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Walking the Wild Side

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 10

I did not expect Maddie to do much but surprisingly she came up at Christmas with a pile of information. Amongst other things, she'd found that in the last fifteen years there had been eight suicides of young men in the area who were between seventeen and twenty-five, all of them bikers. Interestingly, four of the eight had incomplete tribal tattoos. All eight had been involved in anal intercourse.

I looked at Maddie when I read that last piece of information and asked how she knew. She simply stated it was in the medical report of the post-mortem examination. I left it there for a moment, then asked how she got the post-mortem reports, to which she responded that she was doing computer science.

She then gave us another piece of information. There had been at least nine road traffic incidents, four of them fatal, involving young bikers around the area of Lower Hamford where James Halmdean lived. In each case the biker was under the influence of drugs. In the case of the fatalities there had been evidence of anal intercourse.

Tom and I looked at the information Maddie had presented.

"It's too much to be coincidence," Tom observed.

"Of course it's not a coincidence, it's James Halmdean," Maddie stated, spitting out his name. She then went on to say that there were a number of other incidents involving the suicide of young bikers from outside the area. She could not say they were connected but there were sufficient similarities to make her think that they could be.

That Christmas Tom and I gave Maddie a live-fire experience weekend at Bisley. She gave us a massage set, with a range of oils. We set about experimenting with them as soon as we got home to Brum. It was strange: both Tom and I now thought of Birmingham as home.

Following the instructions, we warmed the oils, then I massaged Tom, then Tom massaged me. It was fine until Tom ran his thumbs down my spine and into my cleft, touching my anus. The moment he touched my anus I tensed up, then started to shake. Tom stopped immediately, was holding me, cuddling me, telling me everything was fine.

"It's not, though, is it?" I responded. "That man has spoilt it for us."

"I don't care," Tom replied, as he moved in to kiss me. "I am happy with what I have."

"I know," I responded, once he had finished the kiss. "It is just I want to be able to give you more."

"I don't need more, I have you."

The big storm in February really made a mess of Aunt Alice's garden. A couple trees came down and some others were damaged. Aunt Alice wanted to get replacements planted as soon as possible. However, specimen trees of any decent size are not that easy to find. They were certainly not stocked by the garden centre I worked at. Tom suggested that we try the big garden centre in Lower Hamford, so the last weekend in February we took Aunt Alice there.

It was a much larger place than where I worked, with its own large nursery. Talking to the staff it turned out their main business was growing for the professional market and the retail garden centre was just a side-line. As a result they did have specimen trees of a decent size in stock. We weren't able to get everything we wanted, it would have been too expensive but Aunt Alice did manage to get replacements for her magnolia and the birches she had lost. Better still the nursery agreed to transport and plant them for her. That had been one job I had not been looking forward to.

Having dealt with the business of getting the trees, we had a look round the garden centre and went into its café for a drink. As we entered I spotted Maddie sitting at a table with a young man and an elderly woman, neither of whom I knew, and I thought I knew all of Maddie's relations.

Maddie saw me and waved us over to join them. She introduced the young man as Neal and the elderly lady as Miss Jenkins but gave no explanation as to whom they were. Miss Jenkins and Aunt Alice were soon chatting to each other about gardens. Tom went up to the counter to get tea and tea-cakes for the three of us. I asked Maddie how come they were there, I thought she would be over in Cambridge. She responded that she was just showing Miss Jenkins around the area. There seemed to be something slightly evasive about her answer.

That evening we were at Stephen's. Aunt Alice was staying there for the weekend. Over dinner I mentioned bumping into Maddie at the café and said she was with a Miss Jenkins. Stephen looked up and asked if I meant Edith Jenkins. I told him I did not know but wondered who Edith Jenkins was.

I planned on staying in Birmingham until Good Friday before returning for Easter. Partially this was for practical reasons. Aunt Alice wanted to visit Stephen for Easter but Stephen made it quite clear that five days of the old dear was more than enough for him. Tom was also working right up 'til Good Friday. Partially it was because Birmingham was now home to us. Tom and I had built lives here, lives we enjoyed. So, we were in Birmingham on the Thursday when the news broke of the vicious attack on a billionaire's grandson.

The initial reports were quite sketchy. That the grandson of the inventor and engineering billionaire Stuart Halmdean had been viscously attacked and beaten in his own home was the headline in the evening paper that I saw when walking home from the supermarket. I wondered if it might be Master James but then remembered that Stuart Halmdean had other grandsons who were a lot higher profile. It was not until I saw the local news at six that I recognised the building and knew who had been attacked. I immediately called Tom, who was still at work, and gave him the news.

There was something odd about the way the news was being reported. I just knew there was more to the story than was being told. As soon as Tom got home I told him that things did not sound right. For a start where were Dean and Mike. I could not imagine James being anywhere without that pair around. Tom said he would phone Stephen whilst I sorted dinner. He came back ten minutes later and said that Stephen had said there was a lot more to the story but a lot of pressure was being put on people to make sure it did not come out. He invited us to join him and Aunt Alice for dinner on Friday, the next day, and suggested we brought Maddie along as well. I found that a bit strange, but she had been there last time we had talked about James Halmdean.

Things got stranger next morning. My phone beeped with a message from an unknown number. It contained a link to a video file. I checked it out, it was clearly the security footage from the outside close circuit camera at the gates of James Halmdean's house. A motorcyclist wearing a backpack rides up to the gates, which are closed, places something on the centre of the gate, then pushes them open, gets back on the bike and rides in. As the bike enters two dogs appear charging at the bike and its rider. Suddenly they stop, start to whimper and slunk off. By now the rider is close to the door. They park the bike carefully, get off and start to walk to the door. As they do so it opens and a figure comes out, running at them, I recognise Mike just at the moment when the rider does a high snap kick and connects the heel of their bike boot with Mike's chin. Mike goes down like a lead balloon. There is another figure behind Mike. I guess that is Dean. He pauses for a moment in the doorway, then picks something up and steps out with a baseball bat in his hand. The rider reaches behind into their backpack and pulls something out. It looks like a short rod, about thirty centimetres or so. Dean swings the baseball bat at the rider's head. The rider drops down onto the ground, twisting as they do so. As they hit the ground the rod suddenly expands from thirty centimetres to about one metre fifty and comes up very sharply between Dean's legs. The rider who has continued in their spin is now up on their feet or more precisely foot, as their other foot is arching into the side of Dean's head.

With both Dean and Mike down on the ground the rider removes some cable ties from the backpack and proceeds to truss them up. Once done, the rider compresses the staff into its former size and replaces it in the backpack before entering the house. At that point the video stops.

Tom and I watched it again. It was Tom who spotted when it was taken. It was the second time we watched when it he suddenly announced, "That's Monday night."

"How do you know?" I asked.

"The moon, you can see it reflected in the windows," Tom stated.

"Yes," I responded.

"But it has been overcast and raining for the last couple of nights, so it had to be Monday night," Tom pointed out.

"So why has it taken two days for the news to break?" I asked

"Or before anyone found out?"

During the rest of the day the phone beeped about every twenty minutes or so with a link to a video. I did not watch them all. In fact, after the first couple I did not bother to watch any. Though I did see the scene of James Halmdean being dragged out of his safe room by the rider. That was shown on national news, with calls for greater protection for rural areas. That was before the video files hit social media. Especially the ones that certainly were not legal.

So late on the Good Friday afternoon we drove down to Cromford, dropped Tom's and my stuff off at my parents, picked up Maddie and proceeded to take Aunt Alice to Mr Meadows. We got there just after seven. Bank holiday weekend traffic had been murder. Stephen welcomed us and told us dinner would be in half an hour. In the meantime, he suggested drinks in the conservatory. Going through I was surprised to find DI Rawlins there as no mention had been made of him.

"It's OK," he said, seeing my surprise, "I'm not on duty. In fact I'm on leave pending my retirement."

"And it's not early retirement," Stephen interjected, going up and putting his arm around Stan.

"Are we to understand Stephen that you and this gentleman are now … what is the word that is use … ah yes, an item?" Aunt Alice asked.

"Aunt Alice," Stephen responded. "I would like you to meet Detective Inspector Rawlins, informally Stan Rawlins, and yes we are an item."

"About bloody time," Aunt Alice stated. "How long have you two known each other?"

Stephen looked at Stan, who shrugged, then answered Aunt Alice. "We've known each other just over fifteen years, since I moved up here from the Met. Blotted my copybook slightly and the powers that be thought the countryside might suit me better."

I looked at Stephen questioningly.

"It's OK, Leo, a gang of queer bashers got slightly bashed when they were arrested. Would not have been a big deal but one of them was the son of an MP," Stan filled in before he continued. "Anyway, Stephen and myself soon met when I moved up here just before the millennium. Not long after I moved here I was investigating a case involving an assault on a sixteen-year-old by a member of his family. Turned out the boy was gay and the uncle was a homophobe. No father around. Stephen agreed to act for the boy on a pro-bono basis.

"Since then we have worked together on several gay issues around the area. Though nothing more than being just social friends. Stephen had his partner…" Aunt Alice huffed quite loudly.

"Yes, Aunty," Stephen stated, "you were right."

"Of course I was right," Aunt Alice replied. "So you got together when that piece of rubbish decamped."

"Not precisely," Stan stated, "but we did get together to investigate a certain character around these parts…"

"If you mean that Master James say so," Aunt Alice spit out.

"You know about him?" Stan asked.

"Got the story out of Leo. Nasty piece of work, what's happened to him is not enough."

"Right," Stan resumed. "We started to cooperate to see if there was any way we could end Master James' activities. It was clear that the official approach was not going to work. After his first acquittal, we had gone in twice on complaints and both time the CPS refused to prosecute. Can't say I can blame them; the bastard had covered himself well.

"Anyway, Stephen and I started to look at alternative approaches. As a result, we started to spend quite a lot of time together and found that we had more in common than an interest in bringing an end to Master James' activities. Of course, our professional status meant that we had to keep some degree of separation going. Now that the problem of Master James appears to have be resolved by the actions of a third party, I decided it was a good time to put my retirement plan into operation. I have some accumulated leave due, which I am taking, and then I am officially retiring next month."

"So," Maddie commented, "you are not on the investigation into Master James?"

"No, Miss Atkins, I'm not, which is probably better all round."

"Why's that?" Aunt Alice asked, topping up her glass of wine.

"Well, Dr. Meadows," Stan responded. I was shocked a bit by his use of Aunt Alice's formal address because, although I knew she held a doctorate in mathematics, nobody had ever addressed her as such. "The thing is, I might have too much local knowledge, which might provide insights into the investigation that are probably best not explored."

"Why ever not?" Aunt Alice enquired.

"Madam," Stan responded, "there are times that in the interests of justice the law should be blindfolded."

"So who is doing the investigation?" I asked, accepting a refill from Stephen as I did.

"They've brought in a DI from the Met. Very nice young women, who is totally efficient. She has her own team, also very efficient. Fortunately, none of them have any local knowledge."

"Why is that important." Tom asked.

"Because if they did they might wonder at the coincidence of a certain motorcycle riding young lady, who is connected to three of Master James' victims, being a computer geek of the highest order and a highly skilled martial artist," Stan stated, turning to look at Maddie.

"Three of the victims?" Maddie asked.

Stan smiled. "I believe you are acquainted with Edith Jenkins," he stated. Maddie looked a bit surprised. "The Met still likes to keep an eye on the old lady, even though she is living in Oxfordshire now. When a motorcyclist visited her, a note of the number was taken and a local check done."

"Who," I asked, "is Edith Jenkins." Thinking of the old lady we had met at the garden centre.

"She's an old shoplifter, now retired. I was doing some background on the impact of modern security systems," Maddie responded.

"She is also the effective head of one of London's most successful crime families. Not the biggest, by any means, but by far the most successful," Stan stated. "I met Edith when I was with the Met. Not the sort of woman that one wants to upset. I bet she was very upset when her nephew Michael Thompson was killed in the motorcycle crash a few months ago."

"Yes, she was," stated Maddie. We all looked at her, she just smiled. I for one would not have liked to be on the receiving end of that smile.

"I suggest," Stephen interrupted, "that before this conversation goes any further we go in and have dinner."

The next couple of hours were spent avoiding the conversation we all knew we wanted to have. It was a delightful meal. I told Tom and Maddie that we better walk home as we had all being drinking. We would leave the car at Stephen's. Tom suggested a taxi, and I gave him a look that put an end to that line of thought.

As soon as dinner was over, I made an early excuse for us to depart. Once outside I turned to Maddie and asked her what the hell she had done.

"I did what was needed," she responded.

"But…" I started.

"Come on," Tom interrupted, "let's go and sit in the park."

Once we got there Tom got us seated at a table in the picnic area.

"Alright, Leo, let Maddie tell us what she wants to tell us in her own way. Don't interrupt her and don't ask questions. Maddie, you better fill us in on what you know otherwise we will be constantly trying to find out. However, if you tell us now I think it would be best if we all then forgot about it and did not bring it up again."

"OK, after what happened to Leo and Keith I was angry. I was angry that the police seemed to be unable to do anything. So I started to look. I managed to hack into Master James' network and what I found there made me mad. I also realised why the police were powerless. Most of the stuff was held remotely on off-shore servers. When the police raided and took the systems for forensic examination the stuff was not on them, only links that would not work except from the original location, so they could not follow up.

"Anyway, I did pick up a lot of stuff and started to follow it up. The thing is that no matter how careful you are when you are doing stuff like this you do leave some signs around and I noticed some of those signs. Somebody else was looking around. They were coming from a different perspective, though: the death of one motorcyclist.

"I followed that up and established contact with them. Turned out to be a seventeen-year-old kid from the East End. He was doing it for his Aunt Edith. That is how I got invited to visit Edith Jenkins. She is a remarkable lady and somewhat frightening. It turned out that I had the missing information that she needed to understand what had happened to her nephew Michael. Apparently, she had never accepted the police report that he had been taking downers and crashed under their influence.

"Once she knew the truth and had the information about Master James' computers, she set up the operation to take him down. I was just a bit player."

"You could have got hurt, badly," I pointed out.

"Oh no, there were a couple of heavy boys there and they had Tasers; they were just to stay back out of shot unless they were needed. James Halmdean and his boys were wimps!"

"But why, Maddie, why did you do it, surely not for what that bastard did to me?"

"No, Leo, it was not only about you, though that made me angry. It was Keith."

"Keith?" I asked.

"Yes, he was my boyfriend," Maddie stated.

"I didn't know," I replied.

"We kept it quiet. My mother made it clear she did not approve of Keith, especially when he left school at sixteen. We agreed that I would get my degree and he would qualify as a mechanic, then we would marry.

"But he changed. I knew he was bi, we had discussed that and I could cope with that. What I could not deal with was him locking me out of his life. It started about a year and a half ago. He started to say how he could not be in a relationship until he was truly a man, that he had to prove that he was a man. Last Easter he told me he had best not see me until he had sorted himself out and proved he was a man."

"So that is why you were so upset by his death?"


"One question, Maddie," Tom asked, "why three days? It was Monday when you went into Master James' place but all the stuff shows the date as Wednesday."

"Needed to copy all the remote stuff back to local drives; there were over eight terabytes of data. The bastard had state of the art connections but even then it took time. Actually, we were not able to get everything back but we got the stuff pulled back to local that would put him behind bars."

Tom nodded. Stood up and walked round the table to Maddie and gave her a hug. "You know, as we are walking home why don't we go into the Lion and Lamb and get drunk." We both agreed with him.

Over the next few days news broke of Master James' arrest. Initially he was charged with having and making indecent images of minors. Then other charges started to be made. As more and more charges were made people who had been his victims started to come out of the woodwork and make complaints. In the end he was charged with over two hundred separate offences. Dean, Mike and Master James were charged with conspiracy offences, which from a legal perspective were regarded as more serious than the base offence and which carried heavy sentences.

It was several months later that the case got to court. I was called as a witness for the prosecution, one of over two hundred. It was expected to be a long trial. Tom went down to London with me for the trial, which was being held at the Central Criminal Court. James Halmdean's lawyers had objected to it being heard in Worcester so it had been moved.

We had been told that the case could last eight to ten weeks, maybe longer, and the prosecution could give us no indication when I might be called. We just had to sit around and wait. In the end I never got called. For nearly a week the lawyers for the defence put up all sorts of legal arguments, mainly aimed at getting the video material from James Halmdean's servers omitted from the evidence. When that failed they asked for and got a twenty-four hour adjournment.

It was on the Friday morning that the case resumed with a surprise. James, Dean and Mike all pleaded guilty to all charges except the conspiracy ones. The judge accepted the pleas and ordered that the conspiracy charges be left on the file. I gather that this meant that those charges would not be tried and no finding of guilt or innocence would be entered against them. They could, in theory at least, be brought up again sometime in the future, but we were told this was very unlikely.

The court adjourned for twenty-eight days for sentencing reports and assessments to be made. I was told that I was no longer needed so Tom and I got the train back to Brum. It all seemed a bit of an anti-climax. I went back to my studies and tidying up the garden in preparation for winter.

Tom and I went down to London for the sentencing. The prosecution read out victim statements from a number of the victims, including one from me. In mine I said how James Halmdean had messed up my sex life and that caused problems with my personal relationships. When all the statements had been read the prosecution asked for the maximum sentence, which was life. The defence put forward arguments for mitigation but in the end, James Halmdean was sentenced to thirty-five years; Mike and Dean got thirty years each respectively.

The witness support officer at the court told me that it meant they would probably end up serving more time than they would have done on a life sentence.

You might wonder what happened to the others, like Phil. Some gave themselves in to the police and got away with lesser sentences, most about ten years. A couple of fled the country and are now subject to extradition proceedings. Phil, though, was never charged. It turned out he himself was a victim – effectively a sex slave, one who turned Queen's evidence.

A few days later James Halmdean was found dead in his cell; he had hung himself. When the news broke, I felt empty. It was if I was being denied something. He had escaped the punishment that had been set out for him.

A few weeks later Maddie phoned me and asked if I would meet her at the small village of Upper Haresford, which sits on the border between Oxfordshire and Berkshire. She also told me that Phil would be there. I was a bit reluctant to go but in the end Tom persuaded me to. We drove down the following Saturday.

When we got to the address she had given us, it turned out to be Miss Jenkins' house. The old lady greeted us at the door and showed us through to the living room. Maddie was there seated on a sofa with Neal, the boy we had met at the garden centre. On the opposite side of the fire place were two easy chairs. Phil was seated in one; in the other was a male who looked about my age but gave the impression of being quite a bit older. He had piercings in his nose and lips plus studs in his ears.

"This is Samuel Finklestein," Miss Jenkins stated, introducing us. Then she indicated Phil. "Leo, you know Ian Mackpiece, though under a different name."

"I thought his name was Phil?" I stated.

"That," Ian said, "is what that bastard Master James called me. He made me answer to it." Ian then went on to tell his story. At times I felt sick listening to it; it brought back memories that I wanted to avoid. However, hearing Ian talk about things put the events into a very different perspective. It seems that James Halmdean had made a business of picking up young men, breaking them emotionally and mentally until they were under his total control, then selling them for either prostitution or sexual slavery. Apparently, he made quite a bit of money from his activities.

Ian told us how the operation worked. How young men were either picked up off the streets or targeted on websites. James Halmdean had looked for certain key phrases like 'alone' or 'lonely' that indicated likely targets. Then he would set about indoctrinating them and alienating them from their friends and family. After that, is was a fairly simple task for him to break any inhibitions or restraint that they may have had.

I started to see exactly how I had been manipulated. The thing that became clear was that I was not weak or stupid. James Halmdean had been a master manipulator. Miss Jenkins stated that he would have made a marvellous conman. At that comment I laughed and kept on laughing. The image of James Halmdean as a conman filled me with amusement.

Tom asked me what was so funny? I explained. Soon they were are laughing. Laughing at James Halmdean.

Ian finished his story. Then Miss Jenkins explained why she had asked both Ian and me to be present at this meeting. It turned out we were the only victims of James Halmdean whom she knew how to contact and she wanted our input into things.

She informed us that James Halmdean's property had been sold off at auction under the Proceeds of Crime Act. She had purchased the house as she wanted to do something with it as a memorial not just for Michael but all the other boys and young men who had suffered at the hands of James Halmdean. However, she wanted to know what we, the victims, thought should be done with the place.

"Burn it to the ground," I stated, without really thinking.

"That would be a waste," Ian said. "It is actually a nice house, once you get away from what's on the ground floor and in the cellar."

"Those we can get rid of," Samuel said.

"They already have been disposed of," Miss Jenkins assured us.

"What it should be is a place that is the complete opposite of what it was used for," Maddie stated.

We talked it over for a good two hours. A lot of different ideas were floated but no decision was made. It was about six weeks later that Maddie phoned me to say that Miss Jenkins had given the property rent free to a charity that provided support to homeless gay and lesbian teenagers. The idea was to turn it into a hostel to provide them with a place of safety. Somehow it seemed a right and a fitting memorial to Michael and the others. I phoned Tom with the news.

In the same phone call Maddie also told me she had become engaged to Neal. They were to be married when she finished university.

Tom came home with a bottle of champagne and said we should get drunk. In fact, we just got well and truly merry with Aunt Alice joining in the celebration. After the second glass she looked at Tom and told him that he needed to take care of me. He picked me up and carried me up to our flat. Unfortunately, the romance was broken by the fact he had to put me down to open the door, so I picked him up and took him to our room. Once in bed I made love to him. We went very slowly, but I was determined, and he was not only gentle but loving and patient when I took him into me. I knew I was not a wimp, I was in control of things and had decided what I needed to do.

In the end, I knew that with Tom's help, I'd overcome what Master James had done to me, and I felt a great sense of relief. I felt whole again, I felt loved. I had a full life ahead of me, and I was ready to live it, with Tom at my side.

Copyright ©Nigel Gordon 2017 All rights reserved

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