It was gone midnight by the time I had finished explaining everything that had happened to Anne and Phil. Phil told me that he had instructed Allen to sort out security for the Priory, given that it had now been linked in the press to him and Ben. Allen came up to explain what was going on. It turned out that Miss Jenkins had also sent in some of her own people to provide security. So, I was reasonably assured we would not be getting any reporters knocking on the door. It was, however, going to be a bit of an inconvenience having to use the back entrance to the property. I had only had a wicket gate put in after the police cut the fence to gain access after the attack on Arthur. There was no way we could get our cars in and out that way. I made a mental note to talk with Matt about extending the drive to the rear of the property and putting proper gates there.
Phil and Ben stayed the night, using Johnny's room. Phil, though, had to leave in the early hours to get back to the set. Although it was a knockdown-and-build day, he still had to be around.
Thursday morning, Ben and I got to the hospital just gone eight-thirty, only to find that we could not get in to see Johnny till after nine. So, we were stuck in the waiting area for half an hour. At least, there had been no reporters outside when we arrived.
Bernard arrived about a quarter to nine with Joseph.
“There was no way he was not going to come and see his boyfriend,” he commented. “Had a job stopping him jumping on the train last night.”
Joseph wanted to go into the ward immediately to see Johnny. He was not too pleased when told that we could not go through till after nine.
Bernard took me to one side.
"Mike, I have talked to the local force. They have agreed to arrest Johnny at ten thirty, with me present," he told me. "The thing is, once he is arrested, you will not be allowed to have contact with him, as he will be in custody. As he is a minor, you do have the right to be present when he is questioned."
“So, they will take him to the police station for questioning?” I asked.
“Almost certainly, as soon as he is discharged.”
“How long will that be for?” I enquired.
"Can't say," Bernard replied. "It's a murder charge, and they may not be too keen on giving bail in the circumstances. However, Edith Jenkins phoned me this morning; I suspect that keeping Johnny in custody might quickly become very embarrassing for the local constabulary. In fact, I think they will find having charged him to be an embarrassment. So, I think we can get bail. Anyway, I've got June Ravensbrook on standby to go into the High Court to apply for bail, if necessary.”
We chatted for a few more minutes, Bernard explaining to me how things would work. Then a nurse came out of the ward and told us we could go in but that only two visitors were allowed at a time. We decided that I would go in first with Joseph.
Johnny was awake and a lot more with it than he had been last night. Joseph ran straight up to him and hugged him. Johnny winced.
“Careful, Jo, my shoulder is tender,” he stated.
“Sorry, I’ve just been so worried about you,” Joseph replied.
I let the two of them chat away with each other for a few minutes, then interrupted.
“Johnny, Bernard is here to see you,” I told him.
“Because of John Henderson’s death?” he asked. I nodded. “I heard it on the news this morning. What’s going to happen?”
"Probably best if Bernard tells you," I replied. "He knows the details," I asked Joseph to go out and send his father in.
Bernard came in and set about explaining to Johnny what was going to happen.
“Johnny, at half-past-ten the police are going to come and arrest you for murder,” Bernard stated.
“But I did not mean to kill him,” Johnny stated.
“I know, but we have to prove it,” Bernard replied.
“Have to prove what?” a voice from the end of the bed asked. We turned to find Peter there.
“We have to prove that Johnny did not murder John Henderson,” Bernard answered.
“Why?” Peter asked.
“The police are going to arrest him at ten-thirty for it,” Bernard replied.
"I suppose they will want to take him into custody?" Peter asked.
“Yes,” confirmed Bernard.
“Well, they can wait a couple of days,” Peter answered. He picked up Johnny’s chart and made a note on it. "Johnny, if anyone asks, your shoulder is painful with a throbbing pain, and you feel a bit light-headed. Understood."
"Good, I will make sure I am around at ten-thirty. They will still arrest you, but they can't remove you from the hospital until I discharge you. As I have just diagnosed a possible post-op infection, that could be a couple of days. No doubt, they will insist you are isolated in a side ward for those days." With that, Peter walked off, no doubt to do the rest of his rounds.
“That could be helpful,” Bernard commented.
“Why?” Johnny asked. “I’ll still be under arrest.”
"Yes, but you will not be in the police station, and they are not likely to want to question you in here," Bernard responded. "From the time of arrest, they only have twenty-four hours before they have to release you unless they go before a magistrate and ask for extra time. That is granted in twelve-hour steps up to a maximum of ninety-six hours.”
“I don’t fancy being stuck in here for four days,” Johnny replied.
"You won't be," Bernard answered. "I strongly suspect that by four this evening they will find you are a bit too hot to handle.”
“What’s going on?” I asked.
"Can't say," Bernard told me. "What I can say is Edith is very upset, and that is never good for somebody."
That being said, Bernard and I left Johnny so that Joseph could go back in to see him and Ben could have a word with him. Bernard and I went down to the cafeteria for a coffee, or at least what passed as coffee. We found DCI Manley down there. He was sitting at a table by himself and indicated that we should go over and join him.
“Was just about to come up and find you guys,” he stated.
“Here to arrest Johnny?” I asked.
"No, thank god, that's not my job," he replied. "In fact, I have put in a formal recommendation against it. Stevens though, is pushing for it; think he is looking for some way to cover himself in glory. Don't think he realises exactly what he will be coming up against."
“Are we that scary?” Bernard asked.
"You're bad enough," Manley replied. "However, I hear Miss Jenkins is not taking too kindly to the idea that your boy might be arrested. In fact, from what I hear, she is taking great exception to it.
"I would be worried if it was just you I was just up against, Mr. LeBrun. The idea of going up against you and Miss Jenkins makes me think I would really need a cast-iron case, and even then, I would have my doubts. One thing I can say is that Stevens does not have a cast-iron case. In fact, in my opinion, he does not have a case at all. As I have pointed out in my memo."
“Who’s Stevens?” I enquired.
“Detective Inspector Martin Stevens of the local force,” Manley answered. “He is, or at least was, McCormac’s immediate superior. Not sure how much he knew about what was going on. My own opinion is that he probably knew a great deal, but it was in his interest not to ask questions.”
“Oh,” I replied. “Anyway, thanks for writing that memo.”
"Don't mention it; I was only covering my arse. There is no way that we could get a conviction; it was clear self-defence, even if your boy's kick did cause that bastard’s death, which I doubt. I know procedures say we should arrest when there has been a violent incident which results in death, but there are times when one should simply ignore procedures.”
“How’s your man doing?” Bernard asked.
"Zac? He's doing fine," Manley answered. "They got him off life support last night, and he is breathing on his own. Suspect he is looking at a medical retirement though, which will upset him.
“How’s your boy doing?”
“Good, they cleaned the wound out last night,” I informed him. “Was hoping to get him home today, but the consultant is worried about signs of post-op infection, so they are keeping him in for a couple of days.”
Manley burst out laughing. “That will really fuck Stevens up. They checked last night and were told he was due for discharge this morning. By the way, if you are planning on being up there for the event, you’d better get a move on; it is quarter past."
“Aren’t you coming?”
“No,” he replied. “Much as I am tempted, professional discretion requires me to stay out of this one.”
We left him and made our way back to the ward. Once there, we replaced Joseph and Ben at Johnny's bedside. Not five minutes later, a man in plainclothes accompanied by two uniformed policemen came into the ward. They walked up to Johnny's bed and looked at Bernard and me.
"Who are you?" the plainclothes man asked.
“I am Bernard LeBrun, solicitor; this is Michael Carlton, John Carlton's father."
"Right," the plainclothes man said, looking at Johnny. "You are John Carlton-Smith?"
Johnny confirmed he was.
“John Carlton-Smith, I am Detective Inspector Stevens, and I am arresting you on suspicion of the murder of John Henderson on Wednesday the 4th of September. You are not obliged to say anything, but anything you do say may be taken down and used in evidence against you. Do you understand?"
Johnny confirmed that he did.
“Right, if you would get dressed, we will arrange your transportation to the police station for questioning.”
“He’ll do no such thing,” Peter said from behind the Detective Inspector.
Stevens turned around and looked at Peter. “Who are you?”
"Peter Lovell, I am Senior Consultant in A&E here. This boy is currently under my care, and I decide when he will leave this hospital."
“We were told he would be discharged this morning,” Stevens stated.
“I hoped that would be the case, but I became concerned about his condition during my morning rounds and have delayed his discharge for forty-eight hours.”
“I’ll have to get the police surgeon to check this,” Stevens asserted.
“By all means, do,” Peter responded. “That would be Doctor Granger, would it not.” The Detective Inspector nodded.
“Nurse,” Peter called to one of the nurses who was standing at the end of the ward watching events. A young staff nurse came down towards him. “Doctor Granger is on duty in the walk-in centre, could you call down and ask him to come up to the ward; tell him it is urgent.” The nurse walked back to the nurse's station at the end of the ward, where he picked up a phone and made a call.
“While you are sorting out that,” Bernard interrupted. “I have to inform you that my client is not prepared to answer any questions at this time. Further, be advised that no attempt should be made to question my client without my personal presence.”
Stevens looked a Bernard with a furious expression. "What do you mean your personal presence. Surely a clerk or the father being present is sufficient?"
“I mean that I must be present in person,” Bernard smiled. “A copy of that requirement is at this moment being faxed to your Chief Constable.”
Just then, a small, somewhat podgy man came onto the ward. "Peter," he said as he approached the bed, "I got a message that you wanted to see me."
"I believe these men want to see you, Leo," Peter stated. He indicated the police officers.
“Detective Inspector, what can I do for you?" Leo asked.
“Doctor Granger, we were told this young man would be discharged this morning, so came to arrest him and take him to the police station for questioning. However, this man,” he indicated Peter, “informs us that the suspect is not fit to be discharged. I would ask you to examine him and tell us if he is fit to be discharged.”
Doctor Granger picked up Johnny’s chart and had a look at it, then turned to the Detective Inspector. “He is not able to be discharged.”
“But you have not looked at him,” the Detective Inspector stated.
“I don’t need to, I have read his chart,” Doctor Granger stated. He then turned to Johnny. “How do you feel young man?”
"A bit light-headed, I keep feeling giddy, and there is this throbbing pain in my shoulder," Johnny replied.
"Precisely what I would expect from your notes," Doctor Granger stated. He turned to the Detective Sergeant. "The consultant in charge of this case has identified a possible postoperative infection and indicated forty-eight hours observation. Until that has been completed, the young man cannot be discharged.
“Anyway, why are you arresting him?”
“Suspicion of murder, he was in a fight with another youth yesterday. The other youth has died,” Stevens stated.
"Ah, you mean the fight that is all over the internet," Doctor Granger responded. "If you think you can get a murder charge out of that, you are very much mistaken. I was talking to Professor Janson earlier; he has just finished the autopsy. Cause of death is a self-inflicted gunshot wound."
With that Doctor Granger turned and left with the comment that he had patients to attend to. Peter smiled.
The next half an hour was a bit chaotic. Stevens insisted that Johnny be moved to a side ward, where he could be guarded. He also insisted that nobody was to enter the side ward other than medical staff and his legal team. Bernard told me not to make a fuss about it. He would get things sorted out. He then got on his phone; so far as I could make out. he was talking to June Ravensbrook.
Once Johnny had been moved into the side ward. I re-joined Ben and Joseph in the waiting area. Before I could say anything about what had gone on, Ben excused himself and went into the ward where Johnny had been. He came back five minutes later, smiling.
“What was that about?” I enquired.
"You do not want to know," Ben answered. "Well, there is not much I can do here; I’d better get back to the studio." With that, he left us.
I spent the next ten minutes or so telling Joseph what had happened and what was going on, as much as I knew. Then Bernard joined us and suggested we all go back to the Priory.
There were still several reporters outside the entrance when we got there. Bernard, though, just drove straight through them, relying on them getting out of the way. Probably due to the fact he was driving the Bentley, they did.
Once in the apartment, I had to tell Anne everything that had happened as she made us some drinks. Bernard looked at his watch. It was now getting on for twelve.
“Could I suggest putting the TV on, tuned to the Parliament channel?” he asked.
I switched on the TV and after a bit of searching found the Parliament channel on Freeview. Then I left Bernard watching it while I went into the kitchenette to sort out some lunch.
“A statement to the House by the Home Secretary,” the voice of the Speaker sounded from the TV.
“You might want to listen to this,” Bernard commented. I went back into the living area to join the rest.
"Mr. Speaker," the voice of the Home Secretary announced. "Yesterday, following an incident at the Central Criminal Courts, a number of persons were arrested in a major police operation against organised crime. I am pleased to report to the House that subsequent to the arrests and searches under warrant at various properties, evidence was found that will enable the police to take effective action against a number of parties involved in dealing in and the smuggling of drugs and also in sex trafficking.
“I regret to report to the House that during the various police raids to execute the arrest of suspects in this investigation, a police officer was shot and seriously injured. However, I am pleased to be able to report that the officer in question is now off life support and while still critical, is expected to make a full recovery."
With that, the Home Secretary sat down. Several members stood up.
“The member for London Naese,” the Speaker announced.
The opposition spokesman on Home Affairs stayed standing; the other members sat down.
“I thank the Right Honourable Lady for the information she has given to the House and ask that she extend the best wishes of the House to the injured police officer and give the police officer and his family all the support that the Honourable Lady can. Further, I would like to draw the attention of the Home Secretary to the actions of the young man who, when threatened by the gunman who had shot the officer, managed to floor the gunman, resulting in the gunman's capture and arrest. Can I request the Home Secretary to offer the commendation to the young man for his actions?" With that, the opposition spokesman sat down.
The Home Secretary rose from her seat. "I will, of course, pass on the sentiments of this House to the officer and his family. With regard to the young man, I fully agree with my Right Honourable Member for London Naese in the fact that he should be fully commended for his actions, and I will look into recommending to the Prime Minister that some form of honour should be considered for his actions.”
“Och! That’s going to bite,” Bernard exclaimed as cries of ‘Here, Here’, arose from members of the house as the Home Secretary resumed her seat.
The opposition spokesman rose from his seat. “I am sure many members of this house would fully support the granting of an appropriate honour to the young man, who I am informed is called John Carlton-Smith.” There was another round of ‘Here, Here' being called by members of the House in support. "However, does not the Home Secretary think that given that she and this house feel that John Carlton-Smith should be given some recognition for his actions, it is somewhat inappropriate for him to have been arrested on suspicion of murder when we have all clearly seen he was acting in self-defence and the defence of those around him." There were cries of 'Nay' and 'Shameful' around the chamber as the opposition spokesman took his seat and the Home Secretary arose.
“I thank the Right Honourable Member of drawing to my attention the arrest of John Carlton-Smith, which I must agree, given the circumstances, seems somewhat unwarranted. Given that, I will ask the Honourable Member of Suddenham to look into the matter.” With that comment, she took her seat; several members stood to ask further questions.
“Who is the member for Suddenham?” I asked Bernard.
"Lance Fletcher, a junior minister at the Home Office with responsibility for policing," Bernard replied, taking the controller and switching off the TV. "Crowthorne nicely trapped the Home Secretary in that exchange." There was a satisfied smile on his face.
“I gather you had something to do with it?” I commented.
"Not really," Bernard replied. "Edith met him for supper last night. I was just asked to provide some briefing material and to keep him informed of the situation. Now, all we have to see is how things play out, but after that little exchange, I think you can assume that Johnny is going to get a medal."
“Well, he bloody deserves one,” Joseph commented.
I finished off making sandwiches for lunch, then served them together with mugs of tea. Bernard tucked into them with gusto. He seemed to be inordinately happy with himself.
“What’s going on, Bernard?” I asked.
“Probably a lot of policemen in a panic,” he replied.
“Bernard! You’re up to something, aren’t you?”
"Why should you think that, Mike?"
“Because I have known you from before either of us could walk,” I pointed out.
“OK, you have a point there,” he responded. “Look, the moment they release Johnny without charge, which they are going to have to do, I am hitting them with a massive action for false arrest.”
“Can you do that?” I enquired.
“I thought the police only needed reasonable suspicion,” I responded.
“That’s all they need. But in this case, we can show that DI Stevens did not have grounds for reasonable suspicion. In fact, a senior officer had stated in writing that there were no grounds for arrest. I will be looking get Johnny a six-figure sum.”
“He doesn’t need it, as you well know,” I commented.
“That is beside the point,” Bernard replied.
Just then, Bernard's phone rang. He answered it and was clearly speaking to his office. After a few minutes chat about office issues, he told them to arrange something for two-thirty, then rang off.
“Well, things are moving quicker than I expected,” Bernard stated. “I have been asked to meet with Detective Chief Inspector Carleigh. Apparently, he will be at Maldon police station from two o’clock. So, I am going to see him at two-thirty.
“Can you give me a lift in? You might want to go onto the hospital and wait for me there. Also, take some clean clothes for Johnny, he might need them.”
“You seem to assume he will get discharged,” I stated.
"I do not doubt that once Johnny is no longer under arrest, his condition will rapidly improve."
I dropped Bernard off at the Police Station and went on to the hospital. When I got to the side ward where Johnny was, I was politely but firmly informed that the person in there was in custody and I was not allowed to visit. I took a seat in the waiting area and waited and waited and waited. It was nearly three hours before Bernard turned up.
“What took you so long?” I enquired.
"Bureaucratic idiots," he replied. "You know life would be a lot easier if people just gave in gracefully when they are beaten, but the idiots would not see it. Detective Inspector Stevens made a point of pushing for something he was never going to get."
“What was that?”
“Johnny to accept a caution for assault,” Bernard replied.
“But that would have been a damned sight better than a murder charge,” I pointed out.
“A murder charge on which they have no hope of getting a conviction,” Bernard replied. “If I had agreed to him accepting a caution, he would have had a criminal record. The caution would have shown up if he had ever needed enhanced disclosure for any reason. There was no way I was going to agree to him taking a caution.
“Anyway, if we had accepted a caution any hope of going for false arrest would have gone out of the window.”
“So, what happens now?” I asked.
“We wait while they consult with the Crown Prosecution Service, or rather, you wait, I’m going in to talk with my client." With that, Bernard stood up and made his way to the side ward. The police officer at the door stopped him, but when Bernard identified himself, he was admitted.
Some fifteen minutes later, Detective Chief Inspector Manley came along. He looked at me questioningly. "Have they still got him under custody?"
I told him they had.
"Idiots," Manley replied. "They know they don't have a case; they should release him without charge. The longer they hold him, the higher the damages that will have to be paid out are going to be."
“You are pretty certain that there will be some damages,” I replied.
“I know Bernard LeBrun," Manley stated. "He does not do much criminal work, thank God, but when he does take on a case, our lot need to watch out.
“This is all a bit awkward.”
“Why’s that?” I enquired.
“I’ve just had the Commissioner on the phone to me. He wanted to know the full details of Johnny’s actions,” Manley stated.
"So that he can issue a formal commendation to Johnny and make a formal recommendation to the Honours Committee. I am to inform Johnny of what is happening." With that, Manley started to giggle.
“What’s so funny?”
“I’m supposed to tell a person who is being held in custody for his actions by one force that the head of another force is commending him and recommending him for an honour for the same actions,” Manley replied.
I had to admit it was a bit of a comic situation.
A uniformed sergeant came out of the lift and looked around. He spoke to a nurse, then made his way down towards us. It took me a moment to realise that from the lift he would not have been able to see the officer standing outside Johnny's door. As the sergeant turned the corner by the waiting area, he gave both of us a look which indicated he was not happy about something. Then he spoke to the officer on duty outside the door before going in.
A couple of minutes later, the sergeant came out of Johnny's side ward accompanied by another officer, the officer at the door joined them. The three walked back to the lift and left without giving us a second look. As they did, Bernard put his head out of the door and told me I could go in and see Johnny.
“I’ll wait here a bit,” DCI Manley said. “In fact, could you ask Mr. LeBrun if I could have a word with him?" I nodded, then went in to see Johnny.
"What was all that about?" I asked Bernard as I entered the side ward.
"That was a custody sergeant who came to tell Johnny that he was being released without charge," Bernard stated. "Now if you know how to contact his consultant, I think it is time for Johnny to make a remarkable recovery, don't you?"
I told Bernard how to contact Peter and that Manley would like a word with him, then went and sat down by Johnny's bed. He might be recovering, but he still looked pretty rough to me.
“How are you feeling?” I asked.
“Pretty rough, Dad.”
“Nah, not much. just did not get much sleep," he stated. "Then they moved me in here, and that cop they had watching me kept talking. Telling me what things would be like in prison."
“Charming,” I stated.
“Depressing,” Johnny retorted. “Hope you can get me out of here now; I’m starving.”
“Haven’t they been feeding you?”
“Yes, but the food’s awful and the portions too small. I need something substantial,” he stated.
“Anything in mind?”
"Yes, Dad, steak, eggs and chips at the Crooked Man."
Just then, Peter came into the side ward.
“Well,” he said, “you seem to have an appetite, which is always a good sign. Now, let’s check if there is any sign of that infection.”
For the next five minutes or so, Peter did some checks on how Johnny was. Satisfied, he stated that Johnny could be discharged.
"You’d better get dressed young man while I take your father to sort out your discharge papers."
It was just then I remembered the bag of clothes which I had left in the car. I dashed down to the carpark and grabbed them before returning to the ward. Peter was still there, going over some instructions with Johnny. I handed the bag over.
That done, Peter and I went along to the nurses' station. Several forms were printed off, which I signed. I was also given a packet of tablets.
“Mike, his shoulder is going to be uncomfortable for quite a bit, there is a 24-hour supply of painkillers here, but Johnny needs to see his doctor to get a script for some more. He will probably need a week's supply."
It hit me then that we had not changed doctors since we had moved. Worse still, I had not registered Johnny with a local doctor. I mentioned this to Peter.
“Who were you with before?” he asked.
“Doctor Nygyra,” I responded.
"Good bloke," Peter observed. "Does some cover at the walk-in centre. If you got on well with him, try Doctor Graham at the Harbour practice; that's his wife. I'll have a word with her and tell her to expect to see Johnny tomorrow."
“They don’t work at the same practice?”
"No, Mike," Peter replied. "They would probably end up either killing each other or never seeing each other if they did. I know Su Graham from medical school. She and John Nygyra met up on her first residency. Make a good couple as long as they are not working together. Call the surgery now and make an appointment for Johnny to see her tomorrow. No, on second thoughts, don’t. Let me call her first; call in the morning for an appointment.”
With that, he shoved a pile of papers at me and told me to get my son out of here as they needed the bed. I was only too pleased to oblige.
Bernard and DCI Manley were in the side ward when I returned. Johnny was dressed and clearly anxious to get out of the place. Manley, though, asked for a quick word with me before we left. We stepped outside the side ward.
“What is it?” I asked.
"Look, Johnny seems to be coping with this fairly well, but there is likely to be a reaction to being involved in John Henderson's death. To be honest, at the moment I think he is a bit too spaced out on painkillers to be worried, but when he comes down, it is going to hit him. When it does, get him into therapy as quickly as you can," he told me.
“Is it going to be a problem?” I enquired.
"Can't say," Manley replied. "It's different for everybody. Killing somebody is easy; living with yourself afterwards, that is the hard part. I know Johnny did not kill the Henderson boy, but he was involved in the death, so just be aware.”
“You sound as if you are speaking from experience,” I stated.
“I am,” Manley replied. I nodded and made a mental note to discuss it with Ben.
Thirty minutes later, we were coming up the hill towards the Priory; I started to kick myself mentally. There were still some reporters outside the place, though with Ben and Phil's security people and Miss Jenkins' heavies they were being kept off the property. However, I would have to slow to turn into the drive, and we had Johnny sitting in the back. It is not as if he even had a hoodie on, so he could do something to hide his identity. Bernard must have read my thoughts. Just as we came up to the bend by the Crooked Man, he told Johnny to lie down on the back seat.
“Why?” Johnny asked.
“No time for explanations,” Bernard stated. “Just do it.” Johnny did.
As we passed the Crooked Man, we came in sight of the entrance to the Priory. We also came in sight of the crowd around the entrance. Two of Allen's people stood at each side of the driveway entrance. One of the photographers spotted us and started to run down the road towards us, directly in front of the car.
“Keep going,” Bernard directed. “Don’t speed up. Just keep at this speed.”
I did. As we approached the photographer, he jumped to the side and held his camera up, taking some shots as we passed. Just then, the two security men on the entrance pushed the crowd to one side, I turned the car and drove through the entrance. As I did, a number of cameras were pushed towards the car windows, and flashes went off. Once on the drive, I kept going up past the side of the house and round into the yard. As we did so, Bernard told Johnny he could sit up now.
As we pulled into the yard, Ben and Joseph came down from the apartment. Joseph ran over to the car and pulled open the rear passenger door just as we came to a stop. He grabbed Johnny in a hug; Johnny yelped with pain.
“Sorry,” Joseph said, letting go of Johnny. “I was just so worried about you.”
“You were worried about me. I was worried about me,” Johnny replied. “Had a bastard of a cop telling me how bad things were going to be in prison and I’d better fess up and get a shorter term.”
“You what?” Bernard bellowed.
“Later,” I suggested. “Let’s get everyone inside.”
Once inside, we discussed what to do about a meal. Johnny maintained he was starving and wanted steak, eggs and chips. I pointed out that going to the Crooked Man might be a bit difficult with the press hanging around outside.
“Any idea how long that might go on for?” I asked to nobody in particular.
"We can probably expect them to stay there till the story dies down," Ben stated. "That could take some time. The best thing would be to get it out of the way."
“How?” I asked.
"I would suggest Johnny give a couple of television interviews," Ben said. "Once those are broadcast, it becomes old news. That is the last thing they want."
I was not sure I liked the idea of Johnny giving a television interview, but I could see Ben's point, and he had a lot more experience of dealing with the press than I had. Let us be honest, my experience at dealing with publicity was nil, so any experience was a lot more than mine. I looked at Bernard to get his input.
"Makes sense," he stated. "The question is, how do we arrange it?"
"Let my publicity people deal with that," Ben stated.
“How do you feel about it?” I asked Johnny.
“I just wish it would all go away,” he stated. I must agree; I had the same opinion.
“Well,” Ben stated, “if you want it to go away, you’re going have to make it go away. You may not like it, but you are going to have to play the hero for a bit.”
Johnny looked at Ben, a look of disbelief on his face.
"Look, Johnny, you need to understand that the only way to deal with publicity is to make sure you're in control of it," Ben said. "At the moment you are not in control of it; we are not in control of it. We need to get control."
“But television,” Johnny stated.
“Yes, television,” Ben answered. “They want a story, so we will give them a story. We will give them the story we want them to have. It is all about taking control of the story. OK?”
“I suppose so,” Johnny replied. I had the distinct impression that he was not OK with it.
“I don’t want to interrupt this conversation,” I said, lying. Interrupting that conversation was precisely my point. “But what are we going to do about food?”
“I suppose the Crooked Man is out?” Johnny enquired.
“I think that is a correct assumption, son.”
“Especially as that is where the vultures will be getting refreshment whilst they stake this place out,” Ben added.
“Pity, I just fancied steak, eggs and chips,” Johnny stated.
"Is it out, though?" Anne asked. "I'll give Mary a call." She went through to our bedroom to use the phone in there.
She returned a few minutes later. “Well, it’s not steak, egg and chips, but Mary’s going to send up a tray of her steak and ale pie and a tray of chips. She’s going to get Tony to run them up in his car. Can you let your security people know, Ben. Don’t want Tony stuck at the gate.”
Anne continued, “I think it might be better if we went over to the kitchen. There’re six of us here, and the breakfast bar can only sit three."
It took us a few minutes to organise things, like who was staying to eat and who was leaving; we just assumed Joseph was staying.
“I don’t think I could prise him away with a crowbar,” Bernard commented. “Missing a couple of days’ school won’t be that bad. I have to get back tonight, but I will come and collect him on Sunday.”
“You’re not staying to eat?” I asked.
"It's not kosher, is it?" he enquired.
“Of course not,” I answered.
"Then I am staying," Bernard replied, smiling. "I'll get off after we've eaten."
Ben confirmed that he would be staying until at least the weekend. As we started to make our way down and across to the kitchen, he held me back.
"Look, Mike, I know Johnny is handling stuff fairly well at the moment, but all this is going to hit him some time," he stated. I nodded in agreement. "I will stay around for a few days, just in case."
I was grateful to Ben.
Once in the kitchen, Anne stated that we should sort some veg to go with the pie and chips. I got some peas out of the freezer and tipped them into a pan. Then put on the kettle to boil.
It had only just come to the boil when a small red Fiat drove into the yard. I poured the boiling water over the peas, turning the heat up under them. Anne and Joseph went out to the car, returning a minute or so later with two large, aluminium, catering trays, one filled with pie, the other with chips.
“How many portions are there?” I enquired.
Anne looked at me; then at the tray she was placing on the table. "Depends on how you cut it. If you do three by six, you have eighteen, four by eight and you've got thirty-two."
“There are only six of us,” I pointed out.
“The security people need feeding as well,” Anne pointed out. I returned to the freezer and got more peas out.
About an hour and a half later, after we had all eaten, the security people had eaten, and Maddie, Neil and Miss Jenkins’ people had eaten, Bernard said goodbye and returned to London, having got through two full portions. I looked at the catering trays keeping warm in the oven. There were still a good six portions left in each tray.
“What are we going to do with this?” I asked nobody in particular.
“We could take it down to the reporters by the gate,” Joseph stated. “I’m sure they must be getting hungry.”
“Let me put some Senokot in it first,” Anne commented.
“Not sure that would be a good idea,” Ben stated. “They would just shit in your gateway.”
“They probably would, too,” Anne agreed.
Just then, my phone rang. I looked at the caller ID; it was Jack, so I answered it.
"Hello, Jack," I said.
“When were you going to tell me my grandson had got shot?” he asked.
"Shit! Sorry, Jack, things have been such a mess down here I totally forgot."
“Right, how is he?”
"He's fine, Jack," I replied. "Want a word with him." I passed the phone over to Johnny. They spoke for about ten minutes. To be more correct, Jack spoke; Johnny just replied either, ‘Yes, Grandad’ or ‘No, Grandad’. Johnny then handed the phone back to me with a look of relief.
I took it.
“Mike, you there?” Jack asked.
“Yes, I am,” I replied.
“Right, me and the missus are getting the train down in the morning. How we get to your place from Euston?” he asked.
“You don’t,” I replied.
“What do you mean we don’t?” Jack responded.
"You do not get here from Euston," I replied. "Look, Jack, we are miles out from London. It's no use getting the train there. Give me half an hour, and I will sort something out." I knew from experience just saying no to Jack was a waste of time.
Putting the phone down, I looked at Ben. "What's up?" he asked.
"Jack and Flora are getting the train down in the morning," I told him. "They're upset that we did not let them know Johnny was in the hospital."
“Like hell they are getting on a train,” Ben stated.
“Jack was very insistent,” I responded.
"Mike, they're in the eighties," he replied. "I'll call Manston, Bains can go up and collect them and bring them down." He paused for a moment, thinking. Then he pulled out his phone and dialled.
"Extension 101 please?" he asked when the phone was answered. There was a pause. Ben looked angry. "I don't know who you are young lady, but if anyone calls on this number and asks for a specific extension, you put them through without asking who they are." There was another pause. "Good evening, Mrs M, what is the accommodation situation?" Another pause. "Right, I need accommodation for my brother, his wife, Phil's parents and two boys. The boys can have the stable apartment. We will be arriving tomorrow. Can you send Bains to Stoke to collect Phil’s parents? I also need the library available all weekend.”
Once he had received the assurances he wanted, Ben rang off.
“I assume we’re going to Manston?” I enquired.
"Yes," Ben replied. "Sorry, I should have asked if it was alright, but it makes sense. The estate is a lot more secure than this place, so we can control access. Also, it is a much better location for any interview Johnny might give.”
Neither Anne nor I could disagree with that. I phoned Jack and told him we were coming up to Manston for the weekend and would see them there. Anne had classes Friday morning, so it was decided that Ben, Johnny and Joseph would go up early on Friday, and Anne and I would follow on later.
Early Friday morning, one of the security men from Manston drove Ben’s Maserati out of the drive with the top down. A couple of photographers took photos, but they were not particularly interested in somebody they had already identified as security. He had been stationed on the gate most of the previous day. Ten minutes later, Ben, Joseph and Johnny made their way to the back gate, where the Maserati was waiting for them. By the time I left to take Anne to the college in the Hyundai, an hour and a half later, the three of them were well on their way to Manston.
I had Anne’s, Joseph’s and Johnny’s cases along with my own in the back of the Hyundai. Anne had two classes this morning that she felt she had to attend. There was also one this afternoon, which we agreed she could miss. Initially, we had thought about me dropping Anne off and coming back to the Priory. In the end, I decided to spend the morning at Marge's café. I had my laptop and a 4G dongle with me and thought I could probably get some work done while Anne was in class. If I drove back home, I would not long be back before it was time to return and pick her up; not enough time to settle down and get some work done.
Having dropped Anne off at the college, I drove down the road to Marge’s café. Fortunately, there was a parking space outside, so I parked up, grabbed my laptop and went in. Marge was behind the counter. The place was packed; not a single seat was free. Marge looked at me, then glanced at the clock behind her.
"Give it five minutes, and they will mostly be gone," she advised me.
She was right. Almost to the dot at five to nine, the various staff and students at the tables stood and started to leave. The two waiting staff came out from the kitchen and started to clear and wipe down the tables. As soon as a table had been cleared, I took it. Marge came over to take my order. As she did, I pulled my laptop out of its case.
“You need internet?” she asked.
"I've got a 4G dongle," I stated.
“This place has got wifi," she replied. "Today's password's on the board." She indicated a today's special board behind the counter. The top line read 'Today's Password: D0ntBeGreedy'.
I gave Marge my order, then logged onto the wifi and opened my emails. Marge brought my order. I told her I would be occupying the table for a couple of hours, as my wife was in class and I was taking her away for the weekend after.
"That's fine. Won't get busy in here again till lunchtime," she replied. "Taking her anywhere nice?"
“Manston,” I stated.
“Christ, you must be loaded,” she quipped.
“Nah, my brother, is part owner," I responded. Marge looked at me with a look of sudden revelation.
“You’re the dad of the boy who took down the Henderson lad?”
“Yes,” I answered.
“Well, tell that lad of yours that he did a bloody good job,” Marge stated. “He deserves a fucking medal.”