No Future Ch. 32bybradley_stoke©
Theo was a murderer. He knew that. He was as much a murderer as the man who'd actually killed his employer. He'd lied in court about his role in the slaughter, but he knew the truth. It was he, as much as anyone else, who had murdered Eden St. John-Easton. As expected, the circumstances that accompanied the murder excused him of any blame. Who could have known just how much out of hand the rioters would get? But whether premeditated or not, it was Theo who'd allowed it to happen.
The guilt plagued Theo more than he could ever have imagined. He'd thought it might subside after a year had passed by, but in a sense it only plagued him the more now that he had so successfully avoided being accused of the crime he knew he'd perpetrated.
When the rioters came streaming into Berkeley Square, there were many things Theo could have done that he didn't do. He could have bolted up the front door to the house. He could have turned off the lights to suggest that no one was in. He could have lied when the rioters appeared at the door with their crowbars, baseball bats and other improvised weapons. He knew full well that their intentions were malicious. He knew that the primary object of their rage was his employer, Sir Eden, who was upstairs trembling and terrified. He knew that there was little to stop the enraged rioters from killing his employer just as in the previous few days they'd slain several other wealthy businessmen and politicians associated with electoral victory by the Liberal Conservative coalition that was so deeply unpopular with the poor, the unemployed and the many others who'd lost their right to vote as a result of the recent controversial electoral reforms.
No doubt the rioters had identified Eden's Mayfair home from recent news stories. Perhaps they'd spotted Eden in his upstairs study as he looked down at the mob that was menacingly stalking the streets. Their original destination had been elsewhere, but this course of action had been frustrated by armed police. It was the bloody Americans again who'd inflamed the current civil unrest. Ever since several dozen protestors had been shot outside the American Embassy a few weeks ago, anyone suspected of US citizenship or indeed anyone associated with the flavour of reactionary politics currently ascendant across the Atlantic Ocean was a natural target for the rioters' anger.
The Americans' recent trigger-happy stupidity gave them much to answer for, but it wasn't an isolated incident. In recent years the increasingly barmy and intolerant administrations that had gained power in America had fomented unrest all round the world and increasingly in many of its own States. As the international prestige of the United States continued to plummet in the face of economic challenges it was hopelessly unprepared for, so too did the nation's sense of justice, its civilised values and even, it seemed, the last few vestiges of American sanity. Perhaps it was with misguided patriotism that Theo held the view that Britain's similar decline in the twentieth century was accompanied with rather less manic despair than America's in the current century. America was flailing madly in the quicksand of its own making and hastening its absolute decline at an alarming rate.
What should Theo have done when the door to Eden's Mayfair home was prised open and he was confronted by rioters baying for blood? Should he have claimed that Mr. St. John-Easton was somewhere else and therefore not in residence? Should he have made an attempt to fight off the rioters even as they spilled down the hallway smashing vases, furniture and hanging mirrors as they did so? What he almost certainly shouldn't have done was capitulate when asked by a wiry protestor brandishing a baseball bat where the master of the house was. He most certainly didn't have to admit that his boss was hiding in his study on the top floor.
There were ways in which Theo's actions could be justified. In fact, once the rioters knew where to go, they ignored him and crowded up the flights of stairs. They were no longer intent on smashing up furniture and priceless heirlooms. Who knows how many works of art were spared for posterity as a result? And when the rioters had finished their business, they filed out of the house almost apologetically, their baseball bats and other weapons now splattered with blood. They even tried to close the door behind them that they had earlier spent a full ten minutes forcing open. Theo was able to determine from the deep gouges and the damage to the lock that the door had suffered not just the onslaught of crowbars but also battering by rather larger and less obvious weapons such as a fire extinguisher and a railing post.
Theo remained downstairs terrified and shaking during the whole time that it had taken for Mr St. John-Easton to be murdered. He was in the company of three women and two men who were sufficiently angry with the master of the house to invade his property but perhaps not so much as to put him to death. They seemed almost as anxious and nervous by the violence as Theo was, although they were also clearly excited. They looked intently up the staircase where from above came the echoing sounds of thumps and bangs and whimpers. Two of the women were smoking rolled-up cigarettes and were actually more trim and muscular than the men. They were all smeared with dirt, sweat and grease. The effort involved in rioting in Mayfair had clearly been strenuous. The already overstretched and scaled down police force had quite simply not been up to the job of containing the thousands of rioters rampaging through not only Mayfair but every inner city suburb and potential flashpoint in London and the other major cities in the United Kingdom.
When Theo woke up that morning and heard on the news broadcasts that rioters were once again amassing in the usual congregation points such as Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park Corner and Piccadilly Circus, he imagined that any rioting would be mostly confined to these places. The patently inadequate police force was fully mobilised and forced to neglect their duty to direct traffic, patrol neighbourhoods and prevent drugs abuse, while the government continued to debate whether it was yet time to mobilise the military. It didn't help their cause, of course, that military commitments in Africa and Asia had stretched that resource too far as well. Theo nervously watched the progress of the rioting protestors on television and was startled when the unreal world of online news coverage suddenly became a fact of real life and twenty or so rioters were now hammering at the door.
What was the chance that the master of the house should actually be in residence? Like all such coincidences, it was unlikely but true. For most days of every month, the Berkeley Square residence was empty of anyone except ancillary staff and workmen. There was far more chance of catching Mr St. John-Easton in the Mediterranean on his yacht, the Buccaneer, than in Mayfair. But the civil unrest that was to bring about the death of the middle-aged billionaire was also the cause of his flight being delayed. Ironically the very reason Eden was staying in his Mayfair home in London was to congratulate the government on winning the General Election and it was the controversy associated with its disputed outcome that had spilled out onto the streets of the most expensive real estate in Britain.
It was only when the rioters had well and truly departed that Theo gathered the courage to climb the stairs to the study where Mr St. John-Easton had been hiding.
Theo hadn't been the only other person in the house. There were housemaids, kitchen staff, and a minder who'd been more active in organising an emergency chartered flight than in protecting his employer. Most of the servants huddled together in the basement and were too terrified to venture upstairs where the rioters had broken in. The minder had tried to do his duty when the rioters piled up the stairs but he was unable to protect his master against so many. It must have been the minder, however, who was responsible for the death of the young man who had a bullet through his chest, but this offensive was countered by several close-quarter swings from baseball bats. Although his skull was cracked, the minder did eventually manage to regain consciousness.
The minder's act of heroism probably only served to further incite the rage of the rioters which they let loose on Mr St. John-Easton who was shaking with terror under the table in his upstairs study. Or at least that was where the murder scene investigators said he'd been hiding. When Theo entered the study, it was just a bloody mess and difficult to make any sense of the chaos.
Theo had been a faithful servant for the Messrs St. John-Easton, father and son, for forty years. That was almost a lifetime in itself. Most of that time was spent in watchful idleness. Neither father nor son ever spent much time in the United Kingdom however much they professed a deep love for the country they hardly knew and mostly despised. Nevertheless, when Mr St. John-Easton was on British soil, from the moment he arrived at the airport until the moment he departed, Theo was always by his side. There was no duty too demeaning for him. There were the prostitutes whose services he helped facilitate. There were the abortions he'd arranged for Eden's girlfriends. The rehab clinics he'd contacted to treat Eden's drug-addicted daughter. The mysterious parcels he'd had to escort with paranoid care and attention. And now there was no Mr St. John-Easton to whom he could continue to provide a service. Eden had left no male heirs and his daughter was too irresponsible to take over her father's estate.
What was left of Eden St. John-Easton was not a pretty sight. The rioters had quite clearly lost any trace of humanity when they discovered him cowering under the table. All the resentment that had built up over nearly thirty years towards the media tycoon who had such a huge hidden influence on British society exploded all at once. To the rioters, he was the man who had crippled the BBC and made Fox News UK the official voice of Great Britain. He was the man who'd reduced the status of British newspapers to the extent that only the foreign-owned Guardian remained anything remotely like the voice of government opposition. He was the man who cheered while the public sector shrunk to a mere shell of what it had once been so as to facilitate tax cuts that benefited very few people. He was the man who talked endlessly about bolstering British business and British enterprise, but was part of the very process that had relocated most enterprises funded by British money to the more prosperous countries in the Far East or the slave wage economies of Africa.
Eden's head had been smashed again and again and again. There was very little recognisable in the bloody mess splattered across the carpet although there were several loose teeth which could be used to identify the deceased. He'd been battered elsewhere, judging by the crooked angle of his arms and legs, but the damage done to what had once been his head and face was what was most appalling.
When the police and the coroner and the news photographers arrived, Theo was the man who was most approximately the primary witness to the crime. He recounted again and again the story of how he'd been pushed helplessly to one side when the rioters broke in and how futile his attempts to protect his master had been. What he never did was explain exactly how it was that they even knew that Eden was in the building and what role Theo had in the murder.
In actual fact, Theo did quite well out of it all. He was awarded a handsome pension and the right to remain in the very well-appointed Mayfair apartment where he'd been living for the last thirty years. His wife and children were now able to see more of him as he no longer had to spread his duties between estates in Ashton Lovelock, Surrey and the rest of the British Isles. His family was even granted the status of distant inheritors of the St John-Easton estate because of a little-reported liaison between Eden's father and Theo's wife that had been a cause of shame and embarrassment to them for many years.
Nonetheless, Theo was still burdened with the weight of his guilt.
If it hadn't been for him then it was likely that Eden St John-Easton would yet be alive.
But Theo was able to temper the pang of his guilt by reflecting that the world could only be a rather better place without him.