Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Lockhart, a nice little town in rural NSW





I spent a day and a night in the tiny town of Lockhart just recently. Just a town of around 800 people, but obviously a great council and an ample supply of artists. A notable feature were the sculptures that were seen all around the town. 

It's in NSW,  around a half hour's drive from Wagga Wagga, an hour from Albury.
http://visitlockhartshire.com.au/

It is an artistic town, with some wonderful street art. 


















The best of them all


On the basis of our temporary stay and talking with a couple of the residents, the two big problems experienced by this little town are both caused by government.  
 The first is that they absolutely do not want their Council to be amalgamated with another.  This is a push from State Government, with the purported reason that small councils cannot survive into the future. Since their success up to date is disregarded, I wonder if the real reason is some State Government bureaucrat wanting more power.  In our travels we've seen signs in so many rural towns - 'NO FORCED AMALGAMATION.' 
The other is that the so-called NBN rollout has reached Lockhart. (National Broadband Network)   NBN was supposed to deliver much faster internet speeds, and was to have given preference to places remote from cities, the places that need it most.  Well, that was years ago, the plan has been repeatedly downgraded, and according to the locals we spoke to,  their recently acquired  'NBN' amounts to a WIFI hotspot from a tower.  If you are in 'line of sight,' you can get it, if not, forget it.  But worse, it has messed up all other avenues, and even TV.  They spoke of a 'shield' that stops TV signals from Albury, as they used to have.  I don't know about that, but what I do know is that it's the first place in Australia, that we had no TV at all.  (Caravan, small antenna.)  Many no longer have internet. Farmers have no hope.  So much for the talk of ensuring good internet access for country people so that they would no longer be disadvantaged. 

I liked Lockhart.  It's just a shame that the government is so inept in their interference.  Though maybe they've done good things in other aspects.  We were only there very briefly.












Friday, 25 March 2016

The Death Mother



This is the opening chapter of my new book - a story about the Gift of Death.  


Early morning, Tea Tree Lake, Mortlake, Victoria

Chapter 1

It was a dream that began it, not just the dream, but the feeling that went with it - the feeling of an enormous love and compassion. I held the poor, poor skinny old lady in my arms. I held her with love, and she felt no pain from all of the sore spots and all of the aches that go with an old, old body. She weighed nothing at all, and I held her so gently. She needed to die. She needed to leave the body that was only a burden for her. It had been so long since she'd been young and free. For years she had yearned for an end to the suffering. She wanted to endure no longer.
And I gave her that. That body in my arms, weightless, feeling no pain for the first time in years. And she died. I gave her that. She died, and I carefully put her back in her bed and covered her. She was finally gone, finally free, finally without pain. Love. Compassion. And I freed her.
I didn't lose that dream when I woke, though if there were details, they were lost. What led up to it, what happened afterwards - if those things had been part of that dream, they were not retained. Just the feeling of an overwhelming love and compassion. And then the poor old, old lady was finally free.
If there was a God, it was what He should be doing, not me, just a very ordinary, middle-aged lady. Grey-haired, a worn face, and my own beginning aches and pains, the sign of what was to come, the trials that old people endure every day. Most old people, in spite of those stories of old people lifting weights or running endurance events. Most of us are not like that. For most of use, old age is an endurance event.
I continued to think about it as I went about the morning routine, showering, dressing, making and eating breakfast, the same as on every other day. It was as I rinsed my coffee mug that the identity of that poor old woman came to me. It was old Mrs. Campion, Vera Campion. She'd been one of those I'd visited the day before, one of the sad residents of the Nursing Home that was only a short walk away. My husband had spent his last nine years there. He'd been only fifty when he'd had that stroke, two years older than myself. The children had come to see him, even Deb, who'd been in Italy. It had been the holiday she'd planned for years, but she hadn't hesitated to cut it short. But seeing their strong father so helpless, just lolling there in the reclining chair, often dribbling, unable to speak, not really knowing how much he could hear and understand - it was too much for them. They'd tried, but their visits quickly became fewer. And they lived so far away, Jenny busy with her little son, such a demanding tot...
But Kane was eighteen now, in his last year of school. Quicksilver, they called him. My only grandson - lithe, black-haired, filled with the arrogance of youth. I didn't see much of him. I bored him, and I knew it perfectly well. His father's parents were different. They had wealth, a big home in a big city, and money enough to spend on their family. They travelled a lot, and were happy to subsidise their son and his small family so that they could go with them. It was no wonder that Jenny and Renzo spent far more time with his parents than they did with me. Me, Shirley Bridgewater, who lived in a tiny country town, had no career and not even a husband. Not any more. Stan. He'd been gone seven years now, sixteen years since our lives together had come to an abrupt end. There had been no warning signs, he was not a smoker, not a heavy drinker...
But I switched off that line of thought. There were occasions when I'd have a quiet cry, privately, for myself. But I'd be a lot more lonely if I didn't socialise, and while I found playing Bingo an awful bore, I would not tell my friends that. Joy, Gwen, Maisie and Christine. None of them were close friends. I had no close friends. But life would be unbearable lived entirely alone, and I took care not to show that I sometimes found their chatter shallow and their pursuits less engrossing than they found them.
So I checked my watch and prepared to go out to play Bingo. We'd probably have lunch afterwards, maybe at the pub, maybe we'd try the new restaurant just opened, though their prices were a touch fierce for a country town. It would be interesting to see how long it lasted.
*

 
Tea Tree Lake, Mortlake, Victoria

 This story is not much like my previous books.  I know the general direction of the novel, but have not yet decided how it will end. And it really did begin with a dream - that dream, vividly remembered.  
The difference is that the fictional character finds that the ones she dreams of, really do die. 

It is far too soon to speak of a possible date of publication.

Look for my books on online booksellers such as Smashwords, The Book Depository and Amazon.   
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Samray 
  http://www.bookdepository.com/Not-Man-M-McRae/9781477615966
http://www.amazon.com/M.-A.-McRae/e/B008BYWRQ2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1340847276&sr=1-1




Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Six Penwinnard Stories, now complete.







First came Bob's Story. Before becoming a 'winnard,'  he was 'Angel.' The first book is 'Angel No More.'

The background story was never published as a book, but can be read below, (bottom)



Angel No More

A boy is discovered walking on a country road. He is injured, exhausted, lost and alone. He refuses to tell what happened to him, and the name he gives matches no records. But he tells a story, a story of routine kidnaps, murders, and abuse. It wasn't him, though - he was never there. ‘Someone’ had told him about it. This is Bob's story.








                                              And then there was Sid.



You Gotta Have Manners

Young Sid very much wants a new mum and dad, and is willing to put a great deal of effort into finding one. He is good-looking enough, ‘passable,’ as he is told, but as he says rather too often, ‘You gotta have manners.’




Trevanian's Leap


Frank Ryan was coming to the end of his time at Penwinnard. He felt himself so much more grown up now than the scared kid he’d been when his mother had been sentenced to a prison term. But now there was more change coming – a new place to live, a new school, and he’d lose the friends he’d made at Penwinnard - Bob and Dallas, but especially Greg. He’d never really had friends before. He shouldn’t be frightened. He was so much more grown up now...




It was in this book that the Penwinnard boys first decided they wanted their special tattoo.

But only for those who'd done the Leap.








Lionel's Wedding

Welfare kids have got to be tough, but Steven Vikkers is not tough. He calls himself 'soft,' though at fourteen, he has not yet decided whether or not he is gay. Gays get bashed in his neighbourhood. Being a welfare kid might not be ideal, but it is safe.









Kids who wind up in welfare homes are those for whom life has not gone well. Often they are victims of poor parenting, sometimes they have no parenting. All of them carry scars.

Dallas has a shell, and he explains its significance - that you can see where tiny creatures have bored through its shell, and there are barnacles on it with broken edges.

'It's like us, you see? We're all scarred and some of us have awful memories, some of us maybe have nightmares or we're scared when we shouldn't be. We're not perfect, but the animal that lived in this shell, it grew very big and tough in spite of everything.'







There is more adventure than usual in this book, an attempted kidnap, and sadly, one of their beloved dogs is killed. Black Jessie, almost invisible in the night. But she helps save Jimmy and Steve.




Mutty's Fort

Mutty is the hero of the fifth book.  When a big storm wrecks their own beach, and changes the beaches all along the coast line, it is Mutty who seizes the opportunity.







He builds a ‘fort’ with the planks washed ashore – a small shelter that is good for playing, good for having a campfire on the beach, and when more serious problems arise, it acts as a centre for meetings and discussion.

The Penwinnard boys have to act together, they have to be clever, and they have to be persistent.








And now, the final book -  Price of Survival


It was called just 'the farm,' and was patronised only by the extremely rich. Its wares were beautiful boys, kidnapped and held prisoner. There was no escape. Instead, usually when they were in their late teens, they were 'retired,' put to sleep, never to awaken.

But a far more cruel death was chosen for the one they called Angel. No-one could have expected him to survive, but he did survive, and his survival led to the exposure of the farm, the rescue of the boys, and to charges being laid against over a hundred of its former clients.

There were repeated attempts to have the rescued boys killed. None succeeded. The farm staff were not as heavily protected. None survived.

But Angel is not with the other survivors. The clients assume that he died years before, and that is his biggest protection, far more than his changed name and his changed appearance.

Bertrand Zappacosta is a drug lord, extremely rich, extremely powerful. He watches a video - the one he knew as Angel as the 'star' of a snuff movie. But that second part of the movie, when he gets killed? He has his doubts, watches it several times, and smiles. Angel is alive. He wants him, and when Zappacosta wants something, he nearly always gets it.

Price of Survival was released at the beginning of March, 2016.







Penwinnard: Bob’s Story
This story is exclusive to this web-page.

The Penwinnard stories began as this – the short backstory for a projected TV series.
Bob’s Story  contains accounts of sex - boy/man and boy/young woman.
If this will offend you, do not read it.

Chapter 1:

Three men sat at their ease in the comfortable lounging room of a casino. They were in Nice, France, and they were speaking French, occasionally switching to English, and one of them used a German swear word. They were all three multi-lingual. The eldest, Ferdinand Berlocq, said, “It’s the only way you can enjoy what you want and be totally satisfied it won’t come back to haunt you.”
The younger man shook his head, “To me, it seemed such a little thing, but then it blew right out of proportion. I can’t afford to risk it again, but there’s nothing I enjoy more.” The prince’s father had been furious, but the palace had dealt with the scandal, and the one who’d talked had been successfully discredited. Prince Albirich was known as ‘The Playboy Prince.’ He was of one of the minor royal families of Europe.
 Berlocq assured him, “The boys are well treated, but they never see newspapers, never see or hear any news, so that it’s unlikely you’ll be recognised. The boys know only your first name, or choose another if you prefer.”
“But they must grow up. What happens when they’re grown and see who their customers actually are? What’s to stop them talking?”
“The boys do not leave the farm. I’ve never asked exactly what happens when they grow too old, but I’m assured they are never hurt, or made afraid. And they’re happy enough. I have my own favourite, though Franz tells me he has a new one, just eleven. He always charges more for the first time, and you can’t rely on the boy not to struggle, but it’s a temptation.”
“Eleven! Marc was fifteen and well paid,” the prince said peevishly. “I still don’t understand the fuss.”
“This one’s called Cherub, blonde, small built. A sweet face. Franz showed me his picture. And no repercussions, guaranteed.”
“Where does he get them from?”
“Better not to ask. His standards are very high though. They’re not gutter brats. They all speak well, and you’ll never be disgusted by the coarse habits of the gutter class.”
“Much of a selection?”
“Usually only five or six. They’re treated kindly as I said, but no risk is taken that they might escape. And very discreet. I don’t even know exactly where it is; not only do they use a limousine to pick up their clients, but it’s always after dark.”
“I wouldn’t like to pay such an amount without viewing first.”
“Oh, you won’t be disappointed. They’re all beautiful, ranging in age from eleven to sixteen, plus a young man in his twenties. Strong-built, beautiful shoulders, I think for the customers who prefer the other way.”
The prince wrinkled his nose, “No thank you. I can’t imagine not being the dominant one.”
“How about tomorrow night then? Luc and I will come with you.”
Luc grinned with anticipation. He served the dual roles of personal servant and bodyguard, but his employer nearly always permitted him to share his pleasures. Berlocq glanced at him and said, “Ask Luc to tell you about his Angel?”
The prince asked, “Luc?”
Luc smiled, “Angel. Hair as black as night, glossy and wavy, down past his shoulders, creamy skin, flawless, fine-arched brows - you’d swear he was a prince - a fairy-tale prince that is. Deep, deep blue eyes that look a challenge. He used to be everyone’s favourite, the most desirable of all, but then a few months ago, he started to fight it.”
“I thought you said they were well-trained,” the prince said to Berlocq.
“I did. Angel’s an exception. Franz doesn’t know what to do with him. Not many clients are willing to fight, but Luc says he likes the challenge.”
“It’s a requirement of my job to be able to fight if needed,” explained Luc. “So no lightweight kid is going to be able to stop me doing exactly what I want to do. Other men...” He shrugged, “Angel’s getting better each time and he doesn’t pull his punches. Not many would risk being hurt, not when there’s other boys there just as goodlooking in different ways.”
“He could be drugged, of course.”
“Franz refuses to do that. He has some strange principles considering what he does.”
The prince said hesitantly, “I suppose they’re all checked... disease you know.”
“Of course, though you can use some protection if you want. Franz doesn’t insist. I think he assumes that any man that can afford the price will have the sense not to get himself infected.”
*
Bakker said quietly to Angel, as he brushed the long hair, almost bluish-black, “They’re going to make me help with you from now on. They said you’re not to be marked, but you have to understand that when a client wants you, then you have no choice.”
“What about you? If they make you help, I might easily mark you.”
“I’m different. The ones who want me now, don’t care if I have the odd mark. But Ange, why do you fight? It only gets you hurt.”
“They have no right. I don’t like it and I won’t do it any more.”
“They seem to have given up with the whippings.”
“They were always fairly gentle whippings, it’s not like they’d risk making scars.” He turned his head, and asked, “Bakker, how do you manage to do it to some old man? I just couldn’t perform, I know it.”
“Mind over matter. I don’t want to find out what happens to the ones who leave. And anyway, most of the time, it’s just what we all do. It’s only a few who want that.”
“I thought it’s what they kept you for.”
“You won’t be kept much longer if you’re not making money for him. What do you think will happen to you then?”
“I guess the same thing as happened to the Spice-kid.”
Bakker said plainly, “They’ll kill you.”
“I think so, almost certainly. But since I can’t do what you do, it only brings it forward a few years.”
“I think you’re too small-built to be selected for that job anyway. They want bigger ones for that, maybe Renard when he’s older.”
The one they called Angel was only 5’ 4”, aged fourteen, but looking younger. He didn’t think of himself as ‘Angel.’ He’d been born Cameron Kilroy Miller, later adopted by the Declerques, but if he escaped, he wasn’t going to admit to either Miller or Declercque. He was going to be Robert James Kelly - ‘Bob,’ a nice strong name. Bakker was Pierre-Antoine Benichou, but he’d nearly forgotten that name until Angel had badgered him for it. He’d been ‘Cherub’ for a few years, then ‘Bakker.’ The names were given by Franz, use of them compulsory.
Bakker asked, “Make-up?”
Angel reached for the lipstick. He wasn’t Bob yet, and there was no point in being punished for the small things. He didn’t use much, just a little reddening of the lips, and a little eyeliner, expertly drawn around his eyes. The eyebrows were naturally clearly marked and very black, his eyelashes long, and he didn’t do anything further.
The new boy, ‘Cherub’ watched from the other side of the room. It would be him one day soon, though there had been no word that he was wanted this evening. Bakker had offered to do it to him just to show that it wasn’t something to be terrified of, but he’d refused. He was still hoping he’d be rescued in spite of the evidence from the other boys that no-one had ever come for them.
No-one had told him that they would never leave, only that it was better to submit. Even Angel said it was better to submit, and told him that when it had been him who was new, he’d allowed Bakker. He hadn’t wanted the first to be some old man who’d paid money for him, and Bakker knew what to do to make it hurt less. It was better if you knew what was to happen.
Renard was also preparing, carefully disguising a scattering of pimples on his face. Vivid red hair, freckles, a mischievous face, a gold stud in his left ear, indicating to clients that he was fully trained. Renard had an appointment with the man he knew as Ferdy. Renard thought Ferdy far too old for sex, but even he knew about Viagra. Old men had no trouble performing these days. It made no difference that it was a skinny old man. He had to do what he wanted. They all did, and his eyes turned to Angel, who’d suddenly started to fight a few months before. Angel was younger than himself. He had a horrible feeling that one day, they’d just find him gone, as the Spice-kid had just been gone one morning, and Pepita before him.
Jerome and Lex took no notice of the others. They were both costumed and made up, but had not yet been told if they had clients. They were not worried about it, and were playing in ‘Pinball Corner’ where there were several noisy games machines. They also had gold ear-studs, and Lex had large gold circle ear-rings as well. His costume included gold bangles and a gold chain. Franz liked the look of the gold against his black skin.
Bakker’s ear-stud was different, still gold, but much larger, and with a red-jewelled flower design. This one had meaning as well. It indicated that he was experienced and skilful when taking the dominant role in the act of sex.
Angel had never worn a gold stud. He’d been stubborn about certain things from the start.
The boys lacked little in the way of creature comforts, and Franz always treated them with kindness and generosity, sometimes showing a real fondness - just as long as they did their job and right up to the time they were to be ‘retired.’ The enterprise had been going for twenty-one years with never a problem in spite of the routine kidnaps and murders. Even ones like Bakker, used for several extra years, were eventually murdered. Franz didn’t think they could ever be fully trusted.
Angel was almost ready. He pulled off his casual clothes and reached for the outfit provided in the hope that he’d wear it, though he’d been refusing these past months. He said casually, “I won’t fight this time, not until I’m left alone with him. I might do better if I haven’t wasted my efforts on the staff first.”
Bakker said, “Angel, think about it. Really think about it. I don’t want you gone. And it makes no difference in the end, you know that.”
Angel shrugged, “I know that,” and he asked suddenly, “Do you think of girls, Bakker?”
Bakker said, suddenly bitter, “What do I know of girls? I haven’t seen one for thirteen years!”
*
One side of the large room in which the boys were confined was a see-through wall. Behind it stood Franz with his clients for the evening. Luc had eyes only for Angel, especially when he dropped his clothing, standing nude for a moment before making a face and pulling on the brief costume. He said, disappointed, “He’s going to behave.”
Franz was suddenly hopeful, “He is?”
Prince Albirich said quietly, “Glory, he’s beautiful!”
Berlocq said, “They all are, but I like my Renard. He has such personality.”
“Will he fight? I want Angel.”
Luc glanced at him, but said nothing. Berlocq wouldn’t let him have the boy if the prince wanted him. Berlocq liked being friends with royalty.
Franz suggested, “Look at Jerome in the corner. He’s bright and lively, and always tries to give his client a good time. Angel has always refused to do some of the things that Jerome does, even before he revolted.”
Albirich regarded the pretty thirteen-year-old, “Like what?”
Luc breathed a sigh of relief when Albirich settled for the blonde boy, and then Franz went himself and called Jerome and Renard for the prince and for Berlocq. The boys went off obediently, taking their clients to the rooms marked with their names. There were never more than six boys, and there were six suitable bedrooms for them to use. There was no special equipment. Franz didn’t allow cruelty, and the boys were not abused more than the act of sex with children was in itself, an abuse.
It was time to collect Angel. This time, Franz supervised as the three assistants surrounded him, and Franz said firmly, “Come, Angel.”
Bakker was still beside him, and gripped his upper arm, “Come, Angel.”
Angel glanced at Bakker’s face, and said sadly, “Yes, Bakker.” Maybe if they thought he obeyed Bakker, it would give his friend a longer life.
The assistants stayed back as Bakker steered Angel to the bedroom he always used for work. Each of them had a holstered Taser gun. They were a recent innovation, deemed necessary since Angel had managed to hurt Jacques.
Luc was waiting for him, smiling. Angel regarded him, and glanced at the door as he heard the sound of the lock. He said, “You do realise that if there was a fire, you would be in danger as much as I would.”
“There won’t be a fire. Are you going to behave, or do I have to force you?”
“I’ve told you. I will never submit voluntarily again,” but his voice didn’t convey any conviction.
Luc’s gaze wandered hungrily over his body, skin tight shorts rising high over buttocks, a glittery ‘string’ vest, showing off broadening shoulders. He was dressed to arouse, and Luc was very aroused. It had been three weeks since he’d visited the farm, and Franz had told him that it had been three weeks since the boy was last used, ‘So take care,’ he’d said. ‘I don’t want him damaged.’
Luc said huskily, “Take off your clothes, Angel.”
Angel’s hands went to his vest, ready to take it off, and he said, “Franz tells me I’m to have the piercing replaced, a gold ring through the nipple, but bigger this time,” and he smiled slowly, seductively.
Luc took a pace to him, unwary, and yelled as a fist took him square on his nose. But he looked up and smiled again, “So all right, you did say you’d fight.”
This time he was more careful, and while he took a few blows, he didn’t retaliate as he could have done. He’d lose this privilege if he marked the boy. It took twenty minutes, but in the end, he had him lying on his back on the bed, his wrists tied together and to the bars of the bed-head. He expected he’d lie still now, knowing it was hopeless, but Angel still fought, twisting, trying to free his wrists, and kicking as hard as he could. Luc lost patience, held his head still with a handful of hair, and gave him a hard swat across his face, “Behave yourself!”
He still didn’t have him naked, and he was impatient. The fight added something, and he cautioned himself not to be too rough. The boy was used to it, but still, it had been three weeks. He swung his own leg over the boys’ legs as he pulled the shorts down over his hips, and then caressed, even licking, holding the boy still with his weight. He liked to get the boy excited as well, and he could already feel the penis stiffening. The restless movements ceased, and the boy started breathing short instead. Luc pushed his vest up, and his hands roved over chest and nipples. There was a very small scar just below one nipple, where the boy had forcibly ripped out the gold ring. Was there really to be another one? He moved a hand lower, and started by slowly fondling, gradually speeding until the boy cried out as he climaxed.
Luc was triumphant. He’d have no trouble now, and he pulled the shorts right off and tossed them in the corner. He’d like him without the vest, but that would mean freeing his hands, and he’d had enough fight for one evening. He usually took him prone, as he was easier to restrain that way, but he seemed quiet now and he wanted to watch his face. The boy’s eyes were closed, and he stroked over the long black eyelashes, wondering if it was mascara or natural. The fight had gone out of the boy, and he decided to do what he wanted, simply to lift his legs up and take him that way. Quickly he stripped, watching him as he did. He was fascinating, the hair so soft, girlish, but there was nothing girlish in the way he fought.
Angel blinked open his eyes as the cold lotion was caressed into him, so gently, and the man had a soft look to him rather than a lustful one. He didn’t resist as his legs were raised, instead quite quickly becoming excited again and giving a soft groan as he was penetrated. Luc grinned and said softly, “You are mine, Angel. My Angel.”
Angel suddenly twisted, trying to free himself, “I am not yours. I am no-one’s.” But the man was in him, and he could not escape now. The excitement took him again, and when the man climaxed, he did as well. It was what he hated, that some man could pay for him, rent him, and he couldn’t stop it. He wasn’t going to live like this.
He was gently lowered to the bed, and he asked in a cold voice, “Satisfied?”
Luc laughed at him as he freed his tied hands from the bedhead, “Very satisfied.”
Angel lashed out hard with his foot, and caught Luc square in the balls. Luc stumbled away, clutching himself and swearing. Angel went after him, using his tied wrists together to hit, again and again, half berserk with his fury. He was not Luc’s, and he would not do this any more.
Luc was already hurt, and when fists crashed into his already tender nose, he forgot instructions, and turned on the boy.
*
Franz instructed Jacques, “Hold his head. I need to see whether there are any broken bones.”
Angel moaned as Franz pressed quite hard along the line of his jaw, and then his cheek bones. It hurt. Everything hurt. At last, Franz was satisfied, “No broken bones. We’ll just take him back to his bedroom.” There would be no trip to a doctor, no X-rays, and if his face had been ruined, as Franz had first feared, he would have been killed without delay and his body disposed of. As it was, he was to be allowed to recover.
*
In the limousine, Berlocq said, “Just don’t do it again, Luc. I had to pay double,” and he glanced at the prince, “Happy?”
Albirich smiled, “I’d buy him if only I could. He gave me a great deal of pleasure.”
“Franz never sells his boys. There would be a market, even for those he deems too old for use, but he says never. He doesn’t want them ill-treated, he says, and also, it’s a matter of being able to guarantee discretion.”
“I wonder if Angel will change his mind about fighting. I don’t want a fight, but I do want the boy.”
 “You know why he fights, don’t you?” said Luc, “It’s not that he doesn’t like it, it’s because he likes it too much. I didn’t expect him to start fighting afterwards, not when he liked it as much as I did.”
Berlocq said, “If he does stop fighting, I’d be first in line to have him again. I was the very first for him, you know. He behaved himself then. Only that he made a dash for the door when he was being returned. The exit door that is, not where he was supposed to go.”
“How long ago was that?” the prince asked.
“He was just twelve, I was told, and didn’t look that. Just a scrap of a child. Short hair then, but it’s been growing since. Franz doesn’t allow him to cut it.”
“It’s beautiful now.”
Luc thought that it hadn’t looked very beautiful all bloodied. He was ashamed of himself. He shouldn’t have lost control. It was only a boy after all. He must outweigh him twice over. He caressed his nose. It wasn’t broken, though it must have been close. He didn’t think he’d broken the boy’s nose. He’d had the sense to mainly hit into his body, to punish, not to damage.
Franz was deeply disappointed when the boy fought again the next time he was left with Luc. He’d hoped he’d learned his lesson. Then Berlocq told him he was leaving France for several months. Luc, of course, would be going with him. Luc was the boy’s only remaining client. He said as much to Berlocq, that there was no point in keeping him. It was not that he’d lost money on him - he’d made back his purchase price in the first few days of use. It just seemed such a waste. Berlocq made a different suggestion. He knew someone, and if he was to be killed anyway...
Franz said no to begin with. He didn’t like to hurt his boys, and Albirich said that he didn’t mind if he was drugged. There were a few others who said they’d have him like that. He could still make money.
It was two factors that turned Franz back to Berlocq’s suggestion, a sudden scarcity of the drug of choice, and then the time when Angel managed to get to him and hurt. He hadn’t meant to come in range of those surprisingly effective fists. Angel’s fate was decided even as a fat English Lord sweated over his body while he lay semi-conscious.
*
At breakfast a few days later, Cherub asked innocently, “Where’s Angel?”
Bakker said, “Franz has other places, with other boys. Sometimes he changes us around. Angel’s working somewhere else, that’s all.”
The boy looked around the table. Jerome and Lex were whispering together, neither of them eating, and both looking miserable. Renard looked like he’d been crying. Cherub didn’t think Angel was working somewhere else, not when in the last few weeks, he’d several times seen the assistants surround him and forcibly inject him with something that made him unable to fight. He pushed aside his plate and went outside. They were only confined in the special room in the evening. In the daytime, they had a large amount of freedom.
Cherub spent the next hour trying to climb the sheer walls. It was hopeless, as he’d known from the start. And he should have allowed Bakker to get him used to it. It had hurt like hell the first time, though he was used to it now. And his papa hadn’t come for him, and neither had the gendarmes, and they’d probably killed Angel. He took himself to a private corner and cried.
*



Chapter 2:
Angel paced the small room where he’d been confined for several days. There was a window solidly boarded up, and what furniture there was, was bolted to the floor. There was nothing he could use as a weapon or even as a bludgeon to try and crash through the walls. He’d seen no-one, spoken to no-one. His meals were pushed through a wide slot onto a bench, and if he pushed the tray back through, it would be removed. His demands for information had been ignored, though once he’d heard a brief conversation in the distance, a conversation in English, though he didn’t know if the language had any significance. His cutlery was plastic, but the meals were good. He hadn’t touched them for the first days, but his hunger had won, and as he hadn’t turned sleepy afterwards, he no longer hesitated to eat them.
He wore trackpants and a soft jumper. They were pure white, good quality, and in a soft fabric that felt good on the skin. Twenty sets were provided, all white, all the same. He wondered if that meant his confinement would be for just twenty days. No underwear was supplied, and no shoes or socks. He didn’t like the white clothing, he felt the white was sinister, but it was either that or nudity.
He had no memory of the trip from the farm to here, wherever ‘here’ was, only a blurred memory of a horrible smelling cloth over his face in the middle of the night and then a needle prick, he thought, though he wasn’t at all sure. So here he was where he assumed that the Spice-kid had been before him, as well as others who’d vanished before he even arrived at the farm.
He was wrong in that supposition. He was the first boy that Franz had ever sold to be ‘star’ of a snuff movie.
An elderly man called Kendrick Dearborn was one of many who stared at their computer screens. Dearborn was fascinated. The beautiful boy who was to die while he watched. It had cost a lot of money to get the password for this site, but now all he had to do was wait. The date and time wasn’t set yet, and meantime the boy waited, alone in a room with several concealed cameras, more in the adjoining bathroom. There was a locked door in one of the walls, prominently outlined in black. Through there was the killing room. He licked his lips as the boy’s attention was apparently caught by something, and he tried to peer through the slot where his meals were delivered. But then the interminable pacing resumed. There was nothing for the boy to do but wait, no books, no TV, nothing. His occasional bouts of shouting brought no response, his attempts at picking locks were unsuccessful. There was no escape. Dearborn thought that if it had been him, he’d be insane by the time they opened that door to the next room.
More people paid the large amount required, most quite old men, a few younger. There were no women. They were from many countries of the world. The explanatory text was in several languages. Viewers could watch the action, what action there was, or they could look at the photographs of the unnamed boy, or they could check several views of the killing room. There were no cloth surfaces in the killing room, a tiled floor, and in the centre was a timber frame. The boy was to be tied to that, hands above his head, while the masked men used their knives. The death was not planned to be quick. The room had been used before, and there were dark stains on the raw timber of the frame, though everything else was clean.
There was a hint that Interpol might be close to finding the source of the site, and the date was moved forward. One hundred and seventy-two men made sure to be free at 10.00 pm, Friday night, when an innocent boy of fourteen was to die. Among them was Ferdinand Berlocq, though not Luc. Berlocq suspected that Luc would not be pleased to see his Angel die. He was a little regretful himself, but this was something special, a play that was a long way beyond X-rated. He’d been recording the action from the start, though he only expected to keep the last part, the climax.
*
The door of the killing room opened without warning, and Angel swung around to stare at the two men dressed in black, and with black masks through which their eyes glittered with excitement. There were only two. Not many men are willing to kill children for pleasure. No-one manned the cameras, all of them fixed in place, the ones in the killing room quite obvious. It was not expected that the victim would be in a position to interfere with cameras there.
One of the men indicated, just a gesture, but clear in meaning. They wanted their victim in the other room. Angel watched them wide-eyed, and made no move to obey. The gesture was repeated, and when it was not obeyed, the first man slowly drew his large knife. Angel waited for no more, and flew at him, a fist to the face and a sharp blow to his wrist, and the surprised man found himself disarmed, the knife spinning out of his hand. Angel dived for it, and when the man tried to grab him, almost accidentally stabbed him in the chest so that he coughed twice and died.
The second man swore loudly, and was taken off-guard when Angel dived past him into the killing room and frantically tried the door that led from it. He went after him, but Angel was armed too, he was very fast, and was between himself and the exit.
Dearborn was pleased that he’d invested in an especially large computer screen. He was laughing. This was not what he’d anticipated. Other men, men all over the world, were glued to the screen.
The boy and the man faced each other, each holding a large knife, each holding it as an experienced knife fighter might hold it. The man made a feint, but Angel had by now guessed at the meaning of the ropes and the frame-work, had seen the cameras, and was fighting for his life. He leapt and the man reeled away clutching a bloodied forearm and barely holding onto his knife. Angel prowled, waiting for a moment’s inattention. The man was swearing continuously now, in English, but Angel was silent. Maybe he could avoid the fate of the Spice-kid. Maybe he could be Bob. All he had to do was kill this man. Freedom, how he longed for freedom, and again he made his move, slashing at the same wrist a second time, and then straightaway to the chest and toward the throat, this time taking a cut himself. The white jumper turned red. The colour was chosen to show the blood. It had been supposed to be a slow death of many shallow knife wounds, but things were not going as planned.
The man stood back, holding up his hands, one arm streaming blood, “All right, you can go.”
“The key to the door then.”
The man fumbled, pretending to look in his pocket, but only switched his knife to his left hand, and then lunged at the boy. Angel dodged, stabbed, missed his aim, but caught the man in the groin. Blood spurted from the femoral artery, and the man dropped his knife and tried to stop his life-blood flowing away. Angel kicked the knife further away from him, and retreated to the doorway into the original room to avoid the spurting blood. Only when the bleeding slowed right down, and the man no longer moved, did he shakily search him for the key to freedom. He looked uneasily at the door. No-one had come bursting through to help the men, but they could. Holding the knife ready in one hand, Angel managed to fumble the key into the lock with his other.
The watchers sighed as the boy unlocked the door and walked away. Some of them wondered if their voyeurism would be discovered since the scheme would probably be exposed, but most trusted to the anonymity of the internet. Sir Kendrick Dearborn wasn’t worried. He was a Justice of the Supreme Court, no-one would ever dare search his computer for those images that he relished. Young boys displaying themselves, younger boys being molested, though this was the first time he’d found something like this.
Ferdinand Berlocq sighed. The boy may be brave, but he could not allow him to go free. He knew too much, and Franz would never forgive him if his ‘farm’ was exposed.
Franz wasn’t watching. He hated himself for selling Angel to those people. He should have simply done it himself as he always did, and he made the five mile trip to the field where there was a group of labelled trees surrounding an incinerator. Franz had planted the most recent just a week before. It was labelled ‘Angel,’ and was the only one that had not been fertilised with ashes. His boys never felt their deaths. Just a pad of chloroform and an injection. He loved being an owner of beautiful boys, but it was better to be kind. A good farmer was kind to his stock. Only that in the past months, Angel hadn’t allowed him to be kind. Hardly any of his boys risked being whipped a second time, but Angel... And he the most beautiful of all.
Angel walked, away from the derelict motel that had been turned into a place for killing, away down the bypass road that had once been a highway, and continued walking. He started to shake. Fifteen days confinement, not knowing what was happening, and then they’d tried to kill him. And his side hurt where there was a cut, and he’d killed two men. The police would put him in another prison if they knew. Long ago when he was just a kid, he’d been told that police were friends to children, but they were not. He’d learned that at the age of eleven when his adoptive parents had been murdered and they’d accused him of doing it. Police were enemies. Men like Franz were enemies, and men like those strangers in masks - they were enemies. His ‘clients’ had been enemies. Every time he had a new one, he’d ask them to go to the police, that this was a crime, but not one of them had taken any notice except that a few had complained to Franz.
Shock set in as he walked on and on, down lonely country lanes, though the bleeding finally slowed. He was all over blood, a lot on his clothes, and he thought some on his face, and some even in his hair. And when he came to a stream, he waded in, stripping off the clothes, and then used the knife he still held to hack off his hair. He was not Angel any more. He would never be Angel any more. He was Robert James Kelly, called Bob.
When he walked on, he was wet and he was naked. His hair was short, in places so short his scalp showed. His knife was left behind, hidden under a rock. His bare feet were bleeding with numerous cuts, but he didn’t feel them. And his side had started bleeding again, but sluggishly. He walked on. By the early hours of the morning, his walk had become a shuffle, and sometimes he fell.
*


Chapter 3.
The computer expert gagged when he saw the bodies of his partners. Lester who’d been in the killing room... so much blood. And no sign of the boy. The ropes had not been used.
Within an hour, the motel was in flames, and Hercule was methodically destroying any evidence that could lead anyone to him. Title to the old and forgotten motel had been in Lester’s name, and Barry had taken in the money, then given it to Hercule to ‘launder.’ The two had not been very bright. There were no others involved, and no-one knew the location. He assumed the customers had enjoyed it. By the look of the bodies, they’d had their show, just not the show that was expected. He wouldn’t have anything to do with killings again. So much blood...
*
The doctor told the local policeman, “Exhaustion mainly, but his feet are badly cut about, and he’s had several stitches to what appears to be a knife wound.”
The constable said, “And he gives his name as Robert Kelly, you said.”
“Yes, but he won’t say what happened to him, says he has no parents or guardian, and doesn’t want to speak to any police.”
“Gang battle, maybe?”
“He’s only twelve. It seems unlikely.”
When McCormack tried to interview the boy, all he’d say was that he wanted a social worker present because a child of twelve was not supposed to be bullied by policemen. The kindly, middle-aged constable scratched his head, but relayed the request. The boy was right of course. There was always supposed to be a ‘child advocate’ when a minor was interviewed in relation to a crime. But surely the child was a victim, not a suspect.
Bob was sitting up in bed and feeling his hair when a social worker entered the room. It was a mess. Tidiness and cleanliness had been drilled into him by the nanny employed by the Declerques, and only reinforced by his time as Angel. The uneven clumps of hair offended him, and Jeanette was a little taken aback when he asked if by chance she had some scissors on her so he could improve on the haircut. But she was accustomed to the oddities of her job, and chatted as she trimmed his hair for him with some scissors borrowed from the nurse.
No parents, no guardian, his name was Robert James Kelly, he was twelve and his birthday was on the 14th of July.
“So you’re nearly thirteen.”
“Yes.”
But he steadfastly refused any information about himself and his past, or why he was collapsed at the side of a country road. Just politely requested that he be found a place at an orphanage, as at twelve, he was too young to get a job.
Constable McCormack returned, and again failed to get any worthwhile information, but as he finished and started to rise from his chair, a little stiffly with his bad back, he asked, “Were there other children? You don’t want other children hurt like you were hurt.” There had been no admission, but it seemed clear the child had at least been threatened with abuse. He’d been naked.
Bob stared at him. Bakker. And Cherub, just eleven, not much over two months since he was taken from his parents, but this man was not the one to talk to. And he’d be putting himself at risk. They’d already been going to kill him.
He lay back in his bed, staring at the ceiling. Renard, Lex, Jerome, and all the boys yet to be taken. There was a vacancy now he was gone. Was Franz already looking at acquiring a new one? He said, “Officer McCormack?”
By the following day, when Detective Superintendant Ralleigh arrived accompanied by Jeanette, he’d decided just what he wanted to tell them, and what he was not going to admit, even if they could not help but guess. He would not be Angel. He would never again be Angel, and he would never admit that he had been Angel.
He started by asking if the man had his notebook for some names, and then he started, “Emst Meimberg, now known as Cherub, originally from Frankfurt, Germany, kidnapped in April. Brendan O’Connor, known as Renard, Navan, Ireland, kidnapped around three years ago. Pierre-Antoine Benichou, known as Bakker, kidnapped thirteen years ago. He’s from Toulouse. Erwin Taft, from Lucerne, known as Jerome, kidnapped around eighteen months ago, and Paul Kiyingi, English, but black. Kidnapped around a year ago. He is known as Lex.”
Wisely, the detective stayed quite silent, and when Jeanette started to speak, he put a finger to his lips.
Bob went on, “The owner is called Franz, they were never told his surname. This is all what someone told me. It’s a place they call just ‘the farm,’ and the boys are behind a high wall and can’t escape or even see outside. It is near Nice but that’s all I know and I’m not certain of that. The one who told me says that new ones are always brought in asleep, drugged, and just wake up in the bedroom they’re to use. When a boy gets too old, he disappears, they think dead. The Spice-kid, disappeared March this year, real name, Dading Supatra, from Bali. Jon Guichard, French, known as Pepita, disappeared a couple of years before that. There were also Petite, Bandido, Papillon and Peter, but I don’t know their real names.”
He was in a wheelchair since his feet were so bad, and he stared at the wall of the hospital room, and finally sighed, “They were used for sex. The clients were very rich, probably some of them famous, all of them influential. And now that I’ve told you, they’ll want to kill me. So just send me somewhere quiet, and don’t tell anyone. Robert Kelly is my real name but they don’t know it, and anyway, I wasn’t one of them. Someone told me, that’s all.”
Jeanette was looking down. She’d dealt with rent-boys before, but not any that had been taken from their homes and imprisoned. Mostly they did it for money or a comfortable home, some for drugs.
The detective asked, “What did they call you, Bob?”
Bob shook his head, and said, “That’s all. Please just tell the French authorities, but don’t gossip. I would like to live.”
The detective smiled a little, “I think you deserve to live, Bob. And I certainly will not gossip.”
For the first time, Bob looked him in the face, nodded briefly, but then looked away again. You couldn’t trust a policeman, you couldn’t trust any man.
When he was very thoroughly grilled by a senior French detective, Commissaire Bazinet, his distrust was only confirmed. He turned silent after a bit, just staring away until the social worker intervened. Twice that day, a day off, and then two days running, again and again until the Frenchman was yelling at him and running his hands through his hair in frustration. Bob was adamant, he’d never been there, just what he’d heard. He didn’t know any more than he’d told them.
Jeanette was little help, as she too, thought the welfare of the other boys more important than leaving Robert in peace. She couldn’t think of him as Bob. Not only that he didn’t look like a Bob, but that she now knew what he’d been. She’d called him ‘Robby’ once, but he’d said, quite coldly, “My name is Bob.”
At last Bazinet said, “Emst Meimberg. His parents are distraught.”
Bob looked away. Emst, Cherub. He’d cried and cried in his arms when he was returned that first time. Some bastard called Tony. That was all he knew. He offered, “He probably has several years before they kill him. But they’ll be looking for another now. They like to have six boys, a variety, you see?”
“So if another pretty boy vanishes, then it might be Franz who’s taken him.”
“They have a black one, two blonde ones, and a redhead. They’ll be looking for one with dark hair probably. Or maybe an Asian or something, for variety.”
“One with dark hair. Like you?”
Bob said stonily, “I told you it’s nothing to do with me. Just what I was told.”
“Yes, Robby.”
Bob gave him a withering glare and looked away again.
There were less than a dozen patients in the small hospital. In the early hours of the morning, Bob bit his lip as he put tender feet into some stolen shoes. His clothing was far too big, taken from an old man who seemed to be dying. He hobbled as far as the front door, and paused. What was he going to do? He could barely walk, and he had no way of making money except by doing what he’d done as Angel. He sat on the floor, head down in folded arms. Maybe after a while the nurse would come with his wheelchair.
*
Helen MacKender said to her husband, “It’s a long trip.”
“It’s to keep it quiet. It seems this boy could be under threat. So I pick up Donna, drive there today, spend the night in a motel, and spirit him away very early in the morning. About seven hours drive each way, so I hope to be home soon after lunch tomorrow. No delay, as few stops as possible, and keep him out of sight.”
“Poor boy. A child prostitute, you said.”
The boys’ records were strictly confidential, but Ian trusted his wife implicitly. “A child prostitute who’s given important information to the police. They didn’t tell me much, only that we’re to keep his arrival as quiet as possible. He’s less likely to be found here, Ruth says.”
Penwinnard Boys’ Home had a capacity of twenty-four. Robert Kelly would make twenty-five. It was a charity home, but with routine inspections by the responsible government agency. Some private homes had been very poor in the past, but so were many government homes. Ruth Grierson was the government worker who had the job of ensuring the welfare of all children in care, but she was happy to work with MacKender. Not only was he good with the boys, but was lucky enough to have a very wealthy man interested in his home. Penwinnard was better equipped than most homes, public or private. It was Ruth who’d called him the previous day, explaining the need and also mentioning that the boy had wanted to run away, ‘only that his feet were too sore to walk on.’
*
Bob was feeling far more cheerful after lunch. First, old McCormack had dropped in with the news that Bazinet had returned to France to investigate, and that Ralleigh was satisfied he’d helped all he could and was grateful, or so the old constable stated. Bob wasn’t at all sure of that. After that first disclosure, he felt as if he’d been treated very badly, but that was police. And none of them had raised a finger to him, or even organised for him to be hurt by small events that could be classed as ‘accidental.’ He’d been given a far worse time after the Declerques had been killed.
And better, Jeanette arrived with a capacious bag of clothing, and explained that he was to go to a small private boys’ home. “It won’t appear in the system you see? In case you are under threat. It’s at the beach, and has an excellent reputation.”
Bob said, “A boys’ home? Not a prison or anything?”
“Of course not. You haven’t done anything wrong.”
Bob suddenly felt like crying as the images of two dead men came to him. It was less than a week ago that he’d been imprisoned in that small motel room with the boarded up windows. He’d consistently refused to answer any questions about himself. It’s why he’d been so browbeaten these past few days. They didn’t even believe his name, saying that there were no birth records for a Robert Kelly born anywhere near that date. But not all babies were registered, were they? He was Robert Kelly, and they’d just have to make a birth certificate for him if it was so important. And the men? He’d defended himself. There was nothing he’d done wrong.
Jeanette glanced at him and said briskly, “First thing tomorrow morning. So you have to do what Nurse Rebecca says, take your tablets night and morning, and keep the dressings dry. A doctor will take care of you there.”
Bob nodded, swallowed his weak desire to cry, and asked, “A beach?”
“In Cornwall. You’re a lucky boy. They don’t take many, and some they refuse. You’ll be going first thing tomorrow morning.”
But it was only a couple of hours later that a man appeared, hurriedly introduced himself as Ian MacKender, and said they were to go straightaway.
Bob looked at him with suspicion and refused to cooperate, even when a woman followed and tried to reassure as she grabbed toiletries from his side table, and tossed them in a plastic bag. Donna Naylor, social worker, she said. Bob rang his bell for the nurse and pulled himself out of bed, frightened and angry. They were not going to kill him. If he had to kill again to defend himself, he would kill again.
Ian would have liked to just bundle the boy up and take him. Instead he said, “There have been enquiries. A boy in his early teens with long black hair and a stab wound. They’re looking for you. It’s urgent now.”
“How do I know it’s not you wanting to kill me?” Bob was backed into a corner now, fists balled and half-raised.
Ian looked at Donna, who said helplessly, “Jeanette’s at least a half hour’s drive away and he doesn’t know me.”
Bob was looking at Donna. Women had never hurt him. He offered, “If McCormack or Ralleigh say it’s all right, I’ll go with you.”
But then McCormack bustled in, pushing the wheelchair straight to him and said urgently, “Quick, Bob. Ralleigh says to move you now!”
To Ian’s relief, Bob hesitated only a moment longer before settling himself into the chair, though still looking wary. Ten minutes later, he had him in the new van he was using, and was carrying him away from danger. Ian had been met with suspicion before, but he’d never seen someone so obviously preparing to defend himself. He smiled when he heard the boy quietly ask Donna whether she had any identification. It seemed he didn’t entirely trust Donna either.
Ian drove carefully, unused to the vehicle. It had been ordered by Ralleigh, who’d also taken charge of the van he’d been driving only a half hour before, the van which displayed the words ‘Penwinnard Boys’ Home,’ a total betrayal if seen by the wrong people. It was now hidden right out of sight.
He was beginning to relax once he’d been driving for an hour, quite unmolested, and Donna had taken a call to say that a certain investigator was being questioned. She relayed it to Bob - that Ralleigh was taking steps to make sure he was safe.
For the next hours, Ian drove on and on, half-listening to the lively conversation between the boy and Donna. It appeared that Bob had put his caution away, and was now relishing the sights of the road in between questioning Donna about every aspect of life at the home, and about the boys, and were there cliffs and do you think he could have some lollies when they stopped as he hadn’t any for years.
She agreed to that, but only slipped out briefly when Ian pulled up, and handed him the packet once back in the van, even though it had become quite hot and uncomfortable. She was surprised he didn’t complain that he wasn’t allowed out.
Bob sat contentedly in his seat with his lollies. They had been fed well at the farm, but there was only ever ‘healthy’ food. Donna declined a share, and he was surprised to find that he didn’t actually want many. At the farm, the boys would sometimes entertain themselves by trying to remember as many different sorts of sweet as they could think of. Greasy things too. Hot greasy, salty fish and chips, but whoever cooked for them was far more inclined to grilled fish and salad.
He watched outside for a bit as the sun began to sink, and they went on and on. At least it cooled down a bit, and then he really had to go to the toilet. Donna asked Ian, who said only, “I’m surprised you’ve lasted this long actually, Bob. Would you be OK using a bottle? That way you don’t have to show yourself.”
Bob regarded his bandaged feet, and sighed. They didn’t have a wheelchair, and he didn’t like the idea of putting his feet anywhere near a public toilet, some of which were quite disgusting. “A bottle then,” he conceded, but reddened afterward when he handed the used bottle to Ian to dispose of.
But Ian was casual, and said, “We did bring a wheelchair, but then there was all the urgency, and Officer Ralleigh said that we were stupid to use a van that said where we were going. Anyway, the wheelchair’s still in the other van.”
“He was all right. It was the Frenchman I hated. Looked at me like I was dirt and didn’t believe anything I said.”
“I haven’t been told much of that side of things. Only that you might be at risk, and then Ralleigh was taking charge of getting you out as quickly as possible.”
“Are we going to have dinner? I’m supposed to take a tablet with dinner.”
“Soon,” and Ian sighed as he climbed back in the driver’s seat. It hadn’t seemed so far on the way over.
Bob asked Donna where they were, and peered through the small window at the setting sun. He was getting quite tired, though he wasn’t sick enough to be in hospital or anything - just that he couldn’t walk yet. His side still looked ugly too, and hurt a bit. About nine inches long, quite deep on his side, but then only shallow across his abdomen.
Donna asked, “Do you want to know about your new school, Bob?”
“Yes, please.”
“Ryalston Comprehensive. There’s a bus but it’s only a little over three miles, and quite often the boys walk home.”
Bob said, “Do girls go there as well?”
“Quite a small school, boys and girls.”
Bob grinned at her, pleased. He wondered how long it would take to find a girlfriend. He wanted to have sex with a girl, the way it was supposed to be. But maybe he shouldn’t after all have put his age down. He’d thought it might put searchers off a bit, but it might also put off girls. It would make it easier at school though, since his education had been cut off short two years before, and had been erratic before that. The Declerques had been in the habit of suddenly deciding they were sick of a particular country, and setting off for another. He’d never complained about all the new schools - sometimes in languages he’d had to learn - the couple were fun to live with, and infinitely better than any institution or foster family he’d had. They never had found the mongrel who’d killed them, and there seemed no reason.
That day, a few children curiously poked around the ruins of a burnt out motel. One had a dog, who sniffed around a particularly smelly pile of charred timber, but followed his boy when he called. Aside from a temporary fence around the ruins, nothing further had been done except that an attempt had been made to notify the owner. The cause was assumed to be random mischief. The bodies lay undisturbed.
*


Chapter 4.
The Frenchman, Commissaire Bazinet, was back in his home office and still working. He didn’t like young Robert Kelly, but all the same, took care not to leak any information about why he was investigating child prostitution. He did contact the German police that he had some clue that young Emst Meimberg could be still alive, and after some thought, contacted the police of other countries. The boys named as alive had been from several countries, only Bakker was French. It was suggested that he pass his information to Interpol, but he wanted something more before he let it go.
A place near Nice, known only as ‘the farm.’ A place that catered for the very rich - but he wasn’t sure whether to take any notice of that. Probably it was just that the boy preferred to think he was worth something. Bazinet wrinkled his nose, a rent-boy. But Emst was the son of wealthy middle-class parents, and so was Erwin Taft. And Robert Kelly spoke well, he even spoke French well, though he said he was English. A pretty-boy. Could one really believe anything he said? But he had those names, and each one of them checked out, even the one he said was almost certainly dead. There had to be something to it.
Detective Superintendant Ralleigh had never doubted. The toneless way in which he’d recited those names, as if there had been a deliberate attempt to memorise them, maybe years ago. Maybe they’d all memorised each other’s full names in case one did manage to escape. So finally Robert had escaped, was frightened of his captors, but not so frightened that he could abandon his fellow prisoners.
Poor kid. The investigator who’d been trying to find the wounded teenager, had been arrested, but he would have to let him go, maybe in the morning. Fenna was a registered private investigator, and hadn’t broken any laws, except that they knew perfectly well he was not cooperating with them. Tomorrow, no doubt he’d report his findings to his real client, not the reporter who’d straightaway confirmed that he quite often paid him for good stories. He hoped he’d managed to persuade the hospital management to sufficiently fudge the records of Robert Kelly. The patient’s records now recorded a different name, and gave an age of eighteen. With any luck, Bob was away clean, and he smiled as he thought of that name. He was so insistent that it be used, but he just didn’t look like a Bob, even if he had cut his hair short.
He wished he knew exactly what had happened to him after he’d escaped the farm. He’d taken quite a deep slash from a knife, though luckily not deep enough to do any major damage.
For Bob, the trip started to drag once night fell. Cornwall was a long way, and he was not fully recovered from the stress of his injuries. His side had nearly stopped paining, but his feet were dreadfully sore. He curled up in his seat, not very comfortably, and slept.
Donna gave a sigh of relief. It was good that he was so enthusiastic, but she’d been travelling all day, ever since Ian had picked her up at her Ryalston home. She was tired and it was a warm summer day. She needed a shower.
Fourteen-year-old Dallas felt himself important as he fussed over the room that he was to share with the new boy, probably for two weeks until his injuries were healed. Mr. Sanders had asked him, and said he knew that he’d be kind to the new boy, who was only twelve. The room was a large one, and with a large ensuite, suitable for someone in a wheelchair. It was still known as ‘Kevin’s Room,’ though Kevin had died some years before. Attached to it was a smaller room, that had once been shared by Kevin’s brothers.
This was not the first time that Dallas had been asked to look after a new boy. His own background had been of severe abuse, though he’d been at Penwinnard for four years now. Martin thought that his history gave him an added empathy.
He put a book on the bedside table for the new boy, ‘Bob’ he’d been told, put the new wheelchair closer to the door, and wondered what else he could do to make the poor boy feel welcome. It was a good place, Penwinnard. Dallas knew. He’d teach him the whistles soon. What they called ‘the whistles’ was a quite sophisticated system of whistles that could call help for one of their own. Penwinnard boys stuck up for each other. It didn’t mean that there was not frequent fighting amongst each other, but if an outsider threatened, he’d soon find he was facing a united front.
It was well after midnight when Ian pulled up as close as he could get to the room he’d allotted to Bob. Both Bob and Donna were asleep. They hadn’t even stirred when he’d stopped for a while an hour back. He’d been supposed to drop Donna off in Ryalston, but didn’t want Bob to start thinking he was a potential enemy again. The woman had to be there. Instead he’d phoned his wife to make up a bed in the spare room of their own home. If she wanted to return to Ryalston that night, then someone else would have to take her. No-one was there to meet him, and there was no wheelchair waiting. He supposed he’d best wake Donna first.
Bob woke to find himself being held by a man, and went rigid, ready to fight. Ian said quickly, “It’s all right. I’m just taking you to bed,” and then chuckled ruefully, “That could have been better phrased. I mean that I’m taking you to your own bedroom which you’ll be sharing with another boy.”
“Is this Penwinnard? Aren’t I too heavy for you?”
“This is Penwinnard and yes, you’re too heavy, but the ground here is wet.” He indicated with his head in the dim light, “Over there is the beach, you can hear the waves. But for now, I’d best get you to bed. I’m worn out.”
“Thank you, Mr. MacKender.”
Ian was walking up a ramp now, and stopped a moment, resettling the weight in his arms. It wouldn’t exactly help to drop him. The boy was still a little stiff in his arms, not relaxed even now, but it was only a few steps more, and then he was inside, and nearly tripping over the wheelchair.
Dallas blinked open his eyes, and then sat up in bed, “Are you Bob? I’m Dallas.”
Bob was feeling perfectly lively again, and said, “Thanks, Mr. MacKender. I can manage from here.”
“I’ll get your tablets, and you have to keep the dressings dry, so just a wash, no shower.”
“Yes, Mr. MacKender.”
“Dr Tan will see you in the morning straight after breakfast.” Ian looked around rather blearily, and said, “Dallas will look after you.”
Donna appeared with the bundle of clothes from the van and said, “I’ll be seeing you Monday, Bob. I’ve slotted you in for twice-weekly counselling sessions.”
Bob looked at her in surprise, and then, quite definitely, shook his head and said firmly, “No counselling. I’m very grateful and all that, but I will not be counselled.” There was a slight ironic emphasis on the last word that had Ian looking at him in surprise. That was not the voice of a twelve-year-old, and he remembered that the reported search had been for a boy ‘in his early teens.’
Donna said peaceably, “We’ll see. Just a chat maybe. You probably still have a lot of questions.”
Bob gave her a rather grudging nod, and when she and Ian left, Dallas said, “She’s all right, you know. She says it helps to talk about things. I reckon she’s right. Liam does too.”
Bob nodded, but just put his feet very gently to the floor, and walked tender-footed to the toilet. Lots of boys in homes had stories of abuse to tell. Probably Dallas did, and this Liam, but for himself, he was just going to refuse to say anything, ever.
When he returned, Dallas still watched him, bright-eyed, and asked, “Do you need something to eat or anything? I can get it for you if you like. I always keep biscuits in my room, and I‘ve even got an electric jug to make tea. No milk though. You need a fridge to keep milk. ”
Bob declined, and reached for the pyjamas ready on his bed, coarse cotton, the same as the hospital had provided. At the farm, there had been much better quality sleepwear, individual rooms, each with an ensuite, and there was always fruit available. But there were also inspections, and one had always to be clean - clean teeth, clean nails, even toe-nails cut short and filed. It was part of their job, they’d been told. Bob grinned. It was a job he would not be doing again. He hadn’t cleaned his teeth, didn’t know where his toothbrush was. He asked, “Can Mr. MacKender be trusted? Sometimes men like to feel up boys.”
“There’s a rule, never leave anyone alone with a screw. But that’s from years ago. None of the men here are like that.”
“Who are the men?”
“Mr. MacKender, Mr. Sanders, old Mr. Taylor, and Lionel. He used to be a boy here, and then when he grew up they gave him a job. Some say he’s a bit stupid, but I think he’s good. And the women are,” he was counting on his fingers: “Mrs. Taylor, who cooks, and Mandy and Sue, who help her, but we have to help too when we’re rostered on, and we have to do some cleaning sometimes, and also if we do something wrong. That’s for punishment, you see?”
“No whippings or anything then?”
“Nothing like that,” said Dallas dismissively, and continued, “Also there’s Megan. She does the laundry and some cleaning, and you have to tell her if you need new clothes. And then there’s the painters, but they’re only temporary. They’re painting the chapel now, and then the offices where Mr. MacKender is. One of them used to be one of us, and that’s Ethan Smith.”
“You’ve got a chapel? Do they make us do religion then?”
“Not really. It’s about a hundred years old. There’s a bus goes to Ryalston every Sunday and anyone who wants to go to church can go. Donna’s a bit religious. She’s a counsellor, but she mostly only comes when they reckon a boy’s had a rotten past. Lots don’t like her, but I think she’s all right.”
“She bought me some lollies, but I must have left them in the van.”
“You can probably get them tomorrow.”
“Is school OK?”
Dallas made a face, “School’s school. Boring stuff, but the locals know not to pick on a Penwinnard boy,” and his voice had a note of pride.
“I’m supposed to start Wednesday, but in a special class while they decide where to put me.”
“A few of us had that. Liam never went to school at all until he came here, couldn’t read even. He had Mrs. Bettison for years.”
Bob said disgustedly, “A Special Ed. Teacher! I never thought I’ve have to have something like that.”
Dallas said anxiously, “It doesn’t mean you’re retarded or anything. I had her for a while, but I’m in a normal class now. It just means you might have missed a bit of school, that’s all.”
“At least I can read, I suppose.”
Dallas talked on and Bob listened closely for a while. When he went to sleep, Dallas didn’t notice immediately, telling him now about the shipwrecks that littered this part of the coast, and then the dogs, one of which was Liam’s and two which belonged to them all but Lionel looked after them.
When Dallas woke the next morning, the first thing he heard was the shower going. He didn’t think anything of it at first, only pulling himself up, and blearily rubbing his eyes. When Bob limped out showing a wicked red line running across his abdomen and side, with the criss-cross of stitches, he gaped, and at last said, “You’re not allowed to shower.”
Bob shrugged, “A wash is just not enough sometimes. I needed a shower.”
The last time he’d had a shower was the morning of the day he’d been supposed to die. Cameras had watched him. Men had licked their lips over his body. Most of those men had managed to keep a copy, though for the less computer literate, it was only a video of their computer screen. Seventy-four of them had printed out copies of the still photographs. There were still records of Angel.
Dallas asked, “What happened to you?”
Bob said casually, “Actually, I’m not planning on telling anyone, anything. So if people ask, just say you know but are not telling.”
Dallas stared at him, and then laughed, “I know but I’m not telling.” He was pleased at that. He was rather low in the pecking order, and this would give him some prestige. He slipped out of bed, “Want some help finding clothes?”
“That’d be good. I can only barely walk.”
Dallas said bossily, “Let’s see your feet.”
Bob didn’t object when his feet were closely inspected, and then Dallas ordered, “From now on, you only stand if you really have to. I’ll look after you.”
“I don’t mind being looked after.”
Ian slept until his wife gently shook his shoulder with the news that the doctor was there, ready to check the new boy. Ian glanced at the clock and swore. Already nine thirty, and Joe was due at nine. It was just lucky he was late. He started to scramble into his clothes, and stopped. “Offer him a cup of coffee, Helen love. I have to have a shower. I stink.”
Helen wrinkled her nose and said, “True. I’ll tell him.”
The doctor called from the next room, “I’ll just go and see him, will I? I assume it’s the kid being raced to and fro by all the young ones.”
Ian peered out the window, and grinned as he saw the shouting crowd surrounding the new boy. Bob was laughing helplessly as he clung to the sides of the wheelchair as it reached a speed it was never designed to reach. If the boy who’d been a prostitute was traumatised by his experiences, it wasn’t showing.
When he joined the doctor and the boy, Dallas was also with them. That was the old rule in operation, Never leave a boy alone with a screw, laid down long ago by a boy who knew about the sort of man attracted to teenage boys. The doctor was not a ‘screw’ but Dallas still sat on the bed, looking very interested as the doctor dressed Bob’s feet and instructed, “You must keep it dry, so have a wash, not a shower. Continue with the antibiotics, but you can leave the abdominal injury uncovered if you like. It’s healing well.”
Ian said, “Maybe some socks over the bandages so they won’t get dirty.”
Bob asked, “When can I start walking again?”
“When it doesn’t hurt too much,” the doctor said. “It’s up to you, just take care not to open up the cuts. And you have to be more careful of the other wound as well. If you’d been sent sprawling, you could have done some damage.”
“The stitches will just dissolve, won’t they?”
“That’s right. I’ll see you again before you start school, and someone will have to change the bandages, preferably every day. And I have to check what tests you had at the hospital.”
Bob nodded. He’d never thought about diseases one could get from sex, and as far as he knew, they’d all been very healthy. Fit as well. Three hours exercises every day had been compulsory. It was not something he’d ever rebelled against, and may even have helped him defeat the masked men. Fighting against Luc had helped him as well. Luc had even given him some laughing pointers now and then. It was strange how Luc had treated him, almost as if he cared. It made no difference. No decent man would rape, especially not a child. At least he’d never complained when he asked him to help him escape. A whipping was standard punishment for embarrassing a client.
Ralleigh held Fenna in custody as long as he legally could, and when he was released, had him followed. He wanted to know who he reported to.
Fenna spotted the inexpert surveillance very quickly. He took his time, and when he lost his tail, it appeared accidental. Only then did he report to Berlocq that there had been a young teenage boy found collapsed at the edge of a road, but with short hair, not long, a knife wound across abdomen, and damaged feet. He expected to have his name and current whereabouts quite quickly.
Berlocq was relieved. Angel could not be left to talk. He reminded Fenna of the need for discretion and left him to it. Fenna was a competent investigator, with some useful contacts, but Berlocq planned to use someone else to do the hit. He’d give instructions not to hurt or even frighten. The boy’s courage had earned him an easy death. He felt a little melancholy that Angel had to die, and turned to his computer to run again the film of his fight at the end. Berlocq had watched two other boys die on that scaffolding. It had given him pleasure. It would have given him pleasure to see the end of Angel as well, the boy he’d initiated into his life as a catamite - it was only appropriate that he saw the end of that life.
There was a good half-hour of Angel just pacing around, half-heartedly trying both doors, the one near where his food was brought in, and the other with the black outline. The computer screen was very large, and Berlocq watched for a bit, and then went to the window of his luxury apartment and looked out over the city of Dubai. There was an important business deal in the balance and he was in the midst of trying to negotiate more favourable terms for himself. Ferdinand Berlocq was an extremely wealthy and powerful man.
Luc entered just as Angel happened to look up at the hidden camera, and he froze. He knew that room, the sinister door behind him, and turned an accusing face to his employer. Angel, who’d sobbed in his arms once. The boy who’d showed him his face of passion. He’d never had such a response from a sex partner before, and he’d relished it. He’d watched such a film with his employer once, but had declined the next time it was offered. The children always wore white...
Berlocq said, “Luc...” but then Luc saw Angel jerk towards the black-edged door as it was opened, and Luc gave a cry of rage and grief and broke the monitor with the brief case he was holding. And then he turned on Berlocq.
Berlocq never had a chance to try and explain himself, never had the chance to say that Angel had escaped. When Luc left, the brief-case was filled with a large amount of money and Ferdinand Berlocq was dead. The multi-national company he’d headed was in for some uncertain times for a bit, and incidentally, Angel, now Robert Kelly, was a lot safer than he’d been an hour before.
*



Chapter 5.
Ian was amused to see the younger boys flock around Bob. He wasn’t quite sure what the boy had done to become popular so quickly, but he was showing no signs of discomfort or shyness, and when the boys around him were suddenly in stitches of laughter, he wondered just what he was telling them.
Bob was tired again. He’d thought he was better, but perhaps he was not as recovered as he wanted to be. Still, it was an investment, making himself popular. It was a hint that Veronique had given him when he was to start another new school, ‘Play up to them, cherie. And remember, you are like us, one of the beautiful people. People will be willing to be your friend just because of your looks.’ And it was true, he thought. But you still had to make an effort at the start.
The French detective, Mssr. Bazinet, closely inspected the picture of a twelve-year-old boy who’d disappeared. The boy was very good-looking, he had black hair, a little long, and his smile showed perfect white teeth. It was likely that he had been chosen to replace Robert. He asked, “Any distinguishing marks? Scars, tattoos, piercings?”
The father said, “Nothing like that.”
The boy’s mother had hardly said anything, too distressed, but now she said, “The burn scar, remember, Claude?” She turned to Bazinet, and said, “A burn scar down his front, left side. It was a scald, and shows bright red with a patch of wrinkled skin.”
The father admitted, “I’d forgotten that. He never shows his chest.”
In a motel room not far away, Franz closely inspected the sleeping boy. He always made sure they were perfect before taking them to the farm. Jean-Pierre was not perfect, and he sighed. It was proving quite difficult to replace Angel, but he’d had to go. He’d felt it a real blot on his reputation to have a boy that needed to be drugged for use. His boys were supposed to be well trained. Even Cherub was well trained now, though they’d all sulked for a bit after he’d retired Angel.
Jacques asked, “Leave him?”
Franz nodded.
“I’ll just tuck him in bed then.”
Neither of them molested the child.
At the farm, the boys were playing a ball game, shuffling the ball around the soft green grass of the playing field. A hard surface might mark knees with grazes, which would displease Franz. It was important not to displease Franz. None of them wanted to disappear. And when later that day, Franz inspected them and then commended Cherub on his good behaviour and told him he was to have a gold stud in his left ear, he didn’t dream of arguing.
Jacques always did the piercings. He enjoyed it. He did the whippings as well, though there had been no call for that since Angel had left. It was a knack he took pride in, maximum punishment with no marks. And if he hadn’t actually relished the glares of hatred he’d received, he could assure himself it was for their own good. They had an easier time if they behaved, sometimes earning themselves an extra year or two of life. None of the staff used the boys for sex. Franz would have felt it poor policy, but anyway, none of them were attracted to them in that way. All but Franz were married, and Jacques had young children. His children were indulged.
There was a special meal for the farm boys that evening, and they were provided with a gift of a dozen new books and some inflatable toys to play with in the heated swimming pool. Franz considered the bodies of swimmers to be the most beautiful of all and they were encouraged to spend time in the pool. Franz was the only one to provide them with new things. It was against his rules for the clients to give them anything. Cherub was given a few gifts just for himself. He smiled and said thank you, but when Franz was gone, he fingered the new gold stud, and wondered what his parents would think of him now.
A few hours later, about the time the rejected boy opened his eyes to look around in confusion, Laurens Bazinet supervised a raid on a Paris brothel. There were several illegal immigrants, some underage girls working under duress, but no boys. The madam was questioned extensively about similar establishments which might offer boys to their clients, and came up with an unsubstantiated rumour that there could be a very exclusive club operating. One of her clients had mentioned it once.
“His name?”
“Our clients are always confidential!” she protested.
Bazinet raised an eyebrow and she gave a name. It was an indication that Robert’s story might be true, and when he heard that the kidnapped boy had not been harmed, just waking in a motel room, it was another. Not many paedophiles would have rejected a boy only because of a scar. Bazinet was a very determined man and he started digging deeper. What he needed was a client of the farm, but none of them were likely to come forward with information.
There were more visits to brothels, usually made without warning. More underage girls were rescued, and more illegal immigrants were returned to their countries of origin.
Bazinet contacted Ralleigh, who’d been having similar results in England, a few underage girls, illegal immigrants, but no boys. He hadn’t even heard any rumours of boys, though Bazinet had three times heard that there was a place, supposed to be very expensive, and one had told him that any potential new client had to come with a recommendation from one of their regulars.
Bazinet asked, “Tackle Robert Kelly again?”
“I’d rather leave him for the moment. If we have to, maybe.”
“Probably soon another boy will be added to their collection.”
“Robert told us all he could, and you were pretty rough on him. He’s just a boy of twelve!”
“If that’s his real age. He seemed older to me.”
“Maybe, but I don’t want to trouble him yet. I’m told he’s doing well where he is.”
Bazinet had little choice but to agree. He didn’t know where the boy was, and while he could probably find out, seeing him without Ralleigh’s cooperation would not be approved by either of their police forces.
*
At Ryalston High School, Bob listened carefully to the Maths teacher’s explanations, and then started working at the problems set for him. He was still in the small ‘Special Education’ class, but other teachers were giving him some extra help. He’d been promised that if he could catch up with the few subjects he was behind in, he could go in with the fourteen-year-olds the following year, rather than those of his own age. He’d scored very high on the General Knowledge test, in spite of knowing little of anything that had happened in the past two years, and he’d scored very high on the IQ test. It was a policy of the school to accelerate and enrich learning when they found an especially able student, and they’d like one of the disadvantaged Penwinnard boys in their OC stream. ‘Affirmative Action’ was no longer a rallying call, but it was practiced whenever the opportunity arose.
It was a week and a half since he’d arrived at Penwinnard. He no longer used a wheelchair, though he did still use crutches. There had been a particularly deep gash across his right heel, and even now it was tender to walk on.
Dallas, with Simmo, Jay and Wally, three twelve and thirteen-year-olds, surrounded Bob as he emerged a little late from class, and Wally promptly grabbed his bag. It was a bit of a competition to help him with it.
Leith Hoskins scowled at him, and when Bob stood at the bottom of the steps, ready to climb into the bus, quite deliberately moved forward and kicked out one of the crutches. Bob grabbed a bar to avoid falling, and turned to snarl at the big boy. Roddy intervened, saying, “Leave him alone, Hoks.”
Leith smiled at Roddy, “An accident,” and added condescendingly, “Sorry, little Bobby.”
Bob glared at Leith, and said, “I am not little Bobby. And I really think you should pick on someone a little more your own size - unless of course, you’re too much of a coward!”
Dallas quickly picked up the crutch, and elbowed himself forward a bit between Leith and Bob. Bob still glared in the direction of Leith, but Dallas said, “Just get on the bus, Bob,” and added in a whisper, “Roddy’ll sort him out.”
When Dallas boarded straight after Bob, holding his crutches for him, Bob said quietly, “Tell me about the big boys.”
“They don’t take much notice of us mostly. Just tell us what to do sometimes.”
“Leith?”
“He hangs around with Jack and Tom. They’re the black ones who look like brothers but they’re not. They’re going into the army as soon as school finishes. They want to be SAS. And Roddy, he’s sort of like a boss. He’s a good sort, but he can fight when he needs to. He’s going on to University at Falmouth. There’s a scholarship fund just for Penwinnard boys. Then there’s Luke and Tighe, but they have a year of school to go yet. They get in trouble sometimes for sneaking into town at night and getting into fights.”
“So who else is leaving besides those?”
“Leith is finishing school. I don’t know what he intends to do, but when you’re eighteen and finished school, you can’t stay any more.”
Leith was very aware that he had to leave soon, and felt a sense of panic when he thought about it. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do, where he was supposed to live. He hadn’t done well at school, had no job aspirations, and while there was a mother, he didn’t want to live with her, even if she’d wanted him back. For the moment, he tried to hide his worry, and tagged along with Jack and Tom as he had for the past four years since he’d arrived. The black boys seemed to have all the confidence in the world, and while they seemed often to be in trouble, everybody liked them anyway.
Ian MacKender was speaking to one of the shopowners of Ryalston. “He’s strong, and he knows how to follow orders. The only thing is that he doesn’t think for himself. So for instance, if the floor needs sweeping, you might actually have to tell him to sweep the floor. He won’t notice by himself.”
The shopkeeper protested, “Ian, there are local teenagers looking for jobs too.”
“I know, John. But they all have homes, and Leith doesn’t have a home. If you knew where he came from... He deserves a job, and he won’t have much chance if someone doesn’t help him out.”
“I hope you’re not expecting me to house him as well!”
“I’ll ask Mrs. Bayliss. She’s got a couple of rooms free.”
“I think the wife has someone in mind, a bright girl she’s known since she was little.”
Ian gave up, and asked instead if John’s grandchild had arrived yet. They talked for a bit, and only when Ian turned to go, did John say, “About this kid of yours. I’ll talk to the missus and let you know.”
“Thanks John. I’d appreciate it.”
Every year Ian had three or four boys leave, sometimes more, sometimes less. He preferred that they had a job to go to. Some of them had come from generations of social security recipients, many from drug addicts or career criminals. He felt it essential that they not slip into the same habits as their parents. And Leith Hoskins was far too easily influenced. If he was established in Ryalston, he could keep something of an eye on him. And Mrs. Bayliss helped as well. She could appear a real battle-axe, but she had a soft heart.
*
July 14th was the date that Bob had nominated as his birthday. He’d almost forgotten until after dinner, when instead of a fairly plain dessert, the cook walked in carrying a large cake, followed by one of her assistants with another cake, plus a large bowl of lollies. And then Dallas nudged him, and asked, “Your first birthday party, is it, Bob? You’re looking gobsmacked!”
Bob scratched his head, and said, “I guess I am a bit gobsmacked. I wasn’t expecting this,” and he beamed up at the elderly lady who was the cook, “Thanks, Mrs. Taylor. This is great.”
Ian and his wife were both at the head table. Ian didn’t always attend meals, but he always did if there was a birthday. Helen rarely attended meals. She found the boys rough and rowdy, even when she was sorry for them. It was her decree that they were never asked to help with meal preparation. She didn’t trust their hygiene. Ian murmured to her, “Some boys have never had any sort of a birthday party. Tom, for instance, told me that at home, a birthday meant a clip over the ear and extra jobs.”
“Is it time to take him his present?”
“Please.”
Helen presented the gift, “From Penwinnard, with best wishes.” There was always a gift ‘from Penwinnard.’ Ian didn’t like individual staff to give the boys gifts. There were too many boys, and one should not show favouritism.
Bob was beaming. He’d had to be given so many things, from clothing to a toothbrush. There were all the school things needed as well, including a laptop computer. And now there was a paintset, just for himself. Not something because he needed it, but a real present. Before he’d taken that in, Dallas had presented him with his present, not wrapped, a very large bar of chocolate, ‘I know you like chocolate,’ and then Jay and Simmo gave him a small framed painting, and Jay said, “Lisa Tan did it. She’s the best in the school at art, and I asked if we could buy it for you, and she just gave it, and then we bought a frame.”
Even Wally gave him a bag of lollies. Their small allowance didn’t extend far, and Wally said generously, “I could’ve nicked it, but I bought it. It’s for you.”
Presents. Real presents as the Declerques used to give him. He really was Bob, his birthday 14th July. Not Angel. The farm boys didn’t have birthdays, though Franz gave them lots of games and books. The farm was in the distant past. He was Bob, who had an ordinary birthday, and was given presents.
Leith Hoskins was beginning to loathe Robert Kelly. His own birthday had been a month before, and while he’d had the usual Penwinnard gift, the only other one had been from Tom and Jack, combined, a t-shirt they’d pinched from a souvenir shop the last time they’d gone to Falmouth. He was thoroughly jealous of the boy who seemed to have everything he wanted. He’d probably even be adopted. The goodlooking boys were always adopted.
He jostled him afterwards as they went out the door, but Bob was in such a good mood that he scarcely noticed. He didn’t want to be bothered fighting on his birthday.
*
At the farm, the new boy, Milo Forgione, now called Beni, watched as the others prepared for their appointments. He’d been there four days, and knew what it was all about. Cherub had advised him to let Bakker. ‘It hurts in the beginning, especially the first time, but Bakker says he can make it so it hardly hurts at all. And anyway, it’s a matter of cheating the bastards.’
Bakker noticed him looking miserable, sat down beside him and put an arm around him, “It’s not so bad. We all get used to it.”
Beni said sullenly, “What if I don’t? What if I just refuse?”
“At the beginning, they will force you, which will hurt you far worse than if you cooperate. If you continue fighting it, then one day you will disappear, and there’ll be another new boy here.”
“Cherub said there was a boy called Angel and he disappeared.”
“Angel did what they wanted for a long time and was very popular with the clients. But then he changed his mind and started fighting. He didn’t last long after that.”
“What happened to him?”
“Dead. I’m sure he’s dead. They want us for one thing, and if we don’t provide that, we get killed.”
“Does he say that?”
“Franz doesn’t say anything about the ones who disappear. Jacques sometimes tells us they’ve gone to school or something like that.”
Beni protested, “It’s not fair.”
Bakker stretched out long legs encased in leather and leaned his back against the wall. “It’s not fair and I cannot think of anything to do different that won’t get us punished or killed.”
Beni took a deep breath, and said, “Tomorrow then,” and he gave a wry grin, “But you’re not allowed to enjoy it.”
Bakker put a hand across his chest and intoned solemnly, “I promise not to enjoy it,” and reflected that it was sometimes the most difficult part of this life, that they hated having to do it, and yet it was sex. How could one not enjoy sex? But afterwards... Afterwards, it made a person feel bad, worthless. At least with the new boys he could enjoy it and know that he was helping them. It was better than giving pleasure to some rich old man that paid for him.
Franz led five men into the viewing room. They were the clients for the evening, each of them curious to see the new boy. One remarked, “He looks like Angel.”
Franz didn’t like references to Angel, and said, “I’ll only allow someone who’ll look after him for the first time. Rough treatment at the start can ruin a boy.”
The man said, “I can be gentle.”
Franz just grunted. He had no intention of allowing the big man at the boy, not for at least the first month. This was the ‘Tony’ that had hurt Cherub.
An older man asked, “How much?”
Franz gave a figure, “That’s the lowest bid I will accept, and only for an approved client.”
Chang said, “He doesn’t have the sheer beauty of Angel, but still, I’d like to be first.”
“Anyone else?”
One of the men said, “Can we see him closer?”
“I don’t want them to know we can watch.”
“He’ll probably move when you collect one of them.”
“Are you ready for Cherub, Dean?”
The man whom Cherub knew as Tony, agreed, and the other men watched avidly as Cherub was called, and the new one retreated to the far side of the room from the door, the side that was the see-through wall. He was only a few feet from the men. Bakker stood with him, encased in leather, and with a leather vest that showed off muscles. The prince asked, “Can I have the big one next time?”
“If you want. He’ll do what you want, whatever you want.”
“He has a beautiful body.”
It would not be until the following day that Mssr. Bazinet would have the report that an Italian boy had been kidnapped, that he was fluent in both French and English, and that he was extremely goodlooking. By that time, the boy was being cuddled by Bakker, who was wiping his eyes of tears. No matter how careful, it always hurt to begin with. Once they were used to it, only the rough ones hurt, and once they matured a little, most of them would start finding some pleasure in the act.
Meantime, a bidding war had developed between Chang and Alexander Finlay, a very famous American film star, each of whom wanted to be the one to take the virginity of the beautiful Italian boy. Dean Summers, ‘Tony,’ was also a film star. He felt himself insulted when Franz told him that he could have the boy only after he was trained, but anyway, Summers thought he was cured of wanting little boys. Bakker was amazing, and he was beginning to wonder what it would be like... Bakker said it didn’t hurt if you wanted it, and if the ‘top’ was careful.
Bakker was pleased and relieved to have gained another regular client. He was very aware that he walked on a knife edge. Twenty-four and still alive. He’d seen too many boys disappear, most at seventeen or eighteen, and then Angel, just fourteen. He’d tried so hard to make Angel see reason.
*



Chapter 6.
Detective Superintendant Ralleigh was speaking to Ian, but Ian answered, “Sorry, we know nothing further about him. He doesn’t talk about himself, and I think it better not to interrogate him.”
“Settled down all right?”
“No problems. He’s happy, and the boys like him. He’s very bright by the way, measuring 156 on the IQ test.”
“I thought IQ tests were not approved of these days.”
Ian said, “Politically incorrect, but they’re a valuable tool all the same, and these are exceptional circumstances. He’s doing well at school, and is to be accelerated to 4th year. His best friend is in 4th year.”
“Anything else?”
“He can fight. He’s extremely fast, and was running rings around a boy who was calling him ‘Little Bobby.’ I had to intervene to protect the other boy from the humiliation of defeat by a kid so much younger. There was a fight at school too, I heard.”
“He’s aggressive then?”
“Oh, I don’t think so. Just that my boys are tough and a new one always has to prove himself. Barbaric, of course, but it’s one thing I can’t seem to change.”
“Robert doesn’t strike me as the meek type.”
“He’s friendly, the young ones think he’s wonderful.”
“Any signs of trauma?”
“I saw him out of bed once in the middle of the night, and he confessed to a nightmare, nothing else.”
Ralleigh said, “I would like to question him again. It will be myself doing the questioning, and I’ll be careful, but there will be a senior French policeman present. Can I arrange that?”
Ian said cautiously, “It might be better to leave it a while.”
“Another boy has lost his freedom to what are probably the same mob as Robert was with.”
“You never told me anything but that he was a child prostitute.”
“Not really a prostitute. He was a prisoner, and the boys never saw any money. He insists it is just what he’s heard from someone else.”
“Then I suggest you leave him that pretense and you might get more information from him. When and where?”
“Very quietly and at the Home. I don’t want word spreading.”
“You still think he might be in danger?”
“It’s likely.”
Bazinet agreed when Ralleigh insisted that he be the one to do any questioning, even agreed that he would remember to call him Bob, not Robby, not Bobby, not even Mr. Kelly. Instead, he primed Ralleigh on exactly what to ask, and how to start. If the boy could only identify one of the clients, they could question him, maybe by first finding some child pornography on his computer. That was something they were beginning to use a lot. Almost every man had now and then looked at something that could be deemed ‘child pornography,’ even if it was only one that a girl had put up herself. If she was underage, the viewer could be in trouble. Even when it wasn’t illegal, maybe due to varying laws about ‘age of consent,’ it could ruin a man’s reputation and finish his career.
When Ian showed Bob in to the rarely used staff room the following Monday, where Ralleigh and Bazinet waited, he was looking wary, tense.
Ralleigh took the initiative, shaking his hand, being friendly, and suggesting he call him Jacob or Jake, as this was a quite unofficial visit. Bob flashed a look at Bazinet, who forced a smile and said, “My name is Laurens, but I prefer Mssr. Bazinet really. You’re just a kid.”
Bob nodded, feeling a touch less uncomfortable, “Mssr. Bazinet, Detective Ralleigh.”
Ralleigh said, “Please sit down.”
Bob stayed standing, “There’s supposed to be someone on my side.”
“We’re all on your side, but Ian will stay if you like.”
“Mr. MacKender? Will you stay? If you’re here, they won’t hit me probably, just yell at me.”
Bazinet said awkwardly, “I’m sorry you don’t trust us. I should not have yelled.”
Ian sat and said, “They have a few questions. They are important, Bob. So please cooperate.”
“I’ve already told them all I could.” He was still standing, still worried. There were two dead men. There had been nothing in the papers, and he didn’t know what had happened about them. He’d be a fool to ask.
Ian said with more firmness, “Sit down, Bob.”
Bob looked at him, wondering if he should demand a social worker. MacKender sounded like he was on the side of the policemen.
Ralleigh said, “Please, Bob. There are boys still being abused. You know that.”
“You haven’t found anything then?”
“Nothing that uses boys. Police in several countries have been checking places they know, and sometimes, young girls have been rescued. And Laurens has heard hints that there is a place, but it sounds like it is more likely to be nearer Paris than Nice.”
“The boy who told me was never sure it was Nice. It could be Paris.”
“Might it be in another country, Monaco for instance?”
“Possibly.”
Bazinet passed a large photo to Ralleigh, who put it in front of an empty chair, and said, “Please Bob. I want you to look closely at this picture.”
Bob picked up the photograph, studied it, sighed and finally sat down. Black hair like his own, though a more olive skin, he thought. Good looks, about twelve. He asked, “Has he disappeared then?”
“His name’s Milo. We wonder if he was taken by the same ones as the friend of yours was.”
Bob gave him a grateful look. It was easier if they pretended it was not him. He nodded, “Probably.” He was looking at the picture, the boy happy, smiling, and he asked, “When was he taken?”
“He’s Italian. I didn’t hear straightaway. He was taken a week ago, from Florence.”
Bob stared at the picture, feeling miserable for him. Franz always gave the new boys several days to get used to the idea, but if it hadn’t happened now, it would be soon, and he asked hopelessly, “You have no clues?”
Bazinet said softly, “If we can put pressure on a client… I think that might be the only way.”
Ralleigh said, “We want you to take your time, but go through the pictures we have, carefully, and tell us if you recognise anyone.”
Bob nodded miserably. He couldn’t not do it, and he sighed. Silently, Bazinet passed over the piles of pictures. They were of any rich man he could think of, who’d ever been suspected of being interested in boys.
An hour later, Bob was still there, looking carefully at each picture, and putting each in turn to the side. The men had been conferring quietly in the corner, their talk now ranging wide.
When Bazinet came back to him and asked how he was going, Bob said, “These are all European. There were Arabs, Japanese, Chinese, all sorts.”
Bazinet admitted, “I didn’t think of that. These are mostly French.”
“You should think wider. The sort of men who travel all over the world, the sort who know more than one language. The very rich.”
“Do you know how much they paid?”
“The boys were never told, never saw any money. A client said once, but I think there were different figures sometimes. Like they pay more for the first time, I’m pretty sure.”
Ralleigh prompted, “A client said once?”
A client said once, but I think there were different figures sometimes. Like they pay more for the first time, I’m pretty sure.”
Ralleigh prompted, “A client said once?”
“He said 98,000 Euros.”
Bazinet laughed, “It couldn’t be! That’s more than I earn in a year!”
“I don’t know. That’s just what this man said.” He was still methodically working through the pictures.
Ian stood up, “Coffee anyone?”
Bob looked up, “Yes, please.”
Ralleigh said disapprovingly, “Coffee’s bad for children.”
Bob laughed. Sex was bad for children as well, and so were masked men with knives. But he asked, “Hot chocolate then? There’s an awful lot to go.” He still relished sweet things. For so long he’d been deprived of sweet things, and his pocket money was insufficient to spend much on lollies.
Ian returned with drinks for the men, and even some chocolate biscuits, which he placed near Bob. But Bob was stopped, staring at a particular face, then staring away. He didn’t know, his memory was blurry, and yet… Ralleigh said practically, “Maybe just put it aside and look at again in a while.”
Without comment, Bob put it to the side and continued through the photographs, sipping his drink sometimes, but not touching the biscuits. He could imagine Veronique in his mind cautioning him not to get chocolate on the pictures.
He stopped suddenly and said positively, “Ferdy. This is Ferdy. He was a regular client.”
Bazinet grabbed the photograph and checked the number, “Could you testify? If he had sex with you, we could put him away.”
Bob said distantly, “He would have me killed. And you said you were only trying to find the farm.”
Ralleigh shot an annoyed glance at Bazinet, and said encouragingly, “We won’t worry about that for now. Maybe instead you can find someone else, someone with a little less influence.”
Bob picked up the picture he’d put aside, frowned at it, and then handed it to Ralleigh, not Bazinet, “This one, but I’m not sure.” He could almost see the face in his memory, gloating over him, but the face shimmered and faded in and out of focus. It would have been in the last weeks when they’d been drugging him. He’d managed to hurt all of the staff at least once, he thought. It was no wonder they gave up on him.
He sighed. There were Cherub and Bakker and the new one whose name he’d forgotten. He started looking through the photographs again. It seemed like he’d been looking for hours.
Ralleigh and Bazinet were conferring in quiet voice, “Prince Albirich?”
“I don’t think we can act against him, and anyway, he was not sure.”
“Ferdinand Berlocq?”
“It was a positive identification, even his name. I need to make a phone call.”
Five minutes later, he returned looking grim. “He was killed, just a few days after Bob made his appearance.”
They glanced at Bob, conscientiously looking closely at each picture and then putting it in the discarded pile. The pile of pictures was finally beginning to diminish. “Tell him?”
Ralleigh said, “I’ll do it.”
Bazinet grimaced and nodded. It was undeniable that Ralleigh managed the boy better than he did.
Ralleigh put the photograph in front of Bob, and said, “Ferdinand Berlocq. He is dead.”
“Dead?” and Bob added spitefully, “Painfully, I hope.”
Bazinet said, “It appears so, indeed.”
“There was one who worked for him. He was called Luc. You could find him quite easily maybe.”
“Would he know the farm?”
“His boss treated him. He was a client as well.”
“Luc. I’ll get his full name, and see.”
“It may not be his real name, of course,” and he glanced at Bazinet, “What about the other one I found?”
“If you are right, he is untouchable.”
Bob shoved the pile away, “Then maybe they’re all untouchable. Why should that one be exempt?”
Ian said quietly, “Don’t give up, Bob. It is worthwhile.”
Bob glanced at the door, but then sighed and returned to the task.
By the time he finished over an hour later, Bazinet had another picture for him, “Is this the Luc you spoke of?”
Bob nodded, and stood, “May I go now?”
Bazinet gave him an austere smile, “Thank you, Bob. You’ve done well.”
Bob was walking fast when he left, and running the moment he was in the open. He needed the beach, the nice clean beach where he could run and the sound of the waves would wash away the memories of life as an unwilling prostitute.
Dallas was with the usual group of younger boys, and one pointed, “There he is.”
Simmo said, “It’s nearly dinner time.”
“Maybe best just me anyway,” and he took off after his friend whom the bastards had been upsetting. Maybe he was to be sent away.
Bob was thoroughly unhappy. He wanted to leave Angel behind, but how could he? He was the only chance the others had of freedom. And if they found clients, they’d want him to testify. If he did, he was dead, he knew it. He’d only just got his life back. He didn’t want to die.
*
Milo sobbed softly in the arms of Sidney Chang, known to him as Sidney. He was Beni now, no longer Milo. He was a boy paid for, and now he was used. Bakker had suggested he cry and pretend it had hurt more than it did, ‘The bastards like to hurt. Why else do they want kids?’ But if he’d been reasonably gentle, to play up to him on the grounds that having one man more often was better than having lots of different ones. But Milo’s tears were not acting. This was the beginning, and soon he’d be like the rest, getting dressed up for clients, putting on makeup, worrying about pimples, submitting to daily inspections. He was a prostitute. He hadn’t even known there were boy prostitutes until Jerome had explained just what they did, what they had to do to survive.
So he was nestled in a man’s arms, crying on his shoulder, while the man lay on his back, smiling at the ceiling. It was always special to have a virgin boy, and he didn’t resent the enormous price paid - not when he knew the act would never come back to haunt him. This boy was unlikely to live past his teens, and he gently caressed the tears away and hushed him, “You’ll get used to it, and tonight Franz will give you a present.”
That night, when Beni was presented with a large book about cars, he regarded it for a moment, and then threw it back at Franz. He wasn’t much punished, just confined to his room for a night and day, with the exception of the compulsory exercise sessions.
Franz was unconcerned with the minor revolt, much more concerned about Renard’s acne. An excellent diet, the best medications money could buy, yet it was getting worse and worse. Renard was fifteen. He didn’t want to retire a boy at fifteen, not so soon after Angel. Maybe he’d improve, and he was good at disguising them when he had an appointment. He’d tell him to have one of the others do his back. He’d noticed a nasty one on his shoulder, and that wouldn’t do. His clients demanded the best, and that was what he provided. He took pride in it.
*
Dallas caught up with Bob, and asked, “All right, Bob?”
“I guess,” and he sat down on the sand. Dallas sat down next to him in undemanding silence.
After a time, Bob pulled himself up, and said, “Best get back. You won’t want to miss dinner.”
“They used to laugh at me for always being first at dinner. That’s because I was half-starved as a kid, you see? Even now, I’m no bigger than you are, even though I’m a lot older.”
Bob gave him a sidelong grin, “Not that much older.” He’d been half-starved as a kid as well. It’s why he could get away with the pretense that he was younger than his true age. He’d had some dramatic changes of fortune when he was younger. It had made him somewhat fatalistic.
*



Chapter 7
 Ian was relieved when he noticed Bob and Dallas arrive in the dining room. They were late, and usually, latecomers would miss out, but this time, Mary had been warned, and allowed them to coax her to provide for them.
To Ian’s eyes, Bob appeared to have put away his upset, and was now talking to Gerry. Gerry was sixteen, physically awkward, and without friends. He was the complete opposite of Bob, so very goodlooking, and who had found his feet so quickly in the new environment.
Gerry asked, “They want to take you away, Bob?”
Bob poked at his meal, “I don’t know. They didn’t say anything about that.”
“Are you going to tell us what it’s all about?”
“I’m a potential witness in a case. They had hundreds of photos and I was trying to identify some men.”
“Yes?”
Bob shook his head, “I’m not going to tell you any more.”
Dallas said, “So how are we going to cheer you up?”
Bob looked at him, head slightly to his side, “I think desperate measures are called for. I want to see a naked woman.”
Dallas squeaked in disbelief, and Gerry said casually, “There’s tons on the internet. I know lots of sites.”
“But they’re blocked, all the adult sites are.”
“Easy enough to fix that.”
Bob grinned, “Really? You can bypass the tit-blocker?” He was talking about the way that the computers both at Penwinnard and the school denied access to adult sites. Bob thought it was high time he learned a bit more about sex, about ordinary sex. And he wanted to look at naked women - just the same as every other teenage boy in the world.
Dallas said, worried, “You might get into trouble.”
Gerry said, “They won’t know. I’ll show you how if you like.”
“Straight after dinner?”
Ian strolled around after dinner later that day, as he often did, just keeping an eye on things. But Wally had been keeping an eye out and by the time that he entered the Rec room with its computers, Dallas and Bob were researching the SAS. Tom and Jack entered Basic Training in a week, and when Ian asked if they were also interested in the army, Bob said casually that he was thinking about it.
Later, Ian said to Helen, “It’s like he wants to move himself as far away as possible from his past. First ‘Bob’ when he looks nothing like a Bob, and now the SAS.”
 “Understandable of course. With his looks, I doubt if he’s left it behind him, either. There’ll always be men who look at him, and some will inevitably try and fondle.”
“It’s one reason Ruth asked me to take him, I think. The bigger places with a lot of staff - well, you can never be sure.”
“Martin still being a problem?”
“I can mostly handle boys but I can’t seem to get through to Martin. Even after I explained he was helping the police, reminded him he could be a target, and he still said that he was using his learned arts to be popular.”
“Does Bob realise?”
“I don’t know. Probably not. I don’t think Martin has ever spoken to him.”
“It’s not the boy’s fault. Martin’s a fool sometimes.”
Back in the Rec Room, Dallas chortled, “Look at the set on that one.”
Bob said, “It’ll take years to get a girlfriend the proper way. I wonder how much it would cost for a pro.”
Dallas turned to him in stunned amazement, “You’re only thirteen!”
Bob grinned, “That’s old enough, I reckon.”
Wally asked, “If you get enough money for that, can I come too?”
“How can we earn money these holidays, do you think?” For Bob, there was an obvious way he could earn money, but he had no intention of submitting to that ever again, even if it did feel good sometimes. He wanted a girl, and as soon as possible.
Three days later, Bob was again in Ian’s office, looking through photographs. Neither Ralleigh nor Bazinet were there, just that the package had arrived from Bazinet with the request that he have Bob look through them.
After two hours, Bob put the last one aside with a sigh. He hadn’t recognised any of the men pictured, but it had depressed him. He had a little bit of money from doing a few odd jobs and from saved pocket money, but not near enough to pay a call girl, and anyway, there didn’t seem to be any in Ryalston. Instead, he planned to start being very nice to Megan, the one who did the laundry. Maybe he could use a sob story, that people wanted to kill him, and he just wanted it once before he died. Megan was quite young, and he knew she was not married. He’d say he was sixteen, just small because he’d been so badly treated when he was little.
Ian thought nothing of it when he found Bob chatting to Megan in the big laundry. It would be to do with the new school uniforms he would need when school resumed, or maybe he simply wanted new clothes. He thought that Bob might not be accustomed to anything at all shabby, though he’d made not the slightest complaint.
There was a special dinner a few days later, and Tom, Jack, and Leith were presented with a wallet each, and an amount was put into their bank accounts. They were no longer Penwinnard boys, they were adults. It was a big occasion, an important occasion. Ian was well satisfied, especially pleased and relieved about Leith who’d been very happy to be promised a proper job and have accommodation arranged for him. And Tom and Jack could put their sense of adventure into good use in the army, though he didn’t know how they’d react to the discipline.
Roddy would also be leaving, but not for several weeks, when he would move to Falmouth to attend University. He’d receive his farewell gifts then. Roddy was a responsible boy, unofficial leader of the boys for the past two years. Presumably Luke would take his place. He and Tighe had been friends for years, but he knew they’d had a fight, and since then, Tighe had been deferring to Luke. The fights for the position of leader could be quite vicious, but there was no point in interfering. These boys would never take any notice of an appointed or elected leader, one who wanted to lead had to fight for the privilege.
Leith was making sure to laugh hilariously at the antics of Tom and Jack. He was a Penwinnard boy, and Penwinnard boys were far too tough to be scared, but it was a big thing, going to a job and a new place to live. Ordinary kids could go home if they screwed up, but you couldn’t if you didn’t have a home. But Mrs. Bayliss was good. Rather tall and stout, and she looked like she might have a real temper. She’d said she was going to feed him up. He didn’t need feeding up, but he took it to mean that she’d look after him, maybe a bit more than he needed, but that was OK. It was nice to be looked after.
That evening, there was a riotous party involving all of the seniors, though Bob and Dallas were threatened with violence if they didn’t immediately go to bed where they were supposed to be. They were not offered a drink. Tom and Jack were very drunk.
*
With the warmer weather, an annual cleanup was conducted along a creek bed in Yorkshire. Some old clothes were picked up along with other rubbish. They’d once been white, but the mud made the bloodstains unrecognizable. The clothing was given no significance and was soon buried with all the other rubbish. The knife was already gone, having been discovered by a ten-year-old. It was in his bottom drawer, among other treasures. The motel where two bodies still lay, was almost forgotten. Not only had the local authorities been unable to locate the owner, hardly anyone ever passed that way.
Bazinet had not been able to find Luc Briand, Berlocq’s bodyguard. He was officially a suspect for the murder of his employer, but there was no motive and Berlocq thought it more likely that he’d also been killed. He was beginning to feel thoroughly discouraged with the whole business when an email arrived from Robert Kelly, ‘Definite identification, known to the boys as Alex. His favourite was Jerome and then Cherub when he came. Alexander Finlay, American film star. Is he untouchable too?’
Bazinet’s grin was feral. Just the threat of exposure would have the film star talking, he thought. Alexander Finlay, who’d risen to fame only in the last few years, but now there would be hardly anyone who didn’t know who he was. And he turned to his computer and typed in the name.
In Bazinet’s view, the Americans were quite laughably prudish when it came to sex, and Finlay caved in very quickly. He could tell him that there were five boys and a young man available, he’d been able to identify some of the boys, and provided the information that it was a half hour’s drive from Nice, and very little traffic in the last part. He could even give him the general direction. After that, it was just a matter of detailed checking of maps and records, meantime taking care not to alert Franz or any of his staff. He had aerial photographs, descriptions and detailed diagrams of the internal layout, prepared with the help of Finlay, and with the help of Bob, who’d also been able to provide details of the boys’ daily routine.
Finlay gave a sigh of relief when it appeared that Bazinet was not interested in prosecuting him. He assumed it was thanks to his helpfulness. He’d told them everything he knew, even to the room where the clients could watch the boys. He didn’t dare give anyone any hints of his betrayal. He’d seen Bertrand Zappacosta there once, and he was a crime boss, though usually referred to as a ‘racing identity.’ He was quite sure that Zappacosta wouldn’t hesitate to have him killed. With a sense of relief, he returned to Hollywood to start his next film. It would be the biggest yet, and had been making news even before filming had begun. He was the hero, the handsome star that women drooled over.
A week after Finlay shared as much as he knew of the farm, a strike team studied aerial photographs as Bazinet outlined the plan of attack. “We’re going in at five in the evening when we expect to find all the staff present and probably the boys being inspected by the one they know as Franz. That is Franz Van de Weel, the registered owner of the property. The boys are locked inside by that time, and are not allowed out until morning exercise. As for staff, at least one will be in the main house preparing the evening meal, and one or two minimum with Franz.”
“How many staff?”
“Six men to the best of our knowledge, two of them not known to the boys. Probably no women, but that’s not certain. They must have no warning. From the ruthlessness with which the older boys are disposed of, a warning might lead to all six of the victims being killed.”
He went on to detail the plan of attack to the twenty-five members of the team, remembering to caution them to watch for innocents. There was always a possibility of error. There were observers present, including Detective Superintendant Ralleigh. The boys were from several countries, and each of those countries had been informed that with some luck, one of their citizens might be freed that day. The parents of the boys knew only that ‘investigations were looking promising.’ A reception centre was prepared for the six boys, at once innocent kidnap victims, and boys used for sex. The one who’d been put in charge wasn’t at all sure how to treat them.
The entrance to the farm was imposing, a gravelled drive leading to a large and graceful house. There was no gatekeeper, instead there was an intercom, and the gate could be opened from within by remote control. The house itself seemed to reek of rich respectability, but the estimated twelve hectares behind it were encircled by high walls with a sinister strand of wire running along the top. It was guessed that it could deliver an electric shock, possibly lethal, and when the team took their positions at four different places around the wall, they came prepared to defeat the obstacle. They were armed and wore bullet-proof vests. Bob had said he’d never seen them armed except by Tasers, but these were ones who brazenly kidnapped boys from good homes, and when they chose, murdered them. The team was prepared for a fight.
Franz regarded the line of naked boys thoughtfully. Beni huddled next to Bakker, who had a hand on his shoulder. The boy looked straight down at the floor. Even now his face was reddened. New boys always took a while to become accustomed to this routine, but it was essential. Lex and Jerome were unworried, but Renard was uneasy, he could tell. Three new pimples on his chin, and he probably didn’t even know about the one on his left buttock. Normally he would already have retired him. He asked, “Bakker still checking your back every evening, Renard? Don’t forget your behind.”
The boy said quickly, “Yes, Franz,” and then offered, “My big brother had bad pimples, but then they cleared up, all of them, and quite suddenly.”
Franz smiled kindly, “Then no doubt that’s what will happen with you.” He didn’t think it would, he had a feeling that Renard hadn’t even had an older brother. He never bothered with records of names and families. The boys would never see them again.
His eyes went on to the younger boys, and he said, “Jerome, from now on, Marcel is to lighten your hair every fortnight, the same as he does Bakker’s.” The blonde hair of children always darkened as they grew older.
Lex gave a sudden dramatic shiver, and he smiled, amused, “All right, dress.”
He watched them dress, still troubled about Renard. The Spice-kid in March, Angel in June... if Renard disappeared as well, the remaining boys could react badly. He always told his clients they were happy, looked after, but he also maintained very high standards. Angel had been a loss. Beni just didn’t have his shining perfection. A pretty boy, of course. Maybe he should start looking again. Meantime? He turned back to Renard, “Have Bakker teach you how to top, Renard. Learn well, and I might change the way I present you.”
Bakker felt a hollow churning in his stomach. Franz never kept more than one with the skill to top. If Renard was to learn, then it must be he who was to go. A hand was slipped into his, and he looked down. Beni, who must have seen the worry in him. He felt himself comforted, and squeezed his hand.
The five boys and one young man were lined up again, this time dressed. Franz said, “Renard, no appointment, nor you, Beni. Lex, you have Tony, Jerome, you have Jim, and Bakker, you have Alby again. Cherub, you’re to be ready, but nothing set yet.” Cherub was to be offered to Renard’s appointed client. Renard wasn’t fit to present to a client, not with that nasty red mark on his behind.
The door crashed open, and suddenly they were being roared at, Bakker finding himself face down on the floor, hands in cuffs behind his back even before he could work out what had happened. The younger boys were herded into a corner, and Franz, Jacques and Marcel were also face down on the floor. The gendarmerie. Bakker started to cry. Freedom, not death.
Beni darted away from the group of children and knelt beside him, and when a policeman tried to remove him, he resisted, “It’s Bakker! You’re not allowed to hurt him.”
“Bakker?”
 Bazinet ordered, “Let him go,” and when Bakker scrambled to his feet, wiping his eyes and trying to restrain his sobbing, he asked, “Pierre-Antoine Benichou?”
Bakker nodded and Bazinet said quite curtly, “Your parents will be very happy to see you safe, Mssr. Benichou.”
Renard asked, “Are mine? Do they know?”
“They don’t know yet.”
Renard said shakily, “I thought I was going to be killed soon, because I have pimples, you see.”
Bazinet looked at the vividly goodlooking boy, and said calmly, “No-one will be killed, pimples or not. This crime is at an end.”
Franz glanced over at the boys, then turned his face down again. All those powerful men he knew, his clients - they were probably more likely to kill him than to try and protect him. And who had betrayed him? Probably no-one would even plant a tree for him when one of them killed him. He always planted a tree for his boys.
He hE
*
Bob was lying down next to Megan, admiring breasts. She hadn’t let him have sex with her, but she’d several times allowed this. They were in her small flat in Ryalston.
Bob was remembering how he’d learned to use his tongue and mouth to pleasure a male. He’d only done it once to a client before deciding that he would not. Instead, he’d played with Bakker and the Spice-kid, making himself expert, and finding pleasure in giving this pleasure to his fellow prostitutes, while denying it to his clients. A woman could probably be pleasured in the same way, he assumed, maybe not exactly the same way.
It was not long later that Megan was moaning in her acute pleasure and at last gasped out that he had to put on a condom. Bob didn’t give her time to change her mind, just slipping a condom out of its packet, and rolling it onto his own penis. He’d done it many times for clients, but this was the first time that he’d put a condom on himself.
He was too careful for Megan’s liking, and when he was thumped on the back, he obliged by thrusting harder, as commanded. He should have thought. This was the way it was supposed to be. He wouldn’t hurt Megan as the clients quite often hurt the boys. This, this, was the way it was supposed to be.
Bob was gloriously happy when he made his way back to Penwinnard very late that night. Angel was long gone. He was Bob, and enjoying every minute of being Bob. Megan. Megan was wonderful, though he didn’t deceive himself that he was in love. He was in lust, and he wanted more of her, every night maybe. Bob. Bob had a very good life.
*



Chapter 8
Ian MacKender gave a sigh of relief when he was informed that Bazinet and Ralleigh didn’t need testimony from Robert Kelly. They had five boys and a man, all prepared to testify, plus a confession from at least one of the men, and best of all, they had a list of clients, full names and addresses, complete with a note of the name by which the boys knew them and their favourite boy. Bazinet said, “We know what they called him now, but it seems he never told the other boys what his real name was. But that is not our affair, and he would still be very much at risk if he was exposed.”
Ralleigh and Bazinet were not even planning to try and work out how he’d escaped. Franz had been adamant that, like the others, he’d been painlessly euthanazed. ‘Kind to his boys, always,’ he’d said. They’d seen the trees, all different varieties with the names of vanished boys. And the incinerator with its residue of ash.
The rescued boys might also be at risk, but if the list of clients happened to be ‘leaked,’ then there was no point in killing them. Alexander Finlay would be on the list of clients, though he’d taken care that it would not be known that he was the one who’d betrayed the operation. Bazinet thought it would be a death sentence for Finlay if his betrayal was known. Some of the clients! Men so rich they could buy out a small country if they chose. Royalty, but he had no direct jurisdiction in other countries and there was the problem of potential diplomatic repercussions.
Bazinet had made a major coup with the exposure of the farm, even when he was denied the chance to charge any of the clients with child rape. ‘Lack of evidence,’ though Bazinet had plenty of evidence. There were three very important members of government on that client list and Bazinet smiled his thin smile. There were going to be some upset people when the newspapers started running with it.
It was thanks to ‘Angel,’ the beautiful boy who’d hacked off the long hair that was shown on the sketch in front of him. Perhaps he was owed something.
A day later, Bob studied the list of clients that Bazinet had sent him along with the assurance that Bakker, Renard, Cherub, Jerome and Lex were all safe, along with the new one known as Beni. And he’d said that ‘Angel’ was thought to be dead, so unless he wished to tell Ralleigh his real name, he could stay Bob Kelly as far as he was concerned.
Bazinet had written to him almost as an equal, even if still stiffly. He hadn’t expected that, but maybe the man had finally worked out that he was not something to be held in contempt just because he’d been a toy for men. It could have happened to anyone.
The clients, and he actually laughed as he realised the status of some of those he’d ‘entertained.’ There was one he thought he should have recognized at the time, and now he saw the name, he realised it had been an acquaintance of the Declerques. He’d been introduced to the man when he was their pampered son. He’d been one of those who’d complained to Franz so that he’d been whipped, even when he’d provided him with what he wanted. How much money had he earned? And now he didn’t have enough to buy Megan a birthday present.
Laurens Bazinet was amused when he received the reply to his email, with the suggestion that all of Franz’s money be divided amongst the surviving victims. It was logical and fair, but he had to reply that it was not possible, even though there had been great wads of cash piled in cupboards and drawers all through the house. It appeared that Franz had never found much to spend his profits on. The government had taken control of the millions, while the boys went back to their homes, penniless.
Fifteen-year-old Renard inspected himself in the mirror, and grinned. Not a pimple. No lotions, no treatment, not even plenty of exercise in the open air as Franz insisted on. He’d eaten lots of chocolate, lots of hot and greasy fast food, with the result that his pimples had disappeared. Freedom. It didn’t matter now whether he had pimples or not. No-one now would dispose of him for not measuring up to standards. And Franz was expected to get a sentence long enough that he’d die in prison.
He was back with his parents, and they’d spoken to a solicitor. There was to be a civil suit, against Franz for the money owned, and if necessary, against the French government who had possession of it. Bakker had passed on something he’d overheard, that there were millions, just lying around. He could make a civil suit against any of the clients he wanted to as well, if he wanted. He gave a grin of sheer relish. This was going to be fun. The others should be in it as well. There was plenty of money to go around.
*
Ian was doing his usual walk around the buildings of the complex that was Penwinnard Boys’ Beach Home. He noticed Gerry sweeping the sand from the cliffside path, and frowned. Bob was supposed to be doing that as his punishment project, but then he saw him nearby, undertaking the much bigger task of removing the sand from around Kevin’s Lookout. He was whistling, and Ian grinned. He didn’t know why he’d been out so late the previous evening, but he doubted it was serious mischief. It was good to see him such friends with Gerry, too. Gerry’s status had risen with the friendship. Everyone seemed to like Bob. He even seemed to have won over the French detective.
He wandered over, and Bob looked at him warily. There was no way he was going to stop visiting Megan, he just had to make sure he wasn’t caught. It was so much better than some old bastard who’d paid for him, and was very likely going to hurt him. It never hurt having sex with Megan, didn’t hurt him and didn’t hurt her. Why would anyone want a different way?
But Ian just greeted them amiably, and asked why Gerry was helping.
“Mr. Sanders said he should do it instead of holding me up by talking,” replied Bob.
Gerry had said nothing, only continuing with his job, not very efficiently. Gerry had been a resident since he was eleven, and in that time, had never been in trouble. Ian was wondering if that was to change now that he’d become such friends with Bob. Not that Bob was a trouble-maker, just that his polite obedience seemed to him to be shallow. Ian suspected that if he really wanted to do something, he wouldn’t worry about a simple thing like rules.
That night, Ian and Helen were in the lounge room of their own home. They were watching the news. Almost every day, there was another revelation about the farm and its clients. This time it was about Finlay, who’d been dropped from the film he’d been making. According to the producer, it was better to cut his losses and start again with a different actor. And then there was the highly respected hereditary lord who’d shot himself, unable to endure the disgrace.
Helen said heartlessly, “Serve him right. Serve them all right.”
In the TV room, Bob grinned. He didn’t remember the lord, but he thought death perfectly appropriate for anyone who’d use unwilling children for sex. And even if they’d mostly known better than to show themselves unwilling, it had to have been obvious that they were not there by choice.
The very next news item showed an interview with Bakker, real name not given, and face and voice disguised. He said that there was to be a book in memory of those who’d gone, and yes, it would name names.
The reporter asked, “Were you often punished?”
“Only if we didn’t do what we were told. There was Angel. He started refusing to cooperate. He was whipped time and time again. They made us watch sometimes.”
“Who was Angel?”
“He was my particular friend. Gone now, like the ones who became a little old, or maybe were injured. One called Danny had a client we hated. I know his full name now, Senator William J. Harris, an American. Anyway, Danny didn’t come back from his appointment, and we never saw the senator after that as well, so I guess Franz would not allow him. He didn’t like his merchandise being damaged.”
“And this is to be in your book?”
“The clients are guilty of raping children, yet most would get off scot free if left to the police. I will name names, and I will say what they liked to do. They will be punished.”
“What about the laws of libel?”
“Libel does not apply to provable facts.”
The reporter grinned and turned to the camera, “So there you have it. Want to know what the rich men spend money on? Read Bakker’s book, out soon.”
They went on to a report of the latest terrorism threat, and then to talk of soccer.
Bob stretched and suggested to Gerry, “Find Dallas and Conan?”
“Conan the new boy?”
“Thirteen, and freshly orphaned. He’s a bit of a mess.”
“I suppose he’ll be seeing Donna.”
“I suppose. Dallas says she’s all right.”
“What happened to your counselling?”
Bob grinned at him, “Fixed. I just stopped turning up. She gave up in the end.”
*

The End.







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