The Peculiar Tale of Max Fallon
There was a full moon and a clear sky the night they eventually caught him. Four men and two teenage boys armed with cricket bats and lengths of two by four wrestled him to the ground and fastened his hands behind his back using those ties found in DIY stores and garden centres. They removed his balaclava, hooded him and frog marched him to one of the captor’s homes.
Max Fallon had become careless. There had been one or two close calls in the last month – he suspected there was a vigilante group looking out for him – but he had always managed to slip away. The trouble is he hadn’t learnt from these lucky escapes.
He knew from the chatter in his local that the police had been contacted, but they didn’t seem at all interested. Max sensed people were becoming more watchful and noticed that some homes had been having CCTV cameras installed, but alarm bells didn’t really ring for him. He should have shifted his activities elsewhere.
His captors kept him bound and locked in a cellar overnight taking turns to guard him and make sure he didn’t escape. The next morning, a Saturday, they stripped him down to his underwear, tarred and feathered him and paraded him around the estate.
No-one knows how he had sunk to that level. He had grown up as an only child in a caring and supportive middle class family with both parents giving him the right sort of love and support. Their values were no different from those of most of their generation. He was relatively popular at school, played second team rugby and tennis and was a junior prefect in his final year.
After school he eschewed the gap year option and went straight to university where he gained a respectable 2:1 in Economics. He experimented with soft drugs but didn’t take things further than that. He drank in moderation. In his second year he met Eileen, his future wife, who was reading English literature and they moved in together for his final year of study. The sex was no better or worse than that experienced by most couples.
When he graduated a national bank snapped him up and he progressed well studying for and passing the requisite vocational exams, and by the time he was 28 he was a junior branch manager and had married Eileen who subsequently gave him two healthy children, a boy and a girl.
Some ten years later he and Eileen felt themselves to be incompatible. “Bored” as they each put it to family and friends and after an amicable divorce Eileen and the children moved to Australia where she had been offered a teaching post at the University of Victoria. Max sold the large Victorian townhouse they had bought together, ensured Eileen got half of the profits, and moved to a modern housing estate in a well-to-do suburb about five miles south of the city centre and the branch of the bank where he was now manager.
It was soon after this that he began his double life – by day a hard-working and respectable bank manager, by night a secret car washer. It started slowly at first. His first time out was washing a red Ford Fiesta (neither the colour nor the make was of interest to Max) parked in a neighbour’s drive about five houses away. A pause of about six weeks followed without him giving a second thought to what he had done. But then the urge overtook him and he went out three times over the next month or so. Soon he would be out every second or third night. This intensive activity lasted for eighteen months at which point he was caught and exposed.
Once he sought help to try and understand his behaviour, but his doctor not only suggested he was doing no harm but also, tongue in cheek, invited Max to visit his driveway one night. Max was rightly outraged at the doctor’s response and considered reporting him to the General Medical Council. However on giving this further thought he decided against it in case the doctor divulged details of his visit. For the record, the doctor has subsequently had his license to practice withdrawn.
Realising the impact exposure would have on his career it wasn’t long before Max had started taking precautions to protect his identity. On his forays he would wear a dark pair of overalls and a balaclava which he could pull down to cover his face. These, together with his bucket, sponge and chamois leather, were bought in a town about sixty miles from where he lived. He decided against using his credit card and paid for everything with cash. Because of his concerns about CCTV systems in these shops, he wore a grey wig and a moustache when making his purchases. He later burnt the wig and moustache and receipts in his back yard together with sundry garden waste.
What Max wasn’t to know was the effect his activities had on the owners of the cars. The first car, the red Ford Fiesta, was owned by a young woman teaching at the local primary school. When she stepped out her doorway and saw the cleaned car she doubled up in pain and brought up the contents of her stomach. She later said she was sickened by it and could not imagine who could do such a thing to her.
Max generally left for work earlier than most of his neighbours so he wasn’t aware of their responses. Not that he was interested. For him it was the visceral pleasure that came to him from cleaning a car. Indeed had one of his cleaned cars had a shovel load of muck thrown over it before the night was up, he wouldn’t have cared. Cars could be clean or dirty. For Max Fallon it didn’t matter.
But to most of his neighbours it did. Those who experienced Max’s attentions suffered reactions that ranged from heavy sweating and other symptoms of stress, to vomiting, to collapsing with severe chest pains. Most had feelings of disgust and self-loathing which in some cases lasted for several weeks. Some felt they were being punished for things they had done earlier on in their lives; most felt a sense of guilt. Quite often there was psychological trauma that for some, at the time of writing, has not been resolved. It was also reported that one or two rocky marriages imploded, and there was at one point a badly targeted witch-hunt which resulted in some residents torching another’s garden shed. They had mistakenly thought they had seen a bucket and sponge in the corner. The shed owner started libel proceedings against those responsible, but the case was settled out of court.
The genteel neighbourliness of the estate was evaporating fast.
One resident, a trainee psychologist working with the NHS, circulated a leaflet offering free counseling to both individuals and groups. The take-up was high and he later went on to write a paper on the phenomenon. This was subsequently peer reviewed and published in the British Journal of Social Psychology Psychology and Psychotherapy.
Following the unproductive visit to the police a number of residents sought help from their local ministers of religion, but all they were offered were promises of prayer. A letter to the local MP resulted in an invitation to the Friday afternoon surgery. Not surprisingly the MP said there was nothing in the manifesto about this sort of thing and so his hands were tied, but he looked forward to their support at the next election. It became apparent to Max’s neighbours that there would be no help from the outside. The solution lay in their own hands.
Shortly after the tar and feathering incident Max Fallon moved away from the area to a similar well-to-do suburb in the Midlands. He continues with his nocturnal activities, but here his new neighbours support and encourage him and often leave their cars unlocked so he can valet the interiors.
Max is now an area manager for the bank.
© Patrick Prinsloo