"Who?" I asked, having a sinking feeling in my stomach that I already knew the answer.
"Beryl," Bernard replied. My feeling was confirmed.
"That doesn't make sense," I commented. "It's not her field. Anyway, I would have thought he would have got a QC."
"You are right there," Bernard stated. "Her field is defending white-collar criminals, your fraudsters, money launderers and their ilk. Of course, she has taken on other criminal-defence work — and some prosecution — but nothing like this. It’s a major sexual-offences case, and you are right, it deserves a QC.
"The word is that Mayers has had a couple and dismissed them as he did not agree with the way they wanted to handle the defence. The thing is, I can't understand why they've got Beryl. She is not a barrister that any solicitor would think of for a case of this kind."
"Yes, but she is his friend."
"Mayers used to go out regularly to stay with Beryl at the villa she's got in France."
"How do you know?" he asked.
"Johnny told me," I replied.
"Then there is no way she should be defending him if he is a personal friend; it's professionally unethical."
"Do you mean that barristers should not represent friends?"
"It's a bit of a grey area," Bernard replied. "The general advice is that you can give legal advice but should not provide representation. As a guide, the more serious a case is, the stronger the advice is that a barrister should not provide representation. They can help, and many have helped, a friend out who is pleading guilty, say, to a motoring offence by submitting mitigating evidence to the court. Defending somebody accused of serious offences such as Mayers is accused of is a totally different matter."
"So, what are you going to do about it?"
"Nothing," Bernard stated. "If it comes out and there is a stink about it, I have no doubt the Bar Council will have something to say."
"Nothing?" I asked. "Surely something should be done?"
"Mike, the Mayers case is going to be messy. Why he is going not guilty, I can't understand. Neither, for that matter, can the police or the prosecution. As far as they are concerned, they have an open-and-shut case. If Beryl is a friend of Mayers, I doubt if she can provide the impartial advice that needs to be given. That being the case, I suspect that she will not provide a good defence for him. With a bit of luck, her relationship with Mayers will come out after the trial; it will certainly cause her trouble then."
Somehow, I got the strong feeling that Bernard would make sure of that ‘bit of luck’.
I finished off the call from Bernard after some chat about meeting up for lunch one day next week. That I had to go into Town for a script conference, I knew, but I was not yet sure which day it would be, which made it a bit difficult to make definite arrangements.
Walking through to the kitchen, I found Johnny at the table leaning over a pile of papers he was studying intently. I was a bit surprised to find him there. Usually, when he got back from college, he came straight through to the study to let me know he was back.
"I did not realise you were back," I stated as I filled the kettle. "Coffee?"
"Thanks, Dad, I did put my head round the door when I got back, but you were busy on the phone. By the looks of it, not good news."
"It's your mother," I replied.
"What's the Bitch doing now?" he asked.
"She's defending Mayers," I answered.
Johnny sat up and looked at me. "Fucking hell, why's she doing that?"
"I don't have any idea; neither does Bernard. It makes no sense.”
"You're right there. It is pushing the Code of Conduct to the very edge and probably over it," Johnny stated.
"You seem well informed on the Bar Council's Code of Conduct if you know that," I commented.
"Dad, she was pushing me into the law since I was six or seven. I had to learn a bit. Once I have finished my degree, I would not mind doing a GDL; it could come in useful."
"GDL?" I asked.
"Graduate Diploma in Law," Johnny replied. "It is the qualification which allows you entry to the legal profession if you do not have a law degree."
"How does that fit with yacht design," I asked.
"Actually, Dad, probably better than you think," Johnny answered. "There are whole areas around yacht design which are subject to maritime law, either directly or indirectly. Having some training in law could come in useful, and maritime law could be useful, particularly in the yacht business.”
"Also, I may not make it as a yacht designer; there is a lot of competition in the market. Wouldn't hurt to have a second string to my bow, especially as I am not doing it to please her."
I pointed out to him that there was a lot of competition at the bar, as well.
"I know that Dad, but I would be specialising in maritime law and there is a lot of work there and not much competition."
Then I made my tea and a coffee for Johnny, then placed his mug close to him on the table, while I took the seat opposite.
"I don't think I have seen you studying in here before," I stated.
"You haven't," Johnny replied. "I prefer to use the desk in my room, but I needed space to spread the papers and books around. My desk is too small."
"Do you need a bigger desk?"
"Nah, Dad, the one I’ve got is fine. If I got a bigger one, it would take up too much room. It's just I've come across an inconsistency in the sources, and I am trying to sort it out by having them all open at the same time so I can jump from one to the other.
"By the way, Dad, any idea when Trevor is due home?"
"Not for certain, though it must be sometime next week," I replied. "Why?"
"Tariq was asking me," Johnny answered.
We chatted a bit more. I confirmed that Johnny would be with us for dinner. Given that Anne was going to be late today, I set about starting to make the prep for a meal. I was doing Toad in the Hole, with mashed potatoes and onion gravy. It did not take long to prep. The main thing was getting the batter ready for the Yorkshire Pudding.
"Got it!" Johnny exclaimed.
I turned to the table where he was sitting scrunched over his books. "What? I do hope it's not catching."
"Very funny, Dad. I've found out the reason for the inconsistency between the books and the papers."
"And what is it?"
"Galileo," he answered. "The books were all written before Galileo; the papers after."
"I'm surprised they are using Sixteenth Century books. I know there is a funding crisis in the further-education field, but I would have thought they could have used more up-to-date textbooks," I quipped.
"Not that Galileo," Johnny replied. "The space probe to Jupiter. It turned up so much new information, any textbook about the planets before the probe is going to be out of date."
"What part of your course is studying the planets?"
"None. It's nothing to do with college," Johnny replied. "I'd just been reading one of your books and realised it did not agree with an article I had read in National Geographic, so I started to look into it."
I was a bit surprised by Johnny's answer and also delighted with it. It was clear that he had a far broader range of interests than I had thought. Also, he had the type of mind that could pick up on minor details and see how important they are, like the inconsistencies between two sources. It almost seemed a waste that he was looking at going into yacht design; that type of mind would be a great asset in science or the law. I did not say anything about it, though. It was my son's choice of vocation, and all I could do was support him in it.
We chatted a bit more. I was interested in what Johnny had to say about Tariq and JayDee. It seemed that both the boys had something of a crush on Trevor. I just hoped that it did not end up causing problems.
Johnny started to pack up his papers and books. I checked the clock and saw that Anne would be home in half an hour, so I decided to get dinner on. I had just put the sausages in the oven when the landline rang. Johnny answered it but then passed the phone to me, saying it was James.
"Hi, James, how were things in Leeds?"
"Good, but things have gone downhill since," he replied.
"We are stuck in a traffic jam on the A1. There's been a crash, and it seems it will be some time before it's cleared. The police have just said at least three hours before there is movement. The road is closed in both directions. Can't see us getting back till gone midnight. Tempted to find a hotel and stay the night and get on the road again early morning."
"That might be a good plan," I agreed.
"Right. Can you let Marcia know?" he asked.
"Thanks, Mike," James replied. With that, he rang off.
I could not do much more with dinner until the sausages were ready, so I went across to the apartment and informed Marcia that James would not be back tonight.
"That makes life easier," she informed me.
"How so?" I responded.
"The parents have just phoned; they want us to go over tonight. Dad said it's important. I've told them I would be over as soon as I can but that I had to wait for James to bring JayDee back. Now we can get over there without a scene from Tariq."
"Young love," I commented.
"Tell me about it," Marcia replied.
Anne pulled into the yard as I was leaving the apartment. Getting out of her car, she asked me how long it would be to dinner.
"About forty minutes," I replied.
"Good. I missed lunch," she informed me.
"How come?" I asked as I held the back door open for her.
"My tutor wanted to talk to me about my UCAS application, and lunch was the only time she could fit me in. We both thought it would only take about twenty minutes max. In the end, it took over an hour," she said, dropping her bags on the kitchen table and slumping onto a chair. "Fix me a coffee, please, Mike."
"Bad day?" I asked as I filled the kettle with water.
"Not really," Anne replied. "In fact, it has been a rather good day, just a bloody exhausting one. Missing lunch due to discussing my UCAS application did not help."
"I thought you had already submitted your UCAS form," I commented.
"I did," Anne replied. "Got it in with all the references, etc., at the end of October."
"So, what was the problem?"
"She wanted to know if I had heard anything from any of the universities I had applied to."
"A bit soon, isn't it? It's what, just over two weeks? I doubt if UCAS has got the details distributed yet. Even if they have, I doubt admission tutors have looked at them yet." The kettle boiled, so I made the coffee.
"That's what I said. Anyway, she wanted to talk to me about what to do if I did not get any offers."
"Is that likely?"
"It could happen; there were some in last year’s class who did not get offers and had to go through clearing. That's not an option for me as I can't just up and leave for the far end of the country just to get into a university."
"You could if you needed to," I stated.
"I know I could," Anne agreed. "The thing is, I wouldn't. It would not be fair on you or Johnny."
"I presume this chat with your tutor had a point to it?" I enquired. The coffee had brewed, so I poured a mug for Anne and placed it in front of her.
"Thanks, Mike, this is a lifesaver. Yes, she wanted to talk to me about UCAS Extra."
"What's that?" I asked.
"It's a scheme by which, if you have not had any offers by a specific date, usually around mid-Feb, or you have been rejected by all of your first five choices, you can apply to another set of universities. Basically, she wanted to make sure I did not start to panic just because I did not have any offers by the end of January. They had a couple of mature students get in a right mess over things last year.
“So, what's for dinner?"
I told her. Then I informed her about James not coming back tonight, about my ex being the barrister for Mayers and half a dozen other things that I thought she should know. Just as I finished my report to the boss, the timer pinged to let me know the sausages were cooked. I opened the over, pulled out the tray of sausages and poured the Yorkshire Pudding batter over them, then pushed the tray back into the oven and closed the door. As I was putting the saucepan of potatoes onto the heat, Anne informed me she was going up for a quick shower and to get changed.
Dinner was just about ready when she came down. I asked her to call Johnny, which she did, whilst I mashed the potatoes and finished off the onion gravy. By the time I had finished, both Anne and Johnny were seated at the table. I served up dinner.
Over dinner, we discussed how the news that my ex was Mayers’ defence counsel might impact on things. As Johnny pointed out, it really should not affect anything. He did, though, concede that it might cause some difficulties with Trevor, especially given that he was likely to be cross-examined by the Bitch. Johnny did say that he could give Trevor some advice on how to answer her questions in ways that would annoy her. Tempted as I was with the idea, I was not sure how useful it might be. It could end up with getting Trevor into trouble. I did suggest he might discuss it with Bernard. Johnny was going to meet up with Joseph in the morning and would be staying at the Hampstead house overnight.
It was just after eleven on the Saturday morning that James arrived back from his trip to Leeds. He looked absolutely exhausted.
"You look like you need a coffee," I stated as he came into the kitchen.
"Actually, Mike, I would prefer tea, if that's possible."
"Tea is always possible," I replied. "Looks like you had a bad night."
"Yes," James replied. "There was a bloody hen party at the hotel. They did not go to bed till gone three. Kept me awake most of the night. It was about four when I dropped off, and the alarm went off at seven."
"How's JayDee," I enquired.
"Oh, he's fine; slept like a log all night. Think that kid could sleep through a hurricane. Thinking about it, he probably has."
I made the tea, and the two of us sat at the table.
"How did things go at court?" I asked.
"Good," John responded. "Grace's people never even turned up, so it was a bit of a rubber-stamping exercise. I've been granted full custody of JayDee; she does not even have visiting rights. In fact, she has been barred from having any contact with JayDee until all issues about the criminal case have been settled. Any contact after that until he is sixteen must be supervised and is at my discretion. Also, JayDee can refuse to see her.
"The residency issue has been resolved; he can stay with Marcia until I get back from Oz. I've also got the court's consent for me to fly him out to Australia while I am based there, subject to the court being advised of any trip before it is made."
"Sounds good to me," I stated.
"It's more than I expected," admitted James. "My solicitor thinks the judge was a bit pissed off with Grace's team not turning up for the hearing.
"By the way, two things came up while I was up North. The hospital rang. I have an interview with them on Monday at ten. It was the head of medical services who rang me; she made it clear it was pretty much a formality but one they had to go through.
"Then I got a call yesterday afternoon from one of the estate agents. They have found a house they think I will like. It is a bit closer to Dunford than I had been looking, but it is big enough for us and is in the right catchment area for JayDee's school. Most importantly, it is only a little over my budget."
"How much over?" I enquired.
"Seventy-five thousand," James answered. "Though the agent suggested that she might be able to get them to drop the price by a bit. Still have to look at paying sixty thousand over what I wanted to. Will push the deposit required up by about twenty grand. I'm going to see it late Monday afternoon."
"What about JayDee's schooling?" I enquired.
"The solicitors have sent the school certified copies of the court orders, so that should be alright now that we have it on record that he is living at Marcia's. Have made an appointment to see the registration office at three on Monday. That's why I can't do the viewing till later. Hopefully, they will have received all the paperwork by then.
"Is Anne around? I would really like to get a female perspective on the place," he stated.
"No, she took Johnny to Southminster this morning to get the train into Town, then she was going to Tesco's. After that, she is going over to her sister's. She's bringing Jenny back for the weekend; you'll meet her at dinner."
James informed me that he was going to grab a couple of hours of sleep. Then he was going to take JayDee and Tariq swimming at the Blackwater Leisure Centre. I got back to my writing.
I was still writing when Anne returned with Jenny. Taking that as an excuse, I took a break and made them both coffees while making a tea for myself. Then the three of us sat at the kitchen table while Jenny filled us in about developments in her long-running saga over her council housing. The work that had recently been done was not up to standard, and several problems had developed.
"Will you need to move out again?" I asked.
"Hopefully not," Jenny replied. "Look, I know you would probably let me stay here if needed, but you are not really set up for someone in a wheelchair. Anyway, I just feel more comfortable in my own place. Even if the place is a building site."
We chatted a bit more, then Anne said she would sort out dinner, and I left to return to my writing. The last week had been very productive. I wanted to make the most of this productive streak while I still had it. Sometimes writing can be a pain in the neck; it needs to be dealt with, but nothing seems to work. Other times it is pure bliss, and the words just seem to flow. The last week had been like that, and I had quite a lot of useful output to show for it.
Just after four, Anne brought me a mug of tea through and informed me that dinner would be at seven, shortly after James arrived back from swimming. Not that anybody told me, but I could hear Tariq and JayDee shouting in the kitchen. At least, it sounded as if they were shouting, but then all teenage boys in groups either sound as if they are shouting or seem to be whispering to one another. The average human vocal range seems to have vanished from their speaking ability. I wondered if there was the scope for a scientific paper there.
Given the disturbance, I decided to give up on the piece I was writing and check my emails. To be honest, I had come to a bit of a dead end; this piece of writing just was not flowing, so an excuse to stop was welcome.
Opening my emails, I saw that there were the usual spam emails, some marketing emails I could afford to ignore and some that I needed to look at. The one that stood out from that set was one from Ben, asking me to Skype him any time after eight p.m., UK time. I had a good three hours to wonder what he wanted to talk about.
Dinner that evening was an interesting affair. There were only the four of us — Anne, Jenny, James and me — Johnny being in London and JayDee eating with Tariq and family. The meal was nothing special. What was special was the amount of attention that James seemed to be giving to Jenny. Of even more interest was the way that Jenny seemed to be looking at James.
During dinner, James asked Anne about the house-viewing on Monday. It was at five. Personally, I thought that was a bit late to view a house this time of year; it would be dark already. James, however, stated that it was only a first viewing. Anne informed him that she did not finish at college till five and often worked in the library on Monday evenings if Johnny had a late class. James expressed regret, stating he would have liked a female input on the house.
"Maybe I could help," stated Jenny.
After dinner, James pushed Jenny through into the lounge. I made coffee and took it through to them, then returned to the kitchen to help Anne with the dishes and clear up.
"Did you notice?" she asked.
"James and Jenny? Yes, I did."
"Do you think?"
"Look, they've only just met," I pointed out.
"Don't you believe in love at first sight?" she asked.
"No, though I do believe in lust at first sight."
Anne laughed. "Christ, Mike, even a bit of lust would be good for Jenny. Don't think she's had any since her back was broken."
We finished off cleaning up the kitchen, then took our coffees through to join James and Jenny in the lounge. For the next half hour or so we chatted. To be more correct, Anne and I just sat and observed. James and Jenny chatted with each other.
Just gone eight, I excused myself and went into the study to Skype Ben. He must have been sitting waiting for the call. As soon as the connection started, he answered.
"What's up?" I asked.
"I've been served with a witness summons for the Mayers trial," Ben informed me.
"A bit late, isn't it?" I stated. "I thought they got the witness summonses out a couple of weeks ago."
"That's just it," Ben responded. "The prosecution summonses went out ages ago. Trevor got his while we were filming in the UK. No, this is a summons from the defence lawyers."
"The defence solicitors have issued a witness summons for me to appear at the court," Ben confirmed.
"No idea," Ben replied. "I've not spoken to anyone from that side."
"Have you spoken with Bernard?" I asked.
"Not yet," Ben said.
"Well, I think that is the first thing you need to do."
"You're right there; I'll call his office Monday morning."
"You can call the London house tonight," I informed him. "I know he's there as Johnny is staying over with Joseph."
"I will," replied Ben. "The thing is I can't understand why they want to call me?"
"Did you speak to anybody about the Mayers case?"
"The only thing I did was give a statement to the police about what happened at Manston, but we all did," Ben stated.
"Did you tell the police that you counselled Trevor?" I asked.
"Not in those particular words," Ben said.
"What words did you use?"
"Can't really remember, Mike. It was something along the lines that I spent some time talking to Trevor; I remember I said I persuaded him that he should talk to the police."
"What?" responded Ben.
"I bet she's going to try and use the False Memory Syndrome defence," I stated.
"Who?" asked Ben.
"Your sister-in-law, my ex, Beryl. She is defence counsel. I bet she is going to try and say you planted the idea in the boy's head that Mayers had abused Trevor. She might even suggest you abused Trevor and then made him think it was Mayers."
"Fuck!" Ben exclaimed. "I’d better call Bernard. Phil is not going to be happy."
Phil was not happy.
"I'm going to kill that sister of mine," he stated when he phoned me about an hour later.
He went on to inform me that Ben had told him what I suspected and then phoned Bernard. Those two were still on the phone. Phil wanted to know if I knew anything more.
"I don't know anything," I explained. "It is just some guesswork."
"Bloody good guesswork, I think," Phil muttered over the phone. "It's just the sort of thing she would come up with."
On that, I had to agree. We chatted a bit more about things. He informed me that filming was going well, and they planned to have everything involving Trevor finished in about ten days. The schedule had them finishing his part on the twenty-fifth. Even if things overran slightly, Trevor would be finished by the twenty-seventh. He would be flying back to the UK on the twenty-ninth, arriving Heathrow early on the thirtieth. Ben would be coming back on the same flight.
"What about you?" I asked.
"There will be about eight days more shooting to do after Trevor finishes. I'll be handling that. I'm planning to fly back on the fifth of December. Everything should be a wrap by then. It has to be because we can't use Necker after the fourth, that is our last day here. Everything has to be cleared out by then so the staff can get the place ready for the Christmas visitors."
"Do you think you'll make it?" I enquired.
"Oh, yes," he replied. "We've been lucky in many respects, especially with the weather. Also, I had Ben running a third unit; he got a lot of fill-in shots that we can use if we are short on anything. The great advantage of using digital, I do not have to worry about the cost of film stock.
"Anyway, the reason I called you. Can you put Tyler up for a couple of weeks? He's been summoned by the defence as well. Would prefer him to be out of London while the case is on, as much as possible. Did think of putting him up in Manston but it's a bit too far if he is needed in Town."
I assured him there would be no problem provided Bernard did not raise any issues. There was a question about a prosecution and defence witness being at the same address, but I was not sure if that raised any legal issues or not.
Phil thanked me and rang off. I went to tell Anne about developments. She was still in the lounge with James and Jenny. Anne was reading a book; James and Jenny were deep in conversation with each other.
I told Anne what had developed.
"That woman just likes to cause trouble," Anne stated, rather loudly.
"What woman?" Jenny asked.
"Mike's ex. She is handling the defence of a chap who hurt some of our friends," Anne stated. "Now she is calling some of those friends as witnesses for the defence."
"That," observed James, "is the sort of thing that can get nasty quickly."
I was about to comment on his observation, but the landline rang. Going through to the study, I answered it. It was Bernard.
"Are you available in the morning?" he asked once I had identified myself.
"Yes, why?" I asked.
"I need to clarify a few things. Can I come up and take some statements?" he enquired.
"Of course. Do you want lunch?"
"That would be good. I'll bring the boys up with me; saves Johnny coming back on the train. I'll expect Debora will want to come up, too, if only to gossip with Anne. Will aim to be there about eleven, is that OK?"
"Of course," I replied. Then I went in to tell Anne that Bernard was coming in the morning.
"That will be eight for Sunday dinner then, ten if Tariq and JayDee join us. Will have to do a run to the Farm Shop in the morning and get a joint," she stated.
"Actually, I was thinking of taking the boys out for the day," James said. "It is probably the last really free day I am likely to have before I go back to Oz. Also, if I could borrow your Santa Fe, Mike, I would like to take Jenny along if she would like to come with us." He said this looking at Jenny.
"I'd love to," she replied. She then turned to look at me with a begging look. "Mike?"
"Of course, you can borrow the Santa Fe, James," I responded.
"Thanks, Mike," he said. Then he turned his attention to Jenny. "Where would you like to go?"
Anne looked at me and grinned. I just hoped the Tariq and JayDee would not end up having too boring a day.
Sunday morning, I saw James and Jenny off to wherever they were going to spend the day. The pair seriously looked as if they were going to enjoy the day together. The two boys with them did not look so sure. Before leaving, James asked my advice on a good place where they could go for dinner later. I gave him what advice I could but had to admit that we did not go outside of Dunford or Maldon very often for a meal unless we were in Town.
After they had gone, I took Anne a cup of coffee. She was in the lounge reading.
"Thanks, love," she said as I put the coffee down on the side table. "Have the lovebirds gone off?"
"Come off it, Mike; you saw how they were looking at each other last night." I had to admit I had, though I did wonder how it could work out, given Jenny's condition and James going back to Oz, at least until next July.
"Don't worry about it," stated Anne. "If it is going to work, it will work. Anyway, even if it is only something for this week, it is more than Jenny's enjoyed for years. Just because she is in a wheelchair does not mean she has no sexual feelings. The amount of time she's been in that chair, they must have built up. If nothing else, James will give her some release. Most men don't look at somebody in a wheelchair."
"James clearly did," I said.
"Well, James clearly is not most men," commented Anne. "Which is for the best. Anyway, I need to finish this chapter before Debora arrives. We are going to do some serious shopping."
"She's definitely coming then?"
"Yes, Mike, I texted her last night; she replied this morning. Shopping, yes!"
"I'll leave you, then," I stated, moving towards the door.
"Good. Leave your credit card as well."
I guffawed. "Use your own; you've got a higher credit limit than I do."
"I need a higher credit limit," she replied.
This had been a bit of an ongoing thing between us. When Zach had set up the finances for us to buy the Priory, he had also arranged new banking services for us. It seemed my income now demanded wealth management, whatever that was. With the new bank came new credit cards. I was somewhat surprised when I found that mine came with a ten-thousand-pound credit limit on it. What was more surprising was that Anne's, which was linked to my bank account, came with a fifteen-thousand-pound limit. Not that she ever got anywhere near it. In fact, the only time when she got over five hundred pounds was when she had to pay for the car MoT and service, and that had been on my car.
Returning to the kitchen, I started to prepare some of the vegetables for Sunday dinner. Anne had got a couple of chickens out of the freezer last night so we would have them. I guessed Debs and Anne would be shopping till about four, so home about five. On that basis, I was planning dinner for six.
I had just finished the prep when Bernard drove into the yard. He had hardly stopped the car when Joseph and Johnny jumped out of the back. Joseph ran towards the garage where the bikes were stored. Johnny came over to the back door, opened it and put his head in.
"Can't stop, Dad," he said. "Steve said if we get to the yard before eleven fifteen, we can go out with him." I glanced at the clock and noted the time. They would be a bit pushed, but if they peddled hard, they should make it.
"You’d better get a move on, then," I stated. "Dinner is at six. You are expected."
"Thanks, Dad," he replied, dashing off to join Joseph, who was just pulling two bikes out of the garage.
Debora and Bernard came into the kitchen.
"Anne is in the lounge, Debs; I'm just about to make coffee — or tea, if you prefer," I stated.
"Thanks, Mike, I'll go for tea," Debora replied.
"Right. Go on through; I'll bring it into you in a mo."
Bernard plonked his case down on the kitchen table.
"Tea or coffee?" I asked.
"Coffee — and make it a strong one.”
I sorted out the drinks while chatting to Bernard. Once I had delivered a coffee and tea to the lounge, I took a seat at the kitchen table opposite Bernard, who was imbibing of his coffee.
"What's up?" I asked.
"Your ex is up. The problem is, I do not know what it is that she is up to," he replied. "As a result, I have to be prepared for anything, which means a whole lot more work."
"Shouldn't the prosecution be looking at that?" I asked.
"No, Mike," Bernard replied. "They are only looking at proving their case. I need to protect my clients. Both Trevor and Ben are my clients. Unfortunately, in the Common Law courts, witnesses do not have the benefit of counsel, unlike some other systems. So, I can't directly act for them; all I can do is prepare as much as I can and be ready to deal with any fallout that may arise."
"What's got you worried?" I asked. "Beryl?"
"I heard she's calling Kilpatrick as an expert witness," he informed me.
"And who is Kilpatrick?"
"Susan Kilpatrick," Bernard replied. "She's written a couple of books about False Memory Syndrome, specifically with relation to sexual-abuse cases."
"I've read a bit about False Memory Syndrome but never really looked at it."
"Well, maybe you should," Bernard replied. "There is some concern in some quarters that several historic abuse prosecutions may have been based on evidence that in part was the result of False Memory Syndrome."
"What makes them think that?" I asked.
"Basically, the number of convicted abusers who are maintaining their innocence. It is far higher than one would expect," Bernard stated. "We are handling the appeal in one case where it looks as if false memory played a part; a teacher was accused of abusing one of his students some twenty years ago. The abuse was supposed to have taken place in the art room after the boy had finished football practice on a Tuesday. The chap pleaded not guilty and said he had never stayed over on a Tuesday because he had a night-school class to teach. Unfortunately, the college where he said he was teaching closed ten years ago, and all its records have gone. He was found guilty and sentenced to twelve years.
"He's been inside for three years, all the while protesting his innocence. As a result, he has not been able to go on the sex-offender-treatment programme, so no chance of parole. His wife divorced him; the divorce was finalised beginning of the year. She got the house and was in the process of clearing out his stuff when she found a box of papers in the attic. It's got all his class notes in from the college course he was teaching, including the timetables and the tutor's register. From that, we were able to find the names of his students, and we have statements that he was teaching at the time the offences were supposed to have taken place. Now we are submitting new evidence and asking for the conviction to be quashed.
"A bit late for the chap now. He will not get back into teaching, even if the conviction is quashed. That is going to have a serious impact on his pension. He has also lost his marriage and his house."
"But won't he get compensation for wrongful conviction?" I asked.
"No," Bernard informed me. "You only get compensation if you can show there has been a miscarriage of justice. He was found guilty by a jury of his peers at his trial. He said at the trial that he had been teaching at the college, so that information was available to the jury. The only problem was there was no evidence to support his word. If there had been and it had been ignored, then that would have been a miscarriage. But it wasn't, so there was not a miscarriage. Also, there has been no appeal, as they could not find grounds for one. So, there are no grounds for miscarriage there.
"I'm sorry to say he is one of the victims of the legal system."
"What's going to happen to him?" I asked.
"We've submitted the new evidence to the Court of Appeal with a request for permission to appeal. That is certain to be granted. Based on the evidence supporting the alibi that he gave to the court, the Court of Appeal will order a retrial. I strongly suspect the prosecution will offer no evidence at the retrial and our chap will be found not guilty.
"He will walk out of court a free man with no career, no home and very little future.
"You must realise Mike that he is not the only one. Those in the justice system who know about these things estimate that probably in about twenty to twenty-five percent of historic sex-abuse convictions, the convicted party is probably innocent. At least innocent of the offence with which they are charged. They may be guilty of lesser offences but not with what they are convicted of. That is the basis of Kilpatrick's ideas."
"Which are?" I asked.
"That teenagers, especially teenage boys, get crushes on older men. They often have masturbatory fantasies about them. When they get older and inhabit a heterosexual lifestyle, they end up feeling guilty about these fantasies. Especially if they have an inclination towards bisexuality or are repressed homosexuals. The only way they can explain the fantasies they remember to themselves is that the fantasies actually happened, that they were abused. They cannot admit to themselves that they had these fantasies when they were younger. They build false memories. These can be reinforced when they go for therapy, and the therapist insists on talking them through their abuse."
"That seems a reasonable scenario," I stated.
"In many ways, it is, and there is an increasing amount of work that is starting to support the theory that False Memory Syndrome is more widespread than was suspected. There was even a case recently where it was shown that an eyewitness to a shooting could not have seen what was remembered. The witness had built a false memory of events.
"The problem with Kilpatrick, she takes it to an extreme. She is arguing that in all cases of historic sex abuse, there is an element of False Memory Syndrome in the recall of events."
"And you think this is what Beryl is going to try to use — claim that Trevor has got a false memory?"
"Yes, Mike, I fear that is the what she is playing at," Bernard replied. "She will claim that Ben planted false memory in Trevor's mind."
"But what about the other boys involved?" I asked.
"Well, that is the big problem, Mike. From what I've heard on the grapevine, a number have dropped out, saying they can't go through with repeating everything in court. The ones who are left are not that strong. Trevor is the key witness. If they can cast doubt on his evidence, all the rest looks dodgy. It only needs a little bit of doubt, and the jury cannot convict."
"Why can't they convict?" Debora asked as she and Anne came into the kitchen.
"If there is any doubt about the evidence," Bernard said. "It might not even go to the jury. If the judge is not convinced by the evidence, he can order the jury to acquit."
"Does that happen?" Anne asked.
"It does," Bernard replied. "More often than most people think."
"Oh well, we will leave you talking about the downside of the law. We're off shopping. Be back about five after we have spent all your money," Debora laughed. With that, the two of them left.
Once the women had gone, I made a new pot of tea for myself and a coffee for Bernard, and we moved through to my study. The next couple of hours were taken up with me going over the events that took place last Easter at Manston. Every now and then, Bernard would interrupt me to ask for clarification on some point or other.
In the end, Bernard recapped things as he understood them.
"So, once you got Trevor into the billiard room, Allen was able to tell him the truth about the incident where Mark Glesson was arrested. Is that correct?"
"Yes," I replied.
"Then Ben took Trevor to his office to talk with him. Why did he do that, Mike?"
"Trevor was upset, really badly. Of course, at the time we did not understand why; we only learnt that later, but he was distraught. He needed some help and Ben was there; he was trained to deal with situations like this."
"Ben's trained," Bernard said. It was not a question, more a statement said to fix it in his mind.
"Of course, he is trained," I stated. "His first degree is in psychology, and he has a master's in child psychology. Even now, he keeps up to date with his professional-development training."
"Why's that?" Bernard asked.
"To maintain his membership in the professional bodies as a practising member."
"He's still a practising member?"
"Yes, he has to be," I responded. "He still does voluntary work with various youth groups when he is not off filming."
Bernard settled back in the chair, a slight smile on his lips. For a moment he was silent, thinking, then he spoke. Not to me, more to himself to fix an idea in his mind. "He is a qualified psychologist who was present when Trevor went into a psychological crisis. I wonder if Beryl knows he has maintained his professional status?"Mike, let's go down to the Crooked Man. I need a drink and some lunch."