The Life and Times of Chadwick Dial


The Life and Times of Chadwick Dial by Chris Green

‘It’s him,’ screamed Eve. ‘It’s Chadwick Dial. Look!’

Eve Laszlo and I were aboard a coach on its way to Bath. We were going to see a new band called Oasis play at the Bath Pavilion. We had stopped off at Stroud to pick up more passengers. Through the window, wandering around the bus station, was the unmistakable figure of Chadwick Dial. Once you’ve seen him you would recognise him straight way if you saw him again, like you would recognise Dracula or Frankenstein’s monster. Dial reminded me somehow of the child snatcher from Bedknobs and Broomsticks. But with his Quasimodo stoop, his facial scar, his missing eye and random strands of matted hair coming out from all corners of his head, arguably a less attractive version.

For a moment it looked as if he was going to get on the coach. It was touch and go. Eve was freaking out.

‘That bastard held me prisoner,’ she was yelling. ‘He kidnapped Ross and Alex.’

Everyone on the coach was looking round. Although I had heard nothing but bad about Chadwick Dial, I wondered if she might be overreacting. I had seen him now and again in The Black Hole, a pub where I occasionally went for a drink, but I had always given him a wide berth. I had not known Eve long. The incidents she referred to had happened some time before, when her teenage children were younger. Eventually I managed to calm her.

Chadwick Dial did not get on the coach. He slunk off somewhere to sniff a drainpipe or whatever it is that one eyed hunchbacks do. As we pulled away, Eve apologised for her outburst. She went on to explain why she had been so angry. She told me that Dial was a friend of her ex husband’s. When they were going through divorce proceedings and she had custody of the children, Dial helped Jackson Laszlo to abduct them. He locked Eve in a room for three days while Jackson Laszlo took them out of the country. She did not get to see them again for months. Even then she and the children had to go to a women’s refuge for their safety. Dial was never brought to book for his part in the escapade.

Despite the episode on the coach, Eve and I were able to enjoy a pleasant couple of days in Bath. I did not normally go for loud rock bands, but Oasis were a revelation. They played I Am The Walrus, encouraging comparisons with The Beatles and a song called Wonderwall. It was clear that they were going to be very big. After Bath, we spent a few days on the North Devon coast, where Eve told me a little more about her experiences of Chadwick Dial. She was obviously very frightened of him. Getting it out in the open though seemed to help to ease the tension.

We went back to the home we were building in rural Gloucestershire and life moved on as life does. Eve was unpredictable from day to day but I became used to her mood sings and occasional outbursts. She clearly had her demons, but then don’t we all? We did not however have another conversation about Chadwick Dial. I had no reason to bring the subject up and Eve seemed to have let go. As we did not go to The Black Hole, I never came across Dial in the time Eve and I were together. Gradually he faded from my consciousness.

Eve and I parted a year or two later, but the anecdotes about Chadwick Dial do not end there. Since then I have heard a regular trickle of unpleasant stories about him. It appears that everyone who has ever met him has a tale to tell. He killed Kester Jaynes’s mynah bird. He stole Bryan Harrington’s classic Humber Super Snipe and managed to wreck it. He drugged and raped Denise Felch’s teenage daughter, Kylie.

‘Why was he never caught?’ I asked her. ‘It’s not like he’s hard to spot.’

‘You wouldn’t believe just how slippery he is,’ she said.

‘It wouldn’t be so bad if he were an honest to goodness criminal,’ said Lee Hale after Dial had conned him out of his winning lottery ticket. ‘It’s the contemptibility, the slyness, the deceit.’

These stories are repeated over and over. Dial has robbed, cheated, double crossed and generally taken advantage of everyone who has had the misfortune to have known him. I came across him one time in The Belted Galloway. He was trying to sell the drugs he had stolen off Glassy Eyed John. I told him that I didn’t do drugs. He glowered and skulked off muttering something unsavoury about Eve.

Did Dial’s ugliness have a bearing on the development of his character or had he moulded his character to match his unsightly demeanour. No one seems to know for certain how his disfigurements came about, but it’s easy to speculate as to how he have incurred them, It has been suggested the eye injury could have come from his being hit in the face with a cricket ball at school, but it could just as likely to have been someone giving him a good honest clout with a cricket bat. In fact a blow from a blunt instrument of some kind represents the more satisfying explanation. The facial scar might too have been retribution for something untoward. It is difficult to come up with an explanation for the random tufts of hair that sprout here and there from his head. There have been suggestions that the stoop is just an affectation to get sympathy. Who knows? Perhaps the truth is that no-one cares how the injuries happened.

With most villains you tend to hear something positive about them, however small, to balance out the bad. In his spare time, for instance, Charlie Manson supported a children’s charity. Adolf Eichmann was kind to dogs. Colonel Gadaffi was a keen landscape painter. That type of thing. Usually, nothing is black and white. But Chadwick Dial appears to have no saving graces. Condemnation of him is absolute. He may or may not be guilty of murder, but deaths are definitely attributable to his actions, my friend Dewi Davies’s for example. I was deeply saddened when I found this out unexpectedly one day from a colleague at work.

Dewi Davies, on a trip down from Wales, ran into Dial in The Black Hole or it may have been The Frog and Nightgown. After taking him for drinks all night, Dial got Dewi to give him a lift to a house party on the other side of town. Dewi had some coke and Dial helped him get through this. The two of them got into an argument over a girl Dewi was making a move on. By this time everyone at the party was well bashed and the argument quickly got out of control. Dewi went to leave, but Dial and some other revellers, who saw the Welshman as a stranger, stopped him in his tracks. At Dial’s instigation they began jumping up and down on the bonnet of his Sunbeam Alpine.

Dewi eventually managed to get them off. He put his foot down for a quick getaway. He was well wasted and angry. His erratic driving drew the attention of a police patrol. They gave chase, sirens wailing and blue lights flashing. Dewi tried to shake them off. Unable to control the powerful car on a bend, Dewi ended up driving into a stone wall. He died on impact.

Bringing things up to date a little, I caught up with Jackson Laszlo a week or two back in The Black Hole. He asked me if I had seen Eve recently. Apparently she had disappeared. I said that I hadn’t but she was good at doing that, disappearing. He agreed, adding that she suffered from a borderline personality disorder and at times when she was down, he felt she might be considered to belong to that widely interpreted category vulnerable adult.

‘Anything might have happened to her,’ he said.

I recalled the times that she had run off for days without a word.

‘It’s probably nothing at all but all the same I am worried,’ he said.

I thought it best not to mention that the episode when he had abducted the children might have helped to bring about her condition, or at the very least not have been sympathetic to it. I judged that this was not the right time to attribute blame for Eve’s vulnerability.

‘Surely Ross or Alex would know where she is,’ I said, instead.

He said that he hadn’t seen Ross or Alex for several months.

I said that this was not unusual for grown up children. My own were the same. By and by we got on to the subject of Chadwick Dial.

‘Don’t even mention his name,’ Jackson said. ‘When I was away last year I let him house-sit, while I was in Portugal. When I returned the house was empty. Everything was gone. The bastard cleaned me out. After all I had done for him. The neighbours said they thought that I had just moved out without telling them. One morning two large furniture vans called and the removal men took everything. The police can’t even trace the removal vans.’

None of the tales about Chadwick Dial however compares to the shocking story that is unfolding on today’s news. Dial, the reporter is saying, is behind an evil cult based in a commune in the borderlands between England and Wales. He falsely imprisoned, tortured and raped a cadre of vulnerable women, telling them he had God-like powers and if they disobeyed him he would unleash a supernatural force, which would inflict painful and horrible deaths on their families. Dial is a master manipulator who used violence, fear and sexual degradation to control the women he held captive. They were imprisoned in the disused farm buildings on the site. They were completely isolated from the outside world, until last week one of them managed to escape from the compound. Dial, she said, had told his victims that if they followed him he would show them a better world, but if they had bad ideas then their souls would burn in Hell. The investigation into the human remains found in an outhouse at the site continues. Comparisons are already being made with the Fred and Rosemary West killings of two decades ago.

My mind goes back to the sad day that I heard about Dial’s role in Dewi Davies’s death. When Wayne told me about it, he had no idea that I even knew Dewi. He thought he was talking about a complete stranger. He did not know that Dewi and I had once been close. Why would he? As far as he knew, Dewi was someone who had come up from Wales and Dial had dragged along to a party that he was attending. He did not know that Dewi and I had once shared a house in Stoke Road. Dewi was a warm, generous guy, the kind that would do anything to help. He may have been down on his luck but he deserved better.

I think back to that trip to Bath twenty years ago when Eve Laszlo and I saw Dial through the window of the coach. I thought then that Eve was being over dramatic. How could someone who looked like Dial did be a threat. You would be able to spot him a mile off. You would steer clear of him. How wrong I was. I realise that Eve and I didn’t part on good terms back then, but I do hope that she is OK.

© Chris Green 2015: All rights reserved


April’s Shower


April’s Shower by Chris Green

Hotel California strikes me as an odd little café. Apart from the curious choice of name, the café is situated underground and has no windows. Despite its claustrophobic feel, the acoustics seem to belong to a much larger space. The sound fades in and out and bounces off the walls in a weird subterranean echo. I sit myself down on a Vienna chair and glance furtively around. I do a head count. There are fourteen people, sitting in twos or threes around stark tables. There is an air of detachment about each of them as if their minds are somewhere else. They look as if they don’t get out much. Their skin is pale and translucent as if it has been photoshopped. They fidget fitfully, their movements like marionettes. As I place my order and take in the unfamiliar surroundings Fly Like An Eagle is playing. It occurs to me that you don’t hear seventies music much anymore. At some point, the arbiters of taste decided that eighties music was better than seventies music, when clearly it wasn’t. The seventies wins hands down.

My scrambled eggs arrive. They are orange in colour. I am used to my scrambled eggs being much lighter. I am about to complain to the sullen waitress in the white coat, but when I take a mouthful off the eggs they taste good. Perhaps they are from very happy hens. The Year of The Cat is playing now. It has an infectious piano riff. The marionettes at their tables bounce up and down in time to the beat. I notice a steady drip of a wax-like substance from the artificial ceiling. It is red in colour. A mound of it has formed on a cracked white tile of the black and white chequered floor. Drip! Drip! Drip! It is disturbing. Where is it coming from? What is up there?

As if on a given cue, the ghouls suddenly stop eating or drinking. They all stare at me. I can’t help but feel intimidated by their gaze. I am the retiring sort. I hate being the centre of attention in any circumstances. I take my plate to another table. This takes me nearer to the counter. The Gaggia machine lets out a belch then the flushing sound drowns out the music, even though this is loud. The barista looks a bit like Hannibal Lecter. I am anxious to get out of here. Where is Chantelle? She was supposed to meet me here, wasn’t she? My memory is not so good. Perhaps I am supposed to pick her up. It can’t have been the latter, though. I do not know where she lives.

I am trying to rest but Night Moves is playing. I can hear it through the walls. I don’t know where it is coming from but I feel intense discomfort. Sometimes a song can have a particular association and then something happens and that meaning changes. Like the lyrics in Bob Seger’s song. Night Moves used to be my favourite tune, but then…. and ….. well, it’s now. I told them that April was going to die in the shower, but they didn’t believe me. Sometimes I know that things are going to happen, but I don’t know why. Chantelle has a word for it. It begins with a ‘p’. I’m not good at remembering long words. Chantelle says that everything will be all right. I wish she were here. Where is she? She must have forgotten that she is meeting me.

Fog is descending. I am going too fast for the road conditions. I take my foot off the accelerator pedal, but it stays down. I can’t do anything about it. It seems to be jammed. Going ever faster, the Outlander careers forward, narrowly missing a string of other vehicles. I face a barrage of horns from the oncoming motorists, who must think I am reckless. I am not. I am a careful driver. In twenty-five years on the road, I have never had an accident. I have the brake pedal to the floor. The brakes are howling. The fog is getting thicker. I cannot see ahead at all now. I see April’s face in the rear-view mirror. Suddenly it shatters.

The car horns have stopped. I think I have driven off road, but it is hard to tell. The accelerator pedal is still jammed. I turn the steering wheel this way and that as I was once taught by my advanced driving instructor, or was it Glassy Eyed John. I have trouble sometimes with details. Whichever, the manoeuvre has the desired effect. With the Outlander engine revving like a plane during take-off, it ploughs its way through a patch of thick undergrowth before smashing against a sturdy beech tree and coming to rest.

Smoke is coming from under the bonnet. I jump out. I am on the edge of a wood. The fog has lifted, but one nightmare makes way for another. There are bloodstained hands everywhere, dozens of them, clutching at tree trunks and clumps of fallen branches. The hands are not connected to arms, they are cut off at the wrist. I am terrified. What is happening? What is this place? The sun is trying to make its way through the haze and I notice to my horror that I have the bold shadow of a large raptor. A thin green snake settles on my arm, or is it my wing. It coils itself around. A scream pierces the air. I realise it is my scream. A legion of brawny woodsmen emerges from a thicket. They are carrying hammers and sickles, or are they guns and roses. It is hard to tell in the gloom. I feel a sense of deja vu. I have been here before. I have been to places like this many times since April’s brutal ….. since ….. I have been here since…. April’s shower. Where is Chantelle?

The Outlander engine bursts into flames. This allows me the opportunity to put distance between myself and my pursuers. I take a slalom route in the general direction of the sun. I find myself beside a still lake. I have chance to gather my thoughts. Not they help me very much. What are those brightly coloured birds? They can’t be parrots, can they? Parrots don’t swim. Chantelle is the one who might have explanations for what is going on. She is the Incongruence Investigator. She is supposed to be helping me because of the strange experiences I’ve been having. Most things she says are easily explainable. After all science itself is pretty weird with its uncertainty principles, matter being in two places at once and the same particles being everywhere at the same time. If you think about it too much, it could drive you mad. You must become accustomed to the unexpected, Chantelle says. Any number of things might be happening simultaneously. Or might not be happening at all. Everything might be imaginary. The scene in the woods back there might be a second unit shoot for a Harry Potter film for all that I know. What is a second unit shoot, I wonder. Who is Harry Potter? I have not seen him around.

Do you like my goat?’ the stranger on the park bench says.

It is best to humour men sitting on park benches with invisible goats, so I say, ‘Yes that is a fine goat you have there. What is she called?’

Not a she,’ he says. ‘It’s a he and he’s called Ronald. Ronald is a good name for a goat, don’t you think.’

A fine name, Ronald,’ I say. ‘I used to have a stoat called Steve, or was it a badger?’

Do you play the French horn?’ he asks.

No,’ I tell him.

That’s a shame. Ronald likes listening to the French horn. What about the cor anglais?’

I wonder if I should find another seat.

Are you waiting for Chantelle?’ he asks.

Yes, I think so’ I say. ‘She was supposed to meet me.’

I think she’s just gone into that big house over there,’ he says. ‘I expect she will be along in a minute with the meds. Do you find you need yours twice a day too?’

© Chris Green 2015: All rights reserved

The Devil’s Interval


The Devil’s Interval by Chris Green

I have not always been a killer. I blame my descent into malevolence and murder on Holst and Wagner. Oh! And Black Sabbath. Mostly Black Sabbath, in fact. Perhaps I had better explain.

It all began when in February 1970, I was listening to a Dutch radio station late at night with my friend, Ray. We were both eighteen. We had just moved into our first flat. We had come back from The Cellar Bar and had just finished a big fat spliff. It was a stormy night with the wind rattling the shutters. On the stroke of midnight out of the static of the night-time radio, soared an apocalyptic new track. It was like nothing I had heard before. It was hypnotic, sinister, demonic. Four stinging chords on the guitar repeated over and over with a screaming vocal. But what chords they were! This was music from the very depths of Hell. We caught on straight away that something was happening, but to paraphrase Bob Dylan, we did not know what it was.

Far out,’ Ray said. ‘It’s badass. ……… But at the same time, I’m a little scared.’

I know what you mean,’ I said. ‘It’s like a thundercloud blotting out the sun. It’s really cool, but you know that something real bad is going to happen.’

What was happening was, in fact, the birth of heavy metal music. It all started here at this very moment. At the tail end of the sixties, music had been heading in this direction with The Jeff Beck Group and Led Zeppelin, but their music was tame, legitimate by comparison. This was the real deal. The Dutch station we were listening to played the music with no DJ’s babble, but I managed to find out somehow that this was the title track from Black Sabbath’s eponymous album.

Much later I was to discover that the secret behind the track lay is something known as the diabolus in musica or The Devil’s Interval. The diabolus in musica was considered so ominous in the Middle Ages that it was banned by clerics for fear it would raise Lucifer himself. It consists of a tritone (augmented fourth or diminished fifth) and spanning as it does three tones, the interval violates a musical convention and sounds dissonant, producing an unsettling feeling in the listener. Playing the note of C followed by F sharp somehow encapsulates the essence of evil. Black Sabbath may have stumbled on this accidentally, but they were not the first in the modern era to use it. Wagner used it in Götterdämmerung and Holst used it in Mars – The Bringer of War.

The difference perhaps is that these two classical greats were fully aware of what they were doing. Dissonance was precisely the effect they were after. There were, of course, no stoned freaks listening to late night Dutch radio stations in their day whose lives might be driven off course by The Devil’s Interval. Wagner and Holst had only the hoi-polloi as an audience and many of these were beyond redemption anyway, involved as they were in either military manoeuvres and empire building.

I bought the album, Black Sabbath and over the next few weeks Ray and I played it over and over at deafening volume. Ray had just bought a powerful NAD amplifier and some Wharfedale speakers and this punched the satanic sound around the small front room of the basement flat, through the whole house, up the street and possibly the next town. Dozens of stoned freaks dropped by to listen and went off to buy the album. In no time at all Black Sabbath was the one of the three albums they carried around with them and rolled their joints on.

I can’t say for certain whether the tritone repeated over and over was a factor in the landlord’s suicide. We were so taken over by the music that we did not realise that he had gone. We just thought it odd that he hadn’t been round to collect the rent. I cannot claim therefore that this was the beginning of my killing spree. This did not really take off until years later.

If you’ve ever been to a Black Sabbath concert you will know what I’m talking about when I say that it can instigate feelings of violence. I felt rancour and malevolence to the very core of my being when I saw them play live at Malvern Winter Gardens. It was lucky I didn’t get arrested for flattening the bouncer. The Devil’s Interval resounded in my head for hours after the show. I was wired. I could not get rid of the feeling. On the way home, I punched the taxi driver. After this, Ray insisted that we give Black Sabbath a break for a while.

I met Linda and she carefully monitored of my heavy metal music listening, and for years, I managed to keep a lid on my violent tendencies. Linda was a nurse and knew people who might be able to help me.

You’re doing very well, Martin,’ my anger management counsellor, Hortense would say. ‘It’s been months since you hit anyone.’

I got married and did the things you do when that happens, bought a house, went to dinner parties, had children, slept with my wife’s best friend and got divorced. Ray met Mary and did the same, in fact, most of my friends did the same. It was never going to work, was it? It was a generational thing. I’m sure Linda and Mary slept with our best friends too but didn’t tell us. This was what happened back then.

At least you’ve got that out of your system, Martin,’ Hortense would say. ‘Now you need to get on with your life.’

It was now the late-seventies. Freed from responsibility, I felt the need for some more heavy metal music. Although punk had taken over mainstream rock music, fortunately, there was also a burgeoning choice of very loud heavy metal bands to listen to. If anything the volume had been turned up. These bands needed LGVs to carry their kit around. Many of them had also discovered the potency of The Devil’s Interval. I went to see Judas Priest play at Cheltenham Town Hall. They used the devastating tritone over and over in their set. I began to feel the violent impulses again. After the concert, I went on the rampage. I set about a complete stranger and impaled him on the trident in Neptune’s Fountain. While I was only charged with manslaughter, custody threatened to put a halt to my appreciation of heavy metal.

Thanks to a glowing report from Hortense I got off with a ten-year stretch and was out again in five. There were now so many metal bands that I didn’t know where to start, ACDC, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Slayer, Megadeth, Def Leppard to name but a few. And amazingly Black Sabbath were still going. Hortense recommended that if I did listen to them I should do so with the volume down and under no circumstances should I go to a gig. She lent me some Al Stewart cassettes to listen to. I was not impressed. He sounded too posh to make meaningful music. Next, she tried me on Billy Joel. He was even worse, a real pussy. I was pleased when my machine chewed up the tape.

It is never easy for ex-prisoners to find work, so I was overjoyed when after a few weeks of twiddling my thumbs and feeling depressed I managed to get a job in a musical instrument repair workshop. The manager of Black Keys, Matt Black gave me a chance. I think he sympathised with my plight because his son, Jett had himself been in trouble.

Matt Black explained the rudiments of music to me. He taught me about scales, chromatics and dissonance. It was Matt who told me about the Devil’s Interval. It was just my bad luck that he continued to demonstrate it. The Planets apparently was his favourite piece of music and Mars was his favourite section of it. He played it on repeat in the workshop. At least this is how it appeared. Perhaps I had developed earworm, but as I rubbed the glue into the crack on the cello neck, the dissonance of Holst’s diabolus in musica echoed endlessly in my head. The frightening crescendo kept building until I could take no more. I brought the instrument down on Matt’s skull.

My barrister, Miles Wimpler buckled when he found out who was presiding over the case. Judge Bearcroft was notorious for his no-nonsense stance. The old curmudgeon was variously rumoured to have jailed people for loitering, for not wearing a seat belt and for stealing pencils from the office. He described me as a ferocious animal that needed to be caged. Hortense’s mitigation regarding the diabolus in musica fell flat. Judge Bearcroft had a low tolerance for musical mumbo-jumbo and he gave me a twenty.

I was out in ten, just in time for the Black Sabbath Reunion Tour. The publicity promised that they were going to play louder than ever. They did. Much louder. And Black Sabbath the key number in their set was deafening. The tritone echoed around the auditorium like a battle raging. I know I shouldn’t have gone. And I know I shouldn’t have killed Hortense. And it would be foolish to deny the connection. My rage was clearly a result of those demonic chords rattling round in my head. It was the Devil’s work all right. With no-one to mitigate my plea, this time, I got life.

I am a few years into my sentence. I was in Wandsworth at first, which was tough, but as prisoner numbers rose I got moved to Belmarsh, which is not quite so bad. I share my cell with Denzel, another lifer. Denzel was a big name in gangland in the early eighties. One of the characters in the film, The Long Good Friday was based on him. Denzel has been in here a while. It shows in his demeanour. He is massively overweight. We chat about Staffordshire bull terriers and Millwall FC.

I have got what others might consider a cushy job working in the prison library. The problem I have is that the library is right next to the Prison Governor’s office and Governor Kraut keeps playing Wagner, more specifically Götterdämmerung. Why is he doing it? Doesn’t he know about The Devil’s Interval? Isn’t he aware of my history, or is the bastard just trying to wind me up? I nearly killed Nolan Rocco yesterday in the canteen. I had my hands around his throat. What stopped me? It certainly wasn’t Floyd Edmondson. Big Floyd was egging me on. What stopped me was the thought that maybe one day I might be able to get out of here, but I know I won’t. Judge Block told me that life would mean life. And with the diabolus in musica pulsing round in my head, it is surely only a matter of time before I kill someone else.

© Chris Green 2015: All rights reserved