Ben and Trevor arrived back shortly after three. I made some tea and coffee for them, then left Ben, Phil and Trevor in the lounge to talk while I started on dinner. Anne had texted to say that she would not be home till late; she was having dinner with her sister. That just left the males to cater for. I threw some potatoes into the oven to bake and put chilli in the slow cooker. Then, I went into the study to try and do some work.
Just after four-thirty Trevor put his head around the door and asked me if I knew where Arthur was. I told him that I thought Arthur was setting up his servers. Trevor said he would go and give him a hand. I mentioned that dinner was at six-thirty and they should not be late. Trevor told me that he would take Arthur down to the Crooked Man for dinner when they were finished as they had a lot to talk about.
All told, the afternoon was reasonably productive. I had spent it going through my maths book, working out what changes I needed to make. All in all, I thought the current structure was fine, but I needed to add a couple of chapters to cover graph theory and Bayes Theorem. When I had originally written the book, neither had been of massive importance outside of specialist fields of mathematics. With the internet and search engines, that had all changed.
The problem was I knew very little about either, so it looked like some heavy reading in the next couple of months. That, of course, is the normal activity for a technical writer, anyway, so no change.
Johnny arrived back shortly after five, shouting through that he was going to shower and change — also that he was starving. I shouted back that dinner would be at six-thirty, then decided that now was a good time to pack up for the afternoon. After checking the chilli and the potatoes, I went through and joined Phil and Ben in the lounge.
"I presume you two will be joining us for dinner?" I stated.
"What is it?" Ben asked.
"Chilli Con Carne with baked potatoes and salad," I replied.
"Any raita?" Phil asked.
"Cucumber and mint," I replied.
"Good, I'm staying; don't know about your brother." I looked to Ben who just smiled and nodded.
"So, what's happening?" I asked. Looking at the pile of papers they had spread on the coffee table.
"Well, we start shooting on the sixteenth of August," Phil replied. "There are eight weeks in the studio, then four on location in the UK. After that, we have another six weeks on location in the Caribbean. With a bit of luck, we should be in post-production by the start of the New Year."
"And Trevor's in it?"
"Yes, of course," Phil replied. "He is the bloody star; the script was written for him."
"It's OK; we have sorted that out; Tyler is in it," Phil responded. "In fact, Trevor made it quite clear that if we did not use Tyler, he would not do it. He feels guilty about the way the industry has treated Tyler. I think he wants to feel as if he is making up for it, at least a bit."
"So, how long are you going to be around?" I asked.
"Well, to be honest, we were going to go back to London this evening, but we are going back in the morning now. We have to take Trevor back, and it seems he has something he needs to sort out with Arthur before he goes." I knew damned well what that something was but just nodded. I was not going to discuss it with my brother and his partner. "Then it is off up to Blackpool for ten days, Trevor included."
"And what is Trevor going to be doing in Blackpool for ten days?" I asked.
"He is only due to be up there for six," Ben stated. "We've booked him on an intensive driving course; turns out he has not passed his test. Passed the theory part but flunked the behind-the-wheel part. It was the Wednesday after everything blew up at Manston, so probably understandable.
"The driving conditions at the Lancaster test centre are a lot easier than any of the London centres. So, it makes sense to put him in for his test up there. We have to be up there to make final arrangements for locations; we are using Blackpool airport for one.
"Which reminds me, Mike, we want to use the exterior of this place the third week in October. Is that OK?"
"That's fine, but why do you want to use this place?"
"The book opens with Ramsey — that's the part Trevor's playing — being caught kissing another boy outside the chapel of his public school," Ben informed me. "That Victorian Gothic wing of yours can easily pass for the chapel from the outside."
"From the outside, yes," I commented. "Definitely not from the inside."
"We're not bothered about the inside; that will all be shot in the studio."
"I just hope the weather holds for you."
"Actually, we would not mind some rain; could save us a lot in water costs," Phil stated. I looked puzzled. "The boys are sheltering from the rain when they are caught," he added. "Anyway, shouldn't you be sorting out dinner while we get this lot cleared away?"
I went through to the kitchen. Just then, Johnny came down the stairs and joined me in the kitchen. How is it that one boy can sound like a herd of elephants?
Johnny helped himself to a cola from the fridge and then sat by the table, chatting with me about his day. It sounded quite interesting, but I could not make heads or tails of half the things he was telling me about. The only thing I did gather was he was enjoying working with Steve. It occurred to me that I needed to have a word with Steve.
Arthur and Trevor came in, Arthur looking a lot happier than he had been earlier. Trevor mentioned that they were just going to clean up before they went out.
"Yes, it’s Youth Club tonight," Johnny stated.
"Oh!" Arthur exclaimed. "Sorry, Johnny, I can't make it. Trevor is taking me to dinner; we have a lot to discuss." Johnny slumped in his seat, looking disappointed. I told him to go and tell his uncles that dinner would be in fifteen minutes.
I heard the front door go just as I was serving up — at least, putting the stuff on the table from which everybody could help themselves. It was reasonably easy to guess it was Arthur and Trevor leaving. They must have used the main staircase to avoid bumping into Johnny in the kitchen as they went.
After dinner, Johnny went up to his room. Ben, Phil and I sat around in the lounge generally chatting about things. By some unspoken agreement, no one mentioned the film or Trevor. Anne arrived back at quarter to nine and used the three of us to unload her car of the shopping. We had just finished when Leni pulled up in the car to pick Ben and Phil up. They told me they would see me in the morning.
I was not in the mood to do any more writing, and a day's shopping shattered Anne, so we decided to make an early night of it.
The new curtains we had got were far more effective than I thought. I woke just after eight; there was no sunlight streaming into the room. In fact, the room was in near-total darkness. I had to switch on my bedside lamp to see anything. Anne rolled over next to me and murmured something. I told her to go back to sleep. I would sort breakfast out once I had showered and dressed. As a result, it was half eight before I got down to the kitchen. Johnny was just finishing off his breakfast. He had to be at the yard at nine, so he needed to get a move on.
Johnny had already made a jug of coffee, so I poured one for Anne and took it up to her. As I came back down, Johnny was leaving. He told me he was only down to do a half day but would probably stay the full day. I asked if he had some sandwiches for lunch. He shook his head and told me that he had got up late so had not had time to make any. I slipped him a fiver to get something, then set about making some toast for myself. I’d sort Anne something out when she came down.
It was rather a surprise whilst I was eating my toast when the back door opened. Arthur and Trevor walked in. By the looks of them, they had been on a run, a fact that they confirmed when I asked them.
"We invited Johnny to join us," Arthur said, "but he said he had to get to the yard."
That was true. What puzzled me was why Johnny had not said they had gone out for a run.
They went to their rooms to get washed and changed. Arthur joined me back in the kitchen about fifteen minutes later. I asked what he wanted for breakfast; he said just a coffee would do. When I told him he should get something more that, especially given the exercise he had just done, he told me that they had run down into Dunford and had a bite to eat before running back.
Trevor came down about ten minutes later carrying his bag. Phil and Ben were due to pick him up at ten; it was now just gone nine-thirty. He also opted for a coffee, though he also went for a slice of toast. Trevor thanked me for allowing him to come up and stay, saying it had been a big help. Then he asked for another slice of toast.
He was just about halfway through his second slice of toast when the doorbell went. Trevor answered it, as I was trying to do some washing up. It was Phil and Ben. They came in and apologised that they could not stay, there were reports of traffic delays due to an accident, and they had to be in Town by one. Trevor stuffed the last of the toast into his face, grabbed his bag and hugged Arthur. As he was leaving, he asked me to thank Johnny for everything. I was not sure what everything was.
Arthur set off on his bike to visit customers and get their transceivers aligned with the new base station. He had got the full system online two days earlier with a bit of help from Trevor. I offered him the use of the Santa Fe, but he told me that it would probably be quicker on the bike. He had a point; on the bike, he could go down tracks that were not suitable for the Santa Fe.
Anne came down just before ten and complained that I should have woken her when I took the tray of coffee and toast into her. I thought I had, but she must have gone asleep again as the tray now bore a rather cold coffee and soggy toast. I made her some fresh. She had just finished them when Matt arrived to go over the plans.
The three of us sat around the kitchen table as Matt went over the drawings with us. He explained the changes he wanted to make and why. In general, both Anne and I agreed with him. There were a couple I was not too keen on, but when he explained the reasons for the changes, I could see they made sense and agreed to them.
We then went over the schedule. It turned out that Arthur's flat/office was effectively ready. All they had to do was a rewiring, installation of internal stairs and restoration of the external stairs for fire safety. He could occupy it, although it would not be decorated. Arthur had said he would take that on himself.
Matt did ask about the other end of the Stable House first floor. It could now be accessed by the same stairs that accessed Arthur's flat. Apparently, there was a large open space there. I told Matt that, at the moment, I had no plans for it and that we would probably use it for storage.
The two apartments would be ready in about three weeks. Once they were done, Anne, Johnny and I would move in over there, and they would begin work on the main house. Matt thought that it would take about three months to finish, but it would depend a lot on factors outside his control. I asked like what?
"Local conservation officer," Matt replied. "They have to sign off on each stage of work. We can sometimes be sitting around for three or four days before they deem to turn up and do something."
"Can't you just move on to the next stage of work? They would already have approved it.”
"Oh, we could," Matt replied. "The problem is that if they don't like what you have done with the earlier work, you can find yourself having to rip it all out and starting again."
Anne had some questions about the kitchen. Something about the design was not quite to her liking. She and Matt spent a good hour talking about things, after which Matt made some changes to the design, which appeared to meet Anne's approval.
Once Anne and Matt had finished discussing kitchens, we went over the whole set of drawings again and finalised the design. Matt left. Anne asked me what I fancied for lunch. I suggested going down into Dunford and getting something and doing some shopping. So, we used Anne's car and went down into Dunford.
There are some things which are good ideas, some of which are bad ideas and some which should never be considered. Going into Dunford for lunch on a Saturday in June is one which should never be considered.
I suspect that the population of Dunford itself cannot be more than a few thousand. Even with the population of the surrounding farms and hamlets, I think you would be hard to push more than five thousand. The thing that kept Dunford going was its harbour and the associated boating population. The harbour, the adjoining marina and the marina at the yacht club, plus a few independent moorings could nearly double the town's population on a busy weekend. This was a busy weekend. When we did eventually find somewhere to park the car, the distance we had to walk back to get into the central part of town was such that we would have been nearly as well off to walk in from the Priory. More annoyingly, all the eating establishments were full, and it proved difficult to get a table. We had just looked into the fourth or fifth place on the front when somebody called "Mr. Carlton, Mrs. Carlton, won't you join me?"
I turned in the direction of the voice and saw Miss Jenkins. She was sitting alone at a table in the corner. We went over to join her.
"Are you sure we won't be intruding?" I asked.
"Not at all, I rather think you will be helpful."
We took our seats, and I asked, "How's that?"
"Well, I have been sitting here for half an hour making out like I am waiting for someone. Now someone has arrived."
"So, what brings you here?" I asked.
"Mr. Henderson," she replied, looking past me through the window to one of the tables on the terrace. There was a man in his late sixties taking tea with three elderly ladies. "Peter Henderson prefers to be known as Brother Peter. He meets the three Holloway sisters whenever they come into town. At the moment, he is telling them of the need of the Church's mission in Africa and the poor children in Kampala that they need to save." I looked again at the man as he spread the cream on his scone and wondered how Miss Jenkins knew what they were talking about; then, I noticed the hearing aid in her left ear. She had not been wearing one at Manston and had no problems hearing then.
"Now, that is interesting," Miss Jenkins stated.
"How come?" I asked.
"Well, according to what we've found out, the Hendersons moved up here from Cornwall in the nineteen seventies. Their west-country accent is so thick they could not claim Dorset or Somerset. But he clearly is not Cornish."
"How do you know that?" Anne asked.
"He put the cream on his scone first, then the jam. That is the Devon way. No Cornishman would do it like that. They always put the jam on first, then the cream. It is a source of national pride to the Cornish.
"I think I will get the boys to sail round to Exmouth and see what they can find out."
"The boys?" I asked. She nodded in the direction of a large yacht moored in the harbour. It was flying the French Tricolour. On its stern was the name, Tante Edith, and the port of origin, Le Havre.
Just then, Peter Henderson stood up, nodded to the ladies at the table on the terrace, and departed in the direction of the yacht club. Miss Jenkins opened her handbag, pulled out a small metal object, which she pushed a button on. She then returned it to her bag, adding the hearing aid she had been wearing.
"You are not going to follow him?" I asked.
"Oh no, he has a table booked for lunch at the yacht club. My nephew is there now having lunch at the table next to the one he has reserved. Now I think I better get some lunch," she stated, with a somewhat satisfied expression on her face.
We chatted with Miss Jenkins over the lunch, but she avoided telling us more about what was happening with Brother Henderson and the Tante Edith. Both Anne and I had crab salad — a bit of a disappointment. We finished our meal and said goodbye to Miss Jenkins, then went off to walk around town and do a bit of shopping. Not that we needed anything, but it was a beautiful day, and a bit of a stroll would do us both good.
O o O o O
The following week was tranquil for a change. Johnny was busy at the yard most days. When he was not, he was out with Arthur, helping to get the transceivers re-aligned. From what I heard, that job was going quite well and the customers were delighted by the higher quality service.”
The workmen started on the apartments. As most of the work they were doing was internal, we saw very little of them. Actually, there was so little sign of them that I strolled over to the outbuildings a couple of times just to see what was going on. I was quite impressed with the progress that had been accomplished.
Friday afternoon, Bernard rang me to say he needed me to go to his office in Town to sign some papers. I arranged to go up to London on the following Tuesday, then made an appointment to see Bob the same day. Although I had not asked what the papers were about, I presumed they were for the trust.
Johnny came in just after five on Friday to inform us that Trevor had texted him that he had passed his driving test. The text had come in as he was cycling home; Johnny had only just read it after he got off his bike. As he was telling us this, his phone beeped again.
"Shit!" he stated, reading the text.
"What?" I asked.
"He's just gone and ordered a Mazda MX-5."
"Well, I hope he can afford the insurance," was my only comment.
That evening, Johnny came into my study and asked me if it was OK if he got a moped. I was not too keen on the idea but had to admit it would give him more mobility. We discussed it for a bit, then I told him that he’d better sort out a provisional licence and his compulsory basic training. Once he had those sorted, we could do something about a moped.
Friday evening, Arthur asked for a meeting with me as he wanted to update the cash-flow forecast. We spent just over an hour going over things. He had picked up all eight of his old network-support clients, which resulted in nearly another two grand a month in income. More importantly, he had agreed to take on general IT support for three of them at a charge rate of fifty pounds an hour. Based on the new figures, the business could easily pay Arthur the basic wage for forty hours a week. The thing that concerned Arthur, though, was: could he get a van?
"Shit!" I exclaimed. "I knew there was something I needed to do."
Arthur looked at me, puzzled.
"Sorry, Arthur. You mentioned transport when we did the spreadsheet last week. I meant to have a word with a couple of people I know to see if I could find a cheap van for you. I forgot all about it. I'll see what I can sort out in the morning."
I spent Sunday morning phoning round some of my contacts and eventually found a suitable van at a price which I thought the business could afford. The company could afford the van, but the insurance was another question. I could not sort that out till the Monday when I spoke to my brokers. It ended up with me buying the van for the Priory but having it covered so it could be rented by businesses that would be running out of the outbuildings when we got round to letting them. Technically, Arthur's company was a tenant, so he could rent the van. At least it got him mobile, even if it was a fudge.
Tuesday saw me in London. As I had suspected, the papers that Bernard needed me to sign were all related to the trust. Ben and Phil had signed the actual trust deeds the week before. This was my agreement to being a trustee. I also signed the papers to get bank accounts. I do not know what else was set up for the trust; I just signed what Bernard put in front of me.
Bernard also informed me that there was a plea and directions hearing for Ian the following week at the Crown Court. I expressed my concern that the case was being heard in the Crown Court.
"I agree, Mike," Bernard said. "The problem is the prosecution are pushing this attempted-murder charge. That is a serious charge and, as such, can be referred to the Crown Court, which is what the magistrate did in this case. I will be asking that it be referred back to the Youth Justice Court, that though is unlikely to happen. Judges do not like to give up cases once they are in front of them.
"I'm not sure the prosecution understands the case. Their attitude seems to be we have a hardened thug on trial and are going to send him down. They are not happy about Ian being on bail, and I suspect they will try to oppose further bail. We have requested a private hearing so that the public will be excluded. We can do that when minors appear in the County Court. The judges do not have to agree to it, but nine times out of ten, they will."
"If it is a private hearing, will I be able to attend?"
"Of course; in fact, you must attend. You are standing bail for Ian. If the prosecution carries on the way they are, there is always a chance that the judge might want an increase in surety for the bail."
"As long as it does not go too high."
"Don't worry," Bernard assured me. "Ben and Phil have promised me they will cover any increase in bail."
I invited Bernard to join me for lunch and was somewhat surprised when he turned me down. Turned out Debora and he were meeting Micha's girlfriend's parents for lunch. I began to get the hint of wedding bells, though Bernard assured me there would be no wedding till the pair graduated. They did not start at university till October, so that was at least three years off.
Leaving Bernard's office, I had a couple of hours to kill before I was due to meet Bob at his office. For a couple of minutes, I thought about going to the British Library but decided against it. Most of the stuff I would be interested in would have to be called up from the stacks, probably from Boston Spa, so there was no chance of getting it in the time I had. So, I made my way to Covent Garden and got a pint and a sandwich at the Punch and Judy, then went out on the balcony and watched the buskers.
Even with that interlude, I was still early getting to Bob's office and had to sit around in his reception. He was out. To make matters worse, his receptionist came over to inform me that he was delayed. He arrived about half an hour after our appointment, somewhat flustered and out of breath. There were dark rings under his eyes, and his suit looked as if he had slept in it.
"Sorry, Mike," he stated as he came into the reception area. "Things are going to pot. Come through to the office. Janice, can you send in some tea and coffee, please?" The receptionist picked up the phone and started to pass on the order. I followed Bob into his office.
"What's up?" I asked. "You look like shit."
"I feel like it, as well," Bob replied.
"So, what's going on?" I asked.
"Susan has asked for a divorce."
"Susan has asked me for a divorce. I moved out end of last week," Bob informed me. "Staying in a service flat by Marble Arch."
"Fuck, what brought this on?" I enquired.
"Trevor. To be more exact, the situation around Trevor," Bob replied. "Susan said if I had been around for him, the abuse would not have happened."
"You can't know that," I observed. "All right, you were not around as much as you probably should have been, but you were trying to save this place."
"Which was probably a waste of time," Bob commented.
"Martha Hartmann has decided to sell up," he informed me.
"When the fuck did this happen?"
"Friday. She called me Friday afternoon and offered me first dibs on her shares. Sixty-five percent of the business for ten million pounds."
"But why? I thought you were doing OK."
"We are, Mike, which is probably why she will have no problem selling.
"She went in for her regular brain scan last week. Since her stroke, she has had one done every six months. They found a tumour. Given that it was not there six months ago, and it now measures some five centimetres, they reckon it is highly aggressive. Though, even if it is benign, it is still going to kill her. They've given her six to eighteen months.
"She wants to sell up and liquidate all her assets so that there is just cash in the estate."
"Can't the doctors do something?" I asked.
"It's inoperable," Bob informed me.
"How much of the company do you own?" I enquired.
"Twenty-eight percent," Bob replied. "I got ten percent, for agreeing to take over the day-to-day running of the business when Martha was taken ill. I've been getting three percent per year as part of my bonus package. Had the chance to buy more but did not take it up. Should have."
"So, what is going to happen?" I asked.
"At the moment, I don't know," Bob replied. "Spent the morning with Zachary Mayer and some lawyers.
"Martha owns sixty-five percent of the company. I own twenty-eight percent. The other seven percent is split between Martha's daughters, who hold five percent between them, and staff or ex-staff who hold two percent. If Martha sells, then her daughters will sell. Neither of them has any interest in the business. That will give whoever buys it seventy percent. Under the articles, that is enough to force the other shareholders to sell."
"How much will you make if you do have to sell?" I asked.
"Just over four million," Bob replied. "Though I will be hit hard by capital-gains tax. I will still walk away with about three million. Of course, Susan will get half of that."
"No chance you could buy Martha's holding?" I enquired.
"Thin one," Bob responded. "Zach is looking into options. I can probably raise about two million. If it hadn't been for the divorce, I could have made it four. He is looking to see if he can put together a consortium of other investors to put up the additional eight million.
"The problem is that Martha wants a quick answer, and putting a deal like this together takes time. Something we do not have much of."
I was a bit surprised that Bob could raise two million in cash quickly. I knew he was well off but did not realise he was doing that well. My surprise must have shown on my face. Bob informed me that when his father died, they had used the money from the estate to buy some buy-to-let properties. With the housing boom, those properties were worth thirty to forty times more than what they paid for them. He and Susan probably owned just over five million in buy-to-let properties, so getting a buy-to-let mortgage on them was not a problem. Of course, half the properties would go to Susan, which was why he could only raise two million.
We chatted a bit more about the situation, mostly about the divorce. It turned out that the divorce looked like being reasonably amicable. At least as amicable as any divorce could be. Susan was to get the London house. Bob was to get their place down in Dorset. It had been his parents', and Susan had never really liked the place, though Bob loved it.
Once we had discussed the divorce, we got onto talking about my writing. I told Bob I was preparing a second edition of the maths book, which pleased him. I also gave him an outline of the metrological book, which did not please him, but he was prepared to run with it.
As we were finishing off our meeting, I asked Bob how Trevor was taking the news of his parents' divorce.
"He doesn't know yet," Bob informed me.
The news that Trevor had not been told of his parents' separation and impending divorce worried me. I was certain that the boy was still somewhat fragile emotionally. It also put me in an awkward position. Trevor had phoned a couple of times in the previous weeks, supposedly to speak with Arthur or Johnny; usually, he ended up having quite long chats with me. I strongly suspected that I was the main reason for his call; if he had wanted to speak to Arthur or Johnny, he could have called them directly on their mobiles.
The problem that was going through my mind as I walked back to Liverpool Street Station was: should I tell him or not? It had become clear to me that Trevor trusted me and tended to confide in me, at least about some things. What I did not want to do was take any course of action that might jeopardise that trust. That included lying to him by omission, which I would be doing if I did not tell him about his parents' divorce the next time I spoke to him. There was, though, a difficulty. Bob had confided in me about the divorce and had made it clear that they had not told Trevor. If I said anything to Trevor, I would be breaching that confidence.
By the time I had got to Liverpool Street, I had made up my mind to dump the whole problem in somebody else's lap — namely, my brother's. After all, he is trained to deal with these sorts of issues, which I am not. Anyway, he was up in Lancashire with Trevor and could deal with things on the spot. Far better than me trying to do it over the phone and not knowing where Trevor is or what he might do.
I grabbed a copy of the Evening Standard from the vendor outside of the station. Fortunately, I did not have to wait long to get my train. It was boarding as I got to the platform. Once seated, I got out my mobile and phoned my brother.
"I don't know if you know or not," I told my brother, "Bob and Susan are divorcing."
"Shit," my brother replied. "Does Trevor know? He has not said anything."
"No, he does not, according to Bob," I replied. "Is he there with you?"
"No, Phil's taken him down to the airport. He has a flying lesson."
"I don't recall any flying in the book," I commented.
"There's not. We've got a couple of free days, and Phil thought it would be a good way to fill in some time and distract him."
"Is that all?" I asked.
"No. Look, Mike, this is very confidential at the moment. We've got an option on a book that is due to come out later this year. It is about the members of the University Flying Club and the role they played in the Battle of Britain. Phil wants to make it his next film. If we can sew up the rights, then Trevor would be ideal for the lead."
"So, you are planning on using Trevor despite the problems?" I enquired.
"Of course, we are. I know Trevor has emotional problems over what happened to him. It's not surprising. The thing is, half the stars in this business have one hang-up or another and need tender, loving care. Most of the other half are sozzled most of the time to deal with their hang-ups, even though they don't admit to them. If we weren't handling Trevor, we would be handling some other star.
"Anyway, he is a nice kid and a great actor, which makes it worthwhile."
With that sentiment, I had to agree. Just then, the train started to pull out of the station, and I knew I would lose reception, so I finished the call, sat back and started to read the paper.
The train was nearly at Southminster when I turned to the entertainments page. There it was. No major headline, thank God, but up towards the top of the page: Teenage Star's Parents to Split. Well at least one problem was solved, neither Ben nor I had to worry about telling Trevor.
The moment I got off the train, I phoned Ben to let him know. He was not pleased.
"I’d better go and tell him."
"I should," I concurred. "It is going to be tabloid headlines in the morning."
"This is all we bloody need. He has a publicity photo shoot in the morning, Tyler is arriving this evening; then Trevor was going home."
"Yes, but where is home for him now?"
"That, brother, is a damned good question." With that, Ben rang off.
Once I managed to remember where I had parked the car, I drove back to the Priory. Anne was preparing dinner when I arrived. She took one look at me and asked me what was wrong. I put the paper on the table and pointed to the article.
"I'm not surprised," Anne informed me.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, their marriage has been on the rocks for some years now. To be honest, I've never understood why they were still together," Anne stated.
"You clearly know a lot more than me. When did you find all this out?"
"Oh, I don't know. It was a few years ago. We went to an awards ceremony, and Bob got blotto." I remembered. It was four years ago; I had written a book on thermodynamics. The book was a total flop, which no doubt was why it had been nominated for a prize by some group promoting the public understanding of science. I mentioned the ceremony to Anne.
"Yes, that's the one," she stated. "And that book wasn't a flop; it's gone into reprint."
"Yes," I replied. "After six years. Anyway, it did not win; it was not even placed."
"But it got onto the short list," Anne pointed out.
"Must have been a bad year for science books," I observed. "Anyway, what has all this to do with Bob and Susan?"
"If you remember Bob got rather drunk at the reception," Anne stated. I nodded. "He also spent quite a bit of time with a tall redhead." That I did not recall.
"What about it?"
"Well, I was sitting with Susan, and she noticed. Her comment was 'not again'. It turned out Bob had had an affair with the redhead a couple of years before and had sworn to Susan it was all over."
Suddenly a lot of little pieces fell into place. The redhead was Sandra Hartmann, Martha Hartmann's daughter.
"You don't think it's started up again?" I asked.
"Doubt it. Last I heard from Susan was that the bitch was in the States, on husband number three. Wouldn't be surprised, though, if Bob has not found another bit of skirt. Once men like that get a taste for roaming, they tend to do it over and over again.
"How's Trevor taking it? Any idea?" she asked.
"None," I stated, "though I have warned Ben. He's up in Blackpool with Phil and Ben until tomorrow."
"I’d better get some more food in then," Anne said.
"I've got no doubt he will be turning up here. Where else is he going to go?”
I must admit that was a valid question, though it was certainly one I did not want to answer.
Wednesday morning was an early start. I was taking Johnny up to Lowestoft to look at the International Boat Building College. It was impressive, and it was clear that the courses they were offering would suit Johnny down to the ground. There was, though, one problem; he really could not start there until he was eighteen, and that was two years away.
The drive back was not pleasant. Johnny was quite sullen. Though I could not blame him, he had set his heart on starting in September, then was turned around and told he had to wait two years.
We had just passed Chelmsford when he asked the question which I had been waiting for.
"Dad, if I am not going to learn boatbuilding, what am I going to do for the next two years?"
"I suggest you look at some of the local colleges and find some part-time courses that fit with what you want to do," I answered.
"Like what?" he asked.
"Woodworking, CAD, you could even do a couple of A-levels part time."
"I don't want to go to university," he snapped.
"I understand that, Johnny. I'm not suggesting you do A-levels for university entrance. They are something that is useful to have, though, and you do not know when you will need them in the future."
We continued to discuss options for the last half hour of the drive. By the time we approached the Priory, Johnny seemed a lot happier with his prospects. As we pulled into the driveway, there was a small, red sports car parked at the side of the house.
"That must be Trevor's!" Johnny exclaimed. "What's he doing here?"
I had a reasonably good idea but decided not to comment.
The moment I stopped the car Johnny jumped out and ran in. I took a more sedate approach. First, locking the car, then slowly walking to the back door to let myself into the kitchen. When I entered, Johnny and Trevor were sitting at the table. Anne was just pouring some mugs of coffee.
"Any chance of a tea?" I asked.
"The kettle is just boiling," Anne replied, indicating that I should get on and make it. So, I did.
"I hope you don't mind me coming here?" Trevor said. "I couldn't think of anywhere else to go."
"It's fine," I responded. "We love that you think of us as a place to come to. We’re doing some renovation, though, so I need to know how long you would like to stay?"
"I don't know. I've got no plans till we start filming mid-August," Trevor informed me.
"Well, things might be a bit of a squeeze after the end of the month. We will be moving into the apartments while this place is renovated."
"Oh, I'm sure we can manage," Anne stated. "He can always share with Johnny." I was not sure I was up for that idea. Anne just smiled at me.
Strangely, nobody made any mention of the divorce. Not then, nor through dinner. It was as if we had somehow agreed not to talk about it. In fact, no mention of it was made until late that evening when I was in my study writing. Trevor put his head around the door and asked, "Can we talk?"
"Of course, we can," I replied. Indicating he should take a seat.
"You know about my parents?" he asked.
"Yes, your father told me."
"Yesterday afternoon," I replied.
"Oh," he said, his shoulders dropping.
"What?" I enquired.
"I thought you might have known before and was keeping it from me."
"Trevor, the one problem I had yesterday was working out how to let you know. I spoke to Ben about it but then found the Standard article."
"Thanks. I thought you might have known earlier. You know they decided to separate while they were in France?"
"I did not know, though I'm not surprised."
"Why's that?" Trevor asked.
"From what Anne has told me — we talked last night — it seems they have been having marital problems for some years. I don't know what has brought about this final split, but from what Anne has told me it has nearly happened at least once before."
"I did not know that."
"Neither did I till yesterday," I informed him. "It seems that your mother had talked about her problems with Anne, and Anne kept her confidence until it came out."
"I feel as if it is somehow my fault," Trevor stated.
"On that, I can assure you that it is not. None of this is your fault."
"You say that," Trevor replied. "I know that if I think about it, I agree with you. Somehow though, it just does not feel as if it is not my fault. It feels as if it must be my fault."
I was out of my depth here. There was no way I could deal with the feelings that Trevor was expressing, and, to be honest, I was scared that if I tried to, I could make things worse. This needed a professional, and that I certainly was not. Time to call my brother.
I told Trevor that I thought he needed to talk with somebody who knew what they were doing rather than me.
"Maybe," he replied. "It's just so easy to talk to you. You don't judge, and I do not need to question your motives."
"You question Ben's motives?" I asked.
"At times, yes. I know he is trying to help, but he also has a film to make. Sometimes, I feel he is just trying to get me through making the film."
"Trevor, I know my brother, and I suspect that is not true. Yes, he does have a film to make. Though actually, it is more Phil who has a film to make. Ben's just tagging along to give support. I am certain that Ben would never put getting the film made above your well-being. However, maybe it would be best if we could find someone else for you to talk to. Somebody who has Ben's skills but is not involved in the film."
We talked some more, avoiding the divorce by some unspoken agreement. I told Trevor he was welcome to stay at the Priory as long as he needed to. Also, I assured him once he had started filming, if he wanted to get away, he would be welcome to come back to the Priory.
By the time we had finished talking, it had gone midnight, and I was in no mood to do any more writing. I attached a Post It note to my monitor telling me to phone Ben, then went up to bed.
Thursday morning was bright and sunny, and I felt like shit. I had not been able to get much sleep during the night. Spent most of it tossing and turning, much to Anne's annoyance. Shortly after six, I had given up trying to sleep, so showered, dressed and made my way down to the kitchen. Somewhat to my surprise Johnny was there making what looked like enough sandwiches to feed an army.
"Morning, Dad," he said as I entered the kitchen. "Sorry to say this, but you look as if you have had a bad night."
"I couldn’t sleep."
"Trevor. I am not sure how to deal with him."
"Well, Dad, it's not your problem, is it? It is not like he is your son or that you are responsible for him. He is eighteen; that means he is an adult and can deal with his own shit."
I was not sure I understood where my son was coming from with this argument. Trevor needed help; the question was: Could I give that help? At the moment, I did not think I could. What I did not want to do was get into a discussion about it with my son. Time to change the subject.
"What's with all the sandwiches?" I asked.
"I'm not in the yard today. Steve said I could take the Ladybird out for some practice. Thought I would ask Trevor to come with me. Wanted to make a day of it."
The Ladybird was Steve's dinghy. I knew that Johnny had been out in it a few times before. I was not too happy about him going out in it on his own.
"Are you sure you can handle it on your own?" I asked.
"I'm not that stupid, Dad! Matthew's going out with me."
"And who," I asked, "is Matthew?"
"Steve's cousin. He's a part-time instructor at the Yacht Club. He's agreed to teach me the basics of dinghy racing."
I was not sure if that piece of information made me feel better or worse. At least, he had someone experienced with him.
When she came down, Anne was able to confirm that Matthew was a qualified instructor and was not surprised he had offered to take Johnny out. "Any bloody excuse will get that boy on the water; it's a pity he does not have his own boat."
Trevor, who came down not long after Anne, agreed to a day out on the water. I think he would have agreed to anything just to get somewhere where nobody could contact him. It seems both his parents had tried phoning him and had been bombarding him with texts.
What did surprise me was that there had been no sign of Arthur; also, the van was missing. I knew he had gone out in it last night. Had he been out all night? That question was answered when the van pulled in just after ten and a very tired Arthur got out. I asked him what he had been up to?
"Upgrading Dunford Logistics network. Could only do it when they were closed, which is between midnight and seven a.m. It was closer to nine before I finished, but the last couple of hours was installing new machines; did not need the network down for that.
"Look, Mr. Carlton, I'm beat. I need to grab some sleep. I promised I would email them the invoice today. Could you sort it for me? I've worked out all the figures." He handed me a job sheet with all the needed data entries. I had set up the job-sheet system for him, so it was easier for him to work out what a job cost and what the charge should be. To produce an invoice, all you needed to do was put the final figures into the invoice module of the accounting package. That was something I could do.
I glanced at the job sheet and gasped. The charges on it were enough to cover the total expected income for the business for the month. Then I told Arthur to go and get some rest.
The first thing I did when I got into my study was to open the accounting software for Arthur's business. I then generated the invoice and emailed it to the customer. Afterwards, I phoned Ben and told him about my conversation last night with Trevor.
"I can see where he is coming from," Ben stated. "To be honest, there is a bit of a conflict of interest. I am trying to do what is best for the kid, but I am also part of this film, and that is bound to affect my judgement."
"So, you think he should see somebody else?" I asked.
"Probably. I'll do some asking around and see if I can find someone. Can I have a word with Trevor?"
"Not out the moment, he's gone dinghy-sailing with Johnny.""Fuck! He knows he's not allowed to," Ben exclaimed.