Interviewing Darren Peterson

This story was originally posted at (link) on 2020-07-20. It placed third in the November 2020 story contest, which had the prompt: “He/she wasn’t like that the last time we met.

Interviewing Darren Peterson

To the Parole Board

RE: Darren Michael Peterson (DOB: 15/06/1998)

What follows is an account of the first of two serious incidents of a similar nature, involving Darren Peterson. This incident took place on the 17th of November 2020 during my regular assessment visits with Darren Peterson.

“Good afternoon, Dr. Grey. Come for your weekly session with Peterson, eh?”

I nodded at Sam as he waved me through the security check at HMP Wandsworth. “That’s right. We’re close to finishing our pre-trial assessment of Mr Peterson, though, so I might not be visiting you guys again for a while. Oh, by the way, how’s your eye?”

“Still a bit fuzzy, but the pills the eye doctor gave me are startin’ to work,” Sam replied. “Thanks for asking. Yeah, Peterson’s a funny one, isn’t he? Comes over all friendly like when he wants something off yous, but gives you the cold shoulder when he don’t. Except this morning – usually he’s got nothing to say to me when I take him to the office, but today it’s like I’m his best friend or summat. ‘So glad to see you! To see you!’ and smiling to himself, like. Anyway… here we are. You need me, just gimme a shout.” I watched Sam amble down the corridor to the break room. I waited for a moment, gathering my thoughts, then pushed the door open and stepped inside.

Peterson looked up at me as I entered. Twenty-two, unusually pale skin, a thin face with ice-blue eyes, dark-haired. Sam had once remarked on how similar Peterson and I looked, although I was almost thirty and wasn’t quite as fit as Peterson, not that you could tell at the moment with the prison-issue blue shirt, grey sweater and trousers that he was wearing. He was relaxed and smiling, though the smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. I hadn’t seen him like this before. He wasn’t like that the last time we met – last week he’d been cold and dismissive, giving me perfunctory answers as I probed his mental state at the time of his arrest. Sometimes he’d say nothing in response to my questions, instead just sitting there staring at me. Sizing me up.

But not today. “Hello, Robert!” said Peterson. “I’d shake your hand, but you know…” and he rattled the handcuffs behind his back. “But it’s good to see you. Honestly… I was half afraid it would be one of your colleagues today. Just when we were starting to get along!”

“Uh, I suppose so. How are you feeling today, Mr. Peterson?”

“Mr. Peterson! Haha! Come on, Robert, I thought we were on first name terms. Call me Darren.” I must have frowned slightly, which he noticed, but he merely smiled again. “Well. I am well. Except for these cuffs. Sam forgot to take them off before you got here. He’s done them up too tight again.” Peterson tried to sit forward, and winced. “I’m starting to get pins and needles in my hands.”

I sighed. “Do you need him to come and adjust them?”

“Would you? That would be very kind of you, Robert.”

I stood, straightened my suit jacket, and stepped towards the door.

You know that moment when you realise, you’ve just made a huge mistake, and it’s too late to do anything about it, but the consequences of your actions haven’t become apparent quite yet? It hit me just as I had my hand on the door handle. The next thing I felt was Peterson’s arm wrapping around my throat as he slammed into my back, pinning me against the door. His cold hand clamped over my mouth. “It’s all right… just let it happen…”

I pushed back against Peterson, jabbing my elbow into his chest. He grunted and staggered back a step, but his arm was still locked around my neck, and I wasn’t getting any air. We fell to the ground. I fell backwards on top of him. I kicked and tried to loosen his grip, but it was no use.

I came to with Peterson kneeling over my chest. He’d tied my wrists together with my own necktie and was holding them down with his left arm. There was something bulky and damp and horrible in my mouth, making it impossible to shout for help. “Mmmmphh!” He’d stuffed his socks in my mouth to gag me! Then I noticed that Peterson was wearing my shirt, my trousers… and I was wearing his prison shirt and bottoms. Shit.

Peterson realised I’d come to, and leaned down to whisper in my ear. “Now it’s my turn, Robert.” His voice was an exact copy of mine. He began to shout. “Sam? SAM! ANYONE! HELP!”

Within a minute, Sam appeared in the doorway. “Mmmmph! Mmmmmph mmph mmmmph!” I bucked and writhed against Peterson, in desperation. “MMMPHHH!”

“Sam! Peterson tried to overpower me and make a break for it. The bastard even tried to bite me!”

“Fucking hell! You all right, Dr. Grey?”

“I’m fine. A little shaken, but I think I have things under control.” I struggled again, but Peterson’s grip was too strong.

“I’ll get the spit hood,” said Sam. “Lemme get him cuffed again first, though.” Sam took a pair of handcuffs from his belt. He cuffed my left wrist, and then hauled me to my feet. Peterson undid the necktie binding my wrists and Sam immediately grabbed my right wrist and brought it behind my back, snapping the other cuff around it. I was trapped.

As soon as Sam left, Peterson leaned close to me. “You’d better play along if you know what’s good for you.” He gripped my neck and squeezed. “Understand?” I nodded. “Good.”

Sam quickly returned with the spit hood. He pulled the fabric mesh over my head and tied it tightly at the back, enough to make sure that I couldn’t spit out my gag entirely. “All right, let’s get you back in your cell, Peterson. Dr. Grey, do you want to get checked out in the medical bay before you go?”

“Oh, no, that’s quite all right, Sam,” Peterson replied. “In fact, I’d better come with you. I… need to observe Peterson for a while anyway to complete my observations.”

“Sure. All right then, let’s go.” Sam motioned me to leave the room, as he and Peterson followed closely behind. I tried to think of ways to signal to Sam that Peterson and I had swapped outfits and I needed help. An SOS in Morse code? Hand signals? But I couldn’t come up with anything that Peterson wouldn’t intercept, and I didn’t want anything serious to happen to me – or to Sam.

We arrived at Peterson’s cell. I entered, and Sam closed and locked the door behind me. Behind it I heard their footsteps receding, and then nothing. I sat on Peterson’s bed, testing the cuffs, but of course they held me fast. I tried to push the gag out of my mouth, but the hood was too tight.

Some time later, I heard footsteps outside the cell door. The door unlocked and Peterson stepped into the cell. I recoiled in horror but there was nowhere for me to go. “Missing me already, Robert? Aww, don’t look at me like that. I just wanted to stop by and tuck you in for the night while I make my escape. Can’t have anyone looking for me until tomorrow morning at least!”

Peterson grabbed me and wrestled me onto the bed on my front. I tried to shout for help again. “MMMPHHHH!” I heard him unwinding a roll of tape. He wound the tape – it was something like duct tape – in layers over my gag, one, two, three, four times. There was no way I would be getting any sound out now. A strip of tape went over my eyes, blindfolding me.

“This is the fun part,” Peterson whispered in my ear. And then he grabbed my ankles and looped something around them. I heard a zipping noise as my ankles were tied together. A second zip tie went between the first, tightening the loops around each ankle. And then Peterson started again with the tape, looping it around my ankles. He took off the trainers I was wearing – I could feel the cold air of the cell on my bare feet. Once he was satisfied, he took another zip tie and ran it between the cuffs and the tape around my ankles, pulling me into a tight hogtie. He rolled me onto my side, and then spent several minutes wrapping more tape around my body and the bed. Finally, he stopped, and I felt a thin blanket being draped over my restrained form.

“A shame you weren’t like this the last time we met,” Peterson said. “We would have got on so well together!” I heard him laughing as he closed the cell door with a resounding clang. I swear I could still hear his laughter long after he’d left me in his cell, as I squirmed futilely in my bonds.

By the time that officers at HMP Wandsworth raised the alarm, I had been tied up for almost twelve hours.

That’s why Darren Peterson should NOT be eligible for early parole. He clearly remains a danger to the public and it is fortunate that the second incident did not result in Mr. Peterson’s escape from prison; on that occasion he was swiftly subdued and restrained. He persists in attempting to deceive people around him that he is really me, and that he has been wrongly identified and detained. It is clearly absurd to suggest that someone has stolen my identity and has been impersonating me for months on end! Such a grand and magnificent deception would surely have been discovered by now.

Mr. Peterson’s challenging mental health needs must be fully addressed before he is considered ready to reintegrate with civil society. Our sessions have not been very productive thus far, and frequently result in Mr. Peterson being kept physically restrained after demonstrating aggressiveness towards myself or to prison officers. But I believe we are just starting to get along. It is therefore my professional recommendation that Mr. Peterson’s request for early release should be denied and he should continue to have weekly treatment under my supervision.

Dr. Robert Grey