In this chapter David finds himself dragged into yet another situation where he looks likely to be hugely humiliated by younger kids. And we’ll also get to follow up on Jordan’s relationship with Stephens…
David was left alone for the rest of the morning, which meant that he was able to nip into the bathroom and have a nice private pee shortly after the others went downstairs. Then he got on with his work, hating being treated as a servant but too scared of the riding crop to disobey: his bum was still really sore, both from the whipping and from what Joe and Tim had done to him, and he really didn’t want to suffer any more of either punishment.
Tim came upstairs shortly before lunchtime to see how he was getting on.
“I’ve finished in Molly’s room, and yours, and I’ve just got the vacuuming to do in Joe’s room,” he said. “And I’ll need a broom if I’m going to sweep out the attic.”
“I’ll get you one in a minute. But you’d better be sure you’ve done a good job, Gerbil, because we’ll all be inspecting our rooms after lunch, and if we find anything we don’t like – anything at all – you’ll get whipped again, understand?”
He went downstairs and returned with a broom.
“You’d better do the attic first, and then anything you sweep out of the hatch can be vacuumed up afterwards. Go and do the sweeping now, and then it’ll be time for lunch. You can come and vacuum Joe’s room after we’ve eaten.”
So David climbed up into his attic and swept the floor, and by the time he had finished Molly was sitting on the end of Joe’s bed, twirling his shorts round her finger.
“Go and wash your hands, and then put these on and come downstairs,” she told him. And off she went, leaving the shorts on the bed.
He was tempted to put them on straight away, but he was suspicious enough not to, and when he emerged from the bathroom five minutes later he was very glad he’d done as he was told, because she was waiting for him outside the door. She looked very disappointed to see that he was still naked, and he felt good about that.
He went and put the shorts on and followed her down to the dining room, where he ate his lunch quietly, ignored by everyone else. Afterwards Tim told him to go and vacuum Joe’s room and then to bring the cleaner back downstairs and put it away. Joe came up to the room with him, but he made no attempt to interfere with David’s work. Instead he went to his wardrobe, got his cub uniform out and started to change into it.
“It’s St George’s Day, so we’ve got a parade this afternoon,” he told David. “That means I won’t be here this afternoon. I bet you’re going to miss me.”
David thought it better not to answer that, so he just got on pushing the vacuum cleaner back and forth. Joe put his neckerchief on, pulled the woggle tight and checked his appearance in the mirror.
“Don’t work too hard!” he said, and left David to it.
When he took the vacuum cleaner back downstairs ten minutes later David found Tim and Mark watching TV.
“It’s all done,” he said. “What should I do now?”
“Whatever you want,” said Tim. “You’re free until tea-time.”
“Thanks. Then… can I come and watch TV?”
“See, you’re learning, Gerbil – it’s not that long since you told me I wasn’t allowed in this room, and now you’re asking my permission to come in here. Maybe you’re not completely hopeless, after all. What do you reckon, Mark – shall we let him come in?”
“I suppose so. As long as he’s polite and obedient, like a good little boy.”
David glared at him, but managed to keep his tongue under control: the memories of the riding crop were still fresh in his mind.
They made him go to get them something to drink at one point but otherwise more or less ignored him, and he was happy enough with that.
At about five o’clock Joe came home and ordered David to come up to his room to put his uniform away, and David followed him unenthusiastically. Once in his room Joe stripped off his uniform.
“Chuck the socks in the laundry basket and put the rest away in the wardrobe,” he said. “Except… first I want you to take your shorts off.”
David’s heart sank: he was sure he was going to be molested again. But instead, as soon as he was naked Joe ordered him to put the cub uniform on. David wasn’t quite sure what the idea was, but he did as he was told. The shorts were slightly too tight, but the pullover was quite a good fit, and once he’d put on the socks and the neckerchief he actually looked the part.
“Brilliant,” said Joe. “Now you really look about ten years old. I bet if you went out into the street dressed like that nobody would imagine for a moment that you’re about four years too old to be in the cubs. In fact… I want to see if we can actually get away with it. You’re going to join my cub pack, Gerbil.”
“What! But I can’t! I’m miles too old!”
“But the point is you don’t look too old. OK, you can strip again now. We’ll tell them you’re my cousin and that you’re staying with us for a bit and want to join my cub pack because none of your friends live around here and you’re bored. I’ll get my mum to write us a note… this is going to be such a laugh!”
“But… look, Joe, you can’t make me do that! I mean, I have homework and stuff, so I can’t give up an evening every week – and you can’t make me play with a load of little kids, either. It’d be really embarrassing – and someone would be sure to find out…”
“Nobody will find out, but if they do we can say you did it for a bet, or something. So stick it in your diary, Gerbil: every Friday evening from now on you come to my house after school instead of coming back here. We’ll get Mark Sherwood to show you where it is one day after school – he lives just up the road from our house. We’ll get changed and go to cubs and then you can come back here with me. Tim will like that because Mum won’t let me travel back here after cubs on my own, and at the moment he has to wait at my house and bring me back, but if you’re with me he can come straight home after school and we’ll be able to come back here together. Let’s go and tell Tim about it!”
He ran off, and David pulled the cut-off jeans back up, threw Joe’s uniform into the wardrobe and ran after him, hoping to be able to talk Tim out of it. But of course Tim thought it was a brilliant idea, and Mark Sherwood just fell about laughing at the thought of the Rat being forced to join the cub scouts. And Mrs Devlin liked the idea, too: it meant that Tim wouldn’t have to hang around at their house after school waiting for Joe to finish at cubs – and the idea of stuck-up, self-important “Master David” having to play kiddies games with a load of eight- and nine-year-olds amused her no end. She said she’d be quite happy to write a letter asking if her ‘nephew’ could join Joe’s pack on a temporary basis.
On Sunday David was more or less left alone: he was ordered out of bed at nine o’clock, and he worked his way obediently through the day, doing the washing up when it was his turn, allowing Molly to give him a bath after supper and meekly going to bed at half-past seven when Joe told him to. Only when the hatch was closed and he was alone in the attic did he allow his suppressed anger to break forth into a session of pummelling the mattress, violent swearing and a promise to himself that he’d find a way to get his revenge one day, no matter how long it took…
He was still feeling pretty angry on Monday, and the number of first-year boys who whispered ‘Tiny tinkle!’ and ‘Flea-willy!’ to him as they passed in the corridors simply wound him up yet further. But the thought of having to do the assault course after school was still looming over him, and by the end of classes his anger had been submerged in fear: he’d been ordered to bring the riding-crop to school and had handed it to Sherwood at the end of the lunch break, and the thought that fifty or more boys would probably be using it on him after school was almost too much to bear. And when the final bell of the day went he was seriously thinking of just running for it and not coming back, even though he knew he couldn’t get far with only about fifteen pence to his name.
But as he left his form room he found Jordan Fielding waiting for him.
“I know what’s going to happen this evening,” Jordan told him. “I’m going to be there – one of the kids in 1B invited me.”
“Can’t you do something?” asked David, desperately.
“Like what? Challenge forty-nine other first-year kids, all of whom hate your guts, to a fight? You know I can’t. But I wanted you to know that at least one person there doesn’t hate you, V-G: I want to see you get round the course. And I don’t see why you can’t: I’ve had a look at the course, and I reckon I could do it, and you’re much older than me. Just try to ignore them all and just concentrate on the course. I believe in you, V-G – show them you don’t deserve all this stuff they’re doing to you!”
He turned and ran off, and David walked after him, thinking about it. He knew he could get over all the obstacles, even the rope and the final wall. Fielding was right: if he could just concentrate and ignore the audience, he should be able to do it.
He straightened his shoulders and marched to the assault course. The jeering that met him when he got there was pretty scary, though: there might not quite have been fifty kids there, but it was still far too many. He took a deep breath and walked to the entrance to the rifle range, where Sherwood was waiting for him and swishing the riding crop with a big grin on his face.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing how many whips with this thing you can take before you faint with the pain,” he said. “And of course tomorrow it will be three times worse – we’re going to have to start inviting second-year boys along, I think.”
“I haven’t failed the course yet,” David pointed out as he got undressed.
“True. Come on, then, show us what you can do.”
David removed his pants and walked to the start of the course. Most of the boys here tonight hadn’t seen him undressed before, and he was subjected to raucous laughter and a catalogue of insults, but somehow he managed to get to the start without reacting – or not visibly, anyway: inside he felt both furious and utterly humiliated at the same time.
Sherwood gave him the word and off he went. He wobbled a bit on the horizontal pole but otherwise had no difficulties until he reached the netting, and here, as he had expected, he was trapped and urinated on by half a dozen boys. The others crowded round, wanting to join in, but Sherwood told them to wait.
“He’ll be back here in a couple of minutes,” he said. “He won’t get across the rope.”
And he was right, though what did for David this time wasn’t a lack of strength or determination. He got halfway across the pool and then some of the audience started throwing things at him, and getting hit by a couple of eggs and a very squishy tomato completely broke his concentration: his ankles slipped from the rope, and a couple of seconds later he lost his grip and fell full-length in the mud, provoking a huge cheer from his audience.
He struggled to his feet, fell over when another tomato hit him full in the chest and then more or less crawled to the side of the pool before dragging himself out and running back to the start, jeered and mocked all the way.
He started again, though this time it was more difficult, because quite a few boys had come equipped with missiles of one sort or another, and halfway across the zigzag planks a water-bomb hit him on the side of the head and made him fall off.
“For God’s sake, Sherwood!” he protested as he ran back to the start. “This isn’t fair! Make them stop chucking things at me!”
Sherwood just shrugged and pointed to his watch, and off David went again. More missiles hit him as he ran across the planks and the pole, but this time he managed to keep going as far as the net, and this time Sherwood made no attempt to hold back the audience, though he did tell David he was stopping the clock. For two or three minutes David was pissed on by more than twenty boys, and was pelted at point-blank range with eggs and tomatoes and paint- and ink-bombs. When he was finally allowed to resume his course his back, legs and buttocks were aching from the impact of the missiles, and he was dripping with urine, paint, ink and eggs.
He jumped up and grabbed the rope, swung his legs up and started to pull himself along. More missiles hit him, but this time he was ready for them and managed to hold on. His arms were starting to hurt, but he was determined that this time he wasn’t going to fall off, and somehow he managed to drag himself to the far side. He lowered himself to the platform; took a moment to steady himself, and then ran at the last obstacle. Box, chair, jump… and he got his hands firmly onto the top of the wall, scrabbled with his bare toes against the face, heaved, and was able to get his elbows onto the top.
A renewed barrage of missiles pelted his back and buttocks, and as he dragged himself onto the top of the wall a none-too-fresh egg hit him full in the face. He teetered for a moment but clung on, and even though he couldn’t see properly he was able to get onto the top of the wall. He clawed the remains of the egg from in front of his eyes, swung his legs over, dropped to the ground, fell over, forced himself to his feet and staggered to the finishing line.
Sherwood, who had been jogging alongside him for the last couple of obstacles, stopped the watch. “Nine minutes twenty-three seconds,” he announced. “You made it, Rat.”
“And I bet you’re really pissed off about that,” said David, his hands on his knees as he tried to get his breath back.
“Not really, to be honest. I know you won’t believe me, but I am sort of glad you got round. After all, compared to what you tried to do to us, these last four evenings have been a hell of a lot worse. I reckon we’re more than quits, and I’ll be happy to tell Blackman that, too.”
“I should bloody well think so! Now tell those bastards to piss off home and let me get cleaned up in peace.”
“Okay, that’s it, everyone,” Sherwood told the audience. “He made it round inside the time limit, so he’s done his punishment. You can all go home.”
It was clear that some of the audience would have liked the treatment to go on, but most of them seemed satisfied that the Rat had been taught a good lesson, and slowly the audience drifted away. David made his way wearily to the tap and started to try to clean himself up, but it was hard getting rid of the paint and ink, and he knew he’d need a very long bath once he got home. Finally he gave up on the really stubborn stuff, dried himself off and got dressed. By now the first years had all gone except for Sherwood and McMillan: Fielding had given him a big smile and a surreptitious thumbs up before leaving, and that made David feel a lot better, too.
“So why are you still here?” he asked Sherwood, as he pulled his clothes back on.
“Tim said I had to show you where he lives before you go home tonight,” Sherwood told him. “It’s so you’ll know where to go after school on Friday – and I’d hate to think of you having an excuse not to become a little cubby-wubby, so you’re coming to see where it is now.”
Unenthusiastically David finished dressing and then followed Sherwood and McMillan out of school. They left McMillan at the bus stop – he lived some distance out of town – and then walked on as far as one of the council estates about half a mile from the school.
“I knew you had to live in a place like this,” commented David as they entered the estate.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means you’re rubbish. I shouldn’t have to go to the same school as kids like you. At least Devlin belongs in the school he goes to.”
Sherwood stopped and looked at him. “Do you really believe that just because your parents are rich you’re more important than me?” he asked.
“You said it, not me. Council house rubbish should be kept separate from decent people.”
“Bloody hell, I don’t believe you! You really think that the only thing that matters is having money? How would you feel if you were a clever kid whose parents weren’t rich – would you think it was only right for you to go to some crappy Secondary Modern just so you wouldn’t upset some snooty rich bastards who were probably more stupid than you?”
“Are you calling me stupid?”
“Answer the question!” demanded Sherwood, who was getting angry by now.
David shrugged. “If I had to live in a shit-heap like this I’d probably commit suicide, or something,” he said. “And if you weren’t as thick as pig-shit, you would, too.”
“I’m not thick! I passed the eleven plus, didn’t I? And I like living here – most of my mates live around here. Okay, it’s interesting seeing where Ally lives – I expect you’d think he’s more your class, or something, because his parents own their house, even though it’s nothing like the size of yours – but I wouldn’t really want to live in a little village. Of course, I can guess why you wouldn’t want to live on an estate like this: it’s because everyone hates you for being such a little shit, and it would be harder for you to hide away if you lived here. You’d get beaten up all the time.”
“Just shut up, you bloody peasant! Just show me where Devlin lives, and then you can fuck off back to your sewer.”
“You know what? I think tomorrow I’ll go and tell Blackman you refused to do your detention. Let’s see how cocky you are when you get thrown out of KEV.”
That shut David up in a hurry.
“You wouldn’t do that,” he said, uncertainly.
“I bloody well would! And I will, too, unless you apologise.”
“Well… okay, I suppose I’m sorry. Perhaps it’s not your fault your parents are peasants.”
“God, you call that an apology? You’ve got one last chance: get on your knees, kiss my shoes and give me a proper apology, or I’ll be in Blackman’s office the moment I get to school tomorrow.”
David hesitated, but he knew what would happen if Sherwood carried out his threat. Slowly he dropped to his knees.
“Okay, Sherwood, I apologise,” he said.
“Now kiss my shoes.”
David took a deep breath and obeyed, swearing to himself that one day he’d find a way to get Sherwood back for this humiliation.
“Okay,” said Sherwood. “I mean, you’re right about my parents not having a lot of money, but that’s not my fault, any more than the fact that yours are rich is anything to do with you. So why do you think it makes you so special?”
David didn’t answer the question. Instead he just said, “So where does Devlin live?”
Sherwood shrugged and led him further into the estate, eventually stopping in front of a semi-detached house. The grass in the tiny front garden hadn’t been cut recently, but otherwise the house looked tidy enough, especially when compared to one or two of the others in the road, where there were kids’ toys scattered about the garden, or old cars in various states of dismemberment on the driveways.
“What a slum,” muttered David.
“Well, now you know where this particular bit of the slum is,” said Sherwood. “And now you can piss off back to your palace. Pity the only bit of it you get to use is an attic.”
And he thrust the riding-crop into David’s hands and walked away before David could think of a suitable answer.
On the Wednesday after school Jordan found Stephens waiting for him at the bus stop they both used.
“How was the exam?” Jordan asked him.
“Okay. I don’t think I got too much wrong, anyway.”
“So, what were you going to say to persuade me to take the chain off?”
“Well… when you get off the bus, how long does it take you to get home?”
“Only about five minutes. Why?”
“I’ll tell you when we get to your stop.” And that was all he would say until the bus had dropped them both off at Jordan’s stop. They waited until the two or three other passengers had walked away, and then Stephens pulled a cassette recorder out of his bag and handed Jordan a folded piece of paper.
“I’ve written a full confession about what I was doing when you caught me,” he said. “And I’ve made a recording of me reading it, so I can’t pretend you just made it up and wrote it yourself. And you’ve still got the magazine, and my pants. So now if I don’t do what you tell me and let you put the chain back on after the exams you’ll be able to prove that… well, you know… that I like boys. If you stuck that confession up on the wall of my form room… well, you can guess what would happen.”
“How do you know I won’t do that anyway?”
“Because I trust you. It’s obvious that nobody at school knows about me, so you’ve kept your word and not told anyone. And I think that as long as I keep doing what you tell me and let you put the chain back on after the exams, you still won’t tell anyone.”
Jordan opened the piece of paper and skimmed through it. "Wow, Stephens," he said, "you really must trust me to give me this – it’s dynamite!”
“I know. Now listen to the tape so you know I haven’t just given you a blank.”
So Jordan pressed the ‘play’ button, and at the same time he followed the confession as Stephens’s voice on the cassette read it aloud.
‘My name is Nigel Stephens,’ it began. ‘I’m fifteen years old, and I’m in form 5A at King Edward the Fifth School in Cheltenham. One Saturday last term a first-year boy at my school, Jordan Fielding, caught me in the woods. I had no clothes on and I was playing with myself and reading a porn magazine that had pictures of naked boys in. I play with myself all the time, even though I know what a dirty habit it is, and I had that magazine because I like boys. I know I shouldn’t, and that it’s a really perverted thing to do, but I can’t help it: I just like looking at pictures of boys with no clothes on.
‘Fielding was going to report me to the Head Boy, but I persuaded him not to, and so he’s been punishing me since then. And I’m making this confession so that if I don’t go on accepting my punishment he can use it to get me into serious trouble, and to show the boys in my form how disgusting I am.
‘I’m making this tape on my own, in my bedroom at home, and nobody is forcing me to do it. Today is Sunday April 24th 1977.’
“Is that okay?” asked Stephens.
“Yes, it’s perfect. But are you sure you want me to have this?”
“If it means I can have the chain off, yes. And… wait a moment.”
Stephens delved into his bag once more and pulled out a Bible. He then knelt on the ground in front of Jordan, put his right hand on the Bible, and said, “I swear to go on doing whatever you tell me to after you take my chain off. And I swear not to play with myself without your permission, and if I forget or can’t stop myself I swear I’ll tell you about it and let you punish me however you want, even with the chain if you think that’s what I deserve.”
He stood up and put the Bible back in his bag.
“Okay, I’m convinced. So, what happens now?” said Jordan.
“Now you run home, hide the confession and the cassette where nobody will find them, and then come back with the key and take the chain off.”
Jordan thought about it, but it seemed foolproof: the confession and cassette were far more dangerous to Stephens than the magazine and his underwear were, and Jordan thought he would definitely prefer to be chained again than to have that piece of paper pinned up on a school notice-board.
“Okay,” he said. “Wait here: I’ll be back in ten minutes.”
He nearly wasn’t: his mother wasn’t keen on letting him out again on a school night, and it was only by swearing he just wanted to give something to a friend and promising to be home in ten minutes that he finally persuaded her. He ran back to the bus stop, took Stephens round behind the bus shelter where nobody could see them, ordered him to lower his trousers and pants and then removed the chain. Stephens cradled his balls for a moment, and then pulled his pants and trousers back up.
“You know I could beat you up now,” he said.
“You know your confession would turn up on the notice-board if you did.”
“Not until you got out of hospital. Or maybe I should kill you – that way it would never turn up at all.”
Jordan looked at him, wondering if he could possibly be serious. He tried to back out of the space behind the shelter, but Stephens grabbed his wrist and pulled him back, then spun him around and hooked an elbow round his neck.
“Pull your shorts and pants down, or I’ll break your neck,” Stephens told him.
Jordan struggled, but Stephens leaned back and lifted the smaller boy right off his feet
“Pull them down, now,” he ordered, and Jordan, who was starting to think he might have made a terrible mistake, did as he was told. Stephens pushed him to the ground, pinned him down and then stuck a hand in Jordan’s pocket and retrieved the chain and padlock, with the key still in the lock. Quickly he made a loop, slipped it over Jordan’s genitals, pulled it tight enough to make the smaller boy cry out, and then secured it with the padlock, slipping the key into his own pocket.
“Now let’s see how you like it,” he said, and he began to toy with Jordan’s genitals until the penis started to harden – and of course at that point the chain started to dig in. Stephens kept going until the penis was fully erect, with the chain crushing it viciously at the base. Jordan gasped and clutched helplessly at himself.
Stephens stood up and helped Jordan to his feet – and then to Jordan’s complete surprise, Stephens gave him the key.
“I just wanted you to know what it feels like,” he said. “I wouldn’t leave it on – anyway, I bet you’ve got a spare key somewhere. But now you know how much it hurts.”
“I knew anyway,” said Jordan, undoing the padlock and pulling the chain off. “I tried it on myself before I put it on you for the first time. And you’re right about the spare key. But there was a moment when I thought you might really be going to hurt me there.”
“I wouldn’t. I mean, I wouldn’t want to, anyway: like I said on Saturday, it’s almost worth wearing the chain if it means I can do sex stuff with you. But even if I did want to hurt you, I couldn’t, because no matter where you hid the tape, someone would be sure to find it if you went missing or got murdered. So now I suppose I should be punished for attacking you, so… would you like me to put it in my mouth again? I know you enjoy that.”
“I’d like that a lot, but I can’t stay now: I promised my mum I’d come straight back home. You can do it for me on Saturday, though.”
“Okay. Ten o’clock in the usual place?”
“Great! I’ll see you there, then.” And Jordan ran off, while Stephens sat down to wait for the next bus.
On the Friday morning Blackman called Sherwood, Osterley, Dhif and David to a meeting in his office. He started by asking Sherwood if David had done his detentions. Sherwood hesitated long enough for David to feel certain he was about to be dropped in it: a sick, cold fear crept over him as he contemplated being marched to Noddy’s office and expelled. But then Sherwood said, “Yes, he did what we told him. He’s still far too lippy, but I’ve got no complaints about his detentions: he turned up on time and did what we said. As far as I’m concerned, him and me are now quits, and that goes for Ally McMillan, too.”
“Okay. So who wants him next? Dhif?”
“I’m in no hurry,” said Dhif. “He treated Osterley a lot worse than me, so I’d say let Osterley have him next. I’ll just settle for the pieces that get left over.”
“Is that okay with you, Osterley?”
“Sure. How long have I got him for?”
“As I understand it, he had you mistreated for a good three weeks; so let’s say you’ve got him until half term. That gives you about four weeks if we start on Monday. Then Dhif can have him after the half-term holiday. Is that okay for you both?”
They both nodded.
“Fine,” said Blackman. “So, Villiers-Gore, you’ll report to Osterley at the start of break on Monday morning, and you’ll do whatever he tells you to until the start of half-term. Any disobedience, any bunking off, any absence from school without a proper doctor’s certificate and I’ll take you straight to see Mr Weston, understand?”
David nodded dully.
“Good. Then off you go.”
David had no idea what Osterley would be likely to do to him, but he didn’t think he was going to enjoy it. But he could see no way out of the mess he way in – and of course today was Friday, which meant a whole new strand of humiliation was about to open before him.
After school he made his way to the Devlins’ house on the council estate. He knocked at the door, wondering how long he might have to wait for Joe to turn up, but in the event the door was opened immediately and Tim told him to come in.
“I’ve made you both some sandwiches,” he said. “Joe’s upstairs getting changed. We’ve bought you a uniform too, so you’d better go up to our bedroom and get changed yourself. I’ll wait until you’re both ready, and then I’m off home. And you’d better do exactly what Joe tells you to this evening, or you’ll be in deep shit when you get back home, understand? It’s the second door on the left at the top of the stairs.”
David went upstairs and found Joe getting changed in a bedroom that had twin beds in.
“Your stuff’s over there on Tim’s bed,” Joe told him, doing up his shoelaces. “Get changed – we need to be sure everything fits. Course, if it doesn’t you’ll have to come to the meeting in the nude…”
David removed his school uniform and laid it out on the bed. He put on the cub uniform – long socks with green-tabbed garters, a pair of shorts that were just about big enough, a white tee-shirt and a green cub pullover with the Scout Association emblem on one breast and the pack name and county badge on the shoulder. He put his school shoes back on and did them up.
“Where’s the neckerchief?” he asked.
“You don’t get one until you’ve passed the basic tests,” Joe told him. “And before you ask, we don’t wear caps in our pack. Some troops still do, but we don’t. So, does it all fit?”
“Just about. The shorts are a bit small, but I suppose they’ll do.”
“Well, you’ve got no balls, so there’s nothing to crush. Come on, then, let’s go and have some tea.”
Tim stayed and ate tea with them and then gave the house keys to Joe, told him to make sure the house was locked up when he left, and told David once again to do exactly what Joe told him if he didn’t want to be whipped when he got home. Then he left them to it.
Joe made David do the washing up and then led him to his primary school, which was a couple of hundred yards away, explaining that this was where the meetings took place.
“Now, you mind you keep your mouth shut,” he said, as they reached the school. “You’re ten years old, remember? Mess this up, and I’ll whip you every night for six months.”
Again, David couldn’t think of any way out of this: either he allowed himself to be treated like a ten-year-old every Friday, or he’d be whipped, which he didn’t think he could take. So he followed Joe into the school hall.
Joe marched up to the pack’s Akela and handed him the letter Mrs Devlin had written.
“This is my cousin David,” said Joe. “He’s staying with us at the moment because his mother is away working in London, and my mum thought it would be good if he joined in with us and did stuff, instead of just sitting around at home. So here he is.”
“Yes, your mother called me about him. Hello, then, David. Do you belong to a pack where you normally live?”
David shook his head.
“And how old are you?”
“Ten,” muttered David, hoping to get a reaction along the lines of ‘Oh, come on, you’re obviously much older than that!’ But instead the pack leader just nodded.
“I expect you’d like to be in the same six as Joe,” he said. “That way you’d at least know one person you’d be with. I don’t see why we can’t do that. Go with Joe now and meet the rest of the six, and later on we’ll arrange to start teaching you the stuff you need for your tests. If you’re already ten you’ll need to start quickly, otherwise you won’t be ready to go up to Scouts next year.”
David trailed off after his 'cousin', thinking that it was worse than he’d thought: not only did the leader readily accept that he was only ten years old, he obviously thought he was only just ten, or he’d be talking about going to Scouts this year, rather than next.
Joe led David over to a group of boys who were scuffling in the corner of the hall.
“This is Gerbil,” he told them. “He’s going to be joining us for a bit.”
“That’s a funny name,” commented one of the smaller boys.
“Yeah, why’s he called Gerbil?” added a bigger, much heavier boy.
“You’ll find out later,” Joe promised him. “If you can all come back to my house afterwards I’ll tell you all about it.”
David didn’t like the sound of that at all, but of course there was nothing he could do about it.
He forced himself to get through the evening. The games weren’t too bad (though the heavy boy from his own six deliberately flattened him when playing British Bulldog), and actually learning to tie some basic knots was sort of interesting. The leader took him to one side at one point to teach him the Law and the Promise, explained the origin of the left-handed handshake and gave him the rest of the instruction he would need to pass his basic test, and then sent him back to his six.
After the meeting Joe led the entire six – actually, now that David had been assigned to them there were seven of them – back to his house, parked them in the living room and sent David to get a bottle of Coke from the fridge. Once the bottle was doing the rounds Joe ordered David to go and get changed back into his school uniform, and to hurry up about it. His reappearance in the room in KEV uniform got exactly the reaction that Joe had hoped for.
“Why’s he at King Edward if he’s only ten?” asked the heavy boy. “Is he some kind of super-swot?”
“Nope. Look, this is Red Six business, so you’ve all got to promise not to tell anyone else about this – not even Akela, okay?”
They all swore, staring at David with undivided interest.
“Okay,” Joe told them. “Gerbil’s not ten, he’s nearly fifteen.”
That drew an immediate chorus of utter disbelief.
“It’s true,” Joe insisted. “If you look at his school exercise books you’ll see he’s in the fourth year. What’s your date of birth, Gerbil?”
“June 25th 1962,” said David, not meeting anyone’s eye.
“Anyway,” Joe went on, “he lives in this massive house out Tewkesbury way, and my mum is the housekeeper there. And his mum is away in London, so my mum’s in charge of him. And he’s a total shit – he treated us like dirt all the time, and thinks he’s miles better than people who live on council estates, so now we’re in charge we’re teaching him a lesson. Now he has to do exactly what I tell him, and if he doesn’t we’re allowed to whip him and punish him anyhow we want. And he’s such a baby I thought it would be funny to make him join the cubs. Plus, it means you lot can join in punishing him for looking down on people who live on this estate.”
Every boy in the six lived on the estate, and it was obvious from their reaction that they thought it would be enormous fun to help punish a snobby brat for looking down on them.
“And now you can find out why we all call him Gerbil,” Joe went on. “Strip, Gerbil.”
“Oh, come on, Joe – not in front of all this lot!” protested David.
“Do it, or else.”
David knew it would be pointless to defy him: this lot could have him naked in thirty seconds if they wanted. It would be better to keep his dignity and do it himself. So he took off his school uniform, stopping when he was wearing nothing but his pants to make one last appeal to Joe, who simply ignored him.
“Now, remember he’s nearly fifteen,” he reminded his friends. “Show them, Gerbil.”
Reluctantly David removed his pants and stood up, closing his eyes so as not to see the scorn on the little kids’ faces. But he couldn’t block out the shrieks of laughter or the disgusting comments.
“Now,” said Joe, “let’s beat him up. Roger, do you want to go first?”
“Okay,” said the heavy kid, and he grabbed David, threw him onto the rug in front of the TV, seized a wrist and wrenched David’s arm up behind his back. He was yelling ‘Submit!’ in less than five seconds.
“That’s far too easy,” said Roger, standing up. “Go on, George, you take him.”
The smallest boy in the six leapt on top of David, punched him in the ribs, and then forced his arm up behind his back in the same way. This took a little longer: maybe ten seconds had elapsed when David started to beg for mercy.
“God, what a weed!” said George, letting go and standing up.
“Now let’s bundle him,” said Joe, and the entire six jumped on David, pushed him to the ground and piled on top of him. David was squashed under the pile of boys, and so could do nothing to prevent the various punches and jabs he received while at the bottom of the pile. Nor could he prevent someone grabbing his little penis and wrenching violently.
Finally they let him get up.
“Okay, now we know everyone here can beat you up, we’ve got some Red Six rules for you. First, you have to be polite to all of us. You’re not allowed to swear, or argue, or anything like that, or we’ll have to whip you. Second, you have to do what we tell you – not just me, but anyone in the six. If you don’t, you get whipped. Third, we’ll arrange one other day in the week as well as Fridays when you have to come round here after school instead of going home. That’s because someone has to keep this place clean, and it might as well be you. And when we find a day to do that, any of the six can come and visit and beat you up if they want. Right, that’s…”
Roger leaned across and whispered into Joe’s ear, and Joe giggled.
“Yes, that’s a great idea,” he said. “Fourth, you’re not allowed any clothes while you’re here, so we can all tease you about your little gerbil willy as much as we want.
“Now, you have to remember everyone’s names from now on – if you get someone’s name wrong after today you have to be punished. So you have to go along the line, proving that you know what our names are and then promising us all, in turn, to be a good little boy and not to let the six down. Wait while we line up in the proper order…”
They stood in a line with the sixer at one end and the second at the other. Joe was second, but the actual sixer was a placid boy who seemed perfectly happy for Joe to run things. His name, David remembered, was Benedict, and he had enormous, slightly crooked front teeth, which made him look funny when he smiled, which he seemed to do a lot. David wondered if he might be a bit slow or something, because he hardly spoke at all, and happily followed whatever the others were doing.
“You’re Benedict,” David said, standing in front of him. “I promise to do my best not to let the six down.” Benedict gave him a big toothy smile.
Next in line was Roger, who alone among them had a very short haircut, and whose weight seemed at least as much muscle as fat. David found him quite scary-looking, because unlike Benedict he didn’t smile much, and he just looked thuggish.
“You’re Roger,” said David. “I won’t let you down, either.”
“You’d better not, mini-dick,” growled Roger, popping his knuckles.
Now came the two whose names David couldn’t remember. The taller one had dark brown hair and a little puppy-fat, while the shorter one had reddish-blond hair and freckles and was skinny, but he couldn’t remember their names, because neither had said a lot so far this evening. He knew that one of them was called Philip, but he couldn’t remember the other name at all.
“Are you Philip?” he asked the taller boy.
“No, Stupid, I’m Mike. He’s Philip,” said the boy, scornfully, indicating the red-head next to him.
“Oh. Sorry. Anyway, I promise you I’ll do my best, too.”
He moved on to the redhead.
“Okay, you’re Philip,” he said.
“Everyone calls me Flip,” the boy interrupted him.
David could see an opportunity to ingratiate himself a bit here: maybe if even one or two of these lower-class brats could be talked into easing up on him his life might be a bit less fraught. So he said, “Well, I’ll call you Flip if you’d like me to. But if that’s what your friends call you, then maybe I’d better not, because you probably don’t want someone like me as a friend.”
“Too bloody right,” said Roger. “In fact, I think even allowing you to call him ‘Philip’ is more than you deserve. You’d better just call him ‘Sir’.
David gritted his teeth. “Okay, then… Sir,” he said, trying not to allow his feelings to seep into what he was saying. “I promise I’ll try hard not to let you down, either.”
“Now kiss his shoes,” ordered Joe, before David could move on.
David hesitated, but Roger smacked his fist into his palm, and that made up his mind for him. David sank to his knees and kissed Philip’s shoes, while the whole six taunted him.
He stood up and stood in front of George, the youngest of the six. He was a chunky kid with slightly prominent ears sticking out through his dark brown hair, and although he was probably more than six inches shorter than David, the kid glared at him belligerently.
“Go on, then, Gerbil,” said the boy, his hands on his hips. “Say it.”
“I promise I won’t let you down, either.”
“What’s my name?
“You’re George. Sorry, I should have said.”
“Yes, you should. So now you can kiss my shoes, too, to make up for it.”
Reluctantly, David did that, and then repeated the formula in front of Joe, who of course also wanted his shoes kissed.
“I think we should make that a rule,” said George. “Whenever one of us comes into the house he has to kiss our feet.”
“Good idea,” approved Joe. “That’s Rule Number Five, then. Okay, I think we ought to go, or I’ll get told off for being late home. See you all on Monday.”
“If you’re late, blame Gerbil,” suggested Roger. “He’s the oldest, so he ought to take the blame.”
“Good idea. Still, we’d better go or I won’t get any supper.”
The others left, telling Joe they’d see him at school on Monday. When they had gone Joe told David to pick up his uniform and follow him upstairs, and once they were in his bedroom he removed his uniform and put it, and David’s, away in the chest of drawers.
“Now you can bend over the bed,” he said. “I think I’ve got time to fuck you before we go home.”
“Oh, no, please, Joe!” begged David. “Please don’t – it’s disgusting!”
“No, it isn’t, it’s fun – and it feels bloody amazing, too. Now just bend over and spread your legs, or next week I’ll do it with all of the others here. And maybe they’d all want to try it, too… actually, I think that would be a brilliant laugh, teaching little George how to fuck. He’d be able to, as well: he’s got a pretty big one for an eight-year-old – it’s at least the same size as mine, and he might even be a bit bigger. And Benny’s got a huge one, miles bigger than my brother’s. It’d be really funny watching you trying to cope with that. So you’d better try really hard to make me happy between now and next Friday, hadn’t you? Now spread your legs.”
And David was forced to hold himself open and allow the little Irish bastard to do it to him all over again.
So the Rat now has yet another gang of much younger kids lining up to punish him for his attitude, which doesn’t seem to be mellowing in the least. I wonder how long it’s going to take him to work out that antagonising people is not going to help his situation…
In the next chapter we’ll find out what Osterley has in store for him – though first he’s going to have to survive another weekend at home…
Okay, so now we're fifteen chapters into the story, and I'm guessing there are readers out there who haven't yet told me what they think of it. Come on, people, let's have some feedback – what works for you? What doesn't? I really do want to know – that's why I add my address ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) to every chapter!
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