Thursday, 27 March 2008

And what is ‘Cupboard 55’?

The Victorians left us one legacy they wished we would never ponder. Few people know of its existence. It was once part of a sordid world where the truth was kept locked away for a privileged elite of society. The ordinary masses could never know of those Secret Cabinets, those private rooms.
At first there was just the Gabinetto Segreto in the museum of Naples. It was once stacked, floor to ceiling, with the most perverse and outrageous images of ancient pagan fornication. From phallic lampshades and amulets, to the statue of Pan with a she-goat, from the god Priapus wielding his massive manhood in a wheelbarrow to Europa being raped by a bull. Corrupting filth was lusted over privately behind closed doors at the British Museum, the Louvre, and in dark corners of Florence, Madrid and Dresden.
At the British Museum the sickest infestations were safely quarantined within a very secure Secretum that was spoken of in hushed numeric code. For London’s ‘Cupboard 55,’ still hides over 700 phallic objects and the sickest, most disturbing Renaissance porn. Even in a new century with liberal and unshockable sensibilities our most enlightened cultural guardians double-lock, ring-fence and shield us from outrageous objects whose very sight would inflame carnal imagination. Even in that most carefree corner of Europe in Naples, Italy, entry to the Museo Nazionale is by appointment only and strictly no under-18s. The fear is that even the sternest most robust conscience would be in danger of corruption if they dared peruse the fetid history of fellatio or the minutia of medieval homosexuality.
So who benefits from preserving these depraved private collections that like a contagious sexual disease are hidden from lurid exposé? Maybe it’s not just the remnants of a self-serving clique who covet their sex trophies. Perhaps there is a driving force that compels every living soul to create its own ‘Cupboard 55’ where we gloat privately and undisturbed over a masturbatory personal exhibition and release the pent up force more satisfyingly among those special objects that can be touched, smelt or gloated over within our own concealed space.

A 'CUPBOARD 55' NOVEL

© All rights reserved.2008
Chapter 1
[In Medias Res]
MONDAY 15TH SEPTEMBER 2003. I found her offices by a most circuitous route. In my stressed state I took several wrong turns. A wrong right at Marine Parade then a guess at a left into Nelson Road North. Then I came past the statue of Britannia that faces inland. Unkempt and shabby was the condition of the old town grey streets thereabouts- dulled dimmer by the heavy autumn morning cloud. Such decrepitude was no longer a fitting setting for a monument to our most illustrious naval hero.
Then by chance I took a turn at Wellesley Road, along a sharp right angle for Regent Road and parked the Benz opposite the Hollywood Cinema. Dashing up concrete steps I flapped suited and booted and with briefcase under my wing I noted the tarnished brass plaque marked, ‘Punch, Deenan & Flynn.’
Puffing and panting I announced my arrival to the disdainful face of a prissy secretary whose curt frown was unmoved by any excuses for my tardiness.
“Mr Bloom? You’re almost half an hour late…you were scheduled for eleven…I’ll see what I can do.”
Her long, bony arm she upraised dismissively gesturing that I should sit. Collapsing upon a soft pew I shuffled through a pack of tatty glossy magazines fanned out across a tired and chipped coffee table. I feigned unawareness of the disapproving gaze of Miss Prissy.
‘Hero to Zero?’ was the sub-heading that screamed out at me from amongst the pile. I settled back for a read.
Is society pressurising the young to be too thin? Is the media hype too much to handle for teenage girls? Pressures to fit into that tight little dress and be a size eight. Can you get to six? Try for a zero! Those ‘puppy fat’ love handles must go! We asked Kirsty MacKilt of TV’s, ‘You Are What you Eat!’ to fill our readers in. Kirsty was straight to point and says it’s all down to the mentality of, "I want to look just like her. All the boys like her so much, she’s perfect, and she’s almost a zero!" And as for the boys, they never chase after plus twelve girls do they? So what do girls do? They make themselves vomit! “It wrecks the oesophagus, “ says Kirsty. Of course the alternative is to eat practically nothing, like low fat yoghurt or a crispbread, and then do a gym workout until you faint.
So how do we win the battle of ‘Hero to Zero?’ The final answer lies within you, and not what other people think. Kirsty’s wise words are, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
A buzzer sounds to break the still air.
“Miss Kearney will see you now, Mr Bloom!”
Finally summoned I get a disdainful parting once over from the skinny Minnie sentinel. I smiled nervously and nodded. She looked like she had serious oesophagus issues herself. I rapped my knuckles on the heavy oak door and entered into a darkened and musty smelling office where a read-headed scribe was hunched over some papers scratching busily.
“Good morning, Mr Bloom. Do please sit.”
Brigid Kearney LL.B looked up to strain a weary eye over me. Daring not to break the hushed air I nervously took a seat in front of a grand old desk and faced my newest inquisitor. She perched regally on her throne now teasing and rolling an exquisite fountain pen between fine-boned fingers.
Kearney, too, was now giving me that disquieting once over and I was starting to feel I was just another humdrum criminal passing across her desk. Kearney shuffled and sorted through papers looking reassuringly efficient and professional, just as my eccentric Irish blood brother and friend Mr Telemachus Johns BA PGCE had promised me she would.
I did not for one moment doubt the considered advice of Mrs Brigid Kearney LL.B for she came highly recommended. She had something of a godly a reputation in these parts. I had been told she was originally from Holly Wells, County Kildare. The Old Country - the emerald green land of my forefathers.
Then my new solicitor handed me a three-page document entitled, ‘Crown v Leonard Odysseus Bloom. Formal admissions pursuant to section 10 the Criminal Justice Act 1967: Specimen Charges Under the Telecommunication Act (Amended) 2003.’
“We don’t normally get the full prosecution arguments laid out like this prior to trial. They’ve done a sterling job on this….as I suspected… they have a very good reason for it.”
Her steely blue eyes held mine fixed.
“Please read it carefully, Mr Bloom. I am sure you must now appreciate that securing a conviction against a teacher in a high profile case like this would be significant feathers in the caps of both the police and Crown Prosecution Service.”
The muted conservative tones of her dress, the stern demeanour, the immaculately cut and coloured auburn locks all soberly tempered the wear of her middle years.
“I should also tell you. This is something the press will certainly lap up…so be warned.”
I could so desperately do with a worthy flame-haired Celtic Athena up for the battle. I clung onto that quietly self-assured Irish lilt in her voice with every ounce of hope I still possessed in my gnawing, tortured mind. I quickly scanned the double-spaced words so neatly laid upon the pages then stuttered to interject.
“But these are lies…all lies…just lies!”
I noted the band on her wedding finger. Her tone became somewhat clipped and unequivocal.
“Mr Bloom, the crux you should consider is this: shall we say- a sex scandal involving a teacher and a pupil? Every fictional event finds its locus in actuality.…. I’m not calling it a lost cause, not at all, not just yet…but please do think very hard on this.“

2
JOURNEY’S BEGINNING: APRIL 2002. I was never a natural stepfather. There was always something awry. Even from my first meeting with the child, deep down I just knew I was doomed to fail in my effort to bond with her. To Lita Limoncello I must have blown into her Catskill’s calm mountain wilderness like a sudden and unwanted whirlwind of flesh and bone, piss and wind, bearing down on her romantically deluded mother to sweep her off those lonely New York shelves.
From foolish wiles we determined to see a flower slowly developing from a bud, just as the bud had from its seed. But to be fair to Lita’s mother, the new Mrs Bloom gamely insisted that from now on my surname must be inscribed on every schoolbook.
I did my bloomful best. I spoke softly and fatherly to leery Lita. I told her I would from now on always be there for her,’ we’re all one big family now’ I would tell her. And ‘you’re going to be as much my daughter as your mother is now my wife.’
But as hard as I tried and as hard as my wife tried Lita Limoncello did not come sweetly to the bosom of the Bloom household. She was most unhappy that her mother, applying screen name, ‘Claim Local Loner’ was now World Wide Web wedded to her electronic wooer, Mister ‘Bordello Moan.’
She didn’t really approve of the Datingdads.com suitor who applied his Gold Membership with aplomb to secure his new bride and like many other limited thinkers in the late Nineteen-nineties Little Lim Lita was suspicious of love borne from twenty-four seven online wooing in binary flashes, delivered in packets, routed on networks and woven across continents and oceans.
Apart from my newly configured, freshly installed stepdaughter, there was many an uncle and aunt, parent and grandparent who shared those doubts about the nature of our foolish flush of mid-life Internet love. There were very few homespun palliatives that would hit the mark with that superfluous adolescent interloper.
But we were here now and domiciled in England for a different normal boodle of conjoined, delusional optimists, evolutionists of the electronic new age. But would it be a bed of roses? Our ports were docked come what may.
But like any other age, electronic or otherwise, the one ineluctable truth that pervaded our hearts like all others was to find a harmonious marital union that would not be so witheringly replete with nagging vacillations between lonesome Laconic Leo and comely Curvaceous Carla.
I had my term of endearment. I called her my Cookie because she was sweet to me and a little kooky or crazy at times, too. All we both ever wanted was to safely secure a loving partnership with that sentient, caring and attentive special human being.
So what transpired of our tryst in the intervening married years from 1998 until now? What flotsam and jetsam would be cast up from those treacherous eddies and Internet currents? Into that vacuum of electronic loneliness, into its centre- the desolate circle- the gods of the Web extracted their sacrifice, their pound of flesh and the wayfaring colonists began to flounder in turgid lustral waters. Sucked toward that cavity, our helpless bodies now subject to its action, fingers unable to clasp onto the usual practicabilities of courtship, these lovers hand’s torn from prudence in their lusty haste to make fateful decisions they shall come to rue in Poseidon’s vortex. Sex?
Of course that was the crux of it. Mums and dads don’t have sexual needs in the minds of their offspring. We held our very own germ of desire like anyone else. Just like our antecedents down and down from the beginning of time we all seek the seed in which lies hidden the flower of next summer’s golden flower. And that something magical that develops in the capsule of its parent bloom; the parent may be but slightly different, slightly changed.
And what of love?
Love is what we want. And as for sex and love? We reconciled to accept our differences and thereafter determined from those differences we arrange our blooms in our own form of domestic harmony. A new kind of sex and love! All pumped up and primed to go in synthesised nuclear family form only for it to appear to end as a wavering kind of sex and love.
For the initial honeymoon period I had bravely ensconced myself at the Limoncello’s ranch home on a six acre spread just outside the small northern New York State town of Ithaca not a long drive from Cornell (42°41′00″N, 76°41′46″W). All told I spent a year there- as long as it took the United States Immigration and Naturalisation Service to rubber stamp my euphemistically named Alien Residency.
As much as I loved it at first, I soon grew weary of the constant diet of trips to the yacht club or around the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge spotting Bald Eagles. And frankly, the Limon- juiced family suppers at sister-in-law, Constance’s and barbecues at Uncle Frank’s who overwhelmed us all with his crazed passion for anything ‘Guns’ and National Rifle Association and at the least expected time would exclaim ‘did you guys hear that lake fart?’ The man would shoot anything and everything that moved and became frightfully fraught with increased animus.
Brother-in-law, Simon was the only one I seemed to have a ‘normal’ buddy-style rapport with and he was almost always downstate working a laser surgeon’s hours unless he came up for a weekend’s spot of fishing in Cayuga Lake.
But in the end it was Aunt Mary’s xenophobia for anything non-American plus my own homesickness thrown in as seasoning that determined I should play my one trump card and solemnly declare that I could no longer bear not to see my own two kids. And so that would be it and off we all must jolly well go.
So it transpired for Bloom’s pair of lemons that they joined in a year’s problematic shenanigans of trying to settle a recalcitrant, geographically, culturally and emotionally disorientated adolescent only child in an alien, friendless, hostile and pitiless old world.
Lita Limoncello Bloom was the rubric, my conundrum, and our beast child and she often did her beastliest best to try our patience.
She hated English food, she disliked her teachers and peers, and she despised our television and music, so what more counts in the mind of an adolescent American girl?
Only with fortitude and after some considerable passage of time would come any small blessing from the great ‘tamer of horses and saviour of ships’. Hail, Poseidon, Holder of the Earth, dark-haired lord! O blessed one, be kindly in heart and help those who voyage in binary blips.
Finally we had reason to thank all the gods for delivering tall mercies to North Haven. Lanky six-footer Claire Boylan was Leery Lita’s first true friend at Bishop Thomas Dupré School. It took many weeks of tears, squabbles, bedroom tornados, hugs and hankies. But finally the cataclysm was somehow averted. Kindly Claire’s Samaritan touch amongst the hordes of Levites gave Lita the compassion she desperately craved from local kids.
Being of such lofty construction Claire was certainly quite an Amazon of a child but who better to be a worthy sidekick cum guardian angel?
Spunky, confident Claire’s timely intervention was worth far more than two denarii to us and may well have averted a crisis of biblical proportions.
Of course, this was North Haven, ostensibly a sleepy antediluvian coastal town so typical of all those quaint, pretty-in-parts, moribund fishing towns you find all along the east coast of England. These were the rural flat plains of old East Mercia; so rural and well connected in parts with a sprinkling of musty heritage. You can stroll past dilapidated public housing estates one minute then alongside well-appointed town houses, wooded banks, sandy beaches and dry landing places soon after.
Here there are field after rolling field of gently sloping corn and lush green marshes that would spread on into infinity if it weren’t for the pebble seashores, low craggy cliffs and sandy estuary beaches to punctuate their contagious drift. Here was an ideal holiday destination for the geriatric and life weary, a Mecca for tree huggers and twitchers.
As much as I loved the gently meandering, quiet reed banks lazily sloping seawards, as much as Mrs Bloom adored this life paced for slippers and cucumber sandwiches her ever-present, ever-moaning boom boxing, hip-hopping precious little child just didn’t get it.
For a shrewder insight into the prevailing demographics of North Haven then I say to anyone, just take a few minutes of your time to peruse the main crop of advertisements that those slick media-marketers pump out on our day time TV regional channels.
Here we suffer a glut of ads for arthritis remedies, debt consolidators, ‘trip or fall’ ambulance chasers, disposable nappies, convenience microwave dinners, mobile phone ring tones and psychic hotlines at One Pound a minute. Put the pieces of the puzzle together and you have an idea of your typical North Havener.
So perhaps now you could therefore understand why the other kids of Thomas Dupré High were bemused by the novelty of this insolent, gawky and rambunctious American kid.
But after a while the interest in any such uniqueness wears thin and Lita would remember her period in the Year Tens very well and never too pleasantly. You see even the older, larger, bolder Claire could not protect Lita forever from the jealous stinging ‘lemon’ taunts of the yobbish bullies.
It all just precipitated the whirlwind of our marital split. I calculated, what with intermittent episodes of residence in Florida added into the equation, between our two homes in New York and England we had in total lived together as a family for less that two of the five years of the marriage.
By chance while browsing the classifieds in the local papers I happened upon an up-market rental in nearby South Haven that came up unexpectedly from an oil contractor who had to dash off to Brazil on a twelve-month stint.
Both big and small lemon as well as wilting bloom thought it the ideal solution: new home new school, Part Two.
Teens don’t want to be mollycoddled but they still need a place where they can feel safe and have a sense of belonging. But I felt no sorrow when their suitcases were packed once more and they moved but ten miles away from this unfortunate drag. South Haven was altogether more salubrious than North Haven anyway.
There they struck good fortune right off the bat, as new neighbours on Cedar Drive were Carlton Clover and his mother, Harriet. Harriet and Carlton befriended Lita and Carla almost straight away. The Clover family was also made up of dad, Hector and youngest sibling sister, Faye. All seemed hospitable, kindly, protective and unassuming. Most of all pizza-faced Carlton reassuringly promised to look out for Lita at the new high school.
But frankly, behind my stoical smiles I wondered how much time I had left before my wife and stepdaughter would give up on this Internet experiment completely and head back to the Big Apple. Feeling like I was living on borrowed time the die was now cast and from the wreckage of that abortive beginning the seeds were sown for our ‘trial separation’ and we all took a punt at less withered flowerings in more fertile soil better fitting my wife’s middle class aspirations.
Oh, how it promised so much more at the start when my bittersweet lemons first arrived on these shores. In happier days we had travelled to many a fine port in our excursions but to finally tie up at the Havens had been my doing. I had owned the little house in North Haven for a handful of years since my first wife divorced me. But Carla, being the inquisitive anglophile wanted to explore many a fine Albion dock before making her choice of harbour.
Seeing the different places along our journeys, Plymouth, Falmouth, Southampton and so on culminating in an instructive tour of the sights of the great metropolis, the spectacle of our modern Babylon where she absorbed the greatest of icons-the Tower, Abbey, the wealth of Park Lane, perhaps to renew acquaintance with again sometime. Every place considered but ruled out for one reason or another. The thing which often struck her as a by no means a bad notion was she might have a gaze around to see about trying to make arrangements for summer music concerts, family stop-overs et al. then to embrace the notion of the most prominent coastal resorts: Margate was one such stop then Eastbourne, Scarborough and so on, beautiful Bournemouth, the Channel islands and similar bijou spots, which might prove highly recuperative for the my troubled American honey’s soul.
Lower on the list came North Haven. Yet still scenic along the coast and just about alive and quaint in its own idiosyncratic way with the trawler man’s scent if a big catch was landed. But here, too, there were the sea breezes, paddling pools, deck chairs, binocular-waving coastal twitchers, telescopes and young women in bikinis for me to ogle as I sketch or doodle a ditty in my pocket book. Take a seat! Ah! Lido peep!
South Haven was altogether different. Ten miles inland, more ‘upscale’ with narrow lanes, small traditional shops, fine restaurants and grander homes. I really did like the Limoncello’s new home. It was much larger and more spacious, better equipped, lighter, airier and more welcoming than my modest abode back in dull old Eccles Drive.
Carla was especially glad that she had all the wall space she needed to hang her fine collection of impressive Katsushika Hokusai prints. We had been collecting for some years now. It was my idea, naturally. Refinement and culture was what upwardly mobile persons seek today. The ’Great Wave’ print being my favourite.
I felt a bit jealous of it, perhaps. But I needed a break from all the bickering and tensions. I couldn’t face living with them right then night and day. I needed my own private space: some quality time away from the marriage. Let’s be honest- I’ve always been a persistent, natural loner.
Although we had hoped for more before bitter little lemon Lita had gone to that first dreadful school. Bishop Thomas Dupré had just sucked big time and left a sour taste in the mouth. But now things seemed a tad better. A mite tastier for all concerned. They settled quickly without me. Of course, we’d have days out as a family and they would sometimes still want to come visit me in my minimalist little suburban semi. Semi-married and back to those seminal games once more for Leo the libertine lad.
I always put on the appropriate airs and graces when my visitors came a calling. I impeccably went with the flow in my usual laid- back manner. But even so, I wasn’t too keen on surprise visits-just in case. Whenever they did call on me they would often and to my great annoyance, pop in next door for a chat with my neighbour, Cilla Karibdis. She was the resident karaoke disco queen at the ‘Sunken Ship’ and some other out of town smoky alehouse. Cilla was a vaguely handsome but often stone-faced woman in her mid thirties, overly bejewelled, heavily made up and past her prime already. From the greying roots of her bottle-blonde locks to those cheap plastic nails she possessed a quirky ordinariness for which Carla held an odd fascination.
Wife and neighbour first became good friends a year or so back when they found they shared a penchant for a diet of prying and tittle-tattle. Cookie got it served up by the plateful at the doorstep. Cilla, a divorcee of Turkish descent had an eye for the men. I confessed. I regrettably had the briefest of flings after my first wife divorced me. Thank Thetis for rescuing me from a darker fate. But those brief waves of passion had long ebbed away (or so I believed). Cilla was clearly ‘not upscale’ as my wife would term it. She feigned prudishness over nude statues I kept in my garden, held superstitious fear of black cats and had truly indescribable talent as a singer-songwriter. My kooky Carla often queried what on earth I had ever seen in a woman who offered little apart from a structurally fulsome silhouette. I suspected the friendship thing was all a clever ruse. I held a deep suspicion Karibdis was my wife’s paid informant and I was the target. I was sure the Turkish One was told everything about our past; how we met, what brought us together, what my foibles were, etc, etc. Oh. God I hated her having to tell people all our ins and outs!
I was sure my wife told every Tom, Dick and Mary that same joyous story. Of how like a golden gift from the gods the World Wide Web had first transported Carla to me. We were part of that first flush of transatlantic Internet daters in the late 1990’s. There wasn’t the same cynicism back then. She said she loved the English for their polite sincerity and manners. We were both children of immigrant parents. An Italian-American now conjoined to the Anglo-Irish. I always encouraged her to nurture a wistful romanticism about my country and it’s people. So what did happen about Cilla? It was a foolish fling. Like my father always told me in his strong southern Dublin accent, ‘Never shit on your own doorstep, son.’ Like father, like son. He had his jars and I rode the women. Scoundrels both.

3
Over the months I became more adept at engineering social arrangements so that we held all family gatherings at my wife’s new place at Thirteen Cedar Drive. This left me nicely residing free and easy, without my tangle of thorns to ponder, in my princedom by the sea. But what the Limoncello’s did have for themselves was really quite a fetching and salubrious suburb of South Haven and certainly appropriate for a woman of my wife’s means. After a while even my own two kids automatically accepted my wishes on that score. With her own new neighbourhood to meet and greet Kooky soon found an element she deemed more appropriate to her social needs. With her unique style of American hospitality Cedar Drive welcomed her absolutely. Harriet Clover was another of the breed of gossipers and peered over the garden fence always seeking a natter. Carlton would take his cue without prompting and tag along into the house aside Lita on a raiding mission to scoff her sickly- sweet chocolate home bakes or rifle the over-sized American fridge. I did warn the boy-it does nothing for those angry looking pustules attacking the corners of his mouth. Cookie would scold them for tramping their muddy shoes across her plush carpets but they were lotus - eaters one and the same - gathered round the kitchen table. And so the mild-eyed melancholy lotus-eater did come came like branches borne of that enchanted stem and laden with flower and fruit, whereof they gave to each, but whoso did receive of them.
I’d often be there, too, or at least my physical me was. I wandered otherwise in spirit passing elsewhere to places more solipsistic than theirs. For eons, it seemed, my playground had been cyber space in a cocktail of comfort with a therapist and Prozac - sinecure for the stale prosaic pedant.

4
Carlton Clover was a lad of fourteen, ruddy complexion comprised of papular eruptions, gangly limbed but arriving in the throes of burgeoning adolescence. He sported a weak and wiry Shaggy goatee that was ever so slightly evidenced upon his chin. But he was affable and like me, loved those cute toothy grins that helped Lita shine on her new throne. No more school taunts of lemons for her - now pealed I hope. They liked to walk to and from school together. He introduced her to a whole different crowd including one new person who caused an equally eventful stir by her arrival about the same time. We first became aware of Rebecca van Hiller when Lita first told us she had made a wonderful new friend. The girl who had been through the toughest times so awfully mistreated by her parents and we were properly shocked at her story. Lita told us she was frequently locked in her bedroom, denied food and bathroom privileges; beaten and bullied by her older brother at the behest of the father. She ran away many times fleeing to uncles, aunts and grandparents for sanctuary, anyone who would save her. The child came to tea one afternoon. She acted coyly but we were warned about that-she was ever so self-conscious about her lazy right eye. So much so that she would always cover it with a hanging flop of her long dark hair. To me it was only a mild imperfection but it made her appear ever so much more charming and vulnerable. She made an instant impression. Charismatic! She spoke in a finical sweet voice, showing white teeth and blinking her eyes pleasantly. Do you think she was? Yes, I agree, too. Most attractive.
The tale she told profoundly touched my wife’s heart. In sympathy she was given centre stage before us. Her eyes were languid pools so dreamy. Carla’s kindly soul warmed to this lost young child in place of the second Lita she could never have.
So whether to stay or not to stay? Fostering was the question. There were such ruminations on the prospect. It was a subject of much regret and so absurd as well on the face of it. With no small blame to our vaunted society that the children were trudging our streets, when the welfare system really needed toning up and kids given some hopeful colour to their cheeks. All for the matter of a few pounds a child could be tragically debarred from thriving in the world in which they lived in - always and ever cooped up.
After all, damn it, too many humdrum months and now she merited a radical change of venue after a closeted life. Better for the child to be out in the summertime when Mother Nature is at her spectacular best for a new lease of life. The Limoncellos spoke of a room being made up for her in this delightful sylvan spot. Give the girl her rejuvenation; offer her wealth of opportunity and a more wholesome lifestyle in and around these picturesque environs. So it was to pass. Within the week a new resident was taken in at number Thirteen Cedar Drive. Miss Rebecca van Hiller was rescued from her torments. Hallelujah!
‘Gaunt and pale,
Cute and nice,
Sweet vanilla
Come be my vice’
My baying American Kooky still demanded of me a certain measure of husbandly duties. Today such was required of me and now my task was more gadding about post- Spring Bank holiday as I sleekly zipped to Cedar Drive in the new Mercedes. I was sporting my tight black pectoral-posing t-shirt, black boots and pants. The sleek black wrap around shades was the finishing touch. I wanted to accentuate my rediscovered manly physique chiselled by daily gym workouts. I wanted to show myself off as the erudite Adonis.
From the knowing looks I got now I felt the gym was enhancing most profitably my new preoccupation. But today courtesy and financial necessity put me at my estranged wife’s disposal yet again. I could not rebel against these impositions while I was on her payroll but her presence cramped my style. Today my queen had summoned me as yet more shop returns she had to deposit in the city. The woman had her own fixation and consumerism it was.
“Oh, Leo honey bun! So Arnold Schwarzenstrudel has finally come dressed like a nightclub doorman, you stupid old pie heap! What on earth are you after? More brainless gawky chickadees?”
I was often scolded for my late arrival. It was my failing, I confess-always late, and never reliable. I hissed at the woman when she slammed the car door shut. I quickly chauffeured her from the house. Just her and me again, thank the gods. Normally, on a good day when I visited the South Haven residence I rarely saw those jeunes demoiselles. Whenever I chauffeured all three on a shopping trip the cackles and clucks would be such a cacophony it would drive any man to drink. Must be out and about with their street mates, I guess. Perhaps I may twist that pliant arm of hers into purchasing something more to my own tastes?
“What’s in the carrier bags today? More unwanted nick-knacks? I get sick of these pointless shopping expeditions!” I scowled.
“Drive on and don’t be mean! God! Where is my purse? You want to check up on some old prints don’t you? The girls need things, too! Drive on! Careful - you nearly hit that car!”
Returns made, windows browsed and coffees quaffed so imagine my surprise when we finally happened upon a fine antique shop and I saw some enchanting original and rare Japanese Kunisadas. To be frank I just adored and would collect any type of waraie and pore over it in raptures of delight. The dealer had acquired some remarkable woodblock prints. But madam was more swayed by my effusive description of the fineness of the pieces as I schmoozed her into buying one fine Shunga. I enlightened her on the artist’s wonderful use of gauffrage, lacquer, and burnishing and metallic pigment. She bought my eloquent patter and soon she saw it like me - all about the wonderful design. It was a charming rendition of an intimate couple - the woman relaxed drinking sake while the man saw to his duty and did all the work. She was slowly developing a taste we both could share. Bagged, bought and paid for my duty done and pleasures remain intact.

5
Perhaps like a lot of re-marrying men I found it difficult to adjust to living in a makeshift family. Is there any wisdom in setting up in someone else’s nest of problems? Flocks of these women habituate their preening grounds on the World Wide Web. They were all so monotonous and dreary in their ambitions: they had to find a husband. I so yearn for my surreptitious nights.
My cookie-crunching Carla or mischievously applying her newly revised screen name, ‘All Caloric Lemon,’ wouldn’t come to the gym any more. I had given up trying to coax her. She piled on the weight in our first year together. You just can’t make a peach from a lemon. In the beginning we had Florida. Those pretences were now long over. Call me a private man - bookish, self-disciplined, obsessively clean and tidy. Perhaps. Obsessive, compulsive and emotionally disordered she would say. You laugh, I tell her and are frivolous and I ask who cleans your mess? These differences you don’t always pick up so quickly when you meet someone over the Internet. Keep your spontaneous, emotionally excitable, disorganised chaos. It takes time. I was making better use of mine now. A trill sound broke my line of thought. Phone.
“Hi, Leo, Simon here - Carla asked me to call. She’s been worried about you. She says you’re not yourself lately - withdrawn and detached - how’s it been, chum?”
I liked Simon Limoncello. But even though Simon was family I didn’t like the way Carla would always talk about me to other people behind my back, family or otherwise. He was a good ten years younger than me- Yale Med high-flier. Ha! I peopled, too.
“I don’t like playing doctor to family, Leo, no reward and little thanks. You’re no different from me - always busy with other things. Us men are the worst for neglecting our health - wanted to touch base and satisfy myself you’re all ok-you don’t mind? How is the gout by the way?” He spoke of tremors, nausea, sweats, or mood disturbance. In the muscles and joints; any night sweats; dry skin; hair loss or weight gain?
“Come on, Simon, I’m not a boozer, my friend.”
Erectile dysfunction? I assured him it was ok. Some stiffness. An occasional semi-lob on taking surreptitious peeks at forbidden fruits. Crisis? Crisis? What crisis?
“You know my sister, Leo - always Florence Nightingale on steroids. Only you to worry about now Lita’s back here with us.”
My diet, as you know, in my past life, had been atrocious. Offal meats and the lovely thick giblet soups, nutty gizzards I ate. You can’t beat a fine stuffed roast heart, liver slices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods' roes. Most of all I liked grilled mutton kidneys. But to my dismay that often left me smelling of scented urine, I joked. Goutish!
Simon was educated and liked a literary laugh or two. He had helped me like I had helped him (a nasty scrape at a house of ill repute in Newark, NJ one time but we won’t go there. More of that Closet Lemon Love I spoke of earlier) and he fixed my gout with Allopurinol. Can’t keep off the red wine though, just like Telemachus. Plenty of exercise, a good varied diet and fresh air were what the doctor ordered. I particularly loved my fruits, ripened and peachy always looking for a bite of that five times a day if I could.
Thanks for that, Stevie boy! I’m on the up and feeling good. I so adored this warmer weather. More gadding about now like with my own two kids, driving off to see the family down in Berkshire, Barbecues at every opportunity. And me there laughing, relaxing, and watching the village cricket. Heavenly skies really. If life was always like that. Proper cricket weather. Sit like lords under a parasol for both innings. Out! They can't play it here. Followed on and lost the ball to the running dog that scampered over the boundary ropes after the finest of slogs.
Heat waves never last but the globules are warming. Saving the planet for a greener peace. Global. No gentle street jogging on tonight on this glorious balmy summer’s evenings. Another day I shall feel that intoxicating noradrenaline rush at the end. Showered and dressed for seven and tanned and glowing in summer whites. Or shorts not slacks? Mahogany knees as trophies. Wet shaved and scrubbed up fresh. Dinner at the Mansion House. Driven to the park. Brother and sister in law’s treat. Lovely - topped it off with a cool drink or two in the red and amber glow of sunset. What a tasty tipple.

6
JULY 12TH 2002. Then one fine afternoon it started to change forever. No more Glückliche Zeiten. The phone call marked the end of the happy times. It came as I was sunning myself in my balmy English garden.
I had an assignation planned for that evening and I wanted to perk up my tan. But plans suddenly changed. Carla’s voice was agitated; she spoke very fast, so fast in fact that all I could make out was that she felt alone and at her wits end. She went on about missing Lita who packed her suitcases and had gone back to the States. Shit. I kind of overlooked how that must have felt. I was being rather self-indulgent and insensitive really. I should have rallied round her a bit more. Cookie’s confidence must have been dented at Lita’s departure at the end of the school summer term. Her moods would swing one-way or the other. I had kept out of her way until she got used to it. She was prone to some awful rants from time to time. Her voice rattled at me through the phone. She had her own distinct New York vernacular. Of Queens. Always things were, ‘going down the pan’. I put it down to the fact Lita had chose to stay with the older sister cranky Carla detested. Constance had a swanky place in the country an hour or so from Albany. I never liked the snotty cow. Constance called England, ‘That third world country.’ I satisfied myself by anagramming that witch aptly into ‘Lie Calmly Moron’ and ‘Real Common Lily’.
It wasn’t just Lita leaving that upset Carla. She still had the other little problem on her hands; someone else’s kid and no one else wanted to help. My ear was buzzing from the pounding she was giving me down the phone. What compounded my wife’s rancour was that Social Services had done nothing to sort out finances or other accommodation in the six months since Rebecca came into her care. I couldn’t fathom out how this state of affairs could run indefinitely. To top it all this kid just wasn’t right. The girl was now behaving oddly. The longer Carla kept me on the phone the clearer it became. With no Lita around this Rebecca had suddenly become a right pain. Clearly life had gotten bleaker all round.
She kept me on the phone for what seemed like an age. She jabbered on.
“Leo, this week’s been an absolute hell! Tuesday she came back late stinking of booze - Carlton says he saw her climbing out of the back of a busted up old Ford! She stumbles in the house and falls down and a white package fell out of her handbag…drugs, Leo!”
Carla said when she questioned her she denied the drugs but admitted to having unprotected sex. The drugs she was holding for a friend. On Wednesday she spoke with the neighbours, Harriet and Carlton, on Cedar Drive who were picking up on things and showing concern.
“I’ve tried grounding her, Leo. I even taking away Lita’s old mobile phone she lent her. When I did that-god! She was almost up at me like ready for a fight!”
In desperation my wife now wanted my input. If I couldn’t be bothered to help then she, too, was going to be on the next flight out. She had had a gut full, she spluttered. I took her seriously. We agreed a crisis meeting for the next day. Maybe the kid needed a father figure in her life to put her straight.
The following day I cruised over in the Benz and I weighed it all up. I couldn’t countenance another bout of cuckoo Carla coming apart at the seams. The merest sign of her reduced to that wretched nervous habit of clawing at her arms and elbows with those long and absurd plastic fingernails only serves to gets me as fretful as her.
“Ah, I’m so glad you’re here! I could have throttled the little slut. I just don’t know what goes on in her head-I threatened to throw her out last night and she just smiled back at me - can you believe it?”
I noted the striations of weeping scratches on the back of her forearms as her hands trembled lost and fitful.
“That’s just the drugs, Cookie just put that down to drugs”
She retorted, “No, Leo, it was much more than just drugs, she was a different person, like she was possessed!”
I put my arm around her and gave her one of those manly hugs that she liked. It had often been a soothing antidote but today not much more than a sop. I felt her tear on my cheek and she took a deep, slow breath. ‘Ill Color Manacle’ perhaps?
She began to calm somewhat and she made us both a nice cup of tea. We sat out on the patio. A warm, soothing breeze fluttered through the manicured garden borders bathed in full summer sun. She made me promise to help make some telephone calls. First, I phoned Social Services: just an answering machine. No luck there. I then tried phoning the mother who only once telephoned us about her child. That, ominously, was to warn off Rebecca who had been round her younger sister’s primary school upsetting her on and off for months. When I asked if she would help she just gave me the number of the grandparents then hung up: most curt! I thought. I tried that number but no answer.
Over the next few days we explored all the avenues we could. Rebecca was often out of the house most of the day off doing her thing. Cookie had got beyond caring for now. Just having her away from the house was a blessing. Apparently she was spending a lot more time either at the Clover’s next door or hanging out with the skater crowd. Apparently the South Haven ‘crew’ was better at ‘grinding’ than North Haven skaters. We busied ourselves but were just not coming up with the goods. Crucially, Social Services had no suitable alternative accommodation at the moment for this kid. The parents obstinately refused to take her back citing the needs of the other siblings as their first priority. I felt like saying I’d take the kid to the police station and dump her there with her packed bags but I knew that wouldn’t help things. This kid was playing on Cookie’s conscience and her sympathy most cleverly. Carla called it ‘reverse psychology’ and Rebecca was running rings round her.
In the end I surrendered to the inevitable. It wasn’t just a case of me having to be a nobler chap although I am not averse to playing the part of hero. But I knew I had to give it a go. Frankly, I wised up, I knew my wife was funding my lifestyle and I felt guilty seeing her go under. And the bottom line was I had to consider what would happen to me if she cracked and took off back to America. She was clearly desperate and I would have been, too, if I suddenly lost her financial support. So I made a promise to her to keep her from breaking. From now on I was going to get actively involved in the matter.
The new school term was coming up: early September. The first day soon arrived and I dutifully drove to the house. I got there about 3pm and was met at the door by the somewhat forlorn figure of my wife. She was still pale and sick of it all, like she was in some kind of mourning. But she offered up a smile then gave me an almost apologetic peck on the cheek.
She went to make some tea while I made myself comfortable on the sofa. She had left open one of her slushy romantic novels on the coffee table. I read a line from the top of a page, 'that insidious tyrant of the female heart, who soothes us with the hope of happiness, only to plunge us into the certainty of disappointment.' I told myself I had to deliver the goods or my own lifestyle was going to suffer. I was never sure whether I would turn out the hero or the villain in her story. I did my best to cheer her up.
We sat and drank tea. My mother was also an avid drinker of tea. Tea was the panacea to a whole day of trials and tribulations. But Mrs Bloom was a tea-drinker extraordinaire. This was odd, I thought for a good old - fashioned New York girl raised on percolated coffee grinding. Out would come the cake and biscuit tin (always full of fresh, delicious, home-made goodies). My wife would have the choicest Ceylon leaves never the fanciest of Earl Greys but a sound mix nonetheless. Not your common or garden tea bags stew either. She made hers in a large pot, a good, stout English big brown teapot with a knitted tea cosy over it that connoisseurs would recognise. I think it was partly the ritual of the tea - making ceremony she adored. It was that quintessential ceremony of warming the pot, letting it draw and finally pouring the infusion through the strainer to mix most satisfyingly with the splash of milk in the china cup. I guess we all loved the chink of the silver spoon, too, as we stirred the mix. Reassuringly this mundane of domestic acts making us all feel at home and so safe.
“This is my game plan, Cookie. I’ll come over and get her sorted on her schoolwork and we can build a daily routine round that; an hour or so each day after school. Just to keep her occupied until social services get her a proper foster place sorted. I’ll just muddle through with my supply teaching until the colder months arrive so it’s no big deal.”
The tea and biscuits was most agreeable, as husband and wife were we in our new stratagem. Each day after a light tea it was going to be like this. Our wayward charge would receive her gentle instruction from me in the upstairs study. At the desk I would peruse all her assignments, work diary and textbooks and files and set about my task to adorn little Miss Rough Diamond with a finer veneer. No more after school waywardness, no more of the repellant distractions of boys, psychedelics, alcohol and tomfoolery.
Just before four o’clock the front door sounded in a jarring fulmination. I was sat at the computer in the makeshift bedroom cum study. I heard the mumble of voices from the kitchen followed instantly by the clump clump of footsteps on the stairway and I turned to see her at the door.
”Hi Leo, Carla says you and me will be doing a few good things together?” She smirked.
Before I could open my mouth and make my pitch she nonchalantly undone the top few buttons of her school blouse giving me the glad eye. A large lock of shiny black hair flopped down to mask most of the other, less perfect, side of her pretty face while, conversely, her full black brassiere thrust into view. My gaze fell fixed upon her most ample cleavage. I felt the challenge. She was taunting me and tempting me at the same moment. She acted as if possessed with a great confidence not typical of other sixteen year-old schoolgirls I had known. I tried to avert my stare as I dertemined it was in her to be “porne.” Her good eye locked onto me and I withered before her.
Incongruously, she posed before me theatrically and waited for a few seconds. But then her confidence ebbed and a look of puzzlement came over her. She hadn’t elicited from me the response she craved. I truly doubt she understood the real nature of my momentary indecision. Undecided as to whether I should display vexation or flirtation she dallied no more and made a tactical withdrawal.
“I’ll just get changed.”
She spoke in what I took as a tone of disappointment. She turned and slowly sloped off to her bedroom tugging up her blouse from her skirt and exposing her perfect soft white midriff. I watched her closely as she tossed a bulging schoolbag over her shoulder and walked launguidly through the picture frame of her open bedroom door.
Then I saw it on her lower side, just above her womanly-ripe hip, a three-inch scar blemishing her otherwise flawless beauty. That’s a shame, I thought.
But no matter, still those perfect hips. Well within the divine ratio. I had registered her signal of fertility loud and clear. Our dear Rebecca had fine childbearing hips - smack on the money and plain to see perfectly proportioned for perfect health, fecundity and above all, lust.
If I were of a mind to measure I would say hers was that sublime waist to hip ratio 0.7. Not your prepubescent, straight up and down nought point nines or so but a winning nought point seven. A woman needs those luscious hips to win her man and our Miss van Hiller was certainly not one for losing hers.
As I gaze longingly at that slinky seductress I seem to palpitate; in contemplating her my modesty takes alarm, desire begins to awake, and imagination to kindle and I am smitten with a mad passion for the voluptuous and the commiseration my state of mind inspired set aside all idea of ridicule.
I would be like those men of far-distant centuries who were so given over to the pleasures of the senses that they built a temple to Venus Callipyge. This was how it happened then. A countryman had two fair daughters; they were contending one day with each other about the beauty of their hips, each declaring that hers were the most beautiful, and so disputing they came upon the highway. A young man happening to pass that way whose father was already well in years, they at once submitted themselves to the judgment of his eyes, and he pronounced in favour of the eldest. But at the same time he fell so deeply in love with her, that he had hardly arrived at the town before he fell ill, kept his bed, and told his young brother what had happened to him. The latter hastened to the fields to look at the young girls, and fell in love with the youngest. Their father sought in vain to persuade them to unite themselves with better families. So, being obliged to yield, he obtained the consent of the father of the two sisters, whom he sent for immediately from the fields, and married his sons with them. This event caused the name of Callipyge to be given to the two wives among their fellow-citizens, as Cercidas of Megalopolis relates in his iambics. Now you, my own curvaceous van Hiller Venus, smite me with your magical iambic angle to your force to break blow and make me new.

7
TUESDAY 10TH SEPTEMBER 2002. A routine was now being tentatively built and most days I would arrive at the house in the afternoon. First Carla and I would enjoy tea and cake on the garden patio and then strictly by four Rebecca would be home for our study session.
All the time I coached the miscreant my wife would occupy herself with her head buried in one of her turgid romantic novels. Somehow, over time, I was even able to fit in my secret passions without consternation.
I tried to introduce some class and culture into the house. Tatty old copies of books from my college days I would surreptitiously leave on the coffee table as bait to see if either of them would bite. Rebecca once said she especially enjoyed the short stories of F Scott Fitzgerald. But when it came to James Joyce it was an altogether different matter.
Carla had no time for the inaccessible or demanding, “Oh, Joyce! Why bother with him! His books should come with a health warning: ‘likely to cause serious indigestion of the mind’!” She’d lament for a nice dinner,’ help do a pie?’ she’d say, me not being one for cooking so we’d go out for dejeuner depending on the fineness of the evening.
Rebecca also took an interest in the wall mounted Japanese woodblock prints displayed around the house. She coyly asked me to explain them. Something in them was arousing her curiosity. She confessed, forthrightly, they seemed to her to depict scenes of romantic male and female entanglements.
I was glad she was absorbing a little of the culture of the world, expanding her horizons and re-evaluating her sensibilities. I found the dealer’s catalogue of works that was given to us from our recent successful shopping expedition. More to impress me than anything she told me she much admired the depiction of bishōnen and oyaji masculine forms. I explained my wife was more into the Shōjo-ai style, while I could see much beauty in it all.
At first Saturdays were the gathering times. Family days were the melting pot. A fondue. Into the equation came my own offspring, Lee and Annabel. The neighbour’s kid and Becky’s new school pal, Carlton showed up, too. Becky and Carlton seemed a little wary of my two at first but give it time and they would gel. I let them get on with it. They had all seemed to congregate around the large 47-inch projection television that filled the corner of the lounge and jutted awkwardly in front of the patio doors. Petulant Annabel swiped the remote first and was flicking through music channels while Becky weighed up the scene. Annabel screeched at the boys that it was her turn first!
“Thirty minutes each - take it in turns - that’s fair! Or I’ll tell!”
At first Becky kept quiet, watched and learned- listening to the schwa, schwa sounds of middle-class Anglo-American speech as my wife came through from the kitchen and tried to orchestrate some game plan for a lunchtime menu.
I flitted back and forth from kitchen to lounge quietly in my own laid back way, taking an overview. I noted how shrewdly Rebecca found a useful prop as an easy shoe-in with Annabel. She had hastily raided the kitchen and from a mass of plastic grocery bags found the ideal emollient.
“What’s your name?”
My inquisitive little girl enquired as she spooned the tasty gobfulls of ice cream.
“That’s a funny name… Rebecca Vanilla!”
My daughter howled out in fits of laughter and let slip a mushy brown dollop of goop from her open mouth.
“No, no its van Hiller! Not like ice cream!” Rebecca countered trying her best not to look annoyed. But lots of people have said that. Actually I do love the smell of vanilla perfume. I wear it all the time. Annabel persists in her probings and wants to know why anyone would have such a peculiar last name.
“It’s a Dutch! From Holland, you see. My grandfather was a sailor and my family came over after the big floods of 1953.”
“Darling!”
I interjected to clarify in my father-teacher mode.
“The world is shrinking. You’re going to meet lots of people with different names-some will sound strange but you should just be polite, please. You children are the generation spawned in the melting pot of the world.”
Her fresh eyes looked back at me unknowing and innocent. Somehow in her childlike mind a switch flicked on and with wisdom all of her own she took the hand of Rebecca Vanilla and led her to the drawing room. There, with reverence, she opened a leather-bound photo album and displayed the captured memories of her own antecedents.
Theirs was the generation of the broken family, the absent father, migration, global economic pressure, financial selfishness and the dissolution of tribal values, diversity and opposition. Farewell to extended families and social bonds, indigenous culture and any sense of responsibility to others. Values and morals that do not fit neatly into consumerism become redundant. In this incipient new age of globalisation each anodyne metropolis will be peopled by trolls under the tutelage of mass marketers who help orchestrate mass-produced everything. Everything will be infected by the pandemic of compliance, conformity and niceness to all. Welcome to the hegemony of the One, of the Supreme Being preaching a culture of assimilation and homogenisation into the corporate driven way. Moneymakers, Wall Street, traded stocks and bonds and simple vanilla options. Our role models shall be the bland, mid tone, middle of the road, and hermaphrodite, asexual polymorphs of glossy magazines and electronic media. Be everyman to every woman and be politically correct and lovely. Don’t offend, don’t have opinion and don’t speak out of turn. Conform.
My opportunistic little bean was of that moment and of that ilk. Her talent appeared as quickly fast-talking sound bites of glib, shallow, glossy eye-catching truisms. She had a winning flavour to encompass all. Bland or subtle: a qualitative measure borne of quantitative supremacy. Miss Love Pod fell upon her next target and I, uneasily but helplessly welcomed the charm offensive leading towards our subliminal bonding. Annabel got it right first time: Rebecca Vanilla.
Just at that moment my wife came in to the dining room brandishing cutlery looking to set the table.
“Ah, Annabel…. you and Becky found some wedding photos? Ah, look, Leo! Some of the three of us.” They all peer at the fuzzy snaps betraying the informality if not the hastiness of the ceremony.
I wore my caring face and interjected informatively.
“Yes, you see - there’s Carla, Lita and me…that’s the preacher’s log cabin…see how deep the snow was-right up over the porch? That’s the Catskill Mountains, Annabel, where I told you…that’s the place where we took our vows.”
Rebecca squeezed herself slowly in between my wife and daughter and me for a better view as she brushed softly across my torso I felt that tingle again.
But that second I also felt a brush of coarse, cold skin on the back of my mind. And then came the smile and a glad hand from my wife. I checked myself and pulled away from the huddle not to let the savour merge unobtrusively into the dish. No ice cream for me, ‘Ail van Gril.’
“Tea anyone? I’m just putting the kettle on.”
I made my escape to the sanctuary of the kitchen. There I again pondered my conundrum and my growing sense of ill ease. Into a sharper focus she had brought it all. I felt a profound disillusionment with my life.
But this was her way. The way she laid her trap. She was the Vanilla Girl and he was everything to everyone and she enjoyed being ubiquitous in her game. Perhaps it was merely her defence mechanism, a survivalist’s ploy when you are vulnerable in a foreign setting and you feel that you are totally unlike the people around you. Not at all a pleasant predicament.
“Daddy! Daddy! Come see! Look at us! Isn’t this good?”
I trudged with my tea into the lounge where they all were now. There were wires and a box rigged up to the television. Annabel had brought her dancing pad video game and wanted to try it out. It wasn’t new, just some unwanted gift given to her mother by a work colleague at the police station. Lee and Carlton’s bony backsides were poking out from the side of the TV as they sorted the tangle of connections and plugged the device in. Becky and Annabel were sifting through shiny game disks. I caught the joy in my daughter’s eyes as the older girl pandered to her. Some family responsibility, I determined, some bonding child to child, might make her feel less the lost little sheep.
For now I was her shepherd. All would be well as long as there were no more men or drugs. It was the bad company she kept that got her in that mess. A better sort around her would bring out the best in her. We all needed to be watchful over her. That was why we enlisted Carlton Clover. We knew his parents. We knew the Clovers were a decent sort. Carlton would be watchful. He needed no prompting. For he had long been following her around home and school like a loyal lap dog just like he did before with Lita. Always a good kid and trustworthy, Carlton could be relied upon to warn of the first sign of danger. Sentinels watch and pedagogues do teach. I let them dally in their amusements and I took to the study to read awhile. Those days were soon to become shorter and colder.
But I determined then I should remain diligent and dutiful to my task as mentor and liberator.
The weeks seemed to pass seamlessly and trouble free, or so it appeared. My cream girl graciously attended our daily post-school tutorials. My wife smiled and had her controls back. She had her dominions and her place back in the world. Each day she witnessed insipid and compliant vanilla pod dutifully acquiesce along with a bland and observant husband. The pedagogue shall draw out of the errant student’s innate talents and abilities by imparting his own hard - won knowledge of the arts, literature, philosophy, history, scientific reasoning and mathematics.
But, more subtly, the good teacher shall reveal to the student an array of ‘meaningful’ experiences so as to ensure the reaction from her he desires. This was the wonderful theory. This was to be how any situation encountered could be turned to a learning experience, the tender, young neurons shall be receptive, follow logical sequences in time for my own satisfying consequences.
Each day Rebecca Vanilla took the books from my hand and acted as if they were gifts from the gods. I liked it best when she sat as good as gold beside me in her school greys, obedient, compliant and sweet for one old scholar who doted on plenty of pleat. In stony silence she dutifully read as I watched her then I tested her comprehension. English literature she had to pass. My sweet bland-acting bean worked her affectation and stagecraft. She possessed the outward appearance of knowing and understanding but she lacked insight. It wasn’t absorbed. I struggled to fathom it and blurted out my frustrations.
“I’m sorry - forgive me - I don’t mean to snap or unsettle you. I don't try to be a gadfly, but I do think that this is troublesome.”
I wanted her to understand the book.
“The writer wants his work to leave the reader unsettled. He intends that and can use wordplay and such. Anagrams for instance. Do you see?”
Her shoulders slumps in disappointment at my outward impatience as I frantically scratch away disapprovingly at her notes with my red ink pen and give to her bluntly.
“The notion of the writer as a kind of sociological sample of a community is ludicrous. Writers do not provide examples of how to live!”
I try to tell her about how mixed up some people are. Virginia Woolf ended her life by putting a rock in her sweater one day and walking into a lake. She is not a model of how I want to live my life. On the other hand, the bravery of her syntax, of her sentences, written during her deepest depression, is a kind of example for us.
“But would we want to become Virginia Woolf? I think not!” I decry.
Progress with Becky Bean soon becomes wearisome and slow. She is an easily distracted child. She flits about in her mind from anorexia to hair straighteners from hip-hop to bulimia all covered in each daily from homespun seminar.
I let her change the subject like I am often led to. More often than not her preferred chitchat was about Lita’s wardrobe. She might tease me about whether a tight little thong from Lita’s lingerie would be more flattering or otherwise on Becky’s curvaceous hips. Was that something appropriate for me to conjure with?
A conjurer she was too, when it revolved around something even more disgusting, such as one of her ghastly food concoctions. She always loved to gross me out devising some sicklier fantasy more perverse than yesterday’s wild whimsy.
Given the chance she would feed herself the most horrendous noxious mixes if she were ever allowed her own food budget.
My sweet twisting white vine became fidgety and dropped her notebook onto her school bag beside the desk and wriggled her pert little behind. Then uprooting her self from beside me she shot off.
“I gotta take a pee, Leo.”
I pondered the shabby canvas shoulder bag with its frayed edges and noted the ballpoint pen scrawl somewhat faded but revealing that inane legend.
“SkAtEr bOyZ dO iT sTaNdInG.”
That’s South Haven grinding for you. Give me strength! A doodled pocket size volume peaked out slightly from under two dogged-eared maths textbooks. It was screaming at me to pick it up. I released it from its straitjacket and the pages fell open at September 4th 2002. First anniversary of the death of Hank ‘the Angry Drunken Dwarf,’ American radio personality, birthday of Beyoncé Knowles, singer [1981], 247th day of the year (248th in leap years). There are 118 days remaining. A spidery blue-black entry read:
‘I talked to my bestest friend today. She is my rock, my sissa and I love her. She makes me smile and is just so sweet to me. I know someone is mistreating her. Some peeps are cruel that way. Saw her in school and she is getting smarter. She is going to go far and be happy. It’s hard being here. No friends to visit or call. Lots of things are different now. I am not as happy here as I let on to be. I got those voices in my head again. They told me I am useless and unlovable.’
A distant flush of water signals me to hurriedly replace my find. Quickly composed I simply smile at my precious little vanilla pod and humour her inanely just as I would with any other little self-centred missy you get every day of the week buzzing around teacher’s desk at school. My blossom sits aside me again now smelling of orchids in nymphetland: awkward and fey and dimly depraved, the lower button of her shirt unfastened. Then she gave me that wounded doe look.
“Is there anything special you two would like for tea? Harriet and Hector will drop in later,” came the howl from downstairs. I gave a chuntering answer and ushered off my sweet cream.
Scurry off now simple soul. What’s the use? I thought. All too often I reach my own boredom threshold with kids. The three of us sat around the dinner table. Miss buttoned top now had headphones clamped over her petite skull. Go back to your hip-hop raps and your misogynistic urban ghetto gangstas. Over that evening meal new plans were laid. Weekends would be better balanced, I declared, once we consent to an alternative viewpoint into our miscreant’s home curriculum. To shake off the prison mentality we shall let Becky go off with Cilla Karibdis to her pub Karaoke sessions at weekends.
As I munched and masticated on our chef’s over-cooked linguini and baked tomatoes a la carte it amused me to ponder women in terms of food metaphors. That way you can entertain yourself when you’re in one of those blue funks. This was a well-worked strategy often employed while covering long, dull exam invigilation at Bishop Thomas Dupré High School. On those occasions when I sought to withdraw to my interior solipsistic self I would sit like Rodin’s statue of the ‘Poet’ or as some say, the ‘Thinker.’ Make yourself look highbrow, Leo. Super-intellectually perched centre-stage in an assembly hall of one hundred and seventy-four aspirant examinees ordered in a column of twelve and fifteen rows with six absentee examinees, busy bees out to please. Stomach growls and hunger pangs. Don’t speak, don’t move, don’t fidget, and don’t fart. Just be.
For afters let’s squirt that trifling Turkish flavour into the dish. Or my wife’s over-ripe melons? No? Maybe I should throw the monkey some bananas? A dash. Vanilla and bananas? Now there’s a tasty kitchen concoction we could whip up one fine Saturday. Or is that sundae? In an expensive and expanding (think wifey’s waistline!) multi- trillion-dollar global food industry Turkish delight was always in the picture. Get our Limoncello Lady to splash the cash. Lemon Bella, baby! (I hope pealed). For the tempting concoction of chocolate sauce: add 110grammes (or four ounces) of dark chocolate then to that mix two tablespoons of golden syrup. Then throw in seventy-five millilitres (or two fluid ounces) of water. For the banana split take two bananas, one can of whipped cream (always a bedroom buzz), one tub of vanilla (van Hiller) ice cream, one chocolate coated honey comb bar, thirty grammes, that’s one ounce, of chocolate coated peanut sweets and zest of lemon. Then you’ve got yourself a delicious taste sensation. Slap me out a few dollops. Eyes down row five, no peeking. More paper in column three and prissy penny has her hand up for a toilet break so no full house. The statue thinks on. What astounding memories I am collecting for the scrapbook of my geriatric mind. Oh, how I shall enjoy reliving these golden days.
Memories of silly Cilla visiting Kooky more and more just to keep tabs on me. She hasn’t let go I know she wants me. Anyway, play your game Cilla. Come on by to Thirteen Cedar Drive on the way to work make it your weekly routine. Every once in a while you can keep my little hillerpod for the night to save Cookie waiting up.
My food-loving wife had been piling on the pounds since we first married and I was growing concerned about the shelf life of my lemon pudding behind the beautifully packaged exterior. She did not wear marriage well. Over time she began to exhibit that notorious tummy apron flap of skin worn so ubiqitoulsy by women of a certain age. In the food processing industry she would not be considered ‘shelf stable.’
My own remedy for extending the Limoncello shelf life proved inefectual. She merely disdained my urgings that she accompany me to the gym at least three times per week. ‘It’s what’s on the inside that counts-and why are all you men so shallow?’ was her common rebuttal to my pleadings.It seems you can’t extend a food's shelf life without significantly changing its taste or texture.
Her solution to my problem was simple. She merely contented herself that if she wore expensively coutured outfits I would buy that. Inevitably I resigned myself to the depressing conclusion that I may never find my wife sexually desirable ever again. No matter how the goods were wrapped once I had opened her package I found the fare on offer left my appetite dismally dissatisfied. It was at that point something clicked in my consumerist’s warped cerebullum and I began to feel she had passed her sell by date.
For token consolation I would all to often sit at the computer flitting through those unmentionable web pages men don’t admit to their wives they look at. I secretly flitted web page after web page before I came across what is known in the trade as ’TGP’ or‘Thumbnail Gallery Post’ as it is more correctly named. It quickly became my gateway to free Internet porn. I gawked and squirmed and squinted and squirted obtaining relief in moderate and transient fashion.But I all too often ended up, like most hapless users on a 'circle jerk' of unsatisfying blind links. It’s not a savoury sight picturing hordes of lonely, fat, balding, middle-aged men salivating and keyboard bashing to their heart’s content over virginal vixens, sister’s cyber club and chuggitandsee.com. Sadly modern man has forgotten how to live - he only exists. I wanted more than this solitary debasement.
No, I shall try to be as Rodin made me. Poised like Dante I shall sit composed, restrained and with girded loins reflecting upon the scene out of the bedroom window. My office chair throne I shall preserve unstained, here now and ever after on every school day, awaiting the arrival of my schoolgirl nymph.
This fine day, like many a blissful autumn day, the sun shone gloriously and gamely as late afternoon would soon give way as dusk comes to darken our doors. As I ponder paternally the benign happy scene beyond these curtains before me I watch the uniformed little scamperers skittle along their way. The mother gooses nattering in small gaggles close behind. Hoping to catch the first glimpse of my own princess as she comes once again to my den of deepest desires.
At last she was here. Sat by my side. Smelling of that heady mix of perfume, stale laundry and feminine odour. She sat respectfully beside me, close enough to occasionally, and casually, brush lightly with my hand against her skirted thigh, or an upper arm brush across bulging white-bloused bosom.
At the desk and into her schoolbooks that she purposely laid out before me I rapturously sat while the dancing fronds of light played in through the glass and shimmering net curtains. Angelic twilight dappled merrily about that full-lipped ruby red smile on her sculpted face.
Such distractions! It was so hard to focus on those tired old texts on those ragged pages while at the same time as I sought the explore the ripening undulations of my sweet fruit. Like an artist or poet, like Byron or Keats, as once did Picasso and Toulouse Lautrec; they must have likewise pondered the winsome wiles of their young garret muses just as I do now with my black-haired gypsy princess. A teasingly flop of dark mane covers half her face and half the secrets I longed to share.
Conscious of my stare she lobs old lackey Leo a playful, flirtatious tweak of the corners of her mouth. Her smile suggesting she read her tutor’s mind perfectly. In my avuncular guise my hand goes to her pretty neck velvety and smooth to the touch. My fingers sweep gently back the dangled locks at last for me to meet her full gaze.
“Oh, don’t-it makes me feel silly.” Her sorrowful and silly worries and that lazy eye see her poor grey self-loathing return.
“No, no- you’re lovely, Becky-be proud of who and what you are. You are not an ogre! Anyway, I can’t see you properly if you have your hair covering your face, can I?”
“I just like it that way-it’s me-it’s…anyway you don’t understand. You know how much I got teased about how I look.”
“Bex, just think of Edith Piaf and be a star- use your faults-they are part of your true talents. Be someone wondrous and unique. Sod the others and what they think.”
She asks me who is Edith Piaf.
“Oh, an old time famous singer- a little sparrow with her own frailties. Like you. But the voice and charisma of a goddess.”
She had never heard of her. Not surprising if you weren’t into wartime nostalgia and the romance of old black and white films. "La vie en rose." From humble beginnings do beautiful but mysterious flowers grow in that permanently alluring aura. The hair flops back over its customary place and we go on.

8
SUNDAY 13TH OCTOBER 2002. My pounding headache was screaming for relief. I had migraines but my wife said I exaggerated. She had real migraines mine were merely men’s headaches. The male of the human species suffers a plenitude of milder ailments from the female of the species that are all inexplicably magnified by gelatinous guys who can’t suffer a soft cold without shaking in pitiful tremors and insisting its severe dose of influenza. I felt the dull funk fogging up my mind and I despaired for some relief from it all. I yearned for soft caresses on my tortured brow and I craved for my nubile nurse’s touch. I desperately wanted the blackness to be blown away by the sweeping fresh sunbright soothing whiteness of her intoxicating saintly scent. I kicked out at the footstool and tossed away the book I was failing to read. Marching like a wounded soldier I raided the medicine cabinet mowing down packets of vitamin supplements, bottles of this and that herbal remedies, self-tanning creams, oh god, where are they?
But she was inexplicably fast becoming my drug, my dream, my escape, my love to desire corporeally or incorporeally, and the only palliative in a dull and dreary life that had been grey and torpid until her arrival on the scene like some sparkly jewel. Her glory was her youthful, staged arrogance and rough reckless originality. The wondrous paradox was in this constrained cell of boredom came my exquisite fantasy. With her shall be my rightful place-in her sufferance an alternative parallel universe of intoxicates that intensified my senses. The sight, the sound, smells and touches I felt now were more ardent, vigorously alive and fresh. Oh how I wanted my suffering to end. The decayed and fractured soul I was becoming before she dawned in this world I just knew would be expelled if I could have her secret potion to give me new zest and make me pain free. Keep your crystal meth, your weed, and stuff your ganja. I had my own patented and privately approved narcotic. Here in this little box world I could pat her bare knee, glance at those soft thighs, ruminate over her to my heart’s content. In avuncular disguise stroke that ivory neck, peer (or leer) down south to that cleft to heaven. Taken in the evenings for a better night’s sleep. Shake vigorously before retiring with your good hand.
Van Hillerâ
(Co-Rebecca PhEur Equivalent to “little pod" 56Kg )
Each dose contains:
flavouring derived from orchids [Vanilla planifolia]
equivalent to 109 Pounds of 4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde.
Taking Vanilla [Van Hillerâ]
Read this leaflet carefully because it contains important information for you. This ‘medicine’ is available without prescription for you to treat mild malaise or depression and aid nocturnal emissions without a doctor’s help. Nevertheless, you still need to use Van Hillerâ carefully to get the best results. Keep this leaflet. You may need to read it again. Ask your therapist if you need more information or advice. You must consult your doctor if obsessive symptoms persist for long periods.
What is your medicine and what is it used for?
This bean is a sugarcoated capsule of fun containing 49Kg of tease-juice as the active ingredient. Also contains: lactose, starch, sodium, silica, sucrose, talc, vaginal deodorant and uric acid.
What is your medicine for?
For the relief of unsatisfying nocturnal emissions, soporific decrepitude, rheumatic and muscular pains, headaches, feverishness and disgorged penile dissatisfaction.
Before you take your medicine:
Do not take Van Hillerâ if you:
Have or ever had a stomach ulcer
Are allergic to puerile fits and rages
Are taking any other similar form(s) of illicit juvenile intoxication(s)
Caused the conception of a pregnancy in the last three months
Talk to your doctor or therapist before taking if you:
Are aged 21 or over
Have asthma, gout or suffer weak stamina
Have wallet, liver or bowel disorders
Are taking any other regular medication including fine red wine, anti-depressants, anti-coagulants, anti-ageing creams or hair re-colourants.
While Taking Your Medicine:
The love bean (fabæ) is intended for short-term use only. The lowest effective dose should be used for the shortest time necessary to relieve symptoms. Consult a doctor or therapist symptoms persist beyond six months. If you partake of too many beans contact your doctor or go to the nearest hospital immediately. Take with you your love bean so that the doctor can identify the specific genus.
Side effects:
Van Hillerâ love beans (aka neo-nymphets) are generally well tolerated when used cautiously but can have side affects:
Shrinking wallet and pallid complexion
Stomach ulcers, vomiting
Unexpected light or grey creamy discharge in or around pelvic region
Difficulty in swallowing, night time sweats, rapid heart rate
High blood pressure and aching wrist
Storing your medicine
Like all medicines keep out of the reach of impressionable children and keep out of the sight of covetous adults. Do not store above 30° C.

9
TUESDAY 22ND OCTOBER 2002. We sat alone one afternoon my sunshine girl protégé and me. We, or should I say she, wanted to chill out watching the box. She made me fetch her one of those sickly desserts that supermarkets nowadays proffer as a delicacy. I handed her a bowl as my offering to a new priestess of sin. She lapped, licked and scooped at her nectar as if it were her ambrosia of liberation from Dionysus. Side by side we sat reposed as nincompoops on a buy now- pay later leather throne, the king and his princess. My girl-queen dispatched an empty bowl dismissively and most regally from her fine-fingered hand. The metal spoon chimed its signal clatter upon the fresh-cleaned white porcelain.
She shot me her trademark laser gaze of kiddish mischievousness as her eyes scanning around for new prey. My deadly feline fancy slid her taught frame to the carpet and on all fours she slinked torpidly towards the TV. Ah, those curvaceous hind quarters a wonder to behold! I drooled. She then drew up that lithe form onto her hind legs then pounced on her unsuspecting prey. I could only sit and marvel, fixated at her athletic beauty and poise and she again shot me another self-satisfied gleam while she coveted the remote control in her claws. In that same instant the spell of mock tension was shattered as the room was suddenly filled with raucous thudding and rhythmic dins. This was what passed for music these days.
She began to twist and gyrate with the beat of the rhythm and she had a great talent for moving in the sweetest way. What she had evoked now was no less daring, inscrutable and delicious. She beckoned me to get and join her. But my protuberance would have caused me embarrassment. I declined politely did I my dancing finished my, ballroom done.
Although in my fantasy a sequenced few steps would have been titillating for some Almond Bolero. My predator came again towards me. Her black jewel gaze now locked me meek and timid as an incongruity of a man beast child. The pounding beat of the prismatically changing box dazzled out its high fidelity hollers and bangs, percussions. To me it was dissonance and white noise but to her an appetizer of foreplay. She would rise and she would fall, arching her neck and then her shoulders to the glissando. I felt the trill shake, too as I leered at her. This was major scale, major diatonic scale. The air was getting thicker with her musk and there was no room for atonalism and semibreve.
I dare not move as she smiled wickedly and performed her dance of seduction. I looked at her and her well-shaped mouth open happily and her eyes, from which shehad suddenly withdrawn all shrewd sense. She capered before me flutteringher wing like hands, leaping nimbly.
“For a lot of people, in their real lives they don't get to be a hero," she says.
She wanted to be a star, a celebrity, a famous performer.”
I said that was very seductive for someone who might not be entrusted with much responsibility in real life. I wanted to quaver at her crotchet. The exquisite moment held like an eternity but it finally reached its zenith as she came ever closer to me and framed her masterpiece within the clamps of her upper arms. Her elbows pinched tighter to her sides only to succeed in extruding the milky whiteness of her bosom into a cleavage of voyeuristic delight. Into my cupped hands she laid them as offerings. Oh, you glorious hemidemisemiquaver!
“Not as firm as Lita’s-that’s what you’re thinking…I guess everyone says that.”
The spell was broken by the prosaic discordance of her tone.
“No, no-absolutely perfect….absolute…..”
Too late. The moment had passed. I felt an implosion. My stuttering self-consciousness returned to stifle me and snuff out the blazing throb in my loins. The affrication had aspirated. I tried to find further palliative reassurances to no avail. There was a labial stop. But the ineluctable truth still remained- hers was the greater beauty. She was my newly crowned goddess of nocturnal emissions. I withdrew my hands and she stood - her face a mixture of confusion and disappointment. She gave out a sibilant consonant.
To witter on and dissipate the event still further my muse now chuntered and chattered upon the exigencies of correct cup sizes, wonderbras, large or small areolas? Is more than a handful a waste? She gave an orinasal titter. Talk about tiptop tits! Ever seen inverted nipples? What a joke, vulgar and banal commonalities that would titillate any of the witless morons she would otherwise have toyed with. I felt the spell break again. I withdrew to my hiding place of silence and despair and thought how vulgar she seemed. Vanilla was nought but a sham jewel; no rough diamond shining. She was just fake and paste. Oh, fool to shilly-shally over just another sixteen-year-old slut.
I closed the front door and ambled away from them melancholic and alone in the half-light of dusk. I clunked shut the door of the Benz turned the ignition key and stared at the light emitting diodes that flared up at me. Like the string beads of hanging fairground amusement lights in the dying day, of fairgrounds and circus delights my brain fired off sparks, neurons of sensory gating and multi-sensory integration. Those dark mechanisms of mind flicked a switch and I reminisced of my childhood when I felt the first primordial tingle of life in my loins. The moment was an iconic and cinematic joy etched into my brain. The smell of popcorn, the rush of warm summer wind and the pure sensory intoxication of seeing lithe little gypsy girls perform in harlequin painted faces, dancing in tight formation for the amusement of a voyeuristic crowd. Unfathomed then but clearer now was the auxotrophic flush shot into my veins by the rustle of their costumed torsos, those glistening thighs, ripened, firm buttocks wrapped deliciously in the finest shimmer of stockinged denier. My schoolboy rose-red cheeks flushed as
My leering gawp betrayed to my mother my fancy. My errant proclivities exposed she yanked on my hand and with a wink and a chortle chided me, ‘don’t letch, Leo!’
As I wrapped my hand around the stiffness of the gear stick and slotted into drive heart rate, blood pressure, fluid balance, and body temperature all seemed to move up a gear. My mother was so right. Leo the Letch. Leonard Odysseus pant-busting Bloom. LOB. I was. A stoking lob on for my sluttish dancing tyke.
Please don’t lobotomise erstwhile L.O.B. for such tawdry admissions. My emissions were all aimed harmlessly without malice. So where does the truer evil reside? And what is truly evil anyway? Evil, for sure is clever. It never arrives by accident. It lurks where you least expect it. It has great cunning to catch the unwary and weak. To yearn for her fragrant, soft petals and silk red buds seen only gently from afar and never to despoil. Never chance a touch, or a taste? To make do only with the sly gawps and her appetising aromatic is my exquisite and tortuous conundrum. Forwards I am drawn but brave or foolhardy to chance the poisonous sting of a vain-spawned black widow for my inquisitive idolatry? To never touch is to never truly know. An eternity seemed to pass as Job suffered. Now it is Lob who shall suffer eternally. A safer but lesser existence found in grey frustrated countenance never feeding the roots of self-aggrandisement. The tantalising decision is whether to take the enduring pain and to suffer that forsaken heart or to risk being ensnared and devoured alive.


10
WEDNESDAY 30TH OCTOBER 2002.Autumn, with chills and mists and darkening skies creates the condition for nostalgia in me. When the 80’s came along I never fitted that new age romantic glib superficiality. Like that dissolute clique of antiestablishment art students I cared little for commercial music, so I let it drift by me. I was too engrossed in finishing my dissertation for my college degree. I was always solitary but especially so back then. You needed to be if you were going to dredge up something deep and meaningful to write.
I try to catch myself before it overtakes me but I go each time back through the Valium of nostalgia. I still have the old cassette-battered and worn but still playable-filled with magic and angst. It’s the same reason I watch re-runs of Star Trek- much more satisfying to be nostalgic about events set in a fabulous future I once dreamed was possible. This afternoon I’ve browsed Joyce and watched an old black and white movie. I don’t know why. I am jolted from my musings by a soft pat on my shoulder. I turn and meet her eyes wistfully.
“What’s that, Leo, you have something new for me today?” She asked in her usual teasing tones.
“Oh, just stuff from back in the day-as you might say-did you get your assignment task sorted?”
“We’re doing etymology - we have to look at our names and find where they came from-sounds really boring. I don’t want to do a lot of heavy stuff on my family - I hate them- why should I write about people who have been so cruel!”
“Well, how about doing a play on van Hiller-everyone seems to call you vanilla, don’t they? Look into that.”
“Great-that’s brilliant, Leo-I will write something about vanilla and you can help me!” A teasing stroke to my chin she makes and saunters off to her room.
“I’m just gonna get out of these things-be back in a bit.”
She got from me what she needed. I acquiesced and flirted back. ‘Vanilla’ the aphrodisiac brought back by the conquistadors was the erotic duo when teamed with chocolate. Physicians and alchemists recommended vanilla to be drunk as a tincture or infusion in order to ensure male potency. There’s something about the scent of vanilla that’s at once sexy and erotic, sweet and innocent. It’s an ingredient in sultry, exotic, and mysterious Oriental fragrances, romantic floral bouquets, sophisticated and confident modern perfumes and even in sensual, relaxing, and calming scents. “That’s great, Leo-that’s so me-thanks, sweetie! I was thinking of doing my first name, too, but this is plenty!”

11
FRIDAY 8TH NOVEMBER 2002. Was it Seasonal Affective Disorder? My moods were less bright as the daylight diminished week by week. Over chicken chasseur the previous evening I had told my wife my fears.
“You get me in here to act like I’m this season’s perfect idea of a role model. Here I am: the teacher! It implies that an adult's influence on a child is primarily occupational! You almost expect this kid to assimilate and given time metamorphose into a teacher, herself. You did it with Lita, too, and look how that turned out! It’s laughable, Carla!”
I went on to force home my point.
“What if she were a black kid and…and that all a black child needs is to see a black doctor, and then this child will think, "Oh, I can become a doctor too." I have a good black friend who is a doctor, but he didn't become a doctor because he saw other black men who were doctors. He became a doctor because his mother cleaned office buildings at night, and because she loved her children. She grew bowlegged from cleaning office buildings at night, and in the process she taught him something about courage and bravery and dedication to others. I became a teacher not because my father was one — my paddy father dug ditches for a living. I’m from a long line of feckless Dublin gadabouts. I became a teacher because the Irish nuns who educated me taught me something about bravery with their willingness to give so much to me!”
That was what I battled in my wife - the American in her. If it can be packaged and presented like beans then it’s beans.
Now this crisp autumn afternoon Rebecca came home from school and greeted me excitedly. I was in the front drive washing the car under a rare bright blue sky. She had wonderful news for me. There had been a careers talk at school and her counsellors recommended her for a college childcare course. She confessed to an ambition to work with children. I got her tightest of hugs.
I fought hard not to rise to that side of her. She was flirtier when we were alone. She would not dare let cranky Carla see her that way. No, my ‘Maniac Cello Roll’ would throw a fit if she saw this.
Becky skipped carefree toward the house. I threw down the wet sponge and watched just marvelling at her air of self-assuredness. She always seemed to be living in the moment. A fascinating creature - not like any woman I’d known.
She swivelled back momentarily on her finely curved hips and called to me.
“Oh, Leo….I’ve got you a little something…..come see when you get a minute.”
Her deep brown eyes, shiny dark hair and tanned skin gave the impression she had gypsy blood in her. But above all it was her piercing eyes that I noticed most. They always seemed to follow me around the room when we were alone. I always felt self-conscious in her presence. I felt somewhat foolish and inadequate. I had taught hundreds of teenage girls but none like this. Her presence seemed to be dissipating the languid and spiritless torpor that had pervaded my mind for so many months. She had an aura like that of a super model or a much older and enlightened character. Her smile energized me and I knew she liked it when I smiled at her. I went inside and saw she had gone to her room. I went upstairs and knocked at her door.
“Come in, honey. Look what I got you.”
She took a plastic bag form her rucksack and passed me something. “You’ve been ever so kind, Leo-helping to broaden my mind. I like having the help of a mature and clever man…better than what they give us at school…..you make things look different.” She coyly smiles and teases me further. Re: variable clench.
“You are wicked, Leo. That was a naughty twist you put on Alice in wonderland-saying Lewis Carroll was drug dealer-that’s a scream! I told Robert what you said about Alice and the white rabbit-he nearly wet himself!”
She casually stroked my forearm and a tingle shot through my veins. Hi clever barnacle! I could tell she liked ‘Pills and Ale’ this one. We had stumbled on the archetypal ‘PA plied hoe’ right there. More anagrams.
I smiled then opened the bag she gave me.
“This is my thank you, Leo, for all you’re doing for me-you’re a darling.”
“Ah, thank you, Bex, a book- a paperback!” I kissed her cheek while the opportunity still presented itself.
I studied the offering brought before me. It was the controversial Vladimir Nabokov novel. I could see why this nymphet could so easily trick her way into bars and nightclubs and have men flocking. Cunning. She had a self-assuredness you could not fail to be impressed by such unquestionable sexuality. I kissed her once more, but delicately and sweetly on that fine alabaster cheek pale, hoped I. Did she rise to my superfluity? This was flirtation on a knife-edge and the blade just became perceptibly sharper. She was a mesmeriser of anyone who risked staying in her company long enough.
The pages of the volume fell open and a random passage caught my eye. To my surprise I found her dressed. She was sitting on the edge of the bed in slacks and a T-shirt, and was looking at me as if she could not quite place me. The frank soft shape of her small breasts was brought out rather than blurred by the limpness of her thin shirt, and this frankness irritated me. She had not washed; yet her mouth was freshly though smudgily painted, and her broad teeth glistened like wine-tinged ivory, or pinkish poker chips. And there she sat, hands clasped in her lap, and dreamily brimmed with a diabolical glow that had no relation to me whatsoever.’
I pondered my own chameleon-was she for real? Was she calcite or gypsum? With such flattering wiles she had won over an American alliance.
Oh beautiful, for patriot's dream
That sees, beyond the years,
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
For the next several days I was back into the humdrum repetitive glumness of Bishop Dupré’s contra-aromatics. What with the raging seasonal flu bug going round, Mr Oaks eloping with Mrs Woods (leaving the Year Nine and Ten without a French teacher) and poor Mr Woods, Head of Religious Studies sans wife warped out of shape and on suicide watch under Bedlam’s trick cyclists (a case of not being able to see the wood for the trees), it was all hands on deck on the supply front. I thus drew the short straw and sat out 24 periods of verb conjugation worksheets in a language I had no particular use for.
Idling by batting off the odd query from the class swot and a snotty nosed lummox who seemed to need to need more toilet breaks than Old Father Time robbed of his colostomy bag, I managed to daydream myself a plentiful and satisfying cornucopia of horn-giving fancies about my little fragrant bud. There was little else for me in this prison cell. I tormented myself about the possibilities. Shall it be tumescence, or detumescence? Perhaps I should send my wife away on some time consuming trivial errand then ravage my sweet over the dining table? No, too course and vulgar. Perhaps, I should have my pretty boss-eyed temptress nip up high into the loft with those old curtains my wife wanted storing. That’s more up my street and less invasive, for sure. Have the chugger’s prime view up the little darling’s school skirt as she totters and sways as I carelessly hold the ladder, her head hooked into the dark recess while I examine to my fullest contents the divine detail of the folds of her warm panties, just to imagine the tang, oh, to taste! Aerial verb clench. Then sniffing the moist, odorous folds between thigh and pubis. Circle abler haven. Certainly the unknowing aspect of my voyeur’s charter burdens me with less angst. The Crystallizatio route would be more apposite given my sworn obligations under the exigencies of loco parentis. I can’t go compromising my professionalism, no fingers! Oh no! Look, don’t touch, Leo.
Perhaps for another of my erotic delights I could have her dance to the banal beat of those awful music videos where my greatest delight was how she became whirling dervish spinning like a top to get a heady buzz and hypnotically lose all sensation. She liked any kind of ‘buzz’ but seeing her whirl in her school skirt, inappropriately immodest was all the better for my peeker’s palette. I cannot describe how much more divinely erotic it is to spy a fine pair of thighs, flawless ivory calves and well defined white ankles while seeing my pretty muse in glorious motion. My soul grows so alive when she perambulates before me as if the lax, lifelessness of her sedentary norm and indolent teenage apathy was a distant memory. I lose count of the times I have tried to have her rise from her reclining slumber on the couch transfixed by yet another duff afternoon kiddies show on the goggle box.
“Get some exercise, young lady! You don’t want to get fat!”Play to her vanities and let her amuse herself while I satisfy myself. I would implore, but she craved a proper audience and a more tempting motivation than my mere cajoling. I gave the old flannel about dance combining the fundamental components of human nature: the mind (as knowledge and thought), the heart (through the expression of feelings, poetry and music), and the body (by activating life, by dancing).
It was plausible nonsense but she would have none of it. I guess the twinkle in my eyes each time I said it finally betrayed my true ulterior motive as she got to know me better and better. But if I sweetened the trick with a promise of a trip to the corner store for treats then I would more than likely finally have my veritable way.
Of course, I also took a petite partie of sadistic pleasure in seeing the little mare go through her paces. Fixated by those juicy jiggling jugs as I clap and applaud my one trick pony. I guess the manufacturers of these kind of ‘active’ video games should be commended for judging by the brow beads of sweat, flushed faces and panting lungs the step in time on the pad to keep with the rhythm of a song that often goes faster than I could manage on a three mile street run. Yes, that would be most satisfying to me. It’s a control thing. I horselaughed.
Some people are wise after the event. At the time I never much thought about how other people saw all of this. The neighbours, my family, even my own children. I justified myself more and more insisting I was merely enjoying helping someone expand their mind and helping them get their life back on the rails. It made me feel satisfied. I thought it placated the doubters.
Developing and Processing Vanilla
Step 1: Harvest - preferably harvest the bean while she is still green and immature. Remember: at this stage she is odourless
Step 2: Killing - Take out the unwanted roughness to prevent it from growing further once you have harvested. The method of killing the rough tissue varies, but may be through: (1) sun baking (2) scolding (3) scratching (5) or freezing.
Step 3: Sweating - Keep your bean for 7 to 10 days under humidity and high temperatures- summer heat haze conditions, maintain the bean safely in a secure setting once you get her on the boil. This enhances the chemistry for that important final vanilla taste.
Step 4: Drying - To prevent decay and to keep the aroma of her pods, lay your bean out in the sun during the mornings and then secure her again in the afternoons. Ideally, the white bean should reach 25-30% of pure fleshiness when it has completed the curing process for its fullest aromatic qualities.
Step 5: Grading - When fully cured the vanilla is sorted-she has met the highest standards of quality and grade.
Uses - You may indulge three obvious uses for your tasty vanilla bean: (1) keep her in purity and admire (2) grind her wet sweetness with other ingredients or (3) imbibe liberal alcoholic solution.
One day while I was at the house on my own after the gaggle of girlies had taken off on an impromptu grocery expedition I sat down at the computer to check my email. Nothing. Boredom or was it snooping curiosity led me to a wicked scheme. I rekindled an appetizing thought from the previous day. I replayed in my depraved mind how my thick hand had stroked the ivory curved back of her neck. That alabaster-ivory smooth skin gave me an impious ache. The thin blouse hanging off her just needed a light tug to free those heavy lumps of pleasure. And she knew I wanted that. I stroked her shoulders up and down as she had sat obediently at this desk as I now sat. Attentive to both her keyboard and her master. I craved that tang of hers once more. I checked out the window to see the coast was clear and then stole into her bedroom. To her closet I plunged where I found a heap of discarded, crumpled items of clothing. I dived down for my treasures and rescued some pink and turquoise skimpies and a bra. There was a wondrous faintly acrid odour in the seam. Pure heaven. A turbulent chaos welled up within me but before I could have my trophy I had to drop those things and swiftly regain my composure. The front door had sounded. A call came from the bottom of the stairs. I hurriedly made my retreat thankfully undetected.
Pain, that was not yet the pain of love, fretted my heart. My pretty muse, I would catch you in a quiet moment and watch you reading, oblivious to me, or so it seemed. I saw you neatly and with stroking palps your fingers caress the smooth skin of your face and arms. But over the weeks that passed I began to suspect this object of my adoration was a most accomplished actress. As comes the sting - I will turn your face to alabaster. Then you'll find your servant is your master. At Cedar Drive the interloper princess usurped her rivals and became the new queen on centre stage. She was a good actor. Rebecca could act out any role to a tee. She played gently to my own vanities and urged me on in any reminiscences about my student days. She indulged us all - patiently and stealthily laying her trap. Similarly, she would delicately patronise a credulous Carla and be equally effusive about her trashy romantic potboilers that she so often pored over day after day. Clearly a dose of the ‘Ill Local Romance’ I abhorred.
Inevitably, I began to baulk at the chatter of the nosey neighbours. Cookie had heard some gossip but she didn’t repeat it to me. These people couldn’t grasp the fundamental importance of what we were doing here.
I deigned to indulge the little princess during an unseasonably fine half-term week. The little darling had been no trouble at all apart from one spat with Kooky over some confusion or other. So I agree to take her and a couple of her tag alongs to the pier on the Wednesday of the holiday week, as the arcades were all open especially to fleece the pockets of ye who entered. I lost count of the times I had been the unpaid taxi service to her my Chain cab reveller. I collected the entourage from South Haven and headed down over the bascule bridge into town. The place to be seen when you are a teen is the pier. Like clucking hens they filled the car with a fug smoke mix and hyena howls. Clever cab inhaler. I did tell my boisterous car full of giggling girlies I would drop them off at the esplanade, as the traffic was typical half-term hell and meet them outside the burger bar after lunch. The car reeked of stale cigarette smoke from a very low class outfit. I was going to peruse the new bookstore in the town centre but a wicked idea slipped into my mind.
“Do they have those dance pad games in the arcade?” I asked innocently.
“You mean like Annabel had at Carla’s that weekend? Yeah, sure. Why?”
“Oh…no reason…just wondered….er…maybe I should have Annabel come down here and show you all how to really dance!” My taunts got the rise I hope for.
“Yeah, right…if you want we’ll show you! Lucy’s got that game and last time I was at hers we got bonus points when we double-teamed…we could be professionals if we wanted!”
Double-teamed sounded good, the mind boggled. I didn’t need to give them any more encouragement and they insisted I come in and see their moves. The requisite parking spot in the pay and display was quickly found and off we went.
The whirring, tortuous cacophony of sounds, of shrieking kids, clanking machines, coins clattering, sirens, and beneath it all the thud, thud, thud of the amplified beat of that infernal music. But not all my senses were suffering. My patience was soon rewarded by a performance that will be engraved and gold-plated into my subconscious as one of my most enduring erotic memories.
It was on this otherwise inauspicious and humdrum day that I got my money shot. My vision of her gyrating shuffle-so lithe and elastic, snake-like raised my blood like nothing had done so effectively before or since replays over an over in my mind. It was so sly and the secretive pleasure of my voyeurism just then, so wickedly secret, illicit and undiscovered coupled with that vision, those sounds and that smell that elevated it all the zenith of all joys. This vulgar arcade with its boisterous, noisy crowds, the whirring and buzzing sights and sounds you only get along the seafront synaptically and inexplicably fused with the first erotic stirrings of my childhood days Cerebella van Rich. Of when my mother took me to that fairground/circus and saw those gypsy girls tease me to that blindingly wonderful inaugural tumescence.
Their inane smiles and bobbing heads they set weaving and twisting and mechanistically mannequin almost doll-like but so real. Lucy took from her bag her new camera phone. ‘Like A Virgin’ belted out in high-hot amps through the electrically charged air and they whooped it up.
“Call, Tommy, Becky!” shrieked Lascivious Lucy, “Get the skaters down! Tommy and his crew can show us their lipslides and noseslides! Ha, ha! Like a virgin! Whooooh, touched for the very first time, like a virgin….beat next to mine….”
They all stage-posed freakishly and squealed hysterically at the comic little pixelated photo snaps of their horseplay. This was she in her sublime element cavorting inanely with her friends to the pitter-patter of the step the step video game pad. The slender white waist, bare midriff exposed teasingly tight emphasised by her black figure hugging, super-fine merino wool sweater, those stretch black spandex pants accentuating a peach rear end so luscious and perfect while she tapped gazelle-like in Lita’s high-heeled calf length boots (a whole outfit so naughtily pilfered).
I asked myself the question. She may be 'like' a virgin, but one she is most certainly not. Here the horse bolted long ago and all that from the horse's mouth. Does she want to feel brand new and fresh again? I cast my eye about this rabble-I doubt there were any real virgins here if truth were told.
I pictured my vanilla spice in some live stage performance dressed as Madonna where she rolled around on the stage in a lacy wedding dress with me as her cameraman being naughty with my choice of camera angles in relation to said dress. It was my never-to-be-forgotten memory of that delectable anticipation of that first 'event.'
How delicious to tease myself and maybe hold off just a little longer. And oh how I bet those Skaterboys fantasise about Dancepadgirls and all such questions of a girl’s past sexual history annihilated as soon as the boy gets his mits on her bits. Her swaying nubile limbs give me such an indescribable itch. No Willy grinds here. The ‘boyz’ just don’t stand a chance!
For the moment I shall content myself with pleasures merely visual and olfactory! Watching is not the same as touching I do assure you. I am not so destined for the same kind of hell that my compatriot, a certain Mr Johns, is doomed to face. I shall be considering the disposition of our pitiful Mr J at greater depth when he deigns to get back in touch with me. I understand he has taken a one term sabbatical to jet off to Thailand to research a book about the life of a faded pop star that lost a glittering career over some indiscretions. I feel it’s a subterfuge to vent his carnal wants - more of ‘men like to roam so leave the women at home.’ His poor wife.
I just adored seeing my sweet little ‘Never Breach Lilac’ trying to follow so carefully that intricate sequence of steps, limbs pulsating faster and faster in ever more complex routines. She did for me that fine obedient pony trot for her master’s pleasure whenever I had the appropriate bribe to offer. Sometimes she would even be the initiator of our clandestine reverie. With her ever-present cigarette addiction and her borasic disposition, it was never more than a few days before our cancer hill beaver was foraging around me for a tobacco donation.
This was our special divine ritual dance of love. I became rigidly hyperaesthetic for my ultimate performing dancer. Her silly sidekicks didn’t have her gait and her confident air put her above their giggling feyness. It was her self-assured special quality, her unique mastery of gyrating seduction that made the others pale. This was nature’s phenomenon of how the female of the species lures in her male to spawn. Darwin had a theory for it. A deadly spiderish weave is what she spun around me. Insistent, petulant Lucy got her wish and the skaters were summoned. Rebecca gave me a look that spoke volumes. I was out of place. A vast hollowness overcame me. I visibly whitened as I caught sight of myself in one of those panoramic distorting mirrors affixed to the walls of that garish palace. God I looked freakishly decrepit and disgustingly lecherous. I quickly sought my escape.
I think it was about late November and the sharpening of the wind began putting its clawing lips to the house to blow a haunting tune through these walls. Like the changes of the seasons imperceptible but closing in upon us was our fate. Rock by slimy rock was built a new alliance between Karibdis and van Hiller: algae and fungus growing in symbiotic association. Running excitedly like maidens of the weekend nights caterwauling on the tiles while their toms came purring after them each and every Friday and Saturday. The minxes hung out together – grew closer and closer and Cilla had less time for Carla.
Kooky and Bex never had time for each other. More often than not Cookie felt sidelined by Cilla. My wife suggested us all going out together but there was something or other that Cilla wanted Becky to do alone with her.
During one of her home tutoring sessions Rebecca caught me by surprise. She took both my hands and asked me to do her a big, big favour. Would I please, please, please talk Carla into letting her have the weekends at Cilla’s. I was between a rock and a hard place. I couldn’t say no to her. She had got me round her little finger. Anyway, our long-term game plan was to help Becky into fresh new waters. What could I say?
Each week more and more Becky kept asking to stay overnight at the Karaoke Queen’s house. When Cookie voiced her concerns at the longer and longer absences Cilla’s riposte would typically be, ‘What’s there to worry about? It’s doing us all good, isn’t it? You and Leo go do your thing together and Bex won’t be under your feet.’ She could be so patronising and mischievous, that woman. I suspected her intentions weren’t only on what was best for other people. She knew I also met my lady friend on the weekends and I am sure she wanted to stifle my own fun in her own twisted version of jealousy.
But on the plus side it meant I didn’t always have to spend every day at Thirteen Cedar Drive. On one or two occasions on a weekend Becky would pop into my place when I had my kids over. She liked kids. Lee and Annabel really appreciated her enthusiasm for those awful video games kids love to play these days. They would be on them all day if I let them. It was odd having Becky at my place and even odder with no Carla around.
But one thing was always in the back of my mind. More and more after our marital separation and Lita’s return to New York I sensed my neighbour’s cold stare on my back whenever I left the house. I always sensed Cilla’s furtive presence behind those tacky net curtains and always the insincere ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’’ to my face in the street. Always acting one way and thinking another is how I reckoned her to be. She always wore that heavy make up and her inane toothy grin but especially so after she saw me bringing a woman in for the night. I guess there will always be rumours and tittle tattle. I wondered, did Cilla ever mention to Becky about my lady friends? They say never get too friendly with the Joneses next door - they can be relied upon to stab you in the back.
They should understand. Everyone should understand, that I am no deviant. The attractive characteristics of a beloved woman or man, from the point of view of sexual selection, are a complex but harmonious whole leading up to the normal desire for the complete possession of the person who displays them. This is merely a natural and necessary process. Although some closed-minded puritans will insist we should worry about a symbol that has parasitically rooted itself on the fruitful site of sexual emotion and absorbed to itself the energy that normally goes into the channels of healthy human love having for its final end the procreation of the species, what I feel is a higher level of love. It is pure adoration. Anyway. No harm has been done and only good has been manifested upon a child who would otherwise be in the gutter homeless and with no hope of a decent life ahead.
Rebecca had seemed to sort her act out. She may have taken Lita’s departure back to New York hard, at first, or so we had thought. We made a thousand excuses for her until the penny finally dropped. She was a soul that was deeply twisted and needed unravelling and my wife and others as well as I, had tried our best. I had stuck my neck out and risked my own reputation to aid her, I had even written her a glowing reference to get her a place in the local college.
The spectre of her murky past had not quite yet been buried, though. She may have swapped most of the revealing blouses for sensible sweaters, her suspected liaisons with the local drug dealers and pimps may have been all vicious rumours spread by her enemies but something was about to break to raise again our suspicions about her once more. It was the cold month of November 2002 when I started getting Emails that warned me of impending trouble.
The Internet has always been a useful tool for me in my lesson preparations, less salubriously for finding my lady friends. The whirring grey box with the flashing lights was so versatile. One dull, grey day around teatime I was bored and at Carla’s and went online for a bit to check my mail. My wife was making a pot of tea so I was free for a bit. I always had a tingle of expectation whenever I logged on. I would normally anticipate on receiving three or four of them a day from prospective female acquaintances. I hadn’t counted on getting many of any great consequence. This was my frivolous self-indulgence, a gentle bit of ‘sport.’ Then I found in amongst a dozen or so Hentai messages in my mailbox another Email from Claire.
Claire I had assumed had made some kind of passable friendship with Rebecca, certainly for Lita’s sake, I know. But it never struck me that Lita’s older Amazonian, streetwise and noble, would be the as the type to ‘grass up’ or a whistle blow on any of her peers. But this missive clearly dispelled any doubts about the strength cordiality between Boylan and van Hiller. The latest read:
‘Leo, hope ur ok. Was wondering when Lita was coming back for her hols? Just have to tell something u shud know-I heard Becky is saying to her mates u make her have sex. Nasty. Ask Carlton-he told me she reckons u give her a fiver for a blowjob? Watch that bitch. Thought Carla was gonna get rid of her? I got a new tattoo last week- butterfly on my shoulder (pic attached- u like? ; )
Take care.
Claire ‘
I looked up from the computer screen and out from my bedroom window. I saw the last of autumn red leaves falling from my garden tree. Blowjobs for Christ’s sake? I needed time to take this all in. Me making her have sex for money? I took deep breaths. I felt a tightening in my chest with uncomfortable warmth. I suddenly felt the beads of sweat running down my back. What kinds of things are being said now? What had I missed? Is Cilla at the root of it? And what had really happened to make Lita want to go away? I never really questioned that and maybe I should have. I really felt uneasy now. I started to think and fret over what might have been going on since Rebecca’s arrival eight months ago. I looked up at the calendar pinned above me on the wall. I had ringed the important dates. Yes - it was last April I had noted when Kooky took in this girl. It was now late November. Incredible, was it really only eight months? How the passage of time can appear to fluctuate randomly. Events flashed by when times were good; then slowed to a lull in the bad days. I needed to collect my thoughts and reflect back on what was what. I considered whom I could most trust. Can I really believe something had been going on behind my back? If so I was in a way glad it was Claire who tipped me off about those rumours. She was discreet. I rummaged through the drawers of my desk to find the Polaroid snapshots they took back then. I found a snap of them arm in arm wearing matching shiny ‘Yankees’ blue jackets. Claire always looked and acted more mature than the others. Being a year or two older than Lita didn’t seem to matter. I remember when Lita first brought her to the house with those tattooed arms that irked me. Thank god Lita’s mother never gave into that repulsive fad and let her have her skin inked. Poor Claire just seemed to lack any feminine grace whatsoever being a tad too butch in those tatty size 12 trainers. But I was struck by her well-spoken manner that showed a sensitivity that belied her strong physical presence. Lita and Claire first crossed paths when hanging with the skater crowd from Bishop Thomas Dupré High School. More and more hanging with the skaters was what gave her comfort and sense of belonging. She had a board of her own but never really got the hang of it. She seemed content to watch the baggy-trousered be spotted, besotted youths show off their ollies, aerials and liptricks while keeping those silly plywood boards perilously cemented to their feet.
If the two of them weren’t about the streets in an evening they were in my study filling my computer hard drive downloading that godawful misogynistic urban hip-hop. They would stomp in through the front door, discard their shabby shoes tear up the stairs squawking their street-speak.
Claire: ‘Oh my lord, Jess is being a bitch and a half right now’
Lita: ‘Andy B’s mate with the shaved eyebrow asked me last night to give him a bill clinton.Claire: ‘No, Man that’s gross - did you see da D O double G in concert last night? Shiznit was off da hook!’ Did you see that movie after, it was a bit gay wasn't it?’
Lita: Yo-Wasup my d o double g??’
Why do they speak like that? Why the slang, the street code so undecipherable? It annoyed the hell out of me. It’s all such an affectation. In all the years I have been a teacher no kid has ever spoken to me that way. It’s not as if they can’t use proper English. It all seems borne out of some rebellious need to be different from adults. Her crowd all shared that grotesque dress sense and love of ‘gangsta’ rap music as they tried to stand out from Emos, Goths and other weird kid clans. People either warmed to Lita instantly or regarded her as alien and strange. Just like her mother. So what was it that could possibly have driven Lita back to New York? Kooky wasn’t telling. Lita got the bullying dose served up at school in North Haven and ineffectual teachers exacerbated the malaise. Claire protected her from the worst cruelties of the teenage gangs.
Claire knew more than she let on. Porno Polaroids left in the bedside drawers. Lita the snoop fessed up to it. We always clashed.
Oh, Jesus! Devil’s Email in my mailbox. I clicked off Claire’s mail and put it onto ‘save.’ I then opened the mail from my charming first wife.
More depressing reading:
‘Dear Leo,
It seems you are apparently able to afford to have several homes and luxury cars with your new wife. Unfortunately, under the circumstances I will have to notify the Child Support Agency if you do not increase your payments. I cannot believe that the pittance you pay for your children fairly reflects your true income. I trust you will address this anomaly without recourse to further action.
Yours.
Molly’
Mercedes? Red rag to a bull or as Lita would say,’ chick magnet’. I was going to be under investigation by the Child Support Agency. She probably knew someone in there. Especially with her being a police officer in the ‘victim support unit.’ I picked Rebecca up from school. I’d done it a few times and always she never wanted Kooky coming with me, either. I suppose one day the penny finally dropped and I realised: school gate audience.
Again I sat alone at my computer dreading what I was in for. Emailed back Claire. No leaves at all on that tree today. I sipped my warming coffee. Claire had discovered that Rebecca had been talking to anyone and everyone about every aspect of our lives. She had told Carlton and Harriet that I was very insecure and was controlled by my wife. Internet man was ‘her trophy husband from England.’ Was this really the workings of my fickle vanilla pod?
‘…tall, dark, older man with a flash car, a schoolteacher, always asking her to run off with him. But she wasn’t ready to settle down yet.’
But the worst part was the last two sentences,
‘Carla knows you and Bex are having a thing. To stop you running away together B told R she has to have sex with you if she wants to stay. If R keeps you happy then B will pay for everything to stay as it is.
Sorry, Leo. Claire.’
I spluttered and almost choked on the coffee. I went into a sudden spasm of coughing. I just could not catch my breath. I reached down for the small bottle of brandy I had tucked behind the armchair. Empty. I needed an antidote for the thumping pain in my head.
I rummaged through the drinks cabinet for another bottle and found a drop of whisky and a couple of wallets of old photos, mostly wedding day snapshots. I sank back into the armchair and shuffled through them. That was quite something. It was madness really: first day of January 1998 in the old preacher’s log cabin. It was kind of symbolic: Catskill Mountains. Preacher’s wife her guitar hymns. The whisky cut at my dry throat. I didn’t much care.

12
TUESDAY 26TH NOVEMBER 2002. With my cue slung under my arm I waited for my tutelage to take her shot. Her blouse bag became weighted by her ripe fruit, as was their wont on such occasions, ‘Oh die apple!’ The pub was near empty so I dared to let slip my guard.
“Don’t distract me, Bex, I’m getting an eyeful again!”
She tossed her hair and laughed. All Gin Rival. A stranger entered and began scanning the bar room, and he noticed her this time as she spread herself across the pool table. He pricked up when he saw what I saw. Vanilla girl smiled. That tight pencil skirt made her derriere look ripe plump soft. I rankled at her as she gave him the slightest coy gaze then casually looked away. Thwack the balls were struck mercilessly hard. Carefully turning her profile, she sauntered slowly across the bar back to her stool then crossed her legs the way she and her girlfriends had practiced in school. That ought to do it, was written on her face.
‘Alright, Bex, you found your sugar daddy?’ sneered the discordant little tyke who appeared suddenly from the shadows. ‘Banal Chic Reveler.’ In anger I jarred the stick hard into my toe, rose up, puffed out my chest and slung the cue onto the green baize. ‘What an idle ape hop I am!’ A retreat was sounded and the sad old man dragged his tart into the cold, wet night.
This is my arrogance. She wasn’t just a girl. She was a devious, calculating and street-smart psychopath. Evil carnal breech. I was the real victim. I gullibly acted my part as the knight in shining armour to a pretty young damsel in distress. It didn’t fit. Delusional. Are all middle-aged men really so sad?
You see, the way I see it, men don't plan on turning unpredictable. It happens when they look in the mirror and see themselves as old men. Perhaps, up to this point, we all believe we are as fit, handsome and vital as 25-year-old boys. I’m sure a lot of men just need their space. I’m not unique like that. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing. Latin men do with more style. Sad Anglos are gawks who too clumsily try to hide their peccadilloes. My increasingly crimped Carla should take it upon herself to get some willing toy boy to give her what she needed to assuage her ‘Lone Lilac Clamor.’ Egalitarian satisfaction all round then.
All artists need their muse. With her something struck a chord. Was she really some dysfunctional misfit teenager?
”You’re so good to me, Leo. I never had an older man help me like this, ever.”
She looked up to me, she said. She told everyone. I believed I could save her. But poor Kooky believed in her most at the start. Florence had turned. No more Nightingale.
I’d love to know the real reason why Lita back to New York. Lita was always the impressionable classmate. Rebecca must have also been a fish out of water. They are cunning. Victims tend to gravitate to each other.
I wrapped both my hands around my empty glass in contemplation of the clock on the mantelpiece where some pamphlets were half tucked back. ‘Bullying: cause and effect.’
Like I told Carla it was for best to get Lita away from that awful school. It was my fault we put her there. I should have known it was not the right place for her. Victims tend to bury the problem deeper within them. Maybe she hankered after her northern rainforests of upstate New York where she could hide, recover and find herself again.
The person you least expect to be a bully can often be the worst and most devious of them all. I got up and stumbled to the kitchen and rifled the cupboards. Happily I came upon a half bottle of Shiraz. Another tincture required.
My wife was starting to get weary of the ‘Becky and Leo Show.’ Tired of us doing the shopping together, exasperated at the needless car cruising with her through town; deep base thumping sounds from speakers. Where was my wife in all this? She was cast down to get chauffeured everywhere by a gormless sugar daddy. Now I was jarred from my complacency by the realisation I was amidst character assassinations and not assignations.

13
THURSDAY 28TH NOVEMBER 2002. CALYPSO COTTAGE was to be my destiny this fine, merry day. A fresh, bright new morning reset the mood. I had that customary weekly morning appointment to keep (so much of that depending on the ails and vagaries of the teaching staff of our local pedant pens). I’d quickly prepped some English Lit lessons for a three-day stint at St Oswald’s later that week. The classics and a comprehension test for the lower set. A Mister Harvey on leave for personal reasons. Was he a Lee? Then there was to be scheduled the Thursday afternoon on English cover for the word play crossword queen, the denuded Mrs Gaana; she of the bovine and last year’s charity shop look (endomorphic chic). Never one to leave a fretting substitute in the lurch she was always well-provisioned with her facsimile sets of those interminable one-off, catch all, off the peg short, sharp one hour, stretch-them-if you-can mental gymnastics work outs of the acrostics and anagrams variety. Being that she was more of the genre who saw copious callisthenics of the mind far and away an adequate if not complete requisite for any child and stuff and damn to stretching of limb and sinew, lung and lethargy.
For one thing I was now hail and hearty. For two, things didn’t seem anything like as gloomy as they had the night before. Angela Green was my therapist. Green by philosophy and name but not green in any sense she lacked experience. She had the antidote to Circe’s intoxications of the mind. No pigs swilling soporifically in amnesia. Angela had one of those private rural practices that amounted to her essentially working out of her converted drawing room in a quaint country cottage out in the middle of nowhere.
“So, Leo, tell me about what’s been happening lately with your wife.”
“No change. Still drifting like castaways from a shipwreck. It’s hard to love a woman who spends so much time wallowing in self-pity. I sometimes wonder what my function is in her life. I am there for many things, I suppose. Not least the Article VI matter in the Division of Human Rights”
“You mean her litigation in New York?”
“Seven years now-still it goes on-I have my uses, I guess. I always had a knack for comprehension-understand and interpreting the law is no different from analysing a text in English with Year Elevens.”
“Your wife is quite a character-strong-minded and determined.”
“Oh yes-all her family do well in diverse fields with their own unique talents. She’s no different. One brother’s a laser surgeon, another a self-made millionaire in the auto body repair business-a sister who’s a first rate loony but every family has a black sheep.”
“Are you with her waiting for a big legal payout, do you think?”
“I don’t know what I’m after, to be honest, I’ve steered an erratic course in my love life and often survived disasters by the skin of my teeth. It’s all in the lap of the gods. My wife’s told me so often, ‘Leo you got the book smarts but you never learnt how to read people’ so I guess I feel safer with a wife who is a caring companion more than a lover.”

14
WEDNESDAY 4TH DECEMBER 2002.
When my General Practitioner first recommended Mrs Green to me I’d never heard of the expression, ‘Alternative psychotherapy.’ I was sceptical before I met her. Not now. Angela never approved of my experiments with dosages, whether it was Prozac or a medium-bodied Zinfandel nicely rounded with dark cherry flavours and a hint of spice. She reminded me of my mother in her appearance: she had that same puffed up hairdo - a kind of softer Maggie Thatcher look without the enlarged male adenoids. I showed up one day with a god-awful hangover. I’d always confess cryptically, “Bad dream last night-head got hit with a beer bottle.” I just got that omniscient slow nodding exaggerated smile she wore so well.
It never felt like paid for therapy. Well, not paid by me, that is. They could often be more like social chats. Calypso Cottage, named incongruously, it seemed to me, was such a typically quaint 16th century traditional English timber frame cottage. It even had many original features including a bread oven in the fireplace. She kept the character of the place so well with a wood burner and comfortable plump sofas to enhance the relaxed setting. I was at ease with her concise and judicious turns of phrase. I imagined she was from the era of jolly hockey sticks, neat pleated skirts, tuck shops and that ever so English starchy decorum but she had added a mellowing dash of new age wisdom and enlightenment. The hard knocks of life had softened her into your friendliest great aunt. Once, I am sure, she was a great beauty back in her day. She certainly kept her figure in good shape.
No one needed to tell her about the proper use of the subjunctive mood in English. She would often prefix a sentence with a ‘Be that as it may’ and for good measure throw in a few ‘Come what mays.’ She told me I should heed more of the subliminal messages we all give off. She said it was a useful tool employed by recruitment consultants for job interviewees. How useful for Personal and Social Education: Year Eleven next Tuesday.
It sounded impressive – I wanted to know more, I told her. She enlightened me. The subliminal is below the liminal (the smallest detectable sensation). There is a widespread belief, not strongly supported by empirical research, that without being aware of its presence or content, a person's behaviour can be significantly affected by subliminal messages. Thus, it is believed that one can influence behaviour by surreptitiously appealing to the subconscious mind with words and images.
“Oh, like Derren Brown and his ‘Trick of the Mind.’” I enthused.
She rummaged through her old Victorian bookcase and picked out a volume and gave it to me. Read and learn. These things will come in useful in time. I held the volume in my hands and smelt the spine and caressed the textured cover. I sensed its life had been useful. It had seen the light of day and been well considered - understood and appreciated. You should love and care for a good book. It does appreciate that.
“Books are wonderful things, aren’t they? They have that unique smell and feel; they are objects of beauty in their own right. What a sad place the world will be when they are all gone.”
She looked at me wistfully and lamented the closure of the smaller book emporiums, the loss of our reading culture as it collapsed before the vanguard of the new age: the age of instant electronic gratification and excitement, bits of titillation, game pads, videos and all the other bells and whistles that whir and tap and spin and flash. No one seems to want to sit meditatively alone any more and get inside the mind of another human being on a deeper more meaningful level.
“You sound like you expect the imminent extinction of the book. It’s not all that bad. I know a lot of people-including kids-who still enjoy a good read.”
But I did have to tell her what I saw from my year of living in New York. I did see a ‘Down With Books’ mentality in Lita’s junior high school. But there the culture is different from our own. I remember how I laughed when one of her class teachers at Machiavellian High enquired of me how schools in England were preparing for the new millennium. She was so proud and eager to tell me that in her system textbooks were being phased out. Yes, phased out. This was because not only do they encourage learning at the wrong level (imparting mere facts rather than teaching how to gather facts), they also violate an important new concern in American education -individualized instruction. It did horrify me. It did until I realised that it was thanks to the aggressive lobbying of the business community that laptop, notebooks, whatever you want to call them were being thrust into young hands.
Call me cynical. But to me that smacks of subliminal advertising. Angela and me: we are of the old school. We both agreed: no substitute for tasting the real thing.
Angela sought to give a psychologist’s slant.
"Nobody knows how kids' internal wiring works," she told me, "but anyone who's directed away from normal social interactions has a head start on turning out particularly odd….computers can never teach what a walk through a woodland glade feels like. Sensation has no substitute."
On this we were as one mind. It seems the biggest danger in this country is not computers – it’s how the teachers are all being turned into robots. Angela also fears most for young girls because she says the female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy, while the male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems.
Angela says, ”Society sells hard to kids, it sells hardest to young girls. They buy into peer-pressure more than boys. Girls are growing up too quickly today and it’s scary. Advertising is all about sex don’t you think? Sexualisation has negative effects in the domains of cognitive functioning, physical and mental health and sexual images of girls and young women in the media is harming their self-image and development and healthy sexual development.”
She goes on, "when a person's value comes only from her/his sexual appeal or behaviour, above other characteristics, then that person becomes sexually objectified and only good for another's sexual use."
What she told me rang true. Sexualisation is now being linked with the most common mental health problems in young women and girls including eating disorders, low self -esteem and depression. I had been seeing it for myself. First hand.
“I don’t believe in wrapping kids up in cotton wool either. I won’t have it. My kids grew up seeing life in all its beauty and death in all its tragedy. I never painted a picture of sickly-sweetness and apple pie perfection. Life just isn’t like that and there has to be some feedback from parents to kids about all these things-life and death-sex and exploitation-we all need to gauge how we raise our kids and what we expose them to.”
Angela recounts a story of how, many years ago, she took her young kids to the British Museum and wanted to show them the different artefacts from other cultures. She wanted to introduce her children to images and symbols of fertility, womanhood, reproduction and sexuality. She wanted to show her children Cupboard 55.
“Cupboard 55? Now where have I heard that before?”
“If I say to you ‘secret erotic treasures,’ does that jolt your recollections?”
I gave a baffled shake of my head.
“ I would have thought an educated man, a teacher such as you would have known this refers to the forbidden wonders kept in the Department of Antiquities at the British Museum.”
She smiled. She was teasing me. I was intrigued. In her younger days Ms Green was something of an atagonistic hippy type and against censorship in all its forms.
She, like many young adults in the swnging sixties actively campaigned against censorship and demanded greater freedoms. One of her hobby horses was censorship of culture, particularly the reactonary Victorian attitude towards ancient erotic art.
Eroticism is not new but the idea that is corrupting, dirty and forbidden is new. Until the repressive Victorian era sexual reproduction and celebration of fertility and vitality was normal. But all that came to an end with the dawning of the industrial age. The masses had to be controlled and ‘protected’ from themselves for they might become as corrupt and decadent as the orgiestic romans and that just wouldn’t do!
So they invented a new word to label all such arts that celebrate the beauty of sex. They called all such works pornography and a unique new crime was invented: looking.
If you look and you see eroticism you will be corrupted. If you are corrupted you will then be motivated to commit foul acts against other people. This just could not be permitted.
I laughed. But Angela was not laughing. She was admanant. Censorship was wrong. The thought police were not an Orwellian fiction-it was legislative fact.
She told me to put it to the test. She said go to the British Musuem and see for myself. Our masters have said it is so. A line between what is called "erotica" and what is termed"pornography “has been defined right there in Cupboard 55. Go see. See if they will let you look in.
Then it dawned on me where I’d heard ‘Cupboard 55’ before. It was from my wife. She had mentioned one time when describing her ordeal at the hands of her loony, perverted Captain, William E. Peek, from Summit Jail in New York.
******
I got to Cookie’s for a late lunch. She cooked us up her hash browns special with ‘eggs over easy’ in upstate New York fashion: heavy on the bacon and fried onions.
“So what was that important thing you wanted to tell me, Leo?” she asked
“Oh nothing, it can wait...er…just one question…out of interest…all those love stories. Have you ever read that book by Nabokov?“
She pondered momentarily and answered in the negative. Then took up her latest tome from the coffee table. We each began to read - completely detached, separate and inviolable.
Again I caressed the yielding pages of the book given to me by my sensitive, erudite therapist. I read of how, by carefully deploying words and images, advertisers could manipulate consumer behaviour by hiding subliminal messages in their ads. The government, or Aunt Hilda for that matter, could control our minds and bodies by secretly communicating to us subliminally. Just as the American school kids were going to be brainwashed by the technocratic computer Geeks bringing their sparkly electronic gifts to their schoolyard puppies.
Learners could learn while listening to music embedded with subliminal messages.
I pictured the Dozy Dan’s and Myopic Mary’s back at Machiavellian High falling for the trick as they tap away on the keys for their English assignments. But the truly insidious arena for cynical marketing manipulation of this ilk can be found on the Internet. You see unlike other areas where long-term controls and business practice has been regulated by national governments, the Internet is still vastly unregulated.
On the Internet there is something called ’Under fire’ which is a widespread practice that uses special software to track Web surfers' visits and then places ads on their favourite Web sites or sends them email messages based on their preferences. Software oft makes us swear.
In a hypothetical example, if an advertiser discerns from the tracking information that a consumer's favourite colour is pink, it could place pink ads on the Web sites to catch the consumer's attention, an online-marketing expert says. That amounts to subliminal messaging, privacy advocates say.
As I sit here reading Angela’s book comfortably ensconced in my lazy armchair I get a brainwave of how to enliven a dull interlude while covering a particularly lacklustre lesson at Bishop Dupré’s.
I could scare my pimply, adolescent students by warning them of how their private web site visits and illicit online meanderings could ensnare them in a trap laid for them by shrewd marketers. Every time Carlos Curious or Peter Peeking takes a sly leer at bettysbigboobs.com they are being tracked and a tell-tale trail leading right back to mum and dad’s computer will be marked for the advertisers to spam their mailbox with offers or more and more electronic depravity.
The back row of class 11D will, of course, laugh at my suggestion that their masturbatory secret closet cover is blown, but behind as all the ribbings and wink-winks nervous Nigel and shemales questioning Kevin will be fretting to get home and check that all website browsers, cookies, hidden folders and the like are wiped and discarded as efficaciously as last night’s nocturnal soggy sock.
You see we all like to think our Internet interests, our World Wide Web wanderings, are all our little secret trails of private fancy. But in reality we are pawns in the insidious marketing tactics of the advertising industry who argue there is nothing subliminal or underhand about marketing based on online profiling.
While consumers are targeted using information collected secretly, there aren't any secret messages in the appeals themselves. ‘Every time you click a link in an online advertisement or enter your credit card details anywhere online, you are becoming part of a slick marketer's database,’ says Makke Velian, author of ‘Trouble Trackers and Tailored Trojans,’ who has working connections with the FBI and Interpol.
Velian goes on to say, ‘" The United States and Great Britain are the botnet capitals of the world, but computer users either don’t know or don’t care as long as their PC still works. But if you leave your computer on broadband all the time, you can bet your bottom dollar you no longer own it. Once those admen’s bots are in they own you.’
I wriggled uneasily in my chair as I then read what Nat Cutlett, president of Spambashers Inc. had to say on this.
Cutlett, a long time opponent of the online marketing industry, told a recent Opponents of Online Marketing, Publishing and Harassment (OOMPH) conference that ‘advertisers are using empirical behavioural science for individual mass-customized manipulation,’ comparing it with subliminal or hidden advertising that first came to light in the 1950s.
Nat Cutlett and OOMPH have been extensively lobbying the United States Federal Trade Commission raising the point that although subliminal images are banned worldwide in TV and cinema advertising no such ban exists on Internet ads. OOMPH is urging the commission to label Internet profiling as an ‘inherently deceptive’ trade practice.
The FTC, Cutlett says, should ‘search its own precedents and discover that it has previously advised against advertising that is effectively identical to the kind of online profiling now at issue.’
But FTC officials say that there are no plans to beef up any existing U.S. laws against subliminal Internet advertising. Even though it hasn't issued any regulations, the FTC has taken the position that a subliminal ad ‘that causes consumers to unconsciously select certain goods or services, or to alter their normal behaviour, might constitute a deceptive or unfair practice.’
I wondered if every time I watched an online sex video I was being manipulated into deviant desires. And every time you access some online porn someone knows you are doing it. They have their special tools to get at you.
They come in all shapes and forms and experts may call them malware, spyware, Trojans or viruses but these personal computer pathogens are like invasive, parasitic weeds. Ultimately they seek to form a morphological and physiological link between the parasite and the new host.
To the innocent Internet surfer casually perusing porn this insidious diverse species will become an immense problem if not kept from spreading. It’s creeping colonisation will seep rapidly into undisturbed, dark areas, right into the untrammelled and virginal binary silica lines of your hard drive and in milliseconds can infest every nook and cranny and thereafter mutate into further diverse taxonomic groups ruthlessly debilitating the life force of its host.
As the degree of parasitic dependence increases in an inevitable evolution from hemiparasitism to holoparasitism then profound changes occur in the morphology of the parasitic virus.
Via unsuspecting synaptic silica lines in your hard drive these parasites invade the brain of the human host. Your mind becomes the ultimate prize and once infested the malignant force corrupts and twists your thought patterns so that the reasoning of the compliant host shifts from a focus of defeating the virus to nurturing the sick, sordid symbiosis.
Your mind will become distorted subliminally and by stealth subjected to a withering, slow and inevitable corruption.
So regardless of whatever safety measures used, be prepared to be corrupted absolutely, without antidote, so that your digitally encoded data on those rapidly rotating platters with magnetic surfaces will inexorably be drawn magnetically away from preserving your privacy and you become the slave to filth and corruption, not the master.
‘The only truly secure system is one that is powered off, cast in a block of concrete and sealed in a lead-lined room with armed guards - and even then I have my doubts.’ So says Eugene H. Spafford, director of the Purdue Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (PCERIAS).
There is always a trace, the snail leaves its slimey trail and it can be tracked. By tracking the trail of the buying and selling of pornography online, computer forensic investigators and law enforcement officers have been able to locate people involved in these crimes. They are able to use information found on the computers as circumstantial evidence in court, allowing prosecution to occur. Be warned, paedophiles, you can run but you cannot hide.

15
THURSDAY 5TH DECEMBER 2002. At four o’clock it began all over again. I waited for my daily fix and for her scent to intoxicate me. She would wear an extra dose just for me, I am sure. I would leer and she would know it then have to give me a peek. I studied the milky silkiness of her breasts appearing to jostle and wanting to break free. And then there was the tightening of that grey skirt on her luscious thighs-it so rises up high. Here I am once more salivating copiously over nubile concepts. Together we both were finding a whole new appreciation of algebra (not her best topic in Mathematics). In more abstract terms I believed whole-heartedly in studying structure, perusing quantity and contemplating relations. Thereafter shall be the chicken choking when the cock comes home to roost.
*****
FRIDAY 6TH DECEMBER 2002. When I visited Angela for my next session I still had Miss Rebecca van Hiller stuck in my brain. It was front, back and centre and just not shifting. I tentatively broached the issue of inappropriate infatuations when I next met with my shrink. I confessed I had felt my afternoon tutorials on a one-to-one basis quite a challenge.
“Well, my dear Leo, I’m sure you’ve found in your own past experiences a schoolgirl crush can be a most useful tool for the male teacher…more chance of keeping wayward minds on the task in hand.”
She extolled and she saw no harm in it. I wanted her input as an expert in the one-to-one side of things whether it was wise to engage in such relations with a young girl such as this. She told me it was a little unfair of me to ask her to make specific pronouncements or judge any other outside party. She had never met the girl. The child sounded like she had been through a terrible trauma and there was bound to be a period of adjustment into her new circumstances. However, it would be wholly unprofessional to make pronouncements upon someone when she was not her patient.
I was advised in no uncertain terms it would be unwise to speculate. But then came the long deep sigh and a seeming switch as she delivered up a ‘be that as it may’ and thereafter my attentive therapist lapped up every word. The widow Green looked like a nodding old donkey as her head lolloped in slow motion as I gave her just the rudiments of what had been going on.
When I finished there again came the requisite pregnant pause and she started another pronouncement.
“The way a child behaves is not always down to 'bad parenting' but a child’s temperament. Did I tell you about when my own two children were growing up? They were-and still are-like chalk and cheese-both-girls. The older one feisty and moody and the younger sweet natured compliant and placid.”
She raised a crooked forefinger to poke at the air in my general direction.
“When my eldest was about twelve or so, believe it or not, I had her referred to a child psychologist and it emerged she had been severely bullied at school for quite some considerable time. I decided I had to put her on the fish oil supplements, too, with evening primrose. Believe it not, given some time, she became much happier… true...still a bit feisty…and very occasionally morose but no where near as bad as she was.”
I struggled to follow the point of Mrs Green’s flow but I smiled and nodded in unison and we became a lolloping pair.
“She was almost expelled from her junior school, but when she went up to secondary he was a changed girl… a real credit to everyone around her. Perhaps this young girl you deal with is very angry at the world and her life. Can I ask how she is at school?”
I coughed a clearer throat to better articulate in schoolteacher mode.
“She had been doing very well as far as I know…just a few settling in issues…all from the problems in the past…Come to think of it not long ago I went to her parents’ evening and her form tutor assured me she was starting to settle down to sensible efforts to pass her exams next summer.”
“May I ask….is she a bit of a charmer to all the older men?”
This was something lots of people kept telling me about her. But then again, ironically, she got on with most people on first showing. She could charm anyone if she had a mind - a bit of a cold-hearted chameleon.
Angela’s head must have become weary of perpetual motion as she suddenly became fixed and sat forward in her armchair.
“What do you mean by that when you say she was a chameleon and cold-hearted?”
“Oh, nothing really. It might sound all rather trivial and silly to you but this…but… with me Becky would act like she really enjoyed and accepted any suggestion or any task I set her. And then it didn’t stop with that. She also wanted to imitate me almost.””What do you mean imitate?”
“Well, she tried to act like she loved everything and anything I loved. Be it food, drink, music, anything…you name it. If I started watching a cricket match on the box she would sit and watch it, if I said I really, adored spaghetti Bolognese that she did too, but then add that, just like me, she also had to have lots extra mushrooms. Why go the extra mile? There was nothing subtle about it at all. If I hated pineapple, she hated pineapple. If I preferred my tea strong, milk in first, no sugar and only out of good china then that’s exactly what she liked, too!”
Seeing my therapist intently listening to my story I endeavoured to clarify myself further, “Well, early on when I started to get to know her Bex wanted to know what authors I liked and wanted to borrow from me all the old books I said were my favourites; then to top it she even said she might go for a career in teaching…well…to be frank…some nice qualities and all…but she’s never going to be up to par for teaching.”
“This is very interesting…something I can understand might concern you. Please, do go on, tell me more." Angela clasped her tea in both hands and sat to the edge of her seat.
“Then, gradually, over time whenever I spoke to Cookie about Becky she painted a wholly different character from the one I thought I knew. When Carla first met Becky she was into all things American. She loved my wife’s percolated coffee, she ate her pineapple and cream desserts, and Rebecca just sucked up to her about everything. She even confessed early on to Carla a secret longing to go live in New York and start a new life…she joked about getting some inheritance from a wealthy uncle and going into business with my wife…a second hand bookshop…you know…selling cartloads of that awful romantic fiction my wife goes mad over.”
Angela just gave me that knowing smile of hers and nodded sagely. She quipped. “My dear, Leo, just a fickle and impressionable child, perhaps. I think you should give the fish oils a go. They do work for some many things, moods, aches and pains. You must try some yourself.“
I feared my therapist might be mocking me. I hadn’t really made my point too well. I wanted to say this was way beyond the normal bounds of obsequiousness. It was downright obsessive. Perhaps even-tempered, wise old Angela judged I was over-reacting. I felt peculiarly self conscious and vulnerable right then and wished I’d never mentioned any of it. I had just become far too wrapped up with this kid.
Angela therupon decided to give me a further and final renditon from the psychologists’ book of life.
"When teachers expect students to do well and show intellectual growth, they do; when teachers do not have such expectations, performance and growth are not so encouraged and may in fact be discouraged in a variety of ways. It’s quite simple really, Leo. How we believe the world is and what we honestly think it can become have powerful effects on how things turn out…what we head doctors call the observer-expectancy, or Rosenthal effect.”
I wish I had just let it go now. I hate getting into these situations. I see things in black and white sometimes-people often are neither angels nor devils. There are so many grey people in between but for some peculiar reason I don’t want to see Miss Rebecca van Hiller as dull and grey.”
“May I ask just one last question for today? Do you feel your destructive relationship with your father affects how you perceive this child’s situation…what I mean to say is…with her being rejected by her own father?”
“You mean of bullying? Oh, yes, without a doubt. Bullying is an issue I saw right off the bat. We have that in common for sure. I guess I felt she had the same torment burned into her mind about her dad just like me when I was her age!”
Her head went onto nodding donkey mode again, “And for you, Leo Bloom, you have it engrained profoundly and you always have had troublesome relationships with other people, strangers or friends, work colleagues and pupils….so that you rarely form meaningful relationships with anyone because of it? Let’s think on that for now shall we?”
We called it a day right there. I cannot lie. Too often I avoided making friends. But Angela figured that out from past sessions ages ago. She told me I displace onto others my own demons - I was avoiding my own problems - but I was ok now. I must be ok. Wasn’t I? I had gone in as an inpatient back in Leicester. Molly remembers. My first marriage foundered because of that particular rock but I had resolved it and weathered the storm that followed with counselling and medication. It worked. It did. Surely.
Now Angela Green is telling me I remain too isolated emotionally and, dare she say it, too self-absorbed. Jeez! I was still a survivor and I did my duty back then. I had laboured valiantly but falteringly with heavy responsibilities with an over-burdened and under-resourced subject department at St Thomas Aquinas Upper School. Those were the really fraught years. I’m better now. I’m away from that. True, I ended my days as another one of those disposable chalk face casualties; one of many thousands of frontline troops scarified by nauseatingly futile orders from incompetent revolving door political commanders. All branches twisting out from the same diseased and gnarled tree- bullied and blackmailed - all manipulations employed. But I was the dead wood that had to be pruned out. Certified.
There was the whiff of despair in others, too. Occasional supply teachers like me see it best. We’re outsiders coming in and taking our own little barometer readings. You sensed it in the air during the mid-morning coffee breaks in the staff room. The troops freed from the frontline all too briefly with hardly time to catch their breath. There you see despair in hollow eyes. Weary souls that lacked the will to reflect on the damage it did. I was the lucky one. I was singled out for special treatment and pensioned off. I started to take care of the child inside me for a change. I had insight. I learnt that the little boy was the father of the man. After a dose of clinical rehabilitation they let you back in but only if you promise to be a good. Good as new me, you know. But to be on the safe side, I chose to take teaching in much smaller doses these days.

16
FRIDAY 13TH DECEMBER 2002. The weeks prior to Christmas now seemed to pass more quickly and on my next visit to Calypso Cottage the weather was unseasonably mild and bright. For a change Agony Aunt Angela suggested we spend my hour session walking the lanes. She was a great believer in exercise and fresh air invigorating the mind. She had recommended to me the previous week that I read the work of the eminent psychologist, Robert Hare PhD. I had always enjoyed my college lectures on child behaviour and psychology. It was one of the few subjects in which I gained a distinction in my post-grad certificate in education. She said it might put my mind at rest. A thoughtful gesture.
“Emotions for psychopaths are abstractions, much as they are for Data or Mr. Spock on 'Star Trek',” she said.
It struck a chord with me. I had known that detachment myself with Rebecca. Carla had several times said she seemed distant and cold. It also echoed something of my memories of my father - the unfeeling way he would talk at me and not engage with me in conversation. He would never smile or show affection to me at any age particularly when a young child needed to be hugged. If I fell or stumbled clumsily and yelped out a plaintiff child’s cry he would shout, ‘Get to your mother and stop snivelling!’
Knowing how the mind works is always fascinating. Rather than spend my evenings online chatting in cyber space trying to find my next female fancy I started to spend more time doing some meaningful research. I needed it really more than I needed the superficial delights of anonymous women. I was studying myself as much as I was studying Rebecca or my father. I needed to know what it was that made us behave the way we did.
I found it easy to find plenty of stuff on psychopaths. Whether it's a "defect" or not, it appeared that the psychopathic personality is an inherited trait (although this would certainly be controversial among psychologists, many of whom would argue that it can be a result of traumatic childhood experiences or brain injuries.)
I found other expert’s views on this. Kent Bailey (1995) argues that psychopaths should be called "warrior hawks," and that a healthy contingent of them would be necessary for the survival of any primitive band, faced with the need to survive in violent competition with neighbouring tribes. "Warrior Hawks" he concedes, is perhaps a kinder, less judgmental euphemism for the phenomenon. But on the other hand, it might be unfair to those who might favour warfare in some specific set of external circumstances. I was amazed that there appeared to be such a high number of these people out there. "All warrior hawks are psychopaths?"
That evening we had a gathering. Neighbours Harriet and Hector, Carla and me were having dinner and yet another chat about troublesome teenagers. Rebecca was out for the evening on a rare excursion visiting her grandmother for her sixty-fifth birthday.
Harriet set the tone, “Everyone has problems with their kids at some time, and it is just that some parents will never admit it.”
Cookie picked up the point “All you hear about is the positive stuff….and of course the parents who have perfect children.”
The Chardonnay was working its tongue-loosening magic and Harriet began to drop the polished veneer.
“I’d have them either into boot camps or fine the parents…on the spot fines I mean…no messing….for each time their precious urchins broke the law!”
I smirked She wasn’t quite so perfect I was sure. I saw the overflowing bins full of empties in their yard. If I could only put a camera in their house you too might see fisticuffs, thrown crockery and other variants on the theme of dialogue between parent and child.
“Another glass of guzzle, Leo?” Hector thoughtfully topped me up like the gent he was. Like water us men chose the path of least resistance.
“These women, eh, Leo? We know what they want…you and me both are the ultimate sanctions for our kid’s bad behaviour...you bloody women…you sow the wind and the men feel the whirlwind!”
“Ha! Spot on chap! In our world the woman of the house wants us as the enforcers of the good lady’s domestic law. The women do all the talking, but the men wield the big stick to back up their fine words!” We give each other a wink in brotherhood.
We got onto talking about child therapy and counselling.
With a sniff and a snort Harriet came over with her haughty air contrived and back in place.
“Me and Hector shall be eternally grateful to the council…they gave our youngest, so much extra support with her learning difficulty issues.”
She nodded approvingly at me and carried on, “Schools do play such an affective role in helping to pinpoint the more vulnerable kids nowadays you know.” I nodded.
My wistful wife added her two cents. “Why can’t they do something more for Rebecca…I know it’s not the same thing…but surely…doesn’t your country have enough problems kids!”
We all muttered our agreement - it was remiss on the powers-that-be that so little had been done for her.
I waded in once more, “Most teachers like me believe we have a duty to liase with medical practitioners when necessary, or at least we try when given the time we had it out with Becky’s family doctor already…it’s useless really…he blames lack of funding…and the system…. apparently the authorities like to keep problem kids like that in mainstream education as much as possible.”
Hector chirps up at last, “It’s these government arseholes! No wonder decent kids can’t get taught right when you’ve got the bloody teachers running around like firemen putting out forest fires with half empty buckets…. not their fault!”
Harriet went on, “As for getting help down the psychology route, well it was very hard at first to get help from our doctor for Fay, in fact it was the school that referred her in the end-you know the score, Carla…the louder you complain-the more they listen! “
“So true, Harriet. I told Leo he needs to help me here…we need more information and support…it’s society, too, though…you have it here in England like we do in the States…kids get pressured into growing up too quick…What was that article I read the other day? Something to do about the benefits of Omega three fish oils…good for anger management and concentration in kids…didn’t you say you’d been using them with Fay, Harriet?”
I interjected, “Yes…I think I read that one somewhere, too!” Then smiled.
“Isn’t Becky a different case altogether, though?” Hector asked. ”Obviously you don’t always get her kind of problems at school.”
He went on, “You got the proof of the worst excesses of Becky’s behaviour. You found the drugs, didn’t you? Then she admitted to having it off with all those men. God knows what infections she could have got. Put some pressure on her GP, I would!”
Hector was right about that. We now really needed her GP to ‘step up to the plate’ as Carla said. Her family had given up. We were all she had left.
Harriet went on, “As for the fish oil, don’t waste money, go to the health shop such as Holland and Barrett, and buy their own fish oil and primrose oil capsules, they are just as good as the IQ brand, and are basically the same-helps the kids moods and stuff, but a lot cheaper.”
My wife then took that as her cue to rattle on about her pet theories on food and how you can judge someone by their dietary likes and dislikes, each miniscule mannerism of how someone wealds a knife and fork can give insight to such a fine degree that our food foibles should be classified as personality indicators by human scientists. It was a case of ‘we are what we eat’ taken to its logical and insane sociological conclusions. She ran off a list of examples for our contemplation, or for Hector and me, mere amusement for we men were less inclined to be flimflammed by such whimsy. Fast eaters are neurotic, slow eaters anally retentive, formal diners who prefer meal times around a table are traditionalists with strong family while television snackers and grazers are isolationistic introverts.
My plump lemon regaled her captive audience with her dissertation and plucked out Rebecca as her prime example. Our dear Miss van Hiller was clearly a devious chameleon, as we all agreed. She would claim all manner of foods that you liked as her own particular and delectable choice. Her annoying habit of working her way through packets of chewing gum was yet another fine indicator that her palette preferred to be clear, blank and bland. From those halcyon early days in the Limoncello residence our little miss perfect would follow the American custom of preceding each meal with a fine slicing of every portion on the plate before setting the knife down, propping her left elbow upon the dining table, and merrily shovelling in the goodies with her fork clasped in her right fist. Mere imitation you see-no soul and no personality.
“So what about Leo?” came the challenge from our guests.
“Oh too easy. You see my dear husband has always had an obscene fancy for rich meats, those tender veal slices, lamb’s kidneys, you know the thing…I had him down right way as a man who aspired to a life a luxury! But then the gout kicked in. He’s now a sweet and sour takeaway-all ambivalent and fickle, aren’t you, hubby?” She had the Clovers chortling.
“Too cruel, Carla, too cruel…but what about yourself? Your daughter and I dare I say it…our guests?” came my rejoinder. ”I could say a few things…but let’s take a look at your sister, Constance…what a package! She’s sour cabbage and hard-boiled eggs squashed between two dry, unbuttered crusts,“ I wheeze.
“Oh, and what of your ex wife? Molly-she’s nothing but a dollop of soured cream cheese on a dried out crispbread!”
“What about Cilla’s ex? Henry Flower-you know-the blacksmith-now he’s a big fine hunk of a man-he’s your English pub ploughman’s lunch-big and bold wedges of cheddar cheese, ripe red tomatoes. He needs washing down with a tankard of real ale.”
The women guffaw at that.
Carla Limoncello professing herself to be the delicate child of fine Italian American stock she of course declined to admit to nefarious tendencies, she was a woman of Catholic tastes, she liked a cosmopolitan table, but in moderation. Mrs Bloom liked her red wine in moderation, too and she admitted to a sensitive and delicate palette that rejoiced in sophisticated nuances of exotic culinary flair. The lady of the house insisted this would point to her being a connoisseur of the finer things in life; she was a delicate, sensitive flower. Oh how I could laugh! Then I felt a snagging sensation at my leg. For a moment I feared my wife had caught me laughing inwardly and was about to reproach me with her usual discreet under the table reproof. But then my fingers felt the true culprit. I pulled a sticky string of grey gooh from my trouser leg and displayed my plaintiff hand to the gathering.
“Great with the theories, Carla but I see you haven’t had much practical success in getting the kid to stop sticking her gum all over the house.”
Carla was momentarily struck dumb and wore that sheepish look on her face again. I felt rather mean at putting a downer on her little performance. Harriet tried to pep her up a little. “Don’t let people get you down, Carla, there are a lot of smug mothers out there who are in for a rude awakening when the teenage years begin.”
Cookie gave back her most stoical smile, “Thanks, Harriet, some people obviously have perfect families and are perfect parents - and I am very happy for them. And, of course, some parents don't even admit they have problems!”
She gave me a knowing look. My eyes quickly averted her gaze.
Harriet agreed, “It really irritates me when people blame parents-or teachers-when children behave badly. Each child's personality is unique…needs different approaches for each case.“
Harriet took her cue to begin her own pontificating. “We all know that Carla has done her sterling best…and wanted to give a problem kid a second chance in a new home…better opportunities…privileges your average working class family could never offer…especially with all that council estate nonsense that goes on!”
I interjected, “Yes, I’ve done my level best, too, since coming on the scene. I’ve taught Rebecca about anagrams and we knocked up one or two quite funny ones I think might entertain you.”
I was indulged in this nonsense by this goodly assembled audience but for a while. I regaled a non too impressed table with a few hilarious concoctions of their own anagrammed and mangled monikers but the only sincere guffaw came when I told good sport Hector he was ‘crochet lover’ and a ‘clever cohort.’ But for the life of me I failed to see why no one could raise so much as a titter to Harriet’s ‘rev rhetorical’ or for my dearest wife’s, ‘colonel lacrimal.’ But I did try. Indomitable Harriet continued as if my eccentric interlude had just never happened.
“Like everyone here…I actually liked Becky. Despite her behaviour she seemed fairly mature and sensible. It's not all that surprising that she reacted to Leo as she did. When you started putting your foot down she probably saw you, Carla, as what they call in your country…oh…what is it? Yes…the ‘bad cop’ and then got frightened by it all. Then Leo coming in later on and being nice and all like he was… helping her with schoolwork like the ‘good cop’ type of thing.’”
Harriet so quickly and neatly had it all figured out in her own mind. She had her detached and more ‘objective’ view from her perch next door.
“Well, you all know me…nothing to hide here among friends….I’m a smoker-lots of other bad habits, too. I shout and rant at mine and-yes I know-like many guilt-ridden parents who smoke I will sacrifice my own comfort and stand at the open window and suck on my cancer sticks supping on my glass of plonk….we all know its wrong…you gotta give an example but its never easy!”
That much was very clear. At least that was the excuse denuding Harriet gave in public. I was more inclined to believe she welcomed any opportunity to peer out from her net curtains and indulge her one unspoken vice - spying on the world beyond. ”I have looked out there across the park many a time and seen Becky with those younger kids. They really take to her, you know.”
Yes, we all agreed on that. It was great seeing Rebecca enjoying spending time with younger children; their little faces just lit up when she got involved with them - it was heart-warming to see her finding some kind of vocation to steer her from her darker side.
Harriet got into full flow, “I think parents and teachers are often scape-goated for stuff. Sometimes it may be right, such as the lay about parent who doesn't care that their child is bunking off school or terrorising the neighbourhood, but a lot of times is not.“
Harriet added, “Also, we all know as parents how important it is to get proper help when needed and there’s nothing to be ashamed of if you have to see a counsellor these days.” Harriet was looking right at me as she said it. I sensed she knew far more about me than she let on. But I said nothing.
“I think every avenue must be explored before you give up on anyone who is your family.” She added, “Because when you look back, in the future you never forget who stood by you and gave you the love and support you needed.”
I was too aware now that I may be the real hidden target of her opinions. I got up and made my excuses to leave the room, “I’ll open another bottle. Top up anyone? Hector, you fancy one surely?” He nodded.
Harriet piped up. “You two men go get the drinks sorted in the kitchen and me and Carla will have a cosy little natter.” Hector followed me like a puppy dog to the kitchen and I planned my escape from any possible inquisitions. I thought we’d got the Clovers round to sort a plan of action for Rebecca but I began to have the eerie feeling the conversation was about to work its way round to me. Hector’ body language gave it away - he was clearly round tonight under duress.
Kooky nipped out for the loo and I ambushed her before she could bolt the bathroom door.
“Cookie…I know what’s brewing if I hang around here much longer.”
“Oh, Leo! Stop being a wuss-have a drink and relax and talk to Hector!”
“Cookie, look! I didn’t want any lectures from Mrs Perfect and her tamed hubby about how to run my life or live my marriage. Perhaps you and they are setting it up that way? Are you?” She scoffs and I’m being ridiculous and we all know why I want to get away. She fixes a stern face and prods her forefinger knowingly to my face.
“Save it, Carla! Becky was a just pretext to get me to sit down with the three of you and I know it! This is just your own half-baked version of group therapy. I’m not having it! Fair enough…Hector was a pleasant enough kind of guy…but he isn’t going to win next year’s MENSA prize for Britain’s cleverest man, is he?”
“Don’t be so rude and insulting…they are my neighbours and guests in my house…you are my husband…now get out there and don’t be a party-pooper and don’t let me down!”
To be fair Hector worked hard for what he had got doing what he knew best: helping to run his family lettings business. But I didn’t see any great virtue in being a ‘slum lord’ myself - repairing leaks in toilets of flats let to lots of benefit recipients. But he always made good money and took care of his family. He had one up on me. I felt depressed again. I made my excuses to him in the kitchen and slipped off home.

17
MONDAY 16TH DECEMBER 2002. Nanny van Hiller was a frightened old lady. I got to learn of it from Kooky, like a lot of things about other people, but I never met the woman. All my impressions of the family seemed to come second or third hand. On this occasion it was by sitting by my wife on the sofa as she finally got through to the grand mother on the phone. Carla was very good on the phone. She had a sympathetic manner about her and she could be an excellent inquisitor. Her trick was to get people to open up by telling them a little of herself first. I sat disinterestedly half watching a documentary on the Discovery Channel. The conversation drew on. Then suddenly my ears pricked up. A series of facts came out that astounded us. Rebecca had had five different addresses in the past two years. Every uncle and aunt and both sets of grandparents had taken their turn at giving her a home. She was labelled cunning and deceitful. She wormed her way into everyone’s hearts always with a slightly different version of the same basic story. In each she was always the victim of domestic abuse.
When she was nine she wanted a pet. She was given a hamster. It soon died. She then was given a rabbit. That died prematurely, too. She was not just unlucky with pets. She had about five or six altogether but none lasted very long. Her elder brother caught her one day tormenting a sparrow with a broken wing that had landed in the garden. He told his mother she had been setting light to its feathers as it tried to escape.
Her father had done his best and chastised her. Tried to make her imagine how she would feel if it was her being tortured to death but she was unresponsive. She showed no emotion. It was if she was retarded emotionally. A loner. A kid who never seemed to learn from experience and no one at school much cared for. The mother put it down to an accident she had had when she was almost two. No one liked to talk about that incident, though. Didn’t want social services getting in on it for child abuse. She fell out of her high chair at the dinner table. There were no apparent internal injuries at the time although she had a bruise the size of a billiard ball. The old girl had a strong recollection that Rebecca was bedwetting until she was eleven or so and that she was assumed to have a urinary tract problem. There was also knowledge among the extended family not to let Becky alone with pets as she didn’t seem to know when to stop in her playfulness. Nanny van Hiller’s old tabby cat would never want to be in the same room as the child. When the youngest sister was five she became terrified of her older sibling. She ‘fell’ down the stairs one day while Becky was behind her. They never got on.
The old woman had her own theories. Becky was, of course, the middle child in the van Hiller household and perhaps she had the middle-child syndrome.
”She’s got that Middle Child Syndrome, Nanny van Hiller says,”
Cookie whispered to me as she momentarily put her left hand over the phone. I suspected it was rather more than that and rolled my eyes back at her.
Carla was on the phone for a good half an hour or more. When she hung up she was fidgety and anxious to tell me all. Apparently, the mother had taken Rebecca to the doctor on numerous occasions. When she lived at the other grand parents for a short while there was some incident at the allotments when a shed was burnt down but although there was some talk Becky may have known something about it she was never blamed. But her stay there came to an abrupt end shortly after.
Everyone agreed she just became a stranger and stranger child as she got older. Mostly after she reached puberty. She got caught by her father with two of the neighbourhood kids in a compromising situation but the old lady baulked at saying any more on it. She then said something I found very disturbing.
When she was fourteen Becky had claimed she was sexually abused by an older retired friend of the father’s who often came round to do odd jobs for them - cutting grass, fixing fences, that kind of thing. The police got involved but nothing happened. Her father and she never got on after that. She told Carla that the longest time any of the relatives could cope living with her was six months. Although Becky had never gone into care she came close but she always seemed to find someone to take her in. We had been the next mugs on the list but we’d done brilliantly to last out so long. Nanny van Hiller had given us a lot to think about. She was just very sorry for us.
I was stunned. I think Cookie was, too, but she was a very stoical person in a crisis. “So what do we do now?” I asked.
We just looked at each other dumbfounded. How did we get ourselves into this mess? We agreed we had to get her out of the house as soon as possible. But we couldn’t be cruel about it. It was obvious no one in the family was going to be stupid enough to have her back. Kooky began to start that nervous scratching of her arms: always a sign she was seriously agitated.
“This is your country, Leo, you know more about these things than me. What do we do for the best? Shall we take her to the police station with her bags packed and let them sort it out? You’re a teacher you must have an idea!”
Rebecca was back in from school at the usual time of four. It was a cold, dark feeling what with the days closing in early and winter fast approaching. We looked at each other and listened as she came through the door and stomped up the stairs. By the weight of her steps it was clear she was not in the best of moods. Carla looked at me for answers.
“Well, what are you going to do?”
She prodded me irritatingly in the arm as my cue to solve this conundrum instantly. “Don’t hassle me, Woman!” I was irritable now.
I truly was at a loss. Part of me just wanted to run out the door and forget the lot of them. But I can’t do that. If I did the repercussions might be grim. I had to think logically. Instantly, I came to the decision: phone her doctor. We needed to meet with him urgently. I urged Carla to get on the phone while I went upstairs to speak with Rebecca. I knocked on her bedroom door and she invited me in. She was sat on the bed slouched and barely able to lift her head to acknowledge my presence.
“What’s the matter, Becky?”
She had a piece of tatty paper in her hands. She passed it to me.
“Go on, read it then!”
I took it from her and read the childish writing on it. It was clearly from her younger sister.
It read, “Please do not bother me. I do not want to see you. I will tell on you if you do. Signed, Sarah.”
I asked her to explain what this meant. She told me she had been corresponding with her younger sister secretly for months. She assured me they had a close bond and that they missed each other terribly but their father was adamant there was to be no contact. He must have made her write this. It wasn’t how she felt at all.
“Do you want Carla and me to write to your father?” I enquired.
She said we could if we wished but he would never see things any other way. He had turned everyone against her because she stood up for herself when he tried to punish her. He was cruel and picked on her just because he thought Becky was not his real daughter. She told me that her mother and father had separated when her older brother was very small. When they were apart her mother got pregnant.
The parents were strict Catholics and did not believe in abortions. Ha, idle Pope. When they got back together she had Becky a few months later. Begrudgingly, he took on the child as his own. But he always resented her. I was dumbfounded. She sobbed steadily and painfully as she told me that story.
Either this kid is the most convincing liar I had ever met or she was genuinely opening up to me. As she wept silently I took her hand and reassured her she would get the help she needed. Just then Carla appeared at the door.
“I’ve spoken with the doctors’ office and we can get in tomorrow at eleven fifteen in the morning.“
Becky looked puzzled.
I explained, “We think you need some counselling, Bex. We’re getting you some professional help before things get much worse.“
Her little face became bright red and contorted. Large globs of tears fell down from her deep brown eyes - she got up and went to Carla and gave her a hug. She seemed so helpless and vulnerable. Cookie stroked her mane of dark hair that hung down her back. Was this the real Rebecca now in her deepest sorrow or was this yet another act?
“Becky, dare to be yourself-let it all out-be the real you. Have a good cry. There is nothing better than seeing the real Rebecca van Hiller even if it hurts-show us your true personality,” I said.
“We want to be close to you-to help.”
I stayed until late that evening. I spent an hour or so on the computer with Becky helping her compose and English assignment. We were almost done when she turned on the swivel chair to look right into my eyes as I sat next to her.
“Would you ever marry again if you and Carla got divorced?” she asked. “ Well, I don’t know, I…er, what a question, Bex, I…er…er…who…who says I’m thinking about divorce?” I wasn’t expecting that.
She carried on, “Well, you and her don’t really get on so well and she is missing Lita a lot isn’t she? She might go back to New York and you said you don’t want to live there again, didn’t you?” She was right. I couldn’t fault that reasoning. I was afraid unless I got things straightened out here I was in danger of not only losing my wife but a valuable financial lifeline.
She smiled knowingly at me almost like she was in a trance.
“Well, Becky, at the moment let’s not talk about what may never happen. Changing the subject. Did you bring back those application forms for college?”
I had agreed to give Becky a reference for the Child Care course - it was a doorway towards a compromise solution for everyone. If we could get her into further education, with her being a special case, she should qualify for a grant for living expenses and accommodation. It was a way out that especially appeased my conscience as I had promised her if she towed the line she would get my backing.
“I don’t think Carla likes me anymore because you and me are spending so much time together, Leo. She looks at me funny now! You must have seen it, surely!”
Her deep brown soulful puppy dog eyes were melting away any resistance I felt.
“Don’t worry, Bex, once you get into college you will be well set. You’ll have a place of your own and if you want to talk to me or whatever, we can still be friends, ok?”
She smiled and nodded enthusiastically.
It was a brisk late autumn morning. There was only a little wind but what there was cut at your eyes and ears. I got to the house at a little after ten. They were both busying themselves with the usual self-adorning tasks that take women endless amounts of time. A very correct Carla was wearing one of her usually funereal black assemblages - she had a striking fine face and clear, pale complexion heightened by her dark brown hair swept neatly back into a bun. Rebecca was her usual self - above it all - almost regal. She always wore the heaviest black mascara that darkened her eyes so intensely. With me dressed just as soberly you would easily think someone had recently died.
The surgery was busy as we expected. There were two or three young children playing with one of those ubiquitous brightly coloured activity centres that all doctors’ surgeries seem to provide nowadays. I noted a fidgety and coughing septuagenarian accompanied by his wife and a mishmash of other nondescript types looking as if they were equally at home in the benefits office as the surgery. One incongruous handsome young man in a dark grey suit was clearly looking Rebecca up and down and she noted his gaze approvingly. I noted Becky posing for his amusement like some film star holding her head slightly to the side and tilted up. She was doing her usual grand job of disguising that gammy right eye and ever so casually patted a thick lock of dark hair across it in a judicious diagonal hang. At that moment I found her both faintly sad and yet amusing. I smiled at her and she smiled back.
The bespectacled doctor ushered us in politely. My dearest wife got straight down to it in her best Manhattan tones:
“Good morning Doctor Teazle. Thank you for seeing us today. As you may know we are Becky’s guardians…well…at least for the time being anyways and we have been having a few problems at home and we really desperately need your help with this.“
She laid out a list of incidents she could recall to highlight the anti-social nature of Becky’s conduct of late.
“We are at breaking point doctor and we know Becky has been prescribed medication before and had some counselling before. But this she needs-the whole nine yards!”
He looked slightly bemused.
“I’m sorry Mrs Bloom I’m not quite with you-where you are going with this?”
I chipped in, “Well, doctor, what my wife is trying to say, is she feels she can’t cope with Becky on her own for too much longer. Although we’ve done our best my wife feels she needs a break. If at all possible could you get onto social services and please sort out some accommodation for her. It should only be temporary. Becky may well be at college next year so anywhere you can find for her for that period of time would do us all so much good.”
Doctor Teazle tapped his pen. “Well, I see from the notes Becky was referred to the Dunedin Clinic last year for a course of counselling but appears not to have followed up on that.”
He peered over the top of his glasses in Becky’s direction. “Young lady it appears these good people have done everything they possibly could for you. Do you feel it’s about time you did something for them?”
She nodded sheepishly. He was going to put her back on medication. She had been on it before. Same dosage, let’s see if that helps.
“Ok, good. I’m also referring Rebecca once again to Frank O’Connell. He’s an excellent child psychologist and I do hope this time this young lady will give him a chance to put his skills to good use.”
The rapping of his fingernails on his desk was a clarion signal that we were now all done. As we stood to make for the door I remembered the one question I still wanted to ask.
“Doctor, do you think Becky may be a psychopath?”
He looked momentarily fixed in stone.
“Well, that’s a very strong term and I’m not a psychiatrist, Mr Bloom and with respect, neither are you, but I can say that even if I suspected this young lady may be so afflicted the law would not allow me or anyone else, come to that, to diagnose her as such.”
He explained that under English law that condition is not certifiable until the sufferer attains the age of eighteen.
”You see psychopathy is not normally diagnosed in children or adolescents, and that general rule I do believe is the case on your side of the Atlantic, too, Mrs Bloom.”
He explained that a term more politically correct to apply in these cases is ‘conduct disorder’. Rebecca would be getting a call from the Dunedin Clinic in the next few days to clarify arrangements.
“I guess this has been most distressing for you all-not least of all you, too, Rebecca. Is there anything you wish to ask me, my girl? You have been especially quiet today. Do try to speak to Mr O’Connell when you see him. He is very good, you know. “
She nodded once more but said nothing.
The doctor turned back to me, “I’m sure as a teacher you know something of child psychology and know that, thankfully, labels are best not applied to the young. I suggest you do encourage Rebecca to see Mr O’Connell so she benefits from his expertise.”
He guided us to the door once more and bade us a polite farewell.
“Another brush off!” Kooky exclaimed.
“Why? What’s wrong with that? He seemed a really decent chap.” I countered.
The mood between the two of them now was thick with tension. I shepherded them to the car and we off back with barely a word said. We stopped briefly at the chemist’s to refill Becky’s prescription. She dawdled at the perfume counter while I collected her drugs. She wanted some perfume. Did I mind? No. It was on sale and two for the price of one. She had gotten her top up and I had got mine. Into the drugs bag it all went and off we sped. Scented heaven.
I parked the car in the front of the high school and Becky dashed up the steep Victorian brick steps and through the heavy school doors.
“I’m not having much more of her nonsense, Leo, and you don’t see the half of it. Did you see the way her and that man were ogling each other in the waiting room? No respect for you or me-she’s up to her old tricks and there’s no mistaking. Playing us both for fools!”
In her agitated state I knew I had to occupy my wife’s mind or she would be hounding me all day over it.
“Let’s go back and look online and see what we can find on that ‘conduct disorder’ thing he mentioned. I haven’t heard of that.”
We spent the rest of the morning sat at the computer drinking her favourite filtered coffee, eating doughnuts and downloaded reams of articles and files off the Internet. We were searching for anything that addressed childhood mental health issues from advice on the pains of puberty to the full-blown horrors of psychotic mass murderers like Ted Bundy or Fred West. We were looking for clues: more insight into what were dealing with.
We found an article about a theory that especially intrigued me called the ‘MacDonald Triad’- nothing to do with oriental gangs but actually about the so-called three indicators that show the possible presence of psychopathic tendencies in teenagers. The three indicators were bedwetting, cruelty to animals and fire starting. When I read that I could have choked on my doughnut. I seem to remember Rebecca had been a bed wetter and was never really trusted around animals.
“Cookie, did you say that Becky’s grandmother told you she burnt down some greenhouse or something?”
She nodded, “sheds on an allotment, but it was never proven- no smoking gun,“ she quipped.
We also know of the break in at the primary school out door swimming pool that she tried to keep secret - ’naval breech relic’ or was that a ‘bleach clean river’? She had gone with Lita and some of the skater crew and she had challenged them to go skinny-dipping. Four of the boys jerked off the weather covers and they all dived into a teen orgy of water pranks. My errant water bean and Tommy Carroll were the only ones caught naked by the police. Overly engrossed in their heavy petting frenzy they were in too deep to notice the scrambled escape of the other water babes as they made a hasty retreat from the forces of law and disorder. Lita said the sight of the cops dashing in and Tommy’s dripping tackle and Becky’s bouncing boobs kinda freaked her out as she watched the calamity from the bushes. Viable rear clench. Luckily for Rebecca she only got a caution. “Stupid ten dollar whore!” Kooky exclaimed. Carroll had a history of breaking and entering and he wasn’t so lucky.
The retelling of this absurd comic farce served to improve mother Limoncello’s mood somewhat. She relished these little family get-togethers. It was reminiscent of our earlier days together.
I took it upon myself to go through all those saved computer files. I was still very much enjoying reading about the subject. It made me wonder how many pupils I had taught over the years with mental health issues. Perhaps the ones that wound me up the most weren’t doing it because I was a bad teacher. Perhaps they were born that way? Cerebral vale chin.
Despite her initial success in landing me as her prize catch from foreign waters in her sailings through dating web sites; Mrs Bloom was not the greatest, most gifted captain of her surfing boat on the World Wide Web. She often left it to me to sieve out whatever jumble of geek spiel it decided to spew out. Her rationale for remaining the passive partner to my active probings was her oft-quoted missive,
“Leo, computing today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning."
Not withstanding her inertness I stumbled upon little gems like the studies on child psychopaths by the Canadian psychologist, Robert Hare. He advised that psychopathic ‘precursors’ often appear immune to punishment; nothing seems to modify their undesirable behaviour. Consequently parents usually give up, and the behaviour worsens.
Carla speculated, “This would explain why Rebecca’s father was the way he was. The poor guy got to the end of his rope like we are now.”
I showed Cookie one particular excerpt I had found:
‘For most of us the idea of a psychopath conjures up images from movies like ‘Silence of The Lambs’ and characters with names like ‘Hannibal Lector.’ Fortunately characters like Hannibal don’t really exist. Serial killers and people involved in ritual torture are rare, but psychopathic behaviour is more common than we might think.’
Mister Hare enlightened the reader that he had known several psychopaths in his life. One was an older teen with no sense of guilt. He knew the rules, but he had no sense of conscience. The only thing that saved him was a mother who loved him, took him to counselling for years and spent a great deal of time patiently teaching him right from wrong. Hare related a conversation where the errant boy confessed, "People know when something is wrong because it feels wrong. I have to remember or be reminded that stealing from someone is wrong. I don’t feel bad if I take something."
Hare revealed that meeting that boy changed his opinion of a psychopathic personality. Why? Because children with this condition are "emotionally blind." Without help, potentially psychopathic children become adults who never remain attached to anyone or anything for long. They may end up living a "predatory" lifestyle, feeling little or no regret, and having little or no remorse - except when they are caught or about to be locked up. A psychopath is always prone to have problems with society, rules, expectations and relationships.
Was my vanilla bean a psychopath? Was she just toying with us for her excitement and entertainment? I certainly felt she was using me to build her self-esteem. I overheard her one afternoon from the window as she waved goodbye to her cronies or the ‘randoms’ as she put, brought up to the house to gaze at her plush domain and wallow in the glory of my wife and her possessions. Over time it was conspicuous how she seemed to acquaint herself briefly with those lower school misfits. Carlton confided to us that she was ‘poncing ciggies’ and had heard she gave head to a random for a pound a blow behind the bushes at the old church cemetery. Just wishful thinking on his part, I thought. But he was right about something. Our vanilla certainly had the knack of getting a guy to dip his hand in his pocket and splash out on her.
But like Hare says, our little ‘precursor’ may well involve and get other people into trouble quickly and will have no regret for her actions. I tried to find some box ticking user-friendly guide to test our Becky but found nothing. It appears that to date there is no checklist of behaviour and symptoms that will tell you with certainty whether or not a person is a psychopath.
I printed out what I could glean from those Internet searches and proffered them to my wife for her delectation. Cookie‘s eyes scanned left to right down to the bottom of the page. “Yes that’s Rebecca. That’s the proverbial nail hit on the head. She fits that so well-exactly what I’ve been dealing with all these months!” she said.
“Keep this, Leo, we should show it to her and maybe her family, don’t you think?”
I hesitated and shook my head. “No. We will sit tight for now and see what happens with this new counsellor she’s seeing.”
I had mixed emotions - my head said she must go but a twisted and voyeuristic dark place within me craved the wacky beanie girl. She persistently and irretrievably fascinated me.
I got together quite a file of information. We found there was a detailed list of childhood indicators not as to the type of behaviour, but as to its relentless and unvarying occurrence. Not every child exhibited every facet but it seems, most will occur over a period of years. Apart from the bedwetting, cruelty to animals and fire setting there was compulsive lying where the deceptions extend well beyond any kid’s normal impulse to not be punished. These lies are employed so commonly and so well by the psychopathic mind that it is becomes impossible to know what is lie and what is truth. Lies are not at all necessarily linked to clear objectives. Some of the unwelcome acts that will be present would include truancy theft, aggression to peers and a defiance of authority.
Cookie turned to me and said, “Carlton was telling Harriet that Becky has skipped school a lot and had got him to cover up for her.“
“I never knew that,” I replied.
But why would Carlton cover up for her? Cookie explained some plausible little theory that Lita had worked out in a phone chat one evening. Essentially, Lita thought that Becky had threatened to tell Carlton’s parents that he had taken some pornographic magazines from his dad’s extensive but secret porn stash hidden in their garden shed. Herbert’s helping hands. Of course, being Carlton he stupidly shares all kinds of information with cute boy-tease Rebecca. So she ended up blackmailing him over that and a few other things. He would never tell Denis, Lita or anyone.
I got angry. “For god sake, Carla, why don’t you tell me these things?”
She was sorry. She had forgotten. Gossip is gossip and I was never one for that, she said. I was getting edgy and my eyes were sore.
“I need glasses!”
I couldn’t face much more of that so I said I was off home. Then I caught myself and saw in my plump-faced wife a discordant twitch around her deep-blue Italian eyes.
“Is there anything else you haven’t told me that would be useful to know?” I tartly asked.
She shook her head and said I best be off home. “Is there anything you haven’t told me?” she countered.
Unbeknown to anyone in the Limoncello household I had figured out how to set up a computer to retain in a miscellaneous folder a log of every chat room conversation they had.
In my dawdling moments awaiting Becky’s arrival home from school for our extra-curricular tutorials I’d be browsing through the reams of drivel they spouted on the electronic superhighway. Composed almost entirely of that dire and unintelligible teen speak, which was a kind of quasi-urban American patois of the under classes, I amused myself attempting to decipher their puerile nomenclature. From time to time one or two vignettes struck a chord and gave me a better insight into their private ramblings.
I was able to decipher that Claire Boylan used the handle, ‘BIGmommaC’ and Lita was self-evidently, LarfingLita. There were regular appearances by an unknown online male friend from New York called BongDude19, as well as a male skater friend from South Haven, MarkoneTrolley and of course, Carlton Clover, who curiously used the moniker, BkoolbagURtool.
I noted the time and date of particular session as June 16th 2002. It was 17:43 and clearly Miss van Hiller was not around.
BongDude19: d other day I seez 3 gurlz walking 2 ignored me and one viciously eye-phuct me. She was a bleightie ho oh ho oh ho my u have quite a large B Danka dank yup
MarkoneTrolley: he der Bronx man aint u dude?
BongDude19: blah blah blah i bone sheep blah
BIGmommaC: BD is dat dip in ur mouth? lol
BIGmommaClaire: ‘datz sooo funny-where r u at BD?
BkoolbagURtool: Get some therapy m8 lol BIGmommaClaire: I fully support you doing that lol
LarfingLita: I don’t give a fa! u got J Bell Coodies or summit? My mom comes from the Bronx too so we aint impressed lol !BongDude19: Shut up baitch : )BIGmommaC: What did you say son?LarfingLita: Shut up BD don B Nasty or we will block u okies?
BkoolbagURtool: jus throw peanut butter at im : )MarkoneTrolley: no that aint rite he is a B Lum. He is allergic plus he wont even know what happened
BongDude19: I am all the day with my spock up
BkoolbagURtool: my mum says u can git ointment for dat lol
BongDude19: hey Mark r u gonna git hammered tonight?
LarfingLita: lol… wot u on tool? U not in wid saggi yet?MarkoneTrolley: datz a B on the scantron , Jand his grl E r out to have sex , Brian comes out of nowhere and sayz hey let me hang with u…..such a c lewzur!
BkoolbagURtool: jus mates thatz all !
MarkoneTrolley: boytoolz ALWAYS wearz his D & B jeans. Packet on show that was the f'awesomest!
BkoolbagURtool: lol
LarfingLita: What are you watching C?BIGmommaClaire: M-tvMarkoneTrolley: Why r u watching music television if it has NO music?
LarfingLita: O MY HOODNESS! Are you serious? Snoop Dog is one fine looking H.B.G.MarkoneTrolley: I ain't fronting Holmes : )
BIGmommaClaire: hey Marky read dis aloud plz….’I am sofa king we todded?LarfingLita: Yes, Marky u r ; )
BongDude19: O MAI GAWD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You beastly creature :(
MarkoneTrolley:....Yur a P to the enis. c u next tuesday asshole.
BIGmommaClaire: Dammit-stop Being So E-Emo…… jus coz 1 Person Hates You don’t Mean You Have To sulk off
MarkoneTrolley: Hey Lita- wuz ur stepdad working at Dupre? That nigga' riddin a Benz!!! He at Dupre- teacha der or summat. koolest realest mofo chi town has ever seen-for real nukka.
BIGmommaClaire: eeeeewwwww get away from me u BFG! The E Unit be keepin it gangsta Lita: Hey, a lot of people are flaming that bf2 clan LAB at the moment, I better join in the e-bandwagoners because I'm bored and slightly retarded
BIGmommaClaire: Has she apologised yet?" I was totally f'd in the A by that!
LarfingLita: nah- she sez she aint took nothing outa my roomz- lying sack of shit- mom and me r gonna get her out soon or I am gonna go home
BIGmommaClaire: u mean home, home- like NY?
LarfingLita: yup- bin thinking it for a while-nuffing here for me : (
BIGmommaClaire: aw- if u go keep in touch tho yea?
Lita: sure – u been my bestest x x
BongDude19: I am sparticus!!!!MarkoneTrolley: "No, I am sparticus! I AM SPARTICUS!!
BkoolbagURtool: u both lie- I am sparticus : )
MarkoneTrolley: I had Phun Phucking that SAGGIPUSS!!!
BkoolbagURtool: she wrote me an e-ssay sayin in detail why u suck lol!
MarkoneTrolley: saggys a skank- all skaters know it-dayum- i be goin thru bitches like rags to riches ; )
LarfingLita: anyone cumin down da pier on sat? All da peeps in da congrigation r cumin – by the arcade
BIGmommaClaire: what tyme?
LarfingLita: any time after 6
MarkoneTrolley: I will cum if u dont let the skank wid the bad eye cum too- shes gunna get u a bad rep always out for a shag she got floppy meat wings- der girl got a big ol' vag
BkoolbagURtool: Saggipus is her skool handle
LarfingLita: Mark why dont you shut up and jus L my A?
BongDude19: hey marsk rite. I see her on here an she iz an e-slut she goes into chatrooms and tries to cyber with evr1
LarfingLita: D Swizz was one of the illest lyricists ever
BongDude19: hey Lita -If I took ur dykey mate out wud she do me a bill Clinton?BkoolbagURtool: Did she really? I call bravo sierraBongDude19: hey Lita-hows ur mother? Hurhur, she's a MILF
BIGmommaClaire: my M.O.M. is such a bitch!
LarfingLita: M.O.M.? wassat?
BIGmommaClaire: Malignant. Oppressive. Monster. Lol
MarkoneTrolley: toolbag is so gay he loikes The Fagstreet Boys : ))
LarfingLita: O RLY?
BkoolbagURtool: lol : )
BongDude19: I was so hungry so i ate my friends : (BkoolbagURtool: I sometimes bike to school ; )MarkoneTrolley: dude we dont go to school where street bumsBIGmommaC: this one time i biked to school
LarfingLita: BD if ur bored with our chat then go!!!
BkoolbagURtool: I gotta go dinna byeeeeezzz
BIGmommaC: might be getting more tatz soon- my dadz sending me sum monee for my burfday. Did I show u the one I got on my thigh babes? ; )
LarfingLita: nope-send me a pic-where u gonna have ur new ones?
BIGmommaC: u can ave one wid out my face in- but u gotta not share it ok? LarfingLita: bye hun x
BIGmommaClaire: bye Urtool
MarkoneTrolley: I aint seen um!!! : ( can I c ? perrtie plz xxx
BongDude19: aw not fair- teasing! send us a pic with no face in den!
LarfingLita: LOL!
BIGmommaC: sent
BIGmommaClaire: shud I show dem it L wadya fink?
Lita: yeah- no harm if its aint got ur face in lol
BongDude19: go on send plz : )
BIGmommaClaire: again somewhere where der sun dont shine babes ; )
MarkoneTrolley: cool : ))
BongDude19: nice pic Big C ; )~ take care of the bevies- damn there's a basket full a bald kittens in dere
LarfingLita: think BD likes ya C lol!!! UR pic looks cool BIG C- kinda sexy- u shaved it????!!! LOL
BongDude19: Man, everyone said The Departed was a great movie, but it was totally a ryan leaf
MarkoneTrolley: hey C u got a huge badunkadunk – v nice. Lyk balloons stuck 2 der ass! Bubbles eh BD? lol
BongDude19: looks like Markys shot all over his whitey tighties
LarfingLita: ur acting like u aint seen one before M lol!
BIGmommaClaire: He's sweet- just like a babe in the woods. He needs someone to protect him- yez Lita- feels nicer-makes the TATT look betta ; )
BongDude19: Dam- she got one J Lo Booty- her ass is huge!
MarkoneTrolley: mmmm- nice! Pack that cone and pass us the billy BD ; )
BongDude19: y: u gonna stop being a baboonaphile now MT? Lol
MarkoneTrolley: wassat?
BongDude19: dude who does chicks so ugly dey r lyk baboons ; ))
MarkoneTrolley: ear we call em beer goggles babez : ))
BIGmommaClaire: Shut up der pair ov u ! UR jus a bag of cats-hey L wat was dat funny thing u sed about ur ex dat time- we wuz wettin our pants! lol
LarfingLita: oh u mean-if u beat me wid ur love truncheon im never gonna suck it again. Don’t let Bong and Trolley seez dem pics BIG dayz too gayz!!
BongDude19: lol
MarkoneTrolley: lol
MarkoneTrolley: HEY BIG C cum feel up der boyz nut sacks u know itz betta than rug munching and u knw u want it ; )
BIGmommaClair: Get ova urself MT l is dat more ov ur e-stalkage commin on ere?
BongDude19: he B fishing for ur Goombas! She don’t wanna L ur B's MT she got a taste for der beef curtainz now!!! LOL
LarfingLita: HEY! Claire- remembers- I L-U-B and wont eva forget U!
MarkoneTrolley: UR babes r given ol MT an e-rection talking like dat- can I watch u lubbing up??? lolBongDude19: deres just the 2 of us playin wot u all doin tonite?MarkoneTrolley: muhahaBongDude19: IZ SEE JOO FAGGOT
BIGmommaClaire: UR gross MT!!! Cut it out !!!we is gittin outa here- enuff of all dat gayniss !!! LOLMarkoneTrolley: I got shot to the head by BD : (BongDude19: I AM DUH WINNNAAA!!!
LarfingLita: babes-Lets get together to watch the "L-Word" at my house, say 8ish?!
BIGmommaClaire: Leave it now boyz - we ain't mad at cha.
BongDude19: I gotta go get some k bombs anywayz- k?
MarkoneTrolley: okies -I'm gonna bounce tooBongDude19: K bye
LarfingLita: bye boyz xxx
Quite an education I had attempting to comprehend the nuances of this vulgar vernacular. But after some practice I was able to afford it about the same measure of bemused grudging respect as I had felt for the language of the French. So much so I might never again be erroneously offended by the soubriquet of ‘phat phucker’ but I shall rightly stand proud to wear such a handle of complementary prodigious pulchritude.
It didn’t take much searching to find the image files by BIGmommaClaire to LarfingLita. As I suspected it told me there was more than mere friendship between the two of them.
I don’t know why I did it but I saved those pictures to my own documents folder and emailed them to myself.
Later that evening as I looked over those illicit images it stirred something deep inside of me. Here in my own private domain I sat browsing and parsing time working harder on my hard drive hyperlinking across Berners-Lee’s invention - all the while caching packets of the binary ones and twos of my web data and poring over what I could find.
Then suddenly the phone rang.
It was Charlotte my secret and forbidden Internet squeeze, temptress of the long strawberry blond hair (copper streaked) and rose pout lips.
She had the most vivid cerulean blue eyes and the peachiest of rear ends that I ever did manhandle and a fulsome bowl for me to pour my cream. Indeed, so ripe was her derriere fruit it would rival Velasquez’s masterpiece
I should say Charlotte Mayes could faze any red-blooded man with her lusty lady proportions. I would most certainly rate her dollybird dimensions well within those heavenly parameters of the waist to hip. Every time I saw her she got me bulging at my zip from nought point seven on the money.
Be passionate about two things in life, my boy, was what great uncle Dedulus told me. I should say he had in mind this very kind of Rokeby Venus with her exquisite hourglass peaks and valleys fit to conquer in a spot of indoor mountaineering. Her full-on asphyxiating kisses suffocate me and drag me back to the world of bare sin.
“Hi Charlotte, honey-I was just online researching.”
“Oh god-not more women, I hope, Leo!”
“Ha! You’re as funny as ever! No, burning the midnight oil on proper research. Looks like I’ve been lumbered with a full-blown, certifiable whacked out and nutty psychopathic tart!“
“Well, Mr Schoolteacher brain-you just figured that out? I know you said you weren’t always great at reading people-but really-you being a teacher and all! I could have told you she wasn’t all there when I met her in five minutes!”
“She’s probably got a damaged amygdala”
“Sounds painful, Leo-effects her fertility as well then?”
“God, no!” It’s a kind of brain damage or underdevelopment in an almond shaped part of the brain. The amygdala is that of the brain that performs a key role in the processing and memory of emotional reactions. It’s possible that our Miss van Hiller had an impairment of her amygdala caused by the fall she suffered when she was a toddler so could not learn from her bad experiences.”
“She’s not my little miss, Leo-she’s your wife’s big mistake! So you’re saying it’s as if she was hearing what she’s told but is not able to change her anti-social tendencies?”
“Yup-that’s about it,” said I.
“Like a disability then? God, the poor kid. I hope, for her sake she may be able to get some remedial therapy. Have you got her to a psychiatrist?”
“Been there and tried that-she won’t go-bottles out as soon as she can.”
“You would think the parents would have done more-especially if it was a fall-a brain injury or something.”
Charlotte was the perfect mother in her own book. But I begged to differ. I had been to her house and met her kids, Brian and Janet who were the same ages as mine-preteens. On more than one occasion they would accidentally on purpose crash in on us during a romantic half hour. Why are kids so nosey about their parents’ love lives?
“I think kids are a law unto themselves you know. We can only guide them we can’t force them to do what they won’t do.”
I retorted with a heavy sigh. My head throbbed. It felt late. I looked at the clock. I made my excuses about my eyes becoming bleary from hours spent in front of the incandescent screen and bade my blonde lover goodnight. I printed out another long list of psychopathic indicators to show Carla. It didn’t look too promising-no effective treatments have ever been found.

18
WEDNESDAY 18th DECEMBER 2002. The days were getting colder, frosts were harder and we had already a few evenings of light snow that week. Christmas was coming closer and closer.
Cookie said we were going to have extra–special festivities this time around. Lita was due in from Newark NJ, in two days and planned to be here for a couple of weeks. My wife’s face was permanently fixed with an imbecilic anticipation. But at least the mood was getting brighter as the weather got colder. Rebecca was at least faithfully attending her counselling sessions with Dr O’Connell. We kept tabs on her by phoning his office each week. The feedback sounded encouraging. Becky had spoken with Lita on the phone the previous evening and they were both very open about things. Rebecca was now admitting she did have a problem. She came to tell us she had sorted things out with Lita. Something deep inside my fuzzy old brain told me something dark and secret had happened between them that I was sure it influenced Lita’s decision to go back to New York. But clearly it was a closed subject now. Neither one of them would ever discuss it.
All that time, since from when we got back from the doctors Carla kept saying, almost daily, that Becky had used up her ‘nine lives.’ She knew she was at the ‘last chance saloon’ as Cookie put it. Carla was full of euphemisms, some of which I was sure were lost on most people. It was something to do with the culture difference. Like Mr O’Connell had told her, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. Rebecca had now to ‘step up to the plate’ and we all expected her to go the ‘whole nine yards.’ Rebecca always nodded politely. But I’m sure she had no idea half of what Carla was on about.
But I felt more relaxed in myself. I felt I had done a pretty good job in getting Becky back on track with her exam coursework. She had recently got good marks on her assignments. So I had let up a fair bit on pushing her to do extra work in the evenings. This was partly motivated out of self-interest. I must admit that.
I needed some more time to myself. I was entitled to a bit of fun, for sure. I was seeing Charlotte again that week but I was keeping that my little secret. She was coming to my place away from the prying eyes of her inquisitive kids and I didn’t want nose pokers on my end of things either.
The snow had eased considerably by the time we pulled into the short-term car park of Terminal Three at Heathrow Airport. The roads had been well gritted so we had made reasonable time. I carefully parked the Mercedes in a spot that had several clear spaces around it. Airport parkers are the worst for car park dings, I thought. All those suitcases, jet-lagged and zombie travellers not caring whose car they dent.
Carla was wringing those hands again. “What’s the time now?” Kooky asked me for the hundredth time.
“Don’t panic we’re still on schedule. I checked her estimated time of arrival on ‘Teletext’ before we set off. It’s just two-thirty now. She can only have landed five minutes ago. She still needs to get her baggage and get through Customs.”
Lita came through with a smile beaming from ear to ear. The face of my wife was a perfect match. Mother and daughter hugged. It was good to see them together and happy.
“Nice to have you back, Lita.”
We had a steady drive back. Lita went on and on about her new boyfriend. I was curious about this new love. He was a United States Marine Reservist. She explained to me what that meant. It was similar to the British Territorial Army. He was a student at the same college and they had met through a mutual friend.
She had a question. “So what’s the deal with Becky now? Is she really back on track?”
We explained that Rebecca had yesterday received an invitation for an interview for a place at college and everything seemed ok.
“Oh, that’s cool. She said she was crossing her fingers and waiting on that when I got her email the other day. Claire’s been in touch, too. She’s got an office job and just moved in with some guy who has in own flat and car.”
“That’s great, what does he do for work?” asked her mother.
“He’s a forklift truck driver, I think that’s what she said. Now that’s three of us with boyfriend’s at the moment.”
“Oh, who is the third?” I asked.
She said that Rebecca had mentioned in her email. Some lad who Cilla knows from the pub she works at had asked her out on a date last week at the Karaoke.
“Oh, she hasn’t told us that yet,“ Cookie interjected.
Lita replied, ”No? Maybe because she’s not sure of him yet! She wants me to go out on Friday with them and check him out!” She laughed.
I shrugged my shoulders and chipped in. “Well, as Cilla knows him then that’s something I guess.”
We got back home some time after seven in the evening. The smell of spaghetti Bolognese filled the air. Rebecca was in the kitchen preparing a very large feast.
“Hiya, Lita, my girly, how have you been? Its so cool to have ya home!”
Rebecca strode into the hall to grab Lita and kiss her on the cheek and give her a bear hug.
“Ha…fine, fine, put me down you retard, you’re hurting me!” She laughed.
Suddenly the house phone rang. Lita rushed to answer. It was Claire. Would she be coming out with the skater crew in town later?
“Mom, is it ok if Leo drops me and Becky in town for an hour or so after dinner?”
Rebecca interrupted, “No…um…er…I can’t make tonight, babe. I’ve got to finish some stupid homework tonight…do some notes, sorry, honey.”
She seemed flustered. She clumsily dropped half a pan of spaghetti into the kitchen sink as she was trying to drain it.
“Come here…let me help you,” I said.
I took the sieve and rescued dinner from her hands. Cookie looked at me as if she sensed something was up.
“Have you burnt yourself, Bex?” I enquired.
She had caught her hand on the hot pan. I told her to get some antiseptic cream from the bathroom cabinet. While Rebecca was upstairs attending to her injury Lita came into the kitchen just as her mother was dishing up the grub.
“So what was that about?” a quizzical Carla enquired.
“Oh, Becky and Claire have fallen out, I think…and…something to do with the skaters not wanting Becky around. To them she will always be a slapper and a stirrer.” Lita replied.
“Charming. She hasn’t had any contact with that lot for ages,” I said.
“Yes, she has. She’s been texting Tommy Carroll, you know-the one who she had a fling with last summer? Claire butted. They all fell out after-she sold some ring or necklace he bought for some drugs.”
She went on to tell us that Claire had also found out that Becky had ‘come on’ to her new boyfriend and was spreading rumours that Claire ‘went both ways’ and there had been some hot photos taken.
“Well, that’s enough of that for now. Get some knives and forks out and we can eat. I’m starving!” my wife demanded.
We all sat round the large oval dining table. A meal as hot and spicy as the innuendos just dished up. I told Lita I would drop her off in town after we had eaten - it was on my way home anyway. The weather was too cold and wretched to have them all walking the dark streets. I also promised to take them all to the local snooker hall in town sometime.
“Maybe Becky will bring her boyfriend over and get him to come with us to play a few games sometime.” I suggested. Lita agreed. That would be a cool idea. But she said no one had better say anything to him about Tommy Carroll or there would be a hell of a row. Just then the ‘beep, beep’ sound of a text message coming filled the car.
“That’s not mine. Have you got a new phone, Lita?”
“No, I took mine back off Bex just before we came out so mom could get hold of me,“ she explained.
She opened up the message. Another pearler from Tommy the Texter!
“Jesus, what’s his problem?” she exclaimed.
I curtly asked her what was wrong. Just another ‘nastygram’ was her dismissive counter and it was no concern of mine. Stern silence ensued therein until I dropped her off and headed home. I had my own trysts to ponder. As I drove I tapped into my mobile and made my call. Charlotte was coming to mine. Her kids were away at their dad’s for the night – perfect!
The following morning I was awakened by the piercing shrill reveille of her phone alarm. She kissed me then left me in my drowsy fog with her sewer-breath taste on my lips. I listened to her glissando down the stairs and a final clunk as the front door closed. I pulled myself tight beneath the warmth of the knotted duvet. The room still bore the air of passion and my face, loins and hands were still stained with the odour of her sex.
I never felt a hypocrite about what I was doing. I justified my lifestyle in my mind because of what had happened to me in the past. I no longer had any faith in monogamous, permanent relationships. My first wife had cheated on me. I had been the victim. I had endured a seven-year marriage that was a sham. A man I thought was my friend cuckolded me. It was the worst experience of my life. It left me permanently emotionally scarred. I never felt I would ever love another woman again like I had loved her. So gullible, foolish, naïve and vulnerable, I was.
After a breakfast of eggs and bacon I sought to assuage a nagging pang of guilt within me. On the windowsill before me I saw the objects of my deliverance. Two figures I might lie as sacrifice before her as my atonement. One a 19th-century reproduction of a Greek bronze of Adonis found at Pompeii, a charming and well-reposed nude, and a south American stone ‘Phalloi’, a reverent but caricatured and crude male figure displaying the natural desire of women among all races, barbarous as well as civilized, to be a fruitful mother of children. I thought back on those early days together. Her wishes for a second child she never bore and those medical interventions she toyed with given by subcutaneous injection. Gonadotropins to assist her in her ovulation and fertility.
I took my phalloi firmly in my hand and with Adonis, too, was off to South Havens to make peace again with her.
“You’re here early, what’s got into you today?”
She wore that irksome and shapeless flannelette dressing gown and ushered me into the kitchen with that pigeon-toed walk she had when wearing her grotesque fluffy slippers. Coffee? Yes, please. On the table I placed the sacrificial offerings.
“Oh, you brought them! I’d forgotten about them!” she laughed and clasped the engorged ‘Phalloi’ in both hands and gave me a light peck to my self-satisfied cheek.
“Do you think Harriet’s eyes will pop when she sees this?” she cried playfully.
Carla knew me better than anyone. She knew I never wanted a conventional marriage after my first abortive disaster. I had a mischievous, boyish prankster charm she said. She loved me for me. Also, she understood and accepted my divergent views, she said. I’m sure she clung onto the belief she could mould me her way as I watched her mould and knead the fat form of the sculpture’s proudness in her hands. I had done a lot of reading and soul-searching about love. She had, too. She was an expert on the romantic fiction that bookshelves bulge with these days. She bought it and read it avidly.
I was a cynic about romantic love and fidelity. I studied the science of brain chemistry and was in fear of its narcotic trap. It had punished me once badly already. But I saw in her heart, her sorrowful eyes, how hurt she had been in her past relationships and I empathised well with that. We were soul mates on the Internet. When we talked about getting married we considered all the possibilities: living together in New York, living here in England. But we opted to do what was good for our children. We decided it had to be all or nothing - it’s just a piece of paper after all: only for appearances.
“You want another child, don’t you?”
I needn’t have spoken what was already known.
She still longed for another child. Now we were both past our prime. But she had tried her best in New York with some of the finest fertility clinics in the world. However that clock tocked it’s last tick, or so it seemed. I used to toy with her cruelly, I know. I told her, if we have a child we need a big house here in England where I can have my space and everyone else can, too.
It may have happened in another parallel universe if Lita had been a perfect kid and had fitted in. But she was an only child and like many of that ilk she developed a great dependency on her mother.
“Lita was more than enough work for us both-remember? I don’t know how we’d have coped with another moaning Minnie around.”
She frowned at that comment.
Lita was always the centre of her mother’s attention. She was the untidiest and most disorganised child and was prone to such temper tantrums. Every room of our home looked like a whirlwind had been through. That was something she had inherited from my wife. Untidy slovenliness.
The bullying Lita had endured at school and the problems I had had with her at home made me feel that our marriage was going to irreparably fall apart or there needed to be some ‘give’ somewhere. My excuse anyway for bailing out of the new baby boat.
I enrolled myself into that pragmatic school that accepted extra-marital affairs about a couple of years ago. My wife kind of ‘accepted’ it, too. I knew she was never going to let me go. Like a lot of women do she determined to bring me round to her way by stealth.
But since those days I felt the chemicals that bond had dissipated. I wasn’t consciously looking for a replacement for her: I just knew that some things in our relationship were great but other things were beyond compromise. She was never going to take off and start over again with someone new. Her body clock was against what takes a lot of investment in time to get what we had built up.
“I got a letter this morning from Human Rights,” she said.
That was good. This was some news about our special secret. Our secret kept to ourselves was the multi-million dollar lawsuit my combative Carla had filed against her former employer. It was still pending a decision. A long time running.
“Mister Riccio would have been pleased. Seems like we have a clear run now up to the Federal Court. Mister Riccio once told me these cases have been settled for millions in courts in Los Angeles.”
No one in England really knew about her work history or much about how she got her income. She had been sexually harassed at work before we met. She kept that quiet from most of her family and all her friends. She was threatened with losing her job for a minor misdemeanour. Her boss had been a pig about it and had blackmailed her into sex. Things were desperate and she saw a lawyer, a respected older gent taking on his last case. A winning strategy her lawyer had set out for her. To prove her case she had to make secret audiotape recordings of the offences to entrap her attacker. Meanwhile the ‘higher ups’ already decided to pension her off, put her out on a disability sop, to shut her up hoping she would go away. They didn’t want the adverse publicity and hoped to avoid litigation. But they didn’t anticipate their former employee wanting her day in court and now they had a major fight on their hands.
I wasn’t brash or blatantly course or vulgar like American men, she said. I was her Hugh Grant. She said she never set out at the beginning to enlist me as both consort and new legal consultant. But her attorney, Armand Ricco, was now dead and there was only me left she could trust to see it through. So you will understand why I became wedded to the wonderful dream of a lifetime of sharing the fruits of her successful legal campaign.
Carla fell in love with England from the time I first paid for her maiden trip to London. That was one gamble with women that I took that paid off handsomely. Being here was an escape from the nightmares of her past. She found most ‘Brits’ to be friendlier and more sincere than their American counterparts. Certainly, the New York culture she came from was so wholly obsessed with surface appearance and superficial values. Too much of the dyed hair, bleached teeth, implants, personality coaches, etc. - the fakeness of it all made her yearn for a simpler alternative with me. We weren’t young and idealistic anymore and we both were a way from being perfect. But we accepted we were becoming a good team in most things. No American man was going to understand her the way I did.
I promised her that once her settlement came through we would have her second child and make a substantial family home in Florida. I would be there when needed - I certainly could do with some of that winter sunshine. But I would be back and forth to visit my own family while my kids were still young. I would set up my ‘bachelor pad’ here and live the dream of a playboy life in London. I had it all sorted.
A bright sunny Saturday followed. I packed off my secret lover early so I could get ready for whatever Kooky had got planned. She had mentioned the previous day that she wanted to get some Christmas gifts for the Clovers and something to give Lita for the ’folks back home.’ She was always generous in her buying. I knew she would want me to drive her about so I steeled myself for a days shop browsing.
On some things you have to compromise unreservedly. I hated with a passion any form of window-shopping but with women it is their number one participation sport and I knew my wife had the stamina to go the distance. Here was a modern lady ginning up on all the ins and outs like her other coterie, sensitive to faddishly popular quality or appeal; browsing fashion editor’s picks and whatever the clucking Trinnies and Susannahs diktats bespoke. Or were they tyrannies of hosannahs? Although compared to New York everything here seemed double the price: what she would pay in US Dollars we would pay in Pounds Sterling and with an exchange rate hovering around two Dollars to the Pound we weren’t going to be picking any bargains. But she always told me, whatever we lacked in bargains we made up for in diversity and quality.
She would say, “We Americans love that European touch…so much class.”
British shopping malls may well have metamorphosed themselves into shiny, slick worthy imitations of their American cousins from the nineties onwards. That is a very creditable accommodation to the one end of apparels. But haute couture is quintessentially European. Take a look at Christian Dior SA located in Paris at rue François 1er. A very acceptable menswear (Dior Homme), to boot. Ready-to-Wear: John Galliano. Peruse the Antwerp Six plus Lieve van Gorp. Collections consisting of all the latest designs in checks, stripes, single colours etc.
To be feted by my wife in one of her clothes-buying moods was to be treated to the best. And because of the guile of her quid pro quo street smarts you only had the best bestowed on you if you were putting something back her way. Lita and Rebecca were looking for the best high leg leather boots, handbags, blouses and those ridiculously baggy jeans that the skater crew seemed to prefer. It was no surprise then that Lita was able to find almost everything she wanted. But the more she bought the more I could I see the green-eyed monster in Rebecca’s eyes.
“Cookie, it might be a smart move to give a little bit of money to Becky for a Christmas treat…she’s been pretty good lately,” I suggested.
Tightwad woman wavered distinctly for a moment then capitulated.
“Well. I’m not too sure about that…what’s she done to deserve a dime from me lately? But seeing as its Christmas time…the season of giving!”
Instantly Cookie pulled out a fifty-pound note from a wad she had and pushed it into the teenager’s hand. Becky’s eyes lit up and she grabbed Lita and dragged her off excitedly down the spiral stairs to the lower level of the mall. They were gone for quite some time. Carla and I found a little establishment to take up some deserved refreshments. On the menu were open sandwiches, fresh French bread, fries, salads-both three beans and green, a fine assortment of seafood bits and pieces with fruit salad, cheeses and a plethora of gateaux for afters.
Cookie called the girls on the mobile phone. They said they were just at the till paying for a silk top for Becky to wear out to the Karaoke and some perfume.
“Did you hear about the texts Becky got on Lita’s mobile phone yesterday?” Carla asked.
I replied I remembered Lita saying something came through from that Tommy Carroll kid that Becky once dated. Not too pleasant I understood.
“Yes, that’s right. Lita showed me them last night. She’s had quite a few lately from him and some of the other kids they all used to hang out with. Pretty explicit, they were, too. I told Lita that I don’t think it’s such a good idea letting Becky have that phone if she’s going to use it to cause trouble.”
She went on, “Leo, there are going to be a few changes around here once the holidays are out of the way…you watch me!”
I was confused, “What do you mean cause trouble?”
She explained that the messages seemed to show that there were accusations that Becky had been meeting guys for sex for money. I replied that she should know what kids can be like - always accusing each other of the most ridiculous things just because someone or other has had a tiff with someone else’s friend.
“Yes, you may be right. But we do know that with Becky there’s often no smoke without fire!” I pondered.
“That kid mocks me…you don’t see it but I do…she has it in her eyes. I’ve given her chance after chance but I’ll not do anything to spoil Lita’s Christmas…we don’t need arguments right now.”
Just then the girls showed up wearing bright smiles and really buzzing. They were carrying lots of bags. Evidently the shopping expedition had been a great success. I suggested to Cookie that I take her out that evening for dinner. It had been so long since we had gone out together alone. I could see the idea went down well.
“Really, Leo, and to what occasion do I owe this honour?” she laughed.
“Well, it’s getting closer and closer to our special day…our fifth wedding anniversary so I’m making sure we both have some good memories of this one.”
I took her hand and gently rubbed her cold fingers.
“Ha…ha…It’s probably the ideal night for it. The girls are both off with Cilla at seven for a night of karaoke. I doubt we will see them back till about oneish. So party season is getting into full swing!” she said as she clasped both her hands around mine.
It was gone seven and chaos hit the house. Rebecca had come down after hours of preparations in her room dressed in her new clothes and Kooky had taken one look and hit the roof.
“No god dam way, young lady. You are not going out looking like that!” she shrieked.
“No way, young lady…not in this house…not ever! Take it off and put on some proper clothes…it’s freezing outside…are you mad?”
She had just gotten an eye full of the sheerest of see-through silk blouses wrapped indiscreetly around the ripeness of Rebecca’s ample bosom. I came into the hall to see what the fuss was about. I was astonished. Rebecca had matched a very sexy top that would make any young man drool with the a pair of black lycra pants and what looked like the thigh length black leather boots Lita had bought only hours earlier.
“What are you out for tonight then-someone to jump you Rebecca?”
But inside I was mightily impressed I just couldn’t let on with my wife stood three feet from me. Leap hoped I.
Just then Lita came down the stairs and stood beside her glamorous sidekick. The expression ‘chalk and cheese’ came to mind. Lita was in her baggy skater jeans and ‘Yankees’ sweatshirt with baseball sneakers on her feet. No way would you put the two on them together as intending on having the same kind of evening. I suspected Becky had something more on her agenda than warbling a few croaky songs.
“Get yourself a sweatshirt on and wrap yourself up warm or you are not going anywhere, young lady!”
Kooky was laying the law down.
Rebecca looked at me as if she had been mortally wounded. She turned on her heels and stomped back up stairs.
“F…..bitch!” she said faintly.
Cilla arrived late because there had been a sudden flurry of snow and the gritters had not got out in time, she said. By eight my wife and I were sat at our table and sipping a glass of fine chardonnay.
“Why does that kid deliberately go against my wishes? I told her to act mature and sensible and she just causes me more stress.”
Kooky couldn’t let it all go.
“Look don’t worry, Lita and Cilla will keep an eye out for her.” I pleaded.
“The only reason I put up with her this far is her benefit money comes in handy and you seem to be making excuses like you don’t want her out of your life. What is going on between you and her anyway? She thinks I don’t notice but I see those evil looks she shoots at me when she thinks I have my back turned.” She went on.
“Look, Cookie, from what Cilla said to me earlier it’s quite likely that Becky will be spending most weekends at her place especially if she is doing so well helping out with the karaoke.”
She countered, “I’m keeping you all…paying for three houses…you all take the piss out of me…I am not having it, ok?”
I explained to my wife that Cilla was earlier singing the praises of her new teenage apprentice when she came to pick them up. “Cilla said Becky confessed to her she always wanted to work in the entertainment industry!”
Kooky laughed, “Trainee disk jockey now? Oh here we go again! Where have we heard crap like that before?”
She went on, “By the way did you take some money out of my purse?”
I said I hadn’t gone anywhere near her purse. Perhaps she had given more money than she realised to Lita. She let it go. Christmas itself went like a breeze and no one said boo to a goose. Carla warned me we might have the Clovers popping round tomorrow but we certainly had Annabel and Lee to entertain. My kids were over for their holiday visit. Lita had bought them both some new games for the Play Station and we were happy to look forward to a lazy video gaming day followed by a cook up of Christmas leftovers. All was planned for tranquil bliss.
I guess we both had kind of dozed in front of the box because the next thing I remember was the door sounding and it had gone one o’clock in the morning. Cackles permeated from the kitchen. It was the girls but no ‘hello’s’ came through -not so much as a ‘lo, head pipe!’
My wife stirred from her sofa slumber. I asked if she fancied a drink, ‘tea please’ came a weary reply. I shuffled myself gingerly to the kitchen and ominously saw things were not well.
Rebecca was slouched forward sat on the floor with her silk blouse loosened and opened immodestly. Her left breast was showing a dark nipple. Oh boy! Drunk. Pap-oiled, eh? A weary dark flop of hair lifted and I got that glazed, vacant look from her. I turned to Lita who was drinking the dregs of a beer bottle.
“What’s been going on?” I asked.
“Ha, your face, Leo! Oh, we had drinks bought for us all night. It was Abel and his mates.”
I asked who Abel was. Abel Tractabull was Becky’s new boyfriend. Rebecca sat motionless ossified and mute. I reached over her for the kettle. I stared at her bedraggled legs and skirt rucked high on bare thigh. She looked like she had been man mauled. I got one bleary eye from her that was garnished with a smirk more than a smile.
I sensed she was taunting me or mocking me somehow. I wasn’t sure how to take it. I felt embarrassment, or was it shame? Was this how men feel when they have been cuckolded?
“Cover yourself up for God’s sake! Don’t let Carla see you like that.”
I turned away fuming as the kettle came to the boil. They looked at each other, giggled and then trudged off upstairs.
The following morning was grey and dank. I collected Lee and Annabel from their mother’s and made my way to Cedar Drive. The roads were gritted and clear of most of the slush and snow. I gauged the mood right. My kids were as infected by the greyness as we were. No one wanted to go out anywhere or do much.
A lazy Sunday indoors in the warmth of the Limoncello residence was exactly what everyone wanted. Lita and Annabel were as good as gold as usual. Always fine together. Daughter and stepdaughter rummaged through the R&B music collection and picked out something apt for Annabel’s music player.
Rebecca took Lee in hand and was merrily messing around with a ‘shoot ‘em up’ game on the Play Station. Carla and me idled away the morning hours preparing lunch. The rest of the day went like a dream and we alluded to a happy composite makeshift family. I saw contentment and satisfaction in everyone’s faces. Even my own heart was less ill at ease. I had even forgotten Abel Tractabull – at least for the time being.
On Monday I took that long, cold but soothing drive to Angela Green’s for my pre-New Year’s session. The country lanes were a picture this day. The sky was pure azure and a thaw had cleared the white dressing from the trees. Fresh and clean was the air. I had some questions for her. I wanted to ask her about how she dealt with her daughter in her teenage years. I found she had a lot to say on the subject. She jokingly made the point, and could I believe it, that those days were a full twenty years past. Oh, how things have changed, she said. She felt we, as a society, had over-sexualised our youth.
Angela pointed her matronly finger at popular music and fashion culture with its need to tap into the growing disposable wealth we gave our kids nowadays. She cited high rates of teenage pregnancy and alarmingly high levels of sexually transmitted infections. She asked me again how old my two children were. Lee is twelve and Annabel, eleven.
I still had the worst to come she said. I should mark her words. She posited a scenario for me to consider. Imagine that my son or daughter was dabbling in sexual intercourse. It’s not unlikely. More than a third of under age kids do. What would be the appropriate response to that? Do you shout and scream and sanction them? Do we calmly explain to them the dangers of unprotected sex and transmitted diseases? Or is it wiser to counsel them on safer sex and ask them not to do it anyway? What is the wise way of handling it?
I asked her, “Should parents be criticised for failing to take responsibility for their own children’s sexual health and well being? Or is it down to schools to provide specialist teaching in everything from contraception to safer sex techniques?”
It was rather pointless putting a question like that to her. I had in my mind, as she well knew, the trials and tribulations of Rebecca van Hiller. My own values and insecurities were what motivated the question and not any lack of clear thinking about my own children.
We both gradually converged on the greatest taboo of our age: paedophilia. There was the stereotype of the lurking dark street stranger waiting to prey on our children as they walked alone. The rabble say hang or castrate the dip hole ape when you catch them. They are a curse, a scourge and they need to be rounded up and eliminated. Kids won’t walk to school anymore or play in the streets. They are told don’t talk to strangers.
But Angela made a point that nine out of ten assaults on children actually happen in the home committed not by strangers but someone they know, someone in, or close to the family.
“You want some Earl Grey?“
I answered in the affirmative. She went to the kitchen stoked up the old Arga and filled a rustic kettle. I looked out of the small picture frame windowpanes and studied tiny shoots and first flowerings of beautiful harbingers of warmer weather of the garden.
Mrs Green was green-fingered for sure, a keen cottage gardener and a hallowed horticulturalist. I could learn a lot from her. Through the thorns of ivy I saw the peeking petals of delicate blossoms. A far border by the picket fence was painted with the subtle beauty of a sweep of Irish reticulates. A palette of pale amethyst dappled with a deep, dark purple, all hybridised and made hardy through tendering wisdom and skill to bring out a cornucopia of colour, of solids, speckles, stripes and splotches. Colour, fragrance and beauty have such an affect on the soul.
But the simple beauty of the snowdrop in its magnificent purity crowns them all. I want to possess my snowdrop. I want to nurture and see my vanilla sun sparkle just like the birds and the bees of the English cottage garden in all its glory.
“Do child molesters ever revere nature in all its forms?” I asked Angela as she stood at the doorway.
“From the sublime to the ridiculous, Leo. I was curious about your opinions as a teacher…on the media…are you of the opinion it has too much an influence on children’s behaviour?“ she asked.
“I’m sorry, I was distracted by your wonderful garden. I just love that glorious vista. It’s amazing what grows this time of year. My wife keeps on at me how diverse our gardens are compared to those in New York.”
Angela politely indulged my digression.
“Well we are so lucky not the have the weather extremes- no torrid heat and humidity, nor frequent monsoon rains.”
“I guess a temperate disposition wins the day,” I replied
“I’m sure your wife knows how dangerous invaders can be. In her patch she has to contend with deer, raccoons, chipmunks, opossum, groundhogs, stinking skunks and snakes. All are very damaging to a harmonious habitat.”
She spoke sagely as we pondered the view from the window together.
“So where were we? Weren’t we talking about how other people and society influence the habits of our children, I think?”
She brought our minds back into the room and I nodded and took the hot tea and cupped it lovingly in both my hands as I continued.
“There is so much temptation on display out there. It’s there to be admired, to entice us in. We all are at risk of being hooked by clever media marketing and can miss the moral vacuum in it all sometimes.”
Angela passed me a pretty plate.
“A slice of fruit cake with your tea?”
“Oh, lovely, I don’t mind of I do, thank you.”
“Surely, if the media are pumping out imagery of sexually appealing young under age girls on our screens and in magazines then why should we all be so surprised that fifty-year-old men begin to have sexual desires over that? Surely by promoting the idea that children can look and be sexy we are in danger of legitimising adult perceptions of what is permissible.”
The genteel Miss Green affirmed my point and we continued to sip tea, nibble cake and talk in mannerly tones. She racked her mind for the name. Bryony? Betty? Was it something like that? I can see it in my mind now-some trashy music video that my daughter and stepdaughter were dancing too yesterday.
“Oh, my word - what was that name?”
She was only talking about it yesterday with Lita. A seventeen year old in a little schoolgirl uniform complete with pigtails prancing and singing and wanting to be ’hit up’ by her ‘baby.’
“Spears – that’s who you mean. Annabel’s got some of her posters on her bedroom wall. Yes little Miss BS is standing next to a school bus smiling sweetly and seductively. In another photo she’s tearing her clothes off. Annabel loves those posters. To me she looks like a school girl ‘sex kitten’ making her appear even younger - very sexual - it can’t be right.”
I wondered if Angela saw me as a putting on a prudish air for affect. No, I doubt it. We both agreed there was clearly a trend towards younger and younger looking fashion models whose anorexic bodies echoed the pre-pubescence of children.
“Then you have cosmetics aimed at the pre-teens who are encouraged to look much older than their years,” she added.
Angela went on, “I remember a couple of years ago a chain of department stores had to withdraw a range of underwear for kids after some mums objected to the fact that padded bras and sexy knickers for the under tens were on sale."
I added, "That’s why parents don’t know how to take a position on these things. No one wants to be seen as uptight or over protective. 'Relax, it's only a bit of fun.’ But actually, to many parents it's not just a bit of fun - it's harmful and creepy."
Angela responded, “Well, I am sure I read that marketing and advertising agencies even have a term for this …yes…it’s…KGOY.”
I had never heard of it so I asked what KGOY was.
“Kids Growing Older Younger. And now you come to mention it, I’m sure that Spears girl was actually sixteen and not seventeen when she did that naughty schoolgirl video. Correct me if I’m wrong but I’m sure in America that makes her underage.”
I confirmed it – yes - that was underage for America, at least in New York, the place I knew best.
I wryly asked the question, “Whether these girls are in fact nineteen or fifteen is immaterial; don’t you think the image to follow for the young like that is based on animals, pigtails, and school girl uniforms, it’s all to create ‘jailbait’?”
Angela affirmed, “Absolutely. I totally agree on that point. I think the boundaries between children and adults are being erased. Sex is no longer an adult mystery, but rather a product available to everyone and marketed to the young in magazines much like perfume, deodorant, or jeans. Kids seem to want sex nowadays because they see and read and hear that it’s the most desirable thing older people want so they want some of it, too.”
I felt I was playing along with her a little much on this now. I even went to the point of the sexualising of schoolgirl uniforms. I was near the knuckle now and feeling a tad hypocritical. My hidden secrets are my business. But I felt I needed to distance myself from any interest in the sexualising of school wear.
I began to chime in pontificatory mode.
“There is so much pressure on everyone nowadays to look younger - whatever the context. We’ve abrogated morals to the hands of market forces and us parents are feeling powerless to put a stop to any of it. In all cases, a teenager or young adult is dressed in a way to make her appear younger. She may be wearing a cheerleader uniform, a schoolgirl uniform, she may be posing clutching a stuffed animal, or with dolls, etc. and she is often posed in a sexual fashion. It’s the kind of image you see all over the television and in magazines nowadays.”
Angela gave me one of her ‘be that as it mays’ and told me she is seeing more and more professional concerns about this topic within the field of child psychology. The issue was one of ‘normative versus problematic’ sexual behaviour of children. She was going technical so I asked her to explain what that meant.
She gave a few examples of normative behaviour such as occasional masturbation, mild interest in the private body parts of others such as kissing, flirting, some ‘dirty’ words and jokes. Problematic behaviour includes preoccupation with sex, repeated sexually explicit discussions with peers or older persons, and repeated exposure of one's own genitals.
She got up from her armchair and made for the tired bookcases leaning against the walls looking heavy and weary under mighty tomes. To lessen their burden she plucked out a volume, placed her reading glasses to her nose and found an excerpt to regale me with.
“Yes…it says here. According to Angelique Hinds and Laurence Baskin in a recent study, at least one in four girls and one in ten boys will be sexually abused by the time they reach the age of eighteen. So this Rebecca you are so worried about may well, in fact, be a victim.”
“Well, I do know she complained about the relationship with her father and they never got on. As I said, she told me a few personal things the other week. Like that the father resented her because he believed she wasn’t his real daughter.”
Angela resumed her seat book in hand and deep thought.
“Listen, I’ve got a little test I want you to do for me too satisfy the curiosity. It’s a kind of a ‘tick box’ questionnaire you may want to apply to Rebecca’s circumstances. It’s called ‘Finkelhor’s Predictors.’ It will give some idea if this is a case for sexual abuse.”
From the pages before her she read out a list.
“The eight strongest predictors are as follows:
· Stepfather in the home
· Victim has at one point lived without a mother
· Victim not close to mother
· Mother never finished school
· Mother sexually punitive
· No physical affection from the father
· Income under £10,000
· Two friends or less in childhood”
I told her straight off I could see a tick against nearly the whole eight on that list.
“She hasn’t had a step dad and I don’t know what punishments the mother applied apart from periodically locking her in her room. But I’m pretty sure the rest need ticking,” I concluded.
I began to feel more depressed that so much of all this was futile.
“You know there‘s really not much I can do without putting myself in the firing line here. I can sympathise with social workers if I think a bit more deeply about it. How does any adult intervene in these cases when they are so subjective and liable to all sorts of misinterpretations and contextual relevance? I just want to extract myself from the whole sorry mess and not put my head over the parapet to have it shot off by some officious bumpkins who will accuse me of salacious and gratuitous obsession in the private goings on of a minor placed in my wife’s care.”
Mrs Green looked at me with a rather forlorn and helpless expression. She reminded me she was here for me first and foremost. It was my mental health that was her pressing professional concern.
We were mixing up matters. Was I getting too melancholy over people I had no control over? Did I feel helpless because I felt undervalued? Was I trying too hard to please and do the right thing not for me but for someone else?
Angela explained that most male depression is undiagnosed because it is veiled by addictive and compulsive behaviour using such varied ‘drugs’ as alcohol, work, violence and sex. Its key symptom is ‘relational immaturity,’ an inability or unwillingness to truly confide in and be vulnerable before a partner or child.
From an early age, boys (not girls) are encouraged to seek esteem through `hierarchical competition' while being discouraged from expressing feelings and bonding with others. In addition, boys sometimes `carry' the depression suffered by their fathers and expressed through emotional abuse or neglect. She suggests that it may be possible to overcome fear of intimacy, which is at the root of it all.
“Leo, it can create a toxic family dynamic - a husband's depression can touch everyone in the home.”
She said she wants to explore my childhood and my father - son relationship. The sins of the father may be visited upon the son. I told her I had an immigrant father. She asked me of what nationality. I said drunkard.She said that made him a citizen of the world. Born of a drunken Irish father who terrorised my mother and my brother and me might have impacted on my adulthood.
I sensed my therapist was really starting to feel me out.
We talked about the role of fathers in the family. I brought up the current case in point - I felt some guilt inside of me about the terrible impact an abusive father had had on Becky.
“Leo, this is not the time or place to determine whether she has some degree of psychopathy or whether she is a victim of paternal abuse. It’s you I must keep coming back to not her. I do urge you to extricate yourself from what is fast becoming a most compromising position. I see real trouble!”
The pointed way she was staring at me over those horn-rimmed spectacles signalled this was the one bit of advice above all others I should heed.
“I’m sure you’re not wrong… if I don’t get my finger out one way or another I will come out the worse from all this.”
She nodded her agreement so I stumbled on.
“It’s just that…it occurred to me…”
I stuttered to make my point.
“She told me her father may not have been her real father after all. Apparently, her mother split up with him after the birth of the elder brother. So perhaps, the father believed he was just her step-dad?”
But Ms Green had her repost prepared. By taking such a great involvement in the welfare of a teenage girl like this and investigating her sexual activities, I am liable to be accused of an unhealthy interest. I may be accused of being a paedophile simply for protecting someone in my care from sexual harm.
I may be better advised to turn a blind eye and pretend nothing is going on. Then at least I can’t be accused of any morbid fascination. But down the pan goes any pretence to having protective responsibility. It’s almost as if society would prefer it that way. I should take a liberal laissez faire approach and be done with it. Let her do her own thing and don’t be seen to take an interest in her sexual dalliances. Perhaps that’s what a lot of parents do. They can’t reconcile themselves between their parental duty to protect their child from corruption and the growing pressure for openness and non-interference from society.
‘Society’ or perhaps we mean, mass media and advertising want to usurp the role of the parent/guardian and replace that with their own commercial and economically driven interests.
“Have some more tea.”
Angela topped me up and I slurped and nibbled on the crumbs from my plate. I had convinced myself for weeks that Rebecca was a psychopath and then I was considering the possibility she may actually have been abused and was exhibiting symptoms of that. It’s all so much like Carla’s own dark and murky past that she won’t let me or anyone else look into. Perhaps I had misjudged my wife, too?
I was becoming rather skilled at living something of a double life. I had my own home and car and my outward appearance of independence. But I also had a pseudo-family responsibility at number Thirteen Cedar Drive where my wife seemed content to have others buzzing around her: the place that gave her that sense that she was the focal point where everyone would gravitate to.
“You and your wife have given a wonderful sanctuary to this girl. Haven’t you?” She asked.
Indeed, Cookie had given a safe harbour and I don’t think any of us wanted to lose that warm, fluffy sense of monetary security. She helped me conceal my dirty little secrets: chronic depression for one. My feelings of helplessness are considered unmanly, so she helps me hide them. But, ironically, this can make me feel even more helpless and sometimes I can descend into the black fog even more.
Angela tries to counsel me that the solution is to cast aside my clichéd notions of gender. I am trying to accept that my feelings are neither masculine nor feminine but essentially human.
THURSDAY 9TH JANUARY 2003. I was getting into my regular routine of once a week at Charlotte Mayes’ place and once at Angela’s. I was sure Carla had no idea of the full extent of my liaisons. I kept my dalliances in moderation and nothing too much to cause me the work-shy shakes but just enough to cover my tracks. It became easier and easier to claim I had a weekly stint on a short-term cover for a newly qualified teacher who was off timetable on those days.
I would guess I was averaging perhaps four to eight days of supply teaching per month by then and the remainder of my time was at Cedar Drive or I was off on good behaviour taking a well-earned rest.
I really liked Charlotte. She was a fun, curvy blonde in her thirties and she could easily shuffle a midweek day off from the travel agents where she trod the mill. Of course I did I spin her the line that one day I would get a divorce from the ‘Colonial RAM Cell’ to marry her. For the longest time she bought that ruse with unquestioning conviction. No one could reproach the ardent loyalty of my blonde ‘Hamster Acolyte.’
I guess on the surface most people would say I’m the villain and my wife (and other women) were the victims of my exploitative selfishness. But they don’t know the truth. This is all far too simplistic a view and it would take many chapters to refine in greater detail what was quintessential in every facet of these relationships and the fulsome way I showed my thanks.
Relationships like these in a convoluted modern, digital world have a unique dynamic that defies old-fashioned black and white analogue reasoning. As far as my wife went, to her the truth was something she would never confront, admit to, or talk about. I dare say she only on occasions confided in me some little morsel about the real truth because it was burdensome, unpleasant and distasteful. No worry. I can play the bad guy to her goodly façade. At least we can leave it that way for the time being.
“So your step-daughter has returned to live in New York?”
I answered affirmatively and that the big house seems empty now that Lita had gone back to mountain forests. We may never know how painfully sad she was feeling - perhaps an indescribable turmoil of feelings, or just a singularly strong emotion of anguish and despair.
I told Angela I had even been out a few times with Lita, Rebecca and Carlton and had enjoyed going to the snooker club to shoot a few racks of pool. But, ironically, it was snooker Lita really wanted to play. She loved the strange, impossible game played on a vast Table Mountain of green baize. I felt those times helped rebuild our hitherto faltering relationship with our common ground being that kind of familiar loneliness that we were both acquainted with. I also said it felt bit strange Rebecca never brought her boyfriend over to meet us. But Lita had met him and given him a qualified thumbs up.
I didn’t mention to Angela about the one big black mark on my performance. I know my wife enjoyed her Christmas but our wedding anniversary on New Year’s Day got off to an inauspicious start what with that ‘Happy New Year, darling’ text I got from Charlotte that she discovered on my mobile phone. If it wasn’t for Lita and Rebecca being around and the Clovers coming over I am sure I would have been seriously roasted for it. I was just glad to have seen the mellow side of my wife. A more kindly Carla seemed more fulfilled having her daughter to fuss over and distract her attention.
“Looks like I am going to have a week to myself-free of Carla.” I said.
“Oh, and why is that?”
“Well, at the last minute as is so typical of my wife, she’s decided to go back to New York with Lita. I don’t think she would have gone but there were legal matters to resolve and they required her meeting with a new attorney.”
I explained I couldn’t back out of it - I was not going to push my luck by refusing her any favours. Reluctantly, I had agreed to spend the week staying at the house.
Carla really didn’t trust Rebecca alone and the only compromise was for me to keep an eye on her. She certainly didn’t want Becky bringing in her boyfriend and his pub drinking buddies to trash the place.
“Be careful, young sir!” Angela cautioned. Those words remained in my head as I left and took myself home.
That incongruous and unexpected new week started sublimely. I had brought over al my things - shaver, spare clothes, all the bits and bobs needed for a mini vacation. It was like a vacation really and it all felt different now Becky and I were on our own. We got into a routine straight off.
Each day she would go to school as usual and I would work on repairing the rusty old racing bicycle Carlton had given her. I had a project to get in fixed within the week. It would have a new seat; new brakes handle grips and endeavour to put some feminine sparkle into it with a complete respray in pink and purple - Becky’s chromatic choice for garish glitz.
When the new lady of the house got home in the afternoons she and Carlton would join me for a twenty-minute jog along a circuit around the common and down into the outskirts of town and back. The worst of the snow had gone and we were in a spell of warmer south westerlies that kindly befitted those New Year’s resolutions. I lead them off each time and ribbed them sergeant-majorly to keep up every step of the way. Frankly, I was showing off and re-discovering my old athletic ability. I might be the touching middle age and fifteen stones plus but I was fitter than both of them.
We’d get back and I would go in take a quick shower and then get the dinner on while I left Becky and Carlton to share a cigarette sat on the park swing.
“Don’t let your mother see you with that cigarette, Carlton, or she won’t think I’m doing a very good job getting you fit!“ I joked.
I was cooking up a meaty Bolognese. Becky came in with Carlton and plonked themselves on top of the kitchen cabinets.
“Oh, don’t put your sweaty behinds all over the work surfaces-it’s unhygienic!”
Becky jumped down reluctantly, “Don’t fuss! I’m off for a shower…see ya later, Rob,” and she darted off upstairs.
“So how’s the new school term going, Carlton? Have tests coming up?” I asked.
“Yeah, only two weeks to go and I’m crapping myself. My Maths teacher is a pig and I hate asking for extra help. Would you mind showing me sometime, when you're not too busy…I’d be ever so grateful.”
I didn’t hesitate to answer, “Yes, of course I will, Carlton, you keep an eye on Becky for us - it’s the least I could do.”
He looked at me relieved, “Cool, that’s brilliant!” He paused for a moment as if he wanted to say something. I could sense some anxiety in him.
“What else is on your mind, Carlton? You look as if something is bothering you.”
He looked sheepish. “Well…there’s something I think you ought to know…but…I don’t.”
He looked towards the door. I checked to see we were not being overheard and I shut the glass panelled kitchen door.
“Come on Rob, you know you can tell me, is it about Becky?”
He nodded and took at deep breath.
“She’s saying a few things at school about you and her. Like…While Carla and Lita have gone and you and her are on your own…she’s telling people you and her…you know….’coz you’re together alone overnight in the house a lot, you see.”
He couldn’t say it. But it was clear what he was trying to say.
”What do you think about it?”
He answered immediately.
“All bull…I think most people who know Becky as well as us knows what she’s like. She can’t help telling porkies…it’s just how she is…just for attention…she wants to be talked about.”
Just then he caught the sound of Rebecca coming out of the bathroom.
“I better go…thanks again, Leo…let me know when you want me to come round with my Maths…bye!”
The back door slammed and I made my way up the stairs. I wanted to speak to her now and I was getting angry. As I got to the top of the stairs I saw her bedroom door ajar. She was naked with her back to me. The bath towel that had been wrapped around her body now dropped to her feet. She bent down to retrieve it. But as she stood up with it in her arm she stood still like a statue and looked towards the dressing table mirror.
Her fresh-washed form became fixed in my brain like my very own version of a Callipygian Venus. I could only study her then in transfixed heaven, motionless she and I were, both momentarily in my snapshot of heavenly bliss.
I fought that yearning and turned from her. Her spell had to be broken. I softly retreated downstairs to put some water in a pan. A shrill, stabbing punctuation wounds the air and I saw from the dull grey-green LED screen of my mobile that it was Charlotte calling. Probably checking up on me, I thought.
“Hi Charlotte, how are you? I was just getting dinner ready for Becky and me.”
Her voice was muffled by the sound of an engine running.
“What number Cedar Drive are you at? I’m outside but I can’t see your car…where is your car?”
“What? You mean you are here? Jesus, Charlotte…. don’t come here, please! Go home. I’ll call you later, I promise.”
“No! See me now! I’m here now…I bet this is it…the big Georgian house with the double garage? Number Thirteen? Yes…I know…you’ve put your car in the garage, haven’t you?”
Just then I heard the front door. Doorbell Mona! God, I didn’t need this shit. ‘La Rivalling!’ She was here!
Rebecca called out from the top of the stairs, “Leo! Leo! There’s someone at the door, Leo…get the door!”
Reluctantly I opened the door. Charlotte pushed her way straight in.
“Christ, Charlotte, what are you playing at? There’s no need for this!”
She had the most determined contorted delirium upon her face. I had never seen her like that.
“So this is where you’ve got your little tart now is it? Where is she? Come on - tell me!”
At the top of the landing I caught a glimpse of a startled gazelle leaping back to her room to escape being seen loosely draped in a bath sheet. Nerves rather than anger caused me to exclaim loudly that she had really dropped me in it this time.
“What on earth possessed you to come here? Why here? Why to my wife’s home? Of all places-what a crazy…stupid thing to do!”
My senses recovered and I thought it wise to usher her into the sitting room where I closed the door and sat her down.
“I just can’t take any more of this, Leo…if it’s not your wife then it’s that little piece…where does it leave me? I want to see her now! I hear things too, you know! We can’t go on like this…This needs sorting!”
“Charlotte, you know how it is…I never wanted this. I have to do this because no one else will. I promise you…she means nothing to me!”
I pleaded vainly.
“Let me see her! I will know what the truth is if I can see her for myself! I am going to talk with her and it’s going to be right now!”
Just then the sitting room door opened. The queen of drama made her own serene and spectacular entrance. How she got dressed so fast is one of life’s unfathomable mysteries.
“Hello…I’m Becky…are you one of Leo’s friends?”
“Er…Yes…something like that!”
I acted quickly, “Hey, you two do let me introduce you both properly. Becky this is Charlotte…Charlotte-Becky. Please let me get you both a drink. What would you like? Becky? Charlotte?”
“Tea!” exclaimed Charlotte abruptly.
”I’d like something a bit stronger if that’s ok, Leo?” Rebecca smiled.
There was little I could do now. I left them to talk and went to get some drinks and sort out what smelt like burning pasta. My world was about to fall down around me but at least I saved the Bolognese.
I fetched some drinks. I handed Rebecca a glass of cider and Charlotte some tea. Bravely facing the jaws of death I blustered the only words hanging from my sorry mouth.
“Such an unexpected guest…but no matter…. Would you like some dinner with us? Nothing too fancy tonight I’m afraid…. just a simple Bolognese and pasta.“
Murderous, steaming Mayes nodded. Then with her eye caught on something, swept past me to the coffee table where she spied on it my wife’s abysmal slush novel. Clasping her find she sunk herself deep into the sofa and disdainfully began to paw the unfinished book. Mirroring her new foe and not to be outdone, vanilla girl took up her position in the armchair opposite rescuing a magazine from the rack by the armchair side.
I quickly nip to the kitchen and nab myself a half drunk bottle of red and a glass for comfort. With fleet of foot I fly back to the sparring sparrows in a trice.
“Oh I just detest these ridiculous pot boilers. You read one and you’ve read them all…. Nothing like reality…. pandering to the foolishness of lovelorn old maids who can’t find or keep a husband!”
Came the critique from the older book reviewer.
“That’s what I think…but Carla spends hours reading them…Leo tells her its trash…he gets her proper books…like the Great Gatsby…that’s one I really loved.” Enjoined the younger critic.
“Oh…him…Scott Fitzgerald…yes…another drunk who wasted his life and dies in a midlife crisis. Why do men do such foolish things when they get to that age? Always after something else…something beyond themselves they shouldn’t really have.”
“I didn’t know you read literature, Charlotte?”
I gasped in amazement.
“There’s a lot you don’t know about me, Leo. But maybe you’ll learn!”
Charlotte quipped smugly.
“Oh, Leo is such a good teacher really…I’ve learnt that there is a chance for me to go somewhere…he’s written me a reference to go the college…I’m going to be a teacher…like him.”
“Maturity is so important, my dear…as you get older…you learn things…like the difference between love and lust…that’s where men can’t help themselves, Rebecca…they’re so clever at acquiring what they want…trouble is they never know what they do really want!”
This felt so painfully, cringingly incongruous - all sat down together round the sturdy oak dining table. Them talking as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Charlotte fixed me a stare.
“We were having a little chat about love, Leo. Weren’t we, Becky? Isn’t it amazing? Men and women the world over struggle to understand just what love is, and once it is found the search goes on, for a lifetime, to find ways to make love last. One day you’ll find love, Becky. It will come to you-just wait!”
“Oh…I’ve got no time for boys right now…it’s all about my grades…I need to get them for college next September…I’m doing child care.”
“Ah…how sweet! Out of the mouths of babes! Isn’t that charming, Leo?”
I irked at Mothering Mayes’s patronising tone.
“Love does play such a large part in everyone’s lives…more than we can sometimes possibly imagine. I do find though…it does bring all kinds of disturbing contradictions with it. Don’t you think Leo? How is it that we can fall in love with someone who is cruel, has a drug or alcohol problem, or is violent? Or, indeed, suddenly find we have fallen out of love with the very person we perceived as kind, loving and gentle?”
“Yes, alright, Charlotte…. you’ve made your point…some Chardonnay?”
I fill her glass tin a vain effort to distract her train of thought and I try to add my penny’s worth.
“Cruel things can be done in the name of love…I agree…Wise men say that to fall in love is a kind of madness, and so when under the spell we are guilty of behaving in a manner which is out of character we try to excuse it by saying, ‘I have fallen madly in love.”
“Thank you, Leo, well put….and then we get onto your estranged wife!”
Becky remembered something, “Carla phoned earlier, Leo…I forgot to tell you…she said Lita’s really fallen for a soldier…he’s in the Marines-a right hunk-looks like Leonardo di Caprio or was it Brad Pitt she said. He’s getting sent to help sort the Iraqis. That’s so cool. Just like what you see on television, isn’t it?”
Charlotte gave out a huge sigh, “Oh I hate wars! Lovers so often meet in a light-hearted way then it all ends in tragedy-for their sake, everyone’s sake…I do hope there’s no fighting. It all end in tears….don’t you agree, Leo?”
“No idea…not too bothered myself….not my concern…seems to me some people attract more than their fair quota of love or hate. I try hard to be an optimist…its not easy…the brutal truth is if you look for love, the less likely you are to find it.”
“So true…my dear Leo….so true,” says Charlotte mockingly. My ‘banal chic reveller’.
Rebecca asked how Charlotte and I met. ‘Clever lain breach’. I couldn’t see the sense in holding back now. That cat’s out of the bag so I admitted we crossed paths on an Internet dating site. She was the woman I found so fortuitously after many a brush with other gold-digging girlies.
Beware whom you talk to on the Net. Avoid at all costs that strange woman who resides in a stone mansion standing in the middle of a clearing in a dense wood. Circe worked at a huge loom. Charlotte told Rebecca we had grown close over the last year. Rebecca confessed she had suspected as much as it was obvious my marriage wasn’t what it could have been. ‘Vile cable rancher’. I was the topic of much speculation about my voyages online to forbidden shores. But temptresses have had me and I have escaped their clutches before.
“So you’re going off to the big city to study child care…you’ll need your own digs, Rebecca?” Charlotte enquired.
Becky smiled, “Yes, I’m really looking forward to it. Leo took me there for a tour…we saw the halls of residence…it was a dream…Leo’s been showing me all the ins and outs.”
Becky took Charlotte to her bedroom where she showed her photos of her sister and some of the clothes she had bought over the Christmas.
“Leo says you miss your sister...that must be awful.”
“Oh, no one will stop me seeing her. I have my ways…believe me…she is the most precious person in my life…nothing…no one will ever come between us.”
“From what Leo says it looks like Lita won’t let anything come between her and her soldier boy…perhaps it will be the same with her ladyship?”
“Her ladyship? Who’s that?”
“Ha…that’s what Leo calls her...his wife…he never calls her by name with me-always ‘her ladyship’…he thinks it makes her seem more detached from the equation.” Revile clan breach.
“Oh…equations…don’t go there!“ They smile together.
“You’re very sweet, Becky…I do think you’ve been treated so badly…Leo told me lots…But you know...woman to woman…on the subject of happiness and love…one day it comes to us all…anytime…you know when you are in love when-as in my case-you think about that person the moment you wake up and when you go to bed at night. No matter how busy you are…you want to make them happy. You miss them when they are not around, even when you are having a whale of a time with your friends.“
I cleared the kitchen and made some tea. Before long we were all sat down at the Play Station. It felt the most natural thing to do. The Chardonnay kicked in and the mood grew more relaxed.
“What time are you off, Charlotte? Looks like a heavy fog is coming down outside…not the best conditions to be out driving.”
She stood up and peered out of the window.
“Wow…that’s so thick! I can’t even see my car from here! I’d feel so much safer if you’d let me stay tonight. I know it’s a bit of an imposition. Is that alright with you, Becky?”
She looked pointedly at Rebecca as she waited for an answer. After a long pause Rebecca gave me a knowing look and smiled. I felt trapped.
“It’s what Leo says that counts, Charlotte, not me…he’s in charge.”
They stared in unison. I was at their mercy. Like a rabbit caught in the dazzling headlights of an oncoming car. I could do nothing. God help me if my wife knew the truth. The following morning quickly, quietly and without fuss the house was soon empty.

19
FRIDAY 17TH JANUARY 2003. Kooky Carla was back and I can’t say it helped the atmosphere in the house much having her around again. I packed my things and went back home and left them to it. I knew I had to attend to Charlotte and after a week of bike repairs, housework and cleaning I welcomed the chance to go sponge a little at hers. She did her best to make me feel at home. I knew where this was all headed if I let it happen.
I’d finished the bike for Rebecca by Thursday afternoon and it looked outrageously ‘bling’ as she wanted, if I say so myself even if it really was a boy’s bike. She looked suitably pleased when I took her outside to show it off.
Carlton came round for her at five on his bike and they took a test run down on a cigarettes errand for Harriet on a good pedal I hope. In their absence Kooky wanted to quickly show me something in Lita’s room.
“Look at this, Leo! This is what’s been going on behind my back! Taking the piss!”
I gulped and nervously took a peek at where she was pointing. I was something on the inside of Lita’s closet as my wife held the door open.
“What am I meant to be looking at Cookie?”
“See! There, Leo, open your goddamn eyes will you! “
She took out the thigh length back boots that Lita had got for Christmas.
“These! You see!”
I was mystified but intensely relieved all at the same instant. My chest pounded.
“See Leo! Scratched and gouged and filthy-mud all over them! She’s had them on and been out with them.”
Her eyes bulged and a blood vessel bulged threatening to burst from her tortured temples.
“Brand new £150 boots trashed! Where were you when that happened? Either you took her on one of your sad jaunts or you were out with one of your Internet whores and couldn’t be bothered to do what I asked!”
“Well, I never saw her wear them.”
I countered rationally but to no avail.
“The only time she was not in my sight was when she went out on Friday and Saturday nights with Cilla….it’s the bloody Karaoke!”
She continued to rummage through Lita’s jumbled mess of clothes and debris.
“I don’t know where all the loose change has gone.”
“What loose change?”
“Lita’s with coins collection! You know-that huge bottle-must have been fifty dollars…POUNDS!…disappeared.”
She was indignant and stomped across the landing to Rebecca’s room and flung open the door immediately summoning my presence.
“Cookie, don’t you think it’s a bit deceitful doing this? Why not just have it out with the kid when she gets back?” I pleaded.
“No, no, no! This is the end. Here it is! Look for yourself! Almost all gone!”
The cerebrally haemorrhaging bloodhound held up the outsize Coke bottle like a battering ram - it had a few brown coins at the bottom.
“Are you sure that’s Lita’s? It might be one Rebecca has started.”
“No way-she won’t save anything -she’s a spender. She’s been in my purse, too. I know she has. I bet she’s helped herself to hundreds over the months. God, she’s taken the piss for the last time!”
At that instant the front door sounded. Carlton and Rebecca.
“Hi, Leo, Hi Carla - just us- we’re going to be out for a bit.”
Rebecca called out a ‘see ya later’ and the door shut again and they were gone.
“Oh, pedal pie! The little bitch- she’s run off ‘cause she knows I’m onto her! She’s seen me put her light on. You wait till she gets back!”
Kooky was indignant. I expected the fury to fall upon us all that night but a call from Lita and a long two-hour phone chat seemed to take all the wind out of my wife’s sails. I was relieved and left later that evening still keeping my fingers crossed.

20
SUNDAY 26TH JANUARY 2003. The storms abated until we reached Sunday’s horizon. The Clovers came round for a visit that morning prior to an excellent lunch roast beef. That great British aroma could not dispel the pervading climate of rebellion in the household. The colonial colonel continued with her counsel of war. Carla heard the same reports from all her scouts. Just like Claire had before: Harriet, Hector and Carlton confirmed the worst. The word on the streets, in the schools, on the Internet was the same.
That awful malignancy had spread - such a cancer hill beaver. Little Miss Vanilla was going to feel vile vespers that night when she got back from Cilla’s sanctuary. Carla was mortified on hearing that Becky had been spreading the rumour that her presence at the house had been under the condition she had regular sex with me. This was it now. She had to go this time.
“It’s a tragedy, Carla…Leo…you poor people.”
Harriet gave poor ashen-faced Carla a pitying look. Hector just shook his head. I took Carlton aside into the study and went through his maths homework to escape the gloom. Carlton was his usual laid-back self - very matter of fact about it all.
“Is Bex going into care, now Leo?”
“She’s her own worst enemy, Carlton. I’m sorry…I really am - looks like the end.”
The lad tried to cheer me up and offered a word of consolation.
“Some of them say I’m having sex with her, too, Leo. But I’m not, honest.”
“It’s ok, Carlton. You don’t have to tell me. I understand how you feel. I know words can be twisted.”
Later that evening a car pulled up outside. The Clovers had long since gone home. I hear the car door slam and wait. Tense. I remembered being a child. I remembered my father and his drunken fury. Trapped. The door shut and him wielding his big, thick leather belt. The thwack of buckle on skin screams the writhing agony of it. Each horrific moment of time stuttered slowly in freeze-frame and every frame a picture burnt into your soul. Those lashes, my yelps, pain-scarred flesh from the frenzied, flailing fury of cruel, remorseless hate.
Now it is here once more. The door lock clicks open and it erupts again. A crazed Carla leaps forwards and slams Rebecca into the stairway banisters in a whirlwind of flailing arms and hair. What muscle power. I froze on the spot helpless and dumbfounded. She snorts, in a blur of motion, forgetting her pain for a moment as she sucks in sharp breaths.
“You evil, selfish fucking bitch!”
She coughs now - spits of blood dribble from her nostrils. Again she screams out her rage at the treacherous creature. They fall brawling. Carla lets out a grunt as she rolls over, trying to get purchase on Rebecca’s throat as a gush of deep red blood spurts from a wound.
In the wild frenzy Carla clutches a mass of hair. Bile fear flooded my throat. My palms began to sweat but I am the startled rabbit caught in this wild light. They fought scratching and hacking furiously. I caught a glimpse of bloodied clumps, torn from the roots. I gasped at the crazed strength of my wife – almost grinding flesh between her teeth - few women as determined.
I saw the purest of hate and the closest sense of impending murder, of cranial collapse – no - smashed, torn and mangled limbs. I wanted to vomit.
Rebecca struggled up to her knees then threw Carla back and she fell clumsily and hard against the front the door. The side of her face thudded into the heavy metal plate of the letterbox and a jet of crimson scythed from her split lip as she twisted in agonising pain. It was the most vivid sight.
I could take no more. I rammed my arms between them hoping to disentangle them, but I felt sharp fingernails tearing at my flesh. We all tumbled to the floor in a crazed scrum. I felt Carla’s body underneath me stiffen then for some reason, relax before tensing up again. She coughed, spits of blood dribbling from her nostrils.
“Get the fuck off me, you scumbag! You take the bitch if you want her!”
A bruise was already beginning to show on her left cheek, stretching up to her eye. Instantly, I grabbed Rebecca round her waist and pulled her from the tangle and unravelled her hair from her face left reddened but undamaged.
Rebecca’s body felt lax but her eyes were tense with fear - or was that hate?
I pulled her into me and shielded her with my tight-wrapped body to hers. She trembled as I tried to reassure her. I half expected my wife to start fighting again, but she didn't. Her bony fingers tapped at the telephone.
“I’m calling the police…you can both face the consequences…you’re finished…done…both of you…burn in hell…parasites…fucking scumbags!”
Shaking she still clutched incongruously to the tea towel she carried from the kitchen. Wounded, she refused to meet my eyes as I gathered up the broken side table. Broken china and shattered objects scattered about the floor. Then she dabbed the tea towel to her nose and scowled as saw the dashes of blood on the cotton cloth.
The New York street fighter had taken care of her business the best way she knew and those police officers got to Thirteen Cedar Drive within minutes. Constables Ellis and Taylor. Both women. That surprised me.
“Er…I’m the husband…God knows what my wife told you on the phone…it’s a sorry situation…she’s been really stressed recently.”
An officious arm with little time for pleasantries pointed me outward to the street. Given no time to ponder, I retreated outside.
Harriet was peering out from behind her curtains. The Clovers kept their distance. Nothing like this was in their ken. It was a bitterly cold night so I withdrew to the sanctuary of my car and got the engine running. I nursed a bruised hand.
Rebecca had gone straight to one of the officers. A message was relayed to me from inside. She had to leave the home permanently. My gut instincts told me I should, at any cost, take Rebecca to my place. I tapped my shaking fingers across the lime-glowing buttons of my cell phone. Cilla answered the phone instantly - eerie calm in her voice - like she knew.
I continued to watch from the street. I saw through the shadow of an officer pointing and gesturing. Rebecca then came out scurrying to the car with two bulging black plastic bin liners. The silhouette shadow of my wife I saw shepherded past a window to another room. Once my wounded charge had her bundled belongings stowed in the car we made our slow funereal departure to Eccles Drive. Once safe within the sanctuary of my bachelor abode Miss Mellifluous suddenly found her voice again as we unpacked and stowed her belongings.
“This is a lovely bedroom, Leo, so warm…so spacious...was it Lita’s? It’s wonderful!”
She gazed around covetously.
“I’ll drive you to school tomorrow, Becky… it’s been an awful night…let’s get you next door to Cilla’s…leave your things here for now…we can sort everything tomorrow.”
Rebecca slowly trudged down the stairs looking around her new domain. When I returned from Cilla’s the phone was ringing. It was Carla. Her voice sounded cold and to the point.
“It’s over, Leo, you took her side…I knew you and her were up to something…I’ll be filing for divorce. Keep away from me. You keep the car…it’s yours…I’m going home to New York.”
The phone clicked. I felt the finality of it then. It was over.

21
I slept badly. I was up early the next day after tending to my morning glory. As I drove Rebecca up to the school gates I felt all those peering eyes on me. My mind was in turmoil so I told myself the best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time.
I felt I had to talk urgently with Cilla but what I was to find out wasn’t gratifying. She confirmed the worst - Rebecca alleged Carla had pressurised her into having sex with me. My days were descending into a deep black fog. The drabness and cold of the evenings were worse. Then the phone rang. I anticipated it was Carla. Wrong as usual.
“Hi Charlotte…yes…it’s happened…Carla threw Becky out…they had a fight. I defended Becky…no…she’s at Cilla’s…I need to sort my head out…thanks…I’ll call you soon, darling…don’t worry…I’m ok...g’night.”
Then I heard a knock at my front door. Through the frosted glass door, in the cold yellow haze of the streetlight, I see the willowy figure of Rebecca. She smiled as I welcomed her in.
“Drink, Bex? Sorry, I can’t offer anything stronger but you’re welcome to a cold coke or a hot tea or coffee.”
She strides into the lounge theatrically casting off her overcoat and slumping deeply into the soft sofa. Her eyes are like deep, dark pools.
“No…I’ve just had dinner thanks…oh, what a relief…I’m so glad we’re free of all that crap now, Leo…I am so much happier…with just Cilla…The kids…And…of course…you.”
She is wearing long black boots, back short skirt and back wrap around blouse.
“Have you been treating yourself to new clothes? I haven’t seen you wearing that outfit before.”
She tells me a new friend of hers, ‘Shev,’ who lives around the corner and shares the school bus with her, had given her some clothes that she had grown out of.
She sticks out her legs like a Spanish ballerina point striking towards me in an exaggerated odalisque pose.
“S you do like my new boots then, Leo and my new look?”
I avoided mentioning my problems and wore my upbeat face just for my ‘vaina,’ my special ‘scabbard’ and I try to smile.
“You look stunning, babe. Have you heard from the college yet about your place? You should hear soon - you must be nervous and excited. As they say, ‘one door closes and another one opens,’… I told you I would sort it out for you, didn’t I?”
She looks older, what with the lipstick, eye shadow and smart new clothes.
“Mmm…you did, Leo…you have been the best…the very best. I’m so lucky to have you.”
She jumps up nimbly like some angelic fawn and plants a wet kiss right on my dry lips and looks at me through that tousled dark frond of hair that she carefully let fall across her errant eye. I sensed I could have her now if I chose to. She was there to be had. I wanted to take her but I didn’t. Something in me said, ‘not yet.’
“I spoke with Cilla earlier. She said you told her about things that happened at Cedar Drive. She said you were glad to be rid of Carla…you told her you. You said…you were being made to have sex with me.”
She paused momentarily and sat herself up straight in the chair.
“I was forced…She told me to…I was supposed to do whatever you wanted me to do. …And you know that…we all know that.”
Her demeanour changed. Was she admonishing me now?
“Rebecca, have I ever asked you to have sex with me? Have I ever done anything to you?”
She looked me straight in the eyes.
“We both know what you wanted, Leo…it was going to happen…I felt it.”
I sit down beside her.
“Becky…I feel…you know…we are…we have gotten close. I do care…but I am a schoolteacher. I can’t…it’s like people will look at me…I need to work…god…it gives me headache what other people say and think!”
She stood up saying she had to go. She was supposed to be at Shev’s by seven. Cilla needed her back by eight to mind the children. I had to let her go. I felt empty.
The following day I looked out of my front window just after four. As expected I saw Becky walking up the path towards Cilla’s. Then a knock at the door. It’s her. She wore one of her best broad smiles.
“Hi Leo!”
She beams at me. Ah, the charm of that asymmetrical face - it never fades. I was once the moth to her bright flame and now she comes back running. Was she here to ask if she could come live in bliss with me in Leohampton? Did she wish to spend a perfect vacation in Bloomsville – upon - Sea? Did she want to plant for me a columbine kiss?
“Hi Bex…you’re looking very well as usual. Isn’t it a nice day today? The sun is as bright as your smile…. so what can I do for you, young lady?”
She nodded agreement. It was unseasonably warm for February. She says Cilla was inviting me round for a coffee and a chat. Come round in the next half hour - she said - give her a chance to get changed and settle.
I went round and sat on the floor of Cilla’s lounge. She showed me a pile of papers one inch deep. Cilla handed me a mug of coffee. Rebecca sat in the armchair in the corner looking on.
Becky got the ball rolling.
“We’ve been having lots of girly chats…you know…it’s great to be living with someone who is so much like me.”
Cilla piped up.
“Oh, yes…it’s really doing me a lot of good having another woman in the house what with just the boys to keep me company up to know.”
Cilla confessed to being just a big teenager at heart. The two of them have become closer and closer in the past couple of months since the karaoke weekends started.
“Becky has been good…she looks out for me at the pub…not one of those drunken sods gets under my feet when she’s around to protect me. I might even train her up to do some dancing…belly dancing…she says she’s always wanted to be a belly dancer…can you believe it?”
I mustered an approving grunt and a vain vanilla smiled back at me inanely.
“I told Cilla there’s not many decent men in pubs anyway…she’s on a dating web site now, Leo…it’s so much better! She’s been showing me who she’s been looking at and talking to…it’s so funny…some of them are really full on!”
They laughed together heartily. Cilla gave Rebecca a nod and she carried on.
”It’s so funny, Leo, you should see what they are like…have a read…there are some photos, too.”
Rebecca picked up a pile of papers from the coffee table and handed them to me: dozens of print outs of men’s dating profiles and the logs of cyber chat room conversations. They kept meticulous records with dates and times. I saw Cilla and Rebecca’s hand written comments, aside each profile. I looked in disbelief. I was like an amateur in the online dating game.
“Another coffee, Leo?”
Cilla made off to the kitchen and I replied with a ‘no thanks’ and Becky furtively moved to sit beside me on the floor right into my ’private space.’
“Don’t you think Cilla is attractive? She has amazing bone structure-she could easily have been a model when she was younger.”
“Ha…well…er…maybe. I never thought of her…actually she’s not really my type. Um…did she not tell you?”
“Tell me what?”
I started to explain that six or seven years earlier, before I married Carla, there had been a brief fling but I cut myself in mid sentence as Cilla re-entered the room.
“Never mind…er…hope you both don’t mind…but I really have some lesson prep to do…I am working tomorrow at the middle school. I’m going to have to get going.”
I was wise to them now - enough of those games! Meddling Miss Matchmaker come mismatching. I get back indoors and the phone sounds. It’s Carla- her turn to bend back my ear.
She insists she has something to show me. But I’m not ready. I needed to have some more time to myself. Her tone is indignant threatening that a ‘no show’ from me will mean the gloves are off and she will press charges against Rebecca and me, too. I laughed.
It’s over and done with. Everyone got what he or she wanted in the end. I was being flippant. She became more agitated and I didn’t really care. Click goes the phone.
Later that evening I send an email to Rebecca telling her I am not interested in Cilla and I was annoyed that she had been telling people I wanted to have sex with her. I get an electronic apology from her the next day. Yet another phone call; it’s Carla; I weaken and agree to her demands. We meet at hers tomorrow.
My wife was stone faced and stern as she opened the door to me. She ushered me swiftly inside, but instead of brickbats and bullets she threw me a reasoned plan – a cunning outflanking manoeuvre. She began to explain she had been doing her homework. She had finally arranged a meeting with Rebecca’s mother. She asked me to go, too. Now was not the time to waiver so I agreed. All was set.
At five the following afternoon I heard a knock at my door and it was my Rebecca Regretter with an ameliorating smile curling her lips. I greeted her with a cautious ‘hello.’ I beckoned the bounding, bubbly Becky into my parlour. I feigned disinterest in her fawning foppishness as she flitted about the room tweaking this ornament, stabbing her finger at that. All the while she acted like she was inspecting the place: what a nerve she had - what arrogance, what bluff, what style.
Torturing conflagrations for her still raged intermittently in my veins. I would have preferred my blood to thin and my ardour to desist before I acted impetuously and I had showed my jealousy for her and her new meddling mentor to mock. My supplicant had come to take something from me as usual.
Foolishly, I told her I was growing weary of seeing car after car calling for her. Her free and easy virtue was unbecoming. I revealed my petty jealousies unwisely. She acted as if my words flitted by like wispy feathers.
She needed help. I should listen. She needed to borrow from me the copy of Flumes ‘Muses of Modern Art’ for inspiration for an essay she had to write on the role of women in society.
I could have told her the kind of role she was headed for if she persisted in her cavalier antics. She was back to her old tricks with a vengeance now she had Cilla’s corruptive capers to inspire her. I had such contempt for the older hag, out to snare her man and then net any others deceitfully, while his jobbing back was turned.
Karibdis was as cunning and ruthless as they come and I guess her and her new pupil had much on their agenda. Each new morning I could see and hear them both at their open bathroom window playfully preening gynephiliacally and planning tactics for the daily trawl of the lunchtime bar crowds, the holidaymaking punters, any or all Johnny-cum-latelies out for a vocational vault over the bending bones of a compliant comely bit of skirt.
Karibdis was a show off – a bare-bellied and painted harlot exhibitionist who needed an audience to tease and please. ‘The Sunken Ship,’ a dilapidated alehouse situated between ‘Freddy’s Fast-fit Mechanics’ and North Haven’s fire station, had been this clown’s stage for several years. Here was the theatre for the pantomime dame to put on her dancing comedy act and get down and dirty with the dregs.
Cilla’s ex-husband, Henry Flower had started her up in business at the time I moved to the Havens after my divorce from Molly. Faithful Flowers had set up his salacious Cilla with the weekend Karaoke business to pander and appease her in her stage-struck fantasies.
Before the era of lap dancers ‘Cilla the Thriller’ was smooching and schmoozing her way amongst the heaving mass of sweaty bodies each and every Friday and Saturday night. Her belly-dancing exploits went down a storm with the depraved, the wanton and barbarous. Now the primal paramour double act was out for a hard piston-rodding in a tag-team special. I pictured the inevitable imitation of the Diva by her devoted new dance pad hopper. It irked me to think that the beautiful Becky would swoon to the cat whistles and hoots of public bar trolls rather than the worshipful stanzas of adoration I so longed to woo her with.
“Cool - what’s this you have here, Leo, its pervy, isn’t it?”
Her roaming rogue eye had spotted, registering loud and clear on her radar, a small clay figurine representation of an engorged male appendage. She picked up, examined closely and stroked the objet d’art in her hands like an expert - but not of the antiquarian kind.
“Oh, it was a present I bought for Carla - she left it when she and Lita moved.”
She giggled and asked what it was. She knew what it was. It was but a charming love token, my first antique offering, to my wife on our first anniversary. An Indian Priapus, of South American pigmy origin of a male figure crouched upon the ground, as if contemplating his own attributes. His head was somewhat crudely shaped.
I explained to her that his ‘tree of life’ was hugely engorged for a reason. He was ready to be anointed with palm oil that would drip into a pot below. Thereupon the would-be mother would say a small prayer to her god who would make her fertile. This was the symbol my wife saw as the blessing of our union, in the hope that one day we might create our own little offering. I had invested quite considerable slice of my savings in these love tokens and they proved as useless as contemporary chemical equivalents.
She seemed now to be teasing me with her flirtatious antics so that my lips, tongue, eyes, every sense in this mature, still virile and manly body ached for the magic of her glory.
I copied and burned that image, that teasing, stroking hand she used to toy that poor helpless little terracotta me, into the sordid scrapbook of my mind, that secret cupboard where I collected all my sexual relics. All to wear tissue-thin from night time incarnations. I treasured such tiny leaves on my own tree of life.
But as the winds of time blew they grew crisper and drier in chill autumnal breezes. I had long told myself that the most exquisite sexual pleasures are not from the frantic thrashings of sexual athletes but found reaching the higher functions and sensibilities of the discerning mind. I settled my hand on Flumes ‘Muses of Modern Art’ and pulled it from the dusty shelf. She thanks me for being such a sweetheart and is gone again from me far too soon.
FEBRUARY 14TH 2003: Valentine’s Day. I have a card from Charlotte. Good old Charlotte. At about five Rebecca pops in for a quick visit. I get a peck on the cheek. Nothing more? She informs me she and Cilla are going to visit her parents address that evening on their way to karaoke. Her sister is eleven today. She plans to deliver a birthday card to her. I am frustrated.
I remind Rebecca that her mother had forbidden her from going to the house or anywhere near her sister. I remember something about a court order and warn her she may face arrest for harassment. She had that glazed look again in her eyes. It’s no good - she’s not listening to me any more.
She was resolutely set on her way. She wanted to show me the little gift she had bought for her younger sibling. In her hand she held a vacuum-packed plastic set of dolls called ‘Tinybrats’ or something. They were seven garishly painted bare-limbed immobile, tiny vanilla nymphs each dressed in cheap gauze individually coloured to represent a rainbow. I remembered that the idea of such child-colours must have been lifted from some literary passage I once read.
She was myopically beaming at me, “Aren’t they lovely?”
No, nothing about this was lovely! In the van Hiller household wayward Miss Bothersome Beanie was persona non grata. I bellowed something to the effect that it would be wholly inappropriate for her to call on her family without any word of warning.
She grabbed at the gift as if to snatch it from my hand and in that instant my arm pushed back at her and caught her in the face. She shot out an ululation of pain. I saw blood seeping from my wounded hand as something sharp must have cut across it. In the blink of an eye my hurt little pod had lunged past me making her dash for the front door. In remorse I tried to fling myself at her heels despairing for some melodramatic poignant atonement upon my grovelling love. I tried to immolate myself but it was too late. She was so soon gone again.

22
MONDAY 17TH FEBRUARY 2003: ‘President’s Day in the U.S.
“Hello, Leo. You need to listen carefully to this. There’s been an incident. Rebecca’s mother’s just called. There was a big stink at the house on Valentine’s Day. I’ll give you the scoop when you come pick me up. Lunch on me…is that ok?”
Yes. I tell my wife I’m taking us to the docks - a neutral venue or shall we call it no man’s land or the edge of the world to some.
“You’ve never taken me this way before, Leo.”
We drive a ways then park up. Walking from Beresford place we followed in the order named Lower and Middle Gardiner streets and Mountjoy square, west - then, at reduced pace, Gardiner's place by an inadvertence as far as the farthest corner of Temple street: then, at reduced pace with slight interruption for swooping seagulls, bearing right, Temple street, north, as far as Hardwicke place. Approaching, disparate, at relaxed walking pace we crossed the circus before George's church diametrically, the chord in any circle being less than the arc which it subtends and we arrived at the unexplored world besides the far quay.
We jointly and severally decide upon the spot suitable to our purpose. He head towards an ‘A’ frame board with a golden sun symbol and an arrow pointing towards a conduit at the tunnel and an eastern looking restaurant called the Siduri. Into it we step and are instantly greeted by a swarthy looking moustachioed gentleman dressed in white shirt and bow tie. ‘Salem Alekum’ is his greeting and he introduces himself as Gilgamesh. He is white-apron strapped, not insanely jacketed but pleasingly jocular. He beckons us forward into his establishment.
We are taken up a spiral staircase into the vantage point any voyeur would love. We are seated close to the window where our eyes were drawn to the white tower beyond framed by a bedazzling green sea backdrop.
I joked, ‘hi, opal deep’ at the sparkling lights glistening like jewels, and the shadows floated silently by through the morning peace from the stair head seaward. We each drank a freebie taster - a glass of red brought to us gamely and convivially by Mr White Apron. Inshore and farther out the mirror of water whitened on the breast of the dim sea that was rolling a slumbrous sheet of foam below.
“Oh, what a mysterious and enchanting place, Leo! This must be the immigrant quarter…some exotic-seafood maybe? Any fresh catch of the day?”
Soothing exotic music played to enthral my soon so tipsy and won-over wife.
“Ah, piped, ole!” she did say.
‘Racial belch? Never!’
I cast my conqueror’s gaze across the vast horizon and thought of Alexander and his march eastwards in order to find the end of the world, since his boyhood tutor Aristotle told him tales about where the land ends and the Great Outer Sea begins.
“Did you know the great Greek king, Alexander, integrated foreigners into his legions? Some scholars say he was the word’s first true multi-culturalist with a ‘policy of fusion.’”
My wife looked at me unimpressed. He encouraged marriage between his soldiers and foreigners…he even practiced it himself. I think he’d approve of you and me - wedded over waters.
What was I gabbling on about? She was drawn to the cut of Mr Gilgawotsit’s jib. Her attention was drawn more to his frisson, not my fusion. Ah, she found some message in my madness. Gilgamesh furnished us with more wine and warm fresh bread. I noted neatly arrayed carved clay tablets mounted on the wall. They had pride of place, it seems. A gregarious character, the swarthy moustache came up to speak and he explained the artefacts told of Sumerian legend. I counted and there were twelve of them.
Terracotta tiles? Mr Gilgamesh was once a bricklayer in his homeland and he spoke wistfully to us of people he left behind to find his own opportunity and fortune. Not a fan of Alexander was our Mr Gilgamesh.
He joked, “Ah the accursed one and destroyer of Persia!”
Drink up! And fill your glass! More red? Decanted blood red was the fruit of the vine and the work of human hands. I guess my wife found the Persian pleasing to her Mediterranean eye. She commented on his dark and handsome face, equine in its length, and his shiny untonsured hair, grained and hued like dark oak.
“That is not an accent from these parts, I am sure,” enquired Gil to his admiring maiden.
“Ha! You got that one right, mister, Queens, New York City: born and bred!”
Mrs Boastful Bloom did blather at great length, too, of her family and its Italian-American provenances to her attentive and welcome new ‘third world’ audience. Her great grand father was court musician to great King Umberto no less. Mr Mesopotanian looks politely impressed. Wittering wifey’s gabbling continued merrily apart from a momentary sombre interlude of remembrance for her precious dearly departed (antecedents and geographical) of whom she spoke solemnly.
“Arman Riccio-Mr Riccio-he was a true gentleman, a fabulous attorney and a true friend!”
A pickled lemon is often a sour puss. I told her frankly, now no more glum. Be of good cheer now! No more morbidity! I urged her to drink up and enjoy the moment. Drink the Chablis your favourite wine and think upon a summer divine. But we are all immigrants here! She was among kindred spirit, she said, fellow voyagers and seeker of knowledge. No more sad laments for the bereaved Albany attorney, Riccio. Save that for another day, another time, perhaps a more hopeful story.
Instead the peregrines swapped tales of past voyages and wisdom gained and what hopes they still held for future adventures. Seasons come and seasons go but the sun-ripened juice will always flow! ‘Carpe diem’ she cries and chortles and chomps merrily on tasty kebabs and panir-the dish of the day.
Our Persian patron shares with us how he had once made a goodly fortune - a fortune not of money but of riches of the soul - of hope and hard work. He was reminded of his greatest gift: the building a mighty wall to protect his family from the storms of inclement times. The wall saved his family and others from a great fire that scorched their village near the Euphrates River. Thus he gave his gift to them. A man shall be a god when he strives to make great works here on earth. This gentle Mesopotamian spoke sagely and eloquently of history and tradition. He spoke of Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar. He regaled us with his knowledge of the ancients.
We marvelled further at the many brightly coloured glazed tiles about this fine establishment, crafted in relief sculpture. Incongruously, amongst the finely framed prints on the wall, an erotic woodcut, perhaps an oddment traded once along the Silk Road. I much admired the piece and he told me knew a dealer who traded in fine Shunga woodblocks at a fair price. Did I trade? Was I in the market?
“My new friends be happy but also be wary. Charlatans ply their wares most everywhere. There is danger here and there.”
His wrinkled eyes sparkled in their blackness.
“And please…Just call me Gilgamesh…no misters, please my friends.”
And taste, to him the gushing of the wave and far, far away did he seem to mourn and rave. Of alien shores; and if his fellow spake. His voice was thin, as voices from the grave. And deep - asleep he seemed, yet all awake and music in his ears his beating heart did make.
Was it the alcohol or the mystery? We revelled in the atmosphere of ancient traditions and fine art, of poetry and the love of heritage and the preservation of goodliness. In my increasingly inebriated state I pondered again our host’s warning – his cryptic references to the apocalypse and the foes that move ever forward in stealth and covet our homelands.
He raised these portents of evil deeds and plundered chattels, thieves of antiquities. But with good fortune and by God’s will from this brewing chaos should come change; from that fledgling change should spawn hope.
“So let’s drink in hope of victory!”
We laughed. Then planned and strategized our expedition to foray the hinterlands of vanilla’s own past and secret world. So that’s how we left it. ‘Re-live clan breach!’ A final toast to success and let us see what the new day brings. About a week or so later Carla and I got to meet Cheryl van Hiller, Rebecca’s mother, at her home in the village of Lower Willing five miles west of South Haven.
Matronly Mrs van Hiller was much fatter than I expected and shorter. She was a surprisingly very plain looking woman about our age. We sat in conference at her dining table and the three of us conversed for over an hour. I was struck by the normalcy of the simple, rotund but unadorned vanilla mother and her very clean but sparse home. This was not a den of torture. These people weren’t fiends. She tells us that on that tempestuous evening of February Fourteenth Rebecca and Cilla approached the house uninvited. It was an unpleasant whirlpool of a scene. The sister had her birthday party ruined because of it.
Rebecca allegedly scratched the family car when the father shooed her off and she got vehemently irate. Cilla got annoyed, too, and shouted back at him, ‘what’s your fucking problem?’ Oh, doughty China cab reveller. She had no conscience, no qualms, or nagging voices for good in her subconscious. No inner remonstrations to herself from Rev. Rich Cleanable, Rev. Chile Barnacle or Rev. Anarchic Belle.
Then we met the little girl - a pretty, dark-haired timorous girl, but oh so very withdrawn. She reminded me somewhat of my own daughter and she wore a tired face. She came in and sat close to her mother.
“We’ve been talking about your big sister, my love.”
The chubby woman asked of her little bundle if there was anything she wanted to say to us. The child took her mother’s hand and gave her a knowing look. We took this as our cue to leave. ‘Breach lilac nerve.’ As we made our way to the door the waif uttered her only words so soft and judiciously to the point:
“Please tell Becky to leave me alone!”
I was dumbstruck and addle-brained. My mind went back to the diary entry Rebecca had penned about her sister that I sneaked a peak at. I had read it - she was close to her sibling sister - not like this. Was this the same person? What kind of a mind could be as twisted and skewered upon cruel fantasy such as this? Then I realised what that diary entry really was - a red herring and a clever ruse of psychopathic trickery. I was meant to see that excerpt. I was set up by a cunning schemer and baited and hooked by a con artist’s prop.
We got in the car and for a moment looked back upon that very average looking terraced house - home to a very average family. Kooky wore that smug and self-satisfied face I had learned to despise.
“You see, Leo! I was right…I knew it…we’ve all been had…and you’re still falling for it!”
“Oh shut it woman…you’re annoying me again!”
My head throbbed as the ‘I told you so’s’ from my jabbering car passenger made the drive home interminable. Locked into a journey through the recent past my wife listed each and every occasion where I had been duped and toyed. Many other innocents had also been robbed, deceived perhaps worse than me and had their hearts broken and lives looted. A street harlot was Rebecca van Hiller and she was of the most cunning brand. She was a catalyst for crime. She egged on the impressionable dolts so eager for her favours. To pliantly please our princess we dutiful dullards followed her whims as if they were regal orders sent down by our cunning contessa to her loser lieutenants to merrily march right on in a senseless quest of self- annihilation. Boys will boys and what was I, just some old goat that should have known better?
“Now is the time to act, Leo. It’s beyond a joke-she’s had a ton of Lita’s clothes and possessions! She’s nothing but a stealing…lying tramp! She’s defaming our good names all about the Havens like a human whirlwind of destruction. To cap it all you’ve given her the green light to a college course working with young kids…She’s no rough diamond…nothing warm in her just a heart as black as coal. Wake up Leo and smell the coffee! I know you better than that…you don’t want this on your conscience. Kick the bitch to the kerb once and for all!”
This goading from my Evil breach lancer was wearing me down.
“Ok…ok…I’ll get round there and try another little chat…for all the good it will do. I’ll tell Cilla that we’ve spoken with the younger sister…and all the other stuff…I’ll tell her what I saw…if that’s what you want!”
A self-satisfied smile grew about her face.

23
FEBRUARY 26TH 2003. I get up in the morning when I feel like it. Except on Wednesdays when the dustman rudely awakens me. But this morning brought added rudeness from a different quarter. I caught Cilla shortly after I saw Becky take off for the school bus. Karibdis looked dishevelled in her saggy silk dressing gown yet grudgingly she let me in her door.
“Sorry to hassle you this early hour, Cilla…well...I’m here not on a social call but business…sort of…about Becky.”
She rolled her eyes in anticipation of what was to come.
“I’ve met Becky’s mum…nice lady....she really is….honestly. She says Becky caused a great commotion on the little sister’s birthday.”
“Hold on, Leo. Before you start sounding off I need to let you have something to think on first. Your charming wife has been phoning us on and on and on… plus your foul-mouthed stepdaughter has been texting and calling Rebecca night and day and we’re not having any more of it! Everyone knows that Carla and Becky never got on.”
The Turkish trout tightened the cord around her waist and pulled herself tautly erect to meet me toe to toe.
“Leo, your wife has a vicious temper…and…well to lock that kid in the house and then to take her Benefits money off her…well…that’s low and so out of order…that’s money that she’s entitled to and it’s not meant for you or your wife’s pocket…you hear me? And I know for a fact what you get up to when your wife’s back is turned. Don’t make out you’re all innocent…everyone round here sees it…women in and out…and you have the nerve to stop this kid having a boyfriend or two?”
I wiped the mad woman’s spittle from my face and summoned myself out of my temporary inertia and struggled for my response.
“Hold on, Cilla…her mother told me…Becky is not allowed within a mile of her sister…restraining orders have been issued…Becky is twisted in the head…can’t you see it...it’s wrong! And she damaged the van Hiller’s family car!”
Spittle shot my way once more.
“Now you take your hypocritical wife and her stupid ideas and you take them…and tell her to shove it! Now out…leave my home…go on out…go! Keep away from us…don’t come back and don’t you dare ever give that kid any more trouble or it will be the last thing you ever do round here!”
As I turned on my heels to exit a stocky, balding figure met me coming to the house. I recognised him as her ‘Fancy Dan’ - the Porsche man.
Angling like a ‘Dangerous Dan’ the new suitor darted in past me and slammed the door with a resounding thud. As I fumbled for my car keys in my pocket I realised where the new Porsche Poser has parked. He had put himself bumper to bumper to my car and for the third time in a week blocked me in. I fumed and was ready to explode. I stormed up to Karibdis’ door and hammered out my protest.
“What? What! Can’t you leave people alone for one minute?”
The fat fool folded his thick arms about his barrel frame lobbed me a condescending leer.
“Do you always need to leave your car quite so tight to mine or is that some point you’re trying to make?” I raged.
The corner of his mouth turned almost imperceptibly to a smile.
“Got yourself in a bit of a pickle then, old son? That’s an awful shame…might be a while in here you see…I’ve got some business to attend to first…now toddle off…not that it’s any concern of yours…I mean…and let’s agree on something…you might not want to cause too much fuss… no one likes a paedophile in their neighbourhood…not safe to live anywhere any more now is it?”
He moves to shut the door in my face but I raise my hand to the doorjamb and give him a burst back.
“Are you threatening me? Is that a threat? Do you know that there’s laws about that?”
He puffed up his peacock pose further and pointed a fat forefinger my way to utter a measured riposte.
“Don’t go getting yourself in any deeper, old son…people might start to think you’re due for a comeuppance…do you know what I mean?”
Not taking heed of his menace I threw one back at him.
“Right…that’s it…get that car shifted or I’m calling the police!”
Distinctly unconvinced by my jibe he aimed a backhand my way as if to swat a flying irritant.
“Ha…that’s a pearler! You won’t find any friends there! Now piss off…I’ll be out in a minute.”

24
SATURDAY 8TH MARCH 2003. So it is across continents and time zones in all lands and all cultures in this expanding global mega metropolis. In the island of Mindanao, Filipino soldiers are reportedly exchanging taunting text messages with the Muslim guerrillas on whom they are waging war.
"Some are obscene and offensive messages, which I cannot describe publicly," Brigadier General Cauld Kawling III admitted, adding, "It's better than exchanging bullets."
In a colder island haven in suburban East Mercia I sit shoulder to shoulder with a fellow combatant slouched and ponderous on the sofa with tepid and half-forgotten mugs of coffee our hands. My kooky wife offers me a chocolate biscuit from a tin as I mull over the neighbours from hell at Eccles Drive.
But the mood in Cedar Drive seems no better. It’s another day spent cooped up at the Limoncello residence while the foul winter winds blow outside.
I had a pounding headache and Carla was only adding to the tension. After regaling me with the plundered remains of Rebecca’s old room, my torturer was ramming her point home into my pincushion skull. She was yapping on about Rebecca’s semen-stained underwear she had found secreted in a shoebox under the bed hidden as if they were private trophies. Among them were strewn bits of scattered paper confetti on which were scrawled mobile phone numbers. Kooky showed me just a sample of the salaciously suggestive propositions penned on them.
But the most damning find was the treasured diamond eternity ring. That cut my wife to the quick. It belonged to grandma Limoncello. To my wife this was sacrilege. It was an abomination, a betrayal beyond the pale. A theft of a priceless memento so precious and dear to be kept safe but in this instance, discarded, forgotten and demeaned among the remnants of disposable effluvia.
“Do you now see why I’ve been right on the edge…of losing it these past couple of months, Leo? Remember Ellis and Taylor…those constables…the ones here in January? What morons! They let all this happen. Craziness! Utter craziness. They shoved me in another room then let that scheming slut clear us out. I feel violated! Dumb cops…giving that bitch a free hand to rob us out of our own home!”
I wasn’t sure what to feel but I guess the three A4 printed sheets that my wife put into my hand right then was the clincher.
“What’s this, Cookie? Something else left by your house guest?”
I began to read the pages. They were a composite of numbers, a code, an indecipherable mishmash of sexual taunts and propositions - a disdainful dialogue of planned debauchery?
“What do all these numbers mean, Cookie, on the side of each message?”
My wife explained:
“The first row of numbers starting 447…they’re all mobile phone messages…that’s the country code…of the mobile phone the message are sent to…and the second column…you see that one…07/03/2003 22:15:46 is the date and time with the message underneath.”
I looked closely and saw that they were in sequence. Not Rebecca’s handy work at all. Something of Lita’s own doing I was told. It was lone wolf Lita’s scheme for a vengeful scam.
“These messages…they look like they’re to and from Lita’s mobile phone…but…there’s numbers here I don’t recognise.”
I was befuddled by it.
“What’s the other number? Is that a mobile? Who’s is that?” I enquired.
“That’s the assigned mobile phone number that Lita was using on the Internet account you gave her…when she went back to New York.”
Yes, indeed. We all shared sub accounts off the same master Internet account I had created after our marriage. I looked intently at the jumble of letters - mainly consonants and very few vowels and the incongruity of numbers placed in the midst of words I had never before seen the like of.
The first message had nothing readily identifiable to me apart from what seemed like a couple of names. The other random strewn characters were baffling in the extreme. Was I in the realm of cryptography? Have mobile phones become the new portable ciphering machines? I strained to read the first message that came to hand.
‘Saggipuss ~:o Baz hre hwz u? GBTM4 sme of dat specl luvN u lk x’
With the aid of bigger Lemon’s understanding of her littler lemon’s lexicography plus some adroit application to the task, we were able to make a stab at translation. It all soon began to form into intelligible English once a few vowels and some sense appeared.
I had to read the messages from the bottom upwards as the last one was printed first and the first message was at the bottom of the last sheet.
“Who’s ‘Baz’?“ I asked.
There were names on here I had never seen before.
“And who the hell is ‘Saggipuss’?” I was bemused.
“Ha…that Saggipuss thing is the name the kids at school called Rebecca…and no prizes for guessing why!”
She explained that ‘Baz’ was a thirty-something married guy mentioned by the grandmother, a local a taxi driver known to cruise by the neighbourhood now and then. Yes - it was all fitting into place like a neat jigsaw.
Lita knew who Baz was and no one doubted he was off and on having his way with the Hiller harlot for a little money here and there. Treats and attention was what that vile van vixen craved but that petered out once Lita came on the scene.
Lita and Rebecca had taken lifts off Baz on the few occasions I hadn’t been around to drive them about. Lita had told her mother that he looked the type that paid for sex. My mind boggled as to what ‘type’ pays young girls for sex? Do they stand out in a crowd? I studied carefully the dense abbreviated code that is the language of the avid text messager.
“Charming…so it looks like this is a all ruse…something Lita and Claire knocked up to wind up ‘Saggipuss’…to prove Rebecca was a ‘slapper?’”
Just shows what kind of depths your own daughter and her so-called more responsible friends will sink to. If this is what’s pre-occupying Lita’s mind while she’s supposed to be studying then it makes me wonder what else is getting knocked up in New York.”
I took a gulp from my cup and picked out a chocolate biscuit from the box Cookie had now thoughtfully placed before us on the coffee table.
“Oh, funny man! How can you blame a person for wanting a little retribution for all the evil rumours spread about? What you don’t realise is your precious little preoccupation, you’re fairground floozy had gotten Lita’s private things-messages and photos-off Lita’s phone that she forgot to erase and that twisting bitch has been using it all against Lita. Blackmailing! She’s warped–twisted-she sets out to make herself look better by trashing the reputation of other people and you couldn’t, or wouldn’t see it!”
Slapdash daughter, like slipshod mother, was a skimper, cavalier in her ways; flitting about in life and never tidying, organising, never dotting i’s or crossing t’s and leaving loose ends to make her undoing.
“Yes, Carla…but is this the right way to go about it and whose idea was this anyway? You’re very much on Lita’s side, aren’t you? Have you been in on this too? It’s not too clever of you to let her carry on with this.”
Quarrelsome Carla began that annoying scratching of her arms.
“Look, put an end to this silly soap opera, Carla…I don’t know what you were planning on doing next…where’s this all heading?”
“Look Leo!” I had no idea Lita, with the help of Claire, had started up this scheme.”
More frantic clawing at her arms that warned me she was about to blow a fuse but I had made my point.
“How long? How long has this been running?”
She pulled her sweater sleeves down to her wrists and endeavoured to compose herself.
”A few weeks…yes…few weeks, I’d say…without my knowledge…but look what we now know! Now you need to get a grip, too, and either get this straightened out or we get the police back in…and we both know how useless they are. That little bitch has got it coming to her and you need to reflect on that college reference you wrote for her!”
In no uncertain terms I was being made to look the fool as well. I ran my fingers through my thinning, dark hair, hesitated and gave out an exasperated sigh and took a second look at the pages.
She snarled relentlessly and goading me to the point where I, too, was about to blow.
“You still are sticking up for her, Leo…you had her all to yourself…you may have been scheming with her for all I know! I could see what was going on…you were totally obsessed with her…it’s pathetic! You’re pathetic! Even Harriet and Hector can see it!”
“Ok…. ok…stop! One moment…will you? All these messages end with ‘reply within 24 hours’…what’s that all about?” I countered.
“Oh…let me see…give it here!”
She tore the papers from my fingers and put her empty cup to the side of the coffee table then smoothed out and spread the crumpled sheets upon it and pointed to where she wanted me to see.
“Ah…right…I think…yes…that’s because the messages are Internet based and sent from our ’Hentai’ account to Rebecca’s phone…so its only an assigned number…a temporary reply phone number attached to it.”
I began to understand that the reply phone number was a temporary inbox on the Internet and after a day you lose it-it stops functioning.
“Ok…clear as mud then…so what was Lita wanting to do? Jesus, its pretty low, low stuff, isn’t it? It’s all about trying to set up Rebecca to meet this ‘Baz’ character but will she stoop to this…to do all that…for just twenty quid, too?”
I shoved another biscuit into my gob and slurped the dregs of my tepid coffee.
“Well…she might…she might not…at least it’s got her freaked out a bit. I bet she would love to know who is really sending them…all I care about is Lita getting her CD’s and clothes back! I want my other ring, too. That’s missing. My mother’s wedding band isn’t in my jewellery box and you can bet where that went!”
She paused then smiled a wicked smile and determinedly wrapped both fingers tightly around her cup.
“Just imagine, Leo. Imagine if we caught her in the act! Wouldn’t it really give her the fright of her life? How would you feel if she did come to meet her ‘Baz’ and we were there to catch her out? Don’t you think she needs the shock of her life? Can’t you see what it is? It’s what you call ‘tough love,’ Leo. She needs a dose of it and I would love to see her brought down a peg!”
“Listen, Cookie, I’m all for putting this right, you know it upsets me, too. I’ve had it rubbed in my nose as well, you know. I’m not agreeing with you but I do see your point. I see it your way…her and me are finished. I don’t think I can cope with much more …I want an end to it.”
I brushed the biscuits crumbs from my shirt and slurped the last dregs from my cup.
“I think you and me can do it, Leo. Put an end to it and no incompetent cops screwing it up for us. But it’s hard to know with you…whether you mean anything you say anymore…you were all on her side when you took her to Cilla’s that night…you and your slut. No…you and your two sluts! Both of them…fine friend Cilla turned out to be!”
It seemed the die was cast and it was clear who was about to be getting a taste of bitter lemon fury.
“Cilla must be the dumbest of dumb…taken all those lies in about us…from a kid, too! Taking her word over mine? So naïve, so crass of that twirling Turkish tart to really…actually believe that lying, two-faced fish hag is the victim in all this…I’d love to show them both…I really would!”
I thought for a moment and threw some of that metaphorical dirty water that Kooky had flung at me back at her contorted, snarling face.
“What do you care what Cilla thinks? She’s nothing to either of us anymore. She was never you’re real friend. I told you…I tried telling you time and time again. But did you listen? No! How many times have I told you that in the past she was only out for herself? Look…I’ll tell you now what I am prepared to do. Go ahead…go set up your little meeting…finish what you and your daughter have started and I’ll tag along to be your witness. I’ll be your back up but nothing more ok?”
“Oh, for god’s sake grow some balls Leo! Help us fix the bitch…Teach her the best lesson you can!”
“Ha…go on…mock me…laugh all you want, Carla. But don’t count your chickens just yet…she won’t show!”
“She will! Watch…you better believe it!”
The phone suddenly rang out. It was five thirty and Lita was making her daily call. I listened more attentively than I would otherwise have done. She said we had both mulled it over at great length and I agreed to attend the meeting with van Hiller and have it all out in the open. Carla gave Lita the whole deal that I was now in on it with them. We just needed to arrange a date and time. I had three days of supply teaching coming up. I told them I had to wait till after that.
Lita agreed to email me instructions on how to use that Internet SMS service. I’d promised I’d get back for them the wedding ring. Later that evening I ensconced myself alone in my bedroom study. I booted up my computer and logged online. Lita’s email with all the instructions she promised was there as was an attachment of all the text messages: both those sent and those received. I re-read it and this time more carefully.
First I got a handle on her prose style. I weighed the meter, the syntax and the play of words. I wanted to know the genre, feel its pentameters and rhythms.
This Twenty-First Century excuse for a language of seduction would have Shelley, Byron and Keats revolving in their graves. Oh, how they would mourn the dissipation and neglect of a rich language. The harsh staccato of binary babble was an argot bereft of imagination. There was no skill, no guile, nothing expansive, with breadth to assimilate, to re-invigorate and stimulate and inspire.
Now we have an apology for an idiom that is constricted by economy and cost, time factors, laziness and disinterest. Nothing left here but the shell of a distillation, a simplified sensory bland dumbing down for utilitarianism. I saw myself as a forgotten soul from a bygone era, generations past, discarded, greyed and grimy. I was a wretched and soaked foot soldier in the bomb-cratered mud pits of Flanders and Ypres.
Battered and weary from relentless pounding from murderous cannons I slumped into the stench of my World War One trench. Laying in a pool of my own filth, among decaying bodies of fallen comrades and limbs torn and tossed about in a freakish nightmare. As a weary, loveless fighter my only warmth and succour would be drawn from my sweetheart’s tender words read over and over again. As the teaming rain belted down on my battered steel helmet I gamely lifted up my tear-filled eyes to find simple solace in those impassioned words of devotion on my Nokia 3310:
‘My dearst babe mn of me lyf, I lng 4 yr hugs, yr gntL soft tuch. I so ms yr luvN Iyz, yr firm hands, doze days B4 dat wkd battl. Yr mum n dad av bn lk rokz d kin S hangN tuff n stix 2gtha. Yr kids spk afr u. evry1s a gr8 hlp. cum hom 2 me safe tuf guy.mn of me drms,
Yr luvN yF xxxxx’
In my time I had done my share of crossword puzzles, anagrams, acrostics, you name it. But this was the first time I was going to have to employ a subterfuge of phraseology for a surreptitious purpose. I was going to have to master the language of the cell phone. Welcome to the age of button pressing, thumb straining predictive texting, instantaneous ethereal transmissions. Does anyone write with pen and paper any more? Lita Limbo-letterer had given me her ultra masterful tutorial to defeat the Wehrmacht. My secret mission was to skilfully encrypt and decrypt secret messages to engineer our victory. Taxing work composing this drivel.
The last message from Rebecca read:
‘Ok LMK-cant meet til aftr nxt mon tho. 04/03/03 17:09:21’
Acronym? I tapped at the keys. Using the vernacular I composed a message:
‘N1 Bex evngs r bst nxt week-wat plce? Wud 8pm B ok?sexihunk69xxxxx’
My alembics told me she should stop being a psycho-vanillin tease only if she was brought down a peg or two. Now I had arrived at my moment of truth.
With another tap it was sent. I got on with reading my Emails. There was something from Charlotte and a few bits of junk mail. Suddenly, in the merest of moments the red flag icon popped up cartoon style at the top of the screen. I clicked and saw her message.
‘ok-wed mar 12-not 8 plz mak it 6-at Truva prk? u knw it? 05/03/03 21:18:44’
I knew. The park was only minutes away. Ironically, I had been there before with her and my two kids last September. Now she had Cilla’s boys, Harrison and George. She took them there often to play on the swings and slide.
I sent my acknowledgment back. It was all set. I scratched my head in wonder and took a sip from my glass of red then flicked over the switch on some music.
I needed music to soothe my troubled mind. My handle trembled. Was it guilt or anxiety? I listened to the drones of the vapid tones of the stereophonic system as the soporific alcohol began to work its magic.
Self-assurance is a penchant for the consistent voyeur of what is acknowledged as Park Life. A morning suit is never averted if you take a route directly to what is celebrated as Park Life. John's got a pickled liver - he gets browbeaten by the dirty seagulls they adore the crumbs of it. Park Life. Who's that Belly Boy parading? You should cut down on your park life, son! Seek your work out. Every body, your body- so many bodies walking shoulder to shoulder. Toe to toe seeking their Park Life. Are you getting what I’m saying? I get out when I want to except on Wednesdays when I get crudely disturbed by that dustcart. Park Life. I put my suit on, have a cup of chai and then think about quitting my quarters. Park Life. I feed the seagulls. I sometimes throw crumbs to the squirrels, too. It provides me with a fabulous aura of contentment. Park Life. And then life’s a breeze for the rest of day secure in the gen there will forever be a corner of my soul depending on it. It’s got nothing to do with your savoir-faire system. You see. And it’s not about you plodders who go round and round and round.

25
TUESDAY 11TH MARCH 2003. Eighteen hundred hours. Our reconnaissance of the entire area was applied with military precision. We had tried jaw-jaw now it was to be war-war.
This is 21st century warfare. You are witnessing the advent of unique and powerful capabilities delivered by global technological forces in a revolutionary synthesis of weapons, sensors, and communications systems with reach and precision to dominate the unified arena of war extending across sea, land, air and cyberspace - providing invaluable strategic and operational advantage from the comfort of Bombardier Bloom’s armchair.
My analysis confirmed Truva Road was an opportune way lay point being divided into two containable segments - an inner one which was metal - fenced to hinder escape and an outer open perimeter. I noted the sturdy aluminium railings had two sprung gates either end thoughtfully placed to deter dog fouling.
The play apparatus was set inside a well-designed soft-safe environment of rubberised tarmac on the ground and rounded corners on every piece of equipment ideal for younger children with the ubiquitous slide, log segment climbing frame and a couple of swings. A graffiti-covered playhouse spoilt the look of what was an otherwise pleasant facility.
Colonel Lacrimal noted zero hour would be around dusk as she barked her orders out to me. The weather forecast was overcast with light to moderate northeasterly winds. It was going to be chilly. Our battle plan was to encircle the enemy in a pincer movement in the twilight and employ a sneak attack to her rear.
By no small irony, March 2003 was also the invasion of Iraq, codenamed ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom.’ The Second Gulf War and Gilgamesh’s prophecy realised. The element of surprise was the key.
Our assessment of our enemy was that she had not the defensive measures in place to repel our overwhelming force. We had decided that I would lead the first assault wave heavily armed. I would hit Rebecca full force with the printed text messages and employ a barrage of sophisticated psychological warfare.
It was going to be ‘shock and awe’ as Lita’s army boyfriend, Ryan, would say. He was a US Marine Reservist who had just got his own call to mobilise.
We had decided Colonel Kooky would take up the optimum strategic position hidden behind the large bushes near to the adjacent road. From there she could observe the battlefield and assess the situation. Kooky was the reserve guard that would launch a second wave to the enemy’s side: more American ‘gung-ho.’
THE ASSUALT CHARGE
‘RECORD OF INTEVIEW’ The police document was headed, ‘’WITNESS STATEMENT’ (CJ Act 1967. S9 MC 1980, ss5A(3a) and 5B MC Rules 1981, r 70)’
This was the police statement of Constable GODBOLT.
GODBOLT: Age Over 18 years.
I read it carefully.
On March 27th 2003 I interviewed Leonard Odysseus Bloom in interviews recorded on the following tapes:
Tape number 248409 which I produce as Exhibit BG/1:BG
Tape number 248408FA which I produce as exhibit BG/2:BG
A request for summaries of the tapes was forward to the tape summary office.
I received the summaries of these interviews, which I have read, and state that they are balanced, accurate and reliable summaries of these interviews. I produce these summaries as exhibits BG/1ABG and BG/2A respectively. Signed B Godbolt PC543.
Person Interviewed: Leonard Bloom
Place of Interview: Interview Room. North Haven Police
Date of Interview: March 27th 2003
Time commenced: 22:24. Duration of Interview: 47 minutes.
Audio Tape reference no. LOW/03/4264.
Interviewing Officer: PC Godbolt.
Other persons present: none.
After the usual introduction the interviewee is cautioned in accordance with CJPO94. The caution is explained. The interviewee confirms the interviewee understands the caution. The interviewee is advised of the interviewee’s legal right in interview but declines legal representation in this interview. He is reminded of his arrest on 27.03.03, suspected of an assault in Truva Park on 12.03.03 at about six in the evening.
Clock counter time 02:41
BLOOM: “…I had been sending anonymous texts to Rebecca for…three weeks as part of an investigation into her exploits as a prostitute. We had…Rebecca in our care for ten months from April 2002 until January 2003 and we…. Had been informed by friends of the family and neighbours that Rebecca was meeting under age boys (thirteen or fourteen or so) for paid sex… We couldn’t prove this…. but we had taken Rebecca to her doctor and he had diagnosed her as suffering from psychopathic disorder, … anti-social personality disorder…. She went three times to a counsellor and then declared herself fit enough not to go any further. We contacted social services and we asked them to…investigate ‘cause she is suffering from delusions of all sorts. …We knew she was…a very accomplished liar. And the problem is…. as a schoolteacher…I tried to help her.”
“As of July or August my wife had asked me to get involved with Rebecca because our daughter, Lita, had gone back to the States and. …There was nobody in the house…to be a role model to Rebecca. So I tried to encourage her to get on with her schoolwork and I actually attended a parents evening with her…”
Clock counter time 05:53
Bloom explains that van Hiller was academically able and had been given a place at the local college. He was worried about this. She had received a caution for indecency with two thirteen-year-old boys. Bloom and his wife knew she was unreliable, untrustworthy and promiscuous. The couple felt they had to obtain proof, confront her with the proof and demonstrate to various officials that she needed psychiatric help.
Clock counter time 05:53
BLOOM: “ …So we had started this anonymous texting, as of February 2003, to her…. asking about her availability to have…. paid sex. And she agreed that she had a week away with her boyfriend but on her return to town she would actually meet this person for sex and would have intercourse for £10 or £20, depending on what else was on offer. A week after this she got back from…her boyfriend’s. I sent her a text asking when it would be suitable for her and she sent a text to me giving information about the place and the time, which she said would be Truva Park at six in the evening on March 12th (which we both agreed was fine). I asked her to be alone and she said she would be alone…that was the arrangement we made. Before going to Truva Park at five thirty I asked my wife to accompany me and we both drove up Odyssey Road and parked behind the bushes at Truva Park. My wife observed the whole scene. I approached Rebecca with…three pages of printouts of the texts and she was very shocked to see me…I said.’ Rebecca, this is proof that you are seriously in need of psychiatric help. I could be anybody approaching you now. You’re a great danger to yourself…I have no choice: if you don’t get help immediately I’ll have to inform the school and the city college that you’re not fit to work with young children.’ She immediately started getting abusive. She said,’ you’re ruining my fucking life. Go away. I don’t need this’…. I said’ Rebecca, you really do need help. Please sit down and be calm.’ She started shouting and being very abusive at the top of her voice. I tried to calm her down. She sat momentarily and she took her cigarettes out and started to smoke one. But she was very shaken and obviously upset...I explained to her that I had no choice. She had already used me as a referee for her college application and I said, ‘ I cannot actually, as a teacher ignore my responsibility to the college, and I had to inform them of your behaviour’…She told me: I let her down; I was no friend of hers…. I was a ‘complete fucking bastard.’ She got up and she decided she was going to kick me. She tried to kick me. She kicked me in the shins. I held her wrists trying to hold her back She was shouting abuse constantly. I tried to restrain her. But she fell back and dropped her bag and dropped her inhaler. Her inhaler fell out of her bag at that point. I walked - I ran back to the car where my wife was and I told her, ‘ Don’t get involved, Carla, because of what happened last time in January will happen again…. she’ll kick and scream and fight you as well. You’d best keep out of it…. best let her go and walk away.’ I ran back to Rebecca. She tried to pick up her inhaler. She couldn’t find it. So she just walked back to…five Eccles Drive. I followed her back because I live at number seven. I warned her on the way. I said,’ Please Rebecca. This is your last chance. I cannot let this go. I want you to get immediate psychiatric help to stop this behaviour. Please tell Cilla and please show Cilla these texts.’ And I made sure that I pointed to the texts in her hand.
I said, ‘ That is evidence, Rebecca, that you are reckless and a danger to yourself.’…. That was the last of that incident that night.
Clock counter time: 10:34
Bloom explains that van Hiller had had five addresses during the eighteen months before he and his wife looked after her because none of her family would. She had been promiscuous before being cared for by the BLOOM’S. Rebecca had given the BLOOM’S stepdaughter a list of thirty males whom she had had paid sex with. BLOOM explains that in April 2002 van Hiller lived at 13 Cedar Drive with his wife, Carla and his stepdaughter, Lita.
Bloom had always lived at 7 Eccles Drive and had never lived at Cedar Drive with them. Bloom had spent much time with van Hiller, observing her behaviour. He asserts she lies pointlessly and has no friends. He explains that the girl and Cilla Karibdis had visited Rebecca’s younger sister in February in breach of a court order. Van Hiller made a scene and a car was damaged. He explains Cilla is his neighbour, who at the time of this interview, looks after Rebecca and is completely taken in by her. On 12.03.03 after the incident in the park, Bloom and Carla wrote to Rebecca’s teaching staff and various government officials. They also telephoned the police station and spoke with a male officer. They urgently requested psychiatric help for van Hiller. Bloom explains that he and Carla had all the anonymous text messages printed out from the Internet.
Clock counter time: 16:24
Bloom explains that he and Carla had heard van Hiller had been telling school friends during the Autumn Term the he was her ‘sugar daddy’ and taking her out. He explains he had taken her to a few public houses to play pool. He explains he had become concerned about her state of mind when she had just laughed when a youth had grabbed her indecently in a pub while she was playing pool with him. Bloom explains he had supported her academically but had lost faith in her when he learnt Rebecca van Hiller had been lying to others (including Cilla) that Carla had sought to persuade van Hiller to have sex with Bloom to encourage Bloom to stay in their marriage. Cilla runs karaoke evenings. Rebecca had got to know her through attending these evenings run by Cilla. Van Hiller had built up a friendship with Cilla and spun a web of lies about the Bloom’s.
Clock counter time: 18:46
Bloom explains that when van Hiller was accepted on an ‘early learning’ course at the college, starting in September 2003, Bloom had expressed misgivings to the teacher in charge of the course.
Clock counter time: 19:42
PC GODBOLT: “You continued sending these texts messages to Rebecca which eventually…”
BLOOM: “Yeah”
PC GODBOLT: “…resulted in her agreeing to meet you?”
BLOOM: “Yeah”
PC543 “ …And that was in Truva Park at six in the evening on the twelfth of March?”
BLOOM: ”Yeah”
PC543 “You said to her then to come alone?”
BLOOM: “Yeah…. but I initially used the name ‘Baz’ because we spoke to some of her ex friends about who that she was really attracted to, and apparently…she wanted to have sex with someone called ‘Baz’. So we used the name ‘Baz’ initially and she immediately responded…we knew then that we were onto something here so we persisted with the texting.”
PC543 “…Did you move onto some other name after that?”
BLOOM: “We didn’t use…. she was asking, ‘who are you?’ so then we just…. thought, ‘well, it doesn’t matter who we are let’s push it and see if she will meet a complete stranger for sex.’”
Clock counter time 20:53
Bloom states they signed only one text message ‘Baz’. They then selected the name ‘sexihunk’ and used that instead. He asserts van Hiller met males through the Internet ‘chat rooms’ for the purpose of sex. She arranged to meet one male in the town without having any idea who he was. She had not realized Bloom and Carla were monitoring her Internet access and checking her emails for months.
Clock counter time 21:55
Bloom explains that he and Carla had undertaken a dry run on the 11.03.03. Because Van Hiller had assaulted Carla in January they decided Carla should keep her distance (Bloom had encouraged Cilla to look after the girl). They parked so Carla would have a good view from the car but could also walk closer if necessary. When they arrived Rebecca was walking around the park. There were three boys in the park, one of who shouted ‘whore’ at her. When she had clamed down and was smoking a cigarette in the park Bloom had returned to Carla and told her everything was all right.
Clock counter time 24:31
PC GODBOLT: “…Did Rebecca know it was going to be you that was there, do you think?
BLOOM: “No idea.”
PC 534 “…from her reaction?”
BLOOM: “She was shocked. She was really shaking violently. She dropped her bag and when she dropped her bag…her…. brown…. asthma inhaler fell out. She struggled to pick it up.”
Clock counter time 25:35
PC GODBOLT: “…. You…said…she tried to kick your shins and you held her wrists…”
BLOOM: “She tried to slap me across the face and I grabbed her wrists.”
PC GODBOLT: “What made her do that? Had something been said beforehand?”
BLOOM: “…I actually said, ‘Rebecca, you are a common prostitute. You are a prostitute.’ She said, ‘ I’m not a fucking prostitute.’ I said, ‘ Rebecca we’ve got witnesses you’re a prostitute.’…. First of all she tried to swing at me and I jumped back…She swung at me with her right hand. She tried to slap me across the face. And then immediately she tried to kick me so…. I put my hand out to grab her other arm to hold her back form me. I ended up holding both her arms…. trying to hold her at arms length…. Although I was holding her with both arms she was kicking me in the shins.”
PC GODBOLT: “ ….She...lost her temper and she tried to slap your face…with her right hand.”
BLOOM: “Yeah”
PC GODBOLT: “ But you managed to get hold of…her wrists.”
BLOOM: “Yeah…. her hands were flailing around at that point. She dropped her bag. Everything fell out of her bag.”
PC GODBOLT: “…. Did she manage to kick you?”
BLOOM: “Oh yeah…she kicked me hard.”
Clock counter time 27:41
Bloom explains his knee was bruised by her kick and a mark remains from this. PC GODBOLT: notes a graze on Bloom’s right knee. When van Hiller ranted at him while he was holding her wrists she swore at him, calling him inter alia ‘a wanker,’ and told him to leave her alone and she did not need him any more.
Clock counter time: 28:59
PC GODBOLT: “…. It was while you were holding both her wrists that she fell backwards?”
BLOOM: “Yeah…. she stumbled over her bag, I think. She stepped back and I think she caught her bag in the strap or something and fell backward.”
PC GODBOLT: “Did she fall backwards…sort of onto her bum, was it? Did she go right down onto the floor?”
BLOOM: “ Well…yeah…she fell right back….I just let her go.”
PC GODBOLT: “…. You think it was that point that…. her inhaler actually fell out of her bag?”
BLOOM: “ Yeah…everything fell out of her bag: cigarette lighter…everything.”
PC GODBOLT: “…. You then said at this point…after she fell to the ground and the bag fell over, you ran back to your wife and told her not to get involved?”
BLOOM: “ No, before that…very early on…she seemed to be calming down….I told her to sit on the slide. There is a slide there. I said, ‘ Just sit down please, Rebecca, calm down.’ She was shaking violently. I said, ‘Please sit down. Let’s talk this through’… she did sit down for a minute or two…I said, ‘Just wait there. I’m just going to tell Carla what is going on. I just want to talk to you.’ So I ran over to Carla (I didn’t want to shout at her)…”
PC GODBOLT: “…. Did Carla stay there or did she drive off?”
BLOOM: “ I think she stayed there for a few minutes. But I said to her…. if things look okay to you I’m going to walk back to the house with her. If you see me walking back to the house then everything is okay…just go home and I’ll phone you on the mobile.’”
Clock counter time 31:00
PC GODBOLT: “ …Rebecca is on the floor…. she has…. stumbled over her bag, causing her to fall down, and you said that it was then that all her stuff came out of her bag?”
BLOOM: “Yeah.”
PC GODBOLT: “It was then that Rebecca tried to find her inhaler, was it?”
BLOOM: “I don’t know whether she did or not… She constantly dropped stuff. She was trying to take things out…. she was rummaging through her bag to get cigarettes out and she kept dropping stuff. She was dropping a diary or something. Bits fell on the floor and I picked things up with her and… handed them to her to try to sit her down and get her calm.”
PC GODBOLT: “ ….You followed her back. How did the conversation go?”
BLOOM: “ I said, ‘Rebecca, you’re walking away and you’re swearing and you’re shouting. You’re angry…. You need to sit down calmly and think about this…Show these texts to Cilla. Get Cilla’s advice. Tell Cilla what is going on in your life.’… Going back a week or so, after I went to see the mother at her house, I decided to …speak to Cilla…. I went to her and apparently…. Rebecca just had a week off school. She had toxic shock syndrome. I didn’t know she had the week off school. And she was obviously ill…they invited me in and I went to the kitchen and I spoke to both Cilla and Rebecca…”
Clock counter time: 33: 41
Bloom explains they both walked together from the park to the front door of her house. He talked to her all the way. She kept telling him she did not want to know.
Clock counter time 34:19
PC GODBOLT: “…Apart from holding her wrist was there any other physical contact between yourself…and Rebecca?”
BLOOM: “No, not by me…not at all.”
PC GODBOLT: “ It was…approximately 6pm on the 12th of March you arranged to meet with Rebecca but at this time you’re not sure whether or not Rebecca realized it was you that she was meeting or-“
BLOOM: “She had no idea who I was. None at all. She told me that. She admitted that…she said to me, ‘ What are you doing here?’ ”
Clock counter time 35:32
PC GODBOLT: “Because…. it was…an odd situation you asked your wife to accompany you to the park….”
BLOOM: “Well…. we…we…actually were discussing the whole thing with friends and family and neighbours. ‘ How do we get this kid into help?’…I also discussed it with two other people. I discussed it with my mother and I discussed it with a friend of mine. And we all said that the only way was to do something drastic: to catch her out, to prove she was a prostitute. And the only way we could do this was by texting her. We used the Internet texting services because we knew we could print it all off and it would be anonymous…. its all verifiable…. we’ve got it all on computer.”
Clock counter time 37:36
Bloom explains he and van Hiller sat on a slide and he took one of her cigarettes out for her to light while he was trying to calm her down. He and Carla each had a mobile telephone with them. He had told van Hiller she could not work with young children if she was working as a prostitute.
Clock counter time 39:27
PC GODBOLT: “…You managed to get hold of her arms…”
BLOOM: “Yeah…. I got both arms. She dropped the bag…it spread everywhere. I was holding both wrists and she was kicking out with both feet at me.”
Clock counter time 40:39
BLOOM: “…. I only sent her a text…. the week before congratulating her. She phoned me, said, ‘ I’ve just got into college, Leo’….”
Clock counter time 44:08
Bloom explains he has known van Hiller since April 2002. She had been staying at Carla’s home. When his wife had to visit New York none of van HILLER ’s family would look after her. Therefore Bloom moved into Carla’s home for a week to look after Rebecca. He has never had any form of sexual relationship with van Hiller.
Clock counter time 46:07
Bloom believes he wore a dark blue tracksuit and dark blue training shoes when he met Rebecca in the park on 12.03.03.
Clock counter time 46:45
PC GODBOLT: “…. Rebecca…handed me a list of text messages.”
BLOOM: “Yeah…. that’s what I gave her. Should be about three pages.”
PC GODBOLT: “ Can I show you? That’s just one page.”
BLOOM: “Yeah…. I should add that ‘Saggipuss’ is her nickname at school because of her promiscuity. Everybody calls her ‘Saggipuss.’”
PC543 “These are…. A list of text messages that you sent to her?”
BLOOM: “Absolutely…yeah.”
Clock counter time 47:40. 11.07 pm. Tape is switched off.
‘RECORD OF INTERVIEW’
Person Interviewed: Leo Odysseus Bloom
Place of Interview: Interview Room. North Haven Police
Date of Interview: March 27th 2003
Time commenced: 23:08 hours. Duration of Interview: 18 minutes. Audio Tape reference no. LOW/03/4264. Interviewing Officer: PC Godbolt. Other persons present: none. Time concluded: 23:25.
Clock counter time: 02:00
PC GODBOLT: “Did you realize that…that Rebecca had a tape recorder with her…. and she recorded your conversation?”
BLOOM: “Er…well ….no…of course I had no idea…”
PC GODBOLT: “ ….In the light…. Because you now know she recorded your meeting at the park…is there anything else you would like to tell me…. any…”
BLOOM: “I didn’t want to get her into trouble…she already had a police caution…from the previous time… I went with her…”
PC GODBOLT: “So you are sure she had no idea it was you…. meeting …”
BLOOM: “Like I said…. she had no idea…it was me… If she had recorded it on the beginning you’ll hear her say,’ What are you doing here?’…That’s what she said.”
Clock counter time 5:33
Bloom explains that he knew, as a teacher, not to touch her unless attacked. He insists he asked her to be calm and sit so they could talk things over. He denies that he went to tell Carla to drive off. He explains she has had a history of manipulating her boyfriends. He denies taking her inhaler and throwing it.
Clock counter time 10:23
PC GODBOLT: “…She then says you slapped her across her left cheek with your right hand and pushed…. her away. Did that happen?”
BLOOM: “I don’t think so. If I had hit her she wouldn’t be standing…I can tell to you.”
Clock counter time 11:21
Bloom asserts van Hiller had hit him several time. He believes he now has no choice but to prosecute her for assault.
PC GODBOLT: “ …Did you kick her left thigh?”
BLOOM: “No…I never touched her.”
PC GODBOLT: “You grabbed hold of her left shoulder?”
BLOOM: “That never happened.”
Clock counter time 14:18
Bloom explains that after the incident in the park he walked right up to the door with her and told her to show the texts to Cilla.
BLOOM: “I’m sure she would tell Cilla she was going to see ‘Shev’ that night. That was always her cover when she came round mine from Cilla’s. She didn’t want Cilla knowing she came round to mine.”
PC GODBOLT: “You are…. any allegation that you assaulted her…you are categorically denying it?”
BLOOM: “ It’s all a complete fabrication.”
Clock counter time 16:11
Bloom explains he has witnesses to support his account of the texting. He has spoken to friends about the texting. A female friend read through the texts on the Internet with him and she agreed it proved van Hiller was reckless. He explains that when the boys left the park that night it was dark and non-one else was about so van Hiller could have been in danger. He explains Carla saw most of what happened. Carla had watched them walk away and has assumed that Rebecca had calmed down. He wants van Hiller to obtain psychiatric help.
Clock counter time 17:25
The 842 notice is served. 11:25pm: tape is switched off.

26
I shivered with the cold. I felt raw inside. My fingers were like ice and the numbness stiffened my neck. It was an awful, nauseous tension wracking me whole body. I still had the smell in my nostrils. Stale disinfectant. The sanitized and clinical sparseness of the holding cell had cut deeply into my subconscious. It had been only two hours confinement but it had felt like ten. They were punishing me already. No one knows what the desperation of imprisonment feels like until they endure it.
I lit the demo
Idle time tho’
Toil mid thee
Limited to He

Dim thee, toil
I dole them it
Let me, I do hit
Let him ode it

Hold me tie it
I tie them old
Idle to hit me
Tilted it home

Ode the limit
Hot Edit Mile
Hit me old time
I tilted home

Was I right to forego the attendance of the duty solicitor? I would have suffered a further two hours in there if I had insisted on it. But his voice had been reassuring on the phone.
I had nothing to fear. I only acted in self-defence. He said he would call me tomorrow and confirm an appointment to meet.
I lay curled shivering in my bed. Constable Godbolt - what is she really about? Does she believe me? Why did she keep me chatting in the police car for so long when she brought me home? She’s an odd looking woman at first sight. Not pretty, not even in that uniform. And I do love a woman in uniform. She has a strange look about her. Was that police work or was she curious about me? I had to get some sleep. School tomorrow.

27
TUESDAY 1ST APRIL 2003: PAUL THE GUNFIGHTER. It was Aprils’ Fool’s Day and Kooky was at my house. Ironic. She came here to aggravate the enemy. She stalked their territory.
I had already had my car scratched, my wheelie bin stolen plus we had the inception of the phoney war between Kooky and the whores next door.
Now reduced to her fitful arm scratching, Carla peered out from the rear bedroom window over the fence. She was on the snoop for a showdown. I had been keeping her updated about it for the past couple of weeks - the weather had been so dry and fair. Cilla had taken to hanging out her washing on the garden line again.
What now irked Kooky about that was that pegged for all to see, like trophies were Lita’s Fubu’s, Yankees sweats, jeans, new lingerie and more. They were the spoils of battle taken by the conquerors.
My wife was in a growing frenzy of fidgeting, she was scratching those forearms raw but she stood steadfast and unbowed. Would she now seek to reclaim what was rightfully hers?
They say matadors use a red rag to antagonise the charging bull in the ring. Here, before my querulous cow, were many teasing ‘red rags’ pegged to taunt my kicking Kooky who was now snorting up for a rabble rage and raring for a thunderous charge. She hissed and spat and shot out of my backdoor before I could say kamikaze.
I only managed to catch up with her because she failed to realise the garden gate was bolted both top and bottom. As I took hold of her arm she shrieked out a rebuke.
From the corner of my eye I saw a teasing Turk sneering from her open kitchen window. If I had let go of that twisting, writhing arm right then I have no doubt I would have witnessed and almighty cat fight. Mustering up all my brawn and pacifying resolve I manhandled my wife back into the house whereupon she gave me a taste of the tongue-lashing she wanted to spatter at Cilla.
“Leo, so often you are a vain and self-important man. I don’t trust you…I don’t even particularly like you. You tried things your way and look! They laugh at us! Look at that bitch sneering like she’s beaten me! Grow some backbone for once in your life. Stop being the mooch - you’re always acting the victim! Fight back! Oh, yes, you will wheedle from me what you crave! But don’t worry - at least somebody in this family does the right thing!”
I pleaded for her to be calm. We were both panting hard from the scuffle but she had enough foul breath to gripe on in her Kooky craze.
“I’ll back you up…Lita will back you up…we’ll be your loyal smoke screen so that no one will ever know for sure if all this was corruption of an innocent child by a cunning man or exploitation of a weak man by a corrupt child.“
She lambasted me that I tried to re make van Hiller in the image I wanted her to be. But she is what she is and will always be - a street whore - a wretch from the gutter and forever falling back into it.
“I saw you! So often like an old fool letting yourself stoop to be her plaything…you never had it the other way round…you deceived yourself…pathetic, foolish vanity and now she has tainted you…. you are done!”
She finally tore her arm free. I wiped her spittle from my face.
“Are you done?”
No, she wasn’t done. But the quietness that now fell over her told me some scheme was cooking away in that loose canon’s mind. She took herself to the sofa, slunk herself into meditation mode and I let her be.
She suited the sofa less than the sofa suited her. She slumped gracelessly within its form. She had no elegance, no style as I watched the ogre stewing before me. Now I let my artist’s eye remodel the scene. Dispense with the fiery hag and replace with a younger, sweeter incumbent. A lily-fresh flowering beauty of the Dutch kind set before me would be a far more satisfying display. But the street whore jibe? Yes, ‘vile herb cancer,’ I guess warranted. But oh the pleasures I might have if she let me pay her for my sins. But April was to end as such an awful month. And then Saddam Hussein lost Iraq. ’Carve carbine hell.’
I do have such wicked intentions if given a free run at it. Not content with one form of eroticism I had lately evolved my very own complete kind of erotic symbolism revolving around all sorts of indecent games with my pliant pea.
The way this girl thoroughly slinks her form so seductivey about the furniture put me in mind of Allen Jones' sublime depictions of a hat stand or a table sculpture. The malleable maid of my muse inspired all such crazy creations of artistic delight. My country head shrink’s insights were helping me to be better-informed and less green. I had learned that the most erotic symbols have their roots locked deep within the subconscious mind of the child within us.
This was not the kind of probing of my deepest character I could conceivably have shared with anyone else, not my wife, not Charlotte and certainly not ever in a million years with the likes of my first matrimonial ogre, Molly.
Although to be fair to morose Molly I guess she was chosen by me as marriage material purely on her doll-like teen beauty. For when I met her she was a lifeguard at the Central Swimming Pool back home in Berkshire and I simply adored her in that one-piece red swimsuit. She was my first true spangled acrobat in talcum light.
When this upwardly mobile late twenties schoolteacher -‘own home and car’- caught her eye you could see on reflection why an impressionable and very pretty nineteen-year-old aspirant would jump at the chance to escape her minimum wage sterile chlorinated pool plant for the doting arms of blushing Bloom.
Whether it was their outward inadequacies that made these helpless, fawning objects so appealing to my own assertively challenged inward inadequacies I could not rightly fathom.
But my therapist did imply on more than one occasion that I appeared to possess issues stemming from the dysfunctional relationship I had had with my bullying over-bearing drunken father. Perhaps the chaos of my early childhood just left in me a great gawping chasm: a yearning for stillness, order, and control and unthreatening interpersonal relations.
I just went on in my private world getting an erotic thrill at what most ‘normal’ men and woman would call bizarre. I just loved looking at naked mannequins in department stores.
I remember my mother taking me as a child of seven or eight to buy a winter coat and while she and a hapless sales assistant rummaged about for my size, out of sight, I seized my moment for a tacky fumbling grope with a statuesque hottie who let me put my hand up her skirt and stroke her and examine her indiscreetly while a plastic transfixed face beamed inanely. No one knew. It was hers and my secret and I knew she wouldn’t be telling on me.
Now vanilla muse was my love of statue when at rest. Reclining on the sofa but better on the rug I would lay her so that I had the advantage of being away from her sight, her one good eye on the goggle box while her other obstinate orb hid behind a floppy curtain of dark hair.
My sympathetic and indulgent therapist had directed me to scholarly readings on the matter and from that I have grown to accept it is not my fault my environment and my parents made me this way. It is also true, and I have read this, that a somewhat less abnormal form of erotic symbolism probably shows itself in its simplest shape in the tendency to idealize unbeautiful peculiarities in a beloved person, so that such peculiarities are ever afterward almost or quite essential in order to arouse sexual attraction.
So just like the man who has become attracted to limping women I have been drawn to imperfect, flawed creatures. Even the most normal man may idealize a trifling defect in the object of his affections. Our attention is inevitably concentrated on any such slight deviation from regular beauty, and the natural result of such concentration is that a complexus of associated thoughts and emotions becomes attached to something that, in itself is unbeautiful. A defect becomes an admired focus of attention, the embodied symbol of the lover's emotion.
I remember it now like videotape found on a dusty shelf to be rerun in the back of a long fossilised quadrant of my subconscious. My mother had taken me to the circus.
That was where I first saw a woman shot out of a cannon - constrained first, tightly packed in like a sweet in a wrapper. That was the sublime foremost fantasy in a naïve little boy’s innocent, impressionable mind. That perfect little gypsy girl wearing the bright red outfit while her skirts blew up around her as she flew through the air. My first emission sequence replayed over and over.
But like any adolescent boy I felt the need to play over and over my personalised and self-indulgent mind games. In the long, lonely hours of my childhood shut in my room, away my father’s disapproving gaze I would entertain myself. In time supplanted by many newer and improved versions but always the same variation on the theme: the performer, the display and the unintended exposure of the object of my obsession.
I put all sexual fantasies into tonal and colour values. I graded them all into darker and darker shades of depravity. But tidy-minded as I am, I always like to shuffle the pack and grade and re-grade colour charts then edit and review critically all my little erotic cameos.
Like those Edwardian ‘What the Butler Saw’ slot machines and you pay a penny to peek for a minute to watch her rustle her bustle, lift her skirts, loosen her suspender belt, teasingly play her hand up and along the curves of her plump white thighs.
That would be it in a nutshell. But to tease myself I would start very slowly - almost imperceptibly. From the palest upwards in order of increasing intensity, or darkening tones, I placed erotic phenomena that affected me thus: The slow, slinky walk of a woman in heels, then the sight of women's undergarments, then the fleeting valley of a woman’s cleavage, thereafter the smells and static sounds of a pair of stockinged legs crossing, then those mouth watering up skirt shots in men’s magazines, a long-time favourite for my idle contemplation and that spillage of the dew (ros).
I then gorge myself on pages of naked breasts, then follows full contact with her rounded form and unrestricted sucking at those creamy white breasts, then, after, to savour the smell and the taste of it and then the ultimate: coitus.
As they say, to me and other such morbid souls there exists such specialized esoteric erogenous power. Never be so harsh of man in his private thoughts.
Even a mere shadow may become a fetish. There was once a man with a reputation for ability, seemingly happily married and the father of a family, appearing altogether irreproachable in his private life, who on returning home one evening chanced to raise his eyes to a neighbour’s window and saw the shadow of a woman changing her chemise.
He fell in love with that shadow and returned to the spot every evening for many months to gaze at the window. Yet—and herein lies the fetishism—he made no attempt to see the woman or to find out who she was; the shadow sufficed; he had no need of the realty. So there is my root (radix), and branch (thyrsus).
I aim not to despoil or to waylay but merely to idolize and nurture carefully, gently and delicately, ever so passive and kind is Mr Leonard Odysseus Bloom.
Stendhal described the mental side of the process of tumescence as a crystallization, a process whereby certain features of the beloved person present points around which the emotions held in solution in the lover's mind may concentrate and deposit themselves in dazzling brilliance.
‘Devotion and love,’ wrote Mary Wollstonecraft, ‘may be allowed to hallow the garments as well as the person, for the lover must want fancy who has not a sort of sacred respect for the glove or slipper of his mistress. He would not confound them with vulgar things of the same kind.’

Semen is but seed
Teste the beans mere fabæ
Soft fruit of poma and mala
My manhood is my arbor,
Or a stalk or a ploughsharing vomer
Your labia a majora and minora of fine wings (alæ)
I seek thee as a field of ager and campus,
Or a ploughed furrow (sulcus),
Have the vineyard (vinea), or a fountain fons,
Forsaking such pudendal hair
Such irksome herbage (plantaria)
The Talmud makes my doors your labia minora
Your labia majora hinges,
But your clitoris the key
Cunning Greeks find the myrtle-berry
Succulent fruit of sacred Venus,
The labia rose, reddened image of your femininity

Four o’clock came. The school bus would be dropping off at the post office. Commando Kooky now waited in ambush. She took Rebecca by surprise and shouted at her to give it up while she still had a chance.
“You’re not in charge of me! I have a new mother now!” came the rebuff from the young harlot. In her hand she brandished Lita’s mobile phone.
“Return all the things you stole from my daughter…you can have your crap back when you do!” Came the challenge.
That evening emails were exchanged between Kooky and Cilla. There would be no more polite phone calls. There was no love lost now. It was all going to be by the book. A final handover was arranged for six in the evening on the second of April. They were going to come to Carla’s.
The day came and so did a curmudgeonly PC Crumb as escort. Rebecca stayed in the car. The girl looked timid now. I watched from the bedroom window. Cilla brought in two small-knotted plastic carrier bags. She took out several large boxes and bags while the feckless fool of a policeman looked on.
I shouted down the stair, “Carla, don’t let them go without checking the contents in front of the police officer!”
We hastily gathered in the kitchen. Carla cut upon the knotted bags. One broken mobile phone without SIMS card, one pair of black boots - zips broken on both and some screwed up old tee shirts that had been worn but not washed. A wicked, secret thought came to mind. Mmmm - the delight I would take in these returned treasures later from a new casket full of love-tokens.
“Look…you see! This is not right!”
Carla pointed to the damages and the policeman studied the debris.
“Well, madam, I suggest you report this to PC Godbolt. It does appear these items may possibly have been deliberately damaged. But have you got any receipts?”
Damage, indeed, and don’t doubt the deliberate, officer, I thought. Both boots with zips ripped in the same place? A broken phone that only weeks, nay, days ago the tramp must have been still using - and as for receipts?
“Receipts? Receipts you say? You want us to show you receipts now? Jesus…what more proof do you need? These are our things…. You see the state they are in…trashed!” Crusty Carla fumed.
The Officer was having none of it. She was going to have to take it up with Officer Godbolt. I left them to the kitchen - wife fuming and he placating as I took the bagged treasures to the lounge. I wished to contemplate more fully and study the booty alone.
As Laodamia did by Protesilaus, when he went to war, sit at home with his picture before her: a garter or a bracelet of hers is more precious than any Saint's Relique, he lays it up in his casket (Oh, blessed relic) and every day will kiss it: if in her presence his eye is never off her, and drink he will where she drank, if it be possible, in that very place.
I drew in through my nostrils the vanilla scent of my new gifts. Her perfume was as powerful as ever. I pulled apart the velvet soft leathery flaps of the boots and plunged my face into their dark wings - fragrant symbols of her alæ and I imagined her sweat-sweet tasting labia majora and minora.
My mind was taken instantly to her bean field - ager and campus - a ploughed furrow supping the juices of the sulcus, glorying in the vinea vineyard, or her fountain fons bared and alabaster smooth, no pudendal plantaria between our lips.


28
FRIDAY 11TH APRIL 2003. I’m going down hill fast. I can’t cope with all this stress. I need help. I am slowing down almost to a standstill. I phone in sick at work. I need to see my doctor. I see Angela a couple of times but even her soothing sessions are only temporary and fleeting.
Today Godbolt agreed to see Carla to discuss this awful matter. She files a report for all the damaged and stolen property. Maybe something will be done now. Carla and I spend more time at my place. Thirteen Cedar Drive no longer feels so welcoming. Kooky gives her notice to vacate the property and starts to pack. She’s either going to put all her things in storage and just disappear to New York for a break or find another little bolt hole suitable to her needs away from people who know us.
But still the springtime wispy clouds tease across the outside blueness in their full majestic beauty. The trees are budding, the grass smells delightfully fragrant and fresh from the first cut - but here we care not.
While at my place Kooky goes into the garden to inspect all Lita’s clothes again still hanging on Cilla’s washing line as if to torment us further. It’s galling.
“Let’s jump the fence and just take it from the fish hag!”
But Kooky spies something - there is someone in the house. The curtains twitch. It’s that bitch. No, it can’t be, she’s been out for a couple of hours. We saw her leave in her car. Must be Rebecca. No not Rebecca. We understand she has moved out of Cilla’s and is living with her boyfriend now. So who is it? Kooky darts round to the front of the house.
She peers through Cilla’s front window. We see two small figures in the bedroom above. It’s the two boys, George and Harrison.
“Hey, Carla, hi - did you want my mum? She’s not talking to you anymore!”
“Hello, George, where is your mum? Are you on your own?”
No reply.
“Don’t answer, Harrison, we don’t speak to him any more… he’s a pedal file!”
Ah, isn’t that charming? Parents can only give advice or put children on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.
“Right, we will get the bitch now. Call the child hotline or whatever you Brits call it? RSVP or RoSPA - something like that! This is child neglect those kids are only six and eight and she’s left them all afternoon alone!”
I get the number for her out of the phone book. She makes the call. The call is logged and there will be someone looking into it. Just then a car pulls up. It’s Henry, Cilla’s ex husband and he sees his two boys leaning perilous out of the high window above.
“What’s going on here…where’s Cilla?” He exclaims.
Suddenly another car pulls up hard aside his. It’s Cilla. She’s out of the car and into the house like lightening. Henry is in hot pursuit. We sit on the wall outside. Fine mess…ha! Don’t mess with Henry. A man with blacksmith’s limbs, strong and stout and not one to suffer fools. Rag Ill Anvil!
Upon said wall our options are again discussed. Perhaps blood vessel-bursting Henry would be inclined to consider an alliance? My ginned up gossip fuelled wife had the persuasive powers I lacked. We need to work on that one. Let that sleeping black dog lay for a while.
In the meantime back to matters of police complaints. It’s an amazing fact that the British police are entrusted with investigating themselves when a complaint is levied against them. What a wonderful system we live in!
Who better to impartially consider and weigh the merits of a complaint against the police than the police themselves? How ironic. Judge and jury: one and the same.
No wonder more grievances are going straight to the civil courts, bypassing the sham procedure that is the Professional and Ethical Standards Department of East Mercia Police.
This is how Fred Clarke advised me to do it. Fred was recommended to me as he had a lot of experience in civil harassment cases at McCarthy, Pond & Sheen. Although I had fallen out with Mr BS of the shineless spineless sheen I still had the scrap of paper he gave me of a jobbing local lawyer up on these civil disputes.
I was a bit surprised at that first meeting. Not quite what I had expected. Fred Clarke was an affable, unflappable shortish bald chap who had no airs or graces about him. Carla soon had him down as subtle and delicate as steak and kidney pie in her food-personality catalogue. He was certainly nothing like any other solicitor I had met. Clarke was more your street talking, working class, unpretentious kind of lawyer.
“Well. Mr Bloom from what you tell me about this van Hiller girl its clear the police should put a stop to her goings on. I don’t understand why they haven’t arrested her or charged her with any offences against you.”
He shook his baldhead empathically.
“Look, I don’t want to start you down a legal path straight off. I think you’ve got to jump through a few of their hoops first and make a formal complaint against that investigating officer, Godbolt - the one who arrested you.“
I nodded. He looks me up and down then tells me it’s fair to say that being a tall man- of imposing stature, he could see where the police were coming from. And bluntly put it’s more believable to them that a stocky six-foot older man harassed the vulnerable, slight sixteen-year-old.
On top of that, with her being the schoolgirl and me the teacher, who connived to meet her in secret, I can’t expect any leeway.
I replied curtly, “Surely, they should try to find out the truth though. Shouldn’t they?”
He offers up a sympathetic, weak smile.
“Truth isn’t what it’s about, Mr Bloom. It’s about what they can persuade a court to believe. We are in the age of performance targets. The police like any other public service have quotas to fill. They need convictions. I’m sure you have the same thing in teaching. Am I right?”
I couldn’t fault his logic: targets and buzzwords all right. But it was all so cynical. The police weren’t going to make any extra work for themselves when it appeared to be a clear-cut case for a conviction against me.
I added, “What I suppose won’t help at all is my ex wife is also a local police officer. I’m sure she has spoken to them about me, too.”
Clarke looked out of his office window momentarily and took deep breath.
“Ah…I see…Do you get on well with your ex wife?
“Nope. Can’t say I do.”
He took up his pen and began to write down something on a piece of paper.
“This is what I recommend. Write to East Mercia Police Headquarters. Draft out a letter detailing your concerns and put together a detailed chronology of the events, with dates and times-that helps a lot. I can’t promise you anything but what I do strongly urge you to do is keep a diary-some kind of written record. Writing letters of complaint irritates the hell out of the police, too. Trust me. You may feel its not getting you anywhere but you will be surprised what affect this has over time.”
He neatly folded the piece of paper then handed it to me.
“Call me if you hear nothing within twenty-eight days.”
We shook hands. As I turned to leave he wished me the best of luck. I get home and there is a note on the front door mat. I open it. It’s from Henry Flower. He wants to meet me. He gives his phone number to call. We arrange a meeting.
Flower comes to my house the following Friday evening. To my embarrassment I forgot Charlotte was coming over, too. She makes herself scarce and she discreetly hides herself upstairs once I realise who is at the door. Henry comes in with his new wife. We shake hands and I soon realise she is American.
“How ironic! We’ve both found an Internet bride from the US!”
We all laugh and the ice is broken.
“It’s time for me to bury the hatchet over Cilla, Leo. I guess we’ve been wary of each other these past years. I know all about what happened between you. It’s water under the bridge and good riddance to bad rubbish I say.”
He then cuts to the chase. He wants his kids back. Not going to be easy though, he concedes. Cilla got him banged up for assault before their divorce. I hadn’t known about that.
“Cilla got me sent down for knocking her about all trumped up, of course. It’s her way. She lies all the time-I was drunk and foolishly admitted I’d grabbed hold of her when the pigs showed up. The next thing I know I’m sent down for three months as a wife batterer.”
I gave him my best sympathetic nod of the head.
“Ah, not good! Sorry to hear! I’m learning fast myself now-the law favours the woman in a domestic!”
“Cilla’s that type-never happy till she hears the police sirens wailing. She got the house now- welcome to it. George and Harrison is what I want but she won’t budge on it”
He scowls and tells me she only has the kids for the child support. She’s always been a lazy bitch. She won’t work - an idle pea-hop.
“Anyway, she’s got this new man off the Net…another mug easily impressed by a big pair of tits. I heard he is some big shot local councillor…or he was. He got sent down for firearms offences. Apparently he had a run in with some gypsies over fake antiques. They came after him and he let off a few pot shots with his shotgun. It was front-page news or something…Paul Gadd…That’s his name!”
He called him ’Paul the Gunfighter.’ He asks me for a favour. Perhaps I could look into it - keep an eye out for trouble. I suggested we could find out more about this new man from the archives of the local rag.
“Good to get something in print to tarnish the twat!”
Cookie and me both agreed it might be good evidence for him as leverage for a future custody battle. Then Henry lets me in on what he knew about my case.
“It’s a sorry mess you have yourself here, Leo. The police came to interview me in April. They asked me about Rebecca. ‘How did she treat the kids?’ I told them I wasn’t happy about her being there. I told Cilla to get her out or I would cut her money down. George told me she mistreats Harrison. I heard she teases him and makes fun of him - he’s got a speech impediment, you see, and is partially deaf, poor pup. She once made him get into a freezing cold bath-all for her kicks-she finds that kind of thing funny.”
I shake my head in disbelief. I just find it so hard to picture Rebecca having such a cruel side. He goes on:
“I heard some guff that you beat her up. I got some civilian officer come visit me to take a statement. He wanted all the dirt on you, Leo. Cilla must have primed him beforehand. I told him that girl’s no angel…I heard she was a prostitute…he just said, ‘hearsay.’ He thought I’d have it in for you-I could tell from his attitude right away. But not me…I tells it like it is. Cilla can be a spiteful sea snake. I told him you and her had a fling years back and that was true and I knew you finished it not her. I saw he didn’t write any of that down though.”
I asked him how he saw it all going in his custody battle.
“I’m onto her now. I am really grateful you called the child protection hotline. I am building up a dossier of evidence against Cilla. It’s only a matter of time. I’m happily married now…I got a good wife, a decent home and just need my kids safe and well. I’m sorry there isn’t more I can do to help you in your case. But as they say, ‘the truth will out.’”
The new Mrs Flower smiles politely at me to emphasise her husband’s intent.
“One other thing, Leo, I know they say beware Greeks bearing gifts, but there’s something that comes to mind-it’s about your ex-wife…the police officer? I think it might be of some use to you, I don’t know-you decide.”
Henry tells me about a year or so ago, Cilla, in one of her gossiping moods repeated something her gabby sister heard. Her sister’s husband was employed in the same police station. Apparently the rumours were that Molly had a brief fling with one of the sergeants - it was all hushed up-both coppers were married and all that.
“But something that did come out was your ex claimed you knocked her about a lot and that’s why she divorced you. Well, Cilla, couldn’t tell me all this quick enough at the time. I guess it’s all water under the bridge but you know the old saying, Leo, ‘shit sticks.’”
It does and like glue, too.

29
I have to have a strategy here. I have no Special Forces nor M1 Abram’s or Bradley fighting vehicles. No awesome firepower, no impervious armour. Some suckers buy every bit of bull and the lies have been spun thick and fast from all quarters. ‘Armour vincit omnia.’
Who and what do I believe? Love conquers all. Was I dealing with a comedy routine, a ‘Comical Ali from the Disinformation Ministry of Iraq?’ Have I been mocked and made of a fool of from the start? The bullets fly, the bombs fall but the same story persists - the infidel American soldiers are dying in the hundreds slaughtered on the gates of Baghdad. Be assured, Baghdad is safe, protected. Iraqi soldiers are freedom fighters and heroes. Am I safe? My gut instincts make me feel evil forces are at work out to get me.
I will follow through what Fred Clarke advised me. On April 9th, Saddam Hussein emerged from his command bunker beneath the Al A'Zamiyah district of northern Baghdad, and greeted excited members of the local public. The news was full of it. This was his final walkabout. I dug out an old file binder and began to put together the beginnings of my own case notes. I made a start on a chronology and drafting a letter to Police Headquarters.
I saw more news about Saddam - they are going to capture him, give him a fair trial then execute him. I already have the letters I sent out the day after the assault. That was a smart move. It must show I acted conscientiously. I must be ready for war. Like any teacher would: you back up your argument with facts. I reviewed the letters I had sent and the replies I had back so far from the relevant contacts:
14.03.03
City College
Mrs Armand Assante
Head of Studies
Dear Mr & Mrs L Bloom
Thank you for your letter of March 13th about Rebecca attending college in September.
I would like to reassure you that Rebecca, as with all your other applicants, will only be accepted on to one of our courses if she has a clear Criminal Records Bureau disclosure and appropriate entry qualifications. In view of your concerns I have contacted her head teacher for further information about Rebecca’s suitability for the course.
When we have received all these pieces of evidence we will be able to make a judgment about whether Rebecca should come on the course or not; from the information we have received to date it would certainly not seem appropriate for us to confirm her place.
Please get in touch again if you need further information.
Yours sincerely,
Mrs Armand Assante
I read again the letter we had got back from Rebecca’s doctor. That filled me with much hope.
19.03.03
Holy Cross Medical Centre
North Road
Dear Mr & Mrs Bloom
Re: Rebecca van Hiller (dob 26.04.87)
Thank you for your letter of March 13th received by the practice on that day and by me on 17th March on return from leave: the contents of which are extremely disturbing.
After our discussions on 10th January when we all met I made a methodical enquiry, which I thought, had produces a result but clearly this is not the case.
As you correctly point out Rebecca is no longer my patient and I am taking the liberty of sending your letter to her current general practitioner so that he is fully informed of your current position, he should already have the rest of her medical notes.
Hopefully with the evidence you present and the increasing anxiety about this young lady, hopefully more will be done to help her. I am sorry if you feel I have let you down.
Yours sincerely,
P R Teazle MB MRCP

19.03.03
South Haven High School
Sandwood Hill
Dear Mr & Mrs Bloom.
Rebecca van Hiller – Year 12
Thank you for bringing to our attention your concerns about Rebecca. I can confirm receipt of your letter and your telephone call made to my deputy, Ms Newman, on March 13th. I can confirm that we will be keeping a close watch on the situation but we understand this is now a police matter and we cannot enter into any further correspondence on the matter.
We are sorry to hear of your predicament but trust the police will deal with the case satisfactorily.
Yours sincerely,
Greta Scacchi MSc. PGCE

It makes me seem a tad more the concerned professional reading all that. Perhaps, if this gets to court a jury will look at these and see I was trying to be the ’good guy.’
That one from her Dr Teazle was the pick. God, I needed his support. At least her own family practitioner could see how messed up she was. That bean was totally barking!
I wonder if Teazle would testify? No. I don’t think so: patient confidentiality or something. But at least I have proof. I have his letter. I have all the letters! Well, this it Leo, old boy.
What time is it? Almost four so get set for action. She’s on duty at six, she said. I’ll go for a run then I’ll write more letters. I’ll give that Godbolt a quick call and tell her enough is enough. I’ll phone her on the number she put on the bail sheet she gave me. When I dialled she answered promptly this time so I got straight into my assertive mode.
“Er…Mr Bloom. Let me stop you there…I have to advise you that Miss van Hiller has made a further allegation against you just this morning…text messages…as before. I’ve told her to bring her mobile phone into the station.”
I interrupted.
“Wait…now hold on here…hold on! I am calling to tell you the nightmare of the past few weeks…car scratched…clothes stolen…hang up calls…we’ve had it all…my wheelie bin stolen and found in another street and vandalised! Jesus…what am I supposed to do? I’ve seen a solicitor…it’s all harassment…you’re now taking this kid’s side.”
In subsequent days, looting and unrest became a serious issue. Don’t let them destroy the evidence. On April 14th, Iraq's National Library and National Archives were burned down, destroying thousands of manuscripts from civilizations dating back as far as 7,000 years. Nothing of any value was left.
Her voice stiffened, “Mr Bloom! Please let me finish…I have got a report about your alleged crimes on my voicemail message…your wife…she left messages about harassing phone calls…They will be investigated, I assure you…We are now getting accusation and counter accusation from your both side and Miss van Hiller’s…. I am doing my best…your wife is coming in next week-come too if you wish when I’m back on shift. See you next Tuesday…we can go from there.”
The dolt Gumbolt was fobbing me off again and I was having none of it.
“Stop! Hold on! What’s all this garbage about new text messages? You arrested me…you told me I was on bail…. if I contacted Rebecca again I’d be pulled in again…. I’m not stupid…I’ve done nothing…look…come take my computer…see for yourself…all these texts…I’ve done nothing, I tell you…see for yourself check my phone records, too!”
“Please calm down Mr Bloom I may wish to have possession of your computer for evidence at a later stage…phone records, too…whatever…please let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here…first things first…let me meet with you wife next Tuesday…ok?”
I was not going to get any joy there. I let it go. My head was pounding. I went next door. I just wanted to plead with Cilla. She’s the adult: she must see it. I knocked at her door. A stranger answered, a rather portly, greasy looking man with thinning grey hair, leather slippers and wearing a cravat loosely about his chicken neck.
I realised this was the Paul Gadd that Henry Flower had told me about. I’d better be wary. I politely asked if Cilla was home. She soon appeared and gave me short shrift.
I may have been speaking Chinese for all she cared. They are a lost cause now. I got the finger from her as a passing gesture.
They call this Asymmetric warfare. Opposing belligerents of unequal power or capacity of action interact and take advantage of the strengths and weaknesses of themselves and their enemies. This interaction often involves strategies and tactics outside the bounds of conventional warfare.
A week passed. Carla had her police meeting. Low and behold Rebecca never took her mobile phone in to prove her latest allegations. Nothing came of that.
Ah, well, seems like kids can make any number of false allegations if they want! Another police officer came to interview my other neighbour who said she saw someone fitting Rebecca’s description strangely taking a wheelie bin up the road for a one-way walk. If it were someone else’s tragedy I would be laughing. But finally, good old Cookie came up trumps. She got hold of the service provider of the mobile phone Rebecca had stolen from Lita. Although we now had the actual phone back (broken into bits) the SIMS card from it was missing.
My wife found out the SIMS card is actually the ‘brain’ of a mobile phone. It stores all the contact numbers and everything and without it the phone is useless. Carla had phoned Vistafone Mobile Customer Services who gave her the full picture.
Apparently, Rebecca had somehow re-registered Lita’s phone in her name and at Cilla’s address. She was still using our SIMS card! But the ace in the hole was Vistafone told Carla that the re-registering of the phone was done on April 1st right before she gave it back to us broken.
Rebecca had applied for a number change for that SIMS and was immediately assigned a new number from that date. So it was impossible for her to have had any texts from me, as I clearly didn’t know she changed her number. This was good news. I wrote my first letter of complaint to Police Headquarters. I enclosed my chronology of events as my solicitor had advised. Let’s see where this gets us.
I wanted the police to investigate Rebecca for false reporting of crimes. The proof was there. Surely they would see the little lynx was lying. If she was shown to have lied about one thing then surely her credibility was blown on every other allegation.
The next few weeks were odd. The new man in Cilla’s life appeared to have moved in with her. It seemed peculiar seeing a new Porsche parked outside that Turkish harem beside the belly jiggler’s clapped out old jalopy.
It was a hot day in May as I recall when the letter came. I read it twice over - more bad news. It was not what I wanted at all. No charges were to be brought against Rebecca but a senior officer was going to meet with me to discuss my concerns about the investigation. So much for the ‘End of Major Combat.’ I saw President Bush standing on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. He foolishly declared ‘mission accomplished,’ too.
What's the point of a justice system that picks and chooses the villains - arrests the easy targets and lets the bigger fish get away? Carla said something she thought was apt but with an American twist: she said Rebecca was no Amy Fisher and I was certainly no Joey Buttafuoco. That particular reference went right over my British head.



30
MONDAY 5TH MAY 2003. So look around you. The month of May brings the whole world to light: either you are already in love or you have the feeling that it could happen at any second. The merry month of May is simply one of the best months and we anticipate a spring storm of wonderful feelings. And with a beating heart, we begin to walk on air and so now can we possibly sense the rising buds of a crazy love story? The birds are at it and so are my neighbours. That nightly rhythmic banging and caterwauling permeated the party wall. That was my clue. Karaoke woman had found her Krakatoa man.
The following morning I drew open my bedroom curtains to see yonder lover’s swift departure. The man called Gadd was up and at ‘em with the larks.
Mister gadabout was sans cravat but sported one of those laughable silly western-style bootlace ties around his fat red neck held together by a garish chunky golden pin. His sideburns were pure late edition Elvis Presley – ridiculously profuse beneath a self-deluding comb-over.
The oaf revved up, spun a mean ‘U’ turn, gave a glad Gadd wave back at his harlot’s hovel and then he was off like a shot. The clot. Clearly, those Karaoke nights had brought fat reward for the Turkish gut gyrator. There was something glittery and vain about that chap and I disliked it with an unbloom-like passion. The passing weeks confirmed my fears that Karibdis had found her man of the house. Each warm weekend he would be out in the back garden with barbecue ablaze, sausages sizzling and his potbelly proudly on show like he’d just won first prize in an egg-eating contest.
We saw the ‘Gunfighter’ almost every day now - he was an anomalous presence in the street - Mister Cool Hand - slimy looking bedroom bandit. Look.
What date he took up full residence I could never conceivably recollect. But as is always the case, the persistent stealth of a fly around a cow’s arse over time eventually works the magic. The garden fence remained ‘no-mans land’ but reconnoitring rascal Colonel Lacrimal took up a canny corner in my back garden to eavesdrop Cilla’s blusterous boasts. On the nearside of the fence I sat with her, too, to be in full earshot of the latest episode.
Cilla sensed the interest from the fence and arranged a succession of weekend garden parties so she could bellow out her grand plans for a new conservatory, loft conversion or whatever whimsy to prick up Kooky’s radar ears. Of course, each and every backyard boast seemed to be suffixed with a ‘once we’re back from the honeymoon, darlings!’ It didn’t matter a jot to me whether these buffoons got married or not. My beef was still about those aforesaid territorial issues that were of testosterone-fuelled alpha male importance.
The gadabout was a law unto himself. He was a rollicking red neck and no respecter of the shared access driveway that he so singularly monopolised. In true cowboy fashion he obstructed all access and egress from these here situated cul de sac abodes.
You can’t get a bicycle let alone a prestige motorcar on or off the road without the stress of navigating past the man’s infernal love machine.
Gormless Gadd persistently parked his gleaming sports coupe askew right in front of my drive barring vehicular entry to my garage. The nerve of it! What we got here is a failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach. So you get what we had here before. Which is the way he wants it.
As much as I detested the clown, my wife guffawed at his antics. Whether it was the fool’s idolatry of all things American or the irony of finding full-blown rednecks nesting this far east of the Appalachians, she thought it all a wonderful hoot.
With great relish she plundered the archives of the local newspapers searching for that golden article about Marshall Witless Earp’s great brush with infamy. My Cookie eventually got the scoop. Counsellor Paul Francis Gadd, to give the fool his full title, was once a successful cabaret crooner but faded from a potential glittering music career. Gadd became the architect of his own downfall when two and a half years ago, it seems while turning his hand unsuccessfully to an antiques deal with some double-dealing characters, he extracted his own form of justice by firing a few rounds at some gypsies with an unlicensed twelve bore.
Perilous, parlous Paul got sent down for one year in a minimum-security jail. If I couldn’t have the unrestricted pleasures of my garage he would have to sample my own version of a frisson dans un véhicule de rallye for some twilight home entertainment.
So for some sport and to taunt the feckless faker in my own inimitable fashion for his notable past achievements I conjured up a capricious caper in devising a few printed spoof ‘for sale’ notices that I prominently displayed on the back window of my car. The tone of which went thus:
‘TOTALLY forced sale. Bargain SHOT gun. Slightly USED no WASTED cartridges.’ Or ‘SAD sale of OLD twelve - BORE shotgun - OFFERS considered. Spare boxed cartridges for NOTHING!’
Hardly too outrageous, just a lark, I judged. With twenty-twenty back vision I guess it was bound to precipitate the endless petty feuding that marred the rest of my time in that fast declining and unwelcoming neighbourhood. The antipathy reached its zenith in the week the police finally dropped all my charges against Rebecca. I was mortified, crushed by their callous disregard for the facts in van Hiller’s villainous vendetta against me.
Of course our errant boys in blue popped a cursory note to that effect in the mail to avail me of their extraordinarily wretched decision. I was convinced that it was no blind chance that fat, balding, slavering, detestable PFG in praise of his impish new champion brought home that very evening a grotesque bouquet of pink, red and white roses for triumphant display on the window sill of RvH’s bedroom window. Such a child! Petty little taunts affect me not. I remained positive and expectant that soon senior officers at police HQ would assure me that it had all been a terrible mistake and all grotesque errors would be rectified.
But sadly, no such undertaking would be forthcoming. So for me, all my lofty aspirations of a magnificent May were deflating fast into a maudlin month.
What with Gadd’s goony parking liberties, three suspicious tyre punctures on my car in a spell of twenty-four days, and the strange withering demise of clumps of my hedgerow borders and flowers all in those short few weeks, I divined there was serious bad karma afoot.
That incipient neighbourhood, backbiting and sneering got me the most though. The old couple at number nine barely raised a grunt to acknowledge my ‘hellos’ now while the Portuguese family at number three were positively scowling if I so much as looked their way.
But it was Karibdis, Gadd and van Hiller’s self assured and smug faces that met me when our paths crossed on our way in or out that rankled me the most. As if they knew I was heading for an almighty fall and they were going to have the last laugh. Sharp looks and muted genuflections from the distasteful troglodytes became the order of the day.
Late one Friday afternoon as I slumped morosely upon my wearied bed a voluminous tintinnabulation swelled at me from the lounge. I grudgingly answered the phone.
His sneering tone down the phone said it all. It was Acting Inspector Troy Quilty: whitewasher and gobshiteist. My letters to Police Complaints, the letter of my Member of Parliament had shot them up the arse, or so it seemed. I quickly sensed the pup was peeved at me. He referred to my letter of complaint to Force HQ, a copy of which I had despatched to my Member of Parliament, Harry Humbert.
Superintendent Bishop now looked a Charlie, making out to my Member of Parliament he’d send Inspector Quilty on an errand to smooth it all out with me - the ‘avid letter writer.’
‘Personal meeting…issues have been resolved!’ My tightly toned arse. In their haste to put a spin on their whitewash to Humbert they had erred in their facts and were now backtracking to cover the cock ups. The Super had put Quilty on the phone looking for a quick end game for his finale trying to poke and prod me into submission.
Queerly the man now spoke with conspicuous heavy emphasis on his alveolar consonants.
“I’ve completed a full and thorough review, Mr Bloom, I have your numerous letters of complaint to hand as we speak. Superintendent Bishop and I are both of the same view…PC Godbolt was correct in her investigations and we cannot see any errors in her procedures. As you know from Molly…investigations take a great deal of time and we never prejudge anything.”
His familiarity with the labial consonant of ‘Molly’ jarred me.
“You seem to know a lot about my ex wife, don’t you? Reviewing her, too were you? You seem to know only what you want to know... Blind eye to my phone records though…what about my computer? But that’s too obvious-very subtle aren’t you, Acting Inspector?”
I hear a deep sigh whistling back down the phone at me.
“Leo…we all know your teaching career is on the line here…especially with your confession and all…think on that one for a start! Come on…so why would a supposedly intelligent and educated man in your position…exposing himself to all this…of all things go meet what you call…. a ‘common prostitute’ alone at night?”
A momentary pause as I did a stint of shoe gazing and pondered my fate. My tormentor continued to twist the knife.
“We also have damning third party statements. You’re not exactly the pillar of society now, are you? Like something about you and your wife and the ‘swingers’ scene-soft or full swap was it? Some spicy stories that you watch as your wife dances…you have something for girls dancing, so I hear.”
I rattled and seethed. Quilty would be that kind of trash to my wife that she would have his burger in the bun flayed, salted and vinegared discarded to the kerb like last night’s greasy fish and chip supper.
“Defamation-hogwash-tittle-tattle nonsense - stabbing in the dark and you know it!“
A stifled chortle from the other end of the receiver and in raised tones came the rebuff, the final gambit offered to me.
“Mr Bloom…it was in your best interests…everyone’s interest…that you took what PC Godbolt offered you…a simple Police Caution. It’s still not too late…even now. I’m doing you a favour. No need for courtroom dramas… no press hounding you to death. Take it…or everyone will hear the tape evidence…your solicitors must know…you must surely realise how much that will hurt you in court. Our forensics from the tape has got you down for forty-one ‘fucks’…and all that on a schoolgirl half your size…think of the way that play if the press get hold of it!”
Subtle that was. But then it was meant to be ‘shock and awe’ though wasn’t it? The philosophy of ‘hearts and minds’ like the bushblairs told us. You gotta be firm and give them all a dose of tough love. Thus speaketh our masters and our betters.

31
TUESDAY 15TH JULY 2003. It was disconcerting at first to contemplate leaving Seven Eccles Drive and giving up my pseudo bachelor life. This weekend, after weeks of surreptitious ads in the classifieds using Charlotte’s contact details, I had finally found suitable tenants to move into my place. They were from the television factory in town – an obsequiously polite and retiring Japanese family. They were able to move in as soon as I could get out.
Thus all looked set for my sneak retreat from my under-siege abode. Watches must be synchronised. It was all planned for late July when Carla and Lita would be going back to New York after Lita’s brief summer vacation with her mother in England.
Charlotte asked me one last time - was I really sure? Was I really ready to make the break and walk away from my home? But what was I leaving? The place was now soiled, spoilt, ruined by week after week, month after month of the jabbering jibes of a judgemental hyper-moral neighbourhood posse led by ex convicted counsellor, Paul Gadd deadly set to lynch me.
I thought, this is what places look like when somebody's died. I thought to myself, this is what it is like to be a ghost. There’s nothing here for me and no one here wants me. I shouldn’t be there. I was never going to get anything but hell from next door.
Then the cancer spread through the whole neighbourhood. No more ‘hellos’ or ‘how are you?’ Not one obeisance from those once benign neighbours of my street.
I was prejudged then condemned to stride a lonesome path of endless cold stares, irritating and obstructive parking of cars, and sneers and cruel kids’ hoots of ‘paedo’ behind my back. And there was only one cause: the stirrer Cilla and her new sidekick, Mr Gunfighter, riding shotgun. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing I ever did to goad the creep - I’m sure he was now stirring it up for me.
But I got my chance of a fresh start - a new dream, fresh grounds, and some anonymity at last. But I couldn’t go without just a few parting shots to the quasi-cowboy - Cilla’s new Milk Tray Man - her bouquet bearer of the moment.
You see I just wanted to display the last of my small homemade, computer printed signs using my undoubted creative talents. You must never hide your artistic lights under a bush, you know. So I wanted to share my brand of humour with my adversaries.
I didn’t think there was anything morally wrong adorning my car windows overnight with my final spoof ‘for sale’ signs. Nothing too crude or offensive - just a whimsy or two for Mr Gadd to reflect upon as he passed from her doors in the morning after his night fishing expeditions trawling deep the murky bed for a Turkish catch outside European Community waters - an anchovies dip into her sunken ship.
I tacked the pieces of paper to the rear window of the Benz so he would be able to have a clear view of my sentiments. Do you like my subtle play on words, Paul? Crave carbine hell? A little dry humour makes the point better in these instances. Would her lonesome cowboy be ‘blown away’ by the zing of a judiciously placed simile or witty synonym whistling past his ears? Perhaps my loaded jests were fired off to inflict mere flesh wounds? But would he know where to come gunning for me now? I’m going to be riding off into my own new sunset and I don’t think there will be any showdowns with him any more.
I wanted to tell Angela about my fateful decision to move in with Charlotte. I felt she should know because my therapist had been such a rock for me these past years. I broached the subject the following Wednesday over tea at Calypso Cottage. Angela was well up on the furore going down in Eccles Drive and she was firmly of the view that my wife was my Jonah and should best be packed off back across the waters.
Angela: “Marriage for life? That’s always going to be a lot of breakfasts, don’t you think?”
Leo: I know…I fear I’m one of life’s perennial wanderers in the relationships stakes.
Angela: The term might more aptly be ‘serial monogamist’ my dear.
Leo: I’ve really made a rod for my own back, I guess. But can’t I be fitted into a category less pejorative than paedophile? That would be a welcome relief.
Angela: Oh, come, come, Leo. I, for one, never had you down as one of them. You always struck me as a man looking for someone with a bit more substance, more mature, with more to offer.
Leo: Thanks Angela the vote of confidence is welcome. I have felt the witchhunt brewing. It’s sickening to be typecast as the cradle-snatching deviant.
Angela: Well, I have come to understand you extremely well, Leo. A man of your broad outlook and sensibilities would never be satisfied by an immature facile fancy.
Leo: Oh, I never judge a woman by her chronological age like I would never judge her merely by her dress size or how many kilogrammes she registered on the scales, or her shoe size. It’s never about numbers, Angela, not in my book. Never have I given a jot about how many inches a woman spanned from her stockinged toes to the crown of her head. Let the statisticians pore over those figures…not me. My senses will never be smitten by anything so abstract, cold and irrelevant.
Angela: I find a man who expresses his views with such clarity and eloquence so very intriguing.
Leo: Thank you, Angela. You’ve made me feel far less of a wretch than most other women in my life.
Angela: That’s what I’m here for my dear man. I feel you’ve opened up to me in a way you wouldn’t with those others. You see, it’s all about empathising and listening and gradually building up a bond of genuine trust and appreciation.
Leo: Exactly, we need to find something deep within our soul. The trigger of attraction catches us often unawares at moments of vulnerability when the soft lilt of a tender voice, the gait of carefree walk, a laugh, a spontaneous shared joke can fuse two people in an electric moment when eyes meet and you just know…something real is there.
Angela: That’s precisely how I feel, too, Leo.
Leo: After all these years having you as my counsellor I really feel so comfortable now sharing with you how I really ‘tick.’ I think I said to you before about my idea of what catches my eye most. It’s the way a woman moves. I just love to watch.
Angela: I like being watched by a man. I think all woman love to be studied by a man’s approving eye.
Leo: I guess it’s why I always love watching women dancers. It’s all in the hip roll when I watch a woman move. How could I possibly be interested in anything else? It’s that special epicentre-the hips-it always goes back to hips and thighs…there where I find the alter of life.
Angela: Yes, I do follow…that place of regeneration-the affirmation of womanhood it does seem to be an extraordinary masculine preoccupation…but very healthy-and reassuring to know-as a woman. I must confess I refuse to let myself go. My dearest departed said many a similar sentiment. All the running and exercising I do to keep my own figure is more to do with wanting to be desired by a man with your proclivities.
Leo: I’m glad you see me as I am, Angela. I can’t bear for people who know me to suspect I held anything other than normal healthy sexual desires. I just want to be accepted as normal.”
Angela: Oh, you are, Leo. You are. I do feel I understand you implicitly.
Leo: And you know I don’t chase after under age girls. It’s women I prefer…I worship women.
Angela: Oh, I know, Leo. The thought police would bar us all from following our aesthetic principles if it offended one group or other.
Leo: Isn’t it so unjust?
Angela: Oh, it is-it truly is.
Leo: As we grow older and someone gets a few grey hairs, a sprinkling of crow’s feet and a barely detectible varicose vein or two doesn’t mean they have lost their desires for seduction, adulation and conjugal union.
Angela: Oh, I am so with you on that, Leo.
Leo: And who says we must be kept only within the bounds of our chronological peers? A beautiful woman is beautiful and desirable at whatever age.
Angela: I am so glad we are being so candid on this, Leo. I felt you were the kind of man who appreciated the seductions of the mature mind as well as a fine body.
Leo: Yes, Carla had all that when we first met but let it whither away with the complacency of time. She was never one for keeping fit.
Angela: I’ve never let myself become complacent. Some women do seem to let themselves go once they have hooked their man.
Leo: I just can’t see her and me ever getting it back, you know. The lust, the desire, it just isn’t there any more.
Angela: I foresaw that, Leo, it’s an awful shame. But your wife has done this to herself.
Leo: Yes- it’s been a stale, platonic affair for so long now. I have kind of moved on in my mind. I am ready for a change.
Angela: I have, too, Leo. I know what you mean.
Leo: Please don’t think badly of me-maybe I’m shallow…but I can’t go for all that nostril hair, the hanging stomach apron as gravity does its worst. She can’t even be bothered to depilate her Sicilian moustache!
Angela: You poor man… you simply need the right sympathetic woman who can put zest back into your life.
Her doleful eyes and fawning manner grab me suddenly as I suddenly realise I have been sat knee to knee, hand in hand with my therapist for several minutes. I baulk as she leans her head further into my personal space and my back stiffens as I pull my hands away in unambiguous retreat. A misunderstanding: an excruciatingly red-faced foul up of a misunderstanding. I fold my arms and cough loudly and sit back deeply into my chair.
My rebuffed wooing widow in her embarrassed fluster desperately tries to recompose herself by patting back her hair and readjusting her blouse and skirt that had ridden high up on her thigh. I catch a momentary glimpse of stocking top.
The brief moment of uncomfortable silence is soon broken by her suggestion we have some more tea. That was when I finally broached the subject about Charlotte. We were moving in together. How nice! A new home in the plusher section of North Haven? Wallow Walk you say? Sounds delightful! A five-bedroom executive home with double garage and every modern convenience to hand? I’m so pleased for you, dear man, such a turn for the better! Platitudes and palliatives. I drank the strong brew she made for me-storm in a teacup- and off home I went to Ms Mayes.
32
THURSDAY 1TH JULY 2003. Today Lita, Claire, Carla and I boldly marched into the police station and launched a salvo demanded a meeting with Inspector Quilty. My American whirlwind resolutely strafed the desk sergeant with bullets of verbal fury. He called to the rear for re-enforcements. Finally, Quilty and his crony, Sergeant Teucer stormed in to relieve their beleaguered front line.
The superior officer tried to repel our onslaught and minimise further casualties with a smoke screen unexpected and bizarre. This officer of the law thereafter most blatantly and bizarrely refused to take neither Lita’s confession nor a statement from Claire about Rebecca’s attempt to blackmail her.
Blackmail? I wasn’t sure what that referred to but the fog of war sees many stray bullets miss their intended targets.
I tried to speak with Claire on my own about this blackmailing thing but overly irate Lita kept butting in and the shouts and howls from Carla did little to attenuate matters.
General Quilty issued his final command and our hit and run raid was rebuffed. ‘Leave now or we arrest the lot of you’ was the final volley that dispersed my gallant troops.
I re-grouped my loyal battalion in the safer haven south. I had to rethink my battle plan. I needed a diversionary thrust and perhaps a rearguard assault from my newest reserve unit might do the trick.
I took Charlotte with me to meet Mr Sheen of McCarthy, Pond & Carroll one scorching day in late July. Kooky had already dismissed that dalliance with Mayes as yet another ‘girl Friday.’
Fortunately for me my wife had already given the police her own sworn statements months before so I was well backed on the issue of the alleged assault in Truva Park.
But there was the pressing matter of the text messaging charges. I was only part way to fixing my defence so it was a blessing when Charlotte agreed she was going to get involved now and involved with me in every respect.
To Charlotte’s credit she was fearlessly loyal. To her I had promised a much fuller commitment if I could get this mess out of the way with an acquittal. She was putty in my hands now. We had been making weekly visits to the developer’s construction site to see the final touches being made on the new executive home was buying for us.
Carla had already booked her flight to be off with Lita in a few days and would be gone way into late August or later. It was all falling into place now.
So a deal was made and set both ways. My pear-shaped blonde buttress held her head in resolute and poised fashion as she told my solicitor, Ben Sheen, that I was at her house in her presence when ten of the so-called lewd texts were sent. I could not possibly have been the sender-she confirmed that. Champion Charlotte, champion! She put her signature to a four-page statement that looked watertight. That was a job well done.
To complete my strategy I had Lita go to the offices the following day and give her statement. I had already briefed my solicitor to keep it to himself about my relationship with Ms Mayes and he said ok and he was on top of everything.
Crucial to whole plan was my stepdaughter’s full confession to the texts offences. If I had that alone I had three of the four charges against me beaten. It is probable that the lemon is the most valuable of all fruit for preserving health. But I must have her signed confession before she set off for New York and back to college at Ithaca. That should have been the clincher to getting the Crown Prosecution Service off my back. Once the Limoncello’s had flown off I couldn’t guarantee they would be coming back for the trial, especially if they ever found out about Charlotte.
So I had set perfect end to a Jubilant July. Or so I thought. I had not counted on Ben Sheen letting the side down though. He was a dullard of the first order. Apparently, when little lemon Lita had strode into his office and asked for Sheen his secretary blew the gaffe right off the bat that my girlfriend, a curvy blonde thirty-something, had been in for the same reason the day before.
The dull dipstick hadn’t primed his bimbo. Somehow shuffling shambolic Sheen blustered and eventually bluffed thin-skinned little lemon into giving a partial statement, but only a partial statement, after a quick reassuring phone conference with an irate bigger lemon.
Why on earth he had to let my stepdaughter know I had a girlfriend is beyond belief. I only went with him because he was the duty solicitor when I was first arrested in March. He always came across as the typical young gadabout made of bluff, piss and wind.
The man was more impressed with himself than any other person could be zooming around the Havens in his rusty old green British racing MG with the top down at every opportunity to draw the gaze of the women.
Mr Sheen rode mean in green keenly spilling the beans but failing to shine umpteen things clean. Thereafter I had to modify my plans in every respect. Naturally I got a blasting that evening. The events of which are too painful for me to recollect in print. Suffice to say a copious amount of lemon was served ‘ice cold.’
I made a few phone calls to the only lawyer in town who I knew was trustworthy: good old Fred Clarke. His advice was to go to Punch, Deenan & Flynn and ask for Brigid Kearney. Kearney’s name struck a chord. I remembered my old sparring partner, Telemachus Johns had had a bit of a run in with some floppy floozy of his own and I immediately recalled the name.
It was while ensconced in my lover’s arms that evening that I pondered my own calamities and considered how much Mr Telemachus John’s had also been sailing very close to the wind in one or two of his escapades. Johns had a reputation in some quarters as tarnished and besmirched as my own for it. Let’s just say his motives for his expeditions to exotic, far off islands were unmentionably illicit and certainly illegal in these proscribed fair lands.
My dear old college friend had a tendency to seek escape from the strictures of our laws to immerse his own private passions among peoples who thought it fit and fun to perform vespers of a different kind to our own. He once told me of a tribal gathering in some far-flung corner of the globe where he witnessed a young man, near six feet tall, performing the rites of Venus with a young child about eleven or twelve years of age, before several other Europeans and Americans gathered about as well as a great number of the interested natives, without the least sense of being indecent or improper. It was all mighty queer if you ask me.It was to all of them in perfect conformity to the custom of that place of paradise. Johns took much delight in telling me that among the spectators was many women of all ranks who not only passively watched but, also to have assisted at the ceremony.
By bringing back some of the customs of other cultures I fear Mr Johns fell foul of our own more uniformed customs. Officers of such customs seized certain items and images of, shall we say, of dubious artistic merit. So if this Kearney lawyer is worth her salt she’ll be able to do for me what she did for Terrible Tel back then.
As I lay there with my head deeply buried in my pillow and my mouth dry and chin scratchy with stubble, I overcame that incipient moroseness and dutifully attended to caressing my Charlotte’s lustrous blonde locks. Yes, I had surely a better chance with a first rate attorney rather than that shower of a man, Sheen.
Things so often happen for a reason, I thought. I looked lovingly at my dearest as I felt her warm, damp breath caress my skin. She lay tenderly in the pit of my arm entangled in our loving knot upon the bed. Women do so savour those post-coital embraces, their man’s assured touch and the worship of their soft flesh beneath attentive fingers. I’m quite a catch really, so I thought and let off a silent extrusion of gas from my arse.
It was unwittingly from a jumble of insane thoughts, that my therapist’s aberration chose to make itself torture to my dozing pampered kitten. I had carped cruelly how a woman only a few years younger than my mother could seriously countenance the very notion that I, a man of firm countenance and winsome features, would wish a romantic union with her, a kindly but withered trout.
Charlotte did not laugh. She never uttered a single word. She turned to meet my eyes, gave me my only signal of a cold stare and then she pulled her warm malleability from my embrace and turned her freckled shoulder to me in rebuff. Oh, boy, a huff. I was only saying. Of all things! My therapist! In her dotage, too, what would my senior citizen mother think about that crush on me - Leo the Licentious? Would I ever go there? I think not! No shrivelled old prunes and custard for me! Or was it because I farted?

33
TUESDAY 12TH AUGUST 2003: ‘GLORIOUS TWELFTH?’ So it was adieu wife. My game was rumbled. Harriet had tipped off my sour lemons that I was now well bedded into a new nest in the pristine paradise of Wallow Walk - the rising modern development that every upwardly mobile newhavener glanced askew with envy. As of now my bitter lemon’s sole solace was firmly far afield. Lemons major and minor would now be ensconced in that Catskill mountain sanctuary but I was not far from their thoughts. I still had thrown at me an occasional electronic flurry of fury.
But all barbed emails with vitriolic spike went into in that new folder found on my computer desktop marked ‘Matrimonial Issues’ and left for another day, another battle.
I could picture Carla Limoncello, my ‘All Comical Loner’ fretting away pacing up and down in her Ithaca ranch home scratching at her arms, clawing at her own flesh as if to tear away at her angst as if it might fall from her limbs like the scales of a snake shedding its skin.
‘This is not the end, nor is it the beginning of the end but it may be the end of the beginning.’
Goodbye ‘Maniac Cello Roll’ it was now Charlotte and Leo’s time. Right then I let all her taunts roll over me. Conservative Carla was never the divorcing type. No sir.
Catholic upbringing and all leaves its mark but sooner or later I shall have to tie up that loose end. Lead him not into castration and deliver him from teasers.
Sometimes life can be like that - events take over and before you know it you’re living a whole new life.
One thing I really loved about Wallow Walk was our new garden. It was perfectly private and as good a suntrap as you could ever want. Quiet, peaceful suburban tranquillity and no more hounding phone calls from a shrill transatlantic lemon.
This was a more salubrious lifestyle. I liked being a househusband at wonderfully willowy Wallow Walk. It suited my idea of how life should be.
An hour’s chores in the morning comprising of light kitchen duties, bed making and a quick flit around with the vacuum and a duster. Then with the place looking ship-shape it was time to let the golden rays soothe my naked body. Hoc est corpus meum. This is my body and doesn’t it feel grand.
I would generally sprawl out on the wooden decking. With its ornate balustrade on three sides it had a comforting box shape appeal. Confessional like in way I could seek atonement from the brick wall before me, as I lay foetal-like, naked and in hope of absolution for my awful sins on this Earth.
Does solitude corrupt me or does it protect others? I griddled my tortured flesh in the fires that beamed down from on high. Let me not consent to the fiction of Purgatory, with all the gross superstitions belonging to it.
"Turn or burn" they say to awaiting martyrs. Join in this farce called justice or die in the flames. I turned over as I felt the warming sun burn deeper. What shall I do next for my salvation? Will we see proper penitence for the conspirators or shall I meet fate as told by the lurid prophecies of my impeding doom?
Please let me find sanctuary from the doctrine of dark and cheerless infidelity.
I turned face ward to the neat and even pattern of the English bond. The redness of the brick was baked to match the glow of my pulchritudinous limbs. I contemplated the busy mini spiders content in their own frantic redness running up and down and across the trammels of the mortar courses.
The yellow and green mosses completed the fine palette to paint my microcosmic landscape. For my musical accompaniment my ears discerned the distant low throb of traffic punctuated by birdsong. Within the ridges of the wooden slats of my garden griddle a much larger spider scurries away as if made suddenly aware of my nefarious intentions.
I flicked at the unwelcome audience casting a long violet grey shadow of ill portent. In his short life I am made more starkly aware of the passage of my own.
Suddenly a gust swipes across the canopy of trees lined up outside the wall and a cacophony of leaf chatter signals fine hairs on the back of my neck to stiffen. The punctuation is all but complete when wisps of grey cloud steal from me this timeless moment.
I draw myself up onto my haunches; wipe the daze from my blurred eyes and strain to regain my focus. In this sublime instant of calm reflection a tingle shoots through my aching bones and the telegraph again signals my time is short.
Up above matutinal interlopers are chased away by the balmy winds of the Gulf Stream. Caribbean call of tropical paradise I shall never see. No more Florida jaunts on Carla’s credit card. Oh, well.
Flaming June then joyous July and upon us came the long school summer holidays. No more private garden moments as I dutifully played out my new role as the reconstructed father figure. Brian and Janet, Charlotte’s nesting brood constricted my style but I smiled and pandered attentively as directed on cue by my house hen.
I don’t know whether I felt flattered or under her control. But I guess you just go with the flow. I endured gamely the mischievous machinations of the Mayes minors, forever teasing and whining when I all I wanted for myself was pleasing and wining. ‘Off out and play in the sun young smilers,’ alone I shall rest enshrined in the best monolithic four-bed, three-bath home from the developer’s catalogue positioned in the smartest corner of town.
Enraptured in sunny weekends the maturer Mayes and me would recline in deckchairs cooing lovingly at each other as if cast adrift in perfect domestic bliss. A light wind to stroke her brow, fan softly those long wispy strands of blonde hair as I still detect that steely silver of resolve in her palest of blue eyes.
Then quietly and stealthily a cloud began to cover the sun slowly, wholly, shadowing across a deeper green grassy lawn and then those boxed memories once more beset my brooding brain. I try to let it be inconsequent. I want to lose the moody brooding but it was still there, the cupboard door ajar, her haunting soft compelling scent lingered vacillating around yearning synapses-sudden storms- misfiring and overfiring. Whatever had become of her, my secret obsession?

34
SATURDAY 23RD AUGUST 2003. Another glorious late summer evening had begun to wrap the world in its mysterious embrace and yet another glorious day at the best beach for miles.
I delighted in the tactile pleasures of lifting handfuls of fine golden sand and letting it pour through my fingers pondering the passage of time. Just then, hand covering my eyes from the setting sun, I peered inland and from our seaside solace and I saw that golden orb lowering its face and sprinkling soft strands lovingly atop the rooflines of the Georgian terraces as the charmed sunset lingered low and down.In the red West, To my left and northwards, in the distance, stood proud and white upon the promontory I gazed upon the old white lighthouse (52 29'.2 N 01 45'.5 ) signalling of sandbanks and shoals to vessels which crept by night in dangerous passage.
As the loitering embers of the day slope off then in come the midges that swarm gently in their silent haste. I watch them scurry about in the closing fronds of sunlight and thought of my dear mother and the times she took us to the seaside. Her loving, caring kindness and sacrifice was always felt most profoundly at these moments. She may be old, frail and infirm now but I remember what a tower, a rock of strength she was back in those bleak days of my childhood.
I see her soft brown-black eyes set deep within sunken sockets that told a tale of the harsh and forlorn marriage to my father. He was such a wastrel, always the wayward boozing scoundrel. She pitied me piously for my own misfortunes in love. But fate determined that I endure a materially less tortuous existence than hers. I consoled myself with that, at least. I contented myself now to sit among other lotus-eaters and sit upon our brightly coloured beach towels placed judiciously on the sand, lapping up the soft golden rays and the teasing warm breeze. Day after day that summer had been like this day.
Many days were as perfectly serene in that sublime season of 2003. For a refreshing change Molly consented to allow Lee and Annabel some time out with doting dad and I made sure they had a taste of that old fashioned British seaside vacation I once had when I was there age. It certainly suited Charlotte to see me in fatherly mode and to witness my devotions to the cause of family fusion.
On this fine day our respective charges had us ferry them to that sanguine sandy location. Sporting a garish tangerine, purple and yellow Hawaiian shirt and the baggiest of Bermuda shorts I tottered ungainly in my flip-flops, a willing young hand in each of mine past the promenade, the ice cream vendors, and the wafting odours of deep fat fried chips and sunscreen factor fifteens.
We sat them down upon the yellow sand, between the sun and moon upon the shore and sweet it was to dream of Motherland. Lee and Annabel began to lazily toss a Frisbee back and forth while Brian and Janet sought their mother’s approving praises by building her a fine sandcastle: happy as the day was long.
As I snuggled up to my dearest Charlotte a wisp of a breeze caught her frail summer dress and wafted up for me a glance of her firm flank as she pulled her knees up to point herself more prominently to warmth of the fading light.
There in my tactile delight of the sand I sought further pleasures in the contrasts of her alfresco thighs. With my limbs half hidden I stealthily edged ever closer to her like a crab stalking its prey.
Up her opalescent, firm-fleshed knee my heavy meat hand found warm dampness as its reward and my newest muse wore a smile of mischievous intent. I whispered into her shell how I needed her to relieve my aching in the cool blue waters unseen and deliciously novel.
As she pondered the impudent suggestion a young couple sauntered close by along the promenade, their baby in a pushchair. The young dad pointed approvingly our way and fairly chuckled with delight and with lovers arms locked they stood for a moment to admire the gambols before them. Janet and Annabel noticing their audience took their cue to go peer at the bundle and ask its age of the mother. She let them dally for a while.
“A perfect little girl!” — Coochie, coochie, cooo!It was plain to see Janet and Annabel were fond of children, both so patient and gentle in their ways. “ So good as gold- so cute in her pink and yellow shorts and top.” Yes-they all agreed.
Charlotte laughed with true joy in her sky blue eyes and whispered frolicsome and suggestive words secretly to me from her cherry ripe red lips. She offered to me delicious moments of passion and security of the soul.But then for her my spell was broken as there came yet another silly altercation between Lee and Brian.
“Boys will be boys!” I exclaimed languidly for the umpteenth time. These two were no exception to this rule. She slithered away from my grasp and we both saw the apple of discord was a certain castle of sand that Brian had built and Lee would have architecturally improved with windows and a door.
But if Brian was headstrong Lee was self willed too and, true to the maxim that every little man's house is his castle, he fell upon his rival and to such purpose that the would be assailant came to grief and so, too, the coveted castle.
Needless to say such foolishness elicited the snarls of “Stop Right now!“ from abstracted Charlotte that they fully warranted.With a face tightened by anger Brian responded to her words as if they were law. Don't mope over it all day, she said.
Brian sat foot gazing properly reproached for his show of will after his misadventure. His portcullis and turrets were sorely battered but then on over came Annabel and Janet, as most of their sex, the girls soon proved adept in the art of smoothing over and these trifles. I caught again my woman’s blue eyes set off by lustrous lashes and fine expressive brows and kissed her tenderly upon her cheek.
I put my arm around her and like a newly landed mariner I cheekily teased her ear with my tongue.
“What's your name, cutie? Strawberries and cream?”
A smile came to her face and it did not go unnoticed.
“Tell us, Lee, who is your girlfriend?” spoke Janet teasingly.
“Annabel says its Rebecca Vanilla-she’s your cream fantasy!” she teased.“No, I don’t have a girlfriend and shut your face about it!”
“Is Saddam Hussein your boyfriend?” Lee queried back.
With her quick mother wit Charlotte circumvented any repeat of discord and she summoned Brian on his errand to fetch us all fresh-fried chips from the busying booth.
As Charlotte stood up to shake the sand from the towels and gather
up the discarded plastic beach tools scattered by the boys I reflected opon how I had been when I was their age. Often through sepia coloured, or was it rose-tinted memories I searched for the real forgotten Leo.
Leo as a boy and Leo as the father of the man I then sifted back through those fraying fragments of what made me become me as I am here today.
I tinkered about half recollecting half fantasy half cinematic re-run of those imperious summer days spent with my mother and brother. Looking far back in time, reminiscing of my beach child days and I remembered those amazing brightly coloured, crazily patterned ballooning summer dresses women wore decades ago.
That wholly impractical couture of swinging London just before Mary Quant and the Beatles and mini skirts stole the show. The beehives and the quirky, parachute like or vaguely mushrooming dresses that my mother and her friends wore were like billowing canopies.
To an inquisitive skinny urchin in baggy grey shorts and scuffed knees and half rolled down socks those magic fabric mushrooms were a delight. I loved to peer up them to see what goodies were hidden within.
As a ruse back then I would buckle up then unbuckle fussily at the sandals on my feet only to get lower to the ground to better marvel upwards spying for my first embryonic sexual pleasures.
For a child of nine or ten sex was a concept not as yet understood but it was certainly a new game I was intrigued to play. It left me with the most curious and self-satisfying warmth, an inexplicable joy far more rewarding than catching a butterfly with my fingers or taunting a bee in a glass jar.
Certainly, I could see little that was reprehensible in my silly under the kitchen table and bottom of the stairs upskirting peeks. Now I know what can be properly attributed as voyeurism. But back then I am sure when Mrs Vent from next door yelped after catching me gazing at her gusset, thus drawing my poor mother’s attention to my proclivities, good old Mrs Bloom brushed it all off as nothing more than healthy mischief.
Of course, when Mrs Blunt, popping in from across the street for a fag and a cuppa, sensed my unwanted submersions about her ankles the little chap reproached for crawling about the carpet to gawp at her stocking tops would have to wait until later years to realise what her exclamation of ‘perving little bastard’ actually meant.
It was during my later, more tortured, adolescent crisis that bespotted and husky voiced, secretive and lustful, Leo would repeat incessantly and insistently his nocturnal cinematic playbacks. Press play, rewind, play again, then pause at the perfect millisecond where Miss Marvel’s tight suspender elastic trussed her silky white thighs and I imagined my tongue, my nostrils and eyes full of her stocking tops and the casual parting of her upper legs to better savour the soft, damp folds of her womanhood and musky heaven.

35
THURSDAY 25TH SEPTEMBER 2003: THE ‘GET OFF ME’ CONSPIRACY. Thank god I was rid of the incompetent Ben Sheen. ‘Enhanced CD number 37’ was the most crucial piece of physical evidence related to the charges for assault. It proved everything that needed to be proved. My new solicitors seemed far more clued up on how to beat this case than that Mr BS, the pettyfogging bull shyster.
The first time I got a copy of the prosecution’s version of the police transcript was at the meeting with my solicitor, Brigid Kearney. I met with her that chill and overcast autumn day.
I had already dealt with three other solicitor colleagues of hers at the firm of Punch, Deenan & Flynn, the most reputable criminal specialist law firm around these parts. But I was frustrated. I felt I was being passed around from Britannia pillar to promenade post and no one seemed to grasp my sense of frustration at the interminable time delays in getting my defence prepared.
Mrs Brigid Kearney, formally of Co. Kildare and of the wedding band cultivated that elegant, efficient tall middle-aged redhead look with thick-rimmed glasses to either hide her good looks or give up an air of gravitas. Whichever way she had it she held all the prerequisites to inspire confidence in her clients.
“Good morning, Mr Bloom. Glad you could make it on time-traffic’s not a problem today? A sorry state of affairs has developed since our last meeting, I’m afraid.”
I sensed from her tone that all was not well. A sense of foreboding fell over me. I look around her murky, sombre office. She had innumerable volumes of law books on her bowing shelves. And conspicuous on her wall she had her law degree and other legal citations in gilded glass frames. Her finely detailed wooden office chair matched her massive dark oak desk. I fidgeted nervously in my chair.
“Oh, don’t look quite so worried Mr Bloom. It’s not down to you, it’s this audiotape business.”
I tried to make myself look more comfortable. I loosened my tie and undid the top button of my stiff white shirt.
“Yes, please, do relax, this may take quite up some time, I’m afraid.”
She called for a pot of tea on the intercom and then she began to go through her notes skimming over some then reading some aloud.
“Ah…here we are…I have finally received from the prosecution a bundle of witness statements, the all important audiotape on a Compact Disk plus a transcript to accompany it.”
She tapped her pen on what I assumed was the transcript.
“This is pretty damning against you.”
I felt I knew where she was going with this and interjected.
“Look Miss Kearney, I had it all from my first solicitor, Ben Sheen. If you’re going to tell me that on the tape I am heard to say ‘fuck’ thirty or forty times and it will convince a court to convict me then that is just plain absurd.”
She appeared to baulk at my assertive and raised tone.
“No, no, Leo. May I call you, Leo? Please call me Brigid.”
She had no issue with the swearing at all but was concerned at what seemed like ‘variances’ as she put it, between the recording and the police transcript.
“Look, Leo, I honestly don’t know if this will amount to much but I’d like you to take the CD away with you and have a good listen. It may help you. If you feel able, could you do your own version of what’s on this tape?”
I still felt such a gnawing twinge of insecurity about the legal advice I had received previously from Bullshine Sheen that I actually felt more empowered if I did this task. I didn’t really need to be asked twice. ‘Hope, I Plead.’
“Yes, of course…er Brigid. I’d be really curious to hear what is on that recording. I know I am innocent and I am sure that piece of evidence is going to end up helping me-not hurting me.”
She nodded, “I admire your spirit. If that is what you wish me to do, Leo. I’ll confirm with the Crown Prosecution Service that we are adamantly going for a ‘not guilty’ on the assault charge.”
She then proceeded to open a dark grey A4 lever arch file. On it was written ‘Copies of witness statements-Crown v Leonard Bloom.’ From it she pulled a large chunk of papers - almost a couple of inches thick or so.
“These are the papers the Crown Prosecution Service has sent me - nearly all copies of witness statements. We need to look carefully at them. Again, I would be grateful if you wouldn’t mind doing a little reading for me…try to cross-reference the testimonies of the complainant and her boyfriend, Abel Tractabull, if you can. That would be most helpful. I have seen one or two anomalies we may be able to work on.”
She shuffled through the large wad and pulled out the relevant sections.
“May I ask…have you ever met the complainant’s boyfriend?”
I answered in the negative.
“Well, he’s saying he knows you well. Please take these witness statements home with you and if you can come up with anything then get back to me. Anything, however trivial it may seem might turn out to be significant.”
I was reassured that Ms Kearney appeared to have some faith in my abilities. She reiterated once more that this might be a big thing if the press got hold of it. The media would have a field day what with the allegations made by a school age girl against a teacher with threats of sexual coercion involved.
“Hold on…what do you mean ‘sexual coercion’? I told you before…its all lies!” There was never anything remotely sexual going on between her and me!”
A knock on the door and then a tray of tea is placed neatly on the desk between us. I shuffled in my seat uncomfortably while Kearney attended to the tea.
“Well, Leo, I think you need to read both of the complainants statements…its all in there. I will say no more about that until you’ve had time to have a look at it yourself.”
I watched her as she took a teaspoon in her hand and slowly began stirring the hot liquid before putting the cup to her lips to drink. I sensed there was plenty more to come.
“Now, we need to consider the second part of the prosecution case. Frankly, this element concerns me far more. You appear to have made an admission that you sent obscene texts to Miss van Hiller.”
She began to tap a second pile of papers on her desk that she had so far left untouched.
“I did no such thing. I arranged to meet her at the park, that’s all.”
She raised her palm to assuage my pleading and encouraging me to go ahead and explain I did just that.
I spoke of when I was arrested and interviewed. I admitted that I had set up an Internet account called ‘sexihunk’ for the purpose of proving that Rebecca van Hiller was a prostitute. I then admitted to sending anonymous text messages via the Internet to her mobile phone suggesting sexual acts with her for ten or twenty pounds. My legal eagle then explained that under the Telecommunications Act of 1984 it was illegal to send sexually explicit messages over the telephone network. Full stop. No excuses. ‘Ever anarchic bell.’
If I intended to employ a defence whereby I had sent such messages for purposes other than giving offence to the girl then that was wholly insufficient. I was going to be hung out to dry if I dared to use that dodge, she said. She explained that by merely using the telecommunications network to transmit obscene messages the court would have to find guilty. If a reasonable person would find such messages to be obscene and indecent then the court would decide that, too.
“You see, Leo, we have a real quandary here because the prosecution are pressing three specimen charges against you under the Act. There were thirty plus texts sent altogether. I think it likely that any court will agree these are obscene messages. As you made an admission during a police interview while under caution, I don’t see how you can possibly plead not guilty and expect an acquittal. My advice would be to consider a guilty plea on those charges. If you do that then I think I may be able to get a plea bargain with the Crown Prosecution Service to drop the assault charge. How does that grab you?”
Oh, I was grabbed! I felt a sudden tightening of my stomach and a sense of nausea overtook me. The room around me seemed to spin. I could not believe what I was hearing. I realised for the first time that I may be about to lose everything: my teaching career, the respect of my family, friends, possibly my home, Charlotte, maybe even my marriage. I was so confused; I didn’t know what to say or do at that moment.
I wondered. Was Brigid Kearney fobbing me off? I looked up at her framed law degrees and thought. Somehow I composed myself. I felt I was very much on my own. I had been a fool and now I was backed into a corner with nowhere to turn. Was she getting me to examine these files and the audio recording simply because she saw this as a lost cause with no point in fighting? I put both my hands to my face. I wanted to bury myself just then.
“Are you alright, Leo…would you like some water? Drink some tea!”
“Er…can I have some time to think? I would just like to take everything home with me…if that’s ok with you?” I mumbled.
Kearney gathered together the two large piles of papers and from them sorted out for me the witness statements of Rebecca van Hiller, Abel Tractabull, Cilla Karibdis and my wife. She added to those the transcript of my arrest interview, the tape recording of my arrest interview, the police transcript of the Rebecca’s audio recording, the police transcript of Rebecca’s recording and finally a copy of the prosecution case.
“Honestly…Lita sent all the texts apart from the last few. I sent the last few just to arrange the meeting. Surely those ones are not obscene?”
She wrote something down on her pad then asked me for more information.
“I understand Lita is your step-daughter and she doesn’t live with you or your wife but lives in America now?”
“Yes…New York…but she did say she would come to court if necessary,” I replied feigning confidence.
“Good…good…we may need to work on that. Perhaps we can have her in sometime before trial and go through things with her…but we need to be clear on some points I think. I see we recently had her Section Nine Statement but it’s not clear which of the texts she’s admitting she sent…it’s all rather vague. I’m sorry…we need to tighten up on this pre-trial.”
She scribbled down some more notes then looked me in the eye and took a deep sigh. Her expression right then said it all. I swear she now appeared for the first time somewhat ill at ease. I scratched at my palms as they began to sweat. I had to get out of that office. I looked hard once again at the frames on the wall. I felt a bead of sweat trickle down my back. I was going to be up against everything they could throw at me. I was going to be a lamb to the slaughter.
Did she really think I had a chance? Maybe she thinks I’m lying about the whole deal. Her intercom buzzer shrills and she is prompted her next client is waiting. Without much further ado I am politely but efficiently ushered up from my chair and to the door. I say my goodbyes and leave clutching the paper pile homework she had given me.
I had the mother of all headaches and that awful sour tea after taste tainted my dry mouth. I now gasped for a more intoxicating drink. For the rest of the day my stomach was in knots.

36
SUNDAY 28TH SEPTEMBER 2003. It was six in the morning. I had been lying awake in bed for almost two hours since the first shaft of daylight had pierced through the gap in the bedroom curtains. My mind was going over and over, my head throbbed with a thick claret headache and I struggled to adjust focus my eyes on the ceiling and its greying swirling patterns of grey-white artex.
My saintly ever so perfect first wife, Meddlesome Molly, is going to be laughing behind my back right now. I wondered what that one had been telling our kids.
She’s a police officer right? She’s got to be on the other side for sure. Where else would any copper be right now? To her and them and all those cronies I must look like I’m in the frame. I can see her wry smile as she thinks I am banged to rights. They all must all be expecting me to change my plea and ‘cough to the crime’ in an open and shut case.
A hard-faced image of my kid’s mother dressed in her stiff uniform kept gnawing at me. Why oh why had I been so imprudent as to have married and be divorced from such an unthinking, unsympathetic zealot like that? I got out of bed and picked up the large grey box file that contained all the papers for my trial from on top of my bedside table.
I shuffled through the papers until I found the section I wanted: ‘Transcript of Enhanced CD Number 37.’ There were four pages to it and the margins had in them the times shown on the tape counter. I looked at the total length of the time for which the transcript had been made. It showed that the police had just over fifteen minutes of transcription.
This was odd - it seemed far too short. I pondered. Perhaps the tape must have shut off or maybe Rebecca switched it off prematurely. I clearly recollect that the meeting lasted from just on six o’clock and I was still talking with her as we got back to hers and mine at just after six thirty. I will need to see what light the witness statements can show on that later. I wanted to put myself back there and sense exactly how I felt and recollect as much detail as I could.
I snuggled myself back into the comfort of my bed. I began to read it carefully trying to refresh my mind about that awful night.
“Sound of walking on gravel with faint inaudible conversation…..
00.56
BLOOM: Well the most important thing to do right now is to be extremely clear headed and to talk because if you get uptight ……………………really fuck your life up.
VAN HILLER: why do you want to fuck my life up, what have I done?
BLOOM: Well………this last few months………fuck, Jesus Christ
VAN HILLER: yes
BLOOM: The only thing I can do is go the…………You can work with me or you can work against me. The easiest thing I can do is fuck up your………………….at college.
VAN HILLER: What do you want to do that for?
BLOOM: Fuck……..fuck with my wife………..fuck with my daughter…….fuck with me………fuck with your family……..and I know everything. I know stuff that you don’t even think I know…….I’ve got power of you…….you don’t know what you are dealing with, Rebecca. I’m cleverer than you. I’ve got money. I’ve got influence. One thing you are never going to do is contact your sister……I know what you are………..Shall I tell you what you are?
VAN HILLER: Go on!
02:36
BLOOM: You are a psychopath and I know you are a psychopath…….I know you better than anybody…….knowing what you have been like for the last three months…….come here
Sound of walking on gravel.
VAN HILLER: You said I could trust you, you lied to me!
BLOOM: ………………………………You are not listening to me
VAN HILLER: I won’t stay cool!
BLOOM: Rebecca, listen to me, I’m not your enemy!
VAN HILLER: ……………………………………………………….
BLOOM: You’re not thinking, you’re not thinking! I told you, you’ve got a choice………………you are not thinking you are acting emotionally…………………Will you please calm down. Because if you walk way from me……………………………..I’ve not bothered you. Have I bothered you? No! I let you get on with what you were doing………………and I let you……I HAD PEOPLE……….I watched you and people watched you. …I HAD PEOPLE!…. eight people. Eight who want to fuck your life up………………..If I do that they will…………….Lita knows so much about you …………………..me and my principals or your job…………..bullshit…………………she told me things about you that made my fucking skin crawl…………….
VAN HILLER: I can do what I like!
Sound of walking on gravel.
BLOOM: Listen to me
VAN HILLER: I’m listening. I’m listening to you……………..and why are you doing this?
BLOOM: Don’t walk away from me……………..problem…………..I’m either going to be your best friend or your worst fucking nightmare……………you got involved………………You need to sit down with me and fucking talk. You walk away from me now and I fuck your life up and I’m not joking.
VAN HILLER: ……………………………..
BLOOM: Walk away then and see what happens.
Sound of walking on gravel.
BLOOM: Come here!
Sound of running feet on gravel
BLOOM: Rebecca!
VAN HILLER: GET OFF ME!! (in loud voice)
Noise of feet on gravel
BLOOM: I’ve asked you to be calm……….I need to sit down with you, for an hour, one hour, please do that. Will you do that for me? One hour? And don’t walk away from me…..you are a fucking nut case……a psychopath and you won’t admit it………fuck the way they fuck…..sit down. I’ll be back in two minutes. Please wait there. Will you do that?
Sound of footsteps
07:55
BLOOM: ……………….my life and I protect those people who are close to me…………….And if you don’t talk to me now you will regret this for the rest of your life……………remember…………………..remember when Carla and me………………………..
VAN HILLER: Yes.
BLOOM: ………………..we said to you…………………………
VAN HILLER: Yes.
Background noise and inaudible conversation
BLOOM: ………………at half seven………………offered to meet at eight………………what did you want to meet at six for?
VAN HILLER: ………………..
BLOOM: ……………..what time with George Harrison?……………….
VAN HILLER: If she’s going at half seven I have to be there for then.
BLOOM: ………………………be there before half seven……that fucking bitch! You know what she did the other night…………….she was so fucking dumb……with the fucking light behind her….thinks I can’t see her spying on me……………that woman is fucking obsessed with me……………you and fucking Paula, what’s that all about?…………You go the way around……walk the other fucking way, Athens Way.
VAN HILLER: I always go that way…………….I walk there with them
BLOOM: You are weird!
VAN HILLER: Why am I weird?
11:49
BLOOM: Have you had a call yet from the Benefits Agency? …………Fraud Department………….you are taking benefits.
VAN HILLER: No. I’ve changed it.
BLOOM: When?
VAN HILLER: ……………………..I’m here at the new Post Office now……….for three weeks now…………Benefit Book……….I’ve been given one…..And I’ve got the little stubs saying the date and everything.
BLOOM: SO Baz………………..you went out with him………………took you out for dinner…………………..
VAN HILLER: We didn’t go out for dinner. He took me out in his car
12:40
BLOOM: Did he fuck you?
VAN HILLER: No. He didn’t fuck me!
BLOOM: Did he pay you?…How many times have you had sex for money?
VAN HILLER: I’ve never had sex for money
BLOOM: Haven’t you? What about now?
VAN HILLER: ……………to find out who it was……………….I’m not stupid Leo. I have brains
BLOOM: You don’t Rebecca
VAN HILLER: I do
BLOOM: Because if you’d read those texts…………….this guy was offering t6o fuck you with two, three other guys……………a threesome……………and you are coming here?
VAN HILLER: …………..
BLOOM: fuck off Rebecca!
VAN HILLER: Don’t tell me to fuck off, Leo
BLOOM: ………..my friends car………………threesome…………I’ve read it all…I’ve got it on computer. You are a liar
VAN HILLER: So are you.
13:50
BLOOM: I’m trying to help you. I’ve done nothing to you…………Really fucked your life up. Do you know what? You should not be allowed near children. My professional judgement tells me you should be well away from children………you are a fucking psychopath……..I spoke with your fucking sister…….and your mother for three hours.
VAN HILLER: Don’t say fucking sister. She ain’t a fucking sister, she’s a sister.
14:11
BLOOM: ……she hates you and I know that now…….do you know what your mother said? Rachel, have you something to tell this man before he leaves?………..Please tell her not to contact me. I don’t like it.
VAN HILLER: ………………….my parents……………………
BLOOM: She didn’t know I was coming. Your mother didn’t now I was coming! Don’t you think I had it all planned? I just turned up at the door- I turned up at the door.
VAN HILLER: …………………………….
BLOOM: Do you know why? Because you’re a fucking psychopath and you won’t take treatment. There’s something I didn’t tell you about psychopaths. They don’t know they have got a problem.
VAN HILLER: Who you told you that?
BLOOM: ……………….they don’t want treatment and they wind up dead………………………because they’re fucking cars……………………………a psychopath guy……………………….rape and murder them.
VAN HILLER: …………….no
BLOOM: fuck off! You are dumb!
VAN HILLER: I’m not dumb!
15:06
BLOOM: No? Why are you the biggest whore in town? When are you called the biggest whore in town? Lita’s shagged more than you……………..did you know that Lita wanted to fuck me? Did you know that? Did you know she came onto me? She’s a fucking whore……………she’s cleverer than you. You’re the dumb one-you’re the fucking dumb one.
VAN HILLER: ………………………..
BLOOM: ………………yes I’m telling you now…………….Lita’s got some………………..she never did it again……………you are under every guy……..every guy……………you are coming onto them.
VAN HILLER: No I’m not……………..Lita tried it with Tommy Carroll once…………….once she tried it with his mate. Chrissy, too.
BLOOM: Do you know what?
VAN HILLER: Leave her out of it for fuck sake.
BLOOM: ………………..do you know what? Truth doesn’t matter. It’s not about truth………..people believed to be true. You could be a virgin but if people think you are the biggest whore in town then you are the biggest whore in town. That is what you are Rebecca whether you like it or not. That is the picture people paint of you. Who did it? You did it. I didn’t do it. I did everything I could for you. You know, my wife and my fucking daughter have done more for you than anybody and you spit in their faces……….that’s real fucking back stabbing.
VAN HILLER: …………………..
Tape ends.
I pulled the pillow out from my behind my head and plunged my face into it. God, it brought everything back so vividly. It still haunts me. It was an awful, awful experience.
I now felt much worse than when I did when I woke up. I was shaking so much. My adrenalin was pumping like crazy. Then and now, just to have those images in my mind again. To sense the tension in the air, to feel I was losing control - it was unravelling before me. Who was that person?
Those eyes still haunt me, the darkness of the eyes and the hatred inside of them. I felt that. It was so unexpected. Her control of the situation surprised me. I sat myself up and repositioned my pillow and reflected.
I tried to calm myself: get a grip, Leo and think back. I can see her now in my mind’s eye. Nothing on the tape about Carla’s ring – nothing about Lita’s stolen things – why? But then I remembered why. She was the conductor, the ringmaster. It was her tape, her performance and her script we played out. She waited for her moment. I saw the words on the paper in black and white but what is not on here is the feeling, the coldness of the night, the kicking and shoving - the physicality of it all. It was not here. Where was the audience? We had our audience, too. Where are the young lads on the swing who called out to her? There were three? Or was it four? Boys. All boys. Aged about twelve or so. I saw them and I heard them call out. But now they are gone.
I re-read it over and over.
The more I read each line, each page, the more I felt this was not right. I laughed. It was a nervous, short guttural laugh. I saw George Harrison in there. Of the Beatles?
Where did he come from? Who is Paula? I don’t know any Paula. I said eight people. I never counted eight people. Why did I put a number to it? Spontaneous. Wait. Thinking about it there’s probably a lot more than eight. I could have said sixteen, twenty-four and more. She has a lot of enemies-I know that now.
Then something occurred to me about the idea of using a tape recorder. She’s got the idea from Carla! Jesus, my wife must have blabbed to her about her ongoing Human Rights sexual harassment case.
Attorney Armand Riccio had Carla wear a wire to get the scoop on her rapist Captain from the Shock Camp where she worked. Wow. I’m now in that category. Did she really see me as a sex abuser? God. This really hurts.
I leapt from the bed in a flash of inspiration. My hard drive. She had emailed me while she was at Cilla’s. She wasn’t in my care then - she was free. But she still was sucking up to me with those emails.
I rushed to boot up my computer. I needed to see. My hands trembled with adrenalin. Come on; come on load, load, load! History, history…where’s my mail history? Got it!
Subject: Thanks. Date:01.01.03 5:50:41 PM GMT Standard Time. From: Becky16@Hentai.com.To: LOBloom41@Hentai.com
Hello. Hows you? Well I love to smile and everyone knows me as smiling all the time. I,m glad you came into my life although I have been a pain in the bum………….. I really care for you I know I did not show this but I do. All the best for the future love you always.XxBecksxx
Eureka! I’ve got her in a lie. That little gem gives me hope to start my fight back. I shuffled excitedly through the pile of papers my solicitor had given me.
Scanning line after line in anticipation my joy was short lived. I melted from exuberance to dejection. It's a dark and dirty world. My accuser had been despoiled by my creepy pawing, groping, cajoling, lasciviously fulfilling my perversions.
She had been all but deflowered by Bloom’s repellent sliminess and left as a discarded plaything. I was betrayed. I snorted angrily, forgetting my pain for a moment. I drew in a sharp breath, ready to scream out my rage at the treacherous creature.

37
It had been a fairly morose Sunday with us just lounging around the house. I had been allowing a few hours of my life to evaporate over the Sunday papers when I was snapped out of my curmudgeonly torpor by a howling demonic hyena in the human form of Charlotte slapping me about the face with a fist full of papers.
I stuttered to enquire why the need for all the shenanigans and all she could sensibly form were the words, ‘Tractabull lied, Tractabull lied,’ over and over like a mantra to the goddess of crazed excitable blondes. Then when she blurted out a ‘read, read, read it, you idiot!’ that prompted me to take the papers she had shoved halfway up my nose and read the sections she had highlighted so thoughtfully in red marker pen. Thereupon, I too, I jumped up from my cynical armchair and danced the demonic dance of the vindicated villain.
Once we’d recovered our breath and sat panting less hysterically we laid out the pages of the witness statements and compared them with the police transcript of van Hiller’s audiotape of the incident.
It was all to do with the part of the incident when Rebecca’s bumbling, oafish boyfriend alleged he came running out of his hiding place among the bushes to speak to her at the moment I had left her to go speak to my wife.
I had not compared the witness statements at the moment these events coincided with the transcript of the tape. Tractabull claimed he was hiding the whole time and only came out to see if she was all right when he saw I was gone.
“You see, Leo, he says he ran up to her and asked her if she was alright and he then stated she told him to go back into the bushes before you came back, which he said he did!”
Clutching her daughter’s compact disk player Charlotte urges me to listen to the tape carefully. I played the recording from the point she had set it.
“What do you hear, Leo? Come on, tell me what do you hear?”
I hear just heavy breathing. Nothing but heavy breathing and it goes on and on for well over two minutes.
“You can hear right? It goes on like that until your voice is heard again. So if his voice is not on her recording then that proves he must have lied when he said he was there to protect her. If he lied about that then he’s done surely, right?”
Oh, my clever kitten. She had applied logic as sweetly and clearly as Socrates or Plato would. My fluffy blonde bundle of fun was more than just a cute squeeze.
Champagne Charlotte had found the proof I needed from the police’s own taped evidence that Tractabull lied when he said he was at the scene of the assault and spoke with his girlfriend when I left the scene for those two or three minutes. His voice never appears anywhere on the tape! Marvellous! Superb!
But there was more. I dare not hope for more but Saint Charlotte of the Holy Happy Slappers was about to give me more.
“Leo, you know in the police transcript in big bold letters half way through it shows Rebecca saying, ‘Get off me’?”
“Yes, yes,” I said. ‘Come on woman don’t tease me now,’ I thought.
“Well, Leo, I listened to that part over and over and what she actually says is not ‘Get off me’ but ‘You can’t force me.’ “
She fast-forwarded the recording to the section and held it to my ear. Wow! As clear as can be. She was right. That is incredible.
“How on earth can police forensics have got ‘Get off me’ out of ‘You can’t force’?”
We were dumbfounded. Were we witnessing a cynical attempt by the Boys in Blue to fit me up with some faked evidence?
Just then Charlotte’s daughter, Janet, came to see what all the fuss was about.
“Let Janet listen, darling and see what she makes of it.”
The girl was intrigued thinking it was some new game.
“Who’s that noisy woman on there saying, ‘You can’t force me’?”
I smiled the broadest grin at her for that. Even a ten year old could tell we had got the icing on the cake and the police had fabricated ‘get off me’ on their transcript to make it seem like I had grabbed hold of their complainant. Of course, my euphoria at finding this new evidence was soon dissipated.
“Bastards, clutching at straws!”
I spent a good part of the rest of the afternoon composing a detailed letter of complaint to send off to the police.
Surely they must do something now! But I guess it doesn’t go over too well when you point out a police investigation has been either utterly incompetent or maliciously corrupt.
Anyway I got a response. That nice Inspector Troy Quilty told me in person: no phone chats or tape recordings. He actually drove round the following Saturday afternoon as I was cutting the lawn.
Queer-looking Quilty wound down the window of his car and beckoned me across. His fingers tapped at the wing mirror in an irritatingly self-conscious fashion of what I assumed to be an unmarked police car. He peered at me, then past me, towards the house and spoke very quietly and slowly so that I could barely hear him.
“Nice place, Leo-landed on your feet-for the time being at least, eh? How’s your new little lady? Just wanted to let you know I got a copy of your letter-still very full of yourself, I see. You don’t know when to quit, do you?”
I wished Quilty would quit! He smiled and I stood dumbfounded not knowing how to react.
“You sure do fancy yourself, Leo. But I mustn’t judge-I guess its one thing having your head up your arse and another molesting young girls-not that you’d be the first, of course. Hope you’re sleeping well at night.”
He gave a tired, disapproving shake of his head then rolled up his window, put a pair of dark glasses to his face then drove away in funereal fashion. Loser!
38
I like to stay out in the world and read the newspapers and imbibe a mellow drink, hot or cold, after I’d been to the gym. I preferred John’s Gym on the corner of Quayside Way and Nelson Road half way into the sprawling old industrial estate close to the docks. It’s not the prettiest section of town and I doubt anyone other than knowledgeable locals would bother to venture this far off the beaten tourist track.
The economy of this section of town has never been the same since European Parliament quotas hamstrung the fishing industry. John’s place fitted right in with the decaying character of it all. It was one of those older style sweat and rusty dumbbell and barbell emporiums that boasted a paltry three treadmills (frayed belts and erratic LED’s), a couple of geriatric steppers (foot straps worn or missing) and enough heavy iron to keep Arnold pumping for hours.
All in all the deprivations I endured there in pursuit of the better body, the better Spartan life style, toughened me up with a new zing and a zest for abs toning and love handle crunching.
In a good week I’d be working out three or four days while the lady of the house was attending to a different kind of work earning the pennies for our daily bread.
Meanwhile on the home front I endeavoured to take my domestic role at least moderately seriously. I’d be back home before mid afternoon to ensure I had time to prepare the evening meal for my dear heart.
I took to tanning at the Tropical Sun Bar so that my shoulders and upper arms caught the light more flatteringly as I posed my winning profile in Charlotte’s bedroom mirror.
If Charlotte ever caught me in a mad half-hour stripped to the waist baring my bronzed broad shoulders doing a whirlwind house cleaning blitz she would approvingly tease me saying I was her ‘Hunky househusband.’ Although this was title I thought should not long befit a man of my wider talents, it did for the meantime suffice, insofar as the term ‘gigolo’ had become too pejorative and undignified.
I further thought it beneficial to my image that I would leave the house in the morning after clearing the breakfast things so as to give at least the semblance of some outside responsibility, yet ostensibly, still retaining the customary Bloomlike dilatory freedoms.
This new life of ours in Wallow Walk was all about show. Let people see what you want them to see. Thus by design at around ten or so I would be in the car and off.
With such a daily schedule those pristine and perfectly upwardly mobile neighbours of ours in their German or Scandinavian cars might naturally assume I had a life of some significance.
To add to the illusion I still liked to dress the part as I always had. Be it plain dark suit, jacket and plain trousers or a smart casual look of denim complimented with a suede short coat, I always accessorized with the obligatory black sports bag or briefcase.
Props and costume set the scene and little details are important. From my formative teaching days I learned that a man appears more productive if he’s seen carrying something in his hands - be it a slip of paper, some books or a stout leather bag.
And off I went. For some unfathomable reason the developers posted signs with a ten mile an hour speed limit right through to the main roundabout. As I steered the Mercedes into the newly tar macadam street I noted and smiled at Mrs Glum two doors down, a frumpy older woman with a misshapen bulbous head and elephantine legs washing her family’s second car (a five year old Volkswagen) applying all the alacrity of a comatose tortoise. She shot me a scowl but I just smiled back at her comedy features.
As I serenely advanced past the neatly manicured plots I took in the sights. A very elderly - almost decrepit couple were edging nervously out from contiguous garages at the side road in their sparkling Japanese super mini.
On the opposite kerbside two stocky young deliverymen were humping one of those super-sized American refrigerators that were now the norme prévue. The rather pretty lady of the house, scantily clad, was doing a feeble impersonation of guiding the goods towards the front porch. More frolicking fun inside later, I guess.
On the grass expanse opposite, a sentry line of saplings abjectly failed to give any shade to the Scottish terrier emptying its bowels while its dawdling mistress guarded the dirty deed as the lookout. Such was the extent of the morning’s happenings in this sleepy cameo of provincial English suburbia.
Then there were those newspapers to attend to and I read them often alone in dilatorily fashion at my new bolthole at Gilgamesh’s fine establishment near the quay.
The Siduri had a fine veranda perched high enough up to take in a terrific view along the coast. Today an Indian summer haze sat lazily on the low, sandy shores that sloped off gently into a sea of vanishing flatness. In this fine weather under a parasol and in sun decked heaven I felt like the master of my universe and at peace with one and all.
I read on. We had just had one of the warmest years recorded and August had been a cracker with the highest temperatures ever recorded in the UK. Apparently it was 101.3 degrees Fareenheit at Faversham in Kent. What a summer! I crunched a cube of ice from my glass in salutation.
“Anything of interest in the news today, Leo?” came a familiar voice.
It was Gilgamesh tentatively probing for some chitchat. Occasionally, I would indulge him in some aesthetic discourse on culture and the arts. My waiter friend shared a fascination for world affairs and had a surprising breadth of knowledge and Catholic tastes.
Recently he had begun to tell me stories of his journey to study the fine works of India's Khajaraho Temple. Most illuminating! He knew of cultures, ancient and modern, many I had never even heard about. His little chats were always pure escapism from my troubles.
Only the other day I finally plucked up the courage to ask if her were Iranian or Iraqi or perhaps of some other nation? Nation? He railed. Nationalities and nationhood are a western concept, he hissed jokingly, or so I believed.
He chose to speak of tribal affiliations and not of the phoney abstractions imposed by the infidel industrialisers. Their anti-spiritualistic and prosaic ways he had no truck with.
"I profess myself a devotee of Mazda, a follower of Zarathustra."
He had said. Or I thought he had said. Shares in far eastern automobile stocks? Cars was it? I kept schtum. I was none the wiser but left it at that.
I took a sip from my ice-cold glass of mango juice and began to rifle through the daily reading matter provided so courteously for his faithful customers by my erudite entertainer.
“Ah I see you enjoy the world news, my friend.”
Gilgamesh throws a tea towel across his shoulder and pauses to lean across my table to better peruse yet another headline about the awful troubles in Iraq.
“Iraq? Oh, that map game whimsy of Churchill and Roosevelt…such a travesty- no wonder there is such hatred among Persians.”
I returned my own concerned shake of the head to match his. Dreadful business, I enjoined. I then noticed he had a rather incongruous change in his dress sense lately.
He was sporting a thin bootlace tie held together with some curious golden horseshoe shaped pin. I commented on it.
“Oh, you like? The pin was a gift from an antique dealer friend of mine. We did some trade on a few rare items. You see I now have more western dress style?”
I didn’t wish to offend his sartorial style so I acquiesced on the matter.
“Yes very western-country and western-just the thing.“
My Persian cousin thereafter takes his cue and parks his large rotund form perilously in the flimsy klismos chair beside me.
I note the lustrous blackness of his full moustache framing his ever-present broad smile. His attention is caught by the headline of the ‘world news’ page I had been studying for a few moments.
“So I see it’s bleak for the vanilla crop….my poor African brothers….subsistence farming is no life for a proud man. My hands feel better kept clean. Though not always easy.”
It seemed August was turning out less favourable for peoples across all of Africa and the Middle East.
Economists say that Uganda's youthful growth spurt has ended and the difficult adolescent growth stage lies ahead. He disdained of speaking of modern nations states as such, for he had a resounding preference for his own unique vernacular and archaic idioms.
His concepts were always somewhat esoteric, clannish and unfathomable but deliciously poetic and captivating, nonetheless.
Whenever he spoke to me of the arts, of matters of politics, religion or geography he would wax lyrically like some fine old Homeric bard.
Gilgamesh lamented the loss of the oral tradition. He said such a sad loss weakened the role of family and tribe in the passing on of customs and values. He mourned the destruction of the tablets of Hermes, so disfigured by mistranslation. He despised the soulless and anti-cultural methodologies of consumerism and individuation. But although he professed to be raised in the Muslim faith he opposed the dead-letter statements of the Bible for which Islam held such reverence.
He blurted out, then as he so often did, cryptic little tasters of something much deeper and more profound.
“Who knows anything of the Samothracian mysteries? Who will remember that the generic name of the Kabiri was the Holy Fires?”
I shrugged my shoulders as if to say, ‘not me.’ He seemed more liberal but not quite.
He was an enigma of a man and I just could not fathom him. But Gilgamesh looked me straight in the eyes and smiled with those pearly teeth while patting me on the shoulder with his heavy lump of a hand.
My whimsical waiter friend poured me a fresh glass of mango juice from the pitcher he had held in his fat hand. Enjoy. North Haven to him was a port like many other ports; its soul was the sea and it welcomes all travellers.
Here he was content to sojourn upon the comings and goings about him and relish his hiatus in East Albion.
Gilgamesh was certainly a mighty traveller. I looked at him more carefully, his well shaped mouth open happily, his eyes, from which he had suddenly withdrawn all shrewd sense were now glazed.
He told me his great ambition was to explore every country and every culture, to savour human diversity and to bear witness to the greatness of that diversity.
He questioned the march of progress if we merely despoil or deforest our heritage, or poison the roots of the legacies of our antecedents. Was he a truly a conserver-a conservationist of culture? His brow furrowed now like knotted wood, gnarled and sun blasted.
He asked me then, or was he asking some invisible wretch beside us, who created on seven localities of the island of Electria and the Kabir born of the Holy Lemnos?
I had no idea what he was talking about. I had no answer at the conclusion of his impassioned monologue. Whatever got into him he felt it passionately. Every man should have such ardour and such dreams, as long as they are legal and don’t involve kids, animals or banned drugs.
So what of my vanilla? My passion. Always and forever to be my favourite scent…ah, the subtlety of it…so sad it’s nearly all synthetics now…the best Madagascan types gone or superseded by cold, clinical factories-no souls-no heart. There was much to lament in the world apart from the microcosms of our own nostalgic reminiscences.
Gilgamesh was never deliberately attempting to proselytise. But he finally elucidated on where he kept his macrocosm. For Mister Gil, I later found, it resided with one universal and transcendental God and Asha being ascendant over druj. The one uncreated Creator and to whom all worship is ultimately directed. By my own stark contrast I was still wrestling with the worship of the Variance Herb Cell and my anagrammed enigma. The only things mysterious and puzzling about me were the foolish word riddles I toyed with sat bored at my teacher’s desk.
I showed deference to his extensive ken of all things exotic and asked him what he thought of that superb scent I raved over. I promptly won his alliance on it.
“So you like a soft vanilla smell, too? It’s a gentle yet lustful smell I must say-I had a friend who wears it all the time.”
I smiled wistfully and thought of the little gifts I had showered on my errant princess in those halcyon days gone by. Gil picks up that strand and weaves from it a tapestry of gold and regales me with pearls of economic wisdom. He silkily textures any conversation with a fine warp and weft of otherwise disparate threads.
“Oh, it pains me to think of my cousins of the land. I pity the vanilla farmers–rife with corruption, folly. Too much squabbling, you see, my friend, in the north it is bad. Wiser ones move into Gulu at night to find a place to sleep safe from fighting.“
He shakes his head piteously and thanks fortune to be here away from that strife borne of a Middle East cancer - worse year on year. I speculated upon what sombre depths his words held but seeing the heaviness of my heart he lifts his spell.
“Try some fresh coffee, my friend-it is the best drink, finish your juice and I shall get you cup. Enjoy. Good coffee and a little vanilla to make many an old man smile.”
He rises from the table and then gives me a knowing wink of his wrinkled old eye then spoke in sudden exclamation.
“My friend, you have inspired in me an idea. I shall prepare an exotic sweet for you and other favoured customers for your delectation. Tomorrow I shall prepare for you a fine Pongal-an Indian dish of sweet basmati rice and mung bean with that special touch of vanilla. Oh, it shall be so sweet to the palette!”
Food for the stomach, the heart and the soul: that was what it was all about. Let us have that taste for the exotic, unfamiliar dish. Give us more not less choice. He urged me to read up on the Egyptians and about how they compiled their own Genesis. He said I could learn much from reading about the first Cosmogonist traditions that Ezra and others rewrote from the Chaldeo-Akkadian account.
Had I ever seen any examples of Babylonian and Assyrian cuneiform? No I hadn’t. Did I know of the debate scholars had over the name Adam, Admi, or Adami? No. I did not. But I should read of it sometime. He had the books. I should come back one evening. Perhaps I could invest in some weighty volumes. Discounted rates on purchases by selected customers.
I scratched my head to surrender to my ignorance. I was a teacher but I knew little of what he said. I should know that it is incumbent on us to raise our levels of understanding. He was agreeing with my sentiments, especially about not to lowering the bar to the lowest common denominator. It was insidious, we both agreed. Time given to improving the mind is time well spent. Never regret that. Despise all ignorance.
Understanding and savouring things around us should be an inclusive process and not promulgated by mere rationalisation and simplification.
Do not measure your expense of time on idle reading in what you lose in paper currency. Put aside the toils of labour and live for knowledge. Time invested in learning is well spent.
Almost with a magician’s touch my Persian peddler had opened a cardboard box from nowhere and spread across the table a fine array of hardbound old volumes for my perusal and delectation.
For One Hundred Pounds he could let me have three original edition books for the price of two. Eh? He got me there. I reached for my wallet and dug out the plastic.
Thus came more persuasive Persian patter to close the sale and I was soon enlightened that there is always more than one way and so it is in the creation of seven Adams or roots of men, born of Mother Earth, physically, and of the divine fire of the progenitors, spiritually or astrally.
The Assyriologists, ignorant of the esoteric teachings, could hardly be expected to pay any greater attention to the mysterious and ever-recurring number seven on the Babylonian cylinders than finding the same in Genesis and the Bible.
He then pointed to those clay tablets mounted so prominently and proudly across his walls: the Twelve Sumerian legends. He urged me to read of them.
Gilgamesh then brought up his stout form kicking back his frail klismos chair aside of me. He rolled his fingers around the black brush above his lips and darted his tongue about its hairs.
He promised me he would create for my palette another of his new dishes that would be replete with coconut and cashew.
Come tomorrow. It will be a fine accompaniment for my next coffee call. I couldn’t wait, I told him. I love all things daring, exotic and new. He scuttled off to busy himself in his kitchen. I necked the last dregs of my drink, brushed off a few crumbs from my tailored jacket and kicked back my own flimsy perch.
I took up my dusty three volume arcane impulse bought books from the tablecloth and strode purposefully to the beaded doorway, neatly folded and racked my newspaper and into the bright light and throbbing street I walked to the convenience store across the way to buy my sweet a box of chocolates.

39
MONDAY 13TH OCTOBER: COLUMBUS DAY in the States, I read in the world news section of the Independent. The weather was no longer warm enough to idle the hour by on the Siduri veranda I look out of the paned glass window and mourn the passing of the long summer months as a cold wind blows outside.
But I was faithfully keeping to good habits. Each day I stopped by on my Mesopotamian friend and more often than not savour that Pongal washed down with full-flavoured cup of coffee. He had been right – the new dish had become triumphant house speciality.
I would open up to my benign buddy a little more each time I called in. I had many days and weeks and months with no other productive outlet for my time and few other friends to confide in now. He would most often catch me at the point where I had thumbed out the pages of the sports section and was flicking and filleting paper deleteriously.
More often than not our chats revolved around my own unfulfilled dream to travel, to add to my meagre collection of art and antiques and garner a tad more of other cultures. We swapped stories. He regaled me of his times - present and long past. He spoke again of his home where he could count a dozen mosques across town. He would often retell the same scene. Each time he would add or subtract some little detail. In my mind’s eye I had it all. The picture was there indelible and serene.
There was strategically placed in a high minaret, from which the muezzin calls with the lungs of an opera singer, the melodic sounds carrying far across the rooftops.Then I would close my eyes as he spoke softly and wistfully of how, from a high vantage point in a crumbling citadel you can look out upon a desolate plateau of rolling steppe and snowy peak, buffeted by a storm that darkens the sky. Then in the silence listen to the call to prayer. The old chai houses were always replete with Turkmen carpets and thick slabs of tree-trunks as table legs.
I imagined this den in deepest winter; the streets coated under a foot of snow, the wood burner working overtime to keep the steaming brew flowing. Pure escapism. Pole paid he and off I went.
If I could keep my dreams and replay them like this then I shall surely keep my sanity in some shape or form. I had an appointment to keep.
I steeled myself for the pain. I headed to the North Haven Beauty Rooms for my now monthly depilatory: back, sack and crack.
But opposed to days were the nights. And like many other nights then, I lay uneasily beside Charlotte in an uneasy claustrophobic closeness. A nagging disquiet still filled my veins. From my persisting sullenness she intuitively fathomed the truth.
She looked at me quizzically, “Leo, something happened between you and Lita…sometime-back when I don’t know-I just sense it-you’re just not admitting it... You know…frankly…the only reason I let that Rebecca nonsense go was because you let me listen to the tape…it reassured me a lot…I needed to know what you thought of her.”
Patterns of half-truths and suspicions formed a jumbled tapestry in her mind and she fiddled and fretted and struggled to unravel the knots. So I gave her some simple direction.
“Hun, I’m just so grateful to you…you were my saviour…I needed someone to truly believe in me…you met the little tart…you saw what she was like…a psycho-nymphet. Please don’t back out on us…stick with me, babe. Trust me. I will keep on proving to you. That tape is going to be their Achilles’ heel. All those evil lies about me will all be exposed. You wait! Even the police fabrications…all lies upon more lies…in that damned faked transcript.“
She gives a weak smile in compensation and I kiss her forehead tenderly as guarantee of my devotion. Then I think to egg my pudding with some fiscal flavour.
“You know, hun, I am inclined to believe that once I’m out of the woods on the criminal charges we could be onto a lucrative civil claim for damages. …some compensation should be in order for all their maliciousness.”
She lets go the weakest of smiles.
“Well…perhaps. But Leo…why would the police insist you’re such an obsessed sexual pervert…on and on about that, when the tape disproves it-that’s just so odd.”
“Babe-it’s not so odd when you think what’s behind the whole thing…. Mad Molly’s at the back of it-she’s poisoned everyone against me…she’s been doing this for years…running me down to her police cronies…even my kids…I promise you-it’s something she’s said or done….”
“Ha! Well, some truth there, Leo…You can be very arrogant to people sometimes. Like you’re talking down to them with your high-handed big words…even I don’t know what you’re on about half the time…you try it on me now and then, darling, but I won’t have it…I would hazard a guess that you’ve put that Inspector Quilty’s back up big time! He’s taken you’re manner as a personal insult and now you’re sworn enemies! And what’s it all for? You men!”
I corrected my little cherub that he’s merely an Acting Inspector – he’s pulling PC Goldbolt’s strings and I’m sure my ex wife was tugging him, too. “Godbolt is a single-minded freak who can only see what she wants to see-she’s a simpleton-can you believe I had to tell her how to spell ‘harassment’…one ‘r’ I told her and she’s meant to be a professional! She’s a boil in the bag fish hag-no preparation required, scant, economical and as appetising as cardboard.”

40
They say confidence is trust or faith that a person or thing is capable. Self-confidence is having confidence in oneself. Overconfidence is having unmerited confidence or believing something or someone is capable when they are not.
We all, at some point, place our confidence in other people or forces of authority. For instance, it is quite normal to have confidence in the police to protect us. Almost all of us at some point in our lives find confidence in the rightness of a cause or a principle and feel the need to fight for that principle perhaps with the assistance of those authorithies in society who are there to help and protect us from undue harm. This was my logic. This was where I stood just weeks before my trial.
I was overcome with a resolve to get to the root of this malaise and bypass the withering dead wood branches of that cankerous diseased tree of East Merica justice.
I penned a letter remarkable and unique in the circumstances: a letter overriding the best advice of my lawyers. I wrote to the highest authority prosecuting me with a plea to look again more thoroughly at the jaundiced case made against me.
I wanted to set out the pros and cons: analayse the case for and against me. Was I arrogant? No. I just knew that Try Quilty would ruin my reputation. I was confident I was right and I felt confident that a diligent and prudent prosecutor would look carefully at the points I wanted to make.
I told Brigid Kearney I was certain of my approach but she argued I was putting too much faith in other people’s sense of fair play. The law wasn’t about justice, she said, it was about winning. She said she was sure my letter would be ignored but I went ahead regardless.
FEBRUARY 6TH 2004
Dear Chief Crown Prosecutor,
Re: CROWN versus LEONARD BLOOM
I write after a very forthright meeting with my solicitor, Brigid Kearney of Punch, Deenan & Flynn. As you are aware I am charged with one count of physical assault and three counts of obscene text messaging. After a frank exchange of views regarding my case Ms Kearney advised me strongly against writing to you at this time as it may undermine the full impact of my legal defence in my upcoming criminal trial. However, I feel I must draw your attention to just some facts that are very easily verified by rudimentary forensics and cross-referencing of witness statements. These particular allegations of assault and sexual coercion levied against me, a married schoolteacher, by a girl of school age are amongst the worst criminal charges I could face.
This letter does not set out to present an exhaustive list of defence evidence but it does reveal overwhelming and damaging flaws in the case against me. I accept it is for the Crown Prosecution Service or, ultimately, a full public trial to determine the reliability and truthfulness of your evidence. However, I believe by revealing to you just a few clear cut points at this time you will now take it as your reasonable duty, in the interests of justice, to reassess the credibility of your two key witnesses and their allegations. I do hope there is still time to forego this considerable waste of time, money and court resources.
However, if upon deducing that my assertions in this formal admission are correct and well founded, you then proceeded with the case and lost, I will thus have reasonable grounds, for any future civil action against you for damage to my good name and loss of income due to my continued suspension (without pay) as a schoolteacher.
Moreover, if you present such a flawed case in public the Court may, likewise publicly rebuke you for wasting their time and taxpayers’ money especially if you dismiss such credible and valid forensics. As a consequence my legal counsel will naturally highlight the fact your attention was already drawn to these matters and thus assert that your continued prosecution is malicious.
DEFEATING YOUR INTENDED PROSECUTION WITH SIX SIMPLE POINTS:
(1) DISCREDITING YOUR COMPLAINANT: Your complainant, Rebecca van Hiller, a girl then aged sixteen and formerly in my wife’s care, falsely reported to you a conversation she had with my stepdaughter, Lita Limoncello. She stated; “ Lita kept my mobile telephone until the end of February 2003.When Lita gave me my telephone back she told me that she had been receiving some strange text messages from an unknown person. When I asked what the messages said, she said that they read things such as, “I want to have sex with you.” But she did not know who had sent the messages.” [R van Hiller Statement 6/7/03].
Yet you possess a witness statement from Lita Limoncello proving my stepdaughter was, in fact, attending college in New York between January 11th 2003 and June 19th 2003 contradicting the above fallacy. Lita travels solely using our family membership of Vista Atlantic Flying Club and our membership number is VA34343EA 234. The relevant flights records and my stepdaughter’s stamped passport verify she could not possibly have met with your lying complainant. Lita has agreed to be flown in from the United States to attend court and give evidence if necessary to refute these absurd assertions. Of course, the Crown shall be required to pay all costs for her travel and attendance if you persist in refusing to accept her Section 9 Statement as evidence.
(2) COMPOUNDING HER LIES: Miss van Hiller gave further wholly false evidence in two shabby and delusional sworn statements to police. She alleged that she endured repeated and horrific unwanted sexual attacks from me while she was in my wife’s care. Now please contrast this allegation with the tone of one of the emails in our possession sent by van Hiller to me when she was no longer under the care or influence of my wife or me.
To: LOBloom41@hentai.com
From: vanHillerR16@hentai.com
Subject: Thanks Date: 1/31/03 5:50:41 PM GMT Standard Time
“Hello, Leo Hows you?
Well I love to smile and everyone knows me as smiling all the time.
I’m glad you came into my life although I have been a pain in the bum and I am truley [sic] sorry I know you only wanted to help me and I’m glad you have cos you have made a big difference to my life.
I’m glad I now live with Cilla cos I need the family environment and I’m sure the kids will keep me on my toes. With ur help I now have Cilla and the kids as well as Abel.
I’m glad I will always be in your heart cos u will always be in mine I just want you to know I really care for you I know I did not show this but I do.
All the best for the future love you always
XxBecksxx “
(3) DISCREDITING YOUR SECOND WITNESS: Miss van Hiller’s boyfriend, Abel Tractabull, absurdly claimed he attended the alleged incident in Truva Park promising to protect her from any possible attack from me. He stated he hid amongst some bushes while he observed me giving his girlfriend a severe beating. In his evidence He offered no reason whatsoever as to why he failed in his promise to guard her safety. In fact, the secret audio recording of the incident made by your complainant proved beyond all reasonable doubt Tractabull lied to Police when he said in his statement, “ I ran into the park and spoke with Rebecca” (at the point when this defendant had left the scene for 2-3 minutes). “She told me to go back into the bushes, which I did.” From careful examination of that tape you will note his voice is not anywhere on the recording. Listen carefully at the moment referred to (between clock counter times 05:20 and 07:55) and identify only the uninterrupted and continuous sound of heavy breathing by your complainant as she waited alone for two minutes smoking her cigarette.
I believe the aforementioned conduct by your witnesses is more properly considered as perjury under English Law.
(4) REFUSING A CONFESSION: Both the Crown Prosecution Service and East Mercia Police have, on several occasions now, been offered a third party confession to the text messages offences I am also charged with. Infuriatingly, that confession has been repeatedly rebuffed, ignored and illogically denied proper investigative examination by these authorities. Lita Limoncello in her Section 9 Witness Statement to Punch, Deenan & Flynn admitted that it was she alone who transmitted all the offending mobile phone text messages to your complainant. My stepdaughter further explained to the police that I was in no way involved in their creation or transmission.
Moreover, forensic analysis of my telephone records would quickly and easily prove once and for all whether I had sent any or all of the offending obscene phone texts from my home computer and the Internet as your prosecution charges allege. Please stop being so evasive on this issue and require of the telephone companies concerned that such records be made available to us so that the court may have the opportunity to weigh all the key evidence in this case.
(5) MY ALIBI: Ms Charlotte Mayes of North Haven will testify that she had a close, intimate relationship with me and I was a frequent visitor to her address. Her diary entries for March 5th 2003 will show I was at her home on that date when nine of the allegedly criminal text messages were transmitted. Ms Mayes has made it be known that she is prepared to testify that (a) she never saw me send any text messages as per the charges and (b) that she has personally met with your complainant on more than one occasion and has established to her own satisfaction that your complainant, Miss Rebecca van Hiller, was romantically obsessed with me.
(6) POLICE MISCONDUCT: On 28.04.03 and on many occasions thereafter, I wrote letters of complaint to the Investigating Officer, PC Godbolt, my Member of Parliament, H Humbert, as well as the Chief Constable of East Mercia Police of my serious misgivings over the police investigations. I formally demanded that East Mercia Police carry out proper forensic analysis of my computer and phone records. It is well documented that I repeatedly complained that officers handling my case were deliberately refusing to examine obvious evidence to prove my innocence. But it seems in England, complaining to the police about the police only seems to antagonise them into greater extremes of bias.
Naturally, my counsel will base a considerable part of my defence on the duplicity of Rebecca van Hiller, Abel Tractabull and their accomplice, Cilla Karibdis. If you were seeking to entertain a case against them for perverting the course of justice, then I feel the common sense view of this would be overwhelming.
It is my strongly held view that Miss van Hiller suffers from a serious mental illness. I form this opinion based on my personal knowledge as her former carer, as well as eighteen years working professionally with teenagers and my discussions with her family doctor. It would be downright scurrilous of you in court to publicly label me a sexual pervert simply because I have demonstrably put my teaching career at stake in order to protect your complainant from herself.
As I have already declared, I now act contrary to my best interests in sending you this letter. However, I would ask you to consider how much more damaging it will be to your complainant to have such an overwhelming body of evidence laid against her in court and potentially in the media, exposing her truly evil character. I contend it is in her best interests that you drop this case immediately and compel Miss van Hiller to undergo the psychiatric treatment she needs. She is a danger to herself and to the general public. You must not allow her to believe she can get away with such criminal acts, as this will simply fuel her malevolence.
Yours sincerely,
Leo Bloom BA Hon PGCE
FRIDAY 13TH FEBRUARY 2004.
For yet another night I lay tortured by the winds as they were whipping up. There were scratching, tapping noises from the loft above my head. My skin crawled. I froze so immobilised and scared not knowing which way to turn.
Out in the harsh, cold night roof tiles were ripped and taunted by the whispering wind of a budding storm. I saw the stale, grey silhouette of Ms Mayes crumpled beside me lifeless and remote to my touch. She sleeps like a baby. No fears, no torment.
Today Ms Kearney proved me wrong- I got a short and sharp rebuff from the offices of the Chief Crown Prosecutor, Joseph McCarthy, who wrote to tell me my ‘concerns were better addressed by defence counsel.’
The only shred of comfort coming my way was when I spoke to my daughter today for the first time in weeks. Why do my own kids not want to come visit me?
I couldn’t ask my poor Annabel if anyone had tainted her innocent young mind. Poor Annabel, my naive child, but it’s such meagre solace merely chatting on the telephone especially when confronted with her question, ‘When are you going to prison, Daddy?’
A disoriented sleep-starved wretch I felt. Bugger the benzodiazepines. Those sleeping pills are no use-they just make me nauseous-worse than sleeplessness. To the spare room where these last few stressful weeks I seclude myself in hollow wakefulness gazing at the bedroom window and upon the sickly yellow of the streetlight as it whines its discordant shrill. I ponder the trickling beads of raindrops on glass in their descending capitulation to the inevitable.
They say after six days and seven nights awake the ancients grant you immortality. That was Gilgamesh’s comment to my perpetual owl-ringed sunken eyes as I drank cups of his black brew. Who needs immortality if it feels as turgid as this?
Let me rest, goddamn you! Need to sleep on ‘body time’ not electric prompts. Go hang the cyclic increase and decrease my circadian rhythms. Up with the anabolisms! Oh, how I hate these nights!
Please, please help my alpha waves disappear. Oh, but then it comes. The dreaded REM attacks then sabotages my restorative. Those images of the flashbacks, flailing hands, a struggle, beating rapid heart and kicked. Swirling round and round the spin takes me down. No adaptive function. Get up, get up you fool! Work and prepare. Write. Pen to paper it shall be-maybe something concocted in a kind faux -theological narrative?
I dragged myself semi-conscious like a zombie to the study. At the desk I sifted the piles of letters pulling apart the box files and the endless papers, the statements, the dross, the printouts from trite web sites trying to make some sense.
The wind retreats and the rattles of the roof tiles abate. A tentative daylight breaks and another dawn slides in from the east. A caffeine dose rinses through my brain. Shuffling like a geriatric in my baggy pyjamas and dressing gown, I scavenge the fridge to splash some milk over a consolatory bowl of cornflakes.
I swirled the dish mash around and around and toyed with the mush and remembered Angela’s three-point guide to a healthy mind.
First: don’t sweat the small stuff. Then tell yourself it’s all small stuff. (Didn’t she read that on the back of a cereal box?).
Second: pharmacologicals will wastewarp the mind with prolonged use (as per Alice of pill popping looking glass fame) so I must, absolutely must find a natural narcotic to ease the pain (let’s choose jogging says my knotted and knackered conscious mind).
Third: don’t get mad - just go and get even, dummy!
I still had that gnawing tug in the pit of my guts. The visceral contortions too often result when the intestines are symbiotically twisted from over-exertion of the brain in the vexed question of ‘how can they have done this to me?’
To avert the necessity of decapitating every nefarious and negligent dolt, whose supposed inertia is a genuine excuse for disembowelling the innocents, I thought it wisest to seek a positive cathartic alternative prescribed via the wisdom of a practitioner of greener methodologies.

42
MONDAY 16TH FEBRUARY 2004: ‘Washington’s Birthday’ and so says the American diary sent to me in the post as an afterthought Christmas gift from my peculiar wife in New York.
Angela Green was nothing if not exuberant in all that she did. I knew she had a penchant for physical fitness but I never imagined she had long been a distance runner.
In fact on three consecutive years she had completed the London Marathon. Now that the bitterest chills of winter weeks had passed she held me to my promise and so this was my day to join her on a gentle jog instead of our usual one-hour session.
I was immediately struck by the flamboyance of her lime green spandex outfit with accessorizing pink headband that spoke so incongruously and loud beside my shabby and subdued, old grey military sweats. Her get up made me quell an autonomic scoff but gradually our shuffle past the scenery soon took my mind away from conspicuous self-consciousness.
“You need to start ever so gently for the first few minutes....keep to my pace and I’ll lead us through the meadow footpaths then along the disused rail track.”
Along a winding ‘C’ road now wending past russet hedges dappled with snowdrops marking the final days of winter we made our plip-plop-plip-plop way. Side by side we panted it all out in rhythmic staccatos as our expedition set out for the environs beyond Calypso Cottage. I splashed through a puddle and felt the coldness seep annoyingly into my socks.
But then my sensory focus moved upward and outward and I saw the long and winding hedgerows that support the greatest diversity of plants and animals. I saw them afresh now close up as I lived and breathed that chill country air. Steep drainage banks and ditches, a few trees and verges as punctuations as our constant running companion: of blackthorn and hazel.
We turned into the shadows of a picnic ground where the morning had dumped its litter of light on an empty table. A car full of tourists passed slowly, two women sitting fore, agape at our car-free and carefree peregrinations. Palefaces. Through an open gap a dormouse scampered into a field looking every inch like a low-lying water meadow after recent heavy rains.
I told ambling Angie I tried getting into jogging as an undergraduate, she said she did too, but unlike me she didn’t give up.
“Great for the brain cells, Leo…spring cleans the mind…Kasporov was a great fan of it…you see...chess masters need stamina, clear thinking and vitality, too!”
Too much caffeine and rich living, Leo! Exercise, eat well, drink lots of water and a good night’s rest will follow, she said. She hard sold me a lifestyle towards steps for releasing endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, and producing a better general sense of well being.
“I don’t know why it is Angela, maybe it’s the masochist in me but the rawness of the east coast weather is the pain that makes me feel alive, if that makes sense. A vestige of beauty from inconsequence…the fleeting scents of decaying leaves, the occasional bonfire…ironic-but that makes me feel somehow alive in all this heavy greyness.”
She wore her self-satisfied face and put her head onto nodding mode to show she had been right all along.
“It’s almost spiritual…that’s how I’d put it…pounding the pavements of wet suburban streets…up, down and around anonymous box houses.”
“So you’re finally starting to exorcise the ghost of that siren, Leo?”
Three and half miles and forty-five minutes later and it felt the most memorable and satisfying session I ever spent. It was great to be back inside in front of that warm cottage log fire.
I wrapped myself in my tracksuit and slouched down snugly into that old armchair where I had twittered away many an hour of her time. This new bug of hers now bit into me a better mindset and I resolved to have it sustain me through the ragged remnants of that contrary winter.
I would have come over and jogged with her again in the daytime but my gnawing self-consciousness and the fear of hoots and catcalls from baiting barrackers persuaded me to run alone and mostly at night. I resigned myself to keeping to safe, unpopulated routes around the lighted streets of the town.
I confessed, too, to Angela of my penurious plight and further resigned myself to fewer meetings with her. Her face looked disappointed as I confessed that I couldn’t in all conscience expect Charlotte to keep running down what remained of her savings especially while I still hadn’t resolved what I was going to do about a job.
Angela understood my logic. She agreed that meeting maybe once or twice a month was adequate for sanity’s sake until my circumstances improved. She asked me had I decided what to do about my wife and was I going to get a divorce.”Well, I knew you said she had gone back to the States…..moved right away....there was something inevitable about that woman’s life journey.”
I turned to look through the sash window of the snug cottage and towards the front garden wall. I sighed deeply wondering where the last year of my life had gone. Angela patted me reassuringly on my shoulder as the whistle of the kettle signalled time for a warming drink.
“I’ll get us some herbal tea and you can tell me all about it.”
The hot herbal brew was most welcome. I supped the warm liquid and its fragrant scent restored me.
“So you have heard anything at all from your wife?”
“Yes, she’s been emailing me almost daily for weeks-since about New Year or so-even sent me a gift-a diary of all things. She’s not been coping too well. I feel bad about the whole thing. I don’t know-I just feel I’m living a lie where I am. I have been trying to fit in with Charlotte and her kids but it’s no good. Her father is the key to it all. He hates me with a passion.”
Angela drew her chair closer to mine and wrapped her veined, leathery hands around her warming mug of hot liquid.
“Has something been said or done to set him against you?”
“I think I have a strong inkling. At first it was Carla-she’s quite canny and got hold of him-then sent him some photos of Charlotte and me-you know- en flagrante delicto.”
“Ah yes….you don’t need to spell it out…red-handed as they say—caught in the very act.“ She shook her head.
“So the old sod has insisted I either file for divorce or I am not welcome in his family. I’ve had a lot of hassle about what I’m doing over it. I rented out my house at Eccles Drive. Thankfully, the rent covers the mortgage with a little left over for bits and bobs.”
I went on to explain to my sympathetic hot tea hugger that I was muddling through ok until I then got reports from my tenants that they’d had their car scratched, and paint daubed on the front door saying ‘Paedo!’
“Now my tenants have had enough and are giving me two month’s notice to leave.”
Angela asks me how Charlotte and her children have been coping with all this.
“Poor Charlotte is piggy in the middle and has been a rock to me, but her kids have been poisoned against me now by the grandparents. I can’t abide all the backbiting from her kids. I can’t correct them on anything or even speak to them without some kind of snide comment. If it’s not Charlotte’s father poking his oar in then it’s the kid’s father stirring things up. They all think I’m a kiddie fiddler-and so they don’t want me near theirs.”
“Oh, Leo. That’s awful. Is there any way forward?”
“I’m probably going to have to move back to Eccles Drive and consider making my peace with Carla. It’s not what I want but it’s the lesser of the evils. If I can patch something up with my wife, just maybe I can fight my way out of this hole. The trial is coming up fast. I need to act-if I could just get my wife and stepdaughter to testify I have a great chance of clearing my name and ending this nightmare.”
I thought better of telling Angela I had also been getting emails again from Claire Boylan. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Claire anymore. She had disappeared from the scene for a long while but now was all interested in what was going on again.
I kept that to myself. I didn’t tell Angela and I certainly wasn’t going to share it with Charlotte. Oh, no. Not with her suspicious mind about young girls and me.
Claire’s rekindled interest in me I put down to curiosity about my new love life as much as a call for recognition of her rite of passage to adulthood. Perhaps, even, Carla and Lita had put her up to spying on me? God knows.
Her emails were mostly wittering on about her. Claire had now attained the age of majority plus she had recently passed her driving test. She let it be known that her paternal grandparents, out of guilt for the paucity of fatherly love bestowed upon their loveless granddaughter by a long-time incarcerated son, made them feel obliged to purchase her a car. Said car was a nine-year-old small Peugeot she had named ‘Pug.’ Most original.
An extract of one of her emails on the acquisition of a sound system for her new chariot went thus:
“I gotta say what really makes it sound wicked, is all the amps. Its got a hot 100 watt amp with my Pioneers and a sweet 100 watt in the back with an even fatter 15 inch sub and 300 watt amp. ItsAll wired to a Delco radio to whipass any aftermarket radio around. The power is what makes my system awesome, not the radio (unless it is a hundred quid job).
I've heard my cousins top of the line JVC CD radio with quite a bit of watts per channel and I could any days blow her away with my new Delco, Pioneers speakers, and 100 watt 8 inch sub. So you got shacked up with some new bird then?”
The folly of youth, I thought. But I amused her by sending her my congratulations plus my own few pointers about the Bloom Blaupunkt sporting an evenly backlit LCD display allowing radio stations and CDs to be displayed in orange or green with the touch of a button and affirmation on the bird shacking.


43
TUESDAY 17TH FEBRUARY 2004. I ran those dark, lonely streets sucking in my new drug and beginning to feel light-headed as my heaving lungs rasped with effort.
It was mere jogging - more carthorse than thoroughbred and not in the Angela Green league of plodders. With a slip, slap, slip slap of flat feet upon shiny slabs I studiously avoided the foul-smelling farm slurry on country lanes and the marshy fields, which sagged beside the babbling brook.
Only the naked trees shadowed my progress while the darkness protected me.
Watch out, people! Here comes Leo the Lionheart, the brave vigilante street cleanser wiping out the streetwalkers, harlots, pimps, punters and toms. Yes, me in my panting state. Me still wondering if I might by chance happen upon that daughter of the streets propped against her beacon signalling from her barber’s pole. Yes her - that one - she the nightmare nightwalker plying her trade in a comely street uniform.
My sinews were stretched, limbs and lungs flexed and tightened. What a dullard! What a dolt I was, evangelically proclaiming to the police that noble civic duty was the compunction that set me against vice girl van Hiller.
Evangelist or Evil's Own Agent? Pull the other one, Mr Bloom, sir! We can’t allow it officer, can we? They’re not licensed or medically inspected by the proper authorities. I thought of my woman. She had saved me. I happened upon a lone park bench. Not Truva here but further towards the dock end of town. I wanted to sit and let it sink in. I knew the boys in blue were inflicting their little bit of mischief upon me with a bit of a scam over that audio recording.
But that’s how they play it nowadays. Never mind. I drew greater strength by sucking in a low deep breath. I looked up in the night sky and saw that the low cloud had cleared and there appeared the stars for the first time.
A sparkle, a shaft of gentle moonlight on it and the truth can be seen and the rhythm from my chest was a drum beating no retreat. And, officer, do you really expect to get away with that ‘Get off me’ ruse? Of course I needn't tell you. The truth will be out!
Yesterday I broke my lover’s heart. I told her I must leave her. No more wasteful days in Wallow Walk. Tomorrow I move out and go back to command post, ‘Eccles Drive’ marching to the tune of my Colonel Lacrimal.
So my brief sojourn living with Charlotte and her two kids playing ‘happy families’ came to nothing. I hope she won’t be an enemy now. I kind of knew it was a tragedy that had to unfold at some point. I take the wrath of one woman and replace it with another. Women scorned lead us to you know where.
My butterfly you must now flutter by and the aphid elope. Elope aphid, I must.
But poor, gentle, sweet Charlotte always knew the score. Her over bearing father was the stumbling block. Now there’s a man you don’t really want as an enemy. I guess being a father myself I should have known how it would end. Your precious daughter you do not want living with a ’lazy, self-indulgent layabout pervert,’ as he so bluntly put it to me.
I guess some cataclysmic changes do happen in life at some point to us all. Those nice Japanese tenants couldn’t get out quickly enough. I took the easy option. I suppose Charlotte was right: rather than become the respectable workingman other people expected me to be I surrendered to the inevitable.
No daughter’s father will perhaps? No, I think not. My wife? Now have I ever known a woman so forgiving as my luscious lemon? She’s a stoic, a true marvel.
You see now it should be plain sailing. If we tally up the account once, I’m ensconced back in my own house with a roof over my head all paid for. I will have my key defence witnesses back on my side and the icing on the cake will be that big, fat juicy litigation settlement coming my wife’s way in her New York employment suit.
Bridges can be rebuilt, perhaps, once I clear my name. Money to be made, Leo: money to be made!
And there had been more bombshells falling that dark winter to force my hand on these fateful decisions. The Local Education Authority had formally suspended me from working with children pending the verdict in the trial. Oh, LEA piped! I had heard that even if I were acquitted I would face another ‘trial’ at the hands of the General Teaching Council as well as a review of my fitness to work with children by the Secretary of State for Education.
Maybe my employer shall just bar me so that I might move to another part of the country where I am not known and another local authority will have me? I, LEA hopped?
Really, you see, there’s no future in being a supply teacher. Too tenuous to depend on a good name when there are no guarantees I would come out of a court scandal unblemished. I taught myself to never forget I may never work as a teacher again. Ah, dole pipe!

18.02.04
BY FAX
Leo Bloom
7 Eccles Drive

Brigid Kearney
Punch, Deenan & Flynn Solicitors
Mall Chambers
Dear Brigid,
Re: Regina v. Leonard Odysseus Bloom
I understand you spoke on the telephone with my wife, Carla, earlier this evening regarding her and my daughter, Lita's attendance at my trial for the 26/27 February 2004. As you are aware I have resolved all matrimonial disharmonies and I trust there should now be no witness encumbrances for my trial.
I understand you now wish both my witnesses to be available at court for the Friday. Lita will need to be flown in from the United States to attend and we understand you will ensure the Court is aware she will need to be reimbursed for the considerable cost of travel for this.
From our recent conversations I realise the need to have a proper meeting with my counsel prior to prepare me for the trial. Your office has not as yet advised me as to any proposed date or time for such a meeting. As we are only four working days before trial I am concerned that time is running out.
In my last meeting with you I understood Punch, Deenan & Flynn were to commission an independent transcript of the CD audio - has this been undertaken?
Also, you have not yet notified me of any other witnesses for the defence you wish to call. As yet I cannot confirm if Ms Charlotte Mayes will be willing to give evidence but I shall let you know on this as soon I can confirm.
Please contact me as soon as possible to discuss the above and inform me of developments regarding our barrister.
Sincerely,
Leo Bloom BA Hon PGCE

43
THURSDAY 19TH FEBRUARY 2004. My pillow was drenched the back of my neck had a cold wetness that would become unbearable. I did my running to help assuage the pain. "The horse of ten toes" didn’t help. My doctor had doubled me up on my Prozac. Then of course, there was the alcohol. But that didn’t mix so well with my evening street jogging. I was faltering.
I wanted her and I wanted her completely. The cover of darkness let me think it. Long may the seed be spread. Spill it where it doth do no harm. I know the difference and the comfort of a lonely hand. Primeval wants are barely tempered by a conscious and civilised mind. I am a product of a process of evolution and not the finished article: see Book of Darwin.
Unending imperatives: always a work in progress and always deficient, struggling, ebbing and flowing from event to event. The seed is spent. To think free is great (Democracy). To think right is greater (Darwinism). To give up your right to think and start believing is religion (stupidation) and the world according to Islamists and paedophiles - death to them all!
In my nightmare I am to be judged. I have those same tormenting dreams in which I am ridiculed and poked and prodded. Each night I toss and turn and never escape my nocturnal persecutors.
Each hoary old night I stand again in the dock exposed, naked for the umpteenth night. Again it replays the same foreboding scene, always dank and dark, forbidding and forlorn.
In my premonition my Lordships look down from on high perched in fine repose draped in black on me the cowed and wretched Old Bailey accused.
From the shady galleries the ghosts of the mob do barrack shout and mock, ‘kick ‘em, punch ‘em, castrate the paedophiles!’ They are the spirits of the paedo-vigilantes - the Mujahedin warriors for the sake of God and not to be confused with terrorists. They fight the evil child molesters with a moderate tone of correction: ‘kill, kill…kill them all!’
At that midnight court session the jury hear the evidence for the prosecution first:
Chief prosecutor: ”You are Lady Rebecca van Hiller of Knightsbridge you say you were accosted by a vagabond of the street?”
Rebecca van Hiller: “Yes, Mr Prosecutor. It was after dark, foolishly without maid servant, I was going towards Temple-bar; into Unholy Misdeeds Park, I felt brutish hands upon my person and then a hand in my purse; I felt immediately, and found my handkerchief was gone, my goods displaced all about my person and the prisoner was close by me; I said, you villain, you have picked my pocket and jiggled my jugs; he took from his shabby cloak a blade then slapped me about the face, ‘Do an angry hit-Tonya Harding!’ and then he started from me, and ran behind a carriage; there I saw him with my handkerchief in his hand and lechery in his eyes, tucking it up under the knee of his breeches; I called, stop thief; he ran down Temple-lane, and was pursued; the prisoner and handkerchief.”
Chief Prosecutor: “Call the next witness. You are a gentleman of the parish of Westminster. Pray, tell the court the events as you recollect them.”
Abel Tractabull: “Yes, sir. I was there after dusk or so, I was going towards Temple-bar; when very near Unholy Misdeeds Park, I felt a hand in my pocket; I felt immediately, and found my handkerchief was gone, the prisoner was close by me; I said, you villain, you have picked my pocket; he started from me, and ran behind a carriage; there I saw him with my handkerchief in one hand and a cleaver for meat in the other.”
Chief Prosecutor: “Call the next witness. You are a gentlewoman of prior fine character of Temple Bar. Pray, tell the court the events as you recollect them.”
Cilla Karibdis: “Yes, goodly sir. I was going by the end of Temple-lane, I heard the cry, stop thief; I saw the prisoner pursued by many people; I went after him, and in about 150 yards down the lane he was seized; He spilled a blade and grubby handkerchief from his grubby hands. I saw a gentleman come upon him and take up that handkerchief. Said gentleman did shriek that upon this shabby rag was wetness and filth. He took it brought it to the prosecutor; the prisoner at first said a boy picked the lady and gentleman’s pocket, and gave it him, but before the magistrate he acknowledged he took it himself and despoiled it.”
Prisoner's defence:
I am but an honest odd job runner. Not a squirty footpad, your honour. I made my pitch and I pled my case forlornly.
“On those cobbled streets, about my business, I did find that good bit of steel. No gentleman did claim it. I snapped the blade to and stowed the weapon in question away as before in my chamber of horrors, otherwise pocket. A handkerchief I did also find and with this did wrap that blade. They're great for the cold steel, somebody who was evidently quite in the dark said for the benefit of them all. You see they thought foreigners on account of them using knives had done the park murders of the invincibles. I did forewarn this fine young lady to beware the evils of the dark park but she did scorn my words. Then I ran with it.”
Verdict of the Court:
Guilty as charged.
His Honourable Worship The Judge: "Leo Bloom, stand up; you have been found guilty of the charges of assault and battery upon the person of Lady Rebecca van Hiller at the place of Unholy Misdeeds Park and the wanton theft of the aforesaid lady’s handkerchief and that of the gentleman of the parish of Westminster.
It is the sentence of this court that you shall be taken form here to a place of your execution and that you be hanged by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead!”
Over and over I played the same word game over and over in my head…‘LEED IT TO HIM…LO I TIED THEM…no…EDIT ME LITHO…no…TOIL MID THEE...HIT TITLE DOME…ODE THE LIMIT…no…no…THEE LID OMIT…not that…OLD-HE EMIT IT…LITHE DO TIME…I DO HIT LET ME…TIMID TO HEEL…or was it…OIL DIM TEETH?’
Deceptions, semantics, anagrams, word games and coming thick and fast from one and all. The knotted duvet strangles at my throat as my foot kicks out thudding into the hardness of the wooden bedside cabinet. If you can’t beat them, join them.
The table lamp falls with a shattering crescendo of broken glass. The insipid yellow light of dawn signals me to wipe my sweat-covered body and rise from my bed. Each time the same dream but a slightly different format-eerie and so vivid as to be almost real.

44
SATURDAY 21ST FEBRUARY 2004. It was at the Siduri over a chelow chicken kebab and cups of chai that I met my old and dear friend, the man with the caustic wit, Telemachus Johns.
Mr Johns who ate with relish the sumptuous cuisine of Persia and liked fried fish roe kuku sabzi, thick mutton kookoo, chicken giblet oresht washed down with a sweet carrot havij bastani. Most of all he liked grilled meat and bean shahm with garlic, onions and herbs, which gave to his palate a fine tinge of faintly scented saffron. He had arrived back from his Thailand adventures and heard the appalling furore about my arrest and upcoming trial and felt it his duty to administer the last rites to the condemned man.
“So it’s been grim then, Leo…a vigilante’s toll to reckon with then…one slashed tyre, a broken window and the carnage of mass murder of your forsythias by the Havens paedophile assassination squads?”
His lips laughed about the edges of his white glittering teeth. Laughter seized his entire strong well-knit trunk. Insensitive sod, I thought. His hands plunged and rummaged about his trunk while he searched for a clean handkerchief. He kept on his blithe broadly smiling face.
“It’s not funny, Tel…I’ve only just moved back to my place. It’s my poor Japanese tenants who copped the worst of the flak what with cars scratched, daubing of doors with insults and all.”
As he patted his portly paunch gibbering Johns tangentially jabbered onward with his absurd and unhelpful postulations.
“Maybe it’s not you but the Orientals they’re really after…maybe it all goes back to the Bridge on the River Kwai…Burmese chindits…old world war two vets meting out some belated payback?”
A fat consoling paw is flung around neck in brotherly fashion.
“You may scoff, Johns. But the Turkish One next door to me really queered my pitch there. But thanks for the books anyway-they’ve been useful.”
My fat fingered friend shakes me round my neck for all the world as if her were my reproachful father.
“Ah, come on, old son! Cheer up! Don’t be such a Vivian Dark, Bloomer, old boy. I see you don’t agree that there is only one thing worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about.”
I begged him to spare me the glib Oscar Wilde quotes. John’s growing literary pretensions were worse than mine. I blame Mrs Johns, who was more the genuine intellectual thoroughbred article and from whom Telemachus purloined so much of his winning erudite one-liners. You see, Mr John’s welsh wife, Taffy Ann was chief librarian at the local college, and she had kindly dug up some dog-eared old law books often used by undergraduates on criminal law.
Ann Johns was a short, stout plain woman bereft of any great femininity for which marriage to TJ was an escape from the certainty of spinsterhood. While in return TJ made Ann his Patsy Pedant, his erstwhile respectable cloak to a murkier side of his character that she, nor any other wife, would condone as seemly to a respectable middle-aged married couple.
Lucky for Tel, Ann was as trusting and devoted as they come and never caught on to the occasional clues about TJ’s lascivious leanings that twenty years of friendship with that old scoundrel prevent me from divulging in these pages. But on my own particular indiscretion my friend still had a further question for me.
“Didn’t you say you had some theory that a man can’t really be a kiddie fiddler if the object of his affections was a female with the fully-ripened body of a woman?”
Now he was broaching on a facet of this matter I felt peculiarly pertinent to the positing of paedophilia.
“I did indeed. It’s all in the hip-to-waist formula! I have my facts to aid my theoretical arguments, too!”
I put my case to him thus: a girl becomes a woman from the time the distribution her body fat attains that Darwinian perfection of a waist to hip ratio of 0.7. That is what makes the fertile female human form so unique. He looked somewhat askance at the implausibility of my opening gambit but I continued with my theory.
“By looking at the female waist to hip ratio, you know when a female is of the right age for reproduction. At that time, and if the mind is mature enough you can argue that you are dealing with a woman and not a child. If nature says she a woman then she is a woman-it’s not arbitrary like the age of consent laws that vary so wildly throughout the world from country to country, jurisdiction to jurisdiction.”
Teasing Tel laughs at the pomposity of my global gobeshitism.
“Is that an argument in mitigation or a plea for universal standards?”
No, no. Hold off with the jokes, I said. I wanted him to take on board the reasonableness of my argument.
This isn’t just me saying this. What I am stating is merely a re-iteration a long-held view going down through the pages of history. From Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of sacred prostitution to the 32,000-year-old Venus of Dolni Vestonice right up to the modern Barbie doll-curves that define the perfect woman and the dreamiest dimension for a woman’s waist to hip ratio at the universally accepted zero point seven.
I pleaded with a howling Tel to stop his mocking laugh. He wiped the tears from his eyes and I told him again to his fat face.
”I didn’t cook it up my friend. It crosses the boundaries of time and culture and social class. Ask anyone-anyone at random and test the theory.“
To prove my point I beckoned over to our table that fine waiter. Gilgamesh took great pleasure in acquiescing with me on the matter.
“Yes, indeed, fine sirs. I should assure you that on my long travels from Accra to Bahrain, Bridgend to Southend…every upstanding gentleman would have his head turned by the movement of the hourglass walk.”
He gives a fiendish stroke to his moustache and a guttural laugh and a wink then from behind the back of his waiter’s hand and surreptitiously asks me if I have seen any good Japanese Shōjo-ai prints lately.
My swarthy Persian friend decided this might be the opportune time to garner some trade from me about some fine prints from the Bakunyuu genre to his own growing cosmopolitan art collection.
I dismissively assured Gilgamesh I would certainly peruse again the finer antique shops when next on my travels. Bu I had important matters to ponder and no time right for chitchat on deals for his extracurricular enterprises in erotica as I shoo him way with my frowning rebuff.
Mr Johns asks, “So what about breasts? Aren’t you forgetting the plumpness of the bosom in all this?“
He had a point. A lot of men like to ogle those sumptuous mammary mounds more prominent, but structurally identical and homologous to the male of the species.
“Ann and me could never have kids-ovaries and such, you know.”
No. I didn’t know. That was news. Mr Johns confided in me he was most thankful of his escape from fatherhood not being the nurturing kind of man to attend the nest of a nursing old crow.
“So why do men like women with large boobs then, Bloom?” He was baiting me for more merriment at my baleful blusterings.
“Well one theory why us men go for bigger boobs is that breasts mirror the buttocks as a sign of fertility and biologists have also proven that women’s breasts evolved to be larger in order to prevent infants from suffocating while feeding.”
“What? That’s silly!”
No. This wasn’t silly, I assured him and hinted he should wipe mutton kookoo grease from his cuckoo mouth.
“Since human infants do not have a protruding jaw like human evolutionary ancestors and other primates, the infant’s nose might be blocked by a flat female chest while feeding. According to this theory, as the human jaw receded, the breasts became larger to compensate.”
He took his sauce stained napkin to his ruddy face and dabbed about the words as they spilled tartly from his lips.
“I think you’re spending far too much time with your head stuck in books, Bloomer, ‘cause you’re sounding scary now!”
So what’s wrong with a little bit of learning? I had to occupy my time constructively since I was forcibly removed from my teaching duties.
“A man has to defend himself with solid and reasoned arguments,” I said.
This ought to be the discourse of the cultured and wise, the sharers of truth and dialectic reason. I needed the wisdom of the world to assist me in my penitent studies.
I should be ready for my grand legal inquisition and not to prepare would be to prepare to fail. But fat face Johns still had a put down for the lean, mean Leo machine.
“Well…what’s more to the point is you shouldn’t have got yourself into playing your wife’s games in the first place, Leo. Why do her dirty work? Besides what you’re really saying is you had the hots for the girl anyway! Its mitigation at best my old mate. Too many, including our education bosses at county hall, you’re still a kiddie fiddler. As far as they’re concerned teachers can’t consort with their students and the law of the land says it, too, and that will be the end of it!”
I corrected him on one important point. I was never Rebecca’s teacher at any school - not now, not ever. A hint of a smile on his face and it seemed to me as if Johns had a self-satisfied smugness about him as if he was gloating.
He dismissively tossed the stained linen rag upon his plate and spat out a couple of trite phrases like ’if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.’ It all tripped a little too easily from his mealy mouth. So I wag a reproachful finger back at him.
I countered. ”The trouble with you Tel is I know you too well. A whiff of hyper hypocrisy in the air don’t you think? With you it’s anything with a pulse! You always were of the ilk that stood for ‘any hole is a goal’ so…and how was your trip to Thailand by the way? Did you dally with any of those ladyboys? Maybe you bought Ann some ever so risqué shōnen-ai art? Well, perhaps we won’t go there-what more can I say?”
He paused momentarily as if to speak something unutterable but checked himself then quaffed the red rosé from his glass with a brisk headshake chaser to follow. While I, in turn, paused to clean my plate of delicious meat sauce with a thin bread of Nan-e barbari before I changed my angle of attack.
“One surprising fact I’ve already, gleaned from the legal tomes your goodly lady gave me, Tel, is that England is the only country in the democratic world that allows a false confession as evidence in court. Other civilised countries expect a prosecutor to bring other corroborating evidence, but not here, oh no!”
“Oh god, Leo, not Juris prudence! Spare me that, please! That’s not going to help you, is it! The North Haven criminal courts have no time for philosophical niceties on matters of highbrow nonsense. It just seems to me it was your own folly to run your gob off - like you’ve always had a tendency to do, old chum. My top tip is never cough to anything under caution. The rote my lawyers always told me is ‘say nothing, admit nothing.’ But you waded in ineptly and blathered on and said ‘I’ and not ‘we’ when the constable asked you who had sent the texts.”
I put aside my now limp and sauce dubbed nan bread and took issue with the point.
“I was arrested for assault, you rotund rat! I was only thinking about the details of the scuffle…I didn’t realise I was saying ‘I’ when I really meant ‘we’ and thereafter it was ‘we’ every time!”
Johns puffed and piffled back at me in sour rebuke. I paused momentarily before continuing our debate around that rickety little ‘sofreh’ cloth covered table as it did slightly intrigue me when he mentioned about ‘his lawyers’ and the unspoken darker side of the man.
“Well, Leo, you gave the police woman the ‘I’ and that was your undoing. She took a fancy to it!”
“Yes, once I gave her the ‘I’ she smiled like a Cheshire cat. She had me done up like a kipper in under two hours-bar dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s-I coughed like a fool!”
“Yes, you poor stupid cougher, you did seem to give something of a premature birth to that Internet intriguer Mr Sexihunk, who you say now was your stepdaughter’s mad creation. But all in one breath, alone, in the first person singular you cried, ‘I’m Sexihunk.’ But not to let you be her martyr your loyal Lita comes cop crowing that she is the one and only, true Sexihunk!”
Who is Sexihunk? He mocks me in glorious Technicolor and in wide screen format slaps the table with his hand and asks aloud ‘who is Spartacus?’ Then he proclaims ‘I am Spartacus. No, I you are Spartacus! No she is Spartacus.’
A diligent and watchful Gilgamesh reads John’s signal to come over to our table to take an order for coffees and remove the discarded remnants of our feast.
“So, Leo, where was your solicitor while you were being a coughing fool at the police station?”
A good question he did ask. And I had to concede I had made a monumental error of judgement. Like my drunken sop of a father always warned me, ‘better say nothing and be thought a fool, than open your mouth and confirm it.’
“A wiser counsel would have had me zip up my loose tongue. But I poured out a lot of ‘we, we’ after I gave her the ‘I,’ you see? ‘I’ was taking the piss! Or was it she? Pa! I hold pee!”
“Well, Leo, like Einstein said, everything is relative and you should notice there is a difference from intelligence to intelligence: some human beings understand irony and some don't even understand what you tell them!”
I tried to tell Tel that I was allowed a phone call from my cell to the duty solicitor and I gave him the full SP and he just said ‘tell the truth!’ and have done with it. Twat! I should have sussed that being that ungodly hour he just didn’t want to rise from his bed to put in his personal appearance and do me the proper job.
“So, my dear capitulator, do you now have a serious anti-capitulating strategy at all for your trial?”
“Indeed I have, old boy. Did most of it myself-and a fine effort, too, so my brief tells me. I have a tangential line of attack ingeniously comprised of discrediting of the witnesses and meticulous studies of the complainant’s audiotape! It is all prepared for D-Day!”
“D-Day? Meaning?”
“Discreditation Day obviously! I’ve pored over the witness statements of Rebecca van Hiller, Abel Tractabull, her scum boyfriend, and that evil karaoke belly dancer, Cilla Karibdis, and they all contradict each other in their tangled web of lies! The tape discredits Abel ‘cause he says he was at Truva Park hiding in the bushes watching then when I left the park to go speak to Kooky (she was watching it all from over the road). Abel claimed he then ran out and had a chat with Becky!”
“Well, what’s the catch?” asked an enquiring squire.
“The catch, old son, is she had her tape recorder going the whole time and all you can hear on her tape is her heavy breathing and noises like smoking a cigarette while she waiting for me pop back. Then to top that there’s the voices of some kids shouting in the background, ’Becky, Becky! Prozzy! Prozzy!’” I exclaimed as I slurped on my tea.
“And the police didn’t do anything about it? Surely if there were other witnesses and they did nothing to find them… And they believed the boyfriend’s story even though they knew he was lying?”
His wrinkled brow showed his incredulity.
“Well, Tel. They knew from the tape she was also lying too, ‘cause in her statement of lies she made out I had asked her to come back to my place for an hour’s sex. Then she goes off on some cock and bull fairy tale that I’d snatched her asthma inhaler. She alleged we had an almighty scuffle over it and then I threw it! Well, none of that old twaddle is on the audiotape either!”
I scoff a complimentary chocolate left temptingly on a small china plate.
“So you’re confident then? But didn’t you write to the Crown Prosecution Service before the trial and tell them all this or something?”
Mr Johns, not to be outdone, bags one inviting chocolate of his own and stuffs it greedily into his great pouting gob.
“Absolutely! I laid out the whole case for them and they wrote back saying they weren’t bothered!”
“Holy Mary Mother of God!”
“Indeed! To top that we then had the farce after my arrest about Lita’s stolen mobile phone…but do please keep this under your hat, my old friend…I found some…er… photos on Carla’s computer in a hidden folder under Lita’s screen name-looks like she or Rebecca took a few compromising snaps using the mini camera in the phone…You know what kids are like to day-horseplay and stuff.”
His eyes flickered appraisingly over me.
“Are you sure there wasn’t some shady shenanigans of your own doing there Leo? I think know you better than you let on. I bet you had a squeeze of that ripe little lemon, too-though-don’t say you didn’t! Peal, I’d hope!”
He guffawed and spluttered in amused apoplexy.
“He? Load pipe. Is that it? Give it up, Mr Judas! One man’s cuddle is another man’s grope and don’t you start on that one….if it were a lad getting a hug from his stepmother not another word would be said, so try cutting me some of that politically correct equality slack if you can spare the reasonableness of it.”
He drains the dregs of his coffee cup to help clear his throat and catch his breath.
“So…you had told me something before on the phone about…that you got the cops lined up for a few other things too, if my memory serves me.””Yup…I’m thinking of suing them all afterwards for gross negligence or something.”
He chuckles weakly at my preposterous proposition and slowly shakes a weary head at me. I failed abjectly to convince him of my post-trial strategy and I let it ride. I drain what is left of my own cup and go to pay the bill.
“Well, good luck with the trial my friend. Don’t put the cart before the horse and all that. It does sound like they really are taking the mickey!”
I get another of Johns’ consoling pats on my shoulder as we head out for the door and into the icy winter air of the street. I clasp the heavy hand offered to me in salutation and I bade my buddy farewell. I had a lot on my mind to consider yet. He had left me feeling uneasy. There were still loose ends to tie up.
I had homework to be getting on with. Brigid Kearney had set for me my final tasks before the trial. I needed to photograph the play area of Truva Park in good detail. With the aid of some clear photographic evidence we would ask pointed questions as to his whereabouts and position during the incident. Physical proof would pulverise the prosecutor’s pitiful pawn.
The stark nakedness of winter branches unclothed by foliage was as evident in mid March as it was on these brutally cold last days of February.
I intended to show the court in irrefutable full colour photographic detail that there was no canopy of cover in the bushes for Tractabull to hide behind.
No convenient hole for him to bury his heinous hide; no easy perch from which he could scuttle out to speak with his mentally ill viral nag when I had left her alone for those two minutes.
I must make a call - quick, I thought. I need to get hold of Charlotte. Now. While I think of it! I hurried to my car parked across the street on the ‘no parking’ zone in front of the funeral directors. I called her from my mobile as I sat in my car demisting the windscreen. Perfect! I got an immediate answer. Charlotte was at home - her day off. Her faltering voice betrayed hurt I had inflicted on her shattered heart. I told her I would be there shortly.
The atmosphere was tense as soon I got to Wallow Walk. Her son and daughter had not long got home from school and were clucking around their mother’s heels for attention. But Charlotte shouted and shooed her brood out of the kitchen as I sought to speak earnestly with her.
Our conversation was strained.
I felt the tension and I trod gently not to stamp on her heart any more than necessary. I had for the past couple of days been boxing up a few of my things ready to move back to Eccles Drive.
I hadn’t the money to hire a van to ship everything out in one foul swoop so I sweet-talked my honey into letting me leave a dozen or so boxes as well as leaving a few other assorted bagged bundles in her study.
Then I saw in her reddened eyes the rawness of her hurt. My poor Friday girl still wanted every day to be ours and she grabbed at my hand and pulled me to her sorrowful face in a silent plea. But to my miserable Maybe Mayes I pleaded back my own desperation and fear of imprisonment. It drove me to these desperate acts, I told her. I had to shake her out of her love funk.
“Please forgive me,” I said as I kissed her softly on her cheek.
As opportune and cold as it sounded I had self-preservation on my mind but women have a tendency to let their hero fall on his sword in great acts of sacrifice to the god of romantic love. Well, no eager Eros or cunning Cupid is going to save me from the slammer - it’s every man for himself right now. I kissed her again and softly on her forehead and sent her off to salvage from her garage some more of the remover’s boxers we had used to move into our love nest at Wallow Walk only last summer.
I was packing up some papers in her study when my eye caught sight of the fancy new digital camera old man Mayes had bought his doleful daughter for Christmas. I turned on a little charm when she came back in and comforted Friday Girl a tad so as she would not feel so down.
I told her it would do her good if she came out and with me and be my photographer at Truva Park before the daylight dimmed. Chin up, old girl. Let’s be positive, life isn’t all back and white. I could still picture us as the perfect couple again in the future, I told her. I just needed those American lemons to sour the prosecutor’s plans. If they could get me out of this squeeze then Mayes and me could get fruity once more.
We zoomed off in the Benz to the scene of the crime and entered the Truva Park past the trees and bushes on the corner of the road junction with Odyssey Road. I pointed to the naked branches all about.
“You see, darling? Just like I said. No leaves anywhere-all along here there are just deciduous trees-exactly as it must have been last March the Twelfth!”
So much for Tractabull hiding in bushes, I sneer. Wash your mouth out, you fraudster- you laving liar. With Charlotte’s willing hands we got all the shots I needed. That cold night air fell upon us unexpectedly fast and a chill wind put a shiver into Charlotte’s frail limbs. Her eyes were moist. Those tears I put there harshly and she bore them bravely. ‘Wish me luck,’ I begged as I dropped her off. I was callous and calculating. I used her love.
I met Ashkenazi, my barrister, the Monday before my trail in a hurriedly arranged meeting at Brigid Kearney’s office. It was astonishing how much about my case he had absorbed in such a short time. I wasn’t expecting someone so young. Bald too. Bald as a billiard ball. But ‘sharp as a tack,’ as Carla said. I had to take her with me. She had arrived on the JFK to Heathrow flight on the Saturday but was bright as a button to meet Mr Billiard Ball or Ashkenazi Schaffernacker to be more precise.
“Please just call me Ash, no one calls me Ashkenazi-its an old family name.”
“Ashkenazi Shaffernacker? Is that a Jewish name? New York Jews often make the best attorneys! You ever been to New York, Mr Shaffernacker?”
No. He hadn’t and my wife’s bluntness and ethnic comment just increased my evident discomfort. After a run through on the evidence and some basic coaching on how he wanted us to give our evidence Ash asked Kooky to wait outside for a brief moment.
“I would recommend that we keep your wife off the stand if at all possible, Leo. How shall I put this? I think her frankness of thought and expression may be problematic to you.”

45
THURSDAY 26TH FEBRUARY 2004: THE TRIAL
Crown Versus Leonard Odysseus Bloom
At: North Haven Magistrates’ Court
Before: Tobias Mahony
For the defence: Ashkenazi Shaffernacker
For the prosecution: Nigel McNutt
“Leonard Bloom, you are firstly charged on three counts. These are specimen offences under the Telecommunications Act (2003) whereby you transmitted obscene and harassing messages by wireless telephony between the dates of February 14th 2003 and March 12th 2003 with the intention to cause distress to one, Miss Rebecca van Hiller, how do you plead, guilty or not guilty?”
My throat was sore. For three days I had felt an infection coming on. I was run down and tired but this was not the time to give in to it.
“Not guilty!”
“You are further charged that on the evening of Wednesday March 12th 2003 on or around 6pm at Truva Park, North Haven, you did assault and batter Miss Rebecca van Hiller. How do you plead?”
“Not guilty.”
Slightly phlegmy need to keep clearing throat. I pled a hope. She rises before her audience. Rebecca van Hiller (juvenile sworn). I am seventeen years old. In February 2003 I was sixteen years old. I grew up in New Haven and lived with my parents.
I left home soon after I turned sixteen and stayed with Lita Limoncello and her mum, Carla. They are related to the defendant; step dad and wife. This was the twenty-ninth of April 2002 when I lived with them. The defendant came to visit almost every day to the Limoncello address.
I left that house on the nineteenth of January 2003 and went and stayed with Cilla Karibdis until September 2003.
I had a mobile phone on which I received text messages. Generally from friends and usually funny ones. Sometimes I got small photos, too. Yes, I got regular messages from them and one particular ex boyfriend. Yes, that was more than all other text messages I ever got. No, maybe I got them two or three times daily. Yes, I found them offensive in nature. Yes, I recognise the list of texts. They are the same ones as given to me by the defendant when we met.
He said nothing about anyone else sending them. No, he didn’t say he sent them. No, I never gave my phone number out freely: only a few friends, of course and family. Yes, I found the messages offensive. I did not like them. No, I never arranged to meet anyone for paid sex. I ignored them. Ok, yes I answered them. Yes, but I got scared then and afterwards. I was scared even when I talked to Cilla. Cilla said to ignore them. Messages never stopped until I went to the police.
Yes, I did agree to get meet the anonymous individual and if I met them then I would know who it was. I always suspected him. Yes. Leo Bloom. Cilla suspected him. Abel agreed. Yes, my indication was the personal details he knew. Only he knew about that. Yes, it was a hidden scar. No one knew about that scar but him. Yes, one of the texts he said it-he said he saw it once long ago. A scar on my lower left side just above my hip.
Yes, I told Cilla of this. I decided to meet him and go with Abel with me. Yes, I also took that tape recorder. Yes, that’s right. I suspected it was him-the defendant. No, I hid the recorder in my bag to record the meeting. Yes, I gave the tape of meeting to the police. Yes, the tape is of the meeting in the park. Yes, those voices on the tape are the defendants and mine.
[Tape is played, transcript of recording given to bench]
As the tape is played I study her but with fresh eyes. I see her again as if she were my delectable fruit. No green bananas there. Nature’s done her work. All things grow with variance and peculiarity. Like Darwin postulated: survival of the fittest. The horticulturalists strive for the best growth in the best conditions.
Optimum yields when you tender the crop and nurture the most favourable genes. I reflected back on what Professor Hare had to say on psychopaths. They thrive by predatory instinct, too. Criminal but cunning to avoid prison with chameleon charm with the abilities to cut a swathe through society with a scythe of evil leaving a wake of ruined lives.
Hare said it 'emotion for the psychopath is like a second language,' one she struggles to speak and never masters - deep down.
Yes, absolutely sure. Those are our voices-the defendants and mine. I felt scared of what he would do, (he wrote to my doctor and my school).
He threatened me and he said he would write to everyone. Yes, I felt he did get aggressive. My instinct was to run away. Too scared to move. I was petrified. The defendant’s mood was getting angrier and angrier. I was trying to move away from him but he grabbed my arm. No, he was not invited or permitted or welcome by me to do so. He would ‘fuck me up’ over and over he said. Yes, he did say he wanted to talk and walk home. No, I was scared. He was getting violent. No, I did want to run and go.
But I was getting evidence. He snapped his fingers. Yes, he said there were eight people who would fuck up my life. Yes, I got more nervous. I wanted to get away from him. Yes, he mentioned Lita. I did not want to talk about her. Said all he wanted was an hour alone with me. He said Cilla hid behind the curtains to spy on him.
He grabbed my inhaler, had it over his head. After tape ended we left. No! Before then I hit his arm to bring it down. No, the heavy breathing is mine. Started to come back home. No, I did not permit him as we walked to kick me in my leg. And bruises swelling and not invited or permitted at any time to strike me.
No, no, no! I never attacked him. We went home to Cilla’s. Yes, I was crying continuously. No, I do not know why its not heard on the tape. Yes, straight inside and locked the door. Lots of pain, yes, my leg was dead. Soon after, yes, Cilla called police. Yes, right away I told Cilla everything. No, I did not send him any more text messages. Yes, that is my telephone number. Yes, there was physical contact. I had dropped my inhaler. No, I didn’t ask him. I told him to go away. Like I said, the defendant picked it up and held it over his head. Yes, that did happen. I then slapped him in the face. I was angry. I tried to get it back.
Then the defendant slapped me. He held my inhaler in his right hand and then with his left hand. As he walked out he kicked me. No, the inhaler he kicked after. I don’t know where-at some place in the park. I think it was near the enclosure by the gate. No, I can’t remember how long. In time you mean? No, don’t know! No, I did not have a stopwatch! How could I?
The defendant had left the inhaler there. Yes, the day after. The next day Cilla and me went back and found it. I had walked ahead and he continued to kick me to my side.
Yes, as we walked. No, I tried to walk ahead but he returned with me. Yes, that is the whole truth!
All through I sat and wrung my hands from time to time. I would catch myself showing weakness. Letting out some little slip of emotion: a mock laugh at an absurd question or answer, a punch to the air when the whacked out wench warbled a woeful untruth. I constrained the aching bursting anger pulsing my veins as best I could and for contemplation I imagine myself reposed as Rodin’s ‘Dante.’ I had to constrain myself. I had already been warned for contempt once for my outbursts.
As her long interrogation continued I looked her more pityingly than with anger. I began to mourn what she once was what she might have been- my sweet little bean, my variant vanilla girl. It pained me to watch her go through that ordeal as much as it also pained my aching arse. Mucus at back of my throat irritated me ever so. I coughed. A withering look fell upon me once more from the bench. Not good. These court chairs were the pits-all bony and hard.
I was then at such pains to look sombre, calm and composed. But all the while my head was numbingly heavy and uncomfortable. I scribbled a poem for her in my diary. Just to take me away from here if only momentarily. To be free of this torture.
Sweet my love is you to me
Ever in my soul with glee
X-rays of my heart do show
Indelible is your name and so
Hell shall take my soul from thee
Untold pain but n’er do flee
Now is tolled your time to show
Kill me never with thine bow
‘No! No! I already said!’ the witness on the stand exclaimed loudly. A harsh reality tears me back to the drone of the court of inquisition and still her voice penetrates and pummels my brain but a clear frailty to her stumbling answers now.
“He kicked me over and over!” she says. ”He walked beside me and kicked me hard to my left thigh. All the way home he hit me! He used force-kicking me-over and over. Kicked so hard to my left thigh.”
“Yes,” she said. It was in her witness statement to the police made later that day (shown to victim). “Yes, it was the seventeenth of March,” she agrees. Yes, she saw the policewoman on the twelfth, too and returned to speak to her the following week.
I raised my eyes to them and tried to shake the fog of influenza from my wretched brain.
Defence Barrister: “Miss van Hiller the officer’s statement shows you made reference to slaps not kicks while walking home. This is at variance with the evidence you are giving today.”
Complainant: “He slapped me yes, he still slapped me with a hand. Don’t know why I didn’t mention it. It should be in the statement. But I am telling the truth today. Kicking me and slaps, too!”
Defence Barrister: “From the statement of events you gave to the officer on March 17th 2003 there is a clear difference from what we are hearing today, Miss van Hiller. Do you not accept that?”
Complainant: “I’m telling you he kicked me to my thigh as I walked away and he slapped me, too.”
Defence Barrister: “And you want the court to believe your story that along a busy residential street Mr Bloom was walking beside you and alternately taking kicks and slaps at you in full public view? Is that really what you want this court to believe? Is that your story?”
Complainant: “It’s not a story! It’s true! I showed the police my injuries. I showed them my thigh.”
A torrent of tears explodes down her face. The court usher ushers forth with a box of paper tissues to stem the tide. Her tortured face grew red and twisted and green globs had to be wiped from her trembling top lip.
I saw her hair and it now seemed matted and unkempt. Her staged composure was slipping badly as were the tousled black locks that covered her errant bad eye. She was the sad Cyclops of this farce, she was sadder than Cyclops; she had Cilla Karibdis as her offstage director.
I dared to look to the back of the court and saw Karibdis looking on enraged, her purple face puffed in contempt for the barracking my barrister was giving her mumbling, stuttering minion.
Defence Barrister: “Yes, Miss van Hiller we get the picture. A hail of blows to your face and leg rained down upon you from a man twice your size inflicted upon you for what you allege was the entire journey back from Truva Park to your front door some five or six minutes’ walk away.”
[Plan of park produced]
If this frail, browbeaten maiden were a black and white cinematic transposition from the silent screen she would, at her grand entrance, be up for the Oscar. But as her performance plays out she trips and falls over her words more and more like a novice.
A nervy eye-swabbing van Hiller now identifies the areas on the diagram where she alleges the assault occurred. She points with an efficacious forefinger while she dextrously clutches a snotty rag in her penitent palm thereafter affecting only to look the part and never sounding it.
Her insanity drives her on and in the faces about me I sense a growing incredulity. Surely barmy Becky’s cuckoo claims are fooling no one now.
My throat still sore and stinging, I guess she looked as uncomfortable as I felt. Her eyes seem to assume a glazed, almost lost look. In what I took as a desperate plea for help the unzipped zealot scanned about the court during a momentary pause in her grilling searching somewhere, anywhere for a friendly face. But this vast chamber was filled only with the cold stares of a quizzical and incredulous audience.
“No more questions of this witness,” comes the cry from Shaffernacker and my dolorous Dolores dolefully descended from the dragon’s den.
I began wistfully to muse upon on the loss of my girl next door and I watch.
As I glanced at her in repose sat amongst her henchman huddled in the corner gallery she shot me a cold and withering look that betrayed the protective arm wrapped around her shoulder. She wore her camouflage well that one. The psychopath. It all fitted her purpose. Glib when it suited or friendly and easy-going, then in an instant switched back to her stock in trade performance as the hapless victim. She was truly devoid of the petty anxieties that trouble most of us. No conscience. Her wooden tops had all been danced around to the merry tune of a masterful puppeteer.
Such a sad waste. A clamour of coughs, a fulmination of chatter and abruptly it all stops.
A brief recess is called. All about me screeching chairs and heavy footsteps on wooden floors break the sombre air that had grown heavy and wearing for the past two hours. I hear a laugh then someone splutters a ‘sorry.’ With a swish of his black cape my able sidekick Shaffernacker turns to me with eyebrows raised.
“How are we doing?” I gingerly enquire of him. A ‘fine-mostly’ he speaks in a foul breath of garlic. I climb uncomfortably from my perch and strode purposefully beside my crafty counsel past the departing throng then shuffling Shaffers put a cautioning forefinger to his lips whispering a while that he will elucidate further on some points once we reach the secure confines of the briefing room.
Once in the quieter confines of our war room I pull up a chair at the desk and an aristocratic Ashkenazi begins to evaluate his morning’s work in his plum tonal affectation.
“As you saw, Mr Bloom, counsel for the Crown has endeavoured to paint Miss van Hiller as the pawn in your world of sexual obsession. It went less well for him once she turned on those ridiculous crocodile tears. I’m sure everyone saw through that little gambit, courts are wiser to that little game these days.”
I nodded and smiled approvingly and thought it the opportune time to throw open my briefcase and pull out some papers I wanted my counsel to see.
I placed them neatly before him on the desk. He seemed rather pleased with my transcript of the audiotape and confessed it should cause a few fireworks once he got me on the stand.
“We’ll blast the balls off them once the court hears the tape again and compares this version with that fictional guff McNutt tried to pull off earlier!”
I guess I must have looked rather the swaggering peacock in my puffed up suited kind of way as Ashkenazi bore down on me with a withering frown.
Looking like a sham ham of Batman my counsel deftly waved out his wizard’s black sleeves and purposefully straightened his caped crusader’s garb then clipped my wings.
“It’s the text messages charges that are really uppermost in my mind, Mr Bloom. This new Telecommunications offence is not the easiest nut to crack in your case.”
He pulls some papers from his files and reels off some facts. According to estimates, 500 million text messages per month are sent on UK mobile phones and many will, by the laws of averages, fall foul of this new statute. He warned me the prosecutor planned to make a monumental play over the texts. It now hurts to swallow.
“Electronic sexual harassment is now ‘a significant and growing new issue’ in this modern electronic age and more and more trials like this will prove people, all too often, have a habit of sending off text messages and emails without a fig of a thought as to the consequences. You just can’t use the public telephone network for that kind of thing!”
My black wizard went on to tell me in some great detail that the law has striven to catch up with technology and now any offensive text message or email can be considered part of an environment that constituted unlawful sexual harassment.
“It’s certainly a new challenge for me, Leo, but I’m sure there will be plenty more to come in the future. Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it and the courts will see a steady stream of cases like yours.”
I heeded his words but felt confident my jolly foul-breathed barrister was ready for that fat-fingered prosecutor, Mr McNutt.
“I anticipate that this afternoon the prosecution will argue that you sent sexually explicit text messages knowingly and with the express intention of causing offence to this schoolgirl. He will tell to the court that these messages were grossly obscene and you sought to corrupt van Hiller for your own personal private sexual pleasures.”
Bathed in the sickly fluorescing lights his baldhead shone a yellow so vivid it was like a lemon and a sour sounding one at that.
“Leo, I must advise you in no uncertain terms that if you are found guilty of the text offences you cannot expect any mercy from the court. On the basis that you pleaded not guilty and have fought the matter every step of the way against such a young victim, to boot. With such a new criminal statute as this you should expect them to throw the book at you if convicted. I would expect them to make an example of you."
Those words shook me. My throat was now worse and the pain settled on the left side. I was unavoidably reminded that he was, invariably, accurate in his legal assessments. My mouth went even drier. I felt light-headed and needed a drink fast. It was suddenly very claustrophobic. Then I felt that sickening, insipid yellow light gnawing at me.
Shaffernacker shuffled his own pile of papers and handed me some documents and said I should consider these facts. I began to read.
In 2002 the advertising watchdog reprimanded a company for sending an offensive text message calling for consumers to upgrade their mobile phone. Phonetastic UK, a company based in Newport, Gwent, sent a text message to customers that stated: "You are a dick and I am going to kick your head in ya big useless donkey. UPGRADE UR MOB 0800 0859362."
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received one complaint about it and ruled that the message was "likely to cause serious or widespread offence to recipients" and thereupon cautioned the company that a repeat of the offence would, in the future, incur legal proceedings.
From my barrister’s hand-written notes I gleaned that the genealogy of this particular law may be traced back to section 10(2)(a) of the Post Office (Amendment) Act 1935, which made it an offence to send any message by telephone which is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character. It was again reproduced in section 78 of the Post Office Act 1969, save that "by means of a public telecommunication service" was substituted for "by telephone" and "any message" was changed to "a message or other matter. “
Section 78 was elaborated but substantially repeated in section 49(1)(a) of the British Telecommunications Act 1981 and was re-enacted (save for the substitution of "system" for "service") in section 43(1)(a) of the Telecommunications Act 1984. Section 43(1)(a) was in the same terms as section 127(1)(a) of the 2003 Act, save that it referred to "a public telecommunication system" and not (as in section 127(1)(a)) to a "public electronic communications network." Sections 11(1)(b) of the Post Office Act 1953 and 85(3) of the Postal Services Act 2000 made it an offence to send certain proscribed articles by post.’
On and on went the legalese and it made my head spin even more. Never archaic bell. All gobbledegook. Enough of this! Please! I wanted air, to feel some fresh air, a breeze, a fresh smell, anything but that garlic breath and this odorous little Calcutta hole of a room.
“Are you alright, Mr Bloom, you look very pale.”
I was nauseous and needed to get out of that place. No, I don’t feel all right. Without further ado he scrambled up his papers from the desk and breathed on me his final words, ‘ok then…refreshment break!’ Cautioning me to be back by one he scurried off to raid the coffee machine. No doubt to top up his halitosis.
I took myself off out into the grey and insipid winter daylight. A whiff of dead fish pervaded the chilled North Haven air but it blew in as a welcome change from the stuffiness behind me. I was struggling. I was still sore, some catarrh, left sided. It hurt to swallow. Before I had time to further clear my head the usher recalled the sitting.
We entered in to the courtroom once more in funereal fashion past uncomplaining stout columns of chalk coloured marble standing as monuments to pettiness and proscription. We were back in those awful hard seats again sitting in prostatic discomfort. Everyone took his or her place as before. Rebecca would barely look my way except to cast a glacial stare of frosted ice. Frozen vanilla turned her head resolutely towards the prosecutor. She seemed more intent on acting out her pathetic drama to him than anyone.
I told myself it was the psychopathic tendency that possessed her. She was always out to sway that particular whomsoever she had chosen. McNutt had usurped my place as the willing and impressionable male to dance to her hypnotic tune. I was utterly resigned to the fact she had forever forsaken poor old, tall, dark, handsome, enigmatic Leo and was now eyeing short, fat, oily, pompous, self-important McNutt as her new benefactor.
But that vanilla presence continually sucked my eyes back to her. I mused upon her then as Joyce’s ‘streetwalker glazed and haggard…palpably reconnoitring on her own with the object of bringing more grist to her mill.’ Fear not them that sell the body but have not power to buy the soul. She is a bad merchant, this one. She buys dear and sells cheap.
The nobler man inside of me had long ago determined I was never going to stoop to pound, seed, or refine in that particular mill. Other men’s seeds she had no doubt taken in her mercenary fashion.
Now that malignant little miller Abel Tractabull took the stand and was duly sworn in. I felt sure once my trial was done and dusted that screwed up nut would quickly dispense with Tractabull and be off with the next poor fool to grate and granulate.
The performance continued. The latest ham actor trotted out his rehearsed lines. The audience sat enrapt. Tractabull sought to corroborate van Hiller’s evidence and so on, and so on, nonsense without end. He was poor fare indeed. On and on it ground out. McNutt said I was ‘grossly offensive’. Throat still sore, both sides, dry and stinging.
I laughed inwardly and contemplated my first grand inquisition in police custody now over a year past. I lifted up my gaze once more. I turned to the bench. Their grey faces as stern as in mourning as if we were all here to bury someone.
I want to be absolved of my hideous sins, oh, Father. I was a good Catholic - pope hailed - always at morning prayers - the matins. I long observed, talking of body and soul. A holy vigil service I rendered. Let me believe in the soul and give me perfect absolution and preserve my intelligence, the brainpower as such, as distinct from any outside object, the table, let us say, that cup. I believe in the convolutions of the grey matter. Don’t let me be the sacrificial lamb. Spare these stiff, cold fingers clasped at my lap as I feel the stabbing eyes upon me. We go as sacrificial Irish lamb to the flames. Just ask the Birmingham six and Guildford Four. Do you remember the Balcombe Street trial? What pitiful justice once more for a green Irishman.
“Did you pick up on that?“
The odorous breathing one fixed me in a hunter’s stare as I scrambled my senses to come back to him and this infernal court.
“Bloom! Did you see the faces…on the bench…less tense…good sign.”
He pulls me to my feet and I see I must stand. Protocol. We have been adjourned for lunch. He puts his black-clothed arm round my shoulder and whispers the greatest secret as we walk back to our private chamber to ruminate upon the yellow bile.
“The mood has shifted…did you not sense it?”
Feeling not sensing was all I was about just then. His sweaty, furrowed brow and ghastly breath was all I sensed. I straightened my tie and buttoned my suit jacket and we shuffled away beside past the throng and once more retreated into the vacant meeting room adjoining the court.
A constricting feeling seized my throat as we decamped again in that oppressive little windowless cupboard. But my flapping friend was a blackbird chewing on a worm. Shaffernacker fidgeted and shuffled yet another stack of papers across the desk. Shaffernacker was slick and smooth still wanting to impress his cephalalgic schlemiel with the breath and breadth of his knowledge. He spoke with refined but tepid tones.
The smoothly shaved man of the bald pate I deigned to metamorphose in my imagination into a culinary connivance, a Carla concoction to typify his persona. Ashkenazi might be a fine pâté de fois gras accompanied by a crisp Chenin Blanc manner, or perhaps a sublime Salmon terrine, with a cream and herb sauce for his subtle refinement. Lots of garlic though and too much for my tastes.
I tried to be attentive despite a numbing headache and the tickly feeling at back of throat then extended to left ear. Sinuses. Most able Ash advised me that since our last recess one of his underlings had faxed through a synopsis of a benchmark case that may have impact here on these proceedings. It was the finer points of a case concerning a Mr Leslie Collins from North West Leicestershire who had allegedly made a number of calls to the offices of his MP, Lee Taylor, and left racially offensive telephone messages.
“Mr Bloom, as I tried to explain to you earlier this morning it has been a criminal offence since 2003 to send or cause to send any message that is ‘grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or of a menacing character’ by means any mobile phone or Internet service. So far, the courts have not been asked to consider messages sent using such media. Your case which involves Internet transmitted text messages is unique as it’s the first I know of under the new amendment to the Telecoms law.”
Wow! I was a trailblazer was I? Yippee! How wonderful? Here I am breaking new ground. Oh, how my family will be proud! Maybe I should feel honoured or something. I really didn’t much care for my new notoriety one tiny jot.
Not be interrupted Shaffernacker jabbered on.
“It is clear from Lord Bingham's judgment in that case that the aim of the particular offence is to prevent a service provided and funded by the public, for the benefit of the public, from being misused in a way that contravenes certain basic standards.”
Basic standards? What does that mean? And I didn’t send any offensive or obscene messages I tried to tell him. But he insisted I had already made an admission under police caution a year ago and that was that.
“Do try to follow my point, Leo. It’s not necessary for the recipient to be personally offended by the message.”
He pointed to his papers in emphasis of his points.”The court will firstly decide whether it was you who had sent the messages and if they think that it was probable that you did then they will then consider whether you used terms that were offensive to your alleged victim.”Slight tickle right at the back of my throat. I think my eyes must have begun to glaze but Ashkenazi Shaffernacker tried to clarify this.
He took my arm and guided me to my chair.
“Look, Leo, its my view that you will be convicted on the text message charges unless Lita gives her personal confession to this court. I’ve had a word with the prosecutor and the beak and it’s a done deal now- if she doesn’t show up then the court won’t admit her written confession. Her Section Nine isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. You’re done basically!”
I again nodded. Sharp pain in neck at front left side.
“I’m afraid what the Leslie Collins case proves is that my Plan B just isn’t going to fly.”
I asked him why he had never mentioned a ‘Plan B’ when we had our meeting last Monday at Brigid Kearney’s office. I was getting a trifle flustered at this development so late in the day.
“Well, Leo, I had allowed for the possibility that your stepdaughter may not be able to make the trip from New York to be here for your trial. Therefore I had sketched out a rudimentary argument whereby Miss van Hiller in no way indicated in her own text replies to yours that she was in any way offended or distressed by them. But, sadly, the Collins ruling has me scuppered on that I’m afraid to say.’
I asked my barrister to explain why.
“Well, Leo, take, for example, those now common sex chat hot lines. You know the ones…”
I nodded trying to look as intelligent and attentive as possible.
“…the ones where self-indulgent men and women on premium rate phone calls use ripe words and suggestive language very much like this present case. Well, plainly under the old 1988 form of the Telecoms Act there would be no offence, and if a conversation took place in the street between you and van Hiller…well…hardly a ripple…it would be laughed out of court...But now…now under this new section… 127(1)(a)…The change in the law says that because the speaker or sender ‘knows’ he or she is using grossly offensive terms, as deemed by general public opinion, then they are committing an offence if they communicate in such terms using the Internet and by text message.”
I confessed that I had never realised before that a private telephone conversation or text message correspondence in any shape or form, if used in wholly private communication, could amount to a criminal offence.
I kind have guessed, I knew intuitively, that if it was done repeatedly and offensively to upset the receiver that would probably amount to harassment but this was much more, much worse, more insidious. It was thought police gone mad and taking over the airwaves.
Shaffernacker was at pains to point out that the new law is less about harassment and more about punishing people for using the public telephone network in an obscene or offensive manner: as Lord Bingham had put it in the House of Lords, ‘to prohibit the use of a service provided and funded by the public for the benefit of the public for the transmission of communications which contravene the basic standards of our society.’
We just can’t have people speaking to each other rudely! Shaffernacker scratched at his chin, “In fact, to be frank, I can see considerable chaos with this new amendment to the law. The sexchat phone line industry could be shut down at a stroke if the letter of the law was applied. Quite clearly by the new definitions almost all such calls must involve the sending and receiving of indecent or obscene messages proscribed by section 127(1)(a)…I’m at an utter loss as to where this will all lead.”
This was absurd. The law is an ass. I was less concerned about Britain’s invaluable sex industry and more about my own neck.
“Jesus Ash! So where does that leave me?” I asked.
“Well, as you must realise this is a point I am preparing to put forcefully in my closing speech to impress upon the court. They would be opening a can of worms to convict if they find that you did, in fact, send the texts for which you are charged but that Miss van Hiller was not distressed or offended by them and acquiesced for the purposes of taken money for sex. You see there is both an issue of enforcement and scapegoating.“
Shaffers shook his head ruefully. The black-robed magician was going to have to pull some legal rabbits from of his hat. The finer points of the criminal law remained very much alien to me. My neck felt stiff. The sour atmosphere of this confined windowless room was stifling.
“I feel sick-I need some air, excuse me a minute!”
I flung open the heavy wooden door and escaped into the bland void of the corridor. Dizziness overcame my senses and the grubby institutionalised walls, nothing but grey featureless people all about, even the stone pillars seem to swirl and fall towards me in harsh heartless fashion. It was becoming all too much for me and
I staggered out alone into the noisy pandemonium of babble as faceless spectres wafted about to and fro like errant souls haunting this foreboding dank stone-columned mire. The stifling air made foul by a glum old tramp in from the cold slumped alone on a bench. His nauseating odour hit me hard but not as hard as the message he unwittingly sent me.
About his putrefying derelict form the lonesome tramp had wrapped newspaper for some warmth. The image upon the pages zapped me from my fog when I saw my own ashen face printed large upon that crumpled rag.
The headline above my grotesquely distorted photo shouted loudly and accusatory, ‘Trial of the Lewd Teacher.’ God, please spare me this hell! Oh, I wish it were spring or summer, anything but this winter wasteland. I wish were out in the fragrant woodland, sucking in fresh air, among the trees and the birds again living that clean, wholesome life.
I remember the avocets of Havergate Island. I remember that late September day and our eyes were gifted with a crisp and clear Indian summer azure sky and salt sea air filled our lungs. To me it was, and always will be, a hallowed and special place where you can see wading birds, wildfowl and brown hares gambolling-but not for profit.
Mock me, abuse me, and take my kindness for weakness. I had thought Becky would enjoy sharing my passion for natural beauty. See the freedom they rejoice in, feel the intensity of the moment and savour with sounds, scent and soul the glory of that moment.
I tried my best to inspire her, to coach and cajole but my twitching binocular hands were soon aiming on following what I took to be the mysterious nightjar, flitting low over the heath. I pointed to it and gave her my glasses and urged her to listen for the 'churring' from its newfound song post.
That golden place had dunes and marshes that backed along the coastline and further down towards the south there exists virtually deserted pine forest and sandy heaths. All round the foxy coast the languid air did swoon and I asked my young princess the question: Isn’t this wonderful? But although she smiled bravely at my helpful pointers to the species on offer it seemed inexplicable to me that this rare beauty took no genuine pleasure in the naturally captivating beauty all around us.
It was if she was in competition for my attention. She had to impress and there was no one of her ilk to woo and preen for. None of her usual canoodling crowd, the peckers and setters of the street and the public houses-they were all back at their own synthetic turf.
They were the sub-species down the bottom of the food chain in this cycle of life. My vanilla bird had been courted by a far superior genus and she knew it but she was limited in her talents and acted from instinct. And her instincts, her subliminal needs were base and unsophisticated.
This fawning wan fledgling fop was resolutely unimpressed by our tracking of this new habitat as she displayed scant regard for my elucidation on the duneland flora.
My dilettante duchess walked on ahead of me along the dusty dirt track declaring she had no use for sea kale that is the ancestor of cabbage. She had no use for it all. None. Was I mad? Did I always have to go on and on about that stuff? ‘Stuff’, indeed. Was I always such a geek? I held my tongue. We wheeled up and gently along the winding way towards a gaggle of old aged pensioners wrapped as if foraging into Artic Tundra contrasting starkly with our own loosely clad attire. Bex cast a bemused eye over them as they brimmed broad smiles through us.
“But isn’t this much better than some smoky old pub?”
All I got was a hurrumph. Am I really so dangerous and corrupting? Is she better off in the company of career criminals or a man of letters - a tender soul, such as me, with sensibilities for aesthetic pursuits?
“Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” was her abrupt reply. It was a Bittern. “Oh,” she said unremarkably. How do you know that if you can’t see it?
The Bittern, has it’s own unique "booming" sound, don’t you know? No she didn’t know and why should I expect her to give a flying one about it and so on and on did rattle my acerbic adolescent angel snake amongst the grass.
I tried to tell her. I tried to teach her that birdcalls often confuse beginners and experienced birdwatchers alike and she could start by learning the easy ones like chiffchaff and common birds like robins and blackbirds. What’s the point? Why do you get off on all that? I remember that shrug she gave me then.
I told her she didn’t realise how lucky she was living in a region so resplendent with outstanding natural beauty. I wanted her to share with me the opportunity to see rare plants and animals some of which are only found hereabouts. This is wondrous; this is life in its purest essence.
It was quite amazing after all because we saw many butterflies that day including the Swallowtail. I even saw my first ‘Norfolk Hawker.’ God, that was such a huge dragonfly and it looked pretty damn frightening. It flew straight at us and Becky shrieked thinking it was a giant bee. But it was harmless.
I took her hand and she yielded to my comfort. That was what she really wanted from me. And we walked among those secluded places of grazing marshes, reed beds and dykes.
The incident with the Hawker kind of shook her out of herself a bit and she listened more attentively to what I said about the marsh flowers, insects and birds. Her wet brown deep languid eye pools met my yearning gaze and I told her sincerely how I had coped with my own stresses by coming here to unwind. Perhaps she, too, could find inner peace among nature, I was naive. God, I was such a sad, sad deluded dullard.
“In spring, you can watch avocets and marsh harriers or, if really lucky, hear booming bitterns. Look, down there…on the beach.”
I pointed out to her a special area that was cordoned off to protect nesting little terns.
“Why do you come out here and look at the same thing all the time?”
It’s not the same thing all the time though, I tried to tell her. In autumn and winter many wading birds and wildfowl visit the reserve. Wasn’t it gorgeous? She stood hands on wide hips looking out across the reed beds, bubble-butted Becky silhouetted herself majestically against the golden sun and I looked admiringly but I never touched.
We then descended down a footpath to a hidden promontory that gave us wonderful views over the tidal waters and mud flats. Her pigeon-toed walk was kind of cute and her unsure footing gave me an excuse to wrap an avuncular arm around her inviting shoulders. Not sexual.
Migrating birds returning from Africa are drawn to these wide-open spaces. I took her across the heath and scared her mischievously. To get my own back at her for her flightiness I warned her to look out for the adders. She only had her skimpy shorts on and bare legs! She freaked out at me and I laughed.
But hereabouts there were only tame, completely harmless silver-studded blues, the odd toothless tiger beetle and dilatory Dartford warbler. But we did have to dodge some venom. We happened to get one evil glare from the marauding male of a courting couple scooting into a sandy hollow with his own mischief in mind.
I crave to be there again right now. Free and unshackled I was then, unguided, and not judged meandering my coastal grazing marshes, reedbeds, unspoilt heathland and ancient woodland remnants. She had stopped me momentarily to read a sun-faded sign.
“Look around and see the many species of butterflies and dragonflies.”
I stroked her hair as it teased me in the breeze while she perused. As Becky leant forward her silky blouse filled up with heaving milky white cleavage. Let the dog see the rabbit, I thought. That was a perfect spot for larking lovers to be close and to be at one together. Stalking my territory I moved about her as I listened to the faltering melody of her young voice as she recited on about wildfowl, breeding marsh harriers, woodlarks, nightingales and bitterns. I was fascinated by her display behaviour and partook of that bird’s mating display.
Beauty is a wondrous thing to behold. To see the movement, the graceful swaying of her breasts, I could see my chickadee was craving some wooing and nurturing as she pecked and preened the now wind swept mop about her head.
But hunger of the heart and loins was not the only emptiness I felt. So as not to ruffle her feathers any further we stopped off on our trek at the teashop up on the ridge near the cliff’s edge where we might get a bite to eat. I pointed out where half the old village had tumbled down into the sea. Coastal erosion. She said she knew all about global warming. They did it at school.
At the teashop she perked up noticeably when her gaze was drawn to a sickly feast of garish coloured cakes. She hovered over her chosen prey ready to swoop.
“Please, can I have a chocolate orange one?”
She squawked like a ten year old and betrayed her truer passion. I listened politely as she crowed about her mother’s superb homebakes as we tottered with trays of hot teas and loaded plates of cake carrion to a rickety cane table and chairs.
As she gleefully laid out her spread across the blue checkerboard tablecloth she stuttered with messy fingers to smear her lips with rich buttercream in her vulgar but strangely delicious manner.
“Did you see those horny sods in the dunes?“ She smirked.
Yes, I did. My knowing smile met by hers. She ran her tongue along a coffee orange brown wedge teasing the creamy ooze with the tip of her tasty tongue.
“Oh, this is heaven,” she sighed.
I concurred with my scrumptious sweet sample. But there was a slice of my own creamy heaven I kept wrapped hygienically in my vacuum-packed psyche as yet unreleased.
If only I could have been her maïtre patissier and mounted my crème-filled tart as my prize in a glass case. I could savour her, sugar her and I could ravenously forage her and be satiated by vanilla vulgarity. See my leavening agent rise, feel my piping bag ooze with buttery goodness to give her my bloomful beastliest best: a coatting of confectioner's glaze.

46
“Hey, Leo, you want a sandwich and a coffee?” I was shaken from my daydreaming stupor by an accent I recognised. No appetite.
“Shaff’s just been giving me some not so good news, Hun.”
Cookie took my arm and with a wistful soft smile politely led me past a cackling throng of Karibdis’ cronies congregating en masse in those dark dank halls.
Deftly she swept us forward and on towards the heavy lacquered oak doors of the courthouse entrance ignoring tiresome scoffs and half-heard taunts. I felt the firing of scornful darts our way but pretended not to hear the chuntering of bilious contempt.
“Let the fish hags go hang- we’re always two steps ahead of them, Leo.”
My wife locked tightly onto my arm and gamely drew me past the rabble maul and out onto wintry streets. On she led me off to the tearooms down the road and steaming java and pastrami in a bap. In her pep talk luncheon my consoling, doling Carla, wore her best stoical smile yet the odd crack began to appear and I glimpsed the inner frustrations behind her resolute cover.
“I hate not seeing what’s happening…are you sure I can’t sit at the back? It’s absolutely unbearable having to wait out in the halls.”
Her face suddenly looked pained and gaunt.
“No, no…you’re a witness…to be called…maybe tomorrow or something…I…we can’t have you in there!”
Her eyes rolled in frustration and she swatted at errant crumbs sprinkled decorously across her heavy bosom. It was hard for either of us to eat heartily or think about anything other than pondering how well Harlot Hiller had primed her fellow conspirators for their shabby performances.
But at the stroke of two we resumed our vigil back at the grimness of the stale courtroom confines sitting in strained, tense silence once more. On stage were the usual main cast. The key performers dressed appropriately in their black cloaks and wigs while the galleries soon filled in anticipation of more ham performances, more amateur dramatics in my very own matinee show.
Again the jousting of adversarial words began in tortuous fashion. It tore at my tattered nerve ends as on and on my name was used and abused over and over. The same hateful eyes plunged their spears and arrows in my exposed direction. The villain dressed in black: the victim in pure vanilla white. And so we seek a monochrome of the truth of right and wrong, good or evil, dark versus light.
The stiffness in my joints worsened as the afternoon’s proceedings played on. In from the wings came Tractabull once more but this time to feel the stabbing blade of sharp cross-examination by Ashkenazi Shaffernacker. Give those Jews their due they do make good lawyers. I muffled my scoffing laugh as I remembered my wife’s tactless turn of phrase.
As I watched the styles of the opposing barristers I recognised a distinct and subtle change in play. The prosecutor’s fat, oily hands began to look clumsy. McNutt knocked over his water cup not once, but twice and dropped his pen two or three times. He stuttered and stammered more. He was less and less the self-assured assailant I had feared that morning.
My barrister preened himself and arched his back and grew inches. He maintained a softer, more self-assured voice than his rival, not confrontational at all. It surprised me how softly and slowly he posed his questions. He seemed more the attendant physician or counsellor than the interrogator.
Yet Ashkenazi Shaffernacker had got them all in knots. Abel now twisted and turned but his squirming could not conceal the lies. They could all see - he was a dupe. He was her puppy and a very dim witted one at that. Back and forth I looked and nauseous and sick for a second. I felt like I was on a swing.
Counsel probed in his soft tones, “Where were you when the Defendant allegedly accosted your girlfriend?”
A nervous and hesitant voice replied, “I was hiding behind the bushes...I was there to protect her…she was frightened…she thought he would hurt her…she asked me!”
“Tell the court what you saw regarding any alleged assault.”
“Yes…ok...I saw them talk for a minute then he started shouting at her…like he wanted to grab her…he was obsessed with her…. she pulled away from him…he then went crazy on her…punching…kicking….I saw him kick her thigh and he punched and slapped her…three was it? No four times.”
“Thank you, Mr Tractabull. That is very interesting! According to your police statement you watched all this awful savagery inflicted on your beloved girlfriend and you say you did nothing not help? Come, come Mr Tractabull can you really expect the court to believe that you were there to protect her? Please tell the court the truth and stop with this fiction right now. In what way did you protect her if you merely crouched in cowardly fashion behind a bush and simply watched her being beaten? Please explain why, when you say you saw her being beating over and over about the head and kicked in the thigh the four times, you did nothing?”
An interminable tense silence and then he answered.
“No...er…I was told…she said wait and see!”
A tense silence ensues.
“Wait and see…Wait and see? Well please tell the court Mr Tractabull what you were waiting for? Were you waiting for Mr Bloom to finish her off?
“No…I…er…I came out…I ran out to her…after…after…he left…she said…I told the police I did…when he left the park. He went for a time…I asked her if she was alright…she said…get back and hide!”
“And then you and your girlfriend decided after this severe beating from the defendant that your next move was to not leave the scene and call the police but for you to return to your bush and for her to calmly sit and wait for yet another beating on his return? Is that seriously what you expect this court to believe?”
A sullen stricken witness buries his face deep into his hands then looks up, turns to defence counsel and offers a resigned shrug of his sunken shoulders. The hunter had baited his prey and savoured the moment.
“Mr Tractabull…are you really asking us all to believe that you knew the complainant was in fear of the defendant…you were there as her protector alert to her safety and well-being....you say you watched him batter her repeatedly you then did nothing until you watched him walk away….then you run out and speak to ask after your girlfriend’s welfare despite seeing her repeatedly punched and kicked and, incredibly, Miss van Hiller tells you to go back and hide?”
No answer from the witness.
“I ask you again, Mr Tractabull, this does seem so far-fetched to me…do you really expect us to believe that you were there at all?
“Yes…yes…it’s true…I do!”
“Then can you please explain to the court why your voice is not anywhere on her tape recording?”
No answer. Genius: pure and simple. Some men by unalterable frame of their constitution are stout, others timorous, some confident, and others modest and tractable, I thought.
“Mr Tractabull…this is a very serious matter…you are under oath….this is a criminal court and a man’s freedom and reputation are on trial here. Under these circumstances I shall have to caution you that to knowingly give false evidence before this court is perjury…a crime. Are you lying to this court, Mr Tractabull?”
“No…no…I told them…the police…I went to the park to help…I saw him…he beat her…I ran out and talked!”
Silence fell upon the courtroom as the witness, this pathetic parrot of the one-eyed pirate, fell into a paroxysm of apoplexy.
“Sadly these are all lies aren’t they, Mr Tractabull. Nothing but a tissue of lies and the law takes a very dim view of witnesses who come to court in a sordid and pitiful attempt to have an innocent man convicted and face imprisonment.”
“Objection! This is now harassing the witness. Mr Tractabull has given his answer several times to the same question and he has been adamant more than once.”
Fat fingers blubbered fitfully.
“I concede to my learned friend on the point. .Mr Tractabull….you see before you a diagram of the play area at the park. Please indicate for clarity where exactly you hid.”
Shaffernacker waves his black-winged arm toward an easel in the centre of the court where there is displayed the large diagram of Truva Park that Shaffernacker had made me draw up to accompany the photographs I’d taken. Teacher’s aid. The court usher hands the witness the photos to ‘jolt’ his failing memory.”For the record…the witness is pointing to the entrance quadrant and a clump of shrubs and bushes…more clearly identified in the photos from the court bundle…is that correct, Mr Tractabull?”
“Yes…yes! I was behind the bushes!”
“So when Mr Bloom left the scene at…er…five minutes into the meeting?”
Counsels look across to each other and nod in agreement.
“....Ah....yes… testimony from the complainant and also the tape recording already played to the court is unequivocal on that…indeed, five minutes into the meeting…Mr Bloom departs the scene for two minutes and thirty seconds…at which moment you come from your hiding place and run to your girlfriend’s side.. ..in your statement you observed she was slumped in pain sat on the park slide. Is that correct?”
“Yes…I ran straight over to her to where she was sat on the slide… about from me to you was about the distance, I’d say.”
“Ah so no more than twenty feet you say? You ran straight to her…you didn’t make any detour? Go any other way?”
“No…no…straight to her.”
“So, nothing…impeded your route?”
“What?”
“I’ll rephrase…there was nothing blocking your way as you ran to her?”
“No…nothing…nothing blocked me…she was sat on the slide and I ran straight to her…I was as quick as I could ‘cause I was worried about her!”
“So worried in fact, Mr Tractabull you were totally forgetful of the three feet high metal safety fence around the play area?”
“What…er…no…what?”
“Please show the witness the photographic exhibits noted for the record as Exhibits E3, E4, E7 and 8.”
“Mr Tractabull, please tell the court what you see on those photographs between the bushes you say you hid behind and the slide where you say you ran to where the complainant was sat.”
No answer.
“Mr Tractabull....once more please…counsel for the prosecution and the complainant herself are in agreement that these are fair and accurate photographic representations. Please tell us what you see on the images between the slide in the play area and the bushes you say you hid amongst!”
“A fence…a metal fence! Ok? I forgot! I forgot about that!”
I punched the air in victory. Win, win, win! Elation overcame me.
“No further questions of this witness.”
He was done. Poor tormented Tractabull, the oafish moron had been resoundingly routed as the simpleton stooge he was - a pathetic figure and a pawn of the princess of playdom.
He shuffled despairingly away and took his sit beside her once more. A vapid vanilla was not best pleased with such a rambling recital. She pulled her hand from his as he plaintively sought solace. The princess had usurped her pliant prince.
I sat there, in awe, fascinated, spellbound. This new game had become the only reality. It was the physical manifestation of my own relations with the universe. Everything else had become remote and unreal.
Abel was clearly unable and minimally aware as if composed in some vegetative state. Turnip Tractabull’s eyes flitted about the court in autonomic reflex mode, those feeble-witted signals originating from his tiny brain stem, but not the cortex and thus not indicative of any higher mental function necessary for intelligent life.
Up came Officer Godbolt to the stand. What a sorry sight she was. She was as stiff as cardboard as all eyes bore down her now. In the public gallery every seat was taken while the lynch mob huddled as a tight pack in their darkest corner.
As Officer Godbolt was sworn in I perused once more the confederates before me. Comprised of Rebecca van Killer, Cilla Corruptiss and their cringing cronies and among them I saw for the first time and to my utter disgust and astonishment, the fat bald man now whispering in Cilla’s ear. It was none other than Charlotte’s father.
Meaty Mr Mayes had shuffled his fat butt into position during Tractabull’s tragedy. He quickly felt my gaze and returned his daggers back. I just thank god Charlotte was spared all this. No love lost here.
Soon trotting out her lines as expected under the prosecutor’s ameliorating approach, Godbolt’s monotonous monotone revealed no emotion. But when Shaffernacker’s verbal shafting came she showed her shoddy, shady shape.
Shaffernacker: “Officer Godbolt would you please explain to the court why you improperly took witness statements on two separate occasions from Miss van Hiller in the presence of prosecution witness, Karibdis?”
Godbolt: “That was an error. A mistake on my part.”
Shaffernacker: “An inexcusable error, indeed, because you would have surely known the requirements of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act about evidence corroboration amongst witnesses. Did the need to act impartially not occur to you?”
McNutt: “Objection! The officer is not on trial here.”
Shaffernacker: “May it please the court, I accept the Officer’s admission she had acted improperly. But the court should be made aware that the circumstances of the taking of statements from these two witnesses was conducted unlawfully and provided an unfair advantage to this prosecution.”
McNutt: ”On a point of fact, Ms Karibdis has not provided this court with any testimony about the incident in the park only on what she saw and heard when Miss van Hiller returned to her address. I do not see it as directly relevant to the facts pertaining to the actual charge, itself.”
Get in there, Shaffers! To thy fair flower add the rank smell of weeds. The seeds of doubt have been sown. Police corruption raises it’s pathogenic ugly head. They bend or break the rules as they see fit and their odour matcheth not their show.
Meanwhile not everyone was tending to the weeds of budding bias flowering in bloomsville. Old man Mayes, Charlotte’s grotesque father, was sat high on his the corner perch wearing his customary demeanour of self-satisfaction oblivious to my cultivating counsel’s cunning crop. Creeping Charlie was too busy enrapt in some tittle-tattle with Karibdis to hear the finer points being made. You old fool, you sad, burnt out fat old oaf, you won’t get one over on me, I thought.
That stinging nettle infestation needed spraying with herbicides to kill those cruciferous weeds. Hoe them all out, Shaff. But there was sat just one benign outcrop germinating amongst the bed of prickly thorns, or so it seemed. My eastern friend was here as he promised he would be. Gilgamesh. He nodded reassuringly and gave his thumbs up when he caught my eye.
Shaffer knackered them all and they fled in diaspora. I gloated at Ashkenazi’s victories and he now got my thumbs up. The Crown Prosecution Service had crossed swords with the wrong foe.
He was good my safecracking defence counsel - quietly efficient and to the point. I watched him and learned something of the subtleties of legal probing. The comic book princess cut to mincemeat by the black-robed kamikaze. This was his arena and he was masterful.

47
“We shall adjourn there for the day,“ thus speaketh the Judge, Tobias Mahony.
As the drama of the day now closed an ironic anger developed within me. It was not me who should have been on trial but the scum who had falsely accused me. I wanted to get into the fray. I was itching to be on the stand. Back in that sour yellow adjoining room, as Carla joined us, we held our debrief and my caped crusader gave a shuddering shock to burst my testosterone-fuelled bubble. Counsel wore tension in his hasedic face.
“It is going well, isn’t it? I asked nervously. He shrugged and waved some papers and pointed to something.
He laid into me; “You do need to realise you still have to contend with the three specimen charges for the text messages…you did promise Brigid Kearney you’d have your stepdaughter here to testify. Where is she? Time is moving on! I need to prepare her! Why in god’s name did you not tell me she was still in New York?”
I looked at him perplexed. “I thought you said you were going to call their bluff on the texts…you went on about something to do with all those sex chat lines all having to be shut down, didn’t you?”
He looked at me like I had pole axed his mother or something. Then a small trickle of blood appeared from my barrister’s nostril. I guess the strain was getting to him, too.
“My dear Mr Bloom…I thought you would have grasped the difference between a sure fire certainty and a long shot, a bluff, a calculated gamble!”
I hadn’t. Hope? I paled. It was all in the provable, I thought. Noticing his bloodletting Ash dabbed a handkerchief hand to his face.
“May I suggest we refrain from dabbling with possibilities and instead focus our efforts on probabilities? Deliver to me your stepdaughter then I will have no need to employ a tenuous argument over ifs and buts with speculative legal ramifications!”
”Er…ok…I guess…you’re telling me a ‘bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’ well…ok.”
I look to my wife and plead for her salvation once more.
“Cookie….can you get Lita here and have her up for the fight?”
My wife shot daggers back.
“Look…I told you already, Leo! Lita’s six months pregnant and New York is having a snowstorm; all roads from Ithaca have been hit. God knows what you want me to do! I’ve already phoned home and the news is the rural highways are still being plowed. But if Lita can get to Newark or JFK in the next two hours she’ll be ok as all Vista Atlantic flights to London are reported clear.”
My barrister looks at Kooky quizzically. “Are you up for testifying tomorrow Mrs Bloom? This has been a traumatic time for you all…you especially…I can see…please be frank.”
Globs of tears suddenly fill her sunken eyes as her bottom lip trembles in sympathy. Shaffernacker doesn’t need words to know the answer.
“Well….I’ll leave you both to discuss it….here’s my mobile phone number. Text or call me the instant you know for certain who we have up to testify tomorrow. I really do need to know, chaps.”
As the winged one exited the conference room I shuffle out quickly to intercept placing my sly hand to shield the words from my distraught wife.
“Er…just quickly…Mr Shaffernacker. I think I can get Charlotte Mayes on standby if you think it’s advisable”
He prods his fountain pen into my shoulder as if I were a mischievous schoolboy and he my wagging schoolmaster.
“But your best witness is Lita, Mr Bloom. You know this.... an absolute stone-cold confession trumps whatever alibi Ms Mayes might offer…you do appreciate this? Tempus fugit, Mr Bloom, Tempus fugit!”
I bob my bloom-banging head not knowing what the hell he meant and he strides away purposefully. Tempers fidget, to you, too!
I think I grasped what he meant. My end game was fraught with consequences of terrible importance to those connected with me as well as myself. I had 'castled' my king and then sacrificed my queen in a daring gambit, like Retzsch depicted Satan playing at chess with man for his soul. Those Trojan foot soldiers must be outwitted. I had foolishly forsaken Charlotte. I was deluding myself if I thought Maybe Mayes would have the gumption and resolve to come here and back me up bare-faced, especially after she had been ‘kicked her to the kerb,’ as Kooky would say. But would I still yet need them both?
My barrister was unequivocal and my only sane strategy is the defence my wife and stepdaughter can give me. Neither of my lemon ladies will countenance my ‘girl Friday’ showing her feuding face here. No, not a bit of it - they’d shoot me down in flames. Especially with the gathering press outside looking for their Sunday paper gossip scandals.
I ran after my departing barrister weighed down with cases and papers and waylaid him just as he fumbled with the heavy oak courtroom door. I spluttered out my hopeful enquiry to Ashkenazi.
“Do you think if this all does go my way and I’m acquitted….do you think….do you think I could push to have charges brought against my accusers for perjury or have a civil claim?”
He looked at me again with that air of disgust or astonishment. It was hard to fathom which it was. A file of papers fell from a precarious pile and I scooped it up from the stone floor.
“Mr Bloom, I can assure you there will be no question in the minds of the court that Tractabull lied but as to charges…or civil remedies? Well, I’m thinking it’s getting the ‘cart’ and the ‘horse’ the wrong way about!”
Ahead of the game again as usual, Bloom boy, put money-grabbing ideas out of your tiny mind for now.
“Right…right…I know what you’re going to say; focus on getting Lita here…er… she’ll be here in time. Trust me.”
I nodded as much to convince myself as my brief. As I stood at the doors I seemed to have momentarily lost my dilatory wife in the gladiatorial arena. But then a tap on the shoulder made me spin on my heels. It was Gilgamesh.
“Peace to you my friend. Chin up. Why look so glum?” he enquired.
I bade him hello and he gave me ‘a hi old peep!’ then a few bland pleasantries. I thought it strange he should still be around. I broached the subject. Apparently a business colleague of his was here to collect his wife who had been sitting in on a hearing with a friend.
My Persian pal was dressed bizarrely in faded denims, western boots, chequered broad collar shirt with a large yoke that was adorned with a black bootlace tie held with a heavy gold star pin. In fact he looked like a cowboy. Was he going to a hoedown of some kind?
Gilgamesh appeared distinctly impressed with himself and took my forearm and pulled me closer to whisper something in my ear.
He boasted that with his unnamed business associate he had pulled off some deal for a hush-hush consignment of imported artefacts.
“Museum artefacts, Leo, keep it to yourself. Imports undeclared. You know the score? Some American connections at the military base!”
He enquired whether perhaps I might be interested in a small figurine black diorite? A wonderful princess of King Entemena? No? Now not the time? Of course! How insensitive he was, he confessed. Apologies were quickly offered and then accepted.
But about my case he had his penny’s worth to offer me.
“My dear Leo, good sir, I sat down and I watch and I see. Others merely listen. I watch and watch. I see much. I am not of your culture but some things we do share-the common sense of the street and the market place. Have faith, my friend. You will cross these waters of death. Listen to me. I will tell you why. No one goes to the greengrocers to pick unripened fruits. A man will always choose the most succulent and juicy pears on display and the seller knows how to tempt the buyer and puts always the best on show. So it is of women, too! That is no innocent child in there-she is one possessed of evil. Of Angra Mainyu. Fully ripe I say-fully ripe! Ready for the plucking. She has been well blessed by the spirit of Spenta Mainyu! Next time you will not make the same mistakes. I know this! I have had my own such trials. Ah, how I do so love certain of your western values-no burkas! I tell you one thing Asha will triumph over truj!”
What a bizarre man! I free my arm from his tightening grip as he raises his eyes up to thank his beloved Mazda, his saviour. Oh, boy! Not the car thing again!
I must come see him again at the Siduri when this mess is done. He gives a deferential half nod says he must dash and in an instant he is gone.

48
Flight VA26 landed safely and on time. I read the arrivals screen with mute satisfaction. Lita gave me a fond peck and I tenderly stroked the back of her neck as I once did long ago.
“Where is she then?” my stepdaughter’s face tensed.
“Toilet break-you know what she’s like…Flight ok?”
“Yeah…cut it fine…had to dump the car in the short term zone…racking up charges…but hey…”
She pinned my eyes back with a forceful stare. Her strained quizzical look betrayed her pressing need to know if I had completed my task.
“Don’t look so worried…no more photos…all gone ok? I did my best...all I could….there was nothing left of the mobile…took me ages to get the USB connection to work…it was pretty banged up. The bitch either deleted them or stored them somewhere….I’ve wiped what I could from the hard drive…used a program called ‘Evidence Exterminator.’ Close call, hun-you really should never have left them there. I told you before about your carelessness!”
She shot me a withering frown.
“Alright! Alright! I know already! It was a mistake…it happens…as long as she doesn’t find out.”
I now saw a different Limoncello from the one of last summer. I gave my stepdaughter a peck on the cheek and a gentle fatherly rub to her back and we strode purposefully toward the exit to wait for my wife.
“Well-we should be in the clear now you’re here…touch wood!”
As we walked I slipped my hand over hers and loosened the rucksack from her grasp and tossed it over my broader shoulder. I took a more studied glance at her fuller form from the side. My lemon Lita had flowered in womanly fashion walking tall and lithe beside me with that slight hint of motherhood and a red glow to her cheeks. A symbol of fecundity and love - this limoncello gets a high rating for precocity and yield. Maybe a Fallglo? Good colour, excellent size, looks easy to peel but, as we see, heavy on the seeding.
“It’s crazy to think in less than a dozen weeks you’ll be a mother!”
She smiled probably grateful I was not scolding her for her misdeeds.
But I had but one other question for her.
“So will the father be attending the birth or is he on active service now?”
Active service. Iraq - highly unlikely he’ll be allowed time off. Critical.
“Oh, that’s awful you must really be missing him now.”
Proper tending of the lemon is critically important but I felt sure US Marine Reservist Ryan Decker before squeezing his lemon for her juice, warmed her first to the correct temperature. Then to softly roll her between two loving hands better to enjoy that sweet aperitif. They say lemon is a strong rubefacient, and taken internally in small doses has stimulating and carminative properties.
“Acid or sweet?”
“What?”
“Sorry-I meant boy or girl? Do you know? From the scan?”
Girl, she says. The most commonly available.
“Where do you think you want to raise the baby, Lita? Here or New York?”
“Stupid question,” she says. New York. But they do best in coastal areas and in a full sun position. She started to ease and we chatted mundanely about her trip. The food was plastic, flight attendants boorish and no complimentary drinks. Her blonde streaks and wacky hair colours had all but grown out. She was back to her natural lustrous brunette I was finding and identifying my new lemon with an altogether sweeter flavour. Better sugars infused for a sweeter liqueur. The Italians do say those darker alcohols add complexity. Pregnancy graced her with a glow of femininity and her rosy cheeks shone healthily defying the arduousness of her exhausting transatlantic trek. We navigated our way through the throbbing crowds to the meeting point where the other over ripe lemon was dutifully waiting.
49
Sickly yellow lamplight staccatos shot beams in through the smeared windscreen as the wiper blades ceaselessly dashed across its span hour after dreary hour waving and whirring relentlessly as we threaded through the nighttime traffic. Exhaustion from lack of sleep and seven hours of driving to and from the airport were starting to take their toll. Crankiness suffused with fear. The predominant emotions on day two of the ‘Trial of the Lewd Teacher.’ The evening press had now gotten to work, too. The front pages of the regional rags were full of it-even the nationals.
At a petrol station we had stopped off for a drinks break and some screen wash for the car. We were amazed at what greeted us on the newsstand. Several of the national papers were running my story. Not good. The gutter press had taken a warped angle on it.
To cap that none of us particularly welcomed the snowstorm as we drove gingerly all the way up the M11 from London. But added tension we endured like everything else those tortuous few days. Cookie was indignant as she rustled through tomorrow’s fish and chip wrappers.
“Moses, Moses, King of the Jews, wiped his arse in the daily news! Jesus, Leo! That is the worst picture I’ve ever seen taken of us! You look like some pompous presidential candidate in that stupid suit. I don’t believe it! That god dam photographer has us walking back and forth in the snow and ice just to get his shot and he still couldn’t get it right!”
She pushed the paper in front of my eyes to my utter consternation as I braked and swerved to avoid a Volvo.
“Let me look! Let me see, pass it back here-let me see!“ pleads a newly plump Lita. My mortified wife tried to hide the shame. Appearances count for a lot in her book.
Lita swiped a paper from the pile and began to read aloud a headline news story.
“It says here that a ‘tormented schoolgirl’ kept her wits about her and trapped her sex pest teacher, Mr Bloom of Eccles Drive, North Haven exposing his secret obsession with her...and…on her secret recording he is heard to shouting and demanding time alone with her!”
Applied Hoe-I thought then yelped.
“Well! Hi ad people! I’m really finished now aren’t I’? They’re even publicising my address! God! Is that legal? This will be the end of me!”
Lita had more.
“Ha, this bit is funny! The Echo says the ’distressed boyfriend nervously told the court how he saw his girlfriend savagely beaten…Bloom was heard calling his own stepdaughter a whore!’”
“That’s not how it happened, Lita…don’t believe all you read in the press!” I exclaimed.
Big lemon turned to her gestating and jetlagged little fruit and started in on her in an agitated fashion.
“Lita, have you got your story straight? You know the whole deal now?”
Right! Little lemon affirms with a weary whine.
“Okay! Good! You see, Leo! That’s called loyalty! Not something you know much about. At least someone round here has the balls to go the whole nine yards!”
My wife scratched repeatedly at her arms in that slew of stress she could never hide. Her laser stare burning into the side of my face as I grimly clung onto the steering wheel.
“You need to grow some backbone, too, Leo. If you hadn’t run off to your dumb assed floosies you wouldn’t have dug this pit for yourself!”
I felt I had to ask myself the question right then: in the whirlpool of life was I savvy swimmer or a floundering fool - lucky or unlucky? To appease her I took her coarse, cold hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
It would be wholly incongruous and senseless to argue now. Fate had chartered us into rough seas. All hands to the pumps and a full and committed crew we were thereafter. That’s what she must believe. I must make her believe in me like the old days. I just wanted to get away from that pie lead hop.
“Will you come back to Ithaca with us after the trial?”
I pondered her question and shrugged my shoulders.
”Who knows what will happen? It’s hard to even think one day ahead at the moment.”
But what will I do after the trial? As I drove on into the blackness of night I recalled my childhood dreams of an escape from humble origins and dull grey sky dreariness.
I watched all the films saw the American dream and gloated over a map of North America that bore the emblems ‘Northern Appalachians’ and ‘New York’ boldly featured.
Adventurers exploring new territories fascinated me. Then there were great wildernesses, the vast mountain ranges of the northern forests that captivated a doe eyed kid watching epic flicks like ‘Last of The Mohicans’, "Keepers of the Eastern Door" or “Rogers Rangers.’ There were great legends of love and loyalty such as John Smith and Pocahontas. Then of Hiawatha and Pontiac’s Indian rebellion, those stories make their mark on any impressionable child.

Vanillawatha: A Parody

Tawdry Bex and cold Karibdis,
Schemers made of unkind flair
Came to roost in rude East Mercia
East and West are met right there.
See the tramp and Turkish dancer,
Scorned in mosques, minarets and churches,
Seedy pubs and dirty cafés,
In delicto sweaty lurches:
Scant regard for loveless losses
Take them all for their resources
Prance their butts off like I told you
Hustling easy male engorges

I never conceived that I would one day walk through those mountain glades of the old Iroquois with my New York Internet bride, hand in hand trekking through the preserved, large unfragmented forests, admiring the sights of hemlock ravines and high elevation spruce-fir standing mixed within hardwood mosaics.
Back in those early days of wedlock we took those driving trips down and around the Delaware River to spy the bald eagle habitat and strain with binoculars to catch a rare nesting bird like Bicknell's thrush.
The tranquillity and escapism of those magnificent months was now long dissipated like old sepia-stained photos and fragile relics of another life. What typified the demeaning of the dream was my growing awareness of the cold, prosaic rusty reality of redneck trailer parks, windowless shacks peopled by drunken, welfare-stoked indigents that we so often drove passed. I learned that the nine million city folk down below, the Manhattan millionaires and the like, cared not a jot for all this outstanding natural beauty nor the poverty of its people. All the good citizenry coveted was their precious fresh water supply. That American dream has now faded, washed and eroded over time.
The longer the months passed and I lived season to season away from gentle England I began to rue the trash-blown decaying hick towns with their smoking garbage incinerators that painted smoke grey into heavy skies. A perfect coastal clean blue summer in England was what possessed me and forever would now. The inland cities and industrial wastelands were no longer for me. But the seasons do pass and life moves on spurning like an insult our heart’s truest desires. I drove on, we all went on, forever on through wind and snow and forward and on and then home.
That night we had barely an hour of coaching our witness - sitting her down and going over her testimony and ensuring she gives the answers want her to give. None of us could fight the incipient sleepiness. Too tired to think straight, too fazed by it to really care.
Thankfully, at last I could go to bed and sleep assured that I had secured my key witness. I had found the recipe for the sweetest dessert to follow my main course. Here she was my golden lemon delight. I shall whisk prosecutor McNutt’s eggy yolk until he is pale yellow and thick with it. Then I shall whip in the cream of my sugar semantics to softy reach my triumphant peak: my compelling creamy mixture of egg yolk and Limoncello to be fairly judged sublime. For everyone knows good limoncella spurns vanilla.

50
FRIDAY 27TH DECEMBER 2004.
“Call the defendant…Mr Leonard Odysseus Bloom to take the stand.”
Onward I go. Up before the Beak. Onward and upward. LOB to the fray. Into the arena to face the foul fat-faced champion of the Underworld. ‘Come on, bring it on, rotunda!’ I thought.
Those evil eyes can’t cut me. His nor theirs. No more laments. ‘Do or die’ I told myself. I take that long, silent walk to the stand.
I was duly sworn and fighting back to quell a hyperventilating fit I gave my rendition of the catechism.
Q. Who made the world?
A. God made the world.
Q. Who is God?
A. God is the Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things.
Q. What is a man?
A man is a creature composed of body and soul, and made to the image and likeness of God.
My ordeal begins and McNutt plays his words with cuts and thrusts. Was there any WMD? Yes.
WMD was she. The woman of moral decrepitude did exist. Yes, sir. I must insist. In barely four to five minutes her savage destructive powers could have wreaked further havoc upon our coveted Anglo-American interests. It was not an idle threat, sir. We had to act. She had already inflicted much damage on us.
McNutt: “But why did you not report matters to the police? The proper authorities would decide what was the appropriate action.”
I know I took it upon myself. I agreed a Trans Atlantic alliance for good. I felt there was a moral case to answer, yes sir.
To be repeated and over and over never to forget the words in my bestest enunciation. The words I needed him to hear. The words I needed the Divine Judge to hear come Judgement Day.
Here I sat in that stark, silent interrogation bubble sliced and prodded and mocked and chewed. The only voice coming at me, loud and clear, was that of my inquisitor.
I was gristle in McNutt’s mouth and he wanted to crush the life from me and spit me out with his diction.
McNut: “Come Mr Bloom, we have heard the tape recording and it shows a marked discrepancy from the calm paternal, moralising tones of your police interview. I put it to you, sir, that you cruelly harangued this young girl. You tormented her and shouted foul language to scare her to bend her more easily to your private sexual desires. Isn’t that so?”
Bloom: “No, it is not so, sir. I acted in partnership with my family to bring her reign of terror to an end. She is a psychopath and capable of real evil. I had to stop her!”
McNutt: “I put it to you that you were, in fact, seeking to be alone with her. Neither your wife nor your stepdaughter could be heard on the tape. You were alone with her. Isn’t that the truth?”
Bloom: “She was there, sir, my wife was there well back from the scene for her own protection because your complainant had once before launched a vicious and unprovoked attack on her!”
One hour goes by and still questions come pounding in at me. Another hour then comes and goes. Still more questions. No one offers me a glass of water. Ushers don’t give graces to accused men only ‘victims.’ My head thumped with pain and my sore throat was parched so as my voice failed me more and more. I husked and coughed my answers. Yes, I said ‘I’ first when I said I sent the texts. But I said ‘We’ and corrected myself, you oaf!
McNutt: “You are very clever, Mr Bloom. Aren’t you?”
Bloom: ”I am a schoolteacher, sir.”
McNutt: “You admitted to Officer Godbolt you were the creator of the Sexihunk screen name and thereafter that you sent texts to Miss van Hiller to arrange meeting with her for paid sex. Isn’t that true?”
Bloom: ”Semantics, sir. All semantics. I was arrested for assault and was being scrutinised, questioned just about the details of that alleged assault. My mind was only on those facts and not on precise words about when or whether my stepdaughter or I sent this or that particular text. In fact, the officer never questioned me on when or what particular texts I sent at all!”
McNutt: ”Mr Bloom, is it the case that you previously took Rebecca van Hiller to your home and showed her several images, explicit photographs, of naked males and females in acts of copulation?”
Bloom: “I have a very small art collection. I have a few antique prints and some collectibles. She came to my home and saw them. She was interested in knowing more about art.”
McNutt: “Is it not true, Mr Bloom, that you showed this under age girl pornographic imagery in order to corrupt and deprave her?”
Bloom: “No.”
McNutt: “You have tried to tell this court that you suspected that Miss van Hiller was mentally disturbed and engaged in acts of prostitution. Would you not agree, under those circumstances, it would appear unseemly and questionable for you to take such an impressionable child alone into your home and encourage her to enjoy looking at pornographic imagery?”
Schaffernacker: “Objection. This is wholly specious and irrelevant. The defendant is not on trial for his artistic tastes.”
Bloom: “No…I don’t mind answering! There is nothing pornographic about the treasures of Pompeii or the ancient artefacts in the Museum of Naples or the British Museum, sir!”
On and on this went. The prosecutor’s probings were becoming more ludicrous. As if he expected me as a mere teacher to be the guardian of public moral rectitude. In truth McNutt was acting out the vanquished voice of the Victorian order.
He was holding up the outdated values of a long passed middleclass gentry that goaded the lowly working class away from the distractions of carnal curios. He was shoulder to shoulder with the creators of the Obscene Publications Act and expected us all to share his aesthetic sensibilities.
McNutt was with the categorisers, the arbiters of right and wrong, good and bad taste. You and your Victorians were mankind’s labellers. You gave us laws to invent pornography and told us even looking at images was a crime and ‘sex is bad, sex is wrong’. Hide it all away or we shall all be corrupted! Total nonsense!
So Mr Moraliser, don’t lecture me on how to compartmentalize body, mind and spirit. Stuff your prurient fig leaves! I’m not some grubby motor mechanic having a furtive four-stroke fumble over Sweaty Betty’s bits in Buxom Babes bi-monthly. I’m a connoisseur of fine arts.
My name is Captain William Peek of New York Department of Correctional Services.And no one gets groomed in my very own Secretum. No one gets exploited in my domain. My study, my computer, my Internet access is no hideaway haven and I feel no shame.This is not the British Museum where you and your kind go to Cupboard 55 and indulge yourselves in those lurid masturbatory moments. Don’t judge me by your own lascivious standards, fool!
I don’t hide my artistic light under a bushel. Like any true son of Dionysus and Aphrodite I light my Priapus oil lamp and burn it brightly on my mantelpiece better to display in pride of place my gilded picture frames of the bountiful brilliance of Bellocq and his queens of New Orleans. Admire such Art, adore the beauty and never mock or despoil it. Amen.
McNutt couldn’t steamroller me. My head still pounded remorselessly and my throat sorely cut to shreds. No matter how exhausted I felt I was able to curb my anger, my frustration. His attrition tactics were failing. I was unbowed. After three hours of inquisition and cross-examination, a myriad of phrasing and re-phrasing of the same futile questions he finally, ultimately capitulated.
“No more questions, Mr Bloom. We shall adjourn there for lunch.”
Shaffernacker told me I gave a fine performance. I was thoroughly and unashamedly exhausted. My brain was pulped. But in legal terms I sensed I had come through unscathed. A small measure of relief from my counsel as he nodded when I asked if we were winning. Such was Shaffernacker’s confidence he recommended we could dispense with my wife’s testimony in the afternoon. We were all thankfully spared that ordeal.

52
After lunch one final witness would be called: Lita Limoncello. As I anticipated, she spilled the beans and a lot of foul hot air resulted.
McNutt: “Do you seriously expect this court to believe that you stayed up until 3:57 am on Tuesday 18th February, 4:14 am on Thursday 20th February and 3:53 am on Tuesday 25th February 2003 sending text messages on your computer over the Internet to Rebecca van Hiller?”
Lita: “Yeah.”
McNutt: “Did you not tell us earlier in your evidence that you attended college? Would you not need to be up each morning for that?”
Lita: ”I only do part-time and some days I only get afternoon classes.”
McNutt: ”So you stayed up late for the express purpose of sending regular and offensive anonymous text messages to your ex friend?”
Lita: “No. I chat online to a lot of friends in England. Most are on the Internet those times and it’s cheaper than phoning. I did it when I felt like it”
McNutt: “Is it not curious, don’t you think, Ms Limoncello, that in the nine months since your stepfather’s arrest it is only now you come forward and declare it was you who committed the offences for which he is on trial?”
Lita: “I went to the police last summer. I told them then I did it. But they said they weren’t interested in that!”
McNutt: “Come, come, young lady. Casting aspersions on the integrity of the police does your stepfather’s cause no good at all!”
Lita: “That’s how it happened. I got no reason to lie.”
An hour and forty minutes of pointless interrogation yielded nothing for fat-fingers Mc Nutt who grew ever more exasperated at the failure of his goading antics to get a rise out of my loyal lemon.
My counsel was growing ever more delighted.
“I never saw such a self-assured witness give evidence like it.”
It was just after four-forty five when Shaffernacker sat down after delivering what I thought was a resounding closing argument. His speech full of vim and vigour to make the pale, vague and vile vehemence of McNutt appear trounced and trite.
In a little over thirty-five minutes of deliberations the usher called us back to resume our places for the announcement of the verdicts.
“A quick decision? How interesting?” was the trill rejoinder from the bald legal eagle with the shinny skull.
At the back of the spectator’s gallery I saw a raised fist clenched salute much in evidence as a Convulsed Carla, my ‘Miracle Call Loon,’ took it upon herself to engage in some taunting of Cilla and Charlotte’s parents with a sense of over-confidence, perhaps.
“To the charge of Assault and Battery upon the person of Rebecca van Hiller at or around Truva Park on the evening of Wednesday 12th March 2003 how do you find the defendant?”
Not Guilty.
“To the first specimen charge of sending a threatening, obscene and indecent text message to Rebecca van Hiller at 09:14 on 20.02.03 how do you find the defendant?”
Not Guilty.
“To the second specimen charge of sending a threatening, obscene and indecent text message to Rebecca van Hiller at 08:53 on 25.02.03 how do you find the defendant?”
Not Guilty.
“To the third specimen charge of sending a threatening, obscene and indecent text message to Rebecca van Hiller at 19:21 on 27.02.03 how do you find the defendant?”
Repeated air punches from my wife at the stunned gallery of defeated vanilla backers prompted the court ushers to discharge her unceremoniously from the proceedings as the penultimate verdict was given. Quietly she did not go.
Not Guilty.
More catcalls and hoots of celebration to the annoyance of two uniformed police officers and Lita twinkles her relieved smile my way. More hoots of derision from the American side.
“Bring it on guys, bring it on…where did all your lowlife scheming tactics get you in the end? Heh? Losers, losers!”
The two officers follow the usher and assist in escorting the mad woman out of the simmering cauldron.
“You tried to crucify him and you lost…losers!” Not quietly into the night did she depart.
I wiped a solitary tear from my cheek and mouthed a silent ‘thank you’ to judge and jury and now let me laude my lemon loves. Two police officers were at the great oak doors of the court awaiting their final orders to arrest my North American confessor for her sacrifice. Those savages had held me up for execution but my pregnant Pocahontas had thrown her body across my body to save me. John Smith saved yet again by an indigenous American.
But although she hazarded the metaphoric beating out of her own brains to save mine she now also walked free. McNutt had spoken grudgingly to Ashkenazi right then to say she would be spared. No sense in running this tawdry trial over again -‘not in the public interest,’ said fat fingers.
The intimadation tactics had failed and Amiable Ashkenazi smiled and shook my hand. But it was a chest-tightening anger that soon began to grip me right then as the relief of acquittal dissipated as my thoughts turned to my true enemy.
Oh, how I wish Troy Quilty had been there for that moment.
Rapturous hugs and kisses from the jumping jubilant lemons all the way out to the hallowed great hall and stone pillars where flashing bulbs cracked and cries of, ‘Any comment, Mr Bloom?’ from harrying hacks.
It was a joyous victory and not any sight of my detractors anywhere presumably now sucked out into the cold, dark streets to be consigned forever to history. But that policeman’s smug smiling face was still there in my mind. He was not a character anyone could so easily forget.
You see, Acting Inspector Quilty was never a fictional figure in a potboiler and no Newgate novel was this ever meant to be of all this malarkey. I have dared not sketch out the details of his features in these pages aside from that sickly smile of his. That thin-lipped, mouth, those black-hearted, coal-cold eyes of Troy Quilty were as real as the words upon this page.
Of course I do not pen his exact name. To do so would be to expose the innocent as well as the guilty in this sorry story. There are those I would wish to protect from the glare of public scrutiny and embarrassment. But I shall yet have my revenge on my nemesis. The Police Federation won’t save you, Quilty, but do please tell them all that really happened. You know you ought to!
Tell them the truth about that fateful day I took my stepdaughter to confess her crimes to you. Tell us all! What did you say? ‘You are banned from this station-the investigation is closed!’
I have plenty of documents; the records to show that I was set up maliciously .I have the proof, Inspector. All bestowed upon me as great gifts. The proof I got, from North Haven Police Station records of that visit to meet with you and Sergeant Teucer on that balmy, barmy Thursday 17th July 2003.
Praise be for the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act. I clasp the weapons of your ultimate destruction in my sweaty paws and thrust them skyward to the blueness of the heavens and the glory of the gods.
It was you Acting Detective Inspector Troy Quilty who orchestrated it all and dragged me through to this public debacle.
Quilty, you were on oath to seek the truth without favour or bias, to admit evidence whether it pointed away from an accused or toward him but it was all one-way by your bent book.
I saw you smirking and smug as you had me arrested, stripped then stowed in a dark dank, fetid cell, cuffed, too and then posed like meat for the indignity of the mug shots, the inky fingers and palms, rubber-fingered DNA probings into my mouth and gums.
Then court appearance after appearance, the run around of clerks, lawyers, witnesses, attendance expenses, forensics, clerical filings, barristers fees, plane tickets, on and on pissing public money down the drain.
But it wasn’t your money, though, was it? I hear it was many, many tens of thousands that you’ve cost the taxpayer in this little game. And tell us how many more times you have played this trick? Who else has been pilloried for your entertainment?
Was my humiliation all just so you could curry favour with mad mal-odious Molly? Did you have to lay me before her in offering to your goddess? You wanted me cowering before her, lying at her feet to prod and poke to please her - to have me humbled and humiliated in sick and tawdry revenge.
You and Molly and your dirty-workers of Goldbolt and Company can go hang. Feel my fury, smell the vitriol and acid bile spat at you now. I am coming for my retribution. I am not finished with you yet.

53
MARCH 2nd 2004: Post Trial Fallout. Newsflash! After a weekend of press coverage the furore was still raging. The front pages had it all. Alleged paedophile, Leo Bloom has been run out of town just one week after returning to his North Haven home at Eccles Drive. The local community became concerned after it was revealed Mr Bloom was living within 200 metres of a well-used children’s playground.
A group of residents has been protesting outside the house for much of the day. North Haven Mayor, Chester Burnham, says Mr Bloom is not welcome in the town.
"The community wanted him out of his premises and there was a raucous group gathering on the footpath outside," he said."Police escorted him out of those premises and he's at the police station at the present time. I believe the gentlemen is now making arrangements for accommodation outside of the town."Mr Burnham says the community was not willing to put out the welcome mat."The place where he has residence was a just a very short walk from where young children regularly gather, which I believe was totally inappropriate," he said.
I threw down the gutter rag in disgust. It’s never going to stop. They want me gone for good now. I get the vigilantisms of the unthinking lower classes led on by egging editorials. These moronic imbeciles outside my front door day after day with loony placards and howling hatred are just weak-minded sheep. Have they no jobs to go to? Have they nothing better to do with their lives than goad innocent men? I waste my breath on them. I dare not go toe to toe even a man my size cannot face an angry mob. I have no voice in this. My words are ignored. I gave a full interview but the press ignored me.
I did a phone interview on Saturday for the Echo and I had a call from a woman’s’ magazine to see if my wife and I would do an article. Do I go there? Judging by the distortions of the Echo’s correspondent I shouldn’t. My words are bastardised into mere self-pitying trite. Of course, I get no right of reply. Well, it’s soon going to be time to take cover, you drooling Neanderthals. Prepare yourselves for what's coming.
I sent my final letter of formal complaint to police headquarters yesterday for whatever good it will do. I demanded they root out the rotten apples in their barrel. I expected little from corrupt and incompetent trolls. If I haven’t got the religious-right reactionaries ranting and raving on my doorstep I’ve got them crying their shrill screeds in newspaper columns.
You would think I had been into every imaginable evil up to and including drinking the blood of babies. I don’t get a voice - no hearing of my side - they won’t print my rebuttals.
This past weekend despite being found innocent in a court of law I have still endured rocks thrown at my car, a biscuit tin, yes, a biscuit tin of all things aimed at me as I left the house leaving scratches down the blue paint of the front door. I am not safe here.
I would be far better off far, far away encamped in lemon territory in Ithaca so all those unthinking knee-jerkers can go and spin.

53
OFF TO ITHACA. My wife and her pregnant child had departed from Heathrow on the Saturday. The tempest still blowing around me ensured I followed them a couple of weeks later. Enough of this nonsense. Time to cut and run and seek sanctuary.
It wasn’t a bad flight. Delays due to a suspected Al Qaeda bomb plot meant it took over eleven hours before we touched down at Newark. But it was refreshing to read the American papers - no fear of bilge about me.
I found a good article on positivism in the New York Times and something on the Baghdad Museum being pillaged of priceless artefacts and tens of thousands of rare manuscripts.
“Iraq is the birthplace of civilization, the civilization of the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians and others” was how the cultural editor led the story. Something there for my friend, Gilgamesh perhaps?
Brother in law, Surgeon Simon met me at the gate. He looked slim and gaunt-faced from performing too many face-lifts, no doubt.
It was a long, steady drive up on Interstates 80 and 81 to the Finger Lakes and the safe haven of Ithaca and the weather was early spring bliss. Simon was taking a weeks’ vacation away from the city to take his mind off his own troubles so he wanted to hear the scoop about my trials to make himself feel less ill fortuned.
He was downright shocked, he said. Acquitted you say? So the much-vaunted British "sense of fair play" was nothing more than self-congratulating rhetoric. Hounded out of town by a vigilante mob? Do they still have lynchings in Merry Old England? Maybe it’s just an aberration? Maybe you upset someone on the payroll of some Mafia drugs lord?
We all sojourned at the family residence out in the country away from prying eyes. Cookie’s ranch home was welcome relief from whizzing biscuit tins and whining neighbours.
Here in the wooded wilderness my wife always treated me like a king. Simon and Carla went on and on about the absurdity of my case. Was there an underlying reason to it all? Is it because you are from Irish stock?
That’s it plain, got it now - simple old-fashioned racism. Simon Limoncello was a great one for bigging up the underdog. Did I know that when the Irish first came to the US they got the dirtiest, most dangerous jobs and an Irishman was held to have less economic value than a black or Chinese man? He knew his local history did our Simon or it was something he just read in the papers. The date was the clue. It was March 17th and St. Patrick's Day.
He went on about the parades in New York. How they were anti-Irish affairs held by Anglo-Saxons who taunted the thick paddies and burnt St. Patrick in effigy. I told him my effing effigy was probably being burnt in the Havens as he spoke. Now do shut up old chap, I wished but to no avail.”Leo, here the Irish had to fight to be white. Since then other groups have "become white", or more precisely "become American." My advice to you is go back home and show them you’ve become not only white but whiter than white!”
I thanked Simon for that and quietly in his ear asked if he felt perhaps the time to let all the family in on our embarrassing little secret about that escapade in that seedy bordello we had instead of going to the Buffalo Bills’ games three years back? Simon withdrew his counsel advisedly.
I should have sensed right then and there the portents were not good. My recuperation was not to be an untroubled affair. I had persuaded my hirsute Italian yellow fruit that a wise course of action was to refurbish my unwelcome abode at Eccles Close and let it out. She thought it wise and no less apposite that we entrust the letting to Hector Clover. His greater knowledge of these matters would ensure a stress free and more profitable venture. Best wait a week or two and we can the plans underway. Or so we thought.
The devastating news was a crushing blow when it came. I don’t really think anyone believed it at first. It was just too surreal and struck me to the core.
Harriet called on that snowy March night. She broke the news on a break from her bedside vigil over the phone to Lita. Hector had been attacked as he left my place yesterday evening. He was jumped before he could get to my car. He had been using the Benz as he had dropped me off in Heathrow and said it would save me airport parking fees if he took it back. But, in truth, he fancied cruising around in some style, too.
The immediate fear was possible long-term brain damage. He has had extensive contusions and lacerations to the frontal lobes of his cerebral cortex. Prognosis – probable vegetative state. Not immediately life threatening but he will have no quality of life - brains like mush.
That was meant to be me. That was certain. Lita quivered, set down the telephone receiver and collapsed back into her armchair. My wife ran to her aid. We had the unborn to consider. Naturally, we were all disgusted, worried, sickened and angry. What was it all for? Where was it all leading and when would it end?
“Granted we all know paedophilia is sick, and, of course, I’m all for paedophiles being locked away indefinitely. But what is just as sick is that media hype; it’s all down to that if-it-sells-papers-it-must-be-good rubbish. Naming and Shaming they call it over there. It’s the kind of trash that makes paediatricians have to watch themselves…oh poor, poor old Hector!”
Oh, do shut up, Simon. I decided the right thing to do was to fly back immediately. Guilt enveloped me and became suffocating. I had to see the man before he goes. It was a show of friendship and support.
I made arrangements for a change to my return ticket on Vista Atlantic. It was easy -medical emergency - very sympathetic call centre staff. Life threatening - touch and go.
I opened the door to my old haunt at Seven Eccles Drive. It was cold and bleak and no pleasure at all to be back. The blue door still bore the marks of the biscuit tin attack.
On the coconut matting just inside the battered door sat an assortment of letters-mostly junk male, some post for Mr Nakamura, my old tenant and a crisp large manila wad from the East Mercia Department of Education.
It was grim reading. My services were no longer required. I had been formally removed from the supply teachers’ register. I was barred from making any direct approach to any of the Authority’s maintained schools. There was no prospect of an appeal. No formal panel would be convened to discuss the matter. I was over and out, done and dusted.
What a wonderful welcome home! But, wouldn’t you know it, within three or was it four (?) days after getting back to North Haven Hector was sitting up in bed sucking down liquids on a straw. Bastard!
I brought the obligatory bowl of fruit and listened to a rendition of his crepitating rale as he struggled with tubes and wires and analgesics to communicate anything much discernable. Still poor Hector.
He looked like a tired old dog or a glum puppet figure, lying in that bed like some useless old rag. Look at him, poor soul. Hector the Dog and Zaza? Yes! That was it! A cat wasn’t she? Didn’t they have a nice house in the centre of a lovely garden full of flowers? On just before the news! Wasn’t there a frog called Kiki? I think she lived next door. Or was she kinky? I know they spent a lot of time spying over the garden wall, or sneaking through her access hole for some excitement. Kiki and Zaza often played tricks on Hector to teach him a lesson, leading him to say, "I'm a Great Big (whatever he was) Old Hector."
My wife was also still on her own in la-la land. Her granddaughter was born five minutes past midnight on March 26th 2004 weighing in at six pounds and four ounces. All services to my place were off and I only found out when I met Harriet at the hospital and she told me. Hector was doing fine. He should be out for rehabilitation in early April and the doctor says the prognosis was looking more positive. What a relief. Shame my life was in shreds.
A cold mattress to sleep on, no furniture and the fear that at any time the North Haven Posse might regroup and resume their Bloom baiting. The Limoncellos weren’t rushing to my aid. I felt a spare part in their equations right now. I had to think of another new strategy. With no gas, no electric, no cash no comfort I seized my wife’s moment of distraction to decamp my sorry butt at Charlotte’s once more.
I somewhat lessened as best I could the anticipated seismic tremors at my latest capitulation by having Harriet come see my house and witness the shambles it had become.
At least to her I had proven that my home was uninhabitable until repairs and refurbishments could be made. And with poor Hector’s stamped head mummified in bandages I need not labour the point to Mrs Clover that a similar fate might befall me any time from the posse if I dared doss down at my old stomping ground.
There was no way I could impose my presence on the Clover household, I reasoned. I was still likely to be a magnet for maniacal mayhem. So after riding out the expected teacup tempest of telephone protests from New York I ran back to the material comforts of the Mayes residence at Wallow Walk and Charlotte’s tender touches. Putty in my hands as always.

54
Wherever you go, there you are as they say in the home country. Belatedly, back in England and some time after my acquittal I was able to keep my word to my faithful darling blonde. So it I was back to Charlotte’s welcome embraces to see if she could withstand another pie hop deal. I tried to finally cement her place by my side. It was such a relief to be with her again. I felt lucky to have met someone like her - someone very special: someone who wouldn’t press charges. I revelled in the security she gave me. So much so I decided to take her to my post-trial confabulation at Punch, Deenan & Flynn.
Brigid Kearney greeted me like a long lost friend. ”My dear, Leo, so glad to see you again-you’re looking really well–all things considered-and nice to meet you, too, Ms Mayes. Everyone here at the firm is so delighted for you! What a marvellous job Ashkenazi Shaffernacker did. Please take a seat…coffee anyone? So what is it I can do for you today?”
“Let me cut to the chase Ms Kearney…I don’t want to beat around the bush…but frankly I’m really gutted with how it all turned out.”
“Gutted? Why gutted? You do surprise me…what can possibly be ailing you?”
“Well…the negative press coverage for a start…and I’m getting into a horrific battle to get re-instatement from my employers…it’s looking really bad! They’ve banned me permanently.”
“Oh, come…I’m sure it will all die down. The press are the press…we all know how they work! Of course, I did speak with them myself when they telephoned the firm for a quote…but, as always more interested in a hot scandal…you see they’d gone along with the girl’s story from the outset…seemed so compelling what with the tape recording…looked like an open and shut case to an outsider, of course, people do tend to think in simplistic terms in these sex attack cases…too quick to side with the alleged victim. So…I’m afraid…their big sex story went a bit flat.”
“A bit flat! Jesus, I’ve lost my teaching career because of the garbage that’s been written about me and now I’m forever painted as the paedo teacher who got away with it ‘cause some kid flew 4,000 miles from nowhere to bail me out…you’ve seen all the headlines…it looks like a stitch up by me!…’Leo Bloom, teacher gets young girl in from the States to ambush trial….victim distraught and prosecutor screams foul!’”
“Well…of course, it does all look a tad shabby put that way but that’s the rules-the press can’t disclose names or personal details about minors. I’m sure you understand that. Of course, in this case…what with all the bizarre circumstances…I do see your point, too. It should have been put down as a simple family bust up between your stepdaughter and foster child-much simpler-but rules are rules. But I’m sure you’ll get it straightened out with your employers…they’ll see through it all and you’ll be back in business once the dust settles.”
“I’m being constantly hounded to death! A family friend has been nearly kicked to death-mistaken for me by rent a mob! I can’t walk through town without some arsehole recognising me from the papers and giving me a verbal battering….and look…look at this!”
I thrust the letters toward her.
“I’ve now got this from the Secretary of State for Education. I’ve brought it today to show you…and then this one…another from the local education authority...you see! If I insist on appealing all that nonsense I’m set for two and may be three more trials.”
“What do you mean three more trials?”
Exactly that…this time by my the Department for Education, then after that the General Teaching Council…if I win through them then it’s back to my employers!”
With a pensive face she pauses and eyes my concern. Theatrically she puts on her reading spectacles then begins to study them and scribbles some notes on her pad.
“Ok…I understand this now…If it’s alright with you I’d like to make copies of these letters for our employment specialists…as you know…I’m a criminal lawyer…this merits some scrutiny from someone with more expertise in these matters…Are you currently unemployed?”
“Yes…haven’t worked since I got suspended last year. As they say, the best things in life are free or is it nail-biting refreshes the feet.”
“Oh my dear Leo…I see…well we try to get you on legal aid for this as before….no different from the criminal matter really…some investigative help…leave it with me and I’ll get the ball rolling…I’ll be in touch.” Her hand busily scratched at her pad.
“Oh…one other thing…I was wondering if I could sue the Crown Prosecution Service and the police over what they did…for defamation or something…what with the fabricated transcript and the them refusing to examine my phone records and computer…for the proof…and then there was Lita’s confession they refused to take….”
“Ah…yes…I remember…you sent the Crown Prosecution Service a letter before your trial…er…yes…I remember we disagreed on the approach at the time…might be some mileage in it…but again…I will need to pass that query onto someone else…not sure who we’ve got in the firm who does actions against the police. It’s not something there’s much call for in these parts ordinarily…you may find you need to go see a firm in London. Perhaps it may be something someone in our London office can assist you with. “
She paused, tapped her pen on her pad and continued.
“Leo, leave this with me…I have an idea…and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”
I fix my gaze directly into her eyes and daringly make my final point. “Just before I go…Frankly, Ms Kearney I need to say this…I felt when you got me to do all that work on the transcript…from the tape...that you then...after…when I sent my letter to the Crown Prosecution Service against your wishes…I’ve done a lot on my own and I just wondered how committed you really were to helping.”
Her head jerked up from scribbling her notes and she suddenly fixed me with daggers.
“Mmmm….well…frankly, Mr Bloom…when I first read your file I didn’t think you had a prayer…But then two things transpired to save you…Firstly, fair play to you for discerning that the complainant’s own tape recording helped discredit the prosecution witnesses…I pointed that out to you that may be something on there we could work with. I was proved right when you followed up with your own analysis of it for me. But it was your stepdaughter’s confession that really saved your bacon…without a shadow of a doubt. And you and I both know you were lucky to get that from her…and of course, there were those photos on the mobile phone…a very big lucky break for you, don’t you think? Thank goodness no one ever looked deeper into the photos question…Now….I really do have to get on…another client is waiting…Good day, Mr Bloom…Ms Mayes. I’ll be in touch.”
She stood and raised her arm toward the door. Her face said enough - to her I was guilty - I had got off too lightly. We left quickly.
Charlotte took my arm and pulled herself tightly to my chest. I smiled back at her.
She read my anxiety and tried her best to motivate me.
“Leo, you’re a free man now. I am not going to let you stew in that armchair, curtains always down! Look at you! You haven’t even bothered to shave to come out today! You need a good woman to sort you out!”
I shrugged and gave her back a grudging nod of acknowledgement. Grinding poverty did have that effect on me. It was more than mere conjecture that, high educational abilities though I possessed, I had always experienced no little difficulty in making both ends meet without the firm guidance of a woman’s purse to motivate me.
“All well and good you saying that, Charlotte, but I’ve got bills to pay-creditors to keep from the door. I don’t think you’re father is going to let you support an acquitted chicken plucker!”
Blonde-bustling Charlotte was on a crusade to boost dark-drubbing Bloom.
“Stop that now, Leo, I know…but once they’ve done all their checks and seen you’ve got a clean record you’ll be back teaching again. I have faith in you even if you don’t!”
Yet lightweight Leo sought a retreat from middle-weight Mayes.
“But…it’s not just them…I’ve also got the police sending my file to the Secretary of State. They’re attacking me on two fronts now: the Department of Education as well as the General Teaching Council. It’s going to be ground hog day all over…. facing one trial after another trial after another!”
“Leo…that’s another bone fight that’s hard not to pick with you, too! It still hurts that you kept me from the trial…maybe if you’d let me get more involved I could have helped in some way…but you chose your wife over me…I was the one sacrificed…if you truly love me then show it now….because I will show you. Didn’t I say I’d always be there if you needed me if…that…that…wife and her charmless daughter let you down? I put you before my father, didn’t I? I’ve done my part…you’re devoted wife has gone back to New York…running away again to be with her grandchild…She’s deserted you like she always does. She’s totally unreliable. Is that the kind of life you want? Is that what your future is going to be? Nothing to hold on to? Nothing permanent? There’s no commitment from her to live here permanently with you. That’s how you and I got started-that woman always leaves the door open and you either walk out or someone walks in to meet you. She lives a pantomime, sham marriage now with this baby to show off as if the child were yours and hers…I know how it is…women see things men don’t…with you it’s all about her big lawsuit and what you can do for her when she needs you. And you, being you, you hold on hoping she’ll give you a payoff. You said you would never give her a child. But she beat you-she got her way by default. She’s got what she wanted thanks to Lita. You watch. She’s manipulated and controlled you and you did her bidding and look where it got you…you lost the only thing you had to preserve you…your teaching career and reputation…your name is dirt here in the Havens and else can you do now at your age? Retrain? Stack supermarket shelves? I don’t see it, Leo. Do you? Just see sense. Let’s start afresh-let’s go to Lincolnshire- start again where no one knows you…we can be a family…you, me, my kids…yours, too, if they want…whenever they want they can be with us.”
Her eyes shone with the glistening purity of unshed tears. I hesitated to answer and seeing my uncertainty my blonde brave heart clasped her hand to mine.
“Leo, say nothing for now-just think. Think how I’ve played my part….. I’ve been patient…keeping to the background. No woman would do that for any man unless her whole heart and soul was in her dreams to be one united in love.”
I felt a tear in my eye but turned my head away from her in shame. I wiped my face and turned to her, taking her by her shoulders and bring her face close within my breath. I sucked in her perfume like a drug and breathed her life into me. I drew from her strength.
“Charlotte darling. I will fight for us. I will be free of it all…I don’t want to live a lie any longer. I am going to prove myself you prove to everyone-my family, my so-called friends-that I am not what they say I am. You’re right-for too long I’ve taken the soft option…being a trophy husband about sums it up. I fitted the Trans Atlantic illusion for her New York socialite gaggle. I walked and talked, ate drank and slept her Hugh Grant-Cary Grant fantasy. Me of all people! My only gift is my brass neck.“
I had been the possessor of an entrée into fashionable houses in the best residential quarters of financial magnates in a large way of business and titled people where with my university degree of B.A. (a huge ad in its way) and gentleman bearing to all the more influence the good impression I would infallibly score a distinct success, being blessed with brains which also could be utilised for the purpose and other requisites, if my clothes were properly attended to so as to the better worm my way in with some sartorial niceties.
My grandfather and father would proud as punch be of Leonard Odysseus B. To see a lowly Irish making it to he Mecca of New York and rising to the challenge of the colonial glitterazzi. It was in fact only a matter of months and I could easily foresee me participating in their musical and artistic conversaziones during the festivities of the Christmas season, for choice, causing a slight flutter among the fair sex and being made a lot of by ladies out for sensation, cases of which, as he happened to know, were on record - in fact, without giving the show away, I, myself once upon a time, if I cared to, could easily have. Added to which of course would be the pecuniary emolument by no means to be sneezed at, going hand in hand with my tuition fees. Not, I parenthesise, that for the sake of filthy lucre I need necessarily embrace the lyric platform as a walk in life for any lengthy space of time. But a step in the required direction it was beyond yea or nay and both monetarily and mentally it contained no reflection on my dignity in the smallest and it often turned in uncommonly handy to be handed a cheque at a much needed moment when every little helped.
“Please, Leo…think it over…this could be our last chance…we still have some youth in us…some get up and go…if we want to make a fresh start.”
“Doll…listen to me…I have nothing…if I divorce my wife I will get nothing of hers…she’s shrewd…she’s put none of her money in anything in England…she’s got all her assets in New York…if I divorce her now I will quite likely lose my house. My life is as fragile as a champagne glass right now. You don’t know her…she will finish me financially…I’ve got to use my head…Stick by me a bit longer…I need to see if I can get sue for some compensation against the police and the others…let me take some revenge…please…”
“But why? I can take care of us both…I have a little money.”
“No! No…you don’t get it, do you! That’s why I am where I am now…already in the pocket of a woman and I hate it! I’ve gotta fight my own corner…be my own man…I…I’ve been reading…I got some books. I think I have a case…There are laws…torts for suing people like them...it’s called malicious prosecution and misfeasance-even negligence. Let me do this, babe. I need to use my head. I need to stop feeling like a victim and act like a fighter. Quilty, Goldbolt…Karibdis and van Hiller…they haunt me…I have to go after them…I deserve some payback!”
“Well, if you do this, Leo then I don’t know how long I can hold out…I really don’t. Please…just promise me one thing….just one…go with what Kit won’t fly then…please, please let it go.”
A tear trickled from a bright blue jewelled eye.
“Babe…I promise…if I get told it won’t stand up then I’ll let it go. But come on. You know the whole story…it can’t be right…the police won’t want the bad publicity…fixing up a teacher with false evidence? Refusing a confession just to try to fit me up? Come on, babe…this is big…we both know it…if my employers won’t let me back then that’s the rest of my working life they’ve killed off…that’s got to be some compensation…maybe hundreds of thousands!”
“Alright, alright Leo, but please…don’t lose your head on this. Just one other thing…. What did Kearney mean when she said about some photos not coming out? Was there photo evidence, too?”
No, no, nothing like that. I told her. I tried to reassure her that was nothing. Just something I had found on some computer files and kept for a rainy day.
There was one thing. One thing she could not be allowed to know. In my stressed state with the pending trial it was my one over sight.

55
MAY 12th 2004: THE PHONEY WAR. I finally got a response from Mercia Police Headquarters regarding my official complaint. The letter said a sergeant would be sent to interview me. I wanted to prepare for his coming. I wanted to refresh my mind of dates, times and letters sent and received. I needed my briefcase from the box in Charlotte’s study.
I found my briefcase as I had left it. It was intact. Then I realised what else I had found. I had composed my one and only confession. It was crumpled and refolded differently from what I remember. That detail was a detail I would overlook. How stupid of me.
But it was there. My letter was still there. My cathartic penned piece of piffle. I read it once more:
My Dearest Darling Becky,
If I were with you now my true love, even for just a few stolen moments, I might fly like an eagle in a sun-filled sky and soar feather-light and fancy free and thankful for fleeting ecstasy.
But I lay now with my busted brain worn away in the raw, repetitive fibrillations of incessant oscillation from chemical impulses charging then discharging positive then negative. Those cruel synaptic switches that steer me from the doors of purgatory.
In my simplest of metaphors I merely jumped from your frying pan into the torrent of fires set by Quilty and stoked by his ilk. Black forces worked their evil magic all around us.
That one black angel of death was sent to slay me but for what purpose I cannot rightly define. Was it for love of Molly? Was she the true nemesis who sought my destruction? My errant first wife betrayed me once and she would be a turncoat again if opportunity allowed. Oh, why do I have these trials and such enemies-enemies of mine who you never knew or wanted to know?
Never in my life have I felt the awful but exquisite spectrum of emotions from total despair to utter elation then right down again to the gamut of revulsion, that rendering and nauseating self-pity.
My crime was to dare to seek to bond with you, my love. To be as one with another hapless gamester and to shop and show off, to read books and ride aimlessly about and taunt and tease phantom admirers, slap and tickle a little privately and sometimes publicly and dare to invoke the wrath of the lesser folk. You and me both-we loved our games.
Those irrelevant legions milling or wandering in their own pointless interconnected blandness while us two maniacs role-played ‘psychopath meets neurotic manic depressive.’ On our roller coaster ride skirting heaven and hell, life and death. It was of death that you once asked my views.
Do you remember how you said it?
“Leo, do we all really die feeling completely on our own?” I really dread the thought of dying alone.
Then and there crystallized in a single ontological query you had me hooked in a place where you transcended any petty juvenile clichés and when I fused soul to soul with another hapless wretch as insecure and as needy as me.
Oh, my sweet precocious iceberg of a vanilla girl you then warmed my heart. In that poignant moment I took you in my arms and held you tight and told you I loved you. I saw the light in your eye glisten with a hint of a tear. Those clear, deep ebony eyes of yours momentarily smiled in an unspoken communication of empathic union.
Rebecca van Hiller, they called you street whore of Havens north and south. You were my 'datch waifu' a Doru no Mori my anagrammed verbal lie chancer.
Oh, will I ever lose that aching yearning empty pit in my stomach that urges me to take you completely for just a sublime worshipful moment and to smell the sucrose of your vanilla skin and kiss tenderly your ruby red full lips?
My dark nights of desolation where I more vividly in my decrepit mind’s eye might fantasise burying my tearful face deep into the silhouetted white mounds below your delicate ivory neck. Only in my dreams do I allow my tortured conscience free reign to savour completely the magic of the pungent mix of scent and sweat secreted damp in the folds of the yielding frailty of your fresh form. Feel my manliness; be enwrapped and succumb to my devotion about you.
The uniformed philistine fools knew nothing of the pain I endured to dissimilate from you, my greatest dearest love. The sacrifices I made when I heard you cry out for me but I retracted for puritan abstention.
I wanted to confess on the stand, to the court, to my judge and jury a true confession of an unhealthy reliance on the existence of the perverse and abnormal thread stretched between you and my wacky wife. I exploited my privileges and my position of trust but only in so far as it defiled you metaphysically and not bodily upon the painted canvases of my imaginings. As has so often been the case, I have had to make do with crumbs of pleasure from the table of life.
But please let no one take one ineluctable truth away from me: in this impassioned defence of my soul, my sordid bestial cohabitation of the mind was offered to you to rescue you from the most miserable of family lives. I presented up to you the only true prospect in a parody of happiness which in the long run of things was the only palatable succour such a twisted waif was ever going to be offered.
I taught you only important things such as about art and culture. I was your king of Cyprus, your Pygmalion and from a stilted ivory figure brought to me by Aphrodite I modelled you as a perfect Galatea.
From me you learned of great painters, poets and photographers such as Hans Bellmer, Kishin Shinoyama, Ryoichi Yoshida. I showed you the Rokeby Venus and compared her voluptuous curving form to your own and you learned that Valezquez, like me, adored your kind of fullsome womanly beauty. And so it should be immortalised. It is as imperative as life itself. I forgive you my sweet white bean. All the sins, the misdeeds, the hurt that you brought down on me are forever forgiven.
For you I hold no contempt, no hatred, no revulsion. You only became a forlorn passive pawn hammered and shaped to be like a devil on the anvil of those other, far more twisted gamers. I know you were never truly after me for revenge-it was they who sought their own stupid revenge against me for sins long ago way before our linked journey when the rails of your train collided with my old buffers.
They fettled and formed and moulded you better than I ever did into cold killing steel. I would have rather kept you soft, sweet, subtley flavoured like the delicate white flower you were meant to be. It was others who bought and sold you, pulped and processed my vanilla and packaged her. Those exploitative faceless poisonous purveyors served up a dish of lies like a banquet before a fine court all to profit and serve megolomaniac malevolences.
I would rather have left you raw, bland, amoral and acquiesecent because you grew that way on your own vine. Now you have been ripened mellifluously by us all. But I forgive you, my Becky darling. I forgive you absolutely. I will always love you and you alone.
Your truest love forever,
Leo.
I crumpled this nonsense as it deserved and tossed it forever to be forgotten into the wastebasket. Let that be the end of her and the death of a stupid infatuation. She was gone, it was over and done. I had to be positive now and not let myself dwell on morose nonsense anymore.
I gathered up my papers, stuffed them into my trusty old briefcase and they caught sight of the legal tome that good old Telemachus Johns’ wife, Taffy Ann had given me. It was ‘Police Wrongdoing: Civil Antidotes’ by Geoffrey Monmouth QC.I quickly read the preface to the book and saw a brief biography of Monmouth. He was still a practicing barrister in London for Sharpe Practyss Chambers. He’s the ideal man to sort this mess out for me if my police complaint gets me nowhere.
Sergeant Salver arrived promptly at the due time on Memorial Day, Monday 31st May 2004. He was an extremely tall, polite man. Quiet, almost monk-like with a round distinct bald patch the size of an orange. He wrote copious notes. He took it all down He seemed very interested to hear about Quilty-apparently it was a name well known to him. I figured this was not the first complaint against that Trojan Quilty. The meeting lasted an hour, quite convivial to be fair and completely painless and smooth. Sergeant Salver might be my salvation. He was just nothing like the others at all.
I felt incredibly alive once that was all done. It was such a glorious sunny day. I wanted to be out and about in the free warm air. I had plenty of time before my lunch meeting. So rather than drive into town I took myself off for a walk to meet my accomplice of old. Along that familiar path down toward the quayside I passed by an unfamiliar scene, a group of presumably Italian merchant seamen off some sailboat or trawler on the spree and walking by in the midst of a heated altercation. They were howling out voluble expressions in their vivacious language in a particularly animated way, there being some little differences between the parties.
Puttana Madonna…che ci dia i quattrini…Ho ragione? Mezzo più…Dice lui…però! Mezzo…Farabutto! Ma ascolta!…Cinque più.
Oh, how it soothed me to see others worse off than myself. Often in my life, in my hour of need, I call on Mr Johns: the purveyor of truisms and bringer of wisdom and fleeting inebriate joy. He had enquired of my police troubles some little time back and we had decided this day was as good as any to reacquaint ourselves after many a long absence.
We had arranged to meet for a drink and a spot of lunch at the Siduri. It was the final week before closing down. Proprietor Gilgamesh was off to pastures new so I wanted one last hurrah.
I walked into the fine establishment at a touch after one but there were few of the old of lunchtime crew about. I found myself a small corner table and sat perusing the menu. Sitting silently contemplating the lambasting wit that should soon befall me I noted Gilgamesh lovingly polishing an imperfect wine glass in what I determined was an unconvincing imitation of a finicky waiter. Another resolute loner?
I pondered how Mr Johns would greet me. Still the loyal friend? He was such an odd mix - kind of car salesman meets errant archdeacon: always chastising his wayward parishioners and always with something dodgy to sell. He was a man who loved the sound of his own voice more than I did. A truer sophist than me. Soon would come redemption in a rendition of his slick revivalist-style monologues.
I caught my alter ego bounding oafishly through the door. Telemachus Johns closed his long daybook and glanced with his drooping eye at a pine naked statuette sentried in a corner. He pulled himself erect, and went to it and, spinning it on his axle, viewed about this Aladdin’s cave of bric a brac, exotic flotsam and jetsum, objet d’art shapes and brasses, some real and some purloined fakes. Chewing the limb of his black sunglasses he poked and prodded the silent wooden maiden about the face. He was stopped in his fumblings at the doorway when a swarthier face met him. The two seemed to chat about something for a time. Right there good old TJ genuflected his hatbrim giving shade to his eyes from the sunlit doorway and ambled his portly frame my way and waved his perfunctory greeting.
“Hello my old telemarketer, how’s it going, you old faker?” But this is how it always begins. In comes the long-suffering, long-winded friend cum work colleague who I had neglected for such a while.
“I’m well- in fact I am as perky as ever. Life’s good, always good- you know me.”
I signalled to Gil for two red wines and with the slightest genuflection it was as good as done.
“Cool, I had been thinking what you said before about having a chat- since I said I was going to ask your advice about my intended civil action-might take a punt at getting some compo from the police or the education authorities.”
I hear a sigh then a momentary pause.
“Yes, Leo, I kind of knew that things hadn’t been going well for you- you haven’t been back to me for quite some time and I tend to know when you’re not doing so well, old soldier. So you not coming back to our fold then?”
Maybe- but no time soon-perhaps never. We spoke first about this messy police business.
“Leo, when we were kids back in the day. Like a lot of Irish immigrant kids growing you were that good church boy and you made your mother proud…”
Thus he did begin.
“But how you have changed! I don’t want to come across as your mother or anything. But Leo, if you get caught with a perpetual rod on for the nubiles then the law of averages will snare you on legal barbwire sooner or later!”
I thought, bolted horse and stable door and counted to ten then spat back a niggardly riposte to the reasonist’s fallacy while he sniffed at the redness that span about his wine glass.
“Now climb down off that high one, TJ! Now you’re a fine one to preach! Mister oh-so-pure of the Phys. Ed. Department don’t try and pull the wool over my eyes….I vividly remember…the other year…summer term…as should half the giggling girlies of Bishop Thomas Duprés…when you personal fouled Luscious Laura-of the gaping gymslip-umpteen times and your throbbing tackle was raised as a matter of concern…a high hard lob on showing in your silk shorts and giving the giggles to the girls-the pair of you entwined ball clutching on the floor!”
I stifled my retort as a matter of courtesy while our shadowy waiter had decided to edge gently over to strain an ear and Johns threw back another glass glistening gob full with glee.
For the difference between Mr Johns and Mr Bloom is that the former elicits his classroom and extra-curricular gratifications from pre-pubescents much like the wretched character from that unmentionable Americanised Russian novelist.
However, while the latter, my less scurrilous self chooses to savour the elegant beauty of a female who actually looks like a woman. My sensibilities are far less contemptible and are rooted in biological triggers and not deviancy. For let it be said while, the legal age of consent in England is sixteen years of age every one of us knows someone, be it themselves, a family member or whatever who has broken that particular arbitrary law. Statutes cannot constrain biology. Those wide-hipped, pendulous breasted, fine-skinned young women would populate my own version of an enchanted island. While Mr Johns would be sat on his own paradise beach clapping and cheering alongside a certain Mr HH ogling and salivating over gawky, lank and rather androgynous waifs as they innocently skip on by. That I would find wholly repulsive. I take a cautious sip of my wine.
But Jesting Johns persists, “ Come, come, still the trick is never get caught beyond a certain point where I invariably drew the line as it simply led to trouble all round to say nothing of your being at the tender mercy of others practically. You behold in me, Leo, I say with grim displeasure, a horrible example of free thought. Most of all I should comment adversely on the desertion of Boobing Bloomer by all our pub hunting confreres but one, a most glaring piece of ratting on the part of our brother pendants under the circs. And all one to a man and all Judases, you say, who up to then had said nothing whatsoever of any kind. Jeez, and all this suing business. Is it really the way forward? Everyone seems to want to sue someone these days-even onions have lawyers.”
“No-I think you’ll find that’s layers, Anyways Well, Machus mate I can do without them all now- and this is no longer about your lascivious fumbles and hand fouls. It’s about legal retribution. The police brazenly faked a record in transcription and they were out to crucify me…it still persists! I will get my day in court to expose them all and their corrupt practices.”
My friend would not have it. He threw back another swig from his glass and again insisted I was going off totally in the wrong direction.
“Leo, poor Leo, what you need to realise is that this is England where the police forces are moulded. from toughened Teflon. They can do no wrong and so says the law. Wholly bullet proofed against litigation…you haven’t got a prayer. Don’t you watch the news? The Silcotts of this world get nothing from them…you’re pissing in the wind, old chum…take my advice and leave your money in your wife’s pocket. Move on with your life. You’ve had your ‘get out of jail free’ card from your stepdaughter and I’ll bet, as sure as hell you won’t get another.”
“Thanks, chum. That is my ultimate dilemma-so which way shall I go? Thorn, Shout, Seat or Stew? Move abroad? Grow a beard? Start a commune?”
My ham-fisted, do-gooding goading friend went on about ‘Finding another way of looking at it, be objective, consider other viewpoints’ and ‘often from adversity can come hope, but nothing out of an empty glass. The fine weather friends may be gone now but one or two of us are left.’
The lispy lush was getting pickled on Gils’ generous free house wine. In his rambunctious way he was telling me I still have a rallying point. He stopped to refill his own glass to inspire his oratory and scoffed from the courtesy bowl some carrot sticks and vinaigrette left by our attentive host.
Growing steadily more exasperated by the batty boy’s flippancies I sideswiped back with my own les crudités. “Telemachus Johns: black belt third Dan in the ignoble arts of upskirting and downblousing. Never knowingly caught surreptitiously spotting the tumescent dog. ”
Telemachus’s voice softens as he contemplates on of his favourite subjects.
“Do you ever think of the person who designed the sports skirt? Someone sat down drew a fantasy and made it compulsory and now I can’t watch Wimbledon without thanking him.”
My teacher friend reminisced of classroom capers. During many a dull lesson where the opportunity presented itself, he’d be up and down the aisles from desk to desk checking over every daisy doe in pigtails to crane a gander. Twitching like he’d found that elusive unhammocked rare red breast he would love to have a good gawp. On the upward flight where he strode tall, undetected eyes supposedly shoe gazing he would, in fact be blouse bobbing the little darlings as their eyes, too, were cast downwards.
While at other less promising times, now leg-smitten, he might determine there were better pickings over a gaggle of short-skirted storks craving crotch inspection. Then he would employ the chair crescent manoeuvre. The chair crescent manoeuvre was a favoured ploy of old school pedants. Here the class formed their chairs in a semi-circle about teacher’s desk. Thereupon the aforesaid member would inspect those cross-legged, open–legged thigh and panty flashers to his heart’s content with the benefit of his prop to hide his predicament while he pretended to lecture intently on some dull topic or other. Perks of the job.
The thigh had a peculiar sanctity. What of the boys, you ask? Oblivious. The thigh was the part most prized of the sacrificial victim - a sweet savour to the Deity. Bacchus, it should be remembered, was preserved as an embryo within the thigh of Jupiter, and Pythagoras wrote the thigh was his ultimate contemplation. Never doubt the magic of that soft white place. TJ always put a highbrow spin on his perversions to make them ever so slightly more aesthetic and seem a tad less depraved. I felt sure if the police raided his gaffe and impounded his computer and found a stash of child porn he would blab some excuse he was merely doing background research for a novel he was going to write on Gary Glitter and child sex tourists in Thailand or something.
I opined, “Mister Johns you have an anvil for a soul! McNutt made me the ‘ambusher’ of his case and so it was told. He scowled that my ‘false’ witness perjured herself on pain of prison for me at the eleventh hour! Thereafter I was skewered up on Golgotha for the pleasures of the cackling hacks of paparazzi town. Slants were penned then printed then from the gutter rags they flew into to the hands of those education mill masters who pay us our corn. “
Of course, I do confess to him, and in turn, to you now, that my biggest drawback was my fear of alerting her and then her relating that to those warblers and brawlers to take me down I don’t touch and despite down blousing her ever downward, there and then, I relented from any drawdown and nothing backward in my thinking thereafter. Left for me now is not to see her underparts and understrap - nothing, no presents for serpents from underdraws or undersward and thus fear-free forever of warbling and brawling.
Jocular Johns felt it incumbent on him to say a few words. But one should be charitable. Invincible ignorance.
They acted according to their lights. They say justice must not only be seen to be done but has to be seen to be believed. I had injustice in that what I saw in her I saw flitting and fleeting and it was just this: seeing is not doing and thinking is not feeling - not of her tender parts, in that I am most sure.
Was I the ringmaster of the North Haven Chapter of East Mercia’s long-established ‘pay-to-feel’ ring of the ineffable ‘P’ word? The Tommy Titter’s and Malcolm Tent’s will always want to read juicy lasciviousness over their Sunday breakfast tables whether real or imagined. And so he went on.
“Give it up Bloom boy. So it might rankle that the bad boys in blue pooh-poohed Lita’s confession from the start without so much as a sniff. Of course it was biased; they were out to fix you, we all know it. But can you persuade a jury of that? Will anyone give you compensation? I doubt it but I’m no lawyer, my friend. Is there ever any real redress for over-zealous licensed executioners who character assassinate while hiding behind a uniform? But these are just words. Think of those other cases-some far, far worse than yours. Those shootings, strange deaths in custody-count yourself lucky you’ve still got the breath to speak!”
And I will speak. Unfortunate people do die like that, so unprepared. We need to see an act of perfect contrition. They need to fulfil their obligations. For the act of contrition to be complete, all the obligations must be discharged that have followed from their sins. A thief must return that which he has stolen. I need to be made whole again. Likewise, a person who has taken away the good name of another must do what he can to give that good name back again. There will be no free cottage pies or ex gratis tromboning from me to Pearl Nicklaus and Beau Khaki. Ace Rimmer may still get his kicks cuckolding Ché Spitzer-Swallows who suffers oral blowback when Rector Prospects meets Hank E. Steyne and Bud Plugge. Peter File’s ring of Mo Leicester’s went to ‘Fizz’ Dyng and Doug Gingg. So wipe it all up Fran E. Badder because Blooming Leo proved to the court that George Harrison was George and Harrison and ‘Get off me’ could never in a million years be contrived maliciously from a tape recording that even any fool with a hearing aid could tell was ‘You can’t force me!’ Forensics? What forensics? For the defence we submit four plain and unequivocal English syllables and not three, my Lord.
Telemachus tries to salve my evident discomfort, “Leo, in this life we are all limited by our own personal 'horizons of understanding'. Those hob gobs have only their own myopic vantage point. But you’ve also been ensconced in your own blinkerdom, too, my friend. You’re a clever sod, but you don't say the right thing to the right people and never will get your sop."
And Telemachus Johns gives up his own act of contrition. For he had to confess to the awful eavesdroppings of the clackers of his class and the delights he took from the titbits of overheard tattle of Tommy Carroll and his conquests. Carroll courted a Carol and gave her the gift of a pearl necklace behind the bike sheds while the skater waiters looked on and applauded most approvingly: its all gravy!
Hailing Mary won’t cut it because I knew we were all in for some heavy penance. No retractions, no apologies, no balance.
Your Honour Justice Tobias Mahony says, ‘You are free to go without a stain on your character.’ Stains abound though. Stains are what mark us all. You cannot absolve me.
So take off that pompous wig you old fool and live in the real world. You are not my priest. Many column inches read by my family, my children, my friends and colleagues, my neighbours and my laughing enemies who shall gloat because it is not what is real but what is perceived to be real that counts. Is there a God who counts?
Any child, any woman can cry wolf and if they are believed and the vested interests of justice deem it so then it boils down to, ‘There Must Be A Case To Answer’ because the prosecutor refuses to contemplate or anticipate the defence case before the stark and cruel day in court arrives.
Because so few sexual assault cases ever conclude with a criminal conviction the glorious Crown witch hunters have determined to make an example of them all, even if they are acquitted, at least they have been properly ‘named and shamed.’ Stained and blamed.
Us shabby suspects of such offences, we all know we are shabby because the police have told everyone we are, shall be guilty until proven innocent and blackly tarred in public and thus guilty by default. The black and tans tanned us good and proper.
’No smoke with fire’ is how the old saying goes. And my perjurous accusers walk away laughing for the celebratory post-trial drink at the ‘Sunken Ship’ while the newspapers throw their slings and arrows slices at the ‘poor paedo’.
Open quotation marks - Lewd Teacher Cleared in Schoolgirl Torment Case-close quotation marks and all because (open quotation marks) Unknown American Girl Ambushes Trial (close quotation marks). When they have done all that they can rest in their act of perfect contrition. But they will still not have an infallible assurance that they will have sanctifying grace. They must rest their case in the merciful hands of God. He will decide.
I sighed mournfully then came his lament.
“Leo, Leo, oh ale piped Leo. I totally relate to how you feel. I’m sure we both would agree, real justice is being allowed to do whatever we like. Injustice is whatever prevents us doing it. Don’t let the evil drink make matters worse. Let it lay for now as soft solace for your sorrows. Police Complaints: freer and easier route to catharsis. Give it one more try.”
Telemarketer his telemetry gone, made sentimental by the drink, reflects on our father’s crosses that they were forced to bear in the Troubles of our long forgotten homeland.
“Of Dublin Post Office, of Belfast, Derry Boys, Provos! Guildford and Birmingham four, five, six and counting. Oh, hope, dip ale! Where is our ale pope-hid?”
The clichéd and customary vernacular of the courtroom echoed in my ears and smiled wryly as I contemplated those comical words “without a stain on your character." No job ever to go to never. Thereafter cast out like a wandering rock.

56
Melancholic minds are often tortured by the recurring dread they will remain alone in perpetuity. For us soul-beaten sailors cast adrift in becalmed solitude not even a "dame de voyage" or a "dama de viaje" to give us joy. Unloved, misunderstood and set apart from the smiley-faced crowds we call normal we find that ubiquitous vision of life is but an astigmatism uneasily filling our line of vision. We disdain the chirp of back slapping jovial optimists whose focus is constrained by what their betters delineate as the boundaries of their banal firmament. But us questioning, fretting souls who by virtue of our dissatisfaction with being spoon fed feeble sound bite truisms and blatant unappetising untruths about right and wrong, social duty, moral imperatives will not lie down, we will not be trampled on and we shall fight on until the bitter end. I am not a child molester and I refuse to wear the gloats and the brickbats. I will never covet or despoil my neighbours’ precious offspring under a shabby raincoat to conceal the crime, the deflowering of innocence for any sordid, secret corrupt denigration. I hear them say ‘move on, Leo’ get over it-don’t keep playing the victim.’ Absurd fools - don’t they know everything is now changed? I have lost my reputation; I have no career, no respect, no love, and not a jot of self-esteem left. All I have is my anger and my bottle of pills and the siren call of the drinks cabinet or my faithful love pillow, my 'dakimakura.' Nothing can be as it was. There is no putting the clock back. Only that anger raises me from my pathetic pit each day.
I am left with but a few scant memories of a love affair that never was or would never in my rational, clear thinking, every day sensibilities even remotely have existed. It’s a sad and sorrowful palliative to my plight that I am left with the manic extremes of my desires and tortuous Hades’ depths that I fought valiantly to not succumb.
****
A phone call came the next day from Police HQ. The sergeant handling the internal investigation advised me enquiries were now under way. I told him I had seen my solicitors about a civil action. He warned me the police would not entertain a civil claim against them until after a full internal investigation had been concluded.
“How long will that take?“
Could be a year or so he replied. There may be an outside chance of criminal proceedings and that takes precedence under law. Oh, god. I had a choice. Pursue a civil claim or a formal complaint.
This sergeant seemed sincere. His advice was to drop the formal complaint if I wanted to expedite a civil matter. I needed to think. Go ahead, he said I best chat it over with my solicitors. I took his advice. I would get back to him after consulting my lawyers. I called Brigid Kearney. She confirmed it was usual practice for a formal investigation to tie up any civil claim until normal avenues of complaint had been exhausted.
“Those things can take an age-law unto themselves,” she said. I decided to just go with the civil action. I called the sergeant back he said he would pop a letter of retraction in the post but assured me his investigations would go on although simply as an informal enquiry.
Weeks passed and nothing happened. Then the months ebbed away. From May to June, July, August then September I waited for news. What little I did hear came from rumour. Gilgamesh repeated to me something overheard from customers dining one evening. The word was that Acting Inspector Quilty was now permanently ensconced as a uniformed sergeant once more. He had been cast away and forgotten within the bowels of North Haven’s drug and street crime. I was sure he had not the foggiest about the latest trade on the streets. Discreet sale of a rather fetching nude female figurine sought. Gilgamesh was not the noble soul I once imagined. He too, had gained a reputation for underhand dealings. The fish he fried were not just sea catches but plundered relics from a bombed out Baghdad. Lets just say there was a thriving black market down at the docks where foreign sailors were as likely to seek out a dealer of Arabian artefacts than the location of the nearest house of ill repute.
‘Probably Early Uruk culture, say about seven to eight thousand years I would guess.’ Never mind the provenances of a brassy buxom blonde when there is a quick profit to turn over some small items allegedly excavated from the temple precinct at Ur.
With those things there are no provenances, no guarantees. Lebanese antiquities dealers are buying sharp suits from Saville Row believing it has never been a better time to consider investing in antiques. Decide for yourself the legality of it. I doubt very much if the good ex Inspector would know a figurine from a fig let alone what was on the Interpol’s list of loot vanishing out of Iraq lately.
The ‘Siduru’ was now set to close. But business sure was good for Gilgamesh. He rolled his dastardly charcoal black moustache between his fat fingers when he told me he now acquired a ‘prime premises’ (with complementary rear parking) in the redeveloped bijou retail quarter of South Haven. There he was setting his stall out for a grander enterprise. Gone was the white apron and instead he wore a pinstripe suit like his Lebanese counterparts.
“I am sited right by a new food court close to the tourist information centre. It is a wonderful step up for me, Mister Leo, commitment from major brands and unsurpassed customer flows.”
No more cuisine capers more antique antics for our Gil. For him it was now ‘Sumertime’ at the swank ‘Babylonia’ and the living for him would be easy. I guess his new business partners have tapped into a very hot source of Arabic artefacts from his American connections in Baghdad.
Everyone else seemed to be doing well out of life except poor old Leo. I telephoned Brigid Kearney on Monday September 6th. She said she had no news for me as yet. It was the ‘Labor Day’ national holiday in the States and Kooky had sent me an email asking if I was still happy living with my ‘Girl Friday’ and her kids. Was I not yet ready to jump ship? She wanted to also tell me she had a date set for her civil case against her former employer in the Federal Court. I sensed she was itching to have me back on board and dump my current crew.
I didn’t take the bait. Her email simply served to provoke me into sending a letter to my constituency Member of Parliament to see if he could stick his oar in for me about my continued suspension from teaching by the Secretary of State for Education.

September 6th 2004
Leo Bloom BA Hon PGCE,
7 Eccles Drive,
North Haven

Harry Humbert MP,
Constituency Office,
27 Odessa Road,
North Haven

Dear Harry,
In the matter of Regina versus Myself
Thank you for your continued assistance in the above matter.
There was considerable press coverage of my case both in regional and national press. You may be aware that I have been cleared of all criminal charges against me after a fatally flawed police investigation was exposed at North Haven Magistrates Court. But according to prosecutor, McNutt’s ‘spin’ my stepdaughter had certainly ‘ambushed’ his prosecution, or so the ‘Eastern Echo’ headline had it.
However, the Crown Prosecution Service had been fully aware of my defence case since my letter to the Chief Crown Prosecutor of February 6th 2004. Certainly, as you know, East Mercia Police had received numerous letters from me as far back as April 2003 asking them to conduct forensic examination of my computer. I am incredulous as to why they persistently declined that offer.
Sector Commander Bishop even wrote to you in May 2003 labelling me the ‘avid letter writer’ and he said I was attempting to ‘apply undue pressure to the investigation process’ [JA Bishop to Harry Humbert MP; 21.05.03]. In July 2003 my stepdaughter accompanied by other defence witnesses and myself met personally, and pleaded with Inspector Troy Quilty and Sergeant Teucer at North Haven Police Station to listen to and test Lita’s confession to the offences for which I had been charged. But these officers cynically tried to fob us off that the investigations were closed!
But thereafter the ‘closed’ investigation did not stop the taking of further statements to benefit prosecution purposes. Officers had waited four and six months before interviewing such witnesses and thus affording them the opportunity to ‘firm up’ on their conspiracy of lies.
Please detect the obvious frustration in my words. For I have just read the character assassination committed upon me in the Morning Sun and Eastern Echo.
I had been a law-abiding and successful teacher for over fifteen years. As you know, I had written to East Mercia Police ‘Professional and Ethical Standards Department’ as early as 28.04.03 about my concerns over PC Godbolt’s ‘mistakes’ (she confessed to such mistakes under oath when cross-examined by defence counsel).
The crux of my argument is that I was acquitted in large part by the PHYSICAL evidence of the complainant’s own audiotape recording submitted by the prosecution, not my defence, which starkly caste both key Crown witness as abject, cynical liars conspiring and caught in their own perjurous web. Thus I am the true victim of this farce left permanently cast under a cloud of suspicion.
Significantly, PC Godbolt admitted under oath that it was wrong of her to take a witness statement from the complainant in front of another prosecution witness.
Under cross-examination the complainant finally admitted under oath she suspected the actual author to have been my daughter.
The complainant and her boyfriend lied in their statements then changed their stories yet again and compounded their lies in court. Indeed, under cross-examination Mr Tractabull was warned for contempt of court. These witnesses contradicted each other’s versions of events throughout. How could any police officer or crown prosecutor not identify such a web of deceit as this?
“I ran into the park then and spoke to Rebecca. She told me to get back into the bushes, which I did.”
A Tractabull, Witness Statement (CJ Act 1967, s.9; MC Act 1980, ss5A(3)(a) and 5B; MC Rules 1981,r.70)
No conversation between them exists at all on the tape recording!
Please examine the issue of the ‘official transcript’ of the audiotape. This Crown Prosecution Service version, allegedly ‘professionally-transcribed’ wholly failed to include any identification of the voices of the young males calling to the complainant by name and repeatedly referring to her as ‘Becky’ and ‘prozzy’ (validating my version of events as per my arrest interview). Everyone in the courtroom could here what so-called professional criminal investigators could not. I contend that the Crown Prosecution Service knew full well the errors in this transcript. They knew it was wrong to present it to the court as a balanced and accurate record from the moment they were in possession of my defence version of 10.02.04. Yet the prosecutor adamantly stood by his own discredited document. I contend this was wholly malicious, or at the very least, negligent of the rules of evidence.
How on earth could the police and Crown Prosecution Service not draw significance from the fact that on the physical evidence of the audiotape I always spoke of the sender of the text messages in the third person and I said clearly to the complainant, when referring to the text messages “I read them.“ Absolutely no evidence whatsoever on the tape pointed to me as their author in any way at all. Yet the complainant alleged she had taken the recorder with her to secretly entrap the sender of the texts.
During the trial prosecutor McNutt called into the courtroom two uniformed police officers just before my stepdaughter gave her evidence. She was warned she would be arrested immediately if she admitted to those offences under oath. Is this not deliberate intimidation of a witness in a court of law?
Yet Tractabull was warned three times by counsel for contempt of court as he persisted in stating his obvious lies to the magistrates. However, this ‘witness’ was never threatened with arrest. [Perjury is defined as making a statement which the person gives wilfully and “knows to be false or does not believe is true”. See Haze J. in Re v. London and Globe Finance Corporation Ltd [1903]]
Surely there must be a case to put against these prosecution witnesses for conspiracy to pervert justice? What about charges against the complainant for the assault she admitted on me?
Related to this case, but in a separate incident, known associates of the complainant attacked my daughter in South Haven in the summer of 2003 and a formal complaint filed with South Haven Police. My stepdaughter believed she was being intimidated because she was a witness in my case. She subsequently supplied the police with an audio recording of a telephone conversation with one of her attackers in which she obtained evidence of a crime. We were told an investigation would be forthcoming. But no officer ever contacted us since regarding this evidence nor informed us of any outcome of her complaint.
I must ask you: Is justice even-handed in East Mercia?
For the past year I have been suspended from teaching without pay. I have now been forced out of my own home by a vigilante mob looking to lynch a ‘paedophile’ and I have been left with substantial and crippling unpaid debts. I exist on prescription anti-depressants. Although I cleared my name in court the damage done to my reputation by the press means there will be great antipathy amongst parents, the general public and others against me working as a supply teacher in East Mercia. Even though I am acquitted and found innocent of all charges six months on I am still suspended from teaching by both East Mercia Education Department while the office of Secretary of State for Education advises me although they are continuing to investigate allegations into my conduct I am not barred from teaching.
Even I have discussed my situation with those close to me. I now feel I have nothing else to lose. I have also had conversations with a representative of a quality national newspaper about running my full story.
I am loathe to put my case into the forum of the gutter press without thoroughly exhausting all other options. But I am not prepared to give up my fight for justice. Eventually someone will have to compensate me for ruining my life. I feel so strongly about the injustice that I have suffered and my concomitant loss of faith in the police that I believe a civil action may be my final unavoidable recourse. I have been made fully aware that I will need to prove that the police and Crown Prosecution Service knew of my innocence and/or doubted their own case against me if I am to succeed. But there is also an issue of negligence that might also come into play and may ultimately be even more winnable. I humbly plead for your guidance on this.
Yours sincerely,
Leo Bloom BA Hon PGCE
I didn’t expect much from that but I posted it nonetheless. It at least gave me some sense that I had pursued every angle open to me.

SEPTEMBER 10TH 2004. Telemachus called round sporting a bottle of fine Chianti. Mr Johns was the browbeating kind as per usual. I was struggling to keep an even temper with his brand of acerbic dry wit flung my way.
I should have asked him to leave after twenty minutes or so but I let myself get sucked into a turgid debate that would threaten our long-time friendship. He knows the drink will loosen my tongue better to entertain his gambit.
TJ: “Too many fools still believe and need to believe that children are ‘innocent’ and ‘pure’, that is, asexual, untainted by sexual thoughts, feelings or urges. But, you see, Leo, you and me know this is not true even of very young children, and it is certainly not true of children much past the age of ten or eleven.”
LB: "I’m no Paraphiliac-the etiology of me is not perversion. I’ve never frotteurised any nymphs-not me-not bashful Bloom."
TJ: “Leo, I’m serious-consensual, romantic sex is inherently not deviant, it’s a beautful thing! I’m all for the mutual giving and receiving of pleasure-people should never be thrown into jail for wanting to pleasure someone.”
Mr Johns tells me what happened to me was not my fault. Thank you, my friend, I graciously replied. He blames mother nature for letting girls hit puberty younger - he says one in six girls are pubescent at eight and more and more are sexually active younger and don’t pay much heed to the law.
The real villains, he says, are the agrochemicals industries in conspiracy with weak governments that allow the pumping of hormones into livestock to boost yield.
And the biggest yield is on the our kids who munch their way through burgers and chicken nuggets and slurp down their milkshakes all spiked with progesterone and testosterone in a mix to form genotoxic metabolites so our darling cherubims and seraphims sprout their sexual wings younger and younger and then want to wear thongs, figure hugging revealing lingerie and show off proudly what mum and dad wish they could have an then engage in non-angelic pursuits with each other.
Telemachus proposes that if so many kids are breaking the law then why not just drop the age of consent lower?
I baulk at his proposition but refill his glass as he gazes admiringly at the black and white Bellocq nymph in the photo frame above the mantelpiece.
He turns back to me to toast to my health and we both lift our glasses and sup the red fruit of life. He then goes on to enlighten me about perversion.
He says that in the last sixty years, the term "perv" has become both a noun and verb. So he likes to perv about once in a while - where’s the harm?
Is he joking with me? His humour was as dry as a nun’s flange. Etymologically, parapahilia has replaced the term ‘pervert’ but the word properly implies "turning aside" from something. Tel is turning away from hyporcrisy he says. Wasn’t it about time I did, too?
He thinks I am a hypocrit for looking and not touching. He reckons he is at least honest with himself about that.
Mr Johns is firmly of the opinion that we should accept that in our hyper-commercialised consumerist society no one can escape the relentless teasing sexualisation of younger and younger children. Nearly all the young girls in his classes wear skimpy thongs and he loves it, he confesses. I am feeling uncomfortable now.
He said if he hadn’t been a teacher he’d have been a clothes designer or photographer for some children’s fashion house.
The sexualisation of childhood is big business and the mega-corporations are making billions by putting kids in alluring attire as if they were adults.
He says we shouldn't be ostracized for wanting sex with children if Hollywood is selling little girls to millions of people in a highly sexualised way then society shouldn’t bleat and scream when the paraphiliacs prey on them.
Children are constantly portrayed as sexual caricatures of adults, wearing slinky outfits and mimicking sexual poses. In other cases, a teenager or young adult is dressed in a way to make her appear younger.
LB: “She may be wearing a cheerleader uniform, a school-girl uniform, she may be posing clutching a stuffed animal, or with dolls-it’s what we all call ‘jailbait.” They ask for it so kiddie fiddlers give it to them. Whereas the law formerly condemned the infringement, the act of breaking the law, we enter from now on in a disciplinary society which condemns the criminal himself–called ‘delinquent’ or ‘pervert’–and instead of punishing the act, we criminalize a person or a category of the population.”
Never mind, I thought, TJ has found his escape route, his own little niche in the Far East beyond the reach of the long arm of the law with all the others of his ilk.
I tossed the chianti down my throat disdainfully while Johns drained the dregs of the bottle that had lasted so little time. His thirst was unquenched and he was remorseless in his tastes.
I saw him as the preacher of paraphilia, the used car salesman of sordid sex charabancs trying to get me to buy into his grubby and vile vision.
But I’m not buying it. Again he says I should go with him, he wishes me to sign up for a test drive. A flight of fancy to far fields of freer fornication.
He’s laying down his fat carbon footprint in the cause of sex tourism. We are living in a fast-changing global economy where the Internet is the gateway to exotic lifestyles and opportunities. Jocular Johns is serious. He’s not joking.
He is actually trying to entice me to sign up for one of his little package trips. I could see him now like he was straight off a time share promotion on the Travel Channel - all orange tanned in Bermuda shorts – a cocktail in one hand and boarding pass in the other. Come on board for an excursion to forbidden ecstasy - the tourism sector will fulfill your wildest fantasies. Role up and affect that much longed for commercial sexual relationship with the pliant locals at your chosen exotic destination.
I’m sure Tel organizes a few for his cronies. At any moment I was expecting him to offer me a cheaper deal for an early booking. Maybe offer his frequent fliers extra services in the destination country? TJ Tours takes the strain off legal or indifferent law enforcement, sources your ideal hotspots for lower ages of consent, pinpoints all those indifferences by officials to child prostitution where legal prohibitions are weak or unenforced.
TJ: “I’m a liberal. I am a free-thinker, an advocate of free will. Some people say there’s goes that Telemachus Johns he’s one of them! But they don’t know me, they don’t know how I think, what motivates me. I have the knowledge-I tell my online friends that the age of consent varies widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The median seems to range from fourteen to sixteen years, but globally ages can range anything from nine to twenty-one. It sickens me that people, so-called civilized, intelligent people can’t see it. Their clinical, sanitized attitudes toward the appropriate age of consent have drifted upwards in modern times-Ignorant people rally against me-against us-us free thinkers.”
LB: “Free thinkers? Us? I don’t follow you…why bring me in to it?”
TJ: “Listen Bloomer Boy, back in the good old, bad old days women had to begin birthing their offspring at fifteen or sixteen years old, the peak of their physical health. In the Eighteen Hundreds, women typically stopped giving birth by their mid-twenties. Women who birthed in later years risked death from the stress of childbirth. Many age-of-consent laws come from this era, granting persons fifteen or sixteen years old the right of sexual activity.”
LB: “Yeah…so what? I don’t get what you mean about the ‘us’ and the free-thinking stuff though.”
LB: ”Just hear me out, Leo, will you! What is emerging is a new penal system, a new legislative system whose function is not so much to punish offences against these general laws concerning decency, as to protect populations and parts of populations regarded as particularly vulnerable.”
LB: “Like children?”
TJ: ”Yes…like children. Therefore, there would be on one side the ‘fragile’ population, and on the other side the ‘dangerous’ population…adults like you and me…the kiddie fidlers they call us.”
LB: “I’m not a kiddie fidler-don’t even joke about it!”
TJ: “Who’s joking? I’m giving you, me-us and everyone a warning…what’s taking place is the intervention of psychiatrists in homes, in schools and in courts…. they manipulate the children…they manipulate the kid’s consent…In an evil manipulation of their words."
Johns wanted me to understand that the separation between the world of the child and the world of the adult had grown into a gulf forced upon us by the medical Establishment with the connivance of the law makers.
He was telling me that ‘we’ were their new creation put within a category of people regarded as “perverts,” or “legal monsters” whose aim in life would be to practice sex with children. That ‘we’ he had lumped me into would then really become those intolerable perverts since the crime as such is recognized, and reinforced by a psychological and sociological arsenal.
I saw the obsession in John’s eyes - he was intent in his views on this. He was starting to scare me.
TJ: “You see, Leo, the construction of this new type of criminal–an individual perverse enough to do those wicked things that hitherto had always been done without anybody thinking it right to stick his nose into it has come upon us as an extremely political point of view. It’s offensive to me, Leo, do you see what I’m saying?”
My friend didn’t dispel my concerns by then going onto refer to what he called ‘attacks without violence.’
He explained that this was a type of the offence in which the police have found a ‘suspect’ and not been unable to find anything, nothing at all, in that case, the criminal is simply made a criminal because he is a criminal, because he has ‘those tastes’. It is what he liked to call a ‘crime of opinion.’
TJ: “You see, Leo, the crime vanishes, nobody is concerned any longer to know whether in fact a crime was committed or not, whether someone has been hurt or not. No one is even concerned any more whether there actually was a victim. And you, look at you- you sad pilloried old paedo…man-hunted, by the identification and isolation of the categorised as fit for a good lynching sent out by the gutter press.”
LB: “Will you please stop referring to me as a paedo…I’m not a peado and I’m not one of you!”
TJ: “Ah, so you’re not are you? Well there are ways and means of testing if you are you old scoundrel! You don’t fool me for a start. You wait….the trick cyclists-the men in white coats-will have you strapped up and tested in a Volumetric air chamber before you know it.”
LB: “What the hell is a Volumetric air chamber when it’s at home?”
TJ: “It’s a device they stick on your penis, my friend…..and then they show you the child porn and if your tumescence increases it forces the air out and that air is then measured.”
LB: “God, the humiliation of it! Is that real? Do they do really these things?”
TJ: “Do them? Of course they do them! This is how they catch you. Or try might-they might also strap you into the Circumferential Transducer:”
LB: The Circumferential Transducer? Now you’re really having a laugh!No-it can’t be.”
TJ: “Yes! I swear-it is real- its this mercury-in a rubber ring strain gauge that’s placed around your cock to measure changes in circumference…penile plethysmography!”
LB: “That’s bizarre! Oh, the strictures of it all!”
TJ: “Yes, indeed…if you cannot meet the minimum legal thresholds as per the measures of the swellings gauge then the person's passive interest in children is manifested as perverted and then you know what will come upon you next?”
LB: ”No…nothing good, I’m sure. But do tell me!”
TJ: “Chemical castration! Nueterdom! We are entering the Twenty-first Century and no longer living in a liberal period but are cowed under more subtle forms of sexual supervision. Our apparent freedoms that camouflaged these more subtle, more diffuse social controls was going to extend beyond the field of the judicial and the penal. “
LB: “Penalising the penile with penal servitude, good heavens!”
TJ: ”You have seen and heard it hear first my dear, Leo, you have been witness to the new order.”
Johns insisted that since the Nineteenth Century we have been on a slippery slope and the invention by Psychiatry of the category of the "perverts". English law, the French penal code and other jurisdictions never used to regulate citizen’s sexual behaviors, as if sexuality was not the business of the law. But now, he explains that legislation on sexuality during the late Nineteenth Century and especially in the Twentieth Century became increasingly oppressive. All the legislation on sexuality introduced since the Nineteenth Century, is a set of laws on decency, he insisted.
Telemachus was now vehemently denouncing the increasing psychiatrization of society and the introduction of a social control over our sexuality.
TJ: "What is emerging is a new penal system which sees on one side the fragile population, and on the other side the "dangerous population" or adults, in other words.”
Mr Johns was thorough in his reasoning as if he had been mulling over these malefic issues for the longest of times.
LB: “How long have you thought like this, Tel?”
TJ: ”Always…and now you need to think on it, too. Whether you like it or not you’re one of us now…you’re going to feel the intervention of psychiatrists in your life. You wait…it’s only just starting for you.”
LB: “Please stop referring to me as one of ‘us’ when it makes me seem like I’m part of some secret club or something.”
TJ: “But you have been tainted, Bloomer Boy…in court you were subjected to the manipulations of the child's consent, a manipulation of words. You have been found guilty of the crime against decency.”
LB: “But I was acquitted!”
TJ: "Acquitted of an act of violence maybe, but found guilty by the press for an obsession. In your kind of case you are the criminal. Simply made a criminal because to them you are a criminal, because you have ‘those tastes.’ It is what used to be called a crime of opinion. The crime vanishes, nobody is concerned any longer to know whether in fact a crime was committed or not, whether someone has been hurt or not. No one is even concerned any more whether there actually was a victim.”
LB: “Well-I do feel stigmatized for sure-that’s a given! I feel I’m done now as far as teaching is concerned and I’ve lost a good many friends over this.”
TJ: “I’ve been there, old boy, I’ve been, too. You’re not alone, trust me. Never to have been convicted of any crime but still tainted. We are members of that dark club-the club of the dangerous. And we’re in a society of dangers, with, on the one side, those who are in danger, and on the other, those who are dangerous. Sexuality will become a threat in all social relations, in all relations between members of different age groups, in all relations between individuals. And sexuality will no longer be a kind of behavior hedged in by precise prohibitions, but a kind of roaming danger, a sort of omnipresent phantom, a phantom that will be played out between men and women, children and adults, and possibly between adults themselves. It is on this shadow, this phantom, this fear that the authorities would try to get a grip through an apparently generous and, at least general, legislation and through a series of particular interventions that would probably be made by the legal institutions, with the support of the medical institutions."
Johns eyes were fixed on me in a vexed trance that made him appear unfamiliar. He was now a person I didn’t know. A man who had metamorphosed from the cheeky, care-free gadabout of our youth to an embittered soul-tortured by something. Maybe someone, but I don’t know what.
He went on to say how the media plays its part. He knew he had my sympathies on that. The media will back up and justify the measures that the legislator is proposing by saying that the universal decency of mankind must be defended.
LB: “Well, yes, I can see that-the government is taking more and more social control over the behavior of the individual.”
TJ: “But it’s more than that! Don’t you also see the dangers for lawyers who defend people like you in these cases? Anyone who defends a suspected paedophile may be suspected of having sympathy for the cause. Even judges will think to themselves: if he defends them, it’s because he isn’t against it himself.”
Then to twist his tortuous knife deeper into my wounded soul Teaser Telemachus dropped a minor bombshell about Rebecca van Hiller. He had actually seen Rebecca and he said he was quite taken with her.
“What you saw her? Where? Oh, how interesting.”
I doubt my feigned nonchalance fooled him. He knew my ears would prick up to that. I asked again where he had seen her.
“She’s a dancer. She dances at the ‘Harem Heaven’ that new pole dancing club down at the quayside. She’s quite a little mover that kid.”
He cruelly taunted me about her. He described how she gyrated with lots of sensual arm movement and hip work, he mimicked that fawning gait she performed so well it made me shudder to watch him. He was mocking and teasing me over her.
“You should have seen that little chick go, Bloomer, she had that Turkish dancing off pat-lots of rhythm-lots of that ‘slitting my throat’ kind of stuff.”
He knew me too well. I couldn’t hide my curiosity and he teased me further.
“And that…that Arab chap, what’s his name? Gunga Din? He runs it. Looks good. Not a place I would let Ann know I go to-too close to home-too seedy for her sensibilities. It’s all lap dancing, belly dancing, private booths stuff. You know the deal. Anyway your petite princess then did a double act- a good floor show with an older woman dressed in all that Turkish tassels and veils stuff, too –hips covered in jangling coins, swinging and gyrating their butts and breasts. I could almost get into it myself–they just need to bring in more young blood. But the place stinks of that god-awful patchouli stuff-hippy scent-you know the stuff-must be to mask all that hashish those dopes are smoking.”
He laughed now. He had in a matter of moments turned his vexations into vaudeville at my expense and then had the nerve to tell me my conscience was a silly big stick and I should put it down for a while. Johns then got back onto about us old pals going on a trip. A getaway for a once in a lifetime romp to Bangkok. He told me I needed to come out of myself. Time to have some fun to snap me out of my funk. He told me I needed to stop window shopping and try sampling some of those forbidden fruits. Better to be hanged a sheep as a lamb, after all, he did joke.
He gave a sickly guffaw but I was mute to his bait and drained of all this. I was weary and choked by it. He just hadn’t got it about me. I’m not into what he’s into and I ached to be free of my nightmare. I was glad when he decided to leave - I was irked. I began to feel unclean. I wasn’t one of ‘them.’ I’m a better man than you. I’m better than Gunga Din.

57
It was on a still, clear night about a week or so later while jogging back toward home that I sensed that my suspicions that I was being regularly followed were more than just the delusions of a persecuted mind. It wasn’t the first time I had that certain feeling but it was the first time that tingle down the back of my spine was confirmed by something more tangible.
I would never ordinarily cut back through those desolate stark and frigid roads of the old industrial estate but for some reason that night I just couldn’t face going on for the full thirty- minute circuit of my usual route.
I was weary of the monotony of trudging past unwavering commercial blocks pitifully lit by weak amber glaze of streetlights. But that eerily surreal feeling of being stalked across a crude bleak stage was akin to watching a pixellated neon character in a cheap golden-glaring video game trudging gamely from block to block to escape an amorphous inscrutable black ghoul behind the wheel of a phantom killing wagon.
But I felt sure it was the same car shape, it seemed like the same light cluster configuration and I felt sure I had seen before. Always way back beyond the limits of my clear focus but close enough for phantom Freddie to way up his prey and for me to have my hackles raised. I did it. He must have seen me stop and spin to look back. He now knows I know he is there. As I stopped to strain back to define the make of the car I heard my puff bag of frail flesh tell me I was in no shape to toy with him. I made my point. That was enough. There was no sense in me hoofing back down the road. No one in his or her right mind and in such a tired state would even countenance going toe to toe with the four-wheeled behemoth of steel. No, I returned my focus to getting home.
At the roundabout leading to Eccles Drive a courting couple were ambling along picking at a bag of fish and chips they must have plundered from the fish bar on the corner. I slowed from my lumbering jog to a fast-paced walk. Over my shoulder I checked again. My pursuer was gone.
I didn’t run the following evening. I still had that grey somnolent funk about me. It was another couple of days until I felt right as rain. And it was a drizzly night, too, but mild one with no wind when I next took to my nocturnal perambulations. This was a perfect jogger’s stage. I needed the endorphin dose of my physical therapy to help me get a better sleep that night. The mild but persistent precipitation all but cleared the streets of other bodies. Down Southtown Road I coasted past the boarded up old pub and marked my steady progress towards the Town Hall then over the Bascule Bridge and then onto Regent Street and Regent Road.
I sauntered on my long steady descent until I reached the bright lights of Marine Parade and the seafront. Along the promenade I floated gleefully sucking in the sea air and fine dabs of water about my face.
The scene was picture-perfect as the promenade was sparkling with shooting stars and dancing fairy lights that lit the pier prettily and punctuated the blackened and soaked sky.
The shimmering wet tarmac reflected a cornucopia of reds, yellows, greens and blues. North Haven seafront was resplendent in its nocturnal fireworks display.
My sense of enchanted bliss was heightened by the realisation this was my absolute freedom, my princedom, my home and no one could ever take it away now. I pounded out those steps time after time.
These streets I pummelled with my stiffened, sinewy legs paring away at the gnawing anger that ceaselessly welled up inside of me every the long, dreary, armchair-stewed day. At least like this I could dissipate that torpor for one more night. I had to pore it out.
I had to pour it all out. The tap was fully opened and the cork was out of the bottle, the poisonous brew glug-glugging away out of me. That spewing rage of hate, insipid drip, drop of daytime uselessness and frustration gushed from my piston legs and squeezed out from my over-pronated foot arches.
The vile juice, the unwanted venom was shot into the tarmac bowl and the gutter ran with the cocktail of bile cascading in a torrent adding to the mix of the storm drains. Out into the outflow pipes, far out into the murky waves before the spit and piss clogged my arteries and scarred my soul. Better out than in.
The spatter of rain cleanses my blackened form to whitewash it clean again.
To the culvert and then onto the rail crossing. Up the steel skeletal steps to cross the tracks then down the other side. From the shimmering mists of the wetted blacktop to the crunching grit of gravel I paced. Then along by the narrow alley beside All Saints’ Church and beyond to the graveyard and over worn tessellated pavoirs and through rusted old gates there I saw him more clearly as I panted closer and closer.
At the end of that ghostly lane the distant black figure stood stiff and waiting legs splayed holding a weapon in his hands, just standing motionless and filling the exit of the path before me. I slowed to a nervous walk. The hunter was gunning for me. My wheezing lungs sounded out loudly signalling I had little fight in me.
It must be flight or the abyss. I turned about on my heels and threw my body back from whence I came. Soon back onto gravel and my footing loosened and I felt I was running in slow motion unable to escape.
I threw back the rusty gate catching my hand painfully on a rail. I begged for the sanctuary of the busy street to rescue me. Over my shoulder the standing figure was coming after me in a brisk determined fashion. My stench of self-pity must be an easy trail for that bloodhound to follow.
I fell suddenly and with such a tremendous force then a dull thud of my head hitting something cold wet and very hard sending me into a daze. Nauseous spiralling flickering ribbons of light enveloped my senses. Then I felt a stabbing in the pits of my eyes and pain wracked my entire body. My hands burned with a bloodied oozing pattern of grazes. I was done.
I guess I had been concussed for a moment or at least long enough for the black hunter to reach his and pitiful crumpled prey. My eyes wouldn’t let me focus but from his hands he pointed at me both barrels of a shotgun. My day of execution had arrived. It was Paul Gadd and I whimpered, as he was about to do away with me. I begged for my assassin to spare me.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry please don’t shoot, have mercy. Please. I never meant to hurt anyone!”
He cocked his weapon as drew it up to his shoulders. I heard his voice give me my last words on this earth.
“You seem to have got yourself into a bit of a pickle haven’t you, Mr Bloom!”
He was toying with me cruelly. Oh, let it be swift and merciful. Not like this. Is this the woeful, tawdry end I truly deserve?
“Take my hand old boy. Here, use my umbrella.”
Oh, the utter humiliation of it. Pained, bloodied, soaked and now a soiled fool I had prostrated myself before the most contemptible police officer in North Haven. It was Troy Quilty.
“Oh, it’s you Inspector Quilty. I seem to have had a little accident.”
My hands trembled uncontrollably and my whole body twitched as the searing daggers of his gloating contempt, a sour effluvium, rained down on the sewer rat crawling beneath him.
He brusquely pulled bumbling babbling Bloom to his sorry feet. In my hand he thrust the running shoe I had lost in my abject demolition. I took the shoe and awkwardly slid it back where it came from as he held a large umbrella above my head.
Fumbling, grumbling beaten Bloom then saw and noted the assailing concrete bollard that had caused his crash.
“No broken bones? Looks like a few cuts and perhaps a bruise or two but you’ll heal all right. Looks like you’ve ripped a couple of holes in your fancy jacket though.”
My shamed eyes fell upon the tattered and bloodied shreds about my elbows, a mix of threads and shaved red skin. Nice! There goes an expensive tracksuit.
“It’s sergeant again, not Inspector by the way. I’m just parked around the corner. We had a shout some vandals had gotten into the old church. I was checking the scene when I saw a running figure and came round to check and found it was you.”
He tried to assuage my pain by offering to drop me back at my place. I politely declined his offer. I didn’t want more salt rubbed into my wounds. He gave me that sneering smile he always wore, told me to look where I was going next time and get myself home to my slippers and a hot cup of cocoa. I handed him back his umbrella and stumbled off home.
Oh, the indignity of it all. That cutting Quilty crack made me despise the man even more if ever that were possible. At least I could look forward to my day trip to London and my meeting with the leading barrister in the field of actions against the police. I had finally got the news I had been waiting for so long.
I was invited to meet Geoffrey Monmouth QC on October 11th 2004. Columbus Day. Monmouth was the co-author of the best-selling book on suing the police. It was Brigid Kearney colleague from the London offices of Punch, Deenan & Flynn’s, a Mr Cliff Parks, who was acting as intermediary for me.
Apparently members of the public are not permitted to contact barristers and engage their services themselves. Cliff Parks had written to me saying he had made great strides towards a high court claim for damages.
That evening I licked my wounds and pored over all my old files that I had religiously kept on the matter. I also had my copy of Geoffrey Monmouth’s book to which I was now addicted as my bedtime reading.
Clearly there was a prima face case against the police and Crown Prosecution Service for malicious prosecution on the assault charge. The tort of malicious prosecution requires satisfaction of four criteria one of which is the key component, that I, as the claimant can prove the defendant, the police and CPS, had no ‘reasonable or probable cause’ to pursue criminal proceedings against me. You see the police and the Crown must abide by certain rules in all this. They have to weigh all the evidence and judge that they have a likelihood of obtaining a conviction on a balance of at least fifty-fifty or better. The evidence put before the Crown by goonish Godbolt was all the witness statements, van Hiller’s audiotape and their transcript of it. You see upon listening to van Hiller’s tape and reading that woeful transcript we can ascertain that there is a marked discrepancy between Tractabull’s testimony and what the recording proves.
The fundamental duty of the prosecuting authorities is they must balance any decisions on what the prospects of success would be before a jury. What the Crown presented in my case were two badly flawed and proven liars against me.
The prosecutors, either by malice, recklessness or negligence failed to spot that Tractabull would lose all credibility before the court once he was shown to have lied about speaking with van Hiller when he said he ‘ran to speak to her and she told me to get back and hide.’ It just never happened because it is not on her tape that recorded the whole event without pause.
If the police and the Crown had done their jobs properly they would have followed the Code for Crown Prosecutors and vetted the credibility of their evidence. Merely by putting to Tractabull a few simple questions pre-trial they should have simply and easily verified he was a lying, untrustworthy scumbag.
The wretch would not be able to explain why his voice isn’t on the tape made by his girlfriend during the two and half minutes I left the scene and she sat in the park smoking her cigarette uninterrupted and alone.
My dream is to get to the High Court in London and put on the witness stand the Chief Crown Prosecutor, Joseph McCarthy. Let Mr McCarthy try to convince a jury he was right to blow tens of thousands of their taxes when he knew his two key witnesses were not credible.
A jury will tell McCarthy he had been reckless. That’s called misfeasance of public office and its unlawful. At the very least he was negligent in ignoring my pre-trial letter I sent to him on February 6th 2004. Doctors who get sued for negligence pay out hundreds of thousands in damages if their patient victims can never work again.
Sad, myopic McCarthy failed to see he was caught in the calm eye of a psychopath’s storm. The Deranged One sat on a throne of mental malevolence while carnage within the whirling raging vortex spun all around. Like the Bush-Blairs found to their cost - you can’t evoke a lawful remedy without sound legal foundations.
Was there credible evidence that the police and Crown Prosecution Service employed unlawful weapons of mass deception? There must be proof of your allegations because if you falsely sow the wind you shall surely reap the whirlwind.

MONDAY 11TH OCTOBER 2004: COLUMBUS DAY.
Queen’s Counsels don’t come cheap. It would be a pretty penny to have the clout of Geoffrey Monmouth batting for our side.
Geoffrey Monmouth QC - barrister at Sharpe Practyss Chambers, London. Born in Wembley on July 30th 1966 he is the eldest son of Montgomery Monmouth (deceased 1988). Geoffrey went to school in Finchley and Harrow, and then obtained his law degree from Oxford. Returning to London in 1989 he was then articled to a Mr Robert Moore, solicitor of Fulham.
The legal partnership was dissolved in 1993 and financial losses due to it forced him to "live by his pen," which he found "irksome." But eventually he took silk at the Bar. He is most notably recognised for his book, ‘Police Wrongdoing: Civil Antidotes’ a highly respected publication for actions against the police.
He also has one published stage play, “Vogues of Sturdy Muggers,” a tragedy, which had a six night run at Covent Garden, ending somewhat prematurely.
In my sharp dark suit, crisp white shirt and sober tie and clutching my trusty briefcase I caught the 8:15 express train to King’s Cross for my long-anticipated legal consultation with the author of ‘Sturdy Muggers.’
It was an unexpected yet strange bliss to dissolve anonymously amongst all the grey-faced commuters. No one speaks, no one acknowledges anyone.
I boarded the Underground and took the Northern Line south and got on the Circle trundling through Cannon Street and then Blackfriars to Temple Bar, international symbol of English Common Law and the heart of London.
I took a brisk walk into the carbon-filled London air past an imposing St. Paul's Cathedral. I noted the superb renovation works where a refurbished statue of a heraldic griffin gets pride of place in the middle of the road before the Royal Courts of Justice.
After over two centuries the Corporation has only just returned London's massive gateway back to the City. Brutish modern Britain still shifting the legal goalposts, I laughed inwardly. This was my entrance to the most vaulted legal eagles in the land.
I expected Sharpe Practyss Chambers to be in the image of those grand old courts of law with fine imposing marble columns, dusty dark oak panelling and the hallowed air of ancient tradition. But I was wrong. This was a modernist conglomeration of steel and glass and hot white light and minimalist décor.
I was greeted first by the Cliff Parks, solicitor colleague of Brigid Kearney. We chatted ever so briefly as he boasted unnecessarily of how extraordinarily good Monmouth was - he was a silk, no less, after all and crème de la crème of legal wordsmiths.
We were soon ushered in without further ado and after the usual pleasantries Monmouth was straight into his stride.
“You wrote a compelling letter to the Chief Crown Prosecutor, a Mr. Joseph McCarthy on February 6th 2004?”
“Yes. McCarthy. That’s him.”
“There was some force in your argument-succinctly put. Too many people have no respect for the nuances of the English language-don’t you think? I love words.”
Monmouth moaned that many people use words, indiscriminately. It frustrated him when he read poorly attenuated imprecision. He got pleasure from the fineness of words and the thorough, logical and precise explanations of things.
He complemented me on my letter writing and said I had good grasp of being a ‘word-monger’ as he put it.
“Mr Bloom, I’d like to share with you the sentiments of the Home Affairs Fourth Report to the House of Commons of October 2002.”
Monmouth pulled out a small pair of spectacles from a brown leather case, placed them diligently to his eyes and began to read from some notes he held in his fine slim, somewhat feminine hand.
He spoke softly as if engaged in a reading from a biblical tome. In his sombre grey suit and with unpretentious patter he far all the world could pass for the parish parson.
The report, he said, suggested that the Crown Prosecution Service does not conduct a sufficiently independent or robust review of the evidence before deciding to proceed with many prosecutions. The report went on to state that the Crown Prosecution Service has a "cultural problem’ and like a good many of his colleagues Mr Monmouth felt that the prevailing culture is to always believe the complainant and get it into court and see what happens.
He laid the pages down, removed his spectacles and shaking his head as if about to bring me the worst possible news paused and then raised his dark eyebrows.
It was a sympathetic, remorseful look. When people are at pains to show me sympathy I worry.
He said there were evidential problems in my proposed action. I dithered to ask for clarification from him.
He went on to try to assuage my feeling with atonement.
“Of course, in these cases the defendant naturally faces enormous prejudice at trial. First, the very nature of the offence is likely to evoke prejudices against the accused, even before the allegation is put to the court.”
In his view, offences of a sexual nature, like mine, tend to engender greater prejudice than non-sexual offences, particularly when the victim is a child and given the prejudicial nature of allegations of sexual offences, publicity can do enormous damage to persons who are falsely accused.
Like most lawyers he liked to impress his clients with use knowledge of the most apt Latin phrases to suit the case. He laid one on me right then. He referred to the crimen exceptum. I asked what the crimen exceptum meant.
The crimen exceptum is central to every inquisition, whether it be heresy, witchcraft, being a Jew, a Red under the bed or today one accused of child sex abuse or accessing child pornography. The crimen exceptum requires the suspension of due process and all real processes of justice. You do not need to be tried and convicted, merely accused.
“I have enormous sympathy with defendants such as you who are acquitted of all charges but find that they are stigmatised with the suspicion of having committed a sexual crime.”
He put the finger tips of both hands together and leant slightly forwards to me almost as if to pray.
“You made some good points in your correspondences that make me mindful of a well-publicised case heard before the European Court in 1991 in the matter of Schenk versus Switzerland.”
He explained that one of the judges, Judge Loucaides, gave a dissenting judgment by stating he could not accept that a trial can be "fair" if the prosecution is based substantially on evidence obtained improperly or is shown to be wholly unreliable.
“In your case, Mr Bloom, you have a powerful argument that Tractabull and van Hiller were in a conspiracy of lies to obtain your conviction. Her own audiotape proved Tractabull clearly gave false testimony. In my view van Hiller and her boyfriend lacked credibility as per the Code for Crown Prosecutors. I do agree there were serious anomalies here. I am with Judge Loucaides when he says an unlawful act or omission by law enforcers is a contradiction in terms and an absurd proposition for a just society.“
But then came the body blow. There was very little scope for me in proving the Crown or the police acted maliciously or recklessly.
“You see, Mr Bloom, it is almost impossible to find redress in cases such as yours when a third party i.e. van Hiller and her boyfriend were the instigators of the piece. The police will defend their position by saying at worst they were merely negligent and not out to get you. You can prove van Hiller was out to get you, that I have no doubt, but not the police or CPS.”
He said he felt it was not worth a punt of £20,000-£30,000 to take a gamble in the High Court when the odds against me were grim. Added to that if I lost I could face paying the legal costs of the police and CPS amounting upwards of three times my own legal fees.
“But what about suing for negligence then?” I weakly countered.
“Mr. Bloom, sadly for you, you cannot sue for a negligent prosecution. I know that sounds harsh but that is how it is.”
He explained that under English law police and the prosecutors owe no duty of care to the accused - to victims yes but not suspects.
“But I am a victim! They could and should have examined my computer hard drive like Godbolt threatened to do from the start. If I were a paedophile and sending her texts though the Internet surely all my lurid secrets would be found on my computer?”
He agreed that was a serious and strange anomaly.
But he insisted there was no redress against the police for an incompetent investigation. He pointed out to me that if my doctor were incompetent I could sue my doctor for medical negligence, I could sue my employer for negligence at work, but nobody accused of any crime can sue incompetent law enforcers for shoddiness no matter how bad.
“But the phone records, my phone records would prove I hadn’t sent those texts and if they had only examined my computer files they could see I wasn’t a kiddy fiddler-and I don’t view paedophile sites I don’t download porn I am not one of them!”
Monmouth mouthed a few palliatives but I was spitting blood now and bitterly disappointed.
They depicted me the predatory and pestilent paedophile. I was the shadowy, seedy figure in the grubby raincoat that pored over pages of porn online in my secret dark den of dire detritus. To them I was the blow fly parasite flitting opportunistically over my unsuspecting prey. They had me all figured out, or so they thought.
My study, my online world, my box of Internet tricks was a secret cabinet, a Cupboard 55 full of damning and corruptive filth so that my masters could say I was depraved, unworthy and inspiring nothing but disgust.
My mind just went away from the polite and gentrified tones of Monmouth and Parks. I had lost my faith in justice.
The rest of the meeting passed fleetingly as if I was in some stupefied haze. I don’t remember what else was said. I remember taking a dejected and sorrowful claustrophobic train ride back to North Haven packed tight and standing most of the rocking and rolling hell ride home with all the other nonentities.

October 19th 2004
7 Eccles Drive

Dear Cliff Parks and Geoffrey Monmouth QC,
I would like to formally thank you both for the advice that you have given.
On the issue of suing the police I am now resigned to accepting your opinion that under English law I am prohibited from suing the police or the Crown for any negligence in their handling of my criminal case because accused persons have no right of redress in this country for a negligent prosecution.
In your written advice you state, “I think the refusal of the police to interview Lita causes some considerable concern and I have already said that they should have accepted the statement from her. But as stated above I do not think Mr Bloom will establish that the refusal was given in bad faith and there is no positive evidence of this-but at the very least he should press again for a full internal police investigation.”
I have followed thorough on your advice and I have formally re-instated my complaint against Troy Quilty laying out the facts as you suggested. So far I have had no reply from the East Mercia Police.
Inspector Troy Quilty knew everything about me-he knew the whole case inside out and a man in his position must have known the score. Quilty was a key figure in every aspect of this complaint including the day he refused to take Lita’s confession.
I would love to see Quilty explain to his superiors why he refused to take Lita’s confession at the police station.
Because Troy Quilty was already fully aware of such facts because he was the supervisory officer of PC Godbolt who was on his shift when she informed me on April 12th 2003 that the police were going to forensically examine my computer.
Not only was Quilty always the direct supervisor PC Godbolt he was also appointed by East Mercia Police as their investigator when I made my original complaint against Godbolt’s handling of my case in April 24th 2003.
As the official investigator of my complaint Troy Quilty would have needed to read my initial letter to the police of April 24th 2003 and
I cited my computer as evidence for my defence.
So why would an experienced officer of the rank of Inspector who is cognisant of all such facts not seize and test my computer as PC Godbolt had threatened to do on April 14th 2003.
Troy Quilty will have a very tricky task trying to convince anyone he was unaware or had forgotten any of the facts because my wife and I reminded him loudly and forcefully of what he was expected to have known if he had properly investigated my original complaint in April.
I had desperately pleaded with him that my reputation and teaching career was at stake. When he persistently refused I told him he was totally biased and out to get back at me for my complaint.
All the above I have set out in my letter to the Chief Constable. It is little comfort but we shall see-nothing ventured-nothing gained.
Yours humbly,
Leo Bloom.
58
THURSDAY 25TH NOVEMBER 2004: THANKSGIVING
A heavy knock on the door and I am greeted with the most awful apparition.
“Mr Leopold Bloom. I arrest you on suspicion of possessing indecent photographs of a child under the age of legal consent…anything you say….”
It was weasel Quilty!
“But what…what did I do wrong?” I stuttered unconvincingly. But I am quickly and unceremoniously whisked away for interrogation.
The body search once more, the formalities like last time and then came the cell.
I waited alone locked in my puzzlement. Naked I felt, unceasingly tormented by my nemesis. Again and again he comes after me. Acting Inspector he was back then-now he’s firmly the lowly sergeant. Rats in the ranks! What of Godbolt? I should ask. The blackguards and the beaks, criminals and judges, all see police corruption.
Finally he came for me. They marched me to the interview room. The stark insipid electric neon flickered nauseatingly. I looked down at my clammy hands and remembered the sickly Cheshire cat smile of Godbolt.
“It’s been a long time, Mr Bloom. I bet you never thought you and me would meet again like this. I’m sure this time round matters will bring a whole different, positive outcome.”
“Oh, positive? For whom?”
I desperately tried to look nonchalant. “Tell me, Sergeant…what ever happened to Godbolt?”
He frowned and replied curtly – gone!
“We have evidence from a personal computer obtained from your former girlfriend, Miss Mayes, that shows that you possessed indecent photographs of an under age girl…its pretty damning, Leo…smart talking and big words won’t help you out this time!”
I turned away from his leering gaze and perused the patterns of decayed yellowing paint peeling off the walls, then a holed pipe, then at the slouching form of the bored, nondescript officer biting his nails behind my interrogator.
I had trusted her implicitly. Charlotte knew too much and now I am her hostage to fortune. From a manila folder the former detective inspector pulls out a small collection of grainy photo prints. I recognise them almost immediately.
My eyes meet his. He looks suave, like a croupier in a gambling casino. His nimble fingers dextrously shuffle the deck into some kind of ascending order of gynaecological explicitness. Oh boy here it comes. A led pipe oh! I gaze once more upon those grainy images of tender loins still resplendent in all their glory.
My eyes meet his again and the corners of his thin-lipped mouth turn up ever so slightly in confidence.
“So what does Charlotte say? Surely this some misunderstanding…some kind of error,” I pleaded.
“She had quite a lot to say about your escapades. Yes…she has been most helpful to us. No error here, Leo. She has thrown some light on matters…we’re very grateful that she came forward. She gave us a few more pieces to your puzzle…now we just need to put them all together.”
He fingers and plays with the images almost as if teasing me with them.
“Fortunately for us she stumbled upon a hidden folder you had decided to store encrypted on her computer hard drive. These are your photographs, Mr Bloom. They were taken by you and transferred to Ms Mayes’ computer when you moved in with her. Isn’t that the truth?”
He pushes all the evidence closer and closer to my side of the desk like regiments of foot soldiers about to gun me down.
“Was that how you intended to avoid detection? By exploiting her trust in you? You were just using her weren’t you, Leo? That’s how you always are with the opposite sex.”
This wretched partisan policeman with the thin lips and chip on his shoulder tries to goad me again with mere insinuations and aspersions.
He repeats his assertions while I claw at the arms of the chair like a cornered alley cat. Charlotte Mayes supposedly stashed all my recorded files somewhere safe and the super sleuth has now put two and two together.
She also found the confessing love letter I had written but never posted to Rebecca after my trial. He believes he now knows why I wanted to get Lita’s mobile phone back from Rebecca.
“You knew you’d left something incriminating on it, didn’t you, Mr Bloom? You did everything you could to get it back…you feared Rebecca or someone, anyone, might blackmail you.”
I winced and felt the betrayal by Trojan tactics once more.
“So wrong! You’re pitiful…you know that…you haven’t the wit to see beyond your own jaundiced myopic fantasies.”
He didn’t much care for my big words. He challenged me to use some other polysyllables and string myself a full confession while I was at it.
We needed to put the record straight. He thinks he has his cast-iron cop this time. I’m not going cough to it. He urges me to look again at these indecent photos. He says I’m done. It’s a criminal offence whichever way I try to spin it. I either took the shots myself or I had them sent to me. Handling and receiving is as bad as creating child porn, don’t you know? Whichever way I try to squirm, I have possession of pornographic images of a child for my own personal sexual gratification.
Then he hits me with another blow. He delights in telling me that as we speak officers are searching my current address. He thinks he will have it all wrapped up very quickly now that Charlotte Mayes has come to her senses. I should make it easier on myself and lessen the sentence with a full confession.
“You do like to think you have an awful lot of power over women-Ms Mayes seemed to have a lot of contempt towards you when I interviewed her…she sees you for what you really are! You’re a paedophile; wouldn’t you say this finally puts the nail in your coffin? You’re not going to wriggle your way out with smarmy words and a clever brief this time.”
White saliva globs in the corners of his mouth now formed and began to betray the pent up aggression in my rabid inquisitor. On the knife-edge now I pulled my eyes from his and took the deepest of sighs. But instead of dejection and defeat I now contemplated the final and supreme humiliation of my foe. A pyrrhic victory was at hand.
We sat there across the table. Looking at each other eye-to-eye like poker players gambling for higher and higher stakes. I wanted to speak but held my tongue. I wanted to reflect a moment and to think back. To remember how it really had been. I made him wait. This time round I was doing things in my time not theirs. You wait, Sergeant, you wait and let me think.
I remembered back a year to when I had the greatest temptations put before me. I had been alone with her, at my house, alone and together and free of restraints. It was the defning moment. The time I could have had her. She was homeless, she wanted to be with me in the warm and safe embrace of Leo Bloom’s domestic harmony. It was that moment when she looked about my house, my furniture, my possessions, my life. She saw that signal of opportinity. She knew my weakness. She found the button to push to trigger and set me off. She homed in on that erotic print on the landing wall when she had come from Cilla’s days after Carla had discarded her that awful January night 2003. She asked me to explain it.
“Oh, that’s a Bellocq print-old American photographer…his New Orleans period I think.”
I told her Carla and I bought the antique photo from an auction house in Manhattan. She moved closer to study the image and I drew closer behind her. As I gazed over her perfectly formed shoulder I let my face feel the soft caress of her fragrant hair against my face. I looked down at the soft sweep of her ivory neck and I hesistated to say more.
I didn’t tell her that I liked my women the way he liked his - looking relaxed and comfortable in my presence - almost unaware they are being seduced by my eyes. As all voyuers do, I wanted her relaxed - the better for me to fawn over.
I wanted to tell her how I really felt about her. I wanted to move even closer to her. I wanted to run my tongue around the back of her ear. She had that same haunting stark Bellocq beauty, the treasure I kept locked hidden in my own monotone miasma. Onto my embedded eminence of the deepest subconscious I had reshaped and remodeled my own Storyville Nymph.
I fought the yearning need to take her then. I focused on fact and not fantasy to bridle my rising ardour.
“Yes-that’s pure class. They call them the Bellocq babes. Ahead of his time, was old Bellocq…not your usual common or garden Victorian photographer. More modern…he never staged awkwardly posed nudes with all that fussy drapery, veils, flowers, fruit or nonsense like classical columns and oriental braziers.”
“I’d love to pose for a picture like that.” Seductively smiles my siren.
Was this my cue to pounce?
“I guess you’re like the model in some ways.”
“Oh, you think? In what way would you say that, Leo?”
An ache inside my stomach and a warming sensation though every sinew was screaming at me that our time was then. Until van Hiller had come into the picture I had only imagined what it must have been like to have a manequin moment of madness with my very own Bellocq Ophelia. Oh, I so wanted then and there to make her my muse, pose her, paw her, set my own stage and perfect a real, tangible and touchable tease called Rebecca the marriage wrecker. I was playing with a firey feline able to twist, tease, claw and bleed me of my principles. I felt so sorely tempted to sacrifice it all to have her. Seize her, confine her submissively and willingly within my own picture frame, a beauty cropped, smeared, bluff-eyed.
I hesitated to move or answer her. She was fishing for compliments. She was teasing me again. I was teasing myself. I couldn’t give her what she wanted then. I couldn’t give her what we both wanted.
“Oh, you both have the same hair that’s all.” I ran from the moment. I backed away. I fled like a cowardly custard. I’m hardly Happy Harry am I?
“Mr Bloom…Mr Bloom! What do you have to say to this?” A frustrated policeman does look a pretty sight.
“My dear sergeant, and former detective inspector, you should be hailing the true champion of Epirus!”
I voiced in clipped and mocking tones. His wall-propping uniformed sidekick awakened from his dozy preoccupations with nose and finger to give a bemused smile at my sudden vim. He gawped open-mouthed while Quilty turned sideward to shoot him an admonishing glower to chide him for the coming coupe de grâce. Without any doubt I judged from quarrelsome Quilty’s stern and determined look he still felt he owned this moment of glory. It was, he thought, his moment and not mine.
But this was the instant I could only have dreamt of. He fired a few staccato taps with his forefinger expecting to hit his target with the pejorative glossy images screaming from the desk. He then paused expecting my imminent capitulation. I let the pregnancy of the minute linger just a little longer for my ultimate pleasure.
I relished those stalling seconds and drew out the silence as the two eager uniformed figures leered at me for their climax. I now took my consolation, my payback, and my revenge for his jaundiced persecutions.
“That my dear Sergeant Quilty displayed so beguilingly for all to see is none other than Claire Boylan and not any under age child! You’ve got yourself a crop of old snaps of my stepdaughter’s long time friend…they’re from Lita’s little excursions into her lemon episode at Bishop Thomas Dupré…experimenting…Those were taken by Lita of Claire…ask them both…Claire will tell you she has a small heart-shaped tattoo on her inner thigh…see…right there…they were lesbian lovers, you oaf! And you are gonna find that Claire’s two years older…about seventeen or so I do believe when those were taken. As they say in the vernacular, you are my dear old malevolent mate, ‘pissing in the wind!’”
"Too clever by half! No, too clever by two and three quarters! Would you Adam and Eve it?"
This joked the bogey-baling bobby propping up the wall. His jaw dropped then he shook his head dumbfounded. He looked again more closely at the images. He saw I was correct. That is a tattoo-not a speck on the print. Check mate! I gave him my broadest, beaming smile.
“Looks like you’ve come up short don’t it, Troy? Found wanting again.”
I winked and allowed myself the tiniest trophy and let Quilty see me administer a small punch to the fetid interview room air. He left the room for a few minutes: away to consult his oracle no doubt. On his return he motioned to his passive sentry to leave.
“And you, too, Bloom, away-out of my sight-be off with you.”
His hands he drew up to his face then he shouted, ‘out, out!’ and his body slumped like a wretched slain hoplite deep into his chair to remain forever in my mind. ‘Off.’ That picture. ’Go.’ Police sulk. ‘Bye’.
The duty sergeant still at his sentry post passed me my briefcase and necktie and with weapons sheathed I there met my wife. She stood small but faithful beside the vast Doric pillars of the station doorway and purposefully we strode out together into the glorious blue-sky freedom of the empty streets.
“I’ve booked flights, Leo. We will be in New York by midnight.”

SATURDAY 4TH DECEMBER 2004
In Ithaca a sudden and unexpected calamity comes crashing down around me. A storm of biblical proportions. I frantically searched my address book for a number to call. I find Brigid Kearney’s. After much finger pressing and frantic redialling I get through to her secretary.
Kearney was attending a hearing could I leave her a message? No. I need to speak to Cliff Parks right now it was urgent. Finally she relents and gives me his London number. I reach him at the third try.
I tell him what has happened. It was awful. I have landed poor Claire Boylan in an almighty mess. It’s all my fault. I tell him what has happened.
I just got an angry email from Claire Boylan who has had a visit from the police accusing her of crimes under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Apparently she did totally and incontestably, admit to Quilty that she took the photos of Lita that Quilty had arrested me for.
Now calamity of calamities, I have become the supergrass that has put poor Claire Boylan in the frame for being a sex offender.
Cliff Parks: ”Be calm, Mr Bloom, be calm, please. It’s important you tell me when these photographs were actually taken, were any dates shown on them?”
Bloom: ”No-no dates. I can’t think when they were taken-I wasn’t there!”
Cliff Parks: “Well, the Sexual Offences Act 2003 didn’t come into force until May 2004. From that date anyone asking a person under the age of eighteen for a nude-photograph is committing a criminal offence of ‘inciting child pornography.’ The law now allows the prosecution of anyone for that kind of sexual activity.”
Bloom: “So even a sixteen or seventeen year old can’t consent to sexual photos or webcams?”
Cliff Parks: “No. Exactly that. But also, most importantly, the new Sexual Offences Act takes into account any ‘power imbalances’ between the parties to determine if a sexual abuse has been committed. The law now recognises that differences in size, age and development, gender, sexuality, race and even the levels of sexual knowledge may be exploited to exert power.”
Bloom: “So basically a tall, older, experienced male involved with a shorter, younger, inexperienced female would fit the most likely profile of someone using ‘inappropriate behaviour?’
I thought to myself that all those Cinderella and prince charming stories are out, too. That probably explains why after my trial the police weren’t interested in arresting Lita for sending texts to van Hiller because there was no so called power imbalance.
Cliff Parks: “Quite possibly. It certainly will have a huge bearing from now on when prosecutors determine if there is a case to answer. It does leave me somewhat uneasy, as it does seem to put anyone who appears to have ‘power’ at higher risk of being accused of committing a sexual offence.“
Bloom: “Claire is almost six feet tall and Lita is about five feet six. Quite an imbalance of power there!”
Cliff Parks: “From your file I remember your daughter’s friends were all around her age? I should think the small age gap would mitigate. I would consider an unequal balance perhaps something on a par with the example given to me by a colleague. He cited Lewis Carroll.”
Bloom: “What? You mean the Lewis Carroll who wrote ‘Alice in Wonderland’?”
Cliff Parks: “Yes the very same. Apparently Carroll took many photos of Alice Liddell…you know…the young girl who inspired his books. With this new tool of law we can forcefully argue that Carroll abused his position of trust and used his power to get a vulnerable child to pose naked as he took countless erotic photos of her.”
Bloom: “I’ve long wondered about Lewis Carroll myself-a strange character. Mad as a hatter I think! I’ve seen a few reproductions of his photos-much admired by collectors. But I wouldn’t buy one! Not with my reputation I’d really be lynched.”
Cliff Parks: “Yes. It does seem rather incongruous, doesn’t it?”
Bloom: “Incongruous? It’s mind-boggling to contemplate that one of the most famous children’s writers in history would today be jailed for creating child pornography.”
Cliff Parks: “Indeed. The times certainly are a changing. In fact, before the enactment of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 the term ‘pornography’ was nowhere used in English law. Most people would be surprised to learn that even the word ‘paedophile’ was coined less than fifty years ago”.
Bloom: “So characters with inclinations like Lewis Carroll would go undergound- down that hole with his white rabbit or pay the price. So Mr Parks, do you agree there is a growing trend to sexualise children in the media for commercial reasons?”
Cliff Parks: “Oh, without a doubt! I feel adverts on television and in the press have already acquired ‘the eyes of the paedophile’ and play the twisted games of ‘erotic innocence.’ The big conglomerates in fashion and music are exploiting our awareness of child sexuality, and cynically manipulating the children themselves.”
Bloom: “You know-about these photos I called you about…I am sure they were taken prior to April 2002. Yes, definitely before Rebecca van Hiller came on the scene.”
Wow! That comes as some comfort. That was it then. No case to answer. I thanked Mr Parks for his time and he assured me I was most welcome. No doubt my wife will be billed accordingly. I was mightily relieved to be able to send Claire an email back and tell her it was just a scare tactic by Quilty - a payback of sour grapes proportions.
But Claire was not so relieved when I finally got to speak to her in a chat room on Hentai.com. She had been given a police caution. Why? That’s absurd! What had she done that was so bad? She confessed she was a ‘camgirl’. I was perplexed. What was a camgirl and what was so wrong with that?
Quick-thinking Quilty had gotten her to incriminate herself into admitting she had been online doing web cam fun for guys in return for online casino credits. Gambling, too? Wow! She had even set up a credit card payment system. Over the past year she had earned hundreds of pounds doing virtual sex shows to help pay for upgrading and customising her car. Quilty warned her Big Brother has a new name now and it didn’t like her brand of free enterprise - the Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) was on a virtuous virtual mission
“Everyone does it, Leo. If everyone is doing it how can it be wrong? What is Interpol anyway? What’s the harm if I flash my bits to some old fart for a fiver in the privacy and safety of my own bedroom?”
Even the news channels are cottoning on to it, ‘a growing number of "camgirls" and "camboys" are offering webcam sex shows for money!’ It is insidious and growing. Where are we headed with our morals?
A safer form of the sex trade she said. The new trend for the young, obtaining the means to buy their bling, their baubles, the latest hi-tech generation of gadgets. She said she had even earned enough to buy herself the slickest flattest high definition television screen to mount on the bedroom wall above her bed.
Twenty First century teens are building their own secretum and it’s electronic in form and the fledglings are feathering the nest but will it be a legacy of regrets that will line their souls? Was she proud? Did her mother know? No, she didn’t. It was none of her business. It was private. Claire had ‘pimped her ride’ by pimping herself in her little bedroom Cupboard 55.
******
FRIDAY 1ST APRIL 2005. Winter wonderland in upstate New York came and finally went. A late spring thaw was the signal for my return to North Haven and a spot of much missed merriment. Carla’s lawyer had been upbeat on her federal case against her former employers and optimism for a massive cash windfall settlement grew.
Quite a few changes had taken place in England, too. Not least was the complete refurbishment of Seven Eccles Drive in preparation for sale. I can’t see me spending too long there or I shall incur the wrath of the local vigilantes once more.
On a drive around my old haunts I see Gilgamesh is still at his Babylonia antiques emporium. I heard he threw in for some dodgy deals with Cilla’s husband, Paul Gadd.
Yesterday was a splendid day. Bright early spring sunshine and a ten thirty court appearance beside my dear beloved Charlotte. Don’t worry - nothing so grim and foreboding as crime or revenge upon me. No, we are still dear, but secret friends of a kind.
Shrewd Charlotte now runs her own property portfolio. A string of modest houses she lets out to a range of willing folk from east European indigents to upwardly mobile young professionals. She has been well set up with the bountiful benevolence of her dearest pater. Not a man I shall ever see benevolently.
I shouldn’t get too maudlin. I’m still on my wife’s payroll. I’ll certainly never teach again. And what with Lita’s courtroom confessions and my defamed name, the Limoncellos certainly owe me, big time.
While on my winter sojourn in the Catskills my wife and I had briefly enlisted the advice of a prominent employment lawyer about suing East Mercia’s Education Department for banning me from working as a supply teacher in the county.
Although I was told I had a great chance of being re-instated to the supply teacher register there was little point in going down that path as no school would touch me any more. Anyway, at least I my mortgage gets paid each month without quibble.
As Dale Carnegie said, ‘If life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade.’
At least Carla Limoncello, my ‘Colonel Calm Liar,’ found her own new fulfilling focus in life. She has Isabella Limoncello Decker.
Little baby ‘Bella’ the light of her life and her only grandchild. Lita Limoncello and her curt US Marine Corp. crazy commando parted long ago. Gulf War syndrome they say. Ah well, fickle young love.
At least I have peace of mind - peace of a kind. Not sure you would want it or call it a perfect ending. I have put a large deposit down on a bachelor pad right away from the Havens. I can’t tell you where. I don’t want any more biscuit tins thrown at me.
I’m off to a sunny little corner up the coast where none of my neighbours will know of my past. And I will stay anonymous - all the better for me to indulge, privately and undisturbed, my passion for les jeunes filles. Legal. All totally legal, I must add. I don’t want another Quilty on my case.
As you probably guessed, I got nowhere with my action against the police. I wanted my windfall but all it was going to bring was my downfall. No sense in throwing good money after bad.
Those lawyers are just too slick at scamming gullible clients chasing that compensation pot of gold.
I still have to pay a big chunk of Monmouth and Park’s legal fees. That will come out from the proceeds of the sale of Seven Eccles Drive. Ah, well thank small mercies for being in my wife’s pocket. I’m going to have to go soon. I see the postman has delivered me a letter from Angela Green.
Bit odd me getting a letter from her. But then she was acting a bit strange when I had my session with her last week. Anyway. I need to read that and then I’ll be logging online to Hentai.
It’s that time again. The weather’s warming and it’s peak season. Those young gulls flocking with no guile will now be squawking on Internet chatrooms emblazoned, ‘Teens For Mature’ or ‘Young Seeks Old.’ Ha! Isn’t it funny how we all eventually find our true destiny?
Calypso Cottage
April 6th 2005
Dear Leo,
I should apologise for not having the courage to tell you this on the phone last week when you called to book an appointment. I hadn’t expected to hear from you again. Putting aside my own personal details I do know what emptiness a lost love causes to the heart. I sense you are still not at all at peace with yourself. There is something missing in your life. I see your loneliness.
The grief of a lost love can linger interminably and your flippant jokes about it over the phone really don’t fool me. An escape into womanising is not a cure and solitude is surely a much wiser and safer path than reckless sexual abandonment and anomie.
Leo, the soul won’t survive for long your kind of addictive palliative as recourse to pain. No more gripes. Be that as it may, you put a brave face on it to the world as I can see.
I have had Charlotte come see me proposing that I counsel her. I explained under the circumstances that this would not be appropriate. I am not a relationship counsellor. But I tried to explain to her, like I have to you, about acceptance.
In life it is often wiser to resign ourselves to acceptance. For acceptance does not require that change is possible or even conceivable, nor does it require that the situation be desired or approved by those accepting it.
I say to myelf over and over the same thing: acceptance is far better than emotional anihilation when a situation is unchangeable, or when change might be made at very great cost.
Although Ms Mayes is clearly most devastated by what has happened between you both I have told her these are matters for you and her to resolve and not me. I hope that now, after all these years of getting to know you better, you will allow me one last word.
So please forgive me for this more formal means of contact. I made a rash and hasty decision by agreeing to continue to be your counsellor after all that has happened.
I have now decided it is best that you no longer visit me. I fear that you, my dear Leo, may find a bitter price to pay for your follies. I cannot tell you how to act but I can warn you of impeding disaster.
I have heard you say you like solitide now you have been deserted by so many so-called friends. But you see there is a distinct difference between solitude and loneliness.
I fear it is loneliness and not solitude that you have met on your path in life, Leo. It is a path you have been inclined towards more and more in the time I have known you.
I worry for you in your frequent indulgences of the casual, fleeting kind. Please believe me when I say quantity of contact does not translate into quality of contact.
We all suffer a lot in our society from loneliness.It is like a disease and it is becoming an epidemic. But beware reliance on that new Internet world of yours. It can become an addiction, a fleeting transient high where every wish seems to be fulfilled by a push-button, and where there is nothing beyond that theatre stage and beyond an individual's control.
All so facile and demeaning. But ultimately we must find something more enduring, something which grows and you won’t do that unless you stop running. Running from yourself when the answers may lay coiled somewhere in the labyrinths of the brain. So keep fighting for your self-esteem because no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
Take care my friend and be wary,
Angela.
The End.
©All rights reserved. 2008. By John O’Sullivan