This story, "Alley Cat", was published in the anthology Dark Distortions from Scotopia Press a few years ago. As the rights have reverted to me, and as I was never paid for the work even though they went on to sell out all copies and begin production on a Volume II, I've decided to place it here for your amusement. I hope you enjoy. - Author
Rupert paced nervously, checking his watch after every lap of the office. If the shrink was much later he’d have to hustle to get the job done. After all, it was the 16th. Time to kill. He hadn’t always reserved the 16th for murder. It used to be just another day. Until him, of course. Until the Alley Cat.
Rupert Green had always been considered the outsider, the loner. From a bad childhood to a less–than–stellar adult, it seemed there was always someone or something waiting to knock him down. His job, women, his car; everything worked in concert to destroy his life and continue his misery. The only thing that empowered him, gave him some semblance of control over his pitiful existence, was in exerting control over others. But when hookers got too expensive and battery charges took too much of his life away via the county lock–up he turned to murder. His first few forays were no more satisfying than whipping the crack whores. He watched every police drama, crime show and forensics documentary he could find, and his first few killings were marred by doubt about the police picking apart his techniques through hairs and stains. He couldn’t relax and enjoy himself if he constantly worried over leaving a flake of skin around, could he? But the Alley Cat changed all that.
With the Alley Cat covering his trail, he found a new level of freedom. He didn’t have to devise his own schemes. He only had to mirror the other’s work and be a bit careful over what he left behind. Of course, that meant he had to adopt the Cat’s own timetable. The city thought the Alley Cat had taken to killing two victims on the 16th of the month. Rupert was happy to let them think that. All he had to do was breeze through this ridiculous psychological battery tonight for his parole officer and he would be on his way. He checked his watch again as the doctor strolled in more than 20 minutes late.
“You’re late, doc.” Rupert said, irritated.
“So sorry. Unavoidable, really, Mister…” the doctor glanced down at his clipboard, “Green.” He set the clipboard on his desk and touched a key on his phone. “Agnes, can you bring coffee for Mr. Green and me?” He let go of the button before she replied and turned back to Rupert. “Now… let me see… you’re here for a parole check–up, yes? Some sort of anger management issue?”
“Uh… yeah… I guess so. Will this take long, Doc?” Rupert asked.
“That is completely up to you, Mr. Green. I assume you have a date?”
Rupert followed the doctor’s eyes down his legs to his tapping foot. “I… no… just nervous, I guess. I’ve never had to do one of these before.”
“No? Well, let me assure you, Mr. Green. Even though it says ‘doctor’ on the wall, I won’t be using any needles or asking you to bend over.” The little man laughed at his own joke as his middle–aged secretary wheeled in a small beverage cart.
“Dr. Feinman, will you be needing anything else this evening? Joey’s sick and my husband…”
“No, Agnes. Mr. Green and I shouldn’t be long. You just go on home.”
The secretary returned his smile and excused herself as Feinman busied himself at the cart. “Sugar?” he asked.
Rupert stared at him for a moment, his mind on his night’s work and the delay the doctor had already cost him. “What? Oh… yeah…” Feinman poured, stirred their sugars and creams and handed his patient a mug.
“Let’s sit down.” Feinman said. He took a chair and indicated a long leather couch for Rupert.
“Should I sit or lie down or what?” Rupert asked.
“Whatever makes you comfortable, Mr. Green.” Feinman told him absently as he flipped open the cover on a steno book. Rupert sat down and sipped at his coffee. The sugar did little to diminish the strong, bitter blend.
“Now, Mr. Green, how long have you been on parole?”
“Little over a year now, doc.”
“No problems adjusting to the constraints on your freedom? No issues with violent behavior? No outbursts?” Feinman asked in a friendly tone. Rupert had heard the tone used in countless television shows. The shrink was trying to befriend him, make him open up to see if he’d done anything to violate his parole. He could play the game with the best of them.
“No, doc.I’ve been a good boy.” Rupert replied through his best fake smile. He took a long slug of coffee and threw an arm over the back of the couch.
“And how’s the job they found for you? No problems at work?”
“No, doc. Everything’s just fine.” He thought about the thankless job punching buttons on a gas station register. He’d have killed his snot–nosed 20 year old manager already if it wouldn’t have aroused suspicions. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity.” He continued to smile and sip his coffee as Feinman scribbled a few short words.
“Excellent. Now, Mr. Green, I’d like you to tell me about your hobbies.”
“My hobbies?” Rupert questioned.
“Yes, Mr. Green. Your interests? What you do when you’re not working?” Feinman prodded.
“I really don’t have any, doc.” Rupert replied. He sipped his coffee in the silence and thought about his nocturnal adventures every 16th. He was playing the part of the happy, well–adjusted parolee after all, so the smile was easy enough to excuse.
“Oh, come now. Sports? Crossword puzzles? Surely you don’t go home and stare at the wall.”
Rupert couldn’t keep his thoughts from roaming to his victims, the watching and waiting in bushes and doorways, the long nights listening to talk radio in his shitty car to pattern his marks. “TV, I guess doc. I watch a lot of TV.”
“Well… I guess that’s a hobby.” Feinman said, frowning. “What do you watch?”
“Crime stuff, mostly…” Rupert said easily then fervently wished he could take it back.
“Really? I would think someone with your history would have little interest in such things.”
“I don’t… really… I guess it’s just interesting…” A thin sheen of sweat started to gather and roll from his shoulders to trail down his spine.
“Calm down, Mr. Green…” Feinman soothed, noticing his agitated condition. “There’s nothing wrong with that. Just odd that of all things they show these days, you would watch that type of programming. Why do you think you enjoy that type of entertainment?”
Rupert could feel himself starting to slip. Images of his kills ran through his mind and mixed with memories from the programs he’d seen. His hands started to shake as he realized his mind could no longer separate his own crimes from fiction. He downed the rest of his coffee to keep it from sloshing onto the neutral carpet then suddenly collapsed across the couch. The images kept coming, though. He couldn’t stop them now if he tried. Some small part of his mind screamed at him, begged him to get up, to run.
“Mr. Green… Mr. Green… are you well?” he heard Feinman’s voice ask from far away.
“I’m not feeling… feeling so good… I think I’m gonna’ be… be sick…” It took a moment for Rupert to realize he hadn’t actually spoken. He tried to move his arms and legs but they refused to respond. Even his mouth wouldn’t open.
“That’s all right, Mr. Green. Or should I call you Rupert? Perhaps I should, since we seem to be on such good terms. I guess I should be flattered that you chose to emulate me.” Suddenly, the doctor’s face swam before his eyes, looking down on him from somewhere high above the couch. “But then, we both know that it wasn’t so much for admiration as for opportunity, don’t we?”
Rupert desperately tried to move. He felt Feinman’s warm fingers as they checked for the pulse against his neck and watched as he smiled. “Good, Rupert. Good. Wouldn’t do to have you die here, would it? We have a bit of a trip tonight. Don’t worry…” Feinman said, chuckling, “…I’ll drive. I have the perfect alley all picked out for you.”
Rupert felt as if in a dream. He was the hunter… the killer… the predator... the Alley Cat. This didn’t happen to him; he happened to others. Any minute now he expected the lights to come up and the chains to come off with a happy “Surprise” called from every corner of the rapidly-darkening room.
“Rupert, did you think you could get away with it? Maybe you could shroud your activities from the police for a time, but you and I both know that sooner or later they would have caught you. And do you know why, Rupert?” He couldn’t see Feinman anymore, only the movies in his mind. The doctor’s voice seemed hollow, far-off. “You see, Rupert, quite simply, you are an idiot. A dolt. An imbecile playing a game you have neither the stomach nor the intelligence to play. How long did you think you could make them think you were me, eh? How long did you think before I noticed you?”
Rupert felt himself lifted from the couch then slung over something hard and metal. The distant squeaking he heard reminded him of the cart the secretary had wheeled in. “Plagiarism, while flattering, is still very offensive to me. I didn’t come to your gas station and try to take credit for your work, did I? It’s really a matter of respect, Rupert. And taking credit for another man’s hard work is the height of disrespect.”
He felt motion again, this time smooth and steady. He was being carted somewhere, the tips of his shoes dragging along the floor. “Hmm… misjudged the size of the cart.” Feinman observed. “Well, no matter. You see Rupert, because of you I now have to create an entirely new modus operandi. It makes me ill to even think that when they find you they will have their Alley Cat. Everyone will think of you, Rupert Green, a miserable excuse for both murderer and man, as the famed Alley Cat. All of my work will be attributed to you. You! A miserable waste of skin if I have ever met one! By next week, all of the papers will declare the Alley Cat died of a massive drug overdose in some forgotten alley. Oh, they’ll have their fun, their celebrations. Pundits will make their livings for a week from the delicious irony that the Alley Cat died in an alley of his very own. If it wasn’t for bruising, your death would be the excruciating ordeal you deserve.”
He felt a dull blow to his head and heard Feinman curse, then the unmistakable sensation of a dropping elevator car. “But leaving that kind of evidence would be what you would have done, Rupert; the act of a stupid, plagiaristic, unimaginative Neanderthal.”
An odd rustling sound filled his ears as he felt his body rolling on the ground, the strong smell of plastic in his nostrils. His mind cried out and showed images of his body being cocooned in heavy plastic sheeting. “Don’t worry, Rupert. It’s not far.”
Rupert was only dimly aware of jostling, and Feinman’s grunts of effort seemed miles off and moving away fast. He felt something hard and round at his back and could smell the heavy stench of rubber. His mind roared that he was in the trunk of the good doctor’s car now, the spare tire arching his back in the most uncomfortable way. “That’s all for you, Rupert. When next I lay eyes on you, you’ll be ready for the scene of the crime. But, there is a bright side to this for you, isn’t there? Without me, you would have died alone, pitiful. No one would remember your name. They wouldn’t have cared that you died at all. I left a fine legacy for you, Rupert. No matter how stupid you were in life, you’ll be remembered as one of the finest, most intelligent killers that ever lived. Do take solace in that, will you?” Rupert felt more than heard the thud of the trunk lid dropping into place. His mind was whimpering now, its power to scream lost to the powerful narcotic flowing through his system from the poisoned coffee.
“What do you think about my new alter ego, Rupert?” Feinman’s muffled voice asked him from outside the car. “How about the Dumpster Defiler. Yes. Or maybe even The Euthanist… yes… that has a ring to it. Far too many elderly people around the city anyway, taking up the rent–controlled buildings…”
Rupert Green didn’t care. After all, he was the Alley Cat, the most feared, sadistic and intelligent killer this city had ever known. His dying mind let him have one last chuckle as he turned it over in his mind. “Dumpster Defiler? How fucking dumb…”