Justice by Stephen Cooper

Thursday again, I hate coming here.

The same imposing building, grey and horrible, glares back at me, almost sneering at my puny car in scale to its overbearing gloom.

My best friend Keith is here. He wasn’t always in here. I mean he wasn’t always like this. I drive up to the entrance with a sense of both dread, and hope. I dread seeing the other inmates; I have done ever since the first time I came here, but I have hope that someday I can get him out of here.

I remember that first visit. I made the mistake of not calling ahead, and ended up amidst the deranged and wailing, sick and demented souls in this hell hole. I walked, disorientated by the sheer size of the place, different floors, different wings, no signs to guide, and nobody I could ask in case they were also mad.

The sight will live with me when I entered the ward for that first time until I die. The first patient was on my right, eyes wide open at the shock of someone new, and he was red with exertion, masturbating furiously. I averted my eyes quickly to his right, there was another poor soul, dressed in a strait jacket, with a large padded helmet, repetitively head butting the wall, on and on, and on. The next one was wailing constantly, and at my appearance, his neighbour ran towards me, covered in human excrement, his hands waving above his head. I threw up, the putrid stench overpowering my senses, and before I even finished heaving, several others had joined him on their hands and knees on the floor, examining the remnants of my lunch.

I turned and ran outside, and threw up again.

I didn’t go back in that day. I drove home in a deeply shocked state, thinking I would never see my mate again.

It took me several phone calls and 5 days before I summoned up the courage to venture over here again. The head nurse, Helen, a motherly type, as you would imagine, deserves and receives my unstinting admiration for the life she leads for the benefit and loving care of others. How anyone can endure this day after day is something I cannot really understand.

2

Most days we sit outside on the veranda, it has a roof in case it rains, and a path that we can use together. Keith is in a wheelchair; I can take him down to our special summer seat, and chat for as long as we want. Keith doesn’t really say much, he has withdrawn from himself, apparently a common symptom after suffering a breakdown.

Keith has been here now for three and a half years after his wife’s suicide – and approx three years, and eight months after his daughter’s rapist walked off scot free from the courtroom.

Keith was supposed to pick up his daughter Amy, on the night in question from a disco, but ended up worse for wear at his Christmas work do, and fell asleep on the sofa.

She was easy prey for the monster that followed her the three miles home and raped her at knifepoint in the woods beside our football pitches. The clever perpetrator had prepared his chloroform soaked handkerchief, and used it quickly and efficiently. Amy came to, just after he was withdrawing, and of course started to scream. A blow to knock her unconscious took care of that, and in a blind panic, the assailant stabbed her viciously exactly five times, and then proceeded to calm down and brutalize her in the most sickening manner. Amy was left with a deep incision to each breast; her genetilia ruptured by his knife and twisted was to ensure Amy would be forever childless. He then made good his escape.

Amy was found unconscious a number of hours later by an inquisitive springer spaniel out with a habitual early riser at just after 6 am, the loss of blood had rendered her almost certainly dead. Her good fortune that day was the dog’s owner was a paramedic coming off shift, and his prompt mobile phone call and subsequent actions most certainly saved her life.

It was 8 months before 14 year old Amy went back to school.

3

It was his smell and his eyes that gave him away, even though he wore a hat and scarf to hide his identity. Amy recognized him a couple of weeks after returning to school. It was chemistry class, he leaned over her to correct her Bunsen burner and she freaked out.

That smell, and the eyes up close, everything came at a rush; the realization the monster was here, the shock made her fall off her stool.

Of course, nobody believed her; silly teenage girls never are taken seriously. Hysterical and distraught, Amy refused to go back to school and disappeared for the last two months of the last year she had left. No exams, no future.

Her best friend took her in, and unknown to Keith at first, proceeded to encourage a legal case against ‘Mr. Chemistry’.

Keith never forgave himself, and his late wife Caroline, never did either. Days and weeks in the aftermath, alcohol and drugs added to the growing distance between them and pushed them further apart, until only 2 months after the stress and strain and extreme let down of the court case, Caroline emptied a concoction of pills into her tiny frame and washed it down with a bottle of whiskey, and a few mouthfuls of bleach for good measure to leave this world behind.

Keith found her the next morning, coming in from nightshift, and never really got over it.

Amy was taken into care, after social services added to his woes and officially judged him to be an ‘unfit father’, and Keith unsurprisingly, went further downhill.

After the funeral, I took Keith in with me in my flat, I was on my own, as my wife had the sense to leave me years ago, and I didn’t mind the company if I am honest. Around three months later, after almost drinking himself into a stupor, Keith had his breakdown.

After showering as usual, Keith cut off most of his hair in the bathroom mirror, and shaved off all bodily hair, including even his eyebrows, and still dripping wet, proceeded to walk down the main street of the village with head strangely to one side and a vacant stare on his face.

Post Office was as far as he got, and the poor soul was lifted by my colleagues and brought into the sorting room, where I had started my shift. We got him sorted with spare clothes and I took him to hospital in my post van.

Tony, Keith’s dad has never really recovered either. A self made man, he has established an export business from scrap metal. Cars of all types are regularly stripped and crushed in his scrap yard and sent to China . Many a time Tony told me he could do just the very same to himself, become a square block and get sent far away to the far east, away from the shattered fragments of his bereft existence.

4

Nurse Helen encourages me to visit as often as possible. I could come more often, but, the truth is, it breaks my heart.

Keith and I grew up together, played for the same football team, drank together, we were best men at our weddings for each other, and I can’t think of anyone I was ever closer to.

To see him in this state is hard to take. Most days, I find it difficult to hold it together, and have resorted to smoking cigarettes to stop my lip trembling and breaking down. We sit on our special summer seat, Keith sits beside me in his wheelchair pulled up close with his tartan rug, and his favourite cap on, and I try to coax memories out of him. I will probe with anything, ex girlfriends, football, his late mum, old jokes, teachers, – I am desperate.

Some days I get a reaction, a brief flicker in those lifeless eyes, but most days they stay dead, like muddy stagnant water.

The worst is when Nurse Helen comes walking down the path, Keith can see her, and knows our time is up, and he puts his right arm around me, and leans in close and moans softly.

He can still speak, but not very coherently. ‘Stay’, and ‘don’t go’ are like sentences from him now, and I am not ashamed to tell you I cant think of anything else so painful I will have to endure in my life, than to hear those words pierce and twist my heart like they do.

And they do, every single week.

I come every Thursday, it’s a sort of routine now, and I spend the afternoon here.

After its time for me to leave, I say my goodbyes and kiss my mate’s forehead, and he sobs, like a wee boy as Helen wheels him away up the path into oblivion for another week.

I silently cry the whole way to my car, and sit usually for anything up to 30 minutes before I can drive, or rather, before I can see through my blurred eyes well enough to drive back home.

The emotions I go through driving home are remarkably potent, even now after nearly 4 years. The frustration of watching my best friend like this, and not being able to do anything is indescribable. I get angry, I find myself getting cramps in my hands due to unwittingly gripping my steering wheel so tight, I feel sorrow, deep sorrow, and finally shame. I feel shame because sometimes I have to deal with battling thoughts of not wanting to go back, because I don’t want the pain anymore. When I think like that, I hate myself for even contemplating it.

5

I dump my car, and I head to my local, the Dragon, to meet with Tony, Keith’s dad. Every week I sit and reminisce with him. I think it helps us both, but sometimes it’s tough. Thursday night is quiz night. I join in. I don’t contribute very much; my knowledge is limited to probably just the local geography due to my job as postman, sport, and maybe the odd history question.

As I say, I work as a postman; I am in the sorting office around 5 am, and on the street around 7 am, and finished around 1pm. My best friend in work is my thermos flask, full of piping hot tea, and safely ensconced in my van. The simple things in life are the most valuable I muse, especially now in the run up to Christmas, when it’s freezing cold.

Tonight, though, it’s different. I need to talk to Tony; I have a favour to ask from him, I need an old battered car for a couple of days. Tony doesn’t ask me why I want it, I have become like a second son since his own son’s demise, and I suppose some people would say a surrogate son. We arrange the logistics; I will pick it up next week, before it gets crushed into 3 cubic feet of metal, ready for the long boat to China next Friday.

I have a bit of work to do next week. I happened to come across something quite shocking around two months ago in the sorting office in the neighbouring district, where I was covering for 3 months for a colleague on a course.

I was getting my letters and parcels ready, when I was visibly shocked to find a name on a letter I hadn’t seen in quite a while. In fact, it was three years and a bit since I registered that name.

The realization that Amy’s attacker was living in my delivery run shook me up totally.

The first few times I had to actually physically deliver the various letters into his letter box, after walking up his path, I could feel my heart pumping in my ears.

Amy’s former chemistry teacher lives in a small flat and had moved on to another area, probably complete with decent references from the previous school. Innocent until proven guilty they probably said, and all that usual nonsense.

A month or so into the run, he had spoken to me coming out his drive, and now, I am on speaking terms with him on a regular basis.

He will have to sign for a parcel next week. I know his routine very well. He leaves the house at around 7.30 every morning, and I have arranged to bring it next Thursday.

He doesn’t know yet he isn’t really getting a parcel, or at least, not the sort of parcel he thinks normal post men deliver.

Then again, I am not a normal post man, not since I know where he lives.

6

I arrive in Tony’s battered old Astra, a real heap of shit, probably round the clock two or three times. I park in the old restaurant car park two blocks away, and haul my post bag containing the ‘parcel’ along to my recipient. I am wearing my uniform as usual, I won’t raise any eyebrows, and I have worn gloves, and old shirts, and clothes I won’t need after this special delivery.

I ring his doorbell, its 7.17, just a bit early on purpose. He arrives at the door, humming some dopey tune, thinking about the day ahead in his dressing gown, and dripping from the shower. I drop my post bag, and with a sudden ferocious surging head butt to his nose, down he goes, and in I go.

In my post bag I have a large area of plastic tarpaulin, some rope, some smelling salts, some masking tape, a sock, and a very large serrated edged knife.

I have been waiting a long time for this, and I am going to do this bastard properly.

He comes to his senses in the kitchenette. He is puzzled to find he is sitting on a chair, bound, gagged, naked and surrounded by plastic on the floor.

I spend some time with him telling him exactly who I am. I spend a further few minutes applying a tourniquet to his femoral artery. It’s difficult as he tries to kick and fight and I get fed up and plant him one rabbit punch to his temple.

His eyes, wide with terror, he awakes via my smelling salts, he probably wishes he hadn’t came around again, as he is about to find out. I show him my knife. I explain what I am going to do and his moans reach a high whimper and his bowels join in with the symphony.

Urine and excrement drip from the plastic chair, reminding me of the stench from my first visit where my best mate is stuck because of this excuse of a human being, I can’t help but feel the utmost loathing for this object.

And it is an object now; it is no longer a life form worthy of the air that we breathe.

I kick back the chair. He passes out when his head hits the scullery floor. Then I bend over his limp unconscious body, and I cut neatly into his scrotum, and remove his testicles. I place them on his chest; they are like little white Brussels sprouts dipped in ketchup, I wouldn’t like to try them though.

I have an idea. I tighten the tourniquet, and cut his flaccid penis like a butcher cuts a piece of meat, quickly and without fuss.

I know now what I will do next. I place my knife in through the masking tape over his stupid gob, and remove the sock from his mouth.

I pop in his limp little cock, the same little cock which is responsible for everything, and mask his mouth up again with the tape, nice and neat.

I release the tourniquet and the blood begins to ooze out of his gaping penal hole. The smelling salts bring him around to hell. I am sure even he could never imagine an ending like this. In between consciousness, he is delirious and I am reveling in my roles as the judge, the jury and the executioner today.

I tell him what is in his mouth, he passes out. I revive him time and time again, goading him with my knife, like he probably did to little Amy, until finally, his body surrenders.

I sever his carotid artery, and the blood sprays out like a fountain, and I watch his last throes, before wrapping up the body in the polythene and clean up.

For a little man, he’s surprisingly heavy. I carry him to the waiting Astra, bemused by the fact that such an old banger is carrying its equivalent in quality of human life.

I return the car to Tony’s scrap yard, lock up the car, and take the keys and my contaminated clothing over home. It takes me 23 mins to get there. I burn my clothes and scrub myself clean in the shower with a solution of disinfectant and water.

No one will miss the guy for a week, there won’t be any letters being delivered for a week at least, I can personally guarantee that.

7

Today is Thursday, and off I go after work to see Keith. Today he is his normal self, we chat, and he listens with his eyes dull, but he feels secure beside me, his best mate still. In the aftermath of the court case, and when we were living together and sharing the pain, I promised him that if I ever found Amy’s attacker, I would tell Keith. I imagined what he wanted to do with him. Today, I wonder if he would have done what I just have. I eventually come into reality and out of my thoughts when I see Nurse Helen is coming up the path, I lean over to him.

Keith like every other week has his arm around me, the right one, as usual, and before he can moan or speak, I place both of mine around him, and I whisper in his ear, ‘justice’.

For the first time in almost 4 years, Keith turns and looks me squarely in my eyes, and I see his twinkle and I feel him chuckle. I hug him tight, tears silently seeping down our cheeks.

Nurse Helen tells me in parting I have seemed to have made a difference today.

8

As its Thursday I go to meet Tony, I will stick to my plan, follow the discipline, that’s how you beat the police and the rest of them. When I sit down in the Dragon, I want to throw my arms around Tony, and tell him what I have done. I push my feelings away, and go for a piss. I throw some cold water on my face and get a grip. When I come back, a pint of Guinness is in front of me. He tells me, with a smile that almost covers the pain in his eyes, how many times he remembers me and Keith drinking Guinness together, ‘I wish I had a pound for every one you two used to have’. I almost start to cry, I love this man, and I can see through the forced smile and the sorrow inside his empty soul.

Instead, I light a cigarette, and I buy him a drink and control my trembling lip.

Driving home, the radio is playing annoying Christmas songs. Every year they play this crap, do they have any heart?

I turn it off and we travel in comfortable silence.

I can’t help it, but I need some confirmation that I covered myself properly.

‘By the way, Tony’, I glance sideways, ‘forgot to ask, did you get the Astra back alright in the yard’?

He glances out the window ‘Aye, its now three cubic feet of scrap metal, and on the slow boat to china’ he says with a laugh.

I should shut up and leave it, but I just can’t help myself.

‘Do you get much for a cubic 3 feet of squashed car’?

‘A bit better now, but the transport is getting expensive son’. He replies.

‘I hope you got a good price for the Astra.’

Puzzled, he turns to look at me. ‘Why’s that, son? It was a heap of crap’.

I keep my eyes glued to the road.

‘It’s just that they got a couple of extra feet in the boot with that one’.

The passing neon lights show my best mate’s father with a heavy sigh opening his eyes, with the world lifted off his shoulders.

His cheeks are glistening with the tears of relief, captive for four years, and he is smiling, but this time it’s a proper heartfelt smile.

‘Justice’ I whisper.

Tony leans across and puts his right arm around my shoulder.

Like father – like son.

*

Bio

Stephen is 40, quite mad, likes to hide on his wife and scare the living fuck out of her around the house which keeps him amused. He also likes to wear hats around the house, dark glasses, and one welly boot on the right foot, ( it alternates every Tuesday for personal reasons which he won’t divulge ) and wait for someone to come to the door. He also liked the wee Ewoks in that film years ago. http://reflectivedarkness.weebly.com/index.html 

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