We got to Heathrow just after six. I had cheated and parked the car at a friend's place near Hounslow Central Station and gone in the rest of the way on the Piccadilly line. It was a lot easier and a lot cheaper than trying to find short-term parking at Heathrow.
Arthur's and JayDee's plane was a few minutes late landing, so we had to wait, and then wait some more. After nearly two hours, both James and I were getting a bit worried. James went to an information desk to see if he could get confirmation that they were on the flight. Unfortunately, they informed him they were not allowed to give out passenger information.
Shortly after that, there was an announcement asking James to go to another information point. I went along with him. A uniformed customs officer was standing at the information point. When James said who he was, the customs officer asked if he was JayDee's father. James confirmed that he was and asked why.
"Your son and his travelling companion attracted the attention of the drug dog as they were passing through customs control. As a result, their luggage was checked and closely examined. You son was carrying a bag which tested for contact with cocaine. We now need to conduct a full-body search. As your son is a minor, this needs to be done in the presence of a responsible adult or, if that is not possible, a representative of Social Services.
"Unfortunately, the young man travelling with your son informs us he only has authority to escort your son home, he does not have loco parentis with respect to your son. That is why we put out the call for you as we need you to be present for the search."
"You think my son is smuggling drugs?" James asked.
"I very much doubt it," the customs officer replied. "He told us that the bag had been given to him by friends in Trinidad. In all likelihood, it had been used to contain cocaine before your son got it. Probably before the friend who gave it him got it. From what your son has said, he was with some of the street boys in Trinidad.
"Unfortunately, the procedure has to be followed in cases like this, if for no other reason than to remove all suspicion from your son."
The officer stated that he would take James back to the customs area; however, I could not go with them. I told James where I would wait for them.
Half an hour later, James, Arthur and a boy I presumed was JayDee came out into the arrivals area.
"No problems?" I asked.
"Not really," James replied. "They had to do a strip search; it is required by the procedures they follow, but to be honest, it was fairly perfunctory. I am fairly sure they were just going through the motions."
"It was embarrassing," the boy stated.
"That can't be helped, JayDee," James said. "Anyway, JayDee, this is Mike Carlton; you've already met his brother Ben. Mike, this is my son, JayDee."
As it was now gone eight, I suggested we should get to the tube and back to Hounslow Central. Once we got there, rather than going immediately to the car, I took them on a short walk to The Moon Under the Water pub, where I knew we could get a decent meal. That is one thing you can guarantee with Whetherspoon's pubs; on the whole, the food is edible and the prices not outrageous. That is more than can be said for a few establishments in Hounslow.
An hour later, all of us somewhat sated, we took the short walk back to where I had left the car and started the journey back to the Priory. It had gone eleven when we got there. As a result, I was somewhat surprised to see lights on in the kitchen as we pulled into the yard. I knew both Anne and Johnny had early classes in the morning and would have expected Anne to get an early night, knowing I would be back late.
Going in through the back door, I found the kitchen crowded. Anne and Johnny were both there, plus Marcia, Tariq and Jasmin, Peter and Steve. James followed me in, followed by JayDee and Arthur. There was a moment of silence, then Tariq moved over to where JayDee was standing and hugged him.
"He refused to go to bed till he had seen him," Marcia stated. "Couldn't say no, even though it is school tomorrow."
"I think you can give him a day off school, given the circumstances," Peter stated. "If you need a doctor's note, I'll give you one, motus accentus should cover the situation."
"Emotional stress?" questioned Anne. "Is that a medical condition?"
"Didn't know you spoke Latin," Peter said.
"I don't. I just recognised the phrase. Anyway, does anyone want tea, coffee or chocolate?"
Johnny, Tariq, JayDee and Jasmin opted for chocolate. I joined them in that choice. Peter, Steve and Marcia went for tea, while Anne made coffee for herself. Drinks made, and a packet of chocolate digestive biscuits emptied onto a plate in the centre of the table, we sat around and chatted for half an hour. At that point, Peter and Steve stated that they had to leave, Peter pointing out that he was on duty at seven-thirty in the morning and that they only had the babysitter till midnight.
Marcia told Tariq and Jasmin that they should be going back to the apartment. Then she turned to JayDee. "There's a bed for you in Tariq's room. I've got bunk beds for the pair of you. Do you want to move in there tonight or would you prefer to stay with your father?"
JayDee looked from Tariq to his father and then back to Tariq. There was a look of disappointment on Tariq's face, and it was clear that JayDee was torn between the two choices. James settled it. "JayDee, why don't you move in with Marcia tonight? We will have plenty of time to talk over the next few days. I am here for two weeks." The look of relief on both JayDee's and Tariq's faces was palpable.
With that decided, Marcia herded her two, plus JayDee, out and across to the apartment. Peter and Steve left, leaving Anne, James and me in the kitchen. I had not noticed that Johnny had slipped out of the kitchen sometime in the last half hour.
I showed James the guest room that had been prepared for him and explained that he had exclusive use of the bathroom across the corridor. Both Anne’s and my room and Johnny's room were en-suite.
When I got to our room, I asked Anne about Marcia asking JayDee where he wanted to stay.
"Mike, after you left this morning, Marcia and I got talking. It occurred to us that we had just presumed that JayDee would be staying with her while his father was here, but then it occurred to us that he might want to be with his father. So, we decided to give him the choice."
"But what if he had said he wanted to stay with his father?" I asked. "I am not sure James would be that happy sharing a bed with his son."
"He wouldn't have," Anne replied. "Marcia and I spent the afternoon sorting out the second-floor bedrooms in the guest wing. There is that large en-suite bedroom with dressing room up there." I remembered them. We had put some basic furniture in there when the renovations had been finished but done nothing more.
Anne continued. "We put a single bed from one of the other bedrooms in the dressing room, thus making it into a two-bedroom suite. Fortunately, the bathroom is off the connecting corridor between the two rooms, so it worked. If JayDee had opted to stay with his father, I would have shown them up to that room."
"So, we need to move a single bed back to its original room?" I asked.
"Why?" Anne responded. "That setup works well if we have any parents staying with a single child."
"Do we know anybody like that? I mean with a child young enough that they would want supervision?"
"Donna and Richard," Anne stated, naming my cousin and her husband. "Their daughter is what, six or seven?"
"Seven," I answered. "When are they likely to come?" Donna and Richard lived in Holland, in Beekbergen, a small village outside of Apeldoorn.
"Christmas," Anne stated. I looked at her, confused. "Mike, you told me that you had suggested to Ben that they join us here for Christmas."
"Yes," I replied.
"Well, aren't Donna and Richard normally at Manston every other year?"
"Yes," I answered. They usually spent one Christmas with Richard's family in Holland and the following one with my side of the family at Manston.
"Were they at Manston last year?" she asked.
"No," I replied. Then it dawned on me that they would expect to be there this Christmas. "I’d better send them an invitation."
"Yes, and all the rest who would normally be at Manston," Anne stated.
"Do we have enough room?" I asked.
"Yes, they only use the central part of Manston for guests at Christmas, that is only nine rooms. If we use them correctly, we have that many in the guest wing plus the spare rooms in the main part of the house."
"I’d better work out who to send invitations to," I stated.
"Don't worry," Anne replied. "There is a list on your desk in the study. I spoke to Phil this afternoon about it. He got Mrs M to email me the Christmas guest list. By the way, he agrees that it will be easier all round if we hold Christmas here this year. Ben had already spoken to him about the idea."
I just nodded. When I had suggested them coming to the Priory for Christmas, I had not realised quite what I was taking on.
Monday morning, I was surprised to find Johnny in the kitchen when I came down. Anne had already left, and given it was raining, I could not see him going into college on the moped.
"Not going to college?" I asked.
"Marcia is taking me in later," he replied. "Don't have a class till eleven."
"I don't think I am ever going to get to grips with your timetable," I commented. "It seems to change from week to week."
"It does, though not officially," Johnny replied.
"What's not official?"
"Me moving between groups."
"Because of the different subject mixes that are available, the A-level maths class is split into three groups. You are placed in the group that best fits in with your timetable given the other subjects you are doing. However, there are always some conflicts, and as the tutor gives the same class to each group during the week, we are allowed to join one of the other groups for the class if we can't make the class that our group normally takes.
"It is a bit difficult for me as the vocational classes I am taking are not part of the A-level programme and, as such, are not taken into account with the A-level timetable. Fortunately, the Monday-morning vocational classes are normally English and Maths, so I am excused from them, but if there is a practical test, it is done on a Monday morning. When that happens, I swap groups and go to the later maths and physics classes. The tutors have no problem with it, so long as I make the classes that I can."
"But you don't have a vocational test this morning," I pointed out.
"No, I just needed to speak with you," Johnny replied. "Thought I would have a chance last night, but you were late getting back."
"Sorry, but things happened," I stated.
"So, can we talk this morning?" he asked.
"Of course," I replied. "Let's finish breakfast, then we can talk."
For some reason, the appetite I had when I came downstairs had disappeared. Suddenly, I was not hungry anymore. So, I made myself some tea and a couple of slices of toast. Even heavily loaded with marmalade, I found them difficult to eat. All I could think about was what Johnny wanted to talk about. In some ways, I was happy that he wanted to talk; in others, I dreaded what he had to say.
Eventually, I finished my breakfast, poured myself another mug of tea and suggested we go through to the study. Johnny poured himself a mug of coffee, loading it with sugar and creamer. I could never get into the idea of using coffee whitener, but Johnny seemed to prefer it even when milk or cream was available. I commented on it as we walked to the study.
"Got used to it in dorms," he stated. "There was nowhere to keep milk fresh, so we used whitener. Now coffee with milk just tastes strange; I'll take it black in preference to milk or cream."
Having imparted that information to me, he took a seat in the armchair, leaving me with my office chair.
"What is it?" I asked.
"You're worried about what happened to me with Marcel and Oncle Jacques, aren't you?" he responded.
"And you are worried about how I am coping with it," he stated. "You've been talking to Uncle Ben about it." That caught me for a moment, but I decided that I needed to be honest with him.
"Yes, I am," I replied. "How did you know?"
"You made a note on your jotter," Johnny replied, with a half-laugh. "I came in to answer the phone Friday evening and saw it."
"You didn't say anything," I commented.
"Was not sure what to say," Johnny replied. "I was a bit pissed off with you talking to Uncle Ben about it, but then realised that it meant you were worried about me. Do you know how strange that is for me?"
"No," I replied. "I'm your father. I should worry about you."
"Nobody has done so before," Johnny replied. "I've always had to look after myself."
"That may be, but it does not mean doing so is good."
"I can agree with that," he replied. "Though I am not sure what I would have done a year ago. Coming to live with you has made a big difference in my life. For the first time, I feel as if I have somebody on my side."
It was a relief knowing that. I had wondered about how Johnny felt being with us.
He continued. "The thing is, Dad, I am used to dealing with things by myself. I need to deal them that way. I know you want to help, and if I think I need help, I will ask for it.
"At the moment I do not think I need help with handling what happened with Oncle Jacques and Marcel. It might sound stupid, but I knew what I was doing and what they were up to. Remember, I've been boarded at all-boys schools since I was old enough to be boarded. One learns quickly about such things in such environments.
"Maybe sometime I will need to talk about it with somebody, but that time is not now. I'm not ready to. I am sorting it in my own way. I've already got back at Marcel, and I do not doubt that he's told Oncle Jacques.
"You know they will be scared. They thought me a nobody they could use. They were mistaken. I was using them. I was getting from them something that I was not getting from elsewhere. They cared for me. It was Oncle Jacques who taught me Savate. He also made sure I had new clothes and stuff when I went back to school. The Bitch never bothered about such things.
"Oncle Jacques got me the books I wanted. He would take me to model exhibitions and events. There was nobody else to do it. You were not around."
That was said, not as an accusation but as a fact. It was, though, the truth. If I had been around, would he have come under the influence of Oncle Jacques? I made no comment, and Johnny continued.
"Dad, you had to realise this. I had to make the best of the situation I was in. Marcel and Oncle Jacques never got me into anything I was not already doing with the older boys at school. In fact, I sometimes think I knew more about sex from school than Marcel and Oncle Jacques did combined.
"I know you consider it wrong, but you have to face things; it happened, and there is nothing that can be done about it now. It's in the past. What's the saying? 'The past is a different country.' Well, in this case, it was a different country, and the rules are different.
"Dad, you've got to understand that I am dealing with it in my own way and at my own time. Don't push me about it."
"OK, Johnny, it's just I don't like the idea of you being seduced by some old guy for their sexual pleasure."
"What's so funny?" I asked.
"Sorry, Dad, I hadn't realised you were thinking like that. Oncle Jacques is not some old guy. He's only a few years older than Marcel."
"Yes, he's the younger brother of Marcel's mother. A late baby, Marcel's grandmother didn't even realise she was pregnant until late. Marcel's mother is twenty years older than Oncle Jacques. She raised him. He is more a brother to Marcel than anything.
"We were boys playing, Oncle Jacques, Marcel and me. We swam in the river naked and wrestled on the grass banks. Things developed. Of course, I was at boarding school and quickly learnt a lot more about sex than either of them knew. I ended up teaching them.
"That's why I do not have a problem with it. It was fun between boys. OK, it went on longer than it usually does, but it was not a problem. I wanted it, and so did Oncle Jacques. Though, I think Marcel might have had a problem; that may be why he treated me the way he did the last few years."
"So, the thing in Paris with Marcel?"
"Marcel became a right prig. Just because his father was appointed to some position in the regional government, he thought he was better than everyone else. He even thought he was better than Oncle Jacques. Marcel was always onto me when I was over there that I was a nobody whom nobody wanted. He pointed out that my mother dumped me on them every holiday and that my father did not want me."
"But I did!" I exclaimed.
"I didn't know that, and I am sure Marcel was only repeating what the Bitch had said."
I nodded, understanding how things could have been interpreted that way.
"So, you see, Dad, that's why I do not have problems with what Oncle Jacques, Marcel and I did. It's what boys do. I do not doubt that you probably played around with boys at that age."
I stayed silent on that.
It was probably totally illogical, but somehow Johnny's revelation that Oncle Jacques was only a few years older than he was made the situation a whole lot easier to deal with. However, it also raised a question.
"But you said that Beryl knew you were being sexually assaulted," I commented.
"Yes," replied Johnny. "That wasn't Oncle Jacques; that was her film and theatre friends who came to the villa. Mostly Mark."
"Who was Mark?" I asked.
"Some friend of the Bitch," Johnny replied. "He used to come out to the villa while she was there with two or three of his paedo friends. They were always trying to feel us up. Things got heavier when I turned twelve. I think they had already done something with Marcel or Oncle Jacques; from that year onwards, they always managed to be away when Mark and his mates were there. They tried to take me with them, but the Bitch insisted that I stay there with her. She wanted me on display.
"One day we were all out by the pool, she had insisted I wear some Speedos she had got for me even though I told her they were too small. Mark and two of his mates were there. She got up and went back into the house, I thought she had gone to the toilet or something, but she comes back out dressed and informs us that she was going for a drive and would be having dinner out. With that, she left.
"Shortly after, I started to feel funny. Next thing I knew I was naked on one of the loungers, my legs pushed up to my chest, and one of Mark's mates was fucking me. By the feel of it, I don't think he was the first up there. I screamed and tried to hit him, but Mark grabbed my arms and held me while his mate carried on.
"Afterwards, when the Bitch came back, I told her what had happened. She told me to live with it; at least, I was good for something. That night Mark came to my room and told me that I was his to use. Use me he did.
"It was after that Oncle Jacques started to teach me Savate. I never told him what had happened, but somehow, he knew. A couple of years after I kicked the hell out of them. I dealt with them my own way."
"So, you got your revenge," I said.
"No," Johnny replied. "That will come later." He smiled; with a cold smile, I did not want to be on the receiving end of… what is it the Italians say about revenge?"
"Revenge is a dish best served cold," I replied.
"No, not that one. Something about milk teeth.”
"Revenge a hundred years old still has its milk teeth," I supplied.
"That's the one," answered Johnny. "I'm taking my time, waiting for the right opportunity, then I will strike."
"In the meantime, those men can abuse other boys," I pointed out.
"Oh, they're being dealt with, Mark's the Andrew Mark Mayers, better known as Dean. When everything blew up around Trevor that weekend at Manston, I made an anonymous call to Crime Stoppers and gave them the name of Mayers' associates."
"So, who are you seeking revenge against?" I asked, then paused. When I thought about it, the answer was obvious. The look on my face must have said all.
"Yes, Dad, I'm after the Bitch." The venom with which he said that almost had me feeling sorry for Beryl, though I must emphasise ‘almost’.
I was not happy with what Johnny had told me. In particular, I was concerned about the need for revenge he felt against his mother, though I could understand it. Still, I thought he ought to speak to somebody about things, but I could see there was no way I could push the issue.
Johnny, satisfied that he had made the point he wanted to, stood up and started to leave the study. As he was leaving, I realised that I had not seen James this morning.
"Johnny, have you seen James this morning?" I asked.
"Yes, he went up to Marcia's for breakfast. I think he wanted to see JayDee. Why?"
"I need to sort transport out for him," I stated.
"I think he's OK, at least for today. Peter was loaning him a car; said he would drop it off around ten." With that information imparted, Johnny left.
I opened my emails to check them and saw there were a couple of important ones. Having had a quick look at them, I decided I needed another mug of tea before I got down to any serious work. As I filled the kettle, the roar of a powerful sports car drew my attention. An unfamiliar car pulled into the yard, a Jaguar XLS. I puzzled over who it could be. Nobody I knew, so far as I was concerned, had a Jaguar XLS. A few moments later, a car I did know pulled in behind it. Steve's Land Rover Defender. As it did so, Peter emerged from the Jaguar.
I went and opened the back door for them.
"What's this?" I asked Peter as he came through. "New car?"
"No, old car," he replied. "Dad bought it for me as a graduation present when I qualified. Back then, I could not afford to insure it. Now, it's a bloody classic, and I can't afford to maintain it. That's why I drive the Beemer. Try to put as little wear and tear on the lady as I can."
It was clear from the way Peter looked back at the car that he loved it.
"I gather you are providing James with a car. Is that it?"
"Yes," Peter replied. "Would have preferred to let him have the Beemer, but it is registered at the hospital for parking, and it was too much hassle to change things over just for a couple of weeks, so I'm letting James borrow this. However, he's going to have to cover the insurance top-up for adding an additional driver to the policy."
"And how much is that costing?" James asked, coming through the backdoor with Steve.
"An extra fifty quid," Peter said. "Turned out cheaper to add you on as an additional driver for the nine months the policy has to run than to take a temporary insurance out for you for the two weeks."
I asked them if anyone wanted tea or coffee, but they all declined. Peter informing me that he was off to London for the day. I commented that he was lucky to get a day off and was informed that it was to attend a training session on some new equipment that they would be getting early next year. With that information imparted, Peter gave the keys to the Jag to James. Then he and Steve left, no doubt for Steve to drop Peter off at Southminster station.
In response to my enquiry about whether or not he would like some breakfast, James informed me that he had partaken of breakfast at Marcia's. I had guessed he had, but as a good host, I had to make sure.
"What are the plans for today?" I asked.
"I have to check in with the solicitors. There has to be a court hearing, but they said they did not expect it before Thursday or Friday, more likely early next week. Then I thought I would go into Morden and do some shopping. JayDee needs some clothes, and I could do with a few more."
"If you are looking for clothes, especially for JayDee, you are probably better off going into Chelmsford," I suggested. "There is far more choice there."
James thanked me for the information, then asked if he could use the landline phone to call Bernard's office. "I'm on an Ozzie network, and the roaming charges are horrendous," he informed me.
"Is your phone locked?" I asked.
"No, got it unlocked when I went out so I could get on a local service," James replied.
"I'll get you a GiffGaff sim," I told him. "You can activate it and put some credit on. Save you a fortune."
"It's not that easy," James informed me. "I need to keep the sim I've got active as it is the only number that my Australian contacts have for me. If there is a question about one of the patients in the hospital, they will use that number."
That I had to agree was a problem, though I quickly thought of an answer. "Then use two phones. Keep your Aussie one but have one for use in the UK. I've got several samples I was sent to review; you can have one of them."
Some fifteen minutes later, after searching through a box of sample phones I had, we had James fixed up with a basic smartphone connected to the GiffGaff service. Whilst we were at it, we also sorted out breakdown insurance for when he was driving the Jag. A quick telephone call to Peter had confirmed that his breakdown cover was personal to him, not to the car.
All that sorted, he phoned Bernard's office and spoke to his contact there. They had not heard anything yet about a hearing date, but given the court listings, they could not see it being held before Friday. James informed them of his new telephone number and his plans for today. He also promised to keep them informed of his and JayDee's movements for the next few days.
That dealt with, he informed me that he’d better get JayDee and Tariq and get off to Chelmsford.
"You're taking them both?" I asked.
"I think it is going to be a bit difficult to separate them. I have an appointment at Tariq's school this afternoon to try and get JayDee registered there. If I can't, I think there will be hell to pay," James informed me. "I also need to contact some local estate agents and start looking for somewhere to live once I come back from Oz."
"What did you have in mind?" I enquired.
"I'm looking for something modern, if possible," James answered. "Preferably between Dunford and Southmead. It needs to be closer to Dunford than Southmead as I want to keep JayDee in the same school district as Tariq. Also, I do not doubt that the boys will want to see each other, so unless I'm prepared to offer a taxi service, it needs to be in biking distance of here."
"You do know that Marcia is involved with somebody, don't you," I stated.
"Ah, Martin, the solicitor," James replied. "She's told me all about him. I think it's good for her. She has also told me that she has no intention of marrying again until both of the kids have finished sixth form."
"Oh?" I was surprised.
"There is a practical reason," James said. "Something to do with the terms of Chawish's will. The shares are in trust until both the children are eighteen. As long as she does not remarry, Marcia will get some income from the trust. That is, provided the business gets up and running again. However, if she does remarry, she loses that income."
"Do you think her friend will be able to get the business back up and running?"
"I don't know, Mike. Only met Bob a few times, but from what I saw, I think if anyone can, he can. From what Marcia said this morning, it looks like Bob was far more the inventive force in the company from the start. It was just that Tariq's family had the money to set things up, so Chawish got control."
We were still chatting a few minutes later when Marcia knocked on the back door. I called out for her to come in. She did with the two boys.
"I've brought these two for James to keep an eye on," she informed me. "Is Johnny around? I promised him a lift into college."
I was just about to call him when I heard him thundering down the stairs.
"Saw you crossing the yard," Johnny said to Marcia as he grabbed a coat off the coat stand and came into the kitchen trying to put it on without putting his backpack down.
"Right, we'll be off then," Marcia said. "Take care of the boys, James, and don't spoil them with McDonald's and milkshakes."
James looked heartbroken as Marcia left. "What's the point of going out without a McDonald's?" The boys laughed. Tariq pointed out there was always Burger King.
That sorted, James and the boys left, and I returned to my study to deal with emails, script and some articles I needed to get written.
There was an email from Ben asking me if Arthur and JayDee had arrived OK. That reminded me that I had not seen Arthur this morning and I needed to speak with him or at least pass on a couple of messages to him. As soon as I had replied to Ben, I phoned Arthur and asked him if he could pop over. He told me he could but not till after lunch, so I got back to work.
Shortly after lunch Arthur came over as requested. We spent the better part of an hour looking at the latest figures for the business. I also gave him the latest quotes from Matt for the additional work on the new place that he had asked for.
"I bit more than I expected," he commented.
"Will it cause difficulties?" I asked.
"Not really, we will just have to put things off a bit," Arthur replied. "I was hoping they could start work on the extension this side of Christmas but can't do it with the current cash flow. Being below target for the next couple of months is not going to be helping."
"Why are you expecting to be below target? At the moment, Arthur, you are on or above target on cashflow and fairly close on outgoings. So, why are you expecting to be below?"
"Power supply," Arthur answered. "The connection they put in was the wrong one. It only gives us half the capacity that we need. There was some sort of mix-up at the power company, and they did not upgrade the supply to the level we asked for. It seems some idiot presumed that there must have been a mistake on our order form and 'corrected' it, without checking."
"How does that impact us?" I asked.
"Well, we have enough supply to run servers for all our current customers and for the ones we are supposed to be adding this month. The problem comes next month and January. We were planning on putting in the second server room; we could run the servers for the room, but there is no way we could run the air conditioning for it. Without that, they will overheat, so no additional servers.
"Without the servers, I will have to put off the customers. We will probably lose some. We will certainly have to offer some compensation to the others for the delay in things. So, that is going to hit our cash flow; it will certainly be down on what was forecast."
"When are they going to put in the additional supply?"
"That's the problem, Mike; at the moment I can't get a date out of them. All they'll say is sometime early in the New Year."
We discussed the issue for the next twenty minutes or so, but in the end, decided there was no easy answer. Though we did agree that Miss Jenkins should be informed of the problem; for a start, most of the new businesses Arthur would have to put off were connected with her in one way or another. I also suspected that with her contacts, she might be able to bring some pressure on the power company.
Arthur said he would phone Neil and let him know about things. He did not doubt that Neil would keep his aunt informed. I did not doubt that she probably already knew. The two girls working with Arthur had come via her in the first place. However, making it official would make life easier all round.
Once Arthur left, I got down to work. There are times when writing is easy; things just flow off the pen, or in my case, into the keyboard. This was one of those days. I got so engrossed in writing that I lost track of time till Anne walked into the study.
"Productive day?" she asked.
"Yes," I replied. Then I looked up at her. "Christ, is that the time?"
"I know, you lost track, which is why nothing’s been prepared for dinner," she commented. "It looks like chips and egg or the Crooked Man for this evening."
"I think I prefer chips and egg," I responded. "Have a good flow going and don't want to interrupt it for longer than necessary."
"Probably just as well," Anne responded. "James is taking Marcia and the kids out for dinner tonight. Suspect they'll be at the Crooked Man. So, it is only the two of us tonight."
"What about Johnny?" I enquired.
"There's a message for you from him. He got me just before I left college. Steve's asked him to help at the yard, so Marcia will drop him there on the way back. He said he would be having something to eat with Steve at the yard. Probably fish and chips, knowing that pair."
With that information imparted, she left, and I got back to my writing. Just after half-past six, she came through to inform me that dinner was ready. After dinner, she went off into the lounge to do some reading for her studies, and I got back to writing. I was still busy writing when James came in around nine-thirty. He put his head around the study door and asked if I could spare a few minutes.
The few minutes ended up being the better part of an hour, but it was probably for the best; I did need a break from writing. We had gone through to the kitchen so that I could make some drinks: coffee for James, tea for me and a hot chocolate, which I took through to Anne. She was still deep in some textbook. At least I presumed it was a textbook. 'Data Structures in Python' did not sound like a novel to me.
Returning to the kitchen and pouring myself a mug of nicely brewed tea, I asked James how the day had gone.
"Good overall, though I had a bit of a problem at the school," he replied.
"Nothing serious, I hope?"
"No, just an unavoidable delay," James stated. "I was hoping to get JayDee back into school as soon as possible, but that does not seem to be on. As he is in my custody by order of the court, he is deemed to be resident at my place of residence."
"At the moment, Sydney," I commented.
"That's right," James replied. "So even though there is a court order that he may not be removed from the country, the school is insistent that he will have to go to a school where I am resident. However, once the court orders that he is to be resident here with Marcia, then they will register him. Once we had sorted that out, which involved a telephone call to Bernard's office, everything else was fairly easy. He has to go in next week for an assessment. After that, he will be able to start classes. Given he has missed most of this term, he will need some remedial work, but the school are quite happy to assist in arranging that."
"That's sorted then. How was shopping?"
"Expensive and exhausting. I had no idea, Mike, how much boys clothing costs or how many stores we had to visit to get just what they wanted."
"They?" I enquired.
"Yes, it seems that Tariq has not had much new stuff other than the things he needed for school. As you know, Marcia, at the moment, is on a fairly tight budget. So, I ended up buying some things for him," James replied.
We talked some more about the problem of taking teenage boys shopping. It ended up with James commenting on an observation from one of his colleagues. "One of the consultants I work with has two teenage sons and a couple of daughters a bit older now. She was saying that shopping for the boys was a lot harder than it had ever been for the girls. I can believe her now."
"That's the shopping and school dealt with," I observed. "How was house-hunting."
"Not so good," responded James. "I spoke with three agents, but it was clear what I am looking for is going to be more expensive than I really wanted to pay. I could afford the mortgage on them, but the deposit is going to be a pain until things in Leeds are sorted out. It's clear I would have to put down at least twenty percent to get anything like a decent rate; thirty would be preferable. If pushed, I could raise about seventy grand, but I think I am going to need at least a hundred.
"The problem is, I don't have that sort of money until the house in Leeds is sold. I agreed that the ex could live in it while she was rearing JayDee. That was for JayDee's benefit. However, that's no longer the case, so I am pushing for it to be sold and the proceeds split, as per the divorce agreement.
"Speaking about Leeds, I need to be up there on Friday. They have got a hearing date for us. Not a full hearing. That will come later, but we are seeing a judge in the Family Court on Friday morning. I have to take JayDee up; he has to be produced for the court."
"You'd be best going up on Thursday and staying somewhere overnight," I commented.
"That's what I was thinking, though thought I might stay somewhere out of town. I'm a bit worried about some of Grace's friends might see us and cause trouble. Will probably stay in Pontefract; one of my colleagues from the hospital has a place there. Hopefully, he can put us up for the night. Also, I would like to talk to him to see if I can poach him to come to Southmead and join me in building a new emergency-medicine team."
"If you are planning on going up the A1 you’d better leave fairly early in the day; there are a lot of road works on it."
"So I have been told," James replied.
"You know, James, by the time you get back from Oz, the other apartments around the yard will be ready. You could have one of those until you get yourself sorted out," I informed him.
"Nice idea," he answered. "I had thought of talking to you about one, because Marcia suggested it. However, it would not work."
"Why not?" I asked.
"Because, as Senior Consultant, I am basically on twenty-four-seven call. I have to be based within thirty-minutes driving time of the hospital. Being here would mean I would have to go down into Dunford, then get through the town."
"Yes," I admitted, "even on a good day that is going to take a good fifteen minutes, more likely twenty; then, it is a good thirty-five, forty minutes to the hospital. It's the far side of the town, unlike the college."
"If I take a place out Laymead way, I'm what, twenty, thirty minutes from Southmead but still technically in the catchment area for the Dunford schools?"
"Yes, you are," I agreed. "It also puts you on the fast road to Southminster and for trains into London. That must quite add a bit to the house prices."
"It does," admitted James. "For the type of place, I'm looking for a hundred and fifty to two-hundred grand more."
Just then Johnny arrived home, somewhat dishevelled and muddy. I commented on his state.
"Have you tried getting a boat out of the water in the dark?" he responded.
"I would have thought it best done in the light."
"It is," Johnny replied. "Unfortunately, there was a problem this morning, and they missed the tide, so he had to bring it in tonight."
At this point, James stated that he needed to get an early night as he was taking JayDee into London in the morning and wanted to get an early start.
"You're not driving in, are you?" I asked.
"No, taking the train from Southminster," he replied as he left.
I put the kettle on to make Johnny a hot drink and asked if he wanted anything to eat.
"No thanks, Dad, Steve got us all fish and chips." I laughed. "What's so funny?"
"Anne said you'd end up having fish and chips."
I made Johnny a mug of hot chocolate, plus one for myself. For the next half hour, we sat at the kitchen table chatting about nothing in particular until Anne came through to say she was off to bed. Johnny said he’d better go up and get a shower before bed as he had an early morning ahead.
I went through to my study, intending to do some more writing, but when I sat down at the computer, I decided I had done enough today and closed it down. Instead of spending a couple more hours at work, I went to bed.
The next few days were something of a writing frenzy for me. Everything just seemed to come together, and I got a lot done. Did not see much of James. On Tuesday, he left early to go into London with JayDee, and they did not get back till late. Then on Wednesday, the pair left for Pontefract. James had decided to go up a couple of days early as his colleague had a couple of days off and had suggested that they go fishing, something apparently that JayDee enjoyed. Also going up on the Wednesday would give James time to visit his storage unit and get some stuff out which would be useful to JayDee.
It was late on Friday afternoon when Bernard rang. He informed me that Mayers’ trial started a week on Monday.
"I know," I replied. "Ben told me."
"Oh, yes, he would know, no doubt. Trevor's been called, no doubt."
"Yes, Bernard," I replied. "Though I doubt you called me to tell me the date of Mayers’ trial.""No, I called to tell you whose defending him," Bernard stated.