Archive for October, 2007
I killed someone on Saturday, 9th.
He looked a little simple. His wavy black hair was cropped and neat but looked askew, as if he was wearing a wig. His top teeth protruded slightly giving him the look of being slightly simple. Prison issue orange overalls, white t-shirt bleached within an inch of its life. Slip-ons, immaculate white and incongruously blue socks. He mumbled as I struggled to initiate a conversation about why he came to be here. I must say, his language skills added to the initial impression of slight retardation.
“So! Why did you kill two people? People you apparently didn’t even know?”
“Well, ah, argh. I was picked on like”
“Picked on. How did that happen? What do you mean when you say picked on?”
“Well, spat. They spat at me. And they slapped me around, and said bad things to me. Every day, every week. Yeah, the spitting, the hitting. And they said bad words to me. Over and over again. It was like . Like it was like….. It was so that I couldn’t show my face without being spat on, …. And slapped. ”
“So how did that make you feel?”
“Well! How would it make you feel? I wanted to teach them a lesson. Make them stop hitting and spitting and picking on me. I wanted it to stop”
“So you thought that shooting and killing them would make it stop.”
“Yeah! I thought it would teach them a lesson. Make them leave me alone. Make them think that I wasn’t an easy target.”
He sat straight-up, back as rigid as a drill sergeant; eyes focused somewhere3 over my head.
“And did you have a plan? Like did you target special people?”
“I jus got the guns and the bullets and walked to the school with them all stashed in my backpack. There were ones I wanted to hurt but once I started I just picked whoever was handy.”
“So thinking of the killing. Did you see them dead?”
“You know it’s kind of funny but I was only a kid then and I know that’s not a reason why I should have done it or got off or anything but I didn’t think that just shooting them once would kill them. I thought that they would just get back up again. I thought that I would have to shoot them like six or seven times. I was only a kid and that’s what happens in Doom, you know.”
“Yaeah! It’s a game. Doom. You know.”
“It’s a game where you shoot the monsters and like you have to shoot them a few times before they stay down. Once is not enough. You’ve got to do it over and over again. But I thought that once I had shot them they wouldn’t bully me any more. That would stop, and I would be able to hold my head high.”
“And once you say the blood and they didn’t get back up. Did that change anything?”
“No! I thought that they would just rest for a while then they would get up, but they wouldn’t spit and say things any more.”
I watched as he walked back to his cell. He leaned slightly to one side. He stumbled, as though his legs were manacled. Other prisoners jeered him as he shuffled back to his little 4 X 5 cell where he would spend the next 300 years of his life.
I only have vague memories of before the killing. A warm autumn morning – it must have been term break school holidays – motoring down the harbour side, my window open, my head hanging out the window sucking in the crisp air. Sliding down a hillside, squishy with mud, feeling out of control, but in control. I loved to sit at the bus station and watch the buses leave. It was an inside station, the huge, high roofs echoing the mechanics activities as they fixed skeletons of buses raised on jacks. You could sit inside the station waiting room in the high backed leather seats and watch passengers buying tickets for exotic destinations, or you could sit outside and watch as people slowly inserted themselves on a bus. I particularly liked watching as the buses came from their normal resting places to take their place in the queue. What fascinated me was how they rode the tapered curve that separated the road from the waiting platform. They routinely violated that artificial separation between road and walkway.
They lay in the dark bedroom together, bodies stretched out on the narrow bed, staring at the cracked ceiling. There was a torch somewhere in the bed but they had no use for it tonight as they lay, plotting. Tomorrow, as they made their way to school they would turn on the track about half way to the front gates. They would time it so they were behind him. They now conspired together so that they would get the words right. The words that would burn themselves into his brain. The words that would haunt him all day and into the night. The words that they would repeat on the way home form school. They giggled and twined their fingers together as they conspired to kill a soul.
“Round shouldered. You never stood tall.” The Mother said. You would not think she was talking about her son. “What do you mean? You are trying to tell me that that nice Jones boy – the son of my best friend – is yelling abuse at you. That those girls are too? I just don’t believe it. And don’t tell your father. He already thinks there’s something wrong with you.”
I killed somebody today. No more will he experience the cool breeze of an autumn morning. No more will he feel a glow at a new experience and look upon the world as a young unspoiled place ready to be explored. No more will he awake each morning and think of the glorious opportunities awaiting him throughout the day and reflect on the beauty of the previous day, week, and year. Instead he will trudge through the world looking at half empty glasses, seeing the bad in people, feeling everything is an effort. He will be subject to repeated bouts of depression throughout his life and always he will have this rage inside himself that he will never be able to assail. I killed some body today. I killed somebody today and in doing so I killed a bit of myself. ‘
He reached into his shorts and pulled another bird out and placed it in the line of seven dead songbirds on the bedside dresser. This formed a parallel line against his wallet, the gold coins arranged in value and year, and the Laguiole pocketknife. A cigarette spread a lazy haze over the back part of the bedroom and added to the yellow staining on the curtains that kept the watery sunlight from the small room. He reached over, and, holding the cigarette European style, he took a deep drag, then placed the tube back in the ashtray. A small piece of ash dropped off the end and settled on his white singlet. He didn’t seem to notice as his entire attention was focused on the line of dead birds. Frederick Lewis, murderer, was content.
He felt, or did he hallucinate, a light touch on his shoulder and Mia joined him on the bed, sensuously stroking his thigh as she slid closer. He smelt the musky stink on her and buried his face into her hair and then side to immerse himself deeper in her odour. He touched her breast and felt his erection straining at his underpants. She handed him a package and urged him to open it. He struggled with the green ribbon that bound the parcel and tugged at the brown wrapping. A stench arose from the bundle as he pulled it open and a severed hand dropped to the floor. “You left this behind darling.” Dreamlike Mia rose from the bed and floated to the door then exited to the tiny bathroom that led through to the kitchen of the upstairs apartment Frederick and Mia had lived in for the last ten days.
Frederick looked up at the wall and smiled at the Polaroid photos that showed the grizzly details of their latest ‘hunting’. His attention was momentarily drawn to the sound of a siren as Mia came (back?) into the room. She was a tall woman and Frederick’s heart still quickened when she entered a room. Her hair, now dyed almost white (she said it was platinum blonde after her two favourite women) was cut short and curled around her head in such a way that it was like a halo. She had left her eyebrows her natural black (and the hair on that secret part of her body) and made them up to look even darker, kohl-like, she said. Her body was long and slender and she now slung her leg over Frederick as she snuggled closer. She whispered in his ear and Frederick felt himself hardening. She drove him crazy when she was in this mood.
The accused have formed a relationship based on a powerful sexual attraction, fuelled by blood lust. Frederick fantasises that he is a member of the master race and has either duped Mia into believing his fantasy or she has a rich fantasy life of her own. Of the two Mia is the more enigmatic. She has no history of abuse, neither sexual, physical or psychological, unlike Frederick who has such a history starting from a very early age. She is not an intelligent person, her IQ is barely 100, but has a street intelligence that enables her to cope more than adequately. She believes she is a reincarnation of Eva Braun and Marilyn Monroe. She is trapped in the same body and like those two women she is physically unable to have children. This partially explains her crimes in that she both wants to possess her victims and also to give birth to them. Her powerful belief in the fragility and temporary nature of life on Earth allows her to inwardly justify death. The children do not die but are reborn through her. I have been unable to fully penetrate her defence mechanisms and my conclusions are of a tentative nature. Frederick is a more straightforward case. I would describe him as a borderline personality disorder with psychotic features. He suffers from vivid and well-defined visual and auditory hallucinations. The visual hallucinations are often bounded by his present reality but the auditory hallucinations are voices he claims that order him to carry out actions. He has a manipulative and fully convincing personality which would make it viable that he is the dominant partner in this twosome, but I reserve my final comment on that until I have developed a better picture of Mia. They both have long histories of multiple drug abuse. (or did they?)
The day was black and white. Frederick felt the soft mist on his face. He turned his head to the sky and saw a flock of sparrows wheeling from a field and then banking sharply as they dipped over the surrounding hedge. Beside him Mia cocked her head and giggled.
“I hear the sounds of little laughs,” she bubbled as she linked her arm through Fredericks and urged him forward. To their right a small stream separated them from a playing filed and over on the extreme edge a group of small boys were playing a game of pickup soccer. They screamed in delight as one of their number kicked the ball between the upturned cycle helmets they were using as goal markers. Mia tightened her grip on Frederick’s arm. “The little one in the red jacket.” Frederick only saw black and white today but he did see the little one. Mia was playing her Big Girl Grown Up role today and Frederick felt like a dog on a leash. “We need to get back to the car.”
The red (black) Ford was parked under a group of evergreen (gray) trees. Mia was driving. Frederick methodically checked his mental list. Tape (check), hammer (check), sack/blindfold (check), and camera (check). His turn to grab. Mia to drive and take the pictures.
The diener pulled the small corpse from the aluminium cooler and rolled it onto the waist-high aluminium mortuary table being careful to avoid snagging anything on the various taps that protruded. He placed the body block under the patient’s back and checked the toe tag, carefully noting these details into a tape recorder affixed to the clipboard. He checked that the scalpel, the bread knife, scissors, and pick-ups were where they were supposed to be. He handed the clipboard to the prosector who noted the gross disfigurement of the face, and the massive bruising on the neck and chest region. He made notes on the bleeding from the rectal area and the destruction of the genitals. He examined the anus and made measurements of the distension and tears. He noted the hands, severed from the body at the wrists. The deiner made the first Y incision in the sternum of the 12-year-old boy. He peeled away skin, muscle, and soft tissue off the chest wall and pulled the chest flap upward over the boy’s face. He mumbled into the tape recorder again. The smell was like that of a freshly killed chicken. The prosector cut open the pericardial sac, then the pulmonary artery, and pulls the young heart from the bloody mass. A heart that was beating only hours before. Although he has been hardened by many autopsies he feels emptiness and anger for this vulnerable corpse. The picture faded and a dove ascended from the autopsy table in a clatter of wings and spilt feathers. It flew to the open skylight at the tip of the autopsy room and spread its wings as it flew into the sunlight sky, now in full colour.
The act itself was almost anti-climatic. The flash of the hammer. The knife, the hacking, the clicking and whirring of the camera. The droplets of blood across their faces and clothing. The sucking sounds from the boy’s head. The fountains of blood when the hands came off. The frenzied thrashing slowly then rapidly subsiding. Then the immersion in each other.
The little thrush, the baby thrush, pushed itself across the cracked pavement using its broken wing. Its little thrush, its baby thrush eyes already glazed with the certainty of death. The cruel cat, the ginger and black and white cat, the white a cruel parody of religion, a white slash at its throat, spread its ugly paw and swatted the baby thrush. The baby thrush spun out of the cruel cats reach once again and its feet scrambled on the hard surface desperately trying to push itself away. If only it could get that extra inch it may be able to fly to freedom, its broken wing magically healing itself. It spun again as the cruel claw struck it another blow.
Another day. Timeless and now in colour. The lovers had sated themselves on each other and their crime. The hands had always been part of their pact. Frederick had a thing about hands. He had told Mia one particularly black and white night
“I have to have the hands. That’s one thing that must always be a constant. And the pictures.”
Now they had hunted and fed they were free until the dreams and the voices urged them on again.
Mia liked to look. That made her appear to be uninvolved and somehow more likeable than the ominous Frederick. But Mia was far more complex than that. In many ways she was the stronger in the partnership. She had no horror filled childhood that she remembered to excuse her behaviour. For Mia life had been good. She couldn’t claim boredom. Mia was content with who and what she was. In Mia’s mind there were no birds, no severed hands, no corpses on autopsy boards. She slept peacefully, her dreams no different to yours or mine.
The cage hung at the southern end of the sunporch. Here, it attracted the most sunlight throughout the year. The two canaries had a magnificent view of the surrounding bush and the lake. All who came into this house would hear their joyous chanting. They would become excited when the native birds feed on the fruit trees outside the sunroom. Their lovesongs would continue for hours. Both canaries were males and would be destined never to mate. Their beautifully constructed songs, handed down from past generations, embellished with the music of the house, and songs of the local feathered population, would never carry out their original function. They would be songbirds. Entertainers for life, pointless in function, forgotten quickly in death.
The news was not good. Mia hardly heard the last part of Doctor D’Arth’s dictate. Words spun in her head. Uterus, if only in time, chemotherapy, cut, cancer, poison. She saw her own mother lying in that little bed, in that terribly public and humiliating room. Coughing, then choking. The sip of water that turned to drool. The last desperate days when the life dribbled, then poured, from her. Mia looked down to her lap and her fingers had torn the skin in her palms. Her, the murderess. She had a heart. She was like others. Oh Frederick – what will you think? What will you do without me?
Frederick lay back as the heroin flowed into his body. He dreamed, or seemed to dream. He was drifting from room to room (in a dream?) and he was being guided by someone who bore a remarkable resemblance to Humprhey Bogart. A Bogart who had never aged as he had in his real life films. Then they were in the bathroom and Bogie was pointing at the mirror and mumbling something. And then he was gone. Frederick looked into the mirror and he seemed to be able to look beyond the mirror to a new reality. His own ravaged face had a third dimension. And then that very same face changed into a slideshow of all the boys that first he, then he and Mia, had destroyed (liberated?). Click, click, click. He jerked awake and spun around. He saw his own self walking backwards, out of the room.
Standing on the corner with a red rose in his lapel had seemed a good idea when they had discussed it over the email. Now it just seemed – well – faintly pathetic. The last time I had done this it had been very civilised. But maybe my memory was coloured by the lady who turned up. She had advertised herself as ‘Model 40S, built more like a Chevy than a Mini. WLTM some guy to crank my motor. Looking for a rev up in life. Must have GSOH.’
She had turned out to be more like a beat up old Land Rover. Her clothes hung off her ample frame like a tarpaulin on a building site. Her upper lip sported a better moustache than his own. And her language. And she had the audacity to laugh at him.
“I thought your ad said you were tall, good looking, and slim.”
She was right, of course. I wasn’t the best looking man in the world and at 5′ 7″ and at 200lbs I was not slim. But who would turn up to see a vertically and horizontally challenged, bald, desperate guy, which is all I could humorously come up with.
This whole dating game was a nightmare. You lied, she lied, the agencies lied and got paid for it.
The waiter glided over with sartorial elegance. He was new and his generous nose was held aloof with the arrogance of youth. A thin strand of gorgeous hair dropped forward and brushed his elegant, sunken cheek. The fine, white-spotted, blue neckerchief covered the thick matt of dark hairs around his throat, missed by this morning’s razor. The elegant shirt, top two buttons fashionably undone, contrasted with the rustic linen jacket.
“Your order sir?”
“I’m waiting on someone but I’ll have a martini. Heavy on the gin, no olive.”
The waiter did something unfathomable with his eye and wandered off. I was beginning to feel uncomfortable. Then she walked in.
Any thoughts of bad agencies and flirtatious waiter disappeared. She was gorgeous. I couldn’t believe she was the ‘tall, elegant, 40 something, ready for a fling with the ‘ serious gent ‘ of the ad, and she was wearing the pink carnation and carrying the velvet purse. She glanced in my direction just as the waiter arrived with my martini. He placed it on the table and gave me that look again. She came over.
“Good evening. Would you be, by any chance, the gent who answered my ad?”
I blustered through an introduction and had the good sense and timing to get the chair out from the table for her as she sat down. Up close she was even more spectacular. Her magnificent shoulders contained a neck that was Egyptian. She had set it off with a single string of pearls. Her breasts swelled from the vague material of her dress. She smelt divine. When she crossed her legs I could hear the rustle of nylon on muscled thigh. I stiffened.
“I’ll be honest with you and come to the point quickly. I want to have a baby. I am forty-one years old and, I believe, an attractive woman. Through quirks of fate I have been married and divorced twice and have never had a child. I want to have sex, – often -, as often as I need to, until I conceive. Does that offend you?”
I gulped back my sense of incredulity and stammered a reply.
The waiter came back and had the audacity to push her chair in as he stepped by. To make it easier for him to get past, I guessed.
“Ready to order yet? – I’ll get a menu”
My anger was barely contained but I indicated with a sweep of my hand to bring some menus. I looked deep into her eyes as I asked what sort of food she enjoyed.
“Oh! I’m eclectic. One night Greek, then French, maybe Mexican mid week, then Italian. I tend to avoid Asian, but every once in a while I really enjoy it.” The perfect answer. This woman and I were destined. It was ordained.
The waiter returned with the menus. The selection was fantastic. The evening was really going to be a success. I asked if she smoked. As I did I felt a pressure on my already hardened groin. I pulled back the tablecloth. It was her foot. I hurriedly pushed the cloth back. Her foot sensuously caressed my sex.
“No! But you go ahead if you want”. A perfect answer, although I didn’t smoke. The waiter returned.
“Ready now”, and that funny eye thing again. The foot retreated.
“Yes I’ll have the Italian rosemary bread to start and the devilled kidneys for an entrée. Bring them both at once. The poached salmon for the main with the shellfish salad. The lady will share the bread, and she is having the French onion soup, then the steak encrout with the potato sidedish and vegetables. Could I ask for the carrots to have extra basil? Thank you.” I handed the menu’s back.
“The salmon with the kidneys and steak? Hmm! Good choice. And a wine sir?” I stared into her eyes and knew that she would love the Shiraz.
‘Shiraz, and could we have the Montana dessert wine cooled for afters?”
I was glad that she didn’t like small-talk. We felt so comfortable in each others company that we merely observed the other patrons until our meals arrived. I proposed a toast.
“To us. And a possible future. I feel as though I have known you all my life.”
“To us.” She looked deeply into my eyes.
As they left the restaurant the waiter with the elegant nose leaned over to the maitre’de.
“That guy. He comes in here, orders a meal for two then sits there all night talking to himself. What a nutter.”
The maitre’de smiled back
“Happens every week.”
Theo’s life was a bit of a dud! At least that’s what the newspapers said. They had a semblance of a biography under that unfortunate photo of Theo with Rupert. There is Rupert sitting on his lap his bandit eyes staring right into the photographers lens, as if he is daring him to come any closer. Rupert has on his little hand knitted red shawl, drawn tight across his tiny but brave chest. He has one paw draped casually down by his side and the other, extended into the pudgy hand of Theo. Theo looks splendid and he has a mischievous grin on his face that looks to the left of the photographer, as if he is amused by something happening in the far corner of the studio. His hand is enclosed by a beautiful white silk shirtsleeve, set off by a paua shell cufflink that is slightly drawn out from Theo’s elegant purple suit. A discreet pocket-handkerchief matches the cuff link and shirtsleeve with the greens and blues swirling together. You could almost get lost in that pocket and its contents. His now famous bowler sits omni the arm of the elegant leather chair that he sits in and although the photographer has mostly caught the top half of Theo you can just make out the trademark old-fashioned buttoned boots. Theo thought the photo unfortunate because the overall effect is of a silly old man with his stupid little overindulged lap dog. The juxtaposition of Rupert’s arrogant stare and his kindly visage illustrated the Jekyll and Hyde personality, which the author of the accompanying article, had painted of Theo. It was also unfortunate that little Rupert sported a respectable erection and his little pink, erect penis poked upwards and outwards from Theo’s bemused gaze.
Theo, the child of Lord Quintin Hogg, the schooling at Eton, then Oxford. Theo, the companion of the glamorous Lady Symthe. Theo the husband of the not so glamorous but terribly rich Lady Marjorie Hogg. The kind comments of the present leader who described Theo as ‘a combination of brilliant intellect and acute political instinct with a profound patriotism and commitment to his country’ and went even further to praise Theo for his part in the ousting of his former political enemy. Then, there were the unfortunate slurs on his character. The escapades where Theo was described as a publicity seeker, a scoundrel, an adulterer. The article concluded that Theo’s political career had effectively ended when the opposition leader of the house had kissed him on the cheek and made a comment about the dignity and integrity that he bought to every office he had graced. They described as the kiss of Judas. On one hand it could have been taken for what it was, the final farewell from a politician who, now that he had left politics, can overcome philosophical differences, and be gracious. On the other hand, it could be construed as a sarcastic coda to the last five years where Theo constantly battled the increasingly hostile press, and an ever-vindictive Lady Hogg.
Theo didn’t agree with what the newspaper had to say about him. If you looked beyond the bare facts of what had been printed he was no more or no less a scoundrel than any other public figure. He was more interested in what they hadn’t printed about him. In particular he was interested that no-one had connected him with what had become to be called the Oracle? affair.
It had started in 1991 although the affair had its beginnings many years before that. However, Theo’s involvement had begun in May 1991. He remembered the day and month well because it was the Sunday after his day of birth. He had been driving back form a particularly torrid Sunday morning tryst with Marjorie, full of joy de vie, and a belly still half full of last nights good scotch. Just as he wheeled the big Rover around the southern roundabout that led onto the motorway that would take him to a leisurely breakfast of maybe kidneys and potatoes triest, or maybe thick Virginian ham and eggs, the cellphone, nestled close to his pudgy hand, chirped its familiar message.
“Lord T Hogg. Speak to me,” he bellowed into the machine, silently asking himself who would have the audacity to disturb his Sunday morning.
“Sorry to disturb your Sunday morning Lord Theodore,” the voice at the end of the phone haltingly said, as if anticipating what the likely mood might be of the voice on the end of the line, “Humphrey here- bit of a problem-thought it might need to be dealt with urgently-called ASAP.”
Theo generated a mental image of the ubiquitous Humphrey hunched over his little phone, hesitatingly forming the words that were now emanating form the black orifice held to his ear.
“Go ahead Humphrey! Give the worst.”
“Well! Farmer chap up north has been diagnosed with what looks like something called BSE and it looks like he won’t make it. The CEO from the hospital knew of our interest and got to me post haste.”
Theo wondered why this warranted an early morning Sunday call.
“So what’s the urgency on this Humphrey? I can’t see why you should break my only day off,” he grunted as he crashed through the gears and accelerated out of the roundabout, and tried to remember what the acronym BSE stood for.
“Well my doctor chappie thinks that this could be a new turning point in the whole BSE thingy. The diagnosis points toward this being a variant on the BSE strain that has not been seen before. Speculation is that it could have come through some contaminated feed or something and you know that your predecessor made her political fortune by widening the sorts of things that could be approved for cattle feed.” There was a silence as Humphrey let Theo assimilate the information. Theo’s mind race through all the possibilities and ramifications of what he was hearing. Theo was well known and respected for his ability to cut to the quick of an issue and put in place a plan that immediately addressed the key issues. He would have to find out more about BSE.
“What collateral damage might we expect from this Humphrey,” he barked while trying to focus his mind away from his driving.
“Well that’s the reason my doctor contact got to me so fast. The press seems to have got a whiff of this and are already at the hospital and are asking awkward questions. Seems that the farmer had been in touch with the local rag as he has been poorly for quite a while, feeling anxious, forgetting, tired all the time, long periods housebound, but no-one has been listening to what he has been saying. Seems they never even thought of BSE because they hadn’t seen a case in so long. Thought he was crazy!”
Theo slammed the Rover into overdrive and purposely pushed his foot down on the accelerator.
“Right! Get down to the hospital and get to the farmer as number one priority. Assure him that we will do everything we can do to get on top of this. Talk to Elveridge Jones, editor at the Daily Star and miss out the reporter. I’ll get onto Jones after we are finished and pre-alert of your call. We want to keep a lid on this and not have some loony wild-card cadet reporter getting his knickers in a twist and turning this into some conspiracy thing. Assure Elveridge that we will get to the Ministry on this and start some testing of the farmers herd. Emphasise that we do not think there is anything in this as BSE hasn’t been seen since the early 1900’s and it’s highly unlikely it would just appear out of the blue.” Theo was on a roll and he hoped that subsequent facts would bear out his fabrications. He would really have to find out what BSE was. “And get me all you can on BSE. I want it on my desk by this afternoon.” Theo slammed down the phone and blackly thought of a weekend ruined by politics. He had planned to take Rupert to the beach that afternoon but Rupert would have to wait. He hoped that Marjorie was in a good mood and could take Rupert for some exercise. He picked up the phone, hesitated, then pushed the auto dialler.
Theo pushed the enormous file away and, removing his glasses, vigorously massaged his eyes. His head hurt. Trying to assimilate all those facts and he couldn’t get rid of the image of Lady Symthe writhing beneath him, and little Rupert anxious little eyes staring at him pleadingly. He hoped Marjorie had taken him for a walk. She hadn’t sounded to pleased when he had rung.
“Where the hell were you last night T? I phoned the hotel and they said that you hadn’t even booked your room. Where did you get to?”
Theo had muttered something about an emergency and hoped that his excuse was lost in the pomp and importance of national security. It seemed that BSE had the potential to be very serious. There was only one way that it could have spread and that was through contaminated animal matter. It was unlikely that the sudden increase that had been noted elsewhere but, until now, largely kept from his gaze, in the disease could have been through natural means. It had coincided almost to the year with a decision made by his predecessor in the last Government his party had been in power to allow ground up spines and brains to be added to animal feed. Coupled with this had been an expansion in real estate and many farms turning to intensive indoor farming. Farming that largely relied on animals being fed man-made foods rather than traditional grazing. But from what Theo understood there was a faint hope that it wasn’t BSE. The variant and the timing of the outbreak could mean that it was a new disease altogether. Damage control. Theo formulated his battle plan.
The camera’s flashed as Theo ascended the podium. He placed his trademark bowler on the pedestal and, holding the gorgeous little Rupert to show what a man of animals he was he launched into his speech. He could hardly believe he was such an expert on BSE after only that afternoon and a couple of briefings. Basically, he was stalling. Deny everything, make noises that investigations are in place, blame the previous Government, point to contradictory evidence, then smile,smile,smile. But not too much of the smile. Keep a serious side. And keep Rupert in all the photo ops. It had worked for American presidents and, by God, it would work for him. Theo worked the room like the consummate professional he was.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease! Why hadn’t he been briefed? Where were the dams briefing papers? Why did he have all these people on the payroll to keep him informed if they couldn’t tell him what Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease was? The papers were having a field day. He had been on top of it. Last week he had been so on top of it was like he had a pipeline to BSE heaven-if there was such a thing. Now all of sudden, the press were bringing up a statement that he had made months ago about the traditional sausage. Had he actually said that they were safe to eat? Maybe! Then the fourth estate had finally done something useful instead of sitting on their hands, drinking, and lying to each other and their readers. Someone had found out that the dangers of certain kinds of sausage harbouring mad cow disease. Meat and sausage-loving citizens who, up until a year ago believed that the country’s quality controls made it immune to mad cow disease, were now calling for Theo’s blood. Theo had until Wednesday insisted that sausages were safe, but then had to abruptly reverse course. He had to admit to an increasingly surly public, that a warning about some types of sausage containing meat from backbones and other cattle parts seen as carrying a risk of disease transmission had lain in his ministry for a week before he learned about it. He had tried the old trick of releasing it on the eve of a weekend but instead of the usual diet of sport that feed the masses they were bombarded with Theo and Rupert playfully looking out from front pages everywhere and giant headlines screamed ‘No Sausages for Rupert-Lord T caught in BSE scandal’, ‘Lord T plays while the Country Ails’. The inevitable political insults followed – ‘”It is an absolute scandal that Hogg left a warning about the risks lying around in his ministry for a week as if it were just another Christmas card,” said Peter Repnik, a leader of the opposition in parliament.
“The man is in over his head and he has to resign,” he told local radio. “If he won’t go on his own, then The Iron Lady has to fire him. He seems to spend more time with his dog and a certain lady than attending to the affairs of state. He either runs an incredibly sloppy ship or has lost control. In either case he has to go.”
On top of all of this, little Rupert had taken ill. For a horrible moment Theo feared the worse. That Rupert had BSE. He fretted and then he prayed. Days went by and slowly little Rupert seemed on the road to recovery but his political problems seemed destined to get worse.
Then, a reprieve of sorts. Hot on the heels of the sausage scandal it was revealed that the brains under examination for traces of BSE, incredibly, were showing no signs of the virus. Temporarily Theo rose to glory again. The Iron Lady, who it was rumoured, was waiting for his resignation phone-call cited his patience and good management in her weekly press conference. The public were warmed to eating beef again. The press humbly asked for interviews from the man they had reviled weeks before. Theo had planned a weekend away at his beach house. Just him, Lady Smythe and Rupert. A weekend of bliss. He deserved it after the months of living on the edge. Then, the press did it again. Some disgruntled and misguided public servant used the law to serve their own or some other political master’s purpose. Mistakenly a whole brain was sent to the Government testing facility rather than pre-frozen sections of the brains of animals slaughtered from what were thought to be contaminated areas. The worker thought these brains looked rather too small to be from large bovines and after consultation with a veterinarian found out that the laboratory had been mistakenly supplied with the brains of dead sheep. Suddenly Theo’s name was in the headlines again and any thoughts of a peaceful retreat were well and truly dashed.
“Oh Christ. How could they have been so incredibly stupid? Humphrey. Tell me – no – reassure me that this is a dreadful nightmare.”
Theo looked over his eyeglasses at Humphrey who looked decidedly uncomfortable. Theo stroked Rupert little head and Rupert snuggled up against his ample chest. Little Rupert. Theo wished he was little Rupert who didn’t have a care in the world apart form his next walk and meal.
“I don’t know Lord Theo. The Ministry labs are saying that after your predecessor lowered restrictions on what could be fed to livestock she neglected funding for basic staffing and equipment issues and a large number of the scientists now working at the testing facility have had little practical experience in these matters. They just didn’t think that the slices of brain tissue they were looking at could have come from anything other than beef. My contacts tell me that the structures of the two animals are quite similar. Humphrey thanked his lucky stars that it wouldn’t be him that had to front up to firstly the media, and then to the Iron Lady, the ultimate arbitrator in the Government. Meanwhile Theo was asking himself; “Did I spend to much time sorting out Marjorie and Lady Smythe. Was my background research not broad enough? Was I distracted by little Rupert’s illness?” He groaned and distractedly pushed Rupert from his lap and headed towards the brandy decanter. The phone rang. He looked up as Humphrey stood to attention as the voice cam on. Theo knew it must be the Iron Lady. He stiffened as Humphrey extended the phone, raised his eyebrow, and uttered the words that Theo had been dreading to hear.