His classmates were quickly in awe of him. Although slightly against his natural inclinations, he decided he would actively support his peers. The tutors quickly realised they could use him as a resource in class, a kind of knowledgeable assistant with whom the other students would identify. If ever there was a First Class Honours student in the making, it seemed to be Rufus.
Despite being a drinker with the lads, Rufus kept his nose clean. It was a struggle at times if a drinking mate said something out of turn...
But Mac kept him on the straight and narrow.
When the university term started, Rufus decided it was important to attend 'Freshers Week', when new students met likeminded others. He needed to seem like a regular student. He met a few guys he could get on with in the Student Union bar. They all liked a drink or two. However, despite sinking large quantities of beer, he kept his secrets secret. Nonetheless he seemed like an ordinary student.
It was quickly clear to his tutors that he wasn’t an ordinary student. He appeared exceptionally bright and remarkably knowledgeable about the subject for a Fresher.
Good cover for a murderer!
Back at Marcus’s house, Rufus had taken the bag of bloody testicles out of the fridge the day after the break in. He washed them thoroughly and then simmered them for 25 minutes. After this he gently pan fried them with garlic and rosemary from the garden.
Rufus had never been interested in cooking, just eating. But now that was changed and he followed instructions he’d found for cooking sweetbreads. A five star Internet recipe.
He couldn't remember when he'd enjoyed anything so much, but that might have been the taste of revenge!
He hadn't needed Mac's help with that!
It was very unlikely that Marcus's penis would be found, because after having hacked it from Marcus and taken it back to the house, Rufus didn't know what to do with it. He couldn't transplant it on himself, so he put it in Marcus's freezer, only taking it out to remove incriminating evidence when he went back to his own home. It had completely defrosted, so he tossed it to his mum's Staffordshire Bull Terrier, who disposed of it very eagerly, very fast and totally... out of sight of Rufus’s mum.
Marcus's testicles hadn't been wasted on the dog though!
Having milked the Marcus story for ages, the funeral coverage featured a huge front page photo of Marcus's coffin being lowered into a grave. Inset - a much smaller photo of a very much smaller grave.
The headline declared 'Finally laid to rest' and next to the inset photo it said 'For the rest!', suggesting it was for his penis, if ever found.
The next day’s photo was a close-up of the tiny empty 'grave', juxtaposed with a mock up of a personal ad, reading:
'WANTED : large erect penis to fill empty hole.'
That day’s circulation hit the roof!
A week or two after the break in at the undertakers, The Goss was finally contacted by someone they were able to verify was Marcus’s nephew. He'd not seen Marcus for 30 or more years as there had been a rift between him and his brother Ken, now long dead, the man's father. It seemed that he was the only heir to Marcus's considerable estate. He couldn't believe his luck, neither could the people at The Goss. Of course, it was another eagerly awaited front page story.
Time for another big brassy feature on Marcus, this time covering his funeral.
While he stayed at his mum's house, Rufus's behaviour went through a transformation. He became a 'nice young man' to his mum's friends and neighbours, explaining his absence as staying with a cousin while his parents sorted out their problems. It was plausible.
With September round the corner, Rufus's mother reminded him he had a place at university, so he'd better get on and organise his student loan.
Rufus couldn't believe his luck and made preparations for his move up north and away from any suspicion.
Arriving there, he asked to switch course from mechanical engineering to computer cybernetics. Agreed.
Rufus had hated his dad with a passion. He was fully aware of the beatings inflicted upon his mum, and he'd had more than a few himself after his father's drunken nights out.
But dad had gone away. His mum didn't know or care where, but said she reckoned he'd shacked up with "another poor cow who's getting a regular beating!"
Hate and Rufus were two things that were normally explosive, but at the moment he was focused on getting back into a regular routine, out of sight and harm's way.
Dealing with his father went on the back burner.
Home was probably the safest place he could be then. It was in a roughish street in Kilburn, far enough away from Marcus's house that he wouldn't arouse suspicion. He would simply merge in with the local kids.
Arriving at his parent's rented house, a 'To Let' sign stood outside. Maybe they'd already moved on, but he knocked on the front door anyway.
His mother was actually delighted and relieved to see him again. She'd been devastated when he disappeared, but she'd assumed that he'd left to get away from his violent father.
But it was dad who'd got away!
Reducing the machine (Mac) to pocket size had a number of benefits. Firstly, Rufus wouldn't stand out so much for being attached to a strange black box. Secondly, it would be much easier to take with him at all times. Thirdly, charging Mac would be much more flexible, using standard mobile phone chargers and USB ports.
Having reassured himself that the machine had lost nothing in its update, he threw away the old components in a variety of public rubbish bins.
With Mac now tucked in his pocket, it was time to move on, but where?
What about going home?
Rufus decided the machine looked old fashioned; it certainly was bulky. He replaced many of the old components Marcus had used in his original development of the machine.
Rufus found out about latest developments in the converging technologies of computers and mobile phones. Importantly, he knew them at a component level. Using the latest microchips, he remodelled the cumbersome machine into the casing of Marcus's mobile, which Rufus found in a drawer. In so doing, he ensured that the original machine memory was transferred. So much smaller now with so much memory in reserve.
Cheekily, he shortened 'machine' to 'Mac'.
Back at Marcus's, Rufus's initial thought was to hole up there for a week or two. However, worried that he'd been seen and followed back there, he thought maybe he should move on sooner.
In the meantime, he survived by eating the contents of Marcus's cupboards. He lived on Marcus's computer, downloading everything he could find about electronics. Because the machine was selective, Rufus had instantly acquired a base of fairly high level specialist knowledge in electronics. He was a very fast learner, itching to put his new found knowledge into practice.
And the machine would be his Guinea pig.
With the mess at the undertakers and the forced gate and doors, the night's macabre activities were quickly in the public domain.
The Goss, who were funding Marcus's refrigeration, capitalised on it:
The Goss headline read: 'HE-WRECKED'
'Even in death, Marcus Branthwaite is victim of a cowardly act of theft. A perverted sneak-thief has stolen the memory of his manhood.
Why, asks The Goss? Was this revenge? If so, revenge for what? Call our action line below if you hear of anyone bragging about his erection and tell us 'wiener who it is!'
The Goss gives a toss!'
With trophies in his bag, he was about to hightail it out when he decided he needed to exact one more act of revenge on Marcus. To do this involved dropping his trousers. A measure of his darker, thoughtless side.
A mistake because his DNA was now at the scene of the crime.
Out of the back doors he went, stealthily, carrying machine and bag. A light was on in a window of a neighbouring flat. A figure was looking out. Had he been seen? Would he be followed?
He ran until he could run no more. Safe at Marcus's!
Having cut off the stiff member, he spied something else, two things in fact. Using the carving knife, he gouged out Marcus's testicles, and, unaffected by the gruesome mess, he put them in a second plastic bag he'd brought along.
Rufus's desire to have Marcus's erection must have been mainly symbolic. Goodness knows what he thought he could do with it. Strap it on? What pleasure would that give. Have it surgically grafted in place of his own sad penis?
However, he knew exactly what he would do with these extra trophies.
They would make a tasty treat for later.
Updating the machine would happen later. Right then, in the cool room, with Marcus's body on the floor, Rufus's instant concern was getting the hell out of there, quickly!
Tearing the electrodes from Marcus's head, he pulled off more flesh. He decided he wouldn't bother to return the body to the drawer. That was a mistake!
He decided that now was time for revenge! Out came a carving knife and, turning his attention down below, he hacked at Marcus's erection, slicing it off at the base. He dropped it, still stiff, into a plastic bag he had remembered to pack.
The Rufus that awoke had changed. He felt an overwhelming confidence in his own intellect. In a trice he had absorbed a huge amount of knowledge about sophisticated electronics.
Importantly, as well as an aptitude for electronics, he had a passion too. He took one look at the machine, upon which he knew he was still dependent, and figured that it was so ancient and in need of urgent update.
It was big and bulky, it probably used outdated PCBs and components, particularly the static and active memory elements.
With the Internet as his tutor, he would rejuvenate the machine.
As the download happened, Rufus felt vibrations inside his head. He had no idea whether the exercise was being successful, and how successful. It was difficult for him to know when the download was complete. It was taking a long time.
He fell fast asleep.
The machine woke him after twenty minutes, beeping, as if to say, 'enough!'
The machine was smart and canny. In the download, it only transferred cognition 'files' to Rufus that would keep him focused and dependent. The rest it kept to itself.
But it realised that Rufus might be useful in updating its inner workings.
It had been a gamble. The fact that Marcus's body jumped for an instant off the floor was nothing surprising. Muscles, even apparently dead ones, respond to electrical stimulus. The fact was that Marcus really was dead, but he was still 'fresh meat' due to the refrigeration.
Whilst clearly his kinetic functions could not be sustained on their own without external impulses, it turned out that all his cognitive functions needed was some small electric current to reactivate them. Of course, they were useless without the other workings of the body, except to the machine!
Then the download started. Bingo!
Body, machine, electrodes in place, headphones on Rufus's head, electricity cable plugged in, it was time to flip the switch to 'on' and turn the dial to maximum. There was need for major 'oomph' to get it started, much like a car needs high revs and low gear to start moving.
To any onlooker it would have been tense, but to Rufus it was just a job to do.
Instantaneously there was a jolt and Marcus's body lifted for a second off the floor. This was the point at which the download would either work or not work.