Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 43

"Get in there and sit down. I need to get through," the voice of Patrick's aunt rang out from behind the policeman. He stepped into the room and to the side. Patrick's aunt entered, carrying a tray with two tea pots, mugs, milk and sugar and more cream cakes.

"You'd better take a seat," James Fenton instructed his brother.

"Am I really going to need to be seated?" the policeman asked.

"I think so."

"Jack, the yellow teapot has Earl Grey in it; the red one is Yorkshire," Patrick's aunt announced as she collected the mugs and stuff from earlier and placed them on the now-empty tray. She then departed.

"Let me introduce you," James Fenton said. "You know Patrick, of course. This is my client, Clifford Rownton, and his friend Jonathan Carlton-Smith."

The policeman looked at me a bit surprised. "The Jonathan Carlton-Smith?" he asked.

"What do you mean 'The'?" James Fenton asked.

I just nodded.

"Well, brother, you might like to tell me why you have got me here to meet a young man who took down a gunman who had just shot a police officer. Names of people who do things like that tend to get noticed in the force."

"You took down a gunman?" Patrick asked.

"Well, somebody had to," I replied.

"So, how come a hero is here with my nephew and a member of a known criminal family?" Patrick's Uncle Jack asked.

"I met Cliff the first Sunday I was here. The thing was something was not right. I did not know what, just that there was something wrong. Eventually I found out what it was. Then I got some legal advice from my Uncle Bernard. He advised me to contact Mr. Fenton."

"I think, Jonathan, it might be better if you called me James; there are three Mr. Fentons here. So, I'm James and he is Jack," James Fenton instructed. Jack Fenton did not look too happy with that.

"Yes, James. To continue, I asked Patrick if he was related to James Fenton, and he said he was his uncle, so I asked for Patrick's help, and here we are."

"So, what's the story?" Jack asked.

"I will give you a summary," James stated. "My client has repeated this enough today."

That said, James referred to his notes and basically told Cliff's story. When I glanced at Cliff, I saw he was being held by Patrick. Jack noticed it as well. When James had finished telling Cliff's story, Jack looked across at Patrick.

"Is there something I should know, Patrick?" he asked.

"If you're asking if anything is going on between me and Cliff, the answer is no. I only met Cliff a couple of hours ago. If you are asking if I would like there to be something going on between us, then the answer is yes, but that probably has to wait till this mess is sorted out and we get a chance to get to know each other better."

Cliff looked at Patrick. "Really?"

"Yes!" Patrick confirmed. Cliff smiled.

"We will have to get a formal statement from Clifford," Jack announced. "Once that is done, we will probably be able to get his uncle and father on child-sexual-abuse charges. Though, as it is one person's word, we may have trouble getting them to stick."

"There will be no formal statement till we have agreed how this is to proceed," James stated.

"Why?" Jack asked.

"Because I need to look after the interests of my client," James asserted. "Now, what about the assaults and robberies?"

"Not sure we can do much there," Jack stated. "None of the victims that we have identified have been very helpful giving statements. I can understand why, now. Without supporting evidence, I doubt if we could get a conviction."

"How about if you caught Chris in the act?" I asked.

"That would be nice, but I can't see how we can do that," Jack stated.

"Well, Chris has told Cliff to trap me. He wants Cliff to lead me into the woods by the golf course. How about if Cliff tells Chris he is bringing me on Friday evening, but you are already there?"

"You can't do that!" Cliff shouted.

"Why not? It would catch Chris," I replied.

"But you could get hurt," Cliff pointed out.

"He's got a point there, and that's why we can't do it," Jack stated. "You're how old?"

"Seventeen," I responded.

"Precisely. Legally a minor. You can't consent, and I can't see your parents consenting; there is too much risk."

"There's only my Dad, and he will consent," I stated with somewhat more confidence than I felt.

"You can't be sure," Jack said.

"I am. If James speaks to Bernard LeBrun and explains the situation — that's my dad's and my solicitor — Uncle Bernard will sort it all out."

"How would it stand legally?" Jack asked James. "We are not in danger of entrapment, are we?"

The moment Jack asked this, I knew I had got him.

"No, you're safe there. You've been given information about a crime that is being planned. You are taking steps to stop its execution," James replied.

For the next fifteen minutes or so, we discussed how things would work, though we could not make any firm plans. Jack needed to get consent from Dad before anything could go ahead. Once the outline of the idea had been agreed, the question then came up of Cliff's safety and that of his brother if they were subject to sexual abuse at home.

"We're safe till the weekend," Cliff told Jake and James. "Dad's working on the Beach and will not be home till early hours. It's when he has a day off that we have problems, and he won't be off till Sunday. Chris is never in on Wednesday or Thursday nights. He's got some woman he goes to see."

"I'm not happy knowing there is a child at risk," Jack stated. "I'm duty-bound to report it to Social Services, and you know they will want to act."

"Jack, you have the right to delay reporting if the act of reporting will put others at risk," James pointed out. "It is my opinion that if you do report, you will be putting Jonathan at risk as you will have no evidence to arrest Chris, and he is bound to assume that the information came from Cliff via Jonathan. He will also be certain that he has put too much fear in Cliff for him to have reported it directly. No, you need to arrest Chris with a cast-iron case. I don't like Jonathan's idea, but it is probably the best option out there."

I was not too happy being called Jonathan; that's what my mother used to call me. So, I stated the fact I preferred Johnny.

"One thing, Johnny, why wait till Friday?" James asked.

"I want to get the driving test out of the way," I told them. Patrick laughed.

We spent a bit longer agreeing what had to be done to get things organised. As Jack stated, nothing could be even started until they had my dad's consent. He was still doubtful that it would be forthcoming.

It was agreed that Cliff would give formal statements to the police on Friday, with James being present. Cliff said he could get out of school, no problem, as he had no classes Friday afternoon.

With things sorted as much as they could be, Patrick drove me back to the hotel, dropping Cliff off on the way. He did offer to drop Cliff off at his home, but Cliff turned down the offer, saying it would be better to get out a bit away from the house and walk the last bit. It was not quite ten yet, so still dusk. Patrick then dropped me off at the hotel.

Once in the hotel, I phoned home. Dad answered. I spent the better part of half an hour explaining the situation, then told him what I planned to do.

"The fuck you are! Johnny, there is no way I will give my consent for the police to use you in a sting operation like that. You could get hurt."

"Dad, I have far more chance of getting hurt if I walk into the trap without police support than I do if I walk in with police support."

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"Simple, if I can't get your consent, then I will have to get Cliff to take me to where Chris will be waiting tomorrow. I can always tell him that we have had to bring plans forward. I'm fairly certain I can take Chris out."

What followed was nearly an hour of argument and discussion. In the end, Dad did agree to give his consent, but he informed me that he would be coming up to Blackpool tomorrow. I told him he did not have to, but he said there was no way he was not going to be up there.

It was no surprise, therefore, when I got back from my driving lesson Thursday morning to find a message waiting for me to call one of the other rooms in the hotel. What was a surprise was when Uncle Ben answered and informed me that Uncle Phil was with him and they wanted to see me. Ten minutes later, I was in their room.

Of course, I had presumed they had come up to see me because Dad had told them about what I had planned, so before they could say anything I launched into a full-on tirade, telling them what I was planning to do and why and why I would not listen to any objections. When I was finished, the pair of them looked somewhat bewildered.

"Well, that's news," Uncle Ben stated.

"What do you mean news? Isn't that why you're here. Didn't Dad tell you?"

"No, we had to come up to Blackpool sometime before the end of the month to complete arrangements for our use of the airport. The production launch is being announced next Tuesday. We also need to meet this Cliff in person before we can finalise on making an offer. It just seemed best to kill two birds with one stone," Uncle Ben told me. "Phil thought it would probably be easier if you were here to introduce us to Cliff. So, we came up this morning."

"Shit! I thought Dad had got onto you about what I planned to do. He said he was coming up this morning."

"I would be coming up, too, if I was your father," Uncle Phil said. "What you are proposing is mad, though I can see it might be necessary. Now, what can you tell us about Cliff?"

I told them what I knew about Cliff — or, at least, what I felt comfortable telling them about what I knew. I did not go into the abuse, though I am fairly sure I mentioned it in the earlier tirade. I was in the middle of giving them details when my phone rang. It was Dad; he was down in reception. Apparently, he had been ringing my room, but there was no answer.

"Where are you?" he wanted to know.

"I'm with your brother and his partner," I replied, then gave him the room number.

A couple of minutes later, Dad arrived.

"Has this idiot told you what he's planning on doing?" Dad asked as he entered.

"Yes," the uncles replied together. Then Uncle Ben continued. "It's totally stupid, but to be honest, I don't see what else Johnny could do. This Chris character sounds like one nasty piece of work who needs taking out. Johnny can take him out. We just have to make sure that Johnny has as much of an advantage as he can."

There was another twenty minutes of discussion, but by the end of it, I think Dad was convinced enough to say yes to things. Anyway, I pointed out to them that it was twenty-to-one and I had a driving lesson at one-thirty and still needed to get some lunch, so I was going down to the restaurant. Dad and the uncles joined me. As we went down to the restaurant, I texted Cliff, telling him to come round to the hotel once he got out of school. Then I told the uncles he would be there around four. They said they would book a table for afternoon tea.

Patrick picked me up from the lobby just on one-thirty. We were coming out of the restaurant when he arrived. I introduced him to Dad and the uncles, then went off with him for my driving lesson, the last one before my test, though Patrick did assure me he would give me an hour's practice driving just before I took my test.

Once in the car, Patrick asked me why my family were up here. I. had to explain about the fact that Uncle Phil was using Blackpool airport for some of the filming in Fly Boys. I also told Patrick that I had been trying to arrange some work with the unit for Cliff and that they wanted to meet him. I did not tell him that they were thinking of casting Cliff in one of the leading roles in the film. I had not told Cliff what a big part it was. After I knew that Uncle Phil was making the film, I had read the book about the University Flying Club. It was actually written by the younger brother of one of the pilots in the Battle of Britain. It was that younger brother that Cliff would be playing if he got the part.

I did tell Patrick that Cliff was meeting my uncles at four. Patrick said he wanted to be there. He seemed somewhat protective of Cliff, which did not surprise me. I had seen the way he and Cliff had interacted last night.

The lesson was once more driving over possible test routes, with Patrick giving me various test manoeuvres to complete in each route. I do not know how many three-point turns I completed. A lot.

I did comment to Patrick on the fact that it was raining again.

"What do you expect? This is the English Northwest; it has the highest rainfall in the country," he explained. "That's why the cotton weaving industry was based here; there was plenty of water to run the mills, and the humidity was high enough to spin cotton."

"Yet you have a seaside resort here," I pointed out.

"Well, it doesn't rain every day."

"Just most days."

We got back to the hotel just before quarter to four. Patrick had taken me to one of the test routes farthest out, and it had taken a bit longer to get back than expected. Patrick got me to park up in front of the hotel. We then both went in. Patrick was most firm that he wanted to be there to support Cliff, who arrived about five minutes after us. I told Cliff that my uncles wanted to meet him and had booked a table for afternoon tea.

"A bit posh for me," he stated.

"Well, if you want a job, you will have to put up with it," I commented. Then I phoned the uncles to let them know that Cliff was here. I also told them that Patrick was here, and he was Cliff's friend and wanted to be in on any discussion. Ten minutes later, we all met up down in the restaurant for afternoon tea. I had been a bit worried that Patrick was missing out on giving lessons, but he assured me on the way down that he had nothing booked.

"Actually, I don't normally work Thursdays or Fridays," he informed me.

"Then how come you've been teaching me today?"

"Maureen, one of Dad's instructors, has been off ill, so Dad had to cover her lessons all week; otherwise, he would have been taking you. I just stepped into the breach, as it were."

"And got pulled into all this," I commented, indicating Cliff.

"I'm glad I did."

I introduced Cliff to the uncles and then sat back and listened to the conversation. Surprisingly, neither Uncle Phil nor Uncle Ben said anything about acting. They were talking about Cliff working as a runner for the advance production team which would be coming up to Blackpool at the start of July. The conversation was all about finding facilities, such as accommodation for the crew when they were filming at the airport. Then Uncle Phil asked Cliff if he had done any acting.

"Done some school plays," Cliff replied.

"What did you play last?" Uncle Phil asked.

"Shylock in the Merchant of Venice."

"Can you remember any of your lines?"

"Of course:

I have possessed your grace of what I purpose,

And by our holy Sabbath have I sworn

To have the due and forfeit of my bond.

If you deny it, let the danger light

Upon your charter and your city's freedom.

You'll ask me why I rather choose to have

A weight of carrion flesh than to receive three thousand ducats.

I'll not answer that

but say it is my humour.

Is it answered?"

"Act IV, Scene One," Uncle Phil commented. "That was good."

It was good. I do not know how Cliff had done it, but the moment he started to recite the speech his whole appearance had changed. There had been a look of determination and seriousness upon his face. Also, Cliff's accent had vanished. It had been replaced by one I could not put my finger on, but I thought was mid-European. A fact I commented on.

"That, Johnny, is acting," Uncle Phil informed me. "Cliff was not reciting Shylock's speech; Cliff was not saying it. He had become Shylock and saying what Shylock would say.

"How would you feel about doing some acting in the film, Cliff?"

Cliff looked puzzled for a moment. "Are you serious?"

"Yes, there is a part in our next film that I think you would be ideal for," Uncle Phil said. "We would have to arrange some screen tests to see how you work out on camera, but provided they work, I think we can use you."

"And if they don't work?" Cliff asked.

"You've still got a summer job as a gofer for our advance production unit the first week of July."

"When do I have to do the screen test?"

"Well, we can do it this evening. We've booked the Library Suite here, and we've got the kit needed. All we need is your parents' consent."

"That might be a problem," Cliff stated.

"Look, I don't think we need to get explicit consent for the screen test," Uncle Ben stated. "We've got a general consent form for minors working on set. It covers most things. It's what we would have to use for you to work as a gofer. Could you get that signed?"

"As long as Dad thinks I'm going to be bringing in some money, don't see a problem. The only thing that would worry him is if he thought him and Uncle Chris would lose control over me."

Tea completed, we all went up to the uncles' room. Uncle Ben got a form out of his briefcase, then filled in some details. He handed it to Cliff, who read it, then passed it to Patrick, asking if he thought it looked OK. I read it over Patrick's shoulders. It was a fairly standard parental consent form for a minor to work on the film set, except for the wording of the work involved. Uncle Ben had written, general production assistant and such other activities as may be suitable. Other activities could include acting. I also noticed in the rate-of-pay section, he had put a minimum amount. He had not stated that it would probably be more. I did note that it required the consent of both parents.

Patrick told Cliff that it looked fine. That said, Cliff said he could get his mother to sign it; that was no problem as it was her day off. However, he would have to go up to the Beach to find his father and get him to sign it. Patrick offered to drive him to the Beach. There was a bit of discussion on the practicality of it. Cliff did not want to be seen getting into Patrick's car, but they sorted out a compromise that worked. That sorted they left, which then left me to deal with Dad and the uncles.

Actually, it turned out not to be as bad as I had feared. It seems that during the afternoon, Dad had spoken to both James and Jack Fenton. Although he had misgivings about the whole thing, in the end, he had given his consent. I was due to meet with Jack Fenton at three on Friday afternoon.

"They've arranged to take a formal statement from Cliff at one. So, by three, they should be ready to set the operation up. I just hope you know what you are getting into," Dad told me.

I hoped so, as well.

Patrick and Cliff got back to the hotel a bit before seven with the signed consent form.

"Dad took one look at what you were paying and told me he wanted ten pounds an hour off me, then signed it," Cliff stated.

"He didn't bother to read it?" Uncle Ben asked.

"Don't think he can read, I had to tell him what it was," Cliff said "He does know his numbers though so knew what you were paying."

That sorted, we went down to the Library Suite. It did not take Uncle Ben long to fix up some lighting and a digital-video camera. Uncle Phil then asked Cliff to do something for the camera.

"What?" Cliff asked.

"Give us some more Shakespeare, not Shylock though; something lighter," Uncle Ben said.

Cliff was still for a moment, then he launched into something I did not know:

If we shadows have offended, Think but this, and all is mended, That you have but slumber'd here While these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme, No more yielding but a dream, Gentles, do not reprehend: If you pardon, we will mend: And, as I am an honest Puck, If we have unearned luck Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue, We will make amends ere long; Else the Puck a liar call; So, good night unto you all. Give me your hands, if we be friends, And Robin shall restore amends.

As he recited the speech, Cliff seemed to change, he became almost elflike. His movements becoming somewhat ethereal. It was as if he was somebody totally different. No, that's not right, it was as if he was something totally different.

When Cliff finished, Uncle Phil applauded. So did Patrick and I. Uncle Ben was busy looking at the monitor on which he was replaying the recording.

"Phil, come and look," Uncle Ben said.

Uncle Phil went over and looked at the monitor.

"Remarkable!" he said. "There's no make-up, no costume, but he's Puck."

"What?" I asked.

"Come and look, Johnny," Uncle Ben said, so I did. The change in Cliff I had noticed when I had watched him being filmed was much more pronounced on the video image.

"Johnny, Cliff just performed Puck's final speech from Midsummer's Night Dream. He's done it without make-up and without costume, but he comes across as Puck. There are few actors who can do that. Cliff is going to be a great actor."

"But I want to be a doctor," Cliff stated.

"Then use acting to pay your way through medical school," Uncle Phil suggested. "With a talent like yours, they will fit the filming schedule around your study schedule."

The uncles got Cliff to play out a couple more scenes for the camera. However, I think it was more a confirming exercise. I was fairly certain they were convinced of Cliff's on-screen abilities with that first shot.

It was gone eight by the time they had finished and packed everything up. I did mention that I needed to sort out some dinner, and I thought Patrick and Cliff needed feeding to.

"Well, while we're in Blackpool, I want fish and chips," Uncle Ben announced. So that is what we had. Patrick told us we had to try the Yorkshire Fish Bar, which is where we went. The fish and chips were fantastic.

"Most of the tourists tend to go to Harry Ramsden's," Patrick told up. "It does have a reputation, but most of the locals prefer here."

I could understand why.

Friday morning, Patrick picked me up at nine, rather than nine-thirty. He told me he wanted me to get plenty of practice before the test.

"We are not doing any manoeuvres or last-minute prep," he told me as we set off. "You're just going to drive round and get comfortable behind the wheel until it is time for the test."

An hour and twenty minutes later, I was booking into the test centre, having driven along roads that I had not been on before, a fact that I mentioned to Patrick.

"The last thing I want is for one of the examiners to spot you before the test. If you ended up with them, they might take your driving that they had seen before into account. They shouldn't, but they might."

That gave me confidence, I do not think.

The examiner I got was a woman, who was pleasant but professional about the test. From the start, she told me that it was not her job to fail candidates. It made no difference to her if a candidate passed or failed, though she preferred candidates to pass as the paperwork was easier.

"Really?" I asked.

"Yes, if you fail, I have to give you a detailed list of all the points you failed on. If you pass, I only have to sign one piece of paper."

That made me laugh.

We set off for the test, the examiner giving me directions of where to go. The route she set for me was not exactly one of the routes I had done with Patrick, but it did follow many of the same roads, so I was pretty familiar with the area. So much so that I was half-ready for the emergency stop signal when it came as it was in the same area as Patrick had used for doing it. When I mentioned it to Patrick afterwards, he pointed out that it was a quiet road with very little traffic, so the chance of me being rear-ended when I did the stop was minimal.

Patrick was wrong about a couple of things. The spot she asked me to park in had far more space than any Patrick had selected for me. She was also able to find a hill which was steeper than anything Patrick had given me for the hill start.

At quarter-past-eleven, I emerged from the test centre with the piece of paper saying that I had passed my driving test. I was now able to get a full licence. Patrick appeared pleased with the news.

"I've got a message from your uncle to drop you off at Domonic's Gym, then I have to pick up Cliff," he informed me.

"Where's Domonic's Gym?" I asked.

"It's in Saltcotes," Patrick answered. "That's just past Lytham on the way out towards Preston."

Some twenty minutes later, we pulled up outside what looked like a small single-story warehouse. As I got out of the car, Patrick told me that he had to go and pick up Cliff from school.

"If you walk back to the main road and turn left, it will take you back into Lytham. It's about a thirty-minute walk to your hotel," he informed me. I did not think I would have to walk. Uncle Ben's Maserati was parked in one of the parking bays outside the gym.

I went into the building through a door marked 'Reception'. Inside, there was a small hallway, with a reception hatch in the wall. At the end of the hallway was a door with a numeric keypad on it. I pressed the bell by the reception hatch. After a couple of minutes, it was partly opened.

"W'at you want?" a rather gruff voice asked from beyond the hatch. I could not make out who was on the other side as only a small sliver of the hatch was open.

"My uncle left a message for me to meet him here," I stated.

"You're Johnny?"


"Come on through." The door at the end of the hallway buzzed. When I pushed it, it opened. I stepped through into what appeared to be a refreshment area. There were some low tables and chairs around the room and a couple of vending machines against one wall. There were two doors in the wall opposite where I was standing and two in the wall to my right. A voice called out from behind one of the doors to my right. "Take the green door into the gym."

That was the door on the right furthest from me. I guessed the door closest to me, which was black, probably led into the reception office. When I opened the green door, it gave me access into what I would have considered to be a typical boxing gym. There was a roped ring in the centre. Along one wall, there was a range of various bags and hanging balls to punch; along the other, racks of weights. What was not typical was beyond the boxing ring. At the far end of the room was a matted area, which I guess was at least twelve-metres square. Uncle Ben was standing at the side of it talking to a young man dressed in a gi, whom I guessed was a few years older than me.

"Hi, Johnny, come over here and meet Danny; he's going to be your sparring partner," Uncle Ben called across to me.

"Sparring partner?" I called back as I walked down the length of the gym.

"Yes, sparring partner. I need to see how you cope when you have this on." Uncle Ben lifted something that looked like a badly made tabard from the bench besides him.

"What is it?" I asked walking up to him.

"That, young man, is probably one of the best anti-stab vests out," the gruff voice that had greeted me in reception said from behind me.

"Johnny, meet Domonic," Uncle Ben said. I turned to see a small man who looked a bit older than my father and a damned sight tougher. "And this is his son Danny.

"Domonic and I both trained under the same Sensei."

"Yes, and you went into films, and I went into Special Services," Domonic commented. "Where did I go wrong?"

"Being straight?" Uncle Ben asked. Domonic laughed.

"Domonic runs this place as a hobby," Uncle Ben informed me. "His main business is security equipment, which is run from the other half of the warehouse. That's where this is from, and if Domonic says it's the best, believe me, it is the best.

"Now take your jacket and shirt off. You will also have to drop your jeans to put this on."

I did as instructed. Once I dropped my jeans to the floor, Uncle Ben lifted up the tabard thing and placed it over my head. It weighed a ton.

"What is it made of? Lead?" I asked.

"It's three layers of tightly woven Kevlar over a layer of overlapping, high-impact ceramic plates, then a layer of high-density foam and another three layers of tightly woven Kevlar," Domonic stated as he started to fasten the Velcro straps that ran down the sides. There was a strap that went from the front to the back, which ran between my legs, I was pleased to note that there was a cup built into the thing; otherwise, it would have been somewhat uncomfortable with the way Domonic pulled on the crotch strap to tighten things up.

Once the vest was fitted, I pulled my jeans up and put my shirt back on. Uncle Ben told me to put my jacket on as well. I looked at him questioningly.

"Johnny, you'll be wearing a jacket tonight. I need to see that you can defend yourself in normal clothing."

"You call this normal," I commented. "It feels as if I'm wearing a suit of armour."

"It's nowhere near that heavy," Danny stated. "Just the chain mail would be fifteen kilos; that vest is not more than five. A full suit of armour would be about at least five times as heavy."

"He's right," Domonic stated. "He's an expert on armour. Then, he's very much into re-enactment events. He usually goes dressed in full armour. How his horse copes, I don't know?"

Once I had put my jacket on, Domonic told me to empty my pockets. I did not ask why; I just did. I got the sense Domonic knew what he was doing. However, he did provide an explanation.

"It's surprising how many people get injured in a combat situation by landing on something that is in their pocket. So tonight, make sure you only have what is necessary in your pockets."

Then it was onto the mat. Uncle Ben told Danny to attack me. He gave him a free hand. For the next half hour or so, Danny kept attacking me with a variety of moves. Sometimes, Uncle Ben or Domonic would tell Danny what method of attack to use; other times, they just let him get on with it. I dealt with most of them using Savate, though I did use some of the techniques that Lee and Uncle Ben had taught me. At first, I found the vest restrictive, but I quickly got used to it and found that I could move freely with very little adjustment, something I commented on when Uncle Ben called an end to the session and we came off the mat.

"That was the idea, for you to have a chance to get used to it in a combat situation," Uncle Ben said. He then picked up a bag from the bench and handed it to me. "You need to get showered and changed."

I looked in the bag. There was a change of clothing for me. He must have got it from my room. I picked up my bits and pieces from the bench and put them in my jacket pocket.

"Follow me. I'll show you where the changing room and showers are," Danny said.

I followed him. He led me back to the refreshment room, then through one of the doors in the back wall into what was clearly a changing room. There were lockers along one wall and a set of benches down the middle of the room.

Danny went to a locker, which he opened and pulled a towel out, plus a bottle of shower gel. I looked in my bag. Yes, there was a towel in there and some shower gel. I took my jacket off and hung it on one the hooks above the bench, then started to undress.

"You did good," Danny stated. "Never seen kicks or punches like you were doing. What were they?"

"Savate," I told him.

"Never heard of it. Where do you learn it?"

"In the back alleys of the worst parts of French cities."

"Nobody teaching it over here?"

"There are some places that claim to teach it, but when I've looked at them, they are just teaching modified Muay Thai, generally badly."

"Shit, I would have liked to learn it. It looks like it's bloody effective for street fighting."

"It should be. That's where it comes from, the streets of French ports."

Danny slung his towel over his shoulder and walked naked down into the shower area. I was about a minute behind him, which was good. By the time I got there, the hot water was at least flowing.

"Your uncle tells me you're setting yourself up to help a kid you've only just met?" Danny said.



I do not know, but for some reason, I felt it was important to tell Danny the whole story about Cliff: how I had met him and how he seemed scared and hiding something. Then, I explained how I got the story out of him and what had happened since.

"So, this Chris guy is the one behind some of the attacks on gays around here?"

"Yes, Danny. Jack — that's the police superintendent — thinks he may be behind at least fifty such attacks."

"Well, let's hope you are able to put a stop to it. I'm not gay, but my best mate is. He was beaten up last August and is still in hospital."

Danny may not be gay, but by the way he said that, he certainly had some feelings for his best mate.

"Do you teach in the gym?" I asked, trying to make some conversation.

"Not really. I help out during the vacation, but I'm doing PPE at Oxford. Just finished my second year. One more year to go."

"Then what?" I asked.

"Would like to get into broadcasting. I've got a few contacts through work I've done for your uncle."

I expressed surprise, but Danny told me that he had worked on a couple of TV programmes with Uncle Ben as an assistant fight director.

"That got me some contacts, and I hope to use them. Would like to get into radio journalism."

That made sense, as did studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics. It was a favourite subject for those thinking of going into politics or journalism.

We finished showering, towelled off and dressed. Although Uncle Ben had brought me clean underwear, socks, shirt and jeans, he had not brought me a coat, so I had to put my jacket back on. Thinking about it, it was the only jacket I had brought up with me — a blazer. I had thought I'd better dress smart for the test.

Danny had insisted I put the vest on. I pointed out that I would not need it till tonight.

"Johnny, the more you wear it, the more you will be accustomed to it, the better you will be able to defend yourself in it."

That made some sense, so with Danny's help, I put the vest on again before putting my shirt and jeans on.

We returned to the main gym where Uncle Ben and Domonic were talking. As we approached, Domonic looked up and asked if I would be wearing the same jacket tonight. I said I was not sure; I was thinking of using one of my casual jackets.

"Wear that one," Domonic told me. The look Uncle Ben gave me told me that I was to do as I was told.

Domonic opened a case he had on the bench and removed a small, enamelled badge, the type of thing you wear to signify membership of a club or society. He fastened it into my lapel buttonhole.

"What's that?" I asked, guessing it was more than a badge.

"It's a tracker. With that, we can track your position to within two metres from up to ten kilometres away. We can track you to within ten metres from up to fifty kilometres away."

He then removed a fountain pen from the case and placed in in my breast pocket, clipping it firmly in place.

"Don't tell me, a single-shot gun?" I asked.

"No, they're not legal in this country. That has a camera and microphone in it with enough storage to store up to twelve hours of recordings. It also transmits everything to this receiver." He indicated a box in the case. "We can pick it up, up to two kilometres away, though we like to stay within five hundred metres if we can."

"That implies you're going to be there," I said.

"We are, though you won't see us," Danny stated.

Somehow, I believed them.

"Put this in your pocket, whichever is the one you can get at easiest," Domonic said. He handed me one of those cardboard tubes you get herbs in with a push-off top — not only on the top but one on the bottom.

"What is it?"

"Very strong chilli powder. Pop the top off and throw it in their face," Danny instructed.

That sorted, Uncle Ben and I left the gym. It was now well past one, and I was, to say the least, peckish, a fact I made Uncle Ben aware of.

"We'll find somewhere to grab some lunch, then we need to get to the police station."

It was a bit after two-thirty when we got to the station. Uncle Ben had found a fish-and-chips café, and we had both had pie and chips. Well, we'd had fish and chips last night.

When we got to the police station, Uncle Ben asked the officer on reception for Superintendent Felton. Jack came through a few minutes later and escorted us into the bowels of the station. We were taken to what appeared to be a conference room. My dad and Patrick were both there.

"Where's Cliff?" I asked as we entered the room.

"He's being interviewed at the moment," Patrick stated. "James is with him."

I expressed surprise as I would have thought that Jack would have been interviewing him.

"No, in cases like this where sexual assault of a minor is involved, we have to use specialist interviewers. Also, we have to have Social Services in, as we can't let the parents be present as they are the suspected parties. The whole thing is videotaped."

It suddenly struck me as I sat down. What was going to happen to Cliff and John when this went down? A question I asked Jack.

"You'd better answer that, Patrick," Jack said.

"Mum and Dad are going to foster them," Patrick said.

I expressed some surprise. Patrick continued. "They are registered foster parents. Actually, both my sister and I are adopted. There have always been foster children at home most of my life. It is only in the last few years there have not been any there constantly. These days, they tend to take teenagers in on emergency placements — the sort of situation where a single parent has to go into hospital and there is no one to care for the child. At the moment, they don't have anyone fostered, so I spoke to them about Cliff and John, and they agreed to take them if required."

"I spoke to them, as well," Jack stated. "I also spoke to Social Services earlier. It's all in place if needed."

It was another half hour before Cliff joined us with James and a woman who I presumed was from Social Services. She was, it appeared, raising some objections to the plan, but Jack told her it was an operational necessity.

That settled, we got down to going over the plan. About eighteen police officers were brought into the room; they would be part of the action. Some were in uniform, others in civvies. They would have to get up to the location where Cliff was supposed to take me well before there was any chance of Chris being there.

"Exactly where is it that you will be taking Jonathan?" Jack asked. He had a large-scale map of Lytham spread out on the wall of the room. Cliff stood, went over and pointed to an area off to the side of one of the roads.

"Here. There's an old building in the woods; kids have been using it as a den for ages," Cliff said.

"I know the place," one of the uniformed officers said. "Used to be an old pump house. All the equipment was removed years ago; the place is abandoned. There is some dispute about ownership."

"Can we get into position without being seen?" Jack asked.

"Easy. There is an entrance from the back of the property. We can go in that way," the uniformed officer stated.

"So, what's the timing on this? Cliff, how do you let Chris know that you are bringing the victim?"

"I text him. I have to tell him where I am just so he can check that we're not being followed when we leave. Then he bikes it to the agreed location."

"Shit! That complicates matters, I thought we would have you in a car until we knew Chris was in position, then let you walk in to spring the trap," Jack said.

"Won't work. We'll have to leave somewhere he expects us to be and then walk up there."

"From the hotel," I suggested.

"That would work," Cliff said.

Jack expressed concern that it was quite a walk from the hotel to the location.

"Not really. If you go by the roads, it is, but if you cut through the car park here and then through a couple of jitties, it's not that far," Cliff stated, following the route with his finger.

For the better part of an hour, there was discussion about timing and where people should be placed. Two of the officers were local to Lytham and knew the area well. They provided suggestions on the best place for people to be. It was agreed that six uniformed officers would secrete themselves in the wood around the pump house. Cliff and I would both be wired up. The moment there was the first hint of any violence, they were to enter the pump house in force. One of the local officers suggested he could secrete himself inside the pump house.

"There's a loft in there. I could easily get up into the loft and be in position to drop down on Rownton when it's time."

It was agreed that this would be done.

Everything planned out, we all went down to the police canteen to get something to eat before the action. Then it was up to another area of the station to get ready for things.

When it came to wiring Cliff and me up for sound, there was a bit of a surprise at the vest I was wearing.

"Stab-resistant vest?" the technician asked as I put my shirt down on the table.

"Yes," Uncle Ben stated. "I thought it best not to take any unnecessary chances."

"Wise move," Jack stated. "Is it any good?"

The technician looked at the tab on the side of the vest. "It's a Banyard Security vest by the looks of it; one of their executive vests. They're supposed to be the best. They say they can even stop a small-calibre pistol round if it's shot from more than a couple of feet away."

"Wish we could afford kit like that," one of the uniformed officers was saying. They were putting on their own stab-resistant body armour, which looked quite bulky compared to what I was wearing.

It was agreed that Cliff would text Chris that he had got me to agree to go somewhere where we could have sex. Cliff would tell Chris that we would leave the hotel about nine. That was still a good hour away, giving plenty of time for the police to get in position.

Uncle Ben took me back to the hotel. Dad was going with Superintendent Felton so he could be nearby when things went down. Patrick brought Cliff to the hotel. There were also a couple of plain-clothes officers, a man and a woman, who came along to the hotel just to check things out from that end and be ready to pass on any information if we hit problems.

It had just gone seven-thirty when we got to the hotel. Cliff sent Chris a text saying that he thought he could get me tonight. He got a text back telling him to be careful but to let Chris know when we were on our way. About half an hour later, there was a radio call to the plain-clothes officers telling them that Chris Rownton was watching the hotel. At half-past-eight, Cliff sent the text telling Chris we would be leaving at nine. He told Chris that I did not need to go to the ATM, that I had plenty of cash. Just after nine, we left the hotel, turned right and walked down the road to the first corner, turned right again and entered the maze of side and back streets which is Lytham. We soon came to the end of one side street to be confronted by a set of locked double gates, beyond which was a car park. Although the double gates were locked for vehicles, there was a pedestrian gate at the side which was open. We entered the car park and made our way across it to the far side. Here, there was one of those automatic barriers which provided entry to the car park. We walked around the barrier, down the next street, then turned left up a jitty between two warehouses. We were about halfway up the jitty, which was barely wide enough for us to walk side by side, when a figure stepped into the jitty at the far end. It was Chris.

Cliff turned and looked behind us.

"Dad!" he exclaimed. At that moment, Chris pulled a gun out of his pocket.

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