"Why?" I asked. I had switched my phone off when we went up to Le Jules Verne and had not bothered to switch it back on when we left.
"Uncle Ben's been trying to contact you," my son replied.
I pulled my phone out and switched it on. While it booted up, I wondered aloud what Ben wanted.
"Well, once your phone is working, you'll find out," Johnny commented.
Just then the phone completed its bootup and found a network to attach to. Then there were a series of chimes, each one announcing the arrival of a text message. It sounded like there were a lot. There were. It seemed that my brother had been trying to contact me, and the general gist of them was to Skype him as soon as possible.
"Sorry boys, it looks as if I need to get back to our hotel and speak with Ben," I informed them. "Marc, your grandfather is picking you up from our hotel at ten, but it is not quite nine yet. I know we had said we would look at some of the buskers, but I can't now."
"That's fine," Marc replied. "Johnny said this might be happening; I'll come back with you now and wait for gramps. Johnny said he's got some pictures of yachts on his tablet."
"Yachts?" I asked.
"Yes, Dad," Johnny replied. "Marc is into sailing."
"Oh," I responded, then thought for a moment. "What's going to be quicker, Metro, taxi or walking?"
"Walking," Johnny replied. "The hotel is that way; the nearest Metro station is that way, there is a cab rank there as well. By the time we get to the Metro, we will be halfway back to the hotel anyway."
We walked back to the hotel, which did not take long. Once in our suite, Johnny grabbed his tablet and started showing Marc pictures of yachts. I started up my laptop and opened up Skype. Ben answered promptly when I called.
"What's up?" I asked.
"We got him," Ben replied.
"Yes," Ben confirmed. "Tyler was walking out of his hotel this morning to get the crew bus to the location, and a group of street kids surrounded him. Not that unusual; they tend to hassle tourists for money. Just one of them said to him, 'I think you are looking for me.' Tyler said it was the Yorkshire accent that gave him away. Tyler got him on the crew bus and alerted Allen. JayDee's set up in the caravan that Trevor and Tyler use when not shooting."
"So, when can you get him on a plane home?" I asked.
"That's the problem," Ben stated. "JayDee has not got his passport. We need a replacement. However, that church group is still looking for him, and we have information that some of the local staff in the High Commission are members of it. If we apply for an emergency passport, they will know where he is."
"So, what is going to happen?" I enquired.
"Not sure," Ben replied. "Allen is looking into options at the moment. You've got to remember homosexuality is still illegal out here. Things are changing, and the police tend to turn a blind eye, but technically those church people still have the documentation to give them custody of JayDee. We need to keep him out of sight until we can get him back to the UK."
"Might be a bit hard on the set," I commented.
"I'm thinking of putting him on the Aurora," Ben stated.
"What's that?" I enquired.
"It's the yacht we are using as the base for the water shots," Ben informed me. "Actually, for the next four days, most of the shooting is going to be out at sea. Trevor will be based on the yacht most of the time, anyway, so putting JayDee out there is not a problem."
"Pity you can't take him off the island on it," I commented.
"Shit!" Ben exclaimed. "Never thought of that. We finish shooting the water shots on Sunday or Monday, then it is sailing for Necker. We need it there for the offshore shots. I wonder if we can keep JayDee on it? It could take him to Necker."
"That is one problem I can't help with," I responded. "I gather from the urgency of your texts that there is something more?"
"Yes, JayDee wants to speak with Tariq, but I can't get an answer on Skype or the apartment phone."
"No, Marcia and Tariq are in Leeds; they went up on Monday. Not sure how long they will be up there. Don't you have Marcia's mobile number?"
"No," Ben replied.
I looked up my contacts list in my phone and found Marcia's number. Johnny, who had been listening to the conversation, gave me Tariq's. I passed both numbers onto Ben.
"Thanks," he replied. "I'll give him a ring now, or at least as soon as I am with JayDee. He's in the caravan."
"Where are you?" I asked.
"I'm in the production caravan, next door but one to the one JayDee is in. So, will be with him soon."
With that, he terminated the call. I left my Skype running, as I had a strong feeling I would get a call from James later.
What I had forgotten was that Marc was in the suite with us and had heard all of the call. As I moved from the desk on which I had my laptop to one of the armchairs, I caught him looking at me with a look of amazement.
"That was Ben Carlton," he stammered.
"You know Ben Carlton?" he asked.
"I should hope so. He is my brother."
That led to a lot of talking about my brother, the films he had been in and a lot of other things. Johnny, it was clear, really like to talk about his uncles.
"So, Matthew Lewis is your uncle, as well?" Marc asked.
"Yes," Johnny replied. "He's my mother's brother — my birth mother, not Anne — but he is also married to my Uncle Ben."
I let the boys get on with their chat about my brother and his partner and checked with Anne about her plans for tomorrow. It was the last day of the conference, and I wanted to attend the late-morning session and was doing a final signing in the afternoon. After a brief chat with Johnny, Anne decided that she would be doing one of the museums in the morning. Marc and Johnny had already arranged to meet up and go to the Rue Cladel skatepark.
"You don't have your skateboard," I pointed out.
"We're just going to watch," Johnny responded. "By the way, should we not go down to the lounge? Marc's grandfather should be coming for him soon." He had a point; it was getting on for ten. I suggested that Marc and Johnny go down, as I wanted to stay online in case James phoned. Anne said she would go down with them.
They had only just left the room when James pinged me on Skype. I let him know I was free to speak, and he called. He had already spoken with Ben and had also been able to talk to JayDee.
"I've tried to phone Marcia," James stated. "But there was no reply."
"There won't be on the landline; she went up to Leeds for a few days. Should be back tomorrow."
"Leeds! Why on earth did she go back there?"
"She's trying to save the business," I informed him. "Looks like the bank cut corners when they put it into administration."
"So, she's looking at moving back there," James stated. "That could make it difficult for JayDee to live with her — with his mother's family around the area."
"Don't worry," I assured him. "She's not looking at moving back. I think she is looking at handing over control of the business to one of the shareholders."
"Probably Bob Crawford," James informed me. "He had a big bust-up with Chawish about two years ago and left the company. I always thought he was more of the brains of the outfit than Chawish was."
"She did say that she was seeing a Bob in Leicester," I stated.
"That's Bob Crawford," James confirmed. "He went back to do a PhD at Leicester University. Was already doing it part-time so just swapped to full-time. Not sure how he would take to going back into the business though. He was a minority owner, and Chawish made sure he knew it."
"I think Marcia is looking at a deal which will give him a larger share," I commented.
"She will need to," James replied. "Ben's told me to hold off on getting a flight until they know how they are getting JayDee back."
"Probably a good idea," I replied. "At the moment, they have a problem getting him back."
"Because JayDee does not have his passport, and that church of his mother's is still looking for him. I understand they legally have custody of him over there."
"Shit!" James explained. "Never thought of that."
"I'm sure Ben and Allen will get something sorted out."
"I hope they do," John stated, with a hint of depression.
We chatted a bit longer, then terminated the call. That finished, I went down to the lounge to find Anne, Johnny and Marc still waiting for John. I ordered a hot chocolate with a dash of Amaretto and joined the wait.
"Granddad texted to say he was delayed," Marc informed me. "Should be here in about five minutes, though."
Marc had just finished informing me of that fact when John walked into the lounge. He apologised for being late, saying some delegates had cornered him after his presentation. They were not happy with some of the interpretations he was putting on the figures.
"As always, the fossil-fuel lobby does not like the deductions one is making from figures that they supplied in the first place," he commented.
After John and Marc left, Johnny asked if there was any chance of flying home on Friday.
"Why?" I said.
"I think Tariq might want some support," Johnny stated.
"How would you feel about going back early?" I asked Anne.
"Personally, I wouldn't mind," she replied. "I will have ticked off everything on my must-do list in the morning. It is not as though we are doing anything on Saturday; our plane is so early we will barely have a chance to grab breakfast on the way to the airport.
"To be honest, Mike, a bit of extra time back at home would be useful. I could get on with some reading for my course."
She had a point. I said I would look into what could be done. I knew that I had a book-signing session in the afternoon, but that finished at three, so if there were an evening flight available, it would work out fine.
Friday morning, I did not have to be at the conference until eleven, so as soon as Anne and Johnny had left, I got onto the airline-reservation phoneline to see about changing our tickets. Fortunately, I had insisted on fully flexible tickets, so there was no problem. I got us on an early evening flight from Orly to London City. The only problem was that it was going to be a bit of a rush to get from the conference to the hotel and then to the airport.
I decided I’d better get my stuff packed and ready to go. Once I had done that, I sent texts to Johnny and Anne to tell them the flight details, though I would be seeing them at one. We had agreed to meet for lunch at a place John had recommended near the conference hotel.
John was in the lobby as I arrived at the conference hotel. It seemed that the first session of the morning had finished early, and he was grabbing the chance of an extended coffee break. I informed him about our change of plans and that we would be leaving late afternoon.
"I am sure Marc will be disappointed not to spend the evening with Johnny," he responded. "Though it might work out for the better. It looks as if things might wind up here earlier than expected."
"Why?" I enquired.
"Professor James was taken ill late last night," John informed me. "So, they are talking about cutting the Q&A panel that he was supposed to chair." I nodded in understanding. Professor James was one of the organisers of the conference, and his absence from the final question-and-answer event would probably mean a lot of delegates would leave early.
"How will that affect your plans?" I asked.
"Well, it will mean I can get away earlier," John stated. "I was supposed to be on the panel, so if it is cancelled, I will be finished by three. Marc and I are going to visit his grandmother for a few days before we fly back. If we get a train about four, we can get an extra day with her."
"Where does she live?" I asked.
"Toulouse," John responded. "She moved back to France to care for her mother after her husband died. It was only supposed to be short-term, but when Marc's parents were killed, she decided to stay over here."
"Marc's parents are dead?"
"Yes, didn't I say?" John replied. "They were killed a couple of years ago, a light-aircraft crash. Bird strike as they were coming into land a floatplane."
Just then, the bell rang for the start of the next session, so we made our way back into the hall. An hour and a half later, we made our way out of the hotel and down a couple of side streets to the restaurant that John had recommended. He had reserved a table for us, so there were no problems today. Marc and Johnny were already there, waiting for us, though there was no sign of Anne. I enquired about her.
"She's on her way," Johnny informed me. "Mom texted to say she had trouble finding a taxi, but she should be here in about five minutes."
In the end, it was more like ten minutes, but that gave us time to discuss the morning's events. John had been able to confirm that his last session was cancelled, so he could get away about three. Marc was in agreement about getting to Toulouse a day early and said he would go back to the hotel, pack their stuff and phone his grandmother. Johnny suggested that he and Anne could go back to our hotel after lunch and get packed, checked out, and get a taxi over to the conference centre.
"Fine, if Anne is agreeable," I stated.
"If I'm agreeable to what?" a voice from behind me said. I turned and looked up to find Anne standing over me. I explained that I had managed to change flights.
"Good," she stated. "We’ll sort everything out at the hotel and will be at the conference hotel at three with bags. Does that work?"
I informed her that it did.
With that out of the way, we proceeded to order our lunch. The food was simple but good, with excellent service. I congratulated John on his choice of venue.
"Can't take any credit for it," he commented. "My sister found this place twenty years ago when she was studying here. She liked the food, so much she married the owner's son."
"Does he run it now?" I asked.
"No, he was the younger son and had no interest in the business," John replied. "Neither did the older son. They both went into medicine. My sister is now married to one of the leading paediatric surgeons in Ontario. His older sister took over the running of this place."
"And how is my brother?" a voice asked; a woman approached the table.
"Héloise, comment ça va?" John asked, standing as he did.
"Très bien, merci, et toi?" she replied.
John proceeded to introduce us to his sister-in-law, then apologised to her that we were on a tight schedule and could not stay and chat.
"Always the case with you Anglos, you should learn to make time for conversation," she laughed. Then she extracted a promise from John to visit on his way back from Toulouse.
After dinner, Anne and Johnny went back to our hotel to pack and check out. I returned to the conference hotel along with John and Marc for my book-signing session due to start at two. Marc promised his grandfather that he would have everything packed and ready for them to leave at three.
My publishers informed me that sales were good. They must have been because by two-thirty I had cramps in my hand from all the copies I had signed. I was surprised when my publisher's representative informed me they had sold out; I knew they had bought a thousand copies over with them, and there were not quite two thousand delegates at the conference.
A few minutes before three, John came up to the publisher’s stand and informed me that he had received a reply from Bob about doing the French translation of my book. Bob was interested in the idea. They had agreed to meet in London a week on Saturday.
"Isn't that putting you out a bit?" I asked.
"No," John replied. "I had already arranged to spend the weekend with an academic associate from UCL. He lives in Finchley, so we are in London from next Friday night till late Sunday. Getting the overnight flight to Vancouver from Heathrow. The first time Marc's been to London."
"Then me and Joseph will have to show him around," Johnny said, coming up to the stand. He had clearly heard the end of the conversation.
"If you would, that would be kind of you," John replied. "I know he can pass for sixteen or seventeen, but he is still a young teen, and I do worry about him if he is on his own in a strange city."
"London's not strange," Johnny stated. "Peculiar, I'll give you, but not strange."
At three, the exhibitors started to close up; that was our cue to get away. John and Marc left for the station but not before Marc and Johnny had made arrangements to meet the following Saturday. We got a cab to Orly.
"Did you warn Bernard we were coming back early?" Anne asked as we made our way to the airport.
"Yes," I responded. "We are expected for dinner."
"They're in town for the weekend?" Anne asked. "I thought Debora liked them to be down in Kent for Shabbat."
"She does, but Bernard has a major case on, so has to be in town," I replied.
Because of our late change of flights, we were not seated together. Johnny and I were in the same row but on opposite sides of the aisle. Anne was sitting a couple of rows in front of us. When the chap seated next to Johnny realised that we were related he offered to swap seats with me, an offer I accepted. As soon as the seat belt sign went off after take-off, we exchanged places.
Sitting next to Johnny, I took the opportunity to ask him about Marc. "You seemed to get on well with Marc."
"Yes," Johnny replied. "He's good fun. Can't wait till we show him around London."
"What about Joseph?" I asked. "Won't he mind?"
"Nah, Dad. Joseph's fine with it. We had a Skype call yesterday, and I introduced them. Marc was telling Joseph all about his girlfriend."
"So, Marc's straight?"
"Well, he's at most bi," Marc commented. "But I would guess at straight. I never noticed him looking at any of the guys, and when we were at the skate park, there were some guys well worth looking at. Marc, though, was trying to chat up a couple of local girls."
"I guess he wasn't successful," I stated.
"Oh, he was successful, Dad. I had to spoil things by pointing out we had to get back for lunch."
"No problem with Joseph, then," I said, with some relief. "I'm just surprised you got on so well with him."
"Well, he's intelligent," Johnny responded. "Marc is something of a genius. He's already got all he needs to graduate from high school except for his community service. He's going to get that when he gets back to Canada. The thing is, he is not sure what he is going to do next."
"Why not?" I asked.
"Well, he's only fourteen. Actually, he's not that till next week. If he goes to university, he's going to be by far the youngest student in his year. Marc's already spent some time on campus and said he felt totally out of place."
"So, what is he going to do?"
"He's not sure," Johnny replied. "That is one reason they are going down to see his grandmother. One option would be for him to come over to France for a year or so to study French. Though he's not too keen on that."
It became clear over the next twenty minutes or so of the flight that Johnny and Marc had had some in-depth discussions of educational options. It was also clear that Marc was not too happy with any of them.
Just after the seatbelt light came back on, Johnny turned to me. "Dad, would you let Marc translate your maths book? It would give him something to do while he gets ready for university." I gave Johnny a somewhat noncommittal answer but had the distinct feeling that it was not the last I would hear of the subject.
Arriving at London City, I considered getting a London cab for us to get to Bernard's but decided against it, preferring the Docklands Light Railway to Bank, then the tube to Hampstead Heath; though, we did get a cab for the last bit to Bernard's.
Over dinner at Bernard's, I was filled in on what he knew about the situation regarding JayDee. Unfortunately, that was not much more than I already knew. The only additional piece of information he could give me was that he was making arrangements for a replacement passport to be obtained for JayDee, and it would be couriered out to the British Virgin Islands.
We left Bernard's shortly after ten. It would have been earlier, but Johnny was busy filling Joseph in about Marc. Anyway, Debora wanted to see the clothes that Anne had bought in Paris. Fortunately, at that time of night, traffic was fairly light, so we made good time around the North Circular. As a result, it was not quite midnight when we got home to the Priory.
There was a note on the kitchen table waiting for us. It was from Arthur saying that Tariq wanted to speak to us as soon as possible. I realised I had not warned Arthur that we were coming home a day early and became worried that he might think there were intruders in the house. I need not have worried. Shortly after we arrived, a taxi pulled into the yard, and Arthur got out. It turned out that he had been to the youth club and then had a late supper with the girls.
Having seen my car in the yard, he was not surprised to see us in the kitchen when he came in.
"I see you got my note," he stated as he entered.
"Yes," I answered. "Any idea what it is about?"
"I think he wants to fly out to be with JayDee," Arthur replied.
Arthur was right. Tariq did want to go out to be with JayDee. First thing Saturday morning, he was knocking on the door. The moment he came in, he asked if he could go out and join JayDee. Fortunately, Johnny came into the kitchen at that moment and took charge.
"Not on, kid," he stated, sitting down at the table and pulling Tariq into a hug.
"Why?" Tariq asked.
"Because we do not want anyone knowing where JayDee is," Johnny responded.
"I thought he was with Trevor on his film set," the boy stated.
"Look, Tariq," Johnny replied, "we are not sure where JayDee is at the moment. All we know is that he is with the film crew. Remember, that church is still looking for him, so my uncles have to keep him out of sight. Don't think they will keep him on the main set; there are too many locals around who might see him.
"You flying out there would draw attention. Better for you to wait here till my uncles can get him back safely. I am sure they will."
Tariq nodded. I am not sure that Johnny had convinced him, but I felt that he had at least put some doubt in Tariq's mind about the advisability of flying out there straightaway.
"Anyway," Johnny continued, "you're back at school on Monday. You can't afford to take time off now as you will need to take time off when JayDee gets back."
That, I had to admit, was an argument I would not have thought of. Admittedly, it was an argument which I thought was somewhat dubious, but it was an argument, and at the moment, I was grateful for any that Johnny could put up.
Tariq looked very down.
"I'll tell you what; how about if we look at sorting out your room for JayDee for when he is back?" Johnny suggested. "Then later, we can try Skyping my uncle and see if we can talk to JayDee.
At that, Tariq perked up. "Can we Skype them now?" he asked.
"Now?" Johnny exclaimed. "It's five in the morning over there. I am sure my uncle Ben loves me, but I don't think he will be happy if I wake him at five in the morning. I'll send him a text and ask him to let us know when we can Skype. OK?"
"Right, Tariq, let's go and see about sorting out your room so there is space for JayDee," Johnny said, standing up from the table. It was only as they exited the back door that I realised that Johnny had not had any breakfast, not even a coffee.
Johnny returned about half an hour later and made a beeline for the coffee pot. "Left Tariq sorting his room," he stated as he topped up his coffee with sugar. "Marcia has said she would get bunk beds for it so that the boys can share the room."
"Is that wise?" I asked.
"It might be difficult to stop," Johnny pointed out. "Marcia wants to have a talk with you. Told her probably best to leave it till about lunchtime as I had no doubt you would be busy catching up this morning."
"I will be," I replied. "By the way, thanks for your help with Tariq this morning."
I left Johnny in the kitchen making himself some breakfast. Anne had gone off to do some grocery shopping, which left me free to catch up with my emails and correspondence I had not been able to deal with whilst in Paris. Though, in fact, there was not that much I had not been able to deal with.
Yesterday, I had sent emails to both my agents letting them know that I would be back at the Priory this morning. It was not that much of a surprise when Bob phoned me. He just wanted to check that I was OK with the idea of John doing a French translation of my book. I mentioned in passing that John's grandson was interested in translating my maths book.
"Is he up to it?" Bob asked.
"I gather he is some form of maths genius," I commented.
"Well, it could be useful," Bob confirmed. "Would be a whole lot more useful if it was Spanish."
We chatted for a few more minutes, mostly about arrangements for book signings. He wanted me to do more than I was prepared to do.
I had just finished talking to Bob when Johnny put his head around the door to let me know he was going back to the apartment to help Tariq. I asked if he had plans for later.
"Don't know," he replied. "It depends on what your Uncle Ben says in reply to my text. Why?"
"Was thinking about going to that Chinese place in Maldon for dinner. Thought we might go over early and do some shopping."
"Count me out," Johnny replied. "I think I need to be around most of today for Tariq. Better get back to him, he should be about ready to take his bed down."
With that, he pulled his head back and shut the door. I got back to dealing with the few emails I had to deal with after Paris. There were not many, but they did take some research before I could answer them. Most were requests for specific articles, and it was a matter of checking if I had access to the required source material.
Shortly after eleven, the house phone rang. It was Marcia asking if I was free to talk as she needed some advice. I decided it was time I had a break and suggested we meet in our kitchen for a cup in about ten minutes. That gave me time to finish off the email reply I was currently working on.
The kettle had just boiled when Marcia knocked on the back door. I called out to her to come in. As she entered, I asked if she wanted tea or coffee.
"Tea, please," Marcia replied.
I made a pot of tea and left it to brew as I place some mugs on the table.
"It's Earl Grey," I stated. "Do you want milk?"
"No, thanks," Marcia responded. "Though, I would not mind some lemon if you have any."
As Anne had not returned from her shopping expedition, there were no fresh lemons in the kitchen. I did, though, have a bottle of lemon juice, which I put on the table along with the sugar.
"What did you want advice with?" I asked, waiting for the tea to brew.
"Well, it is not so much advice as a favour I want," Marcia replied.
I decided that the tea had brewed long enough and started to pour it before asking. "What is the favour?"
"Would you be prepared to act as a trustee on a trust for Tariq and Jasmin?"
"I think I will need a bit more information about things before I can answer that, Marcia. What type of trust, and what is it for?"
"I probably need to start the explanation from the start," Marcia stated.
"That's usually a fairly good place.”
"Well, it seems the bank acted illegally in putting the company into administration. When Doreen, the local solicitor that Bernard got working on things, got looking into the papers, she found that under the loan agreement they should have given us ninety days' notice on calling in the loan."
"That's rather long," I pointed out.
"It is, but apparently as the loan was partly secured on the house, it was to give us time to raise the funds before the foreclosure could be activated. Anyway, acting the way they did, they put the company into administration and foreclosed on the house before they should have.
"As things have turned out, Chawish's death has resulted in a claim on the critical-person-insurance cover. It was still in place, and as the company had not been wound up, still valid. The insurance will more than pay off what the bank was owed by the company. Fortunately, the administrators had kept the business running in the hope of selling it as a going concern; in fact, they had a couple of offers and were about to finalise things. So, I had the choice of either getting the company back or allowing it to be sold and taking the proceeds of the sale or at least the seventy-per cent, which represented Chawish's interest."
"So, what did you do?" I enquired.
"Took the company back, we got it out of administration on Thursday."
"Yes, I had Bob with me. He was at university with Chawish, and the two of them started the business together. Most of the new technology was Bob's idea, but it was money from Chawish's family that got things going, so he took seventy percent in the company. Bob and Chawish had a big row just over two years ago, and Bob left. Chawish was supposed to be buying him out but never did.
"I stopped at Leicester on my way up. Bob's doing a PhD there. Bob agreed to go up to Leeds with me to see what the state of the company was. A couple of the staff had left, but none of the vital staff, according to Bob. After some discussion, I got Bob to agree to come back to the company and take charge of it. There was a cost, of course, had to give him twenty-one percent more shares, so he now holds fifty-one. That leaves me with forty-nine percent. I want to put them into a trust for Jasmin and Tariq. To do that, though, I need some trustees. I've asked Bernard to sort the trust deeds out and get it set up."
"Surely, you should be the trustee?" I stated.
"According to Bernard, not a good idea," she replied. "Something about being in control of a gift after it has been given may negate the act of giving. All to do with death duties and such like. Not sure I understand."
"So, who are you asking?"
"Yourself, Debora, Bernard's wife. She's involved with a number of Jewish welfare groups and charities, so will be good to have her on board. I am also thinking of asking Martin."
"Martin Clay, the solicitor," she answered.
"Oh, that Martin," I commented.
"Look, I will think about it, and I will need to talk to Bernard about it," I stated. "However, I do have one concern. How will you manage? If you deed the shares to your children, what are you going to live on?"
"I'll manage; in fact, it looks like I will manage quite well," she replied. "You see, the bank had already accepted an offer on the house, a very good offer in fact and well over what was outstanding on the mortgage and very near the top valuation that I got for it before all this blew up. Unfortunately for them, they had jumped the gun on proceeding with the foreclosure. Bernard's representative up there got them to settle. I get the full payout on Chawish's life insurance, which was set against the mortgage. I also get all monies — in excess of the outstanding amount on the mortgage — from the sale of the property without any deduction for foreclosure costs or selling costs. In addition, I am to get one-hundred thousand in damages for the bank's breach of contract. They are to pay my legal costs as well."
"It sounds as if she did well for you up there."
"She did. When we met with the bank on Wednesday morning, they just were not prepared to talk. Just wanted me to sign off on everything and take the balance on the sale after payment of the mortgage and their costs had been deducted. Wednesday afternoon she filed court papers claiming damages of ten point five million and served them on the bank. Thursday, they had their legal boys up from London. It took six hours of negotiations, but Doreen got what she wanted out of them.
"Really, at the end of the six hours, I felt sorry for the local bank representative. Both Doreen and his legal people were tearing him apart. After it was all settled, we had to stay over till Friday morning for the papers to be drawn up and signed. Once they were signed the lead lawyer from the bank's London office invited Doreen to join him for lunch. Apparently, he offered her a job."
"Did she take it?"
"Don't know, but Bernard said if she wants to work in London, he has a place for her with his firm.
"Anyway, Mike, that's my news. Have you got any on JayDee?"
I told her what I knew, which, to be honest, was not all that much.
We were still chatting about things when Anne came back from her shopping trip. She quickly scoffed at my idea of going to the Chinese for dinner, informing me that she had got some venison steaks from the farm shop, and we were having them. As I put the groceries away, she chatted with Marcia.
I had just put the last of the foodstuffs away when Anne asked where Johnny was.
"Helping Tariq," I replied.
"What are they doing?" she asked.
"Putting up bunk beds," Marcia informed her.
"Bunk beds?" Anne queried.
"Yes, JayDee will need somewhere to sleep when he arrives, and I thought bunk beds were probably a better idea that the two of them sharing a double," Marcia informed her.
"I thought you would turn the study area into a room for him," Anne stated.
"Don't think it would have worked," Marcia said. "Anyway, I think both boys need to be together to get over things. Having them share a room but having separate beds made sense."
"Aren't you worried about what they may get up to?"
"Look, Anne, they are going to get up to it one way or another," Marcia replied. "Having their own beds, they may not be getting up to it quite as much."
"You are right there," I stated. "Though sometimes I think we might overestimate what our youngsters are actually doing."
"What do you mean?" Anne asked.
"All the evidence is that most teenagers are engaged in a lot less sexual activity than is generally believed. There is quite a lot of evidence which suggests that both sexes tend to inflate the level of sexual activity they are engaged in. There are several studies that have shown that when they are asked about sexual activity within a group environment, they tend to state they are engaged in a lot more than they do if talking about it in a one-to-one environment."
"It doesn't matter," Marcia stated. "I have to accept that they will be having sex. I would far prefer them to be having sex somewhere I know is safe than have them sneaking around doing it somewhere that will almost certainly be unsafe."
That was a point I found I had to agree with.
Anne changed the subject by asking about Jasmin.
"She'll be back tomorrow," Marcia stated. "My parents insisted that they had a full week to spoil her."
Anne laughed at that, then suggested Marcia and Tariq join us for dinner. Marcia hemmed and hawed about the suggestion but agreed when Marcia pointed out that she had purchased a tray of venison steaks and there were twelve of them on the tray.
After Marcia left, Anne and I spent some time discussing our plans for the next week. Once we had those sorted, we each went to our relative rooms, Anne to the lounge to catch up on some course reading and me to the study, though I was not sure what I was going to do. In the end, I did not have much choice; Chris phoned me just after I had sat down at my desk. Could I do an interview for the World at One on Monday about the impact of the Chinese expansion of coal-fired power stations on global warming? The interview would be done Monday morning, so I had some time to prepare.
I had just finished writing up some notes for the interview when Anne came in to ask what I fancied to go with the venison steaks. We discussed the options for a few minutes, then decided on hunter chips, mushrooms and salad. I offered to prepare them, an offer Anne took up.
I had just finished using the mandolin to slice the potatoes for the hunter chips when Johnny came in. He looked a bit hot and dishevelled.
"How did it go?" I asked.
"Well, I got the bunk beds up," Johnny replied.
"From that, I gather you had to do it by yourself," I commented.
"Not really," he answered. "Tariq did what he could; he's getting more usage in his arm, but he is still fairly limited. He just has no strength in it. So, he was restricted to either holding stuff for me or passing me stuff. He can't hold something with one hand and pass me something with the other. Assembling the bunk beds really was a two-man job."
"You should have come and got me," I stated.
"Nah, it's OK; we managed," he responded. "I'm going to get a shower and change." He walked through the kitchen and was about to go into the corridor when he stopped and turned back. "Oh, Uncle Ben texted me. We're to Skype him at ten tonight."
"That's six their time," I observed.
"Must be, he said they had a teardown crew on set at five, so he would be free at six." With that comment, he left. I shouted after him to check if Arthur was in, then I got on with the cooking. Arthur came through to the kitchen a few minutes later.
"Johnny said you wanted me," he stated.
"No, I just asked him to check if you were in. As you clearly are. Do you want to join us for dinner?"
"Thanks, Mike, but no thanks. The girls are picking me up at five-thirty and then we're going into Chelmsford. We're meeting Neal and Maddie for dinner."
"No, we're just reviewing all the plans for the move to the new unit," Arthur informed me. "I hope to have a final project plan done before I go off to Necker, and I need to run some things past them."
"When's the cast due to come off?" I enquired.
"Not sure," Arthur replied. "I have to go in for an X-ray and to see the consultant on Wednesday. He will give the all-clear if it can come off. Don't know if they will do it the same day."
"I hope they can," I stated.
"So, do I," he replied. "Need it off before the fifth." With that, he made his way back to his room. A few minutes later, the van pulled into the yard; I guessed one of the girls must have been driving it. Arthur made his way through the kitchen and into the yard, climbing into the back of the van. I was a bit unsure about the legality or comfort of riding in the back of the van. However, I thought it was probably best not to say anything.
Marcia and Tariq arrived just as I was finishing off the salad for dinner. I told them to grab themselves a place at the table. Then I called Anne and Johnny.
Dinner was fairly quiet. Anne and Marcia chatted about getting back to college next week; Johnny moaned about it, though with good humour. I got the feeling he was only moaning about it as that is what was expected from a sixteen-year-old. Tariq seemed quite happy to get back to school on Monday. Marcia explained that they had a good music teacher who had taken an interest in Tariq. It had made a lot of difference to the boy's outlook on things.
After dinner, Anne and Marcia went through to the lounge to watch some historical drama on the BBC. Johnny offered to clean up and put the stuff in the dishwasher, saying that, when he was done, Tariq and he would be going up to his room to play some game. I retreated to my study. Not that I had much to do, but it is always nice to have some free time to read.
Shortly after nine, Marcia departed, and Anne made a hot-milk drink for the two of us. We sat in the study and discussed our plans for the coming week. I knew I had to be in Town for at least one, probably two days next week to do some green-screen work for the industrial-archaeology series. They had asked me to keep Tuesday to Thursday free but had made it clear that at the maximum it would be two days' work. They would not know when, though, until they got the studio schedule, which they got on Friday. I had hoped to get an email from them today, but nothing had come.
Not being able to firm down my schedule for the week made planning things a bit difficult. Anne's car was due for its MOT and service. There was some work that she knew needed to be done, so she was thinking to drop it in at the garage on her way home from college one afternoon, then pick it up the following evening. She would, though, need the use of my Santa Fe to get to college on the day she did not have her car.
"You could use the Morgan," I pointed out.
"In this weather?" she protested. "It's bad enough in summer; I hate to think what it would be like to drive in the rain they are forecasting for next week."
We spent the next ten minutes discussing the relative merits of the Morgan. To be honest, I had to admit she had a point about its suitability for driving on a wet day in late October or a cold, wet day any other time of year, to be honest. We agreed she should drop her car off on Tuesday and use my Santa Fe on Wednesday. If I needed to get to the station, Anne would take me in before going into college. If push came to shove, I could always take a taxi. The production company would have to cover the costs in any case.
Once that was decided, Anne informed me that she was taking an early night and went off to bed.
I knocked off a couple of emails, one of which was to Bernard asking about the trust Marcia wanted and me as trustee. The other was to Irene, basically saying that I would not now be available to do any filming on the industrial-architecture project till Wednesday. Well, if they could not be bothered to let me have firm dates, they could fit in with my dates.
Johnny and Tariq came in while I was finishing the email to Irene. Johnny asked if they could use my desktop to Skype Ben. I told them fine, but that I wanted in on the conversation. When they tried to connect with Ben, they got a message that he was not available. I told them to wait five minutes and try again. They did not have to wait, a couple of minutes later, Ben initiated the call, which Johnny took. Tariq was a bit disappointed that there was no sign of JayDee. When he asked about JayDee, Ben informed him that the boy was somewhere safe, but they did not have an internet connection fast enough for Skype where JayDee was, and that it was a bit too risky to move JayDee from where he was to the crew hotel just to make a Skype call. However, he did state that JayDee would be calling Tariq on his mobile as soon as the Skype call was finished.
With that information Tariq lost interest in this call, as did Johnny, and the two of them left, leaving me to talk with my brother.
"Is Arthur still OK to come out next week?" Ben asked.
"Provided his cast comes off, yes," I replied. "Why?"
"Oh, just something Bernard and I were discussing earlier," Ben stated. I knew enough not to ask more questions.
Ben confirmed that he had spoken with James and brought him up to date on the situation. He also told me that the church was pulling out all the stops trying to find JayDee. Losing him, apparently, had severely damaged their reputation.
We chatted for a bit. I mentioned my plans for the Golders Green flat. Ben told me that if I needed to stay overnight in London before I got the flat back, I could use their place. He then said he’d better wind up the call and let JayDee know to phone Tariq. With that, he signed off.As I exited the study on my way to the kitchen to wash up the cocoa mugs, I heard a mobile ringtone, followed by a rather excited Tariq clearly talking to JayDee.