"Brilliant!" exclaimed Marcus to himself, rather audibly, but the boy was too far gone to hear. "Perfectly positioned for my needs."
Marcus shuffled over to the bed and, using leather straps, he secured the boy's wrists to the bed-end. The boy didn't stir at all. Then, for complete safety, he secured his ankles to the ferrules on the bottom bed-end. Rufus fidgeted a bit but Marcus was determined to secure him firmly, despite the risk that he might awaken.
“You’ll not move far, but I need you awake and absolutely steaming mad. Be sure to wake me! Hehe!”
Rufus carried on drinking and listening to music using earplugs with his mobile. He couldn't hear the clonking noises above; he was in a world of his own, happy and out of his skull. At around 11.30pm, four pints later and incredibly drunk, Rufus crawled up the stairs and miraculously found the room he'd been allocated. He collapsed onto his back on the small bed and promptly passed out.
He hadn't noticed the addition of some electrical gizmo and a load of wires next to his easy chair.
Marcus looked in at midnight. Rufus was completely comatose.
Perfect, just perfect!
It was probably bravado that spurred Rufus on. By mid-evening he was no longer able to speak coherently or, for that matter, stand up. Marcus, carefully observing the boy, told Rufus that he was going to turn in and suggested that although he was welcome to drink on, Rufus might prefer to get to bed himself.
"OK", slurred Rufus, "one for the road then!” He was like a kid with the key to the sweetshop.
"G'night then." replied Marcus, shuffling across and up the stairs slowly.
Looking down, he muttered to himself. “Enjoy it while you can young man!”
Whilst getting stuck into his first pint of many, Rufus reflected that this would be perfect. He still had six months before he started at university and this would tide him over very nicely. He might work here four months and then have two months holiday somewhere far away before he had to buckle down to university life.
If Marcus was going to ply him with endless supplies of beer on top of great pay, well just bloody brilliant!
“Aren’t you drinking, Marcus?” he asked.
But Marcus limited himself to tea, oddly raising his cup to toast the boy’s health.
“Now lad, chop up those logs by the shed over there please. Then stack them neatly in the wood store there. They’ll need to dry out before winter. A cuppa when you’ve finished and I’ll give you your advance.”
It sounded easy to Rufus but in fact there were more logs than he’d bargained for. It was close to 7pm when he finished, not realising that Marcus had been keeping an approving eye on him.
“Here’s your first fifty quid. Thirsty? Tea, or do you prefer beer?”
“Well what do you think!”
Beer it was... lots of it! A skinful.
Rufus went home to pick up some things. Clearly the old man expected him to stay at the house. Rufus rationalised that the old boy was probably lonely there. It didn’t bother Rufus; things were a bit fractious at home with his parents going through a rough patch. He wondered if they might split up after he’d been packed off to university.
He returned to Marcus's house around 4.30pm. Marcus was impatient.
“Either you want the work or you don’t!” he rasped.
“Sorry Marcus, mum was in a rage.”
”You too, I bet!”
”I'll fuel your rage m'boy!” thought Marcus.
Rufus was really quite bothered now. ‘...something on account?’
“Sorry, Marcus, what did you mean by ‘something on account’?”
“Let me clarify, Rufus. I meant an advance on your pay. I’ll pay you in advance.”
“Oh... right... thanks” This explanation made Rufus realise he’d been silly to be concerned. The old man was playing very fair and this allayed his fears. He’d been chosen despite the fighting because he was university material.
“Off you go now lad, I’ve a pile of logs for you to chop this afternoon. Go on boy, chop-chop!”
Rufus didn’t notice Marcus’s sinister leering laugh...
Rufus wondered why the old man selected him, the one who’d started the fight on his doorstep. It seemed odd, making him slightly concerned.
“A bit weird.“ he thought. “What if he’s a total pervert, a kiddie-fiddler or wants me to beat him up! Blimey, if that’s his game then he’ll wait a long time! He looks like one smack and he’d be dead!”
“But the money’s great... Might not stay here, although it’s miles better than home.”
“Go get your kit and we’ll see what you’re made of this afternoon. And maybe a little something on account... ”
Marcus needed animal responses to proactively attack or resist attack. This was what differentiated the lads. Fight for fight’s sake, fearlessness and buckets of anger to keep going when others might give up.
The brains were a bonus for Marcus. A bonus that would keep the lad’s instincts pumping. He’d got lucky in that respect.
Being thoughtful and intelligent, Rufus quickly reverted to his earlier polite self. This was sensible, lest he scare the old man. However, to Marcus, the perverse prospect that at any moment Rufus might explode into a terrifying beast was exciting.
“He’s just what I need...”
“I only need one of you I’m afraid”, said Marcus as the two boys got to their feet, nervously.
This was followed by a torrent of filthy verbal abuse, aimed at Marcus. Rufus cuffed both of the others in rapid succession and they fled.
They weren’t the only ones stunned at that point, Rufus had no idea why he’d been chosen after his unprovoked attack on the others.
“You’re more qualified” said Marcus, responding to Rufus’s unasked question
’Fair enough’, thought Rufus, ‘they were a couple of thick dicks’
But he didn’t fully realise exactly what qualifications Marcus was meaning...
Marcus opened the door carefully, took in the scene quickly, calling “What is this? What’s going on lads? Is this the way to impress me?”
”Yes it is, it really is” he muttered to himself.
The two floored youths were still recovering, while Rufus stood back, waiting for either or both to respond.
“Now who do you think I should hire then lads?
“Not that bleedin’ loony, for sure!” said a recovering victim.
“Rufus, it seems you need some anger management training”, said Marcus.
“OK, I’m going”, Rufus capitulated with a shrug.
“Going to get your things, lad, you’re hired!”
Marcus, in his bedroom looking down, deliberately delayed coming to the door. He watched, fascinated, as Rufus arrived and immediately struck the other two in their faces, stunning them for seconds as he delivered each a savage punch to the solar plexus. Clever he might be, but he was clearly brutal too. And he knew odds; two to one were only in his favour if he reduced them before the contest.
His coup de grâce was when he finished the fight with a kick to the groins of the writhing youths.
But had he blown his chances?
Marcus smiled knowingly...
The boys turned up at Marcus’s front door. The first two to arrive had been at the same school and whilst they hadn’t been buddies, they had grudging respect for each other.
“What you doin’ ‘ere, mate?” said the second to arrive, seeing the other lad.
“Same as you I reckon. The old bastard’s probly takin' us both on, or takin' the piss!”
"Oo's this bloke then?"
They watched Rufus stroll confidently up the path. Smarter than them, he'd sussed immediately that this might be a gladiatorial test. Reaching them, he struck, ruthlessly.. the surprise factor.
Watching from the window...
Three lads left after the individual interviews, but which one was the fittest for purpose? Two of them had left school with excellent records of brawling and truanting, but little by way of decent qualifications. The third was different. He was on a ‘gap year’ with a place at a top university in the autumn. He was also a fine physical specimen.
Marcus called them, asking them to come back the following day at 09.00. Each thought he’d got the job. None knew that this was stage 2, a group ‘interview’. They soon found out, and then it kicked off...
Old Marcus asked each of the boys to demonstrate his strength by carrying a heavy cast iron bench from his back garden into the house and back. He explained that the duties he needed them to perform required fitness of mind and body. Suspicious? But looking at the old man, he clearly presented no serious physical threat.
On the other hand, it was a bit freaky the way he looked at them, sizing them up. One more decided that this was too creepy for him and he left, politely saying the job wasn’t for him after all.
A wise choice...
The old man explained that he was finding many jobs too difficult for him these days, particularly heavy manual jobs. He reassured each of them in turn that the job did not involve any personal care, which stopped a couple of them backing out there and then.
The pay would be based on twice the National Minimum Wage. Since the old man lived in a well appointed big house, it was clear that Marcus could afford it. As a younger man, he had explained, he had made his money in complex cybernetics... and he still dabbled in electronics a bit...
Old Marcus received five phone calls from young men in response to his advertisement. He initially quizzed each of them as to their ages. He wouldn’t consider anyone who was younger than 16. To most people this would sound warning bells, and one of the lads who was a little older than the others decided it did sound rather suspicious and he backed out there and then.
The others set up times to pop round to the old man’s house for interview. Two 17, one 18 and one 19 year old. Young and fit; just the way Marcus wanted them....
It was time, he decided. Time to advertise. Time for someone new to improve his life.
The old man shuffled across his kitchen, picked up a postcard and penned the following:
WANTED. Fit young man for heavy duties around the house. Top rate of pay. Free accommodation / meals. Call 075263100 to arrange interview.
It was amazing that the corner store agreed to display the ad. The wording was very suspicious indeed, but Marcus was so old and frail that he must be harmless and most certainly did need help.
How could the old man present any threat? How indeed...?