Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 52

I left Joseph and Dr. Chapman discussing the possibility that the Priory was actually the site of Southmead Abbey and went up to my room to have a shower and get changed. By the time I got back down to the kitchen, Dr. Chapman and Joseph had decamped. Mum informed me she had sent them to the library.

"Need the table to get dinner ready," she informed me by way of explanation. I decided it would be best to leave them there to continue their discussion and went to find Dad. He was not in his study, so I went across to his office and found him in there on his own.

"No Lee?"

"I do give him some time off, you know. What do you think I am, Johnny, a slave driver?"

"Certainly not. You don't have that much compassion," I quipped. Dad laughed.

I spent a good twenty minutes or so telling him about my talk with Steve this morning and moving the building of the replica to Boatshed Two. Dad sat and listened to all I had to say, especially about my concern about missing out of developing the skills I would need to restore The Flying Lady.

"It's a downside for you," Dad admitted. "I think, though, that there is a way around it."


"We make you the focal point of the filming. Basically, as we come up with each task that has to be undertaken in the building of the replica, we get an expert in the task to teach you how to do it and film you being taught the task and then doing it as part of the build."

"One thing, Dad, the replica when it is built is still going to be my boat, isn't it?"

"I don't see why not. Better make a note to tell Bernard to make sure that is clear in the contracts." He made a note in his notebook. "By the way, Johnny, what are you going to call her, The Lady Ann II?"

I laughed. "No way. She'll be The Flying Lady."

"That's perfect. It will really fit in with doing two series."

"Two series? What's going on, Dad?"

"Well, Lee was looking over what we have got drafted out so far and remarked we really had two separate streams. The first is the story of a fabled yacht The Lady Ann. The second is about the building of her replica before you start the restoration. I spoke to Bob Carluck this morning about it, and he agreed. So, we are going to do a series of probably three programmes on The Mystery of The Flying Lady. That's going to be on the history of the yacht and the fact that people were searching for it for years but could never find it because they were looking for the wrong name.

"Then, we will do the series on the building of the replica. We've got a working title for that: Building the Flying Lady. With you planning on calling her The Flying Lady, it fits perfectly.

"You do realise that once this is underway, you are not going to be able to work in the yard."

"What?" I snapped.

"Johnny, it's your A-level year. You are going to be fulltime studying during the week, which only really leaves weekends for working on the replica. You can't be doing that whilst you are working in the yard."

"But what about Steve? I can't let him down."

"We won't. With the money that is on the table for this project, we can pay Steve to get somebody in to cover for you."

I thought for a moment. It really did make some sense. I might not like it, but I would be studying fairly hard this year if I was to make the grades I was looking for. To be certain of getting in where I wanted, I really needed at least an A grade in one of my subjects. Did not think it was going to be maths, so it would have to be physics. One thing did occur to me, though.

"Dad, can you make sure that Colin is used on the build of the replica?"


"So, he does not get laid off when the yard goes quiet."

"Somehow, Johnny, I suspect the yard is not going to go quiet this year."


"Bob is also talking about doing a similar series on the restoration of the Princess of Alba. We've got a meeting about both projects on Wednesday afternoon which really you should be at. I suspect that the Salvage Yard is going to become a film set for the next few months."

I checked the time before I left Dad's office; it was not three-thirty, so I decided to go down and see how Steven and Jim were doing in the nursery. When I got there, I was not surprised to see Joseph and Dr. Chapman walking around the nursery looking at the walls.

"They seem to think this might have been a cloister at one time," Jim said to me as I entered.

"I know. Actually, looking at it, I can see it might make sense," I replied.


"Look at the walls. The wall at the far end is stone, as are the walls on each side until you get to the side gate, then they change to brick."

"Very observant," Dr. Chapman stated as he and Joseph walked up to us. He had clearly overheard my comment to Jim. "It looks as if the top end of the nursery was the cloister of an abbey. If that is the case, then this area where we are now was probably the refectory and guest house. If you look, you will see that although the walls are brick, there is a base layer of stone."

"I noticed that," Jim stated. "Why a stone foundation for a brick wall?"

"Well, when the refectory building was here, they were probably not brick walls. More likely to be wood-frame building with wattle and daub infill."

"It would have been a pretty big building," Jim commented, looking around the nursery.

"It would have been," Dr. Chapman stated. "If my memory serves me right, there were some eighty-seven monks recorded as having died here during the Black Death. Then, there would have been the lay brothers attached to the foundation. The building on this site would have included their dormitory, the hospital, probably their library. It would have needed to be big."

"You seem pretty certain that this was Southmead Abbey," I said.

"For me, there is no doubt, but we will have to do a lot of work before we can definitely prove it. Will probably keep a couple of Ph.D. students in work for a couple of years before we can publish anything definite. You'd better warn your father to get the building work he's planning done fairly quickly."


"Well, if this is confirmed to be the site of Southmead Abbey, all the remains of the abbey will be classed as Schedule One," Dr. Chapman said.


"Don't worry, Johnny," Dr. Chapman said. "It will probably take three or four years just to get the funding together to do the required study. Unless you want to fund it?"

"No way, just no way," I replied.

Dr. Chapman laughed.

Joseph said he had to get back to the house as he had promised to call his mother. Dr. Chapman said he was going to look around the grounds a bit more and see if there was anything that caught his attention.

"Talking about looking around the grounds, have you seen that guy by the sign to the car park?" Jim asked me, indicating a guy who was on the far side of the driveway opposite the gate into the nursery.

"The one in the denim jacket and jeans?"

"That's the one, Johnny. He's been hanging around here but does not seem to be buying anything."

"How long has he been hanging around?" I asked.

"Well, he was around here yesterday, and he's been hanging around all day today. Was around when we opened this morning."

"I think I'd better have a word with somebody and see if they know anything," I told Jim. He just nodded. I then left the nursery by the wicket door at the top end of the garden, closest to the arts and crafts centre, which was marked 'Staff Only', then made my way around the end of the small barn we used to use as a dojo and into the private area by the rear gate. Once there, I made my way directly to the van and knocked on the door.

Neal opened it and indicated I should come in. Once inside he shut and locked the door.

"What's up?" he asked.

"There's a suspicious character hanging around the craft centre," I informed him.

"Well-built chap wearing a Levi jacket, black tee shirt and jeans?" Neal asked.


Neal indicated I should follow him through to the control area, which I did. Allen was there with a woman I did not know. There, on one of the monitors was the man in question.

"We picked him up yesterday. Have been watching him all day. He's driving a 2008 Honda Civic. We believe it is a rental but have not been able to check it out yet. He's staying at the Baldwin Arms in Southmead. Booked in Friday night using the name Theodore Lee. Apparently, he's a Yank. The barmaid at the Baldwin says he told her he was from Virginia. At the moment, we do not know much more about him, though we hope to soon."

"Then, why don't I go and ask him?"

"You can't, Johnny?" Allen said

"Why not?"

"It's too risky," Allen informed me.

"I've no doubt you have somebody who could be with me," I pointed out.

"I'll get Maddie," Neal announced. With that, he left the room.

Allen turned to me. "Johnny—"

"Don't Johnny me. Somebody suspicious has been noticed hanging around the nursery and the craft centre. What's more normal that somebody from the estate going up to them and asking them what they are doing?"

Allen put up some arguments but did not get anywhere with them. At least, he did not try to bring Dad into the discussion. Neal returned with Maddie. Maddie listened to what Allen was saying, then turned to me.

"You're sure you want to do this?" I nodded. "Right, Johnny, let's go and get it done. Neal, get Dan and Rick to cover us. Best we approach him from the nursery. That should give you time to get them into position." With that, she took my arm and guided me out of the room and out of the van.

As we walked around to the back gate, she pushed something into my hand. "If things get nasty, spray that in his face."

"What is it? Mace?"

"No, chilli extract. Mace sprays are definitely illegal. These are questionable, but we can probably get away with them."


"A spray of chilli extract is used to protect seeds and stuff put out for the birds from squirrels."

"Not very fair on the squirrels," I commented. "Can't be nice for the birds, either."

"Birds don't have the receptors for capsaicin, so chilli has no effect on them," Maddie informed me.

We entered the nursery through the top wicket gate. I noticed that we got a couple of looks from people as we walked up to the gate, but I think the fact that we had key fobs which unlocked it satisfied the curious.

Going through the nursery, I caught Jim's attention, and when he came over to us, I asked if the guy was still there. Jim informed me that he had moved across the drive and was standing by the main entrance to the nursery. Maddie thanked him and we made our way across the nursery and out through the main gates. Technically that's not allowed, it is a one-way system. As we came out, I spotted him standing by a pile of plant pots that Jim and Steven had on special offer. He looked a bit lost.

"Can I help you?" I asked walking up to him.

"No, I'm waiting for somebody," he replied. There was definitely an American accent to his speech.

"You've been waiting quite some time," I pointed out.

"I may have to wait a long time for the person I am looking for."

"Who's that?" Maddie asked.

"My nephew Arthur."

"Arthur Lee?" I asked.

"Yes, you know him?"

"I should; he's one of my best friends," I replied.

"I think the three of us better go somewhere and get a pot of tea. There is some explaining needed," Maddie said.

"I didn't think there was a café here," the man stated.

"There's not, but we're staff, so can use the facilities. By the way, I'm Maddie Atkins and that's Johnny Carlton-Smith."

"I'm Theodore Lee," he introduced himself.

"Well, you'd better come along then because it's no use you waiting out here for Arthur; he's in Town — London — for a few days," Maddie announced. She led the way up to the craft centre, then walked along the length of the studios and art shops till we got to the central barn. Maddie led the way in, waving to Jan, who was sitting in the office just off the entrance.

"Can we use your kitchen for a meeting, Jan?" Maddie called to her through the open door of the office. Jan gave permission. Maddie led us across to a small room on the other side of the entrance hall. It was a small service kitchen.

"Didn't know this was here," I commented.

"Well, they have to have somewhere to dish up the grub when there is an event on," Maddie pointed out. She directed us to take a seat at the small table at the far end of the room, explaining that it also doubled as the staff room for the cleaning and housekeeping staff. I forgot that Jan ran what was virtually a small hotel here with the apartments.

"You know, Johnny, you could do with a café here," Maddie told me. "You should talk to you father about it."

"Where would we put it?" I asked. "Jan's let all the units."

"What about that wooden building at the start of the path that leads up to the tithe barn?"

"The tractor store? Matt's said it's unsafe and needs to be demolished. Actually, it's due to come down as soon as he can get a crew free to do it."

"So, put a café up there," Maddie said, as she filled the kettle with water and put it on to boil. "Sorry, Theodore, I didn't ask. Would you prefer tea or coffee, though I must warn you the coffee here is instant." She emphasised this by removing a tin of Nescafe from the cupboard.

"I'll take tea, and if you don't mind, it's Theo."

"Fine, Theo. Johnny, why don't you slip down to Benny's and get some of his oatmeal-and-raisin cookies."

I knew when I had been given an order. I went and joined the queue four units down, waiting to get into Benny the Baker's. Benny is a young man of about twenty-five who makes the most fantastic handmade breads and cakes. He's only open Wednesday to Sunday, but the word was he had the highest turnover of all the units in the centre. On those days, queues would form before he opened, and they would be there until he closed, which was when he ran out of stock. Some days, that was early afternoon.

Fortunately, although there was always a queue at Benny's, there were also plenty of staff to serve. So, five minutes later I was back with a bag of cookies plus some of Benny's fruit slices.

"So, Arthur is your nephew," Maddie was stating as I entered the kitchen. "And you have not seen him since he was three. How did you expect to recognise him?"

"Well, at three he looked exactly like Drew did at the same age, so I was just looking for somebody who looked like Drew."

"Why were you looking," I asked as I put the bag of goodies down on the table. Maddie got a plate to put them on. "You clearly had an address for him."

"Yes, but I could not find it," Theo informed me.

"What was the address, and how did you get it?" I asked.

"The Stable House, Green Farm, Siding's Lane, Lower Southmead, Dunford. It is on papers that were filed with the Veterans Administration. As the administrator for Johnson's estate, they contacted me for information."

"Of course, Martin said there must have been some pension rights. Uncle Bernard probably got someone over there to look into it," I said.

"Who's Uncle Bernard?" Theo asked.

"Oh, he's the family solicitor. He's also Arthur's solicitor, though his assistant Martin deals mostly with Arthur's business."

"So, you flew all the way here from the States to find Arthur?" Maddie asked.

"Oh, no. I'm based at NATO headquarters in Brussels. I'm over here for a planning exercise. Came over last Monday, got another ten days on the exercise. Thought I would come up this weekend and see if I could find Arthur."

"Why haven't you looked for him before?" I asked.

"We thought he was dead."

"Dead!" I exclaimed.

"Yes, about twelve years ago we got a letter from somebody with a newspaper cutting. The newspaper headline said 'Mother and Son in Fatal Crash'. The letter just said that Margaret and Arthur had been killed in the crash. Dad contacted some solicitors to find out what was going on, and they informed us that everything had been handled by Margaret's brother. They never said anything about Arthur being alive."

I gave Theo a short version of Arthur's history, including his foster parents' involvement with the Brethren church and that I suspected the firm of solicitors was probably the one which we knew were involved in a fraud.

"Shit, the kid's had it tough. I was hoping to see him, but I have to be back at the base in Croughton in the morning. Won't be able to get away till next weekend."

I had an idea and asked Maddie and Theo to give me a few minutes. My guess was that Arthur and Trevor were at Trevor's apartment in the London house. I exited the kitchen. Jan was coming out of her office when I did, so I asked her if I could use it for a few minutes. Once inside, I phoned Trevor; he was at the apartment. They were about to go out to the cinema.

"Can you put it off?" I asked.


I gave him a quick explanation of what was going on.

"I'll pass you over to Arthur. Tell him while I pack," Trevor said. So, I told a slightly extended version to Arthur, emphasising that his family in the States had been told he was dead. I thought he needed to know that there was a reason that they had not come looking for him.

When I had finished and had answered a couple of questions from Arthur, he handed me back to Trevor.

"We will be with you in about ninety minutes," Trevor stated.

"Don't speed," I warned him. He laughed and rang off. I then phoned Mum and asked if we could manage an extra three for dinner, explaining why. She told me it was no problem. I then went back to the kitchen and told Theo that he should lay off the cookies, as he was apparently on his third.

"Why? They're so good."

"Because they will spoil your appetite for dinner, which would be a shame as my mother is a good cook. Arthur will be here about six; dinner is at six-thirty."

Maddie's phone rang; she pulled it out, answered it, then said, "Yes, we'll be there." She then hung up and returned her phone to her pocket.

"Important?" I asked.

"I should say. Your mother's invited Neal and me to dinner. Don't have to suffer Neal's cooking."

"You eat down at the Crooked Man most nights," I pointed out.

"Of course, I do. You don't think I'm going to risk Neal cooking."

"Why don't you cook?" I asked.

"Johnny, the last time I cooked, my parents were in hospital for two days with food poisoning."

Theo laughed, then looked at his watch.

"Do I have time to get back to Southmead and get changed? Don't want to turn up for dinner looking like this."

I told him he had plenty of time. It was only just gone five. I also told him to come to the Priory when he returned, giving him directions on how to get there. Maddie told him just to wait when he got to the main gate; they had his car number plate, so she would set up the ANR system to open the gate for him. I told him to pull up in front of the house. Trying to tell somebody how to get into the yard would be too complicated. Anyway, we would be in the dining room as there were eleven of us for dinner.

I was wrong, there were twelve for dinner, I had forgotten about Dr. Chapman. I was right about one thing, though; it was in the dining room.

Trevor and Arthur got back shortly after six. Trevor must have speeded to do the drive in that time. The drive normally was at least an hour and a half. I went out to tell them that they were expected for dinner. Arthur wanted to know where his uncle was. I told him that he would be here in about twenty minutes, so they had time go and get changed.

They were over at the house by twenty-past. I took them through to the lounge where everybody was gathering. Arthur was very much on edge. I was just trying to calm him down when the front doorbell rang. Answering it, I found Theo standing there in the uniform of an American Air Force officer. Do not ask me what rank, because I had no idea.

I welcomed him to the Priory and escorted him to the lounge. When I got there, I could not see Arthur, then realised he was way back, almost hiding in the corner by the fireplace. I introduced Theo to Dad, who then took over the introductions. He called Arthur to come over and meet his uncle and did the introductions.

Arthur obliged, but was clearly very nervous. Not surprising, seeing how his mother's family had treated him. One surprise was when Arthur introduced Theo to Dr. Chapman; the professor addressed him as colonel. Well, that did establish Theo's rank. More surprising was the exchange.

"Colonel," Dr. Chapman said, extending his hand.

"Dr. Chapman, I'm surprised to see you here," Theo stated.

"I could say the same, colonel." They both laughed. They clearly knew each other, though how a US Air Force colonel would know a Cambridge historian rather puzzled me. I glanced across at Maddie and saw she was puzzled, as well.

Mum came through from the kitchen and was introduced. She explained that Grandma had taken over the delivery of the meal and kicked her out. Anyway, she informed us she needed a drink. I got her am orange with a dash of Cynar and asked the colonel what he would like to drink before I got around to serving the others. Fortunately, Joseph gave me a hand with serving the drinks.

The only person left to be introduced was Trevor, though why Trevor would need to be introduced, I did not know. He was so well-known, but he had to be formally introduced.

"Uncle Theo, can I introduce Trevor Spade, my boyfriend," Arthur announced.

Trevor offered his hand, Theo looked at him and smiled. "If you're Arthur's boyfriend, you're family; family gets hugs." With that, he embraced Trevor. Then he turned to Arthur. "You're so like Drew; he's got good taste in men, too."

"Who's Drew?" Arthur asked.

"Your other uncle, my younger brother."

"Is he in the Air Force?" Arthur asked.

"No, he came out as gay when he was fourteen. He's a medical doctor, specialises in treating dancers."

The tam-tam sounded, announcing that dinner was ready. The party made their way into the dining room. Joseph and I helped Grandma to serve the meal."

Over dinner, Theo asked Dad about the history of the house.

"You'd better ask Dr. Chapman or Joseph about that," Dad stated. "They're the ones studying it."

Dr. Chapman gave a short-potted history about it being the likely site of Southmead Abbey but pointed out that nothing had been confirmed, and little was known about the intervening centuries till now.

Of course, everybody wanted to know about Theo's family. He gave a short history. His father had learnt to fly while in high school and, upon graduating, had joined the Air Force in 1955. Even though he was a qualified pilot, he ended up being put in air-traffic control and spent most of his military career stationed in Germany because he spoke fluent German.

"How come?" Arthur asked.

"His mother was German. She had fled Germany in 1933 after Hitler came to power. So, Dad grew up with German being spoken at home. She met Granddad in 1934 and was married a year later. Dad was born in '37. Granddad also spoke German, but I don't know where he learnt it. So far as I know, all his family are Irish. Probably learnt it from Grandma."

"My mother told me that her grandfather came over to England from Dublin," Arthur stated.

"More than likely, Johnson was researching the family tree when he met your mother. That would have been 1987 or '88. He told us that there were two brothers who had come to England in the 1890s, one of whom had then emigrated to the States and from whom we are descended. He was trying to find descendants of the other brother when he met your mother. It was something of a surprise when he announced he was getting married. No one had expected him to get married. There had been a number of girlfriends, but none lasted. Then he met your mother, and everything changed. We were surprised when he turned up with your mother and announced that they were married."

"You met my mother?"

"Oh, yes. They came over to Virginia for their honeymoon after they were married. Margaret came over most summers to spend a few weeks on the farm. You came with her. Surely, you remember?"

"I remember somewhere with horses and an old man lifting me onto the back of a horse."

"That would be grandfather. He got a pony for you to ride. I've got some photos at home of you riding that pony. When I can, I will get copies sent over."

"You've got photos of my mother?" Arthur asked, almost in tears.

"Yes, why?"

"Can I have some copies please? I don't have any. The church my foster parents belonged to did not believe in having photos of people."

"Convenient," Maddie stated. Theo looked at her. She clearly felt like some explanation was needed. "The church in question was run by some very unsavoury characters who, I am sure, would have preferred there was no way of identifying them."

"You will have to tell me more about that," Theo said, "though this may not be the best time."

"How long are you here for?" Mum asked, clearly trying to change the subject.

"I have to return to RAF Croughton in the morning. Will have to leave early as I have a staff conference to address at ten-thirty. I will, though, reserve a room at the Baldwin Arms for next weekend — if Arthur wants to see me."

"You'll do no such thing, young man," Grandma announced. "Anne can find a room for you here, won't you, Anne?"

"Of course, Flora," Mum stated. "You are more than welcome to stay here next weekend."

After desserts, Dad suggested we retire to the lounge for coffee but suggested to Arthur that he and his uncle might like to use the library, where they could have some privacy, a suggestion Arthur took up, though he took Trevor with them.

I sorted the coffees out with Joseph's help and took a tray down to the library whilst Joseph took a tray to the lounge. Theo and Arthur were talking about the possibility of Arthur visiting the States.

"Your grandparents would love to meet you," Theo was saying as I entered with the tray.

"They're still alive?" Arthur asked.

"Sure are," Theo replied.

"We'll be over later in the year," Trevor stated.

"We will?" Arthur asked.

"Yes, Arthur, I told you we were taking a holiday when I finish filming Fly Boys. Might as well take it in the States. I've got friends in Richmond. I can visit them when you visit your grandparents."

"When are you filming Fly Boys?" I asked as I put the tray down on the table.

"They've started shooting. I start the second week in August; we go out to Spain in September," Trevor informed me. I thanked him for the information and left.

In the lounge I managed to corner Dr. Chapman.

"How come you know Theo?" I asked.

"What makes you think I know him?"

"You addressed him as colonel," I pointed out.

"Well, he was in a US Air Force colonel's uniform," Dr. Chapman said.

"Yes, but you expressed surprise at seeing him here, as he was surprised seeing you. You clearly both know each other."

"You're very observant, Johnny. You are right; I have met the colonel a couple of times in the past but can't say I know him." That information was imparted in a way which indicated no further information would be forthcoming. I did, though, note that Maddie was standing behind Dr. Chapman and was clearly taking note of the conversation.

About ten-thirty, Theo, Arthur and Trevor came out of the library and through to the lounge so that Theo could take his leave.

"Have to set off early in the morning; it's a good two-and-a-half hours back to Croughton," he informed Dad as he said his goodbyes.

Once Theo had gone, Arthur and Trevor left. Arthur said he would speak to me in the morning after he had checked I was not at the yard. With Theo, Arthur and Trevor leaving, it was the signal for the evening to break up. Dr. Chapman left to go down to the Crooked Man after arranging to see me in the morning. Maddie told Neal to get off to the Belmont, then made her way over to the Stable House with Arthur and Trevor.

Monday morning, I would really have liked to have been in the yard. Actually, I would have liked to have been anywhere other than where I was. I was at the dentist's. Technically, it was just for a check-up, but I just knew that some work might be required. Just in case I needed any work, Mum had insisted that she would drive me in so I could have an anaesthetic if I needed one. I have never been very good with dentists. Fortunately, the one we had found in Southmead was also qualified to knock me out during any procedure that had to be undertaken. That was the reason I was using him rather than going to one of the NHS dentists in Dunford, which would have been easier to get to and a lot cheaper.

Fortunately, I did not need any work, so was not knocked out. I did, though, have to pay a fairly hefty fee for private treatment. Not that I minded.

On the way home, we called in at the supermarket so I could help Mum with the shopping. At her stage of pregnancy, pushing the trolley around the supermarket was a bit much. We got back to the Priory shortly after eleven. I went looking for Dr. Chapman, who had said he would be examining the walls of the walled garden this morning.

"Exactly who are you?" I asked as I walked up to where he seemed to be taking measurements of the stone blockwork.

"I thought you knew. Dr. Joseph Chapman."

"Yes, but who, or rather what, is Dr. Joseph Chapman? I am fairly certain you are not an historian specialising in Carolingian manuscripts and medieval monasticism."

"What makes you say that?" Dr. Chapman asked.

"The fact you are here now. I've been told there are some people who don't believe in coincidences, and I am starting to think I may be one of them. You could have done what you needed to do here whilst we were off in Australia, but you didn't. I checked. You were not here any of the time we were in Australia. Then we are back, and so are you.

"I know your father spent twelve years in prison before being released on appeal. Then, five years later got knighthood. The citation for the award simply states for services to the Crown. He is also in the Royal Victorian Order, an order in the personal gift of the Queen. An order to which John Mitchell was also admitted."

"How did you know that?" Dr. Chapman asked.

"I did some internet searching. It is surprising what you can find out if you know how to construct your enquiry."

"I can assure you, Johnny, I would not be surprised. What else did you find out?"

"I found out that you got into Cambridge at seventeen and you managed to do a double-first in history and biochemistry. An unusual combination. You graduated three years ago and then published a work on Carolingian manuscripts. In it, you showed that a number of grants claimed by the medieval church were actually forgeries. On the basis of that work, you were awarded a doctorate.

"It seems that you have a habit of taking on subjects which appear to be outside your field. Beginning of last year, you were in Egypt, studying papyri — not your field. However, there was a general strike whilst you were out there. Then in August last year, you were out in India, apparently studying Sanskrit manuscripts — something else which does not appear to be in your field. You just happened to be in Kandhamal when the anti-Christian riots broke out.

"Now you are here. What is going to happen here?"

"Why should anything happen?" Dr. Chapman asked.

"Because things seem to have a tendency to happen when you are around," I observed.

"I can assure you, not always. I spent December to February in New Orleans, and besides Mardi Gras, nothing happened."

"I find the idea of nothing happening in New Orleans unbelievable," I commented.

"It seems you have been doing your homework. Are you sure you want to build yachts? I am sure you would do well in any Cambridge college."

"I sense you are trying to change the subject, Dr. Chapman."

"Unsuccessfully, apparently."

"So, why are you here?"

"To observe," he replied. I looked at him in surprise. "Look, Johnny, you have clearly worked something out, so I want to make sure you don't add two and two together and get the wrong answer.

"First, I am here to study the monastic establishment that was here. Though, to be honest, I don't think there is much to study. I am fairly confident that what we have here is Southmead Abbey. It's not a lost or unknown monastic institution, just a misplaced one.

"But I am also here to keep an eye on what is going on. There are a lot of people who seem it be interested in you. The question is: why? Oh, I know about the gold. What I need to know is why they are so desperate to get the gold and what they are prepared to do to get it."

"So, you're an undercover cop or something?"

"No, just say I am working for somebody who has a legitimate right to know what is going on."

"How legitimate?"

"Very legitimate."

"By what right?"

"It's her country," Dr. Chapman said with a smile. "Now, I strongly suggest we start to talk about monastic stonework and you forget that this conversation took place."

I was about to ask why but saw Maddie walking across the nursery towards us.

"Dr. Chapman," Maddie announced as she approached. "May I ask where you know Colonel Lee from?"

"You may ask, but, unfortunately, I can't tell you."

"Aunty said that would be your reply," Maddie laughed. "Johnny, Arthur asked if I saw you, to tell you he'd like a word."

I thanked Maddie for the message and set off back to the Priory, wondering what Arthur wanted. I found him before I got to the Stable House. He was in the yard chatting with Antonio. I had not seen Antonio since I got back from Oz. In fact, I was a bit surprised he was around, as I thought he would have gone home for the long vacation. Something I mentioned to him.

"Oh, no. Papa and Mama are holidaying in Europe, getting away from the winter. I spent a few days with them in Paris, but they are doing a tour of the Northern European art galleries, starting in Brussels and ending in St. Petersburg. Not my thing, so I told them I would join them in Rome. Better off here earning some money."

That said, he went off in the direction of Tyler's office. I made a comment to Arthur about having not seen Tyler since we got back.

"He's filming at the moment; they are on location in Spain for a few weeks, though I think he's due back soon."

"I wanted to check how the business is doing. It should be totally moved over by now if everything is on track."

"You really need to talk to Lily about that," Arthur told me. "She's more hands on these days than Tyler is."

I had to think for a moment or two who Lily was, then remembered she was Jim's cousin. Tyler had taken her on as office manager.

"Anyway," Arthur continued, "you have time for lunch? I'll buy you a pie and a beer down at the Crooked Man."

I had no idea what Arthur wanted, but I was not going to turn down pie and a beer. I told him I would have to let Mum know so she did not put something up for me, and I'd be right back. Once I had let Mum know I was out for lunch, I sent Neal a text to let him know. Got one back saying thanks and OK. Arthur met me as I came out of the backdoor, and we walked across the yard to the drive. As we did, Dan came down the drive in his car.

"Want a lift, lads?" he asked.

"We're only going down to the Crooked Man," Arthur said.

"Going to the same place for lunch," Dan informed us. "Get in." That was more an instruction than a suggestion. We got in. Three minutes later we got out in front of the Crooked Man.

"Right, lads, enjoy your lunch. I'll be at the bar ready to take you back when you finish."

"We went in. I grabbed a table, giving Arthur the number. He went up and ordered, steak pie, chips and peas for both of us and two pints. Mary looked across at me, so I shrugged my shoulders. She said something to Arthur, who came back empty-handed.

"Said she'll bring the beers over when Kate brings our meals through," Arthur stated.

I laughed. Mary was sticking strictly to the letter of the law. "I guess she took our order for them, though."

"Of course, she's a publican," Arthur said. "Now what's going on?"

"What do you mean?"

"All the security that's going on at the Priory. It's far more than for Phil and Ben moving into their place. And what's this with Neal's heavies bringing us down."

I decided it was best to give Arthur an outline of the situation concerning the kidnapping threat.

"So, they think somebody will try for you and Joseph."

"That's the gist of it."

"Well, you'd better be bloody careful then and do what Neal's people tell you to do."

I nodded then asked him, "Why did you want to speak to me."

"Need your advice, Johnny."

"On what?"

"Uncle Theo."

"What about him?"

"It's not just him; it's the whole bloody family I've found I've got."

"What about them?"

"Well, I've never really had a family since mother died. John and Felicity were never family to me."

I noticed he had stopped calling them mum and dad.

"So, you've got a family now. What's the problem?"

"I don't know what to do with them. Uncle Theo must have contacted Uncle Drew last night. Uncle Drew emailed me a link this morning. It's a folder full of photos. Photos of me and Mum and a man I think must have been my dad. There is a photo of him throwing me up in the air. Just like I remembered."

"What's the problem?"

"I don't know what to do. Last night, when I was talking to Uncle Theo, he said I should get my American passport and go over and visit them. Apparently, there is some trust set up for me that will pay for my education."

"Then go. At least, go over and get to know your family. Also, look into that education trust, see if you can use it for education over here. It could pay for your OU studies."

"But what about Trevor and the business?"

"What about them? Trevor is flying about so much I don't think it will make much difference if you are in the States or over here. As for the business, how is it doing?"

"Well. We're taking on more staff. I need to find a good systems architect as that is outside my field. I also need to get a general manager. Day-to-day administration is getting too much for me."

Our meals arrived, as did our beers.

"Then get one," I told him, before spearing a chip on my fork and dunking it in the oozing gravy from the pie. "From what I have seen, the business can afford it." I placed the gravy-covered chip in my mouth.

Arthur did not reply for a moment, being too busy consuming a portion of pie. When that task was completed, he took a swig of beer and then responded. "I probably need to. Need to make some time to do my OU work. Was a bit pushed last term."

"How's that going," I asked between mouthfuls.

"Good, I got ninety-two percent overall. If I can do as well with this year's modules, I will have one-hundred-and-twenty credits. Could use that for admission to a proper university."

"The OU is a proper university; it just teaches by a different means."

"I know, but you know what I mean."

I did. Those in the know generally rated an Open University degree amongst the best going. Its academic standards were up there with the top universities in the country. From the start, it had pushed its students hard, generally requiring a higher standard of work from them than most red-brick universities required from their students. It had to. When it started, a lot of people looked down on it because it was distance-learning and had no entrance requirements. So, to prove that they were not a diploma mill, they set a standard for their students which was generally higher than many of the traditional universities.

Dad had also pointed out to me that most of their students had to work twice as hard to get their degrees as they were doing their degrees and a full-time job at the same time. He had also told me that there were a lot of employers these days who rated an OU degree over most of the normal universities just because of the amount of effort the student had to put in to get it. Despite that, there were still a lot of people who looked down on OU degrees as if they were second-rate.

"Look, Arthur, you need to do what is best for you. They are your family, and I think you have the right to have a family. Go and see them; get to know them; get to know who your father was. They can tell you about him."

"You're right," Arthur said. Then he got back to his pie and chips.

We finished our food and our beers and refrained from having any sticky toffee pudding. When the waitress cleared our table, Dan came over and asked if we were ready to go back. Arthur confirmed we were.

"Right, give me give minutes to get the car to the door," Dan instructed. "Then come out. I'll be waiting for you." We followed his instructions.

Dad had gone into town with Lee to meet with Gert and Max to look at what Gert had been doing. Joseph was off at Matt's, and Arthur had gone down to the new place to sort out some problem that had arisen while we were having lunch. Much as Arthur spoke about going off to a proper university, I could not see him doing so. He would have to leave the business for far too long, and I knew just how much he loved tinkering with the system.

Being at a bit of a loose end, I decided to get back to reading mother's diaries. By now, I had got through about a third of them and was getting a very different impression of my mother from the woman I knew. For one thing, I could see she was really worried about my safety but felt trapped by something she had done and could see no way out of things.

I wish she had spoken to somebody about things. If she had told Dad what was going on, I was sure that something could have been sorted out. Then things would have been different. I would have grown up in a family home with love instead of being pushed off to boarding school after boarding school.

Strangely, I think my mother did love me. She was just scared of showing it. She felt that if she showed attachment to me, then I would be in increased danger, though she never said what that danger was.

I spent a good couple of hours that afternoon reading her diaries and making my notes from them. Again, I kept coming across those strange numeric sequences which did not make any sense. I did, though, add them all to the list of numbers at the back of my notebook.

About three-thirty, I took a break and went to make some tea. When I got to the kitchen, I found Grandma had already beaten me to it. She had made a pot and was placing a selection of cakes on a plate.

"Take those through to Anne, can you," she directed, indicating a tray with tea things set out on it. "She's in the lounge, resting."

I took the tray through to Mum. She looked worn out.

"You OK?" I asked, as I placed the tray down on the side table next to her chair.

"Yes, just pushed myself a bit too much this morning going shopping. Thanks for the tea; really need a cuppa."

"Thank Gran; she made it," I informed her.

I left her and went back to the kitchen, where I joined Gran for a mug of tea and some cake.

"Where's Granddad?" I asked.

"He's round at the apartment supervising the furniture being moved in."

"I didn't think it was going to be ready till next week," I said.

"It's not," Gran assured me. "Can't use the bathroom at the moment; not fully connected up. So, we can't move in yet. However, all the rooms are ready. and your Granddad dan't like paying for more storage than he needed."

"But he wasn't paying for storage," I pointed out. "Uncle Phil had the stuff stored at Manston."

"I know that, Johnny, but you know your Granddad; he likes to have his own things around him. By the way, he's moved some boxes of stuff into your workshop."

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