Katie opened the front door and let Veronica Backhurst in. Veronica was the wife of the local vicar, and liked to visit the ladies of her parish from time to time. It was a cold October day, and she was wearing a thick greatcoat to keep the chill out.
“Let me take that from you, Veronica,” Katie said as her visitor removed her coat, to reveal a simple brown dress and short ankle boots. Her host was wearing a red military style jacket over a white blouse with frilled collar and front, a black leather skirt, dark tights and shoes.
“Where have you been today, Katie,” Veronica asked as the two women walked into the front room. They sat on the seats as Katie looked at her friend.
“Talking to my publisher – I’ve been researching for a new true crime story book. Tea?”
“Thank you,” Veronica said as she took the cup and sat up. “So what have you been looking into?”
“Well, it’s a very strange tale. I first got interested in it when I bumped into Angela Barrington at a party, and she told me about something that happened to her a few years ago.”
“I know Angela – she runs a small business we use for printing. What happened to her?”
“Well, this must have been about ten years ago – she can remember some things with crystal clarity, but others…..”
Well, Katie, I remember closing the shop up for the day and setting off to walk home. It was cold, and I was wearing a white jumper, a pale green skirt with a slit up the side, a darker green jacket and gloves and black leather boots. To finish off the outfit, I had a brown pashmina scarf over my shoulders and neck, and a red Alice band in my hair.
You see, that much I can remember as clear as crystal. I locked the shop up, and started to walk home. After that – well, it gets very fuzzy.
I vaguely recollect bumping into some one and having some sort of conversation with them, but who it was and what we talked about I cannot remember to this day. I remember the walking and stopping, but the thing I remember most clearly up to that point was the most puzzling of all.
I have the clearest recollection of seeing a pair of yellow eyes – no pupils or iris, just yellow eyes – staring at me and then…..
Well, the next thing I vaguely recall is coming to in an alleyway and finding myself bound and gagged. I was lying on my side, dressed only in my panties, bra and tights, but that wasn’t the strangest thing of all.
I could see dimly in front of me, and there was…. Well, me. My exact double, wearing my clothes and with the same style of crimped brown hair, held back by a pink Alice band. She was looking over her shoulder, my scarf around her neck and my bag over her shoulder, and waving at me. I tried to call out, but some sort of cloth was tied into my mouth.
Well, I must have passed out again, because the next thing I knew was waking up in hospital. I later discovered this doppelganger had gone back to my office, calmly opened the safe and emptied the contents out, then returned home and spent the evening with my husband, before emptying our safe out after he went to bed.
We never found her – she seemed to just vanish into thin air the next day.
“How intriguing,” Veronica said as she took a sip. “It makes for a nice story, but surely there’s not a book in it?”
“That’s what I thought at first, but when I started to talk to the other reporters the story seemed to strike a chord with some of them. One of them suggested I talk to the owner of the Star nightclub and hear her story.”
Katie stood up, and looking through the files on a table picked one up.
“Here, you have a read and see what you think…..”
Oh god, I remember that day. Some of it, anyway – other parts….
I was interviewing for some new staff that day, and wasn’t pleased with anyone I had seen. I was about to get the bar ready when I looked up and saw this other girl standing there.
“I’ve come for an interview,” she said. I can’t really remember that much about her – a bit of a plain Jane I suppose. I looked at her, and pulled on the sleeve of my green jacket.
“I’m sorry, the position is filled” I remember saying, but as I turned to check the optics she said something. I turned round – and that’s when everything becomes a bit of a blur. The one thing I can recall clearly was seeing someone’s eyes – at least, I think they were someone’s. I don’t recall the colour too well.
When I came to, I was shocked to see me standing in front of me. I know it sound’s crazy, but the woman in front of me was my double – and wearing my clothes as well. My jacket, my skirt, my shoes – everything. She even had her brown hair cu tin the same way.
The other thing I noticed was the chill –not just because this woman had stripped me down to my underwear, but deeper, more unnatural. I tried to say something, and that was when I realised that something sticky had been put over my mouth. Looking down my body, I could see she had used silver tape to secure my ankle, thighs and claves. More than that, my wrists were been held together behind my back, and my arms were been held to my side by the same tape.
She knelt down in front of me, smiled and started to say something when the door opened and Bette, my assistant manager walked in. She looked at the two of us, turned and started to walk out, but somehow the stranger got in front of her, slammed the door shut and pushed her to the floor. It was all a blur to me, but in two minutes, just two minutes, Bette had been bound and gagged in the same way I had, the tape covering her dark pink outfit.
The woman tore one more strip off, told Bette to close her eyes and stuck it over them as a blindfold. She picked her up as if she was a baby – and Bette is not a thin woman- took her over to the bar and placed her in an alcove underneath. Coming back to me, she smiled as she tore another strip off and asked me to close my eyes as well. From then on, I was in darkness as she picked me up. I could feel Bette next to me, as she told us both to keep quiet.
We stayed there the whole night, listening to the sound and the customers, too afraid to move. Eventually it went silent and we heard the door close. It took hours for the two of us to work our way loose – by which time the bar had been cleared out, as had both our houses.
The police never found the robber, but what I never understood is how she managed to become an exact double of me. It was almost supernatural – if you believe in that sort of thing….
“Come on, Katie,” Veronica said as she put the file down. “It was probably a very resourceful burglar, and the manager was out for longer that she thought.”
“That’s what I thought at first, and to be honest I wasn’t willing to believe her story. Then I started to look into some of the other unexplained crimes around here, and I started to see a pattern.
“Once a year, some time in October, there would be a robbery, and some details always seemed the same. Partial amnesia; an exact double appearing; no real recollection of what happened.
“At first they seemed to be minor, but over the years they got bolder. Take the case of Helen and Susan Perkins – here.”
Katie tossed another file over to Veronica. “I wrote this up after interviewing the tow of them.”
“Susan – are you home yet?”
Helen Perkins closed the door behind her. She had spent a long, hard day at her estate agency, and she was looking forward to a nice relaxing evening.
Her daughter Susan came down the stairs. She was eighteen, with her mothers brown hair and slim figure. She looked at Helen standing in the hallway, dressed in her working outfit of a purple tweed collarless jacket, black satin skirt and knee length fabric boots.
“Hi, Mum – I wasn’t expecting you back so soon. Long day?”
“Very long – are you going out?”
Susan smiled. She was wearing a light blue jacket with a white collar, white pleated skirt and fishnet stockings, with a black round necked top underneath her jacket.
“Yeah – I have a few errands to run in town. Why?”
“Oh – I was hoping we could spend some time together. Can’t you put it off?”
“Sorry, Mum – I have a deadline. I tell you what, though – I can wait for a few minutes, and I have a surprise for you. Would you like to see it now?”
“Oh all right,” Helen said. “What do you want me to do?”
“Close your eyes and say ah.”
“That’s all,” Susan said with a smile. “Go on – I promise you it’s going to be totally unexpected.”
Helen smiled and closed her eyes. The next thing she felt was a lump of material pushed into her mouth, and some cloth pulled tightly over her hair and neck as it was tied behind her head.
“SSn, wht’s gng n?” Helen mumbled as she felt her arms been pulled behind her back and tied together.
“You’ll see, mum,” her daughter replied, as with a strength Helen did not know she had she bound her mother’s wrists together, followed by rope around her arms and chest which her wrist were them hitched up to. There was barely time for Helen to open her eyes and look before she was immobilised and Susan was pushing her in front of her towards the basement.
“SSSN!!” Helen screamed as she was made to walk down the stairs, but as her daughter turned on the light she stared in disbelief at the sight in front of her.
Her daughter, Susan, was sat against a wall. Her wrists and arms had been bound with rope, and a knotted cloth pulled tightly into her mouth. She sat there, wearing a grey jumper, denim skirt and over the knee socks, her eyes closed and quietly moaning.
“Wht th hl,” Helen said as the other Susan pushed her to the floor against the opposite wall, and started to tie her ankles tightly together. As she bound and cinched ropes above and below her knees, Helene could see Susan’s ankles had also been tied together.
“I’m afraid your daughter was home when I came to visit earlier, but she was most obliging in helping me,” the other Susan said as Helen stared at her. “I have to go now, but enjoy your evening together.”
The intruder turned and left the cellar, turning the light off and closing the door behind her. There was some light coming through the window as Helen called out.
Her daughter opened her eyes and raised her head.
“MMM!! O gd, hlp m!”
“A fascinating story, but how does it link to the others?” Veronica asked as she accepted another cup of tea.
“When the police interviewed Susan, all she could remember was answering the door to someone, and then a pair of yellow eyes. After that, she remembers being in the cellar looking at herself, then nothing until her mother called to her.”
Veronica held herself for a moment. “I see what you mean – but what’s the business with the yellow eyes?”
“No idea – but last year….”
She looked at Katie. “Last year?”
“The robbery at Loman’s Bank….”
Patricia walked into the branch of Loman’s that Saturday morning. Already there were her six staff members, in the regulations outfit jacket and skirt with light blouse.
“Good morning, Patricia,” Dee said as she walked in. Dee was her assistant, and oversaw the other five women.
“Dee, inform the others we have a mandatory training session this afternoon, and they must attend.”
Dee shook her head. Patricia was a stern taskmaster.
“Very well, Patricia,” she said as the bank opened their doors. It was a perfectly ordinary morning, the blonde haired Dee looking on as the other staff did their work, while Patricia saw customers in her office. Her brown hair was done up in a bun, held in place with as small red scarf that was the same colour as her jacket. A black skirt with a white petticoat underneath and dark tights with leather shoes completed the ensemble.
The last customer went in to see Patricia at about twelve noon. Dee didn’t notice anything unusual about her, as her boss closed the door. At twelve thirty, Patricia came back out.
“Where did that last customer go,” Dee asked.
“She left five minutes ago – you must have been doing something else.”
Dee shrugged her shoulders at that – she had gone to make a coffee a few minutes earlier.
“Dee, I want you to send in the staff one by one, ten minutes apart. I need to give each of them an individual briefing before we start the training exercise.”
“Very well, Patricia,” Dee replied, “Who shall I send in first?”
“anyone will do – you decide,” Patricia said with a shrug. As she closed the office door behind her, Dee turned and said “Any volunteers?”
“I’ll go first,” Rose said as she stood up and smoothed the skirt of her blue outfit down. “Get it over and done with.” She rubbed her red hair as she opened the door and walked in.
As the clock showed one thirty, Patricia opened her door again.
“Just you left, Dee – you’d better come in.” Holding the door open, she waited for her assistant to walk in.
“So, what this special briefing about,” Dee said, but before she got a chance to reply Patricia grabbed a hold of her and pushed her face first against the wall. With a strength she did not know her boss possessed, she was powerless to stop her pulling her arms behind her back, placing her wrists parallel to each other and tying them together with rope.
“What the hell are you doing, Patricia,” Dee screamed as more rope was passed around her arms and chest, making her breasts strain against the grey fabric of her jacket.
“all in good time, Dee, all in good time,” her boss said as she tied the ropes together behind her back and hitched the rope around her wrists up to secure them in place. Turning her round, she held a white cloth in front of her assistant’s face.
“open wide, Dee,” she said. “You’ve gone mad, Patricia,” Dee said in reply as she turned her head away. “No I haven’t – you’ll see,” was the only reply as Patricia pinched Dee’s breast, causing her to open her mouth and allowing the cloth to be pushed in. A clean white scarf was then tied tightly over Dee’s mouth.
“Let me show you the exercise now,” Patricia said as she took Dee by the arm and led her through another door in her room. This led to a meeting room, and as Dee went in her eyes widened in amazement.
Patricia was sat in a chair, glaring at herself as she led Dee past the assembled workers and made her sit against a wall. She was in her slip, and a white scarf over her mouth was obviously keeping some form of stuffing in. Her wrists and arms were bound in the same way as Dee’s, and her legs were tied at the ankles and knees.
The other five branch workers were either sat on, or lying on, the floor, all bound and gagged. Some had knotted cloths pulled into their mouths, some scarves holding other packing in. They moaned softly as Dee watched her legs and ankles been tied together as well.
“Ladies, today’s training has been about a robbery,” the false Patricia said as he lifted the legs of one of her captives up. “you can now start to try and get free, but I assure you it will take some time, so think and plan first.”
She turned and left the assembled group of captives, closing and locking the door behind them. Dee listened to the sound of the town clock outside, but after an hour had passed felt she had to do something. Pushing against the wall, she managed to get into a standing position and hop over to where her boss was sitting. With some effort, she managed to eventually pull the scarf off her mouth and take out a large wad of cloth.
“Thank you, Dee” she gasped. “All I remember is that last customer walking in, the room going cold and a pair of yellow eyes looking at me, then that impostor bringing Rose in followed by the others.”
“I don’t believe it – one woman could not overcome seven grown women on her own. In any case, what about the security cameras – surely they picked up something?”
Katie smiled. “That’s what is so interesting about that – the cameras were working, and they saw a woman coming in at about twelve – but the picture is fuzzy, blurred. In addition, the camera in the manager’s office stopped working for about ten minutes – we see her opening the door, and the next picture is an empty office before she – or rather, her double comes back in from the meeting room.”
“Yes, but one woman?”
“I agree entirely, Veronica – but someone did. Did you notice something about the attacks?”
“They all happened around the 31st of October – I swear, if I was a religious or superstitious person, I’d think there was a ghost involved. That’s impossible however – there’s no such thing as ghosts.”
Veronica laughed as she placed her cup on the table, slightly shivering. “That would give me the chills – speaking of which, is it just me or is it getting cold in here?”
Katie rubbed her arms. “It is getting a little chilly – let me see if the heating is on.”
“That won’t be necessary.”
Katie turned in her tracks and looked at Veronica. She was slowly standing up, and seemed to be carrying herself in a slightly different way.
“Veronica,” Katie said, “Are you all right?”
“Oh yes, I’m fine, Katie. Do you know what they say about the impossible?”
“No – what?”
“The more improbable something is,” Veronica said as she walked over, “the more likely it actually is to be true.” Katie looked at her friend, unable to take her eyes off her as she walked forward. Katie could see her eyes starting to glow a faint yellow, as the pupils slowly faded.
“Time to sleep now, Katie,” Veronica said as the yellow glow filled her eyes, leaving only the light as Katie fell unconscious to the ground.
She stood there, looking at the unconscious woman as a smile spread over her face. It had been like this for twenty years now, ever since that fateful night when Veronica had read the incantation…
“This is absolute rubbish, Cathy!”
“Oh come on Vee – it’s just a bit of fun!”
The two girls were sitting in their bedroom, reading comic books and stories of witches as groups of children walked about outside.
“As if this was a real spell – I mean listen to this….”
Veronica read from the old comic as her sister watched.
‘Changer of form, changer of shape,
Trickster and thief and jackanape.
Come now and visit this human form,
Make your home here, nevermore to roam!’
A gust of wind blew in from the window, blowing out the candles that had lit the room.
“Did you feel that chill, Vee,” her sister said as she closed the window and put on the light.
Her sister was looking at her, her head to one side and where her blue eyes should have been yellow glow. She stared for a moment, before collapsing to the floor in her orange pyjamas.
“You have called me, and I have come,” Veronica said in a strange light voice. As she looked at her sister, her body and face seemed to move and blur, until a few minutes later she looked into the mirror and brushed the light brown hair out of her face. She was staring at Cathy’s face and Cathy’s body, but her sister was till on the floor.
“We need to put you somewhere safe,” Veronica said, as she gestured with her hand. Several lengths of cloth appeared as if out of thin air, and she used them to quickly bind her sister’s wrists behind her back, gag and blindfold her, before picking her up and placing her in a wardrobe. Selecting some of Cathy’s clothes, Veronica dressed and looked at herself in the full length mirror.
“Very nice,” Veronica said as she walked out of the room, closing the door behind her.
When she awoke the next morning, Veronica looked in the mirror at her small, thin body. She heard the thumping in the wardrobe, opened the door and looked in horror at her sister.
“CATHY!” she cried out as she removed the cloths. “What happened?”
“I… I don’t know. We were talking and then I woke up here.”
She looked down at Katie. Every year she had taken over Veronica and had one night or one day when she could take care of things. The money she took, the things she found, all were stored safely away for Veronica one day, when she would tell her the truth. After all, who would suspect the vicar’s wife – even her own husband thought she went off for prayer and thought when she took over.
She would find someone, use her powers to make them lose consciousness, then bind and gag them before robbing them. She would take their form, their look, completely, and no-one suspected anything until it was too late. Sometimes, she would take their clothes, sometimes not – it was of little consequence to her. What this one enjoyed was the thrill, the pleasure of holding people captive against their will.
As she looked at Katie, she could feel the familiar tingling as her body adopted the unconscious woman’s form. Her light hair changed to a deeper brown and grew, while her body shape changed into the taller, fuller form of Katie. Bending down, she picked her up as if she was a rag doll and sat her on a dining chair.
Gesturing, several lengths of rope appeared, which she quickly used to bind Katie to the chair and to secure her legs. Smiling, she made her way up to Katie’s room.
“Whh…. What happened?” Katie said as she slowly came to.
“I did,” she heard a familiar voice say, and turning her head she saw – herself standing there in a white blouse and leather skirt. In one hand she had a red patterned scarf, and in the other a small purple handkerchief she had rolled into a ball.
“I heard you had been looking for me, Katie, so I dropped in. Now, open wide – you have a busy day ahead,” the woman said as she bent over. Katie tried to turn her head away, but the intruder just smiled and came closer still……