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The Curfew

By

D. G. Richards

Copyright © D. G. Richards 2003

   

Oh, you're going to like this. Think of sex and murder, rape and brutal torture. Can you hear the sound of silky flesh being sliced? Can you hear the screams of anguished pain? I can. Heard it. Seen it. Done it. And you could do it too. You can do it all here. And it's legal. It's true I tell you. I caught and killed a lushous young girl only last week. Had fun for ages. How she cried, how she screamed and begged. Fucked the arse off her I did, and played with her for hours and hours. And when I was done I killed her dead. Badly. And it was legal.

Rubbish, you say! A lie! Just gratuitous violence!

True, I say! And to prove it I even got her father to pay my laundry bill. The blood gets everywhere...

How can this be? What madness is this?

The madness of desperation. The need of the rightuous and the good to defend civility and decency. But how could decency breed violence and depravity? And why would civilised behaviour allow rape and murder? Well, my little cautious ones, I'll tell you. But it's not a story for the squeemish. Don't say I didn't warn you...

-o-

At the beginning of the twenty-first century the British Government began to realise that policing the nation in the traditional way was becoming increasingly ineffective. It wasn't that hardened criminals were out of control, or that crime in particular had grown. In general the figures were quite the reverse. Major crimes such as murder were down, burglary had diminished, and armed robberies were now rare. What had increased were the lower levels of crime that had always been considered to be of lower priority. At the heart of this was drug and drink related street crime and the growing nature of the harassment that people had to endure when out and about.

What had started as a mere nuisance during the nineties had become an epidemic of low level violence and larceny that many now refused to tolerate. Gangs of youths loitering at street corners and in shopping centres became common sights, and their presence during the day in the malls and bus and train stations heralded a barrage of begging and bag snatching. Many shops hired additional security to curb shop-lifting, but this just moved the crime beyond their doors. Going shopping and walking the streets in general soon became a stress and fear filled journey from door to car, or from door to door. Mobile phones, shopping bags, wallets, hand-bags, in fact anything light enough to be made off with had to be held tightly or concealed completely. And that some of the young perpetrators were female didn't help. Many men refused to report thefts or attacks carried out by girls, even when out-numbered. But if the day was a nuisance of begging and petty crime, the night times were different.

In many of Britain's cities, the darkness heralded a change in the population. The older generation, those who worked, those who were law abiding and decent, they all stayed in doors. Only the young went out. Those that were old enough, or merely looked old enough, went to the pubs and clubs. They got drunk and aggressive on a mixture of drugs and alcohol. It was easy for them. Many drinks were now aimed at the young. Sugary juices laced with alcohol designed to get the mood going. And if these didn't work, the coloured pills they swallowed usually did. Friday and Saturday nights were a cacophony of screaming girls and shouting boys, all of them high on their own existance. But more trouble was caused by those who were even younger.

Unable to get into pubs, the younger teens would hang around in gangs and drink on the streets. They would all wait, giggling and scuffling, as the tallest would go to the late night shops or off-licences. Sometimes there would be a few who were older, but mainly they were young. Thirteen, fourteen, boys and girls. Even younger. They had their party on the streets and threw their empties on the floor or even in the nearby gardens. They fought and laughed, urinated and threw-up, often in someone elses drive way.

Those trapped in doors covered their ears. There was nothing else they could do. If they phoned the police they always got the same answers.

"I'm sorry sir, but we have far more important crimes to deal with than a few rowdy children."

"We'll do our best to get a car round to you but it might be a bit of time. As you can understand this type of call is of a lower priority."

"Saturday is a very busy time, sir. I've made a note of your complaint and it has been logged on the system."

"I know it's the fourth time you have rang, but we can't be in two places at once, can we?"

"Have you tried to talk to them yourself, sir?"

What seemed a reasonable request was fraught with danger. Telling those filled with drink and bravado to move on often resulted in violence. Householders would be beaten and kicked, and even the police had to be on their guard. But when arrests were made, the perpetrators would be declared too young by the courts, they were beneath the criminal age. They would be back on the streets on the same day with revenge on their minds. Sometimes children as young as ten could terrorise an entire housing estate.

The fact that the police and the courts appeared powerless didn't help. Many young offenders became far wiser than their ages should have allowed. They learned by experience and grew in confidence. They became loud, agressive, bad-mannered and offensive. That they were all arrogant was as equally annoying as their crimes. But arrogance was dangerous. Those that were too arrogant and confident sometimes learned too late that others could match them. Fights between individuals, both boys and girls, became commonplace. And as the violence increased so did the deaths. A casual remark, a slight brush, and the doorway to a pub or club became another scene of a stabbing. But if a hierarchy was being established among those who prowled the streets and pubs, one was also being created for the victims they preyed upon.

Crimes against the elderly increased, those that were infirm or disabled were targeted as a soft and easy touch, and even the securty of one's own home began to be questioned.

Something had to be done.

In 2005 several Acts of Parliament were passed in an attempt to stop the rising trend of violence. The first Act allowed the introduction of penalty fines on the parents of young offenders. Another gave provision for victims to claim compensation from the parents of children convicted of crimes against them. Both these Acts were far reaching and innovative, but failed due to a fundamental flaw: Both Acts depended for their success on the ability of parents to curb the activities of their children, an ability successive governments had unfortunately degraded.

Successive years of restraint in the application of corporal punnishment saw caning and all forms of physical retribution banned from schools in Britain by the end of the twentieth century. The banning of smacking in the home quickly followed, leaving parents and teachers with only reasoning to convince children of the error of their ways. Unfortunately, children like all young creatures, learn by pushing the boundaries of their environment. So it was no suprise that the current trend of growing violence in the streets had mirrored the falling levels of punnishment. In many ways violence in schools had been a precursor to what now spilled out on to the streets.

The beating of children had been seen as an abomination, and its banning had met with wholesale approval. But for every action there is a consequence. The game of life itself is a game of consequences. And it is the progression of these consequences that teaches children, all of us, how to grow and to learn. But there was now no consequence for unsocial behaviour, from the trivial to the extreme. Nor was there any for defiance of traditional family values. And as with the teachers at school, so it became with the parents in the home. With this progression of consequences removed, the first taste of real punnishment was often a harsh one. There is little chance to learn from experience when lying on a slab in the morgue.

The new laws were hailed as a watershed, but the reality quickly surfaced. Many parents were a reflection of their children. They had grown up the same way and had become aggressive parents. They fought against punnishments they felt were being inflicted upon them. Many cast out their offending children, leaving the Social Services to pick up the pieces. And even those parents who supported the laws and tried to curb their children's behaviour failed miserably. Children left home, turning to the streets as their haven.

It was a wholesale disaster that saw a change in government.

In the summer of 2007 the new party in charge entered the fray with even greater promises. They had been elected on a manefesto that had as it's leading issue the enforcement of a curfew on all people under the age of eighteen. The curfew was to last from seven o'clock in the evening until seven o'clock in the morning. All those breaking the curfew would be locked up for the night. It was a simple and drastic approach that depended totally on the ability of the police forces of the country to be able to cope.

They couldn't.

In the first two weeks the whole system ground to a halt. The police were over stretched, the number of cells available were insufficient, and the ability of the police to be able to identify those under age was often dubious. Although the curfew ran on until Christmas, no one paid any attention to it. As with the other laws passed against them with little affect, those on the streets treated their victory with another push against the boundaries of acceptable social behaviour. The racist riots that took place in several northern towns that January was the catalyst for a violent reaction.

In 2008 the early spring sessions in Westminster saw the final piece of the jigsaw put into place. It was brilliant, audacious, simple, cheap, and completely without precident. It was also potentially dangerous. The debate to introduce what became known as the Mannerheim Curfew Act was close to being talked out when it was finally passed by the Commons in late March. By April the upper House had also passed it after a lengthy and vigorous debate. It came into force on the first of May 2008.

In essense, the Mannerheim Curfew Act took all the preceding laws and blended them together with one additional, outrageous, change. Between the hours of seven in the evening and seven the following morning, all laws governing the protection and civil liberties of individuals under the age of eighteen were revoked. They had no rights and no powers unless they were in the custody of the police. It was the only exception, and it meant that they could be detained and punished by anyone. This was the heart of the new law, to relieve the burden from the state and pass it on to the public sector. But the new Act also incorporated the laws governing fines and compensation. These were reinforced and altered, allowing parents to be fined for damages caused by their children during the curfew hours. Individuals who suffered damage while detaining children on behalf of the state also now had the right to claim compensation for these damages against the parents.

Some heralded the new Act as barbaric, as a licence for murder. Others declared it a breach of the Human Rights Act and a threat to every individuals right to live as they wished. Others scoffed at the outcry, pointing out that everyone was good and decent and it was only the people who broke the laws that feared them. The debates and arguments were still going on when the first of May came and went. It wasn't much of a surprise when nothing happened. There were the same rowdy gangs on the street, the same shouts and screams, and the same number of young people frequenting the pubs. There were several heated confrontations between householders and teenagers who loitered nearby, and the odd scuffle in the street, but nothing more.

The next morning's newspapers were filled with headlines declaring the Curfew Act a flop. They supported their views with catalogues of petty crimes and misdemeanors. The television news that day carried on the joke.

On the evening of the second of May nothing also happened. But on the third there was something different.

-o-

Richard Mannerheim often worked late. It wasn't because he was overly ambitious or because he needed the money. Nor was it because he was being conscientious. No, it was because he feared going home. He felt safer at work, his friends and the tasks he had to do took his mind off things. He could smile at work. But he had to go home at some point, didn't he? And it would always be the same. There would always be that tightness in his stomach, the worry about whether they would be there or not. He knew it was silly to be scared of a few teenagers, they were just boys and girls. And it wasn't as if they had picked on him by intent. They just happened to gather together near his house because it was close to a passage that led to a few shops. One of the shops was a newsagents and off-licence. The routine was always the same.

While one of the taller and older looking ones went to get the booze, the others would hang about at the other end of the passage. Unfortunately they would then hang about most of the night while they consumed their purchases. They would sit on the wall and get drunk. And while they got drunk they would talk and laugh in loud voices, the girls would scream, and the boys would shout and argue. They did other things on the wall too. The next mornings would find broken bottles, cigarette stubs and used condoms littered about. It was disgusting.

Richard Mannerheim had felt that their behaviour was a disgrace. He had tried to reason with them and had been insulted and intimidated. That had been his mistake. From then on bottles and cans would end up in his garden. Obscenities would be shouted at him in the night keeping him awake, and disgusting things would be put through his letterbox. The police did nothing. He never saw the perpetrators, he only found the evidence of their activities. The fact that he knew who they all were didn't matter. They laughed at him and turned what was once a peaceful life into a painful and stressful one.

As he drove home on this occasion, Mannerheim felt the same pangs of fear pull at his stomach. He wondered if they would be here again, or if at last they would forget about him and just go away. As soon as he saw them his heart fell and his mind was overcome with the despair that only the constantly harrassed and intimidated can know. The reason for their presence so close to his house quickly became clear. They were waiting for one of their number who was standing up against the front door. As Mannerheim turned into his drive and the lights from his car illuminated the figure it was clear what he was doing. He was urinating through his letterbox. As the lights picked him out he turned his head and grinned. All the other teenagers fell about laughing.

Such fun, such mirth.

The youth by the door turned and walked away, pulling his zip up. Rather than being ashamed or embarrassed at being caught, he walked with a swagger, his expression filled with arrogant insolence. He was a star, a performer before his audience, and they even clapped him in admiration as they laughed.

Mannerheim wasn't sure why he did it afterwards. Maybe something had snapped, maybe he would still have done it even if the Curfew Act had never been passed. In any case, as the youth walked towards him, Mannerheim accelerated. The impact wasn't hard, but the lad went up over the bonnet and hit the windscreen. When the car came to a halt he then slid off again, landing on the drive in front of the car.

The teenagers on the pavement outside all ran forward. Most of them gathered around the boy on the ground, some trying to help him up. A few others banged on the car door and window shouting obscenities. Mannerheim opened the door and got out. He was pushed and shoved by boys and girls alike. They were all shouting at him, their faces angry and threatening. He just pushed through them. The girls were worse than the boys. One of them must have been the girlfriend of the boy he had knocked down, because when he walked around to the back of the car she followed him, kicking and punching him.

"You tried to kill Dean, you bastard!" she screamed, her face twisted in anger. "We'll get you for this!"

Mannerheim ignored her threats and the blows on his back and his legs. He couldn't feel anything, he felt only calm as he opened the boot, took out his tyre iron, turned, and smacked her over the head with it. The blow caught her on the forehead and she went down like a cut flower. The rest of the teenagers must have realised then that something unusual was going on. Three of them ran and the others backed away as Mannerheim walked back around the car to the front with the tyre iron in his hand. Dean was sitting up on the ground when Mannerheim grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and threw him back on to the bonnet of his car. Dean tried to sit up but Mannerheim smacked him in the face with the tyre iron. He smacked him very hard and Dean went back down on the bonnet with a thump, his head putting a dent in the metal. He tried to sit up again, and Mannerheim whacked him again. Another thump of head against metal. This time Dean didn't sit up. It didn't stop Mannerheim from hitting him. He hit him again and again and again, the impacts turning into wet sounding splats. And as the blows rained down and the blood splashed Mannerheim's shirt, the rest of the teenagers finally got the hint.

"He's gone mad! Get the police!" one of them cried, and they all ran off.

Mannerheim pulled the now limp form of Dean off his bonnet. It left a bloody streak behind and tumbled to the ground like whale blubber. Dean's face was already caved in and covered in blood, but Mannerheim wasn't finished yet. He stood across Dean's body and held the tyre iron like a spear and stabbed down into the bloody mess. He did it twice more before he let go and straightened up. The tyre iron was left stuck in the front of Dean's head.

Wiping his blood-flecked face on his sleeve, Mannerheim sighed and stretched. Oh, that felt good. Reaching down he pulled the tyre iron from the corpse and walked slowly back to the boot of his car. He threw the tyre iron back in the boot and then looked down at the girl on the ground. It was only now that he realised that she was still here, left behind by the others. She was on her side, slowly climbing onto all fours.

"You daft bastard," she muttered to him. "I'll have the police on you for this."

Mannerheim watched her as she crawled nearer to the back of the car and began to climb up it. She got to her knees, one hand holding on to his rear wing while the other reached up to the gash on her forehead. The severity of the cut and the blood it left on her hand caused her to pause.

"You fucking bastard!" she exclaimed when she saw the blood. "You've marked me, you have! You'll pay for that! You attacked me and Dean for nothing! We've got witnesses! Your life won't be worth shit after this!"

She had that same look of insolence and anger on her face. There was no trace of fear or remorse. She was going to twist it all around. It was all going to be his fault, not theirs. No, she was innocent. She hadn't been there with Dean and the others all those other times. She hadn't shouted obscenities at him, she hadn't laughed and given him that look, the look that said she was more important than him. No, he hadn't seen her pressed against the wall with her legs apart. Oh, no. Who did she think she was kidding?

Mannerheim suddenly pulled her hand away from the rear wing and she twisted and fell back against the car. Her head and neck went over the edge of the boot and he held her there with a hand on her chest and brought the boot lid down on her. She screamed at the last instant and reached up to stop it, but it was too late. The boot lid smashed down on her throat and her head was trapped inside. She began to struggle like mad, her body wriggling about and her feet dancing back and forth as she tried to twist free. Mannerheim just pressed down harder on the boot lid. Then he had a bright idea. He turned and sat on the boot instead. Yes, that was much better. He could sit comfortably and just watch her. It was quite funny, really.

The girl had been caught face up, so she was chest up to him. With the boot lid across her throat her whole body was visible apart from her head. It was as if it had been cut off and her body was still jerking around. Mannerheim marvelled at how energetic she was. She wriggled and wiggled, twisted and kicked, arched her back and smacked the boot with her fists. The funniest bit was the way her legs and feet danced back and forth as if her body was trying to run one way and then the other. But her neck was pinned down and she could neither run away nor turn over. One of her trainers flew off. She had quite delicate feet, the toe nails painted red. Was that something else on them? Mannerheim turned and leaned closer to her hands which were beating and scrabbling over the boot. Yes, her finger nails were painted the same: Red with yellow spots. That must take an age to do. How delicate they looked.

The colour of her finger and toe nails caused him to look at her more closely as she jerked and shook. She was wearing tight jeans very low over her hips. They were blue with lighter streaks down the front of each leg. Her jacket was denim, and the sweatshirt underneath was black. The sweatshirt was short, and it left a wide band of skin visible between the hem at the bottom and the top of her jeans. There was something nice about that and the way her hips swung back and forth. Her skin was nice too. The wide band that he could see stretched from hip to hip. There was a faint crease line that ran across near to the edge of her jeans that must have been caused by the way she bent. And he could see the shape of her abdominal muscles that caused a slight rise at the edge of her sweatshirt that was then lost underneath. It would be nice to see more.

On impulse Mannerheim reached down and pulled up the hem of her sweatshirt. He dragged it all the way up to her midrif, watching as more of her abdomen came into heaving view. She really did have a wonderful abdomen, with skin that had that soft and silky look that only young girls possessed. The colour was nice too. Not overly tanned, but not too pale either. Just healthy. Healthy and already beaded with sweat. It was a shame she had her navel pierced, it meant he couldn't see what it was like because the jewel on the ring got in the way.

She stamped her feet and did another dance, her hands beating repeatedly on the back of the car. She broke one of the tail lights and her hand spilled blood. She didn't seem to notice as she continued banging on the metal.

Mannerheim tried to grasp the bright jewel covering her navel as it danced up and down and from side to side. He missed twice before he caught it. As he held on to it and she moved, he saw her skin stretch at the top of her navel. At first he moved with her, watching her navel underneath. It was oval and deep, such a shame to hide it. When she next wriggled and moved he kept his hand still and the ring tore through her flesh with a tiny red splash. For a moment he watched the red spots on her stomach and the tiny pool in her navel, then he dropped the jewel and placed the palm of his hand over her abdomen.

Oh, that really felt good. She was so warm, so hot. Her skin felt much better than it looked. It was soft and silky, but not for long. As she struggled and heaved, he could feel her abdominal muscles tighten and spasm. It was so nice, so exciting. Mannerheim moved his hand over her abdomen as her body wriggled and swayed. He felt her midrif and stomach and her hips and waist, and he repeatedly pushed his finger into her navel. He moved his hand around and up and down, squeezing her flesh and enjoying every taut movement. He smeared the blood over her in the process, but it didn't matter.

She was moving less energetically now, as if his hand on her abdomen had fixed her in one place. She no longer danced or wriggled, she just swayed, her back arched to the limit, as if she was trying to push against his hand, her feet on tip toes. The sweat glistened on her bare foot. She had a tattoo of a coiled snake on the outside of her right ankle. The head disappeared under her jeans. It was probably a cobra. He hadn't noticed it until now. It was a bit of a bleamish. What he did notice was the way her whole body now trembled, and the muscles in her abdomen felt hard like wood. He pressed down on her and she hardly moved. She had stopped banging the boot now, and instead pressed both hands down on the metal so hard that her fingers had gone white. One hand was on the rear wing while the other was on the boot, and the blood from her gashed hand was smeared everywhere. Mannerheim didn't look at her hands. His eyes were fixed on her abdomen where he leaned his hand on her, feeling her body going rigid as he pressed his fingers into her.

There was a loud crack as four finger nails broke and then the girl's body went limp. It just sagged and her abdomen dropped away from his hand. She collapsed into a sitting position and her arms tumbled to her sides. It would have been a sitting position but her trapped and stretched neck kept her hips off the ground. She just hung there, her legs stuck straight out. The one with the trainer on twitched.

Mannerheim looked at his hand. It had suddenly gone cold.

When the police found him he was still sitting on the boot of his car.

-o-

The most crucial part of the evidence was Dean's wristwatch. It had been broken in the collision with Mannerheim's car. It was stuck at five minutes to eight. The police cleared away the mess, jet-washed Mannerheim's car, and advised him to pursue compensation for both the damage to his car and the cleaning of his hall carpet. They gave him the names and addresses of the parents of the two teenagers he had killed for this purpose and then sent him home.

The television news went wild, but the newspapers couldn't catch up, because the penny had well and trully dropped. And on the evening of the fourth of May, twenty-nine teenagers and children were killed in a sudden orgy of revenge and release. Many were run over with cars that mounted the pavements, several were thrown from multi-story carparks and high rise flats, but by far the majority were beaten and stabbed to death in the streets. And the killers came from all walks of life. There were no social groups left unrepresented, no racial barriers among those seeking revenge. Householders, shop-keepers, businessmen, husbands, wives -Oh yes, women, mothers, ran out and killed with the rest. White, black, Asian, Chinese, it didn't matter. Everyone had joined in. Even age didn't stop them.

One youth trying to escape a large crowd in his estate had crawled up a pathway and banged on the door to a house. The owner was an old woman, a ninety-three year old pensioner who had had enough of everything. As the youth lay on the ground bleeding and battered, she had leaned over him and stabbed him in the eye with a large screwdriver.

On the fifth of May the entire country was watching the clock, ready, waiting. Eighty-three young people died. They died this time not because they were insolent or badly behaved, but because they hadn't given up the belief in their own rights. On the sixth of May the brief resistance was over as only one individual was killed. And on the seventh day of May the streets were calm and quiet.

The Curfew had arrived, and it would stay for eleven years. They were eleven years during which the perception of life, decency and good social behaviour became blurred with the coming of the night, where a policeman's handcuffs brought not capture, but safety, and where trust in one's neighbours and friends became a matter of life or death...
 

The End?


Copyright © D. G. Richards 2003

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