A prison inspector gets more than he bargained for when he encounters the mysterious governor of HMP Natum, a prison with a fearsome yet strange reputation
Chapter Description: A prison inspector gets more than he bargained for when he encounters the mysterious governor of HMP Natum, a prison with a fearsome yet strange reputation
As I approached the enormous metal gate, I didn't quite know what to expect. This place had one hell of a reputation. HMP Natum was one of the most feared of the new generation of private prisons. The governor supposedly liked to mentally break down the inmates before building them back up again. I'd heard stories of defendants begging judges not to be sent there. The odd thing was, though, none of my colleagues had ever found anything that would even remotely justify the terror it inspired.
Over the last couple of years, all the volunteers that went in had come back reporting that it was just a regular prison, albeit one with unusually high behaviour standard among the prisoners. I'd been a volunteer prison inspector for the monitoring board for a couple of years but this was my first visit to Natum.
Inspection visits to prisons are made unannounced and volunteers have the authority to demand access to any part of the building so the prison authorities could make preparations to cover up any irregular practices. Still, it didn't seem right that hardened criminals who'd been through the system throughout their lives were reduced to quivering wrecks at the thought of being sent to Natum. As far as I was concerned, I would spend as much time as I needed to find out what really happened within those walls.
I approached the
security desk and flashed my ID badge. The guard phoned up to the
governor and waved me through to the next room, where I went through
the usual screening process. As I waited to the governor to come down
and greet me, I heard a call over the tannoy,
“Code 123. Please take up positions for Code 123.”
After the glowing reports I'd heard about HMP Natum, I was surprised to hear that some sort of incident was taking place. Hopefully, this would give me some insight into how disobedience is dealt with here.
As I mentally ran over my inspection plans one last time, there a loud clank from the heavy metal door at the other side of the room. The door opened and a tall, wiry-looking middle-aged man strode through, smile beaming.
“Good morning! How wonderful to meet you. Axel Paterno. Governor here at HMP Natum”
“Hi, my name's Tim. Tim Oldman.” I reached out to meet his extended hand. He took it firmly had gave it a hard shake that felt like it passed through my entire body. His imposing presence left me a little flustered. “Um, thank you so very much for coming down to see me, Mr. Paterno”. I don't even know why I said that; he was required to meet with inspectors whenever they chose to visit.
“That's quite alright, Tim. I'm more than happy to indulge your need for a little tour of the building.” His tone was so dismissive and condescending towards me. I tried to regain my composure and get some of the initiative back.
“Well, I need more than a little tour. I want to give your establishment a very close inspection indeed.” He stared at me, unmoved, as if challenging me. “If that's alright with you, Mr. Paterno? I heard the tannoy announcement, I hope I haven't come at a bad time.”, I added, inwardly kicking myself for deferring to the more confident man. A knowing smile broke out across his face.
“Not at all, Tim. A Code 123 is nothing serious and it's all under control now. And don't worry, I can arrange for you to have as much time here as is necessary. Follow me.”
Mr. Paterno led me through the heavy door he had entered through, passing by a large room, empty except for some rows of benches along the walls and a bored-looking officer sat behind a desk at a computer.
“That's intake. It's mostly quiet during the day but we're expecting a bus from the courts late this afternoon. In the meantime, Dave, here, can get on with his paperwork in peace.”.
The office looked up, gave a half-nod, and went back to whatever it was he was doing. We moved on, through into the main common area in the centre of the prison.
At first glance, everything looked pretty standard. There were rows of tables in the middle of the floor space and a couple of pool tables were set up at the far end of the space. There was nothing I wouldn't have expected, based on my visits to other prisons. The space was relatively light and airy, thanks to skylights built into the high ceiling, and had rows of numbered cells either side on two floors.
There were plenty of inmates around, playing cards, reading the papers and just making generally chatting. All were wearing the standard uniform, a polo shirt in garish primary yellow and grey tracksuit bottoms, which everyone wore in that daft, modern sagging style that made them all look like overgrown toddlers.
All the cell doors were closed so I asked Mr. Paterno to see inside and assess the conditions prisoners were living in.
“Of course, Tim. This way.” He walked me briskly past a number of doors before abruptly stopping in front of one and placing his right hand on a black, glass panel. There was a low buzz and the door clunked open.
“Cell 123. I trust everything is as you'd expect.” Mr. Paterno stood there impatiently while I examined the room. By this point, I was unsurprised to find that it was all pretty normal. I saw the usual sparse furnishings, a bed, a toilet behind a small modesty screen, a little chest of drawers and a couple of shelves. On the wall, the occupant of this cell had stuck a few pictures of his family to the wall and many more pictures of Hollywood sex symbols.
“Thank you Mr. Paterno. That was very helpful.”
Everything was fairly uneventful after that. Mr Paterno was generous with his time, showing me around the various common areas and the dining room. I also spent some time talking with some of the prisoners. They were all being a little cagey with me but they were spoke positively, considering the circumstances, about prison life and showed a great respect for Mr. Paterno and the institution he was running.
After hours of inspection and interviews, I finally had to conclude that there really was nothing to report about HMP Natum. I just had one last area to look at and then, I'd have seen everything. Near the door I first entered the common room by was a workshop. Mr Paterno informed me as he led the way that prisoners were taught practical skills such as woodwork and household repairs in here.
I followed him in as the door slammed heavily behind me. I was startled by the loud bang and didn't notice a pot of paint teetering on the edge of a shelf. Before I could react, the pot tipped over and cascaded it's bright green contents right over my head. The cold liquid covered my hair and ran down my face, splattering down onto my coat. Finally, the pot itself rolled off the shelf and land on my head with a thump.
The room fell totally silent. Everyone was just staring at me. One or two of the inmates tried desperately hard not to laugh at me but one look from Mr. Paterno was enough to shut them up.
“Tim, my boy, I am so sorry. Are you alright?”. He looked genuinely concerned.
“I, I think so, yes. Just a little dazed. And I think this coat might have had it.”
“Well, I'm just glad okay. You took a nasty hit, there. Don't fret too much about your coat. We use a water-based paint in here so it should wash out.” A drop of paint dripped off the end of my nose. I started to shiver. “Oh dear. Yes, we must get you cleaned up.”
“No, it's fine. I'll just head off and take a bath when I get home.” I could believe that, even now, I was deferring to him. I almost felt the need to apologise, like a small boy to his father for getting his clothes covered in mud.
“Don't be silly, we can't have you leaving here in such a state. No, we'll get you showered before we send you on your way. I think the nearest shower block is in Intake.” He took the radio from his pocket and made a quick call out.
Moments later, the officer we'd passed by earlier came running in. He stopped dead, alarmed at the sight of me.
“Ah, Dave, take Tim down to Intake, please. He needs to get showered before he leaves.”
“Yeah, of course. Come with me, mate.”
I shuffled along behind Dave, trying not to drip everywhere. He took me back out of the common areas to where I'd originally seen him this morning and showed me into a long, bare room off the corridor. The floor was tiled and there were lockers running alongside the two long walls.
“You can get undressed in there. The showers are through the door at the back of the room.”
“Thank you, that's very kind of you.”
I quickly got my coat off and, not seeing anywhere else I could leave it, I folded it and placed it neatly at the back of one of the few free lockers. At this point, I didn't want to spend a minute longer there than I had to, so I stripped off and put all my clothes in the locker, making sure that nothing touched my messy coat.
I shut the locker up but, as it clicked shut, I noticed there was no handle on the door. There wasn't even a visible lock. Just a small, black plate, similar to the one I'd seen on the cell door earlier. I figured I'd just have to get Dave to release it when I was done.
I walked through the door at the back, and was surprised to find the shower room full of people. There eight or nine naked men filing into the shower block while a heavy-set officer with an angry face was yelling at them. I stood there, not quite sure what to do. The officer caught me staring and turned towards me.
“And where the hell have you been? We haven't got all day just to wait for you.” I just stood there with me mouth open. He stormed over to me and I realised he towered over me. He leant down so our noses were practically touching and screamed in my face. “Don't just stand there! Get in the shower! When you're told to do something round here, boy, you do it. Do you understand me, boy?”
“Y-yes. Sorry”. I broke into a half-run and followed the other men into the block, terrified of what would happen if I didn't act right away. What I saw in there horrified me even more.
The prisoners' hands were in cuffs, each hand was separately attached by chain to a metal bar that ran the perimeter of the shower block. The officer followed in behind me and grabbed me by the wrist. He yanked me forward and shoved my wrist into one of the open cuffs and closed it around me, locking me in. I yelped in protest as he started on the other wrist.
“Wait, hold on, I think there's been a mistake here. I shouldn't be here.” The corner of his mouth curled down into a sneer.
“Oh, really? A mistake, you say? I'm so sorry. That's fine, then, I'm sure we can just clear this up and get you sent out into the world. Please, do tell. I'm sure your new friends here would love to hear why they should be here and you shouldn't.” I looked around and saw some of the men glowering at me. “Tell me where the mistake happened. Did the prison van driver bring you here by mistake? Did the cells staff at the court put you on to the van by mistake? Was it the office staff? Did they draw up a warrant for your custody by mistake? Maybe the judge sentenced you by mistake? Or the jury. Did the foreman say 'guilty' by mistaken? Did the mistake happen even earlier than that? The police arrested and charged you by mistake? No. Of course they didn't. The only mistake that gets you into HMP Natum is your own, when you broke the law. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time, pal.”
“What? No! I'm just a visitor here.”
“Everyone's just visiting here, boy. Some of your friends are going to be visiting for 15 years. Now shut up and let's get you clean.” He walked out and pulled a lever on the wall, pausing only to taunt me one last time. “Oh, and we did have hot water for your shower but this young man kept me talking so long, I'm afraid it's all been used up.”
At that moment, we were hit by a torrent of freezing water from above. There were gasps as the water battered us and I could hardly catch my breath. I couldn't believe what was happening. There I'd been, ready to give the place a glowing report and now look at me! Naked, chained to the wall, and pummelled by icy water, it was humiliating. All the inspections we'd carried out and no-one had caught the brutal practices they used to try and break new inmates. I looked out of the block and saw a sadistic smile on the face of the officer.
After what felt like hours of torture but was probably only a few minutes, the water was turned off and I was left there shocked, trembling. The other men were breathing heavily but they were clearly tougher than me. They looked like they'd just been through a hard workout. Some of them were smirking at me, amused at how badly I'd taken the punishment, at what a wuss I was. All I could do was hang my head, unable to look any of the others in the eye, watching as the last trails of green paint from my hair circled the drain.
The officer moved to a control panel and, jabbing at the screen, released our cuffs, one by one. He started at the my end of the block.
“Right boys, you need to get dressed and ready for Orientation,” Turning to me, he shouted, “and no dawdling this time. Clear?” I nodded meekly.
“Good.” I made towards the locker room but the guard grabbed me by the shoulders, turned me around and, sighing, shoved me through a different door. It was the room with the benches where I'd seen Dave working this morning.
He looked up from his computer and, seeing the other officer manhandling me, a haunted look came over his face.
“Oh, I am so, so sorry, I really am. I had no idea we had a new intake in the showers. The van must've arrived after the governor called me away to get you. Are you okay?”
Still in shock, I just gave a mumbled “Sure.”. Dave looked unconvinced.
“Right, well, let's get your clothes. You could probably do with a cup of tea as well.”
“Just the clothes is fine. I'd like to go home, please.”
Dave left his desk and leant through into the shower room.
“Oi, Vic, take over for Orientation, will you? Something urgent's come up.”
“What? Uh, whatever, fine.”
I turned to Dave and whispered, “That man is an animal. How can he treat people like that?”
“What, Vic? Oh, Vic's alright. When you get to know him. I mean, not if he thinks you're a prisoner. To the prisoners, he's a bastard. But that's his job. You understand that, don't you?”
I didn't understand that at all but, sensing this wasn't the time for a debate on the ethical treatment of prisoners, I just nodded.
We went back out into the corridor, Dave walking in front while I used my hands to preserve my modesty. Luckily, no-one was around and I dived back into the locker room.
“Where are your clothes?” Dave asked, puzzled.
“I put them in one of the lockers. Number 24. Could you unlock it, please?”
“Damn it! No, I can't unlock it.”
“What do you mean?” I started to panic.
“Those lockers are used to store inmates' belongings while they're incarcerated here. Those are biometric locks that only open with the prisoner's fingerprints. We don't have access. Obviously, we don't want the guards being able to get at the prisoners' stuff.”
“Obviously”, I snapped, petulantly. “So what do we do?”
“Hang on, let me think.” He paced up and down the locker for an eternity with his hands up at his head. I stood there, helpless.
As time passed, I heard a noise from out in the corridor. The prisoners I'd been in the shower with were being marched past, now dressed in their uniform yellow polo shirts, with the saggy tracksuit bottoms giving the men a slight waddle in their walk. The cockiness and the smirks they had shown in the shower had all vanished. Dave watched the last of them go by and, suddenly, clapped his hands together.
“Right, I've got an idea.” He said. I sighed with relief. “I think the only way we're getting into that locker is to assign it a prisoner profile. We'll copy and paste an existing profile over to that locker, then we can get that guy down here to open the door.”
“Great, will it take long?”
“Nah, only a few minutes. It's just a matter of inputting a few details into the system. Normally, we get all information transferred over to our system automatically by the court but there's an option for manual input in case the link doesn't work.”
I felt the most relaxed I'd been all day. We went back to the room with the computer, cutting through the shower room so I didn't have to go into the corridor naked again.
“Take a seat, this won't take long.”
Dave started typing away at his keyboard. I took my place on the low, metal chair directly in front of his desk, squealing as my bare skin touched the cold surface.
“Nearly done, just a couple more boxes and… oh.”
“The system doesn't like it. Can't have the same set of prints assigned to more than one prisoner. Makes sense, I suppose.”
“I suppose. So what do we do now?”
“It's fine. I'll just have to make up some generic prisoner details, then we'll input a new set of prints. Bear with me.”
Dave was umming and ahhing as he created a new prisoner out of thin air.
“What shall we call our dastardly offender? I've always thought Benji was a nice name. My first dog's name, actually. And for a surname? I dunno, Young? Benji Young. That's fairly nondescript. Won't look too suspicious on the audit trail.”
There was more tapping as Dave typed in a generic sounding “High Street” address.
“Right, name of offence. That box is mandatory. Obviously.”
“I'll just stick in one of the lesser offences we get here. Nothing that'll draw attention. Okay, almost done. Pop you hand on here, would you?” He motioned me to put my right hand on a black glass plate next to his computer, which, instinctively, I did.
“Huh, yeah, sure. Um, why?”
“That's the system just registering your fingerprints.” I snatched my hand away but I could see a green light had come on, showing that the system had successfully taken my prints.
“My prints?” I shouted, “Why my prints?”
“Well, there's only the two of us here and my prints are already registered to me as an officer. Anyway, there's no need to make a fuss. It's just to get you into the locker. Right, come on, let's bust it open.”
Excitedly, I dashed back through to the locker room. By this point, I wasn't even bother to cover myself up. This nightmare was nearly over. We both crouched down in front of the locker.
“Okay, just put your finger on the black panel.”
I touched them to the glass plate. A little red light flicked. Nothing.
“Um, maybe you need to hold them to the plate for a little longer.”
I tried again, being a little more patient and, this time, a green light flicked.
“Yes!” I yelled triumphantly.
Some writing appeared on the panel in a small white font:
“PRINTS ACCEPTED – PRISONER: BENJI YOUNG – PRISONER NOT TO BE CONSIDERED FOR RELEASE FOR 18 MONTHS”
“What? I whispered softly. Not knowing how much more of this I could take, I sank to the floor, almost in tears. Dave saw my despair and patted me on the shoulder gently but awkwardly.
“Sorry mate, I didn't realise it would automatically deadlock until the prisoner can be considered for release. Prisoners don't usually get back in here once they've gone through Intake. Minimum sentence anyone gets sent here for is 3 years so no-one gets out for at least 18 months.”
There was a long, heavy pause as Dave couldn't think of what else to say to me. Eventually, he sighed.
“We've only got one thing left to try. We'll call an engineer out to see if they can break the lock. Now, it's gone five o'clock so no-one's going to be able to come out until tomorrow morning.” I threw my head back and moaned in exasperation.
“And what am I supposed to do until then? How am I supposed to go home naked and without my car keys? Oh, my house keys are in there as well.”
“I'm sure we can work something out. Look, just wait there a minute.” Dave said and ran out into the corridor.
I sprawled out on the tiled floor, contemplating my misfortune. Why had today been so cruel to me. I just wanted to find out the truth about HMP Natum. I mean, I suppose I had but, right now, I wasn't thinking about the damning report I was going to write. I just wanted to go home, where I would be safe and warm.
A minute of so later, Dave came rushing back in. I lifted my head up and, when I saw what he'd brought with him, my heart sank yet again.
“No. No, Dave, you can't be serious.”
Dave put his reached towards me, holding out his proposed solution. It was one of those awful, bright yellow polo shirts and grim-looking grey tracksuit bottoms. He wanted me to wear prison uniform. To me, it would almost be as bad as being stuck naked.
“What? This is all I can get hold of at short notice. It's just until tomorrow. I'm sure we can get someone to drive to a hotel nearby. You stay there tonight, our expense, and we sent someone round with your things in the morning. We just need to clear it with the governor but I'm sure he won't have any objections. Not after what we've put you through.”
It all sounded reasonable enough. Maybe I was being a touch ungrateful. I stood and took the hideous clothes off him.
“Actually, yeah, let's do it. Sorry, I don't mean to be like this with you. You've done so much to try and help me. Thank you.”
“No, it's no trouble.”
“I don't suppose you've got any underwear here I could borrow, please?” This time, it was Dave's turn to be momentarily flustered. He averted his gaze from mine.
“Um, no, we don't give, uh, underpants to the prisoners.”
“Oh, okay. No, that's fine.”
I pulled on the trousers and unlike seemingly everyone else I'd seen in the prison today, pulled them up properly. Next, I pulled the polo shirt over my head. I braced myself for an uncomfortable, itchy sensation but it turned out to feel like really soft, gentle cotton.
I looked down at myself and shivered. If anyone had seen me at that moment, they wouldn't even have questioned that I was meant to be there, a prisoner of HMP Natum, a convicted criminal. Even though I knew I hadn't done anything wrong, no-one would believe me dressed like this. I know I wouldn't if it was the other way round. I blushed deeply at the shame of what people might think of me, as though I were a little boy who'd been caught lying about some misdemeanour.
“OK, Dave, can we go now?”
“Yeah, sure. We just need to see the governor so he can authorise the hotel booking. I'll radio for him now.” There was some indistinct radio chatter that I couldn't make out. “Ah good, he's actually in the main common area now. We can just pop and see him.”
“Wait, I have to go into the main block dressed like this? Why can't he come to us?”
“Sorry, those are his instructions. Just stay close by me. Everything will be alright.”
Dave had been reassuring like that before and things weren't alright. I didn't have much choice, though, and I needed to see Mr. Paterno so he could sort out somewhere for me to stay the night.
Dave led the way back through the corridor towards the main block and followed behind, just like I was one of those prisoners I'd seen being marched through by Vic earlier. At the door, Dave put his hand to the glass plate and the door clunked open. I gulped uneasily, took a deep breath and passed through the threshold.
I expected everything to fall silent, for the hundred-odd prisoners and officers in the room to stop, turn and stare at me. I thought everyone would be astonished at what must have looked like my sudden fall from inspector to prisoner. People's eyes would burn holes through me with derisive glares.
But there was nothing. Everyone just carried on about their business. No-one batted an eyelid or afforded me a second look. I passed through the common room behind Dave and all anyone saw was just another inmate being led around by a prison officer. We approached Mr. Paterno, who was sat at a table, talking to a couple of inmates.
Dave coughed lightly to get Mr. Paterno's attention. He excused himself from his conversation and stood up. He acknowledged Dave, then looked straight past me before realising that I was the man in prison uniform by Dave's side. He raised an amused eyebrow.
“Oh! Planning on staying for a while, are we, Tim?” He chuckled. I wasn't really seeing the funny side but I laughed politely.
“It's a long story, Mr Paterno.”
Dave stepped in and recounted the events that had befallen me that afternoon. I had to stand there, reliving the moment I was berated by an officer and humiliated in the shower. I felt so stupid, listening to Dave explain how I'd managed to trap all my clothes in a storage locker. Seeing, he didn't go into detail about the ways we'd tried to retrieve my items, sparing any further embarrassment.
Mr. Paterno's expression turned cold, like he'd seen a ghost. His face showed horror, then found its way back to concern.
“You've certainly seen a lot here today, haven't you, Tim?”
“Well, yes, it's been quite the experience. One which I'd prefer was over sooner rather than later.” I prompted.
“Quite, I'd imagine you would be in a hurry to leave. Yes, I'll make the arrangements for you to stay somewhere tonight. Dave, get Tim a tea from the machine. I'll radio through to you when I've sorted the details.”
“Of course, Sir.”
I wasn't keen on having to wait in there even a minute longer than I had to but at least everything was being sorted. As Dave dashed off to get me something the drinks machine in the staff break room, I was left standing in the middle of the common area feeling lost and abandoned, stuck there. Even though I was completely surrounded by inmates and officers, I felt totally on my own. Even so, I just hoped no-one else would try and speak to me.
Dave was only gone for a few moments but the feeling of being trapped there was starting to overwhelm me and I was shaking a little when he got back.
“Woah, there. Take a deep breath and calm yourself down. You heard what Mr. Paterno said, he's going to sort you out.”
I breathed a little easier and thanked him. A few minutes passed and I drank my tea. I could think more clearly now. Dave's radio finally cracked into life and he put it to his ear. I recognised Mr. Paterno's voice but I couldn't make out the words. Dave's eyes widened.
“Right, okay. Um, everything's been sorted for you but the governor's also just called through a Code 10. It's an emergency and I'm needed to help clear it up. I'm really sorry, but I'm going to have to leave you.” Once again, my whole body tensed with dread. “Don't worry, I can pass you over to another officer who's not been called for the Code 10. You've got a booking at a roadside hotel called the Mirage. It's about a mile away from here.”
I was unreassured but Dave looked around for an officer who wasn't running off with a radio to their ear. Just then, Vic came lumbering past with no real urgency in his step. I knew Dave had to do it but it still felt like a punch in the gut.
“Vic, mate, sorry, I've got to go and do this Code 10.” He motioned to me. “Could you get him where he needs to go?” Vic sighed.
“Yeah, yeah, I'll do your work for you. Again.” Dave made a bolt for it and Vic turned to me. “You again? Put that uniform on by mistake, did you? These things just keep happening to you, don't they? And just where is it you need to be so desperately?” He put a sneering emphasis on the word 'need'.
“Uh, sorry. Yeah, um, Dave didn't have time to explain but Mr. Paterno's made a booking for me at the Mirage. Apparently, it's not far from here?” Vic looked down at me and snorted.
“Ooh, the little prince is too good to stay here with all the other common prisoners, is he? A hotel! How lovely for you. Yes, we can't have you cooped up in prison like some mere criminal. Look, I don't know how you got that poor sap Dave to pander to your every whim and fantasy but I am not falling for it and I ain't got time to play your little games.” He grabbed my hand and held it to a glass panel on a PDA he'd taken from his belt. “Right, let's see where you really need to go.”
A green light on the device flashed and some text appeared.
“Right then, Benji boy. My sincerest apologies. Seems we do have a vacany for you after all. Cell 24.”
“Benji? What, no! That's not right! That's not me! Please, you have to listen to me.”
“Look, I've spent enough time listening to you today. Now you need to listen to me. I'm going to take you to your cell and you're going to have a little sit down and think about your attitude. Do you understand me?”
“I said, DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?”
“Y-yes. Sorry. Sorry.” I knew I shouldn't have acquiesced to him like that but I didn't have any choice. I have was to scared of what he'd do if I challenged his authority one more time. For his part, he thought he was in the right. As far as Vic knew, I was Benji Young, newly incarcerated at HMP Natum.
“Good. And, for the last time, no dawdling.”
Vic led the way and I struggled to keep up with his pace but I made sure not to fall more than two steps behind him at any time. As I was marched to my fate, I tried to think of how I could get out of this. I knew that, if I could just see Dave or Mr. Paterno, everything could be cleared up. Until then, though, there was no way around it; I was going to be thrown into a prison cell.
As we walked around the edge of the common area, a voice came on over the tannoy.
“Code 321. Repeat. Code 321.”
Everyone stopped what they were doing and got up. One of the officers called out from across the room.
“Right, lads, Code 321. Our visitor has finally left so we're back to standard operating procedure. Code 321. Come on boys, you know what to do.”
I wanted to call out that the visitor hadn't gone. I was still there. But I was too scared to say anything in front of Vic.
The prisoners all seemed to know what they should be doing. Some picked up the tables and carried them towards the far end of the room. Others took up positions at the pool, unlocked castors at the base and started wheeling them away.
An officer standing by the wall at the back touched a panel and a section of the wall swung open. The tables and games equipment were all moved inside and stacked. Vic had stopped where he was so I just stood there confused as to what I was seeing.
Once everything in the room had been put away, the officer at the back gave a nod and some of the prisoners went deep into the storage room and started bringing other things out. Large items of wooden furniture were brought out. The pieces had square, flat bottoms and were surrounded on all side by vertical bars, about five feet high, like an open topped cage. The prisoners filled the room with these cages, laid out in a grid, leaving small walkways between them.
Next, they carried out big plastic tubs. Officers opened the gates on the side of each of the cages in turn and the prisoners emptied the contents of the tubs inside. I watched in disbelief at what came tumbling out. Wooden blocks with letters on the side, brightly colour plastic stacking rings, teddy bears. The scene was laid out if waiting for children to arrive. I realised these weren't cages at all. They were playpens.
I couldn't believe my eyes and, just as I thought my jaw couldn't drop any further, an officer blew a whistle. All of the prisoners stopped where they were and pulled their trousers down. Underneath their tracksuit bottoms, each of them was wearing thick white plastic briefs with a childish dinosaur design printed all over.
Dave hadn't been wrong when I told me earlier that Natum doesn't give its inmates underpants to wear. They were made to wear nappies! It suddenly occurred to me that the men weren't wearing their tracksuit bottoms saggy for reasons of fashions. They were sagging from the thick padding hidden underneath.
Once they'd removed their trousers, officers went round collecting them up. Then, the prisoner dutifully clambered into the playpens, three or four to a pen. The officers closed the gates behind them, locking them in. I watched in horror as the men calmly sat down and began playing with toys strewn inside, as if they were toddlers without a care in the world.
I was transfixed but I snapped out of it when I felt sharp poke to my shoulder. Vic was looking down at me impatiently.
“Well, what are you waiting for? You heard the signal. You're not deaf, are you?”
“Trousers, Benji, trousers! Get 'em off.” He yelled.
“B-but I can't.” I snivelled.
“Give me one good reason why not.”
“I haven't got anything on underneath.” I blushed deep red.
“And why not? You know you're not supposed to take your nappy off without permission. This was all made very clear to you in Orientation.”
“Oh no, but I haven't been to an Orientation session. You see-” Vic's nostrils flared and he looked incensed. I knew it wasn't a good idea to keep talking.
“I know you weren't in Orientation, I took the session while you were swanning around with Dave, pushing your little 'mistake' fantasies. Are you stupid as well as deaf?”
I didn't know what to say. Without even realising it, I'd broken prison rules. I had no idea what was going to happen to me now.
Vic's face changed. No longer did he look angry. I couldn't quite place the new expression. Disappointment? He shook his head at me.
“I know you're new here and this is all a bit scary. But the rules we have here are for your own good. Now I have to show you what happens around here to little boys like you who don't know how to behave.”
To my surprise, he took me by the hand, his thick, rough skin encasing my soft hand and pulled me along as he walked. He took me past Cell 24, where we'd originally been headed and took me on to a room I'd been in earlier.
When I'd visited here this morning, I just took it to be a first aid room, nothing more, nothing less. Now, cupboards that I'd assumed contained basic medical supplies sat open and I could see that, inside were stacks of nappies, wipes and creams. What I'd thought was just a bed was clearly a changing table. Vic took a wooden chair from the corner and sat himself down. He motioned for me to stand close by his side.
“Now, Benji, we need to get you into a nappy, okay? But first-” He paused, “I have to punish you for not doing as you were told. Do you understand?"
“But I didn't know! I won't do it again.” I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a nearby mirror. I was actually pouting like a little boy. What had this place done to me in such a short space of time?
“Come on now, you deliberately skipped Orientation and I caught you without your nappy on. You've broken two serious rules already and it's only your first afternoon here. There's no way around it, I'm afraid I'm going to have to smack you.”
My heart was racing. He couldn't possibly be serious? He lightly patted his thigh.
“Come on, up you pop.”
Not wanting to make things worse for myself, I knew I had no choice. I bent over his lap, my hands touching the floor on the other side and let his thighs take the weight of my chest.
“There's a good boy.” He said, sliding his hand under my bottom and, then, manoeuvring me so my bum was sticking up. Lastly, he grabbed the waistband of my tracksuit bottoms and wrestled them down my legs. “Right, here we go.”
I tensed up in anticipation of what was coming. Vic raised his hand up above his shoulder and brought it down hard on my bare bottom. I jolted and whimpered, not in pain but in shock. I hardly had time to register what was happening when his hand came down again. Each smack that rained down on me hit home the shameful position I was in, that of a naughty boy being taught a lesson.
Each time he spanked me, my bum was stinging more and more. As if the humiliation of being smacked wasn't enough, I couldn't take the pain either. I tried to stop myself from crying as long as I could but it was too much for me. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I was sobbing uncontrollably.
Just as I started bawling, Vic stopped the spanking. He lifted me up and repositioned me so I was sat on his lap. My buttocks felt red raw and I flinched as he sat me down.
“Shh. There, there.” He whispered soothingly, as he rubbed my back. “It's over now. You took your punishment and that's the end of it, okay? Are you going to be a good boy from now on, yes?”
I sniffed and nodded, wiping the last of the tears away. I'd do whatever it took not to get another spanking from Vic. Anything at all.
“Good lad, Benji. Let's get your nappy on and then-” He looked at his watch, “it's about time to get you your dinner. You'd like that, wouldn't you. I bet your tummy's all rumbly, isn't it?” He suddenly put a hand to my belly and tickled me. Despite myself, I yelped and stated giggling.
Vic stood me up and, putting his hands under my armpits, lifted me onto the changing table. I couldn't believe how strong he was.
“Be a good boy and lay back for me. I know this is embarrassing for you but the governor likes to use nappies to keep little boys like you in their place” Without even thinking about it, I complied. By this point, what little fight I had left in me had gone. Vic reached up and picked a bottle of baby powder out of the cupboard. He poured a thick cloud down on me and rubbed it around my crotch and still-tender bottom, causing me to wince.
Next came the moment I'd been dreading. In his hand, Vic held a thick, plasticky nappy. It was covering in pictures little pastel-coloured cartoon dinosaurs, themselves wearing nappies and had leg cuffs running down each side, just like a real baby's nappy.
Vic opened the thing out and it was huge. I had no idea they made nappies like this. He grabbed my ankles and lifted me with one hand and placed one half of the nappy under my bum. Placing me back down, he took the front of the nappy and lifted it up over my crotch. Finally, he stretched the tabs over from each side and velcroed them across the front, closing me in. It all happened so fast; Vic had nappy changes down to a fine art.
It felt so strange, having that soft, spongy bulk between my leg. I didn't want to see myself like this but I couldn't stop myself from lifting my head and looking down at myself. I could see my skinny little legs poking out this big, white cushion. Instantly, my self-image as an adult was shattered. My wimpy body looked like it could have belonged a child and, even worse, one who couldn't keep his pants dry and had to be kept in nappies. The grown man I'd worked so hard to become was gone. I looked like a toddler and I felt like one.
For the first time today, Vic actually smiled. At me.
“There, I bet you feel much better now, don't you, all safely wrapped up in your nappy?” He patted the front of my nappy, clearly no longer expecting answers to his questions. “Let's go get you some num-nums.”
He pulled me up by the hand from my reclined position and, lifting me as before, took me from the changing table and placed me back down on the floor. The thick nappy forced my legs apart and I stood a little bow-legged.
Vic took me by the hand again and guided me out of the room. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me up as we left the privacy of the changing room and went out into the big, open block. I know I'd seen the other men all dressed like this but, now it was my turn, I could bear the thought of anyone seeing me look so small. But there was no-one out there. All the playpens were completely empty. Not a soul to be seen.
“Looks like everyone's already in the dining room. Let's hurry you up a bit.”
Vic picked up the pace and I tried to keep up. I was struggling to get used to how I was now forced to walk, my bum slightly swaying with each step as I waddled along. I was so glad no-one I knew could see me at that moment. I must have looked like a little boy, still learning to walk, padding along after his daddy. I realised that I was casting Vic in the role of my daddy and cursed myself inwardly. I had to remind myself how cruel he'd been to me earlier.
We reached the dining room and Vic barged through the door, dragging me along behind. I didn't even have a chance to prepare myself. Once inside I was completely taken aback by what I saw.
When I visited this room earlier, there were rows of tables and benches laid out like you'd expect to see in any canteen. Now, though, everything had changed. In place of the tables and benches were row upon row of enormous highchairs. There must have been a couple of hundred chairs laid out in that vast space.
In each one sat a prisoner, strapped in and with a bib tied around their necks to protect their uniforms. The bibs were white with a baby blue border. In the centre, two words were embroidered: “Naughty Boy”. My knees felt weak at the thought of what awaited me.
Vic led me through the room and looking for an empty chair. We walked past a few men I recognised from the group I was stuck in the shower with. While they didn't have the same spirit as before, some of them still managed a satisfied smirk, seeing that I was finally being given the same, humiliating treatment as them. I hung my head, not wanting to make eye contact.
Finally, Vic found a chair I could use and helped me up into the seat, using a little step attached to the front of the seat. Once in place, he pulled the straps over my shoulders and guided my arms through before clipping the two halves together. Then, he brought a final strap up from between my legs, over my crotch and added it to the clip, as though he thought I might try and wriggle out under the shoulder harness. Then he touched the centre of the clip and an LED light on the side turn from green to red, showing I was locked in place.
Vic reached over me to grab the table section, not caring that he was putting his armpits right in my face and I couldn't avoid it thanks to the straps holding me there. He pulled the table down over my head and slid it towards me, into the locked position.
“That's you all set, Benji. You be good for me while you have your din-dins and I'll be back for you later.”
He turned his back, and as I watched him walk away, I caught myself whimpered softly. Shocked, I realised it was almost as though I was suffering separation anxiety, like a child being left at nursery for the first time. I was so frustrated and angry with myself. Why couldn't I just get a grip?
“Oh hello Mr Fussypants! What's the matter with you? Are you grumpy 'cos your tummy's growling?”
A canteen worker had approached with a tray and a mumsy smile. I refused to answer her, partly because I thought she might actually be right. I hadn't eaten for hours. At that moment, my embarrassment at the put into a nappy and stuck in a highchair was outweighed by how much I just wanted to get stuck into some hot food.
“Ooh, someone's not happy. What's your name, young man? Mine's Siobhan.” She was being so nice, I couldn't blank her any longer.
“You're little Timmy, are you? That's funny, 'cos a little birdie told me that you're Benji. See, you can't play tricks me, little fella.”
I sighed. I couldn't seem to get away from this man we'd invented and whose fictional crimes I seemed destined to pay the price for. Siobhan picked a bib up from the tray and tied it around my neck, just one more indignity to add to the list.
“We don't your nice, clean uniform getting all messy, do we? Let's get you fed. Look, what's this? We've made you a lovely bowl of pork casserole. Mmm, nice.”
Despite the patronising baby-talk, I actually was pleased to receive the bowl she placed in front of me. Until I saw what was in it. Everything had been blended together. Siobhan had given me an unappetising bowl of mashed-up meat and vegetables. I turned my nose up.
“Now say thank you, Benji.”
“Thank you, Siobhan.” I replied reluctantly.
“You're welcome, cutie. Now, if you're a really good boy and eat up all of your dinner, you can have jelly and ice cream for afters. Would you like that?”
I nodded a little too enthusiastically. After the day I'd had, I really did want some jelly and ice cream. And, frankly, it gave me some extra incentive to eat of the mush currently in front of me.
“Well, be sure to eat every last bit by the time I come back. And, if you want something to drink, I've got some yummy juice here for you.” She took my hand and placed a chunky plastic spoon into my hand before plonking a translucent purple sippy cup on the tray next to me and walking away and leaving me to my meal.
I looked around at the men in the nearby chairs. These guys must have been stuck in here for a while; they were all just obediently taking spoonful after spoonful without giving it a second thought.
I dipped my spoon into the bowl and picked up just a little of the mush. Tentatively, I put the spoon to my mouth and gave it a try. While the texture was a little slimy, the flavours were actually pretty good. Not like the fine restaurants I was used to eating in but it was a decent hearty meal. I picked up a full spoonful this time and I found I could get used to the smooth texture.
Soon enough, I was greedily wolfing down my bowl just like the other boys, I mean, the other prisoners, I mean, the other men. I only stopped occasionally to grab my sippy cup with both hands and take a swig of the sweet juice. I actually started to feel a little better about myself as Siobhan came round with bowls of jelly and ice cream.
She praised me for finishing my dinner all up and, at this point, even her babyish praise made me feel a little warmer inside. I gobbled my my dessert so quickly I got a little headache. Then, I suddenly became aware of how relaxed I'd got during feeding time. I was horrified at how quickly I was slipping into the role that had been forced upon me.
When everyone had finished, the canteen staff came round and cleared everything away. When Siobhan reached my chair, she untied my bib and ruffled my hair. I failed to hide a shy grin.
Next a wave of officers came in and started releasing everyone from their chairs. At the opposite side of the room, I could see Dave helping someone out of their harness. If I could just get his attention, I'd be able to get out of here but there was no way he could pick me out amongst the sea of yellow shirts.
It fell to Vic to release me and some of the prisoners around me. He lifted the tray back above our heads, released the lock on our harnesses and got us down out of the chairs. He gathered us together, twelve of us in all, and made us hold hand in a line.
“Right, boys, we've got a little bit of time for play before beddy-byes. Tonight, it's your turn to play in the arts room!” The men around me looked genuinely excited about this. One of them even shouted “Yay!”. I knew I had to get out of there sooner rather than later before I fell as low as these guys.
Vic took the hand of the lad at the front of the queue and led us out of the dining room in a sort of walking crocodile. We walked back out through the common area, snaking through the playpens. The guy directly in front of me, the one who had just exclaimed with glee, was practically skipping along, swinging my arm up and down.
We were brought to a door near the entrance to the main block. It was the workshop where I'd had the accident that had precipitated this whole, humiliating chain of events. I was worried about going back inside, afraid of what might happen this time. However, the crocodile had other ideas and I was pulled along with the flow of people.
Once inside, I could see that a similar transformation had taken place here as had happened elsewhere. Again, all the work benches and woodworking tools had been hidden away, replaced by another set of playpens. There were various bit of arts supplies scattered around in each one, crayons, colouring books, paints.
Vic took us to the back of the room and lined us up. He opened a draw and took out some bright blue bits of plastic, handing them down the line. Unfolding mine, I could see it was an apron with long sleeves. Vic said he wanted make sure 'his boys' kept looking smart. I succumbed to the inevitable and put my arms through. Vic worked his way down the line and turned us each around to do up the velcro at the back. At least the apron was long enough that you could no longer see I was in a nappy.
“Right boys, we've got these four playpens here so it's three to a pen. Pick who you want to play with and let's get stuck in!”.
The excitable kid next to me grabbed my hand and pulled me towards a nearby playpen. I stepped over the gate and, not knowing what else to do, sat in the middle. A moment later, a sulky-looking guy strolled in behind me. I recognised him from the shower.
Vic slammed the wooden gate behind him, locking us in. I was trapped with a cheerful idiot and a guy who probably hated me. Figuring I wasn't getting out of here any time soon and wanting to distract myself from my fellow captives, I picked up a tin of watercolour paints, a brush and some paper.
I was thinking about what I could paint when I noticed the moody guy staring at me. He marched over and, before I react, snatched the brush out of my hand and walked off. I wanted to say something. Or, at least, call Vic for help. But I looked at him again. He was bigger than me, and a bit frightening. So I said nothing.
I pretended I had everything I needed anyway and made a show of settling down to paint. I dipped my finger in my pot of water then rubbed some paint onto my finger. In my agitated state, I couldn't think of anything to paint so I just sort of made random, multicolour splodges on the paper. Vic walked over and leaned his head through the bars.
“Wow, what's that? You're clever, aren't you, Benji? I'm going to take that and put it up on the wall of your room.” I was mortified at getting such praise, just for smearing some paint on a piece of paper. As if that were the best I could do. All that was expected of me here was a toddler's daubings.
He moved on and I was left stewing in my shame. It was then I started to feel a pressure in my bladder. I remembered I hadn't been to the toilet since I first got caught in this mix-up. Worse, I knew what I'd have to do. I would stay locked in this playpen for goodness know how long and Vic had made it clear that I wasn't allowed to take my nappy off. There was nothing else for it; I was going to have to wet myself.
I tried to put it off, desperately clinging to the last shreds of my dignity. In the end it just got too uncomfortable. I tried to subtly move into a position I could comfortably pee in and tried to relax. I could go. Not when I was surrounded by other men. I closed my eyes and tried to think of something else. Eventually, a little trickle came out. A short pause, and I got another trickle out. Finally, I built up a stream and, once I'd started, I couldn't stop. Wee burst forth and the warmth between my legs grew. My thick nappy swelled even further until I had this enormous bulk sagging between my legs. I felt so good at having managed to pee, I let out a little moan of relief.
I opened my eyes. The moody kid was staring at me, nose wrinkled in disgust. It dawned on me what I had done. I'd weed my pants in front of all the other boys and I was actually pleased about it. My nappy started to feel cold and uncomfortable, as did my mood. Still, everyone had to do it and at least the idiot nearby was oblivious.
Vic stood up and cleared his throat.
“Okie dokie boys, that's enough play. It's your bedtime.” Groans rose up around me. The idiot folded his arms and huffed petulantly. “Come on now, kids. You need your routine and you know when bedtime is.”
He went round unlocking each of our group's playpens and helped us out of our aprons. When it was my turn, he removed mine and his eye were instantly drawn to how wet my nappy was.
“Good boy, Benji. You went in your nappy without having to be told and without making a fuss. Keep this up and you'll get on just fine here.” I shuddered at the prospect.
Once everyone was out, Vic called out to see who else was wet. There were a few of us so Vic said we needed to go to the changing room before we were sent to bed. We were instructed to join hands like before. Only I was stood next to the sulker who hated me and he refused to take my hand. Vic noticed this time.
“Oi, Charlie, be nice to the other boys. Say sorry to Benji.” There was a long silence. “I said, say sorry. Do you want a smack?” Charlie didn't hesitate much longer.
“Sorry Benji.” He mumbled.
“Good boy. Now shake hands.”
Reluctantly, we took each other hands and shook. We stayed hand in hand as the crocodile took off. This time, though, it was even harder to walk. My nappy has grown huge when I wet myself and now my waddle was even more pronounced, hips swinging from side to side with every toddled step. I must have looked ridiculous.
Vic had us queue up outside the changing room, calling us each in turn. He efficiently dispatched his duties and, quickly, it was my turn. Just as before, he lifted me onto the changing table and had me lay back.
He undid the tapes and lifted the front of my nappy open. It felt so good to get some cool, fresh air on my clammy skin. He took the nappy from under me and expertly balled it up before chucking it away. Without pausing, he grabbed a wipe and cleaned my up. I squealed at how cold the wipe was but Vic just chuckled indulgently and carried on. In no time at all, he had me powdered and had a fresh nappy on me and taped on.
“Nothing beats the feeling of being changed into a dry nappy, eh kid?” I had to admit I did feel much more comfortable now. Vic picked me back up and sent me on my way, giving me a pat on the bum on the way out. Once everyone had been seen to in equally efficient but gentle fashion, it was time to go to our rooms.
We stayed in our crocodile but Room 24 was first on the route. Vic unlocked the door and ushered me inside. I groaned in despair at my room.
Unsurprisingly, the cell I'd been shown on my inspection had, once again, proved misleading. Cell 123 had all the normal furniture you would expect for a prison. Cell 24 had all the furniture you would expect for a nursery. In place of the simple bed I'd seen this morning was a giant cot with tall metal bars around the sides. There was no toilet.
Vic stood over me while I brushed my teeth at the sink. The sink was placed deliberately high on the wall so I had to stand on tip-toes to use it.
“Show me your teeth.” I opened my mouth wide while he inspected my work. “Good boy, Benji. Let's get you into bed. Lift your arms.”
I did as I was told and Vic pulled my polo shirt up and over my head. There was a footed sleepsuit, also in primary yellow, folded neatly in the cot, which he took out and held up against me.
“Look, Benji. What a cute little sleepsuit and it's all yours to wear when you're visiting the land of nod. I'm sure you'll have all sorts of adventures wearing this in your dreams.” Really, I was dreaming of nothing more adventurous that getting out of here and going home. Since that clearly wasn't happening tonight, I stepped into the suit and let Vic guide it up my legs. He helped me put my arm through the sleeves, then zipped it up from behind, locking a clasp at the neck.
Vic unlocked the side the cot and opened it out. He didn't need to tell me what expected of me. I clambered in and laid down. I reached for the blanket but Vic gently pushed my hand away and tucked me in himself.
Finally, he lifted the side of the crib and slammed it into place with a loud clank. Vic walked back to the door and turned to me.
“Night night Benji. Sweet dreams. Say night night to your friends, Benji.”
“Um, night night, everyone.” The other boys immediately responded in unison.
“Night night Benji!”
I watched helplessly as the cell door swung shut and locked with me trapped inside. My last hope of rescue gone, I was stuck at HMP Natum for the night.
I tried to sleep but couldn't. I just laid in my cot, wide awake. Thoughts of all the various humiliations and indignities that I'd suffered today kept me awake. The report I needed to write when I got out of here, the one that would condemn HMP Natum to closure, kept me awake. My constant awareness of the uncomfortably bulky nappy between my legs, where even the slightest movement would remind me of its presence, kept me awake. I laid there for what must have been hours before exhaustion overwhelmed me and I fell into a fitful sleep.
When morning finally came, I was awoken by the sound of clanging doors. I could hear voices outside. As my drowsiness cleared, I recognised one of them. It was Mr. Paterno! He must be doing his morning cell checks. I was saved!
I sat bolt upright, then got onto my knees facing the door and grabbed the bars of my cot in anticipation. It was only a few minutes later when I saw a pair of eyes peering through the slot in the door. Then, the door was swung open and Mr. Paterno rushed in theatrically with an exaggerated look of surprise on his face.
“Tim! What on Earth are you doing in here? I was sure you'd left yesterday.”
“I'm so glad you're here, Mr. Paterno.” I exhaled deeply. “I tried to leave but Vic mistook me for a real prisoner.”
“I really am so sorry this has happened to you, Tim. But, of course, you can understand how he came to that conclusion, what with you arriving in the shower block at the exact same time as the new intake. And, obviously, what was he supposed to think when he saw you in our uniform later? I suppose it's quite funny really, isn't it.”
“I'm sure I'll see the funny side later.” I was tired and in no mood to play along.
“Actually, come to mention it, Vic did say he'd had some trouble with one of the new prisoners yesterday. I didn't imagine he'd have been talking about you.” A look of concern crossed his brow. “Let me just clear one thing up. Would you mind giving me your hand a moment?”
I reached out through the cot bars. Mr. Paterno took my hand and placed it to his PDA. He made a face as if he'd come to a great realisation.
“Ahhhh. I see.” I didn't like where this was going.
“You see what, Mr. Paterno?”
“I see that you've been taking me for a fool all this time, haven't you Benji?”
“No no, that's not me. I'm Tim Oldman. Benji Young isn't real.”
“Not real, you say? And, yet, he's appeared on our system somehow. And in one of our cells. Let's read down further. It says that you, Benji, were convicted of fraud. Identity theft. Benji, my boy, you're here because you were pretending to be someone else. Seems like you've fallen back into old ways very quickly, young man.”
This couldn't be happening. I hadn't even thought to ask Dave what offence he'd used when we made our fake prisoner. Wait, Dave! He can get me out of this.
“B-but you can ask Dave. He made the fake profile for Benji.”
“Funny you should mention Dave. Yes, we received a call this morning. Seems that Dave had some rather good fortune last night. In fact, he won the lottery. I don't imagine he'll be working off his notice.”
This can't be true. I started hyperventilating.
“No no no, there must be something. Yes. You! You saw me in the morning, long before the bus arrived. Didn't you?” Mr Paterno affected a look of puzzlement.
“Did I? You know, I don't remember. You see, Benji, I'm old, much older than you. My memory is not what is was.” No, as far as I can tell, you're in exactly the right place, little fella. My methods are specially designed to help naughty little boys like you. You're not the first troublesome boy I've had to deal with, Benji, and I'm sure you won't be the last.”
This was the last straw. I broke down in uncontrollable, ugly tears. I threw myself and beat the mattress with my fists and frustration and rage, kicking my legs out behind me.
"I'm not a naughty little boy! It's not fair! I'M A GOOD BOY!” I screamed, my face reddening.
Mr. Paterno walked over, reached through the bars and put his arms around me.
“Shh, there there, Benji, there there. I'm going to help you to be a good boy. I promise. But for now-” He stood up again, turned and took something out of a set of drawers opposite the crib. “For now, I need you stop this little tantrum and calm down. Can you do that for me, little one?”
I stopped thumping the mattress, as much from exhaustion as to comply with Mr. Paterno's request. He turned back towards me and could see he had a dummy in his hand. It had small straps attached to either side.
“Just pop this in your mouth. It'll help relax you. I want you nice and calm for when Vic comes to take you down to breakfast. And I'm sure you'll feel much better after that. You loved your din-dins last night, didn't you.”
Defeated, I opened wide and took the large, rubber silicon teat in my mouth. Instinctively, I began to suckle. Mr Paterno took the straps, ran them around the back of my head and clipped them together, locking the dummy in place. I just sat there, numb.
“There's a good boy. Vic told me you had real potential to be a well-behaved kid. Let's prove him right, shall we? He'll be up for you shortly.”
Mr. Paterno walked back to the door and pulled the door behind him. Then he stopped and leant back into the room.
“You know, it's funny. I do remember one thing you said to me when you were pretending to be Tim. You said you wanted to give HMP Natum a very close inspection inspection indeed. Well, little Benji, you're getting at least 18 months. I hope that'll be enough for you.”
I could hear him laughing as he slammed the door behind him and left me there to start my new life at HMP Natum.