Temple’s Job: Chapter One


Nick Scott, author and reviewer shares his novel “Temple’s Job” with ARTbop.  Episode One. Nick introduces the two main characters “the law” Joe Wigram  and the “convicted” Ian Temple.  Can Wigram work with the man he arrested?  Will Temple execute his plans for revenge?   Enter the South Island world of Wigram and Temple.

The young woman ran down the empty street her loose white dress,  like the remains of yesterday’s newspaper, caught in the wind. She disliked running, it made her sweat, but it was cold enough now and that wouldn’t be a problem.

This morning she walked within sight of the old cathedral and it reminded her of herself. Broken. No longer cared for. But her own body  didn’t  look like the pile of giant gray Lego bricks, the spectacular old cathedral had crumbled to.  She actually preferred the temporary cardboard cathedral. It always seemed to be full of light and colour.  Before the earthquake she had climbed to the top of the old Cathedral bell tower.  She loved the view over the city towards Hagley Park.

She looked down at herself.  That her body was not in perfect shape was obvious but it still impressed her. Living on the street meant  overeating was not a problem. The hunger was a problem.  Whatever food she could beg  or steal and the one meal a week at the Christchurch City Mission was all she could count on.  She did not like to beg.  Once she thought herself  “a refined lady:”  

She seemed to have been running for so long. She could no longer remember the last time she felt relaxed. Perhaps it was in the company of the young man she met at the shelter last night. The same man she was trying to see today.  She was near the Art Gallery now, where he had agreed to meet her. She’d always admired the Art Gallery. She loved the changing installations;  it made the building a piece of art in itself. The front doors opened. A well dressed man carrying a bag left the building and walked over to her. It was too dark to make out his face. She liked the idea that her new friend could be an artist. She liked the way they were not chained down by regular jobs.

“Hello Angela” said a voice behind her. It was a man, but instead of the smooth, velvet voice she knew, this one was low and rough, as though the speaker had a sore throat.   “Glad you could make it.”  Something deep inside her screamed out “run!”  Angela started to take her first step but it has too late. He grabbed hold of her shoulders and pulled her body toward him. She felt the painful sensation of a cold, sharp object piercing her skin.

The knife pierced  her back then pushed violently between her ribs. The dim twilight quickly became absolute darkness as her body hit the ground.  The last thing she saw was the new installation  “Everything is going to be alright” written around the top of the gallery. She died too quickly to consider the irony.

The murderer smiled with the satisfaction at a job well done. But he hadn’t finished yet. He was used to dealing with bodies.

Far away from the body another innocent creature was nearing danger.  Moving each tiny leg carefully, the spider scuttled down the wall of the prison cell and then on to the back of the hand pressed against it. Ian Temple held his hand steadily in front of his eyes, considering the little animal.

He is very small, thought Ian, contemplating nature for the first time in years.  But better company than some cell-mates he had had over the years and it took away that dreadful feeling of despair which threatened him to overwhelm him in this grim, lonely place.  The constant white of everything gave him a headache; he would have preferred a dark colour scheme.

He reached down under his bed and picked up the book he had once considered squashing his new little friend with. A poor collection of twentieth century poetry  stolen from the prison library. It was necessary to feed his addiction. His drug of choice had become literature.  Before his conviction he had been a lecturer in the English department of the local University.

Most of the poetry in the book was awful stuff, Ian being a devotee of Byron, Blake and Tennyson. He would often read poems aloud to himself and his arachnid friend. It may have seemed insane but it stopped  that dark cloud of depression. Ian escaped thoughts of suicide by entering the world of poetry.

It had been about a week since he last brushed his hair so he picked up the mirror beside his bed, a plastic handled piece of trash given to him by someone who obviously never been in prison.

Looking into the mirror he saw the same tightly stretched skin covering the badly carved rock he called his face. His short blond hair was much the same.  Some women had called it attractive. He ran his fingers through his hair a few times, trying to make it look neater.

One other thought kept him going through the endless night of prison life. Revenge on the man responsible for his incarceration. He whispered to himself a section of Byron’s “The Destruction of Sennacherib” .

For the angel of death spread his wing on the blast,

And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed.

He saw Wigram as the foe and Temple smiled; one day he would have revenge.

Ian heard footsteps coming towards the cell. It was Frank, his Case Manager. The two of them got on well; Ian was a model prisoner. Frank was holding an envelope, “you’ve got mail Ian.” This could be good news or something terrible.

Later, Ian opened the envelope and read the letter inside. It was from a woman called Janine, who had read about Ian’s case. She was the girlfriend of a private detective. She had a request: her boyfriend was having trouble with a particularly nasty case and she thought that Ian might be able to help. She wanted to arrange a meeting with him.

There was one huge problem. The boyfriend was Joe Wigram, the man responsible for Ian being in prison. He’d spent years thinking about revenge and this might be his chance.

Frank came to see him later. He said “One more thing. she wanted you to have this cross to wear”. Frank continued “It’s within the regs”, Frank continued as he handed it to Ian and then helped him fasten it round his neck.  Ian had never been a religious man. Was this a sign of things to come?

The good reputation he’d developed gave Ian easy access to a private landline phone. Here though  ‘Private’  was a relative term. Ian’s call would be recorded even if it wasn’t monitored.

Ian was nervous. He felt slightly ill as he was led to the communications room.. He’d often thought about what he would say if he ever had this chance but had never been able to assemble the words. It had been so long now. What if his hatred had lost its fire?

He thought back to the day he’d stood in court .  He saw the Exhibit’s Clerk display the plastic bagged gun.  A gun he had never seen before.  He saw the Lead Prosecutor as he stood next to his Junior.  

The trial had been the proverbial blur.   There had been evidence presented he had no connection with. It had been no good. Convicted by reputation. You’re always guilty.

It was true that he had wanted to kill  Bryce Gedding English Department Head.   Maybe  he’d inflicted some well-deserved pain.  But he didn’t go so far as murder. Given time, he may have.  Bryce’s acid tongue  was famous, even outside the university. No one was surprised when his  body was found not far from the University  floating in the Avon River.  Remembering.  That had worked now.  Again he felt that strong desire for vengence.

He’s found other ways of keeping the hatred alive.  It began to spread. Some mornings he’d glance at himself in the mirror and feel absolute loathing for the image he could see.  He knew his desire for vengeance on Joe Wigram would end in death.  Either his or Wigram’s.

Wigram was coming home from Riccarton Library.  He was  often there trying to relax and think of ways to deal with his problems. He’d spend time glancing at others in there,  pretending their lives were his.  Outside the front of his flat (an abandoned radio station)  a tall youth in a torn jacket was standing; spray can in  hand. Wigram considered  yelling at the kid to stay where he was, so he could grab him. The kid would run.  He knew it was a race he couldn’t win.  But breaking into a sprint, he ran for the kid and was almost on him when the landline phone in the building rang. Wigram  hurled a lethal gaze at him and ran in the front door. He grabbed the antiquated phone off the  kitchen table and spoke the words his friends and family would expect to hear.

Ian Temple heard that voice with a cold feeling in his stomach. The voice of the man responsible for his undeserved time in prison.    “Hello Joe, recognise my voice?” 

Joe felt a crisp frost creep into his body and make its way into his mind. He immediately felt unable to stand and sat down in the closest dining chair.

“It’s been a long time Ian”.  He was aware that he could not afford to offend this man.  

Temple paused and considered the irony of this statement.    “You don’t realise how long it’s been for me. Not even close. Prison is no place for the innocent, Joe”

“What do you mean?  

“There is a passage in the Bible which says that for God a day is like a thousand years. Let’s just say that I feel a little closer to God after my stay in Paparua”    Wigram was unable to speak.   “I can feel your guilt from here, Joe”   “It feels strange because I’ve never known it before now.” 

“There is a way Temple that could get you freedom from your past.”    “That would take a miracle.”   “You don’t believe that miracles can happen?”     “Of course not, there’s no good in the world“  Wigram continued “If you look at the world with my eyes,  that have seen so much of the nasty side of humanity, then I’m not surprised.”

“Your girlfriend Janine told me that you need my help on a case.”

To be continued……

Nick Scott Nick Scott has a B.A from The University of Waikato where he studied film under Sam Edwards. Nick has retained a keen interest in cinema. He studied Te Reo Maori at Te Wananga O Aotearoa part-time for 3 years and then from 2014 to 2016 Nick collaborated in writing “The Traveller’s guide to Maori Place Names”.



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