Bill had been looking forward to this meeting for years. Now he just wanted them to get on with it and tell him if it was going to happen or not, but the Chair of the Panel kept warbling on about the necessity for a staged plan.
‘Things have changed out there,’ said the Chair. ‘We can’t just suddenly release you one day and expect you to manage.’
Bill nodded. It sounded fair. He had been in prison for thirty years and what he saw on TV suggested things really had changed a great deal. The population had exploded and there was much more traffic on the roads. Everyone seemed to have a mobile phone and being able to use a computer was apparently essential. To Bill it all looked a bit busy and complicated, and he was quite nervous about being released.
‘So,’ continued the Panel Chair, ‘we’re of a mind to release you gradually.’
Bill wondered how that would work. It wasn’t as if they could release his head one day, and his legs the next… but then he shuddered. That’s how he’d ended up in prison in the first place; gradually releasing people from their lives. All very unsavoury, and best pushed to the back of his mind.
‘A gradual release?’ said Bill.
‘Yes. Doctor Gates will explain,’ said the Chair.
Doctor Gates pulled her spectacles to the end of her nose as she explained how things would work.
Bill started to feel uncomfortable. He didn’t like the doctor. Listening to her nasal tones was beginning to awaken feelings he hadn’t had in years. He’d thought his rehabilitation was complete, but now he found himself imagining dismembering this member of the panel. His old homicidal tendencies were resurfacing and all because the woman had a really irritating voice.
‘So, how does starting with just a morning out sound to you?’ said the Doctor.
Bill was now imagining burying the various parts of her he wanted to saw off. ‘Huh?’
The Doctor smiled. ‘One morning a week in April, building up to a full day in mid-May.’
‘I don’t know, ‘said Bill.
Now each member of the four-person panel spoke in turn. They did their best to explain why Bill’s gradual release was in his best interests. They all thought that, after three decades, it was sensible not to rush his reintegration into society.
Bill tried to listen carefully, but he kept seeing them in pieces. In pieces he would like to cut using a variety of saws, both hand and powered. He imagined arranging the Chair’s body in a haphazard manner in suitcase. He could easily envisage Doctor Gates limbs buried so they sprouted like trees from the ground. He fantasised about putting the probation officer’s feet in a freezer and the prison deputy governor’s hands in the post to the Daily Mail.
‘Are you alright?’ asked Doctor Gates. ‘You’ve gone a funny colour.’
‘Have I?’ said Bill.
The Chair nodded. ‘I imagine the very idea of release is quite overwhelming for you, Bill. But think of the things you’ll be able to do.’
‘Any idea what you might like to do for work?’ asked the scruffy, bearded, probation officer.
Bill had to bite his tongue as his head flooded with ideas. Working in an abattoir. Butcher’s assistant. Tree surgeon. Black and Decker rep. Now he realised he’d repressed this stuff for years. He’d thought he was safe. He’d thought he was no longer a danger to the public. But now the old urges to grab a chainsaw and start cutting people up were flooding back.
‘Do I have to be released gradually?’ he asked.
The Chair frowned. ‘I think we’ve just explained why your release has to be a managed affair.’
‘Sorry,’ said Bill. ‘I meant do I have to be released at all?’
The panel chuckled. A couple of them made a note. Then they took it in turns to explain that Bill had served his time. Yes, murdering three people in horrific circumstances was a terrible thing, but like everyone else he was entitled to reclaim his place in society now he was rehabilitated.
Bill sighed. In his head he saw them all dismembered, and their bodies piled high on their table. He knew he couldn’t be released. He was an aging man whose idea of a good jigsaw was as perverse as it gets. He was still a danger and they had failed to see it.
‘So, a gradual release it will be,’ said the Chair.
Bill took a deep breath. He had to stop them making a terrible mistake, so he did the only thing he thought he could. He spoke in his best Hannibal Lecter voice and told the panel members in turn what he would like to do to them if only he could get his hands on some power tools.
And his commentary had the desired effect. As two prison guards rushed in to put him in restraints, and the two lady members of the panel sobbed, the Chair frantically stamped the front of Bill’s file with the words NOT FOR RELEASE, whilst planning his resignation and finding himself a good trauma counsellor.
About the author
Tony writes primarily for the stage, but has had stories published in a number of anthologies as well as People’s Friend, Your Cat Magazine and Café Lit. His award-winning plays are published by Lazy Bee Scripts and Pint Size Plays and have been performed across the world. You can follow him here - https://www.facebook.com/tonydomaillewriting/