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Authors: Charles Kennedy Scott

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BOOK: Bang
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‘He did it himself,’ said Delilah. ‘You’re not laying
this one on me.’ Drip Drip.

‘Can you prove this? You are the only one that saw
anything.’

‘There were others. Many others.’ Drip drip.

‘No, they were all asleep. Fast asleep. Dreaming deep
dreams, I shouldn’t wonder, in the luxury of Dormitory 100. I often walk by
Dormitory 100 and pop my head round the door and look up thinking how pleasant
a catnap or forty winks I might have in those amusing little hammocks. It puts
me in mind of apple orchards, pear trees – oh imagine if such places still
existed. But I don’t go in. Do you know why? Because such extremes of comfort
would lull me into so deep a sleep that I might not wake for hours, and then
where would I be? Remiss in my duties to the Authority. An officer asleep! I
resist the temptation. But it is no surprise that the other prisoners were out
cold. Lucky them. Air-conditioning and everything. Now then, tell me how you
murdered the fat man. No, stop, don’t do that, tell me why. Then how. Go!’

‘It wasn’t me, I tell you.’ Drip drip. The water
dripped on.

‘Come now. Prisoners murder prisoners all the time.
It’s the done thing. Part of the deterrent. I mean, if you’d thought up there
on the escalators and moving floors that you might be murdered down here, you’d
have thought twice about breaking whatever law it was you broke. I’d need to
check the records – what did you do? Who was the arresting officer? Never
mind. Just admit your crime down here. Let’s get this silly business cleared up
and we can be on our way.’

Delilah acknowledged something to herself now. If JJ
Jeffrey offered a stop to the dripping water, she would confess to the murder.
She’d work out a way of retracting her confession later. But he hadn’t so far,
and didn’t look likely to. She said nothing. Drip drip.

‘Okay, have it your own way. Bring in the Warden.
Bring in Dormitory 100’s warden.’

A shrivelled old man in a nightcap was shuffled in.

‘Tie him to the post. Lash him up good.’

‘Go to sleep!’ cried the shrivelled old warden. ‘Go to
sleep, the lot of you!’

‘Bring in the Whipping Boy. Bring him on in.’

‘Go to sleep. Silence, prisoners. Go to sleep!’ cried
the warden.

The Whipping Boy entered, dressed in leather and
buckles and sharpened studs. His whip was a
Voltaire
, a whip made from a
bull’s penis genetically modified to possess extra effective whipping
properties once dried, and far longer than a normal bull’s penis, which had
quite a shaft’s length in its own right. Legend had it that this whip was
inspired by the man who invented electricity. The connection was not clear. ‘I
have a very long pizzle,’ said the Whipping Boy, who Delilah reckoned could
have been no more than ten or eleven year’s old. ‘Would you like a taste of it,
old man?’ Before the old man warden could lift his old head to see what was
going on the
Voltaire
hummed deeply through the air and sliced the top
off his nightcap. ‘Take that, you wrinkly old git. That’ll teach you. Now
listen up everybody, I want some drugs. Does anyone have any drugs? I need some
stuff. I’ve had a hard day at school.’

‘Fetch the Whipping Boy an orange pill,’ demanded
Officer JJ Jeffrey. ‘And don’t spare the horses, make it snappy. Today!’

An officer scampered away, then scampered back,
skewing the fork on Delilah’s finger on his way past, which he stopped to
painfully straighten, before giving the Whipping Boy an orange pill. The
Whipping Boy tossed it high in the air and it stuck to the wet ceiling. He
waited a moment and it fell. He caught it on his tongue, then swung his whip
again, this time extracting from the old warden an eye, while all the time
reciting calculus in preparation he said for an upcoming exam.

‘Did you see that, Warden?’ asked JJ Jeffrey. ‘The
Whipping Boy took your eye out. See with your other eye how your lost eye rolls
around the slimy floor like a marble. Now perhaps the prisoner will
talk …?’ He swivelled to Delilah, removed his pith hat, poured water out
of it, replaced it, and added, ‘The warden’s eyes – one down, one to go,
your call.’

The warden stared pleadingly at Delilah with his
remaining eye and his lost socket, quivering with pain and old age, hopelessly
helpless. But the drips dripped on, sending Delilah slowly mad, so that she
barely noticed the old man’s pitiful one-eyed stare and his hunched, begging
shoulders.

‘It wasn’t me,’ she said. ‘I didn’t do it. You’ve got
the wrong person.’

‘Ha! So that’s your story, is it, madam, and you’re
sticking to it? Yet you had the
motivation,
after all. You planned to
murder every single one of them, didn’t you. So that one by one you’d gradually
be lowered to the ground and could unhook your harness, and escape through the
unguarded door with the sign on its handle saying
Back in five mins
.
Deny it.’

‘I do. I deny it.’ And still the drips dripped on.

‘I’ve got your number, my little tartlette. You
conspired with the warden here. He’d provide the equipment, the scalpels, the
saws, and whatnot, and in return you promised to save his skin in this
interrogation. Yes?’

‘No! How could that be possible?’

‘But now you’re welshing. A deal-breaker. You’re
reneging. Whipping Boy, do your stuff.’

‘No,’ said Delilah. ‘I’m innocent of all charges.’ The
Voltaire
went into its back swing. But then the drips came again and she
could take them no more. ‘Okay, I confess. Everything you say is true.’ She
sighed, not just with relief but with the fresh terror she knew she’d just
guaranteed herself. Then she sighed again, that now it was too late.

‘I thought so,’ said JJ Jeffrey. ‘I knew it. I had a
hunch and I didn’t let it go, I chased it. I’m a man of my convictions. Then
you came through, just in time to save the Warden, your fellow schemer. Good
for you.’

‘Go to sleep,’ cried the warden, and then spluttered,
and sagged, and died.

‘Opps,’ said JJ Jeffrey. ‘You were too late. Take the
warden away and recycle him. Untie the prisoner. Or should I say – the
murderer
.’

I’m a victim of some kind of conspiracy, thought
Delilah, to do away with the old warden, but at least I’m to be free of those
interminable drips. I’m only nineteen, a hairdresser, this shouldn’t be
happening to me. And if I hadn’t been mugged, it wouldn’t.

‘Come on, murderer, we’ve got plans for you.’ For now,
at least, she was strengthless, and she fell into the slippery wet ground. The
useless towel fell away. But she didn’t pass out. Not this time. She heard the
word
chamber
but pretended to herself that she hadn’t. However, she was
too honest for her own good and could not pretend this, and instead repeated
the word again and again in her taut head, and the word that had preceded it.

But they didn’t take her to a torture chamber. They
had been using such words to frighten her. It worked. For when she arrived to
meet her lawyer she was a gibbering, but sane, version of the Delilah who had
formerly moved up there on the fast lanes, her Life swinging off her hip,
hoping to pick up boys, or at least keep the salon customers happy. She hoped
now, as her body shook of its own accord, that such no-nonsense talk would
allow her to put the record straight with her lawyer. She relished the legal
opportunity afforded her but regretted that upon introduction to this lawyer,
appointed her by the Authority, that her shaking out-of-control body flung its
wetness all over his smart suit, which had a check too large for his
small-featured face.

‘What is your plea?’ he asked. ‘You must have a plea.
What is the point of my attending you if you have no plea. I don’t come cheap,
you know. You’re wasting both the Authority’s money and my time. If you don’t
give me the answers I want soon, I’ll up and out of here. Got it?’

Delilah mumbled something dejectedly, and shook and
shivered.

‘Your lawyer’s name is Mr Poy Yack,’ said JJ Jeffrey.
‘He is a middle-aged man in the prime of his career. He has decided to try his
hand at defence for a change, and for a bet, after many years of incredibly
successful prosecution. He has never lost a case, ever. You are very lucky to
have him. I will be here to hear everything you say to him and to protect him.
Not only are you a recidivist and dangerous criminal but also now by your own
admission a murderer. Not only that but you have hastened the death of the poor
old dormitory warden, who never did anyone any harm. We cannot just ignore
these facts.’

‘That was the warden’s crime, was it?’ asked Delilah.
‘That he never did anyone any harm?’

‘I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.’

‘I won’t pretend I didn’t say it.’

‘Would you like to pay a visit to the place your fear
assumed we were taking you?’

‘Let me handle this, JJ,’ interrupted Lawyer Poy Yack.

‘Very well, but let me nevertheless apologise on the
prisoner’s behalf for the state of her undress. She threw off her towel, a
lovely fluffy thing, in an earlier conniption, and insisted on rolling around
the slimy floor. It is my view that she suffers excess sexual function. Look
how those nipply things point about all over the place demanding attention.
‘Look at me! Look at me!’ they say. Each one trying to outdo the other. She is
something of throwback, I fear, to earlier less enlightened times. We even have
surveillance of her – I cannot say the word. I left her in the bathroom, a
woman you understand, and out of the bath she got. Then over she walked,
nonchalant as you like, to the laid-on chair with the exquisite towel she has
since shunned, and what did she do? She stopped, right there in the middle of
the floor, and placed her hand between her – and, and – well you can
imagine. Over her
feet
,
if you please. We have all been poring
over the footage trying to divine what might have been
going through her
mind
. But the mind of a murderer – sometimes such a mind resists
simple extrapolation. You understand.’

‘Oh I do, JJ, I do,’ said the lawyer. ‘You’ve got your
work cut out with this one. What a terribly horrible case, don’t you think?’

‘You’re telling me. It’s a bad’n.’

‘What puzzles me is she thought she could get away
with it.’

‘Think of it this way, my dear Poy Poy. She was
willing to let her accomplice die, that must say something about her.’

‘We’re looking at a serious sentence here, I believe,’
said Lawyer Poy Yack, forgetting for the moment that he now worked defence.

‘Very serious. What did you have in mind, Lawyer Poy
Yack?’

‘I’ll be recommending 222, with parole after ten years
taking her to 111, with secondary parole after a further five years taking her
up to the relative comfort of 101. I’d say that’s the very least we’re looking
at. I’m tempted to pitch in at 242 or even 245 but let’s not aim too low. I
say, who’s defending her?’

Delilah spoke feebly. ‘You are. Apparently. But I
think I’d like to swap you.’

The lawyer’s face changed. ‘So I am, little one. I’d
quite forgotten. I get onto autopilot, you see, my young friend. Just comes
out. Prosecution. Line after line. She’s quite right, you know, JJ. Discount
everything I just said, it has no legal standing.’

‘Not likely, Poy Yack. I believe I’ll call you for the
prosecution.’

‘Try that and I’ll toast you. This case won’t even
make court. It has more holes in it than a System shower unit. I’ll have her
out of here by morning and you damn well know it. Don’t you worry about a
thing, my child. Now, Officer, get my client some warm clothes, right away. And
a cup of coffee, and an energy biscuit, and see about having this fork pulled
out of her finger. No, on second thoughts, let me do it.’ He gave the fork a
yank. ‘It’s stuck fast. I don’t know what to do. I’ll work it out. But now tell
me, child, what is your name.’

‘Delilah,’ said Delilah. ‘And I’m innocent.’

‘Never mind about that for now, popkin. Let’s just
concentrate on getting you into something warm and dry. You’re ruining my suit.
Delilah, you say? What
is
going on with this fork? That’s a nice name. I
don’t think I’ve ever defended a Delilah before. I don’t think I’ve ever
defended
anyone
before. I’m doing it for a bet, you know. A bet I had
with a fat man I put away a year ago for being so fat, but don’t worry about
that, nobody liked him, a real burden on the Public Body of Health. Awful case.
Fattest man I ever saw. Bigger than an elephant. Ever seen an elephant? Me
neither. Whatever became of that fatso, I wonder. Christ, he was
enormous
.
You know what, I can’t even remember his name.’

‘If it’s Jeremy, he’s dead. He’s the one I
‘murdered’.’

‘There,’ said JJ Jeffrey. ‘Another full and frank
confession. This is an open-and-shut case if ever I saw one. Never mind these
legal wranglings, Poy Yack, let’s just send her straight to 245. No, make that
250. Give her over to the care of the electric animals for a 25 stretch, a 30.
They so rarely get their crackly paws on a female. Help restore some order down
there. Maybe she makes it, maybe she doesn’t, but Upstairs has to acknowledge
that we did our best. That’s how I see it.’

BOOK: Bang
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