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The food bank line at South Norwood Mosque was longer than usual. The bitter January wind whipped around the buggy, smothering the cries of hunger from its tiny, almost emaciated inhabitant. Julia’s credit chip had been deactivated as a sanction for failing to attend her ‘Job Club’ meeting resulting in four weeks without the ability to pay for light, heat or food. She would have gone, she wanted to go and had every intention of going but Arthur was teething and cried all night. He finally fell asleep just before dawn as did Julia. A deep exhausted sleep, unable to be awoken by anything let alone the feeble peeping of the government-issued alarm. “We sent you an alert,” they said. “It’s not our problem if you are too lazy to get out of bed!” With the prohibition of cash for those needing benefit, there was no other way to buy anything except to barter or beg. Both of which Julia had done, to her shame, something she never believed she would ever do. The use of her body traded for bread and milk, pawed over, manhandled and on occasion, beaten senseless, just to feed herself and her baby. The chip wouldn’t be reactivated for another seventeen days and her only hope was that the food bank wouldn’t run out of supplies by the time she got to the front.
It had started to rain and Julia could feel the icy cold water seeping into her shoes. The same shoes she had worn every day for nearly two years. Worn out, riddled with holes and on their last legs. As Julia cast a weary eye up and down the line, she couldn’t help but chuckle to herself at the thought of her shoes being in better shape than most of the people queuing for sustenance. She felt envious of her shoes. At least they didn’t have feelings, responsibilities or dreams. “How nice must oblivion be,” she thought. That thought stayed with her as she trudged home through the grey, cruel, London winter. Back to her small, damp-ridden room. Back home to face another twenty-four hours of hopeless despair. Back home empty handed until the food bank could restock.
That night, Julia traded her body for a single syringe of heroin. Arthur slept as her patron completed the transaction. Alone now, she wrapped one of Arthur’s baby-grows tightly around her upper arm and stabbed the grubby needle deep into a vein. As the delicious warmth began to flow through her body, she lay back and waited for oblivion. This time however, it was an oblivion that she would not return from. This time it was permanent.
“Where’s my fucking starter, you pleb. I ordered ten minutes ago and I am still waiting!” The annual Bullingdon Club dinner was well under way. Foie gras, caviar, Bollinger and suckling pig. Ferrari, Maserati, Rolls Royce and Bentley. Arrogance, intolerance, bigotry and gluttony. A wonderful night was had by all. Well, not all exactly. The staff on minimum wage who suffered sexual harassment, racist abuse and physical assault didn’t have much fun. The restaurant owner who was threatened with closure should he leak any of the evening’s activities didn’t either. Dieu et mon droit: the divine right to rule, to take whatever one pleases, to be above the law and most importantly, the right to be untouchable. This is the natural order of things. The way it should be and the way God intended it to be. One percent of the world’s population has ninety-nine percent of the wealth while most of mankind languish in abject poverty. The elite are in control and they like it that way.
“Bully! Bully! Bully!” echo the cheers of thirty of Oxford University’s finest. “Bring on the pig! Bring on the pig!” chorus the world’s future leaders. It was the new blood’s turn tonight. A right of passage for all new members of the club. Tonight, Andrew Harrington would become a life member of the most influential group of over-privileged men in the country. By performing a sex act with a dead pig, Andrew Harrington, son of Lord Peter Harrington, would be accepted among his peers and assured a post in any government department he wished. Like his father and his father before him, stretching right back to Prince Leopold Duke of Albany, he was in esteemed company. “Three cheers for Andy! Hip Hip!” The deed was done.
Revenge is a dish best served cold and to look into the eyes of the man to whom you are serving this dish is the sweetest ingredient. Years in the planning, moments in the execution and dinner is served. A career in the army catering corps teaches you to do two things well: to cook for large groups of men and to kill large groups of men. Only one really mattered but the other twenty-nine Bullingdon boys would be a bonus. As the sounds of “Bully! Bully! Bully!” rang in the night air and the final super-car gunned its way down the drive, a smile began to grow across the proprietor’s face, sure in the knowledge that just enough nerve agent was added to the Eton Mess. Sure in the knowledge that Peter Harrington would know who had murdered his son and that the years of sexual abuse in the Albany Children’s Home had been his motive, the proprietor of Arthur’s Bistro began his campaign.
It’s the telephone call that every parent dreads. The call that causes your head to somersault and your knees to buckle. Total disbelief is followed by a slow, dawning realisation that your precious child is in serious trouble. Panic sets in as the primal instinct to protect your offspring is triggered but you are helpless to act. “Lord Harrington? Your son Andrew is gravely ill in Oxford General Hospital. Come at once.”
Screaming for his driver, Peter Harrington hobbled, as fast as his ageing legs could manage, to the waiting Bentley. “Oxford General Hospital, Simon, as fast as you can! Don’t worry about the speed limit, I’ll take care of the police.” The powerful Mulsanne lurched down the long leafy drive of the Harrington mansion, blurring the English countryside as Simon raced his employer to his son’s bedside.
A quick call to the Commissioner’s private line and a team of outriders met them on the motorway, clearing their path to Oxford.
Porton Down had done an excellent job developing the latest weapons grade nerve agent, Caburn. CH3)2N-P(=O)(-CN)(-OC2H5), was a deadly cocktail designed to kill slowly and painfully, instilling terror into your enemy at the mere thought of an attack. Caburn tricks the digestive system, causing the body to eat itself. Digestive acids enter the bloodstream, slowly dissolving the tissue, with the fingertip capillaries first and culminating with the vital organs and brain. The pain is intolerable, resulting in unconsciousness, but the cruelest, most evil ingredient of all is that any attempt at treatment can only be done with the patient remaining artificially conscious and fully awake. Andrew Harrington’s screams met his father’s ears as he entered the Critical Care Unit.
“Time of death: 18:25 on the 19th July 2044,” announced the Senior Registrar. Lord Harrington’s world fell apart. His beloved and only son and heir brutally murdered by the bastard son of a crack whore. How could Arthur Hayne do this to him? After everything Harrington had done for that boy and his pathetic mother. He had plucked him from certain death, starving, filthy in that stinking room. The stench of excrement and rotting flesh had filled his nostrils on one of his monthly ‘jollies’ to South East London. The sight of Julia’s corpse, needle still protruding from her decomposing arm, and Arthur’s frail, near lifeless little body alone in his cot, still haunted him to this day.
Simon had helped him cover his tracks for which he was truly grateful. Gathering up the baby and torching the building before planting Julia’s DNA on a local drug dealer, he had ensured that nothing could point to his employer ever being there or knowing the deceased.
It was this unfortunate incident that had prompted Harrington to open the Albany Children’s Home. Named after his great, great grandfather Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, it had been the perfect solution to his dilemma. Somewhere to deposit the child and somewhere to entertain his powerful ‘clients’.
That is how things get done. Provide a safe outlet for their perversions in return for loyalty and future favours. World leaders, aristocracy, business tycoons and above all, cabinet members of His Majesty’s Government. A crucial decision needed; a little leverage applied. MI5 had the details. Pictures, videos of fat, bloated, middle aged men buggering small boys whilst dressed in women’s underwear. You really wouldn’t want that to appear in the press now, would you?
Simon’s mobile rang and a voice he recognised asked a simple question. “Are they dead?” “Yes Arthur, all of them,” came Simon’s reply.
To wipe out the entire Bullingdon Club with one delicious blow was prize enough but to shatter the heart of the man who had overseen the abuse of hundreds of boys, including himself, over many years, was truly the icing on Arthur Hayne’s cake. Now, sitting alone in his bistro, the same bistro that he had blackmailed Harrington for on leaving the army after six years, Arthur planned every word he would say in court. He would name names. He would provide evidence, times, places, a birthmark in a private place, a snippet of information that only his abuser could have known and allow the jury and the public to join the dots, bringing the whole house of cards crashing down around them. Surely then, the revolution would begin. The people would rise in indignation and overthrow the government and elite rulers. He would be held aloft, a hero of the people, and a new era would be ushered in. An era of equality, without exploitation and suffering and above all, justice.
The inevitable knock at the door came and Arthur braced himself for the onslaught. Imagining the Secret Service, Special Branch or a full-on assault team, he was surprised to see a solitary Simon standing in the doorway. “I need a drink, Arthur,” announced a serious but welcome Simon. They cracked open a bottle of single malt and Arthur poured them both three fingers. Simon downed his and pushed the empty glass towards the bottle for a refill.
Throughout Arthur’s life, Simon had been a father figure to him. He had given him his surname, Hayne, and unable to stop the abuse, he tried to compensate by being there for Arthur whenever he could. Listening to him read, watching his magic tricks and steering away the more unpleasant ‘clients’. It was only when Arthur turned 18 and was preparing for basic training at Deepcut Barracks that Simon told him the truth about his mother and how he came to be at Albany. Together they formulated the plan for vengeance and to expose the elite for what they are. Simon had used his MI5 connections to gain access to Porton Down and enough Caburn to do the job. He would subtly manipulate Harrington to agree to fund Arthur’s Bistro, building connections with the Bullingdon Club members. Once all the pieces were in place, Arthur could leave the army and assume his position as proprietor of Arthur’s Bistro.
“They are not going to let this go to trial, Arthur,” whispered Simon gravely, cupping his hand over his lapel. Reaching for a pen and paper and a refill of scotch, Simon scribbled a message not intended for the ears of the Secret Service waiting outside.
They sent me to get you. Harrington wants you to suffer like Andrew suffered. They are going to use Caburn on you.
“Remember when you used to read to me and you were studying ‘Of Mice and Men’? Do you remember the ending, Arthur?” he said, sliding his empty glass and a 9mm Beretta towards Arthur.
Arthur raised his glass to Simon and then to his mouth. He repeated the process with the Beretta.
A soft voice called his name. A voice he recognised from somewhere deep down inside him. A sense of unconditional love and warmth enveloped him as he sank into the arms of his mother.