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Tom set the pace. He was worried about his business interests. They had suffered under all the uncertainties of his arrest and then business partners subsequent detention. The trust was gradually being organised but his business needed some clear and immediate leadership.
Tom also felt responsible for the two graders he had owned. It was doing them no good having no idea what would happen to them.
Craig felt guilty at the way he had messed Mr. Crosis around. Mr Crosis had his own business problems and no sooner had Craig offered to help him than things had changed.
The problems with CSC were still there but the investigations were going slowly and Craig was not involved directly.
After breakfast on that first Sunday Craig called a meeting like he had the previous day. Tom outlined what needed to be done. It was only when Tom insisted that Craig begin catching up with his school work that day that Craig spoke sharply to him, reminding him that he was just a grader.
“No one else is at school today so I'm not going to be.” he added, “I'm going to see Lindsay or I'm going out on my bike. Ethan can go to Jake's and after you've sorted a schedule starting tomorrow you can do what you like. Adam and Paul can do what they like as well. We all need a break.”
Adam watched fascinated. Tom was the adult so it seemed natural that he was in control. He could see how angry Tom was to start with and watched as he calmed down.
“I'm sorry, sir.” Tom finally replied, “I forgot myself and you're quite right. A day off will do us all good.”
“I know you're worried about your business,” Craig said, “but we agreed yesterday that I'm in charge. Please don't forget again.”
Things were a little strained when they moved onto the next topic, Mr Crosis' problems. Tom had seen most of their ex-landlord's accounts and surprised Craig that they invest in the business. Although Craig did not fully understand the accounts Tom's appraisal seemed to agree with his own opinions. Extra capital would buy Mr Crosis time and allow him to employ a proper assistant. Craig felt a little guilty at messing Mr Crosis around as much as he had and was only to glad to be able to help his friend.
Despite the way Jake had settled down, Mrs Sanders was determined that he complete his grading under maximum surveillance. It had more to do with her fears and worries than any desire to punish him and since Craig had started it he felt obliged to support her and so Ethan would stay under the same control. The big difference would be that Paul would do most of the supervision and not Tom.
Ethan found the prospect strangely exciting. School life was a lot tougher but he found he could now talk to Craig about things. He had forgotten his resentment at his brother taking control and was discovering that Craig could be a wonderful big brother. A big tough grade 2 turning up at school for him would be more macho than Tom or Craig and would not do his reputation any harm.
Ethan asked Adam whether he would like to be collected after school and Adam had nodded enthusiastically until he realised that technically, as the only non grader, he would be charge. Tom suggested a letter from his father asking Craig if Paul could supervise his homework and it all seemed settled. It sounded complicated but it was Craig's household and the buck stopped with him.
Adam was happy with the arrangement because he could spend more time with Paul. Allan willingly wrote the letter because he knew of the improvements in Jake and Ethan's school work.
Craig could not speak to Lindsay. According to her father she had gone to her cousin for the day. Craig wondered about the tone of her father's voice but assumed he was cautious about her getting to involved with someone at their age or something like that. He had Tom make him some sandwiches and headed off on his bike.
Defborough was about twelve miles from the sea. Craig headed for a beach he knew and planned to spend the day sunbathing and swimming.
Paul and Adam played games on the computer because Paul did not have a pass to go out. They spent a lot of time in the bedroom cuddling each other. They did not do much else because Tom looked in on them every so often. He was not trying to spoil their fun but he needed to know that Adam was all right.
Adam liked just laying with Paul just talking about their dreams and hopes. He accepted that everyone knew that he and Paul were doing stuff and like any normal teenager sex was always on his mind. Like tasting cum the night before, he knew that sooner or later he would feel Paul's cock inside him and his cock inside Paul. Paul could sense that Adam might be willing but he was also nervous. Paul was worried about scaring Adam away and hesitated about making any move.
Tom had guessed right and both boys were secretly glad of his intervention. For both of them just gently exploring each others body was a wonderful new experience. They did jerk each other off and both were surprised at the intensity and power of their climaxes.
Adam headed for home shortly after leaving Paul relaxing alone in a warm and comfortable bed, for the first time in five years. Bunks at the placement centre were hardly comfortable and laying in one after morning call would earn him a beating. Tom left him for a while before getting him up to change the beds.
Ethan and Craig arrived home at the same time just before curfew.
Ethan had excitedly told Jake and his mother all about their new house and shown off his new bike.
Craig had enjoyed his day of solitude. There had been a family with a brother and sister about his age. They had swam and played beach games together under the parents watchful eyes. It was a complete break from all his responsibilities and he returned far happier than he left.
He was beginning a busy period in his life where school work and business studies competed with each other. The trust would never allow him full control of the business without him gaining the necessary qualifications and for those he needed to start with his school exams. While he studied, Tom would connect up to the business computers, gradually resuming control. Towards the end of the day he would take Craig through all the decisions he had made. Tom was never sure whether he was irritated or pleased when Craig began questioning his actions and it was even worse on the day he realised Craig had come up with a better plan than him.
Paul took over the nearly all the running of the house from Tom. The one exception was cooking. Tom had been very modest at the placement centre. Cooking was his passion and he did more than prepare nourishing meals. No one argued with him except when Craig rebelled and insisted on hamburgers and chips or some other teenage junk as Tom called it.
Paul was happy with doing the housework but before long he found himself becoming involved in other things.
Parents tended to take their children to school even when they were in their late teens. Stories abounded of kids being wrongfully graded and both children and parents were a little scared of the CSC Inspectorate.
When Paul arrived with Jake and Ethan on the first day he caused quite a stir. The parents who had been at the party greeted Paul affably enough and he was confident enough to be able to chat with them.
Others shared Mrs Tibbs' views and looked at him with open hostility. They had refused to let their children come to the party because they saw the reason for it as an attack on discipline and they did not want their children mixing with a grade 2. There had been a certain amount of tension when Tom took the the boys but at least he was grade 4 and an adult.
When he returned to the school to collect his charges the parents seemed to have split into two groups, standing each side of the gates. Undecided parents milled around waiting to see how things developed.
Although they were in different years Adam, Ethan and Jake arrived together. Ethan and Jake lined up at ease in front of Paul while Adam went to hug him. Paul remained impassive and Adam took the hint and lined up with the other two. They then walked quietly off together leaving the parents impressed with their behaviour.
The following day the pro Paul side seemed slightly larger and the anti Paul faction had definitely lost ground. It soon got around that Adam's worked had shown an almost immediate and marked improvement. The anti faction tried to counter attack by saying that they spent the evenings cycling around or playing football in the park, disturbing people taking a quiet stroll, breaking Paul's pass regulations and generally running wild. They lost a lot of ground when a story got around that Adam was firmly in charge and had even beaten Craig for misbehaviour. Besides, the respective parents and guardians approved of the boys getting exercise and fresh air.
Not long after they had moved Paul was approached by a stern looking member of the anti faction.
“Is it true you're being regraded,” she asked without any preamble or greeting.
“Yes ma'am,” Paul answered pulling himself straight, “The probationary period is up in about three weeks.”
“It looks as if you've been behaving yourself. I assume you've learnt your lesson.”
“Yes ma'am,” he replied keeping all traces of anger out of his voice.
“You do seem to act as a warning to these boys. I want you to take my son on.”
“My guardian would have to agree, ma'am,” Paul replied, “and I'm sure he'd like to meet your son first.”
“Arrange it.” she snapped handing him a card before stalking off.
Ethan had overheard the conversation. He had tried talking to the two boys who were so scared of the mall but had made little headway beyond discovering that it was the manager they were terrified of. From the bits they had let slip, Ethan was sure that they had been molested. Grabbing a rare moment of freedom he phoned Craig and asked if he could invite them to join their group as well.
Craig was unsure but it sounded important to Ethan so he agreed.
The two boys, Rick and Danny, were actively hostile to Ethan's offer.
“I'm going to get graded soon enough,” Danny retorted, “I'm not going to play at one now.”
“Yeah, You can't help us, can you?” Rick added angrily, “What do you think you can do?”
“My brother Craig got a CSC inspector arrested and he thinks there's something wrong at the mall. Tom is a multi-millionaire, or rather he was until he was framed. He'll not want you graded if it's wrong. Paul is graded and knows what it's like to get fucked by strangers.”
Rick and Danny stared at Ethan. They could not figure how Ethan knew what had happened to them. They had trouble talking to each other. They just understood that they were both scared of the mall. It took them time to understand that Ethan wanted to help them and they would not be branded as liars and they were not just sluts.
Ethan waited for as long as he dared for their answers but had to report back to the drill instructor. He was late enough to have earned a beating which seemed to convince Danny and Rick that he was serious. When Adam, Jake and Ethan lined in front of Paul, Rick self-consciously stood beside them while Danny fetched their parents.
Not only were the parents only too happy to allow their sons to go with Paul but when a senior teacher realised they were having trouble with transport he offered to loan them the school bus.
The new house was about a forty five minute cycle ride from the school. Rick and Danny lived much closer and were expected to walk. Jake and Ethan had improved dramatically over the last couple of months which had boosted the school performance rating. Craig had always been a promising student and if he returned to complete his studies that would be another plus. Adam's performance was also encouraging in the short time he had been involved with the Ryder household.
The school had a good performance rating and if Rick and Danny were turned around it would be close to qualifying for a target related grant.
As energy problems had got worse so people tended to travel less and car ownership had dropped dramatically. Rick's father could drive so he took them all the bus including the bikes and would collect Rick and Danny later before returning the bus.
When they got to the house Paul took the boys to the barn. Rick and Danny looked with awe at the massive swimming pool but followed Paul's directions to settle down at one of tables to do their work. There were garden chairs, loungers and tables scattered around the poolside and patio. Paul ensured there were enough tables and chairs inside so they could work out of the sun.
Tom was not too happy about cooking more 'teenage junk food'. Once Tom had complained a little bit too loudly about cooking for teenagers and Craig had taken over the kitchen and done the cooking, leaving Tom to clear the horrendous mess that Craig had deliberately created.
Tom changed tactics and was quietly introducing new tastes and ingredients to Craig. Craig tolerated his passion for food and although he would not admit it, he looked forward to Tom's creations.
When homework was completed everyone piled into kitchen for dinner. The previous owners had left behind a massive table and with so many people sitting down, it was the only one big enough.
During the meal Tom asked what they planned on doing that evening.
“Swimming,” Adam replied, “Craig is having a visitor and Paul might be needed as well. Rick and Danny don't have bikes so we may as well all stay here. I'm sure Tom expects us to rest before swimming so we'll do that on the patio.”
Rick and Danny were a little surprised that Adam had taken the lead. It's said that delegation is the sign of good leadership but Craig took it to extreme. At only sixteen he felt overwhelmed by his responsibilities and at times he was more than willing to hand over control. Tom, Paul and Adam had come to understand this. He deferred to Tom when it came to the work he had to get through during the day but Tom was used to the boss being the boss and was uncomfortable when he felt things were going too far.
Being young, it was more like a game to Adam and Paul but one they took seriously. On one occasion Adam had been given extra essays as a punishment which should have meant him doing work after dinner while the others were playing.
Paul could see he was rushing his assignments. He did not fully understand the subject matter but he recognised Adam's impatient attitude and overall poor quality. When he queried it Adam came up with an excuse about the teacher knowing there was a lot of work and would understand.
The following night, it was obvious from the marks and the teachers comments that they had not understood.
Adam stood nervously in front of Paul.
“You lied to me last night,” Paul said, “Do friends do that to each other?”
Adam blushed furiously and shook his head.
“If you let your work slip when you coming here, how will that effect Craig and Ethan?”
“The CSC could say they're worried,” Adam mumbled, “They could send you away.”
“If you were in charge, what would you do now?”
“Punish me.” Adam replied, “I'm sorry Paul. I didn't think.”
“Fetch the tawse and bend over the table.”
The colour drained from Adam's face but he quickly obeyed Paul. The tawse is a leather belt with two slits in it. It was very popular in Scottish schools until the twentieth century as the slits allowed the impact to be spread over a much wider area, increasing the pain region while doing less deep damage and had become very popular again.
Adam cried out as the first blow landed. Ethan and the others could see that Paul had not held back. With the second blow Adam was wriggling desperately trying to ease the fire in his buttocks. By the fourth blow all dignity had gone and he was in tears. Paul landed the last two blows across his thighs low enough to be visible even when he was wearing shorts. Adam's humiliation was completed while he was made to stand in front of Paul while Paul phoned his father to explain what he had done and why.
Things were a bit strained between Paul and Adam until, a few days later, they were all kicking a ball around in the park. Craig had joined them and as he tried to intercept a pass he stumbled and nearly fell. In frustration he kicked the ball as hard as he could and slammed it into the back of a passer by. It was a complete accident. Craig had not looked where he was kicking it.
The passer by was, understandably, annoyed and as Craig ran over to apologise, Adam ran over to join them. Adam had also noticed a park keeper approaching which could mean real trouble.
“Craig,” he asked, “Who's in charge while we're out like this?”
“I've said, you are.”
“And what happens to Ethan, Paul and Tom if you get into trouble?”
“I know where this is going, Adam. If this gentleman would be satisfied with it, I'll accept a punishment from you.”
Adam looked at the man who shrugged.
“I'm sure it was an accident,” he said, “but he needs a reminder to be more careful in future.”
“These boys are in here quite often, sir.” the park keeper said, “We were a bit worried about the grade 2 but they're usually very well behaved.”
Pointing to Adam he continued, “That one does try to keep them in check.”
“Fair enough. Convince me you take this seriously and I won't take it further.”
On Adam's instructions Craig fetched the tawse which Adam always brought with him on these trips from his bike, headed over to a picnic table and dropped his shorts. It did not help Craig that a small crowd was gathering and as he bent over the table he could hear them discussing his body.
Adam was not as strong as Paul but Craig could not help yelling out as the blows landed. He only just managed to hold back the tears. Like Paul, Adam landed the last two blows on Craig's lower thighs. Also like Paul he came up with one last humiliation.
He sent Craig over to the man to ask him if he would like to examine the welts and if the punishment was enough. Craig even had to stand with his hands behind his head so as not to hide the marks. All Craig wanted to do was jump around rubbing his injuries. He was relieved when the man simply said, well done, and shook his hand before saying Craig could go.
Adam rushed over and hugged Paul desperately sorry about his attitude over the last few days. Adam was worried about Craig's reaction when they got home but he also saw his own punishment from Paul's point of view which killed any last resentment with Paul.
Back indoors, Tom could see that Craig was very sore and listened carefully to their account of events.
As Adam was about to leave with his father, Craig hugged him and said, “You were right. If he had complained to the park keeper it would have become official. The CSC and the police could have been involved.”
On the night that Danny and Rick first visited, Danny asked about why Adam seemed to be in charge, Ethan described the incident in the park. It had made a deep impression on all the boys and everyone who heard the tale were equally impressed.
Danny in particular began to see Craig differently. Since Craig was head of the household, he was of 'them', an adult who never listened to kids but if he got punished then he had to be one of 'us', a kid who never got listened to. It only began to make sense if he believed Ethan when he said that Craig would do anything to look after him or help anyone who needed it.
Craig sat with the others while they rested beside the pool. He saw Danny and Rick watching him or talking earnestly to Ethan and wondered what the problem was but he had to ready to meet Mrs Brassom. She was the lady who had been so rude to Paul that morning.
Craig had spoken to her on the phone and taken an instant dislike to her. She had complained about Paul's behaviour to her, asking why graders were always so stupid then gushing about how a successful young man like Craig would be such a good influence on her son.
Craig knew her son, Liam from school. He was seventeen, in the year above Craig and about to start his final year. Liam was quiet and easy going which was about all that Craig knew about him.
Craig was aware of the hostility of some of the parents and thought that cooperating with them might make things easier for Paul but he had told Mrs Brassom that he would talk to Liam and that would be the decider. He felt a bit sorry for Liam as Craig assumed he would spend most of the evening being told how to behave.
About a quarter of an hour before they were due to arrive, Craig decided to put some clothes on and as he headed for the house he saw a car draw up. Liam got out accompanied by Mr and Mrs Brassom.
“Boy,” she shouted, “Boy get over here now. Not now Liam.”
Liam had tried in vain to warn his mother who she was talking to. He looked at Craig and shrugged. Mr. Brassom caught the exchange and grinned. Craig was thoroughly irritated by her behaviour but ambled over and stood sloppily at ease.
“I'll be talking to your master about your behaviour.” she snapped, “Don't just stand there, you idiot. We're the Brassoms. Announce us.”
“I don't have to.” Craig retorted angrily, “With that voice you could announce yourself at a foghorn convention. I'm Craig Ryder.”
He turned and offered his hand to Mr. Brassom who was just about controlling his laughter.
“I'm sorry to greet you naked but I was just coming up to the house to dress.”
“We're a bit early,” Mr Brassom replied, “My wife was insistent that you should not be kept waiting. How's Tom? I've spoken to him a couple of times at the school when we were collecting the kids.
“Really dear, I'm sure Mr. Ryder has had enough of graders for now. Liam, you really should have told me. That was a wicked prank you played. I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Ryder refused to help you now.”
“Tom mentioned you and he liked wine. He hasn't fetched his cellar yet.”
“I've got a couple of bottles in the car. I wondered if Tom and I could share a glass.
“What on earth are you thinking, Brian.” Mrs Brassom shrieked, “What will Mr Ryder think of this family if you go and get his servants drunk.”
Craig pointed, “If you go round there to the living room doors and call out, you should find him. Liam and I will head down to the barn.”
He turned to Mrs Brassom, “It's going to be men's talk all evening. Maybe you'd prefer to return later and collect them.”
“How very thoughtful of you.” Mrs Brassom answered, “I could visit my sister.”
“As they walked to the barn Liam said, “Sorry about mother. She thinks that if I become your friend there'll be some good prospects for me. I know you're fighting for your family and so is she. The difference is, she's such a terrible snob.”
“What about you?”
“Dad's delighted that he's met another connoisseur. Your servant could be grade 1 for all he cares. I think I take after him.”
“Mum's not all that bad. She works as a volunteer at a children's home our church runs. I've seen her on her knees scrubbing the sick off the floor before now. And she's given the CSC hell if they they don't treat the kids right. She's just got it into her head that we're one of the good families and deserve to be treated that way.”
They had reached the barn and had gone out onto the patio. Liam looked suitably impressed.
“Something you should know.” Liam continued, “She knows Mrs Jones. They meet at one of their social groups. Mum mentioned that she was going to ask if I could join your homework group and Mrs Jones asked if I would keep an eye out for her to help her investigations. Mum really let fly at her. She told that her if she had done her job right in the first place she wouldn't be in this mess.
Liam continued, “She said that you've done a marvellous job with Ethan, Jake and Adam and even your graders are a cut above rest. She wants me to get ahead not sort Mrs Jones mess out.”
Craig was impressed and realised he had underestimated Mrs Brassom.
“I'm sorry about the foghorn remark.”
“Don't be,” Liam replied, “It was priceless. I thought dad was going to choke trying not to laugh. She's got this thing about the right people and how to behave. She'll never accept graders are anything but trash.”
“Do you want to join the homework group?”
“I think so.” Liam replied carefully, “I'm being pushed which I don't like but I've been finding studying difficult so I guess I need some help. I wouldn't mind going for a swim though.”
“Go for it.”
Craig found that he noticed boy's bodies far more than he used to and found himself looking at Liam as he stripped off. Liam was not fit, chubby rather than fat and hairier than the others. His legs were covered in a black growth and there was a patch on his chest. His cock and balls seemed enveloped in further luxuriant growth.
Although he was a strong swimmer he lacked stamina and tired quickly, contenting himself with sitting on the edge of the pool. He talked with Paul and Adam and Craig could see them laughing and joking.
Craig dived in and swam laps until he was exhausted then sat back in one of the loungers. Danny sidled up to Craig and tried talking to him but was impossibly shy though he did manage to mumble out a question about the 'guy at the mall'
“The security guard, you mean?” Craig asked.
“No! The boss.” Danny whispered, “Forget it, I'll only get into more trouble.”
He almost ran off and sat sulkily in a corner until Ethan joined him.
Craig sighed. The swim had been great. There was nothing like physical exercise to blow away stresses and strains but Danny was a new problem and he did not know how to handle it. Danny was sixteen, the same age as he was, but acted much younger. It was not the way Craig remembered him from school.
Paul sat next to Craig for a time. He loved Craig as his master and was always there for him. With the informality around the pool Paul would not stand attentively as a good servant should, it would be too obvious but he was still there to serve. Craig was aware of Paul's devotion and relaxed.
Adam also understood the pressures that Craig was under. Craig was only a year older than him and seemed to be there for everyone. Under any other circumstances, Adam would have been extremely jealous of their relationship but he knew that he was part of it and took his duties very seriously so when it became time for the visitors to be collected he started clearing the pool.
Danny had the dreadful feeling that the last chance to save him was slipping away and just sat while the others dressed. He was still naked when his father who had got a lift on the bus arrived.
“Come on, Danny.” he said quietly, knowing how volatile his son had been for the last few weeks, “Craig'll think you want to move in.”
To everyone's surprise Danny burst into tears and ran to Craig falling on him almost winding Craig. Craig was briefly aware of their two cocks grinding together before focusing on Danny's whimpering pleas for help and for Craig to believe him.
Craig looked helplessly at Danny's father who looked equally bewildered as Craig wrapped his arms around the boy and held him.
Paul and Adam shepherded everyone out of the barn and across to the living room. To Paul's dismay Mrs Brassom arrived at that moment and was relieved, that when she realised that there was some sort of crisis, stayed quiet.
Tom and Mr Brassom had enjoyed a little too much wine and were the worse for wear leaving Paul to take charge.
After seating the adult visitors as best he could he turned to Ethan.
“Do you or Rick know what this is about?”
The two boys looked at each other not wanting to commit themselves.
“Danny is asking for help and maybe Craig will need some too.” Paul said sharply, “In this household you give that help.”
Out of the corner of his eye he could see Mrs Brassom. She was definitely unhappy about a grader being in charge and winced when Paul called Craig by name. Rick was not a grader and Paul should be a lot more respectful to him but she stayed quiet as curious as everyone else to know what's going on.
“Go on, Rick. Tell them.” Ethan muttered unhappily.
Slowly and reluctantly at first Rick told his story. As he saw that he was not in trouble so a dam burst in his mind and the words just flooded out. It took the listeners some time to sort out the confused version that Rick gave but gradually they understood.
Rick had gone to the mall and had been stopped, probably, by the same guard and searched in much the same way Craig had been. Since he was just a kid, spending pennies rather than pounds, no one came to his defence and he was hauled off to the managers office. The manager had bent Rick over his desk and fucked him. Rick trembled when he remembered the pain and his terror when the guard had taken his turn.
Afterwards Rick was told that he was banned from the mall and that there was enough evidence to get him graded if he ever mentioned his disgraceful behaviour.
By the end of his story, his father was in tears and hugging him.
“And Danny?” Paul asked quietly.
“The same thing. It was weird. I could see him freaking out every time someone mentioned the mall the same as I did. We got talking.”
“What do we do now?” Danny's father asked desperately. He wanted to rush out and comfort his son and found it difficult to accept that Danny had turned to a stranger.
“A couple of the orphans have told similar stories.” Mrs Brassom said, “It's difficult not to believe them but the man is very respectable.
“Private Investigator,” Tom mumbled.
“Good idea.” Mr Brassom replied, his speech just as slurred.
“Be quiet, you drunken idiots,” Mrs Brassom snapped. “That's for Mr Ryder to decide.”
“Adam and Jake usually cycle home alone but it's getting very close to curfew,” Paul said, “I'll phone their parents and see if they can stay the night.”
“Liam! Make some coffee and pour it down those two. Paul's got enough to deal with. He doesn't need to handle a couple of drunks.”
If Paul was surprised that Mrs Brassom knew his name he was amazed at the change in her attitude when there was a crisis to deal with.
Paul set Ethan and Jake to looking after the adult guests and sent Adam down to the barn. He had instructions to stand where Craig could see him but just wait for until he was needed.
Danny was asleep in Craig's arms. He had told a similar story to Rick but he had been unable to accept what had happened to him and began a campaign of vandalism against the mall. He had been caught and was waiting on his court appearance where it was likely he would be graded. He had panicked when the police had grabbed him and lashed out striking one of the officers in the face and so he was facing grade one or two.
Craig was getting very uncomfortable having a boy the same size as him laying on him. He coaxed Danny awake and together walked to the living room where they were both surprised to see everybody still there. Adam followed with Danny's clothes.
Tom had sobered up rapidly. He knew he was needed and was determined not to let Craig down. Craig had them all sit as best they could round the kitchen table. Ethan, Jake, Adam and Rick found themselves standing at the foot.
“There was no excuse for that behaviour,” Mrs Brassom said to Danny when Craig explained his court case.
“It's done.” Craig said firmly, “Danny did not create this situation and we are going to help him deal with it. The question is, how?”
“Tom said something about a Private Investigator,” Ethan giggled, “but he was drunk at the time.”
“We need to find hard evidence against him. These boys aren't enough, even with those from the orphanage. The defence would yell collusion and we couldn't prove it's not true.”
“It is true.” Rick yelled, “ I thought you believed us.”
“We do believe you.” Tom said quietly, “That's why we're sitting round this table instead of going to bed. Sometimes we'll have to play devils advocate and talk or even question you as if we're the other side.”
“And you think an investigator could get hard evidence?” Craig asked.
“I don't know.” Tom replied, “All I can think of is putting a wire on a kid up and sending him into the mall hoping he'll get picked up.”
“I'll do it,” Adam said.
“No you won't,” said Paul, “No one is going to rape you while I'm here.”
Mrs Brassom nearly spoke out against Paul's disrespectful attitude but remembered things were done differently here.
Instead she said, “If a boy was about to be graded, could he volunteer in exchange for a lighter sentence?”
With some difficulty at being polite she finished off, “What do you think, Paul?”
“I don't know much about voluntary grading,” he replied, “I know everyone assumes that Craig has volunteered when he's dressed in just shorts but that's about all.”
“How old are the two at the orphanage,” Craig asked.
“Coming up sixteen.” Mrs Brassom replied, “Why?”
“I thought guys like that preferred them much younger.”
“They probably do.” Mr Brassom replied, “but below fifteen they have to have a guardian or parent present if they're questioned in private. That might cramp their style a bit and what strapping sixteen year old is going to shout rape?”
“So we need a sixteen year old boy who will be voluntarily graded so that he can get a couple of dicks up his arse.” Liam said.
“Liam! I know this subject is an unpleasant one but we must maintain standards. Please be more circumspect.”
“My Dear, I think you'll find that we are in the company of people who set standards, not keep them. Mr. Brassom said, “It may be that putting clear, lucid statements above polite, delicate banalities will become quite fashionable.”
He continued, “I'm a company secretary, not a lawyer but our firm does use graders. It seems to me that you need a lad like Danny who's been thoughtless rather than wicked and needs to concentrate on keeping his grading as high as possible. Voluntary grading in a tough environment might show enough remorse to help.”
Danny heaved convulsively as he sobbed with relief. He was still in deep trouble but suddenly he was not alone and people were talking positively about his situation.
“Thank you for everything,” Danny's father said, “but all this is going to cost money. I've got Danny's brother and sister to worry about. I've already talked to Danny about this and he knows that I've got to let him go.”
“That man made me feel dirty just by looking at me.” Craig replied, “I'm going to stop him. Tom. First thing tomorrow, get hold of Graham Baxter. Get him to find a good P.I. I don't care if it costs more but get things started immediately.”
“Yes sir,” Tom replied.
Craig may not have been comfortable with his position as head of the household but there were some occasions when he slipped into role and no one would dare challenge him. This was one of those moments and Tom, like the others, had recognised it.
“I'd like Danny to stay tonight and tomorrow. If he volunteers I'll start him off as a grade one until Graham can advise us. If he wants to stay five I'd still like him to stay so that he's available to talk to Graham. Either way we'll do our best for you, Danny.”
“Thank you, Craig.... I mean sir,” Danny replied, “How do I get voluntary grading?”
Ethan grabbed his computer which he'd left lying on the cupboard and connected to the internet.
“It says here Danny must state clearly that he wishes to be graded and Craig must clearly state he accepts. Craig can't have had any previous connections with Danny or be a relative. The statements can be written, in front of two witnesses or video recorded. Oh! Danny must be seen by a CSC inspector within one week.”
“What about grade levels and time?” Craig asked.
“Danny can back out any time but he's listed as grade one.”
“Which means there is no comeback however you treat him.” Mr Brassom said.
“I don't know.” Danny sobbed, “I'm scared.”
“Look at Tom, Paul, Jake and Ethan.” his father said, “Are they better off or worse off for being with Craig?”
“Better off. What do you think I should do, Paul? You've been through it.”
“I don't think Craig can go easy on you.” he replied, “If you're sentenced G1 you might be able to stay with Craig if he can show that he can treat you appropriately. That means hard labour and the severest punishments. If you stay with him he might be able to get you up to grade four in time. If you go through placement, you'll end up in a work gang and forgotten.”
“I'm sorry, son. You hit a policeman and you will be punished. You could volunteer, listen to what this lawyer has to say. If he says it won't help then come home until the hearing.”
“That makes sense.” Craig said quietly.
“I'll do that then if Craig wants to.”
“Tom. Have we unpacked the shackles and whips yet?”
“No sir but I can find them easily.”
“Fetch ankle and wrist restraints and a cock cage. Then see if there's a hook somewhere so we can stretch him up up for a beating. We need a gag as well.”
Craig looked at Danny.
“Understand what you are letting yourself in for. You'll be permanently restrained and only have enough movement to do your work. You won't be beaten as a punishment, you'll be beaten because I think it's a good idea. If Mr. Baxter says I can lighten up then I will but I'm trying to keep a grade one chain off your neck.”
“I understand, sir.” he replied, “I want to become a volunteer grader.”
“I accept you as a grader.” Craig replied. “Go and stand in that corner, hands behind your head and wait.”
It was getting late and the meeting began breaking up. Danny's father was almost weeping. He had not fully understood why Danny had gone off the rails and headed for grade 1 until tonight but at least he had some sort of chance now.
“My friends will be so jealous that I've spent the evening with such an important young man.” Mrs Brassom said as she left.
“You and Paul are on the same committee so you will be doing it again, won't you?” Craig asked with a big grin.
Mrs Brassom looked confused for a moment then laughed.
“Thank you, Craig. I'll do my best to help.”
“I'll try to be dressed next time you call.” Craig said.
“Oh! Don't worry. I've got you down as an eccentric millionaire.” she laughed, “That means you're allowed to dress strangely.”
“He's not dressed and he doesn't look strange, mother.” Liam said, “What is strange, is that you tried to be nice to Paul.”
“The right people can make or break you, Liam,” she snapped irritably, “If Danny had known Craig soon enough he might not be facing grading. We need to be in with the right people to see that you do well.”
“Tom said once that dressing as a grader is OK but you'll get listened to more if you look rich and powerful.”
She looked surprised then nodded.
“Thank Tom for me, will you, please?” she asked, “My husband thoroughly enjoyed the first part of the evening.”
It was getting late especially for a school night and some extra sleeping arrangements needed to be sorted out. They had not been in the house for long and most of the rooms were still empty. The main living room had been decorated and furnished as had Craig's bedroom. The kitchen had been ready for immediate use. The stables were being converted but were not ready. Tom was excited about his apartment and looked forward to inviting the glamorous grandmother, as the boys cheekily called her, for the night.
They were getting a room ready for Ethan for when his temporary grading was over. In the meantime, Paul had a room of his own, furnished with old furniture from the flat but he often slept on the floor in Craig's bedroom and had been given a sleeping bag of his own which he shared when Adam slept over. Craig still liked Paul to drain his balls but he now felt a bit of a sissy when Paul thought he should comfort him. Everyone else slept in sleeping bags in one of the empty rooms.
Tom and Craig had visited Tom's old home. It had been extremely distressing for Tom because of the memories it invoked but he had managed to arrange for his wine to be moved. His two houseboys had been delighted to see him if confused by his grader status.
They had been half starved and badly beaten by Tom's wife after his arrest and they were only just returning to full health and still on light duties. They looked warily at Craig but were reassured by Tom's relaxed attitude towards him and eventually Craig was just about able to get replies of more than one syllable. They had been mainly left alone over the last couple of months with the manager popping in once a day to check on them.
Finding links to his old life was harder for Tom than his arrest. Tom and Craig agreed to keep on having the property managed until Tom's apartment and grader bunk room were completed in the stables and then decide what to do with the property.
For now dealing with Danny was going to be the biggest problem. Except for Paul he sent the others to bed. By the time he had dealt with Danny the house would be quiet. It was one of his perks that he could do things at his own pace while the others had to rush around to give him space.
He sat quietly for a few moments. As his eyes drifted between Danny and the whips and canes that Tom had unpacked, he remembered how much he had enjoyed punishing Paul, Ethan and Tom. He'd had to hold back, remembering that he needed them. There were no constraints with Danny.