Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 3

Why Mum was so concerned about sorting out what we would be having for dinner I had no idea. She should have realised that Grandma would have that under control. Dad and Mum were discussing the options when Grandma walked in and informed them that they were to send somebody down to the Crooked Man at six-thirty to collect dinner. It will be steak-and-ale pie with chips and peas.

"Why order it from the Crooked Man?" asked Mum.

"Why not?" Grandma replied. "I'm sure we have all got too much on to bother about cooking dinner. I told Mary to charge it to Phillip's credit card."

"Does he know?" Mum asked.

"He'll know when he gets the bill," Grandma stated.

In that, Grandma was probably right. I saw a look of relief cross Mum's face.

"By the way, where are they?" Dad asked.

"No idea," I replied.

It did not take me long to find Uncles Ben and Phil ensconced in the library with Tyler. What did take some time was filling them in on developments.

"How is this going to affect the film?" I asked.

"It's not," Uncle Phil informed me. "It's in the can. Alright, it might cause a problem if there were any more post-sync takes to film, but there are not. At least, I hope there will be none. If there are, we will have to deal with them, but with the software we have these days, we should be able to get around it.

"What I am more worried about is Trevor's next film. We are on a fairly tight time frame for that."

"What's the time frame?" I enquired.

"Shooting was supposed to start end of July; maybe we could push it back into August but not sure I can take it further than that."

My uncles and Tyler got into a discussion about Trevor's next film. I left them to it. Dad was in the study, so I went in and told him where his brother and brother-in-law were.

"Bernard's just phoned," Dad informed me. "Thinks he's left his mobile here."

"He has," I stated. "It's on the bookshelf to your left."

Dad stood and looked on the bookshelf. Uncle Bernard had put his phone down, probably when he was discussing things with my other two uncles yesterday.

"You knew it was there?"

"Yes, saw it yesterday evening after Uncle Bernard left."

"You could have said something. I'd better arrange a courier to get it to him."

"I shouldn't bother. It is probably not a good idea for Uncle Bernard to use that phone for a bit."

"Why not?"

"Because it's been hacked."

Dad looked at me for a moment and then asked how I knew. I explained about Steve Webber's call yesterday which alerted us to the fact that the gutter press knew that Trevor had hanged himself. The thing was that the leak could not have come from the hospital as Trevor had been admitted under his real name, Eric Trevor Southern, and I doubted if anybody other than Peter had realised who the patient was. I was fairly certain that it had not come from here. However, Phil had phoned Bernard and left a message on Bernard's voicemail that Trevor had hanged himself. The only way the paper could have known was if they had listened to that voicemail.

"I'd better phone Bernard," Dad stated. I went to leave. "Sit down, I think Bernard will want to talk with you." So, I sat. Bernard did want to talk to me once he had finished talking to Dad.

I took me a good twenty minutes to explain to Uncle Bernard how I knew that his phone was hacked. In addition, I had to tell him about how I used Jim to give the reporter for the Sentinel incorrect information.

"What I don't understand is why they went ahead and published with just one source," Uncle Bernard said. "On something like this, editors and their lawyers usually insist on at least two sources."

"But they had two," I informed him. "Once I saw you had left your mobile here, I called you on it and left a voicemail."

"What did you say?"

"'He's not made it, but we are not letting anyone know until his parents get here.'"

Uncle Bernard laughed. "Just sufficiently open to misinterpretation to mean a number of things. Johnny, that is devious enough to have been your mother's work."

"Thank you, I guess. Though I'm surprised you use mother to compliment me."

"Johnny, I may have disliked your mother intensely, but what I never did was underestimate her. She was a very clever woman.

"Tell your dad that I will be over to see you tomorrow. Not sure about the wife; she may stay down here till Wednesday."

I passed the message on to Dad. Dad's response was to comment on the fact that he would have to feed Bernard and was not sure he could afford it.

It was about twenty minutes later when Bernard phoned me on my mobile. We spent about ten minutes going over an idea he had thought of. I put in my two-pennies worth. Uncle Bernard told me that I'd better discuss it with Joseph, but if Joseph was happy with the idea, then to go for it. I went looking for Joseph, whom I had not seen since he came to tell me that Dad wanted to see me.

In the end, I found Joseph apparently trying to inflict some serious harm on Lee using a seven-foot-long staff on the lawn by the Tithe Barn. Joseph was swinging the staff at Lee's head. In what was a surprisingly graceful move for such a large man, Lee flowed in towards Joseph, at the same time bringing his arm up and over the staff. He then began to turn, the staff trapped under his arm, his other hand coming up below the staff and taking hold of it just past the middle. Then Lee made a shrugging movement with the shoulder under which the staff was trapped. Joseph lost his balance and went flying. He landed with a backwards roll on the grass about six feet from where he had been. When he came out of the roll, he was standing facing Lee. Lee and Joseph bowed to each other, then Lee swung the staff at Joseph's head. This time Joseph moved similarly to how Lee had moved. Lee, though, did not go flying. Joseph did.

I laughed. Lee turned towards me, and Joseph looked at me, offended.

"It's not funny," Joseph stated. "Lee's been trying to teach me this move all afternoon and I just can't get it."

"That's because you're trying to force the move rather than guiding it," Lee said.

"What is the move?" I asked.

"It's part of the first bo dori kata," Lee informed me. "Probably the most difficult move in the whole kata. The move is a combination of kotegash and nikkio applied through the bo."

"Sorry, you've lost me," I said.

"Haven't you trained with your uncle?" Lee asked.

"I've only known him since March, and he's been busy filming most of that time. No, I haven't trained with him."

This information surprised Lee.

"Joseph, I've been speaking with your father; he asks you to phone him on the house phone."

"Which one?"

"Don't know," I replied, realising I had not asked Uncle Bernard if he was in Town or down in Kent."

"I'll call him on his mobile," Joseph said.

"No use doing that; he left it in the study," I told him.

He walked across to Lee and thanked him, asking if they could have another practice tomorrow. Lee said they could if the weather stayed fine and there were no jobs for him to do. I mentioned that he did not start work for Dad till the second, so he should not be doing jobs for him.

"Johnny, your dad's been good to me. He's given me a place to stay, and he is giving me a job. If there is something that needs doing and I can do it, I will, just to help him."

"OK, Lee, just don't let him or anybody else take advantage of you."

Joseph pulled on a coat, and we started to walk back to the house. He told me that he would phone Uncle Bernard on his mobile.

When we got to the house, I suggested to Joseph that he might like to use the land line from the sitting room. Nobody was using it at the moment, so he would have a bit of privacy. Joseph took my advice. I told him that I would be up in our room. He came up about fifteen minutes later.

"Do you think it will work?" he asked as he came into the room.

"Don't see why not. We know the bastards are listening into your father's voicemail. If they are stupid enough to misunderstand a message, that's their fault," I answered from my position, prone on the bed. Joseph came and lay down beside me.

"This is your idea, isn't it?"

I nodded. "How did you know?"

"Because it is too damned devious for Dad. He's a very clever lawyer, but he is not a devious lawyer." He turned towards me, raising himself up to look at me. "I hope it works." Then he kissed me.

About an hour later, the sounding of the tam-tam got us scrambling to get dressed, then rush downstairs. As we entered the kitchen, Mum gave me a look.

"What?" I asked. Grandma was snickering.

"You appear to have swapped jumpers since you came in from fetching Joseph," Dad informed me.

Why I blushed, I don't know. Mum and Dad knew we were having sex. There was no way they could not know. So, why was I blushing?

"Johnny, could you go with Lee to the Crooked Man to pick up dinner? Joseph, could you give me a hand setting the dining table?" Mum asked.

I confirmed I would, as did Joseph. Lee arrived a moment later, and Dad gave him the keys to the Santa Fe. We picked up three catering trays from Mary at the Crooked Man. When we got back, Mum and Grandma set about dishing up the meal in the kitchen. Joseph and I were assigned the task of taking the plates through to the dining room.

Uncles Ben and Phil were there, along with Tyler, Allen, Lee and my grandfather. I was somewhat surprised to see Neal and Maddie. Dad was busy sorting out drinks. He asked me if I wanted wine, beer or cider. Given what we were having for dinner, I opted for a Grolsch; Joseph went for cider.

Once everybody else was served, we took our own plates through, followed by Mum and Grandma. As they took their places at the table, Mum informed Allen that they had enough food to feed the security people after we had eaten. Allen said he would organise for them to come in, in pairs, so there would still be cover outside.

Dad asked Neal about the business. Neal informed him that everything was running OK. There had been a couple of support issues, but they had been able to deal with them over the phone. He also told us that the girls would be back on Friday.

"I thought they were off till Monday," Mum said.

"So did they," Neal replied. "I recalled them early."

"Is that allowed?" asked Dad.

"Yes, there is a clause in their contract which says they can be recalled from vacation without notice in an emergency. I class this as an emergency."

Dad just nodded, then got to talking with Lee about what he had been doing today. Lee mentioned that he had been teaching Joseph the bo dori kata. How that came up, I do not know. What I do know is that by the end of dinner, Dad had somehow agreed to let Lee set up a dojo in the other end of the Stable House for Ben. I knew they had been talking about it, but now it was agreed.

After dinner, Dad drove Joseph and me to the hospital to pick up Arthur. We got there just gone seven-twenty, so had time to visit Trevor before the end of visiting hours. He had been moved to a side ward on the High Dependency Unit. Susan and Bob were just coming out of the unit when we arrived.

"I was just about to phone you," Bob said to Dad.

"If you're after another book, forget it," Dad replied.

"No, I wanted to let you know we will be returning to London in the morning. There's a lot of stuff to sort out at the office before New Year. I was supposed to have been back there today.

"We've discussed it with Eric, and he understands the situation. So, we are going to check in on him in the morning before we get off back to Town. Will be back on Wednesday."

Dad thanked Bob for letting us know, then we went into the unit to find Trevor's side ward. I was finding it a bit strange that they called Trevor, Eric, but then that was his real name.

I must say Trevor looked a lot better than he had the last time I saw him. He was sitting up in bed, though still connected to a drip and a monitor. Arthur was at the side of the bed holding his hand. As we entered, Joseph pushed past me and went up to Trevor to give him a hug. Trevor went to say something, but Arthur shook his head and put his hand over Trevor's mouth.

"There is some damage to the throat and the vocal track," Arthur told us. "He's been told to rest it. So, he is."

Trevor picked up a pen and pad which was lying on his overbed table. He wrote one word on it. 'Sorry'.

"So you should be," Joseph informed him. "You should have seen the scene you created. My boyfriend was giving you mouth-to-mouth resuscitation; I was getting bloody jealous."

"Why?" Trevor wrote on the pad.

"Because he was kissing you and I wasn't," Joseph quipped, which caused Trevor to laugh. Something not recommended if you have a bad throat.

Trevor wrote on his pad asking Dad if it was alright for him to return to the Stable House flat when he was discharged?

"No, you won't," Dad stated. Both Trevor and Arthur looked worried. "Until you are fully fit, you'll stay in the house. Arthur is staying there anyway at the moment." A definite look of relief crossed Arthur's face.

Just after eight, one of the ward nurses came in and informed us that visiting hours were over and that they had to sort out Trevor's medication. We left with Arthur. As we were driving back, Joseph phoned his father and told him, "We've just left the hospital. You're right, he's brain dead."

Arthur looked at him concerned, and Dad asked what was going on. It took us most of the drive home to explain about Uncle Bernard's phone being hacked and that the Sentinel was no doubt listening to his voicemails.

On that we were right. The Sentinel's headline Tuesday morning was: Film Star Pronounced Brain Dead. An announcement which resulted in the Uncle's PR people quickly getting a press release out saying that Trevor was alive.

Uncles Ben and Phil went in to visit Trevor on Tuesday morning, taking Arthur with them. I went into the yard to give Steve a hand with the end-of-year stock check, leaving Joseph to work on his bo dori kata with Lee, though I doubted if they would get much done; there was a fine drizzle falling, and the grass was pretty wet.

In the end, it turned out that the pair of them did not get wet. They borrowed the keys for the middle barn and used that to practice in. Of course, they were not able to do any throws, but Lee was able to take Joseph through those katas which did not involve throws. Apparently, the moves without throws were the more important ones for Joseph's next grading.

"What grade are you?" I asked after he had finished telling me all this.

"Junior Brown Belt," Joseph replied. "Though now I've turned fifteen, I can apply to change that to a Senior Brown Belt. Once I've got that, I can try for first Dan."

"Fuck, you're dangerous," I commented.

"What about you with your savate?"

We spent half an hour discussing martial arts. I admitted to Joseph that I had done some judo at school. Joseph said that he and Lee had measured up the far end of the Stable House, and Lee was arranging for Ben to order some mats for it and to put in the required facilities. It occurred to me that once Lee had the space matted out, I might be able to use it to do some tumbling. I had been looking around for somewhere to do gymnastics but without too much success. The one place I found concentrated on under-elevens; basically, they ran it as an after-school activity where parents could have their kids looked after until they were free to pick them up after work. Another club turned out to be women-only. They did say they were looking for premises where they could have mixed-gender facilities, but at the moment that was not an option where they were based.

After quite a bit of discussion I agreed to join Joseph in training with Lee once the dojo was set up. Actually, I had been going to talk to Uncle Ben about getting some training but had not wanted to let on to Joseph, so this worked out well for me.

Shortly after three, Uncle Bernard's car pulled into the yard, followed by Uncle Ben's. The uncles came in through the back door and promptly seated themselves around the table. I was helping Grandma prep stuff for dinner. She looked at me and nodded. I took the hint and filled the kettle. Dad, who had clearly seen the cars enter the drive from his study, came through to the kitchen and took one look at the three of them sitting around the table.

"Bad?" Dad asked.

"Bloody right," Uncle Phil replied. "He wants to pack everything in and go into hiding."

"Well, he can afford to if he wants to," Uncle Bernard observed.

"But it would be such a bloody waste," Uncle Phil stated. "Trevor is one of the best actors of his generation. In fact, he is one of the best young actors since O'Toole, and I have no doubt he has the potential to be better than either O'Toole or Burton."

"So long as he can keep off the drink," Uncle Bernard commented.

"Phil, give the lad a chance," Uncle Ben said. "There is no way that he can work now. You heard what Peter said; it could be months before he fully recovers."

"If he fully recovers," Uncle Phil replied. "You heard what Peter said about him needing to put the effort in. The mood he is in at the moment, I doubt he will be prepared to."

"Can you blame him?" Uncle Bernard asked. My other uncles looked at him. "Well, think about it. He has been exposed as a child-porn star. The press are suggesting that the only reason he got the parts he did was because he was having sex with the directors. His relationship with his parents has broken down. What has he got left?"

"Arthur," Joseph answered. I had not realised he had come back into the kitchen.

"What?" Uncle Phil asked.

"He's got Arthur. Arthur loves him, and he loves Arthur. Arthur is the only thing that Trevor is sure about at the moment."

"Joseph's right," Dad stated. "The only important thing at the moment is making sure that Arthur is there for him."

"Why wouldn't he be?" Uncle Phil asked.

"Because Trevor is likely to try and push him away," Joseph said.

We all looked at Joseph. For the next ten minutes, Joseph carefully explained to us that Trevor was likely to feel that he had hurt Arthur and feel responsible for that. Then he would think about the attempted murder of Arthur, and he knew that was because the Hendersons had suspected that Arthur had gone to the police about the abuse by Brother Peter. That had been caused by the fact that one of their crowd had overheard me tell a youth-club meeting that a friend of mine had been abused. When I was asked if this had been reported, I had said yes. The thing was, I had been talking about Trevor, not about Arthur. However, Joseph pointed out that Trevor would probably blame himself for the attack on Arthur. Joseph said Trevor's thinking would be that if he had not allowed himself to be abused, then Arthur would not have gotten hurt.

Joseph also went on to point out that Trevor would probably think that if he had not allowed himself to be abused then there would have been no basis for the newspaper articles. So, it was his fault that he had been pushed over the edge and attempted to kill himself. That meant he had caused Arthur to be hurt again.

Trevor would think that he was always the cause of Arthur getting hurt. He would not want that because he loved Arthur. As a result, he was likely to try and push Arthur away just to keep from hurting him any more.

"Is that likely?" Uncle Phil asked, looking at his husband.

"As a piece of psychological analysis, I would say Joseph is spot on," Uncle Ben replied. He turned to Joseph. "Are you sure you want to be an architect? If you are able to think like that, you would make a damned fine psychologist."

"No thank you, Uncle Ben. Buildings are nice and easy to work out; people are complicated. I think I will stick to buildings. Anyway, the money is better."

"You've got that right, kid," Uncle Ben replied.

"It would kill Arthur if Trevor pushes him away," Dad commented.

I wondered why he said that; then I thought about it for a moment and realised that he was right. Arthur had told me last night that Trevor was all he had. We, that is Joseph and I, were here for him. I had no doubt that Neal and Maddie were here for him as well. That, though, was not the same. We were not Trevor, and Arthur's life, his whole being, revolved around Trevor. Not Trevor, the film star, but Trevor the teenager who had never been allowed to be the teenager he is.

I was about to make a comment when Grandma came into the kitchen and shooed everybody out, stating she had to start on dinner. She instructed me to go and find that husband of hers and tell him to get back inside.

It was a fairly certain bet that Granddad would be in the kitchen garden helping Steven and Jim, so I made my way there. Joseph came with me. When we got to the gardens, I was surprised to find that the greenhouse was lit up. Granddad, Steven and Jim were at the far end of the refurbished one doing something.

As we entered, Granddad turned and asked me to wang him the ball of string on the bench. I had no idea what he meant but guessed he wanted the ball of string, so picked it up and went to take it to him.

"Stop!" Granddad called. "We've only just laid them slabs, it'll be twenty-four hours before you can walk on them. Just wang it to me."

"What do you mean 'wang'?" I asked.

"Don't you ken what wang is?" Granddad asked.

"No, I don't."

"For that matter, I don't, either," Jim stated. Joseph just nodded his head in agreement. A motion copied by Steven.

"Surely you've heard of Welly Wanging?" Granddad asked.

"Yes," Jim said. "It's something they do down in the West Country, throwing wellies."

"Wang means to throw something," Granddad informed us.

"So, welly wanging means throwing wellies," Steven stated.

"Yes, but it means something more about the way it is thrown," Granddad said. "If you wang something, you throw, or hit it, with some vigour. This greenhouse is what, thirty feet. Just throwing the ball of string would not get it down to us, it needs some force behind it. So, Johnny, can you wang that ball of string down to us?"

I did my best overarm pitch. Granddad caught the ball of string. Then he handed it to Jim and told him he could sort out the tying in as he suspected we had been sent to collect him. Something I confirmed.

Granddad told us that he would meet us at that end of the glasshouse in a couple of minutes, then exited through a door in the back wall. In no time at all he reappeared behind us, having come in through the bottom garden door at the side of the glasshouse.

He walked back with me to the house. On the way I asked him if he had done any welly wanging.

"No, lad, I was into pitching."

"What's the difference?" I asked.

"Well, lad, in pitching 'ou 'ave to control yur throw and 'ou're working on shorter distances. Most pitching is done between eight and ten feet. I was champion 'orseshoe pitcher three years running at the mine.

"Now if 'ou want wanging, it's my Flora 'ou need to speak to. She be a champion pin wanger, and she ar'nt short as a pin pitcher, either."

"What's a pin?" Joseph asked.

"A rolling pin, 'ou dolt," Granddad replied. "W'at 'ou think it were, one of those pointed metal things?"

"And Gran used to throw them?" I asked.

"Not used to, still does. That wife of mine can hit the mark at a good chain's length." Granddad then went on to explain that the mark was a wooden ball that was put on top of a six-foot pole. The purpose of the competition was to pitch the rolling pin so that you hit the mark, knocking it off the pole. The winner was whoever could hit the mark from the farthest distance. He also explained that a chain was a unit of measurement. To be precise, eleven fathoms — that is twenty-two yards — being the distance between cricket wickets.

When we got to the kitchen, Grandma asked what had kept us. Granddad told her he had been educating us about wanging and the fact that she was a champion at it.

"Nowt done any since Dora got taken. None of the yungens are up to it these days," Grandma informed us. She then told us to get cleaned up and sorted out, as dinner would be forty minutes.

"Why so early, girl?" Granddad asked. Grandma informed him that Phil, Ben and Bernard were going to be in a conference call from seven and they needed to be fed before then.

Joseph and I made our way up to our room.

"What's going on?" Joseph asked.

"No idea, and we will probably not find out," I responded. Joseph just nodded.

Just after five, the tam-tam sounded and we went down to the kitchen to help serve dinner. Maddie and Neal had joined us for dinner, but there was no Tyler or James. Dad explained that James had taken Marcia and the kids into Town; he thought they had tickets for The Lion King.

After dinner, Dad and the uncles went off to the sitting room, saying they were expecting a visitor. I was helping Mum clean up the kitchen. Lee and Joseph were seated at the kitchen table talking about something to do with Aiki Jujitsu. So far as I could follow, Lee was explaining the difference between Ki Ju Ryu Aiki Jujitsu and Ki Ju Ryu Atemi Jutsu. I had just finished loading the dishwasher when the front doorbell rang. Lee said he would get it. He got up and went through to the hall. A few moments later I heard a voice I knew.

"Good evening, you must be Lee. I'm Miss Jenkins. Mr. LeBrun asked me to drop by."

Lee confirmed that he had been told to expect a visitor and showed her to the sitting room, then came back and sat down at the table looking a bit shaken.

"What's up?" Joseph asked.

"That was Miss Jenkins?" he said.

"Yes," Joseph confirmed.

"But she's…" Lee mumbled, then pulled himself together. "She is nothing like I expected; she's so—"

"Small, nondescript and ordinary," Uncle Ben said, coming into the kitchen.

"Yes," Lee agreed. "But she is—"

"Probably one of the richest women in the land, and certainly the most dangerous if you get on the wrong side of her, which it seems some people have.

"Now Johnny, could you sort out some drinks for us? Coffee for Bernard, Phil and me, and tea for your father and Miss Jenkins. That will, of course, be Earl Grey."

I nodded and set about sorting the order out. When I took the tray of drinks into the sitting room, there was a sudden pause in the conversation. I got a distinct impression that something was being planned that they did not want anyone to know about.

About five minutes after I got back to the kitchen, Neal came in. I told him they were in the sitting room. He went through to them. About five minutes later, Dad came out and asked Lee if he could pick Arthur up from the hospital. Lee agreed to, and Joseph and I said we would go down with him. It would give us a chance to visit Trevor.

Trevor was a lot better when we got to his side ward. He was sitting up in bed talking with Arthur, who had been there most of the day. When asked how he was, Trevor stated he felt somewhat washed out. The doctors had sent him down for scans and tests. He also stated he would be glad to get out of the place, if only so he could get a decent meal.

One thing I noticed was that Trevor was speaking better than yesterday and seemed to have got over the hoarseness he had yesterday, but there was a definite slurring of words. I mentioned this to James when I saw him later when we returned to the Priory. James was just getting out of his car as we pulled in. James informed me that it was a sign that Trevor had experienced a minor stroke, not a TIA; if it had been the latter all, symptoms would have been gone by now. James also informed me that Peter had asked him to go in again to give a second opinion on Trevor.

I expressed concern about how Trevor's voice problems would affect his acting.

"Shouldn't," James stated. "He will need some speech therapy and physio for his arm, but with a bit of work both should be back to normal in a couple of months. Just hope we can get him back to normal as fast."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Look, Johnny, Trevor's been depressed; he still is depressed. Unless we get that sorted out, there is a good chance he may try something similar again."

Thinking about it, I realised James was right. There always seemed to be some sense of sadness in Trevor, even when he seemed to be having fun. Almost as if he thought he did not deserve to have fun.

The following morning, I had to be up early to go into the yard. Steve had messaged me and said that I did not need to go in, but I knew he wanted to get the stock-take finished, and with two of us there, it would be easier. Joseph was off with Lee doing some more work on his katas. I would have gone over to the hospital with Arthur to visit Trevor. Arthur did not go. Trevor had a series of tests scheduled for the morning and had told Arthur not to go in till after one.

With two of us in the yard, it did not take long to finish the stock-taking. I could see with only one person, it would have taken more than twice as long. In fact, I do not think one person on his own would have finished it. As it was, we finished just before twelve, then Steve took me for a pub lunch. All morning I had the feeling that something was going on; Steve had not been his usual self. Normally if we were doing a job together, he would be chatting to me and telling me why things were done in the way they were being done. Over lunch he told me why.

"Johnny, I've got to be square with you and let you know what is going on," Steve said, just after we had placed our orders. "George Hamden had another stroke on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, he was not found until his daughter turned up on Christmas Day to collect him for dinner. By then, he was in a pretty bad way. The family did not let me know until last night when they phoned me up to discuss me buying the yard."

"That's a good thing, isn't it?" I asked.

"Not at the moment. I own thirty-five percent of it. Got ten percent when I agreed to run it for George, and I've been buying it off him at a price we agreed — five percent a year. Now the family want me to buy the remaining sixty-five percent of the shares at full market price. Otherwise, they intend to put the land up for sale."

"Just the land, not the yard?"

"Johnny, without me, the yard is nothing; there would be nothing to sell. All the new equipment in the yard is mine. I agreed with George when I took over that any new capital items would be purchased by me, and I would lease it to the yard. So, when I leave all that stuff leaves with me."

"So, the new boat lift is yours?"

"Yes, and the new winch; in fact, everything in the yard that is less than five-years old is mine, which is the reason for my current problem. They are asking £1.2 million for the shares that George owns. Last year I put just over a hundred grand into the yard in new equipment; I don't have any spare funds. I can't even raise what is needed to cover what I would have to put in for a business mortgage."

"I can," I stated. Steve looked at me surprised. "Look Steve, I've got a trust fund that has quite a lot of commercial investments. I am sure I can make a case for them to provide you with a business mortgage. How fast do they want a decision?"

"Like today," Steve replied.

"That's unreasonable. Tell them that you can't get a meeting with your financial people till next week. Come up to the Priory about four. I know Uncle Bernard will be there. We need to speak to him."

"Why do we need to speak to your uncle?"

"Because he is the trustee of my trust, so if I am going to get them to help you, I need to present a case to him. Make sure you bring all the paperwork with you when you come."

Steve just nodded but seemed to be a lot happier over the rest of our meal. At least, he did not look as if he had the weight of the world totally on his shoulders.

When Steve dropped me off at the Priory, Lee was in the yard playing with Tariq and JayDee. I was not sure what the game they were playing was called, but it appeared to involve a tennis racket, a ball and the basketball hoop. Lee called me over when I got out of Steve's Defender. He informed me that Dad had taken Arthur to the hospital and was not back yet. Granddad was up in the walled garden helping Steven and Jim. I asked about Bernard and Joseph.

"They've gone to Southminster to pick up Joseph's mum. Seems she's got car problems and is having to come up by train.

"Which reminds me, Ben, Phil and Tyler have gone into Town. Said they would be back about six."

"That only leaves Mum and Grandma," I stated.

"They're in the kitchen baking like mad."

"Shit!" I said. Lee looked at me perplexed. "I'd forgotten about tonight's party. I've asked my boss to call round about four."

"Don't think that will be a problem," Lee advised me. "It's not due to start till nine, so you have plenty of time before then."

I nodded, then made my way into the kitchen. My intention was to grab a can out of the fridge and then go up to my room to do some reading. Unfortunately, that did not happen. The moment I walked in through the back door, Mum pounced.

"Ah, Johnny, just the man we need. Can you run over to Tesco's for us? We need some extra supplies." With that she picked up a writing pad off the table and tore off the top sheet which she handed to me. "If you take your backpack, you should be able to manage that lot with your backpack and the top box." I looked at the list and sincerely doubted it, but I knew too well when not to argue. Mum gave me a couple of twenty-pound notes and told me to top up my tank at the Tesco petrol station.

It took me the better part of an hour to get to Tesco's to do the shopping, fill the moped and get back. When I did, I found a message waiting for me from Neal. He wanted to see me. I went over to the Stable House and found Neal in the server room, looking at a screen full of numbers.

"Good, you got my message, then," Neal said as I entered the server room.

"Yes, what did you want?"

Neal handed me a piece of paper with a message written on it to the effect that the files Uncle Bernard wanted could be downloaded from a specific web address. I looked at the message and then at Neal.

"What's this all about?" I asked.

"I need you to phone Bernard's mobile and leave that message," Neal responded.


"Because we want whoever is hacking Bernard's phone to download and open the files."

"And when they do?"

"They will get a pop-up informing them that the file is encrypted and that they need to supply a password. At the same time a rather interesting virus will insert itself into their operating system."

"Won't their anti-virus software stop that?" I asked.

"No, the anti-virus software needs to know either the pattern of the virus or the pattern of the loophole that the virus is attacking to detect it. This virus is a one-off that has been developed just for this usage, so its pattern is not known. Also, the loophole that it is attacking is not one that has been published. So, far as we know, it has not been identified by any of the anti-virus manufacturers."

"How certain are you of that?"

"Well, I spent most of this morning testing it against all the major anti-virus software, and none of them detected it."

I made the phone call and left the message on Bernard's voicemail. As I finished it, I had a thought.

"Neal, why didn't you make the phone call? You could have left the message."

"I could have, but I wanted the message to come from a number that was known to those hacking the phone. Would have preferred Joseph to have done it but couldn't find him."

"He's gone with this father to pick his mother up from the station."

"That explains why I could not find him."

I chatted with Neal a bit longer, then made my way back to the house.

Uncle Bernard's Jag was in the yard, so I knew he was back. When I got into the kitchen, I found Aunt Debora talking with Mum and Grandma. I asked where Joseph was. Mum informed me that he had gone with Lee to Matt's office to sort out the conversions for the dojo.

Having been given that information, I went looking for Uncle Bernard. I found him in the library looking through some papers. In response to my request for a chat, he put them down, then asked me what I wanted. I told him that I wanted to help Steve buy the Hamden yard, giving him as much of an explanation of the situation as I could. When I had finished, I mentioned that I had asked Steve to come at four so he could give Uncle Bernard the details. Uncle Bernard looked at the clock, it was ten to four.

"Well, it looks as if I have a meeting in ten minutes," he said. "Do you think your father will mind if we borrow his study?"

"Don't see why he should. Everybody else is using it these days."

Uncle Bernard laughed, then pulled out a smartphone and called a number.

"Hi, Martin, are you close by?" He listened to the reply, then stated, "I've got a meeting starting at four. As I think you might well end up dealing with the matter, I think you'd better join us." He nodded his head to the reply, then put his phone away. "Martin will be with us in about five minutes. He was at Marcia's."

I had met Martin a few times. He was often at Marcia's and frequently took Marcia and the children out. I knew that he had been Lee's solicitor when Lee was in prison. I also knew that he had joined Uncle Bernard's firm. Beyond that, I really did not know anything about him except that Dad seemed to have a high opinion about him.

Uncle Bernard mentioned that it might be good to sort out some refreshments if we were looking at a long meeting. Having given me that advice, he removed himself to Dad's study. I went to the kitchen to make some tea and coffee. Whilst there, I had to explain to Mum why I was making a pot of tea and one of coffee.

I had just got the coffee filtering and the tea brewing when the backdoor bell rang. Mum answered it. It was Martin. She told him to go through to the study where his slave master was. Martin laughed. I finished making the tea and coffee, put everything on a tray and started to take it to the study. Just then, the back doorbell went. Mum answered it and let Steve in, telling him to follow me.

I showed Steve the way to the study and introduced him to Uncle Bernard and Martin, though he knew Uncle Bernard, who was one of the yard's customers. Once I had provided the required refreshments to everyone, I gave Martin an overview of the situation, then got Steve to explain it in detail.

"You've been buying five percent a year from Mr. Hamden each year for the last five years?" Martin asked.

"Yes," Steve replied.

"How much have you been paying for the shares?" Martin inquired.

"Twenty-five thousand."

"Each year?"

"Yes, that was the agreed price."

"When did you agree on the price?" Uncle Bernard asked.

"When I took over the running of the yard," Steve said. "We agreed that I would take over the responsibility for running the yard and all further capital expenditure. In return, I got 10 shares valued at five grand each. I also had an option to purchase additional shares at the same price each year for up to ten years. I've used my annual bonus to buy shares each year. It is usually around the twenty-five to thirty-grand mark."

"What's your bonus based on?" Uncle Bernard inquired.

"Yard turnover. I get five percent of the annual turnover."

"So, the yard is turning over about half a million a year?" Martin asked.

"In total, we are turning over about half that again," Steve stated. Both Martin and Uncle Bernard looked at him puzzled. "The chandlery is not part of the yard, I purchased that off George when I took over the yard."

"Why was that?" Martin asked.

"A lot of the small yards were incorporated back in the 70s; George's was one," Steve responded. "However, a few yards quickly got into difficulties and went into liquidation. From what George said, they were in difficulties before they incorporated but went through with the incorporation so that the owners were not personally liable for the debts when they liquidated. As a result, a number of the suppliers refused to supply unless they got a personal guarantee. George got around this by making the chandlery a separate business — a sole trader that purchased from the suppliers and sold to the yard and customers. When I took over the yard, I took over the chandlery as well."

"Do you have the paperwork for that and for the agreement to buy the shares?" Uncle Bernard asked.

"Yes, it's all here." Steve pulled a couple of folders from his case, handing them to Uncle Bernard, who immediately passed them onto Martin with an instruction to look through them. He then spent the next half hour asking Steve detailed questions about the business and what the prospects were for it. Steve explained that as part of the deal with George, he had been responsible for any capital investment over the last five years and that all the new equipment purchased during that period had been purchased through the chandlery business, not the yard. As such, it all belonged to him.

"Found it!" Martin exclaimed. He looked up at Steve. "Who drew up this contract?"

"Some lawyer friend of Peter's; that's my partner. He knew the chap from university. Then Peter got his sister to look at it, she made some changes. Don't tell me it's a mess; it cost me two grand in legal fees."

"And two grand very well spent," Martin responded. "The shares may only be sold to you at five-thousand pounds or such lower price as may be agreed upon a revaluation of the business.

More importantly, you have the right to buy any shares that you wish to buy with immediate effect on the anniversary of the contract or any time in the subsequent twenty-eight days. After that you can purchase them by giving twenty-eight days' notice of intent."

"You own thirty-five percent at the moment," Uncle Bernard observed. "When is the anniversary?"

"Second of January," Martin replied.

"In that case, Steve, I suggest you do the following," Uncle Bernard said. "On Friday, inform the relevant parties that you wish to exercise your option and buy twenty shares. That will cost you one-hundred thousand."

"I don't have that," Steve interjected. "I might be able to manage thirty this year; with Peter's help, we can probably make it forty, but I can't go more than that."

Uncle Bernard smiled. "I know, but Johnny can fund it." I looked at Uncle Bernard, surprised. I thought there would be a lot more involved in getting money out of the trust. Surely, it would take some time to liquidate assets and get some cash funds put together.

I raised this point with Uncle Bernard. He just shook his head, then continued. "Johnny, any trust keeps some cash reserves handy for emergencies. Yours are just under fifty-five thousand at the moment. I will sub you what extra is needed until your insurance money comes through.

"Now Steve, here is the deal which we will put together. Johnny's trust will loan you the hundred K you need to buy the twenty percent. The loan will be repayable over five years at 7.45% per annum interest. However, the loan is conditional on you agreeing to merge the chandlery back with the main yard. That does include all of the recently acquired capital equipment which is currently in your name. The merger of the two businesses should be done after everything else has been settled."

"What else is there to settle?" Steve asked.

"As soon as you have the twenty shares, which will give you fifty-five percent and can stop them from selling the yard from under you, you will request an independent valuation. You will make it clear to the valuer that the chandlery and the equipment you own are not part of the yard and, as such, their capital and income values must be excluded from the valuation.

"I expect the valuation to come in well below the half-million that it was valued at five years ago."

"Why's that?" I asked.

"Unless you have not noticed, Johnny, there are problems with the banks. As a result, a lot of assets have lost value, especially land. I suspect the land on which the yard stands is worth about a third less than it was five years ago. Also given that all the capital renewal at the yard is Steve's, a lot of the assets of the yard, like the boat lift, will be excluded from the valuation.

"So, Steve, you will offer to buy the remaining forty-five shares off the family at a price based on the valuation or at five-thousand a share, whichever is the lesser. Johnny's trust will put up the money to buy those shares but as soon as they are transferred to you, you will transfer them to Johnny."

"But that means—" Steve started.

"It means that you will have the controlling interest in the Hamden yard, all fifty-five percent of it. However, Johnny, through his trust, will own forty-five percent of the yard, which includes the chandlery business."

"Why?" I asked.

"Because, Johnny, you want to build yachts, and to do that you need a yard to build them in." Uncle Bernard paused for a moment, thinking. Then he continued. "Steve, in the future, all capital equipment will have to be purchased through the company. I will also need an undertaking off you that if you ever think of selling your shares, Johnny will have the right to buy shares to the amount of ten percent of the shares in the yard at fifty-thousand pounds. He will also have first refusal on your other shares at whatever value is agreed between you. Is this agreeable to you?"

Steve agreed that it was and asked what had to be done.

"First, Martin is going to be busy drafting an agreement with respect to what we have discussed. It will be ready for you to sign on Friday morning. Shall we say Martin will meet you here at ten-thirty? Unfortunately, I have to be in Kent on Friday; otherwise, I would deal with it.

"As soon as you have signed the agreement, Martin will phone me, and I will arrange the transfer of one-hundred thousand to your account. Martin will, at the same time, send a formal notice on your behalf to the family that you are exercising your option to purchase twenty percent of the company. I strongly suspect they do not know the details of the agreement, so it will come as something of a shock to them. They probably do not know that the chandlery is a separate business.

"I have no doubt they will want to argue the point, but we will not let them, at least not for long. Is there anything else?"

Steve looked at me as if asking if I had any questions. I just shook my head. So, Steve said he did not have any questions.

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