Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 10

Mum got back to the Priory about an hour later. Turned out she had been right in her opinion; Steven had appendicitis. He had been prepared for theatre about fifteen minutes after arriving at the hospital. Jim was staying there until Steven was out of surgery.

It occurred to me to ask if Steven's aunt and uncle had been informed. Mum assured me that Jim had phoned them as they were following the ambulance to the hospital. Apparently, they were on their way in. They would be bringing Jim back to pick up his van later.

It was a lot later when they brought Jim back. I was just about to go to bed when I heard a car drive past the side of the house, but it did not pull into the yard. I guessed it must be Steven's aunt and uncle, so went out to find out how Steven was. Mum joined me.

The news was good. The operation had been done using keyhole surgery, and there had been no problems. Steven would be in hospital for a couple of days but should be able to come home on Wednesday. Jim told me that Steven's aunt had insisted that he go and stay with them until he was completely recovered.

"How's it going to affect his college work?" I asked.

"Should not be too much of a problem," Jim replied. "He won't be able to do any of the practical work for at least six weeks, but he knows most of that from his time in his parents' nursery. He'll miss this week, of course, but his aunt and uncle are insisting that I stay with them whilst Steven is there, so I can take copies of everything for him.

"The big problem is going to be looking after the glasshouse here. I'll have to come over every day after classes to check on things, then go back to look after Steven. Even then I will only just be on top of things, not going to be able to increase the growing stock."

Monday morning, I was a bit late getting into college due to Mum's morning sickness. As a result, I did not see Antonio in Marge's; I did not have time to go there before my first class. I did see Antonio at lunch time. He came into Marge's just after I got there and joined me at my table. We chatted for a bit whilst waiting for our order, and I asked him if he was interested in some part-time work?

"What sort of work?" Antonio enquired.

"Not sure of the details, but some of it will be translating from and to Spanish."

"Whereabouts is it?"

"It is at some offices in the Priory complex, just outside Dunford. You would need your own transport to get there, but I saw you getting out of a car you had just parked a couple of times last week, so presume that is not a problem."

"No, it's not. My father arranged for my uncle to get me one. I need to get an English licence soon. I am driving on an international licence, and I don't know how long I can continue to use that."

I gave Antonio the email address that Tyler had set up for the business and told him to email the business saying I had told him about the job. Antonio said he would. Before he could ask any more about it, our lunches arrived, which we both got busy consuming. Antonio did not have a class until two, but I had to be back for one, so was a bit tight on time.

When I got back into college, I spent the five minutes before the start of my class sending a text to Tyler letting him know that Antonio would be emailing the business email. I was not certain how often Tyler was checking it at the moment. Just as I was sending the text, Simone came in and took the seat next to me.

"Want a lift home when this class finishes?" she asked.

"If you don't mind; Mum's got a late class today so I would be hanging around till gone five. How come you're offering?"

"Meeting Lee. We're going to see Slumdog Millionaire."

"Let me know what it's like. Joseph was talking about us seeing it at the weekend."

The arrival of our tutor put an end to any further discussion. I did, though, manage to text Mum to let her know I had a lift home. When I got out of class, I checked my phone. There was a text from Mum.

Good. Can go to the late version of the class I missed, then.

On the way home Simone asked me what I knew about the dojo Lee was sorting out. There was not much I could tell her, except he was hoping that the mats would be there next week.

"I hope so. Need to get back into training," Simone said. "Would like to get my black belt at Easter."

"Why Easter?"

"Ben said he will put on a four-day course, Friday to Monday, with a grading on the Monday, providing he can find somewhere to hold it."

"I think that's been solved," I commented.

When we got to the turn for the Priory, Simone went straight on up to Sidings Lane, then turned left and drove up to the Green Farm entrance. Now I realised how she had got into the yard so often. She must drive down to the back gate where Lee must let her in.

"You need to get Lee to get you a code for the front gates," I said.

Simone laughed. She was just getting her phone out, no doubt to call Lee to come and open the gate. I told her not to bother; I pulled my keys out and pressed the remote control on my fob. It works for both gates.

"If you are going to be a regular visitor you need one of these," I said, holding up the fob.

I invited Simone to come into the house as I had no doubt that Lee would probably be with Dad. In that I was right. They were sitting at the kitchen table going over a pile of papers as we entered through the back door.

"You're back early," Dad said as I came in.

"Got a lift. Lee, there is somebody to see you," I announced.

Dad glanced up at the kitchen clock. "You'd better get off, Lee, it's already past the time we said you'd finish."

"But what about the timetable?" Lee asked.

"It will still be around tomorrow for us to work on," Dad commented as he started to gather up the papers. Lee got up from the table and went over to hug Simone, giving her a quick peck on the cheeks.

Dad was still sorting out the papers on the table when Lee and Simone left. Once they were outside the door, I commented to Dad that I thought there was something going on between them.

"I don't think so yet," Dad commented. "I suspect there will be fairly soon."

I made a pot of tea for Dad and a fresh pot of coffee for myself. As we had been driving in, I noticed Jim's van by the walled garden, so was fairly certain that he was probably working in the glasshouse. Once I had finished my coffee, I made a flask up for him and went down to the garden. I was right. Jim was busy potting on seedlings in the glasshouse. I went in and told him I had a flask of coffee for him.

"You're a lifesaver. Don't have the facilities here to make a drink yet."

"I bet you will soon get that sorted," I commented.

"Not till March at the earliest," Jim informed me.

"Why not?"

"We need to get this place on a separate metered water supply. It's part of the agreement with your dad that we do so. The water company cannot put us a separate meter in till the first week of March at the earliest. Until that is done, we can't do any new plumbing work."

I pointed out to Jim that there was a standing tap in the space between the two glasshouses and that they had electricity in this one, so they had water and power. What was to stop them making a drink.

"Besides the fact that we don't have a kettle, that tap has lead piping, so the water is not safe to drink. We need to replace all the piping both here in the garden and in the house; it's all old lead pipes."

"On a totally different point, Jim, any news on Steven?"

"I phoned him on his mobile this morning; he seemed a lot better. He said the nurses had got him out of bed and walking around. I'm going into see him when it gets too dark to work here."

We chatted a bit more as Jim continued to pot on the seedlings. I was, though, starting to feel decidedly chilly even in the glasshouse, so I extracted a promise from Jim to drop the flask off at the house when he was finished, then started back to some warmth.

Tyler was just negotiating his car through the turn into the yard when I got back. He lowered his driver's side window and called out that he wanted to speak to me. I told him to come to the kitchen when he had parked; it was too cold out there in the yard.

Tyler knocked on the back door about five minutes later. I let him in, saying it took some time to park the car.

"Had to unload it as well. Had some ice cream in the shopping and wanted to get it into the freezer. Just wanted to thank you for putting that Antonio guy in touch. Got his email with his CV. Seems he has already done some work in the film industry, so knows a bit about things."

"Really, he never said anything," I commented.

"Probably not. At his age he was probably a gofer. Not much to boast about." We chatted for a bit longer, then Tyler excused himself as he had arranged to go out for dinner with Trevor and Arthur.

"How is Trevor?" I asked, realising that I had not seen him for a few days. That was bad of me, I really should make a point of seeing both him and Arthur more regularly.

Tyler gave me a quick update. Then he told me he really had to get off as he needed to get ready for dinner.

Mum would be late getting home this evening, so I looked in the fridge to see what she had in mind for dinner, but it was nearly empty. I went to find Dad in his study to ask if he had any idea what Mum had planned.

"She said she was calling in at the supermarket on her way home tonight," Dad informed me. I pointed out that was going to make her fairly late. Dad agreed and suggested we all go down to the Crooked Man. So, Dad texted Mum to let her know the plan. I went up to my room to start on my homework.

Mum arrived home just after seven. She called me to give her a hand unloading the car. For a Monday shop, it was quite a big shop. When I commented on this, Mum told me she had intended to go to the supermarket on Sunday, but with things happening as they did, she never made it.

Once the shopping had been unloaded and put away, Mum went off to freshen up before dinner. We then made our way down to the Crooked Man. Over dinner Mum dropped a bombshell.

"I think it would be best if I dropped college," she stated.

"What!" Dad spluttered.

"Mike, the only reason I was doing college was so that I could get into university. Well with the baby coming, that's out."

"I don't see why," Dad stated.

"It's clear you've never brought up a baby, Mike. They need attention twenty-four seven. I can't provide that whilst I am in university."

"I don't see why not. We'll be at the Golders Green flat during the week. I am sure we can find somebody to look after our child during the time you are at university."

What followed was a discussion about childcare and the possibilities available. As Dad pointed out, by the time Mum was ready to start at university, the child would be three months old. He was also fairly insistent that Mum try university.

There was a bit of talk about her delaying it for one year, but that never really got anywhere. That was followed with a discussion about how they wanted to arrange childcare. Did they just need somebody during the day in London, or did they want a fulltime nanny who would move with them between the Golders Green flat and the Priory?

Mum wanted to know how much room there was in the Golders Green flat. The enquiry drew a response from Dad to the effect that they best go up and have a look. It was agreed they would at the weekend.

Dinner over, and after Mum and Mary had chatted for a bit, we made our way back to the Priory. Walking around the side of the house, we saw a set of headlights coming down the drive from the Green Farm entrance. I guessed it was either Jim's van or Simone bringing Lee back. Given the time, I doubted it was the latter as the film did not finish till gone nine-thirty, so I guessed it was Jim.

I left Mum and Dad to go into the house and made my way up to the outbuildings by which Jim had parked. He had been to see Steven, who was a lot better and was looking to be discharged on Wednesday. Steven had asked Jim to get some clothes for him, so Jim had come back tonight to get them. He had a late class at college tomorrow and would go directly to visit Steven afterwards. So, he was picking the clothes up tonight.

I still had some homework to do, so I finished off my chat and got back into the house and up to my room. The homework was not particularly difficult, but there was a lot of it, and it was gone eleven before I got to bed. That, though, was partly due to Joseph phoning me just after ten.

Tuesday morning, Dad and Lee had to go into Town for a script meeting. They gave me a lift into college. Got a lift back with Marcia, Mum not having come in thanks to morning sickness.

Mum was busy prepping dinner when I walked into the kitchen.

"Feeling better?" I asked.

"I'm fine," Mum replied. "It seems I am one of the lucky women for whom morning sickness means morning. Bloody hell for the first two or three hours after I wake, but most days, after that I'm fine. Need to wake earlier, so I am clear by the time I need to get into college."

"So, you are going to carry on?"

"Yes, Johnny, your Dad's right. If I pack it in now, I might well end up blaming the kid for me not going to university. It's not as if we can't afford some good childcare."

"Well, it's not as if it will harm the kid. Look at me; I had some of the best childcare going till mother packed me off to boarding school."

"Johnny, I am not sure if you are a good argument for childcare."

I laughed and started to go up to my room.

"There's a letter for you in the post. I had to sign for it."

I went and looked at the pile of post on the kitchen table. Most of it was for Dad, though I noticed a couple addressed to Lee. There was, though, one large C4 envelope addressed to me. I opened it and withdrew the contents.

Inside was a certificate saying that I had passed my French exam with High Distinction. There was also a letter stating that, given the level of marks I had achieved in their examination, they were pleased to offer me associate membership of the institute without the requirement for a language degree. I showed it to Mum, who told me I would be an idiot if I did not take up the offer even though it would cost me a couple of hundred a year for the privilege. I was not so certain but agreed we would discuss it over dinner.

I went up to my room and phoned Joseph to tell him about the exam results. He was pleased for me. He also thought I should take up the offer of an associateship.

"Johnny, you've got it, flaunt it, put those letters after your name."

It made some sense, but I did need to speak with Dad about it.

Dad got home just before eight. Dinner was served shortly thereafter. Over dinner, I told Dad about my exam success and the offer.

"Well, in my opinion, Johnny, you should take the offer," Dad stated. "What do you think, Anne?"

"I think he should definitely take it, if only for the UCAS points," Mum answered.

"What about the UCAS points?" I asked.

"I looked it up after you went up to do your homework," Mum informed me. "Your diploma equates to an A-level at grade A, so it carries 56 UCAS points. However, membership of the Institute as an associate is classed as a level-4 professional qualification and carries 90 UCAS points."

Mum had a point and a very good one. I agreed to apply for admission as an associate member of the institute.

I do not know if Mum got up earlier or what, but she was bright and ready to go to college when I got down to the kitchen Wednesday morning. I only had time to grab a coffee and a slice of toast before she was ushering me out of the kitchen to the car so we could get off to college. It turned out that one of the classes she had missed yesterday was repeated early this morning, so she wanted to catch it. That meant I had over an hour to wait before my class started, so I went over to Marge's to get some breakfast.

Antonio came in just after I sat down. Joining me, he thanked me for the tip about the job.

"I've got an interview with the chap who is starting the business. Can you tell me how I get to this Priory place?" Antonio asked.

"What time is your interview?" I asked.

"Three-thirty, why?"

"Well, if you can give me a lift, I can guide you there. My last class finishes at three today, and my normal lift will not be free till four-thirty, so an earlier lift would be useful."

It was agreed that we should meet up in the car park by the side door at three.

I was actually out of class a few minutes before three and found Antonio already there waiting for me, which surprised me. I would not have expected him to get out of his class till the same time as I did, and I knew it was on the far side of the campus. Yet there he was, standing by his car.

When I mentioned it, he commented that he has skipped the last part of his class, an action that surprised me, but Antonio said he had agreed to it with his teacher. The last half hour of the class was conversational English, and Antonio was already proficient in that; it was written English that was his problem.

It was twenty-five past three when we were pulling into the yard at the Priory. I had already called Tyler to let him know that Antonio was on the way and asking where Tyler wanted to meet. Tyler said in his new office. He had moved into the part that was ready that morning, though apparently it had bare concrete floors as the carpets would not be laid till the whole suite was ready for occupation.

Once we arrived, I took Antonio over to Tyler's office on the ground floor of the Stable House. Trevor was there with him. What surprised me was that there was no hint of surprise on Antonio's face when he was introduced. It was almost as if he expected them to be there, although I knew that Tyler had signed all his emails to Antonio with TL, not giving his name. He had told me he had done this to avoid people who were just looking for a job connected with a star.

Once I had delivered Antonio to Tyler, I left them, as did Trevor. It seems he and Tyler had been going over the script for their common parts in Snowball. I asked Trevor what he thought of the part.

"There's not much of it to think about. As you know, I get killed in the first ten minutes."

I laughed, then invited him to join me for a coffee, an invitation which he accepted.

Once I had made a pot of coffee for us, we took our drinks through to the lounge. I lit the fire, surprised it was not already going. There was no sign of Dad or Lee, I had expected them to be in the study. Dad had not said anything about going into Town today. Besides, he was in Town yesterday. If he had something on today, I would have expected him to have stayed overnight. There was no doubt in my mind that I would get an explanation from him later, so I asked Trevor how things were going.

"Pretty busy at the moment," he informed me. "I've got physiotherapy Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and speech therapy on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Have to see my psychologist on Tuesday and Friday afternoons."

"You're lucky to have private cover," I commented.

"It's not private, at least most of it's not. It's the NHS fast-recovery programme for stroke victims. The only thing I am paying for privately is the second session on a Friday with the psychologist. On the NHS programme, I would only get one session a week."

"And you feel you need two?" I asked.

"Could probably do with more," Trevor laughed. "However, I do not think that would be fair to the psychologist."

"Is it helping?"

"Fuck, yes, it bloody well is. All of it. Just listen to how I am speaking, Johnny. Ten days ago, I was slurring my words. I can now walk without a limp, though stairs are still a problem."

"And the psychologist?"

"That's probably where I need the most help. She's getting me to see things differently, to look at things from a different perspective, though your father had helped a lot there."

"Dad, how come?"

"He was able to tell me a lot about what was going on with my father at the time when I came out as gay. I thought that Dad had rejected me and was trying to stay away from me. I thought it was because I was gay. Turned out it had nothing to do with me being gay. It was just that he was run off his feet trying to keep the agency going. I never knew anything about that. If Dad had told me, I might have understood things better. To be honest, I might have told him what was going on, but I thought he did not like me because I was gay and that he would not be bothered.

"Your father filled me in on a lot of background that I did not know. In some ways it has made things easier. In others, it's harder because I realise that I did have a way out of things if I had chosen to take it. The fact I did not choose makes me complicit in what those men were doing."

"No, it doesn't," I snapped.

"That's what my psychologist tells me, but it is going to take time for me to accept it."

We chatted for about another half hour, talking mainly about Snowball and The University Flying Club, the next two films that Trevor had parts in, even though his part in Snowball was very small. He did agree with me that the name The University Flying Club would have to be changed. Then he glanced at the clock and said he had to pick Arthur up.

"Where is he?"

"Down at the new place," Trevor replied. "He took the van down because the girls need it for a job in the morning, so I have to go down and pick him up."

"Are you OK driving?" I knew he had been told not to drive.

"I am now; the doctor cleared me on Monday." With that, he left. I took my book bag upstairs and put what I required for my homework on the desk, then went down to the kitchen. With Mum having a late class and there being no sign of Dad around, I thought I had better make a start on dinner. At least, I knew what was planned for today: pork chops in a cream and mushroom sauce with mashed potatoes and green beans. Pity Uncle Bernard is not here, he would have enjoyed it.

Dad came back just as I was finishing the initial prep for dinner. He did not look happy.

"What's up?" I asked.

"Bloody bank!" was the reply I got.

"What have they done?"

"They have refused to allow Lee to be a second signature on the Mike Carlton Productions account. I took the form in on Monday to authorise it. Lee went in this morning to set up a couple of standing orders, and they refused to accept them because he had signed them, not me. When Lee got back and told me, I went down with him to sort it out.

"Turned out they do not have a business manager at the local branch. We had to go into Chelmsford to see somebody. Been stuck there for most of the afternoon. Apparently, they had done a credit check on Lee, and that had shown up his conviction. As a result, some pipsqueak of a junior teller, no doubt, had decided that I clearly could not know this as I would not give such a person authority to sign on the business account. There is apparently a letter in the post explaining things.

"It took me a good hour to make the idiot of a business manager over in Chelmsford understand that I knew all along about Lee's conviction, and despite that, I wanted him as a second signature on the account. I think they got the point eventually when I pointed out to them that if Lee is not the second signature on the account, then the business will have to close the account as I will not be around most of the time to sign things like cheques, which will be needed to pay bills."

"So, what happened? I presume you got Lee added to the account."

"I did, Johnny, but not without some fight from the bank. In the end, I had to sign that I acknowledged that I had been warned about Lee by the bank and that I would not hold the bank liable in the event of any loss or damage occurring to the business due to any instrument signed on behalf of the business by Lee."

"Is that it?"

"For the time being it is. I need to speak with Bernard at the weekend and get his advice."

"You're not thinking of suing the bank, are you?"

"No, Johnny, I want to move banks. Going to ask Bernard if he can recommend one in the City. Will ask him when we are up at the weekend."

"Are you going into Town at the weekend then?"

"Yes, I was speaking to Bernard this morning, and he feels we should have a meeting about your trusts; there have been a couple of developments. So, he's invited Anne and me up for dinner on Friday. We will stay overnight, then look at the Golders Green flat on Saturday before we come back on Sunday morning. You, of course, will be up there anyway."

I nodded in confirmation. This coming weekend was my weekend at Joseph's.

"By the way, Johnny, Bernard's got tickets for Les Misérables. Do you think you and Joseph would like to go?"

Why on earth is Dad asking? Les Misérables is one of the great musicals of the London musical theatre. Joseph and I are gay. Of course, we would want to go. I imparted this fact to Dad.

"I somehow thought you would but thought I'd better check."

That dealt with, I chatted a bit more with Dad whilst I finished getting things ready for dinner. Well, Dad did help a bit, but, to be honest, I am a lot better around the kitchen than he is.

Mum would ring before she left for home, so that would give me plenty of time to put the chops in the hot oven; everything would be ready for dinner about fifteen minutes after Mum got home. She would need that time to get changed and freshen up.

As everything was sorted and Dad had gone to his study, no doubt to write a stinking letter to the CEO of the bank, I went up to my room. It was my intention to get started on my homework, but I decided to phone Joseph just to check that he was up for a night at the theatre.

Why I bothered, I don't know. He's a Londoner, he's Jewish and he's gay; of course, he is up for a night at the theatre. In fact, I got the impression that turning down the offer of such tickets would have had a serious effect upon my life expectancy even though he had already seen the show twice. That was twice more than I had. Every time I had tried to see it, I had been unable to get tickets. With my mother, that had been something of a surprise as she was able to get tickets for most things, usually free.

The following couple of days at college were very much of a muchness. Nothing particularly happened. Antonio told me he had got the job with Tyler's business. He was going to be starting as soon as the Spanish website went up or on the 2nd of March, whichever came first. He seemed quite pleased to have the job.

On Friday, Mum and I cadged a lift into college off Marcia. Dad was picking us up at the college after my last class at three. Mum was skipping her last class. Dad had to drop some things off at his agents in Wood Green and did not seem to be in any rush to get to Uncle Bernard's, which surprised me given that Shabbat started about five.

I got a bit of a surprise as we went past the Wood Green tube station. Mr Taunton, my maths teacher, was coming out. I commented on it to Dad.

When we got there, the reason Dad was not in a rush became very clear when we got to our destination; there was no Shabbat meal. Aunt Debora was not there; it turned out she was in New York.

"What's she in New York for?" I asked Joseph.

"She's launching her latest book," Joseph replied.

"What book?" I looked at Joseph puzzled.

Joseph looked back at me a bit perplexed. Then something dawned on him. "Christ, you don't know."

"Know what?"

"That my mum is Debora Wood."

"And who is Debora Wood?"

"My mum."

"But what is she, and why is she in New York?"

"You really don't know?" Joseph asked.

"I wouldn't be asking if I did."

"My mum is Debora Wood, the food writer. You must have seen her books. I know she gives Aunt Anne a copy of each one when it comes out."

Now something made sense. Mum had a whole pile of cookbooks in the bookcase in the kitchen. Most of them were by the same author.

"Why Debora Wood?" I asked. Not being able to work out how Debora LeBrun became Debora Wood.

"That's simple. Grandad's family name is Woodstone. It was originally Holzstein, but the family anglicised it when they came to England with George the First. When Mum wrote her first book, the publisher suggested shortening her name to Debora Wood because it looked better on the cover."

"I hope they sell well," I commented.

"They do; she normally does about two hundred thousand on each edition in the year they are published. However, she is still selling her back catalogue. Her first book still sells about ten thousand copies a year, and she wrote that before she met Dad."

"It's because of that book that she met me," Uncle Bernard said, coming into the room. "I see my son has been spilling family secrets to you, Johnny. I am the poor relation in this family. My wife makes more as a food writer than I do as a leading lawyer."

"Is that why you married her?" I quipped.

"No, I married her for the food," he replied, patting his stomach. "Can't you tell?

"On the subject of food, I want you two to go down to the fish-and-chip shop and bring back dinner. I've phoned through the order. Here are couple of twenties; that should cover it. If not, Joseph, use your debit card. I'll make up the difference afterwards."

"Why us? It's raining out there," Joseph pointed out.

"That's why," Uncle Bernard replied.

About half an hour later, we had just finished a meal of fish and chips when Uncle Bernard asked Joseph what was most convenient for him. One option was for Uncle Bernard and Dad to talk about the trust with me tonight; the other was to do it in the morning.

"I was thinking of going to the Portobello Road in the morning," Joseph said. "Johnny's not been for ages, and I haven't been there yet this year." We had not discussed this, though I did mention earlier in the week that I had not been there for ages.

"I don't know if Johnny wants to come with us, but we are going to look at the Golders Green flat tomorrow at three."

"Oh, we'll be back way before then," Joseph assured Dad. I was not so sure. Last time I was in the Portobello Road, it had taken me nearly all day to get from one end to the other. Then, I did give five blowjobs and made over a hundred quid.

I must have smirked at the thought because Joseph gave me a very funny look.

"I've got piles of homework to get done," Joseph announced. "So, if you need to speak to Johnny, probably best done tonight, and I can get on with my homework."

That sorted out, Mum said she would clear up so we could get on with what we needed to talk about. Joseph insisted on giving her a hand, so Dad and I followed Uncle Bernard to his study.

"Look, I'd better get on with this as I have no doubt I am going to have to change this damned bag again," Uncle Bernard said, patting his side below his stomach.

"Problems?" Dad asked.

"Annoyances," Uncle Bernard replied. "Have to change the bloody thing three or four times a day. Stomas are no joke."

"So, let's get on with things," I suggested.

"Right, Johnny. First of all, Mike, I had Jack and Flora onto me. They are not happy with being trustees for what Beryl left Johnny. Jack said that Flora is worried they may make a mistake and there is a lot of money involved."

"They can say that again," Dad commented. "What do they want to do?"

"They want to hand over the trust to me and you, Mike. There is no problem in doing that. As trustees, they have the right to appoint replacements. Well, as Beryl's will is written, I think the intention was that they could appoint replacements to take over from them in the case of their deaths. However, whoever wrote it up for Beryl, wrote it in such a way as they can appoint replacements to take over from them at any time. They want that time to be now.

"So, Mike, are you alright going along with this?"

"Don't see why not. We're basically running the trust anyway; Jack and Flora are just rubber stamping what we have been deciding," Dad stated.

"Good, I'll get that in motion, then. With a bit of luck, Martin will have it all sorted by the end of next week."

There was a bit more discussion about the setup and legalities of the trust. Dad asked if there was any way they could put all the trusts into one. Uncle Bernard said he was looking into that. I was beginning to wonder why I was there. Alright, it had a bearing on my affairs, but it did not involve me directly; this was matters for the trustees. Then Uncle Bernard turned to address me.

"Johnny, we've had an offer from Yaland, the life-insurance company, regarding your mother."

"Why are they making offers? Surely they should just pay out."

"Well, they do not want to pay out twenty million. It's as simple as that. At the moment, there is no way we can force them to pay out as there is not a death certificate. There will not be one till after the inquest, and as I told your Dad on the phone, we have no idea when that will be. In cases of murder, the coroner will often wait until after the trial has been held.

"In theory, Johnny, a life-insurance company can pay out on evidence of a Coroner's Certificate Confirming Death. Often they will. For instance, the life insurance on the mortgage has already paid out on the CCCD that was sent to them. That, however, was for a few hundred thousand. Yaland is facing a claim for twenty million, a claim they do not want to pay. As a result, they are refusing to pay out on the CCCD. They are insisting that they will only pay out on sight of a death certificate, and it could be a couple of years before we get that.

"They have already made one offer, which I rejected immediately as it was ridiculous."

"How much was it?" I asked.

"Three million," Uncle Bernard informed me. "Totally out of the question. They came back on Thursday with another offer. This time they are offering to pay the full insured amount on the CCCD but not the double indemnity in case of violent death. So, they have offered ten million, which will be paid within seven days of acceptance.

"So, what do you think, Johnny. Should the trust accept the offer?"

"Surely, that's for you and Dad to decide."

"In the end, yes, but we would like your input."

I had to think about it, then I had a question. "Uncle Bernard, why do you think they are offering a settlement for the full insured amount now?"

"Because they now have enough information to be fairly certain that if we go to the end and get the death certificate, they will have to pay out the full twenty million. However, that end may be a long way away. They know most people need the sort of money they are talking about now, not in two or three years' time."

"But I am not most people," I stated. "I do not need the money now. Actually, in many ways it makes no difference to me if I get it now or in three years. It's you and Dad that will be controlling it. The money to buy into the boatyard's already there, isn't it?"

"Yes, Johnny, your dad and I have got that sorted. It's all covered."

I noticed Uncle Bernard had said it was covered, not that it was there. Oh well, that was good enough. It meant that Steve would not be left high and dry dealing with the Hamdens.

"If I am right, the only problem, then, is the money I wanted to put into Tyler's new business."

"Not a problem, Johnny, we can raise that easily if we need to. My cousin Zachary is happy to provide finance secured against your gold holdings at two percent above bank."

"How much?" I asked.

"Anything up to five million," Uncle Bernard replied. I was a bit shocked. "Zach recommends you put two-hundred thousand into Tyler's business as an investment and a further five-hundred thousand as a loan at bank plus three. That is what he is doing."

"Christ, it makes my hundred thousand look pitiful," Dad said.

"You're putting a hundred thousand in?" I asked. "I thought you could only do fifty?"

"That's what I originally intended, Johnny, but Zach and Bernard persuaded me to go up to one hundred."

"So, I have no immediate needs for the insurance money, and an early payout is no major benefit to me. What they are doing is essentially blackmail. They are saying: take what you can now or we will make you wait as long as we can for the full amount. Is that right?"

"That's about it," Uncle Bernard confirmed.

"The tell them to fuck off."

"Johnny!" Dad exclaimed.

Uncle Bernard laughed. "That's exactly what I was going to do, though using legal jargon and a few hundred words, but the meaning would have been the same."

"Oh, Uncle Bernard?"

"Yes, Johnny?"

"Tell them that if they do not settle by Lady Day, we will look for interest at bank plus ten on the whole amount outstanding."

"I'm not sure that we can get away with that, Johnny," Uncle Bernard replied. "It will be nice trying, though."

With that, discussion came to an end. I went to find Joseph. He was in his room still doing his homework.

"Sorry, Johnny, I am still tied up with this. Can you give me half an hour?"

I told him I could, grabbed a magazine from his table and ensconced myself on his bed, reading it. About twenty minutes later, Joseph gave a deep sigh, closed down the lid of his laptop and closed his book.

"Finished?" I asked.



"No, just too many quadratic equations. Why they give you so many of them to do, I don't know. One hundred and sixty for the weekend. At this rate I will be able to do them in my sleep."

"I think that's the idea, Joey. You will be able to fall asleep in the exam and still pass it."

"Look, Johnny, I need a shower. Why don't you go down to the kitchen and make a couple of mugs of chocolate?"

"And what do I get if I do?"

"A nice piece of clean kosher meat for you to suck on." Joseph smiled provocatively.

"I would much prefer to come into the shower and help you get it clean."

"You can do that when you come back with the chocolate. I'll be clean by then, so I can clean you."

"All of me?"

"Of course, I like my meat to be clean."

I laughed but set off downstairs, not particularly worried. Joseph is something of a neat freak. As he takes off each item of clothing, he carefully folds it before putting it in the laundry basket. He is so careful about things, sorting coloureds from whites, light from dark, that I was fairly certain he would still be at it when I got back up to his room.

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