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© copyright Alan Corkish; nothing may be reproduced without his specific written permission
The Deemster of the High Court in the Isle of Man was not a particularly impressive looking man. Small, slim of stature and with thin, receding grey hair he was referred to disparagingly as ‘one of those little things sent to try us’. Deemster Knowles at this particular moment in time was however holding the attention of most of the people in the small, sun-drenched, court-room as he slammed his hand onto his bench and screeched his high-pitched fury into the stale, solemn air. The only person apparently unconcerned at his display of wrath was the tall man in the dock, the man with the shoulder-length black hair and unkempt beard. The man was dressed in sea-boots which reached up to his thighs and, despite the heat and the humidity he was wearing four heavy woollen jumpers each ending at a different level with the shortest of them on top. ‘Dealer’ Coball interrupted the Deemster’s tirade by throwing his head back and bellowing his derisive laughter into the Ramsey Court-room.
“Get the man!” ‘Dealer’ howled his derision in the direction of the Jury before turning and addressing the Deemster personally; “Watch yer blood-pressure yussir, yer gettin’ yerself all excited over nothin’.” And then to the police-constable who stood at his side, “Look at the man, look at him eh?” And he laughed loudly as the police constable shook him by the arm and whispered harsh words of advice into his unreceptive ear.
“I will not tolerate this!” the Deemster was leaning forward glaring over the half-rimmed spectacles which sat perilously on the tip of his nose, “You will be taken down if this continues and this Court will hear the rest of the evidence in your absence. Do you understand me Mr Coball? These are serious charges and...”
“Serious charges!? Takin’ a packet of fags of me lass eh? Never fuckin’ knew that. That’s serious is it?”
Again Deemster Knowles’s hand crashed down onto his bench. “Silence!”
As everyone in the Court-room held their breath for a space of perhaps twenty seconds the sunlight tripping through the windows revealed Court-clerks, journalists, jury-members, police-officers, members of the public and the Deemster himself all gazing with an air of expectancy at the man in the Dock. ‘Dealer’ slowly and deliberately shrugged his shoulders, smiled benevolently at the Deemster and then carefully raised one foot slightly off the floor and farted. It was a lengthy, rumbling, calculated-to-insult fart and the blood drained from the Deemster’s face as the ‘Dealer’ slowly lowered his foot and, continuing to smile broadly, said in a soft, friendly voice; “Ahhh that’s better. Better out than in eh?” And he turned and nodded at the other people present, bobbing his head slowly up and down, soliciting their agreement.
The silence continued for perhaps five or six seconds and was broken only when a be-wigged figure rose and nodded obsequiously towards the Deemster; “With the Court’s permission?” The be-wigged figure indicated ‘Dealer’ Coball. The Deemster nodded briefly and the be-wigged one approached the Dock and leant close to his client’s ear.
‘Dealer’ Coball listened with exaggerated politeness exclaiming loudly every few seconds; “Oh aye!” “Yes, yes!” “Oh I see. Yeah.” Then, as the lawyer turned to address the Deemster ‘Dealer’ Coball interrupted yet again to proclaim; “I get it now. You want me to shut up? Yeh that’s fine. You should ‘ave said.” And he clasped his hands in front of him at waist level and stared purposefully, balefully and mock-seriously in the direction of Deemster Knowles. His eyes bulged slightly from his head and his manner would have seemed placid, non-aggressive, almost servile if it were not for the thin smile which still remained at the edges of his lips.
Deemster Knowles calmed himself. “May I ask counsel to continue with the defence. Mr Grogan.”
“Thank you my Lord.” ‘Dealer’ Coball’s solicitor had again resumed his position at the front of the Court. He glanced at the papers in his hand and cleared his throat. “M’ Lord, my client does not deny the charges against him, he merely questions the seriousness of the offences. We have heard how Miss Marim approached Mr Ellison and offered her, ahem, services, in return for,” again he glanced at his notes, “for ‘a packet of fags’. It is not denied that these cigarettes were to be given to the defendant but it is denied that this constitutes living of immoral earnings.”
“One moment Mr Grogan.” Deemster Knowles was searching through his own notes. “The defendant and Miss Marim have clearly stated to this Court, and I quote from Miss Marim’s testimony, ‘I often used to pick up a seaman, sometimes I’d charge him a couple of quid but if the ‘Dealer’ wanted a fag then it’d be,’” the Deemster cleared his throat and continued, “‘a fag for a shag.’ That, Mr Grogan, seems clearly to be an admission that your client was receiving the wages of prostitution.”
“That is correct M’Lord. Again, I repeat, my client does not deny this. What he argues is that he never asked Miss Marim to relay any monies or cigarettes to him, that she did it of her own volition. The mere imparting of monies or cigarettes from Miss Marim to Mr Coball does not M’Lord, I respectfully submit, reveal evidence that the defendant was guilty of living of immoral earnings.” He turned towards the Jury. “Mr Coball lives a different life-style to most of us, I think that this is evident, he does not choose to be an ordinary member of society and we may feel that he deliberately alienates himself from our attitudes, our norms, however that does not make him a criminal. We may feel too that Miss Marim’s admissions that she gave herself rather casually to men-friends is alien to all that we believe in, but Miss Marim is not on trial here...”
“Let me tell it then eh?” ‘Dealer’ Coball’s voice interrupted the defence-counsel’s flow, “I can do that can’t I Judge? I can tell it, can’t I?”
“M’Lord, if I may approach my client again?”
Deemster Knowles was sucking on his lower lip but he nodded briefly and reclined in his chair with a sigh.
Again the be-wigged Mr Grogan whispered into the accused’s ear. ‘Dealer’ Coball nodded vehemently and then drew away from his counsel. “No no. I’ll tell them. Here do I get down from here or what?” As he made to step down from the dock the burly police-constable again seized him roughly. “Here, lay orf yussir, they want to hear it from me! Dontcha wanna hear me eh?”
“M’Lord I have advised my client against taking the stand but it is his right.”
“Quite so. Allow the defendant to be sworn in.” For the first time since the trial had begun the Deemster seemed at least partially content. “Approach the witness box.”
‘Dealer’ scornfully refused the oath but after some protest agreed to affirm and folding his arms across his chest he turned his Rasputin-like countenance towards the Jury. “Go on. Ask me anything.”
Mr Grogan was on his feet. “Mr Coball the Jury do not ask you questions. Could I ask you to explain, in your own words, what your relationship with Miss Marim was? Is? Does she for example live with you? As your wife?”
“Aggy!? Hell no!” ‘Dealer’ Coball’s laughter filled the air yet again, it sounded manufactured, almost maniacal. “She lives where she wants don’t she. Sometimes she stays with me and Effy.”
Deemster Knowles leaned forward again; “Effy?”
“Yeh. Effy the brothel-bug and Gilly too they live with me sometimes.”
The Deemster inhaled deeply and spoke again; “Gilly?”
“Gilly the cock-sucker she...”
Someone in the Jury giggled, covered the giggle with a cough and then smothered the cough with a hand.
“Ah right then, someone over there knows them.”
“Mr Coball,” the Deemster adjusted his glasses, “this attitude does your case no good you know, no good whatsoever. Mr Grogan, have you advised your, your ahem, client?”
“Oh yeh. He’s advised me Judge. But all am sayin’ is that I’ve done nothin’ ‘cept take a fag from Aggie,” he grinned broadly and turned again to the Jury, “Aggie does a shaggie fer a faggie an’ then gives me a drag on the fag. That’s it. That’s everything. Can’t touch yer fer that can they? Can they?”
Mr Grogan sat down and covered his face with his hand. A distinctly audible groan escaped from beneath the hand. The Deemster sat back with the beginnings of a malevolent smile on his face and nodded in the direction of the witness box. “Do continue Mr Coball. Is there anything you wish to say with regard to the other charges?”
‘Dealer’ Coball unfolded his arms and leaned on the edge of the box and smiled back at the Deemster; “Givin’ me rope eh Judge? Enuff rope eh? O.K. I’ll do the job for yer. The job yer want.” He addressed the Jury. “Saturday night an’ no money in yer pocket. Imagine that fer a crime eh? So naturally I go into the nearest church to pray. Naturally. An He hears me prayer eh, the Big Fella in the sky, right in front of me he sticks this ‘ere poor box. Am I supposed ter refuse Him then eh? An let me tell yous all that the people of this town are miserable bastards cos there was unny three quid in it!” He slammed his hand on the edge of the witness box, “Now that’s what I call a crime!” He turned and made an obvious stage-wink in the direction of his counsel. “Got em eatin’ out of me hand eh?” He murmured sotto-voce. “An’ yerl want ter know about me crappin’ in the fish-hold eh Judge? The hold o’ that there trawler? How was I ter know that there was fish in there eh? Better than just crappin’ in the street like some of ‘em eh?” And again the maniacal laughter rang through the court-room and as it subsided the ‘Dealer’ ended with a whispered; “Yer see Judge, ladies, gentlemen, am as fuckin’ nutty as a fuckin’ Judge me, nutty as that little fucker up there.” And he suddenly vaulted the box and lunged in the direction of the Deemster with his hands grasping and his eyes popping and with the most corrupt and offensive oaths streaming from his lips. A young constable clung grimly onto one of his several woollen jumpers until a sergeant managed to throw an arm about the accused’s neck and wrestle him to the floor.
‘Dealer’ Coball was frog-marched out of the Court-room beneath a sea of blue serge and in his absence the Deemster and the Jury heard psychiatric evidence from the eminent Dr Costain who proclaimed that not only was Mr Coball sane he was in fact highly intelligent and a talented painter and musician. The Jury listened intently and following a brief recess proclaimed Mr Coball guilty on all charges.
When ‘Dealer’ Coball was returned for sentencing he had adopted a new role. Mock-weeping in the dock he repeated softly and continuously how he was “So sorry Mr Judge, persons of the Jury.” And “Please God forgive me for crappin’ on the fishies.” When the Deemster admonished him he listened like a schoolboy; “You are so right Mr Judge, ahhve been a bad, bad boy.” But the Deemster smiled grimly and sentenced John ‘Dealer’ Coball to three years imprisonment for theft, living of prostitution and the contamination of a fishing-boat’s cargo valued at two thousand pounds. As he pronounced the three year sentence the ‘Dealer’ lifted his head and altered his tone completely, now he spoke softly and ominously.
“What about the contempt then?”
“Yeh. My contempt for you and this ‘ere fuckin’ Court.”
The Deemster sighed and removed his spectacles which he used to gesticulate at the accused; “You have been admonished and excluded from parts of your own trial due to your contempt Mr Coball. That has been your punishment.”
“But it aint enough you fuckin’ dried-up shit-bag.” All six feet three inches of ‘Dealer’ Coball was bristling with anger now and the two officers at his side moved close and grasped his arms. He stiffened. “Get yer fuckin hands of me. Am talkin to that little shit up there. Listen you, ahhl be out within six months an ahhhl come lookin fer you, you bastard! I’ll make you eat shit you mother- fucking toss-pot!”
“Mr Coball!” The be-wigged counsel was on his feet as the police wrestled with the prisoner in the dock and ashen-faced the Deemster sat grasping the arms of his chair. “Deemster, on behalf of my client,”
“Your client,” the Deemster was spluttering, “your client Mr Grogan will apologise to the Court for this outburst or he’ll be sentenced accordingly.”
“Fuck you yer short-arsed git! Fuck you!” An officer’s hand clamped on the prisoner’s mouth and smothered his oaths.
Deemster Knowles rose to his full height of five feet two inches and shouted to make himself heard above the rumpus in the dock; “You will serve an indeterminate sentence for your blatant contempt Mr Coball, you will remain in prison until you see fit to return to this court and apologise for your behaviour! Take him down!”
An officer screamed as ‘Dealer’ bit into his hand. “Fuck you! Ahhhl not apologise an ahhhl be out soon you fuckin’ shrunken toad! You’ll eat shit you bastard. You fuckin’ midget twat!”
A fist struck his mouth and ‘Dealer’ Coball was dragged screaming from the Court-room to begin his indeterminate sentence in the Isle of Man’s only prison in Victoria road.
He was, in point of fact, ‘out’ within four months.
In cell 18 on the first floor of Victoria Road prison the ‘Dealer’ lay on his bunk and worked out the finer details of his plan. He realised however that it might take some little time to put into effect and so he set about enjoying himself in his new surroundings. He acted eccentrically at all times and persuaded the Roman Catholic priest, Father Woods, that he needed psychiatric help and so began his thrice weekly meetings with Dr Oates.
He obeyed the warders and entertained the other prisoners winning cigarettes from them by betting on his phenomenal memory. He’d sit in the lotus-position in his cell during recreation and wager that anyone could open his three-volume edition of Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’, tell him the volume and page-number and he’d tell them what was written on the page.
“Volume two, page 190.” ‘Pinky’ Parry said laying his thinly rolled cigarette alongside the one already on the grey-blanketed bed and the ‘Dealer’ closed his eyes and intoned; “‘Natacha who stood dry-eyed and amazed, watching her; and, seizing the key, locked the door of her room.’ I’m right aint I?”
Billy Bollins pushed his way in, “Let me have a go, here, I’ll bet two fags.” ‘Dealer’ nodded and closed his eyes again. “The next to the last page of volume one.”
After a moments pregnant silence the ‘Dealer’ opened his eyes and asked, “Page number?”
Someone went to speak but Billy stopped him. “Never mind the number. It’s the next to the last page of the first volume.”
The silence grew heavy as the ‘Dealer’ closed his eyes and concentrated once more. Billy looked about at the assembled prisoners and jerked his fist aloft in triumph but his celebration was cut short when the ‘Dealer’ suddenly intoned softly; “It’s page nos 427 isn’t it? ‘…banquet scene, and they discovered Rostow leaning against a house-corner.’” Dealer opened his eyes and stared at Billy, “Am right then? Yeh, course I am.”
Ennis Evans took the volume from Billy’s hands. “He’s fucking right again!”
Spontaneous applause errupted and ruefully Billy joined in. “Bleedin’ genius you are Coball. A bleedin’ genius.”
But soon the novelty of surrendering their tobacco ration to the ‘Dealer’ wore thin and his genius became unfashionable. However the inmates of Victoria Road Prison couldn’t bring themselves to resist his next wager.
It began when a half dozen or so inmates were gathered in the snooker-room on a Tuesday evening some five weeks into the ‘Dealer’s’ indeterminate sentence when he announced casually and to no one in particular; “I’ll be out of here at the week-end.”
“Now I’d bet on that,” said Mo Mills, leaning over the white and sighting the blue into the top left pocket, “bet that you’re still tucked up in pent-house 18 that is.”
Several others began to laugh and to taunt the ‘Dealer’.
“Go on then, give us a chance to get back some of the snout you took of us with your memory trick.” Ennis coaxed.
“You’ve got three years man,” enjoined Cocka, “an’ if Deemster Knowles is still alive an kickin’ you wont even get out then.”
The ‘Dealer’ sat back in his chair and finished rolling his cigarette. He flicked a spark onto the boot-polish stained cloth in his tin and lit the cigarette from the smouldering material. Exhaling the smoke and lifting his feet onto a card-table he expanded; “Out of here by the week-end and back to visit you and the dear old screws within two months, three at the most. That’s the bet. But I hold the bets ‘cos like I said, I wont be here will I. I’ll take yer baccy with me when I go. What do you say eh? A bet?”
Gaoler Marsh entered the snooker room at that moment and talk ceased abruptly. ‘Dealer’ stood up and saluted Marsh and then swallowed his cigarette into his mouth, chewing it slowly and allowing bits of tobacco to dribble from the edges of his protruding tongue.
“Still trying to work your ticket eh Coball? It doesn’t impress me.”
“Of course not God.” ‘Dealer’ paused and stared intently into Marsh’s eyes, “You know I love you God. Have done ever since you gave me that money.”
Marsh laughed, as too did the inmates present. “Wont work Coball. You’ll never convince either me or Dr Oates that you need moving from here. Can’t be done.” He prodded the ‘Dealer’ in the chest with his finger, “Better make yourself comfortable in your cosy little room and write a letter to the Deemster or you’ll be here until you rot Coball. Take my word for that. You really upset that nice gentleman.”
‘Dealer’ clicked his heels, saluted and wiped a mock tear away from his eye and Gaoler Marsh tapped his head sympathetically. But when the bell rang and the lights were extinguished that evening John ‘Dealer’ Coball sat in his cell checking his snout; there were seventeen half-ounce packs and over two-hundred hand-rolls. In prison terms he was a millionaire. He lit one of the rolls from his tinder-box and began to chuckle, his chuckle turned into guffaws of demented laughter which echoed off the stone walls and caused Gaoler-Kelly to bang on the door with his keys; “That’s enough Coball. Go to sleep now there’s a laddy.” And ‘Dealer’ did just that. He turned and slept the sleep of the just for his conscience was clear and untroubled.
On Wednesday the Dealer continued to act ‘oddly’ and at morning sick-parade he announced that he was mentally ill and needed help. The other inmates listened to the derisive laughter from the ‘screws’ and scraped together every scrap of tobacco that they could and pushed it onto the ‘Dealer’ who accepted it so willingly that some of those who knew the man well grew a little uneasy. Mo Mills wanted to know how he’d pay them when he lost and he was reminded of the ounces which had been bet against ‘Dealer’ and his ‘War and Peace’ trick. “He’ll has enough, don’t worry ‘bout that,” said ‘Pinky’, “and if he doesn’t pay, he’ll regret it.”
By Thursday evening the Dealer had most of the tobacco from the forty seven prisoners who resided in Victoria Road prison and besides the tobacco he had soap, chocolate and a small amount of dope. But he seemed no nearer to fulfilling his promise to be ‘out by the weekend.’
On Friday morning sick-parade was called, as always, immediately after breakfast and Gaoler Kelly held up his clip board and announced to the assembled prisoners the duties for the day ending, as always, with the words; “Anyone to see the doctor.”
A groan went up from the inmates and the screws looked at each other with mock derision as ‘Dealer’ stiffened and took a brisk step forward.
“Not again Coball. Get back in line lad, don’t waste my time.” Kelly tucked his pencil back into his pocket and lowered his clip-board. Dealer began to slow march unhurriedly yet purposefully across the room with his eyes fixed directly in front of him accompanied at every slowly measured pace by hoots of derision from the assembled inmates.
“Tell them again that yer barmy John,” shouted ‘Squeaky’ Kermeen, “then get yer hand in yer pocket and pay up what yer owe us!”
Even the screws joined in the laughter but ‘Dealer’ came to a halt a couple of feet from the green stone wall. “I need to see the psychiatrist Mr Kelly Sir,” said ‘Dealer’, apparently addressing the wall, “I’m hallucinating Sir. Need help. Keep seein’ this here strange devil-like face.”
“All right Coball, back in line lad. Mr Marsh, take your detail off to the chapel garden. Coball. Coball! Back in line lad.”
But ‘Dealer’ had turned deliberately again and was marching, slowly, rhythmically and hypnotically towards the other wall, he was pale-faced and spittle dribbled from his lips as he intoned continuously and softly; “But I need help, I really need help, I really need help, I really do.” And as he continued his progress everyone fell silent and expectant, all eyes followed his slow advance, every person present watched as he stopped, gazing intently at the wall immediately facing him. Standing pop-eyed two feet short of the wall he clicked his heels together, saluted and expanded his shoulders filling his lungs noisily, sucking oxygen deep into his body. Suddenly he roared loudly at the wall, drew back his arm and ploughed his fist into the solid stone-work. His knuckles shattered and his forearm snapped and tore through his thin shirt causing his arm to hang grotesquely like a fragment of torn branch on a storm-blown tree. The blood from his broken and shattered hand ran in a steady trickle and formed a pool on the floor at his side, the bone from his fragmented and dislocated arm protruded grotesquely. No one moved as John ‘Dealer’ Coball turned to Mr Kelly and spoke in a measured and serious voice. “I really do need help Mr Kelly. I really do you know. That’s what I’ve been tellin’ yers all along.” And a veil fell across his eyes as he crashed face downwards onto the concrete floor.
John Coball lay on the bed in a secure section of Ballamona Mental Hospital. A wooden splint ran the length of his right arm and snow-white plaster swathed the fingers of his hand. His free hand held a hand-rolled cigarette which he had taken from a shoe-box in his bed-table draw and which he had lit from the stump-end of a cigarette which Dr Oates had been smoking. Dr Oates sat cross-legged on a plastic chair by the side of the bed, a note pad and pen were resting on his lap and every few minutes he would lift the pen and scrawl a few words on his pad.
“The E.C.T. has worked wonders Doc,” ‘Dealer’ inhaled deeply, “the hallucinations have gone and I feel really well, better than I’ve felt for some time. Better than ever really.”
Dr Oates nodded and scrawled. “What do you think was causing the pressure on you John? Why did you harm yourself?”
“Difficult to say. I could see a face on the wall and it was laughing at me, a rat-like face of an old man, thinning grey hair and small half rimmed glasses, evil-looking. He’d been in my cell nagging me and I just couldn’t take it any more. I really thought that he was there yer know.”
‘Someone you knew?”
‘Dealer’ gazed directly at the doctor. “No. Just an image. You know Doc it all seems like a dream now and yet I know it was only two months ago. It seems as though it all happened to someone else.”
Dr Oates nodded again and scrawled again before lighting another cigarette with his lighter. He sucked nervously and deeply before he spoke. “And you’ll be all right with your,” he glanced at his notes, “your Aunt Agness? I believe she’s coming to take you out this afternoon?”
“That’s right Doc. She’s taking me for a drive in the hills.” He glanced out of the window, “Did I get a reply from Deemster Knowles?”
“Oh I don’t think he’ll reply John. I’ve vouchsafed that your ‘rudeness’ towards him was a product of your illness. When you look back on your behaviour, the incidents which led you into court in the first place, you can see that you were ill at the time can’t you?”
“Well, yes, I can now. It’s like a nightmare. My damaging the fish and stealing from the poor-box. God-dammit I’m so ashamed.” Outside of the barred window a black-bird perched on a tree laden with cherry-blossom. “See that there bird Doc. He’s beautiful, I want to paint it, write about it, it’s so perfect, so perfectly beautiful. You know I can see things now which I never seen before. This break-down has, has, helped me.”
Dr Oates rose and gathered his notes. “Enjoy your afternoon out. We’re stopping your E.C.T. now, you’ll be going home very soon. You’ve made a remarkable recovery John.” He turned and moved towards the door but then paused and turned back. “Sorry but you’ll have to put that cigarette out.’ He smiled; ‘No smoking in the wards.”
The ‘Dealer’ stubbed the cigarette into a cup and smiled in his turn. “Aren’t you afraid that I’ll split on you Doc?”
Dr Oates chuckled; “I’ll trust you John. Bye for now. What time is your aunt due?”
The ‘Dealer’ glanced at the clock on his bed-side table. “In an hour or so.” He threw his legs down onto the floor and sat on the edge of his bed. “Better get dressed, it’ll take me that long.”
“Shall I ask a nurse to help?”
“No ta, I’ll be fine. See you tomorrow Doc.”
And Doctor Oates left, closing the door behind him.
Dealer sat for a full minute listening until the footsteps faded completely and all was silent except for the ticking of the clock and the song of the black-bird and then John Coball began to laugh lowly and softly. His laugh rose to a bellow and he rocked backwards and forwards hugging his splinted arm to his chest and he laughed so loudly that a nurse entered and calmed him with a draught of dark-green liquid in a plastic beaker.
Outside in the visitor’s room ‘Black’ Aggy Marim flirted with a male nurse and joked about her ‘nephew’ who was having an afternoon out so that he could visit his friends in Victoria road Jail.
Deemster Knowles lay back in his heavily upholstered leather chair in the library at Mansion House. A Brandy glass stood on the small table at his side. He was reading the pink pages of his Financial Times when the double-doors opened and his man-servant Edward entered with a package in his hand which he laid on the onyx-topped table removing the Brandy glass as he did so.
“I never heard the post-van Edward.”
“Hand-delivered Sir. By a rather unkempt messenger on a bicycle.”
The Deemster smiled at his man-servant’s snobbery and reached for the brown-papered parcel which was about size of a shoe box and heavy. It was inscribed ‘This way up’.
Edward stepped forward. “If I may Sir.” He snipped the waxy string with a small pair of scissors and then stepped back a pace before retiring from his Master’s presence. The Deemster unwrapped the package and was confronted with a box fashioned from sandal-wood. ‘Rather like cigars’ he thought and an anticipatory smile crept across his face. He reached for a letter-opener and inserted it in the top of the box levering it gently open a half inch or so. Suddenly the lid, succumbing to the pressure from the two rubber-band powered pedals within, sprang away from the box and the pedals churned through the semi-liquid human excreta which filled the rubber-lined box hurling the obnoxious mess onto the carpets, walls and drapes and into the Deemster’s face causing him to fall back into his chair with screams echoing loudly from deep within his throat.
When Edward hurried back into the room he stopped momentarily in his tracks staring in consternation at the soiled and splattered face of his master and the gold-tasselled drapes begrimed with the brown mess, his hand moved involuntarily to his face as the stench hit him. In a moment however he had recovered his composure sufficiently to set about wiping some of the excreta from the Deemster’s face with a large white handkerchief which he produced from the sleeve of his coat, dabbing gently at the brown fragments on the tongue which retched and protruded from the redly-bloated face. As he cradled his master’s face in his hands he noticed the sandal-wood lid of the box which lay on the carpet close by and he leaned closer in order that he might read the words which had been burnt with a poker into its underside.
The words said simply; ‘Eat shit you mother-fucker.’