Saul Delino is the author of 'Trespassers'. Buy your copy here.
“Right, people, he’s five minutes away.” Paul puts his mobile in his pocket and comes to life. He’s been planning this for two weeks and is keen to make sure that everything goes down exactly the way he wants it to. There’s a definite buzz of expectation among the four of us standing in the living room. The place looks natural. No balloons or streamers needed for this one. I'm not sure our guest of honour would appreciate the fuss.
“Luke, you okay?” he asks.
“Yeah, mate, sound.” He busies himself cleaning his camera lens.
“Tel . . ?”
I nod back at him and half-smile. He’s always been at the centre of things, has Paul. Even back in the day, when we’d be getting ready to go up West, he’d be the one handing out the Es, making sure everyone was bang up for a good night's raving. It’s the first time I'm meeting these mates of his so I wanna make a good impression. I just wanna stay in the background and watch the fun and games. I've got nothing to prove anyway. I've known this mad bastard since the first day of school. He was best man at my wedding and is godfather to my kids so he knows I've got his back.
“You don’t have to stay y’know?” he says to Jenna.
“I said I would, didn’t I? Just don’t expect me to talk to him, that’s all.”
“But you’re his special lady,” Luke tells her.
Jenna shoots him a look that could stop traffic. The gallows humour hasn’t gone down well with her, but Paul remains remarkably calm for someone who’s about to come face to face with the guy who's been messaging his girlfriend, saying he wants to fuck her brains out. Rodger’s his name. He’s some big time Charlie who runs his own recruitment firm in the City. He's got all the patter n'all. I’ve read the messages, talking about all the things he’s gonna do to her. A real Casanova this one. Not. I’ve seen the pictures and they ain't pretty. Having something like that thrust right under your nose is like being confronted with a car crash. You wanna look away, but you can’t. For the life of me, I’ve no idea what possesses men to send naked pictures of themselves to complete strangers, but that’s the kind of thing that greets girls online these days. This one may fancy himself as some kind of player, but as far as I’m concerned he’s just a sad, middle-aged man out for bit of cheap sex to liven up his pathetic, miserable life. Paul’s right. The only way to deal with guys like him is to confront them.
“What you doing?” Jenna says.
Paul is tapping on his phone again. “I just wanna see where he is.”
“He’ll be here.”
“You don’t know that for sure,” says Luke who is over by the window now, separating the blinds with his fingers.
“You’re not gonna hurt him, are you?” I ask.
“Nah. I’m just gonna have a quiet chat with the guy, that’s all.”
I know he means it. Paul’s sound like that, but the guy might turn out to be a proper psycho so there’s a real possibility that it could all kick off. There’s no rule book for this kind of thing and even if there is I ain’t read it. All I wanna do is stay out of the way and back up my mate, if needs be.
The phone chimes and Paul taps the screen again.
“Okay, he’s round the corner. He's stopped off for some booze and condoms. He'll be here any minute. Come on, let’s be having you,” he says, pulling the living room door open.
Luke heads out into the hallway, puts the front door on the latch and then hides under the stairs. Myself and Jenna follow Paul into the kitchen just off the living room. Instinctively, we all go quiet at the same time. For some reason, I suddenly get the urge to fart, but I manage to keep a lid on it. I can hear Paul’s breathing over mine and Jenna’s. He’s trying really hard, but he’s just quit smoking so it’s a struggle.
After a couple of seconds, I hear the front door gingerly close and then the tentative shuffling of feet. It's him. He stops. I can sense him trying to decide which way to go; whether or not to head straight upstairs or to come into the living room.
The living room door creaks open. We wait a moment and on Paul's cue, we pounce. Before the guy knows what's hit him, Luke slides in behind, cutting off his exit.
“W-what’s all this?”
“Hello, sir, says Paul. I’m Holden Catcher and I’m an undercover journalist working online to help apprehend people who I believe are behaving in a sexually predatory manner. Please, take a seat so we can talk.”
The stranger’s head sweeps in an arc meeting my gaze first, and then Jenna's before coming to settle on Luke who has the camera pointed right in his face. For a brief moment, he seems trapped in the lens, but then he turns his attention back to the three of us in front of him. It's like a Mexican stand off, but I stare him down more out of disgust than fear and notice a flicker in his eyes that suggests that he's thinking of doing a runner. This poor excuse for a human being is Rodger. Mister Super stud. He’s nothing to look at. His black hoodie and dirty jeans combo age him and his trainers have seen far better days. He’s even greyer in the flesh, his teeth are worn and he badly needs a shave.
"Please take a seat, sir."
Reluctantly, he complies.
“I just want to assure you that you’re in no physical danger,” Paul continues, pulling out his phone again. He taps the screen a few times and holds it up to the shell-shocked face. “This is you in the picture, isn’t it, sir?”
He doesn’t respond.
“You’ve been sending texts and explicit images of your private parts to my colleague here, who told you from the off that she was eleven years of age, isn't that right, sir?"
There’s genuine fear in Rodger's eyes now. His Adam’s apple bounces.
“In actual fact, you’ve been responding to a profile set up by myself and my colleagues online. D’you wanna tell us why you think it’s appropriate for a man of your age to send sexually explicit material to a girl who, as far as you knew, was well under the age of consent?"
Rodger looks at Jenna, the sole lioness among a pride of lions, and drops his head in his hands. “Look . . .” he says, his voice is pleading, “ . . . you’ve got this all wrong.”
Mister Luva-luva ain't so big now he can't hide behind his computer screen. Watching this whole thing unfold reminds me of that scene in The Wizard of Oz when the dog pulls back the curtain only to find some old geezer pressing buttons on a keyboard. The Great and Powerful Oz turned out to be just an ordinary Joe, whereas Rodger here, despite looking like an ordinary Joe, is anything but. And now we've got him cornered and he's been revealed for the nasty piece of work he really is, I can finally relax. My best mate Paul, Holden to his online followers, is on the case and because of him there’s one less predator to worry about.
Saul Delino is the author of 'Trespassers'. Buy your copy here.
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