by Andrew Foote
Donny was quiet following Mr Bushby's visit; no doubt preoccupied with his Dad's arrest and the possibility he might have to testify at his trial.
I thought about talking to him about it, but instead I just gave him a cuddle before going back out into the garden to clear up the hedge clippings, hoping that it would get the message across that I understood how he must be feeling.
The house and surrounding gardens were starting to look like a family home again.
We had made a start on the ground floor by completely redecorating the kitchen then followed up by the dining room, lounge and hallway. We ripped up all the carpets and ordered new replacements; neutral colours of a light grey fleck which lightened the rooms, but would also be forgiving if someone forgot to remove their outside shoes.
The stairwell and landing had proved to be the hardest task as they'd been papered and stripping the walls had been a bitch, mainly due to the high walls and the discovery that none of us were keen on heights.
The downstairs toilet was going to be gutted. The hand basin was cracked and no amount of cleaning would shift the stains around the toilet bowl. We had chosen their replacements but they were on back order, so another job for another time.
There were going to be six of us living there once the redecoration had been completed. Callum and Mark, (Callum's boyfriend), Pip and Marie and Donny and me. That left us with two bedrooms out of the five, one of which we might utilise as a sort of office-come-study room as at least three of us would be going back into the education system, leaving Pip to concentrate of his HGV training, and Callum and Mark to do the two RYA courses so we could operate the boat in conjunction with our museum idea.
We had talked to the head instructor at the Royal Yachting Association and his idea of Callum and Mark doing two courses each made a lot of sense. Their training boat was a modern fifty-five-footer, whereas ours was a vintage seventy-footer. Get to grips with the shorter modern boat, then spend two weeks getting comfortable with the larger older one during which time they would receive one-on-one tuition.
Mark was a total contrast to Callum. He was younger by two-and-a-half years, softly spoken and well mannered. Set this against Callum's gobby, up-front attitude and complete lack of decorum made them absolute opposites. They were devoted to each other despite their differences, and it was good to see their enthusiasm for the boat thing. Pip thinks they will end up being Boat Bores, but who cares so long as they're happy.
All of us like Marie. Not only is she very pretty, she has a sense of humour that would lift our spirits when we felt low. She told us that she dropped out of school aged sixteen, but for all that, she was very intelligent and helped me massively when it came to teaching our younger kids.
Donny is lovely and I'm totally smitten with him! We share the same bed, we cuddle and kiss; sometimes things get a bit touchy-feely, but nothing heavy had gone on between us. This was mostly due to the possibility we'd have to give evidence in court, and this way, if under cross-examination, questions were asked about our relationship, we could be 100% truthful and say that our relationship was purely platonic.
It was two months before we heard anything regarding going to court. We'd caught up with some of the Wolverhampton lads appearing, and by all accounts had received a grilling from the defence lawyers during cross-examination. All the men standing trial were eventually found guilty and received substantial custodial sentences which made us feel better about our own outcomes.
Poor Donny had two summonses to answer, the first of which was concerning his father.
In the event, he entered a plea of guilty meaning Donny didn't appear in court, but the guy who had raped him repeatedly was a different matter altogether.
This guy was looking for a fight.
Donny, being now sixteen, was asked if he was willing to stand up in court to give his evidence, or would he rather appear by video link with his face hidden from view.
Plucky sod that he is, went for an appearance but treated nicely he most definitely wasn't.
They tried to argue that Donny had fabricated his evidence in order to destroy the good name and record of a distinguished member of Her Majesty's Navy; everything was a tissue of lies; a plot to subvert and undermine the defence of the realm. Claim and counterclaim, accusations and arguments until the judge slapped them down by asking the defence council to submit evidence to the court in order to substantiate their allegations or else shut the fuck up, or words to that effect. (That, by the way, and in case you hadn't already guessed, was Callum's version of events!)
Anyhow, he got sent down for eighteen years.
Donny reckoned he'd have popped his clogs well before he would be eligible for parole.
From there on, they dropped like flies with only a few putting up a feeble defence. But then came the big one.
Carl was brought to court.
He was facing multiple charges of child prostitution, rape, making and distributing indecent images of children, murder of three young boys, and surprise, surprise, the murder of one Vincent Sean Connor.
Carl looked old. His features were sagging, as I guessed was his fighting spirit.
He had pleaded Not Guilty at the Magistrates hearing, but as Marie told us afterwards, hurried and intense discussions with his legal team resulted in him slumping down in the dock, then raising his hand as he changed his plea to Guilty on all charges.
He was finished.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment to serve a minimum term of forty years before parole would even be considered.
Once Carl had been taken down, the judge took the unusual step of addressing the press gallery.
This summing up was widely reported on TV and newspapers across the world.
"I wish to pay tribute to those who brought these horrific events to the notice of the police.
These people who I refer to were only children at that time, and not only that, but all of them were underprivileged and homeless, most certainly not used to willingly talk with the authorities, so the courage they found within themselves to come forward should be recognised by society as a whole.
We, all of us should be reminded of the goodness and virtue to be found in even the forgotten and neglected in our world, and to this end, I intend to meet these courageous young people and extend not only my own personal thanks, but also on behalf of all children who are now able to walk the streets safe in the knowledge that evil and dangerous people who would otherwise harm them, are now behind bars.
Ladies and gentlemen? This court is adjourned. Thank you."
Back at the house, I suddenly felt very tired. Since Callum told Pip and I about what had happened to him and the parties at Wootton Park, I think I'd been living on pure adrenaline, but the adrenaline rush had disappeared and the feeling of anti-climax brought tears to my eyes. I can't remember the last time I had a good cry; I had become hardened to life on the streets, conditioned to the hardships and being seen as socially unacceptable, but now my life was crashing in on top of me.
I took myself off to bed leaving the other guys celebrating downstairs. I tried to cry, I mean I really did, but nothing came, I just lay face up staring at the ceiling.
'I've turned into a heartless bastard. What on earth happened to that boy who used to care about others? Where's all that compassion gone? Damn it, I can't even cry anymore!'
I think I must have drifted off to sleep, because the next thing I was aware of was Donny running his fingers through my hair.
"How are you feeling Ed?"
"Miserable. My head is telling me we did a good thing, but my heart is telling me something completely different."
"How many people have appeared in court, aside from Carl, who I don't give a toss about?"
"Nineteen, and more to come according to Mr Bushby who you've just missed.
Why do you ask?"
"They're still working on stuff. It won't involve any of us though."
"That's nineteen people whose lives we've trashed. Nineteen-plus families, torn to shreds, their children, unable to hold their heads high even though they're innocent of any wrong-doing."
"Would you rather have those men walking the streets; free to molest, rape and murder innocent kids?
Somewhere in a lime pit on a farm, innocent kids slowly decomposed, leaving no trace they even existed, not even their DNA; having been tortured, raped and murdered. Who's mourning their loss? Who's crying over them? Nobody! They don't even have names! They don't even have identities…… but we know they're there!"
"I'm sorry. Joined up thinking isn't working for me at the moment."
Why don't you come down stairs? Callum and Pip are organising a shindig back in Digbeth tonight. All the boys are going to be there, and maybe when you look into their eyes, you will realise that they will never again be subjected to such inhuman treatment, and all because you, Pip and Callum took on the might of Carls enterprise and won!"
"Let me splash some water in my face and I'll be down in a minute.
I'm so sorry Donny. I'm a selfish arsehole."
"No, you're not. This thing has occupied your every waking moment, and now it's over there's a void in your life. Come on Ed? We have each other, we have our work cut out just getting back into full time education, and then there's the museum to think about.
It's time to move forward now. A time to forget what's past. A time for us to get Another Life.
While a tale should stand alone, and while this one most assuredly does, the inspiration all through was this track
The lyrics bear some study
Andrew has asked me to place this block at the end of the tale ~ Webmaster
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