The Houseboys

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Chapter 12

Despite the bantering, Craig was definitely the one in charge. Danny sucked him and was fucked by him receiving little more than a jerk off while Craig's balls recharged themselves.

Sometimes they would relax in a sixty nine and once Craig insisted on Danny laying still while Craig licked his entire body but these moments were just interludes before Craig penetrated Danny again.

At times Craig would escape from his responsibilities by being submissive towards Danny but this was an occasion when he needed to establish his dominance in the pack. Danny faced an uncertain future with his hearing not so far away and was happy that the one person who had believed in him and tried to help him was back in charge.

Despite all these under-currents to their emotions they displayed a tenderness and affection towards each other that both boys found extremely satisfying so that when at last they were both exhausted they fell into a deep refreshing sleep wrapped in each others arms.

Ollie made a point of waking them himself the next morning. After the way the conversation had gone the previous night he was a bit worried about what he may have found.

He need not have worried. Danny was spooned up against Craig who had an arm wrapped protectively around Danny. Ollie woke them and while they showered, cooked them breakfast.

It's all going to plan,” Ollie said while the two boys ate, “The arrests were coordinated so no one could warn anyone else. We got everyone we wanted and they didn't get a chance to sort out their stories with each other.

The Warren Street records have been subpoenaed and again no one had a chance to delete anything. Their homes are being searched now.”

Does that mean I can go home now?” Craig asked.

Ollie nodded. “How do you feel about being part of the press conference first?”

I'm a grader so do you mean I have to be part of it and you just want me to agree without arguing or do I have a choice?”

The Inspectorate has been going on about having clear and irrefutable evidence that you're a rapist. The least we can do for you is publicly deny it. It would help us too because they were saying that, in spite of the evidence they supplied, we were going soft on you and giving you a chance to wriggle out of it.”

I'll do it but I won't be naked and I won't be restrained. This collar's bad enough.”

Supervised will do. There'll be enough policemen around to do that.”

Liam and I will have to speak to you about your attitude while you're a grader.” Danny said with a glint of anticipation in his eye. “We can't have you undoing all the good work you've done. You've got to set an example, you know.”

Craig's cock woke up in anticipation of what be happening while his brain was less happy thinking about what Danny had said.

A car was despatched to fetch Craig's clothes. Ollie stayed with Danny and Craig relaying information about the raids as it came in. Mrs Jones was arrested. This time it was for procuring youngsters by malfeasance.

The boys looked blankly at Ollie.

Unlawful abuse of authority. She was wrongly grading kids for a price.”

He looked at his computer again.

Did Ethan ever do any modelling?”

Craig nodded, “I found out about it when I gave him his temporary grading.”

It's funny how things are connected. We got some names off of Neil Smith's computer. You know the guy arrested at the mall. One of them was an amateur photographer. Among other stuff, he'd sent Neil pictures of Ethan with another boy. The email described an auction and asked whether Neil wanted to put in a bid. It had been sent before you met Mrs Jones but it made it clear that Ethan would be available from the 9th April. Wasn't that the date of your inspection by her?”

All the colour drained from Craig's face.

Graham said it had something to do with performance targets.”

Keeping in the national band, you mean. It does happen and I bet she used it as a fall back excuse when things went wrong.”

Liam arrived with Craig's clothes. Tom had insisted that Craig should be at his smartest and had packed his newest and most expensive business suit with everything else to match. Danny insisted on helping him wash and dress and when he was finally satisfied Craig looked impressive. Young he may be but definitely an executive who meant business and would not stand for any nonsense. The grader chain which had to remain visible could have been a chain of office for some business club or lodge. There was no real mistaking what it was. It just seemed inappropriate on Craig just then.

Tom had sent fresh clothes for Danny as well and although he was smart and handsome as well he was just not in Craig's class. It seemed natural for him to stand a couple of places behind Craig's left shoulder.

There was no doubting the police's glee at the success of their operation during the press conference. They detailed the arrests and and indicated the amount of evidence they had gathered waiting to be sorted. They talked about the coordination between various stations and specialist groups and they hinted that more was to come.

Craig had stood along side the senior officers while a spokesman read out the release. He felt as though he was intruding until an Inspector stepped forward to the microphones.

Over the last days Craig Ryder has become something of a public figure. Members of the CSC Inspectorate have tried to use the courts and the police to tarnish his reputation. We have investigated the complaint against him and, unlike the Inspectorate, examined ALL the available evidence. I don't think Craig wishes to be reminded of his own interrogation.”

Craig shook his head violently to the chuckles of everyone present.

Arrests have been made over the alleged incident. All of the charges relate to perverting the course of justice. We have no evidence or even a suspicion of wrong doing on the part Mr. Ryder.

I repeat that the investigation has been thorough and exhaustive in spite of pressure from the Inspectorate to accept their findings. It is unfortunate that sections of the press and media saw fit to take the Inspectorates opinions as fact. It caused a lot of distress to Craig's family and friends.

It may seem unfair that Craig has been temporarily graded but we have all tended to forget that the grading was originally intended to help and guide youngsters when they were having difficulties The draconian laws that are still in force were intended as a stop gap while a bad situation was brought under control.

Craig needs all our help. He needs our help to get his life back to normal. That chain means it is a contempt of court to obstruct that aim and you can express your thanks for his part in ridding our community of so much corruption and evil by helping him recover his life.”

The Inspector's statement galvanised the press conference into new life. His criticism of the grading system and the Inspectorate was unheard of. Gradually the reporters turned their attention to Craig. He was uncomfortable talking about his arrest and the Inspector intervened to divert the questions. Craig repeated the views about grading he had given in the first interview and expressed his relief that the CSC was not out to get him any more. It was one of the last questions that really threw him.

How do you feel knowing that your girlfriend is going to be graded one because of her statement?” a reporter asked.

Again the Inspector moved to intervene but Craig stopped him.

That question sums up all that is wrong with the system.” Craig replied, “We do not know what pressure Lindsay was put under to make her statement. We don't know how willing she was yet you assume she will be graded. How do you feel knowing that you don't care?”

The conference had gone on for some time so maybe it was coming to it's end anyway but Craig's reply seemed to finish it. After a couple more routine questions it broke up.

Danny was sent to collect their gear from the apartment they had stayed in and while a car was fetched to take them home. While they stood outside the station waiting a small boy rushed towards them.

You're Craig Ryder, aren't you. You're on TV because you help kids.” he cried, “My brother's been arrested. He's all I've got. Can you help us, please?”

One phase of Craig's life was closing. He had fought to keep Ethan with him and he had won. Rob, Brian, Danny, Rick and others had accepted his help but there had been some sort of contact beforehand. The policeman, Ollie, had seen him as someone who could help his nephew but only after he had got to know Craig. This was partly because of his age. He could empathise with the other teenagers problems. It was also because he was mature enough to run his household and earn the respect of adults as well.

The small boy in front of him marked a new development. He was the first to seek Craig out simply because of his fame. Others would follow.

As the boy had approached Liam and Danny had closed protectively around Craig and it was Liam who answered.

Craig has got a lot of problems of his own at the moment.” he said, “Why don't we find a lawyer for your brother then we'll go and get something to eat. You can tell me all about it.”

As he spoke he looked at Craig for reassurance.

Craig nodded, “You're in charge for now. I just want to go home.”

Liam took the boy's hand and they walked a little distance away as Liam made a phone call.

The car arrived and soon Danny and Craig were home. Craig was mobbed by the other boys which included nearly all of the homework gang. Many of the parents were also there to offer their congratulations.

Although he could not conceal his happiness at seeing Craig, Paul tried to look stern and authoritative.

Get out of those clothes then come and see me in my office.” he said after allowing everyone time to offer their congratulations.

He had been given a room in the office area. As steward he had learnt how to keep accounts and pay the bills. He managed a bank account set up for this purpose. Since he was in charge of the homework gang, parents sometimes wanted to talk to him and when school started again he would be an official tutor. Paul was lost by some of the work the boys were doing but he could recognise when they were doing their best and when they had problems distracting them. He had only moved in a couple of weeks ago but already, if any of the boys were summoned there, they knew they were in trouble.

Some of the onlookers seemed startled by Paul's attitude but Craig was grateful for a chance to escape the fuss and did as he was bid.

Paul's office was spartan. There was a desk, with his own comfortable chair some more chairs against a wall which he could move to the front of the desk to seat guests and a punishment horse with an array of canes and straps on the wall behind it. Even some of the parents were relieved when they were invited to sit.

Paul had everything he needed on his computer so he did not need much filing space and so far no boy had needed more than a good talking to in those austere surroundings.

Before when Craig had entered Paul's office, Paul had smiled and invited him to sit down. This time Craig found himself standing in front of the desk looking at Paul's unsmiling face. Instinctively Craig drew himself up and adopted the correct 'at ease' position.

It's just not fair that you've got that grading,” Paul said, “and it's no good saying it's for your protection. You're still the last person on this earth who should get that chain.”

Craig relaxed mentally but instinctively he maintained his pose. Paul was giving out mixed signals and he needed to know where this was all going.

You've always said that you should start out strict then relax later.” Paul continued, “That's why I'm treating you like this. You've always followed your own rules when it comes to discipline so is that the way you want to play it now?”

Craig could see Paul's point and was relieved that he was being consulted. He started to relax his pose but stopped as a disapproving look clouded Paul's face.

What's a petard?” he asked, then seeing that Paul looked puzzled, added, “People say 'hoist by your own petard' and I'm trapped by my own rules.”

Like I said, no one thinks it's fair.” Paul replied, “If we ignore the chain which we all want to do then Liam will be in an impossible situation.”

This is something else I'm supposed to do, isn't it,” Craig laughed ruefully, “Get people to talk themselves into a worse punishment.”

I learnt from the master.” Paul smiled, “Even when we were at the placement centre when you were selecting me you listened to my opinions and told me why you wanted things done. I've never forgotten that and I feel as if I've been involved in every decision you've made. Liam, Tom and I agree. We can't keep this place going as it should be run without your help and advice.”

We'll do it your way but I'm tired.” Craig said, “I'd just want to go to my bedroom for a while and lay down.”

You can lay down as much as you like but you're in the bunkhouse. Liam is in a guest room. Only non graders get their own bed, don't they?”

Craig had made Ethan sleep on the kitchen floor when he had first been graded. He shrugged and headed off, too tired to argue.

David did not question Craig being relegated to the bunkhouse. In a way it made it easier for him. It was the only room he entered without permission. He stood outside Paul's office and would have waited outside Craig's bedroom. Craig would have known he was there and would have called out if he needed anything. Now he could stand and watch over Craig while he slept.

Dinner that evening was a little awkward. Craig had often thought that the table should be triangular with him, Paul and Tom sitting at the corners with the graders sitting either side of Paul, non graders beside Craig and any adults around Tom. In reality it was rectangular and Paul and Craig sat at the two ends while Tom sat in the middle. Craig woke as it became time for dinner. As he entered the kitchen he stood uncertainly seeing Liam standing equally uncertainly. Paul gestured for Liam to sit at the head of the table then pointed to a seat next to Ryan for Craig to sit.

While they ate Liam recounted events at the station after Craig had left.

The boy who asked for help was Philip Browning and his brother who was in trouble, Joe. Joe, who was fourteen, had started running around with a group of older boys who thought it great fun to dare him to do ever more stupid stunts. Philip already knew about it and had tried to warn Joe but Joe was too scared of seeming to be a baby.

He had been arrested for breaking into a house which was supposed to be empty but the occupant had returned from work early. In his panic to escape Joe had pushed the man who had staggered and bumped his head causing it to bleed. The police had already been called by an eagle eyed neighbour and Joe was immediately caught and arrested. Thanks to Philip approaching Craig, his interrogation was watched by Graham, Craig's lawyer. The Browning's could not afford a lawyer of their own so normally a CSC Inspector would observe.

As Graham said when he phoned later, if Craig is anyway connected they won't put a foot wrong and Graham could not fault the interrogation. It started off easily enough in a normal interview room and it was obvious even to Graham that Joe was hiding something. He could find no reason to object when Joe was taken down to the hard interrogation room.

Craig shuddered at the memory of the place and was relieved when Liam announced that Philip's parents had collected him and taken him home.

I had to explain that Mr Baxter was on retainer.” Liam said, “So it wasn't really costing you anything for him to represent Joe.”

That's not strictly true but it'll do.” Craig replied, “I'll want him to concentrate on Lindsay's case though.”

There was an uncomfortable silence. Ollie had warned Liam and Paul that the police were looking into the possibility that Lindsay had set Craig up to get hold of his money.

Where's Danny sleeping tonight?” Ethan asked hoping to change subject.

He's lost his job as servant for now so he's in the bunkhouse as well.” Paul replied.

Tom's got his own apartment and he's a grader so why can't Craig have his room?” Brian asked.

Tom and Paul do important jobs for Craig,” Ethan replied, “so they're entitled to special treatment. Or rather they're doing it for Liam now. Craig's just Craig at the moment so he'll probably be helping David and Ryan with the housework.”

The household settled into a routine for the rest of the school break. Craig continued learning the business with Tom. Graham and Liam were co-signatories while Craig was graded and it became a routine for Liam to visit the lawyers office in the late afternoons to get everything signed.

Ollie's family visited as arranged and Lewis, Ollie's nephew, had a marvellous time. He attached himself to Ethan who closest in age and was thoroughly spoiled by everyone else. Ethan was bemused by his new shadow at first but came to enjoy the young boy's attentions.

There was considerable embarrassment for Ethan when they sat down to dinner that day. Lewis had picked up on the relationships between various boys including Ethan's and Brian's. Ethan did his best to explain but he was not sure what Lewis' parent's attitudes to gay sex were.

Finally Lewis' father came to rescue.

You're getting to an age where doing very private things with another person will be very important to you. Your questions are not very polite because they are about these private things.”

Lewis was quiet for a minute then asked, “If I do these private things with Ethan, does that mean I should not tell you or mum?”

Craig was waiting for Liam to intervene. He thought of saying something himself but Ethan had always been fond of embarrassing his brother and Craig was enjoying the moment too much.

In the end it was Paul who replied.

Ethan could get into a lot of trouble if he did things with you and your parents did find find out. You must wait until everyone knows without any doubt that it's what you want.”

Lewis stayed quiet and thoughtful after that. He became a regular visitor during the remainder of the holiday staying in the bunkhouse on occasion. His parents were fairly certain that he did do some 'private stuff' but he became more relaxed and at ease with them since before the trouble at school so they were content that he was safe, out of the clutches of the CSC and adopted a don't ask, don't tell policy.

For Craig, Lewis was a turning point. He understood that it was his way of doing things that made Lewis so happy but he did not make any decisions or have any responsibility towards him. It brought home to him that, for the time since his parents died, he had no responsibilities not even towards Ethan.

Even after they had moved to the farmhouse and Ethan had settled down again the nagging doubts about his ability to cope had never been far below the surface. Danny had managed to ease the stress when he had taken him to the dungeon and given him far more urgent and physical things to worry about but he could see Lewis and his problems as an onlooker, detached and uninvolved and not as a new responsibility.

For a couple of days that freedom left him wanting to do very little except sleep but as he recovered his spirits a reaction set in. For nearly a year he had been scared that any misbehaviour on his part would put Ethan in danger and he resented the chain around his neck. He became rebellious, argumentative, rude and sullen. His mood was not helped when he learned that Lindsay was being charged with assault.

Lindsay had lied about being pregnant, even her father had believed it which was how she had persuaded him to lie about how upset she was about the 'rape'. The assault charge came from her willingness to have Craig graded. Now she faced grade one and her father grade four.

Craig's also felt a terrific sense of betrayal which added to his dark mood. His sudden change in attitude took everyone by surprise.

The crunch came when one of the homework gang's parents tried to speak to Craig just to ask him how he was coping. Craig replied by telling him to fuck off. Paul overheard.

Craig! My office. Now!” he snapped.

As Craig glared defiantly at him Paul acted. Before Craig had realised what had happened he was in an arm lock and being frog marched to Paul's office. He had forgotten that Paul was two years older than himself and far stronger. On instructions from Paul, David ran ahead and opened doors so that Craig was not released until he was bent over the punishment horse and David had managed to secure his ankles by the securing straps with another strap across his back.

Paul took Craig's arms one by one and secured them in turn so that each of Craig's limbs was secured to a leg of the punishment horse. Paul left leaving David to keep an eye on him.

Please, master,” David cried, “Why are you like this? Are you ill?”

I just don't want to turn into a crawling little fucker like you.”

No master. I don't suppose you do.”

The one thing that could make Craig feel bad was the hurt in David's voice.

David, I'm so sorry.” Craig said desperately, “I don't know what's wrong with me.”

You're scaring everyone.” David replied quietly, “This will all fall apart without you.”

Maybe that's the trouble. Everyone wants something from me. I've lost Lindsay and I've been graded. Why should I care about everyone else when I lose everything?”

My first masters thought I was dirt and didn't care what I felt. You do care and I love you for it. You've got so much love inside you I can't believe you'll never find the right girl.”

Craig stayed silent thinking, not only about what David had just said but about the passionate way that he had said it. Paul returned with Liam.

When you're back in charge we won't be able to stop you destroying everything you've built.” Paul said quietly, “but until then you are going help us keep things going.”

Paul released the strap over Craig's back and selected the heaviest and most vicious of the tawses and laid into Craig's back. He had moved so quickly that the first blow was completely unexpected. Craig yelled in protest and struggled against his bonds. The second blow followed in quick succession and the pain spread like a fire as his nerve endings overloaded. Soon Craig was whimpering then crying begging for his ordeal to end. When Paul was satisfied that any further blows to Craig's back would do permanent damage he shifted his aim to Craig's backside and finally his thighs.

When Paul finally released Craig, he collapsed to the floor. David was told to help him up and walk him around while he calmed downed. When Craig had regained his composure Paul sent him out to the the barn where all the others were and to stand in a corner with his hands behind his head. If anyone spoke to him he was to turn round and face them.

Paul made it perfectly clear what would happen if Craig disobeyed him. For once he was scared of Paul and was not prepared to challenge him so he headed off in spite of the humiliation he faced. He knew that he gone too far insulting an adult even as he had spoken and expected some reaction. Paul was not angry but determined and worried. Craig had set himself on a collision course with Paul and in the present circumstances he was going to come off the worst. He tried to dismiss Paul's and David's worries about him as concern for their own future but knew that was only partly true. They would die for him if they had to and he felt bad at what he had said to David.

The first person to approach him was the person he had been rude to.

I'm sorry.” Craig said, “It's this chain. I've done my best to stop the CSC putting one round mine and Ethan's neck, yet it feels as if they've done it anyway.”

Put it like that and I can see why you hate the world.” the man said.

Just don't tell me it's for my own good.” Craig said, smiling for the first time in days.

The man laughed. “You won't look back on it and laugh or don't worry, it won't be off before you know it.”

Craig's laugh was cut short as the battered muscles in his back protested.

What do I do about Lindsay though.”

Was she your first girlfriend?”

Craig nodded.

When I broke up with my first girlfriend, I swore I'd kill the next person who said I'd get over it. I saw her recently. She was fat, ugly and I wondered what I ever saw in her.”

Craig nodded.

Thanks,” he said.

The man held out his hand. Craig was not sure whether he was allowed to lower his arms but decided Paul had warned him not to be rude so they shook hands.

David shyly approached him next. Craig who had turned back to the corner did not hear him until David asked him whether Craig was still angry with him.

Of course I'm not.” Craig replied, turning round, “I'm so sorry for being so rude to you. I didn't mean it.”

Craig forgot his instructions and hugged David. Paul looked on relieved that his stratagem had worked. His beating hurt too much for him to dare risk more of the same so he was careful not to be rude or dismissive as the others came up to make their peace with him. He might have tried to be cold or aloof, rejecting their friendship but he could not escape the fact that they really liked him and were genuinely concerned for his well being.

Paul had made sure that the others could get close to him so that he could not resist their love for him. Paul's main concern was the long passionate kiss Craig and Danny shared. It was overtly sexual and made several people uncomfortable but somehow everyone was too relieved that Craig seemed more like his old self to care.

There were always members of the homework gang around as well their parents, swimming and relaxing in the informal atmosphere. There was also the thought in the back of their minds that it was the one place where they were safe from the CSC.

Paul was the last one to go up to Craig.

How do you feel?” he asked gruffly.

Like a heel.” Craig replied.

Don't! I think giving you a temporary grading was a mistake. The CSC might not be able to touch you but even without court protection you can handle them.”

Craig nodded, “Thanks.”

They hugged and Paul allowed Craig to relax. Craig continued to rebel against the chain until it was finally removed. Twice Paul hauled him into his office for a talking to and once put Craig over his knee and spanked him. Paul knew that Craig was enjoying his time as a rebellious teenager. It was his way of protesting about his temporary grading but he had learnt the consequences of pushing the limits too far.

Craig gradually recovered his natural good spirits and began taking an interest in things again. Tom found their business meetings getting harder and harder as Craig skills really began to develop and he began to assume more authority. Before his 'breakdown' as everyone called it, he did everything out of determination to keep the CSC away. As he rested and then gradually took back the reins he did so with an adult purpose, something that he wanted to do.

Danny and Brian were next to face their fate. It was arranged for them to be tried on the same day. Much of the evidence was the same and their stories were interconnected so it seemed right.

Danny's hearing was first. It was predictable until Graham questioned the officer that Danny had hit. He agreed that he had crept up on Danny to catch him. He even admitted that he had been taken aback by the look of absolute terror on Danny's face. When he saw the the video of Danny's rape by Neil Smith, the mall manager, he stated quite clearly that had he known he would have approached Danny differently.

The mall owners had withdrawn all complaints for the vandalism and acknowledged Danny's part in stopping Smith.

Graham presented the argument that victims of crime should not be penalised for their reactions. The prosecution tried to argue that the law only applied to victims defending themselves or a degree of spontaneous vengeance and that Danny's was planned and deliberate.

The judge ruled that Danny sought to draw attention to the crimes being committed and since the mall owners accepted this then there was no charge to be answered. The assault would not have happened if Danny had not been dealing with the consequences of his rape and again the policeman accepted that it was a major factor in the incident. Since Danny's community service reports were highly commendable and showed that he could now deal with people in a proper manner then they further indicated that the assault happened while Danny state of mind disturbed due to his rape.

The judge ordered the case dismissed providing he continued his therapy by living with Craig until he was twenty five. There was a few minutes confusion when the judge realised that Craig was temporarily graded. When he understood the reason and Liam's role even that small hiccup was overcome.

Brian's case followed. The judge warned that an assault on a superior was a grade one offence and it was not going to be treated so leniently. Brian looked scared and may have run if Ethan had not looked encouragingly at him. The judge accepted the supervisor's revised statement and agreed that he might consider an application for grade two.

Graham presented his argument about Brian assistance in the arrest of a far more serious assault.

The prosecution argued that Brian only helped to get his own sentence reduced, that the crimes were unrelated and that Brian had been wrongly taken away from CSC control for the sole purpose of using him.

The judge agreed with Graham's reply that drug addicts don't have a sudden flash of conscience when they accuse their dealers in the hope of a higher grading and that there was no mention of related crimes in the law. He also ruled that the tapes of the sting indicated that Brian was fully aware of the risks he was taking and it was difficult to believe he was forced.

How Brian became involved may be subject of an investigation but there was no question of coercion.

He finally decreed that because of the bitterness Brian felt because of the unfairness of his treatment grade two would be the appropriate sentence without other factors. Before Brian had a chance to react the judge added that his help had been invaluable and his willingness to put himself at risk rather than just offering a name as an addict would do more than qualified him for extra consideration. He graded Brian four and allowed an application that he stay with Craig.

Craig was not sure of Brian's reaction at first. Misery at being graded or relief that it was not worse until he saw a broad grin cross his face.

He looked at Ethan and said, “I'm here, master.”

During the mandatory three month period before trial the suicide rate was extremely high especially amongst those facing grade one. Officially it was a grave cause of concern while unofficially it saved a lot of work and expense. Joe was just as desperate as those who took their own lives but he chose to run. In the days of face recognition cameras it was a futile effort and he was caught. His effort cost him his last couple of months of freedom and rather than be held in custody his three month wait was waived and so a few days later Craig was back in court with Danny as his supervisor.

At the back of the court was a barrier the width of the room. The centre half of the the barrier was extended to the ceiling by metal bars. As accused facing grade one, Danny and Brian had sat behind the bars as Joe was doing now with a jailer sitting where the bars ended and only the low barrier remained. Each man had a taser electric stun gun so that if the accused chose to run he presented his back to one of the jailers.

Graham did his best but he just did not have any ammunition to fight with. Joe was graded one. It upset Craig to see the desperate look on Joe's face as he was told to strip. Philip, Joe's younger brother looked desperately at Craig as he clutched his weeping mother while Joe had to stand with his feet in white circles on the floor while leaning forward and gripping white marks on the bars so that he was spread-eagled until the chains were fetched. As a four and with his future guardian Brian had been allowed to leave the dock and wait in the body of the court.

Joe was trembling as the grade chain was fitted around his neck and then his arms and legs were secured before being led away. His cry to his parents for help ended in a yelp as an electric prod stung him.

It was the first time Craig had seen someone graded one and it came as a shock to realise that he could save everyone.

Joe's parents shook Craig's hand and then Graham's, thanking them for their help. Even Philip thanked him for trying. Philip and his parents stayed in touch with Philip becoming part of the homework gang.

Liam and Tom had made it clear that he would not be allowed to attend Lindsay's trial and now he understood why. Part of his recovery process had been to accept that Lindsay had initiated the accusation against him in order to grab his money. She had been as much an enemy as the CSC was part of his old life and nothing to do with his new. Females were treated just the same as males and his cock surged when he imagined Lindsay's breasts as she was spread against the bars.

He might have been worried about being turned on by her forthcoming humiliation but his love had turned into a desire for vengeance for her betrayal.

Finally there were trials of Neil Smith and the five guards who were involved. Brian and Danny attended along with many of their victims. Smith and three of the cases were formalities and they left the court grade one. Two of the younger guards had been recruited by Smith and claimed that they were victims, dominated by Smith and the others.

One of the cases was over as soon video was shown of the man terrorising and attacking boys in the lift and taking an active part in the rape.

The other one was not so clear cut. The records showed that several boys had 'escaped' while he had been escorting them on the crucial days and the only boys taken to the office had been when he had been accompanied to the lift by another guard.

There was never any bad treatment on the way up and on the way down he was obviously trying to comfort the boys. It was also evident that he only undressed when Smith was standing over him and that he rarely got an erection.

He had been attacked and raped by Smith when he was sixteen, four years ago. He was an excellent student until then but had left school shortly after, giving up the chance of any qualifications. The CSC had found the job for him and made it clear that he was expected to make a go of it. They had been more concerned about him sitting idly around than dealing with any problems he might have.

He lasted for three months before disappearing. He had been arrested while working as a farmhand. His employer described him as a recluse who was known to drive children away if they got too close to him.

The judge started looking irritated as a buzz of whispering spread through the spectators in the court. A number of victims were present including Danny, Rick and Brian. Craig had gone along to support them and the judge could see that the whispering centred around them.

Can we help him?” Danny was asking, “He seems to be a victim. I don't know what I would have done if I'd been made to work for him.”

It's always good to see you in the court, Mr. Ryder.” the judge said, “but you do seem to be causing a disturbance.”

Craig stood up.

My apologies, Your Honour.” he said, “There seems to be an argument over whether he's a victim or a perpetrator.”

I think that's for me to decide but I would have been happier if he'd accepted legal representation.”

The accused, Brett Young suddenly yelled out, “I don't want a defence. Just grade me so it's all over.”

Be quiet or I'll have you gagged,” the judge snapped, “Under ordinary circumstances you would have a CSC lawyer acting for you. I respect your choice not to be defended but you must respect mine to listen to your victims opinions.

The judge looked at the prosecution lawyer as he tried to stand.

Yes, yes! I know. These are not Young's victims but they are all connected to this case. It may not affect the final decision but I think we should have some explanation of his behaviour.”

He turned back to Craig. Brett tried to yell out but on a signal from the judge he was handcuffed and gagged.

Mr. Ryder. You're young and aren't a lawyer but you have attended court enough times recently to understand the procedures and you have shown an ability to present your arguments. If I was to adjourn for half an hour could you gather a consensus of opinion from the victims of these crimes who are in this court and present them with your own views.

He saw the prosecutor rising again.

I know, I'm going well beyond my prerogative to call witnesses. The defendant has pleaded guilty and faces grade one. If you begrudge him the chance of a higher grading then I will hear your objection.”

The prosecutor shook his head and sat down allowing the judge to adjourn.

If there is any such thing as destiny then that was the final event that shaped Craig's adult life. Some twenty years later as he sat on the patio enjoying the evening he shuddered as he thought just how badly things could have gone wrong for him, his brother and his friends. Instead he was wealthy. Tom had taught him well and assets swelled faster than he could spend them. He was famous. He campaigned constantly for changes to the grading laws and he was also a successful lawyer. He specialised in grading law and the majority of his case were done for free.

The laws had been changed. Guardians of graders later shown to be innocent could apply to have their chains removed and courts could impose temporary gradings.

Although he did not know it at the time Craig's presentation at that trial was instrumental in getting the changes through. Various politicians claimed the credit but it was Craig who changed public opinion enough for the laws to be accepted.

Brett Young's trial had not aroused much media interest. His was the last of several hearings and Neil Smith's had been the main event which had received full coverage. However, there was still considerable interest in Craig and the media began to fill the court when they learned that he was about to speak.

Craig was a little nervous when he stood and he faltered a little but everyone listened.

I have to make a report as part of my school work on the history of grading.” he began, “It was introduced at a time when people were scared to go out because of the high rates of crime and it was seen as a way of helping everyone. Those who committed crimes were considered as being unable to look after themselves and needed guidance rather than punishment to be able to fit into society. People could begin to feel safe again.

In theory a violent criminal can be restrained at grade one and as his rehabilitation progresses so he can be upgraded.

This scheme has never been properly implemented for two reasons. First, the deterrent aspects and the speeding up of the justice system were emphasised to ease the crisis. Today our crime rate is roughly five per cent of what it was then but our leaders still talk of the crisis in crime.

The second reason is that people seem scared of the final step of giving convicted criminals complete freedom.

The victims of Neil Smith cannot agree what should happen to Young. Should he have stood up to the CSC and refused to work for Neil Smith? If he had refused to participate in their training schemes he could have been graded and ended up working for him anyway.

We agree that the whole business has ruined his life but we don't agree that he deserved it. My own view is that he should be remanded to a guardian who will ensure that he gets therapy and be properly assessed. I wouldn't argue if he was shown to need grade one, neither would I argue if it was proved that he could cope with five status. Unfortunately we don't have that option.

I do argue that it's unfair that he'll still be graded for life when there is evidence of his own rape and that he was then pushed into an impossible situation.”

Craig's views were popular because he concentrated on the unfair aspects of the system. He thought Neil Smith got what he deserved and he had admitted previously that fear of grading had spurred him to get to grips with Ethan so he was hardly trying to bring the system down.

The judge was aware of the massive upsurge in anti-grading feeling and like many of his brother judges enjoyed using the increased discretion they now enjoyed.

I agree that there is evidence of Young's own bad experiences but there are many other victims who need closure and cannot understand that there is any excuse for Young's participation.

It is wrong to say that the courts cannot impose temporary grading. It can be imposed for the protection of the person concerned or to impose restrictions on someone awaiting trial. The misconception arises because it has never been considered a punishment.

If Mr. Ryder agrees to become guardian and ensure that Young undergoes suitable testing and therapy then I will grant him temporary grading for one year. I expect interim reports on a monthly basis and his future will depend on his ability to cope with the world as well on the extent of his own trauma.”

Craig suspected the judge was challenging him to put his money where his mouth.

Your honour, I will accept guardianship and I will pay for him to be admitted to a private hospital if it can be done today. When it 's judged that he can cope with others especially teenagers there will be place for him in my home.”

Even the CSC Inspectorate made capital out of Craig's comments saying it proved that their organisation was needed. It did continue but was drastically reformed and became subject to the same scrutiny as the police. The pro grading lobby complained that Craig wanted to be soft on crime while the anti lobby complained that he was supporting an inhumane penal system. However, politicians on all sides of the argument could not avoid Craig's popularity and general approval of his plan hence the two modest changes to the law.

As he rested on the patio taking a break from planning his campaign for further changes, he thought of the people who had affected his life.

Paul and Adam were fugitives, facing grade one if they were ever arrested.

When Adam had gone to University, Craig had signed Paul's guardianship over to him. After graduating with honours in engineering he had decided to travel to consider his options. Paul could have a restricted passport which allowed him to travel to countries that recognised the grading system.

Unbeknown to anyone Adam had been offered a job in a country hostile to grading and who agreed that Paul was no threat to anyone. While on their travels they slipped across the border and a customs official helped them cut Paul's chain. Once established in their new home, Paul had completed his education and then qualified as a teacher. They had adopted a couple of boys and were still very happy together.

Craig often visited them and the boys had spent holidays with Craig.

Ethan had become a doctor. Craig had transferred Brian's guardianship as he had with Paul. Brian was still very much the servant, tolerant of his masters frequent boyfriends but he managed a few adventures of his own and there was a warm companionship between them.

Tom was 65 when the new laws had come into affect. He enjoyed his life, had his own friends and had become the elder statesman of the Ryder household. He saw no reason to change and never asked for the chain to be removed.

Danny completed his education but stayed on as Craig's steward.

Rob stayed until he found an apprenticeship in the electronics then moved on. Craig rarely saw him but they were still friends.

David remained the dedicated servant happily fussing over Craig and his son.

Craig's one regret was that he had never found a girl to fall in love with and marry. Maybe his experience with Lindsay had scarred him too deeply. The closest to a permanent relationship he had managed resulted in his son, Timothy.

Tim was fourteen now and had spent the last hour tied to a St. Andrews cross in the dungeon. Craig and Danny had always kept the dungeon carefully locked but when Tim was ten, they had slipped up and Tim had taken the opportunity to explore his father's playroom. He had not said anything for about a year and then started asking questions.

It was obvious that he had his father's interests and they had given him simple but physically demanding challenges and adding tickling then light spankings as he became more involved.

The school noticed some bruises and occasional rope marks on his wrists and ankles but, since Tim was thriving, top of his class, a fine sportsman and socially confident, they could not have interfered even if they had wanted to as obviously, it was simply firm discipline.

Brett spent a year in hospital and then came to live with Craig. There was no doubt that he had been traumatised by his experiences and, using Danny's case as a precedent, the judge dismissed the charges against him. After six months convalescing he took up his studies again and went on courses linked to child care before becoming an Inspector with the CSC. Craig was a little worried at his choice of career but the Inspectorate's reorganisation had been really effective and they had started to do useful work.

Other boys boys like Lewis, Philip and Rob visited or stayed just long enough to sort themselves out. Many others spent time at Craig's often referred by the new Inspectorate and the bunkhouse was often full.

They still had the homework gang. Nowadays it was run jointly by Danny and Tim. Kids were constantly coming and going. Craig's, Danny's and now Tim's games were an open secret and the homework gang were very wary of getting into any sort of trouble as they imagined the possible punishments.

In spite of his failure to find a girl who would make him happy Craig was content. He led a busy and fulfilling life and he was surrounded by people who loved him. He relaxed enjoying the view as he sent David for another drink.

Yes master.” David replied.

Don't call me master.” Craig retorted.

The End