The Education and corruption of Joseph Potter: Chapter ten

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“How much did David Hamilton know of your affair with his wife?” I heard the question as soon as the last word of the statement had been completed.  It pierced the silence like a gunshot. The female reporter sat on the end of a row about halfway up in this crowded press room.Her question proved to be a catalyst, setting off a frenzy of barely comprehensible noise from her colleagues.  Of the few questions that I understood above the free-for-all, none paid even the slightest reference to anything my lawyer had just said with all of them asking for details about either the time I spent with Sally or David Hamilton’s involvement.The statement had concentrated solely on my affair with my teacher, Mrs Hamilton, staying well clear of what had become the hot topic in the press over the last few weeks, the alleged involvement of various high-profile figures in wild sex and drug parties. God knows how, but many of these accusations were true with some of the detail frighteningly so.My lawyer John Robinson’s strong grip on my forearm, provided a constant reminder of his earlier instruction for me not to rise to their bait, and feel tempted to answer any questions.“As I informed you all earlier at our briefing,” he said, with a barely contained annoyance, “Mr Potter will not be available to answer any questions.” With that, we shuffled out of our seats and headed for the exit amid a hail of questions, accusations and flashbulbs. That night, I knew that the story was going to be the main headline on the news yet again, and on the front page of tomorrow’s newspapers.Every day since the story broke, it had been like that. The front-room curtains of our house have remained permanently closed, shutting out the reporters who have camped outside, hoping for a scoop. It felt as if I had been abandoned; Sally hadn’t responded to any of my calls, and I suppose I couldn’t blame her. If I had done as she had asked in the first place and deleted the photos and video, none of this would have happened. The police must have had a field day when they opened the locked photo vault on my phone. It was all there: dates, times, and of course the incontrovertible evidence.I was just about to pass with the others through the open door into the crowded corridor when I heard her voice. What she said cut through the din making me turn my head towards her. It was unmistakable and she must have known in an instant that I had heard and understood what she was saying.“Do you have any comment on the death of Katarina Vaskova?” The question came out of nowhere.  At no time during all of this had her name been mentioned. Immediately I felt a hand on my shoulder and shaken, I turned to be confronted by the bulky figure of Sir Gerald Kingsley QC.“Everything alright Joseph?” he murmured, grabbing my arm and pulling me to one side into a small alcove, a space for which two normal-sized people, and Kingsley was anything but, would be considered tight.  “Nice performance in there; not quite as spectacular as the last time I saw you perform, but passable.” I pulled my arm away, struggling to breathe.“How’s Sally?” I asked.“Nasty business my boy, and so unnecessary.” He never once looked me in the face while his gaze roved over my shoulder, continually scanning for eavesdroppers as he spoke. “It’s horrifying to see how lives can be ruined by carelessness. A photograph or a piece of film in the wrong hands can cause so much damage to a person’s reputation.” I knew exactly what he was alluding to; it was a quiet reminder for me to continue playing the game.The last time I saw him was late one afternoon at Bishop’s Gate police station. It was about two weeks after I was questioned in the headmaster’s office at school, and they were in possession of all the evidence.I sat alone in the claustrophobic interrogation room, waiting for a solicitor to arrive. Just to the left-hand side of the door was a CCTV camera pointing menacingly from the ceiling at the table.  The camera’s lens with its glowing red light was unsettlingly capturing my movements when suddenly it clicked off.A moment later the door opened, and Kingsley wheezed into the room, sat down in front of me, and placed an open white envelope on the table. Without uttering a word, he opened the envelope and fanned six colour photographs across the surface of the table facing me. Four of them showing almanbahis şikayet my face, my eyes closed sucking on an anonymous man’s cock.  The fifth and sixth were taken from outside the room, I assumed by David. Sally lay naked beside me, as an equally naked man crouched over the bottom of the bed at my feet, his genitalia clearly hanging down between his legs.  The act was obvious.Kingsley judged my reaction, scooped the photographs up, and placed them back in the envelope, before speaking for the first and only time.“Think very carefully about your next move, Joseph. The next few hours may very well influence the direction of the rest of your life. Modern technology, one click of a computer mouse, that’s all it takes. People are so capricious, willing to believe what they are told, and too lazy to seek the truth.”With those words, he pulled back the chair, walked across the room, knocked on the door, and left.  A second later, the red light clicked back on. So that was it, the warning had been delivered: one step out of line and those photographs would be made public. I couldn’t let that happen; I knew the people around here and how they would react.  It would destroy me and, more importantly, it would also destroy my family.“So, what will happen to her?” I asked as Kingsley went to step back out into the crowded corridor of the police headquarters.“I don’t know, Joseph,” he replied, his mouth leaning in so close to my ear that I could almost taste the bacon and egg that he’d had for breakfast, “a custodial sentence is possible, if not probable. She will also be placed on the sex offenders’ register. As for the fellowship, I fear she may be thrown to the dogs.”“Who?”“There are partners who are far less compassionate than me.  Shall we say licentious? I envisage her receiving a punishment if she isn’t behind bars, that is. Some will relish the opportunity.”“What will they do?”“Use your imagination and then add some. I understand they are quite imaginative.” He slapped me on the face with a full hand, then crossed the corridor to join a group of colleagues. I watched the backslapping and laughing, and I could see the sly, secret handshakes and imagine the deals done behind closed doors. Sally, a commoner like me, never stood a chance when pitted against the might of Eton, Harrow, Oxford, and Cambridge. ‘Thrown to the dogs’ he had said, and I shuddered to think what that entailed. There had to be a fall guy or girl from all this, and despite all that I knew or assumed, Sally was the easy target.The journey home was relativity uneventful.  Dad talked at a hundred miles an hour about anything and everything. They were relieved that it was over, and I could see that, and it felt good.  The last few weeks had been a strain on everyone, and I wasn’t going to ruin it by bringing up my own concerns.There were three messages and one missed call on my phone but disappointingly none of them from Sally. The phone call was from Max. We had talked a number of times about his proposal, and I have to say it sounded good. He was becoming a little impatient with me, but I was in and had decided to give it a go.  Who knows where it will lead, and if it doesn’t work out it’s not the end of the world?  The text from Tracy Burrows was predictably cryptic.Tracy: So, I was right all along.I ignored it for the time being and scrolled on to the next one.Robert: Bet you’re glad that’s all over.Robert: Any chance you can help out tonight?Robert ran the Hope and Anchor pub on Liberty Street, and I occasionally helped out at the weekend collecting glasses and clearing tables. I really didn’t fancy the thought of going in there that night, facing all the questions and the piss-taking, but on the other hand, staying in and moping around the house didn’t sound like much fun either.Me: What time?Robert: Seven?Robert: £50Me: Ok.The third was from a number that I didn’t recognise. That, in itself, wasn’t unusual as over the last few weeks I have received numerous texts and phone calls from the press. This, though, was more direct and ominous.07777 321456: I know.Me: Who’s this?The message didn’t send, instead, it sat on my screen undelivered. I scrolled back to Tracy’s message.Me: ???Tracy: lolTracy: Looks like teacher was getting more than just an apple from Joey.Me: What are people saying.Tracy: That Joey’s been getting almanbahis canlı casino gold stars for extra-curricular activities.Me: It wasn’t like that.Tracy: So, you weren’t shagging Mrs Hamilton?Tracy: Did you make her big titties bounce, Joey?Tracy: The story is she’s gone a bit mad.I turned the phone off and put it in my pocket. I knew what the reaction was going to be.  People around here don’t miss an opportunity to have a dig. Dad spotted me looking out of the cab window.“You okay?”“Yeah.”“It’ll blow over, son. In a couple of days, they’ll be after someone else, mark my words. That Hamilton bloke is making a statement later and the clever money is on him quitting. What do you say we put a tenner on it?” And we did. Dad asked the taxi driver to drop us by the market and we all walked into O’Brian’s, the bookies, and put our money down. Three o’clock that afternoon the Home Secretary David Hamilton stood up before a packed House of Commons, resigned and we all won forty pounds each.********It was just before seven o’clock that evening when I pushed open the black door that led to the back entrance of the Hope and Anchor. I was having deep, second thoughts about coming; an evening spent chilling at home didn’t feel like such a bad idea after all.Dad was the first person I saw or heard, to be perfectly honest, standing at the bar, pint of Guinness in hand. He insisted on coming in for moral support, armed with a lifetime’s worth of cutting retorts up his sleeve if needed. Little did any of us know at the time how the day was going to end and how past misdemeanours were going to come back to haunt me.The Hope and Anchor is an old-fashioned, no-frills boozer run by a lovely Irishman called Robert, or Bob Collins, who had a thick, lyrical Dublin accent. Forty years ago, this would have been one of a number of pubs in the area, full of dock workers swilling ale after work. I imagine that it hasn’t changed much over the years and certainly hasn’t kept pace with the swankier bars and restaurants that have sprung up in the area recently.For me, that is part of its charm.  Every time I walk through its doors, I’m transported back in time, half expecting the Krays or maybe Bill Sykes to be sitting in a dark corner.That night, it was Archie Cooke sitting there with his cronies. His eyes were unsettling as they followed me walking past to start work. He had a menacing air about him, which I think he enjoyed.  I can’t remember ever seeing him laugh or smile.I had grown to like the attention that my recent notoriety had given me and freely admit to playing up to it. I think that half the reason Robert employed me was the female clientele that I attracted. A tight white T-shirt and an equally tight pair of black jeans being my uniform of choice as I clear the tables, watching as the inevitable happens and the gaze lowers from my face to my groin.The place was beginning to fill out, which was great. Time moves fast when you’re busy, and soon I’d been there for over an hour collecting the empty glasses and stacking them in the glasswasher housed in a small room behind the bar.l had spotted Alison May early on, sitting on her own at a table by the window checking her phone, a half glass of Pinot Grigio in her hand, and three empty glasses on the table. I was aware that she was watching me, and I would catch her with a feigned disinterest in her eyes as they followed me around the room, while her husband Peter chatted with a small group at the bar.They were only occasional visitors.  Peter is a local boy made good; his public face is as a businessman owning a successful fleet of garages selling used cars, but he also has another not-so-secret persona as a fence, recycling getaway cars and using his premises for laundering drug money, of which he takes a nice cut.As for Alison, although she was born not far from there and certainly not into anything as grand as she purports, she treated the locals with a barely hidden disdain, judging the women who drank too much or laughed too loud as somehow beneath her. I loved the atmosphere that these women created with their bawdy humour.  It’s amazing some of the things I’ve heard and seen in here when they’ve had one or two too many.“How long have you been doing this then, Joey?” Alison asked, as I collected the empty glasses and wiped down her table. I’m always almanbahis casino aware that she only speaks to me, or anyone else for that matter, if she is either going to talk about herself or impart unwanted advice.“Couple of months now Alison, it’s only pin money, but you know, it all helps.”“On the market with Paddy tomorrow morning as well?”“Yep.”“You’ll soon be the richest kid in town,” she sniggered.  Do you see what I mean? She has this ability, whether she means it or not, to make every comment sound condescending. She looked me up and down and sizing me up as I waited for her next remark. When it came it, it surprised me a little, not because of what she said, I had been expecting that to come up at some point, but I wasn’t expecting it from her.“I hear you’ve been a naughty boy.”“Don’t believe all you hear Alison,” I shot back, making her smile.“A small piece of advice; never deny or confirm, just keep them guessing. I know what these people say about me; they think I can’t hear them and how they talk, but I can.”Alison, or Ali as most call her, is fifty. I’m basing that, not on some clever Sherlockian deduction, but purely on the fact that her fiftieth birthday last summer caused quite a stir. She disappeared for six weeks, starting rumours that the pair had split up, only for her to return, much to the amusement of the local females, with a deep tan and a size or two larger in the breast department.There’s a song that the old man sings when he’s had a couple of pints, “You wear it well,” and she does, if only she could tone it down, curb this unattractive habit that she has of rubbing it in your face and bragging about how much a dress or a pair of shoes had cost, something that is way off the pay scale of most of the people around here.That night’s apparel was an expensive-looking powder-blue dress with a plunging neckline. As she leaned forward, her breasts spilt into the gap in between. I couldn’t help but look; well, you would, wouldn’t you.“You like?” she smirked, pushing her tousled black hair behind her ears. There was no denying the fact that they were indeed impressive, and I imagine expensive. A year ago, being caught in this situation with a comment like that would have made me blush, but now I fully understood and even enjoyed it.“Very nice Alison. And how much did they set him back?”“No idea. It was a birthday present,” she said, judging my reaction as she took a sip from her drink.  I could read her like a book. Her husband may have shelled out for those beauties, but it was on a purely look but don’t touch basis. Her breasts were there for others to admire and envy.Peter was sitting on the barstool against the wall facing us; he doted on her.  Their holiday home in Marbella and her flashy, red Porsche 911 Convertible were all bought, not only to keep up appearances, but to keep her happy, and from what I had noticed, she never was.Although we were across the other side of the room and he couldn’t possibly hear what was being said, I knew that he was aware of what was happening in front of him. The dilemma for me was, do I walk away, or play along and wait to see how long it takes for him to react. He didn’t.He didn’t react as her hand lingered just that little bit too long on the back of mine, drawing invisible circles on my skin with her middle finger. He didn’t react as she took out a pen from her handbag and scrawled a message on the back of a beer mat, sliding it towards me across the smooth surface of the tabletop. And he didn’t react as she made direct and unmistakable eye contact with me before standing and heading for the exit.I watched her slice a passage across the barroom floor as she headed towards the toilets, her hips swaying playfully as I scanned the room for any snooping onlookers. The only person in the room that noticed her leave was Peter, his sorrowful gaze didn’t leave her for an instant. I flipped the beer mat over and read the words written on it in clear bold black type.FOLLOW ME.I collected the empty glasses and carried them precariously across the room, making my way back towards the bar, depositing them in the glass washer, then pressed the illuminated green button that set the cleaning cycle in motion.  All the time I was weighing up the risk, the available time, and was it worth it.“Ten minutes!” I hollered, grabbing Robert’s attention, emphasising my point by holding up the ten fingers on my spread hands. He gave me the thumbs-up, and I turned to walk down the narrow passage that leads to the back exit. I took one last glance to where Peter sat staring blankly into his glass of gin and tonic.

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