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The New Government by Charles Ryder

EXTRACT FOR
The New Government 
(Charles Ryder)


Excerpt

Extract

“Papers!” Demanded the older of the two boys, holding out his hand.

Struggling to keep her emotions in check, the tall, well-dressed woman opened her handbag and rummaged inside. Without a word she handed over the required paperwork to the pimply-faced youth. Gillian wasn’t racist exactly but she didn’t like Pakistanis on a general principle. They seemed to have a particularly bad attitude to women. The boy looked down at her ID and then back up at her. He said something to his younger colleague in what she supposed was Pakistani and they both laughed.

“Your name, age, and address.”

She tried to stifle a sigh; clearly her ID belonged to her. It had a recent picture of her face on the front of it.

“Gillian Longmuir, forty-two, 9 Cypress Gardens, Allenby.”

The two boys looked at each other and this time the younger one said something which appeared to amuse them both. His colleague assumed a more serious look.

“Have you read the recent directive regarding interaction between State Officials and members of the public, Mrs Longmuir?”

She nodded her head, it was usually best to reply in the positive to questions like that.

“Then you’ll be aware that State Officials, such as us, should be referred to as ‘sir’?”

She flushed at the remark, but she knew he was correct. Even teenage thugs in uniform like these two had to be treated with a certain amount of respect.

“Yes, sir.”

“Good, and where do you work, Mrs Longmuir?”

“I work at Marston’s which is just over there on the other side of the road, sir.”

“You’re very well-dressed for a secretary, Mrs Longmuir. Do you have suitable permission from your employers?”

Behind her she heard the younger boy snigger. Gillian felt her face blush again. Suitable permission from her employers?  Unbelievably, this sort of question had become common-place in modern-day Britain.

“I...I’m not a secretary. I’m a senior manager in the firm, sir.”

“Nevertheless I assume that you have the requisite paperwork entitling you to wear that rather ...daring suit? Isn’t it a little short for a lady of your age? We do have anti-Harlotry rules now, as I’m sure you’re well aware.”

She looked at him in amazement, was the dreadful little Pakistani suggesting she was a whore? She could hardly believe her ears. She heard his colleague say something in his own, indecipherable language.

“My colleague, Mr Majid, would like to ask if those are stockings you’re wearing, or tights.”

“I honestly don’t see what possible business is it of yours what I’m wearing?”

She was so annoyed by their intrusive questions that she allowed herself to forget the stories she’d heard from  some of the girls at work regarding  the recent introduction of the stringent Morality Laws that she dimly remembered reading about. Naturally she never considered that the rather stringent rules might be applied to her.

The Pakistani slowly looked her up and down. “It seems to me, Mrs Longmuir that someone has been remiss in reading up and understanding the New Government’s Morality Laws. Rule 2a clearly states that any unaccompanied girl can be stopped and questioned regarding her appearance at any time by any State-appointed Official. We as you can see by our uniforms, are State-appointed Officials; you are an unaccompanied female whom we suspect may be of low moral standing. In order to assuage our fears, you need to produce the requisite paperwork giving you permission to wear a short skirt to and from your place of work.”

Majid, who was now stood directly behind her, said something else.

“Oh, and in order to carry out our remit, Mr Majid still wants to know if you have on stockings or tights.”

Gillian felt a sudden coldness in the pit of her stomach. This horrible little man was quite seriously accusing her of being a whore! She wasn’t a girl either. Far from it in fact, she was a senior manager in a well-respected firm of accountants and the mother of two daughters. How could this be happening on the main streets of her own town?

“I...I don’t have any paperwork, I didn’t think it was necessary. I didn’t...”

“Tights or stockings?”

“Stockings, sir.” She replied shame-faced. Being asked if she was wearing stockings or tights in the street by a teenage Pakistani was a new experience for her.

“Show us.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I said ‘show us’ Mrs Longmuir, as I’m sure you’re well aware. That is unless you want me to arrest you.”

She stood looking at him, unsure what to do.

“Just pull up your little skirt and show us! Don’t pretend that you don’t want to show us, why else would you wear such an indecent skirt especially at your age?”

Gillian was furious. “How dare you ask me questions like that you horrible little man? I’m old enough to be your mother; doesn’t your culture have any respect for women at all?”

Constable Faysal Zafar smiled showing his pearly white teeth. As he reached behind his back for his handcuffs he had already begun his speech,

“Gillian Mary Longmuir, I’m arresting you on suspicion of Harlotry and potential Hate-crime, anything you say will be taken down and may be used in evidence against you in a court of Law.”

***

Gillian had given up struggling, her hands were handcuffed behind her back and they in turn were clipped to cord which ran to a pulley behind her head. Her hands had been pulled to a point that was just slightly too high, forcing her head down and making her virtually stand on her toes, which in her high heels was very uncomfortable. She’d been made to stand there in the grimy little cell for what felt like hours. Her expensive suit jacket had been stripped from her and thrown into a corner. Her similarly costly, delicate white blouse was now grubby and sweat-stained. Now she wasn’t just uncomfortable, but hot and thirsty as well. It was increasingly difficult for her to take in the morning’s events. Rather than sat at her at her desk in her own office she was tied up in a police cell. She wasn’t even sure if her treatment had been legal, but then who, in the current political climate, could she complain to?

Just then the door to her cell opened and she raised her head enough to see that it was the same two policemen who had arrested her.

“Ahh, Mrs Longmuir, so glad you could stay.”

“P...please, you have to let me out of here. Or at least let me call my solicitor.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that sort of thing, Mrs Longmuir. Everything will be taken care of. We’ve called your husband by the way; he’ll be he after lunch.”

“Kevin’s coming here? But he can’t see me like this. It’s just so embarrassing...for both of us.”

“Why would your husband be embarrassed, Mrs Longmuir? He’s not the one under arrest or detained in this cell is he?  No, I’m afraid the embarrassment is all yours in this case.”

She let her head drop in shame; of course the horrible little man was correct. Kevin would obviously be angry on her behalf, but would he be embarrassed? Probably not, she conceded. She felt the tip of a wooden cane touch underneath her chin which pushed her head back up so that she was face to face with the arresting officer.

“So, until he arrives, Mrs Longmuir, we have a certain amount of time on our hands don’t we? Mr Majid and I are both concerned enough about you to give up our lunch to make sure you’re well looked after. What do you say to that?”

The tip of the cane pushed her head even further back making her spine stretch uncomfortably. Clearly he wasn’t going to release her until she answered him.

“Th...thank you.”

The cane remained in the same place but sawed insistently.

“Thank you, sir.”

“That’s better, kuffar. Now, would you like me to release you?”

“Y...yes please, sir.”

“Beg, then, if that’s what you want.”

“Please, sir, I beg you, s...sir. Please let me down.”

She was struggling to keep on her feet, she was tired and uncomfortable. For a few seconds longer the man kept her in that stressful position before calling on his colleague to release the unfortunate woman. She almost wept with relief as she tottered towards a chair in the middle of the room.