Castor and Pollux had not done their prep. Mr Milford-Haven was
just about to issue them with a joint detention, when they both burst
into tears. Mum couldn’t help us with Latin as she was very upset,
Mr Milford-Haven realised that there was more to the episode than
was immediately apparent. This was because he was a reasonably
decent, empathetic sort of chap and therefore not too much the
over-rigorous disciplinarian. This led certain pupils and parents to
take advantage of his kindly nature, but he had decided that he
would not wish to change his approach, however difficult things
were at times.
Do you want to tell me why your mother was upset? He was
sensitive to the need for discretion. He knew that other masters had
solicited family exposures with their topics on weekly news.
Sometimes children would reveal the most private information.
It’s just that Andy has disappeared, they said simultaneously.
Yes. Dad was up in his observatory and Mum had been spending a
lot of time grooming Andy. She loves him really.
Grooming. That was one of the words that sent alarm bells ringing in
Nigel’s ears. He had just endured- no, benefitted from- yet another
child protection session and he was aware that women could be
involved in unsavoury activity, nearly as much as men.
Come and see me at break in my office, he told them. He simply had
to start the class before the noise got out of hand and Old Snodbury
next door would come and stand outside his class and peer through
the glass panel in the door with a disapproving look that told of years
of applied control. Snod would probably have slippered the
twins for a similar offence thirty years previously. No excuses and no
The twins appeared at break. Nigel had two packets of crisps and
two cartons of juice to the ready, as well as a box of Kleenex. He left
the door slightly ajar.
Now what is this all about? he began. Your mother was spending
time with Andy while your father was elsewhere?
Yes, she always sets some time aside for him in the afternoon,
She combs his hair and cuddles him, added Pollux.
Nigel tried to look dispassionate. And is this Andy part of the family?
Of course, they both agreed vehemently.
Sometimes it is a family member, thought Nigel. And how old is he?
About 21, considered Castor, clearly making a calculation.
Disgusting, thought Nigel. A woman who has responsibilities
indulging herself with some toy boy behind her husband’s back and
neglecting her children. Mind you, he corrected himself. For all I know,
the situation could be like Birgitte Nyborg Christensen’s in that Danish
political drama. Maybe the twins’ mother felt forced into having an affair
because her husband, like Philip, the PM’s husband, had gone off with
some flirtatious paedophile-no, that was the wrong word- paediatric
woman. He’d better reserve judgement. That was what the training
session had advised.
And why was your mother upset on this occasion?
Well, she had just spent a lot of money on having him cast..
..rated, supplied Pollux.
What? This woman was evil! She was ensuring that there would be
no comeback by paying for her lover’s vasectomy! He began to feel
that the young man was also being abused.
Andy had to go outside in the garden to pee. He never returned and
Mum had made his bed all lovely and cosy for him, said Castor.
Mum is furious with dad because when she told him he said he was
finding it difficult to cope with him anyway, clarified Pollux.
And Andy is only 21, you said. Nigel thought that the victim must be
feeling very vulnerable. Actually he had quite a few victims to deal
with in this scenario.
Perhaps he required counselling. Nigel had a photocard with a
telephone contact number for a very good street pastor. However,
the twins were priority.
So what would you like to happen? This was one of the open
questions he had been trained to employ.
We’d all like him to come back.
Wasn’t this an example of that syndrome that Patty Hearst
developed? Sympathy and support for her abuser’s plight?
Stockholm Syndrome! Yes, very complex this situation. It would take
him hours to write a report. Drat! He had been going to watch
So, even your father is upset?
Yes, he bought him for Mum in the first place, even though he eats
everything in sight.
What a liberally-minded and tolerant father, thought Nigel.
Would you like me to try to contact Andy to see if he is all right? Do
you have his mobile number?
The twins exchanged a look: But he doesn’t have a phone. He is
Everyone has a phone, thought Nigel. Even toddlers. He must have
been kept as some sort of slave. He wondered if he was an illegal
Where did he come from originally?
The Borders, we think.
Ah, some transit camp- maybe he crossed over illegally-paid some
syndicate a fortune for a ticket and the criminal stole his papers. He
began to be worried: maybe he was a terrorist? At least someone in
the authorities is aware and is tracking him, though, since he has
And he is only 21, he repeated sadly.
In dog years, Castor elucidated.
Yes, he is three in our years, added Pollux.
Nigel heard the bell ring metaphorically as well as literally. He hadn’t
even had time to pee himself or to get a coffee. The withdrawal
symptoms would make him irritable with his next class and it was
ages till lunch. He was on yard duty too and so would barely have
time to snatch a sandwich.
But you said he was a border refugee! He didn’t add any expressions
such as asylum seeker, sex slave, or Islamist terrorist on the run.
He is a Border terrier! they replied
And he ate your homework- right? Nigel had heard this one before.
He was becoming rapidly less sympathetic.
No, he was dog-napped, we think, and that’s why Mum was so upset
and couldn’t help us with our Latin translation.
Credo quia absurdam est, muttered Nigel. (I believe it because it is
Okay, guys. You’d better get off to Mr Snodbury’s class.. (He had
nearly said Snod!) Dispensation till tomorrow. I hadn’t realised that
Andy was-hem- a family pet. (caveat canem!)
And the twins slipped off their stools and, grabbing the crisp packets,
picked up their satchels and added:
He’s named after Andy Murray, you know!
I do now, thought Nigel wearily. Ah well, perhaps he would be able
to watch Borgen. Two less wretched preps to mark tonight!