Authors: Daniel I Russell
By Daniel I. Russell
Copyright 2015 Daniel I. Russell All Rights Reserved
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the authors‟ imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
For Don D’Auria
Authenticity. The truth. The real
That’s what the world needs.
“Hello? Jesus, this was a stupid idea. I hope you can hear me dear…erm…typist? I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.”
Dr. Graham Burns studied the tiny reels inside the machine slowly turn. He guessed it must be recording after all.
This particular JVC Dictaphone, he’d been assured by the seller, was a classic piece of yuppie technology from the late 1980s. It certainly looked the part with its chunky buttons, solid casing of silver plastic, and a weight that could smash a car window. Graham felt he needed a certain retro mood for his current project. It had been a colleague’s idea. No one typed a book on a laptop back in the day, and Graham knew his typing skills floated in the toilet. The Dictaphone would be quicker. Authentic to the time.
He rewound the tape and grimaced at his tinny voice from the speaker.
Downstairs, the office Christmas party raved on. Rather than distract, the muffled music, accompanied by cries and laughter, helped Graham slide back through the years. Band Aid, Wham!, Shakin’ Stevens and The Pogues. All hits from around the time the Stephenson Case hit the headlines.
Graham held the Dictaphone to his lips, staring from the fifth floor window across London proper beyond.
Should have a pint in my hand rather than a lukewarm coffee on my desk.
Lots of drunk girls out there. Tonight could be the night of finding that special someone…or at least having a bit of a fumble in the back of a taxi…
Reaching his mid-thirties had imposed a crippling self-awareness, and a quickly eroding hair line and expanding waist added an unwelcomed time pressure. It wasn’t just the ladies who were expected to settle down, chain themselves to a mortgage and have kids by now.
That was the issue. Kids.
Not that Graham didn’t like the idea of family. It was a supposed human condition to be surrounded by one’s own blood, come home from the office to a hug and a kiss on the cheek, see the painting the boy had done at school, and to argue with the girl over her outfit and make up.
His line of work dissuaded you from bringing innocent life into the world.
He clicked record.
“The Stephenson Case by Dr. Graham Burns.” He cleared his throat. “I hope you can hear me over the background music. Acknowledgements will follow. For now, just an author’s note.” He paused again, once more running the words through his mind before he spoke. “During the late 1980s, no one had emails or Facebook accounts. Computer screens were glowing green text on a black background. If you said
, people thought
. You could smoke at your desk. As a kid, the only way to find your friends was to see their bikes dumped in a kid’s driveway. What I’m trying to say, is that despite the technological and social advances of the time, this was still a very different world. Our lives were moderately private. Big Brother was still suckling at his mother’s teat.” Graham stopped, considered this might be a bit much but pressed on. “Child abuse occurred as it regretfully always does but statistics are sketchy. Society, while not as
as the preceding, post-war decades, had not the social networking we enjoy today. Lives played out in private. I would also like to add that former minister Norman Tebbit has claimed that the Government of the time allegedly covered up many child abuse allegations by losing documents or failing to pursue leads.
“It took a media campaign to shine a light on the likes of the baby left to starve in its crib, the boy beaten senseless, and the girl who had to keep a special secret with her father. The media outrage, the story that blazed across the tabloids and had chirpy morning show presenters and their older, sombre evening news counterparts talking, was The Stephenson Case.”
Graham sat back in his office chair. This was harder than he thought. He sighed and closed his eyes.
“The Stephenson Case involved a young single mother, Christine Stephenson, and her then ten year old son, Wesley. The father is unknown. At the time, the mother and son had no contact with medical officials, family psychologists or any other support network, however, there had been no early indication that these would be needed. Christine had failed to find work and was living on benefits. Wesley was a child of above average intelligence with no recorded physical or mental disability. Later categorising would include him somewhere in the Autistic spectrum.
“After researching extensive reports from the case, my aim is to reveal what
happened inside the Stephenson house, taking into account both sides of the story, the media falsehoods and eventual cover up.”
Graham clicked the stop button and held the Dictaphone closer to his face, already worried about losing one of the tiny tapes. He recalled the
toy. Similar tapes would pop out and with a few quick turns would turn into a bird, and another, a panther.
He clicked record. “Additional note. The Stephenson Case involves
The Fabled Four
, which back in eighty-seven was a popular Saturday morning cartoon involving a group of legendary heroes. Despite the unnecessary recent reimagining of this classic in CGI, the original is and always shall be superior in every way.”
Graham stopped the tape and sipped his coffee, smiling.
The Brownie hut at the back of the Sunday school had always been the number one choice for kids’ parties. It had a toilet for the wee ones to go wee wee, a small kitchen for the heating of sausage rolls and pies and the chilling of cocktail sausages and fruity jellies, and a long wide room with worn wooden boards, perfect for a dance floor.
The best part was no kids vomited cake and sandwiches on your
carpet, and no nosey parents flicked through your record collection.
Most of Class Four from St. Thomas’ Primary school currently strutted their funky stuff at David’s glorious tenth Birthday. They were certainly trying their best to Walk the Dinosaur, stamping feet and roaring into the air. One hapless herbivore found himself hunted by a pack of faster predators, who worked as a team and wove between the more sluggish boys and girls.
Christine was not surprised to see Wesley trying to enter the thick of the action, running about the outside with a huge, dumb grin on his face.
The other mums – because on a Saturday afternoon dads were too busy watching the football or playing darts down the local – congregated on the rows of wooden chairs lined up along the walls. No one paid any attention to the children, even when said herbivore was knocked to his feet by a bigger kid. The pack closed in, piling atop the boy like a rugby team. Only when the boy began to wail did a stern mum step in to break it up.
Christine sat alone in the corner, staring at the throng of children but not
seeing them. The noise… Why do young kids always have to squeal? They squeal when they’re happy, squeal when they’re upset… At least here Wesley’s din became mixed up in the general chaos.
It had been a surprise to find the invite at the bottom of his school bag. He had, of course, not told her until the very last minute, dumping his bag and forgotten note from David’s mum in the hall. David’s mum. Stuck up streak of piss in the white summer dress. It was nearly fucking Christmas! She only invited Wesley as a social service. Care in the community. What a lovely gesture.
Wesley is a special boy, thought Christine, watching her son do…something around the edge of the dancing group. She couldn’t tell if he was being a plane, a boxer or some fucked up dinosaur. Whatever, he did it alone. None of the other kids joined in.
Thursday she had found the note and attached colourful invite.
We’d love Wesley to attend!
it said in fancy, looped hand-writing.
Don’t worry about a present.
Obviously she had to buy the boy a present. What kind of guest goes to a Birthday party without a present? It wouldn’t be her that suffered either. The boys of Class Four weren’t likely to beat
up come Monday. Wesley on the other hand…
Christine’s money had come through the previous week, and with rent and bills out of the way, and extra for the heating this month, only a few quid remained to get to next pay day. A kids’ Birthday present, just before Christmas?
The song changed to Belinda Carlisle. If Heaven was a Place on Earth, Christine was yet to find it.
The girls danced on…squealing again. The boys ran off, chasing each other like excited puppies.
Wesley simply lingered.
Christine caught a stare from one of the other mums. Was it Mark’s mum? The one whose husband worked at the bank? Or Sophie’s mum? The one who’d just had a cyst removed?
That’s one of the things they don’t tell you when you fall pregnant. None of your friends call around anymore. Say goodbye to clubs and boozy nights out on the town with the girls. You win parents who probably hate you as much as you hate them, all with names you don’t care enough to remember. It’s all about the kids anyway. Mark’s mum. Sophie’s mum. Francesca’s mum. No doubt they all knew her though, being the only single parent at the party. She noticed the only other singleton had not been invited, Carl’s mum, but she had Tourette’s. You can’t have someone randomly shouting cunt at a kids’ party, especially during musical chairs.
Christine smiled, dying for a smoke. She checked her watch.
How long do these things go for?
“Can’t believe they invited him,” said one mum.
Christine sat a little higher in her chair, watching the children, listening.
“Well notice Kelsey isn’t here, poor girl.”
“Okay, everyone. Gather around!” said David’s mum, a suburban ballerina twirling amidst the dancing children. “It’s time for presents.”
The gifts had been taken as each child had entered and piled along a table to the rear, away from greedy little hands. The children all hurtled down the length of the room, some skidding to a halt as they sat on the smooth wooden boards. Wesley trailed behind and parked himself aside from the group, his hand flapping, fingers twitching.
Christine looked away.
The children were almost climbing on top of each other to get a better view. Anyone would think they were to receive one of the brightly wrapped packages. Birthday boy David was ushered closer to the table by his pushy mother, a reluctant performer before a braying audience.
Christine could almost taste her next cigarette. It might be sacrilegious to smoke on the grounds of a Sunday school but hell, she needed one. She sought out the present from ‘Wesley’: a small package in a single sheet of blue wrapping paper, wedged between two larger.
I hope he likes it.
She thought more of her own son’s feelings than the spoilt brat standing beside his mountain of gifts.
The tedium began. David would be handed a present from his mother, thank the child—who would grin like an idiot—and rip into it. The gifts were held up and announced, like He-Man with his sword, but instead of “I have the power!” it was more “I have a digital watch!” or “I have the new Michael Jackson tape!”.
The gradual removal of presents eventually revealed Christine’s meagre offering.
“This is from…” David’s mum squinted at the label. “Wesley!”
A few of the kids turned and stared.
Wesley started to suck on his hand.
“Thank you, Wesley,” said a dutiful David and tore into the paper. A frown briefly fluttered across his face. He held up the figure encased in plastic. “It’s a…a robot, I think.”
Damn fucking right it’s a robot, you ungrateful shit. You want to look inside my purse and see how much that robot left me to get through the week?
Some of the boys sitting cross-legged on the floor shared a few glances but Wesley remained sucking on his hand.
The robot figure, complete with sword, gun and authentic Kung Fu motion, was placed on the pile of opened presents. David held out his hands, eager for the next one.
Christine checked her watch once more.
“Now, David,” said his prissy mother, large hooped earrings swaying, “you have to take your time with this one. This present is from your father and I.”