Living with Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 26

I decided I'd better go and look for Johnny. Going down the stairs to the yard, I could hear Johnny's and Joseph's voices. They did not sound happy. As I stepped out into the yard, Joseph ran across and into the garage, emerging moments later on a bike, peddling like hell. I called to him asking about dinner; he shouted back he would get something in town as he went out through the gate arch and onto the drive.

Looking at Johnny, I asked what had happened.

"I don't know," he replied. "I just said we were going to be eating in the flat tonight as I had to make sure Trevor ate. Then be went off at me."

"What do you mean he went off at you?" I asked.

"He just went on about things as if I had done something wrong."

"Johnny, what did he say?"

"He said I thought more about Trevor than I did about him."

"Blast. You know he is jealous of Trevor, don't you?"

"No, he can't be," Johnny replied. "There was never anything between me and Trevor; he's just not my type."

"You spent a lot of time with him at Manston," I observed. "And you got him to come here."

"Yes, but we're just mates."

I looked at him. "Are you?"

"Of course, Dad, there's nothing more."

"Are you sure?" I queried. If there was something between Trevor and Johnny, I wanted it sorted out now.

"Yes, positive. We're mates; nothing more. It's never been anything more."

"Right," I stated. "Come on; we'd better go after him."

"But we don't know where he's going," Johnny observed.

"I doubt if he is going over the marsh, so the guess is he will go into Dunford. If we set off now, we should catch up which him." With that, I went over to the car and got in. It was fortunate that I had the car keys in my pocket. Johnny jumped into the passenger seat, and I started the car.

"Johnny, call Anne and tell her what is happening." He nodded and pulled out his mobile. As he was speaking to Anne, I pulled out of the yard onto the drive, then turned onto the road down to Dunford.

Joseph must have been peddling like mad. I thought we would catch up with him well before the crossroads, but there was no sign of him. Proceeding into Dunford, I turned the car into the market square. Joseph was just across the other side of the square, locking the bike up at the bike stand. As he did so, two youths approached him. They looked to be about seventeen or eighteen.

"Shit!" Johnny exclaimed.

"What?" I asked.

"Those two; they're a couple of John Henderson's mates," Johnny informed me. "Drop me here."

I slowed down. Johnny jumped out of the car before it stopped. Unfortunately, the market square is pedestrianised with bollards down each side. To get to where Joseph was, I would have to drive round behind the town hall and come into the square again from the other side. I reckoned it would be quicker to park the car and make my way across the square. Johnny was already about halfway across, running towards Joseph just as one of the youths grabbed Joseph by the shoulder and pulled him around.

I did not see clearly what happened, but all of a sudden, the youth was falling backwards. The other youth came towards Joseph. This time I saw fully what happened. Joseph turned his body and leaned back as he pivoted on his left foot. At the same time, his right knee came up towards his chest, then his right leg snapped out straight, his foot hitting the second youth square in the abdomen, sinking him down to the ground.

A small group of people had started to gather around just as Johnny got to Joseph. A rather bulky man stepped forward and grabbed hold of Joseph only to join the two youths on the floor. By this time, I had managed to cross the pedestrian area and crossed the road to Joseph.

"Assaulting a police officer," the man on the floor shouted. "You're in trouble, boy."

"I don't think so," a voice behind me said.

The man on the floor got up and turned to look at the person behind me. "I'm Detective Sergeant McCormac," he stated.

"And I am Detective Chief Inspector Manley, and I saw the whole thing, and those two girls filmed it." He indicated two young women across the road.

A couple of uniformed police officers arrived just then. The Chief Inspector pulled out his warrant card and displayed it. "Take those two into custody," he stated, pointing at the two youths still on the ground. "Aggravated assault, attempted theft of a bicycle and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice."

"You can't—" McCormac started.

"I just did," Manley stated. "I'm here with the full authority and consent of your Chief Constable, and I have a great deal more authority than you can imagine."

McCormac seemed to shrink in size and slinked off. The constables were busy cuffing the two youths. A police car, no doubt summoned by the constables, entered the square. Chief Inspector Manley spoke to the driver, then the constables, as the two youths were placed in the back of the car. Manley then turned to me.

"I gather he is one of yours?" I nodded. "You'd better get him home. I'll come up to your place in the morning and take a statement."

"You don't want to do it now?"

"Oh, no," the Chief Inspector replied. "If I wait till the morning, those two will have to stay in the cells overnight before they are questioned. Should give them something to think about. I'll speak to your youngster in the morning; then I will interview them."

I told the Chief Inspector that I had to be in London in the morning for a meeting with a Judge in Chambers. He asked if there would be another adult available to be with Joseph; I told him my wife would be there. I also said to him that Joseph was Bernard LeBrun's son.

"So, in all likelihood, Bernard will have some representation with the boy," Manley stated. "Good. That will give them longer to sweat. I'll phone Mr. LeBrun when I get to the station." With that, he walked off smiling.

Johnny was fussing over Joseph. I suggested we should get Joseph and his bike over to the car and take them home. Once in the vehicle, Johnny turned to Joseph and asked, "How come you can kick ass like that?"

Joseph smiled. "Well, Ben Carlton is my Uncle."

"What has Uncle Ben got to do with it?" Johnny asked.

"He used to take me training when he was in Town on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The club had a junior section on those days."

We got back to the house, and I phoned Bernard to let him know what had happened.

"It's OK," Bernard informed me. "John Manley called about five minutes ago. I've arranged for Martin Clay to be at your place for ten; Manley will be arriving at ten-thirty."

"You're keeping Martin busy," I commented.

"Of course, I am. He'll be even busier when he becomes a partner," Bernard stated.

"When is that going to be?"

"Very soon, though I am not sure which firm it will be with, but don't say anything."

Not that there was any particular reason to do so, but I got an earlier train into London than I needed. It gave me some time in the British Library before I had to meet Bernard. Frustratingly, the book I wanted to consult was already being used. That's the reason you book your books in advance, so you do not have a wasted trip. That gave me a couple of hours to kill, so I made my way to Rubenstein's, an old-style café just off St. Martin's Lane.

I made my way to the counter and ordered a coffee and a slice of apple pie. Ruben, whom I had known from my school days, was behind the counter. He took my money and said he would bring my order over when it was ready. I left the counter and moved to the back of the café, where there were several booths. As I walked towards the rear, a voice called out, "Micky".

I turned, already knowing who it was; there was only one person alive who called me Micky: Aunt Sarah – Bernard's mother. She was sitting in the corner booth by the door, a position where she was not immediately visible to anyone coming into the café but had a clear view of the whole of it.

"Aunt Sarah," I said, somewhat surprised as the old lady rarely ventured into London these days. "What brings you into Town?"

"I'm meeting Rebecca for lunch; then I am going to see that son of mine," she replied. I did not need to ask which one; she meant Bernard. I wondered if he knew his mother was going to be visiting him. I also wondered who Rebecca was. Aunt Sarah must have noted my look of puzzlement. "Rebecca Rubenstein, Ruben's mother."

Now things fell into place for me. Ruben's mother would be the same generation as Aunt Sarah and from the same part of London. No doubt they knew each other, though I had not been aware that they were lunching friends.

"Rebecca and I are both on the board of trustees for St. Hilda's," Aunt Sarah informed me. "There is a meeting of the trustees this evening, and we need to be ready for it."

I nodded in understanding, not having the least idea of what she was speaking about. Having two Jewish matriarchs on the board of trustees of what sounded like a Catholic charity puzzled me. However, I knew better than to question Aunt Sarah. If I did, I would no doubt get caught up in a recital of family history that would take most of the day. There are times when it is better to be quiet. If you sit back and listen, you can often learn a lot more than if you start asking questions.

"Anyway," Aunt Sarah continued, "what is this about Joseph living with you?"

"He's not living with me," I stated. "Joseph is staying with us over the holiday. He will be returning home when school starts."

"Might be best if he did live with you," Aunt Sarah observed, surprising me. "Now, don't look at me like that. The boy's not been happy at home for the last couple of years."

"I think things are going to be better from now on," I informed her.

"I bloody hope so," she stated. "Something had to be sorted out. From what you said, I suppose something has been. Has the boy come out as gay yet?"

"That is not a question I can answer," I stated.

"So, he has," Aunt Sarah observed. Just then Ruben brought my coffee and apple pie over. The apple pie was warm; he must have had a fresh lot just out of the oven at the back, which was why it had taken so long to serve.

"Aunt Sarah—"

"Don't 'Aunt Sarah' me in that tone of voice," she stated. "I've known Joseph was gay since he was eleven. It was obvious to anybody who knew him. I was fairly certain that was one of the problems at home, and if it had not been sorted out over this vacation, I was going to turn up and sort it out at half-term."

I had no doubt she would have done that. I have seen Aunt Sarah sort things out in the past, and it is not a good idea to be on the receiving ends of one of her sortings out.

"So," she stated, "how are things going with Johnny since the bitch dropped him on you?"

Aunt Sarah had never particularly liked my ex-wife. She had disliked her to such an extent she managed to find an excuse not to attend our wedding. She had, though, made a point of turning up for my divorce party, which she had told Bernard to organise. And she had come to Manston for my marriage to Anne.'

"He seems to be doing OK," I informed her. "During the summer, he has had a part-time job at a local boatyard. He starts college in three weeks to do A-levels and is planning on going to the International Boatbuilding College the September after next. Hopefully, after that, he will go on a marine-engineering degree course at Southampton."

"So, he's sorted. I hope Joseph can drop this idea of being a barber," Aunt Sarah said.

"Oh, he has," I informed her.

"Thank the Lord," she responded. "What are his plans now?"

"He's going to be an architect," I replied.

"Good. We need one in the family. Has he managed to find himself a boyfriend while he's been down with you?" I did not answer. Aunt Sarah's eyes bored into me as she looked at me, then she smiled. "Your Johnny?" I just nodded. "Good. Any boy that can stand up to the bitch must be good. Tell them that I'll sub them for a week in Paris at half-term."

"Is that wise?" I asked, thinking about Johnny and Joseph free from supervision in Paris for a week.

"Probably not," Aunt Sarah replied with a smile. "But it will be fun. I can imagine the look on Bernard's face when I tell him. I'll book the boys into the Ritz."

"That's a bit extravagant," I stated.

"Micky, I made millions on the takeover; need to get rid of it somewhere."

It had never occurred to me that Aunt Sarah would have held shares in the company, but when I thought about it, it was obvious. It had been her money that had allowed Bernard's father to build the business up into a leading, luxury-brand tailors.

"Which reminds me, Micky, I'm putting some money in trust for the grandchildren; that's what I am seeing Bernard about later. I am also putting some in trust for Johnny."

"You don't need to do that," I informed her. "Johnny already has quite a healthy trust from my brother and his partner."

"Good. He'll be getting some more," she stated. I knew there was no point in arguing with the old lady. "I want you and Bernard to be the trustees."

"How much?" I asked.

"For Johnny, two million."

I gasped. "You can't give him that much."

"Why not? I'm giving each of the grandkids five million. And don't look at me like that; I have not lost my marbles. If I put the money into trust now, there is a good chance I will live long enough that they will be able to get it tax-free. If I wait any longer, that might not be the case.

"You know, Micky, it is bloody hard work spending money when the interest you are earning each day is more than you can reasonably spend in a week. Of course, I could make gifts of it to the children and you and Benny, but you are all well-off. At least all my children are. Definitely, Benny is. You probably class as comfortably off. I don't think any of you need money at the moment."

"Look, Aunt Sarah, I can understand you setting up trusts for your grandkids, but why Johnny?" I asked.

"Mickey, you grew up with Benny and my kids; your mother was my closest friend; you, boy, and your brother were just as much part of my family as my own kids were. In fact, in some ways, you are closer to me than my own children. For a goy, you know more about being Jewish than they do, you speak better Yiddish than they can, and I suspect your Hebrew is probably better."

She had a point there. I had gone to Hebrew school with Bernard when we were both ten because he did not want to go on his own. He had always struggled with the language. I seem to have an aptitude for languages and learnt Hebrew quickly. It has been a benefit to me ever since. I read a lot of scientific papers and journals that come out of Israel that others miss just because they are in Hebrew. That had kept my use of the language up to date. I do not think Bernard had looked at it since his Bar Mitzvah.

We sat and chatted. To be more correct, I sat and ate my apple pie and drank my coffee as Aunt Sarah talked. I listened with half interest, not really taking in what she was saying, most of which was gossip about one or other of the families that I had grown up around. Then something caught my attention.

"What did you say, Aunty?" I asked.

"I knew you weren't listening," she commented. "I said that Peter Braylow had approached us about arranging training for some of the boys."

"Which boys?"

"The boys in St. Hilda's, of course." Suddenly it all came back to me. St. Hilda's was not the name of the charity; it was the name of the house. For the life of me, I could not remember what the charity was called. What I did remember was that it had been set up in the early days of the war when John Mitchell had escaped from Holland with a group of Jewish apprentices in tow. That was of course before John Mitchell became a professor at the LSE.

The British Jewish community had rallied round to find homes for the boys and girls who had come over on the Kinder transports. Most of those, though, had been relatively young. But this group had been a group of fourteen- to sixteen-year-old Jewish boys, mostly Hassidic, and finding them accommodation had not been that easy. Some Jewish businessmen had clubbed together to raise the funds to buy what had been a Catholic orphanage, St. Hilda's, and that had been used to house the boys. Since then, it had continued to act as a refuge for Jewish boys who had needed to leave home for one reason or another.

"I think you should talk to Ben about that," I stated. "I believe he knows something about Peter Braylow. From what I know of him, I would advise against having anything to do with him," I told Aunt Sarah.

"Don't worry; I don't intend to. I have my own sources, and they are not very complimentary about the man."

"You might like to tell Bernard about him as well."

"Why, what's his interest?" she asked.

"I can't say," I responded. "But he has turned up in a case Bernard is involved in."

Just then, my mobile rang. I took the call, apologising to Aunt Sarah, but I noted that it was Anne who was calling. It was just to inform me that the Chief Inspector had interviewed Joseph, but he was calling back this evening to have a word with me.

I got to Bernard's just before twelve. Aunt Sarah had kept me talking longer than I would have liked, and it had been a bit of a dash to get to her son's office. I need not have bothered. When I got to the reception, I was informed that Bernard was running late and I should take a seat in the waiting room. Mark Dowland was there when I went in.

"Morning, Mike," he said, rising from his seat and offering his hand. "I suspect we are both here about the same thing."

"Hartmann's." I shook his hand and took the chair opposite him.

"Yes," Mark responded. "Don't know how they expect to get away with this. Had the legal chaps at the university look at it, and they said Hartmann's don't have a leg to stand on."

Just then, Bernard's secretary came and asked us to go through to Bernard's office. We did. Bernard spent about half an hour explaining to us the nature of the action he was instigating. To be honest, I did not understand half of it; I am not sure that Mark did, either. For some reason, it seemed important that there was more than one of us making a complaint.

He then had us read through statements he had prepared for us. Mine stated that I had entered into financial commitments for the purpose of buying the house I currently occupied. It noted that these commitments were essential as I had recently become the sole parent to my son and had also entered into marriage. It was, therefore, necessary for me to move out of my bachelor accommodation to a property suitable for my family. The statement then went on to say that any delay in the payment of my royalties would cause me financial problems.

I asked Bernard why it was necessary to state my financial affairs.

"We are asking for an immediate hearing on the grounds of necessity. To get that we have to show that any delay in hearing the issue would cause financial problems for you."

I looked at Mark, wondering what his problem could be. He shrugged his shoulders: "I need to buy a new house for my move; unfortunately, the place I currently live in belongs to my wife's parents, and she has decided that she does not want to move. In fact, she is asking for a divorce. I need the royalties to put down a deposit on a new place."

Once we had read and signed the statements, Bernard explained what would happen at the court. He was applying for an immediate injunction to prevent Hartmann's withholding any royalties due and at the same time issuing a writ for breach of contract against Hartmann's for a quarter of a million in my case and half a million in Mark's. Once that was explained, he checked his watch and told us it was time to get to the Royal Courts of Justice.

When we got to the courts, we were met by a young lady barrister. She and Bernard went off somewhere and reappeared about half an hour later saying it was time to go and meet the judge in her chambers. We had been given detailed instructions by Bernard how we should act before the judge and how we should address her, none of which seemed to matter once we got into the judge's chambers.

The judge's clerk showed us into a small room with a table in it and chairs along one side. On the other side was a single, somewhat larger, high-backed chair. The judge came in and took her seat and glanced at the papers in front of her. She asked the barrister for a summary of the claim, which she gave. The judge then asked a couple of questions, which the barrister was able to answer. That being the case she then signed a court order granting us an interim injunction which prevented Hartmann's withholding any royalties from Mark or myself. She then signed another order expediting the hearing on the breach of contract and giving all sides twenty-eight days to prepare their case.

That finished, she turned to Bernard and said, "I presume you will be adding more claimants now you have the expedited hearing?"

"Of course, ma'am," Bernard replied.

With that, we were shown out by the clerk. All told, the whole process took less than fifteen minutes.

Once outside the court, Bernard thanked Mark for coming down, stating that having two plaintiffs present in person made life a bit easier. He told Mark that he would phone him on Wednesday to update him on the result. With that, Mark left us, saying he had to get to Broadcasting House and that he wanted to get an early train back.

With minimal effort, I persuaded Bernard to go for a coffee in Daly's, just across from the courts. Bernard insisted that we got something to eat as he had missed lunch, so we did. I filled Bernard in on the details of the events of yesterday evening.

"I wondered why he was in Dunford by himself," Bernard stated after I had told him of the disagreement with Johnny. "You know that Joseph has a major crush on Johnny, don't you?"

"I had guessed," I informed him. "Do you know your mother is putting two million in trust for Johnny?"

"So that's what she wants to see me about this afternoon. I did not know, but I am not surprised."

"Why not?" I asked.

"For a start, she considers him as a much a grandson as her other grandchildren," Bernard informed me. "More importantly, it will really piss off Beryl Smith when she finds out about it."

"What has she got against my ex?"

"I'll tell you sometime when we have a couple of hours," Bernard replied. "But back to Joseph and Johnny. How are things?"

I told Bernard what I knew of the situation without actually saying they were sleeping together, but not indicating that they were not. In the end, Bernard stated that he only hoped they did not end up hurting each other. I told him that I think they both cared about the other.

Whilst we were talking I asked him about the Hartmann contract. It was my understanding that if one clause in a contract was deemed invalid the other cause still stood. Bernard smiled, then informed me that he had insisted on a totality clause in the contract. That meant that if it failed in any part it failed completely. So, Hartmann's were stuck. Either they accepted the clause as part of the contract, or they did not have a contract and were back with the standard law of agency. In that the representation could be terminated at any time by giving reasonable notice. One month was generally considered to be reasonable notice and I had given more than that.

Bernard had to get back to his office, and I had to get to Broadcasting House, so we finished our food and departed our separate ways.

I got to Broadcasting House a bit after three, booked in at reception, then waited around for Chris to come for me. It was not a long wait. After a short chat about what he was looking for, he took me to a small-kiosk type of room where he recorded about twenty minutes of me talking about tide mills. Actually, he asked a couple of questions, and I tried to give him an explanation of how they worked and how they could be used today.

After he had finished the recording, Chris played it back. He seemed quite happy with what he had got.

"We'll get a good ten minutes out of that," he informed me. "Just hope they go for it."

That was a sentiment I had to agree with.

Whilst we had been recording, I had my mobile switched off, but as soon as I left the building, I switched it back on. There was a voicemail waiting for me from Bernard. He wanted me to contact him as soon as possible. I called his office and got put through.

"What is it now?" I asked.

"Ian's trial," he informed me. "They have just set a date. It is a week on Wednesday."

"I thought you were looking at late September earliest," I stated.

"We were, but a major fraud prosecution that was due to go to trial next week has just collapsed. Ian's trial has got the slot," Bernard told me. "I think somebody has pulled some strings to get it into court."

"Why should they do that?" I asked.

"They probably think it will make it harder for the defence to get everything ready," Bernard replied.

"Will it?"

"No, but they don't know that."

It had just gone seven when I got back to the Priory. Anne had got a meal of Gala Pie and salad for dinner, not knowing what time I would get back. She asked if I wanted some oven chips with it, but I declined the offer. To be honest, I was not all that hungry.

As we sat down, I asked, "where are Joseph and Johnny?"

"I dropped Joseph off at the yard just after five," Anne informed me. "Steve's taking the boys out sailing. Said he would drop them off back here about nine."


"He's at the hospital," Anne replied. "Been there all day."

"Any news?"

"Arthur's a lot better, though in quite a bit of pain from his ribs," Anne informed me. "I popped in to see him just after lunch, before I went shopping. He was due to see the consultant late this afternoon; have not heard anything."

"When is the Chief Inspector coming?" I asked.

"I told him not before eight-thirty; was not sure what time you would be home?" she replied. "How did things go?"

"We got the injunction and an order for an expedited hearing," I replied. "Bumped into Aunt Sarah, and she surprised me."

"Aunt Sarah surprises everybody," Anne replied. "I remember the first weekend we went down to Bernard's and she was there."

I remembered. Debora had placed us in two adjoining guest rooms. Aunt Sarah had turned up and asked her why the hell she was making work for herself as it was clear we would be sharing a bed.

"So, what has she done now?" Anne continued.

"Given Johnny two million."

Anne was silent. She took a drink from her mug of tea. Then she looked at me and took another drink.

"She's what?"

"Aunt Sarah has put, or at least is in the process of putting, two million in trust for Johnny," I stated.

"Oh, that's a relief," she responded. "For a moment, I thought she was just handing it over to him."

"Don't you think it is a bit overindulgent of her to give him that much?" I asked.

"Not really, and I suspect it has more to do with upsetting your ex than benefitting Johnny."

"What is it," I enquired, "about my ex-wife and Aunt Sarah?"

"You don't know?" Anne asked.

"No. If I did, I would not be asking."

"You need to speak to Bernard about it," Anne informed me.

"Did you speak to Bernard?"

"No, Aunt Sarah told me when we were up at Manston," she informed me. "However, it is really Bernard's story, so he can tell you."

Once again, I felt as if something was going on that I did not know about and which I should know about.

We had finished dinner and were clearing up when Trevor's car pulled into the yard. I called out to him to come up. When he did, he looked exhausted.

"Did you get any sleep last night?" I asked.

"Not much," he replied.

"How's Arthur?" I asked. Before I could get an answer from him, Anne had told him to sit at the breakfast bar, pushed a mug of coffee in front of him and told him she would have something for him to eat shortly. I noticed she had pulled a box of microwavable fries out of the freezer. It was something of a surprise to know we even had them in the freezer.

Trevor said he was not really hungry. Anne asked what he had eaten today, and he said a burger and a couple of packets of crisps. Upon which, he was instructed that he needed a real meal and it would be there shortly. With that, she set about preparing some food for him.

Trevor turned his attention back to me. "He's a lot better. They are letting him out on Monday provided there are no complications over the weekend."

"That's good," I stated.

"Yes, but I have to be back at the studio on Monday," Trevor stated. "Maybe I should pull out of the film; they have only shot one scene with me in it so far; they could easily reshoot that."

"Don't be stupid," I told him. "You need to stay in the film. It's the perfect part for you; it was written for you."

"What?" Trevor asked.

"The author of the book had you in mind when he wrote the part," I told him.

"But I can't leave Arthur; he'll need me."

"First, Trevor, Arthur will not need you," I told him. "Arrangements have been made for him to have nursing care. Second, you won't be leaving him. Arthur is going to be cared for near the studio. I don't know the full details, but you will be able to stay with him when you are not filming."

Just then, the microwave pinged. Trevor looked at me and asked, "Really?"

"Yes, I think that is why Ben is on his way up this evening to sort things out with you."

"Oh, good," he replied. Anne placed a plate of Gala Pie, salad and fries in front of him. He seemed suddenly to have got his appetite back.

He had just finished eating when his phone rang; it turned out it was Ben calling. He was stuck in traffic on the M25. Now, there is a non-surprise. As a result, he would not arrive in Maldon till late and would go straight to his hotel. He told Trevor that he would see him first thing in the morning. Trevor passed his phone to me so I could speak to my brother.

"Whereabouts are you?" I enquired.

"Just past junction twenty on the M25," Ben informed me. "The traffic is not moving. Local news says there is a major crash on the M1 at the M25 junction."

"That sounds bad," I stated.

"Total snarl-up," Ben responded. "Don't think I will get to Maldon until early hours; have told the hotel to hold the room. I need to speak with Trevor in the morning; wanted to see him tonight but will be too late. Can you be around?"

"Yes. Problems?" I asked.

"Not really, but we need to get a few things organised," Ben told me. "Edith is taking care of most of it, but there is some stuff I need to get done."

"OK, I'll see you in the morning."

With that, I handed the phone back to Trevor. Anne looked at me.

"Ben's going to be here for breakfast in the morning," I informed her.

"Good, I need to speak with your brother."

Trevor said he needed to get over to the flat as he had to get the second bedroom cleaned and the bed made up ready for Maddie. I stated that I had thought she and Neal were coming back today.

"Slight change of plan," Anne informed me. "Maddie phoned me this morning. It's taking a bit longer than they thought to sort the camper van out. They will be coming up tomorrow. Maddie said if anything urgent came up, I was to phone her and she would come up to deal with it, but nothing has come up today."

Trevor left us to go over to the flat. I heard him open the door at the bottom of the stairs, then speak with somebody. That was followed by the sound of somebody coming up the stairs. The Chief Inspector had arrived.

"Mr. Spade told me to come on up," he announced as he stood in the kitchenette door.

"That's fine, Chief Inspector," Anne stated. "Saves me coming down to open the door. Tea or coffee?"

"Tea, please," the Chief Inspector stated. "I just called round to fill you and Mr. Carlton in on what is going on. This, though, is totally off the record, so I would appreciate it if you would keep it under your hats."

We both gave him our assurances that we would.

"The two lads who assaulted Joseph have been charged with attempted theft, assault and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice," the Chief Inspector stated. "They are both over eighteen, so will appear in the local magistrates in the morning."

I commented that the conspiracy charge seemed a bit questionable.

"It probably is," the Chief Inspector agreed. "We do, though, have three witnesses who will testify that they heard one of the lads tell Joseph that they had a message for him and his friends. That's enough for us to add the charge for the time being. It gives us an excellent excuse to oppose bail.

"Doubt it will stand up to a full trial, but we don't need it to. The idea is to keep these two in custody for a couple of weeks. Ian Jenkins' case is going to be heard then."

"I know," I stated. "Bernard LeBrun told me this afternoon. The trial is a week on Wednesday."

"Well, that's more than I knew. All I knew was the prosecution were pressing for an early trial, and the defence agreed."

"What I can't understand is why." I said.

"Look, we have a lot of circumstantial evidence of something very nasty going on around here with Brother Peter at the centre of it. The thing is, it is all very circumstantial. Not enough for us to get the warrants we need to do what we want to do. However, at Ian Jenkins' trial, a couple of key players will be perjuring themselves.

"The fact that two will be perjuring themselves amounts to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Now, that is a grave offence. The moment that happens, we can get all the warrants we need. However, I need to warn you; I think things could get very nasty towards the end. There are a lot of people who have a lot to lose."

We talked a bit more about things. The Chief Inspector assured me that he had been down to Richmond in person and checked out the Mrs. Miniver.

"Look, Mr. Carlton, don't worry about those two boys down on the boat. With Edith Jenkins' lot protecting them, they are probably safer than the Queen is in Windsor," he informed me. "I am more concerned about the two boys you have up here."

"Should I send them away?" I asked, thinking that Ben could run them up to Manston.

"I would prefer it if you didn't," the Chief Inspector said. "It might give those that we're interested in a hint that we are interested in them."

"Don't you think they are aware of that already?" I asked.

"Oh, they know we are sniffing around. The thing is, they don't know what we are sniffing around about, and I am putting enough rubbish information out that they are fairly certain that we are not looking at them."

"What do they think you're looking for?" I asked.

"A gang of computer hackers," the Chief Inspector informed me.

"Is there much of that going on around here?" I enquired.

"With Edith Jenkins in the area I would suspect quite a lot," the Chief Inspector stated. "However, I make it my business not to enquire too closely into that lady's affairs." He smiled. "It does, though, give us a good excuse to be looking into the attack on Arthur Lee; he is in the IT business. The word we have allowed to drift out, at least in the local force, is that Arthur had stumbled across something and reported it to the data-protection people, who brought us in. The Commander has also hinted that it involves the Yanks and that listening station they have across the river. That is likely to stop too many awkward questions for the time being."

We chatted for a few minutes more, but the Chief Inspector did not add much, then I showed him out. Just as he was leaving, Steve pulled into the yard with the boys. I had a brief chat with Steve, who said he had to pick Peter and the kids up, so he could not stay. He did, though, say that he would pick Johnny and Joseph up early in the morning. Apparently, Anne had spoken to him and told him that she did not want the boys cycling to the yard alone until things were sorted out about the attack on Arthur.

When I got back up to the apartment, I asked Anne about this. It seems she had spoken to both Steve and Matt about it. Steve was going to pick Johnny up on his way in for the next week; the following week college started. Matt was going to do the same with Joseph.

Ben arrived earlier than I had expected. I had only just made my morning mug of tea. Anne was still in bed, so I had not put the coffee on yet. As a result, Ben had to have tea.

"You're early," I stated.

"Need to be," Ben replied. "Phil phoned, he needs me back at the studio for two. One of the starlets had a row with her boyfriend and now has a black eye and a swollen lip. That means we are not shooting the scene we had planned for this afternoon; instead, he wants to shoot the fight scene. For that, he needs the fight director, which is me."

"Talking about fights, you did not tell me you were teaching Joseph."

"Don't think he wanted anyone to know," Ben replied. "He told his parents he was coming down for the gymnastics. How did you find out?" I told him about Thursday.

"Shit!" Ben exclaimed. "I hope he did not do too much damage."

"Don't think so, though he put three people on the floor." I spent the next ten minutes giving Ben the details of the fight, or as much as I knew of it.

"Where is he?" Ben asked.

"He's helping out at the yard this morning. Steve picked him and Johnny up about six-thirty."

"Right," he stated. "Would have liked to have had a word with Joseph. Lads can often end up having guilt trips about using their skills when they use them for real. Strange, the girls never seem to have that problem. Don't have time, though. Need to sort things out with Trevor and then get off."

"Are you going over to the flat or should I call him to come here?" I asked.

"Probably best if I go over," Ben stated. "I'll pop back in before I set off. I need to sort a few things out with you." With that, he finished his tea and left to cross the yard to the flat. I wondered if Trevor was even up.

I heard the shower going, so I knew Anne had got up; I put the coffee on, then went down to the house to pick up the mail. That is one good thing about Saturdays: the mail is early. I was sitting at the breakfast bar sorting it when Anne came through and gave me a mumbled good morning as she poured herself a mug of coffee. One thing I have learnt is not to try to have a conversation with her before she had her first coffee.

"Anything interesting?" she asked as I finished sorting the mail.

"That depends if you are interested in whole-life insurance or you are Johnny," I stated.


"Yes," I replied, holding up a redirected envelope. "I think his results have come."

"Oh. How's he done?" Anne asked.

"I don't know," I replied.

"Haven't you looked?"

"No, I haven't. It's addressed to Johnny; I'm not opening it."

"You'd better call him and let him know they have come," she replied.

I did. He asked me to open it and read them out to him.

"Art B," I started, reading the list of grades over the phone to him. "Computer Studies B; Designs Technology A; English A*; English Lit B; French A; Law A*; General Science A*; Maths A*; Physics A*; History C; Ancient History A; Geography B; Social Studies B. Johnny, what went wrong with History?"

"The teacher was boring," he replied.

"I suppose your Ancient History teacher was entertaining," I stated.

"No, same bloody teacher," he replied. "I did, though, read Mary Renault. Now, she is entertaining."

"And you've got an A-star in Law," I pointed out.

"Yes, that was a mistake, I meant to fail, but it did not seem important after I moved in with you."

"Right," I told him. "We are going out to celebrate tomorrow; you can choose where. Your godfather will be up here, so he can pay."

"Celebrate?" he asked.

"Yes, you've got five A-stars and three As; that definitely deserves a celebration," I told him.

"OK," Johnny replied. "Must go, some customers have just come in."

"What are you celebrating," Ben asked as he walked back into the apartment.

"Johnny GCSE results, he's got five A-stars and three As," I told him.

"Good. Can't do anything this weekend as we are filming, but we have a break in shooting next weekend. They are building new sets. Why don't Phil and I take all of you out to a meal and a show to celebrate. Next Saturday?"

"You'll have to talk to Johnny about that; it is his last weekend before college, so he probably wants to do a full day at the yard."

"And it is his last weekend with Joseph before Joseph goes back to school," Anne pointed out.

"Johnny and Joseph?" Ben asked. I nodded. "Well, they'll make a good pair. Now I need to talk to you about Arthur and Trevor."

"What about them?" I asked.

"Well, it is clear they are very much a couple, and the last thing we need is Trevor upset. He is under enough strain as it is with all this business about Dean," Ben stated.

"I know that he was talking about dropping the film," I told Ben.

"Shit. I did not think he was at that point, though I am not surprised," Ben stated. "Well, I have checked out the Mrs. Miniver. It is only about twenty minutes from the studio the way Trevor drives. Just hope he does not get a ticket. It's an ideal place for him to stay during shooting and for Arthur to recuperate. Edith has sorted out some nursing cover.

"The thing is, we do not want people to know that Arthur is there. I've told Trevor all our plans, but we need your help, Mike."

"What do I have to do?" I asked.

"Arthur is due out on Monday. I would like you to pick him up from the hospital and bring him here. Edith will have transport here to pick him up and take him down to the Mrs. Miniver. As far as anybody else is concerned, Arthur is resting in his flat. OK?"

I assured him it was, though I pointed out I thought all this cloak-and-dagger stuff was a bit over the top.

"It probably is, Mike, but I think we would all prefer to be safe than sorry," Ben stated. "Anyway, I need to get off, need to get back to the studio."

With that, he left.

I made some breakfast for Anne and me and then went to get some writing done. Anne was off to pick up her sister, then they were going shopping in Chelmsford. I asked her to pick up some writeable DVDs for me.

Just before ten, Trevor came over and told me he was off to the hospital to visit Arthur. I asked how he was feeling about things?

"A lot better now, Mike," he replied. "Ben has explained everything to me. I will be able to see Arthur every day, even when I am filming."

I made a point of not mentioning the location work. Arthur would be recovered by then, and no doubt, keen on getting back to running his business.

Trevor left, and I got down to doing some serious writing. Just before twelve, I took a break to make some tea. I was just pouring myself a mug when the roar of a motorcycle sounded from outside. I looked out of the window and saw Maddie removing her helmet. Opening the window, I shouted down to her to come up to the apartment.

She came up about five minutes later.

"I was expecting you and your boyfriend yesterday," I stated, pouring her a mug of tea.

"That was the plan, but when we checked the systems, one of the units on the van was faulty," she informed me. "It was a bit of a job to get a replacement. Had to pull a lot of strings.

"Got the replacement installed this morning. Neal is bringing the van up; he should be about half an hour behind me."

I was surprised by her explanation. My impression had been that they had some sort of camper van. It was clear from what she had said that the van in question was something more than a camper van. Just over half an hour later the van arrived. It turned out to be a massive military-looking vehicle that took some manoeuvring to get it through the gate to the yard and then out through the rear entrance and round the back of the stable house. Once it was in position a somewhat-fraught-looking Neal got out of the cab.

"Next time," he told Maddie, "you can drive it."

"Sorry, Love," she stated. "My licence does not cover it."

"Then get qualified to drive it," Neal suggested.

"You must be joking," Maddie replied. "I'm not stupid enough to get put on the drivers' list for that thing." She indicated the camper van. Not that it was anything like a camper van.

Once Neal had finished with Maddie, he greeted me, then unlocked a panel in the side of the van and pulled out a controller and pressed a button on it. There was a whirring of electric machinery from within the van, and support jacks descended from all four corners and the centre of each side.

"Automatic self-levelling," Neal announced to nobody in particular. "Makes life a lot easier."

Within a couple of minutes, the whole van was raised up on the jacks, no doubt perfectly level. Neal pressed another button. What I had presumed was a raised roof area at the back of the van slid forward and an assembly of communication dishes and aerials rose above the van. Once they were in a vertical position, a telescope tower expanded upwards from the rear of the vehicle, raising the aerial array a good five metres above the van. Another press on the controller caused another section of roof to unfold, revealing an array of solar panels.

I looked at the whole assembly with some amazement. Neal noticed.

"Nice, isn't it," he stated. "Mobile command and control centre. It was built for some co-ordinated, emergency-services project in the North, but they ran out of budget, and the project was cancelled. Aunty picked it up for a song. Had to spend a bit remodelling the living space; the original was bunk beds sleeping twelve; now, it sleeps four in some comfort.

"Is there a power supply I can hook into?"

I told him there was and showed him the outside power point at the side of the Stable House.

"Thanks, Mr. Carlton," he said. "Saves me having to run the generator at night; gets a bit noisy if you are trying to kip."

Once he had got everything set in place, Neal gave me a tour of the van. It was compact but very well fitted out. At the front behind the cab was a small lounge area. The driver's and passengers' seats could be swivelled round to become part of the seating for this area. I noticed that the small sofa at the back of the area had seat belts, so could no doubt be used by passengers when the vehicle was in motion. Neal mentioned that it pulled out into a double bed if needed.

Behind the lounge area was a small kitchen area. I would not have wanted to prepare a meal in it, but it was adequate to heat something up. Next to that was a bedroom with a double bed in it, then the second bedroom with two bunk beds. Between the two bedrooms was a shower room with toilet. The end of the van was the communications room, which Neal showed me with some pride.

To me, it just appeared to be a jumble of screens, keyboards and printers, but Neal assured me it was all state of the art.

"A lot better than the junk that was originally in it," he said.

"What does it all do?" I asked.

"To be honest, Mr. Carlton, you probably don't want to know," Neal told me. "Though I can say it does provide us with very secure communications. Now, I need to lock into the Tante Edith."

He switched on a couple of monitors, one of which showed a map of the local area with the location of the van at its centre. Neal placed a pointer over the area of Dunford harbour and clicked on it. A line appeared on the screen from the centre position to the point clicked. A set of numbers appeared on the line. Neal tapped the numbers in on a keyboard. There was a whirring sound from above, followed by a series of beeps from one of the pieces of kit. Shortly after, a high-pitch whine came out of the same piece of equipment. Neal looked pleased.

"Right, we have narrow-beam communication with the Tante Edith," he informed me.

"Like the microwave communication between telecom towers?" I asked.

"Not like," Neal informed me. "It's exactly the same. Nah, that is not quite true. Our system is a bit more sophisticated than what they use. Low signal leakage and difficult to intercept unless you put an aerial directly into the beam, which would cause a detectable drop off in the strength of the carrier."

He then continued with quite a bit of technical information, which, to be honest, was of no interest to me. As soon as there was a break in the flow of information, I made my excuses and left. Though, I did tell Maddie and Neal that we would be eating at the Crooked Man that evening if they wanted to join us.

"That depends on what happens this afternoon," Maddie stated.

"What's happening this afternoon?" I asked.

"We're visiting Arthur at the hospital and want to run a couple of ideas past him," she said. "I also need to get some operational information off him. We might have to spend some time reconfiguring systems, depending on what Arthur tells us. If we don't, I think we will probably join you."

I left and returned to my writing. Got quite a bit done.

Johnny and Joseph were dropped off just gone five. They wanted to know what the thing poking its top over the roof of the stable house was. I informed them it was the communication aerials on Neal's camper van. They both went off for a look at it.

I gave the same explanation to Anne when she arrived back about twenty minutes later. However, she did not go off to look at it. Just sank down in a chair, complained her feet were killing her and told me to make her a mug of coffee. She also said to me that there was no way she was cooking tonight. I told her I had already reserved a table at the Crooked Man.

"Good," she replied. "We can go down there in the car."

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