[Case number: HMPS-PET-07673201
Name: Ragnell, K.
Evidence code: 9201/F/09012019
Evidence type: Moneta – verbal stream-of-consciousness log,
interpreted by Joseph, K from raw data file – 0007h]
My name is Kaylee Yvonne Ragnell. I am twenty-six years old. The date is July 23, 2004. The prime minister is Edward Miliband.
As the two of us slam the doors of the panther black Ford Focus – almost in sync – I pull the balaclava down over my face. I’ve had three day pub crawls where I’ve felt better than I feel right now. My head feels like it’s inside a centrifuge. I can focus on a thought and it seems to be pulled out from under me. I can’t recall any of the little things before now. Did I eat breakfast? What did we talk about on the way here? What the hell is that in my pocket stabbing at my thigh? Who on earth is Edward Miliband? The prime minister is Tony Blair. If I was at work now, someone would be recommending me to the padded room, I’m sure.
This all seemed funny a few hours ago as I faced that all too common question: what does a stylish modern girl wear to a robbery? After we went through my clothing audition – he likes to make sure I put across a good image of myself – we eventually decided on an old black hoodie for me with some faded grey raspberry blossoms down the front. Putting it on again for the first time in years, I thought of when I first bought it, how good it looked on me. Now it just hangs like something the grim reaper would wear.
My body always freezes within a few seconds of being outside and this biting wind isn’t helping. I cross my arms tightly over my chest, pulling my hands inside the sleeves, but it doesn’t seem to help. I try walking faster. The field around me is curtained by a thick fog, I can just about see the decrepit wooden fences running alongside the boundaries. The way ahead seems clearer, the Omnico supermarket is shrouded in summer, sunlight bouncing off its vast walls of glass. On its roof, sitting either side of the colossal sign are a flock of ravens, surveying me from their lofty perch. I’m just about to mention them to him when they evaporate into more fog which chokes the summer from the building. Yes, definitely the padded room.
Welcome to Omnico: nine thousand square metres of consumer-heaven, coated in a mix of uniformly perfect brickwork and gleaming glass. Even nature is sculpted here, the grass is carefully contained in thin strips throughout the car park, trees are meticulously positioned at optimal intervals. Approaching from the rear though, all of that is haze on the horizon. Less effort is put forth maintaining the delivery yard. Discarded trolleys clog the side of the access road, some of them are toppled onto their sides. Errant carrier bags are blown about, catching in the skeletal fingers of the trees which line the yard. The long grass soaks my jeans up to the thighs as we traipse forwards through the sludge, their blue denim growing darker with every step until they’re almost black. I can’t stop shivering, no matter how tightly I cross my arms. The cold feels like a brace around my legs making every step come with a stabbing pain. Not far to go now, up ahead is the low wall, then the hillside descent leading to the delivery yard: our destination.
I try to focus on anything but the cold. I watch him walking in front of me. Usually he slouches when he walks, but today he is bolt upright. Posture a mother would be proud of. His pale skin flashes through the holes burnt in his jacket. Everything he owns has holes in it, usually provided by his Golden Virginia rollups. Five on the left sleeve, two on the right. Sometimes it’s only four and two. For trousers he goes for one on each thigh. He likes to smudge paint on his V-necks too. Today is sea green and black on white canvas. Even after he had to drop out of university, he still keeps this up. The life of the artist, as he called it.
Frostbite seems inevitable, I have to be at work in four hours and my balaclava itches like hell. Maybe I picked the wrong mask. That one of his is so damn creepy. Membranes of latex skin growing over his facial orifices leaving him expressionless, inhuman. His only connection to the world is through micro-perfs for vision and respiration. Otherwise, he is faceless, a cypher.
With my stiffened legs, I’m lagging behind him. He reaches the slabs by the wall and his weapon-of-choice, the sledgehammer, drags against the concrete, it sounds like a file being pulled across a row of broken teeth. Something about that sound…
My eyes shut. It doesn’t help. The light is so bright. Burning. Hands of lava tearing at my head. I hear voices, sirens… buried behind the stars.
* * *
“…She’s spiking. We’re losing control of the episodic memory blocks. Increase the inhibitor across pathways echo four eight nine through five seven two. Set Sevoflurane to two point seven percent MAC. Today would be nice Tina!"
"A minor complication ladies and g… Notice the atmosphere… her construct… important as the deviation… shaped by her emotions… weather reports… bright clear day…”
* * *
I open my eyes to see the faceless man staring back at me. He clicks his gloved fingers, as he always does when he wants undivided attention.
"What’s your malfunction Jelly? Those thighs of yours weighing you down again?"
My blood has transmuted into mercury. I am rooted. Wisps of fog start to amass in front of his analytical stare, projecting streaks of dripping crimson blood across it for a spilt second, then they’re gone. I scour the sky and there’s nothing. No clouds, no signs of life. Everything is silent. Where are the birds? We are abandoned.
"Maybe we shouldn’t," I say. "This all feels hinky.”
He walks over to me, his dark brown boots splashing into the grass with each step. On the second step he begins to pull off his gloves. Five more paces and his hands reach for my cheeks, they slide under my balaclava. Lightly, delicately, they brush the skin. The cold is gone and the birds begin to sing their morning song. He rests his forehead against mine, skin through cotton, cotton through latex, latex through skin, we’re connected. The heat of his breath makes the whole mask warm and the mercury evaporates from my veins.
He tells me gently, "I need you behind me on this Jelly. You’ve always been there for me, you’ve always defended me, even to your friends. I need… We need to do this. Standing outside with a placard counts for nothing, no matter how skilful the calligraphy. We have to make a statement which no one will ever forget. It’s what art is all about Kaylee, showing your audience something beautiful, something shocking. Something which makes them stop and think. Hey now, don’t look so panicky. I promise everything will be fine. No one’s going to get hurt.”
“So why do you need the sledgehammer?”
He lifts his face away from mine, still holding me gently, his fingers start tracing out wider arcs until he’s stroking my lips too. “It’s just to frighten them. B&Q’s equivalent of a nuclear deterrent. Don’t you trust me?”
“Of course I do.” I doubt the words even as I speak them. I’ve meant that answer every time before. Now it’s agreement like how a child agrees with the tide that she should be swept farther out to sea. I gravely cast one final glance back at my car. The red lifeboat which waits, ready to take me away from here. Red? Wasn’t it black?
My parents are Gordon and Valerie. The capital of Peru is Lima. I was born in Holbeach. Shake it off Kaylee.
I stumble slightly when climbing over the wall. It’s a difficult task when you can barely bend your knees. He’s waiting for me on the other side, the hammer rests between his feet as he scours the scene at the bottom of the hill. For 5 am, it’s like even the ghosts left this town. Somewhere inside the building, the night crew is at work. Goods delivery at 7:15. Cash cassette every Monday, Wednesday and today, Friday at 5:10 on the dot. The large metal shutter behind the loading dock is closed. A raised pathway crosses the dock and staff-access door before ramping down to the yard. This is the interception point.
We wait, crouching on the hillside like snipers. He says nothing while leaning on the upright handle of his hammer, his attention fixed somewhere beyond my reach. I used to try to get him to talk when he was like this. I kept thinking that there was some magic phrase I could say which would just snap him out of it. Now I know better. He just needs space. Not that I’ve ever known him any different. That night I met him down by the fountain on the Cathedral Quarter of the campus, he was pretty much the same. Everyone else was hurrying about, a blur as they ran across campus. He was sat there, just watching the ripples of the water as the light from the lampposts ricocheted in every direction. I used to love watching that fountain too, imagining that the light was dancing for me. It was impossible to be consumed by everything there. It was like an urban ocean and I stood upon the cliffs enraptured by the swell and breaking.
His friends, or rather, former friends told me back then that he’d come around. It’s never easy getting over something like that, especially when they do it to themselves. I had a hard enough time coping with mum and the endless hours in the hospital, so I could relate. The people there were always so understanding, it’s what made me want to be a doctor too. I saw him sat there and thought I could do the same. As the months went on though, he only withdrew more and more, he’d spend entire evenings writing letters and then I’d find them burned in the fireplace when I awoke the next morning. Eventually I stopped asking and just loved the parts of him which he could express.
The chugging of an engine cuts through my reverie, bringing me back to the present. He hasn’t moved at all. We watch the blue van pass the car park, turning onto the yard’s access road. Here we go.
The Securicor van stops near the base of the ramp and the engine cuts out. The air is so thick I swallow it rather than breathe. From the corner of my eye I catch sight of his hand reaching swiftly for me. Instinctively I recoil but he takes hold of me. He strokes my shoulder reassuringly. "Remember Kaylee, not too loud, just get his attention and I’ll take care of the rest.”
Clutching the hammer close to his chest he steals along the top of the embankment. Just before he disappears into the fog he turns and blows me a kiss, then I’m alone. I watch as the Securicor guy steps out from behind his van. He opens the back and takes out a case. He’s about six foot – same as me in heels – looking well-built under his shirt and helmet visor. I think the element of surprise was a good idea.
Kneeling on the grass, I make a final check for any rocks on the way down. It looks clear. Breathe deep, close eyes, let go. Pain registers all over, the scream comes naturally, short but sharp. I try to land face down and get a mouthful of skanky sludge for my trouble. Hopefully he won’t see the balaclava until it’s too late. I hear the contents of his case knocking around as the man hurries over.
“Hey!” There’s genuine concern in his voice. I feel worse now. “Are you okay th-“
He doesn’t even get a yell past his lips before I hear the sound of his helmet smashing into the concrete. I get back up to my feet to see the guard lying on his back, his visor is cracked down the side. He’s not moving. The hammer stands beside him like a tombstone. I check his pulse, it’s about sixty bpm, he’ll be okay. His opponent retrieves the dropped case. There’s grass still in my mouth. Spitting takes care of most of it, but mud clings to my tongue. The taste of copper starts to accompany it. Never thought to bring mouthwash.
I motion him to follow me as I turn to retreat but he doesn’t move. He sets the case down and picks up the sledgehammer.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
He ignores the question.
“We need to go, now!”
He’s checking through the man’s pockets. Some keys jangle in his hand as he removes them, followed by a phone and wallet. Why do I feel such injustice as he starts to rifle through them? I suppose I can relate. I would have called my sense of violation ironic were it not for the hour long lecture my wonderful boyfriend gave me last year concerning the true definition of irony.
Still focussed on the guard’s belongings he finally mutters an answer. “Not yet. I still need my medium.”
“You need what? We’ve got the money, everything’s set up at home to stamp the cash-"
“That’s just it Jelly,” he says. “No one’s going to pay attention to a little slogan stamped on a banknote. All they’ll think is, ‘hey, free money’, and I’m not here to be Robin Hood for them. We need an event which is going to make them sit up. Think about it, when has change ever not demanded sacrifice… demanded blood. Isn’t your faith founded on that?”
“Blood? You said nobody was going to get hurt.” My heart starts racing while it sinks inside my chest.
“I’m sorry, but like I said, I needed you for this. Besides, just imagine the change we can accomplish here. What if those loyal customers out there get their little gift from us stamped in blood. If they spend it, they become accomplices, profiting from the pain of others, they become Omnico. Don’t spend it and they’ll be asking why, why would somebody do this. Then our statement will reach the media and they’ll all know why. Either way, every single time anyone looks in their wallets they’ll see that fucking Omnico logo printed on every fucking note. Haunted by it, shocked, as any decent person should be. Then they’ll never forget the true cost of places like this.”
My voice starts to get louder. He lied to me again. “That’s rich. Decent people. And what kind of people pull shit like this, hurting the innocent?”
“Oh come on. It’s always the innocent who suffer. The powerful play their games and everyone else ends up with the consequences. Is that what you’d call ‘decent’ Kaylee? Believe me, the idea gives me no pleasure, but it is necessary.”
There’s movement on the ground, the guard’s coming to. His eyes open beneath the cracked visor of his helmet. He gathers a weary voice and says, "Please. Just take the money man.”
The faceless man approaches him. “You okay there mate? What’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you Wesley,” he says, standing just beyond the reach of his feet. “You married?”
“Why do you-“
“Just answer the question.”
“Yes, to Annabel. Fourth anniversary next month. First kid’s on her way.”
“You don’t need to worry Wesley. I’d never take a father away from his family.”
“Times are tough,” Wesley says with a little bit of confidence regained. “Desperate measures and all that. How long do you want me to wait before I call this in?”
I start to breathe easier. I knew he wasn’t capable of anything like that.
“Half an hour should do it. It’s been a pleasure Sammy,” he says from behind the mask.
Struggling to sit he lets out a nervous laugh. “I appreciate the manners man, not you know, a lot. So I guess this…” Halfway through the sentence and he stops, his face plunges into confusion. Mine is the same, what happened? My partner takes an object out of his back pocket, a wallet, then from that a pink plastic card.
“Samuel Kopeland of 47 Grafton Road,” he reads from the driver’s licence. “Nice photograph there Sammy. Does your wife know you have a gold membership to Krystal’s Gentlemen’s Club?”
He’s squirming down there now. “Well… we, I mean, it’s… we have a pretty relaxed relationship.”
“Message received on Thursday, July 22 at 23:01,” he says, now reading from the phone. “Hey Nicole, we still on for tomorrow night? Been dreaming about your tits all day. Gave my van a second handbrake. Signed, Sam, and with seven kisses. Very classy.”
By now Sammy’s checked his pockets, hands trembing. His head drops back against the ground when he finds everything missing from his pockets.
"Humanise yourself, build rapport, play on sympathy, etcetera etcetera. Pregnant wife was a bit too far but I admire the effort-"
"I’m sorry man. I didn’t mean to… but I do have family. A mother, a fath-"
“Everybody’s got family Sammy. Only you haven’t called yours for, what, seven months now?”
He’s speaking faster. There’s something in his voice I haven’t heard before: conviction. He starts to walk around while he addresses the deflated Sammy. He’s enjoying this entirely too much for my liking. It almost seems rehearsed.
“The people who supply this company have family too Sammy. Hard-working people, you know the type, up at four in the morning, working till late in the evening, all so they can look after their wife and kids. Then your friends Omnico waltz into town. It’s all so polite at first, they promise the stars to them, tell them they’ll never have to worry about money again. For a time it’s all rosy. Then the letters start arriving, prices will drop, fines being implemented for inconsistent quality. Pretty soon they can’t even afford to send their children to university, they can’t afford to repair equipment, then they can barely afford to survive. But what choice do they have at this point? They’re just Omnico’s puppets now. So they do their little puppet dance as their livelihood crumbles, and do you know the sickening part Sammy? That goddamn smile on their faces when they pretend that everything’s gonna be okay. They smile as they start drinking every night, they smile as they start yelling at their loved ones and they even have that same fucking smile on their faces as their body dangles from the trusses in the barn.”
He kicks Sammy back down to the ground and begins to lift the hammer. The head scrapes against the concrete. The sound… it’s happening again. Please someone, make the pain stop. Make it…
* * *
“…She’s exhibited good behaviour throughout… retraining as fitness instruct… volunteered for this…”
"Pending the results of the Moneta trial we envision a range of applications…curity clear…ployment interviews…marital fidelity t…plications in the entertainment industry in add… "
* * *
He’s holding the hammer over his head. Whiteout. The fog’s so thick. It crushes my chest and puts its fingers down my throat. All I can see is the two men in front of me, everything else is gone. His muscles tighten as his weapon begins its arc. It’s time.
I throw myself between the two of them, pushing him back.
My voice cracks from the stress. Casually, he reaches to his chin and lifts off the mask. His smile is disconnected from his rounded face. His hand brushes along the line of his thick brown eyebrows, flicking away strands of darker hair. Eyes locked on mine like a laser-sight.
"Get the fuck behind me!"
He grabs the front of my hoodie and tosses me out of the way. He does more damage than a bullet. I was never going to help him, I am consumed. I am his marionette. Why didn’t I listen to any of my friends? Why couldn’t I see? He never wanted saving in the first place.
Time slows down in moments like these. I only wish time would stop. But it keeps on ticking.
Tick. He’s turning back to Sammy. Rips off his helmet. I don’t want to be here. I want to help people. Sledgehammer to the cranium: blunt force trauma, complex depressed skull fracture, intra-cerebral haemorrhaging.
Tock. Massive destruction to brain cells and nerve tissue followed by death. This is how I helped. I am the cancer.
Tick. I have the right to remain silent, anything I do say may be used as evidence against me.
Tock. There’s no place like home, no place like home.
Tick. Please God. Let somebody help him.
Tock. The fog’s burning inside my lungs.
Tick. Stabbing my thigh, front pocket.
Tock. Remember. Switchblade.
Tick. Aim for the kidney.
A breath whispers out from me, "I was always behind you."
The fog is vacuumed from the air into my body. It controls me now. It knows what I need to do. I grab the switchblade and bury it into Neil’s back.
The blood starts to drip down the handle of the blade. He falls silently, voiceless, slipping from my arms. I retreat before collapsing to my knees where the smell of copper singes my nostrils. Sammy swallows hard, preparing for words that go unsaid. Like a deflating balloon, the fog leaves my body, released into the stratosphere. Chirping birds, cockerels, nearby traffic, the world returns to normal. It’s dawn on a funeral day and the sun beats down on me. I close my eyes and can hear the voices getting louder as I slip away from here.
* * *
"Welcome back to H.M.P. Peterborough Miss. Ragnell. That was quite an impressive construct. Tina, would you get her a glass of water please."
Nervous slithers of light start to filter in. Three blurred figures stand over me. I’m restrained on a table with a large machine just past my feet, it looks like an M.R.I. But it’s too big, it has ‘Moneta’ written on the front in large black letters. A screen to my right still has my final vision of Sammy’s relief beaming brightly on it. Sammy with his little smile almost reaching his slightly oversized ears. Looking into his welcoming green eyes it’s hard not to feel elated.
I scan the room until a woman staring back at me catches my eye. She has the same ash blonde hair as me, the same button-nose, the same teal-coloured eyes. She follows my every movement, yet she’s different. She has no freckles, her lips are paler, thin and cracked, her eyes are sagging and I can see wrinkles starting to form around her mouth. I follow the lines around my mouth with my fingers, they’re not an illusion. What happened to me? I look about about forty years old. Some wires are sticking out from the base of my cranium, I go to pull them out but the woman, Tina, stops me. “Here’s your water Miss Ragnell,” she says.
One of the men is wearing a badge on his white coat: Dr. R. Wesley. He’s writing on something which looks like one of those Microsoft Tablet PCs, but it’s almost as thin as card, and the screen is bending as he uses it. I can see the faint outline of text through the semi-transparent back of the device.
"Is Neil okay?" I ask him.
He replies without looking at me. “I’m sure you have a lot of questions Miss Ragnell, but I assure you that within the hour, when the episodic memory block wears off, they’ll all be answered. Until then, I’d advise you not exert yourself or cause yourself any undue stress. I’m looking forward to discussing Moneta with you when you feel more up to it. Now, try not to think anything bad about me until we disconnect you from the verbal stream log.” He forces a small chuckle with the last part. “I wish you all the best with your parole decision, although I must say, that was one of the most distinct deviations from events we’ve seen yet with Moneta.”
The words barely make sense. I lie back on the table as they start disconnecting wires from me. I can still see Sammy’s face as I stare up at the grey ceiling. There’s something so familiar about this, like he’s been watching me always. My eyelids feel so heavy now. A small crack’s forming by his smile, they should really fix that. It feels like I haven’t slept in years I’m so tired. I want to be back in his arms, I want his breath on the back of my neck. I hope he’s okay, but I had to. I help people. I couldn’t do anything else. It’s who I am.
I swear that crack’s spreading.
[Incarceration date: 11/05/2005
Pleaded guilty to one count of armed robbery and the murder of Samuel Adrian Kopeland
Case status: parole granted on 16/01/19
Property of Her Majesty’s Prisons, do not destroy]