Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 48

I spent most of Saturday working in the chandlery. For some reason, it was quite busy. That was probably a good thing as it kept my mind off thinking about Joseph. It had become a thing for us to be together in the chandlery when I came in to work it on a Saturday or Sunday. The fact that he had already arranged to spend the day with Luuk, looking at the plans for the new studios was…well, I am not sure what it was, it just was not what I had expected.

I suppose that I really should have talked with Joseph about it last night when we were in bed, but somehow I never got around to it. We were too involved in other things, then we were both too tired, especially given the fact that I had to be up before seven to get in and open up the yard. Steve was having a morning off — or, at least, part of one.

Steve came in a bit after ten only to get stuck in the office having to complete paperwork for the Receiver of Wrecks. When I went up to make some tea, he was mumbling a stream of obscenities which would have made a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence blush. So, I made him a mug of tea, as well. I would have done it anyway, but it seemed like he really needed it.

I had given Colin a lift in on Saturday, so he did not have his bike. Bran had got tied up with a customer, so he was not available to go up to the Pig. In the end I had to drive up there to collect the lunches, taking Colin with me to help with the chain ferry. As we were collecting the order, Jake told me that some bloke had been in on Friday asking questions about the Priory.

"Funny sort of bloke. Think he was foreign," Jake informed me. "Had a bit of an accent. Looked like a worker, but he were using posh words."

I thanked Jake for the heads-up, got the lunches and drove back to the yard. Fortunately, nobody had crossed over onto the other side with the ferry, so we did not have to pull the ferry back before we could load the car onto it. Even so, it still took a lot longer than using a bike for the trip going across the footbridge; as a result, the food had definitely cooled down by time we got back. I put it all in the microwave to give it a blast. I had just finished heating it all up when Bran came in, having got rid of the customer.

"Problems?" I asked.

"No, just an idiot who wanted to know why everything that was done had to be done," Bran replied.

"Can't blame him for that," Steve commented from his desk. "At the prices we charge, I would want to know that everything was necessary."

Over lunch, I reminded Steve that I was away for the next couple of weeks.

"Good job you reminded me," Steve said. "I was just about to put you in to open up on Thursday. Sorry, Bran, looks like you're going to be doing overtime."

"Don't mind," Bran responded. "Could do with the extra. Got my eye on one of those flats in the new development; need to save for the deposit."

"Where you off to?" Katherine asked Steve.

"Both of us, actually," Steve replied. "We're not off, just elsewhere. There's a job to price up, which will probably land on you. It's moored in the marina at Dunford. Agreed to have a look at it Thursday morning; we can call in on it before coming into the yard."

"What's the job?" Katherine asked.

"He wants the interior of his motor yacht remodelled," Steve informed her. "It's a thirty-six-footer. Not sure exactly what they want done but said we would see them Thursday morning."

After lunch, it was back to the chandlery for me. It was fairly busy right through the afternoon. Fortunately, Steve took over at four. He was keeping the place open till seven, something he regularly did during the summer. Once I had picked up Colin, I set off for home.

I had fully expected Joseph to be with Luuk when I got home, so was rather surprised to find Luuk alone in the kitchen, poring over a pile of papers that he had spread on the table.

"Where's Joseph?" I asked.

"Out in the grounds somewhere. He's showing somebody around," Luuk responded.

I gave a grunt in reply, then went up to my room to shower and change. When I came down, I found Mum and Gran in the snug. Luuk was still occupying the kitchen table. I asked Mum where Dad was.

"He's over in the office with Lee and Gert; there's some last-minute work they need to get sorted before we fly out. By the way, we're going down to the Belmont for dinner."

"Anything special?" I asked.

"Miss Jenkins invited us. She's also asked Joseph and Lee to be present."

I wondered what that was about.

Mum clearly wanted to get back to whatever it was that she was reading. So, I went into the kitchen and put the kettle on to make a pot of tea. I asked Luuk what he was reading.

"Your building regulations; they're different from ours."

"Better or worse?" I asked.

"Neither, just different. Different priorities, I think. For a start, in the Netherlands we have a lot of regulations that make places resistant to flooding; you don't seem to have them here. You have a lot about blocking light , which we do not have. It is all complicated."

"I suppose that's because you are more prone to flooding than we are," I commented.

"Probably. How was your day?"

I ended up chatting with Luuk for about half an hour.

Dad came in a bit after five. I asked him if he had seen Joseph.

"He's showing Dr. Chapman around the grounds," Dad replied. He then looked at the clock. "Though, I would have thought they would have finished before now."

I was about to say that I would go and look for them but was stopped from doing so when Joseph came in through the backdoor. He informed us that Dr. Chapman had left.

"What took you so long?" Dad asked.

"We got stuck at the forge. Dr. Chapman was talking to the two women who are running it. He seems very knowledgeable on blacksmithing. They were impressed by him. I had not realised that the forge is probably part of the original monastic structures that were here."

"It is?" I asked.

"Oh, yes," Joseph replied. "When Dr. Chapman pointed out the stone supports for the forge base, it was easy to see that they were of the same type of stonework as the stones in the tithe barn and likely to be from the same period.

"Oh, I saw Jan when Dr. Chapman was talking to the potter guy. She says thanks for the tip about the Crooked Man. She's come to an arrangement with Mary."

"What tip was that?" Dad asked.

"I told Jan that they used to do B&B," I said.

"Look, we need to be at the Belmont for seven, so I'd better go and get ready," Dad said. "Sorry, Luuk, you and Gert are on your own for dinner."

"Gert texted me about that; said we would go down to the pub," Luuk replied.

"You'll probably get a better meal," Dad commented. "The Belmont is into fine dining." With that comment, Dad left to go up to his room. Joseph said he needed to change and went up to ours. I followed.

"What've you been up to today?" I asked as I entered our room. Joseph was by the bed, undressing.

"Went down to Matt's office this morning to look at the designs for the studios," he replied, pulling his shirt over his head.

"What are they like?"

"Not bad, but pretty conventional. Think they could have been better, more adventurous."

"Not sure Uncle Phil would be up for that," I commented. "Adventurous architecture usually costs more."

"Not necessarily," he replied, pushing down his jeans and pants in one move, stepping out of them leaving them on the floor by the bed. He walked naked into the bathroom. As he entered, he turned to me. "Going to join me?"

I had already showered, but I was not going to turn down that invitation.

I got downstairs just after six-thirty, which was a bit tight for getting to the Belmont for seven. Yes, it is only about ten minutes away in the car, but then you will have to find somewhere to park. Summer weekends, almost impossible. You will probably end up having to park miles away and walk to the harbour front.

Dad had still not got the Santa Fe back, so we went down in the Merc, with Lee driving. When we got to the hotel, I was surprised to see available parking spaces in front of it. More surprising, there were a couple of heavies making sure that they were kept free. One of them looked familiar. As we turned onto the harbour front, by the Belmont, one of the heavies removed the 'No Parking' cone that blocked one of the parking spaces and waved us in. The space was next to one occupied by a couple of motorcycles, which got me thinking. We were just getting out of the car when Simone's car was waved into the empty parking space on the other side of us.

Simone got out of the car. She looked around, then spoke to one of the heavies. "Aunty not here yet, Dan?"

"Oh, she's here Ms. Thompson. She's sent Stanley to Luton to pick someone up from the airport."

I realised why he was familiar. He had provided security at the Priory in the past.

Simone came over and joined Lee, indicating that we should go in, as well. When we got in, we were directed to a private dining room at the back of the restaurant. There were another couple of heavies on the door making sure it was kept private. Simone took the lead and went up to them, clearly knowing them. She must have vouched for us as we were ushered into the room.

As we entered, I spotted Neal and Maddie, as I had surmised from the presence of the motorcycles. They both came over to us.

"Hi, Mike, Aunty's upstairs on the phone, but she will be down soon. There are drinks available at the bar." He indicated the wine bar over on the far side of the dining room.

"What's going on?" I asked Neal.

"I wish I knew, but something big," he replied. "Both the French and the Flemish families have come over for meetings. Aunty is meeting them later. What's surprising is that you're here, you not being family."

That point worried me, but before I could say anything, Miss Jenkins entered the room. With her was a tall, thin woman, who I would say was about sixty or so. There was something about her, though, which seemed familiar, but I could not place it.

Nothing was said, but people started to seat themselves at the table. Neal indicated to Dad that we should take the seat next to him and Maddie at one end of the tables, Lee was on the other side of the table with Simone. There was a low murmur of conversation taking place at the table. Miss Jenkins tapped a glass. There was silence. She then started to speak.

"Look, I've got something fairly important to tell you, but first of all, I feel we should eat, and I would appreciate it if you would refrain from questions until after we have eaten. After dinner, we will not be disturbed by staff coming in and out. Stanley will take care of the drinks for us. I hope you don't mind, but I have taken the liberty of ordering a set meal for us."

I glanced across at the wine bar and saw that Miss Jenkins' driver had taken the place of the barman who had been there.

The meal was certainly not one of the Belmont's set meals. This was not fine dining but good wholesome food simply served. It started with a vegetable soup, followed by beef slow cooked in a sauce of chopped tomatoes and herbs. The meal finished with a selection of cheeses and a choice of desserts. As the waiters finished serving the desserts, Miss Jenkins gave a signal to Stanley. He went to the main door and spoke to whoever was outside. A moment later one of the heavies came in — Brian, I think — and crossed the room. He spoke briefly to Miss Jenkins and then went to the service door. As he went through it, it was clear he was taking up position on the far side of the door. I guessed there was somebody outside the other door leading to the lobby. Miss Jenkins was not intending to be disturbed.

"I know you are wondering what's going on," she stated. "A week last Tuesday, the Die Vereinigung made a specific demand of Mr. Carlton," she indicated Dad as she said this. "It is a demand which he is unable to comply with, even if he wished to. Though, given what he knows of Die Vereinigung, he is in no mood to, anyway.

"As some of you will know, we established that there was a link between Die Vereinigung and the activities of the person known as Master James. We had also reason to believe that there was a possible further link between them and the Henderson brothers, who operated in this area. Recently, we have been able to confirm that link. It appears that whilst the Henderson brothers were not directly connected with Die Vereinigung, they were known to Master James and did carry out activities for Die Vereinigung through him.

"In the last two weeks, we have become aware of certain facts which we find somewhat disturbing. Whilst the police rounded up most of the major players in the Henderson gang, they left a number of the smaller players free. In some, probably most, cases this was due to lack of evidence, but in some it was so they could gather more intelligence.

"We have also had access to some of that intelligence. From what we know, it appears that about three weeks ago, a new player appeared on the local scene. That person has been contacting the remaining members of the Henderson gang and exercising some element of control over them. It looks as if they are trying to take over and run what is left of the Hendersons' operation.

"Such criminality would not, of course, give us any reason for concern. However, two facts have changed that. Last Wednesday, one of our informants amongst the remains of the Henderson gang was killed in a hit-and-run. What is really worrying was that the hit-and-run took place as he was crossing the road to meet with his contact. They clearly wished to make a point to us that they knew who he was passing information onto.

"Although the lad's injuries were fatal, he was not killed immediately; in fact, he remained conscious for some time before he died. During that time, he managed to pass some information over to his contact. Amongst the information passed on was the name of the person who has been organising the remains of the Henderson operation. He named him as Master Hans. That is a name which has cropped up in connection with Master James and Die Vereinigung, and we suspect they are trying to take direct control of what is left of the Henderson operation, something that we find worrying.

"Recently, our interest in Die Vereinigung coincided with the interests of another party, who have made themselves known to us. The information they brought to us filled in a lot of blanks. Madam Hurenburg represents that party, and I have asked her to pass on the information that she has, which will give some useful background."

With that, Miss Jenkins sat down, and the woman who had come in with her stood.

"Good evening. Because of the origins of Die Vereinigung, my people have always had an interest in their activities," she stated. "Unfortunately, we have never managed to infiltrate their inner circles, though we have had some success with penetrating some of their associated bodies. From these sources, we learnt just over two years ago that Die Vereinigung was planning a major action, which would be contrary to the interests of my people."

Joseph leaned over towards me and whispered. "She's Israeli." I wanted to ask how he knew, but she continued with her address.

"Just over six years ago, we discovered that Die Vereinigung were amassing a large quantity of funds for some purpose. What that purpose was, we were unable to establish. However, we believe that it was connected with some form of attack upon my country's interests.

"What we do know is that whatever their intention was, something went wrong at the end of last year. From information that Miss Jenkins was kind enough to supply, it seems clear that they have lost control of the funds they had been amassing. From what we have been able to learn, they are desperate to recover the funds. It is my country's desire to ensure that they are unable to get access to them. With this in mind, I have been authorised by my country to co-operate with Miss Jenkins and other parties."

That said, she sat down. I wondered who the other parties are.

"Mr. Carlton," Miss Jenkins said, "I presume you are still of the mind not to carry out the instructions you were sent?"

"There is no way I could, even if I wanted to," Dad replied.

"That's what we understand, but I needed to confirm it. The thing is, it is likely that Die Vereinigung are going to take steps to try and force you to comply with their request."

"How?" Dad asked.

"From the information we have obtained, we understand that Master Hans is recruiting people to undertake a 'snatch'. I would suspect that the target for such an operation would be your son and Joseph, to put pressure on you and Mr. LeBrun as he has joint control of the funds. They could be aiming to take both. What I am fairly certain of is that both boys are at risk."

There was a gasp from Mum. Dad put his hand over hers.

"Shouldn't we go to the police?" Dad asked.

"They already know," Miss Jenkins replied. "I have spoken with DCI Manley — indirectly, of course. The fact is, there is not much they can do at the moment. There is no direct evidence that a snatch is being planned or who the target is. Until that is available, the hands of the police are tied. Fortunately, mine aren't.

"That is why we are meeting today. I intend to put in measures, as much as I can, to protect your family, Mr. Carlton, and to interfere with the operations of Die Vereinigung."

"You seem to have a dislike of them," Dad commented.

"I have," she responded. "Now, Maddie, I want you and Neal to take responsibility for security at the Priory. Neal, you can have the van."

Neal positively glowed with pleasure at this piece of information.

"Simone," Miss Jenkins continued. "I would like you to take charge of arranging Johnny's security. You are with him quite a lot, so that makes sense. Daniel and his brothers are here; you and Neal can agree how to use them between you. You do, of course, both have call on our local resources. Now, Joseph, I have spoken to your father. Whilst you are at the Priory, you will be covered by the arrangements we are making for there. However, arrangements will be made for when you are at home in London."

I asked Neal who Daniel was. He informed me that was Dan, who was outside guarding the door. He also pointed out that the local resources were the girls working for Arthur and some of the staff at the Belmont and Southmead Hall who were family members.

Dad clearly had a question for Miss Jenkins. "What about in Australia? We leave on Tuesday?"

"I do not think that will be much of a problem. For a start, Die Vereinigung have little or no presence out there.

"Now, Neal, I want both Johnny and Joseph to have watches. Make sure they know how to use them."

For the next half-hour or so, Miss Jenkins gave instructions to various people, then she and Dad discussed the issues around security. Dad was worried about how having extra security might impact on the nursery and crafts centre. Miss Jenkins and Neal, with the odd comment from Maddie, were explaining to him how the system they would have in place would effectively isolate the Priory from the Green Farm complex.

"You already have it fairly well separated as it is," Miss Jenkins pointed out to Dad. "The fact that it is a publicly accessible area in fact might make things easier for us."

"How so?" Dad asked.

"Well, with people coming and going at the arts-and-crafts centre, it will be fairly easy for us to slip people into the Priory without them being noticed."

"Doesn't that mean they can slip people in as well?" Dad inquired.

"Not at all. We will only be able to slip people in because we are expecting them. Anyone else will find it is not so easy."

It was well past nine by the time we left the Belmont and was getting on for ten before we got home. I had had a long day and really felt like getting to bed early. However, that was not to be. Dad insisted on us all gathering in his study while he got Uncle Bernard on the speaker phone to discuss what Miss Jenkins had told us.

It turned out that Miss Jenkins had, as she had indicated, already spoken with him and that arrangements were being made for Joseph's security when he was in Town.

"Do you think it will work?" Dad asked, referring to the security precautions.

"I don't see why not," Uncle Bernard replied. "The Porter/Thompson family have a lot of experience with this type of thing, so if anybody can carry out effective security, it is them. So long as no guns are involved, everything should be OK."

"What if there are guns involved?" I asked.

"Then, Johnny, we are in a totally different ballgame."

I did not find that very comforting.

Despite everything, I went into the yard on Sunday morning, and Joseph went in with me. I was again covering the chandlery, at least until two. Dad had not been too keen on the idea of me going in, but as I pointed out, Miss Jenkins had said there was no immediate threat. I took Colin in with us but made sure he had one of the folding electric bikes with him as I would be leaving at two whilst he was working till at least four, if not later, it being a Sunday. There were always some weekend sailors who had problems which needed to be sorted out before they returned to wherever they were from on Sunday evening.

At least, that is usually the case. This Sunday, Steve told Colin he could finish for the day at one. The job that he and Bran had been working on came to a dead stop when they found that they needed a replacement part, and it would have to be ordered in. I told Colin to hang on and I would give him a lift home when I finished at two. He said he would but used the electric bike to go up to the Pig to collect lunches for himself and the others. Joseph and I did not bother with lunch as we knew Mum had a late Sunday lunch planned for three.

It was lucky that Colin was able to finish early as Mum wanted to talk to him when he got back. Maddie needed somewhere to stay. She usually used the spare room in the Stable House apartment, but Colin was in there now. Mum wanted to know if Colin would be prepared to move into the main house so Maddie could have the room he was occupying. I am not sure if Colin was all that keen on the idea, but he agreed to it.

"We've got some news for you," Granddad said as we sat down for Sunday lunch.

"What's that?" Mum asked.

"Matt's given us a completion date for the apartment."

"When?" Dad asked.

"First week of August," Grandma stated.

"So, you'll be here whilst we're away," Dad stated.

"Yes, we'll keep an eye on the place, and the missis will feed Colin," Granddad said.

"You don't need to do that," Mum stated. "I've told Colin he can use the kitchen to prepare his meals himself."

"Yes, and you know what type of meals he'll prepare," Grandma replied. "I'll make sure he is well-fed." That was announced in tones which indicated that there was no scope for argument.

After we had our Sunday lunch, Joseph and I helped Colin move his stuff from the Stable House over to our guest wing. Mum had put him in one of the guest rooms with en-suite facilities. I think that pleased him. Also, the guest room he had was bigger than the room over in the Stable House.

"Any idea how long I'm going to be over here?" he asked as I helped him put the last of his stuff away, not that he had all that much stuff.

"No idea at all," I replied. "Though it can't be more than three months; Maddie is back at university at the start of October."

That news did not seem to cheer him up.

Monday morning, Dad was up early to go into Town. He was going to the hearing at the Court of Appeal against Uncle Phil's conviction. I had intended to do some work on The Lady Ann, but the weather was terrible, so I asked Dad if I could go with him. Dad expressed some concern that there might be an age restriction on the public gallery at the court.

"No problem. If I'm stopped, I'll use my Student Union card. They got my date of birth wrong, so that it shows me as eighteen."

"How did that happen?"

"Well, my handwriting is not that readable," I commented. "Somebody misread my two for a squiggly one."

Dad laughed.

It was just after nine-thirty when we got to the court. Then it took us about twenty minutes to get through security. Eventually we got inside and found Uncles Phil and Ben standing in the lobby.

"No Bernard?" Dad asked.

"He's with June Ravensbrook going over some details," Uncle Phil replied.

"You haven't got Sir Henry?" Dad commented.

"Oh, we've got him; he's just not appearing for us. He is still not fully recovered. From what Bernard said, it does not look as if he will be appearing in court again. He has, though, been over the papers time and time again, and June spent three hours with him over the weekend. Bernard said having June here is as good as, if not better, than having Sir Henry."

"Of course, she is," Uncle Bernard stated, coming up to us. "It's five to ten; we'd better get into court. We're the second case up this morning, but the first one is going to be a nod-through, so we will be on soon."

That said, he led us to the courtroom where the case was to be heard and directed us to the public gallery. I had just taken my seat in the gallery when a court usher came up to me and asked me what I was doing there. I explained I was a student and produced my Student Union card. I also told her I was considering doing a Cert Law when I had finished my degree. That satisfied her. Dad and Uncle Ben gave me a look from the far end of the row in front, no doubt wondering what was going on. I had deliberately sat some distance from them.

I saw what Uncle Bernard meant that the first case would be dealt with on the nod. That was literally what happened. The barrister for the Crown stood up and stated that the Crown were not ready to proceed at the moment as new information had been made known to them and they wished to reconsider their position. The barrister for the appellant stated that they were agreeable to an adjournment of the hearing. Everything was agreed, and it was all over in ten minutes.

The next case was called. It was Uncle Phil's.

Miss Ravensbrook rose to address the court. "My Lords, this case has been directed to your Lordships by the Crown Court. There are three issues of law which Mr. Justice Lockmeadow felt would be best addressed by this court." She then proceeded with a complex legal argument. From what I could understand of it, I gathered that the question was: could a person who had pleaded guilty subsequently appeal against that finding of guilt if it was shown that the initial charge had, in fact, been flawed?

For the next hour and a quarter, there was some fairly technical legal discussion, then the three justices of appeal withdrew to consider their verdict. Half an hour later they returned.

"This case has raised some complex legal issues. It has also raised some questions of public interest," the leading judge stated. "As a result, we will not be giving our reasons for our decisions at this time; they will be supplied in writing at a later date. However, the main point of our reasoning is that a person, no matter how they plead, cannot be guilty of a crime that did not take place. It is clear from the paperwork that has been supplied to this court that the crime with which the appellant was charged did not take place. It is equally clear that the appellant at the time of the charge did not have effective legal representation. Therefore, it is the opinion of the court that there was a miscarriage of justice and that the charges against the appellant were without foundation. That being the case, we find in favour of the appellant and grant the appeal in full."

That was followed by about five minutes of legalise, which basically meant they would let everybody know why they had come to that decision in writing in the future. That said, the court rose. It had just turned twelve. No doubt the Lord Justices of Appeal wanted their lunch. I certainly wanted mine.

Of course, Uncle Phil and Uncle Ben had to face the barrage of the press who were waiting outside. Uncle Bernard had to go with them to make an official statement. Miss Ravensbrook, Dad and I slipped away to a restaurant where Uncle Bernard had reserved a table.

"Uncle Bernard must have been pretty confident that Uncle Phil would win his appeal," I said as we took our seats at the table to wait for the rest of our party.

"Oh, there was never any doubt about that," Miss Ravensbrook stated. "The only question was on what grounds it would be allowed. To be honest, we still do not know that and won't till their Lordships supply us with the written judgement. That could be months off if they want to."

"What's the problem?" I asked.

"The thing is that there is a basic problem in English law that you cannot appeal against conviction on a guilty plea. Therefore, to overturn a conviction where there has been a guilty plea entered, you must show one of two things: either that the plea had been obtained under duress or that there was a fundamental flaw in the judicial process. Neither is the case here. The thing is, their Lords Justices of Appeal have decided to grant the appeal and are now, no doubt, trying to work out the exact grounds on which it is being granted."

"Do they do that often?" Dad asked.

"Not often, but enough to make the law interesting," Miss Ravensbrook replied.

It was not long before the three uncles arrived.

An hour and a half later, we made our way to Uncle Bernard's office, Dad having informed Uncles Ben and Phil that he needed to talk to them in private. Uncle Bernard's office was about the closest place where we could do it. Once we were there, Dad told Uncles Phil and Ben what Miss Jenkins had told us on Saturday.

"Did you know about this, Bernard?" Uncle Ben asked.

"Not in the detail you've just been told. I did not know about the hit-and-run or a couple of other things. I also did not know about Madam Hurenburg. To be honest, I am not sure I want to know about her."

"Why not?" I asked.

"Johnny, from what your father has said, I can make a pretty good guess who her people are. That means she is probably a member of a certain organisation which it is best not to know too much about."

"Joseph said she's Israeli."

"More than likely." The way Uncle Bernard said that indicated he was not going to say anything more on that subject.

"Well, we'd better get some security down from Manston for you," Uncle Phil said.

"Is that wise?" Dad asked. "It might upset Miss Jenkins."

"Don't worry, Mike, I'll get Allen to liaise with Miss Jenkins. Who's in charge down there for her?"

"I think that is Neal," Dad replied.

"Fuck!" Uncle Ben exclaimed.

"What's wrong?" Dad asked.

"If she's put Neal in charge at the Priory, that means that Maddie is running things overall. Don't underestimate that girl. I am fairly sure she is Miss Jenkins chosen successor. The fact that she has put her in place means she is taking this threat very seriously."

"But she's not part of the family," I pointed out.

"That, Johnny, is exactly the point. The only reason Miss Jenkins was able to control the three families was because she was not one of them. Whoever is actually running them has to come from outside just like Miss Jenkins did."

"I'm texting Allen," Uncle Phil stated. "Going to tell him to provide security at the Priory and to liaise with Neal."

"I hope nobody expects me to be stuck in the Priory for the next three months," I stated.

"No," Uncle Phil replied. "But Miss Jenkins only has so much resource-wise, so if we can cover the Priory, she can cover you when you are outside of it."

It had gone four when we eventually got home. As I got in, Mum reminded me I needed to pack as we would be leaving early in the morning. We had to pick Jenny up before we went to the airport. Getting her and her wheelchair through security would involve an early check-in.

"How are we getting there?" I asked, realising that there were six of us. Even with the Santa Fe, we would not have been able to get us all in.

"I've booked a minibus from the taxi company in Southmead. It has a lift for the wheelchair," Dad stated.

I just nodded upon receipt of this information, then went up to my room to finish my packing. I had, in fact, been fairly well packed already, but there were some last-minute things I needed to put in my case. I was just packing my video camera when Joseph came in.

"What've you been up to?" I asked. He did not look happy.

"Not much. Went down to Matt's and got stuck with scaling up some drawings whilst Luuk and Matt worked on the plans for the studio."

"Does Matt know you are away for the next week?"

"Yes," Joseph replied. "Was not due to go in today, but Luuk had some changes he wanted to discuss with Matt, something that had come up from him reading the building regs."

I carried on packing. Joseph had already got a case packed for Australia. He did have to sort out his carry-on bag, something I needed to do as well.

Tuesday morning, at an hour when nobody should be awake, we climbed into a minibus for our journey to Heathrow. I was a bit surprised when Gert boarded the minibus with us, carrying a suitcase and a shoulder bag. I had not realised that he would be coming to Australia with us. It turned out he was not. He was flying back to the Netherlands and would be back in England in three weeks.

There was another surprise when we picked up Jenny. She was not in her wheelchair, at least not the one she normally used. The one she came out of the bungalow with was one that had to be pushed by somebody. I must have looked a bit surprised as she informed me that James had told her not to take her powered wheelchair over with her. There were problems taking them on planes. James had said he would arrange the hire of one in Sydney.

We got to the airport shortly before eight. The first thing we did was drop Gert off at the terminal for his flight. It was at nine-fifteen, so he was about on time to get through check-in and security. We then had to drive round to the terminal for our flight. Having to get Gert to his terminal for his flight meant we were early for ours, which was fortunate, we had nearly two hours before it was called. I say 'fortunate' as there was a total fuckup when we got to check-in. Although the airline had been informed that Jenny was a wheelchair user — Dad had the email confirming it — no provision had been made for her. There should have been a wheelchair waiting for her at the check-in, that she would transfer to, and her own wheelchair would go in the hold as luggage. We were stuck at check-in for nearly an hour while they sorted out a wheelchair for her. Dad was not amused.

We had been there waiting for nearly forty-five minutes when Dad asked Luuk if Luuk's phone had a higher video resolution than the phone Dad had. Luuk confirmed it had. Dad then asked to borrow it. Luuk pulled out his phone and handed it to Dad. Dad then phoned somebody. After a couple of minutes of speaking to whoever he had on the phone, he handed the phone to Luuk and told Luuk to keep him in frame. Luuk held the phone up, pointing at Dad.

"This is Mike Carlton at Heathrow Airport. I arrived here nearly an hour ago with my sister-in-law, who is confined to a wheelchair…" He then proceeded to give an account of the last three quarters of an hour. He took about four minutes to outline what had gone on and then signed off with, "and that, Gloria, is the situation."

Luuk then stopped whatever he was doing and handed the phone back to Dad. Dad again spoke to somebody, nodded his head and said thank you. I wondered what it was all about.

It was ten minutes later that things started to happen. First, my phone rang. I looked at it and saw it was from Neal.

"What's your dad playing at?" he asked.

"I don't know. Why?"

"He is just on the morning news letting everybody know you're on your way to Oz. Aunty told him to keep things low profile."

"Well, I didn't know," I pointed out. Neal made some comments, then rang off.

Just then, a small, very smartly dressed woman appeared at the back of the check-in, clearly wanting to speak with Dad. Within five minutes not only had a wheelchair arrived for Jenny. It also appeared that our tickets were being upgraded. We were then escorted to a security check, which clearly was not for the hoi polloi . From there, we were guided to the first-class lounge. It was there I found out what Neal had been talking about. We had just sat down and ordered some refreshments when I looked across at the rolling news screen to see Dad on it. The sound was off, but the subtitles were running, and it was a clear to see why the airline had suddenly become so helpful. I know what they say, but I can assure you there is such a thing as bad publicity.

It was not that long before our flight was called. As we boarded the plane, we were directed to the left and the first-class accommodation. Jenny, who had been wheeled to the door of the aircraft, made her way to her seat using her crutches; the stewardess informing her that a wheelchair would be waiting for her at the Singapore stopover and in Sydney.

I was a bit annoyed to find that I was seated next to Jenny. Mum and Dad were seated across the aisle, with Joseph and Luuk seated behind them.

It seemed to take ages from when we were seated until the doors were closed and we were pushed back from the boarding gate. Then, there was another delay while we were queued on the taxiway. Finally, some forty-five minutes after we had boarded, the plane started its take-off, rushing down the mile-long runway.

I am not that keen on flying but have to admit that flying first class had some advantages. For a start, the flatware and cutlery were metal, not the plastic that we had when we flew to Paris and Amsterdam. Also, there was a decent selection of onboard entertainment to watch. Not that I watched much. I spent most of the flight to Singapore reading on my Kindle or chatting with Jenny. After the stopover at Singapore, I was whacked and slept for the last part of the flight.

As a result, I was not that tired when we arrived in Sydney, which is more than I can say for the rest of the party. They all looked somewhat the worse for twenty-four hours plus in the air.

James met us once we got through customs and immigration. There was a bit of a problem at immigration with regard to the visa Dad had and the fact that the rest of us were only coming in as tourists. Dad had to explain that he was there on a working trip, doing a book-signing, giving some TV interviews and speaking at some events, but the rest of us were just along for the holiday. Actually, that was not quite correct as Luuk was there technically as Dad's assistant, replacing Lee, but had come out as a tourist. Not that I think anybody would be too worried about that, given we were only there for just under two weeks.

There was also a rep from Dad's Australian publisher there. She introduced herself as Sandra and informed us that she had arranged accommodation for us in the form of a villa at a place called Balmain East. Unfortunately, she had not brought a car that was suitable for Jenny; fortunately, James had. So, Jenny joined James in the Range Rover, which he had hired for our stay, whilst the rest of us piled into the people carrier that Sandra had brought to pick us up.

The drive to Balmain East took a bit over half an hour, with James following us in the Range Rover, which also held most of our luggage. During the drive, Sandra was giving Dad a rundown on what had been arranged for his stay. Dad was not pleased to find out that he would be picked up at seven-thirty in the morning as he was due to be interviewed for the morning news show on the local TV.

I do not think Dad had got much sleep on the flight. It was, however, eight-thirty p.m. here in Sydney, so he would have a chance to catch up. It was also dark. I had forgotten that it was the middle of the Australian winter. Apparently, the sunset had been around five this evening.

Dad did make it clear that we needed to get some food. Luckily, Sandra had thought about that; she had arranged for a take-away meal to be delivered to the villa and told Dad that it should be delivered about fifteen minutes after we got there. She also informed him that she had stocked up the fridge and larder in the house where we would be staying.

When we arrived at the place, I was a bit put out. It looked a bit rundown and industrial. A high concrete wall ran down one side of the road with tall, double solid-steel gates in it at periodic intervals. Sandra pulled the car up just before one of the sets of gates, then unlocked and opened it before getting back in the car and driving us in.

Once we were past the gates, I got a surprise. We were at, what I found out later was, the back of a three-storey modern townhouse, which glowed white in the headlights of the car. Sandra parked up in front of the door, leaving the space under the car porch free for James to drive into.

We had only just about got into the house when a bell rang. Sandra said that it would be the food and went to open the gate to let the delivery man in with it. Three quarters of an hour later we had eaten, cleaned up and decided where everybody was sleeping, not that I felt all that much like sleeping. I did, though, feel like cuddling up with Joseph. Unfortunately, he did feel like sleeping. Apparently, he had spent the whole of the flight chatting with Luuk and had got little or no sleep.

It was still dark when I woke. Checking the bedside clock, I noted it was just after six-thirty. I got up, showered and dressed without disturbing Joseph, who was still fast asleep, snoring lightly. When I got down to the kitchen, I was a bit surprised to find Dad there, then I remembered he was being picked up at seven-thirty for his TV interview.

I sorted out some breakfast and then took a seat at the breakfast bar opposite Dad. As I tucked into some cereal and toast, I asked Dad what the plans where while we were in Sydney.

"Well, I'm fairly tied up for the next few days. I'm free for the weekend, though. You might like to sort something out we can do as a family," he said, indicating a pile of brochures at the end of the breakfast bar. "Monday, I have to fly to Brisbane. Got signings and interviews. Should be back late Tuesday. After that, I'm free to go up to Bowen. Have to charter a small plane to get there. Hoping to do that Thursday or Friday. Anything you want to do particularly while you're here?"

"I would like to see Uluru," I replied.

"So would I," Dad responded, "though I am not sure I can fit it in this trip."

"Fit what in?" Mum asked as she entered the room.

"A trip to Uluru ," I replied.

"What's Uluru?" she asked.

"It's the proper name for Ayres Rock," I told her.

Just then, the doorbell rang, announcing Sandra was here to pick Dad up. She was a bit early.

Whilst Dad was finishing off his breakfast Sandra gave me some tips on where to go and what to see in Sydney, keeping in mind that it was winter and sunset was around five. She did suggest opening the blinds and taking in the view, so I went over and opened them. Sandra was right; there was quite a view. The villa looked out over Sydney harbour. I found myself looking down a stretch of water towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

"The forecast is good for today, so you might try doing the bridge tour," Sandra suggested.

"What's the bridge tour?" I asked.

"There is a tour of the harbour bridge, they take you over the bridge using the maintenance walkways. I'm told it's quite spectacular."

"Sounds interesting," I heard Luuk say. I had not noticed that he and Joseph had come in.

Somehow in the eight minutes or so there was between Sandra arriving and Dad leaving for his TV interview it was decided that Joseph, Luuk and I would go on the Sydney Harbour Bridge tour. Mum was going with Jenny. Apparently, James was picking them up to take them to the Royal Botanical Gardens. Sandra informed us that climbs of the bridge had to be pre-booked and that she would arrange the bridge tour for us. A car would pick us up around nine-thirty.

I had a feeling that I might have appreciated the botanical-gardens trip. By the time we got back down from the summit of the bridge, I knew I would have. Turned out that Sandra had booked us in for the complete package, which included a climb to the top of the bridge. I am not that good with heights, though Joseph and Luuk seemed to have no problem. I think I would have preferred to have just looked at the bridge from deck level and to have been told about its construction.

We got some lunch at a small place from where we could see the Opera House. Luuk and Joseph, of course, spent most of lunch discussing the architecture of the Opera House, and before we had finished lunch, they had agreed to visit the Opera House in the morning. It seemed Luuk had a contact number for somebody who would show them around as architectural students. That was not something which grabbed my interest.

Luuk and Joseph informed me that they wanted to do some exploring. Apparently, there were some places of architectural interest around the area called The Rocks, and they were going to look at them. That left me free to do my own thing. So, I found myself down by the waterfront watching a multihull rising from the water on its foils as it completed a tack.

I was just trying to make my mind up about what to do next when a flurry of rain decided it for me. I got a cab and returned to the villa.

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