“Oh my God,” Barry exclaimed, as he watched the new boy mince across the yard and into the school entrance, “I don’t believe it.”
“Did you see what he was wearing?” Grant asked, not certain he could believe his eyes. Nobody, but nobody could be that stupid; everybody knew how Barry felt about queers after one of them had made a pass at him. And everybody knew that Barry was the boss around here.
“Yes, a fucking Gay Rainbow badge. He’s going to get it. This is going to be fun.”
“Careful Barry, you’re on your last warning about bullying.”
“I know, but I’m not putting up with queers around here. We’ll have to take him off school premises. Paul, find out where he lives.” The fourteen-year-old, the youngest of the Q boys, nodded, wondering why Barry always picked him for that sort of job.
Barry continued, “Pretend to make friends with him. Sit at the same table at dinner.” Paul Parks just nodded; there was no way he wanted to be anywhere near that fucking queer, but there was no way he was going to upset Barry. That was one thing you did not do, not if you wanted to survive in this school — especially not if you wanted to be one of the Q boys.
The object of their attention, one Paul Samuel Richardson (who preferred to be known as Sammy), was well aware that he was being observed. So, tossing his long blond hair back with a flick of his head he proceeded to mince his way on into the school. As he entered, he watched with some care the group of five lads lounging by the gate. He knew who they were — or at least who three of them were: Barry Goldmeister, the seventeen-year-old bully who ruled the Q boys and the school. It was said that even the teachers were scared of him, or of his father, Jacob Goldmeister, a big wig in the local community who was also a school governor, as well as a heavyweight on the local Council. Next to Barry was his younger bother, fifteen-year-old Ruben Goldmeister. Sammy suspected that Ruben would rather be elsewhere but did not really have any choice. Then there was Grant Thompson, also seventeen, a black stud who thought he was a gift to any girl around. Well, if that was what the girls wanted, Sammy thought, they could have it. He was not impressed; the bulging muscles were more the work of the needle than the gym.
Sammy was not sure who the two younger boys were; no doubt they were new acolytes worshipping at the altar of Barry’s toughness. He suspected, though, that he would find out soon enough.
“Boy! You there!” an authoritative voice sounded out. Sammy turned, and saw an obviously irate teacher coming towards him.
“What’s your name, boy?”
“Richardson, Sir, Paul Samuel Richardson.”
“Well Richardson, you’re new at Leyton Magna High, I take it?”
“Didn’t you read the dress code?”
“Of course I did, Sir; I read it very carefully,” Sammy replied, a faint smile starting to cross his lips.
Mr Buntage, the head of sixth form, who was on hall monitor duty that morning, began to feel uneasy. After thirty years of teaching you tend to get a sixth sense for those times when you come up against a student who knows the game better than you do — especially when it is one who is prepared to play it, and play it hard.
“The code requires ‘black trousers and white shirt’. You do not appear to be wearing either.”
“Oh, but I am, Sir.” Sammy stopped, and stood dead still. “The trousers are black iridescent silk.” Now that the boy (and the cloth of the trousers) had stopped moving, Mr Buntage could see that they were indeed black and not the vivid colours they had appeared to be as the boy had been swishing along the corridor. ‘Swishing’ was the only way his movements could be described. It was the sort of movement that would attract attention — and not a nice sort of attention.
“I suppose you are going to tell me that you’re also wearing a shirt, and not a blouse?”
“Of course, Sir, it’s Sea Island cotton, as Ian Fleming had James Bond wear. Of course, Bond had them tightly tailored; I prefer a much looser fit, but it still buttons up as a shirt, not a blouse. Also, Sir, I would point out that it is white.”
“And what about that?” Buntage asked, pointing to the flowing tie-dyed silk scarf around the boy’s neck.
“Section 23 of the dress code specifically states that scarves may be worn, provided they are not in the colours of a sporting team or club. I think, Sir, you will find that no sporting team or club has adopted these colours.”
On that point Buntage had to concede that the boy was almost certainly right. No club or team would ever dare adopt a scarf like that.
“You know, boy, something makes me think that outfit is deliberate, and you are wearing it with a very specific intent.”
“Of course, Sir.” Sammy glanced over his shoulder at the group of boys loitering just outside the gates. “I am always quite deliberate about my actions; one never knows where they might lead.”
Buntage noted the glance, and who was on the receiving end of it. There was something about this boy he could not quite fathom, but he sensed that there might be some interesting surprises coming if Sammy stayed around.
“Well, you had better get to the office and check in. They’ll give you your class assignments.”
“Oh, I already have those, Sir, I checked in at quarter past eight; just popped back out to make sure I was seen. I believe I have you for advanced maths first period.” He turned and casually sauntered off down the corridor.
Buntage stood in the hall, thoughtfully reviewing the encounter with Sammy. Every now and then somebody arrives in a school and has a massive impact on it. That impact may be for the better or the worse, but it will be real, and Buntage was certain that Paul Samuel Richardson was one of those people. After a few minutes he decided to slip down to the office and have a chat with Mrs Blain, the school secretary. She always knew what was going on.
* * * * *
“The Richardson boy,” she explained, “the family moved her last Christmas, but he stayed at his old school in High Down till he had finished his exams. I believe he stayed with friends during the week, and only came home at weekends, moved here at the start of the summer holidays. I’m rather surprised we’ve got him here actually, he already has his A-levels for university, and if he had wanted a couple of extra subjects he could have gone to Leytonford College.”
“He’s got his A-levels?”[i]
“Yes,” Mrs Blain replied, “Damned good ones too: A in English Literature, German and Physics and B in Higher Maths. His GCSE’s[ii] are impressive considering he took them at fourteen. A in all subjects, including Japanese.”
“What the fuck is he doing here, then? He should be at Cambridge!”
“I think the Head asked the same question when he interviewed the family. Apparently the boy wanted Manchester University for its science and technology department, but the offer from them required an A in maths. He had offers of places at Cambridge and Oxford, but decided to take an extra year to get his maths up so he could get into Manchester.”
“It doesn’t ring true,” Buntage commented, scanning through the boy’s file, “I know Donaldson, one of the admission tutors at Manchester University. He would have swung Heaven and Hell to admit a boy with these grades at his age.” He paused and glanced down at the papers. “What the heck, he took the maths paper in hospital, and still got a B?”
“Yes, remember that food poisoning outbreak at Crayfield earlier this year? The family told the Head that he was one of those hospitalised. They had been at the Crayfield Arms for his 16th birthday party. If you remember, young Warston was taken ill at the same event.”
Suddenly Buntage had an inkling of what was happening; a vague suspicion, yet one which made sense. A new boy, who clearly had better alternatives, had enrolled in this school’s sixth form; a boy who, apparently, spoke Japanese very well, and who had some connection with Tim Warston. The teacher quickly looked at the back of the file of papers where the new boy’s interests were noted, read them and smiled.
He closed the file and returned it to Mrs Blain. “It looks as if we are going to have an interesting term.”
With that, Mr Buntage left the office and slowly walked along the corridor to his first class. As he did so the first bell sounded. He looked out at the gate to see Barry Goldmeister and his cohort saunter into school, bathing in the appreciation of the group of girls who always fluttered around them.
“Yes,” Buntage thought, “if my guess is right we are going to have some interesting times.”
* * * * *
The move from High Down to Leyton Magna had not been planned. In fact Sammy’s mother had firmly stated, when they moved from East Grinstead to High Down five years before, that she was fed up with packing and unpacking, and that was their Last Move. To be fair, she probably had good cause. They had already lived in five different towns that Sammy could remember, and he was only eleven at the time. However, his father had been promoted in the company and that meant that he was working at head office; High Down looked as if it was going to be a long term base for the family, at least until Sammy and his sister were off to University. In her case that would not be long, since she was seven years his senior.
In fact, everybody seemed content to stay in High Down, and they had even been talking about extending the house when Sammy’s great-aunt died and left the Dowager House and its adjoining land and properties in Leyton Magna to her favourite nephew, Sammy’s dad. At first the family had considered selling the House, but then they realised that it had everything they wanted in a home, including a couple of annexes that the children could have as their own flats when they needed them. There was also the fact that in order to sell it they would have to undo the trust that owned the property, and that would cause a massive tax hit. Moreover, selling the High Down house, even in the prevailing depressed property market, would give them a quite nice tax-free capital gain.
Of course, when they had put the house up for sale they expected it would take several months before they got a buyer and probably that long again before completion; the winter was never a good time to sell a house. They never expected to have somebody come along and offer ten percent over the asking price, subject to completion in four weeks. It was too good an offer to turn down, so the family moved to the Dowager House.
It did, of course, present a problem with Sammy’s schooling. Although he was only fifteen (his sixteenth birthday was towards the end of May, actually two days before his Maths exam), he was already doing A-levels. He was currently taking two, having completed German and Physics the previous year. For Sammy those subjects were a doodle. His mother was half German, and he had spent most summer holidays with his German grandparents from the age of three until he was eleven. Both his parents were physicists; his father a researcher in the aerospace industry, his mother a senior tutor at the local university. So, with German and Physics under his belt he had only English Lit and Maths to contend with and he didn’t expect any problems.
There had been no question of Sammy’s changing schools so close to his exams so it had been agreed that he would see out the year at High Down Comprehensive. After that he would be off to university. His mother had said she could drop him off each morning on her way to work since it was only a mile or two out of her way, but Sammy would not hear of it. As he pointed out, most days he would be finishing at three thirty, sometimes earlier, and she did not finish till gone five. Occasionally she worked even later. There was no easy bus route to Leyton Magna so it was best if he stayed with friends during the week.
In fact, it worked out very easily. Mike, Sammy’s best friend and next door neighbour, asked his parents if Sammy could stay during the week for the two remaining school terms. They said yes, provided he was prepared to share a bedroom with Mike. The fact that Mike and Sammy had been in a sexual relationship for a couple of years made the arrangement a godsend to them. They could now be together most evenings, helping each other with revision and other matters, with the other matters taking more of the time.
Each Friday Sammy made his way to Leyton Magna to spend the weekend with his family. It was during his first weekend after the Christmas break that he made his first friend there.
The Dowager House was approached along a drive that branched off from the main driveway leading to what had once been Leyton Magna Court, demolished many years earlier and replaced with a architecturally dismal office block for the County Council. Despite the destruction of the fine Georgian manor, the Gate House still stood in what was now the grounds of the Dowager House. For some years it had been let to the Warstons, a three-generation family of six. Old Mrs Warston, known to everybody as Gran (and Flori to a few friends), her son, Arthur Warston, his wife Margaret, and their three children — Mary, Martha and Tim, with Tim being the youngest.
It was the first time Sammy had been in the Dowager House since the move. His parents and sister had actually moved in two weeks before Christmas, but Sammy had flown to Germany that weekend to visit his Grandparents and to go skiing with his cousins. After that the whole family had gone to New York for Christmas and the New Year, Sammy meeting up with them at Heathrow. The House seemed much bigger than he remembered from his occasional visits to his great-aunt.
One thing that was especially nice about the move was that he now had his own suite of rooms. His father had said that, rather than waste time in moving him around once he was at university, he might as well move straight into the Stable Annex rooms. So it was that he had a bedroom with en suite shower room, a lounge, and a small kitchen on the first floor[iii] of what had once been the Dowager House’s stable block. Mary, Sammy’s sister, who was already at University, had a similar set up on the ground floor.
The Stable Annex was connected to the main house via a glass-roofed passageway. Sammy surmised that it had once been an open alley for servants to scuttle along, but had been roofed over when the Annex conversion was done. It led to the scullery behind the kitchen. That was rather convenient, for the kitchen in the Annex was just about big enough to cook a slice of toast.
Somewhat to his frustration, when he arrived at the Dowager House Sammy found there was no broadband service; even worse, there was no internet access at all. There was no 3G signal out at the Estate, even the 2G was so weak that anything beyond texting was out of the question. For some reason which Sammy found completely unfathomable, his parents seemed to think that this would be a good thing, at least in the short term. It did mean that Sammy’s plans for the weekend were completely out of the window, so by midday on the Saturday, once he had finished his assignments he was at a loose end.
With nothing else to do, Sammy decided to walk around the wood that was part of the Dowager House grounds. It was a mixed woodland, about fifty-fifty deciduous and conifers, the latter lining the driveway down to the gate. He found a path that roughly followed the drive but about thirty feet into the wood; the path seemed to go straight whilst the drive took a big sweeping curve.
He had walked what he thought was about halfway to the gate when he heard a voice.
Sammy turned, trying to pinpoint the source.
Peering up into an old oak tree he saw the face of a boy who looked a year or two younger than himself.
“You must be Sammy. I’m Tim… Tim Warston. Your ma told my ma you would be here this weekend.” He dropped from the branch he had been sitting on, and landed lightly on his feet in front of Sammy, extending his hand in greeting. Sammy took it — not being able to think of anything better to do — and shook it, whilst looking into the boy’s face.
“So wat yu’r up to?”
“Just walking to the gate, something to pass the time.”
“Yeah, not much to do out ’ere this time of ’ear”, Tim replied.
Sammy nodded, not sure if he should say anything or not; in fact he was not sure of anything right then.
“Cum’n up, I’ll show you something.” Tim turned, jumped up and grabbed a low-hanging branch of the oak, and pulled himself up. Looking down he beckoned to Sammy to follow him. Somewhat to his own surprise Sammy did.
Once up on the branch Sammy could see what had been hidden from below. Between two slightly higher limbs was a platform with a tarp roof over it. Clearly, it must have been here that Tim had been seated when Sammy walked up. Its position meant that it was all but invisible from below, and Sammy surmised that it would be totally hidden when the tree was in leaf.
Tim pulled himself up onto the platform and indicated that Sammy should join him. Then he lay belly down, looking at a tree some twenty feet away. Sammy pulled himself up and got down next to Tim.
“Look, over there.” Tim indicated an old oak on the other side of the path and about twenty feet further along.
Sammy looked but failed to see anything. “What am I looking for?”
“Just below the second branch on the right. Look at the trunk.”
Sammy did, and became aware of a small greyish-brown shape moving down the trunk. “What’s that?”
“Certhia familiaris, it’s the only bird that can go down a tree trunk head first.”
“And what is certhia familiaris?”
“I thought you were supposed to be intelligent? It’s the common treecreeper.”
“I may be intelligent, I just don’t spend my time in trees looking a birds. Exactly why are we up here?”
“Avoiding my sister.”
“She’s taken up knitting, and wants somebody to hold her skeins open whilst she winds them.”
That response made Sammy even more puzzled, but he decided to go along with things for the simple reason that he rather liked lying up there on the planks next to Tim Warston. In fact, given that he had nothing else in particular to do, he could not think of anything more enjoyable.
“What did you mean… that you thought I was supposed to be intelligent?”
“Ma said that you were doing A-levels and you’re three months younger than me. I’m sitting GCSE this year.” The news that Tim was older than himself gave Sammy a shock; he would have sworn he was a year or two younger. He certainly looked it.
“Doing A-levels early is not a sign of intelligence, just of being a geek.”
“Are you a geek?”
“Well, everybody at school thinks I am; at least, everybody except my friend Mike.”
“What does he think?
“He thinks I’m….” Sammy was going to say ‘sexy’ but then thought better of it. “Er… special.”
“Am I what?”
“Are you special?”
“That depends on how you define special. All right, I’m two years ahead of my age group at school, and I do things that most boys my age don’t, but I don’t think that makes me special. Different, yes, but not special. To be special you have to be able to do something others can’t do. Everybody — or at least most people — could do what I do. It’s just that they’ve not had the background, or the interest or opportunity to do it. They probably do a lot of stuff I can’t.”
“Change a bike tyre.”
“You’re joking? Anybody can do that!”
“I’m not, and I can’t. The moment I touch anything mechanical it breaks. Ask my father… he’s forbidden me to even think about mowing the lawn. He says the ride on mower he’s bought is too expensive for me to break.”
“So you’ll need somebody to mow the lawn?”
“I suppose so, but that won’t be till April.”
“Tell your old man I’ll do it… a fiver for each lawn.”
Sammy nodded and turned to smile at Tim. “You really want to do it, Tim?”
“Yeah, I could do with the cash; going to get a moped as soon as I’ve got enough saved.”
That was the start of a close friendship. Every weekend that Sammy was home he would meet up with Tim and they would spend time together. Tim showed Sammy things which — in all honesty — Sammy would never have even thought about.
Sammy would have found it hard to say exactly why the friendship developed. It could have been that Tim was outstandingly attractive, but it also could have been that (much to his surprise) he found himself interested in what Tim had to tell him and show him. With Tim he could understand things which had previously had no interest for him. Tim even managed to teach him how to mend a bike tyre.
Sammy’s bike had been sitting in the garage awaiting repair since they moved, and had sat even longer in the garage at their old place. Once they had mended the tyre, the two boys started cycling around the area. During the half-term in May they cycled all the way out to Silbury Hill and then, in blazing sunshine, climbed it. It was two rather exhausted boys who collapsed on the side of the hill to lie in the sun and enjoy a break from all the exercise. Tim lay on his back watching a buzzard circling over the nearby road. Sammy lay on his side watching Tim.
“Sammy, can I ask you something personal?”
“Why do you have to ask? You’ve never bothered before, and some of your questions have been dead personal.”
“Well this one is a bit more personal than those. Are you gay?”
“Why do you ask?”
“It’s the way you look at me sometimes; also, I’ve seen you looking at men, like that road worker we passed on the way here. You nearly missed the bend because you were looking back at him.”
“Well you have to admit he had quite a body.”
“Yes, if you like that sort of thing… and I think you do.”
“Yes, I do, I think I am gay.”
“Only think?” asked Tim.
“Well, I’m fairly certain, but not absolutely sure. A friend at school and I have been messing around with each other for the last couple of years. We’ve had some great sex, but he says he’s growing out of it; he’s getting interested in girls, and doesn’t want to do it so much now.”
“I can understand that. One moment they are a pain in the neck, and then you turn around and they are the most important thing on earth.”
“I take it, then, that you’re not gay?”
“No. Sometimes when I see you I wish I was, but I’m not.”
“Why would you wish you were gay?”
“Sometimes when you look at me I see something that suggests that there could be so much more for us if I was gay. I even considered trying it again with you, but then I realised it would be unfair on both of us. I’d be faking it to you, and to myself.”
“You said ‘again’. So… you have tried it?”
“Yes, got into playing around with my cousin. Things got rather serious, and he said he was in love with me. Then we both discovered girls.”
“Shit, I’m a year or so too late!”
“Only six months, actually.”
“You don’t have to rub it in!”
“Sorry.” Tim leaned over and kissed Sammy on the forehead. “Does that make up for it?”
“I suppose it will have to as I can’t have anything more.”
“I didn’t say that; just… I can’t give you the relationship which you are after. If you want a bit of mutual release sometimes I am sure we can sort something out. After all, I’m going to need it as I don’t get any from Jenny.”
“Jenny? Who’s Jenny?”
“Girl from school. We’ve been out together a few times, but can only do it midweek as she is from Lower Ambyford and there are no buses coming this way at the weekend, they only run into Leytonford, then only up till four.”
“Big breasted, with long red hair, no doubt.”
“No! She’s got no breasts — or at least none that show — and her hair is cut short, schoolboy style, and it’s black.”
“Sure you’re not gay, Tim? That sounds more like a boy than a girl.” Tim grabbed an empty bottle and threw it at Sammy, who had to duck to avoid being hit.
Tim glanced at his watch. “Shits, we better get a move on. Ma will murder me if I’m not back to do the paper round.”
Strangely enough, Sammy found that the fact that Tim was not gay actually made things easier between them. Although Tim had suggested that there could be something sexual occasionally, neither had any inclination to follow up on it. Sammy in particular felt that to do so would be wrong. Somehow he sensed that, no matter what Tim had hinted at, any physical involvement between them would endanger what they had. Sammy did not want to risk that, for he sensed that in Tim he had found somebody who would be a good friend — but just a friend, even if he had at one time wished for more.
Although they rarely spoke about their schools, Sammy got the feeling that Tim was not happy at his. Oh, he liked to read and to study, and Sammy spent many an hour explaining something mathematical or scientific to him. He also helped Tim with English and German. Nevertheless, Sammy felt that there was something wrong for Tim at school.
One weekend Sammy was up in the Old Hay Meadow practising a bo[iv] kata[v]. Although part of the Dowager House land, the Meadow was some way from the house and cut off from it by the wood. It was, however, one of the few spaces where Sammy could practice with an eight-foot staff of Japanese oak without any chance of hitting or catching something. Although the lawns around the Dowager House were extensive, they were also filled with statues, ornamental plantings and other items that his great-aunt’s family had acquired over the preceding three hundred years, which made them less than ideal for swinging eight-foot staffs around.
Tim sat at the edge of the Meadow — in fact now more a clearing at the edge of the wood than a meadow — and watched. There was something peaceful about watching Sammy go through the sequence of moves in the kata, it was more like some form of dance than an aikido training method. Although Tim knew that it was a fighting exercise, he also understood it was a form of meditation. Just looking at Sammy’s face as he moved, Tim could see that he was totally lost in another world. Tim wished that he could be, too.
Sammy finished the sequence of moves and looked over at Tim, who seemed dejected. He also noticed that there was a bruise on the back of Tim’s wrist. Sammy moved over and sat down next to him.
“Come off it Tim, you’re as miserable as last week’s Sunday paper left out in the rain, and that bruise is saying something has happened. What is it?”
“I’d rather not talk about it, can’t we do something else? Can you teach me how to fight?”
Sammy leaned over and took hold of Tim’s shoulders and gently turned him so they were facing one another.
“Tim, why the hell do you want to learn to fight? You always told me you hated fighting.”
“I do, but sometimes it seems like the only way.”
“All right, something has gone seriously wrong and you better tell me about it. You don’t really have any choice.”
“Because if you don’t I’ll phone Jenny, then get Mother to go over and pick her up so that we can both nag you.”
“Of course I would, so cough up. What’s wrong?”
Tim looked for a moment as if he was about to cry. Sammy was ready to pull him into a hug when Tim took a deep breath.
“Alright, I’ll tell you but you’re not to say anything whilst I do.”
“OK,” Sammy nodded his agreement.
Tim was quiet for a moment, building up the courage to say what he did not want to say, even though he knew he really had to confide in his friend.
“Look Sammy, you know I have not been happy at school this year.”
“Well, Barry Goldmeister and his gang have been picking on me. I may be one of the oldest boys in the class but I am certainly the smallest. Barry keeps calling me queer and gay. Him and his mates have been bumping into me in the corridor, and pushing doors closed in my face.
“Over this last term it has been getting worse. Barry’s even made comments about Jenny, saying the only reason I’m with her is because she looks like a boy.
“I had a free period yesterday and had to go to the bogs.[vi] Barry and his mates were there. As soon as I entered I saw them and went to leave, but Grant grabbed me. He pushed my arm up behind me in a hammer lock, then pushed me down in front of Barry. Barry got his cock out and told me to suck it. Grant kept twisting my arm. I couldn’t stand it, so I sucked Barry. They were all laughing at me, and then Barry came in my mouth. After that he made me suck them all off. He said if I wasn’t gay before I definitely was after that.”
“You should have told somebody.”
“I did. I saw Buntage; he’s Assistant Principal and Sixth Form Head. Goldmeister is in the sixth form.”
“Well,” asked Sammy, “what did he do?”
“Nothing. He called them in to question them, and they all said I had gone into the bogs and propositioned them, offering to suck them off for a quid a time. Buntage told me afterwards that he believed me, but it was my word against four of them, and with no other evidence he could go no further, unless he called in the police.”
“He should have done.”
“Not so easy. If the police had believed their story I could have been in trouble. You know Social Services are already have us on the ‘at risk’ register because of that trouble with my sister a couple of years ago. We don’t want them getting involved, and if they thought I was propositioning other boys for sex in school they would.
“Also, Goldmeister’s dad is on the school’s Board of Governors. He’s OK — I’ve met him a couple of times — but he thinks the world of Barry, and thinks he can do no wrong. That’s how Barry’s got away with things so long.”
Sammy nodded, he could see the problem. Tim had told him that his older sister had got pregnant by a thirty year old man when she was fourteen. There had been a bit of a fuss about it as the man had claimed she had been prostituting herself and he thought she was sixteen. That, of course, had triggered a Social Services enquiry. He could see Tim would not want to risk there being another.
He decided to change tack. “Come on, let’s get back to the house, and I’ll get changed. Then I’ll get Mother to drive us into town; we can meet up with Jenny, and go to the flicks. I’ve got enough to get a taxi back after so we can be back before your paper round. Tomorrow I’ll start to teach you to fight, after you’ve done your papers.”
“OK, but forget the flicks. Jenny is at her gran’s this weekend. How about you start to teach me this afternoon?”
“OK then, but get a move on, this gi is starting to get uncomfortable. I need to get changed.”
As it was, their plans never came to fruition. Just after Sammy had finished his shower and changed into jeans and a tee-shirt, they heard the sound of a rather badly tuned car pulling up outside the stable block. Sammy’s sister had returned from university. Sammy rushed outside to meet her, followed by Tim.
“Hi, kiddo!” she called as she climbed out of a battered Morris Minor Traveller station wagon that had clearly seen better days about forty years before. “Give me a hand with these.” She indicated a pile of boxes, books and papers that filled the back of the vehicle.
“What’re you doing here… and where you get this?” Sammy enquired, looking with distaste at the car.
“As to your first point, I finished my exams on Thursday, and did not fancy sitting around in Sheffield for four weeks till the results go up. Barry’s gone off on an expedition to some distant and clearly uncomfortable place, so I thought I’d come home. This is Barry’s, we found it in a locked garage at a house sale. Barry got it for a few hundred. He only got it running a couple of weeks ago; when he gets back he is going to restore it.” Sammy remembered a rather gangly boyfriend that his sister had dragged home for Easter. Clearly, the relationship had progressed.
After they had all had some lunch and his sister had been grilled by his parents — on why she had come home early, why she had not warned them, and how medical school was going — the two boys spent a couple of hours helping to unload the car. It was not so much that there was a lot of stuff, more that it had simply been shoved in rather than packed. As a result they could only take out a bit at a time. They managed to get finished just before three-thirty, when Tim had to leave to go off and do his paper round.
Sammy’s sister watched as Tim cycled off down the drive. She looked at Sammy. “New boyfriend?”
“No, just a friend.”
“But you wish?”
“No way Sis, he’s far better as a friend than he would ever be as a boyfriend.”
“We have enough interests in common that we can share things, but we are different enough to be able to give each other space. If we were boyfriends we would find those differences would quickly start to grate and I don’t think it would last more than a few months. We would both need time to do our thing, and I am fairly certain the other would get jealous of the time being taken up. I’d give it six months at the most, if that. Friends who will last are more valuable; I think Tim is one.”
“You’ve grown up over the last six months! How are things with Mike?”
“They’re not. He’s discovered girls.”
“A bit late, but to be expected. I take it you haven’t?”
“No, Sis. I am fairly certain I’m gay: full, proper, one hundred percent queer.”
The siblings finished tidying up the stuff that had been moved into her suite of rooms, then made their way to the family lounge where they spent the next hour talking with their parents about studies, plans and the coming summer holidays. It was just before five when the phone went and Sammy’s mother answered it.
She came back into the lounge looking worried. “Sammy, did Tim plan to go anywhere before he went to do his papers?”
“No, Mam, why?”
“That was Tim’s mother. The paper shop phoned and said Tim has not turned up for his round.”
Sammy gasped then looked at his sister. “Mary, can you drive me into town? I know which way Tim went; we can look for him.”
Mary stood up, saying, “I’ll just go and get my keys.”
Her mother handed her the keys to the family car, and told her to take that.
The main road into Leytonford was to the left as one exited the driveway. Sammy told Mary to turn right, which took them first into Leyton Magna, and then, via a series of twisting country lanes, a back route into Leytonford. This was the way Tim would have ridden; it was also the route to his school, which lay on the outskirts of Leytonford.
They passed through Leyton Magna and turned off the road behind the Manor Farm into a narrow side road. They had gone about fifty yards when, just as they rounded a bend, saw Tim’s bike lying at the side of the road. Just beyond it was a huddled form which they knew was Tim.
Mary, after some basic first aid, left Sammy with Tim — who seemed to be slipping in and out of consciousness — telling him to try and make the boy comfortable, but to avoid moving him as much as possible. She then drove down into Leytonford to get a mobile signal, called the police and an ambulance, then let her mother know what they had found.
The next couple of hours were fairly hectic. Both of them had to make statements to the police, then recount everything to their parents.
It was just after eight that evening when Tim’s parents phoned from the hospital to let them know how things were.
Tim’s left arm was broken, and his right shoulder had been dislocated. He had a couple of cracked ribs and a fractured collarbone. The doctors were more concerned, though, about the possible side-effects from the concussion he had suffered, and they would keep Tim in the hospital for at least a few days. Sammy was told that Tim had regained consciousness and that, if he wanted, he could go in and visit Tim the next day.
Late that Sunday a visibly shaken Sammy stood outside the hospital waiting for his mother to drive around from the car park to pick him up.
He was way beyond upset; what Tim had told him had provoked him to anger, an emotion that Sammy was not used to. Anger, he knew, was to be avoided, but he could not help feeling furious when he heard what had happened.
Tim had been riding his bike down to the paper shop to do his round. As usual he had cut through Narrow Lane, only to find Barry Goldmeister and his gang waiting for him. They had been hiding behind the hedge at the sharp bend in the lane, and jumped out at him as he rode past. Barry, it seemed, was not happy that Tim had gone to the Assistant Principal after the incident in the toilet, and intended to teach Tim a lesson. It may be that the bully had got a bit carried away; nonetheless the ‘lesson’ put Tim in hospital.
Worse still, at least from Sammy’s point of view, was the fact that Tim had decided he was not going back to school. He would miss his last couple of exams anyway, being in hospital, and would have to re-take them next school year, but he had told Sammy that there was no way he could stand up to Barry and his bullies, so he would not return. Instead, he would go to Leytonford College and finish his schooling there.
To make matters worse, although Tim was able to name his attackers to the police, it appeared nothing could be done; all four boys had cast-iron alibis for that afternoon — all of which put them well away from the scene. Sammy thought it very convenient that all four of them had such strong alibis. Judging from the comments of the police sergeant he had spoken with, the police also found that somewhat strange. Without other evidence to support Tim’s account of events, however, they could not proceed.
What Sammy found most annoying was the feeling of helplessness that enveloped him. To make matters worse, he was not even going to be around for Tim. The following day he would be flying out to Japan with his father, and would be away for at least eight weeks. He had been looking forward to the trip but now, somehow, he wished he was not going.
* * * * *
The reflection of the full moon danced on the surface of the carp pond, a surface rippled from time to time by the languid movements of the koi[vii] within its depths. Sammy sat in zazen[viii] at the edge of the formal garden overlooking the pond. He had been there for many hours but the peace he was seeking had eluded him.
A man walked down the path from the wooden halls of the dojo.
He approached the seated figure. “May I intrude upon your solitude?”
Sammy looked up. “Of course Kinoshita-san, you are always welcome.”
“Sometimes, though, even the most welcome person can be an intrusion upon the need for private contemplation.”
“Only if the one seeking the peace of contemplation can arrive at their destination.”
“And you cannot?”
“No, Kinoshita-san, I find the inner quiet I desire eludes me. There are too many distractions within my thoughts.”
“Too many… or one with many forms?”
“I am not sure, Sensei[ix].”
“Remember when you arrived this time you told me what had happened to your friend?”
“You were upset about it, as is only right, but you were also angry; you felt that something should be done… and that you must do it. Am I not correct?”
“And those thoughts still fill your mind; the anger that is in you disturbs the pattern of your thoughts. Is it not so?”
“Yes, Sensei. I feel I need to do something about it; yet, would it not be wrong for me to use my skills to attack the one that my anger is directed against?”
“For you to go out and attack: that would be wrong, but to do nothing would also be wrong. Remember the story of the two men who hunted the tiger.”
“I do not know it, Sensei.”
“There was a tiger that was causing trouble for a village. Two men came to the village, and each offered to hunt for the tiger.
“The first man went into the forest and tracked the tiger, seeing its pug marks[x] and following them. All morning he followed the trail, and continued through the whole of the afternoon. By early evening he was deep in the forest, but there was no sign of the tiger. Then, as he stopped to consider his next move, the tiger pounced from the deep grass where it had been lurking, and ate the hunter for its evening meal.
“The second hunter took a goat, and each day he led it around the boundary of the village land, laying down its scent. Each evening he tied it up to a post just outside the village. One evening the tiger caught the scent of the goat and followed it to the post, where the hunter shot it.”
Sammy thought for a moment, then bowed. “Thank you Kinoshita-san, I think I can find a way to peace now.”
* * * * *
The flight home from Tokyo was a disaster. The plane was delayed for twelve hours because of a technical problem, and then had to divert to Stansted due to poor weather conditions at Heathrow. Sammy and his father then needed to make their way over to Heathrow to retrieve his father’s car from the long term parking. As a result, by time they got back to Leyton Magna it was well past midnight and they were both exhausted. Sammy was not surprised, then, to find when he woke up the next day that it was already mid-afternoon. He quickly showered and dressed, then made his way through to the main house, where he found find Tim sitting in the kitchen having a cup of tea.
“Hello, sleepyhead,” Tim greeted him.
“What’re you doing here? Why didn’t you wake me?”
“I came up to mow the lawn, but your mother says I will have to wait till they take this off.” Tim raised his arm to show a cast from elbow to wrist. “It should have come off two weeks ago, but the hospital says the break was bad so they want to give it more time. I’ve got to go back on Friday to have it off. I went up to see if you were awake, but you were snoring your head off, so I left you.”
“I don’t snore!”
“Yes you do.”
“Give it up, Sammy, you do snore,” his mother commented. “Here, you have some mail,” she added, as she passed him a pile of envelopes.
Sammy quickly shuffled through them until he found the one he wanted.
“When did this come?” he asked, waving the envelope.
“About two hours ago.”
Tearing open the envelope, Sammy pulled out the letter and unfolded it. As he read it the colour drained from his face. He could not believe what he was reading:
|English Lit||Pass||Grade A|
Only a B in maths! It was a disaster; Manchester University had offered him a place conditional on his getting an A. Of course, he had received offers of places at both Oxford and Cambridge, and he could take one of those, but he really wanted Manchester.
“What is it son?” his mother asked, noticing his distress.
“I’ve only got a B in maths. I needed an A to get into Manchester.”
“But you were in hospital when you took it, I’m sure they will take that into account.”
“NO, THEY WON’T!”, Sammy shouted, “I’ll have to do a re-sit. I’ll have to go back to school for a least one more term.” The moment he spoke he realised that here was his chance. “You’ll have to enrol me at Leyton Magna High. I’ll do another term in sixth form and re-sit in December.”
“You must be fucking joking!” Tim exclaimed.
“Language, boy!” Sammy’s mother snapped, although inwardly she agreed with Tim.
“No I’m not. It’s the nearest high school, and I really can’t do another term at High Down Comp; for a start, Mike’s starting at college in September and his family are moving, so I’d have nowhere to stay.”
“But what about Goldmeister?” Tim asked. “He and his gang will be on you like a ton of bricks.”
Sammy leaned back in his chair and looked out across the lawn to the woods. “Yes, I know,” he said. Then he smiled.
* * * * *
Sammy was acutely conscious of the looks he was getting as he made his way into his first class. He walked in and noted Goldmeister sitting at a desk near the middle of the second row. Sammy took a free desk at the end of the same row; from that position, if he turned his head slightly, he could see Goldmeister from the corner of his eye. He had just taken his seat when Mr Buntage walked in, went immediately to the board and wrote out an equation containing three unknown variables: .
“Right, class, you’re doing advanced maths. Can you tell me anything about this equation?” His eyes scanned his students. “Goldmeister, could we have your comments on it?”
“It can’t be solved, Sir. You have three unknowns; there is no way you could solve it with the information given.”
“Anyone else have a comment?” Buntage looked round the class. Sammy raised his hand.
“Ah, Richardson, isn’t it?”
“Yes, Sir. The value of x is four for at least one value of z.”
“Please explain your logic.”
“If you rearrange the equation so that the only unknown values on the left are z, you end up with z(z-5)+32 on that side. On the right, the instances of y cancel themselves out, leaving 2x2. Now, if you give z a value of 0, you end up with 32 = 2x2, so x must equal 4 when zequals 0.”
From the corner of his eye Sammy could see the look of horror on Goldmeister’s face as he understood the explanation that Sammy was giving. The answer was simple; and it was obvious once you knew what you were looking for. Of course, Goldmeister had not bothered to look; he had just jumped straight in with a standard observation.
The rest of the lesson was spent looking at equations and discussing how they could be reconfigured to put them into a solvable form. At ten-thirty the double period ended and the students started to make their way to their next classes.
Goldmeister carefully timed himself so that he was just in front of Sammy as he exited; he pushed the door open, then slammed it back to hit Sammy in the face. Unfortunately for Goldmeister Sammy was not there; at the last moment he had turned to speak with Mr Buntage. The door crashed closed with a loud crack as the glass panel broke.
Buntage looked up from his conversation with Sammy, then stepped forward and pushed the door open. “Goldmeister,” he yelled at the figure rapidly departing down the corridor. “I saw that, report to my office at twelve-thirty.”
He turned and looked at Sammy. “That, my boy, was meant for you.”
“I know, Sir,” Sammy smiled.
As he had no other classes that day he went home.
For Barry Goldmeister the next two days were the most annoying of his life.
He would barge into Sammy, only to find that Sammy was not there — which sent him stumbling into the wall. To make the humiliation worse, the other students around noticed, and snickered as they turned their heads away. Even the one successful move against the queer turned into a fiasco. Barry had seated himself at a table just inside the door of the canteen, where he was effectively hidden. As Sammy entered Barry shot out his foot to trip him. Sammy lurched forward and fell towards the floor… but then the fall took on a momentum of its own as if Sammy put his own force into the fall. That is exactly what Sammy did. Knowing that the fall was inevitable he did not resist, but threw himself into it, rolling on his shoulder and returning to his feet. He ended up facing backwards, looking at Barry. For a moment their eyes met, then Sammy gave a small bow, turned and walked away to get his lunch.
That afternoon there was a Social Studies discussion. All sixth formers had to attend, whether or not they were doing Social Studies for their exams. The discussion was open to any topic that arose. Neither Barry nor Sammy would ever be able to recall how the subject of the Holocaust came up that day, but somehow it did and there ensued an argument about the number of Jews killed.
“What about the others?” Sammy asked.
“What others?” one of the girls responded.
“The Roma, the Jehovah Witnesses, the homosexuals…”
“Fucking queer!” Barry exclaimed. “The Holocaust is Jewish; it was Jews the Nazis were killing, not others! You can’t claim it for other groups.”
“Why not?” asked Sammy. “Didn’t they suffer alongside the Jews? Did they not die in the same camps? Didn’t they go to the same gas chambers?”
“No! The Holocaust is Jewish, it must be Jewish!” Barry responded.
A girl at the back of the classroom looked at him with a puzzled expression. “Why?” she asked.
“Because the Holocaust is the reason for Israel! Without the Holocaust there is no reason for modern Israel to exist; without Israel we don’t have a land; without the land of Israel there is no refuge for us.”
“Because you need a land you deny us our Holocaust?” Sammy asked.
“Yes!” snapped Barry. “It is our land; it is the land given us by God; the land from which we were exiled by Titus.”
“Rubbish!” a boy shouted from the back.
Barry and Sammy both turned to see who was speaking.
“That Exile never happened.”
“Of course it happened,” countered Barry, “Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple and drove the Jews out of Israel.”
“No,” replied the boy — who Sammy remembered was called Phillip and was doing Ancient History — “In AD40 the Roman General Titus crushed the Jewish rebellion in Judea. His last act in the campaign was to destroy Jerusalem, which was the seat of the rebellion, and massacre all the Jews there. The Jewish cities that had not joined the rebellion, like Safed and many others in Galilee, carried on with no problem. In fact, Safed became an important centre of Jewish learning and remained so into the 18th century. At the time of the destruction of Jerusalem there were about a quarter of a million Jews in Israel. There were more than a million living in Alexandria and the rest of Egypt. There were probably similar numbers in Damascus and Syria, with a sizable population in Persia, too.
“The Romans did not drive the Jews out of Israel; you had already left. There were probably more Jews in Rome than there were in Jerusalem.”
“That’s not fucking true, you’re trying to steal our history! There was an Exile, and the Holocaust is Jewish!” Barry yelled. Just then the bell went and the class finished. Barry stormed out of the classroom. The rest of the class, somewhat stunned, sat in silence for a moment before moving on.
Barry made his way out of the school to the gate, where he found two of his gang; the rest, no doubt, would soon join them.
* * * * *
Paul breathed a sigh of relief; the queer was taking lunch in the canteen. Sammy had been at the school for five days, but this was only the second time he had eaten in the canteen. Paul had been afraid that Sammy was avoiding it following the tripping incident. If that had been the case Paul would have had no excuse to get close to the queer boy.
Paul felt physically sick when he remembered what Barry had said to him the night before: “I don’t care if you have to suck his fucking cock! Do it, find out where he lives and where he goes.” Paul knew Barry meant it.
He went to the counter and got his meal, then moved over to the table where Sammy was sitting.
“Is it OK if I sit here… the place is a bit full?” he asked.
“Fine, no one else is using it. Actually, no one else wants to be near me,” Sammy replied.
“That’s because you’re the new boy; they don’t know anything about you. Most people are wary of strangers.”
“I suppose that’s the case. Not that it matters… with a bit of luck I won’t be here long.”
“Messed up on my maths A-level, didn’t get the grade I needed. Having to do a re-sit.”
Paul nodded in sympathy, but wondered how you could ‘mess up’ when you managed to pass an A-level at Sammy’s age.
“So how come you’re here, not at your old school?”
“Oh, I moved over the summer. My great-aunt left us the Dowager House at Leyton Magna.”
“Shit, your family must be loaded to have that place.”
“My family’s not, my great-aunt married into the money. All that’s come our way is the house.”
“So, you’re a stranger to the area… how about joining me and some mates on Saturday and I’ll show you ’round.”
“Nah, Saturdays are always tied up. If the weather is good I go to the Old Hay Meadow by the Rectory Lane, and do moving meditation for a couple of hours.”
Paul felt relieved; he now knew where they could get the queer. For the rest of his meal, which he ate as rapidly as possible, he made sufficient small talk as to not look odd, then left as soon as he could.
Sammy sat back in his chair and smiled.
* * * * *
“Hi, Mary,” Sammy called up the stairs, “are you busy this morning?”
“I was planning on doing some photography or painting; need to get some done before I go back, only have two more weeks.”
“Any chance you could do it in the woods up by the Old Hay Meadow?”
“Why, what’re you up to?”
Mary came down the stairs from her rooms and looked at him. “Come off it, you’re wearing your gi and hakama. You don’t normally bother with them if you are just going for a practice. What are you up to?”
“I can’t tell you, and it will probably be nothing; but if anything does come off I might need somebody with medical knowledge close by.”
“That means you expect someone to get hurt. Just don’t let it be you!” She paused for a moment, thinking. She looked at Sammy. “You’re after those boys who did Tim aren’t you?”
Sammy was silent.
“Well, I’d better pack the first aid kit with my paints.” Mary turned and went back up the stairs.
* * * * *
About half an hour later Sammy met up with Tim (who was happily waving his arm to show that he had lost the cast) and the two of them walked up to the Old Hay Meadow. At the edge of the clearing Sammy gave Tim a video camera and asked him to place it in a huge old elm tree, high enough that it could take in the whole Meadow.
When Tim asked why, Sammy told him he was not happy with his kata. He wanted to record it from a couple of angles so that he could get some feedback from his sensei.
“So, you expect me to keep going up to switch it on and off?” Tim asked.
“No, I’ve got a remote. Anyway, the memory card is a 32GB that gives more than five hours’ recording time. Just start it and let it run; I can edit the video later.”
Tim climbed up the elm and placed the camera, checking that its field of view covered the whole area. When he came down he looked at Sammy. “You said a couple of angles, so where are you going to put the other camera?”
“In your pocket,” Sammy replied. He took a tiny digital camera out of his pack and pushed it into Tim’s shirt pocket. “Got that in Japan; this is the first time I’ve tried it.”
He walked over to an oak tree and dumped his bag. “Sit here, Tim. The lens just peeks out of your pocket, so it should catch everything. So, let’s try it.”
Sammy moved out into the open and did a few moves from the kata. He returned to Tim and looked at what the camera had shot.
“Perfect! Tim, all you have to do is sit here and try not to drink too much of the squash.” With that he went back to practising his kata.
Barry Goldmeister could not believe his luck. He had expected to find one queer in the Meadow, but there were two: bloody Richardson and that Tim Warston. He’d not expected to see that prick again; not after last term’s fun.
Goldmeister turned and whispered instructions to Grant, who slipped off to the side and started to make his way stealthily through the woods.
Barry returned his attention to the two fucking queers. Warston was sitting on the ground, leaning back against a large oak, whilst Richardson was doing some sort of dance. “Figures…” Barry thought, “the homo dancing in a long black skirt.” Barry was ecstatic. “Two for the price of one!” he told himself.
Tim yelled in fright as Grant grabbed him from behind. At the same time Barry, Parks and Saunders stepped out of the wood and walked across to face Sammy.
“Right, you fucking queer, I’ve had enough of you making me look stupid at school. Now you’re going to suck cock — my bloody cock.” Barry nodded to Parks and Saunders, who stepped forward and grabbed Sammy’s arms, as Barry started to undo his belt. Sammy seemed to lose spirit; he sank down towards the ground, and Parks and Saunders had to lean forward slightly to hold him up. Suddenly they were propelled forward, falling into Barry, who was knocked backwards. He pulled himself together and gave the two boys on the ground a look of disgust.
“Barry,” Sammy said, to gain his attention, “I make you look stupid because you are stupid. You came here to cause trouble, but I don’t want that; I am a man of peace. I carry no weapons; I have only my empty hands.”
“What you’re going to have is a fucking smashed face!” Barry shouted. He lunged forward, aiming a right-handed punch for Sammy’s head.
Unfortunately for Barry the head was not there. Sammy had already turned and was moving towards Barry; he caught the bully’s arm and pulled it inwards in a spiral towards his own centre of motion. Barry felt his body being lifted off the ground, which then came up to meet him with a hard thud. For a moment he lay there winded, then he looked up to see Sammy smiling at him.
Barry got his breath back and raised himself up into a crouch. He looked round for Parks and Saunders, but they had moved well away, having sensed that something was not going the way it was supposed to. Barry realised it was now him and the queer. If he didn’t deal with this bastard now he would be the laughingstock of the school. Rising to his full height he reached into a pocket and took hold of his knife, flicking it open as he took up a fighting stance.
Parks took one look at the knife and decided this had gone too far. Saunders nodded to him and the pair legged it. Grant called out, telling Barry not to be stupid.
At the sight of the knife Sammy breathed a sigh of relief. He knew from Barry’s posture that the boy was a scrapper, not an experienced fighter, so now he only had to worry about one form of attack. Barry would use the knife: it would never occur to him to kick or punch, simply because he had the knife in his hand.
Moments after Barry had pulled the knife on Sammy, Grant felt a sharp prick, just under his chin. Mary whispered into his ear, “Don’t move; just let Tim go, nice and easy.” He decided that disobeying that voice would not end well for him, so he did as he was told.
“You really don’t want to use that, Barry,” Sammy said calmly, as he seemed to glide slowly to his right.
Barry’s response was to slash at Sammy’s face with the blade. Once again, however, Sammy seemed to melt away. He turned on his back foot in a wide sweeping motion, putting him almost behind Barry, who could not quite understand what was happening. He was the bigger, the stronger, the fitter of the two; he had the knife, yet this queer was dancing all around him. He turned and stabbed at the queer’s stomach but it was not there. He was thrown off-balance when his knife merely slashed through the air where it should have hit solid flesh.
A hand grasped his wrist, the thumb pressing hard into his knife hand. Before he could pull his hand back for another strike an elbow slammed into his kidney, knocking him forward. Another hand joined the one on his wrist; together they pushed his own hand back towards his body. Barry felt himself being spun round like a rag doll in the mouth of a dog. With all his will he tried to force the knife back towards Sammy. However, Sammy stopped, then reversed direction. For a brief moment Barry became aware that he was moving one way while Sammy was moving the other — with his arm trapped between them. There was a sound like a piece of wet wood snapping. Barry suddenly felt intense pain, He passed out even before a reversing elbow — which Sammy added for good measure — hit the side of his head.
There was a grunt from the edge of the wood.
Sammy turned, to see Mary pressing the sharp end of her paintbrush deep into Grant’s chin.
“Good boy,” she said. “Now scarper! I’m not as good as my brother, but I can deal with you.” Grant took the hint and ran off without even a backward glance.
Mary looked over at her brother. “Since when was ushiro hiji ate[xi]part of aikido?”
Mary knelt beside Barry’s prostrate form and checked his vitals. “After that blow he will be out for a bit. I think one of you should call an ambulance; you might want to call the police as well.”
* * * * *
Tim watched the ambulance pull away from the meadow, before turning to Sammy. “You bloody bastard, you set that up, didn’t you?”
“Why? Because of what he did to me?”
“No, Tim, because of what he would do to others if he wasn’t stopped.”
Tim stared at Sammy for a moment, then pulled him into an embrace and kissed him. “God, Sammy, I almost wish I was gay. You’d make a wonderful lover.”
“I’m just glad you’re not — you are a perfect friend.”
* * * * *
Barry came to in the ambulance taking him to the hospital. With him were a police constable and a paramedic.
“Back with us are you, laddie?” the policeman asked.
Barry nodded, then immediately felt sick and started to vomit. The paramedic held a papier−mâché bowl to his face.
“Well, lad,” continued the policeman, “it seems you were lucky.”
“Lucky!” exclaimed Barry.
“Yes, you passed out in your second attack; you never had a chance to try a third time.”
“If I had I would have killed that bloody queer.”
“No, he would have killed you. He’s an Aikikai — and a high grade one, from what I can gather. They have a strict rule: at the first attack they put you on the floor but do no damage; the second time they dislocate or break something; if you go in for a third try, they kill you.”
“But he’s a queer!”
“So what? That gives him even more reason for knowing how to defend himself. Anyway, Barry Goldmeister, I am arresting you for possession of an offensive weapon, conspiracy to cause affray, and attempted murder. You do not have to say anything but anything you do say will be taken down and may be used in evidence against you.”
“But he tried to kill me!”
“Come off it laddie,” the constable answered, sharply. “Mr Richardson had a video camera running the whole time, he likes to record his kata so his teacher can check them. He showed it to me while we were waiting for the ambulance; you definitely started it, and you had the knife. If he had wanted to kill you he could have; just be glad he didn’t want to.”
* * * * *
The following Monday Sammy went to Mr Buntage’s office well before school started. “Ah, Richardson, I heard you had a bit of a run in with Barry Goldmeister over the weekend.”
“Yes, Sir, he seems to have taken offence at my lifestyle, and decided that he had to do something about it.”
“A decision, I understand, that has got him hospitalised and arrested.”
“Yes, Sir, it appears he underestimated my abilities.”
“I can appreciate that. Reading your file, I noticed you spent a considerable amount of time in Japan.”
“Yes, Sir, I try to go out and train under my sensei’s master at least twice a year, for a month at a time, or more if I can.”
“Could I get you to start an aikido club in the school? I am sure some of the students would be interested.”
“I’m sorry, Sir, but that’s not going to be possible.”
“I’ve been offered a place at Manchester University even with my B in Maths, so I am dropping sixth form. I will be going there at the start of October.”
“And when did you get this revised offer?”
“The weekend after I received my exam results.”
“So why did you come here?”
“I knew what Goldmeister had done to my friend, Tim Warston. If he could do that to Tim, who is not gay, what would he do to somebody who really was gay? I had to stop that.”
[i] General Certificate of Education Advanced Level, usually taken at age 18 in England. University entrance normally requires three A-levels.
[ii] General Certificate of Secondary Education, usually taken at age 16.
[iii] In England the first floor is the one above the ground floor, this would be the second floor in the United States.
[iv] Japanese for a staff used in the martial arts. The bo is a long staff, usually six to eight feet in length, as opposed to the jo, the short staff, which is four to six feet in length.
[v] Kata, a formal sequence of moves in the martial arts, which exponents repeat over and over again. The purpose of kata is to train muscle memory by constant repetition. It is also used as a form of moving meditation.
[vi] Schoolboy slang for toilets.
[vii] Ornamental domesticated common carp.
[viii] Seated meditation.
[ix] The term Sensei designates a teacher who teaches in their own right, it is also used as a formal term of address when addressing a person you regard as your teacher.
[x] The footprints of a tiger, specifically, but may be applied to any big cat track. Derived from the Hindi word pag for footprint.
[xi] Reverse elbow strike.