It never ceases to amaze me how some people, without any apparent effort on their part, can move faster than you would have thought possible. I would have sworn that in the time it took me to get from the stairs to Bernard, Miss Jenkins had moved no faster than the usual slow walk of an elderly lady. However, somehow, she managed to cover twice the distance I had to cover in less than half the time. Strangely enough, I have noticed that Ben seems to have the same ability: being able to move quickly whilst appearing not to rush at all. I wonder if it has something to do with their martial-arts training.
I got to the group just in time to hear Miss Jenkins say, "Good afternoon, Janet, nice to see you here."
"Good afternoon, Edith," the Commander replied. "How are you keeping?"
"Well, considering my age, though, I am not sure all this annoyance is good for me."
"Annoyance?" I asked.
"Yes, I am very annoyed with my niece. She appears to have lost track of Arthur when he went into the Dunford Ceramics building. She saw him go in but did not see him come out. How she missed him is beyond my understanding."
"You mean you've had Arthur under observation?" I stated.
"Of course," she replied, in a tone that made me feel like a five-year-old. "From what we knew, he was clearly at risk; we had to put protection in place."
"Not sure what you could have done against a hit and run," Bernard stated.
"Ah," Miss Jenkins observed. "If there had been another party on the road who could have seen things, I doubt if they would have attempted a hit and run. Anyway, in the worst case, we would have had details of the car involved."
"It was a black BMW, possibly 6 Series," I informed her.
"How do you know?" the Commander asked.
"Arthur just told me," I responded. Miss Jenkins took a small notepad out of her handbag and leafed through it.
"Black BMW 635 E63 model," she stated. She then read out the registration number. "John Henderson was talking to the driver of it this morning, just after eight-thirty."
"Where was that?" the Commander asked.
"In Southmead. They were in the college carpark. John Henderson had just driven in," Miss Jenkins replied. The Commander went outside to make a call.
"How's Arthur," Ben asked. I gave them an update on his condition.
"Well, it appears he’s out of danger," Bernard stated.
We chatted for a few minutes, the Commander returned, and I had to give her an update on Arthur's condition.
"I'll have to get somebody from the local force to interview him," the Commander stated. "Do you think he is up to being talked to?"
"Probably best to give him a couple more hours at least," I responded. "He is still pretty groggy from the anaesthetic."
"Look, it is no use us all hanging around here," Ben said. "Best move off somewhere where we can talk but get back easily if needed."
There was a few minutes’ discussion of where would be suitable. The final decision was to make use of a small conference room at a nearby hotel where Ben had reserved a room. A quick telephone call to the hotel confirmed there was a conference room we could use. Ben went up to the ward to let Trevor know where we were going, then we all set off on the ten-minute walk to the hotel.
Both the Commander and Miss Jenkins stated they had things they needed to deal with but would join us as soon as possible. Bernard thanked Martin for what he had done and said that there was nothing much he could do now, so he might as well return to his firm. Bernard also said he would be writing to the senior partner to thank them for the loan of him. The young solicitor took his leave, positively glowing with the praise he had just received.
When we got to the hotel, we were shown to the conference room. It was small but had nice views through the French doors to the garden and the river beyond. There was not much point in discussing things until the Commander and Miss Jenkins arrived. Bernard got on his phone to his office to check what was going on. I noted that there was free Wi-Fi in the hotel, so I used my phone to check my emails. I also sent an email to Chris, saying I could not make it to London tomorrow due to a family emergency. Then I phoned Anne.
Both Johnny and Joseph were home and wanting to come to the hospital. I had a quick word with Johnny and Joseph and said they would be better leaving it till the morning as I thought Arthur would probably be sleeping. That got my head bit off. Johnny told me he knew Arthur would probably be sleeping; he was worried about Trevor.
"Why are you worried about Trevor?" I asked.
"Dad, think about it," he replied. "You told me that the Hendersons had heard my remarks about a friend being abused and how it had messed him up but that he was now sorting things out and that they thought I was speaking about Arthur."
"Yes," I replied. "But what has that got to do with Trevor?"
"He was there, Dad. Sooner or later, Trevor will make the connection. Whoever drove into Arthur did so because the Hendersons thought he was going to talk about his abuse. Trevor will blame himself because it links back to him. He should not be on his own."
He had a point. I told him to call a taxi and get down to the hospital. Then I told Ben and Bernard what Johnny had said.
"The kid's got a point," Ben stated. "To be honest, I don't think either Arthur or Trevor should be on their own. I also think they should not be around Dunford."
"There's Arthur's business to think of," I stated.
"I think I can cover that," Miss Jenkins informed us as she entered the room. She moved over to the table, took off her hat and placed it down next to her handbag. Ben stood up and drew back a chair for her. She took her seat at the table, then indicated we should sit. We had been standing around drinking coffee.
"My nephew Neal is quite good with computers, as his girlfriend, Maddie; she's reading computer science at Cambridge. They will no doubt be able to help him during the vacation. I am sure they will be able to keep Arthur's business afloat. In fact, their taking over could be most helpful. That they are already in town is useful."
"In what way?" I asked. The old lady just smiled, then commented it would be best if we kept the further discussion on hold till the Commander joined us. Bernard concurred, so we went back to drinking coffee.
It was not long before the Commander joined us. A small, mousy looking man accompanied her, the type of man you would expect to be clerking behind a desk in a nineteen-fifties film.
"To those of you who don't know him, I would like to introduce Chief Inspector Manley. I believe, Edith, you and the Inspector are acquainted."
"We are, indeed," she replied with a smile, indicating that the Inspector should take a seat next to her. "How are you, John?"
"Fine, Miss Jenkins, and yourself?"
"I'm good for my age, John," she replied. "The family makes sure I have plenty to do."
Chief Inspector Mainley smiled. "I'm sure they do, Miss Jenkins. I'm sure they do."
The Commander had taken the seat at the end of the table, effectively putting herself in charge.
"Well, I’d better update you on some information," she informed us. "Now understand that although I think we all have the same interests at heart," she nodded in the direction of Bernard and Miss Jenkins, "Police Procedural Regulations bind me and the Chief Inspector. Neither the Chief Inspector nor I can give you any information that is not being made public. However, there is nothing to stop us from releasing that information to you before it is released to the general public once the decision to make the information public has been made."
"And who makes that decision?" Bernard asked.
"I do," the Commander responded. "So, if I decide to make some information public, it would be appreciated if you would keep its disclosure confidential until the normal channels have disseminated it, which may take some time."
Bernard and Miss Jenkins both smiled, and I got the impression that I was listening to theologians discussing how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.
"So, is there something you can tell us?" Miss Jenkins asked.
"Yes. Chief Inspector, would you give your briefing?" the Commander said.
"Yes, Ma'am," the Chief Inspector replied. "Just to make sure everybody is aware, we are treating this as a case of attempted murder. The victim was a potential witness in a case involving organised criminal activity. A burnt-out 6 Series BMW car was discovered just over an hour ago on a rarely used side road just outside Southmead. The vehicle had been reported stolen in Chelmsford at the weekend. We believe it was stolen late on Saturday night, but the theft was not notified to the police until Sunday morning."
"So where has it been since Saturday?" Miss Jenkins asked.
"That, we would like to know," the Chief Inspector replied.
Miss Jenkins removed her notebook from her bag and opened it, then flicked through a few pages. She gave a small smile. "There is a block of garages on the Tenner Lane Industrial site; they used to be the garages for Dunford Fisheries before it closed. John Henderson went there on Sunday morning. He met an unknown man, aged between eighteen and twenty-five. The two of them stood outside the garages talking; the unknown man smoked, and then they entered the third garage from the left as you are looking at the garages."
The Inspector was taking some notes down in his notebook.
"We have the unknown man's cigarette stub," Edith informed them. "I'll see it gets to you in the next hour." She was typing a message into her mobile, using a stylus.
"Isn't Dunford Ceramics on that site?" I asked.
"Yes," Miss Jenkins replied. "Just why was Arthur there this morning?" She looked at me as she asked the question.
"Don't know," I replied. "Arthur got a report of a network problem late yesterday afternoon and said he had to call in to fix it."
"Would he normally be walking?" Edith Jenkins asked.
"No, normally he would be on his bike," I replied. "He uses his bike for local visits. This morning, though, we had to view a property, so I took him and Trevor down into town in the car. I expected Arthur to get a taxi back or call for a lift."
"Yes, that would make sense," Edith commented. "I wonder why he did not?"
"Somebody must have given him a lift to the bottom of the hill," the Chief Inspector observed.
"It would be nice to know who that somebody was," Bernard commented.
"Why?" I asked. "Do you think they had something to do with it?"
"I think that is a fairly certain bet," he commented. "The road out to the Priory only goes on to the old sidings if you do not turn off and go over the hill, which takes you past the Crooked Man and the Priory. So, either they dropped Arthur at the crossroads — which is no saving; I doubt he would have walked from there — or at the bottom of the hill. But if they dropped him at the bottom of the hill, why did they not take him up to the Priory; they had already gone out of their way?"
"It looks as if they wanted him walking up the hill," Ben stated.
"I think you are right," the Commander observed. "Though I suspect they were improvising; they probably expected him to be on his bike."
"Good job he wasn't," the Chief Inspector commented.
"Why?" I asked.
"If he had been on his bike, he would have been on the main carriageway. The BMW would have hit him directly from behind and no doubt at high speed. He would almost certainly have been killed with such a full-on impact. As it is, he was on the verge; at best, the driver could only deliver a glancing blow; otherwise, the car would have gone into the ditch. Mounting the verge would have forced the driver to slow down a bit."
"Wish he had jumped out of its way more," I commented.
"He jumped?" the Commander asked.
"Yes," I replied. "Arthur said he heard the car coming up the hill fast and turned to look, saw it mount the verge, so he jumped back. Was not quite fast enough."
"Not so sure about that," the Chief Inspector commented. "It was definitely fast enough to save his life. Being in the air and moving in the direction the glancing hit would have sent him probably reduced the force of the impact by enough to make the difference."
"By the general tone of what's been said it seems we all agree this was not an accident," Miss Jenkins stated. We all confirmed that it was our opinion. "I suggest, therefore, that it might be a good idea if Arthur was to leave the area when he is discharged."
"If there is somewhere safe for him to go to," the Commander responded.
"Oh, yes. He would be quite safe where I am thinking," Edith Jenkins replied.
"And where might that be?" I asked.
"The Mrs. Miniver," she replied.
"And what is Mrs. Miniver, other than a film?" I asked.
"My houseboat," she answered. "It's moored on the Thames just below Richmond. It's about thirty minutes from the studio, so Trevor could stay there with him."
"And would he be safe there?" the Commander asked.
"Oh, perfectly safe. Nobody can get to Mrs. Miniver without my boys knowing."
We discussed options, but in the end, there was a general feeling that Mrs. Miniver was probably the best arrangement, at least in the short term. It was clear from what Edith was saying that the houseboat was up at the luxury end of the market.
There was a knock on the conference-room door; Bernard called out for whoever was outside to come in; Trevor and Johnny entered.
"How's Arthur?" Ben asked.
"Asleep," Johnny replied. "The nurse gave him an injection for the pain, and he slipped off to sleep after that. The nurse said he would be out of it till the morning."
"Any news on what happened?" I asked.
"Not really," Trevor replied.
"What did he say?" the Commander asked.
"Well, he said the call-out had been a waste of time," Trevor replied. "A cable had been pulled out of the router. If anyone had bothered to look, they could have fixed the problem without having to call him out. Bill Kingsman was most apologetic about it. Gave him a lift to the bottom of the hill so he would not have to call a taxi."
"Who's Bill Kingsman?" the Commander asked.
"No idea," Trevor replied. "From what Arthur said, I think he is something to do with IT at Dunford Ceramics."
Miss Jenkins opened her notebook and started to scan through the pages.
"Ah, yes," she commented. "William Kingsman, he is Robert Henderson's son-in-law."
"Interesting," commented the Commander.
O o O o O
With all the disruption of the day, we ended up at the Crooked Man for dinner. There was no way that either Anne or myself were up to cooking, and I was not sure what Johnny's talent was in that direction, especially in our tiny apartment kitchen. Anyway, Bernard was with us and had offered to pay. Not an offer I was going to turn down.
The meeting at the hotel had gone on for a good couple of hours. It was mostly discussing how to keep Arthur safe and how to keep his business going. Edith Jenkins had assured us she could cope with both. I had got the distinct impression something was going on I did not know about. I also had the feeling that Bernard was well aware of what was going on.
Both Bernard and Ben were booked into the hotel for the night. I was surprised that Bernard was staying, but he informed me that the police would be interviewing Arthur in the morning, and he intended to be present at the interview. When I got him to one side at the bar in the Crooked Man, I found out that Debora was in Manchester.
"What's she doing in Manchester?" I enquired.
"Spending my money," Bernard informed me. "She has decided that it is more economical to buy a flat for Micah to use during his studies than paying for him to rent a place in halls."
"Is it?" I asked.
"Actually, it probably is," Bernard replied. "Given the current rate of return on our investments and the way property is going, we could come out of it with a good profit. At the minimum, we will not be out of pocket for rent money."
With that observation, I had to agree. In this age of austerity, the only way to get a good return on your savings was either by risky investments or property.
"What's going on, Bernard?"
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"I mean, what is going on? I know something is. And what is Edith Jenkins' role in all this?" I asked. "I know she has got at least four, possibly more, people up here; it must be costing a fortune."
"I know. Thankfully, I had agreed a fixed fee with Edith; otherwise I would be worried," he replied.
"How fixed?" I asked.
"Five grand max," Bernard informed me.
"Christ!" I exclaimed. "She must be well beyond that. Why is she doing this?"
"To be honest, Mike, I don't know. Though you can be certain that Edith Jenkins will have an angle on things that will show her a profit. Of that you can be sure. Somehow, though, this seems to have taken on a personal interest in this case."
"Well, she did say John Jenkins was her nephew," I advised him.
"Fuck!" Bernard exclaimed. "She never told me that."
"Does it make a difference?"
"It bloody well does. Edith has a firm view of the family. She believes in looking after them and looking after them well."
Just then Mary, who had been serving some of the yachting crowd, came over to take our orders. Once the orders were taken and we had collected our drinks, we started back to the table where Anne and the gang were seated. As we walked back, I told Bernard I wanted a word with him outside. So, we both made our excuses and took our pints out onto the terrace.
"You still haven't told me what is going on," I stated once we were well away from anyone who could overhear.
"To be honest, Mike, I'm not sure I really know myself," Bernard replied. "The one thing is that Arthur is a key witness in an upcoming case."
"So, Peter Henderson's going be charged with child sexual abuse," I stated.
"I don't know about that, though I suspect that sooner or later he will be," Bernard replied.
"So, what?" I asked.
"Terry's appeal," Bernard stated. "We put the papers in last week."
"What has that got to do with Arthur?" I enquired.
"His evidence is a major part of the case for the appeal," Bernard replied. "Remember when I took his statement about the abuse?" I nodded.
"Well," Bernard stated, "during the interview I had with him, it turned out he was a witness to the events which led to Terry's conviction. He actually went and gave a statement about it to the police."
"So?" I enquired.
"The statement was taken by DS McCormac. That is in the station logbook, which records McCormac as the interviewing officer. However, McCormac's comments on the interview are 'no significant information'. Arthur says he told McCormac that the lads had attacked Ian and Robby and that Terry had just gone in to defend his brothers.
"Arthur's evidence should have been heard as part of the defence case in court. It wasn't. The defence was not even aware of it. McCormac had completely removed any hint that it existed with that statement, 'no significant information'. That short note virtually assured Terry's conviction. The fact that he had a crap defence team did not help at all, but that is not here nor there, the critical point is that evidence about the incident was hidden from the defence by a serving police officer. Arthur is a crucial witness to that fact.
"That is why Janet Richardson is here. The Hendersons have something going on down here, and it is dependent on police corruption. Whatever it is, Terry's appeal is likely to blow the whole thing open. Personally, I am hoping we can do that with Ian's case. One thing I can tell you is that this is a whole lot bigger than just some funny goings-on in a barmy church."
Thursday morning, Trevor and I went back to the hospital to see Arthur. He was awake and seemed a lot better. We did, though, only get about ten minutes with him before Bernard arrived with a uniformed police officer who needed a statement from Arthur about what happened. While the officer was interviewing Arthur, I decided to try and find Peter, Steve's partner, and see if he could find anything out about Arthur's condition.
In the end, it was Peter who found me. He had phoned the house, and Anne had told him that we were at the hospital. When he found Bernard and the policeman on the ward with Arthur, he came down to the café, guessing we would be there. The news he gave us was excellent. There were no signs of concussion, and Arthur had recovered well from the operation. He would be kept in for at least three days to make sure there were no unexpected complications, but in all likelihood would be discharged on Monday. Peter did say that Arthur would need some nursing once he was released and enquired as to what support would be available.
He was just explaining what was required when Bernard turned up, sans policeman.
"They are taking him down for some scans, should be about an hour," Bernard informed us. I expressed some concern, but Peter advised that it was all quite routine. They would be checking for any swelling of the brain. Once he had told us that, Peter left, saying he had rounds to do. Bernard sat with us and gave us a recap of what Arthur had told the police.
"Isn't that confidential?" I asked.
"Normally, yes, but Arthur asked that I let everybody know so he did not have to keep answering questions."
"Anyway," Bernard continued. "I've spent enough time in this neck of the woods; need to get back to my office and earn some money. I'll be up at the weekend." With that, he stood and left us.
We finished our coffees then went up to the side ward where Arthur was located. He had just got back from having the scan done, and we spent about twenty minutes talking with him. Arthur informed us that the doctor had told him he would probably be discharged on Monday. He expressed concern about what was happening to his business. I told him that Miss Jenkins had some ideas about that. Arthur wanted to know what they were. As I could not tell him, I called Miss Jenkins, and she asked to speak to Arthur. The two of them spoke on the phone for about ten minutes, and Arthur looked a lot happier when he handed the phone back to me.
"She's bringing a couple of people in to see me this afternoon and says they will help with the business for a bit, at least till the end of September. She said all this should be sorted out by then," Arthur informed me.
We chatted a bit more; then I left Trevor and Arthur to go back to the Priory. Before I left, I told Trevor to give me a ring, and I would come back to pick him up. Given the parking problems we had come in with one car — mine — Trevor had left his at the house.
When I walked into the kitchen, I found Ben and Anne chatting in the kitchenette of the apartment.
"How is he?" Anne asked.
"A lot better," I responded. "But still in a lot of pain."
"He will be," Ben stated. "Broken ribs are really painful. They are bad enough when they are just cracked. I know from experience."
"So what's happening?" I enquired.
"Well, I'm back off down to the studio," Ben replied. "Talked to Phil this morning. We can hold off needing Trevor till Tuesday. Spoke to Edith; the boat will be ready for them from the weekend. She's arranging for some nursing help for Trevor. He'll need some nursing support for a couple of weeks."
"Who's paying for it all?" I enquired.
"That's covered," Ben informed me. "Bernard sorted all that out last night."
Something else Bernard had not told me. I really needed to talk to my best mate. I was thinking about phoning him but then opened a letter that had been in a pile on the work surface awaiting my attention.
It was from the Hartmann Agency. I started to read it:
Dear Mr. Carlton,
Be advised that we regard you as being in breach of your contract with this agency. That being the case, we are hereby giving notice that with effect from this date, we will be withholding all royalties payable to you via this agency as a lien against damages claimed from you for this breach…
"Fuck!" I exclaimed.
Ben looked up at me. "Problems?"
"Yes, I have a one-million-pound loan and it seems no way to pay it," I stated.
I handed the letter to Anne, who read it, then handed it to Ben.
"This is going to cause problems?" he asked.
"In a big way. I was relying on that royalty cheque to start paying off this place," I responded.
"Better phone Bernard," Ben suggested.
Just then, my phone rang. I answered. It was Sarah Colman. Apparently, she had been ringing the front doorbell for about ten minutes. I apologised and told her that there was nobody in the main house for the time being, then directed her around the back to the apartments.
It was only when I had put the phone down from giving her the directions that I realised there was no Joseph about. He was supposed to be helping her this afternoon. I mentioned this to Anne.
"Sorry, forgot," she told me. "He's on a site inspection with Matt. Matt was going to drop him off when they had finished." She turned to look at the clock. "Which was supposed to have been about half an hour ago."
I went down to the yard to meet Sarah and explain the situation. It turned out that Joseph not being here was not a problem. She had intended to arrive earlier so she could get set up but had been delayed. It was no problem for her to start setting up while waiting for Joseph.
What was a problem, though, was access to the turret. The second-floor room she needed to go through was now a building site. I had to find the site foreman, explain the situation and work out with him a way for Sarah to access the turret, all of which took time.
By the time I got back into the apartment and phoned Bernard I had missed him. He was in court and would be tied up all afternoon. I left a message with his secretary for him to call me as soon as possible, saying it was urgent. I then phoned Bob to ask his take on the letter. He passed the opinion that he did not think the agency could withhold my royalties but that I needed to speak with Bernard about it. I told him I had tried, but Bernard was out.
"Lawyers are never around when you need them," he commented. He then went on to discuss the metrology book with me. It took me half an hour to get him off the phone. By the time I did get off the phone and back down to the yard to help Sarah, I found Joseph was back. I told him that he’d better sort things out for Sarah as I was far too busy; then I went back up to the apartment.
It seems I must have been a bit brusquer with Joseph than I had intended. I was in the middle of writing an article about the Northern Lights when Johnny barged into the room, wanting to know why I had upset Joseph?
"I did not know that I had upset him," I responded.
"Well, you have," Johnny replied. "He's down in the yard, worried you are going to send him home."
"Why would I do that?"
"I don't know," replied Johnny. "You tell me."
To be honest, I could not remember what I had said; it had all been in a bit of a rush, and I had other things on my mind. I told Johnny this.
"OK," he responded. "You need to have a word with him and let him know he can stay here for the whole of the vac." This was stated with a great deal of determination.
"I suspect that I would have quite a bit of difficulty if I wanted him to leave before the end of the school holidays, wouldn't I?"
"Yes, Dad, you would," he stated. "So, what has upset you?" I handed him the letter from Hartmann's. He read it, then looked at me. "They can't do this."
"I hope not."
"Dad, this is illegal. The law of agency states that an agent can only withhold such sums as are agreed in the contract or required by law," he informed me. "I doubt that this is allowed in the contract, and it is not required by law."
"And what," I enquired, "do you know about the law of agency?"
"Quite a lot, actually. It is an interesting area of law," Johnny replied.
"Your school report did not indicate a good understanding of the law," I commented.
"I had to do badly; wanted to put mother off sending me to law school. She had my career all planned out."
"No doubt she did," I said.
"Anyway, were my results in the post?" he asked.
"My GCSEs. It's the fourth Thursday in August; they are out today."
"Well, there wasn't a letter for you," I told him.
"Shit!" he exclaimed. "It's probably gone to Mother's."
"Is that bad?" I asked.
"Yes, I did not try to fail at law. Didn't think it would matter now I'm here."
I did not bother to remind him that we had put a redirect on any post addressed to him to come here when we put the redirects in place. With a bit of luck, the results would turn up in a day or two.
"Can't you go online and get them?"
"No, the school sits AQA exams, and they don't publish results online. It is up to the school to do it, but as I am no longer a pupil, my website account has been closed," Johnny informed me. "At most schools, the students just go along and pick up their results from the school, but with boarding schools, it is a bit different. They send the results out to the pupils. Thought mine would be here today."
I suggested to Johnny that he might like to put the kettle on for some tea, then I went down to the yard to make my peace with Joseph. The last thing I wanted was to have him upset.
Sorting things out with Joseph was, it turned out, not a problem. I just apologised if I had upset him and assured him that there was no problem with him staying till the end of the summer vac. There was, after all, only two weeks of it left. It was reasonable to assume I could cope with having Joseph around for that long. I’d better; otherwise, I was going to have one distraught son, and that was something I did not want to cope with.
Having sorted things out with Joseph, I turned to return to the apartments. As I did, there was the sound of motorbikes approaching, followed shortly after with the arrival of two large ones in the yard. The leading bike had a rider and pillion passenger on it, the second bike just a single rider. As the pillion passenger got off, I realised it was Trevor, a fact confirmed when he removed his helmet.
"How's Arthur?" I asked as he walked towards me.
"A lot better," Trevor replied. "But they threw us out. Told us that Arthur needed some rest."
"And who is us?" I asked. The other two riders had removed their helmets and their jackets. I was surprised to see that the rider from the first machine was female. Trevor indicated for them to come over to us.
"Maddie," he said to the girl, "I would like to introduce Mike Carlton; he owns this place. Mike, this is Maddie Atkins." I shook hands with the young woman. "And this," Trevor added, "is Neil Porter-Thompson, though he prefers Neil Thompson."
The young man stuck out his hand. "Double-barrelled names get a bit much at times," he said smiling. I took the hand and shook it.
"A relation of Miss Jenkins?" I enquired.
"Yes," he replied. "Aunt Edith asked me and Maddie to help out with Arthur's business while he is indisposed."
"They've spent the afternoon talking to Arthur about it," Trevor stated. "He seems satisfied they know what they are doing; asked me to show them the setup here for the internet."
"Well, Trevor," I said. "You better show them; it's in your place."
Trevor guided them off in the direction of the Stable House. I went back to the apartment's kitchenette. Johnny was on the phone in the living room. From what I could overhear, he was talking to his former schoolmate Colin. There was a pot of tea on the worktop along with a couple of mugs. I felt the pot, it was hot, so Johnny had made some fresh tea. I poured a mug for myself.
Shortly after, Johnny came through from the living room, smiling. He poured himself a mug of tea then sat at the worktop.
"Well?" I asked.
"Colin's got nine A's with four A stars in them, and three Bs — only got a C in Physics, but he did not think he would pass that; it's not his thing."
"So, he did thirteen subjects?"
"Yes, there are ten mandatory subjects that we have to do, and then we can do up to five optional subjects," Johnny informed me.
"How many optionals did you take?"
"Five: law, German, music, design and technology, and computer science," Johnny replied.
"That seems a lot," I stated.
"It was, but mother insisted I do French as my core language subject, and I wanted to do German. She also insisted that I do law. I did the other three, so I would share classes with Colin."
Just then, Anne arrived back from wherever she had been.
"I don't suppose either of you has made any coffee?" she said.
"No," Johnny replied. "The tea is fresh, and there is plenty of it."
"I'll make myself a coffee, thank you," Anne stated and then proceeded to make a fresh pot of coffee.
"What's with the motorbikes?" she asked.
"They're somebody that Miss Jenkins' has got to look after Arthur's business. Trevor's showing them the server and transceiver setup," I informed her.
"Good," Anne replied. "I was worried about what to do with the business. Arthur showed me how to run the scripts and stuff, but I have no idea about the rest of it."
"By the way, where's Ben?" I asked.
"Oh, he left ages ago," Anne informed me. "Said he had to be at the studio before four. He'll be back up at the weekend. Said he would talk to Trevor before then on the phone."
We chatted for a bit about nothing in particular. Then the doorbell for the apartment rung. Anne poked her head out of the window and looked down into the yard, telling whoever was there to come up. Trevor, Maddie and Neil came up the stairs into the kitchenette.
"Before you start introductions," Anne stated, "it's getting a bit cramped in here; let's move next door." So, we did.
Anne and Maddie spent most of the next half hour talking about the scripts she ran. To be honest, I did not understand a thing they were talking about. When I looked at Neil for some enlightenment, he gave me one of those do-not-ask-me looks. Finally, the two women appear to have sorted something out.
"Well, it looks as if the standard network administration is all covered," Maddie stated. Anne voiced agreement. "So, that leaves network failures and internet outrages for Neil and me to cover." Again, Anne agreed. "The big problem would be if the internet server in the Stable House went down. There is a backup which we would have to bring online, but that will take time. We really need to be staying close by to cover that."
"Well, why don't you stay in the flat?" Trevor asked. "You could use my room. I'm not going to be around much after Monday. Anyway, I sleep in Arthur's room."
That, at least, confirmed one thing.
"Yes, that will work for me," Maddie stated. "Now where is Neil going to sleep?"
The look of a rather pleased young man fell off Neil's face in a moment.
"I thought you were a couple," Trevor stated.
"We are," Maddie replied. "That does not mean he can expect constant access to my bed. At least not till we're married."
"When's that going to be?" Anne asked.
"At least another three years away," Maddie advised her. "I won't marry him till we have both finished our degrees, and he has only just got into university."
"Are you at Cambridge as well?" I asked.
"No, UCL," Neil replied. "She said I wud never get any work done if I was in the same town as 'er."
"Probably a valid point," Anne stated. "You're doing computer science, as well?"
"Nah, B.Eng in Electronic and Electrical Engineering," he stated. "I prefer building the hardware; I'll let 'er sort the software.
"Well, I 'pos I'll 'ave to ask Dad if I can borrow the camper van. Any chance I cud park it up in the yard?"
"Don't see why not," I replied. "There is a hard standing at the rear of the Stable House. You could park it there. Though we do have a caravan you could use, save you making a trip to pick up the camper."
"Thanks, mate but no thanks. The camper van is a bit special and it would be useful to have it up here," Neil replied. "Hope there is the space to get the thing in."
I asked Johnny to show Neil the standing and the access to it. They went off to have a look.
We talked a bit about Arthur's business, then Anne asked Maddie how long she had been with Neil.
"Met him nineteen months ago," she stated. "A bit of a shock at first, but he grows on you."
"I sense there is a story there," I commented. "For a start, your accent is definitely not London; more West Midlands but softer. Neil's is pure East End."
"Don't let him fool you. The accent is a bit of a game with him. He never dares use it around Miss Jenkins," she replied.
"Miss Jenkins?" I asked. "I thought everybody called her Aunty?"
"Only family," Maddie replied. "I'm not family — at least, not yet."
There was something about the way she said that which made me think that when she was family, the family was going to find itself surprised by what they had taken in.
Just then, the phone went. I answered it. It was Bernard returning my call. I told him about the letter from Hartmann's. He asked me to scan it and email him a copy and that he would call me back. I got onto it immediately. Had just got it sent off when Johnny and Neil returned.
"Maddie, Luv," Neil started. "Johnny 'ere was just telling me there's a youth club in town and they 'ave a disco on Friday nights. It seems Arthur was the disc jockey, so Johnny 'ere is not certain w'at will go down tomorrow. 'Ow, 'bout we go down there and I can run the disco."
"Neil, you're supposed to be working tomorrow," Maddie pointed out.
"All sorted, Luv," Neil rejoindered. "Spoke to Dad, though Aunty had got in first. Off the job till this is all sorted. 'E's sorting the camper van for me so we can go down now and come back in the van in the morning."
"If you think I am letting you drive me back in that thing, you've got another think coming," Maddie stated.
"OK, Luv," Neil answered. "You can come back on the bike."
Maddie agreed. I got the sense that this was the type of discussion these two had quite often. Neil turned his attention to Trevor, asking what kind of disco kit Arthur had. Trevor took him to look at it.
Maddie was back in a discussion about something concerning the scripts with Anne, so I made myself scarce. Decided to go and have a look at how the work in the house was getting on. When I got back about half an hour later, Maddie and Neil were just about to leave. Told me they would be back the next day.
They had not been gone long when Bernard rang. Informed me he required me in London the next day, that I had a meeting with a judge in chambers at two of the clock but needed to be at his office at twelve to get some paperwork sorted out. Bernard made it clear that it was quite important, and noncompliance with his request for my presence was not an option. I agreed to be there.
Having sorted that out, I phoned Chris at the Beeb, left a message on his voicemail letting him know I would be in Town on Friday. Then I tried to lose myself for a bit in some writing.
"What's up, Dad," I heard Johnny say from behind me. I turned and looked at him.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well, you snapped at Joseph earlier," Johnny stated. "You have not been very communicative this afternoon, and for the last half hour you have just been sitting there looking at the screen."
"Have I?" I asked.
"Yes, I looked in half an hour ago to ask if you wanted any tea, but you ignored me, just sat looking at the screen. Just came in to ask you about dinner, and you were just the same. You've not written a thing."
"Sorry, got a lot on my mind."
"Want to talk about it?" Johnny asked. I was not sure if I did or not. However, I was saved from deciding on things by the phone. It was Chris. He suggested I called in at the Beeb about three. Said he should be able to sort out some time to do a recording.
When I got off the phone with Chris, I called the hospital to enquire about Arthur. They were helpful but could tell me little more than what Trevor had told me earlier. The one thing they did confirm was that, provided there were no unexpected problems, he would be discharged on Monday.
I updated Johnny and Trevor with the news. As we were going down to the Crooked Man for dinner, I invited Trevor to join us. He said he was not really hungry and would probably just have some beans on toast. I told him to make sure he had something; he assured me he would.
"I'll make sure he does," Johnny stated. I looked at Johnny. "Dad, me and Joseph will stay with Trevor, we'll make sure he has something to eat. There's a good kitchen in the flat, and I can cook."
"You need to check that with Joseph before you make a commitment for him," I stated.
"That's no problem; I'll be back in a moment." With that statement, he turned and went off towards the stairs. I did not doubt that he would be back in a couple of minutes, so I started to get concerned when some time passed, and there was no sign of Johnny.