The Objector

Weekly Writing Challenge: Dystopia

Jewellery Store Murders – Man Guilty Of ‘Cowardly Act’

A self-proclaimed pacifist faces life in prison after a jury found him guilty of failing to carry a weapon, resulting in the deaths of two people during a robbery on a Manhattan jewellery store.  Marcus Foley, 27, from Guttenberg, New Jersey, is the latest follower of fugitive radical peace activist Brooke Kingston to be convicted of breaching the 28th amendment.

Ms Kingston’s message of tolerance, acceptance, unarmed protest and a return to 20th century values of “social care and political responsibility” continues to be spread through her peace manual, Enlighten magazine, which is still readily available online despite attempts by federal security services to stop its spread.  Her lectures and speeches can also be viewed on underground audio-video sharing sites.

The court heard how Foley was recruited and radicalised whilst an undergraduate at NYU, attending conventions and rallies at which Kingston’s associates addressed the audience.  He even travelled to Washington state in 2028 to see Kingston herself make a keynote speech at the infamous Seattle Peace Gathering – an event which led to mass arrests of sit-down protesters in public parks in the weeks that followed.

In the five years since graduating, Foley has been self-employed, owning and running his own coffee house.  It is thought that this may merely have been a front, allowing him to gather and indoctrinate new recruits for Kingston’s movement.  Investigations into the business and customers are ongoing.

Guilty of conduct unbecoming a citizen of the United States of America, Foley was, prosecutors said, part of a conspiracy that aims to cause “widespread carnage, death and injury on a massive scale by encouraging followers to not carry guns, leaving themselves and other innocents across the country at the mercy of unscrupulous gangs, murderers and thieves.”

Judge Henry Thompson told Foley: “Your conviction is based on overwhelming evidence and will certainly lead to you being incarcerated for the rest of your natural life.  You are an educated and intelligent man so it is unthinkable that when you left your home on the morning of June 18th you did not understand the possible ramifications of not carrying your government issued weapon.  You knew what you were doing was a federal offence and yet you wantonly abandoned your responsibility to yourself and your fellow Americans, leading directly to two wholly avoidable deaths.”

During proceedings prosecutors told the jury how Foley had left his Beretta M9 pistol locked in a safe in his apartment and travelled to Madison Avenue to shop for a gift for his girlfriend.  Easton’s was the third jewellery store he visited and soon became involved in a discussion with Margaret Green, the store’s retail assistant, regarding the type of necklace he had in mind.  During this conversation a masked man, Kevin Donald, entered the store brandishing a shotgun.

Donald casually approached a startled Lance Michaelson, the store security guard, and shot him twice before turning his gun on Foley and firing once.  The blast caught Foley in the shoulder and left him slumped on the floor, but crucially alive, as Donald demanded Miss Green empty the contents of the display cases into his holdall.  At this point, the prosecution maintained, had Foley been carrying his own weapon, he could have fired upon Donald, bringing him down and ending the heist.  Unable to do so, Foley could only watch as Miss Green carried out Donald’s orders before the robber turned and fired twice more, killing Samuel Moore, the store manager and Miss Green herself.

Leaving Foley for dead, the robber fled the scene, only to be apprehended later that day.  Donald was convicted 48 hours later after signing a confession during questioning by specialist interviewers and will serve 10 to 15 years in a federal prison.

Under cross-examination Foley maintained that he never carried his gun “on a point of principle”, that he did not intend for anyone to come to any harm and that he was sorry for the victims and the families they left behind but he “should not be held responsible for the actions of Donald, a career criminal with a history of violence.”

In summation Judge Thompson said: “We are not here to judge Kevin Donald but to establish your role in the deaths of Samuel Moore and Margaret Green.  In leaving your weapon at home you have cost two innocent people their lives.  Whilst you could not reasonably be expected to have saved Mr Michaelson you are wholly culpable for two of the three deaths that occurred that day.  For deliberately failing to fulfill your role as an American citizen Mr Foley you will live out your days in a United States Penitentiary without the possibility of parole.”

Outside the court NYPD commissioner Arthur Sinclair said: “Foley is part of a modern international crime syndicate.  A syndicate that has already been responsible for many injuries and deaths across the US and one which plans to stand idly by, as Foley himself did, while many more victims fall around them.  This police department and indeed our colleagues across the nation, as the steadfast apparatus of a reasonable, sensible and humane society, will continue to work tirelessly to track down and eliminate any and all threats from this syndicate.”

Chairman of recently formed SUAC, Senator Stanley Wisheart stated: “We cannot let the mindless actions of a minority of radicals undermine the progress made by our great nation in recent years.  A return to the chaos of the past, of an unarmed society and overstretched police resources is unthinkable.  The Senate Unpatriotic Activities Committee will continue to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice no matter which rock they hide under, whether at home or overseas.  We will bring Brooke Kingston to stand before us to answer for her crimes.  We will destroy this un-American and cowardly movement and ensure the deaths of Samuel Moore and Margaret Green are not in vain.  We will uphold the 28th amendment and protect our children from our enemies, both within and without.”

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The Conjuror

Yeah, course I know Scotty!  I’ve known him pretty much all my life, since nursery school actually.  He’s all right, bit miserable though.  Hah!  No, he’s just a bit moody at times – most of the time!  You just got to get to know him, do you know what I mean?  Cos I know him so well, I reckon I know what I can get away with, you know?  See, I love a wind-up, me, and with Scotty you gotta know how far you can go.  I’ve stitched him up and taken the mickey so much over the years but he always gets over it eventually.  I just use a bit of the old Paulie magic!  That’s what mates do, right?  You gotta have a laugh, eh?

So, as I was saying, we’ve been mates all our lives, loads in common and that, I just wish he was a bit more like me.  You gotta make the most of yourself, right?  I’m a pretty good-looking bloke so I like to show that off and complement it with the right clothes.  See, when I go out I like to dress for the occasion, right?  Always clean-shaven, good shirt, smart jeans and nice pair of loafers.  Girls love that.  I like a good label – it tells people who you are, that you are smart, successful, a man of taste as they say.  Makes a statement don’t it?  Whereas he’ll rock up in a t-shirt and some tatty old trainers and think he looks good, you know?  I mean, look at his hair – Lord knows when he last had that mop cut.  My mate Gino does mine every month, no problem – he says my dark curls and my gear remind him of some of his family back home.  I’ll take that!  Gotta look good, ain’t ya?  I like to have a nice healthy tan too.  I’m on holiday twice a year and I wear shorts in the garden nine months of the year.  Makes you feel better about yourself, knowing you look healthy.  I try to keep myself trim too, I play a lot of sport, five-a-side football and cricket so I’m fit anyway, though it used to be a beer after the game but now its the game before the beers, you know what I mean?  Nothing better than a couple of beers with your mates, is there?  Have a laugh, down a few pints, sing a few songs and have a decent meal.  Can’t beat a nice curry, eh?

Yeah, so, we used to play together in all the sports teams, he was all hard work and effort and that while I used a bit of skill, a little bit of the old Paulie magic!  Everyone said how we made a good partnership, football especially.  Course, I think he was always a bit jealous of me, you know?  Just the way he would say things, like, being sarcastic and stuff like that.  I didn’t mind, though.  After all, friends forgive one another don’t they?

When we left school we moved on to college but didn’t I last all that long – I decided I was ready to start earning a bit of cash.  This education lark wasn’t for me, couldn’t see how it was going to help me in the real world, in a job or something.  So I quit college and got myself a job with So PC, the local IT superstore.  It meant I didn’t see much of Scotty any more – he was well into his studies by now so I got stuck in to the job and football instead, making new mates along the way. I started out in the storeroom, shifting stock, packing and unpacking orders, making a lot of coffee!  It didn’t take too long for me to show my skills though and soon enough I was using my patter and making sales left, right and centre. I was loving it and the customers were loving me too, there was nothing they didn’t need that I couldn’t sell to them: wireless keyboards, printers, disc cleaning kits, you name it.

It was a great time in my life.  I was hanging around with a lot of the senior players at the football club, all confirmed bachelors with cash to spend, looking for a laugh and a willing girl. Obviously we had loads of nights out and regular drinking sessions after training and matches, visits to nightclubs and strip-bars most weekends.  I was meeting loads of new people and plenty of girls who were more than happy to have a drink with me. It made me feel like I belonged to something, like my life had a purpose. Having so many mates made me feel ten feet tall, I loved the banter and the jokes, belonging to something that appreciate me, that wanted me, that valued me and respected me, that liked me. I was the youngest in the group but I made sure I was popular, buying plenty of drinks and always having a smile and a joke to share. I loved it, the feeling of being the centre of attention, of holding court and seeing all these lads hanging on my every word. I could go to work each day with a spring in my step knowing that I had a good night to look forward to at the end of it. Scotty would come along sometimes too, when he wasn’t too loved up with his latest girlfriend, you know?

I was gutted when I lost the job.  What it was, right, it started when I done a deal for the football club to supply the gear for a new computer network for the board and officers to use. I went over with the delivery boys to make sure it all went nicely and collect the payment – I’d given them an extra discount for cash.  It was a Friday afternoon, so after we finished unloading and sorting the money I had a couple of beers and a chat with some of the lads at the club.  One thing led to another and, before you know it, it’s Saturday lunchtime and I’m in bed with a raging hangover.  Turns out we went into town on the lash and I’ve treated the boys to a grand night.

I only dipped into the money from the club as a loan but I had to wait until the end of the month before I got paid (this was around the tenth) so I had three weeks to get through before I could fix it.  I knew I was good for the money.  The problem was, I owed my mum last month’s rent and then I maxed out the credit card and overdraft cos I had no more cash.  By the time the end of the month came I’d already had to use the rest of the club’s money on a couple of nights out, so I used a bit of creativity – a little bit of the old Paulie magic! – to buy a bit more time.  After a couple of months I thought I was in the clear – after all, no-one said anything to me about it, the computers were going down nicely at the club and everyone was happy.  Then one day I got called in to see the sales director. I had been going great guns lately so was expecting a nice bonus or a lunch on him but it turned out the server at the club had gone down and as my mobile was going to answer phone the general manager had contacted the office.  As they say: easy come easy go!

I soon got myself back on my feet, kept my head down, found a new job working for Bitparts, a car parts firm, moved in with my sister and paid off most of what I owed.  I was getting a bit lonely though, not being able to play at the club where most of my mates hung out. Those that didn’t were all getting married and having kids so were never interested in socializing anyway. One afternoon in town I bumped into a girl I used to know, Danielle, who in those days was hanging around with a different crowd.  We arranged to meet up and after a few nights out we were getting on well and I realised how much I liked her – she was lovely, expensively stylish, with beautiful red hair, striking green eyes and lovely creamy smooth skin. She was the sort who was never seen without her lip gloss, you know what I mean? Her hair was always immaculate, like she just stepped out of the salon, she always wore nice dresses and I don’t think I saw her wear the same pair of shoes twice. She was high maintenance and a bit posh but I was on the up and up and I used my famous charm and wit to win her round. The old Paulie magic again!

Danielle’s mum and dad had a lovely big house and after a few months I’d managed to get myself an invitation to get off my sister’s sofa and move in.  I got on really well with her family and it was nice to feel part of that, to be accepted into the fold. Her dad especially made me feel that I was a genuine part of the family, like I was more than just a potential son-in-law. It made me feel great to be liked that way, it reminded me of the good old days at the football club and I didn’t want to lose that feeling again. I made sure I kept them happy, with regular flowers for her mum and the odd bottle of port for him. Things were nice and cosy for a while but just as I was getting comfortable she told me we needed some space and she wanted us to get a place of our own.

Now, I ain’t one to shy away from my responsibilities, so as Danielle’s parents were going to put up the deposit I thought it would be only fair if I matched it.  That way we could get a nicer place and a better mortgage deal too.  Like I said, I got on with her family and her dad especially but he was an old-school type and expected me to step up and look after his daughter. I managed to get a new credit card and another overdraft from the bank to cover it.  Sorted.

I managed to get hold of Scotty again too, so we went out for a few beers and a catch-up. It had been a few years and he’d changed a bit, mind.  He didn’t socialize much and had got himself into a serious relationship, a career and had some high-minded ideas about life.  I soon brought him back down to earth, though, reminded him who he was and where he belonged.  What are friends for?

So life was sweet.  Danielle was all I wanted in a girl. She was gorgeous, glamorous, fun and with a lovely welcoming family. She had a nice car and a good job that, together with my wages and a new loan I’d managed to get from one of those companies that advertise on tv, meant we could start collecting all the stuff we needed for our new house: furniture, tv, all the gear. I had been nervous, buying a house is a big step but Danielle was sure it was the right thing for us and so it proved.  It really changed me, made me grow up.  I realised that giving Danielle what she wanted was the most important thing for me. We loved each other and I needed to make sure it stayed that way, do you know what I mean? Soon enough we were talking about the future, maybe having a family. I really needed to be a good man, right?  Provide for Danielle and maybe a couple of kids, make them feel secure and loved, especially if Danielle decided to give up work. She needed new clothes and shoes, we wanted to go on holidays and the new place needed some decorating so I worked hard to make sure she had what she wanted.

So when I got laid off last year it was a bit of a blow. I thought something would turn up soon enough so rather than worry Danielle I decided I’d wait until I got a new job, then just give her the good news. I kept myself busy, looking for work and that – sometimes just wandering the streets, keeping my eyes open for an opportunity, maybe an odd job that someone needed help with. Often I was just touring the local pubs but at least it meant I was out of the house so she didn’t find out.  When the letters started coming I put them in a draw for safe keeping – I didn’t want the bank to ruin the surprise and in any case I could sort them all out when I got a new job.  Things were getting a bit tight, and what with him being a good mate and that, I didn’t think he’d mind. In fact I knew he would want to help me out, so that’s when I got the card. The one in Scotty’s name.

The Beholder (Writing Challenge: The Devil Is In The Details)

“No, not today.”  I replied as the waiter walked the last few steps of his approach.  He offered a half-smile of recognition, a slight, almost imperceptible raising of his left eyebrow and a subtle nod of deference.  I was seated alone, at my favoured table, in the recess towards the rear of the left wall of the restaurant.  Positioned slightly to the right of the centre of the semi-circular table, I could see the majority of the main dining area, the entrance at the front of the restaurant and the bar along the right wall with the white double doors that led to the kitchen at its end.  The walls were expensively decorated in cream with a cardinal red damask pattern.  Each wall had a generous smattering of artwork: renaissance style oils, nudes and cherubs abounded, many in intricately detailed gold frames.  The floor bore a dense maroon carpet woven with a rich golden rose design.  The tables, all fully patronised, were a variety of shapes and sizes, from three-foot squares for two, to large circles eight feet across for groups of up to a dozen, each covered in pristine white cloths, freshly pressed and starched before the service.  Artfully dispersed around the floor, providing diners with the perfect balance of intimacy and the collective experience of dining in such surroundings, each table had at its centre a delicate arrangement of red anthuriums, white gerbera daisies and pink carnations.  Polished silverware glistened and elegantly fluted glasses reflected the light from the four large crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.    The chairs’ mahogany frames were highly polished, their high backs oval with plush crimson velvet cushioning, their luxurious seats finished in the same weighty fabric.  Behind the solid, impressive bar, its brass foot rail gleaming, the barman, in brilliant white dress shirt and black bow tie just as the waiting staff, busily prepared a cocktail.  As he expertly sluiced and mixed ingredients selected from an abundance of bottles on the shelves fixed to the wall, the gregarious and extravagant movements seemed out-of-place in such reserved surroundings.

The low hum of conversation from my fellow diners was accompanied by the tinkling of ice in glasses, the sounds of cutlery softly dragging on the perfectly white china plates and occasionally laughter pealed from one table or another.  The air in the room was calm, formal but relaxed, perfectly engendered by the maitre d’ as he glided from one group to the next, exchanging pleasantries with individuals at each table, ensuring all was well with their meals.  As I looked around the room, absorbing these familiar scenes once more, I could feel the waiter next to me, expectant, poised to receive my order, when something in the atmosphere shifted.  It wasn’t obvious, it wasn’t announced, rather something almost primal, instinctive, a moment of collective awareness shared by all in the room.  Everybody’s attention was drawn in that same moment to the entranceway as the tall, elegant woman entered and exchanged a few words with the maitre d’.  As she looked around the restaurant, searching for her intended companion, her striking looks took my breath away.  Even from across the room I could see the blue in her eyes as they danced with happiness and a sense of mischief.  Her eyebrows were thick and shaped into long arches, her lips full and scarlet, her skin pale and smooth.  Her platinum hair, parted on the left, cascaded in waves below the shoulder.  She wore an elegant diamond necklace with a central stone which matched her pear-shaped diamond earings.  Her black silk satin dress, which showed her slim, lithe figure was long and embroidered with black sequins.  Her shoes, with a low heel, were also black and displayed a small silver buckle.  The maitre d’ gestured towards the rear of the restaurant and escorted her across the floor in the direction of her seat.

As she traversed the floor she seemed to float, her soft steps barely impressing upon the deep carpet. Her dress shimmered and her diamonds sparkled, catching the lights and exploding with a brilliance that betrayed their clarity. Her luminescent beauty filled the room with moonlight, it entranced me, it blinded me to everything else as the chandeliers, the oil paintings, the very walls were lost in her hypnotizing, silvery light. I stood, enchanted by the bright blue eyes and the white fire that lay behind them, by the slightly embarrassed smile and by the demure tilt of the head of the lady who now stood before me.

“Perhaps a little champagne?”  I said.

“Of course, Mr Tavistock.” replied the waiter.  “Welcome Mrs Tavistock, and congratulations on your ruby wedding anniversary.”