Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 42

Patrick led the way out to the driving-school car, a white Skoda Fabia and indicated I should get in the driver's side.

"Just to check, the notes I've got say you have had some driving lessons. Is that correct?" Patrick asked as I climbed into the car.

"Yes, I've had about eight lessons since I turned seventeen."

"When was that?"

"Fourth of May," I told him.

"Good. Have you done any other driving?"

"No, Dad would not let me near the Morgan, and I could not afford the insurance for the TVR. Didn't fancy driving the Santa Fe or Mum's Wagon R. Did take the Smart Car for a run around the estate once but did not like it."

"That's good, as well. You have had enough driving experience to get comfortable with driving, but you've not driven with non-instructors, so have probably not picked up bad habits."

"Bad habits?" I asked.

"Yes, a lot of people we get coming up for intensive courses have been driving a while and failing their tests. The main reason is that they have picked up bad driving habits from a parent, spouse or friend, and we usually have to spend most of the course getting the habits out of them."

Patrick then spent the next ten minutes explaining the controls in the car. They were basically the same as the Vauxhall I had been having lessons in but were in different positions. Once he was satisfied I had a grasp of where the different switches, buttons and knobs were located and what they were for, he told me to start the car.

"Right, if you could reverse out of the parking area and then set off towards the end of road by the windmill down there, we will do a couple of loops around Lytham to get you used to the car."

That is what we did for the next three quarters of an hour. I think we went past the hotel about five times. Eventually, Patrick seemed satisfied with my handling of the car and confident that I was used to it. He told me to turn left off the South Promenade into the car park of the Beach Café.

"You can have a break from driving for a bit," Patrick informed me. "I think you are confident with the car now. Get yourself some refreshment and have a rest for ten minutes or so before we tackle some real driving."

I was glad to get out of the car. I think Patrick was, as well. Once out, I locked the car and gave the keys to Patrick; we then went into the café. It was a warm day, so we took our drinks to a table on the terrace outside.

"You're a bit young for a driving instructor, aren't you?" I commented.

"Probably am. It's my mother's driving school. She and Dad run it. I qualified as an instructor as soon as I turned twenty-one. That was last year. Dad thought it would be a useful way for me to earn some money whilst I was at uni."

"You're at uni?"

"Yes, studying Law at De Montfort. Just finished my first year." I must have looked surprised. Patrick continued. "Took a gap year that ended up being three years. Met somebody in Australia and thought they were the love of my life. Turned out all they were interested in was getting a visa to come to the UK. I was the path to the visa."

"Sorry," I stated.

"I was lucky I found out what was going on before I got too tied up in things. Packed up and came back, but by then my deferred uni offer had lapsed and I had to go through the UCAS process again, so did not start uni till last October."

"No intention of going into driving instructing full-time, then?"

"Not in my plans, but it is always a useful qualification to have. I work for a couple of driving schools in Leicester during term time, taking on overflow bookings and covering when they have an instructor off sick or something. It pays better than standing behind a bar and takes less time. Of course, I don't get the tips."

I laughed.

"So, how come you're up here doing your driving course. From your accent, I would say you're from down south."

"I am. This is Dad's idea. I think he wants to make sure I can drive before Mum and he move out."

"You parents are moving out?" Patrick asked.

"Yes, Dad is having to spend more time working in London, and Mum has a place at Imperial starting in October, so they are going to be based in Town during the week, leaving me stuck in the depths of Essex. Will need to be able to drive to get to college when the weather's bad."

We finished our coffees and returned to the car. Patrick instructed me to exit the car park, turn left onto the promenade and follow it nearly to the end. Then he told me to turn right, then left. He informed me that I was now on Clifton Drive, and if I followed the road, we would come to the Starr Gate, the entrance to Blackpool.

I drove along the road, which had intermittent housing on one side and what looked like sand dunes on the other. Then there were tram lines and overhead power cables on my left. In front of me, a blue arch spanned the road.

"Welcome to Blackpool," Patrick announced. "Now, if you follow this road, it will take you along the Golden Mile. Just keep your attention on the road. Don't get distracted by the attractions. Blackpool tourists operate under the impression that cars are made of polystyrene. They will walk out in front of you at any moment and with no warning."

He was not joking. Things were fine until well after I had passed the Pleasure Beach. Then things got tricky. I had to apply the brakes sharply at least five times in just over a mile as pedestrians walked across the road, apparently totally oblivious to traffic. It was a relief when we passed the North Pier and the number of tourists seemed to drop off.

"Well, you managed that fairly well," Patrick stated as we left the packed Golden Mile behind.

"Yes, but I hope we don't have to go back that way," I stated.

"No, I think we need some more relaxed driving. We'll take the loop around Blackpool and back to Lytham."

That is what we did. Once back in Lytham, Patrick got me to park and went over a number of issues.

"Well, this morning has been about me getting a feel for how you drive," Patrick informed me. "On the whole, you're doing pretty well; you've clearly had some good instruction. However, we have to sort out a few points if you are going to pass your test."

"Like what?" I asked.

"First, your mirror use. I know you are using your mirrors as you pulled over to allow that motorcyclist to pass. However, you need to make it clear to the examiner that you are using your mirrors.

"Then there is your gear changing. You're fine changing up, but you tend to hold the car too long in a higher gear before changing down. A couple of times, you forgot to change down sufficiently when you had to stop, and you pulled away in second gear. You can get away with that on the flat, but if there is the slightest rise, you will probably stall the car. The examiner will fail you if you try to pull away in the wrong gear."

He then proceeded for the next five minutes to take my driving to pieces, pointing out a number of errors I was making. I felt a bit devastated by his analysis in the end, which must have shown.

"Jonathan, don't feel too bad about things. You can drive. To be honest, you are a pretty good driver, and you are not making half the errors that most drivers make. We just have to polish you up so you can pass the practical side of your test.

"Now, do you want to go back to your hotel or somewhere else?"

I decided to go back to the hotel. I also decided I did not like being called Jonathan, so asked Patrick to call me Johnny.

I drove back to the hotel and parked the car, handing the keys over to Patrick. He told me he would be back to pick me up at one-thirty. That gave me just under two hours. The first thing I did when I got to my room was to check my emails. There was one from Luuk — actually, it was to Joseph, but he had copied me in on it. Mostly, it was details of some of the background research he had found out about Lex Klein. What was a surprise was a comment at the end of the email that he would see Joseph on Sunday.

Puzzling, but there was not a lot I could do about it. Joseph was in school, and I needed to get some lunch and then get ready for another two-hour driving lesson. I must say I had found this morning's session rather tiring. That said, I set an alarm on my phone for half past twelve, then lay down on the bed to snooze before lunch.

I must have done more than snooze. I woke up with a bit of a start when my phone alarm went off. Once I was awake, I went down to the restaurant to eat. After lunch, I waited for Patrick to pick me up.

The afternoon driving session was a lot more intense than the morning. For a start, it was raining. Not heavy, more a light drizzle, but it meant I had to have the wipers on throughout the sessions. Patrick had me practising manoeuvre after manoeuvre, over and over. I must have parallel parked about twenty times that afternoon and a similar number of reversing around a corner, not easy when you have not done it before and the rear window is rained up.

Patrick did give me a break about halfway through. I commented on the repeated drills. "You're going to have more repeated drills tomorrow and on Wednesday. I need to make sure you are fully competent in all the required elements in the test. Then on Thursday, we will spend the day driving some of the test routes, taking you through some test simulations."

After proving true to his word, Patrick eventually guided me back to the hotel. Once we had parked up, he made a few general comments about my driving, especially about my use of the mirrors, then said he would see me at nine-thirty in the morning.

I was rather surprised when, just after four, the reception phoned my room to say there was somebody at reception to see me. I went down and found Cliff there, looking a bit wet.

"Didn't expect to see you, given that it's raining," I stated.

"Thought I'd let you know that we're not playing because of the rain. Chris and the lads have caught the bus into Blackpool."

"And you didn't go?"

"Didn't fancy it. Told Chris I had arranged to meet you."

There was something about the way he said that which made me think there was more to it than he said.

"Look, I wasn't expecting to go out because of the rain," I told Cliff. "Come up to my room, and we can sort out something to do."

Once in my room, I told Cliff to take the chair by the desk. I went and slumped in the armchair.

"Nice room," Cliff commented.

"You're an expert on hotel rooms?" I asked.

"You'd be surprised."

"So, what is there to do around here when it's raining?"

"Not much, at least not much in Lytham and not much if you don't have cash. The whole area is set up to get tourists spending their money."

"Nothing for the locals?" I asked.

"Nah. There's a couple of youth groups, the youth yacht club — though you need money to belong to that — and the sea cadets. Mostly they expect us to use the outdoor facilities, saying there is plenty for us to do."

"So, what do you normally do?"

Cliff blushed and was silent.

"What do you suggest we do?" I asked.

"Well, you could go into Blackpool; there's plenty to do there," Cliff told me.

"What about you?"

"Can't afford it," he stated, looking across to me. He was not what I would call attractive, but he was not bad-looking. For a start, he was clean and had what looked like a fit body under the loose shirt he was wearing. When he smiled, he had the most fantastic smile.

I stood and told Cliff to give me a couple of minutes, as I needed to clean my teeth. I had had a very sticky bun when we took the afternoon break in the driving lesson but the remains of it were now cloying in my mouth. When I came out of the bathroom, Cliff was looking at a card he had picked up from the desk.

"What's GM?" he asked.

I looked at him wondering what he was on about. Then I remembered. Dad had got some business cards printed for me. They had my full name with GM after it and the name of Dad's production company. Dad had told me to keep some with me when I was looking around the area for Uncle Phil just in case anybody asked about me photographing locations. I had put a couple on the desk to remind me to put them in my wallet before I went out.

"George Medal," I told Cliff.

"You've got the George Medal? How?"

"By being in the wrong place at the right time. Now, do you fancy giving me a hand with something and earning a bit of money?"

"Yes, how?" Cliff replied.

"As you can see, I work for a production company," I told him. "While I'm up here, they want me to scout for filming locations. I was thinking that with your local knowledge, you could help me find some places that might do."

"What are we looking for?"

I pulled the list I had printed out of my messenger bag and handed it to Cliff. He read down the list.

"Your name's Carlton-Smith on the card, are you related to Ben Carlton?"

"Yes, he's my uncle."

"So, you know Matthew Lewis then?"

"I should; he's also my uncle," I replied.

"Of course, he's married to Ben Carlton."

"Not only that, he's my mother's brother, so he is my uncle that way. Ben is my father's brother."

"Must be nice having film stars for uncles," Ben stated.

"Not always," I commented. "Sometimes it can be a bit of a pain."

"Not as much as being stuck around here having to do things you don't want to just to get enough to manage. Just hoping you can get to uni so you can get away."

There was something about the way Cliff said that sounded almost desperate.

"How old are you, Cliff?"

"Sixteen. I'm seventeen at the end of August."

"So, you're doing GCSEs?"

"Nah, did them last year. Doing A-levels; just done my AS papers."


"You're doing A-levels?"

"Yes, at my local college, maths and physics. Need them for university."

"But you need three A-levels for uni," Cliff pointed out.

"I've already got a qualification in French, which equates to A-level, grade A, so I only need two more to get in."

"Lucky you. I'm going to have to get three good A-levels to have any chance of getting away. Then I'll have to find a way to live. Won't be able to survive on the loan."

"Won't your parents help?"

"Nah, there is no way they can afford to help me through uni. They have enough problems keeping things going as it is without having to spend extra on me. Dad wanted me to leave school when I got my GCSEs. He'd even found me a job down at the Beach, but Gran put her foot down and said I had to stay on. If it weren't for her, I would be grifting down by the Beach."

"The Beach?" I asked.

"Blackpool Pleasure Beach," Cliff informed me. "That's where Dad works during the season."

"What does he do out of season?" I asked.

"Collects the dole, like everybody else."

"What time do you need to be home?"

"Don't matter," Cliff replied. "Dad's working till the Beach closes. and Mum's on late shift. There's only Gran home, and she's looking after me brother. She gave us tea when we got home from school. So, don't have to be in till it's gone dark."

"Alright then. Where do you suggest we go, and where do you suggest we eat, as I am going to have to get some dinner later?"

"Can't afford to eat out, but I can tell you where you can get a good meal."

"Cliff, if you're with me, you're bloody eating with me. I can afford that. Now, I don't fancy spending the rest of the afternoon sitting around my hotel room, so where should we go?"

"It depends on how much you're spending?"

"As little as I can get away with."

Cliff laughed. He had a nice laugh.

"Well, there is always the flicks," Cliff suggested. "Angels and Demons is on at the Island. Wouldn't mind seeing that."

Just then there was a terrific clap of thunder and what had been heavy drizzle turned into a full-scale downpour.

"Though, probably not in this rain; we'd get soaked walking there," he commented.

"That, Cliff, is why they have taxis," I informed him.

I rang down to reception and asked them if they could get me a taxi to take me to the Island Cinema. They rang back five minutes later to say it would be there in about ten minutes. That being the case, I grabbed my coat, got a folding umbrella out of my backpack and told Cliff were we going to the cinema. We got there in time for the five-o'clock showing.

I cannot say I was particularly impressed by the film. The plot was weak, and the acting, if anything, was worse. However, the rest of the audience seemed to enjoy it, especially Cliff. It was getting on for eight when we got out, and to be honest, I was starving. So, I told Cliff he'd better find us somewhere decent to eat. Fortunately, by now it had stopped raining and the sun was shining, so we could walk, and walk we did, though I have to admit it was worth it. The place he took me to did a fantastic steak-and-kidney pudding with peas and chips.

Over dinner, I got Cliff to open up about things. As he had said, he was in the sixth form and studying for his A-levels. Unlike me, he was in the sixth form of a school, and they continued to teach after the AS papers had been taken. So, he still had three more weeks of school before he started his holidays.

"Suppose Chris will find something for me then," he said a bit bleakly.

"You don't seem too happy with the idea."

"Sorry, I shouldn't dump my problems on you."

"What's the problem?"

"Nothing really. It's just money being so tight, it gets me down at times. "

"Things get us all down at times. What A-levels are you doing?"

"Maths, biology and chemistry," Cliff replied. "Did physics as well at AS-level but will probably drop it for A-level. Depends on my grades, though; may have to drop biology if I do not get an A."

"Medicine?" I asked.

"I wish. Probably end up doing a biological-science degree. Could probably get the grades for medicine, but there is no way I could afford to do it. Medicine's one of those subjects where you can't afford to have a part-time job. I'll probably have to look for a full-time job to get me through uni. Going to have to work like mad through the holidays to make enough to get me through my A-level year."

Dinner over, we made our way back towards my hotel, though it was a bit of a walk. As a result, it was getting on for ten by the time we got there. Before we parted, I started to give my phone number to Cliff, but he informed me he had already got it. I was puzzled. That was till he reminded me that he had picked up my card.

"You'd better have my number," he said, pulling out his phone, then my card from his pocket. He dialled my number but hung up when I went to answer my phone.

"Can't afford to waste connection time when it's not necessary."

"At least, I've got your number now," I stated. I asked his surname so I could enter it, then saved the number on my call log to my contacts.

Cliff laughed. "Call me sometime."

"I will."

With that, Cliff left for home, and I went into the hotel. Once in my room, I checked my emails. There was nothing important. I then composed one to Uncle Phil. I knew they were due to start work on Fly Boys soon, and some of the shooting would be done in Blackpool. I wondered if there was any chance of any work over the holidays for Cliff.

That done, I phoned Joseph, hoping for a bit of phone sex but was disappointed. He reminded me he had exams in the morning and was busy revising, so he did not want any distractions.

Patrick picked me up dead on nine-thirty Tuesday morning. We went inland a bit before we started practising today's manoeuvres: hill starts. Not the easiest thing to practice when the area you are in is mostly flat. It soon became clear I was not the only learner driver practicing my hill starts. There seemed to be quite a few around, a fact I commented on to Patrick.

"Well, it is fairly flat around here, so we tend to all end up using the same hills," he commented.

Fortunately, I seemed to have the knack of hill starts, and Patrick announced he was satisfied after no more than ten, maybe twelve, attempts. We then moved onto the next exercise: emergency stops. As on Monday, we took a break after about fifty minutes of driving. The place we stopped at this time was a small tea shop on the road to Fleetwood. There was no car park, and I had to manoeuvre the car into a parking space between two other cars. Patrick grimaced as I did.

"I thought it might be too good to be true," he commented.

"What?" I asked.

"Your driving. So far, there has been nothing really wrong with it. All you needed was practice, but your parallel parking is, to put it mildly, atrocious. There was enough room there to park a tank and it took you what…eight, nine moves to park the car? You should have done it in two, at the most, three. We are going to have to work on that."

"Well, there has to be some reason for you to earn the money you're getting for being ferried around all day," I responded.

Patrick laughed, then informed me as we were getting out of the car that this place did the best cream cakes in Lancashire.

"Better than afternoon tea at the Grand?" I asked, having seen adverts for that event the night before.

"Far better. I'm not certain if they use real cream there."

I did not go for a cream cake, instead opting for something that, if it had not been called death by chocolate, should have certainly been called that. Patrick, however, did go for a cream cake to accompany his pot of tea. I had a mug of coffee.

"Do anything interesting yesterday evening?" Patrick asked. I got the impression it was mainly for conversational purposes only, not from real interest.

"Went to the pictures; saw Angels and Demons."

"I hate going to the pictures by myself," Patrick stated.

"Oh, I didn't go alone; went with a lad I met on Sunday."

"From the hotel?"

"No, he's local; met him on the green. He was playing Frisbee with some friends and a stray Frisbee almost hit me."

"Anyone I know?" Patrick asked. "I know a lot of the Frisbee players who play on the Lytham Green."

"Cliff Rownton," I said. Patrick suddenly looked worried.

"Rownton?" he asked.

"Yes, why?"

"Johnny, be careful. The Rowntons have a bit of a reputation around this area, and it is not a good one. My uncle is a superintendent with the local police, and he's warned me about the Rowntons."

"Why did he warn you?"

"You're gay, aren't you?"

"Yes, but what has that got to do with it? Besides, how did you know?"

"You're pretty good at not letting your attention wander when you are driving, Johnny. The couple of times it has, there has always been a good-looking young man, usually shirtless, passing by. I'm gay, so I recognised the eye candy when you did.

"There have been a few incidents of gay bashing around the area, mostly up in Blackpool, but a couple were down here in Lytham. One of the Rowntons, Chris, has been associated with them, but there has been no evidence to bring charges. Actually, in most of the cases, the victims have refused to file an official report. Even when they have, they have been vague about things. The thing is that on at least eight of the bashings, Chris Rownton has been caught on CCTV either close to or on the way to or from the incident at about the time of the incident. Now, it may be coincidence, but Uncle Jack does not think so."

I found that interesting and also a bit worrying. Did it in any way explain what Cliff had been saying and hinting at yesterday?

For the rest of the morning, Patrick had me practising parallel parking. I am sure he deliberately found the smallest parking spaces possible. When I mentioned that fact, he laughed.

"I am sure the examiner will find something smaller," he stated.

The second session of the morning took a bit longer. This was partly due to the fact that it took some time to find a road that was quiet enough and unobstructed enough for me to turn the car within the width of the road using forward and reverse gears. As a result, it was gone twelve when we got back to the hotel, for which Patrick apologised.

"Don't apologise, I got the benefit of some extra tuition," I pointed out.

"Maybe, but I need the practice apologising for when I pick up Mrs. Clair. I'm already late." He laughed, then got into the driver's seat that I had just vacated.

I went up to my room and checked my emails. Nothing important. I then sent a text to Joseph, hoping he had a good exam this morning and wishing him luck for the afternoon. That sorted, I went down to the restaurant to get some lunch. It was just after one when my phone rang. I checked the caller id; it was Uncle Phil. I answered the phone.

"Hi, Johnny, what's this about finding a job for somebody?" he asked.

I explained as well as I could about Cliff, saying that I wondered if there was anything going with work on the Fly Boys. I also told him about what Patrick had said and my feelings that Cliff was worried about something.

"What's your gut feeling about him?" Uncle Phil asked.

"I like him. There's a…well, I don't know what it is, but there is something about him which makes me think he's a good kid trying to get out of a bad situation."

"Look, Johnny, I can't promise anything, but a couple of the production team are coming up to Blackpool in a month to start getting things arranged for the shoot. I am sure they could use a local gofer to run errands for them. Even if it is only getting them coffee from somewhere decent."

"So, what should I do about Cliff?"

"I'll text you an email address; tell him to send his CV into it. Make sure he sends a photo with the CV."

I told Uncle Phil that I would. We then chatted about how my driving lessons were going.

"When's your test?" he asked.

"Friday morning at ten-fifty," I told him.

"Good luck with it."

That said, we had to terminate the call. Uncle Phil's flight had just been called. It was only then I realised he must have been in Paris.

Tuesday afternoon was spent mostly driving around, though Patrick did throw in a couple of manoeuvres and one emergency stop. I think he had planned more, but I had one for real. A young girl ran out in front of me just as I was passing some parked cars. Fortunately, I was able to stop in time. However, I was a bit shook up after that. Patrick decided it would be best to terminate the lesson there, and he would give me another half hour in the evening. We were not far from the hotel, so I had no problem with that. Patrick said he would pick me up at seven for a half-hour lesson.

"Doesn't that create problems for you?" I asked.

"No, I have a lesson at six that finishes just up the road. Being here for seven will not be a problem. My last lesson tonight is at eight."

"What hours do you work?"

"During the summer, as many as I can get," Patrick replied. "I need funds for uni."

Thinking about that and what Cliff had said yesterday made me realise how lucky I was; the one thing I did not have to bother about was money.

Cliff texted me just before four to say he was on his way round, so I went down and met him outside.

"Shit, I was hoping to see you inside," he said.


"I wanted to tell you not to come."

"Well, we can go inside, and you can tell me why."

"Too late now. Chris has seen me meet you; he'll expect me to bring you down to the game."

It was clear to me that Cliff was not happy with this.

"Cliff, what's going on?"

"I can't tell you, and I don't want you to get hurt."

We walked down Lytham Green towards the windmill. Chris and the boys were not as far down the green as they had been on Sunday. There were two more boys there, one wearing a sling, who I guessed was Cliff's brother. I suspected the other was his mate, Tom, a fact soon confirmed when Cliff introduced them.

We played throwing the Frisbee around for a time. John, Cliff's brother sat off to one side watching, whilst his mate, Tom, played on the same side as Cliff and me. However, after a bit, John announced that he was bored and was going for a walk. Tom dropped out of the game and went with him. Not long after that, the game came to an end.

Chris called Cliff over and was talking to him, but I could not hear them. All I could see was that Cliff was not happy about whatever was being said. I checked the time on my phone and saw it was just gone six. Still had a nearly an hour before my driving lesson. The question was, did I grab a quick meal now or did I wait till after the lesson? In the end, the question was taken out of my hands when Cliff joined me as I started to walk back to the hotel.

"Johnny, Chris has told me to take you up to the woods. Can you be going somewhere so I don't have to take you?"

"No problem. I've got a driving lesson at seven," I told him. "But you need to tell me what's going on. Why would Chris want me to go up to the woods, and why would I go up to the woods with you?"

Cliff blushed and looked worried but did not give an answer. By now, we had arrived at the hotel.

"Come on in with me, we can discuss this in my room," I told Cliff. "There is something I need to talk to you about, anyway."

Once we got up to my room, I sat Cliff down in the armchair, and I took the chair by the desk. Cliff was clearly troubled. In fact, he was teared up and about to cry. Rather than stay where I was and interrogate him, I moved over to the side of the armchair and knelt down next to it.

I could see that Cliff was upset. However, I could not get him to tell me anything, so eventually, I gave up. I did, though, tell him to send his CV to the email address that Uncle Phil had given me. Luckily, he had a copy of his CV on a USB stick on his key ring.

"Don't have a computer at home, so have to use the ones at school. I keep everything on this," he informed me, showing me his key ring. "Had to produce a CV as an assignment for general studies last year. Miss Loes insisted I did one and that I sent it in to employers. It got me a job last summer."

"I hope you've got a backup of it," I told him.

"There's a copy of it on my account on the school's server," he told me.

"You need more than that. Get a Dropbox account."

"What's that?"

I explained what Dropbox was and how it worked. He pointed out that he would need a computer to have an account; also, there was no way he could afford it.

"Have you got a Google Mail address?" I asked.


"Well, let's set one up for you." Which we did. That done, I set up a directory on my Dropbox account and shared it with Cliff, sending him a link to it. I told him to keep the email with the link in his Google Mail account so he could always find it. It was now getting time for my driving lesson, so I told Cliff that I had to go for my lesson but wanted to meet him later. We arranged to meet at the café where we ate last night. I could get Patrick to end up with my driving lesson there.

Patrick was just pulling up in the driving-school car when we exited the hotel. I gave Cliff a hug, telling him I would see him later and then went to get in the car. As we drove off towards the windmill, I glanced across. There was Chris sitting on the seawall, from where he could see the hotel.

"Who was the boy with you?" Patrick asked as we made our way out of Lytham.

"That's Cliff, Cliff Rownton. The one you told me to be careful about."

"He's a bit of a looker if you like that craggy type of look," Patrick commented.

"Is he?"

"Yes, he is."

"Then you must like the look," I commented.

"I do. Pity he's so young."

"He's seventeen in two months," I told Patrick.


"He's seventeen in two months."

"Christ, I would have put him at fourteen, fifteen max. Turn right when you get to the next junction."

"I know that is what I would have thought, but he has just done his AS papers. What's on for tonight's lesson."

"I thought we would drive one of the possible test routes," Patrick informed me. "Are you sure about his age?"

"Yes, I am. Why? Do you fancy him?"

"Actually, I do a bit," Patrick replied. "The thing is, lads with those sorts of look, which do appeal to me, don't usually have the brains to go with them. Take the third on the right, just past the letter box."

"He's got the brains, doing the A-levels for medicine."

"You'll have to introduce me."

"You must be joking. I don't know if he is gay."

"And if he is, you want him for yourself," Patrick observed.

"No way, not my type. Anyway, my boyfriend would kill me."

"You've got a boyfriend?"

"Yes, his name is Joseph. He's busy finishing his GCSEs this week."

"Well, that answers why he is not up here with you."

I drove the same sequence of streets twice in that half hour. Patrick pointed out particular difficulties that I might encounter if this was used for the test route. Once the half hour was up, I drove to the café where I had arranged to meet Cliff. He was waiting when we pulled up in the car.

Once inside the café, I got Cliff to admit he had not had an evening meal.

"We get free school meals," Cliff stated. "So, Gran does not see any point in cooking in the evening for us. She just puts some bread and jam up for when we get home."

"How about your parents?" I asked.

"They're working. Won't be home till late."

"So, John and you don't get fed in the evening?"

"I think John does; he spends most of his time with Tom and usually goes around there to do his homework. I'm fairly sure Tom's mother feeds him when he's there."

"So, who is Chris? Why was he watching the hotel when we left?"

"He's my uncle, Dad's youngest brother."

"Uncle! How old is he?"

"Twenty-five. He's ten years younger than Dad. There's two more uncles and an aunt but they don't live with Gran." That surprised me. I would have put Chris at eighteen or nineteen at the most. When I mentioned that fact, Cliff laughed and said they all looked younger than they were. Thinking about it, I had to admit that Cliff had a point. He had told me that John was fifteen, but I would have said he was thirteen at the most.

"So, why was he watching the hotel?"

"So, he would know when we left for the woods," Cliff stated.

"Why should we leave for the woods?"

"Because I was supposed to get you to go up there."


"I can't say. I'll get into trouble if I tell you."

However, over a dinner of steak and chips, followed by a long walk along the promenade, he did tell me. Chris had a racket going where he used young boys to attract the attention of men. The boys would then suggest to the men that they were available for sex and they had somewhere safe to go, but it would cost. The men would either have the cash or they would go to the ATM. More often than not, the boys would be with them and see their pin number when they entered it to get cash. The boys would then lead them to a location where Chris would jump them, accuse them of being paedophiles, which they probably were, and after beating them up, rob them. The victims rarely reported the attacks to the police because they were scared of being identified as paedophiles.

"So, he identified me as a possible target?"

"Yes, Johnny, when you were walking down to the windmill, he noticed you looking at the boys playing football. He told me then to catch your attention. That's why I threw the Frisbee at you. When he saw you start to walk back, he told us to take a break and told the twins to go for tea so I could get talking to you."

"Why are you telling me now?" I asked.

"Because I'm fucking sick of it. I'm sick of him beating those men whilst he fucks me and my brother whenever he likes. Sick of being afraid of him laying into me anytime I don't do exactly what he wants.

"Anyway, I'm scared what he'll do when he finds out I'm gay."

"You're gay?"

"Yes. Funny, isn't it? I'm gay and I'm preying on gay men."

"No, it's not. It's not funny at all, and some way, we have to get you out of this mess."

"I don't see how. He was furious when he found out you had a driving lesson tonight. He had it all planned out to trap you up in the woods and give you a going over."

"He might have found that a bit harder than he thought," I commented. Cliff looked at me. "I am Ben Carlton's nephew."

Cliff laughed. "I bet you're a fucking martial-arts expert like your uncle."

"I'm not up to his standards, but I can take care of myself. Now, all I have to do is find a way to take care of you. You could go to the police," I told him.

"And get sent down as an accomplice? No way. If I can keep out of trouble for the next year and get my A-levels, I can get away to uni. It will get me away from everything."

I could understand his thinking, though I did not think it was right.

"Look, Cliff, I don't think you would get sent down. You were acting under duress."

"Maybe not, but I would get put into care," Cliff said. "That would fuck up my A-levels."


"It's not only Chris who is fucking me and John."

It took a second or two for the penny to drop. When it did, things fell into place.

"Your father?"

"Yes, and his other brothers. It's a family thing. They do my cousins as well."

"We'll sort something out," I assured Cliff. "For the next couple of days, you can tell your uncle that I have driving lessons in the evening."

"He'll check on that to see if I'm telling the truth," Cliff stated.

"Then I'd better make sure it is the truth."

When we got to the hotel, I told Cliff to come up to my room so we could sort out sending his CV to Uncle Phil. Though, of course, Cliff did not know it was to Uncle Phil. All he knew, it was some production company. I just told Cliff that I knew they were going to be doing some work in Blackpool during the summer and could probably do with some local help. As he did not have a photo of himself, I took a couple on my camera, then transferred them to my laptop. Cliff used the Google Mail account we had set up for him to send the photo and CV to the email address I had given him.

That done, we talked some more. To be more correct, I talked, assuring Cliff that we would sort something out. The one thing we did agree on was that Cliff was to tell Chris that I had driving lessons for the next two evenings. I sent Patrick a text asking him to book me a couple of evening lessons.

Of course, when he picked me up on Wednesday morning, Patrick wanted to know why. I could not tell him without breaching Cliff's confidence, and that was something I was not prepared to do. I just told Patrick that there was a complication, and I needed an excuse to be busy both evenings. Patrick took that as an indication that Cliff was coming onto me and, given I had a boyfriend, was trying to avoid any involvement.

One thing I did not have to worry about was how to avoid Chris in the late afternoon. If the weather had been fine, he would have expected me to join in the game of Frisbee. As it was, it was pouring down with rain in the morning, and according to the weather forecast, it was likely to be the same for the whole day. That, at least, solved one problem.

I was a bit late getting back to the hotel at lunch time as Patrick had to take me into the driving school's office to book the extra lessons; he did not have a card machine to take payment in the car. That sorted, he drove me back to the hotel and dropped me off.

Once back in my room I checked my emails. First thing this morning I had emailed Uncle Bernard outlining Cliff's position and asking if I was correct, that he would have a defence in that he was acting under duress. I was surprised when I got an almost immediate reply.

"I suppose you're expecting me to take this on pro bono again!" he wrote. "Sorry, it is a bit too far away, but I've contacted a friend in Blackpool; we were at law school together. He'll act for your friend if required. His name is James Felton of Felton, Meredith and Carter."

Felton, I wondered if he was any relation to Patrick. If he was, it could be useful. I made a note of the telephone numbers that Uncle Bernard had sent.

That afternoon whilst negotiating yet another possible test route, I asked Patrick if he was related to James Felton, the solicitor.

"Uncle James, yes, that's Uncle Jack's brother. The family joke is Jack arrests them and James gets them off."

"Is he that good?" I asked.

"Yes, at least according to Uncle Jack. Uncle James is a solicitor-advocate; does a lot of Crown Court work these days. It's because of him I'm studying law. Why do you want to know?"

"I might need him to help a friend."


"I can't say."

"You don't need to, Johnny, but be careful. The Rowntons have a reputation, and I would hate to see you get hurt."

It was just before four when I got back to the hotel. I had not been in my room for more than five minutes when my phone went. It was Uncle Phil.

"Where did you find this kid?" Uncle Phil asked.

"Which kid?" I asked, not thinking of Cliff. I do not regard him as a kid.

"The one you had send the CV through to me, Cliff Rownton."

I explained to Uncle Phil about meeting him playing Frisbee.

"Why is it important?" I asked.

"Because he is a dead ringer for a younger Trevor," Uncle Phil responded.

I had not realised, but when I thought about it, Uncle Phil was right. The hair colour was wrong, and Cliff wore his hair in a totally different style, but if it was the same colour and style as Trevor used; they would look alike. No wonder I thought he looked familiar.

"Is that important?" I asked.

"Johnny, for three months, we've been scouring through agents' photos trying to find somebody who can play the younger brother of Trevor's character in Fly Boys, and you go up to Blackpool and find a younger Trevor. It's a gift."

"I don't know if he can act, and his accent is rather strong."

"That's not important. We can always dub it if we need to. That's what post-production is for. When can I meet this lad?"

I was not certain. So, I told Uncle Phil that there were complications, then gave him an outline of them.

"Right, Johnny. I'll let you take care of getting whatever mess is up there sorted out. I've no doubt you can do it. We'll be up as soon as we can get there."

With that he rang off. This certainly changed things. I sent Cliff a text asking him to come round to the hotel. He arrived about ten minutes later.

"I thought we weren't going to see each other today," he said when he got to my room.

"Well, something has come up that changes things. You know you wanted some work for the summer?"

"Yes, what about it?"

"Well, I think you may have got more than a summer job. Ever done any acting?"

"Yes, I've been in most of the school plays since I got to secondary school. Played Shylock in the Merchant this year."

"What did you play last year?"

"Puck, in Midsummer's Night. Why?"

Well at least he had some acting experience, and neither of those parts were small.

"My Uncle Phil wants to meet you. He thinks you may be right for a part in the next film he's producing."

"Why me?"

"Because Cliff, except for the hair colour and those glasses, you look like a younger Trevor Spade, and he wants someone to play the part of Trevor's younger brother — at least, the younger brother of the character that Trevor is playing."

"You're joking me?"

"No, I'm not. They're coming up to Blackpool to see you as soon as they can get away. The thing is, Cliff, this changes everything."


"Because it gives you an out. Now, all we need to do is find out how to play it. First, though, we need to get some food — at least, I do. Not sure we're going to have time to eat after my driving lesson."

"Why not?" Cliff asked.

"I'll tell you over dinner." Which I did. Cliff was not happy with what I proposed but also saw that he did not have much alternative but to go along with things. I thought he might chicken out as we left the dining room, but fortunately, Patrick was early, so Cliff did not get a chance. I just told him to get in the back of the car. Patrick did complain that he was not allowed to carry passengers.

"Fuck that," I told him. "Cliff wants to see what you're like as an instructor, so I'll drive while you show what a good instructor you are by listening to him. Cliff, tell Patrick what you told me."

I drove off to follow one of the test routes we had practiced on during the morning. While I drove, Cliff started to tell his story to Patrick. Actually, to be more correct, Patrick had to drag the story from Cliff. I was about twenty minutes into the drive when Patrick told me to pull over into a car park.

"What for?" I asked. I had been enjoying the feeling of just driving without Patrick giving me instructions all the time.

"I want to concentrate on what Cliff is saying. I can't do that and keep an eye on the road, so you can stop driving for a bit."

I did as instructed. Patrick turned in his seat to look over at Cliff in the back. I looked at him through the mirror. He was crying. Patrick got out of the car, then got into the back and put his arm around Cliff. In that moment, what had been the odd sob turned into a torrent of tears. It must have been ten minutes before he calmed down.

"Look, Cliff, you need to speak to my uncle," Patrick told him.

"He needs to speak to both of your uncles," I informed Patrick.

"You're right, there," Patrick said. He then pulled out his phone and made a call. Once he had made the call, he told me to get in the back with Cliff, and he took over driving. Fifteen minutes later, we were pulling up on the drive outside a large, detached house somewhere outside of Blackpool.

"Where are we?" I asked.

"Cleveleys," Patrick replied.

"It's the posh part of Blackpool," Cliff supplied.

As we got out of the car, a large woman opened the door to the house and stood there indicating we should get in out of the rain as soon as possible.

"Thanks, Aunt Rita, is Uncle James in?"

"Yes, he just got back; he's in the study. He's expecting you, so go on through. I'll bring you some refreshment in a bit."

We followed Patrick to the back of the house, then down a side corridor to what I presumed was an extension at the back of the garage. There, in a room lined with books and overlooking a very formal garden, was a man who in many ways reminded me of Uncle Bernard, though not so overweight.

"Good to see you, Patrick. Now, which of these young men is Bernard LeBrun's godson, and which is my prospective client."

"Uncle James, this is Johnny, Jonathan Carlton-Smith. I presume he must be this LeBrun's guy's godson," Patrick said, indicating me. He then nodded towards Cliff. "And this is Clifford Rownton, whom I hope you can represent."

"Well, you lot better sit down. Now Clifford, my nephew told me on the phone that you had been involved in criminal activity and that you had been forced into it. Is that correct?"

"Yes, sir," Cliff responded, almost in a whimper.

"He also said that the person forcing you into the criminal activity was also sexually assaulting you. Is that correct?"

"Yes, sir." This time it was a whimper.

"Good, we have established that. Well, I am a solicitor, and I have been asked to represent you. Are you happy for me to act for you?"

"I can't afford to pay you," Cliff said, looking very worried.

"You don't have to; that's been covered. All you have to do is say you want me to represent you, though I would suggest you do not take too long to make up your mind. My brother is on his way over, and he is a police superintendent. I would like to have this settled before he arrives."

Now, Cliff looked really scared. There was a long pause before he said anything. "Don't have much choice, do I. I need somebody to get me out of the mess I'm in."

"Good choice," Patrick's uncle said. "Now, you two, I suggest you go and find my wife while I have a talk with my client. Patrick, if my brother arrives before I have finished, keep him occupied for a bit. I want to get all my facts straight before we lay anything before Jack."

Patrick stood; I followed his example. Before I left, I told Cliff if he was worried about anything just ring me and I would come back. I then followed Patrick out of the room. He led me to the kitchen where his aunt was busy laying out a tea tray.

"We've been exiled," Patrick told her.

"That's fine, darling. I'll just make this tray up and take it through. Do you think your friend will want tea or cola?"

"No idea," Patrick said, then he looked at me. "Do you know?"

"No, I don't."

"Right then, I'll put a can of cola on the tray just in case." She did, then put a couple of cream cakes on the tray before vanishing with it down the corridor we had just come up. Patrick indicated I should take a seat at the table. He took one on the other side. His aunt returned a couple of minutes later carrying the can of cola.

"He chose tea," she informed us. "Now, what would you two like?"

Both of us went for tea. We also each got a cream cake.

"Aunt Rita runs a bakery," Patrick stated by way of explanation. "Any unsold cream cakes at the end of the day come home."

"Well, it would be a shame to waste them," his aunt stated.

Patrick and his aunt chatted about things going on in Blackpool and the surrounds. He explained to her I was doing an intensive driving course but did not come from Blackpool.

"Then you probably have no interest in our gossip," his aunt stated.

"Not really," I agreed.

She laughed, then suddenly stopped and stared at me.

"I thought you looked familiar. I've just remembered. You're the lad who disarmed that gunman last year. You were on TV when you got the George Medal."

I had to admit I was. Patrick looked at me in amazement.

"You've got the George Medal?"



"Being in the wrong place at the right time," I replied. It was a response I had practiced quite a bit in the recent months.

Patrick's aunt laughed. "That's told you, boy."

We then got onto talking about cinema. Patrick's aunt had remembered I was related to the uncles, so I was asked a lot of questions about them.

"To be honest, I don't really know them that well," I said. "I only met them for the first time last March."

I then had to explain about mother not having anything to do with her family and having divorced Dad, and me never meeting him before her dumping me on his doorstep in March last year.

"So, you see, until I moved in with Dad, I had never met my uncles. To be honest, I did not even know I had uncles, never mind a couple of film stars."

Patrick's aunt laughed. "Can't wait till I tell the girls in the shop that I've been feeding cream cakes to the nephew of Ben Carlton and Matthew Lewis. They're both your uncles, you say?"

"Yes, Uncle Ben is my father's brother, Uncle Phil, that's Matthew Lewis, is my mother's brother."

I was getting ready to face more questions when the phone on the kitchen wall beeped. Patrick's aunt answered it, then told us we were required back in the study.

"Looks like I have to sort more tea and cake; your Uncle Jack's on his way over, Patrick."

"I know," Patrick informed her.

We went back to the study. Cliff was there looking rather upset. Patrick went and sat on the chair next to him and pulled Cliff in for a hug. It looked as if he needed it.

"Look, you two, Clifford has told me what's going on, and to be honest, it's a mess. He needs to speak with Jack, but he says he won't unless you're here. Not sure how Jack will take that, but it's what my client wants. So, you two can be here. However, stay quiet, and whatever you do, don't say nowt to anyone when this is over. Agreed?."

Both Patrick and I confirmed we understood.

We had just given our assurances when the study door opened. A man stood there, a slimmer version of Patrick's Uncle James, in the uniform of a police superintendent. I guessed this was Patrick's Uncle Jack. Cliff positively shrank into his chair upon the sight of the police uniform.

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