Rough Justice

by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 23

Alone in his darkening house, Ian Nikelseer watched the sunset drape his school in spurious Gothic splendour. In twelve hours the final term of his career as a headmaster would commence. In twelve weeks he would leave this home of twenty-two years. The thought brought comfort. His brain, that finely tuned instrument with which he had attempted to subdue an errant world, had begun playing tricks. An incessant whirling of images and thoughts had brought him to the edge of exhaustion. He wondered if, after years of railing against iniquity, his mind had at last revolted and was vomiting back every loathsome thing it had been forced to think about over the years. The same topics and problems presented themselves again and again without solution. His energy was gone. Hands, brain and body trembled. Twelve weeks. Could he last? He no longer understood his pupils, his teachers, his fellow men - if he ever had.

Sex, nothing but sex. The world's obsession caused his heart to shrivel. Where was love? His mother had taught him love. Until his eighth birthday and the bizarre accident that killed his father, he was deeply loved by both parents. A birthday-treat speedboat ride up the river ended abruptly when a loose sheet of iron from a passing barge sliced through his father's neck. It seemed an eternity before the boatman glanced back and noticed the blood-drenched boy and headless man.

In front of an altar built by his father as a protest at the mainstream churches' loss of direction, young Ian had knelt beside his mother for endless hours of prayer. An elaborately framed photograph of his father became an icon of purity that convinced him he was responsible for his father's death, by having pleaded for the ride on the river. He knew, in the innermost reaches of his soul, that selfish pandering to earthly desires deserves severe punishment. His penance was life-long guilt.

His mother's frequent reminders that he was now the man of the house on whom she depended, became the boulder of Sisyphus. She took him to her bed to comfort both his nightmares and her loss. She was a fragile, bird-like woman and they would sit together on the verandah for hours listening to songs of faith while browsing through their favourite book, Christian Saints and Martyrs - Illustrated. Each time they contemplated returning to separate sleeping arrangements, one or the other would have a relapse of nightmares. Secure in God's command to love one another, their mutual comforting continued.

Nightmares about his headless father became enmeshed with the stoning of Stephen, Lucy plucking out her eyes, Sebastian perforated by arrows, Catherine broken on cart-wheels, young men and women torn to shreds and eaten alive in arenas, nails driven through hands and other such tortures. Perhaps because of this, the young lad developed an almost hysterical dread of his fellow humans, so his mother took him to school and collected him each day.

He made no real friends, being happy to be alone with her the rest of the time. Childhood fears matured at university into a paranoia that, together with reclusive belligerence, earned him no friends and few acquaintances apart from fellow devotees of Old Testament dogma.

Adulthood usually slips a protective layer around adolescent psyches, enabling us to go out into the world, earn a living, and compete. Irrational fears are submerged in the hurly-burly of life. Ian was no exception and learned to assert himself, achieve promotion and become a Head of Department, even though he was still living at home, sleeping in his mother's bed and relying on her to give his life meaning. She remained the only person he felt he could trust in the world, and by continuing to reinforce his belief in the innate cruelty and sinfulness of humankind, she prevented him from making friends who might have taught him otherwise. Together they closed their minds to the truth and planted problems for the future.

At the age of forty, Ian had discovered he needed a wife to gain further promotion. With his mother's blessing he married, and not long after became headmaster of his present school. Before their engagement both he and his bride, a homely and somewhat excitable spinster several years his senior, had agreed that at their time of life they did not want children. However, after only two weeks he became sickened by his wife's demands for consummation. The only Christian purpose for sexual intercourse is procreation, Ian had insisted.

His wife's reproachful silences became reproachful words, then anger, then violence. In moments of hysteria she would shout that his devotion to his mother was incestuous.

His soul petrified.

They slept in separate rooms, meeting only for meals. Within six months Mrs Nikelseer had become severely depressed, refused to go out, to meet people or to shoulder her responsibilities as headmaster's wife.

School matters began to occupy more of Ian's time as he sought to avoid her eyes - dark-ringed wells of reproach that trailed him throughout the house, accompanied by a refrain of grief. 'Why did you marry me? Why did I waste myself on you? What have I done to deserve this treatment? Am I not a woman with a woman's needs? Your mother has stolen the love that should be mine!'

When this failed to elicit a response she would wail wordlessly, squatting hunched on the floor, knees clutched to her chest, swaying backwards and forwards. When her husband tried to stop her she responded by throwing herself around, rolling under the furniture, beating her fists on the walls and knocking over ornaments, all the time crying and shouting that it was she who should receive his love. In vain had he expostulated, described the sort of love and respect a wife owed her husband, and explained the abhorrence God felt for those who committed lustful acts.

One morning as he was about to descend the stairs on his way to school, she emerged, naked, from her bedroom. Dancing jerkily on her toes and singing in a high-pitched monotone, she pushed past him and sank to her knees on the stairs, preventing his descent. Clinging to his thighs, she pleaded with him to treat her like a woman. He averted his head and held his briefcase above his head so as not to contaminate either it or his hands. As she fumbled with his trouser fastenings, a spasm of disgust overtook him and he thrust her violently from him, and fled.

The cleaning lady found the body at the foot of the stairs. The coroner's verdict was that she had been about to dress, hurried to answer the telephone, which was downstairs, and slipped. The headmaster was praised for the strength of character he displayed when informed of his loss. His mother moved in as house-keeper, and Ian found himself possessed of a new, over-riding goal: to rid the world of the evils of sexual lust – the greatest single character-destroying force.

It was now five years since Ian's mother had been admitted to a nursing centre where she died. His adult protective layer had grown perilously thin, childhood phobias were returning and malignant evil raised its hideous head everywhere he looked. The world had emptied of both love and meaning. All that remained was an obsessive desire to be a perfect servant of God.

His thoughts turned with gratitude to young Lance, who alone had stayed the course and taken up the sword of righteousness. It was a shame the Bible-class had dwindled, however, better one worthy warrior for God than a dozen half-hearted drones. He shook his head impatiently to curb the doubts tugging at his conscience. If he, in all those years of patience and persuading had made no impact on the minds and souls of those in his care, if their hearts remained as lecherous and libidinous as ever, then the time had come for the Wrath of God to be unleashed.

An unsettling image of Murray Corso flickered across his mind. He quickly suppressed it. Corruption had to be weeded out and Lance had promised to assist. His fervour for the crusade had perhaps been marred by youthful zeal, but at heart he was a good boy. After all, Christ had whipped the traders from the temple. Lance would learn restraint, and Ian would continue to guide him along the path of righteousness.

He dragged himself upstairs and knelt for two hours in front of the photograph of his father, ending with a fervent prayer for the eternal souls of Vaselly and his catamite, before collapsing onto the empty bed.

A short way across town, Lance too was infected with the reflective urge. He had lost the services of Mandy, Janice wasn't so keen on screwing any more, and recent rumblings of mutiny from Nigel and Ernest were beginning to irritate. They had refused to go with him the other night and hadn't come to his house when he'd left a message. If they didn't want a reminder that he had them by the balls, then they'd better shape up. He tossed a well-thumbed history of torture onto the floor. Even the graphic descriptions and photographs weren't having the same effect as they used to. He lay back on the bed.

His only real problem was bloody Vaselly and his black boyfriend. He was now certain, from what Brown-eye had said in the common room, that they knew he'd been trying to blackmail Pinot and had organised the snuffing of Corso. It was only a matter of time before they convinced the police. He fucking well had to get rid of them. He had checked the papers every day for accidents – but nothing. They obviously hadn't used the car. He'd have to wait till they returned from wherever fags went for their holidays.

He smiled as an image of two bodies trapped in a mangled wreck, blood oozing from cuts and wounds, danced before his eyes. If that didn't work, he had to think of something foolproof. No more leaving things to chance. Nikelseer was becoming a menace too. He was so far round the twist that he'd soon give the game away. Thank Christ there was only one more term of the slimy old shit. Maybe he should dump Janice. He wasn't getting it up so easily with her any more.

For no obvious reason, his mind drifted back to his mother. He hardly recollected her as anything other than a weepy, bottle-of-brandy-a-day drunk. Ever since he could remember, his parents had shouted and abused each other at the tops of their voices, and then his father would beat the crap out of her. He recalled the night before his fourteenth birthday. Shouts and cries had been going on for ages and then the house echoed with the thwacks and whimpers of his mother's punishment. He had crept down the passage to their bedroom. The door stood open—usually it was shut against prying eyes - and watched silently.

His mother was bent over the end of the bed, head thrust under a pillow, hands stretched out in front and tied with panty-hose to the headboard. Red hand-marks glowed on white thighs and buttocks. Her skin was still twitching from recent slaps. His father, also naked, white feet and bum conspicuous in the dim light, stood behind her fondling his erection. He looked up casually at his wide-eyed son, transfixed in the doorway. Turning back to his wife, he landed her a resounding smack with the flat of his hand on an already livid weal, then, with a strange, almost calculating smile, slowly inserted himself.

As passion overtook self-control his buttocks pounded, heaved and clenched in random spasms. Lance was ecstatic. He had never seen anything so arousing. Porn videos were nothing compared to reality! His father withdrew, wiped himself on the sheet, then wandered over to his son and closed the door in his face without looking at him. Lance crept back to his room to indulge in fantasies of his own.

The episode had never been mentioned, however a conspiratorial bond developed, and one evening about six months later he was taken to an expensive prostitute's apartment where they shared both whips and girl. This was the first time they had done anything as father and son that Lance could remember. It was enormously successful and similar visits continued on a regular basis for two and a half years. When the Scotch bitch arrived on the scene it had stopped, and nearly eight months had passed since they had gone whoring. Maybe now she'd gone things would return to normal.

Normal. One man's normal is another man's perversion, and, although Lance was unaware of it, past pleasures were history thanks to Senior Constable Ponto's social conscience. Being a family man with teen-age children of his own, he considered it his duty to warn parents if their offspring appeared to be slipping off the rails. His unofficial visit to Arnold Osbairne's office after the attack on Bart, and again after Sanjay's suggestion that Lance was possibly involved in the shed-burning, had poisoned any budding paternal feeling. Lance's father promised himself there and then that he had lied for his son for the last time. His conscience was clear. The instructions to the boy had been precise - give the poofters a warning. Nothing too violent and at all costs avoid suspicion. Arnold hadn't bothered to tell his son about the police visits. As far as he was concerned the kid had blown his chances. He was eighteen, a skinny runt, and from now on could bloody well stand on his own two feet.

Lance had tried going to prostitutes on his own, but discovered he needed another bloke to be watching. It was a painful admission, but that was why he needed those zombies with him when screwing Janice. The only thing that could arouse him at the moment was constructing fantasies about slowly killing Vaselly and his cock-sucking mate. He spent hours wanking to variations on the theme, impatient to witness the real thing. Watching that little poofter writhe as the poison burned his gullet had been excellent, but this was going to be perfect! He smiled as a new idea surfaced. There were twelve weeks left to complete his plans. He now hoped the brakes wouldn't kill the bastards; he wanted to be there. That would be really orgasmic.

Nigel was at Ernest's place. He spent most of his time there now. His parents had kicked him out of the house when they found a plastic bag of dope and a packet of pills. They wanted no trouble with the police. Every evening he'd say a polite goodnight to Ernest's Mum and Dad, go out the front door then sneak back and into Ernest's sleep-out, a converted shed in the back garden. Ernest always kept his door locked, so there would be time for Nigel to crawl under the bed in the unlikely event that his parents paid him a visit. While Ernest was having breakfast, Nigel would scarper and wait in the park down the road, eating the food they had plundered the night before. At the moment they were both fully occupied fighting interstellar battles with computer-generated aliens. There was no room in their thoughts for anything else.

Ralf had invited a woman to share his evening. On the previous three Saturday mornings they had swapped jokes and a chat in the supermarket and Ralf had toyed with the idea of putting on the hard word. She was about his age, laughed a lot, took nothing too seriously, and had leapt into bed at the first tentative suggestion. He usually preferred to have to work a bit harder than that for his fun, but beggars couldn't be choosers. She knew what she was doing, did it with style, and it had been great. He'd even enjoyed the stream of jokes. With a slight shock of self-discovery, he realised that he probably approached sex too seriously. He would definitely invite her again. She didn't stay the night, her teen-age children wouldn't approve.

Monique, Sanjay and Robert were on the patio enjoying the peace. They had finished telling everything about their holidays and lapsed into silence. Sanjay stroked Monique's neck and leaned over to kiss her cheek. Robert was feeling nervous about returning to school.

'I haven't seen anyone since being locked in that shed. I hope they don't ask too many stupid questions tomorrow.'

'Just tell them exactly what we decided. You saw the smoke, rushed into the shed to make sure no one was trapped, tripped and knocked yourself out. End of story. However,' Sanjay continued, 'I'll be very surprised if anyone remembers. Nine-day-wonders and all that.'

'I hope so.' Robert gave a sigh. 'It's going to be hard not seeing Bart every day in the gym. And at night,' he added shyly.

'It will be as hard for him,' Monique observed.

'What do you mean?'

'He's as much in love with you, as you are with him.'

'How do you know?'

'He never takes his eyes off you, listens to everything you say, follows you around, laughs at all your jokes, sighs and looks goofy. The usual signs. You've got them too.'

'How embarrassing!'

'Why? What I don't understand is why you don't touch each other more. We're always touching each other aren't we, Sanni?' She turned and stroked Sanjay's arm, taking his hand in hers and running a row of kisses up his arm.

'Can't keep my hands off. Quenches my lusts till we're alone.'

'But - you'd be repelled! Everyone hates queers. We've got to hide it as much as we can.'

'Not here you don't!' Sanjay sounded curt. 'We love you more than anything in the world. Your gayness is just one of the hundreds of things that makes you special.' He looked across to check that Robert was paying attention. 'After years of careful observation, I've realised that those couples who unconsciously touch, caress, cast loving-glances and say affectionate things to each other, are the ones who continue to love and find each other attractive. I'm not talking about heavy petting and deep sensual kisses in front of others. That would be embarrassing no matter who was doing it and is mere exhibitionism.'

Monique took up the baton. 'When we lived with Grandma for a year, when we first married, it was terrible! She discouraged any show of affection. We nearly divorced with the tension of having to pretend we weren't dying to kiss and hug all the time.' She leaned over and placed her hand on Robert's head, gently ruffling his hair. 'If you had a girlfriend and were as reserved with her as you are with Bart, I'd worry that you were gay. Now I worry you're not!' She laughed easily. 'We'll start to think you don't trust us if you don't act naturally in front of us. If you feel like touching each other, cuddling, saying nice things, even kissing, do so without embarrassment.'

'Your mother's right, as usual.'

A lump filled Robert's throat. He got up to fetch a tumbler of water from the kitchen and rinsed his eyes. When he had himself under control he returned and said huskily, 'No one could have said anything nicer. But you see, since that first time you accepted me… when Bart was here, we…we haven't ever talked about it, and I imagined it was only the idea you could tolerate. I was frightened you'd be disgusted if we actually did anything in front of you. There's so much hatred out there you start to feel poisoned by it.'

'Surely not. People are quite accepting now.'

'Where've you been? All the kids at school hate queers and so do most of the teachers – it's the worst insult you can throw at someone. Gays are beaten up in the streets all the time. Even in their houses. How about those politicians and religious nutters who are always trying to make out we are a threat to families.'

Monique sat beside Robert on the couch and put her arms around him. 'Poor darling – but at least some laws have changed. Things are slowly improving.'

'You'll cope. But why aren't you with Bart tonight?' Sanjay's question sounded like an accusation.

'Because we thought that, as we wouldn't be seeing each other till next Saturday, we should get used to it.'

'Masochists as well? Is everything ready for school tomorrow?'


'Why don't you give him a ring and see if he'd like you to go over for a while? It's only seven o'clock. You can have the car. Go on!' he added at Robert's hesitation.

'Hi, it's me... Genghis Khan! Who the hell do you think? Are you busy?… Can I come over for a bit?' He looked to where his parents were gazing out into the evening, and whispered bravely, just loud enough for them to hear, 'I love you too.'

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