Living with Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 37

On Monday, Anne drove Johnny into college, though I had to go and pick him up as he had a couple of late classes. Anne and Marcia had agreed to drive each other in on alternative days. However, Marcia did not go into college on Monday; she had to sort out schooling for Tariq and Jasmin. It seems that the education authority does not like to have children moved across the catchment-area boundaries during term time.

Anne finished early, getting back just after three. By that time Marcia was at her wit's end. She had been down a couple of times to ask my advice. It seems that the local education department was insisting that Tariq and Jasmin continue to attend Letterman High until the end of the term. I told Anne what was going on. She went up to the apartment to speak with Marcia. About five minutes later, she came back and immediately got on the phone. I had no idea who was on the other end, but Anne was certainly giving that person a mouthful. After some fifteen minutes, she put the phone down.

"Who was on the receiving end of that?" I asked.

"My Aunt Louise, Steve's sister," she replied.

"You speak to your aunt like that?"

"Yes," Anne responded. "She is the assistant director of education."

Not long after, Marcia came down and knocked on the kitchen door. Anne called for her to come in.

"It's sorted," Marcia stated. "They can't start till next Monday, but they have been given places at Dunford High."

"Good," Anne replied. She then put the kettle on to make a drink.

Tuesday turned out to be a successful day for me. Both Anne and Johnny had left before I even got up; they both had early classes. I spent the day working on my maths book and had the final revision done just before four when I had to start preparing for dinner. I zipped up the files and sent them to Bob, then went and did the prep for dinner.

As I was working in the kitchen, I could hear the sound of a piano coming from the apartment. Tariq no doubt was playing; it seemed to me that there was more depth in his playing compared with what I had heard over the weekend.

I had just finished the prep when my phone went. It was Bob, confirming he had got the file and saying he was going to hawk it around a few publishers. I asked what was wrong with the present publisher.

"Nothing, Mike," he replied. "However, if they know it is on the open market, they will probably improve their offer above what is now on the table." I realised why I had an agent.

Anne and Johnny got back just before seven, about fifteen minutes before dinner was ready, which gave them time to clean up. Over dinner, we discussed our day. I reminded them that I had to go into Town in the morning. Anne suggested I drop off Johnny on the way to the station; she would bring him back in the afternoon as their classes had similar finishing times.

I made a comment about Tariq's playing seeming better than it had. Johnny said that the boy had been working on trying to use his left hand. I guessed he must have had some success. I asked Anne if Marcia had said anything.

"Didn't see her today," Anne replied. "We had practical assessments, and that is not part of her course. I'll ask her tomorrow; we both have a couple of classes in common, and we get the same lunch break."

I commented on the fact that Marcia was at college and the kids were off school this week.

"Oh, Marcia's parents picked them up this morning," Johnny informed me. "Marcia collected them on her way back from college."

I was surprised that he knew, but Johnny advised me that he had been speaking to Tariq last night. He also informed me that he was working at the yard this coming weekend.

Wednesday morning saw an early start. I had to be at the studio for ten-thirty, so it meant catching an early train, which meant an early start to drive to the station — especially so, as I had agreed to drop Johnny off first.

"Tariq is using his left hand more," Johnny observed as we made our way down the hill towards Dunford.

"Is he?"

"Yes, Dad," Johnny replied. "Getting that digital piano has given him an incentive to try to use it."

"That's good," I said.

"Thought I might take him to the youth club Friday," Johnny observed. "He could have a go at pool; he would have to use his left hand for that."

"Would he?" I queried. "I seem to recall a one-armed snooker player up near Rotherham. Used the rest quite a lot."

"Oh," Johnny replied.

"Anyway, you have not been to the club for a while," I pointed out.

"I know," he answered. "Though it might be an idea to start again, especially with Arthur coming back. I'm sure he'll want to go."

"Will he?"

"Why wouldn't he?" Johnny asked.

"Well, he will still be in plaster," I pointed out.

I dropped Johnny off at the college and made my way to Southminster railway station to get the train into Town. Actually, I had made better time than I expected, so I was able to catch an earlier train. Not sure that was a good thing, as it was very crowded. Luckily, I got a seat, but a lot of people who got on at later stations found themselves standing for the whole journey.

The recording went well; I actually did spots for four shows. Afterwards, Chris took me down to the BBC canteen for a coffee, where he introduced me to Professor Brian Cox, one of the hosts on the Infinite Monkey Cage. I was surprised to find that Professor Cox knew who I was. Even more of a surprise was the fact that he had been asked to review my meteorology book. He was quite complimentary about it but did point out that I had simplified the physics in a couple of places.

My phone had been switched off while I had been recording, and I only remembered to switch it back on as I was leaving Broadcasting House. The moment it connected with the network, I got a pile of texts. It seems that Bernard was trying to get in touch with me.

I phoned his office, only to be told he was in court. However, his secretary asked if I could meet him after he got out of court, which would be about four. Fortunately, I did not have to pick Johnny up, so getting a later train back was not a problem. I told the secretary that I could meet Bernard after court and asked her to text me the location if it was not at his office. Then I set off for Wood Green to check in with Bob.

The meeting with Bob was straightforward. It was for me to approve the cover designs for the meteorology book. I noticed there was a space on the back for a couple of reviews.

"One of those, no doubt, is for Brian Cox," I stated.

"How did you know?" Bob asked.

"Saw him at the Beeb. We had a coffee together."

"We got a print-on-demand version out to some reviewers last week; the feedback has been good," Bob informed me. "New Scientist is going to feature it in their Christmas book list."

"What's the planned run?" I asked. I was hoping that it might be as high as ten thousand.

"One-hundred thousand," Bob replied.

"What!" I exclaimed.

"Dorson's expect this to be the Christmas bestseller, so they are printing on that basis."

"It could also be the biggest remainder sale in publishing history," I pointed out.

"I don't think so," Bob assured me. "Though I think they are taking a bit of a risk. Not that much of one, though. By the way, you are going to have to do some promotional work."

"What kind?" I asked.

Bob smiled, then pulled a folder out from his desk drawer.

"It is all here," he commented, passing the folder over to me. "You start in Paris at the end of October. Conference on the impact of climate change. You are down to do an oversight presentation. Your book will launch at the conference, so you will be doing a book signing. Then Hamburg second week in November. That is an NGO conference about the possible impact of climate change. You are down to do a keynote speech on possible impacts. After that …"

"Bob," I interrupted. "I am not an expert on climate change."

"You are now, Mike," Bob replied. "The general consensus of the leaders in the field who have read review copies of the book is that it is the best piece of writing in the field for years.

"I am liaising with Irene about you doing a series on the subject. One of the review copies was picked up by one of Channel 4's production companies, and they are interested.

"Mike, I hate to tell you this, but unless something totally disastrous happens, you are going to be one of the best-selling, non-fiction authors of the year."

"But when did this all happen?" I enquired. "Why had you not said anything to me?"

"To be quite honest, most of it happened this morning," Bob admitted. "That's why you did not know. One of the review copies was sent to Stefen Binder; he's the chap behind the two conferences. He phoned Dorson's yesterday, raving about the book. He has also phoned a few other people plus posting about it on his blog. Binder really wants you to speak at the conferences, and I think you should, but at the moment nothing is formally agreed. You can pull out if you want to."

"But what about the TV series; that can't have been Binder," I stated.

"No, that was your friend Professor Dowland," Bob replied. "We sent him a review copy. It seems he had already been approached by Triclarion Productions for Channel 4 to do something on climate change, but it did not look as if he would be able to schedule it in. When he read your book, he phoned them and suggested you for it. Triclarion called me about two hours ago; I passed them onto Irene for you. You should hear from Irene sometime today, I would think."

"So, everything here is provisional," I stated, holding up the folder.

"Yes, Mike," Bob replied. "But I would like to get it firmed up by the end of the week if we can."

I spent the next hour and a half in the office with Bob going through everything in the folder. By the time I left, I had agreed to do the Paris conference, subject to details as to expenses and hotels being sorted out. In a push, I was sure I could use Phil and Ben's flat but preferred to get a top-class hotel suite out of it. Hamburg, I could not do, as it coincided with the anniversary of my mother's death. Ben and I always visited our parent's grave on that day. At least, I always did; Ben did if he was in the country.

One thing I nixed was the idea that I could do forty-two book signings in three weeks. I insisted I would not do more than one a day and not more than ten in the three weeks.

In the middle of arguing all this with Bob, I got a text from Irene saying that she needed to meet me regarding some work for Channel 4. I got the strong feeling that my life was starting to get outside of my control. When I mentioned this to Bob, he informed me that is why I had agents working for me.

I left Bob's just after three-thirty, giving me half an hour to get back into central London. Fortunately, Bob's office was close to Wood Green underground station. Even so, I was some fifteen minutes late getting to Bernard's office. Not that it mattered. Bernard had not arrived back from court.

I had just sat down in the waiting area when he charged in, somewhat flustered.

"Sorry," he stated as he passed through, indicating I should follow him. "Her Honour, Lady Justice Somerday, decided to congratulate counsel on his presentation. Was stuck in court for half a bloody hour after she had given judgement. It's not as if we had even won."

"That must have been disappointing," I stated.

"Oh, no," he replied. "It was totally expected. She could not have decided any other way given current precedents. However, she has pointed out an area of concern regarding the Human Rights Act and a possible conflict of laws. Given that, we have grounds for appeal. We fully expect it to go to the Supreme Court."

He dumped his briefcase and papers on the desk, pointed to a chair for me to sit in and plonked himself down in the one behind his desk and picked up the phone.

"Madge, can you send somebody down to Veronica's. Tell them to get a half dozen of their cakes, something sweet and sticky with plenty of cream. Also, get somebody to organise a pot of tea." He paused and looked up at me. I nodded. "You'd better make that a pot of Earl Gray."

"What's up?" I asked.

"Joseph," Bernard stated. "He informed Debora and me this morning that he is going to be at the Priory this weekend."

"It's the first I've heard of it," I commented.

"It's the first any of us have heard of it," Bernard replied. "It came out immediately after Debs announced that her parents were coming for Shabbat."

"Shit!" I exclaimed.

"You can say that again," Bernard said.

I knew Debora's parents, not well, but I knew them. For one thing, they were towards the ultra-side of conservative Judaism. One thing they would expect would be for the whole family to be together for Shabbat. They might, possibly, accept Micah being away at university in Manchester. After all, they were from Manchester and would no doubt see him there. They certainly would not accept Joseph being absent from Shabbat. Seeing their grandson was no doubt a major reason for them coming down from Manchester.

"So, what do you want me to do?" I asked. "If you want me to tell Joseph he can't come, forget it. I promised him he could come to the Priory anytime. I'm not going back on that."

"I should hope not," Bernard agreed. "Having a safe place to run to if things get too much is important. No, if he ends up coming to the Priory this weekend, that's how it will have to be. I just want to see if we can avoid it."


"Could you persuade Johnny to come and stay with us over the weekend?"

"I can't," I stated. Bernard looked at me, surprised. "Johnny is working this weekend at the yard. He's already told Steve that he will cover."

"Damn! I really hoped Johnny would have come over; it would have been easier than explaining Joseph's absence."

Just then there was a knock on the office door, Bernard called to whoever was outside to come in. His secretary entered with a tea tray and some cakes. She put the tray down. "I'm sure you can sort yourselves out," she stated, then left.

Bernard took the cups and saucers off the tray and placed them on the desk in front of us. He then took the plates that had been stacked below them and put them by the side of the cups and saucers. Finally, he placed teaspoons in the saucers and cake forks on the plates.

"Help yourself to a cake," he stated, taking two off the plate on the tray and putting them on his plate.

"It's no wonder you're overweight," I stated. "Those can't be good for you."

"Of course, they aren't, they're not kosher, either," he replied. I looked at him puzzled. "The mousse is made using gelatine — almost certainly, pig gelatine. Even if it is not, the mousse is made with cream, and gelatine is a meat-derived product, so it should not be mixed with dairy, so not kosher." He smiled at the thought.

I poured myself a cup of tea. Bernard loaded his cup with sugar, then added milk and tea, looking at my cup of black tea with some disgust.

"I don't know how you can drink tea like that," he stated.

"I don't know how you can add milk and sugar to Earl Grey; it kills the taste."

"That's the point," he responded.

"Where are you celebrating Shabbat: London or Kent?" I asked.

"London," Bernard replied. "You don't think the in-laws would come down to the sticks, do you?"

"How about if we come up and join you for the meal and then take Joseph back with us after?" I suggested. "At least, he will be there for the Shabbat meal with his grandparents."

"You know, that might just work," Bernard stated. "They will complain about him travelling on Shabbat, but, as you say, he will be there for the meal."

"Good," I replied. "I'll talk to Anne and Johnny tonight. Don't think there will be any problem when I explain the situation."

Of course, by the time I left Bernard's office, I was in the middle of rush hour. As a result, I had to stand on both the underground and on my train until nearly the last stop before mine. I was, therefore, somewhat tired when I finally made it home just before seven-thirty.

For dinner, Anne had done a Mediterranean vegetable bake to go with poached chicken breasts in a cream and mushroom sauce. It was a meal that had the advantage that it could be left in a warm oven when you were not sure what time dinner would be. As it was, we sat down for it just after eight.

No sooner had we sat down for the meal than Johnny asked if I could pick up Joseph from the station on Friday, as he wanted to come over.

"Sorry, Johnny, I can't," I informed him.

"Why?" he asked, looking disappointed.

"Because we are having dinner at Bernard's on Friday night, we will bring Joseph back with us after dinner," I informed him. There was a significant smile on his face.

Once dinner was over, I went through to my study to work on my emails. As Bob had predicted, there was one from Irene regarding the work for Channel 4. I sent a reply telling her that I would phone her on Thursday morning.

Shortly after ten, I had finished my emails. Was not in the mood for writing, so decided to make an early night of it. Just then, the phone went. It was James. Considering the cost of calls from Australia, I suggested we should Skype.

Half an hour later, I was a lot better informed about things. It appears that the consent for JayDee to travel that had been submitted to the court had been the one James had signed for him to go out to Australia. However, the form had been doctored, so the destination on it now read Trinidad. James informed me that he had spoken to the young lady in Bernard's firm, and she was making a formal complaint to the police about it. Also, there was an emergency hearing in the Family Court on Thursday.

Thursday was a relatively quiet day. I spent a good hour on the phone, alternately to Irene and Tricordia, about the climate-change programme. Turned out there was very little actual filming I had to do. They had already got most of the material, taken from previous documentaries that they had made. Tricordia were looking at making something from the outtakes. All that was required was some voice-over narration and some linking shots, which I was assured could be green-screened. That meant I only had to go as far as their studios, which were in Watford.

All in all, there would be about a week's work maximum. The fee offered was far more than I made in an average month. It did not take much effort on Irene's part to convince me to take the role, especially when they agreed to change the series title to fit with the title of my book. They suggested supplying some images from the series that could be used in the book. That, of course, had to be put by Bob and the publishers, but I had a feeling they would jump at the chance, especially as it gave them a tie-in.

Once that was out of the way I got down to writing a couple of articles on carbon-capture technology. One was a fairly in-depth review for a leading scientific publication, the other an accessible introduction to the concepts for popular-science magazines. The latter was being done on spec, but I was reasonably sure that the magazine in question would take it. They took quite a lot of my spec work.

I got so engrossed in the work that I did not realise how late it was getting until the phone rang. It was Bob to inform me that the publishers had agreed to the tie-in with Tricordia. He also wanted to discuss the promotional appearances that he wanted me to do. It seems that when he informed Binder that I could not give the address at Hamburg due to previous commitments, Binder had offered the closing-address slot two days later.

Given what it would do to my profile, I could not turn it down.

The problem was that it took so long to go over details of things with Bob that I was still on the phone when Anne and Johnny got back from college to find no preparations had been done for dinner. My recourse was to take them down to the Crooked Man for a meal. We got back shortly after seven to find the message light flashing on the phone. I played the message, finding that it was from James asking me to Skype him as soon as I was in. So, I did.

"What's up?" I asked as soon as he answered.

"I am," he replied. "Been awake all bloody night waiting to hear from the solicitors about what happened in court. Good job I am not on duty till Monday. Probably need the weekend to recover."

"So, what did happen?" I asked.

"Well, it appears that my ex is now in prison," he informed me. "The judge has awarded me temporary custody of JayDee when he is found. There needs to be a full hearing later in the year, which I will have to come back for."

"Why's your ex in prison?" I asked.

"Contempt of court," James replied. "Apparently, she informed the judge that he had no right to interfere with God's work. She did admit that the consent to travel form had been doctored, said it was necessary for God's purpose. The judge gave her twenty-eight days for contempt of court and instructed that she be committed for trial on charges of kidnapping and perverting the cause of justice."

"Can she be done for kidnapping?" I asked. "After all, she did have custody."

"That's the same question I asked my lawyer. Seems that as JayDee was technically under the protection of the court, removing him from the jurisdiction of the court without lawful authority amounts to kidnapping."

"Interesting," I commented.

"Even more interesting is that the judge has ordered that JayDee be produced in court within seven days or she will be held in contempt. He has also stated that any person involved in taking the boy out of the country will also be held in contempt.

"The thing is, according to Marlene, if she is found to be in contempt, she could be held in custody until the contempt is cleared."

"That could take some time," I stated. "Who's Marlene?"

"Yes," James agreed. "Marlene is the solicitor your friend Bernard put me in contact with; she works in his practice.

"The thing is, she says the court has made it very clear that once JayDee is back in its jurisdiction, it is unlikely to let him leave again until he is sixteen. That is going to make it awkward for me. I still have several months left on my contract out here. Also, I have no immediate family.

"Look, this is difficult, but I need to know if Marcia might have room to take in JayDee when he is back in the country? There is no point in me asking her if it is going to be a no go from the start."

I thought for a moment before I answered.

"It would be a bit tight for her," I stated. "He would have to share with Tariq, though I suspect Tariq and JayDee might see that as an a plus. However, don't worry about it. I am sure we can find some accommodation for JayDee somewhere.

"When are you coming back to the UK?" I asked.

"Well, I wanted to fly back this weekend," James stated. "Got some emergency leave on compassionate grounds. Normally, we have to book our leave at least three months in advance to allow cover schedules to be worked out. However, Marlene advised me not to come back till they have located JayDee and got him back into the country."

"That makes some sense," I stated. "Well, when you do come back, you'd better come and stay here, and you can sort things out with Marcia then."

James accepted my offer of accommodation.

"By the way, what did you mean when you said about, 'when he is found'? Didn't your ex say where he was?" I asked.

"Oh, yes. She said they had sent him to Trinidad to be cured," James replied. "The problem is that JayDee has run away. It seems he kicked his escort in the balls at the airport and ran off. The Trinidadian police are looking for him on an assault charge."

"That does not sound good," I stated.

"It's not," James replied. "Marlene says that they will get their agents in Trinidad working on it. They have some investigation people out there. They are going to be looking for JayDee, but then we have to deal with the assault charge; that could be quite serious as the man he kicked was a police officer, though not on duty."

We chatted a bit more about events, and then he decided he'd better go and try to get some sleep.

I decided that an early night would be a good idea, so I went up to bed just before ten. That turned out to be a good move. Just after six, the doorbell was being rung, and there was hammering on the door. I went down and opened it, to be faced with two men in civvies and about half a dozen uniformed police officers. The taller of the two men flashed a police ID card at me.

"Chief Inspector Gray, Special Branch, we are here to speak to Mrs. Bagri. We have a warrant to search these and any associated premises."

"I'm sorry, I have no idea who Mrs. Bagri is," I stated.

The officer looked at the warrant he was holding.

"Mrs. Marcia Bagri, we have her address as the apartment, the Priory—"

"The apartment is in a separate building," I stated. "If you go around the side of the building, you will see an archway that takes you through to the stable yard. On the left side of the yard, there is a two-story coach house; the apartment is on the top floor."

Gray immediately instructed two of the uniformed officers to go round to the apartment, then spent the next ten minutes asking me a series of questions. Had Marcia or her husband been resident in the house? Satisfied that Marcia had only just moved into the apartment and that she had never been resident in the house, he went round to the yard. I went inside and phoned Bernard. Then made a pot of tea.

About twenty minutes later, Martin Clay turned up.

"Mr. LeBrun asked me to come over," he informed me.

"You got here quick," I replied.

"Not really," he answered. "Only live a couple of miles away. He phoned me at home."

"Tea?" I asked, pointing to the pot. I had just made a fresh one.

"Don't mind," he replied. "What's going on?"

I told him as I poured. He took the mug as I passed it to him.

"I'd better go and see Ms. Goldstein and find out what this is all about," he stated, putting the mug down. It was still three-quarters full.

"At least, finish your tea," I suggested.

"Would like to," he stated. "But I'd better not. Can never tell what the police might get up to."

"It sounds as if you do not have much respect for them," I observed.

"I have a lot of respect for them," he informed me. "My father is a Detective Inspector, and Mum is a Chief Superintendent. That's why I got into the law. Respecting them and trusting them, though, are two different things." With that, he laughed. I showed him out the back door and pointed him to the apartment. Not that he needed much direction, there were a couple of police officers standing by the door.

Anne came down, asking what was going on. I put the coffee on as I told her about this morning's events.

"Shit," she stated. "It was Marcia's day to take us in. Suppose I will have to drive now."

"Is that a problem?" I enquired.

"Not really," Anne replied. "It's just that it's Paula's birthday today. We were going to have a bit of a party in the Golden Eagle at lunchtime."

Just then, Johnny came into the kitchen, wanting to know what was going on. I had to explain everything again. I had just finished the explanation when there was a knock at the kitchen door. Opening it, I found Marcia and the kids standing outside. I told them to come in.

Johnny immediately started pouring tea and coffee for everybody. I noticed he did not ask any questions.

"What's going on?" I enquired.

"Chawish is dead," Marcia stated. "He blew himself up in a car-bomb attack. The police are looking through everything to find if there is anything to indicate he was radicalised before he fled."

Anne and Johnny had to get into college. I reminded them not to be late back as we were driving into London for dinner with the LeBruns. They had not been gone long when a police constable came to the kitchen door to ask if Marcia could return to the apartment. She went back, leaving Jasmin and Tariq in the kitchen with me. I suggested to the kids that they go and play on Johnny's Playstation.

I had just finished cleaning up in the kitchen when the doorbell went. Answering it, I found Bernard standing on the doorstep.

"Wasn't expecting you," I stated as he entered.

"Thought I'd better make it up here," he replied. "It looks as if things are about to get complicated."

"Why?" I asked.

"Marcia's husband is dead," he replied.

"What difference does that make?" I enquired. "It just saves on the hassle of trying to get him extradited to stand trial."

"About twelve-million difference," Bernard stated.


"Insurance, my boy, insurance," Bernard uttered in a voice which sounded very much like Leo McKern's Rumpole of the Bailey. "There is the critical-person insurance that was taken out at the insistence of the bank, the general-life policy on him, plus the mortgage-protection policy. They were all paid annually, and they were paid last April, so are all in force. Chaswin Bagri is dead. That means the insurance has to pay up; the question is, who does it get paid out to?"

"Surely the bank will get most of it," I stated.

"Now that, Mike, is the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question," Bernard replied. Where he picked that expression up, I had no idea, it was out of date in my parents' time, and I knew Bernard was only my age, though at times he did not seem it. "The bank has liquidated the company, so do the liquidators have a claim on it? Probably, but I think I can put up enough of a fight to get part of it for Marcia. That, however, only applies to critical-person insurance, which specifically named the company. The other two policies are in Marcia's favour, and I want to make sure that the bank does not get their hands on any of that.

"I presume Mark is here?"

"Yes, Bernard," I replied. "He is up in the apartment."

"Good. I'll buzz him," Bernard replied, pulling out his phone and calling Mark.

Once he finished his call, he suggested I put the kettle on for some tea and coffee. A suggestion I complied with. The kettle had only just boiled when there was a knock on the kitchen door. I opened it to let Marcia and Mark in.

"So, what's happened?" Bernard asked.

"It was a warrant issued under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005," Mark stated.

"Yes," Bernard stated, sounding a bit frustrated. "What were they looking for."

"Papers and phones that Mr. Bagri might have kept with details of his contacts," Mark supplied.

"Did they find anything?"

"There were a couple of old address books," Marcia said. "I told them most of his stuff was in his office, and the liquidators took the lot."

Bernard laughed. "They're going to be happy when Special Branch turn up at their offices."

"Will they?" I asked.

"They most certainly will," Bernard replied. "Now we need to get down to business."

"If you don't mind, I will leave you to it," I stated and left for my study.

About half an hour later, Bernard came through to the study to ask if he could use the photocopier. He had a stack of papers from which he made two copies. Then he left. Some ten minutes later, he came back.

"Thanks for letting us use your kitchen," he stated.

"Didn't seem to have much choice," I pointed out.

"Yes, I do have a habit of taking things over," Bernard stated.

"So, all sorted?" I asked.

"Well, not sorted, but all set up," he replied. "I have got all the authorisations I need to go after the insurance policies. Should be fun."

"I think we have a different definition of fun," I commented.

"Yes," he replied. "That's why you're the writer and I am the lawyer. "By the way, Mark and Marcia have left. Think there may be a bit of interest between those two."

"What makes you think that?" I asked.

"Well, Mark invited Marcia to join him for lunch at the Crooked Man," Bernard huffed. He then went on to remind me that we were invited for dinner that evening.

Anne and Johnny got back just before four, which meant they had a bit of a rush to get ready before we set off at four-thirty. As a result, I spent most of the two-hour drive to Hampstead telling them what I knew about this morning's events, which, when you got down to it, was not much.

We made it to Bernard's place just before six-twenty. It then took us nearly half an hour to find somewhere to park. As a result, it was just striking seven when we rang Bernard's front door.

"I thought you'd got lost," he said, opening the door to us.

"Trouble parking," I informed him.

"Like always," he responded.

"Where do you keep the Bentley?" Johnny asked.

"I rent a mews garage just around the corner," Bernard replied. "Costs me more than we were paying on the mortgage for this place when we bought it."

"And it's only there a couple of nights a week," Debora said, stepping into the hallway. "He keeps it mostly down in Kent. Waste of money having it up here. Come on through. My parents are in the library."

"Hitting the gin, no doubt," Bernard commented.

I had met Debora's parents on a few occasions in the last twenty years. Every time I had met them, they had given me the impression that they considered me to be a somewhat unpleasant addition to the occasion — or at least, Joe, Debora's father, did. Miriam, his wife, just followed as her husband directed. Today was no exception.

I think the dislike of me probably originated with the fact that I took care of all the arrangements for Bernard and Debora's wedding, which took place at a North London Registry Office with a couple of witnesses we pulled in from the street. This was not what Joe had planned for his daughter. In Joe's plan, the wedding would take place in Manchester, cost thousands, and Bernard, the son of an East End tailor, would not be the husband. Debora once told me that Joe had planned on her marrying a distant cousin who was a medical student at the time. She had also told me it was a good thing she had not, as, by the time he was thirty, he was an alcoholic who had been struck off the medical register.

Joe had made his annoyance at my involvement in his daughter's wedding clear to me on a few occasions. Even though Bernard was now one of the leading figures in the London legal establishment, Joe still considered that Debora had married below her station and that I was partly to blame. Thus, his dislike of me, which spread to a dislike of Anne and, by extension, Johnny.

Things had not been too bad through the starter and during the main course but started to go downhill with dessert when Debora's father asked Johnny which school he was at.

"I'm at Southmead College," Johnny informed him.

"I don't think I know that school," Debora's father commented.

"It's not a school," Johnny replied. "It's a FE college."

"So, you did not do well enough to go to sixth form," the old man commented, smiling.

"Didn't want sixth form," Johnny responded. "They did not have the subjects I wanted."

"I can't imagine any reputable school not having the required subjects," he countered.

"I can't think of one which does," Johnny retorted. Joe bristled at this response.

"What course are you doing which you could not get in a sixth form?" he asked.

"Woodwork," Johnny retorted.

"Why on earth would you want to do woodwork?" Joe asked. "That will not get you into university; it will not get a decent profession."

"And why would I want a decent profession?" Johnny replied.

"Money, lad, money," Joe stated.

"Well, I don't need money," Johnny retorted. "I do need to do something that interests me and that I will enjoy. For that, I need to know woodwork, so I am studying it. I am also doing four A-levels, and I intend to go to boatbuilding school before uni."

"That young man is a total waste of time," Joe pontificated. "I suppose you expect that your father will pay for all of this?"

"No," Johnny responded. "My uncles have paid for it."

"Your uncles?"

"Yes, they set up a trust for me; it covers my education," Johnny answered. I was not sure if Debora's parents had any idea who Johnny's uncles were. They had met Ben shortly after Debora and Bernard's wedding. So far as I knew, that was the only time they had met. At the time Ben had still been at university. I doubted very much if they would associate him with the film star he had become.

"They should have more sense than to let you waste it," Joe stated. "You should try to get a profession, though I doubt if you have the ability to become a lawyer like Joseph will be."

"No, I won't," Joseph snapped.

"What?" Joe responded.

"I won't be a lawyer," Joseph stated. There was an evil glint in his eye as he took a deep breath. "I'm going to be a barber. Saul Abrahams has already said I can have a chair in his shop."

Joe, unfortunately, had just taken a swig of his wine. He now spluttered it across the tablecloth, staining it with red spots.

"A barber, I'm not paying for your education so you can be a barber," he ranted. "You are going to be a lawyer, my boy. Isn't he, Bernard?"

"I don't see why he shouldn't be a barber," Bernard responded, with a smile. "Given what mine charges, he will probably end up earning more than any of us."

"Well, I'm not going to be paying for his education anymore," Joe stated.

"Fine," Johnny stated. "Then, I will."

"You'll what?" I asked.

"I'll pay for his education," Johnny stated.

"How?" I asked.

"From my trust," Johnny replied. "It states that funds can be provided to me for educational purposes; it does not state it has to be for my education."

"He's right, you know," Bernard informed me. "Are you sure you do not want to be a lawyer, Johnny?"

"Nah, thanks," Johnny responded. "Saw too much of the law with my mother."

"You certainly seem to have learnt something about it," Bernard said.

"Well, I did two years of it for GCSE," Johnny replied.

"And got an A-star," I pointed out.

"Well, I've finished my dessert," Joseph stated. "Going up to grab my bag. When you lot have finished, we can get off." With that, he stood up and started to leave the table.

"Just where do you think you are going?" Joe asked.

"I said, to get my bag," Joseph replied.

"Why do you need a bag, boy?" Joe asked.

"Because I am spending the weekend at the Priory, and the quicker we can get away, the better."

"But that will mean going in a car," Joe stated.

"Yes," replied Johnny.

"But you can't travel by car on Shabbat," Joe pronounced.

"Why not?"

"It's against the halakha, which we have to obey" Joe informed him.

"Not according to Rabbi Miriam," Joseph responded as he turned and left the room.

"Did he just call a woman, Rabbi?"

"Yes, father," Debora replied. "She says driving to the synagogue is more restful, therefore giving a more positive mitzvah."

"But, but …" Joe's face turned red. I thought for a moment he was going to have an apoplectic stroke, but his wife patted his arm and calmed him down.

"You've joined a Reformed synagogue?" Joe asked.

"Yes, Dad," Debora replied.

"But why? The synagogue you were at was good; it had excellent connections," he stated.

"There are more important things than connections," Debora stated.

"What?" Joe asked.

"Me," Joseph replied. "The old rabbi did not approve of my boyfriend."

"You can't have a boyfriend," Joe yelled. "You're my grandson."

"Somewhere, Granddad, I think your logic has gone wrong," Joseph replied.

"How can you say that?" Joe asked.

"Well, I do have a boyfriend, and I am your grandson," the boy replied.

"Not any longer," Joe snapped. "You'll not be getting anything from us in the future unless you give up this deviant lifestyle."

"Fine," Joseph answered. "Don't really need anything from you." With that, he turned and walked out of the room. Joe just sat there, his mouth open as if he was trying an impersonation of a fish.

Things were relatively quiet on our drive back to Dunford. Neither Anne nor I wanted to comment on events, and I suspected Joseph was a bit more upset about how things had worked out than he was letting on. For most of the drive back, he seemed to be asleep, but I was reasonably sure he was not.

It was gone eleven before we got home, and the two boys quickly made their excuses and went off to bed. By the glint in their eyes, I was reasonably sure that they were not going to be sleeping, at least not anytime soon.

Anne said she was going to make some hot chocolate; I informed her I was going through to check my emails. There was one from Bernard, just asking me to tell his son that he was proud of him.

I had expected that following Friday's events, there would be some anxiety on Joseph's part the following morning. It turned out I was wrong. Both Johnny and Joseph were up early, and it was clear that they were both very happy.

I gave Joseph his father's message.

"Good," he commented. "I've been wanting to say something to Granddad for ages."


"He's a bully," Joseph replied. "He uses his money and influence to get people to do what he wants in his way. Just because Dad's the son of an East End tailor, Granddad looks down on him. He insists on paying our school fees so he can tell all his friends that he pays them; that makes it look like Dad can't afford them."

He paused for a moment, thinking about something.

"Dad could easily pay our school fees," he asserted. "You know, I think Dad is probably richer than Granddad, but Granddad would never admit it."

I realised that Joseph was probably right. Bernard must have made a fortune from the sale of the family business. I also knew he had invested heavily in property back before the property boom started, so he probably was a lot richer than most people realised.

It had started raining, so I gave the boys a lift down to the yard, Joseph just going in to keep Johnny company in the chandlery during the day. I told them I would pick them up later.

When I got back, I found Marcia talking to Anne. She and Jasmin were going over to her parents, but Tariq wanted to stay in the apartment so that he could practice. Marcia was just asking us to keep an eye on him in case there were any problems. Anne assured her that we would. She also told Marcia that we would sort some lunch out for the boy.

I left them chatting in the kitchen and went through to my study to get some work done. About half an hour later, Anne brought me a mug of tea through and informed me she was going to Tesco's to do some shopping.

I do not know how long it took her to do the shopping as she was back in the kitchen and unpacked when I took a break from my writing a couple of hours later.

"Got everything?" I enquired.

"You must be joking," she stated. "No matter how well you plan and what lists you make, you always forget to get something, and it is always something important. That, my boy, is the first law of shopping."

She had just finished saying that when Trevor's Mazda roared into the yard. I went and opened the back door, indicating to Trevor that they should come into the kitchen. Trevor was helping Arthur get out of passenger seat, not that easy a task for someone with a cast on the leg in a low car, especially with the hood up. Eventually, Arthur got out, and Trevor pulled a pair of crutches from behind the seats and handed them to Arthur, who hobbled his way to the kitchen. Fortunately, by now, the rain had stopped, so he did not get soaked.

"Wasn't expecting you till the start of next week," Anne commented.

"Pulled two late nights shooting," Trevor replied. "Wrapped up all my scenes last night, so thought we would come home."

"He wanted to make sure I was trapped in the flat before he headed off to sunny climes," Arthur stated.

"Well, you're not going to be trapped in the flat," Anne commented. "Until you're out of plaster, you can use the downstairs bedroom."

"Really?" Arthur asked.

"Yes," Anne confirmed.

"Phew!" exclaimed Trevor. "That's a relief. I was not sure how he would have managed in the flat, and we've been having arguments about me getting help in for him."

"I did not know you had a downstairs bedroom," Arthur commented.

"We don't officially, yet," I stated. "It's supposed to be the dining room. We are using it as a downstairs bedroom at the moment for when Anne's sister stays over. Once the guest wing is finished, there will be a couple of ground-floor rooms in there which we can use as bedrooms; one will be en-suite."

We sat around and chatted for a good half hour, mostly about how the filming had gone. Trevor informed us he had a good feeling about the film. They had green-screened a lot of stuff they'd originally planned to film on location, so were a lot further forward than had originally been planned. This piece of information ended up with me having to give Anne a technical explanation of what green screening was.

Anne then stated she had to get some lunch ready, and we should get out of her kitchen. I wondered when the kitchen had become hers rather than ours. Not that I had any intention of arguing about it.

Trevor went out to get their cases from the car whilst Arthur hobbled through to what would one day be the dining room, but for the time being, would be his bedroom. I went back to my study. Some fifteen minutes later, Anne called us all for lunch. As I went through to the kitchen, she told me to let Tariq know that there was some lunch for him, too. I used the house phone to call the apartment. About three minutes later, Tariq came in through the back door.

The moment he entered the room, he looked across at the table, where Trevor and Arthur were seated. As he did so, he came to a complete stop.

"You're…" he started, then stopped.

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