The weekly column from the world of Geoff Clams continues with his investigation into alleged voter intimidation in Preston, Paignton
Read the previous instalment of the Intimidation Game
About a quarter of the way up the steep hill, with the top of the polling booth coming into view underneath the mid-afternoon murk and the hot, rising sea mist, everything fractured apart into crazy pieces and things got frighteningly odd again. These magical/terrifying happenings can self-initiate within seconds, you understand. Life is lately strewn with them. Mrs Frattelli’s arm tightened in mine intensely, before she broke off and jerkily clamped her left hand to her left ear, staggering backwards uneasily on her painfully swollen ankles.
‘Mrs Frattelli?’ I said as I moved in closely and quickly, catching her fleshy upper arm in my hand. The doughy coolness of her ancient skin, a strange comfort to me, as my thumb briefly slid under the material of her sleeveless summer dress.
‘Me eeaarrrs, Geoff!’ she wailed atonally, before turning on her heel and falling down onto her big undercarriage. After a moment’s recovery, Mrs Frattelli scuffled to her wrinkled knees and then to her feet. She started tramping back down the hill as fast as her chubby legs would go, calling back at me, and bizarrely seeking to reassure me as her voice drew into the distance: ‘You go awn Geoff, I’s gonna give ‘ee a miss in’um. See ya ‘morrow m’love! Don’ee worry about’um me ‘ansome… It’s just meh verdigo, in’um. Bleddy verdigo!’
As the Drone’s now-ingrained buzz returned to the skies around us, I found myself letting her go without further intervention. All freeze-dried to the spot as she inexplicably ran away, reeling in frantic shock from whatever had hurt her ears, I looked back up to the top of the hill. There were three Drones circling the polling booth in full view, emitting frequencies that I could not hear. Mrs Frattelli had heard them alright. Hugh’s hearing aid had been destroyed. Jackson Borneo at the corner bungalow has also mentioned the incident since. Could these inaudible frequencies have been engineered to affect only those of and over a certain age?
I trudged onwards and upwards as my calves started to tighten and the heat began to swelter. Some light rays were finally breaking through the shady blanket of grey cloud, one thousand feet above the crest of the hill. The robots were circling and clicking around the roof of the polling station; scaring away elderly voters with their secret dog whistles and belligerent beeps. I arrived at the voting booth just as the immaculate-white Opal Kadett rumbled to a stop on the hot tarmac, only ten meters away from me.
Slowing to a standstill and clutching my polling card in my sweaty fist, I looked on in disbelief as Malcolm emerged from the driver’s side and glared at me disapprovingly. Seconds later, the passenger door opened and Judith, pale-looking and weak, was helped to her feet by the brute. The card fell to the ground as horrible rage overcame me; my ears filled with sulphurous blood and I started towards The Patriarch with clenched teeth. The horrible moment tautened with each of my steps as Judith saw me coming and recognised the anger written on my face, something which had lain low and dormant for so long. I launched myself at him with a grunt and a thrown right-hook which landed squarely on his deformed mouth; catching him unawares and pummelling him back onto his car. The briefcase he was carrying flew out of his hands and fell open, spilling hundreds of BNP leaflets onto the sweltering breeze. He wasn’t Labour. The devil doesn’t do political loyalty.
I snatched the lapels of his suit and barked into his rotten face, ‘Who are you? WHO ARE YOU?’
He spat a giant incisor from his bloodied gob and broke my hold, scrum-barging me back into the middle of the road. Judith screamed with her hands to her face as I lost my footing and fell backwards. Before I knew it he was perched over me, all teeth and spattered scarlet menace, grabbing the scruff of my jacket and gruffly exclaiming, ‘I’m the one who watches over you Mr. Clams.’
‘I don’t need watching!’ I blurted, struggling to roll out of the way.
‘Yes you do. We all do,’ he asserted in strangely hushed tones before catching hold of me and pulling me clean off the ground. As I struggled to break free, The Patriarch carried me over to the polling booth and hurled me backwards into it. Some councillors with blue rosettes looked on in grave concern. The thud of my back against the plastic wall rang out in ever-decreasing echoes which danced in sultry summer gardens on the opposite side of the valley. Judith sobbed.
‘But who ARE you?’ I struggled to say from my heap on the ground, with no air in my lungs.
‘I’m the man who Judith deserves Geoff,’ he said almost calmly, standing over me. His face was riddled with the black dots now. He was completely infested too. ‘I’ve seen you making connections with everyone but her. You prefer the company of your codger friends; I guess they’re easier to please than Judie.’
‘But you dye seagulls blue,’ I retorted, shielding my eyes from the sun as it finally broke through the clouds behind his grizzled silhouette. ‘And you gave Judith thirty-three ticks!’
‘You just lie there in the gutter sweetheart. I’m going to take this lady to the polls. She’s had a change of heart.’
‘She’ll never vote for a fascist.’
‘She will,’ he asserted quietly as the hollow red eyes opened up like terrifying blood flowers and glinted into my soul.
Against my better judgement I rose to my feet and attacked him again. The ensuing fight was so vicious that the remaining bystanders were forced to take cover inside the polling booth. Judith ran to join them and they quickly slammed the door shut behind her. Under the omnipresent glare of flying robots, we tumbled over front lawns and through thorny hedges that tore clothes and skin, landing punches on each other as and when we could. He bit my forearm. I ripped out a clump of his tufty hair and forced it into his mouth as one of the Drones started to hover overhead, its front-light flashing red. He pulled me to the ground and head butted my face square on. I returned the favour and rolled over him, pressing my thumbs into his eye sockets and forcing his large head into a trench of compost. He administered a hobnail boot to my groin which gave way to a dreadful feeling, not unlike that of a wrecking ball trying to pass through my bladder. Staggering to my feet, I clutched my balls in agony as his eyelids peeled back and timid rivers of blood streamed down each cheek. Here came a pause in the proceedings as, through the muck in his eyes, he too noticed the Drone hovering excitedly above us. In one split-second he whipped a small device from his breast pocket, clicked a button down and held it to his mouth, barking: ‘Code 332! Code 332!’
I whirled around and looked up to see the Drone, just in time to catch its light switching momentarily to green and back to red again. It started downwards. Howling through the air and whistling in a fast-descending pitch like a dive-bomber; it swooped towards me. In a fight-or-flight moment, I hurled myself out of the way and it smashed into The Patriarch’s head. One of his ears was cleanly severed-off by a propeller and his face was almost destroyed.
The bloodbath calmed. The ambulance came and took him away. I was taken to the Police station where my story was treated with suspicion. I was tellingly not charged with anything. Instead, I was ordered to pay an £80 public order fine for disturbing some illusory peace. Needless to say, mine and Judith’s votes were lost in the ether.
* * * * *
In the weeks that have followed, Judith has made a full physical recovery, but Mrs Frattelli has kept a low profile. Hugh later informed me that one of the Drones had been targeting her explicitly; on one occasion, actually entering her home to scream at her for ten minutes. He also told of many elderly voters who couldn’t make it to the top of the hill to vote that day, because of the piercing noises they were subject to. Jude has been acting a little odd too. I think it will take us quite a while to erase the memory of Malcolm; whomever, or whatever he was. Mr Gruff, our poltergeist, thankfully went back to sleep. An eerie, shocked calm now pervades everything, following our three-day holiday from the Devonshire norm.
And, as for Geoff Clams? Well, I sit here typing still. A whole month after beginning this report, I’m still trying to tie up all of these disparate, loose ends into some kind of cohesive conclusion. I still hear strange accounts from neighbours about that week, but I’m resigned to the fact that I will probably never figure out the meaning of it all. Hugh is continuing his own private investigation into these matters, so I will keep you all updated on his progress as the weeks roll by. For now, I’m inclined to cast my mind back to how I started this report, wherein I began by talking about the Iranians and their political courage. I was bemoaning the boring, anodyne nature of British politics.
At this precise moment, my attention is somewhat diverted from the laptop screen and refocused onto the long face of Jeremy Paxman; he’s speaking at me from the television in the corner.
‘And later on in the programme… In the wake of the recent Iranian election crisis, we’ll be asking whether or not blogging now threatens to supplant political journalism.’
Relax Jeremy. If it happens, it happens. No skin off this nose.