Denzil carefully rested the ladder against the windowsill, taking care not to hit the pane of glass. He was getting quite skilled at this now. He tested the ladder to make sure it was steady, then he gripped the bucket of water and ever so carefully he climbed.
Denzil hated his job. Well, it wasn’t a proper job really; he was standing in for his granddad. The window cleaning business was his. It wasn’t much of a business; it was something the old man did to earn a bit more cash. His pension didn’t go that far.
Granddad and gran were away for a month on a special holiday. Denzil had been press-ganged into taking on the work. He was what his dad called “bone idle”. He had left school three years previously at the earliest legal opportunity. He had been truanting on and off for years before. He had no qualifications and had hardly worked more than a couple of weeks at a time since.
He was so unlike his granddad. The old man had also left school with no qualifications. At first there was work, but times changed and then there was none. Instead of taking welfare, he taught himself painting and decorating and started a little business. Granddad’s wasn’t a rags-to-riches story. He didn’t go on to create an empire of painters and decorators. He worked for himself the rest of his life, except for times when he would team up with one or two pals if the job was a big one.
He didn’t make a fortune but he got married and raised a family by hard work. When eventually he retired, he started the window cleaning round. It kept him busy and paid for the luxuries, like holidays.
Denzil resented having to clean windows. He resented any work, really. It was the height of summer and he was always hot and sweaty. He washed the windows of the posh people. They had large detached houses, often set alongside large gardens. It was such a contrast to the poky social-housing flat he lived in with his mum and dad. Oh, how he hated these people with their big houses and flash cars and all their possessions.
Denzil had found one compensation. It was quite a good one actually, he reckoned. He thieved from the houses. It started by accident. He hadn’t planned anything. It wasn’t like he was “casing the joints” seeking out things to steal or ways to break into the houses.
At one house he was cleaning, the owner had left the large sliding windows to the garden unlocked. Denzil washed away with his usual low level of enthusiasm and high level of resentment. Then he spotted a lady’s purse. It was resting on a chair within a few feet of the window.
The nineteen-year-old didn’t even try to resist temptation. Checking that nobody was in the garden, he stealthily slid the door open, stepped inside and reached for the purse. It was stuffed full of banknotes. There must have been some hundreds of pounds. With racing heart and trembling hands, he picked out a twenty pound note and stuffed it into the waistband of the football shorts he was wearing. She’ll never miss a twenty, he reckoned.
Then he slipped back into the garden. Denzil’s first theft had taken about thirty seconds. Twenty pounds for thirty seconds of work; it was more profitable than window cleaning any day.
He felt no guilt. He was of the something-for-nothing generation. What did he care? She had more than he did. Why shouldn’t he take some for himself? He didn’t even blush when later she paid him for the job and gave him an extra five pounds as a tip. He was too naïve to know the lonely housewife admired his tanned legs, nice tight bum and the firm body encased inside his red replica Liverpool Football Club kit.
Thieving became a habit. It was no surprise that people left their doors and windows open during the hot afternoons. Opportunities were plenty.
One day he was at an especially opulent house. One of the bedrooms even had a balcony. It was almost as large as the one the Royal Family waved from at Buckingham Palace during special occasions. Denzil could see an expensive ipod he rather liked the look of. His confidence as a thief was soaring. Soon he would need to carry a bag marked “swag” with him to stash away all his loot.
He inched open the door, hurried inside, picked up the ipod and slipped it in his shorts. Another easy snatch. He polished off the window and carefully climbed down the ladder. Damn! He hadn’t tucked the ipod away well enough. It slipped down his shorts and through his leg to fall with a plop on the lawn below.
“Hey, you! What are you doing!” It was a middle-aged man emerging through the French windows of the lounge. He reached down and picked up the ipod. “I recognise this. This is mine.” The man’s face reddened.
Denzil stood at the foot of his ladder.
“What else have you stolen. Come show me.” The man reached over to Denzil and roughly lifted the teenager’s football shirt. It concealed nothing except the boy’s suntanned chest. Unabashed, the man tugged at Denzil’s shorts.
“Gerrofff!” the teenager struggled, fearing the man would pull his shorts down. The man let go. There was no room to hide contraband there. The boy was clean.
“You just stole this from my bedroom,” the man waved the ipod in Denzil’s face. The boy stood, blushing scarlet to his roots. There was nothing to say. He was caught bang to rights.
“Your granddad would die of shame if he knew you had been stealing from his customers.” The man waved the ipod again to emphasise the point.
Granddad would be ashamed but his Denzil’s dad would be furious. He rowed all the time with his dad. About not having a job mostly. Dad was always saying there was work to be had in the supermarkets and bars around town. He had threatened to chuck him out the house if he didn’t shape up. Getting caught thieving would be the final straw.
Denzil stood sweating; intimidated by the man. He was easily six-feet-four tall and although running to fat he was still a powerful presence.
“Do you know who I am?” the man growled, his own face now scarlet.
Denzil peered at him, unsure. Was he one of the actors on Brookside?
“I’m Peters, the chief superintendent of police! You have stolen from the chief superintendent of police!” he yelled. Then, calming a little, he added, “You damn fool.”
Peters resented the young pup, now cowering before him. If he dragged the yob down to the police station, nothing would happen. The police were under resourced; they had no time to deal with these kind of crimes. They called them “petty”.Well, Peters knew, the victims didn’t think they were petty.
He wasn’t going to let the kid get away with it. He had probably stolen from other customers. Peters was old school. In his book young delinquents should feel the lash of the birch across their naked arses. That would make them think twice about stealing from their betters.
Denzil was shivering with fright. He was not a brave boy. Very soon tears would be streaming down his face. Peters knew he had the brat where he wanted.
“I’m going to do you a favour,” Peters grimaced. “But you might not think it’s much of a favour. I’m not going to tell your granddad. I’m not going to haul your arse down the police station,” he laughed; suddenly he was amused. “No. I’m going to deal with your arse right here and now.”
Peters smiled wickedly.
Denzil stood frozen. Uncomprehending.
“You steal from me. I’ll deal with you in my own way.”
Denzil could not stop his hands shaking. He clasped them together; rather like children do when they pray. What was the old man talking about?
He would soon find out. Peters grabbed a clump of the teenager’s hair and dragged him forward. “Come inside the house.” He pulled the boy behind him as he re-entered the lounge. He released him while he ransacked drawers in the sideboard. Denzil was too terrified to flee.
Meekly, he watched Peters withdraw two pairs of handcuffs. Then, the police chief lifted a straight-backed dining chair into the middle of the room. Within the blink of an eye, one cuff was closed over Denzil’s right wrist. Peters strength easily overpowered the boy as he pushed him face down over the back of the chair. Then he connected the cuff to the chair’s leg.
Denzil found his voice. He hollered and yelled. Peters didn’t care. The boy could shout all he wanted. His neighbours’ houses were far away and nobody was at home in the afternoon. With one arm of the boy securely cuffed to the chair it was no problem to secure his left arm. The teenager was now bent across the chair with his backside raised in the air. He struggled, of course, but he was going nowhere.
Peters stood back to admire his handiwork. Yes, the lout was in the perfect position to receive what was coming to him. He was securely tied down. He was going nowhere. Peters did not have to rush things.
He went to the garage, found a sharp knife and went into the garden. There were many suitable trees. Birch rods come in many shapes and sizes. The largest and heaviest might have about twenty-four rods; smaller and lighter ones considerably less.
Peters cut away at the branches of his trees. Soon he had a dozen rods, each about eighteen inches long. He whittled off buds and bark and took some heavy adhesive tape and wrapped it around one end. It would hold the birch together and serve as a handle for him to grip.
He swished the completed birch through the air. It wasn’t as whippy as he had hoped. He had read that in the good old days when juveniles were birched the rods were left soaking overnight in brine. That made them exceptionally supple.
Alas, he thought, there was no time for that. He would have to go with what he had.
He returned to the lounge. Denzil was still face down across the chair. He had tired of trying to pull his wrists free. Perhaps, now he was resigned that he was about to be thrashed. In his position, staring at the pink satin seat cover, he was unable to see his tormentor Peters re-enter the room.
The police chief was not quite ready. He went into the kitchen grabbed a handful of paper towels and returned to the lounge. He gave Denzil no time to protest, he forced open the boy’s mouth and stuffed the towels between his teeth.
Only then did Peters show the thief the birch he had made. Denzil spluttered a protest, but only succeeded in choking himself a little. The teenager’s eyes blazed with terror, his face turned at first a ghostly white and then almost immediately, puce. Sweat poured down his face. He yanked his wrists making one last fruitless attempt at escape.
Peters was nearly ready, but not quite. There was one important matter still to deal with. He walked behind Denzil, put his fingers under the elasticated waist of the boy’s football shorts and simultaneously pulled both shorts and pants to Denzil’s knees. A furious session of kicking and writhing sent the garments sliding to Denzil’s ankles.
Peters despised the boy, now prostrate before him. He loathed young people and all their legal privileges. He hated the fact the law could never touch them. He wanted to see all of them pay for their crimes.
For once, he could do this. He would make the brat who stole from him suffer. Peters had never birched anyone before but had read that the pain from such a punishment could be less than that from a traditional caning and therefore he must ensure he lashed the birch rods into the buttocks with tremendous force.
He swished the birch rod through the air. It made quite a whistle as it went, making a petrified Denzil crane his neck to see what was going on behind him.
“Face the front lad,” Peters barked. He took a moment to take his aim; he admired the muscle tone of the lad and his almost completely hairless bum. Denzil’s buttocks trembled with fear in anticipation of the agony he expected as the rods struck home.
Peters took a deep breath, lifted the birch, then lashed down the first stroke.
Denzil would have screeched. He wanted to, but the paper towels in his mouth stopped him. Twelve small scars immediately formed across the centre of his buttocks.
Number two hurt the boy even more, he twisted and pulled but the cuffs held him tightly. Lash number three was directed to the lower part of the cheeks where they met the thighs and the pain was excruciating. Denzil gagged and vomit rose to his throat.
Sweat poured from his body, down his back and into the crack between his buttocks. There were dozens of lines across his bum, arranged neatly from left to right and from the top of the globes where they meet the spine to under the curves close to the thighs. Every square inch of his rear end was scarred.
The pain turned to agony and the boy’s face was as white as a sheet. The next swipe had him again trying to tear the cuffs from their moorings. Tears and snot streamed down his face. He was a broken man.
The police chief laid the next strokes on with renewed vigour. Blood splattered across Denzil’s bum. His buttocks were as red as the Liverpool football shorts at his feet. The agony was intense and the pain had travelled from his blooded buttocks throughout his whole body. His shoulders ached with the effort of gripping the chair and his finger nails had cut deep trenches in the palms of his hands. His head pounded as his blood pressure went through the roof and tried to burst through his ears.
Then, cut number six thrashed into his flesh, Denzil’s head rose and he bit deep into the paper towels so hard it reached his tongue. It would be damaged and he would have as much trouble speaking over the coming days as he would in sitting down.
“Punishment over,” Peters intoned. He placed the now broken birch rods on the table. Denzil lay across the chair, a spent man. He could barely breathe and might be in urgent need of medical attention for all Peters cared.
Peters left the teenager, face down over the chair, his buttocks bleeding while he went and made himself a cup of tea. It would give the lad a little time to recover. Ten minutes later, Peters, carrying a plastic bowl of warm water and a towel, returned to the lad. In silence, he wiped the now dried blood from the boy’s scarred flesh. The backside was a mass of small scars. Denzil would not sit in comfort for some time.
Still without speaking, Peters uncuffed the boy and allowed him to stand. Denzil’s eyes blazed almost as much as his bum, but he had stopped crying and had regained most of his composure. He took the towels which were drenched with saliva from his mouth and let them drop to the carpet. He winced with pain as the flesh across his backside stretched when he reached down to pull up his shorts and pants.
“Go.” It was a curt command. Denzil looked at the police chief, the boy’s eyes dark with resentment. Gingerly, since every step reignited the pain in his bum, Denzil waddled to the front door and was gone.
Only hours later as he lay face down on his bed at home sobbing into the pillows did he remember he had left the ladder and bucket behind. He sobbed even harder when he realised that tomorrow he would have to visit the police chief once more.
Other stories you might like
More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second