Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 53

"Why didn't you tell me you were having your stuff delivered today?" I asked Granddad when I finally got hold of him, which was shortly before dinner. "I could have helped."

"Nothing for you to help with. That son of mine sent a crew of six down to move everything and put it where I wanted it to go. All I had to do was stand there and tell them what went where. Never felt so bloody useless in me life.

"I've had them put my boxes of tools in your workshop, lad. We'll have to have a look at them later."

I suggested that we get together after dinner, and that is what I intended to do, but things did not work out that way. Lee and Dad got back just after six; they had Gert with them. The moment he got back, Dad told me that he needed to speak to me after dinner. So, immediately after we had dinner, I joined Dad in the study.

"What's up?" I asked, taking the chair near the end of Dad's desk. He was busy scrolling through his emails.

"Money," Dad replied. "I need some to finish The Unheard."

"Why? I thought it was sorted?"

"I thought so, too. Max has even got a distributor interested in taking it in the States, but there is a rub. They want a colour negative so they can make their own prints."

"But it's digital," I pointed out.

"That's the problem. They want it supplied as an old-fashioned film, which means transferring the digital images to film."

"Can that be done?"

"Yes, I spoke to Phil about it. They did it for That Woman's Son. But it is expensive. Even with Phil offering to do it at cost, we are looking in excess of fifty K."

"Is it worth it?"

"Well, the distributor is offering us a guarantee of two-hundred-thousand dollars, so from that aspect, it is."

"Then do it," I told Dad.

"The problem, Johnny, is we do not have the funds in the budget to pay for it up front. That's why I needed to speak to you."


"Would you put some more funds into the project?"

"I don't have that type of money," I pointed out, jokingly, knowing full well that Dad was talking about the trusts.

"No, but your trusts do. They've already put some into The Unheard. I wanted to ask you to use some of your trust funds for the extra investment we need."

I thought about it for a bit. This is what I had wanted. I trust Dad and Uncle Bernard but I want to be part of the decision making with them. However, being involved in the decision put some responsibility on me. I could not complain if the trust made a bad investment.

"But you and Uncle Bernard control those. You don't need to ask me."

"I know, Johnny, but you're seventeen, and in nine months you will have control over some of your trusts. Bernard thinks it is only right that you have input into what the trusts do, and I agree with him."

Uncle Bernard had discussed trust issues with me so I could understand where Dad was coming from.

"Well, you'd better take me through the figures, then?"

We spent the next half hour going through the production figures. Although Uncle Bernard, Miss Jenkins and Uncles Phil and Ben had all put money into the project, I was the biggest single investor with my hundred thousand. Uncle Bernard and the uncles, in the end, had only put seventy-five thousand in, not the hundred they had said they would. Miss Jenkins had made up the rest with fifty thousand. Total production costs had been projected at just under three-hundred thousand. Most of that had either already been spent or had been allocated to known charges which would be coming up. I could see how finding an extra fifty thousand would present problems.

Looking through the figures on the spreadsheet, something caught my eye on the list of investors: Gert van Lottum, ten-thousand euros; Luuk van Lottum, five-thousand euros.

"What's this?" I asked, knowing full well that neither Gert nor Luuk had spare cash.

"You know early on, before Bernard got the production company set up, we were a bit tight for cash?" I nodded. "Well, both Gert and Luuk did work that they did not put in for at the time. When we had the funds and I asked about paying them, they said to use it to make the film, so I put that money down as investments in the film."

I was not sure on the legal technicalities of doing that and suggested to Dad that he should check it with the accountants. I could see it could be done but thought there might be taxes involved. Dad told me that he would check it out.

When we had gone through everything, I told Dad I was happy to put another fifty K in. That settled, I phoned Uncle Bernard to tell him to organise it. Of course, I then had to explain to Uncle Bernard why it was necessary. Uncle Bernard seemed a bit surprised that Dad was pushed for fifty thousand.

"I thought he had got everything well-funded," Uncle Bernard told me on the phone. When I thought about it, I thought he had as well.

"Dad, how come you are pushed to raise fifty K?" I asked. "I thought you had MCP well-funded."

"To be honest Johnny, I've fucked up."


"You know the idea you had about Luuk doing the architectural-tour stuff which we filmed a pilot for?"

"Yes. Heard nothing about it since."

"That's because not much has happened since. At least, not until we got back from Oz. There's been interest in it from one of the Dutch TV channels which are looking at taking it. I spoke to Professor Hendricks, and he has agreed to take part in it, as has Luuk."

"Luuk's not said anything," I told Dad.

"Good, I asked him to keep everything under wraps till we get final sign-off. The thing is, I need to put up one-hundred-and-fifty thousand to cover the up-front production costs on the series. I looked at all the figures and everything looked fine, so I committed on it. The funding was there, so there was no problem. The thing was, I had not allowed for unexpected costs coming in, like this one. Now I think I'm a bit stretched, to say the least."

"Do you need more?" I asked.

"Hopefully not. Irene is talking to the Beeb about me fronting a series for them. The fees from that should put us back where we should be. If not, I'll have to spend a couple of late nights knocking out a couple of Dorothy Richards romances."

"What's happened about the film-rights enquiry on Dorothy Richards?" I asked.

"Janet Long from Bob's office is dealing with it," Dad replied. "It does not look as if it is going anywhere."

"Why not?"

"The production company the enquiry came from is some feminist production group. When they found out that Dorothy Richards is a man, they seem to have lost interest."

I laughed at that piece of information.

Tuesday morning, I went to the yard, not that I was scheduled to be in, but it got me out of the way. Dad was busy doing final edits or something with Gert, Joseph and Luuk were at some exhibition with Matt. Granddad was going off somewhere with Jim and Steven to sort out more stock.

As a result, I did not arrive at the yard till just before ten. I was surprised to find that Steve was not in and the chandlery was really busy. Bran was rushed off his feet. I decided to give him a hand. When the rush died down a bit, I asked what was going on.

"Wish I knew," Bran replied. "Steve's gone off to do a boat survey, and it's Katherine's day off. Planned it because Tuesdays are quiet. Never seen the chandlery this busy during the week."

He had just finished speaking when another load came in wanting to be served. I managed to find out that they were all part of a group that were doing a round-Britain sail. They had been caught out by some bad weather yesterday and sheltered in the Blackwater. Most of the boats had suffered some minor damage, which was why we had so much business this morning.

Fortunately, Steve got back just after eleven and was able to help deal with the demand. Once everything had calmed down, which was after twelve, we had lunch.

"Not that I'm complaining," Steve said to me as Bran set off for the Pig and Whistle to collect our lunches, "but what are you doing in today?"

"Now't to do at home," I stated. "Thought I would come in and do some work on The Lady Ann, but Bran needed help."

"Lucky you. Tuesday is normally the quietest day of the week; that's why I try to book surveys for Tuesday and let Bran or Katherine have it off.

"I'm surprised you did not know there was a fleet coming in," I stated. "You're normally on top of those sorts of things."

It was something Steve was good at. From time to time, there would be a fleet of yachts or motor yachts from some club or other coming into the Dunford marina. When they did, we always did good business. Steve made a point of checking with both the harbour and the marina what was expected in the coming week.

"They were not expected," Steve informed me. "They were aiming to be in Ramsgate last night, but the weather caught them out, so they sheltered in the Blackwater.

"After lunch, can we go over your job list for the replica, Johnny?"

I said we could.

We tidied up the chandlery, then I went to make some tea. It would be ready about the time Bran got back. Once I had made the tea, I rang the bell to let everyone in the yard know it was ready. There was only Colin and Tom in the yard. Bran got back with the lunches just after I had rung the bell for tea.

"Just made it in time," he commented as he came into the tearoom.

"What?" I asked.

"It's about to pour down," Bran told me. He was right. Tom had just closed the outside door when the heavens opened.

"No Alan or Mark?" I asked Steve.

"No, they're at a training workshop — learning about carbon fibre."

"Where are the rest?"

"Graham and Katherine are off today; hadn't booked any of the casuals as there is no labouring work going at the moment."

I was a bit surprised as usually there were a couple of casuals working in the yard most weekdays. When I mentioned this to Steve, he pointed out that the yard at the moment was full of jobs that required skilled workers, not the sort of work you used casuals for.

Over lunch, Colin said if he had known I was coming in he would have used one of the electric bikes.

"What difference would that have made?" Steve asked.

"Johnny would have given me a lift home when we finish," Colin informed him.

"Can't he do that anyway?"

"No, my bike won't fit in the back of the Volvo. The electric bikes fold up."

"Well, put your bike in the back of my Land Rover. I'll drop it off at the Priory on the way home."

Colin thanked him.

After lunch, Steve checked the weather forecast. It was clear that the rain has set in for the afternoon. It was so heavy that outside work was out of the question, so Steve assigned everyone to work in the sheds. They still got soaked making their way from the office building to the sheds.

"No point in opening the chandlery," Steve stated, an observation I had to agree with. "Might as well stay up here and go over things."

We spent the next hour going over the job list I had drawn up for building the replica. By the time we were finished it was twice as long, not so much because I had missed jobs out but because Steve broke jobs up into smaller units.

That done, we did the same exercise on the job list that Katherine had prepared for the Princess of Alba. This time, though, there were not that many changes made to the list.

Just after three, the chandlery bell rang and I had to go down to serve. Even though there was a roof over the steps down from the office, the rain was being lashed by the wind and coming in from the open side of the steps. I got soaked on my way down so was not pleased to find that the customer only wanted a one-pound pack of lamp wicks. Why on earth he risked his boat coming round in this weather I do not know. Anyway, who uses paraffin lamps on boats these days? Having thought about it, I decided that a lot of people probably still did, given the fact that we still stocked wicks and seemed to have to restock regularly.

The rain eased off around four, but Steve decided to close the yard early. There was another belt of heavy rain indicated in about an hour. He felt it would be better if we could all get on our way before the weather turned really bad again. I took Colin home. Steve was a bit behind us with Colin's bike as he had to do the final lock up after he drove out of the yard. When he arrived, Mum opened the back door and shouted for him to come in and have a cuppa.

"Can't stay long," he said as he came in. "Going to pop into Tesco's before I pick the kids up."

"Thought you would have been here quicker," I stated as Mum poured a mug of tea for him. "You were not far behind us when we turned onto Marsh Road."

"I know, but some idiot in a BMW pulled out of Camp Lane just after you went by, but was going so slow I was held up. Then the idiot stops just before the top of the hill and reversed into that little side road. Held me up again."

Something clicked in my brain. I had seen a BMW behind me when I went into the yard this morning. I excused myself and went upstairs, grabbed my camera bag, and then went up to the top of the turret. From there you can see over the top of the hill. When it is not pouring down with rain, you can see across the marsh to High Marsh and the yards. I could clearly see down the far side of the hill and the side road that Steve had mentioned. There, the BMW was parked. From what I could make out, there were two people in it. I got my camera out of the bag, changed the lens for a five-hundred-millimetre telephoto, and took some photos. Then I called Neal to let him know about the car.

Ten minutes later Neal and Maddie came over from the van. I took them into Dad's library and told them what Steve had said, then showed them the photos.

"Clever," Neal commented. "Being that side of the hilltop just puts them outside the range of the CCTV camera."

"But not the drone," Maddie commented.

"Not the drone," Neal agreed.

"I would like to know how they knew about the camera," Maddie stated.

"You do have large signs up stating that the area is covered by CCTV," I pointed out.

"We know, Johnny, but those signs refer to the visible CCTV cameras that we have around the place," Neal informed me. "What Maddie is asking about is how they knew about the hidden cameras."

"I also want to know why our people have not picked up on them," Maddie told Neal.

"I'll get onto that," Neal stated. "But something does not make sense. There is no way they can see the Priory driveway from there."

"Unless they've got a hidden camera on it," I said, jokingly.

"Shit! I bet that's it, but where is it?" Neal exclaimed. "Wish we could get a look at them without them knowing."

"Well, there is always the turret," I commented.

"I'd better get some kit," Neal said, then he left us.

Twenty minutes later Neal was back with a case of stuff, and we hauled it up into the turret. At least Neal did. He told Maddie and me to stay down. He did not want too much movement in the turret in case it attracted attention. Half an hour later he came down with his case and a smile on his face.

"Well?" Maddie asked.

"I'm not sure. Have set up a camera, though, that can watch that area," Neal replied. "There is something odd."


"They've got a tablet, and I got a glimpse of the screen as they passed it between them. It looked like they had multiple CCTV feed. Look, Johnny, me and Maddie need to look into this. If I am right, it is worrying."

"What are you thinking?" Maddie asked.

"That they have tapped into our CCTV system," Neal stated.

"Fuck!" Maddie exclaimed.

Neal and Maddie left after asking me not to say anything to anybody about it. I told them I was not happy about that as I felt Dad should know.

"I agree with you," Neal stated. "I'm going to call in the office and give him a heads up, but I don't want this talked about. If they've tapped the CCTV system, they may have tapped or bugged something else."

"Like the house?" I asked.

"I think the house is fairly safe, I've swept it for bugs regularly and not found anything. I'm more worried about elsewhere on the estate, especially areas where the public go."

It was about an hour after Neal and Maddie left before Dad came in from the office. He did not look too happy. I checked if Neal had spoken to him, and Dad confirmed that he had and said that we would speak later. However, we did not get a chance to. Just after we had finished dinner, Maddie called and asked if we could meet. Dad told them to come over. Mum asked if we could use the library as she needed to do some online searches and wanted to use the system in the study. Dad said that was not a problem, so when Maddie and Neal came over, I showed them into the library. Neal did not look happy. When Dad offered them drinks, Neal asked for a whisky.

"Make it a double, please, Mike?" he said.

"That does not sound good," Dad stated.

"It's not," Neal replied.

"He's feeling a bit annoyed with himself," Maddie informed us.

"Why?" I asked.

"I fucked up," Neal responded.

"How?" Dad asked.

"Remember back in March, when we found that one of the servers had been hacked?"

"Yes, Neal," Dad replied.

"Well, I checked all the other servers to make sure they were secure. I did not check the CCTV control box. Somebody had added some remote users to it."

"Remote users?" I asked.

"Users who can log into the system from outside and view the CCTV feeds. The thing is, the only way to add a user to that system is manually on the control box. There is no keyboard; you have to use the onscreen display."

"So, somebody had to be in the server room to do it."

"Yes, Johnny," Neal confirmed.

"Shit! That means—" Dad started to say.

"It means that Johnny was right; somebody got into the server room, and the only way in is from the internal staircase. That means it has to be somebody with access to the Priory yard, somebody that both you and Johnny know," Neal stated.

"What can we do?" Dad asked.

"Well, we already upgraded the access to the server room," Maddie stated. "I got Neal to do that when Johnny showed how easy it was to open the numeric pad lock. What we need to do now is stop the unauthorised access to the CCTV system without letting them know that we know they have been accessing it."

"How are you going to do that?" Dad asked.

"Easiest way is to upgrade the publicly visible system," Neal replied. "There are eight cameras on that system, and it is a twelve-channel controller. So, if we put in another five cameras, we would have to replace the box with a sixteen-or twenty-four-channel box."

"Won't they be suspicious of us upgrading the system?" I asked.

"Don't think so. The system you've got is what was put in shortly after you moved in. There is hardly any cover of the craft-centre area and none of the nursery or the Sidings Lane entry. They should be covered, anyway, and putting five cameras in to cover those areas makes sense."

"How much is this going to cost?" Dad asked. Neal told him, and Dad winced. I think he will be writing some more Dorothy Richards stories soon.

We spent another twenty or so minutes discussing it, but in the end, it was decided that we should follow Neal's recommendation.

"I'm putting the controller in the new monitoring room," Neal informed us. "It will be a lot more secure in there."

"How is that going?" Dad asked.

"Well, Allen is mostly looking after it. Most of the building work required has been done—"

"Building work?" Dad interrupted. He clearly did not know about this.

"Yes. Allen had to have the area made secure. We also needed air-con in there, so quite a lot had to be done."

"But I've not seen anything going on," Dad asserted.

"Good. You were not supposed to; neither should anyone else. What's the point in having security upgrades made to a building if everyone knows about them?" Neal asked. I thought he had a good point there.

The conversation could have gone on longer, but Luuk and Joseph arrived back. They had gone to some exhibition up at the National Exhibition Centre with Matt. I had not expected them back till much later. However, from what Luuk had to say, I gathered the exhibition had been a bit of a flop, something Joseph confirmed later when we were in bed.

Wednesday morning, I gave Colin a lift into the yard, making sure he had one of the electric bikes in the back as I would not be around to bring him back, nor would Steve. We both had to be at the meeting with Bob Carluck this afternoon, so Steve was leaving Katherine to lock up the yard.

I spent the morning giving Bran a hand to re-lay a deck. It had been lifted to get at the underlying deck plates which were in need of attention. However, the wooden deck which sat on top of the steel deck plates was in good condition, having been replaced a few years before. So, once the repairs had been made to the steel plates, we relaid the wooden deck back on top. It was something of a jigsaw puzzle trying to find the right piece of wood to go where. However, we managed to get it sorted in a couple of hours, and I left the yard just after twelve. The meeting with Bob was not till two, so I got a chance to get home, have a lunch which was not pie and chips and get changed.

Given that the meeting with Bob was not till two, I was rather surprised to see his Rolls in the yard when I arrived back home. It turned out that Dad had suggested to Bob that he got here early so he could have lunch with us before the meeting. I suspect that Dad had wanted to have a quiet word with Bob before anything formal was discussed. My suspicion was borne out of the fact that Mum informed me that Dad had taken Bob down to the Crooked Man for lunch.

I had lunch with Mum and Grandma. Granddad was helping the lads in the nursery, and Grandma had sent a pile of bacon butties down to them for lunch. We had quiche and salad.

Dad called me just after one-thirty and asked me to join him and Bob in the office. When I got to the office there was no sign of either of them, though Lee and Gert were there. When I mentioned Dad's call, Lee said they were probably just leaving the Crooked Man. I think they were just having a last drink. It was a good fifteen minutes before Dad and Bob got to the office. I was surprised to see a woman, whom I would put in her mid-fifties, with them.

When they came in, Dad introduced her to all of us as Miranda Coombes, a series producer with an independent TV production company, apparently the company that worked for the channel that Bob held a major shareholding in. He then introduced Bob to Lee and Gert. Steve arrived just as the introductions had been completed, so Dad had to introduce Gert and Miranda all over again. Steve had already met Lee on a couple of occasions.

Lee asked if it was alright for him to record the meeting. Miranda, Bob and Steve said it was OK. Dad indicated that it would not be a problem and asked us to take a seat around the conference table. He then gave an outline of what was proposed: basically, that a TV series be made of me building of a replica of The Lady Ann.

"Do you intend it to be an exact replica or a modern equivalent?" Steve asked.

"What's the difference?" Miranda asked.

"About a quarter of a million," Steve replied.

"Surely, he was not going to spend a quarter of a million?" Miranda commented, indicating me.

"He wouldn't have had to," Steve stated. "Johnny was planning on building a replica over a number of years. He could have sat around and waited for just the right piece of wood to turn up. You want this project completed in a year—"

"Eight months, actually," Dad interrupted.

"OK, eight months. That means you have to go out and buy exactly what you need when you need it. Now the ribs of The Lady Ann are steam-bent oak. If we have to get those made for us, and we will have to as we don't have the facilities to make them, you are looking at about a couple of hundred pounds per rib, minimum. If we make them using laminated wood, we are looking at less than half that cost. It is the same with the rest of the structure.

"I've done a bit of my own research on The Lady Ann, and I can tell you that she cost fifteen thousand pounds to build in 1920; that is half a million in today's money. It is going to cost as much to build the replica if you build an exact copy — if not more."

"Shit!" I exclaimed. "I had not thought of that."

"It wouldn't have been a problem if you had been building it yourself without a time limit. Most of the cost, even back then, would have been on labour," Steve stated. "However, building the replica in eight months means you will have to use paid labour, and that is going to cost. Duplicating the original materials will also cost. When there are cheaper alternatives which are considered better, you might want to consider them."

"So, what are the material costs?" Bob asked.

"If you are looking at using the exact materials used in The Lady Ann, I doubt if you will come away with less than three-hundred-and-fifty thousand. If you use modern alternatives, you are looking around the hundred-thousand mark."

"I was going to use traditional materials," I stated.

"How were you going to fund that?" Miranda asked.

"Oh, my son has the funds to do that if he wants to," Dad said. "He would have to wait a bit till he gets his hands on them. I doubt if the trustees would let him have any for that purpose, though you never know."

"They would," I told Dad. "I had already spoken to Uncle Bernard about it. As it would contribute to my education in my chosen career, he said it was a legitimate expense that the trust could cover."

"Bernard would," Dad admitted.

"So, you have the funds to cover those build costs?" Miranda asked.

"Yes, funds are not a problem; time to do it properly is."

Gert suggested that it might be a good idea to get some coffee. Dad apologised that there was not a coffee machine in the office. Gert offered to go and get a flask of coffee from the house and asked me to help him. I wondered why he needed help, but I went with him, anyway.

"Well, you have sunk one of her major bargaining chips," Gert said as we crossed the yard to the house.

"What do you mean?"

"Look, I've set things like this up for De heer Wilhelm. The TV companies expect to be able to dictate terms because the people need their support to finish their projects. You don't. That puts you in the stronger position. They need you. You don't need them."

I realised that Gert was right. I did not need them. In fact, I was losing out if this project went ahead. My whole idea in building the replica of The Lady Ann was to gain the skills I would need to restore the original boat. It did not matter how long it took me to achieve that. One thing I was not short of was time.

The was a jug of coffee on the hotplate, freshly filtered, when we got into the kitchen. When I commented on this, Gert admitted he had asked Mum to get one ready for about this time. There was also a tray of cakes to take over to the office.

"Ah, coffee and cake, very Dutch," Gert commented. I laughed.

When we got back to the office, it was clear that the three of them had been busy discussing technicalities, while Lee had been taking notes. Gert poured the coffee and handed it out, I passed around plates for the cakes and told everybody to help themselves.

For the better part of half an hour, there was talk about who was responsible for what and how things should be done. Miranda started to state what she wanted. I let her continue for about ten minutes then asked a question.

"What's in it for me?"

"What do you mean, what's in it for you?" Miranda asked. "You're getting your boat built."

"That's no benefit for me. To be honest I would prefer to take my time and build it myself."


"Because I want to restore The Lady Ann. To do that, I need a set of boatbuilding skills I do not have and will probably not acquire for some years. The purpose of building the replica was to give me a chance to develop the skills I would need to restore The Lady Ann. Now, unless you can give me something to make up for the opportunity to learn that I am losing by allowing you to take over the build, there is no point in me letting you do it."

Miranda looked at me balefully.

Before she could say something, Bob spoke. "He's got a point, Miranda, a good point. What do you want, Johnny?"

"You are getting experts on boatbuilding in to demonstrate how things are done. Is that right?"

"Yes, that's the idea," Bob said.

"Well, I want them to teach me how to do it. That means they will have to come when I am free, which will mostly be at the weekends as I am in college from September and not missing classes. This is my A-level year."

"But that will push the costs up," Miranda pointed out.

"That is your problem, not mine." I pointed out.

"Now, Johnny, be reasonable," Dad said.

"Dad, I am being reasonable. I am giving up something, so I expect something in return. I would point out that legally Long Creek Boat builders only have use of the Salvage Yard, they do not own it. Ownership is in my benefit. To do any filming there, you need my permission."

"He's right, Mike," Steve stated. Dad just nodded. I noticed Bob smiled. Steve continued: "Johnny owns The Lady Ann; the trust he is the beneficiary of owns the Salvage Yard. In ten months, he will own it outright when he turns eighteen. Knowing Johnny's relationship with one of the trustees, I doubt that they would agree to anything he objected to. I am sorry; if you want to do anything based on The Lady Ann you are going to have to agree to Johnny's terms."

"What about this barge of yours, Bob?" Miranda asked.

"Unfortunately, it is in the boatshed at the Salvage Yard," Bob informed her.

I smiled at her.

Bob continued. "Also, I think that what Johnny is asking for is quite reasonable. He needs to get something out of this."

"He'll be on TV; he'll be a celebrity," Miranda stated.

"Hadn't thought of that," I said. Miranda smiled. "Any chance of you making the series without me appearing. I think I've had enough of celebrity. I'll leave that to the uncles." Miranda looked puzzled. Dad laughed.

"His uncles are Ben Carlton and Matthew Lewis," Dad informed her. "One of his best friends is Trevor Spade. Johnny knows all about celebrity."

"But it won't make sense without you," Miranda said.

"So, you will agree to my terms?" I asked.

"We don't really have much choice if we want this made, and I want it made," Bob stated. He turned and looked at Miranda. "Make sure it does get made. Understood?"

"Yes," she sighed.

"Right, having got that sorted, let's talk money," Bob said.

For the next thirty-five minutes, figures were being discussed which, to me, made no sense. What was noticeable was that both Gert and Lee seemed to be making contributions during this part of the discussion. At the end of that, it appeared that there was an outline agreement to make three series: the first, a three-part series giving the historical background to The Lady Ann and the Princess of Alba; the second, an eight-part series on the building of a replica of The Lady Ann; finally, an eight-part series on the restoration of the Princess of Alba.

Gert made suggestions about how the building and restoration process could be filmed. He proposed that there should be static camera placed in the boatsheds which would film whenever any work was being carried out, whether there were film crew there or not.

"We'll also have to fix lighting in the sheds," Gert pointed out.

That brought on another discussion as Steve was worried about the heat from the lights causing things to dry out.

"Not a problem," Lee stated. "We'll use low-voltage LED lighting units."

"How much is all this going to cost?" Bob asked.

"The production side of things will cost about a hundred K an hour of screen time," Gert stated. "Then there is the costs of the build and the restoration."

"So, we are looking at about two-and-a-half million?" Bob said.

"Probably," Dad agreed. "I don't think that will be far off."

"Who will direct it?" Bob asked.

"I was hoping I could get Gert to do it?" Dad stated. Gert looked surprised.

"I would need to see some of his work," Bob stated.

Dad asked Lee to put The Unheard on. Lee closed the blackout blinds on the windows, then started something on his laptop. I then found out why the one wall of the office was white and had nothing on it. A short-throw projector threw an image onto the wall. A piece of music I had never heard started to play, and the silhouetted figure of a man crossing a bridge in Amsterdam appeared.

"Sixty-five years ago, a group of friends were betrayed. Each year on the anniversary of that betrayal, one of those men comes to the Homomonument in Amsterdam to lay flowers in memory — in memory not only of his friends but of all the other gay men who suffered under the Nazis and whose story is UNHEARD," the commentary stated. I recognised the voice, a deep, rich voice. Somehow Dad had got Tyler to do the voice-over for the film.

After ten minutes of the film, Bob said he had seen enough.

"You made that?" he asked Gert.

"Some of it," Gert replied.

"Gert shot some of it, I shot some of it, some of it is stock footage, some of it even Johnny shot," Dad stated. "It was Gert, though, who put it together, who made it into the film it is."

"Then I want him to make these," Bob stated.

"And I want the UK broadcast right for that film," Miranda said.

"You'll have to speak to Max Ableholm; he is handling the sale of distribution and broadcasting rights," Dad informed her.

"Fuck! It's going to cost a fortune," Miranda exclaimed.

"And so it should," Bob stated. "Mike, I want this to go ahead. It will take weeks to sort all the legal stuff out, but can you start working on things now?"

"I could, but I would need funds," Dad said.

Bob pulled out a chequebook from his inside pocket. He opened it, searched for a pen, then wrote out a cheque, which he passed to Dad.

"Will that do to get you started?" Bob asked.

Dad looked at the cheque, then passed it to Lee.

"Yes, Bob, that will get us started."

After a bit more conversation, Bob and Miranda left. Dad invited Lee to join us for dinner, saying that no doubt we needed to discuss things. Lee pointed out that he could not be late as he was running the session at the dojo this evening. That reminded me I had not been for a few weeks, a fact I commented on.

"We noticed," Lee said.

Over dinner, I mentioned to Joseph that I was going to the dojo later. He said he would join us. Dad reminded me to notify Neal that we were both going. I sent him a text. I got a reply back asking what time. When I told him, he said he and Maddie would join us.

It was an interesting session that evening. Jarrom was there. I had seen Jarrom spar with Uncle Ben, and he looked bloody good. Against Maddie he looked like an amateur. I know people had told me that Maddie was good, but seeing her skill was something different.

Thursday morning, I was up early, with a few aches and pains. I really must try to get to the dojo on a regular basis. Despite the aches and pains, I went into the yard. Did not have that much choice as I was scheduled to work.

When I got into the yard, Steve got me on drawing up a revised schedule for the work we had booked in for the next few months. As he pointed out, once the filming started, we would be a slipway and boatshed down. Turned out that it was not that much of a problem. There was only one week at the end of August where we had work booked in on all the slipways, and by getting one customer to bring his boat in a couple of days early, we could avoid that clash.

At lunch, Steve told the yard workers about the fact that we would be filming two TV series at the Salvage yard, probably starting sometime in September. It turned out that both Steve and Dad had already spoken to Katherine about the project, and she was happy to go along with it.

Thursday evening, Dad gave a showing of the final cut of The Unheard in the library. Uncles Phil and Ben both turned up for it, though the main reason they were at the Priory was because they were getting their apartment handed over to them in the morning.

That night as we lay in bed, Joseph asked me if I was taking Colin into Chelmsford tomorrow.

"Haven't arranged to," I told him. "Why?"

"Had a text from Dad. He's asked me to get back home for Shabbat. Thought if you were going into Chelmsford, I could get the train from there."

I told Joseph I would sort something out in the morning and either take him into Chelmsford or Southminster. He leaned across me and gave me a kiss.

Friday morning, I woke early, got up, showered and dressed and was down in the kitchen for seven. I thought I'd better give Colin a bit more sleep, so did not call him till eight. He did have an appointment that Friday, so I said I would take him in, saying I had to take Joseph to the train station.

Having sorted that, I remembered to let Neal know that we were going into Chelmsford. Neal said he would send Dan with us and that someone would be following us. I thought this was a bit of overkill but did not argue. Shortly after ten, we set off for Chelmsford. Dan insisted that he had to be in the front passenger seat, which upset Joseph. However, we set off in plenty of time for me to get Colin to his appointment and Joseph to the train station.

We had just turned off the bypass onto the main road to Chelmsford when Dan got his phone out and started to text.

"We're being trailed," he informed me.

"I know, Neal said he was putting a car to follow us."

"Yes, but the car that is following us is three cars back. What worries me is the black Merc in front of us and the BMW behind us."

We got to the Maldon junction roundabout. Most of the traffic was going off to the right, for Maldon. We were continuing straight on for Chelmsford. The Merc in front of us turned onto the Chelmsford road.

"How could they know we were going to Chelmsford?" I asked as I turned as well.

"First, you have gone into Chelmsford on a couple of Fridays, taking Colin. So, you going to Chelmsford this morning would have been a reasonable guess for anyone. Second, you, being a good driver, signalled your intention to take the turning off the island. You will have noticed the car in front didn't. In fact, they were almost past the turn before they turned. They did not turn till you started your signal," Dan stated.

About five minutes later, a red Ford van going well over the speed limit, overtook us and the Merc in front. Dan gave a definite sigh of relief. I wondered what was going on. I wondered even more when I checked the mirror and saw there was another red van behind the BMW following us.

"What the fuck!" I exclaimed as I had to hit the brakes. The Merc in front of us was braking hard. Fortunately, the brakes on the Volvo were bloody good, and I stopped before hitting it — just. There was about six inches to spare. Unfortunately, the BMW was not so good at braking and slammed into the back of my car, pushing it into the Merc. The rear doors of the Merc opened and a couple of men jumped out wearing balaclavas and carrying baseball bats. In the mirror, I could see the same happening from the BMW behind us. Dan shouted to us to close our eyes and keep them closed. I followed his instruction.

There was the sound of smashing glass, and I felt particles of glass fall onto me as the side window was broken. A moment later the driver's door was opened and somebody grabbed at me, then there was a scream, followed by more. I heard sirens in the distance.

"You can open your eyes now," Dan said.

I did and looked around. There were a number of people around the vehicles, and I noticed that some were in police uniform. The balaclava-clad guys were all on the ground and clearly in some distress.

"Chilli spray?" I asked. The sound of the sirens was getting closer.

"Yes. One of Aunty's nieces is a keen gardener. She's been breeding chillies for years. Has now got a strain which is above one-million-four-hundred-thousand Scoville Heat Units. We make our own chilli oil for the spray."

Three police cars and a couple of ambulances pulled up. I was surprised to see Chief Inspector Manley instructing the police. Dan suggested we should get out of the car, which we did. Once out, I could take in the damage; it was a mess.

"Sorry, lad, that's going to take some fixing," Manley told me. He then turned to Dan, whom he seemed to know. "You've got transport to get them to where they were going?"

Dan confirmed that they did. A couple of minutes later, Lee arrived with the Merc to take us into Chelmsford. We got Colin to his appointment in time, then took Joseph to the station. Once that was done, I asked Lee what was going on.

"Don't know. Neal came down just after you left and told Dad that you might need me to pick you up."

I decided that once I got back, I needed to have a word with Neal. However, before we could go back, we had to wait for Colin to finish his session with Professor Prendegast. As a result, it was gone two when we got back. We had stopped for lunch, though, on the way.

Rather unsurprisingly, Chief Inspector Manley was at the Priory when we got there along with Neal, Miss Jenkins and Tony Richards, plus a couple of uniformed officers, all gathered in the library. CI Manley looked decidedly uncomfortable being in the same room as Miss Jenkins.

I wondered what Tony was doing there.

"What the fuck went on this morning?" I asked Neal as I entered Dad's study. "It was almost as if you expected something."

"We did," Neal admitted.


"Johnny, we've known that there was a contract for your and Joseph's kidnapping since before you went to Australia. Since you have been back, the only time you and Joseph have been together has been on the grounds of the estate," Neal pointed out. "We also knew that the contract had been given to a local gang, actually the remnants of John Henderson's gang whom the police could not get enough on to prosecute."

"Which was lucky," CI Manley commented. "We already had good grounds to get a warrant to tap their communications."

"Which," Neal advised, "is how we found out that they were under a time constraint. They had to snatch you before next Wednesday."

"I wonder why," I said.

"That, Johnny, we might never know," Miss Jenkins stated. "What we did know was there was a time constraint, so we were fairly certain that the moment they had an opportunity to snatch you and Joseph together, they would take it."

"As soon as you told me you were taking Joseph to Chelmsford, I contacted Chief Inspector Manley and alerted him," Neal informed me. "We then called in all the protection we had."

"And I put our local people on standby," Manley informed me.

"I thought you were down in London," I stated.

"Still wrapping up the Henderson gang. There are still bits and pieces that we have to clean up, so we still have people up here."

"What if they had had guns?" I asked.

"We were fairly certain that no guns would be used," Manley said. "Our phone taps gave us a good understanding of their capabilities. Anyway, I had armed officers available. They're on raids now picking up the rest of the remains of the Henderson gang."

"But you could not pick them up before?" I asked.

"No. Insufficient evidence," Manley replied. "Not totally sure I have enough now for all of them, but I have enough to bluff the situation if I am challenged on the arrest. I am sure I will have enough after I have done a bit of questioning."

"So, the kidnapping threat is over," I stated.

"I'm not sure about that," Miss Jenkins said.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead