“Tell me what?” I asked.
“Tariq’s got a boyfriend,” Johnny answered.
“So, he’s gay,” I replied. “I knew that.”
“Yes,” Johnny responded. “The thing is, he has not been able to contact Jaydee since he was in hospital.”
“How long have you two been together?” I asked Tariq.
"Since Easter last year," he replied. "We went on an exchange visit to France. The family I was supposed to stay with had to cancel at the last minute, actually while we were on the flight over. Their son had been taken ill and was in hospital. I ended up staying with the same family as Jaydee was with, and we had to share a room.
“Édouard, the son of the family we were staying with, told us we kept looking at each other as if we were in love. When he said it, we both admitted we were.
“I haven’t heard from Jaydee since I got out of hospital.”
“You’ve tried contacting him?” I asked, realising as I asked that it was a silly question.
"Yes," Tariq confirmed. "I’ve been phoning his mobile every day, but it is always unavailable. When I try his home, the phone just rings out."
That seemed odd; then, a thought struck me. "Tariq, can you give Johnny Jaydee’s home number?” Tariq nodded and told Johnny the number, which Johnny entered into his phone.
“How well did you get on with this Édouard?” I asked.
“Very well,” Tariq stated. “We’ve kept in touch by email and messaging since we got back, but he has not heard from Jaydee, either.”
"Johnny, can you block the caller ID on your phone?" I asked.
“Yes, Dad, you can do that on any mobile, why?”
“I don’t want them to think the call is coming from the UK,” I stated.
“Who?” Johnny asked.
“Jaydee’s family,” I replied. “I want them to think the call is coming from France.”
“I can fix that,” Johnny stated. “Though it will take me about half an hour to set up, and I need to use your computer.”
“How?” I asked.
“I’ll get Marcel to let me use his Skype,” Johnny responded. “I can VPN into his computer and then call from his Skype. He’s got a virtual number on his Skype account, so it will show up as a call originating from a French number.”
Johnny's explanation left me a bit baffled, but I told him to go ahead. It did not take half an hour. It took less than fifteen minutes. After a brief chat with Marcel, Johnny got it all set up. Once everything was ready, we sat around the computer as he dialled the number Tariq had given him.
“Hello,” a deep female voice answered.
“Bonjour,” Johnny replied. “May I speak to Jaydee, please?” He said it with a definite French accent.
“Who’s calling?” the voice asked.
“Édouard,” Johnny answered. “Jaydee stayed with my family in France, and we have been messaging each other, but recently he has not replied. I was worried that something might be wrong, is he mal — sorry, ill.”
"Yes," the voice responded. "That boy who was with him, Tariq, he infected my son with homosexuality. We have sent him to his aunt’s in Trinidad to be cured. I pray you are not infected. Go to your priest and make sure the evil is not in you." With that, the phone was put down.
I looked at Tariq; the boy was in tears. There was silence in the room for a moment, then Johnny closed down the app he had been using and went and put his arm around Tariq.
"Don't worry, we'll find him somehow," Johnny stated. I wish I could have been as sure as he sounded, but I knew I had to do something if only to get Tariq calmed down.
"Tariq, what's Jaydee’s full name?” I enquired.
He looked up at me, thought for a moment, then said, “James Daniel Seymour, Jr.”
The name surprised me. Seymour did not sound like a particularly Trinidadian surname. I commented on that.
"It's not," Tariq stated. "His dad is white; he was a doctor at the hospital where Jaydee’s mother worked. She’s a nurse. Jaydee has his name, that’s why he’s junior.”
“You said was,” I pointed out. “Does that mean he is now not a doctor?”
“No,” Tariq replied. “He’s still a doctor, but he is no longer in Leeds. Him and Jaydee’s mum divorced three years ago. Doctor Seymour took a consultant’s position in Australia and moved there. Jaydee was due to go out for a holiday. That’s why we were kissing when Dad caught us.”
“Your father caught you kissing Jaydee?”
“Yes, he threw Jaydee out of the house, then started to hit me,” Tariq replied. For a moment, he was quiet, thinking about something, then it was as if he suddenly had an answer. "The bastard must have told Jaydee’s mother.”
“I think that is quite likely,” I commented. “Johnny, why don’t you take Tariq up to your room and hit that damned games console you seem to be on most of the time.” Johnny laughed at my comment. He did, though, guide Tariq out of the room.
I checked the address book for Steve's home number; then I dialled it.
I was in luck, and the phone was answered by the person I wanted to speak to.
"Doctor Lovell," Peter said, answering the phone.
“Peter, it’s Mike Carlton, I need some assistance,” I stated.
“If it’s keeping Anne in order, forget it," he stated. "Both Steve and I know too well who is the boss in Steve's family."
“No, nothing like that,” I responded. “I’m not stupid.”
"Not so sure about that; you married her. After ten years, you should have known what she was like."
“I did. That’s why I married her. Peter, I need to find a doctor.”
“That should not be difficult, just phone NHS Direct, they can give you the names of GPs around your area. Though I thought you had a GP.”
“No, I am not looking for a doctor, in that sense,” I replied. “I am looking for a specific doctor. All I have is a name and the fact that he is in Australia.”
"Well, if he is practising, he will need to be registered with the Medical Board of Australia. You could check with them," Peter stated. "Who is this doctor?”
“James Daniel Seymour,” I answered.
“Jamie Seymour!” Peter exclaimed. “Why are you looking for him?”
I explained the situation with Tariq and my fears for Jaydee, given that he had been shipped back to Trinidad to be ‘cured’.
“Fuck!” Peter exclaimed when I had finished my explanation. “That explains a lot.”
“Why, what do you know?” I asked.
"Jamie and I both trained in emergency trauma care at Queen's under Professor Lawrence," Peter exclaimed. "He finished up in Leeds and married a nurse; I was his best man. Anyway, as you know, the marriage went sour. Jamie could not get a consultant's position in Leeds, so when a chance came up for a post in Oz, he jumped at it.
"He went out there just after he qualified and spent a year with the Flying Doctor Service, so he learned about the country. He was hoping when his son turned sixteen, Jaydee would go out and join him out there.
"The thing is, something went wrong this year; his son was supposed to go out for the holidays but never went. Jamie's not heard from him since the start of August.
“Look, Mike, I’ll contact Jamie and let him know what’s happening. Is it OK for me to give him your number?”
I told him it was. Once I had finished the call, I went through to the living room and briefed Anne on everything. I then went and made some tea for myself and coffee for Anne, who was buried in some tome on computer programming.
After I had finished my tea, I went back to my study and got down to some writing. Just after ten, Anne put her head around the door to tell me that she was going up to bed; she also told me not to be up too late. I asked about Tariq but was assured that he was in the guest room. Earlier on, he had been asking about sleeping in the apartment, but I had not been happy about that idea, given that it was technically a worksite at the moment.
About half an hour later the phone rang. I grabbed it, not wanting it to disturb Anne.
“Hello,” I said.
"Hello, can I speak to Mr. Mike Carlton, please?" a voice said.
"Who's calling?" I asked.
“James Seymour, I’m calling from Sydney.”
“Dr. Seymour,” I responded. “I’m Mike Carlton.”
"It's Mister. Actually, I'm a consultant trauma surgeon," he stated.
“My apologies, I knew you had trained with Peter, so presumed you were in the same field,” I stated.
"We are," he replied. "However, Peter decided to go down the accident- and emergency-medical care route; I went in for the trauma surgery. He keeps them alive, and I put them back together.
“Sorry, I know it’s late your time, but I just got up to find an email from Peter about Jaydee. He gave me your name and phone number. I have to leave for the hospital shortly but wanted to find out what I could before I went in.”
I told him what I knew and what had happened with Tariq.
“The bitch!” he exclaimed. “Jaydee was supposed to come out for part of his holidays. Custody was contested, and it all ended up being a bit of a mess. My lawyer let me down somewhat. The upshot was that Jaydee had to stay with his mother but could spend his holidays with me. I knew I was coming out here — that is one thing that led to the final break up — so I made sure there was a provision for him to visit me. However, any trip outside of the UK has to be approved by the court.
“My ex phoned me at the beginning of August to say that she did not think it would be a good idea for Jaydee to come out, so she would not give her agreement to the court application.”
“Wouldn’t she have needed court approval to take him to Trinidad?” I asked.
"Yes, she would," he stated. "My lawyers should have contacted me about that. I need to find some new lawyers."
I gave him Bernard’s contact details. Told him that I doubted if Bernard would take on the case as it was not his field, but he would certainly know somebody who would have the required expertise. He would probably have somebody in his firm.
“Thanks, I’ll email him,” he said. “Look I need to get off, it’s a bit of a drive to the hospital. Can I call you when I get off work? That should be about ten in the morning your time.”
“Fine,” I replied.
After that, I found I had lost the thread of what I was working on so decided to call it a night, closed down and went up to bed.
“Who was that on the phone?” Anne asked as I entered our bedroom. I told her and then had to give her a complete account of the conversation.
The next morning, I phoned Marcia to fill her in on developments.
“Jaydee and Tariq,” she responded. “Can’t say I am surprised? Those two have been as thick as thieves since they were four-year-olds in the nursery class."
It was getting on for eleven when James Seymour phoned me. He apologised for being late but stated he had been on the phone for nearly an hour with a solicitor from Bernard’s office. Apparently, James had been thinking of flying back, but the solicitor had told him to hold off till they knew what the situation was. In the meantime, James asked if I had the contact details for Tariq, as he wanted to reassure Tariq that he had no problems with his relationship with Jaydee.
"To be honest," he said, "I suspected there was something between those two when they were nine coming up to ten. I think my ex suspected something as well; she was badgering me to apply for positions in Trinidad so that we could get our son into a 'Christian' environment."
“So, your ex was a devout Christian?” I asked.
"She wasn't when we married," he replied. "If she had been, I doubt if we would have married; I'm a Buddhist. However, two or three years before we broke up, she got involved in a local Pentecostal Church, and, to be honest, everything has been downhill since then."
I told him that Tariq was staying with us for a few days before he and his mother moved into the apartment, but that Tariq was out at the moment. He had gone into Dunford with Johnny. I did say that they should be back between twelve and one as I could not see them missing lunch.
James said he would phone back about ten-thirty his time, which was one-thirty our time. I said that would be fine.
Johnny looked in on me just gone twelve-thirty to let me know Tariq and he were back. He then asked me where Anne was.
“No idea, son,” I replied. “Last time I saw her was at breakfast. She did say something about checking something with Maddie, so she might be over at the Stable House.”
Johnny nodded and went off. I got back to my writing. About half an hour later, Johnny came and told me that lunch was ready.
I had just got to the kitchen when Anne walked in from the yard.
"Sorry," she said. "Got caught up talking with Maddie about recursion. She made a lot more sense than the bloody textbook. Lost track of time."
“So, who did lunch?” I enquired.
“Johnny,” she replied. I looked at my son.
"Well, you can't spend a third of your life in France without learning something," he stated. "Marcel's mother always had us in the kitchen helping."
It was clear I needed to find out more about Johnny’s time in France — a lot more.
We had just about finished lunch when the phone went; I guessed it was James, so I took the call in the kitchen. It was James, so I passed the phone over to Tariq. The two of them spent the better part of half an hour on the phone. During that time, Anne informed me that she was going to drive over to Chelmsford. She was joining Maddie at some computer conference next week, and she needed a new dress.
Johnny asked if it was alright for him and Tariq to start to get Tariq's room in the apartment ready. Most of the boxes we had brought over were full of Tariq's stuff. I told Johnny he’d better check with the site foreman that it was safe for them to go in and that they would not be in the way. He went out and was back five minutes later with the information that they had finished at that end of the apartment, and as long as they stuck to using the far staircase, there would be no problem. Given that information, I said I had no objection, but he’d better talk with Marcia just to confirm that Tariq could have that room.
Just then, Tariq called me to the phone, saying that James wanted a word with me. I took the phone and told James I would transfer it to my study. I then handed the phone handset to Tariq and told him to put it in the cradle when he heard me pick up the study phone.
The phone chat with James was pretty short. He just wanted to give me his contact details and also to thank me for putting him in touch with Bernard’s firm.
“I got more out of the young lady that your friend Bernard told me to speak to than I have got out of my old solicitors in three years,” he told me. “It seems that there was a court consent for Jaydee to travel, though how that could have been granted, I do not know, as I never gave my agreement to it."
I had just finished on the phone with James when the doorbell rang, which surprised me; I was not expecting anyone. Anyway, most of the people who know us tend to come around the back to the kitchen door. I went through to answer it. Detective Chief Inspector Manley stood there.
“I hope this is not an inconvenient time,” the DCI said.
“Not at all,” I replied. “Come in. I must admit I expected to see you earlier in the week after your call last week.”
"I was hoping to get here earlier in the week; unfortunately, someone decided to put a knife into one of our main witnesses, which has caused some problems," Manley replied.
“How bad was it?”
“Fatal,” Manley replied. “Though to be quite honest, whoever did it might have done us a favour in the long run.”
"Well, he was not the strongest of witnesses," Manley answered. "I suspect he was playing his part in the Henderson clique up quite a bit. I also suspect that a lot of the stuff he says he heard was in fact stuff he got second-hand. As such, it would be hearsay evidence, something we can't generally use in court.
"I am reasonably sure that once he was on the stand, the defence would have torn his evidence to pieces, showing he could not have been where he said he was to hear what he said he heard. That could have thrown doubt on other testimony being given in the case. However, what he did tell us was useful; it gave us grounds to get warrants which enabled us to gather additional evidence — evidence we are quite happy to present in court.
"As his statement was one of the key statements we acted on, it would be difficult for the prosecution not to present his testimony if he had been available. As it is, they now have a perfectly valid reason for not calling him."
“But why should he make out he was a more important member of the Henderson outfit than he was?” I enquired.
"So, he could get a better deal," Manley replied. "For a start, his agreement to give evidence got him out on bail."
“I can see that, though not sure being out on bail helped him,” I pointed out.
“It probably kept him alive longer than he would have been if he had been inside,” Manley responded. “Suspect he would have been dealt with pretty quickly if he had been inside and the Hendersons had become aware that he was giving evidence against him.”
“Were they aware?”
“Oh, yes,” DCI Manley replied. “The guys that did it were a couple of John Henderson’s associates.”
“Then you have got who did it?” I asked.
“No,” the DCI answered. I must have looked surprised. “Knowing who did it is one thing; being able to prove it to an extent where you can make an arrest is something totally different. Which brings me on to the reason for my visit.”
“I did not think it was for a chat,” I commented.
"No, it is something that the defence seems to be throwing up that affects you," he stated.
“There has been a suggestion made that you are a rival drug dealer.”
“What!” I shouted.
“Calm down, I am certain you are not, but accusations of this type can cause problems, especially if they are raised in court,” Manley stated. “Their position is that things started to go wrong for their client when you moved to Dunford. They also point out that you seem to have a lot of money but no clear means of income and that you seem to suddenly have come into a lot of money just at the time that you moved to Dunford and trouble started for their clients.
"They suggest that you were responsible for the attack on Arthur, that somehow Arthur had found out about your dealings and was blackmailing you."
“That’s ridiculous!” I exclaimed.
“I totally agree,” stated DCI Manley. “However, we have to look into the matter, if only to make sure our case is watertight. It would be useful if you could explain to me how somebody who seems to be on a modest income living in an inherited house suddenly finds the means to spend what must be approaching a million in cash on this place?”
“A maths book,” I answered. "Also got quite a windfall on some shares I purchased some years ago when the company was taken over."
“A maths book?” Manley enquired.
"Yes, some years ago, I wrote a basic text on mathematics aimed at students studying a science subject at degree level who did not have a mathematics background. My main target audience was mature students, such as those at the OU and independent-study students," I stated. "It sold at twenty-seven-fifty and did quite well for a non-fiction work, selling in the low thousands for the past few years. That was up till last year."
“What happened last year?”
"A couple of years ago, a professor at one of the red bricks decided to use it as a set text for his students. From there, it snowballed. Other professors at other universities are using it, not only here in the UK but in the States, Canada and Australia. In fact, throughout the English-speaking world. My sales have gone up from a few thousand to the hundreds of thousands. I get just over three forty a copy.”
“Christ!” Manley stated. “No wonder you can afford this place.”
“Do you want to see my last-quarter sales figures?”
“If you have them at hand, it would be useful,” Manley stated. “It would enable me to confirm to the powers that be that I have verified your income source. Don't think I need to ask about the shares.”
I printed a copy of my latest sales statement and handed it to Manley. He asked if he could keep it; I told him I had no objection. It was not as if it had any income details on it; they were on the royalties’ statement, which was a separate document I had not printed off. Sales figures were a matter of public record if one knew where to look for them.
“It would help if you could find out who tried to kill Arthur,” I pointed out.
"Oh, we know who did it, and we can prove it," Manley informed me. "We just haven't arrested him."
"At the moment we do not regard him as being a risk to anyone, and he is far more useful to us out there under observation than he would be sitting in a cell," the DCI advised. "We have him under twenty-four-seven surveillance. He is one of John Henderson's guys, and to be honest, he is not the brightest of them. If anything, he probably comes in as educationally challenged. At the moment he is spending all his time running around trying to organise the operation John Henderson was running. He’s not having much success, but he is leading us to a lot of contacts further up the tree, who we are noting.
"We'll pull him in when we are good and ready, but at the moment we are getting too much from him to waste a resource. Even if he does not realise he is giving us the information.”
“On the subject of information, I have some for you,” I informed the DCI.
“Yes, Miss Jenkins told me to tell you that the Hendersons had units in that new storage place on the way to Maldon,” I informed him.
“Now, that is interesting,” DCI Manley confirmed.
“What I can’t understand is why she did not tell you herself,” I stated.
"That's simple," the DCI replied. "You must remember Miss Jenkins and myself are really on opposite sides. It is not good to be associated with the other side, you know, collaborating with the enemy. To be honest, there are times when we have to work with some of the other side to put the really nasty pieces of work away.
"To be honest, most of what Miss Jenkins and her family get up to is probably best described as shady rather than crooked. They tend to bend the law rather than break it. Though, the old bird herself was one of the top jewel thieves in London, if not in Europe. Was never able to catch her, and I am damned certain she was behind at least four of the top heists in the nineteen nineties. Think she was behind a couple in the last decade as well but would never be able to prove it. Not sure I’d want to be able to, considering who she hit.”
I looked at the Detective Chief Inspector with surprise.
"It's not all black and white out there," he continued. "Sometimes, it can be very murky. When somebody heists a set of jewels that were to be used to pay for drugs, you have to think that somebody had done the country a favour.
“Anyway, as I was saying, if I report to my superiors that Miss Jenkins has told me that the Hendersons had units at that storage facility, my superiors would want to know why I was in contact with a known criminal. However, if I report that I heard from you that Miss Jenkins had made such a statement, then that is a different matter. It is hearsay. Although we can't use it in court, it can be used to get a warrant, and that is all we need. Miss Jenkins can assure her associates that she did not pass that information to the police; I can assure mine that I did not get the information from a known criminal source. Everybody is happy."
“Except the Hendersons,” I pointed out.
"Well, the unhappier they are, the happier I will be."
I showed the DCI out. As we stood on the doorstep for a final brief chat, a delivery van pulled into the drive. The passenger got out and came over to me with a clipboard.
“We’ve got a delivery here for a Tariq, no surname,” he stated.
“Can I take it?” I asked.
“The instructions here say we have to install it at its required location and remove all the packing,” he replied. “Says it’s a first-floor flat.”
"That's the apartment," I responded. "You need to go along the drive around the side of the house, then through the archway into the stable yard. If you turn left once you are through the arch, the apartment is over the workshops that are opposite. If you carry on round, I will meet you out back.”
The DCI said goodbye, got in his car and drove off as the chap returned to the van and climbed in. I went back into the house, shut the door, then went through to the kitchen. Tariq and Joseph were there having a cola.
“Something has just arrived for you,” I told Tariq as I walked through.
“What?” he asked.
"I don't know; they are just bringing it around," I replied.
The moment they were through the kitchen door Johnny and Tariq ran to the van. Or at least Tariq moved with what approximated for a run for him. I did notice though that he did not seem to be dragging his left foot quite so much as he had a couple of days before.
I followed over to the van, which had parked by the end staircase to the apartment. The two men had got out and undone the fittings on the tail lift.
“Must be heavy if it needs two of them,” Tariq mentioned.
“Not so much,” the bloke controlling the tail lift commented. “More awkward.”
The tail-lift gate dropped; the workers proceeded to open the rear roller shutter of the van. When the shutter was half up, both men stepped onto the tail lift. The driver pushed the lift button, which raised the tail lift to the floor height of the van. From that level, they could finish pushing up the roller shutter.
They entered the van, and there was some shuffling noise from within. A few moments later they reappeared on the tail lift with a large box with Yamaha printed across it and mounted on a dolly. One of the men held the box firmly in place as the other pushed the down button for the lift.
Once the tail lift reached ground level, they pushed the box on its dolly off the lift onto the yard paving. The larger of the two men looked at me and asked where we wanted it.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Electric piano,” he replied. “Miss Jenkins said we were to get it installed here for Tariq to play.”
I looked at Tariq and enquired where he wanted it?
“My room would be the best place.” he responded.
I then informed the two men where Tariq’s room was: “Through the door at the far end of the block, then up the stairs; it is the second room on the right.”
The two men looked at each other. “Upstairs?”
“Yes,” I replied. “Tariq’s family are moving into the apartment over the workshops.”
The larger of the two men sighed. “I knew we were in trouble when the old bird told me she had a special job for us. She’s getting back at us for not turning up last week.”
“It weren’t our fault,” the smaller of the two men commented. “The bloody van broke down.”
"Yes, Sam," his mate replied. "It was our fault that we did not ring in and let them know, though."
“S’pose,” the smaller man replied. “Better get this up there, then.”
The two men started to push the box on its dolly towards the door at the end of the block. Johnny went ahead of them, stating he would get the doors open. I decided to leave them to it and went back into the kitchen and put the kettle on for a brew. Was reasonably sure the delivery men would appreciate a mug of tea when they were finished. I kept an eye out for them through the window.
About ten minutes later, I saw the two delivery men coming out of the door at the far end of the block. They were carrying a quantity of cardboard and packing, which they put into the back of the van, then closed the van up. I went out and asked them if they would like some tea.
"Thanks, gov," the larger man stated. "Much as we appreciate the offer, we’d better decline; got two more deliveries to do and we want to get home to see the match." With that, they walked round to the cab, got in and drove off. As I walked back to the kitchen, I heard a piano being played. Looking up, I saw that the window to Tariq's room was open, and that was the source of the sound.
Just then, Johnny came out of the door to the apartment.
“It’s a digital piano,” he stated by way of explanation.
“And Tariq is playing it?” I asked.
“Yes,” Johnny replied. “He had some pieces for right hand only.”
“He sounds good,” I stated.
“He will sound better when he gets both hands working,” Johnny observed.
“If he does.”
“He will,” Johnny answered. “He has a reason to, now.”
We did not see much of Tariq for the rest of the day nor most of Saturday, either. He was up in the apartment playing the piano. Fortunately, all the work at that end of the apartment had been finished, so he did not get in the workmen’s way.
Anyway, they finished the work on the apartment just after two on Saturday. Matt came around to check everything and told me that it was all ready, so I phoned Marcia and let her know. She informed me that the removal people were moving them in the morning and that they expected to be at Priory about lunchtime.
Tariq was up in his room playing. Johnny popped up a couple of times to see if he wanted a drink or anything. The second time he came down, he told me that Tariq was trying to use his left hand. I wondered if that was wise, but Johnny informed me that Tariq's physiotherapist had told him to try to use it as much as he could.
As Anne was out Saturday afternoon, I had suggested we should go to the Crooked Man for dinner, a suggestion which Anne agreed with, leaving me Saturday afternoon free to do some writing. I was doing quite well, having knocked out a couple of articles for a scientific magazine that was one of my regular customers and a review of a second-rate, popular-science book for a Sunday supplement. I was just about to start on a review of the final updates I had done to my maths book when the phone went. It was Chris.
“Could you do an interview about the environmental impact of the sinking?” he asked.
“What sinking?” I asked.
“Haven’t you heard the news?” he replied.
“No, I’ve been busy writing,” I responded.
"Well, a bulk carrier has gone down in the Bristol Channel by Lundy Island. It's a marine nature reserve. We need comments for the ten o'clock news."
"Sorry, Chris, not my field. You need an environmentalist," I pointed out.
“Have you ever tried finding an expert on a Saturday afternoon,” he responded. “I’ll be lucky if I can find somebody who can put marine and environment into the same sentence the way this is going.”
“Well, I know a writer who specialises in environmental subjects; you could give her a try,” I commented. Then I gave him Marcia’s number.
“Thanks. Fancy doing a spot on the Infinite Monkey Cage?”
“I'll put you down for one," Chris replied. With that, he rang off. Then he rang back. "Forgot to tell you regarding Wednesday's recording. Any chance you could talk about the impact of Martian dust storms on the Curiosity Rover?”
“Yes,” I replied.
"Good," he responded. "That will cut down the number of participants, which will make life easier." With that, he rang off again. I made a note to check up on the Curiosity Rover before Wednesday. I got back to my writing.
Anne got back a little after five, exhausted. It seems that she had taken her sister to the new Lidl supermarket that had opened in Southmead. I expressed the view that the cost of petrol to get over there was probably more than any savings they could have made. Anne informed me it was not about the savings; it was the fact they stocked a lot of continental stuff you just could not get at the local Tesco's or Sainsbury's.
I made coffee for her and the boys, plus some tea for myself. Johnny went over to the apartment to call Tariq, who came and joined us. I noticed that, although he did not use his left arm, he was able to bring it up and rest it on the table. He also did not seem to be dragging his left foot quite so much.
Shortly before seven, we made our way down to the Crooked Man. Tariq and Johnny both went for the burger and chips. I decided to go for steak in Madeira-and-mushroom sauce. Anne went for the roast chicken. Over dinner, we discussed the day.
Johnny, it turned out, had spent most of the afternoon reading a book about the dynamics of water flow he had found in my library. I did not realise that I had a book on the subject, then realised it must have been something I had been sent to review. I asked him how he found it?
“Couldn’t follow most of the maths,” he stated. “The rest was pretty informative. I need to improve my maths, though, if I am going to build racing yachts.”
“Is that what you want to do?” Tariq asked.
“Yes,” Johnny replied.
“I wish I could do what I wanted to do,” Tariq stated.
“Why can’t you?” I asked. He raised his left arm and looked at it.
“Tariq,” Anne said. “Last Tuesday you weren’t even moving your left arm, now you can raise it. What happened?”
He looked at us, surprised. I do not think he had realised he was moving his arm.
“I don’t know,” he stated.
“Did you try to play using it?” I asked.
“Yes, but it was no use,” he replied.
"I don't know," I commented. "It clearly led to you getting some movement back; maybe if you try more, you will get more."
He just nodded.
It was getting on for nine when we got back to the Priory. We had not been back very long when Bernard’s Bentley pulled into the yard. I was surprised when only he came into the kitchen. I had been expecting Debora and Joseph to be with him. A fact that I commented on.
“Oh, they’ll be here shortly,” he stated. “They are coming up in Deb’s old car.”
“I thought Micah had that,” I stated.
“He did — last year,” Bernard replied. “Managed to earn enough over the summer hols to get something better. At least, he says it’s better.”
“What’s he got?” I enquired.
“An eight-year-old MX-5,” he stated.
“Same as Trevor,” Johnny observed. “They’re nice cars.”
"Not very practical, though," Bernard commented. "Guess who had to drive up to Manchester because he and Bethany could not get all their stuff in it. Not surprising. I could hardly get it all in the Bentley."
“Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to pack it up and courier it?” Anne asked.
“The way that thing eats petrol, probably,” Bernard replied.
“So, why is Debs coming up in the Nissan?” I enquired.
“Because there was no point in it sitting on our drive rusting away," Bernard replied. "It's ten-years old, and I doubt if we could get more than a few hundred for it, and we know somebody up here who needs a car. Fortunately, it is covered for any driver. So, we are loaning it to Marcia for a few weeks while we get things sorted out."
“Does Marcia know?” I asked.
"Not yet. Debs has a meeting with her tomorrow to sort several things out. One thing which was worrying her was how she was going to get to college for her studies. Debs came up with the answer."
Just then, the phone rang. I answered it. It was James, so I decided to take the call in my study, indicating to Bernard that he should come through with me. Once there, I put the call on the speakerphone.
"What can I do for you, James? By the way, I have Bernard, the senior partner in the solicitors you are using, with me, and he is listening to the call," I told him.
"Probably good, might save me some time," he replied. "Just got home after some thirty-six hours at the hospital. So only just picked up my emails. There is one from Bernard's office; it has images of the court documents attached. Now, I never signed any travel consent for Jaydee to go to Trinidad. It looks like my signature, and it's my old solicitor's stamp and signature on it as a witness, but I never signed it."
“You are sure about that?” Bernard asked.
“Bloody right, I am," James replied. "The only thing I signed, when I came over earlier in the year, was a form for him to come out to Oz for the holidays."
“Right,” Bernard replied. “There will be somebody at the court first thing on Monday to examine the originals.”
The two talked for another five minutes or so, then James asked to speak to Tariq, so I went and got him.
While Tariq and James were on the phone, Debora and Joseph arrived. Johnny and Joseph were seated at the kitchen table when Tariq came through from the study, having finished the call with James. Johnny immediately got up and pulled a chair out for Tariq to sit on. Joseph looked at Johnny surprised, then gave Tariq a look that could have killed.
"Joseph," I said, intending to defuse a situation before it could develop, "this is Tariq. His family have taken the apartment, and he is in the process of moving in. Tariq has suffered an injury, and it has left him with some mobility problems, so it would be helpful if you could help him when he needs to do certain things."
Joseph looked at me, questioningly. Bernard said he needed a word with me, so we went back to the study.
“What’s up?” I asked.
"I was about to ask you the same," he replied. "I saw the look Joseph gave Tariq; wanted to know, is there a problem? Is Johnny involved with Tariq?"
“Not so far as I know,” I replied. “He feels sorry for Tariq and somewhat protective towards him, but that’s all.”
“I hope so,” Bernard stated.
We went back to the kitchen. The boys were not there; I asked Anne where they were.
"Tariq has gone up to the apartment, said he wanted to practice something," she replied. "Johnny and Joseph have gone upstairs; I think they were planning on playing Final Fantasy or something."
“They’d better be,” Debora commented. Bernard laughed.
"I shouldn't worry about it," I stated. "They are either doing it or they aren't. I’d much rather have them doing it somewhere safe, where they are not likely to get into trouble, than having them doing it somewhere where we have no control over things."
Bernard looked at me. “Attic bedroom at Ester Goldberg’s sixteenth,” he stated.
“Don’t remind me,” I responded.
“Why?” Anne asked.
"I don't think he can remember," Bernard replied. "There was too much pot and booze. The only thing any of us remember was Ester's parents coming back early and finding thirty-odd naked teenagers spread across the house."
“I wasn’t naked,” I retorted.
“No, you had kept your shirt on,” Bernard replied. Anne and Debora burst out laughing.
“What happened to Ester?” Debora asked.
"Nothing much," Bernard replied. "Her parents were very much into the Hippie movement; the only thing they were annoyed about was that their stash had gone. Ester got her A-levels, went off to uni and married a politician. She now spends most of her time raising money for charities or appearing on TV panel shows.”
O o O o O
I got up early Sunday morning and did a couple of hours writing before anyone else in the house was awake. It went well, and I totally lost track of time until Anne brought a mug of tea to me.
“What time is it?” I asked.
“Just after eight,” she replied. “I’m doing gravadlax and scrambled eggs for breakfast.”
“What’s the occasion?” I asked.
“We’ve got Debora and Bernard here,” she replied.
“I know,” I stated. “That’s never warranted gravadlax before.”
“Yes, but I had not been in Lidl’s before; they had some in,” Anne replied. “Having Debora here was too much of an excuse to pass up on getting some gravadlax. By the way, are you going to the conference in Stockholm again this year?”
“Not had an invite this year,” I stated. “Doubt if I will.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Well it was sponsored by Landau Scientific Publishing, who are part of the same group as Ritter-Landau,” I informed her. She looked puzzled. “They are the people who took over the Hartmann agency, whom I have walked out on.”
“I suppose that means no Christmas Market this year,” she stated.
I nodded in agreement. For the last four years, Landau Scientific had invited me to attend a conference of scientific and technical writers held in Sweden. I had usually taken Anne over with me, and we’d given ourselves an extended weekend break, either in Stockholm or going over the bridge to Copenhagen.
“How about Amsterdam?” I asked.
“What about Amsterdam?” Anne responded.
“I was thinking about us going over for a long-weekend break around the second week of December.”
“Make it the third week and it works,” Anne replied. “Classes finish on the Wednesday.”
“Right. I’ll finish this piece I am writing, then I’ll be through for breakfast.”
“OK, just don’t be too long,” Anne commented.
Debora and Bernard were sitting at the kitchen table when I went through. As I entered, Anne put plates of gravadlax and scrambled eggs in front of each of them. I took my place at the table and was soon tucking into a plate of the same. Anne took her seat next to me.
“Where are the boys?” I asked.
“Tariq only wanted some cereal,” Anne responded. “He grabbed a bowl of cornflakes and took it with him up to the apartment. As for Johnny and Joseph, I presume they are still asleep; knowing Johnny, he won’t surface on a Sunday until he smells bacon frying. Then he will be the first one here.”
“Don’t believe it,” Debora stated. “Joseph will beat him by a mile, but even he’ll be behind my husband.”
“Debora!” Bernard exclaimed.
“Don’t Debora me,” she replied laughingly. “Without you, the Danish Bacon industry would be half the size it is.”
“I never touch Danish Bacon,” Bernard stated. Debora turned and looked at him quizzingly.
“The café only uses Wiltshire home-cured bacon,” he asserted. “And I don’t think the Danes make Black Pudding.”
“You don’t seem that upset about it,” Anne commented.
“I’m not,” Debora replied. “So long as we keep kosher at home, that’s enough. One has to be realistic when one is out.”
“So, can I have a bacon sarni then?” a voice asked from behind me. I turned to see Joseph in the doorway.
“No, you can’t,” Debora stated. “Though we are going to the Crooked Man later, so I’m sure you’ll go for the all-day breakfast.”
“Not likely,” Joseph replied. “I’ll go for the mixed grill.”
“Where’s Johnny?” I asked.
“In the shower,” Joseph answered. “He shouldn’t be long. Told me to come down and sort out some coffee.”
“There’s some made,” Anne stated, indicating the pot on the side.
“Thanks,” Joseph responded.
“What do you want for breakfast?” Anne asked.
Joseph looked at his mother.
“He can have a bacon sarni,” Debora said.
Anne went and started cooking. She had just finished a bacon sandwich for Joseph when Johnny came in.
“Bacon sarni for you as well?” she enquired.
“Prefer bacon, egg and some fried bread,” Johnny replied. “I’ll do it.” He went over and took charge of the frying pan.
“At least, he can cook,” Debora said.
“Had to,” Johnny responded. “Mum could not heat a can of beans without burning them.” I nodded in agreement, remembering my ex’s cooking ability.
“What are your plans for today?” I asked.
“Not sure,” Johnny replied. “Did think about going over to Tariq’s grandparents to help Marcia pack and load up, but Tariq says that is under control and we would be far more use here to help unpack.”
“He’s probably right there,” I stated. Recalling that Marcia had said most of their stuff was still packed in boxes in the garage and the rest was in a storage unit.
Anne poured some fresh coffee for Debora, Bernard and the boys. I made myself another pot of tea. We spent twenty minutes or so chatting in general, then Debora stated she had to get off.
“Get off where?” Anne asked.
“Over to Marcia’s,” Debora answered. “Told her I would see her this morning before the removal men got there. I didn’t say why, but I thought she might like to move some of her personal stuff in the car rather than on the van.”
With that piece of information, Debora left. The boys went off to look at the tide-mill site. Johnny had been telling Joseph about the latest archaeology that had been done there, though in truth not much had been done since he was last over. Anne started doing the washing up and informed me she had to get some laundry underway. Bernard and I took that as a hint and retired to my study.
Bernard excused himself to go and get his briefcase. When he returned, he pulled a sheaf of papers from it and handed them to me.
“You need to read and sign these,” he stated.
“What are they?” I asked.
“The representation agreement, contract and authorities for Irene Kaufman,” he replied. “They are all in order and pretty standard. I’ve gone over them and there is nothing unusual or difficult, so give them a read, then sign and let me have them back.”
I grabbed my pen, leafed through them to find where I had to sign and signed.
“You know, you really should read them first,” Bernard stated.
“I know, but I trust you,” I replied.
“You should never trust a lawyer,” Bernard admonished.
“In that case why do I pay you so much?”
“Because you can trust me a bit more than you can the lawyer for the other side.” I laughed and handed him the signed papers. We then spent a good twenty minutes discussing how much lawyers could be trusted. It turned out that I had a rather higher opinion of the legal profession than Bernard.
Bernard then used my scanner to scan the documents I had signed and send copies to Irene. He said the originals would be posted to her the next day, but she could start working once she had the scans. I was not concerned, as I saw no cause for urgency.
I got back to work dealing with my emails. Anne put her head round the door to inform me she was off to Tesco’s to do some shopping. That surprised me as I was under the impression she had been shopping yesterday. I mentioned it to Bernard, who had settled down to reading one of my books.
“It’s a woman thing,” he stated. “They can always find a reason to go shopping. By the way, this isn’t bad.” He held up the book he was reading. It was a short introduction to the Large Hadron Collider that I had knocked up a few years ago for CERN. They gave it out to journalists in the hope that their scientists would not get bombarded with questions like ‘How does it work?” It did not work — the book, that is. The journalists still asked mundane questions which had already been answered if they had bothered to read the book.
Just before twelve, my attention was caught by the crunch of gravel on the drive, and I looked out the window to see a large Jag pulling up in front of the house. I was fairly certain I knew whose car it was. The sight of the driver stepping out to open the rear door confirmed my suspicion. Miss Jenkins alighted from the car. She spoke for a moment to the driver, then made her way toward the front door. I proceeded in that direction myself, ready to open it when she pressed the bell. I had just got to the door when the bell rang. Opening it, I found myself looking down on the figure of Miss Jenkins.
“Good morning, Mr. Carlton,” she stated. “I’m just popping round to see the girls and thought I’d better let you know that I was around.” She turned and started to walk towards the side of the house and the drive that would take her to the Stable House. Then she stopped and turned. “I’m taking the girls to the Crooked Man for dinner this evening, perhaps you and Mr. LeBrun plus family would like to join us.” With that she strode perfectly away.
I closed the door and turned to return to the study. Bernard was standing in the hallway.
“How did she know?” I asked.
“Know what?” Bernard replied.
“That you are here,” I answered.
“Probably because my Bentley is parked in your yard,” he responded.
“But she could not see that from the front of the house,” I commented.
“No, but I am sure Neil or Maddie saw it last night and informed her. She does have one of the best intelligence operations in the country,” he informed me. “After all, that is her business. Rumour is both Special Branch and MI5 have used her on a couple of occasions. She also has close contacts with MI6.”
I went through to the kitchen and put the kettle on for a pot of tea. Bernard joined me. It turned out to be good timing. No sooner had I poured the water on the tea leaves than Debora arrived back with Marcia and her daughter in Deb’s car, followed by a removal van. I told Bernard to invite everyone in for tea of coffee. He was happy to oblige.
The removal men turned down the invitation, saying they had another job to get done that afternoon. Marcia informed Bernard that she had to tell them where to put stuff, so would not take up the invitation. Debora came through to the kitchen and took a place at the table. I poured a mug of tea for her.
“That’s a life saver,” she stated, picking up the mug.
“Bad?” Bernard asked.
“Things are more messed up that I thought,” Debora commented. “Marcia got a letter from the bank yesterday informing her that if there is a shortfall on the sale of assets, they will be coming after her for the balance.”
“We’ll see about that,” Bernard stated.
Just then the phone went, I answered it. It was Steve asking for Johnny. He told me that he had tried Johnny’s mobile, but there was no answer. I informed Steve that Johnny was somewhere in the grounds and I would get him to call back as soon as I found him; then I went out to look for Johnny. It did not take long; Joseph and he were down by Pound Pond. I told him Steve was trying to get hold of him. He went to check his phone and found it was not in his pocket. That prompted a few minutes frantic searching till they found it by the old tide-mill race.
I left Johnny phoning Steve and walked back up to the house. Johnny and Joseph followed me about five minutes later. Johnny informed me they were going to the yard. This surprised me as I did not think that Steve opened on a Sunday out of season, but Johnny pointed out the season had a couple of more weeks to run. Apparently, the lad who was supposed to come in and help that Sunday had been taken ill and Steve was on his own. True to form, the yard had got very busy, and he needed help.
I offered to drive them in, but Johnny pointed out it was nearly high tide and the causeway would be closed. It was quicker for them to go in on their bikes. Fortunately, Joseph still had a bike here.
Anne got back just as Joseph and Johnny were leaving. I gave her a hand to unpack the car. It seemed to be full of cleaning products. I looked at her.
“Mike, Marcia is going to want to clean that apartment from end to end. Any woman would,” she informed me. “I doubt if she has a chance to get any cleaning stuff, so I got it for her.” With that she started to take bags of stuff up to the apartment.
Shortly after one-thirty, the removal men finished and left, again turning down an offer of refreshments. Debora and Bernard said they were going down to look at their boat. Bernard informed me that they needed to get it put up for the winter. Anne said she was going up to help Marcia. We all agreed to be back for six.
I went into my study to start some work. Got a good amount of writing done before Anne brought me a mug of tea through just after four.
“How’s it going?” I asked.
“All sorted,” she replied. “Marcia’s just taken Tariq and Jasmin down to the Harbour Café for some ice cream. Joseph and Johnny had just got back when they were about to leave, so they joined them.”
“Is that fair?” I asked.
“I don’t think the concept of fair comes into it when ice cream is part of the equation,” Anne observed. I could see her point.
We spent the next forty-odd minutes chatting till Debora and Bernard got back. Bernard was complaining about the cost of having the yacht taken out of the water and put in storage for the winter.
“It just proves the old saying,” Anne commented.
“What old saying?” Bernard asked.
“A boat is a hole in the water into which you throw money,” she replied.
Shortly after, Marcia arrived back with the kids. I was pleased to see that Joseph appeared to be sharing jokes with Tariq. I suggested that it might be an idea to get down to the Crooked Man early for dinner. Bernard pointed out we should let Miss Jenkins know we were going. Johnny got the job of running over to the Stable House to let the group over there know that we were going down.
He came back five minutes later with Miss Jenkins, Maddie and the two girls.
“Neil is just finishing some work off, but he will be joining us shortly,” Miss Jenkins informed me.
As we all walked down the hill to the Crooked Man, Maddie informed me that she and Neil would be leaving Monday morning.
“Neil starts at UCL on Tuesday,” she informed me. “I have to be back at Cambridge the following week. The girls are up to speed on things, so it’s a good time for a handover, especially with Arthur being back next week.”
“Arthur back next week?” I exclaimed.
“Yes,” she replied. “We saw him on Saturday. He’s having a new cast tomorrow, and after that, he should be a lot more mobile. The studio shoots finish this weekend. There’s nothing to keep them down at the boat, so Trevor and Arthur are coming back up here.”
I do wish somebody would keep me informed of things.
The lot of us took over one complete corner of the Crooked Man’s dining room. Maddie got Johnny and Joseph to push a couple of tables together so all the younger ones could sit at one table, leaving Marcia, Miss Jenkins, Debora, Bernard, Anne and myself at another. Over the meal we chatted about things in general, but I noticed Miss Jenkins seemed to be guiding the conversation towards the events that had led to Marcia being in the situation she was in. Eventually she told about how she came home early and found her husband beating Tariq’s head against the wall.
“I just grabbed the nearest frying pan and belted him with it,” she stated. “It was the copper pan. Wish it had been the cast-iron one.”
“You could have killed him, if it had been,” Debora pointed out.
“Precisely,” Marcia replied. “Things would have been a lot better if I had. At least, we would have had the house, and the employees would have had their jobs.”
“How come, dear?” Miss Jenkins asked.
“Chawish was insured up to the hilt,” Marcia replied. “The bank insisted on it when we set up the business. There was also cover for the mortgage and for the debentures. If I had killed him, the insurance would have covered everything, and he would not have defrauded the business.”
Miss Jenkins nodded. A slight smile appeared on her face. It did not bode well for somebody.