Six-sided cubes, ivory colored, black-eyed dots, tumbling, bouncing, rattling, futures and fates in the balance. The dice rock and roll in the alley, under the streetlights, reflecting neon red and blue and sometimes, once in a while, colored with flecks, hints, sticky drops of arterial or venous blood.
Nathan sat in the corner, in the lone chair of the hotel room, facing the door. An open pack of Marlboro Reds along with his cell phone sat on the end table beside him. Smoke drifted from a cigarette held loosely between his fingers. The ash had grown long and drooped down from the red cherry.
Steven opened the door to the two men.
“We spoke on the phone Mr Clark. I’m Eddie Freeman and this is my photographer Charlie.”
“Come in. Sit down.”
Eddie pointed over to the ashtray.
“Do you mind?”
Steven shook his head.
“I’ve been chain smoking since all this came out…Bastard! He started me smoking again.”
“I will ask you once again Mr Clark…”
“Steven, call me Steven.”
“…Okay Steven, are you sure that you want to do this?”
“I have to. We’ll be fucked if we don’t because of that sick little bastard.”
“What about your wife, lawyers, police?”
“As the case is by, I can speak to you. They’ve all advised against it. But we have to. It is the only way that we’ll get any peace. Linda will not participate. I would ask though, can I see the draft before it goes out?”
“…Sorry but it’s out of my hands when I pass it on to the editor.”
“Don’t worry. I won’t be censoring. I will tell you everything and answer anything that you ask. I just want to see how it reads.”
“I can’t promise but we’ll see.”
The door opened and Linda brought in coffee.
“Are you sure Mrs Clark that you don’t want to say anything?”
Her eyes filled up, she shook her head and hurried away.
“She can’t handle it. But she agrees with me doing this.”
“Right Steven, I’ll switch on the recorder. I’ll ask you to tell me your story in your own words and if I have any questions or anything I need clarified I’ll ask as we go along. But I’ll try not to interrupt too much as you speak. If you need a break just hold up your hand and we will switch it off. Okay?”
“In your own time.”
“…We thought he was a good boy. There were no…Signs? Nothing! He was a normal kid and a moody teenager, so we thought that was normal too. But…Fuck! It all began when we took Sandra in, that was Linda’s mum. She was diagnosed with dementia at sixty. By sixty five, she was in her own world. I mean, you could still have a conversation with her but hell knows where that would take you…Is it okay if I add in what we know now, from what the police have found out?”
Eddie nodded, “Is this from before or after Ian’s conviction?”
Steven shuddered at the mention of his son’s name.
“Both, what they know and what they have found out since.”
“Sure, please go on.”
“I haven’t spoken to him. Not since we were told that there was no doubt.”
Eddie held up his hand, “Try and put it in as much of the order that it happened as you can.”
Steven nodded and took a drink of his coffee. He stubbed out the cigarette and lit another.
“Everything seemed fine. He had always been fond of his gran. Fuck! That’s an understatement! He helped us, he sat with her when we were at work. We had carers coming in to help out and give us a break but he was happy to take his turn. No fucking wonder! It must’ve started from there. How it started and any details, I don’t fucking want to know! The police have got recordings and the duvet can be seen. That was Sandra’s own duvet, we brought it from her house. They took it away and well, there were signs that he had been there. We never saw anything, they had to test it. That fucker was also cleaning up his own mess while we were out.”
Steven laughed and wiped a tear.
“I didn’t even think he could do laundry. No wanking into a sock for our boy! Oh no, he had his gran and the use of a washing machine!”
Eddie switched off the recorder.
“Give yourself a moment. Trust me, the sympathies will be with you.”
“Do you think? We’ve had a few phone-calls and paint thrown over my car already. This is why we need to do this. We need to distance ourselves from that freak.”
He nodded and Eddie switched it back on.
“I know this is difficult Steven but you will need to tell us exactly what he was doing.”
“…The thing that was my son was having sex with his gran and putting it on the internet. The old lady didn’t know what she was doing.”
“Surely there was no issue with it being consensual?”
“Well that is where his lawyer was a total star. That was why it was so difficult on all of us. They tried to say that it was consensual and she should have had to answer to an incest charge as he was fifteen at the time.”
Steven shook his head and began to sob.
“Go on Steven, this is important.”
“…Consensual, that’s a fucking joke! The poor old soul didn’t know what planet she was on. She was living her life of thirty years back when she did have sex, I don’t know, she maybe recognised Robert in him. Sorry, Robert was her husband, his grandfather and he was using that fucking memory to get a blow-job off his gran!”
“Oh it gets worse. You think of the most intimate things that you can do with your wife or partner…And yep!! That’s my boy!!”
“We’ll come back to the court case but first tell us how he got caught.”
Steven sighed, “I am not clued up on how the internet works but basically he was posting these images on…’The Dark Web’…There’s a fucking thing I now know of!! Then the entrepreneurial side of him kicked in and he decided to go live as it were. But that wasn’t what got him. The police caught him, either whilst he was trying to set-up a payment system or actually when he had, as I say, I don’t know how it works. I heard it all in court. Oh…if you need any permission to access the transcripts or proceedings or whatever they are called, I’ll do that for you if I can. All I know is he was unlucky…There’s a fucking laugh!! Unlucky!! You see, The Police have a few officers who work on sting operations to catch all types of illegal pornography and he just happened to get on their radar. The little cunt thinks he is so clever but he wasn’t clever enough to go unnoticed.”
“Tell us about the arrests.”
“That was the worse day of our lives. There was a chap at the door at around six am. Weirdly it was all very calm. Isn’t it strange what you notice. I saw the patient transport outside and that was what confused. I actually thought they had came to the wrong house, I stared at the warrant as Linda screamed. Social Services bundled her mother into the patient transport. That confused me even more. I began to wonder if one of the carers were in trouble. Then their ‘Charges’ began to sink in.”
Steven leaned back, “Do you know the one thing that I was grateful for and that was at least she was out of it. There was enough history and records that there was no-way anyone believed that she was participating voluntary, that was for the lawyer bastards to come up with later on!”
“I read that Ian wasn’t arrested immediately?”
“Well, yes but no. Another car turned up and it was more Social Services, they wanted to take Ian away. Fuck knows how that had come about! There was one CID Officer who simply shook his head and said, that he was going with them. They cuffed him and he was taken away in a different car from me and Linda.”
“How did The Police treat you?”
Steven smiled, “Actually not too bad. But I know why, well now I do. They’d already been investigating us and they knew about our work, the carers and they had that bastard’s time lines on the internet. When they checked, we were always at work, nothing tied into any time that we were there. One of the officers told me later on that they had suspected from day one that it was all about him.”
“Ian also stated that you and Linda knew nothing, didn’t he?”
“Oh yes!! We should be so grateful!!!”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean that to sound as if you owed him anything, please continue about your time with The Police.”
“They called it right. We knew fuck all and basically, we were there as witnesses for the P.F. And do you know what, looking back, it was the best twelve or so hours that I have spent as he was finally held accountable for what he did.”
He lit another cigarette and swapped it for the one in his mouth.
“…What do you think? She was in pieces, sedated, now on medication for depression. She will never get over it, never! Please don’t ask me for any other specifics, can we just leave it at that?”
Eddie nodded, “Of course.”
“Thanks. I worry about her enough.”
“I don’t want to spend too much time on this as it has been well documented, but what are your thoughts on the case?”
“Lawyers are cunts! That bastard gave himself up to the cops. He admitted that it was all about him and then the lawyers started whispering in his ear and that was where the consent question arose and if that was the way they went, then it could’ve been Sandra who had to answer. It was all bullshit, but the fuckers were for playing that hand. I suppose there is a God as Sandra died before all that shite could be played out. There would’ve had to be an independent competency hearing and fuck knows what else.”
“That never came out so how do you know?”
Steven laughed, “I doubt if any law firm would sue me after what has happened, but you are the media and they might go after you! So I’ll tell you and you can do with as you wish.”
Eddie leaned forward and switched off the recorder.
“I may ask you to repeat this.”
“I am reading between the lines from what I heard…Oh and I am not telling you the source. But seemingly the leak came from his lawyers office. Someone close to the case was so disgusted that they passed it on to the person who told me. I know that is clear as mud, but it is all I am willing to say.”
“I’ll leave that for now. I’ll talk to my editor. But I can quote you that you heard it second hand?”
“Be my guest.”
“Okay, back to the court.”
“Well after Sandra died I take it that there was no point in them dragging it out. We had all the Social Work involvement etc to say that she was incompetent and she wasn’t here for them to TRY and prove otherwise, so they coped out for a deal.”
“…And the sentence, how do you feel about the sentence?”
“Fucking sick and disgusted. Five years and most of that will be in a secure residential unit for boys. I doubt if the fucker will ever see the inside of a prison.”
“What would you say to Ian?”
“I have nothing to say to him!”
“What would you say to anyone who will be reading this?”
“If I’d known what he would become, I would have drowned him at birth.”
“What about your wife?”
Steven looked over his shoulder.
“…Same! Leave it at that.”
Eddie nodded slowly.
“Just before Charlie takes your picture, are you sure that you want your photo published?
Steven shrugged and held his hands out, “I can’t fucking hide, so I need to be obvious.”
“I understand and I think you are right, but a couple of last questions…These are the hardest for me to ask.”
What now? And what in five years time?”
Steven took the last cigarette from his packet.
“Now? Clichés! I will do everything I can to help Linda get better. And I will involve myself in working with families who are victims, like us, I have to. I can’t be disgusted with what others do anymore and think that the families were involved. Let’s be truthful, that crosses all our minds. So I want to help with that.”
“…And the future?”
“…Well in five years time I’ll be the man who takes my son into my local pub to build some bridges. I will lock the door behind us and shout at the top of my voice, ‘That is Ian Clark, he rapes old ladies! And much later, if he turns up, I will console my wife”
Eddie leaned forward and switched off the recorder.
“…But you have just given us a potential confession.”
“I don’t give a fuck. Let me ask you something. Have you seen the images?”
“We all know what they were. They were a beginning.”
“It’s horrific. I can’t begin to imagine what you have been through.”
“You don’t have to…
But do what you think is right…
As will I.”
The Eastern sky lit up for hours this time. Smoke billowing out of whatever building had been bottle-bombed and the stench of charred meat reaching for the wind. Cajoling it to carry the warning to every survivor still making their way towards a pre-recorded radio message or following hopeful, dusty signs carved into tree trunks and telephone poles.
I was driving at 85. The night was darker than it should have been. There was nothing on the road, not in the windshield, not in the mirrors. I was so sure that we were not coming back. That we would go into the dark and then never appear at the other side of the road. She lay on the back seat staring at me like a voodoo doll. Oh, and she was dead. Did I tell you she was dead? She was. The wind whistled past me through the window like running away from something. The trees beside the road ran back. I looked at her once and she blinked. I turned back and focused on the road.
A laptop illuminates the otherwise darkened room. On the screen is a website that she is all too familiar with, the one that has been taunting her for months. A new photo has been uploaded within the past couple of hours. She pulls out a chair but chooses not to sit – the surfaces are damp and the whole apartment smells of bleach and lemon.
The website is seemingly old fashioned by design. Page backgrounds are dark with a watermark logo. Fonts are bright and dated. Items jerk around the page whenever a window is resized or moved. An animated under construction image rotates and hovers in view at all times.
The homepage shows fourteen captionless photographs. The image quality is poor and they appear to be scanned copies of original prints. Each image shows a minor celebrity in a state of undress, always draped across an object or a piece of furniture. The pictures are unflattering and raw. The first image shows a reality star splayed across a four poster bed. The next is an ex-soap star lying face down into a giant beanbag. A television presenter slumps backwards over a pile of cardboard boxes.
And so on.
Leaning against the grimy brick Mel scuffed her feet on the flags. She flicked a fag end into a puddle of scummy rain water. Her fingers quivered and shook, fiddling and picking at the little gold clasp on her shoulder bag. She sniffed, wiped the back of her hand across her nose. She needed a fix but couldn’t have one yet, she needed to keep her wits about her. She hated being out on the street, well of course she did but it was Saturday and so there was no choice.