The houses in The Avenue were big, many were sedate Edwardian monstrosities with attics occupied by teenagers or au pairs. Limed oak or pastel-sponged kitchens extended into pretty conservatories, and garages had been converted into home offices or games rooms. Front gardens were well tended, with not an ugly spotted laurel or dull privet to be seen. The houses didn’t lack in burglar proofing, large metal alarm bells hung warningly over the ornate front doors and powerful lights flickered on and off all night.
The Avenue bordered Widdicombe Woods giving the inhabitants a feeling of almost rural isolation. But across the main road at one end the council estate loomed high and huge. It was the mysterious hinterland from which the residents assumed all crime and chaos originated. Righteous people in The Avenue lived in fear of being mugged, threatened or harassed by ruffians from the estate. On dark evenings, mindful of terrifying newspaper reports of no-go areas and escalating violence, they made sure to only carry small amounts of change as they shuffled off to the local liquor store. At night they carefully took their in-car radios into their homes with them.
A couple of miles away at the Brocklehurst South police station Sgt Astley peered over the top of his glasses at the young police cadet standing before him. “Bloody kids,” he wanted to say, “They never know when to leave well alone.” Instead his jowls wobbled as he shook his head in disbelief and listened to the tale.
Cadet Noble was flustered. “You’ll never believe it Serge, they had the two boys, well young men really, bent over the car. And they had no clothes on. Well, they had shirts but their jeans and pants were pulled down,” he gabbled.
“Steady on, calm down, son,” Sgt Astley could indeed believe it. There were stranger things going on in Brocklehurst every day of the year.
Cadet Noble gushed on, “And they were whacking their bottoms … their bare bottoms with leather belts.”
Ah, a broad smile split Sgt Astley’s chubby face. Now he understood. “Was it the Neighbourhood Watch?” he grinned.
“Well, I don’t know,” the cadet replied uneasily, suddenly realising that he should have more details. He should have interviewed people and taken notes, like a proper copper. He frowned, vaguely aware that his face was colouring. “It was down at The Avenue.”
The tubby sergeant spread his arms wide. “I should have known,” he wiped a hand across his brow. “Were they lads from the council estate?”
Cadet Noble shrugged his shoulders confirming his inadequacy.
“They’re right posh at The Avenue, they don’t take kindly to riff-raff hanging around stamping on their dahlias.”
“But, Serge they were taking the law into their own hands, that’s not right,” Cadet Noble was flustered. That wasn’t why he joined the police force.
Sgt Astley frowned, “A bloody good hiding never did any harm,” he didn’t say it out loud. There was one young lad standing in front of him who would benefit from a belt across the backside; it might knock some sense into him.
What he did say was, “We don’t have the officers to deal with these type of cases. It’s best all round if we just leave it to the residents.”
“Oh Serge,” Cadet Noble’s face flushed red with indignation. “It’s not fair,” he pouted.
Tucker was on the prowl. He had risen from his pit of a bed just after midday. The afternoon was the best time to do his business. The houses were empty. People had jobs to go to. Suckers! It was mid-summer. Blisteringly hot. He showered, pulled on his jeans, picked up shirts from a pile on the floor, sniffed each of them to find the cleanest and tugged it over his head. He tipped cornflakes from a packet into a not-quite clean bowl and soaked them with milk. He was ready for his day.
His council flat was on the edge of the town centre, conveniently situated between the necessary amenities of life (burger bars, pubs, the social security office) and the rich, leafy suburbs. It wasn’t his day to ‘sign-on’ and his pockets were empty, so he would give the centre a miss today. Time to get to work.
The suburbs of Brocklehurst were green and flourishing and no street more so than The Avenue. Big, opulent houses with large gardens owned by rich folk. He’d pick his pal Higgins up on his way.
Eric Sloop and his two chums were on their second glass of gin. They spread themselves out comfortably in the spacious lounge room, in companionable silence. The sun was shining, the gin was splendid. They dozed a little.
Tucker and Higgins had seen the large detached house on a previous visit. It looked unoccupied; and rich for the pickings. Making sure they weren’t seen by anyone they hurried across the road and dodged behind the wall. Tucker was pretty certain that large as the house was there was only one man who lived there, and he was probably a wealthy old git, by the looks of the place. Tucker hoped they’d be able to break in and steal something valuable; he didn’t want much, cash would be preferable, just enough to pay for some booze and drugs. If there was no cash, he’d steal an ornament (these kinds of people always had ornaments) and he’d sell it.
The pair darted round the back of the house. He tried the door. Ha-ha!, it was unlocked. Why were people so stupid? And, thank the Lord that they were.
“Keep a look out,” he mouthed instructions to Higgins, a dull half-wit of a youth. Cautiously, he eased open the door. It led directly into a kitchen. It was a bright, modern room. Quickly his eyes scanned around; where’s the tea-caddy; old people always hid their money in the tea-caddy. He searched through the cupboards, trying not to leave too many traces, but found no caddy, only a box of tag-less tea bags.
He opened and closed all the drawers, no money and nothing of value. Adrenalin pumped through Tucker’s arteries. He was out in the hallway. There was a jacket hanging on a hook. He searched the pockets but found nothing.
There were four doors leading onto the hallway. The house was airless, the heat and the excitement was making him sweat. One of them must lead to a living room, he supposed. Which one? Did it matter? The house was empty, he had all the time in the world. He reached for a door handle, twisted it. It opened easily.
“What the …..!” Eric Sloop shouted, “Who the fuck are you?” He and his two pals lurched to their feet. Tucker stood frozen, trying to survey the scene. At last, too late, his addled brain told him it was time to flee.
“Grab him,” there was no need for Eric to give instruction, his friend Paul already had hold of the youth’s arm. Toby, the third man in the room gripped him by the neck.
“Wor’s going on?” the dim-witted Higgins stood in the hallway, trying to comprehend the situation.
“There’s another one, quick get him.” Inside seconds two intruders had been captured by three less-than-sober residents.
“I bet they’re from the estate.”
They all spoke at once, as they began to understand what was going on.
“Fuck off, leggo!” Tucker had his arms pinned behind his back. Higgins was in a head lock. They were going nowhere.
“Call the police,” Toby said.
“Yeah, right!” Eric sneered. “Fat lot of good that’ll do.” He twisted Tucker’s arm and then pulled his long, greasy hair. He put his mouth close to the lout’s ear. “Do you know if we were in America and you broke into my house, I’d be allowed to shoot you.”
“Yeah,” Paul added his two-penny worth. “Dead, you bastard.”
Tucker struggled, but the strength of his captor was too much.
“The police won’t do anything,” Eric was taking command. “Not even a slap on the wrist,” he mocked. “Total waste of time.”
Paul smiled sardonically, “We know what to do with these two, don’t we Eric.” He slapped Higgins on the back of the head. “Same as we did with the other two.”
“Wor? Wor did you do?” Higgins feared the worst.
“It’s a pity word hasn’t got round your estate. You don’t come and mess with the folks of The Avenue,” Eric sneered, “We know how to deal with hoodlums like you.” He looked across at his companions. “Let’s take them out the front. Make sure the neighbours can see.”
Eric and Paul took an arm each and pulled Tucker across the floor, the lout’s feet skidded across the plush carpet. Tucker’s fear gave him strength, but he tumbled and the two men dragged him into the hallway and towards the door. Toby grabbed Higgin by the arm, unlike his partner-in-crime he gave no resistance, too dumbfounded to fight.
They were soon outside in The Avenue, the street was deserted, Eric toyed with the idea of running from door to door to scrape up an audience. The residents were fed up with living in constant fear of the council estate thugs; they would delight in the spectacle. Before he moved the door of the house at number twenty-seven opened and Ernie Flynn appeared.
“Thieves,” Eric said by way of explanation. “We’re going to whip their arses,” he said calmly as if what he intended to do was the most natural thing in the world. Ernie took the initiative and started working his way from house to house.
“Get them over the car,” Eric had taken control; his friends happy to follow his lead. “No!!!” Tucker wailed and struggled fiercely, but the two men held him forcibly down. He was going nowhere until they said so. Eric gripped Higgins by the arm; the lout came quietly and within seconds was alongside his pal.
“Geroff!!” Tucker was off again. Toby grabbed the lout’s sweatpants and underwear and in one smooth movement pulled both down until they rested at Tucker’s shins. The young man kicked out in fury but missed his intended target.
A crowd was beginning to gather. They saw two men, each aged about twenty, bent side by side over the front of a car, trousers and pants at their shins, bottomed bared. “If I let you go,” Paul told Higgins, I want you to stay there and take it. If you struggle, we’ll tie you to a tree and flog you until you bleed.”
He couldn’t believe he had just said that. Where had those words come from? Paul felt sheepish as he released his grip and was mightily relived when the lout stayed still, submissively offering up his naked buttocks.
Eric unbuckled his own belt and with one continuous movement had it free of his trousers and doubled up in his hand. It was wide and thick and he knew from experience it could do some damage to a naked behind. Paul followed suit.
Eric was the first to go: after all it had been his idea. The belt was about twelve or thirteen inches long, he took up position behind Tucker and found his aim. The lout liked his beer and this was obvious from his flabby waist and loose buttocks. His legs were hairy but his bottom was creamy-pale. That was until the first three lashes of the leather belt struck home. While Eric thrashed Tucker’s rear end, Paul made his own preparations.
He approached Higgins from the right hand side. It was a difficult angle for Paul would have preferred to be on the left. He gripped the belt in his right fist and moved behind the thief to get a better aim. It was more difficult than he realised.
The first lash missed Higgins’ bum completely and landed on the top of his thighs. The lout let out a piercing yelp, his legs buckled and his hips swayed, but he stayed in position. Not discouraged Paul repositioned. This time the belt landed right across the very centre of both cheeks: a result. The belt lashed again and again into the increasingly reddening cheeks.
Meanwhile, Tucker felt the belt lift away from his bottom. A split second later it returned at speed and force and caught him on the underside of both cheeks. Air hissed through his clenched lips. His mouth opened wide and a faint groan escaped. Before he could regain composure a second, then a third and a fourth cut lashed across his bottom.
The crack of leather on two sets of stretched buttocks disturbed the still afternoon. The small crowd of onlookers stared in silence; it had been a long time since many of them had had so much fun.
Tucker shut his teeth. His bum hurt. Then there was a short respite as Toby took off his own belt. Splat! The leather exploded once more across the thief’s buttock cheeks delivering a searing sting that took his breath away. Before he could regain his wind he felt another stinging band and he bucked frantically and his legs danced. Toby made certain the strap toasted every square of the target which was by now blazing.
Paul twisted his flabby body and sent the leather scorching into the underside of Higgins’ buttocks. With the upturned bottom in front of him, Paul could choose his target with great accuracy. Splat! Splat! Splat! Splat! It was a long, thorough whipping.
From a safe distance and unobserved Police Cadet Nobel recorded the proceedings, shielding the screen of his tablet from the sunshine.
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More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second