So I got distracted by the pig story. This was the one I meant to write for September. It's a little different so I hope you enjoy.
Title: For Every Action
Length: 2000 or thereabouts.
Setting: London. 1970s. Rupert Giles. His dad.
For Every Action
The bolts on the door were pulled back sharply and the middle-aged man in mismatched tweed jacket and dark corduroy trousers entered the simple room with some disdain. He surveyed the young figure stretched out on the green army cot and said placidly, “Well, this is a right cock-up, isn’t it?”
The young man, who’d previously held his arms folded tightly across his chest, stretched and tucked his palms under his head in a more studied appearance of leisure. He merely shrugged at the statement and yawned. The newcomer pulled apart a cellophane wrapper and tugged at the pins and buttons of a new shirt.
“Get out of that disgusting tee-shirt and put this on,” he instructed.
The younger man swung and sat and pulled the blood stained tee-shirt over his head. His young pale chest curled over to display his ribs and some recent bruising but there were no obvious cuts or open wounds. It looked like he’d managed to clean up with some cold water on his face but his long hair and shaggy beard hung limply from the treatment. He buttoned most of the blue paisley patterned shirt, leaving his throat exposed at the wide collar. He made no attempt to tuck it in to waistband of his jeans which were also blood marked; instead he rolled the sleeves up roughly and provocatively. There was an ugly, dark tattoo on his bicep to which the older man had given a slight shake of his head but made no comment, opting instead to gesture to the open door.
They walked past other locked rooms to the main reception. A large white wall clock looked incongruously modern against the dark oak panels but it swept its minute hand jauntily to the top of the hour regardless. The stocky security guard in a black nylon jumper and clip-on tie looked far less jaunty. He hadn’t stopped frowning since the older man arrived.
“Mr Giles, please. This is highly irregular.”
“It’s all right, Mr Moncrieff. We will be back. I’m just signing him out for a while.” Mr Giles wrote something in the custody book on the counter but the guard still looked nervous.
“One hour only, please, sir. The Panel are on their way.”
“My word of honour we will return. He is my son when all is said and done," he added as if that explained everything.
They stepped out of the building into a London afternoon and Mr Giles gestured them across the road. It had been years since the man and boy had sought each other’s hand at busy road crossings. Now as they waited for a gap in the traffic, the younger Giles pushed the tips of his fingers in his jeans and the older Giles stuffed his fists in the side pockets of his trousers, rumpling his jacket carelessly.
They ducked the cars in unison and entered the public house opposite. Apart from a newspaper portrait of the Queen taped behind the bar, and some red, white and blue bunting hung by the landlord in patriotic fervour, the pub remained resolutely steeped in its 18th century. The afternoon sun gamely tried to pierce the darkened lead windows and low beams but could only send shards of illuminated dust through the haze of stale tobacco and even staler beer. The clientele were elderly, white, male and looked like they never left their stools at the bar whilst there was a lit cigarette, a pint of special or a game of dominoes to be had for money. After an initial gruff inspection, they paid no heed to the newcomers. The younger Giles sat in one of the discreet alcove booths away from the door. His father brought across two pints of bitter and sat opposite. They drank a couple of inches each before the father spoke.
“You should have called me.”
“Not really your sort of party.” The reply was flippant but the young man kept his eyes on the cracks in the varnished table in front of him. "What’s all this about a Panel?"
“There’s a Disciplinary Panel assembling. They will sit at 1pm.”
“Christ, I’ve quit the Council. How many more times do I have to tell you?"
“Well they haven’t quit you. Not yet anyway.”
“You don’t get it do you? I don’t work for you and your precious Council anymore. You shipped me off to prep school, boarding school, Oxford, all without asking me. You had my whole life mapped out along neat railroad lines. Well, newsflash, I’ve got off the train.”
“Rather impressively it seems.” The older man sat back languidly. “Though I’d say the analogy is more of a car crash just about now.”
His son shot him a glare. “Why are you even here?”
Mr Giles shrugged almost nonchalantly. “Because you’re my son.”
“What does that mean anymore? Are you afraid I’m going to embarrass you with your big bosses? Poor Edwin Giles, have you heard about his boy? Doesn’t want to be a Watcher. So wayward, so shocking.”
“So pig-headed,” his father added amiably but this only seemed to stoke the fire.
“You’ve treated me like a work horse since I was ten years old! Being a Watcher means nothing to me and you don’t care. These are your hopes, your dreams, not mine. I’m not cut out for it, never have been.” He became conscious he’d raised his voice a little too far and bent over his drink wretchedly.
His father took a well-worn pipe from his top pocket and tapped it against the side of the table gently. "I think you're wrong about that last part," he said.
"Huh. You've screwed over my life."
“Was last night my doing then?” The enquiry was softly spoken but his son hid from eye contact and hunched a little further over the table to twist his glass slowly. Both men resumed sipping their beers in a practised solitude as the clock above the bar chimed the quarter hour. Giles senior continued to inspect his pipe but made no attempt to fill the bowl of it.
“Where are the others?” His son finally broke the silence that threatened to drown them. “Your gestapo squad picked us all up. What happened to the others?”
“Gone home I imagine. The Council has no business with them.”
“The Council has no business with me,” the boy stressed in reminder.
“Yes, well. The Panel meet at one o’clock. They will take testimony and review your actions. I imagine they will then decide what to do about the police. Decapitated human corpses are really more their line of business of course.” His son looked a little paler at that. Edwin Giles pressed on. “What did you imagine would happen? It’s a murder inquiry as far as the police are concerned, Rupert, and you are still wearing his blood.”
“There was a demon.” His son bit his cheek nervously.
“I don’t think that will go down terribly well as a defence strategy at the Old Bailey.”
“It wouldn’t come to that.”
“Why wouldn’t it? You’ve made your position clear and the Council are tiring of your constant attempts to run away. The police are pressing for your name, and my ‘big bosses’ might just give it to them." Edwin rested his elbow on the table and spoke sadly, "If they let you fall my boy, you will fall a damn long way.”
“And what will you do? Will you just watch?”
His father appeared stung by the suggestion. “Of course not. You’re my son. I’ll get you the best barrister I can but I don’t have the power to make this go away. Not on my own.” He stood up abruptly causing Rupert to flinch back. “Do you want some peanuts or crisps or something? I imagine you haven’t eaten.”
“What? No, no, thank you.”
“Please yourself.” He watched as his father rose to the bar and spent some time haggling absently over his limited food options. On his return, unlit pipe between his teeth, he neatly split the bag of salted peanuts along its rear seam and laid out the contents as if on a handkerchief between them. He then laid his pipe down and began to munch the nuts in twos and threes, occasionally licking the salt on his fingers. Rupert watched him consume nearly half the bag before he gave in and spoke again.
“Alright, what’s the alternative to the police then?”
Edwin Giles washed down his current batch of peanuts with a mouthful of beer before answering.
“You agree to accept the Council charges and abide by their judgement." He chose another three nuts as if to make his point. "We’re probably talking reckless endangerment, misuse of magick whilst an indentured servant of the Council-”
“I’ve quit the Council,” Rupert interrupted with some exasperation.
“….of the Council,” his father continued, ignoring all protest, “and involuntary manslaughter. I imagine you’d be looking at six months and a long probation period after that with curfews.”
“Lovely. More time to read,” Rupert said sarcastically. “Six months where exactly?”
His father nodded at the shrewdness of the question.
“Good point. Yes, it’s true the Council has no detention facilities of its own but in certain circumstances they have an arrangement with the Ministry of Defence.”
“Military prison? Good god. All squaddies and square bashing? No thank you.”
His father’s normally calm somewhat absent voice broke with unexpected fierceness. “Oh because you’d prefer a quieter, Life sentence, banged up in Wormwood Scrubs with all the murderers and the rapists? You wouldn’t last five minutes and I bloody well wouldn’t sleep nights with you in there.”
The anger provoked the usual equal response.
“I can take care of myself,” the boy retorted, flushing with a bravado that only served to make him look impossibly young. They glared at each other until Edwin nodded his own sad exasperation at the state of the affair and picked up his empty pipe to try to draw comfort from it. He leaned his head back to the ceiling and closed his eyes.
Rupert rested his chin on his elbow and eventually reached forward and helped himself to a snatch of the peanuts. “I shall always hate you for what you’ve done to my life, you know.”
“I know.” Edwin didn’t open his eyes. He just sucked a little harder on his pipe.
The noise he made proved a little too much for his son. “Are you ever going to light that thing?”
“What?” His father looked back in surprise finally and removed his comforter back to his breast pocket. “Oh good heavens, no. Your mother has forbidden it.”
Rupert hid his smile in his glass.
“Am I truly responsible for what happened last night?” His father’s voice was dreamlike as he seemed to be genuinely considering the question with some sadness.
“No. Last night was..” He couldn’t finish the sentence. “Some cock-ups I suppose, I can manage all by myself.” He shook his head and betrayed his tiredness. “Why do you never let go, dad?”
Looking squarely at the blue paisley shirt, his father replied, “Because I think there’s a reason you’re the one who’s covered in the blood when the others were not.”
“I-I-I’m not admitting to anything.”
“I’m not asking you to.” A hand, well worn by books and weapons, was held up in appeasement. “Nevertheless it’s the reason you’re my son and that I’m proud of you.” He drained his glass and rested it on the table in front of them, then fixed him in the eye for the first time that afternoon. “Because you didn’t run away. Not when it mattered.”
The traffic was a little brisker when they left and Edwin Giles acted like he hadn’t noticed. He walked out in front of a black cab that was pulling up to drop off a fare, waved a vague apology as the taxi hooted its displeasure, and sauntered across to the other side. His son remained and watched the cab being paid off, its cabbie catching his stare, waiting to see if perhaps he was a prospective customer. A church clock fought to make the hour heard above the traffic. Rupert dropped his gaze and the car moved out back into traffic. He crossed over to where his father waited on the pavement and the two men walked through the heavy doors of the Watcher’s Council, the older man’s hand resting fleeting on his son’s shoulder as the door closed behind them.