Recidivist, Part 1
Well, here goes the first couple of thousand words. Any and all feedback would be most welcome, especially constructive criticism.
David Bowden looked out of the minibus window at the driving rain. The journey had taken them from the outskirts of the city into the heart of the countryside and for the last twenty minutes none of the names on the myriad signposts along the route had been familiar.
His fellow travellers were a boy of similar age whom he had never seen before, a social worker whose name he had been told and which he had promptly forgotten, and Steven Howe, an eleven-year-old from a neighbouring estate whom he had met on a couple of occasions, which was two occasions too many.
Two hours earlier David had been told by his regular social worker to meet the minibus with enough clothes for an overnight stay. When he pressed for more information and was simply told that it was a “rehabilitation weekend.”
“My mate told me about these places,” Steven suddenly offered to no-one in particular. “They’ve got all sorts of water sports and climbing and stuff, and it’s all free. Something about us being disadvantaged or something, and giving us a free holiday makes us stop nicking stuff.
“Did it work for your mate?” the other boy asked?
“Nah, he just nicked stuff while he was there. He got a couple of car stereos and stuff.”
“You reckon we will be doing climbing and water sports and all that in just one day? That’ll take a week at least. You don’t know shit, Steve.”
“Yeah I do.” Howe countered.
“Bollocks. You wouldn’t know an arse-biting jumping spider if is jumped up and bit you on the arse.”
The third boy laughed. “You two know each other?”
“We’ve met a couple of times, that’s all. I’m David.”
“Mark Bridges, and I don’t mind anything that gets me away from the house for a few hours. Me mom’s driving me crazy: ‘Why can’t you be like your brother? He’s in the Army and it’s made a man of him, while you just go through life making other peoples’ lives a misery! Trashing that house, Police at the door day after day. If your Dad was alive…..’”
“If my Dad was alive he’d be out there nicking with me!! It was him what taught me how to do houses. Before that it was just stuff from cars, shoplifting, stuff like that.”
“Shut up, big man.” David said, throwing Steven a glare that dared him to reply.
They rode in silence for the rest of the journey, Mark enjoying his time away from home, Steven sulking at David’s rebuke. After another fifteen minutes they turned off the main road into an unkempt drive with a sign proclaiming their destination as Broughton Hall. Another hundred yards later the minibus pulled up in front of a dilapidated house. Weeds overwhelmed the garden and ivy covered every inch of the walls
“We can forget about water sports, climbing and go-karts.” David mused. “I bet this shit hole hasn’t even got a telly.”
The social worker opened the sliding door and the three boys stepped down, carrying their overnight bags. Once they were all out he closed the door and the boys were alone, doing their best to keep dry. They were taking in the squalid surroundings when the front door opened and a man in his early fifties ushered them inside.
“Welcome to Broughton Hall. My name is Gordon Wells and I’ll be looking after you for the next two days. You’ll meet some of the staff later, but first let’s get you out of the rain and into your rooms. You must be hungry after your journey so dinner is being prepared.”
Inside the house they saw that the hallway matched the exterior of the building. However, a room off to their left contained a pool table, wide screen TV and DVD player, a selection of DVDs, two of the latest video consoles, a pinball table and a glass-fronted fridge containing countless soft drinks. Wells led them upstairs and the first room the came to mirrored the one they had seen downstairs.
“This will be your bedroom, Steven. As you can see, you have all the facilities that are in the common room downstairs, except for the pool table, so you have the choice of using them on your own or as a group. There is a menu on your desk should you feel hungry later on, but room service finishes at midnight. All rooms are identical and I think you’ll find everything you need for your stay. If you could meet in the hallway downstairs in thirty minutes I’ll show you through to dinner.”
David and Mark were shown their rooms and Wells left them to take in their temporary surroundings. David put his overnight bag on the bed and walked slowly around the room, touching the equipment but not attempting to use any of it. He thought of his bedroom at home, with its ancient games console and a 14 inch portable TV to play it on, and the mattress on the floor.
The telephone next to the bed interrupted his thoughts, and when he answered it Wells asked him to join the others downstairs. The clock on the wall told him that he had been alone in the room for forty minutes.
David left the room and as an afterthought he returned and shut the door. In the hallway Wells and the two boys were waiting for him.
“Sorry,” he offered, “I was just...”
“No matter. Come, let’s eat.” Wells led them into a room opposite the common room. A long table which could comfortably seat eight was laid with a lace tablecloth, an assortment of condiments and four place settings at one end. Wells took his place at the head of the table and turned on the 50 inch widescreen television which dominated the far wall.
“I hope you like The Simpsons.” Wells said. “It’s my favourite.” He rang a small bell and almost immediately a matronly woman appeared carrying a large tray. She placed it on the table and set four individual trays in front of them: cheeseburgers; hotdogs, chips and cottage pie. She took their drink order before returning to the kitchen.
They ate in silence, only interrupted by the serving of their various soft drinks and the arrival of the dessert trolley.
When the meal was over Wells excused himself and told the boys he would be back in thirty minutes. “Is this what your mate told you about?” Mark asked Steven.
“They didn’t have half this stuff where he went. Have you seen all the stuff in the room? Mine’s full of stuff.”
“Have you got a thesaurus?” David asked, winking at Mark.
“No,” Steven replied, “but I got Resident Evil II and ViceCity for the X-box, and loads of other stuff.”
“What he means,” Mark explained, “is that you keep saying ‘stuff’ all the time. It’s getting on my nerves, too.”
“Yeah? Well you can get stuffe...get bent.”
Ignoring Steven, who had gone into another huff, Mark asked: “What are you here for, Dave?”
“Criminal damage and assault. Me and my Mum got moved onto a new estate where all the kids had mobiles, Wii’s, DVDs and TVs in their bedroom, you name it, they had it. When they found out I had sod all they kept taking the piss. There was one kid who was really nasty to me. One day I had enough and bunked off school and went to his house. I found some paint in his shed and broke in, then spread the paint everywhere. I covered everything in his bedroom, ruined the lot. When they caught me for that I found out he was insured and got everything replaced, brand new as well. After that I just beat them up when I saw them and they soon stopped taking the piss. What about you?”
“All sorts. Mostly nicking and vandalism. There’s nothing to do where I live so we have to make our own fun. I never hurt anyone and they were all insured, probably...”
“You wanna know what I’m here for?” Steven asked.
“To annoy us?” David guessed.
“To ruin our weekend?” Mark added.
Steven brushed their jibes aside. “I’m serious. I got 97 offences but they can’t do nothing ‘cos I’m only eleven. But then I’m doing this house and the old bird comes back early from the shops. I tried to leg it but she grabs hold of me shirt, and I swing out and catch her on the head and she goes down like a sack of spuds. They got me ‘cos I did about ten houses in that street and then when I put me hands up they tell me she went into a coma.”
“I was right,” Mark said “you’ve just ruined my weekend.”
“Steven, give me your address before we leave. We can hang out and do stuff.” David said.
“Great!” Steven beamed. “I’ll give it to you later. I’m off to my room to see what stuff I can nick.” When he was gone Mark looked incredulously at David. “Are you really going to hang around with that knob?”
“Don’t be daft. I used to live in the same street as that woman he put in a coma. She was really sweet, always giving us sweets and that. When me mum told me about it being in the paper I was really hurt. Now I know who did it I can get her some payback.”
“Good man. Give me a call and I’ll be glad to help out.”
The boys went across the hallway to the common room and had a game of pool, watched by Wells on a monitor in a side room. He turned to his assistant, Elias Sinden. “I think these two show some potential, but young Steven shows no remorse at all. I think he’ll need the full treatment. I’ll give them all the bog standard “you’re not bad kids” and point them in the way of some job opportunities but I think it will be lost on him. Besides, I think the older boys might be smarter than they’ve let on so far. How old are they?”
“David is 15, Mark is 14.” Elias informed him.
“We know Mark likes go-karts so we’ll set him up at the track on weekends. David’s case file doesn’t show any hobbies but we’ll have a chat and try to find something for him. As for Steven….what’s the weather forecast for tomorrow?”
“Bright early on, some cloud later but no rain forecast.” Elias confirmed.
“Excellent. Make the arrangements for Steven tomorrow morning while I have a chat with these two. Give us ten minutes, then call Steven and ask him to join us in the common room.”
Wells left the room and joined the boys at the pool table. “Guys, can I have a word?”
They all took seats in the corner of the room and Wells opened a folder. “I bet you’ve both spoken to counsellors and social workers and a lot of other people telling you what you’ve done wrong and what you have to do in the future, eh?” The boys look at each other and nod in unison. Steven arrived and took a seat next to the other boys.
“Do you know who paid for all this?” Wells asked them.
“The government?” was David’s guess.
“No, I did. We have government support but all funding comes from private companies. I am the director of the Wells group and while we spend over £30 million a year on this project, although our main contribution is the jobs we provide to the likes of you three boys.”
“You must be loaded.” Steven chimed in.
Wells confirmed it with a smile. “Yes, I guess I am, but believe it or not, I was in your shoes thirty years ago. Always in trouble with the police, and always getting caught!! I was given a helping hand and I’ve never looked back. I was put on a computer course which led to a good job and lots of money and responsibility. That’s what I’m offering you, now. The same chance I had. You don’t have to accept it, but let me tell you what I have in mind and you can decide for yourselves later.
“Mark, I can offer you a place at your local go-kart track as a trainee mechanic. I know you spend a lot of time…” he glanced at the folder “and money there, so I’m offering you the chance to work there at weekends, learn the trade for a fair wage and have free use of the track each evening. They’ll show you how to build your own kart, supply all the parts and when it’s built you’ll try out for their kart team, travelling all over the country for competitions.”
Marks face lit up for a moment, but then a frown appeared. “What’s the catch?”
“There isn’t one, really. I just want to see an end to your wild days, that’s all. I’m not here to punish you if you do wrong, but I can reward you if you do right. I have 87 businesses here in England and more abroad, and everyone who goes through this program is offered a position within one of my companies. No-one will discriminate because of your past and I’ll get monthly reports regarding your conduct. I expect them to be exemplary. If they are, and a majority of those who have passed through the program here get good reports, then you can expect further rewards.
“You’ll work weekends and holidays until you leave school - and I’ll be getting those reports as well – and then you’ll be offered full time positions in one of my companies. In each of your rooms you’ll find a pack containing a list of all the companies I own and a link to the website which details each and every position available within the Wells group. Take the pack with you, have a look through it and decide what you want to do in the future.”
Wells closed the folder and rested his elbows on it. “Do you like the things in your rooms?”
The boys all nod in agreement.
“Well, they’re not yours, but they are examples of what you can aspire to. If you stay with the program until you’re 21 you’ll each receive an interest free loan as a deposit for your first home. I’ll also put money in a trust fund which you will be entitled to on your 30th birthday…..again, if you’re still in the program. It should give you something in the region of £100,000.”
He paused to gauge their reaction and got two positives, while Steven stared out of the window disinterestedly.
“The alternatives,” he raised his voice to ensure Steven’s attention “are these: carry on as you are and end up in prison by the time you’re eighteen. Or, you could keep your noses clean for a few years and try to get a job when you leave school, but that won’t be easy with your records, so you’ll probably go back to crime and end up in prison anyway.”
Wells focused on Steven for a moment. “Let me tell you about prison.. It doesn’t make you a man and you have no friends inside. You’ll be beaten up on an almost daily basis and men, big men, will have sex with you. It doesn’t matter how tough you think you are, there are always tougher men in prison. “
“That’s rubbish” Steven scoffed. “My uncle was inside for 3 years and he said it was easy.” He waved his arms around. “Anyway, I could nick enough stuff to make my room at home look like this one in a week.”
“And how are you going to enjoy your new toys when the police seize them and you’re in prison?” Wells asked.
“Well, they won’t catch me, will they?”
“Is that because you’re too clever for the police?” Wells asked him.
“Too right!” Steven said defiantly.
“Which is why you’ve been caught... what is it now, 97 times?”
“That doesn’t count. The police can’t do nothing cos I’m not old enough, so I don’t bother trying to get away with it.”
Wells said “If you’re clever enough to fool the police, then you’re clever enough to know that crime doesn’t pay. If you’re not clever enough to know that, then you’re not clever enough to fool the police.” All three enjoyed the look of confusion on Steven’s face.
“You boys think about what I’ve said and I’ll see you in the morning. Please be in your rooms by 9:30 this evening, and don’t worry if you hear your doors being locked. Just think of it as a taste of what you can expect if you fail the program. Goodnight.”
When Wells left the room Mark and David resumed their game of pool.
“What have you nicked from your room then?” Mark asked Steven.
“A few CDs, some DVDs, stuff like that. What about you?”
“Nothing” said David.
“What? There’s loads of great stuff up there. Who’s gonna know?”
“You don’t get it, do you, Steve?”
David and Mark shook their heads and resumed their game, while Steven went in search of treasure....
Let me know when you are ready for the second half.
Last edited by HoiLei; 07-27-2010 at 09:14 AM..
Reason: fix formatting for readability