Who's Who 18: Behind the wigs and masks

The large, sleek car pulled up in front of the black iron gates and waited patiently. The engine purred demurely as the expensive, designer barriers responded to a remote control pressed behind those tinted windows. Once they had gracefully reached ninety degrees and come to a complete stop, the car pulled forward, barely raising its voice.

The long drive beyond offered a meandering path between sculpted hedges and tall, majestic trees. The car lightly ruffled the gravel beneath its wheels as it headed towards the grand townhouse that awaited its arrival. Behind it, the gates slowly began to close.

Normally the car pulled up beside the house, leaving the driver with but a hop, skip and a jump to the front door. Today, however, the car went straight towards the garage. It paused whilst another door opened for it and then it drove into cool, dark shadow. The tools were all neatly packed away there, to the side of the oversized interior, leaving plenty of room for a driver to open their door,

Back at the house, the front door opened and a lady peered out, puzzled. Inside the car, the driver took their hands off the wheel and watched them continue to tremble.

It’d been a strange day in court. The Right Honourable Judge Reeves had tried some truly horrendous cases in his time. He’d looked into the eyes of murderers and rapists. People who’d let their children starve whilst they chased their addictions and children barely out of sixth form who’d proudly declared themselves guilty for stabbing some rival gang member.

Today, though, he saw something else. A man who refused to conform to any category the law cared to offer. He was dangerous, that much was clear. He’d been caught trying to attach small, explosive devices to every car in a traffic jam during the morning rush.

The experts weren’t entirely sure if the devices would’ve been effective, but it was the evidence they’d found in this man’s home that terrified them. He had all manner of schemes starting to take shape in that grim, shambolic flat.

Behind those papered over windows were plans to drug entire schools of children with hallucinogenic drugs. Burn down cinemas on busy opening nights. Blind lorry drivers as they passed under motorway bridges at full tilt.

He was a monster in the making. A future myth of the city. Yet he seemed so quiet in court. So awkward. As if he’d been caught too soon, picked before he was fully formed. There were little jittery smiles and occasional outbursts during the case, but they never took hold. They never went beyond adverts of what lay within his pale, fidgety skin.

Neither the defence nor the prosecution had been able to satisfactorily explain just what had pushed this man to become whatever he was. There was no conclusive pattern to what he’d been planning either. It seemed he simply followed whatever whim took him on any given morning.

After he was sentenced, he smiled at the judge and thanked him by name. And then he’d said something worse.

I hope the grandchildren are enjoying their stay.

The right honourable, if shaken, Charles Reeves had refused to respond until the man was out of his courtroom. In fact, he refused to let anything show as he’d changed back into his own clothes and gathered his things. He’d even managed to keep control when he’d seen the crowd waiting outside his courthouse, all in their makeshift masks. Cut out from newspaper photos of their new hero’s face. Some in black and white, others in colour. All the eyes and smiles removed.

Charles had left them to it and headed towards the secure parking area where his car was waiting for him. Now the driver of that car had slowly switched off the sat nav that’d led him here and was watching in the rear-view mirror, as Helen Reeves came to greet him. Her grand-kids following in her wake.

“Charles,” she called. “Is everything okay?”

The driver’s hands stopped shaking when something muffled and restrained tried to plead through the lid of the boot. The noise made Helen stop in her tracks and, behind a stretched newspaper photo of a face, a twisted little smile began to bloom.

A new idea had taken shape in the city today.