confront the man immediately following the trial.
He went back to observing the trial. It went on for a long time, many audio and video recordings being played and written accounts being read. It was incredibly engrossing, and Michael thought he would’ve enjoyed it if it hadn’t been under such horrible circumstances.
Gerard was sentenced for life, for many, many things. Manslaughter, aiding and abetting of commonplace crimes that happened at Mind Pharmaceuticals – the same ones Clyde had laid out to him right before he was killed -, bribing authorities, and so on. It sickened Michael.
As the case finished, Michael got up and looked over to where the man he was sure was Clyde had been sitting. He was gone. Michael hadn’t looked over in some time, being very caught up in the trial and had somehow forgotten. Clyde was gone.