Living with Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 11

I woke up a bit before four, and not being able to get back to sleep, I got up and went to my study to work. I often find that I do some of my best writing either late at night or first thing in the morning. There was no reason I should not have been sleeping; it was just that I felt it was not a good time to be sleeping. So, shortly after four, I slipped out of bed and made my way to my study.

I had checked my emails when we got back from London just before ten last night. There were a few non-urgent ones that I had left to deal with this morning. Unfortunately, albeit that they were non-urgent, they were not easy to answer, most offering me work and wanting estimates as to time, cost or both for work I was being approached to do.

Really, I should think about getting an agent to deal with this side of things. Bob handles my books and magazine articles, I wondered if he had someone in the agency who could take on technical-documentation work. After a couple of minutes thinking about that option, I realised it would not be feasible. They would not know what my commitments were, whether or not I had the expertise, or even if I would be interested. It would just result in me having somebody at the agency asking me precisely the same questions so they could pass on the answers and charge me for doing so.

So, I spent a good hour working through the emails. Some of the offers of work I turned down flat; they were not in my field of expertise, which is quite broad these days, or had time scales that I could not possibly meet, especially with two weeks in Necker coming up. Others I gave provisional answers to, as they were far enough in the future to allow for flexibility. Two offers I accepted.

I had just finished off dealing with them when I heard the back door go, followed shortly after by the sound of the kettle being filled. Making my way through to the kitchen, I found Johnny putting coffee in the filter paper.

"If the kettle's on, put some tea in the pot for me, please," I said.

"Earl Grey or Darjeeling?" he asked.

"Darjeeling, I think." I glanced up at the clock; it had just gone five. "You're up early."

"I've just got Trevor settled down again; would have to be up in an hour anyway, so not worth trying to go back to sleep."

"Bad night?" I enquired.

"He's had a couple of nightmares; had to settle him down."

"Are you OK to go to the yard?" I enquired. "It's not good to work with machinery if you are tired."

"No problem, Dad; I'm not working in the yard today." I raised an eyebrow in surprise. If he was not in the yard, what was he doing? "Steve's taking me to the timber yard to show me how they select timber."

I was not sure I was pleased about that. Timber yards are not the safest of places, and being tired and in one did not sound a good combination.

"He says," Johnny continued, "that it is two-and-a-half to three-hour drive, so I should be able to get some sleep in the car." I just hope that Steve did not mind having a sleeping companion on the drive. I suspected he might be taking Johnny to give him someone to talk to while driving.

The kettle boiled, and he poured the water into the teapot for me, then into the filter over the large coffee jug. I mentioned the fact that he was making a lot of coffee for one person.

"I'm going to fill a flask and take it to the caravan for Trevor. I'll take a couple of Danish through for him as well."

We sat and chatted about how things were going. He seemed generally happy with the way things were working out in general. When I mentioned the move, he looked at me questioningly.

"Dad, you know I won't be here for the move," he stated.


"I'm not going to be here for the move. My first exam is on Thursday, so I'll have to go up to Colin's on Wednesday. Colin's dad says he will pick me up from Sheffield station if I can get there by four. I told you last week."

I slumped a bit in my chair. He had told me, but it had slipped my mind. I had forgotten entirely about Johnny's exams. He had given me the dates the day he arrived, and, to be honest, I had not looked at them since.

"What about Trevor?" I asked.

"He's going home Wednesday morning. His dad is back Tuesday night, and he wants to go home and talk to his parents as soon as he can get them both together. I was hoping I could get you to give us both a lift into Southminster for the train. We can go into town together, and then I can get the train to Sheffield.

"By the way, Dad, I'm going to need some money for train tickets and taxis for the days when Colin does not have exams and I do."

"What's the fare from Colin's place to the school?" I asked, suspecting that Johnny probably had the information. "And how many days will you need to get a taxi?"

"It's fifteen pounds, and there are only two days when we don't have exams in common."

"So, Johnny, you need your train fare and sixty quid for taxis, anything else?"

"No, and it is only thirty for the taxis, fifteen is the total fare for both ways."

"How long are you going to be up there for?" I asked.

"Three weeks, though I'll be at Manston for the wedding next weekend. Uncle Ben is picking me up, and Bains will take me back after the wedding."

"Look, I'll put three hundred in your account. That should cover things."

It was then that panic hit me. I realised Johnny would finish his exams the Thursday before we returned from Necker on the Monday. How was that going to work out? We would have moved to the Priory by then, but he would not even have a key. I mentioned the problem to Johnny. He smiled.

"Actually, Dad, I was going to ask you if it was alright for me to stay an extra week with Colin. We want to go camping — not just Colin and me but some of the other boys from the school — a post-exam camping party."

"I'd better make it four hundred, then."

"Thanks, Dad," he replied. He finished his coffee, then took some Danish from the cake tin and put them on a plate, filled a flask and was about to take them to the caravan.

"Aren't you having any breakfast?"

"Nah, Steve says there's a greasy spoon just past Chelmsford where we can get a massive English. Saving myself for that." With that comment, he left. I poured myself another cup of tea and took it through to the study.

About twenty minutes later, I heard the shower going. Not long after, Johnny put his head round the door to tell me that he was off to the yard. I asked him how Trevor was.

"He's sleeping like a babe. Left him a note, the coffee and a Danish. Explained the shower and toilet arrangements to him last night. Doubt if you will hear from him before noon."

Anne got up just after Johnny left. She immediately set about making a list of everything we had to do for the move. I informed her about Johnny not being around then.

"But what are we going to do about his stuff?" she asked.

"Well, the boxes in the garage," I replied, realising that they now included the tools Stan had bought him while at Manston, "can go into one of the outbuildings. His other stuff is in the caravan, so we will just tow the caravan up there, and he can sort it out when he gets back."

"Yes, but there is not even a bed for him."

It hit me then that I had not even thought about furniture except for my desk. Here we were moving from a small bungalow with effectively one bedroom to a six- or was it a seven-bedroom house — in the main wing. Then, there was the guest wing. I had not even counted the number of rooms over there.

I was just considering this point when the phone rang. It was my broker.

"Ferring have just made an offer of ninety-two pounds a share for LeBrun," he informed me.


"They're the holding company behind Gucci and some other luxury brands. There's a bidding war going on. The shares are trading at one hundred. I think they will go higher. Can get you seventy on your options now or you could exercise them. Will cost you six hundred K, but you could make nine hundred on the deal."

I told him I needed a bit of time to think about things but would get back to him before the end of the day. The moment I put the phone down, it rang again. This time it was Bernard to inform me about the Gucci offer and also to tell me that LV had just upped their offer to ninety-five pounds.

I explained how I was fixed on the options and asked for his advice.

"I would say sell them now," he informed me. "All the indications from LV are that ninety-five is their final offer. I expect Ferring to come back with a slightly higher one, but not much higher, so can't see the final price being over one-hundred."

As soon as I had finished talking to Bernard, I phoned my broker back and told him to sell the options. Then I sat down to work out how much I had made. After tax, I would come out just over half a million. I could afford to get some nice furniture. I told Anne this. She informed me, in that case, that she was going into Chelmsford to have a look at alternatives. I suggested she might like to call in at the bespoke place in Dunford, where I was getting my desk made.

I went online and did a transfer to her account so she would have some immediate funds to spend. I also remembered to transfer four hundred to Johnny. I was in the middle of doing that when a reminder flashed up on my screen that it was Johnny's birthday on Monday. That was something I had forgotten about. I added two hundred to the transfer.

When I told Anne that I had transferred five thousand to her account, she informed me that there was no way she was spending that much on furniture. I told her to spend whatever, and we could do some more furniture shopping on Sunday.

"Sorry, Mike," she replied, "I'm meeting Debora on Sunday. We're going for our final fittings." That hit it home to me that the wedding was a week on Monday. I needed to sort out my morning suit and get it to the cleaners if it still fit. Something else that had to be checked.

As soon as Anne left, I went to our room and found my morning suit. Fortunately, it still fit, though I had to ease the waistcoat tightener a bit. I packed it ready to go to the cleaners, then called them to arrange a pick-up. Luckily, they had a pick-up run coming out this way in the afternoon and would deliver it back to me on the following Tuesday. So that was all in hand. I finally got down to some writing.

Just before noon, I heard Trevor come through to the bathroom. I called out to him and asked if he would like tea or coffee; he replied coffee, so I got up and went to make him some, making myself a tea. A few minutes later, he came through to the kitchen wearing a tee shirt and some sweatpants. There was something about him that suggested more of the lost fourteen-year-old than the successful eighteen-year-old film star. I poured out the coffee and put milk and sugar on the table. He helped himself to the sugar but drank the coffee black.

"Heard you had a bit of a rough night," I commented.

"Yes, not really fair on Johnny; I woke him both times. He came over to me the first time and just sat till I was ready to go back to sleep. The second time he got into the bunk and held me."

At least, that told me what the sleeping arrangements were. I had not wanted to ask but would not have been too happy to find that they were sharing the same bed. The caravan was technically a six-berth. There was a double bedroom at the front, then a shower room with toilet, though the boys were encouraged not to use that except for a piss. Emptying the tank did present some problems. Just past that was a bunk room with two bunks in it. The final two berths were achieved by converting the dining and seating area into a double bed. Anne had told me they tried it once and never again.

I liked Trevor; he was a nice kid. Somehow, though, I did not feel he was a suitable match for Johnny. The idea that they might be sleeping together had worried me. Not the sex. Somehow, I suspected that, despite all his experiences, Trevor might find himself learning something from Johnny. Although Johnny had not said that much, what he had said indicated quite a lot of sexual experience, and I gather it had been quite varied.

Now, I fully understood kids that age would get sex how and when they could if they were not in a relationship. Sleeping together indicated something more than just simple sex. It hinted at a possible relationship, and I did not think Johnny really needed to get into one with Trevor.

I asked Trevor if he wanted anything to eat, and he said some toast would be nice. So, I made him a couple of rounds, and we sat and chatted over the kitchen table. He asked if there was a good place to run around here. When I established that he was looking for a five- to ten-mile run, I suggested he run along the back of the sea defences up to the old bunker; that was about four miles. From there, if he took the road to the right and kept on the main roads and turning right, it would eventually bring him back onto the Lynnhaven road; total distance was about seven miles.

Trevor said it sounded about right and he would probably have a go at it once he had done a bit more on the script. He finished his coffee and toast, then returned to the caravan. I made some marinade and placed some chicken breasts in it, then washed up before returning to writing. Shortly after two, Trevor came through from the caravan and put his head around the study door to tell me he was off for a run. I checked that he had his mobile on him and told him if he got lost or had enough, to ring me and I would go and pick him up.

He laughed and stated he hoped he would not need rescuing as he had GPS on his phone, so should be able to find the way back. I was not so sure. There are a lot of small byways around here, mostly unadopted, so they do not show on the navigation maps.

I watched Trevor as he left the drive and turned in the direction of the sea wall. He was wearing a singlet and running shorts; his hair was tied up under a baseball cap and he wore large sunglasses. It was doubtful if anyone seeing him would recognise the renegade elf prince.

My broker called me just before three to tell me he had unloaded my options at seventy-eight pounds a share. When I expressed surprise at the price obtained, he explained a lot of people had sold short, expecting the price to fall and had been caught out on the market. He asked what I wanted to do with my LeBrun shares; they were currently trading at one hundred and seven. I knew the LV offer was final so the price would not be going up much more; I told him to sell.

He came back to me half an hour later with the news that he had got one hundred and seven-fifty for them. I had just made nearly five hundred thousand on my shares and given the length of time I had held them. I suspected that it would be mostly tax-free.

In between the first call from the broker and the second, Trevor had arrived back. He had put his head around the study door to let me know he was back, and he was going to have a shower.

Once he was out of the shower and changed, he came to tell me that Johnny had called him and suggested that they should meet up in Dunford. I had forgotten that tonight was the youth club; Johnny would want to see Arthur. Trevor wanted to know what the bus times were. A quick check online showed he had just missed the last bus; they only ran once every two hours with the last one to Dunford at three in the afternoon. It left on its return journey from Dunford at five-fifteen, so he would need transport to get back as well.

I thought of offering the Santa Fe but realised I would have to get insurance sorted for him. Also, I was not sure if he had a licence. So, I suggested that I give him a lift as soon as Anne got back. Trevor said not to bother; he would get a taxi. I had to point out to him there were not that many around here. He would have to get one to come from Dunford to pick him up, which would be expensive. I looked a couple of local places up for him, and he phoned for quotes.

I phoned Johnny to check what time he was going to be in Dunford.

"We've just got back to the yard," he informed me. "Have got to help Steve unload some wood we bought, then he's going to give me a lift into Dunford. Should be there about five-thirty, six at the latest. Tell Trevor I'll meet him at Mad Burgers at six. It's close to the bus stop."

"That's not much use, the last bus was at three," I informed him.

"Shit! Sorry, Dad, I forgot you only have a rural service. Any chance you can run him in?"

"I was going to, but Trevor insisted that he would take a taxi."

"OK. Tell Trevor that Arthur will give him a lift back." I wondered if Arthur knew that. "Oh, and Dad, had a notification from the bank that you put in six hundred. You said you were doing four; what's going on?"

"Two hundred's your birthday present for Monday. Did not know what to get you, so thought the cash would be as good as anything. Want to get some friends round on Sunday?"

"Don't really have any around here, other than Arthur, but I can ask."

"Don't be surprised if your godfather and family turn up," I told him.

"That would be nice. Can you let them know?"

I agreed I would. Once informed of the time that he needed to be in Dunford, Trevor was able to call back and book a taxi. Turned out it was not as bad as I had expected. Even so, it was the top side of twenty quid. Trevor booked one. I noticed he did not use his stage name.

Before Trevor went off to the caravan and learning his lines, I asked him if he needed feeding before going to Dunford. He told me as he was meeting Johnny in a burger place, he would eat there.

Anne got back shortly after four looking worn out. I asked her how things had gone.

"Well, I've ordered a dining table and chairs from that place you're having the desk made at. It will be two months before they deliver. I've ordered a sofa and some chairs for that large sitting room, the stuff here can go in the snug. And I have ordered some beds and bedroom furniture for a couple of the guest rooms; thought we could sort the others out later. Also, ordered a bed for Johnny's room, though have not ordered any furniture; thought he would want to do that."

"Probably a good move," I commented.

"Problem is nothing can be delivered until the week after next at the earliest. We will be in Necker, and Johnny is up taking his exams. So, it looks as if we will have to wait until we get back before scheduling anything to arrive."

"Or," I said, "we get somebody to housesit for us and take the deliveries. I'm sure you could leave a list as to what goes where."

"The question is who?"

That was a good question. It was one we discussed over dinner, not the marinated chicken breasts that I had prepared earlier but a quick pasta carbonara I knocked up after Trevor left for Dunford. We also discussed what to do for Johnny's birthday. I wanted to do something special as I had missed out on all his other birthdays.

Anne suggested that I take them to an adventure park that was some twenty-five miles away. It seemed like the best possible option, so after dinner, I looked it up on the web. Then I sat down with Anne to go through the stuff she had ordered, working out where it should be put before she settled down to watch TV while I sent a couple of emails.

The crunch of tyres on the gravel indicated that Arthur had brought Johnny and, hopefully, Trevor. Johnny came through to let me know they were back. I told him of the adventure park, and he was up for the idea, though no one from the youth club other than Arthur would be coming.

Bernard replied to me, saying he had already been told that he had to bring Debora over, so it was no problem to add Joseph to the list. Micha was away for the weekend.

I am not sure what time Arthur left; he was still in the caravan when I went to bed at eleven. Sometime after that, I was woken by the crunch of his tyres on the gravel as he drove off. I was a bit surprised he had stayed so late.

Saturday morning, Johnny asked if I could run him to the yard. I asked him why he thought I had bought him the bike?

"Dad, we've only got one bike, and I can hardly take Trevor sitting on the handlebars. Not safe with the conditions of the roads around here."

"Doing that is not safe anywhere," I commented. "So, what's this about taking Trevor in?"

"Oh, we were talking about what I did at the yard, and Trevor says he would like to see it. Apparently, in this new film he is in he builds a boat to escape. So, I phoned Steve, and he said it's a quiet day today, so I could bring him in to watch."

I agreed to run the boys to the yard. When I asked about them getting back, Trevor informed me that Arthur was going to pick them up about three to go for a burger and would bring them back. Once I had dropped the boys off at the yard, I proceeded into Dunford and picked up a couple of bundles of packing boxes and some packing tape.

When I got back, there was a message waiting for me to phone Phil or Ben. I tried Manston only to be told they were in London for the weekend, so I dialled their London number. Ben answered and wanted to know what the plans were for their nephew's birthday. I told him and was informed they would be over; they also told me they would arrange for Colin to come with them.

I expressed surprise about this, knowing the exams are starting on Thursday.

"Which," Ben answered, "is why he scrounged a couple of days with us in London when he was at Manston. He's doing an Ancient History paper and spent most of yesterday and is planning to spend the whole of today in the British Museum.

"We said we would drop him off at his grandparents on our way up to Manston. Have a big event on there next weekend and have to get everything arranged. So, we will just come to your place in the morning and go up to Manston from there. Have to have Colin at his grandparents for twenty-two hundred so his parents can pick him up."

Having an idea about the final numbers, I phoned the adventure park and confirmed the booking. I also told them that they might have to make provision for two forty-plus adults who still thought they were sixteen. The booking clerk at the other end laughed and informed me that they had plenty of safety measures in place to take care of the adults; they did not have to worry about the teenagers.

Once that was sorted, Anne and I started to work our way through the house, filling up boxes and marked them: whatever room it was for, store till required, charity shop or rubbish. I was somewhat dismayed about the amount of stuff Anne insisted on consigning to the rubbish box.

Just after one, we sat down for some lunch. By this time, we had managed to get through most of the bungalow. It was, after all, quite small. There were now a large number of boxes piled up in the garage. My Morgan had to sit out on the drive.

Over lunch, I explained to Anne the share dealing I had been doing the last few days.

"Does that mean we can buy the Priory for cash and not have to use the loan from Zachary Mayer?" Anne asked.

"I wish that was the case. Unfortunately, we need the money on Wednesday, and with the fourteen-day rolling settlement, we will not get the money for the shares till a week on Friday. I will need the funds from Zachary, though not for as long as I expected. Actually, it's only for just over two weeks, then I can clear them. It's going to be an expensive two weeks."


"The loan is for a fixed rate over two years. Even though I am only using it for two weeks, I have to pay the interest as if I have had it for two years. That is thirty-three grand."

"That's a bit unfair," Anne commented.

"Maybe. It is still better than I can get elsewhere. Spoke to the bank yesterday and explained the situation. They would loan me the money as a short-term bridging load at 1.5% per day, would end up paying ninety K to them in charges and interest.

"Zach's may be an expensive option, but it is by far cheaper than all the rest. And, if we wanted, we could take up to two years to pay it off; it will not cost us more."

"Then, why don't we do that?" Anne asked. I looked at her. "Think about it, Mike. You know you have those royalties coming in later this year." I nodded in agreement. "Put the money you are getting from the shares into a short-term, high-interest savings account. Then use that as an advance on your royalties so we get can the work on the Priory done now while it is summer. You can replace it when the royalties come through and then pay off Zach. We get things sorted at the Priory sooner, and you can pay off Zach at no extra cost."

When I thought about it, it made sense. "You know," I responded, "that makes a lot of sense. I was thinking about changing the outbuildings into workshops and apartments. Matt says planning should not be a problem. With this, we could probably get going on those the same time as we get the work on the main house sorted.

We spent the rest of the afternoon working out just what we wanted to be done at the Priory. Matt, who usually spent Saturday lunchtime in the Anchor, came along at Anne's request and looked over what we were suggesting.

"Actually," he informed us, "most of this is covered by the plans the old man had. Should not be a problem to reactivate them. Could probably start to get them sorted while you're on your honeymoon. That is, if there is anyone there to look after the property."

"That, Matt," Anne explained, "is a bit of a problem at the moment, but I hope we might find a solution in the next day or so."

"Any ideas?" Matt asked.

"Well, I had thought of asking Mrs. Price if she would housesit for us. I know she's done it for a few folks around."

"You'll not have much luck there, Anne. Her youngest is two weeks over term, and she's gone up to Ipswich to be there for her."

"Blast!" Anne said.

Despite that setback, we did manage to sort out a schedule of work with Matt. Most of it involved opening up doors that had been boarded up and getting rid of a couple of rooms that had been inserted as later additions. Matt expressed the opinion that there would be no problem with the historic-building supervisor as what we were doing was restoring it to the original state.

Before Matt left, Arthur arrived with the boys. I commented on them being back early.

"Mad Burger's shut," Arthur informed me. "A gang of youths set about one of the lads in there last night. Someone pulled a knife, and it got messy; apparently, there are police tapes all around it."

"What time was this?" I asked.

"Apparently just before they closed, so around midnight," Arthur replied.

I gave a sigh of relief, at least none of these boys were involved. They were all safely here in the caravan from eleven onwards. Matt had stepped back from the kitchen while we had been talking, and I had noticed he had been on his phone. I looked at him questioningly.

"Brother-in-law on The Herald. A group of some ten or eleven lads, all related from one of the Brethren families, went into Mad Burger about half an hour before it closed and started to make strongly homophobic comments about one of the boys in there. Anyway, a couple of them grabbed the boy by his arms and started to drag him out, shouting they would show what happened to queers in Dunford. The boy bit one and got his arm free and then pulled a pair of very pointed scissors from under his coat, he slammed them straight into the side of the other guy holding him."

"It must have been Ian," Arthur stated.

"Who's Ian?" Johnny asked. "And why would he have been carrying scissors?"

"Ian Jenkins, the small lad with mousy hair, comes to the youth club on Tuesday. They call him fingers."

Johnny nodded and thought about it for a moment, "But he's not gay."

"Don't think it matters to that type; they just want somebody they can pick on and then attach a label," Matt said. "The question is: why was he carrying such a lethal pair of scissors?"

"He would be waiting for his mother to pick him up," Arthur answered. "She works at the big country club just outside Swanhatch. He goes to college in Chelmsford on a Friday evening for a hairdressing class. It's too late for the local bus by time he gets back to Dunford, so he waits for his mother. She gets off duty about twelve.

"He has been going to the class for nearly a year and has a sort of waistcoat he wears which has pockets and clips for all his equipment; says all the top professionals have them. He is very proud of it; says he can find any tool he needs without hunting around for it.

"The lad who was stabbed was probably fortunate it was the scissors. It could have been the rat-tail comb — that's got a nine-inch handle on it — or worse, the cutthroat razor."

"Well," Matt informed us, "he may not be so lucky, the police have charged him with attempted murder, carrying a lethal weapon without cause and possession of lethal weapons. He's due in court on Monday."

"Just hope he's got a good solicitor," I commented.

"Doubt it," Arthur commented, "they're a single-parent family: mother and three kids. Ian's the middle son. The older boy is inside doing four for assault. That was a laugh. He waded in trying to pull off some older boys who were picking on Ian and his younger brother Robert, then he gets done."

"Couldn't Bernard help?" Johnny asked.

"Bernard," I pointed out, "is not a charity."

"I'll pay," Trevor stated. We all looked at him. "Well, I've got the money and might as well put it to some use."

Matt said he had to go. I got the feeling that he did not want to be involved with something that might end up causing a conflict in the local community. I also got a feeling that he personally approved of what the boys were trying to do. Once Matt had gone, I left Anne with the marinated chicken breasts and some instructions while the rest of us went through to my study to phone Bernard.

Once the facts, as we knew them, had been explained to Bernard, he told us that he did not usually take criminal cases. I think he must have been able to hear the sigh of disappointment from the boys without the phone line.

"However," he continued, "I'll be up there tomorrow, so there is no reason I can't take an interest. Do you know how to contact the family?"

Fortunately, Arthur did. All the kids attending the youth club had to provide parental-contact details. It was for use in case of an emergency. As an event organiser, Arthur had a copy of the list on his phone. Bernard told us that he would let us know later if there was anything he could do.

That finished, we went back to the kitchen just in time to find Anne about to serve up the marinated chicken breasts on a bed of rice, peas and beans. Arthur made his excuses and left immediately after dinner, though I got the feeling he would have liked to hang around.

Trevor said he still had lines to learn and went through to the caravan while Johnny and Anne settled down in the lounge to watch TV. I went to my study to do some reading. Had not been there long when Bernard phoned.

"There are times," he stated, "that I despair of the legal system in this country."

"That bad?"

"Yes. The kid had a five-minute interview when he was taken into custody, was told it was a clear case against him and if he pled guilty in the magistrates on Monday morning, he'd get two years' youth custody.

"Some as-yet-wet-behind-the-ears law graduate has dealt with it. I've spoken to the mother, who is really upset and at her wit's end. Will be up there in the morning and will go and see the kid in the station. With a bit of luck, I might be able to get him bail. If not, I'll try for it at the magistrates. Would you stand bail for a couple of grand?"

"What? I don't know the kid," I responded.

"I know. Would stand it myself, but I'm not allowed to. You're the next best good Samaritan I could latch onto."

"OK, I'll do it."

"Good, if I can't get police bail, you need to be a Chelmsford magistrates court for ten on Monday. I'll see you in the morning. I can tell you more then."

After that, I joined Johnny and Anne in the sitting room to watch some grim. Saturday-night-TV talent show.

Sunday morning, the weather had started to turn. Unlike the previous few days which has been sunny and warm, there was a heavily overcast sky and strong hints of rain. It had been agreed that we would be setting off at ten. I just prayed the weather would hold till then.

Shortly after half eight, Bernard turned up in the Bentley with Joseph and Debora. I directed Joseph to the kitchen where Johnny and Trevor were already partaking of breakfast. About half an hour later, a minibus drew up on the drive. Phil and Ben jumped out followed by Tyler and Colin. Rather more sedately, Allen climbed out of the driver's seat.

"What's this?' I enquired.

"We thought of taking them all in one vehicle," Phil stated. "Would save a lot of faffing around with transport. Anyway, as there will be two of our stars with the party, we thought they should have some security." I glanced at the back of the minibus and saw a couple of Allen's heavies sitting there.

"Anyway," Phil said, "did not think it would be much fun for the boys if they had to drag an old fogey like you around with them, so let's make this our treat." It was not so much a request as a statement of fait accompli. I knew when to give in.

It was getting close to ten, and there was no sign of Arthur. Johnny was starting to look a bit worried. Just as the hall clock began to strike ten, Arthur appeared around the end of the lane pedaling madly on his pushbike. He drew up on the drive, half dead and totally out of breath.

"So…" he gasped. I got him a drink of water and passed it to him.

"Drink this first, then tell us." He emptied the glass in one gulp.

"Sorry," he got out, "Dad wouldn't let me use the van as I am not going to meetings. Had to bike it."

"It's OK," Johnny told him, "you're here now."

Just then Debora and Anne came out to inform us they were leaving for their fittings in Chelmsford.

A quick discussion with the boys indicated they did not really want me with them, so I left them to go off with Phil and Ben, having given Phil details of the booking at the adventure park. He took one look at it and then said he thought they could get better and was on his phone.

Just listening to his half of the conversation, it was quite clear he was getting a lot better than I had. "This is Matthew Lewis. I'm bringing some of the cast from my next film; it is a birthday treat for one of them. Oh, there are five boys, myself and Ben Carlton. Yes, Ben Carlton is with us… and there are three of my security guys… oh, thank you, no problem at all. We should be arriving in about an hour." He returned the phone to his pocket.

"They would like to have a photographer go round the park with us, and a park guide will meet us. We're to follow the signs marked Staff Only when we get to the drive. They're expecting us in an hour, so we'd better get this show on the road." With that, they all piled into the minibus and drove off. I looked at Bernard.

"The power of fame, luv, something neither of us has. But let's see what the power of the law can do. Can you find this place?" He handed me a piece of paper with an address on it. I looked, double-checked, and then checked again.

"Bit out in the back of beyond, and I don't think it is a place to go in the Bentley," I told him.

"Fine," Bernard replied. "You can drive me there in that four-wheeler you've got. No doubt you will be upgrading with the killing you made on the stocks."

"You must be joking," I told him. "This old girl is bloody good for driving around here. Especially when you take a wrong turn and find yourself driving down a creek."

"So where is this place?" Bernard asked.

"The other side of Dunford, a couple of miles inland."

"Well, shall we get going, then?" I nodded in reply and went and got the Santa Fe from around the side of the bungalow.

It took us just over an hour to get to our destination, not because it was that far; it was just challenging to get to. Once past Dunford, it was a case of one narrow lane leading to yet another lane that was narrower still. Just when we thought we must have come to a cul-de-sac, we came to a gate bearing the name Jenkins Farm. From what I could see, there did not appear to be that much of a farm around.

I parked the Santa Fa just outside the gate, and we got out. Several yapping dogs appeared at the gate as we approached it. From beyond the corner of the house, a female voice shouted, "Come here, yu beasts. Hang on, I'll be with yu in a mo." This was followed by the appearance of a large woman with a bundle of leads in her hands, which she quickly attached to the various dogs. I counted seven in all.

"Yu must be the solicitor chap whose 'ere to see our Mary," she stated. "Just let me get these out of the way an' I'll tak' you through." She vanished around the side of the house, dragging the pack of dogs with her. A few moments later, she was back. "Not that they would have done yu any 'arm, other than slobbering all over yu, but best be on the safe side, yu being a lawyer and all."

She opened the gate and introduced herself as Alison McCarthy, then led us round to the front of the house, the opposite direction to which she had taken the dogs. Opening the front door, she indicated a door off the hall to the right. "Best yu go in there. I'll not cum in. Don't want to clean the hall floor twice this week." We stepped past her and into the indicated room. As we did so, she raised her head and yelled, "Mary, that lawyer yu spoke to be here. Put 'em in the front parlour. Going to deal with the goats. Put the pack in the run. Let them out when they go." With that, she turned and pulled the front door shut.

A few moments later, there was the sound of high-heeled footsteps in the hallway and an elegantly dressed, strikingly beautiful, black woman entered the room.

"Hi," she said, "I'm Mary Jenkins, though most people know me as Mary Simpson."

Bernard introduced himself and me, then enquired about the two names.

"Oh, I was reasonably successful in events management when I met John, my late husband. Most people in the industry knew me as Mary Simpson, so I just kept using that name for my work.

"Of course, that's gone and with raising three boys alone, I'm no longer well known in the business."

"I gather your husband's dead?" Bernard asked.

"Yes, ten years ago," she responded. "Seems he tripped carrying his shotgun and shot himself."

"You say. Seems as if there is some doubt?" Bernard stated.

"The inquest declared it to be accidental death, and the coroner gave a long lecture on gun safety. But John was always so careful when it came to guns. I was never able to work out how it happened."

Bernard opened his briefcase and pulled out a legal pad. "Right! Before I go to see your son — Ian, isn't it? — I need to get some information."

"Yes, but I don't think I can afford a lawyer. I only work part-time, and this place hardly brings in anything."

"Don't worry at the moment," Bernard stated. "Somebody was unhappy about Ian being arrested for what seemed like self-defence. They have arranged cover. Anyway, for criminal cases, there is always legal aid."

"I know, but Baker, Drew & Thompson do it around here, and they are as much use as a candle in a gale."

"First, Ms. Simpson, your son is entitled to make use of any legal firm that has a legal-aid contract; they do not have to be local. Second, the independent funding that will cover my costs for today and tomorrow will also cover sorting out representation for your son when it comes to Crown Court."

"Crown Court, I thought it would be heard in the magistrates tomorrow. They said he would get two years' young offenders."

"If he pleads guilty in the magistrates' tomorrow, he could get two years' young offenders. That is, if they decide to sentence him. Two years is the most they can give. They could though pass the case up to the Crown Court for sentencing, where it could be longer.

"That, of course, is if he pleads guilty."

"That's what the duty solicitor told him he had to do," Ms. Simpson stated.

"What the duty solicitor told him is neither here nor there," stated Bernard. "It is what the facts say that is important, and so far as I have been able to ascertain, the facts say this was self-defence." Bernard paused, apparently for effect, as he twirled his gold-topped fountain pen. I remembered seeing him practice the move with a stick in the garden when he first decided he wanted to be a lawyer. "Now let's get some background information. I have an appointment to see your son at one, and a lawyer does not want to be late.

"So, first question, how old is Ian?" Bernard asked.


"When was his birthday?"

"August the tenth," Ms Simpson replied.

"Is he still attending school?"

"No, those boys made life hell there for him, so he left as soon as he could. He has a job at a warehouse on the industrial estate outside Dunford. Started there in September. He also goes to college in Chelmsford part-time."

"You said 'those boys', which boys?" Bernard asked.

"The Hendersons or their relatives. They've been against us ever since John married me, saying it was not godly for a white man to marry a black woman."

"Not godly?" Bernard queried. "I gather these are religious people."

"Yes, they're Brethren. There are a lot of them around here. This farm is the only one locally that is not Brethren. They keep trying to get me to sell, saying it's not right for one such as I to hold this land; that's for a man to do.

"They made things rough for us ever since John died. It was a group of Henderson boys who set upon Ian and Robby that got Terry into trouble."

"Terry's Ian's older brother?" Bernard asked.

"Yes," she responded. "Terry's eighteen. He's inside doing four years for assault." Bernard looked at her questioningly. She told the story of how some of the Henderson boys had been bullying Ian and Robert outside the school. Terry had stayed on to do A-levels. He had gone to help his brothers and pushed one of the Henderson boys out of the way. The boy had fallen and fractured his skull and was in a coma for six days.

Bernard made copious notes about this on his pad, then asked about Robert. She informed him that she had sent Robert away to a cousin's in Croydon.

"Now that they've got Ian, they'll go after Robby next. I wanted him out of the way."

"Probably a wise move," Bernard replied. "Do you, by any chance, have any papers on Terry's case?" She confirmed that she had and got a box of papers from another room and handed them to Bernard. He spent a few minutes reading them and then asked if he might take them. Mary agreed.

For the next half hour, Bernard asked what seemed to be a series of unrelated question. Mary would answer, and Bernard made notes on his pad, then asked more question. Answers came, which always seemed to lead back to the Brethren. By the time he had finished the questioning, he must have had twenty or more pages of notes. He thanked Mary and told her that he would phone and let her know how things were going once he has spoken to Ian.

"I'm working from two until ten this evening," she informed him, "so I won't be back till gone eleven. You can leave a message on my voicemail, though, and I will listen to it when I come off duty."

As we left Jenkins Farm, it started to rain, the type of rain that blows in from the North Sea and, once it has arrived, settles in for the day, sometimes for the week. Given the conditions, we only just made it to the police station in time for the appointment Bernard had to see Ian. I had to sit in the waiting room whilst Bernard was conducting his interview, which took the better part of two hours. Eventually, he came out.

I have not often seen Bernard in a bad mood, but he was definitely in a bad mood as we got back to the car. I asked him if he wanted to stop for a drink and a bite to eat before we went back to Lynnhaven.

"Yes, I want a drink. No, we will not stop. I'm angry that lad is being stitched up. It sounds as if the whole bloody family is being stitched up. If I have a drink now, it will take the edge off my anger, and sometimes you need anger."

The whole of the drive home felt like sitting next to a volcano that was about to explode. I just felt sorry for whoever it decided to explode upon. We were about halfway home when Bernard gave a sigh and started to talk.

"They've given the kid a choice, either plead guilty in the magistrates to Grievous Bodily Harm with a deadly weapon or they will charge him with attempted murder and GBH. They made a point of telling him that it would be at least nine months before his case came to trial and he would have to spend that time in Chelmsford YOI. Not the best of places. The kid's scared shitless, and I can't blame him."

"Is there anything you can do?" I asked.

"Yes," Bernard replied. "Call in the big guns and pray the kid's got the guts to plead not guilty and opt for Crown Court. I also need a good investigator; the police clearly are not looking into the case."

By the time we got home, it was pouring down with rain, which I thought must have put paid to Johnny's adventure-park experience. I was not wrong; the party arrived back just before four. Phil informed me that they had managed to cope with the weather until about two, but then the rain had got too much for them. Anyway, the park had closed down a lot of the features on safety grounds because of the weather. Overall, the boys seemed to have enjoyed themselves and told Bernard and me about it over hot cups of chocolate.

Once they had finished, Arthur asked Bernard how things had gone with Ian? Bernard informed him that he could not say much because of client confidentiality but that he was arranging representation for Ian in court in the morning. He also added that he thought the boy was being stitched up and that he intended to do his utmost to get him unstitched.

That led to Phil and Ben wanting to know what this was all about. So, between them, Arthur and Bernard gave them a potted history of events. During the telling of which, Arthur came out with a lot more information about the Hendersons. It seemed he knew them quite well. I mentioned the fact that Arthur knew so much.

"Brother Peter," Arthur informed us, "the head Brother of the Chelmsford Brethren, is Peter Henderson. He and his two brothers control quite a lot of land to the north of Dunford. Actually, the only bit they don't control is the Jenkins place and old Mr Router's farm, which is only viable because he rents most of the Jenkins place."

I noticed Bernard making more notes on his pad.

The boys had just finished their chocolate when Debora and Anne arrived. Anne immediately started asking about dinner.

"Sorry, Luv," Bernard stated, "but we will have to be making tracks. I'm going to have a long night and an early start in the morning."

"Why?" Debora asked.

"Because I have to be at Chelmsford Magistrates Court for nine in the morning. Which dear, means the Town house for us tonight."

Debora just let out a sigh, then turned to Anne, "Now you know why I need two of everything. Never know which house I will be in. Same applies to the kids."

A few minutes later, Bernard, Debora and Joseph left, Bernard leaving me with a firm admonishment to be at Chelmsford Magistrates Court for nine-thirty in the morning.

Phil and Ben declined dinner, saying they needed to start back. Anyway, they would have to feed their security people somewhere. Anne did say they were welcome to join us, but Ben pointed out the lack of space and said they would get something on the way to Town. So, in the end, there were only five of us to sit down to dinner: Johnny, Arthur, Trevor, Anne and myself.

Over dinner, the boys regaled us with details of their activities in the adventure park, most of which seemed to involve riding down zip wires of one sort or another. It was clear they had a very enjoyable day even if the weather had been against them.

After dinner, just before they went through to the caravan, Johnny put his arms around me and gave me a hug. "Thanks, Dad, not only for organising something like that but letting me go off and do it. Mum always wanted to control everything."

"So, I remember," I commented. Johnny laughed.

Just before nine, Arthur came through to say goodbye, stating he needed to be back home before his parents got in at ten. Although the rain had eased off a bit, it was still raining, so I offered to take him home in the Santa Fe. Good job I did. Not long after we left Lynnhaven, the heavens opened, and it poured down. By the time I got back after dropping him off in the town centre, the lanes were running with about an inch of water, and a strong wind was blowing in from the North Sea.

Johnny and Trevor came through from the caravan for some hot chocolate and cake, Anne having picked up a Black Forest Gateau during the day. Whilst those two scoffed cake, I told them about what had happened regarding Ian, not that there was much to tell. Trevor said to me that Bernard had texted him to say, "Forget about the fee, this is pro bono!" He then asked if he could come to the court with me in the morning. I told him he would have to be up early as we had to leave about seven-thirty to get there on time, given rush-hour traffic once we were past Dunford.

Although I had told Trevor to get an early night — and I knew Johnny would as he needed to be at the yard for eight — I did not take my own early-night advice. There was a bit of writing that I really needed to finish off. So, I was still up at twelve-thirty when the doorbell rang.

Wondering who the hell it could be at that time in the morning, I opened it to find Arthur standing there soaked through, crying, with a trickle of blood running down the side of his face.

"Sorry," he said, "I could not think of anywhere else to go."

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