Living with Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 55

"She's given the defence a firm ground for appeal," Sir David stated.

"Of course, she has," Bernard commented. "However, I don't see what else she could have done."

"Oh, I agree," stated Sir David. "Any judge in the same position, given the same set of facts regarding the witness, would have had to instruct the jury to ignore the evidence that the witness gave. I suspect Ms. Carlton-Smith probably used Dr. Kilpatrick half in the hope it would happen. She must have known we would have researched the lady."

"I am not sure a general search would have produced quite so much material," I pointed out.

"That I will agree on," Bernard stated. "Your access to specialist databases certainly meant we got far more than a simple internet search would produce."

"How long do you think we have before the jury decides?" I asked.

"Well, it is twenty past eleven now, there are ninety-two charges, and they have to take a vote on each one. So, even if they come to a quick decision on the whole lot, it is going to take them at least an hour, probably longer, to get through the process of voting. On that basis, I doubt if we will be back in court before two, given that recess is from one to two," Sir David said.

We all decamped to a nearby café. Once we had ordered our lunches, I excused myself and phoned Zach Mayer to ask if he could meet up with Tyler and myself. He suggested Tuesday evening as he had a meeting in Chelmsford that afternoon and could get over to us after that. Otherwise, it would have to be in London after the New Year.

"I am fully booked all the rest of next week," he informed me. "Then on Saturday, I'm flying to New York, spending Christmas with the wife's family. Will be there till the New Year."

I agreed to Tuesday evening and invited him to dinner. That sorted, I rejoined our table for lunch.

Sir David was right; we were informed that the jury was returning just before two. At two, with the jury in place, the judge took her place on the bench. For the next fifteen minutes, the clerk to the court read out the charges against Mayers, and the foreman of the jury responded with the jury's verdicts. For the majority of the charges, it was guilty. Only on the charges regarding possession of drugs with intent to supply were not guilty verdicts returned.

"Not surprising, really," Tim whispered to me when the first not guilty was given. "We offered no evidence on them."

The roll call of charges having been completed and the verdicts returned, the judge turned to look at Mayers.

"Andrew Mark Mayers, you have been found guilty of the most heinous of crimes — crimes which demand a lengthy custodial sentence. Be assured such a sentence will be forthcoming from the court. However, before I pass such sentence on you, I am ordering psychiatric and probation reports to be prepared. I expect such reports to be completed within thirty days of today's hearing. Given that, I am remanding you into the custody of Her Majesty's Prisons until such time as you are brought before me again for sentencing. Be in no doubt, though, that such a sentence will be a lengthy custodial sentence.

"Take him down."

We packed up our papers and stuff, then left the courtroom. Sir David and Kathy went to the counsel's robing room to change but were quickly back with us. We then left the court building intending to make our way to Covent Garden and the Punch and Judy, where Sir David had promised us all a drink. As we got outside, the Detective Inspector in charge of the case was just finishing a statement to the press.

Beryl was a short distance in front of us with the defence solicitor. She stopped; I expected that the defence solicitor was going to make a statement to the press. That was the way these things were typically done. Instead, Beryl started to make one.

"My client was denied justice today by the judge directing the jury to disregard the evidence given by a noted expert in the matter of False Memory, Doctor Susan Kilpatrick. Such a rejection of testimony given to the court is unprecedented. As a result, my client will be appealing the conviction."

A couple of the reporters shouted out questions, Beryl indicated for them to pause and she would take them, one at a time. Then a voice I knew sounded out.

"Mother, how could you defend a man you knew had raped your son?" It was from Johnny. He was standing next to Joseph at the edge of the crowd.

"What do you mean?" snapped Beryl.

"I mean, you invited Mayers and his pals to your villa every year, making sure I would be there for them to play with. You even assured them of my presence in your emails to them," Johnny said.

"What emails?"

"The emails I have on this USB stick," Johnny stated, holding up a USB stick. "The ones I copied off the mail server you use."

Beryl made a grab for the USB stick, knocking it out of Johnny's hand. It fell to the ground. One of the reporters grabbed it. Beryl shrieked.

"Don't worry, mother," Johnny said. "If you want one you can have one." He handed her a USB stick; she looked at it in horror. "I have plenty more, would anybody like one?" He pulled a handful of USB sticks from his pocket. Hands shot forward.

"I would like one young man," the Detective Inspector said, holding out his hand for one. Johnny handed him one. "And I think you'd better come with me."

"Wait a moment?" Bernard said. "I'm his solicitor. What is going on?"

"I need to question this young man about what he said regarding his mother and about the contents of this USB stick. Also, how he got them."

"Unless you are intending to arrest him, which I would advise against, you can interview him at my office," Bernard stated, handing the DI his card. "We will be ready for you to interview him at four."

The Detective Inspector did not look happy. He did know when he was up against a brick wall, though, and agreed.

"Do you want counsel present?" Sir David asked.

"Not sure that this justifies a QC," Bernard laughed.

"You're damned right; I need a drink anyway. Though I am damned sure Kathy would find it useful to sit in on the interview." He looked at his junior, who just nodded and smiled.

Beryl pushed forward and faced Johnny. "What have you done?"

"I copied the complete server," he replied. "It's all on those USB sticks."

Beryl laughed. "The files systems is encrypted!"

"Shazam!98@," Johnny replied.

Beryl turned white. She seemed to physically shrink in size there and then on the pavement outside of the Old Bailey.

"Come along, Uncle Bernard, we need to get to your office," Johnny said. He turned and started to walk away. Joseph joined him. The pair of them walking along hand in hand. Bernard started to follow them, along with Kathy. I joined the parade, as did Sir David. "Might as well join in the fun," he stated. "I think that boy has just kicked open a hornets' nest."

It was nearly half-past three when we were guided by Bernard into one of his conference rooms. There had been a bit of discussion about Joseph being present, but Johnny had insisted on it.

"Now, lad, you'd better tell us what is going on and make it quick; we will have the police here in half an hour."

"The Bitch has a villa she half-owns over in France," he stated. "She always goes out there for at least three weeks during August. Since I was eleven, she has invited Mayers and his friends out for a week — a week when she makes sure I'm there and she is absent most of the time. She knew damned well what was going on but turned a blind eye to it.

"Mayers even boasted that she knew. He said once that she had emailed him to assure him that I would be there for him and his friends to play with. That's how I knew that there would be evidence in her emails. She never threw anything away.

"All her cases were on the server, including details of the extra fees that she got."

"What extra fees?" Sir David asked.

"When she did things for clients, she got paid extra fees. It was all done offshore," Johnny stated.

"And she let you know all this?" I asked.

"Oh, no," Johnny replied. "I just read it all in her files."

"But you would have needed her password," Bernard said.

"That was easy," Johnny answered. "I installed a key logger."

"That could cause problems," Sir David stated. "Installing such software on a computer is a violation of the Misuse of Computers Act."

"Even if it is your own computer?" Johnny asked.

"Your computer?" Bernard asked.

"Yes, she gave it me the Christmas before last," Johnny answered. "There is an email from her saying I can have it."

Bernard laughed.

"There is the question of how you got to the computer?" Sir David observed.

"I used my key," Johnny said. He held up his key ring. "She never asked for it back. Anyway, she has not informed the authorities that she kicked me out. In fact, she is still claiming a child benefit for me."

"How do you know?" I asked.

"She needed proof I was still in education and doing A-levels," he replied. "That's the only thing she would need that for."

"He's right," Bernard stated.

"So that is what you were doing last Saturday?" I asked.

"Yes, Dad," he replied. "I knew she would not be at home that night, so I let myself in, then spent most of the night copying the server's hard disk to an external hard disk."

"How did you know she wouldn't be there?" I enquired.

"Tatler," he answered. "Her boyfriend was giving a major ball at his country house Saturday, so I knew she would be there."

Just then the intercom sounded, and the receptionist advised that the DI was there with another officer. Bernard told her to send them in and to send in some refreshments.

The next two hours consisted of Johnny telling his story in great detail to the DI, who took careful notes. I was surprised that Bernard was not doing the same until I noticed the microphone hanging over the centre of the table. Bernard must have noticed because he indicated that I should look above the clock on the wall at the end of the table. There, a small red light was flashing—a camera. I recalled the notice outside the conference room.

'Note: All meetings in this room are recorded.'

Now it made sense.

"It's a pity you did not come to us first," the DI stated when he had finished taking Johnny's statement. "No doubt now the server has been wiped clean."

"I doubt it," Johnny stated.

"Why?" the DI asked.

"I removed all my remaining property from the house this morning, including the server," he replied. "It's in a secure storage unit at a facility a friend's aunt owns."

"Miss Jenkins?" I asked.

"Yes, Dad," he replied. The DI's face went white.

"Well, we'll get our forensic boys onto it as soon as we can. Pity we can't arrest your mother for something till we've gone through everything."

"But you can," Sir David stated. "Sexual Offences Act. Taking a minor overseas for the purposes of sexual activity."

"I'll have to clear it with the CPS," the DI stated. "However, that should work."

"Oh, it will," Sir David said.

It was getting on for seven when we finally got out of Bernard's office. He pointed out that it would be gone nine before we would get home, so we might as well join him for dinner, Debora having gone down to the Kent house for the weekend.

"She and Bethany's mother are deep into wedding planning," he informed us.

I phoned Anne to let her know we were eating in town.

"Well, tell that son of ours he's got some explaining to do when he gets home."

"You know?"

"Yes, Mike. His little display was all over the evening television news. It's just coming up on Channel 4."


It was getting close to eleven-thirty by the time we got home. Anne was waiting for us, waiting for an explanation. I left Johnny to sort that out.

Saturday's papers were full of Johnny's accusation against his mother. Mayers' conviction got only a couple of inches on an inside page.

It was just before ten when the front doorbell rang. I went to answer it and found two uniformed police officers standing there.

"Mr. Michael Carlton?" they asked.

"Yes," I replied.

"Would it be possible to talk to you and your son — in private?"

I asked them in and showed them into my drawing room. I then called for Johnny. While I was waiting for Johnny to come down from his room, I asked the officers if they had any objection to me recording the conversation. I intended to, anyway, but thought it was polite to ask. They said that it was OK. Johnny came in to join us.

One officer introduced herself: "I'm Sergeant Judith Mallon. This is Constable Tony Richards. We are both members of the family-liaison group of the Essex Constabulary. We are both based at Maldon.

"This morning, at seven-thirty, officers of the Metropolitan police executed a search warrant on a property in Islington, London, acting, I understand, on information supplied by your son, Mr. Carlton."

"That's no surprise," I stated. "Actually, I am surprised it took them twelve hours to do it."

"Well, that might not be a surprise. What they found is, unfortunately, a surprise," she replied. "A body which has been provisionally identified as Beryl Carlton-Smith was found in the living room. She had died as a result of a gunshot wound to the head. A gun was found by the scene, close to the body. It looks like suicide."

"No, it wasn't," Johnny stated. There was no emotion in the statement, just a simple statement of fact.

"What makes you say that?" the sergeant asked.

"She was terrified of guns," Johnny stated. "Would not even let me have an air pistol. Have you checked the CCTV?"

"The information we have is that it was switched off," the Sergeant stated.

"That would be the goat system," Johnny stated.

"Goat system?"

"Sacrificial goat. Something you offer up if you're not worried if you lose it or not. The system downstairs, which is in the open, is only a mirror of the main system. That's hidden in the attic. She never switches that off."

Sergeant Mallon asked for details of where the recorder was. Johnny supplied it. She then passed the information onto whoever it was she was communicating with. That done — and assured that we were not distressed by the news of Beryl's death — they left.

Just before they did, I asked if anything has been done to inform Beryl's parents or her brother.

"We did not know there was any other family," the Sergeant said. I gave them the contact information.

I phoned Bernard and passed on the information.

"Now that's a surprise," he stated.

"I know?" I told him.

"No, you don't," he informed me. "She had no expectation of dying. In fact, she expected to be living a nice life in South America."

"How do you know?" I asked.

"Just after eleven, I got a phone call from a courier firm. They informed me they had a time-scheduled delivery package for me and asked which of the three addresses supplied I would like it delivered to. I told them here. It came half an hour ago. It is from Beryl. Have not had a chance to read all of it but I have read the covering letter. In it, she states that by the time I read it, she will be on her way to South America."

I told him I thought he should contact the police about the letter. He informed me he would. Shortly after I had finished my telephone conversation with Bernard, the house phone rang. The caller identified himself as Detective Superintendent Lawlan. He asked if it would be convenient for him to come out to interview Johnny and myself that afternoon. I told them it was fine, but I would like my solicitor present. I was told that it would not be a problem. That call finished, I made another call to Bernard. He told me he would be here by two. I then went to explain things to Anne.

Once I had explained what was happening, Anne looked at me and asked, "You don't think Johnny could be in danger, do you?"

Bernard arrived just after half-past one. He looked worried and asked to speak to Johnny alone. About fifteen minutes later, he called me into the sitting room, where he and Johnny had been speaking. I noticed the light was flashing on the recorder.

"Thought it was best to record things, Dad," Johnny stated.

"Probably wise," I commented. Bernard just nodded.

"Quick recap before the police arrive," Bernard said. "Beryl sent me a package containing papers. In it was a covering letter telling me she was leaving the country and then instructing me to act for Johnny in closing down her affairs. In the packet is a newly executed will, which appoints me as executor. The other papers look like details of investments and holdings; I have not had time to go over them yet. I did go by my office on the way here and deposited them in the office safe."

"Why bother? Surely you could have left that till Monday?" I replied.

"Probably, but I just wanted to make sure that they are fully covered by client privilege," Bernard replied. "Magistrates are somewhat reluctant to issue search warrants against legal premises."

"What did she say in the letter?" Johnny asked.

"She started by telling me that by the time I read the letter, she would be on her way to South America. Then she goes on to say that she is sorry for the way things worked out but that she made a mistake early on in her career and it came back to haunt her. She did not say what the mistake was.

"The rest was instructions to me as your solicitor, Johnny, to handle the transfer of certain properties and holdings to you. She said that she was enclosing the required paperwork and had signed the required authorities for the transfers to be made; they include the transfer of the Islington house. From the papers I've seen, I believe it is fully paid for."

"It probably is," I commented. "We bought it for a pittance, at least for houses round there, just after we were married. Dad put the money up for the deposit. I suspect she has earned more than enough to pay it off. It must be worth over a million these days."

"Two point one," Bernard informed me. "It's got off-road parking."

The front doorbell rang. Anne shouted out that she would get it; shortly after she showed a man and a woman into the sitting room.

"Detective Superintendent Lawlan," the man introduced himself. "This is Detective Sergeant Crawshaw."

I introduced Bernard and Johnny. Anne asked if anyone wanted tea or coffee. It was tea all round, except for Johnny, who asked for chocolate.

"A bit unusual for a Detective Superintendent to be handling an investigation personally, isn't it?" Bernard asked.

"This investigation is a bit unusual," Superintendent Lawlan commented. "In fact, it's turning out to be a ball of snakes, and the bigwigs are insisting on it being handled at the highest level.

"You won't know this, as the news is not out there yet, but Mayers was found dead in his cell this morning. Apparently, he hanged himself."

"From the way you said, 'Apparently he hanged himself', you make me think you do not believe it," commented Bernard.

"Not for a moment," the Detective Superintendent replied. "All too convenient. Two suicides that close together of people who knew each other. Especially given that Mayers was boasting last night that he would be out in three months.

"By the way, son, thanks for the tipoff about the master CCTV recorder. Doubt if our chaps would have spotted it if we had not been told it was up there."

"Did you get anything?" Johnny asked.

"Oh, yes," Detective Superintendent Lawlan replied. "Haven't seen it myself yet, but my DI who viewed it in situ says that it shows two men arriving shortly after nine last night. They are clearly expected as your mother lets them in and takes them through to the living room. There are two suitcases by the side of the coffee table in the room and an open briefcase on the coffee table. The men talk with your mother for a while, and then she pulls back the carpet and opens a floor safe from which she withdraws a quantity of money, some papers and what looks like an external hard disk, which she puts in the briefcase. As soon as she has done that one of the men grabs her from behind, pinning her arms at her side. The other then shoots her through the side of the head at very close range. He then drops the gun on the ground. They pick up the two suitcases and the briefcase and leave."

"It sounds like an execution," Bernard commented.

"It was," the detective replied.

"So, how can we help?" I asked.

"Well the first thing is, does your son have any knowledge as to what was in the floor safe?"

"Sorry, I can't help you," Johnny replied. "I did not even know it was there. It wasn't there five years ago."

"How do you know that?" Lawlan asked.

"Well, that room used to be the dining room," Johnny replied. "It had a parquet floor, and there were no carpets. Mother decided to move the dining room to the front of the house and make that the living room just after my eleventh birthday. I never could understand why?"

"I can," I stated.

"Can you enlighten us?" Lawlan asked.

"The rooms at the front of the house are over a cellar, the rooms at the back are part of an extension and are on a concrete slab. If you wanted to put a floor safe in, you would need solid ground below to put it into. No point in having it hanging down into a cellar."

"That makes sense," Sergeant Crawshaw stated. "It's a pity you don't know more, but it can't be helped. The one thing we do know now is that the safe was installed probably five years ago. That might help tie a few things together.

"Now, do either of you know the name Rikkenberg?"

Both Johnny and I indicated that we did not. Bernard said that he knew the name.

"Can you tell me anything about it?" Lawlan asked.

"It was an extradition case some sixteen or seventeen years ago. Made quite a stir in the press. Klaus Rikkenberg was an elderly German living in Coventry. He had been spotted by some ex-camp inmates who were visiting Coventry as part of the Cathedral's peace and reconciliation programme. They identified him as one Josef Muller, a camp guard at Treblinka. At the subsequent extradition hearing, Beryl acted for Rikkenberg. At the appeal, she produced new evidence — she stated it had not been available at the time of the initial hearing — that showed that Rikkenberg was not Josef Muller but his illegitimate half-brother. This evidence included dental records for both Josef Muller and Rikkenberg.

"It caused a bit of a stir because she introduced this evidence without telling the solicitors acting for Rikkenberg about it or where she had got it from. It left a bad taste in the mouth of a few people. They always thought there was some suspicion about the evidence.

"Why did you want to know?"

"Because one thing she took from the safe was a folder that had the name Rikkenberg written on it. We were able to read that on the CCTV," the detective superintendent stated.

"Must have been bloody good CCTV," Bernard commented.

"It was," Johnny stated. "Cost a fortune, but all the cameras are very high resolution."

"Any idea how long it keeps a recording before it is overwritten?" the detective superintendent asked.

"I think about three months," Johnny replied.

"We will be going through it with a fine-toothed comb," Lawlan stated. "Hopefully, we might pick up a bit more information."

"Have you listened to the phone logs?" Johnny asked.

"What phone logs?" Lawlan asked.

"All phone calls on the landline were recorded," Johnny told him. "The recording system is in the small room at the back of the cellar. Oh, there is another safe there; it's behind the first-aid box. I am fairly certain she was recording her mobile calls as well, but you will need to access her phone for those."

"A bit of a problem there, it is an Apple phone and it's password-protected," the detective superintendent said.

"All her passwords are listed on a sheet stuck to the pull-out drawer on the left-hand side of her desk," Johnny stated.

At that moment, my phone rang. It was from Ben. I gave my apologies and took the call.

Ben was phoning to tell me that they had just been informed of Beryl's murder. He said that Phil was sending a car up to Stock to collect his parents and get them to Manston. He did not doubt that a media storm would break out once the press realised who Beryl Carlton-Smith was.

I told the detective superintendent what was happening.

"Probably a good move," he stated. "These things tend to blow up into a much bigger news event than one probably wants."

He and Sergeant Crawshaw stayed another hour asking question, mostly to Johnny, about Beryl's routines. Even Johnny had to say he really did not know that much. Most of the time he was either at boarding school or packed off to the villa in France. When it came to him talking about what happened to him at the villa, he responded that he had dealt with it and was not prepared to go into it.

The police left just after four. Bernard stayed on for another half hour, discussing the packet of papers he had received from Beryl.

"Shouldn't you have told the police about them?" Johnny asked.

"If they had asked if I had received any communication from Beryl, I would have answered that I had," he replied. "However, I was not asked, and there is no duty on me to inform them, so I said nothing." He did say that he would try to sort through the papers on Monday and let us know what was in them.

Shortly before five, Bernard left. As nothing had been done regarding dinner, we went down to the Crooked Man, taking Tyler with us.

On the media-storm point, Phil was right. Things started that evening with television news. It headlined that a prominent barrister and sister of film-director, Matthew Lewis, was killed in a shooting. Sunday morning, the storm got worse. The Sunday tabloid press went to town with the story. 'Paedophile-defending barrister, sister of sex offender, Matthew Lewis, shot at home', was the News of the World headline.

Factually, the story under the headline was correct; there was no speculation in it at all. However, the general tone of the story was an attack on Phil. Within a six-hundred-word story, they somehow managed to mention his conviction ten times. It was quite clear that the newspaper had it in for Phil. Probably upset by the fact that he was suing them. Mayers' trial was covered in detail elsewhere in the paper; I noticed that Mayers' death did not even get a mention.

Ben phoned a bit after eleven to let me know that he and Phil were at Manston. I asked how Jack and Flora were taking the news.

"Not very well," Ben stated. "Though Flora is saying she always knew that Beryl would come to a sticky end. How's Johnny coping?"

"It's strange, but it does not seem to have affected him," I told Ben.

"It will in time," Ben replied. "I suspect he has disassociated the person of Beryl from the concept of mother, but sooner or later, it will hit him."

I was not sure if that was good news or bad news.

There was a somewhat subdued atmosphere around the house during the day. Joseph and Johnny spent the entire day down in the library talking — not up in Johnny's room playing video games or whatever else they did up there. The only time they came out was for meals or to grab a drink.

Tyler had absented himself for the day, saying he was spending it with Trevor and Arthur. Neither of that pair had come over, which was unusual for a Sunday. Anne spent most of Sunday, when she was not in the kitchen cooking, in the lounge reading.

I felt at something of a loss. That I should be doing something I was certain. The problem was, I had no idea what I should be doing. It was something of a relief, therefore, when I checked my emails just after lunch for probably the tenth time that day. This time, though, there was a new email.

It was from James, giving me details of his flights for his trip home over Christmas. I had forgotten that he was due to fly back for the holiday and went to tell Anne.

"It's all arranged," she informed me. "I've put him in the ground-floor, rear bedroom of the guest wing."

"Who's in the ground-floor, front bedroom?" I asked.

"Jenny," Anne replied with a knowing smile on her face. I forbore commenting.

"He's not said if he wants to be picked up," I commented.

"Probably arranged something with Peter," Anne replied. That made sense, but I thought I'd better check and see.

Returning to my study, I phoned Steve and Peter's on the off chance that Peter might be home. He was. I told him what I was phoning about.

"Shit!" he replied. "Sorry, Mike, I should have told you — forgot all about it. We're meeting him at the airport in the afternoon; I'm letting him have the Jag again. Steve and I will be on our way to Oxford to visit the parents, so we thought it was easier to take the car to him on the way. It is not going to take us far out of our way."

"That makes sense," I replied.

"By the way, how is Johnny coping with his mother's murder?" he asked.

"I'm not sure," I told him. "He seems to be coping with it, but he has been very quiet all day today. He and Joseph are usually up in his room playing on the video games when Joseph is over. All they have done today is sit in the library and talk. No idea what they are talking about."

"And you probably don't want to know," commented Peter. "Boys that age have a perspective on things which no adult can even come close to understanding. All you can do is make sure you are there if he needs someone other than Joseph to talk to."

Having spoken to Peter, I sent an email back to James and let him know that we were looking forward to him arriving on Saturday. That out of the way, I looked at the to-do list that was displayed down the side of my computer screen. There was nothing there that was urgent; there was, though, one thing I did need to sort out, and that was how Lee was going to get from HMP Chelmsford to here on Friday. I sent Martin an email asking if he had any idea.

I then set about working on an article that I had promised to have ready for Wednesday. After half an hour, I packed it up. My mind was not with it. I just could not help wondering what Beryl had been involved in.

"Dad, could you run Joseph to the station, please?" Johnny asked, interrupting my mental wanderings. I glanced at the clock. It had only just gone three, a bit early for Joseph to be leaving. He usually stayed till after dinner; then I would run him into Chelmsford to get one of the direct trains to London. I would do that now. Southminster was a waste of time Sunday evenings.

"Isn't he staying for dinner?" I asked, already knowing the answer.

"No," Johnny replied. "He wants to get some revision done when he gets home."

Twenty minutes later, I was driving to Chelmsford to get Joseph on the direct train to London. Joseph was calling his father to tell him that he was getting an earlier train back. Once he had finished talking with Bernard, I asked what I had been thinking.

"Alright, Joseph, what's the problem with Johnny?" I asked.

"He thinks his mother getting murdered is all his fault," Joseph answered. "He won't listen to reason."

"What is reason?" I asked.

"That she must have been doing something really bad to be mixed up with people like Mayers. She did not get killed because of what Johnny did; she got killed because of what she was involved in. One way or another, it would have come to a head one day. All Johnny did, if he did anything, was speed the process up," Joseph informed me.

"Very observant," I commented. "I gather Johnny didn't agree."

"No, he wants to wallow in a pit of self-pity," Joseph responded, with something of a sarcastic tone. "It's almost as if he wants to feel bad about himself."

"So, that's why you are going home early?" I said.

"Yes, if I had stayed around much longer, I would probably have hit him," he replied. "Might have been better if I had, but I think that it would have caused more problems long-term."

"I've no doubt it would," I agreed.

I got Joseph to Chelmsford station, got him a ticket and saw him off to the platform to get his train, then texted Bernard to let him know which train his son was on.

When I got back to the Priory, Anne was in the kitchen preparing dinner.

"You need to speak with Johnny," she informed me.


"He's moping around as if the end of the world had come and he has lost his favourite puppy in it," she commented.

"I don't think he has a favourite puppy; in fact, I don't think he's ever had a dog," I replied. "Maybe we should get one."

The timing of that suggestion was terrible, she was just wiping up a spill with some kitchen towel. Bundling it up into a tight wad, she threw it at me with remarkable accuracy. I keep forgetting she was captain of her school rounders team.

"Where is he?" I asked.

"In the library," Anne advised me.

Passing the fridge on the way out of the kitchen, I grabbed a couple of bottles of Grolsch. I had a feeling we would probably both need something to drink. Johnny was in the library, as Anne had indicated, leafing through some magazines.

"Right," I said, placing the bottle of Grolsch on the table in front of him as I popped the top off mine and took the seat opposite him. "Going to tell me all about it?"

"Tell you about what?" Johnny asked. He picked up the bottle of Grolsch, popped the top and started to drink it straight out of the bottle. I realised I would have to do the same; I had forgotten to bring glasses.

"Well, for a start, the problem that appears to have arisen between Joseph and you. And don't tell me there is no problem as it is clear as daylight that there is."

Johnny looked at me.

"I killed her," he stated. There was a flatness to his voice, a total lack of emotion.

"No, you didn't," I answered. "I don't know what Beryl was involved in, but she was involved in something, and it was something nasty. What killed her was her involvement in whatever it was, not something you did."

"But I made it public," he replied.

"That may have brought events forward," I stated. "In the end, though, she would have been killed. The type of people who killed your mother are the type of people who kill whoever is no longer of use to them so that they can't tell anyone anything. Sooner or later, she would have ceased to be useful; then her end would be inevitable. All you did was bring that day forward.

"Johnny, you can regret what you have done, but you can't let it rule your life. Maybe you made a mistake; maybe you did things the wrong way. We all do, at times. Sometimes the consequences are not to our liking. Bad luck. There is nothing you can do about it. What's done is done. All you can do now is go forward. You have your own life to live, and you need to do the best you can with that. So, get on and live it. Don't sit around moping, wanting to change things you cannot change. What's done is done.

"The first thing you need to do is get on the phone and call Joseph. Sort things out with him. That is a whole lot more important than whether or not what you did was right."

"I've fucked up, haven't I?" he said.

"We all do at times, Johnny; all you can do is move on and make the most of life."

He looked across the table at me. There was a look of emptiness about him, a void that needed to be filled. I got up and walked round to him, sat on the arm of the armchair and put my arm across his shoulder. He turned into me and hugged me. At first, he was sobbing, then crying.

After a while, he stopped but still hung onto me.

"You know, Dad, I thought I hated her. Now, I don't know. I just wanted to stop her doing whatever she was doing. I wanted to hurt her as she had hurt me over the years. I wanted …" He was silent for a bit. "I'm not sure what I wanted, but I did not want this."

"None of us did, son. The thing is, something was going on that none of us knew about. Whatever it was, it was that which killed your mother, not you.

"Now go and phone Joseph."

Johnny got up and started to make his way from the library.


He turned to look back at me. "What, Dad?"

"Take your beer with you." He looked down at the bottle on the coffee table, smiled, then stepped back to the table to pick it up. I was glad to see that smile.

It would have been nice to say that by Monday morning, the general feeling of malaise that had hung over the house had dissipated. That was incorrect. The only different thing was the fact that we had things to do. Anne and Johnny had to go into college to sort out their classes for the new year. I had to go into Town to do a recording. It was only when I was on the train going in that I realised I had double-booked myself for Tuesday. I was supposed to be doing a greenscreen shoot with Martin Shelt, but I had invited Zach to have dinner with us. It would be questionable if I would be home in time for dinner. I did need Lee to start to organise my diary, amongst other things.

I phoned Martin and asked how long he thought the shoot might take. It turned out I need not have worried; they only had use of the facilities until midday, so I would be home early afternoon. The studio was only an hour's drive from Dunford. That clarified, he said something that surprised me.

"Are you sure you want to keep doing the series?" Martin asked.

"Yes, why not?" I replied.

"Well, with this trouble around the woman who was shot and your son, not to mention your brother and his partner, I thought you might want to pull out," Martin said. There was something in his voice that suggested he would be quite glad if I did.

"No," I replied. "I am quite enjoying it." I could almost hear the sub-vocalised swear word in Martin's thoughts.

Martin hung off after saying he would see me tomorrow. I thought about what had happened for a bit, then phoned Irene. She was my agent after all and should know what was going on. I told her about my conversation with Martin Shelt.

"Sounds as if they would like you to pull out," Irene answered. "Whatever you do, don't. We have a cast-iron contract with them, and if they want to dump you, they are going to have to pay to do it."

"Isn't there a clause in it about them being allowed to terminate my contract if my public conduct is not acceptable or something?"

"Yes, it's the immorality-and-indecency clause," Irene informed me. "It's fairly standard in all broadcast contracts. Also covers unacceptable behaviour, though no one has been able to define precisely what that is.

"They can't use that, though, as it has to be your action that causes the breach of the clause, not that of somebody close to you. Leave things with me, and I'll do a bit of digging. There may be more going on than we know."

I got to Broadcasting House just after ten and was met by Chris, who then took me across London in a taxi to the studio where the recording was to take place. I actually recorded three different pieces that morning, which took the better part of two hours. As usual, I had switched my phone off while I was in the studio. When I got out, I switched it back on, to be greeted with a cacophony of bleeps telling me I had messages.

I popped into a nearby café and ordered a toasted sandwich and a pot of tea, then sat at a table and scanned my messages. There was one from Steve Weber asking for a meeting. As he had not gone live yet with Phil's interview, in keeping with his promise, I sent him a text back saying, yes, I would meet, but it might be difficult to arrange in the next couple of days as I was reasonably busy, being in Town both days.

Both Ben and Phil and messaged me. Ben wanted to know how Johnny was doing; I sent him a short reply. Phil was asking if I knew what Beryl's funeral arrangements were. I must admit her funeral had never entered my mind, but I realised that, as her closest relative, Johnny would probably be responsible for it. I sent back a text telling Phil that I had no idea. He quickly replied, saying that Stan and Flora wanted to know, and could I try to find out for them? I replied that I would.

There was a text from Bernard saying he knew I was in Town and could I call in to see him when I was free? He would be in his office all day. I called his office and spoke to the receptionist, asking her to let Bernard know I would be there in about an hour. It was gone two, and I had only had a light breakfast some seven hours before. I was determined to finish my sandwich and tea before I went dashing off across London.

It was twenty past three when I got to Bernard's office. When I arrived, the receptionist indicated I was to go straight through. Bernard was at his desk with a pile of papers in front of him; Martin was there, also.

"I'll leave you two," Martin said as I entered. "Do you want tea sent in?"

"No, you don't," Bernard stated. "You'd better stay for this, as I have no doubt you will end up having to handle most of this mess while I am in the hospital. Tea though sounds like a good idea."

Martin picked up the phone and ordered some refreshments to be brought through to us. I took the chair across the desk from Bernard.

"You're sitting down. Good," Bernard stated. "You might need to be."

"Why?" I asked.

"Because you are the father of a very rich young man," Bernard informed me.

"We knew that," I stated. "Ben and Phil set that up."

"What they set up is chicken feed compared to what he's going to get from Beryl," Bernard stated.


"Look, Mike," Bernard directed, "most of the properties that Ben and Phil put in the trust for Johnny are mortgaged. The actual asset value of the trust is relatively low, not more than a couple of million. Alright, when all the mortgages are paid off, it will be worth a lot more—probably ten to twelve million.

"What Beryl has left Johnny is going to run into the hundreds of millions," Bernard stated.

"How could she acquire that sort of money?" I asked.

"At the moment I have no idea," Bernard replied. "One thing I can be certain of is that it was not legal, which sets up the first problem?"

"What's that?" I asked.

"To make sure that Johnny gets it and it is not seized under Proceeds of Crime Act."

"Could that happen?" I asked. Bernard looked towards Martin, who was seated at the end of the desk.

"In theory, yes," Martin stated. "Though, as it looks as if a lot of the assets involved are overseas, it might be a bit difficult for the authorities to get their hands on them."

"So, what is involved?" I asked.

"Well, for a start, there is a ten-million-pound, ten-year fixed-term life policy on Beryl," Bernard informed me. "I was taken out when Johnny first started boarding school at age eight. By the look of things, it was intended to cover his school fees, living expenses and pay off the house mortgage if anything happened to Beryl. The insurance company are not going to be too happy with things; it only had eighteen months left to run on it. Worse still for them, there is a double-payout clause in case of accidental or violent death."

"And Johnny gets that?" I asked.

"Yes, he is named as the sole beneficiary of the policy. It will be in trust until he is eighteen."

"Who are the trustees?" I enquired.

"His grandparents," Bernard replied.

"What else is there?" I asked.

"Well, it seems he owns the house in Islington," Martin informed me.

"Beryl put the property into a trust when she paid off the mortgage," he said. "The beneficiary of the trust is Johnny."

"Who are the trustees?" I enquired yet again.

"Now, that is a problem," Bernard stated. "Beryl and Andrew Mayers."

"So, what happens?"

"We have to go to court and get new trustees appointed. Fortunately, this is one area where we do not have to worry about POCA. We can clearly show that the deposit for the house came from your father when you and Beryl married. We can also show that the mortgage was paid from her personal current account. It appears that the only income going into that account was her fees as a barrister. So, the Proceeds of Crime Act will not come into play."

"Where does it come into play?" I asked.

"With these," Bernard said, holding up a stack of papers.

"What are they?"

"These are allocated certificates for a deposit for gold bullion," Bernard stated. "It appears that in the last ten years, Beryl has accumulated some seven hundred bars of gold."

"How?" I asked.

"That's the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question, isn't it?" Bernard replied. "There is no way she could have covered that from legitimate earnings at the bar."

"Then there are the properties," Martin added.

"I know about the villa in France, but what others are there?" I enquired.

"The villa in France is not a problem," Bernard informed me. "She bought that a year after your divorce at quite a good price. It seems she made a deal with the family that lived there that they could stay on as caretakers, so she got it at a much-reduced price. We can show that the deposit came from her earnings as a barrister; the mortgage payments have been covered by the rents she received letting it out during holidays.

"She has done quite well on the place. It is now worth about ten times what she paid for it, though she has spent a lot on improvements.

"No, the French villa is not a problem. The hotels in Marbella, Magaluf, Port Cristo and Fuerteventura are. It seems Beryl is listed as the owner of each and every one of them, but there is no sign of where the money came to pay for their purchase — or construction in two cases."

"So, what is going to happen?" I asked.

"In this, I am — or more correctly, Martin is — acting for Johnny," Bernard informed me. "We will do everything we can to make sure that he gets as much of the estate as we can manage, but I suspect we are going to lose some of it under POCA. Will just have to see what comes out in the wash. Also, how much the police know."

"How does that affect things?"

"Mike, this is one of those areas where client privilege comes into play. If they come asking specific questions about the estate, I have to answer them. However, a general trawling question I do not have to answer."

"I'm surprised she left the gold-deposit certificates if she was fleeing the country," I stated.

"She had no choice, though she did not send them to me. They were in a safe-deposit box. There was an envelope in the package she couriered to me that stated it was only to be opened in case of her death. When I heard of the death, I opened it. It gave me the necessary information to access the safe-deposit box. Martin and I went there this morning and got access. The certificates were in there, along with the property deeds."

"What was she up to?" I asked.

"I've got no idea?" replied Bernard. "I suspect we may never know, but she was up to something.

"Now, you need to let Johnny know he is now a wealthy young man. The only question at the moment is how rich?"

I asked Bernard if he had any idea about the funeral arrangements.

"There is nothing in the papers I have, but I am meeting her solicitor tomorrow. Maybe she will know something. In the meantime, there is no rush. For a start, there will have to be a full autopsy to establish the cause of death. That will take a few days for the results of the lab tests to get back. Then everything will have to go to the coroner. He may release the body before an inquest is opened, but I doubt it. With Christmas coming up and everything closing down, I can't see getting an inquest opened until the New Year. Then it will be adjourned for police investigations. Hopefully, the coroner will release the body then."

"I hope so," I stated. "Stan and Flora want it for closure."

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