Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 2

Mum was sitting at the kitchen table with a mug of coffee when I got back to the kitchen. She looked up as I entered.

"It's OK. I've been told," she said.

"Any more news?" I asked.

"Not so far as I know," Mum replied. "Flora, you heard anything?"

Grandma turned from the sink, where she was preparing veg. "Not more than what Ben told you, and that is what Johnny told me when I came back."

"I wonder how Bob and Susan are taking it?" Mum said.

"Who are Bob and Susan?" Grandma asked.

"Trevor's parents," I told her. "It's a wonder they are not here."

"They're on a cruise," Mum stated. "They knew Trevor would not be going home for Christmas, and their older boy was going to Germany to spend Christmas with his partner's family. So, they decided to go on a cruise."

"I thought they were divorcing," I commented.

"They are, but they are still friends," Mum replied. "Actually, last time I spoke to Susan, she said they've been getting on better since the split than they have for the last ten or so years. That's why they're going on the cruise together. Separate cabins but same cruise."

"Shit! They probably don't even know," I said. "I'd better find out if anybody has contacted them." Mum just nodded. I went through to the study to ask the uncles if they had let Trevor's parents know. There was no sign of Uncle Bernard, but Uncle Ben and Uncle Phil were there with Allen. I presumed Uncle Bernard was still on the phone to Aunt Ruth.

"Have either of you spoken to Trevor's parents?" I asked.

"I tried calling both of them, but it went straight to voicemail," Uncle Phil said. "I've left messages for them to call me."

"They're on a cruise."

"Fuck!" Uncle Ben exclaimed. "That's going to complicate matters. Any idea which line?" I shook my head, then commented that Mum might know. Uncle Ben told me to go and ask her.

I came back three minutes later with the answer. "She does not know, but she knows they sailed from Southampton on the 20th and were calling in at Bilbao, Casablanca, and were in Lanzarotta for Christmas day."

Allen pulled his phone out and started to do some searching. A few minutes later he announced that he had it. "The Silver Duchess, a Golden Crown Cruises liner. Sailed Southampton on the 20th, arrived Lanzarotta on the 24th. Departed Lanzarotta on the 26th for Casablanca; due back in Southampton the 30th, which is tomorrow. So, they are probably somewhere in the Bay of Biscay at the moment. Not an easy place to contact them."

"Contact who?" Uncle Bernard asked as he came back into the room.

"Trevor's parents; they are on a cruise, apparently," Allen stated.

"Yes, that would make them difficult to contact. Johnny, have you checked if your father has tried to contact them?"

I had not, but told Uncle Bernard that I would, then went to the kitchen to make the call. Dad told me he had tried to contact Bob but got voicemail, so he had left a message. I reminded him that Bob was on a cruise.

"Blast, I forgot that," Dad stated. He then went on to inform me that they were planning on coming home in about an hour. He also gave me an update on Trevor, which was basically no change. Apparently, according to James, that was a good sign.

Having updated Mum and Gran with the news, I went back to the study and imparted the information to the uncles and Allen.

I then spent the next half hour trying to contact Golden Crown Cruises to see if there was any way I could get a message to Trevor's parents. I could not find out if there is any way; it seems there is no way to get customer support at the cruise line on a Sunday.

Dad and James came back a bit over an hour after we had spoken. Arthur was not with them. I asked where he was.

"Sitting in the intensive-care waiting area," Dad replied. "They don't really like visitors in ICU but do let him in for a few minutes every hour. Told him we will go back at ten and pick him up. He needs to get some rest."

We chatted about how Trevor was doing, not that there was any change, but James assured us that no news was good news in cases like this. I mentioned to Dad that Maddie and Neal had both arrived.

"That's good," Dad said. "Arthur has given me a pile of notes for Neal. I'd better get over there and give them to him. "

"No, you don't," Mum stated. "Johnny, call them and tell them to get over here for dinner."

I did as I was instructed.

Uncle Bernard could not stay for dinner, though he did remind us that he and Aunty Debora would be coming back on Wednesday for New Year's. He also reminded Joseph that he had to go back with them on Thursday to get ready for his brother's wedding.

Maddie and Neal came over. Dad gave them the notes that Arthur had made. Neal looked through them briefly, then informed Dad that they were on top of everything.

Dinner itself was fairly quiet. Nobody seemed to want to talk much, though I did make a comment about contacting Golden Crown Cruises. Neal asked what the problem was, and I told him that I was trying to contact Trevor's parents. Maddie suggested I should email the boat.

"Really, can I do that?" I asked.

"Yes, most of the major cruise lines have satellite internet on their ships, and there is usually an email address for contacting a particular boat, though usually it is not published. All you need is to find it," Maddie replied.

"I think that might be the hard part," I commented.

"Who are they cruising with?" Neal asked.

"Golden Crown Cruises; they are on the Silver Duchess."

"Leave it with me, Johnny, I'll look into it."

"Thanks, Neal."

After dinner, Joseph and I helped Mum clear up, then we went up to our room. Neither of us was in the mood to play on the PlayStation, so we just sat and listened to some music.

"Do you think he'll be OK?" Joseph asked.

"I don't know. James said all the signs are good and they expect him to be out of the ICU tomorrow."

"I know that, Johnny, but will he be OK once he's awake?"

It took me some time to work out what Joseph was asking. He was thinking about Tim, a lad who came to the youth club. Apparently, he had been a high flyer at school and got top marks in all his GCSEs. Then there had been an accident and he had been in a coma. When he came out of it, he had the mental capacity of a nine-year old. It was something I did not want to think about.

I was saved from thinking about it by my phone ringing. It was Neal. He had an email address for the Silver Duchess. That information allowed me to send off an email, marked urgent. asking that Trevor's parents be asked to contact Dad as soon as possible. I included the landline and Dad's mobile number just in case they did not have it with them. Then I went downstairs to let Dad know what I had done. He was just about to go back to the hospital to pick up Arthur; I persuaded him to let Joseph and me go with him. I thought Arthur would need some support.

When we got to the hospital, Dad led the way up to the ICU waiting area. Arthur was still sitting there.

"Any news?" Dad asked.

"One of the nurses came and spoke to me a while ago. Said there was no change, that I might as well go and get some sleep as he will not be coming round until late morning at the earliest."

"Probably about right," Dad said. "Peter said they would probably keep him sedated for a bit. Come on, Arthur, we'd better get you home." He put his hand under Arthur's elbow and urged him out of the seat. Arthur rose reluctantly. It was as if he was accepting his fate but did not want to.

"Come on Arth'. Mum's made a bed up for you, and you look as if you need it," I told him, stepping to his side to guide him towards the lift. Joseph took the other side. Arthur progressed between us, allowing himself to be guided out of the hospital and into the car. Some thirty-odd minutes later we were back at the Priory.

Dad pulled up by the back door, which opened, and Grandma stepped out. Arthur climbed down from the front passenger seat, then turned and started to walk around the car towards the Stable House.

"No, you don't, Arthur," Grandma announced. "You'll not have eaten, I bet. There's a meal waiting for you; then there's a bed in the house; you'll nae be on your own tonight."

Before Arthur could take another step towards the Stable House, Dad had got out of the front and walked around the car to stand in front of Arthur, blocking off that route. Joseph got out of the car behind Arthur and put his hand on Arthur's arm, guiding him towards the kitchen. I jumped out of the rear passenger seat and joined my boyfriend to help him guide Arthur into the kitchen, where Mum and Grandma took over.

Before Arthur had time to think about things, Grandma had his coat off him, and he was seated at the table with a bowl of soup in front of him.

"Now get started on that while I sort you out some food," Grandma instructed. Arthur obeyed. I sent Neal a text to let him know that Arthur was at the house. Neal sent one back telling me to find out what Arthur wanted brought over. So, I did. About fifteen minutes later, Neal arrived with the stuff that Arthur wanted.

Arthur immediately started to question Neal about how the internet service was performing.

"'Ou don't want to 'no lad," Grandma stated. "Yur nowt talking business. That pair have come up to look after it for 'ou, so leave it. Now 'eres an 'ot chocolate for 'ou, and then it's off to bed with 'ou."

Arthur had more than enough sense to know that this was not the time to argue with Grandma. Then, when was? Grandma was a Stoke matriarch, and I had read Bennett and seen Lean's film of Hobson's Choice to know that there are certain types of women you do not argue with. At least, not when they are in the type of mood my grandmother was in.

Grandma was right. Arthur needed to get to bed; he was shattered. So, after Neal had assured him that everything was under control, I helped Arthur to the guest room that had been readied for him. Mum had decided against the room we had made up in the guest wing. Instead, she put him in the room next to mine, the room which was nominally Joseph's but which he never used. Once I was sure Arthur was ok with the room, I went back down to the kitchen to help clear up, not that there was much left to clear up. Grandma had things very much under control. So much so that she made some drinks for Joseph and me.

We were sitting at the table with our drinks and chatting with Dad when the phone rang. Dad went to answer it. It was soon clear that he was talking to Bob, Trevor's father. From what I could gather from what Dad was saying, the ship had received the email, and Bob was on the radio/telephone to Dad. As a result, they kept the call short. Dad just gave Bob the main facts and agreed that Bob could call him the moment that he had a mobile service, which would be early in the morning.

Uncle Ben came through to the kitchen, bringing back mugs as Dad finished the call.

"Bob?" Uncle Ben asked.

"Yes, he was on the radio/telephone, which is expensive, so I just gave him the facts. He's going to phone me as soon as they are in mobile range."

"Good. Do you know if he has his car down there."

"I don't think so, Ben." Dad paused for a moment. "No, he hasn't. I remember he told me that they were taking the train down to Southampton."

"Right. When you speak to him, tell him that we are sending a car to pick them up from Southampton and bring them up here. I'll sort it now. What time are they due to dock?"

"Don't know. I know it is early morning."

"No worries, Mike, I'm sure the car service can find out. I'd better go and book it. Anne, have you got room for them here, or do I need to book rooms in Maldon?"

"Probably best to get them somewhere in Maldon," Mum replied. "We are a bit full here at the moment. They will be closer to the hospital there."

Uncle Ben nodded, placed the mugs he was carrying in the dishwasher, then left. No doubt for either the library or the study.

Not long after, Joseph and I made our ways up to my room and my bed, and I was soon asleep in the arms of my boyfriend. Unfortunately, I had not long been asleep when I was awakened by Joseph shaking me.

"Wake up, Johnny," he instructed.

"Wha…what time is it?" I asked.

"Just gone one. Listen," Joseph instructed. So I did. There was a sound, one I could not quite make out.

"He's crying, Johnny; you'd better go and comfort him." I realised then what it was that I was listening to. Arthur sobbing in his room. The headboard of his bed was up against the wall between the two rooms. Our headboard rested against the same wall. No doubt the sound was travelling through the bed to the wall, from where we were picking it up.

I reached over to the chair by my side of the bed, getting hold of my dressing gown. I like to keep it handy, as both Joseph and I sleep naked, and if there is an emergency, I want something close at hand to put on.

"I'll be back as soon as I can," I told Joseph.

"No, you won't. You'll bloody well stay with him as long as he needs you, Johnny. I don't think he should be alone tonight, so I'll see you in the morning." With that, Joseph turned over in bed, clearly intent on getting back to sleep. I stood up, put on my dressing gown and slippers, then made my way to Arthur's room. Not wanting to disturb anyone, I knocked lightly on the door. There was a muffled sound from within, which I took as an instruction to enter. Whether it was or not, I did not care.

Fortunately, the room was laid out basically the same as mine, except it was the mirror image. Rather than the bed being to the left as you entered the room, it was to the right. Also, there was no en-suite with this room. The bathroom was next door.

The room was dark when I pushed the door open. There was a faint beam of moonlight falling across the prostrate form of Arthur lying in the bed. The form mumbled something which sounded like, 'Who's there?'.

"It's Johnny, Arthur. We could hear your crying. I came to see if you were OK," I said as I made my way across the room to the side of Arthur's bed.

"Sorry, I did not mean to wake you."

"You didn't wake me. You woke Joseph; he woke me."


"What's there to be sorry for?" I asked, sitting on the edge of the bed and putting a hand on Arthur's shoulder. In the faint light coming through a gap in the curtain, I could make out his face, he had been seriously crying. Even now, he kept holding back the occasional sob.

"What is it?" I enquired.

Arthur sobbed a couple of times. "I don't know why he wanted to leave me?" With that, he started to cry. I pulled him up into a hug.

"I don't think he wanted to leave you. In fact, I think he may have been looking for you."

"What do you mean?" he sobbed.

"I don't think he wanted to leave you; I think he just wanted things to stop. They had just got to be too much for him. Even then, his first thought was to run to you. He went to the Stable House. He probably expected you to be there, but you were out. I think he had forgotten that.

"Finding himself alone there, with all the pain of the disclosures about him, it was just too much."

"So, it was my fault," Arthur stated.

"No, it wasn't. It's that bloody paper's fault. They just would not leave him alone."

Something I had said had started Arthur off crying again. I climbed up onto the bed and lay next to him, hugging him.

"What's got you so upset?" I asked.

"I don't want to be alone. If Trevor dies, then I've got nobody. I knew he would leave me in the end, but I thought I would have longer before I was alone. I've got nobody."

"Fuck it, Arthur, you could not be more wrong. You'll always have somebody. There's me and Joseph. We care for you."

"But you're not family," Arthur stated through sobs.

"Family is what you make it," I replied. "You and Trevor are part of my and Joseph's family, and that is how we want it to stay.

"Now come on, let's see if we can get you to sleep." With that I pulled him tighter to me and kissed the top of his head.

Joseph once more woke me by shaking my shoulder. I looked up at him and saw he was fully dressed.

"Your father wants you in the kitchen," he whispered, clearly not wanting to wake Arthur.

"What time is it?"

"It's gone ten, Johnny, you need to get up."

"Shit! I was due at the yard at eight."

"It's OK; I phoned Steve and let him know. He fully understands. Said take a few days off; they are not open this time of year, so all you're doing is stock-taking and tidying up."

I extracted myself from Arthur, then went back to my room, where I quickly showered and dressed. Ten minutes later I was down in the kitchen.

"How's Arthur?" Dad asked as I entered.

"Sleeping," I replied. I looked at the coffee jug and realised it was nearly empty and looked as if it had been sitting on the hot plate for some time. I decided to make myself some fresh.

"What do you want to eat?" Dad asked.

"I'll just have some toast."

"You'll have more than that, lad," Grandma said, standing behind Dad. I had not realised she had been sitting on the sofa. At just under five foot, she was pretty well hidden when Dad was sat at the table. "Now, what do 'ou fancy? I can do you a bacon sarni or scrambled eggs on toast. Nothing too filling as lunch will only be a couple of hours."

I opted for the bacon sandwich then asked Dad if there had been any news.

"From the hospital. Trevor's out of intensive care. They have moved him to critical care. James spoke to Peter this morning, and they are looking at trying to bring him out of the coma this afternoon. Not much to do until then.

"However, there is this!" He placed a copy of the sister daily paper of the one that had broken the story yesterday. There was the headline: Spade's Porno Sex Secrets.

"They've named him," I observed.

"Yes, they have. Bernard's been on the phone; says it is clear defamation. The thing is they assume that Trevor's dead."

"I wonder why they should think that, Dad."

"That, my boy, is a very good question. They say that a gardener working here told them. I'm sorry, Johnny, but if Steven and Jim are going to spread gossip like this, then I can't let them have the walled garden. I'll let Steven —"

"Dad, you can't do that; I told Jim what to say to the press."


"So, they would write that. They were being very careful in the article yesterday not to identify Trevor. As such, they might just get away with it. However, they were too eager to publish this, and they have identified Trevor. That is defamation."

"But why did you get Jim to say Trevor was dead?"

"He didn't say that. He told them that Trevor had topped himself. The thing is, they believed he was dead and published on that basis. There is a fundamental principle in English law that you cannot defame the dead. They thought they were safe and put their foot right in it. Bernard will have a field day with them."

Grandma put a plate of bacon sandwiches down in front of me. "Now get your face around those and stop your jabbering, the pair of you." I took a sandwich and started to eat, then looked around realising that Joseph was not in the room.

"He's gone up to Arthur, taken him a coffee. I don't think that boy should be on his own today," Grandma stated. I just nodded in agreement.

Dad looked at me, then back at the paper. "You know, Johnny, what you've just said complicates things. I am going to have to let Bernard know."


"Because, Johnny, not letting your lawyer know the full facts about something is sending him in to do battle with one arm tied behind his back. He can have his whole case cut from under him because of one unexpected fact."

I just nodded in acceptance. It was not that I disagreed with what Dad had said; it was just that I had not fully thought out what the consequences were of what I had asked Jim to do. I should have told him to leave by the back gate and not say anything to the press. Thinking about things now, I had made a mistake. It was too easy for the story to be traced back here, I should have found some other way to leak the news of Trevor's "death".

The one upside, though, was that they had taken the bait. By publishing the article, clearly naming Trevor, they had defamed him. Worse still from their point of view, they had connected Trevor with the article yesterday in their sister paper. In black and white, they had stated that the film star mentioned in the article yesterday was Trevor Spade. There was now no need for Uncle Bernard to prove that they meant Trevor Spade.

I was just about to say something to that effect to Dad when Joseph came into the kitchen followed by Arthur. The moment he entered the kitchen, Arthur asked Dad if there was any news. Dad basically told him the same as he had told me earlier but did add some more information. It seemed that whilst Trevor was still in a coma, it was now due more to medical intervention than any underlying physiological factor. He also explained to Arthur that the doctors had started to reduce the level of sedation and expected Trevor to regain consciousness sometime in the afternoon.

"I'd better get over to the hospital," Arthur stated.

"Not before you've eaten boy," Grandma announced, putting a plate of bacon sandwiches on the table together with a mug of tea and indicating to Arthur that he should sit down. Arthur knew better than take on Grandma in an argument.

"There is no use us getting there before one," Dad stated. "For a start, critical care is like intensive care; visiting is very limited. Also, Peter told James that they are taking him down to imaging for a series of scans, and he will not be back on the ward till about twelve; the wards are closed to visitors, anyway, between eleven-thirty and one-thirty to allow for meals to be served."

Arthur nodded in acknowledgement of the information.

"Anyway," Dad continued, "James is going into the hospital this afternoon, and he'll take you in. He can also take one of the boys to keep you company."

I was about to say something when Joseph pre-empted me. "We'll both go in with Arthur."

"Fine, but I think the police want a word with both of you before you go in," Dad stated.

I wondered why, then realised that the police would be investigating what happened. They had to be sure that Trevor hanged himself, that nobody helped him. There had been some police here yesterday, but I had not taken much notice of them.

Just then, as if by some arranged signal between my Dad and him, Martin came into the kitchen looking for me. I did not even know that Martin was here, though I should have guessed he would be at Marcia's over the weekend.

"Ah, Johnny, you're up. Good, you can talk to the police now. We're using the sitting room." With that I was led through to the sitting room, though I knew full well where the place was. There were two uniformed police officers in the room, a female sergeant and a younger male constable. For the next half hour or so I went over the events of the previous day.

After half an hour of me explaining events, the sergeant asked if I had any idea where Trevor got the rope. It took me a moment to think about it, then I remembered. It had been the blue and white climbing rope, the rope that had been taken from the drive train of the clock.

"Probably from the clock attic," I informed them. "It was the rope that Trevor and Arthur took off the clock when they were refurbishing it."

"Why wasn't it thrown away?" the constable asked.

"I don't know. Probably because it was the type of thing that was likely to be useful around here, and Arthur has a habit of hoarding anything he thinks might be useful."

After that, there were a couple more questions about the chain of events. Then they thanked me for my co-operation. Martin, who had been present throughout the questioning making notes, asked them who they would like to see next. They told him Arthur.

Martin followed me to the kitchen, where he asked Arthur to join him with the police in the sitting room. His interview was clearly a lot more in-depth than mine. It was just over an hour later that he came back to the kitchen looking decidedly upset. I was just about to say something when Dad beat me to it.

"Come on, Arthur, grab your coat, and I will get you over to the hospital. You boys, as well," he stated, looking at me and Joseph. Arthur seemed to be moving like an automaton.

Forty minutes later we were at the hospital. Dad must have phoned ahead because Peter met us as we entered the hospital and took us up to the critical-care unit. Personally, I did not see what the difference was, as it was the same waiting area as the intensive-care unit had. I mentioned this to Peter who informed me that the units were side by side on the same floor. This was because patients moved regularly between one and the other, and the same set of skills was needed in both units. The only difference was the level of nursing cover provided. In the intensive-care unit, a single nurse looked after one bed, whilst in critical care, a nurse would look after two or three beds. Peter told me that at times of high demand, some critical-care beds could become intensive-care beds.

Once he had explained this, he took Dad and Arthur off into a side room, no doubt to fill them in on Trevor's condition. I must say that when they came out, Arthur looked a bit happier. Dad and Arthur were then allowed in to see Trevor. It was, though, a short visit. Apparently, visits to critical care are limited as they tend to interfere with the routine of the staff, which is very busy.

When they came out, Dad informed us that the nurses were checking and cleaning Trevor and that we could go in to see him in about fifteen minutes. I said it was probably best if Arthur went back in.

As we were sitting in the waiting area, a middle-aged couple entered, looking around, a bit lost. At first, I did not recognise them, but then Dad got up and walked across to them. As he greeted them, I realised that they must be Trevor's parents. I had met them at Manston when Dad got engaged, and they were at his wedding.

After a few moments, Trevor's mother moved over towards where we were sitting. She looked at Joseph and me.

"I know you two," she stated, then turned to look at Arthur. "You must be Arthur."

Arthur nodded.

Susan stepped forward and opened her arms. "Come here, son."

Arthur stood, stepping into the embrace. For a moment there was silence, then Arthur started to cry. Susan held him; she was also crying. They stood for a couple of minutes, then Arthur stepped back.

"I'm sorry…" he started to say.

"Stop right there, son," Susan said. "You've got nothing to be sorry for. It's those men that used Eric and that bloody paper that need to be sorry, son, and don't worry, they will be. I'll set the Cows on them."

"The Cows?" I heard Dad ask Bob.

"The Lady Agents Benevolent Society," Bob replied. "A group of female agents set it up in the 1920s. It's official reason for existing is to provide help and assistance to female theatrical and literary agents who fall on hard times. Their unofficial reason is to run the London theatrical and literary scene. They meet for afternoon tea once a month either at the Ritz or the Savoy, where they plot. Noel Coward named them the Cows back in the 1930s and the name stuck."

A nurse came out and said two of us could go in to see Trevor. Bob suggested that Arthur and Susan should go in. They did.

Once they had gone, Bob turned to Dad and asked, "Who's behind this?"

"You think that there is somebody behind it, then?" Dad replied.

"Yes, there were details in those articles which weren't in the police reports nor were they in any of the prosecution paperwork for the trial of Mayer. I know, I read both sets of documents. This stuff could only have come from somebody who was involved."

When I thought about it, Bob was right. There was stuff in the article on Sunday which was not in the police reports or the case papers. I knew about the case papers because Trevor had shown me his copy of them. Neal had filled me in on what was in the police reports. I had the sense not to ask how he knew. There are always some questions you do not want answers to.

What I could not understand is why they would go after Trevor now that it was all over. Wasn't it?

Susan came out and sent Bob in.

"I've got Arthur talking to him. They say people in comas can hear what is being said around them," she said to nobody in particular.

"That's right," Peter announced as he walked into the waiting area. "I am just going in to do an examination; hopefully I should have some good news for you." With that he went through to the critical-care unit. A couple of minutes later Bob and Arthur came out.

"The doctor's examining him," Bob informed us.

"We know," Dad replied. "He told us before he went in."

About fifteen minutes later, Peter came out of critical care. He came over to speak to Dad and Arthur, inviting them into the consulting room. Dad informed him that it would be easier if he just told us all what the situation was as he would only have to repeat it and might get it wrong.

"Well, so far as we can see, everything is looking good. The scans this morning showed that the brain swelling was reducing and that there had been no further build-up of fluid around it. We stopped the administration of sedation a couple of hours ago, and the indications are that he is starting to come out of the induced coma. He is showing reaction to stimulation. With a bit of luck, I would expect him to wake up in a couple of hours. It might be sooner; it could be longer."

"Will he be alright when he wakes up?" Susan asked.

"That depends on what you mean by alright. Will he be alive? Yes. Will he be able to function like he did before? I don't know. Does he have psychiatric problems that have to be dealt with? Yes, he does. He tried to kill himself, and until we can sort out why and deal with it, there is always a chance he will try again. He is going to need professional help."

"So, what happens now?" Dad asked.

"If everything goes to plan, he should be conscious in about two hours. I'll get the consultant neurologist to check him then for any signs of brain damage. We have to expect that there will be some. Even if there is no long-term brain damage, there may will be short-term problems, like slurring of speech and coordination difficulties.

"Provided there are no unexpected developments, I will be looking at moving him to a normal ward sometime later today."

"Can we arrange a private ward for him?" Bob asked.

"Sorry, but we do not have any private wards in this hospital, and I do not think any of the nearby private hospitals have the facilities that Trevor needs." Both Bob and Susan looked worried with this information. Peter, though, carried on. "However, I do think putting Trevor Spade on a public ward might well cause some disruption to the hospital routine. I am, therefore, directing that he should be placed in a side ward."

"Thank you," Susan said.

"I'm not doing this for you or for Trevor. I'm doing this for the hospital. I know how disruptive having a known personality can be on a ward."

Having imparted that information, Peter left.

"He seems a nice chap," Bob stated.

"He is," I replied. "He's my boss's partner."

Arthur and Susan went back into the critical-care unit. Bob sat with Dad discussing something. I think it was Dad's book-signing tour because I heard him say he could not do New York until the third quarter at the earliest.

About twenty minutes later, both Arthur and Susan came out of the critical-care unit, and Susan suggested that Joseph and I go in for twenty minutes. We did. The nurse showed us where Trevor's bed was. He lay there, looking as if he was just asleep. There were wires coming from him to a monitor above his bed, which gave of a continuous beep. On the right-hand side of the bed there was a drip bag hanging from a stand with a tube going down to a needle stuck in his arm. Lower down on the same stand was another bag, which had a tube going down to the same needle.

We decided to sit on the opposite side of the bed to where the drip stand was. Both of us were worried we might catch or knock into something. The moment we sat down, Joseph started to talk to Trevor, telling him about what was planned for New Year's. I just took hold of Trevor's hand, which was lying at his side on top of the bedding. As Joseph kept speaking to Trevor, I kept hold of his hand, lightly rubbing the back of it with my thumb.

The movement was slight, the slightest tightening of Trevor's hand on mine, but it was there. I pressed the call button for the nurse. She came across to Trevor, standing at the far side of the bed. I told her that Trevor's hand had moved. She stood there for a moment doing some checks, then there was a low murmur from Trevor "Art..ur."

"He wants Arthur," Joseph said.

"I'll go and fetch him," I replied.

"I'm getting the doctor," the nurse stated.

I went out and told Arthur to go in, which he did. He had not gone in long when Peter came through the waiting area. He did not stop to talk to any of us, just went straight through to the ward. Almost immediately afterwards Joseph came out.

"Peter's examining him," Joseph informed us. "They're letting Arthur stay as Trevor keeps asking for him."

For the next half an hour, that is all the information we had. Then Peter came out. He told us that Trevor was conscious but still very drowsy.

"How is he?" Susan asked.

"To be honest, better than I had hoped for," Peter replied. "I will have to get a neurologist to check him out, but there is no sign of any major brain damage. There is some slurring of the speech, but it is relatively minor, and I am sure it will clear up, given time.

"Now, Mike, he's asking for you. Arthur offered to come out and get you, but Trevor is insistent that Arthur stay with him. He gets quite upset at any suggestion that Arthur should go anywhere."

Dad went through to critical care. Peter went off to whatever it was he had to do around the hospital. I phoned the house to give them the news. Uncle Ben answered.

"Where is everybody?" I asked. Knowing full well that Uncle Ben would not normally answer the phone.

"Well, your mum is still out shopping. Flora's gone down to the Crooked Man to chat with Mary. I think that pair is plotting something. Jack's gone off the walled garden to give the boys a hand."

"What about Lee?"

"Well, technically he does not start work till the first," Uncle Ben reminded me. "Anyway, Marcia has roped him into babysitting. At the moment, he's playing hoop with Tariq and JayDee."

It took me a moment to realise what Uncle Ben was talking about. Then I had to point out to him that we did not have a basketball hoop.

"You do now," he advised me. The tone of voice in which he imparted the information suggested that it was probably not wise to question where it had come from.

"Anyway, I do not think my favourite nephew has phoned to discuss the boys playing hoop. What's going on?"

"Uncle Ben, I'm your only nephew."

"I know, Johnny, therefore, you have to be my favourite. So, what gives?"

I filled him in on the latest news regarding Trevor. He thanked me for it and said he would let Uncles Phil and Bernard know. He then asked if Trevor's parents had arrived. I told him that they had. Uncle Ben then told me to give Trevor's parents his private mobile number. I had it in my phone so could pass it on to them.

I had not long been off the phone when James came into the waiting area. I was surprised to see him, but he informed me that Peter had called him and asked him to look at Trevor. Apparently, the earliest a consultant neurologist could look at him would be after New Year. James then went through into critical care. A couple of minutes later, Dad came out. He did not have any real news to tell us, just that Trevor was confused about what had happened and had wanted to hear it from Dad as Arthur had not been there.

A good twenty minutes later, James and Peter came out into the waiting area. I was surprised to see Peter because I had not seen him go into the ward. Then I realised that there must be more than one way onto the critical-care ward. I also realised that whilst James was quite capable of giving a second opinion on Trevor, there was no way he could give a medical direction. That would have to be done by a hospital consultant. In this case, Peter.

Peter informed us that there were signs that Trevor had suffered a minor stroke. He emphasised the fact that it was minor, but there was some facial drop on the right side of his face and some loss of strength in his left arm. That, combined with the slurring in his speech, suggested a minor stroke, though they could not be sure until the neurologist had looked at him and they have had another set of scans done. Both Peter and James emphasised that all the signs were that it was quite a minor event and, in all likelihood, Trevor would recover from it completely, given time.

"How long?" Bob asked.

"I can't say," Peter replied. "If we are lucky, this is a TIA and the symptoms will clear up within a few hours. Personally, I doubt it. I think this is a bit more than a TIA, and I suspect the symptoms are going to take longer to clear up. My guess would be a few weeks to a couple of months, worst case six months."

Bob nodded. I explained to Joseph that a TIA was a transient ischaemic attack, a type of mini stroke.

"What happens now?" Susan asked.

"We are going to keep him in critical care for the next six hours, but provided he keeps improving the way he is at the moment, we will move him into a side ward on the high-dependency unit this evening."

Dad thanked James for coming down to the hospital, then suggested to Susan that she might like to go in. He also told her and Bob that there was no point in us hanging around, that we might as well go back to the Priory. However, if there was any change or he was needed, they should call him immediately. Dad also said that somebody would be down around eight to pick Arthur up.

As we drove into the yard at the Priory, I noticed Lee in the process of dunking a ball into a basketball hoop that was affixed to the Stable House wall.

"Where did that come from?" I called out as I climbed out of the car.

Lee stopped his game with the boys and came across to speak with us.

"Your grandfather found it in one of the garden buildings," Lee informed me. "How's Trevor?"

Dad filled him in on the news. I noticed that Tariq and JayDee were paying attention to what was being said.

"Does that mean he will be coming home soon?" JayDee asked.

"Hopefully, yes," Dad replied.

Going into the kitchen I found Mum by the table with a number of bags on top of the table.

"Good; you're back. You two can give me a hand to unpack this lot and get it put away. I presume that husband of mine is with you,"

"He's in the yard, Mum, talking with Lee."

"Right, I hope he is not too long; we need to sort out what we are going to do for dinner."

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