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Doctor Who Internet Adventure #22 - "Clockwork Orange"


Chapter 12
"Seven Hours with Peggy-Sue Holmgren"
by Daniel Hall


---


Book Three: Wind-Up


Three Hours Ago

So she was doing her nails when the first automobile arrived. Just sitting on the porch outside the store, sipping on a soda and enjoying the last warmth of the day as the sun goes down over the mountains and the sky becomes bright with the mechanical orange of Vegas.


       Nobody ever called Peggy-Sue Holmgren a beauty. Least ways nobody called her that except Mad Larry, and he was half blind and wanted to marry a horse. She was twenty-eight, stood a little over five-four, and weighed in at two hundred and thirty pounds. What she lacked in looks though she made up in strength. Back home, they used to joke that she'd wrestled a bear and killed him with her own hands. It wasn't true, but she liked the look of fear in people's eyes when they heard the story. And then she'd deny it, so they'd believe it even more.


       She heaved herself out of the rocking chair and plucked the binoculars from the table. Four people in the auto. A man, two women, someone in a sack. Not lost tourists, then. And they'd be here soon. She gulped down the last of her soda and wiped her mouth on the dirty sleeve of her denim shirt. Reached for the shotgun.


       Way back, back when she'd been growing up, down on the south side of San Diego, she'd lived with her Momma and a big mongrel wolfhound called Killer. They had four locks on the door, and a shotgun by the side. Peggy- Sue had been practising with that since she could spit. Sometimes they had a man around, sometimes they didn't. Momma always used to say that the only thing a woman really needed was a shotgun. Normally, she wouldn't bother with the shotgun, like. Normally she'd just flag down the auto, sell the nice people inside some souvenirs and send them back the way they came. And if they refused to turn back, she'd improvise. She liked improvising. So she strode out into the middle of the road as they approached, flagged them down. They pulled to a stop, but stayed seated. She could get a better view of them now. Young Whore and Pimp in the front seat. Old Whore and Bag Man in the back.


       "What is it, ma'am?" asked Pimp. "How can we help you."


       "You can start," drawled Peggy-Sue, "by getting your smooth talking ass out here where we can talk face to face. All of you. Step out of the vehicle."


       She stepped back, casual-like, lifting the rifle so it pointed at Young Whore. Hopefully they'd get the message. Crystal clearly, seemed like, as they did as they were told, nice and slow.


       "What's with the guy with the bag?"


       Old Whore answered. "None of your concern." Looked like she was in charge, because Pimp said nothing.


       Boy, that got her back up. That's what Momma used to say when she had the late night meetings. This was her place. Everything was her concern.


       A simple job. Sit on this porch, persuade the few tourist cars that arrived that they really ought to turn back. Simple but important. And Old Whore was getting on her nerves.


       "Okay," she said, at last. "This is what's gonna happen. You're gonna come up to my store over here, and sit down and relax. I'm gonna make a few phone calls, and then I'm gonna decide what happens next. That's what's gonna happen."


       Young Whore took Pimp's arm, but none of them moved.


       "Maybe I didn't make myself clear," said Peggy-Sue. This was the bit that she liked the most.


       She lifted the barrel of the rifle again, moving it from one head to the other.


       "I will shoot you," she said.


       And to prove her point, she shot Bag Man in the leg.


* * *


Two Hours Ago.

It wouldn't stop bleeding.


       No matter how hard she tied the pieces of shirt around Hallaghan's leg, it kept bleeding, a red stain blossoming again and again. Ramona was worried sick about him. An hour ago, she would have happily shot him herself, if he hadn't been more valuable alive. Now, they were all in the same boat, all afraid, and their fear had made them companions.


       Roni was taking it pretty hard, and although Freddie was trying to comfort her, she could tell that he was taking it pretty bad.


       Two corners of the room, two conversations.


       She could hear Freddie telling Roni that he was going to take care of her. He'd always been there for her before. Why would that change? And she could hear Hallaghan. His voice was faint, and she couldn't be sure who he was talking to — maybe to her, maybe to himself, and maybe to some higher power.


       "I've got two sons," he said. "Patrick's working as a prison guard at Alcatraz. Got himself a pretty young wife, gonna make me a grand-pop sometime soon. Michael... Michael's a fucking fairy. I should have known, should have seen it as he was growing up — he was always the quiet one, always his Mom's favourite. I should have pulled him away from his books, should have made him play football more. I should have done something. But I didn't know. I just let him grow up... broken. Let me tell you how I found out. Let me tell you. It was a couple of years ago — he'd just turned nineteen. I was out on patrol late, out near Sausalito. Stopped off for a piss, didn't I? Only half needed to go, but I thought there might be a faggot or two hanging around, and I was looking for a fight.


       "Yeah, he was there. On his knees in plain view of the door, too, the stupid fuck. Some nigger pounding into his face, who turned and grinned at me as I walked in. I couldn't fucking believe it. He had his fucking nigger cock in my son's mouth. I did same as what any good father would have done. Punched the bastard in the face, then kicked the shit out of him when he was down. I could hear Michael behind me, begging me to stop, but I couldn't have done it if I'd wanted to. I had blood in mind, blood welling up behind my eyes, and by the time I'd finished, blood on my boots. And when the nigger stopped moving, I turned, grabbed Michael and pushed him up against the wall. Part of me wanted to give him the same treatment as the fucking piece of shit that was whimpering on the ground. Part of me wanted to take him home, tell him that everything was going to be okay. And then his pants fell down. For a second, there was nothing but the sound of our breathing, and the pounding of blood in my head.


       "I only cuffed him across the cheek. We went home, and we didn't talk about it again. He got even closer to his mother, couldn't look me in the eye. These days sometimes he comes home, sometimes he doesn't. Works in a fucking flower market. Doing pretty well for himself. But every time he doesn't come home, his mom cries herself to sleep, just in case he doesn't come home at all, and I remember the day that he almost didn't."


       He was dropping in and out of consciousness now, and there were traces of blood when he coughed. And his leg wouldn't stop bleeding.


* * *


One Hour Ago.

So they'd quietened down a bit, now, but one of the whores was still crying, sobbing away like a pathetic worm.


       Back in San Diego, Peggy-Sue had only had two kills to her name. First was Killer, the wolfhound. The thing was fourteen years old, half blind and kind of insane. The vet had wanted to put him to sleep, but Peggy-Sue's Momma was having none of it. That dog was family, and family died at home, family died with dignity. Two days after they came back from the vet, Killer was so poorly it was a pain to watch him. They both knew what had to be done, but Peggy-Sue's Momma didn't have the guts to do it, so Peggy- Sue did it herself. The first time she'd ever fired a gun, into the skull of a sleeping mongrel. She told herself it had been an act of kindness, and cried herself to sleep. She was sixteen.


       Her second kill was a guy who tried to call himself Killer, a guy who was running a sweatshop full of Mexicans by day, and fucking her Momma by night. He used to wander around the house half naked in the mornings, teasing Peggy-Sue about how nobody as ugly as her would ever get a man for themselves. Said he was doing her a favour by letting her see him with no shirt on. Said that maybe he'd get her set up with a blind man, or one of the pox-ridden Mexicans who worked for him. She was eighteen by now though, worldly wise. She knew what to do with herself, knew how to take care of herself. And she wasn't stupid. He came to her one night, reeking of alcohol. She could tell that he was already preparing the lines if she put up a fuss. Oh I'm sorry, I walked in to the wrong bedroom... I must be so drunk. Feigning sleep, she let him strip, and squeeze in to bed beside her. And in the morning, when he pretended that nothing had happened, she pretended too. Until he was halfway down the street on the way to work when she called his name. He turned, she fired. Two kills in just over two years. There had been a few since then.


       The second car drew up, and the guy got out, walked up to her. She had to put her hand over her eyes to see him properly, cause the sun was almost down now, and the fiery orange reflected off the desert. Slim, fit young man.


       "Excuse me, ma'am."


       Well brought up, too, clean cut, all American.


       "I wonder if you could help me, ma'am, I'm looking for my friends. Their vehicle's here, I was wondering..."


       Think fast, Peggy-Sue. Lie through your teeth. "The two couples?" Mr Clean Cut nodded. "They were here a couple of hours back — they ran out of gasoline, and I let them leave their auto here while they walked back to town to get some. I offered to let the ladies stay here — blinding hot, this sun can be sometimes — but they said something about wanting to stick together. I don't really understand. Surely you must have passed them on the way here?"


       Hoping that he couldn't hear the muffled sobs from inside, or that if he did he didn't recognise them. But there were danger signs. He wasn't meeting her gaze, but was looking around, peering in through the windows behind her, in to the store. So she stood, blocking his view as far as possible, trying to make it look natural, like. Something about this guy wasn't right, she knew. He was too edgy, and the fingers of his right hand were drumming against his thigh, as though he was about to reach for a gun.


       "I'm sorry, ma'am. I was wondering if you minded if I took a little look inside. I don't want to be any trouble."


       Too late. She stepped aside to let him in, and he pushed open the door. He saw the canisters of gasoline stacked neatly under the window, and turned back to her, his hand now on the gun that had been hidden under his jacket. She was faster, though, despite her size, and she threw her full weight in to the punch that sent him reeling. He fell back, back to bang his head on the door frame before slumping to the floor. Another one for the collection - this was getting to be a fine day for it. She hauled him over a shoulder and threw him in to the back room with the others.


       She lit the porch lamp, picked up the phone and dialled. The phone rang at the other end, but nobody was there to answer her.


* * *


Now.

"So listen up. I've been waiting for instructions about what to do with you bastards, but I'm getting tired of waiting. And when I get tired of waiting, I get nervy."


       She looks around the room, looks at the five cowering figures. Mr Clean Cut is out cold - she must have hit him harder than she thought. Makes him no use for now, maybe good for later. Bag Man is moaning, and his leg's still bleeding and that'll freak people out. Good. Pimp — well, Pimp she likes the look of. Maybe she'll make other plans for him later.


       Which leaves the whores. Fact is, even without orders, she's got half a mind to plug the whores in and see what happens. She's done that a couple of times, and though she got into trouble for it the first time, the second time was a pretty bitch from Culver City who squirmed prettily for almost half an hour before she finally died, her pretty face drained and thin. They liked that. Fact is, she gets results. But more than that, she scares folks off, she keeps her mouth shut and she's darned good at her job. So they let her have some kicks and turn a blind eye to it.


       "So when I get itchy, this is what I do."


       She pushes the rug to one side of the room, exposing the unfinished pine of the floorboards, and the small trap door - twelve inches on a side. Too small to escape, but it's there to let something in.


       She squats in the middle of the room, the rifle tucked into the fold of her thigh, pointing around the room as she turns. Her position is clumsy and unfeminine she knows, but it's letting Pimp look up her skirt, and though he's trying not to, he can't keep his eyes off her. She grins at them. Trying to make them guess which one she's going to hurt first.


       She opens the trap door, letting it fall back on to the floor with a satisfying thud. None of them have spoken to her yet, but their eyes, yes their eyes tell her everything that she needs to know.


       "You," she says, poking the gun between Young Whore's legs. "Stand up and come here." She watches the others as Young Whore approaches. Pimp is itchy, almost getting to his feet. He's the one that she has to watch.


       "What's your name, girl."


       Young Whore mutters something under her breath so she slaps her across the side of the face. Pimp is on his feet now, so she shoots him in the shoulder.


       "Freddie!" shrieks Young Whore, so she has to slap the bitch again.


       "I'm okay, doll," says Pimp. Looks like she just grazed him, though there's a lot of blood. His arm's still moving fine, but he's got enough sense to sit down again.


       "My name's Roni," says Young Whore, and there's a hint of defiance in her voice.


       She stands very close to Roni. Her rifle is hooked on to her belt, and she knows that she can have it cocked and fired before any of them can move. Roni's actually quite pretty close up. She runs her hands over Roni's face, gently, touching her lips, her cheeks, her ears. For a moment, there is an intimacy between them; Roni is her lover, her focus, the centre of her world. And then she grasps Roni's head firmly, digging her fingernails in to the side of Roni's scalp, still running her thumbs gently over her face. Roni is trembling in her hands, so she holds her tighter. It almost amazes her how naturally her thumbs find themselves resting over Roni's eyes, how little pressure is required to pop them out.


       There's noise now. Screaming, and laughter, and something more. Something smells blood.


       Two fat metal tendrils snake through the trap door. She doesn't understand what they are, but she's seen what they can do so many times before that she's got her goggles on protecting her eyes within seconds of their appearance. She always thinks of them like Rattlers. They make for Roni, one of them focussing solely on the figure of the woman collapsed on the floor, the other reared up, scanning the room, watching for threats. They pause just before they reached Roni, adopting positions just over an inch from each eye socket. They rear back a little, then turn so that they are facing each other.


       It seems like suddenly there's a new-found intelligence behind them. Peggy-Sue guesses that someone else has wired themselves up to the other end of these things.


       And then, slowly, but undeniably, they turn away from Roni and wriggle towards Old Whore, the one with the bleached hair, only speeding up when she realises what's happening and tries to pull away. Oddly, she doesn't scream as they drill themselves into her skull. And it takes her five minutes before she dies.


* * *


An Hour From Now

Ramona's corpse is still there, but Harris has pushed it to the other side of the room, and he's closed the trap door, hauled the rug back over the floor and moved a table into the centre of the room, so that the leg pushes down on the door. Hopefully, that'll keep... whatever it was... from coming back.


       Roni and Freddie are confused. They will hug passionately, fearful to let go of each other. Then she'll touch his shoulder and he'll wince, or he'll open his eyes and see the ugly holes in her face. And they'll pull apart, and sit back to back. Then one or other of them will brush the other's hand, and soon they will be in each other's arms again.


       Hallaghan is going to die. Nobody has the nerve to tell him, nobody has the words to even say it to each other. But nobody has the skill to save him, and if they are being honest with each other, nobody wants to. He's dipping in and out of sleep.


       Harris is the only one on his feet, and he's pacing. His mind is racing, and he's desperate to escape.


       "Michael? Is that you?"


       Hallaghan has woken, and he's hauling himself to his feet. He seems completely unaware of the fact that he's injured. He seems completely unaware of anyone else in the room. Except Harris.


       "Michael?"


       Harris clears his throat.


       "Michael. I knew it would be you. I knew you'd come and rescue me."


       "Not Michael. Matthew Harris. Your partner."


       "Quit kidding, Michael. You can't fool your own Pop." He's on his feet now. Leaning against the table for support. The light is fading, but Harris can see him clearly. He can only assume that Hallaghan can see him clearly too. "Come close, Michael. There's something I've got to tell you."


       And Harris figures out what's going on. This is a confession. And if Hallaghan needs to pretend that Harris is this 'Michael' person to confess, then so be it. He steps over to the table, stands behind Hallaghan. They're facing the door, with Roni and Freddie behind them. Hallaghan places his hand over Harris's, grips it tightly.


       "There's something I've got to tell you," he repeats. "It's about that time I picked you up in the rest room in Sausalito. That time when I had you pushed up against the wall. Yeah, you remember. Your pants were round your ankles, and your ass was... God, I think you know already, but I wanted to... I nearly..."


       "Shhh... take your time. You don't have to say anything."


       "Fuck it, I nearly raped you, Michael. I wanted to fucking rape you. And not just then. Every time I saw you. You knew that too, didn't you? You walked around the house, wiggling your butt at me, as if to say go on and fuck it. And God knows, I wanted to. I can think of three times when we were alone in the house when I could have. But I didn't. And do you know why?"


       Harris shook his head, aware of how hard Hallaghan was pushing down on his hand. Then Hallaghan moved closer until he was face to face with Harris, their noses touching.


       "I hated you. I despised you. I wanted to hurt you, wanted to push you up against that wall and hurt you so much. But that was what you wanted, wasn't it? And what I wanted was more than that. I wanted to kiss you, to have you kiss me back. You were so beautiful. You were my son. I loved you."


       He kissed Harris then. On the lips, gently at first. His breath was rank. As he grew more confident, he tried to drive his tongue into Harris's mouth.


       "No," said Harris, pulling away, wiping the back of his hand across his face. "I'm not your son, Hallaghan. And I can't forgive you for this."


* * *


Two Hours From Now

Harris and Freddie talk in mutters, trying to work out a plan to ambush the fat woman with the gun, to get themselves and Roni to freedom. Hallaghan tries to hang himself from the light fitting, but only succeeds in bruising his neck and his ankle, and in pissing himself. Outside, Peggy-Sue rolls herself a joint and listens to a distant explosion.


* * *


Three Hours From Now

Harris shouts for attention. Freddie is poised behind the door, one leg of the now broken table raised in his hand. This is their plan, and none of them can come up with a better one.


       The door opens and Freddie is about to bring his makeshift club down, Harris yells at him to stop.


       So Peggy-Sue Holmgren dies round about now, when she raises her rifle to shoot the guy she sees running away from the mine, except he's quicker with his gun than she is. Problem is that she's dumb and stoned, and he's faster, more experienced (though he wishes he weren't), and he's carrying around an incredible amount of anger at the moment. He pauses outside the store, trying to remember how to hot-wire a car, and hears the shouts from inside. It's only the fact that Matthew Harris recognises him that saves him from an attack.


       "I know you," Harris says to the newcomer. To their saviour. It's surprising that Harris recognises him at all. He saw him the previous night, chased him on the streets, helped Hallaghan dump him at the club. Hated himself, then found out John was there too. And that's how he ended up here. And though it's the same man, he doesn't look the same. His hair is hanging loose and wild. He's filthy, and there is blood all over his face and on his hands.


       "Get out of here," he says, slowly. "Get out of here and get as far away from me as possible." He turns to go.


       "Wait. Please." Harris grabs the man's arm. The older young man seethes at the cop's desperate eyes. "There was a guy up there with you. At the club. Must have been taken up there with you," he pointed at the mountains. "John. His name was John West. He was my... he was a friend. He got taken up there with you, last night. Did you see him?"


       The stranger doesn't answer for a few seconds. Seems like forever. Finally, he pulls away.


       "No, I didn't see your friend," he says blankly. He walks out of the store, into the night. "I didn't see anybody," he calls over his shoulder, without looking back.


       Freddie, Harris and Roni leave in one car. They think that the other man leaves in the other, but they can't be sure.


       And, sometime later, Hallaghan dies.


---
To be continued...



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