A free sample (about 10%) of the story.
Plague Doctor Tale Three
By Paul Gresham
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What happens when
1 Rylee sees plague doctor from chopper
The pilot in the TV news station helicopter which circled over the car that the police were pursuing watched with surprise as it suddenly swerved off Bayshore Boulevard and drove into what looked like an industrial area.
“I know that place, it’s called Industrial Way, he won’t get far, it’s a dead end” he said to the young female journalist with the video camera who was strapped in the seat next to him.
He was proud of his knowledge of San Francisco, he had seen just about every inch of it from the air.
He even knew the street names, including the insignificant two lane road that was Industrial Way.
He glanced at her to see if she was impressed by his knowledge but was disappointed, she just kept her eyes on the video camera’s viewfinder.
Rylee was pretty and blond but was also cold and distant, he had heard that she had just broken up with her long-time boyfriend, maybe she was hurt inside.
She watched as the suspect abruptly turned left and crashed into a steel fence that was next to what looked like a fuel supply company.
She kept her camera pointed at the scene as he got out of his car with his hands up and sprawled out on the ground, with the cops aiming their guns at him.
He looked to be about forty and was wearing old jeans and a dirty white T shirt and work boots.
They had spotted the chase by accident after they had been shooting another Tale, and she had told the pilot to follow it.
Suddenly she noticed something else and took her eyes off the viewfinder for a few seconds.
Behind the fence was what looked like a derelict area with some old buildings in it.
“What’s that place?” she asked curiously, secretly hoping that he wouldn’t be able to supply an answer.
He seemed to know everything there was to know about the city, which irritated her, although at twenty five and new to TV reporting from the chopper she couldn’t expect to know as much about it as he did.
But she was disappointed – he did know everything there was to know about the city.
“They call it the Old Round House, they used to fix trains there” he said confidently.
Suddenly there was something that he didn’t know.
“What’s that big picture down there? Haven’t seen that before” he said.
She took her eyes off the viewfinder again and saw what he was talking about.
It had been painted on a brick wall of one of the old buildings in the train yard but it wasn’t just a big picture.
It was a mural that must have been about six feet wide by six feet high, and it looked like a scene from the past.
It was an old fashioned street with houses on each side of it that seemed to have been built with timber frames and plastered walls, and the roofs looked as if they had been thatched with straw.
Suddenly she noticed something else.
Someone new had appeared on the scene, someone who was wearing a long black coat and hat and was carrying a cane, and whose face was covered with a mask that had what looked like a bird’s beak at the end of it.
“Where the hell did he come from?” the pilot demanded.
She started to zoom in on him but was too late.
“Let’s go back” the pilot said.
Who cares about a freak with a beak.
In case someone is wondering, twenty five year olds like me don’t usually get to ride in TV choppers to cover stories.
But the regular guy who usually did it was sick so they gave the job to me.
Oh, and twenty five year olds don’t usually get to work in TV journalism, either.
The only reason I got this far was because I had been extremely lucky.
I majored in journalism at college and have a background in print (newspaper) journalism.
I also have a certain amount of talent.
The cops frisked and ‘cuffed the suspect then made him stand up against their car.
They saw that he was aged about forty, had balding hair, was unshaven had a surprised look on his face that seemed to say ‘I can’t believe I did this.’
“Why the fuck did ya want to drive into a fuckin’ fence?” the older cop said.
“Is there somethin’ in that place you want?” the rookie cop asked.
“What is in there, anyway?” he said to the older cop.
“Just an old train yard” he answered.
He was born in the area and had sometimes explored the yard with his buddies when he was a kid.
Suddenly he saw that somebody else had showed up.
He was wearing a long black coat and hat and was holding a cane, and was wearing a mask with what looked like a bird’s beak at the end of it.
“Where the fuck did you come from?” he demanded.
The car driver quickly turned around.
“He done it! He…distracted me!” he yelled.
But the cop ignored him and poked a finger towards the beak.
“What are you, a fuckin’ bird man?”
“You gonna fuckin’ fly in that outfit?”
“Sorry, officer, I didn’t mean to inconvenience you” a voice came through the mask, in a cultured English accent.
“You are inconveniencin’ me – fuck off.”
“Yes, of course” the voice said politely.
He started to turn away but suddenly stopped and began to sing in a child-like voice.
“Ring a ring a roses”
“A pocket full of posies”
“We all fall down!”
“What the fuck’re you talkin’ about?” the older cop said.
“Sorry, officer, it’s just something that I heard somewhere, a long time ago.”
“Well I don’t wanna hear it – fuck off!”
The man nodded his beak agreeably and quickly walked away from the scene.
The younger cop wondered if his colleague should attend an anger management course.
The man walked up Industrial Way for a few hundred yards until he reached his car, then took off the mask and drove further up the road until he reached his studio.
It was a small industrial unit with a sign above it which claimed that it was a fancy dress and movie props business.
He went into the office and placed his cane neatly by the door then took off his coat and hat.
The unfortunate person who had driven his car into the fence had created an excellent route into the train yard.
He had used a hole under the fence to access it before, but had torn his coat when he had scrambled through it and had left a scrap of cloth entangled on it.
If someone saw it they might realize that someone had been in the yard and decide to investigate.
He decided never to use the hole again.
2 Rylee terrorised outside San Francisco bar by plague doctor
I was drinking in ‘Jill ‘n’ Jill’s bar with Mila, my girlfriend, later that week, on Friday night.
Jill ‘n’ Jill’s is a play on the title of the kids’ nursery rhyme ‘Jack and Jill.’
In the nursery rhyme, Jack and Jill, a boy and a girl, go up a hill to get some water.
But at Jill ‘n’ Jill’s two girls go up the hill to get some water.
That’s because the place is what’s usually described as a lesbian bar.
Straight people sometimes frequent it too, maybe to marvel at the ‘freaks’ – people like Mila and I, but they also like the atmosphere.
Well actually I’m not really sure whether I’m a lesbian or not, my emotions are a little confused at the moment, due to a breakup with my boyfriend.
Mila and I haven’t done anything yet – we haven’t had sex, and I think that it’s pretty nice of her not to pressurize me, to let me decide.
“I covered a pretty unusual Tale the other day” I said casually to her.
“Correction, the Tale wasn’t that unusual – it just a cop chase, it was what happened later that was unusual” I added.
She put a hand on my mini-skirt and stroked my thigh.
I tensed involuntarily.
I hate to admit it but I’m scared of her, in fact I’m so scared of her I’m too scared to leave her, if that makes sense.
Mila isn’t particularly butch-looking, in fact she’s pretty attractive with long dark hair and a handsome rather than a beautiful face, but there’s nothing wrong with that.
The thing that worries me is, she has a certain presence that I find intimidating.
“What happened?” she demanded.
“You fell out of the chopper and landed in the arms of another woman, or what?”
I smiled uneasily, she was becoming slightly jealous, which is not a good situation.
“No, of course not” I said defensively.
“This guy, I have no idea where he came from, he just appeared” I explained.
“He was wearing a long black coat and a mask with a beak at the end of it, and was holding what looked like a cane.”
“Sounds like a plague doctor to me” she laughed.
“A doctor who cures people who have the plague” she explained.
“I still don’t get it – what plague?”
“The Great Plague of London, can’t remember when exactly but it was sometime in the seventeenth century.”
I was surprised by her knowledge of history, it isn’t something that the average person knows about.
It seemed she was better-educated than I thought she was.
I was just about to tell her about the picture – mural, of the old fashioned street when she interrupted me.
“Maybe he’s expecting another plague” she laughed.
“Here, in San Francisco?” I said incredulously.
“No idea, let’s dance.”
Later that night I looked at the news feed on my social media page and saw that there was a post by the guy who had crashed his car into the fence that I had seen from the chopper.
I had no idea that he was one of my social media friends, and I could see his posts.
I tend to say ‘yes’ to all ‘friend requests,’ although I don’t usually know who most of the people are.
I could ‘unfriend’ them but anyone can be a bitch, let’s be nice to people, instead.
He said that he had been driving along Industrial Way when he had been ‘distracted’ (his words) by someone who was wearing a long black coat and a mask with a bird’s beak at the end of it.
‘He made me do it’ he posted.
‘He ran into the road and pointed his cane at that fence.’
‘I had to swerve to miss him and hit it.’
I knew who he was talking about.
It was the guy that I had seen from the chopper.
I wondered who had called the cops and decided that maybe it was someone in the place next to it.
I didn’t take much notice of it at the time but it looked like a fuel storage depot of some kind.
Suddenly I thought of something.
Was the plague doctor – if that’s what he was, really pointing at the fence?
Or was he pointing at the train yard that was behind it?
If so, why?
Next night – Saturday night, we were drinking at Jill ‘n’ Jill’s again.
Suddenly a bunch of people came into the bar who were talking about going to a party.
I didn’t see them because the place was too crowded to see who was coming and going.
They must have gone into one of the booths at the other end of the bar.
At one point during the night I had to go to the bathroom.
It was pretty near the booths but they were quite a way from the nearest lights over the bar and were almost completely dark, so I couldn’t see who was in them.
It sounded as if the party-goers were were going to a horror party – a party with a horror theme; Frankenstein, Dracula, that kind of thing.
Except this wasn’t a Frankenstein or Dracula theme.
It was a plague doctor theme, instead.
They were laughing and joking – pretending to diagnose each other with the plague, that kind of thing.
They were also wearing plague doctor outfits, I guessed, because they were joking about how realistic they were, that kind of thing.
I don’t know why but they made me feel slightly uneasy, although there was no reason for it.
Pretty soon it was nearly 2 am and I was ready to go home, although it sounded as if the plague doctor party was still in full swing.
“I’m outa here” I said to Mila.
“I have to use the bathroom, you go outside and wait for me” she said.
I looked at her puzzledly, we usually left the bar together.
“That’s strange” I said, and almost immediately wished that I hadn’t.
“What’s strange?” she demanded harshly.
She was pretty drunk and was unpredictable when she was like that.
“Nothing,” I shrugged, “okay, see you outside.”
She disappeared and I started to get off the bar stool but something stopped me.
The plague doctor party was going outside, I could hear them talking from the direction of the door.
I decided to wait until they had gone, maybe because the idea of a bunch of plague doctors scared me.
A few seconds later it was quiet around the door so I decided to go outside and wait for Mila.
She seemed to be taking a long time, I thought.
I said goodnight to a couple of girls that I knew and went to the door.
When I opened it I saw that the street was dark and deserted.
But this was pretty normal as it was just after 2 am and there’s no street lighting outside the place, the nearest street lights are about a hundred yards away.
There was a narrow alley-way a couple of yards from the door, I noticed, I must have seen it plenty of times before but it didn’t register with me.
Then I realized why – it was because there’s usually a door there, and it’s usually closed, maybe it was a service or delivery entrance of some kind.
But why was it open?
I felt uneasy and turned my back on the alley-way to look at the other end of the street, maybe I should get out of there and wait for Mila under the street lights, she would see me when she came out of the bar.
That’s if I really wanted her to see me, it wouldn’t be a major problem if she didn’t.
I turned around to look back in the other direction and froze.
Someone was standing there.
He was wearing a long black coat and a mask with a beak at the end of it, and was carrying a cane.
He reminded me of the plague doctor that I had seen from the chopper.
Suddenly I could smell something, a kind of old fusty smell, as if his clothes were really old.
I smiled at him uncertainly.
Maybe it was one of the people in the bar who had been going to the plague doctor party, maybe he had changed his mind.
But clothes that have been hired from fancy dress stores don’t smell old, they smell fresh, and new.
Suddenly he dropped his cane and grabbed hold of my hands.
“Hey – let go of me!” I yelled.
But he started to swing me around as if he was dancing with me and although I tried to stop him he was too strong – I had to dance with him or I would have stumbled and hit the ground.
Then he started to sing something.
But not in a normal adult’s voice – in a kid’s voice.
“Ring a ring a roses” he sang.
“A pocket full a posies,”
He hesitated for a few seconds and I thought that he was going to let me go.
But I was wrong.
He pushed me hard and I stumbled backwards and hit the ground.
He stood over me for a few seconds and I wondered what he was planning to do.
My mini-skirt was up to my thighs and he could see my panties.
But I was wrong again.
He hadn’t finished yet – he had one more line to sing.
“We all fall down!” he sang.