I dashed up the stairs as fast as I could make it and considerably more quickly than was safe. As I got to Joseph's room, I looked in to find Joseph in a ball on the floor sobbing. Johnny was kneeling next to him, holding Joseph's head in his lap. Around them were the torn-up remnants and crumpled balls of all the drawing Joseph had done over the last couple of days.
For a moment, I just stood at the door watching. Johnny looked up. He did not say anything; he just looked at me, his expression demanding that I do something. I went and sat on the other side of Joseph and started to rub his back. We sat there on the floor for a while, not saying anything, just letting Joseph know we were there for him. Slowly the sobbing eased.
"What's up?" I asked. Joseph turned his head to look at me. His eyes were puffy from crying; they also had that look in them of someone who has given up. He just looked at me but didn’t answer.
"Come on, Joseph," I say. "No matter what it is, you can tell me. Aren't I your favourite uncle? One of a favourite uncle's job is to listen to their nephews." Johnny looked across Joseph's head at me, a look of astonishment on his face.
"It's no use," Joseph murmured.
"What's no use?" I asked.
"Thinking I can be an architect; Mam will never let me," he stated.
"Why wouldn't she?" I enquired. I was certain that Debora would much prefer him to be an architect than a barber.
"She told me she wouldn't," Joseph stated. "She said no son of hers was going be building things."
"When did she say that?"
"When she threw my Lego out," Joseph answered.
I vaguely remembered something about that; it was years ago. The only reason I knew about it was that Debora had phoned me up to warn me not to get Joseph any damned Lego for Christmas. It had been my stock present for the previous couple of Christmases. Bernard had told me about it later, but for the life of me, I could not remember the details. It had something to do with Joseph making a mess with the bricks and there being an accident.
"When was that?" Johnny asked.
"My tenth birthday," Joseph sobbed.
"Bitch!" Johnny exclaimed.
"Mike!" Anne called from downstairs.
"Go and tell her what's going on," I said to Johnny. He started to get up, but Joseph hung onto him, saying, "Don't leave me."
"Look," I told him, "one of has to tell your Aunt Anne where we are. I'll go. I'll be back as soon as I can; Johnny will stay with you."
I went downstairs and found Anne in the kitchen. Having explained to her that Joseph was upset, I was surprised by her reaction.
"Good," she stated.
"Mike, the kid's been wound up tighter than a spring for the last couple of weeks. Longer, in fact. He was on edge all the time he was at Manston," she informed me. "Now he's let go. Maybe now he will open up and let us know what the problem is. Go back up and see to him. I'll make some teas and bring them up. Dinner will just have to wait a while."
In the end, dinner had to wait for over an hour.
Eventually, Joseph calmed down enough, and Johnny persuaded him to go and lie down in his room, Joseph's room being in a mess with torn-up and crumpled paper all over it. Once he had got Joseph lying on his bed, Johnny went to get them some drinks, but the moment he went to leave, Joseph caught hold of him. I went down and got them drinks.
Later, I took dinner up to the two of them. Joseph said he was not hungry; Johnny told me that he would make sure Joseph ate something.
Johnny brought the trays down about an hour later.
"He's asleep," he informed us.
"How is he?" Anne asked.
"Upset," Johnny responded. "I think I would be, given what has happened."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Micah is getting everything, able to do what he wants, but they won't let Joseph do what he wants," Johnny replied. "I'm going back up; I don't want him to be on his own when he wakes. He's sleeping in my room tonight."
"Johnny…" I started.
"Dad, he's upset, and he's scared. He needs somebody, and at the moment, that is me." With that, he turned and left the kitchen.
"Well, that told us," Anne observed.
"And you know he is probably right," I acknowledged. "Joseph probably should not be left alone, at least not tonight."
I was up early on Sunday morning. It was one of those mornings when I felt I just had to write, so was down in my study just after five. With a steaming mug of tea at the side of my keyboard, I got down to the job and had completed a couple-thousand words by the time anyone else got up. Surprisingly, it was Johnny, who looked somewhat the worse for wear. I went through to the kitchen to sort some breakfast out for him.
"Rough night?" I enquired.
"Yes, Joseph had a couple of nightmares. He was tossing and turning all night, but he is fast asleep now."
"You could go and get a couple more hours yourself," I stated, looking at the clock, which announced it was just gone eight. "Nobody is going to be doing much before about eleven."
"I've got too much going on in my head at the moment," Johnny informed me. "Things don't make sense."
"What doesn't make sense?" I asked.
"Joseph and his parents," Johnny stated. "I like Uncle Bernard; I just can't see him refusing to let Joseph be what he wants to be, but Joseph says he has."
"Johnny, Bernard is my oldest friend. I have known him since I was born. I can't believe that he would stop Joseph being whatever he wanted to be. He was quite happy to let Joseph be a barber, for God's sake. If he would let Joseph be a barber, I can't see him stopping the boy from being an architect.
"To have an architect in the family, my boy, that is a Jewish momma's wet dream, only beaten by a doctor or a rabbi, and I am not sure about the rabbi."
"What about a lawyer?" Johnny asked.
"Maybe, but as Bernard's father said, 'A lawyer is a boy who has the brains to be a rabbi but does not have the aptitude to put in the study'."
"So, Uncle Bernard's father was disappointed in him being a lawyer," Johnny said.
"I don't think so. In fact, he was as pleased as punch. It was his mother who was disappointed; she wanted a rabbi in the family.”
"That does not get us anywhere," Johnny pointed out. "Joseph is upset because his parents will not let him be an architect. What are you going to do about it?"
"Yes, you're his father's best friend, and Uncle Bernard is coming here in a couple of hours. You have to do something."
Bernard arrived just after eleven. I was somewhat surprised to see Debora with him. I had expected her to stay at the yacht with Micah. It looked as though things might be a bit difficult; I was not sure how to raise the issues Joseph had with Debora around.
In the end, it turned out not to be a problem. She had come over with Bernard just to see if Anne wanted to go shopping in Colchester with her. She was dropping Bernard off, then taking the car. Anne declined the offer as she had already made arrangements for the morning, so Debora went off on her own. Something surprised me; Anne had not said anything about other arrangements. When I asked her, she informed me she was giving Mary a hand at the Crooked Man.
"I thought you had given up bar work," I commented.
"I know, Mike, but it is only a one-off. Mary said on Friday that she was dreading today. One of the boys who works Sunday lunch is the best man at his brother's wedding yesterday, so will not be in all weekend. Unfortunately, two of her other staff are attending the same wedding, and she is doubtful if they will make it in."
"Why is that?" I enquired.
"The wedding's in Glasgow," she stated, in a tone which implied that was sufficient information, a point I had to agree with.
I took Bernard through to the study, sat him down and then poured him a Scotch.
He took the glass and looked at me. "Why do I have the feeling I am going to need this?"
"Because you probably are.” I paused to gather my thoughts. “What the hell are you and Debora playing at, telling Joseph he can't be an architect?"
"What do you mean, Joseph can't be an architect?" Bernard snapped. "I would much prefer him to be an architect than a bloody barber!"
I spent half an hour explaining the events of the previous day, also what Joseph had said to me during the last couple of weeks. Specifically, I spoke about him feeling he was always being measured up against Micah.
"Shit!" was Bernard's response, and he slumped down in his seat. "I knew there were problems but did not realise they were that bad.
"He went out with Johnny this morning," I informed him. "They were going to the yard. Johnny said he would be back about one; not sure about Joseph. I think he wants to avoid you."
"From what you have said, I can understand why," Bernard sighed. "I need to get this sorted out."
"The only thing is I don't see how he can be an architect," Bernard stated. "He's crap at art."
"How do you know?" I asked.
"From his school reports," Bernard replied. "The last one stated he showed no artistic ability at all."
I looked at Bernard for a few moments, unable to say anything, then thought of asking what I would be facing if I killed an art teacher. Probably a knighthood for services to art.
"Have you looked at any of Joseph's drawing?"
"No," Bernard replied.
"Then you should. I think you may be in for a surprise," I stated.
"Does he have the skill to be an architect?" Bernard asked.
"Come and have a look," I suggested. "I don't think the boys have cleared Joseph's room up yet." I led Bernard upstairs and took him along to Joseph's room. The door was still partly open. By the look of it, nobody had been in since last night. I pushed it open for Bernard. Scrunched up balls of paper and torn sheets of paper littered the floor.
Bernard stepped into the room, bent over and picked up one of the balls of paper from the floor. Carefully he opened it up and flattened it out. Then he picked up another ball of paper and did the same and another one after that.
"But these are…" he paused not quite sure what to say.
"They're good. My architect/builder friend, Matt, had a look at them and suggested Joseph should get some specialist tutoring."
"I don't understand it," Bernard replied. "The art teacher told us that Joseph had no artistic flair, unlike Micah. He tried to get Micah to go to UAL, which puzzled me as everything of Micah's I've seen just looked like a splodge of paint smeared across the paper."
"I think that is what they call artistic flair," I responded. The more I heard of this art teacher, the more I considered trying to obtain my knighthood for service to the arts.
"The thing is, Bernard, Joseph does not have a lot of artistic flair in his drawing. What he does have is excellent draughtsmanship and a fine eye for detail."
We started to make our way down to my study.
"So, who is this tutor you mentioned?" he asked.
"Margaret Slater, she lives in St John's Wood.”
"I hope you have got her contact details," Bernard stated. "I'll contact her in the morning. Get something arranged for when he starts back at school."
"Matt's also offered him some work experience in his office."
"Well, he’d better take the chance while he's up here," Bernard responded. "It will give him a chance to get a feel for the work. Suspect it is not all sitting around and drawing things.
"Now I need to find out where he got the idea that we would not let him be an architect."
"He said Debora told him when she threw out his Lego," I said.
"That was five years ago," Bernard responded. "His aunt had given him a pile of Lego for his tenth birthday. Debora walked into the house one day, and there were bricks strewn all over the living room, dining room and hall floor. She went flying when she trod on some and they slipped under her footing.
"I remember her sweeping them all up into a bin bag and throwing them out. Joseph was upset; I ended up buying the dog to cheer him up."
"Joseph said that Debora told him no son of hers was going to build houses.”
"I can't remember," Bernard said. "Though if Joseph can, it's probably correct. Flipping hell, I can see how that might sound to a ten-year-old. He's been brooding on this for ages, I expect."
"On that, I think you are right," I replied.
"Well, we can sort that out as soon as he comes back," Bernard stated. "I'll tell him that if he wants to be an architect, then he can be one. In fact, if he wants to be a house builder, he can be one. Actually, seeing the profits those rip-off merchants are making at the moment, he would probably be better off becoming a house builder."
"How will Debora take that?" I asked.
"She'll be glad to know that we have sorted Joseph's problem," Bernard stated.
"I don't think you have," I informed him.
"I don't think you have sorted Joseph's problem — or more correctly, problems."
"There are more?" he asked. I nodded. "You’d better tell me about them."
So, I told him about the problems Joseph was having at school, continually being compared with what Micah had achieved.
"Is there more?" Bernard asked.
"There is, but you will need to find that out from Joseph," I stated.
"He's gay, isn't he?" Bernard asked.
"I can't answer that."
"I know, but the answer you gave answered my question," he responded.
"Typical lawyer," I quipped.
Just then, Anne came through with a mug of tea for me and a coffee for Bernard. She informed us that she was just about to go down to the Crooked Man to help with the lunchtime service and would be back sometime after two. Not long after she left, Johnny came in. I asked him where Joseph was?
"He's helping Steve with the chandlery; it was a bit busy today. Steve's closing the yard at three, so he should be back about three-thirty or four," Johnny informed me. Somehow, I thought it would more than likely be four before Joseph got back. Johnny turned and walked over to Bernard.
"Well, Uncle Bernard, what are you going to do about Joseph?" he asked.
"For a start, get this idea that we won't allow him to be an architect out of his head," Bernard replied.
"Fine," Johnny snapped. "What about that bloody school he's at? That's the big part of the problem."
"To be honest, Johnny, I don't know," Bernard replied. "I need to speak to Joseph about things before I make any decisions; I also need to speak to my wife. As far as I'm concerned, I don't care where Joseph goes to school, so long as it is a good school. The thing is, Joseph's school is his maternal grandfather's school. Debora's father is paying part of the fees for Joseph to go there. Not sure how he would feel if we moved Joseph elsewhere. Not sure how Debora would feel, either. I need to sort that out."
"Can't you afford to pay his fees?" Johnny asked. I had been about to ask the same.
"Of course, I can," Bernard snapped, then he paused. "It's about not upsetting Debora's father. He's become somewhat cantankerous in his old age. However, if it comes to a question of upsetting the old man and having Joseph upset, the old man can be upset.
"Anyway, Johnny, I came here to tell you about trust and how it affects you. Are you ready to listen?" Johnny nodded. Bernard then proceeded to tell Johnny that Phil and Ben had put their property holdings into a trust for his benefit. He then went on to inform my son that, although he could benefit from the income derived from the properties, he could not touch, sell or otherwise use or dispose of the properties. At least not in the lifetimes of his uncles. However, the income from the trust was to be used for his benefit.
Bernard then went into some details about how the trust was run and what Johnny was entitled to. It turned out that until he was twenty-five, his access to the income was limited. He could have his tuition fees paid for with respect to education, a reasonable allowance for living while at school, college or university and some other expenses covered. He could also apply to the trustees for help with certain exceptional costs — for instance, buying a car or helping with getting a house. However, such expenses were at the discretion of the trustees.
"And you and dad are the trustees?" Johnny asked.
"Yes," Bernard replied.
"I’d better stay on the right side of you, then," Johnny stated. "You, though, have to sort out things with Joseph; otherwise, I'll be onto you, even if it means I can't get anything out of the trust.
“In the meantime, can you let me have details of what the trust owns, and I would like to see regular reports on how it is doing.”
Bernard and I looked at him, somewhat amazed at the request.
"Look, Dad," Johnny continued. "One thing I have learnt from my mother is to make sure I know what is going on with my money."
Anne got back from the Crooked Man just after two-thirty. It seems that Mary had been right about the staff not making it back in time for service. Anne looked tired out and admitted that she had been run ragged on the bar as it had been so busy. On the upside was the fact that she had brought back the makings of four ham salads, so we could all have a late, but light, lunch. I suggested we should go down to the Crooked Man for dinner later, but Anne put a stop to that by informing me she had reserved a table for us at the Harbour Café. We would be having dinner there at seven.
Johnny and Anne joined Bernard and me in the study, and we talked about Joseph. Anne made quite a few observations that I had missed entirely. For a start, I had not noticed that the boy had been sleeping poorly. It seems that he had been for some time, certainly since the beginning of the last school year. That was news to me. Just showed how observant us men can be.
Bernard assured Anne and Johnny that he would get things sorted out.
"Well," Johnny informed him, "you’d better do it this weekend as I don't know how much more Joseph is going to be able to cope with."
"You don't think he would…”, Bernard started, unable to finish stating what he was thinking.
"I wouldn't count it out," Johnny responded. "Joseph is very down at the moment and thinks things are just not worth the effort."
On that statement, Anne decided it was time to make some tea. She had just come back into the study with the tea tray when Steve's Land Rover pulled up onto the drive and dropped Joseph off. The boy did not look happy to be back. He got out and trudged his way back to the house. Anne went through to the kitchen to get another cup, capturing Joseph as he came in the back door and guiding him through to the study. He seemed even less happy to find his father still there.
"Your Uncle Michael tells me that you want to be an architect," Bernard stated as Joseph entered the room.
"Yes, Dad," Joseph replied. Dropping his head down as he did. He stood just inside the door, looking very dejected.
Bernard stood up and walked across to him, pulling the boy into an all-encompassing hug. "Great! Do you know how much that nephew of your cousin Ruben was quoting me for the work we need doing on the offices? I'm sure the staff can cope with things like they are for the next ten years till your qualified. Might as well keep the money in the family."
Joseph lifted his head and looked at his father. "You mean that?"
"Of course," Bernard stated. "Though I am not sure I can keep the staff from rebelling if I wait ten years to make the improvements. I am sure you can be involved in doing them, somehow."
"You could always use Matt as the architect," Joseph responded. "Then I could work with him."
"Yes. Your uncle said that he had offered some work experience. We need to talk about that."
"I think you two need to talk about a lot of things, but let's have this tea first," Anne stated. "Then we can leave you to talk in peace." She gave both Johnny and me a meaningful look. We had been told, so quickly drank our tea, then exited the study with Anne, leaving Bernard and Joseph to talk.
It was getting on for five by the time the two came out of the study and joined us in the kitchen. Joseph looked a lot happier. He asked where Johnny was. I informed him that he was in his room starting to pack for the move to the apartments. Joseph commented he ought to get his room sorted out and vanished off upstairs.
"He looks happier," Anne stated.
"He is. At least, I hope he is," Bernard commented. "I was not aware of how bad things had got. There is a lot that has to be sorted out, and how that will work out, I don't know. All I do know is that it has to work out in Joseph's interest."
"I thought Miss Jenkins was coming this afternoon," I observed.
"She was, I texted her and postponed. Going to meet up with her after dinner — about nine — before we start back. Any chance we could use this place still?" Bernard asked.
I gave my consent, and he got out his phone and sent a couple of texts.
Debora arrived back from shopping just before six. I went to call Joseph down, but Bernard told me to leave it. Said Debora, Micah and himself could talk about things over dinner and sort things out before Joseph got caught up in the discussion. Something about the way he said it made me think there was not going to be much discussion. I had the feeling that Bernard was going to be laying down the law.
After Bernard and Debora left, I told Johnny to get Joseph, and we made our way down to the Harbour Café for dinner. Joseph seemed a lot brighter than he had done earlier. He certainly had got his appetite back, ordering ham, eggs and chips for dinner with an extra portion of chips.
We had not been back at the Priory long when Bernard arrived with Debora, Micah and Bethany. The lot of us were crowded in the kitchen, Anne making some coffees. I suggested that Bernard and his family might like to use the study.
"To be honest, Mike, I think we would be better off in here," he stated. "Best if you, Anne and Johnny hear this."
Joseph looked across at his father, looking somewhat unsure.
"It's OK, Joseph," Bernard assured him. "I think I have got everything sorted out for you, but it is going to take some explanation."
"In that case, Joseph, you and Johnny better go through to the study and bring a couple of chairs through," Anne instructed. "The table only seats six."
The boys went off to my study. I looked at Bernard, wondering what he was up to. He just smiled. Before I could ask, Joseph and Johnny returned with the two chairs that I had by the table in my study. Anne indicated to Johnny that they should put them by the work surface.
"Mike, you should sit at the table with Bernard and his family," she directed. "I'll sit up here with Johnny."
Johnny took the hint and seated himself by Anne. Joseph took the seat at the table next to his father, leaving the empty chair for myself.
"Right," Bernard stated. "We need to get some things sorted out. First, Micah, you have got to stop teasing your brother."
"But I—" Micah stated.
"No buts. I know from what we discussed over dinner you did not intend things, but what you took to be light-hearted joshing was not being well-received. It has to stop, and it stops now. Understood?" Micah nodded his head.
"Now, Joseph," Bernard continued. "You want to be an architect, right?"
"Yes," Joseph replied.
"Debora, how would you feel about our son becoming an architect?"
"You know I have no problems with that," Debora stated.
"You said no son of yours was going to build houses," Joseph said.
"Architects don't build houses," Debora responded. "They design them."
"We can discuss all this later," Bernard stated. "For now, the only important thing is that there is no objection to Joseph becoming an architect. Mike, are you prepared to let Joseph spend the rest of the summer vac with you so he can get some work experience with Matt?"
"Of course, he can stay," I replied, looking over at Anne who just nodded.
"Good. Joseph, you can't be scrounging off your Uncle Michael all the time, so I'm doubling your allowance while you’re here," Bernard stated. "That only leaves the school to be sorted out. Joseph, you will be going to a new school in September. The only thing is, you will also be going to have some private tutoring in drawing. Is that acceptable?"
"Yes," Joseph said.
"But what will Dad say?" Debora asked.
"I don't care," Bernard stated. "I know it is your father's old school, but that is not important. What is important is that we have the right school for our son. If that means we lose your dad's contribution to the fees, so be it. We are not paying for Micah now, so we have some spare cash."
"I suppose I’d better ring him in the morning," Debora responded.
"No need," Bernard replied. "I phoned him this afternoon as soon as I found out what was going on. Told him we were changing Joseph's school. He's coming down to Town for dinner tomorrow night; we can tell him all about it then."
Debora gave her husband a surprised look. "You talked to Dad earlier?"
"Yes, that's what I said."
"So, what was all that discussion about over dinner? You had already decided," Debora accused.
"Debora, yes, I had already decided what the best thing to do was. What I had not decided, because I did not know, was the best way to go about it. The only thing that was clear was that Joseph was not going back to that school.
"One option, if we had not sorted things out over dinner, would have been for Joseph to stay here with Mike. Alternatively, he could have gone to live with my uncle in Paris. Both would have got him out of the school. Your agreeing to move him made life simpler."
"There is one other thing," Joseph stated.
"What's that?" Bernard asked.
"I'm gay," Joseph announced. Nobody around the table looked surprised.
"You're gay?" Johnny asked.
"Why didn't you say?" queried Johnny. Getting up and walking over to Joseph.
"Look, we need to talk," Johnny stated. Taking hold of Joseph's hand and pulling him up out of the chair. "Excuse us, but there are some things Joseph and I need to sort out." With that, he led Joseph out of the kitchen and towards the stairs.
"Well, at least that is in the open now!" Debora exclaimed.
"You mean, you knew?" Micah asked.
"Of course, I knew. Was just waiting for him to tell us. Though I do not know how the Rab is going to take it."
"I think it is probably time we found a new schule," Bernard stated. "That daughter of your cousin Becky has been appointed to one not far from the London house."
"That's Reformed," Debora replied.
"So, what?" asked Bernard. "It's not like we are particularly orthodox or observant."
"Tea, anyone?" asked Anne.
Just then, the doorbell rang.
"That will be Edith," Bernard stated, getting up from the table and going to answer the door.
The other two sitting around the table with me looked puzzled.
"You better do an extra pot," I stated. "I'll take it through to the study. Three cups."
Anne nodded and started making the tea.
"One thing I can say about Brother Peter is that he gives the most amazing sermons," Miss Jenkins stated.
"Amazing?" Bernard asked.
"Totally amazing," she replied. "It is totally amazing how he can take passages from the Bible completely out of context and twist them to his own purpose. Now, my Albert's brother George was, and still is, one of the best con men in London, but Brother Peter makes him look like a rank amateur."
"So, you have heard his sermons?" I asked.
"Of course," Edith Jenkins replied. "Judith Durncross was quite insistent that I should go with her to a meeting."
"Judith Durncross?" I asked.
"Yes, the youngest of the three Holloway sisters," she informed me. "I pointed them out to you in the Harbour Café; they were talking to Brother Peter."
I remembered the incident. "So, you are friends with her?"
"More acquaintances," Miss Jenkins informed me. "Though we do have a common bond. Unlike the twins — that is, her elder sisters — Judith married. Unfortunately, her partner was taken four years ago. She is without her Richard, and I am without my Albert. We have both had our partners taken."
"Yes," Bernard commented. "Somehow, though, I do not think hers is spending time on the Island."
"Now, Bernard, that's unfair," she replied. "Just because Albert is in prison that does not mean I don't miss him."
"I don't doubt you do, Edith," Bernard replied. "It still does not change the fact that your and Mrs Durncross's situations are not really the same, are they?"
"Well, from that point of view, you are correct. I would point out that I have not lied to Mrs Durncross. At no time did I say that Albert was dead."
"I suppose you just said that you had lost your Albert or that he had been taken from you," Bernard observed.
"Precisely," confirmed Edith. "It is not my fault if the lady in question misinterprets my meaning."
"Certainly not," Bernard commented. "Though some parties might argue that you had a duty to correct the misunderstanding."
"Oh, now, that would be an error. Most definitely an error," Miss Jenkins stated. "I doubt Brother Peter would have been quite so welcoming of me if he had thought I was anything other than an elderly widow with some means."
"What made him think you had means?" I queried.
"Probably the fact that I told Judith, who told him that I was buying High Sea View," she replied. High Sea View was a large architect-designed house that had been built on one of the few high points along the coast about twenty years ago. The owner died a few months back, and it was rumoured to be on the market for more than two million.
"Are you?" Bernard asked.
"Am I what?" she queried.
"Buying High Sea View?"
"Of course, I am, Bernard. It will make a perfect base for some of our logistic operations."
I looked at Bernard questioningly. This was the first I had heard about logistic operations. Bernard looked back at me with a look that said, 'Don't Ask', so I did not.
"Anyway," she continued. "Brother Peter invited Judith and me into his sanctum after the service. He was most cordial. We had a long chat over tea and biscuits, which ended with an invitation for dinner last Tuesday at his place."
"You went?" Bernard asked.
"Of course," she replied.
"Well, it seems that Peter Henderson does not trust anyone. He records all his phone calls," she informed us. "He also is very IT savvy, backs everything up to a remote server."
"And that's helpful?" Bernard asked.
"Oh, very," she stated. Opening her bag and withdrawing a number of DVDs and a number of A4 sheets. "Copies of his phone conversations for most of this year and transcripts of the really interesting ones. I suggest you look at page twenty-seven first."
Bernard turned to the relevant page in the pile of papers. For a moment he was silent as he read the page, then he guffawed with a burst of laughter.
"Pity we can't use this," he stated.
"Use what?" I asked.
"It is a phone conversation between Peter Henderson and Detective Sergeant McCormac, the day before the incident. Peter Henderson is telling McCormac to be there to arrest Ian," Bernard informed me. "Pity we can't use it."
"But you can," Edith Jenkins informed Bernard.
"We would need a warrant to get them legally," Bernard pointed out.
"Which is what you have got," she took an envelope from her bag and handed it to Bernard, who opened it and removed two pieces of paper.
"The first," Miss Jenkins informed him, "is a certified copy of a warrant for the copying of files from a server in Minsk. The second is a certified translation of the warrant.
"It seems that Peter Henderson was worried that the authorities over here might someday take an interest in his activities. To be on the safe side, he decided the best place to put his backups would be someplace the UK authorities would have difficulty getting access. He chose a service provider in Minsk. My family has excellent connections with certain families in Belarus, who have good connections with the government."
"Knowing Belarus, they probably are the government," Bernard commented.
"Oh, no, Bernard. I can assure you that neither Dimitri nor any member of his family has any involvement with the government. They just provide the government members with assistance now and then."
"Such as getting money out of the country," Bernard observed.
"Well, both myself and Dimitri have certain banking interests," replied Miss Jenkins.
"So, these recordings are copied from the files on the Belarus server?" Bernard asked. Miss Jenkins remained silent.
"I see," he continued. "I presume there is going to be no problem if these documents are presented in court?"
"Oh, no problem at all," Miss Jenkins confirmed. "The documents are perfectly valid and give the party they are issued to authority to hack into the server and copy such files as they like. It also gives them the power to pass such data to any person or body that they feel fit to pass them onto.
"You know how it is, Bernard. I can't be absolutely sure that this particular copy of the file in question came from that source. There are just so many copies of the files floating around."
"So, you do have access to their computers," Bernard stated.
"Do you really want me to answer that?" Miss Jenkins asked.
"No," he replied.
The conversation went on for another fifteen minutes or so with Miss Jenkins informing Bernard about the activities of the church. Then she mentioned Southmead College.
"The one thing we cannot understand is the catering business they are running. They have the catering concessions at a few FE colleges around the area, and it just does not make sense," she stated.
"Why not?" Bernard asked.
"In every case, they seem to have an arrangement with the establishment they are in where they are paying far more for the concession than they should be. In fact, they seem to be paying far more than their profit could be."
"So, they are using it for something else," Bernard observed. "The question is what?"
"Drugs?" I questioned.
"Probably," Miss Jenkins observed. "Though we have no evidence of it. Probably can't get any till term starts up."
"That would make sense," Bernard observed.
"It makes sense. My niece Julia has enrolled for a couple of courses starting in September. She will sniff around and see what she can find out."
"What courses?" I asked.
"A-level maths and physics plus NVQ French," Miss Jenkins replied. There seemed something awfully familiar about that choice of courses, a point I commented on. Miss Jenkins just smiled, then proceeded to fill Bernard in with some other bits and pieces of information before she left.
After showing Edith Jenkins out, I turned to Bernard and commented on the fact that Miss Jenkins seemed very well informed as to the Hendersons’ financial situation.
"Yes," commented Bernard. For a moment, he was silent, as if thinking about something, then he smiled. "I suspect that things may not bode well for the Hendersons on the financial front."
With that comment, he went through to the kitchen and collected up that part of his family who were not staying. Joseph came down to say goodbye to his parents. I noticed that Johnny had come down with him and was looking somewhat protective.
Once Bernard, Debora, Micah and Bethany had gone, I turned to the two boys and asked. "What's going on with you two, then?"
"Well, Dad," Johnny responded, "I've fancied Joseph since I first saw him, but I thought he was straight."
"So much for gaydar."
"It is vastly overrated," Johnny informed me. "Been wrong more times than I can remember, so I ignore it these days."
"And you, Joseph?" I asked.
"Well, I've had a crush on Johnny since Manston, but I thought he was with Arthur."
"You thought he was with Arthur. I thought he was with Arthur," I informed Joseph. Then I turned to Johnny. "Where does this leave Arthur?"
"I think with Trevor," Johnny replied. "Arthur was right not to let me have sex with him. It would have been a mistake, and somehow, he knew it, even though it really frustrated me. We're friends, good friends, but we are not more than that and never will be. Once Trevor turned up, well, those two just seemed to click."
"Right," I told them. "Let's get some supper, and maybe we can all get an early night."