It had gone three-thirty when we got back from the Crooked Man. There was no sign of Anne and Debora, which was not surprising; there was a least another half hour of shopping they could be doing before they started back. There was also no sign of Johnny and Joseph.
Bernard went through to the lounge and crashed out on the settee; he had probably had a bit more to drink than was wise. I went to the study and dealt with any emails that had come in during the day. They did not take long to deal with, and just after four, I returned to the kitchen to start dinner.
I had just switched the oven on to heat up and put the potatoes on the heat to parboil when the door opened, and Johnny and Joseph returned.
"Good day?" I asked.
"Great," Joseph replied. "Steve's got this speedboat he's been servicing. Took it out for some trials. It was terrific."
"It was an Invader 210," Johnny informed me. "Steve bought it from the estate of a long-time customer who died back in August. He says he intends to resell it, but I think he's going to have some fun with it first."
"And I suppose you will be out there having fun with him," I stated.
"Not sure, Dad," replied Johnny. "It nice out in the speedboat, but I prefer sailing."
"Is Dad here?" Joseph asked.
"He's in the lounge having a nap," I stated.
"I suppose he's been drinking." Joseph commented.
For a moment, I was unsure how to respond. There was something in the way Joseph made that comment which indicated that this was not unusual.
"We had a couple at lunch," I stated. "Went down to the Crooked Man."
"A couple of what?" Joseph asked.
Here he had me. I had two lagers, but Bernard had been drinking double whiskies. He may only have had two, but it was the equivalent to four normal whiskies. I got the hint from what Joseph had said that this was not unusual. That surprised me. Bernard liked his food and drink. That I knew, but when it came to drinking, he was usually conscientious. Alright, there were occasions when he went over the top, but they were rare and far apart. It sounded now as if something else was going on.
I told the boys that they’d better go up to Johnny's room, clean up and get changed. They did look a bit of a mess, and it was clear they had got wet out on the boat. It was not surprising this time of year. Given the wind, there must be quite a swell out at sea.
Once they had gone up, I finished preparing the chickens, then put them and the parboiled potatoes into the oven. That done I went through to the lounge. Bernard was still spread out on the settee. I sat down in the chair across from him.
"Bernard." He stirred slightly. I repeated myself. "Bernard.”
"Oh, umph," he muttered, opening his eyes and sitting up partly.
"What's going on?" I asked.
"What do you mean?" he replied.
"I mean you, drinking like you did at lunchtime."
"You noticed," he commented.
"Of course, I noticed. Worse still, your son has noticed."
"Shit," replied Bernard. "That means Debora will have."
"So, what is going on?" I asked. "It's not like you to overindulge unless it is a special occasion."
"I've had a lot on," Bernard stated. "Just found it easier to cope with it if I had a couple of drinks."
"What's easier to cope with?" I enquired.
"I've got cancer," he replied.
"What, when, how long have you known?"
"Found out the week following the accident. It is not confirmed yet, but the medics are ninety percent sure it is a cancer."
"How did you find out?" I asked.
"After the accident, my doctor insisted, I have a full medical check-up, including an MRI scan, just in case there was any internal damage that had been missed. The mass showed up on the MRI scan. It's in the cecum, the junction of the intestines to the bowel." He did not need to tell me that; I knew where the cecum was.
"So, what happened?" I asked.
"I had to go for a colonoscopy — had that done two weeks ago. They took images of the mass and did some biopsies. At the moment, I am waiting for the results; should get them tomorrow. Then, I need to tell Debs and the family."
"What’s the prognosis if it is cancer?" I asked.
"Doesn't make much difference either way," Bernard informed me. "There is a mass growing in my cecum, and it will sooner or later block it. It has to come out. That means surgery to remove part of the bowel. Then I will have a stoma.
"If it is cancer, I will also have to have chemotherapy. The good thing is that after the chemo and when the bowel has healed, I should be able to have the stoma reversed. If it is not cancer, there is a strong possibility of the stoma being permanent.
"That's why I've been drinking; I am not sure that I can cope with it."
"Well, you can stop drinking now," I stated. "Also, you’d better tell Debora and Joseph today. I suggest at dinner before you go back."
"Because, Bernie, you've got Anne and me to support you and Debora and Joseph — plus Johnny. The sooner you get it out in the open, the sooner you can discuss and plan things. If you have to have the operation, when will it be?"
"They wanted to get me in next week, but I've told them that they would have to wait till the new year. I'm looking at going in on Monday the seventh of January. After Micah's wedding."
"Is that wise, delaying it?" I asked.
"The consultant assured me that it would not make a big difference. The mass is on the small side at the moment, so a couple of weeks is not going to make much difference."
"Bernard, it is more than a couple of weeks, it's over a month," I pointed out.
"I know," he responded. "There is just so much I need to get sorted out before I go in. I need at least a month to get everything sorted and in order, just in case."
"Well, you are not going to get things sorted if you are overindulging. Cut the alcohol," I insisted.
"OK, Mike, I will. And I will tell Debora and Joseph today."
"Good, now I have to get back to sorting dinner. By the way, Joseph is back. I’d better get you a strong coffee before he sees you."
I went back to the kitchen to sort out a coffee for Bernard and to get on with dinner. Bernard came through shortly after and sat at the table. I poured his coffee and placed it in front of him.
"There's something I need to ask you," he stated.
"I'm making a new will," Bernard said. "Will you act as an executor? Also, I am making an Advanced Healthcare Directive; I would like to name you to act under it if I am incapable. Don't want to burden Debora with that. Will you do it for me, please?"
"Of course," I responded. "I suppose you have a professional executor?"
"Yes," he replied. "I've appointed Clay, Dean and Clay as professional executors. They're doing my will for me."
"Clay as in Martin Clay?" I asked.
"Yes, it's his two uncles and their cousin. We've worked with them for years. Actually, the younger of the partners, Neil Clay, was at Birmingham with me."
"So, that is why you use Martin," I stated.
"No," Bernard replied. "I use Martin because he is one of the best young solicitors around. Too bloody good to be doing wills, probates and divorces in Southminster. Hopefully, he will not be there too long."
"You're poaching him?" I asked.
"Isn't that a bit unethical?"
"Not when his uncles suggested it, it's not," responded Bernard. "All three partners know that Martin is too good for their practice. It was Neil who suggested I should start to put some of our work his way and see how he did. He did bloody well. Now that I am stepping back from the practice, it makes sense to bring in another solicitor with a view to partnership. My choice is Martin. I've got a meeting with him on Tuesday to make an offer, one he will be encouraged to take."
"What's this about you stepping back?"
"Not going to have much choice, am I, Mike? I'm facing a major operation, and it will be some ten to twelve weeks before I will be fit to go back to work. Even then, I will only be able to do it part time for a bit. That's got me thinking. I'm forty-six in a couple of months. I was always looking to retire at fifty. Well, with what I made on the sale of Dad's business, nothing is stopping me retiring now. Though, I think if I did, I would probably drive Debora mad, not to mention myself. However, I intend to take life easier. Thought I would probably like to do more advocacy. Haven't discussed it with the partners yet, but I doubt if they will object. Thought I would become a consultant partner specialising in advocacy. I could probably cut my working hours by about fifty percent and still bring in as much fee income as I do now."
"And what will you do with the extra time, Bernard?"
"That is a good question," he answered. "Not sure yet. Though I have been thinking of getting a place in Portugal; that's where the family came from originally. We're Sephardic Jews. So is Debora's family. It would be nice to have a place in our ancestral home."
"Can't imagine you sitting on some sun-kissed terrace all day doing nothing," I commented.
"I don't intend to do nothing," riposted Bernard. "Actually, I am thinking of getting into your game."
"Yes," he replied. "I've done a couple of 'learned articles' for some law journals. Thought I might have a go at a book. There is not much written about the law relating to the entertainment industry, but in the coming digital age, it is going to become an increasingly important area of law."
"How much time are you looking at taking off?"
"Probably about four months of the year," Bernard replied. "Don't look like that; it's not that much. There's a good two-month break between the Trinity and Michaelmas terms when the High Court and Appeal Court are not sitting. Add the three weeks around Christmas between Michaelmas and Hilary, plus the two weeks before the start of the Easter term and over three months when there would be no advocacy work. I only need to find another four weeks somewhere. That should not be difficult if I am only doing the advocacy work.
"Based on the advocacy work coming through the practice at the moment, there is probably not enough to justify me doing more than a couple of days a week anyway. The thing is that the fee income it will generate is a lot higher than I get for most of the work I am doing, so overall, the practice will not be worse off. It could be better off."
"Yes, I can see that," I commented. "The question is, who is going to be taking over your clients?"
"That's why I want to bring Martin in," Bernard replied. "I've discussed things with his cousin and uncles, and they are agreed that if Martin wants to move, they will release him immediately, given the circumstances. I had already spoken to them about approaching Martin, and they were happy with the idea, so when I went back to them last week and explained I needed to take extended sick leave, they agreed on the issue. They see Martin joining my firm as a significant advancement for him.
"I'm going to ask Martin to start with us on the first of December as my assistant. He will take responsibility for running my clients while I am in the hospital. I need a month to brief him on all the clients and get him up to speed on the active cases. After that, I should be able to deal with any major issues from my hospital bed or home when I am convalescing. Hopefully, once I am recovered and able to return to speed, Martin will be sufficiently au fait with everything to take on most of the clients, leaving me free for advocacy."
"Sounds good," I observed. "Just hope Martin goes for it."
"He'd be a fool not to," Bernard stated.
"Who'd be a fool?" Joseph asked as he and Johnny came into the kitchen.
"Martin Clay," Bernard replied. "I am going to ask him to join the firm as my assistant."
"Why do you need an assistant, Dad," Joseph enquired.
"I'll tell you at dinner," Bernard replied. "I need to tell your mother, and it will be easier to do it all in one go."
The timer pinged, telling me it was time to get on with the next part of cooking dinner.
Anne and Debora got back just as I was taking the chickens out of the oven to rest. I informed them that dinner would be ready in half an hour. They informed me they needed some help to unpack the car. I managed to grab Johnny and Joseph before they got out of the kitchen and set them to helping empty the car.
Once they had done that, I told them they could also help by setting the table in the dining room. We could seat six at the kitchen table, though it would though be tight. The dining room table could seat twelve or eighteen if it were fully extended. So, there was plenty of space for six of us.
Bernard got up and said he would give the boys a hand and followed them out of the kitchen.
"He's been drinking, hasn't he?" Debora said.
I deemed it best not to answer.
"Look, Mike, I know he is your best friend, but something is going on," she stated. "For the last few weeks, he has been drinking at weekends, also in the evenings. Far more than normal. I'm worried. Anne will tell you we've been talking about it all afternoon."
"Debs, Bernie's got something to tell you, but do me a favour, leave it till after dinner. Don't look at me like that; I only found out this afternoon."
"Ok, but one way or another, I want to know what is making Bernie drink before we start back. Thinking of it, I’d better get the car keys. If he's been drinking, there is no way he is going to be driving back."
With that comment, she left to follow Bernard in the direction of the dining room.
"What are we having with dinner?" Anne asked.
"There is a bottle of white chilling."
"Is that wise?" she asked. "If Bernard has a drinking problem—"
"He has not got a drinking problem," I snapped. "He has a problem which is causing him to drink. It's somewhat different."
That said, I did fill a jug of water to go on the table, adding some slices of lime to it. Anne noticed and nodded her approval.
Dinner was relatively quiet, with not much being said. I suspected Debs must have said something to Joseph as he was a lot quieter than normal, though he did keep glancing at Johnny.
After dinner, Bernard asked if we could have coffee in the lounge as he had something to say. I made the coffee — after dinner was one of the few times I drank the stuff — and took it through.
Bernard was seated next to Debora on the settee. Anne was sitting in one of the leather armchairs; the other one was empty, clearly left for me. The boys were side by side, seated on the chaise longue. Everybody was waiting. I put the tray with the coffees down and handed them out, then took my seat, nodding to Bernard to indicate that this now was his show.
"There's no easy way to say this, so I will be blunt," he said. "It looks as if I have bowel cancer."
"What!" Debora exclaimed.
"It looks as if I have bowel cancer."
"How long have you known?" Debs asked.
"I don't know it for sure, but that something was wrong, just over a month," he replied.
For the next half hour, Bernard went over what he had told me earlier. Debora, of course, had a lot of questions. Then again, so did Joseph; even Johnny and Anne had questions.
Eventually, the questions ceased. Debora put her arm around Bernard and looked over at Joseph. "You and your boyfriend better give Anne and Mike a hand clearing up the dinner things," she stated.
I took that as a hint that she wanted some time alone with her husband.
Once I got to the kitchen, I asked Anne what she thought of the situation.
"Well, at least we know what was making Bernard drink," Anne stated. "Debs was really worried about it. He was getting home most evenings, going into his study and drinking quite a bit of whiskey. Now, at least, we know why. The thing is, do you think they will be able to cope?"
"I don't see why not," I stated.
"Mike, think about it. Bernard is one of the leading solicitors in the country. He is also on the board of several companies. He is used to being in charge, of taking responsibility for things — and now this. It is something that is outside of his control. He is dependent on the doctors and their decisions. It is going to make him feel powerless. How is he going to cope with that, much less having to have a stoma?"
"I had not thought of that," I admitted. "What can I do?"
"Mike, it's not a case of ‘I’, it is a case of we, you, me, Ben, Phil, all of Bernard's friends. Has he even told anyone outside his family any of this?"
"No, he hasn't," I informed her. "I was the first person he told, and that was this afternoon after I challenged him over his drinking. Telling his family became the next step."
With the help of Joseph and Johnny, we cleared up the kitchen and got the washing-up done. Then we sat around the kitchen table chatting about anything we could think of which avoided touching on the subject that Bernard had informed us of earlier. By some unspoken agreement, we had decided not to disturb Debora and Bernard in the lounge but to give them time to themselves.
About half an hour later, Bernard and Debora came through to the kitchen.
"We need to think about getting back to Town," Debora stated. Her eyes were puffy, and it looked as if she had been crying. I looked at Bernard; he did not look any better.
"Are you sure?" Anne asked. "You can stay here tonight."
"It's fine, Anne," Debs replied. She patted Joseph on the head. "This one needs to be at school first thing in the morning."
"Mam!" Joseph exclaimed. "I can miss a day; it's no problem."
"It is a problem, young man. Get your things, and we'll get back."
Ten minutes later, they were all ready to leave. We were out in the yard saying goodbye to them as they got in the car when James pulled into the yard in my Santa Fe. I took the opportunity to introduce James to Bernard. James took the opportunity to thank Bernard for all the work his firm had put into sorting things out for him regarding JayDee.
"Save the thanks till you see the bill," Bernard joked.
"Bernard, we need to get a move on," Debora called.
"Sorry, the boss has spoken," Bernard said. "I hope we can have a chance to meet once you are back from Australia." With that, he went and got into the car. Debora waved, and they pulled away.
"That's a man who's got a shitload of worries," James commented, looking at the car as it went through the yard entrance.
"What makes you say that?" I asked.
"It's the look in the eyes. It's difficult to define to the layman, but it is something we doctors see all the time. You see it when you give a patient a terminal prognosis, and they are wondering how their family will cope. They're not worried about themselves; it is their family and friends that they are concerned for."
I could not say anything, but I realised in that comment James was bang on the mark.
James wheeled Jenny into the kitchen. JayDee and Tariq had gone straight up to Marcia's. Jenny informed Anne that they had managed to wear the boys out.
"How did you do that?" I asked.
"We spent the morning at a country park," he informed me. "There were a lot of lakes there and wildfowl they could look at. There was also a tree walk they could go on, whilst we stayed firmly on the ground. Then we went to this big leisure complex for lunch. The boys had a go at rollerblading. We just watched. Afterwards, we went to the cinema complex. The boys wanted to see some action-adventure film, so we got them tickets for that. Jenny and I settled for a nice romance."
"It was good, and for once the wheelchair area was not right at the front," Jenny commented.
"Really?" Anne asked.
"Yes," Jenny stated. "There is an entry to the auditorium about halfway up each side. A wide passage goes across the auditorium at that point, and that is where the wheelchair spaces are. Somebody had really thought about the design. I could sit in my chair, and James could hold my hand from the end seat in the row."
Anne smiled at me. I am not sure Jenny realised just what she had given away. James did realise, and he turned a bit red. Anne laughed.
"What's funny?" Jenny asked.
"You two," she replied. "You've known each other less than forty-eight hours, and you're already displaying the symptoms of lovesick teenagers."
"Well, it's—" James started.
"It's simple," Jenny interrupted. "James goes back to Sydney on Saturday. We have to get on with things as fast as we can. That means, Mike, that James would like to borrow your Santa Fe again tomorrow afternoon. He is going to take me to view the house he is looking at before he takes me home. That is, if you will let him use the Hyundai."
"He can use it," I stated.
Monday morning found me babysitting JayDee. It was not really a problem; the boy was quite happy to play with Johnny's Playstation all morning. The thing was, nobody had thought what was going to happen with JayDee this morning. James had to go to the hospital for his interview and could not take JayDee along with him. Tariq and his sister were at school, and Marcia, along with Anne and Johnny, were at college. That left me with JayDee.
I spent most of the first part of Monday morning on the phone to Janet Long. She had read the revised outline I had sent her over the weekend and was most enthusiastic about it. So much so that she had forwarded it to Martin Shelt, and he was also interested. It now seemed that I had a production company interested in a programme based on John's book. What was now needed was to get the initial legal issues sorted.
The big issue was what Martin should pay for initial-development rights. Martin, quite understandably, did not want to pay anything. Janet was quite adamant that there should be an upfront fee to both John and me for the initial-development rights. She also wanted it written into the contract that I was to be offered the presenter job for any series that was developed from the idea.
I did point out that I could not decide on anything until I had spoken with John. The result of that was that Janet asked me to arrange a conference call with him in the afternoon.
That settled, I decided to make some tea. As I went through to the kitchen, I called up to JayDee and asked if he wanted anything. I had just put the kettle on when he came into the kitchen and asked if he could have a hot chocolate. I told him to take a seat at the table; then I started to make him one.
"Mr. Carlton, what will happen if Dad doesn't get this job?" JayDee asked.
"To be honest, I don't know," I replied. "Though I do not think you need to worry about him not getting it. It seems that he already has the job; the interview is just a formality to ensure that they conform to the rules about recruitment."
"Oh, good," JayDee sighed. It sounded as if there was a lot of relief there.
"You were worried about it?"
"Yes. I thought if Dad did not get this job, he would stay in Australia and then I would have to go and live there."
"Wouldn't you like to live in Australia, JayDee?"
"I would like to live there, but not without Tariq."
I finished making the hot chocolate and placed it in front of JayDee.
"Thanks, and thank you for letting me come and live here," he said.
"It's not me you have to thank. It is Marcia; you are living with her, not me, and you are living in her apartment."
"I know," JayDee replied. "But you own the apartment, and you let her have it, and you arranged with Dad so that I could stay with her. That's what I'm thanking you for."
I realised then how insecure JayDee must feel. He knew his father had to return to Australia on Saturday. What happened to him then must be worrying him.
"Look, JayDee," I said, "I know your father will be away until the second part of next year, though you will see him at Christmas, and I have no doubt he will get you and Tariq out there for Easter. He is coming back to England as soon as he can. He's coming back for you."
JayDee looked up and smiled. I went to the cupboard and found some cakes. Anne usually kept a small selection handy. Finding some almond slices, I put one on a plate and put it in front of JayDee to have with his chocolate.
It was about an hour later when James got back. JayDee was in the lounge reading. He had not gone back to the PlayStation after his chocolate; instead, he had asked if he could borrow something to read. I had pointed him in the direction of my library and was surprised when he selected a pile of New Scientist magazines. I told him to go to the lounge to read them. He was about halfway through the pile when James got back. I directed James to his son after I had checked if he would like a tea or coffee. James went through to the lounge. I went to the kitchen to make some tea. I also poured a cola for JayDee.
Taking the drinks into them, I found James explaining something from one of the articles in New Scientist to JayDee. As I entered, he looked up.
"Mike, you'd probably be better at explaining this," he said.
"What is it?" I asked.
"An article about the slingshot effect on spacecraft," he answered.
"I remember that one," I stated. "Have you read the whole article yet JayDee?"
"No, I'm about halfway through it."
"Well, I suggest you read the whole thing and then make a note of any questions you have." I indicated a notepad and pen on the side table. Anne always kept one there for when she was studying. "When you have done that, bring it to me, and I will try and answer your questions.
"How did the interview go, James?"
"It wasn't really an interview," James stated. "I met the appointment committee, but they admitted that I was the only candidate that had applied who had the qualifications for the position. In fact, they were a bit worried I was overqualified and might get head-hunted by one of the major London centres if I was returning to the UK.
"Once that had been dealt with, they showed me around the place, including the new building that will become the new A&E-plus-trauma centre. I was a bit surprised at the extent of the facilities they are planning to put in there until their explanation. It seems the government is setting up a ring of trauma centres around London in case of a major terror attack in London. They are worried that something like the Twin Tower attack could not only produce a high volume of injuries but could also take out one or more London trauma centres.
"What it basically means is that there will be a trauma centre at Southmead far beyond the capabilities that local needs demand. It will not be staffed up to the level of its capabilities, but the facilities will be there. If there is a major event in London, then extra staff can be brought in. It will be my job with my team to make sure everything runs as it should."
"That makes it sound as if you have been given a definite offer," I stated.
"Actually, I have. The head of trustees was on the committee; she showed me around the site afterwards. Told me that the reason they wanted the interview today was so that the recruitment committee could sign off on an offer to me today and it could go before the trustees’ meeting tomorrow to be rubber-stamped. I should get an email in the next couple of days confirming the offer. A formal written offer will be sent out by the end of the week."
"When do you start?" I asked.
"Officially, first of August, but I do not have to be in post till the first of September. I do need to be back in the UK by mid-August as there is going to be a lot of paperwork to sort out that can't be done remotely."
"Why the difference in dates?"
"The trauma department will not open until next year. A&E will go twenty-four-seven on the first of January a year hence. The date for full trauma service is July of that year. That means there is no funding for it in this year's budget. In fact, there is only limited funding for it in the next year's. The original plan was for the current A&E Senior Consultant, Mr. Maddox, to become the lead for the whole unit. However, there's been a complication. I haven't been told what it is, but Maddox advised the trustees that he will be taking early retirement on health grounds at the end of next year.
"As the A&E has only been operating as a part-time unit, there is only one other consultant, and he has only recently been made a consultant. Also, he is strictly accident and emergency, has no trauma-surgery experience. I met him when I was being shown around. It turns out he is only using Southmead as a steppingstone — really wants to work in the States — but needs to have at least three years as a consultant to get anything decent over there. He was out there before, and his wife's American. Got stuck in a senior-registrar role but found it impossible to get a consultant's position over there. So, came back to the NHS to take a consultant post here. Far easier to get one than in the States. As soon as he has three years in that position, he will be looking to return to the States. The job is asking for a four-year commitment, and there was no way he was going to sign up for that.
"As a result, they had to go outside. Fortunately for me, there are not that many consultant-grade candidates around who have A&E and trauma expertise, though. I do not doubt that it helped that Maddox was my supervising consultant when I was a houseman at Leeds.
"The plan is that they will advertise the rest of the positions for the team in May/June next year with application closing date end of July. August will be a case of going through applications; after that, we will start interviewing in late August and into September with a view to get some started first Jan, the others in stages up to the June. I have to be in post in September to shadow Maddox for the last three months of his time in the role as Senior Consultant."
"Sounds as if you are going to have a busy time building a team," I stated.
"It will be interesting. More importantly, it means I am committed to being here for a least the next four years. That will give JayDee some stability before he goes off to university."
JayDee, who had been listening to our conversation intently, smiled.
I glanced at the clock and saw it was nearly one, so I told them I would sort some lunch. James asked me to make it something quick as they had to be at the school for two-thirty, so I made some soup and toast. The pair of them left the house just before two. I returned to my writing.
Just before four, James returned with JayDee, plus Tariq and Jasmin. I gave James the keys to the Santa Fe so he could go and pick up Jenny before viewing the house. Then I poured the kids some milk and put some biscuits on the table for them. Once they had demolished the plate of biscuits, they went off to the apartment. Marcia arrived about ten minutes later, thanked me for feeding them and informed me that Anne would be staying late in the library. Johnny had a late class.
I sent Anne a text asking about dinner; about thirty minutes later I got a reply saying that they would bring something in. She wanted to know if James would be joining us for dinner. I texted James. He replied he was taking Jenny to dinner and would not be back till late. I made myself a snack.
Johnny and Anne got back a little after eight. They had picked up some Chinese on the way. Over dinner, Anne and I discussed the fact that James was taking Jenny to dinner.
"He's suggested she should go out to Oz for a visit," commented Johnny.
"What!" Anne exclaimed. "How do you know?"
"Tariq told me," Johnny replied. "They were talking about it in the car on Sunday. His contract finishes beginning of July, so he is free then, but their school does not close till the middle of the second week of July, so Tariq and JayDee can't fly out till the following weekend. James said as he had some free time, maybe Jenny could go out, and he could show her around."
"Could she manage out there?"
"Probably," Anne replied. "She a lot more mobile on her crutches than most people realise, though she tends to use the chair when she is out."
I must admit I had not thought about that; I was so used to thinking about Jenny in her chair. The times we had been to her place, she had been using the crutches, and when she had been staying here, she had used her crutches in the house. The thing was, I knew Jenny's funds were somewhat limited. There had been a couple of times when Anne had helped her out when money was tight. I could not see any way for her to afford to go out to Oz. I decided I’d better have a chat with James about it.
In the end, I did not need to. James raised the subject as soon as he got back, which was just after ten.
"Mike, could I have a word?" he asked as he came through the door. I was in the kitchen making a drink.
"Yes, give me a minute or two, and I'll meet you in the study," I replied. "Would you like a drink? I'm making chocolate but could do tea or coffee."
"No, I'm fine, thanks," he replied and went off in the direction of the study.
I took a hot chocolate through to Anne in the lounge, informing her James wanted to speak to me, then grabbed my chocolate from the kitchen and proceeded to the study.
"What can I do for you?" I asked James as I seated myself at my desk.
"It's Jenny," he admitted. "I've grown quite fond of her over the last couple of days. I've got about two weeks free between when I finish work, and when the boys will fly out to Oz. I would like Jenny to come out so I can show her the place. The thing is, I am not sure how she would respond. I know she can't afford the flight; I am more than willing to pay for it, but I'm worried she might take offence if I offered to pay."
"Knowing Jenny, she probably would," I stated. "Have you spoken to her about visiting Oz?"
"Yes, we joked about it in the car yesterday. When I mentioned it today, she said it was a nice dream but not practical."
"She might have been talking about her disability," I pointed out.
"Oh, no, we discussed that last night when I took her home," James replied. "So long as there is a chair available for when she needs it, she can be pretty mobile. A lot of the time at home she manages on her crutches.
"It's definitely money that is the issue."
"More than likely. I really can't give you any advice, but I will talk to Anne and see what she thinks."
Later in bed, I did ask Anne what she thought.
"He's prepared to fly her out?" she asked.
"Yes," I replied.
"Then, she's bloody mad if she does not go," Anne responded. "A trip to Australia paid for; I would love to go." Then she paused. "You know, that might be the answer."
"How about if we went out at the same time? My course finishes effectively in June. I'm fairly certain that Johnny finishes about the same time, and, if I recall, Debs said Joseph was off from the end of June. We could go as a family; then it makes sense to take Jenny along."
I was not sure about the idea; it seemed to me that I would end up paying for five people to fly out to Australia, while I thought the idea was to find a way for James to pay to fly Jenny out.
Tuesday I was in Town. Had to record a couple of items for the Beeb in the morning, and in the afternoon I was due to do some voiceovers for the industrial-archaeology series. Fortunately, I had a three-hour gap in-between the two commitments. That was enough time to meet Bernard for lunch. We had provisionally fixed up a meeting on Sunday at a place just off Covent Garden. As I left Broadcasting House, I switched on my phone. It had been off while I was recording. The moment it connected to the network, I got several texts. One was from Bernard, wanting me to meet him at a place near the Royal Courts of Justice.
I got there a bit later than the time we had agreed to meet. Bernard was already ensconced at a table with Martin Clay. They both stood as I approached the table.
"You know Martin, of course," Bernard stated. I acknowledged that I did and shook Martin's offered hand.
"Why are we meeting here?" I asked.
"Officially, to celebrate Martin joining my firm as my assistant," Bernard replied. I congratulated Martin and asked when he was starting.
"He's already started," Bernard stated. "Which is why we are here, thanks to the News of the World." Just then, the waitress came to take our orders.
Once she had taken them and left, Bernard continued. "Martin came in this morning, and I asked him to join us as my assistant. I did explain I had already spoken to his uncles about the possible offer and they had no objection. He had only just accepted, agreeing to start the first of December, when this case broke. It's so important I asked him to come in on it immediately as I feel he may well be dealing with it after Christmas."
"What is it?" I asked.
"Someone's leaked the story about the incident between Trevor and Tyler to the News of the World."
I swore quite loudly, which caused a few of the nearby diners to look in our direction.
"Who?" I asked.
"I wish we knew," stated Bernard, "but I think I can make a pretty good guess."
"Or someone else in Mayers' defence team, though no doubt your ex put them up to it. They've got the facts of the incident, but everything they have got is contained in the witness statements. There are a couple of details which they have not got but which any eyewitness would have seen."
"What are you doing about it?" I enquired.
"Well, we are in the High Court seeking an injunction," Bernard said. "Won't be able to get a total one, but I am fairly certain we can get a block on publication until after Mayers trial. I've spoken to the CPS about it, and they are here supporting the application for an injunction."
"What happens after?" I asked.
"I don't think there is much we can do to stop the story from coming out. In fact, we may have made things worse by going for the injunction; the News of the World can be a bit vindictive over things like this at times. However, we had to seek it or risk them prejudicing the trial.
"One thing I think we can be certain of is that they are going to go for Trevor. Unfortunately, I suspect that Martin is going to have to deal with most of the fallout. That's why I wanted him in on this from now."
"Oh, well," I said. "Any more bad news?"
"Actually, there is, Mike," Bernard said. "Got the histology results this morning. My consultant rang me at nine o'clock. I had not had time to get coffee and cake before he rang."
"What did he say?" I asked.
"It's confirmed that it is cancer. I'm booked in for surgery on Monday the fourth of January."
"Where?" I asked.
"The London Clinic," Bernard replied.
"Christ, that's going to cost a fortune," I stated.
"I know. Fortunately, the firm has good private health cover," he replied. "The surgery will be the same, no matter where I go. The advantages of the clinic are that I have all the facilities I need in my room to at least keep an overview on what Martin is doing."
Martin laughed at that. "Don't worry; I will be coming by every afternoon just to get you to double-check everything before I send anything out."
Bernard looked at me. "You think he's joking; he's not. I can see I've created a rod for my own back in appointing him my assistant."
Just then, our meal arrived. Both Bernard and I had gone for salmon; Martin had gone for a steak. When I tried my salmon, I thought that Martin had made the right choice. Bernard obviously thought the same. He called the waitress over.
"This salmon has been overcooked," he complained. "How's yours, Mike."
"Mine's the same."
The waitress took them away, promising to get them replaced. A few minutes later, a chap I took to be the manager came and apologised, saying they had a cover chef in this week and there were problems in the kitchen. About ten minutes later, our salmon dishes were returned, this time properly cooked. By this time, Martin had finished his steak, which he said had been perfectly cooked. He waited patiently while we ate our salmon.
Whilst we were waiting for desserts, I asked Martin how things were going with Marcia. He blushed, but then said they were going well. Then he informed us that he had asked her to marry him, but she had put him off. At first, he had been a bit upset, but when she explained about the trust, it made sense.
I decided it was probably not polite to ask about them moving in together. However, Martin supplied the information without prompting.
"We did discuss her moving in with me, but she does not want Tariq to have to move schools in his GCSE years. Anyway, with this new post, I suppose I’d better look for a place in Town."
"I don't think you need to," Bernard stated. "It's not as if you will need to deal with any of the practice administration. You're being taken on as my legal assistant. A lot of that work can be done remotely. Not like you need physical access to the practice-law library; it's all online now, anyway.
"You'll need to come into the office for a couple of days a week — client conferences and things like that. Though, to be honest, with most of the clients I am handling and you will be working with, you will go to see them." Martin looked a bit surprised.
"Look, Martin," Bernard continued. "If you have some starlet with a problem who is in the middle of filming, you are not going to have them come in to see you. You have to go out and see them. A good sixty percent of instructions will be given to you out of the office. A lot of those will be given at times most people in our profession are nicely tucked up in bed."
"You mean I am going to have to work late nights?" Martin asked.
"I did warn you there were unsociable hours at times," replied Bernard. "Though it is not likely to be late nights. Contrary to popular opinion most people in the entertainment industry are too knackered by the time they finish work to go out on the town. That only happens when they are not working. It's usually when they are working that they need our services.
"No, you are more likely to have to meet somebody early morning. It’s surprising how early in the morning shooting for film or TV often starts. Don't be surprised if you find yourself taking a statement or instructions off somebody while they are having their make-up done at five in the morning."
"That's happened?" Martin asked.
"Oh, yes," Bernard replied. "Let me tell you about the Regen film…";
For the next ten minutes, while we partook of coffee, Bernard regaled us both with a story about one of the Regen films and some legal technicalities that he had been called on to sort out. If I remembered right, that was the first case that had involved the entertainment industry that he had been involved with. His involvement had been accidental, but he had done such an excellent job on the case, the party involved had put him on a retainer. After that, more followed, and as they say, the rest is history.
"So, it was a copyright dispute over make-up that got you started?" Martin asked.
"Don't disparage it, my boy. That case ran up over a thousand hours of chargeable time, and for a newly qualified solicitor who had just joined his first practice, it was a lifesaver."
Coffee finished, we paid up and started to walk back towards the Strand. I had to get to Wardour Street to record my voiceover; Bernard had to get back to the courts. There was one thing that always puzzled me. Just how did Bernard get that make-up case? I asked him.
"Saul Robertson," he replied. "It was his niece; she was just starting out in the business, and it was her first big job. It turned out she was being ripped off. Saul knew I was a solicitor, so he gave her my number. She was supposed to ask if I knew anyone who specialised in entertainment-industry law, but she was in such a state that she asked me to act for her. I went to the set the next morning and took instruction. In many ways, it was a straightforward breach-of-copyright action. What complicated it was the people involved and the money they could throw at their defence. In the end, though, they had to admit they were in breach and paid up. The most important thing, though, was I got Saul's niece lead credit for make-up, which led to her getting the BAFTA. In many ways, it made both our names. Neither of us has looked back since."
We parted ways at the entrance to the courts. Bernard and Martin to return to the injunction application, me to go to the tube and make my way to Wardour Street.
It was just gone six when I finished the voiceover. The process had taken longer than expected. I found myself having to rewrite parts of the script to fit in with what actually happened on the screen. Overall, though, both the director and I were happy with the results.
Switching my phone on as I got out of the studio, I found there were yet again several messages. First, though, I phoned Anne to tell her I was running late and not to wait on me for dinner. That out of the way, I checked my texts. Most of them could be deleted; there were a couple that required action, which I could leave till the morning, and one from Bernard. That one just said: 'Got It'. I presumed he meant the injunction. Once I had read the texts, I got the tube to the mainline station for my train to Southminster, where I had left my car.
I was surprised to see Martin at the station. He was just coming up from one of the other tube lines as I emerged onto the concourse. I called to him. He came over to where I was.
"Thought you would have been long gone," I stated. "Bernard’s text to say you had got the injunction was at three. What have you been up to, celebrating?"
"No, working," Martin laughed. "We haven't actually got the injunction yet; we have a temporary injunction pending a full hearing next week. No doubt the News of the World will have their big guns there for that. I've been with Bernard preparing a brief for the barristers to go into court with next week."
"Didn't you have barristers today?" I asked.
"No, didn't really have time to get one. Bernard, having both criminal-and civil-advocacy qualifications, had rights of audience which made things easier. However, this was only an application for an interim injunction before a full hearing. As such, the News of the World was not represented. All we had to show was that we had grounds to request a full hearing, that any publication before the full hearing would be detrimental to our client's interest and that our client was an interested party with respect to any action. It helped of course that the CPS also put in a request for an injunction on the same material.
"Next time around, the case will be fully argued in court. The News of the World will have their legal team present, and they have some big guns in the legal world to roll out. We must make sure our barristers are as good, if not better, than theirs."
"The injunction might not go through, then?" I stated.
"I think it will go through. If it were just us trying to protect Trevor and Tyler's privacy, it would be a different matter. However, the CPS is submitting that publication of the details before the Mayers trial could be prejudicial to that case. There are good grounds for arguing that. “On that basis, I think the injunction will be awarded. However, it will only be while the case is ongoing. Once it is over, they will be free to print. By then, though, we hopefully will have got things sorted so we have a counter to what they print."
We made our way to the platform for our train. Fortunately, we were able to find seats, even though the train was pretty full. On the way to Southminster, I asked Martin how he felt about his new job.
"Well, it's going to be a damned sight more interesting than the normal run of wills and divorces that I have been handling. It is also going to involve a lot more travel. I'm off to Lisbon next week to find some local agents to act for us out there."That comment reminded me of what Bernard had said on Sunday and why he had a need for a legal assistant.