"Eh?" said Hartley.
"Jackanapes" repeated Bearcroft, gesturing at an angular figure loping across the square.
"New boy." commented Crook.
"Odd sort of fish." mumbled Watler.
The Fearsome Foursome of The Fourth were in cheery spirits that day. St. Ninians was gradually settling into Autumn Term. The early afternoon sunlight caught the ivy-clad arched windows of Great Hall as the companions regarded the new boy with only mild interest. After all they had other things in mind. For a start, there was the prospect of a footer match with the Lower Sixth after Latin. For another thing Bearcroft had received a tuck-hamper from The Beloved Aunt in Herne Bay. And Bearcroft, the son of a shipping magnate could be jolly generous with his goodies when he wanted to be.
Best of all there might be a cycle ride over Tenton Down later that afternoon to see Helga and Co, their opposite numbers at St. Brunhilda's Academy for German Girls. Crook and Watler often teased Bearcroft about his friendship with Helga. He took it good-naturedly enough of course, although his face might visibly turn crimson for a moment or two when the subject did come up in passing. Bearcroft was contemplating this pleasant matter, when a voice interrupted his reverie:
" Any body seen a duffle-bag?"
" Ha ha ha!"
" Did I say something funny?" Asked the new boy.
" Ha ha ha!"
A dark look passed across the rangy individual's sharp features. He looked somewhat wrathy. The others noticed that he had a rather common twang to his voice. There was something about his haircut. Something suspiciously continental. Bearcroft, the beefiest of the Fearsome Foursome stood up to face the newcomer.
" Look here old scout. No offense. But there are literally hundreds of bags at St. Ninians.
It's almost standard here, that if you leave one lying around for more than a minute old Jarvis, the porter will whisk it away and before you can blink, Mrs. Maltravers the matron's got hold of it and laundered everything in it."
The strange boy stared at the burly fourth former. Something about his stance made Bearcroft uneasy enough to square his shoulders and drop his hands to his sides. There was a distinct shadiness about the chap. The lean stranger spoke again:
" Yeah. Well I wannit back."
" Now look here!" said Crook indignantly.
" I say." remarked Watler.
" I don't think I quite like the cut of your jib." said Bearcroft.
In a well-practiced routine, The Fearsome Foursome rose up as one.
" Rag him!"
" Scrag him!"
" Deck him!"
Four sets of firm hands grabbed the new boy, in anticipation of giving him the Famous St. Ninians Fifty Bumps. Unluckily, results weren't quite as happy as had been expected. The boy seemed to be a slippery customer and slid easily out from under the scrum.
" Watch out!"
" Man Down!"
" Ha ha ha!"
Suddenly the stranger head-butted Bearcroft smartly on his nose. A disconcerting crack was heard as cartilage shattered and the bigger boy clutched his proboscis.
" Dirty!" shouted Watler. The others leapt back to avoid Bearcroft's beefy form as it tumbled backwards. The new boy's dander however, was by now most assuredly up. In fact if a dander was ever more assuredly up in the world at that moment, it could not have been more so than the new boy's. As Bearcroft's burly form fell onto the quad the rangy new boy began methodically kicking him. He kicked him in the stomach. He kicked him in the back. He kicked him in places one doesn't wish to think about.
Finally the new boy pulled an object from his jacket. Yanking up the hapless Bearcroft's blazer and shirt and rolling him over, he hissed:
" Ever met my friend Stanley?"
And with that, he dragged the double-bladed object in one deft stroke across the beefy fourth former's naked back. Bearcroft screamed, before bursting into tears and mewing like a kitten as he writhed on the floor, red liquid oozing from the horrid wound.
" Stone the proverbial crows!" gasped Watler.
" Oh my giddy aunt!" ejaculated Crook.
" Lumme -that's put the tin hat on it!" exclaimed Hartley.
Bearcroft moaned softly. The new boy strode across the three mortified friends with an expression on his visage like he'd smelt something nasty.
"You." Snarled the stranger, "Are nuffin'. And he…." the boy continued, "Is a fuckin' girl!" The new boy wiped his Stanley knife on Watler's barathea blazer and slipped it into his own back pocket. The shocked silence was suddenly broken by a stentorian roar"
The three companions and the new boy whirled round, to find themselves facing the formidable mortar-boarded figure of Dr.Bulstrode, the senior house-master. Watler, Crook and Hartley immediately removed their school caps and stood attention. The new boy merely looked at the master as if he were a breakfast which he didn't fancy eating.
" You." thundered the wrathy Bulstrode. " Name?"
" Gaz." Drawled the lean stranger.
" What's wrong with that boy?" the bulky master boomed, gesturing towards Bearcroft.
" He was pissing in my fuckin' lager and callin' it 'Tops'. What of it?" snarled The Thug.
For once, even the Mastodon of St. Ninians as Dr.Bulstrode was known, was taken aback. Taken aback were not the words for it. Dr.Bulstrode was flabbergasted. In fact, not in thirty venerable years of teaching had a master's flabber been so completely gasted.
Apoplectic with fury, his face turning a deeper purple with each passing moment, The Mastodon of St. Ninians bore down on the new boy, drawing a fearful-looking cane from the depths of his capacious gown as he did so. He swiped viciously at the side of Gaz's legs with the thick cane. The Fearsome Three, shuddered at each blow as they looked on.
The new boy however, seemed as cool as the proverbial cucumber. His face betrayed not a hint of the considerable pain which the swingeing blows must have inflicted.
He merely looked at the portly educator and sneered:
" Is that the best you can do, you fat nonce?"
The wiry fourth-former landed a vicious punch somewhere below Bulstrode's considerable stomach. The good Doctor doubled-up, puffing and blowing like a pair of leaky bellows as Gaz seized the cane from him. Now the boy began to slash the gargantuan master about the head and legs with the instrument. The cane swished and cracked down with deadly accuracy upon the fleshier parts of that startled man.
" Waargh. Ooogh! Oorrh! I say!"
The boot was as they say, firmly on the other foot by now. The new boy spoke:
" You." he growled, " are not fit. You should stick to porking first-formers, you fucking wank-spot. So you're the fuckin' hard-man are you? I wouldn't have you on my crew if we had an Off with a fuckin' netball team!"
The Thug of St. Ninians spat in the quaking headmaster's face:
" Now, you fuckin' rubbish. There's something you're gonna do for me."
The formerly feared house master seemed as shocked by the new boy's foul language as he was terrified of further retribution. He stuttered and squeaked in a fat little voice:
The lean fourth-former pressed the end of the cane into the portly teacher's neck.
" I have lost a duffle-bag. It's got a lot of brain cabaret in it. Let's just say there's enough medication to bring this sorry little wanker's paradise into the right century.
You…will locate it and bring it to me. If you fail to do this, you will be getting an illuminated address. And then I'll chop you up with a rusty axe."
The new boy pulled an object from his blazer pocket. The three onlooking schoolboys observed that it was a very shiny Heckler and Koch automatic pistol.
The thug brandished the weapon menacingly, as he continued.
" Nobody will say nuthin'. And this fuckin' snowdrop should go and see his tailor. He's a fuckin' disgrace."
The boy indicated at the prone, moaning form of the hapless Bearcroft before turning again to the breathless housemaster.
" As for you…" he spat. " Have a word with yourself. About yourself."
With his dignity now well and truly spiflicated, the cowed teacher nodded quietly.
Crook was the first to speak:
" Cripes Gaz… er if I'm allowed to call you that. That was really bally impressive."
" Took some spunk, I'd say." grunted Hartley.
" Took the proverbial biscuit and the cake too." remarked Walter.
" Groogh!" whimpered Bearcroft.
Gaz the newcomer put the strange-looking pistol away and took a pocket comb from his breast pocket. He began to back-comb his oddly spiky hair as he addressed the boys:
" That's fuckin' better." he said approvingly. He sniggered as the Mastodon of St. Ninians limped away across the square with the sobbing Bearcroft under his arm.
" Right then Walter" he said. "Now where can I get some decent nosebag?"
" Th-th-there's the Tuck Shop… if th-th-that's what you mean." stammered Walter.
" Fuck that shit. Ain't there a Tai Takeaway or something?"
" Doubtful." piped up Crook.
" Very." murmured Hartley.
The Thug's brow furrowed for a moment and he stuck his chin out determinedly.
" Right then! Anyone up for a couple of Doves?"-.
The Fearsome Threesome looked flummoxed. Banjaxed, to put it in a nutshell. In fact, they couldn't have been more puzzled if they'd had to construe a chapter of Virgil without a blessed facing-page translation. The new boy raised his eyebrows.
" Christ on a fuckin' bike. How d'you tossers fuckin' live?".
" But…" began Hartley.
" It's just that…" muttered Crook.
" Well hang it all man. What the thump are Doves?" asked the bewildered Walter.
Gaz grinned at the boys as he produced a small polythene bag with an oddly sealed top.
" These." he stated, " are Amsterdam Aspirins. And if you swallow a couple of them now, in twenty minutes time or so, you should be chewing your fuckin' sleeves very nicely indeed, you sad bastards. Now fuckin' bollock 'em down!"
" The three boys gamely did as bidden. Hartley exchanged a long-suffering look with Watler. Crook muttered s grudging thanks to the tight-lipped new boy. They all sat down on a bench in the quad and considered the events of the past half an hour. What a turn up for the books!
That the new boy was a bit of a rough diamond, was undoubted. Rough wasn't the word. Strictly speaking, neither was diamond. But what the heck! It had been nice to see their ebullient housemaster given a taste of his own medicine. A bit of a rum do for poor old Bearcroft admittedly. Bearcroft's father might kick up a bit of a stink. If he ever heard about it. But since the companions had agreed to keep it dark, so to speak, who was to know?
No. Bearcroft would probably keep mum and lie doggo until his wounds had healed.
He could be an absolute brick like that. Good old Bearcroft!
The sun slanted agreeably onto the cloisters of the old school square. A gentle afternoon breeze rustled the leaves of the huge Elm trees by St. Ninian's majestic old wrought iron gates. It was turning out to be a very pleasant autumn afternoon indeed. In fact t was a decidedly more cheerful Hartley who piped up, about twenty minutes later:
" I say chaps. I don't half feel chirpy!"
" Me too!" giggled Watler.
" Ditto." Crook assented.
" Fuckin' sweet." The new boy grinned. "And there's enough of these to keep us sorted until end of term. Providin' of course, that Fuck-flaps gets my duffle-bag back -the cunt."
It was an altogether sunnier quartet who ambled towards the bike sheds. The idea of a spot of tiffin with the svelte platinum blondes of St. Brunhilda's seemed even more tempting now.
" How far is this place?" enquired the Thug of St. Ninian's.
" Only about ten miles." replied Crook.
" Pretty hilly for biking though." added Hartley.
" Absolutely!" confirmed Watler.
" Fuckin' what??" asked Gaz incredulously. "You mean, you wanna go an' see a bunch of Brendas on your fuckin' bikes? Fuck that! We'll twoc a fuckin' motor. That fat nonce I just spanked has got a vintage Jag, ain't he?"
" Well…" Crook ventured uneasily.
" Well fuckin' what, you shitter?" bawled the new boy. "Reckon you're gonna impress top notch gusset on a fuckin' push bike? I don't fuckin' think so."
He flicked Crook's nose in a gesture of contempt. Crook hopped back and rubbed his face ruefully as the other two boys grinned vaguely into the middle distance.
" Well, I don't mind what we do." The smiling Hartley asserted. I mean, it's a lovely afternoon. And…well, I just want to say that you're all first rate chaps. It makes a man jolly glad be with such sterling fellows. Especially you Gaz. I mean, I must confess. You seemed like a bit of a rum cove when I first clapped eyes on you but now…oh I don't know. Hang it all man. Give me hug!".
The Thug of St. Ninians grinned knowingly.
" You fuckin' twat, Hartley. Sort yourself out. Now let's go an' get ourselves some decent wheels so we can do some lumbering, before this cannon goes off in my fuckin' kecks."
Almost before they'd had time to think about it, the four companions found themselves in Dr.Bulstrode's luxurious Jaguar, whizzing through the sun-dappled country lanes in the autumn sunshine. Crook and Watler chattered excitedly in the motor-car's sumptious leather seats as Hartley sat next to the new boy, who was now steering the handsome vehicle in the direction of St. Brunhilda's . Hartley allowed his mind to meander back over the afternoon's events. Bally strange sort of bizney, he reflected. But as Watler had remarked in his usual inimitable way, it took the jolly old cake. The Thug of St. Ninian's had certainly created a stir on his first day. The new boy stepped on the accelerator, a cigarette drooping from his lip. The other cars in the lanes seemed to leave little silver trace-marks in the balmy air as the Jaguar sped past them. Hartley closed his eyes as tiny fairy skeletons danced on pinpoints of coloured lights over his racing thoughts.
He sat back in the Jaguar's front passenger seat, his feet up on the walnut dash board.
It had been a really topping day so far. The Thug was at the wheel, Crook and Watler were tittering and embracing each other in the back seat, it was a sunny afternoon, God was in heaven, and all was right with the world. There was no doubt about it, he conceded, things were never going to be dull around the school if the new boy had anything to do with it.
Hurrah for the Thug of St. Ninians!
Martin Newell / August 2000