It took Bernard about half an hour to round up everybody he had to take back to London. He did, though, manage to do it. Shortly after four, the Range Rover made its way out of the yard and down the drive.
"You know, that car is not the right car for him," Johnny stated as he watched Bernard manoeuvre the car out onto the road.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"It's the wrong car for him," Johnny repeated. "The Bentley suited him, it looked right for him, but the Range Rover is all wrong. If he doesn't want another Bentley, he should get a large Jag."
"I'll tell him that when I speak to him next," I responded. "How was the sailing?"
"Bloody fantastic," Johnny responded. "Never been out in the ketch before, and it is totally different from dinghy sailing. A lot more fun. Requires real crew work." He spent the next twenty minutes telling me about their day sailing, then decided he was hungry, so he went to the kitchen to get a snack. That reminded me I needed to sort something out for the evening meal. So, I followed Johnny through to the kitchen.
Johnny was making himself a sandwich; I asked him if he fancied anything, particularly, for dinner. He suggested steak and chips, which sounded good to me, so I set about preparing it.
"How was the day with Marc in London," I enquired.
"Great, we had a fun time."
"Joseph got on OK with Marc?"
"Yeah," Johnny replied. There was something in his tone that made me think there was something up, but I decided not to push things. Instead, I got onto asking him about college and how that was going. It turned out that his French tutor was putting him in for the French examination in December. Johnny had said nothing about that before.
"It's a bit early, isn't it?"
"Yes, fifteen months early," he replied. "However, she says that I am ahead of even her advanced French class, so I might as well get the exam out of the way now and drop the lessons, that will give me more time to concentrate on my A-level subjects. She said I would have no problem passing the exam."
"Good. I just hope she is right," I commented.
"It will make it a lot easier if I do pass. I can then do more on the craft classes and might be able to get the City and Guilds out of the way this school year. That would leave me with just A-level physics and maths for next year."
"Are you up for it?" I asked. "I thought you were worried about your practical experience?"
"I was, Dad, but I've been getting a lot of hands-on experience at the yard. In fact, I have probably learned more off Steve that I have off any of the tutors at the college."
"Fine. Just don't push things too much."
"I won't, Dad," he promised, leaving me in the kitchen to prepare tea.
Monday morning, I was late getting up, mostly due to the fact I had been late getting to bed as I had gotten engrossed in an article I was working on. Anne and Johnny had left for college well before I got down to the kitchen, as evidenced by the note on the table from Anne giving me a list of things she wanted to be picked up from the supermarket. I decided to deal with that first, and as soon as I had grabbed some breakfast, I set off to Tesco's to complete Anne's shopping.
Once I had done that and put everything away, I went into my study and called Irene, my talent agent. It took me a few minutes to explain what I had in mind regarding John's manuscript.
"Christ, Mike, you're a new talent on the scene, and already you are pitching shows!" Irene exclaimed.
"Sorry," I replied.
"Don't be," she responded. "Actually, I like what you have told me about it, and it would be a perfect vehicle for you. The thing is, one does not normally expect new talent to come up with stuff like this. I hope you can get it pitched to the right outlet; that, though, is not my scene. I represent talent, not product. You need to find someone who specialises in that field."
"Oh," I said, somewhat despondently. I had hoped that Irene would handle it for me.
"Don't be so defeatist," Irene told me. "You've got an in with one of the best TV- and film-rights agents in the country."
"Yes, Janet Long at your literary agents; she is one of the best in the business for those rights. Pitch the idea to her; I'm sure she will go for it."
That dealt with, Irene then wanted to go through my calendar to check when I could be free for work. It seems that the people who were behind the industrial-archaeology programme had something else in mind for me, though she did not know what it was at the moment.
Once that was out of the way and I had finished speaking with Irene, I called Bob's agency. As I wanted to talk to Janet Long, not with Bob, I used the main office number rather than Bob's direct line, which was what I usually used. Turned out to be a mistake. Having worked my way through a telephonist, receptionist, secretary and finally a personal assistant, I was eventually informed that Janet Long did not deal with unsolicited work.
I phoned Bob and explained the situation. Twenty minutes later, Janet Long called me. Over the next half an hour, I outlined my proposal. She was quite interested in it and told me what I needed to do to take it forward. First, I needed to get John's written permission to base a TV series on it. Once I had that I would have to write up an overall proposal for the series, together with some script ideas. Janet suggested I should fully script one episode, and partly script a couple of others. When all that was done, she would take over.
I had only just got off the phone with Janet when Matt phoned. He had some figures for me on security fencing the rear of the property and putting a proper security gate in, together with sorting the drive from the back to yard. For the front gates, he suggested we should raise them up a few inches. Also they should be mechanised. Once he had explained all that to me, he quoted a price. It was a couple of thousand above what I had expected but I told him to go ahead and get it done.
Once I was finished talking with Matt, I got down to read my emails. Was surprised to see one from Ben asking me to Skype him. Given the time difference, it was early hours of the morning over there. However, he had asked, so I did as asked and Skyped him.
"Morning, Mike," Ben answered when the call connected.
"Well, it's nearly afternoon here," I commented. "Though it must be damned early there."
"It is, but we have early flights to get," Ben replied. "The teardown finished last night, and we are moving everything to the British Virgin Islands today."
"Which means that you must be very busy, so what's the reason for the call request?"
"I just need to know if Bernard has managed to get a package sent with Arthur?"
"Yes, Ben. Bernard got the package to Arthur yesterday. I had a text from Arthur this morning that he was at Heathrow and about to board."
"That's a relief," Ben stated.
"Ben, before you go, I could do with having a talk to you about Johnny," I stated. "I appreciate this is probably not the time for it as it is somewhat complex and will take time, but I would appreciate your expertise."
"Ah, problems?" Ben asked.
"Not really, I just have some concerns."
"Look, if it is not urgent, I am flying back at the end of the week. Have to sort out some things on post-production. Am only in London for three days, but I’m sure we can find time to meet up. I'll email you my schedule when I have finalised it."
With that, he ended the call, and I got down to dealing with my emails, not that there was much to deal with. Most of it was spam which got immediately deleted. Once that was out of the way, I got down to writing a proposal for a series based on John's manuscript and started to sketch out a couple of scripts. I was still working on them when Anne got back from college.
"One of us is going to have to pick Johnny up tonight," she informed me as she brought a mug of tea through to me in the study.
"Isn't he on his moped?" I asked. Usually, when he had late classes and Anne or Marcia did not, he would use his moped to go into college.
"If you did not notice, it was pouring down with rain this morning," Anne replied. "It is drizzling now, and further heavy rain is forecast for late afternoon and this evening."
"OK, I'll go and get him. What time does his class finish?"
"Nine, though he sometimes gets out early," Anne informed me. "The best thing is to get there about eight-thirty and pop into Marge's. If he finishes early, he always goes there."
I followed Anne's advice later that evening, getting to Marge's just after eight-thirty. The place was quite busy, a lot different from when I had been there during the August vacation. Fortunately, there was a free table, which I took possession of and ordered a pot of tea. The tea had just been served when Johnny walked in. I waved him over and asked if he wanted anything?
"A hot chocolate, please," Johnny replied. I caught the eye of the waitress and ordered the required refreshment. Johnny looked tired.
"Not really," he replied. "Just did not get very much sleep last night."
"Problems?" I asked.
"No, just thoughts. You know, sometimes you get an idea in your head, and it just goes round and round and you just cannot get rid of it."
"I know, son," I replied. "Have had that sometimes when I am working on an article, especially if I have been stuck on something. Sometimes I will wake up, and the problem will be there, and I will lie in bed thinking of it. If I am lucky, I will see the answer. When that happens, I just have to get up and get on with my writing."
"What if there is no answer?" Johnny asked. "Or worse still, if there are multiple answers, but none of them is acceptable?"
"That sounds serious. Want to talk about the problem?"
"Not really. It's something I need to sort out, though I think I need to sort myself out first."
On the drive home, we were entertained with the sight of fireworks bursting in the sky as we drove through the various villages and hamlets. In some, giant bonfires blazed on village greens, elsewhere we saw the glow of fires from behind houses or in fields.
"We should have sorted out a bonfire at the Priory," Johnny informed me. "There is a pile of building rubbish we could have burnt."
"Should you have been collecting a penny for the Guy?" I enquired.
"No, I'm a bit too old for that now," Johnny pointed out. "Only ever did it once — when I was at prep school. Bonfire night was on a Saturday, and I went home with one of my roommates, Danny. We got to his place about nine on Friday night, then spent three hours making a Guy to go on the fire. Saturday morning, we put it in a wheelbarrow and wheeled it down to the marketplace. Danny made a sign up, asking for a penny for the Guy; we collected nearly three quid."
"Good for you," I replied. "I have always thought it was a bit of a strange custom to make life-size rag dolls to place on top of a pile of wood and stuff before setting fire to the whole lot. Seems a strange way to celebrate the failure of Guido Fawkes in blowing up Parliament."
"Actually, it is far older than that," Johnny stated.
"Bonfire night. It's far older than Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. It is actually the remains of an old Pagan custom. The King is sacrificed at the Feast of the Dead, Halloween; five days later his body is placed on the funeral pyre and cremated. The Pagans believe that the body must be left for five days after death before it is cremated or buried to allow the souls to leave the body."
"How come it got connected with Guy Fawkes?" I asked.
"Chance. The date fitted. The old Pagan tradition had been nearly stamped out under the Tudors. It only existed in a few places in the country. When the plotters tried to blow up Parliament, it just happened to be on the date when it would have been celebrated. After that, when the authorities asked about burning effigies on bonfires, they were told it was Guy Fawkes, and there was not a lot they could do about that. From there, it started to spread across the country again."
"Johnny, how do you know all this?" I asked.
"Danny's mother; she's a witch?"
"Are you still in touch with Danny?" I enquired.
"Not really," Johnny answered. "We exchange the odd email, usually birthdays and Christmas time but that is all. They moved to Dublin the last year of prep school. Danny's father is Irish, and he got a professorship at Trinity, so took the family home. Don't think Danny was pleased with the idea."
"Any particular reason why?"
"He had just found himself a girlfriend," Johnny replied. "She was quite obliging. He says the Irish girls are not interested in playing."
"I should hope not," I stated.
Johnny laughed, then there was a silence. It was as if a memory had awakened and he wanted to savour it. No doubt something to do with Danny.
The next couple of days were relatively quiet. I had emailed John about using his manuscript as a base for a series, and he had replied that he was happy with it, provided he did not have to do any more writing. I assured him I would do all the writing. It did not take me long to finish off the series proposal that I had been working on and a script for the first episode, plus a couple of illustrative script pieces for later episodes. I emailed them to Janet Long shortly after lunch on Wednesday. Was quite surprised when I got an email back that evening asking me to call in and see her next time I was in Town.
I was just about to finish up for the night when my system pinged to tell me that an email had come in from Ben. Checking it, I found his schedule. He was arriving at Heathrow at eighteen-thirty on Friday, had meetings all day Saturday and Sunday until sixteen hundred. Was due to return early hours Monday morning. Anne and I already had arrangements for Sunday, it was Mary's birthday, and we had all been invited to the party, so that was out for a quiet talk with my brother. I did email him back suggesting he come out to the party Sunday evening and I would drive him to Heathrow Monday morning. I also suggested that I might meet him in London Friday evening, and we could talk. Thursday morning, I found an email from Ben declining the invitation to join the party but suggesting I meet him at the London flat at nineteen-thirty on Friday. He pointed out I had a key to the flat, so I could let myself in and wait for him. I replied that I would. Then I phoned Janet Long and arranged to see her late Friday afternoon; I also called Bernard to see if he was up for lunch on Friday. Unfortunately, he had a prior commitment but did suggest I call in and see him at his office around two.
It was slightly after two when I got to Bernard's office. His secretary told me that I was expected and to go straight through, she would be bringing the tea shortly. Taking the advice, I walked down the corridor and knocked on the door of Bernard's office just to be sure I was not interrupting anything.
"If that's Mike, come in; otherwise, go away," his voice boomed from within. I entered. He was sitting behind his desk looking somewhat flustered with piles of papers spread everywhere.
"What's wrong?" I enquired.
"Aunt Ruth," he replied. He put down the paper he was reading, indicated I should take a seat, then let out a deep sigh. "She has decided to change her will, and I have got the job of sorting it out."
"Well, she is getting on a bit, so it is probably a wise move to make sure that everything is sorted," I commented. "She can't have that much, so what's the problem?"
Aunt Ruth had come to Britain after the war and her liberation from Bergen-Belsen. Her fiancé had died in the camps. She had married a few years after arriving in England, but it had not lasted long. Bernard's mother had said the only reason she married was to make sure she qualified for British citizenship.
All her life, she had worked as a seamstress and dressmaker. It was something she was good at, and she had done well. Her wedding dresses were in demand from most Jewish mothers in Golders Green, also from a lot of non-Jewish mothers who wanted the best for their daughters. That she had a thriving, albeit small, business for many years, I knew. There was no way I could not know; her workshop was two doors down from our home in Golders Green, the other side of Bernard's father's shop. I knew she had managed to save money; she had scrimped and saved all her life. That is why she could now afford the retirement home she was living in.
Bernard looked at me with a hint of desperation in his face. "I met her accountant for lunch; he's given me this lot. At a rough guess, I would say she is worth the top side of a hundred and fifty million."
"What! Aunt Ruth?"
"How?" I asked.
"Remember back around the millennium, there was a lot of fuss about looted Nazi art in US museums?"
"Yes, what has that to do with it?" I asked.
"It seems that a lot of it, like five Rembrandts, a couple of Vermeers, a whole pile of French impressionists and half a dozen Van Goghs, belonged to her family. Aunt Ruth was the only survivor. She never told anybody about it. From what I can gather, the museums paid her about fifty million."
"Well, that's nothing like a hundred and fifty," I pointed out.
"No, but she had a good financial advisor, my cousin Zach. Half of it was invested in London properties, mostly detached, in the central zone."
"Fuck, they've gone up what, three, four hundred percent?"
"More like five hundred," Bernard stated. "The rest Zach put into business investments that he was managing, mostly short-term bridging loans. From what I can see from these, he has been turning the capital over two or three times a year and getting at least ten percent a time."
"I can see how that can quickly mount up," I commented.
"It's mounted, alright. Zachary is sending me a detailed financial statement so I can sort everything out, though I won't get that till Monday. Aunt Ruth wants everything put into a trust to the benefit of the grandchildren."
"What grandchildren?" I asked. "The marriage did not last that long."
"She means the grandchildren of those she considered her family here, like my parents," Bernard stated, pulling out a sheet of paper from the pile on the desk. "Meticulous as always, she has given me a list of who is to be regarded as one of the grandchildren."
I just nodded. Aunt Ruth was meticulous about everything; it came from her need for detail in her needlework.
"By the way, your Johnny is named in the list," Bernard stated.
"Johnny? But he is not even related."
"Neither is Saul Robertson, but his grandchildren are included," Bernard informed me. "Anybody who accepted Aunt Ruth into their family seems to have been deemed by Aunt Ruth as family."
"How many 'grandchildren' are there?" I asked.
"There are seventeen on the list, though I have to make provision for any more that might be born, though I doubt any will be. Given the way property prices are going in London and my cousin's knack for investing, I would not be at all surprised if they each ended up with over ten million."
Bernard held up his hand to stop me. "Don't bother saying it; I have been through all the arguments with Aunt Ruth. She is adamant as to what she wants to be done."
"What is she going to live on?" I asked. "That retirement home is not that cheap."
"Don't worry, Zach had already set up a separate trust fund to cover the home fees and give her an income. When she dies, that goes to the Jewish Welfare Fund."
"So, Johnny gets a not-that-small a fortune," I stated. "Hopefully, some way off. I would rather like the old bird to be around a bit longer. The question is, why are you telling me this? I thought client affairs were confidential?"
"They are, but there is a reason," Bernard replied. "Aunt Ruth has named you as one of the trustees. Technically, I don't need your consent to act as a trustee; it does though make life a lot easier. Will you act as a trustee?"
"Do I have a choice?" I asked. "Remember we are talking about Aunt Ruth here."
Bernard laughed. "Probably not."
"Who are the other trustees?"
"Rachel, Zach and myself," Bernard replied.
I leaned back in my chair and sighed. "You know, Bernard, life used to be fairly simple. I was living quietly in the back of beyond as a jobbing technical author. I made enough to live fairly comfortably, did not have to work too hard, and enjoyed what I was doing. Now, look at it. What happened?"
"Johnny happened," Bernard stated. "You had been in a rut for years, doing the same thing, maintaining the same lifestyle. Then Johnny turns up. He makes you look at everything again. You marry Anne. Aunt Ruth says seeing you, Anne and Johnny at your wedding confirmed that you were family. She had been thinking about doing this for a few years. That was the trigger for her to set about doing something finally.
"By the way, can I suggest you don't tell Johnny about this."
"I don't like keeping secrets from him," I stated.
"That, I can understand," Bernard replied. "However, the deed of trust is not complete yet. Until it is, anything could change. Also, once the trust is set up, Aunt Ruth must survive at least five years, or death duties will hit the estate. Finally, unlike the trust that Ben and Phil set up for Johnny, this one is closed. None of the beneficiaries can get anything from it until they are thirty.
"Once the trust is in place, you can tell him that it exists, but emphasise he cannot get his share till he is thirty. Also, don't tell him how large the trust is."
Leaving Bernard's, I gave thought to what he had said about Johnny coming into my life. That had made an enormous difference. I doubt if I would have done half the things I had in recent months if Johnny had not arrived on my doorstep. Did I regret it? Not in the least. Looking back, I had been in a rut for the last ten years or so, and Johnny's arrival had knocked me out of it.
The thing was that Johnny was going to be a wealthy young man. Actually, he was already, given the trust that Ben and Phil had set up for him. How did I deal with that? Then again, the way things were going, it looked as if I was not going to be that badly off, as well.
I grabbed a sandwich from a sandwich shop not far from Bernard's office, then got the tube to Wood Green, arriving at Bob's office a bit early for my meeting with Janet Long. Bob's secretary assured me that he was free, so I popped in to see him. We spent a bit of time discussing the translations of my climate-change book. Then we got around to talking about Trevor. I pointed out that I had not been in contact with him since he had left for the location shoot.
"At least, he was talking to you when he was in the country," Bob stated.
"Yes," I agreed.
"Well, that is more than either his mother or I'm getting," Bob replied. "Did not even know he was on location till you told me."
I was surprised. That there had been a tension between Trevor and his parents I knew, but I thought that it had been resolved. It appeared not.
Bob looked at me hopefully, as if somehow I could provide a miracle and put him back in contact with his son. The problem was, I could not think of anything that might bring that about. At least, anything that I could do to bring it about.
Fortunately, before the discussion could go any further, Bob's secretary buzzed through to inform Bob that Janet Long was free to see me.
The meeting with Janet went well. She quite liked the proposal that I had put together, though she made some suggestions for some reworking. Mostly just changing the layout so it fitted with what the industry expected. Janet provided me with some examples of proposals so I could model what I my reworked proposal on them. She also gave me some script layouts so I could reformat the scripts I had written to fit with the industry standards.
Once that was out of the way, Janet informed me that she had already floated the idea to a couple of production companies, and both were interested. She did not want to rush me but did think the quicker I could get the material reformatted the better.
That dealt with, I left Bob's office and got the tube back to town. Went into Garfunkel's to get something to eat; besides the sandwich, I had not eaten since breakfast. After a quick and decidedly unhealthy meal, I made my way to Ben's flat and my meeting with him.
It was just gone seven when I arrived at the flat. I let myself in and was somewhat surprised to find Ben already there.
"Didn't think you'd be here till gone seven," I stated once we had got past the initial greetings.
"Tail wind over the Atlantic made jolly good time. We landed forty-five minutes early. As I only had hand baggage, I did not have to wait. I got through customs and passport control fairly quickly. Though I only got here about ten minutes ago." Ben went over to the drinks cabinet and opened it. "Drink?"
"Wouldn't mind an orange with Cynar, if you have any?" I replied.
"There should be some," Ben replied. "I emailed the housekeeping service and told them I would be here for the weekend. Asked them to stock up." He opened the mini-fridge built into the cabinet. "Ah yes, three bottles of orange juice." He poured me a large glass of orange juice then added a dash of Cynar. Once he had handed it to me, he poured himself a whiskey. "You're sure you don't want anything stronger. From the hints you have dropped, I don't think this is going to be an easy conversation."
"It isn't," I replied. "Thanks, but no; I have to drive once I get to Southminster."
"Probably wise," Ben stated. He seated himself in the armchair next to the one I had occupied. "What's the problem?"
"Johnny," I stated.
"I hope he hasn't done anything stupid," Ben said.
"Oh, no. Actually, he seems quite sensible and mature about things. It's just I’m worried about him."
"Because of the abuse?" Ben asked.
"You know about it?"
"Not know but guessed. I was fairly certain from one or two things that there had been some. It is something you get a feeling for when you have to work in the field for a bit. Though you have to be careful, it is all too easy to expect abuse to be present and to see the signs of it when it is not there. Has he spoken to you about it?"
"Some. He's told me things, but … I don't know, he seems to be so self-contained about it. Says he’s dealt with it. That he does not want to do anything about it," I informed Ben.
"Then don't do anything," Ben advised. I looked at him, surprised. "Mike, you have got to understand that every victim of abuse deals with it in their own way. Some have significant problems with it and feel that they have done something wrong, that it was all their fault. Others see things differently. For some, it is just something that happened, something that is over, in the past, and they shrug it off and get on with life.
"There are still others who are willing participants in their abuse. They enjoyed it, got something out of it. They often feel grateful to their abusers. Don't misunderstand me here. For all their willingness, they were abused. In fact, one might see this as the worst kind of abuse. They were taken advantage of because of their very need for attention and love. That need was used to facilitate the abuse.
"The relationship between an abuser and his victim is complicated. It is all too easy to assume that the best thing to do is take action against the abuser."
"Mike, let me finish. If the abuse is active and ongoing, then yes, you need to take action. Is Johnny currently being abused, and is he likely to be abused?"
"Then he is not in immediate danger?" Ben replied.
"In that case, Mike, you do not need to take any immediate action to protect Johnny," Ben stated. "What you do need to do is make sure that Johnny is in an environment where he can get any help he needs when he needs it. That means making sure you are available for him to speak to when and if he feels like speaking about things. It also means you must not breach any trust that Johnny has placed in you. If you lose that trust, then you are not there for him. That means you can't tell me anything he has told you."
"You mean that?"
"Yes, Mike," my brother replied. "If you tell me something about the abuse that Johnny has told you, there is always the chance, no matter how careful I am, that I might let slip that I know something when speaking to him. That would destroy Johnny's trust in you, and he does trust you."
It took me a moment or two to understand what Ben was saying. When I did, I just nodded. We sat there in silence for a couple of minutes as I thought over what Ben had said.
"Then there is nothing that I can do about the abuse?" I asked.
"That is not what I said," Ben stated. "You can do a lot. You can make sure that he knows he is appreciated and loved and that the appreciation and love come with no strings attached. That he is loved for who he is, not for what he is. Do what you are doing at the moment; give him a home. That is something I suspect he has never really had before, from what Phil was saying."
"What does Phil know?" I enquired.
"Not sure, though I know Phil and Johnny talked quite a lot when they were at Manston. They do share something in common: Johnny's mother is Phil's sister. From what I picked up, I don't think either of them has that good an opinion about her."
"I think that might be an understatement, at least in Johnny's case."
"Don't say any more, Mike, I don't want to know. If I say anything at the moment, I can also say it was something I learnt from Phil. Johnny would accept that. If you tell me something that Phil does not know, that could cause problems."
"Is there anything else I can do?" I asked.
"Yes," Ben replied. "Be prepared. If Johnny does decide to open up about it, it is likely to be all of a sudden. There will be no warning, no preamble; he will just open up and tell all. That is when you must be ready. First, listen to him but do not judge. He will be half expecting you to judge him. Probably, he will expect you to blame him. Whatever you do, that is what you must not do. Just listen to him and then ask him how he feels about it. When he has told you, then you can suggest he should speak to a professional about it. Don't give him time to think about it, for if you do, he will probably back out. Make arrangements straightaway for him to see somebody."
"Definitely, not me," Ben replied. "I'm too close to being family. I will give you a list of people I think should be able to help." With that, he pulled out his phone and started to look through his contacts. “I will email you a list of possible contacts tonight."
"Thanks," I stated.
"Look, Mike, I know you feel you need to act," Ben said. "It's the father instinct in you. You want to protect Johnny and hit at those who hurt him. The thing you need to realise is that if you force the issue, you could end up hurting Johnny even more. To make someone confront something before they are ready can have devastating effects."
"I can understand what you are saying," I stated. "The thing is, I find it very difficult not to step in and do something."
"I know," Ben responded. "But you have got to accept that when he is ready, Johnny will come to you with everything. He's already started down that path with what he has told you. Be patient and wait."
"OK," I said. "I may not like it, but I will do as you advise."
"Don't worry; I am sure it will not be that long. The fact he has already told you something about it tells me that he is nearly ready to address things. You will probably find he will tell you about it in dribs and drabs over the next few months, then one day he will let everything out."
"You mean like Trevor did?" I asked.
"Trevor was a different situation," Ben stated. "He was forced by circumstances to confront things, and I am not sure it was for the best. I'm still worried about Trevor."
"So are his parents," I informed Ben. "He has not been in touch with them for some time."
"Not surprising," Ben replied. "The thing is, he blames them to an extent for what happened to him. They were pushing him to be a film star, and being a film star in his case involved being abused. It is going to take a lot of soul-searching on his part before Trevor really forgives them. If he ever does."
"I saw Bob earlier, and he is worried," I told Ben. "Any chance you could get him, at least, to text them and let them know he is OK?"
"I'll try but can't promise any success," Ben replied. "At the moment, Trevor is carrying quite a big chip on his shoulder. He needs to get rid of it. But I must say, it is adding something to the character he is playing in the film. The PM's son is supposed to have a chip on his shoulder, and Trevor is pulling on his own feelings to play the part."
"How is the film going?" I enquired.
"Good," he replied. "With a bit of luck, we will be finished all the location shooting by the twenty-third. We are concentrating on the scenes involving Trevor and Tyler next week, so if there is any delay, their need to return to the UK will not affect things. We will be left filming the scenes that don't involve them."
"Why do they need to fly back?" I enquired.
"Mayer's trial is listed to start on the twenty-sixth," Ben Informed me. "They have both been called as witnesses."
"I did not know," I stated. Then to take my mind off things, I asked Ben about the release plans for the film.
For the next hour, we talked about the film, their plans for Manston and Christmas. In previous years Ben and Phil had always put on a big party at Manston for Christmas. This year, however, it was going to be difficult as they would be busy in the post-production of the film. Ben was saying that he could not see how they could put it on.
"In addition to the fact that we are going to be busy during the Christmas period, there is some major refurbishment needed in the main wing. Mrs M sent us the work estimated, and it is looking like ten weeks. We really need to get that started before Christmas if we are to have the place ready to re-open in March. Can't see how we can host Christmas this year at Manston."
"Then don't," I said. "You and Phil can come down to the Priory for Christmas. We can be the hosts for a change."
I left shortly after nine to get the train back to Southminster. My aim was to get the train before the theatre crowd got out. As it was, I just missed it and found myself on a crowded train. I also had to make a change on the way. As a result, it was getting on for well gone eleven before I got home.
Even though it was late, I checked my emails. There was one from James informing me that he had a flight early Saturday morning to Gatwick, would be arriving at Gatwick at thirteen thirty on Sunday. It struck me that I had forgotten that Arthur would be bringing JayDee back with him and that James would want to be here when JayDee arrived. I checked Arthur's flight times, and fortunately, they were not arriving at Heathrow till early Sunday evening.
That clarified, I wrote a quick note to Anne, saying that James was on his way and could the guest room be sorted out? Then I sent James an email saying I would meet him at Gatwick. Once I had checked the rest of my emails for anything urgent, I went to bed.
Surprisingly I was up before Anne in the morning, which, to say the least, was unusual. I often work late into the evening, sometimes into the early hours of the morning, so I often sleep late into the morning. Anne, on the other hand, tends to go to bed at times I would regard as early, but gets typically up sometime around seven or earlier. This Saturday, for some reason, I woke just after six and could not get back to sleep, so I decided to get up and make a start on things.
It was a bit too early to start cooking breakfast. Anyway, I was not sure what everybody would want. Once I had made and consumed a mug of tea and put the coffee on for Anne, I decided to sort out the guest room for James. Not that there was much to sort out. Anne had got the bed made; she must have worked out that he would be coming over. All I had to do was lay out some fresh towels, check that toiletries were in place and do a light dusting.
Returning to the kitchen, I found Anne sitting at the table, nursing a mug of coffee.
"Thanks for putting the coffee on," she stated. "What 'ave you been up to?"
"Checking the guest room out," I responded. "Surprised bed was made."
"Made it yesterday. Guessed that if JayDee is flying back with Arthur, his father would want to be here to meet him."
"Yes, there was an email from him last night. He is arriving at Gatwick at one-thirty tomorrow."
"So, you'll be picking him up from Gatwick and taking him to Heathrow?" Anne asked.
"Yes," I replied.
"What about Tariq?"
"What about Tariq," I responded.
"Well, don't you think he will want to meet JayDee at Heathrow?"
That had never occurred to me, but she had a point. I made myself another mug of tea and then sat at the table.
"A bit difficult," I sighed as I sat down.
"It is. You will have to leave here at eleven at the latest to get to Gatwick in time, though I doubt if James will be through baggage claim and customs for at least an hour. You don't have time to get back here to pick up Tariq, but I doubt if you would want to have Tariq with you all day. Anyway, I suspect you and James will want to have a private conversation before you meet JayDee at the airport."
"Shit, you're right," I stated. "What can I do?"
"First, talk with Marcia," Anne said. "I am not sure how much Tariq knows. The question is, does he know JayDee is coming back on Sunday?"
I decided that Anne had a good point there and agreed that I would call Marcia as soon as it was a reasonable time in the morning to do so. That turned out to be just after ten. She came down, and I explained the situation regarding JayDee and his father.
"It's OK, Mike," Marcia informed me. "Tariq knows JayDee is coming home soon, but not when. They've not spoken since Wednesday. JayDee told Tariq that he would not be able to Skype till Monday. I don't think he knows when he is travelling."
"That would fit with the amount of secrecy there seems to be about getting the boy home," I stated.
"I think they are still worried the boy's mother or that church of hers will try something," Anne observed.
"Anyway, I am taking the kids over to my parents this morning. We'll be there until quite late. It's Dad's birthday, so we are going out for a meal this evening. Probably best not to say anything to Tariq until JayDee gets here, just in case anything goes wrong," Marcia said.
"That's probably best," Anne agreed. I just went along with it.
"Is everything ready?" I asked.
"Oh, yes," Marcia replied. "The bunk beds are up, and there is room in the closet for JayDee's stuff, though I don't expect he has much with him."
"You are probably right," I commented. "James's first job will probably be to take him clothes-shopping."
Marcia stated that she’d better get back to get ready to go to her parents. Once she had left, I commented to Anne that Johnny was late getting up.
"He's not here," Anne replied. "Went to Lowestoft with Steve last night."
"They're collecting a boat," she informed me. "Steve took Johnny to help get it on the trailer. For some reason, they can only collect it between eight and ten this morning, and Steve said it made more sense to go up last night and get rooms in a hotel for the night rather than trying to drive up early this morning."
"That makes sense," I replied. "Wish Johnny had let me know."
"I'm surprised he didn't," Anne stated. "Though he did discuss it with me before he agreed to go with Steve."
"That's a point," I conceded. Though, I was still annoyed by the fact that Johnny had not let me know and decided I should have a word with him about it when he got home.
Anne informed me that she was going to go to the Farmers Market to get something for the weekend. After that she would probably go to Tesco's or Sainsbury's as she needed to do a big shop. I told her I would clean up the kitchen.
Once I had cleaned it up, I went to my study to deal with the outstanding emails. Working down the list, I came across one from Johnny. How I had missed it last night, I don't know. It was just informing me that he was going to Lowestoft with Steve to help with a boat recovery. He did say he had spoken to Anne about it. He also said he had tried to phone me but that I was unavailable. That puzzled me, so I took a look at my phone and realised it was switched off. It must have got low on battery and powered down. With everything that was going on when I got back last night, I had not put it onto charge.
Johnny was forgiven; at least he had tried. The lack of communication was due to an error on my part.
It had gone four when Johnny finally got back from his Lowestoft trip, somewhat dirty and undoubtedly tired. He spent the first hour after he got back sitting at the kitchen table drinking tea and telling us all about the trip. An established customer of Steve's had stoved the side of his boat in. Being un-sailable in the condition it was in, they had to go up and recover it on the boat trailer, returning it to the yard for repairs.
Once he had finished regaling us with the details of the trip, the recovery and the return journey, Johnny announced he was going up for a shower and to get a nap before dinner.
"What’s for dinner?" he asked as he stood from the table.
"No idea," Anne replied. "It depends what's on the menu at the Crooked Man, as I am not cooking today."
"OK, call me when you are ready to go down," Johnny replied.
In the end, we did not go down to the Crooked Man; we drove into Maldon for Chinese. We did remember to call Johnny.
Sunday morning was a bit of a rush one way or another. For a start, I overslept quite badly. When we had got back from Maldon the night before, I had gone into my study to finish off an article I had been working on during the day. It should only have taken me about half an hour. In the end, it was getting on for two when I went up to bed. I only woke when Anne finally gave me a shake.
"Mike, it's gone ten," she stated. "You need to get up."
I turned over and looked at the clock; it was showing ten past ten. "Sorry, you should have woken me earlier."
"I did," she replied. "You went back to sleep both times. Now get up and into that shower. I'll fix you some breakfast."
Although I was running late, there seemed to be no end of the things I had to deal with before I could set out for Gatwick. For a start, I had to sort out what we were doing regarding meals. The decision was that once I had collected Arthur and JayDee from Heathrow, I would stop somewhere on the way back for food. Anne and Johnny were going to go down to the Crooked Man. Then there were the emails that just had to be dealt with. Fortunately, there were not that many, and I was finally able to get away just after eleven.
It was a good job I did manage to get away then. Although in theory the journey to Gatwick should take just over an hour and a half, as normal with the M25, there were delays. In this case, a whole section of the M25 was closed in both directions for some bridgework. As a result, nearly forty minutes was added to my journey. Then there was the problem of parking at Gatwick. Never that easy.
Fortunately, James's plane had already landed when I got to arrivals. It had arrived some twenty minutes ahead of schedule. As a result, I did not have to wait too long before he cleared customs and immigration. I was somewhat surprised about the fact that he appeared to have only carry-on luggage. When I mentioned this, he laughed.
"Most of the stuff I have in Sydney is for the Oz climate," he told me. "I would freeze to death in it here. Put most of my stuff into storage here before I went out, and that included my heavier clothing. Just got a spare change of clothing in the bag. Will need to get to the shops to buy some to cover the next couple of weeks."
"How long are you here for?" I asked as I guided him to where I had parked the car.
"Not long enough," James stated. "I have taken emergency leave, but that is only fourteen days. Have to fly back on Saturday next. However, I have already booked my holidays and will be back here on the twentieth of December."
"Had you considered taking JayDee back with you?" I asked. A bit fearful as I knew how that would hit Tariq.
"Considered it, yes," James replied. "It's impractical at the moment. For a start, I could not get the paperwork sorted out in time. Also, I would need the court's permission, and that would take time to get, I need to be back in Sydney a fortnight tomorrow. Lucy, one of the other consultants, is getting married that week and is going to be off for three weeks. I need to be there to provide cover.
"Anyway, I doubt if the court would give permission for JayDee to travel outside their jurisdiction, given what has happened."
There was something about the way he said that which impressed me. It was clear that James had a strong commitment to his job.
"Anyway," he continued. "I don't think Tariq would be pleased if I dragged JayDee out to Oz."
"You are right, there," I replied.
"I hope to be able to fly both boys out to Oz at Easter. Give them a taste for the place. My cousin Martin can show them around while I am working."
"Yes," James answered. "He's eighteen. His mother is my aunt, though she is only four years older than me. She went backpacking in Oz twenty years ago after she qualified as an SRN. Met a young doctor out there who is now her husband, and she hasn't looked back since.
"She's head of nursing at the hospital I work at. Her husband is head of orthopaedic surgery."
As we got to the car, I asked. "What are your long-term plans?"
"I would like to settle in Oz. This is the third time I have worked out there, and it's getting better every time. However, that's not practical at the moment. JayDee needs to be here, and I want to be where JayDee is. As soon as my contract ends, I am coming back to the UK until JayDee finishes school.
"My contract finishes in July, so thought I might fly the boys out when school ends here if I can get the court’s permission, and we could spend a few weeks touring Oz before we all fly back for me to start my new job in September."
"You've already got a new job?" I asked.
"Yes, subject to a final face-to-face interview, there is a shortage of trauma specialists, so there was no difficulty in getting a position. Anyway, Peter put a good word in for me."
"So, you will be working at St. John's?"
"No, I'm going to Queen Mary's in Southmead. They are going to put their A&E department back to twenty-four-hour coverage. I've been head-hunted for the Senior Consultant role. I have to build my own team."
"About time they re-opened it," I commented. By now, I had got us out of the carpark and was negotiating my way out of the Gatwick complex. "Do you intend to stay here long-term, then?"
"Not really, I like working in Oz and want to get back out there," James replied. "Will probably stay in the UK till the boys finish A-levels, then we will have to see. I would like them to consider an Australian University if they get their grades."
"That's going to be expensive," I commented.
"The money's there," James replied. "My father was a very successful man. He put a trust fund in place for JayDee's education; I am one of the trustees. There is enough money there to pay for JayDee to study in Australia and to pay for Tariq if he wanted to study there as well."
"Would the trust allow that?" I enquired.
"Yes," James replied. "To avoid possible death duties, Dad had the trust written up as a general trust. It specifically names JayDee as a beneficiary but goes on to state that funds can be applied for the education of any other person who, in the opinion of the trustees, is suitable to benefit from the trust."
By now, we were out of the Gatwick complex. It was getting on for three, so I suggested to James that we find somewhere to have lunch before heading over to Heathrow. I explained we would have a least four hours before Arthur and JayDee got through customs and passport control.