A Christmas Carol
Stave Four – The Final Spirit
At the end of his bed stood a hooded, cloaked figure. An arm was raised and a long bony figure extended beyond the cavernous sleeve. The hand was just skin covering bone, the skin yellow and lifeless.
“Who or what are you?” asked a weary but still somewhat frightened Grayling.
“I am the Spirit of Justice Yet to Come,” the spectre answered in a ghostly wail.
“And who were you in life?” Grayling asked as he sat up in bed.
With a flourish the Spirit removed his cloak. And left standing before Grayling was what appeared to be a plump bank manager from 1955 in a three piece suit and looking in the flush of health.
“How? What? The hand? All skin and bone? How?” a series of questions poured forth from a started Grayling.
The Spirit held up a prosthetic hand on a stick. “People weren’t getting the ghost bit from my appearance so I needed a couple of props so people did not think I was just a well dressed burglar.”
There was something familiar about the round face and balding pate of the Spirit. A neatly trimmed moustache adorned the top lip.
“Do I know you?” said a quizzical Grayling.
“Beeching’s the name. Richard Beeching. Dr Beeching. You know, the train man?” responded the Spirit.
“Oh Bloody Hell. Alright I get it. Not exactly subtle imagery is it? A man known for getting rid of something you could never get back. A choice between value to society and cost.” The Lord Chancellor sounded a touch defeated.
“Experience has shown that you politicians don’t always get the nuanced allegorical devices. It took three days of constant visits from myself, Richard Nixon and George Washington doing his “father, I cannot lie, it was me!” schtick to get Chris Huhne to plead. And if only a few politicians had been a bit more susceptible to visions and lessons then we could have avoided the whole Poll Tax debacle. That’s when I got the hand and the cloak. If only a couple of the cabinet had not thought I was some sort of valet….”
“So is that it then? Are you the lesson in itself?” a hopeful Grayling asked.
“No. I am just a means of transport…” Beeching’s ghost allowed himself a little chuckle, “…ha ha… a little irony there. But yes there is more for you to see.”
Beeching beckoned, with a pink, fleshy hand, for the living politician to step from his bed. They walked silently towards the door. Beeching laid his hand upon the doorknob and suddenly they found themselves in the office from whence Grayling had come only a few short hours ago. Sat at his desk was another politician that Grayling recognised and had always secretly despised.
Mr Junior-Official entered the room and walked straight through Beeching. Mr Junior-Official paused for half a heart beat and looked behind him as if he had just stepped in something. Beeching looked at Grayling and simply shrugged his shoulders.
“Lord Chancellor, the car is waiting for you now,” Junior-Official declared. Senior cabinet minister and lowly civil servant walked out of the room, the door closing behind them.
Grayling walked over to the desk. With a pained look on his face he ran his hand over the back of his chair. Or, he thought, his chair as he looked to the recently closed door. The desk was familiar yet strange. The familiar mish-mash of official papers. A collection of family photographs but someone else’s family. He picked up one of the documents from the desk. It was a report in to a disturbance at a prison. A disturbance was a euphemism for a riot. A riot followed by a rooftop protest. He scanned the document. Apparently it all started due to a group if prisoners being dissatisfied by various administrative decisions. Small things maybe, but for men locked up 22 hours a day small things could become big things. Particularly when you felt you had been treated unfairly.
He picked up another report. He did a double take. It was virtually identical to one that was in his ministerial box back at his house. Only the name of the company changed. “Incredible,” he said aloud to no one in particular. He took some comfort that it was not just on his watch that over-charging happened with tagging contracts.
Beeching looked over his shoulder, “Yeah, we tried to do something about that. Sent the likes of Freddie Laker and Robert Maxwell to pay some CEOs a visit. I’m afraid even the undead cannot guarantee results.”
As he spoke Beeching touched the sleeve of Grayling’s pyjamas and the room rotated around them. They were stood in the exact same spot but the room had changed. Some different furniture. A bit of redecoration. Same desk. Stood by the door was Mr Junior-Official, who was helping a lady on with her coat.
“Is it you turn for the boys this year?” the woman asked Junior-Official.
“Yes Ma’am. Pick them up from their mother’s on Christmas morning,” he replied.
Their conversation continued as they left the room. Grayling thought it remarkable, seeing his aide looking about ten years older.
He looked down again at the desk. Tidier than before. One report awaiting consideration. “A Report on Diversity in the Legal Profession”. Grayling thumbed through. Pie charts, Venn diagrams, bar charts – all sorts of data analysed. As he went through it one theme was repeated time and time again. Social diversity was running backwards amongst lawyers.
A touch of the sleeve, a spin of the room and it was all change. Remarkably the desk remained in the same position. A different desk though. Different reports upon it. He picked up the first he saw. It was from HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate. Dated December 2033. A report commissioned to explore the causes and cures for the absence of experienced advocates to prosecute the most serious cases in the criminal calendar. Once he saw his own name, in three places in quick succession, he quickly put it back down.
“Time to go,” as Beeching touched Grayling’s sleeve once again.
A cemetery was a cold place to be in just your pyjamas. Beeching obviously felt the cold, even in death. The cloak was back on with the hood up. The arm raised and the ghoulish finger pointed once more.
“Do we really need the costume?” Grayling asked. No reply. Just pointing. At a gravestone.
Grayling turned and approached the indicated headstone. “I know how this ends, you point out my grave in a silent, sinister way and I fall to my knees and recant,” he spoke to the hooded Beeching over his shoulder.
No response. Just pointing.
Grayling finally looked at the inscription.
HERE LIES THE REMAINS OF
DIED 1st NOVEMBER 2013
THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
WHICH PASSED SHORTLY AFTER
Dearly missed by all who valued them
Grayling awoke with a start in his bed. Daylight streamed through the bedroom window. He heard the familiar dulcet tones of Noddy Holder wishing everybody a Merry Christmas from inside one of the neighbouring houses.