SON OF THE CHAV PRINCE
When Damien got back to Haddesley, he was a bit pissed off to find the Oscotts packing to go home. He had assumed they would leave Mattie behind so the two of them could continue their very satisfactory friendship. Mattie was the first boy Damien had ever known long enough to become a playmate, and Damien was very vocal in expressing his displeasure about having to give up his mate. Despite assurances that Mattie would also be in Strelzen for the royal wedding, Damien was unhappy. He did not deal well with loss.
Justin ran his son over to Castringham for a last play session. The two boys took off to the terrace of the big house, after Damien had graciously accepted a hug from Andy.
‘You’ve gone brown,’ Mattie observed when they were alone.
‘All over too. Didn’t wear nuffink for weeks.’
‘What, with your willie wobbling about? No pants?’
‘No shoes or clothes hardly ever. I used to pee anywhere.’ That was an exaggeration, as Justin always made sure the boy wore absorbent pants in bed. Not surprisingly, Damien chose to edit out that detail.
‘Wild! You saw your dad naked too? My dad’s a specky geek. Wish I had a dad like yours, with a gun. Take me with you next time.’
‘You goin’ to Rothenia too?’
‘Yeah. My dad’s a friend of Harriet. She’s gonna be the queen. Cool, we can have fun when we’re there.’
‘I’m gettin’ a uniform to wear when I’m the page. A real army uniform wiv a sword.’
Damien preened himself a bit. He was deeply envied by another boy, a first for him. Then he sobered and looked thoughtful. Something had been preying on his mind. ‘Mattie, you remember Pig-Face James? The pictures we took?’
‘What should I do wiv ‘em? You know that stuff I took from the car and buried in the woods? It was drugs, not dynamite. Sick-making James is a pusher, like those fookin bastards that did for me mam.’ The small boy’s eyes blazed like blue ice at the memory.
Mattie looked puzzled. ‘That can’t be right. Cos Danny’s brother was arrested when they raided his house for drugs. I saw the police cars when they took him away.’
‘Then James is a pusher too. Maybe they’re both pushers. So what do I do wiv the pictures?’
‘Where’s the camera?’
‘I hid it in a box under me bed at home. Dad thinks it got swiped. He bought a new one for the holiday.’
‘You’d better tell your dad then.’
‘What if he gets angry?’
‘You told me you don’t care about that.’
‘Well … I do a bit.’ Damien became enthusiastic. ‘My dad’s ace. I don’t like it when he’s angry wiv me.’
Mattie thought for a minute. ‘He might be even angrier if you don’t tell him, Daimey. Now, let’s go play by the fountain.’
‘We can throw stones at the fishes!’
Danny dumped his bags in the hall and fell into his mother’s arms, to be embraced wholeheartedly for the first time since the day he had come out to his family. She had red eyes, and there had been much weeping in the Hackness household, so much was clear. Weeping and agonies, but not much that was constructive.
‘It was such a shock, Danny, when the police turned up. They searched the house, but they seemed to know where to look. They found the packet in Wesley’s room, in his backpack. They said it was worth three thousand pounds on the street. He’s in Ipswich Gaol. Dad’s trying to get legal aid to afford the defence, but we couldn’t raise the bail. It’s a nightmare. Did you know he was into drugs?’
‘No mum,’ Danny lied. ‘I can’t believe he was a dealer. It’s just not like him. It’s a fit-up. He’s been fingered by some bastard.’
‘The police sergeant who arrested him said we shouldn’t be surprised. Drugs eat away at the sense of morality. Addicts will do anything to get the cash to feed their habit.’
‘Did he look like an addict to you, mum?’
‘Of course not! Oh Danny, what can we do?’
Danny had no idea, so he just hugged her, which seemed to do some good. Then he made a cup of tea to re-establish a sense of normality for himself. Half way through it, he decided he had better go into Ipswich and see his brother, to get whatever information out of him he could. How did one find out when the visiting times were?
As it turned out, you could ring the prison’s number and, by pressing 3, you heard when visiting hours were. There was no chance that day, so Danny got on his bike and pedalled over to Haddesley Hall. He rode coolly up the drive and straight to the big front door. The housekeeper answered his ring and admitted that Master Augustus was at home.
Danny walked right in. He no longer had any qualms about intruding.
Lady Rosalind encountered him in the entrance hall. She did not look any happier to see him than usual. ‘Young man, I would appreciate some moments with you before you go up to Augustus.’
‘Certainly, Lady Rosalind.’
She led him into a small drawing room, and sat elegantly on the edge of a Chippendale chair. Danny sat on a sofa and looked polite and alert.
‘Augustus thinks very much of you, Daniel.’
‘He loves me, and it’s mutual.’
She looked disconcerted at that reply. ‘Yes. Well, that’s as may be. You will notice that Philip and I are trying to be reasonable over your … liaison … with our son.’ Danny nodded noncommittally. ‘As a result, I would like you to try talking some sense into Augustus over his decision to quit Medwardine. It is a very bad idea. There is no comparison between the resources and teaching at his present school and the sixth-form college here. Attendance in the college is not compulsory, there are no tutorial periods or supervision, and I believe smoking is permitted outside classrooms. The pass rate and university-admissions counselling simply do not compare with those at Medwardine.’
Danny shrugged. ‘I quite agree with you, Lady Rosalind. But what can I do? This switch wasn’t my idea.’
‘Yes, I quite understand. But if he is sacrificing his place in Medwardine for love of you, it is surely you who are best placed to talk him out of it.’
‘I have already tried.’
‘Really? You would do this?’ She looked momentarily impressed.
‘Of course. He would be far better off there than here.’
‘And you would accept the separation?’
‘Yes, I would. But tell me, if he did stay here and go to the same college as me, would you allow us to meet regularly?’
‘We’ve already given in on that subject.’
‘Fine. Well, try this scenario. If Gus had fallen for a boy at Medwardine and come out to you about it, would you have taken him away from the school to separate them?’
Lady Rosalind seemed puzzled. ‘That’s a highly theoretical case. I suppose it would depend on the boy concerned. Why do you ask?’
Danny smiled. ‘I’ve obtained a scholarship that will take me to Medwardine for the sixth form, and I’m thinking about accepting it. If I do, Gus will certainly return there with me. Could you live with that? Am I the sort of boy you would trust with him?’
Gus’s mother gave him a considering look. ‘You are certainly an intelligent boy. I think also that you care for my son. I will never be happy with the idea of you two together. However, Augustus does love you and you make him happy – happier than he has ever been. I would not object if you were to take up the scholarship. You no doubt worked very hard to win it.’
‘Oh, you wouldn’t believe what I had to go through to get it, Lady Rosalind.’
Danny waited for his brother to appear at a Formica-topped table in the painted-brick visitor’s hall of Ipswich Gaol. It was a desolate room, with torn posters warning against smuggling items to inmates, advice about sexual health and legal aid. Danny had been thoroughly searched. It was a dehumanising experience.
Wes came out dressed in a blue boiler suit with a group of other young prisoners, and slid into the chair across from Danny. He looked awful – pale and desperate.
‘I won’t ask how you’re doing,’ Danny sympathised.
‘This place is hell on earth. I’m in a cell with a kid who’s a sex maniac – he’s only your age and he’s been on the game since he was ten. He stole my boxers to sleep with, and he wants me to fuck him.’
‘Oh? I thought it was the other way round for new guys in prison.’
‘Not in my cell. I woke up last night to find him naked on my bunk with his hand on my dick trying to suck me off. He really enjoyed it when I wrestled him off me.’
‘Is he nice looking?’
‘That’s him over there, the kid with spots. Want to swap?’
‘Not really. Look, how did you get in this mess?’
‘Honest Danny, those drugs were not mine. OK, I’ve been dabbling a bit with the alphabet – E and Special K – but this was crack, they said. I’ve never touched the stuff - on the contrary, I’m afraid of it because of how addictive I’ve heard that it is - and I’ve certainly never dealt in any drugs. You gotta believe me.’
‘I do. But who’d fit you up on a charge? Who would have those drugs locally?’
Wes looked shifty. ‘I’ll tell you, but it won’t help. It’s your boyfriend’s brother, James. He’s the main local dealer. Everybody knows it in the sixth-form college, but no one will say anything.’
‘So what have you done to get so far on his wrong side that he’ll give up £3,000 of drugs to send you down.’
‘It’s you he’s getting at, Danny. He loathes his brother, and he hates you even more because you taught Gus to stand up to him. I’m being set up to hurt you!’
‘That’s a bit extreme.’
‘James lost touch with his sane side quite a while ago. It’s in character, all right.’ He paused. ‘I was at Chris’s again last week. He’s deep into drugs, deeper than me. Chris’d do anything for James. I watched James force Chris to give him a blow job last week in return for a wrap. James is into humiliation and he misses making Gus’s life a misery, so Chris is his temporary whipping boy. I don’t think James could care less about the sex, it’s making people crawl he likes. He’d think £3,000 money well spent to bring me and our family into the mud.
‘Anyway, I was at Chris’s telling him that he had to break James’s hold over him, and while Chris was sobbing on my shoulder, he must have slipped the drugs into my backpack on James’s order.’
‘Bloody hell! So what do I do?’
‘How do I know? What can I do but deny things? If I finger James, they’ll say it’s just me trying to point suspicion elsewhere. Where’s the evidence? Chris is too hooked and too terrified to inform – also he’s an accessory now. James has come right out and said that he has a video of Chris doing some very weird sexual stuff. It’s another hold he’s got on him, and he’s threatened to use it in the past. The guys in the college know about James dealing alright, but what incentive have they got to send their supplier down?’
‘Then it’s on me. I’d better go and talk to Gussie. He may know something to help. There’s justice, innit? It’s us queers saving your arse, mate, when no one else will stand up for you.’
‘The irony makes my ears bleed.’
‘Sleep tight … oh, you could tell sex kitten you’ve got an STD, that might slow him down.’
‘Thought of that, but he said, snap!’
‘Bye then,’ said Mattie glumly.
‘Yeah bye,’ echoed Damien.
That was the downbeat way the six-year-olds told each other goodbye, that and a wistful wave from the back of a car. Nonetheless, Damien was heavy hearted when he climbed into his own dad’s car. It was noticeable even to Justin. ‘Missing him already aren’t you kiddo?’
Damien grunted and looked woeful. He had never had so good a friend as Mattie, so much on his own wavelength, who liked the games he did, who wanted to do the things he wanted. They had laughed and laughed at their jokes till they had to hold each other up. Now Damien was sad enough to cry. He suppressed an unhappy sniffle. He wanted it to be October so he could see his friend again.
On the short drive back to Haddesley, Damien’s brain was ticking away despite his depression. He had pictures of Pig-face James meeting his drug suppliers, and indeed he had a packet of crack cocaine, too, buried in the woods. He knew he had the means to hit back for once at the dealers who had made his mum a basket case and endangered his sister’s life. But who would believe him, and how could he communicate with the adult world of police and law courts?
Eventually he piped up from the back seat of the Clio. ‘Dad?’
Justin had already learned to recognise that wheedling tone. ‘No more money. OK?’
‘No. Can I go play wiv Gussie at the Hall?’
‘Feeling lonely already, are you? How do you know he wants to play wiv you, sweetness?’
Damien replied with the absolute certitude of the young. ‘He’s me mate. Course he does.’
‘I’ll ring and ask when we get home.’
The call was duly made and Gus said he’d rather come down to the cottage. As soon as he arrived, Damien grabbed him by the hand and dragged him up to his room. Telling Gus to sit down, the boy burrowed into the boxes under the bed and emerged with an expensive digital camera.
‘Gussie, how do you get on wiv your big brother James?’
‘Not that well, Damien. He set fire to the push chair I was in when I was one year old, and it’s been downhill ever since.’
‘What if I told you he’s been really bad, and done something very naughty?’
‘I would not be in the least surprised.’
Damien clicked on the viewing panel, and displayed the shots he had taken. He passed the camera to Gus.
Gus gave the pictures some serious consideration. ‘When did this happen?’
‘Juss before we went on holiday.’
‘And you’ve not told anyone?’
‘I didn’t know who to talk to.’
‘Why not your father? It’s the sort of thing he knows about.’
‘Well … I took his camera wivout asking, and he might be angry wiv me. Mattie and me wuz naughty and went into the woods like he said not to do. And before I could make up me mind what to do, we went off on holiday and I forgot.’
‘Maybe he will be angry, but I think it’s your father you must talk to about this. Would you like me to help?’
‘Yes please, Gussie.’
‘Come on then, little one, let’s go and find him.’
When Gus arrived, Justin had gone over to the garden centre to put in a few hours work, so Gus led Damien across the car park. They found Justin arranging a shipment of saplings in the back area next to the garden sheds.
‘Hello, terror tot, you and Gussie had a row?’ smiled Justin. He reached down, lifted his son and gave him a kiss. He got a big hug back.
Gus gave his usual vague and amiable grin. ‘Justy, Damien has a thing to tell you. It’s important that you not be annoyed with him.’
Justin looked both intrigued and puzzled. Damien stayed cradled in his father’s arms as he told his story, which he did surprisingly clearly for such a young boy. Justin’s look of concentration deepened as he heard his son out. Finally Damien’s flow ran dry, and he looked at his father apprehensively.
Justin looked back at him and his face cleared. ‘Iss alright, our kid, I’m not annoyed wiv you.’
Damien hugged him again, burying his face in his father’s neck before coming up smiling. ‘You gonna kick his arse again, dad?’
‘I wish, but this particular arse-kicking is not a job for me. I’ll come over to the cottage and look at the pictures, then we need to think how we deal with it all. What about you, Gussie? This is your brother who’s gonna go down for a long time.’
‘I don’t wish to appear vengeful, Justin, but really there is no excuse for him. He’s a disgrace to the Underwood name and will deserve all he gets.’
‘So what are we gonna do, Dad?’
‘We don’t wanna just send James down, our kid, we wanna send his bosses down too.’
‘Cool. Gonna get yer gun, Dad?’
‘No, I’ll set you on them. That’s far more dangerous.’