by Andrew Foote
On my list of jobs to be done were all the guest rooms, dining room and library to be vacuumed and dusted. I had also been asked to do much the same to the Play Room and bar, and when the dray arrived, to supervise the off-loading of barrels of beer and bottles of wine and spirits into the cellar.
The guest rooms; all eighteen of them took me a complete day and the best part of the evening to get them to an acceptable standard, the reception rooms took less time and by the time the dray arrived, I'd finished them.
"I'll take a break from gardening Ed. I've never been inside that room as I thought the alarm code might be different. Obviously, it's not, so I'll take some photos."
"What if he's got CCTV running?"
"We'll have time enough to check for cameras, but then why would he want to monitor that room and not the others?"
"Can't answer that. He's given us the freedom of the entire house except for his private suite, and none of that is on a separate system."
The delivery was easy, so while I stacked the barrels and racked the wines, Pip, camera in hand, went to explore the Play Room.
"Very plush, but nothing I didn't expect to find.
Well, that isn't entirely truthful, I did find something. The whole place is wired to video monitors, there are cameras all over the place, sophisticated and very expensive fuckers as well! I think he monitors everything, keeps it on a hard drive and either sells it back to the punters, or uses it to blackmail them, but it isn't like CCTV.
Oh, to have the alarm code to his office!"
"Or a video camera of our own."
"Yeah, that as well, but it's too late to think about that now. This gig kicks off tomorrow, and this place will be swarming with security if our guess is correct about what's likely going on here."
We met in the kitchen at six the following morning and already some of Carl's men had arrived. One acknowledged Pip but then asked who I was. He looked on a clip folder and nodded his head.
Pip joined me moments later.
"He was just checking you out, but now we'd better get going and collect the cabaret. They're not Brummies' as we suspected, we've got to go to Stafford then back down to Wolverhampton to collect them. I'm happy about that, I didn't need to see anyone I knew."
"Yeah, knew or know. Lots of the lads sell themselves. They start aged twelve when their goods are saleable, then knock it on the head once they start to mature. Nothing unusual there, Ed."
"Did you ever……?"
"No, not my thing. I mean, look at me? Do I look like the type dirty old perverts are after? No, I play the game, the one where I can talk myself into situations, and hopefully, talk myself out of them. I survive using my brain, not my body! Less of a risk, and definitely more lucrative."
"Ha! Compare me to the kids we're going to collect, then comment. Callum was stunning when he was thirteen, but still marketable now aged seventeen. South-east Asian. No body hair, nice and slim, nice complexion and a big dick. He's the exception that proves the rule. I'm straight as an arrow, but some of these young boys we'll see today? Well, even I could find myself questioning my sexuality!"
"Who was that Greek bloke who said, 'Women are for duty, but boys are for pleasure?' Sometimes I think their logic was sound as a pound, and it's us who are all fucked up about stuff. Who knows, but I'm not gay, even if I can appreciate a great looking kid."
"Still, it's totally wrong to traffic these kids just so some wealthy weirdo can get his jollies."
"Agreed, but some of them actually enjoy it. From what little Callum told me about it, there's very little coercion and the boys are generally treated very well by their abusers; one reason they come back for more I guess. Some of the men involved don't want to touch the boys. They prefer to see a little boy-on-boy action…… probably can't get it up, truth be told!"
"But all those video cameras. He could be making more by selling the footage than he is by hosting these parties!"
"Yeah well, helicopters and top of the range Mercedes off-roaders don't come cheap Ed. Then you have the minibus and the four Rangerover Evokes garaged here, and what must this pad cost to maintain? The rateable value alone must cost bucket loads, then there's heating and lighting and general upkeep? You should do some digging into his business interests and see what pops up. Carl Stephen Matterson. Google him later huh?"
We did the collection run; most of the boys seemed animated, and not at all fazed by what the day / night had in store for them. Some were obviously older than they looked, probably fourteen or fifteen, but clever use of foundation cream and shaved of body hair, under lighting, they'd look good enough. By contrast, some were really young, like eleven or twelve, but one lad stood out from the crowd as he definitely wasn't very happy.
I tried talking to him, but he clammed up on me.
"You can talk to me you know? We're just the drivers, and nothing to do with what goes on later?"
"Just leave me be, alright? I'll be okay once we get there!"
"Please yourself. I was only trying to help. I'm here if you wanna chat things over, okay?"
As I squeezed past the rows of seats, one of the older boys collared me.
"I overheard that conversation."
"Yeah, so now you'll go telling Carl!"
"What? You have to be joking, right? We do what we do, take the money and run. None of us like this Carl guy, he's creepy and dangerous if you ask me. Wee Donny is one of the punters favourites and when I tell you this guy is hung like a horse, I mean he's fucking huge, but he pounds Donny's arse without a care in the world."
"So, why does he keep coming?"
"Simple. His Dad gets paid a fortune for sending him. Donny's gay, but all he wants is someone to love him, not destroy his ass."
"Oh fuck. I wish I could get him away to somewhere safe."
"You know somewhere like that?"
"Yeah. We've kinda fostered kids, like street kids. Our place is safe as houses."
"Want me to talk with Donny? He talks about running away from home, but he's young and doesn't understand how the world works."
"Would he trust us enough? He probably thinks we're in league with this Carl bloke, and that might scare him off."
"But you're not are you? One thing I've learned is how to read people, and you don't come across as being a part of this."
"Between you and me, we'd love to sink him. He's got a snuff out on a friend of ours, and for my money, Carl being dead is too good for him."
"Let me talk to Donny then. I'll see what he thinks."
I think that Donny was so shit-scared, he'd go with any plan to get him away from the party.
We agreed to drop him off at my place in Solihull where he would be met by Bubba and Ian, two of the toughest guys I know.
Bubba was massive, and being black, he was a formidable man. Ian was a bruiser of epic proportions and I'd had serious reservations about allowing him into our group, but the old adage, Never judge a book by its cover rings true because he was really okay, and would be the ideal person to look after Donny.
Carl wasn't pleased that one of his 'Cabaret' was a no-show, in fact he was furious.
"Jusus Christ! I could do without one of them, maybe two, but that kid not turning up is going to cost me a packet!"
"Sorry Carl, but not knowing where he lived, we just waited around until the last minute before we had to get back or risk being late."
"Not your fault Darren. You did what I asked you to do.
What are you planning to do tonight? This gig is an all-nighter, so if you want to go home, then fine, but just get back here for midday so you and Pip can do the return run. The other option is that you stay here, but if you did, you'd have to keep to your rooms."
"We'll head back home I think. Pip's anxious to see his girlfriend and I'm bushed and could use some sleep.
Yeah. Midday sounds like a plan."
We decided that rather than going back to Digbeth, we'd camp out at Solihull. The car would be hidden away in the garage, and besides, it was nearer when it came to going back the next morning.
Bubba announced his intention of taking the train back to town as he had work in the morning, but Ian volunteered to stay with us then hang around until we got back from doing the return trip.
Donny looked a tad more comfortable than he did on the bus, so I thought it was time I put some questions to him.
"You okay? The guys been looking after you alright?"
"Yeah, they've been cool. I'm just worried about my old chap and what he might do when I'm a no-show tomorrow afternoon."
"Well, I was coming to that Donny. The way I see it, he can hardly report you as a run-away to the police, there's too much risk involved. We picked you up from Stafford, and you're as far away from there as we can get you. I mean he's not likely to go scouring the suburbs of Birmingham, is he? If he came looking for you, he'd look closer to home turf where you knew the area."
"So I stay here?"
"No. This is like halfway house. Once Pip and I get back tomorrow, we'll take you to our place in Brum. You'll be amongst kids your own age who know all the angles. You'll be safe there."
"Thanks. I owe you."
"You owe us sweet fuck-all. Just hunker down and stick to the few rules we have and everything will be peachy."
"What rules do you have?"
"No so many. The main thing is not to go doing anything that might bring us to the attention of the authorities, we don't need the law sniffing around. The other boys know their way around so follow their lead, and if you have any concerns talk either to me or Pip. We'll have to find something to occupy your time or you'll go stir-crazy, but it's all for the good of the group; nothing that's going to stress you."
"You're nice, and I'm sorry for being an arsehole on the bus. I'm not used to being around nice people."
"Forget it like it never happened. You're nice too. Very nice in fact."
Ian came in from the garden and parked himself at the kitchen table.
"Anyone fancy a Chinese carry-out? I'm bloody staving."
"Sounds good to me. There's a menu on the pin board."
Donny reached for his wallet.
"Let me pay. It's the least I can do."
"Not tonight sunshine. If you wanna dib in another time, then fine, but your first night is on me."
"Second night actually. Bubba cooked for us last night; he's one awesome chef I reckon!"
"He is that. Just wait until you try his stock pot. Your taste buds will love you forever!"
By ten-thirty we were ready to hit the sack. Ian opted to sleep in the lounge just in case we had unwelcome visitors during the night, Pip took the front bedroom, and as we'd chucked out the three beds in the remaining spare rooms, that left Donny having to share with me.
Pip chuckled as he made his way upstairs.
"Nighty-night. Don't make too much noise will you!"
Donny looked first at Pip, then me.
"What's he talking about?"
"Ah well! In case you hadn't guessed, I'm gay, and he thinks I'm going to jump you!"
"Cool. Not on our first date though!"
"You're funny. I really do like you, but we'd better turn in. Another busy day ahead."
The night was sticky and humid and I would've much preferred sleeping in the buff, but out of modesty, both Donny and I had kept our underpants on.
I woke to find him spooned into my back, and it felt good. I wondered what Callum's reaction might be if he saw us like this, but dismissed it from my mind. He'd left me for pastures new, and doubtless he would've found someone else by now.
I'd missed cuddling up to him, but maybe, just maybe I'd found someone new myself.
I looked at my watch. Seven-thirty and I needed the bathroom, so I disentangled myself, took a shower and got dressed leaving Donny to sleep on.
Both Pip and Ian were already up and about. Ian offered me a mug of tea while Pip took the rubbish out to the bins.
"Donny's getting all worked up about what his old man will do when he doesn't show his face at home later. Any bright ideas Ian?"
"Best you talk to Pip Ed. He's the bright ideas guy, but personally, I'd be more bothered about what this Carl character might do once he realises he's been had. He's going to be giving Donny's old man a grilling, and once he finds out that Donny was taken to the meeting point but presumably did a runner, he'll go mental."
"Might backfire on us as well."
"Why? It's hardly your fault that he didn't show up, but he might set his goons out searching for him. Loose cannons are very dangerous, and in his case, if Donny goes off half-cocked and blabs to the Old Bill, he's looking at a life sentence. Whichever way you look at it Ed, Donny is going to be like the fox running from the hounds unless you and Pip manage to spike this Carl's guns first."
"Plan A. We get Donny to write a letter to his old chap which we post once we get to Stafford. Two reasons for doing this, the first being that Donny threatens to go to the police if anyone goes looking for him, the second reason is that because the letter will have been franked in Stafford, everyone will assume that's where he's hiding out."
"So what's Plan B Pip?"
"There isn't one, so if A doesn't work, we're deep in shit and then some."
"Wouldn't it be good if we could go straight to the police. I've got this horrible feeling that we won't find anything at the house. Who in their right minds would allow two lads to have access if there was something incriminating lurking in a cupboard somewhere? If there is something, it'll be in his private apartments and we don't know the alarm code, but if that was me, I'd not even keep anything there, I'd have it stored away in a safe deposit box."
"You're probably right, but going to the police with little or next to sod-all evidence barring the word of a thirteen-year-old boy and our suspicions would be madness."
"What about the other boys? They might know something we don't? They can't all be under orders from pervy fathers, so how are they recruited; where does Carl find them?"
"Dangerous tactic. The fewer people in the loop, the more we're not implicated. I wouldn't go talking to them if I were you…… but if one of them volunteered information? Those two who wanted us to hide Donny. They might be of help?"
"I'll beg the question on the way back. Also, I've thought of a way where we could find an honest copper. I'm still formulating plans, but I'll tell you all about it once I'm happy we won't get annihilated."
"Let's just say he's out of harm's way, happy and well looked after shall we?"
"You two are for real, right? We wouldn't want to see him harmed."
"We're doing our best, but here's where it becomes tricky.
We need help if we're going to bust Carls arse. Suspicions and hearsay evidence just won't cut it. He'll have heavy guns to look out for him, solicitors and barristers to destroy our story. We need fact, hard evidence if we're to down the bastard."
"So, you expect us to divvy in?"
"I expect absolutely nothing. I realise enough to know you make good money from what he has you do. I go trashing his operation and your toast, but I want you to think about the likes of Donny who doesn't want to be involved. I need names, how you were recruited and by whom, who attends those parties, addresses and email – anything solid that might help."
"MacDonald's. Birmingham Road Wolverhampton on the A41 at four tomorrow afternoon. Meet us there but don't be late."
We dropped the boys where we'd found them then took the bus back to the house. The place was silent, locked up and deserted, so we garaged the bus and took the Astra back to Solihull to collect Donny and Ian.
No news and no visitors, so we grabbed a swift coffee, tidied up and left for Digbeth.
"You're being very kind to me, all of you are. I'm still scared my old man will find me though?"
"We have contingency plans to head him off Donny. The first was your letter, which if nothing else should buy us time. There's other stuff, but that can wait.
Where do you go to school?"
"Don't you mean Used to go? Park Avenue Comprehensive until my old man decided home education was better."
"He taught you?"
"Yeah. He was a science teacher until he got caught tinkering around with little boys. He went to court, but someone stumped up enough cash for him to get the services of a swanky brief. They got him off on a technicality, but he could never teach again."
"Any idea who this Someone was?"
"Nah. By that time his hands were all over me, and the next thing I knew I was farmed out to those creeps."
"By way of payback?"
"I reckon so. They had money and I was cute."
"You're still cute, at least I think you are."
Donny blushed ten shades of red.
"You're not all bad yourself, so stop embarrassing me!"
Do you think your dear father knows who's paying him all this money?"
"He has to know. He looks to his bank account after every party to see if there's money enough to pay the bills, buy drugs and get smashed on. He knows alright!"
"So, we do a little bit of housebreaking, find his statements and we're in business."
"He banks electronically. I know the details if you have a PC and an internet connection."
"Got both. We'll take a gander once we're back."
Most of the journey lacked conversation, but then my phone squawked at me.
It was Callum was calling me.
"Hey! How's things in the scary city then?"
"Much like Brum except bigger.
Look, I want to apologise to you. I'm a fucking disaster when it comes to keeping in touch, it's just that this place offers up so many chances, I lose track of time."
"You're forgiven, but why now are you calling, nice though it is?"
"Information. I heard on the grapevine you and Pip are out to nail that asshole Carl. I can help you with hard evidence, names, addresses, contact details and more, but the downside is this. I won't come back to Birmingham, not ever. I'm in enough shit what with the snuff going down, and if I make it so as you can get a case together, my arse won't be worth the pants I'm wearing."
"I understand you perfectly, but how did you find out what we were up to?"
"The lads on the bus. I know both of them, we've done parties together in the past. They called me to find out if you were on the level. I gave you a glowing reference by the way! Trust them Ed, but they're sorta shitting themselves right now just in case someone susses out what's going on."
"Thanks Callum. Always my saviour! How do I contact you?"
"I'll call you. Safer that way. We can meet some place off the beaten track where I can give you everything you need, but then I'll have to cut and run. I won't see you again and that hurts me, but look on the bright side? You have Donny now and he's a gorgeous lad, so take care of him.
Gotta go now. Later Ed, I still love you."
The first task as soon as we arrived home was to get Donny settled in. Most of the boys were out with a handful of them cleaning up the engine that powered the workshop. I made the introductions then took him to the kitchen for a mug of coffee and a chat.
"Did you ever meet Callum?"
"No, but I've heard about him, everyone on the circuit had. He was a legend almost."
"Well, this was the place where he used to doss. He took me in when I first ran away from home, looked after me and showed me the ropes. I had the feeling I wasn't exactly welcome, but he persevered with me and became very close."
"So where is he now? The rumour floating around is he went up north."
"I can't tell you where he is, it's too dangerous. If certain people got hold of the truth, his life wouldn't be worth crap. He's my friend and I don't want to see him hurt."
"I'll tell you what happened.
I ran away because my Mum had taken up with a bloke. I wouldn't have minded had he been reasonable, but he was a drug addict and an alcoholic, and he dragged my Mum down to the same pathetic level. He used to threaten me with a knife, steal my wallet and trash my room. He smashed up all my furniture, wrecked my laptop and ripped up my clothes, then one day I'd had enough. I grabbed what little cash I had hidden away and ran. No game plan, no idea of how I was going to survive, but anything had to be preferable to staying at home.
I found myself here and Callum took me in.
I knew my Mum was in hospital. She'd OD'd on drugs, but when I found out she'd been sectioned, I called the hospital to find out how she was doing. Well, she wasn't going to be allowed out, even if she made it through detox. She would most likely end up in an institution, but during one of her lucid moments, she wrote me a note which the hospital sent to my old house address. Pip and I went and picked it up and what went down following that isn't important, except we found lover boys mobile phone and a very cryptic voicemail with threats to his life if he didn't cough up some money he owed.
Thing is, Callum listened to that message and recognised the voice. It was our friend Carl. Callum kept this to himself for ages, only telling Pip and me after we'd visited the house where the parties are held. He already knew he'd been selected for a snuffing which is why he went into hiding, but now we were looking at what can only be described as a massive drug organisation plus a child sex ring. Carl's operation had to enormous, and the possibility of Callum being seen in Birmingham was very real, so it was decided that he should disappear until we could get enough together to hopefully nail Carls arse to the floor.
Perhaps now you can understand that I can't tell you where he's gone. We don't know just how far reaching Carls contacts are or what else he might be involved in Donny."
"That all rings true. The men paid a fortune to attend those parties, but everything was on tap. There was the sex, but also there was enough booze sloshing around to pickle most of the West Midlands. Then there were drugs, anything they wanted was supplied. You could've cut the air with a knife there was so much dope being smoked. There were guys shooting up, snorting lines of cocaine, you name it, it was probably going on, and all included in the price."
"You mentioned bank accounts. If I hook up my laptop, would you mind accessing your fathers account?"
"Sure. His account number is 00843854, sort code 69-45-01 and the access number isn't a number. It's my initials followed by my date of birth, so DAMB13062003."
"So that's Donald what?"
"Donald Adrian MacBride, and in case your maths is poor, I'm thirteen nudging fourteen."
"I did work that out, but thanks anyway!
Let's see what we have here. Bank of Scotland, Inverness branch. Account balance is a little over ten grand with the last deposit paid on April 30 th by...... Who on earth is or are Greycoats?"
"How much was paid in?"
"Two and a half grand."
"That's them then."
"That's some paycheque for twenty-four hour's work!"
"The bastard who took a shine to me is rich. He turns up in a Roller and each visit it's a different one."
"Okay. We have a name of an organisation, so let's see if there's anything on the internet about them."
We searched the web, but aside from two schools, the names of which came close like The Bluecoat School, an up market private school for boys and Greycoats School in Hampshire, both with exceptional pedigrees, there was nothing.
Next to the Company's House website. Here we had a degree of success. A limited liability company operating out of Coventry that listed itself as an Entertainment Organiser came up on the screen.
We dug further only to discover that the three Directors were a Carl Stephens and a Sir Alfred Morrison-Penrose together with Donny's father.
Well, that pegged our Carl firmly to the mast, even though the name had been massaged, but who was this Sir Alfred bloke?
I search for his name and BINGO!
Rear Admiral Sir Alfred Morrison-Penrose Rtrd. Born July 1944. Joined the Royal Navy as an officer cadet aged fourteen gaining rapid promotion to Lieutenant Commander (Baltic Fleet), Commander (Southern Oceans), Captain (Mediterranean) then Rear Admiral (Whitehall) then subsequently put out to grass on full pension. Read into that what you will, but our guess was that he transgressed, maybe something too hot to handle, then found himself side-lined.
There were also a couple of photos of him which Donny looked at.
"Airbrushed, but that's him."
"So, what have we got here. A non-trading company shoves a significant amount of money into your dad's account. All the directors are directly connected with these parties? Might it be that all the other boys are paid in the same way? Carl is a director of all of them with different second directors of different companies that all pay taxes so keeping them off the HMRC's radar, the second or third director takes a legitimate tax-free bonus and job's a good'un! No tax liability, no mess and no suspicions."
"The only way to prove your theory is to ask the boys when you meet them at Mackies…… see if they know names and do the same search."
"Problem with that is we won't have any bank details to show us what company is shelling out.
I'll think on that one for now."
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