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School boy antics can lead to more trouble than you could imagine.


The pupils of The Sacred Heart Primary School in Denlea didn't care about evidence or validity. The story of Lawman and the ritual that accompanied it was their heritage and it was their duty to perpetuate it. As such, the story was handed down every year from fifth graders to fourth graders. And at least once a week, the male pupils would run their death-defying gauntlet. By the time Chris Bell reached the fourth grade, the story went something like this:

Lawman, an older man of indefinable age, lived in the council flats between the school and the railway bridge. The story has it that during World War 2, he was returning home from work at a munitions factory when a German whistling bomb landed on his house. The blast threw him across the road and through the front window of the house opposite breaking both his legs. Lying helpless, he could only watch as his wife and son burned alive before him. The barrage of whistling bombs drowned out the cries of other victims, of crumbling buildings, the air raid sirens, everything except for his beloved family screaming to him to help them.

None of the kids at Sacred Heart knew or cared if Lawman was the old man’s real name. They were only interested in the gruesome facts. He was said to have spent an undetermined number of years in a ‘loony bin’ before being housed in the flats on South Moor Road. Apparently, the blast left the skin on his face rippled like melted wax. Of course, none of the kids had never seen Lawman’s face close up to verify this but that didn't matter.

The war was ending by the time he left hospital and returned to work at the factory. He avoided all the victory celebrations and refused to mention the war at all.

His friends and colleagues found him understandably subdued but otherwise felt that he was dealing with the trauma quite well. Besides, he wasn’t the only one who’d suffered in the war.

Then one day when the kettle whistled for tea break, Lawman held his ears and screamed. Nobody could react in time to stop him as he ran to the canteen, vaulted over the tea counter and swept the whistling kettle from the stove, ignoring the scalding water that soaked his overalls. He snatched a large porcelain teapot, swung it into the side of the tea lady’s skull then stabbed her in the neck with the sharp broken shards until her corpse was drained of every drop of blood. That’s how Eddie Walsh told it anyway and he should know because his older brother Gerry told him.

With such an evil menace lurking on their route home, the boys couldn't resist testing their nerves in the face of death. The ritual was to stand outside the flats whistling. Only when the entrance doors opened were they permitted to run. Then Lawman would chase them, spitting threats of unimaginable suffering if he ever caught them.

The escape route for the boys took them up a steep bank of grass and through a dense thicket which they were much more able to negotiate than the older, larger and less agile Lawman. He was fast up the grass bank though and a few boys had almost felt the old man’s breath on the back of their necks before they made the safety of the thicket. As with other details, the content of Lawman’s threats differed from storyteller to storyteller.

“He said he was going to slit my throat!”

“He threatened to split me like a kipper!”

The girls at Sacred Heart were unimpressed by the boy's antics,

"Why don't you leave 'im alone?" Mary Kennedy scolded Chris Bell. " 'e'll catch you one day. You'll be sorry then." She warned him.

It was on a winter evening in December that Mary's prophecy came true. At nine years old Chris was in grade four and was smaller and slower than the grade fives he was trying to impress. He had only recently learned to whistle properly and was blowing with such gusto that he was the last to spot Lawman striding from the flats’ entrance. In his panic he span too quickly and slipped on the wet grass.

The grade sixers were already yards ahead and, as Chris got to his feet and broke into a sprint, it became obvious he wasn’t going to make the thicket in time. But as he ascended the bank he heard Lawman’s lungs expel a blast of air and he turned to see the pursuer righting himself after his leather-soled shoes had failed him on the slick turf. Seizing the opportunity, Chris gritted his teeth, stretched out his hands for extra aerodynamics and ran, literally, as fast as his legs would carry him.

The relief of breaking into the thicket released a cry of elation from the boy and he let his legs slow down and began trying to wet his throat with saliva after panting in the cold winter air had dried it out. As such, when he heard the thicket’s branches snapping behind him he was in no position to react.

Before Chris had turned 180 degrees, Lawman’s disfigured face was pressed against his and the boy’s legs buckled, leaving him sat, grabbing the mud beneath him to drag his body away from the seething madman. Lawman was bent almost double over the cowering child with his arms and legs spread wide as if to wrap his entirety around the youth.

Rabid saliva rimmed the man’s lips and dribbled down his chin. The front of his tatty green cardigan was wet and darkened from where he’d fallen. To Chris it was more saliva or even the blood of a previous victim.

Chris could tried not to inhale the death-like stench of halitosis on Lawman’s breath as he spoke.

“How would you like it you little swine?” Lawman’s words hissed like a large lizard through tobacco stained teeth. “Just wait till you’re married. I’ll show you then.”

Chris looked behind him towards a sudden rustle from the other side of the trees and when he looked back Lawman was erect and leaving the thicket and slow strides, his shoulders heaving as he began to catch his breath.

“You should know better. He’s only a kid,” A familiar voice shouted after the retreating figure. Lawman didn’t react but carried on down the grass bank. “And you should know better too you little bleeder. Are you alright?”

“Grandad! Where did …”

“Never mind that. Your mum’s ‘ad to work late so you’re coming round to ours for yer tea. Fish fingers and chips ok?”

Chris’s grandad was his ultimate hero and his miraculous appearance to rescue him from the clutches of a maniac reinforced his iconic status.

“Let’s ‘ave a look at yer.” Grandad Bell helped the trembling kid to his feet. “Yer covered in crap lad. And I think you’ve ‘ad a little accident too.”

The dark wet patch around the boy’s crotch was unmistakable against the faded charcoal coloured trousers. “Let’s get you home and cleaned up eh! Eeh yer daft sod.” Grandad Bell ruffled his grandson’s hair reassuringly and led him out of the bushes.

The fifth graders had stopped on the safe side of the hedges to wait for Chris and had been horrified when he didn’t emerge. Now they were waiting to see what mutilated state Lawman had left him in. They were relieved and disappointed simultaneously to see him in one piece.

The suddenly, they pointed towards the wet patch on Chris’s trousers,

"Ha ha. Chrissy's pissed 'is pants."

“Bugger off you little bleeders.” Grandad Bell feigned to cuff the nearest boy’s ear. “You should be looking after the young’uns.”

Their guffaws were demoted to sniggers until Chris was thirty yards away.

“See you tomorrow Pissy Chrissy!” Chris knew he wouldn’t be allowed to forget this, ever.

He was right. The mantle remained for the rest of primary school and throughout secondary school where it hindered his involvement with girls.

“Who’s cute? Pissy Chrissy? Ew!” He’d overheard Samantha Cook one day.

He thought he’d escaped the name at university in Nottingham but his friends brought it with them on a weekend visit during his first term. His football teammates latched onto it and another three years of patient eye rolling acceptance continued.

What also followed him were the nightmares. He’d never revealed how much the incident with Lawman had actually frightened him. He’d almost told Grandad Bell the following day but the topic got stuck in his throat. He couldn’t work out why. There was nothing to be ashamed of. He was nine years old, how else would a kid that age react to a scary man threatening to kill him?

The nightmares were a reenactment of the incident only the bushes were thicker and darker, Lawman was bigger and Chris was smaller. The biggest problem with the nightmares was that they made him lose control of his bladder. By the time the dreams woke him it was too late and his bed was wet. He could normally expect a subconscious incident once a month. But when he was with a girl it was more frequent.

The first few times had been on drunken one-night stands and he’d put it down to the drink. Some of the other football lads talked about bladder problems after binges. But then it happened on sober dates too. The girls had voiced sympathy but the embarrassment of it added to his anxiety and made the problem worse.

Belinda Martin hadn’t wanted to rush into things and so for weeks their dates would end in kisses at her doorstep and then the couple would part to their respective beds. But still Lawman would visit and Chris would wake up wet.

Chris had ended the relationship reluctantly to try and save face. He really liked Belinda and the fact that she wouldn’t just jump into bed with anyone. She was wholesome in everyway with rosy cheeks, from her love of hiking, set on a porcelain white canvass face and framed with wild, wavy mousy brown hair. He got the impression that she liked him too and he couldn’t stand the thought of her knowing about his little problem.

“I don’t know what to do about it Leon!”

“Have you spoken to anyone about it?

“I’m speaking to you aren’t I?” Leon was the football team captain. He and Chris were roomed together in halls of residence and had formed a solid, intimate friendship. Sharing a room meant that it was inevitable that Leon would find out about his problem so Chris had decided to tell him the whole story, legend and all. He always respected Leon’s opinions and judgments and was confident that he would let it go no further.

“Have you ever been back to the place?”

Chris had to think. “Dyer know what? I don’t think I ‘ave.”

The incident had gained infamy and prompted an increase in whistling until one day, Mr Hennessey had been forced to frog march a ranting Lawman off the school premises. From then on, the path past the flats was forbidden and the pupils were shepherded via a diverted route. This was exactly the excuse Chris had needed to avoid the place, as he would have been too terrified to pass the site anyway.

“Maybe you should then? Go and face yer demons and all that.”

Chris considered it. “Should I whistle?”

“No you dick head! Leave the poor guy alone. Just go there and remember as much about it as you can and try and leave the memories there.”

“Where’ve you got that from?”

“Nowhere. It’s just an idea. Forget it then. Carry on wetting yourself every time a girl looks at you.”

It was ten years after the incident almost to the day. Apart from a stubborn cow lick to the left of his fringe, Chris was barely recognisable from the tiny nine year old who had been so terrified in this spot all those years ago. At six foot two, everything had shrunk in the eyes of nineteen-year-old Chris Bell. He wondered how teachers didn’t touch the ceiling in the old primary school and the block of flats that had looked like a skyscraper a decade ago, looked disappointingly small now.

“No wonder he got to the front door so fast.” Chris mumbled to himself.

As he looked up through the drizzle at the grey building it dawned on him that he didn’t know which flat was Lawman’s. He wondered if he would show himself if he whistled but thought better of the idea. Mould and dirt stained the balconies and one of the flats was blackened around the windows, fire damage perhaps.

“I hope that was you, you bastard.” He resented the old man for the teasing he’d received since that day, for the nickname that had clung to him but mostly for the nightmares and the bed-wetting.

Chris walked up the grass bank, being careful not to slip, and reached the thicket. He tried to pick out the exact spot but couldn’t be sure. He closed his eyes and recalled the venomous expression on the old man’s grey face and the bulging bloodshot eyes.

“What was it you said to me? ‘I’ll bleedin' kill you..’ no that’s not it..”

In all the tale’s recounts, Chris had relayed increasingly vicious versions of the same death threat but had never tried to recall the actual words. Chris entered the thicket and crouched down in the proximity of the site. He closed his eyes again and conjured up the image once more. He began to hear Lawman’s hissing,

“ ‘Wait until you’re married. I’ll show you.’ That’s it!”

Somehow the quote suddenly lost its malice. There was no threat of murder or mutilation. Now he thought about it, Lawman had already begun to leave when Grandad Bell turned up. Lawman wasn’t going to hurt him, he’d just wanted to scare him. “Well you did that alright Lawman. For ten bloody years!” Chris heard himself laugh, which sounded strange stood on his own in the bushes near a primary school. He thought it best to move on.

The relief was immediately apparent and he rang Leon as soon as he got to his mum’s. “I think it’s worked.”

“Have you tested it yet?”

“Tested it?”

“Isn’t it mostly a problem when you’re with a woman?”

“Oh yeah. No I’ve only just been.”

“Well if I were you mate, I’d get out there and test it.”

Chris tried. The trouble was that his attempts at finding a willing partner were only half hearted. Something was holding him back. Belinda had been upset when he dumped her. He hadn’t given her any reason beyond,

“It’s just not working out.” He hated himself, or rather Lawman, for it because he really did like her. He wondered if he should call her.

It took a lot of humble pie but Belinda finally agreed to meet him for a drink so that he could explain himself. The Old Barge was a quiet pub by the canal and the cubicle they’d found afforded Chris the privacy he needed to relay all the details of his problem.

“So if I wake up in a dry bed you’re cured? Come on Chris. Is this just to get me into bed? Is that why you dumped me? Because I wouldn’t sleep with you?”

“No Belinda. It still happened even when we were going out. It wasn’t just when I slept with girls. It was when I was in a relationship. I mean it happened sometimes even when I wasn’t. But more when I was. All you need to do is give me another chance. I really didn’t want to stop seeing you. I really like you Belinda.” Her eyes were tight in scrutiny. “Come on. It was for your own good. I didn’t want to drown you, did I!” He gave her his cheekiest smile.

“Oh how romantic." Belinda found Chris’s vulnerability quite sweet. "You'd better not mess me about Chris Bell or you'll have worse than Lawman to worry about.”

“Yesss! You won’t be sorry.”

Chris didn’t mess Belinda about, Lawman never entered his sleep and his bed stayed dry. Five years after he had exorcised Lawman he was preparing to marry Belinda.

His best man Leon had brought Chris to join his old school friends in the Sacred Heart Social Club for one final send off. Leon was under strict instructions to keep Chris in reasonable condition for the following day’s matrimony.

The conversation inevitably came round to Lawman and Chris’s capture and ensuing embarrassment.

“And now Pissy Chrissy’s getting married. Ha!”

“Oh give over Murph. That was sixteen years ago. Can you not let it lie!”

“Alright man. Cool yer boots.”

“I’m going for a slash!”

Sulking a little, Chris walked unsteadily to the toilet.

“Remember to take your pants off won’t you!” A chorus of laughter sounded behind him and he felt the old resentment begin to rise. When he’d finished in the toilet he slipped unnoticed through the fire exit. He climbed the fence that separated the social club from the school and ran across the playground to the south gate. After climbing the south gate he stood on the grass bank and looked up at the run down flats.

“Oi, Lawman.” Chris could hear himself slurring as he shouted. He knew he was drunk but was beginning not to care. “Remember me you bastard! Remember this?” Chris filled his lungs to capacity, folded his tongue back with his index fingers and blew. The shrill whistle pierced the crisp spring night and Chris startled himself a bit. “Daft sod!” he chuckled to himself and stuffed his hands in his pockets as he headed back towards the social club.

Just then he heard the creak of a door from the flats and rapid footsteps. He turned to see Lawman, older but only slightly slower, running towards him.

Without a thought Chris ran. He was nine again and running, he felt in his shock, for his life. He slipped easily over the south gate but heard Lawman land behind him and it sounded as though he was gaining ground. The lights of the social club signified safety, just the fence to clear.

As Chris clambered over the fence his coat snagged on a protruding wire. Lawman was on him. The blood left his limbs and Chris fell into a heap at the foot of the fence. Once again he found himself cowering from the fiery hatred in the old man’s eyes and his venomous spittle as he hissed,

“Yes I remember you, you little swine. You must be getting married soon. I’ll show you then. I warned you before.”

Chris didn’t open his eyes until Lawman’s footsteps had faded into the night’s mist. As he grabbed the fence to steady himself, the fresh night air began to cool the urine round his crotch and Chris knew he’d done it again.

Leon arrived just as Chris landed on the other side of the fence.

“Where’ve you been man? I’m meant to be looking after you.” As he got closer he realised that Chris was in a bit of a mess. “Are you aright mate?”

Chris couldn’t stop the tears. He told Leon about the incident between sobs and sniffs while his friend rested a comforting arm around his shoulders and listened.

“Look, he’s just a nutty old man and you’ve had too much to drink.”

“How does he remember me? How does he know I’m getting married?”

“He doesn’t.”

“He said it Leon. He said he’ll show me what it’s like for him. What’s he going to do? He’s going to hurt Belinda!”

“Hey! Think about it” Leon took a breath now he had Chris’s attention and adopted a calmer tone. “It was only your lot that used to wind him up. He’s probably got the same threat for all the kids. So he must know you were one of them and now you’re older you’re probably thinking about getting married at some point. It’s just guess work man.” Leon grabbed Chris by the shoulders. “Come on. I can’t deliver you home like this. Let’s get you cleaned up eh?”

Leon led Chris past the others and into the gents to help him clean up. The others could see Chris was in a state and watched in a quiet state of concern.

“I’ll be alright now mate. Thanks. You go back in and shout me a beer will you? I’ll just dry my trousers and I’ll be out.”

“Alright but it’s your last one right! I’m responsible for you tonight. Tomorrow, you’re getting married to that woman. How you managed to persuade a woman like her to marry you I’ll never know but tomorrow’s the day.”

“She is fantastic in’t she.”

“Yes mate”

“I love her so much you know.”

“I know man. And you’re perfect together.” Leon opened the door to leave.

“Leon.” Leon stopped in the doorway. “I love you man. You know that don’t you!”

“I know mate. I’ll see you in a minute.”

“What ‘appened to ‘im?” Murph and the others had been speculating.

“’ow much has ‘e ‘ad?”

“He’s alright. He just had a fright.”

“What, he realised he’s getting married!”

“Ha ha! Nice one Murph.”

“It was that old bloke again.”

“What old bloke?”

“The one you lot used to wind up. Lawman is it?”


“Yeah. Chris reckons he can still shift a bit. He went across the school to wind him up again and he got caught in the playing field. He’s cut his hands on the fence and ripped his coat. Belinda can’t find out right! I’m meant to be looking after him.”

The Denlea contingent looked at each other, confused, the back at Leon.

“Leon, what you on about?”

“Lawman. He just chased Chris again.”

“Leon, Lawman died about six years ago. His flat caught fire.”


The toilet door closed behind Chris with a bang. “Did you shout me a pint or what?”

“Listen Chris, …”

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

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