“So what did you think of class today?” Connie asks brightly as they drive down the road, “Do you still think revenge works or does it just lead to disaster?”
“I don’t know,” Judd admits reluctantly, “I mean, my dad always taught me that you need to stand up for yourself and fight back. That’s what I see as right,”
“Yeah but justice and standing up for yourself aren’t the same thing,” Connie says, “They’re two very different things. I’m talking about justice and revenge taking over all aspects of life and ending in disaster,”
“I don’t know,” Judd grumbles, “Why did your car die anyway? What’s wrong with it?”
“I left the heater on,” Connie says dismissively, “I didn’t want to get into a cold car after class so I kept it running. I guess the battery died. Come on tell me what you thought about restorative justice, I know you were listening, did you change your mind at all?”
“It was a lot to process,” Judd says, he’s getting a little annoyed now, “I’ve still not worked it all through in my mind yet. But this weather is crazy right? Who expects snow in November?”
“Plenty of people I imagine,” Connie says. She leans forward to look out of the windscreen and up at the sky. It’s snowing harder now, “It has been pretty cold lately. I think everyone’s more surprised it didn’t come sooner.”
They lapse into silence for a short while. Judd is relieved. He really doesn’t want to talk about justice and revenge even if his mind is working over and over what was discussed in today’s class. There’s just too much on the subject to talk about, his views are too strong and he’s already wound up as it is. He knows that if he starts talking about it he could end up getting very annoyed and angry very quickly. Then he’ll just scare Connie, not explain his view properly.
“Really though Judd,” Connie says suddenly, “I’d love to know what you think about restorative justice. Didn’t anything that I said today, or that one of your classmates said, maybe make you change your mind a little?”
Judd growls under his breath. She clearly isn’t going to leave him alone about this.
“I still think justice is an eye for an eye,” he says eventually, “Or at least that’s the way it should be. Restorative Justice would work I think. People wouldn’t commit crimes against other people because the people who’ve been wronged would choose the punishment. It’s one thing to commit a crime when you know what you’re punishment will be, even if it’s a few years in prison. But it’s another thing entirely when you don’t know what you’re going to end up with. Justice as it is now is way too predictable and lenient. Vengeance and restoration are the only way to make sure that the wronged are paid back for the crimes committed against them.”
“But that’s such a dangerous way of thinking,” Connie cries out, “Who’s to say that instead of going to the police or through the courts towns won’t just set up their own little justice systems following their own rules? If there’s no set punishment how will people know that they’ll actually be punished. If the wronged are too scared that the wrongdoers or their families will come back and take it out on them they’re never going to ask for a strong sentence. And what’s to stop people abusing the system? Someone could start something with someone they have a problem with so a crime is committed and then ask for the death sentence or something.”
“That’s why we would have a system in place,” Judd insists, “The courts work better because of the unpredictability of sentencing. If people know that they’re views are going to be heard and listened to and that their opinions matter they’ll go through the courts. We could make sure that the wronged have protection until after the punishments are carried out. And having such unpredictable punishments, with the threat of serious injury, lifetime maiming or anything that the wronged want, well people will stop committing crimes because they don’t know what might happen. Even if things devolved in to vigilantism, like you think they will, then the revenge thing wouldn’t be needed any more because of the fear. It’s all about fear. If the criminals don’t know the severity of their punishment they’ll be afraid of what it could be. If they’re afraid they’ll think twice about committing crimes. And those without fear who do it any way will probably be too insane to be allowed to stay in society anyway.”
“It would be too complicated!” Connie cries, “Justice goes beyond vengeance and revenge. Justice is safety and order. Justice is a way of making sure that their crimes will be punished, regardless of the thoughts of the wronged. And it ensures the victims that they will be heard and the people who hurt them will be kept away from them. Trying to keep each person safe in the system you’re talking about would cost more money than locking up three prisoners a year I bet. It would be too complicated to do what you’re saying. And who would decide how harsh the punishments would be? You? Me? Some bloke at Westminster? There’s a whole question of morals and right and wrong as people involved in restorative justice that you just don’t realise is there until you look closer,”
Judd falls silent as he thinks over what Connie has said. She has some good points.
When he first thinks about revenge it’s simple. Someone hurts you and you hurt them back. But trying to put it into a system more importantly a system that works for everyone, makes it complicated. The more he thinks about it the more Judd realises that it’s not as simple as it first seems. Revenge is a small thing, an attitude to have in a small world where you know the people around you. On a larger scale it gets more and more complicated, there are things to work out at every turn. Judd realises that he could spend weeks trying to figure out a system of justice that matches how he thinks and he would still have problems hidden all over the place. Maybe that’s the problem with the current system, he thinks to himself, it was designed to handle a much smaller population than it does now. Of course the population wasn’t that small when it was first designed but it was smaller than it is now. And laws are always changing. It’s just hard to get such a massive system to keep up with the even bigger world.
But he’s still not convinced and they continue their debate. Judd points out flaws in Connie’s arguments against him and she points out flaws in his. Judd’s points seem to have more flaws than Connie’s do. As they talk more and more Judd starts to question his own thoughts. The ideas that seemed so clear to him before don’t seem as much of a good thing as they did before. He starts to lose the passion in his speech, he takes longer to come up with ideas based around the notion of revenge.
“Ok,” he says eventually. “I think I can see where you’re coming from. In a civilised world there may not be room for revenge. It just doesn’t work. There are too many people and we’re all too connected. Maybe once upon a time, way back when, an eye for an eye system worked but that was when it was a smaller world and crime was a lot more obvious. Not anymore though, the world’s too big and everyone’s in everyone’s business. People know too many people and there are just too many different sorts of crimes to commit. But it does work in an uncivilised system,”
Connie falls silent for a moment and Judd is a little surprised. It feels like this entire journey she hasn’t stopped talking and now she’s suddenly fallen silent. And the journey has been a very long one. The traffic is slow and Judd is driving very slow and very carefully. The roads are covered in black ice and the snow is making it hard to see. He really doesn’t want to crash his shiny new Porsche.
“Why are you making a distinction between civilised and uncivilised systems?” Connie asks. She looks genuinely confused, “UK law applies only to a civilised system, that’s the only system that we live in.”
“Dunno really,” Judd says quickly, “I suppose I was just thinking about Vikings and stuff, like you were talking about.”
“Ok…” Connie says slowly. She’s clearly not convinced by Judd’s reply, “But just because the Vikings weren’t as advanced as we are doesn’t mean they weren’t civilised. They actually had a highly civilised way of life for the time period,”
Judd nods and Connie seems satisfied. He lets out a small puff of breath, relief filling him. He had been thinking about the business when he mentioned uncivilised systems. And the drug business, especially small time like it is for him, isn’t the most civilised of systems. Drug lords rarely play by the rules, they make up their own and sometimes don’t even stick to them. And they definitely don’t follow the law, after all, they get their money through crime, clearly the law means nothing to them. Judd wonders for a moment how he found himself in the drugs business, it was something that he never saw for himself. And yet, here he is.
The lights ahead turn red and Judd is forced to slow to a halt. Everyone is driving so slowly and the roads are almost empty. Judd squints through his window and doesn’t see a single person on the street. Even the homeless man that can usually be spotted lurking in the shelter of a side door by McDonalds isn’t there tonight. He must have found somewhere better to sleep. Judd hopes that it’s inside, the guy is funny and he’s a bit of a fixture in Farlow. Judd looks up at the traffic lights which are showing no sign of changing. A flash of movement in the corner of his eye draws his gaze.
It’s Connie, shifting around in her seat. He can’t help but watch as she unfolds her legs and crosses them again, one over the other. Her skirt has ridden up, the slash opening wider. He can definitely make out a strip of pink lace running across her thigh. The skin above the lace is pale and creamy looking, the skin below has a slight shimmer. Judd wants to reach out and touch. A honk of a horn draws his attention back to the lights and his heart leaps with shock when he realises that they’ve turned green. The honking behind him suggests that they’ve been green for a while, Judd just hasn’t noticed it. He wonders how long he was staring at Connie’s legs for.
They’re in the town centre now, Judd is winding his way through the streets. It’s a complicated one way system so he keeps getting stuck at a lot of traffic lights. Now and then Connie mutters out a direction and he takes it. She seems to be leading them towards one of the slightly more questionable areas of town. What is she doing living there, he wonders. She also seems to be crossing and uncrossing her legs every time that she speaks. Judd keeps seeing it out of the corner of his eyes and he can’t help but look. The stockings are so tempting and her legs look amazing. Once or twice he caught her eye and there was almost a smile on her lips. He wonders if she’s doing it on purpose? Does she know he likes legs and that hers are amazing? Why would she keep on tempting him with her legs? Is there something else that she wants from him apart from the obvious? Judd can’t help but feel that there is. Why else would a teacher be trying to seduce her student like this if she’s not trying to gain something.
Eventually they leave the one way system behind and start towards the suburbs. Connie’s place is a little out of the way but the area isn’t quite as bad as he thought it would be. In fact he realises, as they get closer that he could have taken a different way and they would have arrived in half the time. He wonders again if Connie is trying to seduce him. There could be no other reason for taking the longer route other than to keep them in the car together for a longer amount of time. She either wants him, Judd decides, or she’s so lonely that spending any time with anyone is better than going home alone. He thinks that he prefers the first option. He doesn’t like the idea of being some random choice to keep her company.
They pull up outside Connie’s block of flats and she turns to him, smiling.
“Thanks so much for the lift,” she says, her hands fiddling with her keys. She won’t meet his eyes. “I have to admit that I really enjoyed our chat. I’ve not had such a good discussion with someone in ages, at least not someone who actually gets what I’m talking about.”
“Yeah,” Judd says, also smiling. He keeps trying to meet her eyes though, “I enjoyed talking with you about this. It was a nice change, I never normally get to talk like this with someone so intelligent,”
She finally looks up at him and her smile widens. Judd’s breath catches for a moment, that smile took her from pretty and attractive to downright beautiful. She’s not getting out, he realises, she’s just sat there fiddling with her keys and touching her hair now and then. He wonders what she’s waiting for.
Connie is, in truth, waiting for him to make a move. She doesn’t care what it is as long as it’s some sort of move. She hopes that Judd will ask for her number, or maybe even help her to her door with the files. He just sits there though, looking a little shell shocked and confused. He’s still smiling however which is a good sign. She can’t believe that this guy could be so shy, he seems to confident and put together, surely he has dozens of women throwing themselves at him all of the time. He certainly has something to offer, it’s why she’s talking to him after all. Her heart begins to race as she realises that maybe he hasn’t picked up on her signals. Maybe he isn’t interested in her at all and she read whatever was going on between them wrongly. She shifts and crosses her legs again, absentmindedly, the tension in the car is making her nervous. His eyes drop towards her legs and the slit in her skirt and a slight stain of pink appears on his tanned cheeks. No he’s definitely interested in her. She thinks that she may have to be completely blunt with this guy and make the first move, there’s really no other choice if she’s to get what she’s after.
“Well I’m glad that you enjoyed our talk too,” Connie says eventually when it becomes clear that Judd isn’t going to make a move, “Listen, I’m going to give you my number. Then if you think that you might want another chat like this sometime then call me. Even if it’s stupidly late. Just give me a call. I enjoyed our discussion and I’d like to do it again.”
Judd smiles and is filled with a sense of relief. He relaxes and he didn’t even realise how tense he was. Connie scribbles down her number on the back of a business card that she pulled from her purse. When she hands it to him their fingers brush and linger. Their eyes meet. Judd is tempted to lean forward and kiss her but he knows that it’s a bad idea. He has things to do and he needs to focus on his studies. Having discussions like the one that they had today wouldn’t be so bad though, in fact they could only help him. He takes the card and makes a show of putting it neatly into one of the pockets of his wallet.
“I may just take you up on that,” Judd says, “Most of my friends aren’t exactly deep thinkers. Or if they are they’ve never given me any sign of it.”
“Great,” Connie says happily.
There’s a moments hesitation before she finally turns and gets out of the car. She scrambles around in the back seat, collecting together her notes and then finally the door slams shut. She walks around the car and pats its roof, the sound echoing inside. Judd watches as she walks up the path to her flat. He watches her closely as she walks further and further away. He tells himself that it’s just good manners, he wants to see her home safely. This area may not be as rough as he expected but it still isn’t completely safe to be wandering around in late at night, especially when you look like Connie. Besides, what if she slips and falls? She could lie there for ages in pain and helpless. He ignores the fact that his eyes are lingering on her buttocks and those amazing legs. He’s just showing good manners.
Finally she gets her front door unlocked and steps inside. She smiles at him and waves through the window. Judd doesn’t start the car until her door shuts and a light comes on in the hallway. Connie is home safe and now he needs to go to his own home. He has things that he needs to sort out.