by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 30


Chloe and an obviously distraught Cador came running out of the house at the sound of the car. Hugs, explanations, apologies for getting lost, promises to be more careful and not trip while going for the mail… and they were bustled inside. Jarek explained his lack of clothes by saying he'd been in the garden when Sebastian called and hadn't bothered to dress. Zeno was still wrapped in the blanket to hide the cuts, so he said he was cold and would love a shower. Cador joined him, soothed the cuts that Zeno said came from climbing through barbed wire fences, failed to notice Zeno's shorts weren't in the laundry basket, applied disinfectant and took him to bed for the afternoon.

Stephen had been on the phone when they arrived and came out to the patio. 'That was the police,' he said with a perplexed frown. 'They said my wife has committed suicide in a motel in the City and they want me to identify the body. What on earth was Violet doing here?' He gazed around as if looking for an answer in the surrounding trees.

Chloe placed a soft hand on his shoulder. 'I'll put on something more respectable than this old tracksuit and drive you.'

'Thanks, Chloe. I'd like that.'

'Are you upset, Stephen?' Jarek asked.

Stephen shook his head. 'I don't think so. It hasn't sunk in yet. It's possibly a mistaken identity or something. I'll work out what I think when I see if it's true.'

'Very wise. We'll head off home for a shower and change, then come back if you like,' Sebastian offered.

'Yes. Please come back. I've no idea how long we'll be and I don't like leaving Jarek and Cador alone too long.' Chloe smiled her thanks then went and told the boys she was going out for a while so they had to prepare dinner.

Stephen and Chloe were ushered into a comfortable interview room by an overweight officer. 'I'm sergeant Mordant,' he announced as if expecting them to know the name. 'May I see your driver's license?' Stephen produced it. Mordant studied the photograph, grunted satisfaction and handed Violet's suicide note to Stephen.

'Is this your wife's handwriting?'

'It is.'

'Who is the Irma she mentions?'

'I imagine it's Irma Medlar, a teacher at the school I was principal of until a week ago.'

'Did you know the woman she calls Bindi?'

'She was the flatmate of another of my teachers until seven weeks ago, when he left and taught at a series of camp schools. I can't believe Violet would have murdered her! Why would she? And with Irma Medlar! It's all too ridiculous. And yet this note…' Stephen flapped the piece of paper in the air in bewilderment.

'Do you know where Irma is now?'

'No idea. I didn't even know my wife was here. We are separated, you see—have been for most of the last seven weeks.'

'Most of?'

'I did it slowly so she didn't notice. She was very preoccupied with her group of charity workers—at least I think that's what they were. Double you double you one, or something like that. I didn't take much interest.'

'Was your wife a killer, do you think, Mr. Noble?'

Stephen hesitated for some time. He scarcely knew his wife. They hadn't talked about anything other than the weather for years. He frowned and looked into the sergeant's eyes. 'I've no idea, Sergeant. She was a difficult woman, prone to violent outbursts of temper; seemed to dislike men. I think she either hated or at least despised me. Our marriage of thirty-four years was unconsummated…' His voice trailed off. He wasn't embarrassed, although this was the first time he had ever admitted the fact to anyone. A great sadness overtook him and he bowed his head. Chloe took his hand in hers and stroked it gently.

'Then why did you remain married?' The sergeant asked in manifest disbelief that anyone would put up with such a situation.

'She was a Catholic,' Stephen sighed, 'and it seemed the easiest thing to do.'

As there was nothing useful anyone could say, the sergeant coughed and continued, although his manner was a little less impatient. 'I need your current address and contact details in case we have more questions, and we'd like you to identify the body.'


They followed the police car to the morgue where they were told the circumstances of Violet's death.

'She obviously intended to kill herself,' the pathologist said brusquely, 'otherwise she wouldn't have left a note. So she was lucky she choked on her own vomit, there was insufficient chemical in her blood to kill her. She'd have woken up in about ten hours.'

I'm the lucky one, Stephen thought. Violet was not the sort to kill herself—too religious for a start. This was probably one of her macabre attention-seeking games gone wrong.

She looked unusually peaceful and at first he felt nothing, then a sort of creepy tickling sensation crept up his spine triggering an enormous shudder accompanied by a euphoric sense of relief similar to awakening from a nightmare. He looked at Violet again to make absolutely certain she was dead, then took a gigantic breath of freedom for the first time since his marriage.

It was intoxicating and he had to restrain himself from shouting 'Violet is dead! I'm free! I can do whatever I like!' It was better than being drunk, although in some ways similar. Borne on a cloud of euphoria he thanked the pathologist and excitedly dragged Chloe out of the building. As soon as they were out of earshot he gave vent to a wild whoop of delight. Taking both her hands in his he swung her round in a dance. Chloe's eyes lit up and she laughed delightedly. Holding hands they ran back to the car like adolescents, impatient to get home and start their new life without the spectre of an angry and vindictive wife.

Jarek and Sebastian were on the patio with Zeno and Cador when Stephen and Chloe returned with the news that Bindi too was dead, having, according to the suicide note, been murdered by Violet and Irma. No one evinced the slightest sorrow for either death, which left Cador worried and confused. Until now Stephen and his friends had seemed loving, kind, thoughtful and caring of each other. But instead of being sad, he was obviously pleased his wife was dead. The others were no better! Instead of commiserating and offering condolences, they'd congratulated him on his freedom, and showed no more emotion about her murdering Bindi than if it had been a news item on TV about people they didn't know.

Cador had been to several family funerals where everyone, especially those who hated the dead person, had wept and cried and wailed about how tragic it was that he or she had been taken from them. The keening and hair pulling had been greatest for his dictatorial ninety-three year-old great grandmother who'd been riddled with cancer and in agony for several years. No one said she was better off dead. They all beat their breasts and reckoned they wished she'd stayed alive. He looked from one to the other of his adopted family, frightened by their apparent callousness. Would they just dump him when they got sick of him?

Stephen, observing his confusion beckoned him over and explained the situation. A slow smile spread over the young man's features as understanding trickled through the morass of social, familial and religious conditioning. Then he laughed and hugged his new father, who was clearly touched by the gesture. 'Thanks, Stephen,' Cador said seriously, 'for showing me what honesty is.'

The television was turned on that evening to see if Violet was mentioned on the News. She wasn't, but the cameras zoomed in on a high hedge, then travelled through the gateway stopping at the entrance to the basement of Amanda's house.

'This afternoon the police were called to this house and discovered a horrific double murder. Unofficial sources suggest it was a murder-suicide. The names of the two victims have been withheld. The police would like to speak to the anonymous caller who alerted them to the crime, and to any neighbours or passersby who may have witnessed or heard anything unusual. Several promising leads are being followed.'

It was just another murder and the three who were uninvolved forgot it. Zeno's intestines, however, turned instantly to ice and he began to sweat. 'I have to go to the loo,' he said racing away to dry retch into the basin. He sat on the toilet for ages deep breathing in an attempt to calm himself until Cador came to check. He managed a smile and said he felt fine – just a bit tired.

Later, in bed in the dark his thoughts swirled. Images of the day's horror seemed projected on his brain. The cellar, the knives, being cut, tied up and suspended. The pain! Jarek being kicked and slumping so Zeno was sure he had died. Then it was all too quick to know what had happened. Amanda attacked Jarek but she was swung round and accidentally stuck that awful wavy dagger into Ms Medlar. Then Jarek stabbed Amanda, lowered her to the ground before carefully forcing her own dagger that she still held, into the wound he'd just made.

Waves of cold nausea swept over him as he recalled how Amanda's wider blade had made the hole bigger and Jarek had had to jiggle it around to get it in, careful not to touch the handle himself. Zeno couldn't equate the two sides of his best friend! Jarek had murdered her without stopping to think, and later admitted he'd murdered another woman who'd been sent to shoot him and Cador. Neither of those killings were in self defence. He could have immobilised both the women and then called the cops. The Jarek he knew was a good, kind man. But he just left Miss Medlar to die! Surely the law was the law. It had to be obeyed or anarchy would result. Society would crumble. The police had to be told. Murder is murder no matter the reason.

These and other equally distressing thoughts chased each other round and round until Zeno wondered if he was going mad. He didn't know what would happen if the truth came out, but it had to, because he didn't want to live in a lawless society. Somewhere it had to stop. People couldn't just go round avenging themselves. He tossed and turned until Cador asked what was wrong. Zeno kissed him, said he was hot and would go for a walk in the cool air.

'Shall I come with you?'

'No, go back to sleep.'



Cador was asleep before Zeno had picked up his phone and crept out of the house.

Outside it was cooler and a myriad of stars in a clear sky gave enough light to see by, but the demons didn't go away. If anything they crowded closer, audible in every night noise. Bravely he went out on the road and began jogging, pursued by unwanted fantasies. Panicking he dialled Sebastian who answered immediately.

'Zeno, I hoped you'd call. Where are you?'

'Jogging towards your place. Sebastian, I'm frightened.'

'Keep cool, keep jogging, stop thinking. We're coming to meet you.'

Three minutes later he made out two men running towards him. They met, hugged and jogged back to Sebastian's in silence.

Curled up in a large comfortable chair Zeno's fears slipped away as Sebastian gently stroked his neck and hair as he'd done on so many past occasions when his young friend found life unbearable. Having at last unburdened himself, Zeno was able to relax. Sebastian would solve everything.

But it was Jarek who spoke. 'So, you think that I should have immobilised the woman I discovered with a sawn-off rifle preparing to shoot you and Cador, and called the cops?'


'The likely consequences of that would have been an invasion of newspaper reporters, the camps would have been closed down as too dangerous, the woman would have sworn she had been abducted by me, abused and then falsely accused. You and Cador would have been named as lovers with photos on the front page of the paper. I'd probably have been locked up, unable to prove her accusations were false, especially as Irma and Violet Noble would have backed her story. Is that what you wanted to happen?'

'No… but…'

'You want me to go now and confess to stabbing her and then getting rid of the body. You want me to spend the rest of my life in prison where I'll get beaten up and possibly murdered?'

'No! Of course I don't! But what about the law? What about justice?'

'Don't you think justice was served?'


'Well, Zeno?

A soft, 'Yes… but...'

'Do you think someone who is prepared to murder two young men for five hundred dollars deserves the protection of the law?'

'I don't know what to think.'

'Then stop being stupid and pay attention. Why didn't you race down and save the fellow who upended his mower and sliced off his hand the other day? Failing to act and save someone's life when that is possible is an offence. Are you going to go and hand yourself in to the cops?'

'No. He deserved it.'

'But that woman didn't? How about Irma and Amanda. Having tied us up and started hacking bits off us, were they going to let us go?'


'What were they going to do?'

'Kill us.'

'I didn't deliberately get Amanda to stab Irma, that was a lucky accident. What would have happened if I'd simply tied Amanda up and called the cops?'


Angrily Jarek shouted, 'Answer me, Zeno! Think about the situation, the reality, the facts, about justice! Was there any doubt that they were murderers? Irma had just bragged about drowning Bindi! The law is there to prevent miscarriage of justice. To prevent innocent people from being punished. Is the system perfect?'

'I... I don't....'

'You're suffering from the delusion that the law is omniscient and administered impartially, and therefore fair and just. You seem to imagine the Court will always protect the innocent and convict the guilty. But how can they? All a judge and jury can do is interpret laws on the evidence available! As you are unwilling to work out for yourself what would have happened, I'll tell you! Amanda would have accused us of agreeing to a bit of sexy playing around, then of attacking her and Irma. I would have been blamed for Irma's death. You would have been named as my accomplice. We'd have spent the next year or more in prison waiting trial. By that time, trial by media would have ensured that public sympathy would be with the women, not with a perverted teacher and his pupil lover, and we'd certainly be found guilty. Is that what you want?'

'That's enough, Jarek. You've made your point.' Sebastian said firmly. He turned to a thoroughly cowed Zeno. 'Your idealism does you credit, Zeno, but you are totally wrong and I agree absolutely with Jarek. I understand how you feel, having been in a similar situation when I was your age. We had the choice of calling the cops or punishing the evil people ourselves. We risked our own lives to punish the foul bastards who'd been murdering young men for their organs. Some of the people we punished died, others were maimed. All were ruined. For a while I wondered if we had the right to do that, but Rex and Fee convinced me that when there is no conclusive evidence so it is one person's word against another in a courtroom, then the one with the slickest lawyer, or the most attractive, or the richest and most influential person always wins; and that, young man, is not justice. We will not stop you handing yourself in to the police and confessing to your part in the events, but if you involve Jarek in any way whatever, then you and I are finished! We will deny everything! I will provide him with alibis for every incident, and use every penny I possess on the best lawyers to ensure it is you, and not he who spends the rest of their life in prison.'

Zeno's eyes stretched wide in horror. 'No!' He shouted. 'No! I don't want Jarek to suffer. I didn't understand. I thought the law was different. I hadn't understood it wasn't perfect. I'm sorry, I'm sorry! You saved my life twice, Jarek, and I'm so stupid! Forgive me!' He flung himself at Jarek's feet, wrapped his arms round his legs and sobbed.

Jarek leaned over, drew the young man onto his knees and cradled him like an infant. Rocking, stroking, and calming. 'It's OK, Zeno. I understand. Your intentions are honourable and in a perfect world you would be right. I was a bit harsh on you, but it's desperately important that you understand the precarious position we're in. Our lives depend on absolute secrecy. It's tempting to think we could tell our best friends, but the people we tell won't be in the same danger as us and could easily let something slip that would start suspicions. It's going to be difficult for a few years to live with our actions, but we can, and you always have me and Sebastian to share it with so the burden will never become too great.'

'Your problem is you're too virtuous, Zeno,' Sebastian said with a smile. 'Think of all the political leaders who happily send young men off to fight in other countries simply to protect the profits of wealthy corporations. They know full well that our soldiers will be murdering hundreds, if not thousands of innocent people, and some of them will also be killed, maimed or injured. But politicians, generals and those who run the country are sociopaths who don't lose a second's sleep over it. They're not like decent people whose sanity depends on being virtuous with people who deserve it, but very cautious with everyone else.' He paused and stared at Zeno, who nodded nervously.

'Justice has been served,' Sebastian said firmly. 'The people who deserved to die have, and those who are innocent are safe—except for Bindi. She didn't deserve to die, but her killers are now dead.'

'You're both right and I feel stupid. I was going to punish the man I admire more than any other because of some idiotic notion of justice that's been brainwashed into me. I've been learning at school about concepts and values and how notions of morality change as circumstances change, but failed to see how it applied to me. Jarek, can you forgive me?'

'There's nothing to forgive. You came to us because you were smart enough to understand you had a problem. Its been solved and now we move on. OK?'

'Yes. Yes. I don't know how to thank you. I don't deserve people as good to me as you two.'

'If we all got what we deserve then few people would be happy, but it's nearly dawn so I suggest we take you home so you can wake up next to that handsome boyfriend with a clear conscience and no desire to burden him with secrets he doesn't deserve to be troubled with.'

Sebastian heaved a sigh of relief as they sank back into bed. 'That was dangerous. Thank goodness he came to us instead of confiding in his grandmother. I love her, but she can be very loose-lipped.'

'Yep. Zeno had no idea how close he came to disaster.'

'Shows how much he trusts us.'

'Trust or not, there's no way I'd have let him incriminate me and split us up. He's a good kid and I think we're safe; but we'll have to keep a tight rein on him.'

'Fortunately, you'll be teaching him next year. Now, where were we before that interruption?'

Jarek shook his head in contented amazement. 'Sebastian, I wasn't alive until I met you.'

Thanks for reading Jarek. It's a fictional tale, but the forest camp sequences are grounded in reality. Popular wisdom has it that by the age of seven a child's character and values are set and impossible to modify to any great extent. However, there is a second chance to redeem an indoctrinated youth. During puberty young people are able to rethink their lives, opinions, and beliefs, which is the reason for elaborate initiation ceremonies in so many cultures, and the 'confirmation' ceremonies of religious organisations. Predictably, these ceremonies are designed to reinforce the opinions, beliefs and prejudices already implanted in the child, so he grows into the sort of person the group requires, valuing whatever will perpetuate the status quo, current power structures and social hierarchies.

Jarek's Camps provide an alternative initiation ceremony that is totally honest, demands self-discipline and rational thinking, and treats the initiates as equally valuable individuals with respect for each other and their environment, could change youths in ways that will benefit the planet, themselves and humanity in general.

Unless we change in the way we educate our children we are doomed to a future as warlike, wasteful, insecure, overcrowded and unhappy as the past.


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