Living with Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 28

I went to speak, but the figure in front of me signalled for silence. Just then, I heard the noise of something breaking. The uniformed figure in front of me indicated that I should follow him but stay behind. I did.

Coming around the corner of the building, I could see that the door at the top of the outside stairs had been forced open. A few seconds later, there was a scream, a very masculine scream, followed by something being propelled out of the door into the railing before it tumbled down the stairs.

"You can switch your torch on now, sir," the uniformed figure just in front of me said. I did. The light of a thousand lumens flooded the area in front of me, which took in the bottom of the stairs. A youngish man was lying there in a heap, moaning.

Neal and Maddie appeared at the top of the stairs; at the same time, about ten uniformed police officers emerged from the outbuildings and shrubbery. Neal came down the stairs and stood over the young man.

"Morning, Figgy," he said. "You're a bit off your patch."

"Oh, fuck," the figure on the ground said. "Sorry, Mister Thompson, I dan't know it was one of Aunty's plays."

"You do now, Figgy," Neal stated. "Don't think my aunt is going to be too happy with you; I think Sol is going to be even less happy."

"I gather you know him," a voice behind me that I recognised stated. I turned and made out the form of DCI Manley emerging from the darkness.

"Yes," Neal replied. "Dennis Finnegan, a small-time enforcer for Solomon Grundy."

"Ah, so we need to speak with Mister Grundy, do we?" the DCI commented.

"I don't think so," Neal stated. "Sol would never knowingly let any of his boys work something around here; he knows of Aunty's interest here. No, Figgy here is working solo, doing a bit on the side. Aren't you, Figgy?"

The figure on the ground nodded.

"Not a good idea, Figgy," Neal continued. "I am sure Sol is going to be very unhappy when he finds out."

Figgy looked up at Neal with sheer terror spread across his face. "Do you have to tell him, Mister Thompson. Look, I'll do anything I can to make it up to you, to put things right, but please don't tell Sol."

"Why shouldn't I?" Neal asked. "You attacked my fiancé."

"She's broke my bloody arm," Figgy stated.

"You're lucky she did not break your bloody neck as well," Neal stated. "I assure you she is quite capable of it." There was something about Neal's tone which would convince anyone he was entirely serious.

"Please, Mister Thompson, I dan't mean no harm."

Neal smiled. I remembered something about the smile of the crocodile. "Now, Figgy, why don't you go along with the DCI here and his men and tell them everything you know about this little operation? I'm sure the DCI will not ask too many questions; just make sure you answer them all truthfully — at least, about what you were doing here tonight."

One of the uniformed officers stepped forward. "Come along, lad. Can you stand?" Figgy, somehow got up on his feet, nursing his arm.

The uniformed officer turned to DCI Manley and informed him that he thought an ambulance might be needed.

"I think we can get him to the hospital quicker than it will take an ambulance to get here and back," Manley stated. "Get him into a car and take him to Romford."

"Romford, sir?" the officer asked.

"Yes, Romford. I don't want him held local." The uniformed officer nodded, and a couple of them helped Figgy to walk down the track that led to the rear of the property.

John Manley turned to face me. "Sorry, Mister Carlton, but we had to cut a hole in the back fence to your place. Couldn't risk any of the watchers seeing us arrive."

"How long have you been here?" I asked.

"Since just gone ten," the DCI replied. "Now, it's been a long night, and we have a lot of clearing up to do. How about we leave any explanations until tomorrow afternoon? I'll call by about four, is that OK?"

Although phrased as a question, it was clearly a statement. I just nodded. The detective chief inspector indicated that I might be better off getting some sleep, a suggestion that Neal confirmed would be a good idea. So, I left and made my way back to the apartment.

Anne woke me just gone half eight with a mug of tea and the information that she was going into the college to enrol and she was taking Johnny in with her. She also informed me that Matt had picked Joseph up but would be dropping him off just after one. For a moment, I was puzzled by the fact that she had not said anything about the events from early this morning, then realised she did not know about them. Anne had been fast asleep when I had climbed into bed.

I drank my tea, then got out of bed, showered, dressed, grabbed some toast for breakfast, and then made my way over to the Stable House. I entered by the centre door from the yard, under the clock tower, and made my way up to the first floor. The entrance to the flat was closed. I knocked on it. Neal's voice sounded out, telling me to come in.

"Wasn't sure you'd be up," I said, entering into the open-plan kitchen/lounge area.

"No problem," Maddie replied. "Made sure we got plenty of sleep yesterday afternoon and evening. Got a good three hours after the police left."

"So, you knew something was going to happen?" I asked.

"I wouldn't say knew, Mr. Carlton," Neal answered. "But we pretty much suspected that the idiots would try to get to Arthur. That's why we needed him out of the way. The thing was, we were not certain when they would try. That's where Mr. Manley helped."

"How?" I enquired.

"I'll leave him to explain the details, but we somewhat pushed their hand," Neal responded.

"But wasn't it risky?" I asked. "That chap could have had a gun, for all you knew."

"Not likely," Maddie replied. "They would not want anything to be clearly identifiable as murder; if they had, they would have used a gun before. No, they wanted an accident. The first one failed; this one was to succeed. Probably would have if Arthur had been here rather than me."

"So, you were waiting for them. What if there had been more than one?"

"We would have adapted our plans to fit the situation," Maddie replied. "Probably would have grabbed them at the bottom of the stairs, but that would have made things a bit more difficult from the proof-of-intent aspect. As it was, the fact that he forced his way in adds to the evidence against him.

"The moment we knew there was only one, we got the police to move back and allowed him to get in."

"How did you know?

"That, Mister Carlton, is simple," Neal stated. He picked up a remote control and switched on the television, then changed channels. The screen showed some sixteen smaller screens, each of which showed a view of the area around the Priory and the Stable House.

"The quality is not as good as it could be," Neal continued. "We had to use covert cameras. They are, though, all night-vision capable, so we had a clear view of what was happening. The girls told us he had dropped off his car at the Crooked Man carpark and started to walk up the road. From then on, it was just a matter of waiting for him.

"Piece of luck it turned out to be Figgy. I've been after him since Year Seven."

"I gathered you knew him," I stated.

"Yes, youngest of the Finnegan brothers. Was a couple of years ahead of me at school and a right bully. He made my life hell for nearly a year. Then his brothers talked to him, told him who I was and that Aunty was not happy. They are not going to be happy with this little episode; they are a couple of Sol's men and know better than to take on outside work."

"And who is Sol?" I enquired.

"Solomon Grundy," Neal stated. I looked at him, surprised. "Don't look at me like that; it is his name. At least it is his name now. Started out as Solomon Lieben... something or other, came to England in nineteen-forty-five as a refugee. Think he was thirteen or fourteen. Changed his name as soon as he was able to. He asked someone what went with Solomon and was told Grundy.

"Sol ran some the gay clubs when it was all underground. Now he runs escort services and sex shops. All above board."

"If it is all above board, why does he need Figgy and his brothers?" I enquired.

"Sometimes things need sorting out," Neal replied. "Anyway, one wants to deter takeovers. Especially in that line of business, not all takeovers are friendly."

Just then, Neal's phone rang. He answered it. "Yes, Aunty."

I decided it was probably better not to know what was being said, so I departed back to the apartment and set about doing some work.

My first job was to zip up all the chapters of my meteorological book and send it to Bob so that he could have a look at the first draft. No use putting more work into it if I was way off the mark of what he was looking for. Once I had emailed that to him, I had to go through my emails.

There was one from Chris at the Beeb giving me a list of dates and topics for planned programmes with a request that I indicate any I might be interested or willing to take part in. I spent a bit of time going through the list and then wrote back to him saying what I was interested in and what, though not having a specific interest, I would be prepared to take part in. From the look of things, I could get my train paid for into Town, spend a few hours in the British Library and then go in for the recording. End up in pocket all round. I get into London and do something I would have to do anyway, and the Beeb picks up the costs and pays me for an hour or so of my time.

Once I had got the emails out of the way, I got down to writing a couple of articles that had rather tight deadlines on them. Shortly after one, I got up from my desk to make myself some lunch and a mug of tea. I had just sat down at what passed in the kitchenette for a breakfast bar — a short stub of a shelf that stuck out from the wall at which one person could sit on each side — when Joseph came in. I told him to help himself if he wanted some lunch. He did, making himself a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich and grabbing a can of Pepsi from the fridge. He took the seat opposite me at the so-called breakfast bar.

"Good day?" I asked.

"Yes, Matt let me draw up an idea for a conservatory."

"Then why are you looking so miserable?" I enquired.

"It's my last morning in the office," Joseph stated. That threw me a bit. I had expected him to do the rest of the week, at least up to Thursday.

"How come?" I asked.

"Well, Matt's here in the morning doing a site inspection, then he is off to some conference. Anyway, I have to go back on Thursday, so I will be busy packing in the morning."

He finished his dinner and then informed me he was going to Johnny's room to play on the Xbox. I had not realised Johnny had one; I thought he had a PS2. When I mentioned this, Joseph told me that he had both, but some good games only run on one or the other. The game he wanted to play only ran on the Xbox.

My chat with Joseph got me thinking. Tomorrow was the last full day they would have together for a bit. I am sure it was going to be hard on both of them. That being the case, I thought I might as well give them something to remember. I phoned Steve at the yard. Once I had explained the situation, he had no problems with Johnny taking a few days off. I then called Debora and explained what I wanted to do.

She agreed and said she would get the necessary things couriered to me. That sorted, I went online and spent a bit more than I intended, then phoned Ben. I was pretty sure he would agree to my plans, but suddenly thought, if he did not, I was going to be in a hell of a mess. Would probably have to fork out a fortune to make things right.

Ben, surprisingly, answered. I had expected to get his voice mail. When I expressed surprise, he told me they had finished filming for the day as they had to get some sets rebuilt for the next lot of filming. I explained what I wanted.

"Great, no problem. I'll email Madame Sourier right away and tell her what to expect," he said. I thanked him and rang off. I then went to my bank account and transferred five hundred to Johnny's. It should be in his account by the time they got back.

I was right; it was in Johnny's account by the time he got back. He came running up the stairs to the apartment.

"Dad," he shouted. "What's going on? You've put five hundred in my account."

"Yes," I replied. I was pleased to see that Joseph had heard the commotion and come out of their room. It would save me going over things twice.

"Well, I want you to pack two bags, one with a couple days' clothes and stuff, the other with four days' supply," I told him. Anne came up the stair behind him and looked puzzled.

"Why, Dad?" he asked.

I ignored the question and turned to Joseph. "I want you to do the same, pack up a couple of days' clothes and stuff, then put all your other stuff in another bag to go home."

"Dad," Johnny yelled at me, "what's going on?"

"The two of you are going to Paris for a couple of days," I told him. "Your uncles are letting you use their apartment. You're on the late flight from London City to Paris. So, you'd better get a move on if you are going to be ready when the car comes for you, which will be in about forty minutes. The car will take your extra bags over to Joseph's after it has dropped you at the airport."

"I'm due in the yard in the morning," Johnny replied.

"I've spoken to Steve," I answered. "He does not expect you in till a week on Saturday."

"What?" Johnny asked.

"I think you heard me," I responded. "Your return tickets are for the first flight Friday morning, Debora will pick you up from City Airport, and you can stay with Joseph till Sunday or even Monday. When is your first class?"

"Monday afternoon," Johnny replied. "Three to six."

"Then I suggest you get the early train back on Monday. You should have enough spending money to save a bit for the ticket. I'll pick you up from Southminster and take you into college."

"But I do not have my passport," Joseph stated.

"I know," I responded. "Your mother has had it couriered to the information desk at London City Airport; it will be waiting for you to collect. Now, you'd better go off and pack while I print out all the paperwork you need. Johnny, your passport is in my filing cabinet."

Johnny came over and hugged me. "Thanks, Dad." He then went off to get his passport from my filing cabinet.

"Isn't this costing a bit?" he asked as he came back with his passport.

"Don't worry, your uncles are covering the car, it is the service they use for the film, so no doubt charged to production costs."

Anne looked at me, smiling. "Do you think it is a good idea to let those two loose in Paris?"

"Probably not, but I am sure Paris will survive," I responded. She laughed.

DCI Manley and the car to pick up the boys both arrived at the same time.

"Getting the boys out of the way?" Manley asked.

"Giving them a couple of days in Paris," I replied.

"On their own?" he asked. I nodded. "Is that safe?"

"Probably not, but I am sure Paris will survive; after all, it survived Hitler." Unlike Anne, the DCI did not seem to get the joke.

Once the boys were on their way, we went up to the apartment. Anne started to make tea and coffee. I phoned Maddie to tell her and Neal that the DCI was here. She said they would be over in a few minutes.

They timed their arrival just right. Anne had just finished making the coffee; the tea was still brewing. Shortly thereafter, she poured mugs of it out, then asked, "What is this about?"

"Well I wanted to update you on the outcome from this morning's incident," DCI Manley replied.

"What incident?" Anne responded.

I then took a good five minutes, giving her a brief description of the events of the early hours of this morning.

"And you did not bother to tell me!" she exclaimed with a degree of annoyance in her voice.

"Have hardly had time," I answered. "You were off first thing before I was up, and it has been hectic since you got back, getting the boys off."

"You've got a point there, but you should have woken me last night and told me," she informed me.

"Then you would have been complaining that I had woken you," I pointed out.

"Of course," she replied. "I'm your wife; it's my duty to be complaining."

"I'm not sure that was in the marriage vows."

"I got Bernard to slip it into the small print," she replied. "Seriously though, you could have told me. Is this why you've sent the boys to Paris?"

"No, not really," I said. Then I thought about it a bit more. "It might have influenced me, but really it was not the reason I gave them a couple of days in Paris. It was more so they could have some time to themselves."

"Good," Anne replied. "So, what has happened since this morning?"

"Well, we got Mr. Finnegan back to the station, which was after ten this morning; we had to take him to the hospital first." the DCI stated. He paused and looked at Maddie. "It seems, Miss Atkins, that you not only managed to break his arm, but you also dislocated his wrist and damaged quite a few muscles."

"What did you do?" Anne asked.

"Not much," Maddie responded.

"I am sure you could have done a lot more," the DCI commented. Anne looked puzzled. To be honest, I was also intrigued. The DCI, no doubt seeing the look on our faces, continued. "Miss Atkins is a highly trained exponent in several martial arts. Taekwondo, Aikido and Ju-Jitsu, I believe. If she cared to compete, she would probably be part of the British Taekwondo team."

Maddie just smiled.

"Anyway, when we got back to the police station, his lawyer was waiting for him," DCI Manley stated. He looked at Neal.

"I had to let Sol know one of his boys was in the nick," Neal stated. "Professional courtesy. Anyway, I thought it would be helpful."

"It was, surprisingly," the DCI stated. "Usually, once they have spoken to their lawyer, they clam up completely. Mister Finnegan, however, has been singing like a canary.

"Mister Finnegan has been doing quite a few little jobs in the last couple of years for one Peter Braylow."

"That's Peter Henderson," I commented.

"I know," the DCI replied. "It seems that Peter Braylow, our esteemed minister, is into some very questionable activities. A lot of little things are falling into place, and we are now getting a very full picture of the activities of Peter Henderson and his family members. A few things that did not make sense suddenly do."

"Like what?" I asked.

"Sorry, can't say," he responded. "Though no doubt your Miss Jenkins will have all the information quite soon."

"How?" I enquired.

"His top-flight London lawyer was making a lot of notes and took the second tape of the interview. I am sure that as we are sitting here, a certain gentleman in London is getting an extensive briefing, which no doubt he will pass on to Miss Jenkins."

"Doesn't that breach client confidentiality?" Anne asked.

"That," Maddie commented, "depends on who the client is." We looked at her.

"Well," she continued, "you are all assuming that Figgy is the client. What if the client is Sol? Did he actually say he was acting for Figgy?"

"Now you mention it, he did not," the DCI stated. "He asked Figgy if he minded if he stayed in the interview."

"I think, Chief Inspector, you will find that he delivered a message, then stayed to see that the instructions in the message were carried out," Neal stated. "He clearly asked for consent to stay in the interview and to record it. What's Figgy looking at?"

"He's probably turning Queen's evidence," the DCI stated. "No telling what he will be charged with, but it won't be much."

"How did you know that something would happen this morning?" I asked. "You must have known to have that many officers around the place."

"Oh," DCI Manley stated. "I set it up."

"You what?" I exclaimed.

"I set it up," the DCI repeated. "Made sure that certain parties knew that I would be interviewing Arthur today. Said that the doctors had not allowed me to interview him in hospital and today would be my first chance. Given that, they had to act last night; it was their only chance."

"Wasn't that risky?" Anne asked.

"Not really, as Arthur's true whereabouts remain unknown," DCI Manley stated.

"You mean you—" I started to ask.

"No, I don't know. I know he has been moved somewhere for safety, but where that is, I do not know. And before any of you think about it, I don't want to know. Arthur is a witness at risk. If I know where he is, I have to make a formal record of it in the information system. There is always a risk that somebody else in the service might access it. The Commander made it very clear to both Miss Jenkins and myself that I was not to know where Arthur was.

"I may have my suspicions based on certain things I heard mentioned or have seen. It may well be he is at some location that I know about, but I have not been told, so nothing is on record."

"But what about Maddie?" I said.

"Yes," the DCI replied. "That was a bit of a difficult issue. I discussed it at length with the Commander. Still, on balance, we decided that any injury any intruder suffered entering the premises occupied by Miss Atkins was totally their own fault."

Neal sniggered. I looked at him. "Well, she is about the most dangerous person I know," he stated. "And knowing the type of people my family knows, that's saying something."

"Well, they could have had a gun," I stated.

"If they had a gun, they would have drawn it before they entered the premises. I had armed officers ready to deal with that," John Manley stated.

Somehow, I got the feeling that DCI Manley, Neal and Maddie had set something up and somebody had walked right into it. I suspected that if I had not been working late that night, I would probably not even have known anything about it, a suspicion I voiced to the parties round the table. The look on their faces confirmed my thoughts.

"Well," Neal stated. "If you had not come out, there would have been no need for you to know."

"What about Arthur?" I asked. "Has he been informed there was another attempt on his life? I presume it was an attempt to kill him."

"It was," the DCI confirmed. "Though the idiot carrying out did not know that. He had been told he was to frame Arthur for drug dealing. Was to give Arthur a knockout dose and then leave packets of stuff around. An anonymous call to the police would then be made.

"The thing was that the syringe he had been given was loaded with heroin cut with Fentanyl. There was enough in that shot to have killed ten fit men."

"But has Arthur been informed?" I asked again.

"He's being informed," DCI Manley stated. "The Commander has arranged for Arthur to meet up with a liaison officer this afternoon."

"Doesn't that breach your lot not knowing where he is?" Neal asked.

"No," the DCI responded. "Miss Jenkins has arranged for the liaison officer and Arthur to meet at an agreed location."

"How long are we going have to keep this type of game up?" I asked.

"Not long, now," DCI Manley said. "Only another eight days, then it is Ian Jenkins' trial and a whole lot of trouble will start to descend on the Hendersons and their friends."

I recalled what Bernard had said a few days earlier about using perjury to go farther with a Henderson search warrant, but I had not informed Anne of all of this, so she was in a questioning mode.

"Can't you act before then?" Anne asked.

"Not really," John Manley replied. "The thing is, we have a fairly good idea about what is going on; we have quite a lot of circumstantial evidence. We do not have any hard evidence to link the main players in with things directly. Even Mr. Finnigan was recruited through a third party; he cannot directly tie in any of the main players. Until we get that, we do not have grounds for a search warrant, and until we search their premises, we can't get the hard evidence, even though we know it's there."

"So how does Ian's trial help?" Anne enquired.

"To get a conviction, at least two of the Henderson crowd are going to have to perjure themselves, and perjury is a serious offence in English law. Conspiracy to perjure, even more so. The moment they do that, we have grounds for the warrants and then can move in. I am fairly certain, thanks to the information we have received, that when we do, we will find what we need." Manley looked at Neal and Maddie as he made that last comment. I knew Bernard was involved, as well.

We spent a few more minutes discussing various issues, mostly around the security of the Stable House. Neal assured me that it was secure; he then went on to say that the whole of the Priory was safe. I looked at him, and he just stated that he would tell me later.

"How long are the boys away for?" Manley asked.

"Well, Johnny will be back on Sunday or Monday, Joseph will not be back for some time; he starts back at school on Friday," I responded. "They fly back early Friday morning; Johnny is staying in Town over the weekend."

"Probably a good thing," Manley commented. "Just hope they're OK with the lingo over there."

"Don't think that'll be a problem," Neal commented. "At least not for Johnny; he's fluent in French."

I wondered how Neal knew that, so asked.

"Oh, my cousins were talking about me. Johnny overheard them and told me."

"That does not mean he is fluent in French," the DCI commented.

"They were speaking in Gascon, which is a dialect of Occitan. Most French would have had difficulty following them, but Johnny didn't. It seems he spent most of his holidays in that part of France."

"How come your cousins speak Gascon?" Anne asked.

"My Great Uncle Frank parachuted in with a pile of explosives in May forty-four," Neal responded. "Broke his bloody ankle on landing. The Resistance hid him, and a French girl nursed him. He married her and stayed on over there."

"So, your uncle was a paratrooper?" Anne asked.

"Nah," Neal replied. "Safecracker. Was doing twelve in Parkhurst when the war broke out. Some prof from the London School of Economics got him out and had him blowing safes ahead of the German advance, stealing the industrial diamonds. After that, he stayed with SOE until he broke his bloody ankle. Ended up with the George Medal and the Légion d'Honneur."

"Must have been John Mitchell," DCI Manley commented.

"Who?" I asked.

"The chap who got Frank out of Parkhurst," Manley replied. "John Mitchell, taught at the LSE, died a few years back. My dad knew him; there were a lot of stories about him. He was part of a group that carried out sabotage during the German advance to deny them vital supplies. He also got several Jews out of Holland ahead of the Nazi invasion."

"He did," Neal confirmed. "Though we try to avoid talking about him."

"Why?" I asked.

"There are some things best kept secret. John Mitchell's activities are probably amongst them."

With that, the discussion came to an end. John Manley left, saying he was off back to the smoke for a few days, but would no doubt see us before the start of Ian's trial. Maddie and Neal went back to the Stable House. I did ask them if they wanted to join us at the Crooked Man for a meal, but they said they were going into Chelmsford.

I got a text from Johnny just after ten to tell me they had arrived and were settled in at Ben and Phil's apartment.

Anne had gone to bed early; I stayed up and worked on some writing, hoping that there would not be a repeat of last night's events. There was not. I managed to get a good four hours' writing done, then went to bed just after two-thirty in the morning.

I woke just gone nine to find a text from Johnny saying they had decided to skip Disneyland and spend some time in the city instead. Cannot say I blamed them. There was a note in the kitchen from Anne to say that she had gone over to her sister's but would be back late afternoon. I made myself a mug of tea and then went and started up my computer.

There was an email from Chris asking if I could do a ten-minute talk about the Large Hadron Collider. It seems they had recorded ten minutes from some professor, but nobody could make sense of what he had said. I emailed back saying I could, but asking when?

Having dealt with that and some other emails, I got on with my job: writing. Had been a bit remiss about it the last few weeks and had to get down to earning some money. Really had to try to do a few thousand words a day — if possible, ten thousand. I know it sounds a lot, but when you consider that a reasonable typist can type sixty words a minute, that is three-thousand-six hundred an hour, so ten thousand words should only take about three hours; it is not that much. The problem, of course, is that unlike a copy typist, you have to think about what you are actually writing, and you probably have to do some research. However, given there are eight hours in a working day, ten thousand words a day is not excessive. At least, that is what Bob had told me.

I had probably managed about five thousand words when Bob phoned me. It was nearly twelve, so a good time for a break.

"So, what did you think of it?" I asked.

"Think of what?" he replied.

"The meteorology book, I emailed it to you yesterday."

"Sorry, Mike, I've been out of the office and have not checked my emails since Monday night. Been in Frankfurt; only just got back. Roaming was not working on my phone, so been out of touch."

"What were you doing in Frankfurt; it's not the book fair this month."

"No, that's in a couple of months," Bob informed me. "Had to go over to see the organisers; needed to sort out a stand. Rather late notice, but I got one. I also managed to get some sales for you."


"Met up with Klaus Brinkerhoff," Bob said.

"Is he still going?" I asked. The head of the Berlin-based publishing company must be in his nineties by now.

"Not the old man," Bob stated. "His grandson; just been appointed managing director."

"I didn't know."

"Don't think anybody does," Bob said. "It's going to be announced officially at the book fair. He was appointed at the weekend, with the appointment to take effect from the first of November."

"I don't think his father is going to be very happy with that," I pointed out.

"It's fairly safe to assume that the father is well and truly out of things," Bob said. "Don't think the old man has forgiven him for that mess-up back in 2000."

"Do you know what happened then?" I asked. I knew Brinkerhoff's had nearly gone bust but did not know the details.

"Got a fairly good idea," Bob replied. "Will tell you sometime, but for now, I need to talk business."

"OK," I said. "What's on offer?"

"Fifty-thousand Euros for the German translation rights to your maths book. Klaus mentioned it, and I said you were doing a second edition, so he asked about the German rights. They'll sort out the translation. All they ask is that there are some specific chapters to cover stuff in the German curriculum that is not in ours."

"Like what?"

"Don't ask me," Bob said. "Klaus said he would have one of his people check the coverage and let me know what they need to be added. That's if they find anything."

"That's not a problem," I stated. "I was planning on expanding it, anyway, to cover some of the areas of maths that have become more important in recent years. So, what is the deal?"

"It's fifty thousand for the translation rights and sales up to fifty K. Over fifty-thousand sales, seven and a half percent of cover," Bob informed me.

"Sounds good," I stated.

"Good? It's excellent," he said. "You'd better take it."


"Because if you don't, you're an idiot," he advised me. "Anyway, it is only half what is on offer."

"What's the rest?"

"They would like you to write the text for a new art book that is coming out," Bob told me.

"Art!" I exclaimed. "Are you mad? I'm a technical writer, not an art expert."

"I know that, and they know it as well, which is why you are perfect for this project," Bob said.


"They are producing a book of De Vinci's scientific drawings," Bob stated. "They want an explanation of what is in the drawings and why they are important."

Now it made sense why they needed a technical writer.

"OK, what's the deal?"

"Twenty K advance, five-percent royalties," Bob informed me.

"Five percent is low," I stated.

"Well the royalties have to be shared with the art people and the French and German translators; the text will be in three languages."

"Tell them thirty in advance with ten percent. I'll provide the text in all three languages," I stated.

"You can do that?" Bob asked.

"Yes," I replied, somewhat annoyed. "I would not have offered if I could not."

German was not a problem for me. I would not say I was fluent in it for speaking, but when it came to reading and writing, I was good enough to write the type of stuff they were asking for. A lot of scientific material, especially in the fields of engineering, was published in German. I had studied it at school and kept my reading of German up through university, partly because my girlfriend at university had been German. My first job after leaving university had been translating German user manuals into English. German was no problem.

French, however, was a different question. I had basic French, enough to survive in Paris while on a trip over there and I could manage to read French. It was not fluent enough to write technical articles. Johnny, though, had fluent French, and I was confident I could come to some arrangement with him to translate my English descriptions into French. At least I hoped so; needed to check with him next time he contacted me.

"Right," Bob said. "I'll let Klaus know. We are meeting up a couple of days before the fair to sort some contractual stuff out, so plenty of time to do a bit of bargaining."

I told Bob about the work that was coming in from the Beeb. He advised me that I should get an agent and said he would send a couple of names via email. I was not sure that I needed another agent, but it did make some sense. An agent would have a far better idea than I did of current rates.

Having finished the chat with Bob, I made myself a couple of sandwiches and a mug of tea. Looking out of the kitchenette window, I noticed Matt's car was in the yard, so once I had consumed my lunch, I made my way down to speak with him. Just as I got to the yard, he came out of the kitchen door. I greeted him and asked how things were going.

"Well, you can be back in your kitchen on Friday," he told me. "Just finished the snagging list. Not much to do, but they need to replace the switches; the ones installed are not as specified. They can't get the new ones till the morning, so it will be the end of tomorrow before they can hand over."

"What about the rest of the place?" I enquired.

"Going well," Matt advised me. "Thought we would have to re-plaster most of the rooms once the wallpaper was off, but that is not the case. We only had to do two. Of course, we have had to re-plaster the walls we have moved, but it has not been as big a job as I expected. On the whole, we are a few days ahead of schedule."

"That's good to hear," I stated. "Will be glad to get back in the place."

"Well, you will probably be in sooner than you expected," Matt informed me.

"Why?" I asked.

"I'm bringing another team of workmen in next week," Matt told me. "They were supposed to be starting a project in Southmead on Monday, but there is a delay in the start date. It's going to be at least three weeks before they can start. I don't want them sitting around for three weeks doing nothing — too much chance they will go off and find work elsewhere, and I'll lose a good team. So, thought I would put them on this for a bit."

"No risk of the two teams getting in each other's way?"

"Not much. Greg is a good site manager; he'll keep an eye on the job. Anyway, I am splitting the work between the two wings. The new team will take over work on the guest wing. Can only keep them on-site for a couple of weeks, but they can get most of the prep work done in that time and leave the regular crew to do the finishing work."

"Is this going to impact on costs?" I asked.

"No, if anything, it should save you a bit," Matt responded. "Overall, it should cut down on the amount of overtime required."

I offered Matt a coffee, but he declined, saying that he needed to get over to Maldon before two. So, I left Matt and returned to my writing. Got quite a bit done before Anne got back from her sister's. She was pleased to hear the news about the kitchen.

"It'll be nice to have the room to cook something decent," was her comment when I told her we could use the kitchen from Friday onwards.

Anne had got some nice sea bass from the market. I stuffed them with rosemary and garlic, then baked them in foil, before serving them with a leaf salad and some sourdough bread. After dinner, Anne settled down with a textbook she needed to read before the start of her course; I got back to my writing.

Thursday was very much the same. Although this time, Anne had gone into Chelmsford to get some textbooks she needed, and I spent the day writing. That evening we had dinner at the Crooked Man and both got an early night, which was just as well.

Shortly after eight on Friday morning, the phone went. I answered it; it was Johnny.

"Dad," he said, "I've been arrested."

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