The seed was sown when Riley joined the amateur dramatics group. He had played a couple of minor roles, first in a Sheridan play then in a Dickens, when the email arrived from the am-dram group’s administrator. It was forwarded from a film company needing extras for a few days filming in the local market town. He arrived at the crew’s temporary encampment in the central car park and was told he would be playing a policeman. He hadn’t worn a uniform since he’d been a scout and was surprised by the feeling of empowerment it gave him. The helmet, the collapsible truncheon, the mock pepper spray, it was a new dawn, he felt marvellous, confident. He was somebody, he was a policeman.
The filming progressed over several days, local people seemed unsure whether he was an actor or a policeman assisting the film crew. There was a lot of time between takes and he moved confidently around the market square, giving directions when asked, even stopping the traffic to help the old and infirm cross the road. He walked up behind his next-door neighbour, laid the heavy hand of the law on his shoulder, and pronounced him to be “under arrest.” The poor man nearly had a conniption. Riley loved every minute.
When the three days of filming were over, and he had returned the uniform to the wardrobe trailer for the last time, he felt a deep sense of loss. On a whim, he visited the theatrical costumier that his am-dram group used and browsed the racks. So many roles, so many lives, so many possibilities. His first choice was a simple warehouse coat and clipboard. He drove to the city and took the park and ride to its centre. The clipboard and overall gave him free access to almost any building. He walked in and, if challenged, asked for the office of “Mr Parkinson, the general manager,” and then, after a brief discussion, decided he must be at the wrong address and left. Mostly he went unchallenged, he walked the corridors and offices, measuring with his tape measure, jotting notes on his clipboard, he even bought a colour chart and checked the decoration. It was okay, but not very exciting. He needed something edgier, something with more kudos.
The next week found him haunting the local law courts in the guise of a barrister, in white wig and gown. He moved from court to court, his black briefcase under his arm. He lunched in the restaurant and eventually plucked up the courage to enter the robing room and chat with the other silks. Security was lax, probably because there was so much public access.
After his pleasant day as a lawyer he returned the wig and gown and considered his next choice. Many of the costumes were historical and wouldn’t suit his purpose. He decided that hospital scrubs would offer him the most opportunity.
With a stethoscope draped jauntily around his neck, and wearing his green scrubs, he haunted the wards and corridors of his local teaching hospital. He had faked up an identity card on Photoshop, but he was never challenged. The trick was to appear to be examining a notice board and then quickly tailgate an authorised person as they passed through into the area he wanted to visit. He chatted to bedridden patients, and casually read the notes hanging on the ends of their beds. He offered them advice and reassurance, and on one occasion summoned up the courage to listen to a gentleman’s heart with his fake stethoscope. He couldn’t hear a thing, but nodded sagely and suggested that the patient shouldn’t over exert himself. Being a doctor was so much fun that he hired the costume for a second day. After a week he returned for a third time. People recognised him from his earlier visits. Nurses and auxiliaries nodded and smiled and he nodded and smiled back. He realised that it was all a matter of confidence, of believing you belonged. Wearing his scrubs, he felt like a real doctor, just as he had felt like a real policeman on the film set.
Walking into the A&E department was his undoing. There had been a bad road traffic accident and a dozen victims had been brought in by the ambulances. A harassed senior doctor triaged a victim to him, and the staff supporting him realized his deficiencies almost at once. He was reduced to a quivering wreck by the experience, the blood, the pain, the screaming. One of the nurses called Security, they took him to an office where he sat weeping, a security guard keeping impassive watch, until the police arrived. He was arrested, tried in one of the courts he had previously stalked, and was given a two-year custodial sentence, the magistrate had decided he needed a short sharp shock. He was consigned to a category C prison because he had no record of violence, robbery or drug abuse.
Prison routine wasn’t too bad. He helped in the library and took part in the education program, tutoring the less literate prisoners. After three months he was made a trustee.
Investigators could not discover how he gained access to the prison officers’ changing room. CCTV footage showed Riley walking jauntily through the main gate on the evening of his escape, whistling and swinging his lunchbox. The picture of a man pleased to be leaving for home at the end of his shift.
His whereabouts are currently unknown, he could be anywhere, doing anything, being anyone.
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