It was late January, my birthday, and bitterly cold again. We went on yet another Golden Balls walk. As we were marching briskly along, David spotted red kites above us — not one but two — and stopped to focus the binoculars which nowadays he always carried with him on our expeditions.
“Same tags on both,” he reported. “Left wing, yellow — that means locally born. Right wing, pink — that means 2009, I think. Numbers 77 and 102 … no, 103. Here, have a look.”
He passed me the binoculars. The birds were still circling, and after I bit of searching I homed in. Both wore, on the leading edge of each wing, a big plastic tag printed with a large number.
“They try to tag them as fledglings,” he explained. “Colour coded, so you can easily tell their origin and age. The number identifies the nest where they were hatched. I really think these two must live in Clifton Heath. Which is great … But,” he complained, stamping, “I’m turning into an icicle. My balls aren’t golden, they’re blue and colden. What about a coffee in the garden centre? And while we’re there have a pee? Rather than putting our cocks at risk of frostbite.”
On our way through the shop to the café David lagged behind, and when I went back to see what the hold-up was I found him gazing at a transparent packet containing something bright pink.
“I’m tempted to get you a present after all,” he said slyly.
I looked closer. The label said Prick Protector. Spluttering, I looked closer still. Below, in smaller print, it said For your comfort while pruning your roses. Why get pricked? The pink thing was a pair of thick suede gloves.
“Your prick is so precious,” he said sweetly, “it needs all the protection it can get.”
“And yours,” I pointed out, laughing, “needs just as much as mine. Tell you what, let’s buy this between us. You wear one and I’ll wear the other.”
When we paid for them, the young man at the till smiled a knowing smile. We had our coffee, and had our pee, resisting the temptation to go into a cubicle to try them on. Back in S312, having unfrozen, David cut the label off, stuck it neatly on a card, and propped it on my desk.
“Oh dear,” he said. “I’ve only just noticed. It says Ladies’ size. Won’t fit you, then. But might still fit me. For a few more months.”
Later, as we went to bed, we put them on. Mine did fit, after a fashion. But a pink suede glove stuck over a hard-on looks like … well, picture it for yourself. Gaudy cow’s teats, upside down.
“Bloody ridiculous,” said David. “White elephants. No, pink elephants. Pink elephants on parade … Eeeeek!” I was tickling him. “What’ve I done to deserve that? It was clever and witty … Well, all right … Look, it is your birthday. Would you like a treat? … Oy, I said treat, not teat. Not a present. Just something special.”
I did have an idea. I was not at all sure how he would respond. But he had asked.
“Well, there is something. But only if you’re happy about it.”
“I’m happy with anything. Except being buggered.”
“Then would you try massaging my prostate?”
“No problem.” He showed no hesitation.
“Absolutely sure? After all …”
“My hang-up over arseholes, you mean? Don’t worry about that, Peter. I’ve been working on it. Ever since you started playing with mine. Which got me playing with yours. Just tell me how.”
I told him, and handed him a tube of KY which I had bought, in hope, against the day. He lubed a finger and pushed it gently in. When I told him he had reached the spot he rubbed it, though his finger was only just long enough, while he wanked me with the other hand. It was out of this world, as my response must have shown. But when I offered to do it to him he said “Not now.”
Tom Gentleman came to us for another chat.
“I’d like to bring you up to date,” he said. “As you know, I’ve been ferreting away at Cedric Riddle’s motive, talking to people who’re reluctant to discuss awkward matters. But I reckon I’ve got there at last. His school and his university both admit that he showed all the tell-tale signs of the psychopath. He was disruptive and uncooperative. He seems to have had vendettas against innocent people. But he did get his qualifications. His first practice as a dentist was in Stoke-on-Trent, where he had a blazing and public row with the Lord Mayor over something quite trivial, and shortly afterwards the mayor unexpectedly died. In the light of what we’ve told them, the Staffordshire police are very interested in that, and currently they’re following it up.
“Then eight years ago he came to Dorchester, three years before everything blew up. He seems to have regarded himself as a highly-trained professional who deserved the community’s respect. He felt he had a right to the limelight, the right to dominate the local social and political scene. As your Dad said, he wanted seats on the councils and the school board, but Mr Faithfull and your Dad pipped him to the post. Therefore, in his twisted logic, they were deliberately standing in his way. He wanted prizes for his cows, but the judges wouldn’t give them, which therefore confirmed that your Dad had a down on him. Bill Faithfull told me, when you put me on to them, that he was an inspector of taxes in Oxford, and Riddle thought he was discriminating against him, though in fact Mr Faithfull didn’t even handle his tax returns.
“It all hangs together now. His motive wasn’t obvious before simply because psychopaths are so hard to spot. Small wonder that we didn’t. But the shrinks are quite sure he is unbalanced, though they don’t call him a psychopath. They never do. But he’s rather like Harold Shipman and the Moors murderers, though thank God he didn’t kill as many as them. Trouble is, nobody’s sure if he’s fit to plead.”
We chewed that over for a while. And as he was leaving he asked, apropos of nothing, what the dates of our half term were.
A week later it was David’s birthday. I had been into Dorchester by myself and bought a luscious-looking chocolate cake. After dinner I produced it with a flourish.
“Hey!” he said. “No presents, remember?”
“It isn’t a present, Dumbo. At least not just for you. Half of it’s for me, like the Prick Protector.”
“So you’re going to stick your half on your cock? And expect me to lick it off?”
Later, bloated, we stripped for bed.
“Seventeen and still a kid,” he said, squinting ruefully down at his body.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” I reminded him. “But look at these.” I cradled his balls and cock. “They’re coming along nicely, very nicely, and I’m doing all I can to encourage them. After all, muscles are developed and maintained by regular exercise, so surely these are too. Right, what would you like as your treat?”
“Will you do my prostate too, Peter? I’m ready for it now. Really I am.”
So I did his, just as he had done mine. When first I touched the magic spot he jerked in astonished delight.
“And I never knew!”
That had been his regular refrain on meeting a new experience. And how could he have known? This was not something to be picked up from eleven-year-old friends, however curious about their bodies. I brought him to climax. To judge by his groans and his arched back, he was going further than he had ever been before. He spasmed and sank back, temporarily exhausted.
He was not addressing me. I am not Christ. But, even so, I saw that unwittingly I had been responsible for a miracle. I put my arm round him.
“David, dear. Happy birthday! Kingdom has come!”
He followed my eyes down and did a double-take. At the tip of his cock was a drop of clear and watery moisture.
“Oh Christ!” he repeated. “At last! Oh, brilliant! Oh, thank you, Peter! Even if that does count as a present I won’t turn it down.”
He dabbed with a finger and tasted it, without squeamishness. Often enough he had tasted mine. With a broad grin he fell upon me, and soon he tasted mine again. And soon after that, for his recovery time was impressively short, I tasted his. At least I think I did, though there was not enough to be entirely sure. But careful monitoring over the next few months showed a steady increase in quantity.
Now that Dorchester no longer held any terrors, we could explore it more thoroughly. David gave me an afternoon’s guided tour of the ancient sites. We followed the ramparts of the Dyke Hills the full half mile from our pillbox to the river just above Day’s Lock, where there was a sister pillbox. Inside the great banks there was nothing to be seen of the Iron Age town, the land having been ploughed for a couple of thousand years, although, as he showed me, you could still find bits of pottery in the plough soil. Nor, other than present-day streets following the defences, was there anything to be seen of the Roman town. But the south-western quadrant of the village was not built over, and in the large expanse of allotments there the archaeologists had been digging off and on for years.
We went back to the Abbey too, not only with more flowers for Carl, but in a better frame of mind to admire the Jesse window, its tracery uniquely carved in imitation of the branches of a tree, and the effigy of a crusader uniquely shown crouched ready for action and in the act of drawing his sword. What with the Dyke Hills and the pillbox, hostility — whether prehistoric, medieval or modern — never seemed far away. Sarah also gave us an hour of her precious time to explain the meaning of the wall paintings in the church and of the ancient sculptures in the little award-winning museum alongside.
This was indeed David’s home territory, not just as his birthplace but as his belonging-place. He was in tune with it, and its history was in his bones. While we had no desire to see any more of Dorcic Hall than we had to, we would have to make sure, after we left, that he did not lose touch with his Dorchester roots.
Tom phoned yet again. The Criminal Cases Review Commission had whisked Charles’s case through and the date of the appeal had been fixed.
“But that’s half term!”
“That’s right. We thought you’d like to be there.”
The Saturday following, Mum and Dad came over to pick us up, and the four of us went on to Bullingdon. As expected — it could hardly be otherwise — they were an instant hit with Charles, and he with them. They had consulted their own solicitor and been reassured that David’s custody would revert automatically to Charles. They therefore discussed arrangements for him to stay at Hampstead for well over a year so that David could qualify by residence for Haverstock, and for as long thereafter as he wanted.
They were putting up overnight at the White Hart, and as some sort of a thank-offering to Sarah we had inveigled her into joining us for dinner. Dad, in his younger and wilder days, had not always seen eye to eye with the church and was not always complimentary about it now; but he readily admitted, after that evening, that by no means all clergy were dubious characters.
Two weeks into February, David’s hormones were still at full blast. It was I who made the next discovery too, if only because I inspected him far more often and more closely than he inspected himself. As was my habit, I was lying beside him and stroking my hand over his skin. I was lingering on his belly when I noticed them, just above his cock, on the left side.
Two little hairs.
He had always had the finest of down there, colourless and invisible except from very close. These hairs, however, though barely an eighth of an inch long, were coarse and pigmented. The colour was hard to tell, but they were dark.
“David my love! Welcome to the club!”
“What? Where? Oh my God! At last!”
We monitored them daily too. It was akin to watching paint dry, but as the weeks passed they grew longer and were joined by more and more colleagues. In this department too he was on his way. And so he was, I fancied, in yet another department. Over the last couple of months his voice seemed to have been mellowing from its sharp treble to a softer alto, but so gradually that it was unnoticeable from day to day. It only occurred to me when I thought back. But I did not tell him, because it might be no more than my wishful thinking.
At last half term arrived. From Hampstead the five of us — including Tim who had specially returned from university for the occasion — took a taxi to the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, where we met up with friends. The ether had been buzzing busily.
Sarah was there, with a large contingent from Dorchester making belated amends for their lack of loyalty. They included representatives of the district and parish councils and the Rotary Club, the head of St Birinus primary school, Riddle’s successor as chairman of the parochial church council, and several former friends of David’s. She also bore a verbal message of congratulation from Philip Justice. Tom was there, and in tow he had the Chief Constable, no less, of the Thames Valley Police. From Haverstock came the head, and Mr Booker, and a fair number of my friends including Doug and Helen. Mr and Mrs Faithfull had travelled down on day returns from York, and my grandparents from Swindon and from Scunthorpe.
The media were there, in force. Riddle’s appearance at the magistrates’ court had alerted them to what was going on. But from Dorcic there was nobody. That was no doubt our fault. We had told nobody there, because we felt that nobody would be the slightest bit interested.
The five of us waited outside until Charles was delivered in a prison van. Then we took our reserved seats in the public gallery. The proceedings were anticlimactic. As Tom had prophesied, they were over in less than five minutes. Charles Kingdom bowed gravely to the bench and stepped from the dock a free man. Outside again, we stood on the steps, our supporters massed behind us, as a scrum of reporters and cameramen jostled for position and flung questions which were parried or ignored. A few policemen struggled to keep things orderly. Euphoria reigned, and David and I were hand in hand. When I turned round I saw Doug grinning down at us.
“Kiss him, Peter!” he shouted.
We looked at each other and obeyed. A deep kiss, lingering, tongues and all. Mum and Dad and Charles moved behind us and held our shoulders in blessing. Cameras flashed. We could hardly be out more publicly. We saw the result on the six o’clock television news that evening, and it gave rise, we heard, to a number of complaints. It was bad enough, the diehards whined, to see homosexuals brazenly displaying their perversions in the street, but when one of them was so blatantly under-age … On the ten o’clock news, mercifully, after we had rung up the BBC to set the record straight, the newsreader made it plain that neither of us was under age, and the querulous voices were silenced.
With the police stopping the traffic, the whole of Charles’s fan-club then crossed the Strand to a pub where a room had been booked for a celebratory lunch. That over, we slipped — six of us now — out of the rear entrance into a taxi. The last thing we wanted was the media tracking us down to Hampstead. Mum and Dad might be eminent in their own way, but theirs were not well-known faces and there was nothing, we hoped, to suggest to the big wide world that Charles was staying with us. Back in the haven of our house, he lay low. He needed space and peace to adjust to ordinary life.
We took care, too, to give him plenty of time alone with David. They had a great deal of ground to make up, and father-son bonding took precedence over everything else. But once during that week we did venture out together. We took Charles, again by taxi and from our back garden gate, to Haverstock, to meet with the head by appointment and to show him the school. And at that session it was agreed that David would join it, and I would rejoin it, in the coming September.
Charles instructed Dodge and Dodge in Oxford to hand over his affairs to Mum and Dad’s solicitors, who informed David’s uncle that his role as guardian was ended and that control of David’s trust fund had reverted to Charles. Legally, therefore, everything reverted to normal.
So at the end of the week the two of us tore ourselves reluctantly away to return to the grindstone of Dorcic. Many of the people there, surely, had seen the TV or newspaper pictures of the scene outside court, but not a soul mentioned them to us. The only differences from before half term were that David now had his own mobile so that he could talk to Charles without borrowing mine, and his relief that all of his troubles were at last behind him. Even his physical growing up, though much progress was still to be made, was well in hand.NEXT CHAPTER